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Eve of Eternity

Summary:
 Edward and Bella are getting married. But danger is never far from the star-crossed couple. With the return of the Volturi, the conflict with Jacob and the werewolves, the sudden appearance of members of the Denali clan, and the date of her turning looming ever nearer, can Bella survive the remaining months until the big day and finally become a true part of the Cullen family? Or has her luck finally run out…


Notes:


3. Grief and Guilt

Rating 5/5   Word Count 5211   Review this Chapter

“Stay here.”

Edward gave me a long, meaningful glance from the window. I had to fight not to roll my eyes at him.

“How many times are you going to tell me that?” I asked from my bed. I sat on the edge, arms crossed and probably looking as sullen as I felt.

“Until I’m convinced you’ll actually listen to me,” he replied dryly.

I scowled at him. Today was the day the Denali were arriving, and Edward had given me strict instructions to hang around my house all day until he returned. The meeting, he guessed, would probably take some time. He planned on telling them that I’d caught a cold and was stuck in bed and therefore unable to visit . Apparently this explanation was more polite than my suggestion of, “I don’t want you to see her right now because I’m under the impression you will eat her whole.”

Edward didn’t think that one was too funny.

“Look, it’s not like I’m going to drive over there and crash the party, okay?” I said, disgruntled. “You seem to think I have a death wish.”

“Don’t you?” Edward asked sardonically. I frowned and ignored it. He sighed.

“Bella, I trust you not to come to the house. What I don’t trust are elements outside of my control.”

“What does that mean?” I asked, confused.

“It means,” he said, taking slow, deliberate steps towards me as he spoke, “that were you to get it into your head to go somewhere else, and because it is you we’re speaking of, you run the very high risk of putting yourself in almost as much danger as you would if you did decide to come to the house.” He paused when he reached the bed and stared down at me.

“Oh so now I’m not capable of going anywhere by myself without getting killed?” I asked, offended. “I survived seven long months without you, you know.”

I regretted the words the second they left my mouth. Edward’s face immediately took on that same look of anguish it did every time I mentioned the time he left me for what he thought was my own good. I hated bringing it up and was usually pretty successful at pushing it to the back of my mind but sometimes it slipped through the cracks before I could stop it.

“Sorry,” I said softly after a moment had passed. Edward was recovering from the memory and soon his face was smooth again. I stood and placed a hand on his icy cheek. “You’ve really got to stop worrying about me so much. I’ll be fine.” I stood on my tiptoes and gave him a gentle kiss on the lips before pulling back to smile at him. “Promise.”

His lips lifted at the corners and he brought me closer before lowering his lips to the small hollow below my ear, kissing it softly. “I’ll hold you to that,” he whispered. He pulled back to give me one last, lingering look.

“I’ll be back soon,” he promised. I tried to smile, and he traced a line around my lips with his thumb, amber eyes gleaming with love. “Be safe.”

And then with a rush of air he was gone, the curtains of my open window fluttering softly in his wake.

I sighed and slowly sat down on my bed again, staring unseeingly at the wall in front of me. My mind desperately wanted to wander to bad things. An incredibly gorgeous Tanya beaming at Edward the moment he entered the Cullen’s living room. Tanya throwing her arms around Edward. Tanya giggling against his shoulder. Tanya kissing him…

Argh!” I threw my head in my hands and squeezed my eyes so tight they burned, trying to erase the images that came unheeded to my mind. I realized my hands were shaking.

Stop it. Edward would never do that. You’re being ridiculous.

I repeated the silent commands to myself over and over until my body seemed to relax slightly. But the memory of the images was still there. I needed a distraction. Badly.

Suddenly the phone rang, and I stared at it in surprise.

“That was fast…” I said to myself as I got up to answer it.

“Hello?”

“Bells?”

“Hey Dad,” I said, not bothering to hide the surprise in my voice. He usually never called me at home from work. Not unless something was wrong.

“Is everything alright?” I asked, getting a little concerned.

“Oh yeah, fine,” he said, sounding slightly preoccupied. I heard a phone ringing in the background. “Listen,” he went on, “I just wanted to call real quick and ask you something. I meant to do it this morning but it slipped my mind.”

“Oh. What is it?”

“It’s…well, it’s about Jacob.” He paused and I could tell he was being cautious. He knew that Jacob was sometimes a touchy subject for me. I’d been keeping pretty quiet about him lately. It was just…hard to talk about. Ever since we said our goodbyes to each other that day in La Push I’d been trying to keep him out of my mind. I still loved him as a friend and I desperately wished we could still be friends, but it wasn’t exactly something that was very realistic. I was getting married soon. And then Edward would make me his forever. This was the path I’d chosen and I had to accept the fact that everything couldn’t be perfect. I had to give Jacob up…

“Bella?”

I snapped out of my thoughts at the sound of Charlie’s voice and quickly found myself growing alarmed. “Sorry…did you say Jacob? Is there something wrong?” My heart sped up at the thought.

“No. Well…not exactly. Have you heard from him lately?” he asked. I could tell he was trying to keep his voice as unconcerned as possible for my benefit. It only made me panic more.

“No, I haven’t,” I said. “Not since…since I went to go visit him in La Push. Why?”

Charlie hesitated. “I think he might’ve run away from home.”

The room began to spin. “What?” I gasped, disbelieving.

“Billy won’t tell me where he is. Every time I’ve been over there this past week, he just says he’s ‘out.’ But I think I’ve known him long enough to know when he’s lying.”

I couldn’t breathe.

“It’s just a hunch, at least,” Charlie said, sounding uncertain. “I thought maybe you’d know something. Last time I saw the kid he did look a bit depressed. Maybe he got into it with Billy over something.”

I couldn’t speak. Charlie seemed to realize that something was wrong, so his voice turned comforting.

“Listen, it’s probably nothing. He’s a kid, stuff like this happens all the time. He’ll turn up again. Or I could be completely wrong and just misinterpreting things…you know.” But it didn’t sound like he thought he was wrong. It sounded like he thought Jacob had run away.

“I have to go, Dad,” I said tonelessly. I was already looking around for my shoes, pulling them on as I balanced the phone against my ear.

“Bella? You alright? You don’t sound good…”

“I’m fine,” I replied mechanically. I was sweeping the room with a searching glance. Where were my keys?

“If you say so…” he said uncertainly. “I’ll see you when I get home, alright?”

“Alright Dad.”

“Bye Bells.”

I said goodbye and hung up, letting out a sigh of relief when I found my keys in the pocket of one of my jackets. A plan was forming within me. I knew what I had to do, no matter what the truth was or whether or not Charlie’s suspicion was right.

I was going to see Jacob.

Ignoring the voice of my conscience telling me this was a very bad idea and that Edward would no doubt be completely furious with me for breaking my promise, I quickly grabbed my coat and sprinted down the stairs and out the front door to my truck. The engine roared to life and I put on the windshield wipers out of habit. It turned out I needed them, though, as it was sprinkling lightly when I pulled away from the house.

As I drove in silence, I wondered how much trouble I’d be in when I got back. Edward usually hated when I went to La Push to visit Jake, even though we’d come to a sort of compromise about it. I was allowed to go see him whenever I wanted, but Edward was still convinced that Jacob or one of his pack would lose their temper one of these days and that I’d be caught in the middle of it.

But even the threat of being maimed by an enraged werewolf couldn’t stop me from going to La Push today. The conversation with Charlie ran through my head over and over, and I still had a hard time believing that Jake could actually have run away.

But then I thought about how heartbroken he’d been the last time I’d seen him. The sadness in his eyes when we said goodbye. And suddenly it didn’t seem so hard to believe…

I put pressure on the gas pedal and drove just a little bit faster.

The gravel crunched as I pulled up to Jake’s house and the silence that followed when I turned the truck’s engine off was almost deafening. I got out and walked quickly to the front door, still managing to get pretty wet by the time I did. I had a sinking feeling that something was terribly wrong. The feeling only seemed to intensify as I knocked on the door.

I waited. No answer.

It looked like the place was empty. I knocked again, but no sounds issued from the small house. The rain pattered the dirt ground in a soft cadence. I frowned as I made my way to the shed where Jake sometimes worked on his car, but the door was locked and it too looked almost like it had been abandoned.

He wasn’t there.

My heart sank to the pit of my stomach. Worry crept over me, weighing me down where I stood and making it hard to breathe steadily. As I made my way back to my truck, I started planning what I’d do next.

I could go to Sam’s… If anyone knows where Jake is, it would be him. Or I could find Billy somehow. Maybe he’s out fishing or—

“Finally came for a visit, huh?” a voice suddenly sneered from behind me.

I whirled around, startled. Paul was a few steps behind me, but it wasn’t the fact that I hadn’t heard his approach at all that frightened me. It was the look on his face. Every line and angle was contorted into an expression of unabashed malice and hostility.

And it was directed towards me.

“Paul,” I breathed, trying to slow my pounding heart. I stood in front of my truck and had to fight the urge not to take a step back from him. Paul, like all the werewolves, was impossibly huge, towering well over six feet and rippled with bulging muscles. The characteristics were enough to intimidate even when the person they belonged to was happy and smiling.

But Paul wasn’t happy. And he most certainly was not smiling. I swallowed hard.

“What are you talking about?” I finally asked, my voice smaller than I’d intended it to be. I couldn’t understand why he was so angry.

But my question only seemed to infuriate him more. He shivered in anger and this time I did take a step back.

“Of course you don’t know,” he said, spitting the words out like venom. “You wouldn’t know would you. All you seem to care about is yourself and those disgusting leeches you call friends.”

The words stung me, and I was momentarily unable to speak. Confusion, anger and concern battled within me until I didn’t know what to feel. Paul had been a friend. Maybe not as close a one as Jacob or the other werewolves, but I’d spent the worst time of my life here with them all and they’d become like a second family to me. Seeing this hatred on his face pierced me like a knife.

“I…I don’t understand,” I said softly, letting the confusion win. I was trying not to show him how scared I was. Instinct was telling me to hold very still and not to say anything that might upset him further. If he lost control, he’d change into his wolf form. And the fact that I’d witnessed this happen to him before made me all the more careful. Suddenly I wished I hadn’t decided to come to La Push at all…

Paul laughed, but it was a cold, empty sound. “Sure. Play dumb. I always knew you were bad news. I kept telling Jacob not to trust you but he wouldn’t listen to me. Now look where it’s got him. And all because of a stupid wannabe bloodsucker like you.”

Another pierce. Sharper this time. And with the pain came my own anger.

“What are you talking about?” I demanded sharply, my voice rising above the sound of the light rain. “What do you mean ‘look where it’s got him’? Where’s Jacob?”

And then, before I could blink, he snarled and surged toward me. I felt him grab both my wrists in a brutal grip and push me back against the door of my truck. I hit it hard and gasped, too stunned to speak as Paul’s furious face lowered over mine.

“He’s gone!” he yelled. I winced and turned my face to the side as his grip on my wrists tightened painfully. “He’s gone because of you!

When his words sunk in I turned to meet his eyes, nearly speechless with disbelief. Charlie had been right…

“What…what do you mean he’s gone?” I breathed. I was too scared to speak normally and suddenly every single inch of me longed for Edward to be there.

“He left,” Paul hissed at me, his teeth clenched. “After he got that invitation from your bloodsucker.”

It felt like a dream. My vision was getting blurry around the edges. Nothing he was saying was making any sense.

“No…” I whispered, shaking my head and tugging uselessly at my hands. “No, you’re wrong…”

“He’s gone Bella,” he said, ignoring my feeble protest. “He took off into the woods and he hasn’t been back. Sam tried to contact him but Jacob’s ignoring us all. Don’t you get it? He doesn’t want to come back. And it’s your fault.”

I began to cry. The tears streamed down my face as I continued to shake my head as though denying it all would make it untrue.

“Please…please Paul,” I begged, sagging weakly against my truck. I was crying harder now. I couldn’t stop. “I didn’t…I never wanted this to happen. You have to know that. I never thought he’d do this! I…I love Jacob. He’s…he’s my f-friend too—“

“Liar,” he spat. His face was disgusted as he released my hands forcefully and stepped back. “Get out of here. And don’t ever come back.”

“P-please…” I sobbed, taking a step toward him. He just shook his head and turned away towards the trees. I watched him go in despair. He stopped at the edge of the forest and gave me one last hate-filled glare.

“Tell your friends that the treaty still stands,” he said harshly. “There will be a war. You tell them that.”

And then he was gone.

I don’t remember slumping to the ground. I don’t know how long I sat there in the dirt crying. I’m not even sure how I got into my truck and drove away. All I knew was that by the time I pulled up to my house, my clothes were soaked through and I was trembling, even though I knew it wasn’t because I was cold. I saw nothing as I walked up to the front door. I was numb. My mind wanted to shut itself down. There was too much to handle…too many things I couldn’t comprehend or begin to understand. And at the forefront of it all was a nearly overwhelming aching of grief and a crushing sense of guilt.

I should have been worried when I stepped into my room and saw Edward leaning against the wall near the window with a seemingly unreadable expression on his face. But I knew in an instant that his tense posture and clenched jaw meant that he was extremely angry. I met his hard stare with a blank one of my own. And suddenly his anger seemed to fade into surprise…and then alarm.

“Bella?” he said, eyes wide.

There was a blur and then he was in front of me, his hands on my arms as his eyes swept my figure from top to bottom. I must have looked awful. Wet from the rain and mud-stained from when I’d sunk to the ground in front of Jake’s house. Not to mention how red my eyes must have been from crying for so long.

But there were no tears now. I couldn’t feel anything, so how could I cry?

“Bella! Look at me!” Edward’s frantic voice sounded far off. My feet lifted from the ground and suddenly I was sitting on the edge of my bed while Edward pulled a blanket around me. He kneeled in front of me and held my face in his hands. It was the look in his eyes that brought me out of my stupor. He looked terrified.

“Bella what happened? Love, please talk to me. Are you hurt?” His eyes swept over me again, no doubt trying to see if I was injured.

“He’s gone,” I whispered, meeting his eyes as more tears filled my own. “It’s my fault…”

“What? Bella, who’s gone?” Edward wiped away my tears with a brush of his fingers. He looked anguished and helpless. I wanted to comfort him, not the other way around.

“J-Jacob,” I said, my voice cracking. “He left.”

Realization lit his ocher eyes and they closed very briefly. “You went to La Push,” he said, his voice low and even. It wasn’t a question. “So she was right…” he said quietly, almost to himself.

“What?” I asked, brows furrowing.

He sighed. “Alice saw you driving over the boundary line. And then it went black. I had a feeling you’d try and go see him. That’s why I came back here early, hoping she’d been wrong.”

“Early? So the Denali are still here?”

“Yes,” he said, but he looked as though the Denali were the very last thing on his mind. “Don’t change the subject. What were you thinking going there? You said you’d stay here, Bella. I trusted you!”

I frowned at his sharp tone and turned my eyes away. My tears had stopped but I still felt like there was a piece of me missing. “Charlie called,” I said quietly. “He said…he said he hadn’t seen Jacob in a while and thought he might have…run away from home. I had to go see if it was true. I needed to, Edward. He’s still my friend. You know that.”

There was a short silence. “I know,” he finally said, just as quietly. “What do you mean he’s gone? Tell me what happened.”

“I…I went to see him, but he wasn’t there. And then…Paul was there and he told me…” I trailed off as the memory of the meeting with Paul rushed through me again. And then I remembered something he’d said…something that hadn’t made sense then but was becoming clearer and clearer. I turned to meet Edward’s eyes, furrowing my brows at him.

“Did you send Jake an invitation to the wedding?” I asked.

The expression on his face was guarded. But he looked away from my eyes, and that was how I knew. A rush of air escaped me. I began to feel numb again.

“How could you?” I whispered. “Did you want him to leave?”

“That was not my intention,” he said quickly. There was sincerity in his voice and it made it hard to not believe him. “Bella, I sent him an invitation because I knew you would want him to come. And I know you. You didn’t invite him because you thought it would upset me. At least in part.” He sighed and turned his eyes to meet mine. “If…if it had been the other way around…if you’d chosen him over me…I know I would have wanted the option, at the very least. Bella, I swear to you what I did wasn’t out of anything so petty as jealousy or malice. If I’d known he’d leave, I never would have done it. Do you think I’d ever willingly hurt you like that?” he asked his voice pained.

My eyes closed and I found myself shaking my head slowly. “No, of course not,” I whispered. “I’m sorry, Edward.”

Of course he wouldn’t have done it to hurt me. Thinking about it logically, it was a nice gesture for him to make. Actually it was an extraordinarily generous one. Edward had made it quite clear that Jacob Black was not someone he admired or felt close to. It shouldn’t have been a surprise to me that Edward was once again the noble one, sending Jake an invitation because he knew that deep down I’d want him to be there. It was true, after all. I did want Jake to be there for me on what was supposed to be the most important day of my life, if only to see him one last time before…

Well…before it was too late, at least.

I sighed and felt a crushing wave of sadness weigh down my shoulders.

“This is all my fault.”

Edward quickly pulled me to him and wrapped his cold arms around me. He kissed my hair and murmured words of comfort.

“This is no one’s fault, Bella,” he said softly. “Please don’t blame yourself. I can’t bear it when you’re sad…”

“But he’s gone, Edward,” I sniffed. “He left because of me. I’m the worst thing that ever happened to him.”

“That’s absurd, Bella.” Edward pulled me back and took my face in his hands, his butterscotch eyes boring down into mine. He seemed to pause, as though he was considering something. A line worried his brow and the hard angles on his face grew tense.

“Bella…” he began, his voice careful yet firm. “Do you…do you want me to find him?”

I looked up at him in confusion. The expression in his eyes was unreadable…guarded. It took me a few seconds to process what he’d just offered. My mouth fell open slightly.

“Find…Jake?” I asked, disbelieving.

Edward paused again, then nodded once. I knew in an instant that he was completely serious. It almost knocked the air from my lungs.

“You’d be willing to do that?” I asked, still numb with surprise. “For me?”

Edward didn’t hesitate at all this time. “Of course,” he said softly.

Before I knew it, I was crying again. Tears welled up in my eyes, but I didn’t attempt to wipe them away. Edward looked at me in growing alarm when he saw them.

“Bella?” he asked, his voice heavy with worry.

I surged into his arms once more and hugged him close to me, burying my wet cheek against his chest.

“You really do love me,” I sniffled.

Edward tensed beneath me and then sighed as his arms began to rub my back as I cried. “Of course I do you silly girl,” he said, sounding as though he was torn between exasperation and relief. “More than words will ever be able to express.”

I laughed and pulled away. Edward smiled softly and wiped my tears away with a gentle caress.

“I will,” he said, serious once again. “You need only to say the word and I’ll go. Somehow I’ll find him, Bella. I’ll bring him back for you…”

“No,” I said, my voice still watery. I shook my head determinedly. “I don’t want you to leave me too.” I looked down at my hands, feeling the hopelessness of the situation. “If…if Jake doesn’t want to come back then…then I guess I should let him be. I’d probably just…make things worse if I tried to talk to him again.”

Edward turned my chin so that I faced him and I saw my sadness reflected in his eyes. “He’ll come back, Bella,” he said quietly. He frowned after a moment as he studied my features. “Are you sure you don’t want me to find him?”

I laughed softly in an attempt to lighten the mood and nodded. “I’m positive. Besides, you’re horrible at tracking, remember? It would probably be a year before I saw you again.”

Edward scowled but I saw the corner of his mouth lifting slightly. “You don’t give me enough credit. His stench would probably lead me to him in less than an hour, it’s so bad.”

“Edward!” I said, giving his shoulder a scolding shove. He didn’t even budge, of course. But he laughed, and I sent him a disapproving glare in response.

“You know, Jacob told me you smell just as bad to him as he does to you,” I said.

“That’s ridiculous,” he mused, eyes glimmering with mirth and mockery. “I smell fantastic.”

I rolled my eyes at him and stood up. Edward did smell fantastic, of course, so I had no rebuttal. My response was to walk away and pretend to be annoyed with him until I came up with a good enough comeback, but Edward wasn’t having it. He stood as well and reached out and grabbed my wrist to stop me, and I couldn’t help what happened next.

I let out a small gasp as pain shot up my arm, and I winced in automatic response. Edward dropped my hand as though he’d been burned by it, surprised at my reaction. And suddenly the mood around us changed from playful to tense in the blink of an eye. A thick and uncomfortable silence fell over us both.

“Bella…what’s wrong with your wrist?” Edward asked finally, his voice dangerously low and even. I cursed inwardly, knowing exactly what was wrong with it. I’d forgotten all about Paul’s rough handling of me until now. I knew I couldn’t let Edward know anything about it. So I followed my instinct and said the only response I could have given.

“Nothing,” I lied. It sounded awful. It sounded like I was trying to hide something, which of course I was. I cursed inwardly again.

Edward reached out for my arm and gently took it in his hand. I tried to tug it back but his grip was just firm enough to keep me in place. A line creased his brow as he stared down at my wrist, slowly pulling the sleeve of my jacket up to reveal the skin beneath. I didn’t want to look, knowing what I’d see there, so I kept my eyes turned away. But the minute I heard Edward’s sharp intake of breath, my eyes flew to him. He was staring down at my bruising wrist in a mixture of horror and alarm and I felt his fingers brush feather light over the darkening skin that was taking the shape of a hand.

And then his face went slowly blank. A very, very bad sign.

“Who did this?” he asked. His voice was menacingly quiet. I almost had to strain to hear him.

“It’s nothing,” I tried to say, tugging at my arm again. Edward didn’t even seem to notice.

His eyes closed and I noticed a muscle in his jaw jumping. “Bella, your wrist is beginning to look like it was gripped so tightly the bones almost broke in two.” His eyes opened and fixed on me with the highest of intensities. “I shall repeat the question. Who did this to you?”

How could I have remained strong under that gaze? It would have been impossible.

“Paul,” I whispered.

I regretted it almost immediately. Suddenly Edward’s face was no longer blank and expressionless. It was hard with fury and rage. He looked like he was on the edge of losing control and I noticed with increasing alarm that he was trembling slightly. And then he stepped back and turned towards the window, staring out of it with a calculating glance. He looked like he was planning something…

“Oh no you don’t!” I said quickly as realization hit me. I sprinted ahead and placed myself between him and the window, my arms extended. Edward stared down at me with a hard, impassive glare.

“No,” I said firmly, ignoring his anger. “I am not going to allow you to do something incredibly stupid because of me.”

“Stupid?” he repeated, incredulous. “That mutt harmed you, Bella! Do you think I’m going to just let that slide?” His face was hard with disbelief and his hands were clenching into fists at his sides.

“You aren’t going to hurt him because he hurt me—”

“You’re right, I won’t hurt him,” Edward said sharply, cutting me off mid-sentence. “I’m going to kill him.”

I gaped at him in horror. “No!” I nearly screeched.

Edward looked impatient, and I could tell that he was about two seconds away from speeding past me out the window. I wasn’t so naïve as to believe that I could actually stop him. Physically, at least.

“Edward,” I said, trying to keep my voice as steady and firm as possible, “you can’t cross the line. You know that. I’m not going to let you start a war because of me!”

Edward was silent, but I could tell that my words had slowed down the thirst for revenge inside him. He stood still as a statue and I knew I had to keep talking if I was going to stop him completely.

“Paul was upset,” I went on, trying to keep my voice calm and steady. “He didn’t mean to hurt me. He’s just angry about Jacob.”

Edward closed his eyes and lifted a hand to pinch the bridge of his nose. He composed himself before speaking again.

"Are you hurt anywhere else?" he asked quietly. The anger had yet to fade from his voice completely.

I heaved an inner sigh of relief over the fact that he seemed to have abandoned his idea of rushing off to La Push to murder Paul.

"I'm completely fine," I said, closing the distance between us. I reached up and pulled his hand away from his face and laced our fingers together. "I'm sorry I broke my promise."

Edward lifted his free hand and brushed my cheek softly with the back of it. "What am I going to do with you," he whispered, almost to himself. A frown marred his perfect lips.

I gave him what I hoped was a convincing smile and squeezed his hand in mine. He lifted it in his and brought his lips to my injured wrist, kissing it softly. I shivered.

Edward brought me closer and moved his lips to hover above my own. His eyes closed and I waited, filled with anticipation and longing. He began to speak, and his voice was low and deep in the quiet of my room.

“Bella..."

But the sound of the doorbell ringing cut him off before he could finish.

I started in surprise and Edward seemed to grow very still in the silence that followed and his head was angled towards my bedroom door as though he was listening for something. A low growl ripped from his chest after a moment and I knew that whoever the visitor was, Edward wasn’t the least bit happy about it. He turned to me, meeting my questioning gaze, and the answer he gave next was so unexpected and horrifying it nearly knocked me right off my feet.

“It’s Tanya.”