Many, many thanks to DreeDreamer and DreaC.
I wasn't too worried. There were enough of us at the Rez to take care of three or four fucking bloodsuckers, and we could warn them.
As I slowly walked toward Bells, I kept my eyes on her face. She was naked, completely covered in blood, and I didn't need to see any more of that or the state of the cabin, otherwise I'd phase. She needed to calm down and only worry about herself. It was so like Bells to care about everyone else first.
I grabbed Jasper's sweater from him—he wasn't going to get any closer to her.
"Jake, what are doing? Didn't you hear . . ." Bells was still trying to yell, but her voice only came out quiet and hoarse.
"There are seven of us at the Rez to take care of those four, Bel—"
She tried to sit up. "No! She had two vampires get another group to go there! A group!"
I stopped short. Oh, God.
I could see Jared and Leah were already running back.
I needed to leave, but Bells couldn't come with us; she would have to stay with these bloodsuckers.
If Taha Aki can trust these leeches, I'll just have to for now, I told myself. But fuck, I don't want to.
Bella was frantic. "I'm sorry. Oh, God, I'm sorry. I don't know how many . . . or where . . . or when. "
I took the bag I brought with me that had Bella's clothes, and quickly tossed it in front of the head leech . . . Caius. It seemed like he and "Aki" were close, and I assumed he wasn't going, given that he was one of the Kings.
I squatted in front of Bells, looking at her beseechingly to believe me. "Shh, Bells, everythin' will be okay. Trust Caius and Demetri, all right?" I made sure to point them out to her. "I need to go, but they're gonna take care of you. I have Demetri's number, and I'll call you as soon as I can. Plus, I'll see you in Italy sooner rather than later."
I gave her a smile. "I love you, Bells."
I wasn't completely lying to her, and I hoped that I didn't regret telling her to trust Caius and Demetri, or regret putting my trust in Taha Aki and their "friendship."
I heard her softly say that she loved me before she passed out.
God, I'm surprised she was even conscious to begin with.
I quickly stood and noticed that Taha Aki was waiting for me. I looked at Caius, but his eyes were on Bella. His face was a cold mask, yet his eyes were angry, a little sad, and even a bit...scared?
He turned to us, nodded once, and said, "Be safe."
Taha Aki and I phased and began to sprint home.
Then I remembered something. Oh, shit, Charlie.
Through the mind link, Paul answered, "Seth's getting him, and then taking him to the Quillayute Airport—where the rest of tribe's heading."
"Good," I replied.
"Jake, do not worry about her," said Taha Aki. "Caius has sworn to me he will keep her safe. Trust me, he will. Demetri is also staying to ensure it. If you haven't noticed, he really does care about her. Now, we have Felix and five others joining us. The elders should know where to go."
"The council's contacting everyone," I told him. "The pack's staying behind to protect Forks, and Sam's debating whether or not to send the younger ones with the tribe."
I wished we knew more. How many were coming? How far were they from the Rez? What direction were they coming from? Could we head them off and stop them?
The only thing I could really ask for was to get to the Rez before the army did.
And I already guessed we wouldn't.
/ / Moments before / /
She was goddamn smart, this Victoria.
We should have thought of the possibility when there were vampires unaccounted for. Who knows what else she had planned, and how many more she created. Therefore, we all needed to leave—immediately.
"Aki, take the express twins, you can use their speed. Take Felix and two others with you as well." I glanced at one of my personal guards. "Cyrus, you will go with Aki and use your sight. Jane, Alec and the rest are with me. I will make the calls to carry out the plan we arranged for your people last year, Aki. You call me when it is over."
"Thank you. I will. Bella is im—" he started.
I interrupted. "I swear to you now, I will keep her safe." His eyebrows shot up to his hairline. "Go."
Aki was surprised. I could not believe it myself. I did not make promises, let alone oaths. No one ever kept his or her word—yet another thing I hated. It was one of the only two things I had never, ever done in my existence. The other was lying. Although, Aro speculated I carried that over from my human life—then, it had just been about the principle.
Nowadays, there was no need for me to make promises or to lie. Both were pointless. If someone didn't trust me already, giving my word meant nothing. Besides, I cared not of others' thoughts or feelings.
Furthermore, being the monster that I was, and at my age, my list of 'never-done' was tiny. And it was about to become non-existent. I had just made an oath, and that would certainly make me a liar down the road if I could not keep it until Taha Aki returned and claimed that I had fulfilled it.
Damn, I cursed myself.
It was Isabella's eyes that caught me, that bid me to act out of character. They alone spoke volumes, but mostly, they reminded me of someone I wished to forget . . . yet, also remember.
It was that little fact, that resemblance, that incited me to swear to Aki.
And as I gazed at her, I realized it was probably more than that. I felt the beginnings of a pull, and my priorities began to shift. That meant only one thing . . .
. . . mate.
I experienced immense jealousy while Jacob talked to her. I smashed my lips together and swallowed my growl when they uttered their affection towards one another.
Goddamn it, fate is a malicious and fickle whore, I thought. I. Do. NOT. Want. A. Fucking. Mate.
Spouses and mates were liabilities, and I had never wanted either one—a fragile, broken human one, no less.
I already had a wife; granted I hated her, but that suited me perfectly.
Nevertheless, I particularly did not want a mate. Especially one that prompted memories I had not thought of in a long time.
I snapped out of it when I felt eyes on me. Aki looked solemn, but his face had a hint of amusement. There was also a slight amount of pity in his parting smile. Jacob was looking at me imploringly.
I gave them a nod, and said the only thing I could, "Be safe."
They were gone.
I pulled out my phone and started making the calls. While it rang, I glanced around to check on everyone's progress.
Jasper and Balthazar had most of Victoria in the four cases we had brought.
Then I thought of something. "Jasper, put her head back on her torso, then she can heal. We will interrogate her soon, but she will need her lungs to speak. You can make her talk easily, yes?"
Jasper grinned and nodded. "And I can make sure she's quiet until we're ready."
I glanced around and saw that Demetri was watching over Isabella; I did not like it, but refrained from showing it.
At the other end of the phone line, the ringing stopped, and a man groggily answered. "Hello?"
"'There's no security on this earth, only opportunity'," I quoted. I could see the pyres glowing in the south. Good. Everyone will be here soon.
"General MacArthur," the man replied, now more alert. "Go ahead."
For a moment, I watched Jasper shove some of Victoria's dismembered fingers in her mouth. It was actually very creative, since she probably would not swallow or bite them—and she had more than a mouthful. We were chuckling at Victoria's expression and even Jasper's, whom was clearly enjoying showing her each finger before putting them in her mouth. Balthazar wrapped tape around her head, securing the fingers inside.
I began giving directions to the man on phone. "Pick up in Kilo-Uniform-India-Lima. Switchover in airport Kilo-Delta-Echo-November to G550, tail number India dash Victor-Tango-Alpha-Kilo, hangar twelve. Final destination and drop off at Lima-India-Romeo-Papa. Arrange for nineteen passengers, it could be less. Call Black after securing flight plans. Returning, leave the plane at the pickup airport, not Denver. I will contact you in four hours. You leave ASAP," I finished off with a command.
"Will do," he said.
I hung up.
Jane and the rest of the group arrived, but stayed a good distance away to keep watch over the area; they had obviously been updated on what was happening.
Demetri started to cut the tape off Isabella's wrists, but she awoke with a gasp.
I could not help it, I snarled.
Isabella tensed further.
Damn it, I scared her.
But it does not matter, I reminded myself.
Demetri stepped back slowly with hands up. "I am sorry. I was only trying to free your hands from their bindings." Then he looked at me with an eyebrow raised.
Jasper sat on his heels as he spoke to her. "Bella?"
"Jasper, wh . . . ?" she inquired with gritted teeth from the pain.
Isabella's left wrist and lower right leg were crushed, and her right arm was broken in more than one place. All of her fingers and both hands were broken as well, along with bruises and several bites all over her body. She also had two stab wounds, and God knows what else that was not obvious.
I clenched my jaw to stop anything coming from my mouth, while taking slow, deep breaths. My nails were biting into my palms as I locked my arms to my sides.
I will just ignore these . . . instincts, I told myself. I barely know this woman, and that is not going to change.
Jasper started to explain. "Hey, I'm sorry, but we gotta get you out of here. Can you stop blockin' me so I can help you with the pain? I can help you sleep too."
I could hear the sorrow in his voice, but there was also tenderness. That aggravated me further, and I was already at war with myself. My instincts were screaming for me to kill everyone in the vicinity, especially Victoria for hurting Isabella, and Demetri and Jasper for talking to her. They were also standing too damn close to her.
It should be me, and only me, who helped her.
MINE! My inner beast proclaimed.
No! I told the beast. She is not mine. I do not want a mate!
Jasper sent me a heavy dose of calm and a little happiness. He was trying his damnedest not to grin.
I glared at him. This is not funny, and it most certainly is not a good thing.
A part of me was getting angrier for being denied; the animal in me was seething and clawing to get out, roaring to be free of its prison.
It stopped short when Isabella finally answered Jasper. "I don't know how. I'll try, but no . . . no sleep."
After two minutes, Jasper said to her, "Good. We're goin' to carry you outta here. Do you think your back is injured?"
"No." She breathed.
With a speed and volume that only vampires could hear Jasper told me, "Caius, you should be the one carryin' her."
I shook my head minutely. I would keep my word, but I did not have to touch Isabella or even be close to her to do that. And I admit—albeit hesitantly—that I was scared that once I did touch her, I would never let her go.
Isabella passed out again. At least, she better have had—she did not want Jasper to force her to sleep, which was understandable.
Jasper grabbed a survival wrap from a first aid kit and wool blankets from a cabinet while he asked me, "You don't want to help?"
I shook my head.
"Alright. Prepare yourself, Caius. You'll want to attack us for touchin' and movin' her. I'm helpin' her with the pain and to stay asleep, so you need to keep yourself in check."
I rooted myself to this spot and put my arms behind my back, gripping my forearms.
So he did force her to sleep, I thought. I knew that I should not care, as it was probably for the best if I started to attack them, but I did care . . . only a little.
When he and Demetri started to wrap the blankets around her carefully, a rumbling began in my chest. I leaned forward and watched every move they made. What shocked me was that I began to hate them for even looking at her.
Goddamn it, this is one of the reasons I did not want a mate—it makes you completely irrational.
Jasper looked at me before he slowly put his hands under her wrapped body. Yet, when his hand skimmed her neck to lift her, she gasped again.
As I ran to get between Jasper and Isabella, I noticed that she disappeared and that Jasper was pushed back a couple feet.
Isabella does have a power, I marveled. A very interesting and useful one at that.
Aro will be more intrigued. She had not even gone through the change yet, and she had only been held captive for thirty-two hours and eighteen minutes. I could tell she had also used her gift against me as I was pushed forward a little, which, surprisingly, slightly hurt my feelings.
Jasper was surprised as well, for she was obviously supposed to be asleep. I wondered if it was our cold hands that had set her off, that had reminded her of her captors and created the need for her to defend herself.
However, that was all in the back of my mind as I stood in front of her—crouched and growling—ready to fight anyone who came any closer to us, who continued to hurt or even scare her.
My instincts were telling me to kill everyone near us and I could then care for her or even run with her to do so.
My beast roared, rattling his cage to be free. No one touches my mate again!
That word made me straighten. I rubbed my face and dug the heels of hands into my eyes.
I did not—no, DO not want a mate! I was battling between my rational mind and the natural beast within. I did not know this woman, and I had never wanted a mate.
But we have one, the animal cooed.
No! I argued. I do not want one! Do you remember losing Aglaia? I will not—cannot—do that again. And losing a mate would be so much worse . . .
With that thought, I hurriedly walked backwards to Isabella's side. I looked down and saw that she was asleep again. I was not used to caring for humans. And before I bent down to pick her up, I took another blanket and threw it over my right arm. I was afraid she would have the same reaction to me as she did to Jasper and Demetri. For that reason, I picked her up as slowly and as gently as I could.
Isabella sighed and relaxed a bit, as did I.
Jasper and Demetri were looking down with grins on their damn faces.
I glared at them as I quietly gave orders. "Let us go. It will take less than an hour to get to the truck, but about two more to get to Fort Nelson. Demetri, check your phone. Adam should have texted you their coordinates. Carry the bag Jacob left as well."
I was thankful for vampire hearing. If any of us spoke too loudly, Isabella might awaken and use her gift on me once more, which would only injure her further.
Demetri caught on. When he spoke, he was even quieter than I. "Wait here, we will take the cases out to the others. I think Jasper and I will feel better with our hands free to guarantee Bella's safety."
As they did that, I looked down at Isabella. She had so many mythical creatures caring for her. Demetri, above all, must have had a high opinion of her to act the way he was, which said a great deal about her character.
Demetri came back inside the cabin. "We warned everyone not to breathe and to keep a safe distance. Are you ready?"
I followed him out the door. Jasper was watching The Guard from the porch before they stopped gawking and ran down the mountain. We followed them, and then we all turned east.
Jasper started talking not even three minutes in, but he kept it only for the three of us hear. "You know, I can tell that you still don't entirely accept it. I'm goin' to tell you now that you really shouldn't fight it, because you won't succeed. Now that you found her, you'd follow her to the ends of the earth."
I told myself I would think of all that later, when I was alone with no pressing matters at hand, so I didn't acknowledge him. Jasper didn't seem to expect me to because he quickly added, "Oh, and later, you will tell me who she reminds you of."
"You are just like Peter, with the all knowing . . . fuckery," I claimed.
Jasper chuckled. "I miss that dipshit. I haven't talked to him in a couple decades, actually. You?"
I shook my head. "He and Charlotte came to visit twenty-four years ago, but I have not heard from him since."
"We should call him. Peter could know somethin' about what's goin' on with . . . your mate."
I growled at him quietly, to which he just chuckled, though you could tell it was halfhearted. He was genuinely worried for Isabella.
"If I ever get my phone back, I'm sure I'll have a message from him. If you don't have one already," he added.
We stayed silent for the rest of our journey.
We did not encounter any new scents or any more vampires when we got to the truck that Adam must have stolen. He was standing at the bed of it, and he raised his eyebrows when he saw Isabella and me, but then he quickly composed his face.
I only saw this in my peripheral, because I was watching the man next to him, whom only had eyes for Isabella.
He was taking shallow and shaky breaths and I could see his venom glazing his eyes. Then he staggered forward.
I tensed and started growling. So did Demetri, who stepped in front of me. We quickly stopped when we thought better of it. I did not feel Isabella stir. Her heart rate was faster than normal, but that was to be expected with all her injures. I still glanced down at her quickly to make sure.
Carlisle was extremely surprised. He put his hands up slowly and looked down.
"Caius," Demetri started attentively, "are you agreeable to Carlisle sitting in the back with you?"
I wanted to answer that I most certainly was not, though I knew Carlisle should sit with us in the backseat so he could check Isabella. It was the reason he was brought here.
I acceded. "Yes, it is fine. Carlisle, you will need to keep your distance. You may look her over, but you do not touch Isabella," I stated quietly but firmly. "When we get to the plane, you can thoroughly check her then."
Demetri started giving orders. "Put the cases in the bed of the truck. Split into four teams and run on both sides of the road along side us, two in the front and the back. Jane, Alec, and Balthazar, for a appearances' sake, get a car on the way into town. Then, meet us at the airfield. Only you three will fly with us. Jasper, you will ride in the front while I drive. Carlisle, get in the truck, please."
Carlisle and Jasper got in the truck, while Demetri held the door open for me. I glanced around at The Guard, pleased to see that each one had their heads down. Demetri watched Carlisle as I carefully got in the backseat with Isabella. Then he shut the door as quietly as possible before getting in the driver's seat, immediately turning the heat on full blast, and getting on the service road.
When Carlisle looked at Isabella out of the corner of his eye, I hissed in warning. I did not say he could look at her yet. And, I was not ready for him to do so.
"Jasper, are you helping me or Isabella?" I asked.
"I'm only helping her with the pain. She's exhausted, and she was actually comforted the moment you picked her up. I'm not helping you, it just makes you . . . mad," he replied, and I could hear the humor in his voice.
Mad. That is an excellent way of putting it, I agreed internally, brooding. I am losing my head and control over my own feelings.
I looked down slightly at Isabella, trying to prepare myself. I knew she needed Carlisle to look her over. I started to shift and unwrap her slowly, being ever so mindful of my strength and her injuries. I left Jasper's sweater on top of her and was surprised with how much I did not like it there.
Utterly absurd, I thought.
I steeled myself and spoke, "Alright, Carlisle you may look at her only."
He intertwined his fingers and gripped his hands together, which was smart because he would want to touch her being the doctor he was.
I heard him gasp. "Oh, Bella."
I snarled at him. He should not say her name and was speaking too loud. If he and his family did not leave Victoria still walking this earth, Isabella would not be like this. I, also, would not be in this predicament. Although even thinking about not having met her . . . hurts a great deal.
Carlisle tilted his head to the side, trying to examine her legs and arms, and he was swallowing frequently.
Then he choked out, "The injuries on her torso?"
The three of us stiffened, and in reaction so did Carlisle.
A rumbling began in my chest with the images my mind conjured; my muscles began to tremble from my efforts not to clutch Isabella harder. She has been through too much already.
I stilled when she moaned and stirred, though she did not wake.
I took a moment to calm myself.
"You will be quieter," I hissed.
I shook my head to clear it, and tried to keep the emotion from my voice as I answered his question. "She has two stab wounds from shears that were about five inches long. Um . . . lower abdomen. There is something else you will need to know, but one of us will have to tell you later."
I started wrapping Isabella up as I struggled with my thoughts, attempting not to think of all that had happened to her. It would be a bad idea to have an outburst in a vehicle, and with her so near.
"Her back and head?" Carlisle asked, much quieter.
"She appeared to be . . . held face down during the duration of captivity, for there are more bites on her back than anywhere else on her body. There are no apparent contusions on her head."
Carlisle cleared his throat softly and nodded. "Okay. I brought most of the necessary medical supplies, but I cannot do much until we get to Volterra and run some labs."
We could change her . . . my demon taunted.
I quickly dismissed the idea. Despite the fact that I knew I could leave Isabella, could walk away from what we supposedly would have, it would be harder to escape her if she were a vampire. The bond would only strengthen, molding the invisible thread of fate into a tangible destiny. Truthfully, I did not know what I would do. I still wasn't ready to accept the fact that I had a mate—not wholly—and only a small part of me wanted to keep it that way. I cursed the greater piece of me that felt otherwise.
I noticed Jasper shake his head. I cleared my own and reminded myself to think of all this another time.
We stayed quiet the rest of the drive, and when we got to the airfield of Fort Nelson Airport, Jasper opened the door for me. Jane, Alec, and Balthazar grabbed the cases and got on the plane. The rest of The Guard were waiting in the forest to the east for us to take off. Then, they would head back to Vancouver to take the plane we came in and fly back to Italy. There were only sixteen seats in this G650, and we would not all fit without being conspicuous.
Carlisle walked up the steps into the plane first, followed by Jasper, then Demetri, and me with Isabella last.
With her held closely to my chest, I stepped over the threshold slowly.
The women on the plane gasped and whimpered, including the male who I assumed was Emmett. Eleazar was wide-eyed.
"Do not try to stand, or Jane will drop you," warned Demetri.
They stayed seated. I sped to the back of the plane to a separated room that had a sofa, one other seat, an adjoining closet, and the one bathroom.
I placed Isabella on the sofa, and I immediately felt loss.
Good Lord, this is ridiculous, I thought as I stood next to her and looked to Jasper.
"Do you need to go somewhere else to question Victoria?" I asked him.
Of course, there were even more gasps, followed by a lot of growling.
I snarled at everyone.
I saw Isabella move and heard her whimper. I automatically sat on the arm of the couch by her head, and started stroking her hair.
Everyone became even more wide-eyed.
"Silence," I commanded quietly.
"No, we can go," Jasper murmured.
I nodded to Ethan, who got back to the controls and contacted the tower.
"Demetri, you call and relay the information to Felix. Jasper, interrogate Victoria now. When we are airborne, dismember her head. Carlisle, you can then . . . examine Isabella," I finished pained.
That will not be pleasant for any of us here.
Jasper set the case on one of the tables in front, and opened it. Everyone was growling under his or her breath.
And Victoria . . . oh, Victoria was fuming, but still terrified.
Jasper leaned on the table and worked his magic.
Victoria relaxed, her stare becoming adoring. She then lowered her eyes in submission, and she looked even more child-like as Jasper started taking her fingers out from her mouth. When he was done, he waited a moment.
Satisfied with Victoria's compliance, Jasper began questioning her in a steady, even tone. It was almost soothing.
"How many vampires did you send to attack the Reservation?"
"Twelve," she answered timidly.
Fuck, I thought.
"Where are they coming from?" Jasper asked.
"The northern side of Yellowstone Park."
"When will they get to the Reservation?"
"If there is no fighting within the group," Victoria started, tilting her head to the side, "they should get there within six hours."