A/N: See, I told you I could do it! You probably didn't believe me, not surprising, considering my track record, but I did it. And a whole day early, too!
Right, well, onto the chapter.
Oh, also, I got a Beta and it seems to be the done thing to thank them in these notes, so thank you, xPaige Turnerx, for the assistance. Seriously, editing is my least favorite part of the writing process.
I felt nauseated.
It wasn't something that I had felt in a long time, some thirty years in fact, so it seemed worth mentioning.
I was pressed into Bella's warm side as we moved through the woods at a much slower pace than normal, almost back to her house.
Her anxious family had flat out refused to allow even one of them to run back to the house to await my own family who would no doubt be on their way after a hasty phone call made by Jesse. Unfortunately, my phone had been crushed in the fight and she had to climb some tall trees to get any reception, something that I wasn't all that up to at the moment.
Every step sent a stabbing pain shooting through my body, focused on my stomach and my arm, having been almost ripped off in the fight.
My neck and eyebrow throbbed too, but to a lesser degree and my vision was slowly returning to the damaged eye.
Bella's arm was securely wrapped around my shoulder, her temperature as high as I had ever felt it, and her eyes darting around the surrounding woods. She had been so subtle about it that it had taken me a while to notice that whenever a noise broke the silence, she was placing herself between me and whatever direction the noise had come from.
She wasn't the only one who was worried though. I had heard her rib break and could see the dark, painful-looking bruise on her shoulder, but it had been growing steadily lighter on the trek home. The bite on her forearm, on the other hand, was still slowly leaking blood, soaking the scrap of cloth Clare had wrapped around it. The scent of her blood in the air, while sweet, made me feel even worse. The thought of Bella being injured was probably what was making me feel nauseated in the first place.
"Alice, please let me. You're hurt." If Bella's arm or ribs were hurting her, you couldn't tell from her voice. It was full of concern. For me.
I sighed. "And so are you."
She frowned, her chocolate brown eyes flashing in frustration. "I'm not the one who almost had my arm ripped off, nor do I have a gaping hole in my stomach."
"No, you just got bitten by a vampire. We have no idea how that will affect you and until we do, I have no intention of allowing you to weaken yourself by healing me," I countered, giving her a look that conveyed my feelings on the matter.
Clare moved closer, eyes flickering between us. "She's right, Bella, we need to be careful about this."
Bella's shoulders slumped in defeat. "Fine, let's just get home so that Carlisle can give you the blood."
I had already fed not so very long ago, but while animal blood was enough to keep us going, it wasn't as effective as human blood at healing, therefore I would require more.
Carlisle was always prepared for such an event and so he kept several containers of blood at home, one part human to three parts animal. We diluted it with animal blood so that it would mask the taste and prevent us from being even more tempted, but even that small amount would be very helpful.
I wrapped an arm around Bella's waist and lay my head down on her shoulder. It was a little awkward, seeing as we were still walking and she was taller than me, but I needed this so I managed.
"I'm sorry, I know that you don't like seeing me hurt." No more than I liked seeing her hurt, but I didn't have any nifty healing powers so I didn't have a choice. "But I just can't risk it."
She sighed, meeting my eyes which had darkened slightly from the pain that I was trying not to show. "Yeah, seeing you hurt is a hard pill to swallow, especially when I know I can do something about it. But, I can't very well force-heal you, so I'll have to abide by your wishes."
I was just about to exult in my victory, something that was few and far between with someone as stubborn as Bella, when a spasm of pain went through my stomach. I staggered for a moment until Bella stooped down and scooped me up into her arms, bridal style.
I squawked in surprise, clutching at her shoulders.
"Hey! You're injured too," I complained, trying in vain not to equate the word 'gallant' with this sweet stubborn mule of a woman.
She deftly sprang over a log that was laying in our way, easily shifting my weight so I wasn't jostled. "Yes, but my ribs feel fine, my shoulder is on the way to being fully healed and my arm isn't throbbing as badly as it was three minutes ago. Now, your eye may be healed, as well as your neck, but you still have that window into your stomach. So right now, you're going to lay back and close that pretty little mouth of yours before I have to get serious."
I raised an eyebrow, ignoring the chuckles around me. Chuckles that were still a little tense as eyes darted around the forest. Not that it was very likely that the nomads would attack a group larger than they were, especially so soon after failing the first time, but everyone was still a little on-edge.
"And what is your version of serious?"
Pursing her lips, she shifted me in her arms so that our heads were closer. "Well, I could always withhold kissing."
"You wouldn't," I replied with total conviction.
"And how could you possibly know that?"
"You're practically as touchy-feely with me as I am with you. You'd never last."
She frowned at my astute observation. "Huh. You're right."
"I usually am."
"Don't start getting cocky now missy."
I knew exactly what we were doing. The jokes, the banter, it was all a cover, a shield to protect us from the panic that was swirling just beneath the surface.
"I promise you, there is nothing cocky about me."
She grinned. "Oh, inappropriate sexual innuendo. Alice, you dog."
I could see the house coming into view up ahead as everyone quickened their pace until we were up on the porch. Micheal opened the door and we moved inside, Bella being forced to twist to the side so that I could fit in without having to be put down.
My family hadn't arrived yet and the wolves had yet to be called, so we moved to the living room where Bella collapsed onto the sofa and stretched me out beside her, placing my head gently in her lap. The other sat down on various seats around the room to wait for my family to arrive, turning their attention to the TV to give us the illusion of privacy.
I clenched my teeth tightly, refusing to let on to Bella how much my stomach hurt. It honestly felt like I had swallowed a lit Molotov Cocktail. The animal blood I had recently ingested had been enough to heal my other injuries, but not this.
Her fingertips hovered over the wound. "How did this happen?"
"Um, I'm not really sure. For a while there before you came, it was sort of a free-for-all. I was grappling with the redhead when one of the others came at me. I couldn't avoid the blow and they were damn strong." The hand she had over my stomach clenched into a fist. I covered it with my own. "It's okay. I'm okay."
Se swallowed thickly, looking at me with wet eyes. "They almost…you almost-" She blinked rapidly, turning her hand so that our fingers intertwined.
I moved to pull her into a hug, but quickly realized what a bad move that was when my torn muscles sent a wave of agony through me. Hissing, I fell backwards, unoccupied hand curling into a tight fist. "Dammit."
"Here," Bella whispered, releasing my hand and moving hers to the skin just above my stomach. A very faint glow spread out from her hand and suddenly the pain was gone, replaced by a very pleasant warmth.
My body relaxed of its own violation, a wave of lethargy rolling over me. "Hey, we agreed no healing." I couldn't seem to make my voice sound scolding. I sounded a little bit stoned.
"Yes, we did, but we never agreed that I wouldn't help you deal with the pain." She placed her finger on my lips just as I opened them. "It's not taking any toll on me, it just requires a little concentration."
I admitted defeat and let loose the last of my pent up tension, melting into Bella's soothing presence. Her fingers began running through my hair, adding to the sense of overwhelming relaxation that was making the world start to fade to just the two of us.
The next thing I knew, there was an urgent knock at the front door, Clare's voice calling out in welcome before six very anxious Cullens were breezing into the room.
"Alice, oh my God, are you okay?" Esme crouched down beside the sofa, golden eyes raking over me. She gasped when she caught sight of my stomach. "Carlisle, quickly."
My adoptive father moved closer as my siblings crowded in behind us. He was carrying one of those medical carriers that they used to transport organs, this one containing six flasks of blood.
"You guys I'm fine, it's really not as bad as it looks."
Emmett scoffed. "Alice, it looks like you have a giant hole in your stomach."
Rosalie put her hand on his arm. "Who did this to you? Jesse didn't say in her phone call."
"That's because I didn't know," Bella's sister said, looking at me. "You guys just said that it was three vampires. Did you find out who they were?"
I saw everyone looking at me curiously, even Bella, who probably looked the most curious of all. It made sense. She had heard James call me 'Mary-Alice' with some degree of familiarity. No doubt she was waiting for me to explain the connection.
Carlisle pulled one of the containers out of the carrier, twisting off the cap and letting the scent of blood rise into the air. "Give her a few minutes to get this down and heal, then she can tell us what she knows," he said in a firm voice, his professional side coming out now that he had someone to heal.
Despite knowing that she was okay with what I was, despite knowing that she herself had grown up with vampires, I found myself looking at Bella with a surprising feeling of apprehension. She had never seen me drinking blood, the blood of the animals she loved so much, or of the humans that she was oddly fascinated by.
She seemed confused by my hesitation at first, and then her expression softened as understanding shone in her eyes.
"Here," she told Carlisle, taking the container out of his hand. "Let me."
"You don't have to-"
"Yes," she cut me off, "I do."
Our eyes met and held as she brought the container to my lips, tipping it slightly so that I wouldn't have to strain for it. The warm liquid washed over my tongue and down my throat, moving throughout my body towards the most damaged area. I could feel the muscles knitting back together, the torn flesh healing and leaving behind unblemished skin once again. And through it all, Bella's eyes never left mine, never betraying any hint of revulsion or disappointment. Not that I thought that she would be, but I guess that dating an angel caused some insecurities that I would have to work through.
When I swallowed the last of the blood, she removed the canister and handed it back to Carlisle, her other hand rubbing soothing patterns on my newly healed stomach.
"There, all better," she whispered, running her fingers through my hair once again.
It was true, I was completely healed, but that didn't mean I had to move.
"So, about those vampires that tried to kill you?" Rosalie prompted, trying to hide her small smile at our behaviour.
"Oh, right…that." I sighed heavily. "He, um, James that is, he knew me."
"Knew you?" Micheal asked from his spot on the love seat beside his mate. "From where?"
"From my human life, or so he said." Eyes widened around the room. "He kept calling me 'Mary-Alice', and he told me that he had been hunting me for a while, way back when. But then another vampire, one he said was a vegetarian, turned me in order to save me. And he killed him for it."
My family looked floored. Edward ran a hand through his gravity-defying mop of bronze coloured hair. "Alice, that's-"
"Crazy, right? But I guess I'd have had to come across him at some point or another, considering the fact that we're immortal and the world is only so big. I'm not sure how the others have been feeding, Victoria and Laurent, he called them. There have only been enough deaths in Port Angeles to feed one vampire, but I guess it doesn't really matter."
Jasper looked perturbed, no doubt picking up on all of the emotions of the non-shielded people in the room. "And they just attacked you when they came across you? Despite knowing that you lived with a rather large coven, not to mention the fact that there is a pack of shape-shifters so close to where you were?"
"He said that he was a hunter and that I was the only person to have ever escaped him. He didn't want his record to be tarnished."
I felt Bella tense underneath me, the hand on my stomach growing increasingly warmer until she took a deep breath and the heat dissipated. "He did all of this, risked death and tried to kill you for a record?"
I grunted in affirmation, loosing myself once more to the gentle strokes on my stomach and the feel of her warm, soft hand running through my hair.
"Question, why did Carlisle have to bring you the human blood to heal when you have an angel practically attached to your hip?"
Emmett's question cut right through the fog and caused me to jerk upright. I took hold of the hand Bella was using on my stomach and gently removed the make-shift bandage, revealing the bite mark to the room. It had stopped bleeding sometime on our trek home but it still wasn't fully healed. The sight of the dark red blood on her arm and the even darker bite mark was even more disturbing now that I got a close look at it.
"I wouldn't let her. Not without knowing how this would affect her."
My family was once again surprised, worry plain on each of their faces.
"Are you alright?" Emmett asked, sounding beyond concerned. "You're not going to turn into a vampire, are you?"
It was a good question, but Bella shook her head. "I don't think so. Most of the venom is gone and if I were going to turn into a vampire, I think we'd notice by now."
Her father sat forward and placed his elbows on his knees. "Even so, young lady, you are staying at home from school for a few days until you're in the clear."
I honestly almost whined at that news. School was fun when Bella was there and this would diminish the amount of time I got to spend with her.
Bella's mother took one look at my distressed face and smiled knowingly. "Although, Micheal, I think that it's only prudent that someone should stay home with her, just in case, right?"
He nodded sagely. "Of course, what an excellent suggestion. Alice, I'd hate to impose, but I don't suppose that you'd be able to take a few days off to-"
Bella rolled her eyes and shook her head, looking between her parents with a long-suffering expression on her face. "Very subtle you guys."
I smiled at her and curled up into her side, pulling her hand into my lap to absently play with her ring. I pulled it off and slid it back on again, Bella's image flickering like a TV with bad reception.
The second time I did it, I noticed something odd about Bella's injured arm. Keeping the ring off, I turned her arm again and felt my eyebrows rise.
The bite mark, as well as some of the skin around it was glowing a light blue colour.
"Well, would you look at that." Bella's voice didn't sound particularly surprised. Everyone else in the room, however, leaned in closer in order to get a better look.
"You don't sound that worried," Rosalie observed.
Bella shrugged and sat back. "Well, when you glow as often as I do for various different reasons, it gets hard to be surprised when something knew pops up."
"It's true," Lee put in. "By the time Bella was three, we were completely desensitized from her glowing."
"Hmm, in fact, one time she woke up from a nightmare and spent the rest of the night wandering around like a child-sized night-light." Clare's voice sounded oddly wistful. "It was awfully pretty though…"
Her family nodded absently while mine exchanged confused glances. It had finally happened. We had actually found a family weirder than ours.
"Now that we have that established, what do we do about the three killer vampires on the loose who have a vested interest in killing my little sister?" At Rosalie's dry question, all humour fled the room.
Carlisle rubbed the back of his neck, sighing heavily. "Well, first things first, we should call the Quileute's. These vampires won't go too far now that they've found what they want." At this, his eyes met mine, looking worried, while Clare slipped quietly out of the room to make the phone call.
"That's not all that he wants," I said quietly.
"What do you mean?"
"He said that after he had killed me, he would track down the person whose scent was on me. Bella's scent."
Jesse and Lee growled while Bella's father groaned. "It's not the first time a vampire has targeted Bella because of her…unique characteristics and it probably won't be the last. However," he continued, "we have eleven vampires and an angel between our two families, as well as several wolf shifters who will no doubt want a shot at these vampires who dared to hunt so close to their land."
"When you put it like that, you make it sound like we have nothing to worry about," I pointed out.
Jasper fielded this one. "We may still be in quite a bit of danger. During my time with Maria, I travelled with several hunters. Not just run of the mill vampires, but people who only really lived for the hunt. If this James is anything like they were, then our presence in such numbers will only make this hunt that much more exciting for him. He'll see it as a challenge, something for him to overcome and something that will make victory that much sweeter."
Emmett crossed his huge arms over his chest. "Then we just have to make sure that he never gets a taste."
Clare slipped back into the room and resumed her seat beside Micheal. "The wolves are on their way now. Well, all except for Paul, for obvious reasons. You might as well sit down while we wait."
There weren't enough seats for all of us, so Lee brought in some of the soft leather ones that dotted the upstairs of their house. He even brought in several kitchen chairs and arranged them in a semi-circle for when the Quileutes arrived. I took notice and slipped Bella's ring back on. No need to give them any more questions just yet.
No one spoke while we waited, the silence only broken by Sanderson's purring and the occasional soft meow from his spot on Rosalie's lap. She tried to pretend that she couldn't care less, but I could see her smiling at him when she thought that no one was looking.
By the time we heard the approaching cars, I was on the verge of engaging Bella in a 'make-out session'. Not the most appropriate time, I know, but being this close to her after almost dying was very distracting.
Seven of them had come; Sam, Jacob, Leah and her brother Seth, Quill, Embry and finally Billy, who declined a seat and happily informed them that he would stand, winking at Bella.
There had been a noticeable change in Billy lately, besides the obvious. He wasn't as solemn as he had been. Not that I had known him particularly well before hand, but I'm fairly certain that I'd never seen him smiling that widely before.
Once everyone was settled, I filled our guests in on what had happened in more detail than Clare had provided. After much growling and wolfish posturing, we got down to actual conversation. It seemed that only Leah and Seth had escaped the puffed-up self-importance of their pack mates.
"They tried to kill you?" Jacob growled, looking intensely at Bella.
She frowned. "No, they tried to kill Alice, I just got in the way." Her arm tightened around me when she said 'killed' and she pulled me almost completely into her lap.
Jacob looked at our position and then glanced away, obviously uncomfortable. If I didn't know any better, I'd say he had a crush on my angel.
"So what do you propose?" Sam asked. He wasn't as antagonistic as he used to be around us, but it was obvious that he was far from comfortable with so many vampires around.
Carlisle cleared his throat. "Well, al we really can do is increase our security. You'll have to patrol more frequently and we'll make sure that Bella and Alice aren't alone and vulnerable."
"Hey, I think that we did okay," Bella stated, sounding vaguely put out.
He smiled. "Yes, but we shouldn't take chances."
"That means no date tomorrow," Clare added.
Bella and I groaned.
"Why can't Bella be alone?" This from Leah.
"Well, it seems that this James fellow found my scent very interesting and plans to kill me."
All of the wolves looked angry at this. Bella was pretty damn lovable.
She sighed and looked at her arm. "I should also point out something else." She raised her hand to stop the cries of outrage from the wolves when they realized that she had been bitten. "I'm fine, I'm not turning into a vampire, so chill out. That's not what I wanted to point out."
I placed a hand on her cheek and turned her to look at me. "What is it?"
She pursed her lips. "It's James. When he bit me, he drank some of my blood before I could get away. Then when he looked at me, I saw that his eyes had changed. They looked sort of…purple."
Carlisle's eyebrows shot up. "Purple?"
"Yes, purple. I don't know if my blood will affect him in any specific way, but I felt I should mention it in case it does do something weird. This is me after all."
I could see that the wolves were desperately curious about that vague comment, but they knew that Bella would only tell them about herself in her own time and after all she had done for them, they were reluctant to push.
Billy leaned against a wall, one arm resting on his hip. "So what happens if they attack again?"
"Or if they bring friends?" Seth was the youngest of the wolves, but his voice was very deep.
Jasper, ever the tactician, intertwined his fingers and stared hard at the floor. "It is possible that they could make some newborns to help them. In the wars, they were frequently used as distractions while more experienced vampires attacked the commanders. They could very well bring some 'friends'."
No one liked the sound of that, me least of all. I didn't want innocent people to be roped into this life just so some mad man could get at me and my mate.
"So what do we do?" Billy asked again.
All eyes turned to Jasper, universally known to be the most experienced in these matters. He raised a blond eyebrow at the scrutiny.
A/N: And, cut!
Now that I have a structured update plan, they will be coming out faster than previously, but they won't be as long. Although, this one is four thousand words, so that's not bad.
I'd also like to hear what you think of the story and the direction it's going. Tell me anything you might want to see and I'll see what I can do. And above all, review!