Emmett kicked the rock fragment across the river. It sliced a young maple in half before thudding into the base of a big fir, which swayed and then fell into another tree.

"Rematch. Tomorrow."

"It's not going to wear off that fast," I told him. "Maybe you ought to give it a month."

Emmett growled, flashing his teeth. "Tomorrow."

"Hey, whatever makes you happy, big brother."

As he turned to stalk away, Emmett punched the granite, shattering off an avalanche of shards and powder. It was kind of neat, in a childish way.

Fascinated by the undeniable proof that I was stronger than the strongest vampire I'd ever known, I placed my hand, fingers spread wide, against the rock. Then I dug my fingers slowly into the stone, crushing rather than digging; the consistency reminded me of hard cheese. I ended up with a handful of gravel.

"Cool," I mumbled.

With a grin stretching my face, I whirled in a sudden circle and karate-chopped the rock with the side of my hand. The stone shrieked and groaned and - with a big poof of dust - split in two.

I started giggling.

I didn't pay much attention to the chuckles behind me while I punched and kicked the rest of the boulder into fragments. I was having too much fun, snickering away the whole time. It wasn't until I heard a new little giggle, a high-pitched peal of bells, that I turned away from my silly game.

"Did she just laugh?"

Everyone was staring at Renesmee with the same dumbstruck expression that must have been on my face.

"Yes," Edward said.

"Who wasnt laughing?" Jake muttered, rolling his eyes.

"Tell me you didn't let go a bit on your first run, dog," Edward teased, no antagonism in his voice at all.

"That's different," Jacob said, and I watched in surprise as he mock-punched Edward's shoulder. "Bella's supposed to be a grown-up. Married and a mom and all that. Shouldn't there be more dignity?"

Renesmee frowned, and touched Edward's face.

"What does she want?" I asked.

"Less dignity," Edward said with a grin. "She was having almost as much fun watching you enjoy yourself as I was."

"Am I funny?" I asked Renesmee, darting back and reaching for her at the same time that she reached for me. I took her out of Edward's arms and offered her the shard of rock in my hand. "You want to try?"

She smiled her glittering smile and took the stone in both hands. She squeezed, a little dent forming between her eyebrows as she concentrated.

There was a tiny grinding sound, and a bit of dust. She frowned, and held the chunk up to me.

Til get it," I said, pinching the stone into sand.

She clapped and laughed; the delicious sound of it made us all join in.

The sun suddenly burst through the clouds, shooting long beams of ruby and gold across the ten of us, and I was immediately lost in the beauty of my skin in the light of the sunset. Dazed by it.

Renesmee stroked the smooth diamond-bright facets, then laid her arm next to mine. Her skin had just a faint luminosity, subtle and mysterious. Nothing that would keep her inside on a sunny day like my glowing sparkle. She touched my face, thinking of the difference and feeling disgruntled.

"You're the prettiest," I assured her.

Tm not sure I can agree to that," Edward said, and when I turned to answer him, the sunlight on his face stunned me into silence.

Jacob had his hand in front of his face, pretending to shield his eyes from the glare. "Freaky Bella," he commented.

"What an amazing creature she is," Edward murmured, almost in agreement, as if Jacob's comment was meant as a compliment. He was both dazzling and dazzled.

It was a strange feeling - not surprising, I supposed, since everything felt strange now - this being a natural at something. As a human, I'd never been best at anything. I was okay at dealing with Renee, but probably lots of people could have done better; Phil seemed to be holding his own. I was a good student, but never the top of the class. Obviously, I could be counted out of anything athletic. Not artistic or musical, no particular talents to brag of. Nobody ever gave away a trophy for reading books. After eighteen years of mediocrity, I was pretty used to being average. I realized now that I'd long ago given up any aspirations of shining at anything. I just did the best with what I had, never quite fitting into my world.

So this was really different. I was amazing now - to them and to myself. It was like I had been born to be a vampire. The idea made me want to laugh, but it also made me want to sing. I had found my true place in the world, the place I fit, the place I shined.

27. TRAVEL PLANS

I took mythology a lot more seriously since I'd become a vampire.

Often, when I looked back over my first three months as an immortal, I imagined how the thread of my life might look in the Fates' loom - who knew but that it actually existed? I was sure my thread must have changed color; I thought it had probably started out as a nice beige, something supportive and non-confrontational, something that would look good in the background. Now it felt like it must be bright crimson, or maybe glistening gold.

The tapestry of family and friends that wove together around me was a beautiful, glowing thing, full of their bright, complementary colors.

I was surprised by some of the threads I got to include in my life. The werewolves, with their deep, woodsy colors, were not something I'd expected; Jacob, of course, and Seth, too. But my old friends Quil and Embry became part of the fabric as they joined Jacob's pack, and even Sam and Emily were cordial. The tensions between our families eased, mostly due to Renesmee. She was easy to love.

Sue and Leah Clearwater were interlaced into our life, too - two more I had not anticipated.

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