Hello again, everyone! I want to thank you all one more time for your awesome response to Journey. You made my first experience posting here a true joy! I'm excited to get the sequel out here for you. I hope you enjoy it! I've got a lot planned besides the obvious New Moon story line… there are a lot of "missing pages" in this book that I'm looking forward to filling in. :-)

As always, please take a second at the end and let me know what you thought. I love writing these stories, but your reviews add so much to the experience for me!

Disclaimer: All recognizable characters, themes, and dialogue are the sole property of Stephenie Meyer and no copyright infringement is intended.

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Prologue

One minute.

In the grand scheme of things, a minute is, to all appearances, an inconsequential thing.

A single day is divided into 1,440 minutes – a week into 10,080. A month consists of 43,680 minutes and a year of 524,160.

The average human lifetime consists of over 36 million minutes. They pass without fanfare — most of the time without any notice at all. And when you have an eternity, a minute tends to lack any significance whatsoever.

Some moments stand out in recall more than others, but most simply run together.

Yet there are times in our lives where we are reminded just how important each of those fleeting moments are. Times when we have no choice but to realize how much weight they carry.

One moment can take us from the highest point of happiness to the lowest pits of despair. It can take a life and alter it wholly and irrevocably… leaving us broken and shattered… scattered on the floor where we've fallen – with little hope of ever rising again… and no way to put the pieces back together as they were.

One moment can transform a life – and the lives of everyone around.

One moment… one single moment is all it takes to change everything.

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Chapter 1

Jasper

Festive was the word that best described the atmosphere in our home this afternoon. It was September 13th – Bella's birthday. This was the first birthday our family had celebrated in over seven decades, and we were all making the most of it.

Esme was in the kitchen decorating Bella's cake… a pink tiered concoction that smelled like dirt to our inhuman noses, but admittedly looked far prettier than it smelled. Over the last several months, Esme had become quite adept at cooking with human food. Despite the stench, she actually enjoyed it.

Esme poured out her mothering instincts on each of us who claimed ourselves her children, loving us and providing for us as much as our individual personalities and situations called for. But having Bella around, with her human frailties and her more numerous human needs, provided Esme with a different kind of outlet for those mothering instincts. In some ways, Bella had almost become the "baby" of the family.

I could hear Carlisle's voice mixing with Esme's as he helped in the kitchen the best way he knew how – by keeping his wife company and staying out of her way.

Emmett and Rosalie were back after having been gone for several months. They'd spent the summer in Africa, returning yesterday with enough stories from their time away to fill a book. Emmett had regaled Edward with accounts of wrestling with "real" lions, and not the puny American variety. They'd apparently had the time of their lives over the last several months, but it was nice to have them home again. Things just weren't the same without them here.

The one drawback to Emmett and Rosalie's return after any extended absence was the time it took them to readjust to having other people around. It was difficult for them to remember that they weren't the only two present anymore.

Thankfully, they'd finally taken their own little private party upstairs after trying to vacuum each other's faces off just moments ago. I'd reminded them not-so-subtly that they had a room upstairs, please use it. Much as I loved the two of them, there were some images that I'd just as soon not have burned on my brain.

I was watching Alice flit around the room now adding the finishing touches to her decorating scheme. Every single flat surface was covered in vases of flawless pink roses ensconced in crystal vases. She'd carefully positioned Bella's gifts on the table where the cake would be displayed front and center. At the moment, she had her forehead lined in concentration as she arranged the delicate pink rose petals on the table itself.

The idea was to make it look like the petals had been scattered randomly along the surface, but she was deep in concentration making certain that they were positioned exactly where she wanted them.

When it came to Alice and her parties, two words came to my mind – obsessive compulsive.

I got up to stand behind her, watching her fascination as she tweaked and perfected.

Amused by her deep concentration, I wondered if she would notice if I reached out and shifted one of the petals at the end of the table… not much, just a little closer to the one on its right.

"Freeze!" Alice commanded before I even had a chance to move. "Put your hands where I can see them, mister."

I burst out laughing. "Freeze, Alice? Really? There's an exceptionally bad joke there when you stop to think about it. And we may need to do something about the amount of time you're spending around the police chief. You're actually starting to sound like him."

She sighed and shook her head. Crossing her arms, she turned around to face me. "Since you obviously don't have anything better to do than aggravate me," she smiled with saccharine sweetness, "that means you have time to help, doesn't it?"

I made a face. Walked right into to that one, didn't I?

"The Japanese lanterns still need to be hung. They're already on the front porch. I'll be out in a minute." She said, dismissing me.

"Yes, ma'am."

I went outside to find the mountain of lanterns piled high on the porch. I shook my head. When Alice did something, it was never half-way. I grabbed several and got started, working my way from one end of the house to the other.

Alice came out a few moments later, standing back in the yard and watching. "I'm supervising," she informed me when I shot her a look with my eyebrow raised. "Besides, you're taller than I am; you can reach easier," she said with a smug grin.

When I got down to the last one, Alice piped up from her position on the lawn. "That one needs to go a little farther to the left." I sighed and moved it over as she directed. "Nope, that's too much. Back the other way just a smidge." I did. "I said a smidge, Jasper. It's practically touching the one on the right."

"No, it's not," I protested. "I have excellent eyesight, Alice, and, I promise, it's perfectly centered."

Alice rolled her eyes, shaking her head again. "Never trust an amateur to do the work of a professional," she grumbled under her breath, taking my place and adjusting the lantern exactly where she wanted it.

"Alice! That's exactly where I had it the first time."

"No, it's not," she said, her lips twitching as she fought a smile. "You had it way over here," she said pointing to a spot several inches away from where it was before. It finally dawned on me what she was doing… aggravating me just as I'd done to her earlier.

"Turn about, Jasper," she said in an airy little sing-song voice when she saw the pieces click in my mind, "is fair play."

"Oh, is it now?" I asked with a mischievous glint in my eye.

Alice laughed and sprinted across the lawn an instant before I grabbed for her. She ducked behind one of the massive trees, poking her head around the side. Her eyes sparkled with laughter as I stalked her across the yard.

After so many years of mock-fights with a mind-reader and a psychic, I'd learned to rely on my instincts rather than strategy even more so than ever before. Even still, it was very nearly impossible to fake Alice off. In the split second that I decided on a move, she was already evading it.

The moment I actually made a grab for her, she twisted to the side and flew towards the house. I was right on her heels laughing with her as she raced through the front door and up the staircase.

Her squeal echoed through the hall as I wrapped my arm around her waist, spinning her around and hoisting her over my shoulder before she could slam our door in my face. I kicked the door shut, mindful not to crack it, and tossed her onto the bed. She bounced once, shaking with laughter as I pounced on top of her. I slung one of my legs over her hips, pinning her in place and imprisoning both her wrists with one hand. I showered her face with kisses and playfully nipped her ear lobes and the length of her exposed neck.

"Now what are you going to do?" I teased as she struggled half-heartedly to get free. "I'd say that little plan backfired on you, didn't it?"

"I give," she laughed breathlessly against the onslaught of kisses. "You win. Now let me up. They're going to be here in a few minutes, and I'm not ready yet."

I kissed the tip of her nose one more time before releasing her. She danced into her monstrous closet and slipped into a purple silk dress that hugged her form in all the right places. I sat on the edge of the bed and stared unabashedly at my wife, letting a little of my appreciation seep out so she could feel it.

Alice giggled and flitted back over to the bed, her dress sashaying around her knees. "Have I told you today how much I love you?" She asked, a smile in her eyes, as she came to stand between my knees, winding her arms around my neck.

"You may have mentioned it once or twice," I slipped my arms around her waist and pulled her closer, "but I can never hear that too much." I nuzzled my face in the curve of her neck, kissing the silky soft skin there.

"That's a good thing," she purred, kissing my hair. "Hold on to that thought," she said, lifting my face and kissing me softly. "I have a few last minute things to do downstairs, and I'm running out of time. I laid your clothes out for you in the closet."

I dressed in the black slacks and the button-down shirt that Alice had set aside for me and slid the gray cashmere sweater over my head. Running my hand through my unruly curls, I jogged back down the stairs to see Alice and Esme putting the finishing touch on the living room. The cake had been given its place of honor amid the gifts, and more bowls full of roses had been placed on the outside steps.

"What do you think?" Alice asked, eyes bright with excitement, as she watched me take it all in.

"It looks beautiful," I replied honestly. "Nothing less than what I would expect from you."

Alice beamed at my praise, but then her face fell slightly. "But do you think Bella will like it?"

I snorted and raised one eyebrow. "We are talking about the same Bella, right? The one who's apparently allergic to being the center of attention?"

Alice laughed once lightly, the sound like wind-chimes. "I suppose. I just want it to be perfect for her. After all, she'll only turn eighteen once."

"Relax," I stepped up behind her and wrapped my arms around her waist. "You've outdone yourself."

The roar of Bella's truck in the distance announced Edward and Bella's impending arrival.

"They're here." Alice called unnecessarily. We could all hear the choking sounds of the decrepit truck.
I couldn't imagine why Bella wouldn't let Edward buy her another vehicle for her birthday. That rusty monstrosity sounded as if it was going to keel over at any minute. And how could she stand not being able to drive any faster than 50 miles an hour? Living in a family of speed-demons, that was something I just couldn't make my mind comprehend.

Everyone assembled in the foyer as Edward pulled up in the driveway. "All right, don't forget – all together when they open the door!" Alice instructed as she skipped to my side and slid her hand into mine. I soaked up everyone's eager anticipation, just as excited as the rest of them.

Edward got out of the truck and went around to open Bella's door for her. He wrapped his arm around her shoulder as she slid out of her seat and led her up the walkway to the house. She must have said something funny because Edward was laughing as they walked up the stairs. I could feel Bella's anxiety bubbling as she made her way to the front door. I didn't think I'd ever encountered anyone with such an aversion to attention before.

"Happy birthday, Bella!" we all chorused as they stepped into the foyer. Bella's anxiety increased tenfold as she took in all of Alice's decorations. Edward must have sensed it too, as he wrapped his arms a little tighter around her and leaned down to kiss the top of her head.

How did he do it? I wondered, still a little amazed after all these months. As difficult as it was for me to resist the call of her blood, it was a thousand times worse for him. Yet he did. Every day.

I swallowed the rapid influx of venom to my mouth, pushing the allure from my mind. She'd been in our home enough over the last few months that I'd had plenty of practice doing so.

My admiration for Edward's control was tainted with a certain level of envy as well. As much as he desired her blood, he desired her person more. He was able to push that thirst aside in order to be close to her. He acted as if it was effortless to hold her so close to his side – as if it required no restraint on his part to press his lips to hers. I wondered sometimes if Bella knew just how much it cost him to be close to her. But then again, I didn't see how she could.

The changes in my brother over the last several months never failed to amaze me. The life I saw in his eyes when he was with Bella was something I never tired of seeing. I was glad to see him this happy – he deserved it. And like a chain reaction, the rest of us in the family couldn't fail to be affected by his joy.

Carlisle and Esme were the first to greet Bella. Esme hugged her carefully and kissed her forehead. Carlisle wrapped his arm around Bella's shoulder. "Sorry about this," he stage-whispered, "We couldn't reign Alice in." Alice made a face and stuck her tongue out at him in a motion so fast I knew Bella would have missed it.

Behind them stood Rosalie and Emmett. Rosalie didn't smile, but she didn't glare either. It had been her practice to pretend that Bella simply didn't exist. As far as I was aware, she had yet to even speak a single word directly to her.

Emmett, however, was a completely different story. He had warmed to Bella quickly, finding her human responses – and her clumsiness – quite hilarious. He enjoyed having her around, never missing an opportunity to tease her… just as he did now. "You haven't changed at all," he said with mock disappointment, though humor twinkled in his eyes. "I expected a perceptible difference, but there you are, red-faced just like always."

"Thanks a lot, Emmett." Bella said as she blushed all the more. I pointedly ignored the way the blood pooled so invitingly under the paper-thin barrier of her skin. Venom rushed again to coat my mouth, but I swallowed it convulsively, rebuking myself harshly for even that instinctive reaction. I knew better.

"I have to step out for a second," Emmett said. "Don't do anything funny while I'm gone," he commanded, winking conspiratorially at Alice as he spoke.

Alice's excitement was rising by the second. I knew she wasn't going to be able to contain herself much longer, and, honestly, I was a little surprised she'd lasted this long. My impatient little pixie. She let go of my hand and skipped to Bella with a dazzling smile lighting her face. The sheer beauty of her smile, even when not directed at me, still had the power to make my heart feel like it wanted to skip a beat.

I smiled as warmly as I could when I caught Bella's gaze. I knew my distance frustrated her – that she thought that I disapproved of her for some reason. I wished she understood that it was because I cared about her that I stayed so much in the background. I simply couldn't afford to be careless. The stakes were far too high for me to even consider failure. She meant too much to my family.

"Time to open presents!" Alice declared as she took Bella by the elbow and towed her to the table laden with the cake and presents. Bella had the look of a martyr being led to her death. "Alice, I know I told you I didn't want anything – "

"But I didn't listen." Alice interrupted her. I almost laughed out loud at Alice's smug expression. Of course she didn't listen. That would mean passing up an opportunity to shop – and that, in Alice's book, constituted one of the seven deadly sins.

Alice took the camera Bella had been clutching since she walked in the door and placed a big, square silver box in her hands – the present from Emmett, Rosalie, and me. Bella tore off the paper and stared, obviously trying to make sense of what it was. She finally opened the box only to find that it was empty.

"Um... thanks." she said. She looked so confused I finally did laugh out loud. Even Rosalie had to smile a little at her perplexed expression.

"It's a stereo for your truck," I explained, erasing her look of confusion. "Emmett's installing it right now so that you can't return it." Which happened to be Alice's idea. She knew Bella well.

Bella grinned. "Thanks Jasper, Rosalie." I smiled back at her in welcome. "Thanks Emmett!" She called a little louder, knowing he could hear her. I heard Emmett's booming laugh from the garage.

That little detail – only barely raising her voice, knowing Emmett would hear her from outside – was just one small indicator of how easily Bella had adapted to our world. She never seemed fazed by our extra senses or abilities. She accepted everything in stride – accepted us as we had never been accepted by the human world before. She was an odd little human, but we were all exceptionally grateful for that.

Different though she was, she fit right it, filling a void we'd been entirely unaware of before. It was heartwarming to observe the changes now – to see how our family interacted with Bella like she'd always been one of us.

Edward was the most obvious difference, of course. He was smiling at her now as if she was his whole world – which she was. There was no question about that.

Alice hung on Bella's arm, plying her with the presents – one of the outlets she used to show her love. She had been so impatient for Edward to give her the approval to talk to Bella, and now the two girls were nearly inseparable. I knew Alice loved Bella like her own sister.

Carlisle and Esme had quickly come to think of Bella as another daughter. The love radiating from them as they watched us all together was far more eloquent than words ever could be.

Emmett had from the start treated Bella like his little sister, constantly teasing her. I think it was a kind of game to him to see how often he could make her blush. Even Rosalie, still dealing with her jealousy issues, had stopped being antagonistic. She was by no means accepting, but she had stopped being openly hostile.

The ever-present burn in my throat was bearable – offset by the joyous emotional atmosphere of my family. At times like now, I could almost ignore it if I tried hard enough. I smiled watching the whole family together. Wanting to actually be a part of their fun instead of lingering on the outskirts, I took a few steps closer towards the center of the room.

"Open mine and Edward's next!" Alice was so excited that her voice had become a high pitched trill. She thrust another package at Bella. This one was small and flat.

Bella turned to give Edward a glare that I'm certain she meant to look menacing but which didn't quite succeed. "You promised," she accused. Before Edward had a chance to defend himself, Emmett came bounding through the door.

"Just in time!" he crowed. I moved in even closer as he did, not wanting to be on the outside of my family anymore, wanting to join in and be a participant and not just an observer.

Edward lovingly brushed a strand of hair from Bella's face. "I didn't spend a dime." he assured her. I could hear Bella's heart speed up as he touched her face.

Bella sighed deeply and turned to Alice. "Give it to me."

Emmett chuckled, whether from Bella's resigned expression, or from the fact that her heart was still reacting to Edward's thumb rubbing circles on the back of her neck, I wasn't sure.

Edward had told the truth – he hadn't spent anything on Bella's gift… only his time in making it. He'd spent one night last week at the piano recording onto a CD many of the songs that made him think of her. As opposed as Bella was to gifts, I didn't see how she could object to this one. Alice had seen that she would love it, in fact. The love he felt when he looked at her was almost audible in every note he recorded.

Bella took the little package from Alice's hand, rolling her eyes as she did so. I leaned in with everyone else, wanting to see her reaction to his unique and thoughtful gift. She stuck her thumb on the edge of the paper and jerked it under the tape. "Shoot," she groaned.

In a split second, everything changed.

The smell of her spilled blood caught me completely off guard, hurtling into me like a battering ram and immediately obliterating every last shred of control that I had fought so hard for in the last five decades. My vision colored with the red haze that had, at one point years ago, been a daily part of my life. My senses were immediately taken prisoner to the bloodlust that I was defenseless to counterattack.

All it took was a single moment for my family to fade into nothingness around me.

That single moment was all that was necessary to send me right back to the pits of hell that I had worked so tirelessly to escape.

A single moment was all it took to transform me from the man I had fought so hard to resurrect, to the monster I had thought I'd left behind.

In that moment, I did the only thing I could do – the one thing my instincts demanded without mercy.

I lunged.

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Alice

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"No, Jasper!" I screamed, but it was too late. I saw the events unfolding in my mind a fraction of an instant before they occurred right before my eyes, barely believing that they could be true.

My love's eyes were crazed, beyond the point of sanity as he hurled himself across the room.

"No!" Edward roared as, in a single horrifying instant, he realized what Jasper was doing. He threw himself in front of Bella, knocking her across the table and out of Jasper's path. The table crashed to the floor, scattering the cake, the remaining presents, the flowers, and the cake.

With a sickening crash, Bella landed in the mess of shattered crystal. Now it was no longer just a paper cut. Blood pulsed and gushed from the deep wound in her arm.

Jasper was in a frenzy as he slammed violently into Edward, the crashing sound echoing through the room like boulders in a rock slide. There was another sound too, a deep, grisly snarling sound that came from deep in Jasper's chest as he snapped at Edward's face, desperate to get past him.

I stood frozen in horror as I watched everything Jasper had fought for be razed to ashes in one unguarded instant. I struggled to even make my mind believe it.

This can't be happening.

It seemed like a lifetime, but in reality it was only a split second before Emmett grabbed Jasper from behind, locking him in his massive steel arms and yanking him away from Edward. Jasper struggled wildly in the prison of his grip.

Somewhere in the distance I heard Carlisle's quiet voice. Always in control – even now in the face of such devastation. "Emmett, Rose, get Jasper out."

Jasper gave no sign of having heard him. His crazed eyes were focused solely on Bella's bleeding form.

"Come on, Jasper." There was no teasing now in Emmett's voice. He tried to wrestle him out the door. He was bigger than Jasper was, but even so Jasper's single-minded focus rendered him not easily moved.

Blood continued to pulse out of Bella's arm, permeating the entire room. Through my own horror, venom began pooling copiously in my mouth as my mind registered the overpowering allure. My heart knew the bleeding girl on the floor was my best friend, but that had no influence on my instincts. My throat still flamed, my body screaming for – demanding – her blood.

Through the terrible burn in my throat, I glanced around the room to see all of us suddenly ravenous – each one of us fighting wildly against the unexpected onslaught of this crippling thirst.

Edward growled a menacing warning again as Jasper continued to fight against Emmett's hold. He crouched down defensively in front of Bella, entirely blocking her from view. Rosalie stepped in front of Jasper, staying as far away from his gnashing teeth as she could, and helped Emmett shove him out the back door.

Finally able to move again, I cast a final, regretful look in Bella's direction. "I'm sorry," I choked, hating myself for having to fight so hard to resist her blood. "I can't…"

I can't do this.

I had to get out.

I ran outside, breathing deeply of the untainted air, just as my beloved returned to reason. I could see it in his face as he came back to himself, realizing what he had done. His expression was appalled. He shook his head, not wanting to believe that what he knew was true.

Jasper's eyes met mine, and my heart crumbled into little pieces as I watched the play of emotions across his face as he recalled what he had tried to do.

Without a word, he tore his eyes away and turned, fleeing into the cover of the woods.

I glanced up to the rest of my family. Emmett's expression was far more grave that I'd ever seen it before. Rosalie had her arms crossed over her chest, gnawing on her lower lip. There was no condemnation on her face; she was just as disturbed as the rest of us.

But it was Esme's face that broke my heart even more than it already was. Like the rest of us, she'd been tempted as well – and hated herself for it. If her body could have produced tears, they would have been pouring down her face in streams. A sob caught in my chest just looking at her stricken expression.

I wrapped my arms around her, wanting to comfort my mother, yet needing comfort myself. We clung to each other for a moment as we struggled to come to terms with what had just happened. I knew I needed to go to Jasper – he would need me now. But that meant that I had to be the strong one for him… and I didn't know if I could do that.

Esme smoothed her hand over my hair when I pulled away. Her sorrowful eyes spoke volumes, though her lips said nothing. This was one of those times when words were empty – there were no words in any language that I knew that were even remotely adequate for our heartbreak.

And deep down, I feared that it would only get worse instead of better for now… especially for Jasper. It would be a long time before he would be able to forgive himself for this.

Leaving my family on the back porch, I followed Jasper's trail to the Rainier field – the very same field that our family had banded together to save Bella from the nomads only a few months previously. This was the scene that had led to one of Jasper's greatest victories over his nature… but now I knew that victory would forever be overshadowed in his mind by his greatest defeat.

When I saw him sitting so disconsolately in the middle of the field, with his head buried in his arms, I had to suppress a burst of anger quickly before he had a chance to identify it. I knew he'd misinterpret the cause. He'd automatically assume it was directed at him when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. I wasn't angry with him… how could I be? Deep in my heart, I knew it could have just as easily been me.

As I looked at my warrior-husband so shaken in front of me, my heart wept the tears my eyes couldn't cry for him. I wanted to scream at the unfairness of it all. Out of all of us, he'd been dealt the shittiest hand in this life.

Jasper was one of the strongest individuals I'd ever encountered in my entire existence. He was a survivor, as each of his scars so plainly showed. When I saw those marks, I didn't see weakness as he did, I saw the strength they symbolized. He'd survived horrors that no one should be able to live to tell about. He'd overcome circumstances that would have left a lesser man annihilated.

He fought the hardest of any of us and had the least to show for it.

Jasper expected perfection from himself, yet at the same time had difficulty believing he could do anything right. He was fiercely loyal… even when that loyalty was to his detriment. He deeply wanted to please those he loved, but nothing he did was never enough to satisfy himself. He had a hard time seeing past his disappointments.

Over the last several months, I had thought we were making progress. After the incident at the ballet studio, I had thought he'd gained some confidence. He'd proven that he could resist even that intense level of temptation. He'd adjusted to Bella' presence in our home far more easily than any of us had dared to dream.

Yet a single unguarded moment was all it took to shatter that newfound confidence into thousands of little shards at his feet.

Just as every time before when we'd thought he'd gained that confidence in himself, something had happened to beat him down again. It was always one step forward and ten steps back.

It wasn't fair.

It just wasn't fair.

He fought too hard to keep being disappointed like this.

I knelt by his side. My heart twisted painfully when he wouldn't even look at me. I knew he was ashamed of himself… so much that he was drowning in it. And I knew there was a part of him that was afraid that he'd see condemnation if he looked in my eyes… even though he should know better than that.

I ran my hand over his hair, tousled by the wind, and scooted closer to him. He turned his head, hiding his face from me, but I wasn't letting him pull away. I wrapped my arms tightly around his shoulders and thought of how desperately I loved him – so much so that my heart almost ached from it – and let that love bathe his bruised heart.

Finally after a long moment, he shifted in my arms to bury his face against my neck with an agonizing groan of defeat. He snaked his arms around my waist, clinging to me like I was the only thing holding him together now.

I would have given absolutely anything to go back in time, even just an hour. I cursed myself for my part in bringing this about. If I hadn't insisted on a party, we wouldn't be here right now. After all, I was the one to put the damn present in Bella's hand. If I hadn't, this never would have happened.

I cursed my stupid second-sight for failing me when I needed it the most. If I had seen the paper cut even a moment earlier, I could have done something…

What good were these visions that made me a freak if they couldn't be used to protect the people I loved the most?

I held tighter to Jasper, burying my face in his hair as we grieved together. In my mind's eye, I looked back to the house. Esme, fully in control of herself now, was pouring bleach into a bucket, preparing to clean the bloodstains from the living room floor. But even that wouldn't be enough to completely do away with the smell.

Carlisle was tending to Bella's wound, stitching up the gash in her arm. She seemed to be all right. It was Edward that worried me though. I could see that he was on his way out here. He wanted to speak to Jasper. My arms tightened protectively around my beloved, afraid of what Edward might be planning to say. So help me, if he did anything to make him feel worse than he already did…

I relaxed slightly when I saw he had no intentions of doing anything like that. In fact, Jasper might just listen to him even if he wouldn't to me. Edward might be the only one able to absolve some of Jasper's devastating guilt. It was worth a shot at least.

I couldn't help but wonder, though, who was going to be able to help Edward. I saw him now, standing at the edge of the forest closest to the house, leaning heavily against a tree. His face was obscured in the shadows, but it was his eyes that frightened me. They were utterly void – drained of all signs of the life that had characterized him over the last several months. He looked defeated. He looked crushed.

The future flashed briefly before my eyes, flickering like a candle flame in the wind. I could see that something was changing… but what I didn't yet know…. and I was almost afraid to find out.