Breaking_Dawn (30. IRRESISTIBLE)

There was so much to think about.

How was I going to find time alone to hunt down J. Jenks, and why did Alice want me to know about him?

If Alice's clue had nothing to do with Renesmee, what could I do to save my daughter?

How were Edward and I going to explain things to Tanya's family in the morning? What if they reacted like Irina? What if it turned into a fight?

I didn't know how to fight. How was I going to learn in just a month? Was there any chance at all that I could be taught fast enough that I might be a danger to any one member of the Volturi? Or was I doomed to be totally useless? Just another easily dispatched newborn?

So many answers I needed, but I did not get the chance to ask my questions.

Wanting some normality for Renesmee, I'd insisted on taking her home to our cottage at bedtime. Jacob was more comfortable in his wolf form at the moment; the stress was easier dealt with when he felt ready for a fight. I wished that I could feel the same, could feel ready. He ran in the woods, on guard again.

After she was deeply under, I put Renesmee in her bed and then went to the front room to ask my questions of Edward. The ones I was able to ask, at any rate; one of the most difficult of problems was the idea of trying to hide anything from him, even with the advantage of my silent thoughts.

He stood with his back to me, staring into the fire.

"Edward, I – "

He spun and was across the room in what seemed like no time at all, not even the smallest part of a second. I only had time to register the ferocious expression on his face before his lips were crushing against mine and his arms were locked around me like steel girders.

I didn't think of my questions again for the rest of that night. It didn't take long for me to grasp the reason for his

mood, and even less time to feel exactly the same way.

I'd been planning on needing years just to somewhat organize the overwhelming passion I felt for him physically. And then centuries after that to enjoy it. if we had only a month left together… Well, I didn't see how I could stand to have this end. For the moment I couldn't help but be selfish. All I wanted was to love him as much as possible in the limited time given to me.

It was hard to pull myself away from him when the sun came up, but we had our job to do, a job that might be more difficult than all the rest of our family's searches put together. As soon as I let myself think of what was coming, i was all tension; it felt like my nerves were being stretched on a rack, thinner and thinner.

"I wish there was a way to get the information we need from Eleazar before we tell them about Nessie," Edward muttered as we hurriedly dressed in the huge closet that was more reminder of Alice than I wanted at the moment. "Just in case."

"But he wouldn't understand the question to answer it," I agreed. "Do you think they'll let us explain?"

"I don't know."

I pulled Renesmee, still sleeping, from her bed and held her close so that her curls were pressed against my face; her sweet scent, so close, overpowered every other smell.

I couldn't waste one second of time today. There were answers I needed, and wasn't sure how much time Edward and I would have alone today. If all went well with Tanya's family, hopefully we would have company for an extended period.

"Edward, will you teach me how to fight?" I asked him, tensed for his reaction, as he held the door for me.

It was what I expected. He froze, and then his eyes swept over me with a deep significance, like he was looking at me for the first or last time. His eyes lingered on our daughter sleeping in my arms.

"If it comes to a fight, there won't be much any of us can do," he hedged.

I kept my voice even. "Would you leave me unable to defend myself?"

He swallowed convulsively, and the door shuddered, hinges protesting, as his hand tightened. Then he nodded. "When you put it that way… I suppose we should get to work as soon as we can."

I nodded, too, and we started toward the big house. We didn't hurry.

I wondered what I could do that would have any hope of making a difference. I was a tiny bit special, in my own way – if a having a supematurally thick skull could really be considered special. Was there any use that I could put that toward?

"What would you say their biggest advantage is? Do they even have a weakness?"

Edward didn't have to ask to know I meant the Volturi.

"Alec and Jane are their greatest offense," he said emotionlessly, like we were talking of a basketball team. "Their defensive players rarely see any real action."

"Because Jane can burn you where you stand – mentally at least. What does Alec do? Didn't you once say he was even more dangerous than Jane?"

"Yes. In a way, he is the antidote to Jane. She makes you feel the worst pain imaginable. Alec, on the other hand, makes you feel nothing. Absolutely nothing. Sometimes, when the Volturi are feeling kind, they have Alec anesthetize someone before he is executed. If he has surrendered or pleased them in some other way."

"Anesthetic? But how is that more dangerous than Jane?"

"Because he cuts off your senses altogether. No pain, but also no sight or sound or smell. Total sensory deprivation. You are utterly alone in the blackness. You don't even feel it when they burn you."

I shivered. Was this the best we could hope for? To not see or feel death when it came?

"That would make him only equally as dangerous as Jane," Edward went on in the same detached voice, "in that they both can incapacitate you, make you into a helpless target. The difference between them is like the difference between Aro and me. Aro hears the mind of only one person at a time. Jane can only hurt the one object of her focus. I can hear everyone at the same time."

I felt cold as I saw where he was going. "And Alec can incapacitate us all at the same time?" I whispered.

"Yes," he said. "If he uses his gift against us, we will all stand blind and deaf until they get around to killingus – maybe they'll simply burn us without bothering to tear us apart first. Oh, we could try to fight, but we'll be more likely to hurt one another than we would be to hurt one of them."

We walked in silence for a few seconds.

An idea was shaping itself in my head. Not very promising, but better than nothing.

"Do you think Alec is a very good fighter?" I asked. "Aside from what he can do, I mean. If he had to fight without his gift. I wonder if he's ever even tried___"

Edward glanced at me sharply. "What are you thinking?"

I looked straight ahead. "Well, he probably can't do that to me, can he? If what he does is like Aro and Jane and you. Maybe… if he's never really had to defend himself… and I learned a few tricks – "

"He's been with the Volturi for centuries," Edward cut me off, his voice abruptly panicked. He was probably seeing the same image in his head that I was: the Cullens standing helpless, senseless pillars on thekillingfield – all but me. I'd be the only one who could fight. "Yes, you're surely immune to his power, but you are still a newborn, Bella. I can't make you that strong a fighter in a few weeks. I'm sure he's had training."

"Maybe, maybe not. It's the one thing I can do that no one else can. Even if I can just distract him for a while – " Could I last long enough to give the others a chance?

"Please, Bella," Edward said through his teeth. "Let's not talk about this."

"Be reasonable."

"I will try to teach you what I can, but please don't make me think about you sacrificing yourself as a diversion – " He choked, and didn't finish.

I nodded. I would keep my plans to myself, then. First Alec and then, if I was miraculously lucky enough to win, Jane. If I could only even things out – remove the Volturi's overwhelming offensive advantage. Maybe then there was a chance…. My mind raced ahead. What if I was able to distract or even take them out? Honestly, why would either

Jane or Alec ever have needed to learn battle skills? I couldn't imagine petulant little Jane surrendering her advantage, even to learn.

If I was able to kill them, what a difference that would make.

"I have to learn everything. As much as you can possibly cram into my head in the next month," I murmured.

He acted as if I hadn't spoken.

Who next, then? I might as well have my plans in order so that, if I did live past attacking Alec, there would be no hesitation in my strike. I tried to think of another situation where my thick skull would give me an advantage. I didn't know enough about what the others did. Obviously, fighters like the huge Felix were beyond me. I could only try to give Emmett his fair fight there. I didn't know much about the rest of the Volturi guard, besides Demetri___

My face was perfectly smooth as I considered Demetri. Without a doubt, he would be a fighter. There was no other way he could have survived so long, always at the spear point of any attack. And he must always lead, because he was their tracker – the best tracker in the world, no doubt. If there had been one better, the Volturi would have traded up. Aro didn't surround himself with second best.

If Demetri didn't exist, then we could run. Whoever was left of us, in any case. My daughter, warm in my arms… Someone could run with her. Jacob or Rosalie, whoever was left.

And… if Demetri didn't exist, then Alice and Jasper could be safe forever. Is that what Alice had seen? That part of our family could continue? The two of them, at the very least.

Could I begrudge her that?

"Demetri…," I said.

"Demetri is mine," Edward said in a hard, tight voice. I looked at him quickly and saw that his expression had turned violent.

"Why?" I whispered.

He didn't answer at first. We were to the river when he finally murmured, "For Alice. It's the only thanks I can give her now for the last fifty years."

So his thoughts were in line with mine.

I heard Jacob's heavy paws thudding against the frozen ground. In seconds, he was pacing beside me, his dark eyes focused on Renesmee.

I nodded to him once, then returned to my questions. There was so little time.

"Edward, why do you think Alice told us to ask Eleazar about the Volturi? Has he been in Italy recently or something? What could he know?"

"Eleazar knows everything when it comes to the Volturi. I forgot you didn't know. He used to be one of them."

I hissed involuntarily. Jacob growled beside me.

"What?" I demanded, in my head picturing the beautiful dark-haired man at our wedding wrapped in a long, ashy cloak.

Edward's face was softer now – he smiled a little. "Eleazar is a very gentle person. He wasn't entirely happy with

the Volturi, but he respected the law and its need to be upheld. He felt he was working toward the greater good. He doesn't regret his time with them. But when he found Carmen, he found his place in this world. They are very similar people, both very compassionate for vampires." He smiled again. "They met Tanya and her sisters, and they never looked back. They are well suited to this lifestyle. If they'd never found Tanya, I imagine they would have eventually discovered a way to live without human blood on their own."

The pictures in my head were jarring. I couldn't make them match up. A compassionate Volturi soldier?

Edward glanced at Jacob and answered a silent question. "No, he wasn't one of their warriors, so to speak. He had a gift they found convenient."

Jacob must have asked the obvious follow-up question.

"He has an instinctive feel for the gifts of others – the extra abilities that some vampires have," Edward told him. "He could give Aro a general idea of what any given vampire was capable of just by being in proximity with him or her. This was helpful when the Volturi went into battle. He could warn them if someone in the opposing coven had a skill that might give them some trouble. That was rare; it takes quite a skill to even inconvenience the Volturi for a moment. More often, the warning would give Aro the chance to save someone who might be useful to him. Eleazar's gift works even with humans, to an extent. He has to really concentrate with humans, though, because the latent ability is so nebulous. Aro would have him test the people who wanted to join, to see if they had any potential. Aro was sorry to see him go."

"They let him go?" I asked. "Just like that?"

His smile was darker now, a little twisted. 'The Volturi aren't supposed to be the villains, the way they seem to you. They are the foundation of our peace and civilization. Each member of the guard chooses to serve them. It's quite prestigious; they all are proud to be there, not forced to be there."

I scowled at the ground.

"They're only alleged to be heinous and evil by the criminals, Bella."

"We're not criminals."

Jacob huffed in agreement.

"They don't know that."

"Do you really think we can make them stop and listen?"

Edward hesitated just the tiniest moment and then shrugged. "If we find enough friends to stand beside us. Maybe."

If. I suddenly felt the urgency of what we had before us today. Edward and I both started to move faster, breaking into a run. Jacob caught up quickly.

"Tanya shouldn't be too much longer," Edward said. "We need to be ready."

How to be ready, though? We arranged and rearranged, thought and rethought. Renesmee in full view? Or hidden at first? Jacob in the room? Or outside? He'd told his pack to stay close but invisible. Should he do the same?

In the end, Renesmee, Jacob – in his human form again – and I waited around the corner from the front door in the dining room, sitting at the big polished table. Jacob let me hold Renesmee; he wanted space in case he had to phase quickly.

Though I was glad to have her in my arms, it made me feel useless. It reminded me that in a fight with mature vampires, I was no more than an easy target; I didn't need my hands free.

I tried to remember Tanya, Kate, Carmen, and Eleazar from the wedding. Their faces were murky in my ill-lit memories. I only knew they were beautiful, two blondes and two brunettes. I couldn't remember if there was any kindness in their eyes.

Edward leaned motionlessly against the back window wall, staring toward the front door. It didn't look like he was seeing the room in front of him.

We listened to the cars zooming past out on the freeway, none of them slowing.

Renesmee nestled into my neck, her hand against my cheek but no images in my head. She didn't have pictures for her feelings now.

"What if they don't like me?" she whispered, and all our eyes flashed to her face.

"Of course they'll – ," Jacob started to say, but I silenced him with a look.

'They don't understand you, Renesmee, because they've never met anyone like you," I told her, not wanting to lie to her with promises that might not come true. "Getting them to understand is the problem."

She sighed, and in my head flashed pictures of all of us in one quick burst. Vampire, human, werewolf. She fit nowhere.

"You're special, that's not a bad thing."

She shook her head in disagreement. She thought of our strained faces and said, "This is my fault."

"No," Jacob, Edward, and I all said at exactly the same time, but before we could argue further, we heard the sound we'd been waiting for: the slowing of an engine on the freeway, the tires moving from pavement to soft dirt.

Edward darted around the corner to stand waiting by the door. Renesmee hid in my hair. Jacob and I stared at each other across the table, desperation on our faces.

The car moved quickly through the woods, faster than Charlie or Sue drove. We heard it pull into the meadow and stop by the front porch. Four doors opened and closed. They didn't speak as they approached the door. Edward opened it before they could knock.

"Edward!" a female voice enthused.

"Hello, Tanya. Kate, Eleazar, Carmen."

Three murmured hellos.

"Carlisle said he needed to talk to us right away," the first voice said, Tanya. I could hear that they all were still outside. I imagined Edward in the doorway, blocking their entrance. "What's the problem? Trouble with the werewolves?"

Jacob rolled his eyes.

"No," Edward said. "Our truce with the werewolves is stronger than ever."

A woman chuckled.

"Aren't you going to invite us in?" Tanya asked. And then she continued without waiting for an answer. "Where's Carlisle?"

"Carlisle had to leave."

There was a short silence.

"What's going on, Edward?" Tanya demanded.

"If you could give me the benefit of the doubt for just a few minutes," he answered. "I have something difficult to explain, and I'll need you to be open-minded until you understand."

"Is Carlisle all right?" a male voice asked anxiously. Eleazar.

"None of us is all right, Eleazar," Edward said, and then he patted something, maybe Eleazar's shoulder. "But physically, Carlisle is fine."

"Physically?" Tanya asked sharply. "What do you mean?"

"I mean that my entire family is in very grave danger. But before I explain, I ask for your promise. Listen to everything I say before you react. I am begging you to hear me out."

A longer silence greeted his request. Through the strained hush, Jacob and I stared wordlessly at each other. His russet lips paled.

"We're listening," Tanya finally said. "We will hear it all before we judge."

"Thank you, Tanya," Edward said fervently. "We wouldn't involve you in this if we had any other choice."

Edward moved. We heard four sets of footsteps walk through the doorway.

Someone sniffed. "I knew those werewolves were involved," Tanya muttered.

"Yes, and they're on our side. Again."

The reminder silenced Tanya.

"Where's your Bella?" one of the other female voices asked. "How is she?"

"She'll join us shortly. She's well, thank you. She's taken to immortality with amazing finesse."

"Tell us about the danger, Edward," Tanya said quietly. "We'll listen, and we'll be on your side, where we belong."

Edward took a deep breath. "I'd like you to witness for yourselves first. Listen – in the other room. What do you hear?"

It was quiet, and then there was movement.

"Just listen first, please," Edward said.

"A werewolf, I assume. I can hear his heart," Tanya said.

"What else?" Edward asked.

There was a pause.

"What is that thrumming?" Kate or Carmen asked. "Is that… some kind of a bird?"

"No, but remember what you're hearing. Now, what do you smell? Besides the werewolf."

"Is there a human here?" Eleazar whispered.

"No," Tanya disagreed. "It's not human… but… closer to human than the rest of the scents here. What is that, Edward? I don't think I've ever smelled that fragrance before."

"You most certainly have not, Tanya. Please, please remember that this is something entirely new to you. Throw away your preconceived notions."

"I promised you I would listen, Edward."

"All right, then. Bella? Bring out Renesmee, please."

My legs felt strangely numb, but I knew that feeling was all in my head. I forced myself not to hold back, not to move sluggishly, as I got to my feet and walked the few short feet to the corner. The heat from Jacob's body flamed close behind me as he shadowed my steps.

I took one step into the bigger room and then froze, unable to force myself farther forward. Renesmee took a deep breath and then peeped out from under my hair, her little shoulders tight, expecting a rebuff.

I thought I'd prepared myself for their reaction. For accusations, for shouting, for the motionlessness of deep stress.

Tanya skittered back four steps, her strawberry curls quivering, like a human confronted by a venomous snake. Kate jumped back all the way to the front door and braced herself against the wall there. A shocked hiss came from between her clenched teeth. Eleazar threw himself in front of Carmen in a protective crouch.

"Oh please" I heard Jacob complain under his breath.

Edward put his arm around Renesmee and me. "You promised to listen," he reminded them.

"Some things cannot be heard!" Tanya exclaimed. "How could you, Edward? Do you not know what this means?"

"We have to get out of here," Kate said anxiously, her hand on the doorknob.

"Edward …" Eleazar seemed beyond words.

"Wait," Edward said, his voice harder now. "Remember what you hear, what you smell. Renesmee is not what you think she is."

"There are no exceptions to this rule, Edward," Tanya snapped back.

"Tanya," Edward said sharply, "you can hear her heartbeat! Stop and think about what that means."

"Her heartbeat?" Carmen whispered, peering around Eleazar's shoulder.

"She's not a full vampire child," Edward answered, directing his attention toward Carmen's less hostile expression. "She is half-human."

The four vampires stared at him like he was speaking a language none of them knew.

"Hear me." Edward's voice shifted into a smooth velvet tone of persuasion. "Renesmee is one of a kind. I am her father. Not her creator – her biological father."

Tanya's head was shaking, just a tiny movement. She didn't seem aware of it.

"Edward, you can't expect us to – ," Eleazar started to say.

"Tell me another explanation that fits, Eleazar. You can feel the warmth of her body in the air. Blood runs in her veins, Eleazar. You can smell it."

"How?" Kate breathed.

"Bella is her biological mother," Edward told her. "She conceived, carried, and gave birth to Renesmee while she was still human. It nearly killed her. I was hard-pressed to get enough venom into her heart to save her."

Tve never heard of such a thing," Eleazar said. His shoulders were still stiff, his expression cold.

"Physical relationships between vampires and humans are not common," Edward answered, a bit of dark humor in his tone now. "Human survivors of such trysts are even less common. Wouldn't you agree, cousins?"

Both Kate and Tanya scowled at him.

"Come now, Eleazar. Surely you can see the resemblance."

It was Carmen who responded to Edward's words. She stepped around Eleazar, ignoring his half-articulated warning, and walked carefully to stand right in front of me. She leaned down slightly, looking carefully into Renesmee's face.

"You seem to have your mother's eyes," she said in a low, calm voice, "but your father's face." And then, as if she could not help herself, she smiled at Renesmee.

Renesmee's answering smile was dazzling. She touched my face without looking away from Carmen. She imagined touching Carmen's face, wondering if that was okay.

"Do you mind if Renesmee tells you about it herself?" I asked Carmen. I was still too stressed to speak above a whisper. "She has a gift for explaining things."

Carmen was still smiling at Renesmee. "Do you speak, little one?"

"Yes," Renesmee answered in her trilling high soprano. All of Tanya's family flinched at the sound of her voice except for Carmen. "But I can show you more than I can tell you."

She placed her little dimpled hand on Carmen's cheek.

Carmen stiffened like an electric shock had run through her. Eleazar was at her side in an instant, his hands on her shoulders as if to yank her away.

"Wait," Carmen said breathlessly, her unblinking eyes locked on Renesmee's.

Renesmee "showed" Carmen her explanation for a long time. Edward's face was intent as he watched with Carmen, and I wished so much that I could hear what he heard, too. Jacob shifted his weight impatiently behind me, and I knew he was wishing the same.

"What's Nessie showing her?" he grumbled under his breath.

"Everything," Edward murmured.

Another minute passed, and Renesmee dropped her hand from Carmen's face. She smiled winningly at the stunned vampire.

"She really is your daughter, isn't she?" Carmen breathed, switching her wide topaz eyes to Edward's face. "Such a vivid gift! It could only have come from a very gifted father."

"Do you believe what she showed you?" Edward asked, his expression intense.

"Without a doubt," Carmen said simply.

Eleazar's face was rigid with distress. "Carmen!"

Carmen took his hands into her own and squeezed them. "Impossible as it seems, Edward has told you nothing but truth. Let the child show you."

Carmen nudged Eleazar closer to me and then nodded at Renesmee. "Show him, mi querida"

Renesmee grinned, clearly delighted with Carmen's acceptance, and touched Eleazar lightly on the forehead.

"Ay caray!"hespit, and jerked away from her.

"What did she do to you?" Tanya demanded, coming closer warily. Kate crept forward, too.

"She's just trying to show you her side of the story," Carmen told him in a soothing voice.

Renesmee frowned impatiently. "Watch, please," she commanded Eleazar. She stretched her hand out to him and then left a few inches between her fingers and his face, waiting.

Eleazar eyed her suspiciously and then glanced at Carmen for help. She nodded encouragingly. Eleazar took a deep breath and then leaned closer until his forehead touched her hand again.

He shuddered when it began but held still this time, his eyes closed in concentration.

"Ahh," he sighed when his eyes reopened a few minutes later. "I see."

Renesmee smiled at him. He hesitated, then smiled a slightly unwilling smile in response.

"Eleazar?" Tanya asked.

"It's all true, Tanya. This is no immortal child. She's half-human. Come. See for yourself."

In silence, Tanya took her turn standing warily before me, and then Kate, both showing shock as that first image hit them with Renesmee's touch. But then, just like Carmen and Eleazar, they seemed completely won over as soon as it was done.

I shot a glance at Edward's smooth face, wondering if it could really be so easy. His golden eyes were clear, unshadowed. There was no deception in this, then.

"Thank you for listening," he said quietly.

"But there is the grave danger you warned us of," Tanya said. "Not directly from this child, I see, but surely from the Volturi, then. How did they find out about her? When are they coming?"

I was not surprised at her quick understanding. After all, what could possibly be a threat to a family as strong as mine? Only the Volturi.

"When Bella saw Irina that day in the mountains," Edward explained, "she had Renesmee with her."

Kate hissed, her eyes narrowing to slits, "irina did this? To you? To Carlisle? Irina?"

"No," Tanya whispered. "Someone else …"

"Alice saw her go to them," Edward said. I wondered if the others noticed the way he winced just slightly when he spoke Alice's name.

"How could she do this thing?" Eleazar asked of no one.

'Imagine if you had seen Renesmee only from a distance. If you had not waited for our explanation."

Tanya's eyes tightened. "No matter what she thought… You are our family."

"There's nothing we can do about Irina's choice now. It's too late. Alice gave us a month."

Both Tanya's and Eleazar's heads cocked to one side. Kate's brow furrowed.

"So long?" Eleazar asked.

"They are all coming. That must take some preparation."

Eleazar gasped. "The entire guard?"

"Not just the guard," Edward said, his jaw straining tight. "Aro, Caius, Marcus. Even the wives."

Shock glazed over all their eyes.

"Impossible," Eleazar said blankly.

"I would have said the same two days ago," Edward said.

Eleazar scowled, and when he spoke it was nearly a growl. "But that doesn't make any sense. Why would they put themselves and the wives in danger?"

"It doesn't make sense from that angle. Alice said there was more to this than just punishment for what they think we've done. She thought you could help us."

"More than punishment? But what else is there?" Eleazar started pacing, stalking toward the door and back again as if he were alone here, his eyebrows furrowed as he stared at the floor.

"Where are the others, Edward? Carlisle and Alice and the rest?" Tanya asked.

Edward's hesitation was almost unnoticeable. He answered only part of her question. "Looking for friends who might help us."

Tanya leaned toward him, holding her hands out in front of her. "Edward, no matter how many friends you gather, we can't help you win. We can only die with you. You must know that. Of course, perhaps the four of us deserve that after what Irina has done now, after how we've failed you in the past – for her sake that time as well."

Edward shook his head quickly. "We're not asking you to fight and die with us, Tanya. You know Carlisle would never ask for that."

"Then what, Edward?"

"We're just looking for witnesses. If we can make them pause, just for a moment. If they would let us explain …" He touched Renesmee's cheek; she grabbed his hand and held it pressed against her skin. "It's difficult to doubt our story when you see it for yourself."

Tanya nodded slowly. "Do you think her past will matter to them so much?"

"Only as it foreshadows her future. The point of the restriction was to protect us from exposure, from the excesses of children who could not be tamed."

"I'm not dangerous at all," Renesmee interjected. I listened to her high, clear voice with new ears, imagining how she sounded to the others. "I never hurt Grandpa or Sue or Billy. I love humans. And wolf-people like my Jacob." She dropped Edward's hand to reach back and pat Jacob's arm.

Tanya and Kate exchanged a quick glance.

"If Irina had not come so soon," Edward mused, "we could have avoided all of this. Renesmee grows at an unprecedented rate. By the time the month is past, shell have gained another half year of development."

"Well, that is something we can certainly witness," Carmen said in a decided tone. "We'll be able to promise that we've seen her mature ourselves. How could the Volturi ignore such evidence?"

Eleazar mumbled, "How, indeed?" but he did not look up, and he continued pacing as if he were paying no attention at all.

"Yes, we can witness for you," Tanya said. "Certainly that much. We will consider what more we might do."

"Tanya," Edward protested, hearing more in her thoughts than there was in her words, "we don't expect you to fight with us."

"If the Volturi won't pause to listen to our witness, we cannot simply stand by," Tanya insisted. "Of course, I should only speak for myself."

Kate snorted. "Do you really doubt me so much, sister?"

Tanya smiled widely at her. "It is a suicide mission, after all."

Kate flashed a grin back and then shrugged nonchalantly. "I'm in."

"I, too, will do what I can to protect the child," Carmen agreed. Then, as if she couldn't resist, she held her arms out toward Renesmee. "May I hold you, bebe linda?"

Renesmee reached eagerly toward Carmen, delighted with her new friend. Carmen hugged her close, murmuring to her in Spanish.

It was like it had been with Charlie, and before that with all the Cullens. Renesmee was irresistible. What was it about her that drew everyone to her, that made them willing even to pledge their lives in her defense?

For a moment I thought that maybe what we were attempting might be possible. Maybe Renesmee could do the impossible and win over our enemies as she had our friends.

And then I remembered that Alice had left us, and my hope vanished as quickly as it had appeared.