Come Take a Walk with Me
Chapter Thirty-Eight—In Town
"That was awkward," Bella said from the passenger seat of my car.
After spending a couple of hours in bed, I did a perimeter check around the cabin to assure myself that we were alone. I had spent too much time preoccupied with Bella, as it should be, but had left ourselves vulnerable to attack from Jacob. I might have been able to intercept his thoughts from a few miles away, but I was far from concentrating at the time.
Thankfully, there were no signs of tracks, human or wolf nearby. I did not want to risk leaving Bella to make the call to Eleazar and Carmen, but I had to get farther down the mountain to do so. That left us with one other choice; to have her come with me.
The hike down was not as bitter cold as the night of our arrival. We were thankful for the reprieve of some sunlight. It was still not enough to keep Bella warm since, after placing the necessary call, it had taken Eleazar thirty minutes to meet us with my car. Her teeth were chattering by the time he arrived. After denying the need to go back to the cabin, she gave in to use her gift to get warm. It only took thirty seconds to reach the desired body temperature before we noticed the loss of life around us. Since then, she refused to use her gift again.
Through the entire duration of her and Eleazar's introduction, Bella felt as if she was a specimen under a microscope or inside of a cage for him to examine. Though his thoughts never confirmed or denied that was studying her, his keen stare was evidence enough.
"He kept his thoughts private," she whispered, looking at me. "How does someone do that if they're not a shield like me?"
"There are various ways. Alice recites ancient text in different languages. Emmett tries to concentrate on pop or rap music, which he knows I do not particularly enjoy. The others are much the same. Even then, it is not always easy from them to hide everything. I am guessing that Eleazar has learned how to rein in his thoughts since my reaction to his concerns about you."
"He was thinking of the ocean," she said, biting her lip as she thought of something else. "You only hear what the person is thinking at the time, right?"
"The foremost thought, yes, but often with others of my kind, who can think of more than one thing at a time, I can hear their other thoughts, too. However, images, like the ocean, seem harder to bypass."
She hummed, shaking her head. "That is a lot to grasp."
"Says the little human that can create a force field around herself," I mused.
After a few minutes of listening to the stereo, I started to hum along, leaving Bella to her thoughts. Since I insisted it was time for us to go into town, she had these short blocks of time where she seemed content to stare at something and just think.
Though she refrained from using her gifts, she did allow her shield to drop for my benefit. In her mind, she was replaying important memories of her life to share with me. She had done it for two reasons.
One, to share a part of her as human with me, moments she should treasure forever. The second was because I would keep her memories intact, and if her gift to piggyback my power remained after her transformation, she would simply read my mind to retain them.
"You are brilliant," I murmured, taking her hand in mine. "You were from the start."
"If I had been, I would've not walked away that day in the cafeteria," she said softly. "If I had tried to understand where you were coming from, maybe none of the bad stuff would've happened."
"Do you regret falling in love with me?" I knew the answer, but it was nice to hear it from her.
She looked at me, giving me a gentle smile. "Never. What I mean is that, if I had not walked away that afternoon, maybe I could've persuaded you to see me differently and convince you that we were meant to be."
I laughed, shaking my head before kissing her hand. "You would have undoubtedly succeeded in seducing me."
Her head fell back against the headrest, as she giggled, clasping her free hand over her mouth. "I don't think I'm capable of seduction, Edward."
"That is where you are wrong," I murmured, kissing her hand once again. "I assure you, you can and do." She blushed under my gaze. "See. Just being you, is enough for me to want to kiss you again."
"Keep driving, mister," she grumbled as her stomach did the same. "The broth hardly filled me."
I sighed since she was right, dropping her hand on her lap. "If we must," I whispered as pressed the accelerator. "We should be in town in a few minutes. It's a good thing there should be sufficient cloud cover for the next few hours."
"Edward," she whispered after a moment. "We are going to explore your theory on my seduction techniques later, right?"
I smirked, and said, "Of course, as long as I can do the same."
She nodded, pleased with my answer. She turned to look out the window and seemed content watching the scenery speed by. As we pulled into the tiny town approximately a hundred and twenty miles east of the cabin, a startling thought in her mind about the town disturbed Bella enough to cause her to shudder.
Before she had a chance to voice her them, I pulled alongside the curb near the post office, watching as a large 4x4 police SUV parked nearby. I needed her to calm down, before her shield felt it needed to protect her. Turning toward Bella, I took her hands in mine.
"After you become like me, even if you did not know the way into town, your sense of smell would find it eventually. That is if you were able to escape me and the family." She nodded, her fingers tightening around mine. "I will do everything I can to prevent the loss of human life by your hands, Bella." I added, "Within reason." She knew what that meant that I would not destroy her.
Tears started to fill her eyes at the precise moment two men, including a Sheriff, chose to have a discussion near the building we parked nearby, a laundromat. Distracted by their conversation about the theft of a load of clothes from a dryer, I apologized to Bella.
"I am sorry," I said, wincing as I rubbed my temples. "After a day and a half in only your presence, the buzz of hundreds of inhabitants' thoughts takes some time to acclimate to again."
"It's okay," she said. "I closed my thoughts when I realized I expressed my fear to you. It was a lot to take in for me, too."
"I understand your fear. We will do what we can do protect you, even from yourself, my love."
She nodded and waited for me to help her out of the car. Taking her hand in mine, I led her toward the small general store for some food. She smiled as I opened the door for her and it felt good to know that I could do those types of things. It was how it should be; at least, it was how my parents raised me.
With a basket in my hand, Bella grabbed a few things. Soup, as she suggested earlier, various fruits and some tea. The store clerk behind the corner was an older man, who did not recognize us. That did not surprise me since the town only had two hundred sixty three people in it.
"You kids visiting with someone in town?" he asked, after looking out the window to see our fake New York license plate on my car. I was thankful for Jasper's insistence that I use it, since we wanted our trail to appear that it had gone cold in Anchorage.
"No, sir," I said, keeping my voice smooth and adding an accent to it. Bella cocked an eyebrow, sharing in her thoughts about how she could not pull that off. We offered him a smile, myself trying not to add too much teeth. "My wife wanted us to spend our honeymoon in front of roaring fire."
I winked and earned a laugh, as Bella struck my arm, her blush adding to my teasing tone.
The older man laughed. "Where you from?"
Before either of us could reply, the Sheriff walked in and called out to the store clerk as he passed us. "Afternoon, Will."
"Sheriff Peterson," he said, offering his hand for a handshake.
Bella and I continued to go through the shelves, the clerk's full attention on the Sheriff. She added chocolate and when I cocked any eyebrow, she scowled.
"It's one of life little pleasures," she whispered. "Just because I want to have some now doesn't mean I'll miss it."
I rolled my eyes and added some peanut butter cups, since I knew they were some of her favorites, making her smile again. As we continued to peruse the shelves, adding a bag of disposable razors to the basket, Bella kept me distracted from all the voices bombarding me. I pushed them back as much as I could until they were only a low hum in my head.
That was until the Sheriff's voice dipped into a low whisper. "Jeffery said someone stole a couple pairs of his jeans, thermals and a few shirts, straight out of the machine. You seen anyone you didn't recognize around here today?"
"We got them city kids from New York," I heard the store clerk say in reply. "They're newlyweds and don't look like no kids that need to steal clothes. Did you already talk to Thomas? Said someone gone in his house and stole all his food."
Apparently, Thomas lived alone on the outskirts of the tiny town. Bella stilled in the middle of the aisle beside me as comprehension and fear filled her thoughts.
I had the same thought and I was not going to take a chances. I pulled my cell phone from my pocket by the time she uttered the first syllable. "We need you here as quickly as possible," I said as Jasper answered.
"What's wrong? Has Bella gotten worse?"
"There are signs that Jacob has been in town." I kept my voice low, but talked fast. "Jasper, I can not leave her alone for even a second. I highly doubt he has any qualms about attacking in broad daylight."
"Or in front of others," he murmured, cursing, too.
"Exactly, we are in a no win situation here." I ran a hand through my hair, continuing after a moment. "How long until you reach us?"
The original plan was for Bella to spend her last night with me, alone. They were to stay with our cousins and in the early morning hours, they would arrive before I attempted to change her.
"We're about four hours away," he replied. "Alice says she can't see anything, but then again, she hasn't been able to for a while. It's been driving her crazy and the reason we left a few hours earlier than what we agreed on."
"And where's Carlisle?" I asked, following Bella as she slowly moved along the aisle so not to rouse the curiosity of the others in the store.
Alice and Jasper could not leave at the same time as Carlisle, since it may raise suspicions with authorities handling Bella and my missing person case.
"He should be arriving before morning," he answered. "Stay in town, and check in every thirty minutes. We'll get there as fast as we can."
I hung up and continued throughout the store, keeping my ear on the Sheriff and storeowner, Will. Bella seemed to understand that we could take our time, but whispered under her breath. "Can you pick him up at all?"
I shook my head, she knew the limitations of my ability, and that Jacob had to be at least three miles away. His mind had a distinct edge to his inner voice that I could pick up if within range. The problem was that Jacob could have already realized my limits and was waiting for the right moment to attack, perhaps when Bella was alone. He knew I would have to hunt eventually, which I had planned to do before I attempted to change Bella.
"We might be wrong," Bella offered, shrugging. "It could be a homeless man or drifter."
"Or another vampire," I stated grimly. "That does not make me feel better."
She nodded and indicated that she was finished. The Sheriff kept an eye on us as we made our way to the front to pay. Handing the store clerk our things, he asked us the same questions Will had.
"About where is this cabin you're staying at?"
I gave him a benign address that my cousins kept for deliveries and inquires. If he decided to check on us, he would find an empty cabin, with some signs of life. He seemed satisfied with my answer and asked that we be extra careful since a snowstorm was on the way in.
We left the store a few minutes later, loaded with a few bags. I was instantly on alert the moment we exited, testing my abilities to their fullest extent for any sign of Jacob. I breathed a sigh of relief when I found nothing out of the ordinary. Not even his scent.
"He could've masked it," Bella whispered.
I did not think it was possible, considering that their scent was very potent and distinct. With all the types of animals nearby at his disposal, maybe he could do it, if he bathed in their urine as I heard some hunters have done before. It was a disturbing thought. In the air, I picked up wolf, deer, elk, moose, and bear. Anyone of them could actually be Jacob, and it made the urge to pick up Bella to flee, strong.
If Bella had a huge surge of her power, there was a good chance it would do more harm than good. Though she seemed fine, I picked up nuisances in her that alarmed me. She was thirstier than ever, constantly having to drink something to keep her hydrated, which was never a good sign. Though she had a problem with balance, something she claimed herself, it seemed to have worsened in the last day. Her pupils appeared dilated, something I had no explanation for, and her core body temperature kept fluctuating. The night before, it had actually reached one hundred and four degrees for several minutes before her gift compensated.
Minutes later, we found a small diner-like restaurant where she ordered pancakes and decided to have a cup of coffee.
"What are we supposed to do in town while we wait?" she asked, sniffing her cup cautiously. "How do people drink this?"
"Why did you order it?"
Her gaze fell to her lap, biting her lip nervously. "Reminds me of Charlie."
I sighed and handed her the cell phone. Charlie had left one voicemail, just asking if we made it okay and to thank us for the video I sent from our second wedding.
"Call him," I whispered. "If you do not do it today, you will not be able to until it's safe to come off the mountain."
"You mean when I'm considered safe to be that close to people?"
I nodded and pulled out a small laptop from Bella's backpack, taking a few minutes to check my email. Rosalie and Emmett would keep us appraised on Charlie's behalf on our "disappearance." That included rumors that usually ran rampant when something like this happens in Forks.
As I expected, it was exactly what I thought would happen. Before I could delete the email, Bella cleared her throat to get my attention.
I leveled her a glare. "You are not supposed to be using your power, remember?" She cocked an eyebrow due to my tone. "Sorry, but I have every reason to worry."
"That may be, but I wasn't using them. I could tell, however, that something upset you. You were doing this," she scowled, scrunching up her nose, brows, and even lips.
I tried to keep a straight face. "I did not."
Her beautiful eyes narrowed, noticing the catch in my voice. "You're laughing at me."
A little, but I was not about to admit it.
"Emmett sent me an email of the current gossip at our lovely former school."
She rolled her eyes. "How far along am I in these rumors?"
"About two months."
Taking my fisted hand on the table, in one of hers, she murmured, "This life is what I want. Please, Edward. Don't dwell on the things you can't give me, and focus on those you can."
"I want those things for you…for us."
"Do you think if we were both human that you would be here today?"
She seemed thoughtful for a second, before nodding. "If you mean with you, then yes. Married, maybe, but not for a few years."
"I love you."
"That's all I need."
I smiled, though some of the regrets no doubt would linger, it felt good to have her by my side—forever.
Bella threw another piece of popcorn in my direction. She seemed to enjoy watching me deflect it as we sat in the middle an empty theatre. On the screen was an Elvis movie called Blue Hawaii, something she used to watch with her mother.
Her call to Charlie was short because he was in the office and could not afford if someone overheard their conversation. She was happy enough to hear his voice and to be able to tell him she loved him. Shortly after that, she left Renee a message on her home phone, too overwhelmed to call her cell phone.
To take her mind off everything, I suggested a movie at the only theatre in the tiny town. One that apparently had been around since the town was founded. They played older films and new releases every few months.
With the tip of my finger, I sent the piece of popcorn she tossed, across eight rows of seats in front of us. Bella giggled, promising that she would stop and lay her head on my shoulder.
"Thank you for doing this," she whispered after a few moments. "Can you sing like that?"
I hummed a few notes and started to sing softly in her ear, "Now that we're one, clouds won't hide the sun."
She rubbed her lips across mine for a too brief kiss. "That was beautiful."
"Thank you." I wrapped my arm around her shoulders, kissing the top of her head. "This is officially my first date."
She rubbed my stomach with her hand and sighed softly. It was a sad one, and I pulled back to see why. "What is it?"
She looked up at me, staring intently. "I'm sorry it took so long for me to get here."
From the tears in her eyes, I knew she meant it. "You are here with me now and forever." I pressed my lips to hers and soon found ourselves doing what typical teenagers did in movie theaters. Make out. Some of my thoughts must have been loud and clear that Bella picked it up, despite her trying to keep everything out. Within in a few minutes, she was laughing, taking my face in her hands. "You are so cute."
I grinned and bent to kiss her again.
"If you buy me this, then we'll run out of cash," she hissed, tossing the quilt back on the rack. We were limited to using only cash, because we could not have authorities track us down using credit or debit cards.
"My family will be bringing us more," I said with a roll of my eyes and grabbed the quilt.
"I don't need it, at least not in a few days."
"Thanks for the reminder," I grumbled. "We'll send it to your mother."
She rubbed my arm. "Sorry."
I shook my head. The tension was high between us for a several reasons. One, the possibility of Jacob put us on high alert. Two, was waiting for my family to arrive. Three, we received news that Renee was being accused of harboring Bella. Four, we wanted nothing more than to share more intimate moments before I had to change her and it appeared we were running out of time.
"I know, love. I am sorry, too. It's only that I like giving you small tokens."
She smiled. "I'll get the quilt."
She turned to look out the window just a truck pulled up to the curb outside the small store. Alice and Jasper were out of the vehicle in seconds and walked straight toward us. We had been in constant contact since my call, making up a credible story in case they had to return to town for us later in the week.
I waved at them to get their attention, though they knew exactly where we were. It was for the benefit of the storeowner that had been keeping a close eye on us. Word of the thefts in town seemed to reach everyone, and all the people in the small town were on alert, especially of strangers.
We greeted each other as if we had not seen one another in months. I cocked an eyebrow, as Alice escorted Bella to get some jewelry, since she needed to wear earrings if she wanted to be able to wear pierced ones after.
"Anything?" I asked.
"Nothing," Jasper said, his hands clasped behind his back as he walked along side me. "We checked the perimeter of the town, found no tracks, no scent, nothing to tell us if he'd been here."
"I would not let that fool you," I assured him.
He nodded once in agreement. "I plan to broaden the search, and that's why I called Sam. Apparently, Jacob is quite good at tracking. Something his father taught him."
I groaned. "This means that he is quite capable of hiding his tracks."
"Mark my words, that boy is here, biding his time."
"Are you ready to kill him if we need to?" I asked.
His eyes widened for a second. "I believe that there is no if when it comes to him. I think you agree."
I looked to where Bella held up a pair of antique pearl earrings to her ears, modeling them for Alice's benefit. My sister was enjoying herself immensely, her thoughts centered on the fact that Bella would become her best friend in the years ahead.
"I need to talk to her. I do not think I can go against her wishes."
"And you think she'll want him to live, despite what he's done?"
"She said she understood why it might have to be done. But I am not sure."
Jasper sighed. "Whatever you decide, do it fast. Or the choice will be taken from you."
I looked at him, and listened to his thought. I will kill him despite her wishes if he harms a hair on her or Alice's head.
I nodded. There was little to say to that declaration.
After we paid for our purchases, we surrounded Bella as we exited the store. As we walked toward my car, I could instantly feel the change in my wife, and so did Jasper and Alice. Her body temperature shot up five degrees, and we felt the push, in my case the pull from her shield. She stilled within her circle of protection, her eyes going wild. "He's here!" she hissed, just as Jacob's thoughts intruded my mind.
"Fuck," Jasper growled. "Grab her before she kills everybody."
"I can't keep it contained," Bella cried out, almost dropping to her knees. Her natural instinct to protect herself against her greatest enemy caused havoc on her body and gift. She had no control. Her body started to shake in my arms, her eyes rolling back in her head.
"No," I whispered. "Stay with me, baby. Stay with me, Bella."
Unable to utter a reply, her hand clutched my shirt in answer. I lifted her in my arms and climbed into the back of my car as Alice jumped into the driver's seat to drive. Jasper made excuses to some people that seen what happened, explaining she was having an epileptic seizure and that she would be all right.
I held her close, rocking her as tears started to stream down her cheeks. "Hold on, love. Just hold on."
"What are you going to do?" Alice whispered as she dialed Eleazar's number.
"Try to change her the moment we get to the cabin."
"I have no choice. If we wait any longer, her powers will kill her. "
Several minutes out of town, Bella cried out, "Let me out!"
The car came to a screeching halt, as the door swung open and I vaulted out of the car with my precious cargo. "Hold on!"
She was gasping and trembling so hard as Jasper and Alice joined us, keeping the minimal distance they could to avoid being hurt. The moment we were far enough away from humans, Bella unleashed her gift with a scream. I held her tightly, and when she finally stopped, her body lay limp in my arms.
Jasper growled suddenly. "Get out of here, Edward."
"Our cousins will help us," Alice said.
Jacob had figured out that if Bella expelled her shield in such a burst, it was unlikely she would be able to again for a while. He was right, too. I heard the others as Jacob growled from the perimeter of the dead field.
"Be careful," I whispered to them as I ran passed them. Jacob's howl rented in the air, before he sprinted away.
Tanya, Irina, Kate, flanked by Carmen and Eleazar all nodded as they joined Jasper and Alice. Though I wanted to be the one that ended his life, I could not dwell on that. Bella needed me and she was more important than vengeance.