Thank you for reading and for the many encouraging reviews.
This chapter is unbeta'd - all mistakes are more mine than usual. I'll let you get to it.
Warning: This story contains descriptions of violence.
Disclaimer: I do not own twilight.
He'll wrap you in his arms
tell you that you've been a good boy
He'll rekindle all the dreams
it took you a lifetime to destroy
"Red Right Hand" – Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
I had to pry Charlie Swan's fingers from my sleeve before he got a hold of himself. He blinked, his dark eyes focusing on mine as color crept back into his pale cheeks.
"Sorry," he said roughly, stepping back. "I–I have to go, Edward—"
"I'll come with you." I swallowed hard when he shook his head.
"No, son. I can't let you do that." He turned and headed for the front door, holding it open for me as we left the house. "Go on home now."
I followed him down the porch stairs and to his car, my throat and chest constricting with stress and fear. My voice was thin when I spoke. "I can't go home, Chief. Let me help—"
Charlie turned when he reached the police cruiser. His face was tight but he seemed more in control as he opened the door. He looked at me encouragingly as he slid behind the wheel. "I'm sorry, Edward, but you can't be there. There's a roadblock set up on La Push Road anyway; they're not letting anyone in or out right now. Go on home, and try calling the station later. We'll ... we'll know more then."
My phone buzzed even before Charlie's police cruiser roared out of the Swan's driveway. I pulled it out with a growl, working hard to keep from crushing the device as my anxiety increased.
Stay where you are. Alice is coming to you.
I hardly had time to grit my teeth in frustration when I heard them: Alice, Jasper, Rosalie, and Emmett, flying through the forest toward me. My belly crawled with fear as I listened to their thoughts, focusing on Alice's in particular. Each image in her mind confirmed what I had already guessed: Bella had been taken against her will, and my sister had seen it happen. The face I saw in Alice's thoughts was the one I dreaded and loathed more than any other: Beni, our sire. The thought of that monster touching Bella's in any way filled me with cold fury.
My siblings streaked out from between the trees, their movements blurred by speed. In less time than it took to blink, they stood at my side, their golden eyes wide and intense.
"It's him, isn't it," I said, more statement than question, snarling when Alice nodded.
"I don't know how he found us ... or Bella. He snatched her from her truck," she said grimly.
"The truck went into the water at La Push," I continued, my jaw tightening when Rosalie swore. "I was with Bella's father when the call came in. The police are there, trying to get it out of the water. Trying to find Bella in the water."
Alice's voice was soft and regretful. "Her poor father."
"But she's—" I gulped, "Bella's alive? Isn't she?"
Alice's eyes seemed to turn inward before she spoke, and she frowned thoughtfully. "Yes. He's on the move with her now ... he's thinking about Bella as if she's alive."
"Where is he taking her, Alice?" The increasing tension in my voice made Jasper and Emmett shift on their feet.
"He's moving southeast … on foot, deeper into the woods. I can see him so clearly," she said, her voice soft with wonder. "It's never been like this before—when he changes direction, I can see it happening. He's not deciding, exactly ... not knowingly. He's just driven to keep moving."
"I need you to show me."
"Alice, I need you to take me to him." I took my sister's hand in mine so that her eyes refocused on me. "Just get me close enough, that's all I'm asking. I can handle it from there."
Her eyes blazed angrily. "You're crazy if you think I'm letting you go into this alone, Edward."
"Then show me where he is," I begged, past caring what anyone thought of me. "The longer we wait, the greater the danger to Bella. Please, Alice."
"I will. But you need you to listen to me, Edward." The forced calm in Alice's voice raised my hackles. "There's something you need to know about Beni, about the way he's thinking—"
"I know what you're going to say." I nodded when Alice winced. "You forget, Alice; I can hear you."
"And what did you hear, Edward?" Jasper asked, his eyes flicking between my sister and me.
"Beni's not hiding." My voice was flat. "He wants to be found."
Though she didn't need to, Alice spoke to me as we raced through the forest with Emmett and Jasper. I nodded absently from time to time, finding a strange comfort in the silvery sound of her voice. She told me about the vision that had come over her while she had been hunting, so vivid it seemed to block out everything else.
"I don't know what happened," she said, "because the things I see are always murky and shifting. This was like a blade, cutting through everything else. I couldn't not see it, couldn't not understand what it was showing me. I saw him behind her in the truck bed, and I tried to call her, but …."
"Maybe you've finally got a handle on your gift," I murmured after she trailed off. "You've time to practice since coming to live with us. Maybe it was just a matter of time before you figured out how to control it."
Maybe it's because he got near Bella, Alice thought. I stiffened as I caught the wisp of her idea.
Without missing a beat, my sister continued speaking, working to calm me with words. She told me about Rosalie driving my car back to Port Angeles to maintain appearances for the humans, and that Carlisle and Esme had left work as soon as they could. They were following us, tracking our trails through the old forests.
Despite Alice's efforts, I felt my self control slowly ebb. Unable to run as fast as I was accustomed without leaving the others behind, my thoughts spun, becoming chaotic.
How could I let him get close enough to take her?
She must be so frightened.
We have to save her. I'll do anything.
If that monster has touched her ... I will burn him.
"We'll find her, Edward," Alice murmured, her eyes turning inward again.
Jasper took hold of my sister's fingers when she reached out, guiding her forward as we continued to run. His eyes flicked quickly over her face before he looked forward again. "What do you see, Alice?"
She frowned thoughtfully. "He's slowing down. He found a place for her, it seems."
"A place like the one where you were kept?"
Alice snarled at Jasper's question. "No. He's not thinking long term this time. It's just a shelter ... a place to stop."
Emmett's head snapped toward us. "What do you mean?"
Alice blinked and came back to herself. Her voice was harsh with disgust when she spoke. "This isn't about keeping a pet. Beni thinks Edward is here ... I'm not sure how. He wants Edward to find him."
"That's why he took Bella?" Emmett's jaw was tight.
"He doesn't really want her," I replied slowly. "There's no reason for him to take Bella except as bait. This isn't about her. It's about me."
The moon was high overhead when I slowed my steps. The others watched me curiously, though there was no need to explain myself; in the next moment, my sire's scent was thick all around us.
Alice's teeth drew back from her lips when we crossed Beni's trail, and Jasper reached out to her. Stress made Alice more volatile than usual and she jerked away from him with a hiss.
"Get your hands off me," she said, her eyes flashing fire.
"Don't, Alice, not now," I said, cutting Jasper off as he made to speak. "I can hear Beni. He's close. Two miles, maybe a bit more."
"And you're slowing down why?" she demanded.
"To buy some time." I stopped and squatted down, resting my elbows on my knees and my head in my hands. "To keep Bella alive a little longer."
Slim arms slid around me as my tiny sister held me close. Her voice was tender and sorrowful when she spoke. "She'll be all right."
"You don't know that," I choked out. "He could kill her, Alice. He's thinking about it right now! That fucker is thinking about Bella's blood; the way it sounds in her veins and how good she smells."
I was falling. The woods around me disappeared, taking my brothers and sister into the void. The things anchoring me to the earth were gone, and instead I saw the dirty walls of the basement. I smelled water and fear and blood. I hurt. Bella's cries pierced me, even through the pain of my injuries. I wanted to scream in pain and horror when the red-eyed man laughed again, and told me how much he wanted me.
"It should have been you." His cold breath spilled over my skin with the scent of cloves and green oak. "I should never have let you go, boy."
My mouth opened in a silent scream when he asked if I would trade my life for Bella's, if I would trade my soul for love. The darkness crushed me, stealing every bit of warmth and light, making me let go even as Bella begged that I stay.
"Edward," a voice breathed close to my ear, making me tremble and groan. "Please, Edward, don't do this."
I fell back into myself in a rush, my eyes snapping open. There were hands on my shoulders and arms like iron around my waist, all of them holding me together. I gulped in the good smells of rich earth and trees, and the scents of my family around me.
Standing, I pulled away, trying not to gasp when I spoke. "I'm okay."
I could feel concern in the weight of their silence, and in the way Alice's hands lingered on me. There was no time for fear, though, or self-pity. Instead, I clung to the familiar pulse of fury against the vampire who had taken so much from me. The anger cleared my head, enabling me to pull myself together and begin running again.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Alice murmured as she and the others fell in behind us.
"Doesn't matter," I replied. "All I want is to find Bella before that crazy bastard hurts her."
Only minutes later, we heard the sound I had been straining to find since leaving Forks; the low, moist thump of a human heart. We followed the beats through the trees, my throat constricted and my eyes stinging.
The cabin stood at the edge of a makeshift yard between two massive cedars, a small and crooked structure that had fallen into disrepair, all faded boards and sagging roof. A chipped rocking chair stood by the door and a broken porch swing hung from one chain. There was a little round table off to one side, pieces of a broken vase scattered across the top. A sad, forgotten air hung over the place and I felt certain that nothing human had walked there for many years.
Piercing the resounding silence around us was that same steady thud of Bella's heart. Each beat reassured me that she was still alive even as they heightened my panic to find her. Traces of sweet honeysuckle lingered underneath the heavy smells of the woods and my sire, and there ... when the wind shifted ... my Bella.
I didn't think. I reacted, pure speed and intent, moving so quickly my feet seemed not to touch the ground. I swept inside the little structure, reducing the door to fragments before I froze, staring hard into the darkness. A beat passed, and then another before awareness sunk in. There was a shabby room, empty of furniture except for a small cot. Bare walls, dirty windows, and everywhere, Bella's scent. She was nowhere to be seen.
"They're here somewhere," Jasper said. "I smell them, for Christ's sake."
I nodded, turning in a circle, unsure where to move next. "I can hear his thoughts. I can hear Bella's heart, her breaths—"
"Outside," Alice said abruptly. Her big eyes slid out and back into focus before her face creased in anger, and she dashed out the open door.
We burst onto the porch as Rosalie, Esme, and Carlisle appeared, running in our direction. The only thing I truly saw, however, was the familiar figure of a slim young girl. She stood on the other side of the yard near a copse of trees, half-hidden behind a tall man dressed in black.
The word was a breath, almost a prayer, and my voice was not the only one to say it. There was hardly time for the whispers to fade before the vampire called Beni took a step forward. Bella shrank from him, even as he motioned to her with one hand. When she did move, a limp hobbled her steps, and she grunted softly when she put her weight on her right foot.
Red mist settled over my vision.
"Rose ... Esme," I murmured. "She's hurt. I'll need you ... will you take Bella out of here?"
The others pressed around me, trying once more to calm me with touch. I breathed steadily, listening to my family's reassuring thoughts as I clung to the fraying threads of my control. My eyes never left the figures in front of me.
I snarled when the other man's gaze locked with mine. He was as I remembered, tall and slim, with regal features and wide, gleaming eyes. His beauty was sinister and devastating. My stomach curled with revulsion when I realized that I was drawn to him, even now, after all that he'd done to Alice and me.
"What do you want?" My voice was hard, making Bella's eyes widen in alarm. For once, I didn't care that she could see the part of me I battled so hard every day to hide. I was grateful for the monster that always lurked beneath the surface of my control; he was the equal of the inhuman man at her side.
"Everything," Beni replied in the deep voice that haunted my memories. "Nothing."
He simply gazed at me, a faint smile curling his lips. His thoughts continued to stream into my head, growing more strident the longer he watched me. His mind's patterns shifted and changed quickly, as only thoughts can, and the notions were fractured and chaotic, one idea contradicting the next and then circling back around.
Oh, my beautiful boy. Why did you make me hurt you?
How can you be here?
It was a mistake, letting you go. You'll forgive me.
I can make you mine. Now. Again.
The red-eyed man went suddenly very still. He watched me almost sadly, and when his lips moved, I felt sure he wanted to speak again. Unfortunately, the human girl at Beni's side chose that moment to shift on her feet, drawing my attention.
Beni's face emptied of expression when my eyes flicked from his to Bella and back. He smiled, his eyes shining as he reached out toward Bella, making my stomach fall. The vampire pulled her close, pressing her soft body roughly against his. Bella gasped, stumbling over the uneven ground before she fell against him, sliding along his legs to sprawl at his feet.
"Edward!" Her voice seemed so small and frail.
I threw myself across the yard at them, Jasper and Emmett at my sides and the others close behind; Alice's dark chuckle was in my ears as she sprang into the air.
Beni turned in a flash, pulling Bella to her feet. Her screams rang out through the darkened woods as she tried hopelessly to fight him off.
The impact of my body striking Beni's was crushing. His spicy-sweet scent made my head swim as I wrapped my arms around his neck, and the weight of the others crushing against us made the ground tremble.
The red-eyed man writhed beneath me, his snarls loud and vicious. Had I been alone, we might have been evenly matched. My family was all around me, though, and rage made my strength staggering.
The smell of blood cut through the air without warning, surprising us all. We froze before a harsh gasp tore through the air. The vampire bucked hard against my hold, groaning with lust.
Instead of holding my breath, I inhaled deeply. Venom flooded my mouth as the rich, human smell flooded my nose and throat. The red mist hanging over my vision deepened, staining everything scarlet, and my mouth stretched in a wide smile as the last ties to my control fell away.
It went on forever. It lasted a moment.
The sounds of snapping teeth were loud, echoing over grunts and the screech of vampire flesh rupturing. Blows fell against my body and teeth scraped my skin, leaving behind the momentary sting of venom. A laugh bubbled up inside me when I saw the human girl in Beni's arms slip out of his grasp, only to be whisked away by another pair of white hands.
The vampire in my arms stumbled, causing the crush of bodies around me to shift, pressing us down onto the ground. Alice's face was suddenly beside mine, her eyes gleeful and her teeth shining before they sank into Beni's flesh. She hissed in triumph when I wrenched my arms up and back, tearing flesh from flesh with a metallic screech.
Beni's movements stopped with a suddenness that was shocking. He slumped forward beneath me, his body shuddering with aftershocks. The figures around me paused, once more holding their breaths as they grappled with their bloodlust.
The night was still.
Until Bella screamed.
I threw the head and body of my sire down, dashing to where Carlisle and Esme were crouched over a figure huddled on the ground.
"How badly is she hurt? We have to get her out of here!" I reached for Bella, stiffening when Carlisle stopped me.
His voice was pained. "Edward—"
"What are we waiting for? We have to get her help, Carlisle!"
"Bella's been bitten, son." My father's face was drawn and sad as I gaped first at him and then at the girl on the ground.
Bella's fair skin was bone white and gleaming with sweat. A long gash marred the side of her face, and blood from the wound was smeared along the length of her neck, staining the collar of her jacket and sweater. Her breathing was labored and her face twisted in pain, eyes rolling wildly in their sockets as she screamed and Esme tried to soothe her.
"No," I murmured, taking her clammy hand in mine. My stomach flipped when my fingertips traced the mark of teeth on her skin, recognizing the ice of venom mixing with her blood. "Oh, no, no, no."
"There are several bites," Carlisle told me, his voice resigned. "Oh her arms and neck … I'm not sure we can even determine who among us bit her, other than your sire."
I shook my head at him mutely, unable to acknowledge the sorrow in his eyes and in the words he spoke next.
"I'm sorry." His hand came to rest over mine as I clutched at Bella's. "Bella is changing. There's nothing we can do."
I knelt beside Bella in the little cabin, holding tight to her hand as she lay burning and crying on the cot. Someone handed me a damp cloth that I used to wipe her wounds clean, the sweet smell of lake water lifting away the blood and salt. Bella's voice soon gave out, until she could only croak hoarsely as the venom burned its way through her body. I murmured to her quietly when she shuddered, dropping soft kisses over her cheeks and forehead when she wept.
The others came to me, speaking gently and offering comfort. I drew silent strength from their touches, sometimes allowing myself to relax when arms slid around me, though I didn't always recognize whose they were.
"He's gone," I heard a voice say, and blinked. Alice was beside me, her head on my shoulder and one hand on Bella's forehead, smoothing the girl's hair away from her overheated skin. "Beni can't hurt anyone again, Edward."
Abruptly, I realized that the spicy-sweet scent of my sire was overwhelming, almost choking, and undercut with the smells of sulfur and ash.
"He always knew she was here." My voice was raspy, forcing me to swallow when Alice gasped. "His thoughts were confused … but there were things that made some sense. Beni watched your chats and messaging with Bella … he knew about her even before he changed you. He couldn't decide if I was real or not, not even when he saw me."
"Bella told me about you," Alice said sadly. "We didn't make the connections right away … or I didn't, at least. But she used your name and told me about the things you liked. We talked about where she lived and about Forks. That's how Beni knew where to find you."
"Oh, Bella," I breathed, biting my lip when the girl on the cot tried to scream again. "I'm so sorry."
Carlisle's voice was low and soothing. I wasn't sure how long he had been speaking before some of his words registered. "Edward, you have to go back to Forks."
I blinked, watching the girl struggling in front of me for a long moment before I frowned. "What for?"
"Chief Swan ... you need to see Bella's father and ask about her. He'll be expecting to hear from you at some point."
It was almost impossible to turn my eyes to meet Carlisle's. "I'm not leaving her."
"You must, Edward. If you won't go back to Forks, at least call Bella's father. It's important that you do this."
Anger bloomed inside me, filling my belly with fire that eased my anguish. "I'm not leaving. And what does it matter, anyway? They're never going to find Bella. She's never going to go back there to live. She's just ... gone from their lives. I don't give a damn about what the humans think, Carlisle."
"This isn't about you." Carlisle's voice was so calm. "This is about Bella's parents, her friends. You're right. They won't be able to grieve losing this girl as they deserve. But you can try to offer what comfort you can."
I looked at him, appalled and unable to hide my emotions. "Comfort? I don't have the right to comfort them, Carlisle. It's my fault that Charlie Swan is losing his daughter. My fault she'll never go to college, my fault she'll never be married and have a family. Her life is over before it even started."
I hid my face in my hands. "How can you ask this of me?"
Carlisle's hands were strong and steadying on my shoulders, his voice low in my ears. As so often in the past, he grounded me, with kindness and a quiet, unwavering confidence.
"I'm not going to let you blame yourself for this. The actions of your sire ..." he sighed. "There's no way you could have predicted what he would do. Not even Alice, with her gift, could predict his future. He was too damaged. From what your sister tells me, I daresay Beni didn't know himself where his actions would take him from one moment to the next.
"You're the only one that can do this, Edward. Obviously, you can't give Bella back to her parents. But you are their last link to her, even if they don't realize it."
"How can I tell them lies? How can I hide the truth from them? Hide her from them?" I whispered. "I know what it's like. To be left behind, to lose someone."
The sympathy in Carlisle's golden eyes when I raised my head made my throat tighten. "That's why I know you can do this, son, not just for Bella's family and friends, but for her. It won't take more than an hour or two; all you need to do is find a signal for your phone. We'll take care of Bella while you're gone."
"I'll go with you." Emmett's deep voice was gentle as he came to stand by me, and he held up his hands when I opened my mouth to speak. "Bella's change won't be complete for some time, Edward; they don't need me here. I'll go with you."
Eeeeeeeeeeeeeep. I'll be back soon, I promise.
I apologize for not replying to reviews last chapter. :-/ I got really carried away with trying to finish this chapter this week and I totally dropped the ball.