"It's about time!" Bella exclaimed as she intercepted Garrett and Emmett on their way back to the house. Emmett had taken the nomad on an extended hunting trip so that he could experience the finer points of vegetarian vampirism, Emmett style.
Bella had been pacing the yard for hours. With all the visitors in the house, her instincts were screaming at her to run. Jasper was still avoiding her, Carlisle and Eleazar had stayed locked in the study discussing who knows what, and all the remaining females flocked together to discuss topics that held no interest whatsoever for her. She really didn't care how the house was decorated and thinking about the latest fashions on the runways in Paris only reminded her she'd lost her best friend. Bella would have endured that discussion any given day for Alice's sake though.
"Catch anything good?" she asked.
"Garrett here got his first taste of bear. You should have seen it Bella!" Emmett's eyes twinkled like a little boy's. His exuberance always helped lift her spirits – for a moment at least.
"Definitely a step up from deer," Garrett conceded. "However, I can't say it's something I'll stick to. More exciting, sure...but the taste..." He grimaced.
Bella nodded amicably, not able to make the comparison herself. Even if she'd wanted to try their natural diet, the Cullens would never let her. "Did you need to go shower, or could you wait?" she asked.
"I've got to go see my Rosie." Emmett gave her a quick hug and took off for the house. Bella grimaced and realized she really did not want to be within hearing distance of their reunion that would be sure to last for at least the next few hours.
She looked to Garrett beseechingly.
He shrugged, more than amenable to spending time with his new friend. She fascinated him. Bella was the first vampire in a long time to hold his interest. He chalked it up to the type of lifestyle the Cullens lead. Most vampires were not civilized like this family. The Cullens were more interesting to talk to than others. The way they played human gave him back a piece of his humanity as well.
"The rest of Eleazar's family has arrived if you wanted to go meet them," she offered as an out.
"It can wait." He grinned and held out his hand.
She gave him a small smile in return as she slipped her hand into his and they took off together. Bella was absolutely forbidden to go anywhere alone, and having a constant bodyguard made the instinct to run that much more intense. The only person she felt free with was Garrett. Even though she hadn't known him for long, she knew he'd never try to tell her what to do or order her about like the other male vampires in her life.
Garrett was eager to explore the region with Bella...or explore Bella's regions. Either one would do. The woman started getting twitchy after a few hours in the house, just like him.
From the time he'd spent with her, he thought they would make good partners – traveling and exploring together. There was so much he could show her, and there was plenty he could learn from the spitfire. She was strong and intelligent, and pretty easy on the eyes too. He wasn't naïve enough to think there would be any great love shared between them, but they would make good friends. Perhaps he'd found a companion.
Garrett had been through the area before. After he was turned and the war was over, he headed north to explore the continent. He was no longer bound by human constraints and found his new life freeing. Trapping was big in the Hudson Bay area, and what better way to get rich when you could catch your prey with your bare hands and expend barely any effort. He'd never felt compelled to try animal blood during that time, the thought never crossing his mind, especially after having the stench of beaver musk stuck in your nose for weeks. He knew just where to take her, sure that in her young life she'd never seen anything quite like it.
Bella let him lead, enjoying the feel of the wind over her skin, the freedom of just running with nothing to do and nowhere to be. She liked spending time with Garrett. He just let her be. He didn't push her about feelings or plans or anything. He listened when she spoke, and offered his honest opinion when she asked for it. Bella could see herself easily exploring the world with him. Freedom was all she wanted, but the burden of the Volturi situation weighed heavily on her shoulders. She alone seemed to be the one person who could end their reign of terror, and she would do it – for Edward and Alice. For all the innocent vampires they'd manipulated or destroyed. For all the vampires they were currently going after. For her family.
Bella knew she would have to work with Jasper to exact this revenge, and couldn't say she was looking forward to that. Their troubled friendship just couldn't seem to find any smooth sailing, no matter how good their intentions were, one of them always managed to screw it up somehow. She was definitely guilty of her share. Her vampire instincts ran much stronger than she ever imagined they would. The Cullens, especially Edward, had seemed so in control at all times. The only time she'd seen their true nature had been in that ballet studio. She had no idea it would be like this all the time. The urges she had seem to come out of nowhere. It was raw and animalistic, and her rational brain seemed to shut off sometimes as her instincts took over. Like her teenage hormones had kicked into overdrive, or been magnified by the change.
Obviously, she had a lot to learn.
Garrett slowed and closed the distance between them, reaching out for her hand once again,. She eagerly took it. Her sense of touch being so much more intense meant she craved the feel of another in any way she could get it. She'd never admit to spending hours in the night touching every surface and object she could find, exploring her new and improved tactile senses.
"Shhhh..." Garrett held his finger to his lips to emphasize his point.
A few thousand feet later and he pulled her to a stop and stepped up behind her. With one hand on her shoulder, he used his other to point out something too far for human eyes to see. Bella gasped when she realized what she was seeing, and her companion stepped closer, wrapping his arms around her waist and resting his head on her shoulder.
"Isn't it amazing?" he asked. His voice barely a breath against her ear.
Bella nodded in wonder.
Far off in the distance a mother polar bear was watching her two cubs play and wrestle in the grass. They were just fuzzy white balls of fur, but make no mistake, their mother was an apex predator and would have no qualms about attempting to rip the two vampires to shreds.
"Churchill is the polar bear capital. They have warnings posted everywhere for the humans, and even offer tours. Me and Emmett passed by here and he almost went after the mother, but then saw the cubs and obviously left them alone. I'm sure they would be considered a unique hunt, but there is no way I could ever take out one of these beautiful animals. So majestic, yet deadly. Like you," Garrett whispered.
Bella could almost feel her old blush prickling at her cheeks and chest. Deadly, sure...but majestic? She scoffed internally. She'd been plain as a human and nothing much had changed when she had. Now she was perfectly plain, but definitely did not possess the majestic beauty most of her kind did.
Garrett didn't have to be a mind reader to tell where her thoughts had turned. "You really don't see yourself clearly do you?"
Bella froze. The familiar words were just too much. Everything was wrong. The wrong voice. The wrong smell. The wrong pair of marble arms wrapped around her waist. She pushed out of the too large arms and dropped to her knees. Just when she thought she might be able to bear it, something always happened to rip that jagged hole wide open again.
"Bella? Bella, are you okay?" Garrett's words eventually penetrated through her haze of pain. His orange eyes were nothing like Edward's, but they were full of worry. His hands weren't as tender and gentle as they cradled her face. The dark stubble that obscured his sculpted jaw spoke of a man, not an immortal boy. Could he make her forget him? Even just for a moment. Could he make the pain less? Distract her?
Her eyes landed on his lips, knowing they wouldn't taste right. They wouldn't feel cold or unyielding. They would yield to hers now. His stubble would scratch her face. His rough hands would tangle in her hair. It would be completely different, and maybe...just for a moment...she wouldn't feel like she was being torn in two.
Bella tore her eyes away from his mouth and caught his gaze again. She saw the hope. Not as desperate as her own, but it was there. But she knew she could never be what he deserved. He deserved that same kind of heart-stopping love she'd had with Edward. It wouldn't be fair to let him think she might be able to be more than a friend, a body in his bed.
She quickly got to her feet and brushed the snow off her jeans. "We should probably head back."
"Bella," he whispered.
She didn't dare look at him. She couldn't stand to see him hurt. It was like Jake all over again.
"Bella," he tried again. "I don't expect..."
"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I just can't."
Garrett couldn't help but feel a bit of disappointment. Rejection still stung, no matter how many centuries you'd walked the earth. "It's okay," he reassured her.
When she began to run, he fell in step behind her. After a time, she stopped suddenly.
"Garrett," she started hesitantly. "I'd really like to leave with you when this is over. But you have to know...I can never...be more."
"I know," he replied. And he did know. He wasn't expecting anything more than she could give. "Just to have someone by my side to share this journey with me would be enough, Bella. I'd like for you to come with me, too."
She searched his face, his eyes, for the truth, and found it there. Giving her new friend a confirming nod, she took off again without another word. Garrett followed.
"There you are!" Esme exclaimed as Bella came through the back door with Garrett on her heels. At least she didn't look like she'd been playing in the mud this time.
Tanya still sneered in her direction. "Didn't take long for you to move on," she mumbled. Of course everyone could hear her.
"Tanya!" Carmen fixed the succubus with a disapproving stare.
"I just took Bella up to Churchill to show her the polar bears." Garret stepped in front of Bella protectively. "I don't know you, and if this is how you treat others, then I have no desire to know you," he stated coldly.
Garrett then turned to Carmen. "It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Garrett."
"And I am Carmen." She shook his hand. "My husband, Eleazar is upstairs with Carlisle. This would be Tanya." Carmen tipped her head at the scowling bitch. "I apologize for her outburst."
"No need for you to apologize, ma'am. She's the one who said it," he replied, making a point not to acknowledge Tanya.
Carmen gave him an uncomfortable smile, but went on to introduce the other two sisters, Irina and Kate. When Garrett took Kate's hand, they both jumped and looked down to where their hands met. Garrett then looked back up at Kate with a huge grin. "First time that's happened."
"Sorry," Kate replied with a sheepish smile. "I guess my gift got away from me."
"Your gift?" he asked.
"Kate conducts an electric current along her skin. She has learned how to control the strength of it. In the beginning it was only in her palms." Eleazar spoke from the bottom of the stairs, pride evident in his voice. "We thought she might be able to help you develop your gift further, Bella."
Everyone nodded thoughtfully, but Bella saw the look on Garrett's face as he gazed at Kate with wonder.
Kate startled Bella by wrapped her arm around her shoulder. "Oh I think Bella has developed her gift well enough on her own," Kate said, giving Bella a conspiratory wink. "She's only managed to accomplish what no one else has been able to for centuries. With the witch twins out of the way, this will all be a lot easier." Kate squeezed Bella in a one arm hug and gave her a genuinely friendly smile that Bella couldn't help but return.
"Show me," Garrett said.
Kate smirked. "Are you sure? I've been told it's quite painful."
"Oh, I think I'm up to the challenge, lass."
Without a word, Kate reached out and grabbed Garrett's hand. The tall nomad crumpled to the ground immediately and Kate released his hand.
After a minute, Garrett looked up at the blonde vampire. "Is that all you've got?" he asked cheekily, though his voice was a little shaky.
Kate's laugh tinkled like bells. "I think that's enough for now." She reached her hand out once more to help him up, and he took it hesitantly. When there was no shock, he grasped it a little tighter and stood up. Bella didn't miss the way they held hands a little longer than necessary.
Bella guessed she wouldn't be going anywhere with Garrett when this was over.
Sure, she was happy for the nomad, and for Kate. She knew that you just don't walk away from a spark like that. But as it was a vampire's inherent nature to be selfish...she couldn't help the disappointment either. The disappointment of missed opportunities, adventures and freedom. Not being reminded every moment of what had been lost. Distraction. She'd have to find that elsewhere.