The thing is, I am just really good at killing people.

I can feel the way they all blame themselves, the way their eyes are when they look at me. Like, I know I could have done something to stop this. They're all thinking it silently but in unison, I should have seen it. I should have stopped it.

They couldn't have stopped it. Even if they had seen it coming they couldn't have stopped me. You have to understand, I'm not saying this with any pride, it didn't exactly help things in this case. It's just dry fact—that I am the best of them when it comes to this. Edward is the best at playing the piano, Emmett is the best at catching fly balls. I am the best at killing people. And so when I went for Bella Swan on her birthday, I killed her. They could not stop me.

Of course they shouldn't have had to. We are supposed to be civilized now, tame. People and not animals—we are supposed to be able to control ourselves. And we can. Everyone can but me.

But then, they've always known that, too. When we pass a warm body I'm the first person they look to, the careful safety net of everyone make sure Jasper's okay. I've always been the high-water mark. They never quite got the scope of it, though, exactly how bad it was for me, not even Alice, not even Edward in my head. I surrounded myself with them like a wall, like a moat, and I studied them to figure out what the secret could be. They were all fine, always in control. If they could do it, I could do it. I was not special. I was not weak. I could do this.

Except I couldn't. Who was I kidding, I was weak. So when Bella cut her finger at her birthday party and held it up to see the blood beading on the surface of her skin, I was there before she ever saw it. Instead she saw me, slamming into her and barreling her backwards, my teeth in her throat. Edward would have stopped it but he couldn't, would have sold whatever was left of his soul to stop it, but this was the one night he wasn't standing close enough. I tackled her and the wall behind us was not strong enough to stop us—we punched straight through it, half window half wall with glass hailstorming down with us as we hit the ground. I rolled when I hit, her body tucked safely within my roll, she was my prey, I kept her blood safe. And I bent to her neck like a lover and drank it from her.

Even with regret slagging the memory, it's difficult to deny how sweet the taste of her blood was on the back of my tongue. Like being an alcoholic for twenty years and then someone hands you a shot of vodka. And you drink it. And it burns you as you drink it, there's the part of it of you still saying twenty years, counting the days you've been clean, but it's nothing compared to the way it feels to give in to what you know you've always been. When my mouth was on her throat, I can tell you there was no feeling of regret.

The regret came later. It came when I felt something slam into my back, knock me sliding, yards away with my heels digging skidmarks in the ground. I was still an animal, red-sighted bloodlust and instinct to keep drinking, and I landed in a crouch with a snarl ripping from me. Who had taken me from my prey, I would kill him, who did he think he was? And of course he was Edward.

The first coherent thought I remember having was something along the lines of Oh God, what have I done? Because I couldn't look at his face and not know, just a little bit—the brimstone pain and fury blazing in it—looking at his face and knowing, even in the state I was in, that I'd taken his world between my palms and crushed it to dust.

But there was still blood in the air, and I was a shark—my body screamed for it. I snarled again, louder, letting this intruder know that she was mine, that I was coming for her. He looked up from checking her pulse—I could have told him not to bother, she'd gone through a wall, her blood was cooling fast—and he snarled back, a ribcage savanna cat sound. Because of course she had never been mine, even when I killed her. Even when she was dead she was his.

I thought I would be the one to attack first, but he beat me by a half-second—just before the thirst demanded I get my teeth in her now, his anger demanded something similar and we met with a grinding smash. We were comets. We would break on each other and our shrapnel would fall in with the glass shards on the ground. Marble and glass.

We did not break. He hit me low and rolled me midair—I should have been stronger but he had the pain, the blaze-eyed momentum that even my hunger couldn't hope to match. I hit the ground with him on my chest, his hands on my neck and jaw like he meant to take my head off. He did meant to take my head off, but I twisted to the side and lashed up at him with my arm, rolling us over and getting on my knees and then my feet, throwing him back toward the house. He hit the plasterboard and snapped the wall cleanly, disappearing in plasterdust for a moment before I heard his growl again and then saw him, coming fast, avenging-angel, digging in from the painted boards that used to be our house and launching himself at me. I looked at him—me, Jasper Hale, veteran of the southern rebellion with scars all down my arms, scars that I'd survived, people and centuries I'd survived—and I knew I was going to die.

If he'd gotten to me, I would have. There was no doubt about it—one of those strange freeze-frame moments of utter clarity. Except that he didn't get to me. He didn't even get out of the house—as I stood there still and watched him charge me, I saw a hand snake out from behind the broken wall and grab him by the arm, jerking him back hard enough that had he been human he would have dislocated his shoulder. Instead he just fell back like a fish on a line, locked into Carlisle's grip as our father got hold of one arm and then the other.

He couldn't get free, but he tried—his feet scrabbled against the floor and his arms still reached for me, his face sharp and loose and out of control. I'd never seen Edward like this, Edward, Mr. Frozen Control, and I think that kicked me back to reality more than anything. Watching him lose the face he'd held since I'd known him, breaking to pieces and pieces. Something very bad has happened, I knew, and the bloodlust started to lift out of sheer, jolted shock.

"You killed her!" he yelled, teeth snapping, foam-flecked half-rabid. "You killed her, you killed her, you killed her!" It went on, his mind stuck on a loop remembering the only thing that mattered. And suddenly, I knew exactly what I'd done.

I tore my eyes from Edward's and turned to the side. Where Isabella Swan was laying in the grass with her hair tangled beneath her head, her limbs strange and crooked, her neck strange and crooked and painted bright acrylic red. Her blood in her hair and on her shirt and on the grass around her.

Guilt jumped up from my chest and swallowed me whole.