Unable to comprehend, Bella stared wide-eyed up into Edward’s pleading gaze and gave a long slow blink. His words seeped into her consciousness slowly, each one rubbing salt into the still bleeding wound he’d left in her chest when he’d carved out her heart that night in the woods.
“For you to believe me so easily,” he continued, shaking his head, eyes filled to the brim with hurt and pain, “It was excruciating.” In the next moment, he turned accusing as he said, “But how could you believe me so easily? After a thousand times of telling you I love you, I thought you would be impossible to convince – that you would be so rightly sure of me. Yet you let one lie, one moment, break your faith in me? How could you, Bella?”
She blinked again. The low whirl of the plane engine started to roar in her ears as the blood rushed to her head. Her vision tilted and then tunneled on Edward. He looked expectant, waiting for her to answer him; answer to him.
“You’re asking me why I believed you when you lied to me?” she clarified. Surely she had to be misunderstanding. After the exhaustion and stress, not only from the mad dash to Volterra but also the past several months of her drowning in depression, she clearly had to have misheard him.
“Yes Bella – I thought it would kill me the way you accepted my lie so easily. The pain from it alone almost did.”
Her head tilted as she repeated, “Your pain?” Feeling the onset of a migraine, Bella closed her eyes as she tried to make sense of the situation she found herself in.
Edward huffed, impatient with her inability to keep up. “Yes, Bella. Have you any idea how much you hurt me that night?”
For one brief moment, Bella had the sensation of falling. Down, down – further into the rabbit hole – until as if someone snapped a rubber band, she slammed back into her body and her eyes flew open. The moment seemed to freeze as she stared at Edward and saw him in his entirety for perhaps the first time.
And what she saw repulsed her. A child, a manipulative child who was prone to dramatics when he didn’t get his way… A boy playing at being a man.
He looked hurt and vaguely accusing, his darkened eyes hollowed with self-pity and loathing. The fact that she had risked her life – gained what was inevitably a death sentence by turning – in order to save him from his impulsive actions, even after he had dumped her so callously, didn’t even appear to register to him. All he focused on was his emotions, his own wants and needs. Not even moments safely in the air and away from immediate threat, did he guilt and shame her for believing what he now called a lie.
“How dare I believe you when you lied? How could I?” she summed up his rhetoric, voice low as a slow simmering fury tickled her limbs.
Edward blinked, confused by her sudden anger. Nonetheless, he nodded, widening his eyes in what she was sure he thought made him look innocent and sad. Instead, it made him look half-crazed, his black eyes ravaged by thirst as he embraced, full heartedly, the filth shoveling out of his mouth.
“Please Bella, I will forgive you if you forgive me. Tell me you still love me and we can be together again,” he implored.
An epiphany hit her and testing it, she asked, “Forever?”
Edward’s eyes hooded and his jaw tightened. “We’ll find a way out of turning you, of course. There’s no need to be afraid – the Volturi won’t find you. I’ll protect you, Bella. Always.”
He sounded sincere and his tone broke no refusal. To him, he had already decided her fate without so much as asking her what she thought. Her opinion was either wrong or unnecessary.
“No,” she breathed.
His head cocked to the side. “No?”
She shook her head as anger overwhelmed her. While a good portion of it was rightly reserved for Edward and his so-called family for treating her like a pet or a toddler incapable of logical thinking – a surprisingly large portion was centered on herself.
How could you, Bella? he’d asked her and she found herself wondering the very same thing. How could she not see him clearly before when she now saw the truth of him? How could she sacrifice so much of herself, offering it up to the alter of his love, trying to prove herself worthy of him when it was the other way around?
He was unworthy of her and certainly unworthy of the time, effort and emotion she invested in him.
With her epiphany solidified, Bella sat up straighter. The weight of Edward’s love and her obligation to him dissolved into dust and was swept away by the winds of her anger and indignation.
“Edward,” Alice beckoned from across the aisle.
Bella’s fury spiked once more, knowing her professed best friend was likely calling out to share some vision with him in result to Bella’s new resolve.
“Not now, Alice,” Edward hissed, his sole attention focused on Bella. He widened his eyes at her as though he could will her to change her answer to yes – yes of course she forgave him and she was so sorry for hurting him. It was wrong of her and she’d learned her lesson. So silly of her to act otherwise!
Mashing her lips together, Bella’s eyes hardened and her once soft heart hardened into steel against his butterscotch eyes.
“Did I stutter?” she bit out, each word clipped and a small slap to his face.
“Bella?” he frowned, head tilting like a wounded puppy.
“You have some nerve, Edward Cullen, some fucking nerve indeed. Your sister interrupts my life, drags me off to save you from killing yourself in some twisted show of love and when finally away from danger, you blame me for it all in not so many words… How could I believe you don’t love me, you ask me?” she scoffed, throwing his pathetic farce of an apology in his face. “Maybe the better question to focus on is how could I have ever trusted you never to lie to me?”
He went to interrupt but she held up a stalling hand. “No. You’re done talking and I’m done listening to you and your twisted words designed to show me my place beneath. I’m done listening about Alice’s visions which are, at best, plausible fantasies as the future changes constantly with each decision. Listen to her now, Edward,” she bid him, anger causing tears to prick at her eyes. “Have her look into my future now and see what she sees.”
Obligingly, Edward turned to Alice. The pixie like vampire’s mouth was agape, mouth dropped in horror and denial. Her eyes flickered as she sifted through her visions, making one decision after another to sway what she saw.
To no avail. Alice gave a pitiful hiccuping sigh and looked away from Edward in defeat. Even in the face of her failure, Edward still stared down at Alice expectantly, waiting for her to give him the answer to change Bella’s mind.
But she was resolved. Never again would she trust Edward Cullen and his family. Never again would she open herself up to that kind of pain and betrayal. For all intents and purposes, they were well and truly dead to her now.
Edward’s head snapped to her as though hearing her thoughts. Even in the face of the stubborn tilt of her chin and her resolve shining like an uncontrollable wildfire in her eyes, his own gaze took on the maniacally gleam of obsession as he murmured, “I love you, Bella. I’ll never give up on you – on us. I will find a way to get you back.”
Despite the anger and a bone weary tiredness hollowing her out and making her feel like only a shell of her former self, Bella still recognized his fervor promise for the threat it was.
“He’s here again,” Candice announced, flouncing into the dressing room with a wide, beaming grin.
Bella’s hand froze, holding the tube of red lipstick up at her lips. She hated how her heart gave an annoying little flutter at the pronouncement and her eyes narrowed at her co-worker.
“Enough of that now, girl – dude is wicked hot and totes into you and you know you love it.”
Suppressing an eye roll, Bella began to apply her lipstick once more. “There are many men who come here and are ‘into’ us, in case you haven’t noticed,” she pointed out dryly.
“Yeah, but how many of them only stay for your set and spend the whole time watching you dance like they’re mentally undressing you with their teeth?” Candice countered and when she saw Bella open her mouth to reply, she cut her off with, “And don’t tell me shit about how many of the pervs here turn fanboy stalkers on us because this is way different. He doesn’t just stare at you like he wants to fuck you – he looks at you like he wants to devour you. Like he’s only just barely restraining himself from doing so. There’s a big fucking difference and you know it.”
Problem was she did know it.
“So don’t go whining about it, you lucky bitch,” Candice mock scolded, a genuine smile taking what little sting there was out of the words. “That man is hot as hell and there’s not one of us who wouldn’t kill to be in your place… especially if your place ends up with you on your back under him, moaning in pleasure.”
Bella laughed even as she blushed, giving Candice a scandalized look.
“You and that blush of yours,” she teased. “I bet that’s what keeps him coming back to watch you – the fact that you’re a stripper who’s always fucking blushing whenever your eyes flash to him while you’re dancing on stage; which happens all the damn time, ya know. Tell me, when you’re performing do you even see any of the Johns throwing their money at you or are you just giving your boyfriend a little show of your own?” and wiggling her brows, Candice twirled around and left the room, her faint giggle lingering after her.
“Bitch,” Bella breathed under her breath without any real heat.
Life had sure thrown her a curveball straight out of left field the night she’d come home from Volterra. As she’d suspected, Edward – and by extension, his family – had proven relentless in the pursuit to win her back. The oppressive stalking techniques he’d used throughout their courtship were applied enforce and this time she recognized them for what they were. Her rose-tinted glasses were well and truly shattered when it came to the Cullens but they proved patient and persistent.
The rest of the short school year had been filled with guilt trips, bribes and thinly veiled threats, even. The pack had helped but Victoria proved to be time consuming and, rightfully, a higher priority. Instead of helping on that front, Edward seemed to use the pack’s distraction with her to his advantage. He dogged her every step, pounced on her whenever one of the pack members would leave her home. He even used their inability to pin Victoria down as an argument for why Bella needed to be with him.
She was a weak human alone in a world filled with the supernatural. Only he could protect her from Victoria… and in the not too distant future, the Volturi.
Eventually, Edward stooped to offering that which he assumed she still yearned for: immortality.
“You’ve made your point, Bella. I’ll turn you. When we graduate, I’ll turn you,” he promised with his dark, honeyed smile, assuming victory would be his at the offer.
Instead of falling into his arms and reaffirming her undying love for him, Bella had done the opposite. Inwardly, at least. His ‘selfless’ offer of turning her became a promise, one she knew he planned on following through with regardless of the fact that the very idea of being a vampire, and thus trapped into a relationship with him, now horrified her.
But with the offer, she saw a glimmer of light at the end of a dark tunnel he’d trapped her in. A hope for an escape.
“Thank you, Edward,” she smiled woodenly at him. “I’m still very hurt though. But this helps me know how much you truly love me.”
Her stomach had turned at the words and she was thankful Jasper was no where around to relay that fact to Edward.
By giving him a small fledgling spark of hope, Edward had eased up off of her just enough so that when she’d told him Charlie insisted on her visiting her mother in Florida to check out colleges, he’d reluctantly agreed to let her go. The bright sun had effectively kept him there while giving her an out.
“I know it will hardly matter,” he’d smiled at her, wrapping his arms around her as he’d seen her off at the airport. “Since you won’t be going to college at all – but it will help Charlie accept your disappearance from his life.”
He sounded proud, as if he himself had come up with the brilliant plan.
“And at least he’ll be able to walk you down the aisle before you leave him forever.”
That was another thing he had become insistent on: their marriage. He’d not even asked her. Just told her that they’d be getting married before he turned her so they could spend eternity happily ever after in newlywed bliss.
Smart enough not to voice her outright refusal, Bella had played a delicate balance of resistant but open to the idea. She knew he’d be suspicious if she danced for joy at the proposal, having more than once voiced her displeasure at the concept of marriage in the past. It had been a test of sorts, she suspected, of her sincerity in slowly accepting him back. The tightrope walk he’d forced her on was exhausting, so much so that even as her plane to Florida took off, she could still feel the burn of his eyes on her back, his parting, “I’ll be waiting for you, love,” echoing in her head with expectation.
In other words, she had better not keep him waiting long.
The hope was that he’d be left waiting indefinitely, though.
Landing in Florida, she’d spent two days with her mom before running. Town to town, no more than a month in each, Bella took jobs a dodgy establishments who were willing to ask little questions and pay under the table.
Well aware that her plan was a stalling tactic, Bella traveled state to state on whims, never deciding when to leave so much as becoming the roaming hippie her mother had once been. Oddly, her mom was proud of her new wanderlust, though Bella was sure to leave false trails with both of her parents in hopes of delaying Edward even more. A part of her worried for their safety as Edward proved to be even more unstable after leaving Italy, but the pack was there to protect Charlie and Bella didn’t think the Cullens would risk using Renee to draw her back. If it wasn’t clear by now where she stood, Bella was sure they’d understand her position if they threatened her mother. That small token of hope she’d left in Edward would die and she’d be lost to them forever.
As it was, Edward was under the misapprehension that she was testing his love for her, or so Jacob and the pack claimed. The teen vampire often passed messages to her through them but lately, he was becoming more and more demanding of her return. The pack warned her he’d snap soon and would use his seemingly unlimited resources to find her.
Jake wanted her to come home – live on the rez and under his protection – but Bella knew there was expectation with that offer of asylum as well. The wolf would pressure her into a relationship and out of guilt and feeling she owed him, she’d probably give in and things would become ten times worse. Edward would rage a war for her… and kill any who got in his way.
No, the nomad life wasn’t perfect and it wouldn’t last, but Bella would enjoy her freedom while she could. Hopefully, she’d find an answer to her Edward problem while traveling but if not; well – she’d rather die than become a vampire. As selfish and ironic as it was that she’d consider that route when it was Edward’s suicidal tendencies that got them into this mess to begin with, it was looking more and more like her only option.
“You’re on, girl,” a voice called out, snapping Bella out of her thoughts.
Sighing, she set down her makeup and gave her reflection the once over.
“You’ll do,” she muttered, getting up and heading towards the stage. Her mind involuntarily flashed to the man who be lingering close enough to the stage to watch her dance while still being far enough away to take in the other men watching her as well and just as Candice teased her about early, she blushed.
Tall, handsome, intense… dangerous…
Bella shivered as she pictured him but then immediately scolded herself for such a reaction. Last thing she had time for was some Pretty Woman nonsense with some random guy interested in saving her and whisking her away from her life as a stripper. As if a human could solve any of her problems – poor guy would be eaten alive if he got involved with her.
The opening strands of Bon Jovi’s Bad Medicine hit and with a deep breath, Bella took to the stage and resolutely kept her eyes away from the far right corner where she knew her mystery man would be lingering.
She moved through her routine on autopilot, absently feeling the small strokes of hands slipping money into the straps of her heels as she reached out an accepted tips from others, slowly slipping the bills between her breasts before tucking them in the underwire of her barely there sequin bra.
If Edward could see her now, she smirked…
Being a stripper had not been part of the plan, but after a couple cold nights of no work in one of the earlier towns she’d been in, it hadn’t taken her long to shyly enter a club. As far as businesses go, strip clubs were quick to turn a blind eye to something like fake names and lack of identification and there was a surprising sense of unity amongst the staff, at least in the ones Bella sought out. Trick was to find a nice middle ground club, nothing too seedy but certainly not a burlesque cabaret. She’d started out waiting tables in skimpy outfits but some of the girls had taken pity on her shy clumsy ways. They’d taken her under their wing and taught her many things from being able to walk straight in insanely tall heels to being able to twist her body in such a way to bring a grown man down to his knees and offer up his money.
It was all strangely empowering.
Edward would be having kittens if he knew – that is, if he didn’t all ready – and that alone gave her an insane amount of joy and made pushing past her slight embarrassment worth it.
Look at me now, Alice, she thought with another sensual smirk as she flung her hair back and arched her back. Fucking eat your heart out.
“Your love is like bad medicine
Bad medicine is what I need
Shake it up, just like bad medicine
You got the potion that can cure my disease”
The song came to an end and despite her resolve, her eyes flicked over to him.
There he stood, leaning against the wall with his arms folded across his chest looking the perfect combination of arrogantly casual. Even in the dim light she could see the faint curl of his lips upwards when their eyes connected and she predictably blushed. His short, scruffy friend was there also watching her though his appreciative gaze didn’t effect her nearly as much as the other’s.
The lights changed on stage and for a second, Bella’s heart stopped as she thought she saw his eyes flash black.
Mentally shaking herself, Bella tried to calm her racing heart as she went backstage. Just a trick of the light, she was sure…
Taking a fortifying breath, her heart leap into her throat once more when a deep, vaguely British voice sounded from behind her.
Slapping a hand to her chest, Bella turned sharply and eyed the newcomer warily. It was the short somewhat scruffy guy who was often with her admirer.
“A bit jumpy, are we?” he lifted a brow in amusement.
Her eyes narrowed. “Well, wouldn’t you be when someone sneaks up behind you in an area they’re not supposed to be?” Her eyes darted around for a moment and he broke her thoughts again.
“He’s not here,” the man smirked, amused when she started again.
“Who’s not here?” she asked, feigning indifference.
“My friend,” he said with another smirk. While there was a clear vibe of danger about him, Bella couldn’t help but find his deep timber accent oddly soothing.
She shrugged dismissively and he chuckled into a glass filled with a dark amber liquor – whiskey or bourbon, likely – as he brought it up to his lips. “Two peas in a pod, you two are,” he mumbled into the glass as he took a swig.
“Look,” she said, slipping on a jacket to cover her still mostly unclothed body. “Where’s the chase here and how do we cut to it?”
He gave her another one of those darkly amused looks with a touch of condescending to it. “Aren’t you feisty – I’m beginning to see what he sees in you, other than that delightful derrière of yours.”
Heat flooded her cheeks at the inappropriate compliment.
“And then there is that, isn’t there? Such a naughty innocent little thing you are.”
“Listen guy,” Bella began, slowly inching away from him. Before she could finish her scathing remark, however, a crystal perfect voice interrupted her.
“Isn’t this interesting?”
Jumping and clutching at her heart – she was sure the poor thing would give out at the next surprise – Bella turned around and her once flushing cheeks drained of any and all color.
A matter of time, she’d always known, but it was still not the vampire she’d expected to track her down.
“Jane,” Bella murmured. Her feet twitched as she fought her instinct to run. Fight or flight; her body instantly wanted to give in to the latter, not that it’d do her any good.
The petite vampire smiled though it did nothing to soften her demeanor. “You’ve caused quite a bit of trouble, little human. The masters are not pleased.”
Despite herself, she snorted. “Let me guess. Edward ran and tattled, didn’t he?”
Jane cocked her head. “The Cullen boy awaits your return in Volterra at which point you will be turned.”
Jane lifted a brow. “Was I unclear? Or is your feeble human mind unable to comprehend?”
Rolling her eyes, Bella huffed, “I’m sure there’s something in it for the Volturi and you’re not helping out of the kindness of your stone cold hearts.”
Another fleeting and menacing smile curled her lips as Jane said, “For the favor of our interference, you both will then serve the guard for one hundred and fifty years.”
“Fucking great,” Bella snapped. “Not only does that little prick run and tattle on me, he also enslaves me to a bunch creepy old vampire kings. You know what?” she laughed, the sound coming out a bit hysterical. “You give my regards to your douchebag kings but I’m not going.”
“You’re not going?” Jane repeated dully.
Bella snorted. “Was I unclear? Or is your feeble vampire mind unable to comprehend?” she parrotted back with a sneer.
Jane hissed, taking a threatening step forward.
“I wouldn’t do that now, princess.”
Bella’s eyes closed in regret. Regardless of whether or not the dude was creepy, she’d forgotten about the man and didn’t want him caught up in her drama. He’d only pay for it with his life.
Jane turned to him and to Bella’s surprise, she paused.
“This doesn’t concern you,” she murmured, obviously upset but strangely leery.
“That’s where you’re wrong,” he returned, stepping towards her and smiling when she skittered back. “You see, a friend of mine if rather fond of our girl her. I reckon he’d be a mite disappointed if you took off with her before I could seal the deal for him.”
While still concerned for the stranger, she couldn’t help but snicker slightly. “So you’re the wing man?”
He turned to her and amusedly tilted his head in acknowledgment. “I’m afraid the lad was a bit shy so I was going to take matters into my own hands and give him a little push…”
“Sir,” Jane said, cutting off when the man looked at her again.
“Vampire scum. Nothing more than parasites, the lot of you. No matter the breed of leech, you always get in my way.”
The shadows stirred and Jane was now backed by two hulking figures – Felix and Demetri, if Bella’s memory served her right. Their presence seemed to bolster Jane. She lifted her meek gaze from the floor.
“So this is how it’s going to be then, kiddos?”
“The girl comes with us,” the bigger of the two men stated. “And anyone who gets in our way will be destroyed.”
The man nodded, lifting his glass up to his lips as he knocked back the last of his drink. He hissed after he swallowed, saying, “Yes. That’s what I thought you’d say.”
Bella blinked and Demetri was at her back, hands curled around her upper arms with bruising strength as he yanked her towards Jane and Felix.
“Bad move there,” the strange man smiled. The ominous warning was mingled with anticipation. He absently started straightening his tie as he leaned off to the side and shouted out, “Oy! Dean-o! Come out and play, yeah? These guys are trying to steal your girl!”
A flurry of movement and Bella was hurled into a wall as someone crashed into Demetri. Collapsing to her knees, she heard a grunt of pain as the new figure twitched in front of her. Jane’s wide, red gaze was fixed on him, clearly focusing her nasty gift on him.
“Stupid bitch,” Bella muttered. Reaching down, she plucked off on of her heels and hurled it at her. “Hey! Ease up there, Janey.”
Jane swatted the shoe away and flicked her eyes to Bella with another hiss. There was another bout of movement too fast for her to comprehend, but suddenly ice fingers were around her wrists as she was being dragged across the floor.
Struggling, Bella flailed about, trying with ever ounce of strength she possessed to break free. In the background, she heard the sound of wrenching metal and a deep, satisfied chuckle.
Abruptly, she stopped. The hands around her wrists were gone and Bella looked up in time to see the newcomer jab a wicked looking knife – was that bone, she distantly balked – into Felix’s gut.
To her surprise, the crude weapon sliced through the vampire’s marble skin faster than a snowball evaporating in hell.
Blinking, she stared at Felix’s collapsed body, her mind unable to comprehend what it’d just witnessed.
New hands grasped at her – this time warm, strong and calloused. Her body was tugged upright and her own hands lifted to brace herself against a warm, heaving chest.
Eyes flashed and caught.
Hazel, she noticed somewhere in a decent corner of her mind. The world began spinning and black dots bloomed across her vision.
Her mystery man had hazel eyes and she swore, right before she passed out, they turned black and she saw the devil in him.
(A/N): Hope you enjoyed the first part! I’ve been itchy to write some Supernatural… especially demon Dean so I can’t wait to hear what you all thought. Thanks for reading and until next time… Cheers darling.