Disclaimer- The Twilight Saga, it's characters, and other associated content are the property of it's author; Stephanie Meyer, and Summit Media. This story is told for entertainment purposes only and the author makes no profit from writing it. No copyright infringement should be taken or inferred.
"No," Eleazar and Paulinius said together but it was Paulinius who went on, "Their ways are not to my liking,"
"But you're working for them," Jasper said it with certainty and I didn't miss Edward's confirming nod.
The storm that had been brewing and just getting started as we were taking our places was building up in ferocity. This was going to be a bad one. However as a vampire, while I noticed the change in temperatures, I was completely unaffected by it. However the snow that came whistling down from the mountains only served to accentuate the reminder of how similar this situation was to what we faced last year. It just so happened that there were more similarities than one.
"Eleazar," Edward's face was a frown, "Do you have any indication of what his gifts are?"
For a moment Eleazar studied the nomadic vampire who had given us so much trouble. His features, normally a picture of calm collectedness, became cautious and then concerned. There was a low rumble of laughter from Paulinius as he lay face down on the ground and Carmen asked, "What is it, Mi Corazon?"
"I'm sure by now you see that your troubles are just beginning," Paulinius said.
"What does he mean, Eleazar?"
"The Volturi do not take kindly to losing," Eleazar said.
"Indeed they do not. Nor do they take kindly the loss of face in front of so many witnesses," Paulinius looked at me directly, "You have made some powerful enemies,"
Immediately Edward took a stance between me and the nomad but he only scoffed at it.
"Charming. I'm sure the gesture will be discussed by them at length as they watch your bodies burn," Paulinius smiled.
"What are we facing here, Eleazar?" Carlisle asked.
We stepped away from the vampire on the ground with Eleazar to talk and assess the situation at hand. I had to admit I had a very bad feeling about things. A feeling which became even more pronounced when Eleazar spoke next.
"There is no name for what he does. His abilities are almost unique among our kind," Eleazar began.
"How so?" Carlisle asked with interest.
Leave it to my father-in-law to pounce upon an opportunity to learn something new.
"As you know already, for most of us our abilities are easily classified. They are either offensive, like Kate's or Jane's, or Defensive, like mine or Bella's. Some, like Edward's or Alice's can be used either way, but they are still easily quantifiable in what they can do. This nomad doesn't fit into any of those categories.
I guess the easiest, though hardly the most accurate, way to describe him is that he's a chameleon of sorts. When a vampire with a gift uses that gift against him, he seems to absorb the gift and use it to his own ends. This is why Alice can't see him, why Edward experiences the limitations he does reading his thoughts, why your shield's effectiveness is diminished, and why if Kate were to touch him, she would feel as much of the shock herself as he does,"
"If he can do that with us so easily, then why would he let us catch him?" I asked.
"That is simply explained. How does an effective hunter catch it's prey? It learns about them and their habits. Then it can strike at will with a much greater chance of success. I imagine he's looking us over and looking for weaknesses,"
"Then you think he'll escape?" Edward looked upset by that thought.
"I think that is only a matter of time," Eleazar nodded.
"What makes you say that?"
Eleazar looked at my husband for several seconds before he answered; "One does not live to become that old without learning how to survive along the way,"
The statement brought my thoughts to a sudden halt. Why would a vampire as old and as accomplished at survival as Paulinius allow himself to be captured by hostile vampires? Why would he want to be near a group of people who wanted nothing more than to kill him? Unless...
Turning now to study him, I saw that I was the subject of his attention as well. When our eyes met, he gave another low, chuckle that sounded like a heavy object being moved through gravel.
"Dawn begins to break in your mind. I see it in your eyes,"
"Quiet you!" Kate said from behind him.
My mind churning now, I realized our mistake. We had made an assumption and this one could cost us dearly.
"Charlie!" I gasped, "Renesmee!"
"It's alright my love, they're safe," Edward replied; his face calm and reassuring.
"Edward, don't you see it?" I shrieked.
This time the laughter was hearty and genuine. I hated the sound of it as much as I hated the words I would say next.
"He's not working alone!"
Even more the laughter became more pronounced. He seemed to be finding real glee in this.
"All these ancient minds. All these years of experience in hunting, strategy, with our kind, and it is the newborn who understands,"
Almost as one several heads turned in my direction. I could see it in the eyes of the others as they realized I was right. Esme closed her eyes in regret while Rosalie's opened wide in fear. She looked at me with real panic.
"Bella, Renesmee's with Charlie..."
"And they're unprotected!" Jacob's face became a mask of horror as he turned away and phased mid-leap into his wolf form.
He was running at full speed back towards town before any of the other wolves; Seth, Leah, Quil, and Sam had a chance to join him. I too turned to follow them and I could hear Edward, Alice, Rosalie, and Emmett moving over the forest ground with me. As we left the scene I could hear the laughter of the nomad following us through the blowing wind and snow and fading as we got further away.
Panic powered my steps as I moved through the trees and undergrowth like nothing ever had before. The full scale blizzard that was beginning to howl around us only served to feed the undercurrent of tension and anticipation of what it is that we might find.
As we got close to town we had to be careful of the people around. Thankfully the weather being as bad as it was made it so that relatively few people were outside. With as fast as we were moving, no human eye could see us but that didn't mean we didn't have to be cautious.
We made it to Charlie's house and I froze. My heart was in my chest and if my blood still ran in my veins I would have been hearing it in my ears. His front door was hanging from one hinge.
"Oh no!" I cried as the others arrived next to me.
All of us stared for a half second in absolute horror at the scene in front of us. Then Edward whispered, "I don't hear her,"
"What?" I asked in disbelief.
Jacob swore viciously under his breath.
"Nessie, I can't hear her thoughts," Edward's face was a mask of fear.
Never had I seen my husband look as scared or as sick as I did in that moment. Rosalie and Alice's cries echoed mine.
"What about my Dad? Can you hear Charlie?"
"Bella..." Edward whispered.
"NO!" I screamed as I leapt from where I stood the thirty yards into the front door.
As soon as I entered the house the smell flooded into my nostrils. Blood. A lot of it. I shut off my nose as I became aware of the smell. It was an automatic process. When I finished, it took a moment to take a firmer grasp on my control. Then, using my eyes and ears I started scanning around the room.
"Bella?" Alice asked from the doorway.
I could see Edward and Jacob standing in the doorway behind her. Rosalie and Emmett stood behind them. I knew my face must look like theirs. The other wolves were moving around to the back of the house. I could hear them as surely as I could hear the wind outside or the scrape of...
In a flash I moved upstairs. Someone was there and they would be made to answer for the blood I smelled and the reasons why I couldn't hear my daughter's heart beating in the house.
There is no way I could have been prepared for what met my eyes. In my old bedroom was the source of the blood smell. I went in there to see what the source was since there was no one else in the house that I could hear, smell, or see.
On my bed lay Sue. She was bleeding heavily but she was alive. The sound I'd heard was her trying to move on my bed. Her feet had scraped the floor.
"Sue Clearwater?" Edward's tone said that he was as confused by the scene in front of us as I was.
"Is she..." Came Alice's voice from the hall.
"She's alive. It looks like she put up a fight and lost. Why didn't they kill her?"
"She's from the Quileute Tribe; their blood doesn't appeal to our kind," Alice speculated.
"Is she conscious?"
The sound of two wolves howling in the trees outside my Dad's house told me that Seth and Leah had heard our conversation. It would only be a matter of moments until they were in the room with us.
Sure enough, seconds later, the sounds of footsteps thundering up the stairs could be heard as Sam, Seth, and Leah entered my very small bedroom.
"MOM!" Seth shouted.
Carefully, gingerly, with infinite care, Seth and Leah gently rolled their mother over from where she was lying on my bed. She gave a tiny moan as she was moved. The damage done to her body made it clear that whoever attacked her, had no desire to feed on her. They were using her to deliver a message. A message which in fact was pinned to her chest. Seth removed it, read it, and with the saddest eyes I've ever seen in his normally happy face, held it out to me.
"It's to you," Was all he said.
"I'm calling Carlisle," Rosalie said from the hall.
The sounds of her dialing and speaking to Carlisle were quickly drowned out by the emotional tears shed by Jacob, Seth, and Leah as they did everything they could to tend to Sue. Sam stood there looking stunned beyond words. Edward, the only one among us with any kind of medical knowledge, moved forward to tend to help as best he could while I stared at the note left for me.
If I had a heart that worked, it would be pumping hard and I would be hyperventilating. Edward was distracted for the moment and for that I was thankful because there was no way I would have wanted him to see what was on that note. I also knew that there was no real way that I could keep it from him. Really I didn't want to hide anything so much as to keep him from the pain that this note was surely going to bring.
"What does it say, Bella?" Alice asked from behind me.
Turning now to look at her, I saw Alice's face as she went into one of her visions. She gasped as she said, "Oh no, Renesmee! Charlie! NO!"
Hearing this, Edward spun around and looked at Alice. He looked at me, at the note, and put things together.
"They've taken Renesmee,"
Not able to speak at the moment, I nodded my head and then held out the note so he could read it for himself. He left Sue momentarily in the care of her children while he stepped away to look at it. It read:
"Revenge is a dish best served cold. Your lives were spared but we made no promise to your father or his mate. That your daughter was with them only makes this that much sweeter. They belong to us until such time as their purpose has been served."
The note was short. It gave no indication of the condition of either my father or my daughter. That was information I got from the horror struck look on Alice's face as she entered her vision. In that moment I no longer wanted to deal with any of the things I was facing.
Except now I wasn't human any longer. I was a vampire. I had all of the gifts that came with being a vampire as well as my protective shield. I had my family of vampires and my extended family of werewolves. While the Volturi or whoever was doing this (I wasn't completely sure yet that they were behind it since the note wasn't signed), may have won the round, they hadn't won the entire fight yet.
"What is it, Alice?" Edward asked in a forceful tone.
Looking sidelong at me, she said; "I don't see much except Renesmee,"
"Is she okay? Is she hurt?" I asked.
Jacob looked up at us from where he stood tending to Sue Clearwater. I knew he was as intensely concerned about Nessie as Edward and I. We all waited on pins and needles for Alice to answer.
"She's scared, but unharmed," Alice said.
"For now," Jacob said carefully.
"That can easily change," Edward advised.
"We have to get her back!" Rosalie was devastated; the anguish on her face matched the cold pit where my stilled heart rested.
"We don't know where she is," Emmett said.
"But that doesn't mean we can't find out," Sam's look of determination was grim.
We watched Alice for a moment before I asked, "Did you see Charlie?"
She looked at me and then at Edward. Her look carried enough weight that I felt like the ground beneath me wanted to give way. He put his arms around me and said very carefully; "It was only a flash. Very fast and it was gone."
"But what did she see, Edward?" I couldn't stand not knowing.
The thought of something bad happening to my father, after all that had just happened to my mother and to Billy Black, was unbearable. Edward must have agreed that there was no point in making me wait any longer.
"He's in a lot of pain, Bella..." He said it as gently, as quietly, as he could.
"WHAT?" I cried, "Not Charlie! Not my Dad too! NOOO!" I yelled as the thought of Charlie's death coming in waves of agony played through my mind.
I knew what vampires were capable of. Charlie did to, to a lesser extent. They, whoever they were, were using him to get to me and we'd walked right into it. Now my daughter was scared and alone and my father was in pain. I was supposed to be able to protect them both and I'd failed miserably.
"Bella, you have to calm down. We can't help them if we can't concentrate enough to find them,"
"Did anyone catch their scent?" Sam asked from where he stood by Sue.
In that moment, it was like turning on a light in a darkened room. Of course! How could I have forgotten? In my rush to get upstairs to find the source of the noise I'd heard, I quit using my sense of smell so as not to be tempted by the smell of blood.
Looking around the room, something quickly became apparent. There was no way Sue could have gotten up here on her own. The blood from her wounds was all over and around my bed. It was enough to leave puddles standing and drying on the bare mattress and the floor. Enough that if she'd come up here on her own, there would have been some sign of it. Except there was none. She'd been placed there on purpose.
Turning now back towards the door, I moved quickly through it and ran first into the bathroom, then Charlie's room, then downstairs to the kitchen and the living room. It was the living room where their scents were concentrated the most. It was also there that another, unfamiliar scent, one belonging to our kind was heavily present. Only one other.
The nomad, Paulinius Maximus, wasn't alone. But he didn't seem to have brought an army with him either. Edward came up next to me and I saw it in his eyes. He'd caught the scent of the intruder too.
"But only one," I said.
"Bella, that may not mean anything," He cautioned.
"You're right, but I have to try,"
"No, we have to try," Edward corrected.
"Yes," Came Carlisle's voice from the door, snow in his windblown hair, "We do."
"Sue's upstairs," Edward replied to Carlisle's questioning look, "She's hurt pretty bad,"
"We don't know anything yet,"
Looking directly at me, I could see the pain in Carlisle's eyes; "I'm sorry, Bella,"
"We're going to find them," I said with conviction.
He nodded and went upstairs. As he left I turned my attention back to the scent in the living room. This is where the vampire found them. It looked like Charlie and Nessie were enjoying some quiet time together. The TV was off and there was a coloring book on the floor with a box of crayons.
It brought a lump to my throat to see this. Charlie took pride in everything Nessie did. He hung her art on the fridge. He kept everything she gave him the same way he'd done with me. Her picture was prominently placed all over the house the way mine had been when I was my daughter's age.
Quickly I put these feelings away. There would be a time and a place for that. After I got my family back. Edward looked at me and nodded. He understood exactly as I knew he would. His hand found mine and gripped it tightly.
Together we followed the scent of Charlie and Renesmee and the vampire who had taken them. It disappeared almost right at the door to my father's house. It took a moment to figure out what he'd done.
So as not to leave a clear trail, the vampire had leapt from the door of the house into the trees a dozen yards from the door. He wasn't trusting the snow and wind to clear his scent away. He'd made the leap high enough that his scent trail wouldn't immediately tip us off as to what he'd done. He was buying himself some time but why?
Why would he need time? We followed his trail through the trees. Every so often we'd come across evidence that they, my father and daughter, had been taken involuntarily. A few strands of her hair. A drop or two of his blood.
Deeper and deeper into the forest we went. The trail we followed led far into the woods. Much deeper than most hikers or explorers would ever see. This is the part of the deep, ancient forest that was seen by only the most intrepid of explorers. And by us.
It was a perfect place to hide. Far away from prying eyes and ears. Where someone could scream loudly and never be heard by a single person. As evidenced by the large splatter of Charlie's blood on the trunk of a massive cedar.
A far away scream of tortured agony could be heard just barely drifting through the trees. The sound of it sent chills down my spine. Even distorted by distance and intense pain, I recognized the owner of the voice. It was Charlie.
"Bella, wait!" Edward said as he gently pulled back on my hand.
"No, Edward! They're out there! We have to get them!"
"I know that, Love. But what if it's a trap?"
That was a thought that hadn't occurred to me. Immediately, I started thinking about what Edward had said. It was just he and I in the trees, deep inside the thick Washington forest with the raging blizzard howling all around us. We'd left so quickly that the others were still back at my house in Forks. Still, I had to try.
Moving along more slowly and quietly now, we followed what remained of the trail that had been left. I knew Edward was behind me and he that he felt that there was more going on than we were aware of. Still that it was our daughter and my father out there was all the motivation he needed to be there with me. He would have gone alone if he had to.
When Charlie's screams of pain became more and more pronounced and not just simply carried on the wind, we dropped down to the forest floor. We could follow the sound to where they were keeping him.
The sounds of him in so much pain finally filtered through and stopped me cold. I turned to look in horror at Edward and knew from the expression on his face, that he'd realized long ago what Charlie's screams meant. He'd been bitten. He was becoming one of us.
"Edward," I said quietly.
"I know, Love. I know,"
He could only look at me. He had no more answers to that question than I did. He pulled out his phone and went to call Carlisle. He stopped mid-dial and swore softly under his breath.
"What is it?" I asked feeling very numb.
"No signal. We're on our own,"
"Not quite," Said a voice from behind us in the forest.
It was Emmett. He, Rosalie and Alice were coming out of the trees. Never had I been so glad to see my adopted brother and sisters. Relief flooded through me as I saw them approaching.
"Carlisle, Sam, and Jacob took Sue back to the Reservation with her kids," Rosalie said quietly.
"How is she?" Edward asked.
"She's in a lot of pain, but he says she'll live," Alice replied.
"She may not want to if that's what I think it is," Emmett said.
I looked directly at Alice and saw her looking back at me, her eyes pleading.
"I'm so sorry, Bella! I didn't want it to happen any more than you did,"
"You saw this?"
She nodded her tiny head. Her eyes were begging forgiveness, "I didn't want it to be true," She whispered.
"She knows that, Alice," Edward said putting his arm around her.
"I really am sorry, Bella," Alice was looking at me but at the moment I had other things to do than be mad at her for not telling me what she saw.
"What about Renesmee?" I asked.
"Nothing since that first vision," Alice said.
"Don't be upset, Alice. It's not your fault," I told her as I turned back to the forest and my father.
We spread out a little as we tracked in on the sounds Charlie was making. He was clearly in a lot of pain. How well I remembered the pain he felt now. The fire, the burn, as the body is transformed, hardened, from what it was born as into something completely different.
Every nerve ending would feel like it was coated in acid. Every fiber like it was being held under a acetylene torch. Even the screams did nothing to dull the pain. The only thing that would do that is time. And when time did dull the pain, it would be replaced by an insatiable thirst. A thirst for which there was no way to quench it. It could only be dulled for awhile but never sated entirely.
This is what Charlie would wake up to. This is the life he would know. I knew without asking that Carlisle and the rest of the family would accept him into the fold. They would do so without me asking because that is the type of people they were. But is that what Charlie would want?
The scene that greeted us when we finally got to Charlie was like one out of a horror novel. He'd been bitten, that much was clear. There were bite marks all over his arms, face, and bare chest.
He was tied high up in a tree that had grown out of a rock ledge several dozen feet up. He was hanging by his feet and from the condition of his body, he'd been abused by the one who'd captured him.
"DAD!" I cried.
I went to leap up and cut him down by a hand on my shoulder stopped me. It was Edward.
"I'll do it," He said quietly.
"I'll help you," Emmett added.
Together they quickly climbed up the tree that held my father and as gently as they could began the process to cut him down. While they did this, Alice and Rosalie came up on either side of me. I felt their arms as they wrapped them around me and I returned the gesture. Together we sisters held each other as we watched Edward and Emmett remove Charlie from where he'd been hung in the tree. The sounds of his agony was like a gruesome accompaniment.
While they were up there, I saw Emmett frown, look directly at Edward and then hand him something. Edward looked at what Emmett had given him and I saw his eyes widen and then glance at me before swearing again. This time much more loudly.
"What is it?" Alice asked.
I would have but I recognized the look in my husband's eyes. It was another note and whatever it was that the note said, it wasn't good.
When Charlie was released from the tree, Emmett took him in his arms and dropped the fifty plus feet to the ground. Edward followed him and we watched as Emmett gently set my father down in a lush bed of ferns where he continued to scream his agony and writhe around unable to make it stop.
"Dad, it won't last forever," I told him.
My heart was breaking seeing my father in so much pain just as it was breaking at the thought of my daughter who was still missing. I looked over at Edward and saw the pain in his eyes as he saw me watching my father going through the process of being turned.
His eyes became even more sad when he passed me the note that Emmett had handed him. It was written in the same hand as the one we'd found on Sue and the news it contained wasn't any better. If anything it was worse.
"By the time you get this, your daughter will be long gone. However, since you made things so easy for us to claim her, we wanted to give you a token of our appreciation and return your father to you. We also decided to leave with him a gift for you of sorts. We hope you like it."
Again I wished I could cry. I was angry at my new body for denying me that release for my emotions. Anger, hate, a deep thirst to bring pain to those who had brought these events into my life, these are the emotions that washed through me.
Edward pulled me into his arms. I knew that he was as upset and angry as I was. Charlie was a part of his family now. Renesmee was his daughter. He too felt the same things I did, I could see it in his eyes. He was a lot better about controlling these emotions than I was. Something I was sure that he would credit to having over a hundred years of practice.
"What are we going to do?" I asked him.
"The only thing we can do," He replied quickly, "We'll find her,"
There was nothing more that we could do there in the forest. While Alice and I stayed next to Charlie, the other three spread out to try and find some sign of Nessie and her abductor. We sat there quietly in the cold with the wind howling and the snow flying through it. The blizzard was a bad one.
It had done what it was that the nomad and Nessie's abductor had intended it to do. It had erased the scent of their passing. Edward, Emmett, and Rosalie searched the snow covered ground and the trees throughout the area but there was no sign of anyone other than Charlie and us. They were gone.
Emmett was the one who picked up Charlie and carried him back to the house. Back when I was human, this would have been a very long walk. Now, as a vampire, it seemed hardly more than just a casual stroll.
The wind and the blizzard around us moaned and cried through the trees as I wanted to at the situation we were in. It wasn't enough to let things be. To leave us alone. To let us live.
Someone, likely the Volturi though we had no proof of that at the moment, had made the decision that we no longer needed to exist. That same someone had decided to hurt me through the only ways that I could be hurt now; through my father and daughter.
We had Charlie back, though at the moment he was somewhat less than whole. That was something to be thankful for at least.
Or was it? Charlie would be a vampire. His whole life would change. Nothing would ever be the same for him again. How would he take that? Would he accept it? Could he accept it? He'd accepted me easily enough but then what choice did I give him? Would he have accepted me as he did if he'd had another choice? I wanted to think that he would have.
His life would be very different. There was no doubt that Charlie would have to leave Forks. There was no way that he could conceivably stay there now. Not with his current job as the Chief of Police. He saw too much blood for that to be a realistic idea. Not as a newborn anyway.
What would my dad be like as a vampire? Would he want to stay with us? I knew without having to think about it that the family would accept him as one of them.
Those were my thoughts as we entered the house. We found the others, Esme, Carmen, Garrett, Kate, Tanya, Jasper, and Eleazar in the house around the table. The nomad was sitting between them.
Paulinius looked up when we entered the room. His eyes glanced over at Charlie as did everyone else's in the room.
"Charlie," Esme's face took on an expression of great sadness, "Put him upstairs in Carlisle's study,"
Emmett went to do as he was asked. Jasper came forward and took Alice into his arms. He looked at Edward and I and asked, "Renesmee?"
"She's gone," Edward growled.
Paulinius gave an low chuckle and in a flash Edward was standing over him, his anger seething.
"Where is my daughter?" Edward demanded.
This only served to give the nomad more reason to laugh. His chuckle became a guffaw which deepened into a full throated laughter. He stared first at Edward as he laughed and then at me and his glee increased in it's intensity.
Edward did something then that told me volumes about how deeply this entire situation was affecting him. More so than anything he could have said. He slapped the laughing vampire hard across the face.
Gasps were heard around the room. Everyone was as surprised as I was at Edward's action however it did suffice to stop the nomad from laughing the way he was. Rage filled his eyes and his voice turned deadly cold as he responded.
"You will burn for that,"
"And you shouldn't burn for the trouble you've caused?" Garrett asked.
He came forward to stand next to Edward and I and crossed his arms over his chest.
"Don't you think you're being a little hypocritical?"
Silence was the only answer Garrett received from his question as Paulinius looked away.
"Edward," Esme chided, "I'm surprised at you,"
"Esme..." Edward said.
But he couldn't finish the sentence. His emotions were in turmoil. Just looking at him I could tell that he was ready to do more than just slap our "guest" but he was restraining himself. The reasons why were perfectly clear. If we were going to find our daughter, he was our best hope of accomplishing it.
He stalked off into the other room to regain his control. As he left the room, the nomad's eyes turned to follow him. He then looked at me and didn't move his gaze.
"You're daughter is gone," He said.
"I know. You took her. You and your friend,"
"You'll never get her back," His grin was pure evil.
"You're wrong about that,"
"Yes, you are," Rosalie answered.
She came over and stood next to me followed by Emmett, Alice, Jasper, Esme, and Kate. Eleazar, Carmen, Garrett, and Tanya stood a short distance behind them.
"I see you found our gift," His eyes glanced upstairs where we could all clearly hear Charlie still enduring the tortuous process of his transformation.
"He's going to hate you," Paulinius went on.
"He's my father,"
"You're the reason why he was taken,"
"You don't know anything about family," I answered him.
"I know more about family than you possibly could at your age. I know how they betray you. How they run out on you when you need them most. How they can be a burden when you leave your daughter with them for safety so that you can go off and leave them defenseless against those who would hunt them,"
"We were hunting you. You killed my mother. You killed Desmond Pullen and Billy Black,"
"Yes, I did. Did I ever tell you how sweet your mother's blood tasted? It was all I could do to make the process of draining her take as long as possible. Your step-father didn't last nearly as long,"
I felt a hand on my shoulder and looked up to see Jasper. The waves of calm and control rolled off him and over me. He had sensed that I was close to losing it.
There was a moment's distraction as Carlisle came home. He was accompanied by Jacob and Sam. Edward came back into the room upon their arrival and we all confronted this vampire who had seen fit to do everything he could to ruin our lives.
"Your 'son' lacks hospitality," Paulinius said as they walked into the dining room.
"I'm sure you understand that he has strong feelings about the situation you've put him in," Carlisle replied.
"The situation you've put us all in," Alice added venomously.
"Where is Renesmee?" Esme asked in a calm voice.
"She's gone," Paulinius replied.
"Where have you taken her?" Jasper asked.
"I? I haven't taken her anywhere. I've been here with you,"
"Then where is she being taken?" Garrett pushed.
"Far away from here. To a place where she will be much better protected than she ever was here I might add," The gleam in Paulinius' eye was hard to miss. He was enjoying this.
"Where is that? To the Volturi?" I was still not convinced that they were a part of this.
"They have their part in this, that is true," Paulinius confirmed.
"So they are responsible," Edward's voice was dark; this was confirmation of what we'd been told earlier.
"You have no idea what you started here, do you?" Paulinius asked looking at me directly this time.
"What do you mean, what I started?"
"The Volturi have ruled for nearly a thousand years. They have guarded our ways and served to police our kind. Then you came along and in less than a year the power that they commanded has been reduced. Their numbers have dwindled and those that respect their power are dwindling along with them. You cannot expect them to take kindly to that. Not after having been in power for so long,"
"I've been watching the Volturi! I would have seen it if Aro or Caius had made any decisions to attack us again!" Alice said.
"You've been watching them? All of them?" Disbelief colored Paulinius' tone.
There was something here that he wasn't telling us. Something that we were missing. Alice's visions weren't infallible, we knew that. However things like decisions made by those she was watching were usually reliable.
"Who aren't you watching, Alice?"
"Most of them, Edward. There are just too many of them to watch all at once,"
"What of Chelsea?" Eleazar asked, "The Volturi use her to keep the guard intact. Her power ensures that,"
"Except that if there are too many of the guard who wish to leave, then she might over extend her power the same way Alice does if we have her watching too many things at once," Carlisle answered thoughtfully.
"Indeed. And the Volturi do not appreciate it when their power appears to be undermined. If too many of the guard leave at one time, you can only imagine how that might look to our world.
You my dear have started a domino effect that the Volturi may never recover from. You cannot expect them not to want to retaliate for that. At least some of them anyway,"
Some of them? Who among them would want to retaliate against me? Then it hit me. The answer was so clear that I realized in the beginning that if I'd looked for it I'd have probably seen it sooner.
"Jane! Jane's the one whose behind this, isn't she?"
"Jane?" Eleazar's look of surprise could not be missed.
"Bella's right," Edward groaned, "Jane hates Bella. She has ever since I went to the Volturi a few years ago, when I thought Bella was dead. Jane felt particularly embarrassed when Bella didn't fall victim to her gift. She thought Bella made her look useless and incompetent. She's never gotten over that,"
"Well now, you've discovered that a lot more quickly than was expected. Which means we can have enough of this charade. If you don't release me, and do it soon, then you will get your daughter back. She'll be sent to you in pieces,"
Cold fear locked into the pit of my stomach upon hearing this. What could we do? Charlie was in the throes of his transformation upstairs and he couldn't be left alone. Any human who came near him would be in the greatest of dangers.
We had to let Paulinius go. There was no choice in the matter. If we didn't Nessie would be killed. It looked very much like the Volturi would win this round.
Standing up I left the room. I couldn't stand to be near him. I couldn't stand the fact that my daughter wasn't home, where she should be, with me.
Edward's arms encircled me around my waist from behind. I felt his face rest in my hair as he said quietly and with conviction, "We'll get her back, Bella. We'll bring her home. We'll see this through until the end. I promise you that!"
I could only hope that he was right.