Chapter 42: In My Element
I went to stand, but realised I was wearing a dressed-down version of the green dress of the Earth Goddess. My skin had a slight shimmer to it. As I stood, everybody in the field fell to their knees or stomachs, including my mates.
That doesn't feel right at all. "Come to me, my mates."
They stood, walking to stand in front of me with their heads bowed. I touched each of their chins, then said, "Look at me, please. Am I not still your mate? Am I not still the same person you held a few minutes ago? Never bow to me. We are mates... equals in our relationship, as well as our hearts. I do not wish to walk in front of you or behind you... I wish to walk next to you in this life. I love you, my mates."
They all smiled as they hugged me to them, placing small kisses wherever they could reach. I hummed in pleasure, causing them to sigh in relief. Jasper whispered into my neck, "Do you know your eyes are the most intoxicating shade of green?"
I nodded, saying, "I'm glad you like them, because they stay this way until another element takes over or I can go back to my normal level. The dress is part of the deal, too. Can't wear anything else while my eyes are green. It can't get dirty or ripped or anything, though, so that's a bonus. When the goddess takes over the dress is much fancier. I'm glad I have this one for everyday. I would have really stuck out in the other one." I laughed softly.
He smiled, then sadness took over his features as he said, "Please don't scare us like that again. We can't lose you, Darlin'. I can't... you not being in our arms ever again is something the three of us can't live with."
I wove my hands into Jasper and Peter's hair, then tightened my grip. "I'm not going anywhere. It was an unforeseen complication that has been taken care of. It won't happen again now that we know. I love you three so fucking much. I will not be parted from you. Do you hear me? Never, never will I be parted from you."
We stayed in our bubble for a few minutes, then we separated, looking to the elders. Sue was comforting Charlie, but I felt the need to go to him. I placed my hand on Sue's shoulder, to which she nodded. I looked at my father, saying tenderly, "Come with me for a minute, Dad."
He walked with me part way down the clearing, then I stopped and turned. He broke down in a heartbreaking sob. "I know I'm not as strong as all of you. I know this is dangerous. I know I have to do what you all say to stay safe. Please don't make me go away now."
"Dad? Dad, look at me. I will never send you away. I wouldn't let them, either. You are not to blame for anything that happened here. It was a complication from the alarms I put on the protection of the areas. You did exactly as I said to do today. You moved when I said to, you stayed put when I needed you to. You were quiet and not freaking out, making things easier on me. When I cast the protections with the added alarms, I didn't realise how strong the alarms would be, or that they would feel like piercing pains in my head. I also didn't know they would drain energy from me to keep themselves going while the threat was active. I didn't even realise how weak I was until I told you I loved you and my eyes closed. None of any of that was your fault. You are the best father I could have ever hoped for in this life. Please don't think I could ever give you up now."
I took both of his hands, placed them around my neck, then hugged him tight to me. Something occurred to me, "Dad? Why did you think I was going to send you away?"
He sniffled, whispering into my hair, "I... I thought I did something wrong. I thought... I thought you'd say it was too dangerous to be near you anymore... that I was a risk. I know I'm still learning how things go. Yes, this is way over my head, but I love you, Princess. I don't wanna go away. I was so scared I was gonna lose you and it was gonna be my fault."
He choked another sob, so I said, "Dad, we're all new at this. It's only been a few days since the goddess in me was complete and we've all been together. This is completely new territory for everyone. We will all make mistakes, but we will all get through it... together. I promise you didn't do anything wrong today. You did everything right. Yes, it is dangerous to be near me, but it is more dangerous for you not to be with me. The closer you are, the better I can protect you. You would have died today had I not put the protection on your house or sent the wolves... all because of some sick bitch's vendetta against me. It's dangerous as hell, but you will be with me or the wolves from now on... no going off on your own. Got me?"
He nodded into my hair, then I continued, "I would like you to spend some time with the four of us. I think it would help you. Would you be willing to let Jasper, Peter, and Char teach you a few things? They need to teach me a few things, too, so maybe we could do it together?"
He pulled back from the hug, smiling widely, "I'd like that a lot, Princess. I'd like to spend any time I can with you, learning or not. Let's go see those mates of yours. By the way, how does the marriage thing work? Do you think you will? If so, to who?"
I laughed, "Dad, I really don't know if we will do a true marriage ceremony. I think I'd like to do a commitment ceremony, but we'll have to wait until things calm down a little. Jasper is my main mate, so if he asked, I would certainly marry him, but I want them to know I am committed to all three of them equally, too."
We got to Jasper, Peter and Char a second later, who all had blinding smiles lighting up their features. Char grabbed me up and twirled me, "Really?! You really mean it?"
I giggled as I wrapped my arms and legs around her, then looked at a smiling Charlie, "Vampire hearing... you can never get away with anything."
He smiled wider, understanding the conversation now, then I kissed Char full on the mouth. "Of course I mean it, my Beautiful Island Oasis. I love you just as much as those cheeky boys of ours. I claimed you, remember?"
I heard several people gasp in the background, but I didn't give them any mind.
"I remember it quite fondly, actually," Char smirked. She kissed me softly, then let me down.
I hugged our boys as Jasper whispered, "You just made her century by saying that you claimed her in front of everyone. Since it was never said out loud, everyone was thinking it was her doing the claiming."
I smiled as I looked around at everyone. They were still in shock, I guess, so I said as I wrapped my arms around Char from behind, "By the time I got to Texas, I knew I already had a connection to Char. She was wanting to wait to claim me, but I felt that she was mine, so I wanted her to know. I was the one that claimed her. You know the rest of the story, but it was me that claimed her... and I'd do it again in a heartbeat."
Everyone smiled, slowly breaking off into conversations. Charlie shook his head while smirking, "You have more courage than anyone I know. I don't think I would have enough courage to be the dominant with a same-sex partner, let alone announce it to so many people. You're brave, Kid... I'll give you that."
I laughed. "Dad, you might be new to all this, but you catch on fast. Yes, I was the dominant with her. I am only sometimes with Peter, and only for short periods. I can't even think I ever would try with Major... and I have a plan for Jasper."
Charlie laughed, but Jasper raised a cocky eyebrow at me. I smirked, "You heard right, Mr. Whitlock. It'll happen when you least expect it, too."
I smacked his ass, then ran behind Alice, who grabbed Edward's hand. They shielded me, with Jasper and I running circles around them while all of us laughed.
Suddenly Peter grabbed me up, tickling me as he walked me to Jasper. "Jesus, Peter! No fair. I'll take Major's flogger to you if you don't put me down this instant!"
Everyone burst out laughing as Peter moaned, "Which one, Kitten?"
I smacked his ass from my position, then said, "The one with the most bite to it. I saw one that looked downright menacing. Maybe you need to be taught a lesson."
He whimpered, "That's Major's favorite. He doesn't let anyone touch that."
He set me down in front of Jasper, so I turned to him. I slowly wrapped one hand on his hip, walked the other hand from his navel up into his hair, twisted my fingers in tightly, then roughly brought his head to me. "If Major lets me use his favorite flogger on Peter, I'll let him use any toy or instrument he wants on me. Anything. His choice."
I bit down and licked the side of his neck, then heard Jasper moan, "Yes. Anytime, just... fuuuck, yessss."
I instantly let him go with a triumphant smile as I turned to Peter. "Told you," I sang, then I jumped on Char's back. She ran me over to Tanya and Kate.
I jumped on Tanya's back, who said as she got a hold on me, "Damn, Girl! You're the shit! Even I wouldn't have tempted the Major like that... and I'm a Succubus. I can get any man I want without barely trying! I'd say you're a sex goddess, too."
Char moaned, nodding her head in agreement. We laughed as I hopped down and said with a smirk, "I was just taking a page from the feel of your energy earlier. It felt like a sensual yet dirty dance. It was very tempting. I just thought of how it made me feel, then turned it on Jasper."
She laughed, "You are a sex goddess doing something like that... especially in public."
Char said, "You should see what she does in private if you think that's anything beyond normal. She has us all hooked in under 30 seconds."
Tanya looked wide-eyed at Char. Jasper came up behind me, kissed my neck, then said, "She's right, Tanya. Under thirty seconds… just a look from her... the three of us would do anything she asked. She'd have you cumming before she laid a finger on you, I guarantee it. That's what you were wondering, right?"
Tanya nodded slack-jawed, which caused me to blush. I lifted her jaw off the floor with my index finger, saying, "Sorry, Honey. Char is my first and only female lover. There will never be another."
She closed her mouth, shaking her head like she was dazed.
Was I vampire sex catnip or something? Everybody want some? Sheesh.
I walked back over to the elders, who were talking with Charlie and Edward. I hopped on Edward's back. He smiled in reply. "Hey, Bella. What's up?"
I smirked, "Oh, nothing big... just feeling like vampire sex catnip over there with Tanya. She was all dazed like she was having a sex fantasy about me from the things Jasper and Char said to her."
He laughed, "Vampire sex catnip? Yeah, that sounds about right. I think some of her energy absorbed into your nature when you gifted her or something. I saw the thing with Jasper and the flogger. That was just wicked, and you know it."
We both laughed, then I stopped short, smacking his back. "That's it! You're brilliant!"
I ruffled Edward's hair while looking at the elders. They were watching me expectantly because of my epiphany outburst. "When I gifted Kate and Tanya energy, I had to feel for their own energies to know where to direct it. Could Tanya's energy have somehow connected with mine and mingled?"
They spoke for a moment, then Quil said, "The only way for that to happen is if there was a close basis to go on."
I called my mates over to ask them, "How would you describe me before today? When you think of me, what comes to mind?"
Jasper, Char and Peter all blurted out, "Sensual." Then Char added, "Alluring," Jasper added, "Sinful," and Peter added, "Sexy. Temptin' as hell."
I looked back to the elders. "Tanya's energy felt like a sensual and erotic yet dirty dance with a partner."
I looked back at my mates, who all nodded while Peter said, "That sounds exactly like how I would describe ya, Kitten."
I looked at the elders again. Quil looked deep in thought for a second before replying, "Then it's very likely that her energy rubbed off on you. It will become a part of you, since they are so closely related. You never described the earth energy as you. You said it felt like Jasper. Air was Major, Fire felt like Peter, and Char felt like a flowing river... an oasis. Nowhere in there was you. Your energy... true energy... must have been taken over by the goddess part of you, which would explain the tie. Succubi and Goddesses were both said to be very sensual creatures. The more your energies mingle, the more Goddess you will feel. That is not a bad thing at all, but your mates will be in for trouble in the bedroom."
The elders laughed with Edward as my mates moaned. "Will just being around her make our energies mingle?"
All of the elders said "Yes," at the same time.
I looked at my mates, shrugging my shoulders, "There's no way around it, then, because I plan on getting to know all of the Denali clan... Tanya included."
Edward let out an unusually sexy groan, so I instinctively slapped my shield around my mates. He rubbed his temples, whispering, "Thanks," just as I realised what I did.
I squealed, "Look, Edward!"
He looked, then pulled me around to stand in front of him. "I still can't hear you. You must have only put part of your whole shield around them. This is amazing, though!"
My shield dropped as he ran over to Carlisle, my mates all surrounding me in a loving embrace. "Incredible, Darlin'. This is such a great surprise. It would seem your shield capabilities are expanding with your goddess nature."
I saw Jacob come up to us. He hugged me to him, offering, "Thank you so much. The wolves at your dad's would have fallen if you hadn't told me what to have them do. They are all safe at their normal posts now. As soon as we get back to the house, I'll phase so Edward can relay all the info we found out. The items you wanted were never touched by bare hands or paws. They used a scrap of fabric to wrap each one in before they picked them up. You said there was something about them, that you needed to take them to the shaman, so I told them not to touch the items themselves."
I nodded, "Yeah, that was a good idea. I don't know what it is about them, but I really feel like we need the shaman to look at them. Maybe Carlisle can do some research in the books in his study. See if anything comes up in there. We should get back to the house now. We really need to find out everything we can."
They agreed, so I had Jake whistle to get everyone's attention. When they were gathered, I said, "Everyone is safe at the other locations. We need to get back to the house so Jake and Edward can fill us in on what we know so far. We need to know everything we can get our hands on. While we're there, we'll break for food, then Jake can call shift change. When the second round gets to the house, we'll head back here. Let's get going."
We made it back to the house in no time, but Jasper carried me bridal-style because of my new clothing and the still-tender marks on my ass. As soon as we walked in the door, Esme, Tanya, Kate, Alice, Carmen, and Rose made an assembly line down the island as I got out all the fixings for subs, potato salad, coleslaw, chips, pretzels, and drinks. It took me four trips to the island, but they got set up and started in no time.
It didn’t take long before the plates were made. We wrapped each sub in freezer paper, so that we could hand them a sub and a plate full of the other stuff. They started taking it to the pack and elders as Alice asked if she could fix me something to eat. I laid my head on the counter, saying tiredly, "Yes, please. Surprise fruit smoothie, a small bowl of caviar, some chocolate covered cashews, plus the marinated salmon... grilled, please."
She smiled widely. I felt the need to talk to her, now that we were alone. "Ali, you know I'm not mad anymore, right?"
She didn't turn to face me, but she whispered just loud enough for me to hear, "Yeah... I know."
I continued, "I just don't understand why it had to be that way. Why we had to be separated for so long. We could have saved so much time, had all of it to prepare better for this."
She darted over to where I sat, saying brokenly, "It's all my fault. If I would have looked earlier, it could have been easier on both of you. I used to check all the time, hoping to see a sign of when you could be together. Three weeks before we ran you south, I stopped looking. I was tearing myself apart searching... hoping every single time, that it would finally be time for you to be with Jasper... and me to be with Edward. We were never together while I was with Jasper. I did love him, you know, and he would have never stayed if we weren't together/together. I so wanted to be with Edward, but we knew we couldn't until after you were with Jasper. When did it change for you? Your feelings for Jasper, I mean. That was one of the clues I was looking for. His feelings for you were another."
I smiled sadly, "Phoenix... for both of us. Do you remember him telling me I was worth it just before you walked back into the room? That's what he meant. We never told each other. He thought the love feeling was toward Edward. He said he couldn't dare to hope that I would ever feel that way for him... so he hid it from everyone, including himself."
Alice broke down sobbing into her hands. "So much wasted time. So much heartache for both of you. I made such as mess of things. I should have never stopped looking. I thought the vision I got before your birthday was because I stopped trying to force a vision... stopped searching so hard. I was so happy we were both going to be with our true mates, but when I saw what had to be done, it almost killed me. You getting hurt, me yelling and accusing Jasper of something I knew wasn't true, Edward leaving you in the woods. All of it was one big mess. I'm so sorry, Bella. So sorry."
I looked deep into her eyes, saying sincerely, "Ali, I forgive you. Don't keep me out of the loop again, though. The visions... you can't make all of the decisions for us. You can't possibly know every scenario to try. If not me, seek out someone else for a possible alternative to a mess that big. It affected so many people, Ali. Many minds are better than one, with different points of view and different styles of thinking. Someone else may just come up with the alternative that works in everyone's favor. Please think about it."
I hugged her to me for a long moment. When the hug broke, I smirked, "Now how about that lunch you were going to make me?"
She laughed and dashed over to put the fish on the grill connected to the stove. She looked back at me, asking after a second, "Are we alright?"
I smiled widely with a nod, "We're definitely alright."
While she cooked, we talked. At one point she asked, "Did you know I've been designing clothes lately? I have a whole sketchbook of designs. I've designed and made one of Esme's ball gowns, Rose has a ball gown and a club dress, plus I made myself a few things, too."
I shook my head, "No, I didn't. Would you let me see your sketches sometime?"
She nodded enthusiastically, "Anytime you want... just let me know."
Soon my plate was ready to go, so she whipped up my huge smoothie before we walked outside together. After she kissed my cheek, she jumped into Edward's arms. I felt Peter curling his arms around me from behind, so I leaned my head back on his shoulder. "Ya were gone for a while, but I had a feelin' ya needed a few minutes with Alice. Jasper didn't wait so patiently. Ya should sit with him while ya eat."
He let me go with a few kisses to my shoulder. I turned, kissing him softly in thanks. Half way over to Jasper, I remembered I hadn't had my liqueurs for my episode, so I got Peter's attention. "Peter, I haven't had my dose today for my episode. Can you get them for me, please?"
He nodded as he dashed inside. I reached Jasper under the tree a few moments later. He spread his legs, patting the space he made. I sat in the space with my back against his chest, then he nuzzled his nose into my neck. He breathed me in, sighing in content.
As he spoke softly, he ran his lips teasingly up and down my neck, "How was your talk with Alice?"
I nodded as I took a bite of food. "It was really good. We needed to clear things up. I understand what happened from her end, but she also understands what she could have done differently. She knows not to make that mistake again. It affected too many lives. We're good now, and that's what matters. There's too much going on to be holding grudges. It still stings, but it's getting better all the time. Have you had the chance to talk to her or Edward, yet?"
He nodded, "I spoke to Edward while you were in with Alice. He and I are good now. A lot of what he said made sense. He got to see my point of view, too."
I nodded, then he continued, "I haven't had the chance to talk to Alice yet. I'm kind of taking it one step at a time."
I finished the last two bites of fish, then said, "I've just been going on instinct as far as talking to them goes. When they all gave energy to me earlier... Edward's felt protective yet playful. I didn't get to see the playful side a lot before, but now I've seen it several times... the brotherly joking and stuff. We bantered back and forth for a few minutes while I fixed my hair before we met the pack at the treaty line. He came out of the blue to give me a curling iron and one of Alice's pretty hair clips. We joked about how he would just happen to have a curling iron behind his back and hair clip in his hand. It felt natural. There's something more with their energies that felt familiar, but I can't quite put my finger on it. I haven't gotten the chance to hash everything out with Edward yet, though. I don't think I'm quite ready. My instincts will let me know when it's time."
He smiled softly. Peter chose the lull in conversation to make his appearance. I smiled at him knowingly. He just nodded as he handed me my first liqueur. Jasper thanked Peter for tending to my liqueurs, then said, "I had planned on giving them to her before we left the cabin, but then her alarms went off mid-bath. We had no time to do anything but get to the field and warn Jake. Then the energy transfer with the elders and the big draw of energy from our kick-ass goddess here. It's been a busy day, hasn't it, Darlin'?"
I nodded, biting a small spoon of caviar on a cracker. Peter gave me the next glass, which I drank down quickly. I handed him back the glass as I ate another caviar topped cracker. I asked, "Peter, are all of the pack members done eating? We still need to go over the files and names, plus we need to hear what Edward found out, all before Jake calls shift change… and I want to check on how the elders are doing. I need to thank them for earlier."
He smiled, then said soothingly, "Slow down, Kitten. It's still early. Char and I got a good lesson in with the first group while ya were with the Major. The elders and your dad sat in on the lesson to watch the practice. The elders have a copy of all of Charlie's photos in the car they came in. All of the info for that person is on the back of the photos. It'll be easy to figure out how old they are by when they went missin'. From what we can tell, none of ‘em were very well trained. We can have Edward tell us all what he found out. As for the elders, I'll let ya be the judge of how they're doin'. Your relationship with ‘em is strong, and ya need to keep it that way. The pack is done eatin', so anytime you're ready, we can gather everyone."
I nodded as Peter helped me stand. I walked to the bottom of the steps, looking out at the people in attendance. "If I can have everyone's attention please... I'd like to get a few things taken care of before shift change. We need to know all we can about the intruders today, and find out what Edward heard in the mind of one of them today during the attack. If we can all gather on the benches here, we can get started."