A/N: It's not mine. Ms. Meyers owns the goods.

Thanks to everyone who reviewed the last chapter. I'm so happy to see everyone is pretty much on the same page.

I'm sorry my updating is sporadic My RL is kicking the snot out of me, and I can only update when I can squeeze in the time. Thank you so much for your patience.

I do not have a beta, so all mistakes are my own. If anyone would like the job, let me know.

Chapter 24


By the time I had reached the training yard, I saw that Aro had already gotten there before me. Curse his ability to shower so quickly.

"It's nice of you to join us, Bella," Jasper called out to me. I looked over at him and saw him trying to hide his smirk.

"No problem, Jasper. I figured I could grace you with my presence, yet again," I replied.

"Yes, well, I'm surprised you and Aro were able to pull yourselves away from each other long enough," he jested, and everyone laughed.

"Although I do have a certain someone else I would rather be doing, I am capable of organizing my priorities," I retorted with a play on words. Aro laughed and pulled me into his arms.

As soon as the laughter died down, Jasper spoke up. "OK, everyone, it's time to get our heads together. We have a mock battle to get underway. It's everyone against Bella and Master Aro. I want everyone to go all out. No holding back, and that includes gifts as well. Treat this as if it were the real thing. This is to prepare us mentally and physically for what we are about to face. Whatever you do, remember what I said about newborns. Use that in your attacks. If it helps, watch how Emmett fights…"

"Hey, wait a minute," Emmett boisterously interrupts. "Why the hell does everyone have to pick on me?" he whines, placing his hand on his hips like a teenaged girl. I swear I saw him stomp his foot.

"I'm not picking on you, you little brat. I'm just pointing out the fact that, out of everyone here, you fight more like a newborn than a mature vampire," Jasper replied in exasperation while shaking his head.

"Oh, so now you're calling me immature," Emmett accused him. You could hear the barely disguised snickers from everyone. Emmett's behavior was just too amusing.

Jasper's eyes bugged out of his head for just a brief moment, before he was able to rein himself back in. "Emmett, I was referring to the fact that you tend to rely solely on you strength alone. You usually don't plan your attacks or think things through. Now could you stop being a hormonal, teenage girl and get down to business?" Jasper asked him in annoyance.

Emmett glared at him and huffed. As humorous as it was to see Emmett acting like himself, I couldn't help but feel relieved that he seemed to be completely over Rosawhore.

"Alright, let's get this underway," Jasper spoke up, interrupting my train of thought.

Without a moment's notice, everything and everyone shifted. Suddenly, the focus of all our friends and allies was leveled on myself and Aro. Looking around, I could see that they had formed a circle around us, attempting to block us in, and by doing so, they blocked any means of escape we might attempt.

Instantly, I felt someone collide with my back and was tackled to the ground. Damn! I was not watching every angle. I immediately threw back my elbow, connecting with whoever's face and throwing them off enough to allow me to get up.

I hopped back up only to be attacked again. This time, I could see who my attacker was. Ah, yes, Tanya Denali, why am I not surprised? The crazed look in her eyes spoke volumes. Apparently, this wasn't just a training session for her. The walking billboard for Whores-R-Us wants to have a real go at me. I suppose the ass whooping I gave her a while back must have really pissed her off.

She sneered at me, causing me to laugh. Her sneer sounded more like the sounds of a dying pygmy mouse than that of a powerful vampire hellbent on causing me harm. Then she dove at me. I anticipated her moves and easily sidestepped her attack. Her fighting skills were non-existent, making it easy for me to avoid her pitiful attacks. Immediately, she was joined by her two sisters. By the looks of it, they held grudges against me as well. For what? I had no idea. Perhaps the three of them suffer from some sort of vampire dementia. That would explain a great deal.

The three of them endeavored to tackle me again, without even bothering to think through any strategy. I easily averted them, and they all fell into a jumble of limbs.

I stepped over them and was again hit, but from my left flank. I looked up to see who my attacker was this time. Char's grin greeted me.

"Always pay attention. Never let your eyes wonder," she chided me. Then she grabbed a hold of my forearm and threw me a few meters away from her. I twisted myself and landed upright, ready for her next onslaught. "It is imperative that you never lose focus, regardless of what is going on around you," she added, charging at me again. We grappled together until I was finally able to throw her off me, only to be hit again by someone else.

Trying to keep my focus on all sides while defending myself from the multiple hits I was sustaining, I was feeling my mate through our bond. Although I could not see him, I knew he was struggling and there was nothing I could do to lend my assistance. I was having extreme difficulty maintaining my patience and keeping a level head. I wanted, no, needed to end this.

I looked around the training yard, desperate to catch sight of Aro. In between punches, kicks, and jabs, I finally caught a glimpse of him, fighting roughly twenty yards away from my current position.

I was fighting off both Felix and Carmen while trying to keep my eyes on my mate at the same time. Aro was to the left of me, fighting Emmett, Jasper, and Eleazar. They were all coming at us with everything they had, and we were able to keep up, but I was beginning to get frustrated. What the hell are we doing this for? Why? There were nearly 75 vampires pitted against myself and Aro. How in the name of all that's holy are we supposed to fight them off much less beat them?

My thoughts were again interrupted by Renata getting a good hit in, which connection with my left side. She hit me hard enough to toss me back a few dozen feet. I quickly got back to my feet and looked over at Aro. He was still fighting off his attackers.

Damn it! This isn't working. I needed to do something and do it quickly.

Just then, I realized that a few of the guard were not coming after me and Aro. Where the hell were they? Everyone was supposed to be participating in this. I scanned the vast training yard, trying to find them. That is when I just about lost it.

Several hundred yards away from where I stood, Alec, Demetri, and Peter were ganging up on Charlie. They were taking turns beating him and laughing while doing so. A deep growl erupted from within me. Aro rushed over to my side and followed my gaze. Soon, his growl joined mine as he witnessed the heinous act that had caught my attention. I felt something from deep within grow as my anger grew. I snarled and hissed and then my electric shield shot forth, encompassing them. With an even louder growl, an electrical charge, stronger than I had yet created, surged within my shield and blew Alec, Demetri, and Peter apart. Their limbs were strewn about in various directions.

Everyone ceased what they were doing, and all eyes were on me. Shock and awe were plastered in their facial expressions. There was even some fear.

I stood there, unable to move. I could not believe what I had just done. How was that even possible?

"Well done, Bella," Jasper praised me. I looked over at him as he ambled over to us.

"How is that a good thing?" I asked, disturbed by the advancement of my shield. Hearing the anxiety in my voice, Aro wrapped his arms around me and pulled me closer to him.

"Bella, I have had a feeling for quite some time that your physical shield had not yet fully developed. In fact, I still don't think it has. You may call it intuition, but I am usually spot on about these things," Jasper replied gently, looking between me and my mate.

I leaned back and looked at Aro, hoping to see some sort of confirmation of Jasper's claims.

"My love, to be honest with you, I was feeling the same thing. I didn't want to concern you, so I have been trying not to think about it. I didn't want you to randomly pick it up in my thoughts. Plus, I think Jasper is the best person to get you to work on your gifts," Aro told me.

"I can feel the guilt and fear you are feeling. First of all: Charlie, Alec, Demetri, and Peter volunteered to help me with this knew there was a possibility that they could get hurt, but they also knew of the importance of helping your physical shield to evolve. Second: you have nothing to fear. You are a very quick study, and you will learn how to control this aspect of your shield. Just think of it as another means to protect the ones you love," Jasper said proudly.

"Are you telling me that you arranged to have them," I said, gesturing with a nod of my head over to the area where the dismembered trio was, "Gang up on my father so I would get pissed?" I asked him, annoyed at the tactics that he used.

Nodding his head, he said, "That's exactly what I did. I needed something that was going to jar you into action. Your response was completely instinctual. By doing that, you allowed your shield to evolve further."

"I can't say I'm overly joyous about they way you went about it. However, I understand the necessity of the outcome," I informed him, still a bit upset over it.

"Believe me, Bella, if I didn't feel that it was absolutely necessary, I wouldn't have done it this way. We are in a time crunch here, and we need you to develope your shield as far as is possible," Jasper explained further, trying to assuage my concerns.

"Bella," my dad said, walking over to us. The injuries he had sustained from the "planned" beating he had taken at Peter, Alec, and Demetri's hands were already healed and only a few silvery scars remained. The most prominent one being a crescent shaped scar he had on his neck from a bite mark. Seeing it cause anger to again surge up inside me. Jasper quickly glanced over at me, and I could feel his artificial calm wash over me, easing my tension. I glanced at him, giving him my dirtiest look. He laughed at me in response. Damn empath!

"Bella, I'm sorry this was so upsetting to you, but as you can see, I am fine. I needed to do this for you. I would do anything to help you," my dad told me, pulling me into his arms and hugging me.

"I get it, Dad. I just lost it there when I saw you being attacked," I explained to him.

Aro pulled me back into his arms and gently rubbed my back. Placing a finger under my chin, he tenderly tipped my head back so that I would look at him. "Do you understand that Jasper needed you to react solely on your instinct, and it was by doing so that you were able to get your shield to evolve?" he asked me, while leaning forward and placing a loving kiss on my forehead.

Nodding my head, I replied, "I get it, and it makes complete sense. I just think the way he went about it sucks. But I guess he had to go with the method that would get the quickest results."

"So, are we done here?" Emmett's boisterous voice broke through the strain of the conversation. Everyone laughed at his obvious one tracked mind. Once a goof off, always a goof off.

"Yes, Emmett, we are done for now. I think it would be prudent for everyone to hunt if they need to. If not, go relax," Jasper ordered, and everyone scattered without having to be told twice.

"What about Peter, Alec, and Demetri?" I asked Aro, still feeling slightly guilty over dismembering them.

"Don't worry about them, Bella," Jasper spoke up. "I already have some of the guard taking care of them. They will be fine."

"Come, my love, you look like you need some time to think." Aro quietly pulled me along with him into the castle and led me to his private study. He always seemed to know what I needed without me having to say anything.

I collapsed into Aro's overstuffed Corinthian leather chair and let my mind wander over the events of the past few weeks. It seems as if we have been experiencing non-stop developments since Jane's betrayal, and it is a bit overwhelming. Through it all, I have been fortunate to have the ever abiding love of my amazing mate. He stands by me and supports me through it all. No matter what happens, I know that I can do what must be done, because I have him by my side.

I'm not sure how long I've been sitting here, or how long Aro sat at his desk watching me, but I was jostled from my thoughts when I heard some commotion coming from the throne room. I gave Aro a questioning look,and he responded with one of his own.

"You do know that experience tell us that if we go to the throne room, we are only going to get more bad news?" I asked him.

"It does seem that way, doesn't it?" my love replied. He came over to me, offering me his arm like the true gentleman he is. I stood up, placing my hand on his arm and allowed him to lead the way. What could possibly be the bad news this time? Don't we have enough on our plates without having to deal with more?

Just then, Aro swung open the large doors and for once, since I have been here, I was happy to see the cause of all the raucous. And all I have to say is it's about damn time!

A/N: I'm sorry this took so long to get out. I have written a little here and there when I could. To be honest, I have so much going on right now that my head just wasn't in it. I have been very tempted to put this and Sunrise on hold, but I hate when authors do that, and I don't want to do it.

My updating will be only when I can. My mother's cancer has returned and between dealing with that and everyone in my house getting sick, I just don't have much energy left. Please be patient. I'm trying to push through.