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.