Silent Deception

PROLOUGE

Even in my most darkest of hours - staring into the face of death itself - I never feared the pain that is now intent on destroying me. I always knew I deserved it; the guilt, agony, loss. I promised her that I would spend an eternity trying to make up for my detestable actions. Now it seemed as though the world was never going to give me that chance.

I thought that our lives would be forever blessed, now that she was truly mine, but the monsters of our world will never stop hunting us until we cease to exist.

Her lifeless body was proof of that.



CHAPTER ONE - EDWARD

I could count on one hand the number of times I have sat in this very room - watching nothing but the meaningless bands of drizzle streak across the choppy pane of glass.

Two.

Usually, I left this specific obligation to my beautiful wife, but Alice had gone to extreme lengths to free my schedule for the afternoon; kidnapping Bella in the process. I'm sure that Bella is having the time of her life, shopping for every unnecessary article of clothing that Alice sets her eyes on.

I stifled a chuckle.

There was nothing spectacular about this particular room; so austere that it would numb even the most creative of minds. Yet there was a comforting sense of cohesion that lingered in the air. Some faint glimmer that sparkled in the eyes of the humans sitting so precariously close to me. I could see why Renesmee - or Nessie as everyone liked to call her - enjoyed spending her days here.

I shifted my weight ever so slightly, trying to avoid the unwanted attention my motionless body often seemed to attract. It's been a while since I've had to concentrate on acting human; Two years, three months, and seventeen days precisely. I'd forgotten what is was like to be so close to people who didn't see me for what I truly was. I was grateful that their thoughts were wrapped up in the trivial matters of my sudden appearance at the small school. Bella does a much better job at pretending; her subdued human instincts often taking over.

I heard Nessie's cluttered thoughts above all the others in the waiting room. She was consumed with some sort of mindless question one of the other girls in her class had asked her.

Why would the chicken come before the egg? That's absurd

I found myself laughing uncontrollably - much to the confusion of those around me - as she came into view. Nessie's mind works so differently from other children. Of course, there are no other children like Nessie. She is one of a kind.

My one of a kind.

I'd been hard pressed to let her attend public school in the first place, but there is no arguing with Bella when she has her mind set on something. We'd agreed to let her spend some time at the little school in La Push, as long as she didn't attempt to use her special talents on her unsuspecting classmates. She would have to leave at the end of the month though, to avoid any suspicions about her abnormal growth rate; a fact that Nessie constantly argued with me about.

Jacob usually keeps a close watch on her - closer than I would like - the majority of the time she is in La Push, but today he'd been called away by Carlisle. That left me on Daddy duty. I never thought I would utter those words, not in a million lifetimes.

"Daddy!" Nessie squealed, running into my waiting arms - just a bit quicker than a normal seven year old should have.

No one in the room seemed to take notice.

In a way, she is not really a normal seven year old at all; having only been alive for just under two years now. Her mind has been evolving more rapidly every day; soaking up any information that she can get her little angelic hands on. A few more years, and she would no longer want to cling to my granite arms, the way she does now. A few more years, and she would be a fully grown woman, with the capacity to choose whomever she wanted to be the new object of her affection.

Jacob Black was definitely going to fight hard for that position.

"How was school today Nessie?" I asked, carrying my beautiful daughter out into the dreary afternoon.

I didn't really need her to answer the question, but Nessie so rarely spoke these days. She preferred to show people what she had seen, or thought about, rather than speak the words out loud. Bella has been very adamant about Nessie's need for vocalization; fearing that there were too many silent conversations going on in the house already. That was one of the reasons she sidetracked me with, when discussing the need for Nessie's interaction with other children. She doesn't like being left out of the equation. Nessie, and I, have always been able to converse quite well with each other, never having to utter a single word.

Nessie's hand came to rest on the edge of my marble jaw, as my mind was filled with images of her disastrous attempt at eating macaroni and cheese.

I laughed, as I saw the way her face crinkled when the pasta slid down her throat; slimy, and not as good as Mountain Lion. Nessie much prefered our family's vegetarian lifestyle, as opposed to the human food she had to endure. Of course, there was always an exception to that rule. Nessie would do anything for a chocolate chip cookie.

"I know it's not as tasty, but you have to eat it." I giggled.

"But it's gross, and slimy, and I hate it." She whined, showing me what Bella had made for dinner last night; even though I had been present throughout the entire meal.

"Everyone loves pizza Nessie." I chuckled.

"You don't have to eat pizza."

I laughed again, thinking of the last time I'd coughed up that vile substance, Bella used to eat during our lunch hour.

"I'm not half human like you are."

"Why can't I just have a nice juicy steak for dinner? Or perhaps a cookie?" She asked, reliving the one time she'd enjoyed a human meal.

"Because little girls don't eat steak and cookies for dinner every night." I chuckled again. "It's called variety."

"I don't like variety. I like steak." She sighed, dropping her hand from my face; leaving me with just her thoughts alone.

Her thoughts were something that she could never keep hidden from me, regardless of her proximity. Only Bella's mind still remained a mystery, unless she wanted me to hear her thoughts.

"My money's on the egg." I laughed, tucking Nessie into the back seat of the Volvo.



CHAPTER TWO - ALICE

"Oh just give it a rest Bella." I sighed, throwing the last of the dresses over the obtuse changing room door. "You'll thank me for it later."

I heard her mumble something about common courtesy, but paid no attention to the wasted sarcasm. She was just going to have to deal with it, and be happy that I was about to drastically improve her weekend with Edward. Of course, I may have been a bit mischievous during the early hours of our shopping trip; making her try on dress after dress, when I knew full well the one she was about to put on was the the one from my vision.

I just like to see Bella sweat sometimes. Maybe if we went shopping more often, she would get over her aversion to style. She still has that overwhelming contemptuous need for all things plain; Jeans, t-shirts, unflattering heavy sweaters with no hint of a neckline. The girl has no sense of fashion at all.

"Hurry up in there. It doesn't even take Edward this long to change." I laughed, knowing full well she'd been fully clothed seconds after snagging the dress from me.

I heard the door creak open with a sluggish crack; emphasizing Bella's hesitation. She emerged from the tiny dressing room looking just as I had pictured. Her flawless, pale skin, was a stark contrast to the lucious blue gown wrapped around her stunning features. It looked even better than I imagined, setting off her topaz eyes perfectly, while leaving as much to the imagination as she could muster.

Short, skimpy, and strapless. The only way to wear a dress like this one.

"It's a bit revealing don't you think, Alice?" She asked, pulling up on the strapless ensemble.

"No. It looks perfect."

And in truth it did. Edward was going to love it. Bella, on the other hand, was less than thrilled to be standing in the open dressing room, exposing her figure to the rest of the human world.

"Go take it off." I sighed.

Without another word, she was gone; disappearing behind closed doors once more. At least she hadn't refused to come this time. Maybe my forced persuasions were starting to take a toll on her. That would be a good thing. I was getting tired of shopping with Rosalie. She only ever commented on the outfits she picked out. Of course, she always looks beautiful in whatever she chooses to wear.

"I can't let you buy this for me." Bella sighed, walking next to me at a human pace.

I rolled my eyes, snatched the dress away from her, and continued walking through the little boutique. I glanced around the racks, looking for the jacket I'd noticed on the way in; Grey, sleek, and stylish. Jasper would love it - even though he didn't really need another one.

There were just a few humans passing by - choosing alternative ways through the stacks of high end clothing whenever they might cross our path - so I could see the the stunning coat quite clearly from where we were standing.

"Just a minute Bella." I said, weaving my way through the shop as inconspicuously as I could.

I smiled, as the grey jacket slid into my hands; perfectly sized, perfectly matched. Yes, this would definitely be something Jasper would look dashing in. I looked ahead to make sure that Jasper would have the reaction I had noticed in an earlier vision.

No one in this little store would notice the subtle change in my features.

I held back the urge to laugh, as Jaspers face came into view. He was going to love this - not to mention the frenzy I would stir up after his thank you.

A cool breeze drifted past me - brought in from the front door - snapping me back into my present state of mind. The wind brought with it a familiar scent, though I had never encountered anything quite like this before; Sweet, confusing, and entirely foreign. Yet it could not mask what had just waltzed through the door.

Vampire.

I twisted my petite frame around to watch the entrance of our new visitor. I could see Bella warily eyeing up the stranger that now stood only a few feet from her startled form. I danced - as quickly as I could with out drawing attention - to her side. It took only a few seconds.

The humans kept their eyes diverted; never looking up from their fruitful searches.

"Hello." I said, taking a watchful stance next to Bella. Bella just stared at me in confusion.

The woman before us smiled widely, but made no further attempt at conversation. Perhaps she was just as surprised as we were. I took one small second to asses the vampire in front of us. She was remarkably young - perhaps nineteen or so - with long wavy black hair, and golden eyes that mirrored my own. There was no hint of crimson anywhere in her gleaming orbs. That surprised me. Her skin was just as ours was; pale, hard, and unchangeable. Yet there was something about her that seemed off.

I could see no future for this vampire. I could see no path in my vision that would have led us to her.

"Good afternoon." She whispered - just quietly enough that I could still hear her.

I nodded, unsure of how to proceed. Bella was still standing next to me, speechless.

"it's not very often that we run across one such as yourself." I said softly.

The humans would be oblivious to our conversation.

She smiled. "Yes, it is quite odd."

I held out my hand to shake hers, not quite sure of what I was doing. I found myself fascinated by her peculiar charm. She was very well dressed - almost as fashionable as I was - and had a certain calming quality about her face. She was stunning - even for a vampire.

"Alice Cullen, nice to meet you." I said, as she apprehensively took my hand - barely touching it before she pulled away.

"Annie."

"No last name?" I asked, a slight trace of humor in my voice.

She shook her head. "Sorry, but I've never had one."

That's strange. Perhaps she didn't remember her human life, just as I had forgotten. I suppose it happens to all of us though, one way or another.

Annie smiled at me, seemingly engrossed in whatever I was thinking about. She was just as curious as we were.

"I'm Bella Cullen."

"Nice to meet you Bella." Annie said, making no movements towards Bella. Annie's hands remained tightly at her sides.

Bella - being more human than vampire right now - was already reaching forward; a smile plastered all over her ridiculous face. Could she not see that Annie was not interested in taking her hand? But it was too late to stop her. As soon as Bella touched her pale skin, Annie ripped her arm away so quickly that I almost missed it.

A low growl slid through Annie's teeth; too low for anyone but us to hear. Bella looked down at the floor, chewing on her lip.

"Sorry." Bella whispered.

I sighed, quickly diving into another topic.

"Do you live here in town?" I asked, gazing down at Annie's shaking hand.

"I don't live anywhere. I work here."

That took me by surprise. I could tell from the expression on Annie's face - even though her face was still twisted towards Bella - that she recognized my reaction.

"I am well at home here." She snapped.

If Bella could blush, this would be the point where her cheeks would scorch bright red. I was going to have to talk to that girl about the whole purpose of secrecy. Bella should have known better than that. Some vampires value their privacy more than others. Annie was no exception to that. Perhaps this was not the best place to be having this discussion.

"Could I interest you in taking a walk with us?" I asked, my eyes focused on her angular face.

"I'm sorry, but I must decline. It's not .... well ... it's probably not in your best interest to be seen with me." She sighed, glancing over at Bella.

I nodded, understanding her position. What I did not understand was why she continued to stare at Bella. It was starting to get on my nerves. I mean, okay, so Bella should not have tried to force a hand shake from a total stranger, but Annie had accepted my hand. I could see where Bella might have thought it was okay.

No harm. No foul.

"I have to go." Annie said, stalking off into what I presumed was the stock room.

I watched her till she was out of my vision then turned to Bella; a slight trace of disapproval in my eyes. Carlisle was going to have to know about this. It's not every day we come across a vampire so similar to us. Besides, Edward was sure to tell everyone as soon as he hears my thoughts.

"I know." Bella said, creasing her brow. "I got a little excited."

I laughed, tapping Bella on the shoulder. "Magnet for danger."

Bella smiled weakly at me, and followed closely as I paid for our two items. There was no need to purchase anything else for myself today. We already had a car full. Nessie was going to love the outfit I'd picked out for her; dark wash denim, with a black Roxy t-shirt. Of course, I already knew that she would love it, just as I knew Edward was going to think it was too mature for her to wear. But that wasn't going to stop me from buying it.

I chuckled to myself, as I thought about Edward's reaction. It would be the lesser of two evils I would have to endure when I got home. There was something else I needed to attend to now; a vision that had occured while Bella was reluctantly being my guinea pig. Something that was going to get me into a lot of trouble.

"What do you want to do now?" I asked, carrying our packages out of the store. Bella was gingerly holding onto the dress, almost afraid to touch it, as we strolled onto the street.

"As if you don't already know." She laughed, tossing her silky hair over her shoulder.

It was not Bella's usual free flowing laughter. There was something bothering her. Perhaps it was the encounter with Annie. Maybe she was a bit taken back by her reaction. I'd have to ask her about that later.

"Okay good." I chimed, tossing our bags into the back of Carlisle's Mercedes. "I thought we could take a stroll on the beach."

"Alice, it's almost Nessie's bedtime. Haven't we done enough for one day?"

"Don't ever say those words to me again." I chuckled through my teeth. "Besides, I already know that you will say yes."

Bella's hesitant face smoothed out quite easily, as I took a hold of her hand, leading the way down the winding road. She could never argue with me about anything. Secretly, I knew she enjoyed spending time with me, even if she didn't always show it. That was one of the things I loved most about Bella. She always strives to make everyone else around her happy, regardless of her own feelings.

In a way, I think that actually made her happy. Besides, being cooped up in that cottage with Edward and Nessie all the time, was no good for her sense of fashion. I had to take that responsibility unto my self. It was an obligation really. No sister of mine is going to walk around in tattered rags; Bella's preferred choice of attire.

"We've got to be the only two lunatics crazy enough to be out here in this weather." Bella whispered, stepping onto the frigid sand.

"Just because it is about to rain, doesn't mean it won't be beautiful." I laughed, pulling her to the side of the wooden pavilion.

There were a few people surfing the crashing waves that lingered just off shore. But that was not the reason I'd brought Bella to this place. While she was trying on the numerous outfits I'd forced upon her, I'd had a strange vision on her in this place. I couldn't understand why the image puzzled me so. It was as if I were looking through a mirror, seeing things backwards. One minute Bella's face was serene and peaceful, the next she was horrified by something I couldn't see.

Edward would probably kill me if he knew I'd purposely brought her here after seeing that strange vision. But there was no danger to Bella here. Her future was very clear for the time being; sometimes it fluctuated the longer she stayed in La Push. I could still see her spending a romantic weekend with Edward, far away in the Alaskan wilderness.

"It is rather beautiful here." Bella murmured, staring out across the water.

There was the first look I'd been waiting for. Now I just needed to see what happened to make her so terrified.

Yes. Edward was definitely going to be angry with me, as soon as I stepped through the door.

"I used to come here all the time when I first moved to Forks. This palce has always been so comforting to me." I breathed, bracing myself for the second look.

"Do you think we'll always be this happy?" She asked.

Forever...maybe beyond that I thought to myself, feeling the twilight hour upon us.

"I'd like that." She replied, as my head jerked towards her.

Had she really just answered my thoughts? That's not possible. I shook my head.

"How did you do that?" I asked, trying to clear my head of the dull buzzing sound that had started to hum in my mind.

Suddenly, the look I had been waiting for shot across her face like a streak of lightning. her eyes were wide with fright, but there was something I couldn't place. Something I couldn't see, as she lunged towards me.

"ALICE! What is it? What's wrong?" She shouted, but I couldn't find my voice to answer her pleas.

It occured to me in that moment, that is was not Bella who was in danger after all.

It was me.

I felt my knees buckle, hurling my petite frame into the frozen sand beneath me. Something was gnawing away at my mind; sending spasms of pain down my spine. I cringed away from the agony I felt coursing through my body. But it could not stop the words that bellowed in my head, nor the vision that accompanied them. It was Bella's face - through my eyes - screaming on the ground in pain.

Then everything went black.



CHAPTER THREE - BELLA


I had no idea what was happening to Alice, as I blew through Forks at over 120 miles per hour. She'd been unconscious since I lifted her body off the cool sand, and into the back of the Mercedes. I didn't even think vampires could actually lose consciousness. I had to get her to Carlisle as soon as possible.

And what was with that strange voice I had heard in my head? I could have sworn I heard Alice say that we would be happy forever. Her unspoken words lingered in my mind, taunting me with their impossibility.

Maybe I should be having my head examined as well.

I still wasn't feeling myself, after being in the little dress shop. It had to be the overwhelming amount of clothes I'd tried on throughout the day. Or perhaps the unexpected sting I'd felt against my skin, after foolishly grabbing Annie's hand. I don't know why I didn't realize her anxiety. I guess I was just too excited about seeing another vampire so close to the human world.

Besides my family - and of course the Denali coven - I've never witnessed another one of us acting in that manner. I probably should have apologized a little bit better, but our encounter had left me feeling somewhat off balance; queasy, and unsure of myself. I was drained; surprisingly tired for a vampire.

Especially when vampires don't sleep.

I took the turn into the driveway with such speed, that I nearly lost control; skidding to a halt in front of the house. I raced around to the rear passenger door, and pulled Alice's limp body from the car.

She looked so pale, more so than usual. Her eyelids were fluttering back and forth, just like the time we had flown to Italy - having terrible visions of Edward's impending demise.

I shuddered.

Thinking about that horrible trip was the last thing I should be concerned about right now. Something was terribly wrong with Alice, and I wasn't entirely certain that I hadn't been the cause. I had this horrible feeling that I had been the reason for Alice's episode. After all - just as Alice had mentioned - I am a magnet for danger. Vampire or not.

"SOMEBODY HELP!" I screamed as loud as my voice would carry, and kicking open the front door.

Jasper was there in an instant, his eyes filled with panic, as he snatched Alice away from me; hissing softly. I followed him up the stairs, pausing slightly when I reached the living room.

I couldn't sense Edward anywhere, and my dead heart burst into a frenzy. I didn't like being separated from him, especially after what had just occured.

"What happened?" Carlisle asked, rushing to Alice's side; nothing but sheer panic written across his chalky complexion.

All eyes in the room were on me, waiting for an answer. I bit down on my lip.

"I don't know. One minute we were talking, and then she dropped to the floor. I think she fainted." I said, with more alarm in my voice than I had intended.

Carlisle shot me a strange look - his eyes struck with uneasy incomprehension - but quickly went back to assessing Alice's condition. Esme emerged from her bedroom, launching herself down the staircase, towards Carlisle and Jasper.

I just stood there, motionless.

I wanted Edward. I wanted Nessie. I wanted to hold them in my arms, and make sure that they were alright.

"What's going on?" Esme asked, trying to still her nerves.

"Tell me everything that happened Bella. I need to know how to fix this." Carlisle said, never taking his eyes from Alice's delicate frame.

Jasper glowered at me from the living room; ripples of fury spilling across the outstretched space.

"We were shopping, then we went to the beach. I thought I heard Alice say something to me, and when I turned around, she fell to the floor." I said, rushing through the words. "She looked like she was in pain, but she never spoke to me. Then she passed out. I put her in the car, and drove straight here."

Jasper turned to Carlisle, frantic for some encouraging news. I felt the strangest urge to reach out to him, and soothe his nerves, but I quickly reeled it in. Upsetting Jasper any further was a dangerous thing to do. And I'd already upset one vampire too many today. His love for Alice was so powerful, that he would gladly give his own life for hers at the drop of a hat.

It's exactly how I feel about Edward.

"Carlisle, what does this mean?" Jasper suddenly asked. "Vampires don't faint. We don't sleep, and we definitely don't lose consciousness."

Carlisle was just as puzzled as Jasper. I could tell that much.

"I'm not sure. I'm going to have to do some research." Carlisle whispered. "I've never heard of anything like this happening before."

"What can I do to help?" I asked, taking a small step forward.

Everything happened so suddenly. One moment I was standing at the top of the stairs - watching Carlisle work over Alice - then the white walls of the hallway were flying past me in a blur. I landed - precisely as I meant to, on the balls of my feet - just in front of the long window at the end of the corridor.

Jasper was standing two feet from my confused body; his lips pulled back, exposing the razor sharp teeth.

"I think you've done enough for one day." He growled at me.

I shook my head, trying to free myself from his sudden rage. There was no sense of peace in the air that surrounded me. No feeling of the comfort Jasper usually showered me with on a daily basis. There was nothing at all except the anger that spilled from every fiber in his marble body.

"Jasper I-"

But I could not finish. Carlisle was off the couch in one fluid movement, his arm braced against Jasper's quivering shoulder.

"That was terribly uncalled for son." He warned. "Alice is going to be just fine."

"You did something to her, didn't you!" Jasper screeched, shaking his fists at me.

I couldn't speak. Of course Jasper would sense my uncertainty. Maybe I had done something to Alice. I couldn't come up with an explanation for what I'd witnessed on the beach. My head was swimming with the same sickly feeling I'd had in the boutique, back in Seattle. It was overpowering any of my other senses.

I didn't like how Jasper seemed to be so angry with me, for something I wasn't even sure I'd done. But he was overcome with fear for Alice.

I didn't have to read minds to know that.

"I didn't Jas. I swear I didn't." The words came out in such a low moan, that I wasn't certain I'd actually said them out loud.

Carlisle smiled. ''Jasper knows you would never hurt Alice. Apologize Jasper."

"No."

"Carlisle, there is really no need for apologies. Honestly, I deserved that." I replied, hanging my head in shame.

Jasper sighed.

"I'm sorry Bella" He said, as I smiled as best as I could.

Jasper returned to Alice's side in an instant, leaving me alone with Carlisle; neither one of us taking our eyes off of Alice's motionless body.

"I don't know what to do." Carlisle whispered, reaching his hand out to take mine. "Are you alright?"

Was I alright? To think that I might have been the cause for Alice's condition, made my stomach do strange things. Something I haven't felt since I was human. I felt sick.

The answer to his question was a resounding no.

"Yes Carlisle, I'm fine." I lied. "I think I just need to see Edward."

Carlisle cringed. "He's not going to happy once he hears about this."

"I know Carlisle, I know. Try not to tell him for a while, will you? I have enough on my plate with Nessie as it is." I laughed, trying to ease the situtation.

Carlisle nodded, and walked out into the living room; Jasper grimacing at his approach.

I love my family more than anything in the world. Carlisle, and Esme, are the most wonderful parents anyone could ever wish for - apart from my human counterparts of course. Jasper was - until a few minutes ago - the comforting older brother that I always wished I had. Alice was ... well Alice; amazing in every way. Even Emmett - the best brother in the whole world - and Rosalie, had an unbreakable hold on my heart.

Edward and Nessie are my life. There are no words powerful enough to describe how I feel about them. There's nothing I wouldn't do for any member of my family. But now I feel this strange sense of uneasiness as I think about Alice, and how I might have done this to her.

What if I was a threat to my family? What if it had been Nessie who got hurt by my actions?

I darted out of the house, and into the cloudy night sky; not sparing a glance behind me. I had to get away from here for a while. Every part of me wanted to run to Edward - never letting him out of my sight - and have him tell me everything was going to be okay.

But I soon found myself running the opposite direction; through the woods, straight past Forks, all the way down the embankment into La Push.



CHAPTER FOUR - JACOB


I caught her scent as soon as she made it across the boundaries of the reservation. Not that it mattered anymore since Sam, and I, had decided to dissolve the treaty - set in motion by our forefathers - shortly after Nessie's birth. At least the Cullens could come and go from La Push without a problem anymore. That meant I was free to Nessie as often as I wanted to - which was every minute of every day.

The more time I spent away from Nessie, the more my heart longed to see her. She is my best friend, my exact match - even if she is too young to know it yet. She is everything I could never be; graceful, beautiful, and perfect. I am her protector, and her friend - for now anyway. There's no one in the world like my Nessie.

But there is someone who does come close.

Bella blew through the front door - without knocking per usual - her face full of concern. This is a look I have grown all too familiar with during the last few years of her human life. Although, I hadn't seen it in some time. Not since the Volturi left town, just over a year and a half ago.

"What's wrong!" I shouted, pulling her into my arms. "Did something happen to Nessie?"

Bella shook her head, resting it slightly against my bare chest.

"It's Alice. Something bad happened." She moaned. "I think I may have hurt her."

I laughed. Bella couldn't hurt a fly. Okay, maybe that's a bad analogy; draining the blood of countless animals is not exactly non threatening. Still, I knew that Bella was incapable of hurting those that she treasured so dearly. Even I didn't harbor any ill will towards the Cullens.

"It's not funny Jacob."

"I know, but honestly Bells ..... You don't have it in you to hurt anyone." I laughed again.

Bella pried herself away from me in one fluid movement. I knew that she was uncomfortable being so close to me. I also knew that Edward would be less than thrilled that she was here with me, instead of back home in their cottage.

I couldn't afford to anger Edward in any way. He spent most of his time trying not to dwell on what would happen to Nessie, and I, in a few short years. I wasn't exactly sure what was going to happen when Nessie was fully grown, or if we'd end up together like I so desperately hoped.

"Why aren't you at home?" I asked, slumping onto Billy's sofa.

"I can't go there right now. Everyone is so upset with me."

I was confused. Edwards was never upset with Bella, even when she deserved it.

"What did he do now?" I chuckled.

"He didn't do anything. It's Jasper. He's furious. He thinks I hurt Alice."

"We both know you would never do that. What is the real reason you are here?" I asked, crossing my arms.

This seemed like such a trivial thing for Bella to be concerned about. Jasper has a temper - something that Bella was well aware of - but he usually calmed down after a few minutes. He never really meant it anyway. He is just still frustrated with Bella's easy adaptation to her new life. He still expects her to snap at any minute, even though she's never had the urge to taste human blood. Well, not after that first hunting trip anyway.

"Something is wrong with me." She said, burying her face in a tattered pillow. "I .... I think I might be hearing voices."

I couldn't help but laugh again; the sound of it echoing off the walls of the tiny room.

Bella glared at me.

"I'm the last person you need to be talking to about that!" I said through the tears that rolled down my cheeks. I don't know why I find this so ironic. "Don't you have your own personal mind reader at home?"

Bella grimaced. "I don't want him to know there is something wrong with me."

"There's nothing wrong with you Bells. No more than usual." I chuckled again.

Bella punched me in the shoulder, and for a moment, it sort of hurt. I knew she was holding back though. The last time Bella had punched me, she broke my arm. Of course it healed quickly, but I couldn't shake her for weeks after that. The constant apologies were deafening.

I'd deserved it really. I'd broken Edward's only rule; no hunting with Nessie after midnight. I couldn't help it though. When Nessie asks me for something, I can't refuse her.

"You could at least make an effort." Bella snapped.

Huh? What the hell was she going on about? I stared at her with wide eyes, unsure of why she suddenly seemed so startled.

"See!" She shouted, pacing about the room. "I just did it again!"

"What are you talking about?"

Bella was inches from my face before I could even take my next breath; staring at me with a bewildered expression. Her furious topaz eyes boring into mine, as if she were trying to figure out a complicated math problem.

"I heard you say that you couldn't refuse Nessie. Did you, or did you not, say that?" She growled through her teeth.

"Back off Bells!"

"Did you say it!" She shouted.

I tilted my head slightly - her sickly sweet scent penetrating my senses - trying to comprehend what she was talking about. I had been thinking about Nessie, but I don't recall speaking her name out loud. But sometimes that does have a tendency to happen.

"I don't think I did." It was as good as I could come up with for now.

Bella threw her hands up in exasperation, planting herself firmly back on the couch.

"So this hearing voices thing ... this is all new?" I asked, trying to read her expression.

"As of a couple of hours ago. I thought I heard Alice say something before she fainted. Then just a few minutes ago, I heard you."

"Wait a minute." I said, soaking in Bella's indigestible words. "Vampires don't faint."

"Well apparently they do."

"And you think you are the cause of that?" I asked.

Bella's face crinkled around the usually composed stone mask, as her posture became defenseless. I knew - after years of Bella's shoddy attempts at lying - that she was contemplating hard on exactly what she was going to say.

I would recognize a lie in an instant.

"I'm not sure"

Okay, so not a lie, but not exactly the truth either.

"Come on Bells .... you can do better than that." I urged.

I could see her chewing on her lower lip, just like she used to when things were bothering her. It was a relief that some things never seem to change with Bella.

"Alice was talking to me." She explained, seemingly distracted in her own thoughts. "I could have sworn I heard her something, but when I replied ... She got all freaked out, and then fainted."

"That doesn't mean anything." I sighed. Bella has an uncanny way of blaming herself for everything.

"But you should have seen her face It was so twisted. Jake, she was in pain."

Bella hung her head, sluoching even further into the old sofa. She was obviously upset.

"Bells, you didn't do it. Besides, nothing happened to me when you heard my thoughts."

Her head snapped up without warning; the same look of anger exploding across her face.

"So I did hear what you were thinking!" She shrieked. "Don't you see Jake, there is something seriously wrong with me!"

I had to think about that for a moment. Obviously Bella was upset about this new ability that she seemed to posses, but I doubted that it had anything to do with Alice's condition. Besides, vampires heal quickly; just like wolves. Alice would no doubt be up and around in no time. Of course, this was going to keep Carlisle very busy, and we would never finish our present for Nessie's birthday, with this hanging over our heads.

As for something being wrong with her, I could understand that. It's exactly how I used to feel when I first began to phase. Perhaps I was not the one who needed to know this information though. I don't have much experience with vampires - other than the abnormally human-like Cullen family - so she probably should be talking to Edward about this.

"Edward can't know." She whispered, answering my thoughts once again.

"Okay, that's seriously freaky Bella." I laughed. But it was the wrong thing to do.

Bella was up in an instant, growling through her teeth.

"This cannot be happening to me." She howled. "I'm happy now. I don't need this in my life. Now now. Not after everything I've been through."

"Can you think of anything that might have triggered it?"

"No."

"Edward has to know about this. You can't keep it from him forever." I replied to her hasty answer.

She sighed, resigning herself to the couch once more.

"I can't tell him. He'll think I'm crazy. What if he ran away with Nessie or something?"

That struck a nerve. The thought of Edward Cullen taking Nessie away from Bella - away from me - was something I would never tolerate. I knew better though. Edward's love for Bella is unparalleled. He would never leave her again, even if she was completely insane. He couldn't bear to be away from her, any more than I could bear to be away from Nessie.

"You know damn well that Cullen would never leave your side." I hissed. "I wouldn't allow it anyway."

Bella smiled - it was definitely forced - and playfully kicked my shin with her boot.

"So, can you hear anyone's thoughts at any time, or how does this thing work?" I asked, trying to still the concern rising in my chest.

"No, it's very random. With Alice, I wasn't expecting it, but ever since then I've been waiting for it to come back. When I heard you the first time .... I think it was an accident. I listened closer after that, and I did hear you clearly the second time. Now I'm too tired to try again."

"Tired? Vampires don't get tired Bells." I laughed.

"See, that's just it. All three times it's happened, I sort of felt sick ... like when I was pregnant. My stomach is still in knots. It takes a lot out of me."

"Bells, you have to tell him. He has experience in this. He'll know what to do." I insisted.

Edward was Bella's best chance of solving this little issue. I had no idea what would happen to her if this got out of control. Plus, the thought of two people - not to mention my darling Nessie - being able to read my thoughts, was going to bring a lot of grief.

Not just for me.

"He probably knows some of this already. I'll tell him the rest when I can."

That was Bella's way of saying that she would never mention it again. If I wasn't worreied about what she might hear in my thoughts, I'd contemplate calling Edward myself.


CHAPTER FIVE - EDWARD

It's been three days since Alice woke up - seemingly unable to remember anything - and Bella still can't look me in the eyes.

I knew something had gone terribly wrong, the moment I heard her scream reverberating through the woods; drifting wordlessly through the cottage windows. Even with my lightning fast reflexes, I still could not reach the house before Jasper's despicable attack on my wife. My love for Nessie had seen to that. I just couldn't leave her alone while she was sleeping.

I would never leave either of my girls alone again.

Bella was gone when I had burst through the door, launching Jasper half way across the room; shattering Esme's favorite oak bookshelves in the process. It took me a second longer than usual - being overwhelemed by Jasper's remorse - to comprehend what was happening at that moment.

Carlisle was at my side before my eyes fluttered to Alice's motionless silhouette. I heard nothing from the place she rested. Just the shallow intakes of breath gave her away, proving that she was still alive. Well, alive as any of us are anyway.

I searched Carlisle's mind for some kind of explanation that would soothe the worry flowing freely through my body. I could see Bella's terrified face as she ran from the house. Of course, I knew exactly where she was going. A part of me was dissapointed that she chose not to trust me with whatever she was hiding; leaning on Jacob Black once again.

I'd thought those days were long behind us, passing away like a bad dream. I knew that Bella's heart, her love, belonged to no one but myself. Yet, I could not stop the jealousy that flared within me.

Jacob has been doing a rather spectacular job of shielding his thoughts from me - filling his mind with nothing but car parts and the tree house he's been fruitfully designing for Nessie's upcoming birthday. Carlisle has taken a particular interest in Jacob's endeavors, though I shared none of their exhilaration. Jacob's overwhelming need for my daughter is starting to take a toll on my nerves.

I love Jacob like my own brother. His faithful devotion to my family is more than I could truly ask of him. However, when it comes to Nessie, I have to be very cautious. Jacob is fascinated by everything Nessie wants; every whim, every fancy, and every idea she comes up with. It is getting them into a lot of trouble recently.

I am grateful that Jacob seems genuinely interested in Nessie's well being. He never acts inappropriately around her; his innocent thoughts always mirroring his actions. There is no hint of the feelings I knew would surface in just a few short years.

I cringed.

It is better for me to concentrate on being the over protective father figure. Especially when Jacob makes my job so much easier. Nessie has him twisted around her little finger. There is nothing he wouldn't do for her, and unfortunately for Jacob Black ... Nessie knows it. I was going to have to talk to my darling daughter about that. She would not be happy.

"Breakfast is ready!" I shouted across the kitchen of our cottage.

I hope it's cookies

I smiled to myself, as Nessie's mind infiltrated my own.

"It's eggs." I laughed, planting the only meal I could ever cook - without the smell overpowering me - onto the table.

Nessie looked horrified, as she stumbled into the oversized chair.

Eggs again? Mommy at least makes an effort. We had bacon yesterday

"I thought you liked eggs?" I said, pulling out the chair across from her.

"Daddy, do we have to go through this again?" She sighed. "Vampires don't eat eggs for breakfast."

I burst into a fit of laughter, the table rocking slightly as I shook my head.

"Technically, we don't eat anything." I laughed, as Bella came gliding into the room.

I froze for a moment, glancing up and down the soft curves of her body. I wanted to reach out to her, take her in my arms, and run off into the damp woods; ravishing each other like we used to. But something in her expression dowsed my hopes of that. She looked confused; upset by something I couldn't understand.

It was the face of the ghost she'd become over the past few days. A permanent reminder of Jasper's attack.

Jasper.

I growled under my breath, but I could tell that Bella heard my frustration; shielding her eyes and mind from me. How long was this going to go on for? It looked like both my girls needed a talking to.

What's wrong with mommy ... she looks sad

I clenched my jaw. The thought of Bella being sad about anything, was something I could not handle.

"When is Jakey coming over?" Nessie asked, pushing the eggs around on the plate.

"He'll be here shortly, and yes ... you may go with him to La Push ...if you finish your breakfast." I laughed, my eyes still fixated on Bella's hunched figure.

In an instant, Nessie was shoveling the hot food - that I knew she wasn't enjoying - down her throat; not even bothering to chew it.

I rolled my eyes.

Nessie's infatuation was just as strong as Jacob's. I wish that Alice could look ahead for me, and give some fair warning as to when I would be faced with the thing I dreaded most. But Alice has never been able to see Nessie's future. A fact that worried me deeply; pulling at my conflicted heart. I want Nessie to be happy, but I also want her to be able to make her own decisions. Jacob's presence is definitely influencing that.

However, there is not much I can do about this situation; imprints cannot be broken.

"Hello!" I heard Jacob shout from the front door.

I sighed, pinching the bridge of my nose. "Come in Jacob."

Nessie was off her chair in one little leap, running into his outstretched arms. I have to admit, Jacob is a true gentleman around her. He is like her big brother, there for her whenever she needs him. I trusted Jacob with my daughter's life, even though I knew he would soon become the reason for my never ending discomfort.

I would not think about that for now.

"Hey Bells ... Edward." He said, strolling into the Kitchen. Bella ignored him.

Jacob shrugged, and pulled Nessie into the chair.

"Good morning Jacob." I said, rearranging my worried features. He wouldn't notice the subtle change.

"Mind if I take Ness down to the res? Billy and Charlie are there. Thought we might take her fishing." He asked, as Nessie rested her hand on his cheek.

I laughed as she showed him that I'd already said she could go - followed by the rubbery taste of eggs she'd endured for my permission.

"Great! But I have to hear it from Edward."

Again, Jacob Black is annoyingly respectful. I searched his mind for any traces of what Bella might have told him, but his thoughts were too consumed with fishing. I was surprised at how much he actually cared for Nessie, and not as I had thought. There were no traces of the love I knew he would soon posses, or the awkward feelings that teenaged boys have a tendency to exert. There was nothing but the overwhelming need to make her happy.

"Don't get into too much trouble." I said, as they bounded out the door - laughing all the way into the forest.

Now I was left alone with Bella. Something that had not occured since her fateful shopping trip. I was going to have to get to the bottom of her depression. I needed answers.

"Bella love, let's take a walk."




CHAPTER SIX - BELLA

I felt calmer than I had in days, as Edward stroked the back of my hand - sending ripples of electric current across my skin. I knew what he was up to. Bringing me here - to our meadow - was his way of softening the blow.

I sighed.

I've been so distant from him the past few days. I really couldn't avoid it. Everytime I look into those two deep pools of honey, I feel my will crumble into nothing. I wanted to tell Edward what was happening to me. I wanted to tell him that I could hear his worried thoughts - even though he believed I was still upset over the incident with Jasper. Truthfully, I was never shocked about that. I deserved it.

If the roles had been reversed - if it had been Jasper who might have hurt Edward - I would have done the same thing.

I'd actually been doing much better with the whole hearing things part of the equation. The uncomfortable queasy feeling had subsided, leaving me alone with just the fear; clinging to my mind like an unwelcome headache. Was I some sort of freak like I always thought?

Everything was still so random. Sometimes I could hear everything all at once, sometimes nothing at all. There is no rhyme or reason to the insanity. However, each voice brought with it a new kind of torture. A new sense of pain. Not entirely uncomfortable, but it was far from pleasant; clawing its way into my mind, and picking away at my nerves.

To make matters worse, I still had no answers as to why it had occured in the first place. Although, I have been throwing some ideas around.

Most of my thoughts drifted back to the uneasy feeling I'd had in the dress shop. The exchange with the rather attractive vampire - that Edward had been furious over - seemed more and more like the trigger to this horrible ordeal. Alice has been constantly assuring Edward that there was no danger to us; often causing arguments about my foolish behavior. Of course, Edward wasn't angry with me. He never is. He reserved his aggravation for Alice, even though she has been through a lot worse than I.

Carlisle has been the only one that seems even remotely curious about our encounter. Everyone else just stays silent about it; though theit thoughts have been blind siding me on occasion. I've been picking up on little snippets of information - some of it I would rather not hear. But most of the time I hear nothing at all.

It's very frustrating. I guess I know how Edward feels now.

I glanced down at Edward - his head resting just above my waist - and held back the urge to chuckle. Oh how I wish I could tell him without sending him into a fit of panic. I didn't want to upset Edward in any way. He is my life. My everything. His mind should not be troubled with the insignificant worries that I always seem to posses.

I was relieved that Alice had woken up a few hours after I'd come back from La Push; not remembering anything about what happened to her. The only thoughts that I have been able to pick from her are entirely confusing; songs, quotes from movies, and once I heard her recciting the Greek alphabet backwards. Physically, she seemed to get back to normal quite quickly; reprimanding Jasper severly for what he had done.

Jasper was another matter altogether. I haven't been able to shake him over the past few days. He's constantly trying to apologize to me, even though I forgave him the moment it happened. I just hope that he gets over this soon. It's not good for him to dwell on the past - something he has a tendency to do.

"Are you going to tell me what's wrong?" Edward asked, his voice barely more than a whisper.

I tried to smile, but my lips were pressed into a firm line. He took that as a no.

"Will you at least let me read your mind?" He sighed. "That way you won't have to actually tell me."

I laughed, and it sounded rather forced. Edward tightened his grip on my hand.

"That's the same as telling, and you know it."

He smiled that crooked grin I love so much; lighting up his God-like face. But even his smile couldn't hold back the thoughts that were swimming in his mind; barreling into me like a ton of bricks.

She's just so stubbornly beautiful .... What could possibly be worrying her that badly

I sighed again. Edward noticed.

"Jasper had no right to attack you like that." He growled. "I should have been there. I'm sorry."

That did it.

"Edward Cullen!" I shouted, yanking my hand away from his. "You don't ever have to apologize to me!"

Edward looked startled, but he deserved that. There was no way I would allow my loving husband to feel badly about anything. He is too pure a creature to blame himself for anything ever again. He'd already endured so much at my expense. I was not having this. Not again.

"Bella, I don't understand." He frowned, searching for my shaking hand.

"It wasn't your fault. It was mine. Jasper was right to do what he did. Besides, I'm not upset about that."

Edward growled. "He was not right."

"Think about it Edward. If Jasper had come home carrying me like that ... what would you have done?"

"That's different." He spat through his teeth,

This conversation was not going as I had planned.

"Is it?" I asked, a trace of humor in my voice. "Because if I were in Jasper's place, and it would have been you that was hurt ... attack first, ask questions later."

Edward laughed, ruffling my long hair with his marble hands. There, at least he wasn't angry anymore.

"Please." He begged.

"Please what?"

"Please let me know what is bothering you. I can't stand it." He said, tracing his lips along my neck.

The touch of his lips sent shivers down my spine. Oh .. he's good. Too good really. He knows exactly how to make my will bend to his every whim. He wasn't making this easy.

"The only thing that is bothering me, is that Nessie will be home in four hours." I chuckled.

"And that's a problem?" He asked, kissing along my collar bone.

"Yes." I breathed. "Four hours is not long enough for what I had in mind."

His lips met mine in an instant; moving effortlessly in rhythm with my own.

I just hoped that the forest would survive this time.



CHAPTER SEVEN - BELLA

"Don't worry about a thing." Alice said, as she threw my bag - no doubt containing the strapless blue dress - into the back of the Volvo. "We'll keep an eye on Nessie for you. Go and enjoy the rest of the weekend."

Alice was way too perky today. I had a feeling that she knew this trip was coming, even though I read no traces of that in her mind. Perhaps it was the fact that everything was still so random. The more I concentrated, the harder it became to hear. The infrequency of it didn't really help matters at all. I'd started to answer questions out loud, that I hadn't realized were never asked. I wish I could get a grip on this thing.

Everyone - and I do mean everyone - was starting to notice.

It was definitely affecting me in some way. I'm tired all the time, lashing out at Edward without cause, and I spend every minute of my free time trying to wrap my head around why this had occured in the first place. I knew everyone was worried about me. I didn't need this new ability to tell me that. Edward's constant concern is the only thing that I've been able to pin point out of the chaos. The times when when my mind lays silent, are vastly becoming the highlights of my day.

"Nessie, come give me a hug!" I shouted over to the edge of the forest.

Edward, Jacob, and Nessie emerged from the tree line; Edward holding Nessie in his arms like usual. He was having just as hard a time with this as I was. This will be the first time we have left Nessie alone for an extended length of time. Three days was too long to be separated, but Edward wants to cheer me up; vacations seem to be his forte. I know that Nessie will be beyond safe with my family - not to mention Jake's constant presence - but it is still unsettling to leave her.

"Try not to break the place!" Emmett yelled, waving from the kitchen window.

I shot him a dark look.

"Mommy, look what I found!" Nessie squealed, as she flew into my arms. "It's called an arrowhead."

I rolled my eyes, and looked at Jake. Without warning, his inner voice came at me again.

Sorry Bells ... I know ... avoid pointy objects ... got it

I nodded my head, trying to avoid Edward's curious gaze. I wasn't sure if he sensed the exchange between Jake and me, but I was certain that he had no problems reading his mind. Would Edward recognize that Jake was actually speaking to me? Or would he think it was just a coincidence?

Don't do it Jake. Don't do it. Don't think about this right now.

I was grateful when I heard his thoughts echo in my mind once again, as if it had been meant for me to hear.

That fender will be in today. I bet Nessie would love to see it.

"Nessie, say goodbye to Daddy." I said, trying to still my nerves.

Edward's narrowed eyes softened, as Nessie rubbed her hand against his cheek - probably reliving some funny experience that I had missed once again. I crumpled my face, trying to listen, but I heard nothing.


Next time, you'll have to try not to fall down." Edward laughed. "Love you."

Our goodbyes were short lived, as Edward opened the passenger side door for me; sliding into the driver's seat in the same fluid motion. I don't think I will ever get used to that. I might not be as fast as Edward is, but I'm not that slow either. Still, he is a gentleman through and through. Opening doors for ladies - well specifically two ladies - is just a part of who he is. One of the parts I love the most about him.


The drive to the cabin was relatively silent. It wasn't until we reached Denali - only two short hours later - that Edward finally spoke to me.

"You seem to be in a good mood." He said, stroking my cheek with the back of his hand.

"I'm always in a good mood around you."

"You know that I love you, right Bella?"

What a stupid question to ask. There was only one thing in this world that I knew with absolute certainty. Edward Cullen loves me, and I love him back. Equally.

"Where are you going with this?" I asked, feeling a little uneasy about his question.

"Nowhere. Nevermind,"

"Oh no you don't." I growled. "Tell me what's wrong."

His face seemed out of sorts; twisting with some kind of guilty expression. I rolled my eyes, not really sure why his expression bothered me so.

"It's just ... well .. I was wondering why you went to La Push the day you came home from shopping?"

I sucked in a deep breath - though I don't actually need to breathe.

"That hurt you, didn't it." I mumbled.

Of course it had. I should have known better that to go running off to Jacob Black. Edward has been stewing about this for over a week, but not once has he mentioned it. Not until now - right when we are supposed to having our romantic getaway.

Edward nodded, but kept his eyes focused on the long ice covered drive that led to our cabin; buried within the dense forest of Denali. It had been Edward's idea to purchase this second home for us, and I couldn't be happier about it. He'd always dreamed of doing this.

"I'm sorry about that." I whispered, prying his hand off the steering wheel. "I just didn't want to upset you while Nessie was sleeping."

"So you thought going to Jacob Black would solve your problems?"

I flinched.

"No, but I didn't want you to see me that way."

Edward grimaced, probably thinking I was going on about Jasper again. I closed my eyes, and tried to sift through his thoughts. But again, there was nothing.

Frustrating.

"You don't ever have to worry about upsetting me Bella."

The small, rustic cabin came into view before I could think of something to say to him. It looked exactly the way I remembered it; the wrap around wooden porch, the tall beams that balanced the overhang, the surrounding icy forest. I could smell the fresh pine in the air, feel the clarity of the isolated wilderness, and even taste the herd of Elk that scattered upon hearing our approach.

Edward sensed my anticipation, and chuckled to himself.

"Plenty of time for that." He laughed, opening the door to the cabin.

Even the inside was perfect, just the way it should be. Esme's love for interior design knows no bounds. The mountainous log walls fit snugly against the peaked ceiling that enveloped the large room. A few small blankets were thrown over the black leather sofa, and adjoining tables. Off to the left, I noticed the small bedroom that we had damaged on our last visit. I wondered how Esme could even look at the two of us after we'd nearly brought down the entire house.

I giggled.

"We could always go for round two." He whispered in my ear, holding me tightly in his arms.

"Let me get out of these clothes first." I laughed, as Edward nibbled my ear. "I meant ... let me change, then we need to hunt."

"Bella, you've been out almost every day this week. Is something wrong?"

I wish I could say no to his question, but my lips were frozen into a thin line. I should give Edward more credit. He'd definitely noticed the change in my hunting habits - I'd been hungrier than usual latley - abd I was still certain that he'd seen the look Jake and I shared earlier today. Perhaps I should tell him what's going on.

No. I shouldn't.

I snuggled closer to his chest instead.

"Nothing is ever wrong when I am with you." I whispered.

He stayed silent.

"I need to hunt." I repeated, as he let go of me - tossing our bag onto the four post california king. "Are you angry with me?"

Edward stared at me with an exasperated expression.

"I could never be angry with you my love." He said, kissing my forehead gently. "I'm just worried."

"Please don't be worried. I assure you ... I'm fine."

Okay, so I lied. I am far from fine.

I had no idea what Alice had packed for me, but I really didn't have to guess. I was sure that the little strapless number would be prevalent as soon as I opened the case. I waited for Edward to throw his hands up in the air - like he normally does when he gives up trying to understand me - and glide out into the living room, before I opened the bag.

Sure enough, the dress was right on top; mocking me with its simplicity. I wasn't crazy about the dress, but I did think that it would bring a smile to Edward's face. I quickly threw it on - grimacing at my skimpy reflection - before rejoining him in the kitchen. Kitchen, hah! Only Nessie and Jake ever ate anything here. It's more like a prop really.

Edward's jaw dropped when he spotted me; his eyes open wide. Good, it had the effect I was hoping for. I would have to remember to thank Alice when I saw her again. That woman has an uncanny way of knowing exactly how to fix a ruined moment. I could sense that Edward's mind was not dwelling on our earlier conversation. He was too engrossed with me, and that was just fine.

"So you want to go and hunt, and you choose that to wear?" He said, doing his best not to stare south of my face - failing miserably.

"I thought it would make the evening more ... special." I laughed. "Besides, Alice won't mind if I ruin the dress. It's all part of the effect."

"Effect?" He asked, pulling me out into the forest.

"Yeah, I'm still not as ... delicate .... as you are."

He knew what I meant, as he chuckled at my side. In an instant he was gone, barreling through the woods faster than I could even comprehend, as I clung to his shoulders. The wind that whipped past my face in fury, brought with it the delicious scent of a male buck, not fifty yards from us.

Edward stopped, releasing me from his grip.

"Go on then." He chuckled.

"Oh no, that one's for you." I insisted, searching the area for the appetizing scent I remembered from the car.

"Don't go too far." He said, running off after the deer.

My senses led me south; over a small frozen pool of water, down the steep hill, and through the thick brush. I could taste the large Elk in my mouth, as it welled with venom. I sprang forward through the trees, and into a large snowy clearing on the edge of the forest.

I could see it now - the object of my desire - not more than a few feet away. I felt my body tense for the attack, and before I knew it, I was flying through the air landing on the back of the large creature with ease. The Elk bucked, and growled, tearing at my dress with its monstrous antlers. But it could not stop my razor sharp teeth from grinding against the muscles in its ripe neck.

The blood flowed swiftly from the wound I'd inflicted, filling my body with the warmth I so longed for. I could feel the power of this creature flowing through my veins, making me strong, whole. Within in moments, I had drained the animal dry.

"That's funny." Edward said, surverying my blood soaked face, and slightly torn dress. Alice might just have a few things to say about me ruining her creation, but I did tell her strapless was not my style.

"Why don't you come down here, and say that to my face." I laughed, wiping the blood from my lips.

Edward launched himself towards me - soaring like a majestic eagle - landing just a few inches from my awestruck eyes.

"Show off." I muttered, kissing his amused lips.

Edward's lips froze; his body rigid with apprehension. I didn't understand what was wrong, but he was holding me so tightly that I couldn't look away from his face.

"What is it?" I asked, panic evident in my voice.

"We're not alone."

"It's probably just Tanya coming to see what all the fuss is about." I laughed.

"It's not Tanya. I don't recognize the scent."

I pushed Edward away from me - against his will - searching the horizon for our visitor. Even with my vampire senses, I still couldn't see what he was going on about. Everything seemed perfectly normal to me.

"Let's just go." I said, walking towards the tree line.

Suddenly, my mind was filled with a strangely familiar musical voice. Yet I couldn't recall ever hearing it before through the pain the voice inflicted. The sheer force of it sent me crashing to the snowy ground before Edward could catch me.

It's too late for that Bella .... for both of us

"BELLA! I faintly heard Edward yell, as he scrambled to my side. "What's wrong!"

I could tell that my limbs were shaking; twitching in the snow like a flailing fish. I could feel Edward next to me, but my vision was so blurry I didn't know where he was. I had no voice to speak with. No will to fight with. Everything seemed to be spinning around me, sending me further into the pain creeping its way up my spine.

Then Edward faded away from me, as I tumbled into darkness.


CHAPTER EIGHT - EDWARD

"Carlisle do something!" I shouted for the hundredth time since I raced back from Denali; Bella's shaking body forcing me to make the journey home in under an hour.

"I'can't find anything wrong with her. She will speak to us when she is ready." Carlisle answered.

I growled through my clenched teeth. "That's not good enough."

I couldn't wrap my mind around what had happened to Bella. One moment she was happy - happier than I've seen her for days - then it was as if someone had reached into her body, and taken control of her mind. Every wall that she had built around her thoughts, came crashing down with an immense surge of hostility.

I could hear everything that was running through her mind; the voices she's been hearing, the strange vampire in the shop, how she believed she'd hurt Alice, the conversation she'd had with Jacob, even the absurd fears about my reaction to her situation. As if I would have been upset about her being able to read people's minds, although that was rather unsettling. A part of me is grateful that I now understand what has been plaguing her this past week, even if her mind was now closed to me again.

However, I cannot help the concern that fills my every sense; eating away at me like some rabid monster.

Why was this happening to her? After everything she has gone through - most of it by my own hand - why has the world singled her out once again. It seems that even as a vampire, she is not exempt from the danger that surrounds her every move.

I can't bear to see this; Bella ashen faced, staring blankly at the ceiling. I never thought that she would have to endure this again. I never thought I would have to witness the torture that pulls at every one of my nerve endings; raking against my body like a jagged rock.

"Have patience Edward." Carlisle said, resting his hand on my shoulder. "She is doing fine, just a little shaken up."

His thoughts mirrored his words exactly.

"Where's Nessie?" I hissed, shaking him off.

Nessie is with Jacob Alice hummed silently.

"What is happening to her Alice?" I growled, running my hands over Bella's smooth hair. "Why didn't you see this?"

Alice took a seat in the brown suede chair next to me; her eyes fixated on Bella's still face.

"I don't know Edward." She said. I scanned her thoughts, but found nothing. "I don't remember what happened to me, only the pain that came first. This is different than what I experienced. I never saw it coming."

Pain. Bella is in pain? I closed my eyes, concentrating on my hitched breathing.

"That's convenient Alice. Perhaps next time your supposed visions fail, you could give me a little warning."

Alice flinched, as her thoughts spilled into my mind.

I'm sorry .. I should not have said that. I don't know if she feels any pain Edward .. I don't understand any of this.

I nodded, not needing to answer her out loud. There was never really a need to answer Alice. Our silent conversations were always easy enough to understand.

There is something you should know though ... something I've been keeping from you

I grimaced. I should have known that she was trying to hide something from me the first time I heard her reciting every single line from Les Miserable, over and over .... and over. It's been wearing on my nerves.

"Spit it out." I growled. I don't like when Alice keeps things from me. It reminds me too much of our last graduation.

I had a vision of Bella when we were shopping. I saw her on the beach screaming and yelling.

Instantly I saw what Alice had done. She'd purposely taken Bella to that place, regardless of the reasoning. She'd purposely put my Bella in danger. Even though she saw no problem with Bella's future, that did not give her the right to knowingly risk Bella's life that way.

I'm sorry .. There's more

"Go on."

Her mind flooded me once more, but this time there were no words accompanying the action. All I could see was Bella's shriveled form retching on the ground at my feet; screaming in agony while I watched. The vision shifted again, and suddenly I was standing in the clearing by the house, watching ten sets of piercing red eyes - as they circled around Bella's defensive stance - looking for a way to destroy her.

I shook my head, freeing myself from the gruesome image. "That's not going to happen."

"You two going to let us in on your little secret?" Emmett barked, bounding down the stairs with Rosalie.

"No."

They should know

"I said no."

Alice shrugged, and turned her somber expression into a placid grin. By the time Emmett rounded the corner, Alice had erased any traces of guilt from her face.

"Nothing is going on that you don't already know." She said, more graceful than I would have managed.

Rosalie narrowed her eyes - thinking about my earlier hysterics - but followed Emmett's lead as they raced out into the evening in search of dinner. I was grateful that the house was a little quieter now. Having everyone's thoughts centered around Bella is agonizing enough.

"Carlisle, there has to be something we can do." I said, remembering he was still behind me.

I admired my father's unwavering respect for my privacy, since I gave so little of that to him. He could have insisted that Alice explain everything to him, but he had remained silent throughout our bitter conversation. I am lucky to have him in my life. If it weren't for Carlisle, I would have never been able to stay strong enough for Bella.

"I've looked through every book I have Edward. I've even tried calling Siobhan for help. She's never heard of such a thing before."

"Edward she's going to be fine." Alice interrupted. "In fact, I'm sure she will snapping out of this very soon."

I could barely make out Alice's delighted form through the narrow slits my eyes had become. I sifted through her thoughts, as she showed me Nessie's birthday party, and Bella playing with her in the new little tree house.

"Thank you Alice." I relaxed my nerves slightly.

"Oh .. hmm." Alice said, her face going blank.

"What is it? What do you see?" Carlisle asked.

Alice didn't need to utter the words out loud. I could already hear her thoughts from the vision she was having. Bella, Alice, and I standing outside a small boutique in Seattle, peering through the windows as if we were afraid to go into the human environment. I doubted that we needed to be afraid of anything a human could do to us.

"It seems we are taking a trip to Seattle." I laughed, though there was really nothing funny about this situation.

"That's probably a good idea." Bella croaked.

My heart slammed against my chest, forcing my eyes to gaze out upon Bella's glorious shining face. She was fully alert, and seemingly un-phased by the horrible incident that had occured a few hours eariler.

I pulled her close to me - never wanting to let her go again - squeezing every inch of her body to make absolutely certain that she was alright. My mind longed to be able to read her thought, but the shield that surrounded Bella was back in full effect.

"Edward, you're smothering me." Bella mumbled into my shoulder.

"Sorry love."

Reluctantly, I eased up on my firm hold, but I was not ready to release her just yet;snuggling her into my side. Bella's cool touch makes me feel more alive than I have in eight decades. Even in our most exasperating conversations over Nessie and Jacob, all she ever has to do is touch me, and I falter. Having her in my arms, stilled any of the resentment I had towards Alice for her egregious lapse in judgment.

"How do you feel?" Carlisle asked, assessing Bella's condition.

"I feel fine. Great actually."

"What do you remember?" I asked, breathing in her heavenly scent.

"Well .. being in the forest and then ..."

Bella looked up at me - dazzling me with the beauty of her amber eyes once again - surverying my face for some sort of an escape. When is she ever going to realize that we are in this together?

"I guess I should tell you a few things." She said, surprising me.

I'd expected her change the subject; sheilding her concerns as she often tends to do when she is uncomfortable. But it came spilling out of her in a torment of blended words.

"I'm not sure what happened to me, but I think I know why. I've been trying to figure this out for over a week, but it seems the harder I try to understand, the more I drift away from the answer."

Her brow creased together, and I had to stifle the urge to chuckle.

"Ive been hearing voices. Just snippets and words. Most of them come from ..." She paused, looking up at my face for a moment. "From J-Jacob. I'm not sure why, but I can hear him a little easier than the rest of you."

Carlisle looked shocked. Esme - who had been listening from the stairs - was shaking her head in disbelief. Alice didn't look phased at all - even her thoughts were restful. Of course, I already knew what had been happening to her, but I am surprised she finally admitted it. I'm not sure how Jacob fits into the scenario, but it doesn't matter. All that I care about is that Bella is here - safe in my arms - finally opening up to me about her worries.

Worries that I so badly wanted to soothe.

"You're not going crazy Bella, and you didn't hurt Alice." I whispered in her ear.

Bella was off the couch with one quick shove against my body. She was furious. I know Bella all too well. I should have waited till we were alone to bring that up. But that's how it is with Bella, I always say too much when I'm around her. She has an uncanny way of bringing out the best in me.

"Edward Cullen!" She shouted. "How long have you known all this? I've been afraid to tell you for days!"

This time, I could not still the laughter that shook from my body.

"Bella, I've only known since we were in Denali. I mean, I had my suspicions after the look you exchanged with Jacob, but I didn't think it was possible."

"I've been sweating over this!" She yelled, but seemed a little less irritated. "Does everyone know?

"They do now."

She slumped back down into the sofa, hesitantly cuddling back into her favorite spot; the closest she could get to my heart. Bella could never stay mad at me for too long.

I pressed my lips into her hair.

"Looks like we have another mind reader in the family." Esme chimed in, sweeping gracefully into Carlisle's arms.

"I wouldn't go that far." Bella said, hanging her head. "It's entirely random, and not exactly pain free."

I flinched.

"I thought I might be getting a handle on things, but now I'm not so sure. I'm .. I'm not feeling like myself at all."

"So that's the reason for all the hunting, and moping?" I asked, still thinking of Bella's comment about pain.

I could not allow Bella to be in pain.

"I guess so, but I don't mope." She answered, running her fingers absentmindedly up and down my forearm. I did my best to calm the electric current running across my skin. "It's been happening since we were on the beach Alice."

Alice nodded. "I thought as much, especially when you answered me without hearing a response."

"I didn't understand what was happening, but when we were in the forest, I heard a voice I vaguely recognized. It said .. well something I'd rather not repeat, but I think it was a warning."

I pulled her into my chest. Nothing is going to harm my Bella.

"It is best if you tell us everything." Carlisle interjected.

Bella grimaced, but I nodded for her to continue. "It said .. It's too late for that Bella, for both of us. Then it felt like I was being crushed into the ground. After that, I'm not sure. I was here, I could hear you, but I couldn't move."

An unexpected growl slithered its way through my clenched teeth. Bella nudged me in the ribs.

You wanted to know She laughed, pushing the shield from her mind

My heart jumped again, as it does every time Bella lets me hear her thoughts. Before I could search further into her mind, the window of opportunity was lost, leaving her thoughts a mystery once more.

"That's not fair." I whispered in her ear. She nudged me again.

"Alice, do you remember the vampire in the dress shop?" Bella asked, interrupting my sudden thoughts of pulling her free from the line of questioning, and back to our cottage - where we wouldn't be having any type of discussion. There wouldn't even be time for her to breathe with the onslaught of devilish ideas that were running through my head.

"Of course I do." Alice laughed. "How could I not?"

"When she touched me, it felt odd. It was like I had been shocked or something."

"Well perhaps that is why she didn't want to shake your hand." Alice frowned.

"Some vampires are not so keen to be socializing." Carlisle mumbled, looking up at my face.

We need to find this vampire Edward

I nodded to Carlisle, and returned my attention to Bella's beautiful face.

"It's more than that." Bella whispered. "I think she might have done something to me. I started feeling sick after I touched her, and not just in a nervous kind of way. I actually felt like I was about ready to throw up. For a moment, I felt human."

"And you've been feeling this way since you got back from Seattle?" Carlisle asked, worry spreading across his face.

Bella nodded, and I tightened my grip on her marble arms. How could she not have told me this? How could I not have known?

"We'll go Carlisle." I frowned. "But I'm not sure if this vampire will be all that cooperative from what Alice has told me."

"I agree Carlisle. She really didn't want to speak with us in the first place." Alice whispered.

"I had my concerns when you told me about this Annie, but perhaps she is not a threat to us. Should could have easily started a fight with you right there, but she did not." Carlisle interjected.

"I think our window of opportunity might have some holes." Alice grimaced, looking over at Bella. "I can't see the vampire, only that we will be standing outside the shop in one hour."

I rolled my eyes.

"And what do you suppose we say to her Alice?" I laughed. "Hi, we're vampires, and you're a vampire, and we were wondering if you did something to my wife?"

Alice narrowed her eyes at me. "We'll just shop, and see if Edward can pick up on something."

Great. Shopping with Alice. What else can go wrong today?



CHAPTER NINE - EDWARD

We'd driven past the shop several times, before I reluctantly pulled over to the side of the road. I wasn't sure where the sudden apprehension came from, but I recognized the feeling from Alice's vision. Perhaps it was the fact that I didn't want Bella anywhere near this vampire, if she turned out to be something other than a normal one of our kind. I should have left her at home with Nessie.

"Do you see her?" Alice asked, peering through the window.

Bella shrugged, took a hold of my hand, and pushed open the front door; both of us tasting the air for any traces of Annie. I could detect only the slightest trace of her presence. She'd been gone for at least a day.

There were only a few patrons inside, doing their best to avoid looking at the three inhumanly attractive figures that drifted through the racks. I smiled, as I passed by a balding gentleman, who was consumed with finding the perfect blouse for his wife. Maybe I should pick something nice out for Bella while we were here.

"You don't need to get me anything." Bella laughed.

I squeezed her hand gently, trying to still the urge to laugh myself. This was going to take a lot of getting used to. Other than Aro, I've never met anyone who could hear my thoughts. It didn't seem fair that Bella could now hear mine - even though it was still very inconsistent - while her mind remained a mystery to me.

We approached the desk near the the end of the long pallid room, and waited patiently till the sales clerk was available. The woman behind the counter was definitely not the person from Alice's memory. She was short, with choppy blonde hair, and completely flabbergasted by our appearance.

"May .. May I help you?" She stuttered.

That guy is so cute

I smiled. I am used to that reaction by now. If she only knew that she was inches from the most dangerous creatures she would ever be faced with. I grinned wider.

You're doing it again Bella thought, lifting her sheild to mock me. I twitched slightly, but the woman didn't notice. I forgot that I have a tendency to dazzle people.

"Yes hello." Alice chimed in. "I was wondering if I could talk to the manager."

"That's me. Veronica. What may I do for you?" She answered, still in a daze.

"I wanted to commend you on hiring a wonderful associate. Her name is Annie I believe. Average height, brown eyes, black hair." Alice replied, leaning over the counter.

Veronica looked a little surprised by the description. Her mind definitely recognized the woman we sought, but there was no name attached to the image.

"She no longer works here."

"That's a shame. Is there any way I could pass on a message? I would very much like to speak with her." Alice's charm was not working.

"Sorry. That is confidential information. I am sure you understand."

Alice was definitely surprised that her attempt had failed. Obviously, I was going to have to try a little harder. I glanced over at Bella, chewing on her lip, and smiled.

"Excuse me Veronica." I said, my words pouring out like a sonnet. "We only wish to thank that person who was so kind to my sister."

It's a crime to look that good

I could feel the frantic thumping of her heart, and I knew my persuasion was working. What troubled me is that there was nothing in her mind that would answer the question we needed to know. All she was thinking about was me.

"I-I don't know anything about her."

"How can you possibly not know anything about a person who worked for you?" Alice hissed.

"I'm sorry, what are we talking about?" Veronica smiled, seemingly innocent.

I coud hear no traces of the information we needed. There was nothing but thevacant picture of the woman in her mind. I struggled to comprehend how that was even possible. There was certainly more to this strange vampire beauty then I'd feared.

"Let's go." I growled, spinning around, and dragging the two of them out into the dull afternoon.

We were back in the car in moments, the two of them staring at me in shock. I was half way back to Forks when Alice chimed in.

"Well that was pointless." She snapped from the back seat.

"She didn't know anything." I sighed. "It was like her mind had been erased."

I could feel both their eyes staring me down, but I kept my focus on the road ahead as I spoke.

"I'm not sure what this means, but this is no average vampire. Maybe she is a witch as well, or something like that."

"A witch Edward?" Alice laughed. "There haven't been witches in this area for centuries."

"At this point, I'm willing to accept anything." Bella giggled, tickling the side of my neck.

Bella's touch lifted all my anxiety, as we pulled into the garage as usual.

Rosalie was working on her new truck, while Emmett laughed about Jacob's infatuation with all things mechanical. It is a nice reprieve for me; having Jacob interested in something other than my daughter. But I know it is only temporary. Rosalie still has a few issues with having Jacob so close to her. It is a pretty funny sight to see sometimes. Neither one of them will admit that they truly care for each other.

"What are you laughing at?" Rosalie snapped from under the hood.

"Just you."

"Well ham it up then. Just try not to cry when I break your jaw." She giggled.

I flipped her hair as we passed, and entered the house; hearing a meager echo from her mind. I didn't have time to decipher the tiny warning she was desperatley trying to hide from me. Emmett's mind was screaming too many obscene things for me to concentrate. I could still hear him thinking about how Rosalie looked in her jeans, as we walked up the stairs. I shuddered, and pushed the image from my mind.

"How did it go?" Carlisle asked, emerging from his study. Esme and Jasper were at his side in a an instant.

There was something different about Carlisle's face. He was shaken. I narrowed my eyes; listening intently to his thoughts.

This is bad ... best to tell them before Sam does something foolish

"She wasn't there." Alice said. "She's dissapeared without a trace."

Jasper reached out to take Alice's hand, leading her over to the leather sofa. His thoughts were just as obsessed with Sam as Carlisle's. She kissed his lips softly, before speaking to Carlisle again.

"Edward thinks she can erase someone's memory."

Bella inched closer to me, as I threw one arm over her shoulder - guiding her into the living room. Carlisle's worried thoughts were flowing freely into my mind, and as I glanced over at Bella, I could sense her anxiety as well. Even with Jasper doing his best to control the atmosphere. Bella was most definitely hearing the same things I was from Carlisle.

Get this out of the way first .. then tell them

"I think that somehow Annie erased the store manager's memory." I said, as Carlisle listened patiently - his thoughts were far from calm. "For some reason she remembered the face, but not the name. Not even after Alice mentioned it. Nothing ran through her mind at all."

"This is troubling." Carlisle paced around the table.

"Edward thinks she's a witch." Alice laughed, Jasper joining in.

"Enough with the jokes." I growled.

Bella giggled, and I poked her in the ribs.

That hurt

"Sorry." I snickered, kissing her forehead.

Carlisle abruptly stopped at the head of the table; his eyes surverying us with a mixture of fear and apprehension. The look in his eyes was uncomfortable at best. His toughts were dark - grim with unbearable sadness - so Iread no further into them.

"Just tell me what it is." I snapped, cradling Bella in my arms.

Carlisle nodded. "Sam was here when you were gone. A man named Clark Richards was murdered near the reservation this afternoon. Charlie is out there now."

"My Dad is there? We can't leave him alone. We have to help." Bella said, eyeing me with worry.

I shook my head, instantly hearing what Carlisle was so concerned about. "I don't think we should."

"Why not? What's going on." Bella shouted.

Perhaps Bella couldn't hear what Carlisle was thinking after all. However, I could.

"Sam thinks it was a vampire attack." I stated flatly.

"As do I. Everything fits. I've examined the body myself. The wolves are out there now, except for Jacob. He is with Nessie." Carlisle answered.

"What makes you so sure it was an atatck?" Alice asked, holding Jasper tightly.

"Ive seen enough in my lifetime to be certain."

Edward whoever did this was no normal vampire .. very clean .. very quick

Bella stiffened, and cringed away from Carlisle. She had definitely heard that one.

I moved my head slightly - just enough for Carlisle to see my response - so as not to disturb Bella's dishelved state. I placed my hand on the back of her head, genlty gliding it through her hair.

"Sam is doubling his patrols. Jacob has asked to stay at your cottage to protect Nessie."

I nodded.

They are fighting Edward ... Sam wants to reinstate the treaty

"I understand." I said, holding Bella close. "Did you find anything at the scene?"

Jasper spoke, as Carlisle shook his head. "Emmett and I were out there for two hours. Whoever did this was very cunning. The river washed away their scent."

Not a trace Edward

"We need to be cautious now. Sam and Jacob are extremely unhappy that it happened so close to La Push."

A knock at the front door startled us all. I looked to Alice for some idea as to who would be here this late at night. She shrugged, throwing her hands in the air.

"Jacob." I hissed.

That boy was here at all hours of the day, and night. But then it occured to me. He still had Nessie. It was better to have her here at the house with all this chaos going on.

"I'll get it!" Bella said, racing down the stairs before I had a chance to stop her. "Coming Jake!"

Suddenly - as my adoring wife opened the front door - I caught a scent that made the hairs on my arms rise with extreme warning. The scent was not unpleasant by any means - a hint of Jasmine and Lilac - but it was definitely not human. It was the same smell I'd encountered in Denali. The same smell that barely lingered in the little shop.

It was a vampire.

"NO!" I shouted, bolting down the stairs, Jasper and Carlisle following close behind me.

But it was too late. Bella was standing on the porch, and there in front of her was the woman we'd been searching for. Annie. Her long black hair blowing gently in the breeze, extenuating her pale features. The soft glow from the porch light heightened the gold flecks in her eyes, reflecting back at the four of us with perfect clarity.

"I'm looking for Carlisle Cullen." She said politley. "I hope I didn't come at a bad time."

Instantly, I began searching Annie's mind; attempting to detect the reasoning behind her sudden appearance.

I heard nothing.

Carlisle forced his way through Jasper, and my, protective stances; running straight into the arms of our unexpected visitor.

"Aningan? This is impossible! What are you doing here?"


CHAPTER TEN - CARLISLE

It has been over one hundred and fifty years, since I last laid eyes on the child of my old friend. Amak - a shaman of the noblest design - had been a dear friend of mine for many years prior to his death in 1850. I had stumbled upon the Alaskan Tlingit tribe during my travels through the icy forests of the Northern Hemisphere.

Amak never judged me for what I was - though I never exposed my secret to him, he just seemed to know - and chose to share his passion for medicine with me in great detail. I spent the better part of a decade with his family - a nomadic tribe - moving throughout the Yukon Territory. I enjoyed his company immensely; often listening to the tribal elders tell stories around the campfire. If it had not been for Amak's immovable friendship, I may not have been able to convince the Quileute"s to form the treaty. He had been so generous with his ancestry, always teaching me the ways of his people. It had truly saddened me to hear of the decimation of his tribe, not five short years after I decided to move on with my research.

I remember his adopted daughter with perfect clarity. I was present the day his tribe stumbled across the shivering child in the forest. Her skin was so pale - translucent to my eyes - shadowing a peculiar talent that even Amak registered with unyielding compassion. He took her into his home, as if she were his own flesh and blood. I was also there the day she began to develop her gifts; and amazing ability to heal those around her, and the most empathic human being I have ever set eyes on. She always took on the troubles of others - drawing them into her own person - and did her best to control the pain that came from sharing that torment; often trying to soothe their mind by projecting her own influence.

I had thought she'd been lost in the flood the swept through the Alsek River - from the Yukon Flats all the way to the Pacific Ocean - but as I stare at her beautiful face, I see that was not the case. If I would have known she could possibly still be out there, I would have gone looking for her. I never dreamed that she would become as I was - as we all are. Nor would I have ever imagined that she would be the vampire that Alice and Bella spoke of.

"How did this happen Aningan?" I asked, avoiding Edward's disgruntled face.

By now he would have heard all my thoughts. Hopefully it was helping to soothe his anger. I knew that Aningan's presence was unsettling, not only for him, but my entire family as well. I would have to speak with them later. Now was not the time to be starting an argument - though I hoped to avoid that anyway. I do not like upseeting Esme in that way. She only wants peace in her family, and I would do anything to give that to her.

"It's Annie now." She smiled, but there was something hidden behind her amber eyes that I could not place.

Edward sensed it too. I could tell from the way his body stiffened, and relaxed, repeatedly; gripping Bella's arm tighter each time.

"When the Lowell Glacier fell into the river, the village was washed away." She answered me. "I was twenty years old, and alone. I don't remember what happened to me, only the face of the person who made me what I am. In a way, he saved my life. If you call this a life."

Esme weaved her fingers through mine, easing the thoughts she knew would arise from within me. Hadn't I done the same thing to my family? I had forced them into this life for my own selfish purposes. But where would they be if I had not acted as I did? I understood Annie's bitterness more than she will ever understand.

"You're wrong about that Carlisle." She said softly, staring at me from under her black tresses. "You acted out of love. The monster that made me was a sinister creature with no compassion. He just wanted to use me as a way to gain power."

Edward went rigid in less than a fraction of the time it took me to comprehend what had just happened. I held out my hand to still his anxiety. He seemed to listen, returning his attention to Bella's worried face.

"You can hear my thoughts?" I asked.

Annie nodded. "Something left over from the person who changed me I think. I haven't been able to get rid of it. But there are other things I can do as well."

I've never heard of such a thing happening before; powers being transfered from one creature to the next through a single bite. I suppose it would be possible to leave a permanent reminder behind if you weren't careful enough. I would have to call Siobhan, and once again ask for her help.

"What kind of things?" Edward growled.

Edward stop. She is a guest in my house. You wanted to speak to her as well remember.

Annie paid no attention to our silent conversation, as she continued. I respected that.

"Well for one thing ... I can tell when other vampires are trying to use their gifts on me." She chuckled. "It would be .... unadvisable ... for you to try that again Edward. Same goes for Jasper."

I couldn't help but laugh myself, as Edward's expression was beyond confusion. He is not used to this kind of competition. Now he had two people around him who could read his mind. I knew that made him uncomfortable. Maybe it would be good for him.

"Oh man Edward! You are totally screwed now! This is great!" Emmett yelled, pumping his fists in the air. "Party at the Cullens!"

Edward hissed, but the corners of his mouth were curved upward. Bella nudged him in the shoulder, as he tousled with her hair. Even Jasper seemed interested in Annie's revelation.

"What do you mean by unadvisable?" Alice asked, skipping to my side.

Annie laughed. "It seems I have the ability to deflect someone's attempt at using their powers against me. I have been told it is not a very pleasant thing to endure."

"I would love to see that in action." Rosalie giggled. "I can think of a few people who need a good lesson in manners."

Everyone broke out into a fit of laughter, even Edward joining in. It was nice to see my family so at ease with our new guest, but I have a strange feeling that she was not here for just a social visit. I also knew that Edward was having some serious concerns about her being here.

"What else can you do?" Jasper asked, moving swiftly to Alice's side.

"I heal quicker than most vampires, and I've also been able to alter the minds of a few humans. Though it does not last more than a day or two."

"Why would you do that?" Bella asked, peeking around Edward's shoulder.

"I have my reasons."

Alice narrowed her eyes, and stared at Annie with a confused expression. From what Alice had told me of their last encounter, she was unable to see Annie's future, or anyone related to it; just as it was with the wolves, and with Nessie.

Annie suddenly laughed. "Alice ... you are not losing your gift."

Edward chuckled quietly from the sofa.

"It's part of who I am." Annie said, still laughing slightly. "When I said I could tell when vampires were using their gifts on me .. it is because I draw their power into myself ... kind of like taking it over for the time being."

Alice gasped, and was on her feet in an instant. I suddenly realized why Edward seemed so restless. He couldn't hear Annie's thoughts. If Annie could draw in other abilities, then she was definitely using Bella's shield.

"So you're using this against us now?" Alice shouted, throwing her hands in the air.

Annie smiled. "No. Your gift will always be yours, but when I shook your hand, I'm afraid that I took myself out of the equation for a while. It will start clearing up for you in a day or two, and you'll be able to see me again ... when I'm not around anyway."

"I've never been able to see you."

"Well that is because my path wasn't decided until I saw you in the shop. By then it was too late, and your vision transfered to me. It was actually quite astounding." Annie laughed.

"That's why you didn't want to touch Bella, isn't it?" Alice asked, seemingly calmer now that she was understanding.

"Yes." Annie said, smiling at Bella. "I wasn't sure at first if I should shake your hand. I could feel your ability, and I was curious. Then, when I started seeing my future flash in front of my eyes, I didn't want to push it any further."

"Do you have to touch someone to use their gift?" Jasper asked, inching forward.

Annie frowned. "No Jasper, I don't. But it makes the sensation stronger. You will remain oblivious to my presence, but I can feel you power if I am close proximity. And Jasper ... I'd appreciate it if you could stop please."

Jasper hissed violently, clutching at his chest, before stumbling backwards into Alice. The only expression on his face was that of terror. Before I could speak another word, Edward was doubled over in laughter; Bella giggling at his side.

"Knock it off Edward." Jasper growled, regaining his composure.

Edward tightened his lips, trying to control the hysteria that poured from his shaking body.

"She did warn you." He laughed.

"Can someone please clue us in?" Emmett asked, leaning over the back of the couch.

Edward muttered something under his breath to Emmett. It was too low for me to hear, as I was concentrating on Annie's sudden forlorn expression. However, the content of the conversation was quite clear when Emmett started laughing again.

"Oh man, are you serious? She caused his heart to start beating?" He yelled. "That's one hell of a talent you got there!"

Annie grimaced. "It's only an illusion Emmett. And it's just as painful to me as it is to Jasper."

"Excuse me." Bella said, pushing past Edward. "I don't mean to be rude, but why are you here?"

I threw my hand towards Emmett, choking off his ongoing laughter. I wanted to hear what Annie had to say. There had to be a reason for her sudden appearance at the house.

She eyed me with nothing but sorrow rippling across her pale skin. She was quite beautiful; sharp angular features, long dark hair, and piercing golden eyes. The expression she wore now did not mirror the purity I knew resided in her being.

"I wasn't expecting you to reach out and take my hand Bella. I think that I may have caused a problem for the both of us." Annie said, staring into Bella's worried face. "When you touched me, a small part of the shield that protects you found its way into my body."

Bella looked down at the floor. "And because of that, I can hear voices in my head?"

"I knew I couldn't touch you without pulling your shield away, but I never thought that your shield would be so defensive. It was very hesitant to break free .. so it fought back, taking a part of me with it."

Edward smiled, and rubbed Bella's shoulders. I knew how proud of her he was, but I feared that there was more to this then even Edward understood.

"You're right Carlisle." Annie said, as Edward jerked his head in our direction. "My gift was not meant for Bella .. it was really never meant for me .. I have spent over one hundred years trying to drown out the screams in my head. I'm not sure what this will do to Bella .. especially now that her shield is weakened."

"I hear voices all the time." Edward snapped. "Nothing is going to happen."

"Edward, please listen to her." Bella whispered, resting her head on his shoulder.

Annie nodded towards Bella. "This has happened once before, and I am sad to say that it did not end well. The vampire who became inflicted with my gift had a power similar to Bella's ... though his was no where near as strong. It took two months before he was begging me to end his suffering. In the end, I had no choice."

"Because of the connection." Bella sighed.

Edward tightened his grip around her.

"Yes. I am sure you have felt my presence in your mind. Just as I have felt yours. It can be quite the overwhelming experience, as you foudn out after our last encounter. I don't want you to suffer the same fate."

Edward had Bella pulled into his arms so quickly, that I couldn't be sure that he'd even moved. But his low growls of warning were evident.

Edward stay calm .. we must get to the bottom of this

"No." He hissed through his teeth.

"Bella's strong, she can handle this." Rosalie sighed over Emmett's shoulder. "Besides, hearing voices is not an uncommon occurence in this family."

"Well, the voices come first .. then the hunger. And eventually the mind shuts down altogether, leaving the person in question either completley insane ... or dead. With Bella's shield being partially within me, I can only imagine that this will speed up the process."

"NO!" Edward shouted, sweeping Bella into his arms. "You will NEVER hurt her!"

Everything happened so quickly. Edward was on his feet, and out the door before Emmett could reach him. Jasper had Annie pinned to the wall - though I had no doubt she could protect herself - his teeth just inches away from her neck; Alice growling over his shoulder. And Esme was clinging to Rosalie for support.

I was on my own, facing a house full of angry sons and daughters. Esme was never angry with anyone, least of all me.

"Put her down son." I said softly to Jasper, as he released his grip.

"I don't like this." He growled, pulling Alice up the stairs.

Emmett was teetering between running off after Edward, or staying to help me control the situation. I could tell by the way he shifted his weight nervously back and forth between the two top steps. I wouldn't blame him if he chose either way, but as he walked back into the living room, I was grateful for his presence.

"What are going to do with her?" He asked, eyeing up Annie's dejected appearance.

I stopped to think for a moment, as Annie watched Emmett from the corner of her eye. Could I approach her? She had not stopped me outside. I have no special abilities like some of my family. Would it be safe for me to reach out to her again? I would leave that up to Annie. If she sensed danger in our reunion, she would let me know. I trusted her, just as I always had when she was younger.

I have faith in her.

"She is going to stay with us while we figure this out." I said, approaching Annie with my hands held out. "Okay?"

Annie smiled. "More than okay Carlisle."

Annie streamed like a bullet into my waiting arms; resting her head against my neck like she used to when she was a little girl. The granite casing that now surrounds her body does not fit the warmth I know she posses. She is every bit the girl I used to know; right down the Tlingit folk song she quietly hummed in my ear. There is not one malicious bone in her body. There never was. I owed it to her father to protect her from now on.

I just hope my family understands.


CHAPTER ELEVEN - BELLA


I remember the first time I was in this room - standing in this very spot - staring at all the lifelike portraits that decorate the paneled walls. It seems like it was only yesterday that I listened to the same story that Carlisle now recites for Annie. But I cared not for the deatails of the tale I'd heard several times over. My mind is too jumbled to keep my thoughts, and ideas, separated. I don't even know where my mind ends, and everyon else's begins anymore. It's all too confusing. I just can't concentrate.

My connection Annie has deepened considerably since her arrival yesterday; hearing her thoughts, feelings, actions. It was as if we both felt the same pain, the same joy, the same worry. I can't even begin to comprehend the vastness of Annie's mind. All I can do is go along for the ride.

I couldn't keep away from Annie now, even if I wanted to. Which I don't. Not even if Edward decides to kidnap me; sending me away to some remote location. I haven't been able to get her out of my head since she showed up. The thoughts of my family have also strengthened to the point where I don't even need to concentrate anymore. Annie's presence seems to be heightening this new ability.

An ability that I knew could kill me.

I should be afraid of this, but I find myself engrossed in every detail of Annie's life that she lets slip through the cracks; the face of the vampire she inflicted, hearing Alice's thoughts in the dress shop, and even noting Edward's disgruntled opinions as he fled from the house last night.

I sighed. Edward.

He will come around

I smiled up at Annie, who was intently listening to Carlisle talk about his swim to Europe - even though it was a wasted effort. Annie didn't really need him to converse so openly with her. She could hear his thoughts - not to mention my own - just as easily as I could now. It was strange for me to have someone able to read my thoughts so readily. I suppose it is because of our connection. Why had I been so foolish? If I'd just kept my hands to myself, none of this would have happened.

Carlisle's mind was full of concern for the both of us. I admired the way his mind truly worked. There was no hint of the frustration and anger that Edward was consumed with. There was only the innocent curiosity that I shared with him. Edward, on the other hand, was being just as stubborn as always.

After our hasty exit, he threatened to kill Annie himself if she didn't leave town. But we both knew that she was the only one who could free my mind from whatever sentence awaited me. It took a while to calm him down - he can't refuse my form of persuasion - but evenutally agreed to let me come today.

However, Annie was forbidden to step foot in the cottage, or go anywhere near Nessie. I guess I can't blame Edward for that one. I have my own set of fears for Nessie. Would Annie's power effect her in the same way it had me? I can't be sure.

I don't think so Bella ... our gifts are too similar

I grimaced, but smoothed out my face before Carlisle turned towards me. I wasn't sure I liked someone being in my head. But then again, I've been in everyone else's. I guess that's being too hypocritical.

"And so this is Aro, Marcus, and Caius. The three vampires who took me under their wing for a short while." Carlisle said, intterupting Annie's erratic flow of thoughts.

I was grateful for the reprieve, however it did not last long. My mind was once again filled with the traumatic thoughts of Annie's past. Although she managed to keep the majority hidden from me - using my own shield to block them - I still could not bear to hear the painful memories that flooded my mind; most of them revolving around a little, pale faced boy.

I clenched my eyes closed for a brief moment.

"Who is this one?" Annie asked.

Carlisle smiled - knowing full well he didn't really need to anser her. His thoughts were once again filled with admiration, and respect, for his old friend. "That is Aro."

Annie froze. Her face was unreadable, but her thoughts were far from pleasant. She recognized Aro with the most malicious of all thought. The unadulterated hatred that twisted through each individual strand of memory - that she was desperatley trying to keep buried - was gut wrenching. A sudden wave of nausea swept its way across me, as my strength faltered, sending me crashing to the floor. I couldn't see the room we were standing in anymore. All I could see was the blurry images that swirled around me.

"Sorry about that Bella." She said, taking my hand.

I flinched away from Annie, as she laughed.

"The damage has already been done. I can't hurt you anymore."

I got to my feet - without her assistance - and turned to face Carlisle. His face was as serene as it had been moments ago, but he couldn't hide the concern from his mind. I cringed back against the wall, holding my hands over my ears - as if that would do any good.

"What's wrong?" He asked, reaching towards me.

I jumped backwards into the doorway of the study. "Leave me alone."

There has to be something I can do

"STOP IT!" I shouted, willing my legs to run down the stairs, and back to the cottage.

They wouldn't move. I knew I had to stay close to Annie. She is the only one who could explain this to me. Explain why I heard so many things that I couldn't even separate my own mind. I wasn't sure this power was something I wanted anymore.

"Carlisle, perhaps it is best if Bella and I took a walk."

Carlisle nodded. "Please stay close to the house. The pack is not happy that you are here."

They think you are responsible for the attack

Both Annie and I, grimaced at Carlisle's thoughts, as he apologized. This isn't easy for him. I knew that, but it still cannot ease the tightness in my chest.

"I know it wasn't you." He said, walking past Annie - her eyes avoiding any contact with either of us. "Your eyes are proof of that. They will come around."

Annie smiled as best she could - shielding all her thoughts from me - and wrapped her arms around my hunched body. Strangely enough, I find her physical presence soothing - almost tranquil. Carlisle's voice all but driften from my mind, leaving me with the first moment of silence I'd had all day.

"You knew him, didn't you?" I asked, as she led me down the stairs. "Aro I mean."

Annie nodded, confirming my suspicions.

Annie waited till we were away from my family - their heads all turned in our direction as she cradled me around the waist - before she growled through her clenched teeth. I could tell that something was upsetting her, and every part of my body wanted to calm the monster I knew dwelled within her. I just couldn't get past the chaos that surrounded her thoughts, unless she wanted me to hear them.

Annie kept silent - even her mind was empty - as we strolled through the woods at a brisk pace. The moss covered trees that used to be so depressing to me, now brightened my spirits every time I touched their dampened bark. A small piece of my hesitation withered away with each step we took; neither one of us talking. I hadn't realized how close we were to La Push, until my instincts kicked in.

I could feel the old treaty line as if it were a physical barrier drawn across the forest floor. There was no need for me to worry about crossing into La Push - not since the treaty had been dissolved - but I was sure that they would have a few choice things to say about Annie.

"They are already here." She said, looking off into the forest. "They've been watching us since we left the house."

My reflexes took over, searching the woods for my friends. How could I not have noticed? Sure enough, I could hear the breathing of several distinct adolescent wolves; Jacob, Leah, Seth, and Collin. All four of them are going to be in big trouble with me if they start anything. Collin is going to be in trouble with Sam anyway, for being in the woods without him.

"Come out .. Come out .. wherever you are!" I growled, shaking my hands in the air.

Jake let out a chuckle - as he phased - and confidently walked into view; wearing the same old tattered black shorts. I was alarmed at how loud his thoughts were now that he was human again.

She better stay away from Nessie .. Edward is right .. she's dangerous .. I don't like this

I cringed back against Annie, trying to compose myself enough to talk.

I couldn't hear a peep from him when he was a wolf; probably the reason I hadn't heard his approach. The smell should have given him away, but I had been too consumed with trying to understand Annie's mind to notice. Now that he was closer to me, the smell was overpowering.

I plugged my nose, and stuck out my tongue, as Jake chuckled again; his laughter stilling my nerves.

"Where's the rest of them?" I giggled.

"No need to be shy!" Jake yelled, as Leah growled out a warning.

Leah still does not like me very much; tolerating my presence because of Jacob. I would suspect that Annie rated high amongst her list of enemies right now as well. Leah stayed put under the protection of the tree line. I was surprised to see Collin, and Seth, so eager to meet our new guest. They came strolling out of the woods, each of them wearing cut off denim jeans.

I rolled my eyes. "Nice to see you boys again."

"Hey Bells!" Seth shouted, running forward to hug me.

I let him, but his mind was strong enough that I could only stand to be near him for a few seconds.

Something isn't right here Seth kept thinking over and over.

When I released his embrace, he stared at me with sadness in his eyes. I tried to smile, but it was only half hearted. I don't want to upset him, but now is not the time for me to lose it again in front of an angry pack of wolves.

"Sorry Seth." I said, walking back to Annie's side.

Oh this is just perfect Annie thought, a mixture of laughter and awe, in her new epiphany. However, there was also a distant flicker of resistance in her revelation; a trace of anguish, and denial.

I let my eyes wander from her troubled face, following her thoughts towards the open mouthed teenager that stood in front of us. Collin was standing there with a bewildered expression on his face, as if he had just been electrocuted or something.

"What's wrong with you Collin? I asked, searching his thoughts for something that might clue me in.

And I found it. His mind was dumbfounded with a beautiful face that sent his heart racing with an immense surge of unadulterated love. I could hear his heart pumping in double time, as he stared into Annie's eyes. And I could also feel the sudden urge - emanating from every cell in his quivering body - to run into Annie's folded arms. It didn't take long for me to figure out what had happened.

Collin had imprinted. Imprinted on a vampire.

"Oh." I laughed, as Jake shook his head.

"Sam's not going to like this." He growled, pulling Collin behind him.

Collin didn't struggle with Jake. He just kept staring at Annie's unsettled expression. He couldn't take his eyes off of her, even with Jake pushing him further into the woods. Collin was consumed with a passion for Annie that nearly equaled my own affection for Edward. I could hear every one of his overwhelming thoughts; her beauty, her talent, and his undying love for a creature that did not belong in this world.

From Annie I heard nothing. She was doing it again; shielding her mind from me. Using my own power against me. However, it could not hide the intense attraction that radiated from her reluctant eyes.

"I'm Collin." He whispered, suddenly finding his voice.

"Shut up!" Jake yelled. "We're not here to fulfill your idiotic fantasies."

I growled - the noise surprising even me. Jake of all people should respect someone's imprint. I know that he is completley infatuated with Nessie, and even though his thoughts are now jumbled with concern for his friend, she is never out of his mind. Now he is being hypocritical, and it struck a nerve.

"Why are you here Jake?" I hissed.

Jake spoke through his teeth. "I came as a favor to Edward. He's worried about you being out here with this."

"Her name is Annie." I shouted, throwing a rock towards his now laughing form. it just barely clipped his shoulder; scraping against his skin slightly. "I don't need your protection."

"I can see that. All the same Bells, we have a right to know what's going on here. Someone was murdered."

Let me speak to him Annie thought, breaking her eyes away from Collin.

I nodded.

"Will you two please stop doing that." Jake growled.

"It is a pleasure to meet you all." Annie smiled. I was impressed by how sure of herself she was. "I assure you that I will not cause problems for any members of the pack."

"We'll see about that." Jake hissed. "Stay away from La Push, and from Nessie."

The scent is all wrong ... there's something she's not telling Bella

"Shut it Jake!" I shouted again, searching the ground for a boulder that would do more damage.

"She's lying to you Bells. Don't you think it's a bit odd that she shows up right after someone gets killed?" He yelled back. "But if you want to let her use you like this, I'm not going to stop you."

I was about to say something - equally as spiteful - but Annie pressed her hand against my cheek, calming the hostility that flowed through my veins. I let my breathing return to its normal pattern.

"Get out of here Jake."

He was gone in an instant - dragging Collin' s reluctant body with him - as I listened to them phase, and take off running through the woods. Now that I was paying attention, I could distinctly hear the hesitant steps of one love struck wolf.

"This is going to complicate things." Annie laughed, looking around the forest.

Annie's mind is like a tangled web of incomprehensible nonsense. Yet her thoughts directed towards me are nothing but honest, and compassionate. Jake was out of line. Annie would have no reason to lie to me. We are in this together. Besides, if she had tasted human blood, her eyes would be glowing as crimson as the Volturi.

I knew that Annie didn't like the feel of my shield that surrounded her for the time being; her thoughts didn't need to tell me that. Edward liked it even less. I thought it would be fun to have the same power as Edward, but now I wish it had never come to me. Having all these voices in my head is staggering; slicing off a piece of my sanity each time I stumble across a thought.

"We have to fix this." Annie said, stopping a few feet from a herd of deer - oblivious to our presence for some reason. "I don't want anything to happen to you."

I forced a smile.

"Can't you just pull it out of me?" I aksed.

"If it were that easy, i would have done it already." She laughed, crouching down in the ferns. "I do believe there is a way to withdraw my power from you, but it will not be easy. There will be a fair amount of pain involved, and I am not sure that Edward would approve of that."

Pain was something Edward would die to protect me from. he had proven that several times over. However, if he had to choose between losing me, and going through a bit of pain, I'm sure that he would let Annie do what she needed to.

"I can't do it alone Bella. I'm going to need help."

I laughed. "I'm more than willing."

"Not from you Bella, although you will be a participant of course." She smiled, lowering herself to the ground. "Iwill have to speak to your family. They will not want to hear what I have to say."

Annie looked down at the pine needles scattered about the forest floor. I narrowed my eyes, trying to concentrate on her thoughts, but there was nothing but a dull buzzing sounds; like a swarm of bees. I probably shouldn't be so eager to hear her mind. seeing as though it always caused me discomfort. But I wanted to be able to reassure my family that she meant no harm. I wanted to reassure myself as well.

"Our meeting was not by chance." She said, peering up at me with sadness in her eyes. "I didn't know you were going to be there, but I fear we were set up. Someone wanted us to meet that day."

"You can't be sure of that." I replied, that same nauseas feeling washing over me again.

"I have never been more sure of anything in my life, but I will deal with that tomorrow. First I think we need to hunt."

I'd never seen anything like it before, not even from Edward. One minute she was crouched close to me, the next she was halfway across the clearing, making a perfect landing; right in the middle of the herd. That is not what surprised me. The deer never moved. The never even sensed her coming, as she drove her teeth into the neck of a small doe.

They aren't going to wait forever Bella

I was in the air before she finished her thought, landing next to a young male buck; surprise was evident in his startled eyes. Annie laughed at me, as the rest of the herd dissapated instantly, leaving me alone with the rich, warm taste of his blood.

He never had a chance to run.

"You have a lot to learn." She laughed, watching me make a mess of myself again.

"How did you do that?"

"Something I learned from my father. Our tribe believed that animals who are sacrificed to sustain another life, will come back to this earth as a creature of the highest gentry. I have stayed true to my father's teachings, and the animals respect that. They do not fear me as they fear you."

"Speaking of fear." I laughed, wiping the blood from my mouth. "What are you going to do about Collin?"


Note from the author:

For those of you who asked me about Annie's name:

Aningan is an actual name used by the Tlingit tribe of Alaska/Canada. It means angel. As for Annie's father ... I cannot reveal what his name means, but Annie will *winks*

Also, for those of you who asked about what music I use to write my story ... I put up a playlist on my profile page. It is not complete, but if you listen to the songs, you might be able to pick up on what's going to happen.




CHAPTER TWELVE - BELLA

I could feel his eyes following me around the kitchen, as I picked up after Nessie's lunch. Usually, I would feel flattered by his eager awareness, but now that my mind was full of Edward's worried thoughts, I longed for the days when everything remained a mystery to me.

"What is it Edward?" I snapped, rinsing out Nessie's cup.

I was too tired to continue our most recent discussion about all things Annie. Edward still refuses to believe that she can help me. He doesn't think anything is wrong with me, but I know different. I can feel my energy draining away - tearing gently at my shaken nerves - just a little bit more every moment.

"As if you don't know." He growled.

I know that his hositlity is not geared towards me in any way, but it still hurts a little when he acts like this. Annie has been at the Cullens for two days now, and Edward hasn't even made an effort to get to know her. All he does is sit in the living room, trying to figure out a way around the shield that protects her - for the time being.

Out of respect for me, Annie has not chosen to reprimand Edward for his actions. I can hear everything that runs through both their minds when Edward fails in his attempts. If it didn't cause my head to spin with the most sickening feeling, I would find it rather comical.

"Did you send send Nessie off with Jake again?" I asked, keeping my eyes on the drying rack.

Why even bother answering out loud .. yes I did ... the further away the better

I sighed. "Please try to undertand that she is here to help us, not harm us. She's doing the best she can."

His thoughts drifted in another direction - even though he desperatley tried to avoid it - as I gripped the kitchen counter for support; breaking off a piece of tile. I could hear Alice's voice ringing like a bell, as he remembered the conversation that had taken place while I was incapacitated; two choices, two ends.

I shuddered.

"That's not going to happen." I said, turning around to face his troubled expression.

"You're right about that. I'm not going to let anything hapen to you."

I tried to smile, but the sheer force of his hateful thoughts towards Annie were screaming in my head. I slumped down on to the floor - nearly cracking the wooden cabinets behind me - and covered my ears. Edward was at my side in a matter of seconds, running his marble hands through my hair.

"I'm sorry Bella. This isn't easy for me either."

I looked up at his gorgeous face, and this time I could not stop the brilliant smile that he brought out in me. Edward pulled me into his strong arms, cradling me against his chest. I took the welcome embrace openly, using it as a chance to calm my nerves. The simple gesture of his touch, sent shivers of compassion rippling across my skin.

"I don't know what to do." He whispered in my ear, a trace of sadness in his unsteady voice.

"Annie has a plan."

Edward sighed. " I don't trust her. Even Jacob senses something is not quite right with her."

I snuggled into his chest, bracing myself against his partially open shirt. Edward's thoughts were filled with a conversation he'd shared with Jake last night. Jake was very keen about keeping Nessie away from Annie at all costs, only having her come home to eat or sleep. Of course, I already knew all that, and I was less than thrilled about it. I wanted Nessie here - where she belonged - with Edward and myself. Not off at La Push every minute of every day. I've hardly seen her since Annie's arrival.

"You will have Nessie here tonight." I playfully growled.

"It's not safe."

"It's perfectly safe. Stop being so stubborn." I whispered, pulling his hair.

Edward moaned softly in my ear, as his lips brushed along my neck. I could hear all the ideas he had planned for us over the next several hours. However, the intentions behind the thoughts were troubling. He would do anything to keep me away from Annie, and this I could not allow. Annie had promised to tell us all about her ideas on how to pull this wretched power from my body. A power which was becoming a little too overwhelming for me to control.

I pushed against Edward's stone body until he reluctantly gave up his efforts.

"What is it now Bella?" He asked, standing up to face the window.

"We have to go see Carlisle."

"I'm not going." He answered, folding his arms across his chest.

I smiled. "Oh yes you are. I need you to be there."

"No."

"Please?"

Edward rolled his eyes, and took a hold of my hand; squeezing it gently as we exited the cottage. I am still happy that I have that kind of power over him. He could never stay angry with me for long. Truthfully, I don't think he's ever angry with me. He just makes it seem that way.

I held back a chuckle.

Carlisle was waiting for us as we approached, his hands raised to stop us. He looked a bit frazzled. I searched his mind - I could tell Edward was doing the same thing - as I listened to whatever Carlisle was thinking about.

I heard Edward's low growl, the moment I extracted the information that I was searching for.

"Jacobs' pack is here." Edward sighed, taking my hand in his. "There's been another murder."

Carlisle nodded, and followed us into the house; keeping his hands braced against my back. Another murder? I cringed. Jake was going to be livid, and of course all eyes would be looking to our newest addition.

She looks even worse than yesterday Carlisle thought.

I closed my eyes, and tried to concentrate on Edward's touch. I don't think that I look that bad. Maybe a bit tired - the dark circles under my eyes showing that with perfect clarity - but I still thought I was looking like my normal self.

As we reached the top of the stairs, I noticed Seth, Leah, Jacob, and Embry huddled close together near the oak table. I tried to smile as we passed by them, walking over to the sofa, but the resentment in my eyes came shining through.

Calm down Bells...only here to help

I narrowed my eyes at Jake - grimacing internally at hearing his thoughts - as Edward pulled me into his lap.

"Where is everyone else?" I aksed.

Jake rolled his eyes. "Sam won't let Collin come anywhere near the house. He's with Sam, Quil, Jared, and Paul. They are at Sue's place, watching over Nessie."

That is unacceptable to me. Nessie should be here - with Edward and I - not off on the reservation like some sort of refugee. She doesn't need protection from Annie. No one does. All this seems a bit over the top.

Give them time Bella

I nodded at Annie, as she pulled out a chair from the table. I wondered how much of this conversation was getting through to Edward. Would he notice, even though he couldn't read our minds? This look on his face said yes.

I smiled. "So what's going on here exactly?"

"I asked them to come." Annie said, glancing at Jake's angry face. "I thought it was best to involve them."

"In what?" Seth asked, moving around Jake's shoulder. "We don't make allowances for your kind."

Jake sat firmly planted in the recliner, his arms folded tightly across his chest.

"This situation is worse than I feared. I do believe our time has run out." Annie replied, eyeing me with pity.

"I know." I whispered.

Edward growled in my ear, though it was definitely geared towards Annie. His mind was once again consumed with fear for my safety, and pure hatred of Annie. I flinched away from him - though it did little good.

"I am not the one who has been hunting in your territory." Annie stated, glancing between the pack of angry wolves, and Edward's furious expression.

"Of course, we know that." Carlisle replied, moving gracefully to her side. "But I think you know who it is."

Annie nodded, but gave no further explanation before turning in my direction.

"I think it is best if we told them." She said, surveying my hunched form. "Bella?"

I knew what she wanted. She was asking for my permission to tell everyone that I was losing it. That the power which resided in my mind was tearing it to pieces. I can't stand to be around them anymore. It is only out of the love I have for them, that I am here in the first place. Even being around Edward right now - with his enraged thoughts - is eating away at me.

You are in pain ... they need to understand.

I looked over to Annie, and nodded.

Tell them

Annie forced a smile onto her face, as Jacob tapped his fingers on the coffee table impatiently; shaking his head as he watched out silent conversation.

"As I am sure you know, Bella and I have been hearing each other's thoughts for the past week or so." Annie said, staring around the room. "What you probably don't know is that this has started to take an immense toll on her."

Edward raised his eyebrows, and pulled me into his shoulders. I went willingly - feeling too tired to fight against him - into the stone embrace. A small part of my anxiety relaxed slightly, though the mountainous echoes of my family's thoughts racked against my mind.

"What do you mean?" Alice asked.

"She can hear everything you are thinking, even from miles away. She cannot separate them any longer. It is causing her pain."

Edward stiffened; his thoughts unreadable.

"So just leave then. That would solve everything." Jake hissed.

"My departure would only slow down what would happen to her. I can't stop that now."

"Then how do we stop this?" Carlisle asked, taking my trembling hand.

"As I have said, my last encounter with this did not go well. I tried to pull my power from his body, and ended up killing him in the process."

Edward was suddenly on his feet - about ready to bolt out the door again - pulling me closer to his side. I can't let him do this again. He can't keep protecting me like this. It will do no good to leave every time Annie spoke about the probability of my death.

I pushed against his stone body, planting myself firmly back on the couch.

Knock it off I thought to Edward, lifting my shield.

I could hear his hitched breathing return to normal, as he sat down next to me; growling in unison with Jake.

"You never said he died because of that." Jasper said, tasting the air around us.

Annie grimaced. She wanted to give Jasper a taste of his own medicine, and this time she was not going to take it easy on him.

"Jasper stop it!" I shouted as he glared at Annie. "I won't feel sorry for you if you get zapped again."

I don't like this ... something is wrong here He thought, sitting down next to Alice.

I cringed back against the couch, Edward trying to soothe my nerves.

"Sorry Bella." Jasper said, as he smoothed out his face.

"It is very painful for me to speak of him Jasper, so forgive me for the deceit." Annie said. "I didn't understand what had happened at first. It was as if we'd become the same person. His pain was my pain. I wanted to free him from that prison, and I thought I could use my own strength of healing to pull the wretched thing from his body. I ended up killing him."

"There is no way you are trying that with her." Edward growled.

"I do not intend to do this alone. I .. I can't."

My mind started to spin out of control, as Annie's thought swept through me. I feel cold, colder than usual. The air around me was empty - black and vacant - sending shivers up my spine. The malicious thoughts that ran through Annie's mind were overpowering.

I'll kill him...I swear it

Edward and Jake were filled with thoughts of tearing Annie apart piece by piece. Carlisle was concentrating on not trying to think at all. Even Seth was working hard at controlling his thoughts. But the voices that bellowed in mym ind would not cease. There is nothing left in me but the pain their minds bring to me. I cant think straight. I can't breathe.

"Stop it! Stop it!" I shouted, raking my fingernails against my head. "ALL OF YOU STOP IT!"

Bella calm down .. you'll hurt yourself

"No Annie, I will NOT calm down." I screamed, pushing Edward's frantic fingers from my hair. "I can't take this! You're all screaming at me, WHY?"

Edward had his face pressed against mine, before I could take another breath.

"I'm sory ... I'm so sorry."

I tried my best to still the pain that shimmered in and out of my mind. I was going to have to leave here soon. I can't take this anymore.

"Then I will get to the point." Annie said, standing up - Jake flinching slightly. "You will not like what I have to say, but I need help from someone."

Carlisle nodded to Jake, who looked just as confused as I was now. The hateful thoughts Annie had moments ago, were now as placid as they were yesterday. There is not hint of the venom that had overwhelmed her mind before my little outburst.

"Who?" Jake and Carlisle uttered together.

"Aro."

"NO WAY!" Jake yelled, jumping to his feet. "STAY AWAY FROM BELLA!"

"Calm down Mutt! I don't think there is much I can do about that problem now." Annie hissed, as everyone turned in her direction. "Alice, take my hand."

From the corner of my eye, I saw Alice tentatively reach across the open space for Annie's hand.

"I won't hurt you, I just need your help. You can't see what's coming because of me, but together we will be able to discover what I believe has already been set in motion." Annie smiled, taking her hand.

Instantaneously, both of their expressions turned to one of horror. Their thoughts comingled with the two scenarios I had heard from Edward; firming up into one solid future. I didn't need them to speak it outloud, and as I felt Edward's body go rigid, I knew that he could hear the same thing.

"He's already on his way. Seven, no Eight of them. Maybe more." Alice whispered, breaking her hold. "They will arrive tomorrow at dusk."

"How ... Why ... I don't understand." Carlisle gasped.

"Demetri." Annie growled, clenching her eyes closed. "He's been tracking me on and off for decades. It is Demetri who has been hunting. We have had several encounters in the past, and I know hus hunting patterns well. He is the reason I have had to alter so many minds, throwing him off my trail. I should have realized sooner that you to would be so well acquainted. That he would have no trouble tracking me to this place. Bella's shield has given me some leverage, but I fear this was all put in motion many years ago."

"You've endangered us all!" Edward shouted across the living room. "Aro will NEVER stop till he has Bella .. till he has us all! Now you've given him an excuse to come. Are you telling me that he is our only option?"

Annie nodded, and looked away. "He is the monster that made me what I am. I never knew his name until I arrived here, but I will never forget his face, his eyes. He is the only one who can withdraw this power, and he will not do it willingly. He wants it to much."

Edward was on his feet again, pulling me behind him. I couldn't understand the feelings that washed over me, as I tried desperately to free myself from Edward's grip. I pulled, and yanked, as hard as I could, but Edward was too strong.

Everything was happening so quickly that I couldn't think straight. I heard Edward's furious snarls in my ear as I struggled against him. I could feel the blazing hands of Jake against the back of my neck. I could sense Annie's frustration in my mind, as she watched the spectacle unfold.

And I could feel the pain.

A pain so severe that it rivaled the day I had been turned into a vampire. It was as if the venom that had made me, was scorching through my veins, hell bent on finishing off what it had started. I could feel my limbs cracking apart, splintering their way free of my stone body.

"BELLA NO!!" Annie screamed, launching her way towards my trembling body. "DON'T DO THIS! NOT NOW!"

I don't understand what she is talking about? Don't do what? I tried to find my voice, but it would not come. I tried to scream, but there was no sound. I let my mind drift forwards to find Annie.

Tell me what I need to do ... Please help me ... it hurts

I heard nothing back from her mind. I heard nothing from anyone's mind. Everything was dark, cloudy, and fading from my sight. I could no longer feel Edward's urgent pull, nor Jake's frantic touch. I felt nothing at all. Nothing but the darkness that drags me deeper and deeper with every shallow breath.

Until even the darkness itself faded away into nothing.


CHAPTER THIRTEEN - EDWARD


Even in my most darkest of hours - staring into the face of death itself - I never feared the pain that is now intent on destroying me. I always knew I deserved it; the guilt, agony, loss. I promised her that I would spend an eternity trying to make amends for my detestable actions. Now it seemed as though the world was never going to give me that chance.

I thought our lives would be forever blessed, now that she was truly mine, but the monsters of our world will never stop hunting us until we cease to exist.

Her lifeless body was proof of that.

"Bella?" I whispered, as I placed her limp body on our bed. "Can you hear me?"

Her motionless body returned no response; her eyes closed, her mouth slack.

I dropped to my knees, burying my face in the pillow next to her. I longed for the ability to shed a tear, instead of the burning sensation that now rested in my frozen eyes. How could this be happening to her? She is everything to me. I don't exist without her.

I could hear Carlisle's worried mind - even though I had forbidden him to enter the cottage - as if he were standing right next to me. He was consumed with fear for Bella, and for what would happen to me if I lost her.

I pulled myself onto the bed, and cringed further into the pillow.

"GO AWAY!" I shouted.

You know I can't do that Edward

"Yes you can, and take her with you!"

I didn't need to hear Annie's thoughts to know she was there. The waves of emotion coming from just outside the door was proof enough. Jacob and Seth had phased, circling around Annie like she was their next meal.

I hoped she was.

I would like nothing more than to rip her dead heart from her chest myself. I would not tolerate her presence any longer. I should have known from the first time I met her, that she would cause me to suffer the most egregious of all pain.

I could not lose Bella. Not again.

Bella lay slack in my arms, as I hummed her lullaby close to her ear. There was no sense of life anywhere in her body. Everything was like a blank slate; dead, lifeless, empty. I closed my eyes, inhaling her scent deeply. She couldn't be dead. I would not allow that.

Then let me in Edward .. or she will die

My head snapped up as I let out a monstrous growl; smashing the closet mirror into tiny fragments of glass. How dare she enter my mind! How dare she invade my privacy like that! She was using Bella's shield against me, and that was - as she put it - unadvisable. If it is a fight she wants, it is a fight I will give her.

"If you value your life, stay away." I growled, just low enough for her to hear.

If you value Bella's life ... you will let me in

"HOW DARE YOU!" I screamed, jumping from the bed. "YOU DON"T HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH I LOVE HER!"

Too much for you to contain ... I know more than you think

I flinched as she revisted Bella's memory of my departure. Even though the memory was faded - looking at it through human eyes - the sting in my heart was fresh and agonizing. After all these years, it saddened me to know that Bella still remembered that. The cutting pain in my chest distracted me from Annie's presence.

I do not wish for this to happen ... but if you don't let me in .... she WILL die

I closed my eyes. "You did this to her."

We can sit here all day and argue over that fact, or you can let me in before your friends decide to eat me for dinner

"No." I repeated, though this time I couldn't force my anger to shine through.

I'm coming in anyway

Annie was in front of me in a fraction of a second. I jumped back - standing protectively in front of Bella - as a warning slipped through my clenched jaw. Within seconds, the house was full of my family. All of them staring at me with wide eyes.

I reached out to grab Annie around her throat - lunging forward against Carlisle's frantic throughts. Our bodies collided with a loud crack, as I hurled her through the air; tearing through the jagged shards of glass that lay on the floor of the bedroom.

"Are you quite finished?" She asked, staring intently into my eyes, that lingered dangerously above her face.

My attack had not phased her at all. It unnerved me to be sitting so close to her - more curious than angry now - while my family watched precariously behind me. Why isn't anyone helping me? Am I that far gone?

Let her help Bella Carlisle urged.

"I said no."

"Edward, listen to me." Annie said, placing her hands on both sides of my face.

I should have flinched away. I should have followed through with my vicious plans of tearing her apart. I should - at the very least - sent her flying half way across the room. But I couldn't. As soon as her hands touched my granite skin, every fear that I was consumed with evaporated, leaving me breathless.

Her eyes bored into mine as she spoke. "I mean no harm to your wife."

"I know." I replied, feeling off balance.

And I did know. I knew in that moment that she truly meant us no harm. She may not be being honest with her intentions, but I knew that Bella was safe in her hands. This was the first time that I had been in physical contact with Annie. Her touch would be soothing to even the most enraged of minds, washing away any traces of disgust, any lingering hatred. All I felt was the most serene sensation of peace. I didn't understand it, but I could not question the feelins that now surfaced within me.

I trusted her.

"Now I am going to help your wife." She said, standing up - leaving me with a sense of euphoria. "Jasper, I will need your help."

I watched Jasper and Annie, as I sat hunched at the foot of the bed. They moved swiftly to her side without hesitation. I flinched slightly as Annie cradled Bella in her arms; Bellas head resting softly against the pillow.

"Give me your hand Jasper." Annie whispered.

Jasper looked to me with worried eyes. Edward?

"It's alright, I think I know what she is trying to do." I replied, Annie smiling back at me.

"Nothing's going to happen Jasper." Annie laughed. "There is no shield that protects you, and trust me ... I've felt your presence more than you could ever know."

Jasper's love for Bella outweighed the concern for himself, as he placed his hand in hers. His thoughts were instantly transported to the same calming state that mine now rests in. Any traces of worry were erased from his mind. I know that Jasper is still concerned about Annie's unique gifts, but I was starting to realize that what is happening to Bella is not her fault.

It was Bella's shield that caused the union of their minds; pulling in a piece of Annie. We had nothing to fear from her, except the momentary loss of our gifts when she touched us. I suspected that she'd been using our talents ever since she arrived here. Even though there is no need for physical contact, I did understand Annie's talents a little better now.

Annie sighed, clsing her eye; lost in a thought I could not hear. Jasper remained rigid at her side, watching Annie's face intently. His mind is never hidden from me. His thoughts were of nothing but admiration.

She's using me as a conduit ... using my power as a way to reach Bella ... removing her fear and anger ... replacing it with peace ... amazing

"Bella's mind was too overcome with the thoughts your family unintentionally exhumed." Annie stated flatly, keeping her eyes closed; one hand wrapped around Bella's head, the other clutching Jasper's steady hand. "This will continue until I am unable to bring her back. You are fortunate this has not happened before."

I stared at her incredulously as she spoke, her face twisted in what I could only imagine as pain. She was taking on Bella's anger, her torment. Was it possible though, that she did not know this had happened before? Had it happened before? I couldn't be sure this was the same thing.

Annie's head jerked up, as she released Jasper from her firm grip.

"Edward." She growled. "I would have known. It's not possible."

I smiled, thinking that perhaps she was not as infallible as she seemed. However, the sudden surge of hostility that emanated from her body was mildly alarming. I didn't understand why she seemed so furious. Had I not just accepted her moments ago? Perhaps she was still angry with me for what I had done prior to my epiphany.

"Actually, it did happen. Just before you arrived." I smirked, taking her place at Bella's side.

There was still no movement from Bella, but I could faintly hear several distinct shallow breaths entering through her mouth. I sighed in relief.

"That was not the same thing." Annie hissed. "Bella was just reacting to my presence in her head."

"And what about me?" Alice chimed in, dancing into the room without hesitation. "I'm sure you've figured that out by now. What happened?"

Annie tried to rearrange her features into more of a pleasant form, but she couldn't seem to manage it for some reason.

"My fault." Annie spat through her teeth. "I interfered with your vision, taking it into myself. When I tried to release it, I fear that I caused your mind to shut down. It won't happen again."

Alice nodded, taking a step back. "Then everything came rushing back to me too quickly. I understand now."

I watched Annie's face turn even more twisted, as she paced back and forth in the room. Something was definitely bothering her. Even Jasper could sense that. It must be the emotions she pulled free from Bella's mind, making it her own. She looked more dangerous now, than I'd ever seen her. However, I am not about to probe her mind when I know full well what she can do to me.

I want to try ... I should try

"No Jas." I said, pulling Bella into my arms.

"Bella will be fine in a few hours. If you will all excuse me." Annie snarled, fleeing from the cottage.

"What was wrong with her?" Emmett laughed, planting himself on the bed. "Was it something I said?"


CHAPTER FOURTEEN - JACOB

The adrenaline in my muscles propelled me forward, as I raced through the forest after her; Seth, Leah, and Embry following close behind me. The pure hatred that consumed her scent - tearing at my nostrils like a disease - had finally forced my hand in all of this. I was no longer going to stand by and watch Annie manipulate the Cullens - manipulate Bella - any further.

The moment she fled from the cottage - her body twisting in a sickening manner - I knew the time had come for me to act. I didn't expect the others to follow me, but I was grateful that they now hurried to catch my frantic pace. Every step she took brought her closer to Nessie, and that I could not allow.

I followed her scent - barreling deeper into the dense woods - till I saw her hunched figure in the sparse clearing up ahead. I knew that she could sense our approach, but there was no hesitation on her part. She just stood there, breathing heavily, fixated on the four massive wolves that now emerged from the tree line.

"It would be best if you stayed back." She growled, stiffening her defensive stance. "I am not myself at the moment."

I laughed, sending a cackle of high pitched howling throughout the surrounding forest. There was nothing for me to be afraid of here. It was one vampire versus four very capable wolves. Almost too easy really.

I laughed again.

"I may not be able to hear your thoughts, but do not underestimate what I can do to you." She hissed.

I found myself in a momentary state of bewilderment. I hadn't realized that she couldn't hear us. She had been more than able to read my mind in the past. Perhaps she could not hear us when we weren't exactly human. This is very interesting, and is definitely going to work to our advantage.

"I know who you are." She screeched. "I don't think that Bella would take too kindly to me killing her daughters' protector."

I growled. Talking about Nessie was going to far.

Jake ... we shouldn't be doing this Seth said, as I snapped a loud growl in his direction.

Think about Collin Embry howled.

Don't listen to them Jake ... we have to kill her Leah chuckled.

Will you three shut up for one minute and let me think I hissed, returning my attention to Annie's furious face.

Their thoughts receeded from my mind - though I can never fully dispel them altogether - as I paced back and forth in front of Annie. There is no easy way to do this. If we took her out, then Collin was going to be not only furious, but down right vengeful. I'm not sure what this will do to him. I was grateful I couldn't hear his thoughts.

On the other hand, if we went through with what I had planned, then we would be rid of this beast once and for all. When Annie is dead, Bella won't be in danger anymore. She would be back to her normal self in no time.

But how could I know that for sure?

Lets phase back Jake .. Then we can speak to her Seth pleaded.

I had to reluctantly agree with him. I needed to find the answer that has been haunting me since her arrival. Would Annie's death cure the affliction that now plaugues Bella? Would it stop the Volturi from returning?

Come on guys I said, darting into the nearby treeline. You too Leah

Leah is still so stubborn, but after one glance at our target, she followed my lead. A few minutes later, we were back in the clearing - as our human selves - facing down our would be victim. All four of us circling around her unsteady form. Annie had never moved. She was still staring at us with the utmost disgust, trying to still her shaking hands, as if she herself were about ready to phase.

"You know why I am here." I said, my arms folded across my chest.

She nodded. "Killing me will not help Bella, or stop the Volturi, but it would ease your mind."

"You're lying."

"Would you care to test that theory." She hissed, taking a step towards me with rage in her eyes.

My body tensed to phase at the slightest sign of attack, but she just kept shifting her weight apprehensively. What is she waiting for?

"Give me a reason." She growled.

"A reason for what?" I snapped back, equally as vicious.

"To rip your throat out."

Leah growled furiously behind me, as I fanned my hand towards her. I didn't need her running off, and starting a fight, before I was ready for one.

"You'd like that, wouldn't you." I cackled. "Then there would be no one left who knows the truth about you."

She tipped her head to the side, studying my face with curiosity. Yet her eyes showed nothing but pure hatred; burning from her golden orbs like a blaze of fire.

"Your mistrust of me is extrodinary, Jacob Black." She hissed again, clenching her fists. "Is there nothing within me that you can identify with?"

"Identify with? Let me think about that ... ummm ... NO!" I shouted, moving closer towards her.

"Then your eyes are foolish indeed."

What on earth is she going on about? More importantly, why should I care? I didn't understand the feelings that were running through my body. Why should it matter what Annie thinks of me?

"Because you are human." She snickered, distorting her enraged face.

"Ever since you arrived here, I knew that there was something off about you." I barked. "I don't think you've come here to help anyone at all. The Volturi aren't coming for Bella, they're coming for you."

Annie grinned widely - appearing sick and demented - exposing her glistening teeth.

I knew it. I knew I was right all along.

"You are partially correct, Jacob." She laughed - the sound sending shivers down my spine. "But I am here to help Bella as well."

"What else are you here for?" Seth asked, stepping to my side.

"Revenge."

Without warning, Leah burst through the air - phasing in mid flight - tearing through the field at full speed. Her low growls were becoming clearer the faster she raced towards Annie's body. However, Annie did not move. She just stood - as still as the marble statue she'd become - closing her eyes as Leah approached.

Before I could make a move - before I could even force my mouth to open - Collin came bursting out of the treeline in full wolf form, hurdling himself across the field; colliding with Leah's savage body in mid air. The sounds of their jaws slashing, and grinding against each others, was ear piercing.

"STOP!" I shouted, causing Leah to come crashing to a halt. The sheer weight of my order, forcing her body to bend to my will. I don't like giving commands, but this was one I had to enforce.

Leah glared at me. Collin crouched low to the ground, circling Leah's reluctant body.

"She wants you to attack her, you fool!" I yelled, quickening my pace towards them. "If she dies, then she won't have to face the Cullens."

Annie's eyes widened at the sound of my voice. "The Cullens? Who ever said this was about them?"

"What is it about then?" Embry hissed, following me into the clearing.

"You are right to distrust my intentions Jacob." She said, ignoring Embry. "However, I can assure you that I mean no harm to any of your friends."

"PUH-lease ... I can't trust a thing that comes out of your mouth."

Collin whimpered next to me, as he frantically paced around Annie's trembling body. I couldn't be sure if the shaking was still coming from her anger, or from Collin's presence. I don't need to hear Collin's thoughts to know how deeply he cares for Annie. Sam has been trying to reason with him over the past few days, but there is no sense in talking to someone who is as comitted as Collin was now.

He had imprinted, and imprints cannot be broken. I understood that with more sympathy then Collin will ever understand. Sam has done nothing but try to keep him away from Annie since our last encounter, forbidding him from going anywhere near Carlisle's home. Which makes me nervous as to why he is here in the first place. Sam is going to be furious that he's broken this command.

"Collin has not broken any command. He has simply found a way around it." Annie said, turning her head towards Collin's uneasy form.

I shook my head. "I thought you couldn't hear us when we were like that?"

"I can't hear you." She growled, trying to soothe her shaking. "But I can hear Collin. That's all."

Damn imprints. I shook my head again.

"What are you?" I asked, placing myself between Collin and Annie.

"I am a vampire. Plain and simple."

"No, your scent does not register." I hissed.

"My scent confuses you?" She asked, a trace of humor in her voice. "I thought it would be more reconizable to you than even the Cullens."

Everything that comes out of her mouth is just another riddle. I was getting more confused by the minute.

"Then allow me to clear things up for you." Annie said, taking a step back. "I am no mere vampire. I have more human instincts than anything else. I don't know why, but I do know that my humanity haunts my every step. I believe that is the reason for Collins' situation."

Collin whined again, looking up into my eyes with sadness. He didn't understand why Annie seemed so hesitant to accept the imprint. But I know why. Vampires, and wolves, do not mix well together. Imprinting on one of them - that wasn't partially human of course - is out of the question. Collin had to be wrong.

I had no time to think about Collin's situation right now. I needed to focus on the information that Annie was sharing with me. I doubted the Cullens were aware of her humanity, but wasn't it the same thing for Bella? She seems more human than the rest of them put together. Why should that matter? Why should that change the way she smelled to me?

And then it occured to me. Nessie.

"Your instincts are quite remarkable Jacob." She laughed, shifting her position again.

I shook my head, trying to clear the fog. "I would have known. I would have sensed your humanity. You don't even have a heartbeat."

"I did not say your instincts were correct." She cackled, throwing her head back. "I was once human, just as you are. But my father was not."

I looked at her stunned. Her father was a vampire? It's not possible.

Collin cringed back into the woods. I knew what he was doing. He wanted to talk to Annie, and this I could not allow. Not while Sam was still his alpha. He was going to be in a lot of trouble already. Sure enough, he merged from the forest - wearing nothing but those ridiculous tan shorts - as he ran to my side once more.

I continued to stare at Annie's amused face.

"I hardly think so." She laughed again. "My father was a wolf. Well, a shapeshifter just like you."

"IMPOSSIBLE!" I shouted, while Collin darted to Annie's side before I could stop him. She seemd un-phased by his sudden appearance.

"My father's name was Amak ... In essence the translation means, Father Wolf. Quite simple really."

"Carlisle told me that Amak was not your real father." I spat back at her.

"We had to make it seem that way. The other members of the tribe would not be happy if they knew they had a female wolf among them."

I couldn't believe it. I wouldn't. It's not possible for a wolf to become a vampire. Is it?

"No, it's not." She said, as Collin inched closer to her body. " I never gained the ability to phase as you have. But it was my father's love that blinds you from seeing what I truly am."

I didn't like the fact that she could read my mind. Edward's annoying presence there was already unsettling enough. I'd just about had my fill of her lies. But I couldn't shake the nagging feeling that she was right. Her scent was definitely one of a vampire, but there was something else there as well. Something, that until now, I had not been able to place. It was the scent of our own kind. The scent of a wolf running through the frozen veins of her body.

Now I understood the imprint. Now I knew why Collin was head over heels for a vampire.

She was one of us. Or at least she used to be.

"Why didn't you want anyone to know?" Collin asked, brushing his hand across her pale cheek.

Annie smiled, but pulled away from his touch. "I wasn't sure I could really trust anyone here. I wasn't sure you would believe me."

"No one here would have judged you. You should have told us Annie." I said, feeling the first pang of sympathy I'd desperately been trying to avoid.

How could I not trust someone who used to be as I was?

Suddenly, Annie was furious again, wrenching her body away from Collin in one swift movement; crouching low to the ground as if she were about to attack him.

I jumped forward into the crowded space. "What the hell is your problem!"

"Keep you boy on a leash!" She shouted, cringing away from us.

Collin stared at her with wide eyes, silently suffering her rejection. Perhaps she could not feel his imprint.

"Of course I can feel it!" She spat through her teeth, turning her enraged eyes on Collin. "You foolish, petulant, boy! Don't you understand I could kill you?"

"I think I'll take my chances." Collin laughed, trying to ease his pain.

"I think you should listen to her." Seth interjected.

"We cannot be together Collin. It's not safe for you."

"But we have to be. I know that you feel as strongly as I do. I can sense that. I can see it in your eyes." Collin cried.

"GO HOME!" Annie bellowed, falling to her knees.

If vampires could cry, I bet she would be bawling right now. I could feel the sorrow rippling outwards from her slumped figure, as she drove her nails into the damp grass.

"You could not hurt me. I am built just like you are. I am strong." Collin whimpered.

"For heaven sakes Collin!" Annie shouted, refusing to look him in the eye. "I'm 179 years old. You're fifteen!"

"Techinically, I will be sixteen soon, and you are forever twenty." He laughed, reaching for her shoulder.

She flinched away, growling through her teeth.

"But I love you." Collin whispered, seemingly unpeturbed by her sudden reaction.

Annie smiled weakly, as she allowed his hand to rest gently on her shoulder, stilling any of her hesitation. As soon as their skin brushed against each other, Annie's mood lightened significantly. I smiled, remembering the first time I had laid eyes on Nessie, and the instant bond that followed.

Annie was definitely being resistant to the imprint, but she couldn't stop it for long. I was sure - now that that I knew why her scent distracted me so - that she would come around eventually. I was certain that she shared the same feelings for Collin, even if she refused to let them show.

She wanted to protect him from herself. I admired that, and I realized Annie was not here to harm any of us. She truly was here to help, regardless of her reasoning. A reasoning she still had yet to share with me.


CHAPTER FIFTEEN - BELLA

I was beginning to hate this place, this clearing that had been the root of all my problems since I first met Edward. Was there something that drew the very worst of our kind to this serene field? It certainly felt like it. For now, everything was calm, but we all knew that within moments our visitors would come. They would arrive as they had the previous time, but without the significant numbers. From what Alice had said, we would be evenly matched if it came down to a fight, but I still have my concerns.

For one, I could barely stand. Yesterday's horrible incident - that my mind refuses to allow me to remember - has left my body drained of all its energy, dragging me down into a pitch black void. I would not be able to help my family if a fight ensued. My shield is broken, damaged, and fading quickly. If it weren't for Edward's strong arms around me, I would be sprawled out against the damp ground.

Then there was the constant nagging of everyone's conflicted minds, drifting in and out of the silence; choppy, and unreadable. It was as if the power which rested in my body, was reverting to its original inconsistency. But I know that this is merely a precursor to the death that surely awaited me. A death that even Edward could now feel, piercing through his broken heart.

"How long?" Carlisle asked, lining up next to Edward, and myself.

Emmett took the lead - Rosalie watching him with troubled eyes - standing out in front of the rest of us, pacing back and forth as he peered into the tree line. Jasper, attempting to use his calming influence to still my fear, stuck closely to Alice's side. Carlisle, and Esme, stood in the middle of the group with us, hands clenched together as if they were afraid that within minutes, they would be separated. And then there was Annie, standing in the middle of the open clearing, facing us with her eyes closed.

"Five minutes." Alice replied, shifting her weight nervously. "And the count is up to ten."

"Looks like we've come just in time then." Jake said, walking out onto the field, followed by the rest of his pack. As I narrowed my eyes, I couldn't help but force a small smile. For there, at the back of the line, was Collin.

"I told you that you didn't need to come." Annie said, opening her eyes at their approach. "I assure you, it is not necessary for the pack to be involved."

"Someone's been killing on our turf. We have a right to be here."

Annie nodded, surveying our little gathering with sadness in her eyes. She glanced over at Carlisle, and although her thoughts were blocked from me, I could sense her defeat.

It's time you told us Carlisle thought, locking his eyes with hers.

Annie grimaced. "Carlisle, what I am about to tell you must not be taken the wrong way. I value your friendship, your trust, and the last thing I want to do is hurt you."

He nodded in agreement, as Annie continued. "It was after you returned to Italy, that Aro became aware of my presence. He sensed the growing power inside of me, and knew I would carry it over into this life. He sought me out, finding me dying at the bottom of a small ravine. As soon as his teeth grazed against my skin, I could hear every thought running through his mind. I don't know why. He wanted me ... to use me ... as a way to gain advantage over others of our kind."

It took only a slight moment, before Carlisle's mind flooded with the utmost remorse. Though he fought to keep the tradgic memories of his past at bay, they came bursting to the surface; tearing through the last reminants of my weakened shield.

Dear God what have I done ... what have I done

I cringed back against Edward, losing my upright resolve. My knees buckled, as he struggled to keep me standing. I felt his strong arms cradle me, as I lay limply against his marble body. I couldn't stop it. The swell of Carlisle's thoughts were too much. He blamed himself for Annie's condition.

"STOP!" Annie shouted from across the field.

Carlisle jerked his head towards her, as he tried to smooth out the fear from his face. I'd never seen him so conflicted before. Even during the most trying of times, he always remained perfectly composed, always in control. Now he resembled more of myself; panicked, and full of sadness.

"I'm sorry Bella. I will try to control my thoughts." He said, taking a step in my direction.

It was Esme's firm grip on his arm, that prevented him from closing the distance. I glanced over to my adopted mother, and flashed a weak smile. She knew better than anyone the need for solace. I don't want to face the guilt that Carlisle feels over something he never could have controlled. Especially with the threat of the Volturi only minutes away. That conversation is best left for another time.

"I agree." Annie said, walking towards the group. "I have only a short time to explain this to you, so I am only going to say this once."

Carlisle nodded to Annie, and although he managed to compose his features, his mind was still piercing through the barriers I had tried so hard to maintain. I could feel the strength fading from within me, dragging me deeper and deeper into permanent silence. And from the look on Edward's face, I could tell that my thoughts were no longer a secret to him either. My shield was gone, completley shattered by the sheer volume of my family's worried minds.

"It's alright Bella, we will fix this." Edward whispered, stroking my cheek.

Annie flinched, her thoughts still unreadable. "Edward, I will need to stay close to Bella while we entertain our guests. Her shield partially remains within me. I will do what I can to deter any possible attacks."

"Hell yes!" Jake yelled, walking ahead of the rest of the pack. "We all will!"

"Right on Wolfman!" Emmett yelled, pumping his fists in the air. "I call dibs on Demetri!"

For a moment, the joyous shouting was a relief from the constant bickering inside my mind. My family seemed almost jubilant about this meeting, but as I stared into Annie's darkened eyes, I knew that this celebration would be short lived.

"When Aro appears, he will ask to speak with Carlisle first." She stated, turning towards Carlisle. "He will do all he can to convince you I am not who I seem."

Carlisle tilted his head slight to the side, and gazed out upon Annie's suddenly trembling body. Esme wrapped her hand tighter around his, stroking his wrist ever so gently. I felt a sudden sense of loss course through my body. It was the same feeling I had faced the last time the Volturi invaded our lives. These people, my family and friends, they were all here once again because of me. If anything was to happen to any of them, I would never forgive myself.

Edward gave my shoulder a little squeeze, but kept his eyes focused on Annie.

"Does Aro know what you are?" he asked, trying to take my mind off the inevitable.

"Yes, he has always known. Just as he knew about your friends, but as I see in your mind Edward, you were unaware of that."

Edward nodded, and pulled me closer.

"Why did you not tell us? Why did we have to hear this from Jacob?" Carlisle asked, extending his hand to meet hers.

She took it willingly, and fell into his embrace.

"My father trusted you completely, but he feared for my life. He always knew what you were, even from the very beginning. Two weeks before you arrived, my mother passed away. She'd been in hiding for six years, with me always by her side. He knew nothing of her death, but panicked when he could not find us. He understood that with your heightened senses, you would have no trouble in finding me. He regretted the deceit, right up to the day he died. It was because of you that I was saved that day in the forest. Without you, I would have been lost forever."

Carlisle held onto her tightly, as Esme placed her free hand on Annie's back. Rosalie, and Emmett, watched from a distance, and I could see a slight trace of pity in their eyes. Both Jasper, and Alice, remained fixed at each others side, never taking their eyes off the tree line. However, they were both filled with the same thoughts that Carlisle now possessed. That everyone, even Jake, now harbored in their minds. Sympathy, empathy, and love.

"You were always the strongest of both our kinds, Annie." Carlisle whispered, releasing his hold on her. "We will stand by you, no matter what Aro tries to accomplish."

Annie turned to face us once more, motioning for the pack to converge with us. Collin lingered back, staying closely at her side. She smiled at him, and even in my weakened condition, I could still see the flicker of emotion that sparked between them.

Collin weaved his fingers through hers as she addressed us. "Carlisle .. Jasper .. I know you feel that the addition of your friends would have been helpful to us, but I can assure you that even if there had been time to reach them, it would have been futile."

"You don't know that." Jasper growled. "This is not a situation to be taken lightly. Even with the packs help, we might be enough to stop them, if they choose to attack."

"Have some faith brother!" Emmett shouted.

Carlisle raised his hand to silence them both. But not even the lack of voices could drown out the bellows that reaked havock inside of me. I had nothing left in me but pain. My hands shook from the intense fire burning through my body. Everything around me was dim, blotted out like fading end titles to a classic horror movie. The vibrant colors of the forest were now nothing more than dull shilouettes in the distance.

"Bella, stay with me." Edward urged, pressing his cheek against my own. "It will be over soon, try to stay calm."

I couldn't block the voices in my head, nor still the worry in my mind. His shaky voice was enough to tear my heart into pieces.

"there is one thing I do not understand." Carlisle said. "Why is it you believe Aro can help Bella?"

Annie smiled. "Do you not know what it is that Aro can do, my friend?"

"I am well aware of Aro's unique gift."

"It is quite astounding." Annie replied, a slight trace of admiration in her voice. "When Aro touches someone, he pulls their mind into his own....kind of like removing it from that person while he is in contact with them. And with that, he takes their gift for a moment. It is not long enough to use it, but he becomes familiar with that gift, regardless of if he understands it."

Carlisle nodded. This was not new information to him, but there was a trace of comprehension to his scattered thoughts.

"And you intend on reversing his gift?" Carlisle inquired, curiosity blending into his mind. "You are going to use that against him, draw his power out, and use it on Bella."

Annie laughed. "Remarkable, isn't it? I cannot do it from afar. I will need him to touch me, only for a moment. Of course, Aro knows this. He always has. He will not attempt to touch me in any way. He fears the loss of his gift too much."

This time, I could not stay silent. It was my life on the line here, and I am not about to put it in the hands of Aro. Not again.

"I .. I don't understand. How does this solve my problem?" I said, my voice breaking slightly.

"If I can get Aro close enough to touch him, and stay in contact with you, I can use his power to draw my mind free from yours. I only need a moment."

"And if that fails?" Edward hissed.

"I have another plan in mind."

Suddenly, Edward went rigid, as Annie jerked away from Collin. Their eyes locked on one anothers, and Edward growled fiercely in my ear. Annie's face faltered ever so slightly, as her eyes faded into a pitch coal. There was no time left for discussion. Something was wrong. Very wrong.

"Phase .. all of you! And call for Sam, we're going to need him." Edward whispered, nodding in Collin's direction. "Alice was wrong."

I had no chance to decipher the meaning of Edward's words, nor his panicked thoughts. For there, at the edge of the clearing was what we had all been fearing. The haunting image from Alice's vision, spread fifteen pairs of menacing, blood red eyes long.

The Volturi.



CHAPTER 16 - ARO

The densness of this forest seems oddly comforting, yet the sight my eyes rest on weigh heavily upon me. I find myself facing a rather amusing figment of realism, as we emerge onto the all too familiar scene. It saddened me that once again, my old friend desired the need for confrontation such as this. There was a time - many years before my renowned civility - that my silent heart ached for the sweet taste of violence. Now I find that empty space occupied with unwelcome anticipation. A most unpleasant aftertaste, despite the satisfaction of viewing the promise that lingered only a few effortless strides away.

“Master, I can sense her.” Demetri whispered, meeting the pace of my gait with ease; Both Jane and Alec laughing triumphantly behind us.

“Very interesting, Demetri. It seems as though our dear Annie has done her job well.”

I chuckled quietly to myself, continuing our gliding procession. How foolish it was of Carlisle to bring Bella to this place. Perhaps my old friend was losing his nobility. Surely he knew that she would become my objective. Our last encounter - severed prematurely much to my dismay - had peaked the fierce curiosity within me. Had I known that our paths would entwine in this manner, I perchance would have spared the wasted effort in retrieving young Bella.

The peculiar shapeshifers were another grand fancy of mine, and as our gathering slowed to a halt, my eyes became a blaze with the offerings of another glimpse into these beasts of ledgend. Perhaps not true children of the moon, but useful none the less. The time when our chance to investigate these anomalies would soon present itself. It was strangely appealing to witness the unconventional pairings before me. However, my journey to this bittersweet land was not only plagued with foreboding circumstance, but the unspoken knowledge of my opponent.

Edward Cullen, a master of his own nature, a rival to match the skills of even myself, stood only but a few mere inches from my outstretched fingers. What a prize his talent ensued. An enormous capacity to gain even the slightest advantage over my adversaries, how little of them there may be. To be able to hear ones mind from such a distance, marveled and peaked my interest to the point of unadulterated longing. By now, he would have heard every thought running through the vastness of my mind, and as my eye’s slithered towards my purpose, Bella winced and withdrew her gaze from our group.

“Welcome my friend.” Carlisle spoke, gingerly holding onto his mate’s hand.

Ah, Esme. A weaknes of the most pleasing of sorts. I refrained from returning his greeting for the moment, allowing my eyes to drift along the line that stood fiercely in front of my guard. Keeping my thoughts as tranquil as possible must become my first priority. For I knew that Edward was not the only vampire in our midst with the ability to decipher what my mind truly longed to bury in the darkness.

Annie, one of my most favorable children, was already attempting to comprehend my intentions. How my silent heart had ached to see her, and now that she lingered so near to me, I found my strength somewhat diminished. For 179 years, my guard has hunted her, always remaining one step behind her every move. Of course, I have but myself to blame for her stealth, her cunning, and the brilliant array of talent she possesses. From the very first glance of her porcelain face, through the mind of my dear friend Carlisle, I knew that she would become the ultimate predator. The final completion to my guard.

Then, without question, my eyes settled on Alice and Jasper. Their gifts would bring extraordinary power to the Volturi coven. But today, my efforts would remain on the objects of my affection. I glided forward, seemingly floating across the damp ground, and extended my translucent hand to Carlisle.

“Ah Carlisle, it brings me great joy to see you again, my old friend.”

The moment his hand reached mine, I was embraced by every trivial event of his passing days. As I closed my eyes and focused my concentration on Annie’s arrival to this place, I heard Jane utter a low growl through the jaws I knew would be clenched together in disgust.

“Dearest Jane.” I whispered, releasing Carlisle from my grasp. “These are our friends. Let us be civil.”

She bowed her head to me in respect, and removed herself from her protective stance. How I treasured her company, and that of her brother. True artists in the rarest form. A power I have seen unmatched in over three thousand years.

“It is always a pleasure to see you, Aro.” Carlisle stated, moving back towards his family. “To what do we owe this visit?”

If I was not of civil nature, my inner demon would have scoffed at my old friends remark. But Carlisle had always been one for the formalities, the respect, and that I admired. From the moment his hand rested in mine, I understood the reason for this most unneeded of altercations. They feared us, and rightly so. The Volturi are not ones to be meddled with, yet there was an underlying sorrow to Carlisle’s thoughts.

“Feeling sentimental?” Edward laughed, supporting Bella with both of his arms. From the corner of my eye, I saw Jasper smirking.

“So convenient.” I answered, shaking my head in awe. “Your talent will never cease to inspire me, Edward.”

He rolled his eyes, and tightened his grip upon his love. Oh how I admired, and longed for such a gift as his. Ever since the day I first met Edward, my mind has been consumed with envy, and engrossed with want for his talent in my guard.

“You can keep on wishing for that.” Annie said, stepping out from Carlisle’s side.

The sound of her voice both intrigued me, and repulsed me at the same time. A sound that I have waited almost two centuries to hear once again. Yet she was no longer the innocent child I brought into this world. She now seemed hardened, and cold to my presence. There was once a time where she never left my side, always clinging on my every syllable, as we traveled across the icy planes of this land. There was a time when I believed her to be the greatest promise this world has ever seen.

I chose her for her beauty, her strength, her unyielding talent. I knew that she would be the most powerful of us all, and with her by my side, the Volturi would become an unstoppable force. It was I who gave her the power to read minds. At first, I was uncertain how it had occurred, but days after her transformation, clarity filled my senses. She retained the power of empathy from her human life, drawing out the pain from others, and replacing it with the peace she could never find for herself. Once she became as I was, that power blossomed into something even greater than I had anticipated. She became able to pull powers from other creatures like myself, and once my teeth grazed her flesh, my power was drawn into her.

“Tell me something I don’t know.” She hissed through her teeth.

“Such hostility my dear one.” I replied, reluctantly keeping my distance.

I know what she is capable of, and one single touch from my skin would draw my power from my body instantly. This is a price I am unwilling to pay.

“You are right to fear me.” She growled, stepping closer to our line.

I held up my hand to silence the snarls inching their way up through my family’s throats. They were hungry, longing for a fight that I was not prepared to begin.

“I do not fear you my dear Annie.”

She smirked, as Edward shot her a frantic glance. Even if I was unable to read minds in any capacity, their exchange was not one I would have missed. They were communicating silently, a gift that once again threatened to spark my intense curiosity. But now is not the time for such fancy. Carlisle’s thoughts had already unmasked the intentions of my prodigy.

“You wish me to withdraw what you have done to Bella.” I chuckled. “You know quite well that I am unable to do that alone, Annie. Nor would I want to.”

Jane laughed her most heartening of laughs, as Demetri stepped to my side. But it was Edward’s growl that rang clear across the branches of the surrounding trees. He was obviously displeased with my reply, but there was more to Annie’s revelation than even he knew.

“Why don’t you enlighten us then?” He asked, keeping his sights of the hooded force behind me.

I clasped my hands together, and turned to address him. “I believe you have already had the wool pulled over your eyes, so to speak, Edward. You can look into my thoughts, and see that I speak the truth.”

“Don’t listen to him.” Annie spat through her teeth. “He’s very capable of lying with his thoughts.”

I laughed, sending the sound high up into the trees. What would they find within my mind? Only the truth that I wished for them to see. How it was Annie that purposely caused the bond between her and Bella on my orders. How it was Annie that fled from my presence after I forced her to kill her husband, and child. How it was Annie who now stands here in front of me, knowing full well that I will never willingly remove the power that now rests inside of Bella. There must be an exchange. I will not leave empty handed. I will not leave without Bella and Annie. They will be mine.

“You CANNOT have her!” Edward shouted, as Bella dropped to her knees.

My eyes flashed towards Annie for a moment, lingering on her forlorn expression. I did not need to touch her skin to understand what she was contemplating. Her husband, her dearest love, the one whom she fed upon at my request. Trying to turn him into what she had become proved disastrous for them both. Had I not finished off the child, she would have chosen to perish along with him.

“Edward!” Carlisle interjected. “Let us hear Aro.”

The wolves grumbled in unison, shifting back and forth behind my opposing enemy. I feared not there rage, for they would be no match against my beloved family. Our strength lays not in number, but rests in the talent of even the smallest member. And it was obvious that Bella’s shield was not in play. However, there was no doubt within my mind that Annie retained some part of that power.

“Neither Bella, nor myself, will be joining you today.” Annie said more calmly, pulling Bella to her feet. “You will help me, or I will destroy what is left of your family. Do not doubt that for a moment.”

“How DARE you!” Jane shrieked, turning her charming smile upon Annie.

I couldn’t help but wonder the effect Jane’s unique talent would have upon Annie. I marveled at the idea of someone else being able to reflect her power. Annie did not disappoint. She stood there, smirking at Jane, as she did exactly what I assumed would happen.

Jane suddenly lunged backward, grasping her chest, and falling the ground beneath my feet. Perhaps it would have been wise to warn dear Jane of the peculiar effects of Annie’s gift. It is not often I come across a vampire with the ability to deflect attempts, and twist ones’ mind into believing they are alive in every sense of the word.

“Enough!” I said, raising my voice slightly. Seeing my dearest in agony was surprisingly unpleasant.

“Try it again, and I will make sure you know the meaning of the word pain.” Annie snarled, setting her sights upon me. “And it would be wise of you, Aro, to not think about my husband in that manner.”

So she did remember, just as I had thought. I’d spent years of my life trying to understand the connection which had occurred during her feeding. It was only after Annie fled from me that I began to comprehend what had happened. He held love in his heart for her that was so powerful, he chose to shield her from any harm that would befall her. In doing so, it carried over into his new life, and affected her to the point where there connection could not be severed. She ended his suffering only after I threatened the child. After she abandoned her son, I took it upon myself to end his grief. I could not risk her creating an immortal child.

Annie growled fiercely, and took a step towards me with Bella. Instantly I was surrounded by Renata’s shield, how little of an effect it would have against Annie. But Annie stopped in mid step, and lowered her hostile advances.

“It would be wise of you not to think of them again.” She said, as Edward stepped to her side. “it is because of you that my family is dead, and I will have my revenge upon you.”

“Revenge? My actions were done only in an effort to ease your suffering. I wished you no harm.”

“You forced me to drink from him, knowing I would be unable to stop. Where were you when I needed guidance? Where were you when I couldn’t stop his screams in my head? Where were you when he begged for death?”

I smiled, attempting to sincerely deflect her accusations. It is not in my nature to act in such a heartwarming manner. I cared not for the lives of her family, only for the power which rested within her. I had been more than happy to dispose of the boy. Her husband, on the other hand, may have proved useful. Such a waste.

“You owe me.” She said, moving with Bella and Edward, approaching the line of my anxious guards.

“I owe you nothing.” I replied, holding steadfast to my resolve.

“Remove this power from Bella, or I will make you suffer.”

“Jane, Alec, Demetri!” I shouted as they advanced on our so called friends. “She will not harm me.”

The ceased momentarily in their actions, bowing to my will. I admired the respect and fear that they exhumed. Truly a remarkable family. My family.

“So that is your stance?” Edward asked.

“I will not remove the power without a trade.”

“And what is your request?” Carlisle asked, walking away from Esme. “What is it that you want?”

“There are many things I desire, my friend. But for now, I will take Bella and Annie back to Volterra with me.”

“NO!” Edward shouted.

“Then we do not have an agreement. I can be of no help to you.”

“I will go.” Annie whispered, just barely loud enough for my ears to catch. “Bella stays.”

An intriguing idea. To have Annie grace the castle walls would truly complete my armor. However, both she and I know that pulling this power from Bella will be excruciatingly painful for them both. It was not something I truly wished for, but it would give us the opportunity to perhaps dwindle the size of my old friends’ family. A thought that I did not relish, yet could not help avoid.

“N .. no.” Bella mumbled, gripping onto Annie’s arm.

“Control your thoughts Aro, or you will lose us both.” Annie snapped, edging ever closer to me.

“Edward, I would very much like to hear your side of this matter.” I smiled, holding my hand out towards him.

A slight glance later, he turned his palm face up, as I rested my own paper thin hand against it. Memories, desires, images, thoughts, all of it mingled together with the confusion inside his mind. There was nothing there to explain the look of disgust in Annie’s eyes. Only a conversation with a red wolf, seen through someone else’s mind. Annie wanted revenge. Something that she is simply not capable of.

Edward stepped back to Bella, and Annie’s, side. I was momentarily stunned by the approach my dear Annie seemed to be taking. What was she up to? I read no traces of a plan in Carlisle’s mind, or Edward‘s. Annie was smarter than I had originally discovered. Perhaps now was the time to show them what she truly is.

“You have done extremely well, my dear.” I said, taking a hesitant step towards Annie. “I couldn’t be more proud of you than I am at this moment. You have delivered Bella as promised.”

“I did no such thing.” She growled, as all eyes rested upon her in disbelief. I kept my thoughts as innocent as possible.

“Ah, but it was you who led us to this conclusion. You who knew where to find Bella in the store. You who drove Demetri to follow you here. It was always you. My child, my dear one.”

“What is he talking about?” Carlisle asked, obviously questioning Annie’s loyalty.

“He’s lying. Remember what I told you.”

“Yes, remember what she spoke of, my friend.” I chuckled, already hearing the uttered words in Carlisle’s mind. “But how else have we arrived here once again?”

“I don’t believe it.” Carlisle replied, shaking his head.


Annie growled, and attempted to leap across the distance, towards me. It was Bella’s feeble moans that anchored her to the position. I felt a sudden pang of uneasiness as Bella’s face crumpled, her eyes rolling back in her head. I don’t understand why I should find the slightest degree of sympathy for this scene. I care not for the well being of her person, just for the wholeness of her unique gift.


“You murdered my family in cold blood…tracked me all over the world….it was you who arranged the meeting, not I. You knew that she lived close, and it was your will that I fled from Alaska to this place. Demetri saw to that. Where else did you think I would go? You herded me like a piece of cattle.”

“I only wished for your safety, my dearest. You have never left my mind in almost 180 years.” I answered, keeping my eyes fixated on her position. I could not afford her any closer than she had become.

“Why play games, Aro? If I come with you, as you desire, will you help Bella?”

“No. I cannot.”

Bella grimaced, and fell to the ground before me. I knew she had only moments left before the power that rested inside of her would completely engulf her mind. If I did not act, I would lose her talent. However, if I allowed Annie access to my power, I would lose her regardless.

Annie looked towards Edward, as panic set into his motionless form.

“Then I will do this myself.” Annie barked, pulling Bella into her arms.

Before I could even react, to move my feet, or take one small hasty breath, Annie had already begun her disastrous attempts. I watched for a fleeting moment as Bella screamed out in pain; Edward growling furiously through his clenched jaw.

“STOP IT! STOP IT!” He bellowed across the field, yet Annie was unable to hear.

All of her senses were attuned to Bella. Both there bodies shimmered and flickered like silhouettes against the flame of a candle. I knew that this would kill them both, for how could it not. I’d seen it happen with her late husband, and was not prepared to sacrifice two promising gifts such as theirs. My decision was made.

I lunged forward into the open space.


CHAPTER 17 - BELLA

Searing. Burning. Agony.

The only words that sprang to my mind as my body flailed on the ground. I couldn’t hear them, I couldn’t sense them, I could only concentrate on the intense fire raging through my body. I was in the darkness once again, surrounded by absolutely nothing but an empty space. My skin felt blistered and jagged, my mind a blur of chaos. Nothing was making sense. It felt like I was being burned alive, and for all I knew I was. Perhaps that had been Aro’s plan all along. Maybe I was being torn into pieces, and discarded, just like Edward had once accomplished with Victoria.

Edward.

This was going to end him. The mere thought of my demise sent him spiraling into madness. Now that the end had finally come for me, I feared what might become of him. Of his life. Would he stay strong enough for our daughter without my presence? Would he even want to try?

I felt my body twitch again. Another wave of pain washing over me, drowning out any hope that this was just a bad dream. I was dying, and not just in the immortal sense of the word. As my body cracked and groaned against itself, I knew that somewhere through the pain would come a finality to my sentence.

Everything rushed through my mind so quickly, there was no time to process the information. Flashes of Edward’s face rang clearly through the agony. Our first encounter, the look on his face as he wished me goodbye, the first time he told me that he loved me, our wedding day, the birth of our daughter, and even the relief on his face as the Volturi granted our family leniency. They were all distant memories now, something that I wasn’t sure I’d ever feel again.

What waited for us after this life? Maybe Edward was right. Perhaps I had no soul, and this was just the way things would be for me from now on. The pain, the suffering. Maybe I deserved it. But Edward didn’t. I couldn’t allow him to befall the same fate as I, regardless of what we were.

“Bella.”

Her soft whisper echoed through my mind like a warm breeze, yet the pain which resided within me galloped ten fold. Instantly, I cried out, but no noise emerged from my lips. She spoke again.

“Bella, I need you to wake. I need to you to come back to us.”

“A-Annie?” I choked out, “Is this….”

She laughed lightly, and suddenly appeared before me, seemingly floating, though my eyes were barely attuned to that fact.

“I give you my strength. Take care of Collin, he will not understand.” She said, smiling, as she disappeared as quickly as she has emerged.

Instantly, my eyes became a blaze as everything rushed in brilliant colors of light around me. The burning sensation that lit my body on fire, slowly started to recede. I could feel the cold stone of my body reacting to the droplets of cool water that trickled from above me. I could smell the forest, the trees, and even the wolves that now paced anxiously in circular patterns. I could taste the air, feel the touch of the grass beneath me, and I could…

I could sense Edward.

He was there, right beside me, and as my eyes fluttered open, he pulled me into his arms and nearly choked off my lungs. Not that I really needed the air, but the gesture was more than was necessary.

“Edward, you smothering me again.” I said. It was the only thing I could come up with.

“Bella! Are you okay?” He cried out, not listening to my plea.

“Ease up on the girl, would ya Ed?” Emmett laughed, kneeling down beside me. “You had us scared for a little while Bells. How ya feeling?”

Edward growled, pulling me closer to him yet. I sat up slightly in his arms. I didn’t truly want him to let me go. I was so grateful that he was still here with me. That I was still here. I wasn’t dead. I was with Edward, my family, and there is not one greater feeling in this world.

“I’m perfect actually.” I breathed out, searching for Edward’s hand. I needed to know that he was real. That I was not having a repeat of any delusion. “Edward, are you ok?”

He sighed, and laid his head against my temple. I heard him take a deep breath, holding my scent in his mind as he used to do when I was human. Well, every now and again, I still catch him doing that. I had to stop myself from laughing. I suppose this type of situation was not exactly comical. But I always have a tendency to laugh at the most inappropriate of moments.

“Bella.” He repeated, turning me to face him. “Are you sure you are alright?”

My fingers found their way to his cheek, dancing lightly across his chiseled jaw line, and brushing against his lips. Our eyes locked, and the lingering pain in my body instantly evaporated, leaving me with nothing but an overwhelming sense of peace.

“How could I not be alright? I have you.” I smiled.

Edward took me in his arms, and gently leaned in to press his lips against mine. I let my hands travel through his hair, bringing him as close to me as possible. I never wanted anything to separate us again. Edward is my entire life, and even the thought of losing him is too much to contemplate.

Emmett cleared his throat, while Jasper snickered in the background. I’d forgotten we were not alone.

“Emmet, Jasper.” I whispered, completely embarrassed as usual - pulling away from Edward’s advances in the same breath.

The sound of hands clasping together, snapped my mind back to the situation we were still facing.

“Ah, dear Bella. What a pleasant turn of events!” Aro chided, stepping forward with Demetri and Jane. “I am glad you survived to tell the tale.”

I nodded. “Thank you Aro.”

Edward helped me to my feet as he began to explain what had occurred. “Aro has removed the power from both yours, and Annie’s minds. It seems that Annie had this planned all along.”

“She did indeed.” Aro mumbled, his usually placid face looked almost pained. “It brings me great sorrow to lose such powerful gifts as what you two once possessed. However, she is not much use to us now.”

Aro glanced towards Annie’s still body, as my eyes followed in shock. There she lay, completely motionless, eyes closed, jaw slack.

“Well, she will wake up when she is ready. I did.” I laughed, not comprehending what exactly was going on. As usual.

“Not this time, young Bella.” Aro sighed, “My dear Annie understood I could not help you without removing the same gift from her own mind. In fact, if I am not mistaken, she counted on my reluctance. Such a waste though, and it stole her life far too soon. Pity.”

I looked to Edward, completely confused.

Edward smiled, and gently explained what Annie’s plan had truly been. She knew Aro would react when she attempted to pull the power free from me herself. This was the plan she had refrained from speaking of. Aro could not bear to lose us both. Annie had banked on that at great risk. If Aro would have heard an inkling of this from anyone’s mind, things may have gone drastically different.

Edward growled as he spoke of how Aro still had hopes that I would join him in the future, and that Annie’s sacrifice was worth it for the greater power. But I knew different.

Annie had been granted her revenge. Aro had spent a century trying to obtain her power, only to fail in the end. This was Annie’s way of paying tribute to the family that she had lost, while making amends for not saving her only child. She had made the ultimate sacrifice. Her life for mine. Something I would be eternally grateful to her for.

“Jane, Demetri, please dispose of this.” Aro stated, waving his hand dismissively.

“NO!” I protested.

Aro would never touch Annie. I owed her that much.

Edward squeezed my arm in warning, as I lifted my shield - now back in full effect - so he could hear my silent plea. Please Edward, let us take care of her properly.

“Aro.” Edward answered, moving a step closer to Annie’s body. “There is no need for your services. I assure you my family, and I can handle the remains.”

“My dear Edward, it is not for you to say who can, or who cannot.” Aro replied.

Suddenly Collin came from nowhere, growling viciously through his teeth. Jane jumped forward, followed by Renata, and Demetri, as Collin flew through the air. Before anyone could react, Jane was halfway across the field, flat on her back, as the other wolves took flank alongside Collin. Sam circled around the herd of Volturi, keeping them close together as they wavered back and forth, unsure of how to proceed. Collin simply stood over Annie’s body, exposing the razor sharp teeth that could cut through vampire flesh with the utmost of ease.

Aro stood there in shock.

Carlisle stepped to Collin’s side. “It would be our pleasure to save you from any inconvenience old friend.”

Aro smoothed his complexion before uttering his reply. “It seems that your….friends are quite smitten with the girl. Do as you wish, you have my blessing.”

With that, Aro turned on his heels, and glided into the tree line; the rest of the guard following suit. I could only imagine the confusion that must be running through Aro’s mind at this moment. On second though, no. I didn’t want to imagine that. I’d had all I could take of hearing another persons thoughts. I never wanted to experience that ever again. Let Aro think what he wants. Jane lingered for a moment, too stunned to even smile, before turning away from the angry pack.

Edward chuckled at my side.

“I don’t find anything funny about this.” I frowned, overcome with sorrow for the wolf whose eyes were now deep saucers of anguish.

Edward leaned in and whispered, “Jake was hoping Demetri would put up more of a fight. It’s rare the pack lets a vampire who has hunted on their land go free.”

I’d forgotten about Demetri, but I had no time to think about that now. Annie was dead, and with it, went the heart of wolf.

Carlisle gathered Annie into his arms, as we all walked back to the house in silence. Silence. I’d never thought I’d hear that again. There were no more voices in my head, no more daily reminders of the thoughts which had plagued me for so long. There was nothing but Bella. And that’s the way it should be.

The pack followed us until we reached the main house. Sam urging Collin to follow his lead as they raced down the embankment to La Push. I could still hear Collin’s agonizing howls as they raced off into the distance.

“I’ll start the fire.” Jasper said, walking off to gather some branches.

Fire. I still couldn’t believe it had come to this. My eyes burned, and twitched repeatedly as I watched my family grieve with one another. No matter what Annie had been to us in the beginning, she’d shown compassion and loyalty in the end. She had touched each of their lives, especially mine.

Carlisle laid Annie down on the porch, as everyone gathered inside the living room. Each of them reliving the past few hours with complete shock, and sadness, for the loss of our new friend. Then suddenly it dawned on me.

“Where’s Nessie?” I asked frantically, while Edward did his best to soothe my nerves.

“She is with Sue Clearwater. We can go and get her love, so you don’t have to…”

He trailed off. I knew what he was going to say. ‘So I don’t have to watch Annie’. I wasn’t sure if I should stay or not. I wasn’t sure I wanted to see that. But my heart was longing for my daughter. It has been far too long since I have been capable of holding her in my arms. Now that I was free from the pain, I needed her with me.

“We will take care of things here.” Carlisle said, clutching Esme for support. His face was completely ashen, and I knew the horrible sadness he must be feeling.

Edward wrapped his arm around my shoulder and led me outside. Jasper was standing just outside the door, his face full of shock and horror. The pile of wood he’d collected was strewn about on the grass. Instantly, I felt Edward stiffen beside me.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, searching his eyes for some explanation.

Edward gasped. “She’s gone. Annie’s gone"


CHAPTER 18 - BELLA


It wasn’t possible. It just wasn’t. She was dead in every sense of the word. We all saw it. But how does a lifeless body just get up and walk away unseen and unheard. Then it hit me. The Volturi. They had never really left this place. I should have known that Aro would wait for his moment, and collect what he believed was his for the taking.

I slammed my fist into the old wooden post adjacent to the Clearwater house, watching it splinter and shatter into a million pieces, bouncing off the gravel drive like ricochet bullets. It didn’t matter to me that the entire res seemed to be watching my spectacle unfold. They knew who I was, what I was, just like they knew the man standing next to me had given his permission for me to be here in the first place.

I turned to Jake, gritting my teeth as I thought about Annie. I had failed her. I had allowed Aro to succeed in claiming her for his own. She would be taken far from here, no doubt made a spectacle of, before finally being cast into a roaring fire. At least here with us, her burial would have been peaceful.

“Keep it up Bells and Sue’s going to have Charlie down here before you can even make it back to the cottage.” Jake laughed, nudging me in the side.

“Knock it off Jake.” I spat back at him. I was in no mood.

“Someone’s a little touchy.” He grinned, as Nessie emerged from the house with Edward. “Bet you’d love to know what I’m thinking now!”

I rolled my eyes. That’s the last thing I cared to think about.

“Momma!” Nessie screamed, running into my arms, and completely bypassing Jake. All I could do was smile at him with an amused expression. “I missed you!”

“I missed you too baby girl!” I shouted, nuzzling my daughter.

It felt so right to have her in my arms again, even Edward couldn‘t stop smiling. .I guess I could understand his happiness really. Our family was together again, the Volturi were gone, and everything we loved was back the way it should be. Well, almost everything.

“Where’s Collin?” I asked, my emotions suddenly focusing in on the pain he must be feeling.

Edward’s smile widened at the sound of Collin’s name. I turned to my husband, and shot him a glance. What an inappropriate time to be smiling. Poor Collin had to be heartbroken over Annie’s death. This was not the best time to be smiling, or laughing, as Edward now seemed to be doing.

“Edward Cullen, is there something funny I should know about?” I said, watching his bemused expression turn even more jovial by the second. Even Jake seemed to be joining in. “Jake, please! This is NO laughing matter!”

Edward stepped forward, and looked towards Nessie. “Go on angel, show her.”

“Show me what?”

Before Edward had a chance to respond, Nessie lifted her hand, and placed it gently against my cheek. I drew in a sharp breath as the images fluttered through my mind. Collin, racing through the woods, following a scent. A scent I had grown accustomed to over the past week or so, though somewhat altered from its previous state. A scent that was unlike anything any of us had ever encountered.

It was Annie. She was alive.

“But how?” I breathed out, images still forcing their way into my mind.

I could taste the air around me, see Annie’s beautiful hair blowing in the breeze as she stopped along the top of a ridge, even feel the warm russet fur beneath me. I realized in that moment, that I was seeing things through Nessie’s eyes as Jacob followed Collin through the woods.

“JACOB BLACK!” I screamed, dropping Nessie lightly on the ground. “You took my daughter racing off after COLLIN?”

Both Edward and Jake burst into a fit of laughter. Out of all the things so incredible about Nessie’s revelation, I had to choose the one thing that held no bearing on what had actually occurred. I had to laugh myself.

“Sorry Bells, but Sam wasn’t going to do it. He wants nothing to do with the leach, but he can’t interfere with imprinting. Even though he’d love to.”

Edward glared at Jake’s chosen phrase for our kind.

“Sorry Ed, I mean vampire.” Jake chuckled.

“I still don’t understand.” I whispered, trying to allow the vision to sink in. “Annie’s alive? It wasn‘t the Volturi?”

“She’s quick that one. If Sam hadn’t of forced Collin back to the res, we never would have found her. I guess it was luck.” Jake said, picking up Nessie and sitting down on the porch swing. “She was less than thrilled to see us, believe me. I don’t know how it happened, but there she was…kinda.”

“What do you mean…Kinda?” I asked, feeling a little perturbed that he’d known the entire time I was inflicting serious damage to inanimate objects.

Jake looked to Edward, who I knew must be able to hear every though running through his mind right about now. A part of me wished I could take a small listen, but I quickly battered that idea back down where it belonged. I watched the two of them exchange a nod, as Jake continued.

“She’s different Bells.” He said, lowering his head, as Nessie replayed the scene over and over for him. He just simply smiled at her, and continued. “She doesn’t smell the same to me anymore. She’s more like you now then anything else. She’s changed.”

Then it struck me. Prior to all of this, Annie had a certain sense of humanity, which no doubt enabled the imprint in the first place, or at least that is what Collin believed. Her ancestors blood had great value to her, and protected her humanity, keeping it in tact even though she remained as we were; a vampire. When she sacrificed her life for mine, she gave that all to me. To heal me, to bring me back from the abyss. Now she was as hollow as the rest of us. Nothing but an empty shell, a lifeless creature of the shadow. The imprint was gone, or perhaps it had never existed. Maybe, like all of Annie’s gifts, it was a trick of the mind; to make the person believe they were in love, just like the pain she could inflict. The heartbeat.

“I-is Collin okay?” I muttered, slumping down onto the very last wooden porch step, Edward catching me, and pulling me into his arms.

“We haven’t heard from him.” Edward whispered, smoothing back my hair.

“Lost sight of the boy just over the ridge.” Jake said, “ Sam’s been calling him, but he must not be phased, or-”

I cut him off at that moment. “Annie would never hurt him.”

Jake nodded, and kept his mouth closed. I could see a small inkling of disbelief in his eyes, and I found myself doubting her good graces. She had no sense of humanity left. She would be as any newborn would be; wild, aggressive, free. She’d never faced anything like this as she’d always retained some sort of peace in her life. And she had given that up for me. I wasn’t sure how much of the Annie we knew and loved was left.

“Come on, let’s get you two home.” Edward said, standing and taking my hand, ushering Nessie over to us.

He picked her up, and swung her onto his back as she giggled in delight. She enjoyed this form of travel just as much as I used to. Well, maybe a bit more than I.

“Edward?” I whispered, as Jake waved us off. “ We can’t just leave those two out there.”

“It is not our place to be involved, Bella. She’s not the same as she used to be, and she is better off far away from here.”

Was that true? Was Annie better off? I didn’t think so. If she truly was different, then the pack would take her out faster than any vampire. I couldn’t let that happen. But for now, my place was with my family. I would wait for my moment to come, and do my best to repay the kindness Annie had once bestowed upon me. Afterall, we had an eternity to make amends.



EPILOUGE - ANNIE

The air was thick with pine, but not even that could dispel the fire that lapped at my throat. For almost two centuries I had managed to go through this new life without hardly any effort, and now I found myself craving something I never thought I’d be capable of.

Human blood.

I wanted it, needed it, craved it above all else. It was the only thing I could think of, and it was alarming to say the least. The time where my mind was disconnected from me, had been disorientating enough to leave my body lifeless, but this…this was unbearable. I knew it would happen, I’d counted on it. I knew as soon as Aro touched us both, everything that I had fought so hard to attain in this life would be stripped from me, and passed to Bella. It was only a fair price to pay for the sins of my past. I deserved to die.

Was this my eternal hell? Countless lifetimes worth of pain and suffering? It felt that way. I was seeing myself for the first time, my true self. I was a monster just like the rest of them. There was nothing special about me save for my gift, and I wasn’t sure that it was even still in tact. I had no blood running through my dried up veins, everything about me screamed predator. There was no control, no compassion, nothing left behind from my ancestors. I didn’t even smell the same. The scent of me made my eyes burn with such a horrific blaze that even the most aggressive of our kind would flee in terror from the sight.

It had been easy enough to deceive the gathered vampires. They would not sense my return to this world, not when they were consumed with the trivial matters between themselves. It was Collin’s ferocious snarls that had jolted me from the darkness. I could sense everything going on around me, I could feel Carlisle’s strong arms pick me up from the damp earth, even hear Jasper as he darted into the forest. But I dared not move for fear I would be discovered.

I raced from the house as fast I could, which was seemingly too fast, causing unwanted attention to myself. I’d spent so much time thinking about my escape from the Cullens, I’d given very little attention to the frantic chase of my admirer.

Collin sprang from no where, desperately trying to reach me as I barreled through the woods towards Alaska. I wanted to go home, I wanted to be as far away from here as possible. I wanted nothing to do with Collin or his foolish fantasies about an imprint. An imprint that never could have existed. I am a vampire, he is a wolf, and there was never going to be anything between us. But I couldn’t help think back to when I first saw Collin, and how my dead heart had burst to life. I’d tried to hide it, but I know he felt the same way.

I shook my head. It wasn’t possible.

I turned on the spot as Collin neared, edging backwards to a cavernous Cliffside. The height in itself was astounding. No mortal would ever dare take another step, as they would end up crushed by the rocks below, but I was no mortal. All I had to do was take a another step back, and fall to my freedom. I would be away from this place, away from the memories, and away from Collin.

Not to mention away from the appetizing scent of human blood drifting in my direction. I knew her face instantly. Renesmee Cullen. I’d promised Bella that no harm would befall her from my hand, and I was bound to keep that promise regardless of what I had been turned into.


“Get out of here!” I shouted, my voice echoing angrily off the adjacent trees. It was a warning not only for Collin, but for the wolf that carried the child. “NOW!”

Within an instant Collin was phased back to his usual form, tugging up his shorts as I averted my eyes. I looked over the drop off, contemplating my next move, trying to avoid the beat of the child‘s heart. I could jump, I could freeze, or I could attack. I distinctly heard the retreating steps of the russet wolf, the enticing pulse also sinking into the distance. Yet I knew Collin remained. I just didn’t want to look into his eyes, but his voice caught my attention.

“Annie please.” He whispered. “Please don’t do this.”

It was the please that had me turning my head to meet his gaze.

“I’m not what I once was.” I answered.

He took a step forward and I growled through my teeth, the sound even frightening me to a degree. Collin stopped dead in his tracks, staring at me like the monster I am. His enemy. He should dispatch me and be done with it. Then I would never have to worry about hurting someone, or causing another pain. It took everything I had within me to not leap forward and taste the blood I could sense racing through his veins.

“What you are doesn’t matter to me!” He hollered through the trees. “It’s WHO you are.”

Who was I? I strange sadistic vampire that was finding herself questioning her own existence. That’s who I was. I wasn’t Aningan anymore, I wasn’t even Annie. I was something else.

“Collin, turn around and leave now, or I don’t know what I’ll be capable of doing.”

“You won’t hurt me.”

And with that, he was running towards me, gathering me in his arms as I lunged for his throat. He jumped back, surveying my black eyes for signs that the feelings we once shared together were real, and still in tact. I gave him no such satisfaction, though I longed for it to be true. Every time I glanced into his eyes, I could see myself within them. However, it was no imprint. It just couldn’t be, and even if it was, I could never bear him children. An imprint between us would defeat the purpose.

“Don’t you feel the same?” He asked, pleading with his eyes.

I couldn’t tell. Did I? Maybe there was an inkling of longing for him, but I just couldn’t allow myself to be part of his world. It was far too dangerous. I desperately tried to listen to the thoughts that I knew must be running through his mind, but I found myself unable. It dawned on me in that moment that I was free. Free from the countless years of separating the insane from the normal. At least I would not cause harm in that manner again.

“I don’t know what I feel. I don’t even know if I CAN feel. The only thing I am certain of is that it‘s not safe for me to be around you. I have to go.”

I didn’t give him a chance to answer me, flinging my body over the side of the cliff. I watched as the ground flew upwards towards me, bracing myself for the feel of the rocks below. It came swift and steady, landing perfectly balanced on the edge of a boulder. I didn’t want to look back up to where I knew he’d be, but my eyes were already glancing in his direction.

There he was, perched on top of the cliff in full wolf form, looking for a way down. I just hoped he had enough sense not to take the jump. He paced back and forth, and through the rustle of the wind I could hear his whines. Every time they trickled down to where I stood, I felt a twinge in the place where my heart used to be. There was no denying that part of me loved this boy, even through the confusion I could feel that much. If I had the ability to overcome this situation, maybe there was hope for me after all. Yet I knew my place was not with him, nor with the Cullens. Perhaps one day we would meet again, but for now I needed to fight the struggle within myself, to come to terms with what I was. To learn the ways of this life all over again, and be strong like my old friend Carlisle.

And so I ran.


THE END.

Comment

You need to be a member of Cullens Online to add comments!

Join Cullens Online

Administrators



Your site Administrators:

-Carlisle Cullen MD

-Carmen Denali

-Renata

-Alice Cullen

If you have any questions, or if you'd like to report a rule violation, please contact an Admin by clicking on their name and sending them an email.

     

 

Forum

Site Basics

New to the site? Please start here! Rules and important starting out information.

6 discussions

Games

Games - Just for Fun!

4 discussions

Get Involved

Itching to act or have a great idea for a storyline? Share with us here.

1 discussions

© 2021   Created by Carlisle Cullen MD.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service