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Seducing Ms Swan

Summary:
AU Post-New Moon. Bella never jumped, Alice never had her vision and Edward never came back. Six years later, Bella is struggling to make a new life for herself as a teacher in Rochester, New York. How will she fare when a very familiar student crops up in her classroom? Will she be able to remain professional, or will old ties get in the way? Edward is convinced that getting Bella back is just a matter of 'persuasion', but Bella isn't prepared to be that cooperative. What's more, she's in the grip of a dark secret which threatens to prevent her from loving ever again. Bella Swan is slipping under...


Notes:
Thankyou to twike for beta work. Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.


11. Race Against Time

Rating 3.7/5   Word Count 4527   Review this Chapter

My hands shake ‘cause today
I know you're gonna break my heart and
my life without you in it
is a life that’s not worth living.
I'll be strong but I wish I was someone else
anyone but me tonight

EPOV

From the moment I was reborn as a vampire, I had struggled with my conscience. As a human I had never knowingly harmed another person in my life and had always prized myself on my unflinching sense of morality and ethics. But then, two months before my eighteenth birthday, I awoke in a hospital riddled with death to find myself staring into a pair of anxious yellow eyes and I knew my life would never be the same again.

On learning of Carlisle’s identity and, in turn, discovering what I myself had become, I believe my reaction would be comparable only to that of a man awakening to find himself in the very deepest circle of hell. Over the passing years I fought with my instincts, riddled by shame and disgust at what I was and what I had to do to survive. I was incessantly haunted by a pervading sense of paralyzing self-loathing, a poison which I soon found I could expel only when I directed my anger towards the one person who deserved it least: Carlisle. He always used to tell me that the strength of my guilt was subjective to my personality and compassion and he forever maintained that it was a symbol of the purity of my soul.

Our discussions- where I would shout and he would stay unflinchingly calm, just serving to increase my ire- would sweep from the literal to the meta-physical in a matter of seconds, always ending on the point of my soul, or lack of it. We had had endless arguments on the subject in which I, in true teenage fashion, twisted every single word he said and barraged him with a mixture of insults and accusations, every utterance just causing me to detest myself further.

And yet… as much as I had abhorred my actions then, despite the gut-wrenching feelings of shame and disgust that had racked me every time I caught sight of my reflection in the mirror, they had been nothing, nothing, compared to how I felt tonight. Here I was; standing in this snow covered driveway as I watched my reason for existence break apart before me.

Bella was shin deep in snow, her clothes wet and ragged and her shoulders heaving with grief-stricken sobs. She had stopped trying to fight the tears and they were falling in earnest now; not unlike the snowflakes that surrounded us as they tumbled from her eyelids and left glistening streaks on her skin, marring her otherwise perfect complexion as, in shuddering breaths, she forced herself to recount the rest of her devastating story.

Brady. I had never met the child, yet hearing his name brought me almost as much guilt as the sight of this distraught, broken Bella. He saved her. Werewolf or not, he had done what I hadn’t, he had protected Bella from- I baulked at even thinking the name- Victoria.

How could I have been such a fool? I berated myself as I heard more and more of Bella’s story. How could I have thought, even for a second, that she would be safe? Since when had Bella ever been safe? But no, I could not even think of blaming this awful turn of events on her. It was entirely my fault. None of this would have happened had I not been so arrogant and headstrong. I could have saved Bella so much heart-break if only I had listened to the protests of my family when they tried to stop me from leaving.

In the words of Bella’s most favourite heroine- “How despicably I have acted! I, who have prided myself on my discernment!” Never had those words held so much significance for me as they did now. All the time I had been sure that what I was doing was right, yet it turned out that not only had my actions put Bella in more danger than ever but that I had completely broken her heart in the process.

“-of course, there was no way that he could stay at home after that. His parents couldn’t watch him 24-7, so they had no choice but to admit him into the psychiatric ward at the hospital. He’s been there ever since.” Bella looked up at me, her eyes still full of tears. I realized that I had walked towards her, but I didn’t remember making the conscious decision to move. I could feel the human heat radiating from her body, made all the more obvious by the coldness of our surroundings and it drew me in like a magnet, every nerve in my body screaming out for contact with her own. She looked up at me, her big brown eyes flooded with sorrow and pain- of my infliction- and I felt my resistance dissolve.

“Bella, I’m so sorry, I didn’t know…” I murmured, reaching down to wrap my arms around her. It was, of course, exceedingly presumptuous of me- after all the things she had said to me that night, all the accusations she had thrown my way, I should have known that she would reject my advances.

“No, Edward!” her voice was loud against the silence as she brought her arms up, shielding herself from my embrace. Had the situation not been so devastating, her action would have been almost comic in its futility. As if she, with all her frailties and weaknesses, could ever fully protect herself from one of my kind. I watched Bella, the pain in her words piercing my heart like barbed wire. “You can’t just touch me and make everything okay again; maybe that might have worked when I was eighteen, but not now; not after everything that happened. Not after Victoria, after Brady. I was so in love with you…”

The use of the past tense almost made me double up in agony. I was so in love with you… If only I could escape from her as easily. I had already told her how I felt- shouted it out into the night, even- but she had so far failed to respond directly to my declaration, instead focusing on reproaching me in the way I so deserved. Was this the moment where she would crush my ineffectual hopes of our reconcilement forever?

I watched her, my body tensed as though ready to go into lock down at the inevitable words of finite rejection… “I still am.” Shock, incredulity and joy swept through me. She still loved me, despite everything I had done to her? Despite all that she had said, all the pain that I caused her? I opened my mouth to say something, but realized that Bella wasn’t finished yet. “I hate you,” she whispered and I recoiled at the words. “Because you left and because you didn’t come back; I hate you because your reasons for leaving were so stupid, because I spent the last six years of my life crying over you and because I broke Jacob’s heart when I couldn’t get over you.” I wanted to interrupt but I couldn’t; all I could do was stand, helpless, as Bella listed the ways I had torn her apart, breaking both our hearts in the process. Her words and tears were falling like knives, cutting me open and making my body shake with shame.

“Most of all,” Bella continued, her eyes fixed on me through her tears, “I hate you for you not realizing Victoria would come after m-me and for Brady d-dying and for you not being there to s-save m-me like you always said you would be.” I would never, could never forgive myself for what I had done to her. I would never atone for the pain I had caused this wonderful creature, no matter how many eternities I endured.

“But, despite all of that,” she took a deep breath, attempting to steady herself, “I still love you so much that it hurts. I’d still trade anything to be with you, for it to be like you’d never left, for us to be together again. And I loathe myself for being that way, for being so weak and dependant and-” And it was then, on hearing the sentiments that so echoed my own, that I lost all vestiges of self-control.

Without thinking, without taking even a moment to consider the consequences of my actions, I wrapped my arms around Bella and pulled her towards me, almost crushing her soft body as I kissed her with feverish passion. It was insane, outrageous, disgraceful behaviour- against everything that I had ever been taught- but I suddenly didn’t care. All that mattered was Bella- the heat of her kiss, the feel of her hands as they clung to my neck and the beautiful, pounding march of her heart. I barely even had time to brace myself against the inevitable rush of bloodlust, but when it came I found that it was easy, almost laughably so, to resist. If only I could say the same for other types of lust… I felt Bella deepen the kiss, instinctively pressing her hips against my own and I groaned, my hands moving fluidly across the curves of her waist. I had thought that my memory was flawless, yet this was better than I ever could have remembered; Bella was better than I remembered.

But then, barely seconds after it had begun, my moment of heaven was cut short. I felt Bella’s hands pressing against my chest in an attempt to push me away. I may have thrown most rules of etiquette to the winds in the last few seconds, but even I wasn’t so base as to force myself upon a woman against her wishes. I let go immediately and took a step back, wondering whether my rash actions would incite another round of shouting. Bella was staring at me with flushed cheeks, bright eyes, swollen lips and looked so utterly beautiful that I had a hard time not throwing myself at her again. What’s happened to me? I thought incredulously. I lived a life of abstinence for over a century yet one kiss after six years apart from Bella and I lose all sense of propriety.

Bella was staring at me with an expression akin to someone who had been clubbed over the head. “I…” she stuttered, her voice shaking. Look what you’ve done! My thoughts accused me, she didn’t want that Edward, but you forced yourself on her! I felt renewed shame rise within me, this time tinged with mortification. My parents would have been ashamed of me. “I have to go,” Bella breathed, dropping her eyes from my face, clearly to upset to meet my gaze. “I-I’m sorry… I…” she didn’t even try to finish the mumbled apology, merely spun on her heel and stumbled away from me across the snow to where her motorbike lay waiting. I was so preoccupied with chastising myself for my reprehensible actions that I didn’t even think to prevent her from climbing onto the bike until she had revved up the engines.

“No, Bella, wait,” I called out. I couldn’t let her ride home in this weather, especially after what had just happened. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to-” It was no use. Even if she had been able to hear me above the engines of the bike, I was sure that she wouldn’t reply. I just watched, helpless, as she drove away from me, speeding out of my driveway and life, perhaps forever. My life would now lose all the little meaning it had gained in the past few weeks- the temporarily sun-filled skies would return an eternity of blackest night. To lose Bella again, after having had the chance to regain her trust, was unbearable. I stood in the snow, unable to move as the magnitude of what had happened swept over me.

Edward! What are you doing? Go after her!

I heard the thoughts and shouts of my family as they ran towards me, but their words were as ineffectual at moving me as raindrops on stone. I just stared with unseeing eyes into the falling snow, the singular flakes blurring into an expanse of meaningless white. White walls, white skin, white snow…

-Edward, I know you’re upset but I really think you should – For God’s sake, stop being such a douche and go after her – She was distraught, you can’t possibly let-

I continued to ignore them, their thoughts buzzing through my brain like so much worthless mush. What could I do? I was powerless. Bella had gone; taken from me not by death or heroics but as a result of my own idiocy. I could not exist without her now- that much was certain. That left me with one, dreadful alternative; the same alternative that I had flirted with all those years ago, when it had seemed that we were fighting a losing battle against time to save Bella from James…

But then, just as my thoughts began to sink to darker, previously forgotten schemes of self-destruction, a terrified scream pierced through the silence, ripping me from my reverie.

“EDWARD!”

It was Alice- her terror-stricken voice sliced through the night like a dagger, plunging the others into a shocked silence. I couldn’t hear her thoughts- a sure sign that she was miles away- but we could all hear the sound of her and Jasper running towards us- their footsteps pounded against the snow covered ground like funeral drums at an execution. “EDWARD, EDWARD!" My family’s thoughts echoed my own; what on earth had happened?

Then, as Alice came nearer, her thoughts suddenly snapped into range and I was hit by the full force of an incredibly detailed, extremely recent vision.

Bella riding her motorbike, not paying attention to the road as she sped through the trees; racing around the bend out onto the highway; her human eyes not spotting the oncoming cargo truck through the thick snow fall; it swerving erratically towards her; the squeal of the bike as she tried to escape; the crunch of metal against ice as it fell on top of her; Bella, trapped, pinned to the ground and losing consciousness mere metres from death…

It was a full tenth of a second before I realized that I had started running.

Another tenth and I had covered almost thirty feet.

There was no time for words- no time to listen to Alice’s words or take note of my family’s shouts of confusion. Alice could deal with them. Only one thing registered in my mind as the snow covered ground flew beneath my feet.

Bella

My Bella

Oh God, Bella.

I could hear my family in pursuit, but they had no chance in all of hell, heaven or earth of matching my speed. I was running faster than I ever had before, my insides raging like fire, feet barely touching the ground as I raced towards... what was I running towards? Damnation, catastrophe, disaster? Or salvation, forgiveness, a chance to repent?

I did not know the answer.

Run, Edward, for Christ’s sake, run.

I was so close to the road now. Alice’s visions kept flickering and changing direction in and out of clarity with every step I took:

-Bella being saved; Bella being battered by the truck; Bella with blood pouring down her face; the bike bursting into flames with Bella still underneath it-

“NO!”

I did not feel the roared word leave my lips; instead I only heard the sound as it exploded through the air, ringing through the trees and deafening everything, even the sound of the squealing truck in the distance. I was temporarily dazed by another vision from Alice- this time a close-up of the truck driver’s face, confirming what I had already guessed- he was bleary eyed and intoxicated, his alcohol infused mind barely processing the destruction that was about to unfold before him. Good, I thought savagely, I won’t feel as guilty about killing him.

FASTER.

I put everything I had into the last fifty feet, my ice cold muscles screaming in protest as I pushed myself harder than I ever had before, soaring out of the slip-road and onto the highway on the wings of some previously hidden vestiges of frenzy-induced strength.

There, on my right, was the colossal truck, its huge wheels skidding and sliding across the ice at a tremendous speed and there, on the ground about ten feet from its wheels, was Bella. She was trapped beneath the motorbike, her head unmoved from where I had seen it slam down on the ice and her face covered by her long hair.

The road mercifully devoid of any other traffic, I launched myself forward at the vehicle. In the fraction of a second that I had paused to look at the truck, my family had caught up with me and from their thoughts I knew that Carlisle, Jasper and Emmett were mimicking my actions.

Our bodies hit the truck with the collective force of a freight train, causing it to lurch and topple over.

“EMMETT, JASPER, GET ROUND THE OTHER SIDE AND CATCH IT!” By the time I had shouted the order, however, it was too late. The truck had crashed down onto the middle guard rail that separated the two sides of the road, causing twisted fragments of metal, cement and brick to go flying in every direction. My immediate instinct was to dive towards Bella, but before I could move more than three feet the crumpled truck burst into flames.

I heard Emmett swear profusely. Fire. The only thing vampires were afraid of except, of course, other vampires. In theory, the flames alone could not penetrate our skin but that didn’t stop them from being painful, sometimes agonizingly so. It was enough to make any normal vampire avoid fire like the plague.

But I wasn’t any normal vampire, and it was no secret that I was a masochist.

Before anybody could stop me, I dove towards the inferno, aiming for Bella. She was lying on the ground perilously near to the blazing remains of the truck, her body still and lifeless. I ran forward to lift her into my arms, but as I came close to her, something within the wreckage of the truck exploded, firing out a twisted mass of burning metal which landed right between Bella and myself. I clenched my fists. Now there really was no other way.

“NO EDWARD!”

I heard Alice’s yell seconds before I moved, but ignored it- there was no time for rationality now. Without another second’s pause, I plunged through the flames.

Even at the incredible speed I was travelling, I felt the pain as the fire came into contact with my skin. My clothes were instantly set alight as the flames licked across my body like forked tongues, leaving a trail of singed destruction in their wake. It was barely a second before I was through the fire and out the other side where Bella was lying, crumpled on the ground. My clothes were still burning and the pain was mounting with every second, but I paid it no heed as I dropped to the ground and heaved the motorbike off of Bella. It was barely recognisable anymore- just a twisted hunk of metal, partly melted from the heat of the earlier explosion. I lifted it with one hand and hurled it away; it somersaulted through the air and landed 100 yards away in the middle of the road. Then I dropped to my knees in front of Bella, tearing off my still smouldering shirt and flinging it away too, so as not to let it burn her. I shakily brought out my hand and brushed her hair away from her face as gently as I could. Her helmet had come askew after the impact of her fall, leaving her right cheek uncovered.

Bella’s eyes were closed and her face was deathly pale. She was almost completely still, but I could still detect the very faint rise and fall of her chest that showed me she was breathing and, below the noise of the burning truck and my family’s shouts, I could hear a pulse. I let out a low oath of relief- only to stop dead mid-word, when I took a breath and realised something.

I could smell blood. Bella’s blood.

I felt panic rise within me as I searched for the source of the now almost overpowering smell of freesias. How had I not noticed it before? The answer was simple: I had been too busy checking that she was alive to even breathe. My senses told me that she was bleeding on her right side, but I could not see any obvious signs of wounds… until I noticed something on her arm which almost made me choke in dismay. Her layers of clothes had been torn right down to her skin and, through the tear I could see a long gash running from her forearm to her elbow which was currently oozing blood at an alarming rate. Most seriously, however, there was a shard of metal, several inches thick, lodged deeply in the gash, right where my medical experience told me it would be seriously near to one of the major arteries.

I let out a strangled cry of anguish as my hands reached out wildly for Bella, but before I could touch her I felt a hand grip my wrist, stopping me from making contact.

“No, Edward! You mustn’t touch her arm; we need to get her to hospital!” It was Carlisle. He was kneeling right next to me, firmly pushing me away and trying to move closer to Bella. When did he get here?

I looked up, dazed, taking in my full surroundings for the first time in minutes. The wall of fire through which I had run to get to Bella had gone; from the corner of my eye I could see Alice guiding Emmett in his jeep as he ploughed the fiery chunks of burning metal away from Bella and me, towards the centre of the road. Several hundred yards behind him, racing up the opposite side of the highway, was a fleet of fire engines, police cars and ambulances, all their sirens blaring. Esme and Rosalie were standing in the middle of the road, ready to greet the emergency vehicles, the first of which had already begun to come to a stop.

I looked back to Carlisle, who was kneeling beside Bella, methodically feeling for the extent of her injuries. Next to him, with an uncharacteristically serious expression on her face, was Tanya. At first I was shocked, but then I realised how much sense Carlisle’s choice of an assistant made. Tanya, at over a thousand years old, had more experience than any of us at resisting human blood and this experience, coupled with her countless degrees in every discipline under the sun, made her more than capable at treating human injuries. Tanya caught me looking and her brow contracted, all trace of teasing gone.

Edward, I’m so sorry, this is my fault…

I jerked my head sharply. No. No apologies, no words of sympathy. They were not necessary- they were not for my ears. They held connotations of death and loss and Bella was not going to die.

Please, God, don’t let her die.

I crossed to where Bella was, Tanya quickly moving to make room for me as I took Bella’s hand, bringing it to my lips. I love you; I love you, forever, forever. I replayed the mantra again and again in my mind, as though the repetition of the words would buy us time. From the edge of my vision I could see humans in uniform rushing around, putting out fires, barking orders, shouting questions at Carlisle as they tried to appear in control of the situation. But for all I cared, they did not exist. All that was important in the world was Bella and her fingers in my own and the weak, but still resolutely present, beating of her heart and the fact that she would not die. Not here, not now, not when we had just found each other again. Not on my watch. Not before I’ve had a chance to atone for what I’ve done wrong.

Then, something cut through the confusion of the scene and into mine and Bella’s bubble- the roaring of an engine. I looked up to see an ambulance speeding through the crowds of humans.

Almost as soon as the vehicle came to a stop, I found myself surrounded by overall-clad humans. They lifted Bella up onto a stretcher and strapped an oxygen mask to her face, all the time exchanging hurried words with Carlisle as he filled them in on the situation.

“-several cracked ribs, concussion with possible trauma to the skull, some severe lacerations on her right arm containing a foreign object-”

A young emergency worker tried to muscle me out of the way in the attempt to get closer to the action and it took all my self-control not to knock him down where he stood. Instead, I merely shot him a glare so menacing that he almost fell over in shock. I turned back to Bella. She was now firmly in place on the stretcher and being loaded into the back of the ambulance, Carlisle was issuing more orders to a medic who was clinging anxiously to his every word.

As I jumped in after Bella and some paramedics, Carlisle spoke to me in his thoughts. She’s going to be fine Edward, don’t panic. I’ll drive with the others in the Mercedes; we’ll see you at the hospital. I nodded. Oh, and put this on, Carlisle added, shrugging off his jacket, people are staring. I took the jacket in confusion, before glancing down at my bare chest; I had forgotten that I had ‘lost’ my shirt. I mumbled words of thanks and threw the jacket over my shoulders, before slamming the double doors of the ambulance shut behind me. A glance over the humans’ heads through the clear divider into the front of the vehicle told me what I had already guessed; Alice was sitting in the driver’s seat. Dressed head to toe in swiftly stolen green overalls, she was indistinguishable from the paramedic beside her who, it was clear, had no idea that his companion was not who she seemed.

It’s okay Edward, Alice thought, her eyes meeting mine in the mirror as she cranked up the engines, we’ll be there soon. Then, as an afterthought, Bella will be fine. She then fixed her eyes on the road, flicked on the sirens and slammed her foot down on the acceleration.

I watched as the speedometer ticked steadily up to over 80 miles an hour. I tried to believe Alice’s words.

I had to.

For the next ten minutes, they were all I had.