Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Breaking Dawn - Chapter 39


“So it was a combination of things there at the end, but what it really boiled down
to was… Bella,” Edward was explaining. Our family and our two remaining guests
sat in the Cullens’ great room while the forest turned black outside the tall
Vladimir and Stefan had vanished before we’d stopped celebrating. They were
extremely disappointed in the way things had turned out, but Edward said that
they’d enjoyed the Volturi’s cowardice almost enough to make up for their
Benjamin and Tia were quick to follow after Amun and Kebi, anxious to let them
know the outcome of the conflict; I was sure we would see them again—Benjamin
and Tia, at least. None of the nomads lingered. Peter and Charlotte had a short
conversation with Jasper, and then they were gone, too.
The reunited Amazons had been anxious to return home as well—they had a
difficult time being away from their beloved rain forest—though they were more
reluctant to leave than some of the others.
“You must bring the child to see me,” Zafrina had insisted. “Promise me, young
Nessie had pressed her hand to my neck, pleading as well.
“Of course, Zafrina,” I’d agreed.
“We shall be great friends, my Nessie,” the wild woman had declared before
leaving with her sisters.
The Irish coven continued the exodus.
“Well done, Siobhan,” Carlisle complimented her as they said goodbye.
“Ah, the power of wishful thinking,” she answered sarcastically, rolling her eyes.
And then she was serious. “Of course, this isn’t over. The Volturi won’t forgive
what happened here.”
Edward was the one to answer that. “They’ve been seriously shaken; their
confidence is shattered. But, yes, I’m sure they’ll recover from the blow someday.
And then . . .” His eyes tightened. “I imagine they’ll try to pick us off separately.”
“Alice will warn us when they intend to strike,” Siobhan said in a sure voice. “And
we’ll gather again. Perhaps the time will come when our world is ready to be free
of the Volturi altogether.”
“That time may come,” Carlisle replied. “If it does, we’ll stand together.”
“Yes, my friend, we will,” Siobhan agreed. “And how can we fail, when I will it
otherwise?” She let out a great peal of laughter.
“Exactly,” Carlisle said. He and Siobhan embraced, and then he shook Liam’s
hand. “Try to find Alistair and tell him what happened. I’d hate to think of him
hiding under a rock for the next decade.”
Siobhan laughed again. Maggie hugged both Nessie and me, and then the Irish
coven was gone.
The Denalis were the last to leave, Garrett with them—as he would be from now
on, I was fairly sure. The atmosphere of celebration was too much for Tanya and
Kate. They needed time to grieve for their lost sister.
Huilen and Nahuel were the ones who stayed, though I had expected those last
two to go back with the Amazons. Carlisle was deep in fascinated conversation
with Huilen; Nahuel sat close beside her, listening while Edward told the rest of
us the story of the conflict as only he knew it.
“Alice gave Aro the excuse he needed to get out of the fight. If he hadn’t been so
terrified of Bella, he probably would have gone ahead with their original plan.”
“Terrified?” I said skeptically. “Of me?”
He smiled at me with a look I didn’t entirely recognize—it was tender, but also
awed and even exasperated. “When will you ever see yourself clearly?” he said
softly. Then he spoke louder, to the others as well as to me. “The Volturi haven’t
fought a fair fight in about twenty-five hundred years. And they’ve never, never
fought one where they were at a disadvantage. Especially since they gained Jane
and Alec, they’ve only been involved with unopposed slaughterings.
“You should have seen how we looked to them! Usually, Alec cuts off all sense
and feeling from their victims while they go through the charade of a counsel.
That way, no one can run when the verdict is given. But there we stood, ready,
waiting, outnumbering them, with gifts of our own while their gifts were rendered
useless by Bella. Aro knew that with Zafrina on our side, they would be the blind
ones when the battle commenced. I’m sure our numbers would have been pretty
severely decimated, but they were sure that theirs would be, too. There was even
a good possibility that they would lose. They’ve never dealt with that possibility
before. They didn’t deal with it well today.”
“Hard to feel confident when you’re surrounded by horse-sized wolves,” Emmett
laughed, poking Jacob’s arm.
Jacob flashed a grin at him.
“It was the wolves that stopped them in the first place,” I said.
“Sure was,” Jacob agreed.
“Absolutely,” Edward agreed. “That was another sight they’ve never seen. The
true Children of the Moon rarely move in packs, and they are never much in
control of themselves. Sixteen enormous regimented wolves was a surprise they
weren’t prepared for. Caius is actually terrified of werewolves. He almost lost a
fight with one a few thousand years ago and never got over it.”
“So there are real werewolves?” I asked. “With the full moon and silver bullets
and all that?”
Jacob snorted. “Real. Does that make me imaginary?”
“You know what I mean.”
“Full moon, yes,” Edward said. “Silver bullets, no—that was just another one of
those myths to make humans feel like they had a sporting chance. There aren’t
very many of them left. Caius has had them hunted into near extinction.”
“And you never mentioned this because… ?”
“It never came up.”
I rolled my eyes, and Alice laughed, leaning forward—she was tucked under
Edward’s other arm—to wink at me.
I glared back.
I loved her insanely, of course. But now that I’d had a chance to realize that she
was really home, that her defection was only a ruse because Edward had to
believe that she’d abandoned us, I was beginning to feel pretty irritated with her.
Alice had some explaining to do.
Alice sighed. “Just get it off your chest, Bella.”
“How could you do that to me, Alice?”
“It was necessary.”
“Necessary!” I exploded. “You had me totally convinced that we were all going to
die! I’ve been a wreck for weeks.”
“It might have gone that way,” she said calmly. “In which case you needed to be
prepared to save Nessie.”
Instinctively, I held Nessie—asleep now on my lap—tighter in my arms.
“But you knew there were other ways, too,” I accused. “You knew there was hope.
Did it ever occur to you that you could have told me everything? I know Edward
had to think we were at a dead end for Aro’s sake, but you could have told me.”
She looked at me speculatively for a moment. “I don’t think so,” she said. “You’re
just not that good an actress.”
“This was about my acting skills?”
“Oh, take it down an octave, Bella. Do you have any idea how complicated this
was to set up? I couldn’t even be sure that someone like Nahuel existed—all I
knew was that I would be looking for something I couldn’t see! Try to imagine
searching for a blind spot—not the easiest thing I’ve ever done. Plus we had to
send back the key witnesses, like we weren’t in enough of a hurry. And then
keeping my eyes open all the time in case you decided to throw me any more
instructions. At some point you’re going to have to tell me what exactly is in Rio.
Before any of that, I had to try to see every trick the Volturi might come in with
and give you what few clues I could so you would be ready for their strategy, and I
only had just a few hours to trace out all the possibilities. Most of all, I had to
make sure you’d all believe that I was ditching out on you, because Aro had to be
positive that you had nothing left up your sleeves or he never would have
committed to an out the way he did. And if you think I didn’t feel like a
“Okay, okay!” I interrupted. “Sorry! I know it was rough for you, too. It’s just
that… well, I missed you like crazy, Alice. Don’t do that to me again.”
Alice’s trilling laugh rang through the room, and we all smiled to hear that music
once more. “I missed you, too, Bella. So forgive me, and try to be satisfied with
being the superhero of the day.”
Everyone else laughed now, and I ducked my face into Nessie’s hair,
Edward went back to analyzing every shift of intention and control that had
happened in the meadow today, declaring that it was my shield that had made the
Volturi run away with their tails between their legs. The way everyone looked at
me made me uncomfortable. Even Edward. It was like I had grown a hundred
feet during the course of the morning. I tried to ignore the impressed looks,
mostly keeping my eyes on Nessie’s sleeping face and Jacob’s unchanged
expression. I would always be just Bella to him, and that was a relief.
The hardest stare to ignore was also the most confusing one.
It wasn’t like this half-human, half-vampire Nahuel was used to thinking of me in
a certain way. For all he knew, I went around routing attacking vampires every
day and the scene in the meadow had been nothing unusual at all. But the boy
never took his eyes off me. Or maybe he was looking at Nessie. That made me
uncomfortable, too.
He couldn’t be oblivious to the fact that Nessie was the only female of his kind
that wasn’t his half-sister.
I didn’t think this idea had occurred to Jacob yet. I kind of hoped it wouldn’t
soon. I’d had enough fighting to last me for a while.
Eventually, the others ran out of questions for Edward, and the discussion
dissolved into a bunch of smaller conversations.
I felt oddly tired. Not sleepy, of course, but just like the day had been long
enough. I wanted some peace, some normality. I wanted Nessie in her own bed; I
wanted the walls of my own little home around me.
I looked at Edward and felt for a moment like I could read his mind. I could see
he felt exactly the same way. Ready for some peace.
“Should we take Nessie . . .”
“That’s probably a good idea,” he agreed quickly. “I’m sure she didn’t sleep
soundly last night, what with all the snoring.”
He grinned at Jacob.
Jacob rolled his eyes and then yawned. “It’s been a while since I slept in a bed. I
bet my dad would get a kick out of having me under his roof again.”
I touched his cheek. “Thank you, Jacob.”
“Anytime, Bella. But you already know that.”
He got up, stretched, kissed the top of Nessie’s head, and then the top of mine.
Finally, he punched Edward’s shoulder. “See you guys tomorrow. I guess things
are going to be kind of boring now, aren’t they?”
“I fervently hope so,” Edward said.
We got up when he was gone; I shifted my weight carefully so that Nessie was
never jostled. I was deeply grateful to see her getting a sound sleep. So much
weight had been on her tiny shoulders. It was time she got to be a child again—
protected and secure. A few more years of childhood.
The idea of peace and security reminded me of someone who didn’t have those
feelings all the time.
“Oh, Jasper?” I asked as we turned for the door.
Jasper was sandwiched tight in between Alice and Esme, somehow seeming more
central to the family picture than usual. “Yes, Bella?”
“I’m curious—why is J. Jenks scared stiff by just the sound of your name?”
Jasper chuckled. “It’s just been my experience that some kinds of working
relationships are better motivated by fear than by monetary gain.”
I frowned, promising myself that I would take over that working relationship
from now on and spare J the heart attack that was surely on the way.
We were kissed and hugged and wished a good night to our family. The only off
note was Nahuel again, who looked intently after us, as if he wished he could
Once we were across the river, we walked barely faster than human speed, in no
hurry, holding hands. I was sick of being under a deadline, and I just wanted to
take my time. Edward must have felt the same.
“I have to say, I’m thoroughly impressed with Jacob right now,” Edward told me.
“The wolves make quite an impact, don’t they?”
“That’s not what I mean. Not once today did he think about the fact that,
according to Nahuel, Nessie will be fully matured in just six and a half years.”
I considered that for a minute. “He doesn’t see her that way. He’s not in a hurry
for her to grow up. He just wants her to be happy.”
“I know. Like I said, impressive. It goes against the grain to say so, but she could
do worse.”
I frowned. “I’m not going to think about that for approximately six and a half
more years.”
Edward laughed and then sighed. “Of course, it looks like he’ll have some
competition to worry about when the time comes.”
My frown deepened. “I noticed. I’m grateful to Nahuel for today, but all the
staring was a little weird. I don’t care if she is the only half-vampire he’s not
related to.”
“Oh, he wasn’t staring at her—he was staring at you.”
That’s what it had seemed like… but that didn’t make any sense. “Why would he
do that?”
“Because you’re alive,” he said quietly.
“You lost me.”
“All his life,” he explained, “—and he’s fifty years older than I am—”
“Decrepit,” I interjected.
He ignored me. “He’s always thought of himself as an evil creation, a murderer by
nature. His sisters all killed their mothers as well, but they thought nothing of it.
Joham raised them to think of the humans as animals, while they were gods. But
Nahuel was taught by Huilen, and Huilen loved her sister more than anyone else.
It shaped his whole perspective. And, in some ways, he truly hated himself.”
“That’s so sad,” I murmured.
“And then he saw the three of us—and realized for the first time that just because
he is half immortal, it doesn’t mean he is inherently evil. He looks at me and
sees… what his father should have been.”
“You are fairly ideal in every way,” I agreed.
He snorted and then was serious again. “He looks at you and sees the life his
mother should have had.”
“Poor Nahuel,” I murmured, and then sighed because I knew I would never be
able to think badly of him after this, no matter how uncomfortable his stare made
“Don’t be sad for him. He’s happy now. Today, he’s finally begun to forgive
I smiled for Nahuel’s happiness and then thought that today belonged to
happiness. Though Irina’s sacrifice was a dark shadow against the white light,
keeping the moment from perfection, the joy was impossible to deny. The life I’d
fought for was safe again. My family was reunited. My daughter had a beautiful
future stretching out endlessly in front of her. Tomorrow I would go see my
father; he would see that the fear in my eyes had been replaced with joy, and he
would be happy, too. Suddenly, I was sure that I wouldn’t find him there alone. I
hadn’t been as observant as I might have been in the last few weeks, but in this
moment it was like I’d known all along. Sue would be with Charlie—the
werewolves’ mom with the vampire’s dad—and he wouldn’t be alone anymore. I
smiled widely at this new insight.
But most significant in this tidal wave of happiness was the surest fact of all: I
was with Edward. Forever.
Not that I’d want to repeat the last several weeks, but I had to admit they’d made
me appreciate what I had more than ever.
The cottage was a place of perfect peace in the silver-blue night. We carried
Nessie to her bed and gently tucked her in. She smiled as she slept.
I took Aro’s gift from around my neck and tossed it lightly into the corner of her
room. She could play with it if she wished; she liked sparkly things.
Edward and I walked slowly to our room, swinging our arms between us.
“A night for celebrations,” he murmured, and he put his hand under my chin to
lift my lips to his.
“Wait,” I hesitated, pulling away.
He looked at me in confusion. As a general rule, I didn’t pull away. Okay, it was
more than a general rule. This was a first.
“I want to try something,” I informed him, smiling slightly at his bewildered
I put my hands on both sides of his face and closed my eyes in concentration.
I hadn’t done very well with this when Zafrina had tried to teach me before, but I
knew my shield better now. I understood the part that fought against separation
from me, the automatic instinct to preserve self above all else.
It still wasn’t anywhere near as easy as shielding other people along with myself. I
felt the elastic recoil again as my shield fought to protect me. I had to strain to
push it entirely away from me; it took all of my focus.
“Bella!” Edward whispered in shock.
I knew it was working then, so I concentrated even harder, dredging up the
specific memories I’d saved for this moment, letting them flood my mind, and
hopefully his as well.
Some of the memories were not clear—dim human memories, seen through weak
eyes and heard through weak ears: the first time I’d seen his face… the way it felt
when he’d held me in the meadow… the sound of his voice through the darkness
of my faltering consciousness when he’d saved me from James… his face as he
waited under a canopy of flowers to marry me… every precious moment from the
island… his cold hands touching our baby through my skin…
And the sharp memories, perfectly recalled: his face when I’d opened my eyes to
my new life, to the endless dawn of immortality… that first kiss… that first night…
His lips, suddenly fierce against mine, broke my concentration.
With a gasp, I lost my grip on the struggling weight I was holding away from
myself. It snapped back like stressed elastic, protecting my thoughts once again.
“Oops, lost it!” I sighed.
“I heard you,” he breathed. “How? How did you do that?”
“Zafrina’s idea. We practiced with it a few times.”
He was dazed. He blinked twice and shook his head.
“Now you know,” I said lightly, and shrugged. “No one’s ever loved anyone as
much as I love you.”
“You’re almost right.” He smiled, his eyes still a little wider than usual. “I know of
just one exception.”
He started to kiss me again, but then stopped abruptly.
“Can you do it again?” he wondered.
I grimaced. “It’s very difficult.”
He waited, his expression eager.
“I can’t keep it up if I’m even the slightest bit distracted,” I warned him.
“I’ll be good,” he promised.
I pursed my lips, my eyes narrowing. Then I smiled.
I pressed my hands to his face again, hefted the shield right out of my mind, and
then started in where I’d left off—with the crystal-clear memory of the first night
of my new life… lingering on the details.
I laughed breathlessly when his urgent kiss interrupted my efforts again.

Breaking Dawn - Chapter 37


Aro did not rejoin his anxious guard waiting on the north side of the clearing;
instead, he waved them forward.
Edward started backing up immediately, pulling my arm and Emmett’s. We
hurried backward, keeping our eyes on the advancing threat. Jacob retreated
slowest, the fur on his shoulders standing straight up as he bared his fangs at Aro.
Renesmee grabbed the end of his tail as we retreated; she held it like a leash,
forcing him to stay with us. We reached our family at the same time that the dark
cloaks surrounded Aro again.
Now there were only fifty yards between them and us—a distance any of us could
leap in just a fraction of a second.
Caius began arguing with Aro at once.
“How can you abide this infamy? Why do we stand here impotently in the face of
such an outrageous crime, covered by such a ridiculous deception?” He held his
arms rigidly at his sides, his hands curled into claws. I wondered why he did not
just touch Aro to share his opinion. Were we seeing a division in their ranks
already? Could we be that lucky?
“Because it’s all true,” Aro told him calmly. “Every word of it. See how many
witnesses stand ready to give evidence that they have seen this miraculous child
grow and mature in just the short time they’ve known her. That they have felt the
warmth of the blood that pulses in her veins.” Aro’s gesture swept from Amun on
one side across to Siobhan on the other.
Caius reacted oddly to Aro’s soothing words, starting ever so slightly at the
mention of witnesses. The anger drained from his features, replaced by a cold
calculation. He glanced at the Volturi witnesses with an expression that looked
vaguely… nervous.
I glanced at the angry mob, too, and saw immediately that the description no
longer applied. The frenzy for action had turned to confusion. Whispered
conversations seethed through the crowd as they tried to make sense of what had
Caius was frowning, deep in thought. His speculative expression stoked the
flames of my smoldering anger at the same time that it worried me. What if the
guard acted again on some invisible signal, as they had in their march?
Anxiously, I inspected my shield; it felt just as impenetrable as before. I flexed it
now into a low, wide dome that arced over our company.
I could feel the sharp plumes of light where my family and friends stood—each
one an individual flavor that I thought I would be able to recognize with practice.
I already knew Edward’s—his was the very brightest of them all. The extra empty
space around the shining spots bothered me; there was no physical barrier to the
shield, and if any of the talented Volturi got under it, it would protect no one but
me. I felt my forehead crease as I pulled the elastic armor very carefully closer.
Carlisle was the farthest forward; I sucked the shield back inch by inch, trying to
wrap it as exactly to his body as I could.
My shield seemed to want to cooperate. It hugged his shape; when Carlisle
shifted to the side to stand nearer to Tanya, the elastic stretched with him, drawn
to his spark.
Fascinated, I tugged in more threads of the fabric, pulling it around each
glimmering shape that was a friend or ally. The shield clung to them willingly,
moving as they moved.
Only a second had passed; Caius was still deliberating.
“The werewolves,” he murmured at last.
With sudden panic, I realized that most of the werewolves were unprotected. I
was about to reach out to them when I realize that, strangely, I could still feel
their sparks. Curious, I drew the shield tighter in, until Amun and Kebi—the
farthest edge of our group—were outside with the wolves. Once they were on the
other side, their lights vanished. They no longer existed to that new sense. But the
wolves were still bright flames—or rather, half of them were. Hmm… I edged
outward again, and as soon as Sam was under cover, all the wolves were brilliant
sparks again.
Their minds must have been more interconnected than I’d imagined. If the Alpha
was inside my shield, the rest of their minds were every bit as protected as his.
“Ah, brother…,” Aro answered Caius’s statement with a pained look.
“Will you defend that alliance, too, Aro?” Caius demanded. “The Children of the
Moon have been our bitter enemies from the dawn of time. We have hunted them
to near extinction in Europe and Asia. Yet Carlisle encourages a familiar
relationship with this enormous infestation—no doubt in an attempt to
overthrow us. The better to protect his warped lifestyle.”
Edward cleared his throat loudly and Caius glared at him. Aro placed one thin,
delicate hand over his own face as if he was embarrassed for the other ancient.
“Caius, it’s the middle of the day,” Edward pointed out. He gestured to Jacob.
“These are not Children of the Moon, clearly. They bear no relation to your
enemies on the other side of the world.”
“You breed mutants here,” Caius spit back at him.
Edward’s jaw clenched and unclenched, then he answered evenly, “They aren’t
even werewolves. Aro can tell you all about it if you don’t believe me.”
Not werewolves? I shot a mystified look at Jacob. He lifted his huge shoulders
and let them drop—a shrug. He didn’t know what Edward was talking about,
“Dear Caius, I would have warned you not to press this point if you had told me
your thoughts,” Aro murmured. “Though the creatures think of themselves as
werewolves, they are not. The more accurate name for them would be shapeshifters.
The choice of a wolf form was purely chance. It could have been a bear or
a hawk or a panther when the first change was made. These creatures truly have
nothing to do with the Children of the Moon. They have merely inherited this
skill from their fathers. It’s genetic—they do not continue their species by
infecting others the way true werewolves do.”
Caius glared at Aro with irritation and something more—an accusation of
betrayal, maybe.
“They know our secret,” he said flatly.
Edward looked about to answer this accusation, but Aro spoke faster. “They are
creatures of our supernatural world, brother. Perhaps even more dependent upon
secrecy than we are; they can hardly expose us. Carefully, Caius. Specious
allegations get us nowhere.”
Caius took a deep breath and nodded. They exchanged a long, significant glance.
I thought I understood the instruction behind Aro’s careful wording. False
charges weren’t helping convince the watching witnesses on either side; Aro was
cautioning Caius to move on to the next strategy. I wondered if the reason behind
the apparent strain between the two ancients—Caius’s unwillingness to share his
thoughts with a touch—was that Caius didn’t care about the show as much as Aro
did. If the coming slaughter was so much more essential to Caius than an
untarnished reputation.
“I want to talk to the informant,” Caius announced abruptly, and turned his glare
on Irina.
Irina wasn’t paying attention to Caius and Aro’s conversation; her face was
twisted in agony, her eyes locked on her sisters, lined up to die. It was clear on
her face that she knew now her accusation had been totally false.
“Irina,” Caius barked, unhappy to have to address her.
She looked up, startled and instantly afraid.
Caius snapped his fingers.
Hesitantly, she moved from the fringes of the Volturi formation to stand in front
of Caius again.
“So you appear to have been quite mistaken in your allegations,” Caius began.
Tanya and Kate leaned forward anxiously.
“I’m sorry,” Irina whispered. “I should have made sure of what I was seeing. But I
had no idea. . . .” She gestured helplessly in our direction.
“Dear Caius, could you expect her to have guessed in an instant something so
strange and impossible?” Aro asked. “Any of us would have made the same
Caius flicked his fingers at Aro to silence him.
“We all know you made a mistake,” he said brusquely. “I meant to speak of your
Irina waited nervously for him to continue, and then repeated, “My motivations?”
“Yes, for coming to spy on them in the first place.”
Irina flinched at the word spy.
“You were unhappy with the Cullens, were you not?”
She turned her miserable eyes to Carlisle’s face. “I was,” she admitted.
“Because… ?” Caius prompted.
“Because the werewolves killed my friend,” she whispered. “And the Cullens
wouldn’t stand aside to let me avenge him.”
“The shape-shifters,” Aro corrected quietly.
“So the Cullens sided with the shape-shifters against our own kind—against the
friend of a friend, even,” Caius summarized.
I heard Edward make a disgusted sound under his breath. Caius was ticking
down his list, looking for an accusation that would stick.
Irina’s shoulders stiffened. “That’s how I saw it.”
Caius waited again and then prompted, “If you’d like to make a formal complaint
against the shape-shifters—and the Cullens for supporting their actions—now
would be the time.” He smiled a tiny cruel smile, waiting for Irina to give him his
next excuse.
Maybe Caius didn’t understand real families—relationships based on love rather
than just the love of power. Maybe he overestimated the potency of vengeance.
Irina’s jaw jerked up, her shoulders squared.
“No, I have no complaint against the wolves, or the Cullens. You came here today
to destroy an immortal child. No immortal child exists. This was my mistake, and
I take full responsibility for it. But the Cullens are innocent, and you have no
reason to still be here. I’m so sorry,” she said to us, and then she turned her face
toward the Volturi witnesses. “There was no crime. There’s no valid reason for
you to continue here.”
Caius raised his hand as she spoke, and in it was a strange metal object, carved
and ornate.
This was a signal. The response was so fast that we all stared in stunned disbelief
while it happened. Before there was time to react, it was over.
Three of the Volturi soldiers leaped forward, and Irina was completely obscured
by their gray cloaks. In the same instant, a horrible metallic screeching ripped
through the clearing. Caius slithered into the center of the gray melee, and the
shocking squealing sound exploded into a startling upward shower of sparks and
tongues of flame. The soldiers leaped back from the sudden inferno, immediately
retaking their places in the guard’s perfectly straight line.
Caius stood alone beside the blazing remains of Irina, the metal object in his
hand still throwing a thick jet of flame into the pyre.
With a small clicking sound, the fire shooting from Caius’s hand disappeared. A
gasp rippled through the mass of witnesses behind the Volturi.
We were too aghast to make any noise at all. It was one thing to know that death
was coming with fierce, unstoppable speed; it was another thing to watch it
Caius smiled coldly. “Now she has taken full responsibility for her actions.”
His eyes flashed to our front line, touching swiftly on Tanya’s and Kate’s frozen
In that second I understood that Caius had never underestimated the ties of a
true family. This was the ploy. He had not wanted Irina’s complaint; he had
wanted her defiance. His excuse to destroy her, to ignite the violence that filled
the air like a thick, combustible mist. He had thrown a match.
The strained peace of this summit already teetered more precariously than an
elephant on a tightrope. Once the fight began, there would be no way to stop it. It
would only escalate until one side was entirely extinct. Our side. Caius knew this.
So did Edward.
“Stop them!” Edward cried out, jumping to grab Tanya’s arm as she lurched
forward toward the smiling Caius with a maddened cry of pure rage. She couldn’t
shake Edward off before Carlisle had his arms locked around her waist.
“It’s too late to help her,” he reasoned urgently as she struggled. “Don’t give him
what he wants!”
Kate was harder to contain. Shrieking wordlessly like Tanya, she broke into the
first stride of the attack that would end with everyone’s death. Rosalie was closest
to her, but before Rose could clinch her in a headlock, Kate shocked her so
violently that Rose crumpled to the ground. Emmett caught Kate’s arm and threw
her down, then staggered back, his knees giving out. Kate rolled to her feet, and it
looked like no one could stop her.
Garrett flung himself at her, knocking her to the ground again. He bound his
arms around hers, locking his hands around his own wrists. I saw his body spasm
as she shocked him. His eyes rolled back in his head, but his hold did not break.
“Zafrina,” Edward shouted.
Kate’s eyes went blank and her screams turned to moans. Tanya stopped
“Give me my sight back,” Tanya hissed.
Desperately, but with all the delicacy I could manage, I pulled my shield even
tighter against the sparks of my friends, peeling it back carefully from Kate while
trying to keep it around Garrett, making it a thin skin between them.
And then Garrett was in command of himself again, holding Kate to the snow.
“If I let you up, will you knock me down again, Katie?” he whispered.
She snarled in response, still thrashing blindly.
“Listen to me, Tanya, Kate,” Carlisle said in a low but intense whisper.
“Vengeance doesn’t help her now. Irina wouldn’t want you to waste your lives this
way. Think about what you’re doing. If you attack them, we all die.”
Tanya’s shoulders hunched with grief, and she leaned into Carlisle for support.
Kate was finally still. Carlisle and Garrett continued to console the sisters with
words too urgent to sound like comfort.
And my attention returned to the weight of the stares that pressed down on our
moment of chaos. From the corners of my eyes, I could see that Edward and
everyone else besides Carlisle and Garrett were on their guard again as well.
The heaviest glare came from Caius, staring with enraged disbelief at Kate and
Garrett in the snow. Aro was watching the same two, incredulity the strongest
emotion on his face. He knew what Kate could do. He had felt her potency
through Edward’s memories.
Did he understand what was happening now—did he see that my shield had
grown in strength and subtlety far beyond what Edward knew me to be capable
of? Or did he think Garrett had learned his own form of immunity?
The Volturi guard no longer stood at disciplined attention—they were crouched
forward, waiting to spring the counterstrike the moment we attacked.
Behind them, forty-three witnesses watched with very different expressions than
the ones they’d worn entering the clearing. Confusion had turned to suspicion.
The lightning-fast destruction of Irina had shaken them all. What had been her
Without the immediate attack that Caius had counted on to distract from his rash
act, the Volturi witnesses were left questioning exactly what was going on here.
Aro glanced back swiftly while I watched, his face betraying him with one flash of
vexation. His need for an audience had backfired badly.
I heard Stefan and Vladimir murmur to each other in quiet glee at Aro’s
Aro was obviously concerned with keeping his white hat, as the Romanians had
put it. But I didn’t believe that the Volturi would leave us in peace just to save
their reputation. After they finished with us, surely they would slaughter their
witnesses for that purpose. I felt a strange, sudden pity for the mass of the
strangers the Volturi had brought to watch us die. Demetri would hunt them until
they were extinct, too.
For Jacob and Renesmee, for Alice and Jasper, for Alistair, and for these
strangers who had not known what today would cost them, Demetri had to die.
Aro touched Caius’s shoulder lightly. “Irina has been punished for bearing false
witness against this child.” So that was to be their excuse. He went on. “Perhaps
we should return to the matter at hand?”
Caius straightened, and his expression hardened into unreadability. He stared
forward, seeing nothing. His face reminded me, oddly, of a person who’d just
learned he’d been demoted.
Aro drifted forward, Renata, Felix, and Demetri automatically moving with him.
“Just to be thorough,” he said, “I’d like to speak with a few of your witnesses.
Procedure, you know.” He waved a hand dismissively.
Two things happened at once. Caius’s eyes focused on Aro, and the tiny cruel
smile came back. And Edward hissed, his hands balling up in fists so tight it
looked like the bones in his knuckles would split through his diamond-hard skin.
I was desperate to ask him what was going on, but Aro was close enough to hear
even the quietest breath. I saw Carlisle glance anxiously at Edward’s face, and
then his own face hardened.
While Caius had blundered through useless accusations and injudicious attempts
to trigger the fight, Aro must have been coming up with a more effective strategy.
Aro ghosted across the snow to the far western end of our line, stopping about ten
yards from Amun and Kebi. The nearby wolves bristled angrily but held their
“Ah, Amun, my southern neighbor!” Aro said warmly. “It has been so long since
you’ve visited me.”
Amun was motionless with anxiety, Kebi a statue at his side. “Time means little; I
never notice its passing,” Amun said through unmoving lips.
“So true,” Aro agreed. “But maybe you had another reason to stay away?”
Amun said nothing.
“It can be terribly time-consuming to organize newcomers into a coven. I know
that well! I’m grateful I have others to deal with the tedium. I’m glad your new
additions have fit in so well. I would have loved to have been introduced. I’m sure
you were meaning to come to see me soon.”
“Of course,” Amun said, his tone so emotionless that it was impossible to tell if
there was any fear or sarcasm in his assent.
“Oh well, we’re all together now! Isn’t it lovely?”
Amun nodded, his face blank.
“But the reason for your presence here is not as pleasant, unfortunately. Carlisle
called on you to witness?”
“And what did you witness for him?”
Amun spoke with the same cold lack of emotion. “I’ve observed the child in
question. It was evident almost immediately that she was not an immortal child—

“Perhaps we should define our terminology,” Aro interrupted, “now that there
seem to be new classifications. By immortal child, you mean of course a human
child who had been bitten and thus transformed into a vampire.”
“Yes, that’s what I meant.”
“What else did you observe about the child?”
“The same things that you surely saw in Edward’s mind. That the child is his
biologically. That she grows. That she learns.”
“Yes, yes,” Aro said, a hint of impatience in his otherwise amiable tone. “But
specifically in your few weeks here, what did you see?”
Amun’s brow furrowed. “That she grows… quickly.”
Aro smiled. “And do you believe that she should be allowed to live?”
A hiss escaped my lips, and I was not alone. Half the vampires in our line echoed
my protest. The sound was a low sizzle of fury hanging in the air. Across the
meadow, a few of the Volturi witnesses made the same noise. Edward stepped
back and wrapped a restraining hand around my wrist.
Aro did not turn to the noise, but Amun glanced around uneasily.
“I did not come to make judgments,” he equivocated.
Aro laughed lightly. “Just your opinion.”
Amun’s chin lifted. “I see no danger in the child. She learns even more swiftly
than she grows.”
Aro nodded, considering. After a moment, he turned away.
“Aro?” Amun called.
Aro whirled back. “Yes, friend?”
“I gave my witness. I have no more business here. My mate and I would like to
take our leave now.”
Aro smiled warmly. “Of course. I’m so glad we were able to chat for a bit. And I’m
sure we’ll see each other again soon.”
Amun’s lips were a tight line as he inclined his head once, acknowledging the
barely concealed threat. He touched Kebi’s arm, and then the two of them ran
quickly to the southern edge of the meadow and disappeared into the trees. I
knew they wouldn’t stop running for a very long time.
Aro was gliding back along the length of our line to the east, his guards hovering
tensely. He stopped when he was in front of Siobhan’s massive form.
“Hello, dear Siobhan. You are as lovely as ever.”
Siobhan inclined her head, waiting.
“And you?” he asked. “Would you answer my questions the same way Amun
“I would,” Siobhan said. “But I would perhaps add a little more. Renesmee
understands the limitations. She’s no danger to humans—she blends in better
than we do. She poses no threat of exposure.”
“Can you think of none?” Aro asked soberly.
Edward growled, a low ripping sound deep in his throat.
Caius’s cloudy crimson eyes brightened.
Renata reached out protectively toward her master.
And Garrett freed Kate to take a step forward, ignoring Kate’s hand as she tried to
caution him this time.
Siobhan answered slowly, “I don’t think I follow you.”
Aro drifted lightly back, casually, but toward the rest of his guard. Renata, Felix,
and Demetri were closer than his shadow.
“There is no broken law,” Aro said in a placating voice, but every one of us could
hear that a qualification was coming. I fought back the rage that tried to claw its
way up my throat and snarl out my defiance. I hurled the fury into my shield,
thickening it, making sure everyone was protected.
“No broken law,” Aro repeated. “However, does it follow then that there is no
danger? No.” He shook his head gently. “That is a separate issue.”
The only response was the tightening of already stretched nerves, and Maggie, at
the fringes of our band of fighters, shaking her head with slow anger.
Aro paced thoughtfully, looking as if he floated rather than touched the ground
with his feet. I noticed every pass took him closer to the protection of his guard.
“She is unique… utterly, impossibly unique. Such a waste it would be, to destroy
something so lovely. Especially when we could learn so much . . .” He sighed, as if
unwilling to go on. “But there is danger, danger that cannot simply be ignored.”
No one answered his assertion. It was dead silent as he continued in a monologue
that sounded as if he spoke it for himself only.
“How ironic it is that as the humans advance, as their faith in science grows and
controls their world, the more free we are from discovery. Yet, as we become ever
more uninhibited by their disbelief in the supernatural, they become strong
enough in their technologies that, if they wished, they could actually pose a threat
to us, even destroy some of us.
“For thousands and thousands of years, our secrecy has been more a matter of
convenience, of ease, than of actual safety. This last raw, angry century has given
birth to weapons of such power that they endanger even immortals. Now our
status as mere myth in truth protects us from these weak creatures we hunt.
“This amazing child”—he lifted his hand palm down as if to rest it on Renesmee,
though he was forty yards from her now, almost within the Volturi formation
again—“if we could but know her potential—know with absolute certainty that
she could always remain shrouded within the obscurity that protects us. But we
know nothing of what she will become! Her own parents are plagued by fears of
her future. We cannot know what she will grow to be.” He paused, looking first at
our witnesses, and then, meaningfully, at his own. His voice gave a good
imitation of sounding torn by his words.
Still looking at his own witnesses, he spoke again. “Only the known is safe. Only
the known is tolerable. The unknown is… a vulnerability.”
Caius’s smile widened viciously.
“You’re reaching, Aro,” Carlisle said in a bleak voice.
“Peace, friend.” Aro smiled, his face as kind, his voice as gentle, as ever. “Let us
not be hasty. Let us look at this from every side.”
“May I offer a side to be considered?” Garrett petitioned in a level tone, taking
another step forward.
“Nomad,” Aro said, nodding in permission.
Garrett’s chin lifted. His eyes focused on the huddled mass at the end of the
meadow, and he spoke directly to the Volturi witnesses.
“I came here at Carlisle’s request, as the others, to witness,” he said. “That is
certainly no longer necessary, with regard to the child. We all see what she is.
“I stayed to witness something else. You.” He jabbed his finger toward the wary
vampires. “Two of you I know—Makenna, Charles—and I can see that many of
you others are also wanderers, roamers like myself. Answering to none. Think
carefully on what I tell you now.
“These ancient ones did not come here for justice as they told you. We suspected
as much, and now it has been proved. They came, misled, but with a valid excuse
for their action. Witness now as they seek flimsy excuses to continue their true
mission. Witness them struggle to find a justification for their true purpose—to
destroy this family here.” He gestured toward Carlisle and Tanya.
“The Volturi come to erase what they perceive as the competition. Perhaps, like
me, you look at this clan’s golden eyes and marvel. They are difficult to
understand, it’s true. But the ancient ones look and see something besides their
strange choice. They see power.
“I have witnessed the bonds within this family—I say family and not coven. These
strange golden-eyed ones deny their very natures. But in return have they found
something worth even more, perhaps, than mere gratification of desire? I’ve
made a little study of them in my time here, and it seems to me that intrinsic to
this intense family binding—that which makes them possible at all—is the
peaceful character of this life of sacrifice. There is no aggression here like we all
saw in the large southern clans that grew and diminished so quickly in their wild
feuds. There is no thought for domination. And Aro knows this better than I do.”
I watched Aro’s face as Garrett’s words condemned him, waiting tensely for some
response. But Aro’s face was only politely amused, as if waiting for a tantrumthrowing
child to realize that no one was paying attention to his histrionics.
“Carlisle assured us all, when he told us what was coming, that he did not call us
here to fight. These witnesses”—Garrett pointed to Siobhan and Liam—“agreed to
give evidence, to slow the Volturi advance with their presence so that Carlisle
would get the chance to present his case.
“But some of us wondered”—his eyes flashed to Eleazar’s face—“if Carlisle having
truth on his side would be enough to stop the so-called justice. Are the Volturi
here to protect the safety of our secrecy, or to protect their own power? Did they
come to destroy an illegal creation, or a way of life? Could they be satisfied when
the danger turned out to be no more than a misunderstanding? Or would they
push the issue without the excuse of justice?
“We have the answer to all these questions. We heard it in Aro’s lying words—we
have one with a gift of knowing such things for certain—and we see it now in
Caius’s eager smile. Their guard is just a mindless weapon, a tool in their masters’
quest for domination.
“So now there are more questions, questions that you must answer. Who rules
you, nomads? Do you answer to someone’s will besides your own? Are you free to
choose your path, or will the Volturi decide how you will live?
“I came to witness. I stay to fight. The Volturi care nothing for the death of the
child. They seek the death of our free will.”
He turned, then, to face the ancients. “So come, I say! Let’s hear no more lying
rationalizations. Be honest in your intents as we will be honest in ours. We will
defend our freedom. You will or will not attack it. Choose now, and let these
witnesses see the true issue debated here.”
Once more he looked to the Volturi witnesses, his eyes probing each face. The
power of his words was evident in their expressions. “You might consider joining
us. If you think the Volturi will let you live to tell this tale, you are mistaken. We
may all be destroyed”—he shrugged—“but then again, maybe not. Perhaps we are
on more equal footing than they know. Perhaps the Volturi have finally met their
match. I promise you this, though—if we fall, so do you.”
He ended his heated speech by stepping back to Kate’s side and then sliding
forward in a half-crouch, prepared for the onslaught.
Aro smiled. “A very pretty speech, my revolutionary friend.”
Garrett remained poised for attack. “Revolutionary?” he growled. “Who am I
revolting against, might I ask? Are you my king? Do you wish me to call you
master, too, like your sycophantic guard?”
“Peace, Garrett,” Aro said tolerantly. “I meant only to refer to your time of birth.
Still a patriot, I see.”
Garrett glared back furiously.
“Let us ask our witnesses,” Aro suggested. “Let us hear their thoughts before we
make our decision. Tell us, friends”—and he turned his back casually on us,
moving a few yards toward his mass of nervous observers hovering even closer
now to the edge of the forest—“what do you think of all this? I can assure you the
child is not what we feared. Do we take the risk and let the child live? Do we put
our world in jeopardy to preserve their family intact? Or does earnest Garrett
have the right of it? Will you join them in a fight against our sudden quest for
The witnesses met his gaze with careful faces. One, a small black-haired woman,
looked briefly at the dark blond male at her side.
“Are those our only choices?” she asked suddenly, gaze flashing back to Aro.
“Agree with you, or fight against you?”
“Of course not, most charming Makenna,” Aro said, appearing horrified that
anyone could come to that conclusion. “You may go in peace, of course, as Amun
did, even if you disagree with the council’s decision.”
Makenna looked at her mate’s face again, and he nodded minutely.
“We did not come here for a fight.” She paused, exhaled, then said, “We came
here to witness. And our witness is that this condemned family is innocent.
Everything that Garrett claimed is the truth.”
“Ah,” Aro said sadly. “I’m sorry you see us in that way. But such is the nature of
our work.”
“It is not what I see, but what I feel,” Makenna’s maize-haired mate spoke in a
high, nervous voice. He glanced at Garrett. “Garrett said they have ways of
knowing lies. I, too, know when I am hearing the truth, and when I am not.” With
frightened eyes he moved closer to his mate, waiting for Aro’s reaction.
“Do not fear us, friend Charles. No doubt the patriot truly believes what he says,”
Aro chuckled lightly, and Charles’s eyes narrowed.
“That is our witness,” Makenna said. “We’re leaving now.”
She and Charles backed away slowly, not turning before they were lost from view
in the trees. One other stranger began to retreat the same way, then three more
darted after him.
I evaluated the thirty-seven vampires that stayed. A few of them appeared just
too confused to make the decision. But the majority of them seemed only too
aware of the direction this confrontation had taken. I guessed that they were
giving up a head start in favor of knowing exactly who would be chasing after
I was sure Aro saw the same thing I did. He turned away, walking back to his
guard with a measured pace. He stopped in front of them and addressed them in
a clear voice.
“We are outnumbered, dearest ones,” he said. “We can expect no outside help.
Should we leave this question undecided to save ourselves?”
“No, master,” they whispered in unison.
“Is the protection of our world worth perhaps the loss of some of our number?”
“Yes,” they breathed. “We are not afraid.”
Aro smiled and turned to his black-clad companions.
“Brothers,” Aro said somberly, “there is much to consider here.”
“Let us counsel,” Caius said eagerly.
“Let us counsel,” Marcus repeated in an uninterested tone.
Aro turned his back to us again, facing the other ancients. They joined hands to
form a black-shrouded triangle.
As soon as Aro’s attention was engaged in the silent counsel, two more of their
witnesses disappeared silently into the forest. I hoped, for their sakes, that they
were fast.
This was it. Carefully, I loosened Renesmee’s arms from my neck.
“You remember what I told you?”
Tears welled in her eyes, but she nodded. “I love you,” she whispered.
Edward was watching us now, his topaz eyes wide. Jacob stared at us from the
corner of his big dark eye.
“I love you, too,” I said, and then I touched her locket. “More than my own life.” I
kissed her forehead.
Jacob whined uneasily.
I stretched up on my toes and whispered into his ear. “Wait until they’re totally
distracted, then run with her. Get as far from this place as you possibly can.
When you’ve gone as far as you can on foot, she has what you need to get you in
the air.”
Edward’s and Jacob’s faces were almost identical masks of horror, despite the
fact that one of them was an animal.
Renesmee reached for Edward, and he took her in his arms. They hugged each
other tightly.
“This is what you kept from me?” he whispered over her head.
“From Aro,” I breathed.
I nodded.
His face twisted with understanding and pain. Had that been the expression on
my face when I’d finally put together Alice’s clues?
Jacob was growling quietly, a low rasp that was as even and unbroken as a purr.
His hackles were stiff and his teeth exposed.
Edward kissed Renesmee’s forehead and both her cheeks, then he lifted her to
Jacob’s shoulder. She scrambled agilely onto his back, pulling herself into place
with handfuls of his fur, and fit herself easily into the dip between his massive
shoulder blades.
Jacob turned to me, his expressive eyes full of agony, the rumbling growl still
grating through his chest.
“You’re the only one we could ever trust her with,” I murmured to him. “If you
didn’t love her so much, I could never bear this. I know you can protect her,
He whined again, and dipped his head to butt it against my shoulder.
“I know,” I whispered. “I love you, too, Jake. You’ll always be my best man.”
A tear the size of a baseball rolled into the russet fur beneath his eye.
Edward leaned his head against the same shoulder where he’d placed Renesmee.
“Goodbye, Jacob, my brother… my son.”
The others were not oblivious to the farewell scene. Their eyes were locked on the
silent black triangle, but I could tell they were listening.
“Is there no hope, then?” Carlisle whispered. There was no fear in his voice. Just
determination and acceptance.
“There is absolutely hope,” I murmured back. It could be true, I told myself. “I
only know my own fate.”
Edward took my hand. He knew that he was included. When I said my fate, there
was no question that I meant the two of us. We were just halves of the whole.
Esme’s breath was ragged behind me. She moved past us, touching our faces as
she passed, to stand beside Carlisle and hold his hand.
Suddenly, we were surrounded by murmured goodbyes and I love you’s.
“If we live through this,” Garrett whispered to Kate, “I’ll follow you anywhere,
“Now he tells me,” she muttered.
Rosalie and Emmett kissed quickly but passionately.
Tia caressed Benjamin’s face. He smiled back cheerfully, catching her hand and
holding it against his cheek.
I didn’t see all the expressions of love and pain. I was distracted by a sudden
fluttering pressure against the outside of my shield. I couldn’t tell where it came
from, but it felt like it was directed at the edges of our group, Siobhan and Liam
particularly. The pressure did no damage, and then it was gone.
There was no change in the silent, still forms of the counseling ancients. But
perhaps there was some signal I’d missed.
“Get ready,” I whispered to the others. “It’s starting.”

Breaking Dawn - Chapter 38


“Chelsea is trying to break our bindings,” Edward whispered. “But she can’t find
them. She can’t feel us here. . . .” His eyes cut to me. “Are you doing that?”
I smiled grimly at him. “I am all over this.”
Edward lurched away from me suddenly, his hand reaching out toward Carlisle.
At the same time, I felt a much sharper jab against the shield where it wrapped
protectively around Carlisle’s light. It wasn’t painful, but it wasn’t pleasant,
“Carlisle? Are you all right?” Edward gasped frantically.
“Yes. Why?”
“Jane,” Edward answered.
The moment that he said her name, a dozen pointed attacks hit in a second,
stabbing all over the elastic shield, aimed at twelve different bright spots. I flexed,
making sure the shield was undamaged. It didn’t seem like Jane had been able to
pierce it. I glanced around quickly; everyone was fine.
“Incredible,” Edward said.
“Why aren’t they waiting for the decision?” Tanya hissed.
“Normal procedure,” Edward answered brusquely. “They usually incapacitate
those on trial so they can’t escape.”
I looked across at Jane, who was staring at our group with furious disbelief. I was
pretty sure that, besides me, she’d never seen anyone remain standing through
her fiery assault.
It probably wasn’t very mature. But I figured it would take Aro about half a
second to guess—if he hadn’t already—that my shield was more powerful than
Edward had known; I already had a big target on my forehead and there was
really no point in trying to keep the extent of what I could do a secret. So I
grinned a huge, smug smile right at Jane.
Her eyes narrowed, and I felt another stab of pressure, this time directed at me.
I pulled my lips wider, showing my teeth.
Jane let out a high-pitched scream of a snarl. Everyone jumped, even the
disciplined guard. Everyone but the ancients, who didn’t so much as look up from
their conference. Her twin caught her arm as she crouched to spring.
The Romanians started chuckling with dark anticipation.
“I told you this was our time,” Vladimir said to Stefan.
“Just look at the witch’s face,” Stefan chortled.
Alec patted his sister’s shoulder soothingly, then tucked her under his arm. He
turned his face to us, perfectly smooth, completely angelic.
I waited for some pressure, some sign of his attack, but I felt nothing. He
continued to stare in our direction, his pretty face composed. Was he attacking?
Was he getting through my shield? Was I the only one who could still see him? I
clutched at Edward’s hand.
“Are you okay?” I choked out.
“Yes,” he whispered.
“Is Alec trying?”
Edward nodded. “His gift is slower than Jane’s. It creeps. It will touch us in a few
I saw it then, when I had a clue of what to look for.
A strange clear haze was oozing across the snow, nearly invisible against the
white. It reminded me of a mirage—a slight warping of the view, a hint of a
shimmer. I pushed my shield out from Carlisle and the rest of the front line,
afraid to have the slinking mist too close when it hit. What if it stole right through
my intangible protection? Should we run?
A low rumbling murmured through the ground under our feet, and a gust of wind
blew the snow into sudden flurries between our position and the Volturi’s.
Benjamin had seen the creeping threat, too, and now he tried to blow the mist
away from us. The snow made it easy to see where he threw the wind, but the
mist didn’t react in any way. It was like air blowing harmlessly through a shadow;
the shadow was immune.
The triangular formation of the ancients finally broke apart when, with a racking
groan, a deep, narrow fissure opened in a long zigzag across the middle of the
clearing. The earth rocked under my feet for a moment. The drifts of snow
plummeted into the hole, but the mist skipped right across it, as untouched by
gravity as it had been by wind.
Aro and Caius watched the opening earth with wide eyes. Marcus looked in the
same direction without emotion.
They didn’t speak; they waited, too, as the mist approached us. The wind shrieked
louder but didn’t change the course of the mist. Jane was smiling now.
And then the mist hit a wall.
I could taste it as soon as it touched my shield—it had a dense, sweet, cloying
flavor. It made me remember dimly the numbness of Novocain on my tongue.
The mist curled upward, seeking a breach, a weakness. It found none. The fingers
of searching haze twisted upward and around, trying to find a way in, and in the
process illustrating the astonishing size of the protective screen.
There were gasps on both sides of Benjamin’s gorge.
“Well done, Bella!” Benjamin cheered in a low voice.
My smile returned.
I could see Alec’s narrowed eyes, doubt on his face for the first time as his mist
swirled harmlessly around the edges of my shield.
And then I knew that I could do this. Obviously, I would be the number-one
priority, the first one to die, but as long as I held, we were on more than equal
footing with the Volturi. We still had Benjamin and Zafrina; they had no
supernatural help at all. As long as I held.
“I’m going to have to concentrate,” I whispered to Edward. “When it comes to
hand to hand, it’s going to be harder to keep the shield around the right people.”
“I’ll keep them off you.”
“No. You have to get to Demetri. Zafrina will keep them away from me.”
Zafrina nodded solemnly. “No one will touch this young one,” she promised
“I’d go after Jane and Alec myself, but I can do more good here.”
“Jane’s mine,” Kate hissed. “She needs a taste of her own medicine.”
“And Alec owes me many lives, but I will settle for his,” Vladimir growled from
the other side. “He’s mine.”
“I just want Caius,” Tanya said evenly.
The others started divvying up opponents, too, but they were quickly interrupted.
Aro, staring calmly at Alec’s ineffective mist, finally spoke.
“Before we vote,” he began.
I shook my head angrily. I was tired of this charade. The bloodlust was igniting in
me again, and I was sorry that I would help the others more by standing still. I
wanted to fight.
“Let me remind you,” Aro continued, “whatever the council’s decision, there need
be no violence here.”
Edward snarled out a dark laugh.
Aro stared at him sadly. “It will be a regrettable waste to our kind to lose any of
you. But you especially, young Edward, and your newborn mate. The Volturi
would be glad to welcome many of you into our ranks. Bella, Benjamin, Zafrina,
Kate. There are many choices before you. Consider them.”
Chelsea’s attempt to sway us fluttered impotently against my shield. Aro’s gaze
swept across our hard eyes, looking for any indication of hesitation. From his
expression, he found none.
I knew he was desperate to keep Edward and me, to imprison us the way he had
hoped to enslave Alice. But this fight was too big. He would not win if I lived. I
was fiercely glad to be so powerful that I left him no way not to kill me.
“Let us vote, then,” he said with apparent reluctance.
Caius spoke with eager haste. “The child is an unknown quantity. There is no
reason to allow such a risk to exist. It must be destroyed, along with all who
protect it.” He smiled in expectation.
I fought back a shriek of defiance to answer his cruel smirk.
Marcus lifted his uncaring eyes, seeming to look through us as he voted.
“I see no immediate danger. The child is safe enough for now. We can always
reevaluate later. Let us leave in peace.” His voice was even fainter than his
brothers’ feathery sighs.
None of the guard relaxed their ready positions at his disagreeing words. Caius’s
anticipatory grin did not falter. It was as if Marcus hadn’t spoken at all.
“I must make the deciding vote, it seems,” Aro mused.
Suddenly, Edward stiffened at my side. “Yes!” he hissed.
I risked a glance at him. His face glowed with an expression of triumph that I
didn’t understand—it was the expression an angel of destruction might wear
while the world burned. Beautiful and terrifying.
There was a low reaction from the guard, an uneasy murmur.
“Aro?” Edward called, nearly shouted, undisguised victory in his voice.
Aro hesitated for a second, assessing this new mood warily before he answered.
“Yes, Edward? You have something further… ?”
“Perhaps,” Edward said pleasantly, controlling his unexplained excitement.
“First, if I could clarify one point?”
“Certainly,” Aro said, raising his eyebrows, nothing now but polite interest in his
tone. My teeth ground together; Aro was never more dangerous than when he
was gracious.
“The danger you foresee from my daughter—this stems entirely from our inability
to guess how she will develop? That is the crux of the matter?”
“Yes, friend Edward,” Aro agreed. “If we could but be positive… be sure that, as
she grows, she will be able to stay concealed from the human world—not
endanger the safety of our obscurity . . .” He trailed off, shrugging.
“So, if we could only know for sure,” Edward suggested, “exactly what she will
become… then there would be no need for a council at all?”
“If there was some way to be absolutely sure,” Aro agreed, his feathery voice
slightly more shrill. He couldn’t see where Edward was leading him. Neither
could I. “Then, yes, there would be no question to debate.”
“And we would part in peace, good friends once again?” Edward asked with a hint
of irony.
Even more shrill. “Of course, my young friend. Nothing would please me more.”
Edward chuckled exultantly. “Then I do have something more to offer.”
Aro’s eyes narrowed. “She is absolutely unique. Her future can only be guessed
“Not absolutely unique,” Edward disagreed. “Rare, certainly, but not one of a
I fought the shock, the sudden hope springing to life, as it threatened to distract
me. The sickly-looking mist still swirled around the edges of my shield. And, as I
struggled to focus, I felt again the sharp, stabbing pressure against my protective
“Aro, would you ask Jane to stop attacking my wife?” Edward asked courteously.
“We are still discussing evidence.”
Aro raised one hand. “Peace, dear ones. Let us hear him out.”
The pressure disappeared. Jane bared her teeth at me; I couldn’t help grinning
back at her.
“Why don’t you join us, Alice?” Edward called loudly.
“Alice,” Esme whispered in shock.
Alice, Alice, Alice!
“Alice!” “Alice!” other voices murmured around me.
“Alice,” Aro breathed.
Relief and violent joy surged through me. It took all my will to keep the shield
where it was. Alec’s mist still tested, seeking a weakness—Jane would see if I left
any holes.
And then I heard them running through the forest, flying, closing the distance as
quickly as they could with no slowing effort at silence.
Both sides were motionless in expectation. The Volturi witnesses scowled in fresh
Then Alice danced into the clearing from the southwest, and I felt like the bliss of
seeing her face again might knock me off my feet. Jasper was only inches behind
her, his sharp eyes fierce. Close after them ran three strangers; the first was a tall,
muscular female with wild dark hair—obviously Kachiri. She had the same
elongated limbs and features as the other Amazons, even more pronounced in her
The next was a small olive-toned female vampire with a long braid of black hair
bobbing against her back. Her deep burgundy eyes flitted nervously around the
confrontation before her.
And the last was a young man… not quite as fast nor quite as fluid in his run. His
skin was an impossible rich, dark brown. His wary eyes flashed across the
gathering, and they were the color of warm teak. His hair was black and braided,
too, like the woman’s, though not as long. He was beautiful.
As he neared us, a new sound sent shock waves through the watching crowd—the
sound of another heartbeat, accelerated with exertion.
Alice leaped lightly over the edges of the dissipating mist that lapped at my shield
and came to a sinuous stop at Edward’s side. I reached out to touch her arm, and
so did Edward, Esme, Carlisle. There wasn’t time for any other welcome. Jasper
and the others followed her through the shield.
All the guard watched, speculation in their eyes, as the latecomers crossed the
invisible border without difficulty. The brawny ones, Felix and the others like
him, focused their suddenly hopeful eyes on me. They had not been sure of what
my shield repelled, but it was clear now that it would not stop a physical attack.
As soon as Aro gave the order, the blitz would ensue, me the only object. I
wondered how many Zafrina would be able to blind, and how much that would
slow them. Long enough for Kate and Vladimir to take Jane and Alec out of the
equation? That was all I could ask for.
Edward, despite his absorption in the coup he was directing, stiffened furiously in
response to their thoughts. He controlled himself and spoke to Aro again.
“Alice has been searching for her own witnesses these last weeks,” he said to the
ancient. “And she does not come back empty-handed. Alice, why don’t you
introduce the witnesses you’ve brought?”
Caius snarled. “The time for witnesses is past! Cast your vote, Aro!”
Aro raised one finger to silence his brother, his eyes glued to Alice’s face.
Alice stepped forward lightly and introduced the strangers. “This is Huilen and
her nephew, Nahuel.”
Hearing her voice… it was like she’d never left.
Caius’s eyes tightened as Alice named the relationship between the newcomers.
The Volturi witnesses hissed amongst themselves. The vampire world was
changing, and everyone could feel it.
“Speak, Huilen,” Aro commanded. “Give us the witness you were brought to
The slight woman looked to Alice nervously. Alice nodded in encouragement, and
Kachiri put her long hand on the little vampire’s shoulder.
“I am Huilen,” the woman announced in clear but strangely accented English. As
she continued, it was apparent she had prepared herself to tell this story, that she
had practiced. It flowed like a well-known nursery rhyme. “A century and a half
ago, I lived with my people, the Mapuche. My sister was Pire. Our parents named
her after the snow on the mountains because of her fair skin. And she was very
beautiful—too beautiful. She came to me one day in secret and told me of the
angel that found her in the woods, that visited her by night. I warned her.” Huilen
shook her head mournfully. “As if the bruises on her skin were not warning
enough. I knew it was the Libishomen of our legends, but she would not listen.
She was bewitched.
“She told me when she was sure her dark angel’s child was growing inside her. I
didn’t try to discourage her from her plan to run away—I knew even our father
and mother would agree that the child must be destroyed, Pire with it. I went
with her into the deepest parts of the forest. She searched for her demon angel
but found nothing. I cared for her, hunted for her when her strength failed. She
ate the animals raw, drinking their blood. I needed no more confirmation of what
she carried in her womb. I hoped to save her life before I killed the monster.
“But she loved the child inside her. She called him Nahuel, after the jungle cat,
when he grew strong and broke her bones—and loved him still.
“I could not save her. The child ripped his way free of her, and she died quickly,
begging all the while that I would care for her Nahuel. Her dying wish—and I
“He bit me, though, when I tried to lift him from her body. I crawled away into
the jungle to die. I didn’t get far—the pain was too much. But he found me; the
newborn child struggled through the underbrush to my side and waited for me.
When the pain ended, he was curled against my side, sleeping.
“I cared for him until he was able to hunt for himself. We hunted the villages
around our forest, staying to ourselves. We have never come so far from our
home, but Nahuel wished to see the child here.”
Huilen bowed her head when she was finished and moved back so she was
partially hidden behind Kachiri.
Aro’s lips were pursed. He stared at the dark-skinned youth.
“Nahuel, you are one hundred and fifty years old?” he questioned.
“Give or take a decade,” he answered in a clear, beautifully warm voice. His
accent was barely noticeable. “We don’t keep track.”
“And you reached maturity at what age?”
“About seven years after my birth, more or less, I was full grown.”
“You have not changed since then?”
Nahuel shrugged. “Not that I’ve noticed.”
I felt a shudder tremble through Jacob’s body. I didn’t want to think about this
yet. I would wait till the danger was past and I could concentrate.
“And your diet?” Aro pressed, seeming interested in spite of himself.
“Mostly blood, but some human food, too. I can survive on either.”
“You were able to create an immortal?” As Aro gestured to Huilen, his voice was
abruptly intense. I refocused on my shield; perhaps he was seeking a new excuse.
“Yes, but none of the rest can.”
A shocked murmur ran through all three groups.
Aro’s eyebrows shot up. “The rest?”
“My sisters.” Nahuel shrugged again.
Aro stared wildly for a moment before composing his face.
“Perhaps you would tell us the rest of your story, for there seems to be more.”
Nahuel frowned.
“My father came looking for me a few years after my mother’s death.” His
handsome face distorted slightly. “He was pleased to find me.” Nahuel’s tone
suggested the feeling was not mutual. “He had two daughters, but no sons. He
expected me to join him, as my sisters had.
“He was surprised I was not alone. My sisters are not venomous, but whether
that’s due to gender or a random chance… who knows? I already had my family
with Huilen, and I was not interested”—he twisted the word—“in making a
change. I see him from time to time. I have a new sister; she reached maturity
about ten years back.”
“Your father’s name?” Caius asked through gritted teeth.
“Joham,” Nahuel answered. “He considers himself a scientist. He thinks he’s
creating a new super-race.” He made no attempt to disguise the disgust in his
Caius looked at me. “Your daughter, is she venomous?” he demanded harshly.
“No,” I responded. Nahuel’s head snapped up at Aro’s question, and his teak eyes
turned to bore into my face.
Caius looked to Aro for confirmation, but Aro was absorbed in his own thoughts.
He pursed his lips and stared at Carlisle, and then Edward, and at last his eyes
rested on me.
Caius growled. “We take care of the aberration here, and then follow it south,” he
urged Aro.
Aro stared into my eyes for a long, tense moment. I had no idea what he was
searching for, or what he found, but after he had measured me for that moment,
something in his face changed, a faint shift in the set of his mouth and eyes, and I
knew that Aro had made his decision.
“Brother,” he said softly to Caius. “There appears to be no danger. This is an
unusual development, but I see no threat. These half-vampire children are much
like us, it appears.”
“Is that your vote?” Caius demanded.
“It is.”
Caius scowled. “And this Joham? This immortal so fond of experimentation?”
“Perhaps we should speak with him,” Aro agreed.
“Stop Joham if you will,” Nahuel said flatly. “But leave my sisters be. They are
Aro nodded, his expression solemn. And then he turned back to his guard with a
warm smile.
“Dear ones,” he called. “We do not fight today.”
The guard nodded in unison and straightened out of their ready positions. The
mist dissipated swiftly, but I held my shield in place. Maybe this was another
I analyzed their expressions as Aro turned back to us. His face was as benign as
ever, but unlike before, I sensed a strange blankness behind the façade. As if his
scheming was over. Caius was clearly incensed, but his rage was turned inward
now; he was resigned. Marcus looked… bored; there really was no other word for
it. The guard was impassive and disciplined again; there were no individuals
among them, just the whole. They were in formation, ready to depart. The Volturi
witnesses were still wary; one after another, they departed, scattering into the
woods. As their numbers dwindled, the remaining sped up. Soon they were all
Aro held his hands out to us, almost apologetic. Behind him, the larger part of the
guard, along with Caius, Marcus, and the silent, mysterious wives, were already
drifting quickly away, their formation precise once again. Only the three that
seemed to be his personal guardians lingered with him.
“I’m so glad this could be resolved without violence,” he said sweetly. “My friend,
Carlisle—how pleased I am to call you friend again! I hope there are no hard
feelings. I know you understand the strict burden that our duty places on our
“Leave in peace, Aro,” Carlisle said stiffly. “Please remember that we still have
our anonymity to protect here, and keep your guard from hunting in this region.”
“Of course, Carlisle,” Aro assured him. “I am sorry to earn your disapproval, my
dear friend. Perhaps, in time, you will forgive me.”
“Perhaps, in time, if you prove a friend to us again.”
Aro bowed his head, the picture of remorse, and drifted backward for a moment
before he turned around. We watched in silence as the last four Volturi
disappeared into the trees.
It was very quiet. I did not drop my shield.
“Is it really over?” I whispered to Edward.
His smile was huge. “Yes. They’ve given up. Like all bullies, they’re cowards
underneath the swagger.” He chuckled.
Alice laughed with him. “Seriously, people. They’re not coming back. Everybody
can relax now.”
There was another beat of silence.
“Of all the rotten luck,” Stefan muttered.
And then it hit.
Cheers erupted. Deafening howls filled the clearing. Maggie pounded Siobhan on
the back. Rosalie and Emmett kissed again—longer and more ardently than
before. Benjamin and Tia were locked in each other’s arms, as were Carmen and
Eleazar. Esme held Alice and Jasper in a tight embrace. Carlisle was warmly
thanking the South American newcomers who had saved us all. Kachiri stood
very close to Zafrina and Senna, their fingertips interlocked. Garrett picked Kate
up off the ground and swung her around in a circle.
Stefan spit on the snow. Vladimir ground his teeth together with a sour
And I half-climbed the giant russet wolf to rip my daughter off his back and then
crushed her to my chest. Edward’s arms were around us in the same second.
“Nessie, Nessie, Nessie,” I crooned.
Jacob laughed his big, barky laugh and poked the back of my head with his nose.
“Shut up,” I mumbled.
“I get to stay with you?” Nessie demanded.
“Forever,” I promised her.
We had forever. And Nessie was going to be fine and healthy and strong. Like the
half-human Nahuel, in a hundred and fifty years she would still be young. And we
would all be together.
Happiness expanded like an explosion inside me—so extreme, so violent that I
wasn’t sure I’d survive it.
“Forever,” Edward echoed in my ear.
I couldn’t speak anymore. I lifted my head and kissed him with a passion that
might possibly set the forest on fire.
I wouldn’t have noticed.

Breaking Dawn - Chapter 35


“Headed out?” Edward asked, his tone nonchalant. There was a sort of forced
composure about his expression. He hugged Renesmee just a little bit tighter to
his chest.
“Yes, a few last-minute things…,” I responded just as casually.
He smiled my favorite smile. “Hurry back to me.”
I took his Volvo again, wondering if he’d read the odometer after my last errand.
How much had he pieced together? That I had a secret, absolutely. Would he
have deduced the reason why I didn’t confide in him? Did he guess that Aro
might soon know everything he knew? I thought Edward could have come to that
conclusion, which explained why he had demanded no reasons from me. I
guessed he was trying not to speculate too much, trying to keep my behavior off
his mind. Had he put this together with my odd performance the morning after
Alice left, burning my book in the fire? I didn’t know if he could have made that
It was a dreary afternoon, already dark as dusk. I sped through the gloom, my
eyes on the heavy clouds. Would it snow tonight? Enough to layer the ground and
create the scene from Alice’s vision? Edward estimated that we had about two
more days. Then we would set ourselves in the clearing, drawing the Volturi to
our chosen place.
As I headed through the darkening forest, I considered my last trip to Seattle. I
thought I knew Alice’s purpose in sending me to the dilapidated drop point where
J. Jenks referred his shadier clients. If I’d gone to one of his other, more
legitimate offices, would I have ever known what to ask for? If I’d met him as
Jason Jenks or Jason Scott, legitimate lawyer, would I ever have unearthed J.
Jenks, purveyor of illegal documents? I’d had to go the route that made it clear I
was up to no good. That was my clue.
It was black when I pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant a few minutes
early, ignoring the eager valets by the entrance. I popped in my contacts and then
went to wait for J inside the restaurant. Though I was in a hurry to be done with
this depressing necessity and back with my family, J seemed careful to keep
himself untainted by his baser associations; I had a feeling a handoff in the dark
parking lot would offend his sensibilities.
I gave the name Jenks at the podium, and the obsequious maître d’ led me
upstairs to a small private room with a fire crackling in a stone hearth. He took
the calf-length ivory trench coat I’d worn to disguise the fact that I was wearing
Alice’s idea of appropriate attire, and gasped quietly at my oyster satin cocktail
dress. I couldn’t help being a little flattered; I still wasn’t used to being beautiful
to everyone rather than just Edward. The maître d’ stuttered half-formed
compliments as he backed unsteadily from the room.
I stood by the fire to wait, holding my fingers close to the flame to warm them a
little before the inevitable handshake. Not that J wasn’t obviously aware that
there was something up with the Cullens, but it was still a good habit to practice.
For one half second, I wondered what it would feel like to put my hand in the fire.
What it would feel like when I burned. . . .
J’s entrance distracted my morbidity. The maître d’ took his coat, too, and it was
evident that I was not the only one who had dressed up for this meeting.
“I’m so sorry I’m late,” J said as soon as we were alone.
“No, you’re exactly on time.”
He held out his hand, and as we shook I could feel that his fingers were still quite
noticeably warmer than mine. It didn’t seem to bother him.
“You look stunning, if I may be so bold, Mrs. Cullen.”
“Thank you, J. Please, call me Bella.”
“I must say, it’s a different experience working with you than it is with Mr.
Jasper. Much less… unsettling.” He smiled hesitantly.
“Really? I’ve always found Jasper to have a very soothing presence.”
His eyebrows pulled together. “Is that so?” he murmured politely while clearly
still in disagreement. How odd. What had Jasper done to this man?
“Have you known Jasper long?”
He sighed, looking uncomfortable. “I’ve been working with Mr. Jasper for more
than twenty years, and my old partner knew him for fifteen years before that.…
He never changes.” J cringed delicately.
“Yeah, Jasper’s kind of funny that way.”
J shook his head as if he could shake away the disturbing thoughts. “Won’t you
have a seat, Bella?”
“Actually, I’m in a bit of a hurry. I’ve got a long drive home.” As I spoke, I took the
thick white envelope with his bonus from my bag and handed it to him.
“Oh,” he said, a little catch of disappointment in his voice. He tucked the
envelope into an inside pocket of his jacket without bothering to check the
amount. “I was hoping we could speak for just a moment.”
“About?” I asked curiously.
“Well, let me get you your items first. I want to make sure you’re satisfied.”
He turned, placed his briefcase on the table, and popped the latches. He took out
a legal-sized manila envelope.
Though I had no idea what I should be looking for, I opened the envelope and
gave the contents a cursory glance. J had flipped Jacob’s picture and changed the
coloring so that it wasn’t immediately evident that it was the same picture on
both his passport and driver’s license. Both looked perfectly sound to me, but that
meant little. I glanced at the picture on Vanessa Wolfe’s passport for a fraction of
a second, and then looked away quickly, a lump rising in my throat.
“Thank you,” I told him.
His eyes narrowed slightly, and I felt he was disappointed that my examination
was not more thorough. “I can assure you every piece is perfect. All will pass the
most rigorous scrutiny by experts.”
“I’m sure they are. I truly appreciate what you’ve done for me, J.”
“It’s been my pleasure, Bella. In the future, feel free to come to me for anything
the Cullen family needs.” He didn’t even hint at it really, but this sounded like an
invitation for me to take over Jasper’s place as liaison.
“There was something you wanted to discuss?”
“Er, yes. It’s a bit delicate. . . .” He gestured to the stone hearth with a questioning
expression. I sat on the edge of the stone, and he sat beside me. Sweat was
dewing up on his forehead again, and he pulled a blue silk handkerchief from his
pocket and began mopping.
“You are the sister of Mr. Jasper’s wife? Or married to his brother?” he asked.
“Married to his brother,” I clarified, wondering where this was leading.
“You would be Mr. Edward’s bride, then?”
He smiled apologetically. “I’ve seen all the names many times, you see. My
belated congratulations. It’s nice that Mr. Edward has found such a lovely partner
after all this time.”
“Thank you very much.”
He paused, dabbing at the sweat. “Over the years, you might imagine that I’ve
developed a very healthy level of respect for Mr. Jasper and the entire family.”
I nodded cautiously.
He took a deep breath and then exhaled without speaking.
“J, please just say whatever you need to.”
He took another breath and then mumbled quickly, slurring the words together.
“If you could just assure me that you are not planning to kidnap the little girl
from her father, I would sleep better tonight.”
“Oh,” I said, stunned. It took me a minute to understand the erroneous
conclusion he’d drawn. “Oh no. It’s nothing like that at all.” I smiled weakly,
trying to reassure him. “I’m simply preparing a safe place for her in case
something were to happen to my husband and me.”
His eyes narrowed. “Are you expecting something to happen?” He blushed, then
apologized. “Not that it’s any of my business.”
I watched the red flush spread behind the delicate membrane of his skin and was
glad—as I often was—that I was not the average newborn. J seemed a nice
enough man, criminal behavior aside, and it would have been a shame to kill him.
“You never know.” I sighed.
He frowned. “May I wish you the best of luck, then. And please don’t be put out
with me, my dear, but… if Mr. Jasper should come to me and ask what names I
put on these documents . . .”
“Of course you should tell him immediately. I’d like nothing better than to have
Mr. Jasper fully aware of our entire transaction.”
My transparent sincerity seemed to ease a bit of his tension.
“Very good,” he said. “And I can’t prevail upon you to stay for dinner?”
“I’m sorry, J. I’m short on time at present.”
“Then, again, my best wishes for your health and happiness. Anything at all the
Cullen family needs, please don’t hesitate to call on me, Bella.”
“Thank you, J.”
I left with my contraband, glancing back to see that J was staring after me, his
expression a mixture of anxiety and regret.
The return trip took me less time. The night was black, and so I turned off my
headlights and floored it. When I got back to the house, most of the cars,
including Alice’s Porsche and my Ferrari, were missing. The traditional vampires
were going as far away as possible to satiate their thirst. I tried not to think of
their hunting in the night, cringing at the mental picture of their victims.
Only Kate and Garrett were in the front room, arguing playfully about the
nutritional value of animal blood. I inferred that Garrett had attempted a hunting
trip vegetarian-style and found it difficult.
Edward must have taken Renesmee home to sleep. Jacob, no doubt, was in the
woods close by the cottage. The rest of my family must have been hunting as well.
Perhaps they were out with the other Denalis.
Which basically gave me the house to myself, and I was quick to take advantage.
I could smell that I was the first one to enter Alice and Jasper’s room in a long
while, maybe the first since the night they’d left us. I rooted silently through their
huge closet until I found the right sort of bag. It must have been Alice’s; it was a
small black leather backpack, the kind that was usually used as a purse, little
enough that even Renesmee could carry it without looking out of place. Then I
raided their petty cash, taking about twice the yearly income for the average
American household. I guessed my theft would be less noticeable here than
anywhere else in the house, since this room made everyone sad. The envelope
with the fake passports and IDs went into the bag on top of the money. Then I sat
on the edge of Alice and Jasper’s bed and looked at the pitifully insignificant
package that was all I could give my daughter and my best friend to help save
their lives. I slumped against the bedpost, feeling helpless.
But what else could I do?
I sat there for several minutes with my head bowed before the inkling of a good
idea came to me.
If I was to assume that Jacob and Renesmee were going to escape, then that
included the assumption that Demetri would be dead. That gave any survivors a
little breathing room, Alice and Jasper included.
So why couldn’t Alice and Jasper help Jacob and Renesmee? If they were
reunited, Renesmee would have the best protection imaginable. There was no
reason why this couldn’t happen, except for the fact that Jake and Renesmee both
were blind spots for Alice. How would she begin to look for them?
I deliberated for a moment, then left the room, crossing the hall to Carlisle and
Esme’s suite. As usual, Esme’s desk was stacked with plans and blueprints,
everything neatly laid out in tall piles. The desk had a slew of pigeonholes above
the work surface; in one was a box of stationery. I took a fresh sheet of paper and
a pen.
Then I stared at the blank ivory page for a full five minutes, concentrating on my
decision. Alice might not be able to see Jacob or Renesmee, but she could see me.
I visualized her seeing this moment, hoping desperately that she wasn’t too busy
to pay attention.
Slowly, deliberately, I wrote the words RIO DE JANEIRO in all caps across the
Rio seemed the best place to send them: It was far away from here, Alice and
Jasper were already in South America at last report, and it wasn’t like our old
problems had ceased to exist just because we had worse problems now. There
was still the mystery of Renesmee’s future, the terror of her racing age. We’d been
headed south anyway. Now it would be Jacob’s, and hopefully Alice’s, job to
search for the legends.
I bowed my head again against a sudden urge to sob, clenching my teeth together.
It was better that Renesmee go on without me. But I already missed her so much
I could barely stand it.
I took a deep breath and put the note at the bottom of the duffel bag, where Jacob
would find it soon enough.
I crossed my fingers that—since it was unlikely that his high school offered
Portuguese—Jake had at least taken Spanish as his language elective.
There was nothing left now but waiting.
For two days, Edward and Carlisle stayed in the clearing where Alice had seen the
Volturi arrive. It was the same killing field where Victoria’s newborns had
attacked last summer. I wondered if it felt repetitive to Carlisle, like déjà vu. For
me, it would be all new. This time Edward and I would stand with our family.
We could only imagine that the Volturi would be tracking either Edward or
Carlisle. I wondered if it would surprise them that their prey didn’t run. Would
that make them wary? I couldn’t imagine the Volturi ever feeling a need for
Though I was—hopefully—invisible to Demetri, I stayed with Edward. Of course.
We only had a few hours left to be together.
Edward and I had not had a last grand scene of farewell, nor did I plan one. To
speak the word was to make it final. It would be the same as typing the words The
End on the last page of a manuscript. So we did not say our goodbyes, and we
stayed very close to each other, always touching. Whatever end found us, it would
not find us separated.
We set up a tent for Renesmee a few yards back into the protective forest, and
then there was more déjà vu as we found ourselves camping in the cold again
with Jacob. It was almost impossible to believe how much things had changed
since last June. Seven months ago, our triangular relationship seemed
impossible, three different kinds of heartbreak that could not be avoided. Now
everything was in perfect balance. It seemed hideously ironic that the puzzle
pieces would fit together just in time for all of them to be destroyed.
It started to snow again the night before New Year’s Eve. This time, the tiny
flakes did not dissolve into the stony ground of the clearing. While Renesmee and
Jacob slept—Jacob snoring so loudly I wondered how Renesmee didn’t wake—the
snow made first a thin icing over the earth, then built into thicker drifts. By the
time the sun rose, the scene from Alice’s vision was complete. Edward and I held
hands as we stared across the glittering white field, and neither of us spoke.
Through the early morning, the others gathered, their eyes bearing mute evidence
of their preparations—some light gold, some rich crimson. Soon after we all were
together, we could hear the wolves moving in the woods. Jacob emerged from the
tent, leaving Renesmee still sleeping, to join them.
Edward and Carlisle were arraying the others into a loose formation, our
witnesses to the sides like galleries.
I watched from a distance, waiting by the tent for Renesmee to wake. When she
did, I helped her dress in the clothes I’d carefully picked out two days before.
Clothes that looked frilly and feminine but that were actually sturdy enough to
not show any wear—even if a person wore them while riding a giant werewolf
through a couple of states. Over her jacket I put on the black leather backpack
with the documents, the money, the clue, and my love notes for her and Jacob,
Charlie and Renée. She was strong enough that it was no burden to her.
Her eyes were huge as she read the agony on my face. But she had guessed
enough not to ask me what I was doing.
“I love you,” I told her. “More than anything.”
“I love you, too, Momma,” she answered. She touched the locket at her neck,
which now held a tiny photo of her, Edward, and me. “We’ll always be together.”
“In our hearts we’ll always be together,” I corrected in a whisper as quiet as a
breath. “But when the time comes today, you have to leave me.”
Her eyes widened, and she touched her hand to my cheek. The silent no was
louder than if she’d shouted it.
I fought to swallow; my throat felt swollen. “Will you do it for me? Please?”
She pressed her fingers harder to my face. Why?
“I can’t tell you,” I whispered. “But you’ll understand soon. I promise.”
In my head, I saw Jacob’s face.
I nodded, then pulled her fingers away. “Don’t think of it,” I breathed into her
ear. “Don’t tell Jacob until I tell you to run, okay?”
This she understood. She nodded, too.
I took from my pocket one last detail.
While packing Renesmee’s things, an unexpected sparkle of color had caught my
eye. A chance ray of sun through the skylight had hit the jewels on the ancient
precious box stuffed high overhead on a shelf in an untouched corner. I
considered it for a moment and then shrugged. After putting together Alice’s
clues, I couldn’t hope that the coming confrontation would be resolved
peacefully. But why not try to start things out as friendly as possible? I asked
myself. What could it hurt? So I guess I must have had some hope left after all—
blind, senseless hope—because I’d scaled the shelves and retrieved Aro’s wedding
present to me.
Now I fastened the thick gold rope around my neck and felt the weight of the
enormous diamond nestle into the hollow of my throat.
“Pretty,” Renesmee whispered. Then she wrapped her arms like a vise around my
neck. I squeezed her against my chest. Interlocked this way, I carried her out of
the tent and to the clearing.
Edward cocked one eyebrow as I approached, but otherwise did not remark on
my accessory or Renesmee’s. He just put his arms tight around us both for one
long moment and then, with a deep sigh, let us go. I couldn’t see a goodbye
anywhere in his eyes. Maybe he had more hope for something after this life than
he’d let on.
We took our place, Renesmee climbing agilely onto my back to leave my hands
free. I stood a few feet behind the front line made up by Carlisle, Edward,
Emmett, Rosalie, Tanya, Kate, and Eleazar. Close beside me were Benjamin and
Zafrina; it was my job to protect them as long as I was able. They were our best
offensive weapons. If the Volturi were the ones who could not see, even for a few
moments, that would change everything.
Zafrina was rigid and fierce, with Senna almost a mirror image at her side.
Benjamin sat on the ground, his palms pressed to the dirt, and muttered quietly
about fault lines. Last night, he’d strewn piles of boulders in natural-looking, now
snow-covered heaps all along the back of the meadow. They weren’t enough to
injure a vampire, but hopefully enough to distract one.
The witnesses clustered to our left and right, some nearer than others—those who
had declared themselves were the closest. I noticed Siobhan rubbing her temples,
her eyes closed in concentration; was she humoring Carlisle? Trying to visualize a
diplomatic resolution?
In the woods behind us, the invisible wolves were still and ready; we could only
hear their heavy panting, their beating hearts.
The clouds rolled in, diffusing the light so that it could have been morning or
afternoon. Edward’s eyes tightened as he scrutinized the view, and I was sure he
was seeing this exact scene for the second time—the first time being Alice’s
vision. It would look just the same when the Volturi arrived. We only had minutes
or seconds left now.
All our family and allies braced themselves.
From the forest, the huge russet Alpha wolf came forward to stand at my side; it
must have been too hard for him to keep his distance from Renesmee when she
was in such immediate danger.
Renesmee reached out to twine her fingers in the fur over his massive shoulder,
and her body relaxed a little bit. She was calmer with Jacob close. I felt a tiny bit
better, too. As long Jacob was with Renesmee, she would be all right.
Without risking a glance behind, Edward reached back to me. I stretched my arm
forward so that I could grip his hand. He squeezed my fingers.
Another minute ticked by, and I found myself straining to hear some sound of
And then Edward stiffened and hissed low between his clenched teeth. His eyes
focused on the forest due north of where we stood.
We stared where he did, and waited as the last seconds passed.