"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.