She would tear the stars
from her own soul
on a clear night
just to hang them in the sky
to guide you home
~ Michelle Schaper
Bella was frantic once she had awakened. She continually mumbled about figures in cloaks. I had to reassure her that the Volturi did not have us on their radar, or Alice would have seen something. It did not matter what I said, she still paced and chewed her thumb. From the front door, through the living room and dining room, and back to in front of the couch where I was standing.
"Bella, love, please settle down. You are completely safe here."
I grabbed her by the shoulders at that point and brought her around to face me. Grasping her cheeks gently in my palms, I focused on her eyes. "Look at me. It will be fine. Nothing is going to happen. Even if they did want to come here, we would be prepared."
"Don't you remember all the talented guard members Renée spoke of? Demitri and Chelsea and Aro! Charlie said they wanted to kill me and force Renée into service! You can't be sure nothing would go wrong," Bella lamented.
"You are correct, I cannot be positive. I can only be prepared to the best of my ability, and trust that my family is equally prepared." I stroked her cheekbones as I spoke, staring into the depths of her eyes to convey my sincerity. She needed to calm down.
"But I just—I just don't know what to do," she admitted on a whisper.
"Stop worrying. If there is anything to worry about, Alice will let us know." I kissed her forehead, pulling her tense body close to mine and willing her to relax.
It required several minutes of stroking her back as I held her before she seemed to take deep breaths and her shoulders dropped. Her arms came around me and she tucked her head into my neck, sighing.
"I don't know what I'd do if something happened to you. I couldn't survive it if you were taken from me," she cried.
I knew the feeling all too well, and the underlying worry that anything could go wrong at a moment's notice was crippling if focused upon. It was having your heart tethered so tightly to another soul that you knew you would cease to exist if those ties were severed. Yet, as easy as it would be, I refuse to spend my existence in fear.
"You cannot let fear rule you. You would end up curled in a ball all day worried about what comes next. I know you well enough to know that is out of character for you." I soothed her again with my hands on her arms, and she looked at me, a little teary-eyed.
"I know, logically. It's just that, the dream I had unnerved me so much. It was so realistic, so much like the events were impending." She frowned. "That sounds crazy."
"It is not crazy when Alice has these visions. I would not suggest that anything you dream is crazy, rather that it could be the product of an overworked mind," I assured her.
"I guess I'm just worried that someone will find out that the people the Volturi have spent decades searching for are here with us. I'm scared they'll take you from me," she confessed. "I need you."
"You have me, Bella. Forever."
She was already close, already warm and soft. It took little effort to push her robe off her shoulders and kiss the satiny skin. It was not a hardship to form my hands around her full breasts, easy enough to run my tongue down her body as the material disappeared. Bringing her to a stunning orgasm as she pulled my hair, pulling my head closer, was effortless. It was instinctual to pick her up and carry her to the bed, to spread her out on the comforter and enter her body. She arched, crying out into the still morning air, as I rocked my hips to give us both pleasure, but more than that, a connection. To know there was no room between us for anyone to interfere in our love story.
"Yes, yes, yes," she moaned repeatedly, and I answered her begging with my body.
As we lay next to each other, Bella panting and sweaty, my love curled into me with her chin on my chest. "You are the devil," she laughed. "You've got me loose and relaxed now, haven't you?"
I kissed her forehead and laughed lightly as she threw a pillow at me as she got up from the bed. I made her some breakfast while she showered and dressed, then I took my turn in the shower as she ate. So far, the domestic bliss situation my family had provided us with was highly enjoyable.
We made our way to the main house slowly, walking hand in hand. I had to help Bella over the river, but other than that, she made it on her own. The Clearwaters had gone home yesterday, so it was just Charlie and Renée in the kitchen when we entered. They each had mugs of coffee, but I detected the scent of bacon lingering in the air.
Bella sat on the opposite side of the table from her parents. "What are you doing today?" she asked them.
"Since I've already said my piece with my father, I suppose I'll stay here," Charlie answered. It seemed he wanted to stay close to Bella.
Bella's eyebrows went up. "Okay. I'm over the idea of trying to shift until it isn't so cold out, so unless Renée wants to do some elemental practice, I don't have any ideas."
"It's almost Christmas; what are your plans for that?" Renée inquired of her daughter.
"Our tradition is to visit the retirement home in La Push and spend time with the elders. Jacob has a group of friends that are going there instead, so I was hoping to move that tradition to Forks this year."
"That's what you do for Christmas?" Charlie said, his voice an octave higher. He was impressed, but it was hard to tell by his words.
"Yeah, what's wrong with that?" Bella was ready to defend her traditions. Charlie put her on the defensive.
"No, nothing is wrong with your idea. I'm just impressed, I suppose." Now he was abashed, worried that he had offended her.
"Oh. Okay. So, do you want to join us?" she asked, looking between Charlie and Renée.
"Sure, that sounds like a nice way to spend a holiday. It would be awkward to try to buy gifts for everyone, anyway," Renée laughed.
Bella chuckled. "Tell me about it. What do you buy for all of these vampires that have had centuries to collect whatever they're fond of?"
Charlie paled. "There are an awful lot of them, aren't there?" he grumbled.
I smiled. "Yes, well, we enjoy being a family. It is not the way of the majority of vampires, since we have to hide our true identities. Normally they are nomads, maybe a mated pair, but typically solo. Carlisle believes it is the animal blood that keeps us from becoming savage and allows us to form bonds."
Charlie contemplated what I said. It made sense to him, and it occurred to him that Bella was safe with me as long as I continued to drink animal blood. "I know that the legends of the Quileutes say that vampires are to be stopped at all cost. My mother being a Swan, and single, meant that she didn't put as much stock in the stories as she would have if she'd married into the tribe like her sister did. I know your family has had a treaty for generations because they didn't think you were as dangerous as the others. Maybe there really is a difference between hunting animals versus hunting humans."
"We would never, could never, hunt humans. We are committed to keeping them safe. Carlisle was always determined to never turn into a monster, to never hurt a human just because of what he was turned into. None of us wishes to be a monster."
"I can tell that you're sincere," he conceded.
There were a few moments of silence before Emmett came into the kitchen. "Hey, B, whatcha doin' today? Rose wants to take you shopping."
"Rose does?" Bella asked, her eyes frantically darting to mine.
"Yeah, she's getting ready and wanted me to invite you. She and Alice are going to the mall."
"You in, Mrs. S?" Emmett directed at Renée.
She blushed. "If I'm invited, then yes. I'd love to."
I could hear it, and practically see it on his face, as Charlie panicked at the thought of not having his wife around, but worse, have her in the hands of vampires while he was not around.
"Charlie." He whipped his head in my direction. "It will be fine."
He didn't seem to appreciate my assurances. "You don't understand."
I merely lifted my eyebrow and tilted my head in Bella's direction.
"Okay, maybe you do," he grudgingly admitted.
"It is difficult, but not impossible."
"What are you two talking about?" Bella demanded.
I smiled at her. "Being separated from your mate."
"Oh." She smirked knowingly at me, since she knew I had a hard time being apart from her.
The ladies went to the mall, and the men stayed home. Carlisle was on call, but had so far managed to remain with the family. We engaged Charlie in Emmett and Jasper's favorite video games, something he said he hadn't seen since Bella was young. There was quite an improvement in the way the graphics looked these days, and he was impressed. Of course, he couldn't compete with Emmett and Jasper, who not only played nonstop, but had ridiculous hand-eye coordination and perfect reflexes. He and I played, and I went easy on him because it mattered not to me if I won or if he did, and he was actually having fun. It felt like he had finally thawed out since we'd found them.
When the ladies returned, Bella and Renée made dinner for the three of them in the kitchen, and I could hear their laughter from the other room. Christmas was in a few days, and I wanted something that I could give to Bella. I knew she wasn't interested in jewelry, so I thought long and hard about what I could sneak off to obtain for her. Her family was already going to be together, so that was one wish granted. Books were one of her favorites, for certain. Maybe a first edition or two. I heard her speaking to her mother about college, and I thought that maybe we could move into the house we had in the Ravenna Park neighborhood near her school. That was not exactly a Christmas gift, unfortunately.
A thought occurred to me, and while it wasn't a physical gift, it was something I could do to show her how I felt. No later than one second after I had the thought, I heard Alice screeching from upstairs.
"Edward Cullen, I will never forgive you if you go off half-cocked without my help!"
The men in the room with me turned to stare in my direction. I shrugged. She would be lovely in something warm, perhaps faux fur in white, and candlelight—
"Edward Anthony Masen Cullen, stop right there!" Alice hollered as she appeared at the top of the stairs.
I groaned. "Mary Alice, honestly."
"No! This is not something to be taken lightly, with zero knowledge or planning!"
Bella came around the corner, presumably to see what the chaos was about. The others had returned their attention to their endeavors, striving to ignore Alice the way I was incapable of at the moment.
"What are the two of you going on about?" Bella asked with a frown.
"Your Christmas present," Alice answered at the same time I said, "Nothing."
"Congratulations, Alice, now she will pester me endlessly about what it could be," I bemoaned.
Bella laughed, not at all phased by my complaints. "Yup."
She turned on her heel and went back to the kitchen. Alice silently went to the hall cabinet and pulled out sheets of blank paper before pulling on my elbow until I accompanied her to the dining room table. We silently debated on decor, music, and attire. Small, exclusive, and in the backyard, it would be intimate and special.
The visions in Alice's mind took my breath away. She was right, as always; she knew what Bella liked, and what would work in such a short amount of time. She pictured telling Bella it was for something banal, such as a party to celebrate the yule. The pictures she was showing me started to devolve, and before I knew it we were both gasping for air. Alice was clutching her head in her hands and Jasper was by her side in an instant.
"Ali, what is with the agony? I can't handle that much pain, what are you thinking?" He wasn't condescending in any way, simply trying to understand what she was going through.
"What—" I had to pause, the pain was overwhelming and so very confusing. "What is that?"
Alice answered in a strangled whisper. "The Volturi. They're coming for us."