Peace and love filled the Cullen estate like light throughout the long cold winter night. After weeks of tension the deadly encounter that ultimately resulted in a standoff with the Volturi was finally behind them. The vampire guests who had come from all over the world to witness for them and who had stood with them against the threat of the Volturi had packed their bags and returned to their homes. The Cullen family was free to return to their lives and could, once again, plan for a future.
Alice and Jasper had brought back more than a reason for the Volturi to call off their attack. They brought back a vampire/human hybrid – an adult – that was able to give them reassuring information about those like him. Those who loved Nessie Cullen had been concerned about her escalated development. Nessie was a vampire/human hybrid, born of her parents’ unique relationship. Thanks to Nahuel they were relieved of their fears that her life might be a short one. Although her maturing process would continue to be rapid, Nessie would have an indefinitely immortal future, like her vampire relatives and her favorite shape shifter, Jacob Black. Her future was now secure.
Meanwhile, Nessie slept through the long night, exhausted with relief after the battle, as her parents, Bella and Edward, joyfully discovered a deeper level of communication in their own little stone cottage. For the first time Bella had been able to open her mind to Edward. It was a special gift since her mind, the one he had always most wanted to read, had previously been firmly hidden from him. Bella’s gift, a shield that protected her mind from all attacks on it, was almost unknown to her until she prepared for what might have escalated into a battle with the Volturi. Her intense work with the shield had given her a familiarity with it that ultimately taught her its uses and how to control it. Now she could let down her shield for Edward, and he could run into her mind, as full of overwhelming love as when he ran into her arms. As New Year’s Eve crossed into New Year’s Day their night was filled with magic.
In the main house Emmett and Rosalie were wrapped around one another in their room. It was fortunate that none of them generally wore the same clothes twice, judging from the state of the shreds of fabric carelessly thrown along the thick white carpet. Their passion had always been evident and explosive but the close call with death gave a spice and urgency to their lovemaking. Never before had they been in serious danger of losing one another.
He held her tight at the end of their first round of lovemaking and groaned, “Oh, God, Rose, I thought for sure we were dead.”
She placed her finger on his lips, firmly hushing him, “But we’re not, Emmett. It’s okay.” His face was buried in the hollow where her left shoulder joined her neck and she stroked his curly hair. “It’s okay. We’re okay... all of us. I don’t know when I’ve felt more alive…” He rose up enough to look into her golden eyes. “And I love you, Emmett!” She rose up to kiss him passionately and his big body shivered as he threw off his remembered fear and once again gathered Rosalie to him. He wasn’t sure he could even let her go when morning came.
Alice and Jasper, happy to be home again, cuddled spooned together on their bed. The ice blue down blanket pulled around them both was unnecessary, but comforting. It was good to finally feel that their great quest was over and that they had arrived in time to prevail against their family’s enemy. Alice was uncharacteristically quiet and Jasper finally leaned across her and asked, “What do you see?”
A smile fleeted across her expressive face as her hand, in response, reached up to cradle his cheek. “Absolutely nothing to worry about for a while.” She rose up to kiss her husband. “I love you, Jazz, and I’m so glad to be home! It was even harder than I thought to be gone over the last few weeks. I don’t think I could have done it if you hadn’t been with me. I couldn’t bear to be separated from you.”
Jasper rolled onto his back, pulling Alice on top of him. “I missed them all too. In fact, I don’t know that I ever want live far from them. And I know I’d never be willin’ly separated from you.” He pulled at her gold silk nightshirt suggestively. Alice laughed and threw it off over her head. After all, there was nothing keeping them apart… at least until morning brought the required semblance of humanity.
Keeping watch through the night in front of a fire, Dr. Carlisle Cullen and his wife, Esme, snuggled on a sofa. A recording of Edward playing Esme’s favorite music could be heard in the background. They watched the yellow flames slowly consume the wood while, with a low crackle, sparks approached the heavens.
The terror and the tension it brought with it had receded for the time being, but Carlisle was having difficulty unwinding from the encounter. His family lived a quiet life in small places and bothered no one, not even the local human population with whom they worked and attended school. It was both disturbing and horrifying that they had all been in mortal danger. The Volturi offered no trial and were ready to execute his family on the word of someone who interpreted what she saw incorrectly. Even with the danger past, for the time being, Carlisle knew that the Volturi would seek another pretext for attacking them. That had been apparent in the verbal exchanges of Aro and Caius on the meadow.
So he held Esme and sat like a statue as the stress built within him. Esme gently touched his cheek to draw his attention away from his thoughts and he looked into her loving gold eyes. Esme smiled contentedly. “I love to hear Edward play.”
Carlisle nodded. “He always plays well.” He smiled down at her. “Maybe we’ll get to hear more of it now.”
Carlisle’s breathing checked as he appreciated her beauty and the love that was always there for him. He thought how close he had come to losing her… to losing everything. Esme shook her head at him, slightly, and said, “Not tonight. You can mull it over more tomorrow.”
Her arm went around his neck and she pulled his golden head down so that his lips could meet hers. One soft, slow kiss followed another as the good doctor relaxed. Carlisle murmured, “Darling, I think perhaps …”
He stopped speaking as a glimmer from the corner of his eye that was not a spark caused him to follow the appearance of a friend in the living room. He touched Esme’s shoulder and she nodded to confirm that she also saw Irina. The unusual thing about their friend’s visit was that the Volturi had murdered Irina earlier that day and neither had ever seen anyone in spirit form until that night. Never the less, she stood before them, calm and radiant, a shimmer of vision, but clearly there. The room was filled with her presence and even with her scent. It was notable that all the tension and sorrow that was so obvious in the meadow had lifted from her.
Startled, Carlisle lifted his eyebrows. The scientist in him leaned forward as though to touch her. Esme, more cautious, held him back.
“It’s good to see you, Irina,” Esme said quietly.
“Yes,” Carlisle agreed. “But how are we seeing you?”
“I don’t really know, but I’m so glad you can see me! I went to Denali, wanting to talk with Tanya and Kate, but I couldn’t get through to them. So I sought you out here. I would have tried to reach you in any case. I wronged you so badly and I wanted to warn you regarding the future.” She looked totally contrite. “How can I expect forgiveness? Or even ask it? I don’t know how I could ever have thought that you would create an immortal child. Even if I thought it, I should have come to you and asked what was going on.” She looked down at the floor and frowned. “Somehow I got so far away from our old relationship. I regret that. Carlisle… Esme… can you ever forgive me?”
“Of course we forgive you,” Esme replied warmly. “You are part of our family.”
Carlisle added. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the assurance your visit is giving me. So… life goes on….” His face lit up with a serene kind of joy.
“Yes,” Irina confirmed, smiling. “Our souls are the actual essence of who we are… so of course they are our true immortality. Ironic, isn’t it? Vampire bodies are less fragile than human bodies, but still just a transformation, a step away from humanity. They aren’t really immortal… hardly the eternal self that always exists.” She was clearly excited by these concepts that were new to her, but a disturbing thought fleeted across her face and she switched to another topic. “But that’s not what I am here to tell you.” She leaned toward them and her voice was earnest, “Do not underestimate the Volturi. This battle is not done and they will not leave things as they are. You will not have true peace. They haven’t ruled for so many centuries just to allow a stalemate to stand. Your family is large and your bonds with one another are close. The Volturi feel threatened by that and Aro is more jealous of you than you knew, Carlisle. They will be attacking you. Your shape shifter friends have their attention also. Please warn them. They have been truer to you than I was. Be vigilant. Be aware.” She extended her arms lovingly toward her friends. “I love you, but I’m in no hurry to see you on the other side.” She was gone as suddenly as she had appeared.
Carlisle and Esme looked at one another in silence for a moment. Finally Esme asked, “Did that really happen?”
“Yes!” Carlisle exclaimed. He got up and paced excitedly, thinking aloud, “Irina was here… Everything she said makes so much sense! Life goes on… We still have souls! I was sure we did!... I wonder why she was unable to reach Tanya and Kate…?”
“I’ve heard that some people are more sensitive to spirits than others. I really don’t know. Until tonight I never believed an afterlife of any kind existed.” Esme raised her eyebrow at Carlisle and shrugged. “If I had I would never have tried to commit suicide.”
He went to her and took her in his arms. “Why didn’t you tell me? You have listened to me theorize all this time…”
Esme’s arms tightened around him in response. “I love you, darling. Why wouldn’t I listen to you? It was interesting… I just didn’t believe it. But it was obvious you did.”
He looked into her face, his own glowing, “And now we know that it’s true! It’s so exciting to find confirmation of a belief… especially one so many others doubt!”
She grimaced, “And I guess I have to answer somewhere for that suicide attempt…”
Carlisle shook his head, “I don’t think so.”
Esme was puzzled. “Why not?”
“You have had so many years of living a wonderful, virtuous, charitable life, darling. I have to believe that it balances out the one poor decision you made when you were distraught with grief,” he reassured her.
“Maybe. I hope so.” Esme kissed him gently, and then sighed. “What about Irina’s warning?”
“We already knew that nothing was settled. She’s right, though. I need to emphasize to Sam and the other Quileutes that the danger hasn’t abated and that we need to stay wary,” Carlisle shook his head wearily. “Irina would surely be aware that we knew enough about the Volturi to stay on guard. I really think that, for her, the need for absolution was the more important part of the visit.”
He turned and took Esme’s hand, pulling her to her feet. His favorite smile in the entire world spread across her face just before he answered its invitation with a kiss. “Now where were we before we were interrupted?”
“You hadn’t mentioned it yet,” she hinted, “but I think we were about to head for our room.”
Carlisle grinned down at her. “Good idea.” He swept her off her feet and carried her upstairs.
In Volterra, Italy there was anger and chagrin. The Volturi were in an uncharacteristic uproar that rang off the walls of their tower.
Caius rounded on Aro. “I cannot believe that you allowed the Cullens to come up with an excuse to slip out of our hands!”
“Calmly, brother,” Aro responded as his bodyguard, Renata, moved to shadow his every step. Caius was about to wear a trench in the stone floor with his angry pacing, Aro idly noted. “After all, you have your punishment tour in South America to look forward to. Our journey to Washington was not a total loss. We had not known about that ‘father of a new super race’ even though he had been fathering these hybrids for over a century.” That was unsettling, and not to be permitted. “On the other hand, these hybrids may be of some use. Certainly the child we saw has enormous talent. Who knows what the others can do? No, not the mission we expected, but far from a complete loss.”
“True. But it is a small victory in comparison to our initial mission: we were to be rid of the Cullen threat and have added the talents of Alice and Edward to our Guard. The others would be dead and the child destroyed. We could perhaps have allowed their mates to come along to keep them in line. We’ve done so in the past when they could make themselves useful. Obviously Edward’s mate has some talent and I understand that Alice’s does also.”
“Some talent! Oh, no, my friend, I must have Bella in the Guard too!” Aro insisted. “She has the most powerful shield I have ever seen…”
“Oh?” Caius inquired with a raised brow. “Are you retiring Renata?” He glanced at the impassive vampire who was always within easy reach of Aro, hoping for a reaction from her.
“Of course not!” Aro snapped. “I need them both! Don’t you see? Renata is wonderful with physical attacks – quite exemplary – but she can’t protect me from threats such as our dear Jane and Alec who can attack from farther away than her protection extends.”
Caius turned away in annoyance, “As if you would ever need protection from Jane and Alec!”
“I was referring to their gifts. There is no reason at all that I would be vulnerable to them… but to that type of threat! Ah! That, my friend, is another question! With both Renata and Bella by my side I would be invulnerable to any threat that came at me from any direction. We must procure her too.”
“I don’t see how,” Caius informed him. “Why did you choose not to attack them? We have no reason for another punitive venture against the Cullens now. It may take a while to find another one.”
Aro turned to regard him with amazement. “Why didn’t we attack? Our Guard is strong but the odds were far too even for my taste. No, my friend, there was too great a chance that we would lose! And we would, of course, have lost some of our own Guard in the process. Even our very lives and those of our wives would have been in danger. Not to mention our reputation for invincibility… that is, after all, the key to holding our power. We will have to go about solving our dilemma in Washington another way.”
Caius was incredulous. “I find it hard to believe that we had any chance of losing. We haven’t lost for hundreds of years and often against larger groups than that one!”
Aro sighed. “But not, my dear, against numerous other talented maturevampires. He shuddered slightly, recalling something more. “Not to mention the potential threat of those monsters who stand with them… This was not our usual target, my dears. This was not a throng of newborns!”
Frowning, Caius observed, “But she – the newest Cullen – is a newborn! How did she manage such control?”
Pausing to reflect Aro shook his head. “It is a mystery. I think we must start with her….”
Marcus turned away from the window and joined the discussion for the first time. “There is no need to continue this campaign. I do not believe that Carlisle has any interest in power. If the child is ever an issue – and I don’t believe she will be – we can, as I said, revisit the situation.”
“No interest in power?” Caius thought over what he knew of Carlisle and conceded. “Perhaps not. But what about the rest of his Coven?”
“His family follows his lead,” Marcus replied.
“Family!” Caius scoffed.
Marcus shook his head and his eyes flashed briefly. “I know something about relationships. Chelsea would not have been able to sunder their bonds… even without the shield. Those within his family would have held.”
As Aro turned toward him, Marcus asked directly, “Think about it, Aro. You read Edward’s thoughts. Does he or anyone else in this Coven crave power… for themselves or for their family?”
Aro spent a moment in reflection before conceding, “No. Alice’s mate has had a great deal of military experience. He knows something about power… but he doesn’t desire it. None of them do.” His tone clearly said that their diet was not the only unnatural thing about the Cullens.
Caius paused to consider, then threw up his hand as he asserted, “It doesn’t matter. If the bonds of the others to each other and to the Cullens had been broken there would have been enough chaos to aid our expedition.” He turned to Aro. “How could you not have known about that shield?” His eyes narrowed as he asked snidely, “Was Edward able to hide it from you?”
Aro sighed. “We all knew that Bella was shielded; she was shielded from us when she was human. Wasn’t she magnificent? I knew she would be when I saw how strong her talent was as a mere mortal! Edward knew she was working on extending her gift, but he had no idea how advanced her talent was – or had become. I think she herself was not aware of its extent until our encounter.”
“So glad that you can applaud the talent that undermined us…” Caius commented sourly. “What is our next move?”
“I suggest that we defer further moves until a later time. Another such meeting could be disastrous,” Marcus said thoughtfully.
“I agree,” said Aro.
“What??!!” Caius exclaimed.
“But, my dears,” Aro went on, “We can quietly win some small battles. Let us have Demetri track and capture Bella and the child. That will eliminate a great advantage they have and give the Cullens a reason to fight. We can use the child as leverage to force Bella… and, later, Edward… into the Guard.”
“Excellent,” Caius approved.
Aro turned to look Caius in the eye. “Make sure our instructions are clear. Neither Bella nor the child is to be harmed. They are assets and must be treated as such.”
“Of course,” Caius murmured, not quite returning Aro’s gaze.
Marcus sighed and continued his habitual withdrawal as he gazed out the window. He didn’t know why he bothered to say anything. His input was never regarded. Once again his thoughts returned to reliving the short time he had with his late beloved Didyme. If only she had still been beside him…! He had an existence, but together they would have had a life! He was, if anything, more obsessed than ever with his murdered wife. Her scent, and her laughter, would never quite be gone for him. Mating was for life – however long life had to be.
Caius sent for Demetri, the world’s best tracker and member of the Volturi Guard. His instructions were brief.
“You will find and capture Bella Cullen and the child. They will be brought back to Volterra as rare treasures for Aro. You will not be able to track Bella directly… and possibly not the child. Locate them by tracking Edward Cullen. Aro does not want them harmed. I leave it to your discretion to do whatever you must to accomplish this task.”
Demetri saw no need to use special care as he stalked toward the small stone cottage that Edward and Bella Cullen occupied with their child, dark cloak swishing in his wake. He had spent the last two days ascertaining that his quarry lived here, rather than in the main house, and had chosen early in the day as the best time for the assigned abduction. His observations led him to believe that the Cullens’ guard was definitely down. He had watched as Edward left to hunt with his brothers and laughed exultantly to himself. He was long since accustomed to his assignments and, while normally he was to terminate his target, Demetri saw no difficulty in completing this one. It would be ridiculously easy to take the woman and the child prisoner. He was excited and confident… and careless.
He quietly approached the arched door, slipping to the side and preparing to ease it open, when he was overwhelmed by one of the worst odors he had ever smelled. It was somehow familiar and he turned to find himself facing an enormous russet wolf… the same wolf that had stood by Bella Cullen in the meadow a few days earlier.
Demetri was fast and he feinted one way and ran the other in a bid to escape the giant wolf. He might have escaped the russet wolf, but four more wolves emerged like menacing shadows from the surrounding woods. The Volturi’s tracker raced through the trees with the speed of the wind but it was ultimately no contest. The giant wolves closed in and made sure Demetri would never return to Volterra.
Jacob Black phased back into human form and returned to the cottage, pulling on clothes as he went. He always spent any available time with Nessie and today he was relieved that he had seen the Volturi vampire in time to summon his pack and take him down. He had recognized Demetri as one of the vampires standing close to Aro in the meadow. To the pack it was just another vampire destroyed, but Jake realized on his way that he needed to report the incident to Carlisle. The Cullens seemed to think that the Volturi were more dangerous than the average vampire. Jacob shook his head. Maybe the whole Guard was, but it hadn’t been any harder than usual to take that one out when he was on his own.
Jacob knocked on the door. Bella answered and her smile was like the sun. Bella and Nessie were both in jeans and sweaters. Nessie’s sweater was purple, with a crown on the front picked out in pink embroidery. Bella’s eyes were alight with the joy she felt in her life since the recent crisis was over. Nessie ran to Jacob and raised her little arms imperiously. Like the loyal minion he was, Jacob picked her up.
“What’s the plan for today?” he asked Bella.
“I thought we might go over and see Charlie,” she began.
Jacob shook his head and said, “Sounds good, but we need to talk to Carlisle and Edward first.”
“Why?” Bella’s smile faded and Jacob felt like kicking himself. Nobody was more aware of all she had been through. He hated being the one to bring the fear back.
“If it’s all right with you, I’d rather tell everyone at one time. Maybe Ness might enjoy playing with someone at the house. What do you think, Nessie?” Jacob spoke to the lovely child.
“Yes!” Nessie said as she scrambled onto his back. “I want to play with Rose. She said we could play with makeup next time.”
“All right, then,” Jacob said. He turned to Bella. “It’s already been taken care of, Bells. I’m just reporting what happened this morning.”
She looked troubled, but accompanied her daughter and her best friend to the main house. Rosalie was always happy to spend time with Nessie and greeted them with a smile.
Edward, Emmett, and Jasper returned from hunting and were teasing one another in a good natured way as they entered the house. Nessie ran up to Edward. “Look, Daddy! I’m a lady… with makeup. Rose put it on for me. She’s playing with my hair next. It’s fun!”
Edward swung her up to look at the makeup critically. No one needed makeup less than his very young and very beautiful daughter… but she was clearly having a great time. “Very pretty, Nessie, but only for make believe until you grow up. Okay?”
Nessie beamed back at him. “Okay, Daddy.”
Edward looked across the room at his blonde sister. “Thanks, Rose.”
“My pleasure. You know how much I enjoy her.” Rosalie smiled back.
Edward put Nessie back down but was distracted and looked upstairs toward the library. “Carlisle wants to see us. Something has happened.”
The library was crowded with the four Cullen men, Jacob, Bella, Esme, and Alice. Jacob told his story quickly and Edward was able to identify the trespasser as Demetri. A sigh of relief went around the circle when they realized that possibly the biggest threat in the Volturi Guard had been eliminated.
“But it’s so soon after they left us in peace!” Carlisle was clearly dismayed. “Why would they have sent Demetri out here?”
“It wasn’t a diplomatic mission,” Jasper stated.
“He was about to enter the cottage when he saw me and ran. My guess is that he was here to get Bella and maybe Ness,” Jacob theorized. “Edward said Aro was afraid of Bella.”
Edward nodded and added, “He also coveted her.”
Jacob’s brow blackened and Edward hastened to add, “Not that way, Jacob. He wants to add her powers to his Guard. Just as he wants Alice.”
“And you,” Carlisle added.
“Not as much as the ladies, though,” Edward concluded.
Jasper met Edward’s eyes across the room and nodded. “It was good strategy. They would expect to take us unaware and, if successful, they would have one of our biggest advantages – Bella.”
“He had apparently been here long enough to become aware of the cottage and our residence there. His attack in my absence would have been a major coup for the Volturi.” Edward turned to Jacob. “Thanks to your presence, we’ve knocked out one of their biggest advantages instead. I don’t know how to thank you…” He grinned. “But I’ll come up with something.”
Jacob shrugged. “My job. And, in this case, my pleasure. So… do we expect more of these guys? How long before they figure he’s not coming back?”
Carlisle thought for a moment. “Fairly soon, I would think. Demetri was efficient, so they wouldn’t expect any mission of his to take long.”
“What if they come around, trying to find out whether we had something to do with his disappearance?” Emmett asked.
Jacob snorted and Edward chuckled. The others looked at them questioningly.
Bella asked, “Are the rest of us missing something?”
Edward grinned at Jacob. “Go ahead and tell them.”
Jacob shrugged. “I just thought… What are they going to do? Say they sent their tracker to… I don’t know… anything from spy on us to attack us – and he came up missing? Ask us to help find him? I don’t think so.”
Carlisle allowed himself a small smile as he met the smile in Esme’s eyes. It was nice to see that someone still had a sense of humor after all that had happened. He said, “That’s true. I don’t know when – or if – they’ll send someone else.”
“Oh, I think they will. Maybe someone bigger and harder to take down – like Felix,” said Emmett hopefully.
“Bigger doesn’t mean they’d be any harder for us to take down,” Jacob said confidently. “We’ll be keeping watch. Obviously this isn’t over.”
Carlisle was hesitant before declaring, “No, it’s not… and Esme and I had an interesting visitor late on the night of the battle.”
He had everyone’s attention. “Who?” asked several voices.
Esme’s quiet voice answered them, “Irina.”
“But… she died,” Bella gasped.
“Yes,” said Carlisle. “She managed to visit for several minutes though. She wanted to apologize and to warn us about the Volturi’s continuing plans. Both Esme and I saw and heard her.”
Edward’s eyes met Bella’s and they were blazing with relief, “But that means… there is life on the other side of death…”
Carlisle smiled and nodded to him, knowing how much that meant to his youngest son. “Yes… please stay after we are finished here so that we can talk more about that.” Edward nodded back.
“It also means,” said the more practical Jasper, “that we are not yet finished with this.”
“Come on, Jazz!” said Emmett. “No one really thought we were. The Volturi don’t just give up a fight.”
Alice was worried. “What I’d like to know is why I didn’t see Demetri coming….”
Edward said, “You were watching for an attack or attack order in force… something similar to the one we just lived through. Apparently they’re trying new tactics so keep an eye out for our next invader.”
“I will,” Alice nodded.
It was Jacob’s turn to look puzzled. “If that vampire was around for a while, as Edward thinks, why didn’t we pick up on him? His smell should have alerted one or all of us to his presence.”
“Us, too,” Emmett said, equally baffled. “None of us was aware of him either.”
“Demetri was known as the world’s best tracker for a reason. Part of his gift was the ability to cover his own tracks so that he could move undetected. The Volturi only recruits the greatest talents out there. That’s why we need to stay on guard.” Jasper turned to Jacob. “Can your pack keep an eye on Bella and Nessie… and also on Alice?”
“Jasper…” Alice objected.
Her military mate gave her a look that silenced her. “You may be able to see the next one coming. You might not. You and Bella are primary targets. It’s important to keep you safe.” His gaze caressed her and his voice softened. “Please, Alice. I don’t want to lose you.”
Alice nodded and looked toward Jacob.
Jacob nodded. “No problem.” He shrugged. “We have two packs. Might as well keep them in fighting form and any vamps they can take down will be good practice for the young wolves.”
As everyone was leaving the room, Bella lingered to ask Carlisle, “Why didn’t you tell us about Irina’s visit sooner? I was just wondering.”
Carlisle nodded. “That’s a fair question, Bella. Even though I had the theories this is all new to me in practice.” He smiled and shrugged slightly. “I wanted a chance to think about it for a while.”
She looked up at Edward and smiled because the awed expression in his eyes made her feel just a bit of his sense of wonder. Carlisle waited until Bella left the room.
“It’s true, Edward. When we are finished with these bodies we cross over just like we would have if we hadn’t become vampires, simple human souls once more.”
Edward took a deep breath. “It’s incredible to know that we aren’t soulless, Carlisle. But for me the sense of relief is all about her. The only thing about our life that wasn’t perfect was my fear that I had destroyed her. To know that her soul is safe means everything!”
“I know it does, son. As you know, I have always believed… but to know!” Carlisle met Edward’s gaze and something exalted blazed between them.
A couple of days later Jacob returned home to La Push to find his entire neighborhood buzzing. In spite of the drizzling rain, everyone seemed to find some reason to be outside. No one looked at him directly. Instead they gave him repetitive sidelong glances. Some were speculative. Some were envious. He thought it was weird, but shrugged it off as he went on home.
His father, Billy, must have been watching for him. He rolled his wheelchair out of the house and said, “I hope you don’t mind that we put the new garage next to the old one.”
Jacob stared at him. “What are you talking about?”
“The new garage,” Billy repeated.
“We don’t need a new garage.”
Billy disagreed. “Yes, we do. Anyway,” he shrugged, “it was part of the gift.”
Billy sighed, as if in regret at Jacob’s slowness. “The one in the new garage.”
Jacob saw the building standing next to the makeshift garage he had worked in for years. He ran to the new garage, opened the door, and turned on the light. An Aston Martin V12 Vanquish, like Edward’s except in black, shone under the light. An envelope was under the wiper blade on the driver’s side. The note inside read, ‘Bless you for keeping watch over my girls… With my best regards, Edward… P.S. Your father has the keys.’
Jacob walked out of the garage like a man in a trance. His father handed him the keys.
Billy shook his head. “I never thought I’d be complacent about a gift from a vampire.”“Yeah, me neither.” Jacob took the keys and ran back to the garage. He had to sit in the car for a few minutes just to accept the reality of it. A huge grin spread across his face. Moments later he was taking his gift for a spin.