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Summary: In the aftermath of the Newborn War, the Cullen family celebrates their triumph over Victoria. Little do they know that their victory will be short lived. A visitor comes calling; a visitor who has been keeping tabs on the Cullen's and Edward's human pet. When Caius doesn't like what he sees will Bella risk everything to save the vampire family she loves?
Somewhere between my ragged breaths and pounding heart I sighed in relief my legs trembling as my knees gave out. They hit with a wet smack and a painful ache as my body failed me and I slumped over into the dewy grass below. Though it hurt, I welcomed the pain. The pain, after all, let me know that I had survived. That I was somehow still alive to draw breath for another day and all of this was finally over.
In the span of minutes the battle had raged and those minutes felt like excruciating hours; all the while knowing that my friends and family were fighting for their lives and it was all because of me.
I think the waiting was the worst part. Not knowing if my family would survive this brutal attack. They had all seemed more than confident going into this fight, but it still bothered me that I would not be there standing at their side. I felt impotent and utterly useless as I stood there watching, waiting and then even more so as I was forced to watch Victoria hurt the people I loved.
When all was finally quiet and the dust settled it was my friends and family who were victorious. The word in itself hinted at my sense of irony and had I not been so scared to death for those around me, I might have found it humorous.
Sometimes, even I have to marvel at where my mind goes.
My emotions were clouded at best and I was having a difficult time knowing how to feel about everything that had just occurred mere minutes ago.
But I was grateful; grateful that my family had come out of this impossible win without so much as a scratch, grateful that Victoria was no longer a threat to my life. It was an overwhelming weight lifted from my shoulders to have her gone—burning to ash—, and yet I felt guilty for my easy breathing. Because what was the overall cost to our victory?
One of the many things I had learned since I had surrounded myself with these supernatural beings—is that you can't hang price-tag on life, or death for that matter. The beautiful, ethereal beings I loved with all my heart lived in a very black in white world for much of the time. It was killed or be killed. But how do you ask yourself—how do you make the judgment call on who lives and who dies? Should I even be asking at all? I was no great judge of character nor was I a celestial entity with the divine knowledge of the past, present or future.
Nevertheless, I ask myself these questions often, but never as much as I had today.
And now I stand amongst the wreckage. The beautiful clearing of wild mountain flowers and sweet green grass was now a muddied pit of jagged body parts and fire. The field where I once saw my vampire family put their own twist on America's favorite pastime was now forever tarnished. It was a fitting battleground; the place that started it all.
Every inch of this landscape was littered with fires burning of thick purple smoke. The sickly-sweet, acrid stench of the fires was threatening to steal the meager breakfast of military rations that Edward had forced upon me this morning. That smell of putrid smoke and ash was all that remained of Victoria's army, and they were billowing off into the morning air and being washed away with the rain.
It was a bittersweet win for each of us, but a win nonetheless.
It was sadly beautiful in its own right. The relieved and smiling faces of my family was enough to make my heart soar, but I also wanted to cry for the sadness I saw in each of their eyes.
The wolves were whooping and howling in the distance, obviously celebrating their big win over the leeches, but I couldn't find it in myself to celebrate.
So many lives had been lost to Victoria's vendetta against me. So many that had to suffer the burn that only immortality could bring, only to be struck down by this pointless crusade. I very well understood Victoria's pain; the loss of the one you love was enough to make a sane person tear their own heart from their chest. But the anger she held against me was unfounded and as far as I was concerned James had invited his own death long ago and it merely caught up with him.
But this crusade had brought her nothing but misery, and eventually her own death. Perhaps it was what she wanted all along. I could remember a time when I had longed to be released from the pain of living.
As the others gathered the many pieces that needed to be burned, it pained me to see the remorse in all of their eyes. I didn't believe for one second that any of them truly enjoyed having to destroy so many. Even Emmett—who always longed for a good tussle—hung his head as he gathered the limbs that would become ash in a matter of moments.
Jasper was the worst for me and I think he took it the hardest. His face was a blank mask of stone, but his eyes shone with venomous tears that would never fall. He was already so battle worn. From the time he awoke to this life he was coerced and manipulated into taking lives and I could tell from the look on his face—however hidden—that the sins from his grim and blooded past were catching up to him now. His whole life seems to have been nothing but bloodshed and pain and I couldn't even imagine what he must being going through—as he had to once again take the lives of mindless innocence. I knew he would do anything to save him family and his mate, but I could tell this battle would be taking a toll on him for many years to come.
Carlisle was a close second. He was such a civil creature; pure at heart and full of goodness. I knew he would have trouble with this battle; it went against everything in his nature to take a life—be it human, vampire or werewolf. Pure agony was written across his face as he bowed his head in silent prayer for all of the lost souls burning away in the remains of the battlefield.
The girls were solemn as well, with their heads together as they tried to sooth a young—newborn—girl, the only life they could spare.
Even Edward, with all his rage as he battled Victoria; in all his heroism, I could still see the gut clenching remorse and pain he kept hidden by his stoic face.
I couldn't help but feel like all of this was my fault, or partly, at least. I wasn't trying to play the martyr, but I couldn't get past the feeling that if I had just stayed away from Edward, my family wouldn't have been burden by such heartache.
Something hit me then, like a lightning bolt to the chest. My head snapped up and shifted to Edward's grieving face and something in his eyes struck me cold. He was truly mourning but he head was not angled toward any of the innocent children who had been slaughtered to make up Victoria's army. No…his eyes were cast upward, toward the mountain side, toward Victoria's pyre.
I couldn't and didn't want to understand it. Victoria had threatened to take my life time and time again. She threatened to end our family, and yet he mourns for her? I didn't feel even an ounce of sorrow for her annihilation, not even in the moment her head broke free of her body. Because…all of this carnage…all of this death and destruction was on her hands. I had no reason to feel guilty for her and Edward sure as hell didn't either. She had reined all of this down on herself, and yet he looks grief-stricken? Why would he ever feel sorry for that kind of murderer? Why would he feel guilty for killing the woman who tried to slaughter his mate?
Thankfully, I didn't have too much time to dwell on the subject, because I fear I might have said something without completely thinking it through.
Alice suddenly gasped, her eyes glazing over with what could only be a vision.
A forgotten newborn emerged from the surrounded tree line not a second later—he looked at me and snarled deep.
Leah, still in her wolf form took off at a gallop at the same time Edward yelled,
It was too late, she was already engaged in the fight and she was losing. The newborn had her by the neck and Leah was struggling to get loose. A flashback of Jasper's warning ringing in my ears. "Don't ever let them get their arms around you." He had said, but Leah, the hothead that she was, hadn't listened.
Jacob was the closest to her charged in, phasing on the fly and knocking the newborn from Leah's back. But as they hit the moist floor of the clearing with a thud I could already see that something was wrong. Jacob had landed on the large male and it was all that that thingneeded to get his burly arms around my russet friend. Jacob—trying to fight it off—raised up on his hind legs…and the rest happened in slow motion. From the carefully positioned hands at Jacob's ribcage to the sicken crunch of bone that followed it…it was like watching a movie play out. There was nothing I could do.
My heart stuttered when Jacob's eyes rolled up and when I heard that yowl of pain my heart nearly stopped altogether.
After a moment that felt like an eternity, a rescue came. Paul in wolf form and Sam as a human all rushing to Jacob's aid.
When Jacob's body hit the ground it was easily to discern that he couldn't get back up again. The air shifted a second later and with my friend—in human form—cried out in agony. His face was frozen in a pain filled yelled and it broke my heart.
"Jacob!" I yelled, frantically rushing to his side once my limbs decided it was okay for me to move again. Edward was already on his knees at Jacob's side when I arrived.
"Jacob," Edward said calmly, looking over my friends mangled body with a careful eye. "Hold on, Carlisle's going to take care of you."
A gush of freezing wind brought Carlisle to the ground beside me. "The bones on the right half of his body are shattered."
I gasped loudly, fighting back the stinging tears in my eyes as I thought about what that might mean for Jacob.
Jacob, even in his pain called out to me. "Bella."
"Jake, I'm here." I told him, trying to spit out the words against the lump that had formed in my throat.
I saw the others of the pack come rushing toward us from the woods, human and dressed. Sam rushed to meet us with Leah, Paul, Embry and Seth in tow.
"Jacob you idiot, I had it!" Leah wailed, looking a lot less angry than she sound as she tried to sniff away the tears that tracked her dirty cheeks.
"Leah!" Sam barked, his alpha timbre threatening to bring the others to their knees. He eyed her harshly, a silent warning that this was not the time for her attitude.
Carlisle was murmuring something about having to set the bones in Jacob's body before his accelerated healing kicked in, but my mind was lost to the pain in Jacob's eyes.
"It's already started." Carlisle said softly, looking to Edward.
"Yeah," Edward agreed. "We need to get him out of here; we don't want a fight with the Volturi."
Sam looked torn for a moment and I could tell he was waging a battle inside himself about letting human drinkers near Quileute soil. "We'll take him back to Billy's." he finally offered, a silent agreement that Carlisle was welcome to follow.
"I'll be there as soon as I can." Carlisle replied, as Paul and Embry set to work lifting Jake's naked and broken body from the ground.
"Hang in there, Jake." I told him in a wild breath as I smoothed my hand across his scorching cheek.
"They're coming!" Alice said frantically.
We all turned eyes to hers just as four dark figures seemed to float out of the shadows of the forest.
It took several minutes for my eyes to adjust to their speed. They walked with an unnatural grace and unity as they approached. Dark cloaks covered most of their faces, but I still knew who they were. I recognized these figures from my unexpected and eventful trip to Italy, and I had no desire to see them now.
"Impressive," the smallest one said, removing the hood of her cloak. It was Jane. "I've never seen a coven escape an assault of this magnitude still intact."
She was taunting us.
Carlisle was the one to answer her and I had never seen such disdain on his handsome face as he spoke up in our defense. "We were lucky."
I remembered Jane of the Volturi very well. She was ruthless, cold and very dedicated to her Master's. I had always envied her loyalty but as she was here to possibly hurt my family the desire to smack her hit me hard.
She was distant and without emotion as she sneered, "I doubt that."
"It appears we missed an entertaining fight," her twin interjected with no more emotions on his young face than his sister had. But there was something hidden in the way that he spoke that led me to believe they had seen everything. I was instantly on alert and listening intently for any signs that they meant my pack friends harm.
The pack had fought to protect me. Jacob had fought to protect me, and now I may have possible delivered them to their dooms on a silver platter.
"Yes," Jane agreed, a bit of resentment lacing her tone, as she eyed each and every one of us as if we were no more than the dirt under her dainty boots. "It's not often were rendered unnecessary."
"If you had arrived a half hour ago you would have fulfilled your purpose." Edward spat. He was calm, but the venom in his tone startled me.
For the first time since meeting the witch twins of Volterra, I saw a flicker of anger color her stunning ruby eyes. There was malice in those garnet depths and it seemed that Edward brought out the temper in her.
"Pity," she replied, but the words were said as if she had spit them at his feet.
Then with a small but brilliant smile, she cocked her head to the side and said, "You missed one."
My family stiffened at her words and out of the corner of my eye, saw Jasper shift on his heels and stride behind me to where little Bree—a girl of no more than fourteen—huddled. He took up a protective stance at her side and Esme pulled her a little closer.
"We offered an asylum for her surrender." Carlisle explained, but sounded oddly defeated. It was like he already knew that the cruel girl in front of him wouldn't stand for the newborns survival.
I was proven right with Jane's next words, and I could only hope that Carlisle's diplomatic capabilities wouldn't fail him now.
"That wasn't yours to offer." I felt my heart sink into my stomach. They weren't going to let her go. She would die. It would be more death, more destruction, because of me.
I had to turn my face away from the little dark haired girl. The instinct to flee was clearly written on her face, but I knew there was nowhere for her to run. The poor thing—who had to be crazy with bloodlust and had yet to take a snap at me—was searching through our group for a savior.
"Why did you come here?" Jane asked in all authority, just before the screaming started.
My heart lurched in my chest and Edward clinging me tighter to him.
"Who created you?" Jane asked again, this time yelling over the piercing screams that echoed off the trees.
"You don't need to do that. She'll tell you anything you want to know." Esme pleaded in voice full of concern and sadness. She too, knew that Bree wouldn't survive this.
A small smile appeared on Jane's face, more of a knowing smirk really, as she replied. "I know."
In that moment, I couldn't fathom what could have made such a beautiful girl so callous…so cruel. If anything I would think she would sympathize with the girl, as they were close in age. Jane knew that Bree would tell her anything…that she would do anything she asked, and yet she tortured the girl maliciously.
It killed me to listen to the screams as I knew well the full extent of Jane's gift, and she terrified me. Once again I was thankful for whatever misfires in my brain that stilled her from doing the same to me.
After several intense minutes I realized that Jane must have released Bree or at least relinquished some of her hold, because the screaming suddenly stopped.
Bree staggered back to her knees, gasping out several panted breathed. "I don't know. Riley wouldn't tell us. He said our thoughts weren't safe."
"Her name was Victoria. Perhaps you knew her?" Edward supplied through his teeth, and again I felt a twinge of jealously and slap of betrayal as he spoke her name.
"Edward," Carlisle warned. "If the Volturi had knowledge of Victoria they would have stopped her. Isn't that right, Jane?"
Even I could hear the sarcastic bite in Carlisle's question and it was making me grow more nervous by the minute. Carlisle was not one to start petty arguments for arguments sake, so if he was trading barbs…there was a damn good reason. But I was fearful for my family as it was very obvious that Jane wouldn't hesitate to have each and every one of my family members ripped apart and burned.
"Of course," Jane replied flippantly. "But it was not our mess to clean up, was it?" She shot back looking directly at Edward, and for once she seemed sincere.
What in the world could she have meant by that? Did she mean that because Edward had brought me into the realm of the supernatural that this was his fault? Or did she mean that it was his fault for not killing Victoria when he James was ended?
Of course she could have meant any of those things, but somehow I wondered… could she have meant something else entirely?
"Felix." She ordered a second later, and the same bulking man I remembered from Italy stepped forward. He was just as huge as I remembered and he, above all the others, gave me nightmares. I remembered what he did to Edward in vivid detail and it sent a chill up my spine to even see his face.
"She didn't know what she was doing!" Esme cried, sweet and motherly. "We'll…take responsibility for her."
Seeing Esme so frantic, Carlisle stepped forward, his eyes pleading with Jane to understand. "Just give her a chance." But he already knew that this outcome would not end the way Esme wished it.
"The Volturi doesn't give second chances. Keep that in mind, Caius would be interested to know that she's still human." She said with a smirk before looking over her shoulder and into the trees behind her.
Everything happened at once; like a large explosion in a tight space.
Edward crouched low, growling louder than I had ever heard him, and Jasper following suit as Felix breezed past his brethren to take Jasper head on.
"You will not!" Edward snarled, gripping me to him like a vice.
Carlisle and the rest to the family swarmed around us, but looked as confused by Edward's actions as I felt.
"Edward," Carlisle asked low. "What is it?"
He gripped me tighter, growling and snapping in the direction of the trees, and finally bit out a name that would forever change my destiny.
So, for some of you that may be rereading this, you'll not a few changes. The reason for this: I took a quick read through the entire story and realized there were more than a few things missing from it than I had planned for in the rough draft. Thing were off and throwing the story off kilter; the story was moving a bit too quickly in some chapters and it was not meant to be that way (Sorry, I'm easily distracted.), not to mention grammar and spelling mistakes.
So for those of you rereading this…you may note several differences, but nothing big will change from the original plot.
For those you reading for the first time…enjoy :)