"They are so cute!" I whispered to Jasper. Well, you are! I thought at my brother. I replayed for him the image in my mind of him and Bella Swan on his leather sofa. Edward was every inch the protective predator. Bella was the blushing, submissive prey.
It was kind of hot.
Yes, Edward, I think it was sexy. Deal with it. She's into you, you know?
My Jasper nuzzled my hair, bending down to do so but not losing a step, of course. Because my man lets nothing get in the way of his moves. He hadn't wanted to breathe while we checked in on Edward because Bella really does smell good, but he was doing so well. "You're fine," I reminded him.
He winked at me and I knew he knew he was.
"Jasper, Alice," Carlisle called, putting his paperwork in his office. "Everything all right?"
We stood just inside the door to the office, fingers laced together but palms apart – our usual stance. "Yes, sir. We have just had word that it will be a good afternoon to play some ball," Jasper said with a nod to the autographed 1918 baseball in its glass box on the antique desk Carlisle takes with him everywhere we move. "We might even have company."
"Miss Isabella Swan." Jasper was such a gentleman. I grinned and stood high up to kiss his jaw.
Carlisle's smile was broad and proud. "I thought I caught her scent here," he said softly. Edward would hear his thoughts but he'd have to keep it on the down-low. Bella embarrassed so easily! "Yes, I think a game is definitely in order. It would be an honor to have Bella join us, of course."
"Excellent!" Jasper said, almost growling in anticipation. He knew that got me all hot and bothered every single time. I sniffed and he grinned again. I felt the light touch of his desire caress my skin and knew that was his silent promise for later. Oh, I could see it...
He wants to make love outside in the storm... Lord, how did I not melt? I see his hair, dark honey in the rain. He peels my softball outfit from me and hangs it over the branch. Oh...he takes such good care of my clothes. Thunder comes and he tongues my collarbone –
I was jolted from my anticipation of melting tree-sex by another vision that made me panic. My warrior froze and pushed me behind him instinctively while my mind followed the future possibility:
I see us at "our" field. It's huge and green, surrounded by trees and canopied by variegated storm clouds. Bella's with Esme at home plate, calling Rosalie out or something. My sister is clearly resentful. Bella looks sheepish, her blush vibrant against the gray day.
Awww, she's wearing Edward's cap! His lucky cap! That is so sweet!
Three vampires appear at the edge of the woods and step onto the field. We all stop and the whole family looks to me. The dark-haired male speaks and looks very non-aggressive.
The blond male catches my attention but I don't know why. The family closes ranks on Bella. That's a mistake! The red-haired visitor, a female, laughs and dashes close. I see the word "Human!" on her lips!
Edward attacks and I see him wounded, venom dripping from his face, his torso ravaged by the female, who plucks Bella from Edward as he tries to pass his beloved off to Esme.
The blond male goes for me! I move and Jasper defends me and –
"Sweetheart!" Jasper held me close, his scent soothing as I blink the vision clear. "Alice, what is it?"
"We can't take Bella to the game." I dart a glance at Carlisle under Jasper's arm. "We can't. And we can't tell her why, because she'll –"
Her lips move as they stand together in Edward's bedroom and I read "don't belong," before she buries her face against my brother's chest. His eyes close in agony, his fingers curling into claws behind her back, but not digging into her shirt.
"I love you," his lips say.
She pushes against him and he lets her go. Devastated, the pair of them, they walk slowly from the house. She can't even bring herself to look at me. I smell salt and know she's going to cry as soon as she's in the car.
He says something at her house. She shakes her head, tears falling down her cheeks.
Then I see Edward on a tree outside her house as the sun rises and sets and rises and sets. Bella is on a sunny beach somewhere, eyes vacant.
"– She'll leave him. She'll tell him to leave her. Something. It breaks him, Carlisle."
Upstairs, I heard my brother say, "You know what? I'm kind of thinking of giving the game a pass."
I inhaled deeply in relief and shook myself free of my worries. Thank you, Brother-dear.
"Oh, well, okay," Bella said, sounding awkward and uncomfortable.
Fix it! I demanded of Edward. Beside me, Jasper just shook his head with a tolerant smile.
I heard my brother move and turn on some music. Bella's heart sped a little. "Are they still gonna play?"
"I think so..."
I didn't know what kind of expression my brother was wearing, or what he was doing to make Bella's heart go even faster. "Jasper?"
"Oh, they've both got it bad." He did not look at all unhappy about that, either.
Carlisle cleared his throat. I banished the heated foreplay in the rain image in my head. "Yes?"
"So, are we still playing?" It was clear he wished to, though he was concerned for Bella. I had not shared the vision with him; my family didn't need to be burdened by what would not happen.
"Without Bella," Jasper added with quiet seriousness, all the playful lust gone from him.
The house is empty and Edward has persuaded the reluctant Bella to dance. Boy, does she need practice. Oh, there he takes her up in his arms and sets her feet on his. He's really overdoing this protective thing. Daddy issues?
Does Bella Swan have daddy issues?
Holding her close, he rests his chin on her forehead. I see the effort he takes to breathe, to swallow – must be venom. "Could have lost you," he seems to say. I can see each word clearly, like he was over enunciating in pain or imagined loss.
He nudges her head back and runs his nose along her hairline. Her skin pinks up and I can see how my brother adjusts his stance to keep her from feeling his response to her. Then he kisses her, his body looking like he wants to enfold her into him. It's so sweet and protective and careful and she's obviously enjoying it and her hands start moving.
Oh my. I had no idea he even knew how to make a girl do that. Clearly, reading minds has taught him a lot, because I know that he hasn't had any practice since before I started living with him.
Fascinated, I couldn't seem to make myself leave the vision. Bella's hands were restless, and his were fighting a losing battle and I hoped to hell the black leather sofa was up to it.
I smiled at Jasper and was about ready to lead the way to our room when my gift took my brain away again.
Still in Edward's room. Bella's hair is rumpled, Edward's is impossible but, he is roaring! He's pushing her from him to the sofa!
No! Edward! What the hell are you–?
The dark-haired nomad! Alone, he's come for Bella and tries to run past Edward and get to her. Edward blocks him. They fight. The dark-haired one feints, Edward catches him, rips off his head and throws it –
To Bella! Her face contorts in revulsion and terror and suddenly, she drops it and her lips are blue and Edward is performing CPR while the nomad's body goes searching for its head...
Panting in terror, because I hated seeing this kind of thing, I sent my silent apologies to my brother. I think I heard something break and hoped it was just a chair. I could replace that in less than forty-eight hours. "No...I think maybe we should just, not. For some reason, at least one of the nomads winds up here."
"Maybe he caught her scent," Carlisle deduces. "We've been with her in the house. It's possible." He nods. "We will not play, then. I hope that suffices to keep everyone safe?"
I felt like I'd been through a blender, I really did. "I hope so."
With no need to change into my baseball uniform, I sighed and shrugged at Jasper. "Maybe we could still go out," I suggested. "The weather isn't changing just because our minds did."
He studied me carefully, gauging my emotions. I let him, because I knew he did it just to make sure he was caring for me in a way I needed. "All right. Would you like to go for a walk, Miss Alice?"
I smiled, reminding myself that my visions were just visions and they were over now that the family had decided to stay home. "I would be happy to accompany you," I said.
Carlisle had himself a chuckle and we left his office, separating to go our own ways. I expected Emmett and Rose to return from a hunt at any moment. Emmett kept a weather-eye out that was almost as good as mine! But for now, I did my best not to eavesdrop on Edward and Bella.
The music played on, on the third floor. I heard one set of steps and Bella's nearly-whiny, "Come on, Edward. I can't dance."
"It's all in the leading," he countered. "Really, it's all about me holding you and moving with you. Can you try...?"
"Oh." Bella laughed nervously. "Um, sure?"
In our room, I was just deciding to pack a towel for the extra-curricular activities, when still another vision invaded my mind.
Emmett arrives in the living room. Edward decides to take Bella to her house. I see him laughing, though, and Emmett punches him in the shoulder as Bella acquires roses in her cheeks. I can only guess Emmett has said something to embarrass her, the idiot.
Next, Edward and Bella are at her house in the kitchen while Charlie watches something on television. His revolver is on the low coffee table, along with a polishing cloth. There is a shotgun as well. He occasionally looks over his shoulder toward the kitchen, frowns, smiles, frowns again and takes a sip from his can of beer.
I had stilled while following the vision, and when I was more aware, I felt Jasper's arms around me. "Alice, I think we should stay in for the rest of the day. You're catching all kinds of hell, I can see."
I didn't even argue with him. He picked me up and cradled me as if I were a precious, fragile human and took me to bed. Propping himself on the headboard, he held me and let me sort through my head.
"Want me to help, hon?" His fingers played on my arms, his scent surrounded me. I inhaled and let as much of him suffuse my body as possible. "Or is there something I can be doing for you? Anything?"
"No." I pressed myself against his powerful body, loving the support he gave me physically like that. "This is good. This is better than good."
"Edward, what's wrong?" Bella's question alerted me to the fact that my brother was having trouble not reacting to my visions.
Hey! It's all not happening. We're not playing, it's all good, everything is fine, all right?
I saw a vision of him tearing down to me, eyes black and wild. "I can't see her killed or captured, over and over again, Alice. I – I just can't."
I puffed out an annoyed breath and responded to his mental decision. So stay out of my head. Go make out with your girlfriend. She's dying for you to.
I heard him chuckle on the floor above us and relaxed again.
"C'mon. I'm thinking that it's going to be getting crowded here pretty soon, Bella. Let's get you home."
He laughed and I could hear the smile in his voice. I hoped his eyes were golden now and not black. "Look, it's early and I want Chief Swan to be thinking I'll be a good, responsible boyfriend, all right?'
The only heartbeat in the house raced again and Jasper and I shared a smile. He kissed my head and I snuggled back into him. It was all going to be fine.
"Doin' all right, Alice?"
"Mmm-hmmm," I told my husband, turning and curling into his body. "Sorry, I guess I just freaked out."
He smiled and brushed his lips over mine. "I love you."
Smiling, I wound my fingers through his hair and was ready to rock his world when –
The flame-haired nomad blows through the Swan's front door. Charlie – a man of action for all his taciturnity – picks up his shotgun and fires. The nomad laughs and makes a game of cat and mouse out of it, letting Charlie turn purple and get his revolver aimed next. He fires and of course the bullets bounce right off her skin before she reaches for him and bites practically through his throat.
In the kitchen, Bella is screaming, shrieking. Edward pulls her from the table, heading to the back door. She is clearly telling him, "No!" but he ignores her, since the nomad is drinking from Chief Swan. Bella makes a desperate grab for the door frame, but my brother's strength is so great and his fear so strong that he doesn't stop but keeps going.
Her fingers are lacerated as he pulls her out of the house.
Blood, blood, blood. Dripping. Edward freezes, his need for her blood obviously overwhelming. Bella takes advantage of his inaction to squirm from his arms to run back inside just as the dark-haired nomad whips around the corner of the house.
His appearance galvanizes Edward into action and he leaps to protect Bella, fighting the nomad, venom spewing from his lips. He has just started to tear the nomad's head off when a third nomad – the one that had gone after me in my earlier vision – laughingly emerges from the woods. He breaks through the window of the house and takes Bella as she is screaming about her father. I see him swallow great gulps of her blood, dropping her body when he's finished.
The dark-haired vampire is in pieces behind the house. The female nomad sets a fire.
I see our family arriving just as Edward jumps into the pyre of the Swan house. We can't save any of them. Jasper tracks down the surviving nomads and destroys them.
I was sobbing without the release of tears as I came to myself again. "So sorry, so sorry, so sorry," I moaned into Jasper's chest.
"What's wrong with Alice?" Bella's question startled me, reminding me I had to keep this from her as much as possible. I couldn't let her leave my brother over future possibilities. I couldn't.
In a rare show of physical intrusion, Edward said, "Let's go find out."
I finger-combed my hair and tried not to look heartbroken as my brother and his girlfriend knocked on the bedroom door. "Come in."
Jasper looked stressed, torn, like he wanted to commit violence and weep at the same time. I knew just how he felt. So did Edward, I could see in his expression.
"Alice? Are you all right?" Bella asked timidly. Her eyes went to Jasper, who tried to smile.
"Just...sometimes I see things that are upsetting," I told her, "even if they never happen."
Bella bit her lip. "That has to be so hard for you. I'm sorry."
The lower sliding glass door opened and Emmett's voice dominated the entire house. "Hey, Alice! Looks like a great day to play! I'm dyin' to try to even the score. Are we gonna play ball?"