A/N: Hi everyone! Wow, I'm blown away by the awesome reception of this fic! Thanks a lot for all of you favoriting, following, and reading! And of course, my heartfelt thanks for my lovely serial reviewers: traceybuie, CoppertopJ, BridieM, Myketje, CullenCherries and ChaoticH!

I'm glad you liked the first chapter! It was a real challenge for me to start this way, this... hard (pun intended, even though I'm blushing in front of my screen now...). And it was so important for this fic that it happened this way! I hope you'll follow me on this ;) Now, this chapter is starting to unravel the plot. But not everything... XD

Enjoy, see you next weekend, and please review!

Chapter 2


I was utterly and completely lost. And worried out of my mind. I had watched Bella attack Emmett with much more strength and aggression than ever before, and then she had collapsed in my arms. I dimly remembered Jasper telling me that she needed blood. And after that... nothing, until I rose up from the ground of the eastern side of Isle Esme, Bella next to me and the both of us stark naked.

Bella told me about the capybaras, that I couldn't even remember having hunted, but she was hiding something from me. Something huge and disturbing. And the wound on her neck... It had horrified me. It truly had looked like I had bitten her through human flesh to drink her blood. It was deep and gaping, and full of my venom. I couldn't understand why I would do this to her while making love. That had to hurt terribly, and the mere thought of her hurting was abhorrent to me and made me cringe.

And Bella was keeping her shield up, not allowing me any access to her thoughts. She didn't look traumatized, but she definitely looked troubled, and I didn't like it one bit. I lived and breathed for her and her well-being, and knowing that maybe I had done something bad to her truly upset me.

But those anxious thoughts had to be pushed on the backburner because, for what I hoped would be the last time, her father was brought back into her life. And according to the glimpse I caught in Jasper's mind, the news weren't good.

"Bella," I said, taking my mate's hands through the makeshift toga she had draped around herself with the blanket. "It's all right, love. We'll go hear what Charlie wants. But you don't owe him anything."

"I know," she whispered, looking lost, her gaze unfocused. "Edward, I..."

She stopped speaking abruptly when a tremendous shiver shook her body, at the same time that I shook from one too. The electricity flying between us became sparks as we gripped hands harder, and a most peculiar feeling shot from our entwined hands throughout my whole body. Then suddenly everything stopped, and I was left panting next to my breathless mate, wondering what had happened. "What was that?" I panted.

"No idea," Bella's shaky voice reached me, making me frown in even more worry. But I winced, assaulted by the mental voices of my siblings. "Edward?" she asked in concern, squeezing my hands.

"It's okay, love. But we must go back, right now." Indeed, my loud pixie of a sister was yelling in my mind to haul our asses back to the house. Jasper was distraught, and Rose was on the warpath.

We started to run again, and she leaned into me, sighing in relief. I felt relief flooding me too. She still loved me and trusted me, so I couldn't have been that bad, could I? But Jasper was feeling my uneasiness, putting him on edge, and Rosalie definitely wanted to tear Bella apart for hurting her mate. Emmett had already forgiven Bella, having healed right away, and was thinking about new ways of provoking her. That I wouldn't allow. Not when it could provoke such unforeseen consequences. I needed to know what had happened, and I needed to prevent it from happening again.

Oh, I hope they're all right, Esme was thinking as we reached the house and breezed into the living room. Carlisle was wondering why Bella was still way stronger than any of us, and Alice...

"There you two are!" she exclaimed as we stopped next to Esme and Carlisle's couch, frowning deeply at us but choosing to ignore the crude clothing that she had provided for us. "What happened?"

I couldn't answer that, so I just shook my head, frowning at the disaster of a 70's medley that she was singing in her head to keep me out. Bella scowled. "Not now," she stated firmly. "What about Charlie now?"

"Hell, no!" Rosalie shouted, out loud and in her head, making me flinch. She planted herself in front of Bella, who balled her fists. I bared my teeth in warning at my sister, who ignored me. "Why did you hurt Emmett? You almost beheaded him!"

"Babe, it's all right," Emmett said soothingly, coming behind her, but she stepped away from his open arms. "I probably deserved it."

"You did," Bella growled, her darkening eyes riveted in Rose's angry ones. "And I never wanted to hurt him, Rose. I just... snapped."

"How so?" Rose scoffed, crossing her arms. "You're almost always very controlled, Bella, but I could've sworn I saw a newborn back there."

"I don't know what to tell you, Rose," Bella shrugged, but her voice vibrating with anger. "I saw red, literally. And I won't ask for apologies from Emmett, since I won't apologize. But enough is enough, brother bear," she warned him. "No more teasing. I'm not in control."

"What do you mean, you're not in control?" Carlisle asked, eyebrows furrowing in concern.

He took three hasty steps towards us, and was about to grab Bella's wrist when three things happened. Bella smacked his hand away just as Jasper yelled "No, Carlisle, don't!" Then my mate shot Carlisle a bewildered and apologetic look while I was... growling. I couldn't help it, but seeing Carlisle reach for my mate made me want to... attack him. I was quite stunned to find myself crouching defensively in front of my father, Bella behind me, snarling in warning, my teeth bared and venom dripping from my mouth. I felt... feral.

"Edward?" Carlisle breathed in bewilderment, eyes wide.

"Back away, Carlisle," Jasper ordered him with a calm voice, coming closer to us. I zeroed in on him as he stopped two yards away from Bella and me, palms raised and outwards. He was probably trying to diffuse the tension, but it wasn't working. "Bella," he huffed in exasperation. "Let me in."

"No," my mate growled in my back, one of her arms snaking around my waist. "What's happening to us?"

I didn't quite understand her question, but I somehow knew that our behaviour was... weird, to say the least. Why was I feeling threatened by my family? Carlisle had retreated back to the wall of the front door, keeping Esme behind him, and Emmett was standing protectively in front of Rosalie, who had lost her scowl and was eyeing us with concern. Jasper, shielding Alice, ran a hand through his blonde mane of hair. Alice, on the other hand, was now oddly silent, her features closed.

"Is anybody going to answer me?" Bella snarled, making my family jump. "What is happening to us?"

"I don't know, darlin'," Jasper finally admitted, watching us warily as I pulled Bella into my side, my arm around her waist. I couldn't help but lean over her and inhale her sweet scent, grounding me, making my feral reactions abate. I needed her, so much. But not sex. I needed her.

"Bella," Carlisle said with a soft voice, his gaze riveted on my mate, which made me bristle in anger. Bella was mine. "Tell us what happened after Edward carried you away."

I growled louder at the head of my coven, who looked startled, and a little afraid. I couldn't hear his thoughts at the moment, but that didn't worry me. I wouldn't let him near my mate. I wouldn't let him steal her away from me.

"Carlisle, take Esme in your arms," Jasper ordered him as he wrapped Alice in his. "Emmett, same thing with Rose. Show Edward that we're all already and happily mated, and that we're not a threat to him and Bella."

All the vampires around us shot him baffled looks, but did as he said. And soon, through my fuzzy brain addled with possessiveness, I saw Carlisle and Esme embrace tenderly, and recognized them. My parents, I thought warmly. I saw Emmett and Rosalie locked in a tight embrace, even kissing lovingly. Em, Rose. And then I saw the blonde soldier and the small pixie. Jazz, Ali. I straightened from my crouch as Bella, who had been rubbing my back for the last minutes, leaned into my chest and kissed me on my throat. My mate. Bella.

I enveloped her in my arms, kissing her face and hair, and gently rubbing her back too. She started to purr at the same time that I did, and we stayed standing in each other's arms, purring and bonding. I was slowly coming back into my own mind. I was Edward Cullen, not a wild animal. "What happened?" I asked lowly in Bella's ear. "What's happening to me, love?"

"I don't know, Edward," she said with a barely contained sob, her hands gripping the blanket around me harder in my back. "God, I don't know."

I squeezed her against me, wanting to comfort her. I was there for her, even though I didn't understand all that was happening. How could a simple holiday morning turn into this?

"Edward? Bella?" Alice's tentative voice rose in the silence, and I pulled away from my mate with a sigh. I focused on my little sister, starting to hear her thoughts again, but she was translating the Bible in Hindi. And that, even for a vampire, would take some time.

"I'm sorry," I said, speaking first and addressing my family, but most of all Carlisle. "I don't know why I reacted like this, and... I just don't know," I admitted, Bella's hand grabbing mine tightly.

"Don't sweat it, Ed," Emmett said before Carlisle could speak. "And what happened is my fault to begin with. I shouldn't've provoked Bella. But, bro..." he trailed off, unsure of what to say, thinking that maybe I had become crazy.

"I don't feel crazy, Em," I answered his thoughts, making him grimace. "But I don't quite feel myself either. I feel... this strong urge to protect my mate, at all costs."

"And Bella, you told us that you're not in control," Carlisle said softly, taking care of looking mostly in my direction, his gaze only flickering on Bella.

But I felt better now. I knew that Carlisle wouldn't take Bella away from me. He loved Esme, and she adored him. The two of them were still clinging to each other. And Esme was particularly worried about us. I gave her a reassuring smile, and she smiled faintly, a little relieved.

"No, I'm not," Bella confirmed grimly. "Edward is on edge too. But the hell if I know why."

"Now that you've removed your shield, I can read your emotions," Jasper said, Alice still tucked under his arm, but they looked less nervous. "And they're all over the place, for both of you."

"I don't know what happened after I grabbed Bella," I said seriously, racking my brains again but coming up empty. "I don't remember."

"You..." Emmett started, but Bella cut him with a snarl.

"No! I'll talk to Edward about it. In private," she insisted, shooting daggers at Emmett who recoiled slightly at Bella's fierceness. "We'll talk about it, and then we'll try to understand the whys and hows. Now, Jazz, Alice, you wanted us here. Why did Seth call?"

Alice was still strangely silent, and I couldn't make anything out of her poker face or her thoughts. But she winced when Bella focused on her. "Spill, pixie!" Bella demanded with her new growl, one that was so unlike her that even I jumped.

"Bella, you and Edward need to talk. Like, right now," Alice said, surveying us with concern. "But yes, Seth called. We may have a situation in Forks."

"What?" Bella exclaimed, her thoughts still closed off to me, making me mad with worry. "In Forks? Seth lives in New York!"

"He gave in to Leah's pleas, and is about to move to Seattle," Alice said somberly. "He was offered an important pay rise and a more interesting job in UW Hospital Center. But more importantly, Leah found the perfect grounds for Britney's future daycare, right next to their new house. So they're moving. But they're currently on holidays in Forks, and he tried to reach you because they... "

She hesitated, and I literally felt Bella's anger through our joined hands. "They what?" Bella yelled, and I took her in my arms again, wanting to calm her. Amazingly, she responded to my touch, calming immediately. Jasper shot me an incredulous look, but I couldn't care less about what he was thinking. Bella was my only priority.

Keep her calm, Edward, Alice thought, before taking a deep breath. "Well, the Quileutes may be the targets of some... hostile vampires."

"Hostile vampires?" Bella repeated with a sneer. "What's that supposed to mean? Every vampire is a hostile one for the wolves!"

"Bella," Carlisle said, approaching us at last, Esme in tow. "Please sit down."

He gestured at the couch in front of us, and I led my wife to it, making her sit next to me. But she scrambled to my lap and took my wrists, wrapping my hands around her. Better, I heard briefly from her before her mind closed off again. I didn't know if I was supposed to hear that, but I relaxed too. Having my mate in my arms was the best thing that had happened today.

My family took seats on the couches around us, and Carlisle sat forward, his hand in Esme's, seeking reassurance. I had a feeling that we were on board for a not-so-smooth ride. "There's something we didn't tell you two," he addressed Bella and me with an apologetic face. "When we came back from Italy, Felix and I kept in touch, like Marcus. The issue was, and still is, Caius."

"What about him?" Bella asked, sounding calmer but still not fully her usual composed self. "He's trouble?"

"Well, he wasn't at the beginning," Carlisle explained. "He even tried animal blood. But two months ago, he rebeled against Jane, Felix and Othella, and left Volterra with Athenodora. He said that he wouldn't recognize their leadership anymore, that he was now the sole leader of the Volturi, and that the old ways would be restored. That the rightful order would be restored."

"He still drinks human blood," Bella said, a little aggravated. "That does not surprise me. But what does it have to do with anything?"

Esme spoke up, to our surprise. "It has everything to do with it, Bella dear," she said gently. "Because right before leaving, Caius swore that he would take revenge on the ones responsible for this 'disaster'," she quoted with a grimace. "Felix guessed that he meant us, so he called us to warn us."

"But Caius can't find us," I said, realization dawning on me. It was Aro's schemes all over again.

"He wants to lure us back to Forks," Bella guessed, exhaling heavily.

Alice winced, and I knew that something bad was coming. "He tried, but we knew all about it already. The Volturi knew about it, since it's what they did two years ago. So Jane ordered the guard to go to Forks and stop Caius, without telling us. She sent five guards. But what she didn't know is that Caius has rallied some troops around him. Hardcore vampires who like to kill humans, and don't accept the new spreading vegetarian diet," she developed, and I felt Bella's anger and anguish in my body again. It was very strange. But I tried to soothe her, kissing the back of her neck, and she melted under my touch, her anger abating. Jasper shot me another weird look, but I ignored him.

"So Caius and his minions went to Forks two days ago," Alice went on, and Bella tensed.

"But the Quileutes... None of them phases anymore!" Bella exclaimed with a worried tone.

"Sam and Jacob phased back in emergency," Jasper said with a wince, eyeing Bella carefully. "Caius and company attacked them while they were in the woods with their children. They phased to protect them. And they didn't know about the Volturi guards keeping an eye on them, but fortunately they saw that some of the vampires had golden eyes, and that they were attacking the red-eyed ones, protecting them. One of the guards even saved Jacob's youngest son, at the expense of his life."

Bella shivered in my arms, and I felt a powerful emotion rising in me. I knew that Caius was a despicable old vampire, but now he was just a bitter monster.

"What happened then?" Bella inquired, her voice wavering. "Are...?"

"Two Volturi guards lost their life," Carlisle said heavily. "Sam was hurt, but he's already healed. The children were rattled, but the problem is that Daniel and Lynn, Jacob's and Sam's first borns, are now showing signs of having triggered their wolf gene. They're fourteen and fifteen."

My heart sank. We had left Forks, never to return, to prevent something like that from happening. I was appalled, and so was my mate.

"Tell me that Caius is dead," Bella growled, her anger back in full force. Rosalie shot her an appreciative look, and Emmett looked gleeful, sensing a battle coming.

"He isn't," Alice sighed, running a hand over her face. "He lost three vampires, but he still has five or six with him."

"They're gone for now," Jasper added. "But they'll come back. Caius knows that it's the best way to make us go back to Forks."

"And Seth asked for us," Esme said, her voice tight with concern. "Because in addition to all that, Bella, Charlie is missing."

"Missing?" Bella repeated, wanting to sound unconcerned but failing miserably. "Is he even alive?"

"He is, as far as I know," Alice said, shooting me an apologetic glance as she finally let me see her visions. In a blur, I saw Caius' brutal attack, the Volturi guards coming to fight, Jacob and Sam phase in haste to protect their terrified children, then the vision went blank, like when the wolves were involved. And in another vision I saw Charlie, looking like he was in a trance, following a blonde female vampire to a sports car, away from Sue who was sobbing behind him.

"Some vampire kidnapped him," I stated, my grip tightening around my mate who was shaking. "She's talented."

"She sort of hypnotized him, from what I could see," Alice agreed, her mouth thin. "Now he's at Caius' mercy."

A thick silence fell then, and like my family, we all waited for Bella's decision. If Charlie didn't mean anything for Bella anymore, we wouldn't have to go back to Forks. The Volturi would clean the place. But Charlie's life was at stake. If Caius sought him out, then he had plans for him. And I guessed that they were all about my mate.

"What did Felix say about Charlie's kidnapping?" Bella asked, following my trail of thoughts.

Nobody answered her at first, but Rosalie huffed in impatience. "Oh, for heaven's sake, just tell her how it is! Felix is understanding, Bella, but Jane said that since Charlie'd been kidnapped by a non-vegetarian vampire, he was most probably dead by now, so it wasn't relevant."

"Is he... a vampire?" I ventured, and Alice shook her head.

"No. Caius isn't stupid. He knows that Bella and Charlie aren't on speaking terms, and he knows about my talent. He knows that the only leverage he has on Bella is because Charlie is human, and stays that way until we come to him."

Silence fell again, but I couldn't help my rising anger. "Why didn't you tell us anything about Caius before?" I asked with a gruff voice I hardly recognized. "Why now?"

Bella's grip tightened on my wrists, and I felt calm oozing from her, making me relax instantaneously. It was peculiar, but it felt right. Again, Jasper shot us an uncomprehending look, and then I understood that he wasn't doing anything. It was Bella who had just calmed me, just like I had calmed her moments ago. Weird.

I shook my head to clear it as Carlisle cleared his throat, looking embarrassed. "We... We didn't want to worry you," he said apologetically. "You were preoccupied enough as it was with high school, your... situation, and... We didn't want to add on the burden."

Bella and I snorted at the exact same time. Anger was bubbling again, my own and hers, but I took a deep breath, and Bella imitated me after a few seconds. We were so much in sync that it was almost scary. I desperately wanted to know what had happened during our alone time. Something had definitely happened.

"Bullshit," Bella finally said, shaking me out of my musings. "We're not children, Carlisle, we're vampires."

"I know, but..." Carlisle started, before my mate cut him sharply.

"No buts, Carlisle!" she spat. "There must be a good reason why all of you kept something like this from Edward and me! And don't tell me it's because we were too engrossed on being expelled from four high schools!"

Carlisle's thoughts betrayed him, then, under Bella's accusations, and I couldn't help my growl. "So Caius specifically wants Bella's and my heads, he tells every vampire he meets so, and you don't find it useful to tell us about it?" I rumbled angrily, fury erupting in me. "Knowing that Bella and I were planning to go live separately from all of you in two short weeks? What were you waiting for, exactly?"

I had risen to my feet, my fists clenched, and only Bella's body in front of me prevented me from lunging at Carlisle, who was the living picture of contrition. I noticed Esme's pursed lips, Alice's sad look, and Rosalie's head shake. They had wanted to tell us, but Carlisle hadn't thought it best, putting too much faith in Jane's assurances that Caius would be dealt with in time.

"Edward, I'm sorry," Carlisle said, remorse etched on his face. "I'm sorry, Bella," he added for my mate who was much calmer than me.

She was currently rubbing my chest in the way that I loved so much, and she knew what she was doing. I was fifty seconds away from purring, relaxing significantly. She gently pushed me back onto the couch, perched herself on my lap, and faced our father. "I wouldn't have thought that I'd ever have to tell you not to hide anything from us, Carlisle," she said simply.

Her tone was very calm, but the hurt underlying it was way worse than any yell. Carlisle hung his head in shame and remorse, and only Esme's soothing presence kept him in the house. Jasper spoke up. "I agreed with Carlisle on this," he explained. "So I'll share the blame. I should've known that it was a bad decision. Alice had told us so."

I shrugged. What was done was done. And Bella echoed my sentiment. "It's done," she said. "No more on this. But what do we do now?"

Penny for your thoughts? Well, no pennies, but a nice new chapter next week? ;)