Darkness followed them as they exited the Jeep, crossing the short walk from the end of the driveway to the front door. Every hair on her body was raised as Anna glanced frantically around the yard. Everything was too still. Silence encased her – all the wildlife had slunk away at the presence of the predators. The twins had begun concocting a plan on the journey home so that Edward wouldn't steal them away. The last thing they wanted was for the entire US police force to be on the hunt for the Cullens on the charges of kidnapping.
Constricted by a time limit of fifteen minutes, the twins reached the front door knowing they would have to convince Charlie to let them leave. His life depended on it and it was the one task Anna refused to fail.
"Go away, Edward!" Bella yelled, slamming the door shut in his face after Anna had rushed into the safety of the hallway.
Mentally running through a list of her belongings, Anna tried to decipher which essential items she would need to take with her. If the worst happened, Edward made it quite clear that the twins wouldn't be returning home any time in the near future. Or ever. Ignoring the quizzical look her father shot her, the older girl rushed into her bedroom to give Bella space to do what needed to be done. Emmett produced a large duffel bag and Anna began shoving clothes into it. Cool hands grasped her trembling ones, taking out the crumpled clothes and folding them neatly. In the time it had taken her to shove one article of clothing in the bag, Emmett had folded and neatly placed five.
Raised voices sounded through her door and a tear slid down her cheek. Charlie pleaded with Bella to tell him what was wrong. Brushing the droplets off Anna's cheek, Emmett promised that he would finish packing for. Anna had to go out there and explain why she was leaving also. Digging her nails into the palm of her hand, Anna braced herself for the situation she was about to enter. With a reassuring smile off Emmett, the upset girl followed her family down the stairs.
"Just let me go, Charlie." Bella said, words bitter. "It didn't work out, okay? I really, really hate Forks!"
Frozen, the chief of police watched as his estranged daughter dashed out to her truck. Trembling, Anna reached up and kissed her father's cheek. She would drive Bella to the airport because driving angry was dangerous. As a law-enforcing citizen, Charlie had to agree with her actions.
"We'll hole up in a hotel for the night and then I'll see to it that she gets on the plane safely. Maybe I'll visit that college on the way home. I love you, Dad."
Not giving him to time to argue, Anna hurried after her sister. Her bag was already in the bed of the truck. Clambering into the driver's side, she didn't notice the tear that slid down her father's face as he watched them go.
Backing out of the drive, Anna tried to focus on the road ahead as her eyes started to blur. Sniffling, Bella snuggled into her sister's side. Both of them felt broken inside. Anna jumped when Edward appeared on the side of the car. Insisting that she was capable of driving, she kept one hand on the wheel as the other rubbed at her teary eyes. Using a simple manoeuvre, Edward shuffled Anna so that she was seated on the other side of Bella and he now had control of the truck. Light shone through the back window and Bella turned to see a car tailing them. Ignoring those in the cab with her, Anna watched as the dark scenery passed by. The image of her father watching the two most important people in his life leave him behind was seared into her brain.
Voice shaking, Bella asked if Charlie was safe now. Confirming that the tracker was hunting the truck and not feeding on Charlie, the bronze-haired man forced the truck to move a little faster. A protesting whine came from the old engine. A shriek of surprise filled the cab. All three of them looked out Anna's window to see Emmett's grinning face pressed against the glass. Scowling at him for scaring her, Anna eventually smiled before resting her head against the cool pane. Emmett had that affect on her. When he smiled, she had no choice but to smile back.
Keeping a cheerful façade, Emmett refused to let the guilt of his thoughts show on his face. Sombre as he overheard the thoughts running through Emmett's head, Edward was unable to laugh as his brother kissed the glass where Anna's lips were; his mouth spread as it pushed against the glass.
Before the truck had rolled to a complete stop, marble arms wrapped around Anna's body and rushed her through the front door of the Cullen house. On their feet, the Cullen clan was already prepared to start strategising their next move. Ensuring the twins lived through the night was their utmost priority. A throbbing pain flared up in her hip as Emmett's grip tightened at the sight of Laurent. Cursing when Anna winced slightly, Emmett eased his hold. Apologises flew past his lips but she squeezed his arm to silence him. She wasn't about to break from one grip.
Having exchanged a few whispered words, Alice and Jasper flew up the staircase as they rushed to pack. No one knew how long they would be gone. Either they kept moving until James was dealt with or they returned home with two broken boys and no humans. Breaking out of Ashton's embrace, Rosalie scanned Anna for any sign of injury. Satisfied that she was relatively unharmed, Rosalie's beautiful eyes hardened as they landed on Bella. A snarl ripped from Edward's chest at the sound of the blonde's thoughts.
Baring her teeth at her brother, Rosalie moved to Anna's side so that she was further away from Bella. Her entire family was in danger because Bella was unable to leave vampires alone. In her books, she had every right to be pissed. At the beginning, Edward had done his best to push Bella away but she refused to leave. She seemed to like dabbling with death and Edward had given up resisting her. Even worse, Anna had been dragged along. Friendship had been sufficient enough for Anna but after seeing how happy Edward was with Bella, Emmett had pushed his feelings into becoming something physical. Anna was leaving her father and her friends behind because Bella had forced her into the field where her scent had been inhaled by a maniacal tracker.
Huge metal shutters began sealing the glass wall as soon as Laurent had departed. Anna watched them in wonder. Turning back to the angry blonde, Edward commanded that she trade clothes with Bella, much to her disgust.
"Why should I?" Rosalie hissed, voice full of venom. "What is she to me? Except a menace."
Not in the mood to deal with his volatile sister, Edward pretended as if she wasn't even there and begged Esme instead. Pulling Bella into her arms, Esme rushed upstairs.
"Rose..." Emmett placed one hand on her shoulder pleadingly.
Shaking him off, she turned to Anna regardless with a softer expression. "Come on. I might have something you can borrow."
Similarly to how Esme had done it, Rosalie swung Anna into her arms after gaining her permission. Setting her down on two feet, the vain vampire let out a small chuckle at the expression on Anna's face. Stood in the middle of a ginormous closet, Anna thought she had already died and now she was in heaven. Books might be her true love but clothes came a close second. Most times, she believed her friendship with Jess only existed because they both enjoyed a therapeutic shopping trip. Expressing their anger about rude shoppers over a nice lunch, surrounded by bags, made them feel better about the life problems that plagued them. Jess failed a test, shopping trip. Anna had a crappy shift at work, shopping trip. Boys being idiots, shopping trip. Clothes somehow seemed cheaper than therapy.
Due to the noticeable difference in height between the two girls, Rosalie decided a skirt would be best. Trousers would be too long. Handing Anna a denim mini skirt (well, mini on Rosalie), Rosalie contemplated for a moment before vanishing. She returned with a soft sweater and pulled it over Anna's head after the girl shed her shirt. Inhaling the pine scent, an involuntary smile crept its way onto her face. The grey jumper belonged to Emmett.
"I thought it would be comforting for you. Until you can see each other again."
Grateful for the thoughtful gesture, Anna threw her arms around the tall blonde. The sudden movement surprised them both but Rosalie tentatively hugged her back. The more she smelt like Anna, the better. Changing quickly, Rosalie strutted back down the stairs in sweats that were slightly on the short side but she still looked fashionable. Alice carried the perplexed girl back down the stairs, mindful that no one could see up her skirt.
A large backpack was slung over Emmett's shoulder, and Carlisle was handing small silver cell phones to each family member. Everyone was packed and they would be separating in a few moments. Ashton would hunt down the redhead. Esme and Rosalie would be taking the truck, hoping to distract James long enough that Alice and Jasper could drive the twins far away in the opposite direction. After that, they would guard Charlie and keep him from harm.
The hunting party consisted of Edward, Emmett and Carlisle. They would be in charge of 'dispatching' of the nuisance. Bile rose in Anna's throat once she realised her vampire would be at the forefront of the fighting. As the adrenaline junkie and strongest member of the clan, it was inevitable that Emmett would be eager to get some action. Reminding her to stay out of trouble, Rosalie bid Anna a goodbye before stalking towards the door. She said not a word to the other Swan.
A cool forehead pressed against her own as she was pulled into Emmett's arms. Lips crushed her own in a passionate moment but it was over too soon. Three little words were whispered into her ear and her head was left swimming. Emmett vanished from view. A sob rose in her chest as the dire reality of her situation settled in. If Emmett was willing to risk kissing her – after spending the afternoon telling her how dangerous touches between them were – then her life truly was in danger.
Night ended. Dawn appeared and the weak light stung Anna's dry eyes. Not a single tear had fallen during the duration of the journey despite how many she had already shed that day. Seated in the back, Bella had cried against Alice's shoulder before drifting off to sleep. Anna had been buckled into the passenger's seat. Little interaction took place between Jasper and Anna but he did his best to keep her calm as they drove. Every so often he would reassure her that she and her sister were worth what was happening. Emmett had always been naturally cheerful but Jasper had never seen his brother as happy as he was currently was with Anna in her life. No matter how long they drove or how far they had to travel, it would always be worth it just to see his brothers happy.
Giving him a tired smile, she thanked him but fought against his mood alteration when he tried to force her to sleep. Sitting up, Bella was shocked to see that they had reached Phoenix in one day instead of three. Craning her neck to properly look through the windscreen, Anna smiled as she took in the palm trees and the swimming pools. It had been a while since she had visited Phoenix. At the age of fourteen, Anna was adamant that she didn't want to see her mother anymore. Puberty had provided her with mood swings and the injustice of her mother picking between her children had enraged her. Visits had become less frequent and by the time her sixteenth birthday hit, she had stopped going altogether.
Instead of heading towards the airport, Jasper pulled into a nearby hotel. Bella had drifted back off to sleep so Alice had dragged her from the car before tucking her into the large bed. Not wishing to impose on the couple as they plotted their next move, Anna crawled in next to Bella but her body refused to sleep. Staring up at the dark ceiling, she listened to the soft snores of her sister, grateful they had made it this far. Around three o'clock, Bella shuffled between the sheets causing her sister to turn and face her. Bleary eyed, the brown eyed girls stared at each other. Reaching down, Anna clasped Bella's hand tightly.
"We'll get through this," she promised but the words sounded hollow.
A knock at the door had them pulling about and turning to face the woman who entered. Flitting over to the window, Alice yanked close the curtains Bella had opened. It was highly important that the quartet didn't go outside and didn't let the outside in. They had to do their best to be invisible as it reduced the chances of them being found by the tracker.
Shoving her hair into a haphazard ponytail, Anna avoided looking at her appearance, opting to shuffle out into the living area. A tray of food sat on the coffee table for her. Plucking it up, she moved over to the desk where Jasper was sat and settled down on the floor. There was something about his presence that comforted her even when he wasn't deliberately manipulating her emotions. On the TV screen was the news and Jasper turned away from it to greet Anna with a small smile before turning back towards it. Seated on the desk chair, he was too still. He had yet to ask her how she was faring (like he had done every time she had popped her head out of the door). Something was off. Picking at the food on her tray, she asked the silent man if everything was all right.
"You two have nothing to worry about. You're completely safe here." Jasper reassured after Bella had also voiced her concerns.
Silently chewing on her bread roll, Anna watched Bella overreact because they had yet to hear from Edward. The lack of contact was worrying but Anna trusted that the Cullens knew what they were doing and were fine. Each of them were strong individually but united, they would be unstoppable. One man wouldn't be able to take them down. Worry still coursed through the older twin, though she tried to shove it down. It wasn't that she was worried that Emmett would die but she was worried that she would die. And, Emmett wouldn't be by her side when it happened. She might never have the chance to tell him how she truly felt about him, and the possibility of never having that chance was increasing. With each hour that passed of silence, Anna's anxiety grew.
If James had been caught by now, they would've told us, she fret.
Jasper tried to keep both twins calm but it was hard when one of them resisted. Anna wanted to feel the panic that bubbled in her chest. It was a painful reminder that she was still alive. In order to escape Jasper's soothing attempts, the brown-eyed girl hid herself away in the bathtub with a book and a blanket. Curled up in the tub, Anna wondered how she had gone from drinking with her friends to being the desired drink within the span of a weekend.
Legs tucked beneath her, Anna tried to focus on the book in her lap. When she had spotted the handful of books stowed at the bottom of her bag, she had smiled at how well Emmett knew her. Finally turning the page after she had read it five times, the brunette jumped when Jasper sped over to the bedroom door. As his hand reached the door handle, the door already swung open. Alice stood wide-eyed on the other side.
By the time Anna (with her human pace) had stood up, Alice was plucking a pencil up from the desk. Apparently James had changed course. Pencil scratching across the hotel stationery, Alice began sketching a long, rectangular room. Wooden planks made up the floor and the walls were covered in mirrors. A waist-high golden band wrapped around the length of the room.
"It's the ballet studio." Anna recognised, gesturing for Bella to take a look. "Remember Mom made us take dance lessons during the summer?"
Bella had hated them but for Anna, it had been a fun few hours away from the awkward tension between her and her mother.
"Are you sure it's the same room?"
"Uh, no." Bella responded. "Don't all dance studios look the same?"
When asked if the tracker would have any reason to go there, Bella shook her head. She had been awful at ballet, having been placed in the far back for all of the recitals. On the other hand, Anna had been the star of the summer recitals but hadn't been forced to endure it year round like Bella had. Neither of them had entered the studio in the past ten years. Dance lessons were nothing but a distant memory now.
After giving Jasper the location of the studio, Bella borrowed the small phone and snuck into the bedroom to call her mother. Shaking her head, Anna rejected the offer to speak to her as well.
"She's asleep." Alice said after a few moments.
Anna could see her lips moving but Alice spoke too quietly for the human to hear. Humming, Jasper glanced over at Anna, a crease forming in his brow as he spoke to his Mate.
"And she hasn't slept for more than an hour or two since the night of the game."
Concern laced his tone and Alice smiled at the protective role the blond had adapted to. The scent of Anna burned his throat and it was a struggle to be near but he felt a compelling urge to protect her. He loved Edward but he had bonded more with Emmett and his brother had entrusted him with the care of his human.
Fascinated by History, Anna had peppered Jasper with questions about the civil war during their first day at the hotel. Initially disgusted that Jasper had been a Confederate soldier, Anna became understanding when he explained that it was easier to be on the side that meant he fought with his father and brothers, rather than against them. Over the years, Anna and Bella had done their fair share of fighting each other but she would never be able to attack her in a situation that would result in her own death. Anna would give her life in order to protect Bella. As he spoke, Anna inhaled each word with avid fascination. It was safe to say he had grown to care deeply for the girl, which is why he was so worried by her desire to avoid sleep and reject food.
A soft yawn escaped Anna's mouth and the vampires exchanged a glance. Her body needed sleep but her mind refused to let her. Eyelids growing heavy, they fluttered shut and Anna's head drooped forward. The grip on her book went slack. Glad that he had finally been successful in coercing her into sleep, Jasper let his body relax. Unfortunately, just as her breathing began to even out, the door to the bedroom clicked open and her head shot up.
Resisting the urge to glower at Bella for waking her sister, Jasper informed the newcomer that Alice was sketching the room with the VCR. This time she could see it in the light and thus more details were produced. A square room had been drawn onto the paper and Bella squinted at it before correcting the location of the phone. When Alice asked if the room looked familiar, Anna shook her head. Bella, on the other hand, admitted that it was her mother's home. Neither twin was surprised that Anna didn't recognise it; she hadn't been there in so long and the room had changed numerous times since.
Oblivious to the schemes of her sister, Anna bounced restlessly in her seat. She was eager to see her... um, Emmett again. In the first moment they had alone, Anna would finally confess the full extent of her feelings for him. Only a small amount of time had passed since their first kiss but the fear of their separation had only intensified the way she felt for him. The minutes ticked away and as his arrival drew nearer, Anna practically buzzed. A smile teased the corner of Jasper's lips as he watched her shift in her chair. Red seeped into her cheeks when she noticed she was being watched, apologising because he could no doubt feel her excitement.
On the arrival board, the numbers changed so instead of the Cullen's flight being thirty minutes away, they were only twenty. Emmett was only twenty minutes away.
"I think I'll eat now." Bella said abruptly.
Mentally, she cursed her sister when Anna wished to come with her. The plan she was attempting to enact just got trickier. Thankfully, Alice hadn't questioned when Bella requested that Jasper join them instead. He would be able to calm Bella's nerves, and Anna was immediately relaxed around him. As the realisation of seeing Emmett soon sunk in, Anna felt the fatigue and hunger she had pushed away hit her all at once. She staggered slightly but all she had to do was hold on for twenty minutes. Emmett would wrap his arms around her and she could sleep, knowing she was safe.
Feigning a lack of interest in the first few cafés, Bella came to a stop outside the ladies room. She wanted to scream in frustration when Anna skipped along beside her. This wasn't part of the plan. Knowing she had no other choice otherwise Jasper would catch them, Bella begged Anna to be quiet and grabbed her hand. Bursting through the exit door on the other side of the bathroom, the twins sprinted into the elevators. Black spots wormed their way into Anna's vision as her body began faltering but her feet continued to pound across the floor. She refused to leave her sister, who was clearly attempting to do something idiotic. Praying that the end result would ensure everyone they loved were safe, Anna clambered onto the shuttle after Bella. As they pulled up outside the Hyatt, the twins were lucky to find that an empty cab already resided by the curb and they sidled into it.
"Would you like to explain what the hell we're doing?" Anna hissed, voice lowered so the cabbie didn't overhear their conversation.
"We're going to save Mom."
"Bella," seethed Anna through gritted teeth. "I'm going to need more of an explanation than that."
In one fell swoop, Bella explained that James had abducted their mother and had demanded the twins meet him at the ballet studio in exhange for her safety. Bella had managed to barter her life and keep Anna out of it in exchange for Edward not coming after James for revenge. Visibly irritated, Bella revealed that Anna had undone her plan to keep Anna safe by following her into the bathroom.
"Yes, well, I still need the bathroom." Anna spat, furious that her sister hadn't consulted her on the matter. Not only had kept it from Anna but she was willingly to sacrifice herself without saying goodbye.
"Then you can stay behind at the house."
Nostrils flaring, Anna swirled in her seat and her hand connected with Bella's cheek.
Wild eyes scanned the crowd of people as Jasper hurried back to Alice in a fast but humanly acceptable manner. Passers-by glanced at him bizarrely yet he didn't notice a single one. Desperation rolled off him in waves. How was he supposed to tell his brothers what had happened? How could he face his family knowing he had failed? Rosalie and Esme had successfully protected Charlie. Ashton had tracked the redhead until she disappeared from Forks. Jasper had been tasked with keeping the twins safe and they had both disappeared.
All morning Bella's emotions had been skewered but Jasper had been too distracted by the Anna's joy to pay much attention to deciphering them. He had been distracted and it had cost them all.
Spotting her Mate, Alice rushed over to the guilty man. She had seen them leave the moment the Swans had exited the bathroom but she wasn't able to go after them. If Jasper and Alice had run at human pace, they still would've been too late. If they had used the full extent of their speed, they would've exposed their entire species to the airport full of humans.
Making his way through the crowd, Edward froze after catching the panic and chaos in Alice's mind. Unable to hear thoughts, Emmett was left in the dark as he propelled his immobile brother forward. However, his enhanced hearing meant it was impossible to not hear the words Jasper spoke. Cowered in the shadow of a massive pillar, Jasper didn't wait until they were close enough to share the news. He couldn't face them as he said it.
"I lost them."