Disclaimer: I only own a few characters; everything recognisable belongs to Stephenie Meyer.

Chapter One: One Of A Kind

I lifted the luggage off the conveyor belt that was crawling slowly around the room and suppressed a sigh of irritation at its lack of speed. Patience was not a quality I had in abundance.

"Elimira! I got the last bag!" My little sister, Kaitlin, danced through the crowd towards me, or rather tried to, hampered as she was by the suitcase she was lugging.

"Good," I growled shortly as I effortlessly lifted the heavy case and dumped on the trolley. Airports were not good places for vampires. Even if they were only half vampires like me. After spending several hours crammed into what amounted to small metal tube hurtling through the sky, in close quarters with several hundred humans all breathing the same air as I was, I wasn't in the best state of mind. A short man, who looked nearly as ill-tempered as I felt, shoved past my sister and I. Hard. I didn't stagger like a human would have done; like Kaitlin did, and I caught her before she fell. My fragile patience snapped and I snarled; a low snarl that didn't reach anyone else's ears. The man froze and I, with my superior vampiric eyesight, saw with satisfaction that the hairs on the back of his neck and arms rose in fright.

"Mira!" hissed Kaitlin quietly. "Remember Bella said to be careful!"

"I know the rules," I muttered, still watching the man with narrowed eyes as he stumbled away on legs suddenly numb with terror. I pondered that if I had been a full vampire his instincts would have warned him to give me a wide berth. As it was, my half human side was enough for him to lose that cautious edge and that would have given me the perfect hunting advantage. Too bad I didn't hunt humans. "I can take insults to myself but I won't stand for them to you; you and Bella both are far too delicate to be shoved around."

Kaitlin laughed, her bright child's laugh cutting through the low buzz of dull conversation from straggling groups of tired travellers. "We're only delicate to you, Mira," she said waggling her eyebrows in a way that was meant to be reproving but came off as simply cute and endearing.

I laughed inwardly. Yes, to me and to every other vampire in the world. They had no idea how fragile they really were in comparison. That was why I took it upon myself to be their protector; I couldn't bear the thought of living without them. It was the same reason I didn't hunt humans; I loved my sisters too much to put any kind of fear or distrust in their minds – emotions that would surely result from me murdering others of their kind.

I noticed Kaitlin's attention had wandered during my inner ramblings and she was craning her head, up on her tiptoes in an attempt to see further. "Where's Bella?" she asked, rotating in a circle. "Shouldn't she be back by now?"

My head snapped up instantly, searching the slow-moving masses for my older sister, a surge of anxiety sweeping through me.

"I'm right here," said an amused voice behind us and I whipped around, relief flooding me as I spotted Bella's waist-length sweep of mahogany curls. She emerged from behind a portly woman pushing an over-stuffed case, her pale skin – almost as pale as mine, vampire pale – and slim figure even more pronounced next to the large lady whose cheeks were flushed red from exertion. Bella's bright, intelligent brown eyes brimmed with laughter as she took in our worried, crowd-searching stances. "I wasn't gone that long you know," she said.

"Well it seemed like a long time to me," declared Kaitlin and I opened my mouth to disagree. Sometimes though, it seemed as though Bella didn't just have vampire skin but vampire speed as well. She cut me off quickly, before an argument could develop and hurried us along. "Come on, I did actually find Charlie you know; he's patiently waiting outside in the pouring rain for us."

xxx

We pulled up in front of Charlie's house in his police cruiser (cringe, cringe) and we all piled out. Charlie looked a little overwhelmed with the flurry of activity, clearly used to solitary living for a long while, whereas Bella, who was of the same disposition but long since used to it, merely looked resigned. Kaitlin and I whirled around, moving cases, arguing at the tops of our voices and generally making a nuisance of ourselves as Charlie unlocked the door. However, with Bella's coaxing we (and all our various bags) had made it indoors and into the correct rooms within half an hour. Of course, vampiric speed hadn't hurt the amount of time taken.

Charlie didn't know about vampires; to him I was Phil's daughter from a previous wife, before he met Renee. But the truth was that Phil was a vampire who had fallen in love with a human; my mother, Renee. She already had two daughters by Charlie when they met, Bella aged ten and Kaitlin aged two, but when she had met Phil and fallen in love despite the fact he was a vampire, Renee had become pregnant again. Only this time, with a half-vampire child, one that she refused to get rid of, no matter how pain it had caused her. I have never stopped feeling guilty for this – the pain only increases when I know I also feel glad she didn't give up on me.

The violence of my birth meant that my mother would have died if my father hadn't changed her into a vampire, but Mom insists that she doesn't blame me for anything and regrets nothing; she firmly states that she has gotten three beautiful daughters and a wonderful mate out of life.

As I pondered over our patchwork of a family, a volley of excited barking greeted me along with the clattering of claws on wooden flooring. A black Labrador hurtled into my arms. Onyx wasn't really an adult yet but neither was she a pup anymore. Her long gangly legs still tripped her up and her skinny body wiggled, as if wagging her long whippy tail wasn't enough to convey her joy at seeing us.

"Onyx!" Kaitlin squealed joyfully and the Labrador instantly transferred her affection to my little sister, who was actually technically older than me.

I grinned and brushed the dog hair off my clothes before heading off to help Bella with dinner.

"What, no raw venison tonight?" I murmured to Bella as I went ninja on some onions.

Bella smiled and shook her head in mock reproach. "Sorry, Mira. No bloody steaks at the dinner table."

"Dang," I sighed. "And I was so looking forward to it."

Bella dropped her teasing and tilted her head closer to me, whispering, "If you want to get something to drink after dinner, Kaitlin and I will cover for you."

"Thanks." I meant it. It couldn't be easy, having a half-vampire for a sister. And by an unexpected twist of fate, Bella and Kaitlin were the only ones for whom I couldn't know this for certain, seeing as I couldn't read their minds. Yeah, like being a hybrid between two species didn't make me enough of a freak already; I could also hear the thoughts of anyone I chose. Apart from my sisters. Two silent spots in a sea of constant sound.

At first the never-ending chatter flowing through my head had driven me to the brink of insanity; my mother had ended up picking me up and just running. Renee had run with me cradled in her arms, never pausing until we were safely ensconced in the isolated vastness of the Alaskan forests. There, in the blissful silence, only broken by the gentle, unobtrusive thoughts of my mother and the very occasional hiker, I had pulled myself back from the edge and learned how to build a wall around my mind.

We had edged our way back into civilisation slowly, each trip into a busy area helping me gain a little more strength, holding onto my mental walls for longer before they crumbled under the pressure of the thoughts pressing in on me.

Eventually, two months after Renee had dropped everything to carry me to safety, my control had reached the point where I could hold the walls around my mind in place without conscious effort, and we had returned to my worried sisters and father.

"Mira! The onions are burning!" Bella yelped and I was forcibly dragged from the past, back into the present as I flew around the kitchen, rescuing vegetables.

As we sat down to eat a plateful of fajitas each, I felt a flare of love as I watched my family. Kaitlin, her shoulder-length blonde hair flying about as she gestured wildly, talking enough for all four of us. Charlie, though no real blood (ha-ha, yes, hilarious isn't it?) relative of mine, wore the slightly stunned expression of the mildly concussed as he listened to Kaitlin chattering endlessly. Bella, quietly eating and watching Charlie trying to adjust to Kaitlin, with silent mirth. Our eyes met, and we shared a look of exasperated amusement.

Sometimes I liked the fact I couldn't hear my sisters' thoughts. I felt I owed them at least that much, the privacy I denied everyone else, considering how much my arrival had shattered the normality of their lives. Thanks to me, our mother was now a vampire and fought a constant battle not tear out the throats of her first two daughters.

This, incidentally, was exactly why we were here. Phil had taken Renee on a six-month globetrotting trip, to help her try to hone the control of her thirst the point where she could go for weeks without feeding. After all, he had done the same when he had first met her. Phil had restrained himself from draining another human for as long as he could, and his feedings had become few and far between out of respect for Renee.

I could only marvel at his self-control. To be a full vampire, in close contact with Renee and to not have fed for weeks – I knew exactly how it felt, having lifted the sensation directly from his mind. It wasn't something I was in a hurry to remember.

I was lucky enough to have the choice. My half-and-half heritage meant I could survive solely on human food for months at a time without having to have blood. Not that I didn't crave it. After about the eight-week mark, the only humans safe around me were Bella and Kaitlin. Not even my thirst could induce me to ever harm them.

Later that night, when Bella, Kaitlin and Charlie were safely tucked up in bed and fast asleep, I snuck out. Flowing down the wall of the house like liquid moonlight and sprinting through the dark faster than the human eye could follow; I headed out of Forks on my way to Seattle. Or more specifically, its blood bank. Five minutes later, I arrived and one more minute after that, I emerged from the building, undetected and laden with quietly swishing bags.

Stopping in a deserted stretch of forest on the way back to Charlie's house, I ripped open and tipped bag after bag down my parched throat. It was only when my eager hands reached for the next bag and found that there was none left, did I come back to my senses. I slowly – human slow – gathered up the bags, fighting the primeval urge to lick the plastic clean of every single last drop. I stopped by the hospital in Forks to dump the empty blood bags in their dumpsters, where that kind of trash wouldn't look out of place, then made my way home.

As I curled up under the covers in my bed, I gave in and allowed the disgust to sweep over me. The human part of me had gagged at every mouthful I had swallowed but I couldn't deny that my vampire side had been ecstatic. That the blood hadn't tasted heavenly, more delicious than mint chocolate ice cream, pepperoni pizza and ice-cold Coke could ever be. The knowledge was bitter ashes in my mouth, despite the fact I could still feel the fizzing of the stolen blood in my veins and its sweet residue on my lips. I licked them unconsciously, feeling the ghostly tingle of the blood I had just consumed on my tongue again.

You're so pathetic, my conscience mocked. Thinking you're better than other vampires, just because you don't directly kill anyone. As if you don't enjoy the taste and crave it more strongly than any drug. People might still die; people who needed the blood in that bank, the blood which you just stole.

I squeezed my eyes tight shut as I argued with myself. People would have definitely died if I hadn't. We start school tomorrow and I haven't fed for months. I wouldn't have been able to resist. My conscience said nothing more; just silently mocked my weakness.

I'd have to begin raiding blood banks a lot more often too. My stomach clenched, in a mixture of dread and (unwanted) anticipation. Regular human contact meant there was no way I could abstain for months at a time.

I fell asleep, dreaming of mint chocolate ice cream, pepperoni pizza, ice-cold Coke and bags of blood.

xxx

The next morning I couldn't look my sisters in the eye, knowing that I had drank human blood last night and had thoroughly enjoyed every single drop.

Bella and Kaitlin instantly recognised the signs and comforted me wordlessly. A touch on the arm, a gentle smile with my plate of eggs, a quick hug as I waited for the toast to pop. I didn't deserve such understanding sisters; it only made me love them all the more, even if I couldn't imagine where they drew such tolerance from.

Kaitlin chattered all the way to school, while Bella drove her new truck (a present from Charlie) with her customary silence and concentration. I sat between them feeling unexpectedly nervous. I'd never been to school before.

We dropped Kaitlin off at her school with a flurry of instructions about where to meet at the end of the day, and then continued onto to Forks High School.

After we had pulled into the parking lot and ran through the rain, we entered the front office to announce ourselves.

"Isabella and Elimira Swan," the secretary, Mrs Cope, said, glancing at the pile of papers on her desk. "Welcome to Forks High School. How are you finding Forks?"

Wet. Cold. Green. These were the adjectives that immediately sprang to mind but I resisted the temptation to say them out loud. I imagined that even less favourable ones were running through Bella's head and thinking of this, I managed a genuine smile as I went with the total lie of, "It's lovely."

Bella shot me a grateful glance, having saved her the trouble of struggling to find a compliment, and the even trickier task of sounding sincere (she's not a very good liar).

"Good, good," Mrs Cope said smiling as she handed us our timetables. "Since you girls are both seventeen, you have a couple of classes together, though hopefully you'll make friends quickly too and don't have to rely on each others' company."

Not likely. Even though I couldn't read Bella's mind, I knew we shared this sentiment. Bella was solitary by nature and it wasn't safe for anyone else to get too close to me.

We thanked her and headed to our first class. The reason that this was the first time I had attended school was because I had finally stopped growing. It appeared that half-vampires reached maturity after seven years but during those years I had gained the physical body of seventeen or eighteen year old. My parents had been worried at first about my rapid rate of growth but it had slowed and eventually stopped four or five months ago. It was safe to send me to school now that there wasn't my unexplainably accelerated growth to try to hide. However, this was a never-ending source of complaint for Kaitlin; that it had taken just seven years for me to grow up completely, that she was still only nine, whereas Bella was seventeen and I easily passed for that.

"What do you think Mrs Cope would say if you told her you were actually only seven, not seventeen?" Bella asked as we took seats next to each other in English.

I blinked in surprise. "That was eerie, Bells. Are you sure you aren't the mind reader? And she'd probably consign me to a psychiatric ward."

The day passed in a blur until lunch. I found myself pleasantly surprised with my ability to cope with the level of the subjects I was studying. Guess my quick vampire brain helped a lot; everything was new and I devoured the knowledge on offer in every class with eagerness.

I was also thankful I had fed last night. The press of students that constantly surrounded Bella and I all morning, curious about the new girls, would have probably overwhelmed me otherwise. As it was, I gritted my teeth and bore it. You'd be proud of me Dad.

As the pair of us walked to lunch, in between two girls called Lauren and Jessica and surrounded by several others, I became aware for the first time that male contact in my short seven years had been severely limited. To my father and on a couple of occasions, Charlie. This left me wondering how to deal with the increasing problem of what do about the eyes of the boys that had been studying me religiously, almost all day. Hmm.

In terms of help, Kaitlin was out, Charlie was definitely out, Bella was not likely to be very helpful seeing as her dating history wasn't very long, and my parents were somewhere on a very large planet, and completely without communication in any case. Which drew up the entire list of people I knew. Which was kind of sad, now I thought about it.

Of course, I was aware that I was beautiful, by human standards anyway. All vampires were beautiful; I had grown up with this as a fact, like the fact I shared Bella's and Renee's gorgeous mahogany hair and Kaitlin's and Phil's vibrant forest-green eyes.

But whereas I was far from being the most attractive when amongst vampires, I was just beginning to realise that the opposite was true when I placed among humans. I couldn't deny that being found beautiful was enjoyable but I could also see this causing me a lot of problems in the near future. Oh, goody. Sorry boys, you can't date me; it's not you, it's me. Seriously. Unless you're also vampires and feel the urge to rip people's throats out if they get too close, which you're not, 'cause trust me – I'd know.

I was so busy internally composing future conservations that it wasn't until I had walked into the cafeteria and taken a seat between Bella and a boy named Mike, that I noticed them. Or rather, their fragrance.

All the tiny hairs rose on my smooth white arms as I inhaled the scents of several hundred humans and five full vampires. I turned casually in my seat and saw them. They sat at a table by themselves; three males and two females. The females were opposites – one was long, lean and blond, the other petite, pixyish and with hair black as pitch. But it was the males that caused the bone-deep fear, the ice condensing in the pit of my stomach. One was smaller than the others, more boyish; I estimated he couldn't have been older than Bella when he was turned. He had a mop of bronze-coloured hair, but despite the fact he had less bulk than the other males, there was still something intimidating about him. The second was massive, muscled like he had been an intensive weight-lifter before he was turned and had dark, curly hair. The last was taller, leaner; still muscular but in a sinewy way, like a swordfighter instead of a wrestler. My mouth went completely dry when I saw the scars trailing out from under his honey-blond hair. They covered his arms, neck and jaw; hundreds of scars in the shape of an all-too-familiar crescent. Hundreds of vampires had tried to kill him and just as many had died in the attempt.

I sat in my seat, every restraint I could summon locking me in place.

Flee! Every sense I possessed was screaming at me, my dual natures for once in complete agreement on what my course of action should be. My human half was terrified at being trapped in a enclosed space with five unknown vampires, at least two of whom were clearly able to kill me with very little effort, and my vampire half wasn't handling the idea much better.

For the first time I was glad I was seven and that wishing desperately for my mother to appear was allowed. Five vampires together! My parents had told me vampires were usually solitary, apart from mated pairs. Why were they here, banded together in such a large group?

I scanned their eyes and went even colder as I realised they all shared deep black irises. They were ravenous. Maybe the school was about to become an all-you-can-eat-buffet and they had gathered for a feast. Maybe they could get away with this in such isolated areas and they would burn the school to ground, claiming the occupants had died in a tragic fire.

I could feel the fear clenching in a big knot in my stomach. Five starving vampires gorging themselves on a couple of hundred students? I had heard stories even worse than this from Phil.

Bella! Panic seared through my head as I looked at my sister. As greatly outmatched as I was, my fully human sister was infinitely more vulnerable. Just I began to frantically plan how to sent Bella away without it looking suspicious, I heard her ask, "Who are they?"

I realised my sister had already clocked the vampires and seemed to be handling it a lot better than me. But, as I knew firsthand, she and Kaitlin both had a freakily high tolerance rate. Only these vampires weren't family and probably couldn't care less about some human.

As Jessica opened her mouth to reply to Bella, I saw the bronze-haired male flick his gaze to her and then away again. It was the first movement any one of them had made, apart from when the dark-haired female had left a minute ago, and it made me jump slightly, as tense as I was. Odd; it was almost as though he'd known Jessica was about say his name, which she did in the next second.

"That's Edward and Emmett Cullen..."

I continued listening to Jessica while surreptitiously watching the mysterious 'Cullens'. My confusion only deepened when I heard they'd moved here two years ago from Alaska. So maybe they weren't here for a feeding frenzy after all. But why else would five vampires group together, especially such thirsty ones? Why were they going to school? Why did they bother living amongst humans? I did certainly; but my sisters held me here. What held them?

You utter moron, my brain mocked me. You have the power to find out, idiot! I suddenly realised all I had to do was drop the walls around my mind and listen in to their thoughts, gleaning some knowledge that way.

I took a deep breath and warily lowered the shields, which I had grown so used to holding around my mind that I no longer had to give them conscious thought. The flood of thoughts of several hundred students cascaded through my head like a waterfall and I struggled through them with a gasp of surprise. It had been a long time since I had last lowered my walls in such a busy area.

I eventually found what I was looking for and sheer shock made me freeze. For the first time I read the thoughts of another mind reader. My head snapped up at the same instant as his did and the bronze-haired male and I locked gazes across the room, black eyes meeting green. For an instant I saw his expression of shock, identical to the one that I was pretty sure I wore and felt the odd sensation of hearing every thought in the room twice; through my own power and through his. Then as the other three occupants of his table looked in my direction, following his suddenly alert stance, I brought the walls around my mind slamming back up into place. If anything he looked even more shocked than before.

The bell trilled shrilly, signalling the end of lunch, and I silently apologised for the cliché, as I thought, Saved by the bell.

"C'mon Bella," I murmured, skilfully manoeuvring us so that I walked between her and the unknown vampires. "Biology for you, History for me." But as we walked away I felt something bump against my mental walls. Looked like the bronze-haired male was the persistent sort. Oh hell.

A/N: If you liked it (or even if you didn't) please review! Constructive critisism only please!