Leather and Lace

Caution

In all honesty, I knew from the beginning that things were a little bit too perfect. Edward always, always knew what to say and when to say it; Alice was always there, ready to swoop in and save the day when I started to really, really think about what was happening to the people who meant the world to me. Emmett, however, he was real; so was Rosalie. I wasn't sure about Carlisle, Esme, and Jasper, but for some reason I got the feeling that Jasper was being manipulated in almost the exact same way I was. Actually, I knew that Jasper was being manipulated like me. Esme was too maternal to have anything to do with this, and Carlisle truly wanted the best for his family. It was only Edward and Alice who were in on this plan.

"Bella? Why are you here?" Jasper's voice startled me from my thoughts, and I briefly gasped at the sudden intrusion. Jasper just looked at me with a funny expression on his face. "Bella?"

"I… I…" I couldn't tell him. I just couldn't. Alice had brought Jasper to this point, and there was no way that I could bring his entire world crashing down around him. So I did the first thing that came to me.

I ran away.

It was Rosalie who finally showed up in my bedroom, and that in itself was something that scared the crap out of me. "R-R-Rosalie?" I stammered out, and she offered me a weak smile. "Rosalie, why are you here?"

"Because there was no way that Emmett would know what to say, Jasper still hasn't found out yet, Carlisle doesn't believe it's true, Esme's too sweet to tell you that she kind of hates Edward and Alice right now, and Alice was just out of the equation, along with Edward. That left me. Bella… I know that I've been a real bitch, but I don't hate you. I don't particularly like you, but I don't hate you. I think that, in a different situation, a different reality, you and I could become really good friends."

"Do you know everything?" I whispered, and she sat down on my bed by me. "I mean… What they were doing…? What he almost did to me?"

Rosalie's golden eyes slowly tinged into pitch-black. "What he almost did to you, Bella? What did he almost do to you?"

"It was nothing," I said quickly. "It wasn't anything awful, I swear. He just…"

"Did he tell you my story, Bella?" I shook my head. Rosalie smiled a humorless smile, and then she began. "I was the prettiest girl in the city. My daddy was a banker, and the Great Depression hadn't really affected us. I was happy that I had a father who wanted to buy me pretty dresses, who wanted me to be pretty. Royce King II was the most eligible bachelor, and it was me that he chose out of all of the girls. I'd been jealous of my friend Vera for so long… She had everything that I wanted. I may've had a father who wanted to buy me pretty things, but Vera didn't have that. Vera had something that I'd never had—a family that truly loved her. She was always so happy, even though she and her husband didn't have a lot of money. The Depression hit them hard, but whenever I saw her, she had a smile on her face…

"It was late at night. I was walking back home after spending the evening with Vera and her little boy, and in my head I was building my future with Royce. We'd be sitting there on the front porch, old and gray-haired, watching our grandchildren play on the front lawn. It was all I ever wanted. Beneath one of the streetlamp, I saw a group of men who were laughing drunkenly. I put my head down and sped up, but then one of them called out to me. 'Rosie!' It was Royce, and I couldn't just ignore him. I stopped and looked at him. He wasn't the Royce I'd grown to know; he was drunk, and his friends were too. Royce slung an arm around me and pulled me painfully close. 'See? Ain't she pretty?' he slurred, and I started struggling.

"'Royce, let me go,' I said, and he just laughed. One of his friends leered at me, and I felt incredibly violated. That feeling accounted for nothing after what happened next. His friend said, 'Well now, I can't really tell with all those clothes on.'"

Rosalie took a look at my face. I'd felt all of the blood drain earlier, and I knew where her story was heading. "Oh my God, Rosalie…"

"Let me finish. It's important." I nodded, and then, in a moment of compassion, I threw my arms around her.

"I want you to know that I won't judge you for your past, Rosalie Hale," I mumbled, and then I released her and sat back. I waited for the rest of her story.

She looked mildly shocked at my actions, but then she shrugged it off.

"They left me for dead in the street. Carlisle smelled the blood and came to investigate. You, Bella, have the ultimate choice in this, and I can't help but feel that you were making the wrong one. I never hated you—I was simply envious. But… I took my revenge on Royce and his friends. I went after them, one by one. I saved Royce for last because I wanted him to know that I was coming for him. Bella, did you know that I'm the only other person in the family besides Carlisle that never tasted human blood?"

Her sudden question startled me, and I replied with, "Well, I do now." She snickered.

"I killed Royce in my wedding dress. He was clutching a whiskey bottle to his chest, and I couldn't help but laugh at how pathetic he looked. That's the reason that I never acted nice, Bella. Because of my past. But now… You owe me an explanation. What did Edward almost do to you?"

"He wasn't himself," I began, and a knot built in my throat, making it difficult to speak. I couldn't lie to her, she'd know. "He… He wanted something, and I'd thought that I was ready to give it… but when he tried to steal it, take it by force… I didn't want to give it to him. I wanted to save it. Rosalie, you know, don't you? How terrifying it is to have the person that you think you love try to take something so precious away in a moment of fury?"

Rosalie, the supermodel who should be on the cover of Sports Illustrated, was sitting in my bedroom, telling me of her awful past—she cared. I knew that telling her wasn't a bad idea. She cared about this. She'd know what I was talking about. Her eyes were darker than night after I finished speaking.

"Bella, did he try to rape you?"

"He wasn't himself," I repeated, knowing that it was a futile attempt. I heard the desperate note in my voice. It sounded like I was appealing to Rosalie to tell me that it was true, he just hadn't been himself.

"Was Alice with him?"

I nodded, and suddenly Rosalie had briefly and hesitantly wrapped her arms around me. "Bella, it'll be fine. It will, okay? The rest of us won't let it happen again, I swear! I'll… I'll be there for you. I won't let you experience what I did, especially not now that I know it almost happened."

I was shocked. Rosalie Hale, the only one in the family that hadn't taken to me at all, was offering to protect me. She was hugging me. She was reassuring me.

"Bella, I'm still against you becoming a vampire. But… Do you think that we could maybe try to get along? I won't promise to go out of my way to be nice to you, but I want to at least try to become your friend. Is that… okay?"

I almost laughed. Almost. I controlled the urge. "It's fine, Rosalie. I'd like to try to get along with you as well."

"Rosie." Emmett's voice broke the comfortable silence that had fallen, and I shivered. Emmett's sudden appearance had reminded me that I didn't know where Alice and Edward had gone now. They could be lurking in my closet, outside my house, violating the Quileute treaty bonds. Hurting my friends. I still ached about their betrayal, but it wasn't as bad as it had been when they'd all abandoned me. "Rosie, are you there?"

"No, Emmett, I'm in a wall." Rosalie called back sarcastically. Emmett's booming laughter was a lot like a roll of gentle thunder. "What do you need, Emmett?"

"I was just curious if you were actually here or not," Emmett replied, and I laughed.

"Hi, Emmett."

Emmett's hugely muscled body suddenly appeared in my bedroom, and I squeaked at his random appearance. His booming laugh was contained to a quiet chuckle. "Hi, Bella. How are you?" Emmett's kind question shattered the strong walls that I'd built around my emotions, and tears poured out of my eyes. Emmett lifted me up like a football and made soothing sounds. "I'll take that for an answer," he murmured, and the vibrations of his voice in his chest resembled thunder. Quite literally.

"She's terrified, Emmett. He almost…" And Rosalie's quiet voice trailed off into a high-pitched buzz. Vampire-speed talking, then. She didn't want to bring those memories back to the front of my mind. Emmett's arms tightened around me almost unperceptively, and I knew then that he'd finally realized that I had a good reason to be scared. "Bella's unprotected at this point, and that worries me. She doesn't deserve to go through all of this hell because of our family."

"I'm pretty sure the reason that I'm going through all this hell is because I'm a danger magnet, Rosalie, and not because of your family. Your family was pulled into because of me is a more likely scenario."

"Bella, if it hadn't been for Alice and her visions, then Edward wouldn't have even thought of you. I mean, sure, he'd have struggled with his bloodlust; you'd still be his la tua cantante, but still! You wouldn't have been dragged into this supernatural world of ours, and you wouldn't be in danger from the one who supposedly loves you!"

I winced, and Emmett growled softly, most likely warning Rosalie to watch what she said. I didn't blame her. It was my fault, in a weird way. I'd kind of provoked her, and she was only responding in kind. "It's fine, Emmett. Let her speak her mind. It doesn't bother me." Emmett sighed.

"Whatever. Bella, you're going to stay with us tonight. I don't trust those two traitors to not randomly jump you tonight. You'll be safe with me and Rose." I smiled.

"Thanks, Emmett."

He laughed as he leapt from my window and started running.

I could've sworn he said, "Anything for my little sis."