THERE is a garden where lilies
And roses are side by side;
And all day between them in silence
The silken butterflies glide.
I may not enter the garden,
Though I know the road thereto;
And morn by morn to the gateway
I see the children go.
They bring back light on their faces;
But they cannot bring back to me
What the lilies say to the roses,
Or the songs of the butterflies be.
Eutopia - Francis Turner Palgrave
After years living in the Pacific Northwest, inclement weather should be a nonentity. Rain, fog, sleet and snow brought anonymity as people huddled down tighter in their jackets to keep the chill at bay.
But not him.
He stood, hidden in the shadows as a handful of people filtered past the grave; each one dropping a single red rose on top of the closed mahogany casket. The faces were unrecognizable, but their grief was clear.
In her life - no, in her multiple lives - she'd hated roses, calling them contrived and cliché. She preferred peonies, tulips, and hyacinth. Spring flowers that brought with them vibrancy and promise. She would have hated to the see the collection piling on top of the elegant sleek box.
But she wouldn't see, and she couldn't care. It was all over now, all for naught. He'd given up everything to give her the one thing she so desperately wanted. He'd made a silly wish, and in doing so sacrificed his life, his hopes, and his heart. And she was dead.
"Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear Rosalie here departed, we therefore commit her body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust…" the minister's voice rang loud and clear. People bowed their heads in respect.
All but two, who stared across the cemetery to the stand of trees where he stood, hidden from sight.
"Emmett," murmured the blonde man, his voice too low for others to hear. "Please, don't leave like this."
But it was too late. He turned his back on the men he had once called his father and brother. He turned his back on the only life he knew. Without her, it didn't matter. Without her, who was he anyway?
The blonde man watched the figure slip back into the shadows, the dark silhouette blending effortlessly into the trees.
"Is he okay?" he whispered to the boy on his left.
"I couldn't make sense of anything," the boy murmured. "What I heard didn't make sense. He blames himself for Rosalie's death. He doesn't understand the gift he gave her."
"Could you tell where he was going, Edward?"
"No, I caught images. Cities, oceans, cars, but nothing definitive. Nothing I recognized. It's like he knew I would be listening, Carlisle. I have nothing to go on."
The blonde man nodded, his gaze shifting back to the coffin as it was lowered into the ground.
"Does he know about the baby?"
"I don't believe so."
A dull thump interrupted their quiet conversation, the thud of dirt hitting wood over and over, like a funeral drum beating out a rhythm for the dead to find her way to heaven.
"Rose would like that she left this life with a sort of applause," Edward said, the corners of his lips lifting in a smile.
"Rose would like it more if she knew we kept the two men she loved more than anything else in this world safe," Carlisle responded. "Let's go get her son and take him home."
When there is no need to sleep, to breathe, or eat, the bulk of mindless human tasks peel away. Grocery shopping, making the bed, brushing teeth – they are unnecessary functions. Some would expect that this would make life mundane, yet time passes in different ways for a non- human. Hours pass like minutes, weeks like days. It all becomes a dull blur, colored only by the momentary interactions with others where they allow themselves to feel, to dream, or to feed.
For almost ninety years, Emmett McCarty had lived in a constant blur of color. Golden curls, red lips, brilliant white teeth. Those years had passed so quickly, a sunburst of emotion and love, colored by an angel whose laughter and passion had infused his every moment with fire and light. He'd never stopped to consider what could have been, what his life might have been like without her. Upon waking, he'd accepted this life willingly and never questioned the darker side of their existence.
She had given him everything. His life, love, a reason to exist. He had nothing he could give her she didn't already have. And the one thing she did want was beyond his power to control.
"Baby?" he'd asked as they lay curled around each other in bed one evening. They'd spent the day with Edward and Bella's child. The little girl brought out a side to Rosalie he'd never seen, softened her in a way that enhanced her beauty and made her glow. The child completed her in a way he'd never been able to. He watched as that one spot he'd never been able to touch was filled, and he was surprised at the emotions. Jealousy, envy, sadness. He wanted to give her everything, yet he couldn't.
He took a deep breath, knowing that he hovered on the edge of a chasm. The next step would drop him over the cliff, and he didn't know what he would find at the bottom. A river to cushion the landing? Rocks to shred him forever? He didn't know, but he couldn't not try. She had taken a leap of faith for him, she deserved the same...
"If there was a way for you to go back, to regain your humanity, would you do it?"
"Oh Em, we've been down this path before. I have you, I have them, what more could I want?"
He stared down into her face, the flawless skin and lovely golden eyes. He knew that in her human life her eyes had been a startling violet blue. How lovely she would have been with a blush in her cheeks, her belly full with child. Most people would have seen the external radiance, but he knew the peace and hope would have been her true beauty. People saw the surface with Rosalie, often missing the splendor underneath.
"But what if? I see you with…" he couldn't say it. And even had he been able to, he didn't know what he meant by it.
She kissed him, her fingers tracing along the planes of his cheeks, the bridge of his nose, the geometry she knew so well. "Only if it was yours. And that's not going to happen, so let's not waste our breath. We are happy here, now, aren't we?"
She'd laughed, and led him out into the forest. They'd hunted, capturing and draining a herd of elk. They made love under the stars, their moans and cries mingling with the other sounds of the night. When they were finished, she pressed her body against his, her face buried against his neck.
A star streaked across the night sky, the blaze of white trailing slowly out behind the falling meteor.
"When you wish upon a star," Emmett said quietly.
"Make a wish, baby. Make it a good one." Rose kissed his neck, her lips soft against his skin.
"Baby. That's what I wish for. I wish that in some way, somehow, I could have seen you pregnant with my baby."
She laughed and moved her body to hover over his. "Baby means baby making."
"It's just a silly wish, Rose," he said, his hands coming to rest on her hips. "You know that's all it could ever be."
"Mmm, I like the idea of pretending. Let's make believe the wish was real. Maybe some practicing is in order." She shifted her weight, bringing her hips firmly down against his. "Would you still love me if I could do all those human things? Throw up and get fat and have crazy cravings?"
"I could never love you more, you know that."
She smiled, and leaned forward, her hips establishing a slow, tantalizing rhythm. "Pretend you could; pretend you could love me more, and that we could make something, just you and I."
They made love again under the stars, animals watching over them as they pretended to be everything they weren't. Two predators, hoping to recapture the one thing they had lost, their humanity.
The sun began to break on the horizon, a subtle haze of blue against the dark inky sky. Emmett sat up, stretching his arms over his head. His muscles weren't tight; it was simply an old habit, one which kept him tethered to memories that threatened to fade. The way his shoulders felt after sleeping on the sagging mattress in his parent's small house. The way his wrists would crack as he rotated them slowly after a hard day's work. His parents, his brothers and sisters, they were long gone, but he held on to the remnants he could recall, desperate to maintain that link to his humanity.
"We should get back babe," he said, reaching out for Rosalie.
But she wasn't there.
"Rose?" he called. She most likely wandered off, following a sound or chasing a bird. She loved to wander through the woods, discovering little treasures. She'd probably lost track of time. "Rosie?" he called again. There was no answer.
He was all alone.
"So that's how it's going to be," he laughed, climbing to his feet. "Hide and seek, huh? Well, I'm going to find you, and when I do, we might have to re-enact last night, because I want more of that."
He did. Their relationship had always been physical, their bodies comfortable declaring what their minds and hearts already knew, but last night had been different. There had been something in their actions, a magic, an intensity, which was new – even for them.
There was no echo of laughter from the trees, no sound of twigs snapping under feet. He was truly alone.
"Rosie Rosie Rosie, just you wait," he chuckled as he descended down the mountains face towards home. "We may need to stay out here all day. Destroy a few trees, you know…"
The sun was full and strong overhead when he entered the clearing in front of the house. Jasper and Esme stood at the top of the driveway, heads close together, whispering as he approached.
"Shiny happy people chatting," he sing songed as he jumped over a tree. The joke never got old and never failed to irritate Jasper.
Today it drew no response.
"Oh come on, you aren't going to…"
Emmett didn't finish his query; the smell that assaulted him rendered him completely speechless. Human blood, rich and strong and other worldly. He was accustomed to the scent of humans, the temptation of blood, but this was so strong, so pure. The fire in his throat was immediate and visceral; oh to have just one sip of that, to roll the flavor around on his tongue.
"So good…" he whispered breathing deep. His eyes closed instinctively, nostrils flaring as he inhaled again. The scent was strong, but there was no telltale beating to accompany the smell. Whomever carried the tantalizing scent was long gone, just the traces remained. It was a good thing, for Emmett doubted he could have resisted the temptation. Control had never been his strong suit when it came to the things he really wanted.
"Emmett, wait," Esme called out to him. "Before you go in, we need to talk."
He shook her off, following the scent towards the house. It was stronger here, the lingering scent thick and warm and rich with the undertones of copper and salt and life. "God, who was here? That smell is just…" Emmett brushed past Jasper towards the door, but a hand on his large bicep stopped him. "Oh man, just one taste…"
"Emmett, it was Rose. "
"What?" He stopped, confused. "Rose attacked someone? Is she okay? Where is she?"
"No, Emmett," Esme interrupted him. "Rose is what you smell, and she's not okay."
To an outsider, the man standing on the deck of the elegant glass and steel house was a model of grace and elegance. Tall and muscular, his dark wavy hair falling perfectly against chiseled features and a square jaw. He was well aware of his effect on women, the way they watched him, how they wanted him. They should be terrified, repulsed by some inherent human instinct. Instead, women pursued him, throwing themselves at him, offering their bodies, their hearts, and their minds.
He wanted none of that.
Leaning back against the rail, he raised the crystal tumbler to his lips, sipping slowly. In the dark, no one would be able to differentiate the ruby red liquid from red wine or port. The blood had cooled a bit, but the taste was still as sweet. He found that filling a glass and leaving it out for a few hours allowed the precious fluid to revert to room temperature, the warmth enhancing the flavor. It served as an appetizer, a little teaser before the main dish, so to speak.
"Are you going to come into the house?" a woman called from the doorway. She'd spent the better part of the evening flirting with him, going out of her way to walk past him in the small jazz bar where he'd taken up roost. Her long blonde hair fell in elegant waves over her shoulders, her deep blue eyes wide and bright. She moved slowly, and he could smell the drugs in her system. It took the edge off her instincts, dulling her reaction time and inhibitions. It would taint her taste too, but he didn't care. In this light, with the elegant blue silk clinging to her curves, she looked so close. For just a few hours, she would do.
"Come out here, under the stars." He drawled, playing out the long vowels in a way he knew women were helpless to resist. "I want to see you." He tipped his head, and looked at her through lowered lashes. The contacts obscured his vision, giving everything a flawed, slightly filmy cast, but the blue tint turned his eyes a disarming shade of violet that complimented his dark coloring. Women wanted him, and he understood how to use that.
She stepped forward slowly, her hands bracing against the frame of the door. Backlit by the incandescent lights of the living room, her silk skirt was almost transparent, highlighting long, well toned legs. She shifted her hips from side to side, drawing his gaze upwards towards her narrow waist.
"Dance for me," Emmett instructed. "Dance for me out here under the stars." He propped an elbow on the deck railing, and raised the glass to his lips. He could smell her blood humming through her veins, her heart beating sluggishly. Dance for me and be a sacrifice, he thought. I offer you up in exchange for her.
The woman stepped forward, her hands slowly gliding over her body. She framed the curves of her breasts before slowly peeling off the snug white linen sweater. Her movements were sinuous and seductive, her motions methodical. Every action was made consciously, her intentions clear. She wanted him to desire her, to want her, to touch her. She moved to seduce, to lure, to capture. She thought he was hers to catch.
She did not realize she was the prey and not the predator.
He didn't move from the railing, savoring the blood so elegantly presented in the crystal tumbler, watching as this woman attempted to seduce him. He knew it wasn't his Rosalie, but in the moonlight, with the stars shining overhead, he could almost make himself believe that she'd come back to him, that it had all been a dream. They'd taken him away from her once. If he found the right combination of time, place and person, maybe they would give her back.
"Touch me," she whispered, breaking the spell he'd cast for himself. "I want to feel your hands on me."
Emmett placed the glass on the broad railing and stepped forward, his lips curling into a devastating smile. The woman's heartbeat increased, and his smile grew. He knew his effect, and her reaction simply reinforced that. "Only my hands?"
"What other options do I have?" she asked, her body still moving to an unheard rhythm.
He extended his arm, palm up and waited patiently for her to grasp his fingers.
"You're so cold," she said as she pulled his hand closer to rest on her breast. "Let me warm you up."
Before she could say anything more, his other arm shot out, tugging her against him. His strong arms wrapped around her waist, securing her in place. A stifled gasp, then a low moan escaped her lips as he sank his teeth into her neck, his groan of delight mingling with hers. They were wrapped in a macabre lover's embrace, her hands woven into his wavy hair, holding on tightly to him as he lapped at the ruby red liquid that flowed freely from her neck.
"What do you mean, I smell Rose? That is most definitely not my girl. She lacks a pumping misshapen organ necessary to generate that scent. Now what the hell is going on?"
"Where have you been, Emmett?" Jasper asked, his hand still wrapped securely around Emmett's arm. "We've been looking for you for days."
"What are you talking about? We went up into the forest. We were only gone for a few hours." Emmett asked, confused. "What the hell is going on?"
"Emmett, you've been gone for days. And when Rose showed up here, well…" Jasper glanced at Esme, then back to Emmett. "Her eyes were blue, Emmett. Not gold, blue."
"So not funny man," Emmett growled, yanking his arm away. "Rosie!" He called out has he pushed through the doorway. "Rose!"
She wasn't on the couching, grinning in delight at the little ruse. She wasn't at the computer. She wasn't in the kitchen.
"Where the hell are you?" he called as he raced up the steps. Their room was a shambles, clothing strewn all over the place. A jewelry box had shattered on the floor, the dark crimson velvet lining ripped open the white stuffing scattered like snow over the hardwood floor.
"She's gone," Alice whispered from the corner, her thin arms wrapped around her tiny frame. "She's gone, and she's never coming back."
Emmett searched the room, looking for something, anything that would tell him where Rose had gone. There was only the that tantalizing scent that made his throat burn and his sister, huddled in the corner, rocking back and forth as if to send herself into oblivion.
After disposing of the girl, Emmett returned to the iron and wood house by the ocean. His body felt warmer to the touch, but it didn't reach his heart. How many times had he tried and failed to find a woman that spoke to him like she had? To find the perfect combination of magic and blood and hope to bring gold and red and white into this blur of desolate grey? For just a moment, he might fool himself, but in the end, it always finished the same way. Close, but never completely there. A hint of hope before he came crashing back to earth. He'd leapt, but he'd not cleared the chasm. There had been rocks at the bottom, destroying them all. The sharp edges tore their dreams to shreds, leaving them battered and bleeding. Blood had become their only sustenance. That's all it had ever been.
Eight years. 47 women. All with long blonde hair and blue eyes. The first one had been a fluke, a moment of weakness; an attempt to bring her back, or at least fill the void. But he'd made the mistake, believing that he had enough control to allow her close when he hadn't fed, and the call of her blood had been too strong. It dulled the pain, at least for a little while. Forbidden fruit always tasted the sweetest and allowed him to shut out the pain and the loss. Whatever it was that took her away from him wouldn't allow her to come back; in his lucid moments he knew that. It didn't stop him from trying.
The others began to follow slowly after. With each one, he moved further away from the life they had forged together, the dreams they had shared. Rosalie was dead, her body decaying in the ground. In her arms resided a tiny baby, one that fate chose to throw at them in a cruel twisted joke. He'd wished for it, the one thing that he wanted to give her. A chance, a hope, a dream.
They'd tempted fate, arrogant in their devotion to each other and their insistence of what could never be. He didn't understand what or how it had happened. They'd joked about making a baby. They'd made love under the stars, something powerful and different, filled with whispers and declarations and explanations of how the actions would have produced their offspring. They had been careless and had tripped something no one understood. Not Carlisle, not Eleazar; no one could explain.
The phone pulsed on the table in the living room, the small mass of plastic and computer chips slowly spinning on the immaculate glass table. Alice always called after his nights with one of his cheap imitations. She tried to convince him that it would all work out, that there was a happy ending in this somewhere. Her words always fell short. They always had.
"What the fuck do you mean?" Emmett shouted, spinning frantically around the room. "Not coming back?"
The scent was so strong here, so tantalizingly sweet. He'd only ever had one human call to him this way, a middle aged woman hanging laundry in the late summer sunshine. Her body had been weighted down with fat, any beauty long since faded under the toll of bearing children and raising a family. To think that a scent this tempting could belong to a woman whose body commanded his pushed him to the brink of sanity. To have, to consume, to devour…every way and anyway. It was against logic, yet in a twisted way it made sense.
"Emmett," Edward stood in the doorway, his hands balled into fists at his sides. "You need to come with me, get away from here."
"NO!" he raged, turning back to Alice. "Where is she? Where did she go?"
"I don't know. We packed her things and I gave her money. She's gone Emmett. I sent them away. I'm keeping them safe."
The venom pooling in his mouth turned bitter, noxious like gas. "Who are 'they,' Alice? Where did you send Rose? Who is she with?"
"She's not with anyone," Alice responded cryptically, "But someone is with her. That is all I know. But they'll be safe, and you won't be able to find them until it's time. I'm sorry, but…"
"NO!" He shouted again, swinging his arm wide. It came into contact with a cluster of small glass bottles, different perfumes and colognes Rosalie had collected over the years. They slammed against each other, the delicate vials shattering and raining golden liquid across the room. They didn't eradicate the scent, that mind numbing, intoxicating smell that made his mouth water. It horrified him, knowing that the one person he loved more than himself could fall victim to his own hungers. She'd been part of the definition of him for so long, a physical temptation he was unable to resist. Never in his wildest dreams could he have anticipated this.
"Emmett," Edward said, more forcefully this time. "We have to find out what happened. The only way to fix things is to understand."
"What's there to understand?" Emmett mumbled, dropping to his knees in the middle of the destroyed room. "Everything is gone. Without her, what am I?"
He didn't go outside for four days. The blood stored in bags in the industrial refrigerator was enough in to tide him over, and the steady rainfall created a hazy cloak that muted the colors. It left him numb, dead inside, as he stared out over the grey expanse of water.
The years had flown by, one and another, mindless droning days with intermittent blips of color. Forty seven echoes of a ghost, their blood filling but never satiating the need. No one ever would.
Alice's last phone call had insisted that he say goodbye, let go, and move on. "There are things out there waiting for you, it's time," she'd insisted. Her declarations fell on deaf ears. How could he let go? Without her memory, what was there to live for? He wasn't sure he could destroy himself, and so holding on to the memory of Rose became his only salvation.
At four in the afternoon, he showered and dressed, choosing clothing that she would have approved of. Rose had always seen clothing as a tool, a mechanism for creating an illusion or instilling a certain type of respect. He'd taken that, learning to select cottons, wools and denim that enhanced his preternatural good looks. Blacks and blues, colors that called attention to him, or more appropriately, painted the façade that women flocked to. He could imagine her, pulling the collar of his blue wool pea coat up to frame his face, teasing him that he had a 'purty mouth' for such a big man.
He did. He was beautiful and awe inspiring, the perfect beguiling death. He lured women in, gave them what they wanted, and then ruined them. It was all he could do now. It filled the time, but it never closed the gap. He was dead, literally and figuratively. Only when he lived in the memories did he feel alive. All except the last one, the one where he knew she was truly gone. And yet every year, on this day, he went back. The pain was so stark, but he couldn't stay away. It was a form of penance, one he made himself pay.
The drive to the cemetery took ninety minutes, the traffic light on a cool Saturday afternoon. He moved up and down the coast, but always stayed close, within a few hours' drive. Any significant distance from Rose, even if it was her decaying form, not the woman he remembered, was too much to bear. He sat in his car, staring at the gentle sloping hill where he knew her marker had been placed.
Rosalie Hale McCarty
Beloved Wife and Mother
Taken from us too soon
No dates of birth or death were listed. He always found irony in the inclusion of mother. Their child, the fateful wish that brought this all to be, had not survived. She'd sacrificed everything for him, their life, his sanity, and her mortality, all for a baby who'd never drawn a single breath.
Putting the car in drive, Emmett pulled slowly out of the cemetery, and onto the main road.
"What the hell happened?" he demanded. Carlisle sat behind his desk, the knuckle of his index finger pressed against his pale lips.
"I don't know. I've heard stories, fables over the years, but I never believed them to be true…"
"How could she have just changed? It's not possible!"
"In theory, we aren't possible," Edward interjected from his place on the couch. "Nor are shape shifters or ghosts, and yet…"
Emmett held one finger aloft, a cautionary indication that Edward had gone too far. He didn't look at the man he considered his brother.
"Carlisle, how do I get her back? I need her back."
"That is what you want, Emmett. What about Rose?" Carlisle would not look him in the eye, instead choosing to fix his gaze on the wall. "This is the one thing she longed for. Will you take that away?"
"It was just a stupid wish!" he roared. The words rattled the windows, startling a blue bird from the tree just outside. "We didn't mean it."
I didn't mean it, was what he really meant to say.
"We will take care of her, Emmett. See that she has everything she needs. Money, support, the best doctors, everything."
Emmett's head jerked up, staring at Carlisle in confusion. "What's wrong with her? Why did you send her away? Why can't I see her?"
"That's obvious, isn't it Emmett? Do you really think you could resist her?"
"You resisted Bella," Emmett shot back. His argument was weak. Edward had been in his head, he knew all too well just exactly what Emmett's reaction had been to a human Rose. There was no way he could resist. One way or another, he would devour her alive. It seems that was all Emmett was capable of doing, in any life.
Carlisle glanced at Edward, then back to Emmett. "Son, Rosalie is pregnant."
Outside, the bluebird settled back into the tree, a bug safely clamped in its beak for the young in the nest.
He'd not intended to stop. The small car by the side of the road was of no consequence to him. A roadside assist would come along and help the stranded individual out. He didn't save people, why should he stop to help here?
Just as he resolved to keep driving, a long denim clad leg extended out into the road. The extended limb provided balance for a woman standing on tiptoe as she tried to reach something under the hood. How many times had he watched Rose do that, balancing precariously on her toes to reach a screwdriver or a wrench placed just out of her reach?
He pulled his large SUV to a stop behind the car, the orange hazard lights blinking their steady call for assistance. Before he could say anything, a head popped out from under the hood, long golden curls tied back in elastic. There was smudge of grease on the woman's cheekbone, which she swiped at with the back of her hand.
The physical resemblance was hardly there, just the blonde hair and the height, but the mannerisms…they were too close. This couldn't be a fluke. This woman was no beauty, but she radiated strength and confidence, commanding attention. Just like Rose had.
"Think you could give me a ride to the closest gas station?" she asked, her words flat and unaccented. "I can call Triple A, but I don't want to stay out here in the rain."
"Can I help?" he asked, moving slowly around the car to assess the damage.
"Not unless you happen to have half a garage in your truck. I think I threw a rod." The woman took another swipe at her cheek, self consciously wiping away the evidence of her endeavors. "I should have known better than to drive it, but I had to be here."
How many times had he heard those same words?
"Come on, I can give you a lift. You just point the way." He knew he had no business helping this woman, but he didn't want to leave her by the side of the road. He felt strangely responsible.
"Thank you," the woman said, wiping her dirty hands on the front of her jeans. "Let me just get my bag."
Emmett climbed back in the SUV, and watched as the woman secured the car and walked around to pop open the trunk. He studied her as she walked. Her face was rounder, not classically beautiful, but attractive. She was lean, like an athlete or a runner, not curvaceous like Rose had been. No, there was minimal resemblance, but the way she moved, the conscious fluid nature in which her arms and legs swung, it was all too close.
"I can't tell you how much I appreciate this," the woman said as she climbed into the car. "I knew the car was on its last leg, but I thought it would hold out for a while longer."
"I can understand that," Emmett said quietly, turning on his blinker and pulling back out onto the road. He could feel her eyes on him, studying him in profile. "You aren't dressed for a funeral," he said, attempting to redirect her attention.
"No, that was a long time ago. I still come out here to talk. He can't hear me, but that doesn't mean he doesn't listen. " She turned away, looking at the window and the trees that flew by. "Were you talking too?"
Emmett leaned his head to the side, considering her question.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be rude," the woman said hastily.
"I come here every year. The woman I loved is there."
"'Tis better to have loved and lost," the woman said, leaning her head against the glass. "I keep telling myself that, but it never gets any easier."
"No," Emmett answered, surprised at how easily candor came. "It doesn't. You can try and mask it, but at the end of the day, the pain can only be dulled for so long."
He pulled into the gas station, safely out of the overhead lights that might raise the woman's suspicion. Something about her alarmed and aroused him, awakening a long dormant sense of self preservation. Call it instinct, call it something else, he knew there was something important about this woman, a missing puzzle piece, which might provide answers to his questions.
The lights of the attendants booth were off, the white sign in the door flipped so the large red CLOSED letters were prominently displayed.
"Well, I guess I am shit out of luck," the woman sighed. Turning to him, she smiled. "Could I convince you to take me home?"
"You don't know me," Emmett said. "I could be some crazy guy. A serial killer."
A predator that kills pretty blonde women.
"Maybe it doesn't matter," she answered evenly. "Everything stopped mattering a long time ago."
For months they dug, calling friends, sifting through ancient texts, but there were no answers to be found. Mystic mumbo jumbo about the spring solstice and the influence of other realms would have once upon a time made Emmett laugh. Now he just wanted to understand, and find a way to repair the foolish mistake.
When he wasn't searching for an answer, he looked for her. He surreptitiously contacted Jasper's resources to hire private detectives, searched the internet, and watched the family's diverse financial transactions and investments for any sign of where Rosalie might be. He could find nothing. She was gone, like a ghost in the night, a dream so clear it had to be true. And as each week passed, he grew more frantic, an indescribable fear fueling his actions. He had to find her, before it was too late. He couldn't articulate why, he simply knew that she would need him, and he refused to fail her.
A scream, then the shattering of glass broke the quiet of the house. Before he could stand from the computer, Edward was in the doorway, his eyes wide. He didn't say anything, simply nodded to Carlisle. And then they were gone.
Emmett waited for five minutes before retrieving a car from the garage. He'd caught their words as they drove away. The hospital's name, then Rosalie's.
He was finally going to find her and bring her home. One way or another, he would be with her again.
"This is a nice place," the woman said as she wandered around the living room. "You live here by yourself?"
"Yes." Emmett watched as she ran her finger along the edge of the sofa, the chair rail of the wall, the edge of the bookcase. She needed to touch everything, to bridge the visual and the palpable. He watched her, taking her in, mystified by her actions. He'd never coveted his brother's skills, but just once, he wanted to read someone's mind, to understand what might be going on. She'd asked him to bring her here, no fear, no reticence. She was playing a dangerous game, another form of Russian Roulette. Maybe she wasn't unlike him after all.
"Who were you visiting?" he asked, unable to tolerate the silence any longer.
"How did he die?"
The woman glanced out the sliding glass doors to the deck, her expression stoic. "We were in a car accident. He was driving."
There were so many things unsaid and yet abundantly clear. He died, she lived. She carried the blame on her back like a weight, blaming herself for things unknown. Had she insisted they go out? Had she been drinking, and he drove instead? So many what if's, so many ways to bear the grief.
"My friends worry that I court danger," the woman continued. "Especially after, well….after." There was no accompanying smile or demure shift of her posture. "Maybe it makes me feel alive. Anything is better than numb."
"Are you sure about that?"
"Yes," she answered without hesitation. "I live my life numb. Adrenaline, fear, lust, they're the only things that make me feel alive. And that's fleeting. A few hours out of the haze, then I am back to nothing. Maybe that is what I deserve."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because I'm here, and he's not. Because I lived, and he died. But I am dead because I don't have anything of his to keep, and there is no way to fill the hole. So I tempt fate and play dangerous games in the hopes that someone will help me feel, bring me back to life, or put me out of my fucking misery."
Her candor shocked Emmett. She so eloquently articulated everything he felt, and yet, hearing it from another individual made it sound so heartless.
"Is life alone really that desolate?" he asked quietly.
"Isn't it for you?"
They stared at each other across the living room, a silent battle of wills. This woman who wasn't Rosalie, but was, had been broken just like he had been. She was lost, with no place to go. He couldn't bring back Rose, Emmett realized, but maybe he could save this woman, give her what she needed. It was the least he could do.
"If I could give you what you wanted, would you take it from me?" he asked. "If I could make you feel, make you fly, and then end the pain, would you take it?"
She stared at him, eyes wide, as if daring him to go on.
"I can't bring you back to life. I don't have that in me to give. But I can give you everything else, if that is what you want."
"Why would you do that?" the woman asked. She didn't pull away or react; she simply waited for an answer.
"Because maybe, by fixing you, I can fix what is wrong with me too."
She should have run, horrified by what he proposed. Instead, she stood, and held out her arms to him. It was the first time he noticed the angry red scars that lined the delicate skin on her wrists.
Emmett followed at a distance, making his driving sloppy to mask his identity. Edward might notice a car following them, but drifting over the line, or dodging potholes would make him appear human, buying him time.
He followed the silver Volvo through the streets of downtown Seattle, alert to any sudden motions. With his mind focused on mundane things, stock prices, football stats, and random thoughts, he hoped to mask his actual thoughts in the hopes that Edward was too distracted by the task that lay ahead to realize they were being followed.
Slowing, he turned into a parking lot not far from the hospital and parked the car. He studied the hospital, looking for signs, indications, anything that might give him a sense where Rosalie was.
You could always sniff her out, he chided himself, disgusted by the poor humor.
In the end impatience won out, and he left the car, entering the hospital through the main doors.
"Excuse me," he interrupted the woman at the front desk. When she looked up at him, he turned on the full charm, a megawatt smile that displayed just a hint of white teeth and dimples. He'd never intentionally used his charm before, but he'd watched his brothers use their looks to get things in the past. Maybe he could do it too. "My wife is in labor, can you tell me where…"
The woman's smile faltered a bit, and she glanced down at his hand. He didn't need to be a mind reader to know her thoughts. All the good ones are taken.
"Down that corridor. Take the elevator to the seventh floor, and check in there," the woman said as she pointed through the atrium. "And congratulations."
It wasn't until he turned to walk away that he realized the enormity of her statement.
Rosalie was having a baby.
He was so focused on the concept, the reality that stretched out before him, that he didn't notice Edward waiting for him by the elevators.
"No. Turn around," Edward insisted, blocking his path.
"Get out of my way." Emmett tried to step around him, but Edward was having nothing of it.
"Emmett, you can't go up there. You won't be able to control yourself-"
"She needs me. I have to-"
"No," Edward placed his hand squarely in the center of Emmett's chest, forcing him back. "She is going to need you to be strong and wait. Carlisle will call."
Emmett glanced up at the numbers above the elevator. They slowly worked their way up; seven, eight, nine. Carlisle was there, he could trust him. He would wait. He had no choice.
"Have you talked to her?" he asked Edward.
"No. Bella has. I don't think Rose wants any of us passing things on, and she knows Bella is the one person…"
"Who is sealed up like Fort Knox, even from you. I get that." Emmett leaned back against the wall, his eyes closing. "I just wanted to see her. God she must be beautiful."
He'd been so focused on finding her, on bringing her back that he'd closed everything else out. Rosalie's swollen stomach, her hand constantly rubbing circles over the delicately stretched skin. He'd never found a pregnant woman attractive, yet knowing that it was her changed everything. Was there ever anything more beautiful? More perfect?
Edward's cell phone rang, breaking Emmett out of his thoughts.
Edward listened for a moment, then flipped the phone shut and grabbed Emmett by the arm, but it was too late. He'd heard everything, every word, and he crumpled to the floor.
She was gone.
It had been eight years since Emmett had willingly allowed a woman to hold him. He'd been touched, stroked, fondled, but no woman had been allowed the intimacy of wrapping her arms around him, or anything that might have been an approximation of comfort. It had been even longer since a woman kissed him. He'd always felt disloyal to Rosalie's memory, that no woman could ever be he. Why allow anyone to try?
Something about this felt different, and he sank gratefully into the woman's arms. She wrapped them around his broad shoulders, her hands rubbing gently up and down his back. "You are cold as death, but you are a lovely way to go," she whispered.
It ripped open something inside of him, something long dormant. He'd tried to be everything before and had failed. He knew better now. Reaching behind his neck, he disengaged the woman's hands, and stepped backwards
"I will be your death. I won't lie about that. But everything else is your choice. Take what you want however you want it. I won't stop you." He sat down on the couch, his arms extending casually to drape across the back. With his long legs outstretched to rest on the coffee table, he was open and exposed. She was free to proceed as she saw fit. He would be her end, but the method of execution was entirely up to her.
He was used to women surveying him, but this one was different, with her grease smudged jeans and careless gestures. She didn't pretend to be something other than what she was, a woman lost, caught between two places with no idea of how to get there.
She walked towards him slowly, stepping across his legs, but not sitting down. There was a small tear in the denim at her knee, the frayed cotton catching his eye.
"It's kind of hard to do this with only one participant," she said, her hands resting on her hips. He sat up, his finger hooking into the small rent in the fabric, and tugged gently. The force was enough to tear the denim from seam to seam. The skin beneath was smooth and fair, not colored from time in the sun or artificial tanning products. As he slowly ran his finger along the inside of her knee, she closed her eyes, leaning her head back. Her heartbeat slowly began to escalate, but Emmett didn't find it distracting as he had in other women. He didn't want this to be over yet. Not until she said.
"What's your name?" she asked, her eyes still closed. Neither had taken the time to exchange pleasantries or details such as names, it all seemed so extraneous. In a way it was surreal, two complete
strangers, broken and ruined, searching for solace and answers in each other. There would be nothing beyond this. What did it matter?
"That's a nice name," she murmured, not volunteering anything more.
"Are you going to-"
"You don't need to know. The people that matter will know, but if you need to call me something, call me Lily. It's my favorite flower."
He laughed mirthlessly at the irony of her choice. "That's the flower of death." He'd teased Rose about it so many times. Rosalie to Rose, the flower of love. Lillian to Lily, the flower of death. Love and death, all wrapped up in one beautiful package, impossible to resist.
He wrapped his hand around the back of her knee, pulling her forward so that she collapsed onto his lap. "Come here my little flower, you're too far away."
He sat in the lobby, deaf and dumb as life moved on. People entering and leaving the world, their ailments and pains on display for all to see. He didn't care. There was no blood lust, no need to resist temptation. Everything that mattered was gone. Long gone.
Edward sat silently beside him, offering no condolences or commentary. He was privy to Emmett's thoughts, and knew that no consolation would assuage the man's guilt. The woman he loved was dead, and he blamed himself. The logic was irrational; he'd not raised a hand to hurt her. It didn't change the loss.
"Carlisle called Esme, and she will make the arrangements," Edward said quietly. Emmett did not acknowledge him. "Is there anything you would-"
"Lilies," Emmett said as he stood abruptly, his face blank. "She would want lilies. Goodbye, Edward."
The lobby doors slid wide, and Emmett walked out into the dark night.
The woman guided him, moving his hands, making requests, shifting her body or tugging at his hair to direct him. An intermittent please or yes were the only words spoken as he followed her lead, provoking her, touching her in ways that Rosalie had loved once upon a time. His lips followed the path of destruction already resident. Scars that crisscrossed her body, some older and faded, some fresh, the fragile skin angry and red at the abuse. He kissed every mark, hoping that the action provided some solace, some ease to the pain. This woman had been battered and torn, not in the same way that Rose had, but mistreated nonetheless. It sobered him, and made him long to be more. He wanted to be perfect for her, to be everything she needed or wanted, even if it was for a passing minute.
He'd been with women before Rose, but the memory had long faded. They were the hasty, awkward fumblings of a naïve boy who knew nothing about pleasing a woman. He and Rosalie had learned together, overcoming his naiveté and her fears. For decades there had been no one but her, and he'd known just how to please her, what she liked, what he could do to push her over or draw things out.
Tonight, he used every one of those skills, focused intently on the woman in his lap. She flushed at his ministrations, her body flinching at first in reaction to his cold fingers, but slowly growing accustomed to the unnaturally cool flesh. She kept her eyes closed, keeping herself enclosed in an emotional bubble as her body responded to him. Physical and emotional were so easily separated. Emmett expected to feel guilt, to loathe himself for finding pleasure in this woman, but her accelerated breathing and pleas for more eradicated any doubt. He watched in fascination as a blush crept down her neck, illuminating the fragile skin stretched across her chest. He didn't know that something as simple as a physical reaction could be so compelling, so completely entrancing, and he found that he wanted to learn more.
"How far shall I take this?" he asked, his hands popping loose the button on her jeans. He felt awkward, afraid of what might come. He also did not want to disappoint this woman, a concept that was laughable given he would only kill her when he was done.
She opened her eyes, and stared at him. Instead of violet blue they were a light grey, the absence of color striking against the dark black of her dilated pupils. She raised her hands, pressing her index fingers into the indentations that marked his dimples, drawing the corners of his mouth upward into an approximation of a smile.
"You are lovely when you smile," she said.
"I don't know about lovely."
"You are," she insisted, her fingers flattening against his cheeks. "I would like you to make me feel alive one last time, make me fly, and then take it all away. Just promise that when you do, you make it fast please."
"It might hurt," he said, not sure if it was a reference to the sex or her exsanguinations. He never stopped to question how she knew he would kill her. Did she realize what he was? Or was she that willing to take death in any form?
"It always does."
She stood, shaking out of her jeans. Her limbs were long and fair, her legs slimmer than Rosalie's had been. She reminded him of a colt, still so young, with so much to live for. And yet she chose this path, preferring death to living alone. At least she would take it on her own terms. She stripped off the rest of her clothes, Emmett found himself overwhelmed by the map of bruises and scars on her body. Is this how Rosalie had looked after those men had violated her and left her for dead decades ago? Carlisle had been there to save her, to help put her back together. Who had done that for this girl? Was that his role in this, to provide her salvation? Or was she meant to be his?
"I've never been with anyone else, just him," Lily said as she climbed back into his lap. She showed no fear, no embarrassment, and Emmett found himself awed by her strength. How could she know with such certainty this was the right thing? Why had he not been able to do the same thing, to follow Rose into oblivion? He was weak where this woman was strong. Maybe she would be able to give him the answers, show him where and what he needed to do. Or at least what he should be.
That is exactly what she did, finding a final release and pleasure with him. How many times had he mocked Edward, at his stoic ability to keep his hands to himself and not hurt his human bride? That taunting flittered through his mind and he dug his fingers into the back of the couch, splintering the frame so that he wouldn't hurt this fragile girl. It shouldn't matter, she was already marked and marred, but he couldn't stand the thought of damaging her when she'd already been through so much.
She called out a name, a jumble of words that might have been Brian or Ryan, and then collapsed against his chest, her breathing labored. Emmett's breathing mirrored her own, not out of physical exertion but emotional connection. Her breath, her body seared him in a way he'd never known, his heavy breathing the only way he could keep himself centered and focused. A part of his body cried out not her, the desire to salvage her, to make her whole overwhelming. He couldn't save her, but he would carry this memory of her burned in his mind forever.
"Thank you," she whispered. "Thank you for helping me find the way."
"Are you sure?" he asked, needing reassurance that this was her decision. That she knew and understood.
He lifted her gently, so that her legs draped over his thighs. She was cradled in his lap like a small child, waiting for someone to kiss a wound and make it better. He grasped her left wrist, skimming his hand across the angry raised scar at the base of her palm. "I can't promise that this won't hurt, but I will try," he said as he raised her wrist to his mouth.
She nodded, her face impassive as he slowly bit into the tender flesh of her arm. Most would have cried out or pulled away, she did not, choosing instead to watch Emmet as he slowly pulled the blood from her body. As intimate as they had been, her body wrapped around his, writhing in pleasure, nothing compared to this.
Emmett continued to drink, and her eyes drifted closed, as she slowly drifted off. To sleep, perchance to dream, Edward would have joked, and he pushed the thought to the back of his mind. This was hisrestitution, a way for him to make right all that had gone wrong.
He listened as her heartbeat slowed, and her head lolled against her chest. The blood slowed to a trickle, then ultimately ceased all together.
"Goodnight, beautiful Lily," he whispered, kissing her gently on the lips. "I hope you find the peace you are looking for."
He pulled her clothes back on and wrapped her in a blanket retrieved from a closet. She no longer needed warmth, but he couldn't stand the thought of her being uncomfortable in the back of the SUV. He would round out this task, completing for her what he could not do the first time.
The drive back to the cemetery was quiet, the roads long deserted. He pulled through the gates, looking around to make sure no one observed him as he gently lifted Lily's body out of the back. Tucking the blanket securely around her, he kissed the top of her head one last time.
"I'm taking you to him," he whispered as he began to wander through the cemetery, looking for some indication of where she belonged. He slowly traipsed up and down the rows, studying markers, trying to find something, anything, that would indicate where she belonged.
He was about to give up hope when he saw the marker. Ryan Lilly. Son, Lover, Friend. His date of death was exactly four years prior.
Lily. Lilly. It had to be.
He set her down gently, resting her back against the tombstone.
"You are a lucky man, Ryan, wherever you are," he whispered. "She was an amazing woman."
He stood and turned towards the SUV, anticipating the phone as it started to vibrate in his pocket. There was no call, simply a text message.
The answers are in Alaska.
The drive from Seattle to the Denali National Park, even at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour, took almost two days. Rain, stops for gas, border crossings, they all slowed Emmett down. Once upon a time, he would have been impatient, focused on reaching his destination, but now things were different. He paid attention to the passing scenery, slowing down to observe the changes. Plains, mountains, desolate stretches of barren landscape were all remarkable and beautiful in its own unique way. It would be easy to miss the sheer elegance of the terrain because of the isolation, the almost heartbreaking sense of seclusion. It took living on the fringe of heartbreak to understand what it meant to be truly alone, to find elegance and splendor in simple things.
Emmett found himself growing strangely anxious as he neared the great house that Tanya and her family called home. After years alone, he found people, especially his own kind, challenging. He did not know what to expect, yet the lure of answers, of understanding was more than he could bear.
As he turned off the car at the end of the circular drive, he heard the metallic ring of an aluminum baseball bat. Cheers bounced off the back of the house, shouts of 'go go go,' and 'run!'
He'd know those voices anywhere.
But the bat striking the ball didn't fit. There was no epic roll of thunder, no riotous clash as the metal contacted with the leather casing of a baseball. Just the normal crack of a bat, like you would hear at any little league park in America. What was different? Why no great crash?
He followed the crushed gravel path around the house, towards the sound of laughter. The scent hit him before the sound did, causing him to pull up short. Rich and warm, coppery, and achingly familiar. But unlike that spring morning, there was no burn in his throat. The smell was the same, yet it was different. It made him curious, not ravenous.
The steady drumming was faster than he was accustomed too, not a humming bird's beat, but more than that of a typical human. With the next crack, the rhythm picked up, escalating as if with exertion.
"Run faster!" he heard Carlisle shout. Clapping accompanied the shouting. He rounded the corner to see the man he considered a father laughing, the smile that illuminated his face beatific, one of true joy. He didn't turn to acknowledge Emmett, instead continuing to cheer and clap. Jasper stood at home plate, his arm making broad circles, waving the runner in. Far out in left field, Edward jogged slowly, at a human pace, before stopping to toss a ball in towards home plate. And in the middle of it all, a tow headed boy, maybe seven or eight years old, running as fast as his short little legs would carry him. He dove for home plate, sliding gracefully across the white plastic, just moments before the ball dropped into Jasper's hands.
"SAFE!" Carlisle shouted. "Mac is safe! You didn't get him, Edward!"
The boy stood, dusting imaginary dirt off his butt. "Edward's slow, Carlisle. You know that."
"I'm faster than your old man," Edward shouted, waving in Emmett's direction. The boy turned, his eyes going wide. The look of shock on his face matching Emmett's in miniature.
They studied each other across the expanse of a few hundred feet. Emmett did not look old enough to be the boy's father, but their biological connection was unmistakable. While the boy had his mother's brilliant hair and violet blue eyes, his smile, the dimples, and his build were all his father's.
This was his son.
He wavered, then dropped to the ground, his hands bracing against the dead grass. His son. Rosalie's son.
"It wasn't all for naught, Emmett," Alice said as she appeared at his side, her small hand slipping into his. "You didn't lose her. Not all of her. She lives on, just not in the way you expected."
"But exactly the way she would have wanted," he said. He wanted to approach the boy, to touch him, to hold him, but he didn't know if he should.
The last eight years had all been a preparation, a series of trials that brought him to this moment. He had to find his own center, his own identity, before he could be that for someone else.
Emmett sat down in the grass, his long legs folding to cross at the ankles as he stared at the little boy with the radiant hair and the brilliant smile. He wanted to be angry at his family, to lash out. Instead, he understood.
You just had to be ready. You are now.
He studied the little boy, his face so open and earnest, and the eyes wide and full of intelligence. The perfect mix of both of them, and yet so completely his own person.
He thought of his words as he placed Lily down on the grave next to her fiancé. She left this world on her own terms. So had his Rosalie. They'd left behind the parts of them that mattered, touching him and changing him in ways he'd been incapable of doing on his own. It was through their love that he was able to reach this point, and maybe, have a future with this little boy. He needed to discover the man he was before he could be anything for anyone else.
You are a lucky man, he had told the deceased Ryan Lilly.
Apparently, he wasn't the only one.