Twilight Fan Fiction / Twilight Fan Fiction ❯ I Know My Duty ❯ Seeing ( Chapter 27 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Twilight and its three and two half sequels are the creation of Stephenie Meyer. This story is fanfiction based on characters, settings and concepts from Twilight, its three sequels and the first half of Midnight Sun, all of which are the creation of Stephenie Meyer. No party other than the submitting author may alter this work in any way other than font size and other reasonable accommodations to formatting.

"Imagine the joy young Alice alone would bring to our little household." -Aro, New Moon

"So how did it go?" I asked.

She narrowed her eyes. "You know, Edward, I love this new confidence that you have in me."

"There's no need to be sarcastic."

"I mean it," she said. "A month ago, you barely let me out of your sight. Now you're hovering two floors up while I head off to the dungeons to babysit a vampire newborn."

"They're not real dungeons; don't be dramatic. You know perfectly well that Aro wanted me in the library. And this time you knew what you were getting into," I pointed out. She'd hit the nail pretty close to the head, though. Except for those dizzying few seconds when I'd thought she'd actually gotten through to him, seeing Bella reaching out to Marcell had been like watching a toddler jump into a zoo exhibit to pet the lions. "And you weren't alone."

"Well Renata was a fat lot of help," she said sulkily. "She'll probably never speak to me again. Ugh!" She shook her arms as if she'd just seen a bug on her sleeve. "Marcell ran straight at us for almost three hours. Nothing I said to him got through. And the way Renata's powers work, he just kept turning around and turning around. It was enough to make me think that she's not actually afraid of dangerous situations. She just doesn't want to get dizzy."

"Mm-hmm," I said, suddenly finding the ceiling very interesting.

"It was a complete waste of time."

I didn't say anything. That was some fascinating workmanship up there. What was that, baroque cornicing?

"You..." she trailed off.

Ah well. I'd expected her to figure it out eventually. She was pretty smart.

She swatted me across the shoulder. I only staggered a little. I'd take this over Felix in a snit any day. "You knew this was going to happen!"

"Give me some credit, Bella. I told you this was going to happen." I was fairly sure that I shouldn't have enjoyed toying with her this much. It must have been one of the lost commandments: Thou shalt not gloat.

She snorted. "Did you ever know that 'I told you so' has a brother, Edward? His name is 'shut the hell up.'"

"I seem to recall something about sticks and stones," I said.

"Yes, well, you're lucky I'm not in the mood to go looking for some to throw at you." She picked up the edge of her cloak, scowling at a rip in the hem. If she'd still been human, I'd have had the luxury of thinking she'd just gotten it caught on something. Now I had to know it was Marcell's doing.

I stepped forward and let my hands rest on her upper arms. "I asked Aro if you and Renata could relieve Jane of her duties with Marcell for a few hours. Then I let you waste an afternoon," I said, meeting her sulky gaze. "I knew you had to try."

"You're lying," she said.

That wasn't the reaction I'd expected. "What?"

"I figured out how to tell when you're lying," she said matter-of-factly, eyes still searching my face. I noticed that they'd faded to the color of black amber, red flickering almost unexpectedly when she turned her head.

"I'm not lying," I said, amazed.

"Yes you are," she answered, as if she were telling me I had a fleck of dirt on my nose. "Don't worry, though. I can't tell about what." She turned and moved down the hallway toward our practice tunnel. I realized that my hands had fallen and were hovering near my sides. "What do you think?" she asked without turning around. "Loser of the first match has to tell Adrienne she had her tag sticking out all last night?"

I hadn't been lying about anything just then. I hadn't. She only thought she could read me. I supposed I ought not to disabuse her of this fantasy. I'd seen it too many times, with Carlisle's patients and with humans during the Depression. People with no real control over their circumstances sometimes invented imaginary control. If thinking that she could tell when I was lying made Bella's captivity more palatable to her, then why not let her think it?

There, a perfectly reasonable, practical conclusion. That had to be what was going on.

She shook out her sleeve again. "Ripped. Well if he was making himself dizzy running at Renata and me then he wasn't getting chewed or whatever it is that Jane does with them."

"That's kind of you, Bella."

"Always the tone of surprise," she muttered. "My mom used to ask something. There was a story in the newspaper about a kid who'd mailed a woman's lost wallet back to her and gotten a reward. The newspapers had made him out to be a big saint, like a hero. She'd told me that the kid was just doing what anyone should do, par for the course. After that, she started saying, 'Why are so many people amazed by par for the course?'"

"Have you ever swung par in your life?" I asked.

"Have you?"

"Emmett watched Happy Gilmore and the next thing I knew, I was helping him break into golf courses after hours," I said. There was more to the story, except there wasn't. "The ritzier the better. The expensive ones make things more difficult."

"To break in or to shoot par?"

"More the second one."

She laughed, not loud, but she did laugh.

That was what was so eerie about this, I realized. Half our conversation had been ...normal, almost as if... Well, not as if we'd been standing outside Forks High on a cloudy day, but certainly as if we'd been standing in the hallway outside Carlisle's office. It was as if we weren't prisoners. It was as if we were outside, walking down an Italian street just after dark, blending in with hundreds of other people who weren't prisoners.

I'd seen a man once, a patient of my father's back in the fifties. His illness hadn't involved open bleeding, so I'd been able to help with him. He'd recovered from polio and become confined to a wheelchair. Over the months and years as he'd returned to Carlisle for medical care, I'd watched the blackness of his depression recede from his thoughts. He was never happy about being unable to walk, but life had become ...livable, at least the parts not directly affected by his condition. His food wasn't ash in his mouth. His children didn't please him any less.

Was that what life was going to be like? Would I be able to look at things without seeing them through the lens of my captivity?

Bella turned her head, still looking a bit miffed, and I realized with a bit of a chill that I had been lying after all. I hadn't known that she would have to try to help Marcell before believing that it couldn't be done. I'd only wanted to know.

Now I did. She hadn't given up on Marcell until she'd seen for herself that there was nothing she could do. That was who she was, and I hadn't known it until today.

"Aro doesn't need you just now, does he?" Bella asked, looking over her shoulder from down the hallway.


"Usually when you stare off into space like that, it's because the old—" she closed her eyes, pursing her lips together. "It's because Aro is thinking about sending Felix to drag you up to the library so that he can watch people read twenty different tabloids at once."

"You seem awfully critical of the process for someone so good at it."

Bella wrinkled her nose. As the most junior member of the guard, she pulled the least desirable shifts and the least interesting publications. Tabloids and small-town papers weren't cutting-edge journalism, but someone had to shovel through them.

"I told you. It was dumb luck."

"It wasn't," I answered. "Many nomads prefer rural areas. When human deaths are recorded, it's often in rural newspapers."

She shook her head. I might not have been able to read her mind, but it had still been interesting to watch. Aro and I had been near the door, so I'd only seen the back of her head as she'd pored over the print version—the only version—of the Amish Times. I'd seen her walk over to Randall and point to the obituary page. I'd heard her say, "This is the third one." One of his eyebrows had gone up, but he'd told her to fetch him the earlier copies.

Bella might have been unpopular, but Caius took his job too seriously to ignore a legitimate warning. He also enjoyed being feared, but that was another matter. For whichever reason, Randall, Demetri and Afton had spent a week in Ohio hunting the criminals, and the rash of "animal maulings" had ceased.

Bella had asked me, the night after they'd left, if I thought she'd gotten the two vampires killed. I remembered the creeping indecision in my mind. I remembered wondering whether the question came from guilt or bloodlust.

"No," I'd murmured back. "No, this wasn't real evidence left behind. Caius will tell Demetri to warn whoever it is to be more careful, give them a good scare. Unless it turns out to be someone who's been warned before." Of course, what constituted a "good scare" for a vampire tended to be a little extreme. I hadn't wanted to spell it out. I had wanted to protect her from it, for all that she'd seen as much and worse here in these halls.

She'd nodded and walked off with Renata. Something about Athenodora wanting something. It had been an excuse, I was sure of it.

"So did he do it this time?" she asked, pulling me out of my memories.

I rolled my eyes, "Bella..." I chided.

"What? You're the one who said I should try to find things that I like about them. Did he do it again?" she turned those wide, red-black eyes on me.

"Not exactly," I said. I had to admit that it had been one of my better ideas, even if it wasn't working out like I'd hoped. I still had spells, almost like flashes, when I felt all right about being in Volterra. At those times, I found that I had a certain appreciation for the courage of the Volturi guard and the great purpose it served. It was also easier to avoid dwelling on unpleasant things, such as the fact that I wasn't allowed to leave and yet remained in near-mortal danger every minute that I did not. This mostly happened when I was alone, though, or with other members of the guard. Being around Bella always brought me back to reality. She was a reminder of everything we had both lost.

I'd tried to do it on purpose, with some success, reminding myself of what Carlisle had told me about making the best of things here. I'd avoided the thoughts of the human employees and focused on how much I enjoyed watching Demetri's mind at work. And Aro... Aro, I had to admit, was another upside to Volterra.

"He can't predict World War three every day, Bella," I explained. My newborn still directed a quite significant—and reasonably justified, I had to admit—amount of anger at Aro, but she did think that the way he'd synthesized five dozen different news articles into one catastrophic prediction about the next fifty years was, in her words, "pretty neat."

The thing was, he actually did it quite a lot, just not on so large a scale.

"Well what did he do, then?" she asked. I rolled my eyes. "He did something. I can tell."

"Oh, you can read that in my face too?" I asked. I probably shouldn't have enjoyed tormenting her the way I did.

"I can, as a matter of fact," but she was joking this time. I could see that. It had been months since she'd been a mask to me, but almost without meaning to, I'd learned the meaning of each muscle underneath her skin. I knew when she meant what she was saying and when she was being sarcastic and I knew when she needed to feed, when she was frustrated with Renata, angry with Adrienne or just wishing she were free to leave. She didn't do that last one so much any more.

I'd spent hours in the library on the afternoon shift, turning my thoughts wherever Aro directed me to. It was a reflex now, and I found that I could almost shut my mind off and let everyone else flow through my head. The people hunting through the web sites and conventional newspapers worked as they always had, looking for disappearances, anything suggestive of our kind. As a law enforcement agency, the Volturi had a singular advantage: If the crime was undetectable in human accounts, then it wasn't a crime. There was no such thing as a criminal going uncaught because the people who didn't get caught weren't criminals.

Before, Bella and I had arrived in the spring, Aro had spent a few hours of each day reading a few favorites, mostly science compilations like Nature. He'd either have them read aloud to him or he'd keep his hand on the shoulder of one of the guard as they looked at each page, allowing him to see the unblurred photographs and diagrams through his assistant's thoughts. Now he didn't need to bother with slow sounds or other eyes. He could see every word at the speed of thought.

He'd been eager for another article on backscatter X-rays—he was wondering if the scanners' reaction to vampire skin would compel us to swear off air travel—but the pickings had been scarce, just one mention in a Korean tourism blog. Today, the prize had been the human interest stories.

"He did pay a bit of attention to one set of articles during the Western hemisphere shift," I told Bella. "The New York Times and Chicago Tribune both ran pieces on child soldiers in the Congo."

"That'd be Damia on the Times and was it..."

"Randall on the Tribune."

I told Bella about the article on the schools that certain NGOs and religious organizations had started for child soldiers who had managed to escape, be rescued or left behind. Aro had only taken interest in one of the schools, though, the one for girls.

Bella seemed intrigued. "Why that one? And they make girls into child soldiers?" She shook her head. "No, I guess it makes sense. There's difference between a grown man's upper body strength and a woman's, but not that much between boys' and girls'." Even less, I thought. Jasper had a few stories about women who'd dressed up as men and fought for the Confederacy. Some of them hadn't gotten caught until they'd gone to the infirmary with stomachaches and ended up giving birth.

"It's not only that," I went on. I would have thought that this would be an uncomfortable topic given our own situation, but Bella only seemed interested. "The thing is, the school was there because they don't take the girls back."

"Who doesn't take them back?"

"Their families," I said.

Bella blinked. "Why not?"

This was what I hadn't looked forward to explaining. The thing was, people in that part of the world feared the child soldiers. Guns rendered most physical frailties irrelevant, and youth and abuse made the soldiers unpredictable. People under the age of fifteen could do terrible things when improperly motivated. But the bottom line was that, horrible as they were, the child soldiers were warriors, and warriors held some position of respect in most of the area's modernized and traditional societies—so long as they were men. The boys who came back to their home villages were often broken and scarred by their experiences, I told Bella, but they got to come back.

The girls sometimes served in combat, but they did other things as well. Many of the recruiters actively preferred female child soldiers because they would fight, but they would also set up and break camp, cook for and take care of the boys and officers, and most of them had another use as well.

"The term is 'bush wives,' but the truth is that they're concubines, like the comfort women in World War Two, except they only seem to have to deal with one man each."

"So some of these girls are like sixteen?"

I shook my head. Bella didn't ask any more. We walked in silence until we came to the opening for our tunnel.

"Some of it is that the people are less willing to forgive women for violence than men, and some of it—"

"I know," she said, cutting me off. "So what did Aro think of all this?" she asked. "What was the point?"

"Remember what he said about China?"

"Too many young men and not enough young women means war," she rattled off. "What's that got to do with it?"

Aro had wondered if countries with large gender disparities would think to offer these girls or other female refugees a place, but he'd dismissed it. The numbers of girl ex-soldiers weren't high enough to make a serious dent in the problem, even if language and race had been a non-issue, and they hadn't. Personally, I'd been glad. I doubted any of these girls wanted to be taken to another place far from home where they would be expected to become a stranger's wife, even they got to spend a few token years growing up in a state-sponsored school first.

"He's been keeping his eyes open for things like that, but this is the first time there's been anything worth mentioning," I said, crouching down to pull the grate off the tunnel opening.

"What do you mean? Things like what?" she asked.

I blinked, halfway through the motion of laying the grate aside. "Things that would prevent the war," I said.

"Why would he want to do that?" she asked.

"Because it's a war," I told her.

"Yes, but what does he care if humans kill each other? And it would be in China, not Italy."

"World War Two started in China," I pointed out. "And Italy still has the gouge marks. But why wouldn't he want to stop humans from killing each other? He rather likes them."

She looked at me as if I'd grown another head. "Like with katsup?"

I laughed quickly, and covered my mouth. Oh but I was going to pay for that one. "Yes, Aro feeds on humans," I explained, "but he's also... Well have you been to the third floor yet?"

"With the art collection?" Her expression soured. "Renata and Adrienne and I went in there to clean once," she said.

"Caius won't have the human servants in there," I stressed. "He's sure that only a vampire would have the fine motor control to clean dust and soot from his precious paintings without removing any of the more delicate pigments."

"Then why do I never see any of you fine, delicate guys in there?" she asked darkly.

"I don't give the work orders, Bella."

She raised an eyebrow in my human Bella's best I-know-it's-not-your-fault-that-you-don't-have-to-go-through-PMS-et-al-but- I'll-blame-you-for-it-anyway-you-smug-male-son-of-a-bitch.

"The Volturi might not appreciate humans individually, but they have a certain appreciation for the idea of the human race. And they do like art," I said simply. "And what happened to Italy's art during the war was something that Caius would give his eyeteeth to never see again, and Marcus wasn't too keen on it either. Aro's the scientist, and while wars to tend to motivate countries to develop better weapons and medicines, they also tend to divert funding away from basic research and other projects."

I looked Bella in the eye. "When was the last time you feared a human weapon?" I asked. She managed not to roll her eyes this time. "Wars do little good for the Volturi, specifically. During any period of chaos, some vampires move in. They can feed more often that way," I explained. "The deaths are easier to conceal. The problem is that too many vampires don't care to give up the habit once things have settled down."

"So Aro didn't just predict the war. He's also going to try to stop it?" Bella murmured, as if to herself.

"If he can do so without revealing our kind, yes," I answered.

"Because it's in his interests," she followed.

"I suppose," I said, not sure where she was headed. "He might not be able to, of course. Seeing the patterns in human history is fairly powerful, but it isn't..." I frowned, looking for the words. There was something I was missing, something that Aro didn't have that I couldn't quite remember. "It isn't..."

"Oh," Bella said, realizing. "You mean that's why he wants A—"

There was a rush of air, and I was staring into two dark red-gold eyes as wide as eggs. They were all I could see of her face; something was covering her mouth, and it was one of my hands. The other was holding her head still as I pushed her backwards into the pillar.

I shook my head, quickly, feeling like a madman with the tremors. I closed my eyes, breathing in. "Don't," I said quietly and slowly pulled my hands away.

"Don't say her name?" she asked incredulously.

I nodded. Don't say. Don't think. Don't make it worse.

She stared hard at me, mouth open just a tiny bit. "Is it because Aro is always reading your thoughts?" she said, as if testing uncertain footing.

I nodded again, stepping away. I ran my fingers through my hair. I'd been doing it without thinking, the not-thinking. Somewhere far away I had Carlisle and Esme and two brothers and a sister and something else that was more precious than daylight that I could never, never think about. And I knew it was her. I hadn't forgotten. I wouldn't ever forget. I just couldn't afford to remember.

"So you don't even think about her," she said, as if counting it out on her fingers, "not unless you absolutely can't help it."

Of course I didn't. I owed her that much.

"Edward, he already knows about her. He's just going to make you think of it when he wants. He'll mention her himself or he'll ask you directly."

"But he'll have to," I said. "He'll have to go to the trouble. Nothing by accident. Nothing extra." Nothing extra about— Had to keep it away, but it was so hard.

I didn't turn around. She stepped in front of me, putting those chill-perfect hands on either side of my face. "Edward, this can't be good for you." She looked like was watching someone tear the legs off a spider. She looked like she was watching Chelsea.

"Edward, what you're doing to yourself, it isn't worth—"

"Yes she is." There was Alice ruffling Rosalie's hair, Alice knocking Emmett's remote out of his hand, Alice smiling at Jasper, Alice smiling at nothing, Alice making her brother laugh and he was me and there were snarling words echoing off the ceiling, the walls, the tunnel space below us, like the tearing of flesh from bone.

She was quiet. I'd knocked her hands away, and her eyes were squeezed shut like she thought I was Felix, but she hadn't moved.

I heard the soft sound that meant she was licking her lips, and smooth fingers found their way between mine. "I think about her every day," she said. She raised her hand until my fingertips were just barely touching her temple. "And I can, can't I?" I looked into her eyes, two perfect, half-clear stones. I'd never been able to see behind them. Neither could my master.

That smug smile that I'd been telling her to suppress all week suddenly looked like a river moving through the desert. It looked beautiful.

"I can do it for both of us," she whispered, words flowing around me.

I felt my thumb graze her cheekbone. The perfect vault. A smiling hiding place for precious things. I could give it to her to hold for me, and she would keep it safe.

By God, I love you, I thought.

"Can we stop talking about this?" I asked.

She let go of my hand.

"Where was I?" I asked like a man with a headache. Closest thing I could get to one without Felix's able assistance, anyway. I didn't like not feeling normal. I didn't like not feeling normal and I didn't like the way she was looking at me all of a sudden.

"Aro in the library with the revolver," she said. She was pretending it hadn't happened. Nothing had. Nothing had happened. By the time Aro touched me again, nothing would ever have happened. "I've been meaning to ask, what does he think about the debt issue?"

"He's concerned. He knew that Germany and France and Britain would be faced with some of the drawbacks of letting smaller economies into the European Union arrangement eventually, and he doesn't want them to abandon the project."

"What are you talking about?" she asked.

"Greece," I said. "The country is being allowed to default on some of its debt."

"Oh, I meant the one back home," she said.

I shook my head. "Americans," I said quietly. "So provincial."

"You're one too," she pointed out.

"True," I said. I was toying with her again, but not gracefully. I hadn't regained my step but I was on my way. "He doesn't think it's as serious of a problem as it's made out to be. He thinks that the politicians on both sides know what they have to do but are stalling so that they can pander to their more extreme constituencies before they enact a compromise plan."

"You're right," she said darkly. "He does have too much faith in humanity. But it ties in with China, doesn't it?"

I shook my head. "China is the U.S.'s biggest creditor but it isn't the only one. If you're looking for how a U.S.-based financial crisis would affect the war, he doesn't precisely know. It would mean more political and economic instability in general."

I felt my lips press together. There was a little more to it than that, actually. "I remember when I was a boy," I said. "The United States exported oranges to Valencia and beer to Germany. My father used to say that we'd send coal to Newcastle next. My human father," I corrected myself. And then the war had happened, and things had exploded. England and France had lost huge amounts of manufacturing power during those years, and American factories had picked up the slack and made the twenties roar. The country had grown to an empire on the ashes two great powers.

I'd been a bit preoccupied at the time, of course, but a few trips through college and as many required history courses had given me a pretty well-rounded understanding of the twentieth century. I'd lived a long life, and I'd spent almost every day of it with my own country at the top of the heap. What would I do if that changed? Aro had seen Rome rise and fall, and the Ostrogoths after that, but I was not Aro.

"He thinks the Americans' power is on the wane, even if they were to pay back all their debts tomorrow," I told her. I watched her face, trying to gauge her reaction. "He's seen it happen before, when empires start to fall. He's also seen it happen and nothing comes of it."

"But the U.S. isn't an empire."

I raised an eyebrow.

She leaned down to shove the tunnel entrance cover out of the way. "And here I thought one apocalyptic prophecy was bad," she said.

I was still shaky. Something had happened. I remembered what it was, but not all the way. I was agitated and I didn't fully understand why. I felt like everything was getting in. I felt like skin that had been rubbed with sandpaper.

"It's not a prophecy," I said, almost snapping. There was no need to add more drama to things that were already bad enough.

She looked at me, as if sizing me up. "Prediction, then," she said. "But I don't think prophecy is the wrong word. Tell you what, we'll get a tiebreaker. I'll ask Renata what she thinks the next time we go to see Marcell," she said as she slide through the opening and landed on the floor below.

I frowned. "Wait..." I said. Something was off, and I was coming from the other side of whatever had happened this afternoon. I was already kneeling beside the entrance, but I clapped my hands on either side of the opening and dropped my head down. "You're going back to see Marcell?" I asked.

"Of course I'm going back to see Marcell," she said. "You signed me up for it, didn't you? Now get down here before Caius changes his mind about guys cleaning the art collection."

"Things don't work that way here," I said, slipping through the opening and landing beside her. "You do what the Masters tell you to do, and they didn't tell you to go more than once." There's nothing you can do for him, anyway.

Bella shook her head, "Sooner or later, Marcell is going to start to come out of it, and it would be nice if someone besides Jane was there for him when he did."

"You don't have to," I said.

"That's nice. I'm still going to. Jane can go chew on sand if she doesn't like it."

I shot her another look.

"Oh come on," she said in a good imitation of weariness. "You're not going to tell me that Jane's not so bad, are you? Let me guess, she's really a watercolor connoisseur who never forgave the Nazis for burning down the Louvre or whatever and spends her spare time hugging orphans."

"No, she bothers me quite a lot, actually."

Her eyebrows shot up. "Really?" And then I witnessed the first real, non-smirk, unmitigated smile I'd seen all day. Her eyes drifted off to the left, and I tried to read all the emotions behind it, like the notes in a glass of wine: relief, pleasure, curiosity. I couldn't tell what was going on inside her head but I was suddenly sure it was beautiful.

"I can't get you to call her a bitch, can I?" she asked hopefully.

"Bella," I protested.

"Not even a jerk?" she asked. "Come on, jerk isn't even a swear word. People say it in front of their grandmothers."

"We should start practicing if we're going to be down here," I said.

"Call her a witch?" she asked. "Not the burn at the stake kind, the green makeup and obsessed with her sister's shoes kind. No one's going to get mad at you for that."

"Bella," I said warningly, "Jane is, for lack of a better word, Aro's favorite. She practically worships him and I think he might even hold her in some degree of real affection. He relies on her for more things than I have words for. We live in Aro's house, and I am not going to get into the habit of calling her names."

Bella was quiet for a minute. "You said he relies on her?"

"He knows her limitations but he trusts her to do his will. As far as I know, she usually considers his will to be her own."

"What makes her so different?" Bella asked carefully.

I tried to stifle my impatience. Learning more about the other residents of Volterra was important, too, I supposed, and I'd almost gotten used to Bella grilling me about every vampire who passed us in the halls. "She was turned too early, too young," I clarified. Her mind had still been growing. Once she was no longer human, it couldn't develop along a human path any more. All that mental potential—what Carlisle would have described with words like "neurons" and "myelination"—and nowhere to put it. "I'm not sure but I think that might be part of it, that the vampire had more room to work with when it grew inside her." I paused, thinking out loud. "I might have caught Aro thinking about Chelsea during Jane's development, but I might have it backwards." Yes, there was an image of Chelsea falling over backwards, juxtaposed with Aro's realization that Jane's gift worked on vampires.

"Chelsea? So she, what, tried to make Jane love Aro and ended up frying her brain?"

"I don't know, Bella. Aro was only thinking about it for a few seconds." And I wasn't sure that Jane's brain hadn't been fried from her transformation alone, but Bella was in a mood and I was not going to encourage her. "Are we finished with the third degree for tonight?"

"All right," she said, holding up her hands. I dropped into my best defense crouch and nodded to her that I was ready to begin.

She did the same, arms and legs and feet moving perfectly after our months of practice. She smiled, tight and confident and I thought I heard her mutter under her breath, "Jane, then."
Sorry but this chapter is a bit talky, but there is more vampiring to come! Still taking concrit et al, but I'd like to add that I am also taking suggestions. I know where I'm taking the story plot-wise, but I'm butting my head against the wall on how to display more brutality. I don't want the random vamps-ripping-each-other-apart to get banal.
There's also a bit of author-on-board syndrome. Hey, who wants to guess what subject I teach? NO, YOU GUESS. I figure that as long as I don't have Edward crusading against Wikipedia's ban of American punctuation, then we're probably all right. (If placing periods and commas inside quotation marks causes misquotation and factual errors, then surely you can show me at least time when that actually happened. Oh, you can't? I WONDER WHY NOT. Illogical my callipygian hindquarters!)
drf24 (at) columbia (dot) edu