When the sun had finally set and the moon shown high in the sky, I carried Bella back to the house. I could feel her pulse in my fingertips and her light breath against my neck. The predator in me seemed to be miles away. I was just content to have a moment close to her. A slight shiver ran through her body. It must have gotten colder.
When her feet were returned to the ground, I offered an arm for support as we made our way inside. "So, are you hungry now?" Her stomach responded for her, growling loudly. "I will take that as a yes." I led her to the kitchen, for once fully stocked with food. "Anything in particular you want?"
She shook her head. "Anything is fine."
"You are free to anything we have."
She nodded in gratitude, exploring the fridge and pantry. "You have steak?" she asked, holding up a package, with a questioning look. I gave a small shrug. "Then, I suppose if anything should not go to waste, that would be it."
I grinned. "Is that the only reason you want it?"
"Well, no," she allowed. "I love my meat."
"Is that so?" I pressed, with a blatantly suggestive tone. She gave me a look that said 'you would'. She was beginning to resist my attempts at making her blush. I nodded and took the package from her. "Well, let's get this on the grill."
"Can you even cook?" she inquired.
I exhaled a single breath of laughter. "Until I was twenty, I was practically trained to be the perfect wife for whatever man I ended up marrying." I tried to keep my tone light, but my insides twisted with discomfort.
"You were twenty when you got changed?" Her eyes were attentive. She was truly curious.
I nodded. "What age did you think I was?"
She shrugged. "It is hard to tell. Your presence has a maturity, but your features have a youth." Her brows bunched as she considered it, her eyes traveling about the room, not focusing on anything, as thoughts flitted through her head. "I suppose I thought you were my age. Eighteen." A new thought dawned on her. "How long ago were you changed?"
"It is impolite to ask a lady her age." She pursed her lips and her brow pulled close to her eyes, giving her a look of being exasperated. "I was born in 1915. I was changed by Carlisle in 1935."
She ran the numbers through her head. "That is a long time to be alive. Almost a hundred years!" I nodded. "Do you wish you weren't?"
"Changed?" I searched for clarification. She nodded, urging me to continue. "Every day." Her expression sobered, becoming sad. "But, at the same time, there are things I enjoy."
"Like what?" I was just opening the package of meat, having already prepared the grill. I was hit with the putrid smell of the uncooked meat and my face twisted with disgust. "I did not mean to pry," she insisted, hastily.
I shook my head. "It was not you. I forgot that uncooked meat smells of death." It dawned on her that my sense of smell was more powerful than her own. She whispered a soft apology. "I suppose there is a lot more I can do. Every child has dreams, but most have to choose only one or two. I get to try them all, perfect them all."
"That must be nice," she conceded. "Things must also be really easy for you. I mean, super human speed, strength, thought. You name it, you have it."
"What fun is no challenge at all?" I threw out one of the philosophical questions I am often faced with.
"I guess that might get boring after a while," she acknowledged. "You have your family and various flings," she offered, as if to console me.
"True. And I love my family."
She smiled, the happiness reaching her eyes. I handed her the steak on a plate and told her to return to the dining room. I zipped into the kitchen starting the preparation of a salad to go with her steak, finishing before she had reached her seat, bringing the salad and some water out to the table. "Convenient," she murmured as she sat down, eying the salad. "This all looks delicious." I flashed to the kitchen, returning with a set of silverware. Digging into the food she nodded enthusiastically. "This is so good! How did you get it done so well?"
"I can smell when it is done," I confessed.
"Figures," she smiled while shaking her head. She made her way through the food, while I cleaned the grill and kitchen. I completed my task well before she was done, rejoining her and taking a seat across from her at the table.
She glanced up from her food and started when she saw me. I had forgotten to announce myself. Her hand jerked, drawing a red line down her opposite hand. I jerked back, knocking the chair back into the wall, were it fell over. I stopped breathing and tried to ignore the surge of thirst that hit me. Venom welled in my mouth and the demon inside me howled and fought against its restraints, fueled by the scent. My body was preparing for a hunt, my senses becoming keener, ready to be put to use.
She was fumbling with her napkin, trying to stop the blood flow. It would be so easy to kill her. She was not even paying attention. I could leap across the table and have her throat ripped open before she even looked up. I could consume her and enjoy every second of it.
My humanity fought against my killer instinct. Bella finally looked up, concern coloring her face. "Rose?"
I felt her voice like beacon in the darkness in my heart. It guided me towards the light. All I had to do was win the high ground and then I would have the means to fight back the thirst. I followed that glow, wrapped my fingers around it and held it close for warmth.
"Bella," my voice was a low growl. "You need to excuse me." The scent of fear radiated through the room. It was tantalizing. "Use the kitchen to clean up." I dashed away, going outside where the air was clear of the scent. I breathed deep, trying to wash away any trace.
I howled a piercing screech. I need something to distract me. I ran into the woods and as soon as I could not see any road, slammed my fist into the nearest tree, shattering its trunk, sending it toppling away from me. Another thought crossed my mind. The lake. I was already at a run, blurring the trees around me. The edge of the cliff approached and I did not even hesitate as I launched myself off of it, rocketing into the air and plummeting in a shallow arc into the dark waters. I let myself submerge, let the water create a barrier from the world. It cooled my fire, soothing the burn.
Minutes passed as I sank into the depths. When I felt satisfied that I had come down from the hunt, I swam to shore, walking out drenched, and disappeared into the woods, back tracking to the house. When I entered, Bella held a few paper towels to her hand. She looked up from her hand when I knocked on the door frame. "Rose!" She did a double take. "You are soaking wet!" I merely nodded, still not daring to draw breath for any reason. I ignored the trail of water that I tracked into the kitchen as I cautiously approached her. I took her hand in my own, drawing the towels away from the wound.
It was not deep, barely breaking the skin. She would not even need stitches. "Rose, your eyes are black," she whispered. Again I nodded, looking into her eyes. I wanted to tell her I was in control, but I could not without putting her in danger. It struck me how displeasing that felt. I allowed her to replace the towels as I went in search of Band-Aids. I returned with a rather large square one and a few spares. I also brought a bandage wrap. She offered her arm to me when I returned. I carefully put the Band-Aid over the cut and then wrapped her hand and wrist. The wrap was to put more of a barrier around the scent of blood.
I stepped a few paces back, putting distance between us before I finally spoke. "Are you done with your food?" She nodded. "Alright, I am going to take a shower. You are free to hang out in my bedroom until I am out." She nodded and retreated towards the stairs.
In the shower I cursed the events that had transpired. Why was it that I had to make every wrong choice? Why did I give her reason to be aroused? Why did I have her eat steak with a knife? Why did I fall for a human? The water gave me no answers.
When I entered my bedroom, Bella was seated on my bed. "You are thirsty, aren't you?"
She looked like she was helplessly searching for a means to comfort me. "I- I am sorry."
"It is not your fault."
"But I," she protested, "I-"
"You did nothing. This is my existence. Always hungry for something I do not want to eat."
"Ha-have you ever, you know, had-"
"Human blood?" She closed her eyes and she nodded. "No."
Her eyes flew open and she stared at me. "Never?" I shook my head. "Wow. That is dedication to a life style."
I snorted a laugh. "I guess that is one way of putting it."
"How much do you want it?" she asked.
I knew of no way to put it nicely. "I have to convince myself every second not to rip your throat open and drain you until your body goes limp." I heard an audible swallow from her. "I am sorry. I have more control over myself now. I just need to hunt." Her eyebrows scrunched in concern, but there was no spike in fear. In fact, she remained steady. She was concerned for my wellbeing, or, perhaps my comfort. "Perhaps I shall do that while you sleep."
She responded with a yawn, as if I had reminded her of her exhaustion, and I glanced to the clock on the bedside table. It was going on ten o'clock. "Are you an early night person?" She nodded sheepishly. "Well, Alice went so far as to provide pajamas, so you are free to change into them. I will grab them for you." I found them in the drawers of my bureau and placed them into her waiting hands.
"I will clean up your food while you get changed." She nodded.
I went downstairs and was confronted by the knife that had slice open her hand. Holding my breath, I washed the utensil, trying to avoid looking at the specks of blood that washed away. I could not believe how weak I was. It was appalling. I spent a little extra time downstairs, trying to give Bella her privacy, but a particularly loud thud called me upstairs early, hoping against hope that Bella had not injured herself again.
Instead, I found Bella struggling to pull up the flannel pants that Alice had provided, her upper half clothed only by a surprisingly intricate bra. I blinked, taken by surprise, and she squeaked in embarrassment, her face flushing instantly. "I am sorry," I said in haste, a hand coming up to cover my eyes. "I thought you had fallen," I explained.
She slipped her shirt over her head and then I dropped my hand. "I am sorry. I did not mean to intrude."
She was still flushed and would not look at me. "It's okay," she mumbled. "I do not mind." Her eyes rose, looking me in the face, the shyness of the expression tickling my fancy.
"Alright, you should get some sleep," I changed that topic, not wanting to fall into another predicament that was dangerous for us. She nodded and crawled onto my bed. "Any particular time you want me to wake you?"
"Any time after nine would be fine," she decided. I was about to leave, to let her sleep, but she stopped me. "Rose?"
I turned back. "Yes?
"Could you- um, could you stay with me until I am asleep?"
How do I respond? I was at a loss. I knew that I should probably get to my hunt, sooner than later, but then there was that pleading look in her eyes. "Of course. If that is what you want." She nodded and settled into the covers. I sat on the edge of the bed and she smiled up at me. She really was beginning to take control, I realized. She was making strides and perhaps, was further along than myself. Her eyes closed and she shifted around until she was comfortable. Sleep soon took her over and her breathing became slower and steady, her heartbeat slowing slightly.
I left without ceremony, and began my hunt.
The baseball screamed away from the bat I was swinging, flaming and ripping apart as it flew through the air. "I just do not get how this happened."
"What? That you fell for a human?" Emmett called back from where he stood to pitch. He tossed a new ball, with the same resulting destruction.
"How does that even happen?" I grumbled. Another toss.
"I mean, you were always into some weird kinks." The new pitch was hit back straight at his head. He ducked out of the way with ease. "Hey, it was a joke." His grin was as wide as I had ever seen it.
"How long did it take you to come up with that one?"
"Two weeks? Yeah, that sounds about right." Two weeks? Two weeks ago was when Bella and I went for a walk. It had been one of the happiest moments of my new life. Bella had smiled naturally and casual conversation did not feel hard to keep up. The next pitch went by before I had realized it was thrown. "Hey, I know you are struggling with this, but I am serious when I say you are making things too difficult. So she is human. You have to be a little careful. Whatever."
"It is not that simple," I rebut.
"Make it simple."
My head dropped so that I was staring at the ground. He jogged forward, wrapping his strong arms around me. "I do not know how," I whispered. If I was not of my kind, my knees would have given out, I would be crumpled on the ground, sobbing hysterically. Instead, I became a statue, unblinking, unmoving, cold, and silent.
I had not seen much of Bella outside of school, since our day at the lake. I yearned to see her, to be with her. The need had grown in the days that passed, become harder to resist. I rebelled, held to the idea that this was being forced upon me. I told myself I was just being influenced by things Alice had told me. I was losing the battle, slowly giving up ground. I thought about her. I wanted to get to know her more.
"Just do not stalk her and watch her while she sleeps, or anything creepy like that." He guffawed. "Sounds more like something Eddy would do." His unabashed humor made me smile. He was the closest sibling I had and his straight forward and brazen words had a way of getting passed my walls.
"You are an idiot," I pointed out, but could not hide my grin.
"I know things are kind of coming at you from a bunch of sides, but my honest opinion – take it slow. Let things happen." His eyes were deep and thoughtful, humor set aside for the moment. "Things will happen as they do. Do not force anything. The human wants you."
"Yeah, sexually. She does not want me," I cut in. "Otherwise she thinks I am a god that she could never compare to."
He rolled his eyes. "And you don't carry the air of someone of importance?" I grumbled in response. "You still hold onto that noble attitude from your era."
"Fine, but how do I make her see that she does not need to be anything more than what she is?"
He shrugged his giant shoulders. "Hey, I have not really dealt with giving dating advice in a long time. Forgive my lack of answers." He looked up at the sky, lightning running through the clouds above. "I guess it is as simple as showing her." In the distance I heard a car approaching. It sounded like Alice's Porsche. "And then here comes the little devil to mess with all of your efforts," he chuckled. Another car followed behind, one I recognized as Carlisle's.
We stood still, waiting as their cars stopped and they approached on foot. Something was taking them longer than usual. As they came through the trees, I noticed that Carlisle had a body in his arms. "Huh, they brought Bella," Emmett remarked. "I am going to guess that you did not know about this," he commented, noting my rigidness. He sighed. "Don't lose your head." After a slight pause, he added, "Or knock off anyone else's head." I rolled my eyes, giving him an exasperated look.
Alice skipped ahead of the rest, reaching us with time to hold a short conference. "I hope you do not mind that I brought Bella. She wanted to see what it was like for us to play."
I cocked my eyebrow. "Well, if it was her wanting to be here and not you convincing her that she should be here, it is fine by me." I was really irked by how Alice was controlling everything always.
She smiled cheerfully as Carlisle and company caught up. "Oh hey there mortal!" Emmett addressed Bella. She rolled her eyes at him as she tried to gain her footing. "You ready to see the game of gods?"
My hand connected with the back of his head in a dope slap. He grinned sheepishly his hand resting where I had smacked him. "Bella," I acknowledged her. I did not really know what else to do. Unlike Alice and Emmett, I felt lost when it came to interacting with Bella. Things just never worked out smoothly.
"Rose," she returned the greeting.
"Alight, Bella," Emmett held up the ball that was still in his hand. "You get to pick the teams. It is three on three. Your choice."
"Oh, um," she deliberated about her decision. "Carlisle, Rosalie, and Jasper, on one team, and Alice, Emmett, and Esme on the other." The teams split, eying the opposition. I got into game mode, jeering at Emmett, playfully.
"So, who bats first," he called out.
Something flashed through Bella's eyes. It was devious. "Whoever has the bat when I say 'stop'," she declared.
It took a moment to sink in, but then I had to thrust my hand out as Emmett lunged at me, his hand grasping for the bat that I held. I hit the shoulder of the arm that was reaching out, causing him to turn off course, then the back of my hand slammed into the side of his head, causing him to stumble away.
A hand on my the back of my neck, a kick to the backside of my knee, and a forceful push had me first collapsing to a knee and then face first in the dirt. Alice was making use of her talents and had placed herself behind me before Bella had even announced anything, I realized. As she held me down, Esme, had moved in to pry the bat from my hand. Jasper took a swing at Esme, while the recovered Emmett distracted Carlisle. I shifted, pushing against the tiny Alice, but her knee came down in my back, pinning me for a moment longer. Jasper gave Esme a push, backing her up a few paces and a foot aimed at Alice caused the weight to be lifted from my back. I was on my feet, and as Alice lunged for me, I threw the bat away, intercepting her as she changed direction even before it left my hand.
My arms wrapped around her, holding her in a bear hug as she struggled. Emmett and Carlisle reversed positions, with Carlisle now distracting Emmett. Jasper caught the bat, but had to duck as Esme swung at him. Alice kicked the inside of my knee and I collapsed, but did not let go of her, instead twisting my body so that we both fell to the earth. "Stop!" Bella's voice called a halt to all activity and Jasper was the one still holding the bat. "Holy shit, you guys do not hold back," she noted that Alice and I were in the dirt.
We separated into our teams once more, Jasper triumphantly twirling the bat as he made his way over to side with myself and Carlisle. Emmett's grin was not dimmed. He was ready to play. Alice looked equally unflustered, although she did not like the dirt that coated her clothing. Jasper took his position at home plate, while Alice took the ball to the pitcher's position, Esme covered a deep second, and Emmett was deep into a more central left field. Jasper batted lefty and he sent the ball rocketing into deep right. Emmett was at a run just as the bat connected, chasing down the deep ball. Jasper had reached third when Esme caught the ball thrown by Emmett and he stopped there, grinning smugly.
I batted next. The ball soared into left field and I bolted around the bases. Jasper easily made it home, but I made the decision of trying to follow him. Emmett sent the ball to Esme, who was at third, but I had already passed the bag. She threw the ball over my head to Alice, just as I was sliding into home and her hand brought the boll down on my leg. Bella, the official umpire, looked me in the eye and called, "Out." Alice cheered and Emmett whooped from out in the field.
As I rose, I closed the distance between myself and her. "Bold call," I declared, letting my animalistic side say it. I walked pass to wait for my turn to come around once more. Carlisle was ready and Alice had pulled her hand back to toss the ball, but then stopped. All of our eyes were on her as she stood frozen. When her eyes focused once more, she skipped forward, conferring with Carlisle. "We have company. One minute."
The game was dropped and everyone gathered together. "How many," Esme asked.
"Three." Alice was still distant.
"No issue at all," Emmett grumbled.
Carlisle looked to the woods where they were coming from. We could hear their approach. "We will be civil. Move Bella to the back."
We gathered in front of her. She tugged on my shirt. "What is happening?"
"There are other vampires," I hissed over my shoulder.
Carlisle and Emmett strode forward, greeting the three nomads a small distance away from the rest of the family. "Welcome to Forks," Carlisle greeted.
"Thank you," the lead man returned. "We heard a recognizable scuffle and decided to come check it out."
"Just friendly play," Carlisle informed him. "To decide who got to bat first."
"Interesting method," the female cooed. Carlisle nodded in affirmation. "Care if we join?"
"We were actually just getting ready to wrap up our game," Carlisle replied.
"So soon," the other male asked. "You just started." His eyes looked passed Carlisle to Alice, and a smirk creased his lips, but then his eyes moved to Bella, just behind my shoulder. "Ah, you got hungry." A growl escaped my throat, deep and feral. Our ranks closed, cutting off view of Bella, whose hands remained gripping my shirt.
"We do not feed on humans," Carlisle input, receiving turned heads from all of the nomads. "We hold a permanent residence here, so we would also prefer that you refrain from feeding in the area."
The first male nodded. "This is your territory. We shall not hunt on your land. You have my word."
Carlisle nodded his thanks. "My name is Carlisle and this is my family. You are free to rest here, but then we are going to ask that you move on."
"Laurent," the first man returned his name. "And this is James and Victoria," he introduced his coven. "We shall leave you be then." I was bristling, impatient while I waited for them to leave.
When they were out of ear shot, Alice piped up. "I do not trust them." I was not the only one who had caught where James' eyes had gone. "We need to get Bella home."
We all agreed. "Will they follow?" Carlisle asked of Alice.
"Hard to tell. James might and Victoria stick with him. Laurent seems to want no trouble."
"Two at a time is no issue," Emmett snarled.
Jasper shook his head. "They fed recently. They will be strong. And James has the eyes of a hunter." Emmett grumbled.
"Jasper, you and I will follow them. Alice, keep tabs. You and Esme go secure the house. We will all meet back there. Rose, Em, take Bella back to the house, via car." Alice tossed Emmett the keys to her Porsche. I unceremoniously lifted Bella into my arms with a small apology. And then we split into our pairs. The race was on.
Author's notes: Please be sure to review. I have a plan for where this is going, but if you have anything you would like to see, let me know in a review or pm, and I will see what I can do.