I tried to think of a hundred different excuses for almost an entire year of epic ItS update fail, but truth is, there is no excuse. This chapter simply kicked my ass. It's been rewritten no less than a dozen times and quite frankly I haven't been entirely satisfied with any of the drafts, but this is the one I settled on. The next chapter, you will be pleased to hear, is going much better. I should have it out in a fraction of the time, but no promises, because as much time as I sat staring at this chapter, willing myself the write the goddanged thing, I really hadn't realized that a year had gone by. So it goes, my fellow tri-hards...For that, my humblest apologies!

All things Twilight related belong to SM. :( But my twi-gasmic pre-reader refolin belongs to me. (She got Jacob out of bed and on to the floor.) :) :)

Recap:
Last we saw Edward Cullen a dark mist awakens him from a dream. It's found him! Thankfully, Bella appears and urges him to run someplace safe. Edward takes refuge in an abandoned house belonging to the late Helen Swan. Bella comes to him. He is able to speak to her, touch her. He finds out she was murdered, and anyone could be next.

Chapter 14

-Nightmare

It was the same dream. Bella was in my arms and I was holding her, loving her, lips reverently whispering her name like a prayer. Her eyes shone and her bottom lip pushed outward. The expression was apologetic and repentant and left me wondering if she felt what I did when we were so close. This connection between us was electric, alive.

I inched forward purposefully and brought my hand to her neck. I wanted to give her a fragment of my feelings, some kind of gesture to say what a thousand words never could. I wouldn't let myself just say goodbye. I couldn't have it so simple. It was a moment I'd been waiting for my whole miserable life and I was too captivated. I knew it was wrong, but there was no virtue in that kiss. And if that was sin, the Devil can have me.

Passion erupted with a tangle of limbs as Bella's lips pushed at mine. The struggle, the sensual taste of her mouth on mine after wanting it for so long brought out the beast inside me. I pushed harder and deeper, desperate to devour and completely unaware that her dainty hands had slipped from my hair and were pushing hard at my chest.

When she mumbled my name, I was finally able to pull away. The word was panicked, forced between us and shocked me from my hungry lust. I looked at her, into her dark chocolate eyes, adoring the thick dark frame of lashes and realized what I had done. My expression widened, innocent surprise mixed with sweeping shame.

I wasn't sure what I was expecting. I hadn't seen her in almost two years. Then, out of nowhere, I leave school to come to her. To find out she's getting married to our best friend. What was I hoping to accomplish? Was I expecting her to jump out of his arms and into mine? Was I expecting her to love me too and have a happily ever after?

I guess I was. I guess that's what I expected all along.

"How dare you come here with that, Edward? What are you thinking?"

What I hadn't expected was the slap of her palm against my cheek or the fire burning in her eyes. I hadn't anticipated the vehemence as she hissed, "Its waaay too late for this." She let that sink in making sure I fucking got it. And I did. I fucking got it. I was defeated.

The smell of strawberry shampoo invaded my senses and she was next to me again. "Look at me, Edward." I had to. Pity was easier to face than ire, but I was relieved to see her eyes back to the same placid brown I've known so well. "Jake and I have been together since high school," she said softly. "If you had a problem with it you should have made an effort to let me know back then." Did it sound like she wished I had? I opened my mouth to respond, but she didn't let me. "Is this because I'm getting married? Edward, it won't change anything. Even with how weird things have been for the last couple years, nothing will ever change between us. You know that, right?"

Yeah, I knew it now better than ever. I was stuck forever in the friend zone with Bella when she had always been so much more than that to me. I wished I could disappear. I hoped the world would open up and swallow me. "Yeah…" I muttered stupidly. "I just got caught up for a minute. I know we're good."

She smiled prettily and wrapped her arms around my neck. I gathered her in, cursing the folds of extra fabric that prevented me from letting her too close, and I buried my face in the veil. "You love him, Bells?" I whispered, half hoping she wouldn't hear me at all.

"He's good for me," she answered back softly.

That didn't answer my question, so like the dumbass I'd thus far proved myself to be, I insisted, "Do you love him?"

Bella didn't have the chance to answer me. Suddenly, a large shadow was looming in the doorway of the bridal suite. He didn't bother to ask what was going on, but maybe he'd heard enough to know. With two short strides, Jake was bearing down, angry and vicious. Then he hit me.

I awoke blinking at the ceiling in Grandma Swan's old bedroom. The same pain and loss I felt all those years ago was raw again. Different than the raw misery of Bella's death, this hurt was a familiar throb. Even when I finally admitted that I'd never be happy without her, it'd been too fucking late. She'd already set me aside. Both she and Jake moved forward into a new stage of life where I couldn't follow. It was that abandonment that led to my complete self-annihilation, despite it really being me who ended contact with fucking reality. It was that absolute emptiness that wakened me.

Dust motes floated lazily in the golden morning sun and I felt utterly desolate. Just as I had when I awakened on their wedding day, ears still ringing, eye swollen shut, and found out they were husband and wife. I slipped easily back into the same emotional black hole I'd been for the past seven fucking years. My phone rang and I did not answer. It chirped and alerted at unresponsive ears. I was waiting for Bella, but I could feel it. I just laid on top the dingy mattress where Bella left me, knowing deep down to my fucking core that if she hadn't come back by now that she wasn't coming back. I couldn't fathom the implications, the finality.

Then, Jake was in the doorway of Grandma Swan's bedroom. For a moment, I thought I was still dreaming. I must be; he was the last person I thought I'd see here. Then, I wouldn't have dreamed him so wrecked. "I'm leaving," he said, forgoing salutations and throwing his heavy body on the floor next to the bed. "I'm a fucking failure and I can't do it anymore."

I mumbled something back because I didn't want to get started on the subject of failure. Jake either didn't notice or didn't care. He pressed on. "Sue will help Dad take care of the boys. And Leah's really stepped into their lives. She's as good a mother they'll get with Bella gone."

I tilted my head in his direction and opened an eye as my daze started to clear. God, I had never been more wrong about anything in my life. I thought Jake would make it through this shit. He was the strong one. It had always been that way. But now, he looked half gone. His forehead was prematurely creased and the once bronze skin looked pale and yellowed. What the hell was happening to him?

"I just can't do it," he repeated. The man was fucking defeated and it pissed me off.

"So what are going to do? You're going to leave your kids with nothing? They just lost their mother, for Christsakes! Now you want to take away the only thing they have left? How can you even consider this an option? They need you, you stupid fuck! You're their father."

I stopped myself. My hard breaths were the only thing I could hear over the pounding of my heart. I wanted him to react, to do anything that showed he understood how wrong this was. Those were Bella's kids, goddamnit, and I'd be fucked if I was going to let him be so selfish. He made no move until my breathing evened and I relaxed back into the mattress, staring at the shadows creeping across the ceiling.

"It's torturing me," he whispered. "I can't sleep. I can't eat. It's like its devouring my mind. I won'tsurvive this much longer and they shouldn't have to watch me die."

I thought about my oldest friend, the man who married the woman I loved. I had seen his dreams. They were horrifying. What were they doing to him? Were they so terrifying that he was losing his mind? Looking at those dark ringed eyes and drawn gray skin, the answer was obvious: yes.

I sat up all the way, my thoughts clicking into place. I was going to tell him everything. I had to. It might push him all the way over the edge, but fuck it. Jake was as much a part of this as me. He deserved to know. "You can't give up." I waited for him to open his eyes and acknowledge my words. When they opened, they were dull, lifeless, but I held back my unease. Now that I started, this had to be said. "Bella's still out there and she'd want you to fight. She hasn't given up and you can't either. I won't let you."

We stared at each other. Jake was trying to make sense of what I said and I was just trying to hold onto the tears that were threatening to blind me and weaken the impact of my declaration. Above all else, Bella's kids had to survive this. It was the only thing that made sense. I wasn't going to let him fail even if it meant I had to go out to La Push and hold his fucking hand through the end.

"Edward, the spirits guide us. They're supposed to protect us. Bella's not out there. If she was, I'd know. I'd be strong enough to fight this fucking nightmare." His desperation was thick around us.

"She is here," I insisted softly. "I've seen her, spoken to her."

He shook his head disbelievingly. "Impossible," he spat. "Why would she come to you?"

It would probably kill him if I had to tell him she didn't remember their family. I didn't have the heart. "She's in some kind of danger, Jake. I don't know what, but it's what killed her."

Jake tried to gage the truth through my eyes, but was still shaking his head. I couldn't blame him. If I hadn't seen her, heard her voice, I never would have believed. But I had and it felt imperative that Jake understand that he couldn't give up. What if the boys were next? I wasn't going to let anything endanger them. It may be too late for me or even Jake, but there was still hope for them.

"Please," I finally pleaded. "At least try to hang on. For their sakes. Maybe we can wait it out. Bella is trying to figure this shit on her end and we have to put a little trust in her." I abruptly stood up and took a step toward the door.

"Are you fucking crazy?" he half yelled. "Bella is trying to figure it out? Are you listening to yourself?"

I heaved a growl of frustration. "You're the one not listening. She doesn't remember any of our shit."

"Then why is she here?" Jake demanded.

I didn't know how to answer that. I had theories, of course, but they landed somewhere between SyFy and Crazy Town and I had no idea what the truth was. Instead of saying anything else, I just fell back to the mattress and exhaled deeply. Jake's tension spun around the room, but I closed my eyes to it. Eventually confusion won him over and he settled back down next to the bed again.

Jake and I maintained the overpowering silence, all those years of awkward mistrust falling over us. Minutes dragged into hours. The rejection from the dream weighed on my mind. How could I ever expect him to trust me when the day I finally grew a pair was the day he got married? After giving him the go ahead to pursue and love Bella, I tried to ruin it.

Before I realized it, the room was dark again. Jake was breathing heavily from the floor, snoring softly. I was relieved. He obviously hadn't been sleeping. I laid still, listening to the regular intake of his breathing and the settling of the long abandoned house. Even the noise of my thoughts, the awareness that Bella was gone and that Jake had given up himself and his children, was not enough to keep sleep from taking me as well. Before I knew it, my eyes were closed.

The dream picked up where it left off that morning. I was kissing Bella and she was pushing me away. Jake's fist connected with my jaw. I was lying on the floor staring up at a blank ceiling. Bella's shocked face swirled before me, but it was Jake's anger that really caught me. Through the haze, I looked up at him stunned at what I saw. His irises began to yellow, pupils contracting into narrow slits. Then, the whole face was changing. His nose elongated into snout. Thick dark hair sprouted across his cheeks and on his neck, until it was no longer Jake at all. I was suddenly staring into the eyes of a wolf.

I scrambled hastily to my feet, looking for Bella, instinct demanding I protect her from the beast. But she wasn't there and I was standing alone in the forest, surrounded on all sides by towering pines. The trees creaked and groaned with wind I did not feel, but ice dripped into the base of my spine as I stood face to face with the monstrous wolf. Its warm breath hit my cheeks smelling of meat and blood and dead things.

"Why are you here?" a voice demanded. I realized it came from my mouth, but I hadn't spoken. It took me half a heartbeat to realize it was Jake. I was Jake. Somehow, I had gotten into his dreams again. I half wondered how I had gotten there, but Jake sensed me and urged me to keep quiet.

"I shouldn't be," the wolf's answer sounded through my ears. It took me a moment to realize it hadn't spoken aloud. Like Jake, it had communicated with my mind. "It is forbidden for the Elders to contact you. You chose the wrong path."

Jacob immediately bristled. A memory came to his mind and because I was him, I remembered with him. This was not Jake's first encounter with this "Elder." It'd been there through childhood, but the last time was when he tried to persuade Jake not to marry Bella. It had not gone over well. Jake, so much more a boy then, had told the wolf to fuck off and it was the last time he had seen it. Until now.

The beast looked sad. Or as sad as a gigantic wolf could look under any circumstance. "Do not think I don't love you," it told us. "I have always loved you and only wanted what was best. I fought them this time, but I could not stand alone."

"Fought against what?" He was struggling to stay annoyed, but curiosity was winning out.

"Against giving her up," came the simple answer.

"Giving who up?" Jake asked.

"Bella?" That was me.

The beast bowed its massive head. "They think they know how to save you. They know nothing. Without her, you are all lost. She is the key to stop this." The wolf looked at me. I mean, me. Through Jake, straight to where I was cowering in his mind. "It was wrong not to let Jake have a say. Some of us still know what it means to truly believe in family. They have taken your woman, mother of our people. Without her, your souls lose purpose. It won't end well for anyone, least of all Bella."

"Who took her? Where is she?" Jake and I demanded at once.

"She is likely lost," the wolf answered with a hint of apology. "But you are not. Your children are not. You must try to save those you can."

"So, save myself while Bella remains missing, is that what you're saying?" Jake demanded hostility back. "Sacrifice her soul for mine? How can you even ask me that?"

"Choose or do not," the Elder answered harshly. "There is only one path."

Suddenly, there was an ear splitting crackle and the wolf was changing. Its face was shrinking, the fur burning away to ash across his angled cheeks and hard chin. His jet black hair hanging past broad shoulders and deep brown skin reminded me of Jacob, but the eyes were something else. The only word I can think of it unearthly. They were gold and bronze and red, all swirling in a pool of insane intellect. I cowered as the man inside became more intimidating than the wolf. Jake didn't back down an inch.

"Fools!" He cursed us both. "Despite their mother, the boys carry the souls of warriors. So do you, Jacob, the soul of a great Quileute chief. We protect our people. Fighting is the only option. You have to know that."

Jake's mind went to his mother. They hadn't protected her. They had let her die. Her death had been the point he disconnected with his ancestors the first time. The wolfman only brought it up to the forefront of his mind again.

I'm not sure if Jake came to Grandma Swan's just wanting to get away from this shit for a minute, but he never had any intention of leaving his kids. He knew they needed him to survive this haunting. Jake could just not see any other options. Real life began to tug at us when it touched the dream. The forest around us was shimmering, turning to thick, dark mist. Consciousness was pulling us into it. We were waking up.

"You have to kill it," the Elder said, just as his face disappeared into the encroaching reality. "Kill it!"

I blinked into the dark room, wondering how much time had passed since the dream started. I flashed a glance at Jake. His eyes were still closed, but I could tell by the shaky way he was breathing that he was awake too. Carefully shifting to my elbows I swung my legs over the edge of the bed and stood up.

"What the fuck was that?" I shook my head dazedly. I knew that dream was real, at least partially, but that didn't stop me from blaming it on my imagination. "What the fuck?" I repeated a bit more hysterically.

Jake didn't budge, but I knew he was listening. The house groaned and there was a pattering of footprints from the attic. It wasn't Bella, though. Bella was gone. I had to kill whatever had taken her. That was real.

"Come on," I said.

Jake lifted the arm that was thrown across her face and peered at me through one eye. "What's the point?" he muttered.

I was fucking shocked. "Was I the only one who just experienced that werewolf spirit shit? Fuck that. The point is killing that fucker and saving your kids. You're either with me or King Asshole. Get up!"

Jake made no effort to move. Fine. If he felt like being a douche bag for the rest of his life, it was fine by me. I wasn't going to sit around and decompose while this thing – whatever the fuck it was – went around attacking people I know, people I care about. Jake could be a coward for all I could care. I was going to save the fucking day.

I was halfway to Alice's before I heard the low rumble of Jake's car pull up beside me. He looked haggard. The sleep hadn't done him as good as I thought, but he offered a weary smile as I climbed into the car.

Alice was waiting on her doorstep. I was out the car and running to her before Jake had even stopped. I didn't care. My little sister was the only one who might be able to help me. I felt desperate for her familiar comfort and ended up crashing into her waiting arms. Little arms hugged me tightly until my breathing evened. If she was surprised by Jake's presence, it was kept it to herself, but something told me she'd been expecting us both.

After a minute or two, she led us in the house. Part of me was aware I was seeing my sister's home for the first time though she and Jasper had lived there for years. That same part was horrified by the overuse of gaudy flower prints and had a hard time imagining Jasper ever being able to even step into this room. It looked like a little senile old woman puked all over the fucking place. But all that was irrelevant, because as soon as I entered that god-awful living room my attention was fixed by a golden glowing light in the center of the room.

"This is Carlisle," Alice said entering behind me. "He has something to tell you."

I choked on my tongue. Why did this shit keep happening? I'd lived the entire first three decades of my life ignorant of anything other than the tiny little bubble of my reality. Now, in a matter of days I'd been confronted by all kinds of paranormal shit. My head was whirling. When would it end?

"Listen with your soul and hear him." Alice's voice had that strange monotone from the other day, when my haunting was nothing of consequence. Still, I tried to listen and held my breath while I stared at the golden orb, willing it to speak to me.

"They've taken Bella's soul," Alice said a moment later.

I looked quickly from the golden mass to my sister. "What do you mean 'taken'?" I demanded either of them. "How do we get her back?"

I'm sorry. There's nothing you can do for Isabella now. This time, I did hear it. The voice echoed inside my mind, followed by a current of excitement. Finally! It exclaimed. The connection is open. I thought you'd live this entire life without finding a way of opening it to me.

All I could think to say was, "What the fuck?"

Alice was across the room shaking her head, trying to loosen the daze and Jake simply looked lost. I wasn't sure he had any clue about what was happening around him. He might not even be able to see this thing. But I didn't have time to hold his hand and explain it right then. I was barely grasping it on my own.

"Who are you?" I asked, biding time.

Carlisle, it answered simply.

"What can I do to get Bella back?" I urged. There had to be a reason behind this visit.

You don't. If anyone can help her, it will be me.

"Then why are you here?" I shouted back. "Go save her!"

I will do my best, he promised calmly. I had to leave you a warning. There is one on this side. If he does not realize who you are yet, he will soon. You must stay safe.

"What?" I snapped impatiently. "All that matters is Bella!"

I'm sorry, Edward, it may already be too late. Carlisle's sympathy was real and tangible. Whatever my connection to this man, it ran deep. As if he'd said enough, the brilliant glow began fading. Its outer edges became transparent and revealed the dining room beyond, while the center of it – the core – grew brighter. Then, the golden ball, so condensed and brilliant that I could barely stand to look at it anymore flashed once and flew straight at me. It hit me in the chest and I was stumbling, stumbling into the soft embrace of the cream and rose covered sofa, air sucked from my lungs.

I sputtered and gagged to regain my breath and finally looked up through my tears. "What the fuck was that?"

Alice still looked a little dazed herself and pinched her eyes shut. "He's trying to warn you, Edward."

"Yeah, got that. What the fuck?"

She obviously didn't have an answer, so it surprised both of us when Jake, still lingering by the front door, spoke up. "He said something is here," like that explained anything. "That black thing, dumbass. It's looking for you, too."

My sister and I gaped. Neither of us was sure how to respond to his words, but we both knew they were true. Jake's boys were at risk because Bella was their mother and she'd been hiding. But, I got the feeling that whatever this thing was, it was hunting me for another reason entirely. Not that it mattered. The only thing I could think about was Bella. I might never see her again because of that fucking demon mist and I was supposed to be careful?

Not fucking likely. I was time I did a little hunting of my own.

Two different spirits had given me essentially the same information. Bella, the love of my life, was gone from me possibly for good. And for her honor I had to do something about it. No matter how I tried to look at it, I already knew what to do. There just wasn't any other fucking way. I had to kill that bastard or go down swinging.

So, I was on the brink of disaster here without a clue about how to finish this shit. If I didn't figure something out soon I was going to go in there all blaze and glory and just go down blazing. I needed more help. Alice wasn't bound to be much support as enamored as she was in all this shit. And Jake, well, Jake needed therapy. He couldn't even help himself. How could I ask him to do anything for me? I started wishing I'd left him at Grandma Swan's for all the good he was going to be. "Where the hell is Jasper?" I blurted. He was my only option.

Silence stretched heavily. My eyes burned holes into the side of Alice's head as she looked at anything but me. Why was she ignoring the question? "Where is Jasper?" I asked a little more harshly this time.

My sister responded to the demand and finally turned to me. Her eyes were wild, blazing with anger. "At work," she snarled, "covering your lazy ass!"

Well, fuck. What could I say? I'd ignored both of them.

Jake piped up again, his voice even more haggard than before. "At the graveyard?"

My stomach dropped to my feet as an icy trickle of unease shivered up my lower spine. Something was wrong. Very wrong. I got to my feet, ignoring the wave of dizziness that swam through my head. I'd had lots of practice with that and there were more pressing matters right now than passing out on my sister's ridiculously pink carpet.

I had to get to the cemetery. Jasper was in some serious shit which I had brought down on him. I didn't turn around when I heard Alice shouting for me to stop. Somehow, I knew Jake would delay her. I caught his eye as I ran from the house as he urged me to do whatever I had to do to end this nightmare for good.

I was running down the one-oh-one toward Forks Cemetery in minutes. The rain started, but I hardly noticed the cold drops seeping through my clothes. I was a man on a fucking mission.

Vengeance.