Shoes in hand, Anna attempted to be silent as she crept past her father snoring on the couch. A blanket was already tucked under his chin and she pressed a kiss to his cheek as she passed.
"Night, sweetheart," he called out as she made her way up the stairs.
"Night, dad. Go to bed."
Grumbling a response, Charlie settled back into his armchair and soft snores escaped his mouth once more. Shaking her head at her father, she knew he would wake up sore in the morning but she was in no state to drag him up the stairs. Slightly intoxicated, Anna knew her father would have no issue lecturing her about the dangers and illegality of underage drinking, even if he was still half-asleep.
Dress catching under her foot, Anna tripped and banged her chin on one of the stairs. Teeth sinking into her bottom lip, she hissed at the metallic taste in her mouth before giggling at herself.
You have to be quiet, she chastised, knowing both her father and sister were attempting to sleep. Ceasing her laughter, she laid there for a moment until footsteps at the top of the stairs made her lift her head up. Frowning down at the eldest twin, Bella was shocked to see her responsible sister in such a state of disarray.
"Good evening, Miss Bella." Anna smiled, tone light and airy. "Come to watch the show? Apparently getting up the stairs is a lot harder than it looks."
Shaking her head, Bella hopped down the few stairs until she reached her sister, attempting to ignore the quiet chuckles she could hear coming from Edward. Guiding Anna to her bedroom, Bella did her best to help her sister get ready for bed before tucking her safely under the covers. Grateful that her sister hadn't driven herself to the dance, she placed a glass of water by the side of the bed for when she woke. Confident that her sister was in a good mood, especially when she began stroking Bella's hair, the younger twin sat beside Anna and began working up the courage to ask her for a favour.
"Edward invited me to meet his family tomorrow, at his house."
Anna opened her mouth, prepared for a lecture or some babbling drunken nonsense that would've attempted to explain the point of her lecture – that it seemed sudden, that Bella barely knew him, anything that could've stopped her from attending the Cullen house on her own when Anna was so unsure about Edward.
"No, no, before you say anything, he invited you as well. He knows that you care for my safety and he thought you would feel more at ease if you accompanied me. You need to be ready by 10 and please don't say no. This is really important to me," she practically begged.
Groaning at the blatant emotional manipulation, Anna begrudgingly agreed before kicking Bella out of her room so that she could get some much-needed rest. Fuelled by alcohol and hours of dancing, it didn't take Anna long to fall fast asleep despite the worries that haunted her about going anywhere with Edward Cullen.
By the time morning came, a pounding headache plagued Anna as she dragged her weary body out of bed. A million excuses to pardon Anna and Bella from attending the Cullens whizzed through her head as she thoroughly regretted agreeing to leave the house so early. Voices floated up from downstairs and she knew she had to face the consequence of her decision. Shoving her feet into her slippers, Anna quickly ran the brush through her hair before trudging down the stairs.
Dressed to perfection (as usual), Edward Cullen sat at the Swan's kitchen table whilst Bella ate her cereal across from her. Confused as to when he had arrived, Anna gave him a half-hearted good morning before bumping around the kitchen in an attempt to make coffee. Sensing that her sister wasn't fully functional yet, Bella directed her to a chair and told her to rest whilst she whizzed around the kitchen creating a caffeine boost for her sleep deprived sister.
"Did you have a pleasant evening at the dance, Anna?"
"I did, thank you. If I had known there was a day trip planned then I probably wouldn't have stayed out so long." Anna's sentence trailed off with a yawn as if to reiterate the point she was making. "You're a saint," she muttered to Bella, taking the grey mug out of her sister's hand.
With the reminder that she needed to be ready within an hour, Anna hopped back up the stairs. Catching the beginning of a weird conversation between Bella and Edward, Anna carried her mug of coffee into the bathroom with her and questioned why Bella would be afraid of Edward's parents. Steam fogged up the little bathroom as Anna perched on the side of the bath draining the liquid from her cup. Stripping out of the pyjamas she didn't remember putting on before she passed out, Anna clambered into the shower and allowed the hot water to wash away the sweat and bad mistakes of the previous night.
Memories of the dance flashed in her head and she regretted agreeing to finish the party at Tyler's house. The after party had included alcohol and, not used to drinking, it had only taken two drinks for Anna to be light-headed. Whilst she had stopped drinking after that, she still suffered from the after effects of a headache. Ringing out her dark locks, Anna wrapped the fluffy towel around her body before darting into her bedroom. The last thing she wanted was to get caught by Bella and her boyfriend.
Safe in the confines of her bedroom, she plugged in her hairdryer before selecting her clothes for the day. Meeting the potential in-laws required a conservative outfit whilst also looking fashionable. However, she knew that no matter what she wore or how nice she thought she looked, she would pale in comparison to the gorgeous Cullen family. Once dressed, she brushed down her skirt and frowned at her appearance in the mirror. The emerald green blouse had been tucked neatly into her black skirt without a wrinkle in sight. Due to the less than warm weather, black tights wrapped around her legs and she had opted for a pair of brown ankle boots. Five different shirts, another skirt, and three pairs of jeans were dumped on her bed and floor. Frustrated at her own appearance, Anna launched her brush at her bed before hastily retrieving it when Bella called for her. Running the brush through her dark curls, she decided it would have to do.
Awe flitted across Anna's face as she took in the beautiful architecture before her. Trees formed a protective barrier around the three-story mansion, hiding it from public view. It was hauntingly perfect. Cut off from the rest of the world but still in touch with nature. Solitude and mystery seemed to be a running theme with the Cullen family. Sounds of a nearby river caught Anna's attention but the dense forest obstructed it from view.
In the middle of talking to Bella, Edward became momentarily distracted by a jumbled mess of thoughts coming from the other side of the truck. Anxiety. Insecurity. Amazement. Amusement. A slight twinge of excitement popped up every now and then. Thoughts rushed by and Edward turned to face her. Whilst she had schooled her features into an expression of neutrality, the bronze-haired man could tell she was nervously chewing the inside of her cheek. Flashing her a reassuring smile, Edward discreetly frowned when a new wave of thoughts entered her head. Predictably, the natural human defence mechanism kicked in and she felt slightly fearful – a sense of wrongness. Edward's smile returned when she quickly brushed it off and returned his comforting gesture.
Fiddling with the sleeve of her blouse, Anna thanked Edward as he held the door open for her. Side by side, the Swan twins entered the lavish house for the first time. Light filtered in through the large wall that had been made entirely from glass. Wonder lit up her features as she got a full view of the wide river she had heard previously. Various shades of white decorated the interior of the house.
Guiding the twins into the kitchen, Edward was greeted with the view of cooking. Anna got her first view of the Cullen matriarch, having met Dr Cullen during previous trips to the hospital. Introducing herself, Esme revealed that they were cooking Italian food for lunch. When Edward introduced the older twin, Anna's heart thudded wildly in her chest as the attention turned to her. Rosalie exchanged an amused glance with her Mate.
"It's very nice to meet you." Anna smiled politely. "My father holds you in the highest regard, Dr Cullen."
"Please, call me Carlisle, and I have much respect for your father as well. Welcome to our home. You've given us an excuse to pull out kitchenware I didn't even know we had."
"Italian is my favourite." Anna reassured after Esme began worrying about whether she had cooked the right meal. "And it smells delicious."
Bounding into the kitchen (he had been waiting around the corner until it felt like an appropriate time to enter), Emmett grinned at the sight of his favourite Swan twin. Before she had arrived, he had been darting around his closet, surrounded by discarded shirts. After the first ten, he had dragged Alice into his bedroom and demanded she provide her honest opinion on them. Each shirt had been various shades of blue, Emmett obsessing over the compliment Anna had given his navy sweater. Thankfully, Alice had seen what Anna had chosen to wear and pulled out a long-sleeved shirt in a similar colour to her blouse. They complimented each other perfectly.
Scooping Anna into his arms, Emmett gave her a soft squeeze (but she still struggled for breath) before setting her back onto the ground.
"You look beautiful," he whispered in her ear.
Dizzy and light-headed, Anna fumbled her way through a hello, aware that the rest of the family was watching as red crept into her cheeks. Briefly aware that Bella dismissed food, Anna had never been more grateful for the audible groan her stomach let out. She would've felt extremely guilty if she had had to turn down food that had been cooked specially for her.
"Thank you." Anna said as Emmett placed a bowl of pasta in her hands.
Twirling some of the carbonara onto her fork, she took a small bite before letting out a silent noise of appreciation. Unbeknownst to her, all the Cullens heard it but they pretended as if they hadn't.
"This is delicious," she complimented Esme, commenting that the kind woman should consider becoming a chef. Esme beamed at her son's Mate.
Simultaneously with that quick exchange, Rosalie had thrown the salad bowl onto the ground in defiance of Bella's presence. Anna's brown eyes flew open in shock and she curled into Emmett's side. A small smile graced his lips as he wrapped an arm around her waist. It was nice to know she felt safe with him. Happiness radiated from Esme as she watched the exchange and Carlisle had to warn her to stop staring.
"Perfect." Rosalie hissed, fully prepared to voice her opinion on the whole situation.
Exchanging a look with Emmett, Edward nodded at the unspoken question. Bending down to whisper in her ear, he ignored the shiver that ran down her spine as he suggested a tour of the house. Hopefully, he could move them away fast enough that she wouldn't overhear any of the impending argument.
"Don't worry," he joked. "You can bring your food."
Navy sheets stood out against the white walls of the room that Emmett declared was his. Plonking Anna down on his bed, he turned to shut the door, giving her a chance to look around. Sports paraphernalia adorned the shelves, along with a few books and CD albums.
"Is that the Spice Girls?" Anna giggled, sliding out an album. Emmett grinned as he proudly admitted Wannabe was a favourite of his.
Overall, the room was minimally decorated despite the sheer size of it. Most of his belongings were hidden away behind cupboards or tucked neatly into drawers. Being awake at all hours meant he had time to tidy. One door led to a connected wardrobe and the other led to an en-suite; the bathtub itself was bigger than Anna's entire bathroom. Signed sports jerseys sat in large frames and hung from the walls. A few small paintings of bears and photographs of trees littered the surfaces. Sure, it was simplistic, but it was Emmett. Hand touching the soft sheets beneath her, Anna was reminded that she had forgotten something.
"Oh! I'm sorry I didn't bring your sweater with me. To be completely honest, I didn't even know I was coming over until last night."
"You should keep it. You look better in it than I do."
Startled, Anna blushed once more but she refuses to look away this time. Unable to help himself, Emmett tucked a loose curl behind her ear, finger trailing down her jaw. He just wanted to touch her, be near her, be with her.
He's never been this close before, thought Anna, he usually pulls away by now.
Lost in a dark spiral of his own thoughts, Emmett debated whether he should do it. It went so well for Edward, look at how happy he is, one side of him argued. Edward was able to be himself around Bella, he could kiss her and allow her to be around his family without worrying that they may say the wrong thing about their species. An elbow bumped into him, pulling him from his thoughts.
Asking if he was all right, Anna couldn't help the gasp she made when Emmett turned her to face him. Electricity coursed up her arm from his touch. Once. Twice. Emmett opened his mouth a third time but the words seemed to fail him. Patiently waiting, Anna reached over to grab his hand in support but a knock at the door prevented her from doing so. Leaning away from him so that their position didn't look so compromising, Anna turned to face the cheerful girl that entered.
"Hi, I'm Alice," she pulled Anna in for a quick hug, not caring that she had interrupted something and not apologising either.
Aware that the scent in Emmett's room was overwhelming, Alice ensured the close contact ended as quickly as it had started.
"You smell lovely, by the way." Alice complimented.
Emmett shot her a warning glance, which she ignored.
"It's nice to finally meet you. Emmett doesn't stop talking about you, or thinking about you."
"Really?" Anna turned to face Emmett with an arched brow. "It would be nice if he could share those thoughts because I'm currently at a loss."
Alice laughed. It was a melodic sound that twinkled in the air and despite a small surge of jealousy, Anna couldn't help but smile. Her laugh certainly didn't sound as beautiful as that. She tended to snort when she laughed but there was something about Alice that made it impossible to resent her.
"Emmett's the family member who doesn't know when to stop talking so it's surprising to hear you say that."
"Alice." Emmett ground out, smiling through gritted teeth. "Did you want something or did you just come in here to be a nuisance?"
He could sense Jasper hovering outside, hidden from view. Apologising for stealing Emmett away, Alice asked if she could speak to him for a moment. Promising that it wouldn't take long, the muscular man closed the door behind him as he followed Alice out of the bedroom.
Left alone, Anna stood and wandered over to the large windows. Clouds inhibited rays of sun from shining onto the landscape but that didn't make the view any less breath-taking. Vibrant green trees started back at her. Leaves swayed in the gentle breeze and three birds could be seen flying in the distance. It was tranquillising.
Not even a full minute later, the door opened. Standing beside her, Emmett's fingers brushed against Anna's as they rested on the windowsill. For the first time since their flirtation had started, Emmett finally took her hand in his. To her credit, Anna didn't gasp at the coldness of his touch, nor did she flinch. Using their entwined hands to his advantage, Emmett pulled her closer, ignoring the thrum of her veins.
"Anna, I know I'm rarely serious but there's something I need to tell you. I'd like it if you could hear me out until the end, please."
Taken aback at the intensity in his eyes, she promised to listen to him. Emmett led them to the dark loveseat that sat across from a flat screen TV.
"I know that I've struggled with being close to you and anytime I have, I've abruptly pulled away. I want you to know that it's not because I don't like you because, heck Anna, I do like you. A lot. A hella lot. But, I'm scared."
Running his hands through his hair, Emmett growled in frustration as the words lodged in his throat. A warm hand rested on his cheek, the pad of a soft thumb ran along his cheekbone. Anna reassured him that it was okay and to take his time. Warm brown eyes glanced down at him with affection and Emmett raised his head. Fuelled by Alice's encouragement, Emmett took the leap.
In one breath, he unloaded the secret (alongside other 'important' information) of his family. Silence hung over them. He had told her why he was never around when the sun was out, why his touch was so cold, why he struggled to be near her because for some reason, her blood called to him like no other. An alarmed look had crossed her face and whilst he told her there was something alluring about her, Emmett reassured the brunette that he didn't hurt humans. And, he would never hurt her. Dropping her hands, Anna backed away from him as far as the small couch would allow.
"That's a funny one. You're a convincing actor, Emmett. Good joke. You know, if you didn't want to be with me, you could've just said so. I'm an understanding person. I would've respected your decision. I'm not some asshole." Anna rambled. "You didn't have to spin some elaborate joke."
"Anna, I'm being serious. I want to be with you. God, you can't even begin to understand how much I want to be with you but I was afraid of hurting you. Until I saw how well it went for Edward, I-."
"Edward?" Anna asked.
Emmett silently cursed himself.
"Of course. Is that why he invited me here? So, you could carry out this ridiculous prank? I'm not gullible, you know. Sure, maybe I was when I managed to convince myself that perhaps you did like me back. Clearly that was the stupidity talking but I'm not moronic enough to believe vampires exist. Vampires were created because of an ignorance to the decomposition of deceased bodies. They're not real! This is pathetic, Emmett. If you don't want a relationship with a girl, next time, just tell her."
Snatching up her empty bowl, Anna stormed out of Emmett's room. Wincing at the volume of her angry footsteps, she jumped at the sight of the Cullen parents, not expecting them to still be in the kitchen. Apologising for barging in, Anna thanked Esme for lunch before informing them that she had to leave.
"Annabella." Carlisle said, voice calm and soothing. "It may seem far-fetched but Emmett is telling you the truth. We are not a human family. Deep down you know it to be true."
Perturbed by the fact he was aware of her conversation with Emmett, Anna couldn't help her hysterical laugh.
"Are you seriously trying to sell me the same fictitious narrative? I'm sorry but this is insane, Dr Cullen. If you'll please excuse me, I'd like to go home and forget all about the fact that I'm currently the butt of a family joke."
Exiting the kitchen, she grabbed her jacket from the chair Edward had placed it on and reached for the door. Suddenly, a wall of muscle invaded her view and blocked her way. She hadn't even seen or heard him approach. A loud shriek echoed around the white room and she tumbled over her own feet. Expecting to hit the floor, Anna landed in large cold arms that held her close. Vanilla and coconut invaded his senses as Emmett took one last greedy inhale. It may be the last time he indulged himself in her smell. Unshed tears shone in her eyes. Emmett could practically feel the upsetting image searing itself into his brain.
Summoned by the distressed sound, Alice and Jasper rushed down the stairs before Anna could even register that they had been at the top of them. Ashton dragged Rosalie in from the sitting room. Edward entered through the balcony, Bella on his back. The Cullens formed a silent semi-circle as the optimistic family member crumbled to his knees.
"Anna, please. You have to believe me. It's all true. It's how Edward was able to save Bella when-."
Anna whirled around to face her sister. Fuck, Emmett cursed, I said the wrong thing again. Anna's lower lip trembled and Bella saw the pain reflected in her eyes. She hated the fact that her sister was hurting but if she just listened, Anna would experience unconditional happiness.
Instead of yelling at her for keeping secrets, Anna just begged Bella to go home.
"Just listen to them." Bella reasoned. "What? Why are you doing this? Is it because I yelled at you on your first night here? I thought we moved past that. Is this your revenge?"
"It's not revenge, Anna. It's the truth. I want you to be happy."
"Are you listening to yourself right now? The truth? Surely Renée didn't fuck you up that badly."
Bella frowned at her sister's harsh words.
"Could you at least hand me the keys?"
Bella shook her head and asked Anna to just hear them out. By refusing to hand over the keys to the truck, Bella hoped that it would force her sister to stay and listen. If she would just listen, she would see the reality of the existence of the supernatural. Unfortunately, Bella underestimated the determination and sheer stubbornness of her sister.
A large bubble rose in Anna's chest as her sister refused to help. Sweat dampened the back of her blouse as the room got hotter and started to shrink. The walls were closing in on her. She was trapped. She was desperate for fresh air. Exchanging nervous glances, the Cullens couldn't ignore the erratic heartbeat that filled the room. Edward nodded at Jasper. If it had been biologically possible, tears would've rolled down Emmett's face. His hand kept reaching out for his Mate before he thought better of it and clutched his hand back to his body. His body trembled as he sank back to sit on his heels.
Both Anna and Emmett began to feel the tension leaving their bodies. Against her will, Anna's shoulders relaxed and the hysteria she had been feeling ebbed slightly. Still pumping wildly, her heart slowed bit by bit.
"Stop it!" Anna yelled, unsure what was happening. "I don't know what you're doing to me or how you're doing it but stop! I am not calm! I don't want you to force me to be calm. I want you to let me leave!"
Jasper dropped his control over her emotions before nodding once apologetically. Alice indicated that Emmett should move away from the door. Unsure if he should trust the smallest Cullen after the disaster that had just occurred, Emmett looked to Carlisle for guidance. Ever the voice of reason, Carlisle told Emmett that he should let her go.
Hanging his head, the giant man called Anna's name one last time, voice breaking. Not even looking at him, the frightened girl reached for the door handle. Breaking away from the group, Bella darted towards her sister. Somehow, she still thought she could reason with the upset twin.
"Fuck you." Anna hissed, snatching her hand away.
After a moment of quiet, Esme spoke up. "Emmett. Go after her. Make sure she gets home safely but remain hidden."
Sorrow clouded his dark gold eyes. It was rare for the family to see him sad but they had never before seen such devastation. Keeping to the trees so as to avoid being spotted, Emmett caught up to Anna in no time. Impressed by the distance she had covered, he frowned at the sobs that escaped her mouth.
Choking on her own sadness, Anna struggled to breathe. Legs giving out from under her, she landed in a heap on the damp grass. As she struggled for breath, she came to a stop, collapsing into a heap on the damp grass. Whilst she knew sitting on the side of the road wasn't safe, it was better than being in that house.
"So fucking stupid," she muttered to herself, hiccupping through her tears.
Sliding her phone out of her jacket pocket, she dialled the number of the person she could trust not to ask too many questions.
"Ty. I need a lift home. Can you come and get me?"
"Are you crying? Are you hurt?! Where are you? I'm on my way."
A large crack resonated through the forest and Anna flinched at the sound of a tree falling. Emmett stared at the destruction he had caused, trying his hardest not to let out a heart wrenching bellow. Despite being close to her in proximity, he had lost his Mate.