The line of black advanced on me through the shroud-like mist. I could see their dark ruby eyes glinting with desire, lusting for the kill. Their lips pulled back over their sharp, wet teeth—some to snarl, some to smile.
I heard the child behind me whimper, but I couldn’t turn to look at him. Though I was desperate to be sure that he was safe, I could not afford any lapse in focus now.
They ghosted closer, their black robes billowing slightly with the movement. I saw their hands curl into bone-colored claws. They started to drift apart, angling to come at us from all sides. We were surrounded. We were going to die.
And then, like a burst of light from a flash, the whole scene was different. Yet nothing changed—the Volturi still stalked toward us, poised to kill. All that really changed was how the picture looked to me. Suddenly, I was hungry for it. I wanted them to charge. The panic changed to bloodlust as I crouched forward, a smile on my face, and a growl ripped through my bared teeth.
I jolted upright, shocked out of the dream.
The room was black. It was also steamy hot. Sweat matted my hair at the temples and rolled down my throat.
I groped the warm sheets and found them empty.
Just then, my fingers encountered something smooth and flat and stiff. One sheet of paper, folded in half. I took the note with me and felt my way across the room to the light switch.
The outside of the note was addressed to Mrs. Cullen.
I’m hoping you won’t wake and notice my absence, but, if you should, I’ll be back very soon. I’ve just gone to the mainland to hunt. Go back to sleep and I’ll be here when you wake again. I love you.
I sighed. We’d been here about two weeks now, so I should have been expecting that he would have to leave, but I hadn’t been thinking about time. We seemed to exist outside of time here, just drifting along in a perfect state.
I wiped the sweat off my forehead. I felt absolutely wide awake, though the clock on the dresser said it was after one. I knew I would never be able to sleep as hot and sticky as I felt. Not to mention the fact that if I shut off the light and closed my eyes, I was sure to see those prowling black figures in my head.
I got up and wandered aimlessly through the dark house, flipping on lights. It felt so big and empty without Edward there. Different.
I ended up in the kitchen and decided that maybe comfort food was what I needed.
I poked around in the fridge until I found all the ingredients for fried chicken. The popping and sizzling of the chicken in the pan was a nice, homey sound; I felt less nervous while it filled the silence.
It smelled so good that I started eating it right out of the pan, burning my tongue in the process. By the fifth or sixth bite, though, it had cooled enough for me to taste it. My chewing slowed. Was there something off about the flavor? I checked the meat, and it was white all the way through, but I wondered if it was completely done. I took another experimental bite; I chewed twice. Ugh—definitely bad. I jumped up to spit it into the sink. Suddenly, the chicken-and-oil smell was revolting. I took the whole plate and shook it into the garbage, then opened the windows to chase away the scent. A coolish breeze had picked up outside. It felt good on my skin.
I was abruptly exhausted, but I didn’t want to go back to the hot room. So I opened more windows in the TV room and lay on the couch right beneath them. I turned on the same movie we’d watched the other day and quickly fell asleep to the bright opening song.
When I opened my eyes again, the sun was halfway up the sky, but it was not the light that woke me. Cool arms were around me, pulling me against him. At the same time, a sudden pain twisted in my stomach, almost like the aftershock of catching a punch in the gut.
“I’m sorry,” Edward was murmuring as he wiped a wintry hand across my clammy forehead. “So much for thoroughness. I didn’t think about how hot you would be with me gone. I’ll have an air conditioner installed before I leave again.”
I couldn’t concentrate on what he was saying. “Excuse me!” I gasped, struggling to get free of his arms.
He dropped his hold automatically. “Bella?”
I streaked for the bathroom with my hand clamped over my mouth. I felt so horrible that I didn’t even care—at first—that he was with me while I crouched over the toilet and was violently sick.
“Bella? What’s wrong?”
I couldn’t answer yet. He held me anxiously, keeping my hair out of my face, waiting till I could breathe again.
“Damn rancid chicken,” I moaned.
“Are you all right?” His voice was strained.
“Fine,” I panted. “It’s just food poisoning. You don’t need to see this. Go away.”
“Not likely, Bella.”
“Go away,” I moaned again, struggling to get up so I could rinse my mouth out. He helped me gently, ignoring the weak shoves I aimed at him.
After my mouth was clean, he carried me to the bed and sat me down carefully, supporting me with his arms.
“Yeah,” I croaked. “I made some chicken last night. It tasted off, so I threw it out. But I ate a few bites first.”
He put a cold hand on my forehead. It felt nice. “How do you feel now?”
I thought about that for a moment. The nausea had passed as suddenly as it had come, and I felt like I did any other morning. “Pretty normal. A little hungry, actually.”
He made me wait an hour and keep down a big glass of water before he fried me some eggs. I felt perfectly normal, just a little tired from being up in the middle of the night. He put on CNN—we’d been so out of touch, world war three could have broken out and we wouldn’t have known—and I lounged drowsily across his lap.
I got bored with the news and twisted around to kiss him. Just like this morning, a sharp pain hit my stomach when I moved. I lurched away from him, my hand tight over my mouth. I knew I’d never make it to the bathroom this time, so I ran to the kitchen sink.
He held my hair again.
“Maybe we should go back to Rio, see a doctor,” he suggested anxiously when I was rinsing my mouth afterward.
I shook my head and edged toward the hallway. Doctors meant needles. “I’ll be fine right after I brush my teeth.”
When my mouth tasted better, I searched through my suitcase for the little first-aid kit Alice had packed for me, full of human things like bandages and painkillers and—my object now—Pepto-Bismol. Maybe I could settle my stomach and calm Edward down.
But before I found the Pepto, I happened across something else that Alice had packed for me. I picked up the small blue box and stared at it in my hand for a long moment, forgetting everything else.
Then I started counting in my head. Once. Twice. Again.
The knock startled me; the little box fell back into the suitcase.
“Are you well?” Edward asked through the door. “Did you get sick again?”
“Yes and no,” I said, but my voice sounded strangled.
“Bella? Can I please come in?” Worriedly now.
He came in and appraised my position, sitting cross-legged on the floor by the suitcase, and my expression, blank and staring. He sat next to me, his hand going to my forehead at once.
“How many days has it been since the wedding?” I whispered.
“Seventeen,” he answered automatically. “Bella, what is it?”
I was counting again. I held up a finger, cautioning him to wait, and mouthed the numbers to myself. I’d been wrong about the days before. We’d been here longer than I’d thought. I started over again.
“Bella!” he whispered urgently. “I’m losing my mind over here.”
I tried to swallow. It didn’t work. So I reached into the suitcase and fumbled around until I found the little blue box of tampons again. I held them up silently.
He stared at me in confusion. “What? Are you trying to pass this illness off as PMS?”
“No,” I managed to choke out. “No, Edward. I’m trying to tell you that my period is five days late.”
His facial expression didn’t change. It was like I hadn’t spoken.
“I don’t think I have food poisoning,” I added.
He didn’t respond. He had turned into a sculpture.
“The dreams,” I mumbled to myself in a flat voice. “Sleeping so much. The crying. All that food. Oh. Oh. Oh .”
Edward’s stare seemed glassy, as if he couldn’t see me anymore.
Reflexively, almost involuntarily, my hand dropped to my stomach.
“Oh!” I squeaked again.
I lurched to my feet, slipping out of Edward’s unmoving hands. I’d never changed out of the little silk shorts and camisole I’d worn to bed. I yanked the blue fabric out of the way and stared at my stomach.
“Impossible,” I whispered.
I had absolutely no experience with pregnancy or babies or any part of that world, but I wasn’t an idiot. I’d seen enough movies and TV shows to know that this wasn’t how it worked. I was only five days late. If I was pregnant, my body wouldn’t even have registered that fact. I would not have morning sickness. I would not have changed my eating or sleeping habits.
And I most definitely would not have a small but defined bump sticking out between my hips.
I twisted my torso back and forth, examining it from every angle, as if it would disappear in exactly the right light. I ran my fingers over the subtle bulge, surprised by how rock hard it felt under my skin.
“Impossible,” I said again, because, bulge or no bulge, period or no period (and there was definitely no period, though I’d never been late a day in my life), there was no way I could be pregnant . The only person I’d ever had sex with was a vampire, for crying out loud.
A vampire who was still frozen on the floor with no sign of ever moving again.
So there had to be some other explanation, then. Something wrong with me. A strange South American disease with all the signs of pregnancy, only accelerated…
And then I remembered something—a morning of internet research that seemed a lifetime ago now. Sitting at the old desk in my room at Charlie’s house with gray light glowing dully through the window, staring at my ancient, wheezing computer, reading avidly through a web-site called “Vampires A–Z.” It had been less than twenty-four hours since Jacob Black, trying to entertain me with the Quileute legends he didn’t believe in yet, had told me that Edward was a vampire. I’d scanned anxiously through the first entries on the site, which was dedicated to vampire myths around the world. The Filipino Danag , the Hebrew Estrie, the Romanian Varacolaci, the Italian Stregoni benefici (a legend actually based on my new father-in-law’s early exploits with the Volturi, not that I’d known anything about that at the time)… I’d paid less and less attention as the stories had grown more and more implausible. I only remembered vague bits of the later entries. They mostly seemed like excuses dreamed up to explain things like infant mortality rates—and infidelity. No, honey, I’m not having an affair! That sexy woman you saw sneaking out of the house was an evil succubus. I’m lucky I escaped with my life! (Of course, with what I knew now about Tanya and her sisters, I suspected that some of those excuses had been nothing but fact.) There had been one for the ladies, too. How can you accuse me of cheating on you—just because you’ve come home from a two-year sea voyage and I’m pregnant? It was the incubus. He hypnotized me with his mystical vampire powers .…
That had been part of the definition of the incubus—the ability to father children with his hapless prey.
I shook my head, dazed. But…
I thought of Esme and especially Rosalie. Vampires couldn’t have children. If it were possible, Rosalie would have found a way by now. The incubus myth was nothing but a fable.
Except that… well, there was a difference. Of course Rosalie could not conceive a child, because she was frozen in the state in which she passed from human to inhuman. Totally unchanging. And human women’s bodies had to change to bear children. The constant change of a monthly cycle for one thing, and then the bigger changes needed to accommodate a growing child. Rosalie’s body couldn’t change.
But mine could. Mine did. I touched the bump on my stomach that had not been there yesterday.
And human men—well, they pretty much stayed the same from puberty to death. I remembered a random bit of trivia, gleaned from who knows where: Charlie Chaplin was in his seventies when he fathered his youngest child. Men had no such thing as child-bearing years or cycles of fertility.
Of course, how would anyone know if vampire men could father children, when their partners were not able? What vampire on earth would have the restraint necessary to test the theory with a human woman? Or the inclination?
I could think of only one.
Part of my head was sorting through fact and memory and speculation, while the other half—the part that controlled the ability to move even the smallest muscles—was stunned beyond the capacity for normal operations. I couldn’t move my lips to speak, though I wanted to ask Edward to please explain to me what was going on. I needed to go back to where he sat, to touch him, but my body wouldn’t follow instructions. I could only stare at my shocked eyes in the mirror, my fingers gingerly pressed against the swelling on my torso.
And then, like in my vivid nightmare last night, the scene abruptly transformed. Everything I saw in the mirror looked completely different, though nothing actually was different.
What happened to change everything was that a soft little nudge bumped my hand—from inside my body.
In the same moment, Edward’s phone rang, shrill and demanding. Neither of us moved. It rang again and again. I tried to tune it out while I pressed my fingers to my stomach, waiting. In the mirror my expression was no longer bewildered—it was wondering now. I barely noticed when the strange, silent tears started streaming down my cheeks.
The phone kept ringing. I wished Edward would answer it—I was having a moment. Possibly the biggest of my life.
Ring! Ring! Ring!
Finally, the annoyance broke through everything else. I got down on my knees next to Edward—I found myself moving more carefully, a thousand times more aware of the way each motion felt—and patted his pockets until I found the phone. I half-expected him to thaw out and answer it himself, but he was perfectly still.
I recognized the number, and I could easily guess why she was calling.
“Hi, Alice,” I said. My voice wasn’t much better than before. I cleared my throat.
“Bella? Bella, are you okay?”
“Yeah. Um. Is Carlisle there?”
“He is. What’s the problem?”
“I’m not… one hundred percent… sure. . . .”
“Is Edward all right?” she asked warily. She called Carlisle’s name away from the phone and then demanded, “Why didn’t he pick up the phone?” before I could answer her first question.
“I’m not sure.”
“Bella, what’s going on? I just saw—”
“What did you see?”
There was a silence. “Here’s Carlisle,” she finally said.
It felt like ice water had been injected in my veins. If Alice had seen a vision of me with a green-eyed, angel-faced child in my arms, she would have answered me, wouldn’t she?
While I waited through the split second it took for Carlisle to speak, the vision I’d imagined for Alice danced behind my lids. A tiny, beautiful little baby, even more beautiful than the boy in my dream—a tiny Edward in my arms. Warmth shot through my veins, chasing the ice away.
“Bella, it’s Carlisle. What’s going on?”
“I—” I wasn’t sure how to answer. Would he laugh at my conclusions, tell me I was crazy? Was I just having another colorful dream? “I’m a little worried about Edward.… Can vampires go into shock?”
“Has he been harmed?” Carlisle’s voice was suddenly urgent.
“No, no,” I assured him. “Just… taken by surprise.”
“I don’t understand, Bella.”
“I think… well, I think that… maybe… I might be . . .” I took a deep breath. “Pregnant.”
As if to back me up, there was another tiny nudge in my abdomen. My hand flew to my stomach.
After a long pause, Carlisle’s medical training kicked in.
“When was the first day of your last menstrual cycle?”
“Sixteen days before the wedding.” I’d done the mental math thoroughly enough just before to be able to answer with certainty.
“How do you feel?”
“Weird,” I told him, and my voice broke. Another trickle of tears dribbled down my cheeks. “This is going to sound crazy—look, I know it’s way too early for any of this. Maybe I am crazy. But I’m having bizarre dreams and eating all the time and crying and throwing up and… and… I swear something moved inside me just now.”
Edward’s head snapped up.
I sighed in relief.
Edward held his hand out for the phone, his face white and hard.
“Um, I think Edward wants to talk to you.”
“Put him on,” Carlisle said in a strained voice.
Not entirely sure that Edward could talk, I put the phone in his outstretched hand.
He pressed it to his ear. “Is it possible?” he whispered.
He listened for a long time, staring blankly at nothing.
“And Bella?” he asked. His arm wrapped around me as he spoke, pulling me close into his side.
He listened for what seemed like a long time and then said, “Yes. Yes, I will.”
He pulled the phone away from his ear and pressed the “end” button. Right away, he dialed a new number.
“What did Carlisle say?” I asked impatiently.
Edward answered in a lifeless voice. “He thinks you’re pregnant.”
The words sent a warm shiver down my spine. The little nudger fluttered inside me.
“Who are you calling now?” I asked as he put the phone back to his ear.
“The airport. We’re going home.”
Edward was on the phone for more than an hour without a break. I guessed that he was arranging our flight home, but I couldn’t be sure because he wasn’t speaking English. It sounded like he was arguing; he spoke through his teeth a lot.
While he argued, he packed. He whirled around the room like an angry tornado, leaving order rather than destruction in his path. He threw a set of my clothes on the bed without looking at them, so I assumed it was time for me to get dressed. He continued with his argument while I changed, gesturing with sudden, agitated movements.
When I could no longer bear the violent energy radiating out of him, I quietly left the room. His manic concentration made me sick to my stomach—not like the morning sickness, just uncomfortable. I would wait somewhere else for his mood to pass. I couldn’t talk to this icy, focused Edward who honestly frightened me a little.
Once again, I ended up in the kitchen. There was a bag of pretzels in the cupboard. I started chewing on them absently, staring out the window at the sand and rocks and trees and ocean, everything glittering in the sun.
Someone nudged me.
“I know,” I said. “I don’t want to go, either.”
I stared out the window for a moment, but the nudger didn’t respond.
“I don’t understand,” I whispered. “What is wrong here?”
Surprising, absolutely. Astonishing, even. But wrong ?
So why was Edward so furious ? He was the one who had actually wished out loud for a shotgun wedding.
I tried to reason through it.
Maybe it wasn’t so confusing that Edward wanted us to go home right away. He’d want Carlisle to check me out, make sure my assumption was right—though there was absolutely no doubt in my head at this point. Probably they’d want to figure out why I was already so pregnant, with the bump and the nudging and all of that. That wasn’t normal.
Once I thought of this, I was sure I had it. He must be so worried about the baby. I hadn’t gotten around to freaking out yet. My brain worked slower than his—it was still stuck marveling over the picture it had conjured up before: the tiny child with Edward’s eyes—green, as his had been when he was human—lying fair and beautiful in my arms. I hoped he would have Edward’s face exactly, with no interference from mine.
It was funny how abruptly and entirely necessary this vision had become. From that first little touch, the whole world had shifted. Where before there was just one thing I could not live without, now there were two. There was no division—my love was not split between them now; it wasn’t like that. It was more like my heart had grown, swollen up to twice its size in that moment. All that extra space, already filled. The increase was almost dizzying.
I’d never really understood Rosalie’s pain and resentment before. I’d never imagined myself a mother, never wanted that. It had been a piece of cake to promise Edward that I didn’t care about giving up children for him, because I truly didn’t. Children, in the abstract, had never appealed to me. They seemed to be loud creatures, often dripping some form of goo. I’d never had much to do with them. When I’d dreamed of Renée providing me with a brother, I’d always imagined an older brother. Someone to take care of me, rather than the other way around.
This child, Edward’s child, was a whole different story.
I wanted him like I wanted air to breathe. Not a choice—a necessity.
Maybe I just had a really bad imagination. Maybe that was why I’d been unable to imagine that I would like being married until after I already was—unable to see that I would want a baby until after one was already coming.…
As I put my hand on my stomach, waiting for the next nudge, tears streaked down my cheeks again.
I turned, made wary by the tone of his voice. It was too cold, too careful. His face matched his voice, empty and hard.
And then he saw that I was crying.
“Bella!” He crossed the room in a flash and put his hands on my face. “Are you in pain?”
He pulled me against his chest. “Don’t be afraid. We’ll be home in sixteen hours. You’ll be fine. Carlisle will be ready when we get there. We’ll take care of this, and you’ll be fine, you’ll be fine.”
“Take care of this? What do you mean?”
He leaned away and looked me in the eye. “We’re going to get that thing out before it can hurt any part of you. Don’t be scared. I won’t let it hurt you.”
“That thing ?” I gasped.
He looked sharply away from me, toward the front door. “Dammit! I forgot Gustavo was due today. I’ll get rid of him and be right back.” He darted out of the room.
I clutched the counter for support. My knees were wobbly.
Edward had just called my little nudger a thing . He said Carlisle would get it out.
“No,” I whispered.
I’d gotten it wrong before. He didn’t care about the baby at all. He wanted to hurt him. The beautiful picture in my head shifted abruptly, changed into something dark. My pretty baby crying, my weak arms not enough to protect him.…
What could I do? Would I be able to reason with them? What if I couldn’t? Did this explain Alice’s strange silence on the phone? Is that what she’d seen? Edward and Carlisle killing that pale, perfect child before he could live?
“No,” I whispered again, my voice stronger. That could not be. I would not allow it.
I heard Edward speaking Portuguese again. Arguing again. His voice got closer, and I heard him grunt in exasperation. Then I heard another voice, low and timid. A woman’s voice.
He came into the kitchen ahead of her and went straight to me. He wiped the tears from my cheeks and murmured in my ear through the thin, hard line of his lips.
“She’s insisting on leaving the food she brought—she made us dinner.” If he had been less tense, less furious, I knew he would have rolled his eyes. “It’s an excuse—she wants to make sure I haven’t killed you yet.” His voice went ice cold at the end.
Kaure edged nervously around the corner with a covered dish in her hands. I wished I could speak Portuguese, or that my Spanish was less rudimentary, so that I could try to thank this woman who had dared to anger a vampire just to check on me.
Her eyes flickered between the two of us. I saw her measuring the color in my face, the moisture in my eyes. Mumbling something I didn’t understand, she put the dish on the counter.
Edward snapped something at her; I’d never heard him be so impolite before. She turned to go, and the whirling motion of her long skirt wafted the smell of the food into my face. It was strong—onions and fish. I gagged and whirled for the sink. I felt Edward’s hands on my forehead and heard his soothing murmur through the roaring in my ears. His hands disappeared for a second, and I heard the refrigerator slam shut. Mercifully, the smell disappeared with the sound, and Edward’s hands were cooling my clammy face again. It was over quickly.
I rinsed my mouth in the tap while he caressed the side of my face.
There was a tentative little nudge in my womb.
It’s okay. We’re okay , I thought toward the bump.
Edward turned me around, pulling me into his arms. I rested my head on his shoulder. My hands, instinctively, folded over my stomach.
I heard a little gasp and I looked up.
The woman was still there, hesitating in the doorway with her hands half-outstretched as if she had been looking for some way to help. Her eyes were locked on my hands, popping wide with shock. Her mouth hung open.
Then Edward gasped, too, and he suddenly turned to face the woman, pushing me slightly behind his body. His arm wrapped across my torso, like he was holding me back.
Suddenly, Kaure was shouting at him—loudly, furiously, her unintelligible words flying across the room like knives. She raised her tiny fist in the air and took two steps forward, shaking it at him. Despite her ferocity, it was easy to see the terror in her eyes.
Edward stepped toward her, too, and I clutched at his arm, frightened for the woman. But when he interrupted her tirade, his voice took me by surprise, especially considering how sharp he’d been with her when she wasn’t screeching at him. It was low now; it was pleading. Not only that, but the sound was different, more guttural, the cadence off. I didn’t think he was speaking Portuguese anymore.
For a moment, the woman stared at him in wonder, and then her eyes narrowed as she barked out a long question in the same alien tongue.
I watched as his face grew sad and serious, and he nodded once. She took a quick step back and crossed herself.
He reached out to her, gesturing toward me and then resting his hand against my cheek. She replied angrily again, waving her hands accusingly toward him, and then gestured to him. When she finished, he pleaded again with the same low, urgent voice.
Her expression changed—she stared at him with doubt plain on her face as he spoke, her eyes repeatedly flashing to my confused face. He stopped speaking, and she seemed to be deliberating something. She looked back and forth between the two of us, and then, unconsciously it seemed, took a step forward.
She made a motion with her hands, miming a shape like a balloon jutting out from her stomach. I started—did her legends of the predatory blood-drinker include this ? Could she possibly know something about what was growing inside me?
She walked a few steps forward deliberately this time and asked a few brief questions, which he responded to tensely. Then he became the questioner—one quick query. She hesitated and then slowly shook her head. When he spoke again, his voice was so agonized that I looked up at him in shock. His face was drawn with pain.
In answer, she walked slowly forward until she was close enough to lay her small hand on top of mine, over my stomach. She spoke one word in Portuguese.
“Morte,” she sighed quietly. Then she turned, her shoulders bent as if the conversation had aged her, and left the room.
I knew enough Spanish for that one.
Edward was frozen again, staring after her with the tortured expression fixed on his face. A few moments later, I heard a boat’s engine putter to life and then fade into the distance.
Edward did not move until I started for the bathroom. Then his hand caught my shoulder.
“Where are you going?” His voice was a whisper of pain.
“To brush my teeth again.”
“Don’t worry about what she said. It’s nothing but legends, old lies for the sake of entertainment.”
“I didn’t understand anything,” I told him, though it wasn’t entirely true. As if I could discount something because it was a legend. My life was circled by legend on every side. They were all true.
“I packed your toothbrush. I’ll get it for you.”
He walked ahead of me to the bedroom.
“Are we leaving soon?” I called after him.
“As soon as you’re done.”
He waited for my toothbrush to repack it, pacing silently around the bedroom. I handed it to him when I was finished.
“I’ll get the bags into the boat.”
He turned back. “Yes?”
I hesitated, trying to think of some way to get a few seconds alone. “Could you… pack some of the food? You know, in case I get hungry again.”
“Of course,” he said, his eyes suddenly soft. “Don’t worry about anything. We’ll get to Carlisle in just a few hours, really. This will all be over soon.”
I nodded, not trusting my voice.
He turned and left the room, one big suitcase in each hand.
I whirled and scooped up the phone he’d left on the counter. It was very unlike him to forget things—to forget that Gustavo was coming, to leave his phone lying here. He was so stressed he was barely himself.
I flipped it open and scrolled through the preprogrammed numbers. I was glad he had the sound turned off, afraid that he would catch me. Would he be at the boat now? Or back already? Would he hear me from the kitchen if I whispered?
I found the number I wanted, one I had never called before in my life. I pressed the “send” button and crossed my fingers.
“Hello?” the voice like golden wind chimes answered.
“Rosalie?” I whispered. “It’s Bella. Please. You have to help me.