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Best Laid Schemes

Summary:
Edward is desperate to keep Bella away from La Push and specifically away form Jacob Black. Much to Edward’s dismay, Bella made her move while he was busy hunting and went to see Jacob. Now Edward and Alice have devised a scheme that is sure to thwart Bella’s wayward travels in the future.


Notes:
On a whim and suffering from an acute case of writers block, I pulled one of my previously posted stories, The Best Laid Plans (available on Ramblings and Thoughts), off the shelf in my search for inspiration. What I found was Edward impatiently tapping his foot awaiting my return. It seems I had forgotten to include some details he wanted my readers to know about when I wrote the story originally. He demanded, as only Edward can, that I revise the tale to such an extent that I had to retitle it. The fact that I made omissions did not surprise me. I am, by nature, an impatient writer. My brain sees the stories much faster than my fingers can fly over the keyboard and some details get missed in my headlong rush to the end. (Just ask my betas.) I like to think of “Schemes” as a variation of the original story much like an artist may do multiple variations of a single subject. Most of the changes are subtle but there are some new scenes and significant details added to others. If you have read the original (it’s still available because I couldn’t bear to take it down) feel free to compare. If you have not read it and are desperate to find out how the story ends, well, I can’t stop you from “reading ahead” as it were but if you can, be patient, you will be rewarded with a stronger, richer story. Best Laid Schemes will be posted very quickly as it is finished. I hope you enjoy “Best Laid Schemes” as much as I enjoyed revisiting one of my personal favorites. Many thanks to Tennyo, my very patient beta. Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the authors. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.


1. Chapter 1 ~ Homecoming ~

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3134   Review this Chapter

The light from the house’s windows was warm and welcoming as it spilled out into the yard in the darkest hours of the new day. The rain beat a relentless tattoo on the tree canopy before it dripped through to soak me. I had circled around my home four times in search of a way in, but all entries had been barred and locked save one. I was anxious to get inside, but I did not want to face those who were anticipating my arrival.

I knew that Alice, Esme and Rosalie were waiting for me in the kitchen before I had even pulled the Aston Martin into the garage. Their thoughts were as resonant as church bells on a quiet, New England morning. Alice was dejected. Esme was livid. Rosalie was . . . grateful? I was going to need some clarification on that last one. Maybe this was not going to be as bad as I had anticipated. Just the same, I knew the next few minutes were not going to be any fun. I blocked their thoughts from my mind as much as I could. They hurt like lemon juice on a wound.

Initially, I had been furious with Alice. I had counted on her visions for confirmation that our plan would work. We both had, despite knowing better. Foolishly, we had neglected to take into account the variables that can change circumstances so rapidly. Still, none of this was Alice’s fault. It all belonged to me, although the consequences were shared. I was more of a monster than I had ever realized. I had been willing to hurt the woman I loved and the sister I adored because of an insatiable need to have Bella for myself. How foolish I had been! Becoming increasingly morose during the seemingly endless drive home, I had resigned myself to my fate. Bella would surely leave me after this. I deserved nothing less.

Alice and I were supposed to have been the only ones who knew what was really going on when we had planned a “slumber party” as a distraction for Bella while I was away hunting for a few days with the other Cullen men. Now everyone knew that we had kidnapped her. I had no doubt that I belonged in the doghouse. Jasper was so mad at my involving Alice that he was ready to pack me off to the wolves and let them deal with me as they saw fit.

I shook my head in dismay, the water dripping into my eyes. Jasper was probably right. I was still desperate to see Bella, even if it was only to have her banish me from her presence for eternity.

“Edward, stop!” Alice’s alarmed thoughts caught my attention as I stared at the dark window to my room. Even in her dejected state, she had been following me with her “vision” as I had looped around the house. “Don’t even think of breaking in through your bedroom window!” She showed me the vision she had just seen:

Bella was sleeping fitfully on the couch, cocooned in the duvet from the bed, when I burst through the window in an explosion of glass. Shards with knife-like edges rained down on everything. Bella’s exposed arm and face were severely cut by the glittering shower that enveloped her. The scent of blood filled the room as I . . .

I gritted my teeth and looked to the sky in despair. The rain washed over my face and left tracks as if from tears. I needed to get to Bella. My silent heart felt like a lead weight embedded in my chest. Was there really only one way to reach her without further delay?

“Just come in through the kitchen, Edward,” Alice admonished me. “It will be over much sooner if you just talk to Esme for a few minutes.” Her “voice” was downcast and weary.

Stealing my resolve, I inhaled the damp night air to clear my head and pushed the sodden hair from my eyes. Dejected, I walked to the kitchen door, leaving a mucky trail of prints on the landing. With a feigned air of casualness, I kicked my mud and rain-saturated shoes off and left them outside. There was no sense in provoking more of Esme’s ire by tracking mud into the house.

The lighted room was a brilliant contrast to the dark outside. The tension was palpable. Rosalie was leaning casually against the doorjamb leading to the living room, an effective roadblock. Her serene appearance only faintly disguised the outrage thought she shot in my direction. Clearly, my only hope of escape would be to go back the way I had come. That was probably not a good idea, given the look on Esme’s face. Alice sat at the table next to Esme with her back to me, her head bowed. She was slowly twirling the keys to the pretty yellow Porsche around on the table.

As I stepped into the room, Alice slid the keys to the edge of the table in my direction. “I’m returning the car to you Edward. Esme’s convinced me that it’s wrong to keep it under the circumstances.” Her voice was glum and remorseful. In her mind she was thinking, “She called it ‘blood money.’ I’m really sorry, Edward. Bella just got away from me.” Her expression was repentant.

I allowed my gaze to wander to Esme. She inclined her head and glared at me, her ebony eyes piercing me to the core. She clearly needed to feed, which did not help soften her mood any. “What ever persuaded you to think that bribing Alice to hold Bella hostage for you was a good idea? I’ve never seen anything so juvenile.”

I had no answer as I picked up Alice’s keys and dropped them into the pocket of my leather jacket. I turned to leave the room. The last thing I wanted or had time for was a scolding, no matter how well deserved. I was already berating myself harshly enough for everyone concerned and had been doing so for several hours. Besides, I needed to see Bella. Rosalie moved to strengthen her hold on the only exit into the rest of the house. Esme had moved to block the back door. I was effectively trapped. Maybe I could go out the window.

“Edward Anthony Masen Cullen.” Esme was speaking out loud with the full authority of a parent. She clearly wanted Alice and Rosalie to be party to the conversation. The fact that the three of them had already discussed what Esme was thinking was not going to make a bit of difference. She wanted to drive her point home.

Stopping in my tracks, I turned to face her. “Esme, I’m very, very sorry for involving you the way I did. I should have told you we were kidnapping Bella to stop her from going to La Push.” There was no point in trying to say that what we had done was anything less. “I just couldn’t concur with her visiting that dogboy. I really need to see Bella or I’m going to . . . Can we talk later?” My voice trailed off with the uncertainty of what I would find when I saw Bella.

“Don’t try to head me off with your mind reading, young man. Bella is asleep, so you can just sit down!” Esme’s voice was livid. I had never been faced with this kind of wrath from her before, not even when I had told her that I was leaving to live as a conventional vampire. It reminded me of how Charlie had spoken to me when we had returned from Italy.

I chose a seat across from Alice and slumped into the chair, dejected. Carlisle had warned me that this might be coming before I’d left the campsite.

Esme crossed the room to stand behind Alice’s shoulder in a position that allowed her to look at me squarely from above. “Don’t even think of involving me in your devious plans where Bella is concerned.” Esme was snarling now. “You came up with this lovely little line of how lonely Bella is when you are gone, and persuaded me to call Charlie to arrange a slumber party. Both you and Alice gave me the impression that this was something Bella wanted to do.” Esme was so angry she was hissing as she lectured me. “How convenient of you to leave out the fact that she knew nothing about it. You knew full well that I would not support kidnapping Bella. If Charlie catches wind of this I’ll be in his bad graces along with you, Edward. I would have thought you would want to show him how trustworthy you are.” Her voice was thick with sarcasm now. “Oh yes, you’ve just proven yourself to be the sort of boy every parent wants their daughter dating! For that matter, you’re behaving just like the prince every girl dreams of!”

Ouch. I looked up at Esme. Her eyes were dark as they sparked with indignation. “Esme, we only did it to keep Bella away from the wolves. Surely you can appreciate that. She would have run back down to La Push the first chance she got.” I paused to catch my breath, desperation now creped into my voice. “She just proved that to us. The wolves are young and volatile. I was concerned that she was going to get herself killed! I’m anxious enough when I’m away from her as it is to be adding that to my worries. I know I’ve been foolish . . . maybe even a little jealous.”

My pleading was obviously having some minimal effect. Alice’s vision showed me that Esme was beginning to calm down.

Poor Alice had taken the brunt of Esme’s wrath for most of the day. Esme felt that Alice’s foresight should have been able to detect some of the flaws in our plan, especially how the rest of the family would feel about the scheme. In truth, there had been hints that our family would find the plan ill advised, but we had selectively chosen to ignore the warnings.

The expression on Esme’s face softened some as she resumed her seat at the end of the table, Alice to her right and me on her left. “Edward, I know you meant well, but Bella is not a child that needs her actions dictated. You’re going to have to start trusting her. May I remind you that she was going down to La Push for four months without your supervision? Jacob kept her as safe as you would have IF you had been around. You were the one who chose to leave. You were the one who would not listen to the rest of us. You can’t blame Bella for starting to move on with her life. That was what you intended for her to do, was it not?” She gave me an accusatory gaze. “Now, you need to allow her to make her own decisions for the direction her life takes. It’s not your choice. It is her choice. She gets to choose between you and Jacob Black, not you.”

I felt myself flinch at the sound of Jacob’s name. As I pinched the bridge of my nose, I leaned my elbows on the table. My wet hair fell across my eyes, marginally shielding me from Esme’s accusatory gaze.

Esme continued, her voice and thoughts resonating with some tenderness now. “None of us want to see Bella hurt any more than you do. We’ve seen the tremendous changes for the better that Bella has brought about in you, but you need to hold her gently. All of us feel apprehensive when our mates are separated from us. That is our nature. We’re bonded to each other. What we share is stronger than any other bond we may have. If our coven, our family, were to disband, we would not separate from our mates. You know this. You’ve seen the depth of our commitments in our thoughts. Carlisle and I have talked about you and Bella extensively. We know you’re bonded to her. We also think that, as much as is humanly possible, she is bonded to you- but it is not as absolute as it is with vampires. She is still able to make a different choice. As long as she is human, you have to allow her that choice, or you risk driving her away all together.”

“I’m scared, Esme.” I looked at the wood grain pattern in the table, unable to meet her eyes, my voice quavering. I’d had plenty of time to think for the last six hours as I raced home, pushing the Vanquish to its limits. The only restraining factors had been the curves in the road. “I know I’ve been wrong. It’s up to Bella to choose between me and . . .” I felt myself gag on the next word, “Jacob.” I just don’t know how. I fear she won’t choose me and then what do I do?” My voice sounded strangely weak to my ear.

When I looked up, Esme’s eyes were now filled with compassion as she tried to visualize what it would be like for her to lose Carlisle. “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” Her voice had a ring of sadness to it. “In the meantime, give Bella the freedom to make her own choices.” Esme reached across the table and took my hand. “Edward, we all love you. We’re not going to abandon you.”

Rosalie gave a quiet snort from behind me, “Like you abandoned us to wallow in your self-pity. You know you’re responsible for abandoning Bella, and then you expect her to blindly take you back without repercussions? She’s not your puppet, Edward.”

Choosing to ignore Rosalie, I looked down at the table again and then back up at Esme. “Thanks.” I could hear the weariness in my voice.

Rising from the table, Esme turned to me. “I’m not going to say anything more about this matter, and neither is Carlisle. We hope you’ve learned your lesson. Go on up to Bella. I know you need to see her. Just don’t wake her up. The last two days have been very hard for her,” she admonished me. “Come on Alice, we need to do some hunting ourselves. Rosalie, you’re welcome to join us.”

Rosalie shrugged. “No, I’m fine. I want to enjoy some time to myself before Emmett gets back.”

I looked at Alice as she started to stand. I reached into my pocket and fished out the keys to the Porsche. Placing them on the table in front of her I said, “Alice, why don’t you take the Porsche? I can’t return it. Besides, it was a gift. If you and Bella hadn’t gone to Italy, I would be dead and there would not be any hope at all.”

Alice gave me a cautious smile as she picked up the keys, neither of us daring to look at Esme. She had known I’d be giving her the car back. All the same, we both knew that the pretty yellow car would be a reminder not to try to deceive our family or Bella again. She glided around the table and kissed the top of my head.

Alice was practically skipping with anticipation before she was out the door with Esme in tow. Her visions were indicating a happy reunion between Bella and me. I was uncertain as to how confident I should be in the visions she showed me. To the best of my knowledge, a grizzly bear would be waiting for me upstairs. I certainly deserved as much.

As desperate as I was to see Bella, I stayed seated at the table. Rosalie was still manning her post with the steel of an avenging angel. She waited an agonizingly long minute after Esme and Alice made their exit before stepping toward the table. She laid her hand briefly on my shoulder as she crossed behind me, and assumed the seat that Esme had recently abandoned.

Rosalie took a deep breath as she sorted through her thoughts. I gave her what privacy I could. She did not speak, as we were the only ones there, but quietly shared her thoughts with me. “Edward, I know you’re desperate to see Bella, so I’ll just take a moment.” She sighed inwardly. “You’ve been far kinder to me than I realized. The most obvious is that you didn’t involve Emmett or me in your kidnapping scheme. More than that, you respected my privacy. I thought you would have told Bella my story.”

I looked up into Rosalie’s amber eyes. Her glowing blond hair framed her exquisite face like a halo. “Rosalie, it’s your story. It was never my place to tell it to Bella. We may not always agree, but that doesn’t mean I don’t respect you. I only tell what I’ve been given permission to.” I sighed before continuing. “I’ve heard too much to risk doing otherwise. I can only hope that Bella takes to heart what you told her.”

“Yeah, me too. I won’t take any more of your time. Good night, Edward.”

“Good night, Rose.”

I began to sprint for the door but stopped short and turned around. “Rosalie?”

Curiosity flooded her eyes. “Hmm?”

“I really blew it this time, didn’t I?”

“You sure did.” Her tone was smug. “What else do you want to know?”

Feeling my heart sink, I couldn’t help but continue. “Do you think I still have a chance with Bella, or did I go too far?”

“Bella came back here when she could have gone home to Charlie’s.” Rosalie’s smile was gentle now, even encouraging. “ I’d say there is some hope. Just take it easy from now on. You’re very close to driving her away. You can’t control everything she does.”

“Thanks.”

Rosalie queried as I started to turn away, “By the way, would you like me to check out the Vanquish for you? If I know you, you drove it pretty hard to get back here as fast as you did. I have some time before Emmett gets home.”

I dug around for the Aston Martin’s keys in my pocket then tossed them to her lightly. “Rose, sometimes you amaze me. Thanks again.”

I turned and dashed for the stairs before Rosalie could stop me again.