Warm lights hung from the edge of the roof as the young couples eagerly made their way to the entrance of the large hall. A large red carpet ushered them towards the gazebo, small paper lanterns decorating either side of the makeshift aisle. Edward forced Bella to stand still and smile as the photographer captured the moment forever. Above them, a large sign informed them that they were entering 'Monte Carlo'. The strip of red continued as the young couple made their way into the hall.
Lights had been strung from every crack and crevice inside as well. One room held a makeshift casino where a few people were placing bets or witnessing their classmates lose some money. A blur of vivid scarlet flashed past Bella as Edward ushered her inside. Rosalie twirled across the floor and back into Ashton's awaiting arms. His black suit fit him impeccably and the bow tie around his neck was the exact shade of his Mate's dress. Bella's eyes widened at the amount of chest the plunging neckline showed, and she pitied all the other girls in the room. Amusement flickered across Edward's face when he followed Bella's gaze to Jessica – who was openly gaping at the blonde beauty.
Arm securely around Bella's waist to help her navigate through the crowds with her cast, Edward guided her to where the rest of the family was. Jasper dipped Alice, causing a few gasps to sound from those who stood on the fringes of the crowd. Glancing around the room, Bella spotted Emmett standing to one side. His dark suit had been paired with a black tie. An emerald pocket square glittered under the soft lights as he bounced from his heels to his toes in time with the music. Unsure whether she was relieved or dismayed by the absence of her sister, Bella was saved the trouble of dwelling on it for too long when Edward pulled her onto the dance floor.
"She's here," he said.
At times, she forgot that Edward was unable to read her mind because he seemed to be so attune with her thoughts. However, he was just capable of deciphering the emotions in her eyes. She had noticed the absence of a woman on Emmett's arms and immediately started scanning the room for any sign of the new vampire.
"She's over there dancing with Tyler."
Resisting the itching urge to deliberately turn around and look, Bella casually asked, "Carlisle let her come?"
She knew, however, that even Carlisle would've been hard pressed to stop Anna from doing something that she wanted. Especially now that her stubbornness was heightened.
"Emmett didn't give him much choice." Edward subtly spun them around so that they inched closer to the other end of the room. "I don't think I've ever heard him use so many words in one go."
Emmett smiled snarkily at his brother as they passed, flipping him the bird. Edward's chest rumbled with laughter immediately causing Bella's heart to flutter at the sound. In all seriousness, he understood why his brother had fought so hard for Anna to be here - even if he didn't believe the risk was worth it. She had one year left of High school and perhaps another year after that where she would still be able to see her friends. After that, they would start to age and she would remain stuck in the body of a seventeen-year-old for all eternity. Every moment she had left with them was precious and worth taking.
The bronze-haired vampire knew the moment Bella had spotted her twin due to the audible gasp that left the human's mouth. For months, Anna's dress had been hanging from the curtain pole in her bedroom. When Tyler spun her under his arm, the skirts of Anna's dress fluttered out. Instead of the royal blue fabric that Bella had looked at for the past few months, a deep emerald colour clung to the blinding pallor of her skin. Expensive fabric had been tailored to fit her curves and a flash of cream was visible through the high slit on the right side.
Alice must've gotten to her, thought Bella, claiming that the cheap blue was no longer befitting the newest member of the Cullen family. A smile was plastered on her rouge lips as Tyler whispered something in her ear. A laugh spilled out of her mouth; a foreign musical sound that was so very different from the loud gasp that had previously been Anna's familiar laugh. She seemed happy. Bella hadn't seen her happy in the past month and a half.
A warm hand pressed gently on the small of her back and her cold hand was clasped in Tyler's dark one. Grinning at her best friend, she ignored the thumping of his heartbeat and the allure of his pulsating veins. This was her best friend. She used to think about how nice his aftershave smelt, not how intoxicating his blood was.
"I'm going to miss you, you know?" Anna whispered as he glided them past Jess and Mike.
"Of course you will. I'm the light of your life."
Anna snorted but her smile dropped soon after. "I mean it, Ty."
"Shut up, little monster. You're acting as if we're never going to see each other again after Senior Year. We still have time together. Now, stop talking and let me dip you."
"Don't drop me," she warned, content to let a cheerful mood fall over them both once more.
"Have I ever done that before?"
Pressed into Emmett's side, Anna smiled politely as Jess continued to blabber on about Mike. He had picked her up at the door. He had allowed her mother to take pictures of them both. Then he'd taken her for a romantic dinner at the diner but he had yet to kiss her. What did that mean? Is he still hung up on Bella? Why would he go with her if he didn't truly want to?m
To his credit, Emmett allowed his date to stand there and pretend to sip her champagne whilst he navigated the whirlwind of emotions and questions coming from Jess. Reassuring her that Mike was most likely nervous, Emmett joked that he'd have to kiss her by the end of the night or he was blind. Warmth blossomed in her heart as Anna watched the man she had grown to love talk 'girl' with one of her closest friends. Pressing a kiss to the large bicep (she couldn't reach his cheek despite the heels Alice had forced her into), Anna snuggled in closer hoping that it would block out the cacophony pounding against her skull.
She could hear everything now that she wasn't forcing herself to focus on one thing at a time. It was mentally exhausting trying to block at everything and yet being forced to listen to everything was overpowering. She could hear the conversation of everyone in the room – hundreds of voices overlapping each other, shouting to be heard over the thumping music. Chewing sounds echoed from the room where the buffet was being held and the rhythmic beating of human hearts chased her regardless of which room she stood in. Whilst her restraint was unheard of, her other senses were being attacked from the overwhelming crowd that Emmett had plunged her into. However, it was a good trial run for her to get a sense of what going back to Forks High would be like with her newfound abilities.
Sensing the tension in the brunette's body, Emmett excused them both with a blinding smile at Jess and escorted the Newborn through the crowd and into the fresh air of the night. All the voices followed them as he hurried her outside and the furrow of her eyebrows didn't cease. Holding the door to the sleek car he had chosen for the night, he smiled as she thanked him and climbed into the car. Ensuring the emerald skirts were safely inside the car, he shut the door for her and loped around to the driver's side.
With one hand on the steering wheel, Emmett drove Anna back home with the other hand resting gently on her knee. Inside the Swan household, Charlie sat watching television, waiting for his daughters to make it safely home. Promising that he would return once Charlie had gone to sleep, Emmett pressed a kiss to her cheek and opened the front door to her. Charlie greeted the larger boy before wishing him a safe journey home. Shutting the bedroom door behind her, Anna pulled down the zip of her dress and let it pool around her feet. As she searched for some comfortable clothes, her lips twisted into a smile as the scent of Emmett lingered in the air.
Hands clasped tightly, the young (immortally young) couple stood in the midst of a vast forest. Both of them had traded in their Prom outfits in favour of more comfortable clothes – ones that they wouldn't miss too much if they got ripped or muddy. Racing each other through the throng of thick trees, neither one feared they would be spotted as they covered by midnight darkness. Through the dense branches, the newest addition to the Cullen clan could still spot the distant lights of her house. She had left her bedroom lamp on, which allowed her to clearly see the photo frames littering her walls. Charlie had fallen asleep in the living room again, the TV still showing the sports programme he had been watching. Once again, she was astonished by the clarity of her new eyesight. For the past five years, she had needed to squint slightly to see things that were in the distance. Now, she could see farther than she needed to. They were deep within the forest and yet she felt as if she were merely stood on the outskirts of it; treading the line between woods and her backyard.
Thick arms wound around her midsection, holding her close against the hard planes of a muscular body. Distracted from obsessing over her newfound gifts, the intoxicating scent of him washed away the tension in her body. Since the moment they had first spoke, Emmett's presence seemed to comfort her. Regardless of her mood or the situation, he made her feel better. When she had been horrified by the true nature of his species, she had run from him. But, when he snuck into her room to explain, she had been unable to run because she knew she trusted him.
"How do you do that?" Anna asked, voice soft as if she were speaking to herself.
Anna sighed, despite the action being unnecessary, as she realised once more that she could never say a private thought aloud.
"I never wanted this," she said, changing the topic. "I didn't want to be one of you but now I'm stood here with you and I can hear everything. It's overpowering me, Em. I have to smell everything, good and bad. Because of that, I have to smell how good my friend's blood is and I have to resist the urge to hurt them. My entire being screams at me that I'm supposed to eat them. I wanted to be human. I wanted to get sick and I wanted to try new cuisine's. I wanted to get married and have children. I wanted to grow old and I wanted to die. And stay dead. I never feared those things!"
Rage violently bubbled up in her, exploding before she could stop it. Venom scorched through her veins so as to heighten her emotions and she lashed out at the nearest tree, unable to control her own actions. The trunk splintered instantly and bark ricocheted in various directions. These days, even her own actions didn't belong to her but to the vampiric venom that robbed her of her own life. Emmett ducked, narrowly avoiding the chunk of tree that wanted to lodge itself into his cheek.
Spiralling downwards into her dark emotions, all the immortal Swan could think about was how this wasn't fair. In fact, she had to squash the desire to stamp her foot like a petulant toddler. All she wanted was to go to college with her friends, then get a good job, find a nice man to have a normal marriage with, raise kids and then watch as her children raised their own babies. It was the circle of life. Except one wrong decision had quickly broken that circle.
Part of Anna blamed her sister for all the pain that she was experiencing. If Bella had just listened to the Cullens and stayed put instead of running off to James, Anna never would've been pulled into going with her. She would never be this. All she had wanted was to pee and then be reunited with Emmett. They had been reunited – in death.
"Emmett, I don't think I can cope with it all. I just want it to stop," she whimpered, voice wavering as if she were about to cry.
Except she wasn't because she couldn't. Nor could she breathe, or sleep. Nothing remotely human was familiar to her anymore. Family dinners had become a household event without her; it had become her mission to escape the house before dinner was served. There was no way for her to explain why she wasn't eating the food before her so she avoided the interaction altogether. Watching the television with her father was no longer a possibility because he would notice one day that she was too still or too abnormal. As a result, she spent less time with Charlie and more time hiding in her bedroom, pretending to be doing homework. Bella's presence angered her greatly, leading to Anna avoiding her like the plague. It wasn't just the changes to her body that she had to adjust to; her entire family life had been knocked off kilter.
"Sweetheart, you're not alone in this. Every one of us felt this way when we were Turned. When you're a vampire, everything is height-."
"I know! I have heard this speech thousands of times. Just because it's normal for vampires doesn't mean that reminding me of that is helpful!
Guilt would undoubtedly plague her later once she had calmed down but for now, directing her anger towards someone was relieving the crushing stress pressing down on her. She felt as though there was a noose around her neck and each sound/movement/ or person she heard was only pulling the rope tighter. Rather than being irritated by the fact that he was being used as an emotional punching bag, Emmett found her display of annoyance endearing. Watching her attack the foliage felt similar to the time a baby cub tried to attack him. There was the possibility for danger but overall, it was both adorable and amusing.
"Then maybe you need to start listening to us. Control over your emotions takes time, as does the bloodlust. However, you can learn to control what you choose to hear and see. It just takes a little bit of focus."
"You can do that?"
Moving so that he stood behind her, he twisted her body away from the house so that all she could see was dark green leaves. Straightening her spine, Emmett told the confused girl to stand very still and focus on each individual sound; the swaying of the leaves, the footfalls of the deer, the soft chirping of birds.
"Mentally turn your hearing away from those sounds and focus on the conversation between Bella and Edward."
Anna's head tilted slightly as she attempted to focus on the voices of her family. Grinning at how adorable she was, the golden-eyed man didn't dare to move. Unfortunately, his hand (which was now warm to her) was still pressed firmly on the small of her back. Unable to block out his touch, Anna arched into it slightly. Emmett reminded her to focus and ignored the desire to pull her in (or tease her). After all, that's not why they were there. Trying her hardest to block out all other sounds, her nails dug into her palms as her frustration grew.
After a long second had passed, Anna growled. "It's not working!"
"You just need to be patient."
Emmett laughed. The sound warmed her. Black eyes connected with his honey-coloured ones as she turned in his arms. Lacing her fingers around his neck, her body fell still and her eyes fluttered shut. Once more, she tried to hear only what she intended to listen to. The world fell silent for a moment before she picked up the faintest sounds. No other noise echoed in her ears and Anna jumped in surprise.
"I did it!" She squealed. "All I could hear were the birds and nothing else!"
"Were you aiming for the birds?"
"Still progress!" Emmett whooped, sweeping her up into a hug.
Initially, Rosalie had offered her assistance in helping Anna gain some control over her emotions and bloodlust. Whilst Anna knew that Rosalie would refuse to give up until the Newborn was fully restrained, the eldest Swan twin knew that Emmett would celebrate all her achievements. No matter how little or inconsequential they may seem to others, Emmett treated her accomplishments as though they were all monumental. Rosalie would most likely have reduced Anna to dry tears.
One of Emmett's hands absentmindedly started fiddling with Anna's curls, bringing a smile of contentment to her face.
"This probably sounds insane but I feel like I can do anything with you by my side. I wasn't able to block out sounds until I was facing you. I mean, you make me feel so much better about this crappy situation."
An uneasy chuckle left Emmett's mouth as he rubbed the back of his neck.
"There's a reason for that."
Anna raised a quizzical brow.
"So I might not have mentioned everything about vampires. There's sorta, kinda, maybe one tiny detail that I omitted."
Bouncing on the balls of his feet, the nervous vampire tried to decipher the best way to word his confession. Unfortunately, he knew that regardless of how many times he rehearsed or how hard he thought it through, the words were going to come fumbling out of his mouth in a ball of idiocy.
"You know that when we die, we're practically frozen in time?" He waited for her to nod before continuing. "Well, that means that we never change. Um, so when we - you know, fall in love, that's it for us. We can't find another person. Falling in love doesn't even really take time, to be honest, because if the person is mortal then their blood calls out of us."
Anna looked at him blankly.
"Right, okay. How do I word this? Oh! Soulmates! In romance novels, people find their soulmate - the one person they're destined to be with. Their other half. Vampires have Mates. They're drawn to each other from the first moment they meet. That love then lasts forever; until the end of their existence. If one dies, the other is doomed to feel that hm grief forever. We can't move. Hence why most of us kill ourselves after losing a Mate."
Anna's face contorted into horror, making Emmett realise that what was supposed to be a romantic explanation was fast becoming morbid. Knowing that there was the perfect person out there for you and you could find them as a vampire was adorable but being forced to suffer without them broke her heart. If Emmett ever perished, she knew she would - Wait!
"I'm constantly aware of your presence. I know if you're ten miles away or right behind me. I'm aware of every movement you take, every sound you make and every fake breath you breathe, even when I try to block you out. You're always there, Emmett. Even in my head. You can calm me down just by simply brushing my arm with yours..." said Anna, piecing it together.
"You're my Blood Singer, Anna Swan." Emmett finally admitted. "You've called out to me since the moment I first stepped foot inside Forks High. I tried so hard to leave you be but eventually I couldn't resist you. You're my Mate, for as long as you'll have me. And if you don't want me then I'll lea-."
Soft lips claimed his, cutting off his panicked ramble and calming his frayed nerves. Petite hands wound into his dark locks, pulling gently. A reassurance that he hasn't fucked it all up. Muscular arms wound around her waist, pulling her body flush against his. A tongue swiped her bottom lip and she pulled away, rather than opening up. As she pulled back, Anna noticed that the eyes staring into hers had darkened significantly. Lips brushing his as she spoke, Anna whispered the five words Emmett would never forget.
"I'm your Mate, Emmett. Forever."