I sat on the bed, my back against the headboard and Adam's head on a pillow nestled in my lap. I stroked his hair as he snored quietly and let my thoughts drift. I had thought that I would miss the space taken up by the king sized bed in my room, but the joy on Adam's face when he'd seen it that last week in June more than made up for the loss of space. He now spent at least four nights out of the week sleeping in my room.
Esme had helped me pick out something simple, nothing as ornate as the bed Edward had bought for Bella. It was a simple wooden platform with a padded headboard that matched the green velvet brocade on my couch. I had let Alice go nuts with the linens, so of course I had ice green Egyptian cotton sheets, a plush down comforter and a massive amount of pillows, most of which were now scattered on the floor. Adam had dove headfirst into the sea of pillows a few hours ago, desperate to get a decent night's sleep. I had just returned from Paris with Alice today and as much as I had missed him, I knew it had been torture for him. He hadn’t had a hyperactive sister and a new, fascinating city to distract him.
"The poor boy looked dead on his feet, Carlisle. He's been five days without her and I don't think he's slept a wink." Esme was talking to Carlisle as they darted into the woods for a hunt. I didn't hear any more of their conversation as they ran out of my hearing range. Her words evoked mixed emotions in me. I was sad that he had suffered in my absence, but the concern I heard in Esme's voice was heart-warming. She, of all my family, had warmed the most towards Adam. Not surprising since my mother was the most loving creature on the planet and, in my opinion, Adam was one of the most lovable. Now, if only the rest of my family would stop griping about the smell and get to know him like mom had.
Okay, maybe I wasn't being fair. Alice and Rose were the only ones who weren't making an active effort to get to know him. Emmett had finally talked Adam into a wrestling match. To my relief, neither one of them had tried to rip the other's head off. Instead, they had dragged Jasper into their games. I had finally stopped bolting down the stairs whenever Adam yelped or growled at my brothers. He really could hold his own in a fight. Not to mention he routinely kicked Emmett's butt at video games.
Edward couldn't help but get to know Adam. He was a mind reader. The few times they were together, talk often turned to music or me. Edward never seemed to run out of embarrassing tales to tell Adam about my newborn days. I think Adam was beginning to consider Edward a friend, too. At least my brother treated him with respect, which was more than his own peers did most of the time.
And then there was Dad. Adam walked on eggshells around my father, not out of fear, but out of respect. At least that's what he told me. I had talked to Dad about his 'stern father' attitude around Adam. I had accused him of getting a kick out of scaring my boyfriend. He had denied that vehemently, claiming that he was just acting like any father of a teenage vampire should act. At that point, from the other side of the house, Jasper had jokingly accused him of taking lessons from Charlie Swan. Dad began warming up to Adam after that, but it was definitely a gradual progression.
I was drawn out of my thoughts when my phone vibrated against my thigh, making Adam grumble and roll away from me. The vibration pattern was Alice's so I slipped silently out of the bed and leapt out onto my balcony. Or tried to. I tripped over a pillow and had to catch myself on my hands. I hoped I hadn't left a dent in the floor. I made my way outside a little slower than normal and perched on the railing before I flipped open my phone.
"What's up, Ali?" She was on a long hunting trip with all my siblings, including Edward. She was feeling just guilty enough for keeping me from Adam that she had organized a quick trip as soon as they’d come home so I would have the house mostly to myself when Adam came over. To say I was thrilled that Mom and Dad had taken off too was an understatment. Not that Adam would be doing much more than sleep for several hours. Or so I thought.
"Bella's future just disappeared," Alice said, frustration evident in her tone. I had almost expected her to make a joke about my earlier trip and fall, but she was worried about Bella. I held back a sigh and asked the only question I knew she wanted me to ask.
"In one hour and twenty minutes." Ah, so it wasn't Adam and I going to visit her. I wasn't letting him out of my sight again for at least 24 hours and I didn't really want to share him with anyone for most of that time, not even my best friend.
"Did you call her and check?" I asked thoughtfully.
"She said Charlie was having Billy, Jake and Sarah over for the game and dinner," Alice grumbled softly.
"And?" I pushed, knowing that Alice wouldn't ask me to check up on Bella if it was just the Blacks coming over.
"Charlie's working late tonight." Ah, Bella was up to something. Not necessarily a bad thing, but if she was fibbing to Alice, something was up.
"I'll let Adam sleep for another hour and then I'll wake him and we'll go check on her. Call me if the time table shifts," I told her sourly. I hated checking up on Bella. I trusted my best friend, I did. But my brother was right to call her a trouble magnet so I would check on her covertly unless I got the sense that there was a problem. Maybe Adam could shed some light on who was visiting the Swan home and why.
“Can’t you just let him sleep and go…” Alice started and I growled at her.
“Don’t you dare ask me that, Alice,” I snarled softly and heard her sigh.
“I’m sorry, Leia. I know you missed him. Just…call me when you know something okay?"
"Fine, Alice," I said, sure she could hear the exasperation in my tone.
"And you might want to pick up those pillows before you break one of the mirrors,” she whispered quickly and then hung up. I grumbled to myself as I tucked my phone away. I made my way, carefully, back into the bed with Adam. He grunted softly and reached for me. I snuggled against his fiery warmth and listened to his heartbeat, ignoring the dull ache in my throat and the tickle of venom on my tongue. The single deer I had found on my short run this morning wasn’t going to hold me for long. I began running through wedding plans in my mind, both to distract myself and to prepare for the craziness that would ensue tomorrow night when Alice returned.
"Adam?" I murmured about an hour later, reaching out to touch his face. Usually my hand was cold enough to startle him awake but it had been sandwiched between our bodies for a while now, so I had to coax him a little. "Comeon, love, we have to go spy on Bella."
"W'for?" He murmured back sleepily, only half awake.
"Because Bella invited some of the pack over for milk and cookies and she lied to Alice about it," I said wryly. Adam sat up, pulling me into his lap as he yawned.
"When?" He asked, sounding almost completely awake now.
"In about twenty minutes. Can you check in with the pack? It might save us a trip," I asked as I walked my fingers up his arm. He grabbed my hand and kissed my fingers before he shifted to the edge of the bed and stood up with me still in his arms. He leaned down and touched his lips to mine in a sweet, tender kiss before he turned and placed me gently back on the mattress.
"Give me a sec." And then he strode out onto my balcony to phase. While he conferred with his brothers, I hopped off the bed and began gathering pillows off the floor, walking gingerly until my foot touched each one before I lifted it and tossed it back on the bed. Adam was back before I was done.
"Hey, I would have done that, Leia. I don't want you tripping over a pillow and putting a dent in the floor." I decided not to mention that I'd already attempted that feat. He looked around and I saw that I had missed one pillow, over by the bookcases. He picked it up and came over, popping me lightly on the head with it. I grinned.
"Don't start a pillow fight we can't finish. Or did your pow wow give you insight into Bella's intentions?" I asked, lifting my hands to his face. I felt him grimace.
"No insight. Just more questions. She's asked Sam, Jake, Billy and Dad over. Sarah's going because Jake made the mistake of telling her about the meeting. Bella just said she wanted to talk to them about 'something important'," he said, making air quotes around the last two words. I frowned.
"She's definitely up to something. As much as I hate it, we need to head over there."
"Already told Sam we'd be there. He wasn't happy about it, though. Said Bella has the right to air any complaints about the bloodsuckers without interference," He said bitterly. I snorted.
"One day, he's going to accidently have a kind thought about one of my family. It just might make him self destruct," I said darkly. Adam chuckled and excused himself to go to the bathroom. I pulled on a pair of shoes and a jacket while he was gone. Then I grinned and grabbed my keys.
"We should take my car," I said when he came back into the room. He was quiet for just a split second before agreeing. Most humans wouldn't notice the hesitation, but I did. According to Edward, he hated riding in my car because of the limited leg room. But he would never tell me that, so I decided to reward him for his generosity. "I'll even let you drive."
"Really?" He asked, excitement evident in his voice now. He had only driven my car once since Rose and I had finished it in late July and he was enough of a car junkie to love the way my little roadster handled. I made a mental note to have a set of keys made for him so he could drive it whenever he wanted. I tossed my keys in his general direction, knowing he would catch them easily. Then he grabbed me and threw me over his shoulder as he raced down the stairs.
We pulled up to Bella's house about fifteen minutes later, both of us singing along with the radio at the top of our lungs. I giggled as Adam turned off the car, but sobered quickly when I saw Bella through his eyes, standing on the front steps with her arms crossed and an angry frown on her face. I was standing in front of her in flash, hands held behind my back and head tilted curiously as I tried to look completely innocent.
"What, no warm welcome?" I asked casually. Adam came up behind me and wrapped an arm around my waist, not saying a word as Bella's frown deepened. Nope, she wasn't buying the look.
"I thought you and Adam would be catching up after your trip," she said sharply. Adam yawned at that precise moment and I smiled up at him.
"Adam's been catching up on his sleep, at least. We'll catch up later tonight, barring any major catastrophies," I said before turning my head back towards Bella. "And since Adam says you're planning a tea party for some of his family, I thought we'd invite ourselves over."
"You can't be here, Leia. Sam isn't expecting you to be here and I need to talk to him," Bella said, frustration evident in her tone. I rolled my eyes.
"Of course Sam's expecting me to be here. I'm the damned ambassador to the tribe, so it's my right to be in on an chats between our two parties. Not to mention I'm your best friend. So whatever you're planning, Bella Swan, you might want to fill me in now so I can help you with it," I said sternly. I saw her face crumple in Adam's vision and she sat down abruptly in the steps. Adam and I took up space on either side of her and I wrapped my arm around her shoulders. She leaned against me and took a breath.
"This whole situation is my fault, so it's my place to fix it. I want it to be my wedding present to Edward, one less thing for him to worry about," she said brokenly. I squeezed her gently.
"I'm sure whatever you think is your fault isn't, Bella," I said soothingly. Adam sighed.
"I'm assuming you're talking about renegotiating the treaty?" He asked. I was startled by his insight, but it made sense. What else could Bella want to talk with the tribal elders about?
"You know what has to happen, Leia, for all of us to be safe," Bella said cryptically. Then she looked up at Adam and smiled sadly. "And so you can stop hiding things from Adam. I know how much you hate that."
"Bella..." I started and then trailed off. I couldn't tell her that the worst thing I hid from Adam had nothing to do with the treaty. I prayed that Bella never found out what I had been forced to do in Volterra. Not because she would condemn me for it, but because it would add one more stone to the weight of guilt she carried around needlessly.
"Nothing that happened in Italy was your fault, Bella. You cannot help being human, Bella Swan, and you cannot help who you love. If anyone is to blame for that whole fiasco, it was Edward for leaving you in the first place. Or even Laurent, if you want to villianize someone who deserved it," Adam said, just a hint of irritation in his voice. I stiffened, wondering how Adam had connected our need to renegotiate the treaty to the events in Italy. He sighed.
"You wouldn't tell me why those Italian monsters let you out of their city when you had broken their one cardinal rule. It isn't hard to figure out what they demanded in return for their lenicency. Bella's heartbeat, one way or another," he said in a pained tone. He was looking at Bella and by the way she ducked her head and blushed, he would know his guess was right. He touched her cheek and I heard the tiniest amount of dark humor in his tone when he spoke again. "I can read the clues as well as the next man. I'm not just a big, dumb injun."
"But if you've guessed, the rest of the pack will know, too," Bella said, panic in her tone, her eyes turned to me. I touched my forehead to hers and exhaled. I couldn't dazzle her like Edward, but my breath would have a calming effect at least. I felt her relax.
"They've suspected for a while now, Bella, they just don't have concrete proof that we plan to turn you. Looks like the cat is out of the bag now," I said with grimace.
"I was planning to tell them anyway, so at least now you can't try to talk me out of it," Bella said. Her voice was weak, but I could hear the determination behind her words. Adam wrapped his arms around both of us and pulled us into a hug.
"Well, what's done is done. Now, we just need to decide how we're going to present your argument so they have no choice but to grant an exception to the treaty, at the very least," Adam said thoughtfully. I could feel Bella relax even more and I knew that having one more ally in her fight to become Edward's equal was a relief to her. I made a mental note to kiss Adam senseless later for his acceptance of the situation. I would have done it right then, but we had more pressing matters to attend to.
"Well, let's make it quick because they'll be here in about two minutes." I could hear Jacob's rabbit being followed closely by another vehicle. Bella took a deep breath.
"I've already thought of that. I'll use the same argument I used with the family the night of the vote. If they won't agree to let me be changed by Edward or Carlisle without starting a war, I'll be going to Volterra alone. Whether they change me or kill me, either alternative is preferable to watching my friends and family tear themselves apart."