XXIX

Skin White As Snow


A newborn. That's what they called vampires like me. And newborns, as Carlisle described, were dangerous to everyone, including themselves. The hunger did that to us. It made the strongest creature in the world weak and imbalanced. Newborns weren't to be trusted, he'd said. And when those words left his lips an unexpected swarm of guilt consumed me. Did that mean he couldn't trust me? I hadn't done anything. Except throw Jasper through a wall and storm the forest like some manic animal. Although, I knew what he meant. I felt on the verge of losing control, like any moment would be my last sane one. It wore on my patience, and when I started to feel that way, Jasper patted my shoulder, grinned and told me not to worry about it.

I missed sleeping, though. It was odd to not feel tired, to not crave hours of restful numbness. Since waking, all my senses were heightened. I felt every brush of wind against my skin, every noise around our shack and every animal as they passed hundreds of yards away. I wished to be free from the new awareness for only a few hours, and found it in the windowless room I'd woken in the first day I became the thing. I lay on that cot and stared at the ceiling for hours, hoping for a whiff of sleep to come, perhaps left over in my body. A human reaction to the world, like breathing had been, but there was never anything except the wide open darkness.

I could only close my eyes and pretend, visualizing the memories of Dad and Mom, my friends at the apartments. There had been a world before the house and Edward, one that continued to exist without me, that didn't care if I was present or not. I supposed that's what death felt like. Soon, my life would be an empty void of worn memories from I life I couldn't recall.

I would forget who I was.

It was a strange fact that I couldn't quite grasp. How could I forget? I knew my life, what I'd been through, what I felt. I knew where I was born. I knew I liked mushrooms and green peppers on my heavy-sauced pizza. All of it seemed clear as day. I couldn't imagine not knowing. How could I live not knowing who I was before I became a vampire?

Over the course of several days, while waiting for side effects of the blood to surface (none ever did), I was trained in the art of slaying our own kind. Remove the head. Burn the body. Carlisle and Jasper were aggressive about keeping me alive. Scenario after scenario. Test after test. We fought until the sun set, and then afterwards we sat in the tiny shack, pacifying ourselves with stories, mostly from Carlisle's years as a vampire.

He spoke of history, firsthand accounts of events I'd only read about in high school. Wars. The French Revolution. Napoleon. He told us about his trip to America with Aro and Edward, and described New York City before it was erected with cloud-touching skyscrapers.

Jasper, on the other hand, told us what he could remember from his life before turning. The Confederate Army, and the dry life in Texas. The details were sparse, like a demented old man trying to recall his glory days. He claimed he needed his book from his quarters at the manor to tell them properly. When he learned he would lose his human memories over time he began to write them down in a journal and read it every night in hopes of keeping them locked in his head. He also touched on the Southern Vampire Wars, where he learned all he knew about ripping off female newborns' heads, before the run-in with his wife. That was the time he left for a different life, a coven that wouldn't force him to deal death.

But me? I had no stories of valor or fascinating events from a full existence that a vampire could lead. I had stories about high school, boyfriends, college courses, Mom's breakdown, my motorcycle, Dad and fishing. They were simple. Not elegant enough for our spool table cluttered with books about vampire mythologies, from which Carlisle often read. So I smiled and appreciated their words with my silence.

When the quiet couldn't be ignored, I excused myself and fell into the sublime dark. I was nothing compared to them, regardless of what Aro told me. Regardless of what Jasper and Carlisle had said about me being one of a kind. I wasn't a "queen". I didn't feel like one. I always thought queens to have experience, knowledge about their world, and I had none of that. I didn't know the first thing about being a vampire. I only knew how to be human.


"That's your problem," Carlisle said, swinging his arm at my head.

I strayed backward, taking a step, then seized his wrist and forearm, twisting it around. His position left him vulnerable to a broken arm, as Jasper taught.

He sucked in a breath between his clenched teeth, hissing. "Uncle, uncle."

I released him. "What's my problem?" I asked, finding my stance once again. He repeated the swipe, and I gave him a different reaction, blocking that time and pushing him away. He stumbled back, nearly falling to the ground, but righted himself.

"You still think you're human. As long as you allow yourself to believe that, you won't know how to be a vampire." Carlisle pushed the hair from his face, glancing at Jasper, who'd perched himself on a fallen log to watch our interaction. "You're not using your full strength against me, Bella. You're staying within your comfort zone. If you're going to hit me, then hit me!"

Carlisle pushed me, and I stumbled back a little bit, shocked he would be so abrasive.

"I don't want to hurt you!" I said, squaring my feet into position again.

He shook his head. "Don't worry about hurting me. I'd rather you hurt me than lose a fight. Don't be afraid to let yourself go! Now, you come at me this time."

I did. I struck at him, but he blocked me then flung me to the ground. Dust stirred around us. I brushed myself off, noting how dirty Jasper's jeans had gotten in the week I'd worn them. They didn't fit me that well in the waist to begin with, and on top of that the hems came untucked and dragged under my bare feet. The shirt he loaned me wasn't that well-off, either. Even though it was red plaid, I could still see the blood stains on it from the deer I drank yesterday. I looked like a homeless lumberjack.

I would have to repay him somehow. If only I had access to my bank account, or the tip money I kept in my bedroom. Knowing my landlord, he'd already thrown all my possessions to the street. My things probably graced someone else's home now. Someone was probably sitting on my couch, or using my dresser to store their clothes. It was hard to let that go, knowing I had to start all over again.

"When do we go back to the city?" I asked.

"When you're ready," Carlisle answered. "The city isn't a place for a newborn vampire such as yourself."

I cringed. "Because I'll kill everyone in sight?"

A small grin lifted his cheeks. "More or less. What's in the city that you want? There's nothing there for you except death."

"What does that mean?" I exited my stance and crossed my arms over my chest.

"You're not untouchable, Bella," Jasper said. "If anyone finds out you exist they'll raise an army to kill you. One on one, you're unstoppable, but no amount of training could prepare you for an army. You could hold out for a while, kill a few thousand, but eventually they'd figure out a way to execute you."

A buzz filled my chest, my own irritation getting the better of me. I was becoming increasingly tired of being lectured about the dangers of our kind. It's all I heard for the past week! "Is that what they did to your wife?"

He pursed his lips. Once, I thought them expressionless, unless showing anger, like dogs with bared teeth, but I could read him. I felt him ignite in my chest. "They didn't have to." He threw the stick down he'd been holding, then stepped off the log to wander into the forest.

I was such an idiot. He was only trying to help! I wanted to tell him how sorry I was. My mouth ran away from me. A problem I'd had since forever.

"Let him go," Carlisle said, touching my shoulder as I began to advance toward Jasper's fleeting form. "He'll be fine. He's having a hard time with this. We all are."

"Then why even make me? Why allow me to change if he's going to feel so much regret in doing so?"

Carlisle stepped beside me, as though the conversation would exist between us and no one else. "He doesn't have regret for allowing you to change. He regrets not being able to save the one he loves."

"Alice."

He nodded. "I do not wish to speak ill of the dead, but he didn't care for her mind or personality. He misses her face, and her face alone."

"But he wouldn't have been able to turn her anyway, right? It's against the law."

"He had no interest in turning her. He wanted to keep her like she was. You see, once we become vampires, our imperfections vanish. We become flawless in order to attract humans. It's our hunt."

"Didn't work on me."

"Of course not. You knew what we were. Your self-preservation kept you away from the predators, but others don't have the opportunity." He nodded in his direction. "Jasper doesn't care for our perfection. He enjoyed the imperfect faces of humans, especially hers. He's forgotten his wife's face while she was a human, her imperfections and such. He only recalls her as what he is, when she was killed in front of him. It's not the same. That little human girl was the closest replica he had."

Jasper disappeared between the maze of trees. Instead of following after him, I turned to Carlisle instead as he passed through the shack's small door frame. I felt for Jasper, and even had moments when I thought his emotions were my own. It was all Edward's fault. If I could extract some justice for the pain he felt, then I would. "So, when do we go after Edward?"

Carlisle began to close books and stack them, after claiming last night he'd researched all he needed and could pack them in the trunk of his Mercedes. I leaned on the table, watching his arms flex under his white t-shirt. Over the past few days I'd been strangely drawn to him, admiring his ethereal beauty and curious about what he had to say on any subject. His knowledge was infinite, and even though they claimed I was stronger than him, it intimidated me. "The situation is complicated. Edward's movements have been erratic. Until he slows, we'll have no way of cornering him. Sometimes I have trouble seeing where he's going next."

"What about the other covens? Have they had any luck?"

"No. They are worse off than we are. A coven in San Diego has heard the rumors, and their leader, Vladimir, has offered a handsome sum to anyone who can bring him proof of Edward's treason."

"Why does this Vladimir care?"

"Because before Aro and Edward, there was Aro and Vladimir. If there was a murder, then he wants to know about it. Vladimir knew Edward well. He doesn't want to believe he's done something so heinous, but if he has then he wants justice for his dead, long-time friend."

"Well, why don't you collect on the reward? You know the truth, and you know where he is. You know everything. They would have to believe you."

"It's more complicated than that, Bella. Vladimir will execute me for knowing without saying anything. Yes, they know my gift and if I bring this information to him, I'm also dead." He looked to the books he'd just closed, his palm lingering on the top of the pile. "Not to mention, Vladimir employs torture before taking a head. He believes highly in pain and consequences for crimes. To simply die isn't enough. We will be shackled to the walls of his dungeon and left to rot, to starve until we beg for death, then he'll prolong it even more. Starvation is painful. Gruesome. Edward deserves to die, but I'm not sure he deserves torture."

"Sounds like a real charmer."

"He's more feared than any other lord along the west coast, with scouts everywhere, even in San Francisco. We'll have to be careful when we're in the public eye, lay low. It's my hope we may pass unnoticed by those who would do us harm."

"And what if we don't?"

"Let us pray that doesn't happen." Carlisle began to gather all the books in his arms. "I understand my mistakes now. I regret not informing anyone, but Edward would've killed me if I tried to leave. It's only by a prayer and miracle I managed to sneak out the day you died." He paused, looking over at me for a moment. "I'm self-serving, Bella, I realize this, but I can do more for the good of our kind alive than I can as ash." There was shame in his voice and we both knew he was selfish for keeping the truth, but so was I. We weren't willing to die for it, not when there was another way to dispose of the problem. And, he was right. He could do good for our kind, like he'd done for me.

I touched his shoulder, the muscle tensed under his shirt. "No one questions your motives," I whispered. "I'm not willing to give myself up either."

"As long as no one finds out about you, then you'll have nothing to worry about. Right now, no one knows you exist. Nothing is expected of you, but the world is expected of me."

"Why don't you tell them that he didn't do it? That would free you from Vlad's death sentence, right?"

"I could, but I fear the member of his council, the one who knows whether or not I'm telling the truth. There's always a council member to confirm the truth when it's spoken. Every court has one. Like Edward was for Aro when it came to spoken treason, not actions that Aro could see." He was quiet for a moment, appearing deep in thought then shook his head. "No. No. It's best if I stay out of sight." He moved around the table and toward the door with the books loaded into his strong arms. I followed.

"Then how will we kill him?"

"I have yet to figure it out, but it must be soon. He's become destructive without your blood. He's nothing more than a thirst aching to be quenched."

"I know what that's like," I murmured.

"Not until a siren has knocked on your door. It's not only physical, but emotional and mental as well. There's no other torture like it in the world." He was out of the shack, stepping across the short porch and into the forest.

"He said I came from Hell." Our steps fell over dried leaves all the way to his black Mercedes, what we drove here in. "He said it was all my fault."

Carlisle placed the books in a plastic bin in the trunk, where his other belongings were located. "To him, you being a siren, you were. You'll understand if it ever happens to you."

He started back for the door, but I blocked him. "Has it happened to you?" There was a twinge of hope that maybe it hadn't, that maybe I wasn't the only one lacking some experience in the ways of the vampire. But, as I stared into his deep red eyes, which seemed to sparkle in the evening light, I wondered if that was the only reason I wanted to know. I was a newborn, the last thing I needed was to fall for an vampire forty times my age. We had nothing in common and he would never be interested in someone like me.

He grinned, those wonderful white teeth framed by his full lips. "No, it hasn't." He stepped past me, still smiling. "Excuse me." A wave of his glorious scent hit me like a thousand wrecking balls. I didn't even have to breathe in! What was he doing to me? I didn't know how this worked. Did vampires date? Could they? It wasn't the right time to think about it.

Wait. Did he know? Did Carlisle know how I felt? He was an omniscientist, of course he knew. I could've swore I felt a flash of heat to my face, but I had no warmth running through my body. Maybe it was the venom, or a phantom response locked away in my brain. I walked into the darkening forest, not really wanting to be around Carlisle anymore for the night. I was sure he knew, and I couldn't take the embarrassment if he did.

"Were you looking for me?"

I recalled feeling my breath catch in my throat at the sudden appearance of it many times before then, but at that unexpected moment the voice didn't startle me. I averted my eyes to the branches above, and sitting in a tree I'd already passed was Jasper. "Hey," I said. I was pretty sure I'd already screwed up two things since becoming a vampire, with the only people who knew I even existed. "Look, I'm really sorry... for saying those things about your wife."

He pulled a leaf from a small twig, allowed it to tumble between his fingers for a moment before releasing it. It floated to the ground. "Don't worry about it."

I pushed the strands of hair from my face. "I do worry about it. I know why Alice was so important to you. I know how you felt for her, and how you felt for your wife. I just want you to know we're going to get Edward for what he did. I'm going to kill him for you."

"You're going to fight Edward for me?" This seemed to amuse him. He huffed a little.

"For us. He killed my dad. I can't let that go unpunished. Carlisle said he's getting worse because of me. I started it, so I have to finish it."

Even in the failing light, I could see his face perfectly well. He smiled. "I've never had a woman fight my battles, Swan. Whether you realize it or not, this is war. I've only ever fought two, but none of them have ever been personal. Not like now. Edward isn't going to be cherry pie. You know this?"

I nodded.

"He's going to fight hard. He knows how. He was a soldier once, too. Your technique is going to need to be perfect."

"Then teach me what you know."

He unstraddled the branch and landed on his feet. Why wasn't I so graceful? "I will. We can start pushing the envelope tonight if you'd like. Step it up a little?"

"Okay," I said, starting after him as he began his trek back to the shack. At least I had an advantage on my side. Edward would never see me coming. He wouldn't know my next move because of my shield. My confidence grew. Maybe I did have a chance.

"A word of advice, though. There is one fight you should avoid at all costs," Jasper said.

"What's that?"

His voice carried over the rustle of leaves and the sounds of the forest life waking at the sunless sky. "Stay away from those who can never love you in return."

Carlisle wasn't the only one who knew.


Days passed. A week. Training progressed to the point of being able to take off Jasper's head, pretending, of course. I hunted a small doe, and under Carlisle's careful supervision I drank more of the warm blood. My thirst slowly died, until I barely felt it anymore. It had been my weakness for days, but as I drank I gained strength in its place. I no longer saw myself as a human, but as a vampire. I was just like them, the creature I feared, and learned that I, too, was to be feared. I was a weapon, and like any weapon, I had to learn how to use it. When to lay low, when to hold back, and when to pull the trigger.

I'd used my training to hunt as well, and when the week passed without any incident or side effect from the nourishing doe, I hunted again. I wanted to hunt something less docile, but Carlisle suggested I stick with what works. I couldn't refuse his advice, because maybe he was right. I didn't need aggressive game, I just wanted to show Jasper what I could do with what he taught me.

Another buck, and that time I drained him completely. It was the first time the burn truly subsided. Two and a half weeks I had felt that ache, that long unextinguished torture. My body had been satisfied, but my mind hadn't. Part of me still felt something was missing, and when I explained it to Carlisle he said that as long as I did without human blood it would be that way. I had to be without it. It wasa the only thing that kept me sane, that kept the thirst from taking over completely.

The next morning, we piled into the black Mercedes and left the forest shack, retreating to the long miles of highway to San Francisco. I sat in the back seat behind Jasper as Carlisle drove, and often found myself staring at his straight-nosed profile, his eyes protected by custom sunglasses. Turns out the sun didn't care for us too much. We were sensitive to bright light and required thick-tinted sunglasses to see during the day without squinting. The windows were blacked out with UV protection, so riding in the backseat without the eyewear wasn't so bad.

The late afternoon sun had already begun its descent from the top of the world when we finally arrived at the old hotel at the edge of the water. The air was tempered with salt and fish. The taste of it wafted down my throat and stirred my senses. A man dressed in a white button-down shirt smiled at Carlisle as he made his way around the driver's side from the entrance of the building.

"Good afternoon, sir," he greeted, opening the door with a eager smile.

"Good afternoon to you, too," Carlisle responded, rising from his seat. For having been in the woods for nearly three weeks, he didn't look it. He was perfectly dressed, styled like he'd walked out of a magazine. He took great care as to avoid any contact with the human boy, giving him a wide girth and dropping the keys into his hands rather than placing them.

Jasper looked over his shoulder, but our eyes never met. "You'll be fine, Bella," he said. With that he exited the car, too. I slipped the pair of cheap glasses on that Jasper bought for me at a gas station when we filled up fifty miles out of the city. He said I'd need them around the humans, for obvious reasons.

I looked out the window at the boats on the water. They seemed so peaceful, even in motion. That's all I had to do: remain calm. If I did that then everything would be fine. Don't breath and remain calm. Easy.

I emerged.

"Checking in?" the young man asked. Carlisle nodded, and we were told where we could find the desk.

Carlisle requested a room overlooking the wharf on the top floor, and when the lady complied, she looked at me with a sort-of envy. If she only knew. The creatures I was with may have been beautiful, but they were deadly and hungry. While Carlisle had resolved to drink from a deer last night, it had been almost three weeks since Jasper ate last, and it was beginning to show. His skin was becoming ashy gray, and the black began to take over the red in his irises.

It wasn't only the newborns who were unpredictable.

We carried no luggage with us, only the clothes on our backs. I wondered if we stunk, then I realized this was a human question. We didn't sweat. If anything we smelled of forest, dirt and fresh air, none of which smelled bad at all.

"Alright, sir," the lady behind the counter said. "I'll just need a credit card and a picture I.D.."

"I'm paying with cash," Carlisle said. His brow furrowed, confusion setting in. He placed several hundred dollar bills on the counter.

The lady seemed surprised, her eyes widening a bit then she insisted, "We still need a credit card to book the room, sir. We must have one on file."

Carlisle shook his head and looked to Jasper, who fished out his wallet and gave the lady what she asked for. "Put it in my name," he said.

Jasper took the key from the lady and stuffed his cards back into his wallet when she was done with them. He thanked her.

After the elevator doors shut, Jasper looked to Carlisle. "If you don't know what something means, then please ask me," he said.

"I haven't been out of that house in years. I'm sorry. Seems ridiculous to require a line of credit when I'm paying for it upfront."

"Jesus. You're like an encino man. How are you going to know what you're looking for here? You won't be able to find Garrett by yourself. Do you know where he is? Have you seen him lately?"

"I see him," Carlisle said, looking straight ahead at the mirror doors. "I see him very clearly as long as I concentrate on his decisions. I haven't been out in some time, but I can find my way to him."

We found our room easy enough. It was one of four on the top floor. They spared no expense on the nautical theme. The furniture was white, all except the decorative pillows with navy and stars. I noted the bathroom on the right. My hair was in desperate need of washing.

I rushed to the window across the room set inside a brick wall. Our view was of the Fisherman's Wharf, and I smiled at the sight of all those boats floating back and forth over the water. Dad would've loved this hotel.

"Do you want me to go with you?" Jasper asked Carlisle. They still stood by the door, Carlisle hanging halfway out of it.

"No. That's not a good idea." He looked at me, running a palm over the top of his smooth blond hair. "Stay with her. I can find Garrett on my own. Plus, you haven't eaten. The last thing you should be doing is placing yourself in the middle of humans."

Jasper nodded, and Carlisle was gone.

We stared at each other for a moment. We were alone like we'd been so many times before in the house, only this time it was different. We were truly alone with no buffer. I didn't know how to act. I didn't know what to say. I smirked. "I've got the shower first," I said, and sauntered past him into the bathroom, locking myself inside.


That girl in the mirror wasn't me. Her skin was plump, perfect and flawless. Her hair shiny and full. Her eyelashes were voluminous and her lips were pink. But, those eyes were bright and wicked. Those eyes weren't human. Those incisors were sharp, and I couldn't stare at them for too long before I had to look away. Human Bella had never been much to look at. Average.

Vampire Bella was strange and mysterious. She was the girl that lured men to the bar to buy drinks for her, and then I remembered what I was told about our kind. Our beauty was the hunt, the bait, and fortunately for the human men, I would never have the chance to use mine.

After my well-deserved shower, I paced the room in a robe the hotel provided. I thought it pointless to put the dirty clothes back on. I kept to the window so I could look out on the wharf. The night began to set in, and all the lights on the street below and around San Francisco were coming to life. Carlisle had been gone too long, but Jasper didn't seem to notice. He sat on the bed, flipping through the T.V. channels. "Shouldn't he be back by now?" I asked, remembering what he'd said about Vladimir's spies.

"Don't worry. I'm sure he's found what he's looking for. What's the matter, don't want to be alone with me?"

"No, it's not that." I paused, listening to the disjointed conversation on the T.V. "What did you mean... about not loving something that couldn't love me back?"

"I think you know what I meant, Bella. Don't pretend. I see how you've been looking at him these past two weeks." He sat up straighter, one ankle crossed over the other. "Get it out of your head. Carlisle can't feel that way about you. His heart already belongs to another."

But female vampires weren't allowed. A human then, and there were no more humans in the house. "A human?"

"I'm afraid it's not that simple. This would be easy for him, if that were the case. Carlisle prefers the company of men. More specifically, he's been in love with Edward since the moment he was turned. Why do you think he was banished to the basement?"

"Carlisle said it was because Edward could hear the voices in his head, and adding that to the voices in the house was too much."

"Well, that wasn't the only reason." He looked back to the T.V..

I couldn't say anything in return, I couldn't even fathom what we were doing anymore. We were plotting to kill Edward, not only a psychopathic coven leader who didn't deserve his position, but a monster that Carlisle somehow loved. How could he love someone like him? "Does Edward feel the same?" I asked.

Jasper placed the remote next to him, giving up on his search for something to watch and settling for cartoons. "No. Edward doesn't love anyone or anything, and as far as I know preferred women when he was human. We learn not to love, not to part ways with loneliness. She's the only mistress we're allowed."

"So I'm going to have to be alone? I'm not allowed to love, or feel?"

"Who will you love when no one knows you exist?"

I sat on the edge of the chair in the corner. I hated this life. Secrecy, shadows, no freedom and silence.

"It's the price we pay for eternity, Bella, to see the world change, to be part of it. You know, this building was built in nineteen-oh-seven. Back then it used to be a fruit canning factory. After that, a warehouse. Now, it's a hotel. It's amazing to think I was alive during all its transitions."

"No," I said. "It's sad. It just means that everything has its time. We'll have to see the end of everything."

"But with an end comes birth." He stared at me for a moment before yielding, averting his gaze back to the cartoons. "If you'd like, after we kill Edward, I can help you take your life. Though, it would be a shame, and I would mourn your death."

He would help me end my life? Those words seemed so final and unforgiving. I still wasn't sure about this gift that had been bestowed upon me. It was something to think about. "Would you wear black?" I sort-of chuckled.

"For eternity."

I looked out the window at the lights. Some reflected off the rolling water. "At least someone would miss me."

Footsteps down the hall alerted me, and from the quiet of them I knew it had to be Carlisle. I stood, anticipating his return and when the card slid into the door, I took a step, curious at what he went out for. Jasper stood beside me as Carlisle's pale figure slipped into the room. He locked eyes on us, and there was a moment of guilt. Did he know we were talking about him moments before?

"How did it go?" Jasper asked.

"No questions asked, no statements made. Garrett is oblivious to the events in Los Angeles, either that or he's very good at hiding them. No one saw me. We're safe tonight, and I picked up a few things for you, Bella." He held up a few black and white shopping bags.

"For me?" I took the cords draped over his fingertips. "You didn't have to."

"Trust me, I did. Wearing Jasper's clothes can't be a picnic. I took a guess you were a size six." He stuffed his fingers into his back jeans pockets, a very human-like gesture.

"Yeah, I am," I said, and sat the bags on the bed.

"Those are just to get you started, until you find your feet," he said, as I emptied the contents one by one. A couple pairs of jeans, a few shirts, underwear, a bra, sneakers, and two small, black boxes; one long, the other square. I took those up first, flipping open the longer of the two.

The contents surprised me, but made me smile. I pulled out the custom sunglasses, fitting them over my ears and nose. They fit perfectly against my face, and would block out all angles of sunlight.

"No credit card needed to procure those," he laughed. "Garrett gave me quite a deal on both things since he hadn't seen me in many years."

The smaller of the boxes was the most curious. "This is for a later date," Carlisle said, taking a seat beside me on the edge of the bed as I flipped the top open.

"Contacts?" I asked, picking up the small, white, descriptive box.

"Unless you want red eyes when you're out in public," he added. "Believe me, you don't want that kind of attention." He paused, dipping his head. "What's wrong? Do you not like the color?"

"No, I've… I've seen these before. James had them on when I first met him. They were bright blue."

"I got you brown since it was your human hue, but if you want other colors let me know. The coven has been doing business with Garrett for many, many years. He's the best at his craft. These will look marvelous, and no human will be the wiser. Jasper will show you how to use them when the time comes."

"You're not going to be around?"

"Death is ugly work, Bella. I've seen far too much of it to be part of this execution. I'd rather not, if it's all the same to you."

I knew that, and I was an idiot for asking if he was going to be there. Of course he wasn't. He didn't want to see the one he loved being killed, but the fact he was aiding his executioner with necessary supplies and must-haves was strange. "Of course," I said. "You've known Edward for a long time. It's understandable."

"Yes, well…" He stifled a grin. The type of grin where nothing about the situation was funny, but hid the true emotions. "I knew it would come to this. Even as we speak, he has done more harm to himself and the human community than he has all his years combined. There is no reasoning with a bloodlusting vampire. Just one thing to remember, Bella―" he looked at me "―he can't read your mind. Use this to your advantage. He won't see you coming, won't hear you, so you'll catch him off guard. Jasper won't be far behind, but he can't be there with you, or he'll alert Edward to what's going on."

I understood perfectly well what I had to do. I had to face him alone, and even though they'd convinced me I was invincible against him, because my strength outdid his times ten, I couldn't help but give way to a twinge of fear circling around in my head like prowling sharks.

When I first laid eyes on Edward I feared him. My new strength wouldn't take it away all at once. I had a lot of convincing to do with myself.

A few hours later, I was dressed in the new clothes Carlisle bought and we left San Francisco with high hopes. We were headed toward the one thing I feared most in my human life. Resolution. Would it ever truly be over, this battle with Edward? Like me, he was eternal, and unlike me, far more dangerous.


Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Another will be headed your way soon! I can't believe we're almost done. Wow.

Liv and Sharon pre-read for me. Much love for them!

. . . .

Horror stories to satisfy your Halloween needs:

Because of my love for gothic romantic literature, The Masque of the Red Death by delusionalimperialist is always a favorite of mine.

Que Sera, Sera by Livie79. This one has a romance, for those of you that like a little goo with your screams. It's applauded for its daring journey into the true horrors of life.

This one features a terrifying and sinister demon/fallen angel Edward... Asylum by darkNnerdy! Also by darkNnerdy are Dark Paradise and its sequel, Gods and Monsters. It's about a serial killer Edward and his "one true love". This is not for the faint of heart, but if you're looking for something out of the box and shocking then look no further.

Staceleo has given her penmanship to a couple of horror stories this year! She is a master of comedy and the love stuff, but who knew she could do gruesome, too?! Check out her latest work Ghost Story, a one-shot featuring a ghost Bella. Afterward, stick around for Pretty Little Dolls Sitting All In A Row, her work-in-progress!

*ALL OF THESE AUTHORS CAN BE FOUND IN MY FAVORITES.*