Come Take a Walk with Me

Chapter Thirty-Nine—Preparation


My foot never lifted off the accelerator as I raced toward our cabin. Bella lay on the passenger seat, staring blankly out the window, her breath shallow and seemed painful for her to breathe.

"Baby," I whispered, hoping to get her to react to my voice. Nothing, she did nothing. My cell phone rang and I slid into a controlled turn for the upcoming blind bend in the road. I pressed a button on the console to answer, Carlisle's voice coming through.

"How is she?"

My fingers tightened around the steering wheel, and considering its paltry polymer, it cracked under the pressure of my grip.

"She can barely catch her breath, and her heart is racing. Her body temperature is sky high and she's shaking uncontrollably. She has not said a word since the episode. Tell me what to do, Carlisle."

"I was afraid of this," he said and I could hear his engine accelerate. "Her organs are probably unable to cope with the constant rise and fall of her core body temperature. They're going to shut down. I'm sorry, son. You have to start the change, and hope that it'll take over before it kills her."

I shook my head. "You were supposed to administer a morphine drip so she did not have to suffer like we did."

"I won't reach you for another four hours. You have little choice, you can't wait much longer."

"I will be at the cabin in about twenty minutes, should I do it now or then."

He sighed and I knew that I was asking for too much. This was a different kind of situation than what he had seen before. He was going on too little information, and the unknown.

"See if you can wait until you get to the cabin, it would not be a good idea to attempt to bite her during transportation. There is no telling how her shield would react to the introduction to venom in her system while in the car. You best be prepared for the worst case scenario."

"Which is?"

"That her body, her gift will fight it and kill her."

"That is unacceptable, Carlisle!"

"I know but there's little I can do from here."

I knew what he was not telling me. That even if he was there, there was little he could do anyway. "Do you still believe it would be best to bite her at each pulse point?"

"Yes."

I terminated the call and looked at Bella. "Stay with me, love. Stay with me." From her lap, her trembling hand rose to rest on mine on the gearshift. "What happened? Why did you have such a strong reaction to him?"

"I…s-saw his…thoughts." Her voice was horse and took some effort to say. "He showed me what he wanted to do you all."

"It was not real, love."

She shared the images and I was aware that her capabilities to read thoughts were greater than my own. Whereas I could catch a person's thoughts some three miles out, especially if it was familiar, she could hear them from about four miles.

"I know," she whispered. "They went so fast, the images he showed me." Her bottom lip trembled as tears started to fall. "Are they going to kill him?"

"If they have no choice," I stated, looking away from her. I was not sure I could handle her telling me that they could not.

From the corner of my eye, I could see her nod. "I understand."

"He is unstable, love. We have little choice in the matter. He's a danger to everyone."

"I don't know what to feel about it," she replied, her hand weakly tightening around mine. "What did Carlisle say?"

"As soon as we get to the cabin," I replied and looked at her again. "If not now, if you think you can not hold on much longer."

"I feel fine, Edward. It was more fear that paralyzed me than anything else." I said nothing since I knew she was lying and she sighed. "My chest aches. I think I cracked a rib."

I growled and shook my head. "You mean I did as I held you."

"Edward, I was thrashing in your arms. If you hadn't held me tightly, I would've broken my back."

"I do not know if I can do this."

Her silence lasted for over a minute, her hand falling off mine. "You changed your mind?" Her grave whisper forced me look at her again. She was crying, tears falling relentlessly down her cheeks.

"I want forever with you," I answered, looking back at the road. "It is just the idea of causing you so much pain." She knew how I felt since it was an argument we had before. And she also knew that there was little that could be said or done to make me feel better.

Neither of us said another word for the last leg of our car ride to the cabin. The second she stepped out of the car, I ran at top speed with her clutched in my arms. Her heart rate, breathing, and temperature returned to normal by the time we reached it.

I placed the bag of items she insisted on bringing with us on the table, before settling her down on the bed. Nervously, she looked up at me. "I want to shower and prepare myself."

Before agreeing with her, I carefully monitored her vitals and found that she did indeed seem fine. I nodded, understanding that she needed a little more time. "I wish I could join you, but—"

"I'll distract you from keeping eye and ear on the perimeter."

I lifted my hand to brush some hair from her face. "I am afraid so."

She grabbed the lapels of my coat, pulling me down and wrapping her hands around my neck. Fingering the hair there for a moment, she killed me with such wonderful touches. Breathless, a minute after, she sat back and smiled.

"Everything will work out. And your family is approaching."

I cocked an eyebrow and listened carefully, hearing nothing to indicate she was correct. "Just Jasper and Alice?"

She nodded. "Sounds like it, the others are remaining out of your reach for now." It made some sense, since they knew what I was about to do, and would not want me to lose focus with all their thoughts intruding my mind.

Just then, I heard Jasper and Alice thoughts. "Remarkable," I whispered to myself.

Bella rose to her feet, using her grip on my arm to steady herself. She walked over to the table, lifting the bag and looked over her shoulder to me. "Send Alice in when she gets here."

I nodded, wishing for a moment that there was no impending danger, and that I could properly make love to her before her change.

She caught my quick thought and sighed. "I think you could've handled it, too."

"Maybe, with a little more practice," I whispered wistfully. "After your change and we handle Jacob, I will not have to be so careful."

She blushed, content with my words as she entered the bathroom, immediately switching on the sink and shower faucets. Her thoughts were no longer accessible as she hummed a familiar song to herself. I had been absently composing the song since we arrived to our little corner of heaven. She must have caught it within my thoughts.

Though I still felt that we were in danger concerning her health, she did seem better than she had been. The pallor she had in the car was gone and her breathing had returned to normal. Maybe it had been mostly because of Jacob. His thoughts and frightening images terrified her enough to send her into some kind of episode.

I went about the cabin, cleaning up what little mess we had left earlier that morning. Had it only been since morning that I tasted her lips? Felt the touch of hers along my chest with such slow, delicious torture.

It seemed as if a lifetime had past since then, and yet, it was so fresh and vivid in my mind. Such capabilities were an advantage as one of my kind. However, there was a disadvantage, too. The images of her bleeding, lying in the hospital bed, crying, and nearly dying would remain in my thoughts forever.

I heard Jasper and Alice's wary approach, both cautious to a volatile or painful mood in me. "Come in," I said loud enough for their ears only. In seconds, they were at the door.

"Well?" I asked Jasper as they entered, knowing he was keeping me from his thoughts.

"He's gone," he murmured, taking careful inventory of the room and the shape of the bed. His eyebrows rose for a millisecond before he controlled his features. I could see from his thoughts that he was curious, but attempted to keep his opinions to himself, focusing instead on our current problems. "The dog seems to have gotten to know the area very well. From remnants of a fire and nearby camp, I would say he's been here for at least the day, maybe since your arrival."

I growled, "Which means he probably followed us here." I shook my head as my hands clenched into tight fists. "He kept his distance, and remained downwind. Christ, I had left her alone that first night for nearly ten minutes. There had been ample opportunities for him to attack us, when it was just me and her. Why did he wait until now? He had to see he cannot win with such odds against him."

Jasper shook his head. "He's gone against Bella's shield and knows he can't win. Maybe he hoped for her power to drain her enough to capture her. Then again, the boy is not thinking clearly. This probably isn't about taking her away anymore. I think that personally, he'd rather see her dead than for her to be what you are and be with you."

Alice whispered, "I think he's right. If he can't have her, no one will." She shuddered slightly.

"He intends on killing her," I growled, my body shaking from trying to restrain my anger. An unwavering need to protect Bella from harm, from Jacob, coursed through me more powerfully than ever before.

"Alice," Bella called from the bathroom.

I had not mentioned to Alice that Bella wanted to speak to her. "She wants to talk to you."

My sister simply nodded and entered the bathroom. Whatever Bella wanted to discuss, would be private because my wife enclosed Alice into her shield which surprised me. It meant she was keeping something from me. For what reason, I was not sure.

"Amazing," Jasper said, watching the bathroom door close behind Alice. "The moment she stepped in the room, I could no longer feel Alice."

I turned to him and asked, "Should we do a search?"

He nodded as I knocked on the bathroom door to inform Bella. Alice popped her head out. "I'll check in every two minutes, Bella will drop her shield for me to do so. I don't see Jacob attacking, either."

"You would not see him doing so anyway," I said uneasily. She quickly reminded me that if he were near, she would not see anything and that would let her know when he was coming. "Please watch over her. You notify me if even there is a rise in her body temperature. Understand?" Alice nodded and closed the door.

"I will see you soon, love," I said for Bella to hear. I heard her soft response before I left with Jasper.

We circled the surrounding area of the cabin in a standard grid pattern, looking for any signs that Jacob had been in the area. Though it seemed highly unlikely due to my gift, I had been thoroughly preoccupied since we arrived. It was best to be cautious. The camp that Jasper had come across was closer to the town. I hoped that this meant that Jacob had not found the cabins.

Despite the chances, with Jacob's sense of smell, it was possible that he would eventually find them. All he had to do was capture my or Bella's scent.

"Did you have our cousins waiting for the call?" I asked as I went over events from less than an hour earlier.

Jasper did not offer me any apologizes, and I expected none. He did what he had to do to protect the family.

"Eleazar had been on alert since your arrival and with your plans to change her. It wasn't until after meeting Bella this morning that he had everyone prepare for a possible fight with a newborn." I growled at the thought. "Not to hurt her, but to keep her from harming others. Remember they live in the area, and a mass loss of life by Bella's hands would call attention to the area, namely from the Volturi."

"Something about her scared him," I said. I had thought as much, considering how careful he was to hide his thoughts from Bella and me.

Jasper nodded and sniffed a tree nearby. He was a little more experienced with tracking than I was, and I hoped he could determine if our enemy was close.

He wiped his hands and dusted off his jacket before he answered. "Remember, this is only his theory that he formed upon meeting her and from his past experiences. He said that when Bella used her gifts to warm her in his presence, her shield dropped long enough for him to get a glimpse of them. You and I know how rare it is for a vampire to have more than one power, and Bella seems to have two distinct ones. Her ability to shield herself, the recent manifestations of that shield probably would not have passed through her transformation, if it hadn't been for her head injury. It was a defense mechanism."

"Her shield changed to protect her more fully against the threats surrounding her, hence taking a physical attribute."

He nodded. "He also believes she's, in essence, a dimmer switch. He's never seen anything like it, so again, it's only a theory."

"A dimmer switch?" I repeated.

"He believes that her shield was merely to protect herself and others while she was human. If not, she would either drain everyone around her of their energy or amplify it. From what we've seen already, that depends on her mood, health and fear."

I went over my memories of the last few weeks and shared my thoughts. "If she is feeling ill, she drains their energy to heal herself. If she is happy she spreads her energy out." That could explain the candles from the night before, I thought to myself. "And if she feels threatened, her shield lashes out using a combination of those things. Too close, it'll drain you of power, it can't reach her enemy, the shield lashes out with tremendous energy it gathers from unfortunate nearby sources."

Jasper nodded and said, "All in theory of course."

"That does not explain her ability to read thoughts now."

"Eleazar and Carlisle said that could be because she's your singer, and if your roles were reversed, you would be hers. He's researching to see if there have been any mated couples that share abilities, since he can't find anyone that mated with their singer before."

"If that was the case, that would mean—"

"That you would be a shield, too."

It was not until that moment that I realized something. "You cannot read my emotions."

He shook his head, replying, "Not at the moment, perhaps because you're calmer now. However, when Bella was in danger and earlier, at the cabin I could. Your emotions were too strong not to feel, anticipation of what's to come and what had occurred less than thirty minutes earlier with Jacob's appearance. You were projecting them loud and clear. Now, you've been distracted by our conversation. I still feel a twinge of fear, but it's only when you or I say Bella's name." He sighed, looking concerned. "If this is happening now, this gift will likely be stronger once she changes."

I was reeling with the possibilities and something bothered me. "Eleazar's inquiries may garner unwanted attention."

As we turned toward the cabin, he answered. "Carlisle has told him that. They will only go to those we trust most."

"If this theory is right, I could stop her if she becomes too unstable or goes into the town."

"That's what I'm hoping," Jasper stated. "It will take some time to get used to your new gifts if our theory is correct."

I sighed and pinched the bridge of my nose as leaned against the porch railing of the cabin. "If the Volturi find out about this, us—"

Jasper finished my spoken concern, "They'd send in someone to investigate. And we don't want that."

~oOo~

Alice, Bella, and I sat at the table as Jasper remained on watch outside. Carlisle had called; thanks to some equipment that Alice had brought with her, we were able to make calls. He was arriving soon. My wife was nursing a bowl of soap, quiet as her spoon chased noodles around.

I was surprised in the transformation that happened since she had walked in the bathroom to "prepare" herself. Alice had plucked her eyebrows into a more enticing shape that somehow made her eyes stand out more. She had removed the fine baby hair on her arms and from the furious blush Bella had when I returned, I would say she did elsewhere. Alice had also trimmed Bella's hair in long layers, making the waves more pronounced. I loved it.

"We can find another way," I offered, even knowing it was a lie. Taking her hand in mine, I tried, "We can wait, if you are not ready."

Her dark eyes rose from her bowl to meet mine. "We don't have a lot of time," she said softly. "I don't know how I know, but I just feel off."

I nodded as Carlisle's thoughts allowed me to know he was minutes away. Bella dropped her spoon and pushed her bowl away. She looked at Alice, who merely nodded and left the cabin. Confused, I rose to my feet at the same time Bella did, she dropped her robe to reveal a beautiful pale lavender dress.

Taking my hand, she turned on the music. She turned to face me and wrapped her arms around my neck.

"Dance with me," she whispered, her eyes roaming over my face as if to memorize it. "They're going to stay away for a few minutes. I wanted to be alone just long enough to say what I have to say."

"Not goodbye," I said hoarsely, my hands slipping along her curves to settle on her hips. "You cannot say goodbye."

She touched my lips with the tip of her finger, and I kissed it. "Not goodbye," she agreed softly. "While you were gone, and I allowed Alice into my shield, she determined that morphine would stop my heart before the transformation would complete."

"No," I said, my head shaking violently from side to side. "No."

"Shh." Her hands cradled my face as tears started to spill down her cheeks. "That only means no morphine when Carlisle arrives."

"I had hoped it would work. Save you from some of the pain."

"I know, Edward. She saw the new future, since we now know that morphine is not an option. At day three, our futures disappear."

"Jacob."

She nodded. "Probably, so you need to be ready for that. I won't be able to help you."

"We will be fine."

"In a few days, our forever will start," she said, pulling me down for a kiss. I pressed my lips to her firmly, catching her bottom one between my own. With every breath she took, she whispered how much she loved me.

We continued in the same fashion, swaying in the middle of the cabin, holding onto each other tightly. After the third song, Carlisle said that he would remain outside and all I had to do was call out if I needed him. Alice had informed him of what she had foreseen.

It was time.

"I love you so much." I pulled her body against mine, lifting her off her feet. A second later, I had her on the bed. "I love you and Bella…"

"Edward."

"Our forever started the day I first saw you."

She gave me a beautiful smile, her head falling back against a pillow, tilting her head to one side. Her neck was exposed, a graceful length of fragrant, ivory skin for me to mark.

"Please forgive me," I whispered by her by ear, kissing her there.

"I forgive you."

"Please…please come back to me."

"I'll come back."

As another declaration of her love for me tumbled from her lips, my teeth pierced her delicate skin. A small moan escaped her as one rumbled in my chest. My eyes rolled back at the ambrosia on my tongue, passing my palette as ecstasy burst through every one of my senses.

It was when her fingers tightened around my neck that I pulled back, swiping my tongue over the wound to seal it. I did not dare to look in her eyes; if I had, I would not have continued. I reached for her hand, and set my teeth into her wrist, quickly sealing and moving to the other. With every bite, her breaths became louder, harsher. Every time my teeth sliced through her skin, a gasp escaped her, followed by a chant of my name.

At the last bite, on the inside of her thigh, her body arched off the bed. My music player sparked and started to burn on the table, the last of the candles sent flames high before extinguishing just as abruptly.

"Hold on to me," she hissed as I enveloped her in my arms. "Run, Alice! Jasper!" Then she started to scream.