Chapter 9: Scent
It was sort of an unspoken agreement between Jacob and myself that I wouldn’t be around while he was here. Besides the obvious reasons, I wanted to follow the trail the unknown vampire had left to see if I could discover anything Emmett and Jasper could have missed. It sounded reasonable to me, but Bella was upset that I was leaving.
“It’s not that I feel any personal antagonism toward him, Bella,” I tried explaining. “It’s just easier for both of us. I won’t be far away. You’ll be safe.”
“I’m not worried about that,” she said, exasperation evident in her voice. I smiled, taking one last, long look at her before I left. I then decided to have a little fun with the dog, and pulled Bella close, breathing my scent into her hair. If Jacob got too close, the vampire scent would absolutely repulse him, my own silent revenge.
Bella must have caught the mischievous look in my eyes, because she threw me a questioning glance. “I’ll be right back,” I assured her, and laughed out loud.
“What’s so funny?” she asked, clearly confused.
I didn’t answer, just threw her a smile and headed out the back door towards the woods. I waited until I knew the dog was at the front door, and then got down to business. I followed the trail slowly, trying to catch anything that would give me a clue as to who our visitor was. The scent was already beginning to fade as the rain started falling, but it was still easy enough to track. The trail went exactly the way Emmett and Jasper had described, ending suddenly at a seldom used side road a few miles away from the house. This meant that whoever it was had a vehicle waiting, which probably indicated that they weren’t working alone. All this only fueled my suspicions that it was an inside job by the Volturi.
There was nothing else that could help me here, so I made my way back toward Bella’s house. I didn’t know how long the mutt planned on staying, but I assumed it wouldn’t take all that long to pick up the scent and leave. I had followed the trail slowly, to give them some time, and now I was following it back even slower. But even trying my best to waste time, I had only managed to be away a half an hour. I decided to go through the front this time, stopping to pick up the mail for Bella. Located right on top was a very official looking letter from none other than Dartmouth University, addressed to Ms. Isabella Swan. I knew right away that it was an acceptance letter, as mine had come looking the exact same way. I had to have Carlisle call in a few favors to get them to even look at her application this late in the year, but once they had, they were impressed, as I knew they would be. I also knew that Bella would assume I had bribed her way in, and she was probably going to be angry.
I wished I could talk her in to attending, at least for a semester or two. College was an important experience for a human, and it was one more thing I would be taking away from her. Although, with everything going against us at the moment, I was unlikely to get her to agree to waiting until graduation for her change, let alone a semester or two of college. And if the Volturi were the ones visiting us already, they wouldn’t allow her to stay human that long anyway. Everything was a mess, and I wished for the millionth time that Bella had never fallen in love with me.
I sighed heavily, and walked to the door, figuring Jacob would leave when he caught my scent. The first thing that hit me was the overwhelming smell of bleach. Whatever she was cleaning, she had to have used most of a gallon of it. But underneath that, the smell of blood trickled into my nose. Luckily, it wasn’t Bella’s blood, but the foul blood of the werewolf. I had no idea what had happened, but they continued talking, so I listened.
“Can I ask you something, Bella?”
She sighed, sounding tired. What had he been doing to her?
“What’s it like – having a werewolf for a best friend?”
She was silent for a moment, then burst into laughter. It was a beautiful laugh, one I hadn’t heard from her often. It made her sound…well, young. Carefree. Of course, she was young, but Bella had never acted her age. I wondered if this ability to act like a normal teenager was what appealed to her about Jacob.
“Does it creep you out?” he asked, honestly wanting an answer.
“No. When the werewolf is being nice, it’s the best,” she replied, and I could picture the smile on her face. I felt the jealousy rising in me, their playful banter mildly annoying. She seemed to let her guard down completely around him, and his around her.
“Thanks, Bella,” he replied, and pulled her in for a hug. It only lasted a second before he let her go. “Ugh. Your hair stinks worse than your room.”
I let out a small chuckle, knowing he would probably hear it.
“Sorry,” Bella replied under her breath.
“One of the many hazards of associating with vampires. It makes you smell bad. A minor hazard, comparatively.”
“I only smell bad to you, Jake,” she replied indignantly. I knew how weary she was of people making comments about her scent.
“See you around, Bells,” Jacob said suddenly, finally deciding to leave.
“Are you leaving?” she sounded somewhat disappointed, and that bothered me, although I pushed those feelings away quickly.
“He’s waiting for me to go. I can hear him outside.”
“Oh,” was all she replied.
“I’ll go out the back,” he said, but his thoughts shifted to a question he wanted to ask, and he didn’t move. “Hold up a sec – hey, do you think you can come to La Push tonight? We’re having a bonfire party. Emily will be there, and you could meet Kim…and I know Quil wants to see you, too. He’s pretty peeved that you found out before he did.”
I waited anxiously for her answer. A part of me, the jealous part, wanted to storm into the house and forbid her to go, but that was the part of me I was doing my best to control. I knew Bella missed her La Push friends, and, if I was being perfectly honest with myself, I knew how much they cared about her. Even though I didn’t think they were the best choice of friends for her to have, and I would worry every second she was away from me, I didn’t really wantto stop her from associating with people who cared for her.
“Yeah, Jake, I don’t know about that,” she said. “See, it’s a little tense right now…”
“C’mon, you think someone’s going to get past all – all six of us?” he asked. It was interesting to me how even in his mind, Jacob wouldn’t think the word “werewolf” when referring to himself. Almost as if he saw himself as cursed by this mythical life as I was.
“I’ll ask,” Bella replied flatly, not sounding very sure of herself.
A low growl escaped from Jacob’s throat before he answered. “Is he your warden now, too? You know, I saw this story on the news last week about controlling, abusive teenage relationships and –“
I growled, knowing he would hear me, but Bella cut him off. “Okay! Time for the werewolf to get out!”
“Bye Bells. Be sure you ask permission.” And with that he ran out the back door and into the woods, presumably to phase back into wolf form.
I walked into the house the second he left, seeing what had caused the bloodshed right away. A knife covered in werewolf blood sat on the counter.
“Did you two get into a fight?” I asked.
“Edward!” she squealed, and flung herself at me.
I couldn’t help but laugh as I wound my arms around her waist. “Hi, there. Are you trying to distract me? It’s working.”
“No, I didn’t fight with Jacob. Much. Why?” she asked.
“I was just wondering why you stabbed him. Not that I object,” I said, pointing towards the offending knife with my chin.
Her eyes widened, and she pulled away from me. “Dang! I thought I got everything.” She threw the knife into the sink and it, too, got covered in bleach. “I didn’t stab him. He forgot he had a knife in his hand.”
I wasn’t about to ask how someone “forgets” they have a knife in their hand, but I had half-hoped that Bella herself had inflicted the damage to the mutt. I laughed softly. “That’s not nearly as fun as the way I imagined it.”
“Be nice,” she warned.
“I got your mail,” I said, tossing the envelope toward her.
“I think so,” I smiled.
She glared at me, wondering what I was talking about, before picking up the envelope and reading it. “Dartmouth? Is this a joke?”
“I’m sure it’s an acceptance,” I told her. “It looks exactly like mine.”
“Good grief, Edward – what did you do?” she whined.
“I sent in your application, that’s all,” I said innocently.
“I may not be Dartmouth material, but I’m not stupid enough to believe that.” I had known she would be angry with me.
I stood my ground. “Dartmouth seems to think you’re Dartmouth material.”
She took a deep breath and held it for a few seconds, trying to calm herself before continuing. “That’s very generous of them. However, accepted or not, there is still the minor matter of tuition. I can’t afford it, and I’m not letting you throw away enough money to buy yourself another sports car just so that I can pretend to go to Dartmouth next year.”
“I don’t need another sports car. And you don’t have to pretend anything. One year of college won’t kill you. Maybe you’d even like it. Just think about it, Bella. Imagine how excited Charlie and Renee would be…” I trailed off, and I could see in her eyes that she could imagine it. Some part of her really did want this.
She shook her head, attempting to clear it. “Edward. I’m worried about living through graduation, let alone this summer or next fall.”
I instantly wrapped my arms around her again, wishing I could shield her from the world. “No one is going to hurt you. You have all the time in the world,” I promised, and I meant it. I didn’t care what I had to do, I would keep her safe.
She sighed against my chest. “I’m mailing the contents of my bank account to Alaska tomorrow. It’s all the alibi I need. It’s far enough away that Charlie won’t expect a visit until Christmas at the earliest. And I’m sure I’ll think of some excuse by then,” she said. “You know, this whole secrecy and deception thing is kind of a pain.”
I knew she was joking, trying to lighten the mood, but it just proved to me that she wasn’t taking this as seriously as she should be. “It gets easier,” I said. “After a few decades, everyone you know is dead. Problem solved.”
She flinched at my words, and I instantly regretted them. “Sorry, that was harsh,” I apologized.
“But still true,” she pointed out, a far-off look in her eyes. I wished with everything I had that I could break through the barrier and read her mind at this moment.
“If I get this resolved, whatever it is we’re dealing with, will you please consider waiting?” I pleaded.
“Nope,” she replied simply.
“Always so stubborn.”
“Yep.” The washing machine chose that moment to make a loud thumping noise, before shutting off completely, as it often did. “Stupid piece of junk,” Bella said under her breath, pulling away from me and getting up to fix it. “This reminds me,” she said, turning towards me. “Could you ask Alice what she did with my stuff when she cleaned my room? I can’t find it anywhere.”
I stared at her, confused. Why would Alice clean her room? “Alice cleaned your room?”
“Yeah, I guess that’s what she was doing. When she came to get my pajamas and pillow and stuff to hold me hostage,” she paused, throwing me a death-glare. “She picked up everything that was lying around, my shirts, my socks, and I don’t know where she put them.”
That didn’t make sense. It wasn’t like Alice was some sort of neat-freak, so what motivation would she have for cleaning Bella’s room? And even if she had, why would she hide Bella’s things from her? Unless…unless it wasn’t Alice who had taken them.
“When did you notice your things were missing?” I demanded.
“When I got back from the fake slumber party. Why?” Now she was the one looking confused.
“I don’t think Alice took anything. Not your clothes, or your pillow. These things that were taken, these were things you’d worn…and touched…and slept on?” I questioned.
“Yes. What is it, Edward?”
I was prepared for her to panic with my next statement. “Things with your scent.”
“Oh!” she exclaimed, sudden comprehension written on her face. She stared at me, fear and confusion deep in her eyes. “My visitor.”
“He was gathering traces…evidence. To prove that he’d found you?” I questioned, trying to make sense of the information in my head.
“Why?” she whispered.
“I don’t know,” I admitted. “But, Bella, I swear I will find out. I will.”
“I know you will,” she murmured, resting her head against my chest.
I was about to wrap my arms around her once again when my phone vibrated in my pocket. I quickly glanced at the screen. “Just the person I need to talk to,” I said, then flipped it open. “Carlisle, I –“ but was cut off by my father’s voice.
“Edward, have you read the newspaper? Things in Seattle are getting worse, much worse. There seems to be somewhat of a gang of newborns there, and apparently they don’t know the rules.”
“I’ll check it out. Listen…” I explained everything Bella and I had just talked about, but Carlisle didn’t have an explanation either. He began talking again about Seattle, and told me that Emmett was hell-bent on going there and having a “talk” with these newborns. I knew this was a bad idea, as Emmett’s idea of “talking” rarely involved words. But we did need to do something soon, as things were getting greatly out of hand. “Maybe I’ll go…” I started, but looked at Bella and quickly decided against it. “Maybe not. Don’t let Emmett go alone, you know how he gets. At least ask Alice to keep an eye on things. We’ll figure this out later.” I snapped the phone shut and turned towards Bella. “Where’s the paper?”
“Um, I’m not sure. Why?” she asked, confused again.
“I need to see something. Did Charlie throw it out?”
“Maybe…” she started, but I was already out the door. Luckily the newspaper was right on top of the trash. I was back in the kitchen in seconds, scanning the headline.
Murder Epidemic Continues – Police Have No New Leads
The article was pretty much the same as before, but this time, the numbers of the dead were much larger. There was definitely many more newborns on the loose than we realized. “Carlisle’s right…yes…very sloppy. Young and crazed? Or a death wish?” I pondered out loud while reading the page again.
Bella came to read over my shoulder. “It’s getting worse,” she mumbled.
“Altogether out of control,” I replied. “This can’t be the work of just one newborn vampire. What’s going on? It’s as if they’ve never heard of the Volturi. Which is possible, I guess. No one has explained the rules to them…so who is creating them, then?”
“The Volturi?” she guessed, then shuddered.
“This is exactly the kind of thing they routinely wipe out,” I explained. “—immortals who threaten to expose us. They just cleaned up a mess like this a few years ago in Atlanta, and it hadn’t gotten nearly this bad. They will intervene soon, very soon, unless we can find some way to calm the situation. I’d really rather they didn’t come to Seattle just now. As long as they’re this close…they might decide to check on you.”
She shuddered again. “What can we do?”
“We need to know more before we decide that. Perhaps if we can talk to these young ones, explain the rules, it can be resolved peacefully.” I doubted that, but Carlisle seemed to think it was worth a shot. “We’ll wait until Alice has an idea of what’s going on…We don’t want to step in until it’s absolutely necessary. After all, it’s not our responsibility. But it’s good we have Jasper. If we are dealing with newborns, he’ll be helpful.”
I had mostly been talking to myself, forgetting that Bella didn’t know the history of all our family members. “Jasper is sort of an expert on young vampires,” I explained.
“What do you mean, an expert?”
“You’ll have to ask him – the story is involved.” I was never one to tell my family members’ stories, as they weren’t mine to tell.
“What a mess,” she mumbled under her breath.
“It does feel that way, doesn’t it?” I replied sympathetically. “Life is coming at us from all sides these days. Do you ever think that your life might be easier if you weren’t in love with me?”
“Maybe. It wouldn’t be much of a life, though.”
“For me,” I clarified. “And now, I suppose you have something to ask me?”
She stared at me blankly. “I do?”
“Or maybe not,” I smiled. “I was rather under the impression that you’d promised to ask my permission to go to some kind of werewolf soiree tonight.”
“Eavesdropping again?” she asked, though her tone was light.
“Just a bit, at the very end,” I admitted.
“Well I wasn’t going to ask you anyway. I figured you had enough to stress about.”
She wasn’t meeting my eyes, so I placed my hand under her chin to lift her face to mine. “Would you like to go?” I asked softly.
“It’s no big thing. Don’t worry about it.” She tried to sound convincing, but her eyes showed the longing she had to see her friends again.
“You don’t have to ask my permission, Bella,” I assured her. “I’m not your father – thank heaven for that. Perhaps you should ask Charlie, though.” I knew Charlie would be thrilled that Bella was going to La Push, but thought she should run it by him anyway.
“But you know Charlie will say yes.”
“I do have a bit more insight into his probable answer than most people would, it’s true.”
I tried to give her a reassuring smile as she studied my face. She seemed to be having some sort of internal debate with herself. She really wanted to go, but she didn’t want to hurt me, and she was probably trying to figure out a way she could accomplish both.
“Bella, I told you I was going to be reasonable and trust your judgment. I meant that. If you trust the werewolves, then I’m not going to worry about them.” Completely, I added, as an afterthought to myself.
“Wow,” she said simply.
“And Jacob’s right – about one thing anyway – a pack of werewolves ought to be enough to protect even you for one evening.”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course, only…” I trialed off and she tensed, waiting for me to continue. “I hope you won’t mind taking a few precautions? Allowing me to drive you to the boundary line, for one. And then taking a cell phone, so that I’ll know when to pick you up.”
“That sounds…very reasonable,” she said, and smiled.
“Excellent,” I replied, returning her smile.
Bella told her plans to Charlie when he came home from work, and to no one’s surprise, he was ecstatic that she was going to La Push with Jacob. His thoughts were slightly victorious; like he was winning a game against me I didn’t know we were playing. After Bella had made dinner and washed the dishes, she wanted to go to my house to get her motorcycle to bring back to Jacob. She explained to me that she wanted to give it to him, as it was he who had done all the work on it. With all the activity going on, I had almost forgotten my own newly acquired vehicle sitting alongside Bella’s motorcycle in the garage. While I was buying her a jacket and helmet, I decided to get a motorcycle of my own, in case she really did stay mad at the mutt and still wanted to ride. I hadn’t mentioned it to her yet, and I wasn’t sure how she was going to react.
When we arrived at my house, Bella followed me into the garage, and her eyes widened in surprise. She had obviously spotted my newest purchase.
“What is that?” she asked, sounding slightly awed.
“It doesn’t look like nothing,” she pushed.
“Well, I didn’t know if you were going to forgive your friend, or he you, and I wondered if you would still want to ride your bike anyway. It sounded like it was something that you enjoyed. I thought I could go with you, if you wished.” I shrugged, not wanting to make it a big deal.
She stared at the motorcycles, side by sad, with a look on her face that seemed almost sad. I wished again that I knew what she was thinking. “I wouldn’t be able to keep up with you,” she said in a voice barely above a whisper.
She was avoiding my gaze again, and I pulled her chin up as I had the last time. I attempted to push the corners of her mouth up into the smile I loved, never wanting her beautiful face to look unhappy again. “I’d keep pace with you, Bella.”
“That wouldn’t be much fun for you.”
“Of course it would, if we were together,” I assured her.
She bit her lower lip, as she often did when she was considering how to phrase something correctly. “Edward, if you thought I was going too fast or losing control of the bike or something, what would you do?”
The answer was obvious: I would save her before she got hurt. It would be a natural reflex for me. I then realized that Bella liked the thrill of riding, the freedom it gave her, and going with me would take some of that feeling away from that. I smiled at her, though it felt forced. “This is something you do with Jacob, I see that now.”
“It’s just that, well, I don’t slow him down so much, you know. I could try, I guess…” she trailed off, staring at the motorcycles.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said with a laugh. “I saw Jasper admiring it. Perhaps it’s time he discovered a new way to travel. After all, Alice has her Porsche now.”
“Edward, I—“ she started, probably wanting to apologize. I cut her off with a kiss.
“I said not to worry. But would you do something for me?”
“Whatever you need,” she swore.
I let her go and made my way to the other side of the bikes, where I had hidden the riding gear I had bought. I held them out towards her, and flashed her a crooked smile before asking, “Please?”
She took the helmet, a look of disgust on her face. “I’ll look stupid.”
“No, you’ll look smart,” I contradicted. “Smart enough not to get yourself hurt.” I put my hands on either side of her face. “There are things between my hands right now that I can’t live without. You could take care of them.”
“Okay, fine. What’s the other thing?” she asked, eyeing the riding jacket.
I laughed and held it up for her. “It’s a riding jacket. I hear road rash is quite uncomfortable, not that I would know myself.”
She sighed heavily, then pulled the helmet onto her head and slid her arms into the jacket. I zipped her up, and smiled at the sight before me.
“Be honest, how hideous do I look?”
I took a step back and surveyed her thoughtfully.
“That bad, huh?” she asked.
“No, no, Bella. Actually…” I trailed off, looking for the right choice of words. “You look…sexy.” Not that she didn’t always look sexy to me. But I had to admit, a woman on a motorcycle was exciting.
She laughed, disbelieving. “Right.”
“Very sexy, really,” I assured her.
“You are just saying that so I’ll wear it. But that’s okay. You’re right, it’s smarter.”
I pulled her into my embrace, helmet and all. “You’re silly. I suppose that’s part of your charm. Though, I’ll admit it, this helmet does have its drawbacks.”
I pulled the helmet off her head, and kissed the woman I loved.
Motorcycle loaded up, we headed toward La Push. We weren’t speaking, but it wasn’t an uncomfortable silence. Bella was starting out her window, a look of concentration on her face.
She finally spoke. “You know what this reminds me of? It’s just like when I was a kid and Renee would pass me off to Charlie for the summer. I feel like a seven year old.”
I laughed, and squeezed her hand over the center console. We arrived to the boundary line a short time later. Jacob was already waiting, his thoughts impatient. He smiled at Bella, who waved to him as we approached. It’s about time, I almost thought he talked her into not coming.
“Call me whenever you’re ready to come home. And I’ll be here,” I promised.
“I won’t be out late.”
I helped her get her bike and the helmet and jacket out of the trunk. The dog watched us carefully. I suppose they’re going to get all lovey-dovey before he lets her go. That’s annoying. But soon enough he’ll be gone and I’ll have her all to myself.
I tried my hardest to ignore him, not wanting this to be harder than it already was. “Do you have it all?” I asked, wishing I could help her get her things across the line.
“No problem,” she said.
I sighed, not ready to let her go, and she leaned towards me for a quick kiss. What I was about to do finally hit me. I was literally hading her to the wolves, and expecting them to be competent enough to take care of her. I didn’t want her to go. I kissed her much more passionately than either of us had originally intended, and only stopped when she needed to breathe. Jacob was practically screaming for us to quit in his mind, and I had to laugh softly. I took in her scent one more time, trying to tell myself that it would be fine. She had a phone, she would call me if there were any problems.
“Goodbye. I really do like the jacket,” I told her.
She turned away from me slowly, most likely sensing the worry I was feeling. In truth, I was using every morsel of self-control I had to not stop her and carry her back to the car to take her home with me. I watched her make her way to the line, and I knew once she crossed it, she was officially in the hands of Jacob Black. The thought panicked me in a way I never felt before, but I didn’t stop her.
“What’s all that?” Jacob asked suspiciously as she crossed the invisible line. Stupid leeches never let her have any fun. Maybe once I get that through her head, she’ll be more willing to leave him.
“I thought I should put this back where it belongs,” she replied.
He smiled at her, and once she was officially on Quiluete land, he strode over to help her with the bike. Before he got to her, I made sure I had his attention and shot him a single warning glance. He apparently got my message. Knock it off, bloodsucker, she’ll be fine. And then he pulled her into a hug, his mind turning to other things he wished he could do to her.
If I was not going to cross the boundary line and kill him, I would need to have to get out of there, fast. So I used all the speed I had to get into the Volvo and drive away, seeing them embrace in my review mirror. It was going to be a long night.