Scene Stealers Contest Entry

Title: A Different Hour

Book and Chapter you are stealing: SM's Twilight Chapter 22

I've long held the irritation that there was no way Alice wouldn't have caught up with Bella before she met up with James. This contest gave me the opportunity to correct that irritant. Additionally, this is my first published attempt at writing fanfic, so please let me know what you think.

I just want to say a quick thank you to my girls/beta's who helped me out and put up with my neurotic tendencies.Smooches and love to theswandive, izzyheartsrob, and agoodwitch. Disclaimer: I live in Twilight and Stephenie Meyer is my landlady. Or in other words, SM owns Twilight and its characters.

From Chapter 22 Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

"Here we are then." He was anxious to get me out of his car, probably hoping I wouldn't ask for my change.

"Thank you," I whispered. There was no need to be afraid, I reminded myself. The house was empty. I had to hurry; my mom was waiting for me, frightened, depending on me.

I ran to the door, reaching up automatically to grab the key under the eave. I unlocked the door. It was dark inside, empty, normal.

I rushed into the house, intent on reaching the phone, and getting this over with. A voice coming from inside halted my momentum.

"Did you really think you could sneak away and I wouldn't see you and try to stop you?" Alice's voice came from the darkness of my mother's kitchen, scaring the breath right out of me. A squeak of alarm left my lips and my hand came up to reflexively cut off the sound. I whirled in her direction, in time to see her emerging from the kitchen, the shadows making her skin almost glow.

"Alice, you scared me." I breathlessly answered. I took a second to try to settle my galloping heart, all I could afford in my urgent need to get to my mom, being held captive by James.

"Why did you take off Bella? Edward was just about to get off the plane, and you disappear. Obviously, I didn't see it in time to stop you. I don't know why you did it. Don't you know that Edward's frantic right now?" She rattled off questions too quickly. I could barely catch all of it.

"I can only answer one thing at a time, Alice." I interrupted her stream of questions and I realized I had to come clean. "He has my mother. It was James that called me at the hotel. He used my mother to get me on the phone. He said I had to find a way to get away from you. "

"Oh, Bella. What did you think you were going to do? Never mind, I know what you were going to do. You were going to get yourself killed." She sounded tired or maybe stressed. I was a little shocked at her bluntness, but I didn't really think I was going to survive the confrontation anyway, so I shouldn't have been. I must have really scared her for her to be so direct.

"Does Edward know where I am?" Thoughts of Edward never really leaving my consciousness, I realize I may be able to see him again after all. Had he seen the images Alice had seen? I hoped not. I desperately hoped that he hadn't seen me die.

"I called him while I was on my way here. I wanted to assure him that you would make it here safely, and that I would be here waiting when you showed up. The others are on their way here now; actually, they'll be here in a few minutes. Edward is driving faster than usual. What were you going to do when you got here?" She asked abruptly.

Her question jolted me back to my original path, the phone call. Moving towards the phone, I saw the phone number on the whiteboard, and not in my mother's handwriting. Upon seeing the number, I addressed Alice again, a slight shake to my voice revealing my fear. "I'm supposed to call him at this number, and wait for further instructions. But I already know where I'm going. The ballet studio isn't far away. "

"You're not going anywhere near that studio, Bella. Besides, I don't smell anything here besides our scent and James'. Are you sure he has your mother? I didn't see him decide that." She began circling the room again, breathing in deeply. I was caught off guard by her statement because I was certain that my mother was here. She had definitely called me from this number.

"Um, my mom was the one that originally called me, remember? She called from here." I pointed to the only phone in the house, hanging on the wall in the kitchen. I continued, "There was a struggle for the phone and James came on, telling me I had to come here if I wanted to save her."

Reliving that phone call had me shaking again as I stared at the evidence of his intrusion into my home. Was she still alive? Or was I too late? Had he hurt her, was he hurting her now? Did he bite her? The horror of what she could be going through flashed through my head.

I really needed to keep myself together; I was no good to her if I fell apart now. Cold, tiny arms circled my waist. I hadn't even noticed Alice's movements because I was lost in my own thoughts. Her arms were not the arms I needed right now, but I didn't deserve the comfort from either of them. I ran away, deserted them.

"I'm so sorry, Alice. I know I shouldn't have run, but my mom's in danger because of me. I have to do whatever it takes to save her. " My own voice sounded weak and soft.

"It's okay, Bella. Edward will be here in just a minute. We'll figure this out, but you need to trust us to help you. Like Jasper and I said before, we will protect you and your family. We defend our family, and that includes you now." Alice's strong voice went a long way in reassuring me, as she held me tightly. What helped the most was the knowledge of Edward's impending arrival. We would find a way out of this, my mother could still be alive and I could be with Edward again.

Just as those thoughts drifted into my head, the sound of screeching brakes and doors slamming filled the silence that Alice and I had settled into. I looked to the front door, registering that it was still open from my hasty entrance earlier.

In a blink of an eye, Alice's arms were replaced with Edward's. The relief was so strong it nearly buckled my knees, but he had lifted me into a tight embrace, with my feet dangling. He held me so fiercely, to the point that my ribs were starting to protest, but I would never vocalize it. His face was buried in my hair and he kept repeating my name, over and over, as if in prayer.

My arms circled his neck in a much slower movement. I buried my face in that perfect place between his shoulder and neck. I was right where I needed to be. I felt secure and safe for the first time since James and his friends stepped onto that baseball field. I knew the time was upon me to explain myself to him, articulate what my silent mind could not, and face whatever disapproval he sent my way. Had he read my letter? Did he know already?

"Edward," I began, pulling away slightly as his head raised, our eyes locking. "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. I just had to try. She's my mom, Edward. She didn't ask for this…"

He interrupted me with a finger against my lips. "I know, Bella. Between your note and Alice's call, I understand why you did it. But don't you know that we would have helped you? I can't lose you, Bella. Especially to that monster. We'll get your mom back. I will protect you, no matter what." Resting his forehead against mine, he let out a long sigh, the coolness of his breath washing over my heated skin. He cupped my face in his large, cool hands and breathed, "I love you. I love you so much."

His words were fast and reassuring, though I detected a slight edge of worry. The emotions in his eyes were a fierce blend of fury, fear of losing me, and love. These emotions replacing the dead look his eyes the last time we saw each other. I didn't think the fury was directed at me, even if I did upset him with my vanishing act.

How he didn't go mad was beyond me.

We stayed in our little bubble, just staring at each other, reconnecting after our time apart. It felt like hours, though it was really only moments. Overwhelmed at being back together, and the relief that we were both currently safe, it was almost one too much for my body to process. I was so happy that he kept his firm grip around me.

"I'm sorry to interrupt," Carlisle's gentle voice sounded from behind me, jolting me back to reality. "We need to plan what we're going to do, now that we're all together. Do we know where he is currently, Alice?"

"Um, actually Carlisle, I'm supposed to call him to find out where to meet him, then he will release my mom. I hope," I answered a little shyly, before Alice could respond to his inquiry. "Though, I think from Alice's vision that I'm supposed to go to the ballet studio not far from here."

Edward's already hard shoulders grew even tauter under my arms, where I was still suspended in the air. I tried to squirm to get him to release me, since I still had a call to make. I looked at his face, and his eyes were tightly closed. I imagined his fingers would be pinching the bridge of his nose at that moment, if they weren't already occupied holding me.

"Edward, I need to call him to find out what he wants. I need you to let me go now," I stated, hearing the almost begging tone to my words.

He breathed out and lowered me to the floor, but did not release me from the confines of his arms. He finally opened his eyes and looked behind me at some member of his family. He gave a slight nod, but I couldn't be sure if it was to me, or to someone's thoughts. When I made a move to leave his arms, they did not budge. Not sure what was going on, I looked back up at his face asking silently with my eyes to be released, but he shook his head.

"None of us think he has your mother, Bella. Jasper and I think he played some kind of trick when he called earlier, making you think he had your mom. Call her in Florida. See if she answers, before we make a move to call James." His tone had started out gentle, but shifted and ended in something close to a snarl. I knew what I had heard though. Alice had answered the phone, she heard my mother too. I was so sure she had been here.

I couldn't be sure that between what Edward and Alice had said that it was outside the realm of possibility for this all to be a trick. I tried to think rationally, but I was so sure I had spoken with her. I suppose I really didn't have a conversation with her, just heard her frantic cry, asking for me. Could it been some trick, and if so, how? Why didn't I think to call her in Florida to double check? Panic, pure, white-hot panic was the reason. Hearing her voice, and then James', pushed all rational thought out of my head.

"I can do that," I reasoned and made to leave his side again, but he detained me. I was starting to get a little annoyed. We needed to know about my mother, and now. Time was running out; why were we delaying moving forward? Fighting the urge to sigh, I looked back up at him.

"Sorry, I just don't want to let you go." A sheepish smile briefly appeared on his tense face. I couldn't help but answer his smile with one of my own. I reached behind me, wrapping my free hand around his and tugged, asking him to let go.

"You can come with me while I make the call. We can stay together," I reassured him. I ignored the fake cough coming from Emmett, when I turned to look at the rest of the family. All four of them were staring at us with various degrees of smiles on their faces. Whether it was because they thought Edward's confessions was funny or sweet, I didn't know or care.

"Actually Bella, you should probably use my phone, in case your mother answers. It will be difficult to explain why you're calling from your old number when she thinks you're in Washington," Edward suggested and pulled his phone from his pocket.

As I reached for the phone, Alice announced "Someone will answer, I just don't know who."

Slightly relieved by her statement, I look over at her, with Jasper's arms wrapped around her, and she looks confident. I wish I felt the same.

Resolved, I grabbed the phone and leaned into Edward, needing the extra support. Taking a deep breath, I dial my mother's number, sending up a silent prayer she's there. Safe.

It rang once, twice. Half way through the third ring my mother's voice rang with a cheery "Hello."

My knees nearly buckled under me. The only thing, again, keeping me upright was Edward's arms. Relief and joy flooded through my body. I wanted to start crying from the magnitude of sensation, tears actually burning my eyes. All this worry and agony was for naught. She was safe, in Florida, hours and states away from a monster.

Renee said hello again as I had yet to answer her. Trying to regain my composure, I answered her with a simple "Mom."

"Bella, honey, is everything okay? You sound a little off. Are you sick? Is Charlie not taking care of you?" Renee fired off, sounding more concerned with each word.

Now that I had her on the phone, I didn't really know what to say. I had only thought about getting her on the phone, trying to find her, not actually conversing with her. Had she heard my earlier message? Did Charlie call her letting her know that I had left Forks? Surely if he had, she wouldn't be asking if I was sick.

A burst of laughter escaped my lips. The stress must be making me loopy. "No Mom, I'm fine. I just wanted to call and see how you are."

"I'm good, honey. Phil and I just got back from a game. They won. He did such a great job. Nabbed two and got a runner in. I'm so proud of him. If you're not sick, what are you up to?" As Renee rambled on about the game, I nearly missed the question. It was so good just to hear her voice.

"Oh, um, well, I headed out of town for a small trip. Just needed to get out of Forks for a little while." What else could I say? She knew me, so if I lied, I knew she would see straight through it. Better to go with a partial truth. Edward squeezed me and I took this as confirmation to go on. "I'm on my way back, but figured I would call before I did."

"Are you sure you're okay, Bella? It's not like you to just take off on a trip. Where are you? Are you calling from a pay phone?" Renee's voice started to take on a slightly hysterical tone.

Great. All I need now is for her to call Charlie and ask if I ran away from home or something, which I guess I sort of did. I didn't know what to say to stop this possible train wreck.

Edward's soft voice sounded in my free ear. "Tell her that we wanted to check out a bookstore in Seattle and you're calling from my cell phone."

That seemed logical enough. Why didn't I think of that? Oh yeah, slow human brain.

"Mom, everything is alright. I promise," I soothed, hoping she wouldn't hear through the lie. "Edward and I wanted to check out a bookstore in Seattle. Forks library is sorely lacking. I'm calling from his cell phone. We'll be home soon."

"Oh, you're out with Edward. I hope he's driving responsibly. He's a bookworm like you then? Or is this some ploy to get in your good graces, and by way of graces I mean your…"

Mortification stained my cheeks, which I knew had to be bright red. Edward's body shook lightly with repressed laughter. He at least tried to refrain from laughing aloud; the same could not be said for the rest of his family. I could hear the laughter in the living room where they had all migrated, once Renee had answered the phone.

"Mom, stop. I'm pretty sure he can hear you. How did this conversation turn from driving to...to...that?" I said stumbling over my own words, horribly embarrassed. "I'm fine and we're safe. I'm going to let you go now. I just wanted to check in with you, make sure everything was good. Okay?"

"If you're sure?" Was her reluctant reply.

"I'm sure. Just wanted to check in and I don't want to monopolize Edward's phone, alright? I'll call you soon. I miss you and I love you, Mom." Despite my embarrassment, my earlier horror was not forgotten, and I wanted to make sure she knew that.

"I love you too, Bella. Make sure you call me again really soon. I miss you like crazy. Have a safe trip back."

"Bye, Mom." A little sad in saying goodbye, I snapped the phone shut, putting it back into Edward's open palm.

I turned in his arms and with my chin on his chest, I looked up. His face was much more relaxed. Now that I was sure she was safe, I asked "What do we do next?"

The somewhat peaceful look on his face vanished, replaced with tension and anger. "You will not do anything, Bella. I am not willing to risk your safety anymore than what has already occurred. You will stay here while we go take care of James. "

His terse reply got my back up. "But he's waiting for me. I know I can't go meet him, but shouldn't I call him and tell him that I know he doesn't have my mother? Call his bluff or something like that?"

"Bella," Edward sighed and released me. Taking a step back, his hand came up to pinch the bridge of his nose, "There is no reason for you to call him. If we know from Alice's vision that he is set up at the ballet studio then we will take care of this there. We will remove James as a threat."

"But what if you get hurt? You're not going alone are you? I know you're mad, but…" he cut me off by placing his fingers over my mouth.

"Of course not, Bella." Slightly exasperated, he removed his fingers. I latched onto them before he could pull further away from me. "Jasper and Carlisle were talking about it while you were on the phone. Alice will stay here with you. The studio is not far away and I'll keep in contact with her. She'll let me know if his future changes. Emmett, Carlisle, Jasper and I will go to the studio and finish this."

He sounded so sure, so resolute. Could it really be that simple? Something in me said no, a feeling so deep in my center; I knew something would go wrong.

"I don't have a good feeling about this, Edward." Scared that something would happen to him now that I had him back with me, the feeling of unease was all I could focus on.

"We know what we're doing, Bella. I said that before. Five against one, remember?" Edward's soothing voice washed over me, but it did nothing to rid me of the mounting fear. How could I make him see? Blasted silent mind.

"But Alice will be with me. Wouldn't it be better if she was there? I won't leave this house until you come back." I tried to bargain. If they were all there, then James really stood no chance. I knew that James would be destroyed, though I didn't know exactly how that would happen. I really didn't want to know.

"Really, Bella. It'll be fine," Alice tried to reassure. She walked over to me and wrapped an arm around my waist while I still held onto Edward's hand. She tapped her forehead. "I've seen it come to an end, now that we have a plan in place. I know you can't see what Edward and I see, but it will work out and you will be safe again."

"I'm really not worried about me, Alice. I'm concerned about your family going after James. They'll be the ones in danger," I tried to argue. Emmett was the first to respond.

"This will be quick, hardly any fun at all. Then you and Edward can go be safe." Emmett guffawed, even doing air quotes when he said safe.

Feeling the blush rise up again, I focused back on Edward. I needed to know that he would be protected above all else. I wanted to be sure that taking care of James would not put him in harm's way any more than absolutely necessary. He seemed to understand what I was looking for.

"I'll be fine. I promise," he soothed. His free hand brushed a piece of my loose hair from my face and then trailed the back of his hand along my cheek. "I'll be there just to make sure he doesn't get away."

I didn't believe that, of course.

I saw the rage in Edward's eyes at the baseball field, and then again at the house before we separated. He would want to finish this himself, as penance for putting me at risk.

"I'll do my best, Bella, to make sure Edward stays as clear from James as possible. I don't want him to react in revenge. That is something I don't want him to carry around with him in the future," Carlisle promised, placing a hand on my shoulder. I looked in his golden eyes and trusted him, believed his words. He would make sure Edward didn't react to any taunts or actions James threw his way.

I looked around my mother's living room, my old living room, seeing this family of vampires surrounding me. My family. I was scared, but not for the reason I should have been. I was literally surrounded by vampires. I knew I should be afraid, being this close to so many, some I had only known for a few days. Emmett and Jasper were just behind Edward. Alice, on my one side, with an arm wrapped around me and Carlisle, on my other side, with his hand upon my shoulder. And Edward. He was standing directly in front of me, clutching my hand, and staring at me with a mixture of determination and love. I hoped he could see my love for not only him, but for this family. What I felt from them was nothing to be scared of. I felt protected and safe. I even felt loved.

Despite their reassurances, I still had this soul-deep, nagging feeling of disaster, but what could I do or say to change their minds? They were confident, armed with Alice's vision and their sheer number. I had to trust in that, in them.

A thought struck me. But first, I needed to let them know that I trusted them to make the right decisions on this, and accept what came as a result.

"Okay," I agreed, still staring into Edward's eyes. "Alice will stay here and you'll stay in constant contact with her. The rest of you will go and take care of James. I trust you all to keep each other safe. I'll just hold onto that."

I continued quickly, "I do have one idea though. Please hear me out, Edward," I said, stopping him from interrupting, which I could tell he was about to do. "I trust you, so please at least listen to what I have to say."

I felt Alice softly bounce at my side while she excitedly said, "It's a good plan, so hear her out Edward."

Edward sighed in defeat and motioned for me to continue.

"When you're almost in place, I'll call James. Hopefully this can distract him enough for you to get closer without raising his suspicions. I guess getting you all closer to him before he, um, senses you?" My plan ended in a question, not being sure if it was that right description. Smelling just sounded weird to say.

"She's a smart cookie, Edward." Emmett chimed in. Edward nodded his head in an agreement. I smiled in return. "It'll be like snapping a trap on a grizzly."

"It'll help close any holes, limit any ways he can get away, not that we'll have a problem," Jasper agreed.

"I see you being successful. We'll need to move soon though," Alice remarked.

Alice let go of my waist as Edward pulled me to him. His tight embrace was almost vice-like, but if he never let me go, I wouldn't complain. My arms wrapped around him, my hands clutched the back of his jacket. I breathed him in, just as I knew he was doing to me with his nose buried in my hair. I was safe here. He was safe here. Outside of this sheltering embrace, was the reality that he might be hurt. I knew I would be sick with worry the entire time he was outside of my arms. I'll just have to hope I don't go mad in the meantime. I shoved those thoughts aside for the moment, plenty of time to dwell while I was alone.

His embrace did give me pause though. I was surprised at how much personal contact Edward was making with me now. The reserved manner of just a few days ago seemed to be all but gone. He was still cautious on the pressure he exuded, but he seemed just as incapable of not touching me, as I was with him. I wasn't complaining, of course. I reveled in his touch; it thrilled me. It seemed to act as confirmation that we belonged together.

"You seem more open with me. The space we normally have doesn't exist anymore. I like it," I admitted in a rush, shyly. The blush made another appearance. I just wanted to assure him that I wanted to be close to him.

"It does seem to be easier now," he admitted, squeezing me a little more closely. "I thought I lost you to that vile monster when you were not at the airport. Didn't think I would get to you in time, until Alice called me. The fear of losing you, of being too late, put some things into perspective. I am glad you like it. I do too."

My heart pounded heavily with his words. I snuggled in closer. He swayed us back and forth for a few moments, just holding me. No other words were needed.

Edward finally pulled back slightly, unlatching one of his arms to grasp my chin, lifting it so our eyes would meet. Honey to chocolate. He smiled just slightly at me. I couldn't help but return it.

"I love you, Bella. You will be safe. I'll make sure of it," he murmured softly.

Not wanting to break this quiet spell we were under, I whispered, "I love you too, Edward. You'll come back to me. Promise me."

"I promise, Bella. Nothing will keep me away from you for long. I'll be back as soon as this is over." He kissed my forehead once then dropped his lips to mine. My steady heartbeat turned into a gallop, the sensation of his kiss rushing through me.

Although it was short, the kiss held the emotion of a roller coaster, and the feeling of home, all at the same time. Could there be anything else in this world better than kissing Edward?

He rested his forehead against mine. As I caught my breath, he ran his fingers through my hair. Just for a moment longer, I forgot what was going on around me. I lost myself in Edward, my favorite destination.

Once my breathing was back to a somewhat regular rhythm he released me, turning his attention to his brothers and father. I recognized some kind of silent communication was going on between them. Sensing their departure was near; I took a step back and looked for Alice. She was sitting on the couch, eyes closed.

I made my way over and sat down beside her. The look of concentration on her face had me worried. Had decisions been altered already?

"Alice, has something changed?" Trying to keep calm, I started chanting he promised, he promised, over and over in my head.

Not opening her eyes, she responded, "Nothing new. I still see it working out in our favor. Try to relax, Bella. I was just looking for Esme and Rosalie. They're fine too, by the way."

Her eyes opened after that and we smiled at each other. If they were fine, then so was Charlie. One less person to be worried about.

Edward came back toward us. He knelt in front of me, clasped my hands. He didn't smile, but he didn't look pained either, just resolute and confident. I squeezed his fingers and tried to look just as confident. I don't think I fooled him.

"We're leaving now, Bella. Alice will tell you when to make the call." He leaned forward and kissed my lips softly. My eyes started to close on reflex, but I resisted. I didn't want to miss a moment of looking at him, not knowing when he would return to me. He kept his eyes open as well, seeming to drink me in just as I was with him.

"I love you, Edward. Come back to me as soon as possible."

A brief frown flashed across his face and he seemed to mumble to himself, "Despite all that I've put you through, you still love me. How is that still possible?"

"Believe it, Edward. Go, before I lose the strength to let you."

"I love you too, Bella. I'll be back before you can miss me." He squeezed my hands and brought them up to his lips for a kiss. My heart did another set of somersaults.

In an almost too fast motion, he was standing again and moving away from me. I stayed sitting, not sure my legs had the strength to stand on their own. I watched him as he moved over to his brothers and father. They all moved to the front door, Edward being the last to walk out. He looked over his shoulder, eyes penetrating and loaded with emotions, seeming to memorize me one last time. Remembering his note to me, I simply said, "Be safe."

He gave me a breathtaking crooked smile, instantly recognizing my reference. With a blink he was gone, without another word spoken. The strength and confidence I had just moments before fleeing my body. I sagged back into the couch, now realizing where it had come from. A muttered, "Jasper," left my lips.

Alice's light laughter beside me confirmed my realization. I looked over at her, about to ask her for another reassurance that everything was going to work out, but she answered before I got the chance.

"No change. They'll be at the ballet studio in a couple of minutes, you'll call James then. While you're on the phone with him, they'll surround the studio." My breathing hitched at the thought of talking to James again. She placed a hand on my arm, patting it gently and continued, "James will realize he's surrounded soon after that though, so you won't be on the phone with him long. Once you're off the phone I'll give you a rundown of what's going on. Okay?"

"Thank you, Alice. I'm so scared for them, for Edward. I know you're all confident that it'll turn out all right, but I'm still afraid. I feel like something is going to happen, something bad." My hands were knotted in my lap as I stated my fears.

"It's totally normal for you to be worried, I'm worried too." I immediately looked up at her, scared that she had been lying to me, that she did see something bad happening. I didn't get the chance to voice my worry, as again she knew what I was going to say and answered my silent question. "Jasper's out there too, Bella. My entire family is going to fight. I'm confident that it'll turn out just as I've seen, but that doesn't stop me from worrying."

I felt stupid for not giving that any thought. I was sitting here, worried about what I may lose, not really thinking that she had just as much, if not so much more, to lose if something didn't turn out the way she had foreseen. They were all moving the pieces she had laid out, after all.

I was about to apologize again for being the reason her family was in danger when she stood up. Looking down at me she said, "It's time to call James."

Immediately I got up from the couch and made my way back to the kitchen, tripping over my own feet and stumbling a little before catching myself. Grabbing the receiver, I looked at the number he had written for my use. I looked at Alice, who had followed me, and asked, "Is there anything I'm supposed to say to him?"

"I think he'll do most of the talking, but make sure you play along, that you believe he has your mother."

Looking at the number again, I began to dial, realizing my fingers were shaking. Placing the phone to my ear, I listened as it rang. He picked up after the first ring.

"Hello, Bella. You made it to your house a little faster than I thought you would. However did you get away your friends?" James pleasant voice rang through the line. My free hand was balled into a fist, while my other shook around the receiver.

Truth being easier than a lie right now, I responded, "I'm more familiar with the airport, lost them in the crowd I guess."

I looked over at Alice, a tiny reminder scowl was on her face. I tried to smile at her. I'm pretty sure it looked like a grimace though.

"Very well played. You are a crafty one aren't you, Bella? I'm thinking you're a little cleverer than your mother here. She keeps begging to be released. Are you still planning on coming to get her, Bella?" James remained pleasant, as if talking about the weather. A shiver ran down my spine each time he said my name.

"Please don't hurt her. Where do I need to meet you?" The shakes reached my voice, working well to convince him, I'm sure, that I was petrified for my mother.

"You remember the ballet stu…" His voice abruptly cut off. Alice nodded her head and I took that to mean he realized that they were outside. I heard a slight shuffling sound and then he came back on. "Well, Bella it seems you didn't play by the rules."

The call disconnected.

Replacing the receiver I asked Alice "Is everything still okay?"

"No paths have changed. Try not to worry so much, you'll make yourself sick." Alice tried to reassure me, but now that my sole job was done, all I could do was worry. "He made a decision to call someone. Victoria. He called Victoria."

Alarmed, I asked, "Why would he call Victoria? Is it a trap?"

The ball of fear grew larger, almost suffocating me.

"Bella, calm down." She took my hand and led me back to the couch in the living room, forcing me to sit. It was probably a smart move, she probably even saw me collapsing on the floor in the near future. Everything in me was so tight with fear, I felt like I could shatter at any moment.

Why would he call Victoria?

"Breathe for me, Bella. That's it," she said as I complied. "I still see James being destroyed. I think Victoria is his mate. Maybe he knew that his chances were slim and he called her one last time. I don't know why he called her; just that he did."

Her eyes were closed as I stared at her trying to make sense of what she said. I tried to calm down by taking deep breaths. Mates? Like soul mates? What would Victoria do if she knew her soul mate was going to die? Go after them herself? That didn't sound smart. No, coming after me sounded smarter.

"She's undecided on what she's going to do. I see no clear choice, it's all fuzzy. It's a dark space wherever she is, so I'm not sure of her location," Alice explained.

If everything was going according to plan with James, then something else had to be the cause of the well of fright and anxiety rolling through me. Call it intuition or a hunch, but I was pretty sure I knew where she was.

Victoria was going to come here. She was going to come after Alice and me. The question was, would it be now or some unknown time later? And why couldn't Alice see Victoria's plan?

"Alice, you have no idea where Victoria is?" I whispered. Could she already be here? Were we so focused on James that Victoria moved closer to us without us realizing it? There were all these questions with no obvious answers.

I could feel Alice's eyes on me then, studying me. "What's wrong, Bella? Why are you worried about Victoria?"

"I have a really bad feeling. Why would he call her now? Why can't you see where she is? Have you checked in with Esme to see if Victoria is still in Washington?" I rattled off my thoughts, knowing she could keep up with my questions. "We've been so focused on James and what was going to happen to him. Have you been keeping a close eye on Victoria as well? Laurent, for that matter?"

I looked at her then. I didn't want to accuse Alice of anything. So much had been going on with me taking off, and her having to monitor James.

A look of understanding and horror flitted across her face. In a movement too fast for me to catch, she had her cell phone to her ear. She was talking before I could ask who she was calling.

"Have you seen Victoria recently?" I assumed it was Esme or Rosalie she was speaking to, but I couldn't make out the other person on the line to be sure.

After a moment Alice responded, "He called her a few minutes ago. The boys are currently destroying him. All is going to plan on that front, but we're not sure where she is and what he said to her. I'm sure Edward knows, but he's not here to ask right now."

Another moment of unheard communication and Alice ended the call quickly saying, "I'll call you when they return."

Snapping the phone closed she explained, "They haven't seen her since the boys took off for Phoenix. Charlie's safe."

"That's it?" I knew the conversation was short, but I hoped more information than that was discussed.

"Pretty much, yes. Rosalie was complaining about babysitting your father, but I don't really think that helps us." She smiled faintly at that. It didn't last long though. The look of deep concentration reappeared on her face as she stared across the room blankly.

I sat by her side; there was nothing I could do but wait. I didn't want to interrupt her with my insistent questions.

"James has been destroyed," Alice stated matter-of-factly, after a brief moment of silence.

"Is everyone else alright?" I asked in a rush.

"Yes. All went according to plan. Please try to relax now, Bella. They have to destroy evidence, but then…oh no." Alice's voice changed from reassuring to horrified. Though he wasn't in the room, Alice said "Edward, get here as fast as you can. Get here now, Edward."

"Alice, what is it?" The bloom of fear didn't even get a chance to recede with her confirmation that James was gone. Were they ok? Was James not gone after all?

She didn't answer me, just stood up too fast and grabbed me. There would most definitely be bruises on my arms. She made to move me down the hall when a shattering of glass sounded behind us.

Too late, I realized that we were the ones in danger. My slow reactions not recognizing the danger until it was already upon us.

"Victoria is here, isn't she?" Stupid question.

It wasn't Alice that answered me.

"Why yes, I am, pet." The feline voice sounded to my right. Alice was already in motion, dropping and positioning me behind her. The room spun momentarily from the movement. Alice's movement to protect me must have snapped something within Victoria, as a frightening growl escaped her.

"You're both responsible for this! You're both the reason why James is fighting for his life right now!" Victoria all but screamed at us. I shrank from the venomous tone, as much as from the red-haired vampire herself in front of me.

Victoria took a step towards us. Alice maneuvered us again so we remained out of reach. My back brushed against the wall. No more room to move. Alice couldn't protect us both. I hoped she had a plan, because we were literally trapped in a corner.

"James is already dead, Victoria," Alice advised. I wanted to question her on whether or not this was the best time to bring that up.

"No! He can't be. I just spoke with him. You're lying!" Victoria screeched. My eardrums pierced with pain at the tone. I brought my hands up to my ears and I squeezed my eyes shut in a worthless attempt to keep the noise out.

Just like that, I was moving again. Victoria's screaming was still sounding off the walls in my mother's house. I couldn't remove my hands or open my eyes, but I recognized the sensation of movement around me through the pain.

Her screams abruptly cut off and I was able to open my eyes. It took me a moment to realize that I was back in the kitchen. It took me another moment to process the scene in front of me. Alice and Victoria standing no more than six feet in front of me, watching each other, in some kind of standoff.

Victoria's eyes flickered to me and then back to Alice. All Hell broke loose immediately after.

I forgot to breathe, too enthralled and frightened in what was going on in front of me. A flurry of motion. I could make out a leg one second, in the next second the leg would be gone, but I would recognize an elbow. The scene before me was too fast to discern anything with clarity. Screeching and hissing was all I could hear. They knocked into walls, leaving behind holes in the drywall. A table shattered next.

Where was Edward? Where were the rest of them? How much time had actually passed since Alice muttered for him to come back? A minute? Five? I couldn't tell, it was all happening too fast.

Alice's cry of pain rang in the air, along with a metallic grating sound. Movement stopped in front of me for a moment. My brain worked so hard to try to process what I was seeing. Alice's arm was severed from her body, her other trying to put it back in place.

I gasped, absolutely horrified. The gasp brought oxygen into my screaming lungs. It also grabbed the attention of Victoria. In the time it took me to shrink away further into the kitchen, she was already in front of me.

"Tit for tat, and all that." Victoria's eye's were wild, her voice too high and nearly hysterical.

Too late.

She was on me, grabbing my arm, pulling it away from the socket. She was trying, no, succeeding, in doing the same to me as she did to Alice. The pain was jarring and I screamed out in agony.

I had never felt anything like it. More slashing, more pain. She was trying to pull me apart.

She was going to kill me, was killing me.

My only thought was, make this quick. God, please make this end. The pain was so intense; all I could do was scream.

The pulling and tearing stopped, but the pain was so overwhelming that I barely noticed.

My ears felt like they were bleeding with the sounds of my screams and something else, that high pitched metal sound again. God, not Alice too.

I wanted to rip my skin away. Fire so hot, that I didn't know how I was still alive, rolled through me, touching every part of me. My back arched off the floor in a fruitless attempt to escape the pain. I couldn't escape it though. It was swallowing me whole.

Was this what it felt like to be in the fiery pits of Hell? Was I in Hell already? Did that mean I was dead?

I tried to stop screaming because it was doing nothing but adding to my misery. I couldn't stop the thrashing though. I needed to get away from the fire, the agony.

I hardly recognized the shouting and the metallic sounds around me. I couldn't make out the words due to the fiery pain roaring in my ears. I didn't understand what was happening to me. I thought death meant no more pain.

I thrashed, reaching out for anything to help me, whimpering from the terror and pain coursing through me. Could no one help me if I wasn't dead?

Cold surrounded me in the next conscious moment, and a voice I thought I would never hear again sounded around me.

Edward.

He was here. Did that mean he was in Hell too? Was he here to save me?

I couldn't make out what he was saying. I tried to focus on his voice but the deafening flames would pull me under again, just when I thought I had a grasp on his voice.

I still felt solid floor below me. I strained to figure out what that meant.

I heard my name through the fire. Edward was saying my name. I couldn't be in Hell. I refused to believe that. He was too good to be in Hell and we were together, so I couldn't be there either. I must still be on the floor in the kitchen. That meant I was still alive. Right?

Was I hurt that bad for this pain and inferno to engulf me so completely?

A brief flash of memory came back to me in that moment. I remember Alice telling me about a person's transformation into a vampire. She said that the person would be wishing for death because the pain was so intense. I wanted to wish for death, but I couldn't, not with Edward near me. I needed to be with him; I just didn't know if my fragile human body would hold up through the bombardment of searing pain.

"It's too late, Edward. She's already too far gone." Another voice sounded around me, I just couldn't tell from where or whom it was.

Did that mean I was dying after all? If I wasn't, what was happening to me?