Prologue: A Desperate Call
She should’ve known it was already too late.
The relief that’d flooded her from escaping Laurent, albeit with the help of some huge horse-sized wolves on steroids, had Bella feeling something other than depressed for the first time in months. Adrenaline hummed through her veins and her entire body sung with life. For so long she’d let her grief consume her, infect every single facet of her life until there was nothing left of her, until she’d been nothing more but a walking corpse.
There’d been a time she’d thought death to be preferable to the terrible burden of existing as she was. Preferable to living with the knowledge that she’d loved so deeply only to be betrayed by the object of her affections, tossed aside like a fast food wrapper to be trampled on.
So when she saw Laurent, she hadn’t run – not that running would’ve done any good. But then something strange had filled her, a willfulness that sparked as she realized the finality of death. An epiphany of sorts erupted in her mind as she realized how thoughtless she’d been behaving, how selfishness had colored her every action since he had left.
She’d been a terrible daughter to her parents, never looking beyond her own pain to see the wounds she was inflicting upon them. Poor Charlie was making mad dashes to her room every night when she woke up screaming and he’d stay with her, silently rocking her in his oh-so awkward but so very genuine way. He was trying so hard to save her from herself, save her from the aching hole Edward Cullen had meticulously and callously chiseled through her chest. If she couldn’t find it within her to live for herself, then she at least owed it to him.
It took almost dying for Bella to want to live. When Laurent finished his bad guy spiel about Victoria and revenge, he’d stretched out his claw-like hand like a lion ready to swipe the life from her, and Bella retreated a step. It was like that one step had done what nothing and no one else had been able to for months. It broke her out of her constant routine of depression and self-hatred. Like a slap to the face, Bella had snapped out of her woe and decided instantly that life did not begin and end with Edward Cullen.
She wanted to live.
And like an answer to an unspoken prayer, gigantic wolves descended and Bella ran as fast as she could back to her truck, her body thrumming with life, vitality and a new certainty that even though the pain and the wound would always fester, it’d be more like a boil that had been lanced of its poison. A bruise that would never fade, but it was a part of her nonetheless and she could accept that and live through the pain. Perhaps, she hoped as she drove home, it wasn’t too late for her after all.
But that’d been a fool’s hope. She should’ve known. It was too late for her… too late for Charlie.
A tentative eagerness bloomed warm in her chest when she saw Charlie’s cruiser parked in front of the house. Bella wanted nothing more than to cook dinner for him, sit down and actually eat her food for once, show him that even if she’d lost the naivety of her youth she would eventually be alright. She’d never be the same, but she would find the strength to live.
No more than two steps in, Bella was slammed with the scent of coppery rust and salt.
Blood. And lots of it.
Fighting the wave of nausea and dizziness, Bella cautiously moved further into the house as a cloying fear clung to her like a large cloak swallowing her entirely. Her heart pounded against her sternum in an attempt to escape from the truth Bella already knew even without the visual confirmation. She was too late, far too late.
Charlie’s mutilated body sat in his favorite chair and the vision on him torn asunder, blood spilled callously, etched itself into her mind never to be forgotten.
She collapsed at the foot of the chair, eyes wide even as tears fell like heavy raindrops over her checks and down her neck. Her breathing raced and she was in such a state of shock that the scent of blood no longer spelled a blackout. She was forced to absorb the sight of her dead father with no friendly escape.
Her eyes flickered over the scene in horrified fascination. His throat had been slit, but that had been after he’d taken the beating of a lifetime. Bruises marred over ninety percent of his body and Bella’s mind leapt as she tried to comprehend the horror of her father’s last moments.
A shockingly white envelop was nailed to his chest with one word scrawled on it: Isabella.
With a shaking hand, Bella softly tugged at the note as if not wanting to cause her father anymore pain. When it wouldn’t come her hand fisted and tugged it fiercely while a sharp cry escaped from her lips. It tore free, leaving a small corner behind.
She opened it without looking, her eyes still riveted to Charlie. Gathering what little strength she had, Bella looked down at the note and read it’s brief but horrific message.
This is but a taste of what’s to come – and what a delicious taste he was. It may comfort you to know he died with your name on his lips.
Don’t bother calling mommy. I stopped there first.
You’re next, little girl.
The shaking in her limbs increased. She didn’t doubt the truth behind every word written there and her heart further shattered knowing that her sweet but erratic mother had been just as brutally murdered. God, she’d failed both of her parents in the most horrific way imaginable.
Quickly, she turned and vomited what little there was in her stomach. The truth of her folly weighed heavy on her. She’d thought that after losing Edward she knew true pain, but his loss was but a mere paper cut compared to this. Her parents were both cut down in their prime owing to her own mistakes, her own stupidity for falling in love with the wrong person.
Anger roared within her, abrupt and fierce. Anger at herself, but a white hot fury was aimed directly at Edward Cullen who’d brought her into his world of monsters and had left her to fend for herself. He was just as much to blame as Bella herself. She’d bear the weight of her guilt for the rest of her life and if it was the last thing she’d do she’d find a way to make sure he would too.
Her mind started racing with what to do, but grief and anger made her thoughts flow like molasses until they honed with surprising sharpness at one thought, one realization.
With sharp precision, she folded up the letter from Victoria and stuck it into her pocket. In a heavy but clear fog she made her way up the stairs and into her room. In her closet was a seemingly innocent looking copy of Crime and Punishment but when she opened the book, there was a rectangular hole missing and a small, silver cell phone rested where it had always been waiting for her. She’d hoped to never have to use it because it would mean something horrible had happened, even though a large part of her had wanted to make the call a thousand times if only to hear the soothing sound of his deep, brusque voice.
He’d come to her in secret one day at school, her mom none the wiser. It’d been years since he’d been home, years where her parents had given up on him, thinking him lost to them. But Bella had never given up hope and when he came to her that day at school and swore her to secrecy, she had known even at the tender age of thirteen that she must never speak of him to anyone. Not her parents, not Edward, not a single soul was to know of him or the cell phone he’d slipped to her.
“For emergencies only, Eyas. Understand? You must tell no one. But always know that I love you and will always come for you if you need me.”
As she’d always done before, she’d taken what he said to heart. Trusted in his every word knowing that he’d always be there for her. He’d make it all better, somehow.
But now that the time had come to make the call, she dreaded it. Most would call the police at a time like this, but even though he’d never said anything specific about his job, Bella knew enough to know he’d have resources that the local police of Forks could only dream of. Still, she held the phone aloft in her palm, terrified by the weight of its significance. As much as she wanted to hear his reassuring voice, she was loath to tell him the truth, to confess to him how she was responsible for Renee and Charlie’s horrific deaths and that even though she’d kept his promise to him, he was very much in danger as well.
He’d probably hate her, as he rightfully should. But still, there was a hollow comfort knowing that he could never hate her as much as she hated herself. She’d accept his blame as her cross to bear, but she’d never forgive herself if she didn’t at least warn him about what may be coming for him next, as futile as a warning as it was.
Drawing a trembling breath, Bella opened the phone and selected the one and only number there.
It rang once, then again until it was answered and a deep, concerned voice came across. “Eyas? What’s happened? What’s wrong?” He would know that something terrible had happened if she was calling him.
At the sound of his voice, so strong and sure, Bella’s tenuous hold on her emotions snapped and she let out a terrible sob.
“Clint,” she said in a warble. “Clint,” she repeated, her mind unable to form another word.
“Tell me,” he breathed, sounding like he already knew what she was going to say.
“Mom and dad,” she managed to gasp between the sobs, unable to find the words to complete the sentence.
But she needn’t have worried. He knew. He always knew what she was saying even if she couldn’t find the exact words.
He inhaled sharply.
“Clint,” she cried again. “It’s my fault, it’s all my fault,” the words spilled forth, a dark confession she was unable to keep from him.
“I doubt that, sweetheart, don’t talk that way. Hang in there, little Eyas. I’m on my way.”
He cut the line without another word, but Bella’s relief was so intense she almost fainted. He was coming for her and somehow, he’d make it all better. Clint always made things better, like when they were kids and he’d be there to pick her up after a particularly nasty fall, cleaning her cuts with a parental patience Renee had always lacked, sealing each band-aid with a kiss.
As terrible as the situation was, a part of her secretly burned with eagerness. She wanted nothing more than to throw herself at Clint and hide in his arms far away from the cruel turn her life had taken.
Her brother was finally coming home.
(A/N): So there you have it! I know you probably have questions, but much of the history is to come next chapter so please review and let me know your thoughts/impressions!
Eyas – a term for a baby/young hawk