This all was so confusing. Rosalie had barely been allowed to process all that Esme had said before Jasper had knocked, his eyebrow cocked, his face knowing.
For the second time, he had said the thing that she couldn’t rectify. If they were mates then that meant that they were predestined. There was no other way to explain Rosalie’s mate being born so much later. She was supposed to become a vampire. It was her fate. Just like Bella was her fate. Which meant that Bella’s fate was to become one of them.
It was a more succinct version of the words that had addled her mind before. Still, she thought it wasn’t that simple. Bella might want more, a different life. Bella might want motherhood, kids, a minivan, a husband or wife who could grow old with her. And Edward. She wanted Edward. Even if Bella hadn’t been clear in her preference, how could she just do that to Edward? How could she reach into his life and pluck the one thing he cared about away from him?
If Bella could be won so easily then maybe she wasn’t so in love with him, her mind insisted, but that wasn’t enough.
She sighed, resting her face against the glass.
She didn’t move from her spot, her mind spinning in and out, trying to fit the pieces together. The thing was... how was it possible to be predestined for someone born so much later than her? Was he right? Did it mean she was always meant to become a vampire? Answering that would mean she couldn’t hold on to the anger she had always felt, but worse, if it was predestined, then what did that mean for Bella’s future? Jasper and Esme sure had their own opinions.
Yet again she pushed the thought away.
She couldn’t… she wouldn’t.
The sun set, the stars slowly coming out, and Rose watched the forest transition from day to night.
What was she supposed to do? What was the right thing? She didn’t know, but she was sure taking Bella’s life, for whatever reason, was not it. So then what? Leave her with Edward?
The night wore on and Rosalie’s thoughts continued to spin. Her family talked about this situation as though it were simple. They all even seemed confused by her confusion. What were they seeing that she wasn’t?
Edward returned somewhere around midnight, surprising Rosalie. She had expected he would be off in his pout until sunup at the latest. Wasn’t Bella back in town? Shouldn’t he be standing over her bed watching her sleep like Dracula over Mina Harker? His stroll back to the house had been casual, his hands in his pockets as he walked. He had stopped just below her window and even in the stillness of the night, she could see him perfectly. He had stood there for long moments, his face blank, only his eyes upturned and his message had been very clear: keep your thoughts to yourself. She had held his gaze for a long time, unmoving, and then looked back out over the trees. She couldn’t make any promises.
Below her, Emmett and Jasper raced out, laughing together, probably to satisfy some bet that they had just come up with. They stopped to greet Edward before starting toward the distant mountains.
She watched Emmett’s large shape move with a grace most dancers would envy and her thoughts turned.
She had always hated being a vampire. She hadn’t given her consent. Coming out of her pain-filled haze and beginning to slowly understand that what these people were saying to her hadn’t been a joke had been something like being raped all over again. Everything she had ever wanted had been taken from her. Yes, over the years she had learned to love what she had, and that was a lot. She had known far more love as a vampire than she had ever had or felt as a human. She was grateful for that. She had told herself when she finally truly understood the truth of her life that she would not turn anyone ever, nor would she participate in anyone else’s turning. She would not be a part of this. She would not hold someone’s hand for days while they felt that pain. She would not make them the promises that Carlisle had made her of life and happiness. She had told herself that she was better than Carlisle. She had told herself that she would not steal from someone the way he had stolen from her, even if all he had stolen was a simple and fair death.
And then she had.
As impossible as she had thought it would be, she had done exactly that. She hadn’t let Emmett’s life come to an end, which would have been the right thing to do. She hadn’t let his life come to an end even though that was something she had longed for in her own life. She had seen Emmett there on the floor, bleeding and dying, and she had wanted him, and so she had taken him. It had been pure selfishness.
She had never regretted that choice, but more importantly, Emmett had never regretted the choice. He loved being a vampire, that much had been clear from the moment he had felt the power in his body.
She doubted she would be that lucky again. Even if she was, could she be so selfish again? Worse, could she take a healthy, happy, human life, one not near death? Could she steal from Bella what she had resented was stolen from her? How? How could she live with herself?
“SHUT THE HELL UP, ROSALIE! THAT’S NOT HAPPENING!” Edward’s voice roared from the next room, and she had been so lost in thought that she hadn’t been prepared for it. She jumped, her nose banging into the glass.
Prick. The fucking prick. Back when Bella was supposedly his mate, he insisted that meant that he got to make all the decisions when it came to Bella. Now that they all knew the tables had turned, suddenly she didn’t get the choice?
It wasn’t that she wanted it. She was sure it would be wrong. But the disgusting double standard of it made her sick.
She let her head fall back against the glass, scowling as she continued to stew.
It was early morning when a sound began to rise from the stillness of the night. The guttural, death roar of Bella’s poor old truck was the last thing that Rosalie had expected to hear, and yet the moment she heard its tires turn onto the long drive to the Cullen house, it felt as though Bella’s arrival had been obvious. She didn’t move from her place, but instead, she took a deep breath and forgot to let it out or to take another.
She’s not here to see you, she reminded herself coldly. It felt as though everything had changed because, for her and the Cullens, it had. Her family knew the secret she had been working so hard to hide for these long months. Edward knew what she had wanted him to remain ignorant of. Everything had changed for her, but as far as Bella knew, nothing had.
Unmoving, she frowned. The truck always sounded like it was about to rattle apart, but in the early morning silence, it sounded worse. The engine picked up and fell, spluttering as if struggling deeply to continue to move. Rosalie’s lips pressed. She could hear that the engine hadn’t been allowed to warm up. That was bad when it was this cold with a modern car, but her truck which was evidently pieced together with chewing gum and glue needed it all the more.
Once out front, it wasn’t that the car turned off as much as it died before it had even been put into park. Rosalie listened, unmoving, not breathing, for the moment that Edward would rise and go to her, for the moment that Bella could come inside.
She had experienced so many scents in the last days that had been new when it came to Bella. Her blood. Her personal scent dirtied by medicines and the hospital. The idea of that scent that wasn’t a scent filling the house, clean again, was something that even though she didn’t want to, she wanted. So she waited.
Out front, strangled swearing, the likes she hadn’t heard from Bella before, came from the inside of the truck. She smiled a little as she listened to her curse.
“Come on, you piece of shit!” Bella growled. “God damn leg, come on!”
Rosalie’s smile dropped from her face. She hadn’t thought about it, but how was Bella even out of bed? So much of her poor fragile body was broken. In fact, how was she even driving with a broken leg? Had she been using that leg to press the gas pedal? That would explain the truck’s revving and dying, but why? Why cause herself so much physical pain?
Anxious, she slowly stood, moving to the hallway where she could see out the large front window.
Even in the light of the night like this, she could see that Bella’s usually pale face was different. The bruises hadn’t faded. If anything, they had gotten worse. Under them, however, was a gaunt paleness that made her wonder if it was possible for a human to lose weight that fast. Her skin was almost transparent, the dark circles under her eyes as well as large bags. She was giving something that Rose had to assume was her leg a yank, trying to turn herself enough to get out. As she watched Bella gave a yank which turned into a low and long moan like a wounded animal.
What was she doing there? She should have been home, resting.
Her hands closed on the doorframe where she was standing, fighting the longing. Bella was struggling in the driver’s seat, trying to pull herself from the trick by sheer force of will, trying to pull her leg out of the car and around. From the tight pinched look on her face, it hurt her a great deal.
Rosalie leaned forward onto the tips of her toes, barely holding herself back. She wanted to go to her, wanted to help. She needed her to be out of pain. Where was Edward?
‘She’s struggling’, her mind shot out to him. ‘I think she might —’ with a mental yelp, she was at the front door as Bella nearly tipped backward, tears beginning to roll down her face.
Still, Edward didn’t appear.
‘Edward!’ she cried at him.
Where was her stupid boyfriend? God damn it, she was so stubborn. She should be safe at home.
Hand on the doorknob, unwilling to wait any longer, she paused. “Alice?”
It was as if Alice had been waiting too, perhaps looking out her window which overlooked the front. She was there before Rosalie had finished the ‘Al’.
She paused for a quarter of a second at the door, her hand resting on top of Rosalie’s on the doorknob, her face unreadable.
“Thank you.” Rosalie breathed, her hand squeezing her sister’s arm before she disappeared, back up to the landing.
She watched as Alice flew out of the house, her voice shrill and yelling at Bella much like she would have been if she had been the one to rescue her from her car.
Envy and desire curled around her as Alice gently reached in and lifted Bella out. Bella didn’t seem to mind Alice’s help at all. Would it have been the same if it were her? Somehow she didn’t think so. She waited, making sure it was clear that Alice was being as gentle as she could be before she went back to her bedroom.
She sat back at the window seat, this time her back to the glass, watching her bedroom door. She knew it wouldn’t open. She knew it very well but she wished so deeply that it would. She could smell her as Alice approached, could smell that she still smelled like the hospital. But at the same time, the night dew had handed on her, making her smell as she had that night at the cliffside.
She turned her face away from the door, trying to bury the longing.
She wanted… oh, she wanted…
“Edward?” Alice’s voice was light as she knocked on his door.
This was all so strange. Where was he? Shouldn’t he have been the first one there to help his love, his supposed mate? She listened but no sound came from the room beside hers.
After a long second, Edward’s door opened and Rose held her breath again. Maybe it was time to take a page from Edward’s book. Slam her door. Go running into the forest to find something to brutally hunt. Tear apart a tree. Disappear in a cloud of teenage petulance. She didn’t want to hear this happy reunion with Bella. She didn’t want to hear how happy Bella would sound to see him.
But Bella didn’t sound happy to see him. Rosalie listened in alarm, surprised not to hear the soft happy tone she had become accustomed to between them.
“Edward!” Bella started talking before she was even fully through the door. “Edward, where have you been. Are you okay?”
The door to Edward’s room closed, doing nothing to muffle Bella’s voice.
“What do you mean?” Edward’s voice was detached, making Rosalie frown.
Hesitant and confused when she answered. “You weren’t there. You left the hospital and you weren’t in Port Angeles when we arrived or at my house tonight. You disappeared. What happened? Did Charlie or Renee send you away?”
“No. They didn’t.”
Was he fucking serious? She had dragged her broken body all the way to their house because Edward hadn’t been there to help take care of her. Where the fuck had he been? She had assumed when Edward had shown back up at the Cullen house before Bella had left the hospital that one of her parents had asked him to leave. She had been surprised, even disappointed in him. She knew that even if she had been kicked out, she wouldn’t have left. But at least she had understood it. If they hadn’t then why hadn’t he been there for her?
She swallowed thickly, her anger sharp.
Why hadn’t he been there?
If she couldn’t be there then at the very least he could be there.
There was shuffling from the next room, Bella unsteady on her crutches.
“I guess you never said you were coming,” Bella admitted, the embarrassment in her voice obvious. “I thought… I called Alice.”
“And what did Alice tell you?”
“Can I… Can I sit down?”
Rosalie’s hands closed into fists. He was behaving all wrong!
“She told me… well, she didn’t want to tell me anything,” Bella admitted.
“And?” Bella gasped, taken aback.
Rosalie could almost see Bella’s face, open, shocked by Edward’s chill.
“She… she told me…”
“That you have feelings for my sister, maybe?”
“What? No! She told me that Ro – err – your sister has feelings for me, that you know, I mean.”
“Meaning you have already known.”
Bella made a choked sound.
“How long have you known?”
“Not long, Edward, I promise.”
“You said her name in your sleep. Did Alice tell you that?”
“Yes.” Her voice shook as she answered, sounding so resigned, so afraid, so tired.
Rosalie reached for a pillow, holding it to her chest to soothe the vicarious hurt she was feeling, listening intently. What else had Alice told her? Had she told her about the mate bond? Her teeth bit down on the pillow, satisfying some of her stress. She hated this. She hated feeling so vulnerable. It was one of the best things about being so beautiful. It was a shield between herself and anything that could hurt her. It kept people away, intimidated. Now she had this big life secret and she had to rely on others to keep it for her. It wasn’t fair.
“But Edward, I don’t know why I would!” Bella rushed out. “Maybe it was just a dream. I mean, I dream about you all of the time.”
“Edward, talk to me.”
On the floor below and the rooms around them, Rosalie could hear the remaining members of her family gathering things, preparing to leave and give Edward and Bella some privacy. Rosalie didn’t move. She had to wait, she had to find out if Bella knew. She had to know where she stood.
Her door opened and Esme stepped in. “Come on, Rosie.”
She shook her head, her eyes on the wall above her mother’s head.
“It’s not going to help to listen.”
The growl that popped out of her was entirely involuntary, and yet so heartfelt that Esme stopped, her eyebrows high.
She had to hear. She had to know.
Esme stood there, staring at her for a long moment before she nodded and turned to leave.
“All right.” Edward finally said from the next room. “I’ll talk.”
Esme paused, looking at the wall as though she could see Edward through it. Her eyebrows were drawn, her mouth puckered into disapproval as she started off to meet the others.
“Bella, I’ve had a lot of time to think since you got hurt. I’m sorry you got hurt. I’m sorry things went how they did, but the time was good, I think.”
“What? …You mean… you mean you’re glad that I got hurt?”
“I’ve seen how you respond to Rosalie.”
Bella began to protest but Edward just talked over her.
“I’ve seen it in her mind and I’ve seen it myself.” He gave a low chuckle that Rosalie hated. “I just never thought…”
“I don’t respond to her in any way, Edward.”
“Do you have feelings for her?”
He sounded like a teenager who had caught their girlfriend holding hands with someone else, sullen, petulant, demanding.
Rose listened harder, every cell in her body alive, waiting, hoping, terrified. What would she do if Bella said no? What would she do if Bella said yes? She didn’t know which would be scarier.
She waited but she didn’t hear anything at all. Had Bella responded?
She tucked her back into the pillow, wanting to smother there.
Was it possible that the mate bond wasn’t felt by Bella at all? She had assumed that Bella being human meant it would be different, but not at all? Was it possible to have a one-sided bond?
So many questions. She was so tired of having so many questions.
“I saw your face after she kissed you!”
Bella let out a yell of surprise as Edward exploded and Rose was on her feet, ready to rush in. How likely was it would attack in his anger, would lose his constant battle over his desire to drain her dry? Could she pull him off if he was wild on human blood?
“You don’t look like that after I kiss you, Bella!” he shouted.
Rosalie stepped to the door, her hand on the knob, waiting for any sign, ready to protect her if it was needed. Bella’s response metaphorically knocked her off of her feet, however. It was so unexpected that she sank back onto her bed, a hand covering her gaping mouth.
“Maybe if you actually kissed me, Edward, then I would!” Bella’s shout had been equal to Edward’s and just as filled with anger and resentment. “You say you love me, but do you desire me? …No, I’m serious! I’m actually asking! Do you? Because you don’t kiss me like you do!”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he grunted out and Rosalie could almost see his eye roll. “That’s for your protection.”
Rosalie couldn’t help but notice that Edward had avoided her question.
“Rose didn’t seem to have a hard time kissing me. Why do you?”
Silence. There was nothing but silence from the room beside hers.
Rosalie frowned, listening harder but still Edward didn’t respond.
“Was everything with James for my protection too?”
Rosalie looked away, not wanting to hear this. She could leave now. What she had needed to know was if Alice or anyone else had told her anything more about her, she needed to know what Bella thought, felt, but this wasn’t anything about that.
“What?” Edward laughed. “Of course, what do you mean?”
“Don’t laugh at me, Edward!”
“I can’t help it when you’re like this.”
“Guuuuuh!” Bella cried in anger. “You were horrible when he was coming after me.”
The silence felt static, Edward’s anger and confusion charging the entire house.
“Wh… what…?” The laughter in his voice, that Rosalie found so condescending, began to fade. “I don’t understand what that could mean. I was protecting you.”
“You were so dismissive! Edward, I was scared! Six months ago I didn’t even know vampires existed and then suddenly I’m surrounded by them and one is after me intent on killing me? You didn’t even bother to explain what was happening to me! You were just barking orders at Emmett and Alice in some kind of shorthand and leaving me totally out of it. You were just treating me like a stupid human!”
“You didn’t listen to a single thing I had to say! You didn’t care what I wanted! You didn’t care about my dad! Or my mom! I was so scared and I needed a boyfriend who cared about me but you made me feel more helpless than—”
“You are helpless! Look at what’s happening now with Rose!”
“At least she doesn’t treat me like a child, Edward!”
“Then she’s not taking care of you properly!”
Angry, Bella let out another howl, sounding very much like the vampire threats she had grown used to hearing. “Are – you - kidding – me?” She cried through her teeth. “What is wrong with you?”
Anger coursing through Rose, it was hard not to step in. Had he honestly just told Bella she needed to be treated like a child? Did he really think that? The fucking chauvinist! Of course he did. She had seen it. She had seen it over and over again and Bella had let him. Good for her that she wasn’t fucking doing it now! Her mind ranted, releasing the anger that she could barely hold back.
“Look.” Edward cut over Bella’s angry ranting, stopping her words in their tracks.
Bella’s mouth shut with an audible clamp of her teeth.
“Look. This isn’t helping anything.”
“Bella! Can you just listen to me and mind me for once?”
Again the stale angry silence. This time it went on for so long that Rosalie began to wonder if she had soundlessly killed him. She wasn’t sure she would have blamed her. Even when she was still human and a woman ‘minding’ her husband was the way it was, she still had never had a man say it so openly.
“Look, Bella, you just need to figure out what you want. You don’t get to have us both.”
There was a shifting, a small clatter that Rosalie couldn’t place.
A sob floated from the next room. “Edward, wait…”
Rosalie stood. Edward had left. That was the sound.
Sure enough, half a second later she turned to see him moving quickly into the forest. He had left her there. He had left her there in his bedroom in the middle of the night. Mid conversation. Unable to get back into her truck on her own. He had just left her there!
Again she was halfway there, her hand on Edward’s door before she paused.
Bella didn’t want to see her, not after that. She hadn’t been sure before, but now she was sure.
She turned and headed outside. A quick breath for directions and she started into the forest toward the scent.
Half a mile into the trees, Emmett, Jasper, and Alice all sat on tree stumps, waiting silently.
“He left her.”
“What?” Alice asked, leaping to her feet.
“All right!” Emmett crowed.
“Not like that.” It was a mark of her upset that she didn’t laugh or snap at him. Her skin hurt. She wanted to badly to go to her. She could still hear the gasping sobs echoing around her head. “Edward left Bella there after their talk. He went out into the forest.”
“He didn’t help her home?” Alice asked, her face saying she didn’t fully believe her.
“No! Will you come? She shouldn’t be alone.” She paused, twitched. “Please? Will you come help her, please?”
Alice nodded once and the two started back to the house.
They walked in silence, not entirely comfortably until they reached the pack porch.
“Hey.” She stopped Alice with a hand just before they entered. “Don’t tell her I sent you.”
Alice stopped her face filled with disbelief. “Are you serious? Rose—”
“Just,” she cried, a hand up, “don’t.”
Alice’s lips pressed into a thin line.
With a nod, Rose turned, ready to scale the wall if she needed, or maybe to head out to the car bay, but Alice’s hand on her arm stopped her.
“You know, you’re worthy of someone like Bella.” The words came out more like an accusation.
Her anger came up to meet them in a colossal fury. What the hell?
“You just need to let her see that.”
She didn’t answer, didn’t pull away like she wanted to. As quickly as it had come, the anger faded into the same depression she had been living in.
She didn’t know if that was true or not, wasn’t sure if it mattered.
“Just get her home safely, okay?”
She turned and went to meet Emmett in the woods.