Midnight Sun (21. Goodbye)

There is no scent of a vampire anywhere near us, Emmett thought while looking around the darkened grounds.

All clear here, Alice looked through the future. He'll show up, but he won't bother us…he wants her to himself.

Looking out through the window of the Jeep I could see no sign of the tracker. I was secretly hoping that he wouldn't show up. Putting Bella in the line of danger was burning holes through me.

"He's not here," my voice was tense. "Let's go," I firmly commanded.

I gave Emmett a tight nod and he started unbuckling Bella's harness. I could hear her pulse start to race as her breathing became harsh and ragged. Her breath filled my lungs, reminding me forcibly of the precious creature I would be protecting this evening.

She's worried…so human. "Don't worry, Bella," Emmett said in an amused voice, "we'll take care of things here quickly."

Moisture was beginning to build up in Bella's eyes and in that most fleeting of seconds I wanted to take her and run �C run thousands of miles �C just me and her, together.

That's not an option, Alice's vision swirled in her head before it went up in a wisp of smoke as I realized she was right. We should hurry, her thoughts were strained as the many smoky and shadowy figures shifted and disappeared with each decision that was being made.

"Alice, Emmett," I called.

I hope he's here! This is going to be so much fun! Emmett ran away gleefully.

Don't worry, Edward. We'll keep her safe. Alice slid silently into the trees.

Bella was showing extraordinary strength for someone so human. I swept out of the Jeep and opened the back door to see Bella's face which was still full of sadness and my protective side took a different turn as I took her hand and brought her to my side to comfort and protect her.

As the terror rose in my chest I was beginning to drag my feet reluctantly towards her door, where she would leave me to go inside. I knew the only safe place for her was in my arms. Our footsteps echoed in the silence but I was not oblivious to my surroundings as we walked; my eyes continually darting from every corner of the open space like we were in the middle of a war.

I hear someone approaching, Emmett resisted the temptation to attack but his thoughts were always wildly enthusiastic about the prospect.

"Fifteen minutes," I reminded Bella while stealing a glance to look at her face, an icy surge of terror rising in the pit of my stomach.

Tiny tears began seeping from beneath her eye lids as she looked up into my eyes. "I can do this," she sniffed like she was trying to convince herself more than me.

The lights on the porch were on, making her tears reflect the light as soon as we ascended the last step. She turned around to face me, bringing her warm hands to my face, sending a quivering feeling through my body in the most hostile of times.

"I love you," Bella said intensely. "I will always love you, no matter what happens now."

What did she think was going to happen to her? An odd chill ran up my spine. "Nothing is going to happen to you, Bella," I replied fiercely.

"Just follow the plan, okay? Keep Charlie safe for me. He's not going to like me very much after this, and I want to have the chance to apologize later," she looked up at me with her tear stained face.

I could feel my heart sinking as I took in her pitiful expression. Before I could show this emotion on my face I heard the thoughts of my family from the woods, distracting me again.

They're here �C only James and Victoria. Alice thought flatly. Laurent went to see Carlisle �C or �C to warn him.

They are keeping their distance. They caught our scent. Emmett was still hoping for a fight.

Well, well, well… I heard James' thoughts. This is going to be a lot more fun than I realized, a laugh escaped his lips at the prospect of his new hunt.

"Get inside, Bella. We have to hurry," I said urgently while leaning over her protectively.

"One more thing," she whispered hastily. "Don't listen to another word I say tonight!"

Instantly her lips were on mine, sending warmth and pleasant electric shocks through my body. I forgot where I was for a fraction of a second before she pulled away, tears still streaming down her face. Her expression changed to searing anger, she turned on her heal and kicked the front door open.

"Go away, Edward!" her voice was a scream before she slammed the door in my face.

I stood there looking at the door in stunned disbelief; my breath being temporarily robbed. The feelings pulsing through me were oddly disembodying. Shrugging off the sensation as best I could, I continued to look around the cool misty grounds, stealing glances through my siblings' minds along with Charlie's. James continued to keep his distance even though his thoughts were smug and optimistic to the point of foolishness.

What is she doing? Emmett wondered. I underestimated her… hilarious, this should be entertaining!

"Bella?" Charlie called out anxiously at his daughter's angry words.

"Move closer and see if you can get a better look at what's going on," I heard James order Victoria. Better her neck than mine, James thought coldly.

"Leave me alone!" Bella shouted back at Charlie.

Charlie's thoughts were incoherent with panic at his daughter's obvious pain. He began pounding on her door while startling flashes of insight and thought filled my mind.

"The human is fighting with her father," Victoria told James after returning to him.

This I have to see, James thought menacingly.

He's on the move, Alice warned me.

If he gets too close I'll take care of him, Emmett thought pleasantly.

My eyes searched the forest for any sign of the tracker but came up empty. I continued to stand protectively below Bella's window. James moved in to hear the conversations going on inside the house but stayed clear of my vision. My concentration flew up fifteen feet to where Bella was.

"Bella, are you okay? What's going on?" Charlie called out, frightened.

"I'm going home," she shouted angrily.

It's almost believable �C chuckle �C this is getting good, Emmett's amusement was heightened at her acting.

"Did he hurt you?" Charlie asked, disjointed anger rising in his thoughts.

No…he protects her, James thought with great disgust.

At their thoughts I snapped. I flew through the air swiftly entering her bedroom through the window, starting to grab anything and everything from her dresser in a fierce attempt to speed the process.

"No!" Bella shouted back at her dad while she ran around her room, packing her belongings. She hadn't noticed my presence until she turned to her dresser. Her eyes found mine and they were full of sadness and guilt. Before I could pull her into my embrace we were interrupted.

"Did he break up with you?" Charlie asked, perplexed by her sudden angst.

"No!" Bella shrieked at Charlie again while shoving handfuls of clothes into her bag.

Victoria is heading to our house because she knows that we plan to bring Bella there. Alice informed me.

Charlie began beating on Bella's door, panic rushing his mind.

"What happened, Bella?" Charlie shouted through the door.

"I broke up with him!" she shouted back.

She was jerking her hand on the zipper of the bag so I caught her hand gently with mine and zipped it for her. I picked up the bag and gently placed it on her shoulder. "I'll be in the truck �C go!" I whispered and lightly pushed her towards her door, trying to press the fact that we needed to get far away from James. I jumped out of the window.

"What happened?" Charlie asked when she opened her door, following her downstairs. "I thought you liked him?"

"I do like him �C that's the problem. I can't do this anymore! I can't put down anymore roots here! I don't want to end up trapped in this stupid, boring town like Mom! I'm not going to make the same dumb mistake she did. I hate it �C I can't stay here another minute!" Bella yelled in a desperate attempt to convince Charlie to let her go.

She's good, Emmett thought.

She is setting up an escape…clever, but not clever enough. James thought. Things are about to get real interesting, James sneered in his head.

"Bells, you can't leave now. It's nighttime," Charlie whispered to her with pure sadness in his voice. Charlie's shocked thoughts were over powering as each word lashed at him, causing him pain.

Oh yes she can. Come on little girl, come out to play. James snarled with great smugness.

I resisted the temptation to whip around and attack him.

That is not a good idea, Alice thought in hollow tones. Flashes of the future floated into her mind but disintegrated when I decided not to follow through with my plan.

"I'll sleep in the truck if I get tired," Bella responded to Charlie, her voice emotionless.

"Just wait another week," Charlie begged. "Ren��e will be back by then."

"What?" Bella stuttered.

We need to get her out of there, Alice pushed.

"She called while you were out." Charlie knew he had caught her off guard. "Things aren't going so well in Florida, and if Phil doesn't get signed by the end of the week, they're going back to Arizona. The assistant coach of the Sidewinders said they might have a spot for another shortstop."

Arizona is it? Surely she wouldn't actually go there. Hum… James' thoughts trailed off.

"I have a key," Bella retorted to Charlie's pitiful attempt at keeping her there.

That's right. Just come outside. James was wistful.

If it weren't for our presence James would have already attacked. I was instantly becoming nervous at our plan. Is this plan going to back fire? I wondered gravely. We would shortly be in her very slow truck driving several miles towards my house before she would be in the protective custody of seven vampires.

"Just let me go, Charlie." Bella said softly. "It didn't work out, okay? I really, really hate Forks!"

This is really going to hurt Charlie, Alice thought sadly.

Bella walked out of the house. "I'll call you tomorrow!" she yelled back to Charlie.

She jumped into her truck and the engine roared to life. She backed out and squealed her tires on the asphalt as she sped away. I was running next to her truck and jumped in. She was trembling and tears were leaking out of her eye lashes in massive amounts.

"Pull over," I said softly.

"I can drive," she barely sputtered a sobbing protest.

Now the fun begins! James thought while running behind us.

I'm right behind you, Edward. Don't worry, he won't try anything, Alice reassured me.

I looked at Bella's face and pain knotted my stomach at the thought of her grief in this moment. I wanted to do something but I couldn't think of how to comfort her. She was barely staying in between the lines on the road, probably because her vision was blinded by more tears. I grabbed her waist and put my foot on the gas pedal, moving her warm body over mine until I was the one driving.

"You wouldn't be able to find the house," I tried to explain to her in a way that wouldn't upset her anymore than she already was.

The lights of the Jeep flashed across the truck and she turned to look out of the window, horror displayed in her eyes.

"It's just Alice," I immediately tried to soothe her by cradling her hand in mine. At my touch she sighed and began to relax, though her face showed a great sadness.

"The tracker?" Bella whispered.

…is running behind us. Emmett's a few steps ahead of him, Alice informed me of the situation outside the truck but I was too intent on continued to leak from her eyes as she looked up at me.

"He heard the end of your performance," I said with the deepest of loathing while remembering his thoughts.

"Charlie?" she looked like she was going to choke from the word.

Alice quickly began scanning for Charlie's future – which was solidly there. His future looks bright, she added.

"The tracker followed us. He's running behind us now." I continued to try and calm her nerves.

"Can we outrun him?" she asked anxious and curious.

In that truck? Funny, Emmett mused.

"No," I pressed the gas pedal down to the floor, emphasizing Emmett's thoughts. The truck groaned, sputtered and continued to move at its regular fifty-five.

Nice try, but that truck isn't going any faster. Emmett thought before jumping in the back, highly amused by the whole situation.

A high pitched scream exited Bella's parted lips and I reached up, clamping my hand across her mouth to quiet her.

"It's Emmett," I explained while removing my hand from her face.

Her face was screwed up in anguish and terror so I wound my arm around her waist and brought her into my side. I felt better immediately at her closeness because this was the safest place for her to be.

"It's okay Bella," I promised, though I wasn't sure if my promise was empty. "You're going to be safe."

Her face still showed a twist of emotions: terror, panic, and sadness. Expelling all thoughts that were around me I concentrated every last particle of my mind on the one person who needed me most �C Bella. I needed to distract her and to distract myself. I knew the best way to get her talking was to make an assumption, which she would undoubtedly correct for me – usually with a lengthy explanation.

"I didn't realize you were still so bored with small-town life," I began, looking sideways at her face. "It seemed like you were adjusting fairly well �C especially recently. Maybe I was just flattering myself that I was making life more interesting for you."

"I wasn't being nice," she thwarted my attempts at a diversion while gazing down. "That was the same thing my mom said when she left him. You could say I was hitting below the belt."

"Don't worry. He'll forgive you," my lips turned up in an attempt to ease her pain.

She returned her gaze to mine and her eyes were still wide with panic.

"Bella, it's going to be all right."

"But it won't be all right when I'm not with you," her lips barely let the whisper escape.

"We'll be together again in a few days," I tightened my grip on her, realizing that I didn't ever want her to leave my protective custody. "Don't forget that this was your idea."

"It was the best idea �C of course it was mine," she replied smugly and a smile crept up my face at the sign of a new emotion, but it was fleeting at best.

"Why did this happen?" she choked. "Why me?"

I stared out into the darkness realizing that it was my error. You idiot, moron! I knew that there were others in the vicinity and in a moment of happiness I forgot the dangers that could befall a human, especially one that smelled as tempting as she did.

"It's my fault �C I was a fool to expose you like that." I replied with rage present in my voice.

"That's not what I meant," she said exasperated. "I was there, big deal. It didn't bother the other two. Why did this James decide to kill me? There're people all over the place, why me?"

In my attempt to block out all thoughts one still protruded into my mind, answering the question for me.

Because you are protected by seven vampires �C something I have never come across. This is the best challenge, yet. I couldn't have asked for anything better than this! James thought hungrily for the hunt.

I hesitated before answering Bella's question, trying to word it in a way that wouldn't scare her beyond her current state of terror though the cold fury that was in every line of my face was obvious to her.

"I got a good look at his mind tonight," I began in a low voice. "I'm not sure if there's anything I could have done to avoid this, once he saw you. It is partially your fault." I looked at her reflection in the glass. "If you didn't smell so appallingly luscious, he might not have bothered. But when I defended you…well, that made it a lot worse. He's not used to being thwarted, no matter how insignificant the object. He thinks of himself as a hunter and nothing else. His existence is consumed with tracking, and a challenge is all he asks of life. Suddenly we've presented him with a beautiful challenge �C a large clan of strong fighters all bent on protecting the one vulnerable element. You wouldn't believe how euphoric he is now. It's his favorite game, and we've just made it his most exciting game ever," I said in disgust.

I will win, James's thoughts were rapt and exultant.

I hesitated, trying to control the sensation that was building in my chest to pull over and attack. I controlled my urge and continued. "But if I had stood by, he would have killed you right then," I said, frustrated.

"I thought…I didn't smell the same to the others…as I do to you," she said hesitantly.

"You don't. But that doesn't mean that you aren't still a temptation to every one of them. If you had appealed to the tracker �C or any of them �C the same way you appeal to me, it would have meant a fight right there."

I felt her quiver.

"I don't think I have any choice but to kill him now," I muttered. "Carlisle won't like it."

"How can you kill a vampire?" she asked through her petrified sobs.

Glad I'm not the one to tell her this one, Emmett chuckled and I ignored him.

My focus was solely on Bella. Her gaze met mine and I could see the darkness of my face and eyes as I spoke. "The only way to be sure is to tear him to shreds, and then burn the pieces."

"And the other two will fight with him?"

Always so full of questions, isn't she? Alice mused.

"The woman will. I'm not sure about Laurent. They don't have a very strong bond �C he's only with them for convenience. He was embarrassed by James in the meadow…"

"But James and the woman �C they'll try to kill you?" she choked.

You silly girl! You are the fragile one, the breakable one �C the one that is being hunted, I internally replied. "Bella, don't you dare waste time worrying about me. Your only concern is keeping yourself safe and �C please, please �C trying not to be reckless." I pleaded.

"Is he still following?" she asked.

Yes, he's keeping his distance; he's pretty keen not to be seen. He won't come after Bella tonight, Alice informed me.

"Yes. He won't attack the house, though. Not tonight." I replied while turning onto my driveway.

After the several mile drive to the house we could finally see the distant lights of the house becoming larger and clearer. I could immediately hear the thoughts of Laurent.

I can't believe they live like this �C Amazing! I can't understand why they are planning on ruining all of this for a human. Laurent thought in astonishment.

He's at the forest edge, I'll grab Bella. Emmett thought while jumping out of the truck and running alongside it. When we were coming to a stop he opened the door and pulled Bella under his coat and ran her towards the house and through the front door, Alice and I at their side. Relief flowed through my veins now that she was inside, protected. Everyone stood at our arrival.

I can't believe this crap, Rosalie was muttering.

Oh thank heavens they are all right, Esme and Carlisle both thought, relieved.

Laurent stood in the mist of my family members, his eyes a gleaming ominous red, making the difference between us and them stand out.

What the hell is he doing in our house? I might get that fight after all, a feral snarl ripped up Emmett's throat, low and vibrating. He sat Bella down next to him, preparing to pounce.

"He's tracking us," I stared coldly at Laurent.

"I was afraid of that," Laurent frowned.

I could hear James as he began thinking strategy in his mind, he was going to meet up with Victoria who was already waiting for him a short distance from the house.

"What will he do?" Carlisle asked Laurent in chilling tones.

"I'm sorry," Laurent began. "I was afraid, when your boy there defended her, that it would set him off."

Same old games, Laurent thought angrily in his head.

"Can you stop him?" Carlisle questioned.

I'll stop him, Emmett roared internally.

"Nothing stops James when he gets started." Laurent answered while shaking his head in frustration.

"We'll stop him," Emmett promised him.

"You can't bring him down. I've never seen anything like him in my three hundred years. He's absolutely lethal. That's why I joined his coven." Laurent said doubtfully. His head began to shake back and forth again, this time in confusion. Why her? What is so special about this human girl that would make them want to provoke such a vicious hunter? He stole a look at Bella, and then turned back to Carlisle, perplexed by the situation. "Are you sure it's worth it?"

A growl formed in my stomach and ripped up my throat so loudly that it had him cringing away from me in fear.

"I'm afraid you're going to have to make a choice." Carlisle said gravely.

This is one hell of a life style to live in. But James �C I could never defeat James. They mentioned something about a settlement in Denali. "I'm intrigued by the life you've created here. But I won't get in the middle of this. I bear none of you any enmity, but I won't go up against James. I think I will head north �C to that clan in Denali," should I warn them? Oh, why not! "Don't underestimate James. He's got a brilliant mind and unparalleled senses. He's every bit as comfortable in the human world as you seem to be, and he won't come at you head on…I'm sorry for what's been unleashed here. Truly sorry."

"Go in peace," Carlisle said quietly.

Hum, I hope it is like this in Denali, Laurent wondered, looking around before sweeping out of the house, his thoughts fading with distance.

Carlisle turned to meet my gaze. "How close?"

I'm going to seal off all entrances to the house, Esme thought while walking over to the wall, pressing a key pad – making large metal walls creek and groan as they sealed up the glass wall.

"About three miles out past the river; he's circling around to meet up with the female." I explained.

Just drop her off at the river's bank and get this over with, Rosalie sneered in her head. I ignored her thoughts.

"What's the plan?" Carlisle asked.

"We'll lead him off, and then Jasper and Alice will run her south." I explained to him in a hurry.

South? Interesting choice. "And then?" Carlisle asked.

"As soon as Bella is clear, we hunt him." I replied darkly.

Well, we know we won't let them hurt Bella. "I guess there's no other choice," Carlisle agreed but his lips were turned down into a frown.

I turned to Rosalie. She needed to learn that Bella is now a part of our family. "Get her upstairs and trade clothes," I commanded.

Her thoughts sputtered incoherently for several seconds before anger surged through her mouth. "Why should I?" she said vehemently. "What is she to me? Except a menace �C a danger you've chosen to inflict on all of us."

"Rose…," Emmett put a hand on her shoulder but she shrugged it off.

Please ignore her, she'll come around one of these days, please, Emmett begged for Rosalie.

With everything that Emmett has been doing for me lately I decided that I would do something for him. I ignored Rosalie's jibe and changed tack in the speed of light.

I'll do it, Edward. Esme suggested.

I turned to her, "Esme?"

"Of course," she responded immediately. Esme flew to Bella's side and without flinching brought her into her grasp and raced upstairs.

Once Bella was upstairs everyone was in a hurry, running around packing their belongings or preparing for their independent trips. I continued to ignore Rosalie's thoughts as they grew meaner and more visual.

"Rosalie, you will take Bella's truck. Esme will go with you," I commanded.

"You want me to ride in that…that…thing?" she barked.

"Please, Rose. Do it for me," Emmett asked softly.

"I won't!" she hissed loudly.

"Rosalie, Bella is part of this family and you will treat her with respect, do you understand me?" Carlisle's voice became firm.

"Fine," Rose snapped at us and then stalked away. I could feel the angry satisfaction on my face.

I'm coming with you to hunt James. Maybe we can talk him out of this nonsense and can spare his life, Carlisle thought wishfully.

Esme and Bella appeared down the stairs only a few minutes after they went up, both of them changed. It was an odd sensation to smell Bella all over Esme but we were in a hurry so I informed Bella of our plan. "Esme and Rosalie will be taking your truck, Bella," I said while passing her to grab a cell phone that Carlisle was giving to each family member.

"Alice, Jasper �C take the Mercedes. You'll need the dark tint in the south."

We'll keep her safe, Edward…promise. I'll miss you. Alice thought while Jasper silently nodded in approval of the plan.

"We're taking the Jeep," I told Bella.

"Alice," Carlisle asked, "will they take the bait?"

Alice closed her eyes while swirls of colors flashed and danced around until she solidly saw their path. "He'll track you. The woman will follow the truck. We should be able to leave after that"

"Let's go." I'll give you a minute, Carlisle thought but there was still a bite of impatience in his thoughts �C we had to hurry.

I rushed over to Bella, not even hesitating while I brought her into my tight embrace, letting her body warm every inch of mine. The monster, desire, was still positively, solidly there. I placed my hand under her chin, bringing her lips to mine. Euphoria splashed through my hectic nerves – calming them, though the electricity reminded me that I was doing this for her, that I would die for her – to protect her. In seconds the kiss was over and I could feel the slight tearing of my body as I placed her back on the ground. I kept her face in my hands, communicating silently the love I had for her as tears strolled down her pink cheeks, her face eloquent with despair. It was time to go, so I wretched myself away from her and then I was gone, a chill filling my stomach.

I ran to the jeep, hoping into the passenger's side. Carlisle was driving and Emmett was in the back, we took off, driving north. James caught my scent easily and began chasing after us in the Jeep. I picked up the phone to call Esme. It only rang once, "Go now," I ordered.

I could still here the thoughts of Victoria as we speed away. Rosalie and Esme fired up Bella's truck and drove east. Victoria caught the smell of Bella and took off after her truck. I called Alice, even though I was positive she already knew. She answered her phone before it even rang, "Victoria is on their trail," I informed her. "It's time."