"Please don't hurt her. Please. I'll do anything you want."

The sound of James' evil, cold voice rang through the lines.

"Oh, I'm counting on it."

Chapter 7

At that very moment - which, coincidentally, was the exact moment I made my decision to trade my life for my mom's - the house phone started ringing furiously. I ignored it.

"What do you want me to do?" I asked James, clutching Victoria's cell phone in my hand too tightly. To my amazement, my voice shook less as I talked to him than it had since the beginning of the entire ordeal.

"Get in your truck and start driving before they get back. Take this phone with you and take the 101 south. You'll hear from me again - very soon."

I had been surprised to see my truck parked in the driveway when Carlisle first brought me home, knowing that I had left it at their house. He soon explained that practically the first thing they did after Edward took off with me was to drive my truck to the bus station and leave it there, keys inside. Charlie had found it relatively quickly and brought it home, and any suspicion had been thrown off of the Cullens. It had also given Charlie a bogus lead to follow that would keep him out of harm - well, at least until my stunt with the credit card.

I nodded like I thought James could see me. "Okay. I - okay. Just please...can I talk to her?"

A cruel chuckle sounded in my ear. "Oh, you'll be talking to her very soon - at least for a little while. But that's not what you really want, is it? You want to know she's alive. Guess you're just going to have to take my word for it."

I had no idea where the undercurrent of steel in my voice came from. "No. You let me hear her voice, or I'm not coming. I'll use this phone and call Edward."

This time Jame's laugh was nothing short of evil. "With pleasure. But just remember...you asked for it."

I heard movement, as though James was rapidly moving into another room - and then came a sickening thud followed by a heartwrenching cry that made my insides twist.

My mom's terrified, tear-filled voice flooded the line, making me sick to my stomach all over again.

"Please...please stop - what do you want with me? Who are you?" Another shriek followed, and I could only assume James had hit her again.

"Mom!" I screamed into the phone, terror flooding me. "No! Stop it, you sick bastard! I believe you - I'm leaving now!"

Desperately, I looked for my truck keys. Great. Of course Charlie had hidden them on the off chance that I came home, so I couldn't take off again.

The sound of my mom's sobbing drew a sob from me, as I absently realized that at some point the house phone had finally stopped ringing.

James still had that cruelly delighted tone to his voice. "Looking for your keys? Your father hid them on the belt rack in his closet. I had plenty of time to look around. Such a lovely home you have - so cozy. Too bad you won't be seeing it again. But at least dear old mommy might see it again - unless you do anything stupid like trying to call your boyfriend. It'd be a shame for him to meet with an unfortunate end as well."

I had jerked open Charlie's closet door and retrieved my keys before the final words were out of James' mouth. Before I could respond, a light click told me the call had disconnected.

As I passed the kitchen on my way out the door, shoving the cell phone in my pocket, I hesitated for a moment. The house phone had just started ringing again. Was James checking up on me? Was I supposed to answer? Would he hurt my mom if I did? What if I didn't? Sudden anger flared, and I ran for the phone.

"What?" I snapped into the receiver, fully expecting to hear that disturbing laugh again.

"Isabella Marie Swan, don't you dare!" It was Alice, more worked up than I'd ever heard her. "You stay right there until Carlisle gets back. I mean it."

Tears filled my eyes. "Alice, I can't talk to you. I have to go."

"Bella, stop! Listen to me! I don't think you realize what you're doing. This will kill him! You have to stop and think. James will kill her anyway if you hand yourself over to him - and he'll kill you either way. Let the boys take care of James. They'll get your mother back, Bella. Trust us."

"So they've found him?" I asked, already knowing the answer.

Alice hesitated. "They're hunting so they'll be strong enough to fight him when they do find him. I made them take time to do it, and I'm doing the same. That's the only reason we're separated, and it's a good thing, too. If Edward was close enough to read my thoughts..."

Like she had summoned him by that statement, I suddenly heard Alice gasp. "Oh God...Edward - Bella, he heard! He's on his way here and he..."

Panic flooded me as she spoke. I wasn't certain I could do this if I heard his voice - but I had to do this. My mom's life depended on it.

Then all I heard was the sound of Edward growling, growing closer by the moment, and the low hum of Alice's voice going too fast for me to hear as she tried to either explain or calm him down.

"No! Bella!" It sounded as though Edward was already yelling at me before he got to Alice. And then his desperate voice filled my ear completely as he took the phone. "Bella - Bella, listen to me, love...don't do this! I'm begging of you, Bella. Wait for me to get there! I'll get her back safely for you, I swear it. Just please - please stay there. I'm on my way right now."

That cemented it. Although Edward, Alice, Emmett and Jasper were still several hours away by car, there was no more time. I tried to put every ounce of what I felt into my voice, needing him to know that I didn't make this decision lightly.

"I can't let him hurt her. He said he'd kill her if I involved you, and he threatened you too. Edward, I'm so sorry. I have to go. Please don't hate me for this."

"Bella!" His voice was so loud, so full of pain that I almost couldn't get out the one other thing I had to tell him.

"I love you."

I could hear him shouting my name again, terror filling his normally gentle voice. I had to close my eyes and will myself to hang up the phone - but I did.

And then I was outside, getting into my truck and heading straight for the 101.


I hadn't traveled even 10 miles before the phone Victoria had given me was ringing again. I didn't bother with a hello...I already knew it was James.

"I'm doing what you said. Please...please promise me you'll let her go when I get there."

James didn't even acknowledge my pleas this time.

"Keep driving South until you see a small blue car with tinted windows sitting on the side of the road. There's a dirt path beside it. Drive your truck onto the dirt path, out of sight of the main highway, and leave it there. Then run back to the car. Leave this phone in your truck. Keys and another phone are inside the black car underneath the passenger seat."


"Mommy looks awful scared. Better hurry."


In utter frustration, I yelled and threw the phone, letting it make a satisfying thud off the passenger window as it bounced back and almost hit me in the head. It wasn't like I'd be needing it again, anyway. James was already finished with this particular phone.

It was another half hour before I found exactly what James said - a small car with Texas plates. It crossed my mind to wonder where James and Victoria had got a car. After all, they were nomads - far from rich like the Cullens.

And then, with a sickening lurch of my stomach, I realized exactly how they had got this car, and the new phones - the same way they got everything else: their victims. Some poor tourist from Texas wasn't going to be going home again.

The newfound nausea didn't leave me as I drove my truck off the dirt path into the woods, slightly off the road. It hit me that it'd be the last time I'd see it, and I wondered when I'd become so sentimental about a hunk of tin. At least maybe Charlie would eventually find my truck, though I could only imagine what kind of conclusion he'd draw from finding my truck here.

Hesitating, I decided that the least I could do was take the time to give Charlie some closure. Scrambling around, I found a discarded sheet of notebook paper that had made its way out of my backpack after school one day. In the glove compartment, inside Charlie's maintenance journal for the truck, I found a small pen. Taking a deep breath, I put pen to paper.


Please don't worry about me. I'm sorry to leave like this, but I had to get away from Forks. I'll be all right. I have money and a plan, and I'm not alone. I'm with friends, of my own will. I'll call one day if I can, but please don't worry for me if I don't. I love you.


Not the most eloquent of notes, but I could only stomach writing so many lies.

And I still had over half the paper left - and Charlie probably wasn't going to be the first one to find the truck anyway. I knew exactly who that would be.

Taking a deep breath, I ripped the paper in half, leaving Charlie's note on the dashboard. Then I put pen to paper again...

Dear Edward,

I'm so sorry about this. But if there was even a small chance, I had to take it. Please never doubt how much I love you. I'm doing this for you as well...I can't bear the thought of you being hurt trying to help me or my family. Please don't go after him - at least allow my sacrifice to protect you that much. That's all I ask of you. I love you. I love you, and I'm so sorry.

All my love,

Bella Swan

That note I tucked in my pocket. I'd bury it partly under some leaves at the point that I got into the car. It bore my scent; when Edward inevitably found the point that my scent disappeared into the car James left for me, he'd find my letter. That I knew.

And that's exactly what I did when I ran back to the road, just before suppressing a horrified shudder and climbing into a dead man's car.


James called almost as soon as I climbed into the blue car; and he wanted me to turn around and go the other way.

A strangled sob filled my throat.

"You sent me the wrong way?" I accused in fury, realizing that I must sound insane - what reasonable person was in such a hurry to die?

"Just go North on the 101, back through Forks, and keep driving until I call."

The realization that James was going to drag this out filled me with even more frustration, but there was little I could do other than exactly what he said.


I was just a few miles from being back in Forks when I saw it...and heard it...and felt it.

It sounded like a distant crash of thunder, and felt like a small earthquake. But what it looked like was a huge ball of fire rising up through the trees into the sky, not far from where I was.


In shock, I just kept driving, one eye on the plumes of black smoke rising up out of the trees that I was driving straight toward. A few rescue trucks passed me within just a few minutes, along with several firetrucks. If I rolled the windows down, I could hear multiple sirens. I could smell thick, acrid smoke.

I just kept driving.

I was within a mile of the plumes of smoke coming from the woods when I passed the dark-colored, expensive looking car with deeply tinted windows coming toward me from the other direction. But even though my attention was drawn toward the area of the large explosion in an effort to catch a glimpse, I still didn't miss that car suddenly spinning around behind me in dramatic fashion only seconds after going past, and then falling into place behind me.

It kept a respectable distance.

At first.

But in the middle of nowhere, maybe 10 miles North of the explosion site, that car suddenly and rapidly started closing the distance, until it was practically on my back bumper.

And then it easily pulled up directly beside me and began to drift toward me. With horror, I realized that the driver was steadily, carefully - almost gently - forcing me off the road.

I wasn't really frightened so much as angry; I already expected to die. I just didn't want it to happen now with some random abductor so that I couldn't even save my mom in the process.

With no other choice, I carefully pulled over and left the car running, watching in shock as the other driver quickly and expertly manuevered so that the car was positioned directly beside and yet slightly in front of my car - neither allowing me to drive forward nor to open my door; the rear quarter panel of the other car was less than an inch from the door, leaving no room to open it.

Strangely resigned, I watched as the other car door opened. My eyes were fixed tightly on the opening to see who emerged...but I saw nothing. Instead, I heard the sound of my passenger door being opened - rather forcefully, considering that it was locked. Too late, my mind registered the fact that the only way the driver could have moved that fast and could easily tear open a locked car door is if they were a...


"No!" I manged to squeak out.

Panicking, I slammed the car into reverse and stomped on the accelerator.

I hurtled backward for all of one half second - before I slammed into something hard enough that I could literally hear the rear end of the car crumpling.

I only had enough time to register the fact that there must be two of them, before icy arms grabbed me in an inescapable grip.

I opened my mouth to scream...


Author's Note:

Come on, you guys, give this story some love! My faithful reviewers are totally AWESOME and I love you guys...but I'd love to hear from some of you lurkers, too. Come on out, and don't be shy! I may write about vampires, but I don't bite...I promise. :)

C'mon I'll make it easy...I'll give you a topic. Let's play a game. Who can guess what the explosion was and who caused it? If you get it right, you'll get a special shout-out in the next chapter...where we'll find out all about that explosion. Let's see who can get closest - but you have to go on record with your guess, through review. :)

Also, please check out my other story, Second Chances. :)