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The Voice

Summary:
Set during New Moon. Written from Edward's POV. What would happen if Edward found out Bella was in danger and he came back to Forks, but he didn't let her know he was there?


Notes:


7. Chapter Seven - The Meadow

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3640   Review this Chapter

Author’s Note: I want to give credit for a lot of this chapter to my husband, who helped me work out the grisly details.

Disclaimer: Twilight, New Moon, and all the events and characters contained therein are the intellectual property of the original author, Stephenie Meyer. This work is meant as a tribute to hers and no copyright infringement is intended.

Chapter Seven – The Meadow

Bella was over the worst of the flu when she awoke the next morning, but spent the day recuperating. She was beside herself with worry for Jacob. From what I could glean from Charlie’s thoughts, Billy Black was doing his best to keep Bella away, telling her that Jacob was sick with mono. Good for him. Bella must never see Jacob again; he was far too dangerous. Even more experienced wolves like Sam Uley were dangerous, as events had made clear.

Bella didn’t have the benefit of knowing any of this. She probably thought that Jacob was simply taking her advice from the movie theater the other night and giving up on her. Or she thought he was so sick that he was in serious danger. Either way, she was despondent and spent the next week walking around in an anxious daze. I was beginning to fear that the pinched look of worry would become a permanent fixture on her face.

On Saturday however, her look as she left the house was not worried. From my position in a tree across the street, I could see that it was furious. I guessed that Jacob and Billy had finally stopped pretending that Jacob was sick. Charlie had left the house a few minutes earlier on a fishing trip, having been assured that Bella was planning to spend the day in the house. More lies. I was proud of Bella, in a way. Lying had always been tough for her but she had definitely overcome that to some degree. I was proud in a way, but right now I was mostly annoyed. It would be so much easier to keep her safe if she would stay at the house. That look on her face meant more danger seeking, I was sure of it.

Bella jumped into her rust bucket of a truck and slammed the door with enough force to rock the heavy vehicle. She probably would have liked to peel out of the driveway dramatically, but the speed of the truck meant she rolled slowly, if loudly. I shimmied quickly down the tree and dashed to my Fusion, which was seriously in need of a wash after all the trips down dirt roads. I guessed there was another one coming up and I was not proven wrong. Bella was going to try and find the meadow again.

I was confused. If she were looking for the meadow in order to share it with Jacob, why would she bother trying to find it today? I had given up trying to comprehend the reasons for Bella’s bizarre behavior over these past few weeks. She was not in any true danger with me here, but she had no way of knowing that. Charlie had warned her about the “enormous bears” in the area, and yet she wasn’t worried. As it had so many times, the worry that she was trying to hurt herself creased my forehead.

Bella stood in the clearing by her truck staring at the map and compass for a much longer time than Jacob would have needed, but she was soon tromping off into the woods. At least it wasn’t raining today. I wouldn’t get soaked trailing her through the underbrush.

Perhaps Bella had slightly more sense than I was crediting her with. She seemed nervous in the woods today, trembling as she wrapped her arms around herself. She didn’t have enough sense to turn around, though. I was surprised to note that she had finally managed to find the proper trajectory for her march. If she kept going this way far enough, she would actually discover the meadow. And Jacob would not be with her. I felt undeniable satisfaction at that fact.

I was following Bella much more closely than usual, only a few yards behind her. This was mostly because I was worried that without Jacob to guide her, she would manage to hurt herself more seriously than she usually did. But it was a secret pleasure that at this distance, I could pretend I was walking with her. I could inhale her sweet scent and imagine the conversations we might have walking through these woods as we had so many times before. It was getting so much easier to ignore the bloodlust; I could almost imagine that I was not in reality a soulless abomination.

Time passed quickly, and I realized that we were almost to the meadow. Selfishly, I wanted to see Bella’s face when she stepped into the clearing. I picked up my pace, veering off to the side until I was ahead of her. I hid in the trees about a quarter of the way around the perimeter of the meadow from where Bella would enter.

I didn’t have to wait long. Bella was getting to be a much faster hiker. She broke through the vine maples at the edge of the meadow, and stopped in her tracks. She seemed stunned that she had finally found it. Her face was flushed with exertion, and her breathing was a little heavier than usual. Even from my hiding place, I could hear her heartbeat speed up with excitement. Bella stood completely motionless for a moment, looking around as though she expected to find something here.

Suddenly the excitement left her. Her face crumpled into an expression of utmost sorrow and despair. With a groan she fell heavily to her knees, gasping for air. Gasping as if she were being suffocated, Bella wrapped her arms tightly around herself and began to sway back and forth. Whatever she had expected to find here, she had been disappointed.

“Edward,” she whispered. The sorrow in her voice would have melted a heart of stone.

Something hit me in that moment, as I saw Bella huddled on the ground in obvious pain. Recognition. I knew exactly how she felt. She felt as though her entire being was falling apart, as if there were a great gaping hole swallowing her heart, her lungs, and her sanity. I knew because I felt the same way. The all-consuming emptiness I felt in her absence, she felt it too. The apathy and lack of purpose, she knew them. No wonder she was behaving so dangerously, she had heard my voice, and even though she thought it was in her head, she was desperately trying to find it again. That was why she had come here. To find me.

Bella loved me.

Images flashed through my mind. Bella standing in the woods as I bid her goodbye and left. Bella’s face in Alice’s vision, ashen and gaunt. Bella approaching the men outside the bar. Bella riding her motorcycle. Bella’s voice screaming my name in her nightmares. Bella’s face as Jacob asked her about me. All of them were signs that she loved me, they had been right in front of me. How could I have misunderstood so completely? I had been angry with Bella for believing so easily that I didn’t love her, but had I truly done any better? At least I had had signs to show the way. She had had nothing.

And she loved me.

It was as though the heavens opened and a choir of angels burst into song. I was frozen, stunned. She loved me the same way I loved her. She would not allow her memories to fade; she was torturing herself, endangering herself to preserve them. Bella loved me. I felt a big silly grin spread across my face. I did not know how this miracle was possible, after all I had done to her and in spite of her human frailty. But I knew with a conviction beyond explanation that it was truth. She loved me and that was not going to change.

“She loves me, despite everything,” I whispered the precious words softly, reverently. They sounded even better aloud than they did in my head.

The joy drained from me as a new realization struck. Everything I had done to protect her had been a waste. Bella had been endangering herself to find me again, blocking out life to shelter her mind from the hurt. She was pursued by at least two vampires. She had entangled herself with a young werewolf. I knew how stubborn she was, and I knew she would not give him up. She was in more danger than she had ever been with my family and I. All the pain, the agony I had put us both through, amounted to nothing. I was humbled and filled with remorse.

As I watched Bella struggle to her feet, shaky and wobbling, I was crushed. She looked exactly as I did when I thought of her. Broken. What had I done? But I had a chance to make it right. Bella still loved me. With confidence born of my new awareness, I rose and prepared to take the step that would carry me into her sight.

Then I froze.

Another figure had entered the meadow. I took in his unnatural stillness and pale skin, and I knew. Laurent. The wind brought his scent to me and confirmed my guess. No! Not here. Not now. Not with Bella so close and vulnerable. I would have to get him away from her. I noted immediately that his eyes were dark rust-red. He was thirsty, almost starving. It would be tough to get him to leave Bella alone. At least Victoria was not with him. The two of them at once would be a difficult battle, to say the least.

Bella had finally noticed her company. She paused for a moment, her expression uncertain, then smiled in welcome. “Laurent!” she cried. As always she was completely oblivious to her own safety.

“Bella?” Laurent was as shocked to see her as she to see him. He hadn’t tracked her here? I focused on his thoughts as he continued his small talk with Bella. ..a most pleasant surprise. Dear Victoria will be put out with me, I dare say, but she’ll get over it. And I’m so thirsty.

I felt my face twist into a silent snarl. Patience, I needed patience. Wait for the right moment. I had to find out if he knew where Victoria was.

“When I found the Cullen place empty, I thought they’d moved on,” Laurent was saying. And I thought they would have taken you with them, little snack.

“Oh.” Bella bit her lip in what I now recognized as pain at the reminder of my family. She loved me… the wonder affected me even in the midst of the current danger. She paused and then continued, “They did move on.”

They left her behind? Perhaps Edward does not care for her as much as Victoria thinks he does. She will be most disappointed at having her revenge wasted, whenever she decides to grace me with her presence again.

So, Victoria was definitely the leader of their little partnership. Laurent knew nothing, and that meant his continued existence was worth nothing.

I think Bella had finally noticed Laurent’s red eyes and intense stare. She took a shaky step away from him. I noticed her hands trembling, and her heart rate increased. That was not helpful.

She smells so appetizing. I wonder how Cullen managed to resist… He took a step toward Bella. I prepared to spring. I didn’t want to fight him in front of Bella, but if I had to, I would.

At that moment the wind shifted, carrying my scent to Laurent’s sensitive nose.

He froze and looked directly at me. “I don’t believe it,” he said, his voice low with surprise. And then he ran.

It can’t be! What’s he doing here?

I broke through into the meadow. I knew I should pursue Laurent, but I could not resist a glance at Bella. She was staring at me, shaking her head.

“I’ve lost it. I’ve finally lost my mind,” she chanted under her breath.

I dashed to her side, too quickly for her eyes to follow my movement. She blinked, but was unafraid. I laid one hand on her cheek, savoring her warmth. “I’ll explain everything soon. Wait here for me. Please, Bella, listen to me just this once. I’ll come back. I promise.” It took all my willpower to remove my hand from her skin.

She sank back to her knees and continued shaking her head, muttering. I supposed that was all the answer I would get. I ran into the woods.

Laurent’s trail was easy to follow; he was too startled to try to hide it. I could hear his thoughts ahead of me and knew that he was heading further into the woods, rather than moving toward a road or populated area. Excellent. He had no car and he was probably panicking.

Then, without warning, his thoughts simply vanished. One second I could ‘hear’ him clearly, the next there was nothing there. How had he managed that? I continued sprinting through the forest to the place where I had last heard his mind, but there was nothing there except his scent. Actually, his scent was pretty strong, maybe I was gaining on him.

Gotcha!

The thought came from just behind me. Before I could turn, I was thrown forward by a heavy impact. I was crushed into the soft moss of the forest floor, pinned to the ground by my enemy straddling my back. How had Laurent managed to hide himself from me? I had no time to wonder about it as my arm was wrenched backwards, nearly detaching from the socket. He was trying to dismember me.

Laurent shifted his position to gain better leverage and I rolled so I was facing him, still pinned beneath his weight. His face was twisted into a feral snarl, and I suddenly became aware of the tremendous growls ripping from both of us. With lightening speed, I grabbed his arms and twisted them behind his back, simultaneously sitting up to slam him in the face with my forehead. I heard a crack as his nose broke, and felt his left arm dislocate. I would have to thank Emmett for forcing me to wrestle with him all these decades.

Laurent wasn’t finished yet, though. He leaned in and savaged my right shoulder with his teeth; I could feel tendons ripping as he tore at me, doing as much damage as he could. I roared in frustration, the sound quickly swallowed by the thick vegetation. Using my left hand, I grabbed his hair and jerked his teeth away from my shoulder, failing to break his neck in the process. Laurent threw himself backward with almost impossible speed and strength, pulling himself out of my reach. I leapt to a standing position, and we circled each other, feinting and looking for a chance to strike.

Laurent’s hunger provided what I needed. A terrified rabbit finally got up the courage to burst from the bushes at my feet, and Laurent was distracted for a second. I flung myself at him, foot extended, and heard a satisfying crack as it connected with his knee. The momentum carried the two of us into the trunk of a mid-sized tree, which shook and toppled over with an echoing crash. Momentarily disoriented, I paused long enough that Laurent was able to get an arm around my throat from behind, crushing me in a vise-like grip. I didn’t need to breathe, but I could also scarcely move from this position.

Twisting and heaving with all my strength, I wrenched my body out of his grasp, rolling us across the ground wildly. Punches and kicks were not of much use between vampires. Pain-inducing maneuvers would do nothing. The only action that could win this struggle was to render his body unable to continue. The savagery would have shocked any spectator. Biting, clawing, tearing at each other, we struggled around the meadow.

Finally, I had him pinned to the ground, both his arms now lying useless and broken on the forest floor beside him. Vampires do not feel true physical pain, but my right arm was more or less useless, the tendons torn where he had bitten me, and I was sure several of my ribs were broken. It was uncomfortable and difficult to move, but I would heal. I did not intend to give Laurent that opportunity. But first, I needed to know something.

“How did you hide from me?” I snarled. “Tell me, and I’ll make your end quick.”

He laughed. “It’s so simple, but you rely so much on your so-called power that you never suspected. Think about it, but you’ll still never guess. And I will never tell you.” He snorted. “It was Victoria’s idea, and I’m sure she’s feeling very pleased that it worked.”

“Where is she?” I howled the words, sudden fear nearly paralyzing me.

Laurent only laughed. He would start to heal soon. I had work to do, and quickly. I wrestled Laurent over onto his stomach and knelt on his back. I seized his jaw in my good hand and braced my foot against his neck, bunching my muscles as I prepared to rip.

When it was finished, I rose to my feet. I was surprisingly clean, though my clothes would be a write-off. Vampires have no blood but that which they drink, and Laurent had been very thirsty. I would have to burn the remains, but that would wait for a few hours. I was consumed with the need to ensure Bella’s safety. I sped towards the meadow, panic and elation fighting for dominance in my mind.

I was almost there when I found the fresh and familiar scent of werewolf. I halted in my tracks and turned to find Sam Uley, in human form, behind me. My neck prickled, but I found I was able to restrain my growl. I was almost getting used to the cur.

“Cullen.”

“Uley.” Panic would not be restrained. “Bella, is she safe?”

He nodded. “I think she’s a little… upset.” I saw an image in his head. Bella was screaming as she saw Uley enter the meadow in werewolf form, then she was kneeling again, still muttering that she had lost her mind. “But she’s physically fine. Is it finished?”

“You’ll find some remains if you backtrack along my trail. They need to be disposed of. Burned, in fact. Perhaps you can manage that?” He would know how and where to get that done without public commentary.

“We can.” He paused, and then continued. “You should know, we intercepted the female on one of our regular patrols. I believe she was coming here, for Bella. We split up and the others are pursuing her, but I don’t believe they will catch her this time. She always manages to slip away from us, and this time she had a head start.”

Laurent and Victoria had hatched a plan. Somehow they had managed to boggle my mind reading and trick me… again. I still had no idea how they did it, or even how long they had been shadowing me. I would worry about that later, I was sure. Now, my only desire was to see Bella, to touch her and convince myself she was all right.

“Thank you. I owe you more than words can ever express.” I started to turn back toward the meadow. “Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

“You’ve decided to stay, then?” I thought I saw the suggestion of a smile in his eyes, but it could have been a trick of the light.

“I’ve decided to let her make the decision. If there’s anything I can do to convince her to take me back, then I will stay.” I was surprised how easily the words came. I wasn’t even aware of having thought them.

His expression was torn between humor and worry. Poor Jake.Though, heaven knows that as a man, I think Cullen is doing the right thing. As pack leader….

I sighed. “You might as well get it over with. I know you have to say it.”

“I have to remind you of the terms of the treaty. No killing of course, but also, no biting.” He paused, allowing the implications to set in. “You must not change her, cold one.” And if you do, so help me, my pack will kill you both.

I growled involuntarily at the last bit. My hackles rose. “I understand. And you should know that the only person who wants her changed less than you do, is me. I would not wish this existence on anyone, much less someone I love.”

“Then I will leave you for now. But we will be watching.” There was no threat in his voice, only grim determination.

“Good-bye.” I watched as he phased and disappeared. Then I turned, pushed my way through the last few feet of trees and stepped into the meadow where Bella was waiting.

Author’s Note: Reviews make my little writing heart skip a beat… and pump out more words.