It was no more than a single thought, one small five-letter word that was barely two syllables. But the impact of it would change the course of vampire history. Permanently.
Bella knew, with no small amount of certainty, that she would recognize that voice anywhere, any day. A passing thought, a whisper in a crowded room, a recollection of someone she'd never known. It didn't matter to her.
James' voice was indescribably burned into her psyche, melded into her bones and infecting her lungs. Her entire body screamed out at the sound of his thoughts; the predator in her chest roared with a violent, uncontainable power and lunged itself forward.
The pain was immaculate. Tendrils of exquisite, needle-thin electric currents of anguish ripped through her chest; the force of ten thousand panicked and frightened wild bulls tore through her ribcage and sent her onto her back in the dirt. Her throat was sore and Edward's petrified expression loomed over her, blocking out all view of anything else. She could feel her back arching painfully and her arms and legs twitching against her will. It felt as if she were being pelted with large rocks from all angles, the pain was such a brilliant white over her vision that she no longer even saw Edward.
In the great chamber, the walls were falling in around the remaining vampires. Enormous hunks of stone and mortar collapsed and fell around him. Aro's thoughts had been silenced instantly; James took a great amount of diabolic pleasure in having gotten to witness the first death due to the crumbling building. Aro hadn't even had enough time to consider what was going on. The first and, so far, largest of the stones had landed directly upon his head; almost as if it had been planned.
However, it hadn't; and James was desperately attempting to keep the larger fragments from imitating the first upon his own head. He was growing weary, having used much of his power before this, and the task of focusing on a piece of the ceiling or wall and tossing it away from him was becoming less and less interesting for his exhausted telekinesis. While he managed to retain enough focus to shove the larger portions of the building away from him, he was not quite able to do so with all of them. Including some not-so-small sections of ceiling that rained down upon him.
James heard the deafening crunch of bones beneath stone and felt the tiniest flare of pride at the possibility that Acanthus had finally been crushed. The pride, however, was short lived when the sudden, torturous pain took over his chest.
The crunching sound had been his ribs, he realized. He wasn't breathing; he realized that was probably due to lungs that certainly had to be entirely flat based on an estimate of the weight that was on his chest. Somewhere in the undercurrent of his ever-speedy thoughts, James understood that blood was seeping from a wound on his head. His vision was slowly starting to fog up on the edges; not the kind of fog that Gloria controlled, and this understanding sparked a series of domino effects in his consciousness.
One, he'd lost. Which meant that Bella was in danger; a world of danger, in fact. One she probably didn't even understand.
Two, he could never fully explain the dangers she would face. Not in the amount of time he had to channel his thoughts to her before the fog ate up the rest of his vision. Not in a hundred years. The perils she would be facing made his stomach turn, just knowing what was going to present itself to her made his throat close up with the sheer defeat he felt at not protecting her.
Three, his place beside her would be taken up by a man not capable of the job. Despite Edward's most sincere attempts, and James had no doubts about the sincerity of Edward, he simply was not the man for the job. James was, and he knew it; but that knowledge wouldn't save him. His understanding of the situation would not prevent the outcome.
Four, he had to face it. As difficult as it would be, he had to come to terms with the harsh realities of this world.
Five, Bella was more than he had ever imagined. He had witnessed something that vampires considered a myth; he, himself, had been one of the first to fall to his knees before her. He'd been given an honor that, simply put, his people had yet to learn the magnitude of. He knew this because it was his purpose to know this.
Everything he had ever done, ever seen, had led him to this point in his life. The cynical side of his brain said, "this point in his death" but he couldn't bring himself to accept that yet. He had been conditioned, created for the events that were about to be set into motion. His soul had been waiting for this.
Every single insignificant thing that had ever happened had happened to get to this point. As much as his body wanted him to shut his eyes and let the events progress, minus one person, he couldn't allow himself to do it.
He was hers, and she deserved more. It was part of his genetic make-up, he had no choice but to be for her. In every way, in all ways.