It seemed she would always be cold.
They were moving through the woods again at an impossible speed toward wherever Carlisle and the other Cullens were keeping house. She only prayed that none of them were like Edward and if they were that they would drain her swiftly and without playing with her.
She held out a bit of hope that they would simply argue amongst themselves, leaving her free to leave.
Edward slowed, his nose in the air as he took in the scent of his former family. They were close. He only needed to provide them with incentive to come out and play.
The vampire placed Bella on her feet before pulling her close. "Come out, come out! I can smell you all over the trees here!"
The only response was the wind. He growled, a hand tightening in her jacket. "I guess they need a bit of an incentive, kitten." Without further warning, he bit directly through the borrowed coat and into her shoulder.
She howled in pain and tried to thrash away from him, causing his teeth to shred fabric and skin like paper. Her screams hurt his ears but he held fast to her. Bella was shaking in his arms as he removed his teeth from the jagged wounds. He pecked her lips to silence her, blood now staining her face as well as his.
She whimpered as the cold hit the fresh gashes.
A silent thump behind the two alerted them to a new presence. Edward turned, taking Bella with him. "Carlisle," he greeted frigidly. "How nice of you to join us."
There was a series of similar sounds as others joined the conversation. Three new vampires effectively surrounded them. She recognized them all as the two males from the chase in the woods and the doctor who visited her at home.
The doctor, Carlisle, stepped forward with a hand out. "Hello son," he said.
Edward spit at his feet. "Son? I am no child of yours. I am here to see why you've decided to interfere in my life."
"I admit, I visited the girl to provide medical care," Carlisle confessed. "She desperately needs medical attention, Edward," he attempted to inform the irate individual before them. "She will die without help. You need to let her go."
The words fueled the fires of his rage, causing a frenzied reply. "NO! Never!" He growled deeply, the expression touching the lowest parts of his vocal chords. "NEVER! She is only MINE!"
The group around them drew in closer to the enraged man and the girl enclosed in his arms. Edward gave another growl of warning as he heard their intention to strip her from his hold in their thoughts. "We just want to treat her wounds and then will return the girl to you," said the blonde vampire from their previous trip to the woods. He allowed a wave of calm to encompass the entire group, focusing especially on soothing Edward.
Red eyes went directly to Jasper's face, staring him down. "Quit it," said Edward coldly. "You can't possibly believe that would be enough to keep me from ripping your throat out."
"I'm not doing it for only you, Edward," retorted Jasper. "Look at the girl. She's terrified. All I can feel is her overwhelming fear and despair coupled with her hate for you." He paused, taking in more of the vulnerable girl's emotions. His golden eyes widened as he discerned the most powerful of the emotions coming through: sadness. Sadness shrouding something else, something she wanted to keep hidden – or perhaps didn't yet realize. That unnamed feeling was stronger now than it was last time. Interesting.
Edward had plucked the thoughts out of Jasper's mind without difficulty, wanting to understand exactly what his little toy was feeling. "I killed her father," he said, pride leaking into his voice.
When he offered no further information, his sire shook his head and stepped closer to the two in the middle of the circle. Edward gave a hiss, prompting Carlisle to growl back.
"Don't bother with one of your lectures about the sacredness of human life, Carlisle," Jasper cautioned before Edward could make a comment, "He's reveling in the satisfaction of killing the girl's father. It would be a waste of breath."
Carlisle waved a hand in a motion for the rest of the coven to halt their progression toward closing in on Edward. "Do you want to hear what happened when I went to see Bella?"
Edward snarled, lunging for his onetime father figure. Instantly Emmett was there with both arms banded around Edward's waist. Bella whimpered slightly as she was pushed to the forest floor.
"Let go of me, Emmett!" he demanded.
The much stronger vampire ignored Edward's request. Emmett glanced at the girl, taking in the swollen mass that once had been her lower lip, the freshly bleeding bite across her jugular, the bruises dotting her chin from where Edward had probably gripped her jaw. He could smell the onset of infection deep in the tissue of her black and blue wrist and the blood welling under the coating of venom. Edward's fresh release of her blood was nearly overwhelming to Emmett despite years of careful control.
As Emmett surveyed the girl, Edward tried to lunge for Bella. "You don't even get to think about her!" he hissed, spittle spraying the air with the force of the words.
"All I can think about is how you're killing her!" retorted Emmett. He moved his large hands up to grip Edward tighter, yet the bronze haired vampire slipped from his hold.
Edward went directly to Bella's side, gathering her up. She whimpered when the quick movement jostled her injured shoulder. He ran his nose along the tattered flesh, inhaling deeply.
As Emmett observed their interaction, he barely managed to swallow an exclamation of surprise. She wanted Edward. What? This entire situation, Emmett lamented, is bizarre.
He was surprised to see Bella holding so tightly to her captor. She was gripping Edward's dark coat so hard her knuckles were straining against the fabric. Under his scrutiny she shifted, pressing her forehead into the wool as well. The fresh bite positioned on her shoulder caught his attention.
Edward's red eyes darted to Emmett, daring him to attempt to take Bella from him.
"We don't want to steal your pet," came a soft, almost motherly voice. The attention of the group, including Edward, focused on a beautiful woman with caramel colored hair. She looked to be in her mid-twenties, her features taking on beauty reminiscent of an old forties film star. Bella only took a glance before returning her face to Edward's jacket.
The woman took a step closer to Edward and Bella, reaching a hand out to him. "You should know we would never intervene in your affairs, Edward. The only issue the family takes with your behavior is the attention you must be drawing from the humans that surround her."
"The human who would have posed the greatest threat of exposing our secret is now dead," said Edward in the same cold voice. "Do you want to hear how I killed him, Mother?" The title was spoken with a particular disdain. When Esme didn't answer right away he continued. "He caught my little kitten here, completely bare, with me. We were…preoccupied…and I allowed him to catch us just so I could have an excuse to snap his neck." Bella let out a low wail, her body shaking under the force it took to hold back her sobs.
Jasper grimaced at the overwhelming grief emanating from the helpless girl in Edward's arms. Despite her reaction to the retelling of how Charlie died, Edward persisted. Jasper was horrified by the amount of pleasure and smugness his former brother felt at killing an innocent human man.
"He asked me what I was doing to his daughter, to which my lovely Isabella tried to warn him to stay away. Instead, he decided to try and tackle me," Edward paused to smile down at the girl. "When he charged me, I choked the life out of him until she pleaded for me to stop. And then I threw him down the stairs."
The sobs were too much for Bella to hold in any longer, crying and gasping as she tried to control her breathing through her tears. "Oh kitten, you should tell them the rest. I think the coven would be interested to hear the ending of the story from you."
Bella shook her head, too upset to even try and speak. Esme started to step toward Bella but was halted by a warning look from Edward. He leaned down and placed his chin on the top of Bella's head, hissing lowly, "Remember now that there is no one left to protect. You are mine and mine alone. I will not allow them to hurt you unless you disobey me."
She was silent, as was the rest of the group. Her shoulders shook as she tried to collect herself enough to tell the rest of the day's events to this group of strangers. She did not remove her face from Edward's coat as she spat out, "He told me to stay upstairs but I ignored him and went to check on Charlie. I wish I hadn't. He –" her voice broke at this point, tears soaking his chest.
She forced the sob down long enough to continue with, "H-he had broken my father's legs but that wasn't enough. Edward told me to move Dad's body into the kitchen and I refused, instead fighting him. He cornered me and -" She struggled with the urge to scream and cry as she considered what had happened, trying to simply last long enough to finish everything so they could leave her alone. "Edward forced me to drag Charlie's body into the kitchen. He tore off some of his limbs…. He said there was no need to waste and…he started…his blood… He drank all that he could. I was forced to watch!" She looked up at Jasper and Esme and the rest, horrified at confessing something so grizzly. "He forced me to watch as he drank my own father dry! As he yanked off an arm and one of his legs! I held his limbs in my arms, bloody and warm and partially crushed. Then Edward took the r-remains and left me. I don't know where my dad is! I don't even have the peace of knowing where he's buried!"
Bella broke down once more, crying pitifully. At this point she no longer cared about dignity. She only cared about living long enough to find a way out of this hellhole of an existence. Charlie no longer needed to be protected, which made her plan a lot easier to execute.
Since her original plan to run during Carlisle and Edward's confrontation had been foiled by the appearance of the rest of the Cullen coven, she would have to wait a bit longer.
When Edward left to feed she would disappear.
She had been considering for a while now the best method to escape him. All of her thoughts pointed to one particular advantage she held over him: his inability to read her mind. There were limitations, however. She would have to get far enough away to render his gift of seeing through other's thoughts useless. She would have to remain hidden, even after escaping to somewhere full of people. New York would still meet the criteria, and as she considered previously, she could work until she had the money to move somewhere farther.
The greatest challenge was the beginning of her plan: getting away without being stopped. She knew he was inhumanly fast and strong, that if she revealed any hint of departure to any living soul she would be found out. Somehow she had to find a faster vehicle than her truck – it was faithful but not nearly quick enough for her to make a getaway.
Bella figured she could steal her father's police cruiser but immediately scrapped the idea, as she no longer knew of its whereabouts. Plus she couldn't bear to be trapped in the same vehicle that had temporarily housed her father's body.
She wondered when and how she would discover exactly what Edward did with Charlie. The innocent people of Forks would no doubt be stunned when they discovered their chief of police had been murdered by an untraceable demon. They were isolated enough from real crime that his death would be unthinkable. Bella swallowed a bitter chuckle at the thought of Forks being harmless. She had watched her dad be killed in cold blood right before her eyes. She had endured physical and psychological torture at the hands of a madman. Her father was the head of the police, yet he had been unable to protect her or save himself.
The reminder that Charlie would never again be out in the community or come home from a long day of work brought a fresh wave of tears to her eyes. Every memory she had of her father, every recollection and happy thought went directly back to the way he died.
She could not even recall his smile without having it warp to the last moments of his life. She would think of Charlie happy and healthy, then suddenly he would be crying out, eye sockets and mouth smeared with blood. The sound of snapping bones and tendons being pulverized set her teeth on edge. Charlie's final cries were weak and piteous to her ears – unbefitting of a man who had always seemed tough and unbreakable to her.
Edward held her closer, restricting her attempts to move away from him as she was bombarded with the imagery of her father's arm, fingers still slightly flexing, leg away from its socket.
"She's going to be sick," commented Jasper with half-hearted interest. "She's disgusted with herself for allowing you to kill him."
He bent his neck and his forehead on hers, forcing her to look up at him again. "Enough, Isabella." Their eyes met and she tried to ignore his stare. He squeezed her tightly, almost to the point of pain. "Despite your attempts to save him, in the end you were fighting a losing battle. I would have killed him within the week."
Bella lost the battle with her nausea and started to fitfully dry heave. All she could see was Charlie's sprawling limbs and broken spine. All she could hear was the squelching of his bodily fluids under the soles of her feet as she tried to evade Edward in the kitchen. As he stood there, reminding her she was a monster too, she felt the world shift.
Something within her had changed in that moment.
As she recalled that particular feeling she began to laugh uncontrollably between heaves. Her stomach and chest ached, blood vessels popping in her already red eyes as she alternated between two emotional polar opposites.
Jasper glanced at Carlisle, both expressing concern at her outburst. Whatever their thoughts were on the subject, they prompted Edward make a menacing sound of discontent. Esme started to step toward Bella again but Edward only drew her closer to him.
A low moan of pain punctuated the end of her fitful laughter and her gagging. One of her hands went up to wipe the bile and spittle from her lips. Her captor leaned his head down again to whisper a soft, "Don't let any of them touch you, particularly him." Angry red eyes shot a dirty glare at Carlisle before he turned his mouth to nip at her ear.
"Edward, we aren't going to take her away from you," said Emmett in an attempt to cut though some of the tension.
Strain filled Edward's face at the words. He slid one hand upwards, drawing it from her waist up to rest under her chin, the path of his hand slow and indirect. His index finger stroked the pulse there, Bella stilled instantly.
"I still owe you for the last attempt you made to take her," he replied threateningly. His mouth replaced his finger over her pulse, placing a gentle kiss there. He looked up with only his eyes, taking in the expressions of his former family. Most were frozen in silent horror, their thoughts concerned over the spilling of human blood. He bore his teeth, a feral sound bubbling up in his chest as he carefully grazed them over Bella's thin skin.
She shuddered in his arms, one of her hands moving to hold his chin. Awed, the family watched as Bella infinitesimally pressed the delicate flesh of her neck closer to his mouth.
He did not outright bite her. Instead he gave the stretch of exposed skin a long lick, clearly marking her in front of the rest of the Cullens.
Emmett gave a snort of disgust at the motion. As though it wasn't already obvious that she was his and his only.
Carlisle, who was glancing his former patient over, noticed something strange. He was surprised and confused by the numerous healed over bites. Had Edward used his venom to help heal Bella? Surely he understood that he could only patch her up for so long before she would succumb to illness or infection. As he was about to comment on the subject, Edward intervened.
In the blink of an eye, Edward was across the room and had pushed his sire to the ground. Edward snapped at Carlisle, their movements too rapid for her to follow. She saw a glint of sharp teeth and heard a hiss of pain as someone's teeth connected with flesh.
Bella shook as she watched the two. Who exactly did she want to win? Her teeth chattered and she felt her body starting to collapse with tremors.
Across from her, Emmett watched the girl crumple to the ground. He glanced at Edward, who was clearly preoccupied with Carlisle, before going to Bella's side. To Emmett's surprise Esme had the same idea. Jasper had gone to Carlisle's aid by sending a crippling wave of serenity directly to Edward.
"Stop it!" snarled Edward as he redirected his attention to the source of calm. His tiny lack of focus provided Carlisle with the upper hand, allowing him to pin his progeny to the ground. Edward thrashed against the hold of his sire, his mind reading talent providing little advantage against brute strength.
"Japer, help me with him!" said Carlisle, who was struggling to keep the angry vampire in his grasp. Quickly Jasper complied and placed a hand on Edward's exposed neck. His gift was far more powerful when conveyed through direct touch.
Jasper summoned a powerful wave of fatigue that nearly caused Edward's limbs to buckle under its force. He went limp, his head twisting back and forth to try and shake off the blonde vampire's hand from his flesh.
From her position just across from them, Bella tried to contain her surprise and her own desperate weakness. She tried to clench her jaw against the shaking but it only succeeded in making her whole head ache. "I-I don't know what's happening," she managed through clenched teeth.
Emmett kneeled at her side and hesitantly put a hand on her back. She cried out from the contact and moved as far away from Emmett as possible. "D-don't! I-I can't."
"She's having a panic attack," said Esme. "Probably going into shock as well. I wonder when the last time was that she had some rest and a meal."
"Not for a while, I'd guess," Emmett said as he continued to watch the girl on the ground. Like before, he unzipped his jacket and laid it over her. Bella looked up at him with frantic eyes. Emmett tried to give her a reassuring smile and calmly said, "You know, we've got to stop meeting like this, little one."
From across the field Edward growled loudly at Emmett and tried to launch himself at the bigger vampire. Carlisle tightened his hold around Edward's middle, easily restraining him. The other vampires couldn't help but notice the oozing bite wound on their leader's neck.
Oh Edward, thought Emmett, what's happened to you?
"Nothing has happened to me, brother," he sneered from the cage of Carlisle's arms. "I've never been much for sharing."
Esme glanced at Carlisle, giving him a once over. She was grateful Edward hadn't bit him more than once. Though she knew the bite would heal, she also understood it had to hurt Carlisle more than he was letting on. She had never seen her oldest child behave this way. It was as though a bloodthirsty and rabid creature had simply consumed the Edward she had known for decades.
She reached one delicate hand down to smooth the girl's hair away from her face but it caused a chain reaction of events to occur: Bella cried out, Edward broke free of Carlisle's grip and started to pounce on Emmett and Esme, and Jasper intervened by tackling the rogue vampire to the ground.
Edward bit Jasper hard, cutting easily through the pale stone surface of his forearm.
Jasper instantly clamped his mouth roughly around where Edward's pulse should be. At the same time, he emitted a second thick wave of calm that surrounded each individual in the clearing. It did not help Edward, who continued to hiss and spit and snarl as he attempted to struggle out of Jasper's practiced arms.
Esme scowled at the feral creature trapped in Jasper's hold. "Stop it, Edward. That's more than enough. You know your precious human isn't going to come to any harm from anyone in this family."
"Should we destroy him?" Emmett asked almost eagerly. His attention shifted to Carlisle, whose gaze immediately went to a petite figure watching from the edge of the trees. She had been observing with a growing sense of horror and guilt. Never did she imagine that one tiny vision would be so horrifically misinterpreted. The broken girl in front of them was the obvious evidence of that.
"Hello Alice," Edward growled. "Welcome to the party."
Alice closed her eyes, using her gift to determine whether Edward's demise would be a beneficial move for her family. The outcome simply led to darkness, to despair and isolation for this human girl. The family would be left to pick up the pieces – forced to absorb Bella into their lives to protect her. As she knew the name Cullen, they too had targets on their backs for allowing her to share their secret.
As soon as she made that realization, she sensed a supreme amount of satisfaction coming from Edward. He had planned for this. Her eyes shot over to look at the trapped vampire. He was barely suppressing a grin. Before he could gloat, her attention shifted back to the rest of her family.
The petite vampire shook her head in the negative. "No. If we kill him, the outcome is unfavorable to us."
Carlisle studied Alice's expression for a moment before nodding in agreement. "If there's no gain to be found, then we will not kill him." The patriarch of the Cullen family raised a hand to cover his rapidly healing wound as he moved across the grass to stand in front of Jasper and Edward.
Edward continued to struggle, his fight increased at Carlisle's close proximity. "Let. Me. Go!"
"No." The older vampire's reply was cold. "At this time Edward, we will be taking the girl back to your cabin for 48 hours. After these 48 hours, she will be released back into your care. She needs time to recuperate or you will kill her. A dead human girl will only add suspicion to your name and draw attention to us. You must leave Forks after she is returned to you."
Edward's red eyes shot to the petite figure in the shadows of the trees, glaring at Alice. "You," he said darkly, "you are the cause of this. What happened to what you promised me? What happened to my perfect future?"
It's subjective Edward, she reminded him silently. I can't control the path that you take just as I can't dictate outcomes. You know this.
There was a pause in her mind as she tried to gather the strength to show him the vision she had of his future now: bleak and dark and above all, alone.
As soon as she summoned the appropriate memory she brought it to the forefront of her mind for him to watch. She saw a bloodied alleyway in a torrential downpour, Edward hunched over a human corpse. She saw Bella, red at her lips and shadows in her eyes. She saw the hint of insanity reflected in both of their gazes, how Bella would be devoured by guilt and pain. And eventually, she could discern Edward deep in the Olympic forest being chased by something she could not make out entirely. She saw the resolve on his face, the pain and acceptance there stripping away his false bravado.
Far down the line, she saw nothingness. It had all faded to black.
She tried to hide the shakiness in her voice as she provided directions to the rest of the coven. "Carlisle, you should take Bella to the cabin. Emmett and Jasper, you will need to keep a hold on Edward after you take him back to the basement."
Edward roared loudly over Alice's words. "When I escape, when you have a lapse in judgment, I will go and get her. After she is mine again, I will come and destroy all of you!"
Alice nodded. "Of that, I have no doubt."
Emmett did his best to ignore the shriek of fear from Bella as he scooped her into his arms. She was still shaking all over when he passed her to Carlisle. Carlisle frowned as he saw the mauled skin of her shoulder.
She's going to need several stitches at least, he thought in frustration. At Alice's prompting, he had brought his medical bag out to the clearing with him. Holding Bella with one arm, he grabbed his bag with the other.
"The hell you will!" Edward shouted. "If you put a single stitch into her body I will rip it right back out! She is mine! MINE!"
"For 48 hours, Edward, she is mine," he shot back. "If you would like to see your pet again, you will allow her this time to heal. And when she is returned to you, you should take better care of her."
At this, Edward snarled loudly in irritation. Jasper bit him harshly to redirect his attention. Emmett grabbed the rogue vampire's legs and the two proceeded to take their former sibling back to the Cullen house.
Carlisle watched Bella's reaction as Edward went farther and farther out of her sight. Rather than the relief he expected to see, he instead saw fear. She was terrified.
"I won't hurt you, child," he tried to reassure her. At this, her face crumpled.
"Would you like some help?" Esme asked.
Carlisle frowned, shaking his head. "I would prefer for the girl to stay as far away from you and the rest of the coven as possible. There is a strong possibility that Edward will escape from his imprisonment and come to retrieve the human. I would like for you to be out of his crosshairs as long as possible."
Esme nodded, Bella watching her beautiful face with a mix of fear and curiosity. Esme saw the girl watching her and smiled as she leaned down. The female vampire smelled wonderful, like a hint of floral and cinnamon. "If you're smart, little girl, you will kill yourself before the two days are up," she whispered in Bella's ear, soft lips brushing against her skin.
Bella's face twisted into an expression of shock and horror. Both vampires ignored her reaction and simply went their separate ways. She closed her eyes against the cold of the breeze as Carlisle carried her back to Edward's cabin. How would she ever survive this? Could she survive this?
Happy Happy Halloween, lovelies. As always, thanks for reading. Theories? Questions? Let me know!
A bazillion unicorns dancing on rainbows to Octoberland for her wonderful feedback and waving her beta wand to make this chapter infinitely better.