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Darkest Before the Dawn

Summary:
The door opened behind me, with a cold gust of wind suddenly sweeping through the room, rustling the papers on the desk and carrying that scent! I froze. Not again!...I sensed nothing...The fragrance was maddening. I slowly turned my head, following the scent, and there she was. Standing, back pressed against the back wall, waiting. She was haunting me. A reimagining of Twilight from Edward's perspective, starting from the very beginning...The First Time - and continuing on beyond where Midnight Sun ends. NOMINATED: 2009 Bellie's category Canon that's Better than Canon NOMINATED: 2009 Indie's Top 10 Best Canon Disclaimer: All characters, settings, and a great majority of the dialogue are the property of Stephanie Meyer.


Notes:
I wrote the first five or so chapters of Darkest Before the Dawn before I knew about/read SM’s Midnight Sun. I have since read it, but have tried to stay true to “my” version of Edward, as well as staying true to SM’s original dialogue and plot line.


21. Chapter 21 - The Race

Rating 5/5   Word Count 2433   Review this Chapter

Chapter 21 – The Race

The miles wore on in an endless night punctuated by flashes of normalcy—streetlights that sailed past and faded behind us, parking lots with yellow halogens but not cars, tiny harbor bars with eternal neon lights that streaked by. The fog of my mental war with James slowly lifted and I contemplated what had happened.

I had failed.

Carlisle was driving now, but our speed hadn’t slowed. His thoughts were riddled with concern for what might be happening in Forks. He was tortured by the idea that James would arrive before us, putting Esme and Rose in the middle of whatever insane plan he had. When I shared the visions James had planted in my head, it only inflamed his worries, and I instantly regretted doing so. I knew that James was not interested in Rose or Esme—his torment was all for me. That was more than clear in his relentless antagonism of the last two days.

Concern worried at Emmett as well. It was one thing for Rose to take on Victoria, especially with Esme to help. It was entirely different for James and Victoria, together as a team, to take on Rose and Esme. He knew Rose would protect Esme, and would go down fighting, which made his breathing hike a little faster whenever he thought about it. He knew they wouldn’t be able to last long against James and Victoria together.

The tension in the car was like a shroud weighing on us, making the minutes drag. Carlisle’s grip on the steering wheel never changed, his body a statue of determination. His mind, however, raced ahead, picturing where James might go first in Forks, wondering whether he would go straight to Charlie’s house and discover Esme guarding him before we could arrive. Occasionally his foot would lean into the accelerator, edging our speed even faster, only to jerk back when he realized that he just plowed through a sleepy port town at a hundred miles per hour. Emmett was no better. It probably would have been best to let Emmett drive. His hands nervously ground against each other and the door of the car. He was slowly wearing a hole in the upholstery without realizing it.

“Easy on the car, Em,” I said, trying to distract him a little.

“Huh? Oh.” Emmett looked down at the damage that had been done. He stopped rubbing but didn’t seem overly concerned. “It’s just…he’s probably already there…”

“Look, even if he’s made it to Seattle already, he’s got to run from there. We’ve practically caught up to him,” I said, gesturing to the green sign zipping by. Seattle 22 miles.

Emmett flashed his eyes as me. “I wish we had caught him in Vancouver,” he said, darkly, and I knew he blamed me for losing him before, in the forest.

“I know,” I said, thinking of how I had utterly failed everyone by losing James. This was all my fault. I could still smell the scent of that human hiker, the one that undid me and allowed James to slip from my grasp—the one and only time I would get close to him in two days of hunting. My throat ached just thinking of how I had so nearly sunk my teeth into that hapless human, instead of the demon I was supposed to be hunting—as if I had no control at all. How could I let this happen?

I shook my head slightly and wondered for the hundredth time since yesterday how I could manage to be around Bella after this…how much more clearly did I need it spelled out? I was a danger to her. I couldn’t protect her from myself. I couldn’t protect her from James.

James’ fantasies came unbidden back into my mind. He had tapped my worst nightmares and put them on an endless loop and now I couldn’t get them out of my head. Trapped in the car, hurtling toward Forks, I was caged and forced to watch them. The fresh pain that came each time I saw Bella’s agony was surreally mixed with occasional flushes of pleasure from seeing her blood spill. My stomach tied in knots.

“Hey!” Emmett shouted at me and my vision snapped back to the front seat. “We lost you there again…” he said more softly.

“Flashbacks…” I said, shrugging, trying not to let Emmett know how much it was still affecting me. I wanted to will my stomach to un-clench and the haze in my thoughts to lift, but I felt frozen with dread.

“Edward, man, that’s messed up…” Emmett started, probing to see if I wanted to talk about it. I most definitely did not.

“I’m fine, Em,” I lied.

“Well, I need you sharp, understand?” Emmett’s eyes bored into mine. “When we get to Forks, we’re going to hunt that animal down, and I need you all here," he tapped my head, "with me to do it.” Carlisle gave Emmett a disapproving look from the driver’s seat, objecting to calling James an animal, but saying nothing. I loved Carlisle, but he was dead wrong. James was the worst kind of predator. Calling him an animal was an insult to the innocent creatures we hunted.

“I’ll be ready,” I said, trying to sound confident.

“Good,” said Emmett, not believing a word I said. “But we need a plan. Is there any way we can use this…connection…you two have against him?”

I frowned. “I don’t know. His range is the same as mine. He seems to know whenever I can read him…although sometimes there is a delay, as if he only recognizes I’m there if he’s paying attention.”

“Okay,” said Emmett, thinking out loud. “That’s something. Now, I think when he gets to Forks, he’s going to join up with Victoria. She’s figured out something. She’s got some kind of plan that he’s coming back to put into action.”

I agreed. There was something in Victoria’s phone call that triggered James to board that plane in Vancouver. “Well, he wouldn’t have to actually meet up with her. They talk by phone. Unless…he needed her help in some way to carry out the plan.”

“I think she’s the key. Now, if we can get you close to her, when James isn’t there, you can read her mind, figure out what the plan is, and then let Carlisle and I hunt him down.”

“Wait,” I protested. “I’m in on the hunt.”

“No, you can’t be. Don’t you see, Edward, you said it yourself. He knows when you’re coming. You’ll tip him off every time. We have to find a way to get close to him before he knows we’re there. So if you track her, and we track him…”

I nodded slowly. His logic was inescapable, but I could barely stand the thought of not being the one to personally rip James’ head off.

“I know,” Emmett said softly, “you want your revenge. I would too, if I saw the things you saw, Edward. I don’t know how you can take it…” he trailed off, giving me that suspicious look again, like he thought I was suicidal. Anger flashed through me. I didn’t want to hunt James for revenge for his torments of me—this was about protecting Bella.

“I’ll do whatever it takes to stop him, Em. If you have to hunt him, then fine.” My anger spilled out more than I wanted it to.

“Edward, we understand that you want to protect Bella,” said Carlisle. I understand, Edward, that this isn’t about revenge.

My anger flared again. “But I do want to kill him, Carlisle. I want to bite into him, tear chunks out and pour the gasoline on him myself.” My fists were shaking again. “You didn’t see what he did to her…I mean, what he wants to do to her…it was monstrous and he enjoyed it. He hurt her again and again and kept coming back for more…I want to see his face when he knows he’ll never get to touch her…” I trailed off, shaking uncontrollably now. Emmett reached across the seat to the back, putting both hands on my shoulders and holding me down in the seat, as if I was going to fly off it. He looked straight into my eyes, his wide with concern. Without letting go of me, he said, “Edward, we will catch him. We will stop him. Bella is safe, okay? She’s safe.”

I nodded mutely. She’s safe, she’s safe…I repeated the mantra in my head and my body quieted a little. Emmett released me.

“Do you want to call her again?” Carlisle asked. My eyes flicked to the clock. 1:43 a.m. She would be sleeping. I conjured the image in my mind…soft cotton pajamas clinging to her as she laid, eyes closed, on a hotel bed…eyes quickly moving back and forth under her eyelids, dreaming about something sweet and pleasant…she sighed softly and said my name…

“No. I’ll let her sleep,” I said. I leaned back and closed my eyes, mostly to escape Emmett's stare and Carlisle's frequent glances into the rear view mirror. I took a deep breath. I needed to calm myself, if I was going to be any help at all in the hunt ahead in Forks. Emmett was right. I was a liability. We lost him because of me, and I had, once again, put everyone at risk—this time Esme and Rose in particular. Carlisle and Emmett’s thoughts returned to Forks. We were racing to beat James there, and I could hear the panic in their thoughts, but I tried not to share it. Bella is safe. Bella is safe. We needed a plan to catch him in Forks. I had to think this through...

My eyes snapped open as Carlisle's phone rang. We weren't expecting a call. Panic rose in me as I heard Alice on the line, speaking quickly.

"Carlisle, he's coming here, to Phoenix, to Bella's house. Somehow he found out where she lives and I've seen him there."

"Are you certain?" Carlisle asked, but I was already ripping the phone from his hand.

"Alice! Is Bella okay?" I yelled into the phone, stopping when I realized that Bella might overhear on the other end.

"Edward, be calm. Bella is fine, Jasper's with her now. She's fine. I saw James in the dark room I saw before. I drew a picture and Bella recognized it as her mother's house."

No, no, no…I hung on a shred of hope that maybe, this time, Alice was wrong…”Are you sure?”

“Yes.” He’s there, nearby, and I’m hundreds of miles away. The horror of it sank in and agony filled me as I realized Bella must be terrified now. I had failed to catch him and now he was in Phoenix, coming for her.

"We'll be there on the next flight, Alice. Tell Bella. Tell her I'm coming to get her." My last words came out as a gasp and my hands were starting to tremble again. Emmett took the phone from me and I let him, my hands falling limply to my lap. It was all coming true...he would find her...I couldn't stop him...

"Alice," Emmett said into the phone, eyeing me. "Carlisle, Edward and I are all coming on the next flight. Where are you?"

"We're still at the hotel. He can't know we're here, Emmett. Can he?"

"No, you said he was going to her mother's house, right? So, somehow she found out where her mom lives...maybe from the school. Okay, so you stay put and we will come to get Bella and take her away somewhere...safe." Emmett was glancing back at me as he spoke, but I barely registered his thoughts or plan. I was sinking into a black hole of fear and panic.

"I think we should meet you at the airport. That way you can leave right away, on another flight."

"Don't go to the airport yet! He’s flying into Phoenix and we don’t know where he is. I don't want you running into him there. I'm going to get off the phone, so we can call the airline and get on the next flight out. I'll call you when we know we're going to be there. Just stay where you are until then. You'll be safe at the hotel. There's nothing for him to track you there."

"Okay, Em. Tell Edward not to worry. Jasper and I will keep her safe until you get here."

"I know you will, Ali. Bye."

Emmett busied himself calling the airline and finding the next flight, but I barely listened. My mind was whirling. He was going to her mother's house. He would find some obscure piece of information there, and somehow he would find her. Carlisle circled around Seattle and headed for the airport.

No wonder he was shielding his thoughts from me. He must have known she was in Phoenix and didn’t want to tip me off…so he could get a head start…so he could beat me there. A rumbling started in my chest, swelled up and subsided. I had to think. He was going to her mother’s house, but she wouldn’t be there. Would he leave? Would he search all of Phoenix until he crossed her trail? How could he find her? I didn’t know, but a horrible certainty settled into me. He would find her. He would do the things he had promised in his thoughts. I would be too late. I would lose her. The only chance I had was to get to her before he found her. Panic was choking me and it was difficult to breathe, so I stopped. I held still, like Carlisle, locked in fear. The agony of waiting was an icy grip on my mind.

Emmett arranged to get us on the 5:30 a.m. flight to Phoenix. Carlisle called Esme and Rose to let them know the change in plans. I stared blankly out the window, until we arrived at the airport. I glided without thinking, following Emmett through the check-in. Once we arrived at the gate, I stared out the airport lounge window at the massive metallic birds that would take me to Bella. I numbly watched the airplanes gliding along the taxiways, taking loads of humans about their daily lives, engines whining shrilly as they decelerated to park.

Emmett said something to me, but I didn’t hear it. Carlisle came and sat by me. After a while, he left.

Emmett returned, saying, “We’ll get to her in time, Edward. We’ll get Bella and take her away somewhere safe.” His words meant nothing. I barely heard them.

I sat unnaturally still, watching inky raindrops slide down the window, joining together and crying their way down to the slick tarmac below.