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Chasing the Storm

Summary:
AU - What if Alice had seen Bella jump... but Bella answered the phone when Edward called? What if Alice saw a vision of Bella happy... but it wasn't with Edward? What if Edward returned to Forks, with every intention to check on Bella and leave... but when he sees her with someone else, his motives change? How do you choose between the person who was there to catch you when you fell… and the person who was there to make the jump with you in the first place? He let go of my arm, but kept staring at me, and I stared back up at him, eyes wide. "If you're going to let him go, then let him go." --Chapter 12 now posted!


Notes:


11. Chapter 11 - Choice

Rating 5/5   Word Count 2422   Review this Chapter

The problem with chasing the storm is that it wears you down, breaks your spirit. Even the experts agree - a girl needs closure.

After dinner, I told Charlie I was tired so I could lie on my bed alone and think without any interruptions. I wasn't lying - I felt the exhaustion down to my core, in my very bones, but there was no way I was falling asleep. My mind was on overdrive after my conversation with Angela. Even Charlie could see that I was distracted. I think he assumed it had something to do with Edward and his family being back in Forks, and was afraid to ask me what was wrong. He was only half right.

I stared up at the ceiling, letting the sound of the rain lull me into a sense of calm. My thoughts wandered.

I loved Jacob. I loved Edward. Choosing one would mean cutting the other out of my life whether I wanted to or not. Jacob and I could never go back to being just friends - that time was long gone, and I knew that. He would never accept me being with Edward, and he would never accept me becoming a vampire. Just the thought of it would make his blood boil. He was a werewolf, and vampires were their sworn enemies. I understood this.

But Jacob had become such a constant in my life that I couldn't imagine living without him. There was no question that he loved me, and we didn't have problems like eternity and the smell of my blood constantly looming over our heads.

Edward and I had never been just friends, and never could be just friends. Being with Jacob would mean that Edward would willingly walk out of my life for a second and final time. And living without Edward... I had to bite back a gasp at the throbbing pain that ripped through my chest at the thought. I'd lived without him once, and I'd been broken, thoroughly and completely and almost beyond repair. Living without him again would be torture, regardless of the fact that I was still human and he was still a vampire. We'd overcome that obstacle before - we could do so again, even if it was only temporary.

Who do you love more?

And therein laid my answer. I could live without Jacob, although my heart would constantly hurt and ache for him. But I couldn't live without Edward. Jacob deserved more than the piece of my heart he would be getting... because the rest of my heart would always be Edward's to keep.

The epiphany that struck me at that moment had me jumping out of bed and staring at the clock. 12:30 - I'd have to sneak out again, but I'd been able to do so once. I could do it again.

I slipped down the stairs as quickly as possible without letting the stairs or the floorboards creak under my feet. I grabbed my raincoat from the hook by the door and splashed through the rain to my car. I hoped the weather wasn't going to get any worse - this would slow me down enough as it was. Praying once again that my monster of a truck wouldn't wake the dead, much less Charlie, I stuck the key in the ignition and made my way to the highway. I drove down the winding roads as quickly as I dared in this weather, reminding myself multiple times that it was dark and the roads were slippery and that I wasn't a vampire - if I got into an accident, I would not be able to just get up and walk away.

And I was on a mission - there could be no accidents tonight.

I let out a loud breath when the Cullens' house finally came into view and let the car idle as I threw open the door and splashed up onto the porch. I didn't even have to knock - Emmett and Jasper were already outside, looking thoroughly confused.

"Bella, what are you-"

"Where's Edward?"

The two of them glanced at each other. I could see the unspoken conversation occurring between them. If I didn't know any better, I could swear they were reading each other's thoughts. But no, that was Edward, and he obviously wasn't here. So, where was he?

I narrowed my eyes. "Jasper, if you don't tell me, I'll just drive around town for hours in this storm."

"And she will look for him," Alice added, walking out and towards us slowly with that grace she always seemed to possess. "Just tell her."

Emmett sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "He said he'd be at the meadow, but Bella-"

"Thanks," I said, instantly turning around now that I had the information I needed. I'd only gotten down a single step before a hand on my arm stopped me from going any further.

"Bella, what's going on?" Emmett asked, even though it was Jasper's hand on my arm. "I expected to come home to find the two of you back to being nauseatingly adorable in our living room, and instead, I find Edward moping, and you're nowhere in sight."

I sighed. I didn't want to discuss this right now. "Emmett, I will tell you everything later. I promise. But right now I have to find Edward." I eyed Alice carefully as I spoke my next words. "I have to tell him that I made a choice."

I could tell Alice was fighting a smile. The corner of her lips was twitching. "Well, what are you standing around here talking to us for?" she exclaimed, slapping Jasper's hand away from my arm, much to his surprise. "Go!"

I gave her a smile and sped off to my truck, almost slipping in the rain-soaked grass.

The ride to the meadow felt excruciatingly long even though I was pushing sixty - as fast as my truck could possibly go without the risk of breaking down. I fumbled around the glove compartment for a flashlight when I reached the end of the road, jumped from the cab, and practically ran towards the trees, taking care not to trip over any roots or fallen trees as I made my way through the woods. The fact that the flashlight actually worked was a miracle in and of itself. Somehow, I was sure I was going the right way. I just let my feet guide me. The canopy of the trees acted as a cover from the steadily falling rain, but by the time I reached the meadow, I was still drenched and shivering.

The sky was dark, thunderclouds looming overhead, but the dimming flashlight gave off just enough light to see, and my breath caught in my throat at the sight before me. There, standing under the shadows of the trees on the other side of the meadow, was Edward, perfect and beautiful as ever, even soaked with rain.

His eyes met mine and I made my way towards him. He slowly walked towards me, and we met at the center of the clearing. I turned off the flashlight and shoved it in my pocket.

"Bella," he said, voice soft and just a little surprised - I reveled in the fact that I was still able to shock him every once in a while. "Is everything all right?"

"Everything is fine."

Edward eyed me warily. "Then... what are you doing here."

I took a deep breath. It was now or never. "I made my choice, Edward." I could see him visibly still. I brushed my hand against his cheek. "I love you. I will alwayslove you. I think somewhere, deep down, my choice was already made for me. Because I can't live without you, Edward. I don't want to."

Edward took both of my hands in his. "Bella..." He hesitated. "Are you sure this is what you want? What you truly need?"

"Do you love me?"

The look on his face at my question defied words. His eyes went wide, incredulous, the will to question me seeming to leak out of him. His entire body went from rigid to slack in all of a few seconds. The rain was still falling in sheets around us, but of course, Edward was unaffected by the cold wind and the thunder and lightning crashing through the sky. I was freezing, fighting the shivers that threatened to overtake me – because he still hadn’t answered my question, and, while he had told me time and time again over the past few days that he'd only left me for my own good, while I'd even told Angela otherwise, a part of me still did not believe him.

I took a deep breath, summoning my courage – so I could ask him again.

Do you love me?”

This time, his amber eyes took on an emotion I’d never seen before and didn’t understand. I stared into his painfully beautiful, perfectly angelic face, trying to make sense of the expression in his eyes, patiently waiting for his answer to come.

He took a deep breath, even though I knew he didn’t need it. Then, he cupped my face in his hands. My heart fluttered in my chest.

“Isabella Marie Swan,” he said, his voice soft and full of emotion, and my heart thrilled at the sound of my full name on his lips. “My entire life, my entire existence, I have never loved anything else as much as I love you. You are my life, my world. I am nothing without you.”

I simply stared up at him, the rain still pouring down on us, shivering with cold, and the rational part of my brain told me that I should get back to the car before I caught pneumonia, or some other equally unpleasant sickness.

Then, I looked into his eyes again, and I ignored the rational part of my brain.

I threw myself into his arms with a gasp, knowing very well that doing so was probably stupid, but forgetting all of the reasons I should care as my lips met his.

His lips were cold and hard but yielding against mine, and he shocked me when he put his arms around me, pulling my entire body against him instead of pushing me away like I’d expected him to. I let one of my hands tangle in his hair and let the other rest on his shoulder. He pulled away from me for a moment, and I let out a little sound of protest, but then I felt his lips moving along my throat, and the protest died on my lips. I trembled as one of his hands moved slowly up and down my spine, the other running along my throat. His mouth moved to my jaw, then to the shell of my ear, and I fought back another gasp before pulling his mouth back to meet mine again.

I tried to think of another time when he’d kissed me like this so freely, and I came up blank. Any time we’d gotten this carried away, even that first real kiss after he returned in my bedroom, he’d slowly inched away from me, at least enough for me to know I’d gone too far.

Tonight, it seemed he had just as much control over himself as I did. He slid his hand from where it was resting at my throat to tangle in my hair at the base of my neck, and used his other hand on my lower back to pull me tighter still against him. I reached up and twined both of my arms around his neck, relishing in the feel of having him this close. I wanted him closer. I wanted more. I slid my tongue along his lower lip.

That seemed to be the breaking point for even his ironclad self-control. Ever-so-gently, Edward leaned away from me, just far enough to let me know that we had to stop.

I tried to control my breathing, not wanting to make things harder for him, but knew that it was a lost cause. My breaths came in shallow gasps, my heart beating furiously in my chest. He kissed the hollow of my throat, and my heartbeat continued to soar to unheard of heights.

“Wow,” I was finally able to wheeze out.

He chuckled. “Yes. That seems to be appropriate.” He brushed a strand of hair out of my face, not that it mattered – I was sure that my head resembled a rat’s nest.

“Now, do you believe that what I feel for you is real? That it’s just as intense, more so even, as what you feel for me,” he murmured, laying a kiss on the tip of my nose.

I nodded. After all that, how could I not? But still, my eyes narrowed. "And do you believe that this is what I want? What I truly need?"

Edward smiled, and it lit up his entire face. "How can I not when you look at me that way?"

My heart stuttered in my chest and I glared at him playfully. "Good."

He chuckled, slid his arm around my shoulder and started walking towards the edge of the woods. “Why don’t we get you home and into some dry-“

He didn’t finish his sentence. Instead, Edward went rigid beside me. I’d seen this sort of behavior before, and I knew what it meant, even before I saw the way his nose turned up as if he’d smelled something foul, or the way his eyes glared in the general direction of the trees.

I turned my gaze to follow Edward’s, but I hadn’t needed to. I knew what I would see without even having to look.

Jacob was standing on the edge of the meadow. From the absolutely broken and furious look on his face, I would guess that he had seen and heard everything that had gone on between Edward and me in the past few minutes.

In the moments it took me to process that Jacob was really standing there, that I should take a step forward and say something, anything, to ease the look of pain off of his face, there was a sound like thunder crashing through the clearing as Edward was suddenly ripped from beside me, and all hell broke loose.