Talent Search

I guess I didn't win, but I'm overwhelmed by the response this story received! I had so many people demand another chapter, most of them asking very nicely, that I've decided to continue it. I've actually managed to come up with something resembling a plot for this thing.

I know things will be weird at the beginning. Try to remember that this is immensely AU.

I've also published Talent Search from Edward's POV. It might explain some of the things in this chapter, like Bella's ability.


It hurt.

There was no other way to describe what I was feeling without thinking about it, and whenever I started thinking about it, it hurt.

I was faintly aware that I'd been moved at some point. I couldn't tell if I was laying on a pile of feathers or a bed of nails. It didn't really matter. I couldn't concentrate long enough on anything other than how much it hurt.

Bright flashes of light danced underneath my closed lids. I wasn't sure why, but I knew that the lights were important. When I thought about the lights, I thought about home.

Thinking about home made the pain more bearable. I conjured up the faces of my family. I remembered Charlie with his brown eyes and charming smile. Renée gave me her hair and her heart. I loved them. If I remembered that, it didn't hurt so much.

Alice. I missed Alice so much. I didn't know how long I'd been changing. Maybe Alice was already finished. She was smaller than I was, so maybe the venom had already gone through her system. Maybe she wasn't hurting anymore. That was a good thing. It would be nice not to hurt anymore.

My lips clamped tighter as I felt the pain around my heart increase. I'd only screamed once throughout the whole miserable experience, when Edward's teeth sunk into my neck. My fingers twitched as I felt the horrible pain recede from them.

Was that good? Was I almost finished? Oh, dear God, let it be over soon!

Think about Alice! Think about her confidence and her grace. Think about her spiky hair and her lovely blue eyes…

Oh, god, her eyes will be red by now.

I sobbed, but didn't open my lips. I heard a rustling outside. I could detect three people. I hated that I was able to do it. My pain free hands clutched at whatever I was laying on, and I realized I was on a bed. I bunched the sheets up into my fists, wanting any distraction from the increasing pain. I wiggled my toes and rotated my ankles.

"Won't be long now," I heard a voice proclaim. It was male. I knew that voice. I'd heard it before, but where?

The white lights in my head suddenly changed colours and the word Emmett flashed through my brain.

Yes, that was it. Emmett was one of the vampires who brought us to Volterra. There was Jasper, Alec, and Eleazar too. And there was-

An almighty pain seized me and ripped my musings away. My back arched and I whimpered. The pain had receded up to my elbows and knees and it was collecting in my heart.

Oh, please! Don't make me lose that!

My head whipped from side to side and I heard my heart pounding. The agony made me want to screech and thrash around, but I resisted. The colourful lights behind my eyes shifted in time with the noises of movement outside, and I realized I could see them. My - what did Eleazar call it? - my shield was wrapped around them. I didn't know why. I had no desire to protect them. I felt the shield like a silk band of light as it pulled away from them. It was so easy to do that I found myself moving it every which way I could. It was enough of a distraction that I was able to keep from calling out as my heart beat like a humming bird's wings and finally stopped.

I held still for a second and then allowed my back to rest against the bed. I realized that the sheets in my hands were in ribbons and I released them. I took a breath and was rewarded with so many different smells. I couldn't even name most of them. Some were floral and some smelled like fruits.

I slowly peeled my lids apart and stared in wonder. Everything was so beautiful. I was in a dank little cell with no windows and no light and it was absolutely the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. There were little particles of dust floating around me. I inhaled again and tasted them. It was nice, but I couldn't spend my whole day eating dust now could I? I sat up slowly and looked down at my skin. My hands were pale white. I knew that to a human, they would be cold to the touch. I hated that.

I decided to stop brooding. "You can come in if you want, Emmett," I encouraged. I almost jumped in surprise as I heard my own voice. It was as if I was singing.

There was complete stillness outside before the door opened. I spotted Carlisle standing in front of Esme. I stared at their faces. The pale light from outside made their skin glitter with eight colour rainbows. I realized why vampires didn't get bored easily. If everything was as beautiful as this, I would never want to move.

Carlisle's face was set in a determined frown. Esme gave me a timid smile, but stayed back. Even Emmett looked cautious. The expression didn't look right on someone so massive.

I felt awkward. I suppose I should've been outraged or sobbing over the fact that I was now a monster, but, of course, I picked the most irrational response and acted like the new kid at school introducing herself to the class.

I tried to think of something to relieve the awkwardness. "I'm not going to bite," I finally said.

Emmett grinned. "Awesome! She's still funny!" Carlisle gave him a disapproving look for a hundredth of a second before shifting his eyes back to me. I felt my nervousness increase and wished there was something I could do to understand why they were being so cautious. I knew next to nothing about newborn vampires, other than they were used in armies in the south because of their strength.

My shield, which had so far been patiently and invisibly circling around me, made itself known by lighting up with all eight colours of the rainbow and wrapping around the three other vampires.

My breath caught as I found myself perceiving much more than just the physical world.

I knew if I made a move toward Esme, Carlisle would attack me. His mind was a whirlwind of half-formed thoughts about my physical and emotional characteristics. He wanted a chance to speak with me about my shield. He was fascinated that I was able to control it while still human. He worried that my temper would make me dangerous.

Emmett wanted to hang out with me. He thought I was funny and brave and that I'd make a good sparring partner. He wanted to teach me how to fight so that I would wrestle him before my strength wore out in a year.

I knew that Esme thought I was beautiful.

My shield retracted, apparently finished with its mission to make me understand. It settled back around me. I felt it caress my skin like warm silk as it circled me slowly. The sensation was calming and I closed my eyes. My shield disappeared, by my mind could still perceive it.

I opened my eyes. I had an internal debate with myself on whether I should make this new development known to them. My paranoid side won by a landslide with its pleas of "Shut the F*** up!"

I stepped off the bed and stood up straight. I made sure that I stayed away from Esme. Carlisle might have seemed nice, but I didn't doubt that he'd hurt me if he felt his mate was in danger. I bit my lower lip as the tension rose.

"Not that this isn't a barrel of laughs, but my throat is killing me." Honestly, the faint burning in my throat was much less painful than what I'd imagined. Now that I was thinking about it though, the burning began to intensify. I brought a hand up to my neck and ran my fingers over my scar. I touched the place where Edward bit me. I could feel a slight puckering of my skin in the shape of a crescent.

"Of course," Carlisle acknowledged. He took a cautious step towards me. I realized that he was carrying a large, white three-gallon tank. "Newborns have very intense thirst. We can talk after you've eaten." He stepped away from me quickly and shut the door behind him.

I stared at the white tank, trying not to understand. I could smell the faint traces of blood, and it could only be blood. It wasn't as warm or fresh as it would be from a human. That was the only reason I didn't claw and bite my way through the metal siding to get to it. I held my breath and unscrewed the vacuum-sealed cap. I gripped both sides of the tank and lifted it until the temperate liquid flowed into my mouth. The taste was like nothing I'd ever imagined. I gulped it down greedily, not caring that I should be disgusted. The burning in my throat was instantly soothed. Once I was done, I put the tank down. There was still some blood leftover, but I couldn't bring myself to finish it.

If I were human, my hands would've started shaking. I wondered if vampires could vomit, then dismissed that. I checked my clothes and was glad to see that I hadn't spilled any of the blood. I screwed the cap back on the container and sat on the bed. My breathing was a little hectic, but otherwise I was okay. Now that I wasn't in pain, I could think about other things. There seemed to be so much more room in my brain. I wondered about my family. I wondered what the kids at school knew. I remembered the way my shield had changed colours and the strange knowledge that I'd seemingly plucked from the minds of three vampires. I wondered about-

"Alice!" I gasped. I jumped to my feet, marvelling when I didn't fall, and froze.

Emmett cracked open the door and peeked inside. "You done?" he asked. I nodded hesitantly. He opened the door completely and took the container from the room. "You okay?" Again, I nodded. I crossed my arms over my chest and bit my lip.

He approached me slowly, as if waiting for me to attack him. I had the urge to roll my eyes, but I resisted. "Where's Alice?" I asked.

"She's fine," Carlisle said dismissively. He walked into the room, looking a little less anxious now that I was fully satiated.

The way he said it, as if he were speaking to a stupid child, made me mad. "I didn't ask you how she is; I asked you where she is." I knew that I sounded like a spoiled brat, but I really didn't care. Sometime during my transformation, I must have lost my grip on her mind. For all I knew, Jane could be torturing her that very moment.

Carlisle's lips quirked up into a smile. "Nothing gets past you. She's in a room like this in another area. It's dangerous to put newborns together. Oftentimes, they end up killing each other."

I sucked in a breath. Would I hurt Alice if I saw her? I didn't feel dangerous. All I felt was the desperate need to keep her safe. "I don't want to hurt her." I felt my eyes prick with tears that wouldn't fall.

Esme stepped quickly over to me. Carlisle opened his mouth to warn her, but she wrapped her arms around me, heedless of the perceived danger. Her arms were warm instead of cold, but that made sense. We were the same temperature now. "Now, now, we know that. You're a very good friend to her. Ignore my husband; he's completely tactless." I felt my lower lip tremble and smiled.

"Weird," Emmett muttered. Esme allowed me to back away from her grip.

"What's weird?" I asked, staring at him.

Emmett grinned sheepishly. He scratched a patch of his hair. "You're so…calm. It's weird. I kind of expected you to start clawing at the walls like the others. And I've never seen a newborn eat without spilling all over the place."

Esme gave him a warning look. "Excuse him, tactlessness must be an inherited trait," she told me. I wondered at her choice of wording. Emmett and Carlisle looked nothing alike, so I assumed she didn't mean that they were related.

I brushed my multi-coloured shield against Esme's mind, and realized that the answer was obvious. "Oh, Carlisle turned Emmett," I thought aloud. The three vampires stared at me. I found one good thing about being a vampire; I didn't blush anymore. I looked hesitantly at Esme. "Am I right?" I asked, even though I knew I was, just like I knew that Alice was not fine.

I glared at Carlisle, feeling slight satisfaction when he took a step back. "You lied when you said Alice was fine. There's something wrong with her, isn't there?" I glared at them.

Emmett shrugged. "You might as well tell her, she'll figure it out on her own if you don't." When it was clear that neither Carlisle nor Esme were going to say anything, Emmett sighed and turned to me. "She went through the transformation and came out of it an hour before you did. We fed her, she made a total mess of herself, and then she collapsed in the corner of her room and hasn't moved since. Her eyes won't focus and sometimes she screams for no reason. Jasper even tried shaking her, but she's totally limp. He says she's feeling extremely frightened." He shrugged. "That's about it."

I froze in shock. "Why didn't you tell me this earlier?" I demanded, advancing on him. He backed away with his hands up in a sign of surrender. Carlisle frowned and pushed Esme behind him. "I want to see her." Emmett looked helplessly at Carlisle, but the man didn't offer any guidance.

"It's kind of…not allowed," Emmett stuttered out. I growled at him and then slammed a hand over my mouth, terrified. I realized that I was very close to hurting him and took a deep breath.

"Fine, if you won't show me where she is, I'll find her myself." I took some satisfaction from watching their mouths drop open as I walked calmly to the door, before Carlisle put a hand on my shoulder. I was very close to growling at him, when he spoke.

"We'll take you to her, but we'll keep Jasper and Emmett around to deal with any problems that might come up." That was acceptable, if a bit annoying. Carlisle opened the door and let me out of my cell. He took the lead while Emmett walked beside me and Esme walked behind me. I felt like I was being led to the electric chair again.

Carlisle led us through several dank tunnels and I realized with a start that we were deep underground. I could pick up the faint sounds of movement from the other vampires above me, but I couldn't make out any conversations. The tunnels themselves seemed to be designed to confuse you. Many of them led to dead ends. I wondered how many newborn vampires had slipped out of their cells and gotten lost in these tunnels before being found. I wondered how long I would be stuck down here.

Finally, after almost five minutes of rapid walking, we made our way down a final hall and I spotted Jasper leaning against the door of another cell. His face was sombre and he looked exhausted. I did a double take as I realized that his face and neck were covered with scars. My eyes scanned the rest of him automatically and I saw several others along his arms. None of the others seemed to have that many scars. I wondered how he had gotten them all. They made him scream danger. Any vampires who'd fought him and not finished the job were probably dead.

He looked at us as we approached and his mouth dropped open as he saw me. I felt the urge to blush again, and looked away from his awestruck gaze. "What is she doing out here, Carlisle?" he demanded. I looked up and realized he had taken up a fighting stance. The last thing I wanted to do was to fight Jasper.

I summoned my courage. "I want to see Alice," I demanded. Jasper met my gaze with disbelief.

Emmett held up his hands as Jasper started to protest. "I think she'll be okay. She's like, super controlled or something. She hasn't gone for anyone's throat or anything," he told him. Esme gave him another long-suffering look.

"I need to see her. Maybe I can fix her," I explained. I saw Jasper's hostility shrink away, replaced by something like hope. He opened the door slowly and peeked inside. He nodded and ushered me in. He and Emmett followed me as I stepped inside.

Alice's cell was exactly like mine, except that the bed was overturned and there were stains of blood on the floor. I ignored the blood, much to Jasper's obvious disbelief and made my way over to where Alice was curled up in the corner. She was motionless. I detected the faint smell of blood that had sunk into her clothes. Her t-shirt was a mess.

I felt my shield react as I spotted her. It wrapped around her, glowing bright white. Alice twitched. I rushed to her and knelt down. I wrapped my arms around her and my shield began to change colours again.

I saw the eight-colour rainbow from behind my closed eyes. I could sense Alice's anxiety and fear. And the guilt! Oh, she was so guilty. She hated herself for letting something like this happen. She was so scared that I would hate her for not protecting me from Edward.

I flinched as I remembered the way Edward had kissed me.

"Oh, Ali, it wasn't your fault," I told her. However, that wasn't all she felt guilty for. She liked Jasper. He protected her and comforted her. While she had burned, he'd stood by her side and told her that everything would be all right. She hated that she could be cared for while I was treated like a piece of meat. It wasn't fair.

She'd seen what Edward had done to me. She knew that he would do everything in his power to make me his. She knew that I hated him.

"Alice, I don't hate you. Everything's going to be all right. Please, can you say something to me?" I begged.

Alice shuddered. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm sorry…" she repeated repeatedly in her new bell-like voice.

I pulled her closer to me and rubbed her back. "It's okay, Alice. I understand." I hushed her and she slowly uncurled herself and stood up with my help.

Her face was perfect now. Every miniscule flaw had been smoothed out. Any remnant of teenage acne was gone. She looked tired. Her bright red eyes had dark circles underneath them. Her expression was sombre and pinched, as if she were in pain. She glanced behind me toward the door. She cringed back as she spotted Emmett. Her hand clenched my arm tightly. "It's okay. They won't hurt us."

Alice continued to stare at them, but her grip loosened. I glanced over my shoulder and saw the others watching us warily. "Can I stay with her? I don't want to leave her alone again," I explained.

Carlisle's mouth drew into a thin line. I thought he was going to say no, but he nodded his head once. "We'll be back soon," he said. They left us alone. When I was sure that they were out of earshot, I slid to the ground with my back to the wall. Alice sat down beside me.

"I wish I hadn't forgotten my book bag. I could read Wuthering Heights while we're waiting for…whatever they want with us."

Alice sighed. "You've read that book a thousand times, Bella." We lapsed back into silence before the tension became too much for me.

I looked at Alice, trying to find something to say. "How are your visions?" I asked. I could only assume that they'd become more powerful, but I wanted to know the details.

Alice looked toward the ceiling and laughed. "It's like…all I've ever seen were flashes of pictures. Now, it's like I can see a whole video play out in my head. The visions are so much clearer too. What about you?"

I knew she meant my shield. I wondered if I'd used my new ability on Alice while I was still human. I knew her inside and out, so there was no way of telling if any of my knowledge had been the result of the bond between our minds. It could also explain the other things I'd figured out

I opened my mouth to explain, when I heard voices in the distance. Alice heard them too and flinched into the wall.

"Unbelievable. And you say she calmed herself down?" I found myself snarling quietly as I recognized the whispery excitement of Aro's voice.

"Yes, Aro." That was Carlisle. He sounded very pleased. I looked at Alice. Her face was set in a frown, but she didn't look panicked.

"What's going on?" I asked her quietly.

"They want to test your shield, and my visions," she answered. Her hands clenched into fists.

I laughed bitterly. "Great, a test. I'd rather be in Biology right now."

Alice didn't smile.

We both froze as the door opened to reveal Aro, Carlisle, and two other vampires. Renata was absent. One was large, with dark hair. The other was shorter, but still muscular. His hair was dark blond. He frowned at us, and I felt something brush against my shield. It reacted by wrapping itself tightly around Alice and I. Alice sighed as it did so. She looked content.

Aro stepped forward. Alice flinched away from him and gripped my arm tightly. He held up his hands in a sign of peace. "Now, now, dear ones, I have no intention of harming you." Carlisle and the two other vampires gazed at us. They were prepared to attack if we so much as flinched in his direction. "I opted not to bring Jane. Your shield would make her ability useless, anyway. Please, allow me to introduce you to several others in the guard." He gestured to the tall, dark-haired vampire. "This is Felix." He then gestured to the frowning, blond vampire. "And this is Demetri."

Demetri lifted the corners of his lips into what passed as a smile. "It is a pleasure to meet you," he said cordially.

"The pleasure's all yours," I snapped. I saw Felix grin. Demetri frowned and tried to elbow him in the ribs, but Felix was too quick. What could have escaladed into a fight halted immediately when Aro turned to glare at them.

Alice twisted my arm as soon as he turned. She grabbed Aro's robe and sent him crashing into the wall on our right. She then bolted from the room with me in tow. I'd never run so fast in my life. The vampires behind us were startled, but they didn't pursue immediately. I could tell that they were looking to Aro for instructions. I knew that we would get lost if we started choosing turns blindly. Alice was concentrating on which way to go, but there were so many possibilities and so many dead ends.

I kept part of my shield wrapped around Alice and me, but I found that I could project the colourful shield away from me, while still keeping our minds safe. I latched onto Carlisle's mind and tried to find out which ways would lead us to the surface and how to get away. I spun around when I figured it out.

Alice shrieked. "What are you doing?"

I kept running. "It's this way. Just trust me," I ordered. I could hear them approaching and I spun to my right, taking a turn that seemed to lead to a dead-end. Alice growled and tried to back away, but I pressed my hand against one of the bricks and the wall began to move. Alice's jaw dropped open as the wall turned in to reveal a set of stairs. I pulled her through the crack and pushed it closed. We didn't bother running and simply jumped up the steps to the top of the staircase. We sprinted through the dark tunnel. The stone path tilted upward and I knew we were heading toward the surface. All we needed to do was avoid the other vampires.

I threw the rainbow shield ahead of us. There weren't any vampires on our left, but the others were going to hear us if we kept running. "Slow down," I ordered. "Act casual and keep your head down. We go left up ahead."

Alice gave me a penetrating stare and I looked at the ground. "I'll explain later, once we're safe." We came to a door. I couldn't hear Aro and the others behind us yet. I assumed they were still looking for us in the tunnels, but we didn't have much time before they figured out where we were. "Wait," I said, as Alice started to push open the door. I reached to my right and pulled two dark robes off the hooks next to the door. "Put this on," I told her, handing one of the robes to her. "We're too conspicuous," I explained, acknowledging our borrowed clothes. We slipped the robes on and put our hoods up.

We opened the door and stepped into a hallway. The stone walls were off-white, but the torches on the walls made them glow with eerie yellow light. Several exotic tapestries hung on either side of the halls. The floor was carpeted and also reflected the yellow light. We ducked our heads and walked swiftly down the hallway on our left. My lips pressed into a thin line as I searched for a way out.

"They got out?" We both slowed as we heard a questioning voice from behind us. "That's impossible."

"Well, apparently it is possible!" Aro answered irately. "Find them!" he ordered. We heard the sound of approaching footsteps.

"Go!" I yelled, pushing Alice ahead. She stopped and turned around, unwilling to leave me.

"Found them!" I spun around as I heard Emmett's voice. He approached us slowly. "C'mon, Bella, let's just go back downstairs. Don't do anything-" I grabbed the torch beside me and threw it at him. "-stupid," he said, defeated, as the carpet in front of him caught fire. I knew that the tiny flames wouldn't be enough to stop him. I backed up and tore another torch off the wall. I then ripped the dark robe off me and held the torch up to it. The robe caught fire immediately. I threw it and the torch into the tapestries on the walls and watched as the flames grew up to the ceiling.

I whirled around and caught Alice's hand as she stared at me in disbelief. "Keep going. It'll take them a while to catch up to us again." We raced through the halls, desperately trying to find a way out.

"There's a door that leads out not too far from here!" Alice said with glee. She suddenly stopped running and dug her feet into the ground. "Jane!" she said in a screeching whisper.

"I won't let her hurt you," I said, but I paused as well. I could hear the distant sounds of pursuit. My eyes scanned the hall, looking for some other way out. I searched through the closest minds with my new ability, but I couldn't find any other exits. "We can take her," I said confidently.

Alice looked at me in disbelief. "Are you kidding me?"

"Think about it, Ali. Can you imagine that little brat learning how to fight without using her power to her advantage? We have her outnumbered and I can block her, no sweat," I implored her. I scanned the minds of the advancing vampires and realized we didn't have any more time. "Come on!" I ordered, grabbing her hand. She wouldn't budge. I tried not to be furious with her, but my emotions were getting out of hand. I struck the wall in my fury and watched in disbelief as the stone crumbled under the assault. I saw that the wall led outside. "Alright, we'll make our own exit." I smashed the wall again and slipped through the hole, pulling Alice behind me.

We raced out and saw that we'd exited from the back of the building. We took off running. Alice had to take two steps for every one of mine, but she was quick and I hardly had to slow down. We made it out onto the streets and whirled around, searching for the main opening of the stone wall around Volterra.

Alice froze. "No!" she shouted, and pushed me away from her, just as two vampires descended on us. I recognized them as Alec and Eleazar. They each grabbed one of her arms, while Eleazar wrapped his hand around her throat. Alice bucked and tried to get away, but they pushed her to the ground onto her knees. "Bella! Run!" Alice pleaded. I shook my head and prepared to launch myself at them.

"Ah, ah ,ah," a familiar voice chided from behind me. An arm went around my waist and pulled me flush against a warm chest. "If you move, Eleazar will rip Alice's head off." Edward embraced me and brought his lips down to my neck. I knew that in less than a second he could pull his lips back from his teeth and tear into my throat. As it was, he planted several kisses down to my collarbone. I shivered, revolted, but held still.

"You won't kill her," I told him, trying not to squirm. I kept my eyes locked on Alice's pained face, desperately trying to think of a way out.

Edward chuckled and his warm breath washed over my neck. "You're right, I won't. But it will hurt quite a bit when we reattach it, so I suggest you hold still and don't do anything stupid."

"Yeah, okay, stupid is more your area anyway," I snapped. He growled and ran his teeth over my neck; scratching it slightly and making it burn.

"I'm not in a good mood, so I suggest you keep your mouth shut, or I'll carry you back inside one piece at a time," he threatened. I shut my mouth as several other vampires appeared.

Aro was among them. I thought he would be furious with us, but he looked delighted. Felix and Demetri arrived and circled behind Edward and I. Demetri glared at me, but Felix pulled his hood down and winked. Edward turned around and growled at him.

As he turned, I spun out of his grip and punched him. I vaguely remembered taking self-defence classes; one of my mother's many phases. I had far from excelled in it, but I did learn how to throw a decent punch. Edward stumbled back as I pounced on Eleazar. Alice pushed Alec away and jumped to her feet, ready to fight. Felix and Demetri leapt on her and held her on the ground. Edward growled and launched himself at me. He was much faster than I thought. I fell onto my back with him on top of me. He and Eleazar held my wrists and arms as Alec held my legs. I bucked, trying to get him off

"Don't you dare, Bella! I'll tear Alice to pieces, I swear!" Edward threatened. The look in his eye told me he wasn't lying.

I wanted to hurt him. I reached into Edward's mind and plucked out the most painful thought I could find. "I hope your mother is burning in hell for asking Carlisle to change you!"

Time seemed to stop and I realized that what I'd done was very stupid. I could have kept my new ability a secret, but now they would know that something was up. The unbearable pain that flashed through Edward's eyes didn't make up for my colossal mistake.

"What did you say?" Edward asked softly.

Oh well, if I was going to hell, I might as well do it thoroughly.

"You heard me!" I yelled. "If she hadn't been so busy trying to take care of you, she might have survived! I bet if she'd known what Carlisle was, she have rather you died than be turned into a monster!"

The pain in Edward's eyes was almost enough to make me regret my words, but I remembered the way he'd pinned me down and forced me to kiss him. I remembered him scaring Alice and threatening her just a moment before. Instead of feeling guilty, it just made me want to hurt him even more. I tried to hit him, but I was too tightly restrained. I snarled at him and struggled, trying to break free.

I saw red as my fury intensified. "It's your fault!" I screamed. "It's your fault that she's dead! It's your fault we're stuck here! I hate you! I hope you rot in hell you son of a bitch!"

Edward's eyes darkened. "Shut up," he growled.

"Make me!" I yelled.

"Bella!" Alice shouted. I whipped my head to the side to look at her. Felix and Demetri held her arms. She looked frightened. "That's enough!" she ordered.

I was so used to listening to Alice that I calmed down immediately.

Edward grabbed my arm and pulled me to my feet. I tried not to look at him. We walked back inside, through the door that time and fell into step beside Alice and her captors.

I gave Alice a subtle wink and made myself frown. "Nice going, Steve McQueen," I muttered sarcastically as we headed down the hall. "Next time you want to instigate a Great Escape, do you think you could give me a little warning?"

Alice caught on immediately. "I didn't exactly have enough time to plan it out," she snapped back.

"Well, maybe if you spent a little less time whining, we wouldn't have gotten caught!" I turned on her angrily.

"Oh, sure," Alice sneered. "This is all my fault! I didn't see you thinking up any escape plans!"

"Between your whining and trying to keep this jerk out of your head, I haven't had the time!"

Edward gave me a warning growl, but I ignored him.

Alice threw her head back and laughed. "This is a day for the history books! Bella Swan is actually complaining about taking care of someone! You'd think with all the practice you got from looking after that brain-dead mother of yours, you'd be used to it!"

I growled at her. "At least when my mother left my dad, she cared enough to take me with her instead of abandoning me in that stupid town!"

Alice snarled at me. "Are you implying that my dad doesn't care about me?"

I narrowed my eyes at her. "Why would he? He's got a new daughter, and a pair of double Ds on legs to keep him distracted."

"Shut up!" she said all but shrieked, her hands curling at her sides.

"Gladly," I said, looking away. I saw Alice's lip twitch upwards, but she quickly covered it up.

Our captors led us back into the tunnels below and deposited us back into Alice's cell. Alice and I positioned ourselves at the two farthest corners and waited until they left.

Alice breathed a sigh of relief. "They're gone. We can talk now. They won't be back for a while."

I walked over and sat down next to her. "Thank god!" I lamented. "I thought for sure you were gonna lose it."

"Double Ds on legs," Alice repeated, snickering. "Gosh, that was too good."

I flipped my hair back. "I know," I said arrogantly.

Alice reached out and smacked me. "You're lucky I'm brilliant, otherwise I would've thought you were really mad at me."

Alice and I used to have play-fights often. A year ago, in an effort to keep Charlie from checking up on me one night, we'd staged a fight just outside the front door while he'd listened from the living room. Charlie loved me, but watching me cry and doing the whole comforting thing was not his forte. He'd gone to bed at ten o'clock with no intensions of going near me until my emotions levelled off. At eleven, I'd snuck out and met up with Alice down at La Push. We hung out there with the Quileute boys for half the night. They had a bonfire going and we stayed up telling scary stories. Alice said that the Quileutes were the only people who didn't think she was weird. She said that they had a long history of magic and found her abilities to be fascinating. It didn't hurt that she was absolutely adorable either.

Thinking about the Quileutes made me think about Jacob…and his secret.

Jacob Black was the son of Billy Black, a good friend of my father. Billy would be almost as upset as Charlie when he found out that Alice and I had been taken. He'd always assumed that Jacob and I were going to hook up. The whole idea was a little too extreme for me, especially when I learned about something called imprinting.

Imprinting was something a werewolf did.

Sam Uley had changed first. I'd been in La Push and had witnessed his change firsthand. I was fifteen, and I'd never been so scared or fascinated in all my life. One minute, Sam was arguing loudly with his father, a common occurrence, and the next, he'd transformed into a giant, black wolf right before my eyes.

Billy explained everything to me that day.

"The wolves are the enemies of the Cold Ones…vampires. For many centuries, we kept our land safe from them. Once the Cold Ones left, the wolves were no longer needed and they died out. Sam's change is unusual. Something is coming, Bella, and we need to stop it. The vampires won't stay in their city for long."

"I thought they worked something out. They promised never to harm humans."

"Of course, but that was seventy years ago…"

I'd never told anyone. Not even Alice had figured it out. She couldn't see the wolves for some reason. I was grateful. If Aro learned of Sam and the others, he would definitely wipe them out. I could never live with myself if Jacob died because of me.

"Bella?" Alice questioned, pulling me out of my thoughts. "Not that I don't love play-fighting with you, but why did we do it?"

I leaned my head back and smiled. "It's simple. Aro said so himself; we work together in synergy. Our cooperation is what makes us so powerful. If Edward and his cronies hadn't come back, I bet we could've made it out."

"We would have," Alice said, smiling wistfully. "I saw it. It was blurry and dark; that means it was an unlikely future, but I still saw it. We were together. We were happy." Alice gasped. "Our eyes were different, more golden than red. How could that be?"

I mulled it over. "I don't know. All the vampire stories say that they have red eyes." I shook my head. "We'll figure it out later, once we've escaped."

"How are we going to do that? They know what we're capable of now. They'll be watching us more carefully," Alice said dejectedly.

I smiled. "They know what we're capable of when we're working together, but we're mad at each other, remember? Angry vampires rarely cooperate well enough to get anything done."

Alice didn't look convinced. "So we had one little scuffle? I'm sure newborns have fights all the time. Anyway, won't it seem odd if we suddenly hate each other? Aro knows how much I care about you, and Edward knows how much you were willing to risk for me."

I smiled even wider. "And just now, they saw how quickly we can turn on each other." I turned to her excitedly as I told her my plan. "We'll pretend to be mad for a little while and then get over it. Aro will see that we can be pushed away from one another. He'll try to manipulate us into distancing ourselves from each other, but he'll still want to keep us close enough so that we can work together. All we have to do is play along and wait for another chance to escape. Once Aro starts trusting us a little more, I'm sure we'll be able to figure something out. All we need to do is be patient."

Alice's eyes lit up. "You really are a genius, you know? It's a good thing you're so kind-hearted. If you used your intelligence for evil, you'd make an awesome criminal mastermind."

I laughed. "Maybe someday." A thought struck me. "One more thing, try to downplay your visions. I'll keep Aro and Edward out of your head."

She nodded and then her eyes glazed over. "Heads up. They're coming back."

I quickly sped to the other side of the cell and sat down. I crossed my arms and faced away from Alice. I heard her laugh before she cleared her throat. I didn't dare look over at her. I knew she was mirroring my posture exactly and seeing it would send me into a fit of giggles.

While we waited, I considered what Alice had said. The ease at which I'd devised my plan was astounding. Though I'd never been stupid, I wasn't exactly known for my brilliance either. It made me worry. I wondered if this was a result of my change. Was it possible that all vampires thought as fast as I did? Did that mean my plan would fail simply because the others were all older and smarter than me?

I had to have faith. Alice trusted me to get us out. If that meant being smarter than our captors, then I would just have to learn quick. I already had the advantage of my new ability.

My new ability…god, I didn't even know what it was. It scared me! The ease at which I'd plucked Edward's deepest pain from his mind was too horrible to contemplate. It made me feel even worse than the time I'd snooped around Charlie's house for my Christmas presents when I was seven.

How was I even doing it? Alice had told me not three, (was it three?) days ago that I was so perceptive I was unnerving our vampire captors. At the time, I hadn't understood how noticing a subtle talent and remembering that Alice and I always had eggs whenever we slept over could freak out a group of monsters. The pain I'd seen in Edward's eyes made me reconsider. Knowledge is power after all.

My musings were interrupted as I heard the familiar sound of Edward's voice. Alice snarled in his direction when I flinched away.

"…impossible. She couldn't know that!" Edward said.

"Perhaps…" That was Carlisle. "Perhaps it's another talent. Eleazar can't see through her shield. Who knows what kind of power she's hiding behind it?" He sounded excited.

"That's what worries me," Edward admitted.

Alice looked over at me speculatively. I motioned for her to turn away and she did so.

We both flinched as the door opened. Edward, Carlisle, Felix and Demetri stood outside.

Edward reached in and pulled me to my feet. I sulked as he led me outside into the hall. Demetri grabbed Alice a little tighter than necessary and she snarled at him. I gave him a dirty look.

"Demetri, please try not to antagonize them," Carlisle reproved. Demetri nodded and loosened his grip.

They led us to the exit we'd used when we'd escaped. "Where are we going?" I asked.

"You'll know when we get there," Demetri answered irritably.

"Alice?" I asked.

"Oh, you're speaking to me now?" she asked testily. Alice was always very good at playing the outraged friend.

I made myself sound fed up, but remorseful. "I'm sorry, okay? I didn't mean to snap."

Demetri rolled his eyes. "Great, it's a hallmark moment."

"Vada via cretino," Alice and I said in harmony. We locked eyes and smirked.

Demetri snorted.

"We're going to see Aro," she said.

"Great," I muttered.

Carlisle gave her one of his searching gazes. The intensity of it was unnerving. I realized that he was smart, a lot smarter than the others. It was probably why he was in charge. Even Edward seemed to listen to him. I remembered what I'd screamed at Edward earlier; Carlisle had changed him. He'd also changed Emmett and…

I reluctantly searched through his mind. I didn't like invading his privacy. Carlisle was compassionate. My teeth began to worry my bottom lip as I thought about the implications.

Edward had been dying of Spanish Influenza when Carlisle changed him.

Esme had jumped off a cliff and broken her back after her son died.

Rosalie…I searched my memory for a face that belonged with the name and realized the blond girl who had kissed Emmett was probably her. She had been assaulted by…her husband? No, that wasn't right. Her fiancé. She'd been left for dead. Carlisle's memory of her broken and mangled body made me flinch in sympathy.

The last person he'd changed, Emmett, was found by Rosalie nearly mauled to death by a bear. She'd carried him fifty miles through the forest so that Carlisle could change him. That was over seventy years ago.

They were all human once. They'd lost their human lives, so Carlisle had given them new ones. He cared for them like they were his own children. I felt a sudden surge of sympathy for them.

I quickly squashed it.

I needed to think logically. Alice and I couldn't escape on our own, that had already been proven. So who were my allies?

Carlisle? Possibly, it depended on how close I could get to him. He seemed fascinated by me. I could use that.

Esme? She would follow Carlisle, I was sure.

Emmett? He seemed to like me, but then again, I had nearly set him on fire less than an hour ago. I wouldn't get my hopes up. He didn't seem very bright anyway.

Jasper? He seemed too sensitive for this life. Perhaps his attraction to Alice would lead him away. I wondered how Alice would feel about seducing him…

Speaking of seduction…Edward.

For some inexplicable reason, he was attracted to me. However, I couldn't see him being easily manipulated. Edward didn't get where he was without discipline. I visualized myself dressed up in red lingerie, sitting on his lap and kissing him. I was thankful that I couldn't blush anymore.

I risked a glance at Demetri and Felix. Demetri was out; he didn't seem too thrilled with us. Felix on the other hand…

He turned his head slightly and winked at me again. Edward muttered a word that would have sent my mother running for the dish soap if she heard it come out of my mouth. I laughed and he growled at me. I quickly shut my mouth, yet I couldn't help but smirk.

We arrived at a set of very familiar doors. Felix stepped forward and opened them. I looked at Alice, gauging from her expression that she was worried. That was never a good sign. My smirk disappeared.

The room was just as I remembered it, only it seemed like all the edges and designs had been sharpened to laser-like precision. I scanned the room for any escapes. There were no windows or ventilation shafts. The only door was the one we came through and it was immediately flanked by four large, burly vampires. I weighed the likelihood of Alice and me taking them out and making a run for it.

Alice looked over to the left, and then to the right. I was pretty sure I was the only one who was aware that she was shaking her head. We needed to be more subtle if we were going to outsmart everyone, which meant I should probably stop scoping out the room like a CIA agent.

We stopped in the center of the room, right in front of the thrones. Felix and Demetri stood behind Alice while Edward and Carlisle stayed next to me. The brothers weren't there yet, so I took the opportunity to observe the other vampires.

God, I would never get used to that.

Jasper stood in the far corner. He seemed disappointed. Esme, Emmett and who I could only assume was Rosalie stood next to him. Emmett gave me a wry grin, and I realized that there were no hard feelings between us. Rosalie, on the other hand, glared at me with loathing. I could cross her off my list of possible allies. She obviously wasn't as amused by my fire-starting as Emmett.

Most of the vampires around us appeared hostile. The rest were either curious or utterly bored. I saw Alice checking them out as well. "Just like high school, huh?" I muttered.

"Lauren Mallory would put them to shame," she muttered back. "She's probably thrilled that Tyler Crowley can't stare at you anymore."

"With all the glaring she does, I'd be surprised if she can even smile without her face cracking in half," I quipped, ignoring the vampires around me.

Alice gave me a smile. "It'd almost be worth getting roasted alive if we got to see that." I smiled back.

I felt something prod at my shield and whipped my head around. I locked eyes with a startled brunette. I felt another prod and turned away, annoyed. I stretched out with my new shield and tried to learn something about the woman. I closed my eyes.

Her name was Chelsea. She could sense and manipulate relational ties between people, but she couldn't get past my shield. She was responsible for making vampires feel bonded to the Volturi while destroying their ties to their family and friends. It certainly explained why Edward and the others obeyed Aro with lover-like devotion. It was a very useful talent.

In my mind's eye, I saw Alice shift. I quickly looked over at her, knowing that she was as comfortable with staying still as I was. She frowned and tilted her head up slightly. I tried to figure out what she meant, but I was worried that she wouldn't like me picking around her brain any more than I already had. I guessed that she meant I should look alert, so I tried to. She gave me a quick smile, and I knew I'd guessed right.

I became aware of the reason when I heard the light sounds of the brothers' approach. Alice must have seen them coming. The other vampires all turned just a second after I did. Edward still hadn't released my arm, but I didn't think too much of it. I doubted he would ever trust me.

The doors opened and I narrowed my eyes at the brothers. Whereas before I'd only noticed Aro, now I studied Caius and Marcus with the same intensity.

I was mistaken earlier. Caius wasn't nearly as old as I'd thought he was. I hadn't gotten a good look at him before, but he was obviously younger than thirty when he was changed. His youth almost disguised the cruelty that showed on his face.

Marcus did appear his age, and he wasn't as pleasant looking as most vampires. He looked utterly bored. My rainbow shield reached out automatically and I realized that he was also sad…miserable. His mate, Didyme, had been killed centuries ago. I felt a sudden wave of sympathy for him, but quickly tried to squash it when I saw Jasper raise an eyebrow at me. Edward turned his head away from the brothers to look at me. I tried to ignore his penetrating stare.

Caius and Marcus sat down in their thrones, but Aro continued down the steps until he was in front of Alice and me. His red eyes were milky. I wondered if it affected his vision. He looked back and forth between us, his expression caught between amusement and frustration.

"I must admit, ladies, you have far surpassed my expectations," he began, his feather soft voice echoing through the silent room. That was unanticipated. I'd almost been hoping he would be angry with us. Maybe then he'd just end it.

My own morbid thoughts startled me. Was that the best we could hope for if my plan didn't succeed? A quick death? Granted, I didn't think Aro would kill us. He was greedy. All he cared about was power. I didn't even have to use my new perception to know that. Edward's statement that Alice and I were valuable reverberated inside my head. Now that I thought about it, we were a great asset. A girl who could see the enemy's moves before they made them and a girl who could block any mental attacks. Edward really lucked out when he found us.

Aro drifted closer to Alice and I had the sudden urge to growl at him. I wondered if this was what a mother lioness felt like when a predator was near her young. Even though Alice was almost three months older than me, I'd always felt like the adult.

Aro touched her cheek briefly, even as Alice flinched away. Edward tightened his grip on me unnecessarily. He obviously didn't think I could watch my temper. That gave me the strength to keep calm.

Aro shook his head. "Isabella," he whispered reprovingly as he realized that he couldn't read Alice's mind. "I fear you're going to be the death of me," he said, dropping his hand from Alice's face and turning toward me.

"One can always hope," I answered, my voice almost sweet. I smiled as I heard several hisses from the vampires around me. I felt a much more unpleasant prod at my shield and smirked. "Nice try, Jane," I taunted.

Jane growled at me. Aro gave the blond vampire a stern glare and looked back at me. The amusement was prominent on his face. "I'm so glad that the change hasn't ruined your sense of humour," he said, gliding toward me, his palms rubbing together. I forced myself not to back away.

"Or," Aro continued, "Your exceptional talent." He briefly touched my cheek and sighed. "Such a remarkable ability, and it is so amazing how easily you control it. However, it has come to my attention that you may be hiding something else behind that shield of yours." He smiled at me like a friendly grandfather. I barely restrained myself from spitting at him. I was pretty sure that wouldn't go over too well with him, and I didn't want Alice to be left alone.

I'd never been a very good liar, but that was mostly because I'd always blushed at the end of every fib. Luckily, I no longer had that problem.

"I don't know what you're talking about," I told him, my voice even. If he thought I was going to cooperate, he had another thing coming.

Aro smiled grimly. "It seems you have knowledge of an event that took place several decades before you were born. I'm quite curious as to how you have obtained this information," he pressed.

I took a breath through my nose. "Oh, you mean about Edward's mother? That was nothing. I just figured that he had mommy issues. You ever see Psycho, Edward?" I asked, smirking. Edward tightened his grip on my arm almost to the point of pain. I clenched my fists in response.

Aro sighed as if he'd expected nothing less, but was still disappointed. "Felix," he said softly.

Before I could move, before I could even blink, Edward and Carlisle had dragged me halfway across the room. I struggled, but the two vampires held on tightly. Then I heard the most horrible sound ever.

Alice started to scream.

For a maddening sixty-fourth of a second, I thought that Jane had somehow slipped through my shield, but as I looked at Alice, I saw that it was Felix who had hurt her. He had ripped her right arm out of her socket. It swung next to her body like a macabre pendulum, held on by mere inches of flesh. I saw Jasper flinch in pain and watched out of the corner of my eye as Emmett restrained him.

"STOP IT!" I shrieked, my voice sounding musical even when it was so filled with pain. I didn't care about seeming weak anymore, or about protecting my secret. All I wanted was for Alice to be alright. "Please! I'll tell you! Just stop hurting her!"

Aro smiled at me again and held out a hand just as Felix was about to take off Alice's other arm. I watched as he dropped her to the ground, clutching at her arm and sobbing tearlessly.

Felix definitely didn't qualify as an ally. In fact, he'd be lucky if I didn't kill him myself.

My fury increased and I began searching through the minds of the Volturi leaders for anything I could use against them.

I struck gold.

I knew Aro was a greedy bastard, but this, this was just too horrible. How could anyone do that to someone they were supposed to love?

Aro had killed his sister; Marcus's mate; Didyme.

Didyme had been changed by Aro. He had hoped that she would possess an ability as powerful as his. He was disappointed. Didyme had gained the ability to make people happy. It was useless in the eyes of her brother, and it became a threat to him when she fell in love with Marcus. Marcus' ability to sense relationships was strongly coveted by Aro. After a few years together, they had tried to leave the Volturi.

Aro pretended to agree, but secretly murdered his own sister so that he could keep Marcus. He had then used Chelsea to make Marcus feel loyal to him, turning his brother-in-law into a zombie.

He really was a monster.

"I'll tell him," I said to Aro, my voice like acid.

He tilted his head to the side, a patronizing smile on his face. "Tell who, what, my dear?"

"I'll tell your brother what you did to her."

I must have been a horrible person, because when I saw his smug expression disappear, and understanding begin to dawn on his pale, onion skinned face, I smiled.

"If you ever hurt her again, I'll tell him what you did," I threatened. It must have been killing Aro to have his followers see how weak and pathetic he really was. His eyes flashed up to Edward's face. He stiffened and gripped my arm. Aro nodded once. The silent conversation was oddly reminiscent of one of mine and Alice's.

"We'll discuss this later, Bella. Felix, bring Alice back downstairs," Aro ordered. "I must confer with my brothers on what to do about you two."

Alice growled as Felix lifted her back up. Her arm still hung loosely at her side. She touched it tentatively and hissed. "You're going to regret that," she said. I knew that tone. She'd seen something bad happen to Felix. I tried not to feel so elated as I realized this.

Edward pulled me toward the doors. I fell into step next to Alice. Felix dragged her roughly to the right with Demetri following behind. I stopped. "Where are you taking me?" I asked, glaring at Edward.

"To my room," he answering, pulling my arm to get me moving again.

"Why?" I demanded, still walking.

"Why do you ask so many questions?" he shot back.

"I like knowing the answers." I kept walking quickly, much faster than any human could move. I hated that I could do that. I hated that I was a monster. I hated them all.

I was going to get back at them.

Edward stopped and opened his door. I searched through the room much like I had the first time I had been brought here. I studied the walls with my new eyes and saw details that I never could have imagined. I saw each dot of paint, the tiny cracks on the walls. I looked at the couch, remembering what he had done do me.

I think I can find something much more enjoyable for your mouth to do.

You're disgusting! Despicable! I hate you! You-

I remembered his lips over mine, rock hard and desperate, as if he had never imagined anything could feel so good. My own weak, pathetic struggles.

You're so warm. So soft. And you're all mine.

I brought my hand up to my neck and traced the bite mark. I remembered screaming, crying out wordlessly for someone to help me. I remembered his loud moans as he drank my blood. I understood better now what he had felt. I remembered when he pulled away, staring down at me, licking his lips. I remembered shutting my mouth, whimpering softly but determined not to scream, not to give him the satisfaction.

"You tasted very good by the way," Edward whispered into my ear. His lips began to trace my jaw and I spun around, furious.

"Don't you dare touch me, not after what you did!" I backed up.

"And, what did I do?" Edward teased as he stepped closer. That horrible smirk was back on his face.

I backed up another step, not liking the look in his eyes. "You-you kissed me…without my permission. That-that's assault-" Edward cut me off with a chuckle.

"You didn't seem too intent on stopping me. You barely even put up a fight."

For a fraction of a second, my mouth hung open, and then I got angry. I glared at him and marched forward until I was right in his face. "I fought as hard as I could! I just wasn't strong enough!" I yelled.

Edward smiled wider. "You don't have that problem anymore. Maybe you should thank me for that," he suggested. He then took my face in his hands and brought his lips down to mine.

I pulled back and slapped him. His head snapped to the left. I backed away as he closed his eyes and touched his cheek gingerly. A small crack was visible on his otherwise flawless face. I watched as it healed quickly.

"In case my remarks about your mother burning in hell were too subtle for you, I don't want you! I hate you! You make me sick! How can you possibly expect me to feel any other way after what you've done?" I growled at him, hate making my shield circle around me rapidly.

Edward turned to glare at me. "You really shouldn't have done that," he growled. He crouched down and launched himself at me. Once again, he was faster than I expected, and I landed on the couch with him hovering over me. He grinned. "I bet you think you're pretty smart."

I squirmed, trying to wiggle out from under him, but every time I moved, he adjusted his position. "The thought has crossed my mind," I taunted.

Edward didn't seem to find my joke very funny. "Do you have any idea what will happen if Marcus finds out what happened to his dearly beloved?" he hissed. He didn't give me a chance to answer. "Caius has been waiting centuries for the chance to replace Aro. If he were to find out what had happened to Didyme, he would use it to get Marcus on his side. If Caius succeeds, the vampires are going to get a lot more freedom. You wouldn't want to be responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people, now would you?" he mocked, brushing my hair back from my face.

I glared at him, knowing that he was right, knowing that Caius was every bit the tyrant Edward said he was, but also knowing that Aro wasn't much better.

"Aro is a psychopath," I declared, bucking my hips in another fruitless attempt to get Edward off me. He adjusted again so that his knee dug into my stomach with all of his weight. It made it difficult to use the air stored in my lungs to speak. "He's charming at first, but it's all a manipulation. He's even more dangerous than Caius because of it. I saw inside his head. He's a monster. He doesn't care about anyone but himself and he's willing to sacrifice his own family to gain power."

"You saw inside his head? Now how could you do that?" Edward asked.

"Don't change the subject!" I ordered, even though I wasn't even sure what the subject was.

Edward traced the bite mark on my neck, staring at it with unnerving intensity. "I want to know what's going on inside that head of yours."

I weighed my options, knowing that there wasn't much I could do to stop them if they threatened Alice again. I couldn't tell Marcus about Didyme.

Not yet anyway.

Maybe if I could get Caius out of the picture, then my plan would work, not that I had much of a plan. I still didn't know if I had any allies.

I stared into Edward's red eyes, determined not to show any fear despite my compromising position. "I don't know exactly how I did it," I told him. "I've always been very…perceptive."

Edward backed away slightly and let me sit up. I did so gratefully. He didn't move away from me, though. His right hand stayed on the back of my neck. I hoped he wasn't going to try to kiss me again.

"I woke up, and my shield, it was different. It changes colours sometimes, and when it does…it's like I can figure out the answers to all my questions."

"Such as?" Edward pressed.

I looked down. "When I was still-" I flinched, remembering the sensation with perfect clarity. "-burning. I heard Emmett's voice, but I couldn't remember who he was, so I just…" I drifted off, wondering how I could explain it. I wasn't even sure what I had done. "I wanted to know who he was, and my shield just…reacted. It surrounded him, and I heard his name in my head."

"Forgetting things like that isn't uncommon during the change. I thought it was unusual that you remembered so much," Edward told me.

I laughed bitterly. "Great, I'm an unusual vampire, a freak of the freaks."

Edward smiled at me the way a friend would and I realized we were sitting closer than before. "Very unusual," Edward repeated.

"Why do you like me?" I asked. The question had been bugging me since I first realized what he wanted with me. I could have just sought the answer out with my shield, but I didn't want to invade his privacy any more than I already had.

"What's not to like?" he replied. He raised a hand and ran his fingers down my cheek. "You're kind, and smart, and selfless." He leaned in closer, his warm breath washing over my face. He smelled like honey and lilac and sunshine. His lips brushed against mine and I suddenly remembered that I was supposed to hate him.

I jerked away and ran to the door. Just as my hand was reaching for the doorknob, Edward grabbed my shoulders and spun me around. My back was pressed against the only exit. Edward looked furious. I looked away from him, trying to keep Alice's face in my mind. He had threatened her. He had held me back as she was hurt. He had kidnapped us from our homes and our families.

My eyes widened as I realized that I hadn't thought of my parents in so long. I tried to conjure up their faces, and was relieved when I could. They were blurry and badly lit, but that was the same with all of my human memories.

Edward grabbed my chin and made me look at him. I glared at his red eyes and his perfect face. What right did he have to look like an angel when he was such a monster underneath?

"What do you think you're doing?" he asked.

"I want to see Alice," I answered.

He narrowed his eyes. "I want you to stay here."

"Why?" I asked, twisting my head to the side as I tried to loosen his grip.

"Because," he said, leaning in closer to my face.

I pushed him away. "I'm leaving." I pulled open the door only for Edward to slam it shut and grab my arm.

"You're staying until I say so. Now get back on the couch, and let's continue from where we left off." He yanked me closer to him and I brought a hand up to slap him. He was quicker this time and caught my wrist. "You cut that out, Bella! I'm drawing the line!"

I'm drawing the line!

The words echoed inside my head, bouncing off the sides of my skull. My shield changed colours and suddenly I was somewhere else.

I could still feel Edward's hands digging into my skin. I could make out that he was saying something to me in a desperate voice, but I couldn't see him.

"I'm drawing the line, son," a man with dark brown hair and hazel eyes is saying. We are sitting at a table. It is dark out. A woman with bronze hair and green eyes looks on with barely concealed fear. "You're not signing up for the army."

I feel my mouth move, even though I know I should just stay quiet. "But, father, I-"

The man, my father, no, Edward's father looks up. His eyes are cruel, his face severe. "Are you talking back to me?"

"No, but…all of my friends have signed up. They are all fighting for this country. None of them are much older than me. I can do something…make a difference…" I trail off as my father stands up.

"You stop this nonsense now," he says. He walks over to where I'm sitting and grabs my hair. He yanks me to my feet. My skull feels like it's burning. "I'm drawing the line. I don't want to hear another word about this. Do you understand me?"

I look away. "Yes."

He smacks me with the back of his hand. My mother gasps and moves to comfort me, but my father shoots her a withering glare and she sits back down. "Yes, what?" my father asks.

"Yes, sir," I acquiesce.

I gasped and pulled away from Edward. I couldn't stop panting even though I didn't need to breathe anymore. I let out a tearless sob and sat on the couch. I grabbed two huge hunks of my hair and dropped my head to my knees, shaking.

Edward moved to my side and placed his hand on my back. "What's wrong with you?" he asked, his voice somewhere between annoyed and concerned.

I took a shuddering breath. "I'm so sorry. He had no right to treat you like that. I'm so sorry!" I sat up and wrapped my arms around his torso.

He reached down and removed my arms. He took my face in his hands and brought it up to his. "What are you talking about?" he whispered.

I shook my head. "I didn't mean to do it. I didn't want to invade your privacy, but I saw it. I saw your father. I'm so sor-"

He cut me off by jumping to his feet. His expression was wild with fury. "You shut up!" he yelled, pointing a shaking finger at me. "You don't know anything. My father was a good man! He taught me how to be strong."

"By hitting you?" I asked. "By humiliating you? Your mother was terrified of him, Edward!"

I didn't even see his hand move, but somehow, I ended up on the floor with my cheek stinging. The couch was tipped over next to me. I got up slowly, suddenly aware that this Edward was dangerous, that he might even kill me. Any semblance of kindness we'd shared was gone. I hesitantly looked up at him.

He was tugging his hair and pacing manically. He stopped and locked eyes with me. His eyes turned dark red as he looked at me. "I don't want to hear another word about this. Do you understand me?"

His words echoed his father's exactly, and I answered the way Edward had when he was young. "Yes, sir."

I saw a flicker of recognition in Edward's eyes before he pulled me to my feet. I allowed him to lead me through the halls and down into the tunnels. I didn't look at him or even speak as he opened the door to Alice's cell and shoved me inside.


Well, this only took five months. Some of these scenes just seemed to write themselves, like the dash to freedom. I had no idea that was going to happen. I hope it was realistic and that you could follow it. It looked pretty awesome when I visualized it.

I'd just like to give a shout out to jmchle. She sent me a private message that gave me the motivation to finish the next chapter by the end of this week. I'm cutting it pretty close, but at least it's posted.

I'll talk to you guys later.