Stephenie Meyer wrote Twilight.
Morgan Locklear didn't even change the names to protect the innocent.
This is a continuation of Bella Voce.
Please begin with that story if you haven't already.
This story is rated M for adult themes, humpy humpy sex and moments of vampire kick-assery.
This next story is dedicated to my son.
Who wants a zombie book when I'm done.
New York City nudged the edges of her rivers and the ship traffic, especially in 1892, was almost chaotic. It appeared to be well choreographed, especially in the Upper Bay. The southern tip of Manhattan was covered with moored ships like barnacles on a whale. Among them sat the La Touraine, waiting to take the Cullens and a thousand other passengers to Le Havre, France.
Rosalie was riddled with joy. She kept looking over her shoulder at the massive ship that would deliver her into Jacob's arms in a week's time.
"It's still there," Carlisle said from behind his copy of The New York Times, a daily publication that had been in print for decades. He peeked over an editorial about Five Points to his daughter, who glared even as her grin exposed her unflappable mood.
Esme had seen the diner from the ship and better yet, she had smelled it, the earthy aroma of stew cooking and the heavy scent of honey in the wind. Standing on the deck of the La Touraine clutching the silver locket that hung low around her neck, Esme imagined one last supper in the City.
When the porter assured her that the ship was staying put for hours she persuaded Carlisle and Rosalie to join her.
New York had worked its way into Esme's body and soul. She instantly felt that the city was her city and that she was a part of everything that happened there. She discussed her feelings with Carlisle and was pleased to learn that he had a similar revelation. There was a fierce energy and a collective emotion in New York, especially on Manhattan Island.
When they first arrived, she had taken train rides with Carlisle every morning and remembered feeling dwarfed by the size and scope of the already developing boroughs but in time she learned the grid and it was a tremendous relief. It freed her to explore an ever widening circle in one of hundreds of sleek black single horse carriages that took her all over the city.
The Cullens initially referred to them as hackney carriages, but interestingly enough, the French cabriolet style of the coach had New Yorkers calling them cabs from the get go.
The sun had already traveled far into the west and slipped behind the hills so that the city was left to its own devices concerning light. But New York never failed to deliver, even near the waterfront. Esme, who was born in the City of Lights, gazed with wonder at the tall wharf buildings that stood protectively behind the smaller shops and eateries that catered to the dock traffic.
The family ate thick delicious stew, which was served with a whole loaf of sliced sourdough bread to sop it up. Carlisle and Rosalie drank coffee while Esme had two cups of sweet tea. They saw their Captain walk by, no doubt on his way to the vessel but they did not draw his attention.
There would be plenty of time to visit over the next six days at sea.
"Do you think Edward will disapprove of us moving to New York as well?" Esme asked for the twentieth time.
"Mother..." Rosalie began exasperated.
"He and Bella want us to be here," Carlisle said, still from behind his Times. "They have said as much. We'll all come back after the wedding and live happily ever after."
Rosalie laughed, she was certain that she and Jacob would marry one day but, ironically, did not feel the need to rush anything despite the fact that she and her parents were the only mortals left in the circle of friends. She would have fifty years with Jacob if she was lucky and then she would leave him to inhabit the earth and inherit the grief that would accompany her eventual death.
Rosalie had considered asking Bella or her brother to turn her but did not think that even the lure of everlasting love would be enough to deny her the natural course of her time on Earth. She did not know what the next life would hold for her, but she was positive that it was important she get there.
She loved the Cathedral of Saint Patrick on 50th and Fifth Avenue and wanted to marry Jacob there. It was astoundingly tall, five stories taller than the downtown Trinity Church, but she had a feeling that Jacob would prefer the old St Patrick's Cathedral and cemetery on Mulberry St. It was in the heart of what was already being called 'Old New York' and it's parish was made up of people from its three nearest neighborhoods, Little Italy, Chinatown, and SOHO.
"Well, our place won't be as fancy as the new theatre but we'll be quite comfortable up next to Central Park," Esme said.
Outside, two well-dressed men in top hats were helping an older man down from a very long carriage. It was painted maroon, highly polished and trimmed in silver. It was also pulled by four horses.
Carlisle folded his paper down and looked at the two women. "Plus, we won't come into the city to bother you very often."
"Where did you find the land?" Rosalie asked.
"House!" Carlisle cheered."A beautiful house on West 78th. The map I have is a year old so it shows just a lot but it's there. Your mother has seen it, of course, and we are quite taken with the design. I'm having Randall look after both places until we return."
Rosalie did not understand why anybody would want to go above 59th Street. "What are you going to do way out there?"
"Live the country life," Carlisle replied with a smile just for Esme. She blushed slightly and smiled back at him before he turned his attention back to the paper.
"We bought the place with the money Bella gave us and still had some left over," Esme told Rosalie. "We just spotted it the day before yesterday and fell in love with it. We can retire out there between the Hudson River and the Park. It will be peaceful."
"Will a cab take us up that far?" Rosalie asked, her grin changing the sound of her words enough so that even Carlisle could tell she was joking without looking up from his paper.
The door to the diner opened and three gentlemen removed their top hats simultaneously. They all wore fitted evening jackets and vests and had shoes that reflected enough light to make Esme swear she saw one of their chins light up.
One of them noticed her as well.
It was the older gentleman. He was taller than the other two but didn't look strong enough to hold the weight of the rings on his narrow fingers. His ice blue eyes first fixed on her neck and then on her face. He looked surprised to the point of shock but only for a split second.
He walked over slowly, allowing the ever widening grin on his face to distort it into a mask of foolish horror.
"That is a lovely locket you are wearing, Madame," he said in a cramped voice, "but it is not yours."
Esme did not know what to make of the man. His tone was neither accusatory nor was it an attempt at humor. He merely stated a fact. Then he just stood there, staring down at her.
She wondered briefly how he could have known that the locket did not belong to her before cold terror dripped down her face like sweat. She instantly theorized that if he knew Bella then he was probably just like her.
And now he looked hungry.
When Carlisle cleared his throat the elderly man met his eyes and smiled. He had a wild look up close, like a wolf ready to pounce. He gazed from Carlisle to Rosalie and froze.
"Stai buona, ragazza mia," Michael said as he shook his head slowly at the blonde who fixed him with a steaming stare.
He then whispered something over his shoulder and the men he arrived with approached the table.
"What is the meaning of this?" Carlisle demanded.
"Forgive me, sir," he said with a bow that gave them all a good look at his thick white hair. "My name is Michael and I frequent this diner often enough to know that you are new to it."
Michael ventured to the docks most evenings and perused the immigrants arriving to the new city. Many of them made for good cuisine and would hardly be missed but, as luck would have it, Michael was fond of coffee. Like Bella, he got cold easily and he could feel the warm liquid even better than the blood of a fresh kill. Esme stared into his winter morning eyes. Her own eyes were big and glassy. "We were on our way to..."
"What do you want?" Carlisle asked calmly.
Michael was furious that the man at the table interrupted his wife just as she was about to reveal their destination and did so without the return courtesy of introducing himself. He decided that he would examine these humans further. And at his pleasure, not theirs.
"I am curious about you three people." Michael's voice made him sound both angry and exhausted. "And when I want to know more about something I cannot be deterred."
Suddenly, he reached out and grabbed the silver locket around Esme's neck and used it to pull her to her feet.
Carlisle was standing in an instant but he was knocked out with a single savage gloved fist to the side of his head, delivered by a well-positioned footman. Rosalie stood as well, a shout on her lips, but she was subdued with a strong arm around her neck before she could do as much as draw a breath. Esme screamed and the diner quieted but the elderly man addressed them with a sweeping stare that sent the crowd's gazes to the ground. It was clear to Rosalie that he was not intimidating them, but controlling them somehow. If she had ever actually watched one of Bella's Paris shows, instead of making animal love to Jacob, she might have recognized the glazed look in their eyes.
"Now," the man said as he pulled Esme by the chain until her nose was almost touching his, her feet halfway off the floor. "Who gave you that locket?"
Theatre of the Absurd
New York harbor gaped at the Atlantic Ocean like a toothless old man as the western sky darkened to a plum color and pushed black shadows back into the water next to the docks. The lights from the wharf competed with those moving on the choppy surface of the bay as Bella stared blankly up at the thin, well dressed vampire in front of her.
His introduction was formal but she saw the way Rosalie was quickly led away and felt the frost coming from him. It was as if he radiated cold.
Edward did not need to read Jacob's mind to know that he was readying himself for a fight with the fashionable foes. He fell back and put a hand on his friend's quivering arm, then looked over at Jasper, hoping to be reassured by the battle hardened companion. He was met only with a dumbfounded stare.
Jasper was not surprised easily but the sudden appearance of so many vampires shook him deeply. He should have been able to see them. He was curious about it but felt something else as well, fear. The men in top hats on either side of him were giving them space but were solely focused on the small group of fresh foreigners.
Edward's eye contact rallied Jasper's instincts and he quickly assessed the situation.
It was hopeless.
Bella did not need anyone to tell her that. She was already convinced that they, whoever they were, had the upper hand. Clearly they were vampires but, more importantly, they had control of the humans.
"Have they been harmed?" Bella asked Riley calmly. She was thinking of the days and days Edward's family must have spent at the hands of these monsters.
He hesitated. "We had trouble with the young blonde at first, but her hand is healing nice..."
Jacob broke. He lunged right for the leader but Riley was gone when he got there. The rest of the dapper vampires closed in on the group fast and, as they did, Jasper and Alice were pushed roughly into Edward.
There was now a complete circle around the five of them. Jacob was quickly subdued by the venomous faces of over twenty vampires that were all old enough to remember General Washington riding into New York long before he was ever President of the United States of America.
Riley spoke with a silky confidence that made Jacob twitch and Jasper vow to be the one who wiped the smirk off his face. "You are all coming with us but I need only Bella alive. Remember that." He turned to Jacob. "The blonde girl, Rosalie, is in a cab only two blocks away and I will take you to her right now as long as you behave. "He looked at the group again. "All of you."
"Lead the way," Bella told him curtly.
The circle parted and Riley walked briskly away from the port. They followed him and a sea of top hats brought up the rear.
Back at the barge, Emmett was sitting on Jacob's carriage and frowning. He watched his friends first surrounded and then escorted away without as much as a glance in his direction. He knew in his heart that he should remain undetected.
God told him to stay out of sight and Emmett dare not disobey the thundering voice that had filled his head with instruction and guidance since he was a child.
He followed and watched as everyone got into one of nine black, open air carriages parked along the high curb of Broadway, an enormously wide avenue that ran straight up the middle of the island, North to South.
Emmett could see that they were being directed by a tall thin man who eventually put himself into the second cab with Bella and Edward. The first had already pulled away and Emmett was certain that he saw both of Edward's parents inside as well as an older man with long white hair.
Jacob was allowed run to Rosalie, who threw herself gratefully into his arms. They stood in the cab and held each other tightly. For the first time in months the world stood still for the both of them.
They were allowed their moment but it was excruciatingly short.
"What happened to you?" Jacob whispered and that was all it took for the blond woman to dissolve into tears.
Emmett could hear her sobs from a block away.
The outburst agitated Riley but he made no attempt to silence the woman. Instead he began hustling everyone into cabs.
Jasper and Alice were seated together with two escorts, just like Rosalie and Jacob. The last four cabs were completely filled with the rest of the well-dressed men. As Jasper helped Alice into their cab he noticed Emmett keeping his distance. Emmett saw his maker flash a smile but could not fully interpret it.
Even then, New York was a vertical city. The hotels and residence buildings, called compartment buildings by some, were all blisteringly tall at five stories a piece. The public buildings were at least thirty feet tall and office buildings like the Tribune scraped the sky at sixty feet.
The open cabs gave Edward and Bella a panoramic view of the slowly unraveling stonescape. It was a never-ending parade of lit windows, narrow alleys and shop fronts. When they crossed at intersections, the effect of the tall buildings made looking down each street a feast for the imagination.
Large intersections were also governed by men in dark blue wool coats with large golden shields over their hearts. Some of them wore white gloves and the sight made Bella think of Laurent's drumsticks, painted white because he wanted to make sure she could see him keep time from the dark pit. She thought of the things she had hidden from him and, in that moment, Bella realized she was now the one who knew nothing.
"Where are you taking us?" she asked Riley, who was seated directly across from her with his hands neatly folded in his lap.
"We are going to 110th and Cathedral Parkway," Riley answered honestly, smugly aware that the information meant nothing to the couple.
"Is that above Central Park?" Edward asked.
Riley sniffed. He was surprised but not impressed. "Directly above, as a matter of fact." He spoke with an aristocracy that dripped with entitlement. "All of Central Park is our front yard; it is positively the most desirable..."
"Thanks," Edward said sardonically. "But I just needed to know if it was going to be a long ride or not." With that he took off his coat and wrapped it around Bella.
Riley huffed and looked out the side of the cab as they passed 14th Street where Broadway merged into Park Avenue South. He openly scoffed at Edward's human gesture. A thousand sights, sounds and smells shambled past as they rode for a while without speaking.
Jasper had his arm around Alice and was looking out at the city like he was kid on vacation. He was still distressed about not detecting the American vampires but had composed himself and, upon taking stock, had even been encouraged. None of his group had been searched let alone disarmed. He could not believe how foolish the oversight was but it proved that their ambassadors did not know who they were dealing with. It was also lucky that Emmett was behind with the horses. The broadsword he carried was as big as King Arthur's and, at the very least, would give them away as mercenaries.
Edward still held his cane. The thin blade was neatly tucked into a bed of fine saw dust at the bottom of the hollow tube to keep it from rattling. He also had another blade and Jasper could see it, his wide brimmed hat bobbing up and down two cabs ahead. That hat alone could behead six men with one throw. Edward could hear his friend watching him and the sensation was ghostly.
Bella had her metal fan but her reach with the razor whip was superior and Jasper knew how she favored it. Just behind her cab and directly ahead of his, Jacob no doubt was feeling the weight of the double headed axe he kept at his back.
Jasper had his twin sickles and, next to him, Alice was carrying a rapier similar to the one Edward owned. Hers was hibernating inside her dainty parasol and she had such a tight grip on it that her small fingers pressed dents into the metal rendering it a truly customized weapon.
Still keeping pace behind them, Emmett had his broadswords, his blunderbuss pistol and Jasper's crossbow. Jasper was confident that they could do some serious damage if the time came. The problem was in knowing when or if an opportunity would present itself.
One thing Jasper understood was that their escorts did not seem like the type of men who got dirty very often.
Bella looked to the left as they traveled past 34th Street. She thought she caught a glimpse of the Theatre of the Heart on Eighth Avenue but it was two blocks to the West and the surrounding architecture blocked proper views of anything. What she saw was a bit of the tower that sat at the southeast corner.
Riley had recovered from Edward's guile and was pointing out all the businesses that he and his associates had a piece of. He spoke nonstop from 36th Street to 59th Street, where they reached the bottom edge of Central Park. They turned onto 59th and traveled east to Fifth Avenue where they turned back up north and skated the edge of the massive wilderness in the middle of the island.
Rosalie pointed out St. Patrick's cathedral to Jacob as they passed 50th. It was a few blocks to their right but, unlike the modest theatre, it towered over the surrounding structures. Jacob had seen illustrations of the masterpiece and had even incorporated some ideas he had gotten from its design into his own, mostly on the inside of the lobby and the residence areas above the auditorium. He held her hand tightly and occasionally looked back at Jasper and Alice in the cab behind him.
The park was so wide that Alice found it difficult to see any details on the other side. They sped up as the traffic grew sparse, intensifying the wind that slapped them in their faces as the bulk of the city fell behind them.
All of their escorts rode with their backs to the wind.
Emmett became more obvious in tailing them as the buildings gave way to grand houses with generous side yards, some big enough to support small crops. By the time the convoy was at 85th Street he was way back on 80th but still felt about as conspicuous as the Pope at a pie eating contest.
They were all treated to a magnificent collection of mansions along the east side of the park. They were all built in a multitude of architectural styles by French merchants, Dutch masons, English furniture makers, Spanish sailors and any number of prosperous families.
Every home reflected the owner's desire to bring a bit of their own heritage to New York. It was a parade of varying styles and colors but many of them shared one attribute, a courtyard garden that opened onto the street. Having the front doors on the inside of such a reversed layout was in vogue and made quite a statement when paying someone a visit on the East side, which was considered far superior to the West side.
Each garden gate was more elaborate than the last and Rosalie was quite fond of the layout. She had taken the ride before and had multiple opportunities to admire a design that claimed no origin.
At 110th Street all the cabs turned right and stopped along a brick topped stone wall that was rounded to accommodate a black iron gate that resembled a spider web.
Michael rode with Carlisle and Esme in near silence.
Seeing Bella again had filled him with a sudden shame for his recent actions and the pinwheels spinning in his mind pushed harsh light through his eyes. They began to hurt and he hoped he wasn't going to have one of his spells.
Carlisle watched as Michael held his head in bony fingers that reminded him of white spider legs. He and his family had been treated well enough but being held against your will, no matter how pleasant the surroundings, is still imprisonment. He told his captor that he was medically trained after Rosalie fractured her hand by smashing it into the smiling face of Riley. He had leered at her a little too long.
Michael had let Carlisle wrap his daughter's throbbing hand but refused the offer to be examined for his headaches. Even after Carlisle took a calculated risk and told Michael that he knew the man's immortal secret, he was politely but firmly refused.
Michael had been very intrigued however to learn that Carlisle, and presumably his family, was familiar with the world of vampires. He was even more curious as to how Carlisle seemed to accept their existence as a matter of course.
That revelation had earned them all a private audience with Michael, one in which they remembered very little, only feeling groggy but giddy for hours afterward. Michael was content to largely ignore them after that, but reprimanded Riley once for his inattentiveness and insisted that he provide the humans with proper nourishment whenever they required it.
Ever mindful of his duty to heal all suffering and having been put so close to a man in obvious agony, Carlisle dipped his head to catch Michael's eye. "Tell me where it hurts."
Michael looked up and removed his hand from his head. "It doesn't," he replied thickly. His voice always sounded strained but now it was stretched as thin as the thread sticking up from the driver's heavy overcoat.
Carlisle did not press the issue and it did not matter. They had arrived at Michael's manor and walked inside with him before the other cabs arrived.
Bella and Edward waited for the rest of the group before they entered the house. Like many of the others, the main entrance was the reverse of what they were used to in Paris. The tall wings of the house were separated by a garden entrance that was wide enough to turn a carriage around in. There were three stone fountains and the Roman columns that supported the massive balcony were a dead giveaway of the Italian design.
Ivy grew so freely that the entire courtyard was a mass of green leaves. Riley shuddered as he passed through it. Michael had once suggested to him that the leaves were actually millions of green hands all reaching for him and he could never shake the vision or the dread it produced.
Michael was unfair but Riley considered himself fortunate. It could have been much worse; he had seen men so horror struck that they had wept and then screamed their throats raw. They had even bashed their heads against the bricked cellar of the mansion to rid themselves of the imposed visions.
Edward was eager to embrace his sister as she and Jacob approached him. Because he risked allowing himself access to the thoughts around him once they reached the less populated area, he heard her fume at him even as they hugged.
I was trying to warn you, you imbecile.
Edward smiled and released her. "I was...distracted. Where are they?"
"Michael left with them as soon as he knew they were spotted from the ship."
"Who?" Bella heard the name as she spoke it but her eyes had already found him, wearing a grey suit with a vest and fitted evening jacket. He was standing on the landing where the grand staircase split in half to scale the rose walls. His top hat was under his arm and his fluffy white hair was stuck up in one spot where it had followed in the hat's wake.
"Michael," Rosalie said again and her voice carried throughout the silent room. Everyone was gathered in the large entryway and the escorts sat along the wall on dark polished benches that could have once been church pews. They sat quietly waiting for Michael to speak.
"I hope you all know what a wonderful reunion you are about to witness," he announced before walking down the stairs to face Bella, who was shocked into silence. As Michael closed the distance between them, Jasper saw the yellow sparks that sprang to life between their eyes. He was relieved that he still had some powers of observation but did not like the way the older man stalked towards his friend, even if he was her maker. He was dismayed to accept that unless he listened for their heartbeats, or lack thereof, he would still have no idea that he was surrounded by vampires.
Jasper watched as Bella and Michael regarded each other and as Carlisle and Esme entered the room from the west parlor. They were allowed to go to Edward and did so as though he was the one in peril.
Edward listened intently to Michael's mind as he descended the staircase. He was aided by the fact that the majority of those present were obediently silent even in thought. Even his parents, now at his side, were still.
Michael's head sounded like a calliope chugging away while its cart rolled down a muddy carnival track. He spoke to himself in both English and Italian and there was a far off sound of laughing.
Edward could also hear someone reciting verses. He could not decide if they were a part of a sonnet or a psalm.
"Sister Swan," Michael said quietly to her. "I didn't mean to cause you trouble but when I recognized your locket on," he waved his hand, "the woman, I had no choice but to pursue the only avenue I had available to me."
"You could have started by not assaulting and kidnapping me and my family," Carlisle said loudly.
Michael stayed focused on Bella. He was extremely cavalier about the matter at hand, almost to the point of sarcasm. "I am truly sorry for mishandling your humans. I only wanted to see you again."
"Her name is Esme," Bella stated quietly.
"Pardon?" Michael leaned in to Bella's whisper unable to suppress a grin.
"Her...name...is...ESME!" Bella shouted ferociously. "And are you telling me that YOU are responsible for making them miss their ship back to PARIS?"
Michael turned to Carlisle and looked at him with reproach. He had hypnotized the family numerous times and while he had gotten all the information he wanted easily enough, Carlisle had proven particularly stubborn. It took Michael two minutes to get him to divulge the name of his home town. Two minutes was unheard of under Michael's scrutiny. The human doctor was commended for his efforts but was ultimately lucky to be spared a drooling existence and Michael felt that his generosity was not being properly revered. He wanted to point out to the human that he made things unnecessarily difficult especially considering how effortlessly Bella had shouted that one little word herself.
"See there, you fool," Michael scolded the frowning doctor. "You could have saved yourself a lot of..."
"And HIS name is CARLISLE!" Bella's shout forced Michael to swivel his head back her way.
It was met with a slap.
Three things happened at once. Every man wearing a top hat stood up, Alice drew her pulled weapon and Michael grabbed Bella by the hair.
Edward roared in outrage as the older man yanked Bella's head sideways but the appearance of six long daggers at his throat forced him to stay where he was. Riley himself plucked Alice's rapier from her hand and sent her to the ground with an elbow to her nose. Jasper, like Edward, was forced to remain still by the presence of multiple blades. But hot fury spilled from his eyes.
"Disarm them!" Riley shouted and they all were immediately tossed for weapons. Jasper was relieved of his sickles and his punching dagger. Jacob, Edward and Bella were all liberated of their concealed blades as well.
Michael whispered softly in Bella's ear with dry lips. "I have diminishing moments of clarity child." His voice was strangled with what could have been restraint. "Sometimes my men even find me raving madly like a loon." His breath was cold and brushed the side of her face like a funeral veil. "but I will NOT, ABIDE, BEING, STRUCK!" He yanked on her hair with his last words making her whimper.
"Enough!" Edward bellowed, the desperation stark in his plea. "What do you want with us?" His fury wrapped him in a cloud of red revenge but he knew that this was not the time and place for a war.
Michael released Bella but the group remained at blade point. "Finally, someone with something sensible to say. What is your name my boy?"
"My name is Edward and I am..."
"What you are Edward," Michael interrupted, "Is young..." Michael sniffed the air. "very very young. And as to your question, I want Bella to help me translate a book." He let go of her hair and held up his hands innocently. "That's all."
Bella look confused. She stared at Michael, hard. Finally, she shook her head and wiped at her cheek. "Why not just reach out in friendship and ask for my help? Why would you be so...forceful?" She rubbed the place where her hair was sticking up in a savage tangle.
Michael looked around at the men holding their metal to his guests. Suddenly it all seemed way too dramatic for the occasion. He began to wonder if he was sane even when he knew he wasn't acting insane. It was flimsy logic and Edward heard every word of it.
Michael was also keenly aware of his ever increasing spells but took solace in the fact that he found himself able to critique his madness objectively. He shrugged his shoulders at Bella like he was a child who could not come up with a satisfactory explanation to a stern inquiry. "I didn't know what else to do," he answered looking at Riley, who nodded and lowered the dagger he had pointed at Alice's throat. The others followed suit and the room was momentarily serenaded with the musical sound of over twenty blades being sheathed. Edward saw thin pale green sound-waves erupt from the friction points and spill down the legs of the tailored army.
Michael was prone to falling into memories like they were hidden wells. As a result, he found himself in Bella's company often and fondly thought of the 1530's as the last good years of his life. She was a stunning student and the night he bit her in the Elsebridge library it was not to protect her from the plague, but from him.
He lost himself in that cold December ghost, taking Edward along for the ride and recalled that by the time Bella woke up the next day he was already delirious with hunger. He would have fed on his dear friend instantly had she not been changed. Michael was centuries old even then and was desperately thirsty the night he ran into the library with news that the church had been taken by the sick. Bella, not surprisingly, was the only person in the room.
He acted fast before he lost his nerve or, worse yet, his self-control. He could not stand to lose Bella but it came at a price. What he did lose in those weeks of torture locked in the library and starving was a significant connection to the world around him.
He recalled that he read from the Bible those first few days to calm himself but it was so full of talk about blood that he was forced to stop.
Edward listened to Michael's fluttering thoughts and would have felt pity for the man if not for his recent treatment of Bella.
Michael looked into Bella's eyes and she saw the shame stamped on his face like a cattle brand. "I couldn't remember if you would even speak to me again," he said finally.
"Why would you think that?" she asked.
"Actually," Esme stepped forward, "he was quite convinced that had killed you at some point and had imagined all the rest."
Bella was shocked. "Is this true?"
"Until I saw the locket, I wasn't sure if you were a dream or not." Michael was telling the truth. "It was such a long time ago."
Bella softened, Carlisle bristled.
"We were malnourished at best," Carlisle fumed. "And I will be going straight to the authorities as soon as we get out of here."
The men all laughed but Michael silenced them with a hand. "I am not as accustomed to humans as I once was," he said, still addressing Bella. "I fear that my addled brain has led me to make irrational decisions and I apologize sincerely." Michael blinked and raised his voice. "Riley, give them back their weapons."
Michael reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out Bella's locket. When he held it out to her, she shook her head. "I'm not the one you should be returning that to," she said while crossing her arms.
Edward could tell that Michael was annoyed but he really needed Bella for something and did not want things to deteriorate any further than they already had. Michael crossed to Esme as the taken blades were redistributed to their owners. He held out the locket.
"I have no excuse for taking this from you, Madame. I offer my most humble apology and will compensate you for your troubles." Michael was convincing and, after Esme took the locket, he bowed deeply and shuffled away. Edward knew this gesture was difficult for him, both physically and emotionally.
"We don't want your money. We just want to go home." Carlisle was determined to get his family out of there that night. He had seen both his wife and daughter give up hope at least once within the walls of Michael's home and it sent rivers of panic through his heart each time he thought about it.
"And so you shall," Michael told him. "I believe there is a stocky fellow driving a handsome black carriage back and forth outside. Maybe you could get him to give you a ride."
Carlisle could not mask his surprise, his horror. "Emmett? What did you bring Emmett for?"
"It's a long story," Jasper told him, "but I had to turn Emmett the night you all left for Le Havre."
Rosalie and Esme gasped. Rosalie put her hands to her mouth but they could all hear her muffled and grief stricken voice. "Oh no."
"You are all free to go with my profound apologies...if...Bella agrees to return tomorrow and assist me with a translation."
"Why should I help you?" Bella asked reasonably. "Your apology is appreciated, but I owe you no kind of cooperation in return."
That's my girl. Edward's outward smile exposed his thought. He could see that Jacob and Rosalie were also pleased to hear Bella's response. Michael was not pleased, anyone could see that, but Edward could hear thoughts that sounded like genuine remorse. He determined that listening to Michael's mind was like listening to a wolf pack with every beast barking at once but that didn't mean he was impossible to read, just challenging.
Michael swallowed hard. It appeared that he was struggling with something and then a single blue tear plummeted from his eye. He left the room the way he had come. He climbed the stairs slowly, not speaking to or looking at anyone.
Bella watched him in silence. She was numb from having just seen her oldest friend in the world act like a lunatic and she did not believe for a moment that he was giving up.
Upon his exit, Riley spoke plainly to Carlisle. "I have been instructed to release you along with these..." he looked at Jacob and cocked his head to the side. Edward heard his mind working on the puzzle. "...vampires but only because you clearly know how to keep a secret. Not that anyone would believe you if you talked."
Riley turned to address Carlisle. "Go with your friends and remember to ask them how hard it was for us not to kill you. You were given more courtesy than any human deserves." He refocused on Bella. "You have a power over him. I wouldn't squander it if I were you."
Riley then walked away and two dozen men scattered like bats. Esme was not going to wait for any further sign that she was free. She walked through the front doors at a trot and Rosalie was right behind her. They both thought the scenario seemed too good to be true, but they were eager to play along.
The rest of the group caught up with them and, sure enough, Emmett approached the house. He stopped at the sight of his traveling companions as well as Rosalie and her parents.
Jacob and Rosalie climbed up and sat next to him while the rest of the group squeezed into the carriage. She sat next to him, her eyes inches from his. "Oh Emmett. I'm so sorry."
"Hello, Rosalie," Emmett greeted. "It was my fault, but I'm glad now that it happened."
He was confused about what was going on but knew that they would explain everything to him eventually and that they were in a hurry. As soon as he heard the door to the carriage close, he signaled the lead horse with the light touch of an experienced whip and trotted them west on 110th.
"Turn at the corner, Emmett," Rosalie instructed, "onto Eighth Avenue." Emmett recognized the street as the theatre's address and was glad that all he had to do was head south until he saw it.
Rosalie snuggled into Jacob's warm and welcoming arms but she kept her eyes on Emmett. Vampirism suited him but he seemed too innocent for the condition. Even more so than her brother. "I'm glad you are here Emmett, but I wish things would have been different for you."
Jacob had grown to consider Emmett as a brother, a little brother who needed to be watched all the time but a brother just the same. It was not clear whether he still had feelings for Rosalie but Emmett had promised Jacob to forever remain a gentleman.
Emmett was thinking about that promise as he sat next to Rosalie on the bench.
He regretted making it.
Inside the coach, Bella was apologizing for Michael's abhorrent behavior. Carlisle and Esme would have none of it but Edward could hear both of their worried minds praying that it was truly over. They confirmed that they were not physically abused but that the house was a festival of ungodly sights and sounds.
Carlisle was sitting between Esme and Edward on the backwards facing bench. He was looking directly at Bella, who was separating Jasper and Alice. "I don't think you should ever go back there," he warned her. "Michael is not right in the head."
They passed 78th Street and Jacob looked over at the house he knew Dr. Cullen had recently purchased.
He was the only one who did.
Carlisle and Esme had already decided to sell that property without ever going back inside. It was simply too close to Michael.
The lights of downtown New York made a pale yellow dome cloud over the city as the nine of them traveled within the moon fueled shadow of the trees that lined the western edge of Central Park.
Rosalie kept looking behind them so Jacob took her hand. "You don't have to worry about them anymore my love." He spoke quietly.
"Why do you say that?" she asked, skeptical despite finally being next to her love, even if it meant sharing the whip's bench with Emmett.
"Because I'm taking you and your parents back to Paris until we get this cleared up."
He expected resistance but Rosalie just shrugged her shoulders. "Don't you think they would have killed us by now if that's what they wanted?"
"I don't know what they'll do," Jacob admitted, "but I am getting you out of their grasp."
"Is that even possible?" Rosalie asked sincerely.
Jacob honored her with an honest answer. "I don't know."
"I'll go with you to protect the Cullens," Emmett offered.
"No," Jacob said forcefully. "I need to know that Bella is safe while I'm away. I need you to protect her." What Jacob really wanted, however, was not to separate Emmett from those who could hear his thoughts and the voice that he believed was God. He made a mental note to tell Rosalie and her parents not to mention Edward's mind reading ability to Emmett.
"Alright, Jacob." Emmett knew the importance of the request. He had spent six months in his new life with his new friends and knew the history between Jacob and Bella was generations old.
They reached Columbus Circle at the southwest corner of the park. The Theatre of the Heart would be on their right, exactly twenty five blocks further down. Edward began to hear hundreds of voices turn to thousands and all thinking in a dozen different languages. Carlisle recognized the pained look on his son's face and said something that Edward would retain from that moment on. "Quit trying to hear what they're saying, Edward. Pretend that it's just the roaring of the sea."
It was easier said than done, but Carlisle's words gave Edward an image to associate with the thunderous sound and that allowed him to get used to it. Edward resisted dulling his senses in order to let the individual voices become a wave of white noise and it was because he did that he knew they were being followed.
"Riley," Edward whispered.
"What about Riley?" Esme asked.
"I can hear him," Edward answered. "He's behind us but he's not thinking about us. He's hungry and wants to go to something called a Bowery."
"It figures." Carlisle laughed. "The Bowery is an easy place to disappear."
Edward chuckled, he knew that they had enough blood for their needs that night and one other but soon they would need to find a way to feed without victimizing the innocent. He could still hear Riley thinking about feeding and something else, some kind of message.
The Theatre of the Heart looked almost like the residence it was. It was after all a gigantic home sitting in the Garment District, as ornate as a church but as open and welcoming as a train station. The entrance was facing Eighth Avenue and Emmett pulled up right in front.
Jacob felt the prickling sensation of newborn tears erupting from his overwhelmed eyes. He was so swollen with pride for Rosalie and Carlisle that he felt like a hot air balloon capable of floating away. He even thought about how he would get past the cat's cradle of telephone lines that crisscrossed above their heads.
Jacob followed the theatre's own graph line to the building as he faced the entryway. The keystone in the arch had the theatre's name carved into it and wide stone steps ended at two sets of heavy wooden doors with stained glass. Four rounded panes showed depictions of the Eiffel Tower at different parts of the day. Dawn, noon, twilight and midnight. Jacob was moved and sniffed loudly.
"Take us around the corner please," Rosalie requested before anyone could step out. "The stable entrance is around back." She wanted to get off the street and inside the secure theatre, both Emmett and Jacob could sense it.
Emmett did as he was asked and those in the carriage were treated to a vertical tour of the building as they looked up through the glass in the roof. They were taken past the rounded seven story tower that made up the southeast corner and along the 34th street side of the new structure. Emmett, Jacob and Rosalie could hear Carlisle chattering away inside the coach.
The street level of the theatre was divided between the lavish stable equipped to house six horses and up to four carriages, and what would be storage for large set pieces and painted flats. As they rode through another twenty foot archway Jacob saw that the keystone also had something carved into it:
"I thought that we would turn some of our ideas into enterprises," Rosalie informed Jacob. "And I don't want to have to redo the engraving later."
Jacob was pleased, beyond happy in fact to see her think of them as Black and Black. He also knew that any one of her ideas could make them all even wealthier than they were.
Halfway through the arch Jacob noticed another addition, an iron gate recessed into the wall that looked like it could be pulled across the opening. "It was made clear to us that your original design lacked proper security measures," she explained. "New York is full of locks. Randall must be inside somewhere. He'll want to meet you."
"Why are there so many locks?" Jacob asked as Emmett brought the coach to a stop.
"A long history of riots," Rosalie told him.
"Riots!" Jacob was astonished. "I've heard of no such thing."
"That's because there haven't been any for almost thirty years," Carlisle said as he stepped out of the coach. "Not since the Civil War. What's got you so worried about riots?"
Jacob jumped down from the bench and turned to help Rosalie but Emmett had already offered his hand. "Rosalie was explaining the gate."
"Ah yes," Carlisle said, "well you'll find many small changes and surprises but we were diligent about your specifications."
"I have no doubt," Jacob scooped Carlisle into his arms and hugged him roughly. "It's magnificent."
Edward nudged his squirming father. "I'd hate to see what he does to you once he sees the inside." They all laughed which is what Edward wanted and he had their attention which is what he needed. "We were followed here. By Riley."
"I don't understand," Esme stepped quickly from the carriage and moved to the side. "Michael already knows about this place. I told him myself..." Esme turned to Bella. "I couldn't help it...it was like... I was a tea cup and he just... turned me over and... everything I knew just spilled out."
"He doesn't know everything," Bella reminded her gently. "You obviously didn't speak of our abilities." She looked up and addressed Jasper whom she suspected had already noticed the discrepancy. "If he knew what we were capable of I don't think he would have let us leave...so easily."
"To that end," Jasper observed, he and Alice were close to the horses and each had been lured by the velvety feel of their soft ears. "We don't know what they are capable of. Riley could be listening to this conversation right now."
"He's right," Carlisle agreed. "I honestly don't think any of them possess anything beyond normal vampire strength except for Michael's ability to command the mind."
Bella opened her mouth to speak but Carlisle held a finger to his lips. "But to be safe, I don't think any of us should state anything obvious out loud."
Bella nodded her head, she was in fact going to make a general comparison to her own abilities but Carlisle's warning packed a punch so she remained silent.
"Bella?" Rosalie stepped forward and looked at all the others as if she was gathering something from each of them before continuing. "Michael told us that he was your maker. Is that true?"
"I'll explain everything," Bella promised, "but first I want to see my theatre."
There were two doors leading into the theatre from the stable, one at the base of the tower and the other several feet away. There was an incinerator between them as well as an elevator bay.
"Jacob has a private entrance to his living quarters as you can see," Carlisle said as he started walking towards the arch that led back to the street. "But I want to take you in through the lobby doors."
They waited a few moments for Jacob to get the horses settled into their new and roomy stalls. Carlisle ran water into the common trough while Emmett took each of them a huge armful of hay.
When they walked out through the stone arch New York greeted them with a summer breeze and display of lighted windows. They walked along 34th Street and politely waved at Riley, who sat in a cab reading a newspaper. He returned the gesture then began reading again.
That area of town was bustling. They could see multiple shops and compartment buildings and each one looked lively. There was a song playing, a phonograph in an open window above a seamstress and shoe repair shop. It was playing something foreign to their ears and the pale green drapes that guarded it waved in time to the music. Edward could see the purple and hazy yellow sound-waves spilling around them.
The streets were littered with horse drawn carriages, some big enough to swallow Jacob's whole but most were like the ones that took them out past Central Park.
No one in the city wanted to keep a horse especially when they could get across town for a penny. There was no cab company yet so the fares varied from driver to driver. Carlisle told them that cabs would be the future of the city as they rounded the corner to Eighth Avenue.
They walked up the stone steps to the lobby doors and all marveled at the stained glass. "Rosalie's idea," Carlisle told them. "She and Esme spent some of the extra money on cosmetic touches."
"They're exquisite," Bella commented. "Are there more inside?"
Carlisle just smiled and handed Bella the key. It was a set of four keys actually, all of them heavy and iron black. Bella walked over to Jacob and put the keys into his hands.
"I want you to go first," she said with a sniff.
Jacob unlocked and entered the dark lobby first only to discover blood all over the floor.
Rosalie shrieked in terror.
Randall had been slaughtered, his body lying in the middle of the polished marble floor.
Happy New Year to you all and thank you for continuing this adventure with Jennifer and I.
A very special thank you to Adamanta Banks, who has agreed to pre-read this story. I'm very exited to have her as a part of the team!
Thank you to Raum, who provided assistance with Italian translations.
My plan is to post a new chapter every Saturday for the next thirty weeks barring any unforeseen complications.
If you haven't seen it already, I have my own website and it is full of surprises and pictures that you may enjoy. The link is on my profile page.
I would like to recommend two stories that have me in their grip. The first is Release by Writing Babe. Only six chapters in at this point and all of them excellent. The other is The Singer And The Sorrow by MG2112. It is an AU Vampward story, twenty-one chapters so far, and full of fabulous tension. Both are posted on FF.