Make Haste Chapter 15: Divided Heart

Whew! This one's been hard work. Credit is due to my Beta, Room340C, for helping me brainstorm out an unforeseen issue (She said, "Sam," and I said, "No! Jacob!" *snickers*). And then she told me Alice needed work. And then, we worked on four drafts. There's nothing better than a Beta who makes ME work. Thanks, hon.

Youtube isn't behaving. All my music's on the playlist, it just won't let me put it in order. Maybe by next time it will be fixed. These selections ought to begin at #88:

"Seduction," by Adam Hurst

"All Love Can Be," by James Horner, featuring Charlotte Church

"Many the Miles (Sarah Bareilles)," performed by the Harvard Veritones

"College Medley Foxtrot," By Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians

"Sex Music (All Night)," by Tank

"Monster," by Imagine Dragons

"When You Find Me" by Joshua Radin featuring Maria Taylor

I will watch you in the darkness
Show you love to see you through
When the bad dreams wake you crying
I'll show you all love can do
All love can do

I will watch through the night
Hold you in my arms
Give you dreams where no one will be
I will watch through the dark
Till the morning comes

For the lights will take you
Through the night to see
All love, showing us all love can be

I will guard you with my bright wings
Stay till your heart learns to see
All love can be

o~o~0~o~o

Wednesday, October 19th, 2005:

Bella's POV:

"Harder!"

I hated it that he had agreed to go. Eyes stinging, I brought down the heavy leather flogger on his back. It wasn't sharp, but he'd asked me to strike him so many times that I couldn't imagine it didn't hurt.

"Harder, Bella. I can barely feel it." His back rippled with tension; he was getting frustrated.

After I called him out of the shower, he came to me with his head down like a naughty child. He'd been in there a lot longer than usual and, knowing his history, I was starting to get concerned. I was right to be concerned. Shamefaced, he surrendered his palms to me. They bore fine scratches beaded with venom.

Thanking God that Em and Rose had left for the night, I ransacked the cupboards for steel wool, found it in the laundry room closet, and threw it all out. Edward didn't argue with me.

"I need to be distracted," he told me wearily when I returned. "Make me forget."

He was angry, he said. And bottling up his feelings. And he needed an outlet.

"I'm not going to hurt you," I told him.

"I don't want you to injure me, but I want it rough. Gentle isn't going to cut it. Now make me feel something other than angry before I put my fist through that window!"

I bit my tongue to keep from telling him he didn't have to help the wolves, certain that he really would destroy the room.

So I made him kneel. On his towel. Wet hair dripping into his eyes. And I dried his back carefully because even vampire skin's not resilient when it's wet. And then, I painted him all over with the limp falls of the whip. That was two hours ago. I started off lightly. Gradually, he adjusted to it, and couldn't feel it anymore, and I had to keep upping the intensity.

"Harder!" he ordered, and I increased the strength of my swing. But he wasn't satisfied and asked me to go as hard as I could.

A sob escaped me. I'd never forget the time I had playfully struck him with a whip and it cut him open. I dropped the flogger on the rug. Edward got up so fast that I felt air rush around me. He clasped my upper arms and leaned down so he could peer up into my eyes.

"It doesn't hurt," he insisted. "There's no reason to cry, I'm not lying."

I brushed his hands away and wiped my cheeks. "I don't believe you. You want to be hurt. You want to be punished. It's messed up and I can't deal with it."

He stared at my mouth, then, raised his eyes. "No," he said gently. "It feels good. It's relaxing."

I laughed in his face. As my tears fell, he bit his lip and shook his head slightly. "I need you to trust me on this, like I trust you." He placed his hands gently on my shoulders and steered me to the Saint Andrew's Cross. He pressed himself up against my back to nudge me right up against the wood. He lifted my wrist to the higher beam and secured it with a white Shibari rope. Then he tied my other wrist to the opposite beam so that my arms were in a Y above my head.

"Trust me," he crooned, pressing his lips behind my ear. His fingers stroked through my hair and pulled it over my shoulder to hang down over my breast. He gave me a little pat on the shoulder. "Please."

It wasn't like he'd never used a flogger on me before. We had the light brown suede one that we'd liberated from Esme's Island and he'd used it on me a few times. But this one was leather, twice the length and each fall was much wider. It was black and looked wicked. I prayed to God it wouldn't hurt because if I cried out, he'd never forgive himself.

The falls rattled as he picked it up, and I tensed.

"Don't be afraid, Love. I would never hurt you."

It felt like rain.

I sagged and rested my cheek against the vertical bar of the cross, tears continuing to stream. Edward knew just the right amount of pressure to use. Whenever I adjusted to the intensity, he increased it slightly, but never once was it painful. For a while, I forgot everything except the gentle pull of leather against my flesh and a couple of times I began to purr. That would startle me, and it would stop. Purring was a very odd sensation, but if I relaxed and accepted my new nature, I could almost lull myself into a soporific state where I didn't feel the passage of time. It was like self-hypnosis with a happy, smug flavour; what I suspected resembled being high. But I found it hard to let go of my tension.

"Did I lie?" my mate murmured.

"No."

Still, even a drip of water can be torture if it continues indefinitely; after twenty minutes, I'd had enough.

"Yellow."

"Mm, I think you mean red." He cast the flogger aside and picked up a bottle of fragrant, dry Arcan oil, which he sprinkled on my back and spread in concentric circles with loving fingertips. I leaned my forehead against the wood and shut my eyes, basking in the warmth radiating from wherever he touched. He knelt to stroke my legs. "Was I right? Did it feel good?"

My voice trembled. "I couldn't bear to hurt you."

"I know. It was unwise of me to tell you to hit me as hard as you could, considering that you marked me last summer and you weren't nearly as strong back then. It's just… you were holding back. I couldn't get you to use enough power."

"I'm afraid of my strength. It hasn't been tested." I shifted to peek over my shoulder at him. "Untie me, and I'll do it now. I… I'll do my best for you."

He stood, brushing languid fingers up the outside of my legs, my hips, my ribs, up my shoulders and neck, then along the length of my arms to my hands. "Apparently," he said as he untied me, "pleasuring you is a good way to forget my troubles." He supported me by the wrists as he slowly swept me up with his other arm, shifting to pick me up as my feet left the floor. "I don't want it rough anymore."

Carrying me to the bed and leaving me warm on cool white sheets, he lit candles. Then he retrieved the oil, spilling it into his hands and rubbing them together. Crawling over me, he began at my collarbones and worked his way down, careful not to wake Ren. We didn't speak. He worked on my hands until they rested, limp, on the sheet. Bypassing my privates, he massaged my thighs and legs, then pampered my feet until I purred unabashedly. Then, he crawled up behind me and pressed his front to my back, combed his fragrant fingers through my hair and nuzzled my ear. His palm slid onto my mons while his finger found my clit and stroked it. His purr vibrated against my ribs, mingling with mine.

His breath felt warm on my neck. I swallowed the lump in my throat and caressed his cheek, his beard rough against my palm. My back arched under his ministrations and he placed his hand between my thighs to lift my leg and make a home for himself. He filled me up, somehow managing to reach my clit past my belly, and we moved together, warm despite the coolness of the air.

And then, he started to sing to me, the Song of Solomon. We loved, and his hands were on me, and his lips against my shoulder, his breath on my neck and his song in my heart. And my heart was full of tears that I couldn't shed because he was already reluctant to leave me, but the lump caught in my throat and I had to hold my breath to keep the tears in. He stopped breathing too, and then he released into my depths, but there was no shout of joy. One strangled sob left him, and the hard muscles of his thighs trembled. His forehead rested on the back of my shoulder and we remained silent because saying anything at all was bound to make it worse.

How am I to leave you, his silence lamented.

We haven't been apart for more than a few hours since August thirteenth, my heart cried.

I taste your tears. I can't breathe.

Come home to me soon. Promise you will. I can't be without you.

I swear, I won't stay away a moment longer than I must.

He rose and fetched two t-shirts from his dresser. He took one of them and rubbed it all over my body, ending with a swipe between my legs. Testing the scent, he nodded, then rubbed the other shirt all over himself and passed it to me. I placed it under my pillow while he trudged to the closet and leaped up through the trap door. When he came down, he was carrying a fat black knapsack of the type used for camping. The last time I'd seen it was when he packed it to camp on a mountaintop to hide me from an army of Newborns. Whatever passed for stomach acid in my body rose and seared my throat. I gulped it back down, clenching the sheets.

Head down, he set his pack on the bed and went to the washroom to retrieve his toiletries. He returned without bathing and put on new clothes: dark wash jeans and a long-sleeved black shirt that looked like it was made of Lycra.

"I haven't seen those clothes before," I said, leaning on my pillows.

"You won't see them again." He zipped his pack and put on a waterproof windbreaker.

At 5AM, we heard Em's Jeep pull into the driveway, and the handle of the front door turned. Gritting his teeth, Edward visibly forced himself to walk toward me. He drank in the sight of me, his face carved from stone, not touching. He moved closer as though he was going to kiss me goodbye, but then, he didn't. Instead, he put his palm on my cheek. For a moment, his composure slipped and I thought he would reach out to embrace me. But instead, he marched smartly from the room, his backpack banging against the door as he let himself out.

I lay against my pillows holding my breath so I didn't miss a sound. The candles flickered golden in the half light. Another vehicle pulled into our driveway and a moment later, someone opened the front door.

"Damon."

"Dom Cullen, I have your car. Aro says I am to accompany you to Washington."

"Your eyes are turning orange. Bravo."

"Eh, I am managing okay."

"If you come with me, you have to promise on your honour that you will not hunt humans."

"I give you my word."

"Bravo, bravissimo. Do you need anything before we go?"

"No, grazie."

The hardwood squeaked under their feet. "Emmett, I want you to drive the Guardian while I'm away. It's armored. And Rose, you are not to take it apart."

"Like I would do that!"

"All right."

No one spoke for a moment. "I swear I'll guard them with my life," Emmett said.

There was no audible response. The front door closed and my mate was gone.

I lay in bed for an hour, breathing in his scent, feeling him in my pores. At the end of that time, I brought my knees up to my belly, tucked my head under the sheets and whimpered. The floodgates opened and I wept and wept until I didn't know how it was that I didn't break apart into a thousand shards. Sitting up, I clutched his pillow and rocked it, tears soaking the fabric, staining it with diluted venom. As whitish sun streamed into my window, my cell phone vibrated. Gulping and wiping my nose, I retrieved it from the bedside table.

Edward: I know you're weeping. Stop it. You're eating my heart out.

Grateful that he wasn't going to be incommunicado, I texted him back: I'll try. Looks like no school for me today. Sun's out.

Edward: Good. Go to sleep. I'll call you later.

I breathed a sigh of relief. He was going to keep in touch regularly. Love you.

Edward: Love you more.

I curled up, hand on my phone, unable to sleep. A few hours later, there was a knock on my door. Emmett's voice filtered through the transom at the top.

"Baby Sis? How about coming out of there and watching TV with us for a while?"

"Yes. Okay." I rose from my bed and padded to the wall opposite the bed, lifting the candle snuffer from its decorative iron hooks. I had laughed when I first saw the snuffer because it looked like something that belonged in a church: the silver handle was two feet long. He'd found it in a bombed out church, he told me, in Belgium after the war. I caressed the mother of pearl inlay on the bell, stirring up perfume on the rime of wax, then carefully extinguished each point of light, leaving the scent of burning in its wake.

I put on a nightshirt, panties, the furry bear paw slippers Alice had once bought me for a joke, and my white robe. I put one foot in front of the other and walked to the living room, trying not to look like a wraith.

"Isn't it great that we get a day off college?" Rose asked with artificial brightness, obviously determined to buoy me up.

"Yeah," I cleared my gluey throat. Rosalie adored her classes. On the rare days when escaping the sun was impossible, even with tunnels, she was a cranky piece of work.

"Come sit with us, Baby," Emmett invited me. Hugging my stomach, I walked over to the couch and sat between them. I curled up into Em's side and Rose ran her fingers through my hair. Emmett placed his hand on my stomach. "The spawn asleep?"

I moved his hand and Renesmee rolled under it. Em's eyes widened. "Wow, this kid's…"

"Strong?"

"Real."

I hummed a laugh. "Tigger keeps me up nights."

"Wait 'til he's born if you think you're sleep deprived now."

My eyes rolled. "I'll be a vampire then, Emmett."

"What are your baby names, Bella?" Rose wanted to know.

"For a boy, Laurence Carl. For a girl, Renesmee Carlie."

"Those are really nice. How did you come up with them?"

"We brainstormed them a while back." I didn't feel like talking, but they persisted.

"Where did you get 'Laurence'?" Em wondered aloud.

"Laurie was Edward's best friend growing up. Hasn't he ever mentioned him?"

Em shook his head. "I don't think so."

"Laurie was killed, just after World War I, cleaning up Vimy Ridge. Edward later discovered that he and his wife had a son named Edward Masen Harris."

Rose blinked. "Did Edward ever meet his namesake?"

"No. Edward Harris was born in 1921. There were too many people around who would have remembered our Edward."

"Still, a piece of his human life was preserved. That was a lovely thing of Laurie and his wife to do."

I played with my engagement ring. "Edward never met Laurie's wife, as far as he remembers. But he and Laurie were like brothers."

Emmett sighed. "Not meeting the kid must have been tough on him."

"Bittersweet," Rose murmured. "Edward must have been touched to know his friend missed him so."

"Everyone must have loved Eddie Masen," Em declared.

"No," I said bitterly, distress making my stomach hurt. Rose and Em looked astonished and pained. I couldn't help pouting. "He could never live up to their standards."

"Well," Rose said hesitantly, "from the few stories he's told us, it sounds like he could be a bit of a scamp, but that doesn't mean they didn't love him, Bella."

I felt my face set in a scowl. "His step-siblings were cruel to him, and he was terrified of his paternal grandfather."

"He had siblings?" Em asked intently.

"Much older siblings. Lizzie was fourteen when he was born, and William was twelve."

Em looked lost. Rose's eyes flickered. "I thought he was an only child. A pampered only child."

"Hardly."

"His parents were kind people, though," Em asserted. "They must have been, or Edward wouldn't be such a good guy."

"Edward adored his parents," I conceded. "His father could be stern, but…" I trailed off, unwilling to expose my mate's secrets if he had been unwilling to share them. After a few minutes, Rose delicately changed the subject.

"Your hair smells pretty," she said, stroking it. "It's really shiny. Did you use Argan oil?"

"Yes." I must have looked surprised because she explained how she knew the scent.

"Em and I went to Morocco when you and Edward were on your honeymoon, remember?"

"Oh, right. It isn't greasy and it doesn't gum up. Edward…" My heart sought him in the wilderness.

"If I were to braid your hair, the scent would stay in longer."

I felt a pinprick of cheer. "I'd like that. Would you mind?"

"Not at all. Shall I get your hairbrush?"

"There's one in the bathroom cabinet."

Rose got up and returned a moment later with my brush and a packet of hair fasteners. She dropped a cushion on the floor and I sank onto it between her feet. She gathered my hair and smoothed it into her lap. Then, she brushed it out and slowly French braided it into a coronet that sat close against my skull.

"That should stay in for a while."

"Thanks, Rose."

"You're welcome, Bella."

Em gestured at the spot next to him, "Why don't you come back up here and tell us more things we never knew about Goober."

My jaw dropped. "Goober? Since when have you called him Goober?" My crankiness spiked, but I wanted the explanation too badly to stomp off.

Em lifted a shoulder. "He used to be very awkward around people before you came along. Between the mindreading and the fact he was stuck as an adolescent, it just fit. I can't call him that anymore, though."

"Yeah, um, I thought calling him 'Bimbo' was bad."

"Bimbo meant 'Tough Guy' back in my time. It's a compliment."

"He hates it."

"Not entirely." Em avoided looking at me.

"Enough to have asked you to quit about ten thousand times."

"I love Eddie, but he needs to learn to laugh at himself. Now tell us another story that he's too reserved to share."

I cast about for something the boys couldn't use against him. "He came home dead drunk once at the age of fourteen."

Em's face lit up. "No kidding!"

"His mother lectured him on the wages of sin while he threw up all night in the commode, and then his father whipped his butt while he was hung over. It didn't keep him out of the speakeasies, either."

Emmett shook his head. "Wonders will never cease."

"Not as much of a goodie two shoes as we thought, Emmy," Rose said, looking at her mate sidelong.

"I guess not!" Em searched my expression. "Why hasn't he shared this with us? Jazz and I have been teasing him forever for being a stuffed shirt."

I shook my head slightly. "I think the memories hurt too badly." I ran the tip of my finger over my engagement ring.

Em hung his head and peeped at me. "Is that why he never let me call him 'Eddie'?"

A claw on one of my diamonds needed tightening. "Everyone he loved called him Eddie."

"But… he lets me do it now."

I patted his arm. "He's trying to live in the present."

Rosalie's perfect face creased. "I'm not sure I'm following, Bella. He always told me not to dwell on the past. I used to act out my human days. Mimic the customs, the fashions of my time… He told me to cultivate new interests. It was actually Edward who brought me my first broken automobile."

"Oh," Emmett chortled. "That was the ugliest short ever."

Rose peeked at him flirtatiously. "Yes, well, it wasn't an ugly car when I was done with it. You were proud of me."

Em smiled nostalgically. "I was impressed."

"When I told Edward that being mechanically-minded wasn't ladylike, he scoffed at me and handed me a postcard bearing Amelia Earhart's photograph. I framed it. It sits on top of my bedside drawers."

"Wow. I never knew that."

"Well, Edward's never been one to reveal his good works or toot his own horn." Her eyes rolled. "At least, up until now. Every once in a while, he says something smug and cheeky that makes me wonder at the change in him. Which leads us back to my question, which you didn't answer."

I scanned my memory, but couldn't remember what we'd been talking about. I was thinking about the things she'd told me -about Edward knowing what to do to help her adjust even though he hadn't been happy himself. "What was your question?"

Rose grimaced faintly. "I'll be glad when you're one of us and your memory's no longer fallible."

My heart warmed. "Thank you."

"That was an insult, Bella." She sighed, hugging herself. "I wanted you to explain what you meant when you said Edward was trying to live in the present."

"I can tell you that," Em said. "Lao Tzu said, 'If you're depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you're living in the future. If you're at peace, you're living in the present'."

"Yes," I looked at my ring. "He's seeking peace." Reluctantly, I took off my ring and held it out to Rose. I'd seen her repair several family jewels over the years. "Rose, one of the claws on my ring is sticking up. Could you please fix it for me?"

"Sure, Bella, I'd be glad to." She held out her palm and accepted it, then picked it up and held it to the light. "It's in need of a good cleaning. What's the condition of your other jewellery?"

I tucked my chin. "Um, it could probably all use some care."

"When's the last time you cleaned it?"

"I clean the ring about once a week, but…"

"Bella! You've never cleaned your jewellery, have you?"

I couldn't look at her. "Well, a lot of it was his mother's and it still smells like her. A little."

Rosalie grasped my hand and tugged me to my feet. "Hmph! Well, we won't drop it in detergent, then, but you're going to have to let me pick the dirt out of the settings and polish the stones."

I found I liked the idea of that. "It's a good way to pass the time. Thanks!"

"We'll get everything all sparkly and shiny." She tugged me toward my room. "If he's anything like Emmy, he'll like that."

I stopped walking and she bumped into me. "What's the matter?"

"He's, uh, very jealous of our…"

"Privacy. At least in your lair." She nodded. "That's normal when you're newly-mated. Why don't you bring your jewellery box to the kitchen and I'll work at the breakfast bar."

I smiled up at her. "That would be great. Thanks."

Thursday and Friday crawled. Edward texted me occasionally to let me know his whereabouts and progress, but he must have turned off his phone between texts to conserve the battery because he didn't always answer my messages right away. Since our cell phones are never considered safe or permanent possessions, I backed up some of his more interesting texts to a document I could revisit when it was particularly hard to manage without him.

Only Edward would choose to run more than 3000 miles over a period of four days rather than take a plane. But according to Alice that was the best option for him. Although he'd be away from me that much longer, I had to agree. He'd use the time to prepare himself for what he had to do.

Swam the Hudson today. Looks very pretty since Pete Seeger cleaned it up. Couldn't resist checking up on Jimmy. Undisturbed. Apologized to God but was not a hypocrite. Won't be laying a wreath. Sadly, missed the attractive parts of Buffalo.

Miss you.

Bruna's birthday tomorrow. Can you send a gift card and call Fer? I'm in Columbus. Gardens rife with fall mums the exact colour of your eyes. Snitched a few so I could visit David Cullen. First time I've been since we laid him to rest. Still throws me: beloved son of Carlisle and Esme. Sorry that sounds morbid but it was really very peaceful and pleasant.

Damon's making me nuts, asking questions. He's an old fogey version of Seth. You thought I was a dinosaur? It's all I can do not to order him away. Help.

Don't worry, bypassing Chicago. Detouring south, then heading northwest toward Sioux Falls. Be glad you can't smell me right now.

Black bear thought he was going to eat me. Oops.

Feels like forever since I licked you. Request entered. *wink*

Ditched my 2nd pair of shoes in Billings and bought 2 more pairs. Soon I will be back in the Rockies, which is slower but safer. Heard from Jazz. He's in Southern California heading north. Hope to meet him soon.

Stalking mountain lion in Helena National Forest, when out of nowhere, Jasper leaped on it. LOL! Good thing he's my brother or I wouldn't have shared. Damon was apoplectic! Jazz won him over and now D's asking J questions instead of asking me! Awesome!

Swimming/running the Spokane River and what do you suppose? Damon found his mate. I had to call Aro and tell him there was a snowball's chance in hell of getting him to finish his assignment. Good thing Aro is a romantic because he was irritated. It's okay, I've got Jazz. Like anyone's going to outfox a mind reader AND an empath. Don't worry.

Crossing the border into Washington. :)) Be glad to see Charlie and Merrytwinkle.

"You have to bathe, Bella," Rose ordered on Saturday morning. "Even the humans will think you smell bad."

"I don't want to go to the baby shower." What I wanted to do was sit by the phone and wait for my mate to call and say he'd made it safely to Cullen House and was in our cottage's kitchen, charging his cell.

"You promised Edward you'd go, and just think how disappointed Tabitha will be if you don't show up."

"Tell her I'm sick."

"What will Edward say? I think I'll phone him right now and he'll panic thinking something's wrong. When you're a Cullen-"

"Oh, fine!" I stomped to the bathroom and put my hands into my messy coronet of braids to undo the plaits. With a rush of air, Rose appeared behind me and started taking my hair down. Tears pricked my eyes. "His scent will be gone."

"He'll be done with his task tomorrow and then he'll start for home," Rose reminded me. "I doubt he'll come home on foot. He'll probably get a plane from Seattle and be home by Monday."

"He hasn't said." My voice was dull, even in my ears. "Why hasn't he texted me this morning?"

"Maybe his battery's dead."

"And Jasper?"

"Jasper's travelled a long way, too. It will all be better soon, Bella. You have to keep your chin up. What if Edward phones and you're all upset?"

I looked at my puffy eyes in the mirror. "Yes, okay."

An hour later, Em dropped us outside Tabby's building. Rose actually took me by the hand and led me up to Tab's dorm. She knocked on the door with one knuckle, giving me a reassuring smile.

"Yay! The guest of honour's here!" Tabby said, hugging me. "Didn't you bring Pops? He could have come."

I cleared my throat. "No, he had to go home to help my Uncle Billy with a legal matter. He told me to say 'hi' to everyone, though, and thank you for the party."

"Oh, you must miss him," she cooed, giving me a consoling pat.

"It's the first time they've been parted since their wedding," Rose murmured. "Bella's been having a hard time."

"Never mind, lovey, we'll have some fun and before you know it, he'll be home again."

Sarah, Rebecca, Celie and Lisa stopped talking as I walked in and I felt the heat of my blush. Everyone greeted me and made me sit in a portable papasan chair that had folding legs. I eased myself into it, worried that I'd be heavy enough to break it. It was like a big nest. Carefully, I drew my feet up and sat cross-legged.

"Gee, we might have trouble getting you out of that later," Tabby said. "I never thought about it."

I tucked my hair behind my ear. "It's fine." I did my best to smile but I really didn't want to be the center of attention.

"Okay, let's get the party started," Sarah said. "This is my game." Tabby had asked everyone to share a game. "Everybody take a pin. Sarah passed around clothespins to all of us. "Now, you put them on your clothes, and you can't say the word 'baby'. If you do, someone can take your pin. You might be able to steal more than one if you're lucky. At the end of the party, the person with the most pins gets a prize." I put the pin on the neck of my sweater and prayed nobody would pounce on me to get it.

Someone knocked on the door and Tabby hurried over. "Knock, knock?" a feminine voice sang. I straightened up in my nest.

"Alice?"

"Hi, Bella!" My mate's sister skipped into the room and wrapped her arms around me. I burst into tears. "Aw, sweetie! Do you think I would have missed this?"

"Oh, god, I can't believe you're here." I sniffled into my hand.

"Well, surprise!"

"Thanks, guys. You have no idea how much it means to me to have both my sisters here."

Releasing her, I wiped my eyes. "Um, guys, this is Edward's sister, Alice. She came up from the northwest Amazon to be here."

"Wow!" Celie said. "I'd love to hear what you do down there."

Alice beamed. "I work to help orphans and single mothers better their lives."

"Hi, Ali." Rose embraced her. "I'm glad to see you."

"Likewise, sister."

"The Amazon?" Sarah repeated. "Little pale, aren't you?"

Alice laughed. "Yep, I never seem to be able to tan. Ooh, you're playing the clothespin game?" She accepted one from Tabby. "I don't know how I'll keep from saying 'baby'. I just love babies."

Rose stole her clothespin while my friends laughed and clapped.

"I brought a game," Alice announced. She passed out a half-dozen paper bags with numbers on them. "There's an object in each bag. You have to feel each one, guess what it is and write down the answers. The person who gets the most correct answers wins the prize I brought and Bella gets the things in the bags."

"Awesome," Tabby said.

The games seemed to go on forever. Rosalie and Alice purposefully allowed the humans to win everything except the clothespin game. For some reason, they got really competitive about who could get the most clothespins, both of them resembling some kind of designer hedgehogs. Every time one of them said 'baby', the other snatched the pin before a human could get near it. It was really funny and made me laugh.

I served cake to our friends, daring to taste a bit of the icing in case it was of the variety we could eat, but it wasn't. But the cake was so cute: shaped like a big pink and blue striped bootie.

"Esme would get a kick out of this," Rosalie said, taking pictures of it. Alice, of course, had brought her camera, too. She took pictures of everything else.

When I opened my gifts, Rose wrote what I got on the back of the cards so I could send notes later. And Tabby made me a hat out of a paper plate with bows stuck all over it and forced me to wear it.

"Okay, Rosalie, what's your game?" Tabby said with a smile.

Rose grinned evilly. "Well, I didn't tell Bella because she's so shy, but every time she unwrapped a gift, I wrote down what she said. And now, I'm going to read the questions as though Edward's asking her, and she's going to read what she said as though she were talking to Edward on the night the baby was conceived."

I slapped my hands over my cheeks while my friends cheered, trying desperately to remember what I might have said to incriminate myself while innocently opening presents.

Rose cleared her throat and held up her paper. "Edward asked, 'Do you like my big dick, Minx?' and Bella said?"

I was not going to make it through this. "It's so soft I want to rub my face on it." My girlfriends thought it was the best thing ever. They laughed and squealed and roared.

Rose said, "Edward asked, 'Do you want it harder, stronger, faster' and Bella said?"

"Wow, this is great. Every mother needs one of these." Sigh.

Rosalie's eyes danced. "Edward asked, 'Do you like my ass?' and-"

I shook my head. "I cannot say this, Rose."

"Oh, come on, Bella, be a sport," Tabby pleaded. "Pops would laugh."

"Yeah, come on, Bella, he's never going to find out from us," Sarah coaxed me.

"I'm never going to live this down," I muttered. "Okay. What I said was, 'Oh, look! There's a little orange fish inside.' "

Had Rose been human, she'd have been crying with mirth. I hid my head in my hands and curled up in my nest, trying not to die. And then, I started to laugh, too, because I realized she'd never be able to keep it from him.

After thanking my friends, I walked down the stairs with my sisters and my loot. Em was parked at the curb. "Your chariot awaits, ladies."

"Thanks, Em." I crawled into the back seat of the Guardian and Alice followed me. She wrapped me up in a big hug.

"You're holding up beautifully, Bella."

"Have you Seen him?"

"He's okay. He misses you dreadfully, but he's doing everything he needs to do to take care of himself."

"He damn-well better be," Em muttered.

"We should have a girls' night tonight, just like we used to," Alice suggested. "Ooh, yes, Bella! I'd love to do your nails. But Rose is better at the polish."

"Maybe we should camp out in front of the TV and watch some old movies," Rose suggested.

"Sounds like a plan," I pushed away my loneliness. Edward and I had been apart for much longer time periods, after all. Surely I could maintain a strong home front until I could welcome him home.

Once in the house, Em retired to his room to watch football and my sisters and I mounded up pillows and blankets in the living room. When I came out wearing my favourite, horrible unicorn pajama shirt with one of Edward's tank top undershirts and some pregnancy shorts, Alice didn't even groan. She, of course, was wearing a vintage 1950s frilly baby doll set. Rose compromised with a plum velour pair of p.j.'s.

"What shall we watch?" Alice asked, peering into the glass doors of the video cabinet.

"Something funny," I ordered, knowing I'd cry my way through anything romantic.

"Abbott and Costello?"

I wrinkled my nose. "Nah."

Rose peeked at me. "Harvey?"

"What's that about?" I wondered aloud.

"A man who sees a giant rabbit, only it's not a hallucination, there really is a giant rabbit," Rose said. "Jimmy Stewart's in it."

"Sounds like fun."

Emmett peeped into the living room. "Uh, can I watch it with you?"

"Only if you and Rose promise not to get giggedy," I told him. He practically skipped into the room and that's when I noticed what he was wearing: flannel pants with Elmo all over them.

"What?" he frowned. I pointed at his pants.

"That's just wrong."

The movie was great. Em and Rose retired to their room for a bit and Alice got out her bejewelled pink tool box and dumped it out on a blanket next to me. When she took out a Dremmel Motor Tool, I balked.

"What is that doing in there?"

"Have you tried biting your nails lately?"

I cringed. "No."

"Try biting one, but don't go too close to the quick."

"Am I going to hurt myself?"

"No."

Wishing Edward were there to cut my nails for me as usual, I chose one of my middle fingers and bit my nail, which shattered. Spitting the broken bits discreetly into my other hand, I showed my fingers to Alice.

"Your teeth are sharp enough, but your nails are too brittle to trim yourself."

"When Edward does it, they look like they're supposed to."

"Yeah, well Edward had to learn to do his own nails when he was still a Newborn. There's no way he'd have let Carlisle keep them short."

I imagined Carlisle putting my mate's fingers in his mouth. "Why do I think Jessica Stanley would find that idea stimulating?"

"Um, because she's a whore?" Rosalie said scornfully, rejoining us.

Alice put a little rotating head on her power tool and sanded all my nails down. Then, she put on a buffing pad and shined each nail up. It wasn't the most pleasant sensation, but my nails did look really healthy after.

"What polish do you want, Bella?" Rosalie asked, sifting through all of Alice's little glass bottles.

I pointed out one that was whitish pink. "How about that one?"

"I can paint flowers on your nails, if you like."

"Wow, that would be really pretty, thanks." I presented my hand and Rose got to work while Alice chose another movie.

She put on Some Like it Hot but I found I just couldn't pay attention. Marilyn just wasn't as attractive as Rosalie Hale Cullen and I didn't get why the men in the movie were fawning all over her.

"All done," Rose said, and I looked at my meticulously painted nails. Each had a delicate flower on it: a purple iris with a yellow beard.

"They look gorgeous, thank you, Rose."

"You're welcome, Bella."

Alice rolled onto her stomach with a bratty expression. "Y'all should be aware that I'm going to call Jasper soon."

Rose wrinkled her nose. "Can you try to keep it quiet?"

"Keep what quiet?" I asked, not thinking.

"Phone sex," my sisters said in stereo.

I was appalled. "Really?" Alice hit me with a pillow.

"Oh, come on, Bella! Since when are you Miss Prim?"

Blushing. I hate it. "I just never thought…"

"You should try it," she said (pupils expanding to black and contracting to normal almost immediately) and nodded decisively. "It'll help you both with the separation."

"I-I don't think-"

"You need to relieve as much of his distress as you can."

"Distress?" I yelped. "Is something-"

"In our culture, we habitually refer to distress as stress," she told me. "But all living things need stress to survive. When negative stress becomes overwhelming, it turns into distress."

I looked to Rosalie for help but she shook her head. "I'm with Ali on this one."

"Eep."

"Edward's arrived safely in Forks and he's decided to go to the cottage while Jazzy goes to the main house," Alice bubbled over with excitement. "They should be all settled in shortly, and then Edward's going to call you. You should get ready. See ya!" She jumped up and made a mad dash for the guestroom.

Rose rolled her eye and turned on the stereo. "I'm going back to Emmy."

"Uh, yeah, okay." I sat on my haunches amid abandoned pillows, nail polishes and DVDs. So much for the slumber party. "Are you a mate or a mouse?" I grumbled about myself. Then I got up and stomped to the bathroom, where I fetched a towel. I'd barely collected the things I needed when my cell rang. Snatching it up, I shimmied out of my shorts.

"Hello, Mrs. Cullen," my mate crooned. Alice and Rosalie were right. I could hear the stress in his voice. The distress.

"Hello, Beautiful. You're home?"

"Yes. Thank God Esme put dust covers all over everything. The place is atrociously stale and dirty."

"You phoned me before you cleaned?"

"I miss you so badly."

"I miss you right back. Tell me what you did today."

"Not much of interest. The rainforest is lovely as always. Tonight I stopped off at the waterfall to bathe."

"Alone?" I half-yelled. "Caius's goons could be-"

"No, Jasper was with me."

"Oh. Good. I need you to be careful."

"I'm being careful, Minx. I must say it's nice to be alone with you, though. I've had enough of bodyguards."

"Jasper's not with you?"

"He's gone up to the main house to call Alice."

I cleared my throat. "So. What are you wearing?" Really, Bella? What a cliché. He didn't answer me for a moment.

"Bella… are you trying to have phone sex with me?"

If I were to answer him, he'd probably nip it in the bud before we even got started. "Listen," I told him, snapping open a bottle of lube and spilling it on myself. With a muttered curse, he dropped the phone. "Edward?"

"Give me a sec'."

"Okay."

I heard some rustling and then he was back. "Okay. Where are you, in bed?"

I touched myself. "I'm sitting in the bondage chair. I'm touching myself."

"What are you wearing?"

"Your undershirt." I scrambled out of the unicorn shirt. It just wasn't going to cut it for this. My mate groaned. "What are you wearing?" I asked him.

"Nothing. I'm lying on our bed but all the bedding's on the floor. Pillows, too."

"Have you got lube?"

I heard the bedside drawer open. "Yes." The bottle bubbled as he squeezed it onto himself. "Talk to me."

" Mr. Ed is so silver and swollen. Like my clit."

"Ye-ah. I want the pull of your pretty mouth, but your pretty hands will have to do." He caught his breath and hissed.

"I'm wet."

"Let me listen."

I held the phone down by my crotch and stroked myself.

"Unh, you are wet. There's a white bead of cum on my tip."

"Rub it into the head. If I were there, I would lick it off."

"Mmm, yeah. I'd be licking you right now. Right where you want it."

"Your fingers are at my entrance."

"I want them inside you now."

I slipped Fake Edward inside me and my head bumped against the wooden back of the chair.

"How's that feel?" my mate demanded.

"So good."

"I'm rubbing your Gee. I'm stroking in and out of you."

"M-yeah. I'm so puffy and wet and I'm gripping your fingers. I can feel every ridge on them."

"I want to lick them. And then, I want to lick you."

"Yes! Your dick… I want it in me."

"Pinch your nipples."

"I'm close."

"Let me hear you."

I came in a flutter of purrs and growls and he groaned, and his breath caught, and he grunted long and hard as he released. Afterward, we breathed in tandem. I moved to the bed and lay down, feeling the lack of his embrace acutely.

"I should let you sleep," he said at last.

"Don't go," I begged him. "Stay with me." Since we had unlimited long distance on the house phone, time was not a factor.

"Okay, I won't hang up."

"Will you sing me to sleep?"

"Of course."

When I woke up in the morning, he was still singing.

"Morning Beau-ful."

"Oh, good morning, Love. I thought I heard you stirring. Did you sleep well?" His voice was smooth as velvet.

"Surprisingly well. I missed having you wrapped around me."

"I'll be home tonight. I've booked an evening flight out of Seattle. Will you pick me up at the airport?"

Every cell in my body exploded with joy. "Yes! Which airport?"

"Lebanon Municipal. My flight's supposed to get in at ten-thirty PM, but Alice will let you know the exact time."

I smiled so wide I thought my face might crack. "I'll be so glad to see you."

"I'm putting my order in for licking. I want lots and lots of licking."

"You've got it, mister! I'm going to nap all afternoon so I have tons of energy for you."

"I'll look forward to that." He got quiet. "I don't want to hang up."

"You don't have to."

He breathed a laugh. "Minx, I'm going to look funny dragging our landline to the Quileute border. I'm not sure I have an extension cord that long."

"Then hang up, and call me back on your cell. You can talk to me until you get there, right?"

"Bella… I…" He didn't finish.

"Okay." I nodded. "You have to go."

"The Kwoli leaders will bring the contract to the neutral area at one in the afternoon, and we'll all sign it. After that, the Wolves aren't allowed to phase."

"Do you think you'll have to go through with it?"

He paused. "I can't imagine how I won't. But I have to Listen, to know for certain."

"It's only ten. What are you doing until then?"

"I was considering going to church."

"You –really?"

"If I can get Jasper to go with me. He may not like the idea."

"Angela's church?"

"Yes. Her dad has a way of putting things that calms me."

"You have a lot to ask from God."

"I've done a lot of asking over the past few days. Jasper's using his mojo on me somewhat or I'd be climbing the walls right now."

"You seem happier than when you first phoned me last night."

"That has everything to do with you. Now, promise me you'll take care today."

"I promise." Fear clawed at my heart. "You'll be careful?"

"I promise. I love you, Bella."

"I love you, Edward. Hurry home."

"You know it."

He clicked off without saying goodbye, and I sighed. Our bed seemed empty and cold without him. I pulled his t-shirt out from under my pillow and cuddled it, but his scent was fading. I shut my eyes and drifted back to sleep.

At one in the afternoon, he sent me a text: At the border. Everything's as it should be; signed the agreement. I'll call you as soon as it's over. Make sure your cell is charged. Love you.∞

I texted him back to confirm I got the message, and sent him my love and prayers. After plugging in my phone, I joined his siblings in the living room. Alice was pacing, her eyes black. She'd pace and catch herself, and pace and shake her head.

"What's happening, are they okay?" I asked gently.

"They're okay. There's a lot of jumbled… stuff. I can See Sam, Jake, Jazzy and Edward. They're all with Jeremy not too far from the cliffs. Everything's blurry thanks to Sam."

Rose's eyes rounded. "The Kwoli are letting that monster loose in public? Where's Andee?"

Alice smiled grimly. "The first thing Edward did when he arrived in LaPush was give Andee's mom and dad a packet of money, plane tickets and entry to some family rehabilitation center in Arizona. The parents haven't decided where they're going to settle, but Edward advised them to get Andee far away from Jeremy without delay. Edward wanted to at least be sure that, today, they'd be nowhere near him."

"Andee should never have to set foot in her house again," Rose frowned.

"Edward is pretty sure there's no hope for Jeremy, but who knows what the Kwoli will believe? Edward wants Andee to get a new start. He also wants to make sure that if Jeremy should manage to escape death today, he won't be able to abduct her."

"What a nightmare," Rose muttered.

"I should be with…" Em began, and cut himself off, "…you females. To keep you safe." I gave him an appreciative pat on the arm and joined Rose on the couch, to sit with her shoulder-to-shoulder.

"The only Wolf I can See is Jacob because he gave me permission to Look, but I can't See Sam. Watching Jasper is making my head hurt." Alice hugged herself. "Jazz and Edward plan to trick Jeremy using Jasper's talent. Jeremy won't be suspicious."

"How will Jazz do that?" Em wondered aloud.

Alice shot an apologetic look at Rose. "Jazz is going to say he has an underage mate, too."

"Ew!" Rose shuddered.

"Jeremy will think his behaviour is right and that Jasper is his new best friend. Edward will read Jeremy's thoughts and if he isn't receptive to Sam or Jacob's orders to adjust his behaviour for the sake of his Imprint, Edward will snap his neck. The whole thing will be over almost before it's started. Simple."

After fifteen suffocating minutes of silence, Alice turned toward the couch and frowned, her head tipping sideways oddly and eyes unfocused. "Jasper's lies are working… Jeremy's starting to… share revolting information about his relationship with his Imprint." She growled and her lip curled. "He says he's got mad skills and Andee's going to learn to love him. Edward is sure Jeremy will evolve into a Sociopath. He's given the signal to Sam, Jacob and Jasper. Edward and Jazz will walk Jeremy to the cliffs. Jeremy won't suspect a thing. Edward will snap his neck and they'll fling his body way out onto the rocks to make it look like he jumped. Jacob looks upset. I'll Look in his head."

Alice paced and chewed her lip. She whispered, "No, Jacob." She took her head in her hands and whimpered. And then, she sucked in her breath and screamed.

"Don't phase! Don't phase!"

"What's going on?" Rose demanded, shaking her by the shoulders.

Alice gulped, hollow-eyed. "Jacob's losing it. He'll ruin everything! If he goes Wolf, the rest of the Pack will, too! Some of them will want to rip Jeremy up, but the three who have been friends with him all their lives will want to save him! Our mates will be right in the middle of a huge battle!"

Rose snatched me out of the air and caged me on the couch. "What's happening?" I yelled, trying to push away from her. "Will Sam betray our mates? Is Edward in trouble? Alice!"

"Let me Look!" Alice yelled back. She stilled and her lip quivered. Her head snapped up and all the colour drained from her face so she looked like an alabaster doll. "Jasper." She dropped to her knees -so hard that they left impressions in the hardwood.

"No-o-oo!" I screamed, leaping to my feet. If Jazz were down, what did that mean for Edward?

"Alice!" Em shouted.

Rose joined Alice on her knees. "Alice! What's happening?"

Our sister-in-law's head jerked to the side. Twin spots of hectic silver appeared on her cheekbones. As her eyes flickered, pale peach colour crept back into her face. "Thank all that's holy that Edward can read minds."

"What's going on?" I demanded, hugging my tummy. Ren was squirming and it made me want to throw up.

"Edward's got it under control," Alice breathed.

Slowly, I marshalled myself away from panic.

"How certain is it?" Em wanted to know.

"Absolute. It's already come to pass. Edward Heard Jacob's plan before he could phase and he shouted a warning to Sam. With some heat, I must say." I started to breathe again as Alice continued. "Sam grabbed Jacob and ordered him not to phase, but Jeremy figured out that everyone was trying to entrap him. He phased to Wolf and attacked Jacob. He almost had Jacob by the throat."

"Is Jake okay?" I demanded.

"Yes, but he's really lucky. Sam put his fist down Jeremy's throat so he couldn't close his teeth on Jake's windpipe and his arm's all cut up. There's blood everywhere. Jasper pounced on Jeremy and crushed his ribs and Edward broke Jeremy's neck. It's over."

I thought it through. "This makes Jacob and Sam accomplices to Jeremy's death, doesn't it?" My voice was shrill. "They'll be executed now!"

Alice shook her head. "No, Jeremy attacked a pack brother with intent to kill, so the Pack no longer has to be loyal to him."

Emmett uncurled his fists. "It's over?"

"Edward wants to deliver a strong word or two to Billy and Sam later, but yes, it's over."

Rosalie hugged herself. "Well, I'm sorry Edward had to do it, but I'm glad there's one less monster in the world."

Blackness scudded across Alice's eyes like storm clouds. "Wait." All of us tensed. "Aw, man. Edward's angry at Jacob." She fell maddeningly silent.

"What's going on, sugar?" Em asked her gently after a few minutes.

"He's shouting at him." Alice looked at Emmett blankly. Gradually, her eyes stopped swimming and came into focus. "He's right to be angry, you know. If Jacob had phased and attacked when Jeremy wasn't being aggressive, Jeremy's friends would have seen it as adequate provocation to defend Jeremy.

"The Pack would have torn each other up and would have destroyed Edward and Jasper. Edward prevented it."

"Praise God," I whispered, feeling a lump form in my throat. My mate was safe and so was Jasper, not to mention Jacob and the Kwoli and Billy and Andee.

"Jake's participation in any way would have voided the purpose of the agreement," Alice continued. "If Jake had killed Jeremy, it would have been almost impossible for Jake not to broadcast his guilt to the pack mind. He would have been -at very least- considered an accomplice and he'd have been branded an executioner. Since Jeremy attacked first, Edward and Jasper have simply acted in defence of Jake. Everyone's off the hook. Uh oh."

I didn't like the sound of that.

"Jazzy. He's been medicating Edward, too, to keep him calm. That's all he intended to do at first, but now that Edward's not medicated, he's accused Jasper of planning to use his talent on him so Jazz could break the kid's neck in his stead. Jasper admits he was tempted to do it because it wouldn't have upset him at all. But Edward has decided that between that and Jacob's lack of self-control, he's had enough."

I moaned. "Edward will believe that Jazz thinks he's weak. He's complained before that everyone tries to shelter him from moral dilemmas." I'd done it myself once. When Theofilo bit a human child, without warning I had relieved Edward from the responsibility of snapping her neck. He'd been horrified.

Alice hugged herself. "He was going to strike Jasper for dishonouring him, but when Jasper explained his reasoning, Edward changed his mind and stalked off. Edward has decided not to talk to the chiefs right away. He plans to come straight home without stopping. He's started to run toward Seattle."

"Godspeed," I whispered.

"Jasper is upset with himself for making Edward angry. He asked Sam to help him throw Jeremy's body onto the rocks since Edward left without doing it. Jasper has decided to give Edward space by going back to Forks to take leave of the Kwoli and your dad. He'll go after Edward and apologize when he's done that."

My cell buzzed. "Hello?"

"On my way home, Minx," my mate said gruffly.

"Are you okay?"

"Why wouldn't I be?"

Okay. "Because of the way you spent your afternoon? Alice said-"

"I saw your dad this morning. Sue's starting to show. They look happy."

So he wasn't ready to talk to me. I exchanged wary looks with Alice and Rosalie. "That's good."

"I can't wait to see you."

"Hurry home, Edward."

Alice screamed gutturally and all of us freaked. "Bella! Stop him! Don't let him go left."

"Edward! Go right! Keep to the right!" I shouted.

"Okay, okay!" I could hear the air whoosh as he ran.

"No, that's worse!" Alice howled. "Edward, turn west and get in a tree now!"

"Help!" He shouted. There was a crunching sound and his phone went dead. I listened for sounds that couldn't come, my heart lodged in my throat. "Edward?"

Alice was shouting into her own phone. "…go after him now! It's the ones who've been stalking them! Yes! Get Billy! Go for help now. Let Sam and Jacob do it, they can be trusted. Yes, now!"

"What's happening?" I yelled. Rose put her arms around me. "Did they turn on him? Embry used to be awfully cruel." Someone was making a keening noise like a dying rabbit.

"Let's not panic, Baby Bee," Em said firmly, trying to hold my gaze.

The edges of my vision were growing black. "Edward!"

Emmett clutched my arms. "Bella, breathe!"

"My mate!" I gasped. My brother-in-law delivered a stinging slap to my cheek. I doubt if he'd done it to Rose she'd have even felt it, but it rocked me sideways.

"Shit," Em breathed, grabbing me by the arms. "Baby Bee! Edward needs you to be strong!" His black eyes bored into me.

I nodded and breathed through my mouth, my cool hand covering my hot cheek. Alice continued to shout into her phone.

"… was heading for Seattle. I Saw him pass Ruby Beach, he's somewhere south of there in thick forest. There's no time to waste!"

"What's happening to Edward?" I whispered.

"Hold on, Baby Sis," Em said. "Alice will help them find him."

I marched to my room and grabbed my passport and a wad of cash and stuffed them in my purse. I put on my coat and sturdy shoes, thrust my cell phone in my pocket and marched for the front door. The air whooshed as Emmett moved to block me.

"Where do you think you're going?"

"Get out of my way."

"I promised him-"

"Get out of the motherfucking way Emmett or I swear to God I will kill you."

Rosalie appeared beside me, wearing her coat. "Are you driving, or am I?"

"Rosie!" Em gasped.

"You need to fly," Alice told me as she stomped into the front hall.

"At this stage of pregnancy?" Rosalie argued.

"It would take Bella nearly five days to run it or four days to drive," Alice said. "The stress of worrying about Edward would be more dangerous than letting her fly there in less than a day."

Alice gave all three of us a push on the shoulder. We exited the house. Emmett locked the door and got behind the wheel while my sisters piled into the back seat of the Guardian with me. Alice scowled at the road.

"Are you going to fill me in?" I demanded coldly as I plotted mayhem.

"It's not the Kwoli," Alice said. "It's the vampires who've been stalking you. Not the ones that attacked Em's Jeep, the other four."

"How did you not See this coming?"

"I'm sorry, it's not a science, you know? They had no idea Edward was in the area, they've been spying on our familiars. Kidnapping Edward was never in the plan. They just caught his scent and made a spontaneous decision to seize him. They're speaking an obscure South American dialect I can't understand."

My gorge rose. "Stop the car."

Emmett pulled off to the side of the road and I scrambled over Rosalie and got out just in time. My stomach heaved and as I covered the road in sour blood, my memory twigged back to the day I met my mate, when he vomited blood in the doorway to Banner's science lab. Had he done it out of fear as I was at present?

Memories assaulted me. I had taken him a get well bouquet and we'd ended up watching Love at First Bite together, his hand gently resting on my shoulder.

"I like quiet, bookish, intelligent girls who bring me flowers," he'd told me with a sexy smirk, and I'd told him I'd set him up with Angela.

When I was done retching, Alice handed me a handkerchief and I wiped my mouth. I got back in the car, determined that we would find my mate, free him and tear his abductors into shreds so miniscule that even the Volturi wouldn't find them.

Alice's phone rang and I could hear Jasper running, heavy paws thudding near him. "I found his wallet hidden in a bush. He put up a fight and then all the traces end. They must be using some kind of glamour on all of us because there's no more trail. We're hunting for any clues indicating where they've gone."

"They've bound him," Alice said. "I can See them near a small cave and they're starting a fire outside it."

A fire. Please God, no. Please God please God…

"Tell Jake and Sam to be on the lookout for the scent of charcoal."

Not incense. Not sweet purple smoke. Not dead. Not yet. My knees shook and Rosalie tightened her arm around me. Tapping her phone's screen with her free hand, she completed the order of tickets for the next available plane to Seattle.

Jacob howled and then another Wolf Warrior howled too. "We have his scent!" Jasper yelled. "Tell Bella I'll get him! No harm will come to him, I swear on my life!"

Our tires screeched as Emmett whipped into the parking lot at Lebanon.

Alice grabbed at Em's shoulder and at my wrist. "We have to be calm going into the airport or the security people will detain us."

Slowly, I got out of the car and accepted the support of my sisters' arms. Under Em's watchful eye, we entered the building and printed our boarding passes at the automatic check in machine, and lined up to enter the gate.

"You bought your tickets at the last minute," one of the guards said suspiciously.

"Bella's husband, our brother, has just been in an accident near Seattle," Alice said, waving vaguely at me. "We're going home –it's an emergency."

I numbly answered the security people's sympathetic questions, passed through the metal detector (thankful that they didn't have a full body scanner) and followed Emmett to a bank of four seats placed well back from the windows in the lounge. An hour and ten minutes later, we boarded the flight and, after we did up our seatbelts, I rested my head on Alice's shoulder.

"What do you See?"

"So far, the four vampires are just talking to each other. They've got him tied up but he isn't moving or speaking."

My stomach clenched. "Why isn't he moving? Is he hurt?"

"They are extremely talented. One of them is using her talent to make him hallucinate. Edward can hear her mind but he can't understand what she's thinking. He believes he's going to set off an explosion if he resists, so he's decided to keep still."

"Are they going to hurt him?"

"I don't know, Bella, I don't speak their language and Edward has learned that their thought processes are very different than people of most modern societies. It's all jibberish. If he can link up their mental pictures with their words, he might be able to figure out the basics of their language and make better-informed decisions."

I listened to the pilot present our flight information as we taxied for the runway. "We're stopping over in Boston?"

"Please put away your phone, sir," the flight attendant told Emmett.

"I just have to send this to my dad."

"We can't safely take off with your phone disrupting the electronic field."

He sighed and shut it down, but not before punching 'send'.

"We only stop in Boston for an hour," Rose told me from her seat across the aisle. "There are only two flights leaving today and both have two stopovers. Our second plane stops in DC for an hour. From there, we go straight on to Seattle."

"How long is it going to take us to get there?" I tried to stop my knees from quaking. Once again, my mate could be facing death while I sat helplessly on the other side of the world.

"Ten hours and fifty-five minutes," Rosalie whispered, gripping Em's hand so hard her knuckles were white.

"Eleven hours. Twelve until we can join the search." I rubbed my belly, giving Renesmee a gentle massage as our plane jounced down the runway and took off.

"I don't think it will take that long to find him," Alice said. "The only tracker better than Jasper is Demetri."

"Call Marcus," I ordered.

Alice sighed. "Bella, even though it's a ridiculous rule, we aren't allowed to use our phones while we're in the air."

My eyes welled with angry tears and I gripped the arms of my seat so hard that they began to mold themselves to the shape of my fingers.

Ten hours and forty minutes…