Bella pulled a blanket from the closet and wrapped it around her shoulders. She shuffled back to the sofa and sat down, then pulled her feet up and shivered. Edward lost himself while he watched her breathing.
"I'm so sorry it's not working, Bella," Alice said. "We just never turned the heater on once Carlisle bought this place. There wasn't really a need."
Bella smiled. "It's OK, Alice. It's not that cold. I'll be fine."
Edward gripped the arms of the chair he was sitting in and gritted his teeth. This was bound to happen, he knew. Humans don't belong with vampires.
"I'll get firewood," he said. He got up and he glanced at Charlie, who was sitting across the room. "You gonna be OK?" He looked back and forth between the newborn vampire and his human daughter.
"I'm good," Charlie said. Edward wondered, briefly, about Charlie's sense of control. It was remarkable for a newborn. Not quite up to Carlisle's ability, but intriguing nonetheless.
He went out the back door. He had spent many summers in Alaska, though not this far north. Typically, he rented a place in Anchorage. But the Cullens had a cabin in the woods on the Denali preserve, far away from civilization. It's where Alice had taken them after the mess in Forks. Even here, though, they had to be careful. Both Charlie's and Bella's faces were broadcast to the world. They would forever be known. Charlie more so because of his brutal dismembering of Jane on live television.
Whatever happened now, there was no turning back. The world knew about vampires.
Edward trudged through overgrown brush and headed into the woods, gathering fallen branches almost without paying attention. Bella's problem was deeper than the weather, he knew. In the end, she would either have to be turned or left behind. A human was incapable of living the lifestyle of a vampire. They moved too slowly. They required food, shelter and sleep. And they got cold.
"Dammit," he said aloud. His arms full, he headed back to the cabin, still unsure what to do about Bella. He knew what she wanted, especially now that her father had been turned. The only men she'd ever loved were both vampires now. What reason was there for her to remain alive?
If only it were that easy, he thought. One day you're alive and the next you're a vampire with magical abilities and super-human strength. Put that way, who wouldn't want to join up?
What a crock of shit. No one ever mentioned the insatiable desire for blood, the need that never goes away, the unbearable weight on your conscience as you learn to become the very kind of killer you'd always hated so much.
Enough, he told himself.
He wrenched open the cabin door and dropped the firewood on the floor.
Bella sat alone on the sofa, still wrapped in blankets. Charlie and Alice were gone.
"Where are they?"
"They left to get Charlie some blood," Bella said.
"Alice should know better," Edward said as he quickly loaded the fireplace. He lit a piece of scrap paper with his Zippo and held it to the kindling. He gazed into the fire, not paying attention. The paper burned down to his fingers and the flame jumped onto his sleeve.
Bella laughed as she sat down beside him. "Maybe you can hug the warmth back into me," she said.
Edward looked at her, confused for a moment as the cuff of his sleeve continued to smolder.
"Dude," Bella said. She reached out and patted the flame quickly, putting it out. "What's wrong, Edward? And don't tell me it's just this stuff with Caius and the Volturi. There's more."
She snuggled up to him and picked at the frayed ends of his sleeve.
"Come on, Edward," she said. "Is it Charlie? Because that's not something you should worry about. He loves it, and we both know you didn't have a choice. You saved him. It was the only way."
"I saved him from nothing," Edward said. He pulled away from Bella and stood.
"Don't you get it? Charlie's a killer now. Because of me. He's just another one of my victims, Bella. Worse. Because now he'll go on to kill others. I became the monster I hated, and now I've created a new one."
Charlie and Alice walked back in the door, their eyes glowing golden.
"What's this about a monster?" Charlie said.
"Nothing," Edward said.
Charlie walked up to Edward and put a hand on his shoulder. "You saved me, son," he said. "Simple as that."
"Don't be a fool," Edward said. He turned away.
"I'm not kidding," Charlie said. "Edward. Look at me. Do I look like a monster to you?"
Edward turned back around and looked Charlie in the eye.
"I'm a new man," Charlie said. He smiled wide and rolled his neck around, flexed his arms, cracked his knuckles.
"I haven't felt this good in twenty years, Edward. And I'm smart. I mean, smarter than I ever was. I see everything, possibilities. Endless possibilities. It's like the whole world is a battlefield, and I'm planning an invasion. All the time. My mind won't stop."
He sat on the sofa, leaned forward and put his elbows on his knees. "When I went after Jane? Sure, I had the craving. All those humans out there. But it didn't make strategic sense for me to kill any of them. My sense of strategy overruled my hunger, Edward.
"I am in control of this like I've never been in control of anything in my life."
And there it was. Charlie's ability was apparently going to be an innate sense of logic, structure, planning. Edward thought about how he could use that. Caius was still out there. And so was the tattooed man. He wouldn't rest, none of them could, until they were both gone.
It was Alice.
"What do you see?" Edward asked.
Alice put her fingers to her temples and closed her eyes. "It's an army, Edward. Newborns, by the looks of them. They've gone through Forks, torn the place up. Searched our cabin there."
She paused. Bit her bottom lip. "I can't see. Wait. They're heading toward Carlisle's place in Tahoe. But not all of them."
She gasped. "They're headed here, Edward. Half of them. At least a dozen newborns. They'll be here soon, I think."
Alice pulled her hand away from her face and whirled around, striking the kitchen counter with her fist. "God damnit!" she said. "When will it ever end? I can't do this anymore. I can't. Not without Jasper. I don't have it in me."
Edward started to say something, but Bella reached out and put a finger to his lips. She nodded at Charlie, who was approaching Alice from behind.
Charlie put a hand on Alice's shoulder and squeezed lightly. "I lost the love of my life, too," he said. Alice turned to look at him.
"Does it ever get easier?" she said.
"No," Charlie said. "But it doesn't get harder, either. Right now, Alice, is the worst it's going to get for you. These days are hard. But you have to focus. Understand? We have a job to do, and we can't do it without you."
Alice laid her head on Charlie's chest and wept, though she produced no tears. He put his hands on her back and whispered in her ear. "You're strong, Alice. You're a good soul." Alice lifted her head and Charlie reached out to tuck her hair behind her ear.
Alice smiled and looked at Bella. "No wonder you turned out so great." She smiled and looked up at Charlie. "Thank you."
Edward put his arm around Bella and pulled her close.
"We have to get out of here," he said. "We can't fight a dozen newborns. Not just three of us. And not with Bella here. It's too dangerous."
"Agreed," Charlie said.
"I'll go start the car, get it warmed up for Bella," Alice said. She ran out the door.
Charlie kicked the still burning logs from the fireplace. He picked up the largest one and tossed it into the kitchen. He kicked another on into the hallway and watched as the sparks trailed behind it while it skittered across the hardwood floor.
"Cover," he said.
Charlie grabbed Bella's hand and led her out to the car. Edward followed. He hadn't thought to set the place on fire, but he admitted that it was a good move. It would give them precious minutes should Caius's army show up soon.
Alice mashed the gas pedal to the floor as Edward slammed the back door closed. He checked to make sure Bella had her seat belt on, satisfied when he saw it fastened tightly.
"Where will we go?" Bella asked. It was a question that Edward, too, had been wondering. But a quick scan of Alice's mind showed go that she had no idea.
"I was thinking maybe Fairbanks," Alice said. "Unless someone has a better idea."
"That's a mistake," Charlie said.
"Oh, shit!" Alice screamed. She slammed on the brakes and the SUV fishtailed across the two-lane road. It came to an abrupt stop when it slammed into something hard. A newborn.
"They're here," Edward said.
The car came to rest in the middle of the road. Steam rose from its hood and the engine sputtered and died. Ticking sounds entered the cabin. It was the only thing anyone could hear, except for Bella's rapid breathing.
"We should get out of here. Run into the woods," Alice said. She reached for the door, but Charlie put a hand on her arm and stopped her.
"That's what they're expecting," he said.
"So what do we do? Just wait here for them to get us? There's a dozen of them, Charlie. We're sitting ducks."
Edward tried to scan Charlie's mind to see what he was thinking, but it was moving to fast. The thoughts were all jumbled together. It was like trying to read a book during a hurricane.
"What's going on, Charlie?" he asked.
Charlie smiled. "Follow my lead," he said. He opened the passenger door and walked around to the other side of the car and opened the back door there. He pulled Bella from the car more roughly than Edward would have liked and put his arm around her neck.
Edward quickly realized what Charlie was doing. He got out of his own door and hoped Alice would soon do the same. He was happy to see that she did. She positioned herself directly to Charlie's side, too, which meant that she understood.
"She's ours," Charlie called out, loud enough that any vampire within a quarter mile would hear him. He picked Bella up by the back of her neck and held her in the air, careful to support her weight with his other hand. "If any of you are brave enough to come take her," he said, pausing to look around, "then so be it.
"But I doubt you will. Newborns are weak. Stupid. Savages." He spat on the ground.
Alice looked at Edward, who was desperately trying to hide a smile. Charlie, he thought, you are fucking brilliant. He only hoped Bella understood what was going on.
There. To the left. He saw red eyes glowing. Edward braced himself. He moved slowly back toward the car, opening the driver's door carefully.
Charlie lowered Bella, but kept his grip right. He turned to his left, as if he were scanning the area, but quickly shifted to the right and tossed Bella into the open car door.
"Lock it," Edward said, slamming the door and charging toward the set of red eyes he'd seen. He slammed into the surprised newborn with the force of a semi truck, crushing its ribs and mashing it against a tree. Quickly, before the vamp had time to recover, Edward gripped both sides of the newborn's head and twisted. He heard a snap, then adjusted his grip so he could pull the boy's head off. When he was done, he tossed the head aside and ran back to the car.
Edward, Charlie and Alice surrounded the car. It was Bella the newborns wanted. And now, there would be a frenzy.
They fought off the attacks, one-by-one. The newborns, though powerful, weren't very organized. Edward found that Alice could see them coming, and he could read Alice's thoughts. It was like playing a football team whose quarterback told you what play they were going to run. It was too easy.
Which is why he wondered if he was missing something. Charlie was wondering it, too.
The last newborn attacked. Charlie dealt with it quickly, but then he paused. He held the car door closed, stopping Bella's exit. Edward looked at her. She was confused. "Let me out, Charlie!"
Charlie didn't answer. He stared into the woods. Everything was quiet. The sun hung low in the sky, turning it orange.
"Something's wrong," he said.
Edward listened closely. He heard the tick-tick of the car's engine cooling down. He heard Bella breathing behind the closed windows. He heard the buzz of insects in the woods and the wind flowing through the wings of a hawk in the sky, but nothing else. No animals foraging. No sounds at all.
Alice moved. "What do you see?" Charlie asked.
"Someone's here. Or almost here. But I can't see him. Or her. Or it. But something's coming."
Charlie held fast at the driver's side door, while Alice covered the passenger side. Edward jumped onto the hood of the car and stood, feet apart, arms calmly at his side. They must be ready, whatever happens.
Alice yelped. But before Edward could turn his head, she was already gone. He jumped from the hood and guarded the door, unsure what was going on.
Something hit him hard. He folded in half and collapsed. Whatever it was moved too quickly for him to see it. He was picked up from the ground and thrown into the air. He landed fifty yards away.
He jumped to his feet and ran back to the truck. The passenger door was gone. So were Bella and Charlie.
A trace of blood stained the steering wheel. Edward could smell it. Bella's blood.
He screamed, louder than he thought he was capable. He pounded his fists on the car's hood and he kept pounding until the hood collapsed and he felt the warm steel of the engine.
Unsatisfied, he put his fist into the fender and kicked the door and the rage overtook him and he began to beat the car with all his might. Glass exploded and air hissed from the tires. He embedded his fists into the hard steel and tore pieces of it away and flung them into the air, an abyss.
When he was spent, he looked at the damage he had wrought. Wherever he went, this is what happened. Lives were torn apart as surely as this SUV had been.
He smelled a fuel leak. Good, he thought. It will catch fire and it will consume me and the world will be without one more vampire. A killer will have been killed.
He closed his eyes and waited.
Tick tick went the engine.
Drip drip went the fuel.
A moment passed, and he knew. He had been a fool.
Bella was not dead; she was too valuable. Therefore, he had no choice in what to do next. He would find her and he would rescue her and he would bring a reign of terror down upon those responsible for what had happened tonight. For everything that had happened since a calm, cool afternoon on the shores of Lake Michigan one hundred and eight years ago.
Calmly, deliberately, Edward gathered the headless corpses of what had been Caius' newborn army. He put them into the destroyed SUV and he closed the doors, such as they were.
He pulled a cigarette from the pocket of his long black coat and he pulled his Zippo from the pocket of his jeans and he let the lighter do what it was designed to do.
He pulled a lungful of smoke and he let it bleed through his nose and he decided to do what must be done. He would do what a monster like him was supposed to do.
He lit the leaking gasoline on fire and he let his boots take him toward Fairbanks, an hour away.
By his reckoning, it would take two days to get to Italy. He would need to feed before he left.