The following day, Aunt Alice sought the Winters out and arranged for them to come by our house the day after. I spent the rest of the day virtually in silence. There was so much to think about: what was happening with Jacob, this discovery of more half-breeds, their strange reactions to us...I wasn't sure where to begin.
After school, we all met at the cars. Dad, Mom, Jacob and I drove the half hour drive back to our home which was situated on the very fringes of West Vancouver. We'd chosen a school in the Kerrisford district in the hopes that people would be less likely to come looking for us if we missed sunny days. Dad drove even faster than his usual ninety miles an hour, no doubt eager to get home and tell Grandpa Carlisle about what had happened today.
As soon as we arrived, Dad parked the Volvo in the new garage that Uncle Emmett, Dad, Uncle Jasper and Grandpa Carlisle had built when we'd moved here four years ago. We'd even managed to beat the Lamborghini home. He and my mother raced inside as soon as Dad had his keys out of the ignition, leaving Jacob and me very much alone.
We made our way up the wide, well-lit steps of the house. It was a colossal four-storey mostly-glass structure. The main level of the house was almost entirely walled by windows. On the second floor were Aunt Rosalie and Uncle Emmett's room (Dad had flatly refused to have them so near to his own room ever again), Grandma Carlisle and Grandma Esme's room, and on the third floor were Uncle Jasper and Aunt Alice's room as well as Dad and Mom's. My room was the only one on the fourth floor. The only other thing on the first floor was Grandpa Carlisle's library, but I'd been more than willing to share since I absolutely loved reading. A gift from my father, my mom had told me. Jacob's room was in the basement, by my father's request. Even then, he'd had a lock installed on my door. Mom, Jacob and I had tried to convince him that it was unnecessary, but Dad was dead set on having Jacob as far away from where I slept as possible.
"You hungry?" asked Jacob. Ever since I'd been born and Jacob had come to live with us, the family had made sure the fridge was always well-stocked, particularly around the end of each month. Jacob's pack came to visit him during the last week of every month. Sometimes they'd stay for a few hours, and sometimes they'd stay for a few days. Either way, they were always ravenous after running all the way to Vancouver from La Push, and Seth in particular had developed a taste for my dad's cooking. As much as Leah would have hated to admit it, I think she was too. She was always most resistant to our hospitality.
"How can you possibly be hungry after all you ate at lunch?"
"My dad used to tell me I have hollow legs."
"I'm not so sure about the legs," Aunt Rose commented as she joined us. "The head, on the other hand..."
I'd barely noticed her and Uncle Emmett arrive. "Aunt Rose…"
"It's okay, Nessie," Jacob reassured me. "Don't distract Blondie. She has to go fix her makeup."
I shook my head and continued inside as they bantered behind me. They would never get along. Of that I was absolutely certain.
"Nessie, there you are," said Grandpa Carlisle as I made my way into his study tucked in the back left-hand corner of the house. Mom and Dad were already sitting in chairs across from his large desk which was as meticulously clean as ever. The wall by the door was the only one that wasn't a window. The entire wall was a series of shelves ranging from the floor to the ceiling. They were covered in books and various artefacts that my grandfather had collected over the centuries. Dad's brow was furrowed in his familiar worried frown, and Mom appeared no less distressed.
"What does it mean?" asked Dad suddenly, leaping to his feet to pace behind Mom's chair. "We just arrive here in Vancouver, and we find out that there's another clan here, especially a clan with half-breeds and a vampire from Jasper's past?"
"I don't know," Grandpa Carlisle admitted, sitting back in his chair. He studied the three of us closely. "But you say that Alice invited them to come to our home tomorrow?"
"Well, that would be the best time to find out."
Dad sighed and paused, leaning on the back of Mom's chair. "Do you think we're safe here?"
"Yes," Grandpa Carlisle said firmly. "I'm sure of it."
"How?" he asked, pacing again.
"Because if we didn't know about them, then it's unlikely that many others do. The Volturi may not even know yet."
"The Volturi are really our only foreseeable threat. A coven of two vampires and two half-breeds won't do much damage against a coven of eight vampires, a half-breed and a werewolf."
"Nessie will not be fighting," Dad said firmly.
And neither with Jacob if I have anything to say about it, I added mentally. Dad flashed a quick glance in my direction and then resumed pacing.
"Of course," Grandpa Carlisle continued, as passive as ever. "But I don't believe that's a concern. I don't think there's a fight to be had."
"Let's hope it stays that way." Dad sank into his chair again. My mother reached out and touched his arm. He sat in utter silence for a few moments. "I hope you're right, Carlisle."
"So do I, Edward. So do I."
When I wandered back to the kitchen, Jacob had occupied one of the stools at the breakfast bar, a half-consumed box of pizza open in front of him. Aunt Rose was making dinner for me on the other side of the enormous kitchen, keeping her back to him. She glanced over when she heard me enter and smiled. She was never very talkative when Jacob was around. I hated to think of how she'd react when she found out about my weird feelings for him. Dad undoubtedly already knew, but he had enough on his mind.
I sighed and sat down next to Jacob. He hadn't even noticed I was there until I appeared beside him. He jumped slightly. "Oh. Didn't see you."
"My bad," I said quickly as heat bloomed in my cheeks.
"You hungry yet?" he asked, gesturing to what remained of his afternoon snack. He still had dinner, his evening and midnight snacks to go.
"You sure? This stuff is amazing."
I smiled. "I'm sure."
"Nessie prefers to eat real food, mutt," Aunt Rose said from in front of the stove.
"Oh, is that what you call it?" he said mockingly, gesturing to the gourmet chicken dish that Aunt Rose was making.
Aunt Rose glared at him briefly then turned back to her cooking. She was adding spices and oils to whatever she was cooking at a dizzying pace. As the scent drifted over to me, I suddenly realized just how hungry I was.
He smirked behind her back and returned to devouring his pizza with enthusiasm. I tried to ignore Aunt Rose's muttered comments, but I caught the words "barbaric", "mutt" and "loathsome, flea-brained canine" several times.
It was strangely awkward to be sitting in silence. Jacob and I had never been awkward around each other. Not ever. I was beginning to seriously resent the complications that these feelings were creating.
Mom and Dad joined us in the kitchen several minutes later. Mom took a seat beside me while Dad went to stand in front of the window. I could feel anxiety radiating from him despite what Grandpa Carlisle had said.
"Edward," Mom said softly. "Please. Relax."
Dad turned and began to walk towards us, then froze in mid-step. His expression changed suddenly. "Bella, Rose, come with me," His voice hardened suddenly as he ran out of the room at superhuman speed. My mother and aunt followed behind him, leaving Jacob and I alone yet again.
"What was that?" Jacob asked, his mouth full of food. I grimaced. Superhuman eyesight had its drawbacks.
"I have no idea," I said as I started to rise. "But I want to find out."
Jacob grabbed my wrist quickly. His fingers were warm and soft against my skin. "If Edward wanted you there, he would've called you too."
I gave him a look. "We both know there is no way that you're going to be able to keep me here."
He sighed. "You're so much like Bella."
"You make it sound like a bad thing," I said with a smirk as I tore out of the room. I followed their scent out to the back of the house and across the large field in the front yard. I frowned slightly as the trail led into the woods. What would they be doing in the woods? I doubled my pace, Jacob following easily.
The trail led through the woods for a time. In front of me, I saw a clearing in the brush. As I burst into the meadow, I suddenly saw why my father had been so eager.
In the centre of the clearing, my family stood facing two unfamiliar vampires dressed in the unmistakable ash-coloured cloaks of the Volturi. My family stood in a wide arc in front of them, clearly blocking their path. Each of their faces hid their anxiety well, but their stances were rigid.
"Nessie," Dad snapped. "I told you stay at the house."
"No you didn't," I shot back.
He walked over to me, eyes blazing. He grabbed my arm and towed me a little ways. "Go back to the house. Now." His tone was low and urgent.
"No!" I said, ripping my arm free of his grasp. "I want to know what's going on!"
"Hey, don't look at me," Jacob said. "I don't want her mad at me any more than you do."
Dad turned his furious eyes on Jacob. "If you want what's best for her, you will take her back to the house."
He hesitated. Dad had him, and we all knew it. There was no way Jacob could resist if my wellbeing was at stake. He sighed. "Ness…"
"No, Jacob," I said forcefully, irritated that he would fold so easily. Couldn't he see that Dad was just guilt-tripping him?
Mom ran over to us. "Renesmee Carlie Cullen, you will go back to the house with Jacob now!" Mom snarled in the same low tone as my dad's. "Jacob, take her with you and get out of here."
I'd always noticed that Jacob had a hard time resisting my mom, though I'd never been entirely able to understand why. He wrapped an arm around me firmly and began to tow me back towards the house. I glanced over my shoulder to glare at them all. The unfamiliar vampires studied me with interest before exchanging glances.
"Wait!" Grandpa Carlisle said, jogging over to us. "Jacob, stop." He looked at my parents, who were staring at him with shock. "She has a right to know. She's not a child anymore."
"She has a right to be safe!" Dad said angrily.
"Edward, she'll find out eventually anyway."
Dad looked at me for a long moment, his eyes softening. He sighed and stepped closer to Grandpa Carlisle. "If this goes badly…I don't want her here for that," he said quietly.
"Alice?" Carlisle called over his shoulder.
"I can't see anything," she said, her words coming out as a snarl as she concentrated.
"Jacob, if anything happens, you're to take Nessie back immediately," Grandpa Carlisle instructed him.
"Like you have to tell me," Jacob said, his eyes sweeping the trees as his body tensed.
Grandpa Carlisle looked back at Dad, who was watching me with an undecided expression. After a moment, his eyes left me to meet Jacob's. He nodded slightly.
I pulled away from Jacob's grasp and walked back towards them quickly. "What's going on?"
Dad kept himself between me and the visitors as I joined the group. "They're with the Volturi," he said quietly. "They want to know if we have any information regarding other half-breeds."
"Indeed," said one. He was powerfully-built, his muscle tone almost exceeding Uncle Emmett's. His voice was rich and smooth, his eyes a glowing red. By the vibrant look of them, he'd fed recently. "You wouldn't know anything about it, would you, young one? We are looking for two; they're of your race."
"Their names are Adelaide and Tara," he said. "We understand they may be somewhere nearby."
I glanced at my parents. My father shook his head infinitesimally. My mother was staring at me with wide eyes. I swallowed and looked back at the two. "No," I said, my voice stronger and clearer than I'd expected.
"A pity," said the slighter one disbelievingly. "You will inform our master if you do hear of anything, won't you?"
I nodded, not trusting my voice to hold.
"Good girl." His smile sent shivers racing across my skin. "Well, Fabian, I suppose we ought to be leaving."
"I suppose so, Dario." He turned back to Grandpa Carlisle, his façade of calm indifference disappearing. "I do hope you've been honest with us, Carlisle, for your own sake. Aro doesn't appreciate disloyalty. I expect you're aware of that by now."
"Acutely," was Grandpa Carlisle's cool reply.
Dario and Fabian disappeared into the woods on the other side of the clearing as suddenly as they'd come. No one relaxed, even after they had gone. After a moment, Grandpa Carlisle spoke softly. "Alice, Nessie, please contact the Winter coven. They ought to know about this."