*Unbeta’d currently. I’m being impatient*
Nearly four years after moving to Texas, Bella was living almost an entirely different life. In her senior year of college, she was a woman all her own. She kept in touch with the Cullens over the years due to the looming threat of the Volturi but she continued to find that she had difficulty forgiving the majority of the family for their abandonment of her.
While she had begun to speak to Alice and Emmett on the phone, she would only welcome Jasper to visit her at school. Often, he would join her and the friends she made for a night on the town, visiting one bar after another, taking on the role of the group’s designated driver to give her human friends the freedom to let loose.
As Bella walked into the group’s favorite bar, she looked around, seeking out the familiar blonde classmate that had attached herself to her when she first moved there. Grinning once she found her, she made her way over.
“Bella!” Amy shouted once she saw the girl approaching. “Happy Birthday! Is your hottie friend visiting again this year?” the girl asked excitedly as she gave her a hug.
Bella couldn’t help but laugh at her exuberance, knowing that she had to have had a couple drinks down ahead of her. “Jasper? He said he was coming down at some point this week but I don’t know when exactly. Why do you ask? Isn’t your boyfriend enough for you?”
“Piff! I can look, can’t I?” she replied as she turned back to the table where she took a large sip of her beer. “The band tonight is supposed to be good and they are opening the bull. You so are going to go a round.
“If I’m going on that thing again, so are you,” the brunette said as she stole the mug from her friend’s hand against her protest and drank it greedily, setting it down with a smirk.
Rolling her eyes, Amy pulled the nearly empty mug back and pouted into it. “Get your own. Andrew and Stacey are working the bar tonight by the way.”
Bella sighed as she looked over to the busy bar where the two were flirting with patrons and performing tricks with beer bottles. “I’m not getting anything anytime soon from them, as if that bitch would bother serving me anyway,” she said as she climbed into the empty seat across her friend.
“So just wait for one of the waitresses to come past. Or you could just flash Andrew the twins and get your drinks for free all night,” she shrugged.
“You flash him your tits bitch,” Bella snapped at her as she scoffed.
“I ain’t nearly drunk enough yet to get that brave,” she sighed as she looked over at the bar wistfully. “Besides you know how much he’s into you anyway.”
Bella looked back at her and shook her head and frowned. “Yeah and I’m not interested in him. He doesn’t get the message. I’m thinking that I may have to cause him some physical damage to some vital organs but I don’t want to do that to you either,” she sighed as she narrowed her eyes on the man across the establishment. “You need to just buck up and ask the asshole out yourself.”
“Eh, I think I’m done with guys for awhile,” the girl admitted while she looked around.
“What about your man of the minute?” Bella asked, glancing at her friend, while trying to flag down a waitress.
“That’s just it. He’s a minuteman. I think I need a change. A little more shell than filling.”
Bella couldn’t help but giggle at her friend, while pulling her glass away from her. “I think you’ve had enough of this for the moment,” she commented as she finished the remaining beer in the mug.
Amy just shrugged at her friend. “That’s alright. I wanna dance anyways. Let’s go.”
Before Bella could protest, Amy had grabbed her by the hand and dragged her onto the already crowded dance floor as the music from the jukebox filled the bar while the band continued to set up for their set. In the past, she would have been terrified to be caught dancing, never have attempted it sober outside her bedroom for others to see, but to her, small things like dancing with her friend proved she made the right decision as she grinned and attempted to two-step with those around her.
The two vampires had freshly fed on a couple of Houston criminals before the need to have some fun struck. Peter and Charlotte had spent the previous few years traveling, as they often did, seeing the world and getting into their own brand of trouble. At times they would spend several weeks or longer with friends but it had become time to return home.
As they were getting rid of the evidence of their latest meals, Charlotte had overheard several humans nearby speaking of a live band to be playing at a local bar that night they enjoyed visiting often that had her excited. “I want to go,” she said as she turned to look at Peter, who hesitated.
“I don’t know Char,” he said cautiously, his ‘knower’ alerting to him that there would be something there if they went but he couldn’t be sure if it was good or bad. Peter scratched the back of his neck to try to quell the feeling, but the eager look on his friend’s face broke him. “Fine. Let’s go.”
They made their way to the pub that was starting to get crowded and quickly went to find themselves an available table. Charlotte looked around excitedly, her attention more on the dance floor than her companion. A waitress came by almost straight away and took their order for some beer to get them started.
Peter settled down on his stool resigned to letting his friend to her fun. The feeling, knowing that something was there in that bar hadn’t left him, leaving him with a sense of unease but it wasn’t a bad one. Just one that he didn’t like the unknown of it. As he tried to relax and watch the crowd and the band set up for their performance, Charlotte took off for the floor. Shaking his head, he could only laugh at her exuberance.
A waitress soon brought their beer by and he drank slowly, grimacing as he swallowed, relieved that they had eaten properly before. The music from the radio was fueling the humans filling facility for the live act that night and if his control wasn’t as good as it was, he’d have been eyeing the pretty brunette that was dancing behind Char for dessert.
If they didn’t feed only on the scum of human society, she would certainly have caught his attention because he would want his lips on her pretty neck and he wouldn’t have been able to stop himself. Sighing to himself, he looked away in shame because he knew the reason why he was so focused on her so hard in that moment. It’d been so long since he truly felt the company of a woman. Charlotte didn’t truly count because he didn’t feel for her they way he could. While they cared for one another, they simply had other tastes in partners. His was more singular and her’s, well, varied.
Still, Peter found his eyes drifting back to the brunette dancing to the jukebox music with her friend and he looked at her again. He knew why he craved her so bad. He wished she was like him so that he might be able to spend some time with her and for that he wished things were different. There were certainly times that he hated what he was, held regrets. He had started this life in a hard way but he had gotten out and made it better and he was happy.
The band finished setting up for their set and struck a few chords to announce their start, so that when the current song finished, they would take over. Many of the patrons started to cheer and the pretty girl that he’d been watching grinned and whistled as her cheeked flushed a beautiful blush from the drinks she’d consumed.
Charlotte returned to him and quickly downed the beer that had been sitting and waiting for her. “Wow. This place is great!” she grinned at him.
“I see that you are enjoying yourself,” Peter smiled as he rested his head in the palm of his hand and looked back at his friend. “You good?”
She eyed him curiously for a moment as his question before nodding, catching on. “Yeah. I’m good. You got a feeling or something?”
“Nah Char. Just checking. Wanted to make sure considering the close quarters we’re in is all.”
“Pete, I’m good. More than good. That girl though was hot. You open to a new member of our family? I think I may want to change her if she was open to it. I’d really like to get to know her,” she mused aloud as she turned to look back towards the dance floor.
His eyes followed hers and found the brunette he’d been watching, frowning in displeasure that she may be wanting the same girl that he too had been eyeing. “Which one?” he asked carefully, trying to keep his uncertainty and nerves out of his voice.
Charlotte immediately looked back at him with raised eyebrows. “Which one do you like?” she asked. Spending over a hundred years with the man, she was able to pick up on many of his nuances in his speech. Her eyes looked back to the floor where the humans gathered, especially the girl that had caught her attention. The girl turned to say something to her friend, a pretty brunette which made her smile. “Ahh…I see…”
Peter scowled at his friend. “You see what?”
“Don’t worry. I don’t want the girl you’re having a boner for. Why don’t you just go and talk to her? You never had issues going up to them before.”
“She’s human Char,” he sighed. “It’s not like I can take her back and we all forget it in the morning. She’d know something is different about me if she even survived the night.”
“Then change her,” she shrugged her shoulders.
“Char…” he growled his warning to drop the subject.
She rolled her eyes, ignoring him as she drank her beer, turning to watch the two girls as they headed up to the bar, laughing among themselves. “How about some shots?” Charlotte asked, trying to make like she was changing the subject. “Bourbon?”
“Sure, whatever. I’ll go get it,” Peter sighed as he pushed himself away from the table and made his way through the crowd. Charlotte watched carefully, smiling as he headed for the opposite end of the counter from where the human girls had gathered.
She stretched out her hearing so that she could listen to what the two were saying and while she should be concerned for their observation skills, she was also excited. Peter still hadn’t been able to let go of his interest in the human and his eyes kept finding her across the bar. As he waited for the bartender for his order, he watched her with barely disguised interest. The pretty blonde didn’t miss it either as she grinned and turned her back to him and whispered to her friend.
“The hottie across the bar has been watching you Bells,” she informed her. “You seriously should hit that!”
The bartender had been blocking her view from him, and as soon as he moved from dropping their drinks off to them, the intrigued smile she had seemingly froze on her face as she met Peter’s eyes, locking on. “Hm, yes. He does seem rather – unearthly. Doesn’t he?” Bella replied lightly, but there was a cold edge to her words that left the vampires confused and the emotion was clear on his face as he stared across the space at her despite the friendly smile he tried to give her.
Bella turned back to her friend. “Why don’t you go back to the table Amy. I’ll be back there shortly. I’ve got this round,” she winked as she leaned on the bar counter.
“Sure thing! The band is about to start anyway!” she replied, dropping a kiss to her cheek in thanks before taking off with their drinks, leaving her friend alone at the bar.
The frozen smile on her lips immediately dropped from her face as she turned back to look at Peter, speaking under breath. It was too low for humans to hear over the commotion in the atmosphere, but not for the supernatural and it made them know that she held clear knowledge of their existence and put them on edge without the ability to react.
“Let me make this clear,” she whispered harshly, her eyes flashing with fire. “The people in this place are not food. Especially that girl. If anything happens to her or myself, I have friends that will know and will come after you.”
He blinked as his lips opened, trying to formulate words to defend himself but being across the bar, it was impossible. If he’d been given any opportunity to get to know a human, he knew he would have to take his chance with this one. Unfortunately, the bartender finally approached him for his order and he ended up requesting two shot glasses and paid for a full bottle of bourbon, figuring it would be a long night ahead if he was going to try to get anything from the human. A plan hit him with a smile and took a deep breath, praying it would work.
When he returned to Charlotte, she looked at him with concern as she eyed the girls. “She knows what we are. What are we going to do?” she asked.
“Nothing right now. We came here to drink and enjoy a show, right?” he said as he nodded towards the stage. He knew that this Bells had been watching him since he left the bar. “She knows others of our kind that I’m assuming are also gifted. You heard her. We do anything and we’ll be hunted. We don’t know who it and if she’s still human with this knowledge, we wait. She could have some kind of trump card for all we know.”
“I want to get to know them,” Charlotte said bravely, looking up at him.
He frowned as he finished pouring their shots and eyed her. “You talk to them and it could very well backfire. Drink.”
She threw back the shot without blinking and glared at him. “I love you Pete but I want to find me a mate too. I know you want one as well. Sitting on our asses isn’t going to make them magically pop up.”
“Chasing humans in a bar with potential knowledge to set the Volturi on our ass isn’t going to find us anyone either!” he hissed to her. “Yes. I know we’re both lonely but that girl is trouble. I just know it.”
“But couldn’t she be worth it?” Charlotte asked timidly as she looked back over at where the two girls were whispering between themselves and looking back at them as well. Determination filled her when she looked back at him. “I’m taking the chance.”
With her announcement, she made her way across the floor to the table. Bells visibly tensed as she saw her approach but her friend, Amy only smiled in greeting. “Um, I just wanted to say hi and maybe chat with you? My friend back there is a little shy and well, I can promise he won’t come over unless you want him to,” she said, looking at Bells directly before giving the girl’s friend a shy smile.
“Oh! Well, that’s a shame,” Amy replied sadly. “He shouldn’t have to sit by himself…”
“He’s fine where he is,” the brunette snapped back as she looked at her friend with warning. “As long as the two of you aren’t here to – cause trouble, then we don’t have any issues…”
Amy looked at her friend confused and concerned but remained silent. Charlotte hesitated and nodded. “I promise you, no trouble. Just some drinks – bourbon and good music. We were out, um, having dinner and I heard some people talking about how great this band was supposed to be. I had to talk Pete into it but he had a feeling it would be a bad idea. Now I understand why but I don’t think it’s entirely bad,” she shrugged as she looked at her curiously. Holding her hand out, she smiled as timidly as she could. “I’m Charlotte.”
Swallowing down her irritation and nerves, Bella wasn’t sure if she should risk friending the red eye vampires. She never had the best luck with them. Jasper had tried setting up meetings with his brother and sister from his former coven of human drinkers that he said he trusted with her while she was in Texas but they had been traveling and weren’t sure when they’d return. Narrowing her eyes, she still reached out and shook her hand, remaining cautious. “Bella. This here is my friend Amy.”
Charlotte looked back over at the blonde and smiled again as her eyes seemed to gleam happier with the official knowledge of the girl’s name which confused Bella. She glanced back over at the female vampire’s companion who was watching them quietly as he sat drinking. Seemingly catching her unspoken question, he merely shrugged a shoulder and rolled his eyes, throwing back his shot.
Bella opened her mouth, wanting to ask them about the alcohol but immediately closed it because of Amy’s presence. Frustrated, she tried to figure out a way to get the vampire alone to speak to her and get some information so that she wouldn’t be so worried with them being around. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the Pete guy look up at her suspiciously when the waitress brought them more beer and her opportunity came. She reached for hers the same time that the girl set it down, calling on her familiar awkward phase from high school and spilled it over in the direction of her friend. “Oh my god! I am so sorry Amy!” she exclaimed as she jumped up to grab a handful of napkins to sop up the mess.
“It’s okay Bella. I’m just going to go clean up in the girl’s room real quick,” she reassured her as she tried to hold her wet clothes away from her body as she made a quick escape.
Once she was out of earshot, Bella looked up at Charlotte who’d begun to help clean up with her. “How is it that you are able to drink alcohol?”
“I don’t know. Because we can? It helps ease the thirst sometimes and blends in when we crave the need for some socialization like tonight,” she answered with sad eyes. “We aren’t lying Bella. We don’t mean you harm. You and your friend are perfectly safe around us. I actually quite like her and would like to get to know her more if she was willing…” she trailed off as she looked in the direction of the restrooms with a smile. “She seems…nice.”
“She’s a doll,” the brunette said evenly, her eyes barely open slits as she glared at her. “What do you want?”
Char sighed and looked back at Pete who shook his head. “We just wanted to get to know you. That’s all. Nothing more than that,” she said, ignoring her friend and hoping that she made the right decision. She could hear his growl and grimaced, cringing into her seat.
Bella wasn’t sure what to make of what she was hearing and seeing. It went against all she knew of human drinking vampires, but their display and control was admirable. And she couldn’t deny that. “I don’t know,” she said after a few moments, glancing back and forth between them and knowing they both could hear even with as low as she was speaking. “I don’t want to say yes, let’s be friends. However, I don’t think you deserve me saying no either. Especially knowing your rules. Can I have some time to think about it?”
Charlotte looked at her surprised that she was actually considering giving them any chance of a friendship and when she checked to see if Peter was okay with it, she found him staring back at the girl in equal shock. Perhaps more because she was aware of his attraction to her. Knowing she wouldn’t be able to get any response from the stunned vampire, she answered for him. “Yes, of course. Maybe we can meet back here another night? Would next week work for you or would you want more time to think?” she asked with so much hope in her red eyes that Bella was a little more than moved by her.
“Uh, no. Next week should be fine,” she murmured, unsure of herself as she swallowed. “I should go check on Amy…”
“Yeah sure,” Char smiled at her. “I’ll clean this up for you.”
Bella glanced down at the table and mess she created and nodded her thanks before making her way to the bathrooms. Finding her friend through the crowd of girls waiting for a stall wasn’t difficult as neither of them actually needed one yet. “How are you holding up there?” she grinned as she gave her a playful shove to her shoulder.
“I reek like beer and I’m a contender for the wet t-shirt contest tonight,” Amy complained, though it was in fun. “I think I’m going to head home. I found out from one of the waitresses that the band is slotted for next week anyway so we will get a chance to see them if you want to come back?”
She nodded and pursed her lips. “Sure. Sounds great. Charlotte asked if she could meet us here then anyway,” she said carefully, eyeing her for her reaction.
Amy’s eyes lit up briefly with excitement. “Really? She seems nice. I’d like to talk to her more,” she grinned.
“Of course you would,” Bella muttered, shaking her head with a sigh. “Ames, she’s – not like other people…” she said carefully.
“So? What does it matter? All we’re going to do is talk and have a few drinks. It’s not like I’m jumping into the sack with her right away. Hell, I just dumped…um…”
“You don’t even remember his name, do you?” Bella grinned.
“Fuck no, but does it matter? I like Charlotte. She seems different and what’s it going to hurt just to talk?” she asked.
“No. It’s fine. Come on. I’ll help you into a taxi,” she said as she took her arm to walk her out. They made their way through the crowd to the doors. The one thing the two of them loved about that particular bar was that they often had a couple taxis always nearby on their busy nights because of the college crowd they attract.
Once she had her friend in the back of the cab, Amy had reached out and grabbed her hand. “Um, can you let Charlotte know that I’ll be here next week too?” she asked shyly.
Bella looked at her amused. “Do you really like her that much? Got yourself a little crush?”
There was a blush and a shy shrug of her shoulder. “I don’t know. Maybe. Like I said, I just want to talk to her. Text me when you get home.”
“Will do. You too,” she replied with a nod as she stepped back from the car so that the driver could pull away. She didn’t return inside right away as she felt the need to space herself from the new vampires for the moment. If she wanted to leave and go home, she could as she had all her belongings on herself.
Pulling out her cellphone, she contemplated texting Jasper, asking him to demand to send his friends to her to deal with this problem for her or for him to come himself. Maybe he could scare them away with his history and gift. She was sure Alice was sitting on the edge of her seat if she was seeing anything going on but she had demanded not to be informed of the future by her under any circumstance and she wasn’t sure if she should call her to go back on her request.
While she stood there, thinking about the situation, she slowly realized that the people that had been outside had dwindled to almost none. In fact, she couldn’t hear anyone but what was inside. Frowning, her eyes surveyed the street as she slowly inched her way closer to the door but having had been closer to the end of the building, it was a distance and the bad feeling that filled her was growing.
Self preservation that she’d always lacked kicked in just as she felt an ice cold and marbled hand cover her mouth as half a scream escaped and pull her back into the dark alley beside the bar.
Charlotte finished cleaning up the spilt beer, smiling to herself as she was pleased with the progress she made with making friends with Bella and Amy. When she was done, she joined Peter again who was lost in his thoughts, staring into his shot glass.
She was quiet for a few minutes as she watched him. “She’s giving us a chance. You heard it,” she said softly.
He blinked and nodded. “I heard,” he swallowed and looked up at her. “What good is it if she has no intentions of being changed? Yeah, okay. I’ll admit I’m attracted to the human but that’s as far as it goes right now. So what? We all become friends and then what? My feelings grow and she refuses to be changed? I don’t want to be a sentimental bastard like our maker. He’s been begging us for the last few years to come back here and where the fuck is he? Still up with the bunny munchers.”
Charlotte sighed in frustration with him as she watched Bella and Amy walk out over his shoulder and shook her head. “So call him and tell him to come visit. Let him know we’re back. Why the hell would he stick around and wait if we aren’t here? You can’t blame him for heading back if we didn’t give him a time for our return.”
“Stop making fucking sense!” Peter snapped, running his hand through his hair, his eyes narrowing in concentration.
“What is it?” she asked him but his response was cut off by his phone ringing.
Checking the screen, he was surprised to find their recent subject of argument calling. “What do you want?” he snarled, still irritated by whatever bad feeling was flooding him.
“Alice saw you in the bar. I know you’ve met Bella. She said that something is going to happen but she doesn’t know what – something is blocking her visions but that Bella is about to disappear completely. I need you to go find her now,” Jasper said quickly over the phone.
“Is Bella the friend you’ve been trying to get us back here to meet you asshole?”
Jasper let out something that sounded like cross between a sigh and a growl. “Yes, she is. But we can get into it later. I’m supposed to be coming down to visit her in a couple weeks. I’ll see if I can bump the trip up but please watch over her. Now just go!”
Peter was tempted to smash the device when his maker hung up on him but the girl’s familiar voice in the form of a muffled scream being cut off and faint from outside had reached their ears made him scramble from his seat, trying to maintain a human pace until he reached the door. The second he was outside and saw no one in sight, he raced towards where he could smell the girl that captured his attention.
She was pressed against the outside wall of the building, an unfamiliar vampire holding her by the neck as he sniffed her blood along her carotid. Her could smell the salt in her tears, taste the fear running through her veins. Two things that she hadn’t displayed in her bravery against him and Charlotte.
Decision made, he released a warning growl as he stepped forward. The male vampire looked up, snarling back. “She’s my meal. Find your own,” he sneered.
“I think you’re mistaken pal. This territory here, isn’t yours for feedin’ and you’re trespassin’. That girl isn’t yours or anyone else’s now if you want to leave here with your pathetic life, then let her go. This will be your only warning, friend,” Peter replied as his body tensed and seemingly grew as he stared the creature down.
Bella’s eyes darted back and forth but she could see that this new vampire was not involved with him and his companion, relieving that fear in one sense, but also in that he didn’t care. She could see his resolve in his face as he started to turn to dive for her neck but before she could blink, Peter had him pulled off of her and the sound of metal tearing caused her to reach up and cover her ears.
A cold, gentle touch wrapped around her shoulders, pulling her into a protective hug and somehow she knew it was Charlotte. Looking up, she could see her red eyes looking at her with concern as she tried to block her view of the gruesome task that Peter was set to do and in the mindset he was in, she wasn’t sure that she was still safe in his presence. “Char? Can you take the parts and burn them elsewhere? I want to talk with Bella.”
Charlotte got up and collected the dismembered vampire without any comment and took off, seemingly accepting that he was just fine with Bella. He looked at her, his face still etched in anger and fury, but also with concern as he visually made sure that she was okay. Nodding once to her, he turned to look around to make sure that no one else witnessed the altercation but a glimpse out of the corner of his eye, he caught another vampire across the street.
His eyes narrowed in on the crest of the vampire’s cloak, widening as he recognized it. Moving to stand in a protective position in front of the girl, he stared the other vampire down but she made no threatening move. He could see her look down towards Bella who seemed to still be in shock from the near death ordeal, but he would have to help her after.
With his vampire hearing, the stranger asked, “Is the girl harmed?”
The question confused Peter as it wasn’t customary to leave a human alive for the Volturi, especially after being exposed to vampire knowledge. “Nothing that won’t heal with time,” he answered suspiciously.
The female vampire looked back at Bella and nodded. “Be sure that remains so,” she said and disappeared from sight without moving. The gift was one he hadn’t known the Volturi to have and if the human was under their protection, then she had more secrets than just being friends with the Cullens.
Looking down at her, he was confused as what to do with her now. Killing her was out of the question as he would make enemies of both his maker and their royalty, but he truly did like her. She had a spirit about her that he wanted to get to know. Reaching out, he brushed his fingers along her forehead, pushing her hair out of her face as she cried. “Shh, come on Bella. I know we have some mutual friends and lots to talk about,” he whispered softly. “Can I bring you back to Char and my place? I don’t feel comfortable with you going home alone like this right now.”
Bella let out a sigh and shrugged. The night had been so long with so many surprises that after almost being fed on – again, that if this pair decided to eat her, it would just be inevitable. “Okay,” she mumbled as she wrapped her arms around his neck, allowing him to carry her.
Peter was a little hesitant as he pulled her into his arms, but he knew he’d have to learn to adjust to having a human around if he was going to get involved with her in any capacity. It seemed inevitable as this was the same friend that Jasper had been calling him about for the past few years and it made him think about how their meeting could have been different had they returned when they were first called.