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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.


2. Chapter 2 Piano Practice

Rating 3.7/5   Word Count 4377   Review this Chapter

Bella

I was practicing my piano when I saw the familiar blue and white cruiser pull up the driveway. I walked out the door and down the front steps to greet Charlie.

“Hey, Dad,” I called.

“Bella,” he said in greeting, as he got out of the car. I noticed he didn’t even flinch as my cold lips brushed his cheek. I still hadn’t had an honest conversation with Charlie about the ‘transformation’ I’d gone through. He kept operating on a need to know basis, and I was happy to keep it that way, if it made him more comfortable. Still, every once in a while I’d catch him staring at me with a speculative look in his eyes. I did know that after Sue Clearwater moved in with him, he’d been more accepting of the unexplained mysteries happening around him. I think she had a calming effect on him. Not that he had ever been an emotional guy, but he just seemed happier.

“Did Nessie leave for Alaska?” he asked.

“Yep, yesterday morning. They gave me a call earlier today. They should be there by now.” I nodded towards the house. “Come in, have a beer?”

“Well, I’m off duty in about three minutes,” he said as he checked his watch. “I guess we could rush it.” We wandered towards the front of the house. The sun was just setting behind us.

“Mind if we sit out here?” he gestured towards the porch.

“Not at all, it’s a nice night. I’ll be right back.” I went to go get a beer from the fridge.

He was sitting in the far corner of the porch when I came back. I handed him the beer and sat down in the chair next to him. The sound of the stream behind the house burbling through the rocks floated on the still air. He popped the top, took a sip and sat back.

I knew Charlie well enough to know he had something to say to me and that there was no rushing him. I sat back and let him work up to it.

“Alice around?” he asked.

“No, she left with Jasper and Esme yesterday to do some shopping overseas.”

“Ah,” he nodded. “Just wanted to thank her about that new fishing spot. She was right about the fish there.”

“She’s good at that sort of thing.” I smiled internally.

“M-m-m yes,” he agreed. “Uncanny, even.”

“Uncanny, that’s her.”

We spent a moment listening to the evening and he took another sip of his beer. “How was Jacob doing when you saw him?”

“Good. Happy to be going away with Nessie.”

“He’s a good uncle to that child.”

“We’re blessed to have him in our lives.”

“Yep.” Another sip. Here it comes. “Did he say anything about the Quileutes?”

“No, why do you ask?”

“Well, Billy has been pretty concerned about this young group of roughnecks. Seems like they’ve been stirring up people on the rez with talk about terrorists and such.”

“Terrorists?” I started chuckling. “Here in Forks?”

“Well, maybe not in Forks, but around. They’ve been disruptive and belligerent at the Elder’s meetings. A lot of harsh words have been said. They won’t even listen to Sam and you know how much the kids look up to him.” Charlie rubbed his face with one hand. This was getting dangerously close to things that Charlie really didn’t want to even acknowledge.

Trouble at the elders’ meetings? This was news. Jacob hadn’t said anything about it but he was pretty closed-mouth about what was happening inside the pack. I wondered if these “roughnecks” as Charlie called them were part of the werewolf pack. I knew around Renesmee’s birth that the wolf pack had grown exponentially. Carlisle and Edward thought it had been in response to all the vampires coming and going at that time. Since then, we had discouraged those kinds of visitors and had spent a lot of time in the British Isles and elsewhere, partly because of how fast Renesmee had matured and also to let things settle between the Quileutes and us. Carlisle had believed that we should let our relations with the pack calm and give them some time to accept the status quo. Jacob had always led me to believe that we had been successful in that respect.

“No, Jacob hasn’t said anything,” I said. I looked up across the meadow to see Edward strolling in our direction from the cottage.

“Well, apparently, Jake is part of the problem.” Charlie was looking at his beer like it might jump out of his hand.

“Jake is?” This was surprising.

“Jake is not that popular among a lot of the Quileutes these days,” Charlie said, still not meeting my eyes.

“Since when?”

“Well, for a while now. Some of these kids have been talking trash about Jacob behind his back. Billy’s been fretting over it. But you know Jake. He’s not listening.”

Well, that was Jacob all over.

“Hey, Chief.” Edward came up on the porch and walked over to us.

“Hey, Edward.” Charlie stood up to shake his hand. “I was just heading out. Sue’s probably holding dinner for me, as it is.”

“Well, I’m glad somebody is keeping you away from the kitchen,” I teased him.

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll have you know Sue is an excellent cook.”

I walked him to the car. “How is she doing?” I was glad Charlie had Sue; she was doing good things for him. It had been a tough time for Sue. Not long after she moved in with Charlie, she and Leah had had a huge fight. Sue and Seth hadn’t heard from Leah for the past six months. Even Jacob hadn’t heard anything, and since she’d been a part of his pack, there should have been some communication. Jacob thought she might have found another pack because he hadn’t heard her phase at all. Seth thought she was strong enough to have become her own Alpha.

“She misses Leah. It’s been rough not hearing from her. I’m not sure I believe Sue when she says moving in with me had nothing to do with it.” Charlie got into the cruiser.

“Well, give her my love.” I stuck my head through the window to give him a peck on the cheek.

“Thanks, take care of yourselves.” Edward came up behind me to put his arm around my shoulders.

“Will do.” We watched Charlie drive off.

“He’s more concerned than he’s letting on,” Edward said as we turned back to the house. “Billy’s got him worried about what’s going on with the tribe. There’s some concern for Jacob, too.”

“Maybe we should go see Billy,” I suggested.

“Will he talk to us?”

That was a good question. “Well, we can try. Maybe I’d better go alone, though. I think he’d open up more if it was just me.”

“If you’d like.” He kissed my hair and hugged me closer. “However, I’d like to spend a little time with my wife before she goes running off.”

“Come on.” I grabbed his hand. “You can help me with this etude I’ve been working on.”

He sighed. “I knew it. You married me for my piano skills.”

“Among other things.” He chuckled as I pulled him toward the house.

The screen door banged behind us as we entered, but otherwise, the house was quiet. “Emmett around?” Edward asked as we walked over to the grand piano nestled in the living room.

“No, he took off to get some parts in Seattle about an hour ago.” I sat down on the piano beach. “And Carlisle’s at work until midnight.”

I smiled at him as he realized we were alone in the big house. That didn’t happen often at all with so many people living there. He smiled back at me then, that same crooked smile that had dazzled me years before.

Here I was, married seven years and still weak in the knees over this man of mine. Yes, our relationship had changed; we were more equal partners than before. But the thing that hadn’t changed was the intense passion I felt for Edward. The knowledge that he felt the same about me had only strengthened and ripened our love. More secure in our love for each other, our intimacy had only deepened.

“It’s this part right here I am having trouble with.” I focused on the piano and played the bars which I had been struggling with.

“Ah,” he murmured as he watched my fingers. He moved behind me, placed his hands gently on mine and whispered in my ear, “Try it this way.”

I tried to focus on my fingers but his face lingered near mine, and I felt his breath on my ear. He pressed my fingers on the keys, but I didn’t catch just how he did that. “Wait, wait, I didn’t get that,” I protested.

“Bella,” he said in a mocking stern tone, “you’re not paying attention.” He swung his legs over the bench, so I stood up and then sat on the sliver of bench between his straddled legs. With his arms on either side of me, I watched as he played the bars again, but found myself distracted by the feel of his chest pressed against my back and his breath on my neck.

“Did you get that?” he murmured as his lips brushed against the side of my neck.

“No,” I sighed with my hands in my lap.” Too many distractions.”

“Hmm. I can play it, and I am being distracted as well.” His lips moved across to the other side of my neck. Now he was just being unfair.

“Oh, you can play this whole piece while being distracted, can you?” I challenged him while I leaned back against him. His hand moved up to caress my throat.

“Sure,” he said, as his hand moved along my shoulders.

“Sure enough to bet laundry duty?”

“You’re on.” He chuckled against me.

I stood up and turned around, trapped between his arms. “Then you have to give me some room.”

“Alright,” he sighed as he moved his arms away and I sidestepped to the side of the piano. He eyed me for a moment, wondering what my next move was.

“Go ahead,” I beckoned him. “Get started.”

He smiled and started playing. I knew this piece was about nine minutes long, so I had enough time to work on him.

I turned my back to him but glanced over my shoulder. He was watching me, without even a look to his hands, and yet the music flowed effortlessly and flawlessly.

I undid the top two buttons of my shirt, and then turned to face him. I let my eyes smolder as I stared into his. My hands continued down the line of buttons on my shirt.

“I think I’m going to like this,” he said grinning, as his hands continued across the keys.

I parted my unbuttoned shirt slightly by running my fingers down my chest. I knew he’d get a peek at the lacy blue bra I was wearing underneath. I looked at him from beneath my eyebrows and moistened my lips. I was going to play this to the hilt.

His smile faded as his gaze traveled with my fingers. He swallowed while his eyes traveled up and down my body. Still the music came impeccably.

His eyes never strayed to his hands as he watched me turn away again to shrug my shirt off one shoulder. I threw back my head, so that my hair rippled across my back. I shrugged the shirt the rest of the way off and faced him again, my arms crossed over my chest. Slowly I moved my hands across my breasts, down my belly to my low slung jeans.

This time there was almost a slip in the notes and Edward had to give the piano a glance before he returned his gaze to where my hands were slowing unzipping my jeans. “I should always practice this way,” he said approvingly.

I moved to the end of the piano so that the instrument blocked his view of me and bent down to pull my jeans off. I came back up into view with my jeans dangling from my finger. I saw Edward lean sideways so that he could see my bare legs under the piano. He came back up with a wide grin. Still his hands moved across the keys flawlessly.

I dropped the jeans and raised my hands above my head. I did pirouettes until I stood beside the piano bench. His eyes traveled hungrily over me, and he swallowed again as I posed there in my lacy bra and panties. I was glad I had worn the blue set, his favorites.

I draped myself over the edge of the piano almost sitting on the keyboard and leaning back so that my chest arched upwards. I let my head fall back, curving my neck so that my hair brushed the soundboard. Posing like a centerfold, I stretched my legs into a long line. With his vampire speed, he moved his right hand to stroke my breast, and then returned to his playing. He fit these lightning feather touches in between the demands of his playing, which continued without missing a beat.

I stood up, and approached him. Staring into his eyes, I trailed my hand across the piano and let my fingers walk up his arm. “Now you are playing unfair,” he murmured, but still the music flowed from beneath his hands.

“Oh, I’ve just started,” I whispered into his ear as I yanked the back of his shirt from his jeans. I let my hands crawl underneath his shirt and then around his back. I felt his muscles shiver as my hands caressed his smooth warm skin. I placed my nearly naked body against his back and brought my arms up under his. I started unbuttoning his shirt. He held his arms out of the way to assist me, yet he still played on.

Well, alright then. I stepped away from him and unhooked my bra. I slid it down my arms and then slowly dangled it in front of his face from behind him before letting it drop in his lap. I grabbed the back hem of his shirt and slowly dragged it up his chest as I let just the tips of my breast drag against his now exposed back. “Now, you are in trouble,” he murmured as I started kissing his neck.

I licked his ear and that’s when he missed a note. “Oh, so who’s in trouble?” I snickered into his ear. I pulled his head back slightly so his throat was exposed. As he eyed me, I pulled to his head to my chest and held it there against my breasts. I leaned one knee on the bench and pressed my body against his shoulder and arm. The music slowed almost infinitesimally, but still his fingers flew.

I stepped back and slid my panties down my legs. I dangled the panties in front of him and giggling, draped them on his head. He leaned forward so that they fell into his lap and suddenly in a burst of incredible speed, played the last 48 bars of music in the time it took to draw a breath.

“No fair!” I cried, as he spun around and grabbed me by the waist.

Seated on the piano bench, he held me against him as I stood between his legs. “Yes, you were completely unfair,” he mumbled with his face pressed against my belly, while his hands stroked my back.

I stroked his head, and he lifted his face. I could see how much my ‘striptease’ had excited and pleased him, as his eyes filled with desire. I took his face between my hands to give him a slow deep kiss, teasing his lips with my tongue. He swept my legs from beneath me with one arm and catching me with the other, we sank gently to the floor.

***

The next morning I was headed toward Billy’s in Edward’s Volvo. It was my favorite car to drive around town because it was the least conspicuous. I stopped at Pierce’s Mobil to gas up. The pump’s card reader was broken so I went inside the old building to pay. While I was waiting for my card to be approved, my eyes wandered over the tabloids displayed by the counter.

‘Brad And Angelina Having Quintuplets’ Geez, would the media leave those people alone, already. ‘Vampire Coven Found in Atlanta’ Probably some Goths found in their parents’ basement. That’s when I saw the picture. Obviously, someone had photo-shopped the picture, but that was clearly Peter and Charlotte in the picture below the headline. “I’ll take this, too” I told the attendant, my mind racing.

Out in the Volvo, I tore the paper open to read the article. There was another close-up of Peter. Someone had drawn fangs on the picture, it was just ridiculous looking. The article said that a coven had been found by an elite federal task force, in an, “X-files type operation. After a tremendous battle, the federal forces were victorious, but not before the entire building had gone up in flames.” The article ended with a bunch of drivel about vampires.

I called Edward on my cell phone. “Can you get a hold of Peter and Charlotte? I’ve just seen something that’s concerning me.”

“Well,” he said, “their number is probably around here somewhere. I’m sure Jasper’s got it, but of course, he’s not here now.”

“Please, give them a call as soon as you can and see if they’re ok.”

“Why, Bella? Is everything alright?” His voice started thickening, and I could tell he was starting to worry.

“Yes, I’m fine. I’ll show you when I get home. I’m on my way to Billy’s now. Just check in on them, ok?”

“Alright,” he said slowly. We said our goodbyes and I snapped the cell phone shut. An elite federal task force? That sounded like a spy novel, for goodness sake. X-files, indeed.

There was no car outside of Billy’s, but Billy greeted me at the door as I walked up, his wheelchair balanced on the jamb.

“Hey, Bella,” he said as he held the door open. “Come on in.” His smile was genuine and his eyes crinkled at the corners. I noticed there was more gray in his hair than I remembered. It made me realize that while I and the Cullens were perpetually ageless, time hadn’t stopped for everybody. Suddenly, Billy looked so fragile and vulnerable.

“Hey, Billy.” The house was small enough that I could see the kitchen table laden with vegetables.

Billy followed my gaze and said, “Just doing some freezing. Embry’s mom brings me a bunch of stuff from their garden each year.”

He wheeled back to the table and started snapping beans. “So what brings you out here? Jacob ok?” He was curious but guarded. I didn’t come out here without Charlie often.

“Jacob’s fine. Heard from them yesterday morning. They were almost in Denali. They were calling before they lost cell phone service.” I pulled up the seat across from him and sat down.

“I would guess it’s pretty spotty out that far.” He dumped the beans in a bowl before grabbing another bunch.

“Oh yeah. You have to climb the hill behind their house before you get reception. Pretty area though. They’ll have a good time.”

“So, something on your mind? I’m betting you didn’t come here to watch me snap beans.” His eyes searched my face.

“Charlie told me that there’s been some trouble at the Elders’ meetings. That there was some kind of protest against Jacob.”

Billy’s hands stilled. “What did he tell you?”

“Well not too much beyond that. And that Sam was having trouble with a group of kids. I was surprised that Jacob hadn’t said anything.”

“Jacob hasn’t been at an Elders’ meeting for some time now.” There was conflict on his face as if he wasn’t sure how much he could tell me. He wheeled over to the counter and started the water running.

“Is he in some kind of trouble?”

“No, not trouble.” His face was serious as he looked at me. “But there’s a faction of the tribe that has some strong objections to the kind of friends he has.”

Suddenly I had to swallow. “Meaning my kind of friends.”

“Yes.” He sighed and turned back to the counter. “You have to realize that our traditions tell us that the whole reason for the shape shifters is to protect against vampires. There are some hotheads who feel Jacob is betraying the tribe by his friendship with you. They refuse to accept the imprinting on Renesmee.” His voice held a note of bitterness in it.

I was speechless for a moment. Then my brain kicked into gear. “What do the elders say?”

“They understand the difference between your group and others of your kind. But you have to realize how frightening it was to have the kind of gathering of vampires we saw a few years back.” He moved back to the table and meet my eyes “A group of some of the youngest wolves want to break off of Sam’s pack and form their own pack. They call themselves the West End pack. They aren’t listening to the elders.”

“Is the treaty in danger?” I whispered. Please, no, I don’t think I could stand to see my family and friends fighting each other.

“Not by the elders. But this group of young-bloods is a pretty fanatical bunch. No one knows what they’re up to. The whole group of them disappeared two weeks ago.” His black eyes watched my face. “Tell your family that we’re watching for the West End pack, and we won’t allow them to move against your family. I would discourage any visitors, though. They would likely move against any others of your kind if they were found wandering about.”

Suddenly I was glad Nessie was in Alaska, safe from any kind of pack turmoil. “Sure. I’ll tell them.”

“Young men, testosterone and power are a dangerous mix,” Billy said, shaking his head.

“Is Jacob in any danger from them?”

Billy suddenly looked ten years older. Worry and stress lined his face. “I would like to say ‘no’, Bella. The truth is they’re very young and extremist, and have no one wiser holding them back. I’ve tried to talk to Jacob, but you know him…”

Yes, I knew Jacob.

We talked for a few minutes more about Charlie and Nessie and then said goodbye. Back at the house, Edward was waiting for me. He hadn’t been able to get Peter or Charlotte on the phone, but had left several messages at the numbers he found for them. I showed him the paper I had bought and his eyebrows drew together. “We should show Carlisle this when he gets home,” he said.

Emmett came in as I was relating my conversation with Billy. Emmett was dismissive of any idea of a threat from “some teenage mutants” as he called them, but Edward immediately understood what Billy must be feeling. “It must be hard for Billy to feel he has to stand up for Jacob against the tribe.”

“Well, its not the whole tribe,” I said. “But I think Billy is worried enough about it to say something to us, and he isn’t one to, well, cry wolf.”

“Oh, that was bad, sis,” Emmett said, shaking his head at my unintentional pun. “Oh, by the way, you wouldn’t happen to know who these belong to?” His face spread in a wicked smile as he fished something blue and lacy from a pocket and dangled it on a finger. I immediately recognized it as my misplaced panties and snatched them away before he could torment me with them any longer.

“Thank you, Emmett; we’ve been looking for those,” Edward said in a polite fashion as his arm snaked around my waist.

“Someone needs to be more mindful about where she disrobes,” Emmett leered at me before laughing at my chagrin. His chuckles trailed behind him as he left the room.

I balled the panties in my fist, determined to continue the conversation. “We need to take Jacob with us when we move east,” I said to Edward. This was our fault. We needed to keep him out of harm’s way.

“Bella, we’ve already invited him. He’s torn. He can’t make up his mind whether he wants to stay or go.” Edward’s voice was gentle, but I knew Edward felt that it was best for Jacob to stay.

We’d had this discussion before. Could Jacob leave his family, his whole community, his pack behind? For what? To hang with a bunch of vampires, for chrissakes? He loved Renesmee, yes, but she was rapidly outgrowing the need for a protector and playmate.

I didn’t want to think about their relationship changing. We didn’t know how imprinted werewolves handled the transition from protector to, well, something more. The only other case we’d heard about where there was a large age difference was Claire and Quil, and she was still in elementary school.

I was very conflicted about this situation. I loved Jacob like a brother, but the thought of him seeing Nessie in any other way than like an uncle made me start to squirm. “Not my daughter!’ I wanted to yell. ‘Let her grow up! We’ve had such a brief childhood with her, don’t rush this.’

Edward had agreed to let Jacob accompany Renesmee and Rosalie on this trip, because he was hoping it would be their goodbye before we moved east. Our family had to move, there was no choice. Edward thought the move, without Jacob, could be a chance for Renesmee mature, to expand her horizons and see some other options. Jacob could come visit, and after some time, once Renesmee was fully grown, then perhaps they could let a different kind of relationship develop.

In other words, Edward, like so many other fathers before him, was completely clueless when it came to his daughter.