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Grim Reaper's Release

Summary:
When the gruesome murder of a pastor is mysteriously caught on tape, what will happen to the vampire race? Suddenly, the world knows about vampires. The Cullens need to get out of Forks. And fast. But what will happen when the Volturi wants to interfere? Or the Southern Armies? And, more importantly, who are these strange vampire twins? Photobucket


Notes:
...I've been away for a seriously long time, haven't I? O.O

Well, I'm back with a new story and I still haven't decided if I should continue my other stories. A lot's been happening in my life and I'm sure my feelings on all of my other stories have changed drastically. Anyway, this is just an idea that's been floating around my head for probably a year now but I've never really developed it into more than just a smidge of an idea.

Just a few warnings before I continue: This story is seriously...morbid. It's not really a good story at all. There's violence, world domination, chaos, and the world kind of goes insane...but it has a happy ending! Promise!

Also, the chapters are gonna be really long on this. Like, seriously long. It's not that I want to get this done in less chapters or whatever, it's just that in each chapter, a few different character's point of view's on different things need to be included to add other factors of the story. I mean, if I had each new point of view a chapter, we'd probably be up to 50 chapters by the time I get to the middle.

That being said, I guess a few things you should know is that I don't know when I'll be getting new chapters up. I hope, with winter break here, I'll have this story done by the middle of February, maybe? I was planning on having this only 7 chapters at the maximum, but the farther I get into this story, the longer it seems. And, I hope, I'll be getting each chapter up each week. I've already written chapter 2 and 3 but I'm gonna post them weekly.

Next, I seriously need to thank my best mate Kira with this story. She gave me a HUGE idea for it and has been such an amazing supporter of all my stories from the start!

*breathes in relief* Alright, I think that's all for now. Now that I've gotten it all out, go read. I'm sure the story is much more interesting than my babbling. *snort*


25. In the Heart of the City

Rating 3.6/5   Word Count 13111   Review this Chapter

Jasper's Point of View

It was 12:27 p.m. when I decided I had finished.

To be quite honest, I couldn't stop staring at myself in the mirror. It wasn't the kind of admiration that everyone often caught Rosalie doing; no, not anything like it. I wasn't studying my unfamiliar face because of shallowness, but because I was stunned by my own reflection. Thinking about it, though, it probably looked like I was just being an arrogant, superficial individual.

No, instead, I was captured by the new me in the mirror. It was me, but then it wasn't. I could see the familiar features of my face: the narrow nose, the broad chin, and large eyes. However, I couldn't find the recognizable tell-tale signs of a vampire. The reflection of me pursed his lips in consideration, could this have been what I looked like as a human?

Obviously, I didn't remember too much of those few dim years of life before being bitten. What I knew of myself today was solely based on my vampire years. I didn't know if I had been like Bella, pale and almost transparent, or if I had been tanned by the many years I did remember of spending time in the Southern sun.

I reached up hesitantly and ran a light fingertip down the side of my face and grimaced. To say I didn't enjoy the sensation of multiple layers of women's makeup coating my flesh would be a lie. I detested it. I couldn't wait to scrub all of this off later tonight and throw the bottles of foundation into the trash when I knew it would be alright to walk down the street and not have people stop and stare at my colorless skin. I sighed; but who knew when that would happen? It could be weeks before the other vampires were exposed, possibly even months or years.

The thought that I would have to be layering thick, heavy foundation over my face for years was almost enough to make me run back to captivity.

I was just pleased with myself that I hadn't decided to go all out with an actual tan. My whole body shuddered at the thought of standing there, having liquid sprayed all over my bare flesh and sticking there. It had been troubling enough to break into that dreadful drugstore, wasting minutes trying to figure out just what ‘shade' my skin could possibly fit under and then stealing almost twenty five bottles of the cursed make up. It was now clear to me why Alice refused to use the stuff, even when Rosalie suggested it would darken our preternatural skin.

After breaking and entering the shady little CVS, I had slipped into an interesting little store in what the tourists called downtown Washington D.C. It wasn't as elite as I would have liked but it was definitely different from anything I would have selected. Disorganized shirts and casual pants had lined wall after wall, their bright colors and numerous patterns generating a spirited atmosphere. I hadn't put much thought into what I was grabbing off the shelves, just the size in which it came in. By the end, I had an armful of thin, cotton shirts with unfamiliar logos, sweaters, different styled jackets, button-up shirts with bright patterns, and an assortment of jeans. I had even spent a brief moment looking at the accessories, which I knew would have made Alice proud. I then left the store immediately after changing into a pair of my new clothes and unplugging the security cameras, taking all of the tapes with me.

Arms loaded with shopping bags, I had eventually arrived at the Four Seasons, a new pair of sunglasses keeping my ruby eyes shielded. I snuck into the private garage, knowing they would not check me in without identification, and had easily found my black Cadillac. It had been parked near the front, almost like it was waiting for me, and before the overseer of the garage could spot me, I had slipped into the front seat and unlocked the trunk.

Inside was just what I had been hoping for. A professional, small black suitcase loaded with what I assumed was my required money, a leather laptop case packed with a silver, high-tech laptop, and then a glossy little cell phone, which I was sure wasn't even on the market yet. I had given it an appraising once over before picking up the cell phone and slipping the lightweight object into my tight pocket. I pulled the bag's strap over my neck and slung it across my chest. As I had gone in for the briefcase, something had caught my eye in the corner of the truck.

It was a neat, almost unnoticeable envelope.

I had picked it up, turning it over curiously in my hands, before reading the front. Mr. Tomlinson. I had recognized the alias and frowned, tearing my thumb under the flap to open it up.

After peeling it apart cautiously, I had found the aged golden key to my apartment in Annapolis along with several packages of slippery blue contacts and...a credit card and driver's license. With a terse scowl I had left the garage, wondering why in the world Scott would send me this when I had told him not to.

Upon reaching the hotel's front desk, I discovered why. When the overly perky receptionist asked for a credit card and license, I knew no amount of money would have persuaded her to disobey the strict hotel rules. I had amiably handed them over to her, watching as she scanned them through the multiple machines and computers, before giving them back to me. She had cheerfully told me that a car was waiting for my arrival in the customer only garage, oblivious to my past intrusion there, and I had thanked her warmly.

It hadn't been too long of a walk to my Capital Suite. Just a few floors up and a few doors to the right. The room was alright, not something Alice would have settled for, but simple and modern. I had set the countless bags on the king sized bed and then I had set to work.

That had been at 8:43 a.m. A second glance at the clock on the counter told me it was now 12:31 p.m.

I reached up to pull my fingers through my loose hair, much lighter and cleaner than it had been when I arrived. It had been coated with dirt and even blood then, but thanks to the shower I had taken without delay, it was back to its original state of honey blonde instead of grimy yellow.

It had not been easy to slather all of that foundation on. I honestly didn't know how human women did it. It was probably just my abnormal flesh that made it feel so sticky, but, really, didn't they ever feel this unsettling feeling? It was like I had a coating of inch-deep sludge on my face, blocking off all nerves embedded within the tissue. It was almost like I had lost all sense of touch in my face, like the coating of viscous paste was making it impossible to move my face.

Looking into the mirror, though, I wondered if it had all been worth it. The end result wasn't too bad, I thought. I actually looked tan. I knew if you looked close enough, or, I should say, if you had my sharp eyesight, you would be able to tell it wasn't my real skin tone, but otherwise it was almost unnoticeable. It was smooth, not in clumps along my face, and not too far from the wintry paleness I usually accommodated to realize anything was off. It was just a light ivory, something a few shades darker than Bella's human skin tone.

The foundation spread past my jaw line, even coating my neck and whatever skin was exposed before the collar. I kept my hands bare, aware that if I applied it to my hands, it would just come off whenever I used them.

The contacts still lay on the counter next to me, unopened and unused. I knew I would need to slip those in before I went anywhere because I realized it would look odd if I came down from my room with sunglasses still covering my eyes.

With a shake of my head, I walked out of the room and into the bedroom towards the oak desk. The laptop was set on top of it, already plugged into the wall for excess battery life. I tapped the mouse, waiting for it to come to life.

Now that I was ready to actually face the world I wasn't entirely sure of what to do. It sounded foolish and unplanned but it was the truth. I knew that in approximately twenty five minutes I would be able to go down to the front desk and see if Jenks's package had arrived but what then? To search Brianna's orphanage in Philadelphia would take no time at all. I had done almost everything I wanted during the middle of the night and now my day was practically uneventful.

I sat down on the edge of the bed and stared at the ground; this night in Washington D.C. was practically a waste of time. There was nothing here I needed to do, nothing that was a necessity.

My gaze flickered from the perfectly vacuumed carpeting to the walls, examining the expensive, original pieces of art that decorated the walls. Though the room was modern and innovative, the hung up paintings had a more antique twist. I suppose in any other setting the clashes of style would have appeared horrible but the subtle patterns and décor created a softer transition.

To the right was a watercolor of a rustic fountain, colorful, cheery flowers strung along the rim of the water and even floating on the surface. Another painting showed a rusty, old-fashioned gate leading to a blossoming garden. I turned my head, looking at the final painting that hung over the bed, and scowled at it.

At first glance it appeared to simply be a pair of star-struck lovers. Faded and dimmed it hung, none of the colors bright or alluring; just a man and a woman, with an unclassified background that could have been anywhere anytime. His head was bowed, kissing her neck and-

I blinked at the painting, my eyes narrowing in on the natural pose. To someone like me, the similarity was inevitable. It reminded me, and I'm sure it would remind anyone else like me, of vampires. Of course I knew it was just meant to be a romantic painting of love but there was a touch of familiarity to it. A brief sense of something hostile in the painting and the dark shadows behind the man only added to the evil undertone.

I turned away from it, rolling my eyes at my own enrapture, and glanced at the bedside clock, careful to keep my eyes away from the disturbing painting. The red digits displayed the time of 1:07 p.m. and I stood, shaking my head, wondering where the time had gone. Had I really sat here for almost 30 minutes, staring at the pictures around me?

Inside the bathroom I opened up the orderly contact case and peered in. A pair of light blue contacts lay neatly within the box. I glanced up at myself in the mirror and sighed at my almost human expression of dread. Looking at my reflection was disconcerting and enthralling all at the same time. I did look almost human; an inhumanly attractive mortal, yes, but still...human.

I brought my attention back to the open case of contacts and slipped a finger in, picking up the slippery substance and leaving it there. Just by looking at it had me wrinkling my nose in distaste. I used my free hand to peel my eyelids back and then, swiftly, just pried it in.

My eye blinked repeatedly and involuntarily. What a distressing feeling it was to have them in. My eyesight was so cloudy, like a film had been inserted over my entire eye. I could feel the blanket covering my eye; feel the edges of the circular contact brushing against the skin. I pushed the thought to the back of my mind and wearily inserted the second contact.

With the contacts in I looked even more different, I decided, after peering at my newly altered reflection in the mirror. There was no ruby tint to the iris, not even a topaz sheen. My new eyes were a dark blue, almost a deep purple, and reminded me of the color of the stormy Forks' skies in winter. I leaned back, taking in my entire appearance for one final assessment before I went to retrieve Jenks's package.

My hair was untidy. Not knotted or anything, just ruffled and disorderly. I hadn't bought a brush, figuring to only steal the vital things, but I didn't exactly regret the choice. It looked longer without being combed down or back, reaching far past the lobes of my ears and brushing the base of my neck in the back. My skin was tanner, which was obvious, but not anything horribly noticeable. It wasn't the sort of tan you achieved by spending endless hours under the sun, just the sort of complexion you got from simply being alive. The contacts were a nice effect and it was relieving to be able to look myself in the eyes without seeing the color of murder hidden there. The vibrant blue didn't remind me of my sins, unlike the ruby.

The clothes were practically a clutter of layers on me. The only contemporary word I could think of that could describe the style was ‘indie'. To start was a cotton t-shirt, gray and simple, with a light blue long sleeve shirt on top, buttoned up except for the top few buttons. I wore a casual pair of dark, stiff jeans which were what you could only describe as tight. I wasn't sure why suddenly the world's adolescents insisted on tight ‘skinny jeans' but I now knew I didn't care. I just wanted them gone and out of fashion. They had to be the most uncomfortable, inflexible, taut piece of clothing I had ever worn.

I exited the bathroom, content with my appearance for the meantime, and grabbed the three essential cards: my credit card, license, and room key, along with a few hundred dollars from the five grand I had received and struggled to pry open the rigid pocket to slip them in. On the way out, I reached for a white sweatshirt and slid it on. I briefly inspected it before I left the room.

Outside, the hallway was empty. I could hear the familiar sounds of nearby humans through the thick walls but none were out of their rooms. Down the hall a high-pitched barking could be heard from a room and I flinched away from the squeaky sound, guessing it came from a Chihuahua.

I moved towards the elevator and waited for it to come, stepping into the clean shaft when the steel doors opened up. Once in the lobby, I finally took a second to peer around at the hotel. Before, I had been too nervous that someone would spot me to inspect my surroundings. Now, though, my eyes scanned it curiously as I walked towards the front desk.

The walls were a cream and beige color with black marble finish. Little pots of green shrubbery adorned the nicks and crannies of the place along with comfortable looking sofas and cushioned chairs. I continued towards the front desk, not entirely impressed by the setup. Over the years I had been to countless luxury hotels in more countries than the average human could name. Even though the Four Seasons was commercially known for its lavish and extravagance, I could think of many more hotels that exceeded it.

Thankfully, the receptionist at the front desk was different from the one I had first talked to earlier this morning, which was excellent because she wouldn't note the difference in my appearance. The young woman looked up the moment I stepped before her, her cherry lips turning up into a flashy smile.

"Good afternoon, sir. How can I help you?" Her icy blue eyes traveled over me and I felt myself strive not to roll my eyes. She bended over, leaning on top of the marble countertop, and grinned idiotically. It was now that I wished the foundation had at least taken my looks down a notch or maybe even six.

"Hello, I'm expecting a package for-"

"Gregory Tomlinson?" She winked and smiled. I raised a brow and nodded silently.

She turned, not without beaming at me once again, and sorted through a bundle of envelopes and what looked like mail on a counter behind her. She hummed softly to herself, a song that I had no clue what it could possibly be, as I half turned away from her, my side leaning on the counter.

She finally returned with a yellow catalogue envelope clutched in her matching cherry red manicured fingernails. "I hate to delay you, Mr. Tomlinson, but I'm going to need some sort of identification." She pouted a bit and I sighed, reaching into my pocket for the license and then taking it out. She glanced at the picture, taking hardly even a second, before scanning the rest of the information. I internally groaned and pulled the card back, away from her intruding line of eye sight. Did all human females have to be like this? It was nothing but annoying and tiresome after having to go through it for one hundred and fifty years.

"Is there anything else I can help you with?" She asked as I peeled the envelope from her reluctant hands. I shook my head quickly.

"No, no, that's quite alright. Thank you." Without even waiting for a reply, I turned on my heel and walked back towards the entrance of the hotel, looking down at the envelope in my hands. The messy scrawl on the front was clearly Jenks's and whatever was inside was thick and coarse.

Near the doors was a sophisticated trash can and I stopped next to it. Only a hotel like this would be able to make their trash cans classy and stylish.

I tore open the envelope and dug into it, pulling the important documents from within. The first object I looked at was a second driver's license; the one that matched the one Jefferson had created for me. The next were several credit cards and the rest were legal documents like two passports, several books of personal checks, and a second key for the Cadillac.

Before tossing the emptied envelope in the trash, I decided I would need to thank both of my agents very graciously in the future. Both had exceeded my wishes and I couldn't even quite explain the comfort that my credit card brought me, as materialistic and petty as that sounded. Without the extra license that Jefferson had managed to create for me, I doubted I would have my room.

I crumpled up the envelope and slid it into the trash can before walking out through the doors, mumbling my thanks when the doorman opened it for me. Outside, it was chilly and breezy. I could feel the icy particles hit my skin and I anxiously tugged at my collar, worrying about whether or not people could see where the foundation ended.

My eyes traveled up and then down Pennsylvania Avenue, taking in the finer details. The Four Seasons had almost been a temporary safe haven. At least in there hardly any of the guests were worrying about vampires out on attack. I figured most of them thought of themselves to be simply too good to become a meal. They thought their riches and gold would save them in the end.

The public, however, was complete opposite.

I turned to the right, wandering down the sidewalk a bit, and looked about. I knew Pennsylvania Avenue to be a busy, energetic place with people buzzing about and tourists snapping pictures. Who didn't? Now, it was like a ghost town. Earlier this morning I hadn't thought anything of the peculiar silence because it had been so early. I didn't find it surprising that few people were out at such a strange hour.

There was practically no excuse why people weren't out now, though. The few groups that walked the streets were huddled tightly together, eyes either downcast and staring at the cement or looking around wildly, searching for clues of whatever they thought was out there. The quaint little stores along the avenue were all dimmed, even the upper scale department stores.

A police car passed me on the road and I turned away from it, hoping desperately that it wasn't the same cop from before. Thankfully, it just went on, dripping along the road at a speed limit that had to be below twenty five.

I walked on, my hands in my pockets, as I strolled down the sidewalk, peeking into the windows of the stores for objects that could be of use. I wasn't the type of person to go overboard and spend ridiculous amounts of money on spontaneous things, unlike my wife, but I also didn't mind shelling out high amounts for something I did need.

I wasn't positive on what I did need, yet, but I knew I would know when I found it. Plus, it wasn't like there was anything I could be doing back at the hotel except sitting and staring at the same four walls of the suite.

Regardless of the way people were behaving, it was nice to get out. Being locked up in that holding cell had been absolute torture and it felt good to be actually moving around, to be walking somewhere, and looking at people who weren't clad in lab coats. I had actually missed the outside world, the feeling of a soft breeze, or the scent of fresh air.

I passed a newspaper stand on the corner of one block and stopped. Ah, yes, another reason to be walking around in D.C.: to found out any news. I didn't feel like turning on the plasma television inside, watching the expressionless news anchors explain what was going on. I wanted a more tangible experience; I wanted to see with my own two eyes how the world was dealing, and, of course, if things had gotten any better.

"Could I have a copy of the Washington Times?" I asked, my eyes downcast and looking over the many magazines and newspapers the owner had. "Oh, and The Washington Post. I'll also take a Time, please."

"That'll be $18.50," the clerk responded, stacking the papers together. I looked at him in surprise.

"Isn't that a bit expensive?" While watching him, I sorted through the cash from my pocket to find a loose twenty. The elderly man shrugged, his lips turning down at the corners as his eyes shifted restlessly.

He finally opened his mouth, avoiding looking at me. "Tough times," he said huskily. "I want to be sure that if something happens to me, my wife and kids-"

"Oh alright, alright," I snapped, practically shoving the twenty dollar bill at him. There was no way he was just going to drop dead from a vampire. Well, technically, he could but not if there wasn't even a vampire around to commit the crime.

As far as I could tell, the world was barren of vampires. I didn't know where they had gone, and I wasn't sure I wanted to, but they certainly weren't present. It made me wonder what the Volturi could have possibly pulled off to get away from the media. Somehow, the idea of Entertainment Tonight interrupting their infamous dinnertimes to interview Aro made me laugh.

I took the newspapers into my hands and began to walk away. "I owe you change!" The man called after me, shaking his fists angrily. I waved my hand over my shoulder and yelled back.

"Keep it!"

I kept walking down the street until I reached a small bench, vacant and without anybody for what seemed like miles around. Down the block I could hear a mother practically drag her daughter down the street after spotting a shadow in an alleyway and I rolled my eyes in response. Across the street was a group of teenagers, head bowed and hands in their sweatshirt pockets as they mumbled their conversations.

I sighed at the human population's fright and sat down, pulling the newspapers down with me. I almost hesitantly looked at The Washington Times, scared of what could possibly be in there.

The front headline nearly gave me such a scare that I almost jumped right off the bench. I stared at the headline, its thick black letters and sharp angles and gasped uncertainly. "Captive Vampire Gets Loose." Below the bold headline was a large picture, black and white, and of myself.

My forehead crumpled as I read over the article, my eyes narrowing by each word. So they hadn't thought I killed Fitzgerald then, hmm? I frowned and looked at the page in unease. What did this mean exactly? I leaned back and let the newspaper fall in my lap as I pondered over the article.

If they didn't think I killed Timothy, who did they think did? Surely not the human male, Brody? I would hope he would have been wise enough to get out after I broke his handcuffs. Possibly they did think it was me but just wanted to assure the public that all was well? And what did this mean for me? Would people recognize me now? I glanced back at the paper and shook my head. Probably not. In here, they talked about me as a clean-cut individual with a quiet, timid personality. Looking at myself now, I realized I looked hardly anything like that. My appearance screamed untidy, unorganized, and probably a bit rash.

And, of course, the contacts and foundation most certainly would help to disguise my true self.

So, it was set, really. Though the world knew I was out, I doubted they would even comprehend Gregory Tomlinson for who he really was: Jasper Whitlock. I straightened back up on the bench and smiled to myself, satisfied with my disguise, and went back to reading the papers.

I was done quickly, which wasn't much of a surprise since my eyesight could move much faster than a human's. The rest of the papers hadn't held any other interesting details, except for an article about Dr. Mitchells releasing our names in hopes of finding our relatives. The idea amused me, to be honest. I wasn't sure why he thought it mattered. Yes, it would be intriguing to find out who shared their blood with mine but it didn't affect me in the end. My family was with the Cullens, not with generations below mine.

I threw the papers out and stood on the street corner for a moment. Where to? It wasn't like there was a set place to be. I turned my head, looking down the different roads and to where they led.

Something caught my attention down one of the roads and I snapped my vision back to it. Hadn't there just been a black blurb, something moving into one of those doors? I narrowed my eyes and watched, pursing my lips. Whatever had been down there had been moving too fast for a human, I was sure.

I suddenly felt a sense of hostility from someone nearby and grew more confused. Whatever it was, it didn't want me following it. I took one last look and turned the other way, not in the mood for some unknown rival.

I took a left down an unfamiliar road and looked into the different shops. I came across one that sold luggage and all types of bags and pulled open the door. I needed some sort of bag to carry all of my new clothes and this would be the perfect sort of place to buy just that.

Overhead, a bell rang and the shop owner looked up from a book curiously, his eyes narrow slits behind his glasses.

"How can I help you?" He asked, sitting up from his chair. I looked around at the piled suitcases and smiled.

"I need a suitcase."

He laughed boisterously and gave a crinkly-eyed sort of grin while coming out from behind the counter. "Well, I think I can help with that." He walked around before stopping by a shelf, his fingers trailing over different sorts of luggage. "Any specific sort you need?" He asked over his shoulder.

I shrugged, looking at the different styles myself. Best to pick something that can carry everything, I thought. "Anything, really, as long as it can carry a lot. I wanted something earth toned, nothing too bright or eye-catching." The man nodded, his head bobbing up and down.

He pulled something off from a shelf and held it up. "This'll do?" It was a large, bulky brown suitcase. Clearly, it wouldn't stand out in a crowd. It was drab, not anything special, but perfect in its own way. I smiled and nodded.

"Sure," I replied, following him over to the counter. He rang me up, typing numbers into an old-fashioned register. I looked around at the antique feeling of the place, the unfashionable quirks and random objects for sale. Something leather caught my eye and I looked over at it.

I picked it up, feeling the tough leather, before setting it down on the counter. "I'll take this, too." It was a simple wallet, nothing flashy or designer. Just something to carry all these loose cards and money. He nodded, ringing it up along with the suitcase.

"$47.65," he read off the screen before looking up at me expectantly.

I grimaced, that cheap? I couldn't get used to these humans. First, people were overcharging for paper and now I was getting actual leather objects for practically nothing.

"Isn't that a bit...uh...low?" I asked, watching him out of the corner of my eye as I pulled out my wad of cash. He shrugged and tapped his finger on the glass counter.

"Tough times," he said, ironically, and gave a sad smile. "I don't mind scraping a few dollars off the prices." I nodded thoughtfully, before handing him the money. He took it and while counting I bended over and picked up the suitcase after slipping the wallet into my back pocket.

"Hey, I owe you change," he said, his fingers searching through the register for the appropriate amount. I shook my head at him as I walked towards the front entrance.

"Keep it," I told him, using my elbow to push open the door. "It's tough times, anyway." He stared blankly at me but before he could reply, I was outside and walking back towards the hotel, not even really bothering the strange looks I got as I almost happily ambled back to the Four Seasons.

***

I now knew exactly where St. Jerome's Orphanage in Philadelphia was, thanks to my laptop. I knew which street it was on, the address, the head nun, and even how many children were living there. It honestly wasn't too difficult to hack into their website and find their confidential files.

I glanced at the corner of the screen, reading the time. 7:38 p.m. My fingers tapped the oak desk as I leaned back in the plush chair, looking up at the ivory ceiling with perfect eyesight. The contacts had deteriorated a few short hours after arriving back at the hotel and I couldn't say I was sad to see them go. I was also impressed by the foundation. There was not one smudge on my tanned face, not one blemish or imperfection. It still looked like I had just applied it, giving my skin a healthier tone.

I could always just check out, I thought while turning my head to peek out the window, and get on the road towards Philadelphia. It wouldn't take too long to get there, not with my speed. It didn't matter if I didn't spend the full night in my hotel room. I would pay for the total fee and be on my way before anyone could even remember who Gregory Tomlinson was.

I pushed the chair back and stood up, turning the laptop off and folding the lid down before walking into the bedroom. My new suitcase lay on the bed, empty of the clothes which I had yet to take out from the shopping bags. I crawled on top of the bed and lifted a plastic bag onto my lap, taking out the clothes and placing them in the suitcase neatly.

In my heart, I knew why I didn't want to leave just yet. This was the closest place to Alice. Leaving and going to Philadelphia would be increasing the miles between us and, more importantly, putting me farther out of reach if she ever needed me. Not only did it do this, but if she got out herself, she wouldn't have a clue where I was unless Edward told her.

I sighed, taking a break from folding to cradle my head in my hands, careful of not smudging the foundation. How was I supposed to travel down the roads of Philadelphia, searching for Brianna, without Alice? I felt hopeless and weak without her. It was obvious she was my rock. Without her, I feared of becoming nothing but a ruthless savage. She was my humanity, my morals.

I liked being independent, yes, but I was just beginning to realize how much I disliked being isolated from the rest of the world, who had no clue where I was.

I leaned back on the bed, my head falling on the pillow, and stared upwards. There was a skylight overhead and just to the right was a big, full moon, glimmering down. My eyes followed the moonbeam solemnly until it hit the wall right above the bed, landing squarely on...the painting.

What a strange painting to put in a hotel suite, I thought almost lethargically. My new sense of depression was doing anything but motivating me and I felt utterly content to just lay here and think about the hotel's weird choice for décor. I mean, who puts a painting of that in the Four Seasons? It just didn't make much sense to me.

I guess to human eyes it could have been romantic, maybe even beautiful, but once you got past the soft lines and angles of it, it was odd. There was a certain feeling that came from the way his eyes glittered dangerously bright that sent off the senses, a hair-rising sensation that came from the way her lips formed a perfect ‘O' in almost fear. Maybe it was a vampire, I thought cynically; maybe I'm not the only vampire in Washington D.C.

I bolted upright on the bed, my eyes wide. Wait, not the only vampire in D.C.? I let out a strangled breath as it seemed to hit me. Of course, I should have known the second I saw that quickly moving blur down the road. I instantly remembered something from the past, from before I had even come close to meeting Alice, when I had just been wandering alone through the east coast.

My mind was going into overdrive, remembering my past experience. When I was in D.C. almost eighty years ago I had come across a clan of vampires, younger than myself and unbelievably naïve. I had ignored them, talking to them only when necessary. They hadn't bothered to even think of fighting me because by then I already had countless scars marring my skin. I had left D.C. without a problem from them and never even thought of them since then. I don't even think I had ever told Alice about them and I doubted even Edward knew from my thoughts because until now, I couldn't remember ever being reminded by them.

I sprang off the bed and ran to the window, pulling back the curtain. Could it be that they were still here in the heart of America, the capitol itself? I looked outside and found the streets to be empty and dark with not even most of the streetlamps lit up. What if they were here? How could they be here? How had they gone on living without the rest of the vampire world even catching on?

I walked back to the bed to close the lid of the suitcase, grabbing my jacket in the process. If they were still here, I was going to find them. I knew I could track them down if my heart was in it.

After sliding a new pair of contacts back in and wrapping a frayed scarf around my neck, I left the room, wary of the small family waiting for an elevator. I ignored them, taking the stairs instead, and moving instinctively. Mentally, I was years away, remembering my encounter here. I couldn't imagine them surviving through the years, let alone keeping undercover. Their ways had been reckless, savage and gory. Unless they had changed their habits, I didn't think they would go unnoticed for long.

I went past the doorman, keeping my head bowed as I moved down the sidewalk. At nighttime it was even bleaker than before. There was practically no one out regardless of the time and the flickering streetlamps created a forlorn air about the downtown streets. I suddenly couldn't imagine this city as being sparkling with life as I knew it used to be. The tightly locked up houses and shops made it seem like it had always been like this: uninviting, raw, and disconnected from the rest of the world.

A sharp scent caught my attention and I lifted my head up, looking around for the cause. It stood out distinctly from the rest of the common city smells; acidic and astringent. I frowned; it was rare that a vampire smelled badly. Their scents were almost always sweet, something to lure in their victims. Not pungent and forceful.

I decided to follow it, hoping it would lead me to whatever local vampires were living here. There couldn't be too many, could there? Surely they would have left the city over the years, searching for new hunting grounds. And if that had never happened, they would have been forced to leave in fear of exposure.

The streets seemed to get darker and grimmer as I walked with fewer streetlamps and suspicious shops. There was a creak behind me and I glanced over my shoulder as a man exited a bar, slamming the door shut behind him. With a shake of my head, I continued, scanning the buildings and roads for the local fiends.

As I strolled down the sidewalk, I thought about the vampires that were here. If I was a vampire living in the capitol of a country, where would I keep my coven? It didn't even make the most logical sense to make your home here anyway so I couldn't imagine the type of place they must have made their own. Maybe a shabby apartment building? Or an unkempt lot of space, not known to be in use by anyone else?

I was forced to stop because the sharp scent suddenly veered off and through an unexpected doorway. I faced the building before me, turning my back to the road, and craned my neck back to look at it in quiet interest.

So this was where vampires lived, was it? Where city vampires called their home? Where they sneaked back into when the sun peeked over the horizon and they had their fill of human blood? I frowned in distaste at the outlandish building and how much it stood out from the surrounding buildings.

It had to be the original structure, I decided, as my eyes scanned over the colonial house with its simple architecture and closed, dust-covered windows. As far as I could tell, there had hardly been any refurnishing on the home, not even a paint job. The white paint was peeling and chipping everywhere while little insects crawled in and out of the several holes.

In the light of day it would probably appear as an impressive historic home, left by its wealthy owners decades before and yet to be recruited by the city tours. Under no source of light but the moon above, it was ghastly. Shadows stretched along the short, front lawn and the curtains hung past the windows ruffled ever so noticeably. I looked down the cracked sidewalk both ways, cautious of anyone watching me.

There was no one.

I sighed and walked up to the tall, rotting wooden door and jiggled the knob. Locked. Inside I could hear absolutely nothing, an eerie silence that filled the rooms and ancient hallways. If I was younger, I would have been fooled by the stillness. I would have turned away from the peculiar house and its abandonment and walked on, searching for the continuation of the scent.

But I wasn't younger. I was coming on 150 years old, trained and experienced with vampires. I knew better to believe that there was no one locked away in there. The tiny creaks, almost inaudible to even my ears, created by the weight of a body standing as still as stone on the old wooden floors made me realize they were hiding in there.

I wondered incredulously if this meant I would have to break and enter. I didn't know how many there were in there but I knew if there were more than three, I'd be a lost cause. They couldn't be too knowledgeable when it came to fighting if they had forever been isolated here so I assumed I had the upper hand.

I tried the handle again, jerking it until I was sure there was no way to unlock it. In a small moment of anger, I snapped the handle off and threw it over my shoulder. Standing there, alone on their small stoop, reminded me that I was the one intruding here. I didn't have any right to be annoyed that they would want to keep me out. To them I was a vampire, maybe something they hadn't seen in decades.

I snapped my foot back and kicked out, splintering the wooden door as it tumbled in. I stepped through the threshold warily and looked around, waiting for some rehearsed ambush. I could feel nothing but small bits of fear erupting from the occupants of the house.

I stood in the foyer, a dusty chandelier swinging precariously overhead from the impact of the fallen door. I walked over the bits of wood, the pieces crunching noisily under my foot.

It wasn't as barren as I had figured it would be. The grand staircase started to the right, leading up to the open second story in which I could see a dim hallway. There was absolutely no light illuminating the murky walls and I looked around, peering into the other rooms nervously.

"Hello?" I called out, staying in the large, spacious foyer. I didn't want to be cornered in any way and I knew it would be better to stay somewhere close to the entrance. "Anyone here?" Even though I already knew the answer, I felt the need to ask it.

Nothing. Silence. There was no reply, no answering voice. I studied the foyer, my eyes drifting upwards towards the exposed second story. The corner of my lip twitched; hunt them down in their own home or just leave?

I growled under my breath and took a step further in the house, testing their patience. The frayed carpeting had to be at least two hundred years old, I figured, as I walked over it. There was a mahogany table nearby, pushed up against the wall, with a small unlit candle propped on top.

I struggled not to frown in obvious disappointment in their fear of me and turned my back, just for a moment, to lift the broken door and put it back in place. As I bent over, my hands out and lifting the top edge, I realized I had made a horrible mistake in underestimating their courage.

It all started with a sliding sound, like someone running on a slick wooden floor and then a hiss. I whipped around quickly, just in time to see a dark blurb jump over the railing of the landing and hurtle through the air directly towards...me.

Then he fell, gravity responding to the dead weight above, and smacked into the chandelier, resulting in a cackle of crystals banging up against each other. It took me a second to realize the vampire hadn't in fact hit it; instead, his hand was locked around a dripping golden chain and he used it to propel himself further in my direction. I blinked in surprise as he flew through the air, blending in with the gloomy gray walls, limbs extended in all sorts of sickening directions.

His weight smacked into me but I was ready for him and his bared teeth. He hissed against me as I jostled him uncertainly. Kill him now or try to calm him down? He fought me, his head bowing and snapping at my neck. With a grunt, I struggled to turn him around and pin him to the wall.

He was a wild being, thrashing and savage and pushing with all his strength against me. His arms flung at me without much coordination as he strived to injure me in any way. I wrapped my hands around his shoulders like talons and threw him violently against the thin wall. It shuddered against his weight and I watched a small crack form where the wall met the ceiling.

I hurled myself at him, holding him down and shoving my arm across his neck as he strained to lean forward and bite me. He began to still, his panting breaths unnecessary and his jerky movements stilling. With his increasing calmness, I got a good look at his face. Youthful, probably not much older than 16, with scraggly light brown hair and sharp red eyes. With a start I realized I recognized him.

"Stop." The chilling command hit my ears and I paused, wondering if I should just ignore the voice behind me. The boy I had against the wall lifted his head, eyes wide as saucers, as they focused on someone over my shoulder.

I gave a defeated groan and took a step back, exposing my teeth at the irrational vampire in warning. If he tried anything, I wouldn't hesitant to take his head off.

"Jasper Whitlock, hmm? Didn't think I'd ever see you around here again," came the almost scolding tone behind me. The figure against the wall pushed him out of the imprint his body had made and smugly brushed the dust off his sleeves.

I turned around, trusting the boy was too frightened to try anything serious with me, to face whoever was speaking. My eyes found nothing but the remains of the door and I glanced around, unease beginning to set in.

"I'm up here," he called out, amused. I turned my head in awe towards the second story, my eyes widening at the figure hunched on the railing, similar to the way the young boy had been before he had jumped down.

My eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness of the room and I scowled at the pale face that smirked down at me. "I didn't think I'd ever see you again, either, Brandon," I replied casually as I assessed him. His strawberry blonde hair was pushed back from his face, long and clean and surprisingly washed. There wasn't a spot of dirt on him. "And where might Russell be?"

His thin lips pulled into a predatory smile as his eyes glittered dangerously. "Long dead, old friend. I killed him fifty seven years ago." He pushed himself off the railing and leaped, falling lithely in front of me. I raised only a brow in response to this news. Russell, a dark-haired, fanatical vampire had been their leader when I met them. Fearless, he was, and used sheer strength to rule his coven. While it was no surprise someone like Brandon would rebel against him, it was also unexpected that someone would have the guts to. If Brandon hadn't of won that fight, there was no way Russell would have forgiven him and let him live.

It could have been a good thing Russell had been defeated. He had been...careless, to say the least. Not someone to think things through. He acted on pure instinct alone and those deadly impulses often lead him on hunts for fresh blood. He had wild mood swings, going from compassionate leader to merciless tyrant in a matter of seconds. When he had told me his coven wouldn't be bothering me during my time in D.C., I had instantly thanked them and quickly put the miles between him and I, hoping he wouldn't change his mind within the hour.

Like I said, it could have been a good thing, only if it hadn't of been Brandon who took over. Anyone but him and I maybe would have even been relieved that Russell was no longer their leader. In a way, Brandon was worst than their first ruler. Unlike Russell, he did think things through. Maybe a bit too much, in fact. He was a schemer, tricky and clever through and through. He wasn't one to speak the obvious; he always spoke about things indirectly without giving clear answers.

"And what are you now?" I questioned, glancing around at the emerging forms of more vampires. "A real life version of The Lost Boys?" Brandon's eyes narrowed at me as I looked around curiously, though my posture was stiff with anticipation of a fight.

"Something like that, yes," he replied darkly, a hint of a smile on his face. He walked around me lightly, his eyes flickering over me with clear interest as his movements formed circles around me. I stood in place, ignoring the soldier in me who yelled in outrage as he continued to study me but from behind, out of my eyesight. Didn't they always say not to turn your back on your enemy? He now had such a clear shot to pounce.

"I take it you've heard about the news," I remarked dryly after a second of uncomfortable silence. Brandon clucked his tongue and shook his head almost incredulously as he reached forward and touched my cheek. I glanced between his hand and his face in stiff confusion.

"What are you doing, Jasper?" He sighed, dodging my question. "Trying to fit in after all these years?" He looked down at his finger in mild disdain and then rubbed the fingertip on his pants. It took me a second to realize he was talking about the foundation and the contacts inserted in my eyes.

I ground my teeth in impatience and growled softly. "Unless you're so detached from the world that you have yet to hear the news, you should understand the risks I take to disguise myself."

He raised his fair eyebrows in response and flicked a finger at the scarf wound tightly around my neck. "And these horrid clothes?"

"All part of the act," I calmly answered, taking a moment to glance around every time he was distracted by something else. Dark shadows were still materializing above us from the second floor as three or four figures came into sight, leaning along the banister or peering around corners. The young boy who had flung himself at me had scurried into a doorway where two other vampires flanked him. Across the foyer was a second doorway, leading into what looked like a parlor, with three more.

"Your numbers have grown," I verbally observed, counting the vampires in my head. There were eleven. Eleven ruthless, immoral, feral vampires. Just wonderful.

Brandon nodded, his eyes glued to my face in distrust. "Yes," he answered, "Christian, Joseph, Silas, and I are the only ones here you'd recognize now." And I did in fact remember the names. They had been the originals, the ones here when I had come along eighty years ago. Silas was the boy who had attacked me, I suddenly remembered, the youngest of the group. He was a flighty, panicky sort of person, one who ignored what other people said and did what he thought was right. No wonder he had attacked me.

I looked up and around at the other vampires, trying to find Christian and Joseph among the crowds. I finally spotted them, Christian on the second story with his short blonde hair mussed and sticking up in several directions. His lips were stiff in a straight line as he looked at me and from the way his positive emotions were pouring from him, I realized he was fighting back a smile. Joseph, however, was a sharp-witted Hispanic man who stood in the doorway opposite Silas, his hooded eyes glaring out at me.

"I hear you're quite the celebrity these days," Brandon murmured, his hands shoved deep in his pockets and his head cocked to the side. "Come, let's go somewhere a bit more comfortable to discuss your life and times in captivity, shall we?"

I narrowed my eyes at him in question as he turned, not bothering to hear if I would follow or now, and walked in the direction of the crowded doorway in which Joseph's gang stood their ground. They moved aside at Brandon's presence, leaving a pathway for him as he strolled into the parlor. Their heads all turned to me, waiting for me to be the respectful guest and follow through.

Before following, I took a brief second to glance around unsurely. The ashen faces were, for the most part, expressionless, except for a pleasant looking Christian who sauntered down the staircase congenially.

I quickly caught up with Brandon, who patiently waited in the parlor, seated on a fashionable sofa. His whole demeanor was a bit too haughty for my liking with his free arm stretched over the top of the couch and his body slumped like he owned the place. He gestured towards the opposite sofa and smiled.

"Sit," he ordered.

I glanced back in the doorway at the wide-eyed vampires and sat down, unclear of where this was going. Christian pushed his way to the front of the nine other vampires and loped into the room, his posture confident but not superior, unlike Brandon. He sat down comfortably in a chair between the sofas and smiled.

"How have you been?" He asked, his voice friendly and welcoming. I gulped, looking at Brandon who sat glaring at Christian in agitation. I almost smirked right then and there. It was obvious that even though Brandon was the authority figure here, Christian lived a free lifestyle, not caring what Brandon thought or wanted of him, unlike the shocked vampires in the doorway. I then remembered that even when Russell had been alive, he had acted the same way.

Brandon looked at me in a warning look but I avoided his gaze, looking at Christian in the eyes. They were open and cheery and for the first time, I wondered why Christian wasn't the leader.

"It's been interesting, to say the least," I told him, refusing to lean back and become too comfortable. Christian nodded in easy agreement and smiled.

"I'll say. We saw what happened to you and your coven in Forks. I see you got out, though." He grinned lazily, like the glaring, fuming Brandon beside him wasn't threatening in any way.

The overwhelming sensation of curiosity almost suffocated me as it surged from the other vampires. I nodded and was about to ask him how things had been here when Brandon took the brief silence to interrupt.

"What brings you to this side of the country?" His tone was friendly on the surface but his emotions of distrust told me otherwise. I raised my eyebrows at his bitter skepticism and shrugged restlessly. If he thought I was here only to try to lead them into exposure, he was wrong.

"We were in captivity here," I started, watching his expression for any falter in the mask of superiority that covered it. "I escaped. I'm on my way to Philadelphia for personal reasons but when I realized you were still here I decided to-"

"Hunt us down?" Brandon gave me a joking smile and laughed. My hand involuntarily twitched in response and I glanced away.

"Something like that," I mumbled, turning my eyes away from Brandon's vivid bright eyes to take in the details of the room. Antique paintings were hung on the walls in golden frames and the décor was flawless with its furnishings and little timeless items placed here and there. It reminded me of Esme and brought a whole wave of nostalgia and longing for my adoptive mother. She would have thought this place to be picture perfect; tucked away in a modern city like the building itself was still stuck in the 1700's.

Brandon watched me curiously with almost mocking eyes. "And you want to what? Interrogate us to see what we know?" He sighed theatrically, leaning forward with a twinkle in his eye. "I can tell you this right now, Jasper, it's not much."

"Probably more than myself," I contradicted eagerly. Christian glanced between the two of us and pursed his lips.

Brandon and he shared a long glance which assured my assumptions. Christian wasn't just an easygoing freeloader; he had a say in what Brandon did. Whether Brandon tried to cover up the fact that he highly valued Christian's opinion or not didn't matter, I could read it on his face.

"Look, Jasper," Christian began quietly, leaning over to me and propping his elbows up on his kneecaps. "Don't think we're being rude but we can't quite trust you. You were in there for how long? Two or three days? That may not seem too long to you but to us-" he have a meaningful glance at Brandon before continuing, "it means the world. We don't know what happened there, what they told you or what happened."

I sat back, a bit taken off guard and blinked in astonishment. They didn't trust me? I know vampires are solitary creatures but really, when faced between humans and your own species, who'd turn their back on their fellow brother?

"Plus," Brandon began slowly, "how do we know they didn't let you go?"

I bolted upright and stared at him in shock. "Let me go? You think they'd let me go? Do you have any clue how moronic that sounds? If I was their ticket into the vampire world, I highly doubt they'd be pasting my face on every newspaper, magazine, and news station you could think of. Believe me; I left there on my own accord."

"Then why not the rest of your family?" Brandon asked, raising a brow in skepticism.

I sighed, ignoring his pensive expression. "Because," I spit out, "they're principled. They don't want to create a hassle. They refuse to realize they could literally be in there forever, separated and unhappy. They, unlike me, rarely see the bad side of people. They hope that one day the scientists will wake up trustful of them and let them go."

Christian shook his head, a dismal glint to his eyes. "So the human's are their keeper? That's nonsense, Jasper, and you know it. I find it hard to believe they would allow humans to boss them around."

I reached up and pushed my hand through my hair in exasperation. "My family's different. What more can I say? They're-"

"Vegetarian," Brandon cut in, quite smoothly, and chuckled. "Yes, we know about you and your family's illogical eating habits. You know," his tone changed considerably until it was hard and mocking, "none of us would have thought you to be someone to switch to the dark side."

My jaw clenched as his eyes fell on an exposed scar on my hand and he smirked, satisfied by his offending comment.

"That's not important. I just want to know-"

"We know what you want to know, Jasper," Brandon cut me off, again, and I growled under my breath in annoyance. His face was the extreme of patience, as if he was talking to a five year old child. "We're just not going to tell you unless you explain the details."

I reigned in my anger and pursed my lips. "I would never turn my back on the vampire race, you know that, Brandon. You want the truth, is that it? My family is weak. Yes, we have a human bond in which most vampire covens will never experience and that strengthens us but in other ways, they can be cowards."

An image of Emmett, snarling and flexing his massive muscles flashed before my eyes and I gritted my teeth. No, they weren't necessarily cowards. They were just...humane. I rubbed my temples in frustration, wanting very much so to take back my words.

Christian's face was a mask of surprise. "Well then, you really have changed over the years, haven't you?"

I turned away from him, glaring at the wall instead. Brandon snickered to himself until his ashen face bore an evil resemblance to the Devil with his burgundy eyes and sardonic attitude. "A lot can happen over nearly eight decades, can't it?" His question was merely rhetorical but it still raised the hair on my arms.

"Yes," I commented, "and speaking of change, what's-"

"Been going on here?" Brandon interjected and I snapped my jaw shut from hissing at him in irritation. He had always been the type of person to butt in. Could it be there was something more to his interruptions? Somehow, he never failed to know just what someone was about to say. Was it possible he had a quirky power?

I nodded and he beamed, obviously eager to tell the tale. "We overruled Russell when the appropriate time came. He was leading us to nothing but destruction and chaos. Sooner or later, he would have exposed us all with his bloodthirsty ways. Things here are different now, Jasper. We are different."

"Oh? How so?"

"We're much more controlling over the city than we used to be. The capitol is practically our playground. We use it for our amusement, including the people in it. We live the lives of kings and queens here, Jasper, while stealing the goods and money of our victims. I'm sure if you wanted a place in our humble settlement here we'd be more than delighted to-"

"No thanks." It was my turn to interrupt now. There was no chance in hell I would turn my back on the Cullens - on Brianna - to take up their liftestyle.

Brandon paused, his eyes icy and cool, before giving one curt nod. "Fine then," he slowly finished. "If you're so sure of your loyalties to the vampire world, then please, what is it you want to know?"

I stared at his sharply inhuman face for a second or two before replying. His features were relaxed, calm, possibly even apathetic. Underneath that façade, though, I could feel his worry, his anxiety, and his nervousness for the vampire world. What exactly did he know? What news could possibly stir such a fearful reaction in him? The small flame atop the candle on the coffee table flickered violently and yet its warm spark did nothing to thaw out my wintry skin. Instead, it had a ghoulish effect, creating menacing shadows across Brandon's pointed face.

"Where is everyone?" I dumbly asked, blurting out the first question that came to mind. "Where are the vampires?"

He lifted his chin ever so noticeably as his eyes examined me. He leaned back into the couch, his fingers tapping the top of it in a drumming pattern.

"Where are the vampires?" He echoed. "My dear old friend, they're right in front of you."

"You know what I mean!" I bellowed, standing up in my outrage and standing before him. "Don't sit there and play mind games with me, Brandon! I'll have your head on the mantle before you can spit out another fresh remark. Where are they all? Not just your insignificant little coven. All of them; the Volturi, the Southern armies, the group in Loreto!"

He looked up at me through heavily lidded eyes, only his posture betraying his edginess. "And what makes you think I know any more than you do?" He asked, arching a single brow.

I stared at him in exasperation, wanting more than ever to wring my hands around his scrawny neck and toss him around the room. It would be easier than standing here, verbally fighting with him, wouldn't it? Maybe a bit of a physical threat would reinforce him to give me the answers I needed. Just as I moved closer, my hands balled into fists at my side, he opened his mouth.

"Hold on, Jasper. Calm down, will you? There's really no need for violence." He glanced down at my fists and gave an imperceptible shudder. "You want to know what I know? Honestly, Jasper, it isn't much at all."

"I'll take it," I snapped. He sighed, closing his eyelids in what appeared as exhaustion.

"We've heard rumors about your little gang of friends in Loreto. Rumors, I tell you, and nothing more. We don't know how true it is." He looked up at me as if this bit of information would be enough to persuade me that what he knew was nothing of value. I urged him on with a wave of my hand.

He huffed and rolled his eyes at my impatience. "They're all down there, you know? Denali coven, Serengeti, Egyptian. Even many of the nomads. Actually," he paused bluntly, looking around the room at his coven, "every vampire in the world is said to be there except us."

I gawked at his words. "You mean...you mean the Volturi and the Southern armies are with the other covens?" No, that wasn't possible, was it? Imagining all of them getting along, all of them together. No, definitely not probable.

Brandon nodded stiffly. "Along with those smelly shape shifters you know," he said with a wrinkle of his nose.

My jaw dropped. "That's not possible," I hoarsely whispered, falling back on the sofa in a mixture of awe and wonder. "There's no chance all of them would get along-"

"I know it seems unlikely but it's true. All three hundred of them, together, right here-"

"Right here?! As in D.C.? How?" Now that was surely not possible, was it? There was no logical way that every single vampire in the world was in Washington D.C. It was just impossible. How could three hundred vampires be hidden in the city? It was highly unlikely they could stay here for long without being noticed.

Brandon glanced at Christian and frowned. "We've heard that there are...other...vampires with them. Vampires with special talents."

I raised a brow at his vagueness and felt my interest increase. "Special talents?"

"They're the first vampires ever!" Silas exclaimed, almost giddily, from the sidelines. I turned my attention to him fully and stared. First...vampires? No, no. I couldn't have heard him correctly. That was impractical, impossible, and unbelievable. Hell, I could have gone on for hours thinking of the many words that described my response to his words.

Brandon glowered at Silas ominously and snarled harshly. He had yet to turn away from the shrinking vampire when I found my voice. "Is what he saying," I paused, gulping down a breath of fresh air, "Is it true?"

Brandon's head slowly swiveled until he was looking across the room at me. His eyes, no longer glimmering rubies, had lost their shine. They were somber, all traces of his airy attitude absent.

"Yes. He's right."

I breathed out a soft moan and hunched over in my seat, running my fingers back through my hair as I stared at the carpeting. "Who are they? What are they?" I couldn't stop the millions of questions flying through my head. This was too much. Too unpredictable. Too chaotic.

Brandon heaved a dramatic sigh and stood up, his lean figure forming a small shadow to fall over my face. He wasn't very tall for someone his age, probably only 5'9'', but he held himself as someone full of power and influence. "They are supposedly twins. As opposite as day and night, I hear. They're creating a sort of vampire recruitment, leading everyone and everything they can find to Washington D.C. and to break out the Cul - I mean, to break out your family. Once their freedom has been accomplished they plan on..."

And that's where he stopped. Whatever he was about to say was, for some reason, unbearable to him. His skin was stretched taut over his face as he clenched his jaw tightly. Emotions of agony and hatred bubbled from the surface and I scowled, wondering why he was so negative about whatever he knew.

Christian picked up Brandon's died out words from his position in the chair as Brandon slowly walked over to the lit fireplace, gazing into the flames gravely. "They're going to expose us all, Jasper. It's a revolution of vampires. They're going to come clean to the public, hoping for-"

"Acceptance," I finished quietly, appalled by the thought.

Christian nodded, his eyes moving over to Brandon who stood with his hands in his pockets, the growing flames reflecting in his crimson eyes. "Yes, acceptance."

There was a silent moment in which we all sat, or stood, in horrified shock as the weight of the situation bore down on us. These vampires, these original two, were going to just stroll in here, into our world which they had been absent from for thousands of years, and take over? Expose us to the rest of the world and hope for the better?

I stared at nothing in particular as I wondered about what this could mean for me, for my family, for Alice. Humans weren't going to accept us, especially after they realized that would be like the gazelle trusting the lion. My family would be safe, though. Brandon had said they were going to free them all. Alice would be fine, everyone would be fine. I just didn't know what would happen afterwards.

"Ridiculous, isn't it?" Brandon asked, his voice perfectly refined and distinct. "One day we're feasting off the citizens and the next our future depends on their approval of us. I can hardly imagine what's going to happen next."

No one said another word and I felt myself grow fidgety under their gaze. Looking around at them all, it was obvious what kind of vampires they were: civilized. They weren't rogue or ruthless anymore. They were, in all meanings of the word, the owners of the city. Their upscale clothes and décor of the house only proved this further. I just found it hard to believe they had gone so long unnoticed by the rest of the world.

Suddenly, it seemed evident what had to happen. "You have to go them," I told them almost mutely, my eyes staring into the fire intently.

Brandon whirled on me, his face outraged and dubious. "Go to them? To the other vampires? Why in God's name would we ever do that?" His eyes were as big as quarters, disbelieving my words. I tugged my gaze from the fireplace to look up at him.

"Because," I said simply, "you just need to. This, what they plan on doing, it involves all of the vampires. We all need to be there, together. We'll be stronger with you than without."

He stared at me as if I had just offended him, slapped him right in the face. "No," he said shakily. "No, no, no. We can't do that; we won't. You're strong enough already, you don't need us. And you're not even joining them! You said so yourself," he spat, his eyes glowing red in anger. "You're going to Philadelphia!"

I grimaced, not bothering to deny his words, and tried again. "You have to be there, though," I told him.

"Why? Why should we be there? We've lived here for over one hundred years, unbothered by anyone else except you. This is our town, our city, our home. We will not abandon it just for the sake of others. We plan on waiting this mess out and I advise you do the same. Forget your family and mate. They're goners once they're exposed to the world. No matters what happens from this on out, we stay here. We won't be chased from our homes."

I stared at him, unbelieving his words. "You mean in secret?"

"Of course in secret!" Brandon exclaimed, hissing his words through his teeth. "We've always been here in secret, why should things change now?"

I stood up, towering over him and glaring down into his narrowed eyes. For a moment, his youth stunned me. He couldn't have been much older than me, probably about 21 years old, but yet the vicious way his mouth turned down and his hawkish nose hooked made him look years older.

"You're an idiot to stay here then," I said, disgusted by his fright of the world. "If you don't leave here, you'll be hunted down and forced out. Once people hear more about this, don't you think they're going to wonder why the occupants of the big colonial house never leave? Why bodies have forever gone missing from the capitol? They're going to burn this place to the ground and come after you."

A muscle in his face twitched in response as he slowly unhinged his jaw. "You're wrong. We won't put up with them. We'll kill them before they ever get the chance to have their suspicions rise."

I shook my head, not understanding his stubborn reluctance. Didn't they see it was dangerous staying here? People would put the pieces together; they would figure it all out. If they didn't join the other vampires now, it would do nothing but serve bad luck in the years to come.

"It's been nice, Brandon, but I think I better go," I calmly told him, willing myself not to lose my cool. He raised two thin red eyebrows and pursed his lips.

"Yes, surely a night not to forget." He extended a pale hand, much to my surprise, and I looked down at it curiously. I hesitantly reached out and shook his hand, staring him right in the eyes. If he was going to be polite all of a sudden, so would I.

I pulled my hand back and stuffed it in my jacket pocket, turning away towards the foyer. "I hope you know, Jasper, you really do look quite ridiculous in those clothes. Almost like a human." His tone was teasing, though friendly. Nothing hostile in neither his voice nor his emotions.

I paused in the doorway leading into the foyer, Silas and Joseph closest to me. With a swift roll of the eyes, I gave him a small smile. "And I hope you know, Brandon, that in time this little shelter for misfits that you have here is going to be swallowed up by the media and by time alone. I have a feeling that if you don't join now, you're not going to get the chance to later."

He gave me an intriguing look, like he wished to continue the conversation furthermore, but then nodded. "Touche," he said with a smirk, though his emotions were raging of sudden jumpiness.

I have a curt goodbye and walked into the foyer, ignoring the wide eyes of the flocking vampires, and strolled over the broken, rumpled front door. I tried to ignore the sound of the wood crunching underfoot deafening in my ears as I turned my back on them.

The cold air hit my face once outside on the sidewalk, fresh and clean as it stung my eyes. I took a deep breath of it and gazed upwards at the twinkling stars above. Inside the house they were all murmuring to each other but their words were too muffled for me to make anything out. Pushing one foot in front of the other, I began walking down the sidewalk, putting the distance between myself and the furtive house.

The pitter patter of footsteps behind me caught my attention and I glanced over my shoulder, my eyes zeroing in on a man behind me. I paused, turning around to look at who it was.

"Jasper, wait up!" It was Christian, his pale blonde head glowing under the moonlight. He caught up in a second after glancing around to make sure no one was watching. I blinked in surprise when he appeared next to me.

His eyes were an electric red, probably so vivid after just eating, and they flickered around restlessly. "Look, I just wanted to tell you that I think you're right."

I arched a brow and rocked back on my heels, ignoring the way the slight breeze lifted my scarf. "About what?" I asked through tight lips.

He rolled his eyes and gave me a maddened look. "About joining them! You're positively right, Jasper, there is no way we, as a coven, can make it through this without the other vampires. Where were you held captive?"

I frowned, looking over his shoulder at a peeping Silas in the window, eyes wide. "What does it matter?" I asked, not because I was trying to be rude but because I actually was curious.

Christian's lips twitched into a scowl and he shrugged. "So we'll know where they all are."

Ah, so that was it. I sighed and thought back to last night when I had escaped. I hadn't ran in any obvious pattern so I wasn't sure if I could recall the exact destination. "I thought Brandon said-"

Christian laughed uproariously, throwing back his head and guffawing. "Oh, Jasper, it's about time you learned something. What Brandon says doesn't always go. I'll talk him into going there, believe me. If there's one thing Brandon's scared of, it's change. He doesn't want to accept that the world is moving on without him but then at the same time, he's afraid of involving us all in case we end up without a home. Just tell me where it is and I'll get our coven there."

I instantly picked up on the word ‘our' and felt my brow furrow. "It's about fifteen miles north of the city," I instructed, "in the middle of the woods."

Christian beamed, his white teeth gleaming in the night. "Thank you, Jasper, really. Now," he went on, moving around me and continuing down the path leading away from the big colonial house. "You said you're going to Philadelphia?"

I nodded, watching him out of the corner of my eye. "Yes, for some personal reasons. With this new information, however, I intend to return to the Williams Building, the one with my family in it, as soon as I am done."

There was a moment of silence as we reached the end of the block. Christian looked at me in relief. "Then we'll see each other again," he said, satisfied.

I gave him a half smile and looked down the block to the right where few streetlamps lit the street up. "Yes, someday soon, I hope. Take care of yourself and your coven. I'll meet up with you as soon as I'm finished in Philadelphia."

Christian smiled and glanced back at the big house. "I'll see you later then," he said instead of a goodbye. I returned the small smile and pushed my hands into my pocket.

"Yes, later."