Bella - Five miles south of El Paso.

I'd been there for twenty years—twenty years longer than I'd anticipated. I was only supposed to relay the message and then go on my merry way. Little did I know, Maria's second-in-command had been killed shortly after she had made the trek to Alaska, and her newborns were in serious need of structure. The moment I had stepped onto her lands, they had tried to kill me. Even with the words Maria had given to me, the phrase that was supposed to stay her legion of vampires, they still chased me all over Texas.

It was only after I took down one of the biggest vampires that they listened to what I was there for. I didn't want to care about what had happened to Maria's coven, but I couldn't help it. After everything she had done for me, getting things in order was the least I could do. So I had decided to stick around and find someone to run things. Little did I know that person would be me.

I sighed as I glanced out the broken window, cringing at the way my skin glittered in the sunlight, and growled when I saw what I was looking for. My scouts had informed me that there were two strangers on the edge of our lands, asking to be let in. It was with great hesitation that I agreed, but I would not welcome them idly. In the past, I had learned the price for being too trusting of people.

This is why I was waiting three miles away from the house where we all dwelled. The strangers were being brought there for inspection, and when I knew it was safe, I would join them. A few minutes passed and I recognized the band of vampires I'd sent to gather the strangers. They were followed by two oddly dressed individuals. While my newborns traveled without hiding their luminescence, these creatures were covered from head to toe. They even had goggles on.

Where do they think they are? Thunderdome?

They all disappeared into the main house, and I knew there would be one of two outcomes. My scouts would either decide that they were a threat and destroy them, or they would send me the signal. I breathed out a heavy sigh and ran a hand through my hair, wondering which would be more beneficial. Being in the company of newborn vampires for the past twenty years had definitely taken its toll on me. I wasn't sure how much longer I could stand it. It would've been nice to see someone new, someone who wasn't out of their mind with bloodlust.

A few minutes later, one of the newborns appeared in the backdoor of the main house and waved his arms.

The signal.

I left my place in the old, decrepit barn and headed toward the equally decaying house. Although it appeared to be just a rickety, rundown shack, there was so much more to it. The mansion was the main command center, the central hive, of my six territories, and every southern vampire knew what dwelled within. There was a massive hole in the basement, leading to a series of tunnels and caverns that were reserved for training new recruits. At any time, there were between thirty and fifty vampires within the four walls and under the surrounding earth.

Jack was waiting by the back door and crossed to meet me when I approached the house. He was one of my oldest, most trusted vampires and had been put in charge of the others. He had appeared on the outlands—the end of our territories—a year after I had come to Texas, and had meshed really well with the lifestyle. He had also made my transition to human blood more bearable. All in all, he'd become my best friend in the world.

"Isabella," he sighed and my breath caught as his crimson irises glistened like his skin. "They say they know you."

"Do they?" I quirked an eyebrow and chuckled darkly, remembering all the previous visitors who had used the same excuse. That's probably what got them through the other checkpoints…my scouts know how much I enjoy destroying liars. "I guess we'll see about that."

Jack caught my shoulder as I tried to head inside. "They worry me."

"You…worried?" The idea was laughable as well as unbelievable. "Jack, you've faced down the Volturi before—what can these two nomads possibly do that's worse than them?"

"This is different," he remarked and released my arm from his grasp. He growled and pinched the bridge of his nose when I tried to push past him. I always loathed when he did that. It reminded me too much of…him. "I don't like this—I don't think you should see them."

The conviction in his voice was stifling and disturbing, but I had to refuse hi sentiments. The newborns needed structure, and any break of tradition would throw them for a loop. With a sigh, I embraced Jack, something we never did openly, and said, "It will be fine—trust me."

His shoulders fell, but he nodded and followed me into the house.

The mansion was filled with the odors of various types of venom and blood. It was against the rules to bring kills back here, but the newborns still did it and were very rarely reprimanded. By the time we usually found out, the culprit would have disappeared into the depths of the underground catacombs. Jack and I tried never to go down there.

The younglings skittered out of our path as we headed towards the living room, and I could hear the errant whispers. The younger vampires were expecting me to rip the visitors to pieces. Our kind craved anarchy and destruction. However, as I turned the corner, I came to an immediate stop.

They sat on the sofa, motionless, holding one another's hands. She looked up at me with grim fascination, almost like passing a train wreck. He, on the other hand, was too busy staring down the newborn vampires, who were circling them and cackling.

"Bella." Alice inclined her head but gave no indication that she wanted to embrace me. She would have once, but those days were long gone. "You look well."

"As well as can be expected," I seethed and stalked towards them. "What are you doing here?"

"Is that any way to speak to old friends?" Jasper finally turned his attention to me, and I felt an intense calm rest on me.

My nostrils flared and I slashed at his face with a vibrant snarl. He clearly wasn't expecting it and tumbled onto the floor, holding his cheek and hissing. The newborns around them let out a series of wails and hoots, showing their approval and support.

"Don't play with me," I shouted and turned away as Alice bent down and tended to him. "I have gifted newborns with abilities more deadly than empathy. They would be more than happy to educate you on suffering. Keep your gifts to yourself!"

I had a good reason to be upset with them, a good excuse for lashing out. After I had been in Texas for three years—the time slipped by so easily—I had pleaded for Alice and Jasper to come for me. Now, as I watched them cling to one another, I recalled how much I had screamed into the mirror, praying for Alice to see me. They never came for me, though, and as the years passed, I fell into despair. I embraced the monster within me and never looked back.

"We didn't come for a fight!" Alice was in my face, the color of her eyes bringing back memories I didn't want. "Something's happened."

"What is it?" I spat and crossed my arms. "Say it and get out!"

Alice started to say something but abruptly stopped. "Do you really hate me that much?"

I leaned in, and in a vicious whisper, said, "You left me."

She stared at me silently, a firm look on her face, and made no attempt to deny what I was saying. A bubble of revulsion built in my stomach, and my hand twitched when I thought about hitting her. Despite my desire to get rid of them, I couldn't fight the overpowering curiosity at their presence. Alice had said something had happened—what was big enough to force them out of hiding?

"It doesn't matter if I hate you or not," I remarked and took a seat on the couch, trying to look at anything but the two vampires. "Now, what is it that you came to tell me?"

"Edward's dead," Alice said and I barely noticed the subtle hint of sadness in her eyes. "Carlisle and Esme found his remains in Canada."

I tried to give an airy retort, to show her than I didn't care, but I choked on my own words as I soaked it in. Was he truly dead? Someone had ripped him apart and burned him? Alice explained that Carlisle had known where he was staying and had ventured up to convince him to return home. It was there that he and Esme had discovered their prodigal son's ashes. All that remained of him was a few fingers and some hair. The satisfaction I knew I should feel was fleeting and muted. Instead, an all-encompassing sadness crashed through me, and I had to fight to keep the stoic expression on my face.

"Really?" I inclined one eyebrow and tried to detract their attention from the obvious weakness in my voice. "How terrible for him."

"You don't care?" Alice accused, her eyes wide.

"Of course she does," Jasper remarked and crossed his arms. "She's just gotten good at hiding it."

"Are you through?" I stood and motioned for Jack, who took his usual spot behind my right shoulder. "I have newborns to train."

"There's something else," Alice insisted and grasped my shoulder as I moved to turn away. This was a mistake.

Jack, subdued up until then, lurched forward and blocked Alice. He growled and shielded me from my once best friend, snarling ferociously at her. She jumped back into Jasper's arms, clearly frightened. Jasper, however, gazed in between Jack and me with a slightly smirk.

"Bella," Jasper said with a sigh. "Please, hear what we have to say—I have a feeling this is something you'll want to know. Give us five minutes…alone."

I exhaled heavily and, knowing this would be the only way to get rid of them, I nodded. "Jack, take everyone down below."

"Isabella," he said warningly and placed his hand on my shoulder. "I don't trust—"

"Did I stutter?" I snapped and spun around to face him, a snarl ripping through me. "You will take them downstairs and I will retrieve you when I'm done."

He was silent, but obeyed my wishes, and as he disappeared below, I actually felt remorseful for yelling at him. However, I pushed it to the corners of my mind and listened to Alice and Jasper. It took five minutes for them to explain what was going on, and an additional hour trying to convince me to leave with them. Their pleas barely registered to me though—I was too focused on what they had said…about who was coming.

"She went to the Volturi," Jasper said and he paced through the room. "They taught her how to block Edward's ability, and Alice…well…Alice has never been able to see—"

"Bella, are you listening?" Alice gripped my chin and pulled my gaze towards her. "We need to get you out of here."

I was still silent.

"Bella." It was apparently Jasper's turn. "You can't defend yourself…not this time—do you understand what we're saying to you."

"Yes."

"So, you'll come with us?" Alice looked hopefully at me, and Jasper mirrored her expression.

"No."

This wasn't something I could run from—this was something I refused to run from. This is fate.

It took almost a week to convince Alice and Jasper to leave me, but I eventually did it. They left my lands slowly, glancing back continuously, begging for me to join them, but I let them go. Every part of my body screamed that I should have accompanied them—even Jack pushed me to leave—but I merely turned a deaf ear and went about my business.

Even though I appeared nonchalant, I had slowly begun to count the sunrises and sunsets. It was a pointless exercise, since Alice couldn't accurately predict this future, but I kept to it nonetheless. She did provide me with an estimate, based on mileage and speed—three weeks. I did my best not to think about it, but it was almost impossible.

Finally, I was facing the last hour. I had holed up in the abandoned mission, just outside of San Antonio, alone with my own thoughts. If there truly was something after me, I at least wanted to face it by myself—with no one else to get hurt. I had left detailed instructions for Jack, but somehow, I knew he'd turn up eventually.

Sure enough, after a few minutes, the ornate, wooden door shot off its hinges and cascaded to the ground. In the threshold stood Jack, his black hair blowing in the wind and a panicked look in his eyes.

"What is this, Isabella?" He thrust the letter I'd left him at my feet. "What is the meaning of it?"

"I thought it was clear," I responded woefully and sighed. "I need you to take over, Jack."

"Why?" He glared at me, but there was something else behind his eyes besides anger. "Where are you going?"

"Away," was the only response I could give.

"No," he growled and seized me by both my arms. "You can't leave m…you can't abandon them."

I sighed, seeing the implications behind his frustration, and shook my head. "Oh, Jack…you just don't understand."

"Then explain," he pleaded and gathered my hands in his. It was difficult to look at him when he begged like this. Had this been another life, things may have been different. "Tell me what's wrong so I can help."

"You can't help me," I reasoned and pushed away from his grip. "No one can."

"I won't stay without you!" I'm sure he meant it as some kind of threat. Instead, it exhilarated me. There was even a secret part of my heart that hoped he would find his way to Carlisle. He deserved better than this. They all did. "I'll leave."

"Then leave," I snapped and spun around to face him. "Enough talk—do it!"

He moved forward, taking me off guard, and wrapped his arms around my waist. I opened my mouth to protest, but his lips crashed into mine. My body came alive—it had been twenty years since I had been touched in such a way—and I unconsciously wrapped my arms around him.

When his kiss deepened, I forcefully pushed him away and slapped him as hard as I could. I would have been lying if I'd said I didn't enjoy his lips on mine, but it was pointless. I only had a few minutes left, and I refused to let him be here for my demise.

"Go," I muttered, and when he didn't listen, I swiped at him. "Leave my land—you're banished!"

"Isabella," he gasped and tried to touch me, only for me to shy away from his hand. "Please—"

"Get out!" I screamed and pointed for the door, hoping against hope that he would heed the unspoken warning. He needed to leave so he could survive. "NOW!"

His face fell before he turned and vanished out the doorway, leaving a trail of dust in his wake. A light sob escaped my lips as I watched him go, and I tried to convince myself that it was for the best. He would leave Texas and have a chance at life away from all this death. My fingers traced my own lips, reveling in the remaining taste he'd left behind, and I closed my eyes while I smiled.

Only if things had been different…

I could hear the hurried footsteps approaching from almost a mile away, but I did not turn. As the moments passed, I picked up the undeniable sound of a heartbeat, fluttering like a hummingbird, as well as someone breathing evenly. Regardless, I did not turn and kept my eyes straight ahead. I refused to run or react.

I traced the footsteps with my own ears, and I took a deep breath when I realized she was behind me. This is the moment. Glancing back, I could see her silhouette in the doorway, unmoving.

I turned to face her fully, a sad smile on my lips. "Hello, Emily."

"Hello, Mother." Her voice was cold and emotionless. She took a few steps toward me, and I was met with the weight of her angry stare. Unadulterated hatred burned for me behind her chocolate eyes. "I told you we'd meet again."

"That you did." With a deep breath, I walked up to her, offered her a small smile—which she didn't reciprocate—and closed my eyes. "I'm ready."

... and that was how it all ended.


Author's Note: That's all folks! :) Questions? Comments? Concerns?

Note: I did write a one-shot that takes place a few minutes after this chapter ends. It has to do with Emily. Only those who want a semi-happy ending should read it. If you are fine with how everything ended in this story, please do not read it. I have to find it, so it'll probably take me a few days to post it here.

Thanks for reading!