The Twilight Saga 3: Eclipse - Chapter 13. NEWBORN

"THE SAME THING THAT HAPPENED TO YOUR HAND," Jasper answered in a quiet voice. "Repeated a thousand times." He laughed a little ruefully and brushed at his arm. "Our venom is the only thing that leaves a scar."

"Why?" I breathed in horror, feeling rude but unable to stop staring at his subtly ravaged skin.

"I didn't have quite the same . . . upbringing as my adopted siblings here. My beginning was something else entirely." His voice turned hard as he finished.

I gaped at him, appalled.

"Before I tell you my story," Jasper said, "you must understand that there are places in our world, Bella, where the life span of the never-aging is measured in weeks, and not centuries."

The others had heard this before. Carlisle and Emmett turned their attention to the TV again. Alice moved silently to sit at Esme's feet. But Edward was just as absorbed as I was; I could feel his eyes on my face, reading every flicker of emotion.

"To really understand why, you have to look at the world from a different perspective. You have to imagine the way it looks to the powerful, the greedy . . . the perpetually thirsty.

"You see, there are places in this world that are more desirable to us than others. Places where we can be less restrained, and still avoid detection.

"Picture, for instance, a map of the western hemisphere. Picture on it every human life as a small red dot. The thicker the red, the more easily we - well, those who exist this way - can feed without attracting notice."

I shuddered at the image in my head, at the word feed. But Jasper wasn't worried about frightening me, not overprotective like Edward always was. He went on without a pause.

"Not that the covens in the South care much for what the humans notice or do not. It's the Volturi that keep them in check. They are the only ones the southern covens fear. If not for the Volturi, the rest of us would be quickly exposed."

I frowned at the way he pronounced the name - with respect, almost gratitude. The idea of the Volturi as the good guys in any sense was hard to accept.

"The North is, by comparison, very civilized. Mostly we are nomads here who enjoy the day as well as the night, who allow humans to interact with us unsuspectingly - anonymity is important to us all.

"It's a different world in the South. The immortals there come out only at night. They spend the day plotting their next move, or anticipating their enemy's. Because it has been war in the South, constant war for centuries, with never one moment of truce. The covens there barely note the existence of humans, except as soldiers notice a herd of cows by the wayside - food for the taking. They only hide from the notice of the herd because of the Volturi."

"But what are they fighting for?" I asked.

Jasper smiled. "Remember the map with the red dots?"

He waited, so I nodded.

"They fight for control of the thickest red.

"You see, it occurred to someone once that, if he were the only vampire in, let's say Mexico City, well then, he could feed every night, twice, three times, and no one would ever notice. He plotted ways to get rid of the competition.

"Others had the same idea. Some came up with more effective tactics than others.

"But the most effective tactic was invented by a fairly young vampire named Benito. The first anyone ever heard of him, he came down from somewhere north of Dallas and massacred the two small covens that shared the area near Houston. Two nights later, he took on the much stronger clan of allies that claimed Monterrey in northern Mexico. Again, he won."

"How did he win?" I asked with wary curiosity.

"Benito had created an army of newborn vampires. He was the first one to think of it, and, in the beginning, he was unstoppable. Very young vampires are volatile, wild, and almost impossible to control. One newborn can be reasoned with, taught to restrain himself, but ten, fifteen together are a nightmare. They'll turn on each other as easily as on the enemy you point them at. Benito had to keep making more as they fought amongst themselves, and as the covens he decimated took more than half his force down before they lost.

"You see, though newborns are dangerous, they are still possible to defeat if you know what you're doing. They're incredibly powerful physically, for the first year or so, and if they're allowed to bring strength to bear they can crush an older vampire with ease. But they are slaves to their instincts, and thus predictable. Usually, they have no skill in fighting, only muscle and ferocity. And in this case, overwhelming numbers."

"The vampires in southern Mexico realized what was coming for them, and they did the only thing they could think of to counteract Benito. They made armies of their own. . . .

"All hell broke loose - and I mean that more literally than you can possibly imagine. We immortals have our histories, too, and this particular war will never be forgotten. Of course, it was not a good time to be human in Mexico, either."

I shuddered.

"When the body count reached epidemic proportions - in fact, your histories blame a disease for the population slump - the Volturi finally stepped in. The entire guard came together and sought out every newborn in the bottom half of North America. Benito was entrenched in Puebla, building his army as quickly as he could in order to take on the prize - Mexico City. The Volturi started with him, and then moved on to the rest.

"Anyone who was found with the newborns was executed immediately, and, since everyone was trying to protect themselves from Benito, Mexico was emptied of vampires for a time.

"The Volturi were cleaning house for almost a year. This was another chapter of our history that will always be remembered, though there were very few witnesses left to speak of what it was like. I spoke to someone once who had, from a distance, watched what happened when they visited Culiac��n."

Jasper shuddered. I realized that I had never before seen him either afraid or horrified. This was a first.

"It was enough that the fever for conquest did not spread from the South. The rest of the world stayed sane. We owe the Volturi for our present way of life.

"But when the Volturi went back to Italy, the survivors were quick to stake their claims in the South.

"It didn't take long before covens began to dispute again. There was a lot of bad blood, if you'll forgive the expression. Vendettas abounded. The idea of newborns was already there, and some were not able to resist. However, the Volturi had not been forgotten, and the southern covens were more careful this time. The newborns were selected from the human pool with more care, and given more training. They were used circumspectly, and the humans remained, for the most part, oblivious. Their creators gave the Volturi no reason to return.

"The wars resumed, but on a smaller scale. Every now and then, someone would go too far, speculation would begin in the human newspapers, and the Volturi would return and clean out the city. But they let the others, the careful ones, continue. . . ."

Jasper was staring off into space.

"That's how you were changed." My realization was a whisper.

"Yes," he agreed. "When I was human, I lived in Houston, Texas. I was almost seventeen years old when I joined the Confederate Army in 1861. I lied to the recruiters and told them I was twenty. I was tall enough to get away with it.

"My military career was short-lived, but very promising. People always . . . liked me, listened to what I had to say. My father said it was charisma. Of course, now I know it was probably something more. But, whatever the reason, I was promoted quickly through the ranks, over older, more experienced men. The Confederate Army was new and scrambling to organize itself, so that provided opportunities, as well. By the first battle of Galveston - well, it was more of a skirmish, really - I was the youngest major in Texas, not even acknowledging my real age.

"I was placed in charge of evacuating the women and children from the city when the Union's mortar boats reached the harbor. It took a day to prepare them, and then I left with the first column of civilians to convey them to Houston.

"I remember that one night very clearly.

"We reached the city after dark. I stayed only long enough to make sure the entire party was safely situated. As soon as that was done, I got myself a fresh horse, and I headed back to Galveston. There wasn't time to rest.

"Just a mile outside the city, I found three women on foot. I assumed they were stragglers and dismounted at once to offer them my aid. But, when I could see their faces in the dim light of the moon, I was stunned into silence. They were, without question, the three most beautiful women I had ever seen.

"They had such pale skin, I remember marveling at it. Even the little black-haired girl, whose features were clearly Mexican, was porcelain in the moonlight. They seemed young, all of them, still young enough to be called girls. I knew they were not lost members of our party. I would have remembered seeing these three.

"'He's speechless,' the tallest girl said in a lovely, delicate voice - it was like wind chimes. She had fair hair, and her skin was snow white.

"The other was blonder still, her skin just as chalky. Her face was like an angel's. She leaned toward me with half-closed eyes and inhaled deeply.

"'Mmm,' she sighed. 'Lovely.'

"The small one, the tiny brunette, put her hand on the girl's arm and spoke quickly. Her voice was too soft and musical to be sharp, but that seemed to be the way she intended it.

"'Concentrate, Nettie,' she said.

"I'd always had a good sense of how people related to each other, and it was immediately clear that the brunette was somehow in charge of the others. If they'd been military, I would have said that she outranked them.

"'He looks right - young, strong, an officer. . . . ' The brunette paused, and I tried unsuccessfully to speak. 'And there's something more . . . do you sense it?' she asked the other two. 'He's . . . compelling.'

"'Oh, yes,' Nettie quickly agreed, leaning toward me again.

"'Patience,' the brunette cautioned her. 'I want to keep this one.'

"Nettie frowned; she seemed annoyed.

"'You'd better do it, Maria,' the taller blonde spoke again. 'If he's important to you. I kill them twice as often as I keep them.'

"'Yes, I'll do it,' Maria agreed. 'I really do like this one. Take Nettie away, will you? I don't want to have to protect my back while I'm trying to focus.'

"My hair was standing up on the back of my neck, though I didn't understand the meaning of anything the beautiful creatures were saying. My instincts told me that there was danger, that the angel had meant it when she spoke of killing, but my judgment overruled my instincts. I had not been taught to fear women, but to protect them.

"'Let's hunt,' Nettie agreed enthusiastically, reaching for the tall girl's hand. They wheeled - they were so graceful! - and sprinted toward the city. They seemed to almost take flight, they were so fast - their white dresses blew out behind them like wings. I blinked in amazement, and they were gone.

"I turned to stare at Maria, who was watching me curiously.

"I'd never been superstitious in my life. Until that second, I'd never believed in ghosts or any other such nonsense. Suddenly, I was unsure.

"'What is your name, soldier?' Maria asked me.

"'Major Jasper Whitlock, ma'am,' I stammered, unable to be impolite to a female, even if she was a ghost.

"'I truly hope you survive, Jasper,' she said in her gentle voice. 'I have a good feeling about you.'

"She took a step closer, and inclined her head as if she were going to kiss me. I stood frozen in place, though my instincts were screaming at me to run."

Jasper paused, his face thoughtful. "A few days later," he finally said, and I wasn't sure if he had edited his story for my sake or because he was responding to the tension that even I could feel exuding from Edward, "I was introduced to my new life.

"Their names were Maria, Nettie, and Lucy. They hadn't been together long - Maria had rounded up the other two - all three were survivors of recently lost battles. Theirs was a partnership of convenience. Maria wanted revenge, and she wanted her territories back. The others were eager to increase their . . . herd lands, I suppose you could say. They were putting together an army, and going about it more carefully than was usual. It was Maria's idea. She wanted a superior army, so she sought out specific humans who had potential. Then she gave us much more attention, more training than anyone else had bothered with. She taught us to fight, and she taught us to be invisible to the humans. When we did well, we were rewarded. . . ."

He paused, editing again.

"She was in a hurry, though. Maria knew that the massive strength of the newborn began to wane around the year mark, and she wanted to act while we were strong.

"There were six of us when I joined Maria's band. She added four more within a fortnight. We were all male - Maria wanted soldiers - and that made it slightly more difficult to keep from fighting amongst ourselves. I fought my first battles against my new comrades in arms. I was quicker than the others, better at combat. Maria was pleased with me, though put out that she had to keep replacing the ones I destroyed. I was rewarded often, and that made me stronger.

"Maria was a good judge of character. She decided to put me in charge of the others - as if I were being promoted. It suited my nature exactly. The casualties went down dramatically, and our numbers swelled to hover around twenty.

"This was considerable for the cautious times we lived in. My ability, as yet undefined, to control the emotional atmosphere around me was vitally effective. We soon began to work together in a way that newborn vampires had never cooperated before. Even Maria, Nettie, and Lucy were able to work together more easily.

"Maria grew quite fond of me - she began to depend upon me. And, in some ways, I worshipped the ground she walked on. I had no idea that any other life was possible. Maria told us this was the way things were, and we believed.

"She asked me to tell her when my brothers and I were ready to fight, and I was eager to prove myself. I pulled together an army of twenty-three in the end - twenty-three unbelievably strong new vampires, organized and skilled as no others before. Maria was ecstatic.

"We crept down toward Monterrey, her former home, and she unleashed us on her enemies. They had only nine newborns at the time, and a pair of older vampires controlling them. We took them down more easily than Maria could believe, losing only four in the process. It was an unheard-of margin of victory.

"And we were well trained. We did it without attracting notice. The city changed hands without any human being aware.

"Success made Maria greedy. It wasn't long before she began to eye other cities. That first year, she extended her control to cover most of Texas and northern Mexico. Then the others came from the South to dislodge her."

He brushed two fingers along the faint pattern of scars on his arm.

"The fighting was intense. Many began to worry that the Volturi would return. Of the original twenty-three, I was the only one to survive the first eighteen months. We both won and lost. Nettie and Lucy turned on Maria eventually - but that one we won.

"Maria and I were able to hold on to Monterrey. It quieted a little, though the wars continued. The idea of conquest was dying out; it was mostly vengeance and feuding now. So many had lost their partners, and that is something our kind does not forgive. . . .

"Maria and I always kept a dozen or so newborns ready. They meant little to us - they were pawns, they were disposable. When they outgrew their usefulness, we did dispose of them. My life continued in the same violent pattern and the years passed. I was sick of it all for a very long time before anything changed . . .

"Decades later, I developed a friendship with a newborn who'd remained useful and survived his first three years, against the odds. His name was Peter. I liked Peter; he was . . . civilized - I suppose that's the right word. He didn't enjoy the fight, though he was good at it.

"He was assigned to deal with the newborns - babysit them, you could say. It was a full-time job.

"And then it was time to purge again. The newborns were outgrowing their strength; they were due to be replaced. Peter was supposed to help me dispose of them. We took them aside individually, you see, one by one . . . It was always a very long night. This time, he tried to convince me that a few had potential, but Maria had instructed that we get rid of them all. I told him no.

"We were about halfway through, and I could feel that it was taking a great toll on Peter. I was trying to decide whether or not I should send him away and finish up myself as I called out the next victim. To my surprise, he was suddenly angry, furious. I braced for whatever his mood might foreshadow - he was a good fighter, but he was never a match for me.

"The newborn I'd summoned was a female, just past her year mark. Her name was Charlotte. His feelings changed when she came into view; they gave him away. He yelled for her to run, and he bolted after her. I could have pursued them, but I didn't. I felt . . . averse to destroying him.

"Maria was irritated with me for that . . .

"Five years later, Peter snuck back for me. He picked a good day to arrive.

"Maria was mystified by my ever-deteriorating frame of mind. She'd never felt a moment's depression, and I wondered why I was different. I began to notice a change in her emotions when she was near me - sometimes there was fear . . . and malice - the same feelings that had given me advance warning when Nettie and Lucy struck. I was preparing myself to destroy my only ally, the core of my existence, when Peter returned.

"Peter told me about his new life with Charlotte, told me about options I'd never dreamed I had. In five years, they'd never had a fight, though they'd met many others in the north. Others who could co-exist without the constant mayhem.

"In one conversation, he had me convinced. I was ready to go, and somewhat relieved I wouldn't have to kill Maria. I'd been her companion for as many years as Carlisle and Edward have been together, yet the bond between us was nowhere near as strong. When you live for the fight, for the blood, the relationships you form are tenuous and easily broken. I walked away without a backward glance.

"I traveled with Peter and Charlotte for a few years, getting the feel of this new, more peaceful world. But the depression didn't fade. I didn't understand what was wrong with me, until Peter noticed that it was always worse after I'd hunted.

"I contemplated that. In so many years of slaughter and carnage, I'd lost nearly all of my humanity. I was undeniably a nightmare, a monster of the grisliest kind. Yet each time I found another human victim, I would feel a faint prick of remembrance for that other life. Watching their eyes widen in wonder at my beauty, I could see Maria and the others in my head, what they had looked like to me the last night that I was Jasper Whitlock. It was stronger for me - this borrowed memory - than it was for anyone else, because I could feel everything my prey was feeling. And I lived their emotions as I killed them.

"You've experienced the way I can manipulate the emotions around myself, Bella, but I wonder if you realize how the feelings in a room affect me. I live every day in a climate of emotion. For the first century of my life, I lived in a world of bloodthirsty vengeance. Hate was my constant companion. It eased some when I left Maria, but I still had to feel the horror and fear of my prey.

"It began to be too much.

"The depression got worse, and I wandered away from Peter and Charlotte. Civilized as they were, they didn't feel the same aversion I was beginning to feel. They only wanted peace from the fight. I was so wearied by killing - killing anyone, even mere humans.

"Yet I had to keep killing. What choice did I have? I tried to kill less often, but I would get too thirsty and I would give in. After a century of instant gratification, I found self-discipline . . . challenging. I still haven't perfected that."

Jasper was lost in the story, as was I. It surprised me when his desolate expression smoothed into a peaceful smile.

"I was in Philadelphia. There was a storm, and I was out during the day - something I was not completely comfortable with yet. I knew standing in the rain would attract attention, so I ducked into a little half-empty diner. My eyes were dark enough that no one would notice them, though this meant I was thirsty, and that worried me a little.

"She was there - expecting me, naturally." He chuckled once. "She hopped down from the high stool at the counter as soon as I walked in and came directly toward me.

"It shocked me. I was not sure if she meant to attack. That's the only interpretation of her behavior my past had to offer. But she was smiling. And the emotions that were emanating from her were like nothing I'd ever felt before.

"'You've kept me waiting a long time,' she said."

I didn't realize Alice had come to stand behind me again.

"And you ducked your head, like a good Southern gentleman, and said, 'I'm sorry, ma'am.'" Alice laughed at the memory.

Jasper smiled down at her. "You held out your hand, and I took it without stopping to make sense of what I was doing. For the first time in almost a century, I felt hope."

Jasper took Alice's hand as he spoke.

Alice grinned. "I was just relieved. I thought you were never going to show up."

They smiled at each other for a long moment, and then Jasper looked back to me, the soft expression lingering.

"Alice told me what she'd seen of Carlisle and his family. I could hardly believe that such an existence was possible. But Alice made me optimistic. So we went to find them."

"Scared the hell out of them, too," Edward said, rolling his eyes at Jasper before turning to me to explain.

"Emmett and I were away hunting. Jasper shows up, covered in battle scars, towing this little freak" - he nudged Alice playfully - "who greets them all by name, knows everything about them, and wants to know which room she can move into."

Alice and Jasper laughed in harmony, soprano and bass.

"When I got home, all my things were in the garage," Edward continued.

Alice shrugged. "Your room had the best view."

They all laughed together now.

"That's a nice story," I said.

Three pairs of eyes questioned my sanity.

"I mean the last part," I defended myself. "The happy ending with Alice."

"Alice has made all the difference," Jasper agreed. "This is a climate I enjoy."

But the momentary pause in the stress couldn't last.

"An army," Alice whispered. "Why didn't you tell me?"

The others were intent again, their eyes locked on Jasper's face.

"I thought I must be interpreting the signs incorrectly. Because where is the motive? Why would someone create an army in Seattle? There is no history there, no vendetta. It makes no sense from a conquest standpoint, either; no one claims it. Nomads pass through, but there's no one to fight for it. No one to defend it from.

"But I've seen this before, and there's no other explanation. There is an army of newborn vampires in Seattle. Fewer than twenty, I'd guess. The difficult part is that they are totally untrained. Whoever made them just set them loose. It will only get worse, and it won't be much longer till the Volturi step in. Actually, I'm surprised they've let this go on so long."

"What can we do?" Carlisle asked.

"If we want to avoid the Volturi's involvement, we will have to destroy the newborns, and we will have to do it very soon." Jasper's face was hard. Knowing his story now, I could guess how this evaluation must disturb him. "I can teach you how. It won't be easy in the city. The young ones aren't concerned about secrecy, but we will have to be. It will limit us in ways that they are not. Maybe we can lure them out."

"Maybe we won't have to." Edward's voice was bleak. "Does it occur to anyone else that the only possible threat in the area that would call for the creation of an army is . . . us?"

Jasper's eyes narrowed; Carlisle's widened, shocked.

"Tanya's family is also near," Esme said slowly, unwilling to accept Edward's words.

"The newborns aren't ravaging Anchorage, Esme. I think we have to consider the idea that we are the targets."

"They're not coming after us," Alice insisted, and then paused. "Or . . . they don't know that they are. Not yet."

"What is that?" Edward asked, curious and tense. "What are you remembering?"

"Flickers," Alice said. "I can't see a clear picture when I try to see what's going on, nothing concrete. But I've been getting these strange flashes. Not enough to make sense of. It's as if someone's changing their mind, moving from one course of action to another so quickly that I can't get a good view. . . ."

"Indecision?" Jasper asked in disbelief.

"I don't know. . . ."

"Not indecision," Edward growled. "Knowledge. Someone who knows you can't see anything until the

decision is made. Someone who is hiding from us. Playing with the holes in your vision."

"Who would know that?" Alice whispered.

Edward's eyes were hard as ice. "Aro knows you as well as you know yourself."

"But I would see if they'd decided to come. . . ."

"Unless they didn't want to get their hands dirty."

"A favor," Rosalie suggested, speaking for the first time. "Someone in the South . . . someone who already had trouble with the rules. Someone who should have been destroyed is offered a second chance - if they take care of this one small problem. . . . That would explain the Volturi's sluggish response."

"Why?" Carlisle asked, still shocked. "There's no reason for the Volturi -"

"It was there," Edward disagreed quietly. "I'm surprised it's come to this so soon, because the other thoughts were stronger. In Aro's head he saw me at his one side and Alice at his other. The present and the future, virtual omniscience. The power of the idea intoxicated him. I would have thought it would take him much longer to give up on that plan - he wanted it too much. But there was also the thought of you, Carlisle, of our family, growing stronger and larger. The jealousy and the fear: you having . . . not more than he had, but still, things that he wanted. He tried not to think about it, but he couldn't hide it completely. The idea of rooting out the competition was there; besides their own, ours is the largest coven they've ever found. . . ."

I stared at his face in horror. He'd never told me this, but I guessed I knew why. I could see it in my head now, Aro's dream. Edward and Alice in black, flowing robes, drifting along at Aro's side with their eyes cold and blood-red. . . .

Carlisle interrupted my waking nightmare. "They're too committed to their mission. They would never break the rules themselves. It goes against everything they've worked for."

"They'll clean up afterward. A double betrayal," Edward said in a grim voice. "No harm done."

Jasper leaned forward, shaking his head. "No, Carlisle is right. The Volturi do not break rules. Besides, it's much too sloppy. This . . . person, this threat - they have no idea what they're doing. A first-timer, I'd swear to it. I cannot believe the Volturi are involved. But they will be."

They all stared at each other, frozen with stress.

"Then let's go," Emmett almost roared. "What are we waiting for?"

Carlisle and Edward exchanged a long glance. Edward nodded once.

"We'll need you to teach us, Jasper," Carlisle finally said. "How to destroy them." Carlisle's jaw was hard, but I could see the pain in his eyes as he said the words. No one hated violence more than Carlisle.

There was something bothering me, and I couldn't put my finger on it. I was numb, horrified, deathly afraid. And yet, under that, I could feel that I was missing something important. Something that would make some sense out of the chaos. That would explain it.

"We're going to need help," Jasper said. "Do you think Tanya's family would be willing . . . ? Another five mature vampires would make an enormous difference. And then Kate and Eleazar would be especially advantageous on our side. It would be almost easy, with their aid."

"We'll ask," Carlisle answered.

Jasper held out a cell phone. "We need to hurry."

I'd never seen Carlisle's innate calm so shaken. He took the phone, and paced toward the windows. He dialed a number, held the phone to his ear, and laid the other hand against the glass. He stared out into the foggy morning with a pained and ambivalent expression.

Edward took my hand and pulled me to the white loveseat. I sat beside him, staring at his face while he stared at Carlisle.

Carlisle's voice was low and quick, difficult to hear. I heard him greet Tanya, and then he raced through the situation too fast for me to understand much, though I could tell that the Alaskan vampires were not ignorant of what was going on in Seattle.

Then something changed in Carlisle's voice.

"Oh," he said, his voice sharper in surprise. "We didn't realize . . . that Irina felt that way."

Edward groaned at my side and closed his eyes. "Damn it. Damn Laurent to the deepest pit of hell where he belongs."

"Laurent?" I whispered, the blood emptying from my face, but Edward didn't respond, focused on Carlisle's thoughts.

My short encounter with Laurent early this spring was not something that had faded or dimmed in my mind. I still remembered every word he'd said before Jacob and his pack had interrupted.

I actually came here as a favor to her. . . .

Victoria. Laurent had been her first maneuver - she'd sent him to observe, to see how hard it might be to get to me. He hadn't survived the wolves to report back.

Though he'd kept up his old ties with Victoria after James's death, he'd also formed new ties and new relationships. He'd gone to live with Tanya's family in Alaska - Tanya the strawberry blonde - the closest friends the Cullens had in the vampire world, practically extended family. Laurent had been with them for almost a year previous to his death.

Carlisle was still talking, his voice not quite pleading. Persuasive, but with an edge. Then the edge abruptly won out over the persuasion.

"There's no question of that," Carlisle said in a stern voice. "We have a truce. They haven't broken it, and neither will we. I'm sorry to hear that. . . . Of course. We'll just have to do our best alone."

Carlisle shut the phone without waiting for an answer. He continued to stare out into the fog.

"What's the problem?" Emmett murmured to Edward.

"Irina was more involved with our friend Laurent than we knew. She's holding a grudge against the wolves for destroying him to save Bella. She wants -" He paused, looking down at me.

"Go on," I said as evenly as I could.

His eyes tightened. "She wants revenge. To take down the pack. They would trade their help for our permission."

"No!" I gasped.

"Don't worry," he told me in a flat voice. "Carlisle would never agree to it." He hesitated, then sighed. "Nor would I. Laurent had it coming" - this was almost a growl - "and I still owe the wolves for that."

"This isn't good," Jasper said. "It's too even a fight. We'd have the upper hand in skill, but not numbers. We'd win, but at what price?" His tense eyes flashed to Alice's face and away.

I wanted to scream out loud as I grasped what Jasper meant.

We would win, but we would lose. Some wouldn't survive.

I looked around the room at their faces - Jasper, Alice, Emmett, Rose, Esme, Carlisle . . . Edward - the faces of my family.

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