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What Music They Make

Summary:
When an unexpected conflict with the Volturi brings Jacob back into her life, Bella finds that being a vampire only makes it even more complicated for her to be in love with two people.


Notes:


2. I: Nocturnes

Rating 5/5   Word Count 6614   Review this Chapter

chapter I nocturnes


It had been almost four years since Bella’s transformation when the Cullens got a visit from three of the Volturi. Even if they had certainly taken their time about it, when Alice said they were coming it wasn‘t hard for them to imagine what for even if she could not see anything beyond their decision to come. Aro was still curious about Bella.

The Cullens had been remaining in Forks, keeping a lower profile there than ever before. As none of them were in school anymore, Carlisle was the only one who was still often seen. All of his foster children were assumed to have gone off to college. And Bella was never seen. She was thought to be dead.

During the last year she and Edward had started taking classes at a college that was a three-hour drive from Forks. She had finally become comfortable with spending more money than she was used to having and gotten an mp3 player; the long run to school she took with Edward every morning at daybreak with her headphones on had become one of her favorite times of the day.

Meanwhile, Emmett and Rosalie had spent some time away in Sweden together, Alice had been keeping herself busy with some volunteer work in Port Angeles, and Jasper had been getting a new degree through an online program. But it was now the beginning of summer and they were all home and together at the time they expected their company to arrive.

It was only Aro, Marcus, and Demetri. Aro took Carlisle’s hand firmly with both of his, giving it one shake, and said, “It’s so lovely to see you, old friend,” and Bella could tell already that this evening was going to be mostly small talk and beating around the bush. She was already a little nervous; a visit from the Volturi had never before been something not to be worried about, no matter how harmless things looked, and Edward was especially unenthusiastic about welcoming them from the moment they entered the house. Even Alice had started acting uncomfortable and a little quiet since a while before they arrived, but if she had seen something new, she was choosing to just let everyone else find out about it in time. Bella was already waiting for some kind of chance to ask Edward what he knew was on their minds.

“I hope it is not an inconvenient time for us to just drop in like this,” Aro said apologetically. “But I remembered that you would, after all, expect us anyway.”

He looked over at Alice with a laugh. She smiled, reasonably at ease but still acting far from happy to see them.

They went up to the hidden study on the top floor where they could all sit because there was a long table for them to gather at. Bella dragged a chair out from the table and sat in it, only then looking to her side at Edward and seeing that he had pulled one out for her; she started to stand up again as if she was going to move to that one, but in an instant felt silly and stopped. He just grinned and laughed half-heartedly, sitting next to her in the chair he had meant for her to take.

Because of all this he was the last one to sit down, and then everyone was looking at them. Everyone except for Marcus, who stared at the top of the table absently. Bella remembered how Marcus had not seemed the least bit surprised by the kind of relationship he could sense between her and Edward when they’d met in Italy, even though seeing what he could tell about them by reading his thoughts had fascinated Aro. If he had been merely uninterested then, he seemed to not even notice their presence now.

Esme apologized for the mess, as there was various paperwork and some books and computer parts all over the place, but Aro cheerfully told her not to worry. Visiting other vampires who were settled in real homes was not something he did every day, and he seemed to find the comment funny. He was the only one of them who talked much at all, as Marcus looked around like he was intensely bored to be here and Demetri just loomed by them like a bodyguard.

“Bella, my dear.” He finally addressed her after talking with Carlisle for a while about how he was still enjoying his human career. She smiled graciously, her hands together and still in her lap and her entire pose stiff. “When last I had the pleasure of seeing part of this family, I’m afraid you were in no condition to visit.”

Edward, Alice, and Jasper had gone by themselves to Italy a few weeks after Bella was changed, as they had suggested they might visit. Edward had been uncomfortable about the Volturi practically monitoring Bella like a science experiment to see what kind of vampire she might turn into and wanted to go before one of them instead came here. Aro had been quite eager to get to know all he could about Jasper, as he was the only one in the group he had never met before, and politely asked for his permission to touch him almost as soon as they were introduced. A look into his thoughts was all he needed to see that they had kept their word about changing Bella and be satisfied. They stayed for a brief visit of small talk, neither Edward or Alice ever being asked to let Aro look at their own thoughts again, and then they left hoping they were done with having to worry about the Volturi from then on.

But now Edward was acting just a little anxious, in a way that was barely perceptible but still unmistakable to Bella.

“No,” she answered simply, maintaining a polite tone but not trying to sound regretful. “I wasn’t.”

“Demetri has already told me that his talent certainly seems to exclude you,” he said. “If it weren’t for you being with the rest of your family, we never would have been able to find you.”

She nodded. “My mind is still completely impenetrable to Edward, too.”

He extended his hand a little. “May I? I’m sure we can expect…”

Knowing what he wanted to do, she nodded and reached her own hand across the table. He touched it briefly and then smiled, shaking his head. “Yes. Impenetrable you certainly are…But according to Carlisle’s theory of what gives some of us unique talents, I would think we would have seen your uniqueness…magnified somehow.”

“I would be interested to know what you were expecting,” she said a little coolly, but also with some real curiosity. For a brief moment, she caught Alice looking at her knowingly where she sat at one end of the table.

“Oh, I can’t say I had any idea what to expect,” he said, laughing. “In all the many years I’ve been around I had never seen anything like you. You seemed almost meant to become a part of our world. Too exceptional to remain a mere human.”

She smiled dully. “Perhaps you could look at it that way.”

“But you haven’t found that you have any special abilities?” he pressed on.

Everyone else was so quiet. All eyes were on her. Able to easily tell that this was not making her comfortable, Edward took her hand in her lap under the table. They both wanted this to be over with, and she wasn’t even sure why. There was an awful feeling in her like a big weight in her stomach.

“No, not really,” she answered indifferently. “I was…well, I was different as a newborn. That was the one thing.”

“Different? How?” He looked to some of the others at the table, as if they might be able to give a better account than she could herself.

Edward, at least, took the opportunity to remove all the attention from her alone. “Bella matured, if you can call it that, remarkably fast after she was turned,” he explained. “It was not by any means easy for her, of course, but her appetite and ability to suppress her instincts developed a lot easier than is normal. She got used to being around humans unusually fast. After two months she was more like a year-old vampire and could handle being in public. She now has about the same level of self-control that I do.”

This clearly took Aro completely by surprise. “Well, that’s…that does make you unique indeed. I wonder if it means something more significant than you can tell yet.” He was rubbing his chin thoughtfully.

“She was very sensitive to blood when she was a human,” Edward said, “as you would remember.”

His eyes brightened. “Oh, yes, of course. I saw in his thoughts—you really disliked the smell,” he added, looking back at Bella.

She nodded. “It made me feel sick. Most people thought I just couldn’t handle seeing it like a lot of people, but it was the smell that bothered me, even when nobody else could smell anything. I’d pass out. I don‘t know…We’ve considered that maybe that has something to do with it.”

“But surely you don’t actually dislike the smell of blood now?” he asked, the idea seeming ludicrous to him.

“No. I have a completely normal reaction to it, I guess, but just not for a vampire who’s so young. I’m already very sensitive to the differences in the way people smell.”

“And I haven’t even quite reached that point yet,” Emmett interjected with a grin, his amazement showing clearly in his voice.

“Well, for someone who would choose your lifestyle, Carlisle,” Aro said, looking where him and Esme sat, “you could not have ended up making a more suitable addition to your family. Even if you couldn’t have known…”

“No, we couldn’t have,” Edward said, a little quietly. “She was…very lucky.”

There was a sudden silence, and Bella attempted a light smile to alleviate the sinister mood. “I caused Jasper to lose quite a lot in a bet.”

Jasper and Emmett both laughed lightly, but nobody else did.

“Well,” Aro said, looking not a little disappointed, “some vampires I’ve known to have certain talents took as long as three years for them to start to develop. It can happen quite differently for everyone, and it depends on what exactly they can do, of course. But I suppose after this long, you would have seen all of your own potential.”

Bella did not smile or say anything. She personally could not be more satisfied with being a prematurely functional and civilized vampire. It had been more than she could have possibly hoped for. But Aro had surely been hoping to see something more usefully offensive and powerful take shape in her.

She innerly shuddered a little at that thought, grateful that nobody at this table had the ability to see into her at all. That secret could not be let out. She didn’t even want to think about it herself…

“Anyway,” Aro said, finally seeming to address everyone and taking his specific attention off of her, “I’m sure you are all a little curious about why we would have come all this way just to drop by your home and catch up.”

Carlisle raised his brow. “Is there some other reason? We weren’t aware of any problem in this area…”

Aro laughed. “Actually, Carlisle, you are already perfectly aware of it.”

All of the Cullens besides Edward and Alice looked completely perplexed.

“You see, I have a bit of a favor to ask of you,” he explained. “It involves those werewolves that live near.”

Faces went blank. Bella looked at Edward, her eyes wide. He looked very sorry.

Esme was finally the first to respond, sounding dumbstruck. “The werewolves?”

Bella had not seen anyone from the wolf pack since she had gotten married. They had stayed in Forks this long because for at least a while she had wanted to be where she could still easily find out about what was going on with Charlie and everyone else here she couldn’t see anymore, and sometimes she heard things about them. She read about Sam and Emily’s marriage in the paper. Sometimes when she was curiously watching Charlie in his house to see how he was getting along, Billy came over and she would hear him mention Jacob if there was anything significant to report about his current life.

There rarely was.

Billy usually came to visit with Sue Clearwater now instead of having Jacob take him. Bella supposed socializing as much as she could made her feel less lonely with Harry gone; the three of them made a little club of friends with lost spouses. One time Bella had listened to Charlie on the phone with Billy inviting him over and telling him Jacob should come over, too, if he had any interest in watching a game. Billy said he’d ask him, and after Charlie hung up she ran away from there much faster than was rational to think she needed to go.

Whenever she came back from going to Charlie’s house, she went eagerly back to Edward’s arms, knowing he was enough to make her forget the sting of separation from so very much and with him everything else would disappear. He had to be enough.

He always asked her softly, “How are you feeling?”

She never thought she had to think about it. She never could think she had to think about it.

“I’m with you,“ she would say with a soft smile. “I’m wonderful.”

And it was always like sinking under the surface of water together where they could not hear or see anything above. Let me not think, she thought, just feel nothing but this, let this one thing fill everything.

Vampires can be completely silent while making love. Just as when they run, their breathing remains calm and steady. It is not at all like the way it is for humans. The enhanced senses make it comparatively effortless. No sweat, no energy spent, no desperate grabbing and pulling and thrusting. There is instead smiling, deliberate touching, and whispering. Not like humans in dramatic movies so overcome with passion they practically attack each other like hungry animals, throwing each other against walls and tearing off clothes.

Bella could remember how the way Edward smelled used to be intoxicating to her like an inhaled drug that made the world spin all around her. She remembered how the lightest touch from him seemed to make every nerve in her body wake up alertly, morning glories opening to the sun. All he had to do was say something quietly in her ear with his velvety voice and it would make her completely disarmed and helpless, prey caught in a cage, incapable of resisting him. She could recall in intricate detail how on their wedding night all of him combined was almost too much, overpoweringly stimulating, but still she'd tangled her fingers in his hair tightly like she could not have him enough and probably could not have let go of him if her life depended on it.

It was different now when they were together, everything a more internal fire, no impatience or desperate and immediate need, both of them always much more controlled and clear-headed. There was nothing left of the dangerous pull toward her Edward had constantly felt because of the smell of her blood which had always been like an electric current binding them irresistibly, her veins all powerlines humming in a sort of reverberating music only he could hear. Undeniably they were the most loving couple, but they were as cool and calm as could be.

Jacob went on with life as life went on with or without him. Looking in the mirror and seeing that he wasn’t aging made time seem so long and endless. Meaningless.

Some part of him had been buried away in the dark so that he could go on. Those few years ago he had gone half crazy on Bella’s wedding night trying to make himself not think about things. Him that close to her. The image of them together that way, much too close, too dangerous, had become intertwined with the thought of him biting her, still too much for him to accept but all inevitable. Too late. All he still wanted was to wrap her up in himself and protect her from everything, keep her warm and shield her from that violent world of night she was plunging herself into. But instead he was forced to think about icy predator’s hands touching her, and with that himself in his place instead whether he wanted to imagine that or not. No matter what was in front of his face, Billy or Sam talking to him, this was all he saw for days and days as he just waited to find out something that would tell him it had happened, she was changed, and he hadn’t killed her.

He had wanted to phase again and really stay that way this time until he knew it had to be over. He had wanted to disappear. But he couldn’t always deal with everything that way. He had known she would hear about it if he suddenly ran off, and she had enough to deal with as it was without him waving his pain in her face.

But as he stayed and dealt with it, his pain was instead unavoidably apparent to everyone else he was around and always in their faces. All day and night his life had become full of nightmares of cold, dead-pale skin and sharp white teeth tearing, her enclosed and trapped in one form with no relief of peaceful sleep like someone buried alive in the blind dark, spring hardening to ice and time stopped, endless winter brought with her descent. When Sam had started talking to the rest of the pack about how he was hoping Jacob would change his mind about not taking his place as the Alpha, Leah had once cruelly laughed and said back, “Him? Are you paying any attention to him these days? I don’t care who his ancestor is. He’s just about cracked.”

Jacob agreed to do it after Sam got married. He could be starting a family soon, and would have enough other things to take care of. Jacob didn’t have anything else but the pack anymore, so he figured he would have no problem taking on more responsibility than anyone else had.

Meanwhile, as long as there were no conflicts with the Cullens or other vampires for them to worry about he had to go on pretending life was normal. He had started working at a sports bar out of town, often for long shifts going late into the night to keep himself busy since he often didn’t sleep easily and didn’t need to sleep as much as other people anyway.

A girl his age named Lilah also worked at this bar. They had gotten along well and been very friendly with each other since the start of the eleven months he’d been working there. She had a great sense of humor and spoke in a sort of deep, throaty voice, the kind of girl who could have fun dancing around in the rain and would scream in excitement as she ran toward friends she hadn’t seen in a while to hug them.

Lilah seemed to have been in a lot of bad past relationships, and for a long time Jacob had only heard her briefly mention things about guys she’d been with who sounded like the biggest pieces of scum he could imagine. Then one day her last boyfriend had showed up at the bar looking for her and made a big scene starting a fight with her. He claimed she owed him money for something—Jacob never got the whole story then and didn’t really care because the first thing he saw when he came back from his break was him grabbing onto her arm tightly so she couldn‘t get away from him where he had pulled her into a dark corner and shaking her angrily. He towered over the guy, two heads taller than him, and it wasn’t very hard to intimidate him into getting away from her while someone else went to get the manager.

He was kicked out and told never to come back there, but Lilah was worried he might start waiting around for her to leave some day and follow her home to go after her. After she told him he was crazy enough that she wouldn’t put such a thing past him, Jacob sighed and said, “Jesus, Lilah. Great taste in men you’ve got.”

She rolled her eyes. “And he had to make it look as shady as possible. Now everybody probably thinks he’s a dealer and I’m a heroin addict or something.” She was just acting annoyed by the whole thing, but he’d seen her hands shaking after he left and she had immediately sat down and lit herself a cigarette.

He took her wrist and drew her arm out, looking up and down its whole length. “Well, it doesn’t look like you’re shooting heroin,” he teased, and she laughed, smiling for the first time in hours. “So I guess I can trust you enough to take you home today just to be safe.”

“Shouldn’t I be the one who’s worried about whether I can trust you?” she asked.

He shrugged. “I suppose. But I can at least promise that you’re less likely to end up in a dumpster going with me than if you leave here alone.”

“Okay,” she said in the same joking, sarcastic tone. “That makes me feel so much better.”

It had all started that way. As nothing. Lilah told him the creep shouldn’t know where she was living now, but even so it didn’t seem like she was safe until she’d made it into her apartment and locked the door behind her. Their shifts usually ended together and he’d discovered her place was right on the way back to La Push anyway, so he started driving her home almost every night. First they often ended up getting so involved telling weird stories about high school or their old friends that they’d stay sitting in the car still talking a while before he finally walked her upstairs to her room. Then he started coming in and staying for an hour or two sometimes. They’d drinks beers or make hot chocolate and sit watching TV, Lilah curling up under a blanket and sometimes falling asleep next to him so that he would end up having to lock up for her by taking her key out and then slipping it back under the door.

It started out as nothing but didn’t stay that way long. Everything advanced as it does between two people who like each other enough and aren’t shy. When it ultimately and inevitably happened, it didn‘t feel late or on time or too fast or even as if anything had significantly changed. One night he found himself kissing her and saying easily into her ear, “You’re beautiful,” the only true thing to say if he was going to say anything, in a way that was completely honest but nonetheless sounded as casual as telling someone he liked their new haircut. And with her arms around his neck she smiled and said, “Thank you,” then giggling because maybe that was unnecessary and quickly getting back to everything besides talking. They started sometimes spending the night together. It wasn’t the beginning of anything, just what it was.

Jacob was sometimes amazed that Lilah could be such a lively, energetic person who smiled and laughed so much when she had so many dark stories to tell about her life. When she was eighteen her father had found out she slept with a boy from school who came over to do homework with her a lot and immediately kicked her out of the house with nothing but the clothes and money she had on her, telling her to go sell herself on the streets like the slut she was. That last boyfriend had started scaring her a while after she moved in with him, and after he threatened to hurt her once she packed her things while he was in the shower and slashed his tires so he couldn't come find her before she made it to a friend's house. He couldn't hold onto money long enough to afford new tires. That was why he was so pissed at her and was saying she owed him.

These things she told him could make his blood boil, but it wasn’t enough to make him too angry. Not like the story behind Edward killing Victoria’s mate or “That’s none of your business” catching him meanly by surprise. Nothing seemed to shock him much anymore. When he’d come out and seen the ex-boyfriend calling her filthy names in a low growl, he had stayed pretty calm as he went to tell him to leave her alone. He had stood there watching a strangely long moment before reacting, as if he didn’t feel like he could really do anything for her.

“Why don’t you just tell the cops about this guy?” he asked her once while they weren’t very busy during a shift and had been talking about him.

“Oh, I don’t know,” she said. “If he turns up again giving me trouble, I probably will. But there’s been no sign of him since that one time.” She sighed and then laughed a little. “Maybe I should just get myself a gun…or a dog.”

Jacob laughed hard before he could stop himself, but cut it short.

“Dogs’ll turn on you,” he then said with a smirk. “Just like some men.”

“Yeah, but you can forgive dogs,” she said. “They can’t help it. They’re just animals. It’s their nature.”

He thought of Leah and Emily both, like they were suddenly one woman, frowning as he looked away from meeting Lilah's eyes.

The last time Jacob and his friends phased to go out for a run, they saw everything about her life he knew.

She tells you these things? Embry directed the thought to him.

Sure, Jacob had responded. I mean…we’re kind of good friends.

Kind of? Quil seemed to think his choice of words was funny.

But you’re not serious about her, Embry said. He didn’t have to make it a question. Well, it’s better than being alone, right?

Running his fingers through smooth hair, pressing warm softness close against his hard and strong body made to protect, he didn’t have to assure himself. Right.

She didn't look at all like the other woman that was always in the corner of his sight whenever he tried to look at any woman as if he was seeing double, not like that petite, frail-figured girl. Lilah had short, dark blonde hair and was considerably tall, all shapely curves pushing at the seams of faded jeans and T-shirts. His huge hands still swallowed her. She said once that it was impossible not to feel safe with someone his size.

She had said it in a harmless enough way, joking, but it still worried him when things like that came—slipped?—out of her mouth. He just hoped this wasn't different for her than it was for him. That would be all wrong. He was very fond of her, but he had no idea how he would even begin to deal with that. She teased him about his unusually warm temperature and his giant appetite. She couldn‘t imagine. If he were to stop cautiously keeping her at arm's length from him it would mean letting her know there was something more to him, and he didn't know where the hell he would start even if he thought it was a good idea to tell someone like her about those things.

Somehow she already seemed to know that she had to keep herself from getting too involved with him anyway. And it didn't have to have anything to do with what she couldn't imagine he was hiding from her. Maybe she was just able to see the other one that was always in his eyes when he looked at her. For all she acted kind of like a child who couldn't afford to take things too seriously because she'd go crazy, she could be very sharp.

Once after the bar was closed, she and Jacob were idly dancing around behind the counter to a Rolling Stones song playing on the juke box. They started out laughing a little and stumbling clumsily, Lilah failing to avoid his big feet, but then the lyrics about weddings and graves were making his mind fade out and his movement became a little slowed. She looked up at him with a raised brow and asked, "What are you thinking about? You're always getting so quiet like that."

"Sorry," he said with a laugh, bringing himself back into the right tempo, even though it wasn‘t much of a song to dance to anyway. He swayed lazily with her, hands loosely gripping her waist. They only touched where their hands were, leaving cool air between their bodies.

"It reminds me of my uncle. You know you look really old for your age?"

"Yeah, I never hear that one," he said sarcastically, taking her hand and spinning her around in a rather ungraceful circle as the song was finishing.

She laughed, letting go of his hand and leaning against the counter. "No, I don't just mean because you're so tall,” she said. “It's your eyes. You’ve got this look in your eyes that looks like it belongs to somebody fifty years older than you, somebody who’s seen a whole lot. It's like my uncle; he's a veteran. Lived through some crazy shit. And I remember all the time when I used to look at his face, it was like he wasn‘t even there in that time. I've barely ever heard him speak."

He realized that in her own strange way, she was inviting him to open up to her about some of the things he never told her about. They spent so much time just talking about her. He almost really wished he could, and when she made this observation about him, the words struck him a little deep. It was the first time he ever realized so clearly that nobody like her, nobody else that he ever met in his life, was ever going to be able to understand the things he'd seen and been through.

Maybe the whole imprinting thing that came with being a werewolf didn't seem that weird in light of the fact that it was so difficult and complicated trying to get close to anybody without it. He had reached a point by now where he felt like an outsider with anyone who was normal. He only felt like he truly belonged with others who understood and only felt at home in that frightening, unbelievable world of his kind.

Bella’s soft voice in the dark in her bedroom, at night in his garage, knowing and understanding, the relief of finally having and holding her again after she figured out what he so desperately wanted to tell her but couldn’t, complete deliverance from the living nightmare it had been the first time he phased, just quiet and peaceful. The yearning was as strong as that to return to a mother’s arms when things get too complicated, to be innocent and small again and protected from everything. There would never be a dream more ideal for him, and in comparison to anyone else she was the mourned dead, made perfect and angelic through the loss of her. There was no comparing.

“When Jasper let me read his mind when he came to see us,” Aro began to explain, “I was quite fascinated to finally know how just the seven of you managed to defeat all of those newborns who came to attack you. I knew something about there being some werewolves in this area because of what I had seen in Alice’s thoughts already, but my word! A pack of ten? I could hardly believe it even as I saw it.”

“This makes some werewolves interest you?” Carlisle asked, still confused.

“If you want to put it that way—it makes them worry me. They are no problem for you, perhaps, as you have managed to keep them under control and minding their own business in regards to your coven specifically—which is very strange and interesting in itself, I might add. But for the entire rest of our world, it makes us concerned.”

“You think them a danger to all vampires?“ Jasper asked with a careful smile. “Isn’t that a bit of a dramatic exaggeration?”

“I think whatever strange phenomenon that makes werewolves appear in regions such as this one calculating that ten dogs running around in one place is necessary is a dramatic exaggeration,” Aro replied, smiling back. “Can you not see how the situation with them has gotten dreadfully out of hand? The werewolf is an absolutely abominable creation as it is, which because of its very existence threatens the secrecy we always strive to maintain. They seem to only exist because we do. They are so rarely found that it is difficult to know anything about them for sure, but as I know some explain it, they belong to rare lineages of humans that have somehow developed the power to protect themselves from us.”

“That seems to be the way the ones here originated,” Alice confirmed.

He nodded. “Yes. But that means every time one person turns into a werewolf, our existence becomes known to at least one more person, most likely more. And they can’t even be very cautious about keeping it unknown what they are; they can pop into gigantic wolves without even meaning to if they simply get angry! They’re unruly, unreasonable creatures who will attack a vampire who is just passing through their territory and not even hunting. See how they’re designed in every way to be the most loathsome nuisance you can imagine?”

He was saying this all in such an alarmingly light tone. Bella almost felt like she was at a dinner table where someone was telling racist jokes and expecting everyone else to find them funny.

“Now, this treaty you have with this pack here,” he went on, “has done its job so far. But judging just by what I have seen, it seems to be quite a fragile alliance.”

“On the contrary, since we have been able to fight together there is probably more trust between us than ever,” Esme said. “And Bella was actually friends with them in her human life.”

“In her human life,” he echoed with emphasis.

“And still now,” Bella spoke up.

“But for how long, my dear girl?” he asked of her. “How many more wolves are there later going to be? They may not all remain loyal to you. And any one of them could decide to turn against you. That is all it would take for you to become enemies with them.”

Edward spoke for the first time in a while, sounding impatient and angry. “They have nothing to gain and everything to lose by doing that unless we actually do something that violates the terms of the treaty,” he said.

“But you already have,” he said, and he looked meaningfully back at Bella. Everyone at the table went silent a moment, staring at her as her face finally showed her growing feeling of unease.

“You must see, my friends,” Aro went on. “How can it be of any assurance to us that you have this treaty made to protect yourselves from them exposing you if you cannot even stay true to it?”

“We had no choice but to make Bella one of us if we were to follow your law,” Edward said.

“Exactly. It should be none of their business what you decided to do with her, only ours and your own. But with this treaty, you’ve made it their business. You’ve allowed them to take our law into their own hands, the hands of some untrustworthy adolescent humans with abnormal abilities they can barely control.”

Bella wanted to protest against what he was saying so much that she was screaming at him in her mind, but a heavy fear had completely overtaken her and she felt like she couldn’t even speak.

“Forgive me for having to get involved in what you might think are your affairs, Carlisle,” Aro said. “But our laws make me quite unable to ignore and permit something like this. When we become aware of their existence in an area, we do not deal with werewolves by making treaties. We deal with them by…well…dealing with them,” he finished quite suggestively.

Bella felt completely frozen in place. She was hardly aware of Edward reaching over and taking her hand again, more firmly than before.

“How exactly do you intend to go about doing that?” Esme asked in a weak voice.

“That is just what I’ve been getting at,” he said in his light, almost happy tone that was now starting to sound sickening to Bella. “There are two ways we can do this. One is to go after each of them individually. But that could turn into quite a mess. Sneaking up on a werewolf to attack them is risky, as I’m sure you can imagine. If they change into wolves and it turns into a fight, it can quite undesirably call the attention of other humans; a dog isn’t going to care about being seen that way if he’s running from a group of vampires for its life or trying to chase them down before they hurt anybody. What would be much more preferable is to give them the chance to meet us as a group. This way they would know that they would at least not endanger their families or anyone else who could get in the way, so I am sure they would rather be given this option.”

“But you won’t be trying to do anything about those in their families who also know about us?” Edward asked.

“Edward!” Bella gasped, turning to look at him in shock, and he just shook his head quickly with a look at her. But then he was visibly relieved as he heard the answer in Aro’s thoughts before he said it.

“No. There must be so many people on that reservation who know about our existence that it would be more trouble than I think it’s worth to find out who they all are. We are concerned only with ending the bloodline of the wolves to stop allowing this problem to be perpetuated.”

“And what is it you want from us?” Rosalie asked coolly. “To help you?”

The vague but still detectable animosity in her tone made Bella feel an unfamiliar surge of warm feelings for her, even though it may not have been out of consideration for her at all that she didn‘t like this idea. She was already scared to find out what everyone else in her family was going to think of this, and it took her a little by surprise.

“Yes,” Aro said, and added quickly, “but oh, no—not the way you might think. You will not be required to get that involved in this at all. Do not misunderstand. We are here as guests in your home tonight and are asking something of you, not making you do anything.”

“To arrange it so that you can dispose of them the second way,” Edward explained for him darkly. “Because they’re so friendly with us.”

“Right,” he said as if he completely missed Edward’s displeased tone. “We couldn’t possibly try to talk to them ourselves; they wouldn’t trust a thing we say if they even let us say it before trying to rip our heads off. But that way will be the most efficient. And after all, it gives them a chance to be prepared and defend themselves, which I think is more satisfactory for everyone.”

“You mean it gives them the idea that they even have a chance,” Bella said quietly.

He smiled. “Oh, I assure you, we never bring more than enough with us. Our guard enjoys the challenge of a more even fight too much.”

“Aro,” Carlisle said quietly, his voice with a layer of nervousness underneath it. “I must ask to speak with the three of you alone, please.”