Izzy's mouth stretched wide and those unsettlingly blue eyes opened slowly before she stretched her arms way out and looked around.
"Were you watching me sleep?" she asked. Her voice was heavy, the question ending in a long yawn she just managed to hide behind the back of her hand.
Jane nodded, returning Izzy's smile. Jane couldn't remember ever smiling so often or so genuinely.
Izzy's face shifted and her gaze dropped to her hands, now resting in her lap.
She got so quiet and still sometimes. It was common for vampires to be very still but other than herself, Jane had never known another female vampire who could be so quiet.
Izzy was uneasy. Jane didn't know how she knew that, but it was a look she didn't like to see on her friend. Her friend. She was still getting used to having one of those.
Jane's fingers drifted up to lightly finger her beautiful ruby pendant. It was the most extravagant jewel with a luster fit for a queen. Why had Izzy not kept the treasure for herself? Jane could understand giving gifts to the Masters but why not save this to adorn her own lovely neck?
"Izzy, what's wrong?" Jane couldn't hold the question inside. Her friend was uneasy and she had to know why. She had to fix it, if she could.
Izzy shifted and shook her head before looking up to give Jane a smile that did not quite reach her eyes.
Why was she pretending? "I thought we were friends." Without meaning to, she'd said the last bit aloud.
Izzy's fake smile dropped instantly to be replaced by shock. "Of course we are, Jane!"
Izzy reached out to give Jane's hand a squeeze. "I'm sorry. I just don't do well under scrutiny."
"Scrutiny?" Jane barked out a laugh. "If I were scrutinizing someone, they would know it!" she mocked, playful slapping Izzy's hand.
Izzy laughed in spite of herself.
"You don't like people paying attention to you," Jane stated, her tone soft, a concerned look marring her face.
Izzy nodded her head slightly, her gaze returning to her hands meekly folded back in her lap again.
"I don't understand you. No one does. It intrigues us because as much as we've seen in our long lives, something new and different is too rare."
"I'm a freak," Izzy whispered, barely audible even to Jane's sharp vampire hearing. "Again," Jane thought she heard Izzy mumble.
Jane took a breath to gather her thoughts, her hand returning automatically to finger the heavy ruby at her throat.
"A ruby is just a stone. All it wants is to be in the cool, soft ground resting. What do we do?" Jane looked at the enormous glittering stone in her hand as she finished her thought. "We dig it up and put it on display for our own pleasure. That's not fair to the ruby. It's selfish. How can we resist though? The beauty of it is too precious to us to hide away. Fortunately, the ruby doesn't actually care. You do."
When Jane looked up from her musing Izzy was staring at her, this time with a slight but genuine smile.
"That was beautiful."
"You are precious, Izzy, but you have choices. We care about you. We will learn how to help you understand how precious you are. And I promise I will help you find the privacy you need. And I'll stop being a creeper by watching you sleep." Jane laughed at herself and allowed Izzy to pull her into the bed.
Izzy pulled Jane into her lap and wrapped her arms around her. Jane was surprised to find the embrace to be so comfortable. Jane wasn't accustomed to being touched or held this way. Izzy pressed her lips against Jane's forehead and whispered through a soft, chaste kiss that Jane could watch her sleep anytime because now it would always make her feel precious.
Izzy could feel a slight change in the air that, though she couldn't articulate exactly how she knew, meant Alec was approaching. Her arms tightened around Jane slightly and she placed another chaste kiss on her forehead before pulling back slightly to look down at hew new little sister and smile.
Alec burst through the door and promptly extracted Izzy from his sister to pull her into a bone-crushing, swirling hug that made Izzy laugh so loud the sound echoed around the high-ceilinged room. Finally letting her feet return to the floor, the silly boy looked down smiling to simply say, "I missed you."
"We did not miss you," Jane called from the bed where he had so unceremoniously dumped her in his dash to grab up Izzy.
Alec turned to stick his tongue out at his sister only to get a pillow smashed in his face. His shock at the unusually playful nature his sister never displayed was quickly replaced as they began to play-fight on the bed to the sound of Izzy's tinkling laughter echoing through the chamber again.
When the twins finally calmed, Izzy took a deep breath before asking hesitantly, "Alec, what did you learn?"
His face took on its more typical serious state as he looked at the only woman other than Jane he'd ever remembered caring for. He hated the idea of bringing her pain. He only ever wanted to make her laugh and smile.
"Your sire and his mate had only recently returned to Alaska when the news of your presence here reached them from Alice. They disappeared months ago. The other members of the Denali family did not know why they were gone or to where until now. Apparently they had been searching for you."
Izzy sighed. "Another reason for the Denalis to hate me."
Jane pulled Izzy back down to sit with them on the bed. "How could anyone hate you?"
"I made you uncomfortable again. I'm sorry."
Izzy shook her head and steeled herself to talk about the past she wished had died when she had. "It's okay. There are things you should know. One of the Denalis wants him and was not happy about his fondness for me."
Neither sibling needed clarification on who "he" was.
"Jealousy is not the same as hate. Jealousy is a form of admiration."
Izzy shrugged off Jane's comment. She knew Jane meant well but admiration wasn't something Izzy wanted either.
Alec placed a calming hand on her shoulder and released his worst fear aloud, "I'm not sure we can trust your sire's intentions."
Izzy couldn't hold back a nervous laugh that betrayed no joy. "Laurent is the last person I'd trust."
Alec visibly relaxed at the news before tensing again as he thought about why she had said it that way. Izzy felt the tension and leaned into Alec's arms.
"Did they tell you how I met Laurent?"
Alec nodded. "His companion hunted you when you were still human. You tried to sacrifice yourself to save your family."
Alec gingerly took her hand and turned her wrist to rub his thumb across the tracker's faint crescent bite mark. "You should have died that day but Edward didn't let you. For that I am thankful. As messed up as it is to say, had he not been the supreme moron he is, we may never have had the chance to get to know one another. I can't help but be thankful for that. I hope you don't hate me for it."
Izzy softly touched his cheek before placing a tender kiss on his lips. "I am thankful for all the pain because it is what led me here."
Jane squirmed and coughed awkwardly. "I'm right here, guys!"
Izzy giggled. "Sorry, Jane," she apologized and put a little space between her body and Alec's. The magnetic pull between them was getting more difficult to resist, ever threatening to consume her. Izzy shook her head and tried to focus.
"Yes, James bit me, the Cullens saved us, and Edward…" She swallowed, hearing his name fall from her own lips. She took notice that the pain really didn't accompany it any longer. "Edward sucked the venom from me. I remained human until Laurent found me. At that point I wanted death. I do not know why he stopped feeding before he killed me. I don't know where he went. I believe he meant to kill me. I don't know what he wants with me now."
Jane shivered. "You've been through so much."
Jane hugged Izzy before slipping off the bed and toward the bathroom.
"Where are you going?" Alec asked but by the time he'd finished asking he could hear the bath water running. "What did you do to my sister?" Alec asked with a nervous laugh. "She's becoming…thoughtful!"
"I heard that," Jane snapped from the other room, but they could also hear her quiet laugh that followed.
Izzy smiled and shrugged before letting her head drop onto Alec's shoulder, allowing herself to deeply inhale the scent of her mate. She was comforted to have these ruby-eyed, precious twins in her life. Her mate. Her sister. She was theirs and they were hers. The thought occurred to her that she hoped to be part of this trio forever as she listened to the sloshing water fill the tub.
A/N: Thanks to Reka for beta'ing :)