With Bella away and safe with Emmett and the extra calm given by Jasper, Rosalie found that she could actually think. She turned away and was able to really look at the newcomers again since the first snarl had ripped from the blond. The woman seemed too willowy, too passive like she was trying to make herself small. And if she was doing that, then… her eyes fell on the blond, the one who wanted to hurt her mate and suspicion rose.
“All right. Let’s go.” She nodded, and with a brush of her arm, she let the newcomers go first.
The walk to the tree line was silent while they moved at a typical human pace, led by Carlisle. Once hidden in the shadows of the forest, he gave a nod and as a team, they started off. Carlisle and Esme took the lead, while she and Jasper took up the rear behind the newcomers. Beside her, she could see that something was making Jasper nervous, with only heightened her awareness. He looked like a dog sensing an earthquake.
“What?” she called over.
Jasper, usually so composed, looked rattled as he shot her a glance and shook his head once.
She vaulted over a large fallen tree in time with the others, her eyes set on James. Now that she was a little less worried, a little less stuck feeling the need to protect, she thought that this was the right place for her to be. She should be with James. She didn’t believe in fighting defensively. Sticking with James, keeping an eye on him, that was the best offensive position. She was protecting Bella too, and that thought helped.
He couldn’t get to her if he never got out of her grip.
In front of her, James cast a glance behind him. Rose met his gaze steadily.
Yes, this was the best place for her to be. She gave a slight snort of annoyance. Edward, so high and mighty, seemed to always think that he was the only one that count protect Bella. She could protect her just as well. Which, yes, okay, she needed to stop feeling the need to protect Bella at all, she got that. Her eyes rolled as she leapt over a small stream, her thoughts annoying her more than this mission was. She got it. Bella wasn’t hers. Fine. She was with Edward. She was happy. Edward was her brother. He was her brother who she wanted to slap most of the time, but was still her brother, and was also happy. Edward and Bella were happy. She didn’t want to interfere with that. And besides, she and Bella couldn’t be together anyway since Bella was human. It was pointless.
She could still protect her every bit as well as Edward could.
A slither of jealousy worked its way up and into her stomach, making Jasper beside her glance her way with an amused grin.
She glared back.
“You don’t have to feel that way, you know.”
Eyes wide, she glanced up Carlisle and Esme. They could easily hear them.
“I know that, okay?” she snapped back, getting a small side glance from the black-haired man. She glared at him until he turned away again. “It’s just not that simple.”
Jasper only shrugged, the stupid amused smile still on his face despite whatever agitation was still there.
Rosalie ground her teeth. If only she was willing to be the horrible bitch that everyone thought she was. She could steal Bella away, then steal her life, and – Rosalie gasped at the sudden and needle-sharp desire. Her teeth, she thought of her teeth biting down on the delicate flesh of Bella’s neck, of her venom mixing with Bella’s blood. Her body reacted, shocking and suggesting her. A wave of desire washed over her, making her legs buckle. She felt her body giving a longing throb, but the desire was also so much deeper as if her soul were calling out its own desire.
Shaken, she glanced over and saw that Jasper’s eyes were on her again.
“Ugh,” she growled. “Doesn’t prying ever get old?”
Jasper’s nose wrinkled. “Yes.”
“Then stay out!”
He just shrugged and Rosalie understood. She knew just as well as he did that he wasn’t doing it on purpose.
She couldn’t, hadn’t felt desire at that. She wasn’t that person. She didn’t want that.
But she felt it. There was no denying that she had felt desire at the thought of her teeth sinking into Bella’s throat.
It was just impossible. That desire itself was proof that she couldn’t, that she didn’t deserve Bella. She couldn’t steal everything from her. She couldn’t be the thief that took Bella’s human life. What was wrong with her? How had she become so disgusting?
She was so lost in her pitying thoughts that she had forgotten her suspicions of the newcomers. It wasn’t until, in perfect formation, the man and woman split, one suddenly turning to the left, the other to the right that she remembered that they had clearly been up to something.
“Shit!” she cried, impressed at the sudden speed James was moving. She took off, not hesitating in the slightest. She pushed off on a tree trunk and hit the ground pushing as hard as she could.
In front of her, blond hair easy to spot in the foresty sunlight. James looked back, laughing and picked up speed.
“Rose! Rosalie! Come back!”
She glanced behind her, picking up speed as well. No way she was going back! She could catch him.
She ducked under a few thick branches, hearing his joyful laughter. The laugh sent a shiver of disgust through her.
Her eyes stayed sharp on him as he dodged first one way and then another, trying unsuccessfully to lose his tail.
He glanced back again and she saw clearly that he was gleeful, enjoying the chase. Provoked, she snarled, pushing harder.
Before them, a large lake was coming up. She could catch him there, she could –
James leapt, shooting into the air like a bullet but before she could follow suit, a hand closed on her wrist.
She skitted to a stop, her feet digging into the mud of the bank.
“Jasper!” she shouted, furious as she watched James land in the water, only to explode out of it again and land on the opposite side, disappearing into the trees. She twitched, ready to continue her pursuit, but Jasper held her tight.
“Carlisle says to let him go.”
“Let him go?” she shouted, pulling her arm away. “What the hell?”
“Come on.” Jasper nodded his head back toward where she had come from. “He has a reason.”
They worked their quick way back through the trees, Rosalie’s anger so strong that she shook.
“There had better be a good fucking reason why you stopped me!” she shouted the moment she came to the spot she had left her family.
Esme’s mouth dropped open, aghast. “Rosalie Hale!” she gasped. “Language!” And then, as if they weren’t evil creatures of the night, Esme turned to the last remaining stranger, looking sheepish. “I’m sorry, she has better manners than that usually.”
Jasper gave a derisive snort, earning a glare from both Rose and Esme.
“He’s going after her!” she cried, that panic creeping back up. She had lost him. They had made her lose him. And now…
Carlisle just nodded, his eyes sad. “It’s their choice if they want to fight, Rose.”
Her teeth ground. “Are you serious?” she asked between them. “This was our job. This is what we were supposed to do. Keep him away from Bella. That’s all. That’s all we had to do, and we couldn’t even do that. We should chase after him! We can find it! His scent stinks like week old hippie! He can find him! Come on!”
“Rose!” Carlisle interrupted her ranting. “If they want to fight then we can’t stop them.”
Rosalie glared. He obviously didn’t understand. He obviously didn’t know.
“Let’s go back to the house and prepare. I think we have a long night ahead of us.”
The rest of the group took off running again, heading toward the Cullen house, but Rosalie stood there for a long moment, worry building. She felt so much less comfortable now, so much more afraid.
She had failed, already. This had barely begun and yet she had found a way to fail. She hadn’t kept James with her. Now Bella, Jesus wept, Bella was at risk. Her soul splintered and cracked, fear worming its way in. The forest usually felt like a second home, lush and beautiful, but suddenly it felt dark, closing in and smothering her. She needed to breathe, which was a feeling she hadn’t felt since her human life.
She swallowed down a huge lungful of air, panting a little.
God, she didn’t want to feel so afraid for a person that wasn’t even hers.
She started off through the woods, feeling suddenly exhausted.
When would this situation with Bella end?
She came in behind the rest of the family only a moment late.
“Errr, welcome to our home,” Esme said awkwardly, giving the man, Laurent, a small tight-lipped smile.
Laurent inclined his head a little. “Thank you.” He looked just as uncomfortable. “And may I say, I’m sorry for my comrades.”
Her hand twitched toward her back pocket holding her small flip phone. Could she call Emmett and ask for an update? Suppose they were somewhere that they couldn’t speak, or on the run. Pulling it out, she flipped it open so see three little envelopes at the top of the screen. She held the phone in her shaking hand, staring and trying to breathe. They never sent text messages; not only because it cost ten cents to send a text and ten to receive a text, but because it was an annoying task that took too long. She had tried a few times, sending dirty things to Emmett in class, but having to scroll through each number until you got the letter you wanted, spelling out each word letter by letter was just fucking annoying. T9 helped, but not enough.
Holding her breath, she clicked the button and saw the first text.
Emmett. That wonderful man, she loved him so much. He had typed out messages, even though he was even less interested in the struggle of text messages than she was, to make sure she stayed up to date.
The first message was from only moments after she saw him.
“Edward is going to run with her back to the car.”
The next was more ominous. “That guy is a tracker. Bella won’t be safe.”
Not feeling better, she read the last one, hoping for good news. “We’re going on the run.”
The shaking only increased. Bella wasn’t coming back there, that was all that Rosalie could process. Bella was out there in the night, stalked, hunted. And she wasn’t with her.
She hadn’t thought about it, but if she had, she would have assumed Bella would be there any moment and that had helped.
She began to pace up and down the long living room.
“Anything new?” She sent back to Emmett and waited. And waited. And waited.
She paced faster, shaking from the inside out.
Bella, Bella, Bella, her mind chanted. Bella, be safe, please be safe.
She held the phone to her chest with both hands, cradling it delicately so she didn’t smash it as she had her last. She was doing her best to keep the mess she was turning into on the inside. Not that it mattered, no one but Jasper was watching her. She couldn’t breathe. She needed to be there. God, she needed to be there.
Where was she?
She was so afraid, so afraid for a girl who wasn’t even hers.
God, maybe turning Bella was the best idea, she thought erratically. She was so breakable as she was. All it would take was a slightly indelicate brush of the hand to completely crumple her.
She closed her eyes as the hot liquid desire flashed through her. Bella, her venom inside of her. Her mouth filled with venom, her panties suddenly and impressively damp.
No! No, no, no, no, she didn’t mean it. She wasn’t like Edward. She wasn’t a threat to Bella. Bella would be safe with her.
She fought against the feeling. She could not, would not feel that.
She sat with a thump into a chair, turning to a statue. She would not move. Everything was fine. She was fine.
The desire to simply see Bella’s face only grew though. It turned, twisting from a want to a need. Still, she didn’t move.
Across the room Jasper sat still, Carlisle and Esme stood together, seeming to find comfort in the other one.
Rosalie looked away from that, bitter.
Laurent glanced between all of them, shifting toward Rosalie in the chair. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to intrude—” he said in a low voice, “—but the girl, why is she so important? Wouldn’t it be easier—”
The snarl that ripped through Rose was so feral that, alarmed, Laurent skipped back a step or two, his eyes darting around at the people in the room.
She glared, unmoving from her chair, her teeth exposed, a drop of venom gathering off of a canine.
Esme and Carlisle were directly behind Laurent, so she saw the look on Esme’s face. She saw the shadow of confusion there.
The snarl cut off.
“I’m-I’m sorry. I did not mean to offend.”
The room grew silent, no one moving. All eyes on Rosalie.
She couldn’t even find it in herself to be embarrassed by her display. She was too lost in her terror, trying hard to fight it, but what was there that she could do? Emmett was too busy to message her back, and that only made her fear worse.
What did that —
She gasped and leapt to her feet. In the very far distance, there was the roaring and spluttering of Bella’s truck. That had to mean she was safe, right?
“Rose?” Esme asked.
Caught, she sat back down, doing her best to keep her face blank, if not annoyed.
Her eyes, however, did not move from the front door.
“Rose? Are you okay?”
Rosalie could feel Esme’s eyes on her, could only imagine what she was seeing. Soundlessly she nodded once, tearing her eyes away from the door for a split second to acknowledge Esme.
Esme was watching her with a shrewd eye. She could see curiosity there, but whatever Esme was wondering, she decided to hold back.
The progression took far too long, and yet not as long as it usually did.
The truck came to a screeching stop in front of the house and Rose gave a soft moan.
The door burst open only a second later and again she was on her feet, eyes searching desperately, needing to see her face.
It took a moment before she realized the small bundled thing in Emmet’s arms was Bella.
Relief passed through her, so strong it threatened to bring her to her knees.
Bella’s face was red, splotchy. She had been crying. Why had she been crying?
Bella’s eyes shifted, passing over Rosalie’s blankly.
At first, the look confused her. She took a step toward her, hands out to comfort.
Bella’s eyebrows pulled down and Rose stopped.
She had forgotten that before all of this started, she and Bella had been in a fight. She wasn’t sure calling it a fight was even correct. Maybe calling it a change of relationship was better.
Her breath hitched, catching in her throat and then her look changed into a glare, shooting at Bella. Her chest ached as Bella moved across the room, her arms around herself and to Esme’s waiting arms.
“Oh, Bella,” Esme cooed, her eyes on Rosalie as she stroked her head.
Pretending she had stood for Emmett, she turned and buried her face in his chest. He wrapped her up, but Rosalie barely noticed, breathing in the scent of Bella on him.
A dry sob of relief broke free, only one before the jagged ache of fear settled.
Bella was safe. She was okay. She was good.
This was good news, and she should have felt settled. Still, the feeling of being trapped didn’t slide away as she wanted it to.
Edward blew in, his voice slightly shrill as they discussed. She didn’t listen, she didn’t care, her eyes only on Bella. She wanted her to look at her, she wanted her to come to her. She wanted – anger swirled, how could she be so cold, so immovable?
The anger that she had felt so recently came back in full force. This was a side to Bella she had never seen before, and she didn’t like it. Cold. Harsh. Rude.
When Edward turned to her, Rosalie glared, the pain in her heart making her snap. “Why should I?” She glared. “What is she to me? Except a menace, a danger you’ve chosen to inflict on all of us?”
The response was immediate and universal. Everyone in the room stilled, looking at her in that way. They, however, could not shame her more than the shame she felt. This was one of those times, she thought, one of those times when she got in her own way. She was hurting because she couldn’t be there for Bella. She felt so raw, so alone, so hurt, and there was Bella curled up in Edward’s arms. She was curled up like she was so happy, so comforted to be there. Fury made her suck in a breath slowly, working to hold on to her control.
From under his arm, Bella’s face paled, her mouth dropping open a little. Her eyebrows drew together, and there was hurt there that Rose didn’t want to see.
“Rose,” Bella breathed.
But she didn’t want to hear it. She wanted to stop watching Bella find comfort in her brother. Why did she have to be this way?
Edward turned away, back to Esme, but Bella’s eyes stayed on her.
“I thought we were kind of friends now.”
Rose glared down at her, haughty.
“Rose,” Emmett said softly, his hand covering her arm and squeezing. She ignored him, knowing what he was saying. ‘You can still take it back, Rose. Just take it back.’
She snarled. “Yeah, I thought you were my friend too.”
Bella’s eyes widened, and she could see that Bella understood.
And the thing was… She was … they were… she liked her…
She turned from Bella, unable to hold her eye contact any longer. She couldn’t handle any of this. All she wanted to do is get away with Bella, take her somewhere safe. The thought of putting on Bella’s clothes, wrapping herself in Bella’s scent… she knew she wouldn’t be able to keep her thoughts to herself.
Edward frowned and Rose snapped her mind closed.
This didn’t even make sense. They just had to hide her.
She watched Esme carry her upstairs and had a thought.
Of course, they just had to hide her until the fight could be over.
“Edward.” She stepped in close and spoke so low that Laurent wouldn’t hear. “I have an idea. I know somewhere she could go.” She could take her. She could wrap her up in her arms and keep her safe. Her bed and breakfast, it was perfect. Not even the family knew she went there. They could mask her scent, throw James off the trail and she could hide out until—
“No.” Edward was shaking his head, turning from Rose. “No. My plan is better.”
Enraged, she caught his arm, turning him back around. “You didn’t even let me tell you what mine was.”
“Rose!” He bit, pulling his arm out of her arm. “I have things I need to do!” He went upstairs to check and then outside to listen for James’s mind.
Rose just stood there, frozen in her fury. The prick! The fucking little prick!
“Rose.” Esme’s hand on her arm made her flinch. “Come.”
Barely breathing through her anger, she let Esme pull her to the side. She was wearing Bella’s clothes, she realized. It was distracting.
“What?” she snapped, too tightly wound.
“Now is the time for family, Rose.”
Esme glared, suddenly turning into their mother. Her face close to Rose’s, her pointer finger was out, almost poking Rose in the face. “We might be new, but we are family to that girl now and you will help us, Rosalie Hale. You will act like part of this family, and you will protect her.”
Rosalie stared at Esme, amazed that she could be so off. She gave a laugh, which only made Esme glare harder.
Did she really not think that she wanted to protect Bella?
“I know you want to. So why are you fighting?”
Esme didn’t answer, just nodded toward the door. “Let’s go.”
Rose followed Esme to the door, her mother watching her closely in that unnerving way that she didn’t like. “Are we leaving?”
Esme nodded, holding the door open for her.
Rose’s chest gave a spasm. She was leaving. She was leaving without Bella. Again.
Esme cleared her throat, her face so foreboding that Rose just nodded.
If she couldn’t stay with Bella then she would do her part.
She wanted to fight. To rip apart.
She silently followed her mother to Bella’s truck.