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Being Mrs. Black

Summary:
BMBEdward/Bella, Implied Jacob/Bella. Imagine that the Cullens were late in returning to Forks. Bella arrived on schedule, but her life proceeded normally. She and Jacob become the best of friends and with no vampires to awaken them, the wolves don't mature. When he turns 18, Jake and his friends enlist, going to look for adventure in Iraq. He proposes, and Bella can't imagine ever loving someone more than she does her best friend. They quickly marry and he leaves for war. Two months later she gets some news that will turn her life upside down. And on that same day, a beautiful, dangerous stranger appears. From the moment their eyes meet, Bella begins to question those solemn vows she made. Will Bella Black do the right thing? Banner art and banner by Seisei


Notes:


12. Safe Harbor

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3604   Review this Chapter

PART TWELVE: Safe Harbor

Edward POV

From the moment she failed to appear for her appointment with Carlisle, I knew something was wrong. My mind attempted to find a rational explanation, going over all the many reasons that a person might miss a doctor's appointment; simple excuses, harmless delays. None of them satisfied me. I looked for a better explanation, but there was nothing to be found. Nothing but dead air where Bella Black should be.

Long hours dragged by with no answers forthcoming, and with every passing moment the tension pulled a bit tighter. She was on the reservation, off-limits to me by the terms of our treaty with the Quileute. That left no options for quietly verifying her whereabouts. The reservation might as well be another world for as little as I knew of what went on within its borders. So I paced the hallways of our home, aware of my family members only as obstacles to steer around as I sank deeper into my obsession.

What if she'd been hurt? Bella had a particular talent for finding trouble, and no sense of self-preservation. The endless possibilities were daunting to consider. If she were injured, ill, even dying, I'd have no way of knowing. She could be suffering even now, in pain, her life slipping away with no comforting touch, no urgent voice begging her to cling to this world. The temptation to turn on my heel then and make straight for forbidden territory was so strong that I clenched my fists and trembled with the effort to keep still.

This... was ridiculous. I no longer had control over my own destiny. My world moved to the rhythm of her heartbeat. Even miles distant, with it extant only in my memory, I was helpless to do more than dance to that inexorable pulse. I was the lodestone and she my magnetic north, and her pull was getting harder and harder to fight.

'You're wearing a stripe into Esme's favorite rug.' Carlisle never looked up from his book, but the thought arrowed my way with the precision of long-practice. His tone was mild, but I could sense disapproval behind it. I cringed away from it, fierce hate turned inward. We'd been on delicate terms, my adopted father and I, ever since that day in the hospital. The reasons were complex, the motivations even more so. Like Esme, Carlisle wanted badly for me to find some happiness of my own. Unlike his wife, he was a doctor, and concern for his patient was foremost. He trusted me, but he did not trust our nature. Despite his own incredible strength of will, his fear was that the call of Bella's blood would eventually overwhelm me. Of course, he was absolutely right in that fear. I was not my father, I had only a fraction of his goodness, his strength, and I was far more selfish than he could ever dream of being. My weakness, my unnatural fascination with a married woman, had already brought unwanted attention to us, what further damage could it cause before it had run its course?

"I can't help it," I murmured. "Better to pace than to do something rash."

'I too am concerned. She is young and her husband is far away. In that light, the news that the wolves are stirring is very disturbing.' His voice didn't change on the word 'husband', it didn't have to. I was far too willing to cringe at the very mention of it. The star I sought to orbit wore the ring of another man on her marriage finger. That was a fact I couldn't deny. The question was what I intended to do about it.

If I were damned already, wasn't adultery just a small crime by comparison? Could I so easily twist the truth to fit my ugly whims?

Any reply I might have made was forgotten as I felt Alice's anxious thoughts approaching just before she burst through the door. "Edward!" Before she had even drawn breath to say more, I was immersed in her vision, running through the details over and over until I was sure.

"The boundary line," I breathed.

"Tonight, after moonrise." Excitement coursed through her as she brought me ever closer to damnation. "All of us."

#

Twilight had just given way to true dark when we gathered in the trees at the reservation boundary line. We'd come in from the Northeast, through the park, and left the cars up on Mora Road. Not the usual approach to La Push, but Alice and I both felt strongly that we were in the right place. I didn't know what was going to happen, but I knew with absolute certainty that I would see Bella tonight.

"We have time." Alice stood at my side, her voice soft. "In my vision the moon was higher."

I nodded in acknowledgment, but my entire being was stretched beyond the knife's edge of the boundary. Listening with every sense I possessed for indication of what we were waiting for, seeking even a tiny trace of Bella. So far the only thing unusual was that the forest stank of wolves. I wrinkled my nose and looked down at Alice. "They're definitely unique creatures. Real wolves smell so much more pleasant."

She laughed. "Perhaps it's a defense mechanism?" Her nose wrinkled to match mine. "An effective one."

I shook my head and my eyes moved to each of my family in turn. Carlisle and Esme were talking softly a short distance away. Emmett stalked up and down the treaty line, impatiently watching the darkness for wolves to emerge; Rosalie watched him almost as intently, her thoughts brooding. I could hear Jasper's mind, but not see him. He was scouting the area, keeping a secure perimeter around us, as though we could possibly miss that the dogs were coming with that smell.

The momentary distraction didn't last, and my thoughts slipped away again as the time dragged by. My mind moved restlessly over all the many reasons that might bring Bella into the woods at night. None of them good. Not for the first time, I slid my hand into my pocket, touching the cellphone there. I'd checked the signal as soon as we arrived. It was faint, but there. Hidden away in the memory was my trump card. I could only hope that, no matter what, she had hers with her. That number, that faint signal, was the only lifeline we had.

That would have to be enough. It would be. I refused to acknowledge the dark fear coiling tighter and tighter inside my chest. A whispered voice inside my head taunted me with thoughts of watching her die, just out reach. That was the voice I fought, the one that kept me a hair's breadth from forgetting the treaty and every word of promise we'd ever spoken to the dogs. All it would take was a few steps and it would be done. I'd be free to act, to find her instead of standing around and waiting for a vague and cryptic future. I didn't realize I was growling until Alice rested a hand on my arm, her expression worried.

It took a long moment, looking down at her, to come back to myself. The monster was pacing in its cage, peering out through the bars with rising anticipation, it sensed that my resistance had begun to weaken. I shuddered and pushed back, if I tasted blood tonight it would be wolf's blood. That was the only option I would allow.

Alice stiffened at my side, a tremor going through her as she gasped. The vision was over in an instant, and she clutched at my arm. Immediately what she had seen filled my mind, what little there was of it. There were only tiny flashes, like trying to tune in a television station that was just out of range. Hints of a picture, tantalizing suggestions of a frame, but mostly static. "Bella." My sister's voice was faint. "She's in the woods." A thousand questions demanded that I ask them all at once. How could we be sure? The vision was barely a vision at all... And yet I couldn't afford to let it go. I stepped away from Alice and went right to the line, pulling out my cellphone.

For a long moment, I stared at it, my thumb rubbing over the front display. Then in one quick motion, I flicked it open and held down a button, bringing the phone to my ear. The sound was faint and tinny, but the call went through. It rang once. As one, the dark shapes of my family turned toward the southwest, our sensitive ears attuned to a woman's scream. Twice. There was crashing, the sound of struggle. A third ring. I was a heartbeat away from throwing the phone away and racing across the woods like an avenging seraph.

"Hello?"

"Bella!" The incredible relief of hearing her voice was outweighed by the pain and fear in it. She didn't immediately answer me, and my anxiety jumped off the scale. "Bella, are you there?"

"I'm here, Edward."

"Thank God." Two words couldn't hold what I felt, nor contain my thankfulness. One God didn't seem sufficient to sing my praises to that she was alive if not well. "You're in the woods." Information I already had. "I need you to keep moving, Bella." My finely tuned ear strained to hear the sounds of her passage through the forest. "Keep going the same direction you were before." I could hear that she was staggering. Was it fatigue or was she hurt? Where? How badly? "You've got the cross the line." You have to come to me, or I will come to you... regardless of the cost. "Do you understand?"

"I-" The sound I heard then made me go absolutely still, fury raging through me like an inferno. I heard Alice's voice calling Jasper's name, and if they had been even a fraction later in throwing their arms around me, I would have been gone. "The wolves! They're chasing me!" I listened in silence, because I could not speak. "God, Edward! They're right behind me!" My eyes closed as she spoke my name, and I flexed my shoulders, feeling Jasper clamp down as I tested his grip.

"I know." My jaw ached, I had clenched my teeth so tightly together. "I can hear them." I soothed my jaw with promises of how it would rip out the throats of the wolves who dared to pursue her. My heart rejoiced as I imagined bathing in the blood that fountained from the ruins of a dog's jugular vein. Not a drop would I drink, like spoiled wine I would spill it all on the ground, unfit for anything but the scavengers. "Let me go," my voice was a velvet croon as I turned to look down at my sister with eyes devoid of humanity. "The dogs have gone too far, Alice." Her name was a dark song. "I will end this."

"Edward..." I'd never seen quite that emotion in her eyes before when she looked at me. Alice, my beloved adopted sister, was afraid.

'You will not do this, Edward Cullen.' The thought hit me harder than a physical blow. Reeling, my head swung toward Carlisle, and the look on his face brought me back to myself as nothing else could have. 'If you break the treaty, they will use it as an excuse to start a war. We have the greater numbers, Edward. But which member of your family would you choose as an acceptable loss?' He knew the answer as well as I did. For a long moment, I simply stared at him, no words, no thoughts in my possession that could sufficiently beg for his forgiveness. Of course it wasn't necessary, I had it without asking, but I felt no more worthy of it.

Numb, I brought the phone back to my ear. "Run Bella... please! You have to get to the line!" Because I can't help you until you do.

She didn't answer, I could only hear her fall, followed by the angry snarls of a wolf. And then she screamed. "BELLA!" Emmett lunged for me, and he barely stopped me from breaking away from Alice and Jasper. She was still screaming, and I fought for my freedom like a wild thing. "Bella, ANSWER ME!"

The screaming stopped, and suddenly I could hear her labored breathing. She was running, and every step brought her closer. She was so close, and still I couldn't save her from the wolves "Help me, please!" There were tears in her voice. In agony, I turned to look at Alice. But she already knew my pain. She knew, she grieved for me, but it changed nothing.

"It's only a little further, you can make it," my eyes remained locked with Alice's. "I'm right here," I was begging now, pleading. "You're so close."

I could hear their thoughts now, the wolves; they spoke to one another with their minds. Their youth and inexperience was obvious, the Alpha barely kept a hold of the newest of the trio. In another situation I might have pitied him, his thoughts were frantic. The smell of seven vampires had nearly driven all three mad with anger and fear. They desperately wanted to keep Bella safe, but they kept working at cross-purposes. The new one, Paul, was completely out of control. The others chased him off and set after Bella again, trying to steer her back toward the heart of the reservation, away from us, without the brutal physical contact that their brother had employed.

I might have thanked them for it... had I not wanted to personally show them a slow and merciless death.

They came into view, a tiny human woman and the two giant dogs that tried to contain her. Bella was running blindly, still clutching her cellphone like it was a lifeline. She struggled to keep her course straight, bringing herself closer to us with every step, but as she swerved to avoid one of the dogs, he rammed his shoulder into her. Bella fell, crying out in pain and fear, and as the cellphone skidded out of her grasp, she screamed my name.

"Bella!" I fought with renewed strength, trying to force my way free from the imprisoning arms of my siblings. Their thoughts were alternately condemnation of the wolves and attempts to soothe me, but I had stopped caring what they thought. Bella was in my sight, and the only thing keeping me from her was them.

"Wait, just a little longer," Jasper hissed in my ear, he was trying to calm me with his abilities, but I was beyond his reach, a wall of cold rage protecting me from his influence. Emmett was as eager for the fight as I was, but he would not risk his wife, his sister and his mother to the jaws of the wolves were he to push us to war. He was a better man than I, but I don't think I've ever doubted that. He remained focused on the family, I had no thought but for her.

I watched as though a nightmare played out before me. Watched Bella regain her feet, throwing a rock at the monster that tried to block her path. She was gathering her strength for one last fight, I could see it... and I loved her for it. A lesser woman, a lesser soul might have laid down and let the oncoming wolves have her. She was exhausted and terrified, I didn't need to hear her thoughts to know it. But she ran, with the wolves giving chase, including the dangerously wild one. He was with her in an instant, moving far too fast for her to avoid him. She didn't have to.

All at once the arms holding onto me let go of their suffocating grasp. I was free, and Bella put her foot over the boundary line. Swift as thought, I swept her into my arms, turning my back to the attacking wolf at her heels. His blow glanced harmlessly off my stone skin. The fool had blundered his way across the line, and I could sense Emmett's intense satisfaction as he cut the stupid dog off from the rest of his pack.

I couldn't bring myself to care beyond that. Bella was in my arms, safe and whole. I kissed the top of her head, pressed my lips to her forehead and grazed them against her cheek, all the while murmuring words of comfort, of reassurance. She was alright, I was with her, and I would let nothing in the world harm her or the baby she carried. Tightening my arms around her, I turned and called for my father. The scent of her blood was tugging at me, making the monster rattle the bars of its cage again. That needed to be dealt with and quickly.

Carlisle approached us and I knelt, laying Bella down on a bed of moss. He smelled the blood immediately, but was not affected by it. Not like I was. It was torture being this close to her, but I willingly submitted myself to it. "Are you alright, Edward?" I met Carlisle's eyes, but I didn't hide the effect her blood had on me. He arched his eyebrows, and his thoughts urged me to be cautious. "I can take her if you need me to."

My gaze moved back to her face, and I shook my head. "No." I stroked dark hair away from her cheek. "It's not easy, but I'll manage. None of her wounds are bad." As if to prove myself to him, I sat perfectly still as he examined her, not so much as twitching as he revealed and dealt with open cuts and scrapes. I didn't breathe deeply, but that would have been courting disaster. Her eyes had closed, and I could sense from the way her body had gone lax that she was unconscious. That was for the best, particularly if she stayed out until we could get her to someplace safe

The sounds of a conflict kept drawing my eyes toward the others. My four siblings were teaching the wolves what puppies they truly were. The one they called Paul in their thoughts was laying on his side, alive but not glad of that fact; he smelled of blood and shame. Emmett and Jasper toyed with the alpha while Rosalie and Alice bounced the third between them as though they played a spirited tennis match.

"Hold her upright, Edward?" My attention returned to Carlisle, and I did as he asked, supporting Bella's slender body into a sitting position. I knew from his thoughts that her shoulder was dislocated, a fact that made the fury stir anew inside of me. Gritting my teeth, I pressed another kiss to Bella's temple, silently begging her forgiveness for letting this happen. I held her tight as Carlisle deftly repositioned the shoulder joint. He was a master of using just the perfect amount of force when necessary, another gift. "There now," he murmured with satisfaction. "This will pain her for a few days, but she'll prefer it to having broken it."

"What about the baby?" If I listened closely, I could still hear its faint heartbeat, but he knew far better than I did.

"Without having an ultrasound to be sure, she is as stable as I could expect. She needs to rest, and then we'll see what happens." Even in these modern times, so much of the protection and continued health of the pregnancy lay in the hands of the mother's body. My father gently touched her face, then squeezed my hand. "We'll do all we can for her, Edward. But much of it is up to her." Leaving it at that, he stood, looking toward where the others had finally tired of playing with the dogs.

Settling Bella securely in my arms, I rose and followed him. The wolves had banded together, broken and bloody. They snarled, but made no further attempt to attack, all three of them knew it was futile. Good, I hoped they'd enjoyed the lesson. Emmett stood squarely on the boundary, watching them with arms folded, but he informed me smugly in his thoughts that he had retrieved Bella's cellphone. So at some point he had crossed over, not that the wolves had much call to claim treaty breaking at the moment.

Carlisle moved to Emmett's side, regarding the wolves with little in the way of compassion. "Go home, you're done here tonight. The woman has requested safe harbor with us, she will receive it. " The alpha stared at him for a long moment, then rose to his feet. For a moment more, he stood facing Carlisle, and I could tell the dog had no love of admitting defeat. He was also very concerned for Bella's fate, but I still had no sympathy for him. Finally he turned and limped off through the trees, the other two following as quickly as their battered bodies permitted.

Sighing softly, Carlisle turned back to the rest of us, looking at each in turn. "Well, dear ones, I think we've had enough excitement for one evening." He slid an arm around my mother's waist, pulling her close. "Let's go home."