DISCLAIMER – The Twilight saga and all the characters mentioned in it are the undisputed property of Stephanie Meyers. This story was written entirely for non-profit and the sheer love of the series and its memorable characters. Spoilers are included from pretty much included for every single book associated with Twilight. Proceed with caution if you haven't read everything, particularly The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner.


I know you all are eager for updates but, if it's a small consolation, the only thing distracting me from this fanfic are two novels I'm working on – one by myself and the other is a collaboration with a friend. Hopefully, most of you can understand and support my effort to get an original book of my own finished someday. As always, I'll keep updating when I have the inspiration and time. For now, let's enjoy another installment of Bree's adventures abroad.

The (Not So) Short Second Life of Bree Tanner

By: Oy! Angelina

_Chapter 13_

A Rock and a Hard Place

I miss the days where my biggest problem in my second life was not turning humans into snack-packs. It's pretty screwed up that I'm feeling wistful for homicidal impulses but that's just the pace of things lately – screwed up.

I flipped and cart-wheeled down the peaks of the Carpathian Mountains. Stray gusts carried the scent of edible wildlife to me but I made no effort to follow the trail back to its source. I wasn't actually thirsty – well, no more than usual. This was just my excuse to get away from Alec, spend some time with my own thoughts and reflect on how much he ruined everything. I would have been so better off if I never crossed paths with Alec.

The stubborn, betrayed part of me didn't feel that would have been much a loss but that was just the shallow irritation underneath my cold skin. An unmistakable ache welled within the back of my head and the bottom of my heart. Despite my better judgment and Alec's poor conduct I couldn't truly regret meeting him. I wished a lot of things went differently between us but Alec wasn't the worst thing to happen to me in my short second life. Truthfully, I would have found it really easy to like Alec if he was just some normal vampire without any astonishing powers, Volturi connections or an evil twin.

If Alec was just Alec I would have suggested we go see Antarctica together rather than make up lame excuses to ditch him. It's not like this was a grand reprieve or anything. Soon I would have to catch up to Alec and go deal with the Volturi – an experience I would have been happy to avoid for the remainder of eternity.

I didn't know who to blame for the rock and a hard place I landed in. Myself? Alec? Fate? Probably some twisted combination of the three. I might have developed a flare for bemoaning my crap luck and throwing epic hissy fits but they didn't count as a plan. I needed a plan. More specifically, I needed to think instead of just act on impulse. What were my options at the moment? Assuming, of course, I had any…

Being obligated to go to Italy was infuriating, to say the least, but there was no reason to think it would be a one-way ticket. The Volturi let Bella, Edward and Alice go before and they actually had reasons to want to keep them there. Fred was definitely talented but unless he did something totally insane, like join the Volturi, what reason would they have to keep Fred against his will? As far as vampires went Fred was a nice guy who didn't draw attention to himself. The Volturi might be power-mongers with shady scruples but they still had a reputation to maintain. They were supposed to be the law of the land and it didn't look good for the Volturi to keep innocent vampires against their will.

What I couldn't figure out, though, was how did Alec know Fred would force my hand? He knew how much the Cullens meant to me but there was nothing obviously linking me to Fred, let alone anything that would imply I had any affection for him. Alec probably would have told me if I asked…but that would require speaking to him. Whatever. I guess we would need something to talk about on the run to Volterra.

I bounced clear of the jagged mountain terrain and landed in an underbrush of leafy plants and humming nocturnal insects that fell silent the instant blades of grass tickled between my toes. Instead of charging ahead at my usual break-neck speed I made a leisurely pace along the tree line. It wasn't like the forests in Forks, Washington but I felt more at home amongst the trees and shrubs than I did perching and prancing over rocks. Strolling, I listened to the leaves rustle and the prey animals cower in my wake. That didn't exactly help my mood. Being a vampire had its perks but I missed being able to just pet a cat, hold a rabbit or even feed goldfish without them freaking out. Yeah, I'm a predator but I go for bigger game than cuddle widdle creatures that qualified as domestic pets.

Good thing I outgrew wanting a pony because I sure as hell wasn't gonna get one now. I sighed at that thought and wondered if Alec didn't have a point about the Cullens' lifestyle. What was the point in pretending we're normal when we couldn't even own a frigg'n dog without giving the poor thing a heart attack? I'm sure Seth would let me pet him in his wolf form if I asked nicely but it wasn't the same…and it was sort of weird.

That got me wondering how Seth was doing. It killed me that I could just call and let him know I was alright. Hopefully, Alice got in touch with him somehow and made sure Seth wouldn't flip out until I could explain everything in person. Same goes for Carlisle and Esme. Man, I hated that I was worrying so many people and was completely helpless to do anything to change that fact because all my stuff got FedExed to Alec's coven.

Cursing under my breath, I kicked a tree stump and sent it flying like an empty soda can. It hit the side of the mountain with a cringe-worthy thud and exploded into slivers. I rolled my eyes at myself and stomped my bare feet over coarse moss that felt like velvet and pebbles as tough as marshmallows. I totally deserved to be called a newborn seeing as I was always acting like a big baby.

Just then I stopped grumbling to myself as an important development snared my attention. I flared my nostrils as something different from the mountain's native flora and fauna flooded my senses. I heard them an instant after I smelled them.


I whipped my neck back and forth like an owl while my eyes combed over everything in their view. So far I couldn't spot them but I knew there with five of them and they were out there, processing me just as I was processing them. It was dark but that wasn't a problem seeing as I saw the world in ultraviolet or whatever spectrum of color it was vampire eyes could pick up. Could they see me? Probably not if I hadn't spotted them yet but, then again, I didn't know the area. Maybe they were spying on me from some vantage point that was obstructing my view.

I swallowed a mouth full of venom with a hard gulp and lowered reflexively into a defensive crouch. If my heart wasn't a useless lump in my chest it would be racing. Just because I was a vampire myself didn't mean I was eager to mingle with more of my kind, especially when the odds were skewed way out of my favor. Even though most vampires were courteous and a bit curious of strangers that didn't mean all were inclined to be so civil. Some were territorial, others were crazy and a few were just downright mean. Until I knew what I wandered into it was best not to make any assumptions.

I did know one thing, though – these vampires weren't from around here. At least, not the mountains specifically. If they were I would have caught whiff of them earlier but there was nothing besides a few odd trails that were months old and none of those scents smelled familiar to me now. Whoever these vampires were they must have been following me or were downwind, which made me anxious. Maybe they were as wary of me as I was of them but I couldn't rule out the possibility that I was being stalked by a fairly large coven of vampires.

Finally, the suspense got to me. I might be immortal but I didn't feel like waiting around forever to see what these vampires wanted from me. I knew they had the advantage of numbers and – near as I could tell – they also had me surrounded. So what were they waiting for?

"Uh, hello?" I didn't have to call out since I knew they could hear me fine so I kept my tone neutral while my eyes remained peeled.

The vampires didn't keep me waiting for long. A rush of air and brushed leaves heralded their arrival to the small bed of ferns I was occupying. My eyes darted, simultaneously absorbing the details about the five vampires flanking me while searching for an avenue of escape. There were two women in the company of three men; each alabaster white, all larger and older than me. The tattered, mud-splattered quality of their clothes gave me reason to assume these were nomadic vampires rather than a coven with a stationary home. Were they a coven?

From my personal experience I knew large groups of vampires had trouble getting along, especially if they were constantly on the move and competing for resources. The Cullens and their cousins were exceptions to the rule because they chose to live alongside humans rather than behave like 24/7 predators. The Volturi were a large coven too but I had no idea what their secret was. Maybe I would have some insight into that once I finally got there…or if, depending on what this group wanted from me.

Two of the vampires had the tell-tale vivid red eyes of newborn vampires - doe-eyed young woman with feathery blonde hair and a boy barely out of his teens with a tawny mop dangling in his face. Both appeared far less certain of whatever they were doing and kept flicking their eyes to the older vampires for some sort of cue or reassurance. Personally, I found nothing reassuring about the brawny brunette with a grim expression. In a different life it wouldn't be hard to imagine him wearing a horned Viking helmet while wielding a broadsword bigger than myself. The remaining two weren't quite so physically imposing but I didn't mistake them for friendly either. The posture between the lithe auburn hair woman and the male with icy blonde hair implied they were mates and the multiple bite-marks cutting into their arms and necks warned that these lovers were not strangers to fighting their own kind.

I searched for my exit route but didn't like any of the options available to me. Rushing Thor was definitely out and the newborns, though inexperienced, were a gamble. I guessed they were younger than me, which meant they were also probably faster and stronger too. Plus, newborns didn't always have the most impeccable judgment when it came to anticipating threats and would likely go berserk if they thought I was trying to attack them. The couple weren't easy targets either; not just because of their experience battling vampires but mates took it personal when you maimed their lover and I didn't feel like having a crazed nemesis stalking me through eternity.

Strangely, their wary expressions and defensive posture made me think these vampires might possibly be more afraid of me than I was of them, which made absolutely no sense. I honestly couldn't imagine what it was about a barefoot, teenage vampire that gave them pause. Maybe it was the orange eyes throwing them off. Whatever it was maybe I could talk my way out of a fight since I wasn't likely to win one against this crowd.

"Why are you all watching me?" I threw a growl behind the words, hoping to mask the tremble in my voice. I wasn't trying to come off as aggressive so much as tough. Vampires pick up lots of smells, weakness being one of them. I didn't want them to have the impression I was easy pickings.

Rather than answering my question the auburn haired woman asked one of her own. "What are you doing in these mountains?"

I was glad to have an English speaker in the audience but wasn't sure how to respond to her question. Was this some kind of territory they staked out? That would explain why they took exception to my presence but, if that was the case, this was an odd choice of hunting ground for most vampires. No major cities or large human population. I doubted most humans would venture this deep into the mountains for hiking or camping. There was nothing worth protecting from a vampire who strayed into the area but that didn't change the fact I wasn't welcome and they were expecting an explanation. All there was left to do was see whether what I had to say was something they wanted to here.

I decided to change up my approach and dial it back a bit. No sense in antagonizing this group for the sake of posturing and talking tough. Even if we all weren't destined to start a Romanian chapter of the BFF Club there was no reason to start off completely on the wrong foot.

"The short version is I came here from America looking for a friend of mine named Fred. Apparently, I just missed him," I paused to see if, by chance, Fred had met these restless natives but when I didn't get so much as a glimmer of recognition I continued. "Anyway, I swear I was going to leave the country tonight, I was just looking for some animals."

"Animals?" the big, scary vampire echoed through a furrowed brow.

"Yeah, I drink them instead of humans," I explained, motioning to my face. "See how my eyes aren't really red? Our eyes turn gold when our kind feeds from animals."

The tawny haired boy turned to the older vampires, his astonishment humming through his Irish brogue. "We can eat animals?"

"Huh," the doe-eyed vampire pursed her lips as her Scandinavian accent trickled out. "Are they any good?"

"Not as good as humans," I admitted. "But – for me – it's not about the taste; I just would rather not kill people if I don't have to. Animal blood's bland but it's easier to swallow if you think of it like that."

Maybe if I kept things light and conversational they would decide I was harmless or a total weirdo and let me go. To further emphasize that point I shrugged off my defensive crouch and tried speaking with them like they were people, rather than predators.

"Listen guys, I'm not here to cause trouble. If you don't want me in these mountains I'll leave right now with no hard feelings. Honestly, I had no idea there were other vampires in the area and I certainly don't want to pick a fight with anyone."

"Who was the other vampire you were traveling with then?" the icy blonde male inquired neatly.

I deflected the question with an incredulous look. "How long have you guys been spying on me?"

"Technically, we were watching both you and your friend," the icy blonde pressed with a smile. "Who is he? Not Fred since you already said he wasn't in the area anymore."

I debated whether to drop Alec's name into conversation or not. If I mentioned I was with one of the Volturi's scariest guards that was bound to make them reconsider hassling me. On the other hand, I would be a major hypocrite to hide behind Alec's monstrous reputation when all I did was complain about it. Plus, I didn't need the Volturi to protect me. If anything I had more to fear from them than a gang of nomadic vampires who wanted me to beg for forgiveness, pay a toll or whatever it was they were fishing for.

"He's the one who told me where I can find Fred now," I said, shrugging. "I've never been to Europe before so I don't really know where anything is. And it's not like Fred knows I'm looking for him so I lucked out finding someone who could point me in the right direction, huh?"

When in doubt I found, it best to feign the kind of stupidity Kevin frequently flaunted, though I developed this defense mechanism long before I became a vampire. Whenever Dad was in one of his surlier moods I keep my head down, answers simple and expression clueless. Kevin just set reset the bar on my definition for stupidity. He had to be the most witless of Victoria's unwitting pawns and was quite possibly the dumbest vampire on earth. The theory was that any standout traits a person had when they were human got amplified when they became a vampire. By that logic it didn't seem too far-fetched to believe Kevin was dense enough in life that he developed an uncanny talent for idiocy in unlife. It was a proven fact that vampire's skulls were thicker, after all; plus Kevin had the genius idea to attack Emmett. Enough said.

Perhaps I was content with defaulting to a dimmer facade but my interrogators weren't. The newborns seemed at a loss of what to do with me next while the couple traded frustrated looks. The big, intimidating vampire just stared at me in a way that made my skin crawl, which was no small feat considering it was practically made of stone. Of the five, I knew he would be my biggest problem – literally and figuratively. I knew better to think larger muscle-mass equaled smaller intelligence and those dark red eyes were too shrewd for my comfort.

A panicked thought invaded my mind – what if this guy had a talent too? Something that could tell that I wasn't being completely genuine with him? I tried not to dwell on that possibility. Even if it was true there was nothing I could do to stop him so I just kept my expression neutral and preyed they were buying my act. I still confident my own supposedly supernatural ability to convey sincerity could be applied to deceptions. So far honesty was the best policy but now seemed as good a time as any to test just how far I could stretch the truth and press my luck.

"I should be on my way. Still have a lot of ground to cover, you know?" I said, offering a short wave as I walked casually in the direction of the newborns. At this point they seemed like my best bet for slipping by since the older vampires were apparently working some agenda I didn't want to be part of. "It was nice meeting you all."

Before my foot could land another step the large vampire zipped in to block my path. My reflexes demanded I leap back to keep some distance between us. From my new spot I gave him a hard look that plainly communicated I didn't appreciate the intrusion on my personal space.

"No need to rush off quite so soon. After all, how can you say it was nice to meet us when we haven't yet exchanged introductions?" The imposing vampire wondered aloud. "My name is Lukas. And yours?"

Lukas's lips pulled into a slight smile at my response and raised his hands as though to surrender. I knew what he was going for – he wanted me to believe he hadn't meant to startle me but the trouble was I didn't believe that. My sincerity-scale pegged Lukas's in the negatives, meaning this was a ploy to lure me into a false sense of security. Unfortunately, I couldn't call his bluff without tipping my own hand so I had to play along…at least for the time-being.

"Wow, aren't I rude? My name's Bree," I chirped out before pinching a smile out for the other vampires. "Who are your friends?"

"This would be Simone and her husband, Cristi," Lukas motioned towards the auburn woman and her mate then shifted his attention towards the newborns. "And over here we have Quinn and Felicia."

"Uh, good to meet you," Quinn greeted awkwardly.

"Same here," I said, waggling my fingers hello.

"Come; why not introduce us to your friend?" Lukas urged, jerking his thumb in the direction I just ran from.

"You mean Fred?" I asked, cocking my head to the side.

Lukas's smile strained with impatience. "I meant the one you were traveling with."

"What's his name?" Simone asked a little too eagerly.

All this interest in Alec rubbed me wrong and some protective instinct in me wanted to come snarling to the surface. I didn't have time to question why that was, though. Not when I had bigger issues than my weird angst with Alec.

Felicia maintained a defensive pose but Quinn adjusted his position so he no longer looked ready to pounce on me. Evidently Quinn took Lukas's words for a genuine truce because he was all smiles now like we were going to be bestest friends. The poor guy had all the hallmarks of a classic, clueless newborn. He'd probably killed enough people for the exhilarating rush to replace the horror of the act but I was willing to bet Quinn hadn't been a vampire for very long. He trusted people too easily, let his guard down too fast. Of course, the circumstances that made Quinn a vampire might not have been as dire as mine. After I got created I was constantly surrounded by a couple dozen temperamental newborns, which meant my only options were to get paranoid or get smoked. Quinn must have fared better to be so relaxed around unfamiliar vampires or maybe he was just an easygoing guy.

Unfortunately, I didn't intend to hang around long enough to learn the answer. Not when Quinn gave me the perfect opening.

I unceremoniously dispensed with the pleasantries and charged Quinn at top speed. He was the least prepared to stop me if I bolted and I couldn't afford to squander the one chance I might have to break free. Although I definitely took Quinn by surprise instinct quickly took over and pushed him into a crouch. My talent sprang to attention and read Quinn faster than I whipped through paperbacks.

No finesse or patience; Quinn would go for a straight lunge, relying on his strength and speed to do most of the work. While a corner of my mind marveled over how graceless newborn vampires could be my body recalibrated its movement in anticipation of Quinn's attack. By the time Quinn was leaning forward to tackle me there was nothing left for him to grab but air. I made the most of Quinn's prone position, planted a foot into the small of his back and launched myself into the air in the direction of the tree line.

The force of my kick-off sent Quinn into the ground while the rest of the vampires took chase. I decided against playing rabbit on the ground since there was a good chance one of the five might be fast enough to run me down so I did my best flying squirrel impersonation and bounded through the treetops, turning each branch into a springboard. The momentum kept me ahead of the pack below until Simone and Cristi decided to take the high-ground too.

Great – two behind, three below and I was running out of trees.

My body couldn't work much faster to I urged my mind to pick up the pace and think of a way to ditch my pursuers. The smartest thing would be to double back, keep leading the merry chase and hope I reached Alec before they caught me. What would he say if when he saw five vampires trying to run me down? Most likely something sarcastic, assuming he wasn't too busy laughing at me.

Even though every scrap of logic told me this was my safest option I was reluctant to involve Alec, which was stupid considering the fact he was no stranger to rendering irate vampires immobile. I wasn't so stubborn that I would rather be torn asunder than seek and accept Alec's help. I certainly didn't underestimate Alec's ability, not after being subjected to it twice, but I couldn't underestimate the vampires pursuing me either. They obviously had an interest in Alec, why else would Lukas keep steering the conversation towards him?

Alec thought he was a badass, I knew he was a jackass but there was no way I was dumbass enough to lead these vampires straight to Alec.

Okay, so what was Plan B?

Maybe I could make a run for Volterra but – apart from heading south – I had no idea where the city was. Not to mention I wouldn't endear myself to the Volturi any if I lead a stamped of vampires through their city like the running of the bulls. So what were my other options?

Now was as good a time as any to check out Antarctica, I guess.

I took a flying leap onto the cliff-face and wasted no time scurrying up it. Ruining my shoes turned out to be a hidden blessing since I doubt I would have climbed so fast in a pair of adorable sandals. Cristi and Simone were out of the woods and scaling the rocks beneath me by the time I reached the top of the ridge. I frowned at their persistence. Just how long did they plan to chase me? It wasn't like I did anything to warrant this kind of manhunt. Was it like I thought; were they putting me through all this because they saw me with Alec earlier? If that was the case what did they assume I knew that was so important, not to mention why weren't they afraid of angering the Volturi?

So many question and all I could do was speculate – wildly, at that. What was my alternative? Let them catch and interrogate me? Pass. What happened to Diego was lesson enough that curiosity kills more than cats. I'd rather live in suspense than die in-the-know.

Then again, maybe there wasn't any grand, sinister plot behind all this. Raoul and Kristie never needed a reason to be psychotic and cruel so why did these vampires have to have one? For all I knew they were just like James, Victoria's mate. Everything I heard about him made it sound like he enjoyed playing sadistic games with vampires and humans alike. Maybe these vampires got their kicks running American tourists out of the country. I didn't know, I didn't care – I just wanted them to leave me alone!

Unfortunately, I was caught in the middle of a "fight or flight" scenario and it I wanted to stop running then I needed to start brawling. My brief sparring match with Alec proved that my ability had some nifty uses in a fight but five-against-one was asking a lot from a talent I only just recently became acquainted with.

What about two-against-one, though?

So far Simone and Cristi were in hot pursuit but a quick scan of the ground below showed the other three were missing in action. It shouldn't have taken them that long to catch up. I wasn't foolish enough to take this as a sign they'd given up. No, they were more familiar with the terrain than I was and likely using that to their advantage. Cristi and Simone were probably just steering me forward and straight into a trap that would allow Lukas, Felicia and Quinn to cut me off and take me down.

Where did that leave me, besides a new rock and a hard place?

I couldn't hang around and wait for the answer to hit me. I needed to move before Simone and Cristi gained more ground than they already were. So far it seemed like they couldn't outpace me, which leant even more to my suspicions that Lukas and the newborns were waiting for me up ahead. I kept alert while surfing down a gravelly slope. The rolling pebbles tickled the soles of my feet as I scanned for ambushes but found no immediate cause for alarm. It wasn't the quietest means of escape but what did it matter? Simone and Cristi were on my heels so it wasn't like I could just vanish so long as they could spot me or pick up my scent. If I was hoping to outfox them like I had Alec I needed something to throw them off my trail.

I needed moving water.

I strained my senses to see if I could hear a river or – ideally – waterfall somewhere within running distance. All I would need then is to get the lay of the land enough to drop out of sight and into some water. If I could just manage that I was confident I could shake Simone, Cristi and everyone else. It wouldn't take me long to track Alec down after that and we could head to Volterra – no harm, no foul to anyone.

Now if only these jerks would stop making that so difficult for me to do. I had no idea what Alec was doing while these vampires were trying to run me down and I didn't need Alice's talent to predict what would happen if he stumbled across their attempt. There was no question that Alec would bust them up so bad Humpty Dumpty would cringe but something I didn't have an answer for was why he would do that? More to the point, did I really want Alec swooping in to save me from whoever these vampires were? My basic survival instinct gave an emphatic "yes" but my pride was less enthusiastic to play damsel in distress waiting for her knight in tarnished armor to ride in on his dark horse.

It wasn't like Alec owed me any favors – scratch that, Alec owed me a lot of favors but I wasn't about to hold my breath waiting for that to happen. And I didn't even need to breathe! All the same, part of me just kept expecting Alec to turn up and was disappointed he was taking so long. It was just my perfect luck that, after eighteen hours of relentless stalking, Alec would finally develop some boundaries and respect my personal space.

Maybe whatever it was about me that caught his interest finally wore thin. It wasn't like I gave Alec much incentive to be around me. For all I knew he just gave up and went back to Volterra by himself. That thought bothered me. Naturally, I didn't want to risk Fred paying the price for me being a pain but what almost bothered me more is the thought of Alec being so indifferent to our time together. Yeah, it wasn't the best of times but it wasn't the worst either.

I was even starting to like Alec…or I did before he kissed me, twirled his villain-caliber mustache and told me he tied Fred to the proverbial train tracks.

How was I supposed to feel about that anyway? Was Alec just running around inflicting school boy crushes on random girls or did it mean something special? Again, it was hard to see how that could be true. We might have had similar, lousy childhoods but we weren't the same type of person now and we wanted different things for ourselves. I was better off not even entertaining the notion since there was no way it would end well. I couldn't make it as a Volturi guard anymore than Alec could play the good son with the Cullens. We wouldn't be happy in the others world and liked where we were too much to want anything different. The best Alec and I could hope for was being friends. Anything else would be just asking for disappointment.

Plus Alec was almost three and a half centuries older than me and I'd like to think my daddy issues aren't quite that bad.

I cut the psychotherapy short when I spotted Lukas coming on my left at the bottom of the slope with – surprise, surprise – Quinn and Felicia closing in on the right. Simone and Cristi were still on my tail and that left me with a narrow window of opportunity of plowing straight ahead. I moved my feet to help gravity out and sped forward as Lukas and the newborns moved to block me in. It was a close footrace but the odds weren't in my favor. If I kept charging ahead I was going to end up at the bottom of a vampire dog-pile. What was my alternative, though?

Man, I hope necessity really is the mother of invention.

I hooked my movements right and, once again, I decided to take my chances against the newborns rather than Lukas. Quinn looked braced this time but Felicia seemed more focused on keeping up than catching me. Lunging forward, I somersaulted towards Felicia's like an alabaster bowling ball. Surprised by my choice, Felicia leapt over me on reflex rather than make a grab, which was perfect since all I wanted to do was get past the girl with the least amount of resistance possible.

As soon as my heels grazed the ground I was on my feet again, running at top speed. Unfortunately, even though I could outrun werewolves I could keep ahead of Quinn the Newborn – not with such a small gap between us. I couldn't stand the thought of being attacked from behind while I ran like a coward so I whirled around to make what – hopefully – wouldn't turn out to be my last stand.

Quinn let loose a growl as he charged. Was it out of instinct or was he super-pissed I face-planted him into the dirt earlier? If I thought an apology would help I might have offered one, instead I let loose a snarl of my own and flung myself at Quinn's legs. I didn't tuck-and-roll like I had with Felicia so much as slid between his legs like a baseball player stealing home base. Before my momentum gave out I grabbed Quinn and both his ankles and – once more – sent him crashing to the ground.

I jumped to my feet, ready to pull off one of Quinn's legs since I figured he couldn't hop as fast as he could run but I felt myself hesitate. I had my own arm ripped off once and it freaking hurt! How was Quinn all that different from me? He was just a newborn and seemed like he would rather be a nice guy than a total monster. Could I just dismantle some poor vampire who fell in with the wrong crowd? I didn't get the chance to test my resolve because Felicia and Lukas pounced me then. I'll spare the snarly, humiliating details since – suffice to say – three against one didn't work in my favor. I tried, though. I really did.

As soon as Simone and Cristi caught up Lukas had me held out and dangling by my wrists like a fish he caught. I played the part well by wiggling and snapping. It wasn't my most dignified moment but I was scared and angry. Image was not my top priority – survival was and thrashing around felt like as good a plan as any at the moment.

Charged with a dozen different emotions, I spat venom and vulgarities at my captors. It's not stuff I would proudly repeat but Emmett would have gotten a laugh while Esme would have probably washed my mouth out with soap or something. Lukas definitely looked amused by my indignant antics while everyone else just looked uneasy or confused by my hysterics.

"This is not what I would expect from a member of the Volturi," Simone confided in Cristi.

"I'M NOT VOL-TU-RI!" I emphasized each syllable with a fresh squirm or kick. Although it never once worked in the movies I felt like I had to at least try it. "LET ME GO!"

Simone looked like she almost believed me but Cristi broke in. "We saw you with your brother."

"My brother?" I growled. My mind flashed to Edward, Emmett and Jasper until realization struck. "Wait, you think I'm Jane?"

Ugh! Now I was so offended I didn't even have time to be afraid. How could anyone mistake me for that vile brat? I was nothing like Jane nor did I aspire to be. Then again, it wouldn't be impossible to get confused. I was about Alec's age and height and I did have brown hair, not the same color or style as Jane but I definitely fit a general description if someone never met the twins personally.

"I'm not Jane," I stated firmly to clear up this misconception. "I told you, my name is Bree! I'm from America, I'm not a member of the Volturi and the only reason I'm on this stupid continent is because I'm looking for my equally American and unVolturi friend, Fred! That's it."

"You're hiding something, though," Lukas insisted.

I glared at him, unable to determine whether he had a talent or just a lot of life experience dealing with screeching captives. Either way I could see he wasn't going to let me go but I wasn't the person he wanted. So where did that leave us?

Quinn must have wondered the same thing because he asked: "Maybe we should just let her go. I mean, if she's not part of this Volturi coven then what's the point of keeping her?"

Listening to Quinn stick up for me even though I nearly ripped of his leg made me feel like a huge jerk. He probably was a nice guy but that didn't matter – he was with the bad guys and they don't just let people go. They tied up loose ends and I was literally dangling in the wind.

"She might now something," Cristi suggested conversationally. "In any event, that's something we should let the Romanians decide."

"Yes," Simone agreed quickly. "I do not want to explain to Bianca, Valentine, Vladimir and Stefan why we threw away a potential opportunity for revenge."

"Revenge?" I echoed. I wasn't playing Kevin-dumb; I was genuinely clueless. "Against who?"

"The Volturi, of course," Simone said as if it should be painfully obvious. "They ruled vampires and humans until the Volturi stole their thrones and forced them into exile."

"Right, so how do I factor in?" I wondered, dreading the answer.

"The Witch Twins – Alec and Jane," Lukas answered this time. "They have hunted and destroyed any vampires they could find who supported the Romanian coven or are members of it. They've made the Volturi untouchable – unstoppable – since joining. The Romanians would welcome any opportunity to even the score, so to speak."

"So you want to kill Alec and Jane?" I summarized.

"From what I've heard it's a shame they can only be destroyed once," Felicia said, suddenly bold enough to join the discussion. "How many vampires have they killed? Hundreds?"

"At the very least, if you believe the stories," said Crisi.

"If you've never met Alec and Jane why are you so eager to mix it up with them?" I asked, glancing between the group's faces. "Are you part of the Romanian coven?"

"We will be if we can endear ourselves to the Romanians," Simone said proudly. "They've made it no secret how much they despise the Volturi and it seems like a good opportunity to get a little power for ourselves."

Cristi nodded. "The Romanians will remember who helped them once the Volturi are overthrown."

I stared at them all for a moment and said: "You all are morons."

Lukas gave me a shake, jostling me by the wrists. "Says the snared rabbit!"

"I've met Jane and Alec – you haven't," I said with a dark laugh. "If you believed half the things you heard about them you would realize how stupid it is to think a group of amateur bounty hunters is going to take them down. As someone who's been on the receiving end of both their abilities I can tell you that you'll be dead before you know it or in too much agony to care if they kill you. Give it up. You'll live longer."

"You seem to know a lot about them," Cristi mused.

Apparently my warning only reinforced his decision that I might be of some value to him. At least Quinn looked smart enough to be scared stupid. Everyone else, though; I might as well have tried to convince the mountains to pick up and move.

"Let's go talk to the Romanians. We'll see what they make of her," Lukas urged, swinging me like a flag as he turned and took off in a sprint.

I heard the others fall into frantic step behind us as we west. Couldn't I cut a break ever? I went from being Alec's hostage and figuring out how to save Fred to getting bagged-and-tagged by some wannabe Romanians who thought I knew something that could help them pick a fight with the Volturi. Did this happen to other vampires or did I have a new, extra-special talent that magnetically pulled trouble my way?

Worst vocation ever and I didn't even get the lousy tee-shirt.


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