Rosalie's body was bent in a protective arch over Bella's sleeping form as Emmett fought against Jasper's heavy dose of lethargy.
"Stop this now." Esme's voice was firm but quiet; she didn't want to wake Bella.
Emmett and I stood toe to toe; his body slightly angled in front of Rosalie. His eyes blazed with fury and his muscles were tensed, ready to spring. Jasper had eased his lethargic influence the moment Esme spoke.
"Emmett, Jasper, upstairs." Her command was delivered in the same tone.
Emmett turned to glare at Esme. "I'm not leaving Rose alone with him," he growled, jerking his head in my direction.
Esme moved closer to Emmett. "I'm not going to leave him alone with her; I just need to talk to Edward. Rosalie will be safe, I promise," she affirmed with a smile. The dainty hand she rested on his huge forearm seemed to achieve a minor calming effect, and his posture relaxed.
He leaned down to his wife, who had resumed her position at Bella's side, and stroked her cheek. She gave him a gentle smile and reassured him. "Esme is here, I'll be fine."
Entrusting his wife's safety to our mother, he turned and followed Jasper up the stairs.
'I'm sorry, son.' Carlisle's thoughts came to me from his study where he had been waiting, surgical instruments ready for me to bring Bella to him.
I'd been listening to Esme's thoughts as soon as she intervened, so I could ascertain what her plans were. She wavered between a full on rant and a quiet, understanding talk, before something firmed up in her mind. But before I could get a handle on her intentions, she began to recite the recipe for the meal she wanted to prepare for Bella later.
"Come with me, Edward," Esme called as she started towards the back door.
"I can't leave Bella," I protested. "You know I don't want to leave her." My voice sounded strained, almost panicked.
"It wasn't a request, Edward. I want to talk to you privately. We won't go far, so you'll hear if Bella wakes." There was a warmth to her voice, but the underlying edge meant she would brook no argument.
I leaned towards Bella and bent to kiss her forehead, taking note of her even, shallow breaths, indicating a deep sleep. The action earned me a hiss and a glare from Rosalie, but I blocked out the tirade of abuse directed at me through her thoughts.
Reluctantly, I followed Esme as she continued out of the door. A thud and the sound of cracking plaster came from upstairs. Emmett had Jasper pinned against a wall by his neck.
"Not in the house, boys," murmured Esme. "You'll wake Bella."
She didn't break her stride as she crossed the lawn, walking towards the river.
She stopped at the bank, knowing that if she kept her voice low, we were far enough for privacy, but I could still hear my family's thoughts. She was still blocking me, but I knew this wouldn't be good.
Turning to face me, she began. "What were you thinking? Did you honestly think I would let you do that?"
I looked into her eyes. The warmth had been replaced by a steely glint, filled with anger and disappointment.
"You couldn't have believed Emmett would stand by and let you tear his wife apart." Her voice rose slightly, expressing her incredulity. Her shoulders heaved slightly as she took in a steadying breath. It was obvious that she needed the words to come out, to release the anger that was burning inside of her. Then her questions came thick and fast, not really requiring an answer, merely voicing her horror at the consequences of what I'd planned.
"How could you even think about doing that to your own sister? Do you think that because she could be put back together, it would be okay? Have you any idea how she would feel? The mental scars you would leave if she were attacked by someone she trusted again?"
The last one was like a slap in the face. I was furious with Rosalie; our fractious relationship was stretched to its limit, but I would never wish to add to the awful memories she carried over from her human life.
Bella's health was consuming all of my thoughts. I had considered that she may never forgive me for ending the pregnancy. I was even prepared for her to leave me, but I just wanted her to live. Any consequences beyond that had not crossed my mind.
Esme sensed my discomfort, and she lowered her eyes to the ground. I heard her fight the urge to console me, so that she could continue her task.
Her eyes returned to mine and she whispered, "I can't read minds, but I know my son. Emmett feels betrayed, doesn't he?"
I nodded, stung by the quiet question. When I thought about attacking Rosalie, the main thing I worried about was how to get around Emmett. How I could target her without his intervention, so I enlisted Jasper's help. We had both betrayed him.
Esme's steely voice returned. "You can see into his head, Edward. Unlike you and Jasper, it's never crossed his mind to harm Bella, and yet you would hurt his wife without a second thought."
She was right. Even at Bella's disastrous birthday party, when Jasper had been overcome by the force of all our thirst, the thought of attacking Bella never entered Emmett's head. The scent of her blood filled the room, his throat burned, and yet his only thought was to get himself and Jasper away from her, so that she would be safe. His strength, both mental and physical, in restraining our out of control brother at the same time was incredible.
Esme moved closer to me and I knew there was more she wanted to say. I quickly scanned the thoughts in the house. I could see Bella through Rosalie's mind. She was still asleep and her breaths remained even and shallow. Rosalie was monitoring her heartbeat; it was weaker than yesterday but steady. Feeling reassured, I pulled out of Rosalie's head and away from the center of my world.
"Do you know why Bella called Rosalie?" Esme's quiet question refueled the anger towards Rosalie that had begun to subside.
"Because she knows how much she wants a child," I snapped.
Esme opened her mouth, and I could see her protest forming. I wasn't about to let her defend my sister's selfish actions.
"I know Rosalie's thoughts. I know she sees what Bella's carrying as a baby, and she's itching to get her hands on it." My tone was sharp, not one I usually used with my mother.
Esme emitted a low growl and responded. "I'm not asking you about Rosalie, I'm asking you about Bella."
I was somewhat taken aback by the fact that Esme had growled at me, as I recalled the snippets of the phone call I had gleaned from my sister's thoughts. It was mostly Bella begging her for help, and her sense of shock on hearing Bella was pregnant. Swiftly followed by her resolve and determination.
"She called Rose because she knew she would stand up to you," Esme asserted. "She knew you would persuade Alice to take your side. I'm ashamed to say this, but if she had called me, I may have given into your pleas too. Bella knew Rosalie would stand up to you. You can't bully her."
I was dumbfounded. She surely couldn't believe that about me. "I- am- not- a- bully," I ground out, barely keeping a hold of my temper.
Esme simply rested her hand on my arm; my loving mother was back. She'd considered the 'bully' comment had gone too far, but continued. "Of course you're not. Edward, my dear boy. You agonize and beat yourself up over even the slightest harm that befalls Bella. We all feel for you, and follow your will in the hopes of alleviating some of that suffering. That's why we left last year. We all thought it was a mistake, but we knew how much you were hurting, so we didn't want to go against your wishes. None of us stood up to you."
Esme held my gaze, lifted a hand to cup my cheek, and said, "Rosalie doesn't want to steal Bella's baby." I let out a hard, humorless laugh in response before she added, "She just doesn't want Bella's choice taken away from her. You can't force this on her, Edward. She has the right to decide, whether we agree with her or not."
Her hand lowered and she turned towards the house. Raising her voice to a normal level, she stated, "I need to speak with Carlisle now." He had heard her, and I heard his mental gulp as he prepared himself for what his wife had in store for him.
I sighed, and ran my hands through my hair, eventually tugging at the roots in frustration. I'd failed. Any hopes I had of forcing the pregnancy to end were quashed. Esme was against it, so Carlisle would not help me now. I'd implanted a monster in my dear wife, and it would kill her. The certainty of that outcome pulled me back toward the suffocating despair that held me captive in the rat infested attic in Brazil. But I could not allow the darkness to claim me. My Bella was still alive, and she needed me.
There was no point hanging about by the river, wasting precious minutes away from my wife. As I approached the house, I found Emmett waiting for me on the porch and the guilt that was triggered by Esme's words re-surfaced.
"I'm sorry," I stated simply. The apology, although heartfelt, was inadequate.
His eyes bore into me and he kept his voice low. "I get it, Edward. I hate to see Bella like this too. But if you ever try to attack my wife again, I'll rip your head off and hand it to Bella on a plate."
I didn't doubt it for a moment.
I could hear Bella's breathing start to change, she would wake soon. "Are we good?" I asked. His eyes softened and he pulled me into a hug, slapping me on the back.
"We're good," was his reply.
The guilt I felt at betraying him surged anew. My brother didn't bear a grudge. I knew he wouldn't bring this up again. His wife, however, was another matter. I owed her an apology too, but my wife was waking up, so Rosalie would have to wait.
Bella stirred as I entered the living room. Her eyes opened slowly and alighted on mine. Her face lit up with a smile as her delicate hand reached out to me. My hand held hers a fraction of a second later.
"Edward," she sighed.
"I'm here, my love." I sank into the depth of her eyes, drowning in the love within. I knew I couldn't take away her choice. I also knew I could not bear to lose her. I would have to do everything in my power to make her choose to live.