They walked into the woods, he leading her like an executioner to the gibbet.
She followed along behind like a lamb to the slaughter. Stupid lamb had no idea what her lion had planned.
But I had heard it all.
He had been so noisy on his cell phone to his sister. Unable to hear me in his thoughts because he was so concerned over the welfare of his pet human. Arguing about the future. Arguing about the past. Blaming himself for everything that had and would happen.
And much would happen, if I had anything to do with it.
I tempered my thoughts- thinking of the birdsong and mimicking it in my head as I maneuvered in the branches like a stealthy panther. He could not hear my thoughts, or all would be lost. I could not make a decision, or his pesky sister would find out.
So I would be a fly on the wall, a bird in the trees.
And he would leave her.
"You… you don't want me?"
Her voice was pathetic; so weak and fragile. Unbelieving. So enthralled with her lover she hadn't seen the signs. His distancing since that night. His avoidance. She had ignored the fact that he didn't look at her as much as he had all the times before.
Had not visited her in her room at night.
Her heart rate picked up at his words- at his lies.
"It will be as if I never existed."
It would be as if she never….
Chirp chirp chirp.
Close- he had paused and looked up, almost as if hearing my thoughts. I held my breath and watched as he closed his eyes to the sun, his face twisted in torment as he breathed her in.
One last time.
She stumbled as he let her go, his speed a blur to even me as he fled the clearing. She stood there, her breathing ragged, her eyes glassy. She looked around, confused that he had gone.
It would have been so easy to take her then.
Drop silently to the mossy forest floor beside her and drain her of that blood he deemed so precious. I could smell it in the air; it was sweeter than most. Alluring and decadent. It was a wonder he had never succumbed to it.
Heart beat hammering, she called after him, halting my descent to take her as my prize.
Would he come back if he heard? I tilted my head and listened for him, but he was long gone to the west; to his car he had left on the highway to make his escape following after his family.
He had left her here alone.
Alone with me to….
Chirp chirp chirp.
Just in case.
My eyes tracked her as she trudged forward, south and away from the safety of her home and her lover. Into the darkening woods that would be her ruin. I licked at my lips in anticipation and followed quietly from the treetops. The thrill of the hunt made the quarry that much more delicious. And the poor little lamb soon would be utterly lost judging by her stumbling gait. Circled and twisted, farther into the forest she went. South towards the river and away from civilization.
South towards the others.
I would have to grab her soon before the beasts found her. They would protect her from me, as they had done before with others. I could outrun them, but not with the little lamb in my arms.
I'd have to dine and dash as it were.
Not exactly what I had hoped for when I had plotted this.
Her voice grew more frantic.
"Edward, don't go!"
Her breathing became more ragged and her steps tripped time and again on the underbrush. It was insanity to think that one like him would desire something so fragile and weak. So imperfect and insignificant.
She was nothing like us.
And would never be.
It was dark now, but I could still see her. She felt along the trees blindly, calling after him with barely a rasp to her voice. I heard the tattered sob out of her throat and almost laughed out loud.
This was too easy.
She called out again, so feeble as she stumbled.
Falling into the moss and lying there.
His sacrificial offering to me.
The rain started to fall, wetting her coat and enhancing her intrinsic flavor in the air. I breathed in deep, the venom pooling in my mouth at the idea of her sweet life force slipping down my throat.
Ending his perfect little love.
Ruining his chance at any happiness.
Showing him that I could play at his game.
I would make him suffer.
As he had done to me.
Couldn't think about it. Too easily warned, those Cullens.
I just had to do it and savor it later.
I snarled at the thought, wanting the time to make her suffer as much as I had. Perhaps as much as my love had in her lover's hands.
I would make them pay.
My head shot up at the voices, to the north and then to the south.
A search party.
I glowered at the thought of intrusion; wanting to make this last but knowing I could not. I would have to be quick. A snap of a twig and I froze at the edge of my perch, poised to take down both her and the intruder. But a foul smell wafted up to me. I knew the smell and slid a little higher into the branches, my eyes catching the red glow of his as he moved in the brush. I hissed on instinct, drawing his eyes towards me.
A low growl passed from his wolf jaw and he slunk out close to the girl, standing to protect her. I hissed again and darted for the west, to the ocean, hating myself for not acting more quickly. Now she would be in their hands, and I would be kept from my revenge.
Bella Swan would be alone.
And then I would kill her.
Because I would have my vengeance.
Damn those wolves!
Every chance I had of taking her and exacting my revenge, she seemed to be surrounded by them. For over four months I watched from the edge of the forest, ready to pounce while she sat catatonic in her bedroom, waiting for her prince to return. And every time I thought to enter the same window he had done time and time again, a damned wolf would appear, sensing my intrusion on their human flock.
Time and again I would evade them, but with each passing day, I grew more determined in my mission.
Every day I would grin and laugh silently as I watched his poor human suffer from his consequences. She played her part well to appease her father, but at night she would whimper and cry out for something she could never have.
Over four months she pined.
Until she became a shell of a human.
Even the sweet scent of her changed.
It became less vibrant.
Soured almost in her loss.
I debated simply snapping her neck and leaving her body at their abandoned home. That would prove unfortunate for the lot of them, wherever they had landed. Perhaps the Volturi would come down on them.
Execute the boy for his misdeeds.
But that would be too easy.
He needed to see her dead body.
He needed to know who took his love from him.
He needed to pay.
And she needed to die.
"I'm just going to study at Jessica's house," I heard from the doorway and watched as she hiked up her backpack and climbed into her old truck. I listened for any watchers and found the area clear.
She took off slowly down the road, away from town and towards the place I knew she would go.
She was of the same mind as I had been just moments ago.
Down the long drive. Away from the humans.
The path a little more worn from disuse.
I followed along with one ear listening for claws rushing to intervene.
Nothing but her soft heartbeat that had sped up as she neared the house. Nothing but a heavy breath as she stared in through the dark windows. I crept along silently on bare feet, hunting my prey so as not to startle her like a scared little fawn.
She shook her head and in the dirty reflection I could see her eyes had shut, her lips tight and thin. Her fists clenched at her sides before slamming against the window, the wide glass vibrating slightly at her onslaught.
"I believed in you," she whispered against the glass, fogging up the cool surface with her heated breath.
I paused several feet away and listened as she spoke to the dark house.
"You were my everything. And you left. You lied to me. All of you. Lied. You told me it would be as if you never existed. But I feel you every day," she said and hiccupped in pain.
"It hurts," she said and paused, as if swallowing her words. She clutched at her torso and leaned against the cool glass, her eyes still closed.
"I hate you. I love you so much that it's turned to hate for what you've done. You left me. There's nothing left. You should have just let me die when he bit me. Or let me change so I could be with you. But you wouldn't, because you didn't want it. Always so careful to keep me this way. You never loved me. Not like I loved you."
I frowned at her words.
Who had bitten her? And why was she not vampire then?
Had the boy loved her truly, he would have allowed the change to happen so he could have her for all eternity. So why had he kept her human, so fragile and then leave her?
"You never loved me. And you've cursed me with loving what I can never have. I won't love any other. And I hate you for that. I love you and I hate you."
Her choked cry startled me back into motion.
But my motives were troubled.
She would not suffer.
He would not care.
She would be just another meal to me, and I would not feel my vengeance.
He had robbed me of that.
He had robbed her of eternal life and a mating that I for sure thought was confirmed. He had lied to us all.
My internal thoughts made me careless and I didn't notice the twig underfoot until it cracked. Sure she would startle I crouched, ready to pounce. But this girl surprised me yet again.
She turned slowly at the sound, but instead of terror on her face at seeing her killer only a few feet from her, she seemed resigned to the inevitable.
She stood there and looked at me with dull eyes.
"You should be afraid," I challenged as I stood, strolling up the steps towards her.
She remained silent and merely watched as I neared.
"So ready to die?" I sneered and stepped close to her, smelling her in the air.
She said nothing but continued to stare at me with those lifeless eyes.
"I will kill you," I continued, anger brewing inside for her attitude.
Part of the thrill was in tasting the fear in their blood.
I drew back slightly at her soft words.
"What?" I asked warily.
She pulled her coat up by the sleeve revealing a white scar. Teeth marks along her arm.
So she had been bitten.
"Just do it, Victoria," she said and her voice hinted at a bit of courage within her. "James tried and failed. Do what the Cullens stopped. Just kill me already."
I staggered back at her words. James had bitten her?
When he knew that by not draining her she would become one of us.
Had he fancied her, this puny and plain girl?
"Make it stop," she intoned. "Just do it. Kill me and get it over with."
"Why should I give you what you want?" I asked and circled her cautiously.
I glanced briefly towards the forest, wary of some trick with the wolves. But still no sound in the forest.
"Because he killed James," she continued. "Eye for an eye. You want to kill me. So do it."
I paused over her request, my hand reaching out to touch the raised skin of her arm where my James had marked her. She shivered at my cold touch but remained motionless before me, allowing me to look at what James had left behind.
The Cullens had brought her back, saved her humanity from eternal life, and had killed my mate. So many unspeakable things they had done, and they had left this human to die- however it might happen. I couldn't believe that the boy didn't have feelings for her. I had seen the pain in his face when he left her in the woods that day. I had heard his torment on the phone with his sister.
"She can never be one of us, Alice. I won't have it."
He had denied her and therefore condemned her to mortality, instead of a lifetime mated. So perhaps he did not care for her as much as I assumed. But she did for him.
"Please just kill me. End it," she pleaded in front of me. A glimmer of hope flitted through her dark eyes.
"The pain you feel is nothing compared to mine," I hissed and drew her close, pressing her against the glass. "There's a hole where my heart was. Your Edward did that."
She flinched at his name and buckled against me.
"I feel that too. Kill me and end it for both of us," she pleaded in a hushed whisper.
Her heartbeat drummed against my body, as I pressed closer, tantalizing in its rhythm.
"Why didn't he let you change when you were bitten?" I wondered aloud, still confused by his actions.
She whimpered softly and shut her eyes tight, the tears spilling out as she shook her head.
"Did he not love you enough to let you become one with him for all eternity?" I mocked.
"He didn't want me," she rasped brokenly. "Not forever. Just a distraction."
"And you hate him for that," I guessed.
"He didn't want me," she said again and nodded. "My life is nothing without him."
My mind whirled with the possibilities of the situation.
Just a plaything. Blood that sang to him but he refused it. Refused her.
Led her along thinking that it was forever.
Only to leave her.
Another torn heart in his wake.
A cruel and wicked thought formed in my mind, the grin on my face baring my fangs over her throat as I breathed in her life one last time.
"Your life isn't over, Bella," I said and licked at her beating throat, making her tremble. "We're going to show him what it means to have your heart taken from you. We will show him vengeance."
She opened her mouth to say something, only to cry out as my teeth slashed through her paper-thin skin. Succulent warmth flowed over my tongue as I sucked in her essence, her frail frame falling limp too fast against me. I struggled to refrain from my urges; she was more alluring than most humans I had feasted on.
But I had a purpose for her.
I stopped just short of death and watched, as her dark eyes seemed to flicker with an unearthly heat. Her mouth hung open in a silent scream. I pulled her close to me, my face filling her waning vision and whispered the last words she would ever hear in her human life.
"We will make him pay, Bella."
Fire. Heat rushing through me, burning me to my core.
I had not felt in so long, it was a shock to the system. And yet the pain was familiar.
"Burning!" I had said months ago, writhing in pain in a dance studio hundreds of miles away.
Felt like years ago.
Flickering memories assaulted my senses.
An angel come to save me, taking the burning away then. Where was he now that it was taking me once more? I couldn't hear his soothing voice. Couldn't feel the coolness of his lips on me.
Only the burning.
Where was he?
I felt my lips moving but the burning was searing my throat, making it hard to say anything.
"He left you."
My scorched heart seized in the vacuous hole in my chest, writhing in agony as new memories crashed down on me.
"I'm leaving with my family."
"I won't end it for you."
"I won't damn you to an eternity… that's the end of it."
"It's just a crush…Things change."
A cold kiss.
"I love you forever, Edward."
"And he left you. He didn't love you forever. You were a distraction."
The voice seemed familiar. Comforting in a stilted way. I whimpered at the pain the words caused. The memories.
"I'm leaving with my family."
"You're not good for me Bella."
"I don't want you…."
"….as if I'd never existed…"
"He's gone, Bella. He left you. You were nothing to him. But I'm here. We will make him sorry for leaving you like he did. For all he did."
I struggled with the words. Who was with me?
"No, I love him. Forever."
"But he didn't. Accept it, Bella. Feel the pain. Embrace the burning as it works through your body. That is the pain he caused you. He wouldn't change you then. Because he didn't want you. But now you will be like him. And still he won't want you."
"Feel the rage. He refused you and left you to hurt all those months. He has to pay."
"I don't want you to come with me."
He didn't want me.
Human. Stupid human.
The fire licked at the hole in my chest. Searing the hurt there like those images of the people of Pompeii on their walls.
It would have been so easy for him to let me change back then. So why didn't he?
Molten heat slid through my toes, into my fingers, along the old bite wound at my wrist. Old injuries fused and healed. I felt it all. Old breaks healed.
My heart didn't heal as easily.
He had broken me with his refusal.
The hole gaped and the fire raged through it like a fire devil, growing bigger with each embittered memory of his false smiles and restrained kisses. Every time he pushed me away, for my own good. I was an inferno of pain and agony as my body released the last of my humanity. The heartbeats that battled the flames couldn't win because it was damaged.
I was damaged.
Because of him.
Reviled. And left behind.
How could he?
Lies. All of it. Sick and twisted game played on the frail human.
"You will see, Bella. When you are changed, he will have to face his crimes."
I'll find him. Demand answers.
I screamed as my heart spluttered and seemed to explode like an A-bomb in my chest.
And all along, that comforting musical voice told me it would be all right. When I woke, he would pay. Over and over, until I understood. Braced my pain with the knowledge that there would be a reckoning. The pain would fade, and was fading by each second- thousands of them gone now, and the inferno inside of me had taken so much. The fire engulfed the last shred, crushing what had already been crushed. My mind shattered as memories of him twisted and spun out of control.
The heat dissipated, and the wounds were healed.
All but one.
One searing wound that would carry me through eternity. I would love no one. Because he had taken that away from me by coming into my life.
Into my existence.
He had ruined me. Damned me.
For all eternity now.
And I would make sure he knew.
I would find him.
And make him understand.
My dead heart sat like a heavy cracked stone in my chest.
The rest of me was rebuilt, solid as granite.
I was reborn.
The fire gave way to a newness. Coolness in my veins and on my skin, I came back to myself and I could better understand my surroundings. The breeze fluttered across my skin, there was a distant crashing of waves to my east, and I could smell the dampness of the moss I lay on.
I could feel everything.
Even in death.
I could feel.
The stone heart felt heavy.
My eyes opened, my vision so much clearer than before as I stared into the dazzling sunlight.
Yet my memories seemed cloudy somehow.
All except for him.
"Welcome to your new life, Bella."
My head spun to the lyrical voice beside me. Recognized it from my dreams in transformation. My angel that pulled me through. Yet not an angel, but a devil, like him.
Like a wild flame, she crouched beside me, almost vibrating from the iridescence of her wild mane that corkscrewed around her porcelain face, her crystalline skin that shimmered in the sunlight, her ruby lips and flashing teeth that grinned at me. Crimson eyes that stared deeply.
I knew her name, but only flashes of memory of her flitted through my mind.
With my plea, she changed me? Something he would not do?
Something he reviled and refused vehemently.
"Let's find him, Bella. Let him see the mistake he made in refusing to give you this gift."
Her voice triggered more memories, from the burning.
Painful images swirled. Telling me that he had left, refused me. He would pay. He would be sorry.
Had I been human, I might have felt faint from the torturous pain that tried to engulf me-but no longer.
Instead a fiery rage tingled through my new stone heart at the thought of him.
Rage for one person.
"He left me," I said, jerking upright at the foreign noise.
My hands reached out as if to touch the sound. And then laughter from my lips as I traced them with warm fingertips that glittered in the sunlight. I marveled at the sound, melodic as it played off the trees and rocks around us. Higher pitched and louder I laughed, delighting in this fresh perspective of myself.
Before I realized it I was running through the trees, tree limbs breaking as I passed with such ease I had to laugh again. I smashed a thick trunk on a whim, watching in glee as the tall tree collapsed into the earth, its thunderous boom rolling through the balls of my feet as I stood there mere feet away.
I had been the breakable one before.
I clutched at my heart, the heavy stone weighing me down at the words.
He had made a clean break, cracking my heart in two.
The sound ricocheting off the rocks now sounded tortured and I clamped my new indestructible lips together to make it stop. It echoed off the hills, sending birds and other animals fleeing from the frightening pitch.
Pain had a noise.
And then I was running again, feeling an overwhelming inferno in my throat when a family of deer passed me and whirled away in fear. It wasn't hard to catch up to them- I took down the thick-horned buck almost instantly and pressed him to the ground with my unbreakable arms.
Warmth flowed over the burning in my throat and I opened my eyes to find myself attached by the mouth to the beating vein in its neck. My eyes rolled back and I sucked harder, groaning at the slight grassy yet gratifying taste of him.
And gone too soon.
I was running again to find its mate.
Another wail through the trees and I was then taking her down. Ending her as he had ended me. Draining the life from her heart and breaking her body as mine had been broken. Another deer, and then another.
And it still was not enough. Something was lacking as my body thrummed with their life.
"Ugh, I know this island doesn't have much to offer, but there are humans here."
I whipped my head around to the redhead, lifting my nose into the air test her words. Ahead of us, near the shore, I smelled it. An amazing delicacy that had my mouth watering with something slick and tangy. I touched my tongue with my pearly fingers, marveling at the fluid their as it shimmered in the daylight.
Victoria let out a bark of a laugh that sounded like crystal erupting and took off, leaving me to follow behind. I could have passed her by, but something in my mind made me pause just before we broke through the underbrush.
"We are different from those of our kind…."
Cloudy memories of him telling me about his kind ploughed into me in a rush.
Vegetarian. No human blood. Lost souls.
My breath stuttered unnecessarily at the vague memory.
The golden eyes.
Victoria's were red.
But the gold had been so soothing.
But lies in those eyes.
Especially when black as pitch.
I was no longer the breakable one.
I was… like him.
I jerked my head in her direction, watching as she tossed one human down and let his corpse tumble off the rocky embankment before she held the other one, trembling in her grip, towards me.
"I know you're hungry," she said, her voice teasing.
We don't take human blood.
I leapt towards her, her grin widening for an instant until she watched me arc over her and into the water, ignoring her offering.
I ignored her and looked at my reflection in the water, disjointed slightly by the movement of the water past the rocks. But I could see everything.
Pale skin, porcelain and flawless. Chocolate waves surrounding the white.
Framing the red.
I scrambled in the water onto my rear, alarmed by the sight.
I hadn't had humans. Why were my eyes red?
I had drunk from animals. Why were they red?
The red frightened me. A distant disjointed memory of red eyes looking up from me as a mouth covered my wrist. I looked down and there, raised up along my pale skin was the lavender scar of teeth marks.
Bitten. Ages ago.
"No! I won't allow it! I can't, Carlisle!"
"She will be one of us, Edward. I've seen it."
And now I was. Alice had been right.
My chest squeezed and that keening sound came out again, louder than before.
The second body dropped past me, drifting off in the current as I sat chest deep in the cool water.
The cold and the wet didn't bother me.
Not like before. No longer frail and afraid of the cold, I was the cold one now. I leaned in and looked at myself again; so different from my memories of the pale and plain girl I had seen in other reflections of my memory.
But red eyes.
"You're newborn. All newborns have red eyes," Victoria explained. "It's those freaks that have the golden eyes. We are different."
"How are we different?" I asked, still marveling at the music in my new voice.
She laughed and offered me her hand out of the water.
"We are hunters, Bella. And we don't exist amongst the humans. That's what vampires that wish to be human do. We are stronger than that."
I thought that hunters could hunt animals just as well. But the amber eyes looking back at me in my memories had lied.
They were false.
"We are vampires. We do what we want."
And with that she dove into the water and propelled herself far into the bay.
"Come on, Bella! The water's fine!" she shouted. "We have places to go and people to make pay!"
I glanced off at the floating bodies of the two dead men and then rubbed at my throat. It was burning already. The animals hadn't quenched my thirst, merely satisfied it for a moment. I could hear his words now in my head, making the stone crack just a little bit more.
"It wouldn't be like tasting your blood."
I suppose not.
But you didn't.
And you left.
And now I was here.
Wishing for more.
Wishing for the pain to go away.
Perhaps drinking from humans was the answer, even though the pit of my stomach turned at the idea. I looked down at my reflection one last time, shaking my head at how at odds I was for what I was.
I was a vampire now.
So why did I feel remorse for killing?
I smacked at my reflection and dove in deep, following Victoria through the water like I had always known how to swim. I couldn't remember if I had in my human form.
That life was falling away from my memories.
And it made me more remorseful.
I missed the humanity.
"Just drain him and end the pain, Bella."
I swallowed back the venom in my mouth and held my breath, willing myself to ignore the searing heat in my throat. The child in the yard ahead of us laughed and rose higher in the swing, oblivious to the danger lurking in the woods beyond his parents' perfectly maintained yard.
"Do it. Enough with the honorable notions."
Victoria's voice no longer held the wind chime quality I had awoken to a month ago. Instead she sounded more like what a petulant child would. Her eyes still ran blood red; she never wasted a chance to feed. I, on the other hand, had avoided every chance of feeding on the humans she offered me. She had purposefully kept me from the woods where I might feast on something less human. I'd gone without since the second week after gorging myself on every animal I could find from Lopez Island to Bellingham. After leaving a trail of animals in our wake, she had forbid me and moved us in towards the suburbs and city.
I had argued with her at one point after the herd of cows had been sucked dry, her look of disgust for me making me angry. But she was all I had in the world. She had not run from me. She had shown me how to live this life. It was just the notion of killing a human, what I had once been, that had me doubting her sometimes.
So I still resisted taking humans.
The daily struggle to deny my thirst for the delicate flavor that wafted over me now was becoming more and more difficult to repel. I closed my eyes and grimaced when the scent seemed to strengthen. I would have to allow myself.
But this child.
"You hold onto your humanity like a crutch," she hissed and in a flash she was in the yard, holding the child in the swing in mid air.
She offered me a second to reconsider, only to then turn and drain the child in less than a few seconds. I heard the scream from the kitchen of the house, but remained frozen in my spot, horrified as I watched Victoria drop the child and race to the kitchen.
Barely a minute later she was strolling out of the house, wiping her mouth of the delicious liquid I couldn't bring myself to partake in. A whimper from the corner of the yard caught my eye, and we both turned to find the family dog cowered in his doghouse at the sight of Victoria.
She laughed and motioned to the animal.
"There is your feast, Bella. Stoop to their level. Drink from man's best friend while I get us new clothes," she teased and turned to go back in the house.
Leaving me with the dog as it backed further into its home.
I swallowed the new venom and took a halting step towards the beast.
A faltering growl was all it could give before my instinct took over and he was lying in a heap in front of his house, his pungent blood heavy in my mouth. I closed my eyes and felt the slight rush the fetid blood gave me.
"It's never enough, more like what soy tofu might be for a human."
I sat beside the dead dog and stroked its limp fur as I pondered my existence.
Almost every memory of my human life had drifted into a faded dream, all except my time with him. Every word he spoke I could remember, and as I thought of his betrayal they took on new meanings. I growled at the thought of his lies.
So why did I feel an aversion to being what I was?
Why did I have this conscience to not kill humans?
"We believe that we can co-exist with humans, but we are still dangerous."
Had their lives been a sham?
To make me believe?
Freaks of vampire nature according to Victoria. I couldn't understand it. So much hatred from her, and yet I could feel it deep inside as well. He had lied. So why should I try to live as they did?
I grunted when I realized the pathetic answer.
He'd take me back if I was like him.
"Lies," I muttered and rose gracefully from my place, kicking the carcass across the yard to land next to the frail human child. I sneered at the child mocking me lying there lifeless in the grass. My next turn, I would drink all that I could. Forget about him and the noble idea of trying to be like them. I would kill. And I would like it.
"We need to leave," Victoria nearly shrieked as she rushed out of the house.
I turned to see the panic in her face as she tossed me a change of clothes and motioned to the woods.
"We just do!" she hissed and dashed into the forest.
I took one last look at the death we had brought on this family, a fleeting moment of regret in my stone heart until I thought again of my weakened empathy. I snarled at the house and it's dead occupants, my decision becoming more resolute.
I was vampire.
I shouldn't have empathy.
I turned to follow Victoria when my body suddenly felt a strange tingling spreading through it. I let out a startled gasp at the feeling, my brain confused by the sudden feeling of calm that seemed to wash over me. I shook it off with some effort and darted for the safety of the woods, unnerved by the invasive pleasant feeling that tried to linger in me.
I could see Victoria ahead of me, running full out as if frightened. She darted back and forth between the trees, casting glances to the left and the right before switching directions. I had never seen her do this before, and it troubled me.
My newborn speed slowed slightly at the sound of my name coming from behind me, somewhere near the house. A male voice, musical like our own but with a hint of desperation. But it called to me- the way my name had sounded in the melody.
Confused, I looked back at Victoria, to see her eyes widen as she turned and ground to a stop. I felt the strange feeling of calm come over me once more, but it was laced with something different now, something like determination and it made me slow further.
"Come, Bella! We need to go!" she cried out.
At her frightened words, I closed off my feelings and took off again, faster than ever and soon ran side-by-side with Victoria as we sped towards the cliffs, toward the islands I had awoken to. She grinned madly at me and motioned to the left, my intuition working well with hers as we darted to the left and then right again. Behind us, I could hear noises.
Voices. More than just the one that felt a part of me.
"Don't look back, Bella. Lies! It's all lies and deception!" she hollered and took my hand in hers, pushing us even faster.
The calm slid off me like rainwater, and a slight panic took its place- the need to flee overwhelming me as I ran. I forced myself to look ahead, suddenly fearful of whatever had Victoria spooked. But curiosity beat at me as well, and as we neared the cliffs, I chanced a glance back the way we had come.
The edge of the cliff fell away and I flailed in the air, so unlike the graceful vampire I had become. Because the image I had seen was burned into my head as I fell.
Running in hot pursuit, five beings so beautiful and more alive than I had remembered in my human form. White against the green foliage of the forest.
And leading them, eyes black as night boring into mine like the devil…
Bronze hair a stark contrast to the white and the green around them.
The water engulfed my body on impact and I gasped on instinct, an old human trait. Filled with water, my lungs easily pushed it all back out again as I surfaced, my eyes searching the cliffs above.
I felt Victoria's hand grab at my arm, dragging me in the water, as my body seemed to shut down. She moved swiftly, even with my dead weight, and still I searched the cliff side. Only to let out another gasp when I saw him.
Diving with such grace down the long drop, making hardly any splash at his entrance into the water.
"Come on, Bella! We need to reach the island. We can't fight him in the water!" Victoria yelled and pulled me harder through the current.
I turned with her and swam then, knowing that the time was here.
He was here.
Coming after us.
Or we were bringing him.
Did it matter?
He was following, his pitch black eyes visible in my head like a warning beacon.
How had they found us? Victoria had wanted to find them. But here they were, and I didn't feel quite ready. The crack in my heart widened and I fought to keep from whimpering.
I couldn't handle the pain of seeing his rejection again.
But they had come to us.
Had they searched us out, for me?
Or were they here to right the wrong?
Of my turning?
Maybe he was coming to take me back.
But his eyes.
I could see better now.
The hatred. The revulsion. No, he was here to end this.
Because he had to right the wrong.
"Lies," I spat as I sped up in the water, the shore close by.
We retreated to the island of my rebirth, not far from the shore near my old home. We had come to the mainland to feed and figure out where he was. I hadn't thought that they would come to us.
Had she seen me turn?
Did she care? Doubtful or she would have said goodbye back then.
The crack widened.
Let them all come. I would destroy them all for their deceit.
"It's just him!" Victoria said in glee beside me as we reached the shore, her eyes seeing everything. I turned and sure enough, on the distant shore, I could see the rest of them standing there.
And it seemed like they were arguing.
Alice stared off towards us and I snarled, hoping she could see me. I noticed Jasper at her side, holding her as if she made to dive in the water after him.
"Come on. I dare you!" I screamed in challenge, enjoying the snarl Jasper seemed to offer me from afar.
"No," Victoria hissed and dragged me towards the clearing by the shore. "Just him. We can't take them all."
"I can," I seethed and grinned when I noticed Alice shake her head and push at Jasper's hands.
Emmett looked like he was ready to join his brother, prowling the cliff with Rosalie close behind, her glare evident to me as she looked at me.
Only Carlisle's face made my hatred of them falter.
He looked immeasurably saddened as he watched. He mouthed something towards me and I blinked, unsure.
"I'm sorry, Bella."
I took a halting step back.
Sorry, for what?
"It should have been Edward."
The mere mention of his name made the hole constrict in a seizing grip.
"Listen to him. We love you. Please. I'm sorry. Let Edward make this right."
I looked away from him before his false pleas made me question.
He had lied.
He'd broken my heart.
So why was I feeling so at odds as he stepped onto the shore. Tall and more beautiful than I had recalled even with my clear memories of him, he glistened in the sunlight like a multifaceted diamond, his hair still unruly even when wet. His clothing didn't hinder his graceful gait as he walked out of the waves, black eyes intent on me.
Black eyes that looked both determined and yet tortured as he gazed at me.
Upset to find me as I was, I was sure.
"Now we'll see his end," Victoria whispered into my ear, the smile on her face almost demonic.
But weren't we?
"Bella," he murmured as he neared us, the vibration of his voice musical and electric in my ears. His hands were at his side in a submissive stance. He glanced over at Victoria and his eyes narrowed.
Was he reading her mind?
Could he read mine, finally?
Look at me and tell me why.
He continued to look at Victoria, addressing her instead of my unspoken thought.
"This was wrong, Victoria. What did you gain by this, except ruining a human life?" he asked, his voice so much more melodic than my memories recalled.
She laughed and tilted her head towards me, stroking my hair as she spoke.
"What human life did she have when you left? Let me share with you," she said and an instant later he was on his knees, pure anguish lighting his angelic face. I looked from the corner of my eye and could see Victoria staring at him, her grin widening.
Did she have some power I hadn't known that could incapacitate him?
"Please," he moaned and clutched at his head with his hands, looking at me with such pain.
I stared at him and held my ground beside my maker, intrigued by how easily he had fallen.
What was she doing to him?
And why did it make my stone heart twist uncomfortably?
"Or perhaps you'd like to see what she did when you left her in the woods?" she asked and again he gasped and stared at me in anguish.
"Stop," he pleaded and shut his eyes tight, shaking his head back and forth.
It was then that I realized she was sharing her memories.
I swallowed on reflex, remembering the pain anew.
"Or her end? How she begged me?"
"No," he gasped and his eyes shot open in horror.
His eyes searched me out and he shook his head vehemently.
"No, Bella. That wasn't it," he breathed, struggling to stand. "I was trying to protect you."
"But you lied to me!" I yelled back, my trilling voice startling the birds nearby. His eyes widened in shock at my new voice- not nearly as melodic as his had been.
All the pain and torture he had inflicted on me rang out in my voice.
"Bella," he whimpered and crawled a little closer, unable to stand. Victoria must have been showing him quite a lot. I wondered now how long she had followed after me in my human form.
"You were there in the clearing?" he asked her, his mouth sagging as if in pain.
He had no idea about the pain.
"Yes," she said simply and he jerked as if struck in the chest by a new thought.
"What I said, Bella," he stammered, looking towards me again. "It was to discourage you. How could you believe it so easily? After everything?"
I took a step forward and felt the stone crack completely inside.
"Because I believed everything you ever said to me, even the lies. Why didn't you let me change when James bit me?" I seethed and wished with all my might that he could hear my thoughts.
A tidal wave of energy seemed to fall away from me and I breathed deeply as it flowed from my chest outward. His eyes grew impossibly wider and he cried out and fell back into the waves, shaking his head as he looked at me in horror.
"No, no. Not like this," he babbled and shook his head again and again, grabbing at it, shutting his eyes tight. I leaped for him, dragging him out of the water by his shirt, ripping it in my hands just as easily as tissue paper.
"Can you see my thoughts now?" I hissed, my face dangerously close to his.
I was unbreakable.
"I wanted you to stay human," he spluttered and his eyes squinted in pain when I opened up all my thoughts of him.
A cascade of images flooded my mind; my willing push to show him seemed to work as he shook in my grasp.
First seeing him- the angel in the cafeteria.
Then the black rage in his eyes in Biology.
Him threatening me in the meadow, his vampire skills on display.
His seething remarks about the men that cornered me in Port Angeles.
His obsessive protectiveness that alienated me from my friends.
Every time he said he loved me, all lies.
His kisses, just teases to lead me on.
The gentle way he touched me, because I was so fragile.
His mocking remarks about my frail human form.
His constant avoidance to my advances.
The need for me to lie to everyone in my life, simply to protect his existence.
All at a cost to me, in the end.
Because his words at the end told me the truth.
Lies. All lies.
"How can you see it like that?" he asked, his hands moving to my head to hold me there.
"Because you left," I croaked, the pain moving through me as it had that day he left. "You didn't want me."
A sad laugh bubbled out of his mouth and he looked at me with kinder eyes.
"I will always want you, Bella," he whispered. "I just made the bad choice to try and run from you to protect you."
"He's lying, Bella. He never wanted you like this," Victoria interjected behind me.
"She's right," he said, his eyes hardening.
My grip on him tightened at his words but he continued on.
"I wanted to save you from my doomed existence, Bella. I wanted you to have a soul and find happiness, as you deserve. As a human," he said, stressing the last part before he looked down in defeat. "Not that I didn't think about you and I being forever. I wanted that too, just… your soul was more important. It was the one thing I could give you."
His words floored me.
The weak side of me wanted to believe him.
"Still lies, Bella! Finish him!"
"Is that why you changed her?" he challenged, his eyes narrowing once more towards Victoria. "So you could have your vengeance on me for killing James?"
"You killed my mate!" she screeched. "You have to pay! Changing Bella only made it easier to make you suffer! Because you didn't want her to be one of us!"
"I want her any way I can have her! But this was wrong! She deserved a human life!"
Victoria was by my shoulder then, angling her face towards his as I held him.
"But you left her. You saw what damage you did."
He sagged in my hold and closed his eyes in resignation.
"I will suffer forever knowing that. I suffered too. Every day after."
"But not enough to save her from it. I had to do that."
"I had hoped…."
"That'd she'd forget you?" Victoria seethed. "She is your mate. Human or vampire she was yours. She would never forget, just as I will never forget James."
I felt her hands grasp at my head, tightening their hold on me.
"And now you will suffer. I'll make you suffer by watching your mate's end."
I opened my eyes wide at her words, my newborn instinct faster than her cunning plot. I turned in her grasp so that I was holding onto her own head, Edward forgotten as I fought for my life.
"I trusted you," I hissed as we fought against one another.
Victoria's vicious smile widened as I felt my neck begin to twist unnaturally.
"Yes, and that was your mistake. Always too trusting. You follow blindly. You are just as much to blame in James' death as he is," she growled and her grip tightened.
In the back of my mind I berated myself for not feeding more. Even with my newborn strength, I felt weak without blood in my veins. I felt my neck twist a little more in her grasp. Her eyes widened slightly as I gained some ground on her, the two of us rolling in the wet sand trying to take off one another's head.
"I was a pawn in this?" I asked, the anger inside of me circulating in a different way than it had in the last few months.
"And we all know we sacrifice our pawns," she said and her grin grew immeasurably wider.
I was vaguely aware of the voice at my back, all my concentration on the thought of not dying.
If that was what it would be.
So much betrayal and I didn't know whom to trust.
My maker had me in a death lock and was working on removing my head, while the love of my life, my mate, was there to confront me and stop me.
Stop me from what?
I gasped when I felt a ripping connecting my neck to my shoulder.
Was this how I ended?
Victoria screeched suddenly her hands were no longer on my neck, a shadow falling over both of us just as a hard force crashed down. I was knocked to the side as I watched her and Edward roll around. If a vampire could pass out, I would have, my head feeling a little cloudy. It wasn't until I saw her slip around behind him and wrap her arms around his neck that my mind cleared.
"Watch him die then, Bella. I don't care which of you goes first now," she said and pulled, seeming to lengthen his neck.
The fury in his eyes morphed into such deep sadness as he regarded me. She growled and squeezed and his eyes slipped closed, his mouth opening to say the words I never thought I would hear.
"I'm sorry, Bella. I love you. I will always love you. Until the end."
And the huge chasm in my chest tightened, the crack pushing towards itself like tectonic plates mashing together. My stone heart ground together to fuse itself. A split second of time in reality felt like a year as the pain and suffering fled me in a rush that gave me the strength I needed.
Newborn strength and the love for my mate drove me into motion.
Victoria's eyes widened and her mouth opened to scream, but it never came.
Lightning fast I vaulted, crashing into them both as my hands reached for her. My eyes closed as I felt my hands wrap around stone flesh and pull with every ounce of power that I had. A sickening crash like angry thunder sounded and I flinched with the idea that it was the end of him as my body rolled violently away as if struck by the lightning that had made the sound.
"I'm here," came the voice and I opened my eyes to the bright sunlight and flaming bronze above me.
I let out a cry and looked behind him, startled by what I saw.
Pieces of Victoria strewn across the beach, her head looking at us in shock just a few feet away. I shook violently at the image, the product of my anger.
The product of my protective nature.
I tore my eyes from her lifeless ones to look up into his, still black but softer somehow.
"Forgive me," he whispered, his eyes searching.
"Why did you leave?" I breathed, needing to feel those tears I had hated as a human but now could never have.
His hand rose up slow, so slow by our standards and he traced the outline of my ear with his fingertips.
"Because I'm a fool," he whispered and clenched his eyes shut to the new onslaught of memories passing through my head.
I couldn't stop it now. Silent for too long, he saw it all.
A moan worked through him and he pulled me tight against him, his lips trailing along my cheek, but steering clear of my lips as he whispered, his voice desperate.
"I was such a fool, Bella. I never thought you could love me as much as I loved you. I thought you would find peace. All I ever did was bring you pain. I'm so sorry."
I hesitated for only a second, worrying over the change in circumstances. He seemed to feel it and he pulled back slightly, his eyes cautious. I glanced over towards the remains of my maker and frowned.
"She used me," I said.
"She was hurting," he explained and pulled my closer, cradling my head so that I would look at him instead of the corpse. "When we lose our mate, we lose ourselves. We're broken in a way."
I clutched at my dead heart, the crack flexing slightly as if in remembrance. He slid his hand over mine and held it tenderly, his hand strangely warm now.
"When I left you, I thought the pain I felt would ease knowing that you would have a good life without me. I pushed the agony I felt aside, willing myself to try and deny that I had made a mistake. I can't explain it, but when you were turned, the pain grew worse," he said and grimaced, as he seemed to recall. "I've only felt that kind of pain once, and that was the second I said goodbye to you."
His fingers twined with mine over my dead heart.
"Please say you'll forgive me," he whispered, the anguish in his eyes emanating through me.
"You want me? Like this?" I asked weakly. I was still so fragile emotionally, even though my body was not.
"I have never stopped wanting you," he replied and kissed me softly. "Please tell me I'm not too late to fix my mistakes."
"And you love me?"
"I love you, Bella. In every way," he said, his crooked smile even more glorious in my new eyes.
"I always loved you," I breathed, looking up at him with all the emotion I had that had suddenly welled up inside of me- pushing out all the anger and pain. "Forever."
He let out a choked laugh and kissed me hard.
"Always forever," he whispered against my lips in between kisses.
I sighed into him, a new feeling working through me. It had a familiarity to it, something like comfort. Something I had not felt in many months.
In his arms as they wrapped around me, in his body as he pressed closer and as his lips moved against mine. In his tongue as he tasted me when my lips parted. The feeling grew and surrounded me, a sigh working through him as he deepened the kiss.
Something we had never done in my human form.
Memories of all his kisses came flooding back, but in their truer form. Not veiled with hate or pain.
But boosted by love.
Love for him.
"Those are the memories I wanted to see as my first look into your mind," he sighed and kissed me again, his lips tighter by the smile playing on his lips.
And all the smiles of our past.
"So beautiful to me," he whispered and drew back to gaze down at me, his eyes still dark but less black, more like the darkest topaz.
His smile widened and he traced under my eye slowly.
"You kept to our diet," he said and laughed when I looked up at him in confusion.
"Your eyes," he said and looked into them deeper. "I don't see red at all, they have a ring of gold around them."
"It didn't feel right," I replied, and he smiled again.
How I had missed that.
But then it slipped and his brow furrowed slightly.
"It should have been me," he said and closed his dark honey eyes to me.
"What should have?" I asked.
He opened them again and let out a sad sigh.
"I should have changed you."
"You should have let James' venom change me," I suggested to which he growled.
"I didn't want his venom tainting you," he said and looked down at me apologetically, tracing the faint scar at my neck from Victoria's bite. "It should have been me but I was a coward."
"And it's in the past," I said, sitting up slightly.
He nodded and looked over at Victoria.
"It's the past," he said and stood up to face her. "I suppose I should have thanked her."
I stood beside him and took his hand.
"The only thanks I have is that you're here now," I said and nodded in her direction. "We have to burn her, right?"
"Yes. Even though you made it a little difficult with all the pieces," he said and eyed me thoughtfully. "You're going to give Emmett a run for his money."
"Does that worry you?" I asked, a smile creeping onto my lips.
He laughed and I felt the warmth in me explode at the sound. He had the most beautiful laugh.
"I'm not going to worry about you anymore. Never again," he said and leaned down to kiss me briefly.
When he pulled away he let out an exaggerated sigh and looked off towards the far shore.
"The others are coming. What do you say to a little hunting in the woods here? Jasper says he'll take care of Victoria," he said.
I felt the calm wash over me again and realized then why.
It was Jasper's influence, something I had forgotten from my human existence. I turned from the shore and saw them in the water, halfway between the far shore and us. I felt a sudden need to run, not quite ready to greet them yet.
Instead I wanted to be alone.
"There's deer and that's about it," I suggested, smiling up at him.
"I think that will do for now. At least until we go hunting properly. I can't wait to see you hunt mountain lion," he said and his eyes darkened slightly.
I felt the energy shift between us and pulled him towards the trees. I most definitely needed to be alone with him. And judging by his sudden growl as we took off into the forest, he had read my thoughts.
"The family can wait," he said and sped up, matching my pace easily.
I laughed and watched as the smile widened on his face, his hand reaching for mine as we ran. The warmth spread, and I finally felt everything I had been missing since I had come to this life.
I felt complete.
Gone were the pain and the anguish I had used to press ahead. Now I had the love I had wanted since the very beginning.
Because I had my other half.
I had Edward.
"Forever," he answered, his smile blazing.
As it was meant to be.