***All characters belong to Stephenie Meyer***
Within minutes, Edward's breathing slowed and he was in deep sleep. His fingers still brushed through my hair but the motion was slowed and his chest rose and fell in time with his steady heartbeat. His skin was radiating the same intoxicating heat as usual, and my body had grown accustomed to the flood of warmth that seemed to pour into the pit of my stomach whenever I was near him.
An hour had past, and I was still clutching to his shirt collar as if my life depended on it. Charlie was up and moving again, and I barely had time to think before he appeared in the shadow of the doorway.
I rested my chin on my folded arms as the mattress above me creaked. Edward's breath faltered slightly before it settled back to its leisurely pace.
"I'm sorry, son," Charlie's voice was barely audible even to me.
He shifted his weight on the mattress and I could see the cracked heel of his foot only a few inches away. A delicate sound caught my attention and I turned my head to see a small spatter on the hard wood floor.
Charlie was crying?
"I failed you and your mother," I heard the scratch of his jaw as his hand scraped through the small hairs on his skin, "I didn't try hard enough to save the marriage and I lost her. I lost you, Edward. Even when you would come and visit…I knew that you were always miles away, still with your mother in Phoenix."
Edward was still sleeping, taking deep, slow breaths that seemed to be able to calm me even when I felt my nerves stretched to nothing.
Charlie pulled in a ragged breath and shifted on the mattress again, "you're eighteen now…and I've done nothing to try and bond more with you. You're a man. At the end of this year you'll be gone and I've failed as a father…"
A few more minutes of Charlie sleepily apologizing, and then he shuffled back across the room in his ratty sweats and slipped back to the hallway.
I was frozen underneath the bed, letting the words sink in. Everything Charlie had said was true.
Edward was eighteen…he'd be thinking of moving out soon.
He'd want to start a future with someone who would be learning everything about a real life along with him.
I've traveled the world, I've accepted that there's nothing new in my life…
He's my new experience, he's my breath of fresh air, and he's brought light into my life.
I blinked as Edward rolled over on the mattress, and pulled myself out from underneath the bed.
He was still asleep, but was mumbling soft sentences into the cotton sheets tangled around him. I tugged at my hair, trying to push back the thoughts that were running around my head, and settled on the edge of the mattress.
It seemed like he immediately noticed the temperature change my body caused against the mattress as his calloused hand reached out to wrap around mine. My throat was burning, but not from thirst.
He tightened his soft, warm fingers around my palm and I chewed my lip as I blinked up at the ceiling fan stirring the thick air around the room.
I felt as if I were about to burst into tears.
It's my fault…it's all my fault! My fault! My fault! My fault!
I heard his voice as if his lips were brushing against my ear. I closed my eyes as I leaned against the wooden rail of the back porch. Edward's remaining scent was almost visible as I scanned the back yard.
Most of the candles had been put out from the swift movements of my family, but a few were still dancing against the grass.
Carefully, almost as if my entire body was sore, I pulled myself up on the wooden beam and dropped to the damp earth below. I made sure to run along the line of candles still aflame and then circled around the yard to stop at the dance floor.
A few gifts were still scattered across the polished circle, and I assumed someone had washed the entire yard with water from the river because the only reminiscent of Edward's blood was in the small cracks along each slat of wood in the dance floor.
Jasper where are you?
MY FAULT, MY FAULT, MINE!
My family's thoughts were one big mess as I scanned the line of trees on the other side of the bubbling stream. Almost a mile away I caught the flash of Alice's silver dress in the moonlight and darted off to catch up with her.
The hem of her dress had a small splash of crimson, and I caught her arm so I could rip away the stained fabric. She looked down with a frown, before nodding to herself, and continuing her frantic search for her mate.
Bella, I'm so sorry, she thought as we ran side by side through the trees.
My own mind was still back in Edward's room where his hands had held me close until I knew I had to leave and make sure my family was alright, but I nodded and pushed forward through the vegetation.
Silver patches of light broke through the thick canopy above us, and after forty-seven more seconds of running, I had caught the scent of Emmett and Jasper.
Alice was three steps ahead of me, peering into my future and using her own thoughts to locate Jasper, and we both turned East.
Our feet left the moist ground as we jumped over boulders and fallen trees, and I noticed foot-sized dents as we continued up the mountain side. One tree was slashed almost in half and its splinters skittered along behind us as we flitted through the shadows.
Alice was the first to spot him, and she dove ahead to wrap her arms around the blond figure; the momentum from Alice's small body throwing them both down on the rock. Emmett was beside the two of them, his expression dark as he tried to reason with the hysterical vampire that was now pinned beneath my pixie sister.
I stopped a few feet away, all of my emotions flooding back to me once I laid my eyes on his blond curls, his pale mouth…his venom-laced teeth.
The growl that ripped from my chest was loud enough to silence my siblings, and scare away any wild life that was stupid enough to stick around a family of blood-thirsty monsters.
A desolate cry of an eagle echoed in the distance as my sudden outburst interrupted its perch. Jasper had his face pressed to the stone beneath him, thin cracks spider-webbing from his face from him being slammed into the stone.
Images of Edward's body sailing through the air as my family wrestled Jasper away from fresh blood poured into my mind, and I couldn't help but bare my teeth and curl my fingers into claws. Alice shivered at the sight, and tightened her arms around Jasper before releasing him and motioning for Emmett to follow her into the shadows.
She knew I wasn't going to hurt him.
But I didn't know he was going to be such a coward.
"Get up," I snapped.
His shoulders tensed, as if he were waiting for me to pounce on him. I probably would have if I didn't feel the uncertain mixture of hate and sadness curling in my stomach.
I didn't hate my brother…I could never hate any of my family members.
I hated myself for thinking I could have a sliver of normality in my life.
I hated myself for letting these past few months blind me of what the world's cruel reality truly was.
But I didn't hate Jasper.
"Get off the ground, Jazz," I said in a softer tone.
His muscles in his back twitched underneath his torn shirt, and I walked over to sit beside him on the cool stretch of stone.
The unnatural-looking twists of silver and gold caught my eye as I settled onto my knees and brought my brother's face in my lap.
He immediately threw his arms around me, mumbling a hundred apologies as his grip tightened around my waist. He buried his face into my skin while I ran my hands through his tangled curls, and eventually he fell silent.
A soft breeze trailed between the vegetation and swirled through our clothes and hair.
"You're not mad," it wasn't a question…more of an accusation.
I sighed and closed my eyes, "I'm not mad."
"Why are you not mad at me Bells? You should be trying to tear me to pieces for attacking your mate like tha—"
"He's not my mate," I felt like that one lie would rip me in half.
Jasper froze and pushed himself up to sit on his knees in front of me so that we were surrounded by a small bubble of confusion and shock, "what?"
"You heard me, Jazz," I kept my eyes closed, but I knew what his expression would be.
His fingers wrapped around mine and he pressed my palm to his cheek, "you don't mean that, Bella," he shook his head, "you chose Edward before Alice even had that vision…he was yours the moment you laid eyes on him—"
"And what if I don't want him, huh?!" I ripped my hand away from his and opened my eyes to glare at my brother, "have you ever thought about that?! Have you ever thought that maybe I didn't want my mate to be a fragile, little human? Do you think I want to worry constantly that I might get too excited and kill him? Or what about the fact that every time his heart beats, my control chips away to almost nothing?"
His darkened eyes widened, and the expression almost made him look like what we really were; monsters, "Bella, please stop—"
"I can't do this anymore Jasper! I can't keep up with the human forms of adoration, the way he looks at me as if I'm some sort of gift from god, when I'm worse than the Satan himself! I'm what hides in the darkest corners of children's dreams—"
I froze and turned to see the rest of my family, surrounding the two of us with sad expressions on their marble profiles. Even Rosalie's perfect eyebrows were creased together as her pouty lips frowned, and Esme stood beside her with a pale hand covering her mouth. I had hurt all of them with my words.
The lies I spat.
Surely they knew I was lying.
My love for Edward was stronger than any known force in this world.
I would break mountains for him, I would swim oceans, and cross deserts…and I would do whatever it takes to keep him from stepping into harms way.
Even if that means leaving my heart with him.
I would protect the ones I love.
this is all i've been able to write.
i'll continue on with this story for Cassie and my readers.
thank you again for giving me inspiration to continue with my dreams of being a published writer.
and to those of you that have lost loved ones, my heart goes out to you.