Thank you, Livie and Sharon for being marvelous and solid.
Thanks to you for reading and showing your endless support.
On Friday afternoon, I tweeted I would post the chapter that night, but decided to read it to Jase (my husband) first because I felt something was off with it. As always, he's my muse and the voice of reason, so I couldn't update without last minute clean up. It paid off.
I hope you enjoy. =)
Walls of Stone, Walls of Glass
I slammed the door behind me. The entire time I followed him down the hall I threw invisible daggers into his back. I wanted to punch him in the face, or slowly strangle him to death, none of which would do any good. Slamming his door against the frame was the most I could do. To give a solid object the blunt force of my anger did the trick. The sound, the echo, caused me to clench my fists, preparing to fight.
"You can't do this!" I shouted, as he shrugged off his jacket then folded it neatly over his arm and began to unbutton his shirt.
His fingers flicked at each dark stud, his very apparent irritation finding its way out. His words were sharp, bordering on amused as he stared at the bathroom door. "You made me look like a fool in there."
I shook my head with narrow eyes. "That's not a difficult thing to do."
He flipped the last button from its place then yanked the shirt from his slacks. For a moment he became a stone statue, soaking in my insult. His scowl turned to a full sneer as he raised his arm above his head and hurled his jacket to the floor, creating a crumpled mess at his feet. Edward looked at me then, his eyes focused as he marched toward me. I shuffled from him until my back flushed against the door.
He didn't stop his advance until his face nearly touched mine. Cold breath skirted around my cheeks. "This is not a game, whether you want to believe it or not! This is life and death, and you're pissing it away!"
The proximity ignited me further. He had me pinned without even touching me and his scent gathered in my head. Earth and sweetness. Yellow and red flashed behind my closed lids, and when I opened them from the brief escape I pushed into his shoulders with open palms, not able to contain myself anymore. He didn't budge. "Don't you think I know that?!" I screamed, watching the lines of his expression twist with my words. My stomach turned to match. Yelling at him wouldn't solve the current problem, but he caused such rage. Backing down from what I believed in was never who I was, wasn't who I wanted to be, but I couldn't be a challenger anymore, not if I wanted him to see my side. I realized that. I began to soften. So, I relaxed my eyes, the sharp curve of my features and tried again. "I know it's not a game," I said. "I would be an idiot to believe otherwise, but you have to have some idea why I'm so upset."
"You're upset? You don't have an entire house turning against you, believing a human has control of their master! You didn't hear their thoughts when you decided to pull your little stunt! You've never seen upset until you've witnessed an angry coven overthrowing their lord! Are you trying to get us killed?!" His fist slammed against the door causing my whole body to vibrate. My heart skipped a beat and my breath caught in my throat. "Because if I die, then so do you."
He leaned in closer, his nose pressing against my cheek as I turned away from him. A cold gust hit my neck. I could feel his lips against my jaw, moving as he spoke. "They believe I've softened to you by allowing you to sleep in my room, to speak when you shouldn't, to stand over me." A single laugh, a burst of winter fell on my skin. "Do you believe I've gone soft?"
No. Never. "I would never believe that," I said.
He removed himself from me, then tilted his head to look at my face. "Then you'll know I care nothing for those women. Why bother to argue? Why fight the inevitable?"
"I don't know." But I did know. I just couldn't convince myself to say it outloud, to tell him that I hoped he would hear me and somehow change his mind because I was the reason for their death sentence. Several times I began to speak those words, to confess, but they never surfaced on my tongue while his cool breath acted as a ghost on my neck. So, instead I said, "They're important to me."
These words caused him to lean away. They pushed him when my physical force couldn't. The arm he braced himself with against the door lowered. "They're important to me, too." He stepped away from me, and I watched as he began to discard his black shirt onto the bed after picking the coat off the floor. "They will ensure the safety of this coven, this city, my reign, your life." He turned suddenly at those words. The lean, stiff muscles of his chest and shoulders flexed under his gray t-shirt. "That's what you want, isn't it? Your life?"
More than anything. I wanted to live, to see the outside world, for things to return to normal, but normalcy didn't exist anymore. It would never exist again. To live knowing vampires roamed the city, the planet, would consume my every thought, take over my daily life. I would become reclusive and live in fear. I would fear Edward finding me in the night. I couldn't stand the thought of him standing over me, ready to take me away again. A chill shook through my spine.
But, any life was better than no life at all, right? "Yes," I said, feeling the guilt beginning to swell inside my chest again. The price was high. "But not at the cost of other people's lives."
He grinned. "So, there it is. The reason for your fight. You feel guilty."
I didn't like the way his lips quirked in amusement, or the way his eyes danced. "Remorse isn't a bad thing. Don't make it out to be." I pushed off the door and took a step. "Don't you feel a speck of regret for the things you've done, for what you're doing now?"
"I don't feel anything anymore," he said, sliding his coat onto a hanger and pushing it between the other shirts and jackets inside his armoire. "Maybe a long time ago, but it's not anything you would understand."
"You'd be surprised."
"Must you insist everything you've experienced is the highest of all feelings and emotions? You've not lived until you've seen the world I saw, sacrificed what I did for the sake of king and country, just to survive."
"And all you have left to show for it is your rage against everything, right? Against humans because of the way you lived? What you once did for them?"
"What I did for myself!" He pointed at his chest, moving to the chair tucked under his desk. The loudness of his words caused me to step back. After staring at me for a moment, he pulled the wooden chair out and sat. "Never for your kind." He opened a folder, glanced inside then slammed it closed with his fist on top, rattling the contents of his desk. "If you've had enough of this, I have work to attend, files to review. Soon, everything will be right again." He stared at the warmer behind the mountains of beige folders. "You'll see."
His eyes, though red, became blank and empty. He wasn't trying to convince me. He was trying to convince himself everything would be alright because there was no hope for my people, for my life or those women he hunted. Edward only cared for himself.
I felt more alone in that moment than all other moments combined. Hopeless and through arguing, I pulled an antique, high-back chair, which sat next to the bookcase across the room, and placed it at the window then opened the curtains. I remained there until the afternoon turned to dusk, and dusk melted into night while Edward sifted through the stacks of folders. When the light began to fade, the energy in the air became less heavy, and I knew the coven was out in the world searching for the girls. Before we'd left the throne room earlier Edward told Jasper to lead them, watch over their actions and control their thirsts. The women were to arrive without marks, and to be unconscious through the use of drugs. No mistakes, he'd said.
Something was missing, a piece of information that had yet to be divulged or my mind refused to put together. Why did they have to be brought here because they consorted with Jake, if not for other purposes than blood and pleasure? Maybe the girls saw something which would expose the vampires? No. Gossip spread around the campus quickly. If something was out of the ordinary then it would've been said already. I would've been told to watch out for the creepy guy with sharp teeth next door because he may drink blood.
The more I thought about the situation, the sicker I became, the heavier I felt. The overwhelming sense of responsibility weighed me down and pushed so hard on my chest I could barely breathe. I began to wonder if I knew then what I knew now if I would change what I'd said. How different would my path be if I told Aro or Edward to go fuck themselves? How long would I have lived?
I was stupid enough to ask a question. An internal pondering which could've been kept just that: internal.
After a while, I grew tired of doing nothing, bored of watching the darkness pass outside and listening to papers flicking behind me. So, I lay down and covered up in the bed, surrendering to the exhaustion which overcame me.
My eyes fluttered open. I remembered the black mass conforming to my shape in a tight embrace then slinking away once again. No fear. No screaming, or panic. Only déjà vu. I'd seen that mass in my dreams before, wrapping around me the same way. At first I thought it was a nightmare, but it comforted me regardless of it's appearance. It covered my mouth and crept down my ribs. I held still. There was no danger.
Perhaps that's why I woke. The smoky creature, whatever it was, had coaxed me to open my eyes. I had a lapse of memory, briefly forgetting where I was. That one moment of complete serenity was taken away when I heard a click followed by a creak. I lay still, curious as to what made the sound before I saw Edward, shirtless, standing outside the bathroom door, holding his hand – palm up – into the dim light.
I thought nothing of it, and my eyes began to close again.
A female voice woke me completely. I knew it immediately. Rosalie. My first instinct was to flip the sheets off and bound across the cold floor to wrap her in my arms. I missed her. She'd kept me sane in a room full of hypnotized women. Surprisingly enough, she was the normal one. I hadn't seen her in days! I wondered how she was, how Alice was doing.
But, I didn't get up. Instead, I held still, intrigued by her presence in Edward's room. I folded the covers down slightly, just enough to peek over the mountain of fabric and fluff. Rosalie, dressed in her gown, with her hands folded in front of her, looked around the room, soaking in the richness of Edward's tastes while he stalked behind her, matching her slow steps. She didn't look the same as before. Had she been eating? Was she sick? Her high cheek bones protruded from under her white skin. What was she doing in the bathroom? Better yet, what was she doing in here?
An uneasy, metallic scent caught my attention and set my nerves on edge. That smell. I knew it. The same smell in Jake's apartment.
"It's time, isn't it?" she asked, allowing her eyes to wander for another second before facing Edward. His eyes were on her, recessed under his heavy brow. Her frizzy, golden curls hung on her shoulders, but he flicked it back with his fingers, creating a thick curtain of hair flowing down the middle of her back.
"Yes," he said.
Time for what?
He wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her body against his black pants and pale torso. His nostrils flared against her cheek. As if an immediate reaction, she exposed the side of her neck to him. I froze, my breaths stinted and shallow. His hand moved up her back and pulled her hair to the side, revealing her throat.
I didn't understand. Why? Why would he be doing that to her, and why would she let him?
His long fingers became claws, clinging to her back as he ran his nose from her throat to her shoulder then retraced. He pulled on her thin frame, stretched his lips and teeth over the flesh of her neck then sunk into her. My heart began to race and my eyes grew wide as I watched behind the safety of the sheets. Her once-limp arms flexed as she began to touch his shoulders, cheek and hair. I thought she meant to push him away, but she pulled on him, inviting him.
I should've done something! Any other time, any other vampire, I would've pulled them away from her and stood between them. I had everything to lose when Felix hit Alice across the face, but I still stood up to him. My vision blurred as hot tears began to form. I blinked them away, unable to look anywhere else.
Why couldn't I stand up to him anymore? Why had I changed?
Her exposed skin became more pale, but still I did nothing! I ducked further. Edward looked up then, as if I caught his attention, but he didn't remove his mouth. He clung to her like a leech, sucking and pulling. He stared. I stared. I couldn't find the courage to look away. I kept telling myself to move, but another second passed and I remained still. Her hands grew limp, her skin more white. I remained. He was killing her...
She'd grown so death-like it was what she became. Death. He pulled himself from her, his lips and teeth stained with her life. That's when I sat up, when it was too late. His eyes still held me. Gravity pulled tears down my cheeks. Why did you do that?, was all I could ask.
He allowed her to fall from his arms and she hit the floor with a horrifying thud. I slunk out of bed and crawled across the pinching cold floor to gather her limp head into my lap. Under thin lashes and lax lids, her nearly-violet eyes stared at the ceiling. For a moment, one foolish moment, I held hope she wasn't dead. I touched her lips, hoping to feel breath, but there was nothing. No joy or love or wisdom. No smile. Nothing. Emptiness. How could she be there one moment, then gone the next? It didn't make sense. Her golden hair was dry, almost like straw on my legs. I looked up at Edward. His stare was already on me.
"Why did you do that?!" I screamed.
He didn't answer, only moved away as a drop of red hit his collarbone and began to trickle. His entire chest had been stained red, and his eyes were a dark burgundy; not fresh and bright like before I went to sleep. My lower lip trembled and I bit down to keep it still. I stroked Rosalie's cold cheek. I'd never seen anyone die. Dad talked about it before to Mom when he came home late at night when I was younger, when their marriage was still solid. I'd listen from the door of my room when they thought I was asleep. From the way he'd described it he made it sound natural and easy. Another biker going too fast, he'd say, or a logging truck turned over and killed two people, Mr. Simmons had a heart attack. Death had never been a big deal while he wore his uniform. Of course, that was before his friend drowned my freshman year of high school. He'd been night fishing. They never found his body. After that, Dad was never the same. Death didn't seem natural. It was out of place and strange. One person could only withstand so much before breaking.
I wanted to tell Rose how sorry I was, even though it was no use. She'd never hear me. My sadness began to burn
I set her head on the floor. It rolled to one side and her mouth fell open. The teeth marks on her neck were horrendous and deep. I slid my fingertips over her lids. I hoped there was an afterlife, a dream to wake to and take her away from the nightmare. My blurred vision found it's way along the floor toward the piano, but something there caught my eye. Tufts of red spilled along the wood.
I blinked away the swell of tears on my lower lid. It fell to my cheek as I began to crawl away from Rosalie and to the opposite side of the bed.
Bile rose in my throat at the sight of Victoria's, lifeless face and Leah's ashen skin stacked over her. Zafrina and Tanya were thrown on top of them, both dead. Alice, with a bloody face, covered them all with her arms outstretched. Blood spattered their skin. Other nameless faces were behind them, next to the nightstand. There must've been ten of them. All dead. Drained!
I cupped my palms over my mouth and nose. I didn't want to believe what I saw. He'd killed them! He drank them away as though they were nothing! Slowly, the sadness burned away until I felt the numbing heat of anger coursing through my cheeks. I steadied myself when I rose to my feet.
"Why are you doing this!?" I cried, clenching my fists and turning to stare at him. When he didn't answer I swung my fist, hoping to connect with his jaw, but he caught it and pushed me away like I was a bug. "Why?! You could've let them go!"
"Still hell bent on rescuing something you can't possibly save?" he asked, then stroked his palm down his mouth and chin. By then, the blood had already begun to dry. Most of it remained, but the wet smeared, further staining his skin. His chest. That was why his chest was red. He was covered in their blood. I took a step back hardly believing he could drink them all. "You should've stopped me when you had the chance."
I wrapped my arms around myself.
"I saw your eyes on her and you did nothing."
"Stop," I said.
"You know what that means? You're just as bad as me."
"I couldn't!" I screamed, and flung myself forward, pushing into his chest. He held me there. My knees began to grow weak. "I couldn't move!" That admittance pulled on me, shoved me into the darkness as he locked my hands to his and refused to release. I was a monster. A selfish, cowardly monster. He was right. I was no better than him.
I tried to pull away, but with a flick of his hands he gripped my wrists and pinned them to my hips. I didn't have the strength to fight him off. I felt the cold from his body through the thin material clinging to my skin.
I closed my eyes. My knees weakened and I began to fall to the floor. And just like that, he won.
"No, no. You can't give up on me now, Miss Swan. We've barely begun to extinguish our time together." He wrapped his arm around my waist and threw me over his shoulder. The sharpness of his bone dug into my soft gut, making me want to vomit. I watched the grains of the wood pass, then Rosalie. Another tear.
He lowered me, though I could barely sit upright. Cold stung my feet and my bottom. He'd put me in the chair between the bath and wall. He opened the cabinets under the sink, pulling out a white towel, tucked it under his arm then reached for something else.
He hung the folded towel over the side of the white, claw tub and lowered himself to eye level, balancing on his toes as he squatted in front of me. He unwrapped a thin bar of packaged soap and waved it in front of my nose. Flowers. It woke me. A slight brightness pushing against the dim lighting.
He balanced the soap on top of the towel then held up a small, travel-size shampoo bottle so I could get a good look. The cap twisted off under his touch and he held it to my nose as he did with the bar. I took the scent into my lungs. I'd forgotten how those things smelled, how normal they used to be. He screwed the top back on as my eyes wandered from him to the items on the tub. "I knew you'd like that," he said with a blood-stained grin. "A hot bath will do you good."
Edward placed his hands on the chair next to my hips. His rough skin pinned my thighs together, and my jaw rattled from the bitter touch. I couldn't look at him, so I focused on my knees.
"You're not fragile," he said softly. "So don't pretend to be now." With that, he abandoned me in the corner and walked to the counter, pushing the cabinet door closed with his knee. A rush of water filled the bathroom and he pulled a washcloth from the small pile next to the sink. He leaned forward over the waist-high counter. The vanity lights washed over his angular features and smooth skin. I watched him in the mirror, turning his face from side to side as his hands worked the cloth under the running water. His back and shoulders flexed with each movement.
He shut it off and wrung the water from the rag. With slow motions he began to wipe his cheeks and chin, careful and thorough as if he were a gentleman shaving.
I bit my lip, feeling the overwhelming urge to release my emotions. Regret fastened to my lower eyelid. "Why didn't you let them go?" I asked.
"Why release them when I could have a feast?" He leaned forward on one arm, the meat of his bicep flexed from the weight as he partially turned to look at me. "One of the many benefits of becoming a master." He faced the mirror again.
"Blood you didn't need. You can't think of anything else."
"Why should I? If it belongs to me then I will take advantage of it."
"If you enjoy blood so much why not go out there," I said, meaning beyond the walls, "and drink? Why waste your time in here?"
He finished cleaning his chin, so he began to stroke his collarbone and chest. "It's about quality, not quantity. Do you feel special, knowing you were hand-selected?"
"Your process of hand selecting ruins lives. You're just a thief."
"A thief? If I recall correctly, I didn't bring you here."
"No, but you're keeping me in this prison," I said.
He rinsed the rag then spread it flat on the counter. "Well, it's too late to let you go now," he responded as he turned and leaned. His chest was clean, like the massacre had never happened.
I shook my head. "It's never too late."
Edward crossed his arms over his torso. "A touching sentiment for old humans hoping to fulfill their dreams before they die, but it doesn't work here."
"But, they won't remember anything. The hypnosis."
"You think this has to do with memory? Oh, Bella. I've forgotten how little you know." Suddenly, he was in front of me again, kneeling as before with his hands on the sides of the chair.
My hands trembled.
"You're not like them," he said softly, and motioned in the direction of his bedroom with a single nod of his head. "You're not fragile. You're strong-minded. More so than any human I've ever met, I'll give you that. Believe it or not, I fancy your spirit. But, even though you're awake, you know nothing about this place. You defend something you can't control. These women can't be saved." He paused, gauging my stare, but I produced nothing. I felt nothing. "Have you ever wondered why we do this? Why we keep a bank instead of drinking outside these walls?"
I shook my head causing a tear to fall from the motion. It slid slowly down my cheek. Rosalie once said we were saving people, but I never believed that. I often wondered why she accepted that excuse, but the answers I gave myself were never clear.
"You've never been curious about female vampires?" he asked.
"Female vampires?" I looked into his eyes, curious.
"There are none here. Do you find it odd?"
It was never important. A coven entirely male didn't seem strange to me, especially when they were surrounded by human women. I shook my head again. "It doesn't matter," I said. The words were hoarse and thick.
"It's all that matters. If vampires could live without human blood, then it would be different. Our hunger is more intense than yours. We have to feed. It's why we keep these houses, these wards. It's why these women are contained, cataloged, put under and placed in our control. We have to control them."
I understood the concept of a blood bank, and maybe that's what Rosalie meant. We were sacrificing ourselves so other people could live. But... "What does that have to do with female vampires?"
"They're changing, Bella. They've all been bitten. If I allow them freedom, the entire city will be at risk. Without our treatment, the venom will take over."
My skin prickled in response to his words. "Treatment?" The room felt smaller. "What treatment?"
"The water you drink. It's a something Carlisle came up with. It keeps them alive; helps fight the venom, but it's not a cure. It's temporary." He paused, searching my eyes again. "If allowed to live they would become vampires. True monsters, the likes of which you can't even imagine."
They would become vampires. If they were bitten they'd turn. Panic found me again. "But not me, though," I said, reassuring myself and folding my arms across my lap as my stomach began to turn. "I'm fine. I feel fine."
"You're not fine, Bella. Everyday your body fights. Without the water, you'll be dead within days, weeks if you're lucky. But the others? If I hadn't drained them then we'd all be dead. Same with the women Jacob slept with. If he bit them, and they're in the world without our help, then L.A. will pay the price. It would be riddled with undead."
I felt my face begin to pull down, an ache swelling inside my gut and pulsing through my arms. It caught in my throat and stung until it faded with tears. I swallowed and realized what this meant. My fate had always been sealed. Death, in either form, began in the house. "But you said... you told me the first night I woke up, after you bit me... you said it takes more than a bite."
I could hardly breathe. The world pressed onto my chest. The dim lights grew darker. My hand found my collarbone and I clutched at my skin. I craved oxygen; I felt I didn't have enough.
He drew closer, his thighs skirting the outside of my calves. He leaned in. "It does take more than a bite. It takes time."
I began to lose myself. He grabbed my wet cheeks between his palms and shushed me with nothing but gentleness. Not anger or pain, but understanding. My tears emerged again, blurring his face and the bathroom. I fell apart. He shushed me once more and pushed away the hair stuck to my wet cheeks.
"We are so very alike," he whispered. "Don't you see we need each other? I need your blood more than I've needed anything else, and you need my help to keep that parasite from killing you. Don't worry. I won't let that happen." My lips fell between his palms as I found a breath, sucking it deep into my lungs. My tongue gathered the musk. Freshly dug earth and an overwhelming bite of pine. It tasted of him, his hands. I gave him all my weight, feeling as though I would die right there in that cold bathroom. Edward pushed my head upright and I felt him lean forward, his breath against my face. Snake-like fingertips held the back of my neck, the icy touch pushing behind my ears as he pulled me forward.
"I'm not in the habit of making promises," he whispered, and I choked on a cry, cutting him off. I didn't want to hear him anymore. Everything he said twisted my stomach. "But, you carry my precious blood and you have nothing to fear. I only want you to live. To be well." A violent cold overcame me. Panic and desperation had made my breaths ragged, and when I opened my eyes, I was met with his. He rested his forehead against mine. His embrace, though as gentle as I'd ever seen him, was unpleasant. He smirked with happiness, amusement, but his words were acrid to me. "That first night when I tasted you... I knew I had to have you to myself. To drink you. Feel you skin on my lips. And your silence... it's all I ever wanted."
A soft, long moan rose from his throat. My eyes closed. A chill caused me to tremble. I wanted him to stop, to leave me in the dim light and never bother me again. "I never knew someone like you existed," he continued. "It's like you were born for me. Don't you see why I couldn't let them have you?"
He wiped my cheeks with his thumbs before letting his hands fall, then stood. I thought the air would come back once he moved away, but it remained shallow and sour. My weight tipped me forward, but I righted myself quickly, falling against the back of the chair. "I need to make a trip to the furnace, so I'm going to keep you in here until I get back." He nodded once then shut the door behind him. A rough scrape could be heard right after, followed by a click of the handle.
My chin fell to my collarbone, my eyes landing on my lap and stomach. Inside me. The venom was inside me. It didn't matter if I escaped now. The damage was irreversible. I was dying. I would die inside the manor walls, but not before I gave Edward every last drop of my blood. I began to claw at the gown hanging on my body, pulling it in two different directions. Blank spaces cushioned my endless thoughts. No answers, only questions of pain and how long I had. Face hot and vision blurred, I wanted out of the material. My heavy breaths pulled me under, created noises in the back of my throat until a cry filled the bathroom.
The gown hit the floor, the bitter air biting and raising my skin. I shivered in the cold. Disbelief clouded everything. Never in a million years would I believe my life would end at the teeth of a vampire, even if I knew they were real. It would happen to other people. Not me. It would never affect my family or my life, but there I stood; naked and exposed without a cure, and without a chance. My long-lost freedom became sore and faded until there was nothing left except the raw burn of my only escape.
Could I still die on my own terms? Could I take my own life, not giving Edward the chance to drink another drop from my body? He would have the bags in his refrigerator to keep him warm. Only in death would I win my freedom.
If you haven't seen it yet, and want to, the House of the Horde "trailer" is linked on my profile.