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A Litany at Dusk

Summary:
Thanks to hellacullen for the awesome banner! Edward’s rebellious period wasn't just a few years; it lasted seventy. Having spent his years hunting on the edges of society, he rejoins his family in Forks ready to abstain when he runs acorss a young woman praying. Can a choice be made between one's desires, one's heart and one's soul? Will Edward be willing to fight for her instead of fighting against her? A/U a bit OOC, rated for lemons and adult content, some violence


Notes:
Thanks to PTB for their assistance and to hellacullen, who is the wind beneath my wings! Her consistent and intelligent commentary, suggestions and cheerleading were incredible and I wish everyone a beta like hellacullen. I own nothing of Twilight. Let's see who could be the owner? Possibly SM?


8. Chapter 8 Into the Den of Lions

Rating 5/5   Word Count 2473   Review this Chapter

This chapter contains a description of a graphic violent attack. Please be warned. Skip it if you need to.

Bella

Arlene stood behind the counter watching me, her hands on her hips. “You sure you don’t want to stick around? Maybe just have a cup of coffee or something? Selena will be here in an hour and then I can drive you home,”

I pulled on my sweater and pulled my ponytail out of the collar. “No, thanks anyway. I’m beat. I need to get out of here. I can be home in twenty minutes. ” I’d just had an eight hour overnight shift; it was four o’clock in the morning and waiting around another hour was not an appealing idea. I wanted to go home and take off my shoes and stockings, count my tips and crash.

“Well, you be careful,” Arlene said, frowning.

“Don’t worry, I will. Good night, Frank!” I yelled into the pass-through. He was bending over the ice machine and waved a hand at me in acknowledgement.

“See you Friday,” I told Arlene as I pushed the door to the diner open.

“G’night, hon,” she called.

Thankfully, the night was cooler than it had been lately. It wasn’t humid, so it wasn’t a bad night to be walking. The streets were deserted at this hour with just an occasional car going by at the cross street ahead.

My footsteps echoed against the buildings and the concrete sidewalks. Not too many streetlights in this section, but it would be better lit as I got closer to my duplex. I fell into the rhythm of walking, my hands thrust into the pockets of my apron.

I had the next two nights off, so I was planning what I would do with my time. I had some library books to return, and I wanted to catch up with my father. Maybe he’d come get me and bring me back to Forks. I could check in with that junk yard in Olympia and see if they had found a matching engine for my truck.

My mind wandered over my conversation with Jake. I hated how I had fallen apart in front of him. Next time I saw him, I’d keep it cool—aloof—even though I missed him terribly. I missed his laughter and the way he’d wrap me in his arms and pick me up like I weighed nothing. I missed the way our bodies had moved together.

Up ahead at the stop light, a sole car was waiting at the red light. It was an old American car with a door panel painted a flat grey. The bass beat was thumping from it loud enough that I could hear it from a block away. The light turned green, and the tires squealed as it took off down Alder. I could hear it fade into the distance.

I kept walking past the construction site of the new high rise and the Starbucks on the corner. It was open, but there were only a handful of customers sitting at the tables. I turned onto 28th Avenue when I heard a car come up the road from behind me. Hearing the thumping of the bass beat, I glanced over my shoulder. It was creeping up the street slowly, like a predator stalking prey, and when the music suddenly cut out, the hairs started to rise on the back of my neck. The silhouettes of several people in the car were barely visible, and as it passed under a streetlamp, the face of the male driver, young and hard, flashed briefly. I thought about heading back to the Starbucks, but that meant I would have to pass the car which wasn’t a good idea if the people in that car were looking for trouble.

I decided to take a quick left onto Spruce Street and rounded the corner quickly. There was a basement entrance to the building on my left, so I quickly descended into the dark, dank stairwell and ducked so I couldn’t be seen from the street. My mouth got dry when I saw the headlights from the car sweep the wall across the street; they were trying to follow me. My heart started beating faster. Suddenly, I felt like a rabbit crouched in the underbrush as a fox trotted past. This was not good. Definitely not good.

I breathed a little easier when I heard the car move down the street, and I peeked out of my stairwell to see the red taillights of the car as it took a right. Jumping out of the stairwell, I took off, retracing my steps back onto 28th. I had gone another block when the same car came screeching around the corner. It pulled up and stopped in the street next to me. As soon as I realized there were three men getting out of the car doors, I started running. My father had always told me to run at the first sign of trouble; don't wait around to see what form it was going to take. So I took off running, my heart already starting to thump in my chest hard enough that if felt like it would jump right out of it. Above the slapping of my shoes on the concrete, I heard them yelling and laughing behind me, and it frightened me even more. I glanced back over my shoulder. Shit! They were coming after me.

"Come back! Come back!" they yelled. "We just want to ask you a question!" There was laughter accompanying this; apparently even they couldn't believe their own lies.

Yeah, right. If I got hurt, my father was going to be so pissed. He hadn't wanted me to move to the city, just because he feared for my safety.

I put my head down and concentrated on the act of putting some distance between me and danger. The change in my apron pocket bounced against my thigh heavily with each stride, so I scrunched the pocket in my hand as I ran. I’d walked this way many times before, why tonight? I had never been a track star and was still getting my stamina back after the hospital, so it occurred to me that trying to outrun them might not be the best strategy. My chest was starting to hurt, and the mere act of running was making me feel even more scatter-brained and scared.

I glanced back over my shoulder. Oh shit, oh crap! They were closing the gap but still half a block behind. All I could hear was the sound of my own labored breathing, coming harder with every second and the pounding of my shoes on the pavement. Please, Jesus, get me out of this.

I took a right at the next corner; I didn’t even know what street it was. Oh, thank you, Jesus. There was a store with the lights on. I ran across the street to the lighted shop windows and yanked on the shop door, disbelieving when the door didn’t budge. No! No! Please, Mother of Christ, it has to be open! I pounded on the door with the flat of my hands, trying to raise some kind of attention, but no one appeared from the back. Panting with exertion, I shivered as I realized the store was closed. The lights were just security.

I turned back to see the three of them spread out along the street, slowly walking towards me. They were all young men, looking as focused and dangerous as lions stalking a gazelle. The street around us seemed buttoned up tight, all the doors and windows dark and foreboding. There were a few lights in the upper stories; attracting attention would be my next gambit.

I untied my apron and held it out, trying to seem confident and unafraid. “Here’s the money. You can have it.” I swung the apron by its ties and tossed it gently so it landed twenty feet away, at the feet of the man in the center. He was taller than the others and more heavily built, dressed in low slung jeans and a beater. In the reflected lights of the store behind my back, I could see he had an intricate tattoo that reached up from below the collar of his shirt to flow across his neck and onto the right side of his face. He crouched down and felt around into the pocket of the apron. He pulled out the thick wad of bills; I hoped it looked impressive, but I knew it was almost all one-dollar bills.

He thumbed idly through the bills, still crouching, while his cohorts looked on with mild curiosity to see what they had reaped. I took a moment and fixed their faces in my mind, so I could identify them to the police later. There was tattoo-ed guy, who seemed satisfied with the wad of bills. To the right was a younger man with a shaved head, looking pasty against the darkness of his black tee shirt. On the left was the oldest, his black, shiny hair slicked straight back off his creased forehead.

The center man straightened up and thrust my tips into his pocket. “Well, it’s a start,” he said, revealing a smile with a several gaps as he took a step towards me.

I let out the loudest, blood-curdling scream I could manage and broke out into a run from my narrow sanctuary of light. Fleeing down the sidewalk, I yelled as loud as I could manage, desperately hoping to attract attention from the lighted windows of the higher floors of the buildings on the street. “Help! Help!”

I had made half a dozen strides when I was slammed from behind and flung hard onto the pavement of the sidewalk. It knocked the air from my lungs, and I struggled to take a breath while my legs were imprisoned beneath the heavy weight of my attacker. The sidewalk was gritty and gravelly beneath my face, and my hands started to sting with the scrapes I had suffered using them to break my fall.

The weight on my legs let up, but I stayed down, staring at the dark pavement beneath my nose while I fought for breath. Jesus, help me. Mary, help me. Gasping for air, I heard them make a few remarks between themselves.

I was grabbed roughly by both of my arms and dragged along the ground, my knees and toes scraping along the pavement. I tried to get my feet underneath me but stumbled again, tearing up my knees and making shreds of my stockings. As I was pulled along the sidewalk, I really began to fear for my life.

My father was a police chief and he had always drilled certain safety tips into me. Run first, ask questions later. If you can’t run, scream. Make noise, attract attention. And finally, don’t go if they try to take you anywhere. It’s better to fight where you are than be taken to an unknown location.

I finally got a full breath into my lungs and threw my legs out in front of me. Tattoo-ed man was leading us down the street while Baldy and Greasy were gripping my arms painfully. I tried to twist my arms out of their grip, but it was useless. I started to scream when tattoo-ed man whipped around and punched me viciously in the stomach. Sagging between the arms of my captors, I was thrown into spasms of nausea by the punch and by my own growing terror.

They dragged me into an alley between two buildings and let me sag onto the ground that was littered with paper, glass bits and sticky residue. I caught myself with my hands, gasping for breath, unsure if it was fear or the abdominal punch that was making it so hard to breathe. I was yanked backwards by my arm again, feeling pain shoot through my shoulder as it was twisted forcefully. I screamed again and this time was laid on my back. Baldy and Greasy had me by the arms, and they kneeled on my forearms, trapping and nearly crushing them. Above me, tattoo-ed man stood, nudging my knees with his foot, separating my legs.

I had lost the ability to think or even pray coherently. I closed my eyes and just started repeating to myself, Hail Mary, full of grace, Hail Mary, full of grace, Hail Mary, full of grace.

Tattoo-ed man knelt between my legs, and while I couldn’t even make out the words as my attackers murmured and laughed among themselves, I distinctly heard the snick of a switchblade knife opening. I felt a breeze as my uniform was parted, and the shreds of my stockings torn from me. It was when I felt the cold blade of the knife against my hipbone as he cut through my cotton underwear, that I jumped and cried out again. I felt a line of fire trace along my side, immediately followed by a trickle of warmth; I had been cut. Somebody slapped my face and my head whipped to the side. “I said, be quiet, bitch!”

Hail Mary, full of grace, Hail Mary, full of grace. Suddenly, there was a strange gargling sound above me, and a puff of air as if something very fast had passed by. The pressure from my arms was released instantaneously, and I laid there, sure something even more terrible was about to happen. What caused my eyes to fly open was the low snarling and growling, like I’d only heard in the lions’ house at the zoo once when Renee had taken me.

Crouched against the wall, an attacker held in each of his hands, was Edward. He held them face down on the ground by the scruff of their necks, and I saw them start to struggle feebly against what must have been an iron grip because they were trapped as surely as flies in amber. It was Edward’s face that caused me to gasp, this time in surprise.

His eyes were huge and dark, and his eyebrows were drawn fiercely together. He looked as savage and brutal as the blade of a hatchet, and his eyes glittered malevolently. His skin was ghostly pale, drawn tight and pinched over his prominent cheekbones. I couldn’t imagine a fiercer, more ferocious avenging angel.

He looked at me and hoarsely whispered, “Run, Isabella, run.”

I was paralyzed by the sudden turn of events and his unexpected presence here, but mostly by the pain, anger and savagery on his face.

He stared at me a moment longer. “Run!” he roared, making me jump.

I bolted to my feet, grabbing the scraps of my clothing around me, and took off, fleeing for the sanctuary of my home.