I know it's been a long time since this fic has updated, and I'm very grateful to any of you who are still reading. Nolebucgrl asked for an update for her birthday, and so she shall have it (even though I'm a couple of months late… LOL). Amy, this is for you! xoxoxo
Kathie and Bridgette, I adore you, but decided to go ahead and just post this up as fast as possible.
This is unbetaed, so any mistakes are mine.
She brought her fingers down to touch my face, feeling along my nose, cheekbone, temple, and ending with them gripping my hair.
"Ow." That tug hurt.
She released her hold and smiled. "Edward."
And my name had never sounded better.
I slowly raised my hand to cup her cheek, encouraged by the way she shut her eyes and leaned into my touch. It wasn't only Bella who would have to relearn their strength. It would also be an adjustment for me. I would no longer have to temper my touch, no longer have to hold back my intensity, no longer have to worry that one wrong move could harm her in any way.
She was no longer a fragile human.
I ran my fingers through her hair, the brown waves falling in a curtain around our faces. "How do you feel?"
She opened her eyes, bright crimson boring into mine. "I feel…" She paused, just staring down at me. "I feel right."
"I feel like this was always meant to be. For the first time, I feel comfortable in my own skin."
I brushed over her lips with my thumb. "You were born to be a vampire."
"I was born to be with you."
And with that one sentence, any fear I had about the possibility of her feelings for me changing during her transformation disappeared. There was no forgetting me or severing of our tie to each other.
She was still my Bella. My mate.
Edward, is she calm enough for some of us to come in and see her? I'd like to ask her some questions about her change.
Bella may not have heard Carlisle's thoughts, but she must have sensed them approaching. Her head whipped toward the door, and her body tensed as she growled in warning.
"It's okay." I tried to soothe her, trailing my fingers up and down her arms. "It's only Carlisle, Jasper, and Alice."
She turned back to me, her eyes wide as she covered her mouth with her hand. "Did I really make that sound?"
Everyone in the house laughed, and I bit the side of my cheek to keep from doing the same.
"Nothing to worry about. It's a natural reaction. Do you mind if they come in?"
She didn't answer, instead jumping off of me and standing a moment later, looking down at her body in amazement. "Wow. I just thought about standing and here I am."
I stood up myself and took her hand. "You'll get used to the speed, although you'll also have to learn how to adjust it to be around humans."
Her eyebrows knitted together. "Yes. Humans." Her eyes darted up to mine. "Elizabeth? Where is she? I want to see her."
I moved slowly to stand next to her, pulling her to me in a hug. "She's beautiful and perfect. I promise you'll get to see her as soon as we take care of a few things first." I pulled away enough to watch her face. "Are you thirsty?"
She grabbed her throat and nodded. "It's not horrible, but yes. I understand now. I remember how it was described to me."
I ran my fingers through her hair. "Can the family come in for a moment before we go hunt?"
She wrapped her arms around my waist and nodded against my chest. The others walked in, standing together several feet away to give Bella space. Carlisle was the first to speak.
"How are you feeling, Bella?"
She kept one arm wrapped around my waist, but turned to face them. "Good. I feel great."
He nodded. "Do you remember anything from Elizabeth's birth or from during your change?"
She maintained a calm expression, but I felt her body tense slightly. "I remember the contractions starting. The burning." She looked up at me. "I remember you talking to me. It helped."
I hugged her to me again, so happy to know I'd alleviated some of the pain I put her through.
"Carlisle," Jasper interrupted. "I know you want to hear all of this, but it isn't the time. We have more important things to get to first." His eyes met mine. Sorry, Edward.
I just nodded, knowing we didn't have the luxury of a long acclimation period for Bella. We were under fire and needed to figure out how to protect the family.
It was the hope of everyone that Bella's gift would help unveil the truth of the Volturi's plot, either by pinpointing a possible spy in our midst or unblocking mine and Alice's gifts with her shield.
Perhaps Bella had understood my words—the news of what had happened and what we believed was going on with the Volturi—to her throughout her burning more than I knew, because she dropped her arms from around me, walked a few steps toward Jasper, and lifted her chin.
"I'm ready to do whatever needs to be done."
Jasper smiled. Actually it was almost a smirk. As if he somehow knew Bella was a warrior all along. That was what she looked like then. A soldier ready to do battle. His thoughts confirmed my suspicions.
She's going to kick some ass.
I wasn't sure how I felt about that, because it was difficult for me to think of Bella in any kind of danger. Yet, I had to acknowledge she was now not only the strongest of all of us, but maybe the most talented.
Jasper nodded. "First, you need to feed. And then we're going to work with your shields. I can't wait to see what you can do now." And maybe even more so when combined with Charlie.
She grabbed her throat again at the mention of feeding. "Let's get on with it then."
And before any of us could say another word, she flew out the open balcony doors and into the forest behind the house. I barely registered the surprised faces of my family before rushing after her. Their laughter and wishes of good luck fading quickly in my wake as I raced after Bella's scent.
I caught up to her a few miles away—she was fast, but I was still faster—and I thoroughly appreciated the view of watching her run for the first time.
I couldn't take my eyes off of her. She was so beautiful, with a gleeful smile and her hair whipping behind her as she got a first taste of the speed and grace of her new body. I let her chart her own course, only staying close enough to be able to see how much she was enjoying herself.
Oh, how I loved her.
And now we would be together. Forever.
She leaped over a fallen tree, a small giggle escaping as she sped on through the forest, and I laughed in return. Our carefree moment was broken when she suddenly stopped running and crouched down. I stopped, too, alarmed at her growl and worried I'd missed hearing or sensing a human in the vicinity.
But there was nobody when I checked again. I was sure of it.
Bella's head cocked to the side as she focused her eyes on some point to the west of us. I slowly approached her, not wanting her to feel threatened in any way.
"What is it?"
She didn't answer, still focused on something in the distance. I tried to see what she was looking at, but there was nothing there.
Nothing except trees.
She took my hand, spinning around to face me. I shook my head, not understanding what she was doing, but she gripped my hand tighter until I met her stare. She closed her eyes for a moment, and then opened them again, a fierce and determined expression on her face.
"Listen," she said quietly. "Now."
And then I heard it. There was someone else here. Definitely not human and definitely not aware we knew he was out there.
Why have they stopped? Aro will be so pleased with me. I need to call him immediately. She's even more spectacular than I thought she would be and he's going to let me have her. He better keep up his end of the bargain. What are they doing? Why are they just standing there? I need to get out of here and report back. They're going to be here soon and need to know her change is complete. But it's hard to stop staring. She's so beautiful and she was promised to me. My prize.
I growled, but Bella jerked my arm to stop me.
"Bella, I would love to stand around kissing you, but is this really the best—"
She narrowed her eyes and cut me off with a hiss. "Kiss me."
I wrapped my arm around her waist and pulled her to me, leaning down to crash my lips to hers. She pulled me even closer, her hands sliding around my neck.
She's a dirty one, too. Throw her on the ground and tear her clothes off! Give me a show.
I was torn between the wretched thoughts of whoever was out there and wanting to rip his head off, and the feelings of Bella writhing against me and moaning into my mouth. She gripped my hair, turning my head slightly until her lips brushed my ear.
"Keep going," she whispered. "Make it look good. He's listening and watching. We have to stop him."
I lifted her until she wrapped her legs around my waist and walked the two of us forward, pinning her against a tree. She moaned loudly when my fingers tangled in her hair and I pulled it to expose her neck to me. I sucked and kissed, enjoying the whimpers and growls coming from her mouth, but wishing our first sexual experience together after her change didn't come with an audience.
"How do you know he's listening and watching?" I asked.
"I knew he was there, but I couldn't hear anything until I touched you."
What? What did she mean? She could hear his thoughts? How?
"Edward!" she hissed into my ear, making me groan when she rubbed herself against me. "I don't understand what's going on yet, but I put my shield around you so you could hear him. But then I could hear him, too. I can hear his thoughts like you do when I'm touching you. We need to kill him. The Volturi are already on the way."
The scoundrel was currently imagining himself in my place, and I didn't know if I could keep up this act much longer.
"Please tell me you can't see what's in his mind right now."
"Yes! Right there!" she moaned loudly before bringing her lips back to whisper in my ear. "He's a sick pervert, but he's distracted now. He's creeping closer and he's got his hand down his pants."
I cringed and kissed her neck. "Can you see him?"
"Uh huh," she panted. "Oh yeah, just a little more. Right there." She bucked her hips against me a few times before gripping my hair once more. The moment I opened my eyes, she said, "Now."
We both took off toward the "invisible" man, and I registered the surprise in his thoughts when he realized what was happening. He didn't have time to think, much less run away, before Bella had him in her grasp. Once she touched him, he was also visible to me. I pinned his arms behind his back and threw him face down on the ground.
"Who are you?" Bella placed her foot on his neck when he refused to answer, holding him still and unable to speak. "Should we kill him now?"
I wavered. "Maybe we should figure out how much he's told Aro, but whatever we do, we need to do quickly. We have to get back to the rest of the family." I shifted over a little. "Here, hold him down. I'll call Carlisle." I didn't like having Bella so close to this Volturi spy, but it was likely she'd break my phone if I gave her that particular task.
She kept her foot pressed down on his back and grabbed his arms from me, twisting them high behind his back until he screamed in pain. "Shut up!"
I laughed, pushing the number for Carlisle. When he didn't answer, I tried Jasper.
"Edward? I thought you were—"
"No time, Jasper. We've found the spy. We have him. About fifteen miles northeast. Track my scent and meet us here. Bring Alice and Emmett. Make sure everyone else stays to protect Elizabeth."
I slid my phone back into my pocket and crouched down next to the scoundrel's face. Bella's shield was holding strong because I could still hear his thoughts. Unfortunately, they were a jumble of fear and trying to figure out a way to escape.
I grabbed his hair and yanked his head back until his eyes focused on my face. "Who are you? Why are you here?"
"I'll tell you everything! Just let me go."
"No!" Bella pulled on his arms again until we heard the first screech of them being wrenched from their sockets. "Tell us now."
He screamed in pain, but I saw the red eyes and cloaked figures of the Volturi guard in his mind. The indecision in his thoughts was based on knowing if we didn't kill him, they would. Especially if he told us anything.
I twisted my hold on his hair, until he focused on me again. "Your only chance to live is to come clean right now. We'll let you have a head start against them if you tell us everything. Now, who are you?"
He might have known I was bluffing about releasing him, but his fear overruled his logic. "Se… Sebastian."
I loosened my grip on his hair. "Good. Why are you here, Sebastian?"
"They made me! I didn't have any choice!"
"Who made you?"
He shook his head back and forth, but I had the answer from his thoughts anyway.
"Why did Aro send you here? What does he want?"
He struggled against Bella's hold again, but she pulled his arms tighter until he spilled out more words. "He wants you. Alice. He wants the baby. He wants the Cullen coven gone."
I struggled to keep calm and not attack him before he could tell us more. "Why?"
"I don't know!"
Bella growled and dug her heel into his back. "Tell us!"
He groaned and finally stopped struggling against her hold. "I swear. I don't know why. I just know he thinks you're a threat."
That made sense from what we already knew of Aro and the Volturi. I watched his thoughts carefully, seeing the way he had overheard a few conversations, but not really putting the pieces together himself. The most important goal for Sebastian was apparently saving his own skin.
But I was able to glean some details of the Volturi leaders. They were power-hungry above all else. While Caius would feed Aro's paranoia, he simply wanted to rule everyone and everything. Caius would rather see us all eliminated, whereas Aro wanted to pick and choose among us to add to his collection of talent.
Just as I was about to question him further, I heard Jasper's mind calling out to me.
We'll be there in a minute. Alice has started having flashes of things she hadn't been able to see before now.
"What is it?" Bella asked me when I fell silent.
"They're almost here."
They appeared through the trees moments later, Jasper carrying Alice on his back and Emmett right behind them.
"She's been out of it a little. Everything was hitting her hard, so I carried her the last few miles."
I could see what he meant, watching through Alice's thoughts as vision after vision bombarded her mind. It was as if they'd all been plugged up and the were suddenly released all at once.
The Volturi arriving. Inside our home. Fire.
Aro killing Carlisle.
Carlisle killing Aro.
The Volturi guards defeating us. Killing some and taking some.
Our family defeating them. Some losses on both sides.
Vision after vision whirled, as if no certain future was set at this point. The outcomes were not clear because decisions still needed to be made.
I went to take Alice from Jasper, trying to help her through the onslaught, while Bella filled Jasper and Emmett in on what we'd learned so far. Alice gripped my hand and whimpered when a particularly gruesome vision of Jasper being burned to ash emerged.
"Nothing is set yet," I said to them all. "Things are still being decided."
Emmett moved to take over holding our new prisoner, standing him upright and holding his arms behind his back. Bella and Jasper faced him.
Jasper reached out, gripping around Sebastian's neck. "I could end you right now."
Sebastian's eyes widened. "Please."
"Tell me how your gift works."
"I can make people see what I want them to see."
"And you can be invisible to us? To our senses?"
"If I want to."
"How long have you been here?"
"A little over a month." He made a choking sound when Jasper's grip tightened. "I had to report back to Aro every day about everything I saw."
"How did you know you had to hide from Edward and Alice's gifts specifically?"
"Aro knew about them. Some stranger went to Volterra and told him about your gifts. That's why I was sent. Aro wants them."
"Victoria," Jasper spat, his face set in anger.
Alice's visions had slowed enough for her to take a deep breath and center herself. I let go of her hand, stepping over to stand next to Bella and Jasper.
"And Bella?" I asked. "Does Aro want Bella, too?"
Not her. He promised her to me.
Even as his vile thought slipped out, he knew what a mistake he was making. I hissed, knocking Jasper's hand away and gripping the cad's neck with my hand.
"You'll never have her. Don't even think about her again!"
His marble skin cracked and fissured beneath my grasp, and I was so very close to ripping his head off and being done with him. It was Bella who tried to reach me through my slipping control, placing her hand on my arm.
"Edward, not yet."
"He wants to take you from me." I squeezed his throat tighter, watching the way his eyes started bulging from his face.
She rubbed my arm. "I know, but nobody will take me."
I turned my head to look at her, my voice soft and insistent. "You're mine."
"I am," she said with a nod. "And you're mine. Nobody will separate us." Her hand slid down my arm, until her fingers covered mine, loosening my grip around his neck. "We need more answers from him."
I pulled back reluctantly, wrapping my arm around her waist to hold her close as Jasper continued the interrogation.
"Where are the Volturi guard now?"
Sebastian's eyes darted from me to Jasper. "They are waiting for word from me. I was to make sure you were all distracted with her being a newborn and they would show up to take their prizes."
My anger had subsided somewhat with having Bella in my arms, and I ran over his previous thoughts in my mind. "Why would the Volturi not target Bella? She is the most gifted of all of us."
"I… I… I didn't…" He broke off, but I heard it in his head.
Bella must have, too, because she whispered the words he didn't say aloud. "He didn't tell them about me."
Jasper gripped Sebastian's face. "They don't know? They have no idea about her shields?"
Or about her being able to hear thoughts when she touched me.
He shook his head. "They know only what I told them, and I downplayed what I'd seen her do. I didn't tell them about the shields, but only about her not being able to have her mind read. Aro was only slightly interested in that." Despite his not fully acknowledging his motivation, it was becoming clear he had hidden details about Bella to make her unvaluable in Aro's eyes. He wanted Aro to toss her aside so he could have her.
Alice stepped forward. "Aro mentioned Bella in his letter. He talked about her mind blocking, but didn't go further into her shielding ability. I assumed at the time we read it he knew it all, but I don't think so now."
Jasper stared at me. "This is an advantage. They have no idea."
"Where are they exactly?" Bella asked.
Sebastian smiled at her before glancing at me and gulping. "Aro and the guard are at some fancy cabin somewhere between here and Seattle. They wanted to be close, but out of the way of too many humans."
"What about Marcus and Caius?" Jasper asked.
He shook his head. "They are still in Volterra. Aro came because he was excited about gaining new toys."
Alice growled from the implication she was considered some collectible by Aro. She stepped forward next to Jasper and poked Sebastian in the chest. "You're a bad man."
He actually had the audacity to look a little guilty. "I only did what I had to do to save myself."
That was a lie, but we didn't have time to get into details about his character. We needed to figure out our next step.
"Instead of waiting for them to come to us, we should go after them," Emmett said.
Jasper nodded. "That's a thought. It would keep any fighting away from more populated areas. But then again, here we would have a homefield advantage." He prodded Sebastian again. "How many of the guard are around Aro?"
"Twenty or so."
"And you said their plan was to attack as soon as you gave the word we were distracted by Bella's waking after her change?"
He nodded. "Aro assumed you would be separated into groups. Some of you would be taking care of Bella and some would be taking care of the baby. He wanted you scattered and occupied so he could pick off who he wanted and take who he wanted. He has Chelsea ready to bind Edward and Alice to him specifically."
We all stood silently for a minute as I watched various outcomes flashing through Alice's mind. Jasper was just about to ask another question when the silence was broken by Sebastian's phone buzzing in his pocket. I reached in and took it, glaring at the name on the screen.
Aro wasn't waiting to be called. He was the one calling.
AN: I'm thinking there will be two more chapters of this story. I have no exact timeline, but I promise to get it finished faster than it took me to get this update out.