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The Dorothy Factor

An unusual storm descends upon Forks, and Bella and Edward are caught in the middle. When the dust settles, nothing is the same …
Chapter Twelve: Somewhere Over the Rainbow
(the last chapter)
The only thing that had changed was Edward himself. He had returned a different man – with a new understanding about the constant ache in his chest and the vacancy he’d always sensed there in the periphery of his life.

Inspired by actual events; (see chapter one end notes). An incredibly huge, warm thank you to vnfan – an amazing author and an indispensable asset to me while writing this story. Not only did she help fix all my typos and “dumb blonde” moments (even though I’m a redhead, I still have dumb blonde moments) – but she also helped me get through a couple rough spots. Her response, as well, was encouragement to keep me going. To vnfan – thanks for being my first and most amazing beta ever; I don’t know how I ever lived without you and your help! I had so much fun writing this story. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

10. Chapter Ten -- Heartbeats

Rating 5/5   Word Count 2344   Review this Chapter

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If ever a vampire could have cried, this would have been the exact moment in which a tear would have fallen from Edward Cullen’s eye. As it was, he felt the sensation of sobbing even as his eyes remained void of wetness. He trembled and his face was tormented with anguish as he looked down at the girl in his arms. His fingers raked through her hair and he begged her almost silently to Please, wake up.

A small crowd had gathered around their forms on the damp ground, but he paid them no heed – his eyes were only for Bella.

“Ow,” she said, her eyelids fluttering. Edward cried out with relief. Then, “I smell smoke.” Slowly, she sat up – sniffing at the acrid air – and took in the twin swirls of purple smoke appreciatively. “So it’s over?” she asked. “They’re both …”

“Yes,” Edward said, staring at her in awe. She’d lain in his arms without moving for barely three minutes, but the seconds had ticked by agonizingly. He’d been so consumed with this fear that he hadn’t even allowed himself to hear the slow but steady beating of her heart; to realize she was still conscious – just in shock. He was too relieved to feel embarrassed at this oversight. “They’re both dead. We took care of it.” He glanced up at his family and Jacob gratefully.

Bella followed his gaze and smiled at the sight of the entire Cullen family together again; they finally looked right – all of them together. Even Carlisle seemed to have realized that he could not make a family and then leave them; he needed them just as much as they needed him. Jake, too, she noticed seemed more at ease – despite his current state of undress, with only a blanket from the car wrapped around his waist. It was as if he’d found himself. “Thank you,” she said, “all of you.”

“I’m just glad you’re okay,” Edward confessed.

She sighed. “Now if only I could click my heels three times,” she said, turning her gaze back to the ground. In a way, Bella felt unappreciative for admitting that after all everyone had done for her, she still wanted to leave them behind. She still wanted to go home.

The others did not think she was being ungrateful in the least, however. Her desire was simple; elemental, really. Home. It wasn’t such an outrageous request.

“Um, actually,” Alice chimed in. “There may be a way …”

The others turned to look at her intently, none so vehemently as Bella.

“You’d have to act fast,” she said, speaking quickly and directly to Edward – her eyes flickering only sparingly in Bella’s direction. “There’s another storm.”

“You said another one was coming …”

“Yes, and it’s coming now. And it’s one hell of a storm.” Her eyes widened significantly as she allowed Edward to read her thoughts.

He understood instantly and jumped up, pulling Bella to her feet. “We have to hurry,” he said, dragging her to the Honda.

“Where are we going?” she demanded, stumbling as she tried to keep up with his pace. Her mind was only human and she had not quite captured the entire gist of Alice and Edward’s exchange.

“There’s another storm coming,” he explained. “Another tornado. But it won’t hit here. It’s moving north and we need to get to flatter ground if we have any hope of catching it.”

“We’re going to chase the storm?” She sounded incredulous.

He whirled on her. “Do you want to go home or not? This might be your only chance.”

She got it that time and she didn’t need to be told again. She hopped gladly into the passenger seat, calling out to him as he hurried to the driver’s side. “Drive fast.” It was the only time she could remember being grateful for his outrageous vehicular skills.

She glanced out the window behind her, the figures of the Cullens and Jake already vanished in the distance; a small part of her heart ached for leaving without saying goodbye. In her haste and desire to get home, she’d simply forgotten. She hoped they understood. She was never very good with goodbyes, anyway.

The engine whined as Edward pushed it even harder down the freeway. It was late and there was no other traffic on the road. It was easier that way; he didn’t have to weave between other cars. Instead, he could focus solely on pushing forward, faster. Always faster. In Alice’s thoughts, he’d seen that the storm had already formed and was slicing a northeastern path up from North Plains. He could tell it would cross the river, then head straight through Brush Prairie and then into Battle Ground. That was his destination. If they could get to Battle Ground before the storm, there might be a chance. He wasn’t sure what would happen once they got there, but he didn’t know what else to do. Bella had arrived with a tornado, so maybe she could go home with a tornado. And he would do anything to help her, he realized. Without intending to, he had inadvertently pledged himself to her – in whatever capacity she would accept him.

If she wanted his help, it was hers.

Edward pressed down against the gas pedal, though it was already squashed to the floor. The Honda was practical, but it did not have the same zip and pluck as his Volvo. There was no time to trade cars, though, so he continued pushing the beastly Pilot as far as he could. It would no doubt need a significant amount of engine work by the time this ordeal was over with.

Edward glanced to the west as they turned onto the Glenn Jackson Bridge and cut back across the Columbia River into Washington State. Bella followed his gaze but saw only blackness – even the moon and the stars obscured by clouds. But Edward’s impressive, vampire eyesight allowed him to see beyond the night. He could see the gale churning a path in the same direction they were headed. They just might make it.

In the seat beside him, Bella had focused her gaze once again out the front windshield. She chewed anxiously on her bottom lip, unaware.

“I don’t know if this is going to work,” Edward said, breaking the silence. She jumped only slightly at the sound of his voice and turned to face him. She blushed, the pink blossoming across her cheeks. “But if it does, I want you to know – before you go home – well, about earlier. In the bedroom …”

“It’s okay,” she said, letting him off the hook and turning to face forward again. She thought the kiss had been forgotten; she’d been wrong. She could not match his gaze. Her cheeks were burning.

“No, it’s not. I broke your trust and for that I apologize. It was … unforgivable.”

She smiled, remembering when her Edward had also considered his own behavior inexcusable. She’d pardoned him, too. “Not unforgivable,” she said with fondness, the memory still clear in her mind. They were the same words she’d used before.

“Thank you,” he said, each word ringing with genuine gratitude. He glanced at her again, relaxing in his seat – though he did not let up on the gas pedal. From the corner of his eye, he could watch the storm spinning alongside them – ripping up trees and shrubs and billboards as it went. “I still wish I knew what you were thinking.”

She laughed lightly, her smile unfaltering. “I was just remembering a similar conversation I once had …” She turned and eyed him critically. She took note of the changes since she’d first met him. Was it really only three days ago? The stress in his face had lifted. His jaw was not as rigid. His muscles, it seemed, had learned to relax. He did not snap at her. He looked at her strangely now, but not with hatred or disgust. His impatience had faded, too. He was transformed; resplendent.

Their first conversation came to mind and in light of his most recent behavior, she began to feel doubtful of something he’d said to her that first day. “Did you really cut out your heart?” she asked.

His lips quirked upward at the corners, almost as if he were fighting a smile. He sighed. “I tried to,” he confessed. “I have the scars to prove it. But I just couldn’t do it.”

Bella flinched, imagining the scars marring his otherwise flawless chest where he’d tried and failed to remove a useless but ever important organ.

“Just because it doesn’t beat,” she said, “doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.”

Edward nodded solemnly. “So I’ve been discovering.” He opened his mouth as if he meant to say something else, but clamped it shut instead – the car coming to a jarring halt. “We’re here.”

Outside the wind whirled around them in an achingly familiar way. Bella’s thoughts flickered back to that sunny day in Forks not so long ago and remembered the way it had suddenly turned cloudy, the sky an odd green hue.

She accepted Edward’s hand as they ran across a gravel parking lot and into the center of a wide baseball field. The chain link surrounding the diamond rattled as the wind picked up speed. It roared in her ears, like the sound of a jet engine.

Bella spun to face Edward, holding onto his arms tightly as the gale pressed down upon them. “Thank you,” she said, shouting to be heard above the torrent. “For everything.” She leaned up and kissed him swiftly on the cheek. He caught her face between his hands before she could withdraw and pressed his own lips to the corner of her mouth, lingering. He released her only reluctantly, allowing her to retreat when he felt her pull away.

She turned to face the tempest eagerly, thoughts of another place and another Edward filling her mind. She grinned blissfully as the twister came towards her, the swirl of leaves and wood obvious even in the darkness of night.

Bella was unaware of anything around her but the storm, so she didn’t see the flicker of emotions cross Edward’s face as he realized she was about to leave him – about to try, at the very least. She didn’t see the anguish of this loss fill his eyes – didn’t see him suddenly drowning in despair. She didn’t see him bend over gasping for unneeded air, overwhelmed by the sudden insight.

He loved her. He was in love with her.

“No!” he shouted into the gale, even as Bella stepped towards the twister’s eye. Lightning-quick, he reached out and grabbed her and pulled her to him, sheltering her from the winds. She watch, horrified, as the center of the storm passed her by – even as she struggled against Edward’s arms.

She slapped at his hands, pushing away. He released her only because he was surprised by her rejection. “What are you doing?” she shouted, livid. She spun and faced the tornado and began running after it fruitlessly. “No,” she screamed. “No, come back. I have to go home.”

The storm still swelled around them – the winds pulling them towards the center of the funnel cloud. She was compelled to follow the drag, but Edward’s renewed grasp around her wrist held her back.

“You’ve ruined everything!” she shrieked, hot angry tears blurring her vision.

“I can’t let you go,” he begged. “I’ve only just realized … I love you!”

Bella’s eyes searched his face frantically, hoping it wasn’t true. “But you can’t,” she said. “I’m not supposed to be here.” Then, more emphatically, “I love someone else.”

“Are we really so different – he and I?”

She tugged at his hold on her wrist, but he did not free her. “It’s not your similarities or your differences that make you unique. It’s everything else. It’s everything we’ve experienced together – he and I – it’s our togetherness. It’s our love for each other.”

“You can love me!”

She shook her head. “I can’t help who I love. I gave him my heart a long time ago. It’s no longer mine to share.”

“I don’t accept that!”

“Too bad,” she said, yanking again at his hold. “I don’t love you. I love him. I will never love you!”

The cruelty of her words – whether true or not – stung and he recoiled, finally freeing her wrist. She did not hesitate, using her freedom to run once again after the tornado. She forgot her clumsiness, pushing her body as fast as she could across the baseball diamond – her feet pounding on the ground; like her heart pounding in her chest. She felt the wind swell around her, the strength of it battering her from all around. The jet engine roar picked up again and she did not stop running. She was almost there; if she could just keep going …

“Bella, please!” Hard, cold arms wrapped around her desperately and she slammed into the ground, her head hitting a rock jutting out of the dirt.

She gasped as the new pain overwhelmed her thoughts. Colors swam past her vision as she struggled to see clearly again, her eyes darting frantically, searching for something – anything – to focus on. She felt sick and fought back the retching in her stomach. She coughed and tasted blood.

“No, oh no,” the agonized velvet voice said, his hands fluttering over her. “I’m so sorry, Bella no. I’m so sorry. I was wrong to try and keep you here.”

His words – though simple – did not make sense to her right away. Everything swirled around her.

“Edward,” she said, struggling to hold onto consciousness. His face hovered over hers, his hands pushing the hair from her eyes. “Phoenix …”

Then the howl of the storm became too much and blackness consumed her.

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