A/N Hmmm … maybe I've lost my touch or it took me too long to update, but I am a little disappointed that I am getting fewer responses than usual. *frowns, makes puppy dog eyes, then shrugs*
Well maybe this will be more to your liking, some guy bonding between Jasper and Emmett, some girl talk between Rose and Bella, and on top of that some interaction with the werewolves.
And as an extra bonus: a little insight information on our mystery stalker.
Chapter 28 Calm before the storm
Char and Peter took off hunting shortly after Rose and Bella had left, taking their car this time. For a moment I wondered why they didn't just made their way to Port Angeles on foot, but since I had more important things on my mind, I didn't bother to ask. Who knew, maybe they wanted to hunt farther away this time, just to be safe, or planned to take a little shopping trip.
I was simply too anxious to care about the reason.
Ever since my mate has left with my sister the eerie ache in my chest was back, not at full force like earlier today when I was in Seattle with Char, but still strong enough to cause me some noticeable discomfort, like an itch I couldn't reach to scratch. I could detect a similar reaction in Emmett due to Rose's absence, but apparently he was somewhat used to it by now, able to squash it down. Understandably though, given that they were mated for over half a century. Like Char had told me, it would get easier in time … which was a relief.
"So, Jasper, are you ready to jet?" Emmett called my attention, clearly ecstatic about the idea of going hunting with me. His mood was quite catching, smothering the part of me that wanted to stay put and mope. The chance of spending some quality time with Emmett and getting some grub while we were at it, even though the whole thing was Peter's idea, sounded too good to pass up.
"Yes … just give a minute to get changed into something else." I replied. Emmett raised an eyebrow in question, but I didn't stick around to give him an explanation. His booming laughter followed me up the stairs.
Seconds later I was in my room, stripping off my pants and my shirt. I didn't want to ruin them, which was a likely possibility when going hunting with Emmett. Things could get a little rough sometimes. More than once we had come home from one of our hunting sessions with our clothes torn to shreds and drenched in animal blood and dirt, always causing Alice to have one of her legendary hissy fits. Although we all owed mountains of clothes and she never allowed us to wear something twice, she still hated it when we didn't treat our clothes with the utmost respect.
She has been such a nagging spoilsport sometimes, perfectly knowing that we guys, namely Em and I, needed some sort of physical outlet. We were male vampires, for God's sake. Fighting, even if only for fun, was part of our nature. Sure, sex was a great way too to let off steam, which was why Emmett and Rose had such an active love life. But Alice and I … well in that area something has always been missing.
True passion …
Anyhow … I wanted to keep these specific clothes intact, since it has been obvious that Bella liked seeing me in them, and her scent was all over them. So in case I would be unable to spend a night with her, I had something to remember her by, to snuggle in. God, I was turning into such a sap.
I rummaged through the drawers to find some old, pulling out a pair of old jeans and another plain shirt. They would do. I quickly got dressed, slipping my cell into my front pocket, and then I joined Emmett downstairs.
"This will be just like the good old times." He said cheerfully, rubbing his hands in anticipation.
"Yes, I'm sure it will." I chuckled.
A second later we were out of house and raced through the woods. Speed wise we were evenly matched. Edward was always the one who outrun us all. Emmett, being Emmett tried more than once to take me down, but of course I always managed to dodge his pathetic attempts. I didn't need Edward's gift. My own was working quite well enough to anticipate his moves, not to mention my decades of fighting experience working to my advantage. But it was fun nonetheless.
But soon we decided to go our different ways. It wouldn't be wise to hunt in close proximity. Sharing a meal with your mate was one thing, a rare one even, but two males would most likely end up tearing each other apart. Our territory instincts were simply too strong to ignore.
Emmett was hoping to find a bear, clearly in need to let off some steam, since I've neglected to indulge him with a fighting match. I knew the chance of finding a bear was rather slim to none at this time of year. But knowing Emmett he would find a cave and wake the bear from hibernation, just to have some fun.
I wasn't really hungry, which why I wasn't as picky as usual. And there wasn't any real selection around here anyway. I took down the first deer that came across my path and drained it quickly. I buried the carcass, and then I made my way back to a small clearing, waiting for Emmett to find me.
I sat down on a tree trunk, watching the sun descend through the thicket. I knew it would be long before she would completely disappear, thirty minutes at the most. It was kinda romantic out here … the colors, the stillness and the atmosphere was soothing. I wished I could share this moment with Bella though she might mind the cold.
Before I was able to drown myself in self-pity, Emmett emerged from the east. His appearance was nothing I haven't seen before. His clothes were dirty, and his shirt was ripped. One of the sleeves was missing completely. There were leaves and twigs stuck in his short curls. Simply put, he looked like a mess.
"I see you were in luck." I stated, shaking my head at his antics. His table manners were that of a five-year-old (human) child eating spaghetti. There were smudges of blood all over his clothes.
"Yeah," he grinned, "You know me, nothing is better than an irritated grizzly in the … evening."
"God, you are such a child sometimes."
"Now you sound like Alice … or even worse, like Edward." He snickered. I growled at the comparison. "Come on. Don't tell me you haven't missed this? Us … together hunting … having fun?" He flopped on the ground next me, moving his right hand through his hair. With a disgruntled look on his face he started to pluck the dirt out off his hair.
"Sure, I've missed it. But more importantly … I missed you guys." I admitted, letting him feel my sincerity through my gift.
He stopped mid-cleaning, frowning at me. "Yeah, we've missed you too, bro. Sorry that we didn't come looking for you."
"Wouldn't have done you any good anyway …" I tried to console him.
"But we should have tried … I should have listened to Rose. She'd tried to convince me time and time again, to go and find you. But I was so mad. I couldn't think straight … I'm sorry. I know you didn't mean to … when … when … you know … Bella is right … our combined bloodlust was too much for anyone to handle, especially you … I should have known that … I'm so sorry." He ended his rant on a pleading note, but too ashamed to meet my eyes.
"Stop with the guilt trip already, Em. It's making me nauseous." I joked, semi-sincerely. But it seemed to do the trick.
His mood improved … somewhat. "So, still brothers?" He pressed, giving me his trademark dimpled smile, crushing the twig he's been playing with to dust.
I grinned. "Of course, we are, nothing will ever change that." I said, clapping him on the back. "Unless … well you know all bets are off if you do anything to upset my mate. Do I make myself clear?" I accentuated my threat with a meaningful look.
Emmett cringed. "I get it. I won't, I promise. Oh God, things are so messed up right now. How did we get here? A couple of months ago everything was fine … yeah I know she was still with Edward, and you probably don't want to be reminded of that. But still, you know what I mean. I didn't want to leave her, but I did it anyway. Why didn't I fight harder? I get why she is so angry with me and I know I don't deserve her forgiveness. But please tell me there is a viable chance that Bella will forgive me." He implored.
"She will. I'm sure she will." I assured him. "But it won't happen overnight. You really need to have patience with her. She needs some time. But she will forgive you … eventually."
"That's good." He sighed in relief.
Maybe it wasn't my place to tell him, but I saw no other choice. I knew my brother. He would do pretty much anything to get back into my mate's good graces. Patience and diplomacy weren't exactly his strong suits. I knew how fragile Bella truly was despite her outward appearance. She still hurt.
I decided it was for the best to fill him in. Bella could yell at me later. I took in a deep breath. "It hasn't been easy for Bella after … well you know, after we all left her. That day has changed everything for her … for all of us. The trust she had put in us, so easily, was shattered … almost beyond repair. When I got here on Saturday she was so furious with me. She yelled at me, not holding back one bit. I've never seen her so angry. I didn't know she has it in her." I laughed at the memory. "But the funny thing is, she was never angry with me for trying to kill her, no she was only disappointed that I left, that we all left. She loved us, so deeply, and we … She is still dealing with some abandonment issues. She seems to be strong and believe me, she is a hell of a fighter, but she still suffers.
"We've left her, Emmett. We just left her. We all did a number on her self-esteem, not just Edward. Though, what he did puts us leaving without saying goodbye to shame." I growled, remembering the night Bella shared her memories with me. I still wanted to hit someone, preferably Edward.
"What do you mean?" Emmett growled.
"He broke her, metaphorically speaking. I won't go into specifics here, because I'm not so sure she wants me to tell you." I explained. I could sense Emmett's resentment and blame rise once more, which, I was sure this time was mainly directed at his bronze haired brother. Thanks to my gift I was able to keep his negative feelings at bay. I didn't even consider replacing them with positive ones. He had a right to his own feelings. But yet, I hurried to continue. "But I'm sure she will fill you in when she is ready. In fact, she didn't tell me anything either … not right away anyway. I'm pretty sure the only reason why she came to trust me again, so fast, is the fact that I am her mate, her true mate.
"Anyhow … I can tell you this much. The things he said to her, the way he broke up with her … it has left its mark on her heart. I don't know how she is able to show me any kind of affection, how she can trust me, after what Edward did, after what I almost did … but I'm glad that she does." I groaned, rubbing my chest right above my dead heart. Thinking about my mate seemed to increase the throbbing pain.
Emmett was clearly lost for words, but his emotional turmoil spoke volumes, only adding to my discomfort. I pushed as much calm I could muster into him, with the desired effect. He considerably loosened up.
He glanced at me. "It sucks doesn't it? The pain, I mean …" My brother mused, smirking maliciously.
"Be grateful that I can feel your sympathy otherwise I would gladly kick your ass." I let him know, matching his grin with one of mine. "But to answer your question, I can't say that I'm enjoying the sensation, but from what I've been told it will get better. And compared to what I've endured in my past life this is a walk in the park … definitely manageable."
He nodded, frowning. "Does Bella know about your past?" He asked cautiously.
"Yes. I told her … not everything of course, but she knows enough. Bella is my life now, my reason for being … more than I've ever dared to dream about finding, and certainly more than I deserve to have … and I won't keep any secrets from her."
"And how … how did she did take it? Was she terrified?" He asked, probably remembering our first encounter and his own reaction, and that of the rest of his family. Everybody had been a little on edge when we'd first met, to put it lightly. My scars were like billboards, screaming danger. Every vampire knew what they meant, instinctively, or if they were unlucky, from personal experience.
I laughed. "No, she wasn't, actually. You know how Bella is. Always sympathetic … never judging. Without a second thought she forgave me for everything … for all the horrific things I did in my past, including my attempt to kill her." I said, shaking my head. I still couldn't believe it.
"Bella is truly one of a kind." Emmett chuckled, and I joined in. His feelings towards his little sister were strong and clear … love, admiration, and a strong desire to protect her. I let them wash over me, enjoying their pureness.
"Yes, she is." I agreed, chuckling. "The way she has Peter wrapped around her little finger, not to mention Char, is truly astounding. They think of her as a sister already, and they hardly know her."
Emmett huffed in annoyance. I could tell that he was a little jealous. "Emmett, there is no need to feel this way." I reprimanded him, but in gentle way. "Believe me. I know for a fact that deep down Bella still thinks of you as her big brother. Despite of what she said earlier she still loves you."
"If you say so …" He grumbled.
I chuckled at his petulant behavior. "Empath, remember." I said, pointing at myself.
Emmett rolled his eyes at me, swiftly changing the subject. "So, I take it you are planning to stay here." He assumed.
"Yes, until she has finished school. I don't know what we are going to do after that … I guess she wants to go to the university somewhere. I only hope that she does. I don't mind staying here for now, but I have no intention to remain here longer than necessary."
"Too many bad memories …" Emmett concluded, gloomily.
"Yes, something like that …" I muttered, moving to get on my feet. "Come on. Let's go back to the house, and get cleaned up. I really want to check up on Bella." I stressed.
"Are you telling me you don't you trust my wife? I'm shocked." Emmett mocked, jumping on his feet.
Was this his attempt to cheer me up? I snorted. It was tenuous at best. "You know very well it's not like that." I replied, rolling my eyes. "If anything, Rose is probably the safest bet among us. But still, I have to admit that I was a little surprised that Bella has taken Rose up on her offer so quickly … and so willingly."
"Yeah, me too." Emmett confessed, scratching his head.
"It makes sense though … they have less baggage." I mused.
"Point taken." He allowed, grudgingly.
With it our conversation came to a final end and we took off running back to the house, not at full speed, but still fast enough.
A few minutes later a very familiar stench, made me falter in my steps. It was already very strong, but seemed to increase in its intensity the further we got. I slowed down my strides considerably, eventually coming to a complete halt. Emmett copied my action, moving to my side.
"What's wrong?" He asked, slightly worried, but mostly confused.
"Did we cross the treaty line?" I asked him. Unfortunately, there wasn't an actual border line, like a fence or something, dividing our territory from theirs, which was part of the reason, why I've always avoided going anywhere near their territory. I didn't want to provoke them by accidentally stepping over the line.
"No, I'm sure, we haven't. But I can see … er, smell what you're getting at." He said, wrinkling his nose in disgust.
I could sense them, before I could actually see them. "Prepare yourself. We are going to have company."
Emmett immediately moved into a crouch, frantically scanning the area in front of us. "How many?" He whispered, a mixture of excitement and anxiousness rolling of him in waves. I pushed against it, knowing it would be for the best to keep Emmett's emotions in check, as well as my own, otherwise this would end badly.
"That's probably a bad idea." I hissed, reaching for his arm. I pulled him to his feet, rather harshly. "We don't want to send them the wrong message, now do we?" I spared him a significant look. He nodded tersely, moving to stand behind me.
"How many?" He repeated his question.
"Three." I answered in a very low voice, barely above a whisper.
I was tense, very tense. I wasn't concerned about the uneven number, more about facing the unknown. I didn't like not knowing what to expect, and never having encountered a werewolf before, fell into that category.
Because the stench was almost unbearable at this point, I stopped breathing altogether, immensely grateful that I had no need for oxygen. By now I could hear their heartbeats loud and clear, even though they were still out of sight. I didn't know if it was normal for a werewolf to have an accelerated heartbeat, or not. But according to their emotions they were very anxious, which could be a feasible explanation for it.
I concentrated hard, feeling the need to gather as much information before we would come face to face with our 'enemy'. I could tell that one of them was trying very hard to maintain a level head. I couldn't be sure, but something told me he was in command. And there was something else. It almost seemed like they were having a conversation, which was ludicrous of course, since they were animals … at least at the moment.
I had to admit, despite my discomfort, I was highly intrigued. But realizing that right now was not the right time for such a sentiment, I squashed it down. I needed to stay alert, on top of the situation.
"Stay behind me and let me do the talking." I instructed my brother, who silently agreed with me.
A moment later three enormous furry creatures came into few. Even though it wasn't his first time, Emmett let out a strangled noise, more or less resembling a gasp of surprise. I nearly did the same, but caught myself just in time.
They were huge. To call them wolves was a disgrace to the real deal. They looked more like overgrown, misshaped dogs with too much fur. In fact they were almost as big as horses.
The one in the lead was completely black and slightly bigger than the two others flanking him. The one on his right side had grey fur, while the other was brown with highlighted areas on the back. At least this way it was easy to tell them apart. For a split second I wondered how many more of them there were. But I doubted they would give up that vital piece of information voluntarily.
The wolves stopped a few feet away from us, thus keeping a safe distance. It was probably for the best. They wouldn't let me or Emmett out of their sight, though it was obvious that the black was far more interested in me than my brother. I kept my pose as nonthreatening as possible, but at the same time I didn't want them to think I was intimidated, which I wasn't of course. It would take a lot more than three oversized puppies to scare me. The black wolf seemed to recognize my authority, and vice versa. It was obvious, from his stance and his emotions, that he was the one in charge.
The pack leader … the alpha … whatever …
It was hard not to answer the constant growling of the other two with one of my own. Emmett was having an even harder time to keep himself in check. Almost like reading my mind, the black wolf barked out some sort of order, and his companions fell silent.
So far so good …
Then he cocked his head to one side, scrutinizing me. Before I was able to interpret the shift in his emotions completely, he bolted, disappearing behind a tree. The other two stayed put, but their level of discomfort spiked dramatically.
What the hell is he up to?
I've been using my gift on them (and on Emmett) the entire time, but I kept the output of my calming influence at a steady, intermediate level, since I didn't want to knock them out. I was just glad that it worked at all. For all I knew, they could have been impervious to my gift.
Surprisingly though, they seemed to be quite aware that they were being manipulated. And one thing was for sure, they didn't like it, not one bit. Of course, they tried to fight it off, with very little success. So the wolves have heard about special gifted vampires? That made me wonder what else they might know.
The air crackled with magic, and a second later a tall, broad-shouldered man with short black hair rejoined the two remaining wolves. He was naked, except for a pair of short pants. Funny, I hadn't noticed it before, but there was some piece of clothing fastened to one of their hind legs. How resourceful … I was sure they did it merely for modest reasons, since it was obvious that the cold didn't seem to bother him, at all.
"We just came here to talk." He said, coldly. His voice was deep, and the implication behind his words was plain obvious. He didn't want to be here anymore than Emmett and I.
The ride home in Emmett's jeep was short, and for the most part pleasant. As much as I loved my old truck, riding in a vehicle that could go over fifty miles an hour and didn't make these weird rumbling noises all of the time was truly a nice change. To my surprise Rosalie kept to the speed limit. I was grateful for that though, clearly remembering how Edward's driving used to scare the living crap out of me.
It was the silence between me and Rosalie that was a little unsettling, but then again it was totally understandable, since we didn't know each other that well, or at all. And what should we talk about? The weather, her nice shoes, school … Hardly. Apparently we had at least one thing in common. Neither one of us felt the need to fill the void with silly chitchat.
We were just pulling into the driveway in front of my house, when Rosalie's cell phone beeped. She shut down the engine and pulled her cell out. She quickly read the text message, grumbling something I couldn't quite catch. But from the irritated expression on her face, I surmised that it couldn't be anything good. She huffed and then put her phone away.
"Is there a problem?" I couldn't help but ask.
"No. Everything is just peachy." She answered in a clipped tone. I almost smiled. Almost. One thing was for sure, Rosalie wasn't known for hiding her true feelings, from anyone. In some way, I respected her straightforwardness. At least you knew where you stood with her. But unfortunately, she hardly ever explained her reasons behind her feelings, at least not to me.
"Well, thanks for the ride." I said. I quickly unfastened my seatbelt, not seeing a reason for remaining in the car any longer, since it didn't look like she was planning to give me a real answer. I grabbed my backpack, but when I reached for the door handle, Rosalie stopped me by gently laying a hand on my shoulder.
"It's not like that, Bella. The message was from Peter." She told me, without hesitation. Or so it seemed. "He just wrote that I should stay with you. That's all. Well not quite … he made it very clear it was imperative that I don't leave you alone until Jasper is back. He emphasized the word with three exclamation marks. Cryptic bastard. Something tells me that he knows more, but for some reason doesn't want to tell me." She seethed.
"He probably does." I commented with a chuckle. Rosalie looked at me with a frown on her face. For a moment I pondered if I should tell her about Peter's gift, but I decided against it. Not my place …
I opened the door, and stepped out of the vehicle. "Well … why don't you come in then?" I offered, making it actually sound like an invitation. The truth was I didn't mind spending some more time with her, trying to get to know her better. This could be interesting …
I was far more concerned about how I should explain her presence to Charlie. Without a doubt he wouldn't be as forgiving, not after experiencing my suffering due to their leaving right along with me. But I took comfort in the fact that he would meet Rosalie first. I was not quite ready yet to tell him about my involvement with Edward's brother. That would take some time and preparation.
With a sigh I turned away from the jeep, walking straight to the front porch. I searched my bag for the key. Even though I heard her door open and close, I didn't hear her approach. I jumped, startling by her sudden appearance at my side.
"Sorry." She apologized, sincerely.
"I'm fine." I assured her, unlocking the front door. She followed me into the living room. "Make yourself comfortable. I know it's not much, but it is …"
"Home." Rosalie finished my sentence, in a wistful voice. She smiled warmly, taking in the room.
I nodded, surprised by her reaction. She seemed rather intrigued, instead of repelled. "Yes … I'm just going upstairs to change my clothes. I'll be back in a jiffy."
"Take your time." She said, walking over to the mantelpiece to look at the pictures lined up there. I shook my head, but didn't linger. I turned, leaving her in the living room. I headed straight for the stairs, taking two at the time. I quickly changed my outfit, putting on a pair of comfortable sweatpants and a plain shirt. Then I rejoined Rosalie downstairs. She had one of the pictures in her hand, turning around just when I reached the last step.
"You were adorable as a child." She remarked, genuinely, carefully putting the picture back. Most of the pictures were showing me, like a sort of visual timeline from my day of birth until today. This particular one showed me and my father at a fair near Seattle. I was five at the time, sitting on my father's shoulders with a small stuffed giraffe, which he'd won for me at some game, smiling in the camera. One of my frontal teeth was missing, and my face was smeared with remains of chocolate ice-cream. Rosalie was right. It was a cute photo, and certainly one of the less embarrassing pictures on display. There was one of me, all dressed up in fishing gear, holding a large fishing pole … and I was drenched. More than once, I'd managed to fall into the river while being on a fishing trip with my Dad. That was part of the reason why I hated it. But even though, I've always agreed to join him each and every time, just because I've wanted to spend as much time with my father as possible, considering we've seen each other only two or three times a year. And it has made Charlie happy.
I didn't know how to respond to Rosalie's comment. I was flattered, for sure, but there was something in her eyes … grief … a strange longing I couldn't comprehend. I simply stared at her, shifting my weight from one foot to the other.
"I really should start making dinner." I blurted out, really glad to have an excuse to leave the room, before it could get any more awkward. I practically ran into the kitchen. I went straight to the fridge and opened it.
The selection was minimal. Of course, the freezer was stocked with fresh fish, but I knew that would take too long. Charlie was due to be home in half an hour.
I really need to go shopping tomorrow …
I decided to make a simple pasta dish. And there were still some vegetables left, enough to make a salad to go with the main course. I knew that Charlie wouldn't mind, as long as he would get a home cooked meal, he was happy. In this we were the same … easy to please.
When I turned around, I came to realize that Rosalie had managed once again to follow me without making a sound, whatsoever. But this time I was prepared, kinda expecting her to be in here instead of remaining in the living room.
The gorgeous blonde vampire sat at the small kitchen table, playing absentmindedly with the salt shaker. Even though she didn't seem to mind to be here, she looked quite out of place. Someone like her who belonged on the cover of every fashion magazine there was, shouldn't be forced to babysit a silly human like me.
I was sure that she was just as unsure and nervous as I was. It was, after all, the first time we were alone, without someone acting as a buffer. Of course, I knew she wouldn't do anything to harm me, physically. But to be frank, I was more concerned about getting hurt emotionally. Her words had the tendency to cut deeper than her teeth would. But then I remembered the way she had acted back at the Cullen house. Maybe she has changed. One way to find out …
"Can I offer you something to drink?" I asked, politely, trying to eliminate some of the tension by making a joke … a very bad one at that, considering I was talking to a vampire.
She stared at me for a moment, probably thinking I've finally lost my mind, before she burst out laughing. I joined in, savoring the sight. I've never seen her so … carefree. Gone was the constant grimace. A genuine smile took its place, making her look even more beautiful. I had no idea that was possible.
"You've got some wicked humor there, Bella. I didn't know you had it in you. But I like it." She chuckled. "And to answer your question … No, thank you, I'm fine."
"That's good to know." I let out a fake breath of relief. "And I definitely don't want you to get sick, by making you drink something that isn't compatible with your system."
"You care about my wellbeing. I'm touched." Rosalie replied. There was something her voice that told me she was only partially joking. "Actually, I haven't consumed any kind of human food since my change. It wasn't like I had any craving for it any longer. And having witnessed what it can do … thanks to Emmett's repeated tryouts … I think I'll never test it myself." She said, making a face of pure repulsion. "It is pretty unpleasant."
"I can imagine." I grinned. It wasn't a big shock that Emmett was foolish enough to try this more than once. This was so like him. Edward had told there was only one way to get rid of human food, solid or liquid. The same way it gets in …The mere thought of it made me shudder. "We really need a change of subject. I am just about to prepare a meal, and we are talking about puking. It's highly inappropriate, don't you think?" I scoffed.
"I couldn't agree more." Rosalie concurred.
I turned my back on her and started to wash the vegetables. Just then, I could hear the chair scratching the floor. I knew she did it on purpose, thus letting me know that she was approaching. She came to stand beside me.
"Can I help?"
Her question caught me completely off-guard. Was she serious? Her offer sounded legit. "Er … if you want to …" I said, warily, unable to hide my bewilderment. I shrugged and went to search the cupboards for a bowl, placing it and a cutting board on the counter. "Thanks for the offer, Rosalie."
"Don't mention it. And please, call me Rose." She said, smiling warmly. She picked up a tomato, experimentally inhaling its essence. From the looks of it she did like the aroma. "I used to love these." She said wistfully, before putting it on the board. "I may not have any cooking skills … but I think I can manage to cut the ingredients."
"I have the utmost confidence in you." I said, handing her a knife. She snorted, but didn't comment. Instead she immediately got to work, starting to cut the vegetables into perfect bite-sized pieces. I filled a pot with water for the pasta, placing it on the heating plate, but I didn't turn on the oven. I would wait for that until my father was home. "You should have seen the chaos Jasper had created this morning, when he'd tried to make me breakfast. It was hilarious." I giggled, remembering the forlorn, defeated expression on Jasper's face at the time of my arrival in the kitchen. He had looked so adorable in his frustration. God, I missed him.
"I bet it was." Rose said, smirking. She was almost finished with her task. For some unknown reason she was taking her time, working at a human pace. Maybe she did it for my sake, trying to make me feel better, less inferior. Suddenly she stopped, glancing at me with a suspicious look on her perfect face. "And you were probably glad to discover that we aren't good at everything after all, am I right?"
Damn … busted … and by the ice-queen of all people …
I gave Bella a meaningful look, daring her to contradict me. Her cheeks flushed in typical Bella-fashion. Just then I realized how much I've missed it, missed her. How odd.
Bella averted her eyes in what I interpreted as embarrassment. I could practically hear her mind working. Was she actually considering lying to me, especially now that we were making such good progress? She must know that I would be able to see right through it, not only because she truly sucked at lying, but mainly because I knew I was right with my assessment.
At last, I got my answer, but only in nonverbal form. Bella simply nodded her head once, just confirming what I already knew. But why did she feel ashamed?
"Don't feel bad, Bella. It's a completely understandable reaction on your part." I hurried to appease her mind, waving my hand casually. "Nobody will hold it against you for feeling this way. It's only natural … and probably a good thing too. Sometimes the guys feel way too smug about our so-called superiority. They need to be put in their places from time to time." I said, winking at Bella. It had the desired effect. She relaxed, giggling lightly. Then she carried on with her preparations. I wrinkled my nose when she opened a can with some red substance, emptying it into a small pan. I figured it was some sort of sauce for the pasta. I couldn't imagine that it actually tasted good, by the way it smelled. Thankfully she covered the pan with a lid, keeping the horrific stench slightly contained.
I diverted my attention back to my assigned task, cutting the last two tomatoes. I sort of liked it. And as long as I had to deal only with raw ingredients, I could manage to work with human food without making a fool out of myself, by gagging or something along that line.
It was probably for the best that I was doing this part anyway, considering the need for a sharp object. The Bella I knew was very prone to accidents and cutting herself … again … in the presence of a vampire was certainly not in her best interest. Though, I had to admit, she seemed to be more confident, in more ways than one. So far, she hasn't tripped, not even once. And she definitely seemed to have grown up mentally. Gone was the insecure, little girl who used to follow Edward like a lost puppy. The new Bella was certainly someone according to my taste, figuratively speaking.
"Anyhow … the fact is, none of us know how to cook … well apart from Esme, of course. You probably don't know this, but she was the only one of us who had to provide for a family while she was still human. That's why she is the only one who knows how to cook. Different times, different values. Men in my days barely knew how to boil water." I chuckled, but sobering quickly. "And as for me … well I have never been taught how to make dinner."
"Why not?" She asked, sounding intrigued, not nosy.
"What exactly has Edward told you about me?" I answered her question with one of my own. I knew it was very rude, but I needed to know what she did know about me already, before I would start to fill her in on my history. I emptied the rest of the cut vegetables into the bowl, pushing it towards Bella.
"Not much." She said, reaching for a bottle of oil. She uncapped it and added some it to the salad, along with some spices and salt, using a large spoon to mix everything. "He didn't seem comfortable talking about any of you behind your backs. He only indicated that you've been through something similar like me … you know the incident with the guys in Port Angeles." I cringed, but it escaped her notice. Bella had no idea how close she was to the truth. But unlike her, no one came to my rescue … well not in the conventional way. "Apart from Carlisle's past, pretty much everything I know about you guys I've learned from the person in question. And since you and I never had the chance to get to know each other …" She trailed off, biting her lip worriedly. I knew she wasn't blaming me, just stating a fact. But she did have a point. Maybe things between us could have been different then, if it hadn't been for tenacity to push her away. And I've clearly underestimated Edward's sense for integrity. I've always thought he would use his gift to his advantage, betraying our secrets, to suit his purpose. Apparently I was wrong about that, too.
"I really blew it there, didn't I?" I said, laughing awkwardly. Bella smiled softly, shrugging her shoulders. Was this her way of saying 'maybe'? I really hoped it wasn't too late to rectify things between her and me. I said as much.
"I believe it's never too late." She stated. There was no trace of deceit in her voice. She really meant it. "I've always wanted to get to know you … every one of you. I just didn't get the chance before. Maybe in time … we can be friends."
"I would like that very much." I said, softly, adding attentively, "… and so would Emmett."
Bella froze for a moment, but recovered quickly. "I need some time." She insisted, her voice slightly unsteady.
"I understand … and so does he. Just give him a chance, please." I begged. "He truly missed you."
"I missed him, too." She admitted, placing the bowl with the salad on the table. I helped her setting up the table. I even added a plate for myself, not really looking forward to actually consuming any of the food. Hopefully, I wouldn't have to.
I sat down, asking her to join me. Since there wasn't anything else she needed to prepare, she complied, rather eagerly. I was just about to start telling her about my past, when her home line rang. With a small noise of protest, she stood up and went to answer it. Thanks to my superior senses I was able to hear both sides of the conversation.
"Bells, it's me." Her father said.
"Hi Dad. Will you be home soon?" She asked.
"That's why I'm calling." He grumbled, obviously annoyed. "I'm sorry, honey, but I won't be home for at least another hour. I've just got a call from the hospital. Apparently someone broke in, and stole some stuff. I need to go there and check it out, since Henry has … once again … managed to be late for his shift. So, don't wait up for me with dinner."
"That's unfortunate." Bella sighed. I knew she didn't mean that, at least not completely, because I could detect a hint of relief in her voice. I was sure it had something to do with me, though I didn't blame her. Explaining my presence to the Chief was going to be tricky. "I leave something for you in the fridge, to reheat in microwave, okay?"
"Thanks. You are an angel. What would I do without you?"
"Probably starve to death." Bella teased, giggling.
"Har, har, very funny." He complained, but laughing himself. Their little banter made me smile as well. It was quite obvious how close they were. I felt a twinge of jealousy, because she had something I've been missing my entire human life … a true, loving relationship with my parents. "Well, I guess I'll see you later." He said his goodbyes.
"Bye, Dad." She replied, and then the line disconnected. After she hung up the phone, she turned around, smirking at me. "Well, at least you won't have to pretend to eat."
"There is that." I allowed, chuckling, though I was far happier about the fact, that I would have some more time with her alone.
Bella turned on oven, in order to heat up the sauce and the water. Then she sat down again, loading her plate with a small portion of the salad. "Sure, you don't want anything?" She asked, with a mischievous smile on her face.
I rolled my eyes. "Just eat."
She sniggered, but followed my advice without any delay. It was quite clear that she was hungry, since her stomach has been growling for a while. I leaned back in my seat, watching her enjoy her first course, something she didn't seem to like very much.
So, I decided that now was probably the best time to continue our conversation. It would give me something to do, and with her busy eating, she would be a very good listener. But unfortunately, before I even got the chance to formulate my first sentence, my nose was assaulted by a strange, yet familiar stench. I knew right away it had nothing to do with Bella's cooking.
My head snapped up, and my whole body went rigid, a reaction that didn't go unnoticed by Bella.
"What's wrong?" Bella asked, dropping her fork.
"I'm not quite sure yet, but we are going to have company." I informed her, unable to mask my discomfort, visibly or verbally. I got on my feet, moving toward the front door. I could hear her turning of the oven (clever girl), before she joined me in the hall.
"Who is it?" She whispered.
I didn't get the chance to give her an answer. An unfamiliar, not quite pleasant voice beat me to the punch. "Bella, I know you are in there … and I know you're not alone."
He was hunting again, moving gracefully through the woods. Sometimes I had a little trouble following him, because he was really, really fast. But fortunately I was always able to catch up with him in the end. And if I didn't I would simply go back to his cabin, waiting for his return.
I've been watching him for days, always keeping my distance, mostly hiding in the trees, out of sight.
Of course, I knew right away what he was. He wasn't the first vampire I've come across in my long life, and he probably won't be the last one. But he was by far the most interesting, not to mention the most attractive. His hair had the strangest color I've ever seen. Auburn. And it was in constant disarray. But I liked it, yearning to run my fingers through it, wanting to feel its texture. He was tall and lean, but well-built nonetheless … at least from what I could tell. So far I haven't seen him without clothes. But I was sure I wouldn't be disappointed.
Simply put … his beauty took my breath away.
Of course, that fact didn't come as a surprise to me. His kind was known for being unusually, inhumanly attractive … among other things. And I also knew that they used it to lure their human prey. Good thing I didn't fall into that category … at least not completely.
I probably should have left these woods the moment he showed up, especially since it seemed he was planning to stay for a while. His kind and mine didn't tend to get along very well … or at all.
But I didn't want to leave. I liked it these woods. And I was here first.
I've always been too stubborn and too curious for my own good … according to my family. Those character traits were my greatest weaknesses, and in conjunction with my unwillingness to submit to rules that made no sense to me, the reason why I was by myself for all these years.
Instead of staying away or better yet attack them on sight, I've always felt compelled to get to know these creatures. Sadly, my first face-to-face encounter didn't end well … for the vampire in question …
It was during one of my long, solitary strolls through the forest of my mother country when I came across a female. I wasn't supposed to leave the confines of our settlement, but of course I didn't listen.
As soon as I spied her, my instincts kicked in, automatically. It was probably a good thing though, considering my recklessness. But fortunately, my senses told me that she was the only vampire in the near vicinity.
She was smaller than me, and blond, wearing clothes that definitely had seen better days. Her eyes were bright red, a sign that she had fed quite recently. Oddly, I didn't feel bad about that, even though I knew that a human had given his life to preserve hers. But they had to eat something, didn't they?
All I felt was relief, because a hungry vampire might have attacked me on sight. But as it was, she didn't show any sign of animosity. In fact, it was obvious that she was just as startled as I was. For a few moments we appraised each other in silence. Taking her size into account, I was pretty sure I could take her … but that would always be my last resort.
I detested any kind of violence. True, I did understand the reason for self-preservation. But in my opinion we had no right to hunt them down and kill them, just because they might pose a threat.
Live and let live … that has always been my motto. I would only fight to defend myself. As long as she didn't give me a reason to attack, I wouldn't.
I was sure at this point that she didn't mean my any harm. But even though, I kept my distance. After all, I wasn't an idiot. I've heard the stories … countless times. I knew what this creature was capable of.
Better safe than sorry …
She seemed to be just as cautious, not making any move either. We both were slightly unsure what to make of the other, but at the same time I was certain she was as intrigued and curious as I was.
With a shy, but genuine smile on my face I sat down on the forest floor. She seemed to understand my friendly gesture for what it was, an invitation, and copied my action, slowly, her eyes never leaving mine.
And then we started talking. To my surprise, she was very forthcoming, quite the chatty person. Her name was Thira. I learned that she was relatively young, only a decade old. She had been sixteen when she was changed, only a year older than me. Her maker hadn't treated her very nicely, but eventually she had been able to escape him. She has been on her own for almost three years, simply wandering around, not looking for anything in particular. She simply enjoyed living her life from one day to the other.
I felt bad for the little vampire. It was clear that she hadn't chosen this life. It had been forced upon her. But she was trying to make the best of it … in her own way. At the very least she seemed to be happy to be free to go wherever she wanted. And for that, I envied her.
I was just about to tell her about myself, to show her what I was, when all of the sudden my brothers showed up.
Everything happened so fast.
One of them restrained me at once, thus preventing me from interfering. In hindsight, it was probably for the best. Rationally, I knew that I wasn't strong enough to take them on and protect her, but that didn't mean I wouldn't have tried … only to end up hurt or even worse, getting myself killed in the process.
But before I was able to explain or do anything, the other three attacked my potential new friend, shredding her to pieces in mere seconds. She didn't stand the slightest chance.
The ripping sounds were awful, like nails on a chalkboard awful. Her screams were so loud, and heart-rending. I started to cry, begging them to stop before it was too late, but my brothers wouldn't listen.
For one last time I met Thira's eyes. They were wide open, full of fear and pain. But what really got to me was the glimpse of betrayal I could detect in them. Oh my god, she was dying with the thought that I'd set her up. I stopped struggling, and collapsed. My brother went down with me, still keeping his arms around me … just in case.
"I'm sorry." I mouthed, and then her head landed in the fire, along with the rest of her other severed body parts.
And then it was over. All that was left of the nice, innocent girl was a pile of ashes. The sweet stench of her remains was polluting the air, almost making me retch.
The sudden stillness was unnerving. My brother finally let me go, and I crumbled, starting to cry in earnest.
"Why? Why?" I moaned between sobs.
"You know why!" My oldest brother, suddenly back in his human form, snapped at me.
"She … she didn't … she wasn't going to hurt me." I managed to get out between my sobs. "She was harmless."
"You can't be serious." He scoffed. "You know that these leeches live for one thing, and one thing only … blood. Be glad that you don't smell like food to them, otherwise you would be dead by now." He came over, hauling me to my feet, with more force than necessary. He was angry, and disappointed. "Let's get out of here. This area isn't safe. Who knows how many more are out there."
"Thira was alone." I sniffed.
My brother tightened his grip on my arm, but I didn't flinch. I didn't want to give him the satisfaction in showing him, how much his rough treatment hurt me, physically and emotionally. "The council will be very interested in this. Making friends with the enemy … that's a new one. What were you thinking?"
I didn't even consider giving him an answer to that question. He wouldn't understand my reasoning, none of them would. I let them lead me back to the camp. Why put off the inevitable any longer than necessary? I did my best to mentally prepare myself for what awaiting me. I knew that the council would be less than happy with me and my actions.
'Unhappy' was putting it mildly. They have been furious. Never before have I seen them so agitated. Sure I've expected as much, but yet I was shocked to the core when I received their final verdict a day later.
I was ostracized by my own people, asked to never return, ever. In their eyes, by fraternizing with the enemy, I've committed treason, an unforgivable offense in our society. And since I've shown no regret for my actions, whatsoever, they had no other choice.
I've accepted my punishment without a fight. Sure, my heart ached to leave my people. After all, this was my home, my family, everything I knew. But it was quite obvious that I wasn't welcomed any longer. So I left.
Throughout the years I mostly kept to myself, barely making any direct contact with anyone, human or otherwise.
Though, I've spent a couple of years with a nice, elderly lady, named Anna, who has been living alone since her husband passed away. She owned a small ranch in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in New Mexico. She caught me stealing some of her food, but instead of chasing me off, she took me in. I gladly accepted her offer. I stayed with her until the day she had no other choice but to sell her property. I helped her with the chores, and in return she taught me how to read and write. I liked her very much, but I've never felt comfortable enough to reveal my true nature to her. But more importantly, I didn't want to scare her. Fortunately, she wasn't very nosy person, not asking many questions, so I've never had to lie to her. We've parted ways as friends.
That was ages ago. Since then I've been alone, staying away from populated areas. I actually spent more time in my second skin than as a human. It was safer, and more prudent, since I had no money to purchase food or clothing. And to be honest I preferred living like that.
I knew it was just a matter of time, before I would run into some vampires. The ones I've met so far were all nomads like me. But I haven't tried to make contact with any of them, because it was quite obvious that they were the complete opposite of Thira. I've had no other choice but to kill two, in order to stay alive, the most recent one last year. But I didn't feel really bad about it. They were evil and nasty, and deserved to die.
Unlike this one.
He was something else entirely … an anomaly among his kind. I almost fell off my tree the first time I saw him hunting. Without much effort he took down a deer, only to lean in and quench his thirst on it. Suffice it to say, I was completely astonished.
He didn't hunt humans.
What was wrong with him? Why would he do that? Were there others that shared his choice of diet? I had so many questions.
That … and my undeniable attraction towards the bronze haired beauty … was the reason why I stayed, barely leaving him out of my sight. By now I was sure he knew that he was being followed. He kept looking over his shoulder, frequently scanning his surroundings and sniffing the air. Thankfully, he couldn't distinguish my smell from the animal life around us … and for good reason, since I've spent most of my life in animal form.
I wondered what he was doing out here. From the looks of his clothes he was used to a completely different life style. Somehow, I got the impression that he was on the run, hiding from something … or someone. But what, and why?
More than once I found him sitting on a rock at the sore of the lake near his cabin, reading or busy writing in his journal. He looked so lost, and sad. I longed to comfort him. But I wasn't quite ready yet, to approach him.
I wanted to know more before I showed myself.
I've never entered the cabin before today, but I figured the only way I could get any information without actually talking to him, would be by reading his journal. I knew it wasn't right, but my curiosity got the better of me.
So, as soon as I was sure he was otherwise engaged, I rushed back to his cabin. The door was still open. Only when I was inside I changed back into my human form. I would need opposable thumps, if I wanted to be able to turn the pages. I slipped into a simple white dress, the only clothe I possessed and always had with me. Then I went to search for his journal. I didn't have to look long. It lay on the small table, which besides a chair was the only intact furniture in this room. I grabbed it and sat down on the floor. I opened the journal, glad to discover he was speaking the same language as me. For a moment I marveled over his neat, elegant penmanship, before I started reading.
I was so engrossed into his journal that I completely forgot the time and where I was. That's why his sudden appearance at the door took me totally off-guard.
"Who are you?"
A/N hmmm … me and my damn cliffhangers, well some things never change. After reading this it should be clear who or rather what is following Edward, at least I hope it is. Just a little hint, it's not a Yeti *winks at Jazzella*.
So now that the werewolves have made their first move, on two fronts, what is going to happen? Any theories?
Well, I guess we'll see each other next year! Until then, take care.