Bella was frozen at his question, unsure how to answer as she wasn’t sure if he was truly looking for one. “I think…I think that you are someone that no one can replace or come close to,” she said after taking a moment to think about it. She had initially wanted to say he was her best friend, but it felt wrong. To say he was family, and he was, which made her feel uncomfortable with her growing attraction.
She smiled over at Derek as he drove, but the blank look he had on his face caused her some concern. Eventually, he spoke up. “Okay.”
“That’s it, just ‘okay’?”
“What else do you want me to say, Bella?” He said as he kept his eyes firmly fixed on the road.
“I don’t know,” she whispered as she looked out her window, wondering how things suddenly got so awkward between them. Never before had she felt so unsure of herself with these wolves and if he was upset with her for giving an answer he hadn’t wanted to hear, she didn’t know what he did want.
Sighing, he stopped the car at the side of the road and looked at her. He realized that she needed more from him. To hear more. But was he fine with admitting his feelings? “I think that there’s a possibility that… no… I like you, Bella. More than I thought I would. And more than I feel comfortable sharing because I don’t want to influence you in any way.”
Bella remained still as she listened, unable to move in her seat, nor look in his direction as her eyes were fixed out at some insignificant object in the distance. She wasn’t sure that she heard him right, but she knew she had. He admitted to feeling more for her than she had thought he ever would, or could. All the teasing made by Peter suddenly made sense, and she swallowed the lump that formed in her throat as she attempted to form something of a coherent thought.
Looking up, she tried to give him a reassuring smile but there was a new sense of conflict in her. A feeling that she wasn’t unfamiliar with as she reached out to grab his arm. “Derek…” she muttered as her eyes darted around as they lost focus, struggling to keep herself grounded. “Um, promise me that we can finish this conversation later?”
“I’ll wait,” he sighed as he saw what was happening. He wasn’t even sure if he could move the car, so he switched on the emergency lights and saw her paled face. He released her seatbelt and tipped over the chair and made sure that she’d stay warm while she was away. Didn’t she have this under control? Did he upset her with his answer? Couldn’t she just use her words?
“Damn it,” she breathlessly complained as she laid her head back, slumping down in the seat.
Derek smacked the steering wheel hard, causing it to blow the horn and sighed. It couldn’t be him, she wanted to finish the conversation later. Something else was going on; something was pulling her away.
His cellphone rang, jarring him from his thoughts of trying to figure out the girl beside him, as he rushed to dig the device from his jacket pocket. “What?”
“You and Bella need to get back,” Peter said briskly.
“We what?” Derek stammered. “Why?”
“Whitlock just called me. The Cullen house is up in flames. We need to figure out what we’re going to do. She needs to start working on her ability now. No more soft hands.”
That made sense. She was probably at the fire. “We’ll come back once she’s back.”
Peter was silent on the phone as he repeated his words to himself in his head. “What the hell do you mean when she’s back? She just fucked around with the banshee’s head today. She had no plans to do that again.”
“I don’t think she had any control over this, Peter. She seemed to be fighting it as we were in the middle of a conversation; it was as if she was being pulled away instead of just… you know, leaving.”
The older wolf sighed. “Bring her back here at least. She can wake up in bed or on the couch where it’s more comfortable. I’ll call Deaton and his bitch in the meanwhile to see if they have anything new to share.”
“No,” Derek said as he pulled the break. “We’re staying here. You keep me posted.”
“Must you be so stubborn? Fine. Just – be careful with her. You’re not the only one that cares about the girl,” Peter snarled as he hung up.
Derek tried not to let out a triumphant sigh as he placed the phone on the dashboard and started to get out of his coat so he could cover Bella with it, to keep her warm. All he could do now was sit and wait. And worry.
Bella appeared on a dusty drive with overgrown shrubbery with her Triskelion symbol glowing and dying underneath her. She wished she could somehow figure out a way to control that or minimize it whenever she appeared, but the sound of crackling reached her ears, distracting her.
Looking up, she looked around the area, and a deep sense of dread filled her as recognition set in. Taking slow steps towards the golden light that peeked through the forest, her lips trembled as she drew closer to the house where she lived through nightmare after nightmare. The drive began to turn, and she knew the house would soon come into full view if she continued, causing her to hesitate more in her steps. She did not want to be there. That house was the last place on Earth she ever wanted to return to, but someone had dragged her there against her will.
Stopping at the very edge of the clearing, she stared at the flames that engulfed the building. The building that she had been so enamored by when she first laid eyes on it, she now felt broken disdain and draws of its power being fractured. Still, Bella could have lived a lifetime without having to have seen the place she could have nearly died in, had her birthright not returned to her. She would have been a Cold One, capable of doing unspeakable things for Edward simply because it would be what he wanted. She still did not know what he had wanted her for.
She had been so wrapped up watching in the burning house, the house that was a fractured Nemeton, which she failed to notice the group of teenage boys gathered nearby also watching the blaze. They were a bit more joyful about the event, laughing and playing around with one another. One got pushed away from the group in their games and happened to see the girl standing off to the side.
“Oh my god… Bella?” he called out, causing her to jump and in their direction with glassy eyes. “It is you! You came back!”
With that he ran towards her but even as she took a step back from him, he still charged forward, attempting to pull her into a hug. However, he was surprised as he found himself going right through her. He turned to stare at her in surprise while the others started to make their closer. “Bella?”
She turned away from him and looked back at the house, memories trying to grasp at the edge of her mind. She could almost hear screams coming from the building even as her logical mind knew that no one lived there anymore. “No one is inside, right?”
The oldest from the group eyed her with caution, not wanting to get close in fear of what she might be capable of after seeing Jacob run right through her. “No one was inside. We made sure of that before we started to destroy it.”
Bella’s eyes teared up as she tried to understand why she would hear screams the way she was and held her hands up to her head.
“How have you been?” The shorter, youngest of the bunch pushed himself through the wall of bigger guys. “I’ve missed you, Bella, you look… transparent,” he grinned. “That’s new.”
“Not really,” she answered absently, moving away from them. She didn’t want to be there, but he was stuck, unable to go back. Shaking her head, she was angry with them. Glaring at the oldest, the one she vaguely remembered as Sam, through the beatings she had lived through; and had admitted that they started the fire, she ran up and tried to shove him with everything she had within her.
It surprised not only him but herself as well that he flew back when she connected solidly with him, whereas Jacob was unable to touch her. “Why?! Why couldn’t you just leave things be?! Why did you have to pull me back here?!” she demanded.
“What are you?” Sam questioned instead as he pushed himself up while the rest of his pack gathered around him defensively. Only Jacob and the youngest, Seth, she remembered, hesitated to join them.
“You don’t want to know what I am. You have no right to know! Destroying this house draws more attention to the supernatural that has been in contact with the elements contained within and they will be drawn back to see what is going on!” She yelled at them, tears rolling down her face. “You ripped me from my body! Dragged me back to my nightmare! It wasn’t as if you did anything to help me!”
Seth looked between them with confused at her accusation, even more so as the others bristled with her words. “Bella? What are you talking about? When were you in the leeches’ house?”
Her lip curled up as her head cocked to the side as she processed the boy’s question. A humorless laugh bubbled out and escaped from her lips as she shifted her position to eye the larger group with a much more predatory gaze. “You couldn’t even tell the new additions to your pack the truth? That you would leave a seemingly helpless human to the whim of a manipulative vampire coven? Did you have any idea what that bastard did to me? The beatings that I suffered? The ways he would find to break me, to make me his willing slave? Slicing my skin, making me bleed. Did you know that he smacked me so hard, I landed across the room with a broken jaw? DID YOU?!”
“They led everyone to believe you were dead. They did a pretty good job of it,” Jacob spoke up, inching his way closer to her.
Bella only turned so that her back was to the house, and all of the Quileute wolves were in her sight. The only one she didn’t have any issues with was young Seth, and she didn’t want him caught in any crossfire. Pointing at her former friend she shook her head. “As much as I believe that, you all know that their story was full of shit. You knew I didn’t want to be one of them any more so why would I have gone to them for them to cover up my death? Did you believe it so easily? What kind of friend does that? I trusted you… Your kind of wolves are supposed to protect humans, but you did nothing for me when I needed you. I don’t need you anymore so don’t pretend that you care,” she sneered. Squaring her shoulders, she stood up straighter with the wall of fire backing her and illuminating her slightly translucent appearance, she looked particularly horrifying at the moment. “If you try to come for me – I will take action.”
Looking over her shoulder one last time at the house, one last shudder coursing through herself, Bella disappeared from the Cullen property. She still had too much of a pull to the area with the burning of the various pieces of the Nemeton, so she was unable to return to Beacon Hills. She reappeared in the woods, looking around quickly to make sure that there was no one around to see her before trying again to figure out where she was exactly.
Looking up at the sky, it was dark, the sun had long set, but it hadn’t mattered. The tree cover would have blocked out what little sun there might have been left. It made her wonder how long she’d been out of her body already, and the thought only pissed her off. Trudging her way through the woods, she soon realized she wasn’t far behind her old home where her mother and step-father lived. Where she lived before Edward captured her and let her family believe she was dead.
Bella was tempted to go closer, to see her mother, if she was even home. The knowledge that her family believed she was dead was what held her back, but the pull was nearly as strong as it was to the Cullen’s handmade Nemeton. Narrowing her eyes, she gave in as she moved as silently as she could, thankful that her form was allowing her proceed without disturbing the fallen debris from the trees and making a sound.
As she got closer to the house, she was able to see that the cars were gone and relaxed only marginally that no one was home before turning her attention back to the house. Her eyes focused on the windows, first on the main floor before going up to the second. Unable to find little amiss from the back, she glanced around for anyone in the vicinity before making her way to the front of the house. She was able to notice immediately movement through the windows in the upstairs hall from the side.
She ran up to the porch and reached for the door knob with hesitation, but her hand went right through it. Shaking her head, she tried to walk through the door and let out a breath when it hadn’t stopped her. Why hadn’t she tried that before?
Looking around, Bella didn’t allow herself the chance to take in the changes in the house before she started for the stairs. Standing at the bottom, she listened to the person moving around, going through the rooms, seemingly on the search for something. Whoever it was, she could feel that they were not human. The draw of the being likely what assisted in keeping her from leaving Forks entirely while the Cullen house continued to burn.
Disappearing and reappearing up on the second floor, she was just outside her old bedroom door. Her eyes narrowed as she recognized the figure rummaging through the boxes that had been stored in the room that clearly hadn’t been touched in months. The disappointment that filled her also left her conflicted in what she should do. She felt a strong urge to retaliate for the obvious threat that was clearly posted, but she also knew that it would put her at odds with her new family when she would have to tell them what she had done.
“Why are you here?” she questioned, causing the intruder to turn and growl defensively.
The female wolf’s eyes grew in shock and took a step back in fear, knowing what the entity before her was more than capable of. “I – I’m looking into something for a friend…” she said.
“I doubt that. Why are you here? In my house?” Bella asked again, her voice raising with her anger. “I don’t want to hurt you, Cora. It would hurt Derek and Peter too much but this the last of my family you’re fucking with and I will if I have to, so do not make me repeat myself again. Answer me!”
Cora stared at her wide-eyed and shook her head. “I didn’t know this was your house! Seriously! I met a vampire recently, and he asked me to help check on a human that found out about their family and got away. They couldn’t see what she was doing, if she was letting their secret out and had me come to town for him since he can’t,” she spilled. “I didn’t know that it could have been you! You’re not even human!”
Bella couldn’t believe what she was hearing, and if she weren’t already in her current form, she would have likely freaked out and split off to hide. “Oh my god…no..no no no… Cora? Was his name Edward? Reddish hair?” she asked as she held her head in hands.
The confused wolf eyed her suspiciously, nodding slowly. “Yeah, as a matter of fact. Kind of hot too, even if he was a bit young for my taste, but he was changed young. He doesn’t act it, though,” she murmured.
“He’s a psychotic asshole! Do you remember the way I looked when I came to help you and Derek before like this? I know the others told me that they could see the bruises…”
At the mention of the previous incidents, she did recall a more frail girl. She looked at the being closer and noticed that she did appear healthier. “What are you? Do you have a body somewhere?” she asked curiously.
Bella was still worried about Cora’s loyalties now that she appeared to be easily swayed by affections by some stranger. She knew Edward lied to her to garner her cooperation, and it spurred her determination to want to get back to work on destroying him completely.
“Of course I do, but I’m not telling you where. Edward reads minds, and if I told you where I was then he would know and I don’t want that. I’m safe and happy. I’m on my way to making a life again, and I’ll be damned if he rips that from me. Now you have to make a decision because I want to go home. Are you going back to Edward or are you going to leave here and this mess and never come back?”
“Wait, he’s the asshole that hurt you?” Cora blinked after repeating the words inside her head. “Oh, I’m such a cunt.”
“Bitch, technically,” Bella murmured, her eyes turning up to glare at her. All she wanted to do was to attack but if she moved, the wolf would be no more. “I don’t know what I ever did, but I know you never really liked me. Even with what I did for you and the others. I suggest you run from here and him because I don’t want to have to take action against you. I will if I have to.”
Cora nodded. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t know I was in your house. I- I’ll go to Europe or something. Get the fuck away from here. Thank you for letting me live,” she said quickly and leaped out of the open window. Upon hitting the ground, she started running.
Bella watched her through the window until she was out of sight and continued to stand there for a few minutes as she let everything settle in. Everything was entirely too much for her. Looking around her room, she saw very little had been changed to it, other than some things were boxed and stored in the corner. Otherwise, it was a nearly year old shrine to a dead girl that hadn’t stepped foot in there in a very long time and would never again in her physical body.
Closing her eyes, she thought about Derek and attempted to return to her body again, hoping that she wouldn’t be barred from leaving the town that lead to nothing but nightmares for her. She still could feel the slight pull to the Nemeton pieces, but it wasn’t as strong as before. The mere draw of curiosity was on the edge of her consciousness now.
Her heartbeat was low and steadily grew before she drew in a gasp of breath, reaching out for something. Anything to bring her back down as she began crying, feeling the actual tears on her skin that she was unable to experience.
“I gotcha,” Derek’s soothing voice sounded. When he heard her heartbeat returning, he had tilted the chair a little up again so she wouldn’t be lying down. She was crying, but was she steady yet? He decided to screw it and pull her into his strong arms after pushing back his chair for space. “You’re safe.”
Bella’s fingers dug into his shirt and buried her face into his neck as she tried to calm down, but it was difficult as she was crying not only for herself but him and his family. “I saw the fire…it was like being there again…”
“The Cullen house?”
“The shifters are idiots,” she sniffled as she wiped her face with the back of her hand, keeping her head on his shoulder. “They had no idea what they were doing.”
He gently rubbed her back as she spoke. “Well, at least you can sleep easier now that their Nemeton is gone or almost gone. Fewer supernaturals to bother your mom, and your place of horrors is gone.”
The mention of her mother caused her to stiffen in his hold. “Not really. I tried to leave there, to come back but I was drawn to my old house,” she whispered as she kept her head down, unable to look at him directly.
“Something happened to your mom or stepdad?” he asked gently.
“They weren’t home when I got there, thankfully,” she hesitated before sitting up. “There was someone at the house he sent to see if I were in contact with them since apparently they can’t see me anymore.”
Derek frowned as he stared at her avoiding him. It was the same thing she always did when she didn’t want to speak about the Cullens before because she feared his reaction to her story. She had been right that it would upset him, so what about her recent encounter she believed would be troubling?
Bella’s fingers lightly traced the lettering on his T-shirt as a tear escaped. “I had to chase off a wolf of your type,” she whispered. “I – I didn’t want to use my ability on this one if I could avoid it.”
“Oh, well, there are more wolves out there. More packs. No doubt that there’s one near Fork.”
She looked up through her lashes and repeated her words. “It was a wolf of yours,” she stressed.
Derek paused as he tried to place the hints she was giving him, not wanting to believe where she was leading. The only thing he could think, he didn’t want to, but somehow – he believed her. “What? You mean Cora? What the hell was she doing there?”
Bella closed her eyes as she shuddered with the residual fear that Edward had instilled in her, but also the anger that began to flow through her veins. “Somehow she crossed paths with Edward it seems, and he said what she wanted to hear. Lied and convinced her to go to Forks for him since he can’t go himself with the shifters hunting for Cold Ones even more now, idiots they are. She claims she understands that she was wrong, and I let her go this time, said she was going to go to Europe or somewhere but not back to him. I had to fight against myself to let her go, Derek…I was so…angry…” she admitted as her hand gripped his shirt tightly, still having trouble with how she felt.
“I’ll deal with her the next time she comes here, okay?” he said, anger rising inside of him. “She didn’t know the whole story, but she should have known better than to side with a Cold One,” he kept rubbing her back and sighed. “All that matters is is that you’re safe now. Back and safe and we’re going to get those assholes, every last one of them.”
She looked up at him and gave him a weak smile, nodding. “We’ll start working on my ability too. Even if we have to call that Jessica lady. She knows the most about what I am but whatever…” She paused as she looked around, realizing that they were still on the side of the road. “Um… Derek?”
Derek shrugged. “I didn’t want to drive us home, afraid that you might get lost or something,” he said sheepishly. “Peter called to say we had to come back, and I said no. We still have a couple of hours til midnight and the pizza place is still open for pickup.” He then grinned. “Also, Lydia kept texting me. A lot. And then Scott joined in. And Stiles. It was quite fun. Peter texted that they were at the loft, but we weren’t there. Highly entertaining.”
“Unfortunately, this one wasn’t by choice so I will have to borrow your phone to apologize to Lydia later…maybe,” Bella smiled, biting her lip as she was unsure how to move from him in their current position, blushing. “And that pizza sounds fantastic. I’m starving after everything.”
“I meant what I said before you got pulled away,” he said as he looked her in the eyes. Even in the darkness he could see that she was blushing. Maybe it hadn’t been one of the best moves of his life to pull her into his lap, but it was worth it. He wanted to see that face every day.
Her voice was soft as she nodded. “I know. I tried to come back sooner but the house kept me there for so long, and it kept pissing me off. I just wanted to come back home. I know I said we’d talk about this but honestly, what is there to talk about? We’re both so awkward about this stuff it’s stupid. I can see that you don’t want to have to say anything more than you already have, and that’s fine. However, you do know enough that I have my issues but if it’s enough right now that I do like you too, then eep-!”
He grabbed the back of her head and pressed his lips against hers to shut her up. Too many words. As much as he enjoyed hearing her speak, he heard enough. If they were feeling the same thing, then this was worth a shot. He wanted to feel her lips on his; he wanted to get lost in her, make her get lost in him. But for now, a kiss would do.
Bella was stunned as she was unsure of how to respond, having only experienced frozen, chaste kisses from an abusive walking popsicle. She’d learn to adapt quickly as she slowly moved against his lips, pressing back and parting hers slightly to draw in a breath. Her hand crept up to his neck and into his hair, pulling him closer. This was nothing she’d ever imagined.
Eventually, they had to break for air, and he put his forehead against hers with a big smile on his face. “Now that’s what I call a kiss,” it had been too long since a kiss had felt that good. He wanted, but he didn’t want to be greedy, and he knew she was nowhere near ready for anything further.
“Hm, I agree,” she agreed, smiling as she kissed him again very briefly before pulling away. “But I hate to burst the bubble, but I am hungry, and it’s getting late.”
“I see your point,” he guided her back in her seat and helped her set it straight up before starting the car again and drove to get her dinner.
By the time the two made it back to the loft, Bella was truly exhausted. With her tucked safely in his arms, Derek insisted on carrying her inside and set her on the couch where Peter watched them silently. She instantly curled up to him causing him to raise an eyebrow and his uncle to smirk.
“She always liked me more,” Peter shrugged as he wrapped an arm around her.
“I like you both, just differently,” she muttered sleepily. “I have no interest in making out with my dad, though.”
The complete look of shock on the man’s face as his eyes flew up from the girl to Derek, who attempted to look as impassive as possible, was difficult for him maintain. “What the hell happened? I mean, I hoped that the two of you would come to your senses sooner or later, but shit…”
“Not that it’s any of your business Peter, but really – it’s not,” Bella sighed as she pinched his leg. She hadn’t moved other than that, nor opened her eyes. “Derek can fill you in on what I told him and if there is anything else, we can deal with it in the morning. Call your banshee or something and tell her to go out of town for awhile because I’m going to have to start with this hard core. Fuckward is looking for me.”
Derek frowned as he moved to stand in front of them, not wanting to share what else he had learned that night as well. They weren’t sure yet exactly if Edward was able to pull it from his sister’s mind or not, but it was something that had begun to concern him on the drive back. “They also have worked with at least one of our kind. Bella was able to convince her to turn away but whether they were able to connect her to us and Beacon Hills yet, we will need to find out,” he said quietly.
The statement was something that the girl hadn’t considered, with everything else already overwhelming her. Blinking her eyes open, she looked up at him from where she laid against Peter, who remained uncharacteristically silent as he waited for them to tell him the rest, she now regretted letting his sister leave the way she had.
Licking his lips, Derek turned his eyes up to his uncle. “We need to call Cora back to answer for her actions. We need to know find out exactly what she’s done since she left us.”
Peter’s grip on Bella tightened as did his eyes. That the wolf would turn and betray her pack the way she did, especially the girl who saved her life twice as Bella had. Even he wasn’t that stupid. He nodded, knowing that having to do with Cora wasn’t going to be an easy decision for Derek to make, with him being the Alpha. “Why don’t you take Bella upstairs. It’s been a long day,” he muttered as he pulled her up, noticing that she didn’t argue when he passed her off, and she fell right back asleep in his arms.
He sat on the couch, listening as the two moved about, trying to figure out why his niece could do something so foolish. She knew better than to get tangled up with Cold Ones. He almost cracked a smile at the quiet exchanges between his nephew and the girl he’d come to care deeply for as it sounded like she was terrified of having another round of nightmares from she experienced. Insisting on Derek to stay with her through the night, which he often did, only this time to join her in the bed if only to hold her. A bold move, he thought with a smile, though innocent in its nature. It was going to be a long night for her because he doubted even their presence would do little to keep away her dreams this time.