A/N: This one goes out to trenee, who stayed up until three to reach this point in the story! It inspires me to read reviews like yours :D

Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer owns it, we add to it!


Chapter 30

Eldest


The image of Embry gathering Anna's small form into his arms haunted me as we rode down the highway and back to Jacob's apartment. The image of her belly, round and full only drew more unanswered questions and sorrow in my mind. How could they possibly raise a family together when Anna was condemned to be a monster? And if they could, would the child be like her or Embry?

My arms wrapped tightly round the werewolf I loved. I resisted the sudden urge to claim him now, to fight my own hidden insecurities. And for the first time I wondered, if I was half Vampire did that mean I could never have Jacob's children?

We pulled up to the already busy garage, customers returned now that the shop had reopened. Jacob parked his bike against a forgotten corner outside the garage and stepping upon the crunching snow in his heavy boots, he turned round to face me. His obsidian eyes were shadowed by his lowered brow, claiming secrets I longed to unravel, sorrows I needed to kiss away. His hands slowly slid about my waist and I held my breath as a wave of desire washed over me at his touch. His fingers slipped up underneath my red shirt and grazed my skin and his hand hovered over my abdomen a moment, brow furrowing further before his hands were clasped about my waist and he lifted me against him.

Our bodies rubbed together, igniting the flame of lust I caught burning in his eyes. I smiled as I placed my cool hands on either side of his burning face. "Are you so sure about this, fighting for a girl we barely know?" I asked, timidly, afraid to upset him now that I understood. As Embry's imprintee, Anna was part of the pack.

Jacob's smile was patient and old and for a moment, I felt ages younger than him.

"We fought for you once. Remember? You weren't even my imprint, but the pack was willing to fight to the death, because of you. There's still someone out there hunting you Bells. This doesn't just have to do with your leech friends anymore."

I nodded, feeling a rush of fear, guilt and crippling love for my Jacob as I said, "I know."

For a moment his eyes searched mine and his arms tightened about my waist. "Are you sure you wouldn't rather wait here at the garage until we can go together?"

For all of his strength, the power evident in his form, in the set of his brow, the mold of his hands, I could hear the fear hidden in his tone. That's when I knew, as much as he wanted to pretend otherwise, he knew there was a chance they couldn't handle this. I could never let Jacob admit he wasn't enough. To me he would always be more than enough and I would never throw away that love again. Now I wasn't just the fragile human. I needed to be strong for all of us.

"No," I said, reassuringly. "I'll be fine. You know I can take care of myself."

"Yeah, I know." Jacob grinned, his hand lowering to graze and gently squeeze my backside.

"Jake! Come on man! This place can't run on two guys alone!" Quil's face peered from the back door and a wide grin alighted his face at the sight of us. "Oh, um, excuse me! Sorry I couldn't interrupt sooner, oh shit, sorry Bella—I meant…"

"That's enough Quil." Jacob's voice was Alpha and fully dangerous.

I shared a sympathetic grin with the smaller werewolf before he darted back inside. I met Jacob's frustrated yet amused eyes.

With a sigh he lowered his forehead to mine. "Keep your phone on you at all times. Call me the second anything looks suspicious. Please be careful…"

I smiled. Earlier this morning, when planning out our day, I had told Jacob I wanted to check on Charlie's place and pick up some of my things. Though Jacob had been against the idea of me going alone, especially with everything as tense as it had been lately, I'd managed to convince him. Unlike Edward, Jacob trusted me.


Charlie's place still looked the same as the day I came home to it, the first time since I was a lonely little girl. It was a place filled with memories and faint touches of Renee. I let my eyes rove over the two storied house and remembered. So many nights Edward had spent with me in my room. The curtain fluttered in the wind and I frowned. I hadn't opened any windows.

At first I began to reach for the cell in my pocket, ready to run madly in the opposite direction I had come. The run here had been easy enough despite the snow, and gave me escape from everyone, even for a little while. I had time to be just Bella. It reminded me of the old silent runs Seth and I had taken the first month I had come home, so far into the woods it felt as though no one could ever find us. I saw his smiling face before my mind's eye and knew I needed to see my new step-brother. And then I remembered that Seth had called Edward. I wondered whether he had looked after me for Jacob or my former Vampire fiancée?

Forgetting my fear, hand still in my pocket and clenched over my cell, I began to walk up to the house. Walking inside I gasped at the sickeningly overwhelming sweet scent of Vampire…mintEdward.

Hissing, I turned violently towards the frozen marble hard hand as it grasped my arm.

"Bella!" he said before I could react. There was a tinge of fear and disgust as I caught Edward's eye.

I remembered then I reeked of werewolf.

"Where have you been?" His voice was icy and distant and pained.

We both looked down at his fingers pressed hard against my skin in a grip that would have broken bones were I only human. At my wince, his grip loosened, though he did not remove his hand.

"Bella…"

Blinking furiously against the sunlight streaming through Charlie's windows, I marveled at how his skin shone with the brilliance of diamonds against mine, which glimmered as gold in contrast. Our faces were lit, betraying our true natures and the circumstances behind this were remembered with a strange pang of sadness. A thousand memories flashed through my mind, endless words of promise, of love. A passion I had felt that once burned so strong… I had loved them both once. I had eventually told Jacob it would always be him, Edward, if I had a choice.

"Bella, you have to come with me now." Urgency was in his tone, fear hidden in his topaz eyes.

I frowned. "What? But—Edward I can't! I told you I'm not going anywhere! I won't let you take me away from here so the Volturi can…"

"Bella, this isn't about them. It's about you. Come, let's go home."


"Bella!" It was Alice who greeted me first, the energetic little pixie who had almost been my sister and once, my best friend. Her movements were nearly blurred from my sight as she appeared from behind Edward. Nervous energy seemed to flow from her now. And I felt a wave of calm follow her entrance before Jasper's high head and honey eyes came to the head of the stairs leading up the Cullen's old home.

I gasped as Alice practically flew down the stairs, her small frame colliding with mine, arms about my neck. She whispered into my ear, "You're still angry with me now, but you won't always be, I promise." With a grin she pulled away and darted back to Jasper's side.

His brow furrowed he watched Edward lead me up the stairs. "Come on, he's waiting in the study," he drawled.

I met Edward's eye as we followed them in the familiar hallways, what was once my second home not so long ago. Just outside his doorway, the three Vampires turned to me. Alice met Edward's eye and he nodded before she turned to face me.

"Bella, we have to leave you now. He wanted to speak with you in private this time." She cast a hard glance at a nervous Edward who only rolled his eyes at her in turn.

I frowned. "Can't any of you tell me what this is about?"

Edward's topaz eyes held mine intently. "He wouldn't even tell us Bella. Only that every second of your life depended on this." I saw the pain in his eyes and true to our strange old connection, felt the pull to return to his arms in that moment, in the shadow of memories long dead…

Much as I loved and desperately needed Jacob more, and each moment apart from him would become difficult as the days passed, it was not any easier for me to see my first love in pain.

Because of me.

Another wave of calm flushed out my anxieties and I glanced at Jasper to meet his compassionate grin. "Come on, we should check the perimeter again." He took Alice's hand and pulled her along, in spite of the disappointed look on her face.

Edward lingered. He took a step toward me and hesitating took my hand in his own. It did not feel frozen as it once had. I was half dead after all, but the feeling of cold had always made me feel ill, before I met Edward. Since my transformation I didn't like being reminded of the darker half of my nature. I longed for the sun and it was everything I could give Edward not to flinch from him now.

"Bella, I just wanted you to know that no matter how you feel for the wolf, you must know my heart will always belong to you and no other. I cannot help my love for you any more you can change your love for him." A sad smile ghosted his features and his eyes focused on our joined hands. "I've wished a thousand times I could change… Bella, if I hadn't pushed you—if we'd married…" His breath caught at this.

I felt a strange sensation wash over me with his words at the possibilities. What if Edward and I had married as we had first planned? Would I be a Vampire now? How different would our lives have been? Edward had waited for his mate eighty years. The thought was unfathomable. Was I truly his mate as he said? And if so how was that even possible, when I was Jacob's soul mate as well?

His topaz eyes burned, his grasp tightened only a moment and then he released my hand and turned away. Though we weren't connected as we had been, his pain was still like a stab in my chest. It was agony.

I reached out and caught his cheek in my palm, felt his shock and his fear and longing in that touch. The emotions were so sudden and overpowering, I gasped before focusing on his frozen countenance. "Edward, you know…" I paused as my pulse struggled against my neck. I struggled with the effort to ignore his emotions and wondered faintly if this was some other ability I had been gifted without knowing.

His eyes squeezed tightly shut, features contorted as though in pain though he breathed deeply.

I took a deep breath and began again, "I want you to know…"

His hand covered mine, eyes open and suddenly fierce and eternally sad. "No…Bella you do not need to speak. One look, one touch from you is enough, my love…" And then with a blur, a gust of wind, he was gone.

I clenched my fists, staring for a moment where my former love had stood before turning to the door he led me to.

Carlisle's study was left much the same, though his antique paintings and bookcase were missing, along with many other mementos from his long life. My almost father in-law sat calmly upon his high back leather chair, though there was an intensity in his burnt gold eyes that overwhelmed me the moment I met his gaze.

And I moved to sit opposite his desk, ignoring the urge to rip the armrests off the chair.

"Bella, I am sorry to call you here like this, but I have been quite desperate ever since yesterday evening to find you. Alice could not see you in her visions and Edward waited where he thought he might find you first. But when you did not come..."

"Carlisle what's going on?"

A dark shadow crossed his fair angelic features, a fierce protectiveness and determination akin to Edward. "I received a letter from Aro yesterday, by way of his most trusted guard, Jane. The seal was unbroken, so neither she nor Caius knows the contents of this letter."

I glanced down at his desk. "Where is it?"

"Burnt to ashes."

I met his eye and a cold sickly feeling persisted as he continued.

"Bella, I am afraid this matter is far more serious than I could have imagined. Days ago I sent Aro a private message detailing everything we had learned of your attack before any reports of werewolf murders reached Volturi ears. Yesterday Aro gave me orders of a different kind Bella. He said that Jane and several others in Caius's guard were directed to follow my instruction, no matter the request. We're to find the Vampire that changed you, Bella and kill him."

My hands grasped at my chest, at the memories I had struggled ever since to banish from all thought.

"So long I have waited, my Isabella… I thought one taste of your blood was enough."

His hand moved along the open collar of my neck, trailed to my jaw and back to settle over my breast. I shivered.

"So exquisite… You are a remarkable woman Isabella, able to ward off the change, I almost didn't believe it until Lara confirmed the rumors. And I am afraid, my dear, I cannot let you go now that I have you."

He chuckled low, and I gasped as he turned me round to face him, pressing me against his hard body. Tears formed unbidden. I struggled to create my shield,unleash it against him, but fear imprisoned me.

Carlisle was still speaking, I realized, as I was pulled back to the present.

"Volturi have answered to a higher power for centuries…though many believed they had been wiped out long ago."

"What do you mean a higher power?" The idea of a power greater than the Volturi, rulers and judge over the entire Vampire realm was terrifying.

"Aro confessed to me that he was only able to tell me after gaining permission. They are called the Eldest, representatives from the most ancient civilizations, far more ancient than we have believed any Vampires were left alive today. And they've been moving us like pawns. They are the masterminds behind the Volturi. Aro said the only reason he was able to overthrow the Romanian coven was because the Eldest supported him. They offered him a deal he could not refuse."

The tone of his words could only mean death.

"I heard rumors after I was first turned of a ruling circle of ancient Vampires. But even then it was talked of like a myth rather than truth. For reasons we don't have time to disclose, I came to believe the myth held some truth to it, though sincerely hoped they'd been wiped out. Even when I lived among the Volturi I never knew for certain, yet Aro fears them. They're very powerful Bella, you must understand this."

"Are they...evil?"

Carlisle's eyes met mine sharply. "There are many definitions of evil, Bella. But I have reason to believe that in the truest sense they only seek to guard and protect our secret. To keep humans from learning the truth and have come to protect them in turn because of it. Aro said they were the ones who first tasked Caius with hunting down the true werewolves. The true werewolves like the ones Caius is hunting now are senseless beasts Bella. They have no conscious of what they're doing. In a way it is a fate worse than our own. Aro wrote that the Eldest know of your Quileute pack as well, Bella. And I have reason to believe though Aro didn't confirm it, one of the Eldest came with Caius."

I held my breath. "The one who's been hunting me?"

Carlisle's expression darkened. "No, another. A few years ago one of the Eldest learned about your visit to Volterra and began to ask after you. He led his own guard here to find you. The Eldest have lost patience with him since then. He had been causing dissension for some time and has a far more barbaric attitude towards humans. I believe the Eldest that came with Caius is here to make sure we succeed."

The silence that settled between us after was distant and cold. I felt ages older then what I was. "What are you going to do?"

A strange gleam entered his golden eyes. "We're going to need your help."