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L'Heure Bleue

Summary:
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.


Notes:


9. James

Rating 5/5   Word Count 4632   Review this Chapter

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Chapter Eight
JAMES

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I put on a brave face, trying to push aside the rising panic I felt at his admission. I don’t know why I was getting so worked up anyway. Just because one crazy vampire tried to kill me, that didn’t mean that all of them were bad. Anytime I forgot that, all I had to do was look at the Cullens.

James is dead, I reminded myself as Edward tightened his arms around me, and Edward would never let anyone hurt me. Besides, after everything that happened in Phoenix, I highly doubted that he would let me anywhere near anyone who was even remotely a potential threat ever again.

Maybe that was it. Maybe I wasn’t so much upset that there was another vampire planning to visit Forks as I was that Edward was going to have to leave me behind while he, along with his family, greeted—and, no doubt, kept an eye on—this new visitor.

I didn’t know how long this vampire would stay, or what I would do while Edward was away, but I was determined not to make this any harder on him than I had to. I’d already kept myself occupied for seventeen years without any trouble. A couple of days alone wouldn’t hurt.

Bracing myself against him, as if I was afraid he was going to climb out of the rocking chair immediately and leave me without so much as a goodbye, I nodded into his chest. "I’m sorry, Edward, and you’re right. But I’ll miss you."

"Miss me?" I couldn’t see his face the way my head was angled into him but that didn’t mean I couldn’t hear the confusion in his soft, velvet voice. "Are you going somewhere that I don’t know about?"

"No… but I thought you’d have to stay with your family until the vam—the visitor came and left."

"I do."

"I know," I said, snuggling into his granite-hard chest. I breathed him in, letting his sweet, irresistible scent fill my nose and wrap around my senses. I sighed. "And I’ll miss you."

Edward chuckled. "Silly Bella."

"What?" I sounded defensive, my tone sharp, even if my voice was muffled by his thin sweater. I didn’t like the way his laugh was suddenly so condescending.

It was bad enough that I would have to willingly be separated from him; did he have to find my sacrifice amusing? Didn’t he know how hard it was for me to be away from him? I actually had to resort to watching baseball with Charlie last night so that I wouldn’t realize how lonely I was, how empty I was without him.

He leaned further back into the chair, creating a small amount of space between his torso and my head. Carefully, and before his body could draw me close like the magnet he was to me, Edward gripped my chin with his ice cold fingers. He turned my face towards him, tilting my head back so that he could look into my eyes.

There was nothing but love splayed across his face, etched deep into every line of his marble-like skin. This close, it was almost impossible to imagine a time when he wasn’t with me—or wouldn’t be.

He chuckled again. It didn’t sound half as condescending now. "There’s another vampire in the area, Bella. I don’t intend to let you out of my sight."

Edward kissed the tip of my nose before releasing the hold he had on my chin. He didn’t let his hands fall back to his lap; instead, he trailed my cheek with the side of his pinkie finger. "No worries," he promised again. "You have nothing to fear when I’m with you."

And, though I’d never admit it, he was right. Even now, once the shock of learning that another vampire was heading towards Forks began to wear off, I wasn’t really that afraid—not now that I knew he wasn’t going to leave me on my own.

The nightmares only came whenever I thought of being alone.

In fact, I felt much, much better now that Edward had assured me that he wasn’t planning on leaving me behind. It was easier to push aside any worries that I held for myself, though I wasn’t able to entirely get my mind off of the idea that this new vampire might be a threat to the Cullens themselves.

I tried to voice my new set of worries but I never got the chance to.

After leaning back from his chest again, I decided to ask him what made this new character so different that he’d been able to convince Rosalie and Emmett to come back to Forks rather than continue traveling with him in Africa. Had he really inspired any sort of fear in Edward’s siblings or was Edward—as I knew too well that he had a tendency to do—just overreacting? Was I worrying now because Edward was or because the idea of a hunter of humans in Forks scared me so much that I thought he should worry?

However, before I’d even open my mouth to say anything, to clue him in to my rambling thought process, Edward proceeded to silence me with one of his amazing, mind blowing kisses. By the time he’d relaxed his hold on my shoulders and let his assault on my lips fade away, I’d completely forgotten what I wanted to say. Like always, it was just enough that I had to remember how to breathe when he was done.

He seemed very proud of himself as he gently scooped me up in his arms. My body was shifted so that I wasn’t being handled like a ragdoll; Edward lifted me up so that my face was close to his. I tried to be hesitant—I didn’t want to overload him with my scent—but I couldn’t help it. I threw my hands around his neck, holding on tight, before laying my head on his shoulder.

This was how every morning should begin. Well, the being treated as if I was something precious by the one person I loved most in this world. I could live without the disorientation of waking up in a different place than where I fell asleep, the near-naked experience in my bedroom… not to mention discovering that there was a good chance that another bad guy was heading our way.

I couldn’t imagine another vampire being more of a formidable villain than James, the tracker.

James was the stuff of nightmares, the very reason why vampires got such a bad rap. He’d thirsted for my blood for no other reason than it appealed to Edward, that Edward was attracted to—and protective of—me, a lowly human. He attempted to kill me, even going so far as to videotape the attack in a bid to get some sort of rise out of Edward. My life had been forfeit because I intrigued one of his kind.

Just think about him and the marks he left on me, marks that went even deeper than the perpetually cold scar on my wrist, made me even more fearful now that I’d felt earlier at hearing Edward’s news. The worries I had were nothing in comparison to the nightmares I knew and the memories I normally repressed.

I liked to, if I had to, remember that week in Phoenix for the way that I was rescued; it was easier to ignore what I was being rescued from in the light of Edward’s heroics.

I hadn’t dwelt this long on the bad memories since I’d returned to Forks with a fabricated alibi and on heck of a broken leg. I’d regret it later, when I was asleep and James haunted my dreams. For now, though, I just shuddered once against the strength of Edward’s chest before pushing one bad vampire out of my head.

James was dead. If I had to worry, I’d be better off worrying about this new vampire.

Edward felt the small tremor but didn’t say anything about it. I could feel the weight of his eyes on the side of my face. I refused to meet his gaze until I was sure there wasn’t a single trace of nervousness lingering in my expression. Sometimes I could too much of a worrywart myself. If he didn’t seem all that concerned, then there was no reason for me to be worried.

If I wasn’t careful, I could accidentally convince him that the threat might be greater than he thought and I’d be better off at home with Charlie. Not like Charlie’s shiny badge or rusty old gun would be able to stop a bloodthirsty vampire on the hunt but, then again, Edward’s logic never really makes much sense to me.

Without another word, he led us out of my room and down the stairs. He was as light on his feet as ever but, unless I was imagining it—and I doubted that—there seemed to be an urgency in his step.

It was obvious that Edward was just itching to get back to his house. The Cullens’ home was huge, a big white fortress. We—well, me—would be much safer there, especially since the rest of his seven-strong vampire family would be there too.

But I couldn’t leave yet and, when my stomach growled so loud that it sounded more like rumbling thunder than a normal (human) bodily function, Edward understood. Gently setting me down on my feet, he grinned down at me and gestured with an open palm towards the empty kitchen. "Would care for some breakfast, Miss Swan? The chef is at your command."

His voice was oddly formal and definitely full of humor. He was trying his best to ease any tension that may have lingered but, as I wrinkled my nose, I could only imagine what sort of breakfast Chef Edward would concoct.

I really needed to tell Alice to stop him from watching the Food Network. It was giving him ideas.

"That’s okay, Chef. I think I can settle for a nice and simple bowl of cereal," I said. Cereal was safe and, considering how I knew he really wanted to bring me back with him to his family, it was quick.

Unfortunately, though, as I headed into the kitchen, with Edward silently at my heels, my eyes landed on the empty pizza box that I’d left on the side counter. Charlie must have figured I had a reason to put it there instead of adding it to the trash and didn’t move it.

Charlie… I felt a twinge of remorse as my dad’s face flashed before my eyes. I don’t know how he was able to fend for himself for all those years when I lived with Mom—I had a hunch that a lot of take-out and TV dinners did the trick—but there was no way that I could skip out on him again without leaving him something to eat.

Edward caught me staring at the empty box. He raised an eyebrow. "Something wrong, Bella?"

"Not really." I shook my head, clearing my guilty conscience in favor of trying to figure out what I could whip up for Charlie before leaving with Edward. "I was just thinking that I should put something together my dad. It’s not good for him to live off of a diet of pepperoni pizza and soda."

I had to give him credit. He didn’t look pained or frustrated at all that I was prolonging the stay in my house. Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had more information that he was conveniently neglecting to pass along. It was almost as if he was keeping me on a ‘need-to-know’ basis; when he felt like I needed to know, that’s when he offered up the answers.

Edward’s butterscotch-colored eyes brightened up, my favorite uneven smile tugging at his lips. "Would you like me to help? I saw a great recipe for duck a l’orange the other night."

"Umm…" I couldn’t really think of a polite way to say no. I had a feeling that, as adventurous in his eating as Charlie has become since I moved in with him, Edward’s attempts might be a little bit too much. With my dad, safer was always better. "I was just going to throw together a tuna casserole. If I make enough, then he’ll have leftovers just in case."

Wisely, Edward did not comment on my ‘just in case’ clause. Instead, he nodded solemnly. "What can I do?"

I could see that there was no way I was going to win. He thought he was being sneaky but I could see exactly what he was doing—I just couldn’t stop him from doing it. So obsessed with the idea that I should remain a human forever, Edward was even going so far as to learn how to cook so that he could feed me himself.

Quickly, I ran the list of ingredients for a simple tuna casserole through my head. There had to be something that he could do that was simple enough for him to handle. Noodles, tuna, mayonnaise, milk, cheese, onions, celery… I had it.

I crossed the kitchen, turning the dial on the oven so that it was preheating at 350 degrees, before going to the refrigerator. I took out as many of the ingredients as I could remember and set them on the free counter, silently patting myself on the back for hitting the Thriftway on Thursday as I did so, before grabbing one small onion and a few celery stalks in my left hand.

After reaching in one of the bottom cabinets for a cutting board, I offered everything to Edward. "If you’re so eager to help," I told him with a thankful grin; I didn’t want him to think I wasn’t grateful, even if I would’ve preferred to throw the meal together myself, "you can start by dicing this onions and the celery."

"Of course." Quicker than I’d expect, and in a way that would’ve frightened me if anyone else did it, there was a knife in his hand. "Coming right up."

I rolled my eyes, turning my back on him as I took a clean bowl and a spoon out of the dish rack. The dicing would keep Edward occupied; I could scarf down some cereal and get a good deal of the casserole prepped before he would finish.

I filled up Charlie’s large, stainless steel cooking pot with water and set it on the front boiler before I finally sat down to eat my breakfast.

Though Edward kept his attention on what he was doing, he waited until I was almost done with my cereal before saying, "You asked me how my night went, but I never had the chance to ask you the same. I know Charlie was surprised to see that you were home so early and alone, but you should have heard what he was thinking when you agreed to watch baseball." He chuckled. "Baseball, Bella? I must admit, I was quite intrigued myself."

It took me a second to understand what his words implied. When I did, I narrowed my eyes and, with my hands on my hips, I stared at him accusingly. "You were here last night, weren’t you? You didn’t leave right away and… and… you spied on me!"

He didn’t even have the decency to look ashamed. "I couldn’t go right home, not until I made sure that Charlie didn’t ground you again. I only stayed outside for a little bit, only long enough to know that Charlie was simply relieved you arrived in one piece. Though, I must admit, he was secretly glad that you came home without me. It was his affection for you, actually, that finally compelled me to return to my family last night. He loves you almost as much as I do, Bella."

Confronted with the depths of his devotion—not to mention the way he could be kind of jealous of my father—I couldn’t find it in me to be angry with him. "You know, I should’ve known. Nothing can keep you away for long, huh?"

Smirking as he glanced over at me, I almost melted into a puddle of Bella-goo at his feet. "Nothing at all, love."

I felt my cheeks heat up at his words, the blood rushing to my cheeks as I blushed a bright red. I don’t think I could ever get used to that. Quickly, in order to take my mind off of my stupid embarrassment, I brought up the subject of baseball again. "The baseball really wasn’t all that bad last night. A little boring, and it seemed to drag, but I wasn’t surprised. Regular human baseball definitely loses whatever spark it has after you watch vampires play ball."

"Well, what did you expect?" he retorted smugly, his white teeth glinting in the faint kitchen light as his smirk widened. "You should come watch us play again sometime so—"

The smirk was gone in a flash, without him even finishing his sentence. In fact, Edward looked absolutely horrified at what he’d just suggested.

Suddenly, the memory of just what happened the last time I tagged along to watch the Cullens play baseball jolted back into my brain. Maybe I was acting more sluggish than usual this morning, or I’d done a really good job of shoving the memories of James and his coven out of my head, because I felt like a complete moron when I pieced together the reasoning behind Edward’s sudden mood swing.

In an attempt to distract Edward from his memories, I tried to make a joke out of his suggestion. Anything to stop him from looking so upset. "That sounds great, Edward. Who knows? Maybe it’ll rain tonight and we can go out and play. With this new vampire visiting, we can make a tradition out of playing baseball with company."

I think I might’ve gone a bit too far with that last comment but, whether I did or not, it did what I wanted it to do. His face relaxed immediately, even if his horrified expression melted away into a scowl.

"Not funny, Bella," he said sternly, setting down his knife. For a second, I thought that I’d offended him and that his retaliation was to stop helping me cook. But then, in a suddenly carefree tone that seemed at odds with his former sternness, he announced, "I’m finished."

I glanced down at the cutting board. Each and every one of the cut pieces of celery and onion were diced in an exact square, sliced so perfectly that it looked like a professional sous-chef had tended carefully to the task.

Figures.

"Good job," I praised him, needlessly. I don’t know why I was so surprised—Edward really can do everything.

He seemed pleased with my praise, or maybe he was just glad that I wasn’t returning to our earlier topic of conversation. "Now that the chopping is out of the way, what else would you like me to do?"

I was stumped. I wasn’t used to having so much help in the kitchen. Casting my glance around, I noticed the spitting and popping of the rapidly boiling water. I leaned over and grabbed the bag of egg noodles, handing them to Edward. "I guess you could cook the noodles while I prepare the casserole itself, if you’d like."

"I’d love to." With obvious relish, he opened the bag of egg noodles before tipping the contents into the water. "There. This cooking thing isn’t all that difficult."

I rolled my eyes again. I don’t think I ever was this happy to cook a casserole. "If you say so, Edward."

We cooked in silence for a few minutes, the sound of the boiling water and the sizzle of the cream of celery soup in my pan making the only noise. The quiet was comfortable and the atmosphere between us was calm; it was as if every tension, every worry I’d had since Edward met me at Newton’s yesterday had just simply faded away.

I knew it wouldn’t last, though. We couldn’t hang out together in Charlie’s kitchen forever. As soon as the casserole was finished and I’d remembered to tell my dad in a note where I’d gone, I knew I’d be whisked away to the Cullens. There was no way out of that—not that I minded, of course. I just wish Edward didn’t have a reason to be so protective.

I had managed to forget about the new vampire while eating breakfast and cooking alongside Edward but, now that I’d thought of him again, there was no going back to that blissful unawareness. So, rather than try to pretend like I wasn’t thinking about this visitor, I decided to bring him back into a conversation.

"Edward," I began, keeping my attention on the mixture that was heating up in my pan. The cheese was almost melted so I knew it was almost done, "I don’t know if I’ve asked this, but just when will he be here?"

He didn’t even have to ask to know who I was referring to, it was that obvious.

"Soon, and he should be leaving not much after."

That didn’t sound so bad. "Alice saw him leaving?"

"Something like that." Edward busied himself with stirring the noodles in the pot next to mine. When he heard in my silence all the things I wanted to say, he sighed. I guess there was more I needed to know. "Alice told me last night she sees him arriving at the house no later than tonight. He’ll be gone by morning, but only from the house—and, of course, that’s based on his current decisions, so I’m not entirely sure how long he'll linger. But, remember, no worries."

"I’m not worried," I lied automatically, my stomach tightening as I turned my attention back to my concoction. I could smell the cheese burning and the sharp smell wasn’t helping my nerves.

"I’m glad." His response was just as robotic. I was a terrible liar; he must’ve known that I’d fibbed.

Though he didn’t look at me when he answered my question, I could tell from the set of his jaw and the sudden flatness of his eyes that he was more concerned about this visitor than he let on. I knew he was a little worried—why else would he insist that he keep me in his sight?—but there was a touch of panic underlying the stillness of his response.

There must have been concern written on my face but, for the moment, Edward didn’t attempt to look for it. Keeping his head down, he dipped his wooden spoon into the pot before withdrawing a single, floppy noodle. "Can you tell me if the noodle is cooked thoroughly?" he asked stiffly, offering the spoon out towards me. It was my responsibility to be the taster; if Edward tried, he’d have a partial piece of egg noodle swishing around his empty stomach for all eternity.

Chewing it without really tasting it, I nodded. "They’re done." I reached out and turned off the gas to both boilers. "The rest of the mix is done, too," I told him when he looked at me questioningly. "Now all we have to do is add the noodles to it and bake it for half an hour."

Edward just nodded in return. There was a serious, enraptured expression on his face that I recognized—and it had nothing to do with the present situation. It was the look he wore in school when a teacher approached a new subject; Edward was actually absorbing what I said as if he was trying to memorize just how to make a freaking tuna casserole.

Slapdash and probably a bit haphazardly considering I nearly burned myself, I strained the egg noodles before combining them with my cheesy tuna mixture in the glass casserole dish. For some reason, I was only really confident when I was in the kitchen and, as Edward watched me in amazement—and, surprisingly, without a single wrinkled nose due to the pungency of the tuna fish—I easily, and almost gracefully, opened the oven door and slid the casserole in before turning towards the microwave and setting the timer for thirty minutes.

The kitchen, despite my best efforts, was messy and full of used dishes but, before I started to clean them up, I decided I should write my note to Charlie first. Now where did I keep a notepad?

"What are you doing?" Edward asked, honest curiosity in his voice.

I almost didn’t hear him over my rummaging in the junk drawer. Only when I found a sheet of paper and a ballpoint pen and held them up in satisfaction did I answer him. "I wanted to write a note for Charlie. I might as well let him know that I didn’t run off with you. Not yet, that is," I added, almost half-kidding.

It was Edward’s turn to roll his eyes as I set the paper down on the kitchen table and started to scribble.

Dad,

I’m off from work this weekend and, since Edward’s brother and sister came home for the rest of the summer, the Cullens invited me to a welcome home bash for the two of them. I’ll be there if you need me, you have the phone number. Don’t wait up.

Love you!

Bella

"You know that Charlie’s not going to like it that you’re spending the night out again." I heard Edward mumble that quietly and, despite his near-whisper, there was no denying the doubt in his voice. I wasn’t really all that surprised; eventually I knew he would try to talk himself into leaving me behind just in case.

Well, I wasn’t about to let that happen. Looking up from the note I was scribbling, my writing an atrocious chicken scratch, I reminded him, "That’s why we made him a tuna casserole. With a full belly and a good game on the television, he’ll hardly know I’m gone."

Edward laughed at my certainty. "They do say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach."

Nodding my head in agreement, I leaned back down and added a postscript, jotting it down so quickly that it was almost illegible.

P.S. Edward and I made you enough tuna casserole to last you the rest of the weekend. I left it out cooling—all you have to do is warm it up. So no more pizza, okay?

"Hmm…"

Placing the pen down next to the note, I stood up and turned around, looking him right in the eye. That sound was way too suspicious for me. "What?"

One of his long, pale fingers ran along the paper, underlining the postscript. "Do you think it was the smartest idea to tell your father that I helped make his meal? He just might be disinclined to eat it."

"Why? Do you think he’s going to suspect you of poisoning it?" I thought about my question for a second before picking the pen back up and crossing out the part that said ‘Edward and’. After all, Charlie was a police chief who harbored an ill-hidden grudge against his only daughter’s serious boyfriend. There was no way he wouldn’t suspect Edward of doing something to his dinner. "Good point."

I set the pen down again, angling the note so that Charlie would see it as soon as he walked into the kitchen. The last thing I needed was for my dad to miss it and worry that I’d vanished without a trace when I didn’t come home. He’d been so peeved after the whole Phoenix/spring break mess that only my severe injuries kept him from killing me himself.

After washing the dishes and putting them in the dish rack to dry, I glanced at the timer. There was only ten more minutes left for the casserole to bake.

Edward had taken a seat while I was cleaning up. As soon as he saw that I was done, he reached for my hand and gently pulled me into his lap. We sat together, Edward resuming his gentle kisses on my neck as we waited for the food to finish so that we could leave.

I cursed the stupid timer when it finally went off. I didn’t want to ever move from this position.