Hours later and Rosalie’s mood had finally settled. Her skin no longer felt both hot and cold all at once, her mind no longer felt as though it were shouting at her. What she had heard… it had barely been there, and yet…
She had known this was wrong, spying on anyone that way, and yet she had allowed herself to go along with it.
Her mind had played that little exhale of breath over and over. Each time she had begun to feel as though she could breathe again that small little gasp, so tiny, so feminine, would play in her mind again and the process would start over.
The night had been a rollercoaster, and so the last place she wanted to find herself was there, in the library, about to sit through another family meeting on the same old topic: Bella.
The name came out slimy in her mind, filled with resentment and Edward, apparently beyond anger and to the point of apoplexy, glared and spluttered in her direction.
She was surprised he even registered the thought. Mentally she saw herself giving him the finger, her hand and the finger itself overly large, like a cartoon balloon.
Quickly he looked away, his face twisted as if the mental image had burned.
Rosalie smirked, draping herself into Emmett’s lap. Priss.
Most of them had modernized, at least to a point... and then there was Edward.
“Okay, everyone.” Carlisle’s voice was low, but it was enough to gather the attention of the room. “We are here —”
“We’re here because Rosalie left her post!” Edward snapped, his wild eyes turning on her.
She glared back. Her post? Had she been drafted into some type of ridiculous Bella-based military?
That thought made her internally scoff because yes, she had been. That much was very clear.
“Yes, Rose...” Carlisle’s fingers were steepled. Rosalie had to imagine this must be what a tired father of six constantly fighting teenagers would look like. Though his eyes were kind, there was a set to his jaw that told her that he meant business. “And you have a very good reason for that, right?”
She gave a snort, the tiny sound, beautiful sound that had come from Bella’s room drifting through her mind. Her body tensed, her eyes flicking back to Edward. Her mind clamped down on the sound, holding it close to herself. She didn’t want him to have it. She didn’t want him to know this about his supposed true love.
His eyebrows were drawn, confusion obvious. It seemed he was trying to understand whatever he had taken from her mind, confused by her sudden mental walls.
“Get out of my head, Edward!”
He blinked, coming out of his concentration with an apologetic nod.
If he had heard it, he had completely missed the context.
“Edward, Rose wouldn’t have left without a very good reason. She agreed to help us, remember?” Esme promised, smiling down at Rosalie.
“I did.” She nodded, slightly sick that she had to admit that.
“That makes me think we need to go back to the drawing board with this, then,” Emmett inserted, the calmest one in the room.
“We don’t.” Edward grit.
“We do, Edward!” She sat up, pushing herself from Emmett’s lap and into the chair beside it in agitation. “We do. We really do.”
“Don’t you all understand?” Edward pressed, turning in a small circle to catch the eyes of the rest of the coven. Rosalie could feel the force he was trying to will on them, the annoyance he felt that he was arguing a point that he had already won. “What Rosalie thinks isn’t the point here. It doesn’t matter. Bella is my mate! I get the final say about what’s good for her.”
She didn’t mean to, perhaps it had just been the happenings of the evening… or the wolf boy and his puppy love… or Bella’s sadness… or the other… thing but her reaction to that was strong, possessive. A snarl of a growl ripped from her chest before she had been able to stop it. Her skin was crawling. She wasn’t his, she wasn’t. She glared at him from her chair, her hands clutching at the chair arms with the strain of keeping herself seated.
A wave of satisfaction washed over her, making her snarl harder. The worst part of this was that the possession she was feeling, the want to claim, the refusal to see her and his… was that it felt good.
Behind Edward, Jasper’s head came up. Her eyes flicked and then caught on him, staring wide-eyed at Jasper. Whatever she was feeling he felt, she reminded herself.
His golden eyes were intense, curious. The look was sobering, washing away the previous feeling and she let it go without a fight. Instead, she gave Edward a nasty smile. Let Jasper think that she took pleasure in thwarting Edward. Let him think she was just being a bitch again.
Jasper’s look faded into something that Rosalie knew even better. Disappointment, not just any, but disappointment in her.
She looked away, refusing to let it hurt.
“Oh yes, I know, Rosalie.” Edward snapped back, his voice dripping with sarcasm at her thoughts. “She’s not mine. I don’t speak for her. She has a right to her own voice. I know. I’m not trying to take that from her.”
“Have you thought about talking to her about what she wants, Eddie?” The sarcasm had dropped under the weight of Jasper’s disappointment, and so when she spoke, she sounded perfectly reasonable.
“It would overwhelm her!”
Rosalie’s tongue clicked, not at all surprised.
“I must keep her safe!”
“Not at the cost of her privacy!”
“I will make sure she is protected!”
“I’ll tell her, Edward! If you keep spying on her and taking away her right to privacy then I will tell her!”
“That is not your choice!”
“Hold on, everyone pause, please!” Esme stood between her and Edward with her hands out. “Stop shouting! We are a family. Everyone gets to have their say heard here.”
If only that were true, she thought, crossing and uncrossing her legs in agitation.
“Thank you.” Esme nodded when the room fell silent. “Rose. What are you trying to say?”
“Err...” So surprised to have Esme ask her to speak over letting Edward rant more, or worse, talk about true love some more, that she for a moment was rendered completely inarticulate. “Okay.” She rose, her hands on her hips, flipping her long hair over her shoulder. How did one even argue this? How was there a need for this to be argued?
Beside her Emmett’s head dipped, his eyes prompting her to speak.
All right, she would then, she internally grit.
“I was wrong to let this happen before. This is wrong. God knows I don’t care about Bella, and I wish she was gone—”
“But are there no lines that we are uncomfortable crossing anymore? I thought one of the reasons why we lived here with humans was to remind ourselves of who they are and who we want to be. I thought we decided that just because we were... dead... didn’t mean we weren’t also human. I thought we cared about humans.”
“We do.” Carlisle insisted, his look honestly bewildered.
“So, now we break their basic rights?”
“It’s for her own protection.”
“No, it’s for your peace of mind, Edward. And it’s partially my fault, I’ve let it happen but...” And that was true, wasn’t it? She had told Edward that she thought it was wrong, and yet she had let him push to get his way, and he hadn’t even pushed her that hard. “No more. There are other ways that precious Bella—” she snipped, her anger at herself solidifying her sarcasm.
Edward let out a snarl.
“—can be protected without us stalking her, you creep.”
“She will never understand, never agree. Don’t you get that?”
“Doesn’t she have that right? Just because you know she will say no doesn’t mean you don’t fucking ask. Spying on her without her consent is tantamount to what you yourself used to kill men for, Edward.”
“This is not the same.”
“It is!” Without bidding, the tiny sound popped into her head, the scene full and obvious. She could see herself there in the tree, could feel her own alarm, her own understanding. She froze, staring at Edward. She hadn’t wanted him to have it, she had wanted to keep that to herself, but she could see on his face that he had seen the thought.
There was a moment of confusion again, his eyes flicking back and forth as he turned what he had taken from her head over and over. Then, seeming to finally understand, Edward staggered back, his face horrified.
Her voice was soft as she spoke, filled with guilt and a denied feeling she wouldn’t allow to surface. “I shouldn’t have been there for that.”
Edward stumbled again, tripping into the bookshelf in his effort to get away from what he had taken from her without her permission.
“Err, guys, not all mind readers,” Emmett said, his hand raised as if to be called on.
“Don’t worry about it!” Rosalie shouted.
“Nothing!” Edward shouted at the same time.
“That – that was – that was private! You did not need to share that! I did not need to – I did not —” His face was contorted as if she had just thrown a bucket of human food on him. “Rose, why would you – why—”
Rosalie watched him stagger and stumble, feeling honestly bad for the girl. If they were mates, as he thought, she was sure to want to further their relationship one day. Was he even capable of that? She studied his pathetic crumpled face with doubt. Even if she did it would probably be boring, missionary position with the lights off while Edward cried.
“That’s enough, Rosalie!” Edward turned on her, crouching.
Instantly Rosalie was braced, crouched and ready to spring, a hiss shooting out of her.
The family was already on their feet, all ready to stop the fight.
“That is a normal thing that most people do, Edward.”
“Most people do not do that!”
“Oooooh,” Emmett smirked. “I got it.” Then, looking at Edward, his face fell comically fast into deep and honest shock. “You don’t do that, bro?
“She’s a teenager. Are you really going to condemn her for having desires?” Rosalie shot back.
Still crouched, ready to attack, Edward bellowed at her. “I happen to care a great deal for her modesty and her virtue!”
“You really should do that,” Emmett continued, seeming honestly worried about Edward.
“I’m not depraved!” Edward cried, swishing his hand at Emmett.
“It’s not depraved. I do it,” Emmett announced.
“So do it,” Rosalie added with a smirk.
Esme shifted uncomfortably.
“If you care so much for her modesty then stop spying on her.”
“I – I –” He stepped out of the crouch, his shoulders slumped, his hands pushing through his hair, making it stand up on end. It highlighted the torment on his face. “You don’t understand. I must protect her. She is mine to protect. How can you take something as delicate and soft as a rose petal and then not cherish and protect it? You don’t understand, you aren’t mated.”
Rose growled deep in her chest. She had gotten that shit from the other mates in their coven over and over again, but Edward had always understood that things weren’t that simple. Her bond with Emmett was just as legitimate without the mystical bond.
“Edward, you have to understand, Rose can’t understand what this feels like.”
Her hackles rose, turning to glare at Carlisle. “Meaning, what? I can’t possibly understand what it feels like to care for someone? Is that because I’m not mated or is it just because it’s me?”
The strained patience on Carlisle’s face, the slightly patronizing smile was all the answer she needed.
She hated this. She hated this and it wasn’t fair. She — but her thoughts were straying too close to what she didn’t want to think of.
She turned away, her back facing the family, her mind suddenly and forcefully on her favorite film.
“I think Rose is right,” Jasper said from his spot across the room.
The surprise was enough to make her turn again.
“There are other ways to protect Bella without watching her without her knowledge. Sitting and watching her sleep without her permission to be there isn’t right.”
Beside him, Edward shifted, his face suddenly guilty.
Jasper’s eyebrows rose, disbelief on his face.
“You’re kidding me, right?”
Edward didn’t respond.
“The thing is—” Carlisle said slowly, “—the rules might need to bend a little bit. The rules are always bent a little when a vampire finds his mate.”
It was like the elastic holding her together suddenly snapped. She just couldn’t hear that one more time. What made them all so sure? Even if she was his mate, did that mean she was now his property? Like a piece of land? Like a new car? It was absurd!
“And god forbid Edward, the prince of the Cullen family be wrong!”
She saw the looks of confusion on their faces and it only made her angrier.
“You know what? I need a break. Emmett.” She jerked her head and Emmett rose to follow her out. “This is wrong. And if this keeps going on, I will tell her. Find another way.”
She spent two days away after that, not at all because she was ashamed for doing Edward’s biding, and not at all because she thought if she saw Edward have swoony eyes over her mate one more time she might kill him. Well. Maybe it was a bit of both. She just had to get away. So she took Emmett to a seedy motel on the outskirts of a small town not too far away. They had, together, wandered through the small sex shop that was the only other business off the truck stop and then had spent the rest of the time naked. After forty-eight hours, she felt so much better. The only time they had come out had been the night before when they had run to Seattle to go dancing. It had been perfect, a perfect example of why this whole… thing was bogus. She loved her life. She loved that people thought she was human and that she had gotten to spend a night getting hit on, only to be taken home by her guy.
They pulled back into the garage and, still grinning, she let Emmett put his arm over her shoulder as they walked in.
Getting endlessly jackhammered for two days straight had cleared her head, but what was more, the talking and laughing in between had swept away the cobwebs. Her head was on straight now. She wasn’t going to be with Bella, nor even be her friend, so this stupid thing she was feeling was meaningless. That sound, the stupid little sound she had heard the last time she sat outside of Bella’s room had finally faded and she could think again.
She showered her unplanned weekend away off and then spent a few moments visiting with Esme, even able to ignore when Esme had pointed out how nice it was to see her smile.
Soon it was time to head to school.
The day was fine, better than it had been in a while. Here and there the smell caught her attention, specifically in her advanced bio class, as Bella clearly had whatever class was in there before hers. Instead of it causing her skin to feel overly sensitive, and her mood to drop, she was able to ignore it. By lunch, she wasn’t sure why she hadn’t tried a getaway before.
This was no big deal now.
She strolled into the cafeteria, her back straight, the same cocky little grin on her face that she usually held – B.B. – before Bella, and even sent Emmett a wink.
She picked up a tray and had just grabbed a banana that she wouldn’t be eating when she felt it. She didn’t need to turn and see. She didn’t need the scent that hit her line a punch to let her know that Edward and Bella had just walked up behind her.
Her smile flattened a little, stretched tight. She blinked and shifted, holding the smile in place with all of her might.
Not only could she smell her, but she could feel her there, just behind her, god damn it. She grabbed a slice of pizza and plopped it on her tray, giving the woman behind the hot food line a plastic smile.
Could she feel Rosalie too? She took a step down the line and grabbed something, she wasn’t sure what, feeling all the small hairs all over her body standing to attention.
Did she feel that too? Could she feel the static energy that was suddenly buzzing?
It frustrated her to no end that she wanted to know. No, frustrated wasn’t right. It wasn’t frustrating. It pissed her off – deeply.
Behind her, Edward asked Bella what she wanted and Bella sighed like a lovesick teenager, which, Rosalie realized in disgust, she was. “Anything is fine.”
Rosalie’s eyes narrowed. Clearly, she didn’t. Clearly, she had no idea that Rosalie was right there. Right there in front of her within arms reach. But what did she expect? That stupid girl couldn’t ever look beyond Edward, so how would she know that she was right there! Right there in front of her! Right. There.
The tray in her hand gave a small splintering sound and she realized she was about to shatter it to pieces. She lessened her hold with considerable effort.
In front of her, a boy was fumbling with his wallet, the chain caught on some of his extreme goth-y pegs.
Her hands tightened again, straining not to tighten too hard.
Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up!
She was very aware of the feeling of her behind her, the warmth she could almost feel radiating from her.
Would there be any type of acknowledgment? She doubted it, and yet, foolishly she found herself waiting, expecting it. She had stopped breathing.
She was right there after all. The pressure in her head was building, ready to explode as this boy dug out a dollar and then a few quarters.
There was a loud cracking sound and she looked down to see a splinter running up the cheap plastic.
“Be careful.” Edward’s voice came out a warning.
Her vision all but pulsing red, she whirled to snap at Edward but her voice dried instantly as she saw the look on Bella’s face. She had gone pale, her eyes wide and blinking.
She hadn’t even known that Rosalie was there! The realization sent the last shreds of her good mood from that morning into a spinning tail fire. The little bitch hadn’t eve been aware that Rosalie had been less than a foot from her.
Without saying anything, she turned and set the tray down, very, very careful not to slam it, not to break it, and then turned and started back to the table.
“Rose, your food.” Jasper hissed as she sat down.
“People skip lunch all of the time!” She murmured right back.
God, why did she even care? She stared down at the table, working to control this obscene reaction.
To her annoyance, though, she did. She did care.
She still cared the next day when she walked into the cafeteria, skipping the lunch line altogether and staring moodily at nothing. Both Jasper and Alice seemed highly uncomfortable with the fact that she skipped yet another meal but they sat, saying nothing about it.
Rosalie just bared her teeth at Alice for the briefest of moments. “Why?”
“You just seem more...” she trailed off.
“You’ve got a bigger side order of grade A bitch today,” Emmett offered.
“Yes, what he said,” Alice nodded emphatically.
Again Alice nodded quickly.
Rosalie’s arms crossed and she just looked out the window at the sheet of rain. As usual, she was aware of the moment Edward and Bella stepped into the room. Unwilling, her eyes shifted, watching as Edward followed stiffly behind Bella, both standing awkwardly apart. It made Rosalie sneer a little. He never touched her, at least not beyond that one kiss she had seen. In fact, now that she thought about it, he seldom did. He kept his distance.
The soft purring in Rosalie’s chest cut off. She looked around the table, her mouth dropping open a little. Had she been purring?
Across the cafeteria Edward’s eyes narrowed, looking at her in confusion. She turned away, mortified, her mind slipping to her car.
She had found a frame and she had ordered the tow truck. It would get there the day after tomorrow and she was glad. She wanted something to do, something with her hands, something to keep them busy. Busy hands, busy minds; someone had said that. She couldn’t remember who it had been just then. Either way, she would get the frame, clean it down, remove the unwanted innards and then —
Her thoughts cut off, stunned as Edward and Bella started not toward their usual table, but instead toward them.
This never happened. The best part about their stupid so-in-love thing was that they didn’t bother with the rest of the family.
Struck dumb she stared at Bella as Edward pulled out the chair beside her.
“Hi, Bella.” Alice beamed.
“Hey.” Bella smiled, her eyes flicking once to Rosalie and then away.
“What are you guys doing here?”
Bella shrank back and that was just fine with Rosalie.
“Aren’t weekends of sex supposed to make people less grumpy?” Alice asked, her voice overly polite as she eyed Rosalie.
From beside her, a wave of heat hit Rosalie. Bella, it seemed, was blushing deeply.
Rosalie glared, first at Alice, then at Bella, then at Edward, and then Bella again, refusing to acknowledge that she enjoyed the way that Bella’s blush deepened.
“So Bella, killed anyone in gym lately?” Emmett asked and that started the conversations off.
Rosalie didn’t move, her arms crossed, ignoring everyone around her. Thank god she didn’t have the same relationship with Edward as Alice did. If they were close at all then she was sure she would never be able to slide by without notice. Edward just didn’t seem to want to hear her thoughts, probably because, she thought, her mind was not always the happiest place to be. As it was, her mind began to sing Gold Dust Woman because she didn’t want to request, didn’t want to shout, it wanted to scream ‘LOOK AT ME.’ Which was problematic, as every time that Bella did throw her a tentative glance it felt like nails on a chalkboard, agitating her already bad mood.
Look at me
Stop fucking looking at me
Look at me, please
Don’t you dare look at me
Look at me, I’m right here
Her jaw worked as the table laughed and for the third time she felt Bella’s eyes carefully track up her arms, her chest and to her face.
Instantly, fed up and desperate for more of her attention, Rosalie’s head whipped around, forgetting her personal pact to avoid eye contact. She glared, meeting Bella’s tentative gaze with a hard one of her own and hissed, really hissed.
Instantly, there was a jolt of electricity over her skin, a static buzz that was at once warm and welcoming and sharp and painful.
Rosalie blinked, the glare fading even before Bella could respond.
What the hell had that been?
Alarmed, she was on her feet before Edward’s own hiss had begun. She had to get out of there.
She blew out of the cafeteria, her mind singing in a frantically twisted melody: Did she make you cry, make you break down, shatter your illusions of love
Even in her head, the music sounded wobbly, stressed.
It was important for them to keep up the good student routine, at least in behavior. But she couldn’t. Being around Edward this much, it was dangerous. So she crossed to the back of the campus, and with a quick glance around, pushed into a jump, clearing the top of the fence with no issue at all.
On the other side, she landed, her heels feeling wobbly, and she started toward the forest. Once she hit the trees, she took off in a run, heading in the direction of Port Angeles. Why? Because Edward and Bella weren’t there.