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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.


9. Chapter 9 Fire

Rating 3.2/5   Word Count 2822   Review this Chapter

Jane

I leaned back against the Hummer, feeling like a rock star in my black leather. It was just so satisfying to be out and about, in control of my own destiny. Being a part of the decision makers instead of kowtowing to them.

I glanced over to see Mei-An, expressionless in the passenger seat. She was definitely a strange one. Was it just the language barrier that kept her so silent? I’d picked up some Chinese when I knew we’d be working together, but any attempts to draw her into conversation were useless. The only time she came alive was when it was time to feed, and then she was voracious and merciless.

I sighed. Newborns, a necessary evil.

Demetri and Alec sat in the Hummer behind us, as we waited for our final members to show up. We were waiting at a turn off on the highway’s final approach to Denali. We’d be hitting the Denali coven as soon as the human part of our little gathering arrived. I wasn’t looking forward to having to work with these clowns, but Caius insisted a human intermediary was essential to working with the werewolves, even if we were never to see them. The werewolves would be manning perimeter control and providing cover against a certain fortuneteller.

Another black Hummer matching ours pulled into the turn-off and screeched to a halt, causing gravel to scatter. Five burly men dressed in black tee shirts and fatigue pants pushed their way out of the car. They strode over to me with that bowlegged gait particular to the over-muscled. They all had buzz cuts and gear and guns pinned all over their bodies. Well, these weren’t Army regulars, that was for sure. They stank of mercenaries.

“I’m Captain Geary,” the point man said. He was in his thirties, with sandy hair and rugged looks. Obviously used to being in authority. I’d pop that little bubble soon enough. He indicated to his left and right as he spoke. “These are Sergeants Boz and Petrucci, Lieutenant Sanders and Private Elmen.” They all nodded in turn. “We’ll be providing your perimeter control and safety back up.”

He looked me up and down, obviously unimpressed. Each of these bozos was twice my weight and had a good foot or more on me. “What arms are you carrying?” he asked.

“Everything we need, don’t worry. Just try to keep up and keep out of the way,” I said sarcastically as I yanked the Hummer door to jump in.

Captain Geary put his hands on the door as if to stop me. “Can I ask what your strategy is?”

Private Elmen was nearest to me, and I supposed he would be the most expendable among them. I took three steps too quickly for them to react. I stiff-armed Private Elmen in the chest and he went soaring in an arc and crashed into a tree twenty feet away and ten feet off the ground. He slid down the trunk and landed face first in the dirt.

The rest of them took a step back from me in varying degrees of alarm. “No, you can’t,” I spat at them. “Any other questions?” I looked them all in the eye in turns and let their unconscious recognize the danger they faced. It was easy to see they were adjusting their estimate of me. “I thought not.” I hopped in the Hummer and revved the engine. I disdainfully looked back at Elmen. “Pick him up and follow me. Stay in your car when we get there.”

The two sergeants ran over to the tree where Elmen lay unmoving. “Crazy bitch,” one of them muttered as they grabbed the unconscious man.

That made me smile and I pulled out onto the highway.

The driveway was a narrow dirt and gravel road several miles long. Mei-An and I bounced along the pockmarked road without a word. I pulled my Hummer up onto the front lawn to face the door. Woods and hills surrounded the house, except by the west face which overlooked a gorge. I could hear the river rushing down below.

The other cars pulled up next to mine. In Chinese, I spoke to Mei-An. “Get out of the car now, but stay near. Burn what I tell you.”

A deck wrapped around two sides of the house. Tanya came out the front door and watched as we disembarked from the cars.

“Jane, Alec, Demetri.” She nodded to each of us and eyed the silent Mei-an. “I can’t say it’s a pleasure to see you,” she said warily. “To what do I owe the honor of this visit?”

“Some unfinished business,” I told her. “Where are the rest of your, er, family?” I grimaced at the word. A family; heresy again. Pretending to be human, it was humiliating to see.

“I’m here alone,” she lied. “What kind of business?”

“We’ve been unhappy with your lifestyle choices,” I said, priding myself on using current vernacular. “You’re disgracing your race.”

“Who is we?” She challenged me as she stepped forward. “You’re not cloaked. I’ve heard the Volturi were disbanded.” Damn, word gets around quickly.

“What are you doing here, Jane?” she asked suspiciously.

“What I’m doing,” I hissed through my teeth, “is cleaning up the mess that Aro left behind.”

“The mess that Aro left?” Tanya’s tone was becoming scornful. “We’ve violated none of your laws. We’ve endangered nobody’s secrets. There are no immortal children here.”

I saw her eyes flick up to the hill behind our backs. Interesting. Was that where the rest of her coven cowered?

The conversation was becoming tedious. I glanced over to Alec. He understood immediately and let the fog of his perception blanket start drifting towards Tanya.

“It’s not immortal children or secrets, Tanya.” I said through clenched teeth.

Tanya suddenly realized how grave her situation was and she started backing towards the door to the house. I focused on her, let rip a spear of pain and she fell to her knees. Alec’s fog caught up with her then, trapping her in a cocoon of blackness and non-perception.

“Mei-An,” I commanded. “Burn her.”

Mein-An started gathering the energy necessary. It was an interesting phenomenon to watch, but I was pulled away by the arrival of Tanya’s coven member, Kate and Rosalie Cullen.

Rosalie Cullen! Oh, this was a treat. I smiled at them as they came to stand in the yard. Tanya kneeled unmoving on the porch, staring blankly. Kate took in Tanya’s vacant face and growling, strode towards Alec, but Demetri grabbed her first. Mei-An released the fireball and Tanya and the deck burst into flames.

Kate started screaming, while Demetri held back her arms, as the kneeling Tanya became the center of an inferno. Rosalie launched herself at Mei-An, but I focused on her and she dropped to the ground, writhing and screaming, her beautiful features contorted into a grotesque mask. “Mei-An,” I commanded, “her next," gesturing with my chin towards Rosalie.

Mei-An’s hair was writhing wildly just as Demetri groaned and dropped to the ground. Kate had shocked him and she sprang towards Alec. Alec had always been a distance fighter; he had no practice with hand to hand combat. Kate barreled into him and together they went hurling across the yard.

“No!” I yelled, as I realized the trajectory Kate and Alec were taking as they tumbled across the lawn. Mei-An spun the fireball outwards and Kate and Alec took the brunt of it. Still grappling with each other, fire crawling up their skin, they crashed into the side of the Hummer. The side of it crumpled under their impact. I smelled the gasoline a second before the Hummer exploded, its chassis blasting into the air. It flipped in the air, pieces bursting from it. Burning chunks rained onto the yard, and the hills around us echoed with the boom.

Damn! But I had no time to mourn Alec, as I realized, in my distraction I had released Rosalie, who shot towards me, a grim and determined look on her face. I filled her with my most concentrated pain then, and she fell to the ground, shrieking and thrashing, mere feet away from where I stood.

I turned to Mei-An, keeping a part of my mind on Rosalie. Mei-An stood there blankly, her face expressionless. “You stupid cow!” I yelled at her in Chinese. “I meant her,” gesturing with my chin at the fallen and screeching Rosalie. Mei-An cocked her head to one side, her face totally impassive. Her red leathers glinted with the reflected flames from the burning Hummer and the house as the inferno crept up to the roof. Her long straight black hair started to lift.

I glanced at Rosalie, considering this unexpected prize and how best I might profit. “Wait,” I commanded to Mei-An, but she was too far gone in the process. At the last moment she twisted away and the fireball went crashing into the side of the house, splashing against the propane tank which exploded. It sent up another wall of flame and rocked the hillsides with the blast.

Demetri approached me cautiously, keeping his distance from the thrashing figure on the ground. “That sucks about Alec,” he commented his hands on his hips. I shot him a murderous glance. This is what he had to say of this disaster? He backed away to leave me with my thoughts on what the best use of Rosalie Cullen would be.

We both heard it then, a crashing sound as something big and fast moved through the forest towards us. “Are those wolves providing any perimeter control at all?” I complained to Demetri as I anticipated another visit.

A huge wolf came streaking out of the trees towards us, catching Demetri’s shoulder and hurling him to the ground. Not one of ours, then. It danced around Demetri, tearing at him with its teeth, using its weight to bowl Demetri over as he tried to rise. Demetri finally gained his feet, and the two of them circled around the yard, feinting and dodging.

“Mei-An,” I yelled. “Burn the dog! Just the dog, please.”

Demetri and the wolf were circling each other, snarling and growling. Demetri stepped too close to Rosalie and in her convulsions, she grabbed his ankle. He fell to the ground, and the wolf was instantly on him. There was that awful screeching sound and the wolf, with a violent flick of its neck, threw Demetri’s unattached head over its shoulder. It went rolling across the yard as the body slumped to the grass.

Mei-An let loose another fireball, smaller and less fierce than the others. It caught the wolf full on the flank, forcing the wolf to the ground with its force, its fur crackling into flame. Still, it sprang towards me, snarling fiercely. I caught it with my boot just as it lunged and with a satisfying kick saw it go sailing over the edge of the gorge. It flew like a meteor, the flames streaking behind it. Three seconds later, I caught the resounding thud as it hit the bottom of the gorge.

Now I was really angry. These were unacceptable losses, Alec and then Demetri. Still keeping Rosalie pinned to the ground, I strode over to the third Hummer where Captain Geary and his men sat. I punched through the driver’s window glass and grabbed Captain Geary by the throat. The stunned man was pale beneath his tan.

“Captain,” I said calmly, not wanting the man to become completely incoherent, “I have had two very unpleasant surprises now. I don’t want any more. Is our perimeter secure?”

“No, Ma’m” he whispered, my grip constricting his throat. “Team Lupus says they have a captive, a girl, they believe is part of this group. We should go meet them and escort the prisoner down.”

I released his throat. “Then go.” The four of them jumped from the vehicle and circled it, trying to keep as much distance from me as possible. “Ma’m,” the Captain spoke up. “We’ve also heard on the scanner that the ranger station has reported the fire. Fire trucks will be here soon.” He backed up, following his men into the trees.

“Get the prisoner and return. Quickly,” I ordered.

Great, now humans would be arriving in force. This debacle was going from bad to worse. I turned to survey the area. Centuries of practice in hiding the evidence kicked in.

Mei-An was drifting across the yard, the way the soldiers had gone, starting to curl into a hunting stance. I looked into the back of the Hummer where the barely conscious Elmen was groaning. I opened the back door and yanked him out by his arm. “Mei-An,” I called. “Drink,” I shouted as I threw the man’s body over to where she was. It landed at her feet and she was on him in an instant. “Throw him in the fire when you’re done,” I instructed her.

Demetri’s body was a definite problem. I gathered his twitching body and threw it in back of the Hummer. It took me a moment to find his head, but then I tossed it in the back as well. He’d be out of commission for some time while he knitted back together, but he would recover eventually. Those tracking skills of his were important.

Mei-An finished her snack, and threw the body at the house, which now was completely engulfed in flames. I heard the men coming back through the forest, accompanied by someone sniffling and wheezing. Not a vampire then. They broke through the trees, two of them hauling a girl between them.

I met them halfway across the yard. Boz and Petrucci held the girl up by her shoulders; her head was down and she sagged between them. I glanced back where Rosalie was still moaning and clutching the dirt.

Something about this girl was very familiar and I stepped nearer for a closer look. I caught a whiff of blood; she’d scraped her knee at some point.

“Look at me,” I ordered. Her head rose slowly. Her bronze hair framed a heart shaped face, her brown eyes brimming with tears which had left trails down her face. Her eyes were huge with fear.

The pieces suddenly came together. “Well, Renesmee, you’ve grown a bit since I’ve seen you last.” Her head dropped again, but I brought my finger up under her chin. “We’re going to have some fun together, you and I. I’ve been meaning to catch up with your parents.” Renesmee! Suddenly this debacle had turned around. Her capture was so much better than Rosalie’s. A bargaining chip, a bit of leverage, some payback to Bella, all of these were now possible with Renesmee in my hands.

Her huge eyes shifted from side to side, then settled on where Rosalie groveled in the dirt. “Rosalie!” she cried.

“Stop that!” I ordered her and slapped her across the face. She shrieked with the pain and slumped further down the grip of the soldiers.

“You leave her alone,” a voice hoarse and strained came from behind me. Mei-An was drifting towards us, her eyes locked on Renesmee’s bleeding knee. It wasn’t Mei-An though, who had spoken. Rosalie was pulling her self along the ground towards us, her face contorted and monstrous with pain and rage.

Nobody in my centuries had ever been able to withstand the pain I gave them. Nobody. I concentrated harder at Rosalie, pouring all of my energy into the spears of pain I flung her way. She grunted and shivered but then continued her relentless but slow progress towards me, determination settling lines into the once beautiful face. Her manicured fingers dug into the dirt as she pulled herself along.

Off in the distance, out on the highway, I could hear the sirens of the fire trucks. My time was running short. I grabbed Mei-An by the shoulders, tearing her eyes away from Renesmee. I pointed her at Rosalie. “Burn her,” I commanded.

I turned to Geary and the men. “She rides with you,” I directed, indicating Renesmee. Mei-An wouldn’t be able to stand Renesmee’s close proximity with an open wound.

Mei-An was standing still, motionless. “Burn her, you Asian pig!” I yelled. Mei-An looked at me, her face deadpan and spoke the first words that night. “The fire is tired,” she said in a monotone. “The river. Too many water in the air.”

I shrieked in exasperation. This night had been cursed from start to finish, with one bright exception. “Get in the car!”

I stomped over to Rosalie, who hissed at me as I approached her. That girl was fucking stubborn, I’d give her that. I picked her up by her designer jean clad leg and with a discus like move, heaved her into the burning house. She crashed through a second story window.

The sirens were getting louder and louder. “Get her in the car and go!” I yelled at Geary and his men, who had watched this with blank faces. I ran over to the Hummer and kicked the engine to life. In the rear view mirror, I could see them manhandling Renesmee into the car, so I stomped on the accelerator and the Hummer leaped forward.

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