L'heure bleue, the blue hour: Rosalie and Emmett didn't wait until September to return to Forks. Instead, they came back in August -- and, unfortunately for Bella and the other Cullens, they didn't come back alone. Bella and Rosalie get thrown together when a new and unexpected enemy arrives in Forks. When their freedom -- and their lives -- are in danger, can Rosalie's animosity last? Set Post-Twilight; it's my version of the events following that novel. Pre-New Moon.
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He didn’t let his sister laugh at his—or mine, I guess—expense for long. As he calmly patted my long, brown hair in place, I heard him say stubbornly, "I like her hair just the way it is, Alice. Besides, Bella looks stunning regardless."
My blush deepened at his words; I’d never had the chance for it to fade, or for the blood to stop rushing to my face. Edward’s devotion was almost unbelievable at times and, when we were alone, I could appreciate it, even if I did marvel at the depths of it. But it could definitely be embarrassing to see him get so overprotective over Alice. It was Alice, for goodness sake!
Luckily for me and my super sensitive blushing reflexes, she knew him well enough after almost fifty years of living together not to take to heart his reaction. She wasn’t offended, nor did she find anything awkward about the way he was so darn defensive. She was just the type of person to take it all in stride; in short, Alice was awesome.
"Relax, Edward," she said, rolling her eyes at him, "I wasn’t insulting her."
His eyebrow quirked in ill-disguised disbelief. "Oh, no? Then what were you doing?"
Gesturing at my face with one of her dainty hands, Alice smiled mischievously over at her brother. "I was complimenting Bella on her rather… artistic sense of hair design, if you must know. Plus," she added, "it was very environmentally sound of her to use your speed to dry her hair, saving all that electricity. Not to mention time, too, and, of course, going green is all the rage." She shook her head, giggling. "Honestly, I thought you would approve."
Her high soprano voice was as clear as a bell; the small giggle that punctuated her tease sounded like tinkling. It was very difficult for me not to respond to the humor in her voice. I almost choked in my attempt to keep my own chuckles back.
Edward, on the other hand, did not seem like he was in the mood to kid around now that we had made it to his house. Frowning slightly as his eyes darkened broodingly, he ignored his sister’s joking manner. Still absently stroking my hair, his touch so feather light that I barely noticed him doing it, he asked, "Do you have any news for us? Have you seen anything else?"
Like I’d thought yesterday, when Edward was talking things over with Esme, I had the feeling that the only reason he was actually asking her if there was any news was because he wanted me to hear the answer too. Thank goodness.
While, admittedly, I was a little nervous that the Cullens were expecting a visitor, I was more bothered by the way that Edward had kept all those secrets from me. He could have very easily dipped into Alice’s brain to discover if she knew anything more about this new vampire. By asking her out loud, he was letting her know that he wasn’t looking to keep anymore secrets.
Boy, did that make me glad. I didn’t think I could handle another afternoon at the Cullens, not having any idea what was going on.
And I know that I was reading more into his actions that I probably should but Alice… she didn’t even blink when he asked her his questions. Immediately, without even the slightest pause, she had an answer for him. Unfortunately, though, the answer she had really wasn’t much of one at all.
Leaning against one of the porch railings, Alice spoke quickly and energetically, directly her speech right to Edward.
"After you left, I talked to Rosalie and Emmett last night again. Rose didn’t really want to add anything more than she’d already had but I think Emmett was feeling frustrated. In between beating up a handful of pillows, he told me all about how they met this guy in Africa and that he’d mentioned meeting up with them again in Forks after his trip ended. Now, remember how I told you that I saw a stranger visiting us, just curious to see how our family was able to live so peacefully among humans?"
Without even waiting for confirmation from Edward, she kept on speaking, her high pitched voice almost a buzz in my ears.
"Ever since that first glimpse of a stranger in Forks, I’ve been keeping my eye on him. From what I gather, he left Africa almost immediately after they did and this is his destination. He’s still very much set on coming here. He’s moving quickly, though," she admitted, her perfect nose wrinkling, "much faster than you would expect from someone just interested in checking out our coven."
I was watching Edward’s face as Alice talked and I wasn’t surprised to see him nod slowly, his frown deepening as he did so. He was absorbing everything that she said, even if he didn’t like it. I wondered how far he was in her narrative. Using his gift, he could, if he wanted to, share in her visions. So, what was he seeing?
Alice recognized his contemplative mood and, if possible, she attempted to speak even faster in order to get the rest of her answer out before he had the chance to interrupt her.
"He traveled all night but he decided to stop this morning to… to hunt," she said, pausing only slightly to see Edward’s reaction at the news; she didn’t even dare look at me as she tried, in the most delicate way possible, not to mention specifically what the vampire had stopped to hunt.
I knew one thing: it wasn’t for a mountain lion or an irritable grizzly.
"He didn’t seem that thirsty and I don’t think he was planning on prolonging his journey here but, at the last minute, he changed his mind. I can only assume he doesn’t want any temptations when he arrives," she explained, sounding almost apologetic that she didn’t have any true insight into the inner workings of his mind, rather than being able to know what this stranger was going to do as soon as he knew.
She could see what he was doing but she didn’t know the motives behind his actions. Then again, I guess that was what Edward was for…
"He started running again not much after and there’s no doubt that he’s heading here to meet us all," Alice added, her voice suddenly glum, as if she was hoping that her vision was wrong. "He’s running fast, too."
Listening intently to everything she had to say, Edward nodded gravely as soon as she finished. "So, tonight then?"
"As far as I can see."
"And nothing’s changed from last night?"
He was trying his best to sound nonchalant but he couldn’t hide the quick glance in my direction. I saw it, though; I’d never let my attention stray from him so, when he turned his profile slightly so that his eyes flickered to my face and then back to Alice’s, there was no way I could have missed that.
Alice briefly followed his gaze, pausing to frown cryptically before shaking her head. "No, Edward. But it could, you know, at any moment. You do realize that, don’t you?"
"Of course, I do."
The atmosphere surrounding the two of them was suddenly questionable. There were definitely things being left unsaid and, once again, I felt like I was the only one being left out of the loop. Hoping to change that, or maybe even change the subject, I searched for some way to jump into the conversation. Something Alice had said gave me an idea.
"At least he stopped to hunt on his way," I said brightly, trying my best not to remember just what he had hunted. "There’s no reason to worry about him hunting any humans in Forks now, right?" My voice was happy and cheery despite the sinister subject matter. I tried to sound unconcerned but I don’t think I pulled it off. I’m nowhere near as good an actor as Edward.
For a moment, I thought he was going to scold me about my admittedly cavalier use of the word ‘human’. Just as he kept trying to remind me that I was still—currently against my will, I might add—a human, I liked to show him how I had already distanced myself away from them. As far as I was concerned, Bella Swan was a former human, almost vampire. Only Edward’s unwarranted stubbornness prevented me from fully completing the change.
But, most unexpectedly, he chose to disregard my statement. His head swiveled back so that he was only facing Alice and the two of them shared a pointed look. This time, whatever was going through his head, he didn’t want to share his—or her—thoughts with me.
Without even stopping to say anything about my comment, he started to ask Alice eagerly for more details, for anything she might have discovered about this stranger from her visions. Obviously aware that he was only pumping her for more knowledge in an attempt to bypass my input, she gave one last glimpse in my direction before offering up any small thing that might mean something to Edward.
Now, I thought my point was a valid one, even if I could have shown more compassion for the hapless victims of a thirsty vampire. While I couldn’t condone murder in any sense, I understood that vampires had to eat and that very few of them followed the Cullens’ chosen ‘vegetarian’ diet. But, there was no denying the relief I felt at knowing that this new vampire wouldn’t have to hunt while visiting Washington and I couldn’t understand why it had to be glossed over like that.
Barely listening to the quick-paced nature of their continued conversation, I resolved to ask Alice about her reaction (and maybe his) as soon as I got the chance. I knew that, if I even tried to ask Edward, I wouldn’t get a straight answer out of him. He liked to keep certain things to himself because he thought I was too delicate, I guess, to hear them. This had to be one of those things.
In my experience, anything that had to do with vampires was one of those things.
Luckily for me and my curiosity, Alice was different. She knew better, and I was fairly certain she would answer me truthfully.
If, of course, Edward ever let me out of his sight long enough for me to corner his sister and ask her. Knowing him, that was pretty much going to be impossible. Sometimes I thought that, if it wasn’t for his deeply ingrained sense of chivalry, he would follow me into the bathroom just to make sure I didn’t drown in the toilet.
Shaking my head at that mental image, I realized I’d zoned out a couple of minutes ago. I dared a glance over at Edward. As far as I could tell, neither one noticed my momentary lapse into zombie-dom. Relieved, I decided I should probably start listening to what was going on around me.
"… really don’t think there’s much to worry about," Alice was saying, her voice calm and soothing as if she was trying to reassure Edward—which, now that I think about it, was what she was probably doing. "It’ll be over before we know it, things will get back to normal, and you can go back to wrestling Emmett for the remote."
If she was trying to get a rise out of him, or trying to lighten the mood again, it didn’t work. Edward looked as serious as ever as he finally decided that it was safe to pay attention to me again.
"What do you think, Bella?"
I was momentarily taken aback by his question. I don’t know if he was asking me to be courteous or because he was genuinely interested… I was pretty sure it was the latter. He seemed to always want to know what was on my mind.
"I… I think it’s going to be fine, Edward," I told him. Not like, if I thought anything different, I would tell him otherwise. "There doesn’t seem to be any threat. At least, I don’t think there is since Alice didn’t see one. So there shouldn’t be a problem."
"Right," she cut in smoothly, wrapping one of her cool hands around my upper arm. You would never be able to tell from her small stature but she was just as strong as Edward. Without letting him try to stop her, she started to pull me towards the house. "Come on, Bella, Edward. Let’s go inside. Everyone’s waiting in the den."
He took the words right out of my mouth.
Alice made a face, a grimace that did nothing to mar her perfection. "Well, not Rosalie, of course."
After my earlier conversation with him about Charlie and Rosalie, this small reminder that she disliked me so much was like a little dig in my side. I felt my lips curving down in an obvious frown. I tried to hide it as quickly as I could.
I wasn’t quick enough. He saw my reaction and immediately scowled.
"Why is Rosalie hiding?" Edward demanded, his eyes flashing angrily. I think he was remembering our talk of ‘eventually’, too. "Does she regret luring this threat here? Is that it, Alice?"
He spoke loudly, lifting his voice so that any of the keen of hearing vampires in the house—all five of them—would be able to make out his complaint. I had the hunch that that was his intent; at the very least, he wanted one of them to hear him.
Despite his assurances otherwise, I knew Edward was a little bit nervous. I was nervous. But that didn’t mean he had to take out his nerves on Rosalie. I had half a mind to let him know that, however I wished differently, today was not ‘eventually’.
I didn’t have to worry about it, though, and I didn’t have to stick up for Rosalie, either. Alice had that one all covered.
She rolled her eyes again. "Oh, don’t be like that, Edward. You know as well as I do that this isn’t her fault." We were at the front door, her hand on the doorknob. Winking at me as she opened the door, she added, "Besides, if anyone’s at fault, it’s Emmett. He’s the one who had to go and boast about the great Cullen family of the Olympic Peninsula."
"I heard that!"
Emmett’s voice boomed through the open foyer as we entered the house. Nobody else was in that front room and it amazed me that his voice could carry to it from the den area.
Letting go of my arm, Alice shot me a triumphant look before gracefully bounding off in the direction of Emmett’s voice. "I meant you to," she trilled back at him, skipping lightly across the room.
As soon as she was gone, I turned behind me to look at Edward. He’d hung back in the doorway, an unreadable expression on his face. His eyes were still dark, his lips thinned and his hands balled into tight fists at his side.
It wasn’t just Rosalie’s refusal to come down that was angering him—he was just using that as a front, I was almost sure of it. But, as I laid my hand carefully on his arm, I couldn’t figure what had caused this sudden shift in his mood. It was one thing to be uncertain, to be cautious… but Edward looked absolutely furious.
I really hoped there wasn’t something in one of Alice’s visions that made him act this way. It was the only explanation I could think of. That, or my comment struck a deeper chord than I realized.
Though it was pointless to even assume that his family couldn’t hear us, I whispered to him anyway. "Edward?"
Whether it was the sound of his name or the sound of my voice, he responded instantly. Relaxing immediately, I could feel the tension flee from his body underneath my fingertips. There was still a weary look in his eyes but, as he took my hand back in his, he shared a smile with me.
"Come on," he murmured, his voice velvety smooth once more, "they’re waiting for us."
It was very homey to follow Edward’s lead into the den and find almost all of the Cullens sitting together in the den. I saw Esme first, her head turned over her shoulder, waving cheerfully as we entered. I waved back. She was perched comfortably on the edge of a leather loveseat, her second hand clasped securely in her husband’s.
Carlisle Cullen, Edward’s father and the head of their family, was sitting next to Esme, talking in undertones to her. When we approached, he followed Esme’s gaze, turning his head to greet us both. His lips turned up, quirked in a charming grin, and it made me slightly stunned; there was a reason that all of the nurses down at the hospital had crushes on the young doctor.
"Hello," he said warmly, "it’s so good to see you again, Bella." Esme nodded her head in agreement.
When I was able to find my voice again, I replied, "You, too. I’m sorry I missed you yesterday." I sounded a little out of breath. It was very easy, when talking to Carlisle, to see where Edward had picked up on his habit to unintentionally dazzle us humans.
"It’s been so busy down at the hospital. With school starting up again so soon, there are plenty of check-ups to be done, not to mention seasonal allergies to diagnose and treat." Laughing to himself, he added, "Honestly, it’s a good thing I don’t need to sleep. I’d never find any time to."
Esme joined in with his laughter. It sounded so light-hearted and cheery that it was hard to believe they were concerned with this visiting vampire. Only the vague sense of apprehension I could feel settling over the room made me understand that my presence here wasn’t just because Edward was overprotective. The others were unsettled by this sudden visit, too.
Without a word to his father or mother, Edward carefully placed his hand against my back before guiding me towards a matching sofa. It was empty and, with a tiny nod, he gestured for me to take a seat. I did. He sat down immediately beside me.
The den was small and cozy. Apart from the loveseat along the sofa’s edge, there were only two more recliners furnishing the room, Emmett, for all his bulk, was sitting in one, filling up most of the dark leather seat as he sat sideways. When he saw me looking at him, he winked theatrically, a large and goofy grin splitting his boyish face.
He waved before pointing at Edward. "Ah, don’t go listening to anything Edward says, Bella. He gets a little uptight sometimes, doesn’t realize what a great opportunity this can be." Clapping his hands together, his grin turned deadly serious—still goofy, but definitely lethal. I made a mental note never to get on his bad side. "If that guy makes one move, I’ll take him out. Rose wouldn’t let me fight in Africa but I’d like to see him try anything now. This is my turf!"
"Emmett, you’re just saying that because you feel bad about telling him where we live."
I heard Alice before I saw her and it took me a second to find her. She was sitting, cross-legged on the floor, her back leaning up against the front of the second recliner. Her grin was wicked, her warm, butterscotch eyes dancing, as she teased her much bigger brother. She was sure brave; I don’t think I’d ever have the nerve to talk to Emmett like that. He looked like he could snap her right in half!
"That’s not true," he countered, his laughter a roar, "I’m saying that because I feel bad that I didn’t get to take him out while on my honeymoon!"
Alice echoed his laughter with her sweet, tinkling giggles as she tilted her head upwards. "Jazz, you never dreamt of going and picking a fight when we were on our honeymoon, did you?"
Jasper, Alice’s mate (and husband) for far longer than I’d even been alive, was sitting on the edge of that second recliner. Tall, thin and fair, there was a strange gentle quality to him on the surface that a quiet disposition and troubled eyes revealed as feigned to anyone foolish enough to get too close. Of all of the Cullens, Jasper found their chosen lifestyle the most difficult; as such, he was the most dangerous of them all.
From my place across the room, it was hard to remember that danger. He’d been so kind to me, if a little distant, during that time in Phoenix and after. Even now, as he felt my questioning gaze on him, he spared a nod to me and Edward before answering Alice.
He pursed his lips momentarily, thinking about what side he wanted to take in this small pseudo-argument. Finally he said, in a voice that still had a twinge of a Southern twang, "No, ma’am."
I laughed to myself as Emmett let out a mock howl of outrage, crying something about men sticking together. Alice, her wicked grin even wider, curled her arms possessively around Jasper’s legs before letting her fair cheek rest up against his calf.
There was a light weight on my shoulder and, after turning my head, I saw that Edward had placed his arm over it before pulling me close, settling me directly in his lap. Not quite mimicking the pose that Alice and Jasper shared, I let my head rest against his smooth chest. Edward blew on the top of my hair, letting out a small sigh of contentment as he covered me—purposely or not—in his scent.
It was so nice, sitting like this with Edward, sharing the den in a companionable silence with the rest of his family. The large screen television in the far corner of the room was on and the low hum of the volume was comforting. I noticed that Emmett was the one in control of the remote and, remembering Alice’s earlier comment to Edward, it made me smile.
In fact, it was almost hard to believe that this wasn’t just any ordinary Saturday morning. Only that continued apprehensive feeling that wafted through the room reminded me that it wasn’t ordinary. I wondered why Jasper wasn’t using his gift—the ability to manipulate emotions which, in the case of helping everyone calm down, could come in handy—before figuring he had to have a reason.
Maybe I was just being too sensitive. After all, just because I was a little preoccupied with this visit, and Edward was upset by it, it didn’t mean that the others were dwelling on it as obsessively. I think Emmett was even looking forward to it.
Slowly, as the other’s got past our arrival, the room started filling up with small talk again. Esme and Carlisle resumed whatever conversation they’d been having while Alice continued to tease Emmett. Occasionally she would turn to Jasper for help or agreement but, for all intents and purposes, me and Edward were in our own little world for the time being.
I think he liked it that way. He was relaxed under the weight of my body and, with the tip of his pointer finger, he was tracing lazy circles on my upper arm. When he murmured my name, I could feel timbre of his voice as it built up in his chest.
I wasn’t sure if he was just saying my name for no reason or if he actually was addressing me. Curious, I managed to turn my face up towards him without wiggling in my seat.
That familiar adored expression was on his face; the familiar butterflies began to flap as my heart raced. He was smiling again. "Are you comfortable?" he asked, keeping his voice low. "Or would you prefer to go and wait upstairs?"
Wait. I knew that was what we were doing, I knew we were waiting. Still, it gave me a little shiver to hear Edward say it like that. Waiting implied that something was going to happen eventually.
There was too many ‘eventually’s today.
I didn’t know how to answer him. To be honest, if we had to wait, I though it would be easier if we were surrounded by his family. I knew too well how Edward could be when he felt threatened. This relaxed version wouldn’t last for long and, besides, when Alice saw anything different, I wanted to be there when she saw it. I didn’t think I could rely on Edward to see it himself and tell me all about.
Who knows what she might see. I hadn’t forgotten how much he’s already kept from me. I didn’t want anymore secrets.
But, on the other hand, I didn’t want him to think that I was against being in his room with him alone. That was as far from the truth as you can get—I would do anything to be alone with him… just not when we were waiting for a new vampire to arrive in Forks.
"Anywhere is fine, Edward," I said at last, leaning my cheek against his chest, "as long as I’m with you."
I smiled to myself as I felt the soft kiss on top of my head. "We’ll stay right where we are for now."
My heart swelled. I didn’t have to tell him what I wanted. He already knew.
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