Bella was still staring at the newborn when Edward started to growl, a low rumbling deep in his sternum that was resonating right behind her shoulder blades. Bella turned her head, trying to twist out of his grip. Edward, in his infinite strength held fast, staring straight into the tree line before them. His eyes were gleaming, and it was the look in them, rather than the deep growl, made Bella rethink her escape plan.
Instead her gaze fell back to the trees. She squinted, trying to see past the thick, oily smog that was still billowing of the burning bonfires around them. Bella, of course, saw nothing; however the same could not be said for the vampires present, the newborn going especially stiff as she stared off into the trees.
Edwards’s continuous growl grew louder. Lips curled back, he looked more like a snarling dog than a person, teeth shiny in the moonlight and flanks shaking. Like this he was terrifying, the true, unrivalled hunter he had always warned of. He hid it so well usually, wouldn’t even fully smile if he thought it would show even a glimmer of teeth. This more than anything struck Bella too her core. It was like he didn’t even know she was there, simply hanging on for no reason other than she was already in his arms.
“Hmm,” a dead, cold voice murmured from the trees. Bella’s heart thumped in her chest, goose bumps breaking out across her skin as her blood ran cold. She could see them now, the fog thick but not quite thick enough to disguise the group that was slowly advancing towards them. It was deathly silent, Bella’s heartbeat the only sound.
"Welcome Jane," Carlisle smiled in greeting, his voice strained and almost too polite. The smallest of the group, Jane, tilted her head to the side, as if sizing them up. She tilted her head back to allow her hood to slip down around her shoulders, a playful, almost childlike smile gracing her pale lips.
Behind her the three others that had been following her finally came to a stop. Two of them Bella felt she recognised, and as if sensing her thoughts one of them raised their eyes to look at her. Letting the hood fall back enough to reveal his face, Felix smirked, his nostrils flaring with her scent. The other hulking figure had to be Alec then; he was never too far from his sister and today seemed to be no exception.
“Jane, I think they missed one of them,” the last vampire spoke, voice flowing like soft silk. It was melodic, just like every vampire Bella had met thus far, but with a rumble that was distinctly male. He stepped forward, floating as he came to stand next to Jane, leaving Bella slightly jealous of the stranger’s grace.
At once, Edward pulled her closer to him, tightening his grip even further protectively as Jane’s eyes swept over the coven.
"She was turned by a rough vampire, Victoria, perhaps you know of her." Carlisle quickly explained, his voice smooth as he gestured towards the girl on the ground.
"Yes," Jane glanced towards Carlisle. "We know of her, and Aro thanks you for clearing up that mess for us."
"She has surrendered," Edward chimed in, finally seeming to break out of his feral state, his growls lessening for the moment. "The newborn is with us now, Carlisle gave her a choice."
"That was not your choice to give, and there are no choices for those who break the rules," the new male easily replied, waving a dismissive hand in the air. Beside him, Jane wavered on her feet slightly, like she was stopping herself from touching him. Mates, perhaps? Bella didn’t know.
"The rules were not explained to her, her sire failed in her job. She didn't know what she was doing." Carlisle insisted as Esme tried to pull the poor girl behind her.
"That is irrelevant, what she has done cannot be forgiven. She, her sire and brethren almost revealed our world." The male carried on, frustration finally starting to colour his words. "Newborns are like stray dogs, friendly until you do something to upset them,” he took a breath, as if trying to calm himself. “What's stopping her?"
"Surely you can see our predicament," Felix spoke up for the first time, voice gruff yet still beautiful. It was surreal to watch them speak; their dialect and stances were so different than the Cullen’s. Edward and his family were good at blending in, breathing and fidgeting even now. These Italian vampires had none of that. “She may have given up now, who's to say she won't attack us in revenge and reveal us all?"
"Uproot the seed before the tree can grow." Alec murmured.
Jane took a single step forward. “Your name, child?” Her sweet voice was devoid of emotion.
The girl looked uncertain for a moment, still clutching to Esme like a child. "Bree," she finally sniffed.
"How many were there of you, Bree?"
"I-I don't know, eighteen or nineteen, maybe?"
"And was this Victoria your sire, your creator?" Jane asked.
"I don't know! Riley never said her name, he didn't want to give her away, said our minds weren't safe..." Bree stammered out, the words pouring out of her. She was shaking now with lose adrenaline or fear, it was hard to tell.
Jane smiled almost kindly as she started her approach. The Cullen‘s moved away quickly, and Edward moved to cover Bella’s eyes. Bree's fate was sealed.
"Thank you my dear," Jane whispered, and Bella heard a sickening crack. "That's all we needed to know."
"Aro and I thank you for your kindness in releasing us of this... little situation," the still unknown guard spoke up as Jane returned to his side, seemingly calmer after the supposed threat had been removed. "You have been very helpful, and I hope our little spectacle has not changed your opinion of us overly much."
They turned as one, the unknown vampire giving a quick salute as they disappeared back into the forest and out of sight. Silence followed, broken up by the still crackling flames, and suddenly Bella felt exhausted. The last thing she remembered before falling into darkness was the cold, threatening and soothing all at once.
Bella woke the next morning disoriented, a slick feeling in the pit of her stomach. The dream-catcher above swayed in a light breeze, and Bella’s insides jumped. Hurriedly, she scrambled from her bed to the bathroom, thoughts of Bree and the night before making her sick. Breakfast after that was a no-go, and after a rushed goodbye with Charlie from the porch she jumped into Edwards waiting Volvo.
They took off at speed, Edward’s small smile a slight comfort. Her best friend was silent, uncharacteristically so, but Bella supposed she could relate. She wasn’t in a talking mood either. That was another thing, as well. ‘Best Friend’. Their relationship had become strained after Edward had returned, and after a while both she and Edward had decided to just remain friends. And it worked, surprisingly, Bella visiting the Reserve more and more during her free time and Edward no longer staring creepily at her as she slept.
Around half past eight they finally reached the school. Edward swung the Volvo into his usual space between old dark blue Cortina and Rosalie's new soft top convertible. Bella stumbled out, Edward quickly grabbing her arm to stabilise her as she wobbled. She found her footing; only to loose it again as Edward playfully started to drag her towards Reception, pulling her into the warmth of the building.
The sombre mood from that morning had lifted, finally, and they were still fooling around when Edward suddenly went stiff. Bella’s hand hit solid stone as she pushed at him. Edward took a deeper breath, his eyes widening. She followed his eyes to the tall, perfectly normal stranger that stood at the desk.
Well, possibly normal. You could never really tell.