A/N: I want to thank everyone that is following this story especially the reviewers. It takes me a long time to get the chapters written and edited and I'm sorry for that but I want you to know that every single alert subscription and review that pops up in my email, oh hell, every person that even glances in the general direction of this story makes me do a happy dance =). You all give me that extra push to try to write every day even if I only have a few minutes to do so. *Hugs* to all of you and please don't hesitate to contact me with questions or comments if you would rather not leave a review.
This chapter was supposed to be posted awhile ago but it turned out to have a few surprises even for me while editing. I got so into it, I couldn't find a proper place to end one chapter and begin the next, so voila! It's a twofer, lol. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Still don't own anything but my own imaginings.
Heartbeats Like Thunder
Emmett watched them disappear into the trees and turned back to Edward who was still in his trance like state. Thunder clapped loudly overhead again.
"Hey Sleeping Beauty," he waved his hands in front of Edward's face.
"Oh Eddddie?" he said in a sing song voice. He cleared his throat loudly and poked Edward in the forehead. Not even a flinch.
"Dude, I'm all for damsels in distress but you're just soooo not my type."
He nudged Edward's shoulder. Still nothing, his eyes stayed wide and unfocused.
"Okay princess, I draw the line at kissing you to wake you up." He crossed his arms and stared expectantly at his brother who still didn't move.
"I love you and all but i'm not in love with you." He shrugged his shoulders.
"I love you like a brother?" This time quirking an eyebrow.
"It's not you. It's me, really." He shook his head.
"Geez tough crowd tonight." He said while he picked Edward up and tossed him over his shoulder then took off after Jasper.
Edward's vision of the red eyes finally faded and he found himself dangling awkwardly upside down watching the ground rush by.
"Em, as much as I'm enjoying the ride, I'm afraid Rose would be perturbed by me staring at your backside. Besides I can run fairly well on my own."
Emmett chuckled. "You sure? It's only a little is making me feel all macho and heroic, you're really gonna take that from me?"
"Quite sure," said Edward, shaking his head. He smiled as Emmett stopped and set him on his feet.
"As you wish, princess." Emmett smirked, bowing slightly.
"Ahhh, The Princess Bride. A lovely movie." Edward clapped him on the back and straightened his clothes.
"But if you call me Buttercup I will be forced to end your existence. Another thing I'm sure Rose would not be pleased by."
Emmett just laughed. "Anytime you think you can Buttercup, I'm always game."
Edward's smile faded and his face turned serious as they continued toward the house.
Emmett shook his head. "It was crazy! She fell to the ground, threw up, said "Please somebody I don't understand I'm so scared" Then just sort of sagged and blanked out. She was still out of it when they left."
They jumped the river together and went inside.
Everyone had reconverged in the living room. Alice, looking alert and like herself, was on Jasper's lap, his arm wrapped protectively around her.
Emmett veered to the left and joined Rose leaning against the wall. He pulled her back against his chest and kissed the top of her head.
Edward stopped in the middle of the room and found Alice staring intently at him, that familiar spark back in her eyes. Having more of a grasp on the situation had brought back her confidence.
"She's human." They both said in unison.
"Human!" Esme gasped, covering her mouth in shock.
"Are you positive?" Carlisle questioned them his eyes moving back and forth to each of them.
"And from what I can tell, she's either being held by a vampire or there is one somehow involved in her situation."
Alice nodded and turned her attention to Edward as he spoke.
"It's even more unbelievable but it makes sense. The images at least. What I'm receiving have got to be dreams. They are either random and chaotic or extremely out of place settings. I don't think we will get any useful information from them so we should focus on Alice. It's as if Alice becomes her, reacting emotionally and physically the way the girl is."
Alice spoke up, "More like I'm shoved in her body and mind and along for the ride." The little vampire's eyes were wide and dazed, remembering.
"I have no control over anything. I see through her eyes, exactly what she sees. Everything about her takes over my body. Thoughts, actions, senses. She bit her lip and I felt the pain, tasted the blood, but instead of making me thirsty it turned my stomach."
She turned to Carlisle.
"I can only tell you what she chooses to think about or what I can figure out from her body and feelings. She isn't doing well at all. She is freezing, starving, and dehydrated. She is terrified of whoever put her there and the red eyes she keeps thinking about. Psychologically she is even worse, not just because of her current situation. Her thoughts are very erratic but I know something horrible happened to her family, she was thinking of them and started falling apart. I'm not sure how much longer she can hold on. Or how much longer she will want to."
Edward listened closely while Alice spoke, her words reassuring him. It seemed he was not the only one concerned by what they had seen.
"Am I the only one troubled by the fact that she is just a human?"
Jasper's question was met with uncertain stares.
"Oh thank God," Rose sighed loudly.
"At least one of you has some sense left. Thank you Jasper, I agree. Just because these two get all drama queen over everything doesn't mean we need to get involved."
Edward gritted his teeth. "We are already involved Rosalie, not by our own choice might I remind you."
She shrugged "All the more reason to not get further involved. It has nothing to do with any of us so why should we be dragged into it unwillingly?"
This time, Alice didn't let Rosalie's spiteful behavior go unchecked. She apparently found it much easier to defend the girl than to defend herself.
"Rosalie, I can't ignore this. I can't just make it stop. For whatever reason I'm," Alice glanced at Edward and corrected herself. "We are connected to this girl. Besides even if we could turn it off we wouldn't. She desperately needs our help and not all of us are unwilling."
Jasper shook his head.
"Actually Rose if the problem was whether to help or not I'd be all for it. That's not what I was getting at."
He directed his argument at Carlisle, knowing the safety of his family came first.
"She has managed to incapacitate these two, basically taking over Alice's entire being, from far enough away that we are unable to find even a trace of her. All while she is human. None of you are at all worried about what she could be truly capable of?"
He was met with a stunned silence.
Emmett pushed away from the wall.
"The force is strong with this one." Nodding his head, he took a seat in one of the chairs and joined the conversation.
"Seriously though, if she is any kind of a threat, wouldn't it be a little harder to keep her locked up against her will?"
"Not necessarily. Only two of us have been affected by her, and they both have mind related gifts. It's very possible that they are more receptive to her and therefore easier for her to connect with."
Edward shook his head. "Jaz, I don't think anything she's done has been intentional."
"Regardless of intentions, even if she couldn't or wouldn't hurt you, what happens if she connects with one of you at the wrong time? What happens if you get stuck in one of her visions, absolutely helpless, while trying to help her? What happens if Alice does? I doubt whoever is keeping her will let her go without a fight and in that state anyone could make easy work of you. I won't let Alice be put in that situation."
Alice elbowed him in the chest but he ignored her.
"I absolutely understand your feelings Jasper but are we supposed to just pretend like this connection doesn't exist, all the while watching her die?"
"Rather than risk one or both of you? Yes. And no, Edward, I don't believe you do absolutely understand my feelings. You have never felt for anyone what I feel for Alice and until you do I can guarantee you do not understand at all."
"I agree with Jasper, " Rose said, "It's not worth it."
Frustrated, Edward closed his eyes and tried to stay calm. He turned and walked to the wall of glass and watched as the rain continued to drown the landscape. Letting the sound of it drown out the conversation behind him, he reigned in the anger that had built inside him only to have it replaced by a torrent of other emotions he was even more uncomfortable with. He glanced quickly at Jasper, thankful he was so intently focused on Alice. He couldn't explain any of what he was feeling and didn't want to try right then.
He had naturally assumed his worry was for Alice, and to an extent it was, but the impact of what he had felt when they linked with the girl together had overrode his concern for anyone but her. It was all consuming, heart wrenching, physical agony to see her and not be able to help her. His insides had rearranged themselves completely. His mind and heart switching roles with the latter swelling so full of hurt and fear for the girl that it crushed any logical thought left in him. A fierce need to save and protect her had ignited instantly.
He wanted to hold her, comfort her, make everything better.
A human stranger.
He silently shook his head and leaned it against the glass.
A fragile, breakable, human stranger.
He wanted to find the monster responsible and tear them limb from limb for ever having laid a hand on her.
With that thought his hands subconsciously balled into fists and he barely caught a snarl before it slipped from his lips. Only a glimpse of his reflection in the window had stopped him. Wild, unkempt hair and angry yet bewildered eyes. He was letting his calm facade slip.
Chuckling quietly at his own irrational behavior, he sighed and loosened his fists.
If his family discovered any of the inner turmoil he was going through, they would think him utterly insane. As it was, his own thoughts were veering in that direction. He knew logically what he was experiencing was unfounded, but that knowledge did nothing to lessen the intensity of his emotions and logic didn't seem to have a place in any of it.
Are you alright son?
Carlisle's soft voice rang in his head. He nodded slightly in response, not turning away from the window.
If you need to talk, I'm here. That goes for all of us. I need you to remember that.
The corners of Edward's lips rose in a stiff smile. Carlisle would be watching him closely. He could feel Jasper's lingering gaze on his back. He may be able to mask his feelings on the outside but there's no hiding from an empath. Risking a glance at his brother he was met with an intense stare. He held it for a moment.
When you want to explain all that I'm feeling from you, I'll be here. Don't shut us out again Edward, you know it doesn't help.
Jasper's hands never faltered where they lovingly rubbed Alice's arms but she somehow sensed the conversation. She glanced at her husband and followed his gaze and her shoulders fell.
Don't do that Edward, please? Don't pull away from us. This will all work out somehow. We love you and you may not believe it but we all need you just as much as you need us. Well, maybe not Rose but she's a wench anyways.
She wrinkled her nose in dislike.
Just as she had planned it to, he was sure, the face made him laugh and start to relax. He looked out the window again and took a deep breath. Regardless of his internal struggle, he needed to play his part in all of this. Right now that part was convincing them of what he already knew. That this girl needed to be saved, even if he had to do it alone. And that no matter what happened she was unconditionally and irrevocably worth it.
Whatever it is just say it. If it feels right inside of you, Edward, chances are that it is.
Her impish smile and faith in him boosted his confidence enough to say the words that needed to be said. He turned back towards his family.
"She needs help and she is going to get it. A human-blood-drinking-vampire is holding her captive for God knows what purposes. She is dying slowly as we speak and yet here we are arguing over whether or not it's worth it to risk something possibly happening to a seven member strong coven of vampires? Fine, Alice, you and I aren't allowed to go anywhere alone. Problem solved."
"And you," he glared at Rosalie, "You of all people should know the horror of being at the mercy of monsters. How dare you think anyone's life is worth so little?"
He saw the remorse in her golden eyes for a fraction of a second before she hid it behind her carefully crafted sneer. She shrugged her shoulders and flipped her hair behind her shoulder before settling her own glare at him.
"She is nothing to me. Humans die all the time."
With that she headed once again for her bedroom.
Edward stared furiously at her retreating back. He felt someone gently take his hand and looked down to see Esme's loving smile. She squeezed his hand in reassurance.
"I'm sorry Edward," Jasper eyed him curiously. "I didn't realize how strongly either of you felt about this."
Alice stared at Jasper intently as he spoke. They had apparently been having their own silent debate.
"No don't apologize Jaz, I agree with you about the safety issues. I do, however, think that as long as we take precautions there's nothing to worry about."
He looked at the floor while trying to find a way to say what he wanted to say.
"There is no way I can let this go. Maybe it's just the link I have with her, I don't know, but we are connected. I feel this is much bigger than we realize and everything depends on finding this girl."
He looked up expecting the worst from their reactions but found only understanding smiles.
"I feel the same." Alice turned to Jasper and kissed him gently.
"I know you're worried but this is important. If it was me, you would risk everything. We would all do that for each other."
Jasper nodded and turned his head to kiss the palm of her hand that still lay on his cheek.
"Edward and I are not drama queens," she stuck her tongue out at the ceiling making him grin. "For some reason, she already feels like a part of us. So like Edward said, there is no way we can let this go. And if we do manage to find her maybe we will find out why."
She looked at Edward and smiled, her eyes twinkling.
Curious, he went against his own rule and tried to peek at what she was thinking. All he found were images of his siblings he would rather have not seen. If he could show his embarrassment, he knew he would be red to the tips of his ears. As it was, he didn't need to blush. Jasper felt it and passed it on while he burst out laughing.
"What?" Alice asked, looking the picture of innocence.
Edward laughed at her and ruffled her hair.
"You are one evil little monster, Pixie Stick."
She giggled at him and jumped up to kiss his cheek.
"Sorry Edward but you don't want to know all the craziness that goes through my head."
"Okay, what do we do now?" Carlisle pulled them back to the matter at hand.
"If she is as bad off as you think, Alice, we don't have much time to find her. There are a lot of factors that affect a human's survival rate. Food, water, temperature, in this case mental and emotional distress. It has been on the cool side, if you add in the rain and wind, she could succumb to the elements alone. We have no idea what, if any, supplies she has or how long she has been without."
"Well," Edward interrupted,"we have been experiencing things for six days. We can assume that if she came from this area then that's when she was taken. Alice said she is freezing, starving, and dehydrated. That fits into a six day time frame. So let's begin by trying to find girls that were reported missing in the last six to eight days. Add the extra days just to be sure."
Alice had already pulled out her laptop and started searching local missing person reports. Her fingers flew across the keys, scanning pages in seconds.
"Okay, it looks like we have a few candidates. Melissa Anne Shannon, 15, missing for six days from Port Angeles, last seen walking home from school. Next is Tabitha Renee Miller, also 15, missing for nine days from Clallam Bay, last seen with her boyfriend, presumed runaway.
Last one is Jennifer Carols, 17, missing for eleven days from Shuwah. Last seen driving away from a friend's house. There are also a couple of missing hikers and a few questionable deaths in Port Angeles recently. Could be a feeding trail to follow."
"Do we know anything about this girl that could help us distinguish which, if any, are her?"
Edward shook his head. "Not a thing from what I've seen."
Alice thought for a moment. "There's nothing I could tell you really. I might be able to pick her out of a group based on her actions or my perceptions of her, but that's it."
"How do we figure out who she is then?" Emmett had been unusually quiet.
"Alice, do you think you would know her if you were around her things, in her house, her bedroom?" Edward looked at her hopeful.
"It's worth a shot, we don't have anywhere else to start anyway."
Jasper spoke up, "Okay, I'll go with you two. Alice, find the addresses and let's go. Hopefully the families will all be asleep."
"Already done." Alice smiled and closed her laptop.
Carlisle glanced at his watch. "It's almost time for my shift at the hospital. Keep me posted and be careful." He kissed Esme and headed out the door.
Emmett stood up. "I guess I need to find some way to appease the beast and get her in a better mood."
Rose stomped the floor so hard it shook the light fixtures. "I heard that so don't even think of coming up here."
He tapped his finger on his mouth, grinning, and started up the stairs. " Hhhmmmm... wonder what I can do..."
Esme shook her head at them. "That means my schematics can wait, greenhouse here I come."
She smiled at them and pointed at Jasper. "Stay alert soldier, you have managed to get my worry meter all stoked up. The girl is important, but family above all else."
"Yes ma'am." Jasper smiled back.
"Cell phones?" She asked while picking up her gloves.
All three held up their phones.
"Be safe, loves." Then she was out the back door.
Alice turned to face Jasper and Edward. "North to Shuwah, then Clallam Bay, then east to Port Angeles then back?" She was bouncing on her toes.
"Sounds like a plan Little Bit." Edward handed each of them a raincoat and grabbed his own before disappearing out into the dark under cover of the constant rain.
Shuwah was so close to Forks, Emmett could literally throw a rock at it. In no more than a minute they were outside the tiny one-story brick house. After circling it once they knew there were only two bedrooms, both of which were empty. A man and woman in their forties were in the living room staring blankly at the television. They looked defeated, the woman's eyes were red rimmed and swollen.
Jasper watched them, feeling all their emotions.
"Something isn't right here."
Edward turned his attention to the couple for a moment.
"It's not her. They received the call today, their daughter's body was found. She lost control and went off the road. Took searchers this long to find her."
Alice took Jasper's hand and leaned her head on his shoulder. He sent a wave of peace at them, trying to ease their suffering in some way, and they moved on.
The house in Clallam Bay was much grander. Beachfront, with tall windows and a manicured lawn, but shrouded in the same cloud of despair. The biggest difference was the couple in this house were still hopeful their daughter would return.
The man was in front of a computer in his office contemplating punishments for his daughter and ways to kill her boyfriend when they finally did come crawling back. After all, this was nothing but a teenage rite of passage of sorts, rebelling against their parents. Wasn't it?
The woman was sitting in the dining room, staring dazedly at the full glass of wine in her hand. She was wondering if it was her fault her daughter ran away. After all, it was her that forbade their daughter from talking to the boy that wasn't good enough for her. The boy she was in love with. She was mad at herself and mad at her daughter, but mostly she just prayed that her daughter was indeed somewhere safe with that same boy.
Edward shook his head in sorrow then looked up to the second story where the bedrooms were located. There was a balcony in the middle with doors leading into one of them and Alice was already perched on the railing. She held up one finger, signaling them to wait, then slipped silently into the house. She returned after a few minutes shaking her head at them from the balcony then landing soundlessly beside them.
"I really don't think this is her."
"Neither do I, the parents seem worried but fairly sure she ran away with her boyfriend. Honestly, I think if we find her we will know it."
"Me too." Alice said and turned to watch the people inside the house just as the woman dropped her wineglass and covered her face with her hands, sobbing loudly. The man came running at the sound. He pulled her to him and she buried her face in his chest.
"They really are very fragile aren't they? So many things can hurt them. Just one little accident and they are gone forever. Can you imagine worrying about that constantly?"
Edward stayed silent but Alice's words had sent another crushing blow to his insides.
Like I said, whenever you're ready to talk about it.
"Let's go." Without even looking at Jasper, he led them back into the woods.
They followed the coastline to Port Angeles then kept to the outskirts of the city until they reached the subdivision they were looking for. Most of the houses were quiet and dark, including the one they stopped in front of. It was one in row after row of upper-middle class cookie cutter homes the only way to tell them apart was by the owners' flower preferences. They moved towards the back yard which was surrounded by a six foot tall privacy fence. On the count of three by Alice's fingers they easily leapt over it only to come face to face on the other side with two angry, snarling, silently barking giant dogs.
"Awww, puppies." A huge grin spread across Jasper's face. He held his hands out to the dogs who both immediately attacked whatever they could reach. After a minute of hurting nothing more than their own teeth they started to whine in confusion. They didn't know what to do. There was clearly a threat but they couldn't hurt him and he didn't fight back. They settled down but carefully watched every move of the three strange creatures in front of them, grudgingly letting themselves be petted.
"Why on earth would anyone have their guard dogs de-barked then put them outside? Humans are some seriously strange critters. You two do your thing, I'll keep ol' Brutus and Maximus company." Jasper said as he sat down between the two dogs and started baby talking to them in whispers.
Alice shrugged and answered Edward's amused smile with a quiet tinkling laugh. They turned to the house looking for the easiest most discreet entry point. They could hear four heartbeats inside the home, all steady and accompanied by the shallow breathing of sleep. All came from the second floor. There was no balcony to jump to and nothing to hold on to by the windows.
Edward walked over to the sliding glass door, he could break the lock with the slightest pressure but there might be an alarm system. He looked back at Alice who nodded at him. It opened with barely a touch, not even locked.
They walked into the the middle of a large eat-in modern kitchen. The table was covered with pictures and fliers of the missing girl. They showed a pretty teenage girl with long wavy brown hair and pale aqua colored eyes. There were a lot of team pictures. Softball, soccer, basketball, track, cheerleading. She was never alone in pictures, always surrounded by smiling faces.
Alice scrunched her nose at them and shook her head.
"This isn't her, I can feel that it's not. Besides, our girl only thought of three people. This girl has at least four main people in her life, the ones upstairs sleeping, and by the looks of it she has many many more than that. I think our girl is a loner. Somewhat shy and quiet. An introvert. Definitely not a cheerleader. Crud. Let's just go." She went back out the door.
Edward took a last look at the pictures. He stared at her long brown hair. Something was nagging at him. The girl looked sort of familiar but not quite right. The same feeling you get when you see someone you think you know, realize you don't, but then you still can't shake the possibility. He shook his head and stepped out the door, sliding it silently closed behind him.
Jasper was still sitting with the dogs, both of whom were now laying on their backs getting their bellies scratched, their tongues lolling out the sides of their mouths. He stood up when they opened the door and headed straight over the fence.
"Bye boys, y'all be good and take care of your family." He gave them each a final rub behind the ears then followed the others.
Forks Hospital stood a short distance off the main road and was flanked on one side by forest just like everything else seemed to be. This was the side they chose to stand on, close to the tree cover. It was 3 a.m., teenagers out at this time were generally up to no good and they didn't need attention called to them.
Edward listened for his father's mind amidst all the noise and chatter coming from the building and found him tending to a young boy.
"Carlisle?" Edward spoke quietly knowing his father would hear him.
That was fairly quick. Any luck?
"No. All dead ends." He grimaced at his own choice of words. "Have you heard anything on the police scanners? I'm really not sure where to go from here."
I'll see what I can...
His words were cut off by the screeching of tires. A car had cut the corner at the end of the street too sharp and too fast and was now headed directly towards one of the houses across from the hospital. He could see the driver slumped forwards against the wheel.
Edward looked from the car to the darkened windows of the people would never even know what hit them.
Edward what happened?
Maybe it was just a gut reaction or maybe he had enough reminders of human pain for the day, but for whatever reason, he acted without thinking. He launched himself across the distance placing himself between the house and car, grabbed the front bumper, and tried to brace his feet. The rain soaked earth turned to sludge, the force of the car hurling him backwards along with it on its collision course. He strained harder digging the toes of his shoes into the mud. He looked over his shoulder at the house now only a couple feet from him and groaned.
"Oh, come on." He rolled his eyes.
Quickly he turned around, placed his back against the grill, and lifted the front end of the moving car, driving his heels into the ground up to his ankles. As his feet touched the wall he stared into the darkened glass of a picture window and saw his reflection looming towards him. The car stopped.
He pulled his feet noisily from the muck and stepped out from in front of the car. Alice and Jasper both smiled from the back end.
"Could have done that a few seconds earlier."
Alice shrugged. "Wouldn't have had the same dramatic effect."
"Sorry Carlisle, just had to stop a car from driving through a house. The driver is unconscious with heart palpitations and erratic breathing. Possible heart attack. No blood."
Bring him to me. Now.
"I'm going to go back to the treeline to wait. You guys take him and the car to the hospital then I'll come cover up these tracks the best I can." Jasper jogged away from them.
"We have to hurry and get him to Carlisle."
Edward reached for the handle but the door flew open before he could touch it. The man inside half jumped and half fell into Edward's arms. He smelled like he hadn't showered in days, there was a sticky sheen of sweat covering his strained face. He clutched at Edward's shirt and looked him in the eyes.
"Bella." He whispered as his eyes rolled back in his head and he lost consciousness again.
He stared at the man in shock.
"Edward, move it." Alice shoved him towards the open back door of the car, got into the driver's seat, and put it in reverse.
He barely had his feet inside the car before she was moving. Fast but careful, she backed out of the boggy yard then sped the remaining distance to the ER. Carlisle and the nurses were on their way out as soon as the car stopped moving. One of the nurses opened the door, reached in grabbed the man under his arms, and began pulling him out. Edward followed with his feet and helped place the man on the gurney then stepped back. Carlisle didn't even glance at them before rushing away to do his job.
Jasper walked up to them.
"Still looks like a bunch of pigs wallowed in their yard but I doubt the real scenario will come up."
Edward sat back down in the car.
"Did you see? It's him."
"I did. We found him. Or rather, he found us." She smiled.
"Who is he?" Jasper looked at his wife.
"He is one of the men we saw through our girl. The most prevalent one."
One more very strange coincidence to add to the journal. After searching all over for some kind of lead, one literally fell into their laps.
Edward only allowed himself a small smile. The man may not live long enough for them to get any information from him. He had attempted to listen to his thoughts but couldn't hear anything. Maybe if he wasn't in a state of shock.
He listened to the commotion where they were still working on him. The person on the bed was a silent spot. He had never found someone he couldn't hear before. Hopefully he would have a chance to try to find out why.
"Alice, do you smell that?" He turned to look at her with a smile on his lips again.
Jasper answered for her. "It smells like your candles."
Edward breathed in deeply and held it. No, to him, this scent put those candles to shame. Experiencing it again, he realized how very little they compared to what he had caught on the breeze that day. Like a spring field of wild freesia with just a hint of fresh strawberry.
"Hhhmmmm...no, not candles."
Understanding shone in Alice's eyes.
"It's her." he replied and greedily sucked in another breath.