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A Matter Of Time

Summary:
A TLYDF Recommendation, Nominated for Immortal Cookie Award, Won Best Imprint in the Silent Tear Awards Two weeks and the whole world can change. Caius and Jane led an insurrection against Aro and are making a mad power grab. Renegades from the wolf pack, unhappy with the treaty with the Cullens, are attacking vampires at every opportunity. Jacob and Renesmee are struggling with the paradox of imprinting. Edward, Bella and all the Cullens must come together to protect the world they've come to love. A tale of action, deceit, intrigue and sexual awakening.


Notes:
Stephanie Meyers owns all things Twilight. My thanks to all the wonderful people at PTB who helped with this story.


16. Chapter 16 Chase

Rating 4/5   Word Count 3405   Review this Chapter

Bella

I had to bid my daughter farewell all too soon. But Edward and I agreed that it was best to see her tucked away somewhere safe so that we could concentrate on the substantial task before us. Isle Esme seemed the perfect location, all our wounded could recuperate in a secure, remote location. Our next thought was to warn others of what Caius had done and of his unprovoked attacks. Carmen and Eleazar volunteered to alert the Amazons and we made arrangements that they would bring some supplies to Isle Esme while they were in South America.

Carlisle and Esme flew to Portland with Renesmee, Rosalie, Emmett and Jacob. From there they would go on to Forks. Carlisle felt it important to talk with Sam and the other tribal elders about how some of the werewolves were working with Jane. “It’s likely that they don’t know,” he told us, “but they should. Don’t try to take on Caius without all of us,” Carlisle admonished Jasper. “Act as a scout in this.”

That left the five of us, Alice, Jasper, Garrett, Edward and I, to try to track down Caius and those working with him. We sat in the living room, discussing our options. “We know Jane was on her way to the Irish coven yesterday,” Jasper surmised.

Alice shook her head. “She won’t stay there long. Siobhan and the others will have cleared out by now.”

“Anything on Caius?” Edward asked.

Alice grimaced with frustration. “Yes, too much. He’s all over the place, Boston, San Francisco, Ireland. He’s shifting constantly. He seems to be making decisions randomly.”

“Well, let’s do this the old fashioned way,” I suggested. “I think it’s highly unlikely that a car fire with four bodies in it, just miles from Denali, is a coincidence. Let’s get some information on the car and track things from there.”

Garrett frowned. “But will the authorities just give us that information?”

“I think they could be persuaded to answer a few questions,” Edward predicted.

*****

A few hours later, Edward, Jasper and I were seated in Fire Marshall Clement’s office. He seemed a bit overwhelmed by the three intense, beautiful strangers so close to him.

“Thank you for seeing us,” Edward began after introductions had been made. “We’ve been wondering if you made any progress on the investigation into the fire at the Draustovich house.” Draustovich was Tanya’s surname.

Clement crossed his hands over his substantial belly. “Well, we’ve been interviewing neighbors, friends and old boyfriends. This kind of thing takes a while, but I do promise we’ll get to the bottom of this.”

“You had said there was a car fire down the road that same night. Did you find any connection?” I asked.

He leaned back in his chair. “You know this is a murder investigation. I can’t really say too much.” He had already met Edward and me at the ruins of Tanya’s house, but I saw his eyes narrow as he appraised Jasper.

Edward leaned forward. “California plates on the car, you had said. I wonder who it was registered to.”

“Did I say it was California plates?” Clement mused. “Perhaps I had.”

I’m sure if the plates were registered to a corporation, you would have tracked that down,” Edward prodded.

“Well, if it was to a corporation, and I’m not saying it was, well, then we’d work with the California State Police on it.”

I leaned forward in my chair. “Is there anything you can tell us?”

Clement looked at me sympathetically. “I’m sorry, miss. Not at this time. “

Edward stood up. Jasper and I followed. “Well, we won’t take anymore of your time. Thank you, Mr. Clement. Please let us know when you can release any information.”

Clement stood and gave his belt a hitch. “We surely will, Mr. Cullen. Don’t worry. We’ll find some justice for you.” He held out his hand to shake Edward’s.

“I’m sorry,” Edward said, holding his hands close to himself, “skin condition. Excuse me for not shaking.”

Clement snatched his hand back. “Um, of course,” he stammered. I ducked my head and fought a smile as we turned to the door.

We walked slowly to the car. “The Hummer was registered to Halcyon Corporation, out of San Francisco,” Edward informed us. “It’s some kind of para-military company.”

“That would make sense seeing as how Nessie had seen that there were some kind of soldiers,” Jasper said.

Edward pulled open the car door. “He’d checked out our alibi.”

Our alibi?” I asked, surprised. I climbed in the passenger side.

“He’d called Bud Watson to confirm when we came in by plane.” Edward started the car and looked in the rearview mirror to where Jasper sat. “He didn’t like you at all.”

“Me?” Jasper spread his hands. “I didn’t say anything.”

Edward smiled. “I think that’s why.”

Jasper looked out the window and smiled ruefully. “Well, next time I’ll try to be more talkative.”

*****

The five of us arrived in San Francisco after the sun had set. We rented a car and let the GPS lead us to Halcyon’s address. Parked outside of Halcyon headquarters, Alice and I sat in the back seat with Garrett, peering at the steel and glass building towering above us. Only a few windows shone with lights. Edward and Jasper, in the front seats, got out of the car and motioned for us to join them.

The wide and well lit lobby was manned by no less than three guards. We moved faster than thought past the lobby and to the door leading to the building’s stairwell. The guards at the desk weren’t even aware we had passed by. Jasper pulled a metal button off his denim jacket, and flicked it sixty feet across the lobby so that it banged into the glass on the other side of the lobby. The guards all spun around to see the source of the noise as we pulled open the stairwell door and slid inside. I heard one guard say to the other as the door closed, “I told you this place was haunted.”

Once inside, Alice looked exasperatedly at Jasper. “I wish you wouldn’t do that. It’s a Calvin Klein, for goodness sakes.”

Edward rolled his eyes. “Some quiet, please,” he hissed. He paused on the steps, listening. I knew he was searching for thought patterns that included images of vampires or werewolves. “Caius is here.”

We all stopped, stunned at the unexpected news. Clanging from some upper level echoed in the steel and concrete stairwell

He cocked his head to one side. “He’s with a human and a Quileute. No one else from the Volturi is there.”

“Well, that explains why I couldn’t see him,” Alice said, crossly. I knew she was getting frustrated by the way her abilities kept being blocked.

“What should we do?” I asked Edward. I’d never killed anybody in anger, and certainly not in cold blood.

“If we can question him a bit, we’d have a better handle on what his plans are. We need information, and then we kill him,” Jasper decided. He said this so matter-of-factly, I was taken aback.

“Carlisle wanted us to wait,” I reminded them.

“If he is alone, we’d be foolish to waste this opportunity,” Garrett argued.

“I agree,” Edward said. “Perhaps we can trap him inside.”

“Be careful, people,” Jasper cautioned. “These old ones can sometimes have unexpected powers. Caius is bound to be a dangerous fighter. We stay together.”

“Jasper,” Edward said. “Bella is the least experienced fighter among us.”

Jasper and Edward exchanged glances. Edward was apparently satisfied by what he heard. He gave his head a quick nod, as he stood on the landing above us. He started up the stairs, when he stilled again, listening. His face turned deadly serious while his eyes started to smolder with fury. “They’re discussing an attack on Forks.”

Fear for our home and anger battled for the upper hand in me. Suddenly, the thought of killing Caius was taking on a lot more appeal.

“Well, let’s nip that in the bud,” Garrett said. “Let’s go.”

Edward turned and led us up the stairs to the third floor. We ghosted past an empty reception area and down a corridor.

From inside an office lining the corridor, there was the sound of cracking wood and glass shattering. “He’s heard us!” Edward cried and he sped down the hall, the rest of us right behind him. He plowed through one of several wooden doors lining the corridor and it exploded into a million splinters. Inside the office, a non-descript middle-aged man was spinning slowly in his swivel desk chair, his head tilted at an improbable angle, his eyes staring at nothing. The desk in front of him had been ripped violently.

The Quileute was a young man in his early twenties, pale beneath his tanned skin. He stood backed up against a far wall, his eyes huge and rimmed with fear. From his chest protruded a large sliver of wood, his hands wrapped around it. Blood trickled from the wound.

The window in the office had been smashed apart. Alice cried, “Bella, hold your breath!” as she and Edward jumped out of the window without hesitation. The smell of the blood caused me a moment’s indecision. It smelled enticing and repulsive at the same time. I vacillated for a second before Jasper and Garrett each grabbed one of my arms and the three of us sailed out the window to the grassy area below.

Alice and Edward were already far down the dark street chasing a figure way off in the distance. We took off after them.

Down the city streets we raced, street lights passing by us so fast, they appeared like strobe lights. The shop lights and storefronts passed in a blur as we dodged the humans on the streets enjoying a warm summer night. We ran like the wind incarnate, our path invisible to the cars and people. As unseen ghosts we weaved in and out of the traffic on Divisadero Street, Edward pulling ahead of all of us and slowly gaining on Caius.

Far ahead, Caius rounded a dark corner and disappeared from view. Edward rounded the corner as well, but then slowed down in confusion. “Edward, the rooftops!” Alice cried as she caught up to him.

Edward scaled the brick face of the store in front of him in two moves and disappeared over the edge of the roof, Alice right behind him. Several seconds later, Jasper, Garrett and I scrabbled up the same wall. In the lead, we could see Caius flying across the rooftops, his feet barely touching the uneven and complicated surfaces. He sprang like a deer across the open spaces caused by the streets below.

Jasper and Garrett were pulling ahead of me. The strength of a newborn had faded in me and I just wasn’t as fast as the others. I wondered if I was holding up the chase, when with a single move, Jasper slowed to my side, and slung me by the arm over his back. I grabbed tight and he sped up again.

I held tight around Jasper’s chest and waist with my arms and legs while his blond curls whipped in my face. The inhuman speed we were traveling at caused our clothing to thrash in the wind like a flag in a hurricane. I smiled with the remembrance of how I used to travel like this with Edward back when I had been human. Of course, it had never been this fast.

Jasper sensed my amusement. “What?” he asked over his shoulder while his legs continued pumping furiously. I could see the glow in the nighttime clouds indicating the bright lights of the airport not far away.

I shook my head; I’d tell him some other time. “Looks like we’re headed for the airport,” I yelled above the rushing wind. The buildings were larger and sparser as we got closer to the airport and the industrial complex surrounding it.

The closely packed buildings came to an end and jumping down to street level, Jasper set me on my feet. We continued to race, catching sight of Edward across the highway as he dashed between the scattered warehouses and hangars. I’d lost sight of Caius completely but Alice was still ahead, trailing Edward.

We came to the tunnels of the BART train and followed Alice and Edward inside, running down the side of the air train tracks through the dark tunnels. We caught up to Alice and Edward as they came to the platform indicating the International Terminal. Edward had his head down, concentrating.

“This way,” he determined and we bolted up the stairs into the main international terminal. People were staring at us in alarm. Edward barked, “Jasper, Garrett, you go right. I’ll hear if you find him.”

The two men took off running down the right side of the terminal, searching the faces of the passer-bys for Caius. Edward, Alice and I started down the left side of the terminal, scanning the crowd for Caius. “There!” Alice cried, pointing across the terminal. On the other side of the crowded concourse, I caught sight of a white ponytail and white suit. He turned briefly and I caught a glimpse of his eyes. He looked at me and his face changed with the kind of smile that had nothing to do with humor.

We had started across the busy hall after him when Edward yelled “No!” I watched as Caius pulled a metal stanchion from the queues before the ticketing area. He twisted it in his hands, breaking it into two long, sharp, jagged slivers. The crowd of people in line by him screamed and fell over each other trying to put distance between themselves and the dangerous man flailing sharp metal. With the speed and sureness of a samurai, he broke into the crowd. I watched in horror as the improvised weapons flashed. The damage done, Caius threw the jagged metal to the floor and was off running again.

Screams were filling the air as people with their necks, faces and chests slashed fell to the floor. I gasped in horror at the carnage, and the intake of breath was a mistake. Alice yelled, “Hold your breath, Bella!” as she and Edward started running after Caius’ back.

I was rooted to where I stood. I was hypnotized by the entrancing crimson liquid as it started to leak from the wounded. The smell of it broke over me in waves, intensifying with every moment. It called to me, no, it sang to me like a siren. I had never smelled an aroma as deep or as rich. It was the smell of life itself and I was suddenly parched for it. Nothing else would do but I had to taste it, to roll the savory liquid on my tongue and feel it ease the fire in my throat that had exploded in me.

Way down below the consuming thirst that had overtaken me, a part of me was screaming to regain rationality. Some part of me knew that these were humans in front of me, and not just containers for the liquid ecstasy that now gushed from them. That part of me screamed silently as I took another step closer to the source of the rapture which was now my only focus.

Peripherally, I felt Alice grab my arm and scream Edward’s name. I shook her off violently and she was thrown some feet away from me. I had no thought of her. I could see only the blood, the ruby bliss as it glistened on the skin of the injured. I inhaled again through my nose, delighting in the pungent aroma and took another step closer.

Some one was saying my name, again and again. It was like the buzz of an insect flying around my head, annoying and unwanted. But it broke my concentration enough that I could see Edward’s face. I watched disinterestedly as his lips moved. His face floated in front of mine. There was some reason, I knew, why I should be listening to him.

He was saying my name over and over and urging me to get control. Oh, god, I thought as I snapped to awareness. I didn’t want to do what now seemed inevitable, to take the inexorable path leading me to the blood that could soothe this unbearable thirst. I couldn’t move, though. If I twitched a muscle, it could only be to move closer to the source of my beguilement.

I moved just my eyes to Edward’s face, where he was speaking to me urgently. I couldn’t even hear what it was he was saying; the bloodlust drained me of all perceptions but the source of the mesmerizing fragrance. With a herculean effort, I wrested control of that part of me which controlled speech and whimpered, “Help.”

Without delay, he swept me up in his arms bridal style, and we flew past the wounded crowd, now organizing itself as onlookers assisted the injured. I couldn’t have left the blood on my own. I barely found the strength not to fight him as he carried me away from it.

I tucked my head into his neck, trying to tamp down the feelings of grief and loss that so much ecstasy had been snatched from me. I was glad I hadn’t given in to the bloodlust, but a part of me felt like the sinner who had been given a glimpse of heaven only to see it dissolve in the wind. The promise of completion and satiation that the blood had sung to me wound its snaky tendrils in my brain and made its home in the darkest recesses. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to have tasted it and then to later deny it.

“How do you do it?” I whispered into his chest. “Year after year, saying no to that.”

As we sped through the terminal with inhumanly speed, he smiled slightly down at me. “We just do. One person at a time.”

Ahead, Jasper and Garrett were waving to us, before ducking into a plain door lining the corridor. Edward put me down as we came to the door which led to the service corridors that only airport employees saw. We started running down the blank corridors, our footsteps echoing against the gray linoleum and blank walls. We turned another corner, blowing past a custodian pushing a cleaning cart. His words of protest were behind us before he could finish his thought.

“Damn! He’s on the tarmac!” Edward cried. He cast around looking for a way to the outside. He pushed his shoulder against a door, and the lock gave way under the pressure. We were in a large loading area, dark and greasy smelling.

We blew past four workers having a card game on some crates and ran out into the night. Luggage carts were strewn randomly between the undersides of the jumbo jets towering above us. There, across a wide expanse of runways, we saw a figure running. I watched amazed as Caius ran under the belly of a jumbo jet gaining speed as it taxied down the runway. As the plane left the ground, Caius jumped up and grabbed the front landing gear, avoiding the spinning massive tires. A moment later, he was folded into the belly of the plane as the landing gear cranked into its hidden position. The plane majestically climbed into the sky.

The five of us stood there in various states of dejection as the plane gained altitude. Garrett strode over to a worker, who was wearing earphones and concentrating on adjusting the mechanism on a cart.

Garret tapped him on the shoulder. “Can you tell me where that plane is headed?” Garrett asked, pointing to the departing jet.

The worker removed his earphones. “Say again?”

“That plane. Where is it headed?”

The worker looked at the plane and his watch. “Well, looks like its flight 718 to Boston.”

“Thank you,” Garrett said, and started walking back to us.

“Hey,” the worker yelled, comprehension finally dawning on him that we were without any kind of security badges. “You’re not supposed to be out here!” He fumbled for his walkie-talkie but by the time he’d gotten it out, we had disappeared back into the night.