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Author's Chapter Notes:
I originally had the idea for this fic on Mother's Day when I was reading random scenes in Twilight. Standing as a protector was such an unusual role for Esme, and I wondered what she thought of it. This fic is the result. My lovely betas Ish and Tersaseda cleaned it up and made it presentable. Thanks so much ladies! :)

I'm posting it now because it explains some of Esme's motivations in my most recent update (Chapter 22) of Fifty-Eight Nights. Enjoy!

These wonderful characters belong to the brilliant Stephenie Meyer. I'm only playing with them. I'll be sure to put them away when I'm done. (No copyright infringement is intended, only admiration.)
The woods were unfamiliar, but I followed the scent to a large spruce. Here Edward had stood night after night as he waited to enter Bella’s house. I stood in his place now, his scent a comfort in the madness.

He, Carlisle, and Emmett were far to the north right now, leading James away from Bella, leading him to an ambush. The thought was frightening, though I tried not to dwell on the unlikely possibilities. Laurent had called James absolutely lethal, but I couldn’t imagine anyone getting the best of Emmett, let alone all three of them.

Alice and Jasper were in almost as much danger, between the inescapable desert sun and their proximity to the Southern covens. And Bella…all dangers were a threat to her, even her protectors.

Even Rosalie wasn’t entirely safe. When we arrived this evening to watch over Charlie, we came across the female’s scent and my daughter insisted on following the trail. I tried to talk her out of it, but Rosalie chafed at the thought of sitting idly by while that wild female hunted in our family’s territory. Rose had fire and drive that would serve her well in a fight if it came to that. I prayed it wouldn’t. Given the female’s past behavior, it seemed unlikely that she would attack, but it was still a frightening possibility.

And here I stood in the darkness, with no stomach for a confrontation and so unskilled that I would be useless in a fight. All but helpless, the only thing I could do was to stand watch over this lone, human stranger and hope that my presence would be enough to protect him.

Inside the house, the phone rang, surprising me. It was almost midnight.

Charlie caught the phone half-way through the first ring. “Hello?” His voice was thick with anticipation.

The voice on the other end was difficult to make out from this distance. “Charlie! Bella ran away?”

“Hi Billy. Yeah. How’d you hear about that?”

“Sam Uley told me. He saw her truck on the highway, and it looked like whoever was driving it was pushing the old beater for all it was worth. You have to find her! Go after her, bring her back. You can’t just let her run away like that.”

“Well what else can I do? She’s going home to her mom. She’s well within her rights to do that.” Even I, who barely knew this man, could hear the anguish in his voice.

“And the Cullens,” this Billy spat the name, “did they run away, too?

“No,” Charlie answered, a defiant edge creeping into his tone, “the Cullens are still here. I saw Mrs. Cullen and her daughter in town this evening.”

“Listen to me, Charlie. We’ve been friends since before Bella was born. Let me come up. We’ll go together to the Cullens’ house with some of the boys from the tribe. My heart tells me she’s there and if we hurry, we might still have the time to save her – ”

Tribe. This was a Quileute. Carlisle and Edward were convinced the werewolf mutation had died out, but this Billy believed that he could interfere with us if he wanted to. What if the Quileutes still had wolves? What if they came here looking for us? The wild female plus the hellhounds – could this get any more nightmarish?

“I can’t just go busting into their house without a warrant. For crying out loud! Your superstitions are getting way out of hand.”

“You’d lose your daughter for the sake of a piece of paper? Charlie, Bella is in grave danger. Her life, her soul, are on the line. If you don’t act now, you’ll never see her again, or if you do, you’ll wish you hadn’t.”

“Damn it, Billy! Don’t say stuff like that. She’s gonna be fine.”

“I would love nothing better than to be proved wrong, but do you really want to run the risk – ”

“Yeah,” Charlie interrupted brusquely, “I hope you’re wrong, too.”

“Consider what I’ve said, Charlie.”

“Fine. I will.”

Billy sighed heavily. “If you hear from her, or of her, call me. Please. I need to know.”

“I will,” Charlie promised, though even I could hear it was hollow. “Bye.”

The phone clattered loudly into the cradle. His heavy tread paced the living room, and occasionally he passed in front of a window where I could see him. The heartache in his face smote me to the core.

Though he would never know it, in that moment, he and I were kindred spirits. He had no concept of the dangers his daughter was facing, but she was distressed and missing. It was enough to wound any father. And Billy Black had planted even darker fears in his heart. His anguish was mine. Our loss, our fear, our fragile hope were one. We were alike – helpless, grieving, left behind. The tears he angrily brushed away were the ones I could not shed for my scattered and threatened family. I would never see this aging small-town police chief in the same way again.

Rosalie returned just before five in the morning, much to my relief. “The female wandered all over, but I wasn’t able to catch her.”

“What do you think she’s doing?”

“Combing through town. She’s being very methodical about it – she walked every street, scoped out the airport, thoroughly searched the school, even broke into the police station. She’s digging for information.”

“But she didn’t hunt?”

Rosalie bared her teeth in a ferocious grin. “No. I think she knew I was after her. Or that someone was.”

Thank heaven for small favors.

“Regardless, she’s gone now. I followed her south for about ten miles, but I figured you’d worry if I went much farther.”

I smiled wryly. That was assuming I wasn’t worrying already. “Yes, I would have. Thank you for coming back.”

“Let’s go home. We’ve got appearances to maintain.”

I hesitated, listening to Charlie’s uneven snores. I couldn’t leave him, even for the few minutes it would take to run home and change. “Would you mind…bringing me a change of clothes?”

Rosalie rolled her eyes. “Don’t tell me you’re letting Edward’s obsession take over your life, too.” She had a hard time even speaking Bella’s name out loud.

I couldn’t properly put to words the reason I cared so much about Charlie Swan. I doubted Rosalie would understand. So I chose the easier explanation. “This is all I can do, and I would hate to fail at it.”

Grumbling, my daughter took off through the trees.

I followed Charlie through that day and the next, keeping carefully out of sight. Carlisle called to let us know the tracker had evaded them, and a stab of fear pierced me. They thought he was coming here. What if he beat Carlisle and my sons home? What if the female met up with him and attacked when only Rosalie and I stood between them and Charlie? I thought of them crouched in the baseball diamond; these two had fought side-by-side before. Rosalie and I would not have much of a chance against the tracker and his mate.

Charlie morosely made some scrambled eggs and toast for dinner, and I wondered if it would be his last meal.

No, I decided. I would fight for him, fight until I was rubble. Not for Edward or even Bella, but for Charlie himself. He deserved to see Bella brought safely home. I was praying for a happy ending, but it wouldn’t be complete without Charlie’s and Bella’s reunion. This wrong would not be right until he could hold his only child, alive and well, in his arms. It was a happy ending I was denied while human, but I swore in my heart that Charlie would live to hold his daughter again.

Charlie called Bella’s mother several times the next day, leaving a couple of messages. The worry seemed to be etching new lines in his weary face.

Carlisle called me, too, and my fears shifted. The tracker was apparently headed to Phoenix. None of us knew if the female was still in the area, but I felt more confident about our task. Together, Rosalie and I would be able to protect Charlie if we were only up against one enemy. Now my worry centered around Bella again.

When Charlie’s office phone at the Forks Police Department rang shortly before his lunch break, he glanced at the caller ID and his heartbeat accelerated. He snatched up the phone, blurting out, “Renee?”

I was close enough to clearly hear the voice on the other end of the line. “Mr. Swan?”

His face fell with disappointment. “Yes?”

“This is Carrie with the Thunderbird Samaritan Medical Center in Scottsdale, Arizona.”

The color drained from Charlie’s face. My breath caught. Bella.

“I’m calling to inform you that your daughter Isabella Swan is being treated in our emergency room. The attending physician feels she should be admitted, and we would like your consent to do so.”

Charlie struggled to find his voice, and the woman said, “Mr. Swan, may we have permission to admit your daughter?”

“Yes!” he finally said. “I’ll catch the first flight there. What happened?”

“The physician will be calling you as soon as she is stabilized. Apparently she fell down some stairs.”

“Only Bella,” he muttered in grim amusement, but his pulse slowed. “Let me get you my insurance information,” he suddenly said, rooting through his wallet for the ID card.

“That will not be necessary. Arrangements for payment have already been made.”

“What!”

“Um…One moment please.”

Charlie looked as confused as I felt, and then a familiar voice said, “Charlie? This is Alice Cullen. Edward’s sister.”

“What is going on?” he demanded.

“Edward, Carlisle and I came to Phoenix to talk with Bella. She came to visit us at our hotel room and she fell down the stairs. Two flights. And then she went through a window.”

The breath whooshed out of Charlie like he’d been punched.

“Carlisle was right there, so he was able to administer first aid. The doctors say he saved her life. She’s going to be okay,” Alice added with perfect confidence, and I sighed in relief. “She’s in rough shape, but the danger is past.”

With a jolt, I realized Alice was saying this as much for my benefit as for Charlie’s. Bella wasn’t in danger – that meant James must have been killed.

“Don’t worry about the cost. Carlisle is happy to cover it.”

“I can’t let you – ”

“Please, Charlie. Edward feels horribly because Bella wouldn’t have even been in Phoenix if it weren’t for him. We all feel badly. Let us take care of just this.”

His lips twitched like he was trying to think of an answer. He settled on, “We’ll talk about it.”

“Thanks. I’m trying to catch up with Bella’s mom, but if you speak to her before I do, can you let her know what happened?”

“Of course.”

“And here, let me give you my cell phone number…”

I slunk deeper into the shelter of the trees and worked my way around to the edge of town. Before I was even home, my cell phone rang. Carlisle.

“You’re safe,” I sighed.

“Yes. Alice said you overheard her talking to Charlie. I just wanted you to know that we don’t have to worry about James anymore.”

“I guessed as much. Thank you for calling me, all the same.”

He lowered his voice, too quiet for any eavesdropping humans on his end to overhear. “James bit Bella.”

“What?” NO! “But…?”

“Edward drew the venom out.”

“Drew?”

“He sucked out the contaminated blood.” I could hear his paternal pride.

Bella. He’d tasted Bella and managed to stop. I’d long admired and taken pride in the young man I considered my son. In this moment, though, I was in awe of him.

“I’m speechless,” I finally choked out.

“Me, too,” he admitted, and I could hear the smile in his voice. Trust Carlisle to find the silver lining in all this.

“I have one favor to ask of you, though. See if you can convince Charlie to stay there. Alice feels it would be better for Edward’s mental health and his future with Bella if Charlie doesn’t see her in this condition.”

Yes, I could well imagine Charlie’s reaction. “Did Alice give you any ideas about how I might be able to keep him here?”

“Something work-related should do the trick. A convenience store robbery? Several cars stolen? A couple of mailboxes blown up?”

I giggled at the thought. Usually I got left out of the criminal mischief. “I’ll see what I can do.”


The next morning, I visited Charlie in his office. He respectfully rose to his feet and extended his hand when he saw me. “Mrs. Cullen.”

“Chief Swan. My husband called last night to let me know what has happened and mentioned you wanted to fly down to Phoenix. I was hoping you’d let me buy your ticket. I can only imagine your worry over your daughter’s safety right now.”

He sighed heavily. “I appreciate the offer, but I couldn’t go right now even if I wanted to. Somebody broke into the high school last night and set about a hundred chickens loose. And they flooded all the bathrooms. I’ve got to catch the kids that did this.”

“I should think so! But what horrid timing.”

“Yeah,” he grumbled. “We’ve found the chickens’ owners, and they’re rounding up all those birds, but we still have the clean-up to deal with. Thanks again for the offer. If I find the culprits in time, I’ll still try to make it down, but Renee is with her now and she fusses enough for two. Regardless, you don’t have to buy the ticket.”

“I know I don’t have to, Chief Swan. But my son is very fond of your daughter. She’s a remarkable girl and…and I hold your entire family in high regard. Please consider it, at least. If you find the culprits.”

When I find the culprits,” he smiled, his eyes crinkling at the corners in a pleasant way, “I’ll consider it.”

I returned his smile, feeling sly. “Of course.”
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