The drive back to the Swan house was silent. It wasn’t uncommon for Bella and Rose to sit in silence together and when they did, it was usually comfortable as they both drifted in and out of their own thoughts. This, however, was not comfortable. This reminded Rosalie very much of the skin chilling, torturous sensation of nails on a chalkboard.
Generally, there wasn’t much that could affect Rosalie’s physical self. There were very few things that could physically damage her. However, the spontaneous fight had been vicious if not quick and now her face throbbed, and there was a spot on her leg where, she had a feeling, she would be finding a new bite mark. That, she had to admit, royally pissed her off. She hadn’t bitten him. She could have. She had wanted to rip his throat out, but even when they were fighting they were family. The prick had gone too far. He had left her with a scar. The prick had gone too far in more than one way. What had he even been doing there? Why had he come back early from hunting?
Beside her, Bella seemed to be lost in her thoughts as well. Her arms were wrapped around herself, her face set into a look of complete horror and anger. She stared dejectedly out of the passenger window.
Rose looked to her frequently, trying to come up with something to say. The problem was, she didn’t want to speak. She wanted to yell. She wanted to yell about Edward. She wanted to yell about the fact that Bella had thrown herself between two vampires more than once, an act that could have been the end of her. She wanted to tell her how stupid it had been. She could feel it bottled up inside of her, threatening to break free and so, she didn’t speak.
It was late when she finally pulled into the driveway and turned off the car, alarmed by the loud roar of the engines stall. She had to get Bella to let her work on this thing, she thought yet again.
She turned a little in her seat, unsure exactly what Bella wanted.
“Are you okay? Did he hurt you?” Bella asked, not turning to face her.
Rose shook her head. “No.” It was a white lie, she thought. “Not badly, anyway. Do you want me to come inside?”
Bella was silent for a long moment before she nodded.
“Okay. Come on.”
She got out of the truck and opened the door for Bella, surprised and yet not at all surprised to see that her hands shook. She was trying to be calm, to be soft with someone who seemed pushed past her point of endurance, but the anger hadn’t left. It simmered harshly under her skin, burning her from the inside out. She couldn’t leave things like this. She was going to have to talk to him, to find out what the fuck was wrong with him. She was going to have to say something, else this anger might eat her alive.
Up in Bella’s room, Rose wrapped Bella into her arms. Kissing her head, she sighed. “Are you okay?”
Bella nodded, but the nod was stiff, disjointed. Rose watched her as she turned and sat on the bed.
“You’re hurt.” It wasn’t a question. In the car Rose had thought she had been cradling herself, upset or even cold, but now she saw she was cradling one arm.
“Bella!” Rose dropped to her knees, frustrated that Bella probably wouldn’t have told her if she hadn’t noticed. “Let me see, please.”
With a long look of indecision, Bella finally pulled off her jacket.
The bruise was still forming, but it was going to be a magnificent one. Her right arm from shoulder to elbow was inflamed, red and already turning purple. Seeing it, Rosalie’s vision wavered. “What – happened?” she ground out.
Bella shrugged as if this were no big deal. “I think something bumped into me.”
“Don’t say it like that!” she cried, snapping far too hard.
“Like what?” Bella shot back, all fire and she shoved Rosalie away from her.
“Like it’s nothing! We hurt you!”
“I don’t think that’s the biggest issue here, Rose!”
Rosalie sat there, still as a statue, her eyes on the bruise as she tried to maintain her temper. Which of them had it been? She had thrown herself in the middle of them more than once, so which one of them had been the one to bruise her?
She wasn’t sure it mattered.
“Are you mad at me for this?”
“Yes!” Bella shot back so fast it was as though she had been waiting for the question.
Rose flinched, another slice inside of her beginning to bleed.
Bella groaned, rubbing her arm softly. “I’m sorry, no, I don’t. I promise I don’t.” She reached out for Rose but she flinched away from Bella’s seeking hand.
Rosalie’s eyes flicked up to Bella’s, hard and steely. Her teeth ground. She wasn’t breathing.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. I just – I don’t understand. What was that?”
Teeth clenched to bite back the unyielding anger, Rose gently she moved her hands, placing them over the forming bruise.
Bella sighed. “That feels nice.”
Rosalie didn’t respond. She felt like she was going to shake apart. The anger simmered and boiled.
With a long look, Bella nodded. “At me?”
Rosalie’s eyes dragged up to Bella’s face, looking at her for a long time. “No, sweetie, not at you.”
Bella nodded like she didn’t believe her.
“Hold on.” Rose excused herself, and though Charlie was in the living room, she moved at full vampire speed down to the kitchen, filled a few bags full of ice and then reappeared in Bella’s room. “Here. Use these, please. I’ll bring you some arnica later tonight.”
Bella looked up, alarmed. “Are you leaving?”
“Yes, but I’ll be back.”
With a cry, Bella’s hand shot out, grabbing her wrist.
“Don’t do that!” Rose dropped back down, tucking Bella’s arm into her body. “You probably bruised the muscle, love. Here.” She pulled a scarf off of Bella’s dresser and with quick efficient hands, she bound the arm to Bella’s body, immobilizing it. “When I get back we’ll do some stretches for the muscle.”
“I have to go, Bella,” she said, not looking at her.
Bella looked up at her, face unreadable. “Will you stay with me tonight?”
Rose blinked, taken aback. She glanced at the bed and the door. She had never stayed with her overnight, not once. She wasn’t sure why, but she hadn’t. “All right.”
Bella’s face didn’t change. “Are you going to talk to Edward?”
Should she lie? She knew without having to ask that Bella wouldn’t like the answer. Bella shivered and so Rose picked up the blanket on the bed and wrapped it around her. “I am.”
Bella nodded. “To fight more?”
“I don’t know.” And she honestly didn’t. She wanted to. She wanted to rip him apart. “No. I don’t think so. I’m not sure. I think he and I need to talk.”
“Let me come with you? Please?” Bella begged.
She shook her head. “You were already in too much danger today.”
“You were, Bella. You were.”
Bella’s anguished face stared up at her.
“No more fighting, okay?” She bent down and gently kissed her cheek.
Bella’s fingers caught her wrist again before she could turn away. Rose paused and then smiled down at her. “I’ll be back. Go take a long shower and try to relax, okay? I’ll be back soon.”
Bella nodded and reluctantly let go.
Tracking Edward wasn’t exactly hard, and she was no tracker. She had always left that skill to Emmett or Jasper. However, the moment she dropped to the ground under Bella’s window, she had been able to catch his scent.
That only stoked her anger more.
How often was he there? Did Bella know he was there? Did he just come to stand outside? How dare he ignore Bella’s right to privacy!
Dropping from the window, she had truly felt what she had said. No fighting. They needed to talk. But now, as her nose filled with his scent, she wished she hadn’t said that. The smell of him only enraged her further. Why was it there? The creepy fuck. Teeth bared, she started off in the direction of the freshest scent, enraged to find that it was so fresh that it could only mean he had been there that night.
While she and Bella were talking?
Before they had arrived?
She moved at a quick pace, holding back just enough speed that she had time to calm herself a little. If she found him this way she would hurt him, really hurt him. And that would hurt her family. She just couldn’t get this out of her head. He had been there. He had attacked her, he had done that, and then he had come to her mate’s house!
The things he had said… she hadn’t thought much of them until now, running through the trees in search of him. What the hell gave him the right? How dare he make those assumptions about her! If he was so sure that everyone was a danger to Bella then that had to come internally. That had to mean that he was sure that he would hurt her, and if that was the case then she didn’t want him anywhere near them. He needed to go back to Alaska. He needed to take a break for a while until he could get himself under control. He needed a good bought of self-reflection because this was unacceptable!
Her anger grew as her feet pounded on the forest floor. When she burst into an unfamiliar clearing and saw him standing there looking up at the moon, her fury tripled.
No fighting, no fighting, no fighting, she reminded herself but the words echoed hollowly in her head. She roared and crouched, ready for his attack.
It didn’t come. He only stood, his shoulders slumped, his eyes now downcast.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” She boomed, only just managing to stop herself from lashing out. She stopped inches from him, her face in his. “She’s hurt! I don’t know if it was you or me, but one of us hurt her because you – because you –” she roared in fury when he didn’t move or respond in any way and shoved him hard in the chest. “She’s fucking hurt, Edward! Don’t you care about that at all?”
“Of course I do!” He shouted back, making a flock of night birds suddenly take flight over them.
“Do you?” She gave him another hard shove in the chest, sending him staggering. “What was that? Why were you at Bella’s house? Huh? Why?”
His mournful eyes slowly drew up to hers, but he didn’t speak.
“Why, Edward? Why were you there?”
“I had to see her.”
“What the fuck?” She had to take a step away from him. She had to, else she would do exactly what she had told herself she wouldn’t. “No. Okay, no! You decided you got the call the shots when you were together, well now I do and the answer is no! You do not get to invade her privacy! You do not get to stand on the edge of my relationship like a mentally unstable voyeur begging for scraps!”
“Your relationship,” Edward scoffed, laughing deprecatingly.
“That’s right, Edward, my relationship. Scoff all you want, but it’s mine.”
Edward didn’t respond, his head shaking a little as if he couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“Why did you attack me? No, why were you even there? Why did you come back? Huh? The whole family knew I was spending time with Bella. That was why I didn’t go!”
His head turned away, grimacing. “I know. That’s why I came back.”
She froze, stunned by his honesty. “What?”
His head shook, his voice cracking with pain. “I just couldn’t stand it. I couldn’t stand the thought of you spending one on one time with her.” His face twisted again. “And then I heard her…” he stopped, shaking his head. “I just couldn’t stand it.”
Arms crossed, she glared down at him, unmoved by his pain. “You couldn’t stand what?”
“To hear her that way!” He bellowed, his arm sweeping back toward the direction the house was in. “To hear her say your name like that!”
She screamed in anger, horrified to be reminded of the fact that he had overheard that intimate of a moment. She resented it. She resented that the first time Bella said her name in pleasure was something she had to share. That should be hers to cherish and keep close to herself. She should have to share it with no one!
“I don’t understand,” he whined. “How are you able to be so close to her?”
“Because I’m not weak!” She snapped. She knew it was a cruel thing to say, but she couldn’t find it in herself to care. Not right now.
“But you are!” He howled like a wounded animal.
“Clothes, cars, money. Those are the things you care about. Those are what you have always cared about! Possessions! It’s what got you killed! You cared more about what he had than who he was!”
She stared, her insides burning cold as ice, searing her. She couldn’t argue. That was the worst part. She couldn’t argue with him. “Do not talk to me about my death,” she warned in a low voice. “Do not make that mistake Edward.”
“But it’s true! I don’t understand!”
“I can’t more for her health and happiness than about the fact that I’m sure Bella’s blood would taste amazing. I want her — I need her to be happy and whole.”
“Is that why you haven’t told her that you think you’re mated.”
The words did as intended. Already off-kilter because of his horribly true comments about her life and death, that statement sent her reeling into self-hatred. They were like a slap to the face, and she did not miss the keyword there: ‘think’. “It’s complicated.”
The roar that Edward let out froze her in place, her teeth bared. “You mean because she’s mine?” He shouted, the fury pouring out of him in waves. “You mean because I love her? Because I care about her? Because she loves me?”
“She is not yours!” She barely bit back the desire to shove him again. “No one owns her, Edward! Not you, not me! And you lied! You lied to everyone! She told me that you told her that you were mated! That doesn’t make you better suited for her than me, Edward, that makes you a creep who used something against her that she couldn’t fight or argue!”
Surprised, he took a step away from her. “What?”
“You. Lied. You lied!”
He began shaking his head and somehow that cut Rosalie off. How could he argue this? There was no way to argue this.
He scoffed, looking up at the moon again. “That’s not true.”
“You’re telling me that you felt what I felt? Hmm? I know you’ve felt it in my head when you go investigating. I know you have.”
His head was still shaking and she wanted to knock it off of his shoulders.
“I’ve been surrounded by mated pairs for a hundred years, Rose. A hundred. Everyone else has romance. Everyone else has sex. Everyone else has… someone… something. I have music, and school, and my books. Can you blame me if I jumped at the chance to be with someone?”
She glared. “Under false pretenses. That’s not love, that’s manipulation!”
“I didn’t lie!”
“Then you clearly don’t know what it feels like when you find your mate.”
“No!” he shouted back. “I don’t!” With a snarl, he turned away, trying to calm himself. It didn’t seem to help. The moment he turned again, the snarl was there. “I trusted you!” He roared. “I asked you to stay with her over and over again because you were the only person in our family who seemed just as aware of her as I was! You stood up for her, even against me!”
“Didn’t you ever think about why that was?” She asked it calmly, not shouting and that seemed to anger him more.
“I trusted you! You’re supposed to be my family! She is supposed to be mine and you took her from me! You took her!” He snarled, his teeth exposed, his body semi crouched, ready to attack.
Rose didn’t retaliate, didn’t respond in any way. She wasn’t going to fight him. His desire for the brawl suddenly made her desire falter and die. She just stared at him, at his enraged face and slowly shook her head. “I’m sorry about that, Edward.” And she was. She always had been. “I honestly am,” she said gently. “I didn’t do it on purpose. I fought against it.”
“Not very hard.”
“I want her back, Rose. I’m getting her back.”
She laughed a little, looking up at the night sky. The stars were beautiful, so many in the sky that they were without number. He wanted her back? He didn’t get that choice. Even if she and Bella weren’t mated, he didn’t get to just make that choice. How was it that he still didn’t understand that?
“Is that funny to you?”
She shook her head slowly, her eyes dropping back to him. “No. It’s not. I’m sorry, Edward, but you can’t have her. Don’t you understand that yet?”
“You would refuse her if that was what she wanted?”
Rose thought about it, honestly thought about it. Would she? If Bella told her tomorrow that she wanted Edward, or Mike, or Jessica, would she refuse her? The answer, she found, was surprisingly easy. “No.”
“I’m getting her back.”
She looked at him and a new feeling rose in her, one that she hated because it wasn’t from anger and it wasn’t from pain. Pity. She pitied him. And that – that made her all the angrier. The guilt, the pity, it was all ridiculous. It was all so unfair. “I’m sorry, but that’s not how this goes.” She turned ready to leave.
Her vision pulsed as something sharp and hard grabbed her by the shoulders. She hissed, spitting furiously as he was suddenly there, his teeth a threatening inch from her neck. “Always the same, aren’t you? The same Rosalie. A selfish, vain bitch who doesn’t care about anyone else but herself.”
“You would attack me when my back is turned? Is what who you are now, Edward?” She screamed, ready to throw him off.
“You’re going to be poison for her, Rose. You are poison. You were rotten as a human, and now your decay leaches into everything that you touch.”
Her hands began to shake again, her vision blurring with upset as she listened. She was spellbound, hearing everything she feared from someone she loved.
“You will be her undoing,” he hissed in her ear.
Her face turned away from him. She knew that she shouldn’t listen to him, that he was just trying to hurt her, but the words sank into her, dropping on her skin and hissing like acid. They sank in, touching the part of her she tried to ignore.
“You will take her, you will use her, and then you will discard her when you’re bored. And I will protect her from that.”
“No. I won’t.”
“You will. You can’t help it. It’s who you are. I’ve seen it in your head.”
“I won’t!” she shouted.
Anger pounded in her head.
“You will. You were broken that night and now you can’t help but break. It’s who you are, you vile bitch.”
Her fingers twisted into claws, about to rip him from her when he promised one more thing and then disappeared into the woods.
“I’m getting her back. I will protect Bella.”
She stood, barely in control of herself. Pity, guilt, anger, a sneaking sense of betrayal, and pain.
Shaking, she stood in the darkness, shocked by the sudden tilting of her world.
The words swirled through her.
You were broken and now you can’t help but break…
Blind, she took off at a run, her head pounding with the unshed anger and disgust. She pushed harder, her feet moving at a speed she wasn’t sure she had hit before.
He was wrong. He was wrong. She told herself this over and over, trying to stop the words that sounded so much like her own fears. Did she not feel dirty? Did she not feel rotten on the inside like a bad apple? Did she not feel the pain of being broken, of man after man penetrating her as she bled and screamed? Did she not still hear their laughter in the silent moments of her life? How could she not poison someone as pure and good as Bella?
Was he right?
For her own protection, should Rosalie give Bella up?
She passed the town, unable to stop her forward motion, turned and then came back to it.
The anger was still there, the barely controlled, pain riddled rage.
He had done this to her. The man she was supposed to marry, the man who was supposed to love her, he had done this. He had taken a girl and he had ruined her. Why? For a moment of pleasure? She was poison now and it was because of him. She hated him.
She moved through the town like a ghost. She moved, not feeling human at all, feeling like something wild as her mind ground through her anger, turning everything else to dust. It was instinctual. She didn’t plan to go there. She hadn’t agreed to do so at all when she pushed herself through the window and found herself in Bella’s room.
She froze, staring at Bella in shock.
Edward was right, she realized. He was right. How horrible, how disgusting was she to come to the one person she was supposed to protect when she was in this state?
Self-loathing made her mouth taste vile. Her lips curled back against it, a low growl rumbling up from her chest.
She heard the sound and with an agonized internal cry, she turned, pressing her face into the corner, afraid of herself, afraid for Bella, and yet unable to leave this room that smelled so much of her.
He was right.
She wanted. And so she had come here. She had put her love in danger. Why? For her own needs.
She whined in fear; the sound of an animal caught in a trap.
“What happened?” Bella breathed from behind her.
Rose didn’t respond. She took a long deep breath, and then another, concentrating. She wanted to rip his head off. She wanted to hurt him. She wanted to hurt herself. He wasn’t right. He wasn’t, he wasn’t, he wasn’t.
Did this make her like him? Her coming here when she could so easily hurt her right now? Did this make him right? Was she willing to endanger Bella for her own sake?
She didn’t want to leave.
She snarled when she heard Bella rise from the bed and take a step toward her. Horrified at it, her hand clamped over her mouth, turning to look at Bella in revulsion.
Bella paused, her eyes wide. Slowly, moving like a mouse before a cat, she reached out her hand.
Rose flinched away, turning toward the corner again, hiding her face in it.
Was she so disgusting? So vile? So horrible?
“Rose,” Bella said again, her voice a gentle whisper.
Rose flinched when the hand touched first her arm. Looking down, she saw the pale fingers move around to the front of her arm, pulling her so she would turn. She blinked, searching for her humanity, searching for a way past the anger, past the pain and the guilt.
Bella’s hand ran slowly down her arm, into her palm. Squeezing tightly, she lifted the hand and carefully brought it to her lips, kissing it.
Rose watched, surprised and slightly distracted. Bella didn’t look afraid of her. It was confusing with the shouting and clutter in her head.
Slowly Bella took the other hand and did the same, kissing it lightly.
Rose watched fascinated as she looked into Bella’s eyes. They were calm, caring, and Rose…
“I would never make you be with me if you didn’t want to, Bella.” The words had just come out of her, and yet they were the right ones, she was sure.
Bella looked up at her, startled. “What?”
“I wouldn’t.” She grunted.
Bella’s head shook. “I… I know that.”
Rose shifted in place.
“Do you know that?”
She didn’t answer.
“Do you, Rose?”
She blinked a few times, fighting back that feeling of tears where no tears were present.
Bella didn’t ask what happened, instead, she turned and sat on the bed. “Come here.”
Rose hesitated. She wasn’t one to do this. She wasn’t one to have so many… feelings. She wasn’t…
Bella reached for her hand and gave it a small pull.
Rose let herself go. She fell onto the bed beside her, wanting this desperately and yet so resistant.
She didn’t want to be poison. She didn’t want to be.
Bella shifted until Rose’s head was in her lap. Gently Bella’s hand began to softly stroke her hair.
Rose’s eyes closed. It was a feeling so foreign. Emmett didn’t do this. No one did this. She let it happen, let Bella soothe her.
“I know you would never make me.”
Rose’s eyes opened, staring in pain at the wall across from her.
The anger faded, but the pain did not.
She had to tell her.
She had to.
Bella’s fingers scratched across her scalp and Rose’s eyes slowly closed again. Just maybe… not that night.