Welcome to my take on one of the many ways the Cullens' story could have been different if only Bree had been allowed to live. This story begins at the end of "The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner" and overlaps with parts of "Eclipse" and "Breaking Dawn." It is quite a different story that the one we all know and love, and I hope you all enjoy it. Let me know what you think! Chapter 2 coming soon. -SS.

And, of course, these characters are not my own and are the continuation of the ones introduced to us by the wonderful Stephenie Meyer.

Their footsteps were nearly silent, even as their muscles tensed to spring upon me. I briefly wondered if this was what my human prey experienced just before I killed them. There was some irony in there somewhere, but the thought of human prey brought the scent of the girl, Bella, back to the forefront of my mind and I could quickly think of nothing else.

"Wait." It was the girlish voice, the one who made me burn. There was no question in her tone; when she spoke, they would obey. "I've changed my mind. Let her live."

My eyes flew open. She was letting me live? That made no sense. What about all those things she'd said about the Volturi's effectiveness being questioned and not offering second-chances? As if she was the one who could read my mind, she continued.

"Our effectiveness has rarely been questioned. Our mercy, however, is questioned often. So let her live. She is your responsibility now. I suggest you take extra good care." Her eyes bore into the mind reader's as she spoke those last words and I heard his jaw snap shut. A small grin teased the corner of her mouth before she turned and sprinted away. Again, there was no question. The others would follow.

There was silence in the clearing until the vampires in the dense black robes were beyond any of our senses. Carlisle turned to Esme and spoke.

"I need to go to the Blacks'. I want to try to reset the bones before they can heal."

Esme reached up and touched Carlisle's face for a single second before he turned to Jasper.

"Please," was all he said, but Jasper nodded. Whatever they were intending to do, and I had a very strong feeling it involved me, they were in agreement. With that, Carlisle turned on his heel and ran. I thought the Blacks must be very important if they would cause Carlisle to separate from his coven when I still posed a perceived threat.

Jasper opened his mouth to speak but was interrupted by two voices at the same time. One was a trilling sound, like bells, and it came from the short girl with the spiky black hair. It was one word, "Jazz," but the soldier looming over me turned and gave it his full attention. The other came from the mind reader, requesting that Jasper allow him to have a word.

With a sigh, the short girl jerked her head at the mind reader. Jasper's attention remained on the girl, though.

"No, talk to him first. What he has to say is more immediately important." She said this with such assured confidence that I wondered if there were two mind readers in this strange, yellow-eyed coven. "Emmett will stand guard."

The big male loomed over toward me. His sheer size was intimidating, but the expression on his face was one of ease. "Aw, now, don't worry about me. You just be still and we'll be fine," he said in response to the apprehension on my face.

Jasper, the mind reader, and the human girl were walking away from us, backs turned. I could hear the faintest of the mind reader's whispers, but I couldn't make out any intelligible words. The others waited patiently for their conversation to end. The burn in my throat was rising again as the sweet blood of the human girl tempted me more with every second. I knew I would die if I lunged. I looked around the group, trying to assess if there was any way I could possibly drain her and make it out alive.

There wasn't. It occurred to me that, with Diego gone, I might not even care. But then I caught sight of Esme's face. It was radiating tenderness and compassion as she looked at me with her strange yellow eyes. This female clearly wanted me to stay alive, but I had no idea why. What purpose could I possibly serve in their weird coven? Her eyes flicked momentarily to the tall blonde, and I followed her gaze with my own.

The vampire now in my sight was easily the most beautiful creature I'd ever seen. Blonde hair rolled down her back in waves. Where her hair framed her face, it accentuated the perfect angles of her features. There was truly no imperfection to be found. With all of the sharpness of her face, I expected her eyes to be piercing, but they weren't. They mirrored the color of the rest of her coven, but they were set in a face that wore an expression similar to Esme's. She looked at me with tenderness, and I got the feeling that she had some sense of maternal instinct that was itching to care for me. I wouldn't have minded at all if this strong, fierce statue of perfection had decided to take me in and care for me. Right now, I was terrified, and, other than the human girl's blood, I wanted nothing more than for someone to come shelter me and give me at least an illusion of safety.

As I thought this, Jasper and the mind reader returned with the human, and the fire in my throat raged again.

"Please," I whimpered. "Please get her away from me."

The mind reader sighed, but nodded his head when the short girl with spiky hair looked at him.

"Bella," the girl said. "If it's okay with you, we're going to go to the Blacks' and let things get sorted here."

The human turned to look at the mind reader. "I'll be waiting for you when you return home," he told her. She nodded her head before shifting a last intrigued glance at me. She then turned her gaze to the short female and again nodded her consent. The short one lifted the human easily and sprinted away from the clearing with her, carrying the delectable scent with them.

"Thank you," I croaked. The thirst was nowhere near sated, but it wasn't quite so provoked with the human girl gone.

The mind reader looked at me for a moment before offering his hand. "My name is Edward, Bree. I know you have questions, and, if you are willing to agree to the terms we are about to discuss, we can answer all of them later. But for now, there are a few important things we need to talk about."

I shook his hand and nodded.

"I am going to be transparent with you. Jane's decision to keep you alive—Jane is the one in the black cloak who made you burn—was a self-interested one. She was not being merciful. She believes that we will fail in our mission to help you learn control, and that when we do fail, you will draw enough attention to warrant another visit from the Volturi. This is not something I am willing to allow."

He paused to allow his words to settle, and I nodded my understanding. Accepting this, he continued.

"As I'm sure you've gathered, we are not a normal coven. In fact, we consider ourselves more of a family than a coven. We maintain a permanent residence nearby. We are all willing, I think, to offer you a place with us, but in doing so, you must commit to our way of life. You see, Bree, we do not hunt humans."

"You don't hunt humans? Then what do you hunt?"

"Animals," Edward answered. I felt a revulsion not unlike the one Fred could inspire rise up in me at the thought.

"I don't know if I can do that," I answered.

Edward nodded. "It is difficult. And it will be more so for you than for some, because you have tasted human blood. It is the condition of remaining with us, however. You may, of course, choose to continue with your current diet. We will still need to train you and help you learn to control yourself so that you don't elicit Volturi intervention, but then you would be free to continue on your own way without us."

I took a few seconds to think about that. I tried to imagine roaming the world by myself without anyone to talk to or to help keep me safe. Diego and I had spent only two days together, really, but my outlook on this life improved so much just through the knowledge that I had a friend, a companion, who would live it with me. If I took off on my own, I would feel constantly insecure, constantly vulnerable, and most of all, constantly lonely. Edward nodded his head as I thought, but did not speak his own reactions.

"I'll try it," I said. "And I mean really try it. I don't know how good I'll be, but if you're willing to have me, I want to join your coven."

"Family," a voice behind me said. "We're a family, Bree." Esme walked forward with her arms outstretched, causing me to automatically tense at the threat. Her face fell a bit, but she dropped her arms at my reaction. I realized a second too late that she'd intended to embrace me, not harm me. Edward subtly nodded again in my periphery as I reached this conclusion.

"I…I'm sorry. Just a reaction," I said by way of lame apology.

"That's quite alright," she answered, tentatively resting a comforting hand on my arm. "I should've known better."

I didn't know what else to say to her, so instead I tried a gentle smile. Her whole face lit up. She had to be one of the nicest people I'd ever known—human or vampire.

Jasper cut in then. "Alright Bree. I'm going to take you hunting. We need to get your thirst handled. Bella is going to be steering clear of the house for a while to allow you to adjust, but her scent will linger at home. We start working on teaching you control now."

"Okay—"

"Actually, I'd like to take her hunting," the tall, impossibly gorgeous blonde cut in.

"Please no," came a grunt out of the massive male.

"Emmett I am perfectly capable," retorted the blonde.

"Babe, I know you are. I just, I worry about you. What if you come across a human? She'll be ravenous."

The blonde considered him for a moment, and now her face reflected what my initial expectation of it had been. Her jaw was set, her eyes hard, and I could see the calculations going on beneath her mane of hair.

"Fine," she answered, face softening. "Come with us."

The massive one looked bewildered for a moment, but quickly settled back into an easy smile. "Whatever you say," he answered, causing a quick uptick in the corners of her mouth.

The beautiful one then turned to me. "My name is Rosalie. I'd like to take you hunting. I've never tasted human blood, never lost control," she said with pride, "and I can teach you how I do that. Emmett, my husband, will help us if we run into trouble." She said it with authority, and I couldn't tell if she was asking my permission or not. The faces around me all looked perplexed, and I got the impression that this Rosalie didn't do kind things often.

"Rose," Edward started, but she cut him off with a piercing glare. The others' faces turned to watch the silent exchange. A shadow of a surprise flickered across Edward's face for a moment before he settled it back into a calm expression. He nodded his agreement, and Rosalie turned back to me before setting off toward the mountains, guiding me away from the path I'd come in on and the one Bella and the short vampire had left on.

"Are you going to tell me what the hell she's doing?" Emmett asked.

"Ask her. She'll share it with you," came Edward's response.

A grin split Emmett's handsome face before he looked at me.

"Come one Bree. Rose isn't known for her patience."

I set off after him, pushing my legs to run as quickly as I could so as not to anger Rosalie. We caught up to her quickly and she proceeded to keep running. We went higher and further into the mountains without speaking, Rosalie leading the way and Emmett just barely behind me. If any of us scented a human, I knew it would be his job to tackle me and hold me down. I also knew once his arms were around me, I wouldn't be winning any fights.

After about half an hour of running, Rosalie slowed down.

"Alright Bree, let your senses free. What do you smell?"

I brought myself to a stop. I was hesitant to really let my senses go around these new vampires. What if I tried to fight them and they had to kill me?

"We're not going to hurt you," Emmett said. "I mean, if you try to kill someone or punch Rose, I'll stop you, but even then I'll try not to make it hurt."

I willed myself to settle down and trust him. It wasn't easy, but after a few minutes I was able to close my eyes and give myself over to my instincts. I started with listening to the noises around me. The snow swallowed a multitude of sounds, but I could hear light footsteps to the west. They sounded like padded feet crunching through snow. Listening harder, I began to make out the unmistakable sound of a heartbeat. It beat much too hard to be a human's, but it was something alive.

"There's something to the west. I think it's something large, not a human, but definitely alive."

"Well done," Rosalie said. "Can you smell it yet?"

I flared my nostrils, taking in all the scents around me. I could smell the crisp air and the moisture in the snow. To my left was a scent reminiscent of cinnamon and moss that I knew belonged to Emmett. To my right was a combination evocative of lavender and vanilla—Rosalie. Otherwise, I smelled nothing alive, nothing that smelled like food.

"I don't think so. Not yet."

"Follow the sound until you're closer. Let yourself breath in the scents and stop once you've identified it."

I followed Rosalie's instructions, letting the heartbeat and padding feet guide me. About half a mile later, I began to smell it. It was definitely blood, and my thirsty throat awakened at the scent, but it didn't make me ravenous. I stopped, causing Rosalie and Emmett to do the same.

"It doesn't smell very appetizing," I said.

"Are you kidding me? That's a grizzly bear! It's my favorite meal," Emmett said.

"A bear? Are you serious?"

"Absolutely. There's nothing more fun than wrestling an angry grizzly."

Rosalie's eyebrow arched, and Emmett corrected himself. "Where, there are a few things more fun." He shot her a grin and a wink, and I thought that if vampires could blush, Rosalie might've.

"Behave, Emmett," she said, though she was clearly grinning. "I know it's not as appetizing as what you're used to, Bree, but it will sate the thirst."

I sighed and nodded, resolving to drink the damn bear if that's what I had to do.

"Are you ready?" Rosalie asked.

"Um, yeah, just one question. How do I kill it?"

"You just kinda wrap your arms like this," Emmett made a massive showing of wrapping his tree trunk arms around an invisible creature. "And then you squeeze real tight until you feel the neck snap. Keeps the beast from feeling anything. I like to play with 'em a bit first. You know, keeps it interesting."

Nothing about playing with a grizzly bear sounded interesting to me.

"Trust your instincts," Rosalie offered. "You know how to hunt. The only thing different is the prey. Emmett and I are going to follow you for about another quarter of a mile, but then we're going to hang back to let you shift fully into your hunting mode. We don't want you to feel threatened and try to fight us. Follow your own scent back to us when you've finished."

Setting my resolve one last time, I agreed. Tracking by scent this time, I followed the bear's smell, letting myself delve a little deeper into my instincts with each step. It was only a handful of seconds before Rosalie and Emmett stopped running. I took that as my prompt to give myself over completely to my instincts as I approached the bear.

It was massive. The blood really didn't call to me the way human blood did, but I felt venom pool in my mouth all the same at the thought of a meal. Following Emmett's advice, I launched myself onto the bear's back and wrapped my tiny arms around its neck, twisting until I heard it snap. Then, I sank my teeth into its jugular and drank.

I was done within five minutes. The fire in my throat had cooled to a slow burn, and the sheer volume of blood I'd drank was sloshing in my stomach, mixing with all the humans I'd drained yesterday. I wasn't satisfied, but I was so full I thought I'd burst.

"What are you up to, baby?" I recognized Emmett's voice, but it was softer than I'd heard it before.

"Why do I have to be up to anything?" came Rosalie's reply.

"Hey, you know I'm in for any and everything you want. I just want to know what that is right now. Why this little newborn?"

I stayed still, hoping to glean some insight from eavesdropping.

"She's just a child, Emmett." Rosalie's reply was so soft, so timid, that I didn't actually think it belonged to her for a moment.

"So was Edward, technically, and he did alright. Why does that mat…oh! Oh!" His voice boomed in surprise.

"Shhh! Don't disturb her feeding."

"Sorry, sorry. Do you really want to, though? You want to, what, adopt her?"

Rosalie was silent for a few beats. "You think it's ridiculous." An edge had entered her voice.

"Hey, hey, hey, Rosa. Nothing you ever do is ridiculous…well, maybe some things, but not this one. If that's what you want, that's what we'll do."

I was beginning to get the impression that there wasn't a whim Rosalie could conceive of that Emmett wouldn't indulge.

"Why this one?" he asked her.

"I really don't know. She just looked so vulnerable sitting there in the clearing with eyes closed and Jasper covering her ears. When Jane told them to kill her, it took everything in me not to attack. I haven't felt that way about anyone so immediately before. Not since you." I heard a soft pecking sound and knew Rosalie had just kissed him. "I just feel protective of her. I can tell that she's scared, and I want to give her a home and a family."

"Then we'll do it, baby," came Emmett's reply. He'd barely taken a second to think about it. "As long as she wants us, we're hers." The kissing was much more intense now, so I started my path back to them, hoping they'd hear my footsteps and cool down before I arrived.

So, Rosalie wanted to be my mom. It was a weird thought, considering I couldn't remember ever really having a mom. I wondered how this would work. Would there be a curfew? Would she ground me for sneaking out of the house or punish me if I didn't eat my dinner?

Even though it sounded ridiculous, I couldn't shake the lightness that was spreading through me at the thought of being looked after, cared for, and claimed as a part of a family. I was smiling when I strolled back into their view.

They weren't attached at the lips, but Rosalie stood facing me with her back pressed against Emmett while his arms encircled her waist. They were both very happy looking, and that, added with the pride I felt at being already so important to Rosalie, made me feel like I might actually be able to do this weird animal diet and family living thing.

"Well, how was it?" Emmett was practically bouncing in anticipation of my answer.

"It wasn't awful. Definitely not as good as the humans, but I'm full and not insanely thirsty."

"Good."

We started to walk back toward the clearing using a human pace. I was caught off-guard by how comfortable I felt with them already. Emmett, who'd seemed so intimidating at first, now just seemed playful and kind. Rosalie still intimidated me a little, but I also could now see that Rosalie was a person who got what she wanted, and what she wanted was me. I didn't feel wary of them at all as I had on the run earlier.

"Can I ask you a question?"

They both turned their heads to look at me. "Shoot," Emmett said.

"Does Edward tell you guys what he reads in people's minds?" I wasn't sure that I wanted them to know I'd overheard their conversation earlier.

"Nah, at least not most of the time. He's really respectful of everyone's privacy, but we're also pretty open. It's hard to keep secrets around the house."

"Yeah, with someone reading your mind all the time it would be."

"That, and Alice knows what you'll do before you even do it and Jasper can control your mood about it. So, really there's not much point in expecting to keep anything to yourself. But still, they keep it to themselves mostly, so the whole house doesn't always know."

Rosalie had looped her arm through Emmett's as they walked, and he placed a gentle kiss on her head while I fired my next set of questions.

"Who's Alice? And what do you mean about her and Jasper?"

"Alice is the shorter vampire who was in the clearing with us today," Rosalie answered. "She's the one who took the human girl away." She had a slight sneer when she said "human girl."

"Alice can see the future," Emmett said. "Kinda cool, really. And Jasper can read your moods and influence them."

I contemplated that one for a few, deciding which set of questions I wanted to pursue first.

"So, are you all talented?"

"Of course," Emmett retorted. "I'm the strongest vampire ever. And Rose is the most beautiful."

Rosalie rolled her eyes. "No, we're not all talented. That's just Edward, Jasper, and Alice." I felt a wave of relief at that. I had no talents, and I didn't want them to reject me because of it.

"Are you all couples?" I continued.

"Yes. There's Emmett and I. Carlisle and Esme. Alice and Jasper. And Edward and Bella." Her voice was again strange at the end.

My voice was shocked. "Edward's with a human? But how does he…?"

"We honestly have no idea," said Rosalie. Her tone was layered with implications, but I had no idea what she meant.

"Edward's a weirdo," Emmett offered. "We love him anyway, though. You actually probably won't see much of him for a while. He's usually wherever Bella is, and since Bella won't be at the house for a while, he probably won't be either."

"How do you…never mind." I didn't want to offend them so early into our relationship.

"You can ask us anything. We're open books," Emmett said. I got the distinct impression that while Emmett may be open, Rosalie was the exact opposite. She didn't contradict him, though.

"I just…how do you deal with her being so close to you all the time? How do you not kill her?"

Rosalie made a face, but Emmett was the one who answered. "Well, first of all, Edward's kind of in love with her. I think if it came right down to it, he'd kill anyone who tried to hurt her, including us. Plus, Edward gets really mopey without Bella. He would be awful to be around if one of us killed her. And I kinda like Bella. It's funny to watch her do human stuff, because she's really bad at it. Like she can't even walk without hurting herself some days. But she's very accepting of us as well. She knows what we are and all of the dark days we've had. She doesn't care. It's nice."

Rosalie pulled her arm subtly out of his and crossed her arms over her chest. I didn't know why, but Rosalie didn't like Bella. I had a feeling Emmett would pay for his praise of her later. He sighed, but didn't reach back out.

"Anyway, what else do you want to know?"

There was so much, and they spent the entire walk back to the Cullen house answering my questions. Rosalie integrated back into the conversation before long, but she was much colder than before. We talked about why they didn't drink people, why they went to high school (something I'd not even done as a human and couldn't imagine doing now), and what they spent their nights doing.

They told me stories about their weddings and honeymoons and all the things they'd seen and done. Emmett told me about dying and being changed, but Rosalie again went silent on that one. When I asked them why they stayed with the Cullens instead of branching out on their own, Rosalie answered that it was because she loved the sense of family. Carlisle and Esme especially had given her a home and a place to be loved, even when she was unlovable. It mirrored my own current feelings so well that I had to look away for fear of the emotion on my face betraying what I'd overheard earlier.

When we arrived back at the house, all of the other Cullens were there except for Edward. Remembering what Emmett said earlier, I assumed he was with the human girl. Emmett held the door, allowing first Rosalie and then myself to enter the house. I hesitated at first as the smells assaulted me. The smells were all sweet but distinct, comparable to pear, saltwater, chocolate, leather, tobacco, pine, apple, orange blossoms, mint, and a myriad of others. They were the smells of our kind, sweet but touched with the tang of warning.

My hesitation was brief, and by the time I walked through the door, the short vampire with spiky hair was dancing—there truly was no other way to describe her gait—down the staircase.

"Hi Bree. I'm sorry I wasn't able to introduce myself to you earlier. There was a lot going on. I'm Alice. I look forward to getting to know you."

"Hi," I said in response. She spoke fast enough that even my high functioning brain found her a little overwhelming. Behind her, Jasper began a slow descent down the stairs.

"Bree," he said by way of greeting. I tried to keep in mind that he could sense my apprehension and calm myself down, but the effort just seemed to make it worse. "You're safe here, you know. I know we can seem…overwhelming." He shot the shortest of glances at Alice before grinning at me. As soon as he grinned, I started to feel lighter and more at ease.

"I want to apologize for the way I behaved earlier," Jasper continued, again stealing a glance at Alice. "As I'm sure you can see by my scars, I've lived a life relatively similar to the one you were created into. I was on edge, and I was harsher with you than was necessary."

"It's okay," I answered.

He inclined his head toward me once.

Carlisle and Esme entered the room from the left. "Please, come in," Carlisle said. As I followed them into the living room, another scent hit me. It was a floral smell, but very sweet, and very alive. Dessert. I shifted into a crouch, the fire raging in my throat, the bear already buried beneath instinctual cravings.

"Bree! Stop breathing!" It was Rosalie's voice, sharp and commanding. The shock of her harshness was enough to make me listen. I stopped breathing, and the fire immediately receded, if only in a minute measure.

Rosalie stepped into my direct line of sight, Emmett reaching to pull her back until she slapped his hand away. "Listen to me," she said. "Focus on what matters here. You committed to this. You want this. Don't let a scent ruin it for you."

She was right. A rationale part of my brain recognized that she was right. The much more animalistic part was screaming at me to hunt that scent to the ends of the earth, until I'd drained every drop of its source.

"Bree! Remember how you felt today after the bear. You were proud and we could see it. Keep making yourself proud. Come on, you can do this."

Rosalie was right. I was proud. I was proud that they wanted me and that I'd maybe found a home. I was proud that I'd drank the bear when I knew I wanted something else. I was proud that I'd decided to become a part of this family. And I wasn't giving it away by fighting them now. I refused to screw this up.

I concentrated on the very tips of my fingers, locking them into position and holding them still as stone. Then my whole hands, my arms, my shoulders and chest, all the way down my torso, my legs, feet and toes. Finally, I froze my head and face, locking myself into position. I would not move until I was in control of myself, no matter how long it took.

My statuesque position felt like it lasted forever, but it probably only lasted about a minute. The burn of the scent in my nose and throat faded until it was just a whisp of a memory. When I trusted myself to do so, I straightened slowly, trading my aggressive crouch for a more casual stance. I still didn't breathe, and I didn't intend to for a while.

"Great Bree. You're doing great. Can you talk?"

I shook my head ever so slightly.

"Go outside." Rosalie's voice was still authoritative and demanding. But it also made sense. I sprinted out into the yard, taking a deep gulp of fresh, crisp air free from the taint of Bella's smell.

I could still hear everyone inside. Rosalie's heels were clacking toward the door at a human's pace, giving me time to pull myself together before she ambushed me.

"Rosalie?" I heard Esme say.

"I can't explain it and I won't try," came Rosalie's sharp answer. Her tone ended the conversation just as quickly as it began. Her heels clacked again, the clacking disappearing into soft footfalls once her feet reached the snow.

She stopped when she was about five feet away from me.

"I'm sorry," I choked out.

"You don't need to apologize," she said.

Over my shoulder, I heard Emmett asking to speak to Esme in a barely audible whisper.

"You do, however, need to go back in and figure out how you're going to get through this," Rosalie continued.

"I can't, Rosalie. I don't know how to do this."

She covered the rest of the distance between us. She sat close enough to me that I could've leaned my head on her shoulder, but she didn't touch me.

"It's only your first day of trying. You aren't expected to know how, yet." She paused for a while, scrutinizing me with those golden eyes. I could tell that she was making a major decision, and I didn't want to interrupt her. Finally, she sighed.

"Bree," she started. "You don't know this about me yet, but I am not as uncommonly kind as my siblings here. I can't even fake having the compassion of my parents. I've spent nearly a century caring about only two things: myself, and my Emmett. And then you showed up in that clearing. I couldn't explain it to you if I wanted to, but I do already care about you immensely. I want you to be here where you are safe and protected."

"I want that too," I said. And I meant it. I wanted it so bad it hurt.

"Then you need to do what I tell you to right now. When we're finished talking, take a deep breath of the clean air out here, and then stop. Walk into the house without breathing. I'm going to guide you to the spot in the house where Bella's scent is strongest. Then, I'm going to guide you through taking in the scent without letting it overtake you. It is going to burn. You will have to fight for control. But I think you can do this, and I need you to do this so you can stay."

Her voice was soft and kind. I again felt cared for in a way that I hadn't even thought imaginable just a day ago. I nodded my head, sucking in a deep breath of the crisp outdoor air. I stood to my feet and followed Rosalie onto the porch. She paused just before the door, regarding me with a tender expression. I nodded again, not wanting to let any of the air in my lungs escape by speaking.

She erased the compassionate expression from her face, replacing it with a steely, firm-jawed mask. Then, she opened the door.

"Bree and I are going to need some space," she announced in a haughty voice. I noticed that she delicately let her fingers brush Emmett's hand as, one-by-one, she pierced everyone else in the room with a challenging glare. When she was satisfied that her statement was met with no contest, she proceeded into the living room, beckoning me to follow with a wave of her hand.

The room was very open, with high ceilings and a window that made it feel as if we were standing in the forest, not in a carefully constructed and very fancy house. As I took in all of the white walls and open space, Rosalie slid into my view.

"When you're ready," she said, "you're going to take the slightest of breaths. Keep your mouth closed and quickly inhale a tiny amount of air through your nose. Prepare yourself first; it's going to burn. Earlier, it seemed like you locked all of your muscles in place to hold yourself still. That could be a good idea here."

I was terrified, but I listened. I again started the process of feeling every inch of my body go absolutely still. Once I had solidified myself into temporary stone, I closed my eyes, concentrating on building my resolve. I would not hunt. I would not hurt Rosalie to hunt. I would not make her faith in me waiver or give any of the others reason to question allowing me into their home. I would succeed here.

I repeated this mantra over and over until I'd convinced myself, not that I believed it, but that it was possible. That if I managed today, I might be allowed to believe it tomorrow. Then, oh so carefully, I flared my nostrils, taking in the smallest of breaths.