Chapter 8: Target
Alice dropped Bella at home in the morning, as I was still “camping” as far as her father knew. I had to wait at least an hour or so before showing up at her house, so Charlie would think I had just arrived home. It was hard for Bella to constantly lie to her father, even if it was for his own good. She hated lying to anyone about anything, and she was terrible at it when she tried. I was surprised Charlie believed as much as he did, but that was more Alice’s doing than Bella’s.
I was anxious to be back with Bella already, and I was having a hard time waiting a full hour. After forty minutes, I gave up, figuring enough time had passed that Charlie wouldn’t be too suspicious. I got in the Volvo and drove toward Bella’s house. I tried my best to go as slow as I could stand, but slow to me was still faster than any human would dare to drive in city limits.
As I drew nearer to the house, I first caught the scent. It was a stranger’s scent, yet familiar in a vague way. I knew instantly it was a vampire, one I’d never met before. This wasn’t particularly unheard of, as strangers would cross my family’s path from time to time. Curious, usually, nothing more. But having a strange vampire scent so close to Bella’s house was unnerving. I didn’t completely panic until I continued driving and the scent became stronger the closer I got. I pulled up to the curb outside the Swan residence, and realized that whoever the vampire was, he had been here. My first suspicion was Victoria, however I knew her scent, and this wasn’t it. But who else would be at Bella’s house?
I exited the car and circled the house quickly, finding the scent leaving a trail through the woods behind the house. My mind was reeling with thoughts of who would have come here. I realized that the only reasonable explanation would be someone associated with the Volturi, coming to check on Bella’s change. I growled under my breath, furious with their interference in our lives.
I ran faster than the eye would catch to the front door, ringing the doorbell. I heard Charlie’s thoughts, which were less than welcoming when he realized who it must have been, but I was too upset to care.
I could hear Bella’s clumsy footsteps on the stairs. “Door,” he called to her as she walked past him.
“Don’t strain yourself, Dad,” she replied as she opened the door.
I hadn’t bothered to compose my face, and Bella knew something was wrong immediately as her smile faltered. “Edward? What -- ?”
I pressed my fingers to her lips, cutting her off. “Give me two seconds. Don’t move.”
I was nothing more than a blur as I quickly followed the unfamiliar scent up the stairs, finding his or her final destination: Bella’s room. My suspicions were confirmed. Someone had come here to check up on her, and it wasn’t anyone I’d ever met before. Why hadn’t Alice seen this? Bella, or Charlie, could have been killed. I was going to have a talk with my sister. I ran downstairs and was back in front of Bella before she even had a chance to react. I grasped her around the waist, gently pulling her into the kitchen, away from Charlie’s ears. I scanned the room quickly, looking for any sign that anything was out of the ordinary.
Once I knew we were safe from listening ears, I held her close and whispered in her ear. “Someone’s been here.”
She gave me a strange look, then started to speak. “I swear that no werewolves –“
I cut her off. “Not one of them. One of us.”
Her already pale face whitened, and she looked like she was about to faint. I kept my hold firmly around her waist, just in case. “Victoria?” she asked, her voice weak.
I shook my head gently. “It’s not a scent I recognize.”
“One of the Volturi?” she guessed, drawing the same conclusion as I had.
“Probably,” I replied, trying to keep my voice calm.
“That’s why I think it must have been them – it wasn’t long ago, early this morning while Charlie was sleeping. And whoever it was didn’t touch him, so there must have been another purpose.” The Volturi was the only conclusion that made sense, but that still didn’t explain why Alice hadn’t warned us.
“Looking for me.” It wasn’t a question.
I was about to reply when Charlie’s thoughts became louder as he approached the kitchen.
What are they whispering about? They better not be trying to pull anything… “What are you two hissing about in here?” he asked gruffly as he entered. He stared at Bella. Wow, she looks upset. And the hushed voices…they must be fighting! Oh that’s too perfect. He started grinning, and I was more than annoyed than usual by his thoughts today. “If you two are having a fight…well, don’t let me interrupt.” And with that, he put his empty bowl in the sink and turned back to become a zombie in front of the television.
I needed to speak with my family immediately, and I wasn’t planning on letting Bella out of my sight for any amount of time until this was resolved. “Let’s go,” I told her, pulling her towards the front door.
“But Charlie!” she said. Although I was fairly sure the danger was gone for the moment, I could tell she was worried that something would happen to him in our absence. I thought about it for a moment, then pulled out my phone and dialed the familiar number.
Emmett answered quickly, “Hey, bro, what’s up?”
“Emmett, there’s a situation.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“There was someone at Bella’s house, not a scent I know. Another vampire, someone from the Volturi probably. They were in her room early this morning. I need to speak with Alice, but Bella is worried about Charlie. Could you and Jasper come sweep the woods, and see if you possibly recognize the scent?”
“Yeah, of course, we’ll be right there. I’ll get the family together, too. They’ll be waiting for you to get here.”
“Thanks, Emmett, I appreciate it.” I hung up quickly. The entire conversation took less than a minute. I started to lead her away again, and she resisted me slightly. “Emmett and Jasper are on their way. They’ll sweep the woods. Charlie is fine.” She didn’t look entirely convinced, but let me lead her out.
Taking it outside, must be a serious fight. Charlie thought as he watched us walk towards the door. He was still smirking until he saw Bella’s face, which was still a mask of fear. Wow, she looks shaken up. I haven’t seen her look like that since he left her before. He better not be planning anything like that again. It’ll kill her. I knew she shouldn’t have trusted him…
His thoughts went on, but I didn’t have time to dwell on them. We walked out the door before he could protest, and I quickly helped Bella into the Volvo, turning it around and driving back to my house.
“Where are we going?” Bella was still whispering, although it wasn’t necessary anymore at this point.
“We’re going to see Alice,” I said, my voice sounding strained.
“You think she saw anything?”
“Maybe,” I said, my eyes narrowing. The thought of Alice seeing something as important as this made me made me extremely angry, although I really couldn’t believe she would do that. But the alternative was that she didn’t see anything at all, and she was supposed to be watching out for anything that could harm Bella. How could I trust her if she could miss something as big as this?
When we arrived, everyone was in the living room, waiting. Everyone except Rosalie, who was staring out the picture window, worrying about Emmett, stared at us as we walked in. Their thoughts were jumbled, confused, and I wasn’t trying to sort them out. I was looking directly at Alice, my hands clenched, posture rigid. “What happened?” I demanded.
“I have no idea. I didn’t see anything.” Her stance was as tense as mine, ready to defend herself against my allegations. She knew I would blame this on her.
“How is that possible?” I hissed.
“Edward,” Bella warned quietly from behind me. She didn’t like the tension between my sister and I. I ignored her.
“It’s not an exact science, Edward,” Carlisle soothed from behind me.
I kept my eyes on Alice. “He was in her room, Alice. He could have still been there – waiting for her.”
“I would have seen that,” she defended.
I threw my hands up. “Really? You’re sure?”
“You’ve already got me watching the Volturis’ decisions, watching for Victoria’s return, watching Bella’s every step. You want to add another? Do I just have to watch Charlie, or Bella’s room, or the house, or the whole street, too? Edward, if I try to do too much, things are going to start slipping through the cracks.” Her voice was cold.
“It looks like they already are.”
“She was never in any danger. There was nothing to see.”
“If you’re watching Italy, why didn’t you see them send –“
She cut me off quickly. “I don’t think it’s them. I would have seen that.”
“Who else would leave Charlie alive?” My question received a shudder from Bella and a shrug from Alice.
“I don’t know,” was all she said.
“Stop it, Edward,” Bella demanded from behind me. Her voice still hadn’t risen from a whisper.
I turned around at her voice, fury still clear on my face. Looking in her eyes, I could see how scared she was, and I knew I wasn’t helping the situation. This wasn’t Alice’s fault, it wasn’t anyone’s fault, and standing here arguing wasn’t going to solve the problem.
“You’re right, Bella. I’m sorry,” I said, forcing myself to relax as much as possible. I turned to my sister. “Forgive me, Alice. I shouldn’t be taking this out on you. That was inexcusable.”
“I understand,” she replied. “I’m not happy about it, either.”
I took a deep, calming breath. “Okay, let’s look at this logically. What are the possibilities?”
Everyone seemed to relax at once as they thought, moving to sit on the couch and chairs. Rosalie was the only one who didn’t move from her position, only half-listening. She wouldn’t involve herself in any conversation until Emmett was home safe. I led Bella to the sofa, sitting her next to Esme, who immediately put her arm around Bella’s shoulder.
Poor dear, she thought. She's scared to death.
Everyone sat in silence a moment, trying to come up with whatever they could to explain the unknown presence.
“Victoria?” Carlisle suggested, though he knew it couldn’t have been her.
I shook my head anyway. “No. I didn’t know the scent. He might have been from the Volturi, someone I’ve never met…”
Alice shook her head. “Aro hasn’t asked anyone to look for her yet. I will see that. I’m waiting for it.”
My head snapped up to look at her as an idea formed in my mind. “You’re watching for an official command.”
Knowing where I was headed, she replied, “You think someone’s acting on their own? Why?”
I could think of one reason. “Caius’s idea.”
“Or Jane’s…” Alice trailed off. “They both have the resources to send an unfamiliar face…”
“And the motivation,” I added.
“It doesn’t make sense though,” Esme chimed. “If whoever it was meant to wait for Bella, Alice would have seen that. He – or she – had no intention of hurting Bella. Or Charlie, for that matter.” Bella cringed at the mention of her father. Esme noticed, and started petting her hair soothingly. “It’s going to be fine, Bella.”
“But what was the point, then?” Carlisle asked.
“Checking to see if I’m still human?” Bella suggested.
“Possible,” Carlisle said.
At that moment, I sensed Emmett and Jasper drawing near. I heard their thoughts as they strode toward the house, and they hadn’t found anything out of the ordinary in the woods, nor did either recognize the scent. Rosalie breathed a sigh of relief when she saw Emmett break through the tree line, finally relaxing her stance and turning towards us.
They came in through the kitchen, Emmett speaking before anyone had a chance to ask. “Long gone, hours ago. The trail went East, then South, and disappeared on a side road. Had a car waiting.” He was disappointed he didn’t find anything, always up for a good fight.
“That’s bad luck,” I muttered, more to myself than anyone else. “If he’d gone west…well, it would be nice for those dogs to make themselves useful”
Bella winced again, and Esme rubbed her shoulders soothingly.
Jasper spoke to Carlisle. “Neither of us recognized him. But here, maybe you know the scent.” He handed Carlisle a broken fern frond, which Carlisle sniffed quickly. He didn’t recognize it.
“No. Not familiar. No one I’ve ever met.”
Esme, ever the optimist, decided to suggest a different possibility. “Maybe we’re looking at this the wrong way. Maybe it’s a coincidence…” Every one of us stared at her, disbelief coloring our faces. “I don’t mean a coincidence that a stranger happened to pick Bella’s house at random. I meant that maybe someone was just curious. Our scent is all around her. Was he wondering what draws us there?”
“Why wouldn’t he just come here then? If he was curious?” Emmett questioned.
“You would. The rest of us aren’t always so direct. Our family is very large – he or she might be frightened. But Charlie wasn’t harmed. This doesn’t have to be an enemy.”
Carlisle pondered over the theory, wishing it was the truth, but the rest of us dismissed it almost immediately. There was no way this was coincidence. Alice seemed to be on the same page as me, because she was the first to speak.
“I don’t think so. The timing was too perfect…This visitor was so careful to make no contact. Almost like he or she knew I would see…”
“He could have other reasons for not making contact,” Esme interjected.
Bella suddenly spoke up, her voice filled with the panic I knew she was feeling. “Does it really matter who it is? Just the chance that someone was looking for me…isn’t that reason enough? We shouldn’t wait for graduation.”
I was glad my family was on my side about her change not happening out of fear, and I knew they would be on my side when I spoke. “No, Bella. It’s not that bad. If you’re really in danger, we’ll know.” I sounded more confident than I felt.
“Think of Charlie,” Carlisle reminded her, coming to my aide. “Think of how it would hurt him if you disappeared.”
“I am thinking about Charlie!” she yelled. “He’s the one I’m worried about! What if my little guest happened to be thirsty last night? As long as I’m around Charlie, he’s a target, too. If anything happened to him, it would be all my fault!”
“Hardly, Bella. And nothing will happen to Charlie. We’re just going to have to be more careful,” Esme soothed.
“More careful?” she replied in disbelief, no doubt wondering how much more we could do to keep her safe.
“It’s all going to be fine, Bella,” Alice said, and the rest of the family nodded.
She studied us one by one, and knew we would not be giving in. We left soon after, needing to get Bella back home to Charlie’s so he wouldn’t panic. She seemed upset, and I tired to calm her nerves as we drove.
“You won’t be alone for a second,” I promised. “Someone will always be there. Emmett, Alice, Jasper…”
“This is ridiculous,” she sighed. “They’ll get so bored they’ll have to kill me themselves, just for something to do.”
Her attempt at humor wasn’t amusing. “Hilarious, Bella.”
The rest of the ride home was quiet, both of us lost in thought. My mood wasn’t improved with Charlie’s thoughts when we arrived. He sensed the tension radiating off of Bella and I, and guessed he was right in his previous assumption that we were fighting. He didn’t bother trying to cover his smug smile.
As Bella made dinner for her father, I excused myself briefly, wanting to survey the area. Everything was the same as it had been earlier, and I wasn’t sure whether I should be frustrated or relieved. I returned to the kitchen just in time to have Charlie purposely try to agitate me further.
“Jacob called again,” he said to Bella. I bet that’s what they’re fighting about. Wish she’d just get together with Jacob and get it over with.
“Is that a fact?” Bella said, her voice thick with irritation.
“Don’t be petty, Bella. He sounded really low.”
“Is Jacob paying you for all the P.R., or are you a volunteer?” she asked, and he grumbled to himself for the rest of dinner.
I had to “leave” for the evening soon after, at Charlie’s insistence, and called Emmett to make sure he was standing guard while I drove the Volvo home and ran back. I drove even faster than usual, and was back in Bella’s window in ten minutes flat. She was exhausted from all the activity of the day, and I sang to her for less than five minutes before she fell into a deep sleep. There was no sleep talking, no nightmares, and she hardly moved all night.
Charlie left on a fishing trip before the sun rose, not bothering to check on Bella before he went. She rose and ate breakfast in silence, deep in concentration about something. I had a lot on my own mind, so the silence was welcome.
She finally spoke after her breakfast was finished. “I’m going to let Jacob off the hook,” she declared.
“I knew you’d forgive him. Holding grudges is not one of your many talents.”
She rolled her eyes at me, but smiled, and I smiled back. She decided to call him, despite the early time. I watched as she dialed, curious about how the conversation would go, and thankful for my heightened sense of hearing.
Jacob answered after the first ring. “Hello?”
“Bella! Oh, Bella, I’m so sorry! I swear I didn’t mean it. I was just being stupid. I was angry – but that’s no excuse. It was the stupidest thing I’ve ever said in my life and I’m sorry. Don’t be mad at me, please? Please. Lifetime of servitude up for grabs – all you have to do is forgive me.” He said all this in barely two breaths, sounding quite immature to me. I still didn’t understand his appeal.
“I’m not mad,” she laughed. “You’re forgiven.”
“Thank you. I can’t believe I was such a jerk.” Neither could I. On second thought, maybe I could believe it. He was a werewolf, after all.
“Don’t worry about that – I’m used to it,” Bella joked, and Jacob laughed.
“Come down to see me. I want to make it up to you.”
“How?” she asked.
“Anything you want. Cliff diving,” he suggested, then laughed. I knew Bella wouldn’t be stupid enough to make that mistake twice.
“Oh, there’s a brilliant idea,” she said, rolling her eyes.
“I’ll keep you safe. No matter what you want to do.”
Bella looked at me, probably trying to decide if leaving right now was a good idea. It wasn’t, and I prayed she wouldn’t go, but I knew I couldn’t stop her without ruining all the progress we’d made in the past few days. I kept my face a calm, emotionless mask.
“Not right now,” she said simply.
“He’s not thrilled with me, is he?” Jacob asked, sounding strangely ashamed. That was true, an understatement really, but that wasn’t the reason.
“That’s not the problem. There’s…well, there’s this other problem that’s slightly more worrisome than a bratty teenage werewolf…” she was trying to joke, but her tone sounded worried, which he picked up on right away.
“Um.” She faltered, looking to me. She wasn’t sure how much to say. I held my hand out hand for the phone, wanting to handle this myself. She just stared at me, not trusting me to remain calm.
“Bella?” Jacob prompted when she remained silent.
I sighed, inching my hand closer to the phone.
“Do you mind speaking to Edward? He wants to talk to you,” she asked, sounding somewhat scared.
Jacob seemed consider this for a moment. Finally he replied, “Okay. This should be interesting.”
Bella handed me the phone, giving me a look that warned “behave”. I planned on being as civil as possible, not wanting to make her unhappy. “Hello, Jacob,” I said politely.
“What’s going on, bloodsucker? What’s the problem?” Jacob was predictably less friendly.
“Someone was here – not a scent I know. Has your pack come across anything new?”
“No, nothing since that redheaded leech before,” he said, and I nodded. I had assumed they wouldn’t have picked up the trail since the visitor had gone east.
“Here’s the crux, Jacob. I won’t be letting Bella out of my sight till I get this taken care of. It’s nothing personal –“ I explained, but was cut off.
“Oh, please. You know as well as I do that she’s just as safe with me right now as she is with you. Maybe even safer if there’s another crazy bloodsucker on the loose.”
“You might be right – “ I started, but was cut off once again.
“Look, if this…thing…is dangerous, maybe we should talk about readjusting some boundary lines. For now, I mean. We should be patrolling around Bella’s house too. I’d have to talk to Sam about it, but you know the pack is always up for a good fight,” Jacob said.
“That’s an interesting suggestion,” I said, surprised at his eagerness to help. “We’re quite willing to renegotiate. If Sam is amendable.”
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll talk to him. I’m sure it won’t be a problem.” I wasn’t sure how to take Jacob being somewhat tolerable. I assumed he had some sort of ulterior motive, but at the moment it really didn’t matter.
“Thank you,” I replied.
“What are you planning on doing with Bella while you and your family are meeting with Sam?” he asked, sounding genuinely concerned. I was surprised by the amount of emotion he had put in the question.
“I’d planned to go alone, actually. And leave her with the others.”
“Oh, come on, blood—I mean Edward. Bring her to La Push, and I’ll protect her. She wants to spend time with me, and when you’re not around, I don’t see the issue. You should let her visit more, without giving her a hard time.”
“I’ll try to consider it objectively. As objectively as I’m capable of.” I promised.
“Fine. At least let me come over and get the scent, so the pack and I know what we should be looking for,” he suggested.
“That’s not a half-bad idea. When?” I asked.
“Ten minutes, unless that’s too fast for you,” he replied.
“No, that’s fine. I’d like a chance to follow the trail personally, anyway. Ten minutes.”
“I’d like to speak to Bella again first,” he said.
“Certainly,” I replied, holding the phone out for her. “Bella?”
She looked confused as she took it from me. “What was that all about?” she asked, clearly irritated at not knowing what was going on.
“A truce, I think. Hey, do me a favor. Try to convince your bloodsucker that the safest place for you to be – especially when he leaves – is on the reservation. We’re well able to handle anything.”
I rolled my eyes. I highly doubted that statement, however a vampire unfamiliar with the pack wouldn’t be likely to step foot on their land if he or she sensed the wolves. Bella probably was safer there than here.
“Is that what you were trying to sell him?” she asked.
“Yes. It makes sense. Charlie’s probably better off here, too. As much as possible.”
“Get Billy on it,” she pleaded. “What else?” I was slightly irritated that she didn’t just wait and ask me what was going on, but she probably assumed Jacob would be less likely to edit, so I couldn’t really blame her.
“Just rearranging some boundaries, so we can catch anyone who gets too near Forks. I’m not sure Sam will go for it, but if he comes around, I’ll keep an eye on things.”
“What do you mean “keep an eye on things”?” she asked suspiciously.
“I mean that if you see a wolf running around your house, don’t shoot at it,” he replied. I had to stifle laughter at the thought of Charlie shooting Jacob, thinking he was just a rabid dog. I didn’t think Bella would find it so funny.
“Of course not. You really shouldn’t do anything…risky, though.”
I heard an unattractive snort from the other end of the phone. “Don’t be stupid. I can take care of myself.” I really didn’t like him talking to Bella like that, but it didn’t seem to bother her. She just sighed. “I also tried to convince him to let you visit. He’s prejudice, so don’t let him give you any crap about safety. He knows as well as I do that you’d be safe here.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” she promised.
“See you in a few.”
“You’re coming up?” she asked, surprised.
“Yeah. I’m going to get the scent of your visitor so we can track him if he comes back.”
“Jake, I really don’t like the idea of you tracking –“ she started, sounding more like his mother than his friend.
Jake cut her off. “Oh please, Bella,” was all he said before he hung up.
That mutt really did need to learn some manners.