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We had just ended our training session on Monday morning when Emmett became agitated.
"What's the matter, big guy?" Jasper asked with concern.
It wasn't like the jovial vampire to be so unsettled. It was something I discovered about him over the last couple of days. Emmett had an extremely positive outlook so for him to be frazzled was atypical.
"It's Rose." He sat down on a bench, looking weary. "I've been texting her, but she hasn't replied. It's not like her. I wanted to make sure she's okay."
"Emmett, stop being an overprotective clod. She's probably having a good time in Arizona swimming in Bella's pool." Jasper turned to me. "Paul will check for you."
"Yeah, use your gift."
"Oh, yeah, that crazy tracking gift. So, all I have to do is imagine her essence, and… What the hell? Rose and Bella aren't in Arizona. Why are they in Oklahoma?"
"Oklahoma?" Everyone yelled at the same time, approaching me with shocked expressions.
"What about Jess? Is she with them?" Embry asked with a concerned expression.
"No, no. Your wife is at my house, and so are Babs and Tanya." I glanced at my watch. It was still extremely early; they must be getting ready for work. "Carlisle is at the medical clinic on the WaYa Reservation."
I took my phone out and called Bella. She picked up after three rings. "Hi, Paul. What is it? I need more sleep. I was up until four am."
"What is it? What is it? I asked you to do one thing, and one thing only. I said stay at home so I don't worry. So, why the hell are you and Rose in Oklahoma?"
"Rose needed counseling, so I brought her to the Wanagi Reservation to meet my friend Tawanna."
"Exactly who is Tawanna?" I growled.
"She's a very nice psychologist on the reservation. She's a vampire, so it will be easier for Rose to confide in her."
"Obviously, if she lives on the Wanagi Reservation, she's a vampire! But it still doesn't explain why you defied my orders and are in Oklahoma. Where is Carlisle?" I questioned testily.
"He should be returning from work soon. But, honey, you are well aware that you cannot order me around. I am not a child. I am your wife, and we are equals. Besides, when have you ever been able to tell me what to do? And did it ever occur to you that the Wanagi Nation is the safest place for me to be? No one is going to look for me here. I love you, Paul. I'll talk to you later, okay?"
"She hung up on me!" I roared. "I can't believe it!"
"We all heard the conversation, Paul," Crispy said. "And she has a point. The Wanagi Nation is the safest place for Bella to be right now."
"She's also correct in saying that you can't order her around. The bottom line is Bella is an adult and so is Rose. They're capable of making their own decisions. Because we're of the supernatural world, we have a tendency to be even more overprotective than most men, but the bottom line is, we have to respect our mates' independence," Peter noted wisely. I knew the vampire was correct, but it didn't mean I wanted to take his insight to heart.
"It's going to take me some time. I'm a stubborn bastard," I admitted.
"That you are, buddy," Crispy said. "We need to endeavor to be more like Peter, or even Jeff. He never interferes with Lisa's decisions."
"You're right. How come Lisa isn't staying at my house?" I asked. Lisa rarely interacted with the other imprints, and Bella never pushed her to. I knew she and Lisa went out to lunch together from time to time, but just the two of them. Lisa was not one for group activities, and Bella told me that we had to respect that about her.
"When I suggested it, she told me to fuck off, and that she wasn't part of a sorority. I knew well enough not to say anymore. Besides, if I die, she dies—so she's coming with me anyway," Jeff said.
"That's a good way of looking at it, Jeff," Jasper said. "I like your way of thinking."
"I plan on continuing to be a stubborn jackass," I said testily.
"Yeah, but that's probably what Bella likes best about you," Jasper said, putting a hand on my shoulder. "You'll grow out of it. Eventually. Alice says I will grow out of my stubbornness in a few hundred centuries."
I saw Emmett putting his phone away. "Aren't you going to call your wife?"
"Hell, no. Bella just handed your ass to you. I've got my sense of self-preservation, and if Rose is in the safest possible place for her, then I'm just going to let her be. I don't need to be yelled at by my wife. She can be a scary bitch."
Jasper shook his head in disbelief. "I really think Bella handing your ass to you is worse than when Rose does it. Rose yells so it's a quick bite, but it passes. In Bella's case, she does it kindly without raising her voice. Think about how much more effective Bella's way is."
I dropped my face in my hands and then looked up. "Why me? Why?"
"I have no idea, buddy. But you know, at least she didn't yell at you. She just gently scolded you." Jake patted my shoulder. "I'm just glad you're married to her and not me. I don't think I could handle that hellcat. Tawny is bad enough."
I glared at Jake with a nonplussed expression. Before he screwed his head on straight, he had been obsessed with my wife for many years.
My phone rang again. It was Carlisle. He sounded agitated. "Paul, I just got home. Bella and Rose are both missing. No one saw them leave. All the vehicles are still here. Tanya is over a thousand years old; no human has ever evaded her. We're trying to figure out how they managed it."
"Oh, my God! You're over a thousand years old. Bitch, what kind of moisturizer do you use?" We heard Babs yelling to Tanya in the background.
"Carlisle, I was able to reach Bella. Rose and she are on the Wanagi Nation reservation."
"You're joking? I prohibited them from going to the Wanagi Nation."
"What the fuck do you mean she's on the Wanagi Nation? And why didn't that bitch take me with her? I'm going to call her and give her a piece of my mind!" Babs continued screeching. "How the hell is she planning on keeping me sane from Oklahoma?"
I watched Crispy run his hands over his face. I'm glad Babs is his wife, not mine. The woman had an unbelievably volatile temper.
"Yeah, well, Bella has an issue with authority," I informed him.
"I am aware, and Rose is the same way. I never thought those two would buddy up and defy me. I'm sorry I lost them, Paul."
"Carlisle, it isn't your fault. I'm sure Bella is behind this."
"Don't be so sure," Emmett muttered from the side. "Rose can be crafty."
"Well, I suppose I should get them," Carlisle said.
"Don't bother. Bella pointed out that they are in the safest possible place." And then I had a thought. "Maybe you can call the Wanagi Nation and have them detain the girls until the crisis is over."
"And this is why you're the Great Protector, my friend. What an excellent idea! I'll put that call in immediately."
Emmett held his hand out and high-fived me. "That was slick! I like the idea of them not being able to leave the reservation. At least they'll be safe."
"Exactly. And if Carlisle calls them, the idea didn't come from us."
"I like how you think, buddy," Emmett gave me a big pat on the back. "Oh, shit. I'm sorry. I keep forgetting you're a wolf. I shouldn't have walloped you like that."
"You didn't wallop me," I let him know. "I barely felt it."
"Yeah, he did," Peter pointed out. "That slap on the back should have sent you flying."
"Paul has got that vampire blood. He has the same strength as we do, in both human and shifter form," Jasper revealed.
"Without sparkling? That's like the best of both worlds."
"Yeah, it is. Now, we should get back to protecting the reservation. Do you have the research portion covered?"
"Yeah, I do. Leah and I will work with Eric and Jenks," Jeff said.
We separated for the day, working in teams of two. Jasper and I tried to put a vampire and a shifter together so they'd get to know each other. It was critical to the success of the mission that we work together in harmony. So far, we've had no dissent except for Billy and Sue initially, but as the elders have been removed, they were a non-issue. I actually got along well with the vampires. They were friendly and well-mannered.
Today, I worked with Garrett Adams, a very talkative and intriguing man. He had been serving as a soldier in the American Revolution when he was changed. "I consider myself lucky. The vampire who changed me was a glutton. I watched as he drained two of my fellow patriots. I was the last, and he was sated by the time he got to me. Thinking I was dead, he just left me on the ground to die. I woke up three days later, ravenous, but food did nothing to satisfy my hunger. Finally, recalling the vampire draining my friends, I tried feeding from a human. It worked. From then on, I like to think I played my part in the war by draining red coats."
"I think you'd like my father-in-law. He's a big Revolutionary War buff. You'll meet him."
"Your father-in-law is a human?"
"Yes, but with his wife being the mother of two wolves and his daughter being my wife, he knows all about the supernatural. Besides, he's the police chief in Forks. So it's better that he knows everything."
"I'm looking forward to meeting him." Garrett eyed me with a curious expression. "Carlisle told me you're a businessman. So tell me, what is it like to work?"
"Well, haven't you ever worked for a living?"
"We were farmers then, and when the war started, I became a soldier. I never really picked up a trade. I assumed I was taking over my father's farm," he explained.
"Well, what have you been doing with yourself all this time?"
"Well, I hunted criminals and drained them for over two centuries. Then I met my mate, Katie. She doesn't condone feeding from humans, so I switched to feeding from animals. Don't get me wrong, I was happy to change my ways for Katie, but feeding from an animal isn't the same as feeding from a criminal. Nevertheless, there's something satisfying about knowing you've rid the world of an unworthy degenerate."
"Yeah, you'll definitely get along with my father-in-law." I nodded my head.
Garrett put two fingers to his lips, silencing me. We watched as two vampires left one of the former Cullen townhomes. Actually, it was the same one Angela used to live in. They hopped into a black Mercedes SUV and drove away. Garrett tried to follow them, but I stopped him.
"We're going to lose them!" he said.
"Following them on foot as they drive through town won't help us. We'd have to give up and jog at a human pace, at which point we'd lose them. So instead, we're going to break into their townhouse and take a look around. We might find some clues."
"I never considered that." He glanced at the townhouse. "The window to the left of the front door is ajar."
"Then we're just going to have to let ourselves in, aren't we?"
I woke up to the smell of bacon. Still half-asleep, I drifted to the kitchen, where Rose was cooking up a storm. The instant she saw me, she engulfed me in a hug. "Oh, Bella. I love you so much!" Her eyes were pooled with venom. "You have no idea how cathartic it was to purge my feelings after years and years of suppressing them."
Rosalie assembled a plate of bacon, eggs, and toast for me. "Here, sit and eat."
"Thank you for making breakfast for me."
"Oh, it's not a problem. We're going to be stuck here for a while anyway. Apparently, Carlisle asked Dr. Kiowa to hold us here indefinitely."
"We're hostages?" I asked, appalled.
"Well, not really. The Wanagi are too honorable to keep us as hostages. They kindly asked us to remain their guests, ensuring we had the freedom to come and go as we desired. They only asked that we tell them before we leave so they do not worry."
"That was nice of them."
"I thought so, too. Besides, I suspect Emmett put Carlisle up to asking the Wanagi to hold us here. It would be just like him. He called and texted several times while I was talking to Tawanna, but I didn't respond. He's probably all worked up from my lack of response."
"No, it wasn't Emmett. It was Paul. He woke me up, and I told him we were in Oklahoma. I also reminded him that I don't take orders well. He probably thinks he has the upper hand by asking the Wanagi to keep us here." I dipped my toast into my egg, taking a bite. It was nice to have someone prepare breakfast for me for a change. "How did you like Tawanna?"
"Oh, Bella. It was wonderful! She was so patient and understanding with me. We're meeting again this evening after you go to bed. She said her first goal was for her to make me understand that while I was a victim of sexual assault, I have managed to survive for almost a century. She wants me to view myself as a survivor, not a victim. She said that it would be impossible to forget that day; such an incident is indelible; however, she wants me to take steps to empower myself. Tawanna said that I've already taken steps simply by living. I told her I was a vampire, unable to procreate and dead."
"And what did she say to that?"
"She asked me to consider whether a living, breathing, human woman, incapable of conceiving due to health issues, was as good as dead."
"She made a good point," I noted. "A woman might not be able to conceive for one reason or another. It doesn't make that person less of a woman just because she can't have children."
"That's the thing. I never considered that there might be a chance a human woman could not conceive. Being human does not guarantee the ability to have children." She fidgeted with her hands nervously. "And then, when I consider the world we live in, some women should not have children."
And that got me thinking about Angela Weber. She was a prime example of a woman who should have never been a mother. Thank goodness she at least gave up custody of her kids to Jacob, but she was currently pregnant and about to bring an innocent life into this world again.
I must have been scowling because Rose interrupted my thoughts with, "Did I upset you? Am I so selfish that you're disgusted with me?"
"No, not at all, Rose." I patted her arm to reassure her. "It was what you said about some women being undeserving of children. I thought of Angela Weber."
"Oh, but she was really nice in high school. I'm sure she'd be a great mother. Wasn't Angela a friend or yours?"
"You don't know what's really going on, do you?"
"No, I was only told you were in trouble and needed protection. I wouldn't have come unless Alice insisted I open up to you. I'm sure glad I came, though."
"I'm glad you're here, too. Now let me tell you what's been going on."
I explained everything to Rose about Tony Fuller's crimes against his very own tribe, his depravities against women and children, to his drug dealing. I also explained how abusive a mother Angela was to her own children and how she gave up custody of them after stating how she never wanted them.
"Well, why have them if she didn't want them? How could she hit children—especially her own? Children are not disposable!" Rose had venom clouding her eyes.
I shrugged my shoulders. "Truly, I don't know."
"And how did you become involved in this whole situation? You live all the way out in Arizona."
"Well, Paul and I were on vacation at Disneyland when we ran into the La Push pack. Everything sort of exploded from that point on. To make a long story short, it was discovered that Paul is the Great Protector—not only of the Quileute wolves, but the WaYa coyotes, and the Wanagi vampires." I explained about Carlisle, Taha Aki, and the prophecy. "Technically, according to the prediction, the Wanagi here are brothers to the Wa-Ya and the Quileutes. And Angela has a weird vendetta against me." And then I had Rose listen to the recordings I had on my phone of Angela and Fuller at the restaurant. I also had her watch the video I took of Johnny Lahote in jail talking about his dealings with Fuller.
"Ew! Angela is a sick skank! A handjob in the middle of a restaurant, really?"
"Isn't that gross?"
"Listen, Em and I can be really kinky—like the time we did it in the dressing room of a Walmart, but still, we were behind a locked door! We weren't out in public pretending to be vampires."
"But you are vampires."
"Exactly! Anyway, Angela seems to have an unhealthy obsession with you."
"She does. Tony Fuller ordered a hit on me and Linda, another imprint from the reservation. Fortunately, it didn't pan out for them, and the men who were supposed to murder me were arrested."
"Oh, thank goodness, and you said Fuller is in jail now?"
"Yes, but there are two vampires doing his job for him. He is somehow managing to manipulate things from jail."
"So, the men are out chasing after Tony Fuller's two vampire goons?"
"They're protecting the reservation and the residents of Forks, too."
"And why was this not explained to us?"
"Who knows? You'll have to ask your husband that. In any case, it occurred to me that no one is watching Angela Weber because our thick-headed husbands are focused on Fuller and his goons."
"Well, it's a good thing I know people, don't you think?" Rose asked, her eyes twinkling and a bright smile lighting her face.
"Absolutely, I'm sure the Pixie will be calling you right… about… now," I predicted.
Right on cue, Rosalie's phone rang. She immediately put it on speakerphone. "Were you watching, Alice?"
"I couldn't really help myself," Alice squeaked. "Hi, Bella."
"I… I'm sorry! I'm sorry I manipulated you to be with Edward."
"Really, it's in the past. I'm extremely happy with Paul."
"I'd be happy with him, too. Ever since he became part vampire, I can see him clearly. I'm trying to get Jasper to do some of the things Paul does with you in bed to me."
"I… I don't know what to say," I replied. The thought of Alice watching us was seriously creepy and disturbing.
"Neither do I," Rosalie agreed. She had an appalled expression on her face.
"Since you saw everything, you know what's going on. Would you mind running to Vancouver and keeping an eye on Angela Weber?"
"Yes, Charlotte and I will go together. Kate has been called down to Arizona by Carlisle to take Rose's place."
"Sounds great. And listen, Angela has a flash drive in a safety deposit box at a bank in Canada. Is there a way to retrieve it?"
"I'll make it my pet project. I'm sure I can think of something."
"Perfect, it's good to challenge yourself."
I was about to end the call when Alice said, "Oh, and Rose, share everything Bella told you with the Wanagi. Trust me."
With those words, she hung up.
"Well, then. I'll send you the recording and the video, and you can share the story with the Wanagi." I wagged my eyebrows at Rosalie. I honestly did not want to repeat the story again, so it would be Rose's turn. I only hoped we were doing the right thing. Only time would tell.