As the plane approached the airport I was already reaching out, searching through minds on the ground – listening for the tracker. Carlisle, on my right, had the same thought… Is he here?
“No, nothing,” I replied, relieved. Soon Bella would be safely in my arms and we’d be flying far from here. Emmett grumbled on my left, still eager to get his hands on James’ neck.
It had been an awful two days without Bella; I’d never felt so alone. Every time I closed my eyes I could see her, beckoning to me, smiling. Finally the plane touched down and I inhaled deeply, anticipating the sweet burn of her scent. Only a few more minutes.
Our plane turned toward the terminal, and I concentrated again, listening for Alice and Jasper. The desire to be able to hear Bella’s thoughts was so strong it actually caused my head to ache. I needed to know she was safe. I heard Alice – she wasn’t in the terminal – was she in the parking garage? She was very focused on finding her way out of the maze of ramps. Was Bella with her?
As the plane came to a stop at the gate, I impatiently watched the attendants prepare to open the doors. I’d been fidgeting during the entire flight, and now my twitches became an irritating foot stomping. We were nearly 15 minutes early, thank goodness. I tried to find Jasper among the thousands of murmurings all around me. Finally I heard his Southern drawl.
Jasper was reading something – a note. It was from Bella, the handwriting I saw through his eyes could only belong to her. As I read it with him I froze. The name at the top was mine. Bella had planned to escape from Alice and Jasper to save her mother. I could tell from Jasper’s thoughts that she’d succeeded.
“NO!” I shouted as I realized she wasn’t here. She was gone, running straight to the demon we’d be trying so hard to keep from her. Carlisle and Emmett immediately grabbed my arms, holding me down in my seat. I was barely aware of the apologies they were making to the other passengers for my outburst. I couldn’t breathe.
“Calm down, Edward. We’ll be out in a minute.” Carlisle was trying to calm me but tightened his grip on my arm. What’s happened?
“She’s gone. They lost her.” I’d found enough control to keep my voice down, but spoke through clenched teeth. Carlisle had his phone to his ear as I spoke, calling Alice.
Emmett was confused. How? There’s no way he could get through them. I thought you said he wasn’t here. His thoughts flooded my mind.
“She ran from them. Apparently James has her mother and contacted Bella without Alice or Jasper knowing.” We rose to be first off the plane.
How did she get away from them – from Alice? Emmett couldn’t believe such a thing could happen.
“I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.” I snarled. I started dragging them toward the exit.
“Calmly Edward…” Carlisle warned.
Once we were out of sight of the flight crew we dashed down the jet way. Jasper stood just inside the terminal, having easily slipped past security. He looked at me sadly, thinking his apologies. My hands flexed, wanting to reach his neck… Emmett and Carlisle tightened their grip again.
“We didn’t know that it was her decision that changed the future, Edward.” Jasper spoke solemnly as we walked as quickly as humanly possible down the concourse. I just glared at him as his memories of how Bella eluded him flashed through my mind. They ended with Bella walking alone into a restroom.
“You let her out of your sight?!” People looked at me as I yelled at Jasper. Carlisle and Emmett chastised me with their thoughts. I’m so sorry Edward, Jasper thought over and over.
Bella’s scent hit me like a brick wall as we approached the spot she’d been sitting in only ten minutes go. I breathed deeply, seeing her face in my mind, her arms open for me. My arms ached, not from the strong hands currently holding them, but for wanting her, for missing her.
“She was sitting here,” Jasper said uselessly.
“Your help is no longer required.” I spat, and my brother fell behind us.
“Let me go,” I growled, shaking my arms free. Bella’s scent led me through the airport like an unending row of torches, and we came on the ladies restroom in seconds.
There’s another way out, Jasper thought, but I’d already discerned that fact. Finding the new trail of fiery aroma, I came to a stop in front of the elevator she’d taken. As we waited for the elevator to arrive, my mind filled with thoughts of being too late. Did he have her yet? Was he hurting her, draining her of life? My hand fisted and stretched impatiently.
The car next to us dinged, and Emmett stepped forward.
I muttered, “Not that one.” I ignored the confusion in his thoughts.
The doors before me opened and I laid my hand on the spot her fingers had touched, caressing the hard steel and feeling a ripping pain in my chest. Why didn’t she wait for me?
The elevator descended to the baggage level, the steel coffin opening with a squeak to reveal her sweet scent. Another agonizing wave of grief swept through me as I tracked her to the curb. My fast movements reminded the security guard of Bella’s run through the terminal moments before - her long, brown locks appeared in his memory as he watched her jump into a hotel shuttle. I stopped in the exact spot she did at the curb.
“She got a shuttle to the Hyatt. Why?” I whirled on Jasper, my hands in fists.
“I don’t know. That’s not her final destination. We couldn’t have been more than two minutes behind her. We think she’s going to a dance studio in Phoenix.” Jasper spoke quickly, remembering a drawing Alice had made, and the conversation with Bella. His memory of her voice felt like acid in my ears.
Bella, why? my mind screamed.
Jasper held out a map to me, but I could already see the route in his mind. “Alice should be here in another minute with the car,” he murmured.
“A minute! He can kill her 50 times over in a minute.” I snapped. Just then a woman in a Acura sedan pulled to the curb next to us and jumped out, waving to someone in the terminal. She locked the car and then tossed the key in her open purse. I moved to intercept her as she stepped on the curb, picking the key out of her bag with flash of my hand. She kept on walking, unaware of the theft.
The seconds it took for this stranger to make her way out of sight were agony as I tried not to imagine what was happening to Bella as we waited. Finally the woman disappeared and in seconds I was behind the wheel of her car. Emmett and Jasper barely made it into the vehicle before I pulled away.
I’ll go with Alice, Carlisle thought as we sped out of the terminal.
I could hear Alice’s thoughts at the other end of the crowded pickup area as we pulled away and cringed. Her visions were flashing between the image of a crimson-eyed Bella and a coffin covered in flowers. Gasping, I tried to force her thoughts out of my mind. Was there no other choice?
Bella was only minutes ahead of us, but traffic on the freeway was thick. I wove through the throng, slipping between cars with inches to spare, fighting the urge to leap out into the sun and sprint the rest of the way. I prayed that her trip to the Hyatt slowed her down enough that we could stop her before she made it to the studio. I pressed the gas pedal to the floor when traffic ahead cleared.
As cars flashed by, my thoughts were consumed with how I’d been the cause of this entire situation, how I’d brought this on her, her father, and now her mother. My selfishness was to blame, and now she would be the one paying the price. What if I didn’t make it? What if I lost her forever? There was only one future for me if that happened…
“It’s not your fault,” Jasper murmured from the back seat. His voice reminded me of his presence.
“Isn’t it? I should have stayed away from her. Bella didn’t deserve this.” My mind raced, trying to see where I’d made my mistake. I could have stayed in Alaska after that first horrible day – but then she would’ve been killed by the van, so no, that wasn’t it. If I had just kept ignoring her she would have eventually found someone else… but then there was the incident in Port Angeles… what could I have done differently? Why can’t I see the answer? Was I destined to watch her die… solely because I existed?
The anger inside me vanished for a moment, dissolving into a helpless agony that threatened to split me in two. I wouldn’t live like this. If she died, I would follow as best as I could. Though I would never see her again, I would not exist without her. But how could I join her in death? I glanced at Emmett, staring out the window, flexing his fist in preparation for meeting James. No, I thought, he wouldn’t help me.
As I listened to Jasper wallow in his own guilty thoughts I knew he wouldn’t help me either. Who then, would put me out of this profound misery? As I sadly contemplated an eternity without Bella, my error suddenly became clear: If I’d only kept her from knowing what I truly was.
By sharing my world with Bella I’d broken the one law of my kind. The immortal world was not to be revealed to humans. Now she was bearing what should be my punishment… and in that was my answer. If I lost Bella I would go to the Volturi.
For thousands of years the Volturi had existed, safely hidden away in their Italian castle, patiently becoming the most powerful coven in existence. With that power they essentially ruled my world – taking what they wanted, and punishing those who threatened their comfortable lifestyle. The Volturi guaranteed that the world of vampires would remain mythical to humans – eradicating anyone or anything that threatened to expose their secrets.
They would relieve my pain. It was so simple, really. There had to be peace for me somehow. As I sped down the freeway, I was surprised at how comfortable the thought of ending my existence made me.
Jasper’s thoughts intruded again, reminding me of the exit we were to take. The anger returned with the memory of James’ eyes when he looked at Bella. There was still a chance that I could save her. I pressed my foot harder to the floor as we veered off the freeway.
We were close, and I tried to hear James, hear if we were too late. As I ran the red light three blocks away his evil thoughts cut through mine.
“Would you like to rethink your last request?” he hissed.
Through his eyes I saw Bella, my Bella, struggling under his grasp. There was a sickening crunch, followed by her piercing scream.
I gasped, nearly tearing off the steering wheel in my hands. “NO… Bella!” I yelled. The small building came into sight, and the car lurched forward again.
As we closed in, James longed to see my face when I saw how he’d tortured my love; how he savored her last drop of blood. This is just the beginning, he thought, anticipating the joy he'd find hunting me next.
Bella’s voice rang in James’ ears, “No Edward, don’t…” It was as if she knew I was here – and she was trying to protect me. I could barely see the road ahead, my vision was so clouded with pain and anger.
I roared again as he kicked her beautiful face, flinging her into the already broken mirror. I started to shake as I saw her distorted body lying motionless in a growing pool of blood, all through his eyes. The smell her blood permeated his thoughts as he succumbed to its pull, but the burn in my throat only fueled my hate.
“Whatever happens, don’t let him get away,” I snarled at my brothers. They shifted in their seats impatiently and replying with equally vicious growls.
As I leapt from the car, James knelt down next to my love, salivating.