Disclaimer: Characters contained within do not belong to me. "Leather and Lace" belongs to Stevie Nicks.
Author's Notes: Thank you for stopping and taking a chance on a new story. I hope you enjoy it. If you're also reading my Jacob/Nessie angst-fest, "Winter Moon," I promise a new chapter is on the way. I've been freshly inspired by "Eclipse"! Thanks again!
Leather and Lace
by Kristen Elizabeth
Saying I'm fragile
I try not to be
I search only
For something I can't see
Bella and Edward were late and Alice wasn't at all happy about it.
"Give them another few minutes," her husband soothed her. "They'll be here."
Alice's scowl was pretty, but it was still a scowl. "I can't even say that for sure, Jasper. Bella can't make up her mind whether to come downstairs or stay up there."
From her place on the couch beside Emmett, Rosalie sighed with great impatience. "You know, they don't exactly have the newlywed excuse anymore."
On the opposite couch, the daughter of the couple in question covered her eyes, putting the artfully-twisted silver of her engagement ring on display. "Ew! Mental image, Aunt Rose!"
Jacob chuckled as he pried Nessie's hands away from her face. "Right there with you, gorgeous." She gave him a quick peck on the lips.
"Can we just start without them?" Emmett asked. "Won't be long before certain people get back. It was a bitch getting them to go out at all."
"Calm down, Emmett." Edward and Bella appeared just then, fingers entwined. "We're here."
Alice pouted. "I know you don't like parties, Bella, but this is for Esme and Carlisle. I thought maybe you'd be a little excited about this one."
"It wasn't my fault," Bella protested. "Someone..." She shot her husband a look. "...was trying to distract me. I'm all for this party, I swear."
"Yeah," Jacob agreed with his oldest friend. His soon-to-be mother-in-law. "I mean, how often do you get to help plan a surprise 100th wedding anniversary party?"
"Try in another fifteen years," Rosalie informed him with a smirk.
"And we want a good one." Emmett pointed to each of his siblings in turn, for emphasis. "Got it?"
Edward rolled his eyes as he and Bella took a seat. "Let's just get down to business."
With Jasper's help, Alice spread open a huge binder full of magazine clippings, scribbled notes and printed pages. "So, I've already decided on the theme..."
"What is it?" Nessie asked eagerly.
"A secret." Alice smiled at her niece. "For now." She started flipping through her binder. "I've got ideas for the decorations and the flowers. I've even ordered Esme's dress and Carlisle's suit."
"Then...why did we all have to be here?" Rosalie's question earned her a sharp glare from Jasper.
"I thought it would be a nice touch if each of us prepared something to say about Carlisle and Esme at the party. Maybe a favorite story about them or a memory." Alice's golden eyes shone. "They'll love it."
"It's a good idea, Shortcake," Emmett told his sister. "Remember that one for our party."
Edward murmured into his wife's ear, "Fifteen years should be long enough to come up with at least one or two nice things to say about Rosalie." Bella pressed her lips together to keep from laughing out loud.
"I so heard that," Rosalie snapped. "At least I have eighty-seven before I have to return the favor."
"Hey." With just that one word...and a little bit of emotional manipulation...Jasper brought an end to the bickering.
"Please don't leave this to the last minute," Alice begged her siblings. "You've got three weeks. And remember...it's all for Carlisle and..."
The panic in Carlisle's voice had his whole family leaping to their feet as he burst into the house.
"Esme?" he shouted again. "Are you here?"
They all moved together, out of the sitting room and into the wide-open foyer. Edward reached his father first; he froze, however, when the flood of frantic thoughts from Carlisle's troubled mind washed over him in a great wave.
"What's going on?" Emmett demanded as Edward and Carlisle locked eyes. "What happened?"
"Is Esme okay?" Jacob asked, genuinely concerned for the first Cullen he'd truly cared about.
Edward frowned as he sorted through his father's mind. "They were shopping at the Plaza. Esme...saw a dress she wanted to try on. They were going to meet at the fountain...but she never showed." He swallowed heavily. "The Cadillac is gone...and she's not answering her phone."
Carlisle gripped his son's shoulders. "Is she...?"
"No," Edward said. "She hasn't come back."
"Okay, I'm going to be the idiot here..." Jacob paused, waiting for a smart retort from Rosalie. When none came, he felt a tiny flicker of concern in the center of his chest. Blondie never turned down an opportunity to insult him. "But don't you all think that Esme can take care of herself?" he continued. "It's not like anyone could grab her and...you know...hurt her."
"That's not what we're worried about, Jacob." Jasper glanced at his wife. "Can you see anything?"
With her hands clasped together at her heart, Alice shook her head. "She's not making any decisions. Maybe on purpose, but probably not. Wherever she is, she's not thinking ahead about anything."
Nessie came to her mother's side. "Has something happened to Grandma?"
"I don't know, honey," Bella answered honestly. "Edward?"
But he was too focused on Carlisle to answer. "We don't know that yet," Edward said in response to his father's silent thought. A moment passed before he added a curt, "Sixty-one years. Give her some credit."
Emmett glowered. "No. No, that's not what happened. Esme wouldn't."
"It's happened before." Rosalie folded her arms tightly, as if shielding herself from unwanted memories. "She took off then, too."
"What are you all talking about?" Jacob looked around at the perfect, pale faces of the vampires he'd reluctantly come to consider a second family. Speaking for Bella and Nessie, he added, "Care to let the rest of us into the loop?"
Jasper gritted his teeth. "Consider this one a 'need-to-know' situation."
As Carlisle was too distraught to organize anything, Edward took over for him. "We have to find her. Fan out in pairs. Alice and Jasper, Emmett and Rosalie...I'll go with Carlisle. Search the woods, the river, the mountain, the town...we all know her favorite spots. Nessie, you stay here in case she comes back. Jacob..."
"Yeah," Jacob agreed to his unspoken request. "I can cover more ground and pick up her scent better if I phase."
"I'll go with Jake," Bella volunteered.
"Like you can keep up with me, Mom," he snorted.
Bella opened her mouth to smack him down, but the anguish emanating from Carlisle's eyes told her it wasn't the time or the place. "Zip it," she told him instead.
Edward took an unnecessary breath. "All right. Let's go."
Four miles from the house, the river which wandered through the mountains widened to almost double its width. This swelling wasn't big enough to be called a lake, but it was the perfect place to take a quick dip on a warm summer day. Sequoia trees provided shade, while allowing just enough sun to dapple the clearing. Large, flat-topped rocks broke the surface of the water at several places like stone benches set into the stream.
Edward found his mother perched on one of the rocks, her legs tucked up underneath her as she stared down at the river. As he approached the edge of the water, a beam of sunlight hit Esme, turning her skin into glittering diamonds.
"Mother." She visibly flinched at the sound of his voice, but she didn't look up. "You scared us," Edward went on. "Especially Carlisle."
"Carlisle," she whispered. "Where...?"
"Nearby," Edward replied. "I can get him."
"No!" She shook her head violently. "I can't see him, Edward. He can't see me!"
Already knowing why, Edward nodded. "All right." He waited a second before he kicked off his shoes and pulled off his socks.
When she heard water splashing, Esme frowned, but still kept her chin lowered. "What are you doing?"
"Joining you." A moment later, he was thigh-deep in the river, mindless of his Armani pants. When he reached her, he pulled himself up on the rock beside her. "I love this spot, too," Edward said after a few minutes of silence. Studiously ignoring the smeared stains on her silk blouse, he went on, "I come here when I need to think."
Esme's voice was dull. "I don't want to think." Her hands trembled in her lap. "I want to forget."
"What happened?" Edward asked as gently as possible.
Before she could say anything, Carlisle ran out of the woods, into the clearing. "Esme!"
Her head shot up, their eyes met and even from the shore, the deep burgundy color of her irises was unmistakable.
"I'm sorry." A dry sob tore through Esme's throat. "It was an accident."
To Be Continued