The Road Not Taken
Epilogue: “She didn’t really seem like that sort of girl,” Tanya commented, her tone just a tad sour, and Demetri quirked a smile.
“I get the feeling there’s a lot more to her than we’ve suspected.” Sequel to The Road Less Traveled by Daintress of tm_switzerland.
12. Chapter 12
Rating 5/5 Word Count 3159 Review this Chapter
Edward didn’t wonder. Jane was hoping the newborn would find them. And preferably that it would kill Edward and Bella before she was ‘able’ to subdue it. She wasn’t shy about letting him know that, either. Every time the thought crossed her mind, she glanced at him in amusement. He kept his jaw set to prevent himself from speaking to her, and gripped Bella’s hand more tightly than he’d ever done. She didn’t seem to notice.
“This is stupid,” Bella commented the first morning, when they’d returned to their inconspicuous hotel before dawn after an entire night spent randomly searching the jungle. “We need a search pattern.” She got up from the couch, where she’d been watching Edward pretend to watch television, and left the room abruptly. He looked after her in shock. Then he turned very deliberately back to the television, reminding himself that she was not the same Bella she’d been in high school. If she wanted to go somewhere alone, she was more than entitled. She could take care of herself. He forced back his panic. Jane’s renewed amusement didn’t help his disposition, however.
Ten minutes later, Bella came back with a map of the immediate area, a pen, and a ruler. “Jane?” she asked, trying to keep the annoyance out of her voice. She waited for the slight woman to approach the table on which she’d spread out the map.
She pointed out the little village where reports of the sparkling newborn had originated. “Pick a spot at the edge of the trees near here, and we’ll work from there,” she said dryly. She couldn’t believe she was doing this. Of course, she HAD at least become good enough at it to find the meadow alone, by the time she and Jake had stopped looking for it together. And over the years, the two of them had hiked from time to time.
Jane put her finger on the map briefly and then turned away. Edward smiled his lopsided smile as he watched Bella quickly draw the spokes, radiating outward from that point. Then she turned to him. “I couldn’t afford a compass,” she admitted, shrugging. The only reason she’d had any money at all was because he’d handed her some to buy toys at the airport that she’d thought Charlie and Will would like. His smile widened.
“That will teach you to run off without me,” he joked, standing. They both heard Jane huff again. Any time they said anything to one another that wasn’t strictly related to their task, she got annoyed. Edward didn’t spare her a glance, but he did look down at Bella’s handiwork and nod. “That will help. Where can we buy a compass?”
Bella grinned up at him. “I’ll show you,” she offered, reaching for his hand and wishing she’d taken him along last time, too. Maybe they’d finally get a chance to talk. Or do something else.
“Show us both,” Jane interjected, her voice oppressive. They turned to look at her, and though Bella kept her face expressionless to mask her disappointment, Edward scowled. For the first time, Jane thought about the instructions she’d been given before they’d arrived in Aro’s office. She wasn’t to let Edward out of her sight. Apparently Aro didn’t care if Bella disappeared on him, but he wasn’t letting Edward go without a fight. Or maybe he just knew Bella wouldn’t leave the Volturi without Edward, but had less faith in Edward’s commitment to Bella? After a tense moment, he shrugged and let Bella pull him out the door, Jane following.
They purchased a compass from a disreputable looking man in one of the tents on the outskirts of town. It was clearly not where Bella had found her ruler, but she made a beeline for it, obviously very sure of her destination. “I noticed him on the way back,” she explained to Edward. He’d been looking at her funny ever since they’d left the hotel. “What?”
“Are you the same girl who had to ask me which way was north?” he asked, mostly amused, but slightly alarmed, as he always was when one of the changes in her became too apparent.
“Not really,” she joked. “I learned to navigate when I was searching for our meadow. I remembered where we started from, but wasn’t sure what direction to go. I recalled you saying it was about five miles. Jacob drew the search pattern in six mile spokes. It took several trips, but I found it. He’d stopped talking to me the week before, because Sam felt it was too dangerous, so I found it alone...” she trailed off, thinking of Laurent, and then noticed that Edward looked miserable. She rolled her eyes. He probably thought she’d stopped talking out of some long-held misery because Jake had stopped talking to her for a few weeks.
“And when I did, Laurent found ME. So I was lucky the pack was in the area. Of course, they scared me half to death. I was much more afraid of them than Laurent, oddly enough.” She grinned at him, and his expression cleared.
“Sorry,” he said quickly, realizing he’d managed to assume the wrong thing again.
“Just ask me. Remembering doesn’t hurt nearly as much as that look on your face.”
“If you two are quite finished,” Jane cut in pointedly. Edward laughed at her, which made her scowl at him even harder. But he felt fairly light-hearted again, all of a sudden. He simply smiled in return. As long as she wasn’t grinning at him, he didn’t feel particularly subservient. It helped, knowing how badly she wanted to make him hurt, because she wasn’t doing it, and that probably meant she’d been instructed not to.
Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Bella fiddling with the compass. She noticed. The more often she looked into his eyes, the brighter his soul was to her. And when he was happy, it seemed to glow. Naturally, then, any time his eyes were on her, she noticed. “You’re probably better with this than I am,” she admitted, handing it to him.
“Probably.” They made it back to the room before dawn, and Edward’s amusement lasted well into the next night’s search.
Bella wasn’t tired, and she hadn’t tripped over anything in the darkness of the jungle. She HAD, however, embarrassed herself in front of Jane. She was only three years a vampire, after all. She was thirsty, and the woods were her only hunting ground. She left Jane and Edward abruptly, and didn’t return for several long minutes. Edward had taught her to enjoy the hunt, and after her initial failure with the bear, she’d had little trouble. The jaguar she caught was more fun than the bears in Italy. She could suddenly understand why Edward preferred the lynx and mountain lions.
Jane had only huffed in annoyance, while a grinning Edward had put his arm around her waist briefly upon her return before grabbing her hand, glancing at the compass, and pulling her off into the trees again. They covered four spokes of Bella’s drawing in only an hour, and were just completing the fifth, when a familiar scent brought Bella to a sudden stand still. Edward and Jane stopped as well.
Bella sniffed at the air delicately and then turned to look at Jane, her face twisted into an angry snarl that made Edward step back from her. For the first time, she looked like a vampire. Jane held her ground. “Is this supposed to be some kind of sick joke?” Bella demanded. Her hands had clenched themselves into fists without her conscious permission, and it was all she could do to stop herself from closing the distance between them and … she wasn’t sure WHAT she would do, if she found Jane within her reach.
“What’s wrong?” Edward asked quickly, and she turned her fierce expression on him. If possible, she looked even angrier.
“Can’t you smell it?” she hissed. She waited, practically shaking with anger, as he turned his head to catch the scent. And then his worried expression disappeared into blankness, and he turned his eyes back to her.
“Did you know?” she demanded in a furious whisper. “Did you read it in her mind and not tell me?”
Jane was watching all of this with an amused expression, and Edward let his eyes flicker over to her and then focused back on Bella. “She didn’t know. Even now she wonders what you’re talking about.” He paused. “And I would have told you,” he added more quietly. Whatever happiness he’d been holding on to since the moment he discovered that she’d removed her wedding rings drained away in the face of her anger. Of her distrust. Did she really think he would have brought her hunting werewolves and not warned her?
Bella forced her hands to unclench. She wasn’t sure she believed him, of course. She knew how much he’d despised the pack. She’d noticed the expression on his face when he caught the scent of wolves in the forests around Volterra. But then she met his eyes, and Embry’s quiet voice came back to her. She’d been sobbing in her own bed the afternoon Jacob had died, and he’d stood in the doorway. “I thought you’d want to know – Edward tried to save him. The female prevented him. We’re not sure how…”
There’d been more, but it slipped away from her now. It didn’t matter. SHE knew how Jane had done it. Finally, she nodded at Edward. He continued to stare at her, tense, until she noticed that she had fallen into a half-crouch as though to attack him. The realization startled her, and she straightened abruptly, and took a deep breath. “I know,” she whispered finally.
Edward relaxed and turned to Jane. “There’s a werewolf nearby. He’s been through here within the last half an hour.”
Jane’s face had taken on a bored expression as soon as it was clear that Bella was not going to attack Edward. She was thoroughly disappointed. It would have been great fun to watch him try to restrain her without hurting her, while she tried to tear his arms off. But, it appeared that Bella had a temper. Maybe some other time. “We’ll have to kill it before we can continue the search. You’re familiar with the scent. Find it.” She addressed Edward, not bothering to look at Bella.
It wouldn’t have mattered, however, as Bella had already regained control. Edward DID look over at her, but she only nodded grimly. This was inevitable, now. Not all werewolves were Quileutes, after all. And if they could smell it, then it could smell them, or would at the first change of the wind. And it would attack. She would far rather that the world be short one unknown werewolf than that anything happen to Edward. Part of her mind was already wondering how much damage her accusations had done. It felt like a chasm had opened between them already, and they hadn’t even attempted to discuss it yet. She watched him turn away, tracking the scent, and followed him. She heard Jane trailing behind.
The huge, chocolate brown wolf found them before they found him. He’d clearly scented them first and doubled back around. As soon as Edward realized they were making a circle, he turned. The wolf immediately knew the game was up. It appeared, snarling, on the path they had just walked, it’s teeth bared. Edward quickly put himself between Bella and the wolf, though he left Jane exposed. She threw him an annoyed glance, but he only raised an eyebrow. An hour ago, she’d been looking forward to letting a newborn vampire kill them and she expected him to protect her? She seemed to see the indignation in his expression, and she looked away quickly.
Bella stared at the wolf. It wasn’t looking at her. It clearly saw Edward as the most dangerous adversary. Jane had it howling in agony before any of them had time to wonder how this was going to play out. When her beautiful smile faded, her voice was cold. “Morph back to your human form now,” she instructed, “or you and your pack will suffer together again.”
The wolf stood gingerly, as though testing for damage, and morphed. For just a moment, Jane, Edward and Bella all stared at the creature in shock. There was an instant during which none of them could wrap their minds around the reality. And then Edward was falling into a familiar defensive posture, and Jane took a step back to allow him room to fight. Before them, nude and pale as snow, stood a newborn vampire, his eyes blood red. He was already preparing for battle as well.
Bella blinked. “Wait, Edward,” she said softly, and then repeated, in a language neither Jane nor Edward understood, “wait.”
Abruptly, the newborn stood straight, and Bella was embarrassingly reminded of her own recent bout of temper. Edward straightened too, with more grace. He didn’t take his eyes from the abomination before them. Because that’s what it was, to his mind. Someone had changed a werewolf. It was unheard of. No wonder the creature was so unpredictable! And now Bella wanted him to wait? He was finally starting to feel a little excitement over something. This would be a good fight!
“You aren’t Quileute,” the newborn said, addressing Bella. He spoke English, as if he knew she had only a few words in his language.
“But you are,” she replied pointedly.
“Ateara?” Bella guessed, having noticed that he was rather shorter than most of the pack, and more solidly built. He reminded her of Quil. His coloration in wolf form had been similar.
“Russ.” He snorted, but it was agreement. “Who the hell are you?”
Bella moved to step forward, but Edward blocked her path with one arm, his eyes still on Russ. “Edward,” she said quietly. “Don’t.” She heard his teeth grind together for a moment before his arm fell. She positioned herself carefully beside, rather than ahead of him. If he noticed the concession, he said nothing.
“When I was alive, my name was Bella Black,” she began carefully. This was a fine line, identifying herself with the pack while behind her stood Jane, whom the pack despised. And doing it without causing any new pain to Edward. “I was married to Jacob Black, whose father is –“
“Billy,” he finished for her, impatient. “How did you end up –“
“Enough,” Jane cut across his question, though her voice was quiet. “It doesn’t matter who he is. He’s a threat to our way of life and Aro sent us to kill him. Edward?” she asked imperiously, making it a command. Edward neither moved nor answered.
“He’s Quileute. You can’t touch him,” Bella replied calmly, turning her back on Russ and Edward to look at Jane. “If you do, the treaty is broken. Edward and I will return to Forks.” She had no idea if Edward would return to Forks with her, after the awful things she’d said to him. She hoped so. But it didn’t matter. As bluffs went, it worked perfectly. Jane was scowling. Edward was still carefully sizing up their adversary. Finally, he spoke.
“Bella is right. No member of the Volturi can lay a hand on a Quileute, or the treaty is broken. But we can’t leave him here alone, either. He’s too strong, and he doesn’t know how to control himself.”
Russ scowled at him – he didn’t appreciate being talked about in the third person by someone who was staring into his face so intensely, even if what he was saying WAS true. Catching the thought, Edward blinked. “We’re going to have to take you back to Forks,” he finished, addressing Russ for the first time.
“That’s out of the question.” Jane was standing, hands on her hips, slightly behind Bella and Edward. Bella was watching her. Edward was still watching the only known creature to be both vampire and werewolf. It was Edward who replied, his tone even.
“Your instructions were to solve the problem, not kill the newborn. My family will teach him how to be a vampire. The pack will teach him how to be a werewolf. He’ll be subject to the treaty, so there will be no danger of him exposing us. We’re taking him back to Forks.”
Bella watched Jane’s face as a look of fury came over it, and was quickly replaced by blankness. There was silence.
Russ looked between Edward and Jane, trying to decide who was really in charge. It had seemed clear initially that the girl was the leader. However, she didn’t contradict Edward. “I don’t know how to get there. Even before the bloodsuckers attacked, I didn’t trust myself much around people. I couldn’t just get on a plane and go home. And now – now, I can’t be around anyone….” His tone sounded so hopeless, Bella felt sorry for him. She glanced at Edward, hoping he had some idea what they could do. As usual, she was not disappointed.
“We’ll charter a flight to land in Port Angeles. It’ll have to be a small plane, and we’ll have to time it to land early in the morning. When we get off, we’ll run for Forks. Bella and Jane can follow –“
“If you’re going to Washington, you’re going without me, and outside the authority of the Volturi,” Jane said calmly. Edward, who had relaxed slightly, tensed again, and turned toward her. He was about to speak, but Bella beat him to it. He had to do a double take. He still wasn’t used to her thinking and reacting as quickly as he could.
“It would really be a shame, Jane, if you chose not to support us in this. How humiliating for you to have negotiated the contract, only to be the one who destroys it,” she said quietly. Edward suppressed a grimace. How similar that dig was to an observation Jane had once made to him. And yet, he knew that it was for that reason Bella had said it. She understood Jane, maybe better than he did. Embarrassment would deter her before threats of violence, which he knew is what would have come out of his mouth.
Jane set her jaw. It WOULD be embarrassing to go home and tell Aro she’d lost Edward and Bella over this abomination, much more so than if they’d simply been killed during the fight. “Very well,” she said finally. “But we will all take the chartered flight. No one will stay behind. And the Volturi are NOT paying to ferry a glorified canine halfway across the world,” she added, sounding almost petulant.
“I never expected they would,” Edward agreed dryly.
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