Bella is being stalked by the vindictive Victoria, and the promise of the Volturi visit is still hanging in the air. However, despite these terrors, Bella is still human. The Cullens feel they can protect Bella just fine, that is until a mysterious new vampire comes into town.
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This was all absolutely absurd, I thought as I wound through the wet, green roads of Forks, Washington. My truck protested as I pushed it over fifty in my irritation.
How could Edward expect me to stay human, fragile and taste, during a time like this? Victoria's wild face flashed behind my eyes, her fire red hair flailing menacingly, her lips turning up in a murderous smile. I shook my head. Not to mention the Volturi could check up on me at any moment. I shuddered then and scowled out my windshield.
Edward and I had had another argument about my mortality last night. Well, it was more like negotiating on my part. He was still clinging to his ridiculous condition of marriage. I recoiled from the word. Of course, Carlisle could always do it, but it was so much more appealing thinking of Edward's lips being the last thing to touch my human skin.
I shivered, remembering the pain and absently stroked the scar James had given me.
No. This was my choice, I told myself, and I was going to go through with it no matter how painful and even if Edward demanded that I be his wife first.
Absurd, I thought again.
I sighed as I pulled into a parking space behind Newton's and let my truck idle noisly, having arrived too early for my shift.
I stared out into the sheeting rain and let my mind wander. Graduation was fast approaching. Was I ready to leave my father? My mother? Jacob?
A lump rose in my throat at that last one. Would my former best friend hate me so much for my choice that he would try and kill me? Would I try and kill him? Jacob's face, my Jacob, swam around in my head. He was frowning, his lower lip jutting out a bit. The expression pained me. I had made this look appear on his face so many times.
I felt that irrational need to protect Jacob, protect and comfort, and I knew in that I had my answer.
I could not, would not harm Jacob, even as a vampire, I was sure of that.
I bit my lip, but he seemed so sure that, once I was bitten, it would be an all out war, and I was unsure if he would hurt me.
I sighed, sinking into the seat. This was going to be hard. I loved Jacob, and it was going to be hard to be away from him. I would have to leave with Edward and his family before we did anything. I couldn't bear to have Jacob's pack and the Cullens fight.
A sharp rasp on my window made me jump. Mike stood outside in the downpour, smiling like it was nothing to him.
I turned off my truck and opened the door and stumbled out into the pelting rain, getting drenched immediately.
"Hey," Mike yelled over a crash of thunder, "some weather, huh?" He jerked his thumb up at the sky as another clap of thunder shook the pavement.
"Yeah, let's get inside," I motioned towards the employee entrance.
We jogged across the small lot to the shelter of the store. I shivered and rung out my hair, water dripping all over. I hung my coat on a hook by the door and looked up at Mike. He was still smiling, too hopeful as always. This kid just couldn't take a hint.
"Um... the weather will probably make this a slow day," I mentioned awkwardly as we walked to the main part of the store. Maybe I could go home instead of spending all morning here. He ignored me, unlocking the front doors and flicking on the light. I donned my vest and settled behind the counter.
"Hey, so are you busy tonight?" He smiled widely at me.
I tried my hardest to not roll my eyes, or to yell at him.
"Yes, Mike, I'm spending the night with Edward." I pronounced my boyfriend's name loudly and clearly, hoping Mike would finally get it.
He just shrugged and went off into the aisles, throwing me another hopeful smile before he disappeared from view.
The boy was impossible.
Sometimes I wished I had Edward's mind reading abilities so I could be one step ahead of Mike. Though, maybe it was better than I didn't know what Mike was thinking, especially if it involved me.
I slouched over the counter, rearranging a stack of brightly colored flyers nearby.
I heard the whirr of the automated doors opening, but didn't bother looking up. Odds were that I wouldn't be of much help to the customer. I thought of calling Mike up to the front to help the customer.
The unfamiliar click click of heels against the linoleum caught me off guard. That was not the type of shoe you wore when shopping for camping equipment.
I looked up and started. A small woman, about my height without the heels, was standing very still near the entrance to the door.
I froze. No human could stand that still. I only knew of one thing that could be as motionless as a statue. I felt the blood drain from my face.
I stared at her, relieved that she hadn't noticed me yet.
Her skin was what caught my attention first. It was not the chalky pale I had grown accustomed to with vampires. Her skin was slightly tanned, like she had just returned from a day at the beach. It also looked impossibly soft. Despite my paralyzing fear, I felt an urge to touch it. The color, though, wasn't the only strange thing about this woman's skin. It seemed to be glowing just beneath the surface, it was unsettling. Her jet black hair was shiny and fell in thick waves down to the middle of her back. She didn't show any signs of being soaked through from the hurricane outside, her clothes dry as if it wasn't raining at all.
She was exquisitely beautiful, of course, much more so than even Rosalie. The woman closed her eyes; her long thick lashed brushing against her high cheek bones. She sucked in a need breath of air through her nose, and smiled.
Her eyes flicked open and turned suddenly to stare at me. My heart stuttered, panicked. Her eyes were a strange purple color, not something I was expecting. With a jolt I remembered the eyes of the vampire woman in Volterra, leading the group of unsuspecting humans to their deaths. Her eyes were the same purple, a result of blue contacts over red irises...
My heart beat picked up even faster. This couldn't be a coincidence. This woman was way too well dressed to be a nomad passing through. She had to be one of the Voluri, sent here to check if I was still human.
Why hadn't Alice seen this? Why wasn't Edward busting down a wall right now to protect me from this insultingly gorgeous woman?
My eyes widened as the vampire took a half step towards me. This was it, she was going to kill me, right here, right now.
"Welcome to Newton's!" Mike bellowed
The woman's head whipped around so fast I missed the motion. Mike came strolling over from one of the aisles, stopping dead as he took in the woman's appearance. His eyes popped wide, his mouth hanging open. The woman smiled, and his eyes got wider.
"Hello," her voice chimed, the hint of an accent I couldn't place wrapped itself around the small word.
"C-can I h-help you w-with anything?" Mike stuttered.
The woman smiled wider, exposing her perfect teeth. I winced.
"Actually," she began in her sing-song voice, "I was looking for Isabella Swan. Do you know where I can find her?" She looked at Mike innocently, as if she really didn't know I was right here.
I swallowed hard.
"Oh, yeah, that's her there." Mike pointed over at me.
The woman turned her gaze back towards me, still smiling.
"Thank you," she murmured, not looking away from me. Her eyes bore into mine, forcing me to keep looking though I badly wanted to run.
"No problem," Mike mumbled, shaking his head as if to clear it and walking towards the break room.
NO! I wanted to yell. Don't leave me!
As soon as the break room door shut behind Mike the woman flitted to the counter and stood just inches away from me. I shrunk back, trying to get away.
"Hello Isabella," she whispered, her eyes flashing as she said my name.
"Bella," I squeaked, a knee jerk reaction. I mentally kicked myself for correcting a vampire.
"Bella," she corrected herself, a humorless smile spreading across her full lips.
"What can I help you with?" I was shaking so bad I wasn't sure if she would be able to hear me. I had to play dumb, buy myself some time so Edward could get here. Alice would have seen something by now.
"Don't play dumb now, Bella," she cooed, leading across the counter towards me. Her hand flashed out and wrapped securely around my arm. Her touch was colder than I was used to, and where our skin met sent a shot of pain up through my whole arm, spreading to the rest of my body. I winced, holding back a yelp of pain. I tried to pull away, but her grip just grew tighter and I knew I would have a hand-shaped bruise if she ever let me go.
She yanked me forward suddenly, almost dislocating my shoulder. Her lips were at my ear, her cool breath stinging me as much as her touch.
"I know you know what I am, which is precisely why I am here. Rules have been broken in this small town, but I intend to remedy this," her tone was icy, any hint of the pleasantries she put on before were gone.
She released my arm, tossing me back. I slammed into the wall, my head cracking back against it as well. I stumbled sideways, trying to regain my balance. I stared at the woman, frightened and she smiled back at me coldly.
"I will see you soon, Bella," the threat was thick in her words. She turned to leave.
"Who are you," I mouthed. Did it really matter? She would kill me regardless of who she was.
She stopped walking for a fraction of a second.
"Isis," she murmured.
She disappeared, then, the flyers I had been rearranging earlier flew around in a neon mess around me as the speed of her running kicked up a quick burst of wind.
I sank to the floor, my head pounding, a sob building in my throat.