A/N: Here's chapter 2. As usual my eternal devotion goes to Max for being the most kick ass friend and beta a girl can have. Lotty made me the most beautiful banner for this story. Hugs go to her and her partner in crime for coming up with something so perfect.
Just a quick note for those of you that were interested in my original fiction. My first novel, Andromeda Rising, has been published and is on sale at for only $1.99 until the 7th.
The demon was rattling at the cage. No longer content to sit and bide his time, he was throwing himself at the bars I had imprisoned him behind. Once again, my mate was threatened. I would not lose her.
Images of her broken and oozing venom, her throat torn out, as she lay in my arms, flashed through my memory. Bella's pain pulsing through me as she lay shredded in the tub in our ensuite.
'Shhhh, my mate. I'm here. Now is not the time to come out. I'm in no danger. You have me safe in your arms. I'm here.'
Bella's mental voice and unique emotions brought me back to myself. The tunnel vision that had started to bleed into my sight retreated, and I looked down into my angel's golden eyes filled with her love. She smiled and stroked my cheek. 'There you are.' She grinned impishly. 'As much as I love when the demon comes out to love me, now isn't the time for that.'
I shook my head at her, a smile pulling at my lips. She always knew how to bring me back. I looked up to see my family each focusing on their mates as was usual when my demon threatened to take over. While the instances had become much less frequent since the battle, it had happened often enough that they all knew the signs and knew what to do.
All our attention was drawn to the door as we heard Annie's happy voice singing with Edward as they approached the house slowly. Bella had likely warned them of my impending meltdown, and Edward was being cautious despite the fact that Annie seemed to be as immune as Bella to the demon's anger.
Their song of choice was as adorable as always; this time Edward had taught her something more current though, and the harmonious strains of Michael Buble's It's a Beautiful Day drifted through the air. We looked out the window to see her skipping at Edward's side as she held his hand.
"Hey hey hey
It's a beautiful day and I can't stop myself from smiling
If we're drinking, then I'm buying
And I know there's no denying.
It's a beautiful day, the sun is up, the music's playing
And even if it started raining
You won't hear this girl complaining"
Edward was smiling down at her with pure brotherly affection. "Everyone is in Nana and Papa's house. You ready?"
She beamed up at him. "Yup!" She dropped his hand and ran at human speed to the door calling, "Mommy, Daddy! We found bunnies!"
I could feel Rose emotionally check herself as she pulled away from Emmett. When Annie skipped into the room, Rose swept her up in her arms and hugged her. "You did? Did you have fun?"
Annie nodded happily and then kissed Rose on the cheek before turning to Emmett. "Daddy, can we build a fort?"
Pulling them both into his arms, you could see him physically relax now that his little girl and wife were safe in his arms, but the protective and watchful instincts were boiling under the surface and making me twitch. "I think that sounds like fun, baby girl."
Bella, feeling my tension, laid her hand on my chest, and I could feel her love almost radiating directly into my silent heart. I closed my eyes briefly to absorb the feeling and then pressed a kiss to her forehead.
Emmett shared a look with Bella, and it was obvious that something was said when she nodded. He turned to the rest of us. "We're going back to the house. We have a blanket fort to make."
Everyone murmured their goodbyes as the frightened parents took their little girl away from all the tension.
I sank down onto the couch in Esme's perfectly decorated living room, pulling Bella with me. Rubbing my face with my hands, I started to formulate a strategy that wouldn't get my mate or my family killed.
Turning my head to the side, I looked at Bella. "Are you keepin' Emmett in on the conversation?"
She nodded and whispered, "He'll hear everything and I'll let you know his input."
Her gift came in handy in the strangest of ways sometimes. Emmett might as well be in the room, but he could be in our house distracting Annie and keeping his family safe without Rose or Annie hearing the battle plan and scaring them.
I could feel everyone looking to me, and the weight of responsibility once again fell heavy on my shoulders. Without Alice we had no idea how much time we had. Peter and Charlotte were on their way back, but who knew how long that would take, and Garrett was a prisoner. My usual seconds in command were unavailable, and the family was all looking to me for the answers.
I felt apprehension trickle to me and looked up to see Edward and Bella staring at each other―another of their silent conversations. They didn't bother me like they used to; their relationship was closer to that of friends with a dose of sibling love thrown in these days. Since the battle, Edward had really turned his behavior around, and not just as a smoke screen for manipulation. Bella called him out on everything and he genuinely made the effort to change when she did. Right now, it was obvious they were silently arguing by the exasperation growing within her.
"Knock it off, you two. Edward, if you have a thought on the situation I'm willin' to hear it," I snapped.
He flinched at my tone and shot Bella an annoyed look.
"She didn't need to tell on you. You can't rein in your reactions to save your hide without your gift. Now spit it out. We're workin' on a time crunch here." I didn't need to be an empath to know he blamed her for my catching on to them.
He swallowed unnecessarily and I felt his courage build a bit. "We were discussing who might possibly be arriving, who could contain the Denalis and be a threat to us. Bella has told me that Alice expressed the three kings would be here, which would mean it's likely the full guard will be with them." He looked to Carlisle to confirm it.
Esme's hand covered her mouth, and she sat in the chair behind her, fear and anxiety building.
Carlisle nodded. "You're right, Edward. It would take Jane and Alec to contain the Denalis. Likely, Chelsea as well, and Felix if he's not with Demitri chasing down Alice and Randall."
Esme gasped and Bella left my side to sit with her.
I got up to pace. "If Aro's touched any of them, he'll know everything. I have to believe that means he's comin' for one of two reasons. Either he's collectin', or he's comin' to destroy us." Mentally keeping an eye on my demon, I fought his influence at the thought. "My money is on a bit of both. Neither of which is a desirable outlook for any of us."
Carlisle nodded. "He'll use Annie to leverage the gifted among us to his side."
"Emmett says he doesn't think that will stop Aro from killing anyone that's left," Bella relayed in a whisper.
My voice was a snarl when I said, "Likely not. He'll bet on the fact that once he has the gifted willin'ly at his side, the deaths of the remainin' can be carried out later."
"He'll want Alice and Edward," Esme choked out.
I was breathing hard and desperately trying to keep my composure. My inner tactician pointing out the obvious prize in this conquest. "He wants Bella." My teeth were clenched so tightly I thought they might shatter.
Everyone drew in breaths at my pronouncement except my angel. She looked at me in complete understanding and trust.
"With Bella's gifts he would be untouchable," Carlisle admitted before going to sit on the couch with Esme and Bella.
All of our instincts were in overdrive. The urge to protect our mates battling with the urge to protect the family. None of us quite knew what to do with ourselves.
"Either way, Bella is going to be the main target," Edward muttered. He cringed a bit when my eyes fell on him.
"Don't fool yourself, boy. He's wantin' you and Alice to sweeten the pot. His gift is the past – with you and Alice, he'll have the present and future tied up in a nice little bow." I looked down at Bella, my vision threatening to tunnel once more. "And he can't have my mate."
She smiled gently and shook her head. "No, he can't."
We stared into each other's eyes for a long moment. "He knows what you can do."
Her lips twitched as if holding back a laugh. "He thinks he does."
My head cocked to the side considering her statement and the mix of emotions I was feeling from her. "Somethin' you're hidin' from me, darlin'?" Surely she wouldn't do that again, not after the last time.
Bella shook her head. "No, not intentionally." Her thoughts filled my head as she switched from her rarely heard whispers to her more regular form of communication. 'For the past while, the exercises Eleazar and Carlisle have been throwing at me have been fairly routine. It doesn't take the energy it used to.'
She let me ponder her thoughts for a minute before adding, 'There's no challenge to them.'
My eyes narrowed. New strategies and tactics were opening up to me as she fed me thoughts on what she felt she might be capable of if she really tried.
'I'm not sure though, Jas. I've never tried any of it.' There was an apology in her gaze, a worry that she wouldn't be able to expand on her gift the way she thought.
"For those of us not privy to the silent conversation…" Carlisle tried to politely interrupt, but for the first time in likely his existence he came across as rude. "…what are your thoughts? Out loud so we can all participate if you please."
Bella's mouth dropped open in shock. Her father had never spoken to her like that. I felt a flush of embarrassment and shame cloud around her, and I got irritated.
"Bella was sharing thoughts on her gift with me. Do not presume to intrude on a conversation between me and my mate."
"Well, perhaps if she had voiced them rather than excluding us we could all have some input," Carlisle argued.
I was damn near gaping at him. Since when did he care if there were silent conversations going on? Edward had gotten away with it for years. Another thought struck me. "Since when do you have the experience and the know-how to contribute to strategic planning? When have you ever been in any war other than the battle we had right here eighteen months ago?"
Bella and Esme were standing now, uncertainty emanating from them both.
Edward stepped forward. "I think Carlisle is merely offering to assist you." He looked at his father with a warning in his eyes. "Weren't you?"
Carlisle blinked and then took an unnecessary breath. "You're right. Forgive me, Major. I just…" He looked to Esme and sighed before looking back at me. "This is so much worse than the newborns. With them we were outnumbered, but it was basically a clan war. This, this is so much bigger. We're going against the leaders of our race, and they are experienced and gifted in ways that mean almost our certain destruction. I'm not eager to lose my mate or my life, or the lives of my family. Not like this."
"You had to have known this was a possibility." Edward sat beside Esme, his century of life showing in his eyes. Resignation seemed to flow out of him. "There are too many of us living together. Too many of us that are gifted. Aro has been calling more and more frequently since the invention of the telephone. Always asking questions and always irritated when you told him there were more of us."
He looked up at his maker. "This can't be a surprise to you."
Carlisle hung his head. "We were coven mates once. I thought…"
"You thought you meant something to him," Edward finished. "But Carlisle, he doesn't live like us. He doesn't form attachments to others the way we do. His diet doesn't allow for it. You know this."
"The only thing the Volturi cares about is their own power. Nothing more," I interjected. Carlisle's demands had stemmed from his fear, and I understood that. For once, Edward's interference was a good thing.
"It doesn't matter why they're coming." Esme stepped to Carlisle's side and took his hand. "The fact is that they are. They're coming to kill or enslave our family. We need to work together to try to come up with a way out of it."
Esme looked at me, compassion and love radiating off her. "You aren't alone, Jasper. We may not have the experience or the know-how, but what we do have is information. Carlisle lived with them for a very long time. We've traveled the continents and made many friends. We probably have more information on the Volturi than any others, barring Eleazar. Use us. Ask us anything. We might have something useful."
I held out my hand to her. When she easily took it, I kissed her knuckles. "You're right, Mom. I apologize."
Her eyes softened and she smiled at me. "You miss Peter and Garrett. We're not them, but we're here willing to help you any way we can. You're not alone."
I squeezed her hand and sent her my love and gratitude. "I know. Thank you for reminding me." I looked past her to Carlisle. "I'm gonna need to know everything."
He sat down and began. "When I first met them I was…"
I sat in front of him and absorbed every word. If we were going to get out of this, I needed to be well informed.
A/N: Hope you liked the update. Reviews are tips for writers!