Author's note: I'm really excited to finally be writing from Esmeralda's point of view-ready to learn all about her hidden past?

Esmeralda POV

I was nervous to be telling my story to the Cullen family. Though Carlisle might be my biological family, I hadn't spoken to him in over 350 years. I had to admit, I hardly knew him anymore. These people were his life, these complete strangers. I hated myself for not trying to find him sooner, but I didn't want to get my hopes up, only to find he had died 100 years before. However, the golden eyes and diet decision told me that he still retained the kindess and compassion I knew he had in his human life. I didn't know if I still had them, if I ever did have them. I knew that I could trust him, Esme, and Alice to understand and forgive my actions. The others I weren't sure about, though Bella and Edward seemed nice. I couldn't decide if I should reveal my gift or not. One look at Edward told me I had already spilled the beans just by thinking about it. That was settled then. Time to let go of all my secrets.

"I was born in London in 1646," I began. I wanted to see if Carlisle would argue about our ages as he always did in our human lives," four minutes before my brother Carlisle." Naturally, he objected.

"No, I believe I was the older twin," he said loftily. He winked at me, letting me know that he remembered our hour-long arguments.

I giggled. "Well, you definitely are now! I stopped aging seven years before you!"

Alice jumped upon my quick retort. I noticed that Alice was sharp as a tack, despite her girly tendencies. "So you were sixteen when you were changed?" I nodded.

I hated talking about my human life. "As a child, I was nothing like my brother, though we were inseparable. I shared nothing of his thirst for knowledge, wanting only attention and affection. If I could hurt someone to get attention from my removed and aloof parents, I would do it in a heartbeat. I was a manipulator from the start. Carlisle, you would always try to change me. You thought I could be better. I couldn't be changed. It was just the way I was. When I got old enough that boys began to notice me, I would flirt outrageously, much more than was considered seemly for a girl my age. I was a heartbreaker, but our parents knew nothing about it. I made you, Carlisle, keep my secrets, and you did out of loyalty to me. One night, Father was going out to hunt so-called vampires. I didn't say goodbye. That was the last time I ever saw him. Carlisle was studying in his room. I snuck out to meet a boy in a local tavern. We drank and laughed and kissed and talked all night. I realized that it was getting late. Intoxicated as I was, I managed to make it halfway home before I collapsed in an alleyway, tired and retching from all of the cheap ale I had imbibed. It was not a glorious last night as a human. Jeodus found me there. I suspect that it was the same, ancient Latin vampire who changed you, Carlisle. He saw me, an easy target. His eyes were black, I realized as he fell upon me to feed. However, the alcohol in my bloodstream saved me. Difficult as it was to stop feeding, the poison in my veins repulsed him and he threw me aside. The damage was already done, however; the venom was in my veins. I screamed and cried and begged for mercy as the fire seared my body. Luckily, I supposed, there was a thunderstorm that lasted for days, keeping the townspeople inside. I was safe from discovery. When I awoke, I was sopping wet and thirsty. There were no victims to feed from. I was consumed with rage that Jeodus hadn't been able to finish the job and kill me. I may have been a manipulative little slut, but I still went to Mass and I knew now that I had become devil-spawn. I easily followed his scent down to the sewers where he lived. They repulsed me. I screamed at him angrily, demanding to know why he did this to me. He said it was an accident, that he had left me for dead and hadn't believed I had lived. I was terribly angry and ready to kill him, but his companion, Julian, came up behind me and restrained me. I saw pity in his eyes and knew that I could trust him. I went out into the city to hunt. There was no one outside. I fell upon one beggar woman, but she was sickly and not enough to satisfy me. I had an idea. I knew from the many puddles that I was beautiful now. I ran to the home of the boy I went out with the night I died. I knocked on his door, and luckily, he answered. He was speechless at my transformation and invited me in. I flirted with him a little, but his human imperfection sickened me and I soon gave into thirst. I drained him and his mother before I was sated. I returned to the sewer, where Jeodus told me Julian was out hunting as well. He made a pass at me, and unthinkingly, I ripped off his hand. He bit me several times before Julian returned. I suspected that Julian was even older than he was. He seemed to understand me and we developed a relationship. Jeodus grew jealous of our love and we escaped to France. We lived in France until the 1700s, doing anything and everything. Those were some of the worst years of my life. Despite the fact that I was with the man I loved, I lied and stole and cheated and gambled and murdered and broke every moral law my father had ever managed to instill in me. Every night I feasted on human blood. Around 1705, we attracted the attention of the Volturi. They had Eleazar with them. He knew I had a gift even before I did. Aro decided he wanted me. Julian was allowed to go free, but I was captured by Felix and Demetri and brought to Italy to be 'trained'." At this point in my story, I shuddered at the terrible memories I was about to bring up. My deepest regret of becoming a vampire was the perfect recall. There was no way for me to suppress traumatic experiences as I had done so in my human past. I continued on, my voice flat and emotionless. "Aro read my mind. He knew that I was talented, although I had no idea how to use it. He and Caius decided to force it out of me. Every day I was tortured, as much as a vampire can be. Caius would tear off my limbs to have me scream in hopes of getting me to use my gift, only to reattach them when I came as close to unconsciousness as a vampire can be. I was allowed to feed every night in order to regain my strength." I pushed up the sleeves of my shirt, revealing more scars than even Jasper had. "Although many of these are from my later battles, some of them are from those terrible years in Volterra." I let my shirt drop, seeing Esme's expression of pain. "After a few years, Aro acquired Jane, and she became my foremost tormenter. She finally drove me to using my gift. I had been screaming for hours on end, and longed for nothing but relief. I thought that cool water would quench the burning fires, so like those of my transformation, that Jane inflicted on me. I thought of the Thames, how I would swim there in my childhood. I could picture the cool water, almost feel it. I concentrated on that image, and the pain went away. I opened my eyes, and I was there. I could see its watery depths, feel the water on my skin. I was lost in that blessing of a moment before I returned to my dungeon room in Volterra."

"So what was your gift?" Emmett asked. "Time travel, oh man that would be sooo cool!" Rosalie slapped his head.

"Pay attention!" She hissed.

Edward was looking thoughtfully at me. I knew he was reading my memories as they were brought to the forefront of my mind. "Illusion," he said quietly, thoughtfully. I nodded.

"So, like what Zafrina can do?" asked Nessie, reminded of her favorite "aunt" in the Amazon.

I opened my mouth to answer her, but Edward beat me to it. "No, Esmeralda is exponentially more powerful. Her illusions manipulated your senses directly. Rather than creating an image in your head, as Zafrina does, she directly manipulates the flow of energy on your optic nerve, the nerves on your skin." I nodded.

"Marcus described it as electrical manipulation. I fiddle with the flow of electrical energy from your nerves to your brain, making it do exactly what I want it to do. It's far more stable than a hallucination, and can't be blocked by Bella's shield, as far as I can guess."

My brother looked fascinated. "So your gift, it involves all of the senses? How much energy is required to maintain it? Do you have a range? Any limitations with-" Esme cut him off.

"Carlisle, let's let her finish her story. We can do some experimenting later." He nodded, chagrined. I was excited that my twin's coven was so open to me, however, rather than afraid.

I continued on, refreshing my memory. "After I had found my gift, I became Aro's new play toy. He would have me manipulate the guard's sensory input to see how they would fare in battle with an illusion, or to help him relax after a battle. He even used me for entertainment," I said with revulsion. "I was mainly kept away from the castle, however, because we were both in Volterra at the same time, Carlisle, and Aro knew from our minds of our relation. He didn't want us to know the other was still alive. I was instrumental in the deaths of thousands of our kind, and the surrender of even more. Every time Aro would want something from a coven, I would accompany him to distort the opposing side's impression of us. I would incapacitate them, or intimidate them so much that they would immediately surrender. I didn't realize how much he was using me until he sent me with Caius on an expedition to exterminate the Children of the Moon, around 1800 or so. I won't go into details about our, well, genocide for lack of a better term, but when our so-called cleansing was over, I rescued a familiar vampire from their dungeons. He was one of the few who were still alive. It was Julian. We had a happy reunion for a few days, until Caius came looking for me. Julian had convinced me to run away with him, make a better life in a new world. I was just as in love with him as ever. But Caius found out what we were planning and ripped his head off right in front of me." I shivered, trying to regain my composure at the retelling of the death of my mate. I was reduced to a whisper. "For that, I made him endure tortures more terrible than even Jane could inflict. For days on end, he suffered. In the end, Felix, sent by Aro to monitor our progress, subdued me before I could distract him. He brought me back to Volterra, a pathetic remnant of my former self, and all too aware of Aro's manipulation. Chelsea's gift would no longer work on me, wracked by grief as I was. Aro sentenced me to death. As the guard approached me, I made myself disappear. They could not hear, smell, touch, or see me. I was gone. I slipped through their ranks and was on the next ship from Venice to the "New World". I had missed most of the American Revolution and was eager to explore the new place, start a new life, free from the Volturi. I stayed in Massachusetts for a few decades, living a nomadic life. I used my gift to erase my thirst and was able to attend Harvard, creating papers for myself from ragged newspapers with my gift. Then the American Civil War broke out." Jasper growled at this. "I decided to fight." The Cullens' expressions were ranging from shock to outright disbelief. "Why not? I could reload in less than a second where it took others minutes. I wouldn't eat their food, and they would gain a valuable soldier. I refrained from actually entering the battles however, to give myself less exposure. I took my spot as a sharpshooter. With my vampiric abilities, I never missed."

"Which side did you fight on?" Jasper asked intently. I laughed.

"Isn't it obvious? I fought for the South, of course! After having preyed on them for centuries, I cared little for human rights. I saw slavery as a wonderful thing; thousands of humans, mostly strong and athletic, who nobody would question the disappearance of, and none of them were guarded! It was a perfect opportunity for a vampire. I preferred non-Caucasian blood, as well. The darker the skin, the more potent the flavor. I liked the size of the Africans, for they had far more blood than their smaller European cousins." I stopped, remembering that the Cullens refrained from consuming human blood. Their expressions ranged from longing (Jasper, Emmett, Renesmee) to interest (Bella, Rosalie, Edward, Alice) to disapproval yet understanding (Carlisle and Esme) to straight out fury from Jacob. I glanced curiously at Jacob. What would Native American blood taste like? The Indians I had run into had peculiar musk about them. Edward chuckled; I forgot he could read minds!

"I doubt Quileutes would be very appetizing,"he smirked. "You've smelled the dog!" But what about the other tribes? Non-shapeshifting ones? I asked silently, still curious. He shrugged. "I've never had the opportunity to try." I stifled a laugh; the mutt had deduced the subject of our conversation and was shaking with anger, literally. Jasper sent a wave of calm throughout the room and he got his fury under control. I had forgotten that the battle-hardened veteran was an empath.

"The story..." Alice prompted.

"Yes. About halfway through the war, I couldn't take it anymore. I had prided myself on my control, but the open wounds of the soldiers and the seemingly permanent smell of blood became too much. I escaped to Texas and met Maria briefly." I glanced at Jasper; he was frozen. "I refused to join her cause and, after drifting around the US for a few more years, decided to turn back to Europe. There I stayed until last year, when rumors of the Cullens began to float around the country. I dismissed them as merely coincidence, until I met up with my friend Alistair, yes, the very same, who was panicking about being dragged into a Volturi confrontation. The only sense I could get out of him was your names, and something about a non-immortal vampire child. When I heard the name Carlisle Cullen, I knew I had to track your coven down. And here I am," I smiled. Esme wordlessly got up and hugged me.

"Welcome to the family, Esmeralda."