Chapter 15: "Goodbyes"

Disclaimer: The proprietary elements of Breaking Dawn, including its original treatment and all of the characters, belong solely to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended.

Edward's POV

"Excuse me?" I managed, moderating the tone of my voice so as not to startle the baby in my arms.

"Your wife has requested to see you before you leave," Alec responded matter-of-factly.

My eyes narrowed and I clutched Elizabeth to my chest. "I won't be going anywhere without my family—and that includes my wife."

"That, of course, will be up to her," Alec replied in a polite tone.

"He's right," Jane interjected, gliding into the room. I wondered where she'd disappeared to as soon as we'd left the underground tunnel. I should have known she'd check in with Aro.

"Would someone please tell me what's going on here?" Carlisle interjected, exasperated.

"Simply this," Jane began, in a disinterested tone, "Bella has decided to stay a while longer in Volterra. The rest of you are free to go. You may take the young one with you. But," she paused for effect, "this will be your only opportunity to depart in peace."

I roared with laughter and handed Elizabeth to Alice, who was already reaching for her.

"I'm sorry, Jane," I said, pivoting to face her—truly angry now. "Maybe YOU don't understand. This is YOUR only opportunity to take me to my wife before I—"

The intensity of Jane's stare dropped me to my knees. Her gift was more torturous than I'd remembered.

Alec moved to Jane's side and touched her arm. "Edward," he said calmly, as Carlisle helped me to my feet. "That was just a reminder; we're under no particular obligation to be polite. Might we suggest that you cooperate, as to avoid a scene? There are children present."

Elizabeth made a sound behind me, and I turned once more to face her in Alice's arms. Jasper was at their side.

"He's right, Edward. This isn't the time…or place," Alice cautioned, assuring me with her thoughts that 'we'd figure something out—we just need to regroup.'

"Alright," I sighed—seething. "Alice, leave now with Jasper and Elizabeth. Carlisle and I will join you after I've had an opportunity to speak with Bella."

"There now. That's a reasonable response," Alec said quickly. "Felix will show you out through the main lobby. Your brother is waiting there, as well."

I raised an eyebrow. Of course. Emmett.

Nodding once at Jasper, I leaned forward to embrace both Alice and Elizabeth. Elizabeth looked at me with sad brown eyes, almost as if she understood what was happening—and wished she could change it. I memorized her already maturing face, touched a lock of her curly brown hair, and kissed her gently on the forehead. "Be safe," I whispered in her little ear. "I love you."

I didn't like the thought of my daughter being escorted anywhere by Felix, but I knew that Alice and Jasper would protect her at the expense of their own lives. And soon they'd be with Emmett. There was strength in numbers.

"Let's get this over with," Jane sighed, turning to lead us down an adjacent hall, presumably to Aro's chambers. Alec hesitated momentarily, obviously intending to bring up the rear.

"Yes. Let's." I agreed with a slight sneer, formulating an impromptu plan. One thing was certain: Bella would leave Volterra with me…or someone would die.