Author's Note:

I understand if a lot of you have given up on this since it's been, like, over two months since I updated. But school just got so much harder after winter break, and I tried to keep up with updating, but then they just bombarded us with projects and essays and tests and benchmarks and other random shit like selecting courses and talking to your counselor about the courses, where they make you second guess every decision you have already made and will make in the future.

Anyway.

I'll stick with this story though. I love this story, and I know exactly where I'm going with it, so the only problem is finding time to write.

I want to―no, I need to―thank each and every single one of you who has reviewed/PM-ed me long after I last updated, pleading/threatening/demanding an update and saying, repeatedly, that you love this story. I'm just so...so honored to have readers like you guys. Thank you so much, all of you, especially if you are still reading.


Chapter 36: Unlikely Alliance

August 31, 2012: Cullen Residence, approximately 11:30 AM


"Sometimes, you honestly have to ask yourself: What. The. Fuck?"

―Sonia Raziella


The beeping noise is what got to me first. It was quiet in the beginning, and then it slowly got louder until it was almost painful to listen to. I tried moving my arms, but they wouldn't budge. After a few minutes of trying, I managed to force my eyes open.

I was on a bed...a comfortable one. The sheets were a pale color that wasn't quite white, and the walls were a deep navy blue. It's a bedroom.

I tried to sit up, but there were wires sticking out of my arms. One of them near the inside of my elbow was particularly painful, but before I could yank it out, there was a knock on the door. I froze in shock when it opened.

"You're awake, then," Carlisle said quietly, smiling, as he stepped inside. He walked over to the side with the big machines and started reading the signals as if they made sense.

I tried to talk, but my voice came out scratchy and hoarse. I cleared my throat and tried to swallow to get rid of the dryness before trying again. "What are...why are you...where am I?"

"We have a house here, close to Springfield, and we doubted you wanted to go to a hospital." He didn't look at me as he talked.

A few seconds later, he glanced to the door, as if he was waiting, and Esme came through with a glass of water. "Here, Bella...I thought you'd want something to drink."

I didn't want the water, not from her. But I could barely speak with my throat so dry. "Thanks," I whispered, taking the glass carefully. It looked like she wanted to help, but she backed away when she saw that I wouldn't spill.

I had barely taken a few sips before everything that happened came crashing down on me. I narrowly avoided choking on the water as I coughed.

"Are you okay?" Esme asked, not sure how she could help. I nodded, putting the glass out for her to take back. She took it, placing it on a table in the corner of the room and coming back before I could blink. That observation didn't help my coughing.

"What"—cough—"the"—cough—"hell?" I managed to get out. Biting my lip to try to stifle the coughs, I threw my legs over the side of the bed to stand up. I needed to get back...I needed to contact Zach and Aria.

"You shouldn't do that," Carlisle cautioned as I shakily stood up. I glanced down at my arms and quickly yanked out the wires. A few drops of blood trickled out, and Esme stiffened up.

Carlisle appeared relatively unaffected, however. "Here, let me get you a bandage," he said, going to a small cabinet at the back of the room. Rummaging through, he came back with a few white bandages.

I backed away before he could get closer, almost tripping over Esme in the process. "I'm okay, it'll scab soon."

Carlisle didn't listen; he looked at me like I was crazy. "The wound, however small, is still bleeding, Bella. It's hard for a vampire to be around it."

I stopped short. "A vampire?"

"Yes..." he said slowly. "Your friends told us that all of you knew already."

"What friends? What are you even talking about?"

He looked at me sharply, as if just realizing what he said. "So you don't know?"

"Know what?" I backed away toward the door, starting to doubt my state of consciousness. Vampires? What the heck?

"Oh my god," Esme murmured, glancing toward Carlisle. "It was only them then."

I had to get out of here, before their madness spread to me.

I bolted to the door without thinking and was already a couple yards away before I realized that I had no idea what the layout of the house was. Ignoring that, I continued to run down the hallway and found a staircase. Skipping over a few steps in my hurry, I was about to make a mad dash toward the front door when I saw just who was in the living room.

I skidded to a stop.

Rosalie was the first one to speak, standing up. "Where the hell do you think you're going?"

I didn't know how to answer that. I didn't know what shit the Cullens were trying to sell me about vampires, but I didn't have the time to listen to their lies.

My hands went to my pockets of their own accord, and I gasped. My gun...it was gone. Looking down, I realized that I wasn't even in my own clothes—instead, I was in a pair of yoga pants and a Chicago Bulls t-shirt.

I didn't even like basketball, for god's sake.

"Your gun is in the storage," Jasper said, standing up as well, and I looked up to focus on him. I noticed who was sitting on the adjacent sofa. "We didn't think you'd need it, in your current state..."

"What current state?" I snapped.

There were two windows on the other side of the room, on the same wall the TV was bolted; one was on either side of the TV. But I'd have to cross the living room to get to them...

"You had bullet wounds, burns, and severe blood loss." Jasper raised an eyebrow in disbelief. "Mind explainin' why you'd need a gun?"

The front door was a few yards away still, and there had to be a backdoor as well, right?

"I..." I couldn't think of anything but the truth. What was I supposed to say? Oh yeah, I just wanted to incapacitate you all...nothing much. "I need to go."

Alice sighed, not bothering to even look at me let alone stand. "We know who you are, Bella. And I'm sure you know what we are, so can we cut the act?"

"I need to go," I insisted, not moving.

"Why don't you have a seat and explain?" she suggested. Rosalie and Jasper sat back down, and there was one unoccupied sofa left in the room.

These guys don't fucking get it. I glanced at the door again. It wasn't that far, and I could easily handle the locks.

But suddenly, a feeling of peace, trust, and tranquility enveloped the room; I felt the irrational urge to talk to them about...everything. I vaguely remembered how my emotions had changed so drastically at least once not too long ago. I knew without a doubt that this was not natural, but I still found myself turning away from the door and toward where the Cullens were sitting.

I slowly made my way toward the living room, and noticed the key rack on the wall. If the front door is on that side, then the garage will usually be next to it...meaning this hallway would lead to the garage.

I took a seat on the empty sofa closest to the key rack. "What do you want?"

"We should be asking what you want," Jasper said. "But we want to know: Who are you?"

"Isabella Swan."

He seemed annoyed by my smartass response. "Let me rephrase that. Are you a..." He looked to the others, not finding the word.

"Are you an assassin?" Emmett asked.

"...No."

"Are you a serial killer?"

"No."

"Are you suffering from a mental illness that makes you a psychopath?"

"No, Emmett."

"Are you lying to us right now?" Alice asked.

I didn't answer.

Rosalie sighed. "We can't help you if you―"

"You think I need help?" I asked incredulously. The feeling of peace started to evaporate, quicker as my annoyance grew. "I don't need any fucking help, got it?" I stood up, and got only a few feet away when he spoke.

"We'll call the police, Bella." I froze. I didn't turn around, not wanting to meet his eyes. Edward continued, "We haven't called them yet because we wanted to help, but if you don't want help we can just call them."

My heart was beating quicker now, and I had two options.

I could stay here, explain, and try to get help with my...situation.

Or I could run like hell.

I did what came naturally: I ran.

Running past the key rack, I yanked it off the wall, not stopping when the shouts started. I ran down the hallway where the garage would most likely be. After the turn at the end of the hall, I found a door.

Thank god.

I threw it open and jumped down the few stairs into the garage. Slamming it shut behind me, I looked around for a way to block it, to stall the Cullens from entering.

I grinned when I saw that the door had a lock from the outside. Who the hell would need to lock themselves in the garage? I wondered idly, locking the door. The doorknob rattled just as I locked it, and there was a bang on the door.

Alice's voice screamed, "Bella, stop this! Why are you running if you didn't do anything wrong?"

I looked over the keys in my hands, and looked at the selection of cars. There was a BMW, a Volvo, a Mercedes, and a Jeep.

The Volvo was out of question; I wasn't going to touch it. I was about to take the BMW, until I realized how conspicuous that would be.

I quickly found the key for the Mercedes, and threw the rest of the keys to the side. I also grabbed a pair of sneakers from the shoe stand, and then sprinted to the black car. I unlocked it and jumped breathlessly into the driver's seat, and had turned on the ignition just as the door was kicked open; it flew across the garage, crashing against the cabinets along the wall. I didn't wait to see their expressions, or even who exactly was able to kick the door like that, and put the car into reverse.

"Please, please, please work..."

"Bella, stop!"

I hit the gas, and reversed right through the garage door.

It broke over the car, and the back window cracked. But I didn't stop, and once I was on the main street I shifted into drive and sped around the corner, away from the Cullen house.

I forced the Mercedes faster, slightly awestruck by just how fast it was able to go, when I saw the glint of a silver car in the rearview mirror. I relaxed only when I lost it.


August 31, 2012: Downtown Chicago, 2:44 PM


I pulled over and parked on the side of the road. Getting out, I glanced once at the parking meter before shaking my head and walking away. I couldn't care less if the car was towed.

I walked past a small statue where people were taking pictures, and after a moment of thought, decided to pretend that I was reading the plaque that explained its significance. Out of the corner of my eye, I observed the group of people taking pictures.

They were teenagers, like me, and were goofing around, taking funny selfies with the statue. I resisted rolling my eyes, and when one of the guys walked past me, I stepped back, bumping into him.

"Sorry," I said, and I turned around before he can reply and started walking quickly down the street. If he realized his wallet was missing, he would be able to catch me with it; it was why we always pickpocketed in pairs.

Once I was a sufficient distance away, I opened up the wallet and looked through what it had. I couldn't stop my smile when I found that it was filled with cash―almost fifty dollars. Those kids must've been spending the whole day downtown.

Now I had to find a phone.

...

"Hello?"

"It's me, Aria."

There were sounds of shuffling. "Izzy? It's about time."

"Where are you two?" I avoided looking around, so that my face wouldn't be caught on any cameras.

"Where are you? We'll pick you up."

"I'll meet you by the Zara store on North Michigan Avenue."

"...We'll be there in ten minutes. Black Lexus, H23 3308."

I hung up, and started walking to the Zara store.

...

I browsed through the clothes racks, trying to look like I had something to do so they didn't kick me out.

I decided to try on a few of the dresses so that the blonde worker in the corner would stop looking at me suspiciously, when the door to the store opened behind me. The girl looked straight past me, and her jaw dropped slightly.

I had a strange feeling that I knew exactly who the person was.

The store was relatively empty, so I could hear the footsteps coming closer. When they sounded to be only a couple feet away, I spoke quietly, "I thought you were going to call the police."

It was barely above a whisper, but Edward heard me, somehow. "I didn't think I needed to."

I scoffed, and turned around. He was looking at me warily, hands in his pockets, leaning against one of the display stands. His eyes were a dark gold, but at least they weren't black. "Why don't you answer honestly this time?"

He seemed surprised, but he regained control. He admitted, "I didn't want to."

"And why, exactly, is that?" I took a few steps closer, crossing my arms.

He looked at me thoughtfully. "I had a feeling that calling them wouldn't have helped."

"And you were right." I looked to the side, wondering where the hell Aria and Zach were and why I was still talking to Edward. "But it sure would've been irritating."

He sighed. "Look, Bella, I―"

"You can't help me, Edward," I whispered harshly. I knew that this store didn't have any audio surveillance, but the people who worked here were starting to make me edgy, especially since they were all staring at Edward. And, consequently, me. "Unless you want to help me steal random shit from high-profile locations, of course."

With that, I brushed past him, walking to the exit. Before I could get far, though, he grabbed my wrist, stopping me. "Wait!"

I whirled around, prepared to punch him, but his face was mere inches from mine. I froze, my arm half lifted.

His hand was cold.

"I can help you steal random shit," he said, his eyes searching mine.

I was still frozen, out of shock, nervousness, and another odd sensation, but then what he said finally registered. "W-what?" I stuttered out.

"I can help," he repeated. "With whatever you have to do. I won't ask why you're doing it, I swear."

"I was being sarcastic, dumbass," I muttered, pushing him away weakly. His grip on my wrist loosened, and I pulled my hand away. "You have no idea what you're dealing with here."

"This isn't some elaborate trap to get you to trust me just so I can turn you in," he said quickly, addressing my exact concerns. "I don't want―" He cut himself off.

I narrowed my eyes. "You don't want...what?" I prodded.

He shook his head. "I can help you. I'm more useful than you think."

"Right. But I never even offered, okay? I was being sarcastic!"

"But I'm not."

I huffed; he was getting on my nerves.

Maybe he can help though―

Shut up.

"I don't care, Edward," I insisted. "Your family―"

"Since when did you care what they thought?" A small grin formed on his face. "You crashed through our garage with Carlisle's car without looking back. But you choose now to think about the effect your actions might have?"

I rolled my eyes. "Shut up." I turned around, and through the glass doors I saw a black Lexus. Squinting, I could just barely make out the license plate: H23 3308.

I turned back to face Edward. "Look, you should leave now. You honestly don't know what you're getting yourself into."

"Actually, I have more of an idea than you may think."

We stared each other down, neither of us giving in.

If he think he can help so much, why don't you let him?

I don't trust him.

He didn't call the police.

He's Edward Cullen, for god's sake.

He can be a distraction...he seems decent at acting.

He can lie convincingly.

But that's good, right?

For telemarketing.

I took a deep breath. "If I let you come with us, you have to swear on your life that you will listen to anything I tell you to do or say. Got it?"

He nodded, seeing that I was considering the idea.

"Don't make me regret this," I warned him.

"I won't," he said seriously.

"Come on, then. They're here."

He followed me outside to the car, which was stopped along the side of the road. I got into the backseat, Edward right behind me.

Aria was fully turned around in the driver's seat, and she was looking at me like I'd finally lost it. "Why the hell is he here?"

I sighed. "Long story, but he's helping us now."

"You're kidding."

"Nope."

Zach was also looking at us from the passenger seat, and he looked just as incredulous. "Are you sure we can trust him?"

I glanced at Edward. "He swore on his life."

Zach and Aria understood the real message: I would make sure to kill him if he proved otherwise.

"Good enough, I guess," Aria said, giving Edward a once-over. After deeming him satisfactory, she started the car and merged back into the busy Chicago streets. "We're going to stop at the safe house to get dressed. I'm pretty sure we have clothes for Edward too," she added.

"Why?" I asked. "Are we meeting some―" I realized who we would be meeting mid-sentence.

Aria finished for me, since Edward looked confused. "We'll be meeting Maritza at Tru. The reservation is at eight."


Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight


Note: Tru is a French restaurant in Chicago...I went there one summer. Super formal.

What did you think? Did I lose my touch that completely? And what's this―Edward is helping Bella? He even swore on his life... How many expected this? Review!

Soni

P.S. To address your question, The Awesome One [Guest], I did not realize that Zach was even in the Gallagher Girls series. I only read the first book when I was in...I think sixth grade? It was a while ago. But Zach wasn't in the first book. After reading your review (I always read all of your reviews, even if I haven't updated) about two weeks ago, though, I Googled a bit about the books and discovered the character... As soon as I find time, I'm going to finish that series, and then I'll try to compare with the character I've created. :)