Disclaimer: Written under the derivative fan works act. All rights reserved to the original creator, Stephanie Meyer.
Title: You Can't Always Get What You Want
Rating: M for sexual situations, lemons, and hot, steamy, angsty vampire lovin', underage drinking, smoking, drug use and overall bad behavior.
Premise: Alternate Universe. Edward leaves Bella after their intimate relationship blossoms during the summer after Twilight. Bella is left to face the consequences of loving a vampire as her life changes drastically. OCC ExB Lemons
Alternate Universe: Canon pairings eventually, pretty much OOC, ExB of course.
POV: BPOV (Bella), Bella starts the story. Edward and Alice may have a say later on.
– – – –
Please note that this story is rated M for a reason, if you'd prefer not to deal with mature themes, please do not read this story.
Sorry this is a day late. My son's going back to college this week, and it's been busy. His car broke down and we had to get it fixed before he had to move back to the dorms.
– – – – – – – – – – –
Chapter 17 Family Reunion
Nessie and I drove down to Renee's store After Edward and Alice left. I didn't think this was something we should tell them about on the phone. We had some time to discuss our options. Renee didn't close up shop until six o'clock during the week, seven on Friday and two o'clock on Saturday. Monday was usually a pretty slow day, but she didn't have any other employees yet.
We hadn't seen the need to involve anybody else in our business yet, and it was easier to doctor the books without having some human looking over our shoulder, second guessing what we did with the business. Phil usually spent his time at the store with Renee unless he was shooting a game or traveling to one. He helped out in the shop, and Nessie and I both helped out too.
Sunny days weren't really a problem for us. We had a back employee entrance to come and go from the alley behind the store, and it was normally in the shade except at high noon. I parked in the alley behind the store when we got there. Nessie and I got out of the car, and she punched the code into the lock on the door to open it and let us in. Phil and Renee would know we were here. They would have heard the car drive up, and the security system would have notified them that we entered the code to open the door. Not to mention the fact that they'd know it was us by our scent and the distinctive sound of our footsteps.
We walked into the employee area of the shop which was separated from the public areas by a heavy security door and a reinforced wall with several bulletproof glass service windows. There were intercoms at each window to facilitate transactions, and there was a row of flat screen monitors that constantly showed the security feed from the surveillance cameras in the public part of the shop.
There were no customers right now. Monday afternoon was one of the slow days at the store. There was a surprising amount of business throughout the course of the week, but Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays were the busiest days at the store. Most people got paid on Thursdays or Fridays, and they'd come in to pay off their loans. Most of them were back the next day to re-loan. There was a limit on the dollar value of transactions within a twenty-four hour period, which meant they couldn't pay off a loan and get a new one on the same day. Otherwise, a lot of people used our service to cash their checks instead of going to a bank, if they didn't have a bank account.
Phil and Renee seemed excited to hear about our first day at high school. How well we were able to fit in would determine if we could stay or if we'd have to leave again and none of us wanted to have to move for a long time. That was why I'd finally given in to going back to high school in the first place, but I knew they weren't expecting the news we had to share with then.
"Hi, Bella, Nessie, so how was your first day of school, girls? Did you make friends?" Renee asked as she turned to greet us with a big smile on her face.
I knew she was excited, and she was enjoying playing the role of mom to a couple of high school girls, even if it was just a cover so we could fit in. Phil was excited to hear our news too, but his expression darkened when he read our expressions and body language, and knew we were upset about something.
"What happened? Are you alright?" Phil asked.
"Well, school was interesting, and eventful to say the least. We ran into some old friends." I said.
"That's the understatement of the century," Nessie said, "and I wouldn't say they're all friends…"
"Nessie, be nice. You don't even know all of them yet. Give them a chance. Most of them are good people and their hearts are in the right place."
"I can't believe you're still defending them after what they did to you!"
"I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and hear them out…"
"Wait, wait, wait! Just who exactly did you run into at school?" Renee asked.
"Well, you said you wanted to tell them," Nessie said, looking at me expectantly.
"Umm… The Cullens are enrolled at school. I guess they decided to go to school here too…"
"The Cullens! You mean…!" Phil and Renee roared almost in unison.
"Yes…" I said.
"Which Cullens?" Renee asked. She sounded angry. "Not him…?"
I sighed and nodded. "Yes, I talked to him. There are four of them going to school with us. Alice and Jasper, Nessie's father, and a new girl I haven't met before named Lilly…"
"Oh my god! After all these years, they just turn up out of the blue at school? That's insane! Are you ok? How are you dealing with this…? Are you ok, Nessie?"
"I'm ok, grandma," Nessie said. "Alice is kind of cool, but I'm not really sure how to deal with my father yet… That's going to take some getting used too…"
"It wasn't strictly an accident, Mom. Alice said they've been looking for us for the last ten years… She figured out how to use her gift to look for me, and I guess it finally paid off… Alice can't see me with her gift anymore, the same way Edward couldn't read my mind. That's why she never came looking for me…"
"So what do we do now?" Phil asked. "Do we stay? Are we leaving? Can you deal with them being at school, or is that asking too much?"
"Umm… They kind of came by the house after school and we talked…"
"They followed you home!" Renee exclaimed. "Who followed you? What happened?" She asked angrily.
"It was …Edward…, and Alice. We talked… I told them about Nessie. She showed them some of our life, how she was born, how we've lived."
"How did that bastard take all of that?" Renee asked.
"Alright I guess… He was a little shocked."
"So what do you want to do, Bella?" Phil asked again.
"You and Renee haven't actually met them… well, Renee has, but she didn't know the truth then. They've invited us over to their house tonight so we can talk. Nessie and I are going. You're invited to come with us too if you'd like…"
"You're going to their house? Why? That bastard got you pregnant and then left you! They abandoned you ten years ago and left you to die! Now you're just going to run back to them like nothing happened?"
"No, I am not running back to him! He has a lot to answer for, and I haven't forgiven him, but I still miss the rest of the family. I understand what happened with Alice now, even if I'm not really ready to simply forgive her either. Esme and Carlisle were always good to me, and they deserve to meet their grand daughter. Besides, Carlisle is a doctor, and he knows what we are. Maybe he can give us some answers and help Nessie with her cramps."
Renee sighed. "Ok, I can see that. It would be nice to be able to talk to a doctor and maybe get some questions answered… Are you ok with this, Nessie?"
"I haven't forgiven him either, but I believe him when he says he didn't know mom was pregnant. I guess I'd like to get to know him… I have questions I'd like to ask too."
"Fine… So what time are we supposed to go to their house?" Renee asked.
"I guess after you close tonight. Alice gave Nessie directions how to get to their house."
We all looked at the clock. It was four thirty. Renee closed at six. It wouldn't be long now.
The Cullens must have open enrolled or given a fake address to be going to Mount Vernon high school. Nessie drove us north out of town, and then east along highway twenty before turning north again onto an unmarked road that wound into the forest. We were well north and west of Mount Vernon and closer to Sedro-Woolley than Burlington or Mount Vernon.
I guess it kind of made sense. I had wondered how we had possibly failed to run into them sooner or not picked up their scent while hunting, but there was a row of small communities that followed highway twenty east. We never ventured that far north to avoid the highway and the possibility of running into humans. Besides, there was plenty of good hunting South and East of us. Apparently the Cullens had the same thought, but had stayed north of the highway.
We were a couple of miles north of the highway when a couple of red paper Japanese lanterns marked a private drive. Even with our senses, we might have missed it the first time if it hadn't been marked. Nessie turned onto the drive, and I knew I wouldn't have any trouble finding it in the future if I decided I needed to come back here.
I knew it was a different driveway in a different forest in a different part of the state, but I could still feel a sense of déjà vu as we drove down the winding course through the woods back to the Cullens house. I could hear the river in the distance, and I knew it wasn't the Calawah River that had run past Forks, but it added to the sense of déjà vu and the nostalgia I felt for that house in Forks where so much had happened.
The last time I had been there with the family present had been at my disastrous eighteenth birthday party. Their house had seemed so eerie and deserted the next time I had been there. I didn't really know what to expect this time.
I was surprised when we broke out of the woods into a large meadow. The house stood close to the river, and was huge, but so very different from the big white three story mansion they'd lived in, in Forks. The house seemed to almost blend into the forest. It stood between several gargantuan cedars like the previous house, but the design was completely different. It was a more modern open architecture split level design built in stone and naturally stained wood and glass. The driveway formed a half circle in front of the entry, and then a service road led around to the back where there were additional out buildings. I assumed at least one of them would be a garage.
Nessie pulled up in front of the house to park and Phil stopped behind her and parked his truck. Phil and Renee seemed to be waiting for us to make the first move and waited for us to get out first.
"Mom, are you sure you're ready for this?" Nessie asked.
"No, but we're here. Let's get this over with, I guess. I really do want to see everyone. I'm just not sure if I'm ready to deal with your father again so soon."
"I'll run interference for you… ok? Just say the word or let me know, and I'll distract him.
"I really do want to get to know him now that I've heard what happened from his own mouth. I don't forgive him for what he did to you… to us…, but I would like to spend some time talking to him. You're ok with that, right?"
"Of course, Nessie… Well, I guess we better get this over with."
I got out of the car, and everyone followed my example. Nessie came around and took my hand and Phil and Renée fell in behind us with semi-belligerent scowls on their faces. I glanced back at them and hoped they wouldn't cause trouble. They had made it clear from the beginning that they didn't believe Edward didn't know I was pregnant, and had never had anything nice to say about him. I led the way up the steps to the porch and knocked on the door.
The door opened almost immediately, and then Carlisle was standing in the doorway. He smiled warmly at me and stepped to greet me and to welcome us inside.
"Bella, it's so wonderful to see you after so many years." Carlisle said as he pulled me into a warm hug. I wasn't expecting it, but I allowed it and hugged him back. "Please come in. You're all welcome here. I must say, I'm most intrigued to hear about what you've been up to these last ten years…" It felt so good to have him hug me and accept me again after all these years… Like I was long estranged family finally come for a long overdue visit.
I stepped into the house when Carlisle released me. He welcomed us into the foyer and then closed the door. "Thank you for welcoming us into your home… Did Edward and Alice explain anything about us to you?" I could feel the barely restrained curiosity as he looked at Nessie, Phil and Renee.
Carlisle walked beside me as led me into the living room while the others followed. "No. Edward retired to his room upon returning home. He seemed… deep in thought. Alice simply stated the bare facts that she'd found you, and invited you over. Then she started rushing around making phone calls and preparing for your visit. I have to admit, I am most intrigued by your family. I don't think I've ever met another vampire quite like any of them before."
The house was neat and I could tell that the interior decorating was probably more reserved on a daily basis, but it was nicely decorated in a more gaudy style now. It reminded me of my eighteenth birthday with bowls of rose petals, candles and more of the Japanese paper lanterns scattered around. Alice must have been busy dashing around decorating since she'd gotten home.
"She was making phone calls?" I asked.
"I was at the hospital, and she wanted to make sure I would be home on time at the end of my shift. Sometimes I fill in for the other doctors when they need to leave and I cover their shifts if there's nothing pressing at home. I wouldn't have missed seeing you again for anything, Bella. I've missed you. She also wanted to make sure Emmett and Rosalie came over to visit for the reunion."
"Oh…" I sighed as we walked into the living room.
Trust Alice to make sure Rosalie was here for this. She'd never liked me, and had been upset over my desire to become a vampire. She'd never understood that I wanted this because of Edward. It was ironic that I'd been forced into this life because of what Edward and I had shared. The wheels of fate were already set in motion even after Edward was gone and no longer mine. I didn't expect her to understand why I had been forced to change even after Edward was gone.
They were all there, except for Edward.
The room was huge and took up at least half of this level of the house. The front and end walls were wood and stone and glass with huge windows that wrapped around the corner of the walls. The back wall was all glass from floor to ceiling with a huge sliding wall door. It opened onto a huge enclosed deck space with a swimming pool and view of the forest and river beyond.
There were several groupings of furniture. It appeared that there was normally an arrangement of couches and chairs as a conversation group, and another arrangement of couches and chairs around an entertainment center. The entertainment center was grouped around a sixty inch flat screen TV. There were various video games, DVD and Blue ray players and a large armoire that likely contained movies and games.
It looked as though some of the furniture had been rearranged to allow enough seating for all of us to sit comfortably to talk. Esme was standing by the end of one of the Sofa's nearest to us. Alice and Jasper were seated together on one of the love seats. Alice was positively beaming at us, while Jasper seemed slightly apprehensive. He looked positively contrite and apologetic when he looked at me, but more wary when he looked at Phil and Renee.
Emmett and Rosalie were seated on one of the sofas. Rosalie appeared guarded and hostile and glared at me mildly. I could tell she was displeased with my apparent choice at becoming a vampire despite the fact that I wasn't with Edward anymore. Emmett had a huge grin on his face, and I knew that at least he was happy for me.
And then there was the new girl, Lilly. She sat beside Emmett on his other side and seemed more curious than anything else. I didn't know anything about her, other than Edward said he'd saved her. Saved her from what? God, had he changed her to save her life? I'd simply die if that was the case. Everyone else in the house was mated. It seemed just too convenient that she and Edward both lived together in the same house. I found myself glaring at her and growling in my chest beneath my breath as I thought about her. She burrowed closer into Emmett's side at my apparently hostile attention. I restrained myself. I didn't know anything about her, and I doubted it was her fault that circumstances had worked out this way.
Esme came towards me as Carlisle led us into the living room. She had a wide smile on her face, but appeared anguished as well, as though she would have been crying unrestrainedly if it were possible. She wrapped her arms around me and pulled me into a hug. She held me and sobbed and I wrapped my arms around her and hugged her back.
I had missed Esme so. She had been like my surrogate mother when I lived in Forks and had always loved me without reservation from the first day Edward had brought me to meet his parents. I'd had Renee in my life again for the last ten years, and I'd only been separated from her for less than a year while I lived with Charlie in Forks, but Esme felt every bit as much my mother as Renee did.
"Oh, Bella! It's so good to see you. It hurt me so much when Alice told us all you were dead. I was distraught to think that anything had happened to you because Edward made us leave… I always held out hope that you'd come back to us again after Edward figured out you were still alive."
"I missed you too, Esme. I knew you wouldn't abandon me. I knew how much it must have hurt you to leave like that… But I knew you had to… Now we'll have time to catch up."
Esme let me go when Carlisle placed his hand on her shoulder, and she sighed and stepped back.
"Please sit down," Esme continued, "and you can introduce us to your companions… I remember your mother Renee from pictures, and this must be her husband Phil… I haven't had the pleasure of meeting your other companion…"
"It's a long story… Edward should be here for this… He already knows, but he's a part of all this… Carlisle said he was home?" I knew he'd hear me ask about him.
"Why, yes… Edward is home, but he's been locked in his room since he returned from your home…"
I didn't have to say anything else. I could hear the movement upstairs, and then moments later he was on the stairs. He walked into the room, but had to walk past us to get to the others to sit down. Phil looked at him angrily, and then stepped into his path as he made to walk past our group toward the furniture and the others.
"You're Edward Cullen?" He asked in a harsh voice.
"Yes, I am, Phil, although we're using Masen as a surname this time around in this town."
Phil nodded. "I just wanted to be sure." Then he hauled his arm back and punched Edward in the face. Edward flew back and landed on his back in a heap on the floor.
Everything happened very fast after that. Phil made no move to follow up his attack. He didn't pounce on him or even growl at him, but stood his ground. Emmett looked like he was going to leap up, but he relaxed back and guffawed with laughter when Phil didn't move to follow up the attack. Carlisle and Esme seemed shocked and Carlisle rushed to Edward's side. I could feel the waves of calm lapping at my mind, but again they had no effect on Nessie or me. Phil and Renée seemed to visibly calm down, though.
Renee grabbed Phil's arm, and yanked him back. "Phil! What the hell was that? We're guests here!" Nessie grabbed his other arm, but it wasn't necessary, he didn't try to pull away or attack Edward further.
I probably had the strongest reaction. I leapt between Edward's prone form on the ground and Phil, and landed in a defensive crouch. Only I wasn't defending Phil… I was facing off against him and growled at him while I defended Edward.
Phil and Renee seemed to slump slightly and relax as Edward stood up and dusted himself off. I straightened out of my crouch, mortified at my apparent defense of Edward after everything I had been through and hurried over to Phil once Edward was on his feet.
"What the hell, Phil? We're guests in this house, and you go and slug one of the people we're visiting! That was uncalled for!"
"You can forgive him if you want to," Phil exclaimed, "but I promised myself a long time ago that he wasn't going to get away with treating you the way he did. I might only be your stepfather, but the jerk had it coming! If you want me to back off, say the word, and I'll let you handle this, but he deserved at least that much!"
"It's alright, Bella." Edward said. "Phil is right. I deserved it. I knew his intentions, and I didn't try to avoid it…"
"You knew he was going to hit you, and you just stood there and took it?" I exclaimed, spinning around to look at Edward.
"As I stated, I deserved it…" Edward began. "He was well within his rights to react to me the way he did…"
"I can't believe you! You think you deserved that and didn't even try to defend yourself? He could have hurt you!" I knew what I sounded like, and I hated it, but I couldn't allow Edward to be harmed, anymore than I would have welcomed Phil hitting me.
I shook myself and stood up straighter. "Alright, enough of this caveman bullshit… I can deal with Edward on my own. Let's just sit down and talk, alright?" I turned to Carlisle. "That is of course if we're still welcome here. I'm very sorry, Carlisle. We'll leave if you feel we should…"
"No, Bella… These things are bound to happen from time to time. I can understand how Phil feels… and while I am caught in the middle, I can sympathize with his plight."
"Carlisle! Not you too?"
"You know I still think of you as a daughter, and seeing one of my girls treated the way you have been, and subjected to what you have had to endure affects me similarly. Although in my case it's more difficult because Edward is also my son, and I love him dearly as well, but he has ultimately been the cause of so much strife in recent years… It is my fervent hope than we can find some way to resolve these issues…"
"Let's all sit down and talk," Esme said. "I've missed you dearly, and I don't want you to go. I want to meet the rest of your companions and get to know you again and all of your family. So much has changed in the last ten years. Please, Bella, come sit…"
Esme ushered us into the room and we all found seats. Phil and Renee sat down on another love seat, but Renee kept a hold of his arm, and didn't seem like she was going to be releasing her grip on him anytime soon. I sat down on the end of a couch next to them, so I could get up and restrain Phil if necessary, and Nessie sat down beside me. Edward sat at the opposite end of the sofa next to Nessie, but left a comfortable space between them. Esme and Carlisle sat down in a pair of arm chairs at the head of the seating arrangement.
The silence in the room was deafening in its awkward silence as we all sort of sat and stared at each other. We had been moving towards a cordial formality as Carlisle and Esme greeted me and welcomed us to their home, but now it seemed that nobody knew what to say after what had happened between Edward and Phil. Phil silently fumed where he sat, but I knew he wouldn't attack again, while Edward sat silent and contrite. Emmett was eating this up, and if he'd been able, I'm sure he'd be sitting there with a huge bowl of popcorn, waiting to see what was going to happen next. Rosalie sat and glared, and Lilly seemed to have relaxed a little too, now that I wasn't glaring at her.
Jasper looked troubled as he tried to deal with the tension in the room. You didn't need to be an empath to feel the strained emotional atmosphere. Alice looked at me expectantly.
"You didn't say anything to anyone, Alice?" I finally asked.
She shook her head "I didn't want to ruin the surprise. This is all new to me. Usually I know what's going to happen. This is really kind of exciting, waiting to find out what's going to happen next just like everybody else."
I sighed and turned to look at Edward. "And you… You've been hiding in your room brooding all afternoon?"
Emmett let out a howl of laughter. "He's Edward, Bella. We've been putting up with him sulking and brooding in his room for ninety years. The only time he was ever happy was when he was with you. It actually got worse once he realized what a total ass he was for letting you go, and then couldn't find you. Maybe now he'll lighten up a little, now that he's found you again."
"Don't get your hopes up. I'm nowhere close to forgiving him for what he's done."
"That's cool, girlfriend. What's the fun of being a vampire if we can't be a little vindictive and hold a grudge? I always knew you make one feisty little vampire."
Rosalie let out an exasperated harrumph, and glared at Emmett, and then turned back to me. "Well, I guess you got what you wanted, and don't tell me you did it so you and Edward could be together forever. Are you happy now? You've had enough time to find out what this life is like. So have you been 'Miss Goody Two Shoes', or are we going to hear another tale of murder and death?"
"I have very few regrets. I've done what I had to do to survive, Rosalie. I won't bore you with the details but my record isn't clean…"
"Isn't clean?" Edward exclaimed. "The only person in this room with more blood on their hands is Jasper, and only because he was turned one hundred and forty-six years ago."
I looked at Jasper, and he was hanging his head in shame. I was angry that Edward would lash out like that and bring Jasper's past up as an example.
"That's not fair, Edward! Jasper tries to be good now, and he didn't know there was another way to survive for decades. He doesn't deserve that."
"Thank you, Bella," Jasper drawled, "but I am well aware of the choices I've made in my life. I accept responsibility for my actions."
"As do I, I've done what I felt was necessary…"
"Why don't you introduce us to the rest of your family now," Carlisle suggested. "Then we can discuss this some more once everybody knows everyone else. I'm truly intrigued to hear your story. Your family members aren't like any other vampires I've ever met."
"Yes, I suppose they are rather unique in the vampire world, but not as different as you might imagine. I'm sure most of you are at least passing familiar with my mother, Renee Dwyer. Sitting beside her is her husband, my stepfather, Phil Dwyer."
I turned to Nessie and squeezed her hand tighter and looked into her eyes. She nodded back, and then I turned to address Carlisle.
"And this young lady sitting next to me is my daughter, Nessie."
There were gasps and looks of confused shock and awe, but Rosalie was the first to respond.
"Your daughter? You mean your daughter in the sense that you turned her and made her a vampire?"
"No. Nessie was born like this. She's my biological daughter…"
"That's impossible! You've only been gone close to ten years, unless she was born before you knew us…"
"No, she was born on November eleventh, 2001. Edward is her father. She's half human, half vampire."
Rosalie was dumbstruck for a minute, and then her wrath turned on Edward. "You bastard! She was pregnant and you made us leave? Oh all the low down, dirty, underhanded things you could have possibly stooped to…! You ran away and left your pregnant girlfriend to fend for herself? You abandoned her in the forest, and then had the audacity to tell us we were leaving for her own good? No wonder Phil hit you! I want to hit you too!"
"Is this true, Edward?" Carlisle asked, staring at Edward with a look of profound disappointment.
"I didn't know… I never would have made us leave if I knew Bella was pregnant! I only wanted what I thought was best for her…"
"And that's the part that really disturbs me the most, Edward!" I yelled at him, "Just who the hell do you think you are to decide what's best for me? Who gave you the right to make my decisions for me? People who care about each other and love each other sit down and talk things out and decide together. I wasn't your goddamned pet! I thought I was your girlfriend. Now I know just how much more than that I am! I told you over and over what I wanted, but you wouldn't even discuss it with me. You made up your mind, and expected me to just drop it and go along with what you had decided."
"You were still human… I didn't think you could understand…"
"You arrogant bastard! Of course I could understand! Just because you can read other peoples minds doesn't make you omnipotent or omniscient! You had no right to decide for me or to leave to protect me! In the end, I suppose it didn't matter, except you were gone and I was left alone to deal with the consequences. Maybe I got to choose my fate by choosing to be with you all those years ago, but in the end, I didn't have anymore choice than Rosalie or Esme. At least I was alive to raise our daughter…"
"I don't understand, Bella." Carlisle said. "Perhaps you could elaborate. Why didn't you have a choice?"
"Well, I suppose I had the choice between living and dying. I chose to live as a vampire rather than dying a mortal death. It wasn't a normal pregnancy, Carlisle. The pregnancy only lasted two months…"
"Two months? I take it you know the exact date of conception?"
"Sometime in September?"
"September 13, 2001, my eighteenth birthday…"
"Oh this just gets better and better!" Rosalie exclaimed "You goddamned dirty rotten bastard! You broke up with her two days after you had sex with her? And I suppose it was the first time!" Emmett had to physically restrain Rosalie from jumping off the couch to go after Edward.
"Rosalie! Language please!" Esme scolded her.
"You're going to call me on language? What do you have to say about Edward's conduct?"
"I suggest we allow Bella to recount her tale," Carlisle said, "and then we can discuss Edwards's behavior in private later. Suffice it to say that I am very disappointed in his decisions. Bella, would you care to continue please."
"Alright… I started to show and feel the baby after about three weeks on October third. That was when I finally figured out what was going on. I was having severe morning sickness, and I could barely keep solid food down. I decided I had to leave town or people would figure out that it wasn't a normal pregnancy. I discovered the money Alice had left me for school when I went to the bank to close my account."
"Alice left you money?" Carlisle asked, perplexed, and glanced at Alice.
"Yes, she left a twenty thousand dollar scholarship, but there were no restrictions, so I could spend it how I saw fit. That money probably saved countless human lives because it allowed us to rent a place to hide away from people when we were newborns."
"Well, thank you, Alice," Carlisle said.
"Anyhow, I knew I had to leave Forks to protect the secret and I needed help, but I had no idea who to turn to or what to do. I went to the house in Forks to try and find clues to where you had gone. I knew what I had with Edward was over, but I couldn't imagine the rest of you would abandon me if you knew the truth… That was when I found what else Alice had left for me…"
"Yes, my research venom." Carlisle said a little stiffly. "I was very upset with Alice about that for a long time. I take it that was how you facilitated your changes?"
"Just me, and it saved my life. I didn't use it gratuitously, and had you been there, I believe you wouldn't have begrudged me the necessity. It's the only thing that saved my life when Nessie was born. It was not a normal or natural child birth…"
"I can show you, Grandpa…" Nessie said, speaking for the first time.
Carlisle and Esme's eyes lit up at the appellation, as though they were realizing the significance of who Nessie really was for the first time.
Esme turned to me. "Nessie? That's a nick name." Then she turned to address Nessie. "What's your name dear?"
Nessie turned to me with a panicked look, but I squeezed her hand, and the turned back to Esme. "Her full name is Elizabeth Renesmee Swan, Elizabeth after Edward's mother. Her middle name is a combination of Renee and Esme. Unfortunately after she learned the truth about her father, she wouldn't let us call her Elizabeth anymore."
I saw Edward wince out of the corner of my eye, but I continued, regardless.
"Renesmee sounded too odd to her for her to allow us to call her that outside of the family, so Phil came up with Nessie as a nick name. Now days, she usually tells humans her name is Vanessa so she has an excuse to use Nessie."
"Renesmee?" Esme repeated with a wide smile. "Thank you, Bella, but I suppose I can see her point of view. It is a little odd and would attract undue attention."
"You named our daughter after my mother?" Edward asked.
"I do have a sense of continuity, Edward. Besides, you knew her name. I told you I'd named her for three of her grandmothers. You honestly didn't figure that out?"
"I had hope, but of course you hadn't explained your reasoning before."
"I remembered the story Carlisle had told me about your mother and how strong she had been. How she had practically sacrificed her own life so you'd survive. How she'd pleaded with him to save you with her dying breath. I knew none of this would have been possible without her sacrifice. I felt she deserved to be a part of our story. Of course Elizabeth Renesmee was my backup name when I was pregnant. I was convinced I was going to have a boy."
"You were?" Nessie asked in surprise.
"Well, I couldn't exactly go to the doctor and have an ultrasound done. It was a surprise until you were born."
"So the birth was difficult?" Carlisle prompted, curiously. "You mentioned you could show me. How might you accomplish that?"
"Nessie is gifted, Carlisle," I said. "She can project her memories and feelings and allow you to experience what she has. It requires physical contact…"
"Amazing! I would truly be most interested in whatever you'd be willing to share, but I'm curious about one thing first. Your daughter appears to be approximately seventeen years old, but she's only nine from the birthday you cited."
"Yes, that's true. She continued her accelerated growth that she had first exhibited in her two month gestation period after she was born. Her rate of growth began to taper of marginally after her birth, but she had full adult intelligence when she was six months old and appeared to be about equivalent to a three or four year old human by that time. She achieved this level of physical development by her seventh birthday, and I haven't recorded any major changes in her appearance or physical development since then. The majority of her human characteristics have faded as she's aged. I'm fairly convinced that she's stopped aging, although only time will tell."
"Astounding, truly astounding! Have you kept records of her growth?"
"Yes, she has extensive records of everything she could think of to measure, while I had to lay there and play lab rat. I suppose it helped her not to worry so much. For the longest time, she was convinced I was going to die of old age at fifteen. Personally I would have preferred to age a bit more so I at least looked twenty-something. C'mon, seriously, who wants to be a teenager forever?"
There was laughter and chuckles around the room. Apparently she'd hit upon a common gripe among most of the people present.
"That seems to be a common thread of conversation I've heard before. It's been a sore subject for decades among us. Now, if you don't mind, Nessie dear, I'd like to see what you'd be willing to share with me with your gift…"
"Alright…" Nessie stood up to approach Carlisle's chair.
"Nessie, you'll be nice, right?" I asked a little apprehensively.
She looked back at me and smiled. "Not a problem, mom. I can do G-rated."
"G-rated?" Carlisle asked with a grin. "I'll have you know I've been around the block a time or two, and I am a doctor after all. You don't need to protect my sensibilities."
"Oh, you'll get the full details of what you need to know. There were just some things I showed my father that he needed to know about our lives."
Nessie held out her hand to Carlisle, and he reached for her hand and took it. He seemed intrigued with her standing so close to him.
"Your hand is warm, almost human body temperature, and I can feel your pulse. I'd almost say you were human, but your scent isn't. It smells of vampire with just the lightest of human undertones…"
"Yes, I still have some human characteristics, but our diet is mostly the same. I can metabolize human food if necessary, although most of it tastes and smells disgusting. I have most of your strength and speed, but not quite as much endurance. I can sleep if I choose to, my body is almost as durable as yours, and I heal almost as fast."
"Truly amazing, the perfect mix of traits… Truly the best of both worlds… What about the bloodlust? Do you crave human blood?"
"Not how you mean. I have no bloodlust… My throat doesn't burn with the thirst, but I am driven by my instincts. I know humans are our natural prey animal, and there are times when I have difficulty understanding why mom refuses to live as she's intended to by her nature."
"I see feeding on humans as a kin to cannibalism. We all used to be human…"
"You all used to be human. I never was. I was born to this life. We are humanities predator, but we can discuss this later. Are you prepared?"
Nothing outwardly overt happened, but Carlisle's eyes took on a slightly glazed look as though he was seeing something other than what he was viewing from the sensory input from his own senses. His face held an expression of rapt attention and blissful wonder as he appeared to be completely enthralled by what he was being shown. It didn't last for long, and then Nessie stepped back as she released his hand.
"Amazing, your life has been truly remarkable…"
"That was quite the G-rated version. Why couldn't you have shared that with me instead?" Edward said.
"Because you're my father, and you needed to be aware of certain realities," Nessie said, turning toward Edward.
"Wait, I thought you said you couldn't read her mind? How did you see that too?" I asked.
"I can't read Nessie anymore than I can read you, but I can read Carlisle, and I could see what she was showing him. As she said, it was the G-rated version; the basic facts of her existence. How she was born, her accelerated growth, her hunting habits and basic abilities, places you've lived and how she learned and assimilated into society. It paints your life in a most favorable light, without all the gritty details and rampant bloodshed."
I shrugged, and Nessie returned to her seat beside me. "My life is my life. I've done what I needed to do to survive. Once bare survival wasn't a necessity anymore, I continued because I felt I was having a positive affect on the world as a whole. I seriously do not regret how I've lived, except for some of my accidents, and I can't say any of them were a total loss. I've never shed innocent blood."
"Might I inquire as to what exactly these decisions have entailed?" Carlisle asked curiously. "Edward keeps alluding to certain aspects of your life that he seems to take issue with. Would you care to share more on this subject, Bella?"
Edward reached into his pocket and handed Carlisle a card. I assumed it was the business card I had given him earlier this evening. I didn't mind. I had given him the card with the intention that he deliver it to Carlisle so he'd have my contact information. Carlisle perused the card and his eyebrows rose as he studied it.
"Swan and Associates Private Security? Dr. Isabella M. Benett, Security Specialist. It appears that you have been rather busy these last ten years." Carlisle turned to Alice. "How is it that you failed to turn this up in all the years you've been searching? The company is incorporated in Ohio."
Alice shrugged. "It wasn't exactly the sort of business I would have expected Bella to start. I'm sure it's turned up in searches I've run, but it still takes time to sift through millions of search results, and something like that would have been a low priority I probably would have filtered out. Now a bookstore or a teacher maybe I could believe, but c'mon. How many of us would have pictured Bella as a vigilante and bounty hunter?"
"Vigilante?" Carlisle asked.
"She hunts human criminals, Carlisle." Edward said. "Often operating outside the legal system, and killing them as often as not…"
"I do what I have to do to protect the secret. I only kill them when my true nature is revealed or if they resist apprehension. A lot of the time I'm able to turn them over to the authorities for prosecution."
"Badass!" Emmett exclaimed. "I knew you were gonna kick ass as a vampire when you were turned!"
"This is an interesting career choice, Bella…" Carlisle said carefully. "Normally we try to maintain a low profile and avoid contact with most aspects of the human world so we can live our lives quietly in peace…"
"I understand that, Carlisle. I realize I've chosen a different path. The Volturi didn't seem too upset about my career choice. They found nothing wrong with hunting criminals as long as I was discrete and followed the rules."
"You've had dealings with the Volturi?" Carlisle asked in a surprised tone of voice.
"Dmitri and Felix came looking for me when I was a newborn in South Dakota. They were mostly curious and wanted to make sure I understood the rules. They weren't upset with what I was doing, and actually claimed that a lot of new vampires start off the same way."
"I can see that," Jasper said contemplatively. "Criminals were a major source of recruits when I was still living in the south. They were less likely to balk at the lifestyle we introduced them to, and they were less likely to be noticed missing. I suppose catching them at the right time could prove most lucrative."
"So let me get this straight," Rosalie said. "You hunt down human criminals and then rob them for a living? Only sometimes you kill them when they resist or they figure out that you aren't human? How does that make you any better than the criminals you hunt?"
"I never claimed I was. I live according to my own sense of right and wrong. Let me ask you this. If you came across two groups of criminals making a drug deal, one group selling sacks of poison to put up for sale on the streets, and the other buying that poison to sell to kids and anyone willing to buy it, would you turn a blind eye and let them conduct their business?"
"I'd call the police, and turn them in."
"Ok. I can see that option. If possible, I usually turn them in to the cops too, only I keep the cash."
"How about this; you're out hunting and you find a place where a serial rapist has been dumping young girls bodies. You track him down, but when you find him, he has no criminal record or any prior arrests. He's been careful and has never been caught before for as much as a speeding ticket. If you turn him in, he'll be released within twenty-four hours because there's no physical evidence linking him to the case. You can't exactly go to the police and tell them you smelled him and know he did it. Do you let him walk away?"
"I… I don't know what I'd do… I'd have to be there to know…"
"It was an easy decision for me. I caught him in the act. The girl was thirteen years old. He isn't raping anymore little girls now."
"He didn't just die though, did he?" Edward asked.
"No… There was a fight and he cut himself with the knife he had. The bloodlust was too strong… I didn't hurt the girl though. I left her for the paramedics."
"You wouldn't have accidents like that if you weren't looking for trouble…"
"You know, I used to say the same thing, Edward," Renee said, "but then I realized the good that Bella does. She might operate outside the legal system, and I don't like the fact that she kills some of these criminals she stops, but overall, she makes a difference in the world. It's not in her nature to simply stand by and let bad things happen around her when she has the ability to make a difference."
"You approve of what she does?" Edward asked incredulously.
"I don't necessarily approve of everything she does, no, but I understand and accept it. A lot of what she does now is perfectly legitimate work. I'm proud of the fact that she's had to make tough decisions, and I think they were the right decisions most of the time. She could have quit and walked away a long time ago, but it's not like her to bury her head in the sand and turn a blind eye to what's going on in the world around us."
"I can't believe you actually encourage her! This sounds extremely dangerous… The potential for exposure alone…"
"It's not like she's flying by the seat of her pants, or making this up as she goes," Phil said. "She's had extensive training and education in this field of study."
"Yes, I can see that," Carlisle said. "What exactly is your doctorate in, Bella?"
"I have a PhD in Criminology. My bachelor's degree is in criminal justice, but I did my masters in criminology. I also hold special certifications in crime scene investigation and private investigation. I consult with law enforcement as a criminologist and profiler, and also take clients for personal security and fugitive retrieval. That's really made up the bulk of my practice for the last three years. Nessie and I still dabble in crime fighting, but we haven't done a really big bust since we were living in Chicago."
"You've involved our daughter in you career as well?"
"It's been sort of a family business since the beginning…"
"Do Phil and Renee help out as well?"
"No, not really. Mom was never really too enthusiastic about my career choice, and Phil has been mostly behind the scenes support. He had some experience with rough neighborhoods growing up and traveling when he used to play ball. He gave me my first lessons in how to be streetwise, the basics of how to fight and use a gun. He taught me how to find the people I needed to meet to get what we needed to survive. It all really started off with me trying to buy papers and fake IDs, and kind of escalated from there.
"Truth be told, I preferred knowing that Phil was home to take care of Nessie and mom if something happened to me. He was kind of like my insurance policy in the early days to get them out safely if something happened to me. Phil works as a freelance sports photographer now, and Renee has her own career running a check cashing store and payday loan company. She has experience with that kind of work, and it seemed like a good way for us to filter cash back into the system."
"Why would you want to open that kind of business?" Edward asked. "Those companies simply prey upon people that can't adequately manage their money, and trap people into an endless cycle of repeat loans. It's like you're charging them a fee to use their own money."
"We don't force people to use our service," Renee said. "Besides, it was the perfect sort of job for me. I'll be the first to admit my control isn't the greatest, but I was bored sick sitting home all the time. This type of business allows me to work around people with out having to deal with people continuously. It helps when there's a thick window of bullet proof glass between you and the customers, and you talk to them through an intercom."
"If you can't be around people, why take the chance at all…"
"Don't put words in my mouth, Edward! You're still far from being in my good graces. Simply because I don't think Phil should fight with you doesn't mean I particularly like you. You've done nothing but lie to me as long as I've known you. You've lied to me, you've lied to Bella, and now you have the audacity to question my choice of profession.
"I didn't say I couldn't be around people. I simply feel uncomfortable around humans sometimes and prefer not to take chances. I'm sure you know exactly what I mean. This sort of work allows me to get out of the house and have a career without constantly having humans in my face."
"I apologize for lying to you, but you were still human at the time. I was obligated to protect the secret. Actually I'm glad we've had this opportunity to clear the air. I assume Bella has told you the truth about what happened in Phoenix. I'm sorry I couldn't tell you the truth then, but it wasn't something we can simply share with people."
I noticed Lilly perk up and stiffen when Edward mentioned Phoenix. She winced as though something painful was associated with the memory.
"Well, thank you for at least acknowledging your lie. I'm willing to move on. I understand why you couldn't tell the truth, but I still don't like it."
"Carlisle, I've made our introductions, but Renee, Phil, and Nessie might not be familiar with everyone in your family, and you have a new addition since you lived in Forks. Maybe you could bring us up to speed?"
"Of course, Bella, I've totally forgotten my manners." Carlisle proceeded to point out his family and name them for us. "You're all familiar with Edward. He's been with me the longest. Esme joined me next, and is my mate and constant companion. I found Rosalie next and she in turn found Emmett and brought him home. Rosalie and Emmett are mates as well. Alice and Jasper found us next. They came to us because Alice had seen them joining our family.
"Our newest edition is Lilly, Miss Lillian Bailey…"
"Lillian Bailey… That name seems familiar." Renee said. Then she turned to Phil. "Didn't the family that bought our old house in Phoenix have a daughter named Lilly?"
"I think so…"
"They did," Edward said. He turned to look at Lilly. "Would you like to tell them, or should I?"
"Please, Edward…" Lilly said. "I still have difficulty talking about it."
"As you wish," Then he turned back to Phil and Renée. "Lilly is the daughter of the people who bought your house in Phoenix when you moved to Florida, although she was only sixteen at the time. You are aware of what actually transpired when James chased Bella when she was still human. What you don't know is that Victoria was determined to exact revenge upon my family for killing James. Victoria returned to the Seattle area with the intention of Killing Bella to make me suffer.
"After the events that led to mine and Bella's separation…"
"You mean when you broke up with her and abandoned her in the forest." Renee said bitterly.
"Yes, well… I decided I had to deal with Victoria to keep Bella safe. I tracked her to Seattle, but she discovered I was hunting her and she fled south. I followed her to Southern California but she eluded me. She took a bus to Phoenix, hiding inside the tinted window interior to allow her to travel during the day. She allowed me to see her destination in her mind. She wanted me to chase her."
"Our old house!" Renee exclaimed. "Oh my god, Lilly! I'm so sorry… I thought that nightmare was over…"
"Not quite over, no. I traveled to Phoenix as quickly as I could, but I was hours behind Victoria. The Bailey's were dead when I arrived, but Victoria had bitten Lilly in an effort to delay me. She was already changing, and I couldn't simply leave her there."
"Where did you find her?" I asked.
"In your old bedroom. She was lying in bed, burning when I got there."
"Why would Victoria do that?" I asked, shocked.
"I'm sure you can figure it out, Bella. She did it to be cruel. She was in your house in the room you grew up in, and she looked so much like you she could have been your twin. Victoria did it to hurt me. She knew I couldn't leave her there."
"What did you do?"
"What do you think? Alice called me and told me what to do so I could continue chasing Victoria. I took Lilly to a motel and left her there until Alice came for her. She took her back to Alaska before she woke up, and Jasper saw to her training. It was a good experience for both of them."
"I have to say Edward is correct," Jasper said. "I had never trained a newborn not to hunt humans. I must admit, I had some preconceived notions about newborns and how they learn and react to their environment. It was an eye opening experience that both Lilly and I benefited from. So far, Lilly has excellent control, and has never tasted human blood."
"So what you're saying is she probably never would have even been turned if Edward hadn't been a total ass and walked out on me. She's lived the life I would have led if he hadn't left me."
"Yeah, pretty much."
"Jasper! You know why I did what I did!" Edward exclaimed, shocked at what Jasper had admitted.
"Yeah, and I told you, you were wrong then. You should have never walked away."
"All you've done is cause more grief for the people around you because you insist that you know what's best for everyone else! It's clear that you don't. Leaving Bella only caused a rift to form between you! You didn't prevent her from becoming a vampire, and now three other people have been turned against their will as a direct result of your actions.
"You drove Victoria into Lilly's bedroom, and I'm assuming Phil and Renee are the way they are because you drove Bella away from us. You seem to take issue with the career she's chosen, but she was forced into that life because of you. I can't say I blame her, and I find nothing wrong with her chosen career. I actually admire her resolve to take action and try and make a difference in the world. It's clear that she knows what she's doing, and has done what she's had to do to protect the secret."
"Thank you, Jasper." I said. I agreed with everything he had said, and I was grateful, but this was rapidly turning into an Edward bashing session, and as much as I was mad at him, I still felt the need to protect him. It was time to change the subject.
"Rosalie, Edward said you and Emmett were running a garage."
Rosalie seemed to perk up a little. This was something that was near and dear to her heart. "Yes, we are. Do you need a tune up or something?"
"Well, I might be interested in seeing what you can do to my S4. It's a 2005, but if you can get some more power out of it, I might hold onto it a little longer instead of upgrading."
"An Audi V8?"
"Yes, with the manual transmission."
"I know a couple of tricks. Let me have it for a couple of days, and I'll see what I can do."
"Ok. Are you authorized to do factory maintenance on BMW motorcycles?"
"You ride motorcycles? Yes, I'm authorized to do factory maintenance. What kind of bike do you have?"
"Nessie got me interested in bikes. She bought one when I told her she couldn't buy a car…"
"You didn't say I couldn't buy a motorcycle. You were very specific…"
"And you split hairs finer than your Aunt Alice."
"Hey! How is this my fault?" Alice asked.
"Because if I didn't know better, I'd say you'd been giving her lessons in how to get her own way for the last ten years." Then I turned back to Rosalie. "We have a pair of BMWR1200GS Adventures, and they're about due for regular maintenance and a tune up."
"That is so cool!" Emmett said. "Are they fast?"
"Oh… 'bout 200mph on a straight away." Nessie said. "They'll cruise at 150mph easily on decent roads, less off-road."
"They're off-road capable as well?" Jasper asked. "I have a Ducati that Alice and I take out occasionally, but it's strictly for road use."
"Yes, the Adventure is one of BMW's enduro series bikes. It uses electronic suspension adjustment to switch between road suspension and off-road suspension on the fly."
"That does sound interesting. I might have to borrow one some time to give it a try."
We talked cars and bikes for a while. The atmosphere became friendlier, and Emmett struck up a conversation with Phil about sports and photography and different teams they liked. Esme approached Renee and got her talking about what it was like having Nessie around and what she was like growing up. Nessie got involved in that conversation to make sure Renee got the facts right.
Rosalie didn't seem so belligerent now. She seemed to accept me more now that she knew what had happened. I suppose I'd made some correct choices about my life from her point of view. She seemed enchanted by the fact that Nessie was my daughter, and I hadn't simply changed because I wanted to be a vampire, but because it was my only option. I didn't have the heart to tell her I would have done it regardless, and I didn't regret my life. All things considered, I liked being a vampire, and I could totally sympathize with Emmett. This life was so much better than my human life had been, even if I did have issues with Edward.
Eventually we ended up discussing what the Cullens had been up to for the last ten years. In all honesty, it seemed a little boring to me. It was so much like how they had lived in Forks, only the place names had changed.
"Anyhow, after Edward and I lost your trail in South Dakota, we pretty much went home." Alice said. "We went to Alaska for a while until Lilly could be around people. We spent another year there while we dug for clues, but you did a good job of covering your tracks. Edward took some side trips to follow up on leads, but we never found anything concrete."
"Eventually the four of us rejoined the rest of the family in New Hampshire. Emmett and Rosalie were already attending college, so Jasper and I started classes too, a year behind them."
"What about Edward and Lilly? Didn't they go to school with you too?"
"Well, Lilly had never finished high school," Rosalie said, "so they enrolled in the local high school so Lilly could get her diploma. Edward went with here to keep her out of trouble and so she wouldn't be alone. It was her first time doing school as a vampire, so we all thought it would be good for him to be there…"
They could obviously see the look on my face and hear the rumbling in my chest. Intellectually, I could see where it was a good idea, but I really didn't like it on an instinctive level.
"It was perfectly innocent, Bella," Alice said. "Nothing happened. Edward and Lilly aren't like that. They aren't really together… They just pretended while they were at school…"
"Edward was gone most of the time anyhow when we weren't in school." Rosalie continued. "He was searching for you for years, but he never found any solid leads. Apparently he was searching in the wrong places, looking for the wrong clues."
"After we graduated again, we took some time off." Alice continued. "Edward and Lilly did the college thing after high school. Esme even took some classes to help her out."
"So, this is your first return to high school since Forks?"
"For me and Jasper, of course Edward and Lilly did high school in New Hampshire. Rosalie and Emmett have declined to join us this time around."
"And it's a good thing too." Rosalie commented. "Can you imaging how much attention we'd gather if there were eight of us going? I thought five was too many before Lilly joined us. Six is going to be hard enough."
"It should be easier to fit in and be anonymous in a bigger school, Right? Besides, it's not like we have a ton of classes together. We only share one class…"
"That was the green day schedule, Bella." Alice reminded me. "What classes do you have tomorrow for white day?"
"Oh… Umm…AP English, Art, Spanish, and then US History II after lunch."
Alice nodded. "AP English with Mrs. Jensen?"
"Art with Ms. Bergeron?
"Spanish with Senior Flores, and US History II with Mr. Abrams?
I sighed, "Yes…"
"Ok, you have me, Jasper, and Lilly in AP English, me and Lilly in Art Class, Edward and Jasper in Spanish, and Jasper and Lilly in History."
I sighed again. "Nessie has the same schedule as me, so she's in all of the same classes too. I suppose that isn't so bad. I only have one class tomorrow with Edward. I can survive that."
Rosalie looked down for a minute, as though she was lost in thought, then she looked up and looked me in the eye.
"Bella, I get it that you're totally pissed off at him… You have every right to be. I'm pissed off at how he's treated you too, so don't take this the wrong way… You know what's going on, right? You know why you're feeling certain things and feel like you need to defend him, right?"
"Yes… I know… I hate it, but I know what's going on... Sometimes I just wish it was as simple as him breaking up with me and having to deal with my ex being in the same town, but this is so much worse… Do you want to know what really pisses me off though?"
"What…?" Rosalie asked.
"He knew when I was still human and he lied to me about what was happening to us. He knew what I was to him even then, and he still left me. He knew it Rosalie, and played it off like it was something any human would feel if they were dating a vampire."
"Are you sure…?" She asked, shocked.
"Jesus Christ, we were practically shooting sparks when we were together! I'm surprised we didn't light up in the dark, and I was still human! I could tell when he stepped into a dark room just from the electricity pulsing between us the second he entered! He could feel everything I felt. Hell, I asked him about it, and he lied to me! He already knew he was going to leave. He was just trying to work up the strength to do it. What happened on my birthday was just the final straw that broke the camels back. It just made up his mind for him."
Rosalie and Alice gasped in shock, and then both glared at Edward where he was sitting speaking quietly with Carlisle.
"That arrogant Bastard!" Rosalie hissed. "We suspected there might be more than a simple relationship between you, but we didn't think it had gone that far because he was so adamant that you stay human. We thought if you were bonding that he'd be forced to change you. I thought it hadn't gotten that far because he was able to leave… I'm so sorry, Bella."
"Thank you, Rosalie… I just don't know how to deal with this now. I know what we share, but he walked out on me. He knew what I was to him, and he turned his back on that and left me there in the forest. How can I possibly forgive that? So he changed his mind later. Big deal. How do I know that isn't simply him giving in to instinct and nature forcing his hand?"
"Does it matter? Alice asked. "You know it's inevitable. How long do you think you can fight this?"
"As long as I have to. He rejected me and walked out on our relationship after he knew what we shared. He can't possibly expect me to simply welcome him back with open arms after what he's done. If I have any shred of self respect at all, then at least for the rest of this eternity or until hell freezes over. I can be very stubborn when necessary."
I noticed that Edward must have been following our conversation as well. He excused himself and left the room. From what I could tell, he left the house as well. I didn't mind. I'd had ten years to come to terms with this. Some space now was good for both of us.
I had suspected at first, and then I'd known for sure after I'd met Garrett and learned the truth. I was bonded to Edward, and he was my soul mate. We were bonded for all eternity, and would be unable to find happiness or love with any other partner. Perhaps it was ironic that he had lived in torment for so long because he was alone, and then when he finally did find his mate he had horribly botched the experience so that now both of us were just as miserable as he had been all along.
This was so much worse than a bad marriage gone wrong, or an on again off again relationship with a boyfriend you just couldn't seem to let go of. There was no divorce possible for us, and breaking up only put distance between us, but didn't end the relationship. No, the sick fact of the matter was that this was it for both of us. It simply was not physically or emotionally possible for either of us to love anyone else.
Oh we could pretend. We could have other lovers, just as I had been able to be with Garrett when I only suspected the truth, but that was all it was. A lie with nothing deeper possible between either of us and whoever else we were with. I wasn't shallow enough or desperate enough to want that kind of relationship with somebody else.
I had figured I could go on some dates while we went to school to help Nessie out and help her make a connection with humans. It was a necessary evil if I was going to go to dances or certain functions and social events with her. It wasn't like I was really looking for any kind of relationship. It was just high school dating for fun. I figured I could play the game and say the right things as long as they knew that there was no love involved and it was just for fun. I had no intention of letting things get beyond holding hands and a couple of kisses if necessary, but having Edward show up here made even that sham very difficult.
An intense jealousy was an integral part of the bond we shared between us. I didn't want to feel it and I fought it, but it was purely instinctual, and I had very little control over it. The simple fact that I was fighting my relationship with Edward only intensified it and made it worse. It was why I reacted badly to Lilly, although I knew she was probably just as innocent in this situation as everyone claimed she was. I knew how Edward would react if he saw me with other boys. Perhaps it said something about the perverse nature of my psyche, but I wanted to see him struggle like I did. I knew I would end up testing his resolve and control before this was all said and done. Hopefully there wouldn't be too many deaths involved.
My conversation with Alice and Rosalie had effectively ended when I found myself lost in thought. They had tried to continue at first but had relented and discussed the situation quietly amongst themselves when they realized I wasn't responding anymore. I was broken out of my reverie when Jasper came over to join us.
"Excuse me for intruding, Bella. I was wondering if I could have a word with you."
Having Jasper walk up to me and actually speak to me was a new and shocking enough experience to get my attention. I had spoken to Jasper on occasion in the past, but he had always maintained his distance, and our conversations had been few and far between. I was intrigued with what he had to say.
"Of course, Jasper…"
"Would you care to step outside for a minute? I would prefer to speak to you privately."
"Alright… We aren't going to run into Edward, are we?" I asked as I followed Jasper to the door.
"No. I'm not taking you to him, and I'm sure you'd know it if he was anywhere nearby. Edward's gone for a run. I'm seriously glad I'm not a deer or a mountain lion tonight. I doubt if he'll return before morning to dress for school."
Jasper led me out through the sliding wall and past the pool out into the backyard proper, and then indicated that I should follow him as he started to jog towards the river and then began to run. I followed and leapt the river behind him. He stopped when we were out of earshot of the house at a small outcropping of rock overlooking the river. There were a couple of large flat rocks that looked as though they'd been arranged here. Jasper indicated that I should have a seat, but he remained standing, pacing nervously rather than sitting down on the other rock.
"What's wrong, Jasper?" I asked. "You seem nervous…"
"I've been thinking about what I would say to you in this situation for ten years now, and now that I'm finally faced with the opportunity, words escape me… I didn't have all the facts before, Bella… Now I know just how much worse I've made everything. I cannot begin to tell you how sorry I am for what happened on you eighteenth birthday. I was weak and gave in to my baser urges. Everything that's happened to you is in part my fault…"
"No! You can't blame yourself for this Jasper! This is between me and Edward!"
"He wouldn't have left if I hadn't snapped at you… He didn't have the strength to leave you. His resolve was weakening. He still had a long ways to go, but eventually he would have seen reason and realized that he had to change you. If it wasn't for me and my weakness, he would have been around long enough to know you were pregnant. Everything would have been different…"
"I suppose that's a possibility, but he made the decision to leave. I need to apologize to you, Jasper…"
"You have nothing to apologize for, Bella. It was my fault for what happened…"
"Oh quit playing the martyr, Jasper. I know exactly how hard it was for you to resist that night. You don't know everything that you were up against… That afternoon before we went to the party was my first time with Edward… With anyone… I was bleeding, Jasper. It was light and normal, even expected after what we'd done. I'd put a panty liner in my underwear when I got dressed, but it just soaked up the blood and wicked it away from my skin…"
"Menstrual blood doesn't normally affect us that way, Bella, as I'm sure you're well aware…"
"It wasn't menstrual blood, Jasper. It wasn't my period. I was bleeding because I wasn't a virgin anymore. It was fresh blood, and I know how that affects us. I wanted to get away to the ladies room to check the panty liner, but there was no time. Everything happened before I had the chance. I should have made Alice wait, and excused myself to go to the restroom and check, but I was embarrassed what you'd all think or say if I did, so I waited."
"You shouldn't have to apologize for being human, Bella… Alice explained this to me. She knew what had happened, but it still doesn't excuse my actions that night."
"You shouldn't have to apologize for being a vampire, Jasper. I understand. I never blamed you, Jasper, but if it makes you feel any better, I accept your apology. We've all been there… I know what its like. I know how hard it can be. Can we just be friends now and move past this?"
He finally seemed to relax and sat down on the other flat rock.
"Of course, Bella, It is much easier to be your friend now that I don't want to kill you all the time. I'd like to think that I've always been your friend. I just had to keep my distance before."
"I've always considered you to be my friend too, Jasper. It hurt when Edward took you all away from me. I couldn't believe he had that much power to make all of you leave like that…"
"He didn't, but circumstances just worked out that way. Rosalie and Emmett had already left of their own accord. Rosalie had issues back then that made her not want to accept you."
"Yes, we've talked. I understand her reasoning now."
"I know what she told you. There's more to it than what she's told you, but that isn't an issue anymore. Of course Emmett was going to be wherever Rosalie was. He told Edward he was an idiot for leaving, but he let him make his own choice. I had to leave after that night. I had fundamental issues of guilt and weakness that I had to resolve…"
"No, I had to go. I couldn't live with my sense of betrayal… I already considered you part of the family, Bella. You were like a sister to me and I knew you were Edward's mate. I knew what it would have done to him if I killed you. I needed distance and time to come to terms with what I had done. Of course Alice left with me. She wouldn't let me go through that alone, but it forced her to leave you too."
"Yes, Alice explained why she left…"
"She fought with him over you, Bella. She didn't want to leave, and she knew what it would do to you. She made him promise to check on you after six months, but of course you were already long gone. Alice came back to leave the venom and the money for you, but all of her visions were jumbled after that night. The future had been carefully laid out and was moving toward its logical conclusion before that accident with the paper cut. She didn't know what was going to happen then, but she wanted to give you choices. She was convinced you'd change yourself and then come up to Denali looking for us."
"Only I figured out I was pregnant first, and couldn't change then. I knew if I used the venom before Nessie was born, it would have killed her. My body would have rejected her and aborted the pregnancy when I burned through the change. I had to wait until she was born, and then it was the only thing that could save me."
"So you're like the rest of us in that regard then."
"I still would have done it anyhow, Jasper. If Nessie had been delivered naturally and I was healthy and whole after she was born, I still would have injected the venom to start the change. I don't regret this life. I was destined to be a vampire, Jasper. Regardless of what Edward might think, I wanted this."
"I suppose it's not a bad life the way you and Carlisle live here in the north. I've certainly had more than my fair share of years and it's not so bad having Alice to share my life with. But what about you? Are you content to be alone? You know, if you…"
"I have Nessie and Phil and Renee. I'm not lonely, and Nessie fills the void in my life that Edward created when he left. I don't need him, Jasper."
"Ok…, but he ne…"
"Not yet, Jasper, Ok? This is all still too new. I need more time to deal with all of this, ok? I'm not ready to deal with his needs yet. He still has a lot to answer for."
"Alright, I can accept that."
"What about Carlisle and Esme?"
"Excuse me? I don't understand…"
"You told me why everybody else left. Why did they let him get away with it?"
"Carlisle deferred to Edward's judgment, and accepted his decision. He assumed he hadn't bonded as deeply as he obviously had because he was capable of leaving. Unfortunately I was in no condition to fight for you and give the lie to the nature of your relationship. It's another case of me falling short of what was required of me when you needed me most. I'm sure if Carlisle had known the truth or had all the facts about how far your relationship had progressed, he wouldn't have let Edward talk them into leaving.
"Esme was distraught. She realized what our leaving would do to both of you. It devastated her, but she comes from another generation in another time, and she deferred to Carlisle's decision to accept Edward's request that they leave."
"Well, I'm definitely not a shrinking violet anymore. I can stand up to Edward, and I wouldn't have let him get away with that crap now. If nothing else, the last ten years have forced me to grow a backbone and learn to stand up for myself. He isn't going to control my life and dictate to me how I should live."
"And that's exactly what he needs, Bella. You complement each other. He's brilliant, but arrogant and thinks he's always right. He needs somebody to call him on his crap and not let him get his way all the time. That's what being mates is all about."
"So not ready to go there yet, Jasper."
"I understand. Just thought I'd put it out there so you're thinking about it though."
"We should head back. I still have to talk to Carlisle before we leave tonight."
I got up off the rock, and Jasper got up too. I let him lead the way and we started a leisurely trek back to the house while we chatted.
"Ok. So how is Nessie adapting to high school? This is her first time, isn't it?"
"It's challenging for both of us, but that's mainly just adapting to being in school. It's her first time physically attending school with humans, yes. It's a first for me too in that regard, but she finished high school three years ago. She's almost done with her undergraduate degree now."
"Really, how did she manage that if this is the first time she's gone to school?"
"This is the modern age, Jasper. You know, the internet isn't just for porn and shopping. She went to a virtual high school online."
"I've heard of online college courses before. I didn't realize there was online high school too."
"Yes, there are even online home school programs for grade school equivalents. I did most of my college work online. There were some lab classes that required I attend an actual college for a couple of weeks, and some field study experience and interning that required meeting the professor at a variety of locations, but for the most part, it was all independent study and group projects in an online virtual environment."
"Huh. Amazing, I guess I'm behind the times. So what is Nessie majoring in?"
"She's studying Business administration with a concentration in computer systems management. She's been running the business side of our company and doing most of my research work since she was three years old. She's remarkably adept at setting up wire taps, hacking bank records, researching criminal records and anything else information or technology related that we need. She handles relations with our attorneys as well."
"Now you're just making me feel old and inadequate, Bella" Jasper laughed. "That's what I do for our family. Maybe I'll have to sit down with my niece and see if she can teach me any new tricks."
"I wouldn't be surprised if she could. She amazes me with what she can come up with sometimes."
We were back at the house now and walking up on the porch as we made our way to the door back into the house.
"It was really good talking to you, Jasper."
"This was something I've needed to do for a long time, Bella. If you ever need anything, don't hesitate to ask. I'll be there for you next time. You have my word on that."
"Thanks, Jasper. I need to speak with Carlisle now."
He nodded, and we walked into the house. It looked like everyone was getting along together now. It appeared that Nessie was using her ability to show the others the 'G-rated' version of our life that Carlisle had seen. I assumed she was tailoring it to her audience to show them the parts they'd be interested in. Renee was chatting with the girls now, and Lilly had joined the conversation. Phil was chatting with Carlisle and Emmett, and seemed to be staying out of trouble. Edward hadn't returned.
I walked over to where Carlisle was speaking with Phil and Emmett. I could see Phil was enjoying himself. He usually had to wait until he was out on the road to indulge in sports related discussions. Living with three women had it's limitations in that regard as none of us was really into the sports that interested him, but he made do regardless. I knew mom still managed to keep him entertained after ten years, and there were no indications that they were even close to slowing down.
"Hello, Bella," Carlisle greeted me. "You appear to have enjoyed your conversation with Jasper. It's good to see you back with the family again."
"Thank you, Carlisle, I did. It was good talking to Jasper. We can finally be closer than we were back in Forks."
"I'm glad you two are getting along. He's felt guilty about what happened ten years ago for a very long time."
"It wasn't his fault, and I never blamed him for what happened. That's history now, and I'm ready to move past it."
"Just with Jasper, or are you offering second chances all around?"
"No, I'm not quite ready to be that magnanimous, but I hold no grudges with present company."
"Alright, I suppose I can accept that, considering the circumstances."
"There were some things I'd like to discuss with you in your professional capacity as a doctor, Carlisle. Is there someplace we could speak privately?"
"Yes, I have an office upstairs. Were these concerns regarding your own health? There really isn't much we have to worry about in this second life."
"No, actually, I was going to ask Nessie to join us. There are some things I'd like to discuss with you about her."
"Ok. I was hoping we'd have an opportunity to discuss her unique physiology some more."
Of course Nessie had heard me when I mentioned her name, and she'd looked over from where she was talking with Alice, Lilly, and Rosalie. I beckoned her over, and she gave me a pained, somewhat exasperated expression, but she excused herself and walked over to join us.
"Do we really have to do this mom? I'm fine. There's nothing wrong with me. I'm healthy as a horse."
"Even horses have check ups. I suppose I could take you to the vet, but I don't know any that are vampires too."
"Actually, I could probably give you a referral, but you'd have to travel to Europe to see her. She has a very fine stable." Carlisle said with a grin.
"Ha ha, you two are just hilarious. I suppose if you're going to make me do this, we might as well get it over with."
"Please follow me. We can go up to my office and talk privately."
Nessie nodded resignedly, and we followed Carlisle upstairs to his office. There was a heavy solid wooden door on the wall, and he held it open while we walked inside. I noticed the walls looked thicker, and then he closed the door behind us.
I looked around as he walked to his desk to sit down, and I was immediately reminded of his study in Forks. The same paintings were arranged on the wall around the door and the room was decorated in dark shades of natural wood with fully loaded bookcases completely lining two walls from floor to ceiling. There was a window seat behind his desk overlooking the front exposure of the home flanked by waist high cabinets, a counter space and numerous shelves filled with curios and various and assorted items and equipment.
The desk looked like the same hand carved desk that had graced his office in Forks. There were two leather chairs in front of the desk, and a leather sofa against the wall with the doors, below the paintings. A low table in front of the sofa held assorted magazines and professional journals.
Carlisle sat down at his desk and indicated that Nessie and I should sit down.
Carlisle waited until we were seated, and then said, "You said you wanted to see me in my professional capacity as a doctor. Did you have some specific concerns that you'd like to address?"
"I noticed the walls looked thicker here. Is this room sound proofed?"
"Yes, it is. Nobody else in the house should be able to hear what you say in this room, unless they were standing right outside the door, and then you'd most likely know they were there."
Nessie gave a sigh of relief, and then I continued. "Alright, well I suppose my biggest concern stems from Nessie's human characteristics. You already noted her body temperature and the fact that she has a pulse and therefore a beating heart. She also menstruates and has a period. It's fairly regular but she has terrible PMS and cramps every month. She can metabolize human food, but her metabolism operates so efficiently and fast that over the counter medications have no effect on her. They burn out of her system before they have any noticeable effect."
"That's truly remarkable. I assume you've tested a variety of over the counter medications?"
"Yes," Nessie answered. "I've tried everything available that mom or grandma could think of. The only thing that has any effect is regular exercise. Generally I go to the gym or my martial arts class almost seven days a week for two or three hours of intensive exercise."
"Have you noticed any other symptoms that you'd like to share with me, Nessie? Is there anything that you might have been reluctant to discuss with your mother?" I could see something in her eyes, and I knew she must have been reluctant to discuss it. I thought we'd talked about everything, but apparently she was holding something back.
"I can step out into the hallway if there's something you need to say to Carlisle that you don't want to say in front of me, Nessie."
"No, it's ok. I just never brought it up before because I knew it would probably upset you and grandma."
"It's ok, dear," Carlisle said. "It would help my diagnosis if I had all of the pertinent information."
"Ok… Don't take this the wrong way, and I'm not just saying this to upset you, but when I have the PMS and cramps, I usually get cravings too."
"It's normal for women to experience cravings for certain foods during their menstrual cycle. It's about as common as having cramps in the first place."
"I don't crave food; I crave blood, Human blood. I've experimented with the cravings, and different kinds of blood. I know what will satisfy them. It gets really intense sometimes, but I've been able to resist them so far. They make me want to cheat, but I haven't. We made an agreement, and I've stuck to it so far. The funny thing is… I get the sense that if I gave in to my craving, it would relieve all of my symptoms."
"How could you possibly know that?" I asked.
Nessie held out her hand to me, and I tentatively took it in mine. I practically doubled over in the chair from the intensity of the sensations wracking my body. The cramping sensation was horrible and radiated through my lower stomach and back. And then I felt the cravings she had described. I understood immediately what she meant when she said se was craving human blood. It wasn't like bloodlust at all. There was no thirst or burning, but a hunger all the same and I knew what would relieve the symptoms I was feeling.
Suddenly the sensation cut off, and she released my hand. I was shaken and slightly disoriented and had to shake my head to collect my thoughts.
"Ok, I believe you. Is it really that bad every month? Why didn't you say something before?"
"Would it have done any good to complain? Who were we going to go to about it? There's only one thing I can see giving me any relief, and I promised you I wouldn't do that as long as I live with you."
"It appears that you have come to a consensus of opinion considering your symptoms. While the experience didn't appear at all pleasant for your mother, I believe this is a unique circumstance for a doctor to actually experience the patient's condition that he is attempting to diagnose. In the interest of science, perhaps you should share the experience with me as well."
"Alright… I'll share with you exactly what I shared with mom, but I don't know how well this will work. You're a man, and your plumbing is different, but I'll try if you're willing."
Carlisle held out his hand and Nessie took it in hers. His eyes pinched shut and he visibly winced in pain, he gasped a sudden sharp breath, but then it was over almost a quickly as it had started, and he released her hand.
"Amazing… That was truly a unique experience. I can understand and appreciate your discomfort much more accurately now. I agree with you when you say that you're craving human blood. It's really too bad that animal blood has no effect on your symptoms."
"So that's it, I'm just supposed to suffer through until I'm forced to finally give in and do something about it? The cramps and cravings have slowly intensified over time. They're much worse now than they were five years ago. Eventually I'm going to be forced to act on my urges, and satisfy the cravings, or become totally debilitated during my period. I'm not opposed to the idea, but I don't want to disappoint mom…"
"I didn't say that. We have several options for therapy without resorting to gratuitous slaughter. For starters, I can supply you with some donor blood to test your theory that human blood will alleviate your symptoms."
"Ok," I said. "That's a good start. There was something else I was concerned about too. Nessie has a period, and normally that would tend to indicate that she can get pregnant."
"Oh… Well, yes that would be a valid concern I suppose. Are you sexually active?" Carlisle asked.
Nessie blushed bright red. "No… I've considered it before, but I don't have a serious boyfriend and I haven't for a while."
"Actually I was wondering if you thought any of the oral contraceptives might be appropriate for her. I know low doses of the pill are often prescribed to help regulate your period, and sometimes help to alleviate some of the symptoms."
"I don't really think any of them would work for Nessie. Her body chemistry and hormones probably work differently. A barrier contraceptive and spermicidal foam would probably be more affective for her situation, given her unique physiology."
"We've discussed safe sex, and Nessie knows how to use condoms if necessary. I was just hoping that maybe you could prescribe something that didn't rely on having to remember to use it to be effective."
"I can run some tests, but I doubt they will indicate an oral contraceptive will be effective. They work by altering your body's hormone levels to prevent ovulation. The fact that Nessie regenerates and heals so rapidly would likely cause her body to resist artificial manipulation of her body chemistry. I would suggest that you continue to use condoms for an effective method of contraception."
Nessie blushed again. "I don't need a contraceptive yet, condoms or otherwise. There isn't anything to prevent."
"Yes, of course… I'm sorry if I implied an activity that you haven't attempted yet, but I agree with your mother. It's better to be safe than sorry."
"This all might simply be sterile conjecture regardless. How do you even know if I can even get pregnant in the first place? There aren't any other hybrids around like me that I know of, and I don't even know if I'm fertile with humans or anything else for that matter."
"The tests I can perform on easily collected samples should give us some basic indicators, but the more definitive tests are somewhat more invasive and I wouldn't subject you to those until we've exhausted the other testing options available to us. Considering that you aren't sexually active yet, I wouldn't want to subject you to those procedures simply to answer our questions. Our first course of investigation should be to determine if your hormone and endocrine system are analogous to similar human systems. Considering that you've developed normally like a human girl, it's logical to assume that your physicality and reproductive organs are probably normal as well, but that should probably be examined as well."
"Umm… What kind of testing are we talking about?"
"Well, normally a pelvic exam and pap smear isn't indicated until three years after you become sexually active or upon reaching between age eighteen to twenty-one depending upon the attending physician's opinion. We can do a basic non-invasive external gynecological exam and some blood work to get started collecting data. Once we have some basic information and test results, I'm inclined to recommend a complete pelvic exam, possibly followed up by some ultrasound examination to determine if the internal reproductive structures are normal."
"Oh… Ok… So who exactly would be doing these tests…?"
"Well, considering the sensitive nature of anything out of the ordinary that might be discovered, I would be the logical choice to administer the tests…"
"Umm… I'm fairly certain everything down there is pretty normal…"
"I can understand your trepidation and discomfiture that contemplation of this type of examination might engender, but please understand that I will act professionally and will do everything in my power to insure your comfort and ease your feelings of self-consciousness."
"Umm… Please don't take this the wrong way, but I'm really not comfortable with having you perform the physical examination. I can understand why you feel it may be necessary, but isn't there a trusted colleague that could do the tests? Preferably a female one?"
"Alright…, I can understand your concerns. Why don't we simply start off with the blood work and a battery of hormone sampling to determine if your systems are compatible? If nothing out of the ordinary turns up, then I can refer you to one of the gynecologists at the clinic for the physical exam, ok?"
"Ok… Thank you, I'm much more comfortable with that scenario."
"Ok, when would you be available to come down to the clinic for your lab work? I'll need to draw some blood and collect a urine sample to begin the testing."
"Any day after school works for us, Carlisle." I said. "We can come down tomorrow, or you can call us to set up an appointment."
"If it's alright, I'll have my nurse call you and make an appointment. I believe I have a procedure scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, but I'll have to check my schedule. We can discuss your cycle then, and plot it on the calendar. Once we have some dates established I can make arrangements to get you some donor blood to test your theory."
"Sure, that's fine. The number on my business card is good for contact information."
"Alice has our cell phone numbers, too." Nessie added.
"Good. My nurse should call you tomorrow then to set up the appointment."
"Well, that's all I had on my mind for now." I said. Nessie and I started to get up to leave.
"Nessie, dear, why don't you go back down stairs for a minute? I'd like to have a word with your mother in private."
"Ok… Mom, Is that alright with you?"
I sat back down. "Go on, Nessie, I'll join you in a minute."
"Ok… If you're sure." She walked out the door and closed it behind herself.
Carlisle waited a couple of minutes until we heard her footsteps fade.
"I'm sorry about Nessie's attitude, Carlisle. I can talk to her if you feel it's important to the secret that you perform the tests."
"No, I understand her fears and desire for a female doctor. That wasn't what I wanted to discuss with you."
"Ok… What did you want to discuss then?"
"I'm curious what your intentions are towards Edward."
"Believe me when I say that I am truly sorry for everything that you've suffered as a result of his actions. If I had known how far your relationship had progressed, I never would have supported his request that we leave. I was unaware that your physical relationship had progressed so far. The fact that he left you in the condition he did is inexcusable.
"I overheard you talking with Alice and Rosalie earlier. I hadn't realized how deeply bonded you and Edward had become. Typically when a vampire develops a bond as strong as yours was then, it's physically impossible for them to be separated from their mate. The simple fact that he was able to contemplate and plan leaving you led me to believe that the bond hadn't formed yet. He was so adamant that you remain human… It was the exact opposite reaction that a typical vampire would have when they bond to their human mate. Normally they can't restrain themselves from acting rashly and impulsively to change their mate, often with catastrophic results."
"Everyone keeps telling me that. I suppose Edward isn't a typical vampire then…"
"No, he never has been. I don't know why I expected him to act rationally or normally simply because he had found the love of his life and his soul mate."
"But he did leave, Carlisle. He knew what he was doing. He knew he was my mate and he made a conscious decision to leave me."
"So you understand that he is your mate? I wasn't sure if you had been informed about how that worked."
"Yes, I understand what it means. I'm bonded to Edward for the rest of eternity or however long we end up living."
"Can you find it in your heart to forgive him? Eternity is a very long time to be alone."
"I don't know yet Carlisle. I'm not just saying that for Edward's benefit if he should see this memory in your head. I truthfully don't know."
"I can accept that. It's better than an outright no."
"I will tell you that he's going to have to make some fundamental changes to how he approached our relationship to even have a chance with me. I will not be dictated to, and I will not allow him to try and run my life for me. I'm perfectly capable of making my own decisions, and he's going to have to get used to that fact."
"He hurt me Carlisle… I gave him everything I had to give… The last time we sat down and talked, we discussed whether or not we have souls… Edward didn't believe we did… He felt we we're damned regardless of our actions in this life… I gave him my soul, and it wasn't enough… he still left. You have to understand that I can't simply take him back with arms wide open and basically forgive everything he's done to me."
"I understand. There is something you should be aware of though. Esme and I have been mated for eighty-nine years. Being mated is different than being married. You complement each other and you react to the needs of your mate on many different levels. Esme has changed me, and I have changed her. You learn to accommodate each other's needs. It's not always a conscious process, Bella, and it doesn't always happen through conscious effort. Simple proximity to your mate will lead to a reaction and changes over time. He will adjust to fill your needs over time, as you will change to accommodate what he requires from you. That's not to say that you'll lose yourself, but it's a slow gradual process that will shape your life and his."
"How close a proximity are we talking here?"
"He's already changing, Bella. He has been for ten years, as have you. The process will accelerate if you're close enough to communicate and be aware of the other's existence."
"So this will affect us since we know where each other lives and we go to school together?"
"You're close enough to observe each other and know some of the details of each others lives. You can't avoid having some kind of effect on each other. You've only been back among us for a short time, but I can sense your need for stability and a sense of continuity. Somebody to share your burdens with, and perhaps find the love that has so long been denied to you."
"Edward on the other hand needs somebody to temper his arrogance and self-righteousness and call him on trying to dictate the course of everyone else's lives. He needs somebody that isn't going to put up with his tendency to try and run everything all the time."
"So you're saying he needs somebody like me."
"You'll change him just by being around him, Bella."
"I'm still not ready to simply let him back in. He's going to have to start making these changes before I ever even consider it."
"I understand. Just keep an open mind. Don't assume that he's always going to be the same old Edward and simply shut him out as a matter of course. It's inevitable that he will make changes simply because he is your mate and he's in close enough proximity to you to know what you need. He will become what you need to complement your life. You are two halve a whole now, regardless of either of your personal desires."
"Alright, thank you, Carlisle, I'll keep that in mind."
"That's all I can ask."
"We better be going. I have some business I need to attend to yet tonight. It was a pleasure seeing all of you again. I have truly missed all of you. I'm glad we had this opportunity to talk again."
I stood up to leave, and Carlisle got up and came around the desk to escort me to the door.
"You're always welcome in our home, Bella. Don't hesitate to visit whenever you like."
We left the office and went to the stairs to go back down to the others.
"I really enjoyed the visit. It was nice being able to catch up with everyone."
We got back down to the living room, and Nessie, Phil and Renée took the hint that it was time to go. There were hugs all around as we said goodbye. Esme and Alice hugged me goodbye, and then Rosalie surprised me by hugging me goodbye too. Finally we left and walked back out to the cars.
"Well, that wasn't so bad, was it?" I asked mom as she was walking to the truck to get in.
"No, you were right. The family isn't bad. They're good people, and I love Esme. They are good people, Bella, even if Edward is an asshole, but I guess you're stuck with him. Good luck with that."
"Gee, thanks, mom. I love you too."
"You picked him. What else do you want me to say?"
I sighed, she was right; it was my problem to deal with now. It always had been, but it was easy to ignore when he wasn't around.
"I like Emmett," Phil said. "He wants to go to some ball games with me when I go on some of my photo shoots. He really gets into sports, and knows a ton of facts and statistics."
"That's good. I'm glad you made friends." I said as I walked to the Audi.
Phil nodded and got into the truck. I climbed into the passenger seat of the Audi to let Nessie drive home. She waited until we were away from the house and back on the highway to comment.
"So he's your mate." It was a statement, not a question. "When exactly were you planning on letting me in on that little detail?"
"I was waiting for the right opportunity to bring it up…"
"Well now seems appropriate since you talked to everyone else about it like it was fucking obvious. Why didn't you ever tell me?"
"He wasn't around and it didn't seem important before when I wasn't tripping over him."
"He's your goddamned mate, mom. You're going to end up getting back together with him unless we move. That's how it works. You won't have any choice. He's your soul mate!"
"Is that really such a bad thing?"
"Excuse me? There was this whole thing where you gave him everything and he still walked out on us! You know, where you were wandering around in the forest until you collapsed? Ring any bells, Bella?"
I winced just thinking about it, but what Carlisle had said made sense.
"I didn't mean tonight or tomorrow or even next month. Maybe not even this year or decade, but it's probably going to happen someday, Nessie. He is my mate, and my brain is hardwired to want him. I can't have a meaningful relationship with anyone else."
"So that means you have to give in and let him get away with what he did to you?"
"No. I didn't say I was giving in, or letting him get away with it. He's going to have to make some serious changes and do a hell of a lot of heartfelt apologizing before I even consider it, but I can't have a real relationship with anyone else but him. Brad was just for fun, but I really liked Garrett…"
"I did too…"
"Thing is I'll only ever be friends with Garett. I can't love him or feel any kind of real connection to him. If I try to be with anyone but your father, it's just sex. Two bodies moving together without any emotional connection. I want that emotional connection, Nessie, but my emotions are permanently connected to your father. The only way I'm ever going to feel that again is with him."
"That's why you were ready to jump Lilly at school today, wasn't it?"
"Yes, that's part of the mating bond. I can't see him with anyone else, or I react to it. The jealousy and protectiveness are hardwired into my psyche. I can't let anyone hurt him, and I'm like a bitch in heat if I see anyone but me so much as touch him. I don't want to feel like this, but it's just the way it is."
"Fine, I get it. You better make him seriously grovel before you let him back in. And he isn't going to run my life or tell me what to do."
"Trust me; he comes nowhere near us if he even thinks that's a possibility."
"Fine. I won't fight this if it's what you want."
"Thank you, but it won't be happening anytime soon."
"Yeah, well thanks for the heads up, mom."
"So what was up with you and Carlisle tonight? He's just trying to help us, and he's an excellent doctor. He treated me a lot when I lived in Forks. He saved my life in Phoenix when James attacked me. You know, if there's a chance our secrets might be exposed, you might want to reconsider letting him do the tests…"
"Ewww… No way, mom! That's just gross!"
"Why? He's a good doctor…"
"Did he give you a pelvic exam?"
"Well, no, but…"
"He's my grandfather, mom! Enhanced vampire senses, perfect vampire memory… And then my father is going to read his mind and see everything too? No thank you! I'd never be able to look either of them in the eye again. You drop your drawers and let him go poking around, checking to see if all your lady parts work right, and let me know how you feel about it. Then we'll talk."
"Oh… I suppose you have a point…"
"Thank you! If anyone needs to go poking around down there, I at least want a female doctor. Worst case scenario, they do figure out something they shouldn't know, we can always kill them…"
"I said worst case. You know everything down there is normal and works the same way any other girl works, just a little faster and more efficiently. Anything we're going to figure out will be in the blood work and testing Carlisle is going to do, not in the physical exam."
"What if they do turn something up?"
"Then I'll reconsider, but there's still no reason for him to do the initial physical. Don't you think I have a pretty good idea what's down there and how it works? I'm sure as hell not going to let my grandfather touch me like that before I've even let a boyfriend down there!"
"So… Umm… Never? You and Corey got pretty friendly…"
"Mom…! No! You know that! We talk about everything. You know we didn't get that far."
"Ok, just checking. I believe you."
We were almost home and I changed the subject. I needed to get out and get some fresh air to clear my head and get my mind off of everything that had gone on this evening. It wasn't even eleven o'clock yet, and I still had a lot of night left to take care of business.
"So, do you have the deadbeat file updated?"
"As of last night, yeah, I've been kind of busy tonight. Why, you heading out on the town?"
"I was thinking about going and rattling some cages, yeah. I need to get out and take my mind off of tonight. Are those jerks at that custom bike shop still holding out on us?"
"Same as it has been for the last two months. I think it's time for a wake up call. Do you need me to come with you?"
"No, not if you have plans. I can handle this alone."
"Ok. I need to finish a paper for my human resources management class."
Nessie drove into the garage and parked the Audi. Phil and Renee pulled in next to us. We got out and went into the house and went our separate ways. Phil and Renée excused themselves and went down to their suite for some alone time. Nessie went to the study to work on her paper, and I went up to my room to change my clothes.
I found it helped send the right message when I wore the appropriate attire for business. Jerks like these deadbeats I was planning on paying a visit to tonight always responded well to my choice of work clothes. Typically they couldn't believe they were getting their asses handed to them by a girl.
I decided tonight was a mini-skirt night. It wouldn't interfere with me riding my motorcycle to head into town, and I liked the effect it gave with the skintight leggings I wore with it. Throw in some three and a half inch stiletto heels, a half shirt, shoulder holster, and a leather jacket, and I was good to go. I thought I looked pretty 'badass' as Emmett would say when I looked myself over in the full length mirror on my closet door.
I made sure I had a couple of extra clips in my pocket, but I doubted I'd even need them. I shut off the light as I walked out of my room and walked down stairs to the study. I wanted to double check the address and our latest intel on these guys.
"Hey, Nes, I heading out. Everything still the same on these guys?"
"Yeah, I double checked for you. Their bank account is still the same, and their payment status is still two months overdue. It'll be three months this Friday, and the money is sitting in their bank account."
"Address is still good?"
"They run the bar next door to the bike shop. They haven't pulled up stakes and moved, last time I checked five minutes ago."
"Ok, don't wait up for me."
Nessie chuckled. "Sure, whatever you say. Cool outfit by the way. They won't know what hit them. They won't know whether to cum in their pants or piss in them."
"That's the plan. Night, baby. See you in the morning."
I nodded and walked back out to the garage. I unclipped my helmet off of the back of the bike and pulled it on. I didn't really need one. I was durable enough and my reflexes were fast enough that I could bail off the bike and avoid an accident. I wouldn't be injured in one regardless, and I'd heal too fast to notice even if I was. Unfortunately Washington had a mandatory helmet law, and I had to wear one to avoid being pulled over and getting a ticket from the cops.
It wasn't a total loss though. Since we had to wear helmets, we took advantage of the fact and had all the bells and whistles installed. There was a built in blue tooth headset so I could dial my cell phone hands free, and we had a bike to bike communications system even though we didn't need it to talk back and forth when we were riding. The main reason we got it was so we'd have built in speakers in the helmet for the sound system. I plugged my Ipod into the jack on the helmet, and I could listen to my music while I was riding.
I wheeled the big bike out of the garage and used the remote to close the door. I swung onto the seat, thumbed the electric start and the big air and oil cooled engine hummed to life. I did a quick check of the instruments, and then I toed it into gear, let out the clutch, and I was flying down the driveway.
I leaned the bike around the turn at the end of the drive onto the road, and wound out the gears as I headed for the highway. I made my way to I5, and flew through the cloverleaf onto the Interstate freeway heading north.
It was close to midnight now, and the traffic was light.
Nobody was going to complain about me cruising at over a hundred mile an hour once I was out of the city limits. I practically lay down on top of the gas tank and exhilarated in the speed as I pushed the bike faster and rode north into Bellingham.
There weren't a lot of curves in the road to make it more interesting, but then I5 wasn't exactly a straight shot this far north like it was farther south in Oregon and California. The freeway curved around Lake Samish, and then followed the terrain and jogged west toward Bellingham Bay before turning north into Bellingham.
I was forced to slow down when the freeway passed through the heart of the city, but I wasn't going that far. I took an off-ramp from the freeway onto the city streets and headed for the docks. I wound through the quiet streets until I got closer to the waterfront district. There were more commercial enterprises and scattered bars and the occasional restaurant. It was a rougher part of town that catered to the blue collar working classes.
I could have simply ridden the motorcycle into the parking lot at the bar, but that didn't suit my style, and besides, these guys all rode Harleys. The BMW would stand out and attract attention. That wasn't the sort of impression I wanted to make tonight. I parked a couple of blocks away and pulled off my helmet. I shook out my hair, and then clipped the helmet onto the bike. I activated the security system, and then I was good to go. I'd get a text message if anyone messed with the bike while I was taking care of business, and then I could come back and kick their ass too.
These guys ran a local biker bar, but had expanded and bought the custom motorcycle shop next door. The bike shop would be closed at this time of night, but the bar would be open until at least two am. Nothing too hard core here, these guys dealt mostly with the local MCs and didn't get much action from the outlaw clubs or one percenter's. They were mostly legit which was why we'd loaned them money in the first place.
I moved onto the rooftops as I approached the address. It was mostly two and three story commercial building in this part of town. There were more warehouses and loading yards further northwest around the bay before you got to the private marinas. I did a couple of circuits around the block, and then found a quiet spot where I could observe the bar and the bike shop for a while. I usually avoided going inside until I had to, and I wanted to make sure the right people were here before I decided to confront them.
I'd been sitting in the shadows on the rooftop for about forty-five minutes. I was fairly certain all the targets were present and accounted for. I was about ready to make my move when I heard soft footfalls on the rooftop, and felt a body occupy the space across the roof. I spun around as I dropped into a defensive crouch, but I knew who it was before I even saw him. I felt the electricity arc across the rooftop as he moved onto the roof of the building. I saw who it was and caught the scent in the same instant, confirming what I already knew. It didn't make me relax. But I dropped back to the observation position.
"Jesus Christ, Edward! You nearly gave me a heart attack! What the hell are you doing out here?"
Edward kept to the shadows as he approached. He stopped a careful distance away from me when I growled at him. I wasn't ready to have him any closer than arms length, and even that was pushing it.
"I was going to ask you the same thing, and besides, you can't have a heart attack."
"I'm working. I have business to take care of tonight. I suppose you're up to your old tricks and you're stalking me? You know that really gets old after a while."
"You didn't used to mind it. You used to think it was endearing that I paid so much attention to you."
"That was ten years ago before you broke up with me and walked out of my life. I'm not a naïve seventeen year old girl anymore, Edward. I grew up, and now it just makes you a stalker. Why are you spying on me?"
"Why are you spying on that bar? Were you going to go have a drink?"
"Not tonight, but that's fun sometimes. I told you, I'm working."
"What? Your work requires you to stake out seedy bars in the middle of the night?"
"Sometimes... I wanted to make sure the guys I need to talk to were here before I went in."
"Are they criminals? This is a public place. You could simply call the police to apprehend them."
"This isn't that kind of work. These guys owe us money. We made them a loan to buy the custom motorcycle shop next door, and now they're refusing to make their loan payments."
"So now you're a loan shark too? This just gets better and better, doesn't it?"
"It's not like that."
"Then why don't you tell me what it is like, because that's sure what it sounds like."
"We don't charge usurious interest rates. We're actually competitive or cheaper than most of the local banks. These guys couldn't qualify for a loan because of the nature of their business. The banks weren't willing to take a chance on them. They're really quite good at what they do and it's a profitable enterprise. They have the money to make the payments. Nessie has been monitoring their banking activity."
"So why aren't they making their payments?"
"They just got greedy. They figured that since we aren't a legitimate loan company, and this is a private deal they could welch on the payments. They assume that because we won't sue them or use the legal system to force them to pay that they can take our money without any repercussions. I'm here to disabuse them of that notion."
"Alright, I can see where you might have a legitimate grievance. What are you going to do?"
I reached into my jacket and pulled out my 9MM. I ejected the magazine to check it and jacked the slide. The round in the pipe flipped out of the ejection port and I caught it. I snapped it back onto the clip and slid it home. I pulled back the slide to re-chamber the round. It only took me seconds to make sure the pistol was ready for action.
I slid the pistol back into the holster in my left armpit as I turned to Edward. "I'm going to make them an offer they can't refuse."
"You have a gun?" He sputtered incredulously.
"Well what did you think I was going to do? Prance in there, bat my eyelashes at them and ask them nicely to please make their loan payments? They'd laugh in my face. A gun is a useful prop. Humans respect the threat a gun represents. I don't need it, but then I don't want to have to kill these guys. It's hard enough collecting our money, and they can't pay me if they're dead."
"Ok, I suppose that makes sense. So how do we do this?"
"We don't do anything. You wait here, and I'll be back in a little while. Better yet, go home, and I'll see you in school tomorrow."
"I am not letting you walk into that bar alone!"
"Edward, this is what I do. Please don't make this any more difficult. Just go home."
"We might not be on the best of terms right now, but you're still my mate. You know I can't just walk away…"
"That didn't seem to stop you ten years ago. I seem to remember you being able to walk away then."
"You were still human then. I don't have the strength to stay away from you anymore, Bella."
"Find it. I have work to do."
"Then I'm coming with you."
I sighed. "Fine, if you have to. Don't do anything stupid. In fact, don't do anything at all. We can't expose ourselves, and I don't want to have to kill these guys, got it?"
"I've been doing this for a long time Bella. I won't let them know what I am."
"Fine, just don't let your instincts rule you. I know your reaction is going to be to want to protect me. I'm warning you up front, I'm probably going to have to get physical with these guys, so just let me handle it my way, ok? You start tearing guys apart or busting heads, and that's on you. I warned you not to come in."
I stood up to my full height and stretch before I leaned over the edge of the rooftop to take a look and make sure nobody was watching the alley. I heard Edward's sharp intake of breath as he gasped, and I glanced back at him. He must have finally got a good look at how I was dressed. I had a feeling he liked it from the way he stared at me with barely concealed lust and darkened hooded eyes.
"Down boy, Head in the game, remember? Is it clear?"
He nodded but didn't speak.
"Ok, let's go."
I didn't wait for him and dropped off the rooftop, being careful to land on the balls of my feet so I wouldn't break a heel. Edward was right behind me, as I moved through the shadows to the mouth of the alley.
"You've got ID if they check, right?" I asked.
"I've been around the block a time or two, Bella. I know how to play the game."
I nodded to acknowledge that I'd heard him, but I didn't respond. I just walked to the door of the bar and pushed it open. It was still an hour until last call, and the place did a good business for a Monday night. I was hoping there'd be fewer witnesses because it was a weekday and people had to get up to go to work in the morning. At least the characters that were hanging out here at this time of night weren't the type to willingly talk to the cops. Besides, there was nothing like word of mouth to build a rep on the street.
The bouncer inside the door just looked me up and down and smiled as I walked inside. Edward wasn't so lucky. The big biker stood up and stepped in front of him and held up his hand.
"You got some ID, son?" He asked belligerently. I didn't slow down and went to the bar.
Edward got out his wallet and handed his ID to the bouncer. He took it and checked it out thoroughly. "Huh, ok. This is some good work." He handed it back to Edward and stepped out of the way to let him in.
I wasn't really paying attention to Edward's predicament. I was watching the bartender. He'd noticed me, and came down to help me. "Can I get you something, sweetheart? Or were you going to wait and see if your boyfriend gets in?"
"He's not my boyfriend. I'm here to see Duke. Tell Bella's here to talk to him."
He looked me over again, and frowned. He didn't comment, but stepped to a phone on the back of the bar and picked it up to talk to somebody. Of course, they assumed I couldn't hear their conversation.
"Yeah, Tony, what is it?" The voice on the phone said.
"Some broad out here wants to talk to Duke. She's a real hottie. Says her name is Bella."
The phone was quiet for a minute, with muffled voices and loud music in the background as the message was relayed.
"Duke says he ain't here. Get rid of her."
"Yeah, ok." He hung up the phone. Why did they always have to do it the hard way?
"Duke ain't here. Maybe try the bike shop tomorrow. You want a drink or something before you go?"
"No, I came to talk to Duke. I'll just go back and deliver my message now, but thanks for offering."
I turned and started to walk to the back of the bar. There was a doorway with a chain across it, and a small sign hanging from it that said 'no admittance'.
"Hey, you can't go back there," the bartender yelled at me.
I didn't quite make it to the doorway before the bouncer and two more biker types stepped in front of me to block my path.
"Sorry, sweet thing, but there's a private party going on in the back, and you aren't invited." The bouncer said. "Now why don't you be a good girl and leave now, and I won't have to throw you out."
"You're going to get out of my way now, or I'll have to hurt you. This place can't have very good medical insurance if they even offer any, so I suggest you move. Now."
That made him mad. "Wrong answer, sweetheart!" He reached for me to grab me. I heard Edward growl, but he held it together and stayed out of the way.
I reached out and grabbed the hand that was reaching for me. I bent his wrist back in a basic pain hold, immobilizing his arm, and then I punched him with my other fist. I felt his jaw break under my knuckles and he dropped like a sack of wet cement.
I kicked the one on the right on the inside of his leg, and he dropped when his knee shattered. I moved sideways and drove my elbow into the third ones chest and the air exploded out of his lungs as three ribs snapped and collapsed. They both hit the floor and were out of the fight but still alive.
I stepped over the bodies and lifted the end of the chain out of the way. I glanced back and Edward had stopped at the bar where the bartender was holding the phone in his hand.
"You know, if you call 911 and the police come, they're going to search this place and find the drugs your boss has in the back. Besides, the girls back there are under age, and we'll be gone before the police get here."
The bartender put down the phone.
"Very good. Now step away from the shotgun. I don't want to have to hurt you." Edward told him.
Ok, so maybe having him along wasn't so bad after all. At least he was staying out of the way and helping.
I walked down the short hall and found the office door. I didn't bother knocking and kicked the door open. There were four people in the room in what looked like a scene from some cheap porno flick. Billy, Dukes partner was sitting on the couch with a half naked girl in his lap, making out with her while his hand roamed over her body. Duke sat limply in his office chair with a glazed look in his eyes while the other girl was on her knees giving him a blow job.
They all stopped and stared in shock when I burst into the room. I strode to Duke's chair and yanked him to his feet and threw him up against the wall with my left hand while I pulled my pistol with my right and stuck it under his chin.
"Right…! You, bitch's, out of here now!" I ordered. The two girls scrambled to their feet and ran out of the room squealing. Then I turned back to Duke.
"You mother fucker are a deadbeat. You owe me money. We made you a loan! Not a fucking gift! You took our money in good faith, and now you're welching on the fucking payments."
"I don't have it… Business has been slow…"
"Lie number one. I know you can fucking pay, 'cause we've got your bank wired. Business has been good."
"I… I need more time…"
"Lie number two. Lie to me again and I hurt you. Got it?" He tried to nod, but I knew he got the message.
"You're two months behind now, and you have a third fucking payment due Friday. Give me one good reason why I don't have my fucking money!"
Billy was easing towards the end table beside the couch. I could smell the pistol in the drawer he was reaching for. I didn't look away from Duke, but my arm pivoted around to aim the muzzle of the pistol between Billy's eyes.
"Slide one more inch towards that pistol, and you're a dead man."
Billy froze where he was sitting and raised his hands.
"I'll get it… I'll get your money…" Duke sputtered.
"Tomorrow. Got it? I want my fucking money. No fucking excuses! You miss the payment on Friday and I'll be back, understand? If I have to come back again, next time I have to hurt you, got it?"
"Yes… I'll pay…"
"Fine, tomorrow. You might be under the impression that you were getting free money because it was an under the table loan. Just because we told you we wouldn't sue you or take you to court didn't we couldn't collect. It just means I have to explain it the hard way to assholes like you. Now, you don't want me to come back again, right?"
"Then get me my fucking money!" I let him go and he dropped to the floor. I turned and walked out of the room and Edward was waiting in the hall, leaning against the wall.
"You know Esme would wash your mouth out with soap if she heard you use language like that."
I could tell he wasn't serious from the smirk on his face. I kept walking toward the door and he fell into step beside me and followed me outside. Most of the crowd had cleared out when the fight started, but there were still stragglers.
"Then I'll have to make sure she doesn't hear me. You know what they say, 'When in Rome…' You have to speak a language they understand and appreciate."
"I suppose you're right."
"So are they going to do what I told them?"
"I believe they are sufficiently intimidated that they'll follow your instructions. Your friend Duke was entertaining possible reprisals, but he thinks it'll be bad for business if you make it a habit of coming back."
"Ok, thanks for the help with the bartender. I really didn't want to have to shoot him."
"I didn't want you to shoot him either. So, is this a typical night for you now?"
"No, this was actually kind of fun. Most of the time it's boring stake outs, waiting for somebody to let details of their operations slip in a conversation, or waiting for a meet when they setup a deal."
We'd disappeared into the shadows of an alley, and I crouched and leapt up onto the rooftop. Edward followed right behind me.
"So, how did you find me tonight?" I asked as I leisurely crossed the rooftops in the direction of the BMW.
"I left earlier to go for a run. I had to get away from the house, and running helps clear my head… I saw you go past on the highway. I wasn't sure it was you, but I caught your scent when I got to the freeway. I followed you into Bellingham and crossed your scent when I moved onto the rooftops to search. I really didn't think I'd find you so easily."
"I'll have to hide better next time…"
"I don't want you to hide from me anymore. It's taken me ten years to find you."
"Edward… I'm not ready for this yet…"
"I can accept that. I've done terrible things that I truly regret, Bella. Please believe me when I tell you that I am truthfully sorry for what I did to you. I'll do whatever you ask of me to make it up to you. I understand that I don't deserve a second chance. I'll take whatever you're willing to allow me."
"I need time, Edward. I wasn't expecting to have you and your family turn up at school. This is too sudden for me… I need to adjust to these circumstances…"
I dropped down off the roof top into the alley beside my BMW. Edward dropped off the roof to land beside me.
"So this is your motorcycle? How fast were you going on the interstate?"
"Yes… About a hundred and seventy-five miles per hour."
"Will you give me a ride home? I ran all the way up here."
"I don't know, Edward… I don't know if I'm ready for that yet…"
"I'll be good. I promise I'll keep my hands to myself."
"You promise? No funny business?"
Edward made an X mark over the middle of his chest. "Cross my heart and hope to die."
"Very funny, dead man." I reached back and unclipped the passenger helmet and tossed it to Edward. "Here, this is Phil's. It ought to fit you."
I pulled my helmet on and got on the bike. "You know what to do, right? Lean with the bike, and don't try to fight it in the turns."
Edward climbed onto the seat behind me. His thighs were pressed beside mine as I sat between his legs, and his front was pressed up against my back. I felt his hands on my waist just above my hips as he held onto me. His hands slipped under the hem of my leather jacket and traced across the sides of my bare mid riff. His hands felt warm to me now, and the sensation of his fingertips touching my bare skin was absolutely incredible.
"I know what to do. I've ridden with Jasper before."
I nodded and thumbed the electric start. The engine purred to life, and I drove out of the alley and onto the streets of Bellingham.
I obeyed the traffic laws until I got to the interstate. I flew around the clover leaf onto the freeway, and then wound out the gears as the bike hurtled forward down the empty interstate. I cranked it up to two hundred miles per hour on the relative straight a way leading southeast away from the city, but then slowed to a hundred and fifty when we hit the curvy part of the highway past the Lake.
I turned off onto Highway 20 heading east through Sedro-Woolley, and then turned onto the road the led to the Cullen's driveway. I was going to have to watch that here. They were using Masen this time around.
"So are all of you using Masen as a surname this time? I didn't get a chance to ask earlier."
"Carlisle, Esme, Alice and I are using Masen. Jasper and Lilly are using their real names, Whitlock and Bailey respectively. Rosalie and Emmett are using Emmett's surname, McCarty."
I had no trouble finding the driveway in the dark, and barely slowed down as I rode down the winding drive to the house.
"If Lilly is using Bailey, how come we didn't see her at registration? She should have gone on the same day as Nessie and me."
"She didn't need a parking permit, so she just went when Esme took Alice and I. She was able to register Jasper at the same time, so we only had to make one trip."
I pulled up in front of the house and stopped the bike. Edward got off and took off the helmet. He reached back and clipped the helmet to the back of the bike.
"Thank you for giving me a lift home. I appreciate it. Actually, I was surprised to see you alone. I figured Nessie would have been with you."
"She knew this was a milk run, or she would have tagged along. She usually backs me up for jobs like this. She wanted to finish her paper for one of her college classes."
"She's attending college too?" Edward asked surprised. "I figured she was going to high school for real."
I chuckled. "Don't let her hear you say that. She graduated from high school three years ago, and she was upset with me and Renee for not simply letting her test out. She's almost done with her first undergraduate degree."
"She really is very intelligent, isn't she?"
"She was proof reading my college papers when she was a year old. She's memorized every text book I've ever bought for a class, plus all of her own, several encyclopedias and does near constant internet research. We really are just doing high school to fit in and so she can see what it's like. Both of us have had all of this material before."
"Well, join the crowd. Would you like to come in for a while? Did anyone take you on a tour of the house?"
"I don't think so… Not tonight, Edward. I'll see you in school tomorrow."
"Ok… So will I see you at school tomorrow?"
"I'll be there. We have Spanish together seventh period."
"Bien... Buenas noches. Espero que mañana, entonces." ("Alright... Good night. I lookforward to tomorrow then.")
"Buenas noches. Nos vemos mañana". ("Goodnight. I'll see you tomorrow.")
I rode away before I could change my mind. Everything was happening too fast. It was all too much too soon. I knew I couldn't just let him back into my life. He had put me through hell, and it seemed like he was getting off scot-free without having to suffer at all. If he was going to be a part of my life now, he was going to have to earn the right to be around me.
I hope I caught any errors or typos in this chapter. Normally I like to go through them a little more carefully before I post. Things have been a little hectic this week.
If you liked this story, please review and let me know what you think. Even if you didn't like it, I'd still like to hear from you. I read all the reviews, even if I don't answer all of them. If you have questions, I try to answer then without giving away too much of the plot.