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The duct tape over my mouth muffled it, though. I laid back on my covers, shuddering. Carefully, so I wouldn't hurt myself, I pulled the duct tape off my mouth, and then just lay there, gasping, letting myself recover. It had been a bad Dream that night. But I wasn't able to recuperate for long. Someone knocked timidly on my door and my mother's voice called quietly, "Bella? Can I come in?" I sighed. I didn't like my mother to see me right after a Dream, when I was shaken and disheveled and haggard-looking. But if I didn't let her in, she would just worry more. "Yeah," I answered. My voice was scream-worn to a rasp. My mom Renee darted quickly in, and just as quickly shut the door behind her. Her blue eyes were pained, like they often were when she looked at me these days. She sat cautiously on the edge of my bed, not quite looking me in the eye. "Bad Dream tonight?" she asked, but I could tell she didn't really want to know. I sighed again and ran my hand down my ashen face. Yes, it had been bad. But, as I softly pointed out to my mother, "I've had worse." Renee's face was grim. "Yes, I guess you have." Then she took a deep breath, as if she was steeling herself, and I realized she had something else she wanted to talk to me about. Something big. "Bella," she began reluctantly, "Phil's getting suspicious." Ah, so that was it. Renee's biggest fear was that her new husband, Phil, would notice that there was something different about me and run away from her screaming. Never mind that I'd told her several times that if he loved her, he would get over what was wrong with me and stay with her anyway. She continued, "You know how lightly he sleeps. He hears you when you... you know. Move around at night." Move around at night, I thought wryly. That's one to say it, I suppose. Out loud, I said, "I know, and I'm sorry. I've been trying to be quiet, but... you know I can't control what happens when I Dream." Renee sighed and stroked my tangled hair. "I know, sweetheart.
Which is why..." She trailed off and wouldn't look at me. I started to get uneasy. "Which is why what?" I asked. It was bad. I could tell by looking at my mom's face. Renee looked at me pleadingly. "Honey, please, please, don't take this the wrong way, but... I think you should go stay with Charlie in Forks. Just for a little while. Until Phil forgets about all of this. Just until it gets better." The pleading in her eyes reached its peak. "You know how Charlie is. He sleeps so deeply, a bomb could go off and he wouldn't know it. He won't notice a thing." I was cold inside. "You're asking me to leave?" This was my mother – she had always made sure I'd known how much she loved me. I didn't understand. Renee took my hands fiercely. "I just think it would be safer if you went to live with Charlie for a little while, until Phil forgets about the Dreaming. He always has been the out-of-sight, out-of-mind type of person. Please, Bella. Just until it gets better." I looked into my mother's eyes, and felt even colder. She wanted me to go. And, despite what she said, I would not be able to come back. Because, unlike Renee thought, it would never, ever get better. But she wanted me to go – I couldn't just say no. I nodded numbly. Renee's relief was tangible. It almost made me sick. "I'll call him today, okay." I nodded again, on autopilot. I was numb. But I had a feeling I wouldn't stay that way for long – I needed to get my mom out of my room before I started to feel again, or she would be so upset. "I need to take a shower now," I whispered. "or I'll be late for school." Renee kissed my forehead and left me alone, which was good, because I could feel the tears coming. I went to my bathroom and turned the shower on to cover the sound, then I stood in my shower, let the hot water pelt me, and cried. Maybe, some part of me hidden deep in my subconscious had known this was coming – because while I was hurt, I wasn't exactly surprised. Renee was eccentric and
scatterbrained, but she was a little closed-minded about supernatural things. She didn't understand them, and a part of her was always wondering if I really had a "gift", or if I was just crazy. She was, by nature, a very soft person who needed to be taken care of, and my Dreams were too harsh for her to handle. I should probably explain. Ever since I can remember, I've had Dreams. With a capital D, because these Dreams are not normal. You see, the past doesn't always rest. Sometimes, untold stories – usually horrible ones – wander, loaded down with the terrible reality of what happened. At least, they wander until they find me. When they do, they latch on to me, and they don't let go until I see what they have seen, relive what happened to them. That is when I Dream. And, since the only times the past doesn't fade is when something terrible happens, the only Dreams I've ever had have been of the most heinous crimes, the worst events. So I've had a wide variety of awful things done to me – because when I Dream, I become the person the Dream is about. I see through their eyes, hear through their ears, think what they thought, and, worst of all, feel what they felt, both emotionally and physically. I don't exist in my Dreams – I am someone else entirely. I have died several different deaths in the Roman Coliseum – eaten by lions, dogs, bears and other wild animals; burned alive as a torch for the games at night; etcetera. In my Dreams, I have probably fought and died in every war. I've been tortured in several different methods, for several different reasons. I've been murdered, raped, robbed, beaten, dismembered, impaled, drowned, and every other disgusting thing you can imagine. So I've become an expert at experiencing pain. There is one cool thing about the Dreams. Like I said, when I Dream, I become the person I'm Dreaming about – memories, likes, dislikes, talents, everything. So I can speak almost every language, and excel at any craft – blacksmithing, tailoring, carving, the works. You name it, I've known how to do it in one Dream or another, and I can remember how to do it in reality. But that's the only good part. I've seen some terrible things, both from the past and modern times. I won't tell you everything – you don't need to have my nightmares. I know some things that could get me killed if I was crazy enough to tell anyone about them – which, luckily,
I'm not. But no one would believe me anyway. If I survived telling anyone, I'd be locked in a padded cell. But if I told the world the most important thing I've Dreamed about, I wouldn't survive. Because so many of the Dreams I've had were about the people who died if one of the most horrific manner possible. They were killed by vampires. At least half of my Dreams have been about the ones the deceptively beautiful, pale-skinned people lure or kidnap away from civilization and drink their blood. A Dreams few have even been about the vampires' lives, and, because I know everything that they knew, I was aware that the vampire world is guarded by a powerful family whose only purpose is to keep themselves from being exposed. If I told anyone, they would come after me, and kill me, just like they killed everyone else who stumbled across the truth. My grandmother had been the only one I could talk to about the Dreams – and that was just because she'd had them too. I first realized that I wasn't the only one who had the Dreams when my mom and I had gone to California to visit her for Christmas when I was eight. The first night I was there, I'd had a Dream that I was in Napoleon's army, and we were freezing to death in Russia. When I'd woken up, crying and cold, Gran had been sitting by my bedside, holding a mug of hot tea in her hands. She'd looked at me sadly. "I thought so," she murmured, and handed the tea to me. It felt wonderful on my sore throat, and helped me warm up. My Gran had talked while I'd gulped the tea down. "I was almost sure, when Renee called me about the nightmares you were having, that you might have inherited the Dreams." She'd sighed. "I guess now I know for sure." I'd finished the tea by then. I looked up at Gran with eight year old seriousness. "You know what's wrong with me?" I'd asked. Renee had asked so many doctors that question, always demanding to know what was wrong with her daughter. The doctors had diagnosed me with disorder after disorder, and given me several different medications, but nothing worked. I still Dreamed. Gran's already wrinkled brow had wrinkled even more when she'd frowned. "Wrong with you?" she'd repeated. "There is nothing wrong with you, Bella. Is that what Renee told you?" She'd looked so
intimidating – I hadn't answered, not wanting to get my mom in trouble. But when Gran read my expression, she'd smiled. "Don't worry – I'm not angry," she'd reassured me. Then she'd explained what it was I Dreamed about – the horrible stories of the past. "If all the Dreams are true things," I'd asked, "why don't I Dream good Dreams?" Gran had sighed and stretched. "I think it's because the good things aren't a burden – they don't need to be shared." She'd stood up, and looked down at me. She patted my cheek with her withered old hand. "Wait a minute," she'd told me. "I want to give you something." I'd waited eagerly, wondering what present my Gran had for me, but was surprised when Gran returned and plopped a box full of books on the end of the bed. I'd taken a closer look. They weren't books, I'd realized. They were journals and diaries, and some of them looked very, very old. "These," Gran had told me, "are the diaries of women in our family who have had Dreams, and what they learned about themselves and the Dreams. These will answer a lot of your questions. Read them, and start a journal of your own. But," she'd added, "don't show them to your mother. She doesn't need to know the things in these books unless she has Dreams – which I know she doesn't." "Why?" I'd asked. Gran had settled into a more comfortable position in her chair, getting ready for a long talk. "I have a theory. I've noticed that the Dreams always skip the women who aren't strong enough to bear them. My mother Dreamed, but her mother – my grandmother – didn't. She couldn't have lived with the things she would have seen. But keep in mind, everything I tell you is guesswork – we aren't exactly given an instruction manual, so everything I've learned has been from what I have experienced, or from the experiences of the earlier Dreamers." I'd noticed that Gran had mentioned women who had dreamed, but no men. "Can boys have the Dreams?" Gran had laughed. "As far as I know, it hasn't happened, but who knows?"
We'd sat up most of the night talking, and when I'd gone home to Phoenix, I'd read the journals – which dated back to the seventeen hundreds – for myself. I'd learned several things – like that no drug or medicine could keep you from Dreaming – and had made a few observations that no one before me had written about, and wrote them in my journal. One of the things I'd noticed was this – every woman who had Dreamed, had also had what I called a Someone. The Someone was a person they could talk to, who eased the burden of the Dreams, made life easier. The Someone could be anyone – a friend, a family member, or a love. I'd had no idea that the move to Forks I was dreading so much would put me directly in the path of my Someone. Chapter 2 Everything was arranged. My bags were packed. My plane tickets had been bought. I was leaving Phoenix the next day at seven AM. I was trying to go to sleep so I wouldn't get tired on the plane – when you Dream things that make you thrash and scream, sleeping near a lot of people is a really bad idea. But I couldn't sleep. I was dreading the move to cloudy Forks too much. I'm sure I wouldn't have slept at all, but suddenly, the choice was taken away from me. A dull ache started to build behind my eyes and I became nauseous. I groaned. I knew that feeling – I was about to get sucked into a Dream. The headache grew worse, and I started to feel dizzy, like I might pass out. I rolled to the edge of my bed and rifled around in one of my drawers in the dresser next to my bed, looking for the duct tape. I found it just as my stomach plunged and my head started spinning. The black pull behind my eyes felt like someone was jabbing an icepick into my skull. Quickly, I ripped off a piece of the duct tape and clapped it over my mouth, about one second before I fell into unconsciousness. And I wasn't Isabella Swan anymore – Isabella Swan wasn't even born yet. My name was Stephen Dodde, and it was May fourth, nineteen thirty-one. I was shuffling down Sixth Street in Portland,
Oregon, and was about to pass the Silver Screen Theater. It was boarded up now – but that wasn't a surprise. The Depression had done that to a lot of businesses. I took another swig from the whiskey bottle I had in my right hand, and staggered drunkenly when the action almost threw me off balance. Yes, I was very drunk tonight. But I wasn't afraid of getting arrested – I wasn't afraid of anything. Besides, most of the police were in the same bar I had just come out of, trying their hardest to forget their numerous problems. I chuckled at the memory of their desolate faces. They needed to be more like me – someone who took care of their problems and made them go away, one way or another. Beth had been a problem, but I'd taken care of her, hadn't I? I still remembered her face, all white and scared, and her shrill screams, insisting that she had been true to me from the start, that she'd never betrayed me. Her screams had been annoying... until I'd crushed her throat in one large, strong hand, and her face had turned blue, and, finally, she'd stopped moving. I swallowed another mouthful of whiskey – not that I was drinking from guilt, mind you. In my book, any wife who cheated on her husband deserved what she got. Getting drunk was just my daily habit. I grimaced slightly, still remembering. Yes, my wife hadn't made another sound, but then the children had started shrieking loud enough to hurt my ears, and I'd had to shut them up, too, the same way I'd made Beth be quiet. My grimace became more pronounced. Killing he girls bothered me a little bit... but oh, well. They probably weren't even mine anyway. I'd passed the theater now, but there was an alley just on the other side of the building. I walked into it unsteadily to relieve myself. Once I'd finished, I turned to go back out into the street – but someone was blocking my way. I squinted, trying to see. It was a man. I couldn't see his face – it was dark, and he was too far away. He was tall, but too slender to be stronger than me. After I registered that fact, the second of worry passed – this person, whoever he was, was no longer a threat. "You might want to move," I slurred. "if you know what's best for you." The man cocked his head to the side, but didn't move. I still couldn't see his face. His failure to get out of my way angered me. I was Stephen Dodde, and no one stood up to me. With my tall, burly frame, no one wanted to disobey me. This wasn't acceptable. I wasn't
going to let some fellow make a fool out of me. The man moved closer, and then I could see his face well enough to see that he wasn't even a man – just a boy, maybe in his late teens. Very pale, with reddish-brown hair. And he was... what less of a man than myself would call attractive. Maybe even beautiful. I still couldn't see his eyes. "If I were concerned for your feelings," he said slowly, enunciating each word, "I would point out that no one needs to make a fool out of you – you do that quite well on your own." It took me a little while to get past his cultured way of speaking and figure out that he'd just insulted me, but then my head pounded in fury. This skinny little pretty boy had no idea what was coming. "No," he continued calmly, moving even closer. "you are the oblivious one. This, ah, how did you say it? This 'skinny little pretty boy' is going to make you regret what you did to your wife and daughters." I was stunned for a moment before I started to panic. Had I said that pretty boy bit out loud? I didn't think so – but maybe I was drunker than I thought. And how had he known about Beth and the girls? I definitely hadn't told anyone that, and I had gone through a lot of trouble to make sure the bodies were disposed of properly. The boy ghosted even closer. His shoes made no sound on the pavement. "Did it never occur to you," he began, and his calm mask started to crack, revealing the fury underneath, "that maybe, just maybe, Beth was telling the truth?" His expression was truly frightening now. I stumbled back a few steps, but he kept up with me easily. "And even if she wasn't, and she had been with another man, did your daughters deserve to die for her mistake?" He was so much closer now, and there was nowhere else for me to go – my back was pressed up to the brick wall of the back of the alley. The strange, terrifying boy shook his head sharply. His eyes were still in shadow. "You," he declared, his voice a deep growl, "are a monster." Since there was nowhere to fly, my fight instinct kicked in. I tried to punch the boy in the face, but his hand shot up from his side, a white blur, and, instead of hitting his jaw like I had planned, my fist smacked into his open palm, which was as hard as the brick wall I was up against. I heard a bone crack, and I gasped in pain. I tried to pull my hand back, but the boy's long, white, cold fingers rapidly closed over my fist, and I couldn't get my hand away. It hurt to even try. Another inhuman growl rumbled deep in his chest. His hard
fingers tightened over my fist so that his fingertips pressed into the back of my hand. My alcohol-clouded mind tried to make sense of what he was doing and failed, but I figured it out when his rock-like fingers pressed the bones in the back of my hand so hard they broke. I drew in a breath to scream in fear and pain, but his other hand clapped over my mouth. The action brought his face even closer to mine, and I could see his eyes now. The sight made me want to scream again. Most of his irises were as black as pitch. That wouldn't have been as unusual. But they weren't entirely black. Around the outside of his irises was a ring of crimson. Like blood. He saw my wide-eyed stare, and bared his teeth in a feral approximation of a smile. Then, in a movement so fast I couldn't really see it, his head shot forward, toward my neck, and a split second later, I felt a sharp tearing pain in my throat. The pain only lasted a second before the world went black. I gasped through my nose and woke up. I was Bella again, and I was back in my bedroom in Phoenix. I peeled the duct tape of my mouth with a shaking hand. Ugh. I hated vampire Dreams. They were always so full of fear, and not all vampires killed their victims quickly – some of them like to play with their food. I shivered. What was different about this Dream, however, was that the vampire had killed Stephen because Stephen had killed his family. Vampires didn't choose victims like that. They just killed whoever happened to be in the right place at the wrong time. There wasn't that much forethought. I wished I could ask my Gran about it, but Gran had died when I was thirteen I was so lost in my thoughts that I jumped when my alarm clock went off about two minutes later. I rolled out of bed with a groan, and got dressed. Two hours later, I was on a plane to Seattle. Unfortunately, my plan to get a good night's sleep the night before had backfired – thanks to the Dream, I was even more tired – so I kept myself busy during the flight so I wouldn't fall asleep. I wrote the strange Dream down in my journal, reread my grandmother's journal that I had with me in an unsuccessful attempt to find another Dream like mine, and read another book, unrelated to Dreams. Luckily, right after I finished that book, the plane started to descend – I was out of things to do.
Charlie drove me to his house in his police cruiser, which slowed down traffic, but we made it to his house in fairly good time. He left me alone to unpack, and only called me down stairs when dinner – which consisted of burnt fish sticks – was ready. I promised myself that I would take over the cooking from then on. I took a shower and washed the rain out of my hair, then – exhausted – went to bed. Charlie didn't comment on the early bedtime – I had such deep circles under my eyes that a blind man could have seen them. I collapsed into bed and fell asleep instantly. Thankfully, I slept without Dreaming, so I felt better in the morning. Not quite ready to take on my first day at Forks High School, but I doubted I would ever be ready for that. I got ready slowly, dragging my feet, but I was ready to go soon anyway. I shrugged into my heavy coat – necessary in Forks – and trudged out into the rain to my truck. The old red Chevy had been my homecoming present from Charlie. It was big, with a bulbous cab, and I loved every red, rusty inch of it. It looked sturdy, which was good for me. It's only flaw, as far as I could tell, was that it was very loud. Other than that, it served its purpose of getting me to school perfectly. A few heads turned when I pulled into the parking lot, but I went mostly unnoticed at first. But that stopped as soon as I set foot in my first period English class. Everyone turned to stare at me, and they didn't stop staring until the teacher started his lecture. Even then, they all managed to sneak glances back at me every few minutes. My face was scarlet the whole time. After class, a boy named Eric offered to show me to my next class, and he didn't look like he would take no for an answer, so I didn't try to dissuade him. A few other people introduced themselves in the other classes before lunch, including two girls named Jessica and Angela. When lunch finally did roll around, I sat with them at their usual table with some boys named Mike, Tyler, and Ben, and another girl named Lauren. She looked about as happy to be sitting with me as I was to be sitting there, which is to say, not very. I was trying to answer the flood of questions they aimed at me, wishing I could sink into the ground, when I saw them. My heart stopped. There were five of them, three males and two females. They were too pale, too beautiful, to be anything other than vampires. The females were opposites. One was tall, curvy, with long blond hair, and the other was short and very slender, with short, spiky black hair.
One of the males, the biggest one, was dark haired and muscled up like a professional wrestler. Another was just as tall as the big one but not as built, and blond. He looked subtly dangerous, like a sheathed sword. The third male, the youngest, perhaps, was also tall, but he was the most slender. Not that it mattered – he could crush every one of us humans. He had messy bronze-colored hair, and – to me, at least – was easily to most beautiful out of the three males. He was also very familiar. I had just Dreamed about him two days ago. This was the vampire who had killed Stephen Dodde. Deja vu. My heart beat faster. Sure, I'd Dreamed about vampires several times, but this was the first time I'd seen them in person. It was especially horrifying because I had seen firsthand what they could do, what they did regularly. And I couldn't act on my fear and run away from the cafeteria like I wanted to – they would surely notice and eventually realize that I knew about them, and then they would kill me. That was the rule, after all – no one must know about the existence of vampires. But it was so hard to sit in the same room with them! I gritted my teeth and made myself sit still. My new "friends" had finally started eating and talking amongst themselves, so I didn't have anymore questions to answer at the moment. But maybe I should be asking a few questions. I nudged Jessica. "Who are they?" I breathed in her ear. I knew they could hear me anyway. Jessica followed my eyes to the table full of vampires, but before she could answer, the bronze-haired male, the one I'd Dreamed about, looked at her for a fraction of a second, and then locked eyes with me. I felt the blood slither from my face. I dropped my eyes immediately, even though the vampire had already lost interest in me and looked away, too. Jessica giggled, her cheeks pink, and responded, "Those are the Cullens. They're Doctor Cullen's foster kids." I frowned slightly. This Doctor Cullen must have been a vampire, too – there was no way a human could live with vampires and not notice something different about them. That made six vampires all posing as a family – a huge group, by vampire standards. Vampires either traveled alone or in pairs outside the Southern armies and the Volturi.
But this was not the South, and the Volturi's headquarters was located in Italy. And they were going to school – with humans, no less. This was beyond weird. I looked back up at the group, wondering why they were so different from others of their kind. My eyes were drawn to theirs, even though I mentally shied away from the thought of red irises, but the Cullens didn't have red eyes. Their eyes were, as far as I could tell, dark brown. I knew that contacts could fake it, but their eyes looked natural. My frown deepened. "Have they always been here?" I asked. I didn't think so, but I wanted to know how long they had been living here. Jessica shook her head. "They moved here two years ago from Alaska." Two years. They had to have hunted a lot during that time – which was a long time for vampires to stay anywhere in the first place. How had they hidden their victims? Obviously, they weren't stupid enough to hunt in Forks, but even so, six vampires would have killed a lot of people in the surrounding areas in two years. "You said they're Doctor Cullen's foster kids?" I asked. Jessica nodded. "Yeah. The Hale twins, Rosalie and Jasper, the two blonds, are Mrs. Cullen's relatives or something. They adopted the others." Mrs. Cullen. So seven vampires. This was ridiculous. Vampires did not get along with each other as a general rule – another vampire was hunting competition. What made this coven so different? I glanced up at them again – only to see the bronze haired male staring at me. I looked away quickly, and asked for more information to distract myself. "You told me who Jasper and Rosalie are – who are the others?" Jessica warmed easily to the subject, so I assumed there was some good gossip coming. "Okay," Jessica began. "the big dark-haired guy is Emmett, the short black-haired girl is Alice, and the other one, the one with the reddish-brown hair, is Edward." She sighed, and looked off into space for a little while, probably contemplating Edward's hotness or something, before she got back on topic. She leaned forward. "And you know what's really crazy?" she asked, then
continued before I could respond, "They're all together! Like, together, together. Emmett is with Rosalie, and Jasper's with Alice – and they all live together!" I tried to pretend to be surprised, but I wasn't really – with so many vampires traveling with each other, some of them had to be mates. So the one I had Dreamed about was named Edward. I sneaked another glance at him, and this time he was frowning at his hands, which were folded on the table in front of him. Jessica saw me looking, though. She snickered. "Don't waste your time," she suggested. "Edward may be the only single one in his family, but apparently it's by choice. He doesn't date – I guess none of the girls here are good enough for him." Her voice had soured toward the end, and I hid a smile. Someone had gotten turned down. "Don't worry," I assured her. "I don't intend to wast any time on him." I shivered at the very thought. Then the bell rang, and I walked to my next class, Biology, with Angela. It was a quiet walk, much to my relief. But when we got to the classroom, I froze for a second. Edward Cullen was in this class, and the only open seat was right next to him. I would have to be his lab partner. Would my bad luck ever end? "Bella?" Angela murmured, "Are you okay? You look a little pale." I felt pale. I briefly considered playing sick and skipping the class, but my pride rebelled. Edward Cullen couldn't make me run away. Besides, I needed to pretend that he was normal. I forced a smile at Angela. "I'm fine," I promised. We continued forward into the room. The science teacher, Mr. Banner, nodded his head at the open seat beside Edward, and, trembling, I went to sit beside him. I gingerly sat down in the chair, and didn't look at Edward. But out of the corner of my eye, I saw him turn to look at me. He inhaled like he was going to talk to me. But he didn't. Because as soon as he breathed in, he went as rigid as a statue in his seat. I looked up at his face, startled. And then I almost fainted. The lines of Edward Cullen's beautiful face were hard and stiff. His eyes were narrow, glaring, and pitch black. There was a murderous rage in his eyes. He was looking at me like there was nothing he wanted to do more than kill me. And, in his case, drink my blood. I'd
seen the same look Edward had on his face on the faces of countless other vampires in my Dreams, right before they sank their teeth in to the throat of whoever the poor victim was. I'd seen that look in my Dreams, always right before the person I Dreamed about died. And now it was happening again. Only this time, it was happening in reality, to me. Edward Cullen was thirsty. And I smelled good. I was frozen, unable to do so much as scream. He was going to kill me. Right here, right now, right in the middle of a classroom full of kids. They would all panic, when they saw Edward lift his head from my soon-to-be-mangled neck, his lips coated in my blood. They would scream... and Edward would have to kill them all, too. No one can know the secret. Killing me would be a dead give away, and Edward would have to clean up after his mistake. I sat there, paralyzed, looking into Edward's black eyes. There was nothing I could do. I was so slow, so frail, so weak, compared to him. It was all over... but then Edward tore his gaze away from mine, and turned his face away. He stopped breathing. I trained my eyes on my desk, shaking violently. What was he doing? Why didn't he just kill me and get it over with? But he didn't move or breathe again during the class. It almost looked like he was...resisting. But why would he do that? That Biology class was the longest hour of my life. I kept waiting for him to snap and attack me, but he never did. He just sat there, tense and unmoving, until the bell rang. Then Edward jumped out of his seat and darted out of the room, before the bell even finished ringing. I still didn't move. I was stunned. For some reason, I was still alive. Chapter 3 I was still frozen for a few seconds after Edward almost ran out of Biology. Then I forced my hands to move and put my book back in my backpack, forced my legs to carry me out into the hall and toward Gym, my last period of the day. But I hadn't even taken five steps toward my destination when Mike found me. "What was with Cullen?" he demanded, shocked by Edward's behavior. I made my jaw unclench so I could answer him. "I don't know."
Mike glanced at me worriedly. My face was so white, and my eyes so wide that I couldn't blame him. "Hey, are you okay?" he asked. I nodded mechanically. "Fine." He didn't bring it up again, but I saw him shoot glances at me from the corner of his eye, like he was worried I might faint. But I was wrestling with the fear, forcing it down beneath the surface and off my face, so I wouldn't attract any more attention. I guess I succeeded, because by the time we reached the gym, Mike was chattering away at me again like nothing was wrong. But I was not all right. As I changed, I was thinking of reasons why Edward wouldn't have killed me, and my previous Dreams about vampires did not provide comforting answers. The one theory that made the most sense to me was that he was waiting, waiting until he could come after me with no witnesses present, so the secret would stay safe. And the most logical time for that would be at night, when the rest of the world slept. He would follow my scent into town... and it would lead him to Charlie's house. My stomach dropped. Could I leave? Run away, and lead him away from Charlie? I wasn't sure. He might still follow the scent to my house first, and when he didn't find me there, how would he react? Calmly enough to leave Charlie alone? I couldn't know that for sure – and I didn't want my father's death to be on my hands. I ran a shaking hand over my face. No, I couldn't leave. I couldn't risk my dad's life. Coach Clapp blew his whistle, and the other girls and I walked out onto the court for volleyball. I didn't pay attention to the game – not that I was any good at it anyway – and the rest of my team learned to not pass the ball to me after I – preoccupied – let one ball drop right int front of me. Finally, Gym was over, though, and I made my way to the school office to turn in a slip signed by all of my teachers. But, by a sinister twist of fate, he was there, too, trying to convince the secretary to let him into another sixth period class – any other class – in a velvet voice. Fear froze me in place again just inside the door to the office. Edward didn't look up, just kept persuading Mrs. Cope to let him into another class. I watched Mrs. Cope's face. I could see Edward's beauty and charm wreaking havoc on her resistance. She was just starting to cave when another girl, one I didn't know, opened
the office door and let the cold wind blow in. I knew what would happen even before Edward's hands clenched into hard fists and his back stiffened – the wind had blown my scent right to him – so my face was dead white before he turned slowly to glare at me with hateful, thirsty eyes. Maybe this was a better time for him to kill me. The only other human in the room was Mrs. Cope – the girl who had opened the door had already left. He would only have to kill two – so much easier than dealing with a roomful of people. Misery welled up in me. I didn't want to die now, much less like this. I knew that begging wouldn't do any good – my Dreams had made that abundantly clear. Still, I couldn't stop tears and a silent plea from filling my eyes. Edward turned swiftly back to Mrs. Cope, and said, " Never mind, then. I can see that it's impossible. Thank you so much for your help," in a rush, then turned around and started to walk quickly toward me. My heart thudded rapidly in terror, as he came toward me. He drew even with me... then brushed past me, close enough to touch, and walked out the door. He resisted and walked away again. I remembered from the times I'd Dreamed as a vampire just how painful the thirst was – white hot, like fire. It took an incredible amount of control to resist someone whose blood smelled appealing, control most vampires didn't care about having. But twice, Edward had stopped himself. It was almost like he didn't want to kill me! I was starting to wonder... but I couldn't get my hopes up. Mrs. Cope recovered from Edward's presence, and asked me how my day had gone. I mumbled some diplomatic reply, handed in my signed slip, and then made a beeline for my truck, which already felt like a safe haven, even though I knew that a vampire's hands could easily tear through the metal doors. I locked the doors, and drove home as fast as I could – which wasn't very fast; the truck's engine groaned ominously when I tried to take it over fifty. When I got home, I made sure the doors and windows were locked, which made me feel a little stupid – locks couldn't keep vampires out. But it made me feel safer, so I let it go. I was tense and twitchy. I couldn't hold still. All my senses were extremely acute, sharpened by the adrenaline that was being pumped into my bloodstream. Every little sound – the house
creaking, an especially loud gust of wind – made me jump. But I wasn't sure what I was expecting anymore. In Biology, I'd expected to die. In Gym, I'd expected Edward to kill me when doing so would be less messy. In the office, I'd expected him to kill me, since he'd had a perfect opportunity. But he hadn't. Now, I was halfway expecting him to kill me at night, but what if I was wrong again? Suddenly, that didn't seem so impossible. The Cullens were obviously different. Maybe different enough to let me live. One way or another, I'd find out soon enough. With that in mind, I forced myself to do my homework and make dinner for Charlie, though I was too anxious to eat much. I acted normal for Charlie, who didn't seem to notice anything unusual about my behavior. I took a shower, but put off actually going to bed until Charlie got up from the couch with a groan and advised me to get some sleep, because that was what he was going to do. I walked slowly up the stairs after him, my heart beating fast. After I entered my room, I shut the door behind me. My eyes scanned the shadows, searching for anything – anyone – that didn't belong. My search came up empty, but that didn't mean anything. I eased slowly farther into the room, and sat down on my bed. I rubbed my eyes. Tonight, I almost wished that I would Dream. It would be better – in a strange, slightly disturbing way – to loose myself in someone else's tragic ending, and be totally unaware of my own. Yes, I wanted to Dream – something I'd never thought would happen. And then, as if the Dreams had heard my thoughts, I started to feel a dull ache behind my eyes. I smiled tiredly. Well, I'm getting what I asked for, I thought as I covered my mouth with duct tape, but how much is it going to cost me? A pessimistic voice in the back of my head told me that it would cost me dearly, and, as I slipped into the Dream, I had a feeling it was right. The next morning, I opened my sore, dry eyes to the cloudy light of another day. I ungagged myself and grimaced – I'd pulled the tape off a little harder than I'd meant to. But the pain made me realize something that I'd somehow missed before – I was alive. Edward hadn't killed me in my sleep. My joy upon realizing this, however, was stifled by the memory of the Dream. I'd gotten my wish, had been transported to a different life, a different death, and my worries last night had come true – it had cost me. I licked my dry lips with my
equally dry tongue, then started coughing when the action scratched my also dry throat – an aftermath of the Dream of being lost in the desert, dying slowly as thirst parched my mouth, made my lips crack and bleed, made my tongue swell. I rolled off the bed and crawled to the bathroom – I was too weak to stand – where I went straight for the sink. I managed to drag myself up so my head was drooping down into it, then turned on the faucet full-blast. The cold water hit my head, filled my mouth, and then I was gulping down it like... well, like I'd been lost in the desert. After I drank about a gallon of water, I turned the faucet off and slithered down the sink and fell onto the floor, where I lay gasping for a long time. Then, when I felt a little better, I stood shakily and looked in the mirror, knowing exactly what I would see. But that didn't make the sight any easier. I looked like crap. My face was white, sallow, and drawn. There were purple circles under my eyes that could have been seen from a mile away. My hair was mussed and hopelessly tangled, and it drooped around my deathly pale face in a manner that made me look like I'd just crawled out of my grave. But I could have had perfect hair and I still would have looked like a zombie – I was drooping, too, like a dead flower. I looked... deflated. There were small lines around my mouth and eyes, because my lips were pressed so tightly together and my eyes were tight with pain. My mouth was swollen from the duct tape. In a nutshell, I looked like something had chewed me up, and spat me back out after it realized that I didn't taste so good. I grimaced at the mirror, and that made me look even more like a zombie. And I had to go to school today, too. I toyed with the idea of skipping – so appealing – but I didn't want to worry Charlie. I sighed and started attacking my hair with my brush – I had to start somewhere. After I got the tangles out, I pulled it back in a ponytail – I may have gotten the snarls out, but there was no way I could make it look good enough to wear down; I wasn't a miracle worker. I went downstairs and ate breakfast, and the rhythmic sound of my chewing helped deaden my mind, so the Dream wasn't as horrifying. I went back upstairs to brush my teeth, and looked in the mirror again. I was calmer now. The lines around my mouth and eyes had vanished. My cheeks had a little more color in them. I didn't look dead anymore. Tired and pale, yes, but I didn't look like someone who should be on Dawn of the Dead, which was a plus.
I finished up my morning routine, got in my truck, and started driving to school, with my hands clenched tightly on the steering wheel. I had another set of things to worry about now, such as Edward Cullen. I didn't know how to act, what to do. He hadn't killed me yesterday, but should I go to Biology today and tempt fate? But, as it turned out, I didn't need to worry – because Edward wasn't there that day, not in lunch, not in Biology. I saw his family gather around a silver Volvo after school, which I guessed was their car, but he wasn't with them, either. I watched them out of the corner of my eye. They were talking amongst themselves as they put their backpacks in the car's trunk. I thought Rosalie looked angry, Emmett looked carefree and slightly annoyed, Alice looked sad and troubled, and Jasper looked wary. But my staring at them didn't go unnoticed. Alice suddenly whipped her head around and met my gaze, and her siblings did the same. I felt my face flush, but I didn't quickly avert my gaze like someone else might have. Instead, I held Alice's gaze for a second longer, silently acknowledging that, yes, I was looking at her and, no, I wasn't going to be cowed by her, or her family. It probably wasn't very smart of me. But a slow smile started to spread across little Alice's face, and a mischievous twinkle lit up her dark eyes, even as Rosalie's face grew more angry. I thought I heard either Jasper or Emmett – probably Emmett – chuckle. Alice nodded her head gracefully in my direction, and then she and her brothers and sister got in the Volvo and drove away. Edward didn't come back to school for the rest of the week. Each day, I became more and more comfortable in my new school, each night, it was easier to go to sleep. I only had one more Dream that week, and I didn't Dream at all over the weekend, which stunned me. I hardly ever went so long without Dreaming. On Monday morning, I was actually well rested, something that I rarely experienced. The whole morning passed with out a hitch – I didn't even trip once. But when I walked into the cafeteria, and my eyes habitually looked to the Cullens' table, I froze. Five vampires were sitting at the table. Edward was back. Surprisingly, I wasn't very afraid. Edward had had countless opportunities to kill me by then – the first time we'd met, and every afternoon and night since then – and, since he hadn't taken advantage of them, I was ninety percent sure he didn't want to kill me. But I was still nervous as I bought my food and sat down at my usual table with Jessica, Mike, Angela, Lauren, Eric, Tyler, and
Ben. Again, I wasn't sure what to expect. I glanced at the Cullens – one in particular – every few seconds, but none of them ever looked back at me until lunch had almost ended. Then Edward had glanced up and met my eyes with a oddly curious expression, slightly tinted with frustration. But he didn't look angry or thirsty – in fact, his eyes were an incredible shade of golden brown that was beautiful and mesmerizing. I looked away from his intense eyes, trying to remember how to breathe. I was strangely drawn to Edward – curious and fascinated – and I knew just how foolish that was, but I couldn't help it. I would go to Biology, I decided. He didn't look thirsty, and I wanted to fish for information. Edward's Point of View I shouldn't have been doing this. It was arrogant, foolhardy, to risk this. But, even as I recognized that, I also knew that I wasn't going to be driven away from my home by a girl who smelled better than she ought to. So here I was, walking to Biology, hoping that the excessive hunting I had done the night before would be enough to keep me from killing the girl. The girl with the infuriatingly silent mind, the intriguingly deep brown eyes, so full of secrets I couldn't hear that I was about to burst with curiosity. The girl with the appallingly luscious, mouthwatering, scent. Isabella. Bella, as she preferred to be called. I took a deep breath of the clean air outside the classroom before I entered. My eyes found her immediately, sitting in the same place she'd sat in last week, drawing on her notebook. I sat down beside her, letting the chair scrape the tile floor so she would know I was there, and trying not to feel the heat she radiated. It was time to do some damage control. I had listened carefully to the minds that had noticed I was back, listening for any stories Bella might have told about my behavior last week, but had found none. Apparently, she hadn't told anyone, which made no sense. Humans liked to find similarities in their experiences – I'd thought that Bella would have asked around, found out if my exceptionally bad manners were reserved only for her or not. But, even if she hadn't told anyone, she still had to remember the look on my face, the hate there,
remember the way her eyes had teared up when I'd glared at her in the office. I needed to make her forget that, or make her think I'd just been having a really bad day. "Hello," I said politely. Bella looked up warily from her doodles – that was strange; I didn't see any fear in her face. Maybe this wouldn't be as hard as I'd imagined. "My name is Edward Cullen," I continued. "I didn't have a chance to introduce myself last week. You must be Bella Swan." Bella met my eyes briefly, then looked back down and started doodling again. "Yes," she answered, still not looking at me. "Yes" was an innocent enough answer, but it was so dissatisfying! It told me absolutely nothing. And she had looked away, so I couldn't even read her eyes. Maddening. But now I was out of oxygen. I held myself rigidly, so my body would remain in my control, and took a quick breath. Ahhh, I groaned silently. The thirst licked up and down my throat like flames, demanding Bella's blood to cool them. But the monster inside of me was still in my control – for now. I tried speaking again. "How are you liking Forks?" She met my eyes with an almost imperceptible grimace on her full lips. "It's too cold and too wet for my taste, but it's fine." I eagerly gleaned my first bit of information about her – she didn't like the cold and the rain. But that made me curious about something else. "If you don't like the cold or the rain, why did you move here?" It didn't make sense. Mr. Banner began his lecture on the phases of mitosis, but that was something I had memorized, so I didn't pay attention. Neither, I noticed, did Bella. That was interesting – had she studied this material before? She continued to draw on her notebook and avoid eye contact with me. She didn't look up when she answered. "It's complicated." I noticed the way her lips tightened. She doesn't want to talk about it, I realized. It's painful for her. But, inexcusably rude as it was, I pressed her. "I think I can keep up." Bella looked up then, with annoyance in her eyes, but when she looked at me, something she saw – I don't know what – made her
soften. Sadness filled her eyes. She looked away again, but she didn't start drawing. "My mom asked me to leave, okay?" she said, her voice low and pained. Anger filled me as I looked at the hurt on her face. No, it most certainly not okay. How dare her mother, whoever she was, do that to Bella? "Why?" I demanded. I wanted to hear the twisted logic behind causing Bella pain. No matter what Bella had done, it was nothing worth the sadness etched on her face. Of that I was sure. And the certainty that fact, and protectiveness I felt toward her were disconcerting. Bella looked at me again, but I could see the walls coming up behind her eyes, which were, at the moment, furious. "Did you get contacts?" She threw the words at me like a challenge. I frowned, confused both by her question and her tone. "No." "Huh," Bella almost growled. Her eyes were hard, and her next words held a warning. "Because I could have sworn there's something different about your eyes." I felt my face become expressionless. Her warning was quite clear, unmistakable: don't push me, or I'll push you. She had noticed the differences about me, and she was by no means less suspicious of me – and, I suspected, what I was – than she had been the day I'd nearly killed her. But her defensiveness had me wondering – what exactly was she defending so fiercely? But I backed off – I didn't want to scare her away. Her eyes still held mine, waiting for a reply. I gave her a grudging smile. "Warning heeded," I murmured. "Shall we talk about something else?" She relaxed a little, but her eyes were still guarded. "Such as?" Mr. Banner had finished his short lecture, and we weren't the only ones talking. I remembered than she hadn't paid attention the what Mr. Banner had been teaching. "You didn't look very interested in what Mr. Banner had to say," I noted. Bella looked relieved at the subject change. She rolled her eyes. "I've
already studied this before." Mr. Banner overheard her comment, and he was surprised – he had taken today's lesson out of a more advanced program. He was wondering if Bella had been in the advanced program in Phoenix. I thought about that. It seemed likely – I could easily picture Bella in that situation. She was intelligent. "Neither did you," Bella observed. I chuckled, and Bella smiled slightly when I did. That, for some reason, lifted my spirits. "I've studied it before, too." Countless times in every different high school I'd attended in the past eighty years. Bella's face tightened slightly, and she looked away again. "I bet you have," she muttered darkly, then glanced quickly up at me and clenched her jaw like she was afraid she'd said too much. But before I could ask her what she meant, the bell rang, and Bella wasted no time in collecting her books and hurrying out of the classroom. I followed at a slower pace, and let her rush ahead of me. I realized, with a start, that, while the thirst had indeed been painful throughout the hour, my curiosity had distracted me from it. I walked to my next class, mulling it over. Was curiosity enough to keep me from killing Bella? I had to hope so, and not just because I would regret taking a human life. I thought it would cause me actual pain to hurt Bella now. Chapter 4 Bella's Point of View For the next two days, Edward talked to me in Biology. We kept all conversations to light topics, but I could still sense that Edward was taking everything in, cataloging all my likes and dislikes, every little quirk of my personality, just like I was doing with him. And the most surprising fact? I didn't mind it one bit. I knew that the closer Edward got to me, the closer he would get to all the secrets that I knew could get me killed, but I didn't mind. If I was going down, I reasoned, at least I would get to spend time with Edward on the way. When I'd first seen Edward, I had been worried about being in the same room with him. Now my concerns were much worse – I was falling in love with
him, which was about as stupid as it gets. He was a vampire, for crying out loud! He had killed people – I knew that firsthand. But already I was brushing those facts aside, forgetting their significance. It was so easy being with Edward, besides the fact that sometimes when he looked at me his beauty would stun me and my heart would try to jump out of my chest. But there was so much more to him than his beauty. From what little I'd learned about him during our conversations, I knew that he was very loyal to his family. He was kind, and polite, and considerate, and strong... I couldn't help falling in love with him. And I didn't really want to help it. He was so fascinating! Every time I looked at his eyes, I almost burst with curiosity. What made them gold? And then, the other question, a little darker than the first, that I'd wanted an answer to for a long time – why hadn't he killed me? I know you're not supposed to look a free horse in the mouth, but I couldn't help but wonder. The only time in those two days the Edward withdrew into a cold silence was few minutes after Mike asked me to come with a group to La Push for a day at the beach and I'd agreed. At first I'd wondered why he seemed so distant. Was it because Mike had so conspicuously excluded him from the invitation? That didn't sound like Edward, but I invited him to go with us anyway, just in case. Edward had smiled, though his eyes had remained a little tight, and declined. I asked him why, but he never gave me a straight answer. I let it go, with difficulty. That weekend, I drove out to Mike's dad's store, which was the designated meeting place for everyone going to the beach with our group. We all crammed into a couple cars, and were on our way. When we stopped and everyone piled out of the cars, I felt a thrill of excitement. I'd forgotten just how much I loved this beach, with its dramatic cliffs and pebbly shore. I closed my eyes and inhaled, smelling the salt-smell of the sea, and listened to the surf churning on the rocks. This was one of the few things about Forks I'd actually looked forward to in Forks as a child. Now, of course, I had other things to look forward to. Namely, one bronze-haired vampire whose absence I could feel like a nagging pain. I walked down closer to the beach with the rest of my friends, but went ahead when they stopped to get a fire going. I walked as close to the waves as I could without getting wet, and stopped there, closing my eyes again. The rhythm of
the water on the shore calmed me. A gust of wind, a little stronger than the others, blew sea spray against my face. I sighed. "You like the beach, huh?" inquired a husky, unfamiliar voice. It was right next to me, and seemed to have come out of nowhere – I gasped and jumped, my eyes flying open and focusing on the tall dark-skinned boy, from the Quileute reservation, maybe, who was now suddenly standing beside me. He took a step back and held his hands up in the universal "calm down" sign. "Sorry," he said sheepishly. "I didn't mean to scare you." I blinked at him, still surprised, so he introduced himself. "I'm Jacob Black," he said. "You bought my dad's truck." "Oh," I said, relaxing, and shook his hand. "You're Billy's son. I think I remember you." He did look vaguely familiar – his smile, his eyes – but I wasn't quite sure. "So you like the beach?" Jacob repeated. I faced the ocean again. "Yeah," I replied simply. Now that I was more aware of my surroundings, I could hear the clattering of the stones behind us as someone else joined Jacob and me. "Hi, Jacob," Jessica chirped, "You know Bella?" "Ever since we were little," Jacob confirmed cheerfully. "Good," Jessica said. "You can keep Bella company, then, since her date bailed." Mike and the rest of the group had come up behind us by then, so he and a few other people heard Jessica's comment. "What date?" Mike, Eric, and Tyler demanded in unison. I felt my cheeks heating up. I kept my eyes focused on the waves. Jessica giggled. "Angela told me she invited Edward." I turned to face them before they could jump to conclusions. "Just to be polite." Lie. "Besides," I added, "he didn't bail – he just couldn't come."
A group of a few more teenagers from the reservation snorted. "Heck no, he couldn't," muttered one of them. I frowned. What did that mean? But then Mike called out an invitation to go see some tidal pools, and everyone started waling up a trail, so I didn't get a chance to ask. Besides, I had a feeling that they wouldn't tell me anyway. I followed the group with Jacob by my side, talking the whole way. He certainly seemed friendly... and an idea popped into my head. It was stupid, and I didn't really like it, but it would more than likely work. First of all, I needed to get Jacob alone for a few minutes. When we reached the tidal pools, I waited until everyone else was throughly absorbed in them before I turned to Jacob and asked him to come look at one of the more isolated pools with me. He agreed immediately. When we got there and sat down on a relatively dry outcropping of rock, I gave him a few minutes of quiet before I asked, "Hey, what did your friends mean when they said that Edward couldn't come here?" Jacob made a face. "It's just an old legend. Totally stupid." Time to work the magic I'd learned from the mind of a female spy I'd Dreamed about once. I nudged him playfully in the side, and looked teasingly up at him from beneath my eyelashes. Jacob swallowed. "Come on," I urged. "I like old legends." Jacob looked back at the tidal pool and fidgeted with the hem of his shirt. "I'm not really supposed to tell," he admitted. I leaned a little closer. "Don't worry," I soothed quietly. "I'll take it to the grave." Oh my gosh, I felt so stupid. This couldn't be working... but it was. "Okay," Jacob consented, looking back at me with a smile. "So," he said, and leaned back against the rock we were sitting on. "First, you should know the legends about where we came from. I won't go into detail or we'll be here for a while, but the legends say we – the Quileutes – are descendants of the wolves." I started. "Wolves?"
"Well, not wolves, really," Jacob corrected himself. "The men who turned into wolves. Your people call them werewolves. Now, the wolves have one bitter enemy that they hate with incredible intensity. The legend says that the Cullen family is a group of those enemies, but they're not quiet the same. They claim to be different, not as dangerous, because they lived off of animals instead of their natural food source – humans." Jacob worked a thick edge of disgust into his voice. "The cold ones, as we call them, promised to stay off our land in return for our silence. If they didn't set foot on our lands, then we wouldn't expose them," he paused to wink at me, "to the pale-faces." I'd already learned more than I'd expected to in this conversation – that the Cullens' eyes were gold because they fed off animals, that there was a treaty between the Cullens and the Quileutes, and that the Quileute Indians knew what they were – but I had a part to play. "So what are they?" I whispered. Jacob lowered his voice too. "Blood drinkers," he replied ominously. "Or, as they are more commonly called, vampires." I gasped and laughed at the story with Jacob like a good little actress, then we went back to the main group and ate around a driftwood fire, which burned green and blue. The trip was over in what felt like no time. I went home and mulled over what I'd learned, rejoiced that Edward and his family didn't kill people anymore, and did homework. But on Sunday night, as if to purposely put a damper on my happiness, I had a menacing Dream about another one of the Cullens. My name was Royce King, Jr. I was huddled in a small room, behind a thick, well guarded door, clutching a bottle in my hands, trying to drink away the fear that made me tremble. All the others were dead, all gruesomely killed with small clues left behind, hinting that someone was taking their revenge. John had been the latest victim, and they'd found only one piece of evidence near his body – a small brass button. I had an idea why all of this was happening. After all, the only thing the five of us had done that was worthy of such a quest for revenge was the ... incident... with Rosalie. I remembered that night. We'd waited for her, drunk, and things had happened... and
Rosalie had died. Or so everybody thought. Her body had never been found. But there had been so much blood – all of had been sure she was dead. I was torn from my train of thought when I heard two muffled but still sharp cracks outside the door, which was as thick as that of a bank vault. "Hello?" I called. "Is everything all right?" Nobody answered. I got up from the bed I'd been lying on, and cautiously approached the door. Why was no one answering me? Hesitantly, I unlocked the door – it was locked from the inside – and opened it. My eyes took a moment to adjust to the darkness. Then my stunned eyes took in the scene before me. Two bodies lay limply on either side on the door, obviously dead – my guards. And there was a woman, an incredible beautiful woman, dressed in a wedding dress, waiting for me. She flipped back her gauzy veil, revealing even more of her perfect features and lustrous blond hair, and spoke. "Hello, Royce." Her voice was just as beautiful as her face, like golden bells chiming, but something about the way she said my name sounded familiar. I looked closer, trying to remember. Maybe something: the shape of her mouth, the overall structure of her face underneath all that beauty. I squinted, and the woman showed her teeth in a terrible smile and glided noiselessly toward me. "Don't you recognize me, Royce?" Again, the way she said my name struck me as familiar. "You should," she told me, still coming slowly forward, the train of her dress swishing on the floor. "After all," she whispered. "you did kill me." Then it hit me. Rosalie. Rosalie Hale. My fiancée, the woman I'd raped and left for dead. The blood drained from my face. Rosalie saw it when I recognized her. Her smile vanished. "I saved you for last," she breathed. "I wanted you to know that I was coming for you." Her eyes flickered to the dead guards, and the thick door I'd been behind. "Apparently it worked." I staggered back until I was against the wall. "Please,"I blubbered. "Please, Rosie, don't." I didn't see her hand flash out and strike me with incredible force across the face, but I definitely felt it. "Don't," she snarled, her eyes
flashing, "say my name. You have no right to ask me for anything, especially mercy." I heard her words, but I couldn't help but try again. "Please," I begged. "I'm sorry, Rose." "Shut up!" she shrieked, her bell like voice shooting up several octaves. Her hands clenched into hard fists. "You're sorry? You're sorry? You ruined my life! Nothing will ever be good again, and it's all your fault!" she continued loudly, shrilly. Then she laughed, a strangled choked laugh, and looked at me with anguished fire in her eyes. "You ended my life," she said lowly and menacingly. "And no matter how much you beg and scream, I am going to end yours." And, very slowly, she did. I wanted to die a long time before she finished me off. Only after she had broken each of my bones – though nothing she ever did made me bleed – and carefully dislocated each of my joints and did a few other things that, lost in the haze of pain as I was, I couldn't figure out, did she lean down and whisper in my ear. "What were you going to do, Royce? Marry another girl if she lived through the engagement? Run the bank someday? Have children?" Her voice twisted around the last question like it hurt her to say it out loud. "No," she continued softly, "you will never have those things." Rosalie lowered her voice even more. "If I can't have my life, then you can't have yours." She flipped onto my back, ignoring me when I screamed again in pain. Her cold, stony hands wrapped around my throat. She told me to go to the hot place, and her hands tightened, tightened, until I couldn't breathe. I choked and clawed at her hard hands with my mangled, broken fingers, all to no avail. My lungs were burning. I struggled, but could not get free. My vision went dark around the edges, until the only thing I could see was Rosalie's beautiful face, livid with fury and loss. That was the last thing I saw before the darkness claimed me, and my eyes closed forever. I sat bolt upright in bed, my hands still tearing at the skin around my throat, trying to push away phantom hands. I yanked the duct tape off my mouth and dropped my hands from my neck, and focused on hacking and coughing and trying to pull air into my burning lungs. When I had caught my breath, I winced. I had scratched my neck up
on accident, and it stung. I didn't think I'd broken the skin, which was good. I'd probably have to wear something with a high neck today, though. I pondered the Dream as I got ready for school. I could hardly blame Rosalie for her actions. I had Dreamed of being assaulted before, and the feeling of being helpless, broken, and weak, along with the humiliation was enough to make anyone want to hurt the one who had done that to her. Clearly, she had been greatly affected by losing her human life. Something she had said, the tone of her voice when she'd asked Royce about children, made me think she resented her new life because having children was no longer an option for her. Not that I wanted kids – any child of mine might receive the Dream trait, and I would never inflict the Dreams on anyone, much less on my child. But I could still understand. I drove to school carefully that day – during the night, rain had fallen and frozen, making the roads slick and deadly. I parked my truck in the student section of the parking lot, and cautiously got out of my truck. Once I was sure of my footing, I reached over into the passenger seat to get my notebook, which I had thrown unceremoniously into my truck after school last Friday. Once I had it in my hand, I shut the truck's door and was about to stuff the notebook into my backpack when I saw Edward Cullen standing by his car across the lot. He was looking at me. I met his eyes for a brief moment, but when my attention was diverted, my notebook slipped from between my fingers onto the wet pavement. I quickly reached down to get it – it had notes for an English test on Wednesday in it – and heard a strange noise. It was a metallic screech, and it was fast becoming painfully loud. I looked up, startled, still bent over, and saw Tyler Crowley's van skidding on the ice, coming right for the back end of my truck. And I was in between the two vehicles. It would crush me, kill me, no doubt. I was going to die. Here I'd spent all this time worrying about Edward killing me, and I was going to die in something as innocent as a car crash. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Edward's face, staring toward me in horror. And then, not even a second later, something hard hit me, and I was airborne for a moment before slamming into the cold concrete. I could still see Tyler's van coming. It hit the corner of my truck bed, and then curled gratingly around it and started coming toward me again. A voice cursed quietly but fiercely in my
ear. I recognized it easily. Edward's long white hands shot out in front of my face, just in time to keep it from hitting me. But now the van was suspended over my legs, and Edward was the only thing that kept the van from crushing them. He groaned in exasperation and jerked me out of the way before he let the van fall onto the asphalt. Then it was over. There was a short silence before everyone started screaming. I didn't pay any attention to them. I had seen Edward stop a moving van with his hands, and hold it up while he moved me out of the way. I had witnessed something that made it obvious that he was not human. That was the exact thing the Volturi killed people for! Edward had saved my life, but that action would get me killed. I felt the blood leave my face. "Bella," Edward said franticly, "are you all right?" No, I wanted to shout back. But I couldn't. I tried to sit up, but Edward held me down, cautioning me, since I'd hit my head. I ignored him, and sat up anyway, shifting in the cramped space between my truck and Tyler's van so I could stare at Edward in white-faced horror. He looked back at me, his expression worried, and then confused when he saw my face. "Bella," he repeated, frowning, "are you all right?" I couldn't force my frozen lips to answer, and then we were surrounded by people, so I didn't have to. An ambulance came, and I was loaded onto a stretcher and taken to the hospital. The doctors did an X-ray and MRI of my head, then put me in a room with Tyler in the hospital bed next to me. I watched everything in a haze, never speaking. I was too afraid of what I knew was coming – the Volturi would find out what I had seen. If Aro was in one of his more curious moods, he might have me brought to Volterra, instead of just sending someone to kill me. He would shake my hand... and everything I knew, everything I had ever Dreamed would be revealed to him. And once he discovered that I had an ability like that, he would never let me go. But maybe there was a little hope. If I could pretend that I hadn't seen anything, then maybe, maybe, I could live through this. The chance was slim, at best. Then Doctor Cullen walked through the door, with Edward by his side. Doctor Cullen was blond, just as beautiful as the rest of his family, and looked to be in his early twenties. He gave me a friendly smile. I couldn't smile back – I just looked at him with wide eyes and
a pale face. He frowned slightly in concern, and started to examine my head. As he did so, he asked me a few questions – did this hurt, how did I feel, things like that. I made myself respond positively. I was doing a good job just to manage that – I was so out of it, I didn't even have the spare emotion to be fascinated that neither Edward nor Doctor Cullen attacked Tyler, even though he had scratches on his face that were still bleeding. Doctor Cullen finished feeling my head, but he was still frowning, obviously not satisfied with his answers. He came around in front of me and shone a light in each of my eyes, but seemed to find nothing, so he – obviously not liking that he did so – asked Edward to walk me to the waiting room, where my father was waiting. But Edward pulled me down an empty hallway, and stared anxiously at my face. "Are you sure you're fine?" he asked. I nodded mechanically. He didn't look convinced, and asked me again, "Bella, are you really sure that you're all right?" I don't know why it happened, but it did. I snapped. "Am I all right?" I squeaked, looking up at Edward's face with a combination of terror and fury on my face. "Am I all right? Of course I'm not all right! Do you have any idea what you've done?" Edward was not expecting my reaction. He was stunned. "I saved your life," he stated, and looked like he was about to call Doctor Cullen out here, to tell him I was insane. I grabbed a fistful of his shirt. "You signed the order for my execution!" I sounded like I was choking. Edward's jaw dropped. It took him a couple seconds to respond. "What?" "Don't you understand?" I cried. "If the Volturi find what I saw, I -" Edward suddenly focused on me with an almost frightening intensity. "What? What did you just say?" he demanded. I had to think about it for a moment before I remembered. Then I felt my face go a whole new shade of white. I snatched my hand away
from his shirt like it had suddenly caught on fire. I had basically just told him that I knew what he was. I was definitely dead now. I stared up at his shell-shocked face for a second before my vision went dark and I fainted. Chapter 5 Edward's Point of View I forced my arms – which had been frozen with shock – to catch Bella before she hit the ground. But other than that, I couldn't move, so I just stood there, holding her, reeling. She knew about the Volturi, the system of laws that governed our world, and therefore must know what my family was. And I hadn't known that she knew, because I couldn't read her mind. This was...unexpected, to say the least, but it did explain a few things – certain comments she'd made, the utter terror on her face when we'd first met; because she had known. Of course she had been so incredibly frightened. She had known exactly what I'd wanted to do to her – what a part of me still wanted to do. And her unprecedented knowledge also explained the confusion I'd often seen in her eyes. She must be very confused, dying to know why I hadn't killed her as soon as I'd become aware of her irresistible scent – no pun intended. After all, any knowledge she had of vampires was probably focused on the majority of our kind, the ones who hunted humans. One of them would have had no problems with drinking her blood in the middle of that classroom, and slaughtering the whole school if need be afterwards, if that was what it took to cover up the crime. As long as one of the more traditional vampires could have had the blood that called to them so strongly, nothing would have been too high a price. Bella probably knew that, which no doubt just made him more confused. My mind considered all of this in a second before I regained control. I quickly scooped Bella up into my arms – and I was not delighted to have a chance to do so, I told myself sternly – and went back into the room we'd just come out of at a fast – by human standards – pace, where Carlisle was still examining Tyler's cuts. But even though Carlisle seemed occupied with Tyler, his face was whiter than usual, and his mind betrayed the chaos that was beneath his calm mask. He'd heard everything. But he had to keep up the charade. He looked
up when I, carrying Bella's unconscious form, entered the room, false shock on his face. "She fainted while we were walking," I said as I placed Bella gently on the other hospital bed in the room, and I didn't have to make my voice tense. "I don't know what happened." Carlisle forgot Tyler, who gaped open-mouthed at Bella, and rushed over to me and Bella, and started to look at her head again. "I think she's fine," he whispered, so quietly and so quickly that Tyler didn't have a hope of hearing him. "No wonder she was looking odd! There wasn't anything on the x-ray, and I didn't see anything wrong, but she looked like she was in shock. She was just so frightened... and then when she let slip that she knew... she must know how the Volturi handles things like this. She must be terrified." I could only imagine. I had seen her fear when she had yelled – well, tried to yell – at me in the hall. She was terrified, and with good reason. And she was right, to a certain degree – it was my fault, in a way. But also wrong, because I would never tell Aro or his brothers what had happened, nor would I kill her myself. Carlisle wouldn't either – I could see that much in his mind. I thought Esme would also side with me, and Alice, but the others would want to kill Bella. Would insist upon it. There was going to be a fight tonight, a fight unlike one my family had ever had. Because I would not give in. And, neither, I suspected would Rosalie and Jasper. Emmett might be swayed, but Rosalie and Jasper would be difficult. Jasper especially. Rosalie might be softened by Emmett, and Carlisle might also have some influence over her, but Jasper would be a different story. His time in the South had taught him a healthy respect for the Volturi, and their laws. And Bella's knowledge of our secret would put the family in danger, and therefore endanger Alice. In Jasper's mind, that was not an option. No threat to Alice would be allowed to exist. Ever. The only one who would be able to stop him from destroying anything that might hurt Alice was Alice herself, and, though I doubted it, Bella's knowledge of the vampire world might change the future Alice saw, and make her change her mind. Again, I doubted it, but Alice had surprised me before. Carlisle had Bella transferred to a private room, and told her father that she would need to stay overnight for observation. Police Chief
Swan wanted to stay with Bella, but Carlisle convinced him that she was fine, and he was able to go back to work. Charlie, though worried, listened to him and left. Carlisle then called the Esme from his cell phone and told her to come to the hospital with the rest of the family discreetly when night had fallen. Bella had been drugged so she would sleep until that time, and I was assigned to stay with her on the off chance she woke up. I didn't mind. Her breathing was a gentle background noise, soothing. I looked at her face. She really was beautiful, even drugged and asleep. But there were deep circles under her eyes, like she hadn't slept well the night before. I frowned – I didn't like that idea. There were also red marks on her neck, like something had scratched her. I liked that idea even less. The thought that something had hurt her... it made me angry. Very angry. The violent emotion distracted me. My feelings about Bella were stronger than they had a right to be. When Mike had asked her to go to the beach, even though the outing included a group of friends, I had wanted to hurt him. And then, when she'd agreed, the worry – almost fear – had set in. Did she like the generic, ordinary boy? Did his blandness somehow please her? And why did I care? Bella would eventually marry and have a family – I knew that. So why did the thought inspire such a fierce ache in my chest? She couldn't care about me – she was smart to know that I was a monster. But Bella had turned to me, looking concerned, and asked me to come. The joy that swelled in me because of that simple question was confusing. As was the disappointment, for I knew they were going to First Beach in La Push, and that was off-limits to me and my family. But my spirits had been lifted slightly when Bella's face had fallen after I'd declined. She'd wanted me to go. And that made me too happy. I thought that maybe I could see what was happening. I thought that maybe... I was in love with Bella. Or was getting there. She was all I thought about now. My feelings were directly linked to her and her actions. One little smile could send me soaring. One glance could quicken my breath. When she came to school with dark rings under her eyes and a haunted look about her, I almost imploded with the need to find out what was hurting her and fix it, whatever it was. And it was so wrong of me to feel that way. I should not love her. It was dangerous for her, and she knew it. But then, why did she seem so comfortable with me? Why did her face light up when she walked into Biology and saw me sitting at our
table? I was so lost in my thoughts that dark seemed to come quickly. And all too soon, my family was filing quickly and silently through the room door. Carlisle closed the door quietly. Esme was puzzled. "What happened? Why are we here?" she asked. Usually, my family tried to stay away from the hospital, and the blood that was guaranteed to be there. "I'm afraid there is an emergency," Carlisle breathed. He nodded to where Bella lay sleeping. "She knows," he stated simply. Rosalie frowned. "Knows what?" she demanded. But Jasper looked first at Bella, then at Carlisle's grim expression, and his face hardened. "What do you think Rosalie?" he growled. "She knows." Everyone's face paled, except Alice's. "How?" Rosalie hissed furiously, throwing a glance at me. I scowled. "I didn't tell her anything," I snapped at her. "Of course not," Esme murmured. "Edward wouldn't have, Rosalie. You know that." "Then who did?" he snarled softly, wary of the other humans in the hospital. "No one," I soothed her. "I think she found out from somewhere else." Rosalie's eyes flashed with intuition. "The humans went to the beach Friday," she reminded us. "Did one of the Quileutes tell some of their legends?" "No." That voice didn't belong to anyone in my family. We all spun around, too fast, and saw that Bella's eyes were open. "Nobody told me anything," she whispered defiantly, her chin raised proudly. But I could see the fear behind her bravado. "There's no reason to start a war – the treaty was never broken. Leave them alone."
Rosalie narrowed her eyes at Bella, who didn't even flinch. "If they had nothing to do with it, then how do you know about he treaty?" she asked, a deadly note in her voice. Rosalie's tone of voice made me angry. I stepped between her and Bella as if to shield the girl behind me. "Enough," I warned Rosalie. Bella ignored the obstruction I made, and answered Rosalie anyway. "Do you honestly think I'm going to tell you?" Rosalie leaned around me and bared her teeth at Bella. "You have no idea what I'm capable of, girl," she informed Bella. I showed my own teeth at Rosalie and stepped in front of her again. A strangled laugh came from behind me. It was filled with regret and anguish, the sound of a world-weary person who has seen many horrible things. It sounded so strange – I had to turn around to make sure it was indeed coming from Bella. It was. Her face was rock hard. When she stopped laughing and looked at Rosalie again, her eyes were filled with secrets and awful knowledge. "Wanna bet, Ice Barbie?" she asked, and the threat in her voice sounded just as valid as the threat in Rosalie's. Like she knew things that Rosalie didn't want her to know. But Rosalie didn't notice, because rather than acknowledge the eerie light in Bella's eyes, she just growled, "What did you call me?" Bella's angry, sarcastic mask started to slip. "What are you, the world's first deaf vampire?" she inquired. I winced when I heard her beautiful voice say the word. Rosalie crossed her arms. "You know, you're being really rude," she pointed out. Bella's true feelings rose even closer to the surface. Her eyes filled with tears. "And you aren't?" she retorted, her voice a little shrill. "Besides," she added, and her voice cracked. The tears spilled over her cheeks. "you're going to kill me. Forgive me if I'm a little hostile." And then the mask slipped away entirely, exposing the raging terror
and grief she had been trying to keep hidden. Her breath hitched in her throat, and she started crying in earnest. Jasper felt her fear, her anguish, and then her shame when she lost control. Bella curled up into a ball on her hospital bed and buried her face in her knees rather than let us witness her humiliation. She tried to muffle the sound of her weeping, but her sobs still shook her frail shoulders. It was too much. My dead heart clenched painfully and my head felt like it was going to explode. I wanted to gouge my eyes out rather than watch this. I needed to make her stop crying or it would kill me. I needed to make it better. I couldn't stand it. I moved so fast I would have been a blur to human eyes. One second I was standing in front of Bella, staring down at her in horror as she cried, and the next I was right beside her, pulling her into my arms. It did not require thought on my part. It was like the most basic of instincts – Bella was in pain. I needed to stop the pain. So easy. I cradled her to my chest and turned slightly so I was between her and the rest of my family. Protecting her. "Shh," I whispered, almost franticly. "It's all right. They won't hurt you." I looked over my shoulder, first at Rosalie, to glare at her for making Bella cry, and then at Jasper. "I won't let them," I promised her, but I was also speaking to Jasper, who was pondering the protective anger he felt coming off me. I met his eyes, silently telling him that, if he tried to touch Bella, I would stop him. For a moment, I was slightly disturbed – would I fight my brother to protect a girl I hardly knew? But the answer came swiftly. Yes. I would not hurt him, but I would keep him back. Jasper's eyebrows rose, but he didn't move. Bella froze for a second against me, and for one horrible moment, I thought she was going to pull away. She did think we were there to kill her. But then she relaxed, almost timidly. "You have to," she whispered, her face still hidden. "The laws are clear." There was no hope in her voice. Her next words were a tear choked moan. "I didn't want to die like this," she whispered desperately. "You won't," I said fiercely. "You can't promise that," Jasper told me. He felt a considerable amount of pity for Bella, but he brushed it aside. Protect Alice. He had to protect Alice. "She is right – the laws are clear."
"Very," Rosalie agreed. Unlike Jasper, she felt nothing for the girl I held. "We don't have a choice." She looked to Emmett for support, but he was looking at Bella – who had stopped crying, but was still cringing into my chest – with a pained look on his face. He may not have minded if I'd killed Bella, but he felt terrible watching her cry. It was not in his nature to hurt people. Annoy them, maybe, but not this. Esme, Alice, and Carlisle had similar looks on their faces. It was all Esme could do to keep running to Bella and stroking her hair in motherly concern. Carlisle almost wished a hole would open up in the ground and swallow him, he felt so horrible. And Alice was trying to not slap Rosalie. Jasper was still taking in my emotions, noting the frantic desire to comfort and protect Bella, and a theory was beginning to develop in his mind. Edward, he asked slowly in his mind, are you... in love with her? I didn't answer him. "There is always a choice," I shot back at Rosalie. "Edward's right," Carlisle murmured. "We cannot end an innocent life." Esme was thrilled and relieved that Carlisle agreed with her. She took his hand and smiled at him. "Rose," Emmett began, wincing a little when she glared at him. "You know I love you, but... I'm with Carlisle on this one." We all looked at Jasper. He met each of our gazes, and shook his head. "I will not allow Alice to live in danger," he said quietly but firmly. "I will do what needs to be done." Bella shuddered, and I tightened my hold around her. "No," I countered softly. "You won't." I started to really focus on his mind, looking at his plans and making my own in response. Jasper and I sized each other up, deciding how serious the other was. "Enough." Alice spoke for the first time. She looked at her husband. "Jasper, I know you love me, and I appreciate that you want to
protect me, but Bella and I will be very good friends one day. I will be very put out with you if you kill her before I can get to know her. Besides, Edward is serious, and I will be very put out with both of you if the fight I see coming actually happens." Jasper was shocked. He started to waver. If Alice was going to like Bella... "Alice," he began. She cut him off. "No. Don't hurt her." Bella looked up hesitantly at her. Alice winked at her. "We girls have to stick together," she reminded Bella. "Besides, I don't see you telling anyone." Bella's mouth mashed into a thin line. "I can't," she replied. "It is a death sentence for anyone I tell. Why do you think I haven't told anyone before?" Rosalie was not satisfied. "We can't trust her," she insisted. Bella looked at her. "Why don't you make a treaty with me?" she suggested. Carlisle looked at her curiously. "What do you mean?" Bella looked at her hands as she explained. "You made a treaty with the Quileutes," she said. "Why not do the same with me? I will promise not to tell anyone, and you promise not to kill me unless I break my end of the deal." "And how do we know we can trust you?" Rosalie growled. Bella's eyes flashed. "Because I want to live to a ripe old age and die in my sleep, not at age seventeen and be killed by a vampire." Emmett chuckled. "She's got spunk," he allowed. Carlisle smiled. "Those sound like reasonable terms," he told Bella, then stepped forward to shake her hand. "We have an agreement." Bella shook his hand, then glanced up at me. A blush turned her cheeks scarlet. "Uh," she began, "could you put me down now?"
"Ah." I hadn't even considered that she might be a little uncomfortable with me holding her so closely to me now that the danger had passed. I gently – reluctantly – placed her back on the hospital bed, a little embarrassed with my families' eyes scrutinizing my face. Bella's face remained flushed. Carlisle sat down in one of the plastic chairs in the room, and we all followed his example. "So," he said lightly, "how do you know about us?" Bella's tiny smile vanished. She looked down. "I can't tell you," she muttered. "Why?" I asked. "If I tell you, Aro could find out. And then he'd haul me to Italy and do God knows what to me." Bella shivered. "We wouldn't tell him," Esme promised Bella, and patted her hand. Bella didn't appear to mind to contact. "You wouldn't be able to help it," Bella said, her face dark. "All he would have to do is touch you, and he would know." We all exchanged glances. So she knew about Aro's power. What else did Bella know? Rosalie interrupted our speculation. "So now what do we do?" she complained. "We can't stay here now that she knows." Carlisle sighed and rubbed his eyes. "We'll talk about it," he murmured. He stood. "We should let Bella get some sleep," he observed. "Goodnight." "Goodnight," Bella answered, her face troubled. My family filed out, all but Rosalie nodding goodbye to Bella as they passed. I was the last to get to the door. I didn't want to leave.
I was dragging my feet, unwilling to walk out of the room, when Bella whispered, "Wait." I motioned for the rest of my family to go ahead, and went back, trying not to show how happy I was to do what she asked. I sat back down in the chair closest to her bed. "Yes?" I whispered Bella wouldn't look at me. She opened her mouth to speak, but closed it again, and cast her eyes around the room until she found what she was looking for – a pen and medical form on her bedside table. She snatched them up and wrote something on the back of the form, which she handed to me. I read her note. Will you leave Forks now? I wrote back something that was both true and saddening, for leaving was a good possibility. I don't know. Bella hesitated for a moment before she wrote her reply, then wrote it quickly, before she could change her mind. A crimson blush was spreading across her cheeks. I read the new line on the paper curiously. I don't want you to go, Bella had written. My heart lurched, and a warm glow seemed to spread through my chest. She wanted me to stay. I don't want to leave, I wrote back. I watched her reaction carefully as she read my words. Would she understand what I was trying to say – that leaving would be so painful I didn't want to think about it? That the thought of never seeing her again was unbearable? I could only hope. Bella went a whole new shade of red, but such a happiness shone from her eyes after she read what I had written. It made me feel like I was flying. "I'm glad," she whispered with a smile. Her smile was so beautiful. I wanted to touch her lips, just to touch them. Or the smooth skin of her cheek, or the gentle line of her jaw, or the delicate point of her chin... the list went on and on. The desire was almost a pain. Very slowly, very carefully, extremely aware of
how breakable she was, I raised my hand and brushed my fingers down her cheek. So warm, so soft. I wanted to leave my hand there. Bella's eyes were locked on mine, their brown depths intense. Her heart was hammering, and I didn't think it was in fear. I never wanted to move. But my family would get curious, wonder where I was, and eventually come back for me. And this moment was private, just between me and Bella. No one else. I wanted it to stay that way. So I lowered my hand reluctantly, and took a step back. Bella's heart still thumped irregularly. But, I realized suddenly, she wasn't breathing. "Breathe, Bella," I murmured softly, urgently. She obeyed, inhaling and exhaling unsteadily. "I will try to convince my family to stay," vowed, then, before I could decide not to, I stepped quickly forward again, leaned down, and pressed my lips to her forehead. I remembered the circles under her eyes. "Sleep well," I breathed in Bella's ear, then walked out of her room and down the empty hospital hall. I would do everything in my power to convince my family to stay, even though I knew I should do the exact opposite – our leaving would be safer for her. And, I thought, if I couldn't convince them to stay, I might just stay in Forks anyway. Chapter 6 Bella's Point of View Every night for the rest of the week, I Dreamed. Almost every one of those Dreams involved one of the Cullens. One night it would be Emmett falling off the wagon, another night it would be Jasper, fighting newborn vampires in the never-ending power struggle of the South. Then it might be Esme when she lost control. One Dream even had Carlisle in it, though he was not the bad part of the Dream – that particular Dream was about one of the humans brought to Volterra by the Volturi for food. Carlisle had been in the background, watching in horror, as we all filed through the doors. I barely slept at all that week, and the evidence was clear in the deep, deep circles under my eyes, in the utter exhaustion etched into every line of my face and body. Charlie was scared. He wouldn't let me drive anymore because he thought I would fall asleep at the wheel. I couldn't stay awake in my classes. I shuffled like a zombie through the halls, and couldn't keep up with any conversation. Rumors started to circulate
through the school. My teachers were concerned, and my grades were slipping. I looked so ragged that Coach Clapp told me to sit out in P.E., where I promptly fell asleep on the bleachers. Coach Clapp had to wake me up after the bell, and almost wasn't able to. The one hour of sleep didn't do much good, and my neck hurt from sleeping on the hard bleachers. I had never Dreamed so often in my life. And to have them all about one group of people was strange. Maybe it had something to do with being so close to them, or something. Edward was practically out of his mind with worry. Absolutely frantic. He and his family had decided to stay, so every day at lunch I could see him watching me, like he expected me to collapse on the spot – which honestly wasn't too far fetched – and every day in Biology he interrogated me about my sleeping habits. He begged me to let Carlisle do a sleep study, and looked so desperate that I almost caved. But I didn't mind – much. He was there with me, for one, and he obviously cared about what happened to me. By Friday I was dead on my feet. I would blink, and have trouble lifting my eyelids again. I would fall when my leg muscles randomly gave out, and people had to help me up. I was too tired to eat. I tried to get up from my chair in the cafeteria, and failed. Angela had to drag me to my feet. "Maybe you should let me drive you home," she suggested in a tight voice as she half-carried me to Biology. "I'm fine," I insisted pitifully. My words were slurred. Angela's mouth was in an unusually hard line. "Get some sleep over the weekend," she ordered. "I'll try," I sighed. If only she knew how much I wanted to sleep. But it wasn't my choice. It was never my choice. Edward met us half way to the Biology classroom. "I've got her Angela," he murmured. With one last worried glance at me, Angela went on ahead, leaving me in Edward's care. "Bella," Edward whispered, agonized, "please, please, tell me what's wrong! Do you want to end up in the hospital?" He supported all my weight. I almost fell asleep there as he walked,
holding me upright. "No," I slurred. I could barely make my lips move. "But I can't sleep." "Why?" Edward demanded. My eyelids drooped. I tried to force them open again, with minimal success. Instead of answering his question, my sleep-deprived mind skipped randomly to something I'd been thinking a few days ago. "You have no idea how lucky you are," I mumbled. Edward was totally derailed. "What?" "I would give anything to never have to sleep again," I mused. My eyes shut of their own accord. My head drooped, and I sagged in Edward's arms. Apparently we had reached our next class by then, because Edward called out in a taunt voice, "Mr. Banner? I think Bella needs to go home, but she can't drive herself. May I take her?" I guess Mr. Banner took one look at me – dead white and nearly unconscious – and agreed, because the next thing I knew, I could feel the cold wind blowing on my face. Edward had given up the pretense of just helping me walk, and had actually picked me up. He laid me gently in his car – I could smell the leather seats – and started driving. I was trying very, very hard to not fall asleep in Edward's car, but I was losing the fight. Edward's car drove smoothly, the engine a comforting hum in the background. I fell further toward sleep's sweet oblivion... and felt a familiar black, painful pull behind my eyes and nausea twisting my stomach. Another Dream. I moaned. "Bella?" Edward whispered, not sure if I was asleep or not. "No," I whimpered. "Please. Not again." Edward was alarmed now. "Bella?" The pull behind my eyes became stronger, like a vacuum had opened up inside my head. The nausea peaked, and I gagged. "No!" I cried. Not again. I had no more strength left.
"Bella!" Edward cried, and I distantly felt cold hands on my face. "What's wrong?" But I couldn't respond, because just then, the Dream pulled me under. I was not Bella, I was not in Forks, Washington, and I was not riding home in Edward Cullen's car. It was 1869. I was in Mexico City. My name was Miguel, and I the vampire who controlled the city – me and my mate Josefina. There were eight newborns with us – the number had gone down due to a recent fight. We were on guard, watching for the one called Maria. She had been fairly powerful about ten years ago before she had been defeated, but now it seemed she was coming back stronger than ever. Already, she had taken Monterrey and several other cities that had been well guarded. Apparently, she had some new general, so to speak, that was making the difference. I was hesitant to believe that one vampire could have such an affect on Maria's army, but she certainly had been successful. Josefina gasped suddenly beside me, the sound cutting through the night air. "Mira," she breathed in horror. Look. I followed her eyes, and saw what she meant. Maria was coming – with an army of twenty-five newborns. Twenty-five! Unheard of! Such a group should be uncontrollable, completely crazed and wild. It was impossible for so many to work together. And yet they were! They ran forward in perfect synchronization, with a tall, blond, heavily scarred male in the lead. So this was Maria's new general. Whatever method he used for training newborns, it worked. They would crush us easily. We were dead. Not Josefina! "Corre, Josefina!" I shouted at her – run! – and charged forward to meet the attack. The newborns' instinct to fight overwhelmed them, and they, too, rushed toward our enemy. I knew I would die, but maybe I could give Josefina time to get away. I heard her scream my name from behind me. I didn't look back. The newborns and I slammed into the coming army, and the fight began. White skin shone in the moonlight, red eyes glinted and flashed. The air was full of contrasting sounds – deep growls and snarls, and high, piercing shrieks of pain and fury. The chaos of
battle surrounded me. My newborns were being destroyed quickly – Maria's army outnumbered us two to one. But still I fought. I tore the head off a complacent young one in my path, and found myself face to face with Maria's blond general. We charged at each other, but this was a different style of fighting. We were both mature, and no longer ruled by our instincts. This would not be an easy matter of distracting a raw fighter. We circled, ignoring the madness around us, feinted, lunged – each sizing up the other. The general attacked, I dodged, and we traded blows, looking for a weakness, an opening. I found none. He was a fierce fighter, lightning fast and intuitive. Soon he was driving me back. Someone screamed to my right. My eyes flickered away from him for not even a second. But that was long enough. He shot forward and ripped off my left arm. A mixture of a scream and a growl bubbled up in my throat. "Miguel!" Josefina's voice screamed. I glanced up over the general's shoulder. Josefina had not run away. She was here, fighting one of Maria's newborns. But when she saw me – outmatched and missing an arm – she turned away from her opponent to come to my aid. She turned her back on the newborn she was fighting, and he jumped onto her back with a shriek of victory. His teeth found her neck... and he was ripping her apart, my Josefina. A howl of rage and anguish burst out of my throat, and I was going to kill that boy who had destroyed my mate, my partner, and then I was going to kill Maria for bringing her army here and starting the fight that Josefina had been killed in. But so preoccupied was I with my revenge that, like Josefina, I forgot my opponent. The general made good use of my distraction, and I was suddenly flying backwards. There was an awful, ripping pain in my neck. And then I couldn't feel anything else. I could see, though. I saw my coven decimated, and I saw Maria and her general build a fire, and I saw them carry the pieces of my army to it and burn them. I saw the general come for the pieces of me, and I saw the flames of the fire coming closer and closer, until I was in it. I knew I was burning... and my vision started to fail as my eyes burned. I saw less and less until, eventually, there was nothing. Then I was gone. I woke up, breathing hard, in my room, on my bed. There was no duct tape over my mouth. And Edward was standing over me, his cool,
smooth hands on my face and his eyes, wide with horror, locked on mine. I was disoriented. Why was he looking at me like that? I tried to think back. We had been in his car, and I had been falling asleep, when... oh. I had Dreamed. And Edward had seen. Had heard me screaming in Spanish, had seen me thrashing, and was now staring down at me like he was watching me burn alive, all tortured looking. After all my attempts at secrecy, I'd had a Dream in front of him. And I'd been worrying about telling him the truth. He would have to know now. But would he believe me? He would probably think I was crazy. He would want me locked up in a padded cell... my eyes filled with tears as I thought of his reaction. As soon as he saw the tears well up, I was in his arms like I had been in the hospital, cradled against his chest. He rocked me gently, but with a frightened edge. "It's all right," he whispered. I wondered if he was trying to convince me or himself. "You're safe," he assured me, "You're all right." "I know," I whispered. Despite my words, the tears still leaked from the corners of my eyes. Edward pulled back slightly so he could look at my face. "Did -," he began, stuttering a little, "did you have a nightmare?" I choked on a laugh and wiped my eyes with a shaking hand. "I'm afraid," I whispered. "Of what?" Edward asked. "Whatever it is, I won't let it hurt you. You're safe, I promise." "I'm not afraid of something," I corrected, not looking him in the eye. "I'm afraid of... how you'll react when I tell you. And I guess I have to tell you now, after that." Edward looked haunted at the memory. "I didn't know what to do," he whispered. "You were thrashing – at first I thought you were having a seizure. But then you were talking, screaming – I've never seen anything like that. What happened?"
I took a shaky breath and began. "I was Dreaming. Ever since I was little I've had these Dreams. Except they're not dreams, exactly. They're really happening – or they did really happen." This was the tricky part. "The Dreams I have... they're about things that have actually happened – bad things. Like historical events, or tragedies." I peeked up timidly at his face, and what I saw brought fresh tears to my eyes. He looked shocked, for the most part, but he also looked wary, like maybe he should get me to an insane asylum – now. "Don't look at me like that," I ordered. My voice cracked. "My mom always looked at me like that. I'm not crazy." Edward still didn't look convinced. I closed my eyes. "I wish you would take my word for it," I whispered. "I can prove it, but I don't want to. You don't want me to." Edward didn't respond. I guess I should have known I would have to bring up the Dream I'd had about him. I was sure it would clear up any doubt, but it would hurt him. "Okay," I whispered. I kept my eyes closed. "May fourth, 1931, Portland, Oregon. Sixth Street, by the Silver Screen Theater. It was dark. You were in the alley behind the theater, with Stephen Dodde." Edward drew in a harsh breath. I opened my eyes to look at him. His face was horror-struck, whiter than usual. His eyes were round. I continued softly. "Stephen was very drunk – he could hardly stand upright. He had killed his wife, Beth, and his daughters, and he didn't even care." Anger twisted my words. "You were blocking his way. He told you to move, and you didn't. It made him angry." "Enough," Edward's voice was strangled. "You... you Dreamed this? None of my siblings told you?" I was startled. "I hadn't thought that you would tell your brothers and sisters about that, but no, they didn't tell me." He very carefully set me back on my bed and sat down beside me. "I didn't tell them, but ... I needed to be sure, I suppose. From what viewpoint did you Dream this?" he asked me, fear in the back of his eyes. I thought I knew why. "From Stephen's," I whispered. Edward closed his eyes, an anguished expression on his face. "You
felt what he felt?" he whispered, and took my right hand, the hand he had broken on Stephen Dodde. I squeezed his hand. "Yes," I confirmed quietly. He opened his tortured eyes and met my gaze. "I'm so sorry," he breathed. "I regretted that afterwards, I swear to you. He was one of the last people I killed before I went back to Carlisle and Esme. I'm not like that!" he vowed, his eyes beseeching. "I know," I murmured. I knew that well. "I'm not afraid." Slowly, he raised his hand to my face, but left it a few inches away from my cheek. He was leaving the choice to me. I didn't have to think about it – I leaned into his cool hand without hesitation. "You aren't, are you?" he murmured. "I'm glad. But I wish you were, too." I laughed once with out humor. "You're hardly the worst thing I've Dreamed about," I informed him. He winced. "About that," he began with a frown. "When you Dream, you are still asleep, correct?" I nodded. "Then why have you been so tired lately?" he asked. My mouth twisted wryly. "You saw how much I move around," I reminded him. "I may be asleep, but my body never has a chance to rest." I yawned widely. Edward's frown became anxious. "And you've Dreamed every night this week?" "Yeah," I sighed, my eyelids drooping again. Edward ran a hand through his hair in agitation. "Can't you take sleeping pills?" He was starting to sound desperate. I shook my head. "I've tried. My mom had me on a lot of different medications when I was a kid, but it never worked. I would still Dream." The adrenaline from the Dream was wearing off, and I was coming down hard. I could barely keep my eyes open.
Edward saw me tiring, and became even more afraid. "Isn't there anything I can do?" he begged. "Anything to make this easier?" "You can stay with me," I replied, begging in turn. "Please." Edward pulled me into his arms again. "I will stay," he promised. "Is there anything else?" I wasn't really awake anymore. "Yeah," I murmured. "If I start to Dream again, the duct tape is in the top left drawer – tape my mouth shut so Charlie doesn't hear me screaming." Edward probably said something else, some aghast remark about duct taping a woman's mouth shut or something, but I was already asleep. And I did not Dream. Chapter 7 Edward's Point of View. (The week before Bella tells him about the Dreams) Bella was wilting right in front of my eyes, and I couldn't do anything about it! Her face was so white, the circles under her eyes so dark from the lack of sleep, that she almost looked like a vampire – an unwanted reminder of the future Alice saw for Bella. Bella had small lines around her eyes and mouth now, as if she had aged years in just a few days. Rumors about her were flying – drugs, late-night activities she should be avoiding, etcetera. And it absolutely infuriated me. I had to keep myself on a tight leash whenever I heard Mike or Jessica's thoughts – thoughts that were more speculative than concerned. Bella was fading away, and they were focused more on the gossip than they were on Bella herself. Not that I wasn't horribly worried about why she was like this. But it was hard to theorize when I was always confronted with images of her eyes, now dead and lifeless. By the end of the week she could barely walk. And she wouldn't let me help her! I was losing my mind. If she didn't agree to let me help soon, then I was going to do something without her permission.
On Friday, I was waiting for her outside Biology, waiting to confront her, when I heard Angela's frantic thoughts. I focused on them immediately, fear rising in my chest. She was with Bella; Mike had seen them walking slowly out of the cafeteria together... had something happened? She's dead on her feet, Angela was thinking. She needs to go home. "Maybe you should let me drive you home," she told Bella – whom she was very nearly carrying – her voice uncharacteristically hard with worry. Bella sighed a weak protest, but, through Angela's eyes, I could see that Bella was out of energy. If she kept going, she would pass out. I was already moving. I met them about halfway to to the classroom, and took Bella from Angela. "Bella," I begged, "please, please, tell me what's wrong! Do you want to end up in the hospital?" Not that I would trust any answer she gave – she was too brave and self-sacrificing sometimes. "No," she tried to say. The word was like a distorted sigh. She looked like she had trouble speaking. "But I can't sleep." "Why?" I demanded. I needed to know. I needed to fix it. For Bella. Bella didn't answer for a moment. Then, "You have no idea how lucky you are," she murmured. That was unexpected. She knew what I was – how could she say that? "What?" I was shocked. And even more frustrated than usual that I couldn't just hear her reasoning. At least this time she answered. "I would give anything to never have to sleep again," she breathed. Then, apparently her body had reached its limit, because she drooped against me, and I had to tighten my hold on her so she wouldn't fall. We were in the the doorway of the Biology room – I only had to put my head in and ask permission to take Bella home. Mr. Banner – frightened by the near-unconscious girl I held – allowed it, and I wasted no time in getting Bella to my car. As gently as I could, I placed her in the passenger's seat, then got in the car and started driving.
I knew the road by heart, so I was free to look at Bella's face as I drove. Her breathing was deep and even, her heartbeat steady. Her eyes were closed, and the lines around them had smoothed out. Relief washed through me. Finally, she was getting some rest. I thought she was asleep. I was sure of it. But then Bella groaned, like she was in pain. I was startled – was she dreaming? Having a nightmare? "Bella?" I whispered. "No," Bella whimpered. "Please. Not again." Something was hurting her. Had hurt her before. "Bella?" I said again, louder now. I was afraid again. Something was wrong! "No!" Bella shouted desperately, and retched like she was going to throw up. Her body convulsed. "Bella!" I shouted. What was happening? Was she having a seizure? Did she even have epilepsy? I needed to call Carlisle! I needed to get her to a hospital! But then she went still. Her breathing evened out. She relaxed. I was at her house by then. I pulled into the driveway and parked. There I hesitated, not quite sure what to do. Had she just been having a nightmare? Was it over now? She looked fine. Cautiously, I picked her up and carried her inside. But where was her room? My lack of knowledge disgruntled me, but I shook it off. The house was small – it wouldn't take long to find. I did find it quickly, but I paused out side the open door. Her scent permeated the room, clung to every particle of air. I winced when the thirst burned my throat, but distracted myself by looking around quickly. Her bed was unmade. There was an old desk in one corner, with an equally old computer on it. I could only imagine how slow it was – it made me impatient just thinking about it. A small bookshelf was in another corner, overflowing with books and CDs. I took a quick inventory of the titles. A collection of Jane Austen novels, Wuthering Heights, The Scarlet Letter, The Red Badge of Courage, lots of Shakespeare, and several modern titles as well. I smiled – we liked some of the same things.
Very gently, I laid Bella on her bed, and covered her up. I should leave now, I thought to myself. But I hesitated, wanting to look at her for just one more second. And in that one second, everything changed. A look of absolute horror and fear crossed her face, though she never woke up. Her heartbeat accelerated. She drew in a sharp breath. I froze. Then she screamed. "Corre, Josefina!" she shouted. Run, Josefina. Bella was speaking Spanish? Who was Josefina? Why was Bella telling her to run? But I couldn't focus on that, because then Bella started to thrash. Her breathing was harsh and shallow, and her heart raced. Her lips curled up over her teeth in a snarl. She tossed and turned, and twitched and flinched, and occasionally her hands would move like she was grasping and tearing something... I was afraid she would hurt herself. I rushed to her side and pinned her arms down. "Bella!" I shouted, and shook her, trying to wake her up. I failed. She continued to thrash. Then she let rip with an ear piercing shriek, and cringed away from my hand on her left arm. I released her immediately, horrified. Had I gripped her too tightly? Hurt her? I couldn't see a mark, but Bella held her left arm against her side as if it hurt. She breathed harder, then gasped in what sounded like horror. Then she screamed again, but this scream was different from her first. This cry was filled with heart-wrenching anguish, loss, and consuming fury all at the same time. But the scream cut off abruptly, and she thrashed wildly for a moment before she went mostly still except for a few twitches. Those passed eventually, too, and I took her face between my hands, hoping that she was waking up. My hopes were not in vain. Very soon after that, her eyes fluttered open, their brown depths confused. She looked at me, and the confusion increased. What did my face look like? I wondered. Judging by Bella's expression, it was nothing good. But then understanding filled her eyes suddenly, closely followed by sadness and tears. She haltingly explained her Dreams to me, and, when my disbelief showed through the mask I tried to keep in place, she proved it with the knowledge of a murder I'd committed, with details I had never
shared with anyone else. And, even though she knew first hand how monstrous I could be, she asked me to stay with her when she fell asleep again. I held her as she slept, thinking. Bella Dreamed of the horrors of the past, and I was one of them. I wanted to protect her from myself. And yet, she had seen my eyes, red and thirsty, through the eyes of Stephen Dodde, had felt my cold hands crushing hers and my teeth cutting into her skin through his body. She had felt the prey's fear through his mind, and from her own experiences. And she still wanted me. It was incomprehensible. And I wasn't the only horror she'd Dreamed about. As she'd told me herself, I was not the worst thing she'd Dreamed of. What else had she seen, what other pains had she endured in her lifetime? And what could I do to keep it from happening again? Because I couldn't just let it be, not when it was hurting Bella so badly. I would stop it. The only question was, how? Apparently, doctors had put her on medications before, and they had not helped. I would have to ask her more about the Dreams, and talk to Carlisle. Bella stirred in her sleep, and I was momentarily seized by fear – was she Dreaming again? But she just whispered my name, smiled, snuggled closer to my chest, and was still again. The fear melted away, to be replaced with happiness. Bella was dreaming of me, and this time, judging by her smile, it was a good dream. I had never been so euphoric. She slept for the rest of the afternoon, not waking when Charlie came in to check on her – I hid in her closet – and the through the night, and for part of the next morning. Charlie was already gone – fishing – when she woke up. Bella stretched and yawned, and opened her eyes. They were bright and clear, not clouded with exhaustion like they had been for the past week. The sight helped me relax. "Morning," she murmured groggily, stretching again. I didn't let go of her – I was too happy to have her in my arms. "Good morning," I said, quickly kissing her forehead. Then, anxiously, I asked, "How did you sleep?"
Bella smiled to calm me down. "I slept well," she assured me. "Not a single Dream." But her cheeks acquired a pink tint when she blushed, so I guessed she remembered her dream about me. My spirits were so light I decided to tease her. "You talked in your sleep." She looked startled. "I did?" I grinned broadly. "Yes," I confirmed, then leaned down to whisper in her ear. "You said my name." Her blush became even more pronounced, but she didn't deny it. "I guess I'm not surprised," she muttered. That piqued my interest. "Why not?" Bella went a whole new shade of red. "Never mind," she muttered, and tried to get up. I wouldn't let her go. My teasing mood had vanished. I was serious now. I wanted to know. Wanted to know why she had asked me to stay, both in the hospital and last night. I knew where I stood, and I had an idea of how Bella felt, but I wanted to know for sure. I needed to know. "Why aren't you surprised?" I asked again. Bella's blush had faded. She was just as serious as I was as she looked back into my eyes. "Why did you stay when I asked you to?" she asked in return. My lips twitched. "I asked you first." Her face started to get red again. She took a deep breath. "Because," she whispered, "I'm in love with you." Her face was scarlet by now. I knew how hard it was for her to make herself vulnerable like that – she couldn't be that different from other humans – so I was quick to reassure her, even though I wanted to bask in the joy her answer gave me. "Good," I murmured, holding her closer. "I'm glad I'm not
the only one." Bella was startled. "I'm in love with you, too," I told her. I hadn't known that a person's face could get so red, but I could still see that Bella was just as thrilled to know how I felt about her as I was to know how she felt about me. She wound her arms around me, and, to my utter joy, she was holding me, too. "Well," Bella murmured finally, after her blush had died down a little, "this has got to be a first." I laughed, and she laughed with me, her blush fading away at last. "Most certainly," I acknowledged. "I don't think there has ever been a human who was willing to love a vampire." Bella raised her eyebrows. "I don't think there's ever been a vampire who had the strength to do what you've done. That probably makes a difference." "What I've done?" I repeated curiously. "You've given up human blood for one thing," she reminded me, then her eyes turned sad. "And I know how hard it is for you just to be here." She clenched her jaw, her eyes far away. "I know how hard it is to resist." She shuddered. "The thirst burns," she whispered, with remembered pain in her eyes, and shivered again. "How do you know that?" I asked. A part of me wasn't quite sure I wanted to hear the answer. Bella's eyes were hard when she looked at me again. "I told you," she reminded me, "you're not the worst thing I've Dreamed about. I've Dreamed about vampires before – that's how I knew about the Volturi. When I Dream about someone, I retain all of their memories, all of their skills, their likes, their dislikes – essentially, I become them." I was still for a moment, imagining what she described. To become someone else, to loose yourself... "It must be frightening," I mused out loud.
Bella nodded grimly. "It is, at first. It's disorienting, too, to wake up from being someone else – someone who had no idea that I existed – and be me again. It takes some getting used to." I was still curious about what I had seen, what Bella had Dreamed about when I had been with her. "What were you Dreaming, when you fell asleep in my car?" Bella's face paled and her mouth tightened. But she answered. "The Southern wars, when Maria was retaking her old territory, and more – when the fighting was bad enough that a lot of the Southerners were afraid the Volturi would come back, like they did after Benito first came up with the newborn army idea." My jaw dropped. She knew so much about our histories! And all from her Dreams. No wonder she was afraid of Aro finding her. If he ever figured out what she could do, he would not rest until Bella became one of his acquisitions. Bella smirked at my expression. "Yeah. Now you understand why I don't want Aro finding out." I nodded mutely. Another thought came to me abruptly. If her Dreams had included Maria, had they possibly contained Jasper as well? "I'm curious," I began. "Have you Dreamed about any one else in my family?" Bella's teeth clicked together. "I have already seen more than I think they would ever want me to. I will not bandy that knowledge about." There was a fierce, stubborn light in her eyes. She would say nothing more on that subject. I nodded. I could not be angry with her for wanting to protect my family's privacy – I could not be angry with her period. But I still couldn't help but be curious. Now that I was thinking of my family, I began to turn over an idea in my head. We had nothing to do today, and I thought everyone was home – why not take Bella to our house, and introduce her to everyone? Of course, she already knew my family, but maybe it would be better to formally introduce them – in a situation where they were not trying to kill her.
My phone buzzed in my pocket. I grinned as I pulled it out – I would have bet my Aston Martin that I knew who it was. Sure enough, when I flipped it open, Alice's voice was squealing in my ear before I could say a word. "You should!" she cried. "You definitely, definitely should! Rosalie will storm out, and Emmett will try to cheer her up, so they won't be there, but you still should! Please!" I laughed, momentarily care-free. "Let me ask her," I placated Alice. "Go ahead," she replied smugly. "She'll say yes." And, with another squeal, she hung up. Still laughing, I turned to Bella, who was looking at me curiously, and asked, "Would you like to come to my house?" Bella's point of View I was going to Edward's house. I was going to meet his family again, in a much more friendly atmosphere. Butterflies beat at the walls of my stomach, and I couldn't stop fidgeting while Edward drove my truck through the misty forest, holding my hand the whole time. It helped, but not a whole lot. I couldn't forget where I was going, and who I would be meeting. Edward glanced over at me with a heartbreakingly beautiful smile on his face. "You'll be fine," he assured me. I nodded, but frowned a tiny bit. My head hurt. I rubbed my eyes with one hand. That helped a little. Edward noticed. "Are you all right?" he asked, concerned. "Yeah. My head hurts a little, that's all," I replied. Edward looked worried. "Would you like to go home?" he asked. I shook my head, shaking off the pain, too. It was nothing compared to things I'd felt in my Dreams. I could handle it. "I'm fine," I told him. Then we broke through the trees, into a small meadow overshadowed by six enormous cedars. In the middle of the meadow was a house. It was three stories high, soft white, and absolutely beautiful. I loved it. Edward parked, and before I could get out, ran
around the truck and opened the door for me. I blinked – I hadn't even seen him move. "Thanks," I murmured. Edward helped me out of the truck. We started the walk to the front door, but someone beat us there, because the door burst open. In the doorway, was a short black-haired vampire, who was slightly blurry, because she was bouncing up and down in excitement. For some reason, the pain in my head surged when I saw her. I smiled involuntarily, despite the pain. Alice. Alice stopped bouncing, but she ran forward to meet me, and her speed kept me from seeing her face clearly. Then she hurtled to a stop not a foot in front of me, and I was able to discern every beautiful feature, every spike of her inky hair. And my head exploded. Or, at least, that's what it felt like. My hands flew up to my head and grasped it tightly as I screamed, like I was trying to keep it from blowing apart and splattering the beautiful white house with gore. I saw red lights. My knees buckled, and Alice jumped back a step when my breakfast came violently back up. I could vaguely hear voices shouting, but they were meaningless. The agony in my brain reached its peak... then I was yanked roughly into one of the strongest Dreams I've ever experienced. Chapter 8 I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom in Biloxi, Mississippi, playing with my dolls in the patch of light made by the setting sun coming through my window. It was 1910. I was nine years old. My name was Alice. Well, actually, my name was Mary, but since I was named after my grandmother on my father's side, and she was still alive, everyone had just called me Alice, which was my middle name, since I was born, and it had stuck. Mary Alice Brandon. I was playing with my dolls, practically oblivious to the world around me, when my vision went dark – I could still feel my dolls in my hands, but I couldn't see anything. I broke into a cold sweat. I knew what was coming. I felt my small body tilt, and then I was unconscious. But I saw things, behind my eyelids. My little sister Cynthia, was playing in the street again. My mother kept telling her to stay away from it, but Cynthia always managed to slip out from under my mother's watchful eye and go out into the road again. She and her best friend, Emma, were playing hop-scotch in the road. They were having so much fun, they didn't
notice the car coming – too fast – toward them. And the driver had his nose buried in a map, so he didn't see the girls. Emma glanced up, and screamed, and that made Cynthia look up, too. They both tried to move. Emma got out of the street in time, but Cynthia had slipped on the wet pavement – it had rained the day before – and the car slammed into her. I woke up, and I was laying on my bedroom floor, shaking slightly. But I forced myself to jump up and run downstairs, and then outside, toward the giggles I could hear from the road. I hated the things I saw, but I had learned to pay attention to them – they always came true. "Alice?" my mother called, alarmed, as I blew past her, but I didn't have time to respond. I could hear the car's engine coming. I burst out the front door and made a bee line for Cynthia and Emma, moving as fast as my nine year old legs could carry me. "Cynthia!" I screamed. "Move!" She looked up at me in confusion, just as the car that would hit her turned onto our street. I ran through our front lawn and into the street, grabbed Emma and Cynthia, and hauled them out of the way just as the speeding car drove right over where they had been standing. The driver never even looked up. My mother shrieked from behind me, and Cynthia and Emma started to cry – they were only six, I reminded myself as the two latched onto me and sobbed. My mother ran to us and herded us back into the house, where she gave Cynthia and Emma a stern lecture about playing in the street. And, I thought, staring at their white faces, they might listen this time. I was slightly smug that they were the ones getting a talking-to, and not me. Mama was especially hard on me because I was the oldest, and I needed to set an example for Cynthia. But after Mama sent Emma home, and told Cynthia to go get cleaned up for dinner, she turned to me, looking confused. "Alice," she began, "how did you know that Cynthia and Emma were in trouble?" I fidgeted under her intense gaze. "I saw it," I answered quietly. My mother's frown deepened. "Alice, you were in your room, correct?"
I nodded. "Yes, ma'am," I replied respectfully. Mama nodded slowly before she said, "Alice, your window faces the back yard. How did you see Emma and Cynthia when they were out front?" "I saw it in my head," I told her calmly. My mother went very still. She looked down at me with a strange expression on her face. "In... in your head?" she repeated. "Yes, ma'am." I didn't understand her reaction. Didn't everyone see the things like I saw? It's not like I wasn't normal. "What do you mean?" she asked me, her voice very smooth. I sighed. Leave it to adults to complicate things. "I was playing dolls, and I fainted. Then I saw what was going to happen to Cynthia in my mind." My mother paled. "You... you say you saw the future?" "Yes, ma'am," I confirmed cheerfully. "Has this happened before?" she asked me. There was something in her voice – it made her sound strained. "Yes, ma'am," I replied. "Remember when Daddy fell asleep with the cigar in his hand, after Grandpa's birthday party, and I took it from him before it could set the house on fire? And it happened when Uncle Martin's car was broken, but he didn't know it, and I showed him where it was broken so he wouldn't get in an accident, and -" "Thank you, Alice," my mother interrupted. Her voice was shrill. "Now why don't you go upstairs and wash up for dinner?" "Yes, ma'am," I consented happily. Why shouldn't I be happy? Cynthia was alive – and my birthday was in two days! I would be ten years old! And we were having my favorite for dinner tonight – fried
chicken! The next night, the night before my birthday, I was going downstairs to say goodnight to my parents, when I heard them fighting in whispers. "Peter," my mother pleaded, "she's just a child. She's probably making it up! We can't -" "What can we do, Carol?" my father growled back. "She needs help!" I was confused. Who needed help? Was someone we knew in trouble? My mother sniffed. It sounded like she was crying. "What will we do, then?" she asked my daddy. Daddy took a shaky breath. "I know of a good place – a place we can send her where she can get treatment. We'll take her tomorrow." Despite the slight unsteadiness in his voice, there was a note of finality. He had spoken. I quietly climbed back upstairs, feeling a little better. Daddy was going to take care of the person who needed help, take him to a good place. Take her to a good place, I corrected myself. I slept an untroubled sleep. My father was going to take care of it. The next morning, I woke up early, and skipped downstairs. It was cloudy today, but I didn't care. It was my birthday! I was ten years old! My mother had a birthday breakfast ready for me, which I ate eagerly. "Alice," Daddy said behind me. I turned and beamed at him. His eyes filled with tears, which he quickly blinked from his eyes, and his voice was gruffer when he spoke next. "When you've finished, get dressed. Your mother and I want to take you somewhere." My smile widened. "For my birthday?" I asked excitedly. My father made a choking noise in his throat, and my mother walked around the table and puled me into a tight hug. "Yes," she replied. Her voice cracked. "For your birthday."
I finished the food in front of me quickly, and dashed upstairs to get dressed. I did so at record speed, and hopped back down the stairs on one foot, pulling my shoes on as I went. Mama, Daddy, and I loaded into the car – Cynthia was staying home, with Grandma. I bounced on the seat in excitement, chattering at my silent parents for the whole drive. I didn't notice that they were too quiet and that sometimes they would wipe tears from their eyes. We drove for over an hour, and I didn't even get impatient. But finally, we pulled to a stop. I jumped out of the car, looking around. What I saw confused me. It was a big, old-looking building, made out of red brick, out in the middle of nowhere. It was huge, but all one story, and surrounded by tall fence. There was no one around, and it was very quiet. It didn't look very fun. "This is where you're taking me?" I asked, trying not to let the disappointment show in my voice. My mother and father took my hands. "It's better on the inside," my father promised. His voice shook horribly, but I didn't pay much attention, because I was excited again. It was better on the inside. My father had promised. It would be fun, after all. The three of us started to walk toward the gate in the fence. A man came out of the building to open the gate for us – it was locked. I looked at him curiously. He was very pretty, and tall, with pale white skin and dark brown hair. He wore a white coat, like a doctor. I felt uneasy for a moment, but shook off the feeling. Daddy had said that it would be fun. I would believe him. The man unlocked the gate and held it open for us. "Hello," he said in a very nice voice, and smiled down at me. "You must be Alice. We've been expecting you." I beamed up at the pretty man. How had I ever been uneasy? My parents would never take me to someone who wasn't nice. "Yes,sir," I said politely. But I couldn't contain my excitement any longer. "What are we going to do?" I asked eagerly, taking the pretty man's hand, ignoring its hardness and coldness. "My mommy and daddy brought me here for my birthday." The man's smile wavered, and he looked up at my parents. My
mother's breath hitched. I looked up at her curiously. "We had to tell her something," my father explained. His voice broke. I looked back and forth between my parents heart-broken faces, confusion and fear rising up in my chest. "Mommy? Daddy? What's wrong?" I asked. "I understand," the pretty man murmured, then smiled down at me again. I noticed that his eyes were very dark. Black. "Come with me Alice," he urged. And he started to lead me away from my parents. I went with him toward the brick building, but I was looking back toward my parents. They were holding each other and crying. "I love, you, Alice," my mother called. "I love you!" Then the pretty man and I reached the door of the big brick building, which looked like it was made of metal. He reached into a pocket of his coat and pulled a ring of keys, and, after selecting the right one, unlocked and opened the door. The cacophony of sounds behind the door washed out to meet me. A chorus of deranged shrieks and screams and howls, and awful maniacal laughter assaulted my ears. And I knew that this was not a good place. This was not a fun, special place for my birthday. This was bad place. My parents had lied to me. I screamed, a high, terrified sound, and tried to yank my hand away from the pretty man's and run back to my parents. But the pretty man was stronger than me. He scooped me – kicking and screaming – into his arms, and took my inside the bad place. He turned to close the door behind us, and I got to look outside for one last, brief second. My parents were already gone. The people in the bad place all wore white coats. They talked so sweetly to me, but I didn't believe their words. I kept struggling against their hands and screaming for my parents and crying, but they just looked at me calmly and soothed me like they saw weeping children so often it didn't even matter to them anymore. They took my clothes and put me in a plain white gown. They shaved my head. Then they hauled me down a hallway lined with doors, behind which I could hear the frightening screams. They stopped at one door and
opened it. The room it opened to was plain and small, with just a cot in one corner and no light. I didn't want to go in! They had to throw me bodily into the room and slam the door shut before I hit the ground, which was bare concrete. My palms and knees stung, so I guessed they were scraped, but by feeling the pain was the only way I could tell, because when the door had shut, the room had gone completely black. I couldn't see anything. I started to scream again. I staggered toward where I thought the door was, feeling my way along. When I found it, I banged on it with both fists and begged them to let me out, to let me go home. No one answered. Eventually, exhausted, I crawled to my cot and curled up into a tiny ball on it. I rocked back and forth, crying silently, and wishing that my parents would come. I would forgive them for lying to me, for putting me in this place for a few hours, if they would just come get me out now and take me home. Somewhere in that space of time, I fell asleep. I woke up when the people opened my room – cell – door, letting in blinding bright light. They shoved food at me and shut the door again before I could ask them why I was there. But I was hungry, so I scarfed down the tasteless food. Then I just sat in my dark hole, praying that this was a dream, and that I would wake up soon and be back in my room. But it wasn't a dream. The pretty man who had brought me to this place opened my door and led me out of the room, down the hall to another room, which, at least, was lit. the light hurt my eyes, but I was still glad to see it. But I was not glad to see what else was in the room: a chair – white, of course – with straps at various places, obviously meant to hold someone down. And there was a machine by the chair, and three people looking at me. I went wild. I screamed and tried to get away from the pretty man – whom I hated now – but he gripped me tighter and plunged a needle into my arm. I felt myself relax with out consciously deciding to do so. The pretty man put me in the chair, and the other three people strapped me down. I knew I should be struggling, but my mind was fuzzy and my body wouldn't obey the commands I was trying to give it. So I could only watch as the people put cold sticky things on either side of my head, then step back from the machine and let the pretty doctor approach it and do something.
But that was all I noticed, because suddenly something entered my brain and scrambled it like my mother had scrambled eggs for breakfast. There was pain and fear and shock somewhere deep in me, but the force that scrambled my mind also scattered my thoughts and emotions until all that was left was just animal instinct that didn't like this thing, that wanted to get away from it. And then it was over. I was back in my own mind again. And I hurt! My body was aching fiercely around the straps, like I had strained against them as hard as I could. I was stunned, confused. The doctor looked at me for a moment, then did something to the machine again, and the horrible scrambling came back for an immeasurable amount of time. It was indescribable. It was worse than anything else, even my visions. Three times they did that to me, then they unstrapped me and carried me back to my room, because I was too weak to walk. They dumped me unceremoniously on the cot, then walked out and slammed the door closed, throwing me back into blackness. I struggled to think, despite the confusion the scrambling had left behind. Where was I? What was happening? Why were they doing that to me? I didn't know. I tired to think back, to find some reason that I may have missed... but I couldn't remember. I couldn't remember anything. Maybe there was something, an outline of man and woman's smiling faces, the barest shadow of a little girls face, little dolls sprawled on a wooden floor, but every time I tried to grasp a memory, it eluded me like smoke, and I couldn't find it. Fear rose in my throat, choked me. Surely I had a past! Surely this place hadn't been the only thing in my life! There had to be some good, somewhere. But I couldn't find it. The days went on. The people who said they were trying to help me continued to scramble my mind on a regular basis, until I couldn't even sense the happiness of my past. There was nothing but this place. There was nothing but the darkness of my cell, nothing but the scrambling. Nothing. There never had been. I grew accustomed to the pitch black of my room. It was better than the light in the place where I was scrambled. The light hurt. The dark didn't. Eventually, the darkness became a part of my mind. The nothingness, too. I'm sure I saw things, but my mind refused to register them, refused to retain any information at all, and even if it did, the scrambling took it away the next time I went down the hall, into the bright room. I'm sure
the people around me were still screaming and laughing, but my ears didn't notice. Who knows? Maybe I had even joined them in their howling. The darkness invaded even further into my mind, and when I found out that it made the scrambling a little easier to live through, I welcomed it. Time ceased to exist. Soon the nothingness had taken over my mind completely, and even the most basic of thoughts were too much. My body still lived, but I was not in it. It was just that – a body, an empty shell. Alice didn't exist anymore. The doctors had driven her out. There was nothing but nothing. It could have been years that I was in the dark. Days, months, years – I didn't know. I didn't have the capacity of knowing anymore. Nothing existed. Nothing but my blackness. But then that changed. I saw a man. He had blond hair, and a beautiful face. His black eyes stared at me with desperation and anguish. I felt a pull of emotion. He was looking for me. He needed me. And I needed him. His face was replaced by other faces, and, though I was sad to see him go, I liked the other faced as well. Another blond man, with a calm, kind smile. A woman, with caramel colored hair and a sweet face. Another woman – more of a girl, really – with blond hair and proud eyes that I liked nonetheless. A man with dark, curly hair, and a broad, contagious grin. The last face was a teenage boy with bronze hair and eyes that seemed to know everything. All the faces were different, but all of them were the same, too. They were all perfect, all pale white, and all golden eyed. I loved them all. They would be my family. I knew it. Just like I'd known that the first man I'd seen would be mine, as soon as I found him. Together, we would go find our golden-eyed family. But I had to find him first. I opened my eyes. I was lying on the ground, on my back, staring up at the treetops and the blue sky above them. I smiled – it was pretty. I sat up fluidly, and looked around curiously. I was in a wooded area, all alone. There was a rushing sound nearby. Running water. Speaking of water, my throat burned dryly. I stood and followed the sound of the water, looking at everything as I went. Birds flew away as I passed them. I thought as I walked, too. Where was I? How had I gotten here? I couldn't remember. In fact, I couldn't remember anything before seeing the perfect blond man, the one I needed to
find as soon as possible. My lack of memory troubled me for a while, but then I shrugged, and let it go. I should be looking toward the future, anyway, not the past. After a few minutes of walking, I found the running water I'd heard. It was a stream, flowing calmly on its way. I went closer, and bent over it. And I saw my reflection for the first time. I had very short black hair, and the same pale as my all the people I'd seen in my mind. But my eyes were different – ruby red. I cocked my head, looking closer at the face reflected in the stream. And as I did, I remembered one piece of information. My name was Alice. Chapter 9 At least when I woke up from that Dream, I was fairly calm. I opened my eyes, and saw a white ceiling above me, and seven white, horrified faces staring down at me, all paler than the normal pale. Edward's face was the closest, as he was holding me like he was afraid I would be taken from him at any moment. His eyes held more pain than horror – he had seen this before. Unlike the rest of his family, who'd had no idea how freakish I was before now. I grimaced – talk about a bad first impression. But my grimace kicked Edward's overprotective side into overdrive. "Bella? Are you all right? Is another Dream coming?" "No." I cut him off before he could really get started. "I'm fine." I sat up with difficulty, because Edward never let go of me. His family watched me with wary and fearful eyes. I sighed, and gestured to them. "Please tell me you explained," I begged, rubbing my eyes. It was a good thing I'd gotten some sleep last night, because otherwise I would have had to be hospitalized or something. Edward nodded tensely. "But they're having trouble believing me." Rosalie muttered something that sounded like "Of course we are," and Edward shot her a dark look. But now I was mad. I was so freaking tired of everyone looking at me
like I was insane. And they were vampires! What right did they have to judge what was possible and what wasn't? I Jerked free of Edward's arms and jumped to my feet. I was trembling and crying, but was too angry to care. "Do you want me to prove it to you, Rosalie?" I whispered. "Think carefully about your answer, because you don't know what I may have seen about you. If you want me to tell you, then ask, but be prepared for an answer that you may not like. Ask Edward about that – he knows." I stared into Rosalie's eyes, staring her down, and she must have seen something in my eyes, because her eyes widened, and she took half a step back. She didn't ask. I nodded slowly. "Good choice," I murmured. Edward came forward and put his arms around me again. I smiled up at him, grateful for the support. "You're better off taking my word for it." I looked at Carlisle, and decided that I might as well erase all doubt, and since the Dream I'd had with him in it wasn't really incriminating... "You were in Italy – Volterra." I told him. "In the turret where the Volturi brings their food. It was... I don't know, maybe 1701. There was a girl, about sixteen years old, with blond hair and brown eyes. She was screaming in German." Carlisle's eyes tightened. "You remember her," I guessed. "You looked right at her. She was one of the last ones left, and she saw that you were sickened, that you weren't killing. She tried to run for you." I shivered. "She didn't make it." Carlisle met my eyes for a long moment, then he nodded. "I believe you," he said quietly. There was an awkward silence for a few seconds, then Alice edged up to me and wrapped slender arm around my waist. "I see the future," she pointed out. "Who am I to say that you can't see the past? I believe you." Esme nodded in agreement. I looked around, at the rest of the Cullens. Emmett looked convinced, and when I met his eyes, he raised his hands in surrender. "I'm convinced," he promised dryly. "You don't need to dredge up my past." I smiled involuntarily, and moved on to Jasper. Jasper. The one I was the most confused about. Emmett was readable, Carlisle and Esme were open books, and I had Dreamed of
Alice and Rosalie, but Jasper... he was a mystery. How had he made the jump from a Southern general to a vampire who refused to hunt humans? Obviously, Alice had found him, but I didn't have the details of what had happened in between. Jasper met my gaze steadily, and I didn't try to stare him down like I had Rosalie. Jasper would not be intimidated. He met my eyes and nodded once. "I felt what you felt as you Dreamed," he told me in his deep, calm voice. "And I could tell that what you felt was not from you." I frowned – he felt what I felt? – and Carlisle suggested, "Why don't we go downstairs? I'm sure you have questions, and I know I do." We all laughed, and followed Carlisle down a curving staircase and into a large, bright family room. I looked around, since the last time I'd come through here I'd been unconscious. There were five small, white couches arranged in a half circle on the white carpet, and on a raised platform in one corner of the room was a spectacular piano. Along one wall was a row of computers, all very expensive-looking. The back wall was made entirely out of glass, and showed a view of a river winding through the forest. We all sat down on the couches – which were really comfortable – and Carlisle began asking questions. "So, Bella," he started, looking at me with curious eyes, "how long have you had these Dreams?" I shrugged and leaned against Edward, who was sitting beside me. "The earliest one I can remember was when I was three, but my mom said that almost from the day I was born, I would cry and toss and turn in my sleep." Carlisle leaned forward animatedly, and I saw Esme roll her eyes indulgently. "He's a scholar by nature," she explained lovingly. I grinned. "I don't mind. It's actually kind of nice to be able to talk about it to someone who doesn't want to lock me in a padded cell." I turned back to Carlisle, expecting another question. I was not disappointed. "Why do you Dream?" he inquired. I laughed once. "I have no idea. There's not an instruction manual. We just have to guess about everything. I'll tell you right now, most of
the answers I give you will be theories." Carlisle nodded. "That is perfectly acceptable. I am not entirely sure about a few things about my kind, either. I, too, must sometimes go on my theories. But I noticed that you said 'we'. Are there other Dreamers that you know of?" "Yes – several women in my family had Dreams," I responded. Carlisle smiled. "Only the women?" I smirked. "Of course," I replied smugly, and Edward and Emmett chuckled. "You never did tell me – why do you think you Dream?" Carlisle repeated his earlier question. I sighed. "This is where the details get hazy," I warned. "The different Dreamers have different theories, but the most popular one is because the stories need to be told to someone. There is so much pain out there – the stories need to share the burden with someone, and we just so happen to be those people." Carlisle nodded, his eyes far away, and I wondered if he was developing his own ideas on the topic. I would have to ask him about it later. But he could not be distracted for long. "Do you often pass out and Dream like that?" he asked. I grimaced at the memory and shook my head. "No, or I would have never been able to keep the Dreams a secret for as long as I have. That happened so ... abruptly, because the Dream was so strong." "Do Dreams have different strengths?" Alice cut in. I jumped a little – I had been so absorbed in my conversation with Carlisle that I had forgotten the others were there, listening intently. Now I turned to her and answered, "Yes, some are stronger than others." Esme pulled my attention in another direction. "Why?"
Their rapid-fire questions left me feeling a little overwhelmed. "It depends. There are several different factors: how long ago the story happened, how bad the story is, how many people know the story, things like that." I shook my head, trying to clear my jumbled thoughts. "I'll have to give you the journals," I mused. "Journals?" Edward asked. I looked back at him and smiled. "Yeah, journals. For about three hundred years, every woman in my family who Dreamed wrote in a journal – their different theories, their observations, stuff like that. I'll have to bring them, so you can read about Dreaming through the ages." I grinned. "You'll probably notice all sorts of things I missed." Edward looked interested, as did Carlisle, and Alice, and the rest of the Cullens. Even Rosalie, who had before listened impassively, looked curious. "Do you have one that you write in?" Edward asked. I laughed. "Of course! What kind of Dreamer would I be if I didn't keep a journal? They're all in my room." Carlisle cleared his throat, signaling that he had another question. I looked at him, and saw that his expression was grave. "Bella," he began, "What you experience – they are dreams, correct?" I nodded cautiously. Carlisle continued, "Then I wondered – when you Dreamed today, you appeared to have convulsions of some kind. I wondered why your body reacts so strongly to the Dreams, if they are, if fact, only dreams?" Edward had gone very still against me. I guessed he didn't like remembering. I tried to answer Carlisle as best I could. "They are dreams, in my mind, but they are very real. My mind... it doesn't really belong to me anymore. I feel exactly what the person I Dream of felt; I remember the pain. And it is so real, in my mind, that my body reacts. It's like..." I searched for an apt description. "It's like Jane's power, in a way." All the Cullens looked startled that I would bring up Aro's favorite member of the Volturi guard. "You know how it works – Jane makes you think you're in pain, so you think you feel it, and you scream, and thrash. My Dreams are a lot like that. I feel the pain, but
my body isn't actually harmed." But speaking of the Dream I'd just had... should I tell Alice? Unless she had remembered more about herself, she still had no idea what had happened to her. Should I tell her? Should I keep her in the dark for her own sake? She had seen the Dream, had seen, indirectly, how much she had suffered. Was it right for me to do that to her? I would have to think about it. To distract myself, I asked, "Do you have anymore questions, or can I ask some now?" Carlisle laughed. "My curiosity is appeased – for now. What do you want to know?" I smiled, and turned to look at Jasper. "You said you felt what I felt," I stated. Jasper smiled. "Yes. I am able to sense and influence the emotions of those around me." I blinked. "Oh." So that was how he'd managed to keep such a large group of newborns under control! "Are there any other abilities that I should know about?" I asked. Alice laughed, a high soprano tinkling. "Just me and Edward. I see the future." "And I read minds," Edward finished, looking down at me like he was afraid of my reaction. And I guess he had a good reason to be worried, because immediately, every detail about every thing I didn't want him to know filled my mind, and the blood drained from my face. My forehead wrinkled as I tried desperately to think of something else. All of the Cullens laughed at me. "But don't worry," Edward hastened to add. "I can't read yours." Relief washed over me. The things that could get us both killed were still safely locked away inside my head. "I wonder why," I murmured. Not that I cared a whole lot – I was just thankful that I was an exception.
Edward didn't seem to share my opinion. "I don't know," he said, frustrated. I couldn't help but laugh, and Alice laughed with me. Our eyes met, and I suddenly made my choice. I would ask her if she wanted to know about her past, and, if she did, I would tell her. It was her life, her choice. But I could not tell her here. I needed to get her alone. But how was I supposed to bring that up? Luckily, I didn't have to. Alice's eyes suddenly glazed over for a moment, then she focused on me, her eyes wide. "Alice?" Jasper and Edward asked simultaneously. Jasper leaned over his mate protectively. "What's wrong?" he asked. Alice didn't answer. Instead, she stood and walked over to me, grabbed my hand, and towed me toward the front door. "Alice?" Carlisle asked, curiously. Alice never looked back. "I need to talk to Bella. Alone." As soon as we were outside, she picked me up and started running south. I was used to the speed from my Dreams about vampires, so I wasn't afraid. After a few minutes, when we were far enough away that her family couldn't hear our conversation, and Edward couldn't hear her thoughts, she stopped and put me down. I looked around me. We were deep in the forest, judging by the size of the trees, and Alice was already siting on a tree that had fallen over and formed a natural bench. I sat beside her. "I want to know," she said, before I could even open my mouth. "Are you sure?" I asked, "It... it's not good." Alice nodded, her face excited, despite my warning. But I wanted her to have an idea of just how bad it was, so she could be absolutely certain. "The Dream I had today... it was about you." Alice's smile faltered. She took a deep breath. "I still want to know. I need to know. Please." I nodded, leaned back against the tree, and closed my eyes. "Okay," I whispered. My voice never rose in volume. "Your name is Mary Alice Brandon. Everyone called you Alice because you're named after your
grandmother, and they didn't want to get the two of you confused. You were born on December eleventh, 1901. You had a little sister named Cynthia who was three years younger than you." Slowly, haltingly, crying in places, I told her the story of her life, how her parents had loved her very much, but hadn't known what else to do when they'd realized that their daughter saw visions of the future. I told her about the shock treatments, about the gradual memory loss that the treatments had caused. I told her about the vampire doctor who I thought had been the one to save her. I told her everything up to the point when she woke up in the forest and saw visions of Jasper and the Cullens, when she could remember on her own. She didn't say anything for a long moment, and I opened my eyes to see her expression. She had her face in her hands. Automatically, I reached out to touch her shoulder, but hesitated. What if she blamed me for taking away the ignorance that had protected her? What if she hated me for seeing this, for experiencing her own private horrors? But Alice slowly raised her head, and looked me in he eye. "Thank you," she said softly. I stared at her with the doubt and regret I felt on my face, and she shook her head. "No. I needed to know. I'm not happy about what happened, but I'm... it's better than not knowing. I have closure. I'm glad you told me." She hugged me tightly, and I hugged her back, tears welling up in my eyes. "I'm so sorry," I whispered. She had no idea how sorry I was. Alice pulled back and lifted me in her arms again. She started running back to her house. "Don't be! I never would have found out if it wasn't for you." I spent the rest of the afternoon at the Cullens' house, answering and asking questions, feeling more at home than I had in a long time, then got home just in time to make dinner for Charlie. I showered and went into my room, apprehension making me slow. I stared warily, fearfully, at my bed. Would sleep bring me peace, or would it force yet another death upon me, another thing I didn't want to see? As I stared, not moving, there was a flash of movement outside my bedroom window. I jumped and spun to face it, and saw that Edward was standing in my room. I almost had a heart attack, then, when I
had gotten over the shock, ran into his arms. His embrace was cool, comforting, exactly what I needed. I snuggled as close to him as I could. "I'm scared," I confessed in a whisper against his chest. His arms held me tighter. "I'll be here," he murmured, and his promise made me calm enough to get into bed and go to sleep with his strong, protecting arms around me. Again, whether by coincidence or because Edward's presence kept the Dreams away, I slept peacefully. Chapter 10 I spent Sunday at the Cullens' again, watching them read the journals my ancestresses had written, answering a question here and there if they remembered one they'd forgotten to ask, and asking a few more myself. That night, when I went to bed, I did so with a faintly hopeful feeling. Edward was staying with me for the third time, and the other two times he'd stayed, I'd slept without Dreaming. Maybe – and I knew it was far-fetched – he had some strange ability to keep the Dreams away. It seemed unlikely, but a part of me couldn't help hoping as my eyes closed. But even Edward, if he had been what kept the Dreams away, couldn't keep them away that night, and when they came back, they came back with a vengeance. It was the August of 1942. My name was Lidia. At the moment, I was huddled on a train with my husband, my three children, and many others – as many other Jews as the German soldiers had been able to cram into the train car – but my family and I had lived in Warsaw, Poland. We were all afraid; so much so that the fear seemed to hang over us all like a cloud. We knew where we were going. We were not the first to be deported from the Warsaw ghetto – we knew what lay ahead of us. My husband, Eli, had heard one of the soldiers say where they were taking us as they herded us into the train. I did not speak German, but my husband did, and he had heard our destination. Treblinka. I shuddered. Even if Eli had not spoken German, we would have recognized that name. It was an extermination camp. A death camp. I tighten my arms around my three sons, Isaac, David, and Jacob, and felt hopeless. They were so
young! Isaac was eight, David was four, and Jacob, the baby of the family, was only five months old. I looked around the train. I was not the only one with children. There were several families with children. And they were all so thin. The rations in the Warsaw ghetto had never been satisfactory, but the Germans had been progressively giving us less and less... I had been so heartbroken, watching my children waste away even though my husband and I gave them our share of the food. I had thought that Jacob would die of malnutrition. But he hadn't, and here we were, being taken to our deaths anyway. The train began to slow. My husband met my eyes, but never said a word. He didn't have to. I knew. He knew. The train slowed more. Simultaneously, he and I began to pray. It was not a plea for deliverance – we prayed the Shema Yisrael, as a last declaration of faith in God before we died. Because we would surely die. "Shema Yisrael," we whispered, and our children joined us. "Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad." Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God! The LORD is One! Other people around us began to pray the same prayer as the train pulled to a stop. The doors to the car were jerked roughly open, and armed German soldiers pulled everyone out. First they sorted us by gender – I was yanked away from my husband and sons, even little Jacob. Then the soldiers weeded out the elderly, the children, and the sick from each group. I watched with wide eyes over the shoulders of the soldiers surrounding the group of women as my sons were separated from their father and shoved into a line with the old and ill. Two of my sons were crying. Isaac, the oldest, was holding Jacob and trying to be strong for David, who was also clinging to him. He met my eyes for one last second, trying to look brave. But his bravado fell away when several soldiers stepped in front of the line they had been pushed into, and pointed their guns at them. I, and several other mothers with me, screamed just as the soldiers opened fire on the line of children and old people. My eyes never left my children. Their little bodies jerked horribly when the bullets hit them, and, even after they had been hit several times and could not have possibly survived, the soldiers kept firing until everyone in that line had hit the ground. I was still screaming. I forgot that the Germans had guns. I forgot that they could kill me much easier than I could kill them. They had shot my children in front of my eyes. And for what? Because they were
Jewish. A mother's fury pounded in my head and misted my vision with red. I screamed again, but this time in fury, with my eyes on one of the soldiers who had shot my children. I must have moved very quickly, because the line of German soldiers between me and the man I was going to kill was surprised when I charged them, and I broke through their ranks easily. The soldier I was after had his back turned to me. I jumped on his back and wrapped one arm around his throat, grabbing my wrist with my other hand and pulling as hard as I could. My weight made him fall, and that just made it easier to choke him. His dirty nails scratched my arms, but I was past noticing the pain. I vaguely heard shouting behind me, and I suddenly felt rough hands trying to pull me away from the soldier, but I hung on, intent on crushing the life from him like he had crushed the life from my children. But finally, the hands that were trying to pull me off the soldier succeeded, and I was thrown to the ground. I heard a gunshot, and almost in the same instant, something that felt like a white-hot sledgehammer slammed into my chest, knocking the breath from my lungs. Then I felt a warm wetness spread from that point of pain, and I knew I'd been shot. I didn't care. The last thing I saw was the eyes of my son, Isaac, staring blankly back at me. I woke up breathing hard, with tears streaming down my face. Isaac's dead eyes were still in my mind, making the excruciating pain rise up in my chest. My breath hitched in my throat. I felt an anguished cry rising up in my throat, one that would surely wake Charlie. I managed to suppress it, but not for long. I would come. I was going to explode. "Bella?" Edward whispered. "Are you all right?" I yanked the tape off my mouth – Edward must have remembered my instructions about the duct tape – and latched my arms around his neck. "Get me out of here," I begged, my voice a strained, high, keen. I could not contain the pain much longer. I needed to be away from Charlie when the inevitable loss of control came. Edward didn't ask questions. He saw what was coming in my eyes, heard it in my voice, and immediately picked me up and jumped out my window. I felt the wind as he ran, and I strained my eyes open, trying to see something, anything, that would distract me from the
images in my mind. The small, emaciated bodies sprawled on the ground, their limbs bent at awkward angles. The blood, warm and fresh, steaming on the cold ground, seeping from my children's wounds. The eyes, staring blankly. The bloody saliva, dripping from gaping mouths, staining little lips, tiny baby teeth. Lidia's children, I desperately reminded myself as nausea made my stomach turn. Not yours. Lidia's! But the gorge rose in my throat anyway, and I retched. Edward stopped quickly, and put me down just in time for me to throw up on the forest floor, not on him. As I vomited, bent over at the waist, I tried to banish the memories from my mind. But I couldn't. They were there, searing themselves into my brain, making sure that they would never be forgotten. Jacob's face, so small, with his sunken cheeks, popped into my mind. There was a bullet hole in his head. I gagged again, but there was nothing else left for my stomach to expel – I'd already thrown up what I'd eaten for dinner. So, instead, I started to weep. Great, heaving sobs tore from my chest, shaking my entire body. I could feel Edward's cool hands on my face, trying to soothe me, but, for once, it was no help. I could still see my children's bloody, broken bodies in my mind. And I did still feel like they were my children – the Dream was still so fresh in my mind, and I was having trouble differentiating between the two worlds, the two lives – Lidia's and mine. I was about to collapse, so I staggered away from my vomit and dropped to my knees, curled into a ball. The rage and anguish filled me, and crying was not enough of an outlet for it. I started to pound the ground with my fists, using all my strength, beating it because I couldn't beat the soldier who had taken the lives of my children. It was still not enough. A primal scream tore out of me, and I hoped I was far enough away from Charlie that he wouldn't hear me. I threw back my head and screamed at the sky. Eventually, my inarticulate cry formed words, and, because my mind was still half-way in my Dream, I screamed in Polish. "Moje dzieci!" I wailed in between sobs. "Moje dzieci!" My children! My children! My Isaac, my David, my Jacob! Dead. I could feel Edward's arms around me, anchoring me to my real world, and I could hear his words of comfort in my ear, promising me that I would be all right, and that helped. Slowly, so slowly, I was able to separate Lidia's grief from my own, able to pull myself the rest of the way from the vestiges of the Dream.
Then I sat and cried for my sadness, my pity for Lidia, Isaac, David, and Jacob. I cried for them, and I cried because of what humans could do to each other for the most foolish reasons. Edward could tell when I was myself again, and he pulled me closer to himself and let me cry myself out. When my sobs turned to hiccups, and my tears stopped falling, he held my face in his hands and looked me in the eyes. I sniffed. "I'm fine," I promised shakily. My voice was worn – it cracked, and my throat hurt. "That one was just really bad." I had never seen so much pain in Edward's eyes. He held me tightly, rocking me back and forth, and whispered, "I wish there was a way for me to help you." My emotions were all over the place, so I blurted the idea that I'd been turning over in my head for the last few days without thinking of the consequences. "There is." Edward looked at me with hope flaring to life in his eyes. "What?" he demanded. "Tell me what I can do!" I was starting to feel hopeful, too. Maybe, now that he'd seen just how horrible and painful the Dreams were, he wouldn't too badly to this. "You can stop the Dreams. You can make me so that I never have to Dream again." Edward understood. Horror replaced the hope on his face, and my own hope came crashing down at his expression. "No!" he nearly shouted. "No! I will not do that to you!" I was desperate now. Before I had met Edward, I had borne the Dreams, because I hadn't seen another option. Of course, I knew that I could have gone to the Volturi or to the South to be changed, but that would have entailed either service to the Volturi or death in the Southern wars. Those options hadn't really been options at all. But now I had met Edward and his family, who led peaceful lives away from death. And, also, I was in love with Edward, and my human body would die eventually. If he changed me, I would be able to spend forever with him, and I wouldn't have to Dream. I had another
choice now, and I wanted it badly. But now Edward was refusing. I could feel my one chance slipping away. "Please," I begged, the tears starting again against my will. "I'm going crazy, seeing all these things. Please!" Edward looked away from me, shaking his head, pained. "You don't know what you're asking for," he whispered. I laughed one, slightly hysterical laugh. Had he forgotten the Dreams? "I know exactly what I'm asking for." Edward opened his eyes to glare at me. "No, Bella, you don't. I can't – I won't – change you. This is not the life I would have asked for. I will not inflict it on you." Now I was mad, and anger and desperation don't mix together prettily. I pulled away from him and stood. He did the same. "And I wouldn't have chosen to have Dreams!" I shouted. "You wouldn't be inflicting anything on me – I would be choosing!" "And you would be choosing wrong!" Edward insisted. "I will not sentence you to Hell!" I blinked the tears from my eyes so I could see him. He looked determined. "Whose definition of Hell?" I demanded. "I already deal with Hell every time I Dream! I've been a vampire in my Dreams! I know what it's like! I could handle it!" I didn't know that for sure, but I wasn't going to tell him that. This was going to be difficult enough. Edward pressed his lips together. He would not be budged. "Dreaming something is not the same as experiencing it." My hands were shaking. I could see my life stretching ahead of me: thousands of stories, thousands of pains, thousands of deaths. The thought made me say something stupid in retaliation. "Well, my hand sure hurt after I woke up from Dreaming about Stephen Dodde." Edward went whiter than his usual white, and I felt terrible. "I'm sorry," I whispered. "I shouldn't have said that. But I don't want to Dream anymore!" I pleaded. "It's overwhelming. You can make it stop!
Please." Edward's face twisted in anguish. He walked back to me and held me close. "I can't," he whispered again in my ear, and I knew that it was over. For now. I drooped in his arms, suddenly exhausted. Edward sung me up into his arms. "We have school tomorrow," he murmured. "You need sleep." And he ran me back to my house. Charlie was still snoring, had never been woken up by my screaming. Edward ran up my wall and slipped through the window he'd left open in his haste to get me out of my house. Edward tucked me under my covers, then slid in beside me. I wrapped my arms around him, and he returned the favor. "Go to sleep," he urged. I obeyed, but I slept restlessly, knowing even in my sleep, that my chance to be rid of the Dreams forever and to have Edward forever was pretty much gone. Chapter 11 Despite the Dream, I woke up too early on Monday morning. I'd slept fitfully, almost waking up several times before I slid back into sleep's oblivion, but at four thirty-seven in the morning, my eyes opened, and I couldn't go back to sleep. I tried for a few minutes, but then the memories of the Dream and the conversation I'd had with Edward that night started to replay themselves, and sleep evaded me. I sighed, kissing my hopes for more shut-eye goodbye, and rolled over, so I was facing Edward, whom I could feel next to me. The faint moonlight shining through the window glinted off his hair and cast his skin in a pale, silvery light, making him so beautiful that I couldn't speak. He was tense, though, scrutinizing my face with worried eyes. "Are you all right?" he breathed in the darkness. He reached forward and cupped my face in one cool hand. I leaned into his touch. "I'm fine," I whispered. "I just can't sleep anymore." Edward stroked my cheek, his golden eyes melting in relief. "Would you like me to sing you to sleep?" he asked gently, lovingly. "You must be so tired."
I smiled at him, wishing that I could make the peace of this moment last, but knowing that I couldn't, not if I said what needed to be said. "No," I replied, and sighed. "We should probably talk," I began reluctantly, "about... what I said earlier, after the Dream." Edward tensed again, and opened his mouth, no doubt to vehemently refuse my request again, but I shushed him. "Wait. I know what you're going to say. I'm not going to try to convince you of anything tonight. I just want to tell you why that's what I want." Edward waited, but he didn't relax. His eyes were tight. I sighed again, and placed my hand over the hand he had on my cheek, holding it there just in case. I began quietly. "I've always had Dreams. I can't remember ever not having them. They've just always been there, always been a part of who I am, a part of my life." Edward closed his eyes for a moment, pained for what he knew I'd gone through my whole life. I waited until he opened them again before I continued. "You've read the journals – you know the theory we Dreamers have about how the next Dreamer is chosen." Edward nodded. "The next person who can bear what she will Dream of becomes the next Dreamer," he whispered. I smiled sadly. "Yes. I can, to a certain extent, live with what I Dream. But Dreaming is very hard." I shook my head slightly, trying to keep myself in the present, out of the memories. "I think you can understand what it fells like to Dream, in a way – you can experience a person's memories through their thoughts. But..." I paused for a second, making sure I was composed. "you can't understand completely. When you read someone's mind, you still remember who you are. You can block them out, you can move away from them until they're out of range. You can escape it. I can't. I am totally at the mercy of the Dreams." "Bella," Edward whispered, anguished. "No," I murmured, "Let me finish. And no matter how many times I Dream, no matter how hardened I become to what I see, the people I Dream about do not. It is their last, horrible experience, and they are not hardened to it." I was surprisingly calm. "And, since I loose myself when I Dream, the Dream holds as much horror and fear for me as it
did for the original person it actually happened to." Then I started to loose my calm. I took a shaky breath, and my voice shook when I spoke. "I can bear what I see – that is, it's not so bad that I want to put a gun to my head and pull the trigger, but that doesn't mean it's not wearing me down. Breaking me. I can fight it, I can do whatever I want, but the only thing I can do is slow the process down. All the stories, all the death... eventually it's impossible to bear. My grandmother died broken by what she Dreamed. It took her entire life for her to get that way, but it did happen. And, concerning you and me, I want to be with you forever – and I only know of one way that can happen. " I shook my head hard and regained control of myself. I looked at Edward and tried to smile, to sooth him, because he looked like someone was burning him alive. I laid my hand against his cold, soft cheek. "It's okay," I promised, and my voice was steady again. I continued my explanation. "Those are my more selfish reasons for wanting to be changed, the ones that apply only to me. But there are other, slightly more practical reasons, not the least of which is my humanity." I met Edward's eyes. "I am human," I reminded him softly. "I am going to die. You've known that from the beginning." Edward nodded slowly and closed his eyes again. "What did you intend to do?" I asked. Edward didn't open his eyes. "I'd planned to stay with you for the rest of your human life." Something seemed to occur to him, something that made him sad. "Or as long as you wanted me." I chuckled. "I'll always want you," I told him. "My life was and would be almost impossibly hard without you. You're my Someone." Edward's eyes flew open in shock. "What?" he asked incredulously. Oops. I'd thought he'd made the connection already. I started to blush. "Um, you read my journal, right?" I asked, red-faced. Edward was still surprised. "Yes." I dropped my eyes. "Well, then you know my theory that every Dreamer has a Someone. You're mine."
Edward blinked. "I – I am?" he asked. That was the first time I'd heard him stutter. His reaction made me feel so embarrassed! I'd assumed he'd already known! I still wouldn't look at him. "A Someone is, by definition, a person the Dreamer is very close to, and who makes the Dreams easier to bear." Edward lifted my chin with a cold finger until my eyes met his. They were happy. "Do I do that for you?" he inquired. I couldn't help but grin through my embarrassment. "Yes. The Dream I had last night..." I flinched slightly, but continued, "Before I met you, I would have been a wreck for weeks from a Dream like that. You help me remember that there are good things outside my Dreams – you keep me from losing myself completely in the aftermath." My expression softened into a gentle smile, and when I spoke again, my voice was a little choked up. "It helps more than you know for you to be there when I wake up." Edward pulled me against his chest and held me tightly for an immeasurable amount of time. I never wanted to move or do anything to change that moment, but I had a point to prove. "Besides," I murmured, "I know that vampires run into each other every once and a while, and if that happens and they see that I'm human and still with you anyway, they might get suspicions about how much I know. They might involve the Volturi." Edward sighed, unwilling to go back to this topic. But I was stubborn, and I hadn't left him much of a choice. "I've listened to your reasons," he said suddenly. "Now would you listen to mine?" Uh-oh. He was going to come up with some brilliant argument that would be absolutely impossible for me, a mere human, to beat. But he had listened to me, and it would be unfair if I didn't listen to him. "Sure," I replied, cringing. "Go ahead." Edward took a deep breath, and I felt a brief pang of guilt – my scent had to burn his throat, and I knew how that felt. "I'm going to start
talking theology," he warned, then said, "I don't know about you, but I believe in God, Heaven and Hell, and the existence of souls. I believe that we are all born with a soul. But... I also believe that when I was changed into a vampire I lost my soul." "What?" I screeched. Edward without a soul? Ridiculous! Edward and his family were some of the most caring, loving, loyal, kind people I knew! How could they not have souls? "Shh!" Edward hissed. Oh – I had forgotten that Charlie was asleep in the next room. We both listened, but Charlie's snores continued without interruption. After Edward was certain that my father was still sleeping soundly, he defended his opinion. "Really, Bella, is it so hard to believe? I am not human, I will live forever, and my most basic of instincts are telling me to kill you right now." "Yes, it most certainly is that hard to believe!" I muttered angrily. No soul. Of all the foolish, misguided ideas. "Why would God punish you for something that was out of your control?" Edward sighed again. "I have wondered that myself, and Carlisle has asked me the same question – I will answer you the same way I answer him. Even if God overlooked my being a vampire, He could never overlook my past. I have killed so many people – you know that – and I have lied, stolen, coveted... I hardly qualify for a shot at Heaven." My mouth pressed into a hard line, and, without thinking, I growled my rebuttal. If he wanted theology, I would give him theology. "'For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.' By grace, Edward, not works. 'For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.' 'For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.'" Edward stared at me, shocked again, and I smiled sheepishly. "It's Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:23, and Romans 8:38-39." He continued to stare, and I giggled. "When I was fifteen I Dreamed about a man who had been burned at the stake for heresy during the Protestant
Reformation," I explained. "He was a priest before he was excommunicated for his views, so he knew a lot about the Bible." Edward smiled slightly. "A very convincing argument," he murmured in my ear. I couldn't quite manage to smile back. "But was it convincing enough for you to agree to change me?" I asked, even though I thought I already knew the answer. I was right. Edward shook his head slowly. "Even if I could be confident that I would not be harming your soul, there would still be the physical pain to consider. I could never hurt you like that." I frowned. "I've dealt with it before. It passes. I can handle it." Edward laughed one dark laugh. "Oh, I'm sure you could handle it," he muttered, "but I would still have to live with myself, knowing that you had to deal with it because of something I did." I sighed sharply. "You," I declared, "are impossible." Then I sighed again, more softly this time. "But I guess that's just a part of why I love you." Edward chuckled and pressed his cold lips to my forehead. "And you'll never know how happy that fact makes me." Then he moved on to a different subject. "So..." he began, "How would you feel about coming to a baseball game with me on Wednesday?" I tried to keep my face blank. I didn't like baseball. Or any other sport, for that matter. But if Edward liked baseball, and he wanted to go to this game, then I wouldn't tell him that. But Edward saw through my carefully neutral expression, and started laughing quietly before I could respond. "I wish you could see your face! Don't worry, Bella, this will just be my family and me playing in a place we know of. A rather bad storm will hit town this Wednesday, and my family wants to play." I was relieved, but also curious. I had never Dreamed of anything like this. Vampire baseball. Interesting. "What's the significance of the storm?" I inquired, wondering if I was going to get absolutely soaked
at this game. But Edward just chuckled. "This is one of the few things you haven't seen before, and you expect me to give away the surprise? No, you'll just have to wait and see." I grimaced slightly. It was very odd, not knowing what the game would be like. Usually, I'd seen it all and then some. But, as strange as it felt, I was enjoying the feeling. I didn't know what was coming, was not forewarned by all my previous experiences in my Dreams, had seen nothing like this before. It was something new. Not knowing made me feel almost normal for a second. For the rest of the early morning until my alarm clock went off, Edward and I laid there and talked. We kept it light, asking questions and staying away from the topic of my changing into a vampire. We had come as far as we could come on that issue tonight. The rest would have to wait. We talked about books, art, movies, music – which, I noticed, Edward absolutely loved – and everything else we could cram into those few hours. Edward ran home when I started to get ready for school, but reappeared in his Volvo – without his siblings – as I was walking out my front door, and offered me a ride to school, which I gladly accepted. We talked a little more on the way, but the conversation had to stop in the parking lot, because Alice interrupted in her perky way. She skipped right up to us, gave me a hug, jumped back and said, "Hey!" in a bright voice. "I saw that you were going to come to the baseball game with Edward!" I smiled at Alice – who was rapidly becoming my friend – and nodded. "Awesome!" she crowed. I opened my mouth to ask a question, but Alice cut me off with her answer. "No, you won't need a rain coat – the storm will be over the town, so it should be dry where we'll be." I smiled wryly. I would have to get used to her answering before I even got the question out of my mouth. "Thanks." Alice brushed my thanks off with a graceful flutter of her fingers. "No problem." She glanced back at the school. "Anyway, the bell's going to ring in three minutes. See you later, Bella, Edward." And she
danced off to her first period class with me staring after her, envious of her natural, effortlessly dance-like movement. She glanced back at me as she went, and grinned. "I hope you're ready for some ball!" she called. I smiled, but felt a stab of nerves. I had no idea what the game would be like, but I hoped I was ready, too. Chapter 12 Monday and Tuesday were fairly ordinary – or as ordinary as they could be, considering the fact that I spent most of my time with Edward, the most perfect person on the planet. My homework load was light, and the Dreams I had weren't as terrible as they could have been. Every day, whenever an opportunity presented itself, Edward and I talked, asking questions and learning more about each other. And with everything I learned, I fell deeper and deeper in love with him, and became even more convinced that he did indeed have a soul. But, despite all our reasoning, the two of us only became more adamant in our different opinions about my changing into a vampire. In that area, at least, there was no progress. I knew I was right. He knew I was wrong. Impasse. Stalemate. And, unless I found another facet of the dissension about which all arguments hadn't been expended, it looked like we were going to stay that way. But that was the only trouble in paradise. And, before I knew it, it was Wednesday. I didn't think I had ever been so excited in my life, a fact that made school drag by that day. I caught myself watching the clock more often than I usually did. When Edward met me outside my Spanish class to walk me to lunch, I noticed that he looked amused. He was enjoying watching my impatience, that was for sure. I ate too quickly, as if my haste would made the seconds tick by faster, tapping my foot on the linoleum floor of the cafeteria the entire lunch period. Every now and then, as I turned away from the clock on the wall and turned back to Edward, I would catch a fleeting glance of a repressed smile on his angel's mouth. Oh, yeah, he was enjoying himself all right. I tried to scowl at him with minimal success. "You're shameless," I muttered, trying to keep a smile off my own lips. "Why won't you just tell me what it's going to be like?" Edward stopped trying to contain himself. He threw his head back and laughed like he had no doubt wanted to laugh all day, and
ignored the confused glances of the humans in the room. From the corner of my eye, I thought I could see Emmett and Alice laughing, too. When Edward caught his breath, he looked at me with a mischievous twinkle in his golden eyes that made me temporarily forget how to breath. "Because," he replied impishly, "I'm shameless." The fun in his eyes was impossible to resist, so I gave up trying and laughed with him. I bounced in the seat of Emmett's jeep – a giant thing Edward had borrowed from his brother for the day – as he drove me home so I could change into something more appropriate for a baseball game in the middle of the forest. The sky overhead was already churning with dark purple and gray clouds that were rapidly approaching from the west. Lightning flashed in the distance, and I faintly heard the rumble of thunder that followed. Edward teased me as he drove. "Shouldn't you have more patience?" he inquired. "You've lived enough lifetimes in your Dreams." I laughed. I'd been wondering the same thing myself. "But I've never seen a vampire baseball game before," I reminded him. "I bet you were pretty curious when, after all this time, you found a person whose mind you couldn't read." I was still a little smug that I was the one exception to his power. "This is like that for me." Edward made a face, and took his eyes off the road to stare into my eyes with an incredible intensity, trying once again to break through the barrier that kept my thoughts a secret from him. The proper response to such an action might have been a smug smile, or a witty comment, but with Edward's eyes on mine I could hardly breathe, much less speak. After my head started to swim and I had to gasp a breath in, Edward sighed and gave up. He returned his gaze to the road. "All right," he admitted, "If that's how it is for you then I can most certainly understand." I grinned. "But you're still not going to tell me about it, are you?" Edward chuckled. "I'm afraid not." When we got to my house, I dashed upstairs and changed into heavier jeans than the pair I was wearing, and a flannel shirt. Alice
had said that it wouldn't be raining at the place where the baseball game would be, but I was sure it would be cold, regardless. Suddenly, as I was finishing getting dressed, rain began to pelt the roof, and quickly turned to a roar of water on shingles. I grimaced as I trotted back down the stairs – I was going to get soaked as soon as I stepped out my front door. Edward smiled at my expression when I walked into the living room, but scooped me into his arms before I could say a word. So fast the room turned into a blur around me, he ran me outside and set me in the passenger's seat of the jeep. Only a few raindrops had a chance to land on me. Then he was beside me in the same second, and, right after Edward fastened an off-roading harness around me, we were off. Edward drove too fast even in the heavy rain. The clouds made the world dark, and the rain made everything blurry, but Edward hardly ever slowed and didn't seem to need the windshield wipers. Before long, we were out of the town altogether, and driving down a forest trail. The farther we went from Forks, the lighter the rain became, until, when Edward stopped the jeep seemingly in the middle of nowhere, it wasn't raining at all. I looked around curiously, wondering if I was supposed to be seeing something more than the trees, closely packed all around Edward and me. Edward caught my gaze, and smiled. "We go on foot from here," he explained, and turned so that he was facing away from me. I was ready to follow him, but he didn't move. Edward looked over his shoulder, read my expression, and smirked. "I suppose I should have said, I go on foot from here. If we walked at your pace, it would take us a while to get to where we're going. Climb on my back." I blinked, surprised, but stepped toward him anyway. I rested my hands on his shoulders for a second, hesitating, not quite sure if he was being serious or not, but when he didn't stop me, I hopped up and wrapped my legs around his waist. He didn't sway, or react in any way to my weight. He simply wrapped my arms tightly around his neck, and made my legs tighten their hold on his waist. "Hang on," he warned, and then he started running. We blew past the trees, seeming to fly over the ground at a speed I hadn't thought possible. No vampire is slow, but holy crap, he was fast! I had never Dreamed of a faster vampire. But the speed didn't
frighten me – I was too used to it from my Dreams. Instead, I found it exhilarating, and soon I began to laugh, though my laughter was hard to hear – the wind caught the sound and whipped it away as soon as it left my mouth. This was way better than any roller coaster. When we stopped – I tried not to let my disappointment show – Edward let me catch my breath, then led me through the trees for a ways, until we stepped through some damp ferns, and into a huge clearing in between tall, craggy mountains. Edward's family was already there, and my eyes took in the scene. Alice and Jasper were on the other side of the clearing, throwing something back and forth, though I couldn't see the ball. Esme, Emmett, and Rosalie were sitting on an outcropping of rock that stretched away from the mountains and extended toward the clearing – which I realized would be their baseball field, though it was surely three times the size of any normal field. It looked like Carlisle was marking bases, but they were at least half a mile apart. When they saw us, Emmett and Esme got up and walked toward us, Emmett casually twirling an aluminum bat in his big hands. Rosalie didn't look at me twice – she just walked off in the opposite direction, toward Alice and Jasper. I tried not to let that bother me. Emmett and Esme had reached us by then. They were smiling, Esme sweetly, Emmett mischievously. "What's up, little sis?" Emmett asked familiarly, and held his hand up for a high five, laughing when I had to jump a little to reach it. "You excited?" he asked, grinning. I nodded, my own mouth spreading into a grin. Emmett's sunny nature was hard to resist. Esme stepped forward to give me a cool, soft hug. "We're so glad you came," she told me, smoothing my hair, which was windblown from the run. I was still grinning. "Thanks for inviting me," I said, meaning every word. "I'm really excited." Alice skipped over to my side. "Then let's not keep you waiting," she chirped after giving me a quick but tight hug and a kiss on the cheek. "It's time." In unison, we all looked up at the overcast sky, just as a clap of thunder crashed over our heads.
Edward squeezed my hand, then he and his family ran out to the field. It looked like they had already formed teams. Alice was at the pitcher's mound with Jasper catching, Emmett was up to bat, and Edward was in the outfield. Esme beckoned, and I followed her to the rock where she, Emmett, and Rosalie had been siting earlier. "Are you going to play?" I asked. Esme shook her head with a fond smile at her family. "I'm the umpire. Someone has to keep them in line." Emmett snorted. "Come on, Mom," he mock whined. "I told you, we don't cheat!" Esme just rolled her eyes. "Of course you don't," she murmured, then, louder, she called, "All right! Batter up!" And the game began. They hit the ball so hard that it always flew farther and faster than any ball ever hit by a human. It also made an extremely loud boom every time the bat swung around to meet it, which explained the need for a thunderstorm – to cover the noise. They ran around the bases like lightning and the caught balls that I assumed would have been home runs. They threw harder and played better than I could have imagined. But, suddenly, the game came to a screeching halt. Alice was pitching, Carlisle was up to bat, and Edward was catching when, for no apparent reason, Alice gasped, her eyes for away, and went rigid. Edward's smile vanished, and in the next second he had left his position on the field and planted himself in front of me. I went cold. Something was wrong. I peered over his shoulder. The rest of his family had gathered around Alice and were asking her worried questions. "What's wrong?" Jasper demanded, leaning over Alice like he was going to shield her with his body. Esme repeated his question and took one of Alice's small hands. The touch seemed to bring Alice back down to earth a little. "I didn't see," she whispered contritely, her eyes still focused on something
we couldn't see. "I got it wrong." She didn't sound too surprised about her statement, but Carlisle, Esme, Jasper, and Rosalie exchanged shocked, tense glances, as if Alice didn't normally get things wrong. Emmett looked curious, but didn't seem to be otherwise bothered. Carlisle placed his hand on Alice's thin shoulder. "What did you see?" he asked in the calm voice of leadership. Alice's eyes focused on his suddenly. Her voice had a frustrated edge. "There's three of them, two males, one female. They were leaving, but then they heard us playing." Her eyes flicked to Edward. "They're coming," she told him bleakly. "Too quickly for you to run with her," she added with a glance toward me when Edward seized my hand and started to pull me away. Carlisle looked at Edward. "Are they close enough for you to hear them?" he asked tersely. Edward went very still, his hand still holding mine. After a moment, he replied. "Yes. They don't mean any harm." A frown creased his forehead. "They heard the game – they want to play." Carlisle raised his eyebrows like he was asking Edward a silent question, and Edward shook his head no. Carlisle nodded, his face relieved but grim. "But we can't risk taking her away from here," he said out loud. "Thirsty or not, they might catch the scent and start hunting." Edward nodded and turned to me. "Take your hair down," he instructed, his voice low. I had listened to his family's words – I knew what was coming. Three of his kind, who didn't live like the Cullens did, were coming. And I, a tasty little human, was right in the middle of this mess. This was why I needed to be changed! But I kept my opinions to myself, though Edward would hear them later, and obeyed numbly, sliding the ponytail out of my long hair and running my fingers through it, combing it down around my face, my throat. Hopefully that would block some of my scent, hide my pulsing jugular from the strangers' view. But I could do nothing about my heartbeat. The vampires would
have to stay far enough away from me that they couldn't hear my heart for our ploy to work. And I would have to be very still. I started practicing that immediately. I began to breath deeply, made myself go into a meditative state, trying to calm my frantic pulse. I forced my features into a calm mask, allowed none of my fear to break through. I did manage to get my heartbeat own to about sixty beats per minute, I estimated – to the surprised and slightly impressed glances of Edward and his family – as we waited for the newcomers. The trick would be keeping it down. I decided the best way to do that would be to view everything I was about to see with a calm detachment, like I was watching a movie or dreaming – a normal dream. All of us had gathered into a unified group, with me and Edward at the back. We did not have to wait long. After about two minutes, they drifted silently toward us from the trees. They moved slowly, respectfully, toward our larger group in the feral posture that I was familiar with – on the balls of their feet, always ready to slip into a crouch. Alice had been right – there were two males and one female. My eyes were drawn to the dark-haired male first, because the other male, whose hair was brown, and the redheaded female oriented themselves around him as soon as they began to approach us. I examined the dark-haired male closely. He was of medium build, and very beautiful, with a smiling, open face. I looked to the female next, because her red hair was so vibrant, so bright. She was more wary than the dark-haired male; her eyes never stopped shifting, watching for a sign that would betray an intent to attack. The brown-haired male I studied last. But as soon as I looked at him, my attempt to keep myself calm failed. He looked ...ordinary. There was nothing special about his face besides his red eyes. But it was his face that held the most fear for me. Because I recognized him. And I knew what he was capable of. I had Dreamed of him twice – or rather, I'd Dreamed of two people who had been killed by him. Once I'd been a middle-aged human man who'd lived in a small town his whole life and had never expected anything especially exciting to happen to him. The other time I'd been a werewolf – an actual werewolf, not the Quileute shape-shifters. This vampire had chased me across Siberia. And he
had caught me – which is how I knew another detail about him. He tortured his victims. He made a game out of it. He enjoyed their pain before he killed them. And now that I looked more closely at the redhaired female, I recognized her, too. The people I'd Dreamed about who had been killed by the male had been much more focused on him, but she had been in the background. She was his mate. She didn't quite enjoy the pain like he did, but she did love the hunt. James and Victoria, I remembered suddenly. Their names were James and Victoria. Sick, sadistic monsters. I knew them, but they didn't know me, thank God. They wouldn't want me to walk away from here alive if they knew what I knew. They wouldn't want me to walk away alive if they knew I was human anyway. The dark-haired male stepped forward with a smile, and I made sure my emotions didn't show on my face. It was time to start acting, and I hoped I could do a good enough job to fool the three vampires in front of the Cullens and me. I didn't want to think about what would happen if I couldn't. Chapter 13 The black haired male greeted us very civilly, in a warm voice with an almost imperceptible French accent, almost gone after years of traveling. "Hello," he said, and introduced himself and his coven. "My name is Laurent, and these are Victoria and James." Carlisle inclined his head genteelly. "It is a pleasure to meet you. I am Carlisle, and this is my family." he introduced everyone, including me, though I was halfway hidden behind Edward, Esme, Alice, and Rosalie. James' eyes roved over all of us, and I repressed a shudder when his burgundy eyes met mine. Laurent smiled at us. "I have to admit, it is nice to have met you. We haven't run into any company in a long time." "Oh?" Carlisle asked politely. "That surprises me. Where have you been?"
Laurent gestured vaguely. "We've been on the hunt from Ontario, and we just came through Seattle. Speaking of which," he added as an afterthought, "what's your hunting range? We wouldn't want to encroach on your territory." Carlisle ignored the assumption behind his words. "We usually stay around the Olympic and Coastal Ranges here, near our home." Laurent, James, and Victoria exchanged surprised looks. "Home?" Victoria asked in an unexpectedly high voice before she could stop herself. "How do you remain undetected?" Laurent inquired. Carlisle smiled, more naturally this time, as he anticipated telling his story. "Why don't you come back with us and I'll tell you? It is a rather long story." he glanced back at Edward. "Emmett, Alice, why don't you go with Edward and Bella to get the Jeep?" he added casually. I resisted the urge to sigh with relief as we turned to go back into the woods toward the Jeep – away from James, Laurent, and Victoria. It had worked. We walked at a human speed, which frustrated Edward and Emmett – they wanted to get out of there now. But we still had to cross a lot of the meadow to get to the trees, and, from there, the Jeep. We were about two-thirds of the way to the tree line when we saw something that made my heart stop. Ahead of us, the grass was rippling in a strong gust of wind that was coming toward us fast. A gust of wind that would blow our scents – my human scent – back toward where Carlisle, Esme, Jasper, Rosalie, James, Victoria, and Laurent stood. Edward gasped and grabbed me like he was going to rush me away from the wind that would blow our cover, but it was too late. There wasn't even time to blink. The wind hit us, fanning my hair away from my face and neck. A sharp hiss sounded from behind us, closely followed by two gasps. Edward, Emmett, and Alice whirled around, jumping in front of me. One of them snarled. I turned more slowly. Alice and Emmett were a little farther back than Edward, flanking him in case of a fight. James was crouched low to the ground. His eyes – which had been red –
were black with thirst. My stomach dropped – I must have smelled good to him. And Edward was crouched opposite of James, in a clearly defensive position. Every line of his tensed body screamed warning and fury. James watched Edward closely. He shifted slightly to the right, and growled, a low rumble in the back of his throat, when Edward expertly compensated in response. Adrenaline entered my bloodstream, tingling in my fingertips, making my heart pound. It also made me able to absorb the confrontation that was happening between Carlisle, Jasper, Laurent, and Victoria at the same time that Edward stopped James. "She's with us," Carlisle said, looking at Laurent, but speaking to James. "She's human!" Laurent protested, taking a step forward, then stopping when Jasper snarled harshly. Victoria stayed perfectly still, her eyes flickering between me, Edward, James, and Carlisle like she wasn't sure what to do. Esme and Rosalie hovered behind Carlisle. "Yes," Carlisle agreed coolly. "she is. That doesn't change the fact that she is with us." Jasper had his eyes focused on Victoria, not Laurent, which I found surprising. But Jasper had battle experience. If he thought she was a threat, then she was most likely a threat. James and Edward were still sizing each other up, neither moving to attack, but neither relaxing. Instinctively, James inhaled deeply, his nostrils flaring, and his eyes flashing with thirst. Edward snarled at him fiercely, and brought James' attention back to him, but I could tell by the look on James' face that he would not be dissuaded for long. Carlisle and Laurent were still arguing. "This is ridiculous!" Laurent burst out. "She's a human! We hunt humans! Why do you expect me to call him off, even if I could call him off? He's doing what he is made to do!" Carlisle's voice did not change in volume, but I had never heard him speak so coldly. "I don't care if he's only doing what comes naturally
to him. Call. Him. Off. Now." Jasper barred his teeth, showing Laurent that if James didn't stop, he would make him stop. Esme's face betrayed her fear for her family, though she didn't make a sound. Rosalie looked dangerously at Laurent, a snarl twisting her perfect mouth. Laurent was no fool. He knew that his coven was outnumbered two to one. "James," he called in a tight voice. James didn't even glance toward him. "James," Laurent called again, a little louder this time. James' eyes never left Edward. There was a subtle change in his face – I realized that he wasn't going to back down. "She's mine," he growled. And then he lunged. My eyes, frozen with fear, wouldn't close. Edward and James were streaks of white shooting back and forth as James tried to find a way through Edward's guard. Beyond them, Laurent fought Carlisle and Rosalie, and Jasper faced off against Victoria. Esme backed away, looking like she wanted to do something, but also knowing that she would be more of a hindrance than a help. An invisible hand squeezed around my heart as I saw that. Jasper was a fighter. Carlisle, Rosalie, and Esme were not. Emmett stiffened with worry when he saw Rosalie fighting, but he hesitated, unwilling to leave Edward to deal with James alone. But Alice's voice whipped out as she ordered, "Go, Emmett!" He didn't argue, and went immediately to Rosalie and Carlisle. Jasper could take care of himself. Already, Victoria was losing ground. Laurent was the first to be defeated, since he fought three opponents at once. With Emmett taking up most of his attention, Rosalie – looking like a white and gold streak to my weak eyes – was able to find an opening. She shot forward, tearing his head from his shoulders. Carlisle and Emmett dismembered the twitching, headless corpse and put the pieces in a pile, ready to be burned. James fell next. Edward, obviously, had the advantage. He could read James' mind, see his next moves before James could make them. Edward also fought with anger on his side, which made him even faster and stronger. And James was distracted by his thirst. James tried to attack Edward head on, and Edward took one step to
the side, putting himself in the perfect position to go for James' nowunprotected neck. Edward made quick work of James after that. Victoria was the last one left, and when she heard the screeching sound of another vampire being torn limb from limb, she must have realized that she was alone. She disengaged from Jasper quickly, her eyes searching for something as she backed away. Jasper would have followed and finished the fight, but Carlisle laid a hand on his arm, stopping him. When Victoria found whatever she was looking for, she froze, her crimson eyes widening. Then a horrific grimace twisted her features, and she screamed in fury and pain. She took one step forward, as if she wanted to come back and kill every last one of us, but she stopped herself. Breathing hard, she met each of our eyes with a furious snarl on her mouth, saving me for last. I shivered, and Edward placed himself in between me and her. I peeked over his shoulder, but Victoria just glared at us once more before turning and running into the woods. Then it was time to burn the bodies. Edward, Emmett, and Jasper heaped the remains into one large pile, and Edward ran out to the Jeep for a second, returning quickly with a lighter, which he threw on the pile of torn-up vampire. The flames caught quickly, but, though it released a copious amount of sweet-smelling smoke, the fire didn't climb very high. Edward hadn't spoken to me since the fight, but now, as I watching the fire numbly, he approached me slowly, like he didn't want to scare me. He gently drew me away from his family, and made me sit down on the rock I'd been sitting on during the game. "Are you all right?" he murmured cautiously. My voice was very calm when I answered. "Yes. It's nothing I haven't seen before." I'd even been on the loosing end – the burning end – of a fight before, but I wasn't going to tell him that. "Besides," I added, and disgust started to creep into my tone, "he deserved it. That I'm sure of." Edward's eyes tightened. "You knew him?" I shrugged. "In a manner of speaking," I replied distastefully. "And
what I know is enough that I don't regret his death." I shuddered, remembering what James had done to me in my Dreams. Edward nodded, but there was something else on his mind, something that he was not happy about. I sighed quietly, thinking of the anguish on Victoria's face. "She was his mate," I murmured, and Edward nodded. "It's not over, is it?" But I knew it wasn't. When a mate is killed, it means revenge. Edward shook his head, his face hard. "No, it isn't over," he confirmed, and took my face in his hands. "But," he continued fiercely. "I will never let anything happen to you." I sighed again and leaned into his touch. I knew that Edward would protect me with his very life – and I was afraid that his life just might be the cost. Volterra, one day later Aro's Point of View The female with fiery red hair extended her hand toward me, her face a hard mask of simmering anger and loss. I smiled at her and clasped her hand with my own, glad for a break in the fairly normal tedium of my very long life. After a certain point, an ancient runs out of new things to try. A new mind was always a refreshing change – who knew what I might find? And her mind did indeed provide such a pearl of information. I skimmed over the years of her childhood in Belfast, her change after a fatal injury delivered by a thief, her one hundred or so years of being a vampire, her mate, James. But then, her thoughts of the past two days! She, her mate, and one other male, Laurent, had stumbled upon Carlisle and his family! I noticed with a start that his family had added a new member – there were eight vampires in a clearing. The new member of the Cullen coven was a female named Bella with dark hair, rather plain-looking for a vampire – but then again, so was Victoria's mate, James. I wondered idly why Carlisle hadn't told me of the new addition... but then received my answer when Victoria's
memories took a darker turn. The girl that I – and Victoria, James, and Laurent – had mistaken for a vampire was actually a human girl! I watched through Victoria's memories how Edward had defended her, and came to the same conclusion she had – that Edward and the human girl were mates. How startling! Edward had always seemed to independent, so complete in himself. But how fiercely he – and the rest of his family – fought for her! Laurent and James had been killed in a matter of minutes. And Victoria, knowing that she had no hope for revenge against seven vampires, had come to me. I released her hand and leaned back against the back of my throne, nodding slowly, my thoughts in chaos. A plan began forming in my mind. As much as Carlisle amused and, though I hated to admit it, intrigued me, I also had to admit that I was rather jealous of him. He had Edward, who could hear the thoughts of those around him as they thought them, and Alice, who could see what was to come, and even Jasper, who could control the emotional climate of a room, though I didn't want him as badly as I did the other two. Carlisle had them, and I... well, did not. And I wanted them. I wanted them almost as much as I had wanted Jane and Alec. I especially wanted Alice, but Edward would bring so much power with him as well! But neither of them wanted to join my guard, committed as they were to Carlisle's dream of a life free of killing humans. But I remembered again how they had fought for Bella. If I could get my hands on the girl, I would have leverage. Most certainly against Edward, but Alice had defended her, too. Perhaps I could, ah, persuade them to join me... in return for the girl's life. Not that I would actually let her live. And, in case any vampire questioned my reasoning – which I doubted they would – I had a perfect reason for bringing the girl to Volterra. She had seen a fight between vampires. We had been revealed to her. She would have been brought in anyway. My plan seemed perfect. There was, however, one little problem. Two, actually. First of all was Alice, and her visions. But I had shaken Edward's hand when he had come with Carlisle for a visit three years ago – he had known Alice long enough for him to have gained an extensive knowledge of the visions from Alice's own mind. I could
work around her visions. And, of course, Victoria herself presented a complication. She had come to me and my brothers seeking revenge. Edward had killed her James, and she wanted to hurt him as deeply as she could, and had guessed how to do it – by killing Bella. Edward had taken away her mate – she would take away his mate. It really was a good idea. But when I had been in her mind, I had seen her request. In return for the tip about the information leak, she wanted to kill Bella herself, with her own hands. And, of course, I could not have that. If I was going to use Bella as leverage against the Cullens, I would need her alive. Victoria was a loose end. But loose ends could easily be taken care of. I looked into Victoria's eyes with a smile. She watched me with eager anticipation. "Your request is reasonable," I assured her. "I will have the girl brought to Volterra, at which time I will also have word sent to you." A feral smile lit up Victoria's face. "Until that time," I continued with another smile, "you are free to go." Victoria left the hall jubilantly. I waited until I was sure she was out of earshot, then beckoned to Demetri. The lean, dark-haired vampire approached me and bowed, waiting for my instructions. Softly, so only he would hear I murmured. "Follow her. As soon as she is clear of the city, kill her." Demetri bowed again. "Yes, Master," he replied, and exited the hall by way of the drain in the middle of the floor, without saying another word. I smiled. That's what I liked about Demetri – he didn't ask questions. His years with the Russian mob had taught him that. He had also learned how to keep his mouth closed. No word of my orders would leak to anyone else. I would not be incriminated. I smiled. I had a plan, and I would not allow Victoria's vendetta to ruin it. Chapter 14 Bella's Point of View Two months. For two months after Edward had killed James, we watched, we waited. I went to school and did my best to keep my
grades up, though my mind was almost always filled with the image of Victoria's snarling face. I tried to act normal for Charlie. For two months I tried to pretend that I wasn't always afraid, always waiting for the day when Alice would call me, having finally seen a vision of Victoria's return. I could hardly sleep, and when I did sleep, my Dreams plagued me like they always had. Edward tried to help me as much as he could. He constantly told me that he would never let Victoria hurt me, that he would stop her. But no matter what he said, the threat Victoria posed hung over our heads, and I often found myself looking out my window, scanning the tree line, searching for a sign of movement. Searching for her. But two months had passed. Alice hadn't seen anything about Victoria. Nothing. It was like she had disappeared from the face of the earth. The Cullens started to breathe. It had been two months – if she had been planing to do something, surely she would have done it by now. Jasper was more wary than the others, but even he agreed that, especially when avenging a mate, vampires usually took their revenge as quickly as they could. They did not wait two months without even beginning to make plans. Only I seemed unable to shake the feeling that there was something... else going on, something that went beyond a vengeful vampire. Something not right. But I had no evidence to support my feeling, so I did my best to let it go, and didn't mention it to anyone. Not even Edward, because I knew that it would only make him worry, and I thought that Edward had been tense and worried long enough. I wanted him to relax with me again, to talk and to laugh. And that wouldn't happen if he was constantly watching for something – and it looked like it wasn't going to happen anyway. The Cullens had constricted their hunting to an area very close to Forks, and the only prey they'd been able to find were deer and elk – herbivores which didn't taste nearly as appealing as larger predators. They had also limited their hunting – they had only gone two times in the past two months. Their eyes seemed to be always black, and their tempers were short. But now that it looked like Victoria wasn't coming back after all, they had planned an extended trip to Alaska, a place with wolves and bears galore. Every Cullen was going, which
had worried Edward temporarily, but they were all certain that, on the off-chance that Victoria did come back, they would be able to return before she got to me. And they all needed to go hunting. Badly. They left early Monday morning. Edward hugged me goodbye, but, though he was still slightly uncomfortable with leaving me alone, he did not delay his family's departure. He was under just as much strain as the others – even more so, considering how appealing my blood was to him. Aro's Point of View Demetri had been stationed in Portland, Oregon – close enough to monitor the Cullens with his special ability, but far enough to stay under Alice's radar – for the past two months, watching and waiting for the perfect opportunity. His ability to sense the whereabouts of whoever he wanted to find would be crucial. He was under orders to tell me when the Cullens dropped their guard and left Forks for a hunting trip – which they would have to do eventually. For two months I waited. But my patience paid off. One Monday morning, my cell phone buzzed in my pocket. I answered it, and Demetri's voice murmured in my ear, "They've left, Master. Heading North. They're moving too fast for the girl to be with them." I exhaled slowly. It was time. "Go to Forks," I instructed, trying to keep the excitement form my voice. "and take the girl. But only when doing so will not cause a scene. You might have to wait for the perfect moment. Also – and this is very important – do not make any decisions about how to take her until right before you do so. Make your choice any sooner, and you may inadvertently alert Alice." I closed the phone without waiting for a response. I would be obeyed. Demetri knew what the consequences would be if he deviated even an inch from the plan I had given him. I allowed myself one brief smile. Then I called out, "Marcus? Caius? Make sure that we have a room prepared – we are going to have company." Bella's Point of View
The next morning, I woke up with a sigh, missing Edward's presence beside me. I went through my day with apathy, not really paying attention in my classes. The day seemed to drag by more slowly than usual, and I was glad when I finally climbed into my truck and drove home at the end of the day. I unlocked my door and stepped inside – but I didn't move past the threshold. The hair on my arms and the back of my neck rose, and my muscles locked into place, freezing me, just inside my house. My heart started to pound, and my eyes swept the room. Everything looked fine. But every instinct in my body screamed that something was wrong. As I stood there, frozen, the feeling became more certain. Something was not right. Someone was here. Watching me. I dropped my backpack immediately and bolted back out the door, my truck keys gripped in my hand as I ran. I had learned long ago to trust my instincts. I flung myself into the cab of my truck, and started to yank the truck door shut behind me. I started to, but didn't finish. Because a hand shot out and grabbed the door before it could close, and pulled it back open, roughly dragging me from the driver's seat at the same time. I was afraid, but I was not overcome by panic. I'd had too much battle experience in my Dreams for that. I could still think. Scream! my mind ordered, and I obeyed, but a hand clapped over my mouth, cutting the sound off after only a split second. Fight! my brain shouted. Struggle! I could do that. I could fight expertly – the result of a Dream of a Chinese emperor's guard. With all my might, I drove my elbow into my assailant's side – and heard a sickening snap. At first I thought that maybe I'd broken one of his ribs. But then I became aware of a searing pain in my arm and I realized that I hadn't broken his ribs – the impact of my elbow on his side had broken my elbow. He never faltered. I had hit him hard enough to break my bones, and he hadn't even flinched. My blood ran cold. There was only one thing with skin than rock-hard. Vampire. A vampire was kidnapping me. Who? Not Victoria – I had caught a glimpse of my kidnapper's face, and I was sure that the person who was taking me was a man with shoulder-length dark hair. Why? I had no idea. A vampire. Then I had no hope of escaping. But
I'd be darned if I was going down without a fight, as useless as it might be. Of course, his cold hands restrained me easily. He stopped for a moment, and I felt him take one hand away from me. It didn't make any difference – he held me just as easily with one hand as he had with two. Then I felt a tiny pinprick of pain in the crease of my uninjured elbow, and almost immediately, a sleepiness started to spread throughout my body. I sagged in his, whoever he was, arms as the drug took effect. Ugh. He wouldn't even give me the satisfaction of kicking and screaming as he kidnapped me. My very last thought before I lapsed into unconsciousness was, What a spoilsport. Then blackness closed over my head and I slipped into oblivion. Edward's Point of View Finally! Something besides deer! After two months of scant – and especially bad-tasting – hunting, the blood of the mountain lion I was drinking at the moment was pure bliss. After I finished, I straightened and inhaled deeply, searching for another scent to follow. Soon I would be able to go back home to Bella, my thirst somewhat satisfied for the first time in months. I could be near her, and it would be so much easier. I'd been worried about going so far away to hunt... but it honestly didn't look like Victoria was coming back. And now I would be able to be around her without as much difficulty. Oh, her blood would always tempt me, but this trip would make it easier to bear. I was right to have come. Or so I thought, until, far in the distance, I heard something. It was high and shrill, full of horror and fear. It was enough to make me loose my focus on the hunt. I turned toward it, alarmed. It was a scream, I realized. Someone was screaming. I started to run toward the sound, fear rising in my chest. I searched ahead for a mental voice, trying to figure out who was screaming, but I wasn't close enough. Alice's Point of View
Oh, thank God for wolves! Especially after two whole months of nothing but deer, elk, and, for a change, more deer. Emmett had gotten lucky once and found small black bear, but otherwise, it had been herbivores or bust. There just wasn't that much variety so close to town. But we hadn't been able to leave – not with the possibility of a revenge-crazed vampire coming for Bella. We had all been so tense and worried – except for Emmett and Rosalie; Emmett, because Emmett never worried about anything, and Rosalie because she couldn't have cared less about what happened to Bella. Rosalie might have gone hunting for some predators on her own, but, even if she didn't care a whit about Bella, she loved her family, and was loath to leave us behind. I breathed in deeply, my eyes closed, and savored the scent of a nearby wolf. By the sound of his heart, he was quite large. My eyes opened, and venom filled my mouth as I slipped into a low crouch and crept silently through the trees. I paused in the shadow of a giant fir, watching my prey for a second. The wolf was huge and gray, and was, at the moment, sniffing some tracks left by a deer. He was hunting, too. But this would be his last hunt. My body coiled like a spring, then flew forward as I lunged, and my teeth clamped down on the wolf's throat, cutting through his thick fur like a hot knife through butter. His hot blood gushed freely into my mouth, filling it with liquid warmth and flowing down my throat, easing the burn of thirst. I gulped the sweet ambrosia until there was none left, then pulled away from the dead wolf. I glanced down at my shirt and smirked slightly – I, unlike Emmett, had mastered the art of a clean hunt; there wasn't a drop of blood on my clothes. But my smile froze on my face, and I was suddenly seeing something quite different from the spotless shirt I'd been looking at. I was looking at the front of Bella's house. Her truck was parked in the driveway, and she was standing on her porch, in the act of unlocking her front door. She was having a hard time because her hands were full of her backpack, but when she did eventually get it open, she froze just inside the threshold. She hesitated there for a second, then suddenly dropped her backpack and spun away from the open door in front of her. She ran away from her house, leaving the front door open, and using the bottom porch step as a
springboard to launch herself in the direction of her truck. She threw herself into the cab of the ancient vehicle, and started to slam the door closed, but someone stopped her. A male vampire with black hair down to his shoulders hauled her out of her truck and started to drag her toward the woods on the other side of her front yard. Bella tried to scream, but the vampire put his hand over her mouth. Then Bella started to fight his restraining hands, trying to get free. The vampire who was kidnapping her glanced around him like he was worried about someone seeing him, then reached into one of his pockets. When he pulled his hand out again, he was holding a small syringe, which he inserted into the vein at the crease of Bella's left elbow. He pushed the plunger down, and soon Bella began to weaken. Within a minute, she was unconscious. My eyes cleared and I was looking at my shirt again. Shock froze me in place. I couldn't move, couldn't force my mind to get past the image in my mind. Bella was going to be kidnapped. Soon. Too soon for me to do anything about it. I needed to move! I needed to find Edward and the rest of my family, and we needed to get back to Forks! But I was frozen. I was dimly aware of a loud, shrill sound. It took me a ridiculously long time to realize that I was screaming. Edward's Point of View I ran faster, until I was close enough to hear the mind that belonged to the screaming person. Then I started to sprint. It was Alice. Her thoughts were a jumble of wordless panic, but one picture kept replaying itself, over and over again. The memory of a recent vision. I watched it as it replayed itself in Alice's thoughts... and stumbled on legs that suddenly felt hollow. All my breath rushed out like I had been punched in the stomach. No. No. It couldn't be. There had been a mistake. There had to be! Because if there wasn't, if Bella had really been taken, then my world was over. Planet Earth might not stop revolving around the sun, but my world, the world where Bella was the center of everything, would be utterly destroyed. I would be destroyed. She could not be gone. A pain unlike anything I had ever felt, that surpassed even the memory of vampire venom in my veins, started to radiate from my chest.
I beat it back, clinging desperately to the one sliver of hope I had. Alice had not seen Bella dead. Kidnapped, yes, but not killed. As long as she was still breathing, I would focus not on my own pain, but on getting her back alive. As long as Bella lived, I would give everything I had to the task of getting her back. There would be plenty of time for pain later, if I failed. I stumbled again at the thought of an eternity without Bella. My life stretched before me, meaningless but for the memory of her. It would be torture. But there was another option, an option that, I realized, really was the only option for me. I didn't have to live without Bella. I could die, too. If it came to that, I reminded myself. If Bella died, then I would follow after, but before I did, I would have to be sure that Bella was indeed dead. I could only imagine killing myself without knowing for certain, and Bella ending up being alive. I would never force her to endure that. If I died, it would only be after I was certain that Bella would be waiting for me on the other side. If there was an other side for me, that is. And even if there wasn't, at least I wouldn't feel the pain of loosing her. I reached Alice a few seconds after that thought. She had stopped screaming, but was standing completely still, not even breathing, staring at me with wide eyes, frenzied to the point of absolute stillness. I took her by the shoulders and shook her sharply. "Alice!" I snapped. "We have to go!" She shook off her paralysis and nodded, and we both started running toward Forks, though we both knew we would be too late to stop what Alice had seen. Maybe we could get there before the trail went too cold. Alice was searching the future franticly, looking for where Bella would be taken. She found the answer almost immediately. The vampire who had kidnapped Bella was taking her to Italy. To Volterra. To the Volturi. My cold chest went even colder. This was the exact situation Bella had warned me of. Someone had informed the Volturi that she knew about vampires. But while Alice knew Bella's final destination, she could not see how she would get there – if her kidnapper would swim to Italy, or smuggle her aboard a plane, or something else we hadn't thought of. We couldn't cut him off if we didn't know what route to take. So we
would have to start at Bella's house. Alice called Carlisle and told him what had happened as we ran. We reached Bella's house in ten minutes – we had been in northern Alaska, and had a good way to run. The front door was still wide open, and Bella's backpack still laid abandoned on the front porch. Her truck door was still open as well. I smelled Bella's kidnapper as soon as I stepped into the front yard. Alice and I followed the scent into Bella's house, up the stairs, and into her room. My throat tightened with tears I could not shed as I looked around her room. It looked so normal, like Bella was going to walk in the door at any moment. And there, on her pillow, was folded piece of heavy, expensive paper. I picked it up, trying to keep my hand from shaking, and opened it. I read it several times through, though I knew what it said, until rage made my vision cloud with red. It was written in an old-fashioned, familiar handwriting. My young friend Edward, Don't fret – your Bella is still alive. You know where to find her, if you wish. Now, how much do you love her? I ground my teeth and crushed the note in my hand. Aro had gone too far this time. Chapter 15 Bella's Point of View The first thing I was aware of was that my elbow hurt. The second thing was that I was cold. Then, I felt a smooth, hard, cool surface under my cheek, and realized that I was lying on a stone floor. Lastly, before I opened my eyes, I noticed the smell. Dank stone, like a dungeon. It was faintly nauseating, and strangely familiar. I kept my eyes closed and inhaled again, trying to remember where I'd smelled
that exact scent before. Then I remembered. When I was seven, I'd had a Dream about a Volturi guard killed for his part in a conspiracy. He had been quite familiar with this smell. My stomach dropped. I knew where I was now. I was in the lower levels of a castle in Volterra, Italy. The castle where the Volturi lived, to be specific. I started to panic. If I was in the Volturi's castle, then they knew that I knew about them. If they knew that I knew about them, then I was going to die. Wait, wait, wait, I urged myself, trying to regain my self control. Don't focus on what's going to happen to you – focus on a way to get out of it. I took a deep breath and opened my eyes. I was lying in the middle of a dimly lit stone room. There was a cot in one corner, which I found strange – why wasn't I on that, instead of the floor? I sat up slowly, discovering new aches in various places of my body, and guessed an answer. I had more than likely been tossed unceremoniously into the room. How rude of them. I walked two circles around my cell, and decided that I wasn't in very bad shape, all things considered. My right knee and hip were sore from lying on the hard stone for who knows how long, but that was to be expected. I half expected someone to come for me – they had to hear that I was awake – and ask me questions. But no one came. I just sat there on my cot, waiting and wondering what the heck was going on. Why would they bring me here, only to just leave me in a cell? Usually they questioned the person they brought in, if nothing else to see how they had found out about vampires. The stories entertained them sometimes. Why would they want me here if they weren't going to do anything with me, even just kill me? Unless I wasn't the one they wanted. I sat straight up, my mind racing. Unless I was being used to get something else they wanted. But how was that connected to me? I got up to pace again. I had not been brought here and left alive for this long for no reason. Everything the Volturi did had a reason. They must want something that they though I could help them get. But what could they want that was tied to me? My Dreams? But I was certain that they could not
know about the Dreams. I had to fit into the equation somewhere else. How was I the key, the leverage? Who was I drawing in? Who would care enough to come after me into the heart of the Volturi's city? My parents? But that didn't fit – they didn't know where to find me, and they didn't have anything the Volturi would want. The answer hit me like a punch to the stomach. The Cullens. Of course. That... made sense. The Volturi was always on the hunt for power, and Edward, Alice, and Jasper could give them that. But they would never join the Volturi of their own free will – which was where I came in. I sat down hard on my cot. I knew they would come. And then Aro would make them a deal – my life for their service. It sounded just like him. I buried my face in my hands. I couldn't let that happen. But how was I supposed to stop it? I forced myself to think past the fear. What did I know about Aro? He was greedy, manipulative, and curious to a fault. He was obsessed with how the vampire world viewed him. He was cunning and wily, but he also believed that he knew everything there was to know. I guess he had a good reason for that – his gift enabled him to hear every thought someone had ever had with just one touch. But I could use that against him. And what did I have that I could use against him? I had my vast knowledge of just about everything from my Dreams. I understood how Aro thought, how he carried things out. I had, I remembered, a silent mind – if Edward couldn't read my mind, then Aro probably couldn't, since their gifts were so similar. I repressed a sigh. My unreadable mind would throw Aro off, and my unexplainable knowledge would make him curious, but he could still fall back on the excuse that I was human, and could not be freed. In the eyes of the vampire world, I was nothing more than an animal to be hunted. I had no rights, and my life was meaningless. I was a pawn. But a vampire had a voice, a will, a right to chose what he or she wanted to do. It was taken very much amiss in the vampire world if one of them was forced to do something they didn't want to do. Such an act could ruin Aro's reputation. A vampire was not a pawn,
and was not to be treated like one. I knew where my line of thought was taking me, but I still shuddered slightly when I came to the conclusion. I would have to convince Aro to change me into a vampire. Tears started to fill my eyes. I didn't want to be changed like that! But every now and then, there comes a time when what you want can't be a deciding factor anymore. Not if you wanted to survive. Sometimes, you have to do what you have to do, and forget just how much the idea repulses you. I would do what needed to be done to save myself and my family. Especially Edward. I would protect him. I made my plans. I had my main plan – make Aro curious enough to change me without revealing too much. And there was my back-up plan – tell him about my Dreams and prove it in the least pleasant way possible. That would definitely be enough to convince him, but it would also make it that much harder for Aro to let me go. Maybe, if he knew about that, he wouldn't mind having his reputation besmirched. And then, there was the back-up plan for my back-up plan, in case everything failed. At age eleven, I'd had one of my most informative Dreams. It had been about Aro's very own sister, Didyme, who had also been the mate of Marcus, another one of the Volturi's three Masters. Aro had changed Didyme, hoping that she would have a talent similar to his own. He had been disappointed when her power turned out to be, ironically, love. Didyme had been able to draw anyone in, to make anyone devoted to her. Aro had been dismayed, but easily began to use her power for his own purposes. But then, Didyme had fallen in love with Marcus, and Marcus with Didyme. The two began considering leaving the Volturi. They were both stupid to think that Aro would let them go. Didyme's gift may have been a disappointment to him, but Marcus's gift was not. Aro would never give up Marcus's ability to see the relationships between people. So he figured out a way to make Marcus stay. Didyme had always insisted upon going with Aro, Marcus, Caius, and the guard to take care of rebellious groups of vampires, and it was all too easy for Aro to arrange for Didyme to be "accidentally" killed in one of these confrontations. Marcus, heartbroken, had lost all will to live, and had stayed with the Volturi, to apathetic to do anything else. Aro's
problem had been solved. He got to keep Marcus. It had only cost him the life of his sister. But no one else knew what had really happened. Aro had made sure of that. My plan C was to spill the beans. If all else failed, I would start to tell about Aro's assassination of Didyme. Aro would have no choice but to kill me before the whole story got out. He would lose his bargaining chip, and Edward would be able to read his mind and know that I was dead, that there was no reason for him to join the guard. It would hurt him, I knew, but I could not let him join the guard for me. I would protect him, and Alice, and Jasper. And I might just bring Aro's world down around his ears before I died, too. That was a plus. But that was my last resort. First, I needed to try plans A and B. I knew what I had to do – make Aro so curious that he just had to change me, and forgot about how that might affect his original plan to force Edward, Alice, and Jasper into the guard. I had to make him want me more that he wanted them, even if it was just for a little while. I was fairly certain that I could do that. But first I needed to get an audience with him. And how was I supposed to do that? Well, first I needed to get the attention of a vampire. And how is the best way to do that, you ask? To annoy the crap out of them. I grimaced, cringed, and blushed, already embarrassed by what I was about to do, then took a deep breath, pushed away my humiliation, and belted out in a loud, clear, voice, "I know a song that gets on everybody's nerves, everybody's nerves, everybody's nerves! I know a song that gets on everybody's nerves, and this is how it goes! I know a song that gets on everybody's nerves, everybody's nerves, everybody's nerves! I know a song that gets on everybody's nerves, and this is how it goes!" I continued to repeat the annoying song over and over again. I was sure that I was heard by every vampire in the entire castle. And, just as I'd predicted, soon someone was pounding on my door. "If you do not shut up in two seconds," a man shouted, "I will personally come in there and wring your neck, human!" To my shock, I recognized his voice. Time to put my plan in action.
"Santiago, is that you?" I called in an overly sweet, playful voice. Santiago was one of the many Volturi guards. There was silence from outside my door. "Oh, come on," I chided. "I know it's you. How have you been?" Still no answer. That was good – I had surprised him. "Santiago," I called again in a sing-song voice, "don't ignore me – it's so very rude." Finally, he spoke. "How do you know me, human?" the Spaniard demanded in his baritone voice. It was time to creep him out now. I had been told that when I thought about everything I'd Dreamed, my eyes and voice filled up with this scary knowledge, and that it was usually enough to convince people that I knew what I was talking about. But this was the first time I'd tried to intimidate someone on purpose, and I wasn't sure that I could do it. But it was worth a shot. I dredged up some of the worst things I'd seen, forced myself to remember, and replied. "I know lots of things," I answered, and, to my satisfaction, my tone was one of bleak certainty. "I need to talk to Aro." Santiago didn't answer again. I was getting frustrated. "You know, Aro," I prodded rudely. "One of the three Volturi Masters, Sulpicia's mate, reads your mind by touching you? Surely you've heard of him. You are one of his guards." "I know who he is, girl," Santiago growled, annoyed by my tone. "What I want to know is, how do you know of him?" I laughed harshly. "I told you – I know lots of things. Now I want to speak with Aro," I repeated. Santiago didn't respond. I hoped that he was considering my request, and I goaded him on. "Come on, Santiago. I know you weren't a part of the guard when Aro found Jane and Alec, but certainly you've heard the stories. Do you remember what happened to the guard who neglected to tell Aro about Alec and Jane because he thought they were insignificant?" I let the question hang in the air. Of course Santiago knew the story. The guard had been killed to send a message: when in doubt, always tell Aro. Santiago hesitated, and I didn't say anything more. I knew that I'd won. Then Santiago's voice, gruffer than usual, came from the other side of my cell door. "I will tell him that you asked for him. Wait."
Do I have any other choice besides waiting? I thought wryly. But I had accomplished phase one – Santiago would ask Aro to see me. And if I knew Aro, he would be curious enough to agree. I was right. Not even two minutes later, someone opened the door to my cell. I walked out into the hall, and found myself facing Santiago. He looked down at me with his dark red eyes, and said, his voice smooth and calm, "Follow me." I smirked at him and walked around him. "There's no need," I told him as he quickly caught up with me. "I know the way." Santiago ghosted along beside me as I navigated the maze of tunnels in the Volturi castle. I didn't take one wrong turn, and within minutes, Santiago and I were standing in the castle turret that served as a throne room. I grimaced slightly as I walked through the doors – this was also where they brought their prey. Three large, wooden thrones were arranged in the middle of the stone floor, around a drain that served as an exit. Twelve vampires were clustered around the thrones – the Volturi guards, four for each Master. And in the thrones, watching me with expressions that ranged from bored, to acidic, to curious, were the Volturi brothers themselves. Aro, Marcus, and Caius. Aro and Marcus' raven-black hair was long, falling over their shoulders onto the black cloaks they wore. Caius' white hair was shorter, and the exact same shade of white as his face. He, too, wore a black cloak. Their clouded red eyes followed my movements as I approached them and stopped, leaving a wary, respectful distance between them and me. There was no reason to offend them – yet. I studied them as they studied me. This was the first time that I'd actually seen them with my own eyes, and I had to admit, that with their abnormally pale – even for a vampire – skin, filmy red eyes, and utter stillness, they were a little frightening. But I couldn't focus on that. Aro rose gracefully from his throne with a smile and approached me with his arms spread in a welcoming gesture – as if he hadn't had me kidnapped. "Bella!" he said, sounding delighted, in his feathery, insubstantial voice. "How good it is to see that you are awake! I hope
your arm is not bothering you too much?" I smiled politely at him. "It's nothing I can't handle," I replied, repressing the urge to give him the most thorough cussing-out he had ever received. Aro smile grew. "Good, good." He cocked a jet-black eyebrow. "But I do not think that you asked to speak with me simply to exchange pleasantries. What can I do for you?" I took a deep breath. Time to begin phase two of plan A. Slowly, exaggerating the movement, I raised my right hand out in front of me, holding it out to Aro. I met his milky red eyes, a challenge in my own gaze. Both of Aro's eyebrows went up this time. "You were not lying to my friend, Santiago," he mused, eying my hand. "You do know a great many things, some of which you should probably not know." But he closed the space between us, and took my hand in his own. I repressed a shiver at his touch. Aro's seemingly kind, red eyes looked down into mine. And the emotion in them changed. They went from kind and confident to shocked and confused in the space of a heartbeat. Aro blinked twice, then let go of my hand and stepped back. He looked at me for a few moments, then pushing past his shock, asked, "You knew that would happen?" I exhaled. "I hoped," I admitted. "And I'm glad I was right – there are a few things in my head that I would like to keep in my head." There – plant the seed. Tempt him. Make him wonder what I could possible know... Aro cocked his head to the side. "Such as?" he inquired, curiosity raging in his eyes. I looked down, forcing myself to remember the horrors I'd seen in my Dreams, and I shuddered at the memories. I didn't try to repress the shiver – it would make Aro wonder more. I felt the awful knowledge fill my eyes again, and I looked back up at Aro. I saw that he was taken by surprise at the change in my expression. "Everything," I whispered, my voice hollow. "Everything you can imagine, and a few things you can't." That might have been overkill, but luckily the pained
knowing in my voice made it sound believable. Aro tried to contain his desire to know more. "I highly doubt that," he said mildly. I grinned at him. "Well, you'll never know, will you?" Aro's eyes hardened slightly. "Did you ask to see me so you could gloat?" he asked. I let my own face harden. "No. I asked to see you because I don't want this anymore. I've lived my whole life with this knowledge in my head. I don't want it. I would get rid of it, if I could." I took a deep breath. This was going to be the tricky part. "But, since I can't, I need to become strong enough to bear it." Aro met my eyes, his face kind and curious once more. "And how do you intend to do that?" he asked. I held his gaze. "Edward can't read my mind, either," I mused out loud. "We've talked before, about why I'm the exception to his talent. He thinks it's because his mind and mine are so different." That was a lie – I had no idea what Edward thought about my silent mind. I looked into Aro's red eyes. "You want to see what's in my head," I said softly. "I want to be able to handle what's in my head." I felt intensity rise up in my eyes. "There is a solution – one that I think will solve both of our problems." Awareness dawned in Aro's eyes. "And how do you think becoming a vampire will solve both of our problems?" he asked. "It sounds to me like that would only solve your problem, and leave me with a newborn on my hands." "It would make my mind more similar to your own," I explained. "There would be a better chance of your being able to read my mind." Aro still looked skeptical. I shrugged. "Then you'll never know what I know. You'll never see what I've seen." I shrugged again, trying not to show just how desperate I was. Aro was caving under his insatiable curiosity. I could see it. But he
made one last argument. "I doubt you've seen more than I have," he pointed out. I held his eyes with my own. I wasn't scared anymore. I had won. It was in his eyes. "Why don't you find out?" I suggested. Aro looked at me for a long moment, then, slowly, he nodded. "Very well," he said. His eyes flickered to something over my shoulder. "Santiago," he summoned. Santiago appeared soundlessly by my side. "Yes, Master?" "Escort Bella back to her room," Aro instructed. "and change her." Santiago was shocked, but he covered his surprise quickly. "Yes, Master," he replied, and started to lead me out of the throne room. "And, Santiago," Aro called after us. "Be careful. I will be very displeased if she doesn't survive." Santiago walked with me back to my cell. When the door had closed behind us, he turned to look at me. "Why?" he asked, his voice too low to carry. I looked a him steadily. "I know too much," I reminded him. "It's either this, or death." Santiago nodded. "I understand." He straightened his shoulders. "Do you know what to expect?" I knew how white my face had to be. Every muscle tightened, anticipating the pain. My heart was hammering in my chest. Yes, I knew exactly what to expect. And the knowledge was no comfort to me. "Yes," I whispered. Santiago nodded again, and his face was suddenly very gentle. "You are a brave girl," he told me. "Would you like to lie down?" I tried to smile, but my lips wouldn't obey. "Once the pain starts, it won't matter much."
Santiago smiled suddenly. "A very brave girl," he said again. Then, without warning, so fast I had no time to tense, he pulled me forward and plunged his teeth into my neck. Chapter 16 Edward's Point of View Having read Aro's note, where to look for Bella became obvious. Volterra. With the Volturi. I called Carlisle and told him what I knew and where I was going, as I ran to my house to get my car and passport. He, too, was frantic with worry for Bella, but he cautioned me against going to Volterra immediately. "Edward," he began reluctantly, "I know how you must be feeling. But perhaps you should think about why this happened." I was rifling through my chest of drawers in my room, looking for my passport, bribe money, and a fake ID, and I didn't even pause at Carlisle's words of warning. "I can't," I replied, hurrying through the words in my haste to be done with the conversation and out the door. "Edward," Carlisle persisted, "you know Aro! Think about it! There has to be an ulterior motive behind this! Aro knows that you will go after Bella! He wants you in Volterra! I love Bella, but I love you as well! Can't we at least talk this through?" I suppose that Carlisle's warning made sense. But I did not dare wait – if Aro got tired of waiting for me to come, he might decide that keeping Bella alive was no longer in his best interests. I could not take that risk. My voice was bleak when I answered Carlisle. "I can't wait. I have to go after her. Think about it from my point of view – if it was Esme who had been taken, would you sit around and talk about it rationally?" He didn't answer right away, but I knew that he could not argue with me on that point. I found what I'd been looking for and ran out of my home to my Volvo. I was in the car and speeding out of my driveway before Carlisle answered. "Be safe, my son," he whispered, fear heavy in his voice. "Bring Bella back safe." I hung up without any further goodbyes. I hoped that I could do what
Carlisle had told me to – bring Bella back safe. And if I couldn't... I could only hope that Carlisle, Esme, and the rest of my family would understand my decision to end my own life. If I failed to bring her back, my life would be over anyway. My soul – if I had one – would die with her. My committing suicide would only be killing my body, the shell my soul had lived in. Everything that made me me would already be dead. My mind is capable of thinking many things at once. It's helpful, most of the time. But at times such as this, it's truly a curse. As I drove to the airport, the main part of my mind was consumed by a terror that made me almost unable to function. That part of my mind conjured up every imaginable image of what could have been happening to Bella at that very moment. Every horror, every sickening possibility. The Volturi guard didn't usually torture the humans they brought to Volterra, but every now and then, they got bored... I cringed away from those thoughts, but not the fury they inspired. I would need to be furious. If it came to a fight in Volterra, my blistering rage would make me stronger, faster. Another part of my mind was making contingency plans. That was a fairly easy issue to solve. I would be in the heart of the Volturi's city, a city where all vampiric acts were forbidden. It would be ridiculously easy to do something that would break the law, and cost me my life. That question was answered, at least. And yet another part of my mind was running over arguments – any argument – I could make to get Bella and myself out of Volterra alive. I knew the chances were slim – maybe nonexistent. Aro had an ironclad reason to keep Bella – to kill Bella. She knew about vampires. She could not be allowed to live. A mixture of a laugh and a sob rose up in my throat and choked me. This was the exact situation Bella had warned me of. She had been right. I made a silent, desperate promise that I would listen to every warning she gave me – if I could just get her back alive. I made it to the airport in record time. And luck was with me – there was a flight to new York that connected to a flight to Florence that was going to leave in five minutes. I made it onto the plane with seconds to spare. I sat down and suffered through the customary
speech about emergency exits and seat belts. Those talks always made me impatient – I hardly needed a seatbelt, and if there was an emergency, I could easily make my own exit. I would only have to kick out a wall... so easily done. But I gritted my teeth and forced myself to stay calm. Finally, finally, the plane taxied down the runway and took off. And as soon as we were in the air, I took out my cell phone and speed-dialed Alice. I wanted to know what she saw coming. I wanted to be prepared. When I flipped the small, silver phone open, however, I had to grind my teeth together again to keep from cursing aloud in frustration. The battery was dead. I nearly crushed the useless device in my hand, then reached out and lifted the phone provided by the airline from the back of the seat in front of me. I tried to call Alice again... and, again, nothing. I nearly imploded. I felt my features twist into a mask of rage, and I ducked my head to keep anyone from seeing me until I could get myself under control. It took a few minutes, but then I was able to ask a terse question to a flight attendant who was walking by. "Why," I practically growled, "aren't the phones working?" The woman looked taken aback and frightened at my tone, but she tried to answer me calmly. She didn't quite succeed. "I'm sorry, sir, but there's been a malfunction. None of the phones will work until we get a technician to fix the problem when we land in New York." She scurried off after responding, and I heard her whispering to her friends about the weird, scary, pale guy in seat sixteen C. I might have smiled, had I not been afraid that my reason for living was going to be killed. As it was, I was not able to find anything even remotely amusing. I spent the entire flight with the bridge of my nose pinched tightly between my thumb and forefinger, trying to stay still and stop thinking. I did fairly well about staying still – in times of serious stress, a vampire's body will automatically go completely still – a method of instinctual self-preservation meant to keep one's self hidden and unnoticed by an enemy. I kept myself still – too still maybe, judging by the thoughts of the people sitting around me. But, try as I might, I could not stop thinking. My mind just isn't designed to do that. Thinking about what might be happening to Bella was not going to
help me stay calm – which was what I needed to do. I didn't have enough information to make a very good plan. Thinking wasn't getting me anywhere. Yet my mind continued to chase the same ideas around in endless circles until I thought I was going to go mad. And time seemed to move so much more slowly than it usually did! Surely the minutes didn't last this long. I was immortal – hours weren't supposed to feel like years! But they did. Years of being terrified, on edge, hopeless, and desperate to the point of pain. Eventually, the plane landed in New York. I had to run for my connection again, but I didn't mind that. The less time I had, the less time I would have to torture myself with thoughts about what might happen. As the plane to Florence took off, I tried to ease the impatience growing inside of me. One leg of the journey is over, I told myself. It didn't help – I knew that this part of the trip would be much longer than the first. I prepared myself to wait. The flight to Florence passed in the same fashion as the flight to new York had – full of tension, worry, and impatience – but on a greater scale, since this flight was so long. My every sense was stretched tight, ready to spring into action, and angry to have to wait. By the end of the flight, I was ready to punch out a wall and run the rest of the way. But then the plane landed, and I ran to the parking garage to steal a car. Fortunately, I found a very, very fast car within my first two minutes of searching, and, after hot-wiring it, I floored the gas pedal and raced away from the airport – towards Volterra. When I got there, I maneuvered the car carefully through the crowed, narrow streets, ignoring the raised voices that followed me as I drove toward my destination – Palazzo dei Priori, the location of the closest drain entrance to the Volturi's stronghold. I screeched to a halt in the shadows of one of the side alleys off the large square, to the side of the clock tower that dominated the area. After checking the thoughts of those around me and confirming that no one was looking my way, I threw caution to the winds and ran at full speed down the ally, towards the drain entrance – and towards the vampire whose thoughts I could hear. I recognized that particular mind – it was Felix, one of Aro's personal guards who was all muscle with almost no desire to think at all. He had been ordered to wait
there for me, to take me to one of the rooms in the lower levels of the castle. I quickly dove deeper into his mind, looking for the reason I was to be brought to that particular room, but he didn't know. He had only been given the orders, not the reason behind the orders. I felt an immediate rush of disappointment at his lack of knowledge, but I was almost certain that I was being taken to see Bella. I held onto that hope as I jumped down the drain. Felix smirked at me when I landed in the dark, wet tunnel that led to the castle, and started running without a word. He knew that I had seen his reason for being there in his mind. I followed behind him, my impatience roaring back to life at his pace. I could run much faster. But, though I already knew this castle inside and out from the minds of the vampires who resided there, and knew where the room Felix was supposed to take me to was, I let Felix lead the way. The door to the room we were heading to was locked, and if I ran ahead of Felix and got to the room first, I didn't think that I'd be able to keep from knocking down the door to get to Bella. I needed to stay in Aro's good graces, and he might not be thrilled if I broke down the door. However, though it seemed like we never would, Felix and I did indeed reach the room. As we ran down the hall, I listened ahead. There was only one human here. Only one heart that was beating far, far too fast. Only one set of lungs that pulled in sharp, shallow breaths. Only one human scent – lavender and freesia, a familiar scent that sent flames of thirst racing up and down my throat. My breath caught. I had been right. Felix was taking me to Bella. She was right there. So close. But her heartbeat and breathing! Her heart thrummed as fast as a hummingbird's wings. Her breathing was harsh, shallow, and irregular, like she was in pain. Felix noticed it, too. He considered it curiously, and decided that it sounded like Bella was undergoing the change into a vampire. My chest felt harder and colder than usual. No. Alice would have seen that before I'd left. It was impossible. She must be Dreaming, I realized. I shot a glance at Felix. Aro could not know about Bella's Dreaming! He would never let her go! But how could I stop Felix from opening the door to Bella's room? I couldn't – he had already unlocked the door and was swinging it open.
A wave of Bella's scent, more concentrated than I had ever experienced before, hit me with the force of a wrecking ball. I went rigid, venom filled my mouth, and my lips curled back from my teeth. That smell was so sweet, so appetizing...surely it had to taste even better. I had to have it. Had to tear my teeth into the frail skin covering the hot, wet, pulsing – It's Bella! The silent shout came from my last vestiges of my sanity. It's Bella! I could not hurt her. Slowly, with great difficulty, I ground my teeth together and pushed back my thirst. And after I was more of myself, terror seized me. Bella's scent had been so potent... so potent it had to be from exposed blood. Spilled blood. Bella was hurt. The fury I felt at that moment, along with the fear, distracted me from my thirst. I was able to stop breathing and duck under the low doorway of the room. The room was dank and dark, meant to frighten and intimidate. There was a shabby cot in one corner. But Bella wasn't on it. Bella was lying on the floor near the middle of the room, writhing in obvious agony, her face twisted into a terrible grimace. Her eyes were screwed shut. Dreaming. My fear of Bella's gift being discovered rose in me again, and I quickly knelt down beside her to try to wake her up. I had never been able to wake her from a Dream before... but I had to try. I grasped her shoulders... and her eyes snapped open. I was relieved for one millisecond – before I realized that her expression had not changed from one of absolute agony. Her eyes were filled with it, so filled with pain that only the barest glimmer of recognition showed through when she saw my face. Her right hand seized mine and gripped it until her knuckles turned white. Tears welled up in her beautiful brown eyes. She whimpered slightly, and continued to writhe on the floor. "Bella!" I cried. Her only response was to arch her back as her body tried vainly to get away from the pain. But the movement pulled the collar of her shirt away from her neck. I froze. There, livid against the flushed skin of her throat, were recently healed bite marks. Her dried blood was crusted on the fabric. Still frozen, only my eyes moving, I looked for more wounds. She had been bitten on her wrists as well. "No," I breathed through unmoving lips. Bella made one particularly violent thrash under my hands. "No!" I gasped. It couldn't be. But it was. "NO!" I roared. Fury swelled in my mind, painting my vision red and putting the taste of burnt metal in my mouth. The rage crashed
inside of me, seeking and outlet – any outlet. Felix's thoughts were still close by behind me. He was surprised and impressed – Bella had not screamed once during the whole process. He remembered his own transformation – he had screamed loud and long, begging for death, but this little human girl was enduring the pain without a peep. My lips curled up into a snarl. Felix was an outlet. I spun, still low to the ground, and launched myself at him. But he had been expecting that, and my mind had been so clouded by fury that I hadn't seen it in his mind. He sidestepped neatly and locked his incredibly strong arms around me. I thrashed in his hold, snarls ripping out of my chest, but it did no good. Felix started to drag me out of Bella's cell. Crazed by fury as I was, I still knew that I didn't want to leave Bella – not now when she needed me. I fought him, but he was too strong. I couldn't break his hold. I twisted my head around to snap at his neck, but he avoided my attempts. Then there was the smallest bit of resistance, a tug on one of my legs. Felix and I both glanced down at the same time, and what I saw made me feel like my heart was being shredded inside my chest. Bella, her eyes wide with horror and pain, had reached out in a last attempt to keep me with her, and grabbed one of my pant legs. She clung to it, her fingers twisted into claws, with all the fervor of her desperation and fear. I felt Felix's annoyance in my mind. He pulled me a little further, but Bella didn't let go, and Felix only succeeded in dragging both me and Bella closer to the door. The big vampire sighed harshly, and I heard his intention in his mind. But before he could kick Bella's hand away – no doubt with enough force to shatter the bones of her hand and arm – another foot shot out and blocked his. "Don't," another voice began furiously, "You. Dare." Felix looked up, frowning, into a man's face. There was an olive tone hinted at underneath his pallor, and his hair was a very dark shade of brown – almost black. His eyes were, of course, the customary red, and were, at the moment, snapping with fury. Felix knew him. Santiago, he thought, his annoyance growing. Playing the hero again. "What does it matter?" he demanded coolly. "She's just a human."
Santiago ignored Felix and my snarl of warning as he knelt down beside Bella and gently pried her fingers away from my pant leg. Seeing the naked panic in her eyes, he murmured soothingly, "It's all right, brave one. He'll be back soon." Then he practically shooed Felix – and consequently, me – out of Bella's cell and shut the door softly behind us. But Santiago's words of comfort were lost on Bella, because as soon as the door closed, cutting off her view of me, she let rip with a scream – her first scream of her change. It started out as an inarticulate cry, shrill and piercing. But soon the wordless shriek changed, formed words. Only one word. "EDWARD!" Bella screamed. After that, it took the combined efforts of Santiago and Felix to haul me away from Bella. Felix was surprised by both my reaction to Bella's change and my vehemence in protesting leaving her. He expressed his thoughts to Santiago. "Don't know why he's making such a fuss about this," he muttered. I felt Santiago's disdain for Felix before he answered. "He must hate seeing her in pain. And I think that he did not want this life for her – perhaps because he did not want it for himself." Felix was genuinely confused. "Why? What's not to like about being a vampire?" Santiago snorted, and I could see in his mind that he, too, had questioned whether or not he liked the life he led. "You mean besides the never-ending secrecy, having to watch your loved ones die, the constant desire to kill, and the boredom that does eventually come after a few hundred years?" I wasn't calm enough to be intrigued by Santiago's attitude. There wasn't time to look deeper into his thoughts anyway – we had arrived at the castle turret used as a throne room. And then any vestige of calmness I might have felt disappeared when I heard Aro's thoughts. It was all there, in his mind. His plan of acquisition. His plan to take Bella, and use her to get to what he really wanted – me and Alice. His disappointment at his plan's failure. His hope that hearing the reason behind Bella's request in her mind after her change was over would be worth his original plan falling through.
Yes, Bella's request – she had asked him to change her. She had made her own bargain with Aro. And Aro had agreed. An animal rage filled my mind, all directed at one target – Aro. I wanted to rip him, tear him into pieces. I wanted to feel his powdery, brittle skin crumple under my hands, break under my teeth. I wanted to dance around the fire where he burned alive. Felix and Santiago didn't have to drag me any farther – now they had to restrain me as we entered the turret. There Aro sat, dignified in his throne, confident in the power of his guards to protect him. I roared at the sight of him. I would remove even the memory of dignity and safety from his mind. I would wipe that cool smirk off his face. No, I would go one better than that. I would make him completely unable to smile or smirk – I would tear his lips off. Santiago's grip on me tightened. His voice was suddenly shouting in my mind. Edward Cullen! I told her that you would go back to her soon! Don't do anything to get yourself killed – do not make me a liar! That got my attention. Bella was more important that anything – even my fury on her behalf. Even my intense desire for revenge. I needed to go back to her. I needed to stay alive. And that would not happen if I tried to kill Aro. It took every ounce of strength in me, but I wrestled myself back under control. But I could not keep the snarl from my voice as I glared at Aro and demanded, "What have you done?" Aro raised his eyebrows. "What have I done?" he repeated. "What have I done? No, Edward, what have you done? It was not I who informed Bella about our world. It was not I who put her in this danger. The blame, young Edward, falls on your shoulders, and your shoulders alone." I tried to keep my guilt and agony from showing on my face as Aro continued, a frown forming on his forehead. "I merely did what was required by our law. And, furthermore, Bella asked me to have her changed! She, at least, knew that knowledge such as hers only gave her two options – death, or life as a vampire. She was smart enough to choose the best option. I suggest that you consider that before you begin hurling accusations." Aro settled back into his throne, and took on the tone of an affectionate elder. "I understand that you are distraught, Edward. Seeing one's mate in such pain is nearly impossible to bear." He
smiled sympathetically. "And poor Bella is only hours into her transformation. She still has a long way to go." Aro's words filled me again with a desperation to be at Bella's side, and Aro saw it on my face. "Santiago," he called, "why don't you walk Edward back to his mate? I'm sure he wishes to be with her." He smiled at me again. "I'm sure that he won't give you any more trouble." And with that, my audience with Aro was over. Santiago and I ran back to Bella's cell, and Santiago couldn't unlock the door fast enough. But he did eventually get the door open, and I ran in and scooped Bella up in my arms, cradling her against my chest. I held her for a moment, filled with a bittersweet happiness. Bella was alive, and I could be with her. My most selfish side was thrilled that I could be with her forever, without worrying about accidentally hurting her or always being tempted to kill her. But my happiness came at a high price. Bella would be a vampire, something I'd never wanted for her. She was in pain, and would suffer the pain of thirst for the rest of her existence. She would have to watch her mother, father, and friends die. I held her close for a second, trying to sort through my feelings, then I gave up and carried Bella to the cot in the corner of her cell and laid her down gently on it. I knelt beside her, holding both of her hands in one of mine, and stroking her tangled hair and flushed face with the other. Time seemed to change, to lengthen. It was no longer measured in days or hours. It passed slowly, second by agonizing second, and I lost track of the days. Her grip on my hand tightened as the venom made her stronger, tightening until it hurt my hand, but I didn't complain. I watched Bella's skin grow white and cold, watched her features change. I watched her warm, brown eyes turn the vibrant shade of crimson that all newborn vampires are known for. I held her hand, murmuring promises that the pain would soon be over, trying not to break down and cry. Her pain was the most important thing, not mine. Knowing Bella, she would have tried to comfort me through the pain, and I was the one who needed to be comforting her, not the other way around. And then, after an immeasurable stretch of time, her already racing
heart sped up as the venom began to drain from her bloodstream, toward her heart. Bella's expression twisted in response to the increase in pain, and I held her hand tighter. "It's almost over now," I whispered, my voice shaking slightly. "Not much longer." Bella didn't seem to hear. She sucked in a breath, and her mouth opened like she was going to scream. But she didn't. Her mouth stayed twisted into the grimace of a silent scream, but she never made a sound. Her back arched as the venom collected in her heart, but she didn't scream. Her heartbeat increased in tempo until it was almost a continuous sound. Then her heart started to stutter weakly. It skipped a beat. And then it stopped altogether. Bella fell back against her cot, the breath she'd been holding escaping her lungs in a rush. She loosened her death grip on my hand. She closed her eyes for a second, reveling in the absence of pain. I was very still at her side, afraid that she would hate me for forcing this fate on her. But when she opened her eyes again, they a strange sort of fear. "I'm so sorry," she breathed quickly, rushing to get the words out. Her voice pealed like golden bells. "He wanted you – I couldn't let him force you to join the guard. You would've been so unhappy, and I -" I placed a finger over her full lips to stop her. I was reeling. She had asked Aro to change her... to protect me? To keep me from having to join Aro's guard? I knew that had been his plan, but Bella had known as well, and had stopped Aro by asking to be changed? I didn't see the logic! The only difference her being a vampire would have made would be... oh. She would have had the rights of any vampire – to go where she wanted to go, to do what she wanted to do. Aro couldn't keep her prisoner as a vampire, especially when his reason for holding her – her being a human who knew too much – no longer applied. She could no longer be used as leverage. But even when I saw why she had asked to be changed, the idea still made me sick with guilt. "You," I whispered through numb lips, "did this... to protect me?" I understood the fear in her eyes now – she was afraid of my reaction. She still looked worried. She touched my face timidly. "And Alice,"
she reminded me quietly. I couldn't answer. The fear in Bella's eyes increased. She sat up and cupped my face in her hands which were now cool and hard, like mine. "Edward?" she whispered. My name sounded as beautiful as it always did when she said it. "Edward," she pleaded, "please, don't be angry." That broke my through my shock. I was shocked, and felt absolutely wretched that I had been the cause of all this, but I was not angry with her. I didn't think that I ever could be. "Angry?" I repeated. She was so mistaken! And the best – and most appealing – way to correct her seemed to be taking advantage of her mouth being so close to mine. After all, I didn't have to worry about hurting her now. So I pulled her closer and kissed her with every ounce of passion I had been restraining since I'd known that I loved her. I had always been torn between my feelings for Bella and my fear of harming her. But no more. Bella's arms wrapped around my neck and her fingers twisted into my hair. It was a heady thing, to suddenly have every boundary gone, and the last thing I wanted to do was pull away. But the Volturi's castle was not exactly romantic. And I didn't want to go too far. So I pulled back, breathing too hard, though I kept my arms wrapped around Bella. She left her arms around my neck, as well. "I'm not angry," I told her, trying not to sound breathless. Bella, I noticed, was also panting. "I noticed," she managed to say. "I think it was unreasonable and unnecessary," I tried to continue, but Bella grinned suddenly, and I trailed off. "Do me a favor," she said lightly. She leaned forward again, brushing her lips across mine teasingly. "Save the lecture for when we get back home." I think I murmured something that sounded like an assent. I'm not quite sure, because Bella was kissing me again. But then I tensed and moved away slightly. Bella felt me stiffen. "What's wrong?" she asked. She instinctually shifted into a slight crouch. I laid a hand on her arm to calm her. "Someone is coming for us," I murmured, reading Santiago's mind as
he came closer. "He's going to take us to Aro." Bella's eyes tightened grimly, and she nodded. Her chin tilted up in a proud, defiant gesture. Then we stood together and faced the door, hand in hand. It was time to deal with the manipulative Aro, and try to get out of Volterra alive. Chapter 17 Bella's Point of View I was burning. Burning alive, from the inside out. My bones had been replaced with white-hot rods. My tissues had been exchanged for sheets of red-hot metal. My blood had been siphoned out, and my veins, arteries, and capillaries had been filled with molten lead that my heart pumped sluggishly through my system. I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that thrashing and writhing wouldn't help – I would still burn. But the pain was so intense, so ridiculously unimaginable, that I thrashed and writhed anyway. Pain like this couldn't exist. It just couldn't. But it did, and I was experiencing it. I'd felt it dozens of times in my Dreams. I'd known what to expect. But still... it was terrible. There are no words to describe it. I sucked in a breath to scream – but I didn't. I ground my teeth, biting into my lower lip and tongue. My body wanted to scream, but I didn't want to. I couldn't remember why not, but I held on to the strange, almost nonexistent conviction somewhere in my mind that I shouldn't scream. And, by some miracle, I didn't. Time warped, stretched endlessly in both ways. There had never been a time when this pain hadn't existed. There never would be a time when this pain didn't exist. It was infinite. It was excruciating. And it was everywhere. Somewhere in that timeless period, I felt someone's hands on my shoulders, gripping, shaking. My eyes – I hadn't realized they were closed – flew open, and I saw a man's face hovering above mine. I felt a flutter of shaky recognition in a dark corner of my mind... but the fire that raged through me demanded my whole, undivided attention. I knew his face. I knew that his name was Edward. I knew that he was good, that he was somehow... mine. But that was just about all I knew. The fire scattered my thoughts. I whimpered pathetically. I gripped one of his hands hard in my own. His golden eyes stared
down into mine with horror in their depths. Horror and fear. And confusion. "Bella!" he shouted. I was unable to focus – the fire still surged in me. I arched my back to get away from it. Then the confusion and fear disappeared abruptly from the Edward's face, leaving only the limitless horror in his eyes. His mouth moved, whispering a word, but I couldn't hear what he said over my rapidly beating heart. I jerked erratically as the fire continued to burn me. He whispered something again, his horrified expression increasing, and again, I couldn't hear him. Then his expression changed from one of horror, to one of absolute fury. "NO!" Edward thundered, and launched himself away from me. My eyes followed him despite the fire. A large man I didn't recognize had Edward locked into his grip. He started to drag Edward away from me. No! I didn't want him to leave! The fire surged through my veins, burning uncontrollably, threatening to overwhelm everything I was and kill me. For some unexplainable reason, I knew that Edward could keep me from slipping completely under the fire's crushing presence. He could keep me fighting. I needed him. My hand shot out and grabbed one of Edward's pant legs without my telling it to. I hung on to it desperately, pouring all the energy that wasn't already being used to keep me from screaming into that small act. For a time, I was aware of nothing else besides the fire and my death grip on Edward's pant leg. It might have been a few seconds. It might have been a minute. It might have been longer – the fire made it impossible to judge time correctly. But then there was a gentle hand prying my fingers loose. I resisted, but whoever it was was stronger than me. "It's all right, brave one," a voice murmured soothingly. I thought I recognized it from somewhere, but the fire made it impossible to remember where I knew it from. "He'll be back soon." And then Edward was gone, and my cell door had been closed, plunging me into darkness. I was terrified – where had they taken Edward? What was going to happen to him? The fire crashed inside of me, suddenly so overpowering, and that, combined with my fear, made me lose control of myself. I screamed, screamed like I was... well, being burned alive. I screamed loud and long, using all my breath. Eventually, though, my scream changed. The wordless howl of pain and fear formed a word, the one thing I wanted the most at
that moment. "EDWARD!" When I finally ran out of breath, I drew in another to continue screaming at the top of my lungs, but I vaguely remembered my feeling that I shouldn't scream. My throat closed up, and the only sound I managed was a moan. The burning continued, traveling through my body, changing me as it went. The only change in that space of time was when Edward came back. He held my hand and whispered comforts in my ear. It didn't do much good, though – I couldn't really hear the individual words. But the sound of his voice gave me a sliver of strength, and that tiny sliver kept me from screaming again. Time meant nothing. There was only the burning. It could have been days and weeks and months. Years and decades and centuries. I had no way of knowing. It went on and on. But then, my mind started to change. I grew stronger. I could focus on other things, things besides the pain. Not that I forgot about it and was able to ignore it – that was impossible. If anything, I became even more aware of it. I could feel the venom coursing through me. I felt it pry its way into each and every cell of my body, scorching each and every cell until the cell became something harder than diamond, and then, when its work in that one cell was done, soldering the cell shut again and continuing on its way to another cell to repeat the same process. I could appreciate every flaming branch of my bloodstream. But my mind was becoming so much more flexible. I could think around the pain. I could think again. I knew what was happening. I was going through the tail end of the transformation. My mind was becoming more like the mind of a vampire. I remembered where I was: Volterra; why I had come there: to keep Aro from enslaving Edward and Alice; and what I had promised Aro in return for being changed: a peak into my mind. I remembered that Edward was by my side, and that I could do anything with him there. I remembered my Dreams. But then something distracted me. My eyes were closed, but... what was that flash of color that I could see, there in my mind? I tried to focus on it, but it was like a blurry picture. I could just make out a skin-colored, oval-shaped blob surrounded by a nebulous cloud of bronze. And there, within the oval shape – were those spots of
green? I looked more closely. The picture wavered... and became crystal clear. It was a pretty woman, with bronze colored hair pinned up on top of her head. Her eyes were a vibrant emerald green. She had an incredibly kind smile. For a brief second, I wondered who she was. Then the answer just popped into my head, as if I'd known all along but had only just remembered. Her name was Elizabeth Masen. She was Edward's mother. I felt like someone had hit me in the stomach. What the... I was seeing Edward's mother in my head! And I'd known it was her, even though I'd never seen her before in my life. But I couldn't think about it anymore, because now there were more images flickering inside my mind, like I was watching a movie. A man's face, now. He had brown hair and eyes, and he too, looked very nice. Edward's father, Edward Anthony Masen Senior. A two story, red brick house with a white porch. A bustling city street – Chicago. The word popped into my head just like the names of Edward's parents had. A cooing baby boy, wrapped in a blanket, his tiny hand wrapped around one of his father's fingers. Baby Edward. His eyes were green, like his mother's. More flashes came, this time of Edward's childhood. A brown cocker spaniel – Jack. An old piano. An untidy room, littered with baseball memorabilia. His father's smiling face as he pulled candy out of his pocket. Edward's school, and his friends. Then I saw Edward as he must have been as a teenager. Tall, bronze-haired, green-eyed, and handsome. A quick flash of a poster encouraging young men to enlist, to fight in World War One. Edward's face, flushed and excited, as he looked at the poster. And then, Edward lying, sick and almost dead, in a hospital. The Spanish Influenza epidemic had begun. I saw his father's face as he was wheeled to the morgue – his eyes were wide and glassy, his face too thin and covered with a sheen of sweat. I saw his mother's worry as she tried to take care of her son even as she withered away. I saw Carlisle's face as he looked down on Edward, indecision written all over his face. And I saw Edward writhing in pain as I was right now as he changed.
I saw flashes of every person he killed during his rebellious years. I saw him return, broken and desperate, to Carlisle and Esme. I saw his love for his family. I saw his love for me. I saw his entire life played out before my eyes, knew what he felt with the eerie knowledge that had supplied the names of Edward's parents and childhood home. But then the information stopped coming, and I was hit again with the agony that was seething through my veins. While I had been concentrating on what I'd been seeing in my head, I'd been less aware of the pain than I had been for the past few days. And I picked a truly terrible time to become aware of it again. Because now the venom was starting to recede from my fingers and toes, leaving them blissfully pain-free. But the venom that had left my hands and feet had to go somewhere, and that somewhere happened to be my heart, which began to burn with an agony that exceeded all other agony of my transformation. It burned so hot that I thought it would melt through my chest. I wished it would – if it did, then I wouldn't have to feel it anymore. But it stayed where it was, thundering at a furious pace as more and more venom filled it. "It's almost over now," Edward whispered from somewhere above me. "Not much longer." I knew that, but it didn't make this any easier – because I knew that the last seconds of a vampire's change were the worst, the most painful. The venom drained from my elbows and knees, and the pain in my heart flared in response. I'd thought that the pain had been bad for the last few days. I'd been wrong. Nothing could compare to this. Pain like this was impossible. And yet it was growing, growing as the venom left my limbs entirely and filled my torso. Oh, God! Stop it! Stop it, stop it, stop it! Please! Or kill me. All the venom was in my heart now, which was beating so fast it was almost a continuous sound. It felt like the sun was sitting in my chest. My back arched instinctively. I sucked a breath in to scream and just barely stopped the siren of sound from escaping my throat. I stayed there, arched off of whatever surface I was on, my mouth open in a no doubt deranged-looking, silent shriek for a second that felt like an eternity. My heart skipped a beat. Stuttered. And stopped. And when it stopped, the pain vanished, leaving me feeling strangely buoyant in its absence. I fell back heavily onto what I was laying on –
the cot in the corner of my cell – the breath I'd been holding coming out in a rush. Thank God. It was over. It was finally, finally over! I let myself be relieved for a moment before I remembered that Edward was still with me, and was probably furious that I'd done this. Reluctantly, fearing Edward's reaction, I opened my eyes. For a moment, I was stunned. As a human, I'd known that Edward was the most beautiful person on earth. I'd thought that I had been completely aware of that. But my weak human eyes hadn't been able to see him. Not really. I may as well have been blind. But now, with my new, strong eyes... I could see him like I'd never seen him before. He was staring down at me with a mixture of horror and fear on his face. That was good – he hadn't gotten around to being angry yet. I decided to take full advantage of that fact. "I so sorry," I blurted out before he could speak. I spoke quickly – my words were rushed together as I tried to explain my actions. "He wanted you – I couldn't let him force you to join the guard. You would've been so unhappy, and I -" Edward cut me off by putting one of his fingers – no longer colder than my own skin – over my lips. I was momentarily distracted by his touch, but I tried to focus on the situation at hand. Edward was shocked, I could see that. He didn't speak for a couple of seconds as he struggled with his thoughts. I kept quiet and let him think, though I was dying to know what he was thinking. Finally, just as I was about to implode with anxious curiosity, Edward said, "You did this... to protect me?" I had never seen Edward at such a loss for words. Not even when he'd first found out about my Dreams. But really, was it so hard to believe that I might risk myself to keep him safe? What did he find so shocking? But I didn't want him to be angry with me. I reached up and touched his face. "And Alice," I reminded him timidly. Maybe it would make him feel better if he knew that I hadn't asked to be changed to protect only him. Edward seemed incapable of responding. I was truly frightened now. If he was this shocked, surely he would be just as angry later, when the shock wore off. I sat up quickly and held his face in between my hands. "Edward?" I murmured. "Edward, please don't be angry." Fresh shock spread across Edward's face. "Angry?" he repeated.
And then, before I could do or say anything else, he wrapped his arms around me, pulled me to him, and kissed me, effectively wiping thoughts of anything else from my mind. Edward was kissing me. Edward was kissing me. And I was kissing him back. I never wanted it to end. But, most unfortunately, it did. Edward pulled back slightly, leaving his arms around me, and looked at me with the warmest, most tender look in his eyes. "I'm not angry," he told me. He was breathing hard. I was breathing hard, too. I forced myself to think something besides I could get used to this, and respond. "I noticed," I stuttered. Edward continued with a hard glance at me. "I still think it was unreasonable and unnecessary," he began, but stopped in midsentence when I suddenly grinned. It was just...so like him to try to tell me how I hadn't needed to put myself in danger. But he and I had just had our first kiss, and I wasn't in the mood to get reprimanded. I wanted to kiss him again. I would dutifully and humbly listen to his lecture. Just not right now. "Do me a favor," I told him, my voice airy and teasing. I softly eased my lips over his "Save the lecture for when we get back home." Edward murmured something that sounded like okay, but he didn't really enunciate – I had already occupied his mouth. But then, too soon, Edward stiffened slightly and pulled away. A quick glimpse of his face showed that he looked tense. "What's wrong?" I demanded, shifting into a slight crouch. Edward's eyes were far away. "Someone is coming for us," he told me softly. "He's going to take us to Aro." Of course. Aro wanted what he had changed me for. My change was over. Now he wanted to see what I had promised him. He wanted to read my mind. But I was betting that he wouldn't be able to. Edward, I thought as hard as I could to test my mind's silence, blink if you can hear me. Edward didn't even look my way, so I assumed that my thoughts were as safe as ever. Aro wouldn't be able to hear a whisper. And then, when I'd upheld my end of the bargain – which was letting Aro try to read my mind – he would have to let me go. I started to hear approaching footsteps. I lifted my chin proudly and
took Edward's hand. Then we stood, side by side, and waited for our escort. It didn't take long. About three seconds later, Santiago opened the door to my cell. He grinned broadly when he saw me. "You did extremely well," he complimented sincerely. "Many of the guard are impressed that you only screamed once." I couldn't repress a smile. I liked Santiago – despite the fact that he worked for Aro. Edward, on the other hand, was practically humming with tension at my side, a distinctly unfriendly expression on his face. I squeezed his hand slightly. To Santiago, I said lightly, "Well, I wasn't going to give anyone the satisfaction of hearing me shriek for three days." Edward snarled when Santiago chuckled, but Santiago ignored him. "Come along," Santiago said. "The Masters are expecting you." "Of course they are," Edward muttered under his breath. There was a rebellious look in his eyes, but he followed Santiago anyway. This time, I was able to run at vampire speed to the throne room. It was amazing. So exhilarating. But then we were outside the door of the castle turret. Santiago, Edward, and I paused there, then continued to the center of the turret when Aro beckoned us forward. Aro was smiling, ecstatic. "Bella!" he cried, standing up from his throne and coming forward to meet me. "How marvelous! You went through your change in spectacular fashion! And, if I do say so myself, immortality suits you well." I forced myself to smile, looking as genuine as a politician. "Thank you," I responded calmly. "I think so, too." Aro sighed happily. "We were all surprised that you underwent the change so silently, though," he pointed out. "Even I was not able to keep silent when I was changed. Perhaps it was not so bad for you?" I was not able to completely repress a shiver. "I assure you, it was just as painful as you remember it to be," I said flatly. I didn't want to remember my change. "I just knew what to expect."
"Ah, yes," Aro mused. "You did possess an unusual amount of knowledge." He smiled again, and I could see the eagerness in the expression. "Speaking of which, I suppose you are ready to keep your part of the bargain?" He held out his hand. I took a deep breath and steeled myself. I thought that he would be unable to read my mind. But if I was wrong... Don't think about it, I told myself. Just do it, and if he finds out, he finds out. You'd still have a good chance of leaving Volterra. I squared my shoulders and held my hand out to Aro. "I'm ready," I told him, my voice strong and sure. Aro took the last step forward and took my hand, pressing his cold – even to my vampire skin – brittle-feeling skin to mine. His milky eyes smiled down into mine. And suddenly, the image I was seeing was very different. Instead of seeing Aro's white, papery, adult features, I saw a small baby boy with dark hair and eyes. Aro as a child. I saw a very young woman with the same dark hair as eyes as Aro, with olive toned skin. Her long, dark hair was pulled up efficiently. Vepsania. Aro's mother. A man stood beside her. He was older than she was, but he was darkcomplected also. Aro's father, Claudius. I saw their home – a small stone house – on the outskirts of an Etruscan village. The village was from another time – thousands of years had passed since this village had crumbled away. I saw Aro and Didyme his sister, younger than him by two years, running over the hills near their home, playing. I saw the sickness that killed his parents. I saw Aro and Didyme begging for food in the streets. I saw Aro steal until he had no more morals left. I saw him grow up and become cold-hearted. I saw the vampire who changed Aro when he was twenty-nine. I saw Aro abandon his sister when he realized what he was. I saw him find Marcus, a human as evil and power-hungry as himself, and I watched Aro change him. The two men traveled together for a few years, and one night they met Caius and his mate, Athenodora, who were already vampires, but a little younger than Aro and Marcus. I sensed Aro's pleasure when he found them – two more allies that were greedy and wanted power. I saw the four of them form their rule over Volterra and make the laws that now governed the vampire world. I
saw Aro change his sister. Years later, I saw him change Sulpicia, a manipulative woman who was trying to scheme her way up the treacherous hierarchy of the Roman Empire. I saw her become his mate. I saw Marcus and Didyme fall in love, and I saw Aro kill his own sister. I saw every single motive behind every single action of Aro's very long life. And, apparently, I saw all of those things in an instant, because when my vision cleared, Aro's excited expression was just falling, just turning disappointed. Well, I'd found out what my power was. I knew a person's life just by touching them. That was... disturbing. I schooled my face into a carefully blank mask before Aro could see any change in my expression. Aro sighed, let go of my hand, and floated back a step. "Such a shame," he sighed. "I was truly hoping that I might have been able to hear, too see, all that you've seen." Edward was tense at my side, watching my face with fearful scrutiny. I took his hand and squeezed it, giving him a tiny smile. His eyes tightened slightly, flickering over to Aro for a second, and I knew he was thinking the same thing I was – how were we going to get out of here without seeming too eager to leave? Without seeming like we were hiding something? However, amazingly, Aro – trying to smooth over his failure, I thought – smiled and said kindly, "I'm sure the two of you are anxious to be at your home, with your coven. Santiago, please show them out. I must ask, though," he added as we turned to leave, "Bella, you are a newborn, and I'm sure you are aware of the self-control issues that newborns have. And hunting is forbidden in the city – I would hate to have to destroy you if you failed to control your thirst. You are welcome to stay here until you are more capable of control." Of course I had felt the stinging burning in the back of my throat. However, the painful tickle was hardly bad, and I knew for a fact that the "newborn madness", as it was often called, was only the result of being unprepared for the thirst that came with being a vampire. I had been a vampire in my Dreams – I was more than prepared. "Thank you," I responded. "but I'm fine. The thirst is bearable." Aro looked doubtful, but he nodded. "Then go, with my blessing.
Edward, please give my regards to Carlisle." Edward nodded stiffly, then we all hurried from the turret, toward the exit of the Volturi castle. Santiago led us to the exit, looking at me carefully. "Are you sure that you will be fine?" he asked. I grinned at him. I could hear the heartbeats of hundreds of humans outside the door to a Volterra street, could hear their breathing, their footsteps, could smell their scents. It made my throat burn and my mouth fill with venom, but that was a usual reaction for a vampire, and I was by no means overcome by my thirst. It was just a part of my life now. "Yes," I told him, then, on an impulse, gave him a swift but tight hug. "I'll visit you some time," I promised. Santiago was shocked by my hug, but smiled. "I would like that." He cocked his head slightly, like he was thinking something over. "What?" I asked. He shook his head slowly. "When you first spoke to Aro three days ago," he said softly, "and you told him that you needed to be strong enough to bear what you knew?" He met my eyes. "You were lying through your teeth, weren't you?" he whispered. "You fed him that story and he ate it up. You played him like a cheap piano." Shock and respect filled his voice. I didn't want to get Santiago in trouble by admitting out loud that he was right, so I kept my face blank. "I don't know what you're talking about," I lied, but I let one corner of my mouth twitch up minutely in the shadow of a smile. Santiago saw that, and knew I was confirming his suspicions. He repressed a smile of his own, then said goodbye and opened the door to the city street. Edward and I stepped out into Volterra, relaxing for the first time in three days. The sun was just setting over the city walls, so we were able to walk the streets openly. I sighed deeply and stood on my tiptoes to kiss Edward. I wrapped and arm around his waist. "Let's go home," I said. Chapter 18
Edward and I wandered around Volterra until we found a car we could steal. Edward also stole a cell phone, which he used to call his family. Then we went to a store that carried colored contacts – I couldn't go around without hiding my vibrant red eyes – and from there we went to a contact of Edward's who worked outside of Florence. The short, balding man had me equipped with a fake passport in no time. Then it was easy to get to the airport and buy tickets for a flight to New York, and from there, to Seattle, where Edward's family would meet us. However, the flight didn't leave until ten o'clock, and it was just eight thirty. But that was good – Edward and I had a lot to talk about. I told him what I my talent was, and his eyebrows rose in shock. "You see a person's past?" he whispered. "Is it like the Dreams, when you become them?" I shook my head. "No, it's not like that." I paused wondering how to best describe it. "It's like... I see them, their families, their homes, the places they've been, and I just know how they felt and what they thought. I don't feel it with them – I just know." Edward nodded. "So you've seen my life and Santiago's life?" he asked. I'd purposefully left out seeing Aro's past – there was deadly knowledge in that story. In this case, what Edward didn't know couldn't hurt him. I started. "Not Santiago's," I replied. Edward frowned. "You hugged him," he reminded me. I had hugged him. Huh. So why hadn't I seen anything about him? I rubbed my eyes. "Is figuring out how your power works always this frustrating?" I inquired wryly. Edward grinned. "Not always," he admitted. I laughed, too happy that I was with him to be annoyed at my unreliable power. "But God forbid something should be easy for me." I leaned up against Edward, and he put his arms around me. "I want
to go home," I sighed. Edward kissed the back of my neck. "I know. I want to go home, too. Just a little longer and we'll be on our way." But thinking about home... it made me think about where my home would be now. I couldn't go back to Charlie or Renee. And speaking of Charlie and Renee... "What do my parents think happened to me?" I whispered, dreading the answer. I knew I would cause them pain – I would disappear, never to be found again. It would kill them. Edward hesitated, but told me what I wanted to know. "I asked Carlisle about that while you were putting your contacts in. He said that when Charlie came home and found the front door of your house open, and your truck keys left in the ignition, Charlie assumed that you'd been kidnapped. He got a search party together and called your mother. She got on the first available plane to Seattle. Your jacket was found, torn and dirty, in the woods near where Demetri loaded you into a car. There was no blood on it, but after they found it – especially when nothing else was found – most believed that you were dead. The case is still open, and Charlie works on it nonstop, but... everyone else in Forks thinks you're dead." I could just picture Charlie sitting at our kitchen table, his eyes red and puffy from lack of sleep, going over my file again and again, looking for something he might have missed, something that could help him bring me home. But he wouldn't find anything. And I would never be able to see him again. Pain, regret, and guilt welled up in my chest, putting a lump in my throat. I was hurting him so badly. And that was the only option. Oh, Dad, I whispered in my mind, wishing he could hear me, I'm so sorry. I tried to draw in a deep breath to steady myself, but the air hitched and caught in my throat. I was crying – as much as a vampire could cry, at least. Edward pulled me into his lap, and I curled up there, burying my face in his chest and letting him rock me, hold me, and croon comforts in my ear. I let the pain have me for a little while, letting the dry sobs wrack my body, and trying to be as quiet as I could while I cried. But then I gradually regained control over myself. I'd known all along what the price for being with Edward would be. It was time to pay it. I would
grieve because I'd basically lost my family, but I would handle it. Edward would help me. So I wrapped my arms around his waist, silently thanking him for his comfort and telling him that I would be fine. I lifted my face and kissed his throat. "I love you," I whispered. That would carry me through. Edward held me tighter and kissed the top of my head. "As I love you," he responded softly. "I wish..." he began, then sighed, trailing off. I knew what he meant. I wish it didn't have to be like this. I wish you didn't have to leave your family. I wish there was another way for us to be together. But there wasn't, and, despite how painful this choice was for me right now, it really was the best choice for my parents. They were safe now. But still... "I know," I murmured. "I wish, too." Then it was time to board the plane and head home. Edward and I passed the long flight mostly in silence, holding hands and drawing solace and strength from the other. But by the time we landed in New York, I was more collected. I was resolute in my choice. I was able to smile at Edward with sincerity as we boarded our plane to Seattle and I felt truly excited to see Edward's family again – my family, now. He and I talked more on that flight – Edward was curious about what I'd seen about his past. He laughed when he remembered the cocker spaniel Jack, and sighed when I mentioned his mother. He missed her. I squeezed his hand, offering him comfort this time, and was rewarded by his grateful smile. When we landed in Seattle, our family was waiting for us. Esme rushed forward and pulled both Edward and me into a tight hug. We, laughing, returned it as the rest of our family approached at a more reasonable pace. Esme pulled away and, before I could stop her, laid a hand on my cheek. And then I was seeing a much younger Esme – Esme Anne Platt of Columbus, Ohio. Her mother, who looked just like her, and her father, who had blue eyes and dark brown hair. A farm house and the apple tree she fell from when she was sixteen and broke her leg – and the incredibly handsome Doctor Carlisle Cullen who treated her. I saw Charles Evenson, the man whom Esme married, and I saw him beat
her. I saw Esme's relief when he went off to war, her horror when he came back, and her resolve when she found out she was pregnant. I saw her run away and become a teacher in Ashland, Wisconsin. I watched her son, Theodore Evenson, die of a lung infection days after he was born, and I saw Esme jump off a cliff. I saw Carlisle change her, and I saw the family they built together. I saw all this in the split second before I reacted by hissing sharply and jerking away from Esme's hand. "Bella?" Esme cried, worriedly. "What's wrong?" Edward and the rest of our family echoed her questions. But I couldn't respond. I just started at Esme, torn by horror, shock, pity, and rage. How could anyone ever hit Esme, who was so kind and gentle? "Esme," I whispered hopelessly, at a loss for words. "I – I'm sorry. I didn't mean... I wasn't sure how it worked – I didn't know I would..." Oh, God. There was no way to apologize for seeing that. I continued to stare at Esme pleadingly. Esme, confused, turned to Edward, who had realized what had happened and had wrapped a comforting arm around my waist. "What is she talking about?" she asked. "What happened?" "Why don't I tell you in the car?" Edward suggested, pulling me toward the airport's exit. "We're attracting too much attention." We were – several people were staring at us. When we got in the car – which turned out to be Emmett's jeep – everyone except Carlisle, who was driving, turned to stare at me, curiosity and worry in their eyes. Edward glanced at me, silently asking if I wanted him to tell our family about my ability. I shook my head minutely – I would do it. I sighed and began. "You know that I Dreamed about people's pasts. Obviously, I can't Dream anymore, but my ability is similar to the Dreams. I..." I ducked my head and forced myself to continue. "I see a person's past when I touch them." My family thought about that in silence for a moment. "I'm not exactly surprised," Carlisle admitted. "The Dreams were such a defining part of your human life – of course a piece of that would carry over into
your vampire life." Emmett was grinning. "Well, it's not as cool as shooting lightning bolts from your eyes, but as powers go, it's not bad," he complimented. Rosalie was completely silent. Esme cocked her head slightly. "But why were you so upset earlier?" she asked. Did she really not know? "I saw your life," I reminded her softly. "Everything. I shouldn't have seen that. I fell terrible," I confessed, "I've invaded your privacy, and -" "Bella," Esme said sternly. "If you're talking about seeing Charles and Theodore," her voice caught a little when she said her son's name, but she continued, "then don't be sorry. I would have told you anyway. Besides," she added gently, "that was a long time ago. I've made my peace with it." She hugged me, then asked playfully, "So, am I not allowed to touch you for the rest of eternity?" I couldn't help but smile. "No, I think you're fine," I replied. "I don't think enough has happened between when I last touched you and now for there to be anything new for me to see." Esme gave me a motherly smile and kissed my cheek. "Well," Emmett declared, "I'm not going to be tiptoeing around you for forever trying to avoid touching you." He leaned over the back of the front passenger's seat, where he was sitting, and held his hand out to me. "Let's get this over with," he said, a wicked twinkle in his eye. I was taken aback, but recovered quickly, and timidly said, "Okay." Slowly, in case Emmett changed his mind, I reached my hand out toward his, stopping when I was about a centimeter away from touching him. But Emmett just raided a challenging eyebrow, so I closed the rest of the distance between our hands. And I was no longer looking into Emmett's twinkling eyes. I was seeing a man and a woman, both with curly, dark hair. Brenna and Gregory McCarty – Emmett's parents. I saw a chubby baby Emmett, and seven other children's faces, three boys and four girls – Emmett's
younger siblings, Gregory Junior, Carson, Adam, George, Sarah, Ashley, and Brigit. I saw his home in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I saw the bear that attacked him when he was twenty, and I saw the awed look in his eyes when Rosalie saved him. I saw Carlisle change him, saw Rosalie and Emmett fall in love, saw the bond he formed with Edward and, later, Jasper. I saw his whole life, knew his every emotion. And then I was looking back into Emmett's eyes. I smiled shyly and let go of his hand. Emmett looked surprised. "That's it?" he asked. "That was fast – you didn't even touch me for a whole second." I shrugged. "Apparently, that's all the time I need." Carlisle laughed a little. "Fascinating," he said. "We'll have to explore this more thoroughly. The possibilities... I wonder if, with practice, you might be able to use your gift on objects as well as people." I considered the implications of that silently. That could be useful, I supposed. I'd have to find out if I could do that. We'd reached the beautiful white house in the woods by then – the place I'd be living now. I glanced down at my clothes – Edward and I had only been able to find some ill-fitting pants and a slightly-too-small shirt for me. They were still better than the clothes I'd worn through my change, which were bloody, and damp from my laying on the stones of the cell I'd been in. I wanted to change... but did I even have clothes to change into? All my clothes were at Charlie's house – was it safe for me to go and get some? Of course, I was no danger to Charlie, what with my thirst firmly in control, but would he notice if some of my clothes went missing? After we had entered the house, though, Alice flitted up the stairs, and returned with a change of clothes in her hands. She grinned at my relieved expression. "I saw that you would need to change," she explained lightly, a satisfied look in her eyes. I took the clothes and dashed upstairs, kissing her on the cheek without thinking as I went by. I froze when I realized what I'd done, and braced myself for the onslaught of images to flood my mind, but nothing happened. I frowned, confused, and scrutinized Alice, wondering if my failure to see anything was related to something I'd done, or something she'd
done. Edward was at my side in an instant. "Did you see anything?" he asked tensely. "No," I replied, still trying to figure it out. "I didn't see a thing." Alice frowned slightly, too, and everyone was quiet as we thought. To my surprise, Rosalie was the first one to offer a theory. "Maybe you didn't see anything because you've already seen it," she suggested. "You Dreamed about her life when you were still human." I relaxed. Of course. That made sense – once I'd seen somebody's life, I didn't see everything again if I touched them again. "Thanks, Rosalie," I said, smiling again, as I continued on my way upstairs. "I put some more stuff for you in Edward's room!" Alice called after me. I heard Edward groan. "Please tell me you didn't throw my stuff out the window to make room," he begged sarcastically. Alice's voice was equally teasing when she responded. "I'm not making any promises." I grinned at my new family's antics as I slipped inside Edward's room. I was very comfortable there, as if I'd lived there for years. The gold carpet and drapes, the black couch, the wall stacked with CDs, the sound system in one corner... it felt like home. I changed quickly and darted back down the stairs. I sat by Edward in the living room, and he put an arm around me. "So," he began, a humorous lilt in his voice, "she didn't throw anything valuable of mine out, did she?" he asked, giving Alice a playful glare. I kept my face blank. "That depends," I replied smoothly. "Were you very fond of your sound system?" Edward's eyes widened briefly, and Alice laughed. "Don't get me in
trouble for something I didn't do, Bella!" she told me firmly. "I can annoy Edward without your help." Edward made a face. "I'm sure you can," I muttered. Carlisle, though smiling, leaned forward and interrupted. "Why don't you tell us what happened in Italy," he said. "Edward wanted to give us the details in person, with you here." So we all got comfortable, and Edward and I told our story. Emmett laughed out loud when I told them my reason for asking to be changed. "Well, at least Edward had the sense to fall in love with someone with spunk!" He grinned at me. "Living with you should be interesting." Carlisle gave me a likely explanation for why I hadn't seen anything when I'd hugged Santiago – I hadn't actually touched him. I'd touched his clothes, but not him. Apparently, I needed genuine contact. After we'd finished our story, everyone lapsed into conversations – except Rosalie. She'd hardly said anything that night. Every now and then, though, I would turn, and catch her staring at me with an unreadable expression on her face. Finally, she got up and asked to talk to me in private. I agreed warily and followed her out of the house. We ran maybe ten miles, until we were out of our family's hearing range. Then she climbed a huge fir, sitting on a branch. I did the same. She didn't speak for a while. I waited. Then finally, "Do you know anything about me?" she asked, not looking me in the eye. I need to be honest with her now, if I was ever going to get along with her. We would be living as a family now – we needed to bury the hatchet. "Yes." Rosalie fidgeted nervously. "You've Dreamed about me, like you did Alice?" I shook my head. "No," I whispered. "But... I dreamed about Royce."
Rosalie's hands clenched into tight fists. "Then you know what happened." "Yes," I replied softly. She looked at me. "He took so much away from me. Because of him, I lost everything – my family, my humanity..." she trailed off, but I knew she was thinking of one more thing she would never have. "Your ability to have children," I finished for her, my voice gentle. Rosalie closed her eyes. "That's why I was so cruel to you, you know," she murmured. "You could have what I wanted. I couldn't. And you just threw it all away." I understood, but now she needed to understand my side of the story. "You saw me when I Dreamed about Alice," I reminded her quietly. "What did it look like?" Rosalie shivered. "Like you were in pain. Like you were going through hell." "I was," I told her quietly. "And that's why children were never in my future." Rosalie glanced up at me in surprise. "I know what it feels like to be a mother," I murmured. "I've Dreamed of it so many times. I know what it's like to hold a child. But any child of mine," I continued, "might have Dreamed as well. I couldn't ever risk that. I couldn't have inflicted that on my child or grandchild." Rosalie nodded. "I guess I understand," she sighed. She hesitated, then abruptly thrust her hand toward me. When I stared at it in shock, she growled, "Just do it. Before I change my mind." When I still didn't take her hand, she sighed sharply and took my hand herself. The images rushed through my mind. Rosalie Lillian Hale as a baby, her two younger brothers, her fair-haired parents, her childhood of being the prettiest girl in Rochester, New York. Her friend, Vera. The presents her parents loved to give her. She had been so happy. Then, I saw the day she met Royce King the Second. I saw the roses and violets he sent her. I saw how thrilled she was when they
became engaged, but, at the same time, how strangely empty her relationship with Royce felt. I saw her envy of Vera's small son, Henry. I saw what Royce and his drunken friends did to her, I saw Carlisle save her, and I saw her take her revenge. I saw her find Emmett, and, in him, the love she'd always wanted. But I also saw her sadness, her bitterness. She hadn't wanted this life. She still didn't want it. She would have preferred to have died that night in the streets of Rochester. But, at the same time, I saw how much she loved her vampire family, despite her prickly demeanor. I saw myself through her eyes, saw her desire to be human like me. The last thing I saw was her reconciliation with me. She didn't hate me anymore. Maybe she even liked me. When my mind cleared and I could see Rosalie's face again, her eyes were tight with the pain of old wounds, but held no regret for showing me her life. I briefly considered what to say. Well, there was a time to be serious, and there was a time to lighten the mood. So I said, "You like me," in a mildly teasing tone. Rosalie snorted, and we jumped from the tree. "Don't let it go to your head," she told me as we ran back to the house. The sun was just beginning to rise when we got there. Edward was waiting outside for us, his expression a trifle surprised. But he also looked satisfied, like he was glad Rosalie and I had called a truce. He met us half way to the door of the Cullen's mansion. Rosalie gave me a tentative smile, and went inside, leaving Edward and me alone. "Come with me," he said, excitement in his eyes. He took my hand. "I want to show you something." That something turned out to be the most beautiful meadow I'd ever seen, in my Dreams or in my own life. It was deep in the forest, perfectly round, and full of wild flowers. A river was somewhere to the east of the meadow – the sound of rushing water was in the air. Mouth open, I turned in a circle, taking everything in. The cloud cover was light, allowing more sunlight than usual to seep through the clouds. "It's beautiful," I observed, turning to look at Edward again. He smiled and squeezed my hand. "I like to come here when the weather's nice." I could see why. At that exact moment, the sun broke
through the clouds and shone down into the meadow, down onto Edward and me, reflecting off our skin in millions of rainbow sparkles. Edward's face mesmerized me. He was so beautiful in the sun. Absolutely perfect. And he was looking at me in the same way I was looking at him. "You are so beautiful," he breathed, stroking my cheek with a sparkling hand. "You truly have no idea how much you've changed my life," he murmured. "I want you by my side forever." I smiled into his golden eyes, so happy I felt like I was going to burst. And then, Edward did something I hadn't been expecting. He got down on one knee. I felt my eyes widen. Oh, my God. I couldn't breathe. Edward looked up at me, his golden eyes intense. "Bella," he said, his voice gentle and loving, "will you marry me?" I was frozen for a second as I tried to comprehend what had just happened. Edward had proposed. He wanted me. Forever. Just like I wanted him. Joy exploded inside of my chest, and a huge smile broke spread across my face. When he saw my smile, the same joy lit up Edward's eyes. I dropped to my knees in front of Edward, wrapped my arms around his neck, and kissed him with all the passion I could muster. When I did pull away, I answered his question, my voice sure. "Yes," I told Edward. "I will."