All three of us sat while leaning against a tree. Well, I more or less slumped forward while the other two rested their backs against the trunk. Charlotte was on one side of me and Peter on the other. Their legs stretched forward with one from each crossed over the other's like they were creating a protective barrier for me. Their symbolic leg X didn't look like it would shield James's abilities if he dared come near enough to us, but I appreciated the gesture.
I still disliked that Jasper had left me with these two, no matter how much I was starting to trust them. I had to admit though that for vampires Peter and Charlotte seemed very different than the others around us. I remembered my good and bad category of vampires from earlier. I decided to lump Peter and Charlotte in with Jasper, and not with Maria, James and the others who were less controlled. At least that's what I'd observed since joining their coven, a word Jasper used far too much for it being the year that it was … aka not the 15th century. But, then again I was sure vampires had their own terminology for things that I would have to get used to if I wanted to fit in, not to mention the other things that would eventually have to become second nature to me for survival's sake … like drinking blood. I tried not to linger on that aspect just yet. I was sure it would come soon enough and I'd have to deal with killing another to stay alive. But now wasn't the right time to have a moral crisis, I reminded myself. I needed to focus on sticking with this group of monsters if I wanted to see my plan of finding my family again to fruition. I winced at the word monster, because I was now one, and it would take some time getting used to that one fact.
"Are you okay, Isabella?" Charlotte asked, bending herself forward so that her head was near mine.
She must have seen my grimace and I tried my hardest to form words to reassure her. Yes, I felt awful, but what was new? "Okay. I'm fine." I bit my lip in earnest, trying to speak again, because I had to stop this use of a name I actually hated with a passion. "Bella," I forced out.
"What?" she responded.
"Name. Bella," I managed to say, the toll of trying to speak causing me to slump further forward.
I heard her giggle softly, which sounded like the music of a wind chimes in my ear. Then Charlotte learned back and conversed with Peter. "She wants to be called Bella. You should tell Jasper when he gets back. He's been calling her Isabella this whole time."
"If he comes back," Peter responded sternly.
I heard Charlotte sigh and then reply, "Do you really think it's gotten that bad between them? They are mates, together for all their afterlife, right? That's what you've told me." She was quite for a few seconds and then added in a hushed voice, "That's what you've promised me."
I certainly hoped Jasper would return. The one who had created me was also the one was I pinning my hopes on. With him gone I didn't stand a chance. Despite the good feelings I may have been developing for my hosts in the past hour, I wouldn't put it past them to leave me to the more violent vampires if the person who had entrusted me with them was suddenly gone.
"Charlotte, you shouldn't worry about us, but Jasper and Maria … their relationship is different. You know I've been here a while and I've observed a difference since James joined our coven. He wants to make us into something we used to be, before Jasper developed … well, for a lack of a better word, a conscious." Peter paused briefly before concluding with, "I shouldn't say anymore."
He must have gestured towards me, because I heard Charlotte scoff, "We can trust Bella. I doubt she'd use anything against Jasper. He's her only ally right now … I mean besides us."
Peter didn't respond and I assumed he must have shut down Charlotte's direction of conversation with a look, because she didn't continue talking. Instead she took my hand in hers and with effort I turned to look over my shoulder. Charlotte's lips were spread wide in a smile over her pixie like face, which was framed by extremely short bleach blond hair that conjured images of Tinkerbell for me.
"Don't worry. Everything will be fine. Jasper will come back and protect you … and so will Peter and of course, me," she reassured.
I wanted so badly to believe her, not only because it gave me hope, but because she genuinely seemed to have faith in this promise. She trusted Jasper and Peter to keep me safe. I assumed the latter of these two was her mate or so was the word I heard being thrown around when describing Jasper and Maria. Mate was a term I assumed vampires used for sexual partner, lover or maybe even husband and wife. Peter and Charlotte clearly had a relationship and I wondered how that fit into the coven as a whole?
Jasper had explained to me that after a year of life if a vampire wasn't pulling their weight then they were destroyed. Could you become attached to someone only to see them die? I remembered Peter's words about having been with the coven a while. How long had Charlotte been here? From the looks of her, she seemed more modern than Peter. Her hairstyle, the fairy tattoo on her shoulder I saw peeking from underneath the black tank top she wore, a tiny stud piercing in her nose, were all signs pointing to someone who had come of age during the last few decades. Was Charlotte a newborn? Was she safe? Would Peter have to watch her die if like Jasper said she didn't pull her weight?
Jasper had told me about the year timeline, because he wanted to keep me alive. Why he wanted this was a puzzle to me, but I tried not to look a gift horse in the mouth … whatever that meant. If I was clear on expressions I think it was intended to mean I wouldn't take his kindness for granted and betray him, because he had also given me a warning of never letting on to what he told me. It would be an automatic death sentence for me from Maria. I could after all warn the others of their upcoming second-death sentences.
"Watch out, Peter!" I heard Charlotte suddenly warn, interrupting my thoughts and I tried to look up as best I could to see exactly what danger she was referring to.
"I see him," Peter replied and then stood in front of me, blocking my view of whatever was near enough to cause this reaction from him.
But, then I didn't have to guess anymore, because I heard a voice and it brought back dark memories from not so long ago. Cold hands on me, sharp teeth pulling away my skin, it was all so vivid inside my head and I couldn't help the shudder that shook the whole of my body. Charlotte sensed my uneasiness and placing an arm around my shoulders she whispered, "Don't worry."
Her words did little to calm my anxiety, because James was near and Jasper wasn't anywhere I could see him. Why had he abandoned me?
"You should leave. You know I'm in charge of the newborns and Jasper has assigned this one especially to me." Peter's voice was severe and unwavering.
I heard James use the same wicked laugh he'd let loose while trying to rape me and I leaned into Charlotte, trying to will the asshole away. My new friend softly stroked my back.
"Yes, well, you do know that Maria put me in charge of everyone that doesn't include her and Jasper, so technically I can override you and perhaps ride her as well. Yes, that was a bad pun, but you left me wanting, Isabella."
"You are disgusting," Peter stated as he moved forward and pushed James away from me.
I heard James respond in a tone where I could actually visualize his eye roll. "Yes, we're vampires. Disgusting goes with the territory. Think you would have gotten that by now."
"Not for all of us," I heard another voice say, this one familiar, but not belonging to James, Charlotte, or Peter.
In fact the sound of it sent a wave of relief over my body and a sudden calm surrounded me as two strong arms lifted me up against a solid chest.