Apprehensive. Scared. Impressed. Three different emotions that plagued my mind as I saw the three vampires approach our impromptu baseball field. Edward's posture shifted to block me from view as much as possible. As Carlisle made introductions, I began to feel a soothing sort of calm. I wasn't sure if it was courtesy of Jasper or not- even if it was, I welcomed it. This was working out alright. The two males and lone female seemed wary, but not threatening.
Then the wind shifted.
In an instant, everything changed. It was just like when the van almost hit me; I saw so many things at once happening at an insanely rapid speed. The light-haired male known as James sniffed the air, and his deep red irises were suddenly pinned on me. Edward stiffened, and crouched into a defensive posture in front of me. James crouched down, and with a fierce growl that was immediately echoed by Edward, lunged at me. He and Edward clashed together with the earsplitting sound of a rock slide.
I felt a wave of calm that seemed completely out of place- most certainly Jasper's work. I heard Carlisle's voice, trying to restore reason. I saw Alice and Emmett approach the cyclone that was James and Edward, ready to protect their brother. The other male, the dark-haired one, was retreating into the forest. I looked up, and saw a different pair of red eyes fixed on me. The female, Victoria, with the fiery red hair, was drawing closer to me. She tilted her head, confused, and seemed to be trying to figure out what my value was. Amidst the chaos around us, she smiled slowly and disappeared. I realized that she had run somewhere so fast that I could not see her go. I turned at the sound of her voice, which seemed to clearly sing out over all of the commotion.
"Human." She called, almost playfully. "Human. Look at all of this trouble you've caused." My stomach dropped even further as I saw who she had in her grasp. Esme, looking pained but resigned, as Victoria held her close with her teeth poised at the neck, ready to tear. Then I noticed Edward and James stop fighting for an instant. Edward had been distracted by the chaotic thoughts of his family's distress regarding the only mother he had ever really known. Carlisle and the others seemed afraid to approach, afraid that one false move would drive Victoria to tear Esme's head off. As he turned for a split second to watch Esme, James took advantage. He tore through the air and landed close enough for me to feel his breath. He wrapped an iron-strong arm around my waist and clasped another from under my arm to my shoulder. I stood, shocked and terrified, but in a way… relieved. James would kill me, but that would mean Esme didn't have to die. I was able to look at Edward before I died. I didn't have to feel afraid.
Edward's face as he took in James' stance with me was horrified. As he immediately started towards us, James tickled my neck with his poison-laced teeth. With an oath, Emmett and Rosalie held Edward back.
"Don't, Edward. He'll kill her." Emmett muttered.
Edward looked at me and James alternatively, then began snarling and snapping uncontrollably. Carlisle, who was still keeping one eye on Esme and Victoria, helped Rose and Emmett restrain him. I could see Carlisle staring at Edward, trying to communicate something. James tightened the arm around my waist and I felt a wave of nausea and confusion. Why hadn't he killed me yet? I could tell he wanted to. Every time he inhaled near my skin his body seemed to hum against mine.
"What do you want?" Carlisle asked James, clearly and severely.
"For her to choose." James said pleasantly, his voice rumbling against my back. I couldn't see his face, but it sounded like he was smiling.
"Choose?" Edward managed to say his first word since the initial attack. It seemed to be physically paining him not to reach for me. "Choose what? You're surrounded. There's no way you can escape unharmed."
I felt James chuckle darkly against me, "Not so sure about that. See, I'm putting the power here into Bella's hands, not yours or mine. She gets to choose where she goes. And who has to die for it."
Oh no. No.
My eyes locked with Esme's, and she nodded to me. She was trying to tell me that it was alright, to choose to stay here and let Victoria have a good chance at killing her.
"Bella…" James shook me slightly. Edward snarled, his eyes wide, his lip curled, "Bella, tell me what you choose. Tell them you want to come with me, or tell them you want her to die. Tell them."
I choked as tears sprang to my eyes. I looked up at the family I had cursed by my presence. I looked at them all, one by one, absorbing their faces full of shock and pain. I looked at Edward last. He stopped snarling and looked dumbfounded at whatever he saw in my eyes.
"No." He breathed softly, "Bella, no. We can find a way, no one has to die, Bella, love, please…" His voice, raspy and low, pleaded with me. I knew what he wanted. But I wasn't about to let Esme die for me.
"I'll go with you." My voice was so soft that I didn't think anyone would hear it. But James tightened his arms and I felt his lips at my ear, "Good girl." Edward shouted and cursed, as he began lunging for us again. Rosalie and Emmett held him back, each looking at me with horror… and respect. Jasper looked absolutely livid, Carlisle looked pained. Alice was staring at me with her eyes wide and her mouth grim.
"Edward… I'm sorry. I can't let her die for me, even if it's all a trick. I can't risk hurting any of you. I-I can't." Fresh tears tracked down my face as I spoke what I thought to be my last words to him, "I love you more than anything, Edward Cullen."
Edward, moaning and keening, heaved against Rose and Emmett to try to get to me. The last thing I saw of him was his face- twisted with rage and pain, anger and sorrow. Faster than I could think, James took me in his arms and ran into the forest, holding me close to his chest. I closed my eyes.
In such a short time, the point of my existence had gone. Gone into the forest, gone with him, gone where my brothers and sisters would not let me follow. As soon as James bounded into the woods with Bella, I renewed my struggles to follow. My mind flashed and sputtered with images. Bella's terrified face, her brown eyes and her tears, her whispered vow of love. James' cocky expression, the disturbingly possessive thoughts running through his head.
"Let me GO!" I raged at my family. Soon, Alice had to come over to help the others in restraining me.
"Edward, you're too emotional, too volatile to go after them." Carlisle admonished. He turned to Emmett and Rosalie. "Go." He said, and they nodded, leaping into the forest where Bella had gone.
"Isn't this interesting." Victoria purred. I turned to her and saw red. I broke free of my sibling's hold and lunged for her. She laughed, tossing Esme twenty feet into the air before turning to face me in a relaxed stance. I tackled her, pinned her to the ground and began to beat her. She offered no resistance as my hard fists pummeled her. With a resounding crack, her jaw was broken. With a sickening pop, I ripped her arm off. She grimaced and keened in pain, but then started chuckling at me again.
Carlisle reached me then, holding me off.
"Where has he taken her?" He demanded. Victoria was grimacing on the forest floor. She looked up at Carlisle and spat.
"You do know she's lost forever, right? She sang to him." She stated simply, leaning back all of the sudden, "She sang to him, and he took her to be his."
"No!" I growled, reaching for her again, but Carlisle again thwarted me.
"What do you mean lost? What does he plan to do?"
"Hell if I know. Maybe just drain her dry. Maybe play with her a bit. All I know is he had to have her…" She trailed off, looking impossibly smug and pleased with herself despite her physical condition.
"Please." Esme approached, trying to reason with her, "Please. Bella is very important to us."
Victoria heaved a rattling laugh, "And James is everything to me. I love him. He wants her now. I got her for him." She looked me in the eye, "I got her for him."
Disgusted, I turned away from her. My eyes met Alice's. I immediately read her thoughts, the thoughts that I had been ignoring in my present turmoil.
Bella, alone. Scared. Burning, twitching, writhing. James laying next to Bella. James kissing Bella. James biting Bella.
I roared so loud that the trees shook before collapsing onto the ground. I rolled for a moment, the visions now assaulting me from Alice's mind.
Bella screaming. James laughing. Bella's eyes… crimson eyes.
I got up as quickly as I had fallen and tore through the trees. Alice ran after me. "Edward." She called as we ran. I could run faster, but she was keeping up fairly well. "Edward! I don't think…"
"What, Alice? She sacrificed herself, and what, you don't want me to save her? To keep her from being terrorized, being turned?"
"Of course not, I love her too. It's just…" Her voice wavered, and I suddenly stopped running to look at her.
"Just what, Alice? If I'm going to follow her scent, I'll need to go NOW." I snarled, urging her to hurry up and get to the point.
"That's just it. Rose and Emmett… Edward, they lost the trail, they lost her scent at the road. They're on the their way back now. He… He took her on the road. I can't see where, I can only see a dark room. They could be anywhere, Edward. I'm so sorry. We'll get her back, I just don't think it will be today."
I paused before sitting down in the leaves. Ripping the roots of an unfortunate tree up from the Earth, I dug my hands into the dirt and screamed.
Bella, Bella, I'm so sorry, my Bella.
Chapter End Notes:
I know, it's an extreme assumption to go with the POV that if Esme had been cornered or held by Victoria, then Esme would have fought or resisted. However for the purpose of the story, I'm assuming Victoria got just the right jump on poor Esme.