"Bella," my angel whispered in my ear as the landscape became more and more familiar. "Are you sure about this? We don't ever have to return to high school if you don't want to, remember that."
I pulled myself closer to him. "I'm sure," I assured him. "Besides, our courses are different now…you've never taken A.P. Russian…have you?"
His soft, musical laugh sounded in my ear. "I've taken an advanced Russian course before…but not as highly advanced as A.P., no."
"See," I whispered. "There's always something new."
He leaned in to press his lips softly against mine, and we kissed until Emmett made a gagging noise beside us.
Edward sighed and tore his lips from mine, annoyed.
"Grow up, Emmett," he muttered. "It's not as if you haven't done this before."
Rosalie was paying no attention whatsoever to our conversation, and didn't notice when Emmett leaned toward her.
"You're right," he agreed. Pulling Rosalie into his arms, he kissed her. Rosalie was taken by surprise, but she seemed just as eager.
Edward groaned in disbelief but leaned away from me, keeping one arm around my shoulder and holding my hand in his.
I leaned back and closed my eyes. Concentrating very hard, I lifted the blanket of a shield covering my thoughts. Edward…?
"Yes, love?" he whispered back.
Do you think our cottage is still there?
He smirked. "I can't imagine anyone in this century stumbling upon a mansion complete with a garage, lights, and a driveway, and claiming it as their own. And Nessie lives in our cottage, remember? With Jacob. But since the cottage is technically ours – yours and mine – I imagine that we can kick the happy couple out when we return."
"Yup," I muttered. "Anyways, Jake doesn't smell that bad anymore. The rest will just have to put up with him."
The more time Jacob spent with vampires – or a half-vampire, in my daughter's case – the more…normal he smelled. He didn't smell…bad before, as in, he didn't have a stench around him, but his smell was too woodsy, too concentrated to be fragrant. It burned my nose a little, but it had gotten better until I could barely feel the burn at all.
I watched the landscape pass. Carlisle had one hand on the wheel, and he was holding Esme's hand in the other. My adopted father – I winced, it was so hard to wrap my head around that term, and Edward's arm instinctively tightened around me – and my adopted mother – ditto – were much more in control of their feelings than Jasper and Alice, or Rosalie and Emmett, or Edward and I.
I don't think they even do it every night. Unlike the rest of us….
Suddenly, in front of us, Alice gasped.
"Alice!" Edward was leaning towards her in an instant. "What…when…how could that possibly be?"
"I don't know," she whispered back. "We didn't detect any trace of them…when we went back…."
Rosalie and Emmett had broken apart immediately. From the very front, Esme was frantic at the tone of her youngest son's voice. "What is it, Edward? Tell me!"
"Others," he muttered, his jaw tense. "Just like us. Golden-eyed, pale-skinned. Five of them."
My worry climbed higher and higher, until a wave of peace washed through the car. I glared at Jasper, who was directly in front of me, and he shrugged back innocently.
"Carlisle?" asked Edward.
Throughout all this, Carlisle had remained silent. Now he spoke with calmness and authority. "I think that we shouldn't worry extensively about this. After all, they obviously don't feed on humans – their golden eyes are proof. We still outnumber them, eight to five…ten, with Renesmee and Jacob."
"Did they take our house?" asked Emmett, his voice showing concern for the first time in four years. He obviously wasn't listening to our previous conversation. Edward seemed so sure that we would still have a house.
Alice seemed to be searching for clues, prying into the future, her eyes vacant, so Edward stepped in. "No, we left a note behind us, remember? And the pack and Nessie go there every week to make sure it's kept unoccupied unless we visit, or return permanently…like now. The new ones built their own house, similar to ours in size, except that they have a two-story home. Their house is across the river, in the forest over there. A mile or so away from our home."
While Emmett pondered that, Edward leaned down to whisper in my ear. "Don't worry, love," he said, pulling me closer to him. I breathed in his scent, and relaxed. "I won't let anything hurt you."
"You worry too much," I muttered. "Whatever gifts they may have, I'm probably immune to most of them."
We stared out the windows for the rest of the way, the van silent. As we headed into Forks, nonexistent tears would have sprang to my eyes. The familiar old landmarks…Newton's store was now replaced by a car shop, and a whole building complex was knocked down to give way to a brand-new mall. I felt a little bit better when I spotted a Barnes&Noble's in that mall. One good thing came out of that, at least.
"Are you sure that no one who remembers us is still alive? I mean, it's been seventy-some years, but still…." I broke the silence, finally, still staring out at the drastic changes made in the last decade and a half, for that was how long ago our last visit was.
The van was silent. We were all waiting for Alice, Edward, and Emmett to answer – they were the ones who had snuck into Forks for a few days to make sure that no one was still alive from when we were here.
Edward finally spoke. "There's one person…."
"Who?" I nearly shouted.
My best wholly human friend in Forks, Angela had been a quiet sort of girl, who always offered a shoulder to cry on – or whatever – but never prying into anyone's life. Edward had even said so. Angela was the only human who had not entertained an excessive number of fantasies involving Edward – my Edward – in her thoughts. He also told me that on the day that I'd first came to Forks, Angela was the only one who wasn't thinking about you. I thought back to that time, and I remembered. She was the only one not leaning in towards me, asking a million questions about my past that I would have preferred not to be asked.
"Well, then," I said, "I guess it's fitting that Angela's the only person alive…I mean, she's been blessed with a very long life."
Alice had finally snapped out of her reverie. I heard Jasper's soft sigh of relief as he hugged her tight to him, pressing his lips to her spiky hair.
I pondered a whole new train of thought. If Angela was still alive, I had to talk to her. I had to. I wasn't afraid of the possibility of killing her – my supernatural self-control was unheard of. But I still owed her for being my one and only true mortal friend. Besides, I had more or less promised her around graduation time that I would stay in touch with her, and I had sort of let her down.
Eeriness descended on the van. It was eerie, and I noticed why, instantly. Emmett wasn't trying – trying – to crack everyone up.
We all stayed silent – even Emmett – all the way back to the mansion.
"We're here," Esme called back to us, not that it was completely necessary. We could all hear if she whispered as softly as she could.
As the car doors slid open, Edward leaned down to whisper in my ear. I was momentarily distracted by his beautiful, melodic voice. Even after seventy-eight years with him, he could still make me forget my worries simply by touching his lips to mine, and I savored the sound of his voice – smooth, rich, and amazing.
"Love, don't you forget – no matter how bad the new coven turns out to be, I will never let them lay a finger on you, I swear."
I turned my head to kiss him for a moment. When I leaned back, I rolled my eyes. "Right," I murmured. "As if any vampire could hurt me. Don't forget, I'm stronger than Emmett. My strength hadn't worn off when I was a year old in vampire terms, and don't you forget that I'm the only one that can survive very well without blood and that you all need blood to be strong but I don't so I am technically stronger than you are and – "
He stopped my lecture with a kiss. "Yes, love, and now, please shut up." I felt him smile underneath my lips, and my mouth curved upwards, too."
My darling was there, waiting for us. Renesmee – or Nessie, as we called her – was waiting on the porch steps. She was, in reality, perhaps a year or two older than Edward and I, her parents. But she'd stopped aging a long while ago, and stayed that way ever since.
"Nessie!" I shouted, in joy, and dashed out the doors of the van before any of the others could. Edward was right behind me. "Mmm…oh, Nessie, I've missed you so much."
I could hear her heart beating; however, she didn't smell like other humans did. It was as if her heartbeat, her blood, her body temperature, and the fact that she didn't shine in the sunlight like we did were the only traits that made her not like us.
"I missed you too, Mom." I could smell the woodsy smell behind her, and my nose twitched.
"Hey, Bells!" called Jacob. "Long time, no see, eh?"
"Jacob!" I cried, embracing him. "Is the pack still around?"
"Hell, yeah," he snorted. "All of us. Sam and Leah and Seth and Quil and Embry and Paul and everyone."
"Glad to hear it." Edward spoke up, his voice smooth and quiet compared to ours.
"Hi, Edward." Jacob's tone was quieter, too; it was impossible to resist the calming effect his voice had on people.
"I trust that you and Nessie have been taking good care of the house?" he asked.
Edward was silent for a moment. "Oh," he muttered. "Yes, Alice saw them in the van. She knows how they live – much like us."
"You're not going to deliberately try to cross paths with them right now…are you?"
"No. If we meet them when we go to school, well, that's when we'll first meet. No earlier."
"Enough talk." Alice's light voice rang out behind us. "Let's get our gear unloaded and taken back to the house."
"Yes, let's," agreed Edward. He took my hand, and together, we flew into the house.
PLZ REVIEW!!! I've gotten a bunch of story alerts and stuff but hardly any reviews.