Best Laid Schemes
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.
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.
5. Chapter 5 ~ Resolution ~
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The sun was a brilliant golden orb as it dipped behind the western peaks with the last vestiges of the day when Emmett and I loped into camp. A band of cumulus clouds was stretched across the sky like cotton drawn thin. The brilliant pink, orange, purple and blue hues of Monet’s pallet reflected from the clouds onto the surrounding mountains. A chilled breeze from the north hinted toward the promise of an approaching storm that was not yet visible.
Emmett and I were both feeling well sated. The hunting had been most gratifying. We were later than expected because we had crossed the trail of one last bear that Emmett just had to have. I could not deny him; he had put up with a great deal from me throughout the day. Whenever we topped a ridge, I had impulsively pulled my cell phone out to check the reception. There was none to be had. It seemed that our campsite was an anomaly in that it offered any phone reception at all. How absurd I had been to think that I would be able to check-up on Bella in my absence. It had not been worth the bother to bring the small device.
Carlisle and Jasper had returned to camp early. Their hunting had been exceptionally satisfying as well. They were now seated on a pair of logs that they had pulled up by a small campfire. It seemed ironic that it takes fire to destroy us, but in this place the flickering flames were comforting and reassuring. Although we had no reason to be concerned about the evening’s chill, the warmth was welcomed. We could share this time as a family.
Something was amiss, though. Both Carlisle and Jasper were carefully guarding their thoughts as they discussed the day’s hunting and the chores that were awaiting us at home. Jasper seemed particularly uneasy. I could sense his distress subtly affecting me as I took a seat next to him on the log. I wondered what had happened. Surely it was nothing to do with Bella. If something had happened to her that I needed to know about they would tell me. Nevertheless, their caution as I approached raised my suspicions.
Emmett, oblivious to the tension emanating from Carlisle and Jasper, bounded over the fire and launched in a vivid description of our hunting exploits before seating himself next to Carlisle. I pulled out my phone to check for messages. Carlisle and Jasper were watching me closely with side-ways glances as they feigned listening to Emmett.
“Edward, oh Edward!” Alice’s voice was distressed as I listened to the recorded message. It had been left shortly after 9:00 this morning. Damn! “She got away from me, Edward!” Emmett abruptly stopped talking when he heard the desperate tone in Alice’s voice. All of my companions were listening to the message and watching me for a reaction. “That sly dog showed up at school unannounced on his motorcycle and she took off with him. I couldn’t see him! Oh Edward, I am so, so sorry.” Alice’s voice cracked. There was more to the message, but I didn’t have the patience for it. Bella was gone! Nothing else mattered.
Feeling as if a lightning bolt had surged through my body, I leapt to my feet in my panic with the intent of making a mad dash for my car, my worst nightmares having been realized. Instead, I found myself tumbling down to the ground. A granite boulder the size of a basketball shattered under the impact of my head. Jasper, acting reflexively, had seized my ankles as I was in mid stride. I recoiled like a viper being picked up by its tail. I was all teeth and straining muscle and sinew now, fully intent on biting off the shackles that restrained me. I felt no guilt as I sensed my teeth penetrate Jaspers right bicep. He lost his grip with that hand so it seemed worth the injury if it hastened my escape. Jasper had had worse injuries. He would heal. I had to get home . . . fast! The message had been left nearly ten hours ago! Anything might have happened since then!
The full weight of a diesel locomotive crashed onto my shoulders. My head was now locked in a vice grip. The right side of my face was being pushed down into the rubbled remains of the shattered boulder. Emmett had launched himself over to my side of the fire to assist Jasper the moment he ascertained the seriousness of the confrontation. This was no playful wrestling match, this was the real thing and both of my opponents were as serious about it as I was. I had to get away. I was not going to let them prevent me. Jasper shifted his position to better pin my legs.
In vain, I tried to leverage myself free from my captors. Why couldn’t they see the necessity for my quick exit? They had no right to stop me! At least, Emmet didn’t; Rosalie had not been involved in any way. Unfortunately, that did not mean he would side with me. He trusted Jasper’s judgment.
Carlisle was trying desperately to compose himself, “Jasper, Edward is not going anywhere as long as you and Emmett keep him pinned down. Can you calm yourself a little, you’re making all of us more agitated, especially Edward”
Jasper was breathing hard as he tried to bring himself back to neutral. It was impossible for him to reach a state of calm. His arm burned where my bite and venom seared a new scar into his flesh. It was also clear from his thoughts that he was furious with me for involving Alice in the plot to kidnap Bella. Turning me over to the wolves would serve as due punishment as far as he was concerned.
Yes, Carlisle and Jasper already knew! After interrogating Alice, Esme had called and left a detailed message that Carlisle had picked up when he had returned to camp. She had told him everything. She told him how Alice had duped her into calling Charlie to arrange the slumber party and that she had even made a special trip into Port Angeles to bring back Italian cuisine for Bella. Most importantly, she had told him that Bella had had no idea that she and Alice were having a slumber party. Esme saw first hand how angry and even hurt Bella had been at being restrained.
Emmett’s thoughts were indignant as he listened to Carlisle’s recap of the message from Esme. “Did they involve Rosalie in their charade?” There was a distinct snarl in his voice.
Carlisle’s reply was almost smug, “No, Rosalie knew no more than Esme did. Apparently she did take advantage of the situation though.” He scrutinized my expression, wondering how I would respond to the next bit of information. “She told Bella her story.’
This news was almost as bad as Bella’s running off to La Push. Rosalie was well within her rights to tell Bella her story in her own time but I had always planned to be there. I wanted Bella to feel safe when Rosalie recounted her life’s story because my sister had always been so hostile towards her. Bella must have been terrified to have Rosalie approach her without me there.
Carlisle walked about fifteen yards away and picked something up from the ground. He came and kneeled by my head where I could see him. His voice sounded more like a growl than its usual soothing tone. “You’re going to have to get a new phone Edward,” he said placing the broken remains in my line of vision. My lifeline to Bella had flown from my grasp when Jasper tackled me and had shattered upon impact with the hard ground. “What is the meaning of holding Bella hostage? I thought that you loved her.”
I could only glare indignantly at Carlisle, a deep growl resonating from my chest, as I attempted once again to twist free from Emmett and Jasper’s firm hold. They responded by tightening their grips. I was not going anywhere except by their leave.
The kidnapping should have worked. It would have worked if not for the interference from that dog. The twin snarls emanating from over my head as I struggled reminded me of how precarious my position was.
Carlisle reproached me, “Edward, you bear a great deal of responsibility for Bella having a reason to go to La Push. If she has business there that she needs to resolve, you are not in a position to prevent her, no matter what danger you imagine lies in wait for her there.” Carlisle’s thoughts were firm and uncompromising. “You were the one who left. You are the one who gave up his claim on Bella. You told her to move on. You must now face the consequences. When are you going to learn to communicate with Bella and trust her?”
Carlisle continued, the snarls intensifying, “Bella is not your toy to do with as you please. She is an intelligent human being who can think for herself and make rational decisions. You seem to have very little respect for her.”
As Carlisle’s lecture progressed Jasper’s thoughts, laced with growls, cut across the audible words. “How could you do this to Alice? Alice has never had a best friend until Bella. That means something to her . . . to them . . . to me. It should mean something to you too. Alice will be almost as devastated as you will be if Bella decides to leave you over this. Frankly, I wouldn’t blame her if she did leave. You just don’t go around holding people hostage because you think you know what is best for them. Your arrogance will drive Bella away if nothing else will.”
Jasper’s thoughts had a sobering affect on me. Not only had I risked hurting Bella, I may have hurt Alice as well. Bella and Alice were best friends and I had unwittingly pitted them against each other. I shuddered at this thought. Bella could no more hurt Alice physically any more than she could hurt any of the rest of us, but she could tear out Alice’s heart and leave Jasper with the aftermath.
In despair, I turned my face into the sharp fragments of the fractured rock. By now it had been crushed into course gravel as Emmett continued to press my face into the ground.
Carlisle must have sensed the change in my demeanor. “Edward?”
I had to mumble through the gravel that now cradled my head. “Can I please get up?” Emmett snarled as I continued with a moan. “I’m not going to attack. I’m not going to run.”
Carlisle looked up, “Your call, Jazz.”
Jasper, who had been sitting on my legs and leaning on my hips to prevent me from wrenching around considered. I could sense him searching and analyzing my emotions. Slowly he stood and brushed the dust from his jeans. When he ascertained that I made no move to struggle or flee, he indicated to Emmett to ease off on the pressure he had been using. Reluctantly, Emmett stood and dusted himself off. Neither of them let their guard down, however. They were both ready to restrain me again if necessary.
I just lay there, face down, in the dirt where I belonged, digging my fingers into the dust. This was where I deserved to be.
Three pairs of amber eyes regarded me as I tentatively pushed myself to a sitting position and picked up the fragments of my phone. I stared at it numbly, turning it over in my hand unsure of what I should do. I needed to hear Bella’s sweet voice. I needed to know she was safe no matter how angry she might be, but now I had no means of contacting her or Alice. All things considered, it seemed doubtful that my father and brothers would have allowed it in that moment.
“Come sit over here by the fire, Edward,” Carlisle encouraged.
The fight was over. I was defeated. I may as well have been vanquished for life. How could Bella ever forgive me for what I had done to her this time? I had gone about everything in the wrong way in spite of my good intentions. I did not know how to make it right between Bella and myself. I knew she was angry; she had every right to be. I had hurt her to the brink of utter despair when I left her last September. How much more hurt had I inflicted this time? She would undoubtedly be running into Jacob’s eager arms at the first opportunity.
The constellations were sparkling now in all their glory, spinning in their eternal dance through the heavens as I sat there in my misery. I wondered what my place was in that dance. I had always thought to dance by myself but now I wanted a partner who, by all rights, was forbidden to me. The astounding thing was, she had wanted me too. Would she still want me after I had hurt her yet again? OhBella, how can you love such a monster as me? I am so unworthy of your love. Maybe I should have my father and brothers tear me apart right now to save you from myself. The fire was already burning . . . No, that would not work. Bella would only blame herself for my demise.
I was so despondent that I hardly noticed how dusty I was as I numbly collapsed on a log by the fire. After setting the battered phone on the log next to me, I leaned forward to gaze at my knees clasping my hands around the back of my head. My own wretchedness consumed me. I groaned, “Where is Bella now?”
Carlisle wasted no time in getting Esme on his phone. “What is the latest?”
Our sensitive ears could hear everything Esme said without Carlisle having to give us a summary. Bella had been home for about an hour-and-a-half. She was soggy and mud splattered from riding her motorcycle home from La Push in the rain. Noticeably upset, she had made it very clear that she did not want to talk to anyone about what had happened there, but she appeared to be fine physically. Sequestering herself in my room, she had showered and, as far as Esme and Alice could tell, had turned in. The tray of food that Esme had taken up to her had been refused.
Groaning, I sank further into my despair. I had done everything wrong. Ever since I had returned to Forks I had tried to keep Bella safe, or so I’d lied to myself. It had really been all about keeping Bella for myself and away from Jacob Black. If I had not kidnapped her, Bella would not have run off the way she had. The root of her present misery was me . . . again. With a heavy heart I realized that I had to let her go. I had to let her live the life she chose while she still had a life to live. For some unfathomable reason, Bella had not been able to live without me, but Jacob had saved her life. Despite my reservations, she needed him too. “What am I supposed to do Carlisle? I can’t live without her. I tried. I honestly tried. But I can’t give her what Jacob can. I can’t even compete.”
Taking a seat by my side, Carlisle regarded me. “What do you think you should do?”
I looked up and noted that Jasper and Emmett had assumed seats on the log on the opposite side of the fire from us, still poised to restrain me if necessary. I had not even noticed when they joined us. They were silent observers of the drama that was my life. Their thoughts were quiet, forcing me to come to my own conclusion.
“I’ve made some pretty bad mistakes I’ve never apologized for,” I said haltingly. “That would probably be a good place to start.”
“That would be the best place to start,” encouraged Carlisle. “What else?”
Licking my lips, I hesitated before responding. “Bella needs to be able to make her own decisions without interference from me. Jacob Black . . . I’m jealous of Jacob Black.” My voice broke as I made that confession to the men in my family. “But I have no more right to stop her from seeing him just because he is a werewolf than I have to stop her from seeing anyone who is human.” That was probably the hardest thing that I had ever confessed to, even harder than it had been to admit to Bella that I was a vampire.
“So now what?” Jasper’s expression was intent.
I looked across the fire at Jasper and Emmett, reluctantly meeting their eyes before turning away again. I continued to mull over the errors I had made in my mind.
Bewildered, I looked around the small circle once more. Only a monster would treat the one thing that gave meaning to his existence the way that I had treated Bella. In my desperation to do right by her, I had left her and she had nearly lost her life. When I returned, I had tried to control her every move. She resisted and demanded her independence. On top of that, I had hurt my family as well. Would I ever get this right? “I don’t know what to do,” I moaned.
The growl was gone from Carlisle’s voice now, replaced by regret and pity. I saw my anguished expression reflected in his thoughts. “Edward, I . . . we,” he looked at Jasper and Emmett to include them, “can only make some suggestions. Unfortunately, they will not do much good. Because we are vampires we are set in our ways. I know you know that. Unless you are able to come to your own conclusions you’re probably not going to be able make the necessary changes in your attitude. It’s going to be more difficult for you because you have fewer human memories of your own to draw from. I’m sorry.”
The fire popped, sending a spray of sparks into the air. The flames consumed the logs the way my regrets consumed me. I felt little better than the ash that remained from the burning logs. That last comment may as well have relegated me to having a terminal disease. I stared into the fire not knowing what course to take.
Sighing with impatience, Emmett broke his silence. “Edward, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. You’ve had access to a lot of people’s minds. You, of all people, have seen what works and what doesn’t. Use the knowledge you have.”
Taking Emmett’s suggestion seriously, I pondered my observations through the years.
“I suppose I need to give Bella some leeway,” I sighed. Saying this out loud to my father and brothers strengthened my resolve. “I can’t dictate everything she does. She needs to be able to make her own choices. She is not mine to control, but to love. I’ve been wrong to dictate her actions.” I sighed, “Most importantly, I need to be honest with her and not try to make this relationship work by myself. She’s part of it too.” Guilt and misery overwhelmed me. “And I need to respect and trust my family.”
I looked up at the faces around the fire. All of them were smiling encouragingly. “We knew you could do it,” Jasper quipped. He was still rubbing his arm where my teeth had left their mark. I’d have to make up for that injury somehow. Alice would not like seeing the new scar given the circumstances of its acquisition.
Carlisle stood and offered me a hand up. “You should head home now. You’re as ready as you’re going to be. We’ll break camp and follow in a couple of hours.”
Reaching for my phone where I had set it next to me, I dumbly looked at its carcass. “Here, take mine,” Carlisle offered his to me. “I know you’ll feel better knowing you can call home if you want to.”
My gratitude toward Carlisle ran deep. “Thanks,” I mumbled, ashamed to meet my father’s eyes.
Turning, I looked toward Jasper and Emmet. Jasper was still concentrating on keeping his emotions in check. “Jasper, I . . .”
“We’ll talk about this at home when we have some time to sort this all out,” was his simple reply. “I’m having a difficult time understanding what motivated you to do this, Edward.” He waved me off. His thoughts continued but they were not meant for my benefit. “He didn’t have to bite down so hard. He almost took a chuck out of my arm. Now what am I going to say to Alice about her part in this mess?”
I shook my head as the ramifications of my actions began to clarify themselves in my mind. Bella was not the only one I had hurt. I had hurt every person I loved.
Emmet stood and came over to me. His expression was cautious. “Are we good?” he asked as he offered me his fist. He was concerned that I would be mad at him for tackling me.
Remorse flooded me as I met his eyes. I should never have used my family like this. Not only that, I should have been the one asking him that question. “We’re good,” I sighed as my fist met his.
As I started to leave camp, Carlisle’s parting thoughts stopped me. Reluctantly, I turned and faced him. “Don’t be surprised if Esme has something to say about this when you get home. She is none too happy about being used in your scheme.”
Nodding my acknowledgment, I turned and fled through the encroaching forest. The run back to where we had parked the cars had a cleansing affect on my muddled thinking. I believed I could give Bella the space she considered necessary. I would let her do what she wanted, what she needed to do without interference from me. My quarrel was with Jacob Black, in spite of the fact that I was indebted to him for restoring Bella’s will to live again.
* * * * *
As I lay in my dark room, next to my reason for existing, it seemed improbable that anything could be as long as those months I had spent away from Bella. But the events of this last week had come close. The anxiety was just as real. I wanted so much to be with her and grant her her heart’s desire. I had wanted her to be a part of my life so badly that I would have done almost anything to achieve that, even hurt her and those who loved me. What a fool I had been. I had made so many mistakes and soon I would know what price I was to pay for them. The possibility that Bella would choose to leave me was very real. Despite her desire to become otherwise, Bella was still human. She could choose to change her life and pursue a new direction on a whim. I could change nothing about myself. The only option left open to me if she was to remain even remotely a part of my life, because leaving again was clearly not an option for me, was to be tolerant of her choices. My frozen nature would never allow me to leave Bella completely, but if she wanted me to fade into the background, never to be seen by her, never to speak to her again, I would do it . . . for her. I would become a silent, protective shadow if that was what she wanted. I couldn’t bear to ponder what I would do if she would not allow even that.
If only Bella had found her solace in Mike Newton instead of Jacob Black. Of course, I would not have liked that any better. The boy’s mind was like fingernails on a chalkboard, but he was certainly more tolerable than that werewolf. I doubted that Mike would even be able to hold Bella’s interest for the long term. He was just so . . . average.
I pinched the bridge of my nose in dismay. “Average” was not a word I would have chosen to describe Jacob Black and neither would Bella. For that matter, she wouldn’t call me “average” either. It hurt to think of myself in the same “non-average” category as that wolf, but there it was, we were both extraordinary in our respective ways. Was it because we were both supernatural? Just how tolerant would I have to be of Jacob? At lease he had no underlying instinct to kill her as I did. All of my being groaned with dread. He had to be whom she would want. My crime was much too grievous to endear me to Bella over him.
While I pondered this horror, it occurred to me that something must have happened between Bella and Jacob. She had returned from La Push much too upset. Maybe all I needed to do was let him make his own mistakes as I had made mine. His thoughts had been desperate the morning after we had returned from Florida and there was no indication of that having changed. Desperate people acted rashly, as I knew much too well from personal experience. Maybe all I needed to do was to be available to pick up the pieces when wolfboy went too far. With some deliberate patience I could do that.
Bella turned in her slumber, stretching her cramped muscles. Her eyes gradually opened to take in her surroundings. Surely, she should still be sleeping. It was the middle of the night. Still, I braced myself for the confrontation with the angry grizzly she had so emphatically promised in her message. It was not the physical harm she had threatened to inflict on me that I dreaded. She was powerless to injure me in that respect, though I richly deserved it, but she could leave or demand that I do so. Please Bella, go back to sleep so I can be with you for just a little longer.
Confusion filled the deep pools of Bella’s liquid eyes. She must have realized that she was no longer in the place she remembered going to sleep. I wanted desperately to reach out to her, to reassure her that she was safe. My unbeating heart weighed heavy in my chest with longing. What right did I have to offer her comfort? None whatsoever.
Music. The sweet, sweet music of Bella’s voice filled my ears. To my surprise, the words and cadence were not filled with the dismissive anger that I had imagined but were soft and lovely. This could not be! My mind had to be playing tricks on me as it had during the months of my exile. Bella would have no reason to be speaking kindly to me now. My actions had to have confirmed for her just what a self-serving monster I was. No, she must be speaking harshly it was just that anything Bella ever said sounded lovely to my ears.
The music continued as a soaring symphony. There were no hard, menacing tones to be heard, no snarls or growls of condemnation. The grizzly was not there! Wonder of all wonders, Bella reached out to me and curled into my surprised embrace! She sighed contentedly as she nuzzled into my chest inhaling deeply. I could feel myself melting into her slender, warm arms. The reunion was sweet and tender. Love and relief were the only things present. We both felt it. Maybe all was not lost. All I could discern in the depths of her rich brown eyes as they met mine was love. I could feel it in the way she pulled me closer to herself and twined her fingers in my hair. Welcomed fire seemed to surge through my body when her soft lips press against my own. Bella still wanted me! I was in awe of how that could possibly be.
Bella’s gentle smile renewed my hope. I vowed to myself that I would do everything in my power never to hurt her again, no matter the cost to myself.