We arrived in Forks just as the sun was setting and Alice begged me to hunt. I was so determined to get here I wouldn't stop for anything. I finally agreed since the smell of humans was overwhelming. I headed up a steep rock face and found two large mountain lions. I felt much better after feeding and I was ready to listen to reason.
Alice was kind in her approach, but Jasper maintained his body in front of me at all times. I finally said, "I'll listen if you have a plan."
"We'll have to depend on Alice's sight, but if we spread out we'll know if James is close."
Alice looked a bit flummoxed and opened her eyes wide at Jasper. "We can't let Bella guard an area on her own, it isn't safe."
"I'm fine," I demanded. "I want to do whatever we have to do to catch James."
Jasper thought for a moment and then said, "He won't come from the north, so we'll watch the south and the east. Bella can keep an eye on her father as we watch the perimeter."
I realized his plan put him and Alice coming into contact with James first, but the idea of watching my father appealed to me. I nodded and after a few seconds Alice did too. We headed back to the city limits of Forks together. I set up a place high in a tree where I could watch Charlie's house. Eventually Jasper and Alice moved further into the forest to wait for James.
I saw Charlie's squad car pull up and watched him get out and walk dejected toward the house. I was so tempted to jump down and tell him everything was okay, but just as the emotions were getting to me Jake pulled up in his truck. I could feel a rumbling in my chest and had to look away to make it stop.
When he exited the truck with Billy I could smell the sour scent strongly. Jake paused and shook from head to toe before raising his nose into the air. I was right, he could smell us too. His fists pulled closed and his steps became forceful. It was the reaction I remembered well.
Once they got into the house the smell was gone. I could hear Jake and he sounded pleasant and in a jovial mood. For some reason vampires had a very negative effect on him. I wondered just how much Edward had affected him over the years. Maybe if he would have stayed away Jake and I could have been happy.
I remained in the tree long after Jake and Billy left. I could hear the sounds of people going to sleep and snoring softly in their beds. I finally jumped down without so much as a thud and jumped into the shadows of the house.
I easily lifted the window and climbed into the kitchen. I heard Charlie roll over in his bed as I made my way silently up the staircase. I peeked into his room and saw him facing the door fast asleep. I felt like I was crying on the inside, but nothing filled my eyes or blurred my perfect vision. I wanted to nudge him and ask him to give me a hug, but a sound deep inside the forest caught my attention. It was Alice, yelling my name.
I backed my way out of the house and ran toward her voice. I felt powerful, like adrenalin was surging through my body. I made it to a clearing and then heard Jasper call out softly. I looked up and they both stood on a ledge above me.
Jasper pointed to the south and whispered, "About one hour away."
"Is he alone?" I asked.
"I only saw one," Alice said softly.
I moved to the edge of the clearing and waited. I could hear James before I saw him and was certain he could smell us, but he came forward anyway. I stepped from the trees and he stopped advancing as a slow smile grew across his face.
"I hope you left daddy alive for me," he said in a sickening tone.
"Do you really think I'll just step aside?" I asked him.
"I honestly hope not," he laughed. I couldn't sense any fear from him, but it was fine by me. I needed to attack something and he would work just as well as anything else.
Jasper came into view and I saw James finally hesitate. His eyes looked around quickly as if he expected the entire Cullen clan. I was afraid he was going to run and we would be stuck here waiting for him to return.
"Surely you aren't afraid of two civilized vampires?" I said to taunt him. He turned his attention to me and then looked back at Jasper. I could tell he wasn't sure what to do.
James finally asked, "So what are my options?"
I was ready to tell him his only option was to die, but Jasper spoke before me. "Alice will know if you plan to come back here. We won't let you kill Charlie."
I looked at Jasper with shock. "He's not leaving here," I yelled, and took a step closer to James.
"Bella," Jasper yelled, "He has the right to choose."
We all reacted at the same time, smelling the sour stench I came to know. Our heads turned to the west and James ran. Jasper and Alice took off after him, but I was frozen to my spot. I knew I was going to come face to face with Jake. I was now stronger than him and it felt exhilarating. I knew deep down it wasn't his fault he would go into a rage, but at the moment I didn't care.
Embry stepped into the clearing first and then Jake. They both looked at me with surprise and I noticed how his hands tightened into fists. He swallowed a couple of times and said, "I thought you drowned."
"She's been out here hiding," Embry said in anger. "Making us all search for her."
I stared directly into Jake's eyes and said evenly, "I'm not afraid of you anymore. You won't hurt me."
"You always were stupid," Jake said, bringing back my human insecurities which Edward placed on me.
I felt my chest rumble and I had to fight to control my urge to attack. I wanted to hurt him, and I was certain he would make a move to attack me, but I refused to act first.
"I used to believe that, I don't anymore," I said confidently.
Jake placed his hand on his chest and tried to take a deep breath. He shuddered a couple of times and looked over at Embry with a hint of fear in his eyes. "What's wrong?" I asked with concern I didn't want to show.
He let his hands relax and shook them for a moment before looking back at me again. "Something's happening to me. My muscles are…changing."
"What do you mean changing?" I asked and considered for the first time he was trying to confuse me.
I had moved closer and maybe it was what he wanted. He was trying to bring me in so he could hit me. I smiled at the thought of his hand punching my stone skin. I now stood directly in front of him as he struggled to breathe.
My hand reached out to steady him and just as I touched his scorching hot skin he roared loudly and his muscles bulged in and out, as if morphing into something disgusting. I looked at Embry to see him grabbing his chest too. I backed up and it grew easier for Jake to catch a breath.
I didn't understand what was happening, but I knew something about being in proximity to a vampire affected them greatly. I wanted to get away from them and ran south to see if I could find Jasper and Alice. The further I got from Jake the more I thought about James. I could smell something burning and I ran toward the smell.
Alice and Jasper were standing by a large fire and I instinctually knew what it was. "Are you guys okay?" I asked them.
"Yeah," Alice said and grabbed me into a tight hug. "Where did you go, I couldn't find you in my mind?"
"I ran into Jake in the woods," I said and her forehead furrowed as she tried to concentrate.
"I can't see him," she mumbled.
"I want to ask you guys about that. I notice a sour smell coming off native people, and they seem to smell something offensive on us, plus a vampire gets them really angry. It is almost like they can't control themselves if a vampire is around."
Alice looked and Jasper and he thought deeply for a moment. "I know there are rumors that other creatures of the night can sense each other, but I don't know what to make of this information."
"Jake can be brutal, but he is no creature of the night," I said with a laugh.
Alice gasped at that moment and grabbed onto Jasper's arm. He steadied her in his arms and then asked her what she was seeing. "They got the woman, Victoria, she's dead."
"Is Edward okay?" I asked quickly.
"Yes," she said, "They are looking for us."
Jasper pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number. I could hear Carlisle answer and the men made plans to meet at the Cullens home in Forks. We headed to the home and Jasper talked about different theories regarding the Native Americans. When we got to the house he got on the internet and began looking up the tribe's history.
Alice took me to an upstairs bedroom and got me some fresh clothing. She tried to teach me about different fabrics and colors, but I just wanted something comfortable. I settled on a pair of leggings and a long belted blouse. She got a pair of heels from the closet, but luckily they were too large for my feet. I put my tennis shoes back on and felt like me again.
We went back downstairs and Jasper looked a bit perplexed. "What's up?" I asked.
"I'm trying to figure out something. I know the witch trials from the early centuries killed some real witches, but…"
"Wait," I gasped. "Witches are real?"
He chuckled and said, "Are vampires real?"
I was a bit embarrassed and asked him to continue. He talked about ghosts and rumors of demons, many which turned out to be vampires. But the native's legends had to do with wolves and spirit guides in the form of animals.
"Why does the presence of a vampire make them angry?" I asked.
"Maybe something deeper in their psyche makes them realize what we are…a natural enmity between their people and vampires."
I looked at Jasper and Alice and then said, "We shouldn't be here. We're putting people in danger by being so close to the Quileutes."
"I think you're right, Bella. As soon as the other's get here we'll close up the house for good and leave," Jasper said.
"They'll be here by tomorrow night," Alice said.
"That soon?" I asked.
She smiled and gave me a nod, "Edward is very…anxious."
I couldn't help my own smile that formed and she laughed loudly at me. I was obvious with my feelings for him and I had to admit I was just as anxious as he was to be in his arms again. I had to find something to pass the time, so I headed to town. I made sure to remain just beyond the tree line, but I wanted to see my students.
I watched them head into the school and suddenly realized something horrible. I would never have a child. I would never be a mother although I would live forever. I also wanted to know the truth about what happened to me. If Edward didn't change me, who did?
I was pacing the floor by the time evening came. I would stop every so often and try to hear the sound of anyone coming, but the forest remained silent. Jasper was deep in his investigations and Alice was reading fashion magazines. I finally sighed loudly and got their attention.
"How much longer?" I asked them both.
Jasper looked at Alice and she sat her magazine down harshly. "Esme and Rose want to shop a bit in Seattle and Edward is throwing a hissy fit. They'll be here soon."
I was ready to throw my own hissy fit. I couldn't believe they would consider shopping while I waited here ready to explode. Surely they couldn't remember how it felt to be newly in love. The thought made me pause. I was in love with Edward and not simply in love, but desperately in love with him.
Alice giggled and I looked over to see her smiling smugly. "Shut up," I said angrily, and went outside to wait. With heightened awareness every minute felt like an hour. I couldn't imagine Edward living alone this way. By the time I heard him coming I was ready to cry.
He came crashing through the trees to see my distraught face. "What's wrong?" he asked as he rushed to my side.
I collapsed into his arms, crying tearless sobs and said, "It took you so long to come."
He laughed and gave me a loving squeeze. "I ran the whole way, never stopping to hunt," he confessed.
I pulled back to look at him, his eyes flashed toward the house and I knew he was listening to something inside so I took his hand and pulled him toward the forest. We found a small clearing with wildflowers and I pulled him onto the ground with me. I tried to attach my mouth to his but he turned his head.
"Wait," he said, causing me to growl at him. "I want to ask you something first."
"What?" I said with a disappointed sigh.
He smiled and looked at me for a moment before saying, "I want to ask one more time, will you marry me Bella?"
I was trying to think of a reason to refuse him, but nothing came to mind. He mistook my hesitation for a no answer and tried to roll off of me. I tightened my hold and opened my mouth just as an overwhelming stench filled my nose. We had been so focused on each other we didn't realize someone had entered the meadow.
"So you turned out to be the whore I always thought you were," Jake said through clenched teeth.
Edward jumped up and I followed right along with him. We faced Jake and I said pleadingly. "Jake, please leave. We have a negative effect on you."
"You said we would be together," he yelled at me with clinched fists.
"You tried to kill me," I screamed back, trying to make him focus on something besides Edward.
Edward pulled me behind him and said softly, "His mind is jumbled; he can't keep a straight thought."
Jake suddenly screamed in pain and fell to the ground. His body jerked and convulsed until it slowly began to transform.
"What's happening to him?" I cried out.
"I have no idea," Edward said and pushed me back so we stood further from the creature in front of us. Jake stood slowly on all fours. His body was covered in thick black fur and his mouth protruded like an animal with sharp fangs. I thought I heard Edward whisper, "Werewolf."
I was feeling the need to run away, but I also felt Jake would chase us if we did. I knew Edward and I could easily take him down together, but if we did this to him it wasn't fair to punish him for it.
"I don't want to hurt you," Edward said in a calm voice. Jake looked at Edward as drool feel from his teeth onto the ground. Edward leaned forward and said, "It isn't permanent. You'll change back.
"How do you know?" I asked him.
"I can read his mind, ancient thoughts are coming forth. He transforms to protect the tribe; it is part of his culture."
"Protect them from what?" I asked, already knowing the answer.
"Jake," Edward said calmly, "We don't hunt humans. We'll leave here and never return, I promise."
Jake walked back and forth for a moment, showing huge muscles in his body. Edward seemed to relax a bit and whispered, "He's calming down and thinking things through. He knows it was my presence that made him hurt you."
"Jake, I don't blame you anymore," I said to him. He stopped pacing and looked directly at me.
"We didn't know," Edward admitted, "Bella figured it out first."
Edward suddenly tensed again and moved in front of me. "What's wrong?" I asked.
"He wants to approach you, it's too dangerous," Edward replied.
I stepped away from Edward and held out my hand for Jake. He approached slowly, both of us having to deal with the stench. When he reached my hand I turned it over and rubbed his head. He came closer and nuzzled against my leg before licking my hand.
"I'm so sorry, Jake," I said to him.
"He said for you not to apologize, it is his to make," Edward translated.
"You can be happy now," I said with a smile. "You'll never have to know what causes the anger again."
"He wants to know if you're happy," Edward said.
I smiled and nodded my head. "I didn't choose this life, but for the first time I'm happy. I think this was meant for me from the beginning."
Jake's wet tongue reached out and licked my cheek, then we both cringed and I wiped my hand across the wet flesh. Jake turned and walked toward the trees before looking back at Edward. "My word," Edward responded and Jake fled into the forest.
He turned to look at me and said, "We have twenty four hours to get out of Forks." He took my hand and we walked back to the Cullen home.
As soon as we entered the entire family stopped breathing. I ran upstairs and washed my face and hands before returning to hear Edward telling them what happened. Alice was upset she couldn't see the wolves and Emmett just wanted a chance to fight one.
We settled on a plan to separate for a while. Edward and I would go back to Chicago while the others spent some time alone. The house would be sold and we would never return to Forks again. Everyone kept watching my reaction, as if I would suddenly explode and refuse to leave. I stood and looked at their anxious faces.
"There is only one thing I want to know, who changed me?"
They all looked at each other accusingly and I wasn't about to let them get away with pretending they didn't know. I looked at Emmett and said, "You have the strength to control a newborn." Then I turned to Jasper and said, "And you can control emotions." My gaze moved to Alice and I said, "You were there when I woke up and Rose was here at the house, too."
I also remembered something else and looked at Carlisle, "You were in Forks when I was changed, and you would know if my injuries were too severe to survive."
"You forgot someone," Edward said sheepishly.
I spun around and glared at him. I wasn't stupid and I knew he was searching for a nomad when I was changed. I wasn't going to allow him to take the blame for someone else. "Don't you dare admit you did it," I said to him.
He took a deep unneeded breath and shook his head. "No it wasn't me," he said and his eyes moved to someone else.
I turned to see the family staring at me, each one looking fraught with shame. I looked at each face and finally stopped at the one I had forgotten, Esme. "You?" I gasped.
She nodded and I could see her entire body shaking. Carlisle put his arm around her. I wasn't sure if it was for support or to protect her from me. "I went looking for you. I wanted you to help Edward change his mind. He's like a son to me and I couldn't let him die."
"It's my…." Edward began but I shot up my hand to stop him from speaking and let Esme continue.
"I saw Jake and tried to get behind you on the cliff. I was going to catch you, but you jumped before I got there. You hit a rock, splitting your head open just as I got a hold of you."
"Was the blood too much for you?" Jasper asked, hoping someone besides himself would have an issue with it.
Esme shook her head slowly and looked at me with remorse. "I admit I selfishly thought of my son. I wanted you to love him and thought you would forget everything. I'm sorry."
I walked up to Esme and stood right before her. She had changed me out of love for her son, how could I blame her for her actions. I put my arms around her and laid my head on her shoulder. "I do love him, Esme. I love him very much."
She filled me with hope that someday Edward and I would have others to add to the family. People we could think of as our children and help them make it in the world. I couldn't imagine changing anyone myself, but time would move on and circumstances would change.
"Do you forgive me?" Esme asked.
"Of course," I said with a smile, causing Rosalie to huff angrily.
We all looked over at her and she said snidely, "She wouldn't have forgiven any of the rest of us."
She was most likely correct, but Esme's reasons were out of love so I did forgive her. It was at that moment I decided to answers Edward's question. I turned to look into his eyes and stated clearly, "Yes Edward, I will marry you." He looked stunned for a moment and then instantly came to pull me into his arms. The family cheered loudly as we kissed passionately.
I adjusted well to my life as a vampire as well as a wife to Edward. We lived in Chicago for five years and I taught at a local high school. I learned how to fill my time with worthy endeavors and how to increase my knowledge of the world. We finally took that trip to China. Edward was like a kid seeing everything for the first time, but I longed for the family I now had.
We were all going to meet at an island in Brazil and when we pulled up by boat Carlisle and Esme walked out of the house to greet us. I ran down the dock and into their arms, feeling like it was only yesterday we parted. Edward and Carlisle hugged for a long time, restoring the father son bond they shared. By evening another boat arrived, carrying Alice and Jasper.
We screamed and jumped up and down together before Alice said into my ear, "I've kept track of you and Edward, he's never been so happy."
I smiled over at my husband and admitted, "No, I'm the happy one, he's amazing."
Edward gave me a wink and I moved over into his arms. "Do you want to explore the island?" he asked.
"Does explore mean what I think it means?" I asked in return.
He gave me a low growl and we headed off together into the brush. After all these years, loving Edward was just as great as the first time we were together. He consumed me to a point I felt small in comparison to my feelings. I wasn't a strong vampire; I was just a woman being loved by her man. His touch was always a perfect combination between gentle and strong, taking me to new heights each time.
When the sound of another boat could be heard Edward jumped up and looked over a step ledge. "It's Emmett and Rose."
I quickly put my clothes back on and Edward held out his hand. "Let's jump," he suggested.
I looked down at the steep incline that led to the dark ocean below. I knew I couldn't be hurt, but I had never jumped from so high and it caused me to hesitate. Edward placed his palm on the side of my face and said, "Trust me, Bella."
It was at that moment I realized what was so different in my life. It wasn't the fact I lived off animal blood and pretended to eat food, or that I kept gloves on when I was teaching so the students wouldn't feel my ice cold touch. It wasn't even the fact I was a married woman living in Chicago. For the first time in my life I trusted a man.
I took hold of his hand and we turned and jumped together, landing in the warm ocean below.