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The Hunted

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Sometimes, even for an immortal, time could pass too slowly.

Twenty minutes slowly ticked down to ten, their flight from Seattle quickly approaching the airport. Even without the arrival board informing her of their proximity, Alice knew that in exactly sixteen minutes and thirty-two seconds Edward, Carlisle, and Emmett would be rushing toward her location as fast as they could. An old woman short on patience would have a few choice words for the trio of men as they brushed by her to exit the plane first, but they’d be too caught up to pay her any mind.

Her attention flickered toward Jasper and Bella, noting how Bella wasn’t deciding on any of the restaurants Jasper proposed. It wasn’t surprising. Alice was discovering that Bella wasn’t one to actually take the initiative and feed herself. She also didn’t seem to be the type to worry about her personal wellbeing to any degree.

Alice had a lecture already mentally prepared to dish out to Bella once the girl was a touch more comfortable around her. And once this entire situation was behind them. As Alice’s best friend—her future, fragile, accident-prone, human best friend—Bella had a responsibility to at least attempt to take care of herself while she was still mortal.

Alice quickly pushed that thought away. It would do no good for Edward to pluck a thought about a potentially immortal Bella out of her head while he was under this much stress. She knew exactly which sharp words he would spit at her in reply. She didn’t want to hear it.

In a flash, a vision came over her, and immediately Alice felt every bit of assurance over Edward’s arrival rip itself from her mind. In its place, acute shock.

Standing up quickly, Alice left her bag in the metal-railed chair, entirely forgotten as she took five brisk steps forward.

She didn’t have time to hesitate. And she wouldn’t have time to run.

She heard him before she saw him. Heavy, even steps grew closer until his scent fell over her. For a millisecond she realized he’d even found himself a pair of shoes to blend in better amongst the humans. Hearing the hard, brisk clips that she knew belonged to him made a heavy feeling form in her chest.

“You can’t touch me here,” she spoke, seconds before he was in her line of sight. “If you make a scene, the Volturi will be here faster than you can say ‘hide and seek’.”

Alice could hear his amused snort over the airport bustle as he walked toward her. The sound of his voice, even the nonverbal noise, made her freeze up internally. Because instantly, she knew he would grab her there if she didn’t cooperate. He didn’t care about causing a scene. He didn’t think twice about the threat of Volturi interference.

His amount of confidence was astounding. And frankly, a bit terrifiying.

When he walked in front of her, she had to look up to meet his eyes. The red was so dark that it was nearly black. Even his presence in this airport unnerved her. All it would take was one child to slip, fall, and scrape their knee before a massacre could begin.

After a few quick flickers, Alice realized with dread that it wouldn’t even take that in order for James to rip into the first human that crossed his path. He would hold all these lives hostage as long as it meant he’d get out of there with her.

There was only one way to prevent the blood-bath that Alice was currently visualizing as their solid, set future.

“Go,” Alice spat coldly, “I’ll follow.”

James laughed again, looking down on her with a satisfied smile on his face. He paused for a handful of seconds, his eyes raking over her entire frame, and for the first time since she noted his presence, Alice wanted to run. Reaching forward he grabbed her wrist tightly. “I’m sure you will.”

He began pulling her through the airport with a grip so tight she wasn’t entirely sure he wouldn’t accidentally rip her arm clean off.

“I’m not going to run,” she spoke quietly as they reached the door to the stairwell. Suddenly, they were flying down the stairs, their feet barely touching the ground.

“Oh, don’t worry.” She could hear the grin in his voice as his grip tightened and suddenly she was yanked into the air. “I know that.”

With his left arm snaking around her throat and his right gripping her horizontally across her torso, he chuckled again. Alice attempted to swallow, his haunting laugh finally filling her with her first taste of actual fear since they found themselves in this situation, and found her airways cut off. Even an attempt at inhaling would be pointless. Without access to one of her vital senses, Alice's fear compounded.

“Finally.” He exhaled the word, a smile on his lips. Just before his action, Alice watched in her mind as he inhaled deeply, his eyes fluttering closed, grinning wickedly.

Within seconds he was out the door, flying too quickly for human eyes to see. They were hardly a flash of bright, reflected light in the Phoenix sun that humans would merely blink their eyes and shake their head at.

Straight toward the desert, James ran.


 

The ticking red hand of the clock served no true purpose to Jasper as he stared at it across the corridor. He knew it had only been fourteen minutes since they’d left to go on this ‘human journey’. He didn’t need the clock to tell him how much time had passed. Every second was vital today, and he would count down every last one.

He also knew that Bella was running on fumes at this point. Letting her nerves keep her senses alit as they sat around and waited. He also knew that this food run was a pointless trip to burn more time. Bella hardly ate, even when prompted. For eating to be her idea wasn’t typical.

He let his eyes flicker toward the letters spelling WOMEN’S in big, white print and allowed himself a sigh. He should’ve volunteered to stay behind and let Alice accompany the human on her errand. Sure, he could keep her calm when she was beside him, but he was not going to be able to fetch her if she had some sort of breakdown in one of the bathroom stalls. He contemplated running back and fetching Alice to swap places with her, and suddenly hated the fact that they only had one phone between them. 

A mother guiding a stroller pushed by him, apologizing to him swiftly even as he effortlessly moved out of her way. He watched as she turned around and used her back to push into the bathroom. It took her several seconds to align the large stroller and fully back herself into the room—an additional, larger child was wailing, yanking at her arm as the woman attempted to push past the door.

It gave him something to watch for a handful of seconds. But beyond the spectacle before him, he let his eyes wander into the large airport bathroom. Almost instantly his eyes found the sign across the room.

CAUTION: STAIRS AHEAD

In seconds, Jasper was moving. He felt like such a fool. Of course Bella didn’t want to eat. Of course she wanted Jasper to take her to the bathroom. Alice’s visions of Bella’s mother’s house and the old dance studio suddenly all made sense. The girl was making a break for it.

He was confident that she wouldn’t get far. She couldn’t. It had only been four and a half minutes since she’d entered the bathroom. There was no way she could’ve gotten very far. Not without tripping over her own two feet and injuring herself.

That thought caused Jasper to slow down, his run slightly more human-like now. It would be just his luck to be left in charge of Bella for twenty minutes and find her, bloodied up from an escape attempt.

It would be even worse if it didn’t end up simply being an attempt.

He caught her scent again on the second floor. He’d been running through the airport for almost two minutes and the second her scent crossed his path he was on her trail.

Unfortunately, the trail led directly out the door and toward the shuttle stop. No busses or vans (or Bella) in sight.

Shit, he thought to himself. Shit shit shit.

“Missed the shuttle by five minutes,” a middle aged man informed him, his voice far too chipper for Jasper’s liking. “Another one should be here in about fifteen minutes though. It’s not too—“

Jasper didn’t wait for the man to finish his conversational piece before he’d turned around and was making a beeline for Alice. He wondered if she saw Bella run. Maybe she was tracking the wayward girl already and they’d be able to stop her before heading wherever it was she was going. It was embarrassing enough that he’d lost the human. It would be asinine if Alice also had let her slip through her sight. There was no way.

Finally, exiting the stairwell onto the level where the arrivals emerged, Jasper’s feet skidded to a complete stop.

Without warning, panic erupted within him, and he was rushing forward again, only barely attempting to move at a human pace. He didn’t care that people were staring. He didn’t care about the fact that he’d lost the girl. He didn’t care about anything except the fact that Alice’s bag was sitting, all alone, on the chair he’d left her on.

And that James’ scent was everywhere.

Suddenly nothing else mattered. Not the human that got them into this mess. Not the charade that he’d been holding together for decades mainly for her. Nothing mattered except for the fact that James had been here, and now Alice was gone.

“Jasper!” It was Edward’s voice that called out to him across the room, momentarily pulling him out of his disbelief. There was no doubt that he’d also noted James’ scent. With the boy quickly approaching, Jasper turned to look at him. Maybe he’d jumped to conclusions too soon and Alice had went straight to the gate—no doubt she would find a way to do it. It was Alice, after all.

But the redhead was alone. He’d rushed ahead of both Carlisle and Emmett and was now barreling toward him. Looking every bit as panicked and confused as Jasper could feel off of him. And suddenly, Edward was the absolute last person Jasper wanted to see in that moment.

If you take another step closer, he thought loudly, pointedly, and angrily, this charade is as good as dead.

Edward stopped, eyes wide and taken aback by Jasper’s sudden mental declaration, and within seconds, Jasper watched as he flickered through Jasper’s volatile thoughts. As he reviewed the happenings of the last several minutes, his face fell, and then suddenly he adopted Jasper’s projected fury as his own.

“Where is Bella?” He snarled, his shaking hands clenching into fists as he took a few deliberate steps forward. 

Baring his teeth, Jasper lunged.