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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:


8. Fever Dreams

Rating 5/5   Word Count 2660   Review this Chapter

PART EIGHT: Fever Dreams

Edward POV

The longer I had to contemplate my actions, the more I knew something was seriously wrong with me. There was no other explanation. A girl had appeared with the power to so completely disrupt my life that I had to withdraw to the mountains to regain control of myself. The experience had been so strange, so surreal, that a few days of solitude had convinced me that I could manage the problem; that I was making more of it than I should. With that confidence, I returned home, and in less than a day the insanity had me in its grip again.

Yet even as it returned, it changed. Her scent was still a siren's song, her blood drawing me with a power beyond explanation. But those base desires were not alone, standing against them was an impulse so strong that I was powerless to resist. A compulsion to protect her from harm at all costs.

Yes, the only thing more powerful than my desire to kill Bella was the need to protect her. Proof that God has a sense of humor.

The ambulance slowed, and I pulled back from my weighty thoughts, becoming aware of the minds around me again. The EMT with Bella was calm, his thoughts informing me that she seemed unharmed, just a little bruised. As soon as we were stopped, I slipped out of the vehicle and faded into the group of medical personnel waiting for Bella. It had been my intention to find Carlisle, to explain and perhaps unburden myself in his calming presence.

Somehow, despite my best efforts to disappear, dark eyes caught mine, and though her thoughts were a mystery to me, I could read the fear on her face. Fear of the unknown, of the strangers that surrounded her, of the events that had occurred that were beyond her understanding. That, along with the careworn loneliness of someone who faced life's every challenge on her own. Without knowing why, I found a quiet corner in the ER where I could see her and settled in to wait.

I told myself that it was because Carlisle was busy, I was simply biding time until he was available. Bella was a curiousity, so it was natural for me to observe her. I observed the way her hair caught the light, the way she smiled and hid her pain but was never quite free of it. I watched her expressive dark eyes disappear beneath the shade of dark lashes, and how her face flushed when someone made an effort to care for her. When she was uncomfortable, she touched her hair, letting it tumble forward like a veil, guarding the secrets that she kept close to her heart. What were those secrets? Why were they closed to me? Why did I want so desperately to know?

I think I might have continued like that if her father hadn't arrived. Immediately I sensed she hadn't shared the fact that she was pregnant, he was all but boiling over with it. I winced, I had at least a small measure of responsibility for that. I could see the tension in her from across the room as she heard his voice, and by instinct I responded to it. My body went very still, eyes narrowed, looking for something to fight, some danger to defeat. Unfortunately I couldn't save her from her father.

Chief Swan's concern for her safety was foremost, but the other knowledge was just beneath the surface. He would ask her as soon as he saw an opening, and I didn't sense enough tact in him for it to be delicate. I stepped away from the wall, listening to his thoughts intently. Even then I was surprised by how quickly he asked the question.

She panicked, and then the pressures of the day exacted their cost, upsetting the already delicate balance her body was fighting to maintain. Her face twisted with pain, and I was already in motion. For a split-second, I wasn't sure what I meant to do. I think if I had relaxed my control even a hair's breadth that I might have killed her father. That was how deeply I was affected, that the instinctive drive to protect translated into annihilation of the threat. I fought it off, feeling a flicker of relief when the nurse pushed him to one side. That left only Bella clearly in my focus... and then I knew what to do.

I watched her struggle alone, a weary soldier making the final stand against impossible odds. I watched as she fought against the nurse, trying to quiet the angry protest of her body all on her own. The sapling may bend before it breaks, but in the end it will break. My hesitation gone, I stood at her side and gave her my strength.

"It's alright, Bella," I whispered. I rested my hand on the bed by her waist, leaning down to press my lips to her forehead. The scent of her was all but overwhelming when we were this close, I could hear her racing heart, the rush of the blood through her veins. It didn't matter. "You're not alone." My voice rang with absolute conviction. I stroked my hand down her cheek, willing her to hear me, to believe those words. The thirst was there and fierce, but I was the master of it. "I'm right here." Wherever the father of her child was hiding, I silently swore that he would regret every tear that he cost her, every moment of pain, every whisper of fear. If there was blood spilled, let it be his.

Straightening, I put my hand over hers on her still-flat belly, coaxing her clenched fist to uncurl. There was so much tension in her, I longed to ease her hurting, but that was not within my power. My eyes searched the room, looking for the one person that could help. "Carlisle!" His eyes met mine, and I felt the query in his thoughts. "Over here, please."

"Don't leave." Bella's voice was shaky with fear and pain. Her hand clenched tightly with mine, as though she would use all her strength to keep me there.

"I'm not going anywhere." My attention was on Carlisle, I grit my teeth when he stopped, but it was only long enough for the nurse to tell him about Bella's condition. Then he smoothly handled Chief Swan, who had been blustering right at the edge of my awareness for a few minutes now. Not to be rude, but I didn't have the patience to deal with him.

"Bella, I hear we're having some trouble today." Carlisle had reached us, and he met my eyes across the bed. I could sense his concern, he was worried that I was tempting fate by being this close. I frowned, I didn't have the patience to deal with that, either.

Bella opened her eyes, and my attention immediately focused on her again, on the possibility that there was something more seriously wrong than bumps and bruises. I looked down into the velvety brown of her eyes, and found a smile tugging at my lips despite the concern. "Bella seems to be an expert on trouble." Carlisle relaxed a little, and I briefly hoped his trust in me wasn't misplaced. He explained to Bella what they'd be doing and why. I watched her face throughout, memorizing its lines and curves, my hand still clasped tightly with hers.

I closed my eyes and concentrated on that hand, on the life that stirred beneath it. Listening to, feeling, the faint heartbeat, sensing in some indefinable way that it had a presence. "It is," I said in answer to the question that hung in the air. The question of whether that life was still there. Lifting my head, I spoke to Carlisle in the rapid speech our kind was capable of. "I can sense a heartbeat."

"Good. I'm confident that she's merely reacting to the stress, but we'll err on the side of caution." His eyebrow quirked. "You'll be staying?"

"As long as she wants me here, yes." I left it at that, and so did he. I'd discuss it with him later, explain myself, but now was not the time.

He focused on Bella again, reassuring her. It was, as always, impressive to watch him work. He had such an easy bedside manner. Confident but personable, he put his patients at ease almost immediately. Unquestionably, he had a gift. With a smile and a last look at me, he left Bella in my care until he returned.

"Just relax," I told her softly, watching as the nurse administered the drugs that Carlisle had ordered. They were meant to calm Bella and stave off the effects of the stress. "If you start feeling sleepy, don't fight it."

"Will you stay?" Those eyes, they captured me again. I imagined that each time they held me that I fell a little more deeply into their sway, and that eventually I would be incapable of denying their slightest whim.

I looked away, uncertain how I felt about that insight. "As long as I can..." I made it as noncommittal as I could. 'What does he think he's doing, pawing a married woman like that?' I glanced in the direction of the thought, saw Chief Swan watching us from the waiting area and looking very unhappy. A smirk tugged at my lips. What did I think I was doing? Exactly what I wanted. "Although I can't say your father is terribly happy about my presence." And it amused me deeply.

"You saved my life, I don't see how he can say much," Bella insisted. But Carlisle's return effectively ended the conversation. I gently squeezed her hand, and then moved to a discreet distance. As long as he was satisfied with the results, Carlisle wouldn't do a more extensive exam, but it didn't feel appropriate to hover like I was her husband. Even if she didn't mind.

Even at a distance, I could hear everything that was said. I listened idly, drifting through the varied thoughts of the ER occupants. The driver of the delivery truck had taken damage, enough for Carlisle to send him to Regional. That was part of what delayed him in seeing to Bella, making that decision and the necessary arrangements. I found it hard to be concerned about the man, he wasn't blameless by any means, and if I hadn't been there to intervene, he would have killed Bella. That wasn't an easy offense to forgive.

I was saved from less charitable thoughts when Carlisle turned the screen for Bella to watch what he was doing. I tilted my head, curious. That's all I meant it to be, curiousity, but with every step I took closer to the bed, that became less and less of a certainty. Improbably, impossibly, I was captivated. My sharp eyes traced the outline of the womb, the shadows and lights of the ultrasound image, and there, curled inside that dark, hidden place was life. I could see its shape, watch it move, count the flutters of its heart. A tiny soul rested there, and I couldn't take in that knowledge and be unchanged by it. "That's... amazing." The words were mere breath and still Bella heard me. I felt her eyes on me, but I was too enthralled by the image on the screen to look away.

What I felt then had no care for caution, no patience with logical, rational thought. It was a longing, abandoned long ago, a desire to join my life with someone. To hold her, cherish her, to give her children, to create a family with only one another as its seeds. That longing shook me to the core, as it tried to wrap its tendrils around the idea of this woman, this child, and this life that fate had pushed me into. I stood very still, fighting a war against it that I didn't want to win. 'He has no right.' Chief Swan's thought interjected helpfully. He spoke the truth of course. Bella was married, her baby had a father.

Yes. And where was the unworthy dog?

Carlisle saved me. I'm not sure from what exactly, I merely knew it would have been unwise. I made myself listen, forced myself to rejoin the waking world and shake off my silly daydream. Bella would be spending the night, just a precaution. Unfortunately that tempted me to lurk, but I quickly dismissed that idea. I knew my sister too well, there would be damage control to do at home. A little distance from Bella Black wouldn't hurt me. And if it cooled my schoolboy fancies, all the better.

Carlisle left Bella with a reminder to let the nurses know when she wanted visitors. I could hear her father still seething from here. "I think Chief Swan is getting impatient," I told her, although I could admit that at the moment I rather enjoyed her making him wait.

"Chief Swan is just worried about his silly daughter." She sounded tired and overwhelmed. Some of it was the drugs, some of it was well-earned.

"You could let the nurses tell him you're asleep." Her eyes slid closed, but she hadn't quite relaxed. There was still a line of worry across her forehead, creating a furrow between her eyebrows. I made my voice soothing and soft., nudging her that last little way toward sleep. "It wouldn't hurt you to rest for a while." Unable to resist, I stroked cool fingertips across her brow, coaxing those lines smooth. Then I gathered the silken skeins of her hair around my fingers, tucking them away from her face. "Sleep, Bella."

I felt her drift away, and I dared to rest my hand over hers again, on her stomach above where the child slept. The monster paced inside of me, rattled the bars of its cage with discontent, but I ignored it. That thing had no place here, if I wanted to torture myself with the sweetness of her scent and the siren call of her blood, so be it. The monster would not have her. Ever. No, my thoughts were of a far more dangerous sort. Selfish, insane thoughts, and still I didn't have the strength to dismiss them. I was a very weak man, and in front of me was everything I had ever wanted. All I had to do was reach out and take it.

With an effort, I pulled away, leaving her to more pleasant dreams than I could offer. I turned my back, and walked toward the door, slowly at first and then with more confidence. I think the indignant father might have intercepted me if I'd let him. Of course, I didn't let him. I needed space and speed, and then perhaps to be grounded by the presence of my family. Walking out through the sliding doors, I realized with surprise that it was nearly dark. The rain had stopped for the moment, although the world was still a drippy, sodden mess. I followed the sidewalk for a short way and then headed for the tree line. Just before I reached the trees, I caught a whiff of something unpleasant. Something distinctive that had my nose wrinkling.

"What in the--" Looking up, I saw a pair of gleaming eyes looking out at me from the underbrush. They were only there for a moment, and then without a movement, without a sound, they were gone. My jaw clenched. I knew that smell, though the memory was an old one. Werewolf.

So, the wolves were on the move again? I was no fool, I remembered the name Black and what it meant. But that didn't mean I intended to play by their rules.