This was my submission to Fandom for Sexual Assault Awareness. It's an idea that's been sitting in my head since October, and I'm so happy to be getting it out now ;)

Thank you to stephk0525 and Dra for prereading this and making sure that the pieces I had written out will eventually all tie together and not suck... Thank you to the beta dude, Stratan, for making it purdy.

Chapter 1

"Come on, Edward," Bella laughed, tugging on her best friend's hand. They'd been inseparable for years, since the moment Edward's mother invited a gawky thirteen-year-old Bella over to hang out with Edward's sister, Elizabeth. Poor Elizabeth hadn't stood a chance. The second Bella laid eyes on her slightly older brother, something clicked into place for her, something inexplicable and wholly too big for a thirteen-year-old to feel. But she had.

She'd never forget that moment for as long as she lived; the way his head slowly lifted from the homework he was working on with his father, how his piercing green eyes bored into hers for a brief moment before one side of his lips turned up into the most breathtaking smile she'd ever seen. He'd pushed his unruly, auburn hair off his forehead, gave her a quick once over, and awkwardly introduced himself. He didn't even bother to look away from Bella as his father stood from the table and snuck out of the room.

Bella hadn't been the same since, though it hadn't been for trying. No one could compare to Edward Masen. Not even a little.

"I don't know." Edward warily stared up at the club. He couldn't begin to describe the feeling that had settled in the pit of his stomach. He only knew that he had this strange urge to protect Bella from what was inside. "We should go somewhere else. Back to Port Angeles, maybe."

Bella huffed. "You can go back to Port Angeles. This club is supposed to be amazing. I'm going in."

She let go of Edward's hand and started toward the entrance, only to find herself suddenly wrapped in his arms. His body pressed against hers in a way they'd never allowed before; his urgent breathing fell over her neck. His scent was familiar, warm and spicy from his cologne, tangled with something she could never place… something sweet that always caused her mind to spin out with desire.

She desperately wanted the courage to push back against him, to feel him harden and react to her before he turned her around and took her mouth with his. She fucking loved this man, she had for ten years now. Kissing him, in as many different ways as a mind could conjure up, had been all she'd wanted for as long as she'd known him.

But that would only happen in her dreams. In reality, Edward didn't see her that way, a thought that was depressing and sucked all hope right out of her.

"Don't go in there," he whispered. His mouth ghosted across her skin, sending chills down her spine. "Something's not right."

"Ed- I…" She couldn't form a coherent thought. Not only did fire burn through her veins, but what he was saying was the most ridiculous thing she'd ever heard. It was a club just outside of Seattle, a club that most people would kill to get into.

She'd managed to snag an invitation to Crimson without even trying.

Abruptly, Edward dropped his hands and pushed away from her. He raked them through his hair, struggling to rein in the need to spin Bella around and kiss her; to finally lay claim on that beautiful, plump mouth he'd wanted to taste for years.

He could have ruined everything between them.

He'd dated as much as any other average high school and college student did, but Isabella Swan, with her innocent blush and endearing lack of grace, had captured his heart. He wasn't sure when the shift from friend to love interest happened, but now, everything about her called to him. He wanted to skim his fingers over her creamy skin, watch her lithe body squirm beneath him. He wanted to see her silky, dark brown hair splayed out around her beautiful face and watch her soulful, brown eyes darken with want before he finally drove into her…

Jesus fuck, he needed to stop thinking of her like that. It did absolutely nothing to help the situation in his pants.

"I'm going in," Bella finally managed, missing how Edward rocked on his feet uncomfortably and moved to covertly adjust himself. "If you're not going back to Port Angeles, then you can just stand out here in the parking lot by yourself. I'll see you later."

Bella tipped her head up and kissed his cheek, and then hurried to the door, leaving Edward standing alone behind her. Her black heels clicked on the rough pavement, and the short, dark purple dress she'd worn for the occasion slowly crept up her thighs. Men turned their heads to watch her walk by, appreciatively letting their eyes roam over all the skin she'd left exposed.

"The hell you will," Edward suddenly snarled, rushing over to her side. "You're not going in there… like that… without me."

Bella blinked up at him, surprised by the tinge of jealousy in his voice. "What?"

He gestured to her dress broadly, unable to bring himself to look down. Her breasts were right there for him to see, and it would only take a quick flick of his wrists to push the slinky fabric away and take them in his hands.

"I'm not about to let some fucking creep try to cop a feel while I'm out here." His mouth twisted disdainfully with the thought. "It's not happening."

Bella cocked her brow and crossed her arms over her chest. Edward nearly groaned with the way it shoved her breasts together. "And I'd just let some creep 'cop a feel'?" she asked, fighting with a sudden rush of anger.

"No, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't try. Your dress is…" Edward struggled to find a word that described the dinner napkin she was wearing without completely pissing her off. "... tiny, Bella. It barely covers you up."

"So you're saying I look slutty," Bella deduced, now furious. "Edward Masen, how dare-"

"Christ, Bella, you don't look slutty," he interrupted exasperatedly, meeting her angered gaze. He should have known that no matter how he phrased it, she'd react this way. Any time anyone tried to help her with anything, she got defensive. He blamed Chief Swan for making his daughter take every self-defense class known to man and teach her to be "self-reliant". It made for an extremely headstrong individual.

Unfortunately, for Edward, it was one of the things he loved the most about her.

"You look…" Edward could feel his cheeks mottle with what he was about to say. "You look really good, okay? That's the problem. I'm going to have to beat the fuckers in there off with a baseball bat… maybe two. Meh, a gun would be better," he rambled as he changed his mind. "Too bad they're patting people down."

The sincerity in Edward's eyes sent Bella reeling. "I look good?" she asked, chewing on her lip so that she didn't grin like an idiot with the thrill that shot through her. "Really?"

He nodded once, furious with himself for giving any part of his feelings away. "Yeah. You're gorgeous."

Now she was beaming, unable to contain how stupidly happy that made her. "Thank you."

He chuckled and rolled his eyes as he threw an arm over her shoulders in an attempt to play it off. She had no idea what that smile did to him, and he wasn't about to enlighten her any time soon. To do something so destructive to their relationship was unforgivable. It was better to suffer in silence than to change the status quo.

The bouncers at the door patted them both down, and Edward rumbled at how one of the bouncer's touch lingered in all the wrong places on Bella's body. The tall, dark-skinned man laughed and held up his hands with a shrug before unhooking the rope to let them inside.

"She's hot," he said to the other bouncer. He glanced over at Bella with an almost guilty expression, thinking what a waste it was, which immediately caused Edward to take notice. "It's too bad."

"Too bad, what?" Edward snapped, ignoring Bella's insistent tug on his hand for the second time that evening.

"Too bad she's with you," he chuckled. The troubled way his eyes darted over to Bella said something else, but Edward was too pissed off to notice.

Edward's fists clenched at his sides. "Fuck y-"

"Edward," Bella took his face in her hands and forced him to look at her, "it's not worth it. Let's go inside and get a few shots."

The concern on her face, coupled with the near-electric feeling her touch elicited, made his anger melt. She was the only person he'd ever known who could do that to him. It was infuriating, the power she had over him.

Edward nodded and cast one last glare at the bouncer. "Dick," he mumbled, putting his hand on the small of Bella's back and leading her inside. No one else would so much as look at her as long as he was around.

Edward whistled in appreciation as he took in their surroundings, realizing how out of their element they really were, and then laughed when he caught Bella's shell-shocked face.

He reached out to shut her mouth. "Close it before you catch a fly."

"It's… un-fucking-real," she said in awe.

"Probably cost a fortune," he agreed.

The room was round in shape, like a castle turret. The walls were a deep, dark red, showcased by the hundreds of rotating lights that hung from the black ceiling. Music pumped through the room and right through their bodies as girls stood on stone platforms and danced in these strange-looking, wrought iron cages. They wore nothing but tiny, black sequined bikinis, making their skin look impossibly white.

Edward still couldn't shake his initial feeling. Something about the club just felt... wrong, and it seemed like Bella was beginning to agree. While they couldn't pinpoint what exactly caused the reaction, just looking around their surroundings caused both Edward and Bella's hackles to rise.

It was cold, damp… and a little creepy behind the camouflage of the lights and loud techno music. Something about the club was macabre, which was quite unfitting of its Seattle locale. But everyone looked as though they were having fun…

Bella caught the eye of one of the cage dancers. Every inch of the woman was perfect. There wasn't a golden, chin-length hair out of place on her head, her face had a regal look about it, and her thin, graceful body had Bella realizing how incredibly frumpy and ordinary her own was.

She went to cover herself up, suddenly self-conscious, and found Edward's hands clasp over her own.

"No," he said firmly. "Don't do that."

"But they're all so…" She couldn't finish.

Edward shrugged. "They're not ugly, by any means, Bella. But how much work do you think these girls have had to look like this?"

Bella almost giggled, but the woman on stage looked… offended, like she'd been able to hear Edward's comment over the blare of the music.

How odd.

Edward led Bella over to the massive, stone bar and pulled out a barstool for her.

"I'm Eleazar," the bartender said. He wouldn't glance up from the bottle of vodka in his hands, something that Edward found incredibly rude. "What can I get for you?"

His voice was hypnotic, and Bella found herself leaning forward to get a closer look at the beautiful, exotic man, drawn in by the lilting sound.

Edward put a hand on her shoulder, stopping her from toppling off of the barstool. He stared at her curiously, and then ordered the first thing he could think of since Bella was so obviously unable to speak.

"A line of rainbow shots, please," he ordered tersely. Now he really hated the fucker behind the bar.

Bella's eyes widened as she heard what Edward had ordered. "But you hate those." He'd always complained about how sickeningly sweet they were.

"They're your favorite," he said simply, watching her come back to him. Whatever had just happened to Bella made him even more leery of this place, and he decided that he'd let Bella have a few drinks, and then take her back home before something could happen… What, he didn't know, but he just couldn't shake the feeling that something was horribly wrong with this so-called club.

Eleazar nimbly mixed the shots; Bella's eyes danced with excitement as she watched the color go from blue to green, then yellow to orange, and finally to a pink hue as Eleazar poured continuously from one shot glass to the next. He then pushed the shots over to them without spilling a drop.

Eleazar finally took a chance and glanced up at the two people standing before him. He saw a pale blue glow around the man, one that signified that he had potential as one of his kind. The girl, however... The glow was bright around her; so bright that, had he actually been breathing, it would have stolen that breath. She didn't belong here on the floor with all the cattle. This human was special, invited for his king alone. To have her die to fulfill one of his sick and twisted fantasies was… unacceptable.

He needed to get them out of here.

Soon, Bella was feeling the effects of the alcohol. She laughed over nothing and sang along with every song that filtered through the speakers. The liquor had loosened Edward and her up enough so that neither of them was afraid to touch the other… A brushing of arms here, a playful pushing there. They unknowingly oriented themselves around each other, getting closer and closer to finally—and accidentally—revealing their feelings toward one another until Bella suddenly slurred, "I gotta pee," in Edward's ear.

She started to walk away from him and push her way through the crowd, but something made him follow her. He still had that same sense of dread since he'd stepped foot in the parking lot. He'd kept watch of everything around them, looking for a disconcerting stranger staring at Bella, making sure their drinks weren't drugged. He did everything he could think of to ensure Bella's safety. Letting her walk to the bathroom alone wasn't an option.

Bella hurried, careful not to touch too many surfaces; no matter how clean a public restroom looked, she just couldn't bring herself to put her hands on anything, other than the door (which was cringe-worthy in itself) and faucet handles. She even flushed the toilet with her foot.

She stepped out of the stall and stopped short as she caught the sight of the blonde dancer waiting for her.

"Um, hello?" she said uncertainly.

The blonde smiled slightly. It was so gorgeous it literally stunned Bella silent. "I've been watching you." Her voice was thick with a Russian accent and sounded like bells, captivating Bella. "I'm Irina."

Bella quickly worked to gather herself so she could respond. She started over to the sink to wash her hands. She figured it was casual enough. "Bella."

"I've watched the guy you're with, too. You're happy together."

"We're not… I mean, he's not my boyfriend or anything," Bella stammered, deflating with the words.

Irina frowned almost imperceptibly. She'd been certain the two of them were mated.

"Oh." She walked over to where Bella was washing her hands, listening to the sound of her heart speed with nerves. Her mouth watered with the scent of her blood, so she stopped breathing. She couldn't drink from her; Eleazar had insisted that this human needed her protection. He'd seen something in her that he hadn't been able to explain. She only knew that her survival was everything.

"You know, you're beautiful," Irina continued. Bella's eyes went wide, wondering if she was being hit on. "In a completely platonic way, of course."

Bella's cheeks immediately warmed with the compliment. She ducked her head as she answered, "No, you are. Wow. You're unbelievable."

Irina laughed sadly. "I wasn't always like this."

Bella's eyes met Irina's in the mirror. They were black as night and deeply shadowed, like she hadn't slept in weeks. Bella tried to figure out how Irina could function on the obvious lack of sleep unless, of course, it was because she was strung out. Which, as sad as it was, was unsurprising. Everyone was on drugs anymore.

"Bella, you have your whole life ahead of you," Irina said pressingly, hoping she could convince this human to take her mate and leave before it was too late, "with that man out there."

"Edward and I-"

"Stop fooling yourself," Irina said bitingly. "You love each other. Don't waste it like I did. You have no idea how much I wish I could go back…"

Confused by Irina's erratic behavior, Bella nodded. "Okay."

"You need to leave," Irina's hand fluttered up to her hair in a movement so fast, Bella didn't catch it. "Take Edward and go."

"But we're having-"

"No, Bella. Listen to me," Irina said, staring at her intensely. Bella immediately froze as a quick spurt of fear caused her heart to flutter. Something was horribly wrong with this girl. "If you want to get out of here… alive… you have to go. Now."

"Alive? What?" This woman had clearly lost her mind. "Why?"

"This place isn't what it seems," she answered ominously. "If you stay, you'll become like me. He'll control you. He wants you."

"So I have to become a dancer," Bella said sarcastically. "Awesome."

Irina shook her head with irritation. Humans were so jaded these days. None of them ever believed anything she said in warning until she proved how inhuman she was.

"Edward will die if you stay. You'll be a prisoner," Irina said emphatically. "Do you understand that?"

Bella tried to brush Irina's warning off as the rambling of a crazy person, but there was something about it… It took root inside of Bella and scared the absolute shit out of her.


Irina grabbed Bella's hand and forced it to her chest. "What do you feel?"

Bella was too frightened to answer right away. Twice now, she hadn't seen Irina move. She'd blinked and found her hand lying on Irina's icy chest. Her skin was like marble under Bella's touch, smooth, hard, and impermeable…

"I… I-" Bella broke off and took a deep breath, forcing herself to focus at the pleading way Irina stared at her. Her brows knit, and she shifted her hand. There was nothing where her heart should be. No gentle thumping against her hand. "Surely that's not right," she murmured, moving her hand again.

"I'm not human. Not anymore. It's not anything I would ever wish on anyone," Irina whispered so brokenly, Bella wondered how there weren't tears in her onyx eyes.

"What are you?" Bella said, snatching her trembling hand away from Irina.

But Irina had already said too much. Any more, and she'd be burned alive by one of the guard. Her best chance was to get the two humans out of here before the king came down.

"Run," was all Irina said before she let herself fade away.

Bella blinked rapidly as she stared at the space where Irina once… existed. She reached out and swatted her hand through the air, trying to dispel the illusion.

A jolt of shock went through Bella as the door burst open, and two drunken, giggling girls came falling inside. She bolted past them and dodged a few people as she raced over to Edward. She'd never needed someone so much in her life.

He saw her coming. He saw how wild her eyes were with terror, heard her panting breaths just as she leapt into his arms. She shook violently, clinging to him as she sobbed loudly. Panic welled inside him as a million possible reasons for her tears raced through his mind. He'd been so sure he could keep her safe, and failed. Now, he was unable to do anything for her but hold her in his arms and wait until she was coherent again.

"Bella," he begged, "what happened?"

"You were right; there's something wrong with this place," Bella cried. What she'd just seen shouldn't have happened. She couldn't make sense of it. Didn't want to make sense of it.

"Are you hurt?" he asked, cupping her face so he could scrutinize it. If anything happened to her, he'd never forgive himself.

A tear streaked down Bella's cheek. "I'm okay. That dancer… The blonde one? She was in the bathroom just now. I couldn't feel her heart beat, and I swear, for a second there, I thought she wanted to eat me. She said she wasn't human… And then she… she fucking disappeared! Evaporated into thin air. I can't…"

Edward didn't begin to know how to respond to that. It all sounded so crazy… And Bella was anything but. Something had truly shaken her just now.

"Okay, let's get you home," he said instead.

Bella sniffled and nodded. All she wanted to do was crawl into bed—Edward's bed— and forget this had ever happened. She wanted him to sleep with her, rather than pulling a pillow and blanket out of his hall closet and sleeping on the floor like he always did. Maybe take a long, hot bath…

Bella's steps faltered and she bit back a scream of terror as she saw Irina materialize in front of them with her hands on her hips.

"Now do you believe me?"

Bella whimpered and grabbed at Edward's shirt.

"Holy shit," Edward breathed, unable to believe his eyes. "What the fuck are you?"

"It's better if you don't know," Irina answered, turning away from them. "Come on. We have to get you out of here."

"How did no one see that?"

Irina answered over her shoulder, "I can block it from anyone I want."

"Handy," Edward mumbled to himself, not knowing what else to say back.

They numbly followed her through the club, holding on to each other so that neither of them was lost in the crowd. Everyone continued to dance around them, laughing as though they didn't have a care in the world.

Edward realized how strangely enraptured everyone was in this place. They all looked so carefree… drugged, even. And maybe they were. Maybe something—because Edward couldn't call this chick leading them through the crowd any sort of pronoun that resembled human—had slipped some kind of substance in their drinks, making them feel happy and alive. Like Ecstasy.

It certainly made more sense than anything else floating through his mind.

It felt like they'd pushed through the crowd for hours when they finally reached a darkened hallway. No one said a word; Irina was concentrating on getting the two humans out alive, and Edward and Bella were too scared to speak. They came upon a black, metal door at the end of the hall, which was what Edward could only assume was their escape route.

"It's locked," Irina said flatly. "I'll cause too much noise if I break the lock."

"Can't you just beam us out of here?" Edward asked, flashing a grin. Joking was the only way he knew how to cope without going insane.

Irina shot him a look and poised herself to take the door off its hinges. "Go hide in that room over there," she instructed, "and stay absolutely quiet."

Bella glanced behind her at the storage closet. "We're to hide?"

"For now." The music would camouflage their heartbeats, but if they made one sound, they'd be found. "The second I break the door down, the guard will come at me. If they hear you, they'll kill you. I'll come back for you as soon as I can. If I don't come back, find Eleazar."

"Eleazar," Bella murmured, trying to remember exactly who that was.

"The bartender."

Edward nodded, knowing there was nothing else he could do, and led Bella into the storage closet, shutting the door quietly behind them. "Jesus, this is…"

"Fucked up," Bella finished for him.


Edward swallowed thickly as he waited for something other than the distant sound of the music to come from the other side. The woman was incredibly tiny. He wasn't sure how she expected to lay waste to a steel door.

The booming sound of steel being contorted in a quick, fluid motion caused Edward and Bella to jump in place. Almost immediately, the sound of two men shouting at Irina echoed through the hallway.

Bella held on to Edward and tried to make sense it all. The men must've been standing just outside the door; there was no other explanation for their sudden arrival. No one could move that fast…

"Why was the door locked?" Irina demanded, staring at the two massive, cloaked men defiantly. "Dinner's not scheduled for another hour or so."

"Aro ordered the doors sealed when a certain human arrived," Felix answered.

"What human?" Irina put her arms on her hips.

"The girl-" Demetri started, but was interrupted by Felix.

"It doesn't matter. You're in direct violation-"

Irina rolled her eyes and cut Felix off before he could go any further. "Oh, for God's sake. How can I be in violation of anything when I didn't know that the doors were sealed to begin with? I simply went to turn the handle, and the door came off its hinges. It's not my fault we're too strong for our own good."

Irina watched as Demetri, the smaller of the two idiots standing before her, listened intently to something on his earpiece. She strained to hear the muffled voice, but in one lightning fast movement, Felix had caught her by the throat and pinned her against the wall.

"Naughty," he said to Irina with a sardonic smile. He was going to love killing this one. She'd been a thorn in their side since the day she was created.

"Get your hand off me," Irina snarled. She was itching to dematerialize again, but knew that by doing so, Felix and Demetri would get suspicious. As an unspoken rule, no one openly used their powers here. It was pointless to scare the food before it was necessary.

Demetri clasped Felix on the shoulder. "Aro wants her. Eleazar's not at the bar, and the 'guests' are starting to get irritated. Aro thinks she knows where he is."

"Where Eleazar is?" Irina laughed. "Tell Aro I'm not his mate. I don't keep track of him."

"Mate or not, you're coming with us."

Irina pretended to be annoyed, but in reality, she knew this was Edward and Bella's best chance to escape. If she could distract them, maybe they'd be able to make it off the property before anyone noticed.

"Fine." She pushed at Felix's hand. "Get off me and I'll go."

Felix released her neck, grabbing her arm to lead her upstairs instead. Edward and Bella stopped breathing as they heard footsteps pass, not exhaling again until all was silent in the hall.

"We'd better go."

Bella nodded once in agreement.

They eased the door opened and checked the hall before coming out of the closet.

"What the fuck?" Edward hissed, staring at the door in disbelief. It was standing as if nothing had happened to it. "I heard her break it down."

A chill went up Bella's spine. She reached for the handle and turned. "It's still locked. I don't understand…" It was as if someone had fixed the door in the span of a few seconds. She knew it was the same door… A dent went through it where Irina had peeled it back from the hinges. It was just straightened back out and put back up again.

Edward ushered Bella back to the storage closet so he could think. Staring at the door did nothing to ease his mind. He paced the small space feverishly, trying to find another way out of this hellhole. Bella was his only concern. If he could just manage to get her out…

Bella slumped down against one of the shelves and let despair wash over her. She'd convinced Edward to come here, and now they were going to die here. She knew it with every fiber of her being. And it was all because of her.

Edward stopped pacing when a quiet cry came from Bella. He crouched down and brushed her hair away from her face. "Hey. We'll find another way out."

"How? You heard him," she wailed. "All the exits are sealed. Because of me."

"You don't know that he was talking about you."

Bella gave him a look. "He said 'girl'. What other girl do you see being ushered out of here by some… some… whatever the fuck she is."

"I'll get you out of here," he swore, pulling her to her feet.

"Edward," she breathed, rolling her eyes. "Didn't your mother ever tell you not to make promises you couldn't keep?"

"I'll keep it," he whispered back, leaning forward.

Then he suddenly caught himself and jerked away.

"Come on." He grabbed her hand and tugged her back toward the hall. "We'll figure another way out."

Little by little, Jacob Black despised himself more every day. Every two weeks, he stood guard outside the gates of hell. Every two weeks, he ushered people to their deaths and watched silently from the shadows as the monsters attacked. He listened to the piercing screams and the sounds of panic helplessly, wishing there was something he could do to stop it.

Logically, he knew he had no choice in the matter. Oh, no. That right had been taken away from him by his ancestors long ago. His people were bound to the creatures that fed on the innocence that frequented this place. They were slaves to the cold ones that hid in plain sight, bending to the will of their king for centuries. To even think about freedom warranted death.

Aro made sure of it.

And so he never did. But that didn't stop the resentment and anger he felt toward the bloodsuckers—and himself—from slowly eating away at him. He was his people's leader, their Alpha, and yet he could lead them nowhere.

Unless it was to imprisonment. He was damn good at that. After all, it ran thick in his blood.

"Black," one of the royal guards barked. Jacob never bothered to remember any of the more inconsequential soldiers' names. They never lasted long, so what was the point? "Get Carlisle from his cell."

Jacob sighed and nodded, going immediately down to the dungeon to fetch the elder. He wasn't sure what the male had done; he only knew it must have been something pretty bad to wind up down here. This place stank of the sweet scent of their kind in death. It stank of fear. Both of which caused a shudder to run through him.

He cursed his need for air, and his heightened senses. His nose burned and his stomach rolled with each breath he took underground, although, the problem did seem to make Jacob retrieve the doomed vampire a little faster. If he kept this up, he might earn a joke of a medal from the king for his servitude.

The thought pissed him off.

"You've been summoned," Jacob said harshly as he reached Carlisle's cell. He hadn't meant to sound that way. The male was actually one of the very few bloodsuckers that Jacob didn't hate.

"Oh, good," Carlisle quipped, setting the book he'd been reading down on the bench next to him. "I can get some fresh air before I die."

Vampires, in general, were always pale, but Jacob noted the way Carlisle's odd-colored skin looked grotesque now, the way his golden hair fell limp over his forehead, and cursed himself again. It was his blood that had done that to him. His blood was like poison to their kind. One little dose weakened the vampire and made the unbreakable… breakable. It was just another way that Aro could use his people to control their secret world, and it made Jacob's hatred grow exponentially.

"What did you do?" Jacob asked, helping the wobbling male to his feet.

"Nothing. Everything. My secret might be out. I don't know, really."

"You mean the uh…" Jacob trailed off and nodded, knowing that he could be overheard anywhere in this facility. It was one thing for the male to tell him. Admitting his knowledge beforehand was quite another, though.

"Yes. It's hard to get used to, and tastes rather plain, but it works." This time Carlisle's smile was genuine. "It's such a relief not to kill something I once was anymore."

"Don't say that shit too loud," Jacob replied, noticing Carlisle's eyes for the first time. Not quite blackened with thirst, they were diluted from their normal ruby color since he'd recently started feeding on animals, but they still were far from what one would consider normal. "It might put a rush order on your execution."

Carlisle let out a dry laugh. "I think that's the least of their worries, Jake. They're more worried about what would happen if I she were to escape knowing everything about us. Their powers of concealment won't work on her."

Jacob's brow furrowed. "Who?"

"The girl. She's finally arrived. Just as Alice said she would."

Ah. The psychic one. "Well, if Alice said so…"

Carlisle made a sound of agreement. "They're terrified of her, as they should be."

"I don't… What girl is this?"

"Purple dress, long brown hair." Carlisle waited for the instant the light of recognition flashed in Jacob's eyes before continuing. "You let her in."

Jacob tensed defensively. "So?"

"She's… Her latent ability is stronger than anything Eleazar's ever seen before. She has the ability to be the most powerful creature on this planet."

This was news. Jacob's mind whirled with the implications. "More so than Aro?"

Carlisle nodded. "Most definitely. He wants her, though. He wants to fill her mind with lies and then use her for his own gain. It cannot happen," he spat.

"Looks like it's going to."

"Not if you do something about it. Promise me that no matter what happens, you'll get her out of here."

Jacob blinked in surprise a few times. This was the first time any vampire had acknowledged them as anything more than just slaves. "And just what would we do?"

"A distraction," Carlisle answered cryptically.

The heavy wooden doors to the throne room opened, cutting off the rest of their conversation. Jacob let Carlisle go as soon as they entered and bowed, hearing the chains that held Carlisle captive in his weakened state clank against the stone floor as he made his way toward the king. He knew that if he came close enough for Aro to touch him that his side of the conversation would be known. Then whatever plan Carlisle had to get the girl out would be ruined.

God, he wanted to see her walk out of here alive. Not just because the guilt he'd felt when he'd let her and the man go through the doors but also because she could be his salvation. Her escape could also mean his freedom, and that of his people's. He couldn't risk doing anything that would keep her here.

"Ah, hello, dear friend," Aro greeted with a welcoming smile. Jacob knew better, though. Behind that phony smile was the most calculating and cold individual he'd ever known. He was ruthless, merciless.

He was the king for a reason.

"Come, sit down," Aro continued. He motioned to a mahogany chair that sat in the center of the room. "We have much to discuss."

Carlisle didn't move; instead, he was dragged over to the chair and shoved into his seat by two of the guards. Not that it would have taken them much force to get him there. He looked weaker by the second.

Carlisle held out his hand wearily. "What would you like to know, my lord?"

"Everything," Aro answered, taking Carlisle's hand. His face instantly went blank, and he got that dazed look in his blood red eyes that always creeped Jacob out.

He had to turn away.

"Carlisle," Jacob heard Aro hiss, and decided that he instantly liked the vampire even more just for pissing the king off so much. "Where is she now?"

Jacob almost snorted. Aro knew everything Carlisle had ever dreamed, thought, or witnessed just with that one touch. Questions didn't exist in Aro's world. Asking one just proved how desperate the king was for an answer.

Which made Jacob realize what he had meant by "distraction". Desperation meant preoccupancy. And that gave Jacob and his tribe the perfect opportunity to rebel.

Carlisle shrugged a shoulder half-heartedly. "Not a clue, sire. I haven't seen her. I've been in the dungeon, remember?"

Aro lifted his hand in a wave of dismissal. "No matter. Alice will be mine, regardless of what you and your followers think. Just like the little human girl she predicted would come tonight."

Jacob highly doubted that, but kept his lips firmly clamped together while Aro finished his reading of Carlisle's mind.

When the king was done, he released Carlisle's hand and took a step back, glancing at Jacob knowingly.

"What have you to say?"

Jacob shrugged nonchalantly. "Nothing, really. I think he's going insane from being in that cell for so long."

"Do you?"

Jacob dragged out the word, "Yep.", careful not to look away from Aro's eyes.

To Jacob's relief, Felix and Demetri came bursting into the door with one of the female dancers. She didn't fight against their hold, because she knew it would do no good. Her power was useless in this room, and the two vampires held their position as Aro's personal guards for two reasons: their strength and their unwavering loyalty to the king.

"Would you like to tell me where your friend went?"

Irina jerked her chin up defiantly, saying nothing.

"I can get the information out of you one way or another," Aro said cruelly. "All it takes is a touch. Tell me where Eleazar went."

"I don't know," Irina ground out, playing along. "Last time I saw him was over an hour ago. He was still behind the bar."

"You're lying."

She actually wasn't, but she knew that it was in the humans' best interest to pretend otherwise. So she simply stood there and stared back at the king. He'd eventually learn of her warning to them. But she could drag it out for a while, buy them the time they needed to find an escape route.

"All right, fine." Aro started to make his way toward Irina, walking so smoothly it was like he was gliding on air. He suddenly stopped, his lips twisting into an evil smile. "On second thought, I think I'll have Jane pry it out of you. I'm in need of good entertainment."

Aro snapped his fingers, and the doors behind him opened. Two small, cloaked figures walked in the room, coming to stand just behind Aro.

Irina's eyes widened in terror but she held absolutely still.

"Get back to work, dog," Aro said to Jacob. He bristled at the derogatory term, but bowed regardless. "I have things to attend to here."

Jacob fought back a wave of nausea at the look of glee in Aro's eyes. He knew he had to do as he said or else he would be joining Irina in the torturefest that was about to take place, even though he was, oddly enough, wracked with guilt for leaving the vampire alone like this.

With a deep breath, he nodded at Carlisle, and then answered the king. "Yes, sir."

It took every ounce of strength he had to turn away, but he managed to stride out of the room, never once glancing back at the vampires behind him.

Not even when Irina's bloodcurdling scream ripped through the air.