Author's Note

Please forgive any spelling and/or grammar errors. I hope you enjoy it, please let me know what you think!

I know other people have started stories from this point in New Moon as well, but hopefully you'll enjoy the direction I take it from here. This story will be shorter overall than my other Jasper/Bella story, since it will be told entirely from Bella's perspective. It will start as Edward/Bella before shifting to Jasper/Bella. And like that one, everyone will get their happily ever after - eventually. I still don't hate Edward. I just don't think he's best for Bella, and Jake certainly isn't either.

Any dialogue you recognize is from New Moon. PS I'm not Stephenie Meyer, so I don't own anything :(


Ch 1

The numbness shattered. Abruptly. Agonizingly. A car smashing headlong into a building. For the majority of the last six months it had been her constant companion.

Now an aching hole had opened up in her chest. Opened? That implied a certain amount of care had been taken to do it. No. This was more like it had been punched through with a sledgehammer, and the edges were the irregular splinters of broken wooden beams.

Sunnier spots, less hazy where the paralytic fog had burned away existed these last months. Her time with Jacob Black, brief as it had been - not even four weeks, had been the primary one. Before he too abandoned her.

Then it'd been a return of Zombie Bella. She'd stopped being a whole person. Could she ever be a whole person without him? Probably not. It's not like she'd had any success so far.

After Jacob had gone, like a junkie in withdrawal when denied their drug of choice, she'd retreated into the familiar cocoon of numbness while she waited for her next fix. Rocking alone in a dark corner as the world passed her by between routine moments. At least that allowed her to function. Not thinking at least allowed time to continue, to tick inevitably closer to the end. Days turned into a week as she miserably tried to continue living. Someday it would have to let up. Right?

And here was the answer. The reason she'd continued. To make it to this point.

With nothing else to do, and unwilling to spend another day alone in her house where the echoing screams from her nightmares lingered, she'd decided to go hiking. She needed to find him. Now more than ever. Another attempt to find the place where she'd feel closer to him.

Today she'd finally stumbled, literally tripping and falling over the log she'd unsuccessfully climbed atop only to land on a bush that gave way under her weight to the place she sought. Except, she was not at all prepared for what she found when she did. Her desert oasis turned out to only be a taunting mirage upon closer inspection.

The unusually symmetrical meadow, ringed with trees, ferns and vines, and barren without flowers this time of year, contained only rippling, waving grass. Desolation descended. She was alone. Abandoned. Forgotten.

It was empty. Empty of forest noises - birds chirping and rodents scampering. Empty of him. Of his presence. Of the significance this place once held.

The stinging slashes of knives slowly carving shallow cuts over every inch of her body. That was the pain of the memories, the only ridiculously inconsequential thing left to her in this once special place, consumed her. Filled the hollowed space within her caused by his and Jacob's desertions until the agony overflowed into the empty meadow.

Empty - except it wasn't.

Dark circles under brilliant topaz eyes. Pallid face. Unnatural stillness. Inhumanly beautiful perfection. Every inch of the figure screamed vampire.

What's more, Bella recognized him. The black hair and square jaw were just as she remembered.

"Laurent!" she cried out, surprised.

Topaz. His eyes were topaz. So he had joined the Denali coven. The doctor had mentioned that, but here was proof that he did. The other family like… like them, who abstained from drinking human blood for ethical reasons. The good ones. Ones too good for her to be welcomed. Forks was awfully far from Alaska though. What was he doing here today?

"Bella?" he asked, stunned, and Bella winced at the sound. The beauty of the melodic tinkling that was the voice of vampires.

She'd been cold since Jacob stopped speaking to her. Frost had creeped up her body, covering every inch until she was completely encased in ice. The frozen water patching over the holes that had been punched through her chest, making swiss cheese of her person. Who needed intact organs anyways? Certainly not a disgusting, hideous zombie.

And now, just hearing Laurent's voice reminded her of his. The one she'd not allowed herself to think of unless she was behaving recklessly - seeking one of her hallucinations.

Bella expected one to occur now, to see and hear his velvety voice, between the place and the company, but for some reason it didn't fill her mind.

"You remember," she said, enormously satisfied. Laurent was here. Proof that vampires existed - despite his claims that she would forget, and that he'd remove all traces of their presence from her life. Even if he didn't inspire the hallucinations she'd come to rely on, and sought out with every adrenaline-filled activity she could come up with.

Laurent's head tilted, and he eyed her speculatively. "I didn't expect to see you here," he admitted, fluidly stalking closer, the graceful gait of one that did not rely on a center of gravity for balance.

Laurent might not have joined James and Victoria when they'd hunted her last spring, but only because he'd been afraid. Afraid to take on so many when there was no hope of success. But his movements now abruptly startled her. There was a predatoriness to the way he approached. An undeniable hunger as he took her in. It was calculating. Options being weighed and discarded.

"Isn't it the other way around? I do live here. I thought you'd gone to Alaska," Bella commented, rambling a little as she tried to understand the sudden fear that had taken root in her. Never had she actually been afraid of good vampires, and Laurent's eyes clearly stated that he was good himself now.

And if she was afraid, why did Edward's silky guidance not appear to warn her. Shouldn't her more loyal version of the one she loved be with her in this critical moment?

"I did. Tanya's family is quite welcoming. The novelty and advantages of staying in one place are indeed inviting. Irina and I have grown very close as well. I am quite taken with her," he announced. She understood what he was implying at once. Pain that he'd found the happiness she'd been denied staggered her. Actually forced her to take an involuntary step back. She watched as he took in the retreat, almost pityingly. His next words brought her up short. "But Victoria asked me to meet with her. Out of respect for our time together, I did."

"You met with Victoria?" Bella whispered, eyes closing against the horror that possibility presented.

Bella saw a flash of carrot-orange curls, matted with sticks tangled in their length combined with a snarl, complete with lips curled back to reveal a full set of razor teeth coated in gleaming, pain-inducing venom dart across the inside of her eyelids - proof that there wasn't even relief in denial.

Confusion and fear warred within her. Dryness made her tongue feel thick and swollen, too large for her mouth. Swallowing was impossible. The instinct to run was there, nearly uncontrollable, yet she remained immobile, ruthlessly stamping down the desire. The urge to hear the ending of this story holding her in place like a book she was invested in, the final chapters beckoning.

"I was returning to Irina when I caught your scent. I had to see if it truly was you or if Victoria's words had tricked me into conjuring up your mouth watering scent," Laurent said, sadness flickering over his face.

"Victoria's words?" Bella echoed, ignoring the comment about how appetizing she smelled. It wasn't the first time she'd heard it. Though it may be the last.

"I know the Cullens left you here. Alice and Jasper have come to stay with us in Alaska. They've shared much about your time together."

Bella's chest ripped open wider at hearing the family that left her mentioned so casually. The familiarity and ease he possessed in speaking of them. It used to be that way for her too. Not anymore though. Not since they left.

Their loss was a festering wound. Gangrenous and oozing around the edges with infection. Blood drained steadily from the gashes to leave her cold as it positively drenched the once sacred meadow. Bella's arms wrapped tightly around her middle, holding the shredded remains of her guts inside, useless though the gesture was.

It was almost enough for her to long for the last week of waiting. Waiting in the hopes that Jacob would finally take her call, and she'd have access to her drug of choice again. The lack of interactions and numbness would be preferable to the agony of hearing about Laurent living the life she wanted, and having him remind her that she was nothing more than an unwanted pet. Surrendered when her owners moved away, never to be heard from again.

Laurent stepped closer. Close enough for her to see the impossible smoothness of his skin. The lack of pores on his perfectly sculpted face. To smell the sweet scent of his slow, even breathing. Close enough to touch her. To kill her with ease if he so chose. The air between them cooled from his nearness.

"Victoria has plans for you. Terrible plans. Is it fate or kismet that I stumbled upon you here first?"

Still, no hallucination of… of Edward appeared. The name tore through the fragile barriers in her mind, forcing itself to be remembered in her head. She'd been relying on him to advise her. To help her navigate this tenuous situation. To be with her in the end, when dying was the only possible conclusion to this meeting.

It made sense though. That even the version of him that she envisioned would ultimately abandon her the way the real individual had. Proof that her imagination was, at the very least, an accurate interpretation.

"What plans? Are you helping her?" Bella asked fearfully. What vengeance had Victoria dreamed up?

"No, I am not. James was her mate and your Edward killed him - she thinks it will be more fitting to carry out her revenge on you. She did not believe me that he'd left you. That he did not want you anymore, though I heard the news directly from his family. She insisted - a mate for a mate, a plan that leaves him to suffer your loss. I would not help her with that - I want no part in such events as those she has planned to carry out," Laurent said in a soft, melodic voice, shaking his head in disgust at his private thoughts. "You do not either. I can spare you the pain she intends. A gift for your part in helping me find Irina."

His fingers reached out and traced down her throat, so faint they barely registered. His lips dipped closer, further cooling the air touching her skin and making her shiver. Goosebumps pebbled on her skin making it tingle and tighten uncomfortably.

"Please, don't do this, Laurent," Bella begged. Even at her worst moment, she'd not had a death wish. Nor did she wish it all to end here and now. For Charlie's sake. And Renee's. For the hope that someday the pain would lessen and she'd be able to breathe again.

Looked like her luck had finally run out. Or was it more appropriate to say it had finally caught up to her? Her number had been up for so long already. Borrowed time could only last so long.

"Trust me, you should be grateful that I did not leave you for her," he offered, kissing her neck. It was not sexual, more a comfort and a goodbye.

His teeth rested against her for a moment, pausing, and Bella held her breath. The blunt edges were frozen daggers that didn't break the skin, however. When that continued to be the case, Bella realized he was second guessing the decision to end her life.

"Laurent, no!" a female cried. "Don't hurt her!"

He hissed, nicking Bella with the razors in his mouth as he spun to face the one that spoke, sensing a threat to his dinner. The scent of Bella's blood filled the meadow, invoking his hunting instinct so strongly he snarled viciously and knelt in front of her, protecting his meal.

The burn started as Bella gasped, quick swallow pants to replenish her oxygen starved lungs. She only allowed herself four mouthfuls before she clamped her teeth together with an audible snap, unwilling to draw attention to herself as the two vampires faced one another.

Laurent hissed again, crouching even more protectively in front of Bella as the salty, copper scent of her blood continued to fill the air so thickly that Bella smelt it as well. Black spots danced in front of her eyes, threatening her with unconsciousness as it always did. Her aversion to the scent as intact as ever. She sunk to her knees, hands planted in front of her to remain partially upright as dizziness threatened to swamp her.

"Laurent, it's me - Irina. Stop this. You don't want to hurt her - or me," she pleaded persuasively, holding her hands out placatingly to stay him. "We don't kill humans - it's not our way," she reminded him.

A twig snapped, and Irina spun towards to the woods. Laurent's head snapped up as well. Their conversation forgotten as they tensed in unison, both taking in what Bella's puny human eyes were unable to detect. Neither moved a single inch, unbreathing marble statues bearing witness.

The hunt was forgotten in the face of the latest danger.

"No. No, please. Don't!" Irina begged fearfully, the volume of her words rising with each utterance. "Please, no. No!"

A black beast separated itself from the shadows that clung to its ebony fur sticky as honey. Then two more monsters appeared, one grey and the other brown with a dark grey mask around his eyes, each moving to flank the first dark animal. Then two more. The farthest away was grey and black. The closest, a beautiful reddish brown.

The red haze of pain covered her vision as she swallowed her scream. Not a bear. Not bears - plural. The beasts the hikers reported weren't bears. They were wolves. Only bigger. The size of small horses.

There was no way. Yet the proof was not thirty feet away.

Muscles tensed beneath their fur, making it rustle and stand on end along their spines. Gleaming teeth were revealed when as one each curled their lips back ferociously. Snarls rumbled through the clearing, making Bella tremble, and momentarily forget the stinging venom singing her neck, slowly spreading with every beat of her heart.

Pain.

The months of pain had prepared her to handle the fire of burning. The preview James's bite had given steeled her - it was a glimpse of what this would entail. Inviting the hallucinations and the aftermath they caused had made her stronger. Strong enough for this.

Joy helped too. Because she was not dead. It wasn't a temporary reprieve. Laurent had not drained her. Better, she'd been bitten. Even now she was beginning to transition. Bella was turning into a vampire, getting her deepest wish granted. Well… one of her deepest wishes. One she'd not dared admit she still longed for.

Nor did she acknowledge the other wish of her heart.

"Don't! Don't, please, no. I'm begging you. Please, please don't do this!" Irina cried, dropping to her knees in supplication to appear less of a threat.

The middle, black wolf began to advance, the others following behind, steps nearly synchronized.

"No, wait, please! I know what you are. I know of the truce. Carlisle Cullen is my family. Wait, please," Irina screamed, begging so quickly Bella could barely make out the individual words. Whatever she was saying did the trick though, because the wolves stopped advancing.

Was she reasoning with them? How was that even possible?

"Please, please believe me," she continued, holding up her hands to ward them off.

The sight of the wolves seemed to have brought Laurent back to himself. He was able to ignore the siren call of her blood, as he straightened, inching towards Irina and away from the bleeding Bella. The urge to protect his mate from such an obvious threat, outweighing the desire to drink Bella's tempting blood.

"We don't hunt humans. I swear! This was an accident. He's still learning. Please try to understand! No one was killed. Don't hurt him," Irina continued begging, rambling nearly nonsensically as she verbally fought for the man she'd fallen in love with.

The rusty-colored wolf stepped away from the line, shimmering. The beast seemed to shrink in on itself, growing smaller. The fur got shorter, replaced by rippling skin like bubbly candle wax. The shifting wolf went up on its hind legs - flanks altering to become muscular, russet legs.

Was the venom making Bella hallucinate?

And for once the vision didn't star Edward. It was easier to think of his name now after having already done so this day.

Even if her hallucination wasn't of him, it was starting to resemble someone she was familiar with.

Pain flared again, but Bella bit back the scream threatening to escape. Instead, she channeled it into a reminder that she was still alive. This may not be how she wanted to turn, but maybe now that she was becoming a vampire, she could find Edward. She'd finally be beautiful. She could chase after him and his distractions, join him in pursuing them. She'd be fast enough to keep up with him if he ran again, and have lifetimes to find him. She'd spend forever searching him out if necessary.

Blinking, Bella realized what she was seeing. It wasn't the pain. It couldn't be because Irina and Laurent were staring at the same thing she was. Both as slack-jawed as she felt from her own face. Because they were all staring at the same person. Where there once stood a monstrous wolf, now a very naked Jacob Black stood at the edge of the line of wolves.

"Jacob? Is that you?" Bella choked out through partially clenched teeth, amazed. The shock allowed her to speak despite the searing flames sizzling in her veins.

Pieces clicked into place. A picture started to form. This was the reason he had been avoiding her. But how? He was just Jacob. Ordinary teenage boy. Her friend. Nothing spectacular or noteworthy about him. The only regular person she'd ever connected to. He wasn't part of the supernatural world. Not the way the… the Cullens were. But the proof was staring her directly in the face. Unavoidable.

It wasn't fair. How come Jake got to be special? Then the searing agony in her neck spiked, and she recalled that she was becoming special too. Finally.

"Bells. Did he bite you?" Jacob demanded in a hard, husky voice. Pained concern made him look older than he was. Hardened. Coal under pressure until it altered to something unrecognizably strong. His hands were clasped in front of him to shield himself and preserve a shred of modesty.

He was bigger too. Wider. Taller. Even more muscular if possible. He'd grown significantly more in the week since they went to the movies and he'd supposedly been sick. His long hair was gone too, shorn so that it was short, spiky. A bitter, tortured expression twisted his lips, contorting and replacing the constant happiness he usually radiated.

How had he known to ask that? Did he know what Laurent and Irina were? But how? Pain was making her mind slow as molasses on a winter day.

The black wolf growled at Jake - a warning. The sound was echoed by the grey one. Bella wanted to warn him to run. To beg him to save himself, afraid the wolves planned to attack him. He was so close. What hope would he have of surviving if they did?

But he was one himself, wasn't he?

"You - you're - a werewolf," Bella gasped instead, the words spilling forth of their own accord.

"Yeah. I'm sorry I couldn't tell you," Jake said, looking angrily from her to the two vampires still standing frozen between them. "I was bound, forbidden - but now that you've seen." He shrugged carelessly.

The large black wolf changed, shifting slowly into the form of Sam Uley. The leader of the gang Jake had been so afraid of just a week ago. Before the illness and his ignoring her. So this was the gang Sam led. A group of teenage Quileutes with the ability to become wolves at will.

All those times Jacob had confessed to being scared of Sam came rushing back to her now. More pieces clicked into place. How Sam classified himself and his disciples as protectors. The story on the beach Jacob had told her over a year ago. The history of his people. Bella was seeing it here now - wolves. Protecting against vampires.

They were crazy. Certifiable. There was no way they could fight Irina and Laurent. They'd get themselves killed. Nothing was stronger or faster than a vampire. Let alone two of them.

"Jacob!" Sam scolded, his name a clear reprimand.

"You can't control me, Sam," Jacob said fiercely, gritting his teeth as he glared at the older guy. "Bella, were you bitten?" he asked, repeating the question.

"Please -" Irina started to beg again, shifting in front of Laurent. He was still frozen, terrified. Though he'd inched his way to her side, gripping her arm as though prepared to drag her away at a moment's notice if it came to a fight.

"Bella?" Jacob interrupted to prod.

"Yes," she admitted, suddenly fearing his reaction.

"Jacob, you know what has to be done," Sam said, intensely. He was a pillar of steely determination.

"No!" Jacob denied, all but screaming the word. Shaking made the outline of Jacob seem to almost blur like his edges were being erased, the contents attempting to spill out.

"What - are you - talking about?" Bella grit out, clenching her hands into tight balls as another wave of pain crested through her. Dirt ground itself beneath her nails as her fingers clawed through the ground to form fists. A tiny hiss escaped her lips, unwilling to be entirely suppressed.

"I hunt vampires, Bella. Filthy bloodsuckers. That's why I'm a wolf. A life sentence forced on me - because of their kind. And now… " he hissed through his teeth.

Bella gasped, disliking the evaluation and conclusions she drew from his accusation. This happened to Jake because of the Cullens? But they'd been gone for months, and Laurent and Irina only just got here. Not a week ago when Jacob first got sick.

He looked ready to say more. This was a powder keg ready to ignite and explode. She had to diffuse the situation. Quickly.

"Please, I want this. I've always wanted this," Bella said, understanding that he was implying he planned to hunt her.

Did he really think he could take on vampires though? Clearly he'd gone insane.

"You want this? To be one of them - because of your precious, blood-sucking Cullens," he spat, angrily. "Now you're becoming my enemy."

"No, Jake. Just what I was always meant to be," Bella explained, cringing against the fires raging within her. The intensity was starting to amplify. She'd thought herself strong enough. What an ignorant fool she was. This needed to be resolved soon before she resembled a piece of charred brisket.

Bella's fingers dug deeper into the hard earth, focusing on the resistance of the frozen grass roots and dirt to ignore the throbbing burn drumming through her. The sound of her heart pounding thudded in her ears, making it nearly impossible to watch and listen to those gather around discussing her fate.

It was so hot. A late August day in Phoenix.

"Let me take her with us. I swear she'll never hunt humans. We can look after her. Please. I'll take her to Carlisle… to the Cullens," Irina pleaded, sensing an opening. "She'll only ever feed on animals."

"No," Sam shot down, still trying to cow Jacob. Her friend ignored him, eyeing Bella like she was truly dying. "We have to destroy them - all three."

Jake whirled to glare at Sam. He was shaking again. Several deep breaths brought him back under control. "This is my decision," Jacob finally said.

"Are you stepping up as alpha then, Jacob?" Sam asked, clearly surprised.

The grey and black wolf moved to stand beside Jacob. Bella wondered who it was. Then the memory of Embry joining Sam's cult a few weeks ago flashed through her mind. That must be him.

"I am Ephraim Black's great-grandson. I wasn't born to follow you. And I won't let you touch her," Jacob said, stepping into Sam's personal space so they were standing nose-to-nose.

"That's it then? You're letting Charlie's daughter die here," Sam said cruelly, waving in Bella's general direction.

Jake looked over at her, heartbroken as he took in the tiny cut on her neck, more of a crimson line than a true bite.

"My decision is final. Besides, she's already dead," he whispered brokenly.

"No, Jake. I'll just be different. One of them," Bella insisted, not wanting him to hurt the way he'd hurt her this last week. She'd already hurt him so much by using him as her personal crutch, unintentionally leading him on and offering hope for more when there was none.

"Same difference. I'm sorry I couldn't keep my promise," Jacob said, letting her know their friendship really was at an end. He'd promised that he would keep trying. That he'd always be there for her.

That was over now though. And Bella was surprised to find herself completely all right with it. She was going down a different path. One he couldn't follow her down. One she didn't want him to follow her down. Because this path would lead her back to Edward.

Except Laurent had already told her that Edward didn't want her anymore. So what did that mean for her?

This would change things.

It had to.

"Thank you for letting me go - for letting us go," Bella forced out, including her two companions in the deal.

"For you," Jacob said brokenly. "For what we'll never have. Guess you were right. You tried to warn me - too bad I didn't listen."

They looked at each other. Bella for her part remembered how Jacob had made her warm. There was a corresponding warmth building within her now. Not in her heart, because she didn't love Jacob - never could, but near her neck. Jacob's sunshine. He'd given her his sun, and the gasy ball was now burning inside her. Bella was now the one filled with hope and happiness.

Jacob's face, by contrast, was a mask of misery. He was a study of broken dreams.

Part of Bella wanted to ask what was wrong with him, and help him as he'd helped her. But that time had passed. They'd already said their goodbyes on the friendship front. It would be someone else's job to fix Jacob the way he'd tried to fix her. Maybe the next person could even love him back the way he deserved.

She couldn't even say thank you. For helping her survive when she'd forgotten how to live. For patching her up and reminding what it felt like to smile again.

"None of you should return here - not anytime soon, if ever," Jacob warned, though possibly it was a threat.

It was getting so hot. With jerky, unsteady hands, fingers spasming uncontrollably every few seconds, Bella tugged her jacket off. The collar stuck to her where her blood had dried along the edge. Welcome relief came to her from the cool February air, but the reprieve was short lived. The fires within stoked higher, roasting her even more than before.

"Understood," Irina agreed quickly.

"Let's go," Jacob directed, the other wolves filing out, then Sam nodded, exploded back into a wolf and followed after. Jacob was the last to leave. He didn't look at Bella as he shifted and prowled back into the shadows, a wolf once again.

Bella was so out of it, she couldn't even feel a sense of wonder at witnessing the sight of her former friend morphing into a large animal.

Once out of sight, Irina scooped Bella up, holding her close and brushing her hair back out of her eyes. Now that the danger had passed, the pain was threatening to drown her again.

Awareness of the sun contained within her came at Bella with a vengeance. It was her punishment for wanting to become a vampire. The instant the adrenaline from her fear of the wolves fled, the fires of hell amped up, intent on raging within her fragile veins. Surely that was where she was - hell. Flickering red flames danced across her useless eyelids, shrouding everything. They no longer worked, singed and burned as they'd been in the final moments before the wolves retreated.

Irina could no longer be seen. Red dominated her vision. Forming an opaque wall of crimson, dancing flames. Occasionally they'd lash out and land a glowing flick across her cheek or leg.

There was no way anyone could endure this and come out unscathed. How had she ever believed that the pain of the last six months could have properly prepared her to handle this?

"Thank you, Bella. Hang on, okay?" Irina murmured. Bella had a feeling it hadn't been the first time she'd said those very same words.

"Take me home," Bella begged, not sure what precisely she meant by her request.

Her body was nothing more than a withered husk. Useless, charred remains. A mangled corpse. Would Irina leave her in the clearing? Let the wind and rain disperse the ashes? There was no way she was coming back from such significant and extensive ruination.

Frozen vices clamped Bella's wrists when she tried to claw and scratch the source of her burning from her throat. Anything to relieve the pain. All she sought was a temporary sanctuary. A black abyss. Where was it? Did one even exist? She was blindly circling the elusive relief, stumbling through the dense forest without a compass, sun, or stars to guide her.

Fiery branding irons were drug slowly across her skin leaving trails of sizzling, blackened and burnt flesh in their wake. The dead tissue seemed to curl and flake off, revealing brand new skin ripe and ready for torment.

Irina's voice floated to her again, familiar names allowing the words to penetrate the oppressive pain ruthlessly consuming her. "Laurent, go on ahead. Get Jasper and Alice - they should be there for her when we arrive. Have them call Carlisle. And warn Eleazar. I don't think there's enough venom in her system. I - I can't do it, and it's not a good idea for you to try."

Not enough? They intended to increase her suffering? By how much? She wouldn't survive this, let alone more!

She'd thought she knew what to expect since she'd experienced James's bite - how utterly laughable. A mosquito bit. An irritant rash gone before it'd been properly scratched raw. That had been nothing. Nothing!

Her new reality was infinitely worse. And it had only just begun. Three days? Or would the countdown only start after they supplied more venom? She wasn't going to be able to hold out three more minutes!

"Yes, I'm sorry," Laurent whispered. "I can't believe she's not screaming her head off already."

"She's strong. A fighter."

"I'm sorry," Laurent repeated.

"I know. Go on. Hang on Bella. We'll be home in a few hours. You're doing wonderfully - just hang in there," Irina cooed.

Alice. Jasper. Irina was taking her to them. The knowledge gave her strength. She could endure. She would.

And Carlisle.

He'd remained silent throughout his transition in order to avoid detection. Bella could do the same. This was all just a test to assess her worthiness. To verify that she deserved to become one of them. She would not fail. Bella would fight to deserve this unexpected gift.