Two weeks after the ill-fated graduation party at the Cullens’ house, Edward and I were sitting at the table in my little kitchen. Edward’s cool, pale fingers were lightly tracing across the backs of my clenched hands. All the thoughts racing through my mind were in a tangled knot.
Thankfully, Charlie had gone to La Push to go fishing with Jacob’s father Billy that morning. Even though Jacob hadn’t spoken to me in two weeks, I didn’t think it was a coincidence that the Quileutes were having an open graduation party, fish fry, and bonfire at First Beach. Open to everyone from the Quileute Reservation and Forks in honor of me, the Forks Police Chief’s daughter. Not that there was any hope it would evacuate the entire town of Forks …
I had told Charlie I would be out later in the afternoon. I hated to lie but I couldn’t tell him where I might really be. As long as he stayed there, he would probably be safe. Alice’s last clear vision of the newborns had shown them reaching Forks that day.
It could be any time, and I couldn’t stand the stress of waiting. I snatched my hands from under Edward’s and jumped up from the table to pace the small room. The tension and anxiety were eating into me; I just couldn’t sit still. I felt the nerves throughout my entire body jangling and twitching. The wolf pack was safe at La Push, but what of Edward, Alice, and the rest of the Cullens? What about the people in Forks?
Edward watched me for a moment and stood to block my next pass in front of the sink. “Bella,” he began, his tone as smooth as silk. “I know Jasper is not far, let him help calm you.”
I spun away from him. “Edward! Jasper calming me down is not going to change anything. This is all my fault! People are going to die because of me! If I hadn’t yelled at Jake then—”
The shrill ringing of the phone caused me to nearly jump into the kitchen sink, and I leapt for it.
“Hey, Bells. When do you think you’ll be over here for the party? Billy and I caught a lot of fish for the fish fry. There’ll be plenty for everyone.”
“Hi, Ch … Dad. I, uh, I’m not sure when I’ll be over. Edward and I are going to have lunch before he leaves to go camping with his family.” Because Edward and the rest of his family were not allowed to cross the boundary line and enter the wolves’ territory, Edward had had to come up with some excuse for why he wouldn’t be joining me.
But if I really went to La Push, would the newborns follow me there?
“Oh, right. They’re going camping again. Well, don’t be too long. You know this is in your honor.”
I could practically hear him rolling his eyes through the phone.
“Yeah, I know, Dad. I wanted to spend some time with Edward b-before they left.”
“Are you feeling okay, Bells?”
His voice lowered with his concern.
“Oh… uh, yeah, Dad. I’m fine. You know how I feel about parties and people making a big deal.” I glanced up at Edward.
“Yeah, I know. Kinda like your old man. Well, don’t take too long. But I got a call about some disturbance out in the hills past the east side of town. I was thinking I should go check it out. Shouldn’t take long. I’ll be back before you know it.”
Edward’s eyes widened. With his vampire hearing, he was able to hear every word Charlie said.
“Wh-what kind of disturbance, Dad?”
“I don’t know, Bells. Probably just some kids feeling their oats. I should just leave it to the counties to handle. It’s out of my jurisdiction, ya know.”
“Sure, Dad. Let the county police handle it. You stay in La Push and enjoy the fish.”
“Ya know, I think you, and the Vitamin R, talked me into it.” He chuckled.
Sighing with relief, I loosened my death grip on the phone. “Okay, Dad. Um, that’s good. I know you’re having a good time with Billy. I’ll see you soon. Be careful.”
“Always am. See ya.”
My hand sluggishly hung up the phone and tears rolled down my face as I stared at the receiver. Would I ever see him again? Would I ever speak to him again? Would I even be alive later?
I turned to look at Edward and saw that he had his phone to his ear. His lips were vibrating, but I heard no sound. He was talking at vampire speed to someone in his family.
He pressed the button to end the call, shoved the phone in his pocket and scooped me up into his arms.
“Edward! What is it?” I gasped. The kitchen was nothing but a blur as he dashed through it and out the back door at his incredible speed. We were across the yard and into the woods before I could even blink.
“That was Rosalie. She’s spotted the newborns about ten miles outside of town. She called Jasper. He’s running toward her to head them off.”
Oh, no! Jasper was going to die and it would be my fault. Alice! Emmett! Where were they? Would Jasper meet the newborns by himself?
As Edward was running, and I was clinging to his chest with all my strength to hold on, he brought his phone to his ear again. “Emmett,” was all I heard him say. The sound of the wind rushing past drowned out anything else.
All of the Cullens must have taken up positions throughout the forest east of Forks to wait for the newborns. They hadn’t told me of those plans—probably to keep me from panicking even more.
There were only the six of them out there because Edward had stayed with me. Alice’s last vision of the newborns had shown her there were twenty-one. Twenty-one blood thirsty newborns—plus the one who was directing them.
Edward was flying through the forest. The trees were nothing but a wash of green as we sped past. I didn’t know how far we had gone when Edward stopped and his head snapped to the right.
I caught only a flash of movement through the forest. Before I could scream, Emmett came crashing through the brush.
“Emmett, take her. I’m going to Jasper.” Edward shoved me into Emmett’s huge arms.
“Edward! I can take care of those newborns. You and Jazz and the rest don’t have to—”
“Emmett! I said take her! Take care of her for me.” Edward gently kissed my forehead. “I’ll be back with you soon.”
He was gone.
“Oh, Emmett! He’s gone! What are we going to do?” I wailed. The tears streamed down my face, and I clung to Emmett desperately.
“I don’t know, Bells. We can’t let the newborns near you or Forks. I’ll …” He had come to a decision. He ran back in the direction from which Edward and I had just come, but we didn’t go nearly as far.
“Hang on tight, Bells. We’re goin’ up this tree.”
It was a huge old fir. The trunk was bare of limbs up to about thirty feet, but that didn’t discourage Emmett. He sprang up, caught hold of the lowest branch and swung us both up into the tree. I squeezed my eyes shut and held on tighter, my legs wrapped around his waist and my arms around his broad chest.
“You okay, Bells? We’re going to go a bit higher. Put your arms under my arms and grab onto my shoulders.”
I could do nothing but nod weakly against his hard chest as he climbed even higher through the branches with one hand while he held me securely to his chest with the other.
When he finally stopped, I opened my eyes and saw nothing but green around us. I didn’t know how high we were, but when I peered down over his arm, I couldn’t make out anything but needle-covered limbs. Though Emmett had stayed below the tree tops, we were surrounded. When I looked straight up, the limbs thinned out and I could make out patches of grey sky above us.
Emmett whispered into my ear, “This is as high as we go, Bells. Back in Tennessee when I was human, if you could get up a tree, then the bears couldn’t get you. I didn’t do so well that last time I ran across a bear.” He shook his head at the memory. “We’ll wait here for a minute. I want you to hang on to this tree trunk. One of us will be back to get you.”
“Emmett, no! You can’t leave me here. Where did Edward go?”
“Look, Bells, you have to be quiet. Edward went that way to help Jasper.” He jerked his head toward the east. “The newborns are headed this way. If they come by here, they’ll smell your scent down there, but they won’t smell you climbing the tree. They won’t think you’re up here. They should be out of their minds trying to get away from Jasper and Edward and everybody, and going crazy after they get a whiff of your scent.”
He was pulling some sort of strap out of his pocket
“Emmett! You can’t leave me here.”
“I have to, Bells. You hold on tight to this trunk. I thought I might get to clothes line some newborns, but I’m going to use this strap to tie you to the tree. One of us will be back to get you.”
With that he pried me loose, sat me on a limb, and placed my arms around the tree trunk. As I scrambled to grip the trunk with my legs, Emmett wound that black strap several times around me and the tree and tied it about three feet above my head
“Please don’t leave me.”
“Bells, you’re safer here than with any of us. You need to be quiet.” He leaned forward and kissed my forehead. “You know I’ve always loved you as my sister.
“You’re the big brother I always wanted, Em. I love you. Please don’t leave!”
He held one finger to his lips, patted my shoulder, and dropped through the limbs of the tree. I lost sight of him but heard the soft thud when he reached the ground. I couldn’t see much, but through small gaps through the ever-present green, I spotted a light colored blur as he streaked toward the east.
I couldn’t believe that he had left me there! My hysterical mind was stuck, repeating over and over, “They left me. They left me.” I had to try and follow them.
I had no idea how high up the tree I was. What if I fell? I’d end up lying broken and bleeding on the ground.
Perfect bait for the newborns.
That was only if I could untie the strap.
I jerked at the strap around me, frustrated. Then, toward my left, it sounded as if the Hounds of Hell had exploded through the crust of the earth. I clung to the tree and shrunk away from the thunderous growls and piercing snarls.
I stared in the direction of the blast of sound but couldn’t see anything yet. Then I saw flashes of movement and color through the green. They were coming closer. Inhuman growls, screams, and shrieks pummeled my ears. Booming thuds and cracks like gun shots echoed through the forest and came closer. Then I heard the sound of metal being wrenched apart. Through a small break in the pervasive green, I glimpsed Alice’s beautiful face. She was momentarily still, and then her head snapped around. She was looking directly at me.
“Bella, you’re going to be okay.”
Before I could form a reply, a terrifying snarl sounded behind her. She spun in a blur to face it. She stopped and dropped into a crouch as a red-eyed male newborn vampire appeared out of nowhere and leapt toward her. His arm swept around from his side and his wide hand, fingers curled like claws, struck her on the side of her face. His fingers dug in, and as his leap carried him over and past her, he took her head with him, ripping it from her shoulders with a grating, ear splitting screech.