This is the sequel to Captive. However, I know of at least one person who is reading this who hasn't read Captive and they have no problems following the story. It would probably help, but it appears that it isn't strictly necessary (ETA: whenever I refer to Captive in this story, which is rare, I post an explanation. So yeah, no need to read that story at all). Each individual chapter can stand alone, so there will never be any cliffhangers.
To give you an idea of what I am attempting with this story, here is an excerpt from my author interview on The Lazy Yet Discerning Ficster:
One of the things I want to do with BuB is delve more deeply into the characters of the other family members. I wasn't able to fully use all the Cullens and Hales in Captive, and in the sequel I'd like to shine the spotlight on all of them. I am doing this by dedicating a pair of chapters to each of them in turn. Though it will be a Bella-centric story revolving around her struggles with adapting to being a vampire, and will be told mainly through her point of view, I want to explore the other family members individually, in relation to Bella and each other, and maybe give them hopes, fears, hobbies and pasts beyond the ones outlined in the books. What better way than having them heavily involved in Bella's "upbringing"? Giving them each their own chapters will force me to develop them all more or less equally.
Warning: There will be the occasional lemon, though nothing too explicit, and some minor language. Bella, because she is not little miss perfect super-vampire in this story like she was in BD, is out of character. I suppose you could say that of the other characters too at times, given that this is not a YA story.
Disclaimer: I neither own, nor did I create the characters and concepts of the Twilight Saga. They are the sole creation and property of Stephenie Meyer.
Bringing up Baby
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair...blah, blah, blah.
I felt a surge of annoyance, and not just because Dickens was a morose, depressing whiner whose books irritated the hell out of me. It was mostly because everything I came across these days reminded me that my life was schizophrenic. I was struggling daily in my new existence, and yet I was happier than I had ever been before. My emotions were heightened, fluctuating wildly between outright euphoria and profound sadness, sometimes for no apparent reason, which made the good times wonderful and the bad times pretty desperate. I could go from enjoying my new life to the fullest, to the depths of despair, throwing a temper tantrum in there for good measure, all in a matter of minutes. And I couldn't seem to control any of it.
It was confusing and annoying, and I couldn't even open a book without being reminded. My irritation spiked, and I threw the offending tome against the wall.
I jumped, startled, and turned toward Jasper, who was sitting at his desk glaring at me.
"If you want to throw books go to your room and throw your own," he snapped. "Now pick it up."
I hid my embarrassment at my childish outburst by glaring back at him defiantly, not moving.
"Bella…" The warning in his voice was unmistakable.
I had become quite adept at recognizing the limits of Jasper's patience by the tone of his voice. I could tell he had just reached those limits, and he'd reached them far quicker than he usually did where I was concerned. He must be in a bad mood. Deciding that now might not be the best time to test them or him, I stood and walked over to the far wall, bending to pick up his book. I was getting better at controlling my strength, so fortunately it was mostly undamaged. One of the corners was slightly dented, but I managed to carefully squeeze it back into shape. Smoothing my hand over the cover, I opened it to the copyright page. It wasn't a first edition, but it was close. It was probably valuable, it didn't belong to me, and I had almost damaged it in a fit of pique. Feeling slightly ashamed, I turned, only to find Jasper observing me intently.
"Drop your shield, Bella," he ordered softly.
Shame was obliterated by outrage. "What?" I yelled, coming perillously close to actually stamping my foot. "Why? All I did was throw a book!"
"You know exactly why," he said in a tone that brooked no argument. "Now drop it."
Yes, I knew why, dammit. I remembered. How could I ever forget? They would never let me. I would never let me, not that I could even if I tried. I battled a roiling surge of anger, trying valiantly to smother it. If I dropped my shield now, Jasper would find exactly what he was looking for; he would find exactly what hadn't even been there until he made his unreasonable request. Until he'd ordered me to submit to his invasive probing, I had been doing fine. A little testier than usual, but I was fine. Now, however…I squeezed my eyes tightly shut, and fought harder.
"Isabella. Do it. Now." His voice turned sharp.
I flinched and opened my eyes. Jasper was standing now, his eyes burning into mine. If I didn't let him in immediately, he'd come over here and make me, and then he'd find out that I was rapidly losing control of my temper. Then he would forcibly calm me down, like I was some hysterical head-case in need of sedation. When the others got home, I'd get a lecture from Carlisle while the rest of the family gathered around the living room to dissect Bella's latest hissy-fit.
I wasn't in the mood for all that. I was tired of this incessant prying into my mental and emotional state. I couldn't let Jasper touch me until I had a handle on my rage.
So, stupidly, I bolted.
He must have seen me tense in preparation, because I never made it further than the hallway before he tackled me face down to the ground. Before I could blink, he had straddled my hips, bent my arms behind my back and had secured them by pinning my wrists together between my shoulder blades. They were bent and stretched to the limit of my vampire physiology, and as a result I could not contract my muscles enough to exert sufficient strength to free myself. My 'babysitter' certainly knew what he was doing. Without leverage, and faced with Jasper's decades of experience, my newborn strength was useless. That didn't stop me from struggling with every ounce of strength I had, though.
"Jesus…" he muttered, as my emotions battered at him. I barely had time to shriek before my anger dissipated, leaving behind an all-enveloping calm. The fight drained out of me, and I went limp.
"You can let me up now," I mumbled into the carpet, a bit sarcastically. "I'm all better."
He loosened his grip on me slightly. "Your shield had better be down when I let go of you," he warned me, "and you are leaving it down until Carlisle tells you otherwise. Clear?"
I said nothing, waiting for him to let me up.
"Answer me," he ground out, tightening his grip again.
"Yes. Clear," I replied quietly.
He got off me, wisely refraining from helping me up, despite the dictates of his upbringing. I hopped agilely to my feet, and busied myself with straightening my clothes as he watched me intently.
"Why did you run?" he finally asked.
"Because I was fine," I muttered, refusing to meet his eyes.
He sighed. "Bella. Look at me."
Reluctantly, I did.
"I thought you understood that it wasn't your determination to make."
I shrugged, deliberately looking down so my hair fell into my face, shielding me from his scrutiny.
"Dammit, Bella," he snapped, "look at me when I am talking to you, and get your hair out of your face."
My head whipped up and I swiped my hair out of the way. "Jesus, Major Whitlock, relax," I sniped. "You're not in the army anymore. What crawled up your ass and died, anyway?"
His frown deepened and squeezed his eyes shut, pinching the bridge of his nose, a gesture I seemed to inspire in quite a few people these days. I wondered if I had pushed him too far. If he noticed my brief twinge of fear, he didn't show it.
"I can't talk to you when you are like this," he said curtly. "Just go to your room, and stay there until Carlisle gets home."
"Seriously, Jasper?" I goaded him. "You're sending me to my room?" Hilarious.
"Bella," he said wearily, "I don't care where you go, as long as you stay within the walls of this house. So pick a room – or a closet, if that's what you want - get your ass in it before I do it for you, and stay there until Carlisle comes to you. I don't want to see you, hear you, or talk to you until then. And keep your shield down."
We faced off for a moment, glaring at each other. Jasper took a step closer to me, his height making it necessary for me to crane my neck back. It's a little hard to glare effectively at someone when they are towering over you, so I capitulated first. That's my excuse, anyway.
Heaving an exaggerated sigh, I spun on my heels and went to my room.
Closing the door with a little more force than I had intended, I fished my laptop out from beneath the day bed and powered it up. I sat down cross-legged on the mattress and checked my email, finding a new one from Angela. I dashed off a quick reply to her and then settled down to compose a message to Charlie and Renee. That took a little more concentration, as there where things I needed to conceal, such as anything that would clue them in to our exact location. Once I was sure I had been vague yet chatty enough to satisfy their need for information, I hit send, switched off my computer, and set it on the table next to the daybed.
I lay back and stretched out, my hands resting on my stomach, and looked at the textured ceiling, seeking out the familiar shapes that I had picked out over many hours of lying here with nothing better to do. I located the rearing horse straight above me, the woman's three-quarter profile by the wall and the wolf's head by the door before allowing myself to be distracted by the sounds the almost empty house made. I still marveled at how much more my vampire hearing could pick up. The house was alive with sounds as it and its contents shifted and settled; the hissing and groaning of the pipes, the creaks and pops as the furniture and floors shifted and settled, and beyond all those layers of sound, the crackling of the fire in Jasper's study, and the muted clicking of the keyboard as his fingers moved across keys, interrupted occasionally by the whisper of turned pages, and the soft scratching of pencil on paper. As I listened to the comforting sounds of his presence, I felt myself relaxing even more, and I was pretty sure it was without his interference.
I sighed, already beginning to regret my loss of control. Why didn't I just drop my shield when he told me to? I'd probably still be curled up in an armchair in his study, keeping him company while he worked, instead of bored in my room waiting to get bitched out by Carlisle.
Well, I had no one to blame but myself. I had agreed to these restrictions, after all. Not that I really had a choice; they would have been imposed upon me regardless. Nevertheless, I had acknowledged their necessity, and therefore had agreed to them.
If only I hadn't gone off on my own. If I hadn't gone out on my own, I wouldn't be in this position.
That was my first mistake.
It happened while we were still in New Mexico. I had been upstairs in the bedroom packing away the clothes I wouldn't need in the near future, when I felt that strange sensation that I had begun to associate with my shield dropping into place. Back then, I was still unable to make it happen at will. It seemed to occur randomly, apparently with no rhyme or reason. I paused in my task, an idea occurring to me, and on a whim, I decided to see if my shield would enable me to sneak out of the house for a short while.
I had been a vampire for just over a week, and was already chafing from the restrictions imposed upon me. Well, one of them, anyway: I couldn't stand the fact that I wasn't allowed to go out of the house on my own. I understood the reasoning; I understood that it was a safety precaution. I just didn't understand why I couldn't go out for a solitary walk once in a while, just in the vicinity of the house, especially considering the fact that we were in the middle of nowhere, with not a human soul for miles. The more I thought about it, the more unreasonable this restriction seemed, and when I felt my shield closing around me, I decided that surely going just a short distance alone, say to the hot spring, wouldn't be such a big deal. The spring was so close it could practically be considered part of the house anyway.
In any case, that's what I told myself as I balanced myself briefly on the edge of the open window and soundlessly dropped to the ground below, landing lightly on my feet. Casting out my senses, I checked the surrounding area for sounds of human life. I knew I wouldn't find any, but I was striving to act responsibly nonetheless. Satisfied that there was no one within the considerable range of my senses, I silently melted into the trees and made my way to the spring.
Shedding my clothes quickly, I slipped into the water and sank below the surface, releasing all the air in my lungs to reduce my buoyancy. The sounds around me became muted, and it was almost like hearing with mortal ears again, as close as I'd ever get, anyway. It was peaceful and quiet, at least for a vampire. Looking up through the shivering surface above me, I watched the fractured images of the outside world ripple along with the moving water. I let my mind drift, thinking of nothing in particular and enjoying my brief moment of silence and solitude.
All too soon, I decided it was time to go back. I was hoping my disappearance would go unnoticed, and the longer I stayed, the more likely it was someone would find me missing. Hopping out of the pool, I pulled my clothes over my wet body and started for home.
In retrospect, I know I'd heard the truck; it was just so lost in a sea of other sounds that I didn't notice it until I was within sight of the house, and saw Howard getting out of it.
Fortunately for a great many people, not the least of which was Howard, the wind was at my back. I stopped breathing immediately. Though I didn't need to unless I was speaking, breathing was still something I did more or less without thinking, though I was starting to do it less and less as my body began realizing I didn't need it. I imagined that in time, the habit could fade completely unless I worked to maintain it for appearances.
I froze, watching as Howard walked over to the front door and knocked. A moment later, Jasper had opened it, careful to keep his face and arms out of the sunlight, and stood aside to let Howard in. As he was shutting the door, his eyes caught mine, and widened in shock.
He turned, speaking to whoever was in the room with Howard. "Please excuse me. I think I see Bella outside." With those few words he had alerted the entire household to the fact that I wasn't where I was supposed to be, without appearing suspicious to the human.
Within seconds, Edward and Emmett came boiling out of the house from two separate upstairs windows, dropping lightly from terrace to terrace until they landed on the ground. They split up, fanning out, while Jasper quickly shut the door and started toward me.
I stared at them, startled. They did not look like the brothers and lover that I had come to know and adore. All three wore identical, predatory expressions on their faces, their eyes hard as the gemstones they resembled. I also recognized the way they were moving; they looked like they were hunting me, and I had no idea why. I hadn't caught a whiff of Howard, and I was in complete control of myself. I opened my mouth to tell them that, to reassure them.
That was my second mistake.
In order to speak, I had to draw breath. Just to be on the safe side, I inhaled through my mouth only, to avoid any residual scent in the air. The breeze chose that moment to shift, bringing with it a faint hint of the most delicious, irresistible…taste…I had ever encountered in my life. My mouth flooded with venom, and I started trembling with the effort to resist blindly following the source of that luscious flavor, which I knew to be Howard. Jasper tensed, and dropped into a slight crouch. Edward and Emmett, now about twelve feet to either side of me, followed suit.
I heard a snarl building, and wondered which of them was making the sound. When I became aware of the vibrations in my chest, I realized it was me. That is when I understood their stance in a half circle around me. They weren't hunting me; they had positioned themselves to cut off my path to the house and Howard's juicy jugular.
Jasper lunged first, his experience with a wide variety of newborns apparently leading him to see something in my stance that Emmett and Edward couldn't recognize. What happened next was a blur of growls, snarls, and rough hands. I felt myself bodily lifted off the ground, a hand clamped over my mouth, my legs trapped around the knees by someone's arms, and then the rush of wind as I was carried away from the house and the unsuspecting human within. It did not take long for my thrashing around to become too much for them to manage, and I was slammed to the ground on my back and pinned. The blood lust bled away as suddenly as it had come over me, and the tension melted out of my body. I blinked, looking up at the sky, and three faces wearing varying expressions of anger, concern, and in Emmett's case, a hint of amusement as well. The whole incident had taken place in a matter of seconds.
"Thanks, Jasper. I'm ok now," I quavered, pushing myself up into a sitting position. "What took you so long, anyway?"
"I kinda had my hands full," he quipped. "It takes a little concentration to project emotions. It takes a whole lot more when you add in the distraction of wrestling a hellcat like you."
I leaped nimbly to my feet. "Oh, that's really funny, Jazz," I deadpanned, dusting myself off.
A slightly uncomfortable silence fell. Jasper was smiling slightly, but keeping a careful eye on me, and Emmett was highly entertained now that the danger was past. Edward, however, looked like he might explode at any moment. His fists were balled at his sides, and his jaw was so tight I could hear his teeth grinding. Nobody mentioned the 800 pound gorilla standing in the clearing with us.
I decided to be the first, and broke the silence. "So…is that what it feels like all the time?" I said casually, referring to the blood-lust that I had experienced.
Hearing me refer to my little brush with disaster in such a nonchalant manner finally pushed Edward over the edge. "Jesus, Bella!" he shouted. "What the hell were you thinking? When…how long…You could have killed him!"
"I wasn't going to, Edward," I said calmly. "I wasn't breathing, so I didn't smell him. I was waiting for him to go into the house, and I would have gotten back into the bedroom the same way I left it. I would not have drawn breath until he'd left. If Jasper hadn't seen me, I would have gotten back into the house…"
"Surely you are not blaming Jasper," he interrupted me.
"No! No, of course not! It's just that you were all acting so strangely. When I inhaled to speak, I…" I faltered. "I didn't realize…"
Jasper finally spoke. "No, you didn't realize," he said sternly. "You didn't know any better. That's the point. You have no frame of reference for all this, how could you realize? Bella, that's why there are rules; they are in place to guide you and to prevent this kind of thing from happening."
I had nothing to say to that. As I looked into three pairs of serious eyes, I was struck with how badly things could have turned out. Because of my inexperience, I had failed to take the unexpected into consideration, and it could have cost the life of an innocent man. I made a last ditch effort at defending myself.
"Didn't you sense that I was fine? Before I inhaled, I mean," I asked, turning to Jasper.
"I didn't sense anything," he said, his tone flat. "Your shield was up."
"Oh." That's right. My shield going up was the reason I had decided to skip out in the first place. I still couldn't control when it came up or down, and though I had learned to recognize what it felt like, I still had no idea how to control the process.
"Let's get you back home," Jasper said tersely, motioning for me to start walking.
Edward jogged on ahead to make sure that Howard had left and the coast was clear, while Emmett and Jasper marched me home in silence, flanking me like I was an escaped prisoner, leaving me to stew in apprehension.
As I walked, I considered my reaction to Howard's proximity. It was frightening how quickly I had gone from civilized human being to crazed fiend, all because of the scent…taste…of human blood in the air. How on earth had that happened anyway? Taste? I had breathed in through my mouth, not my nose. How was that possible? Not that it mattered right now, I had far greater worries, but still; I was curious.
I was so lost in my somber musings that I stumbled slightly. My new and improved reflexes enabled me to catch myself quickly, but not before Emmett had fastened his hand around my upper arm, steadying me. "It's comforting to see that some things haven't changed," he joked, attempting to lighten the atmosphere.
Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect on me.
Emmett was right. Though I was far less clumsy than I had been as a human, I was still clumsy. I had expected that becoming a vampire would have magically cleared up that particular failing, only to realize that even vampires had to actually watch where they were going, or risk stumbling. It was nothing compared to the other challenges facing me, but for some reason, this minor moment of clumsiness was the straw that broke the camel's back. I was suddenly filled with a deep despondency and an unshakable certainty that I would never learn to resist the lure of human blood. I had lost control so quickly, I had barely been aware of it, and by the time I was aware, I was so deep in the grip of blood lust I couldn't even begin to think about controlling myself. It never even crossed my mind to try.
Worst of all, I hadn't wanted to.
I spiraled quickly into despair, my overactive mind painting the bleakest picture of my future that it possibly could. I would never be able to lead a normal life like the rest of my family. I saw the decades stretching out ahead of me, decades spent in isolation, far from humanity, with only Edward to keep me company. The others would surely tire of the solitude eventually and move on to rebuild lives for themselves among humans. I would never be able to see Renee and Charlie again. Visions of a solitary life tumbled around inside my head, and there were no tears to relieve the burning itch in my eyes. Even that small comfort had been taken from me. I never thought I would miss something so insignificant as the wetness of tears.
One minute I was walking along between Emmett and Jasper, and the next, I was crying into the front of Jasper's shirt, clutching at him as if my life depended on it, while he held me, rubbing his hand soothingly up and down my back and folding a blanket of calm around me. Emmett stood behind me, strong and comforting hands resting on my shoulders. Neither of them spoke, taking their cues from me and waiting in sympathetic silence for me to pull myself together.
It took a moment, but I finally did, stepping out of Jasper's embrace and glancing up at him sheepishly.
"Mind telling us what that was all about?" he asked, smiling down at me tenderly, his hands resting lightly on my shoulders. "You felt so hopelessly sad there for a moment."
"That sounds about right. But it's nothing, really. I just let my imagination get away from me for a moment." I continued walking, but got no more than two steps away before Emmett stopped me.
"Bella," he said softly, turning me back around. "Talk to us."
I avoided their eyes, looking everywhere but at their faces. "It's silly," I muttered, trying to shake his hand off.
He didn't let go. "We've both been where you are, kid. We can guarantee you that it isn't silly."
I waited silently, but neither of them would let the matter drop, so I rolled my eyes and started talking. "Rationally, I know that things will get better, that I won't always be like this; but here," – I placed my hand over my heart – "I feel like I will never…" I stopped, afraid my voice would crack.
"You feel like you will never learn to control yourself around humans," Emmett finished for me.
I nodded. He slung his arm around my shoulders, and we started walking again. "You need to keep listening to your head in this case, Bells. You know you will learn this, same as you learned everything else. You learned how to walk, to talk, to read…you'll learn how to control the blood lust. I'm not saying it will be easy, but I promise you this: you'll learn."
I wanted to argue, and then I realized that, no, actually I didn't want to argue. I wanted to stop being so damn cerebral about everything, and just trust that the people who had been there before me knew what they were talking about. I ignored the little voice that kept telling me that this was me we were talking about; very little about my transformation had gone the way it was supposed to, why not this as well?
When we got home, Howard's truck was gone, and Esme was standing motionless in the doorway, watching for us. "Bella!" she cried, flying over to us and embracing me. "How could you worry us like that?"
Over her shoulder, I saw Alice eyeing me reproachfully, and I started to feel really bad again. "Inside," Esme said sharply, steering me toward the door. Rosalie looked up from her book as I walked in, giving me a scathing look and sending my spirits plummeting even further. As for Carlisle, I knew he was in the room, but I couldn't meet his eyes at all. It had only been a week, and I had already managed to seriously screw up.
"Jasper, walk with me?" I heard him say quietly. Jasper didn't reply, but they left together, disappearing out of hearing range without having said a word.
The wait for their return was extremely uncomfortable. Everyone went back to their various tasks except me. Alice occupied herself on the internet, Emmett went to play a video game, and Rosalie left to give the Jeep and the motorcycle a tune-up, throwing me one last disapproving look. I just waited, huddled in the circle of Edward's arms, unable to concentrate on anything but my upcoming encounter with Carlisle.
They returned fifteen minutes later. "Please join me in the library, Bella," he asked me, his expression unreadable.
Edward gave me a quick hug. "Whatever you do, don't sit down until he invites you to," he whispered. I nodded, frightened, and followed Carlisle into the library, closing the door behind me carefully.
He was already seated when I walked into the room. "Sit down, please." He indicated the chair opposite him and I sat, looking at my hands resting motionless on my thighs.
"Why don't you tell me what happened?" he suggested calmly. I looked at him in surprise, searching for any anger in his face. I saw none.
"Didn't Edward and Jasper already fill you in?"
He nodded. "They did, but I'd like to hear your account of what happened."
I took a deep breath and told him everything, including the misunderstanding about my shield being up and the part about inhaling through my mouth because I thought that would be safe. Carlisle listened patiently, his attentive expression never changing. When I was finished, he surprised me with an impromptu vampire biology lesson.
"You'll need a small mirror to see them, but in your gums, right behind your canines, are two small holes, like tear-ducts. We don't just smell scents; we taste them too, presumably through those ducts. Any emotion that produces a chemical reaction in the body is perceptible to us. Eventually, you will learn to differentiate them, and recognize how each of them affects the overall appeal of every human's particular scent.
"But I digress. The point is, though your instinct to stop breathing was correct, you didn't realize that not breathing through your nose wouldn't be enough. You would pick up on his scent just as effectively as if you had breathed through your nose."
I stifled my annoyance. That was information I could have used sooner. "Why didn't someone warn me about that?" I asked, a little defensively.
Carlisle surprised me by smiling. "Bella…did your mother sit you down one day and tell you everything there is to know about being a human girl?"
"No, of course not, but…"
"Then why do you think I can just tell you everything about being a newborn vampire in one sitting?"
I remained silent. Again, I had no answers, because of course he was right.
"We will all be there to guide you, but there are some things that you can only learn by experiencing them yourself. That is just the way life is. It is my job to ensure that you don't experience them before you are ready. It is your job to trust me to know when that is, and do as I tell you. I have raised enough newborns to know what I am doing, and I am more than up to the task. Remember, Bella, we talked about all this and you agreed to it.
"I have spoken to Jasper and we have agreed that from now on, he will keep an eye on you, particularly on your emotions. If your shield is up, and he feels he needs to assess your emotional state, you will let him in. You'll soon learn to raise and drop your shield at will, and once that happens, if Jasper asks you to lower your shield, you will do it. You will also let him influence your emotions if he thinks it is necessary. He has had a great deal of experience with newborns, and he knows how to read them, and he can diffuse any situation before it gets out of control. Do you trust him with this task?"
"I…of course I trust him," I said reluctantly, knowing that in acknowledging that I trusted Jasper, I was basically agreeing to this invasion of my privacy. I was not happy about this plan of Carlisle's. Still convinced that I could handle myself, I thought it was over-cautious and unnecessary. I was also not enamored of the idea of having my emotions tampered with against my will, but, as I had just admitted, I did trust Jasper. He wouldn't interfere unless strictly necessary. And I had to confess that despite the fact that I thought I didn't need that kind of help, the events of today had shown me how unprepared I was. I would rather suffer the indignity of having my private emotional battles witnessed by Jasper than kill someone because I was careless.
"Then you agree to this?"
It was nice of Carlisle to pretend he was giving me a choice, but I was pretty sure that if I refused, I would find I didn't actually have one. I had already decided to agree though, for the sake of any humans I may someday encounter, so I nodded. "I agree."
Carlisle observed me appraisingly for a moment. "How hard was it for you?" he asked me, changing the subject.
I seriously thought about lying. I was afraid that if I admitted to how out of control I felt, Carlisle would come up with even more restrictions to heap on me. Something in his eyes, in the way he was looking at me, made it impossible though. I wasn't the best liar yet, and I didn't think I could pull it off, but more importantly, this was probably something I should be completely honest about. It did, after all, involve a human life.
"It was incredibly difficult," I admitted. "I couldn't have controlled it by myself."
He nodded sagely. "Bella…you inhaled only trace amounts. According to Jasper, probably only a thousandth of what you would have been hit with if the wind had shifted while he had gotten out of the vehicle and you had been breathing." He let this little tit-bit sink in before continuing. "He would have been dead before you even realized what you were doing."
I was speechless with shock. That thick, aromatic, achingly irresistible, almost physically tangible scent had only been at a thousandth of its full potential?
I must have been wearing my emotions on my face because he came over and squatted next to my chair, reaching for my hands. "You will learn, Bella. I promise you that. It will get easier for you." He stood, pulling me up and into a hug. I slipped my arms around him and pressed my cheek into his chest, taking comfort from his strong, reassuring presence. We stood silently for a moment and then he pulled away from me. Holding on to my shoulders he ducked down a little to catch my eyes.
"Ok?" he said.
I nodded sadly. "Ok. I'm ok."
He smiled. "Off you go then."
Stunned that I had gotten off so easily, I left the room quickly, before he could change his mind.
Shaking off those thoughts of my early days as a vampire, I got off the bed and went to the window, sitting on the window seat with one leg folded beneath me. They sky was low and uniformly grey, and it was snowing again, thick flakes slowly drifting down, obliterating all evidence of yesterday's family 'guys vs. girls' snowball fight. I slid open the window, and stuck my head out, resting my arms on the sill. I felt the icy blast of air rush in, but it caused me no discomfort. It simply was, and I simply perceived it, no longer bound by my human reactions to it.
Had I been human still, I would have been enveloped in near complete silence. But even though the snow still muffled the surrounding sounds to an extent, the snowfall itself was incredibly noisy, a cross between a constant hiss and fizz, almost like static. I listened to the snow already on the ground creak as it settled. Lost in my thoughts, it took me a moment to register that the others were returning, and Jasper was heading down to meet them. Closing the window, I drifted back to the daybed to eavesdrop and await my doom.
"Where's the baby?" I heard Emmett ask, as they trooped into the kitchen through the back door.
"Up in her room, sulking," Jasper replied.
"Why is she sulking? What happened?" Edward interjected immediately, sounding concerned.
"She and I had ourselves a little set-to. She refused to drop her shield, and I had to get physical."
"Do you have any idea what set her off?" That was Carlisle, sounding more interested in the answer than I would have liked. I guess there was no hope he'd let this one slide.
"I'm not sure. She was reading a book, and then she just threw it at the wall." His voice dropped below audible levels then. Bastard. I didn't even try to control my annoyance, wanting him to feel it.
I heard nothing from downstairs for the next few minutes, and then suddenly they all started going about their business again, obviously done discussing me for now. Next came the unmistakable sound of someone – Carlisle, I'm sure – coming up the stairs, clearly heading for me.
There was a soft knock on the door, and I turned over onto my side, facing the wall. "Come in," I muttered unwillingly. The door opened and closed, and then I heard nothing until the mattress sank behind me, indicating that someone had seated themselves on the edge of the bed. It still surprised me how easy it was to recognize the members of my family by their scent. Carlisle smelled of leather, wood-smoke and books, with that underlying scent that was specific to him, the scent of the outdoors after rain. It was a comforting smell, one I associated with home, love and safety.
"Bella, turn around please. I don't want to talk to your back." His tone was firm but gentle.
I rolled over so I was facing him, delaying eye contact as long as possible by pulling an extra pillow under my shoulders and fussing with it. I finally looked at him, expecting to see his scary face, and I was surprised to see him looking understanding instead.
He came straight to the point. "Why did you disobey Jasper?"
I winced. "Could we please not use that word?"
"Which word would you be referring to?"
"'Disobey'. I don't like it."
He raised his eyebrows. "What is wrong with it?"
"It's…it gets my back up. It makes me feel uncomfortable. It's annoying."
Carlisle's lips twitched. "Very well, I'll try to remember not to use it," he said with a slight tremor in his voice, sounding like he was trying not to laugh. "Now, why don't you tell me why you…uh…refused to do what Jasper asked you to do?"
I sat up, cross-legged, hugging one of the throw pillows to my chest. "I don't like having my emotions pried into, Carlisle. And I don't like having them manipulated. It feels like I'm being sedated against my will. In the real world, that's probably illegal. It's certainly a violation of my human rights."
"Bella, this is the real world." His voice was shaky; he was clearly on the brink of laughter. "You aren't living some fairy tale while you wait to go back to the human world. This is it for you. This is your reality now." His voice turned serious again. "You chose this. There is no going back. You aren't human anymore, you are vampire, and you need to start coming to terms with that. Human rights don't apply to you, and there are no such things as vampire rights. The Volturi care about one thing only: secrecy. They will go to any length to maintain it, and I will be held responsible for any mistakes you make that threaten this secrecy. I won't take any risks with this.
"Every time you get angry, your reaction is to run, Bella. It is understandable, but it can't be allowed. You are too fast for us, we couldn't keep up with you. It could end disastrously for all of us, should you happen to cross paths with humans. Now, you may see Jasper's skill as an unfair advantage, but I'm going to use every advantage I have at my disposal. The world has changed a lot since I was turned; it's getting harder for us to blend in unnoticed, never mind conceal the damage a newborn can cause. You have to be kept under tight control for now. You understand that, don't you?"
"I do," I whispered, contrite. I was feeling really guilty now, and thoroughly ashamed of myself. "I'm sorry, Carlisle, I really am. I didn't mean to run…I don't even really know why I did it, it kind of just happened. I don't know…it made sense at the time. But I won't fight Jasper anymore, I promise. I could never live with myself if I killed anyone or got us all in trouble."
"Apology accepted." He stood up. "Now, I think I had better go. Edward is hovering outside your door."
I was shocked. "What, that's it?"
He turned back to look at me. "What do you mean?"
"Uh, it's just that the others lead me to believe…uh…" I stopped, not sure how to say it.
"That I would put the fear of God in you, like I do with them?"
"Yes," I said, relieved that he had said it for me.
He chuckled. "You are all different personalities, with vastly different backgrounds; what works for one, doesn't necessarily work for the other. I have to adapt my methods to each individual. The others are from a different time, when people had more respect for authority, especially parental authority. Usually, a sharp word is all that is required with Rosalie. Emmett and Edward are still a little wild and require a firmer hand, especially Edward. You are from a generation that doesn't fear authority as much, but you are level-headed and sensible for the most part, so reasoning with you seems to be a good first step."
"Oh." I didn't know what to say. It seemed strange to thank him, but I did. "Well, thank you. I appreciate it."
"Bella." His tone was serious, so I looked up at him and quailed inwardly. His countenance was stern and his eyes hard. It was the face Edward had been referring to, the one that turned his knees to jelly. I could certainly understand why. I felt very young all of a sudden.
"If reason doesn't work, I will escalate. I'll do whatever is necessary to keep you and this family safe." He waited until I nodded, wide-eyed, and then turned and silently left the room.
Edward came in moments later. He closed the door and leaned against it, crossing his arms over his chest and observing me pointedly. When he didn't speak, I raised an eyebrow.
"What, no lecture?" I challenged him.
"Nope," he said with a lopsided grin. "Your behavioral problems aren't my concern anymore."
That lopsided grin distracted me from the crack about my 'behavioral problems'. My eyes lingered on his sensuous mouth for a moment, then slid lower, taking in his strong jaw and the gentle slope from neck to shoulder that was revealed by the slightly off-center collar of his shirt. He was wearing a black t-shirt hanging outside low-slung faded bluejeans, except for where he had tucked the hem in behind his belt buckle. His feet were bare.
I looked back up into his yellow eyes. "Take off your shirt…" I said huskily, suddenly desperate for a distraction. I knew I still had to deal with Jasper, but right now I wanted, no, needed to lose myself in Edward.
He didn't move immediately, 'That Look' coming across his face. 'That Look' spoke volumes…telling me in no uncertain terms that the only reason he was letting me have the upper hand in our sexual relationship was because I was stronger than he was, and that I should enjoy the upper hand while I had it, because the moment I lost my newborn strength, he'd be taking the lead again, and then he'd make me pay. Intimidated and incredibly turned on, I felt an overwhelming urge to drop my eyes. Right on cue, my insides turned to liquid.
And that was before he'd even begun to undress.
Reaching for the hem of his t-shirt, he pulled it over his head and tossed it into the corner with a flick of his arm, his eyes never leaving mine
"Come here," I said, trying to shake off the spell he was weaving around me, and failing miserably when my breath hitched on the H. 'Knowing Smile' joined 'That Look', and I knew I wasn't fooling him for even a second. He came anyway, and stood just out of arm's reach. I scooted to the edge of the bed, and still had to lean forward to reach him. Hooking my fingers into the waistband of his jeans, I reeled him in, feeling him resist me.
Pulling him between my parted thighs, I leaned forward, inhaling him, my nose and lips brushing up against the alabaster skin of his stomach. He hissed softly and reached up to tangle his fingers in my hair, but I caught his hands and trapped them behind him, quickly swapping wrists so that his arms where crossed behind his back. I continued to nuzzle his abdomen, now free from interference.
I loved the way he smelled. I loved the way his abs twitched involuntarily beneath my lips. I loved the faint hisses and soft groans my mouth coaxed out of him. And I loved the way he tugged at his trapped wrists trying to free himself. I loved having the upper hand for once.
I could not help but marvel at how much I had changed. Becoming a vampire had unleashed something in me. That was one of the positive aspects of my new life. Loving, and being loved the way I was, had enabled me to see the beauty in me that I had always denied. True, I was 'enhanced', to human eyes at least, but it was still me.
I still did not care so much about clothes - unless I was dressing for Edward - but it was no longer for the same reasons. Before, I didn't care because I was so self-effacing and insecure. I dressed to match how I felt about myself. Now, it was because I wore such an aura of self-confidence about my looks, that my appearance didn't matter to me anymore.
I started placing open-mouthed kisses on his stomach, tasting him. Hunching down a little, I swirled the tip of my tongue around the well of his belly-button, and then followed the faint line of hair down to where it disappeared beneath the waistband of his jeans. His hips rocked forward involuntarily.
"Bella…please," he cried out softly, twisting his wrists in an attempt to get loose.
I reveled in my strength, enjoying it all the more because I knew it wouldn't last for ever. Edward's muscles were bunched and quivering as he tried to pull himself free, and I was barely exerting any effort. Emboldened, I started undoing his belt with my teeth, ignoring his very obvious denim-covered arousal right beneath my chin. For now.
"Bella…I swear to God…"
"Really? That's a bit rude, isn't it?" I murmured, deliberately misunderstanding him
I slid off the bed and down his legs until I was kneeling between his feet, my arms an unbreakable band around his hips. Tugging slightly on his arms, I forced him to open his shoulders, pulling them back and down. I nuzzled his crotch and then looked up at him seductively. He was looking down at me, his jaw tense and a fierce, predatory look on his face.
I smiled slowly, bared my teeth, and clicked them together once in a biting motion, moving with excruciating slowness toward his crotch. His eyes widened as he realized what I was planning.
"Please…no…Bella…" he moaned as I pulled at his arms again, arching him back a little more. His head fell back, his body taught as a bowstring.
Ignoring him, I nuzzled him once more, running my slightly parted lips right down the length of him. Without further warning, I fastened my teeth around him at about mid-point, right through the soft cotton of his jeans, and bit down lightly. Well, lightly for a vampire.
Edward cried out sharply, pushing his hips into my face. A powerful wave of lust washed over me out of nowhere, and just like that, I was done with foreplay. I released his wrists and stood, turning him around and backing him toward the bed. The back of his knees hit the edge, and he fell backwards. Leaning over him, I finished unbuttoning his jeans and yanked them down over his hips. Oooh, commando! I skimmed back up his body, licking the underside of him from root to tip with one long sweep of my tongue, on my way to his nipples. Again his hands reached for me, and again I stopped him.
"Reach above your head and hold on to the bars of the bed," I whispered, standing up and fumbling for the button on my jeans. He gave me 'That Look' again, hesitating just long enough to throw me off balance, to challenge me, but not long enough to get anywhere close to killing my mood.
What did kill my mood was Emmett banging on the door and saying "Am I interrupting anything?" knowing full well that he was. For a split second, the red haze of anger flooded my eyesight, and I tensed, ready to tear after him, rip off one of his legs and sell it back to him later for an obscene amount of money; but remembering everything that had transpired today, I decided maybe I could try to show a little maturity and control my temper instead. Quaking with the effort, I looked at Edward, who had pulled his jeans back up and was propped up on his elbows eyeing me carefully.
"Relax," I said, plopping down on the bed beside him, my voice shaking a little. "I won't kill him today. But he ruined the moment; I'm not in the mood anymore."
"For that reason alone, he must pay," he said with mock solemnity, his lips twitching.
He was teasing me, trying to diffuse the situation, and I loved him for it. "Go get him, tiger," I said, equally mock-seriously. "I need to talk to Jasper anyway."
He gave me a dangerous, tooth-filled grin. "When I get back, we'll pick up where we left off," he said, pointing a finger at me before disappearing out the door. I heard a commotion downstairs, and ran to the window just in time to see Emmett shooting into the trees with my bare-chested, bare-footed mate in hot pursuit. I followed their progress up the hill by watching the tops of the trees shiver and shake, unloading their burdens of snow. When their trail of destruction disappeared over the crest, I turned to seek Jasper out for a much needed talk.
Alice was just coming out of his study as I neared the door, clutching a stack of magazines and catalogs, looking a little flustered and disheveled. "Uh…Hi Bella! I…um…" She closed her mouth, and without saying another word, flitted out of sight to her room.
I watched her disappear with a frown on my face, surprised at her odd behavior, and then shrugged, turning to the closed door in front of me. I sighed, dreading what was coming, and raised my hand, but before I had time to knock, Jasper let me know he already knew I was there.
"Come on in."
I pushed open the door, and leaned against the jamb, wanting to gauge Jasper's mood before walking into the room. He was sitting cross legged on the couch, softly strumming on his guitar. Come to think of it, he looked a bit disheveled himself.
He looked up at me, his expression unreadable for a moment, and then broke into a disarming smile. "Get over here, baby girl," he drawled, unfolding one leg and patting the spot beside him. Relieved that the air between us appeared to be mostly clear, I practically skipped over to him and stretched myself out on the couch in my usual position, my head propped on his thigh as I looked into the flames. Jasper set his guitar aside and started playing with my hair, smoothing it away from my forehead and temples in a slow and soothing motion.
Much to my surprise, Jasper and I had developed a very close relationship, having bonded early on after I had been turned, over our love of reading. Very quickly, his study - especially when he was in it - became my sanctuary, my port in the storm, the place I could run to when my new life and my feelings for Edward got a little overwhelming. Mostly, we spent time in companionable silence, neither of us feeling the need to fill the silence with talk, but sometimes we argued amicably over a book or a movie, and engaged in in-depth discussions of the most random of topics. Just being in his presence was soothing, and I sought out his company often in those early days.
I listened to the crackling and spitting of the fire as I tried to gather up my courage and formulate an apology. I was feeling quite embarrassed about my outburst by now, and was reluctant to even allude to it. Jasper - damn his southern hide - stayed silent, toying with my hair and letting me marinate in my guilt. Finally I decided to just open my mouth and see what came out.
"I'm sorry about not listening to you earlier, and for being such a bitch. I know you were only trying to help me. I don't really know what got into me. Anyway…I am sorry."
"I know you are, darlin'," he said softly. "But how about you don't fight me next time? You won't have to be sorry at all in that case. Oh, and if you could also watch your language while you are at it, I won't have to wash your mouth out with soap."
I giggled, and punched him in the leg.
"She thinks I'm joking…" He sighed dramatically.
"Of course you're joking."
"Right?" I enunciated, raising myself up on my arms to look at him.
He gave me a long, pointed look, and then laughed. "Of course I'm joking, Bella."
I eyed him suspiciously for a moment, and then settled back down, my cheek on his thigh. He went back to playing with my hair.
"Why are there a pair of panties hanging from the lampshade?"