Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. I am in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise, I just use their creations to have my wicked way with them. No copyright infringement is intended.
Many thanks to Jadsmama and Ladysharkey1, my amazing beta team for this story. You ladies rock!
Outskirts of Forks, Washington, April 2012.
"Fuck! Dammit!" Edward growled, his hands slamming the steering wheel as the tires spun, mud splashing on either side of the car as it got further stuck with every attempt of trying to get it free. "Not now. Not fucking now!"
His heart was racing, his shoulders tensing at the thought of what might happen if he arrived too late. No, he couldn't think of that. She wouldn't….she wouldn't do that. Not to him. Not to herself. Still….
There was part of him that couldn't be sure, the part of him that knew what kind of state his girl had to be in, the part of him that felt her pain. For years, the old man had been all she knew and now he was gone…just like the life she had made for herself.
It was that part which made him yank open the door and jump out of his borrowed four-wheel truck, his feet sloshing as they landed into the same puddle that had stopped his progress.
He didn't even notice it, as his whole being focused on finding his way through the woods as he took off in a desperate sprint; wet leaves and branches tearing at his clothes and his pace severely encumbered by the slippery surface. Edward's breath was leaving his lungs in heavy pants of condensed air as he got closer to his destination.
On any other day, Edward would have reveled in the way the wind hollered around the trees and pulled at the ends of his hair, the extra bounce in the leafy forest floor caused never-ending rain making his feet bounce along the track. But on this day the exhilaration he usually felt when running along those well-known paths were completely eaten away by worry.
He'd known it the minute he picked up the phone and heard, not Bella's sweet voice but the cold, distant shrill of the daughter announcing the demise of her father. He'd known it and yet he'd come all the way to the forest house, confirming what in his heart he already knew: she'd vanished.
And there was only one place she could have gone; the one special place that had been the setting of many a nightly meeting between the two of them. Though on those occasions, his heart had been filled with anticipation, lust and an all-consuming love as he sprinted towards her.
Now, there was only fear; a blind, panic that pushed him forward even when his lungs burned and his heart raced out of control. Edward's mind barely registering when a few prickly braches tore gashes into his skin and the thin fabric of his almost soaked through scrubs.
He had to get to her. He had to get to the meadow.
And then he was there, his eyes scanning the clearing for signs of life until he found his girl, her red dress standing out against the twilit forest as she sat, curled up into a ball, rocking her body as her anguished sobs rung through the silence.
"Bella!" he called, his feet taking off again as he jumped over fallen tree trunks in his desperate need to get to her. He only stopped when he had her safely in his arms, her body trembling with cold and emotion as she hung against him like a ragdoll, the lifelessness of this once so strong and vibrant woman shattering his heart. "Fuck, baby, I'm so glad I've found you!"
He pulled away after some time had passed, his arms holding her upright as he looked at her, tenderly swiping the tears from her cheek. "Are you okay? What happened? Talk to me, baby, please."
"I…I had to get away," Bella muttered, her voice shaking as bad as her body as her hands moved to wrap themselves around Edward's strong chest in a marmoset hold. "I couldn't stay there….not with him lying there…and her…"
"I know," Edward spoke into her hair, his shoulders dropping with relief at having found her safe and sound.
"He's dead, Edward." Finally she lifted her head, her brown eyes distraught as they found his, her body shaking more violently with every gasp of air she drew in. "He's dead and…oh my God, what am I going to do?"
"Listen to me, Bella," Edward spoke, her head between his hands as he forced her to look at him, forced her to see. "You're free now. His hold on you…it's ended. You can go anywhere you want." It hurt to speak those words, though not because he begrudged her the freedom that had now finally come, after years of living in captivity. Literally. It was just that his heart broke at even the thought of her leaving him; of a world without her in it. It made his voice hoarse with fear when he spoke, though he did his best to hide it from her, not wanting her to feel obligated to stay with him if she didn't want to.
She shouldn't want to. There was a whole world out there for her to explore and a life to finally be lived doing what she wanted instead of having someone dictate it. She shouldn't want to tie herself down, especially not with a man who still remained half-broken.
"But I-" She bit her lip, her face still betraying the violence of her emotions. "I'm scared. I-I'm scared of losing you. You are all I have right now in the entire world and I…I-I don't want to lose you. It…it would kill me."
"I've got you, sweetheart," he breathed, her skin cool as his lips made contact with it. His shoulders fell with relief as he crushed her slender frame to his, knowing that he felt exactly the same as her. They were joined now, their hold on each other permanent and unbreakable. "I won't let go."
As he spoke the words he knew the truth in them, as he realized he had known all along. He had fought a long and hard battle for her within himself, his family, his boss and even with her. Now that he had her at last and she was finally free, he was never letting her go.
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