I am only going to say this: I suck, my RL sucks, and I apologize profusely for the lack of updates recently. I cannot tell you how many times I stared at the previously written 300 words before something NOT shiteous came out. And then it was slow going when it did.

Thanks to Stratan for the fantabulous pressy - this chapter ;)


Chapter 15

Bella

It was incredibly bright when Caleb awoke and started crawling all over Edward and me. Too bright for what he and I would typically wake up to at this hour, but then again, this day was anything but typical. Watching him I noticed that he seemed completely oblivious to what was happening. Or maybe he, like Edward, was just better at hiding things than I was. Breakfast was the only thing on his mind, which was further determined by the massive grin that crossed his face when Edward casually mentioned something about going outside to eat.

Caleb in tow, Edward quickly unzipped the tent and—ever chivalrous—motioned for me to get out first. I had to squint against the harsh light as I took that first step outside. White snow covered the dense, dark forest below us; it gathered in the crevices of the rock around us, and it hid any evidence of the fire that had blackened the ground last night. I glanced around and pulled in a deep breath of cool air to steady my nerves. There would be no more strategizing or planning, no more training.

We were out of time.

"This is what Alice saw in her vision," I murmured to Edward as he exited the tent with Caleb.

He nodded solemnly.

Caleb reached out for me, wiggling around in his father's arms until Edward passed him over to me. The second he could, he reached out and touched my face, staring up at me with those gorgeous green eyes of his.

Confusion was all I could get from him.

"It's fine," I lied. "Everything's okay." I cleared my throat and chanced a look at Edward, only to wish I hadn't. His expression was neutral, but there was something in his eyes… Regret, maybe, though I had no idea what he'd be regretting. "Time to get you dressed."

I changed his clothes and tamed his hair before trying to pass him off to Edward for a feeding, but he refused to leave my side. Not that I could blame him, really. Even though I was trying hard to keep everything hidden, I knew Cal was picking up on how anxious and afraid I was. He was half vampire. There was no way he couldn't hear the heavy thumping of my heart as I held him.

Breakfast was silent. Edward seemed to know that I didn't have it in me to keep up with normal chatter as Caleb and I ate, and he was also distracted himself. He scanned the area almost constantly for any sign of a possible threat and listened for what I assumed was Jacob pacing in the woods. Then suddenly, he stopped scanning the trees and zeroed in on one particular spot, inclining his head in acknowledgement before refocusing on Caleb and me.

I gave him a peculiar look, and was answered with a minute shake of his head.

"Edward," I pressed.

"Jacob's over there," he said lowly, pointing to the spot he'd just been staring at. "He'll be heading down the mountain soon to keep closer watch."

I suddenly felt as though I'd been punched in the gut. "How much longer?"

"An hour according to Alice."

"That's…" I swallowed hard. "That's not long."

"No." He glanced around, and then wrapped his arm around me. "Let's take Caleb back inside the tent. I'd feel better not having him out in the open."

So would I.

I sat Cal down on the sleeping bag and watched him grab for the bag full of puzzles and brain games Edward had bought him a few days ago, saving them for this trip so that he had something to do while we waited. He'd figured out almost every one already, and if my assumptions were right, he'd have the last of them figured out before the battle began.

"So smart," I cooed, running my hand over his head.

Cal smiled up at me and nearly pushed the Rubik's Cube into my face. "You do it, Mama."

There was no way I could focus on solving that thing—not today—so I shook my head and smiled back. "I'd rather watch you."

He concentrated on the cube in his hand for what seemed like only an instant, and then began moving it around. Before I could even see what he'd done, he had it solved.

"Daddy! Look!"

Edward took the cube and tossed it around a little. "Six seconds," he said proudly. "I think that's a record, bud."

Caleb's eyes widened. "I the fastest?"

"You're the fastest," he confirmed.

I looked at Edward curiously.

"Well, the fastest human time on record," he amended softly when Caleb wasn't listening. "No need to tell him a vampire can have it done before a human will even realize they've started."

I grinned at how ecstatic Cal was. "That kind of thing could make you father of the year."

He winked. "That's what I'm going for."

We kept watching Caleb as he sat between us, stealing glances at each other every now and then. I couldn't seem to shake the feeling that something wasn't right with our elaborate plan. That Victoria was going to find us. It was ridiculous, and I knew it. She was expecting us to be in that field with the rest of our family.

And she had no idea Cal even existed.

"Distract me," I murmured after a while. "I need something to take my mind off this…"

"Worry," Edward finished for me. "I can hear it with every breath you take and every beat of your heart."

I chewed on my lip and moved my eyes from Caleb, who was now lying on the floor asleep, to him. "I know. I'm sorry. I'm trying-"

He held up a hand and smiled. There was something so sad in his expression. "It's different for us now. As much as I want to be involved… to be a part of the fun-"

I rolled my eyes.

"We're parents now," he continued, ignoring me. "Nothing is more important than keeping our son safe."

It was everything I felt rolled up into one, simple sentence. Every human and wolf instinct in me screamed to protect Caleb. Keeping him alive and out of harm's way was all I could think of this morning, because he was the only one of us who couldn't defend himself. He was literally, for all we knew, one of a kind.

"I hate that we can't guarantee a perfect life for him," I told him. It was a generalization of everything I'd thought since the moment I knew Cal was coming into our lives. All of those… variables kept creeping up on us. "Army of newborns or not."

The look he gave me told me that he knew exactly how I felt.

"So… distraction," Edward eventually said, moving over to my side, "seems to be the theme for this camping trip."

I snuggled up to him and laughed softly. He was absolutely right. We'd needed a distraction from each other last night, and now, I was in desperate need of a distraction while we waited. His body was cool and hard as he held me against him—incredibly familiar and soothing.

"It does seem that way. By the time we get back, we'll be masters of deflection."

"We will," he murmured. "Would you like to hear something I thought of a few days ago?"

"What's that?"

"Well," he answered, "all of the best days in my ridiculously long existence have happened since I met you."

I smiled over at him. No, beamed would be the appropriate description of what I was doing that very second. "Really?"

"Mm-hmm. The moment Cal was born, our wedding, the day you told me you loved me... Nothing I thought made me happy before can even compare to the way I felt on those days. You breathed life back into me, Bella. From the second you walked into that classroom-"

"And was nearly killed by some monstrous vampire," I joked.

He threw me a quick, crooked smile. "Well, I didn't say that every moment I've had with you has been good."

I laughed again. "I guess not. I think maybe the worst days in your ridiculously long existence have happened since you met me too."

"I suppose so," he said, amused.

"I also think that we share all of those best and worst moments. Every last one of them. And my life has been incredibly short compared to yours."

He let out a breath and cupped my face. "You're right."

I waited for him to continue, but he said nothing, just stared down at me with this unfathomable expression in his honey colored eyes that made my chest ache with how much I loved him.

"What, no 'I'm sorry'?" I asked when I was sure I could speak again.

He chuckled. "Not verbally, no."

"I guess you really can teach an old dog new tricks."

"You would know," he shot back playfully.

I made a move to slap his shoulder but stopped as soon as I saw him tense beside me. His eyes darted over to Cal, and then with a blink back into reality, he shot up and stood between the direction of the fight below and us.

"They're here," I said, not really needing the confirmation.

He reached behind him and took my hand, now balled up into a tight fist. "It's okay, love. They don't know we're here, and Jasper and Sam have strategy and surprise on their side."

"Okay, that's good. That's really, really good. Because I don't know if I can take worrying about everyone and also having to deal with someone-"

"Bella?" he asked, cutting off my rambling.

"Yeah?"

"Would you like to hear the fight?"

"Oh." I blinked. "Sure."

"They've reached the end of the trail and are dividing into two groups. One will come at us head on, and the other plans to surprise us from the north. The wolves will ambush them."

"How many are there?" I breathed.

He stared blankly ahead as he rifled through our family's thoughts. "There are more than we expected. What are they…?"

"What is it?"

"Victoria and…" His eyes darted around as he counted them out, "six newborns aren't engaging the others. They're looking for you. She's going to-" He shook his head in response to something telepathically said. "No, just keep watch. Don't give them any reason to think we're near."

He suddenly smirked at something. "The wolves are doing an excellent job of ripping the newborns apart."

I made a face. "How lovely."

Move by move, Edward relayed the fight to me. He never let go of my hand, running the pad of his thumb over my knuckles comfortingly while speaking to Sam. His body would shift ever so slightly, almost as if it was itching to make different moves from those of our family and pack members.

And then my worst nightmare became a reality. A shockingly silent moment in time, followed by the fiercest snarl I'd ever heard rip out of Edward's throat.

"Jacob," he yelled, grabbing Cal up off the floor of the tent and handing him to me, all while shredding the tent and exposing us to the outside world again. "Drive them back toward the clearing!"

"What?" I screamed, looking around at the surrounding trees wildly. "What's going on?"

"They caught your scent. They're headed this way."

"Who, those newborns?"

He took a deep breath. "And Victoria."

"Oh, God," I whimpered.

Whatever expression I had on my face must've given my intentions away. Without a word, Edward took our now screaming son and waved me away.

"Jake!" I screeched, knowing that my only chance of keeping him here just a second longer was if I made a lot of noise. There was no way I could catch up to him, even if I phased; he was almost as fast as I was.

I leapt over a fallen branch, and for a moment, I wanted nothing more than to feel the thrill that came with the agility in this new life again, but I had much more important things on my mind.

"Don't go just yet," I shouted as I saw him scrambling to get to me. "Just wait a minute."

He huffed and jerked his head toward the campsite.

"They're fine. I just wanted to say something really quick."

He stood there and waited impatiently. Excitedly. It terrified me.

"Be careful."

He gave me an annoyed look in return.

"Be careful," I repeated, fidgeting nervously as I tried to put what I wanted to say into words. "I love you. You're… you're the best brother I could have ever asked for. If anything happened-"

In a blink, Jacob had phased and wrapped his arms around me in an intense hug. "I'll be fine, Bells. Give the mother hen routine a rest, would ya?"

I wormed out of his hold and stared at him in disbelief.

"I've been watching you. You're worrying about Edward and Cal—all normal—but everyone else too, and you're freaking yourself out in the process. I have no idea if it's possible for anyone in the pack, but you're going to end up giving yourself a heart attack if you don't stop. Then what would we be fighting for? Christ, you'd be giving that bitch exactly what she wants: dead Bella."

A small giggle broke free from my throat. "Yeah, okay. Go. Do your thing."

He grinned in response. "Oh, I am so going to enjoy this."

This prompted the second eye roll of the day.

As soon as he'd phased again, I ran back up to where Edward was standing with Caleb, and nearly cried when I saw the two people I loved the most standing in a pile of ruin, waiting for Victoria to finally appear. All because of me.

Edward suddenly moved to block Caleb and let out a low hiss as he stared back at the woods behind me.

"Bella," he said lowly, "you remember everything Jasper said in all those training sessions?"

"Yes," I whispered.

He nodded and let his eyes flash to mine so quickly I almost missed it. "Give me your ring."

I ripped it off of my finger and thrust it at him, knowing good and well what he was doing as he put it in his pocket: he was making sure I could phase without notice.

The screeching sound of metal being ripped apart reverberated around us as Jacob and two young vampires came tumbling out of the woods, snapping and snarling and twisting around as they fought one another.

Edward stiffened and moved Cal between us. "Phase at the last second," he said so quietly, I could barely hear it. "Use her shock to your advantage."

I nodded, gearing up for battle. Adrenaline kicked in as I spotted wisps of long, curly, bright red hair at the edge of the tree line, and my hold tightened on Caleb, who stood absolutely still with fear.

"Don't move," I said to him as Victoria emerged, flanked by the remaining four newborns that were searching for us. She was just as I'd remembered. Her beauty made her seem so harmless, but the hatred burning in her eyes caused me to shiver. She was cold, calculating… lethal. "She's coming nowhere near you."

Cal's head bobbed up and down rapidly as he pressed his body closer to mine. Without a word, Victoria stepped closer to us and gave Jacob and her newborns a cursory glance.

But I was the target. Each of their faces contorted into a sinister smile, just before the other newborns took the first steps toward us.

Edward pushed away from us, anticipating the first move. Both male vampires to Victoria's right attacked, but with Edward's telepathic abilities, he was able to outmaneuver them immediately, and one was in pieces before I could even blink. The sound of the newborns' dismemberment tore through the air, just as the other two newborns rushed us.

Edward was faster.

He fought the vampires, slowly pushing them away from us. One particular newborn was strong and had more instinct, but was still no match for Edward.

"Bella," he grunted, lifting his arms to block the newborn's attempt to reach his throat.

"I know," I answered, keeping my eyes trained on Victoria. I was now the only one keeping her from Cal.

"A baby," she said in that sugary-sweet voice of hers. "Who'd have thought it possible? Have the Volturi seen him yet? I'm sure they'd love to take him to Italy… If I let them."

"You don't touch him," I seethed.

She threw her head back and laughed. "And what do you think you're going to do about it? Your mate's a little busy."

"Try me," I growled. "You might be surprised."

She glanced over to where Edward and her newborns were again, her face morphing into disgust as she realized that, even outnumbered, Edward was winning. It wouldn't be long before her newborns were defeated, and then no one would be left between Edward and her.

She took a step back in retreat… or maybe it was self-preservation. And suddenly, I wanted to fight. I wanted this to be over so that we could all find some sort of peace in our lives. I was sick of constantly looking over my shoulder. I was sick of constantly being a source of angst for my family.

I wanted her dead.

"Where are you going?" I asked sweetly, pushing Cal further behind me. "You'll never have another opportunity like this one…"

Her face contorted in anger as she froze in place.

"Come on," I taunted. "James is gone. Riley's gone. My mate destroyed yours. Don't you want your revenge? I thought that was the whole point of this. To watch Edward suffer like you did. Now's your chance."

Victoria let out an enraged shriek and leaned forward into a crouch, curling her hands as she readied herself for a fight.

"Say goodbye to your mate, Edward," she spat, her eyes never leaving mine.

Tremors erupted in my body. Bloodlust pulsed through me, letting me feel exactly as Jake had. I was gleeful. Eager. I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into her.

She had no idea what she was up against.

She rushed me, snarling with anger as she approached. At the last second, I pushed Caleb back far enough so that I didn't hurt him and finally let the urge to phase take over. I let my own furious growl out as I pushed off the ground to meet her, hoping to use her shock to my advantage, just as Edward had said.

She was shocked—there was no doubt about it—but still managed to get a good, solid hit on the left side of my ribcage as we collided. The wind rushed out of me as pain shot down my side, but I refused to let her go. I twisted, ignoring the new spurt of pain that rocketed through me as one of my ribs began to mend itself, and snapped at her neck. She moved just enough so that I missed, causing my teeth to merely graze her skin.

I barked in frustration.

We jumped up from the ground to regain our bearings. I used that moment to check on Caleb and Edward, while Victoria was no doubt trying to decide if I was unskilled enough to defeat. Caleb had managed to huddle down next to a tree a good distance behind us, and Edward had only one more vampire left to contend with. The rest were neatly stacked into a pile just at the left of our campsite.

In one quick move, he literally disarmed the vampire and watched him use his good arm to scramble back up off the ground and try to get away, only to run directly into Jacob's fuming form. Edward gave Jacob a tight nod, indicating that he was to finish off the vampire, before turning back toward me.

His eyes connected with Victoria's; his nostrils flared and his eyes burned with inhuman rage. I could see that Victoria was poised to flee now that she was left alone. As she swiveled around to run, I knew that I'd done damage to her somehow. It must have been done with sheer brute force since I hadn't heard the telltale sound of her skin being ripped apart by my claws, but it didn't matter. I could see her weakest point in the way her body shifted, how she favored her right side almost undetectably. So I lunged for her and took her to the ground, ready to finally end it all.

Edward flashed to my side, and I surprised him when I snapped at his hands as he reached for Victoria's neck. The look I gave him told him everything. She was mine. No one would threaten my mate or my child again.

He backed away immediately, leaving me ample room to work. In a quick, fluid motion, I ripped her neck open with my teeth, separating her head from her body instantly. I didn't move, just kept staring down at her lifeless face, the face that had been responsible for so much turmoil in our lives. I knew that it was only a matter of time before her body reanimated and searched its missing pieces out in order to reassemble itself. But killing her had just seemed so easy. Too easy. I still couldn't shake that feeling that something wasn't quite right. I kept thinking that I was missing something crucial. Vital.

"Bella, love, she's dead. Toss her into the pile with the others so we can dispose of them properly," Edward murmured soothingly.

I glanced back and saw him standing there with Caleb in his arms, effectively snapping me back into reality again.

Victoria was dead. Her remains were just under my paws.

My son was safe.


Edward

I could hear the battle still raging down below, sending the quick, stinging bite of guilt to find its way into my chest. We were up here, smiling and celebrating our victory with the igniting of the vampires we'd destroyed, but it didn't have a chance to take root inside me like it usually did. It was overshadowed by one thing:

Relief.

It was a palpable, tangible thing, invisibly connecting Bella and me together, further solidifying our bond. I held Caleb in my arms and struggled to keep from crushing him with my happiness. He was so tiny, so helpless still. He'd been entirely reliant on his mother and me to keep him safe. And while I'd never once doubted the abilities of my family and the pack, there was always the nagging question of "what if?" lingering in my mind. Because what if we hadn't been able to keep him safe? How would we have even begun to cope with that reality?

After the last of the newborns and Victoria had been thrown in the fire, Bella turned around and started back toward us, phasing in mid-step. Her smile was radiant, victorious.

I smiled back at her and waited for her to get closer before speaking.

"Did she hurt you at all?"

She nodded. "She got my side when she attacked me, but it's already healed itself up."

"Good," I said softly. If anything were to happen to her…

She reached out and waited for me to pass Caleb to her. Only I couldn't. My arms wouldn't stretch out to her; my hand wouldn't release its grip around his leg.

"What is wrong with you?" she asked, staring at me curiously.

"They're still fighting down there and I…" I trailed off and shook my head. I had no way to describe this protective feeling that had come over me. "I don't know. I just can't let him go yet."

"Okay, then," she answered with a smile. She wrapped her arms around both of us and inhaled deeply as Cal snuggled against her.

Bliss. There was no other description for it. It was the euphoric feeling I'd read about in so many books, never once dreaming that I'd ever get the chance to find it in this existence. I loved them. With everything I was and ever would be.

"Hey, baby, are you okay?" Bella asked Caleb as she pulled back a little. I immediately jerked her back against me, causing her to giggle.

I wasn't exactly ready to release them yet.

He nodded. "Mama…" He pursed his little lips as he thought about it. "Mama awesome. Daddy too."

I laughed and stole a glance at Jacob. "Thank you. Did you get that from Uncle Jake?"

Caleb nodded and grinned.

"I hate to break up the lovefest, but what do you say we go down and help finish the rest of them off?" Jacob called out from his spot beside the burning pile of limbs.

"Not Bella," I said immediately.

She bristled in my arms.

"Not me?" she demanded, twisting away from me. Of course, I'd let her go, but that was beside the point. "I think I did a pretty good job showing you that I'm more than capable of handling myself."

"I know you are," I responded calmly as images of her fight flooded my mind. I'd wanted to drop my own battle and rush to her aid. I'd barely been able to focus on the vampire in front of me until I'd finally gotten a glimpse of what she was capable of in person.

It'd been an incredible sight to see, regardless of the fact that I was a little too busy killing my own misguided vampire to witness its entirety. Victoria's face registered a myriad of emotions. Shock. Fear. Frustration. Uncharacteristic of vampires, she stumbled back as Bella transformed, her mouth gaping at the sight of the enormous, chocolate colored wolf in front of her.

If it had been any other circumstance, I might have laughed.

"Then what?"

I started to inform her that it didn't matter because the battle was nearly over, but stopped just before the words left my mouth. More vampires were moving toward my family, their intentions to find the brunette—Bella—that they'd been told to kill. They'd been made without anyone's knowledge, not even Riley's, and hidden in the southern part of the state, away from where the other group of newborns was being noticed. They were Victoria's contingency plan, and they were quickly closing in on us.

I shifted Cal in my arms and gave them both a level look. "We need to go. Now. There are more newborns coming."

"Shit," Jacob hissed, exchanging a glance with Bella just before they each phased.

We hurried down the mountain at the pace I delegated. I focused on the newborns heading this way, making sure we kept moving faster than they did at all times. When we were halfway there, I moved Caleb so that he was pressed against my back.

"You hang on to me until I tell you otherwise. Got it?" I instructed him.

His chin lightly hit my shoulder as he nodded, and his grip on my shirt tightened. "Fight more?"

"Yeah. There're more of them where everyone else is."

He pressed his hand against my cheek, showing me his concern.

"They're fine. See?" I tapped into everyone's thoughts while his hand was still in contact with my skin.

"Kay," he said, satisfied now that he'd seen it for himself.

We arrived to chaos. Fighting between the remaining newborns and our families was in full force, while the second group of newborns were hurtling out of the woods at lightning speed, each of them attacking the first creature they encountered. The sounds of paws barreling across the valley to intercept an attack on another, the sound of a vampire being shredded, and the voices of my family, the grunts and snarls of the pack, all surrounded us.

Bella and Jacob launched themselves at the two newborns that had pinned Sam to the ground. As soon as I knew they'd freed the pack leader, I ran to where Alice and Carlisle were fighting back to back.

"I didn't know," Alice cried as soon as she saw me coming. "I'm so sorry."

"Don't be," I replied. "Victoria used your ability against us. There's nothing you could have done."

"We haven't seen her for a while," Carlisle informed me, bracing himself for another assault. "Did she escape and just leave all these… children to their deaths alone?"

"No. She found us." They both gasped. "She's dead. Bella killed her."

"I'm going to kiss her when this is all over," Alice swore.

"So long as I get to watch!" Emmett chimed in from where he was busying himself by ripping the legs off of his current victim.

I rolled my eyes at his comment and walked toward the middle of the field, where the majority of the fighting was going on.

"Ready?" I asked Cal.

"Ready, Daddy," he said, clinging to me tightly.

"Okay."

The first vampire came at me fast and stupidly. It merely took one move to destroy him. The second vampire seemed to learn from the first's mistake, coming at me a little differently, but still—even without my telepathic ability—went in for the obvious attack.

I pushed him down to the ground and wrenched his legs so that he couldn't make a quick escape. I could hear his fearful whimpers against the cold grass and knew I had to act fast before I changed my mind. Carlisle's words reverberated through me. This newborn was just a child, a boy who just so happened to find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. My more logical side knew of how shameful it really was to end his existence before it'd even begun. He was so young, younger even than I was when I'd been turned. Maybe if I were more like Carlisle and had more compassion, I would have let him live. But I couldn't. It didn't matter that he had been fed the same lies from Victoria as Riley and the others and was another kind of victim in Victoria's plan for revenge. I simply couldn't allow him to live. The father, the vampire, the mate, the imprint in mewouldn't allow it.

I didn't look at his face or tap into his mind, instead focusing on the battle still raging around me. I knew from Jasper's stories that feeling the terror—in my case, hearing it—your victim felt just before their demise made things infinitely worse for yourself. I simply made quick work of disposing of the newborn, throwing pieces into the pile Rosalie was currently launching her own victim into, and then turned back to my family, intent on giving help where it was needed.

"Don't ever do that," I stressed over my shoulder to Cal.

"I won't," he promised, but I knew it was just that of a son wanting to please his father. In our world, the killing of another vampire was, unfortunately, all together too common. Even Carlisle fell victim to circumstance sometimes.

Like now.

On and on, the fighting ensued. The moment we would defeat one of the attacking newborns, another would surface and we would be forced to defend ourselves all over again. However mentally exhausted we were, we kept at it, not giving up until we'd whittled the number down to something more than manageable.

And maybe having Caleb so close to the danger distracted me a little. I'd been so focused on keeping him from being injured at all during the battle, paying attention to how he held on to me and making sure that he wasn't going to slip and let go… fall victim to one of the newborns close by, that I'd missed the newborn's thoughts of attacking Leah.

But I, like the rest of my family, knew her intent when she finally made her move.

The newborn used her strength to her advantage, leaping across the distance between them in a single bound. Leah wasn't looking, nor was she paying attention to the mental screams of warning from her pack members, the vocal ones from my family. She had all her attention on a meeker newborn at the edge of the field, one who was quickly spinning around to run. She never knew that the other newborn was watching her. She never noticed her approaching at the speed of light. And I knew one thing:

None of us were going to make it to her in time.

I took off at a dead sprint with Cal still on my back, shouting another warning out at Leah. I waited for the moment of impact, and knew that at this point, I could only hope to pull the newborn off of Leah before she inflicted too much damage to the wolf.

Only the impact never came.

Edward…

The newborn dropped to the ground with an ear-piercing scream, and then began to writhe around in pain as she was assaulted by some unknown force. Every one of us stared at her in disbelief. It was almost as if…

Edward…

His voice was unmistakable in my mind, belonging to the vampire I'd vowed to have end my life all those months ago at the thought of my then fragile Bella no longer existing in this world. He was the one man in our world who held the power to end my life with just a snap of his fingers or a murmur of a command.

"Aro," I replied, ignoring the gasps of surprise that came from my family to filter through his thoughts.

"Why are they here?" Rosalie asked, scanning the trees defensively.

Finally getting a handle on the Volturi's intent here in Forks, I couldn't help but chuckle at the absurdity for a moment before finally answering her.

"They're here for our help."