Author's Note: Look everyone! It's a brand spankin' new chapter! I have to admit I'm a little nervous posting it because it has been so long. While I have been writing here and there, it has been disjointed bits of scenes. So it has been a little difficult to get back into the groove of the story. I hope you all enjoy it and please don't hesitate to drop a line letting me know what you think! You are all the best! (:
It had been a couple of days since Alice had her vision and the men still had not returned from their hunt. We were all on autopilot, going through the motions and never really giving voice to the worry that was lurking in the back of all of our minds. Of course Esme, Rachel, Alice, and Rosalie were anxious about their husbands, it was just easier to not speak of the worry out loud or else it would make the danger seem all too real. We didn't know anything about what they were hunting. We didn't even know if these creatures were even human or if they were something else. So I would pretend along with the rest of the women. I went to school and plastered on a smiling face when it was expected and acted like nothing was wrong. I had decided to not tell Rachel about Alice's vision right away. I could see the stress of Jack's missing presence eating away at her and I didn't want to add to it by telling her how dangerous these men could potentially be.
It was in the early hours of the morning and Rachel and I were playing a game of chess to pass the time. While Rachel was sweet and gentle, she was ruthless when it came to chess. She had a keen mind and it was rare that I actually won a game against her. This game was starting to shape up like all the others, however I didn't mind. I found chess to be relaxing and it was nice to have something to focus my mind on rather than the storm of events that seemed to be starting to brew around us. It helped Rachel as well ease her mind from thinking about Jack and what could be happening to him.
While playing the game I would notice Rachel looking at me now and again, her mouth starting to form words before she would decide against it. When I would catch her with that look on her face, she would smile quickly before turning her eyes back to the game.
"Come on Rachel, I know there is something that you want to say," I said finally breaking the silence that had been surrounding our game. She looked at me with her eyebrows raised as if she were surprised I had noticed.
"You've had a look on your face for the past two hours," I continued when she didn't say anything.
"I'm just worried about you," she finally conceded gently and smiled at me as a mother would when looking at her daughter.
"I'm fine," I said laughing a little. "Besides what is there to worry about? Aside from this mystery we seem to be caught up in." Rachel sighed and turned back to the game and let the silence fall over us again.
"When are you going to tell them?" she asked suddenly after a few moments.
The look in her eyes told me exactly what she was talking about. I wasn't able to hold her gaze and I ducked my head looking at the chess pieces in front of me. I had been avoiding this conversation with Rachel for a while now. Always the optimist, Rachel was convinced that the Cullens would welcome me back with open arms if I were to reveal myself to them. While it seemed simple in her mind, I knew that there would be more to it than just a 'Hey, remember me? You left me to die, but it's all forgiven now. Let's all pick up where we left off!'
"They miss you Isa," Rachel continued as if she could read the thoughts swirling through my mind.
Keeping my eyes on the board game, I shook my head and pursed my lips a little. I couldn't help it. Nothing would really convince me that they missed their human pet. Especially with how it all ended. Although, there was a little nudging in the back of my head that reminded me of that night with Alice a few days ago when we saw that man and the conversation we had about Edward. She had said he had lost someone. As much as I wanted to dismiss that thought as absolute nonsense, the thought had planted itself into my mind and it would not leave me alone.
"I don't know if I can tell them. I don't know if Bella even exists anymore," I finally said after a moment. It was the first time that I hadn't told Rachel outright that I wouldn't ever tell them who I was. It was also the first time I admitted to myself out loud about how much I had changed. If I were to somehow meet myself from 100 years ago while I was still human, I don't think I would recognize who I had become and it was nothing to do with the physical changes that had occurred.
Rachel smiled wanly at me, but said nothing further on the subject. It was just as well because just as she was about to make her move, we heard movement from outside and felt Jack's return before he opened the door. Rachel was out of her chair and by the door as Jack let himself in. She didn't waste a second as she wrapped her arms tightly around him in a desperate hug. I could see all the worry and anxiety Rachel felt the past couple of days melt away as she clung to Jack's body. Jack was gripping Rachel just as tightly and only eased away from her arms after she made the first move of letting go. Jack looked at us both, with his face drawn and tight as he tried to smile at us.
"What did you find?" Rachel asked, worry causing her voice to quiver a little as she took in his expression. He could only shake his head.
"They are like ghosts," Jack said miserably. "We'd catch a trail only to come to a dead end."
"So you couldn't find out anything about them? About who or what they are?" Rachel pressed.
Jack shook his head. "It's strange. As far as we can tell, they are completely human. But as Isa so perceptively noticed at the beginning, there is something strange, something completely off about them. But it isn't anything physical. They don't have any of the markings or distinctive scents of any other creature of legend like ourselves. Their whole being is as mysterious as their scent…" Jack's voice trailed off and he shrugged his shoulders. As I watched Jack, there was something in his eyes that looked a little like guilt, almost like he was holding something back and wasn't telling us everything. Rachel didn't notice it; she was too relieved to have Jack back in one piece.
"Jack, you can't do this!" I was trying hard not to raise my voice, but I was too upset to help it. As I had predicted, Jack was ready to not waste a second more and move in with the Cullens after I had told him and Rachel about Alice's vision. The disappointment was apparent in Rachel's eyes when she learned that I didn't tell her right away about what Alice saw. I felt a little guilty about withholding the information, but I still stood by my decision. Rachel would have been a wreck otherwise. Jack, on the other hand, took it as the proof they were searching for while they were hunting. His face was grim and set.
"Isa, I am not willing to risk your safety or Rachel's, even if that means you having to be uncomfortable for a bit."
I glowered at him. I knew I was behaving like the teenager that I looked like, but I didn't care. While my relationship with the Cullens was improving, I just was not ready to be surrounded by them all hours of the day. Rachel, even though she was a little mad at me, was trying to make peace between me and Jack. She came next to me and wrapped her arms around me.
"Isa, I know," she said her voice gentle and sympathetic. "I know how hard this would be for you, but please consider it."
I shrugged her arms off of me but stubbornly remained quiet. I knew if I were to open my mouth I would really start to yell. The tension that was in the air was already palpable and yelling would only lead to more fighting.
"We had a deal, Isa. As soon as we found out that there was any danger in this than we were going to go to the Cullens," Jack continued when I didn't say anything. The patience in his voice was starting to wear a little thin.
"I can't, Jack." I finally looked him in the eye. "I know we had a deal, but I can't. Please, don't make me," I finally pleaded, my voice quiet. There was no response. Jack was probably too frustrated with me, and Rachel, I know, didn't want to get in the middle of this.
"Look, I have to get to school," I said breaking the silence and thankful I had the excuse to leave the house. "Jack, I'm glad you made it back safely." I gave him a small smile and kissed his cheek before heading towards the door.
Jack scrubbed his face with his hands, his face was one of a defeated man. Before I could leave the house he called after me, "Fine, we will stay here but one whisper of trouble and we accept their offer with no further discussion. Deal?"
I nodded my head in agreement. I knew this was the absolute last time I would be able to keep them from moving us in with the Cullens. The next time something happened we would move in with them no matter how I felt. Rachel gave him a small smile, though her eyes held worry in them. I was grateful that Rachel was unwilling to push the issue and in essence force me to the Cullens, but in the back of my mind I knew how hard it was for her to remain quiet. She was starting to get scared, though she hid it from her face well. As well, I knew I told myself the last time we had this discussion that I wouldn't be selfish enough to ask them to stay away from the Cullens, but I am. I was choosing to be selfish because I was scared myself and it wasn't because of this mystery man, it was because I was afraid of what might happen if I were around the Cullens for too long.
As I pulled into the school parking lot and I think it was the first time in decades that I was actually happy to be going to school. It was a relief to get away from the house and the argument I was having with Jack, even if we came to an agreement. It was during those rare moments when we actually had a disagreement that I felt like I was living with parents rather than peers and friends. I think we had assumed that familial relationship for so long that it was natural to fall into the roles when arguments arose.
Getting out of my car, I noticed that the Cullens were already there. Rosalie and Emmett had already wandered off to their classes, but it was easy to tell that Alice and Edward were having a quiet, heated debate. Jasper was waiting patiently by Alice's side and when he noticed me, he gave me a smile and friendly wave beckoning me over. As I got closer I could hear Alice whispering to Edward, pleading with him.
"Edward, you have to tell her."
"Alice, stop." He hissed back to her annoyed noticing me walking over.
"She needs to know!" Alice exclaimed before plastering a smile on her face, looking over at me.
"Who needs to know what?" I asked pleasantly, looking between both of them.
"Edward has something to tell you." Alice said quickly giving Edward a look. I raised my eyebrow and looked at Edward expectantly.
"No I don't. Alice is just imagining things," Edward gave me a dazzling smile as Alice shot him a dark glare. He rolled his eyes as he looked over at Alice. "Okay, fine, I did want to say something. I wanted to let you know how beautiful you are looking today."
Alice pursed her lips and grabbed Jaspers hand and walked off with a peevish look on her face. Edward smirked as he watched her retreating back.
"Okay," I said quietly, drawing the word out as I started to walk towards the school. Edward quickly fell into step next to me. While the argument between Edward and Alice was weird, there was something more pressing that I wanted an answer for. However, I was finding a hard time actually finding the courage to ask my question, because it really wasn't any of my business. But curiosity was burning through my mind. After walking a few paces in silence, I just turned to Edward and blurted it out.
"Where were you? I know you didn't go with Jack and the others hunting."
An amused smile curled on his lips as if he expected the question.
"I was taking care of some private matters."
I raised an eyebrow. "Does it have to do with what Alice wants you to tell me?"
He thought for a moment. "Yes."
"That's all you're going to say, is 'yes'? Can't you elaborate?"
"While Alice has the gift of foresight, this is something that she has no idea of what the consequences could be if I were to divulge information too soon."
"What are you hiding?"
"It's delicate." He glanced at me and saw that I was getting annoyed with his vagueness. "Look, what I was doing would only cause more problems than good at the moment if I were to reveal it. The only reason Alice knows is because of her gift. Besides, if you want to know more, you could always answer one of my questions." He looked over at me wearing a mischievous smile. I stopped walking and groaned. I had thought he had finally given up on pestering me with questions; however that appeared to not be the case.
"If you are interested, we can continue this during lunch," he called over his shoulder as he continued on his way to his class. I glared at his back and shook my head. That was not going to happen.
The days slowly melted into weeks as nothing happened since Jack and the Cullen men tried to track down the mystery guy. I was starting to get frustrated over how everything has just stagnated. I hadn't come across the distinct smell of our mystery man since Alice stopped me from following him. It was almost to feel like we imagined the threat all together, things had been so normal. And to make matters more annoying, I had noticed that I was never being left alone. No matter what I was going to do, if I wasn't going home Alice sometimes with Jasper or even Rosalie with Emmett would pop up and insist on accompanying me. If I were going to the city, Alice was quick to volunteer to go with me babbling about some fashion disaster or other. Rosalie had invited me to a couple of girl nights, although those always ended up being extremely awkward and silent. At least when Emmett was around I was able to have fun with him, Rosalie still seemed to be quite distant with me, not like I was really expecting anything different. But I was getting fed up by it all and I knew who was to blame.
I slammed my books on the desk in Biology and Edward looked up at me with raised eyebrows, surprised.
"You all have gone to extreme lengths to be including me in something every day. While I am thoroughly enjoying the activities, I can't help but think back to one of our first conversations, Edward," I hissed through clinched teeth as I sat down next to him.
"Oh?" He asked feigning confusion.
"Yes, the one where you didn't want me being alone. Curiously, I haven't been alone ever since Jack and the others returned from the hunt."
"Are you saying that members of my family are intentionally going out of their way to make sure that you are never alone? That seems to be a rather narcissistic way of thinking, that everything is about you," Edward said with a smirk.
"It's just an observation. You are the one saying that they are intentionally going out of their way," I quickly shot back, unable to keep the irritation out of my voice.
"Only because I inferred it from what you said," he said breezily, leaning back in his seat.
"Then look me in the eye and tell me that this isn't all because of what you wanted back when we first met." I challenged him.
Edward couldn't help but let out a small laugh. He took a deep breath and captured my gaze in his.
"Isa, I promise you that this has nothing to do with what I meant when I made that request."
I pursed my lips. I wanted to slap his perfect face. He stepped right around the answer I was looking for and still told the truth. However, I already knew that this had to do with the mystery man – Alice had told them all about her vision- but in a way he did acknowledge that he was the one behind all my daily interruptions, even if I was inferring that it was him.
"Either way, I would appreciate it if it all stopped. I don't need babysitters," I said glowering.
"Sorry, not going to happen," he said with an unapologetic face. He seemed to be smiling even more the angrier I appeared to get. I turned in my seat and I was determined to ignore him for the rest of the day.
With all the waiting and anticipation building for something, anything to happen we were all starting to feel a little restless. So when Emmett suggested a friendly game of football, I was eager to join in and take my frustrations out by tackling people. I think everyone felt the same way. We played in a forest clearing far away from human civilization. The best part about football was there was no need to play it under the cover of a thunderstorm because there was no worry about the thunderous cracking sounds that were created in baseball by the balls hitting the bat. I was the one suggesting that we make it a grunge match between girls against guys. It unintentionally became one on one defense with each woman being guarded by their spouse. Rosalie was dazzling as she would use Emmett's back to launch herself gracefully into the air in order to intercept the ball. Alice would lithely dance out of Jasper's reach as she would look for the open woman on our team as our quarterback. Both Jack and Carlisle would occasionally let Rachel and Esme through to score, much to Emmett's dismay. Then there was Edward. Even though I was absolutely committed to my decision of not letting him back into my heart I couldn't help but relish the way his arms felt around my waist as he would gently pull me to the ground in a tackle, always making sure that I landed on top of him. Our mood was already noticeably lighter and happier as the game progressed as we were able to wash away all our anxiety into the game.
It was of course when we were finally starting to feel worry free when it happened. I was running upfield and wide open waiting for Alice to throw the ball to me. As I turned towards her to look for the ball I noticed that she had stopped and her eyes glazed over with her brows starting to furrow.
"Isa." My name was carried in the wind as Alice whispered it. I saw Edward's whip around and face me, fear and anger was etched across his face, but before he could even move the wind shifted and I was blasted with the mystery scent. It was stronger than ever. I didn't even hesitate as I abruptly changed directions and sprinted left into the woods. They were close; I could feel it in my bones. I didn't care how reckless I was being, I was determined to find answers. I sensed the others in pursuit of me and they weren't far behind. Edward was faster than me and I was certain he was only moments away from catching up. I leaned forward and dug in and forced my legs to move faster. I was not going to be stopped.
I barreled through a clearing and felt hands wrap around my waist as a body slammed into mine, tackling me to the ground. We were going so fast that our bodies skidded and tumbled across the ground, plumes of dirt bellowing up in our wake. We came to an abrupt stop as our bodies crashed into a boulder. On impact, a loud crack as deafening as thunder echoed through the mountains. The boulder shattered around our bodies. I looked up to find Edward's eyes thunderously staring down at me, his body pinning me to the ground. I shoved him off me and scrambled to my feet, wiping dirt and leaves from my clothes. Edward quickly stood up and grabbed my wrist and pulled me close to him.
"Are you out of your mind?" he hissed furiously, his face clouded with anger. I twisted my wrist trying to release his grasp, but it was iron clad. "Do you have a death wish!?" he continued angrily waiting for my response. "Well, do you?"
"Let go of me!" I was still struggling against his hold, angry that he had stopped my pursuit of the strange men.
"Not until you answer my questions," he said with an icy calm.
"Trying to find out more about these men is hardly a death wish," I glared at him.
"Oh, so you've come across people like them before then. You know exactly what they are capable of?" he asked incredulously. I pursed my lips at his comments. I had to clench my jaws to keep myself from blowing up in his face. I took a breath and tried to keep my voice as calm as possible.
"I'm trying to protect my family from whatever or whoever those people are. Now was a perfect time to find that out. They're here and close by or they were until you stopped me." I tried punching him in the arm to get him to release his grip, but there wasn't really any room to maneuver to do much damage, he held me too close.
"You catch up to them and then what?" He glared at me and I stubbornly remained silent. "They clearly aren't afraid of vampires. They are the ones hunting you down."
I kept my mouth shut and held his gaze, glowering.
"Have you ever thought that this might have been a trap?" he continued after I didn't say anything. His hand tightened around my wrist. I clenched my jaw refusing to acknowledge what he said. He looked up to the sky in exasperation. He shook his head and looked at me.
"B –" He began, but whatever he was going to say was cut short by the arrival of our families into the clearing.
"Are you going to let me go?" I asked as calmly as I could. He considered me for a brief moment, a myriad of emotions flitting across his eyes so quickly I wasn't able to discern what they meant. His fingers snapped open, but he didn't step away from me. He kept his eyes locked with mine as if willing me to open my mind to him.
"Isa!" Rachel's voice sounded terrified as she jogged up to me. Her arms wrapped around my shoulders in concern. "Why did you run off like that?"
Jack eyes bored into mine. His eyes were furious and concerned wrapped into one, like a true father. "Isa?"
"Sorry," I muttered to both of them before shrugging off Rachel's arms and walking back to the opening in forest in the direction we just came from.
Author's Note: Next chapter is going to be a doozy! Here's a hint: We finally discover who exactly these mystery men are! Are you excited yet? ;)