"Dangers can appear from the least expected source."
Chapter 8 Secrets
I stared at Edward in shock. This James monster targeted my father? And now he was coming after me?
"But why?" I asked
"We don't know. I could tell he had been spending time in the woods around your home and the police station prior to your father's murder. Immediately afterwards, he left the area. He was tracked as far as the ocean and then his trail went cold. A few days ago, his trail reappeared."
Just then, we heard my neighbor's back door open and she let her dog outside. I liked dogs but this one had gotten on my nerves. He was a huge, lumbering mutt who seemed friendly enough except for one thing. Evidently in his opinion, my yard was his bathroom and his owner didn't seem to care that he left daily calling cards for me. I could have looked the other way if his piles were reasonable dog-sized but one of his ancestors must have been an elephant because it looked as though Jumbo had crapped in my yard when he was done with it.
A few weeks ago, I'd politely asked her to keep her dog away, or at least pick up after him—she'd need a shovel and wheelbarrow for that, let me tell you. She had apologized profusely and scolded her dumb dog who was standing dopily in the doorway next to her, wagging his tail like he was an innocent non-pooper. Later, I discovered she'd just let him out at times she thought I wasn't at home.
I bet she didn't pull that shit when Charlie had been here.
Nose to the ground, the dog sniffed circles in my backyard until he finally found a spot he hadn't crapped in yet and assumed the position. That's when I growled. I wasn't expecting any sort of response because in the past the idiot dog just looked at me with a "Duh?" expression and continued the process.
However, this time it was different. Instead of looking confused, he lifted his head, stared in our direction and gave a big sniff. If a dog's eyes could bug out, his did and—what do you know—he stopped besmirching my lawn.
Suddenly, his hackles rose. He growled and started to approach where we stood in the sheltering trees. I feinted towards him and he yipped like he'd been struck and ran off a few feet. Then, realizing he needed to save doggy-face, he turned around at a safer distance and all hell broke loose. He started barking and baying like a freak. Shoot, the last thing I wanted was any attention from humans at the moment.
My neighbor's back door popped open and she stuck her head out. "Rufus? Rufus! What's the matter?"
The dog didn't tell her. He just kept on screaming at us and started for us. I heard his owner yell, "Rufus! Come back here, you stupid dog!" followed quickly by some rustling in the undergrowth. I wasn't really afraid but I didn't feel up to a confrontation at the moment. I could smell the scent of my neighbor's blood from where we were. It gripped my throat and made my stomach coil in need. I decided I'd better not get any closer to her.
"Let's get out of here," Edward said as he tugged my arm to pull me deeper in the woods. I nodded and we both ran as quickly as we could into the forest, away from Forks.
That's when I discovered I didn't simply run: I flew. My feet barely touched the ground. I realized I had run from the Cullens' to my house the night before but I had been so distraught, I really didn't pay much attention to the process. Now, I could and it was amazing.
I put my arms out like a plane and it felt as though I was soaring through the trees. The sheer exuberance I felt made me laugh. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Edward running alongside of me, watching with a delighted grin.
"This is fabulous!" I shouted. My voice sounded surprisingly loud.
"Yes, it is," Edward answered in a normal tone. I realized with my sharpened sense of hearing, I'd didn't have to shout. We could run flat out and talk like we were sitting across from each other at my breakfast table. I smiled with glee.
"There are some benefits to being a vampire," Edward said as he suddenly swooped behind me and, though he didn't touch me, I could feel his breath shiver on the back of my neck as he dashed by, suddenly appearing on my other side. I tried to ignore the dry throat and goose bumps he had given me. I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do with it.
"Watch this!" he called as he vaulted into the air and ricocheted from one tree to another as we ran through the forest. Then he grabbed a branch that was hanging over our path, looped around and dropped right behind me.
"Try it, Bella. It's fun."
"I'm afraid I'd break my neck."
"Not possible. Come on. You're not chicken are you?" he taunted. Laughing, he sprang into the air once again and bounced from tree to tree like a pinball.
"Did you just call me a coward?" I asked, my ire being stirred, but evidently that's all it took to follow him aloft. Soon, we were racing through the boughs of the trees, jumping from one to the next so rapidly that birds sharing the canopy with us must have thought we were only a couple of gusts of wind.
Gradually, our race morphed into something else. Our paths wove together as we flew through the canopy, first his crossing mine, and then mine crossing his in an evergreen pas de deux. Our movements were perfectly in tune and exquisitely graceful. Occasionally, he'd brush my arm or back with his hand as he passed and the chills that ran through me then!
Desire for him struck me to my marrow. I felt a simultaneous tightening and loosening deep within and I was surprised to discover I was moaning but it wasn't moaning. It was a growl; a feral, wild sound.
The next time we passed, our eyes met. He could tell that I was aflame and I knew that he felt the same for his gaze scorched me to my soul.
Our dance had changed from joyous delight to something more primal and bottomless and I was drowning in it. The next time we passed, I caressed his shoulder—just a whisper soft touch that ended at the nape of his neck. Edward growled and suddenly we crashed together, our arms and legs entangled, our lips seeking as we plummeted onto a mossy, sunlit bank on the forest floor. Edward's mouth brushed across mine as he threaded his fingers through my hair. I was shaking with sensation when our lips met and I was lost. His body pressed mine down into the moss and I pulled him close.
I was flame and need. He was the answer to both. I wanted him, even though I had every reason to hate him for what he had done to me. I was shocked to recognize that on some level I was willing to overlook it and that frightened me; this letting go, this stupid surrender. I was being blindly led down an unfamiliar path, like a lamb to the slaughter. There was so much I still didn't know.
Edward, sensing a shift in my mood, pulled back and looked down into my eyes, questioning without a word spoken. He must have gotten an answer because he smiled sadly and stood, offering a hand to help me. Still keeping my hand in his, we continued through the wood. Our pace wasn't the crazy dash it had been earlier, dimmed as it was by this uncharted sea we were sailing.
The fact was, though my body and my emotions were all for 'mating' with Edward, my mind wasn't convinced and my spirit—well, I'd never trusted that hocus pocus stuff before. What was 'spirit' or 'soul' anyway? I'd never been very religious. I thought that sort of thing was more of an excuse to do what you wanted in the first place.
We came upon a clearing and I recognized the Cullen's house in the middle. I hadn't realized the direction we were headed but I was glad we ended up here before my instincts over-ran my common sense—and yes, my sheer perverse stubbornness. Surely, I wouldn't molest Edward in front of his family. As we stepped into the clearing, Edward stopped, met my eyes and then allowed his eyes to drift down my body and back. Without a word, he gazed intently into my eyes and very clearly let me know what he desired, hoped and craved. Ugh. I was a mess.
"Are you sure you aren't using your glamour on me?" I whispered.
He let go of my hand. "I don't have to. No matter what, our souls speak to each other. It's beyond our control."
"Would it have been like this even if I hadn't been transformed?"
"It was for me. You have always been my one. You will always be my one." The look he gave me just then melted the cold from my heart.
He took my hand again. "Didn't you feel the same, Bella? Didn't you know that I was the one for you?"
"I…I think I did. I couldn't stop thinking about you and I remember the times we were together as being so perfect, as though I found something that was missing from my life. It felt so right."
"I promise there was no coercion then or now. What you felt was true and honest."
I understood what he was saying but I was still so unsure. "Were you planning to change me?"
"I was trying to figure a way to explain all of this to you and give you a choice. It was going to be up to you; stay mortal or become like me. My passion got the better of me and I took that choice from you. It was a horrible mistake on my part. Now I'm afraid you'll never trust me. But I knew we were running out of time."
"James. Alice foresaw something that I couldn't ignore. She said that if you hadn't been changed, James would have ultimately killed you."
That stopped me cold. "So, I'd had no choice after all?"
"You would've had a choice but neither of them good. There is no escaping James. He's a hunter."
"Yes. His vampiric gift is to always successfully capture whatever prey he chases and he was chasing you."
"I don't know. I hope we can catch him and find out."
My head was spinning in confusion, so I walked ahead of him, knowing he was right but it all was still a hard bit to swallow. I feared I would choke on it.
As we reached the front door of the house, it opened with a relieved looking Alice standing on the threshold. "Oh, thank goodness you're back!"
"Were you expecting otherwise?" Edward asked.
"It could have gone one of two ways. I'm so glad you ended up coming here. This was definitely the better choice. Come in." She stepped to the side and gestured for us to precede her. Still unsure, I did as she bid and Edward followed me.
Alice led us into the kitchen just as the microwave buzzer went off. Oh boy! I knew what that meant. It was meal time. She opened the door, took out two mugs and handed one to me and the other to Edward, then reached back in and got her own. "Let's go out on the veranda. It's such a pretty day."
We sat together around a table on the stone patio that overlooked the backyard and river below. The lush forest that surrounded this oasis of peace and beauty was a lovely backdrop to it all.
"Wow, this is gorgeous," I couldn't help to remark.
"Esme has a knack," Alice said as she gazed across the lawn into the trees.
I hadn't taken a sip of my drink, yet. I was afraid the minute I tasted it I'd once again rabidly suck it down and I didn't want to embarrass myself in front of these two. I decided I would drink when Edward did. It was a plan, anyway. He was watching me with a little smile on his face as though he knew what I was thinking and deliberately took a sip of his. Gratefully, I followed suit and was pleased that I had enough control not to slurp as I did.
"Where is everyone, Alice?" Edward distracted me with his question.
"They went to meet with the Quileute."
The Quileute? That was Billy and Jacob's tribe that lived near the ocean at La Push. My dad had been very close to them and I remembered their promises to me after he had died. Had they been working with Edward to find James? Is that why the Cullens had to meet with them now? I looked at Edward as he took another sip of his drink—so I did, too. Then he set his cup down on the table and turned to me.
"Bella, there's something else you should know."
I sat my drink down. I figured Edward's ominous tone was a clue that I'd probably not like what he was going to say and there was no way I was going to allow shock to cause me to spill my drink. I didn't want to waste a drop. I'd always been a pretty practical person.
I folded my hands in my lap as I looked at Edward and waited for him to tell me something I was pretty sure I didn't want to hear.
"The Quileute see vampires as their natural enemy."
"But how do they know you are vampires? I thought you kept that secret?"
"They can sense it fairly readily. They say we have a peculiarly sickening smell."
That was weird. Though my experience had been limited concerning the natural smell of vampires, I'd always thought that Edward had an intoxicating scent. I certainly used to get high huffing his neck when I had had the chance.
"You look surprised," Alice said. "Don't be. The feeling's mutual. Frankly, they smell like a musky tennis shoe."
"So, if I should meet a Quileute, he would know I was now a vampire by my B.O.?"
"And is it just they who smell like old Nikes, or do all humans?"
Edward chuckled. "No, humans smell like bar-b-que. Appetizing. Delicious. The Quileute, especially their warriors, stink like an old locker room."
"Geesh, Edward. Warriors? That's sort of an archaic word. And last I checked, the Quileute were humans and peaceful ones at that. I don't get it."
"Everyone has their secrets. The Quileute are no different. Their tribe has always had protectors and has always been in touch with the mystical. They keep it to themselves."
"Then how do you know about it?"
"Because, what their protectors protect them from are us; or, at least that was the case going back centuries. But they've treated the Cullens differently since we first ran into them back in the 1930s because they realized we did not prey upon mankind. Now, after Sanctuary came into existence, they tolerate us a little more. We've pledged to safe guard humans from our feral cousins and as you know, that's what brought me back to Forks in the first place."
A shadow darkened my face as I remembered my dad and I sighed. "You speak as though the Quileute aren't humans, though. I don't understand."
"They consider themselves human, but in my opinion, if we can't call ourselves human, they can't either."
"Are you telling me that they are vampires, too?"
"No, they aren't vampires but some of them have powers that humans don't. They can shape-shift."
"Shape-shift! Into what?" I thought of Jacob and how he shifted into being a friendly kid to an annoying wise-ass but I didn't think that's what Edward was talking about.
"They change into wolves. Big Wolves."
I burst out laughing. "Yeah, right!"
"But they do, Bella," Alice said.
"How? During the full moon, do they start growing furry ears and tails? I bet that's hard to explain as they're shopping at the Seven-Eleven."
"It's not gradual. It happens all at once. They sort of explode into a wolf."
It seemed so ludicrous. I couldn't believe it. But then, I had changed into a mythical being, hadn't I? I wondered how many more fantasies would be revealed as facts to me now. Were they going to tell me that Hobbits and Hogwarts were real next?
"This is too much." I put my hands over my eyes and slumped down in my chair as I tried to get a grip on my new reality.
Edward knelt next to me and put his arm around my shoulders. "I know this is overwhelming for you. We all went through this and we are here to help you. You aren't alone."
My traitorous body was immediately comforted by his touch and it took a lot of willpower not to turn into his arms as though he was my only refuge. I was so conflicted. I decided to refocus.
"So, why is your family meeting with the Quileute?"
I noticed how Edward glanced at Alice before she replied, "We're working together to find James."
"So, they're hunting together now?"
"Actually, they're just meeting. There was something else they needed to discuss." Edward was looking guilty now.
He heaved a sigh. "You."
"We're not sure how they will take this." He waved his hand over me.
"Why should they care?"
"They definitely won't like the fact that you've become a vampire."
"They could decide that I killed you when I changed you and that would violate our treaty."
"But I'm still alive, aren't I?"
Edward shrugged. "It depends upon your definition of alive. I think the Quileute will be concerned about your lack of a heart beat."
"What can they do about it?"
"Who knows what will happen? They could stop cooperating with us...could close off their lands…maybe even declare war. Hopefully, Carlisle will be able to keep things calm."
Alice had been quiet during this last part of our conversation and we hadn't noticed her staring into the distance until Edward stopped and turned to look sharply at her. "Alice, what's going on?"
"I…I…we'd better get inside."
Edward reached over to grab my hand as he stood. In a blur, suddenly the rest of the Cullen clan tore out of the trees and were running for the house.
"Edward," Carlisle shouted as he ran, "get Bella in the house! We've got trouble!"
Before Dumbo, the cartoon elephant that Disney created, there was Jumbo, an actual African Bush Elephant who was rather large, huge in fact. He was a part of PT Barnum's circus from 1881 to 1885 when he was hit and killed by a train in a classification yard (where they put the cars of the trains together.) He was twenty-four years old.
Thank you, my friends and readers for your patience. I'm learning about the vagaries of writers mojo and the lack thereof. This chapter is a little shorter than usual but, since I am so late in producing it, I hope you will forgive.
Also, thanks to my crew whose encouragement is invaluable: Princess Kris, Telecomchk, Vecha, Tori, and Fantasy Mother.