Her face spasmed in pain.

Instinctually, I opened my hands in front of me in an apologetic gesture. She turned back to me, and her lip curled back over her teeth. Her jaw unlocked as she growled.

When the faint sound reached me, she had already turned and disappeared into the forest.

"Crap!" I groaned.

I sprinted into the forest after Renesmee and Jacob, unwilling to have them out of my sight. I didn't know which direction Irina had taken, or exactly how furious she was right now. Vengeance was a common obsession for vampires, one that was not easy to suppress.

Running at full speed, it only took me two seconds to reach them.

"Mine is bigger," I heard Renesmee insist as I burst through the thick thornbushes to the small open space where they stood.

Jacob's ears flattened as he took in my expression; he crouched forward, baring his teeth - hismuzzle was streaked with blood from his kill. His eyes raked the forest. I could hear the growl building in his throat.

Renesmee was every bit as alert as Jacob. Abandoning the dead stag at her feet, she leaped into my waiting arms, pressing her curious hands against my cheeks.

"I'm overreacting," I assured them quickly. "It's okay, I think. Hold on."

I pulled out my cell phone and hit the speed dial. Edward answered on the first ring. Jacob and Renesmee listened intently to my side as I filled Edward in.

"Come, bring Carlisle," I trilled so fast I wondered if Jacob could keep up. "I saw Irina, and she saw me, but then

she saw Jacob and she got mad and ran away, I think. She hasn't shown up here - yet, anyway - but she looked pretty upset so maybe she will. If she doesn't, you and Carlisle have to go after her and talk to her. I feel so bad."

Jacob rumbled.

"We'll be there in half a minute," Edward assured me, and I could hear the whoosh of the wind his running made.

We darted back to the long meadow and then waited silently as Jacob and I listened carefully for the sound of an approach we did not recognize.

When the sound came, though, it was very familiar. And then Edward was at my side, Carlisle a few seconds behind. I was surprised to hear the heavy pad of big paws following behind Carlisle. I supposed I shouldn't have been shocked. With Renesmee in even a hint of danger, of course Jacob would call in reinforcements.

"She was up on that ridge," I told them at once, pointing out the spot. If Irina was fleeing, she already had quite a head start. Would she stop and listen to Carlisle? Her expression before made me think not. "Maybe you should call Emmett and Jasper and have them come with you. She looked... really upset. She growled at me."

"What?" Edward said angrily.

Carlisle put a hand on his arm. "She's grieving. HI go after her."

Tm coming with you," Edward insisted.

They exchanged a long glance - perhaps Carlisle was measuring Edward's irritation with Irina against his helpfulness as a mind reader. Finally, Carlisle nodded, and they took off to find the trail without calling for Jasper or Emmett.

Jacob huffed impatiently and poked my back with his nose. He must want Renesmee back at the safety of the house, just in case. I agreed with him on that, and we hurried home with Seth and Leah running at our flanks.

Renesmee was complacent in my arms, one hand still resting on my face. Since the hunting trip had been aborted, she would just have to make do with donated blood. Her thoughts were a little smug.

28. THE FUTURE

Carlisle and Edward had not been able to catch up with Irina before her trail disappeared into the sound. They'd swum to the other bank to see if her trail had picked up in a straight line, but there was no trace of her for miles in either direction on the eastern shore.

It was all my fault. She had come, as Alice had seen, to make peace with the Cullens, only to be angered by my camaraderie with Jacob. I wished I'd noticed her earlier, before Jacob had phased. I wished we'd gone hunting somewhere else.

There wasn't much to be done. Carlisle had called Tanya with the disappointing news. Tanya and Kate hadn't seen Irina since they'd decided to come to my wedding, and they were distraught that Irina had come so close and yet not returned home; it wasn't easy for them to lose their sister, however temporary the separation might be. I wondered if this brought back hard memories of losing their mother so many centuries ago.

Alice was able to catch a few glimpses of Irina's immediate future, nothing too concrete. She wasn't going back to Denali, as far as Alice could tell. The picture was hazy. All Alice could see was that Irina was visibly upset; she wandered in the snow-swathed wilderness - to the north? To the east? - with a devastated expression. She made no decisions for a new course beyond her directionless grieving.

Days passed and, though of course I forgot nothing, Irina and her pain moved to the back of my mind. There were more important things to think of now. I would leave for Italy in just a few days. When I got back, we'd all be off to South America.

Every detail had been gone over a hundred times already. We would start with the Ticunas, tracing their legends as well as we could at the source. Now that it was accepted that Jacob would come with us, he figured prominently in the plans - it was unlikely that the people who believed in vampires would speak to any of us about their stories. If we dead-ended with the Ticunas, there were many closely related tribes in the area to research. Carlisle had some old

friends in the Amazon; if we could find them, they might have information for us, too. Or at least a suggestion as to where else we might go for answers. It was unlikely that the three Amazon vampires had anything to do with the legends of vampire hybrids themselves, as they were all female. There was no way to know how long our search would take.

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