A/N: Warning: this chapter is a bit dark…yeah. But the title kind of foreshadows that. Happy Reading

"If there's no one beside you when your soul embarks.

Then, I'll follow you into the dark."

Death Cab for Cutie

Bella caught sight of Jasper leaning against a tree, his face deceptively stoic and devoid of emotion. But his eyes told a different story.

He froze when he caught her scent, his head whipping towards her instantly. Jasper's eyes met hers, and she watched as several emotions passed over his features: relief, affection, anger, and finally love. Time seemed to stop for one endless moment, and then she was in her mate's arms.

Jasper crushed Bella to his chest, burying his face in her dark hair and inhaling her flawless scent. He felt her nuzzle her face into his neck, and a tremor ran through his body. He was home.

It had been over a week since he had seen her. Eight days without a word, and he had been ready to charge into Maria's hideout with all the fury of an enraged vampire separated from his mate. Only Peter had been able to speak rationally, and calm him before he did something rash. He had assured Jasper that Bella was fine, and the plan was proceeding as it ought to be.

Now that he had his love in his arms, he felt like he could breathe again. She was okay. She was just as strong as he had known she would be.

Jasper felt her hands slide to the back of his neck as she dragged him down and pressed her lips to his. Immediately, he pulled her impossibly closer, deepening the kiss. There was a sense of urgency and need as the two poured their fears into their actions. They were pressed together from chest to thigh, both seeming determined to be as close as possible.

After awhile, Bella pulled back, her eyes wide with pleasure. "Wait. I don't have much time."

Groaning in frustration, Jasper reluctantly allowed her to retreat backwards slightly, but refused to remove his hands from her hips. They had been apart for too long, and he found the idea letting her go now was unbearable.

Nodding in understanding, he waited for her to continue.

"Surprisingly, it didn't take long for me to meet Maria. When I demonstrated my ability, one of her followers was only too happy to bring me to her."

Jasper tightened his grip on her reflexively, tensing at the thought of Bella having to be face to face with one of the most sadistic and twisted beings he had ever met.

The thought of how much influence and control Maria had over him back then was humiliating and infuriating. He had followed after her like a mindless puppet, carrying out her bidding with the false belief that she cared about him. He had been naïve and thought that because they were intimate that she loved him. More than once, after a particularly grand victory, Maria would come to him like some sick sort of prize for successfully eradicating a threat. He had been trapped in a never-ending cycle of violence and an unhealthy attachment to this woman who was using him. It was only with Peters' help that he was able to discover the truth. For this reason, Jasper owed him everything. They were brothers, not by blood, but in every other sense of the word.

"She didn't sense a thing." Bella was quick to assure him, reading the anxiety on his face. "They all fell for the cover. To them I'm just a bored vampire who wants to join their cause."

"Did you find out what she's planning?"

A grim look shadowed over Bella's face, and she bit her lip in agitation. She took a deep breath and seemed at a loss for words for a moment. "I-Jasper. It's horrible. What they're doing…she's a monster."

Two days earlier

After being on the plantation six days, Bella was growing restless. She had missed three meetings with Jasper and knew he was probably consumed with worry. She just hoped Peter and Charlotte would be able to persuade him to wait a few more days. She had the feeling she would be able to slip away soon.

So far, she hadn't uncovered anything about this place that wasn't to be expected. Maria was obviously the person in charge, but came off deceptively cheerful and welcoming. This false front she put forward instantly put Bella on edge, and grated on her nerves as she watched vampires practically worship the ground Maria walked on.

Despite being relatively the same height, Bella found herself fighting the inferiority she felt around the curly haired vampire. With her caramel skin and midnight hair, Bella could see how Jasper would be drawn to Maria. Especially if she was the first thing he saw when he opened his eyes as a newly turned vampire. The thought nearly sent her into a jealous rage, and she fought the urge to rip the woman's perfectly curled locks from her head. Not because she had possessed Jasper's heart, but because she had torn it to pieces.

She had spent most of her time wandering the grounds and talking to Adam, who turned out to be Maria's second in charge. He could sense whether or not a vampire had a special ability, or if a human was likely to have an ability if they were turned into a vampire. Apparently, it was his job to find strong vampires willing to support Maria's cause. According to everyone she had asked, nonchalantly of course, the goal was to gather enough support to overthrow the Volturi and form a democracy instead. The thought made Bella want to laugh in disbelief. Who in their right mind would believe that Maria would ever give up power?

The operation seemed to have a sort of hierarchy with only a few trusted vampires who remained close to Maria and seemed to know more than a majority of the others. Those people lived on the top floors of the opulent plantation home, and all had special abilities like Adam. One of them could even create fire.

Everyone else lived on the lower floor, where there were several rooms available. The plantation home was much larger on the inside, and seemed to be more like a four story mansion than anything else. Bella had been given a room on the third floor, causing many of the other vampires to stare at her with a mix of envy and curiosity. It seemed that the higher your room was, the more important you were. The idea made Bella want to laugh at the sheer idiocy of everyone here.

Bella's thoughts were interrupted when there was a knock at the door. It opened to reveal a smiling Adam at the other side. "Not interrupting anything, am I?"

Shaking her head, Bella closed the book in her hand that she had yet to read a full page from.

"Good. Maria wanted me to invite you to dinner with her."

"Alone?" Bella questioned curiously, sounding surprised.

"Aren't you special." He teased, confirming her suspicion. "A third floor room and dinner."

Rolling her eyes, Bella stood from her seat by the window. "Have I mentioned how inane the hierarchy of floors is?"

"Only a few times." He turned and left the room with a wave, leaving Bella alone once again.

She shut the door behind her and ventured to the elevator on her floor. The set up was puzzling to say the least. There was a set of stairs that only went up to the third floor. There was also an elevator that went to the fourth, but a code was needed to get to the top. The numbers on the elevator ranged from 1 to 9, which was odd since there were clearly only four floors.

Bella had asked Adam about the illusive top floor, and had been told that it was on a "need to know basis". His response was disappointingly uninformative and cliché.

Bella stood in the elevator for a second, contemplating her options. For the first time, she was alone in the elevator and had the opportunity to make some real progress with the mission. Then again, she would only have a few minutes, twenty at the most.

Then, a strange sound caught her attention. It was a quiet, almost inaudible and persistent scratching sound. If the hallway hadn't been quiet, she wouldn't have heard it at all. Following the faint sound, Bella stopped when she came to a wall on the second floor in one of the few vacant rooms. She ran her hands over the paneled wall, and felt it barely move under the pressure as she pushed on it. She shoved all her weight against it, and finally felt it give, revealing a small passageway behind it. She moved the panel out of the way, and crawled into the small tunnel, replacing the panel in the opening; this way no one would notice a big gaping hole in the wall if they happened to pass by.

The passageway sloped down and turned into a narrow case of steep stairs. As she slowly moved through the dark tunnel, the scratching sound stopped. That's when Bella saw the last thing she ever expected to find in a place like this.

There was a young girl sitting on one of the steps, her head ducked down low and her knees hugged to her chest. Freezing in shock, Bella stared at the sight incomprehensibly. What was a small child doing here? Was she lost? Did anyone know she was here?

Tentatively, Bella took another small step forward, but stopped when the girl tensed in fear. Blue eyes peeked up at her from where she hid her face, and Bella nearly gasped in disbelief. She was human. Impossible. What was a human child doing here?

"It's okay." Bella knelt down to the girl's level a few steps higher than her. "I'm not going to hurt you, okay?"

She girl stared, but didn't give any indication that she had heard.

Slowly, Bella moved down a step while the small girl watched warily.

"My name's Bella. Do you have a name, sweetheart?"

The only sound in the narrow space was the occasional tiny whimper that escaped from the girls' throat.

Again, she moved closer and came to a stop on the step below the child, in an effort to seem shorter and less intimidating.

Bella continued to murmur quietly and reassuringly to the girl, but made no move to touch her. Upon closer inspection, she seemed to be malnourished and undeniably afraid. She had probably been locked in here for a while. But Bella was confused as to where she had come from. Wouldn't someone be looking for her?

After about ten minutes, the fearful whimpers subsided and the girl raised her hear, surveying Bella in confusion. Seeing her become somewhat subdued, Bella felt relieved. Then, the girl shuffled forward a few inches and reached a small, pale hand out to touch Bella's cheek.

Smiling slightly in happiness, Bella waited as the girl moved her hands over her facial features. Seemingly satisfied, the girl pressed closer, seeking more comforting contact. The curious and awed look on her small, earnest face broke Bella's heart. The girl acted as if she had never experienced a nurturing or warm touch.

Acting on instinct, Bella brushed the girl's dirty hair from her eyes comfortingly.

Suddenly, a loud and menacing sound echoed from down the steps, sending the girl into a fit of shivers as she started whimpering again. Her blue eyes darted to peer down the stairs in horror, and Bella quickly pulled the small body into her arms. The girl struggled pointlessly, before collapsing into Bella's arms in defeat. The tiny thing seemed to melt into the embrace, as she trembled like a leaf.

Bella stroked a hand through her tangled locks, and whispered reassurances into the girl's ear. As she finally calmed somewhat, Bella noticed something she had missed before in all the chaos and distraction: The girl didn't have a heartbeat.

She wasn't human.

A/N: Hope you guys enjoyed this chapter! Review this chapter if you want a preview of the next one! This flashback scene continues next chapter, and Maria's sinister plan is finally revealed!