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Maledictum Magae - Ch. 13

Disclaimer: I own nothing. All characters are property of Stephenie Meyer. And I do not get any sort of profit from this.

Summary: The curse happened in 1692. For over 300 years, Isabella Swan has lived alone, afraid to be close to anyone again. But when she finally meets someone who captures her heart, the unthinkable happens, leaving her in a kind of danger she never thought possible.






A/N: I know it's been forever since the last update, but you'll be happy to know that this is the longest update yet! It may not answer all of your questions, but I hope it answers most of them. As always, big thanks goes out to my beta, ohfiyera . She's definitely the Beta Queen.


Chapter 13: Friend or Foe

The moonlight cascaded through the broken window, casting shadows that danced along the floor. She sat in the dirt, next to the old dresser, lightly fingering Mary Alice's drawing in her hands. Occasionally, she would glance in his direction, wondering if this was all some very strange dream.

Edward sat opposite her, against a wall. The chipped frame of her old bed sat mere inches from his legs. Cobwebs clung to the furniture, like dry, peeling skin. He watched, silent, as they billowed in the light breeze.

For a while, nothing was said.

Releasing the drawing to the floor, Bella pulled the collar of her jacket around her neck more tightly as her body began to shiver. "Say something," she murmured.

His voice was soft, melodic, as he spoke. "Where do you want me to start?"

Millions of questions raced through her mind as she tried to pick out just one to begin his story. "You're a vampire… aren't you?"

A beat of silence passed, emphasizing the seriousness of her question. Finally, Edward sighed and Bella could make out the defeated posture that cloaked his form. "Yes," he whispered, barely audible to her ears. "I am."

It was as if frost had crystallized the nerves within her spine. She wasn't afraid of him, but to have her suspicions confirmed rattled her, to say the least. "How…" she paused, wondering how to phrase her next question. "How long?"

"I was created before you were even born, Isabella."

Bella's eyes grew wide in shock. "You're older than me?" She'd never met anyone older than her before, because really, she never thought she would.

"Don't be so surprised," he chuckled softly. "You've been around more immortals than you realize."

Flashes of a vicious red gaze haunted her memory and Bella cringed. "But your eyes… they aren't red. I've seen other vampires before and I know that they have red eyes."

Edward let his head lean back against the wall, the pale skin of his throat exposed in the moonlight. "It's because they feed off of humans. There are others out there – like me – who choose to not end human life. Instead, we hunt animals."

The memory of the injured deer flashed through her mind.

"I had been hunting when you came to Forks. Usually, I don't let my prey suffer the way that deer had and I'm sorry that you were there to witness it. But the moment your scent hit the atmosphere, I lost all train of thought."

He sighed heavily, grimacing at the memories that assailed his mind as well. "In any case, animal blood turns our eyes a golden hue. That's why we look different from the others."

Bella felt her heart momentarily stop within her chest. Whose eyes had Edward's always reminded her of? "You've been around more immortals than you realize," he had said. Her breathing began to increase in short, hitched gasps.

Alice.

Carlisle.

"I see you're catching on," he muttered, listening to the organ in her chest beat erratically.

She glanced up at him, and he was surprised to see pain glittering in her eyes. "Tell me the truth," she choked out. "All of it."

The house groaned with the blowing wind outside, creating an eerie melody that lingered within the shadows.

Hesitation lay deep within every line and curve of Edward's face, but he could not refuse her.

"Vampires, like humans, have rules to abide by. If a human steps out of line, there is someone there to right the situation. If a vampire steps out of line, then we too, have someone who will come to right the situation. Our actions are governed by three very powerful vampires – Aro, Marcus and Caius. They're called the Volturi. They have many guards who work for them, as your government has many law enforcement organizations that work for them."

"I work for the Volturi," he admitted, his voice sounding stretched and thin. "For hundreds of years I've been a servant to them. So has my family."

Bella sat quietly, listening intently to his story as she hugged her knees to her chest.

"One of the things you have to understand, Isabella, is that many of our kind have special abilities. I, for one, can read people's minds… except for yours."

Bella lifted her head, curious. "What do you mean, except for mine?"

"Your thoughts are silent to me," he whispered. "They've always been."

"I don't understand."

A grin curved the corners of his lips. "Nor do I."

Frowning, Bella shifted her gaze to the floor, contemplating this new piece of information.

Edward continued on. "The Volturi collect vampires with these special talents. That's what makes them as strong and powerful as they are. The three of them together aren't really much of a match. It's their followers that give them strength."

"So you're a follower?" she countered.

The coldness that masked Edward's eyes as he leveled his gaze with hers was not easily missed. "Not by choice."

He sighed heavily, seeming reluctant to finish his story.

"In 1691, one of our guards was sent to Salem, Massachusetts. She has the gift of foresight and insisted to Aro that she had to be in Salem. Being that she is one of his favorites, he let her go without question. That is where she met you."

The air all but left her lungs and the familiar sting of tears pricked behind her eyes. "What?"

"Mary Alice was not in your life for very long, was she?" he asked her.

Bella opened her mouth to contradict him, but the words fell short. While she felt as though she had known her best friend all her life, Bella had met Mary Alice only a year before her death. And in all of her memories, Mary Alice had either been at Bella's home or they met somewhere else. Never once, had Bella stepped foot in Mary Alice's home, or seen anyone in her family. Any time the idea was suggested, Mary Alice would make up some excuse to keep Bella away. Afraid of losing her friendship, Bella never pushed the subject. And as she thought harder, she realized that Carlisle joined the community around the same time that Mary Alice did.

"But…" she muttered, her voice suddenly hoarse. "Vampires can't come out in the daylight." She began shaking her head in denial. "Right? There has to be some mistake."

"Myths are exactly that," Edward responded. "You know that as well as I. We attract more attention in the sun, yes, but it does not hurt us as the legends say."

The corners of her lips curved down and she felt her chin tremble as tears slid from her eyes.

"Think about it, Bella," he whispered gently. She hadn't noticed that he was now kneeling directly before her. "When you were with Mary Alice, was she ever in direct sunlight?"

She thought back to every sunny day that she spent with her friend. Mary Alice would keep to the shadows, or under a tree… near the wall of a house… Not once had Bella seen her friend step out into the sun.

A keening sound reverberated from the back of her throat and her fingers dug into the coarse material of her jeans as she hugged her knees tight against her chest.

Edward reached out to touch her, his hand hesitating in midair before finally dropping back to his side. "Mary Alice is my sister, Bella."

She shook her head.

"She is. She was the one who helped me find you."

"No!" Bella gasped aloud. "I saw her! I saw her die, Edward. I was there. I was there…"

She broke down, sobs raking through her small form, snaking through her limbs. All these years, she had believed a lie. The despair weighed her down so heavily, that she felt herself unfold and lean toward him. Edward scooped her up into his arms, holding her as if his life depended on it.

"I'm sorry," he breathed in her ear, his fingers gently combing through the tangles of her hair. "I'm so sorry… for everything."

"Alice didn't want to endanger you," he continued. "She felt that if she left your life when she did, that you would be safer."

"But why did she come?" Bella cried. "Why did she step into my life, only to leave? Why did she leave me like this!" she yelled through the tears, pulling away from Edward but not enough to fully leave his embrace. As she did, the remaining glass in the windows shattered around them in a deafening sound, the broken shards mirroring the state of her soul. "Why did she do this to me?"

Edward seemed stunned. So pained was the look on her face, that he felt his dead heart crumble ever so slowly within his chest. "She came to you to protect you," he whispered, watching her retreat into herself, her frail body trembling beneath his touch.

"Alice saw what would happen in your future," Edward murmured, slowly rocking her crumpled form back and forth. "Aro trusts her with his life, though his sister had her speculations. Didyme was a beautiful being. She had the power to make those around her incredibly happy. Everyone loved her. But even with her talents, she could be just as deadly. Her curiosity of Alice's leaving grew inside her mind."

"One night, she left Volterra and traveled to Salem. She wanted to spy on Alice – to see what she was up to. Even though Carlisle was sent to watch over Alice, it didn't matter. He was and is the most trusted of us all."

A slight gasp escaped Bella's lips and Edward stilled his rhythmic solace. "Yes, Carlisle works for the Volturi as well. He is our father, at least in the figurative sense. None of us are really blood-related, but we have adopted each other as a family."

All words seemed to have left her in that moment. Without a proper response, she let her body collapse against his once more, urging him to continue.

"Didyme had to see for herself what was going on. To her eyes, Alice had merely made a human friend and in doing so, she was risking the exposure of our world. Didyme felt it necessary to end your life."

Bella shuddered violently as her hands clung to the material of his shirt. She closed her eyes and saw the vision of she and Jacob running frantically through the woods.

"She was the one who killed Jacob," Edward admitted quietly. "And she would have killed you too, if…" He paused, unable to continue.

Slowly, Bella pulled back to look up into his golden eyes. Her memories took her back to that fateful night, and she remembered running for her life after seeing her love dangling, inanimate, from a tree.

"God help me," she whimpered, pushing away another low-lying branch.

Cold breath could suddenly be felt on the back of her neck and Isabella's heart lurched within her chest as a sadistic voice whispered in her ear, "God has nothing to do with it."

In that moment, she thought that this would be the end of her life. She thought she would be ripped to shreds like Jacob. But as a gust of wind blew past her and she spun around, there was no one. The fear was far too great as it clenched around Isabella's heart, and her mind succumbed to the numbing darkness as her body collapsed to the ground.

Though in an unconscious state, sounds and feelings seemed to drift through her mind. It was as if her brain was trying to fight against the pressure weighing down so heavily upon it. She felt something cold pressed gently against her. Whether it was on her arm or her face, she couldn't tell. A voice, melodic in its syllables, echoed in the distance. It was soothing and calm – a contrast to the spectral voice from earlier. Again, she couldn't tell whom the voice belonged to. It wasn't one she recognized. But soon, the nerve endings in her brain seemed to give up in their fight. No sensation appeared to accost her until much later in the night when another, different, voice awakened her mind.

At the time, she had felt as if Carlisle had been the one to rescue her, but he had not. Mary Alice had even confirmed to her that someone else would be the one to protect her that night – the man in the drawing.

"It was you," she whimpered, her voice trembling. "You saved me from her. You…"

"I couldn't let you die," he gasped, overcome by his own emotion. "The moment I saw Alice's vision of you, feelings that I had never felt before, overcame me. For years, I've been alone, content with just being on my own. I had my family, yes, but it was never the same. I always longed to love someone and be loved in return. I knew then, when Alice made the decision to leave, that I had to follow. I had to see you."

"You had to see me?" she whispered.

A throaty chuckle left him, intermingling with the stagnant air. "Vampires are selfish creatures, Isabella. I am certainly not an exception to that rule."

Deep lines etched their way into Bella's forehead as she contemplated his words. "You keep saying that Alice had visions of me. What did she see?"

A grin briefly kissed Edward's lips as he answered her. "She had a vision of herself teaching you magic. You were making roses grow up out of the Earth." The grin faded as soon as it had come. "After that, there were more visions of you. Terrible things…"

"Why didn't you tell me any of this earlier? Why didn't you come to me back then?" she accused, still feeling the tinge of betrayal.

Edward sighed, letting his head hang low. "I wanted to. But I was a coward. I stayed off in the shadows, watching you from afar. I had only meant to see you once, thinking that it would be enough. But once I heard your laughter, once I saw your smiles, I couldn't go back. The light and peace radiated off of you, Isabella. I had never seen someone so truly beautiful. You made my dead heart come back to life. I knew from that point on, that I would protect you, no matter the cost. I was afraid that if I got involved with you too soon, that it would surely end your life. So, I stayed away – until now."

"I'm so sorry that I was not there in time to save Jacob. He was a good man and he loved you very much. No matter what I did, it was already set in stone that Jacob would die – one way or another. But in Alice's visions, your life could have gone either way the moment that Didyme came after you. I got to you just in time. Didyme died at my hands, and though she was one of the few I could tolerate to be around, I wouldn't take any of it back. I loved you too much, to ever let something happen to you."

"All these years," she wept, feeling fresh tears cascade down her cheeks. "All these years I've been so alone." Bella shut her eyes, not wanting to think about his declaration of love or the pain she had felt for so long. Her life didn't feel like her own anymore. It had been planned by those around her. She felt like a puppet, waiting from someone to pull the strings.

"Why… Why have I been chased all my life?" Bella questioned. "I did nothing wrong."

"No. No you didn't," Edward promised her, his thumbs lightly brushing away her tears. "It was my fault they have been after you."

Bella leaned into his touch, though she felt guilty for doing so. There were too many emotions running through her in that very moment. Her loneliness could have been spared if he had only told her the truth when he was given the first chance. Her life wouldn't have been her only curse had Alice not been involved. Without them, maybe she would have lived and died peacefully. Maybe she would have married Jacob and mothered his children. They would have grown old together and watched their children grow old. Those had been her dreams once, and they had been violently ripped away.

But if Alice had never walked into her life, she would have never known her one and only true friend. Though she resented Carlisle for Alice's death, she still considered him an important figure in her life and she would have never known him otherwise. Most importantly, she would have never met Edward all these years later. Would she have regretted it? Would she have regretted not knowing any of them at all?

As she felt the coolness of Edward's skin against her own, the tender embrace he bestowed upon her, the love he held out so openly to her, she couldn't help but want those things too. And there was her answer.

Yes, she would have regretted everything.

"You see," Edward murmured, his voice hinting of a more serious tone. "Didyme was Marcus' wife. Being that she was also Aro's sister, our leaders were in a great state of turmoil. I returned back to Volterra soon after her death to deliver the news."

Bella opened her eyes, watching him intently as he lowered his hands from her face. Instantly, she missed his touch.

"Like myself, Aro has the gift of reading other's minds, but only with the sense of touch. I knew that I would be destroyed on the spot, and I was ready for that. But, for some reason, parts of my thoughts were blocked from him. The snippets of what he did see told a completely different story. To him, Didyme died and the only other figure he was able to see was you."

"He's been after you for years so you could explain what happened. He believes that in some way, you are the one responsible for her death. So, Alice concocted a story – one of the greatest and truest lies – to save you."

Edward gently moved away from Bella so that he could stand. He quietly walked over to one of the windows, the chilling winter air washing over his face as he looked out into the darkness. Bella watched, dazed, as the moonlight glistened off of his porcelain skin.

"First," he began. "Alice created an elixir that would prolong your life – the tonic she gave you the night of her arrest. Not only would the elixir allow you to live as an immortal, but it strengthened your powers as well. Alice knew that if the Volturi came after you, this would be the only way to protect you."

"Second, she faked her death. Carlisle helped her stage it when he purposefully led some of the townspeople into the field that day. We all agreed that the sooner we got back to Volterra and out of your life, the better it would be for you. Besides, some of the folks in town were growing suspicious of you and Alice. Handing herself over as a witch would deter some of the attention from you. After the hanging, the three of us left. Aro insisted on sending search parties for you and each time, either Alice or Carlisle led the party. And each time, you were spared."

Bella picked up the tattered drawing from the floor and memorized the lines of his face as her eyes swept over the faded charcoal sketch. "But you never went with them?"

"I went on my own," he whispered, his voice barely audible to her ears. "I didn't go often, in fear of attracting too much attention. No one, except Alice, knew that I went to see you." He turned to look at her and for a moment she found herself lost in his gaze.

"After several years went by, Aro believed that you had died. It wasn't until he had seen a glimpse of you in Alice's thoughts much later that he realized you were still out there. To this day, he still hasn't figured out how you've lived this long."

"Caius, the more brutal of the three, grew tired of Alice and Carlisle turning up empty-handed. He wanted to send out our most ruthless guards to take you down. It didn't matter to him how or why you were alive for as long as you've been, or how Didyme could have possibly died by your hands. He wanted blood. He wanted death. Destruction. That's what he always wants." Edward spoke about Caius through gritted teeth, the muscles in his jaw contracting sharply with anger. "My family is with the Volturi, because at the time, we had nowhere else to go. That doesn't mean that we share their same ideals, however."

"In any case, I offered to go after you. Alone. Aro and Marcus agreed; Caius did not. Because I am so close to Alice and Carlisle, he didn't trust me. No sooner than I had arrived to the University, did I notice trails of one of his spies."

Recognition dawned across Bella's face and she looked up to him in alarm. "You mean all of those attacks? Those were from a member of the Volturi?"

Edward nodded. "The same can be said for the night I sensed someone in your room."

A vicious chill spread through her nerves like wildfire. She remembered all too well the fear she felt that night. Like a ghost, the memory of her bathroom door opening on its own, haunted her.

She shivered, though it wasn't from the cold.

"We don't have much time," he said suddenly, and turned to walk briskly toward her. He bent over, his hand wrapping around her forearm to pull her up.

"What do you mean?" Bella asked, anxiety quickly coursing through her limbs. "You're going to take me to them?"

"No," Edward insisted, his voice almost a growl.

Bella watched, horrified, as Edward's demeanor seemed to instantly change. It was as if he had sensed something she could not – some unseen danger close by. His eyes grew darker with every second.

The harsh features of his face immediately smoothed the moment he realized her fear. "I'm not going to take you in," he told her more gently. "I would never do that to you, Isabella."

She frowned, unsure if she could trust him in that moment. "Then what is it that you're doing?"

"I'm going to help you escape."

Her heart stuttered in its beat. "What?"

Edward abruptly turned his attention to one of the windows and placed a cold finger against her lips, silencing her. He listened for a moment and then sighed. "The guard I came across… her name is Chelsea. She has the uncanny ability to bring relationships together and shatter them to pieces. In order to do that, she has to be able to sense a relationship between two people. The moment she saw me interact with you was the moment she realized the truth they all believed was a lie. I tried to stop her, but she was too fast. I have no doubt in my mind, that she's already gone back to Volterra. In fact, I'm fairly certain that we are no longer alone."

Her eyes grew wide. "I'm sorry?"

A shrieking cackle echoed through the woods in that moment, and Bella nearly fell to her knees in horror. Her nightmare – her past – it was all coming back.

Edward clutched her elbows, keeping her upright. "Bella? Bella, look at me."

Fresh tears fell from her eyes and her heart felt as if it were about to beat right out of her chest.

The piercing wail reverberated through the trees, changing in pitch with each direction it took, until it grew into an inhumane growl.

Bella jumped, her attention fully on the vampire before her. Edward was the one who had emitted the growl. The rows of his sharp teeth were bared as he stared toward one of the windows. His stance was rigid and all but overpowering her – protecting her. He turned back to her then, and motioned toward the door.

"Go!" he urged. "Bella, you have to go! Now!"

"But – "

"Run!"

Stumbling, the tread of her shoes catching on the drawing, ripping its tattered page in two, Bella clamored to the door of her room.

"I'll find you," he called after her.

Her strides faltered at the words that left his lips. She caught herself on the frame of the door, her gaze staring unseeingly into the darkness as memories assaulted her mind.

A dull thud sounded behind them and Jacob cursed at her side. "The bullets fell."

"What?" Isabella questioned, frantic as he let go of her hand.

"The sack that held them fell. I have to go back there."

"No!" she cried, grabbing his arm to pull him in her direction. "Jacob, thou canst! Please!"

"We shant be unarmed!" he shouted, pulling away from her. "I will not leave them there. Go! Isabella, go!"

He grabbed her then, kissing her hard. "Run and do not look back. I will find you."

Jacob had loved her then, enough to risk his own life. He loved her just as much as Edward loves her now. And here he was, risking his life for hers. She slowly turned around, watching as he stalked silently toward the window. Bella knew enough from her own research and experience to know that he wouldn't stand a chance if there were more than just one vampire against him. He would surely die, and so would she.

She could no longer dwell on the uncertainties. Edward loved her and she couldn't forget the way that she had felt when she first saw him. She couldn't forget her own magic telling her that he was her other half. He was the one that made her heart beat with clarity. He made her powers come alive. It didn't matter what had happened in the past. Everything he had done for her was to protect her, because of his love for her.

And Bella realized, that she loved him too. Vampire or not – every fiber of her being vibrated with the sensations that she felt for him.

Noticing her presence still there, Edward turned back to her sharply, his eyes pleading. "Go! Isabella, you have to get out of here!"

There wasn't much time. She opened her mouth to speak, though her heart felt caught in her throat. "Edward," she gasped, and saying his name felt like she was saying it for the first time.

Without another thought, she ran to him, her body molding against his as he caught her within his solid arms. He felt like cold marble against her soft curves, but to Bella, it was perfect. How had she not noticed the differences in him before?

"Bella," he breathed, but his voice was silenced the moment her hands tangled in his hair and pulled his face down so that her lips could claim his. His lips were like ice against hers, recharging the nerves in her body. Their kiss was soft and bruising all at once. She let her feelings spill out of her in that moment, flowing into the embrace that he willingly gave her.

A growl permeated the air in the near distance, violently shattering their moment. Bella broke away from him, her breathing labored.

"Now, you really have to go," Edward insisted, his hands moving up to cup each side of her face.

She needed to tell him. She needed him to hear the words from her own lips.

But he shook his head, somehow knowing exactly what she wanted to say. "I know," he whispered, pressing a kiss to her forehead. "I love you too."

A strangled sob escaped her before he pressed his mouth to hers once more. "Go Bella," he said, pushing her toward the door. A slight tremor carried through his voice and she loathed leaving him alone. "Please go."

Thuds shook the side of the home, the sound inching closer to the window. Edward crouched down, the muscles in his back so taut that Bella could almost make out the small fibers beneath his skin. Another thud sounded up the wall, and it was with a sickening realization that Bella understood the noises.

Something, or someone, was climbing up the side of the house.

Her heart sped violently, inducing a piercing ring that sounded in her ears. As she turned away from Edward, her hands reaching out to grasp the splintered railings of the stairwell, her foot fell through the rotten wood of the floor. Gasping, she bent over to clutch at her ankle in a desperate attempt to free herself.

She pulled once… twice. A shadow fell over her and Bella found herself glancing up as a sinister figure leapt through the window – its eyes like glowing embers in the dark. Immediate survival instincts kicked in, and on the third pull, she felt gravity take hold as her body fell back. She clutched onto the railing to keep upright and forced herself to run as fast as she could down the stairs, hoping beyond anything that they wouldn't give beneath her. The last thing she remembered seeing was Edward, arms spread open, fingers curled into claws, ready to attack the vampire who had just intruded into her room.

The nerves in her brain shot off signals of warning, causing the muscles in her legs to expand and contract at an unusually fast pace. As she burst through the front door, she felt as if her body were simply gliding through the air. The adrenaline that coursed through her was so powerful that she barely felt the sensation of her feet hitting the ground.

It was dark now. A thick fog rolled across the soil, snaking through the obsidian trees. An owl released its haunting song – a night's hymn that seeped into the particles of the air.

There was no sound from behind her, yet still she ran. She didn't dare to look back, but a feeling so gut wrenching tore at her soul. She couldn't just leave Edward to defend them both on his own.

Though Bella only displayed her powers in small ways, there was something that brewed deep inside her. Drawing from the right elements, she could create a magic that was both dark and powerful. It was something she never attempted in her life, but she knew she could do it. This was the power that Mary Alice had given her.

She suddenly veered off to the right, coming to an abrupt halt behind a large oak. Her lungs screamed in protest as her chest rose and fell heavily.

She waited… listening.

The owl continued its chant, but nothing else met her ears.

Quickly she dug into her coat pocket and pulled out a small plastic bag full of dried herbs. Her fingers shook and stumbled over the coarse items, but she soon found what she was looking for. The skin of her fingers scraped over the roughness of a cinnamon stick. Pocketing the bag, she closed her eyes, willing her body to focus on the spice within her hand. And then, she snapped the stick in two, letting the pieces fall to the ground.

"Incendia," she whispered.

Flames shot up from the ground where the cinnamon halves had landed. They spread in a thin line along the forest floor, weaving in and out of the tree trunks, their fire never igniting the ferns or logs nearby. As the fire increased in its pace, Bella turned to peer out from behind the tree. She could see her house in the distance and silently said goodbye to her past.

The flames grew in size the closer they got to the withered home. She could just hear the distant sound of growls and hisses from within its interior. And just as fast as the fire had been created, the house was immediately engulfed in flames.

Sharp, ear-splitting cries rang throughout the night. She closed her eyes, her brow knitting tightly together in concentration. The magic that coursed through her veins heightened her senses, allowing her the ability to see what was taking place within the old home.

The dark figure from earlier was crying out on the floor, flames licking at his skin, his body convulsing in pain. She could see his flesh singe and melt away from the bones. And then, she saw Edward step into view. He appeared shocked, confused even, at the sight before him. There was no place for him to go, but the flames didn't appear to touch him at all. As if to prove their point, persimmon flames licked at the sides of his shoes and instantly drew away. They congregated around the undead being writhing on the floor.

Edward.

Startled, Edward darted his eyes around the room, instantly stepping out of the way of a falling timber from the ceiling. He had to get out.

Edward. I'm here. Come find me.

Very few times had Bella tried to communicate telepathically with someone before. She had no way of knowing if this would work, but she had to try.

"So you're the one," came a lilting voice from behind her.

A frightened scream escaped Bella's lips as she spun around, her focus instantly broken.

Before her, a woman stood. Her eyes were as red as the feathers of a cardinal. Her skin was the color of bone. The waves of her hair glistened, even in the dark, like stalks of golden wheat blowing in the breeze. She watched Bella curiously, her lips upturned in a deceitful grin.

"Well, well," she purred. "How wonderful it is to meet the witch."

Swallowing, Bella withdrew until her back met the rough bark of the tree. She didn't dare say a word.

"Yes, I've been keeping my eye on you." The blonde cocked her head to the side, the smile still set in place on her lips. "What's the matter, dear one? Cat got your tongue?"

"Please," Bella whimpered, tears seeping from the corners of her eyes.

"You know, I still don't understand how someone as weak as yourself murdered our precious Didyme," she hissed, her glistening crimson eyes raking up and down Bella's body. "Did you kill her with fire? Was that it?" Her gaze shifted quickly to the burning house in the distance. "Well, you don't seem to be conjuring any fire right now, do you?"

"Please," she repeated, the salt from her tears overwhelming as they leaked into the corners of her lips. "Don't hurt me."

"Now why would I do a thing like that?" the woman questioned, the curve of her smile becoming unnatural. "Oh wait, I'm a vampire. That's why."

She bared her teeth, the red in her irises darkening until they were almost black.

Bella closed her eyes and waited for her impending death, but a new voice broke the silence.

"Chelsea, be a good girl. There's no need for more bloodshed tonight."

Searching for the newfound tenor, Bella saw a man reveal himself from the shadows. His hair was also a golden tone, but much softer than the woman's before her. His features were sharp, his cheekbones high. Yet, there was a delicate quality about this man. Though his eyes also mirrored the same blood-like color as his accomplice, Bella felt no fear around him. In fact, she felt calm. Her breathing mellowed, her tears ceased, her heart rate slowed.

"Forgive my friend," he said to her, and she could have sworn she heard a faint southern accent in his voice. "My name is Jasper and this is Chelsea. We have come here to ask you a few questions. I am sorry that we have frightened you. It was not our intention."

Chelsea snorted, rolling her eyes. "It wasn't yours," she spat. She turned her gaze to Bella's her eyes growing thirsty once more. "Though, it was definitely mine."

"Silence!" Jasper growled, making Bella jump as the fear slowly crept back into her veins. "We promised Aro that we would bring her back alive. We've already lost one of our own. Do not make me add another to that list."

A low growl resonated from Chelsea's chest, but she drew back, allowing Jasper to take the lead.

A calming wave instantly washed over her again, as she watched the male vampire step closer to her. "I will not harm you."

"That's a lie!"

Within seconds, Bella found herself being blocked from her attackers. Edward stood before her, hiding her from view. "If you so much as touch her – "

"Brother," Jasper reasoned, holding his hands up in surrender. "I would not dream it."

"I thought I could trust you," Edward hissed.

Though Bella couldn't see their faces, she could tell from the refrain in Jasper's voice that he meant what he said.

"You still can."

"Really?" Edward seethed. "If I could trust you, then why was I almost killed by a guard that you were with? If I could trust you, you would have fought by my side!"

"Edward," Jasper warned, his voice stern.

Bella tried to inch away from them, though the space between Edward and the tree was not much. As her foot moved over the rough contour of a root, she lost her balance. She felt her body push against Edward's as she fell to the ground, her hands stretched out to brace the impact. But as her knees hit the forest floor and her upper body fall forward, the palms of her hands landed onto something sharp. Stinging, searing pain pierced her skin. She whimpered, examining the structure she had stumbled upon. Vines of sharp thorns created a painful mattress that covered the ground beneath her. The hard stems bit at her skin, slicing their way through the soft, pliable flesh.

She lifted up her hands to her face, watching as think trickles of blood streamed from multiple pinholes in her palms.

All had become eerily quiet.

Heart hammering against her sternum, Bella slowly looked up at the vampires before her. Three pairs of obsidian eyes glowered down at her. Though, Edward had no intention of hurting her, that didn't mean she could overlook who and what he was.

"Bella," he rasped out, his voice strained.

She looked into the eyes of Jasper and Chelsea. The muscles in their necks appeared stretched, as if they were trying to hold back the monsters that lingered deep within them. Chelsea's lips parted, exposing sharp rows of teeth. Her whole body began to quiver.

There was no time to think. The vines were the closest things to her. Bella grabbed a hold of one of the horned appendages, wincing as more blood was drawn from her body, and she willed her power to take hold. Suddenly, the vine grew in length; it slithered along the ground silently, creeping up onto its prey.

Jasper and Chelsea, too succumbed by the scent of her blood, hadn't noticed the vine split and edge up the sides of their legs.

Bella squeezed the vine harder, anger and fear mixing in with the overwhelming pain she now felt. As if on command, the vines wrapped around the vampires' legs tightly, their thorns piercing through the granite surface of their flesh. Jasper and Chelsea growled in agony, their hands grasping at the vines to release. The thorns only dug deeper into their skin with every moment they struggled.

It was the distraction that they needed.

Bella released the vine as soon as Edward reached down for her. He flung her over his back, careful not to breathe in the scent of her blood as her arms wrapped around his neck.

"Hold on to me tightly," he muttered. "And close your eyes."

Doing as she was told, Bella wrapped her legs around his waist and settled her cheek against the back of his neck as she closed her eyes. The air whisked past her, fluttering the strands of her hair against the side of her face and forehead.

A feeling of hope spread throughout her fleetingly. Perhaps they both would make it out alive.

And just as quickly, the feeling disappeared the moment Bella felt herself being flung in midair. She heard Edward call out her name before her body smashed into the trunk of a tree.

An agonizing cry escaped her lips as tears streamed down her face. She had no doubt the ribs on her left side were cracked. It made each shuddering gasp she took that much more excruciating. However, she could not mistake the stench of the coppery scent of blood. Her hand still bled, but this was far more potent.

Her body crumpled on the forest floor, Bella strained her neck to the side to see her left arm. Part of the forelimb jutted out at an unnatural angle. Through a gash in the sleeves of her jacket and shirt, she could make out a deep indigo stain that grew across the surface of her skin. She tried to move her arm but the pain that surged through her nerves was unbearable. Her mouth opened, silently screaming.

She couldn't breath heavily, though she felt the strong urge to do so. The need to catch her breath was so powerful, yet the smell of her blood and the searing pain from her chest kept her breaths small and unfulfilling.

The chilling wind bit at her skin and she looked up, surprised to find herself alone. Confused, she looked around in the dark woods. Smoke rose high above the canopy and the smell of burning wood flitted beneath her nostrils. Using her right arm, she maneuvered herself so that she could glance behind at the burning remnants of her home.

Several minutes passed where the flames turned to smoke and the smoke turned to blackened ash. The fire had not touched the natural inhabitants of the forest, but only killed the tainted imprisonment of her past.

Slowly, she turned around.

Jasper's gleaming ebony eyes stared down at her. He appeared frozen, as if a statue. His broad chest didn't move, refusing to breath in the delicious aroma her blood so willingly produced. Finally, his lips parted.

"I'm sorry," he whispered.

Blinding and brief was the pain she felt in her temple the moment the heel of his boot collided with her skull. It was the last thing she remembered before her mind slipped off into a sea of night.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
eibbil_libbie
Feb. 15th, 2011 02:48 am (UTC)
I'm saving this baby to read over coffee and bagel at work tomorrow morning.
bexi21
Feb. 15th, 2011 02:59 am (UTC)
Well, you better sip your coffee slowly b/c it's a long one. lol
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )