She rolled her eyes but flitted forward and pressed her palm to Edward's shoulder.
"Nothing," Edward said. I heard the smile in his voice.
"And now?" Kate asked.
"And now?" This time, there was the sound of strain in her voice.
"Nothing at all."
Kate grunted and stepped away.
"Can you see this?" Zafrina asked in her deep, wild voice, staring intently at the three of us. Her English was strangely accented, her words pulling up in unexpected places.
"I don't see anything I shouldn't," Edward said.
"And you, Renesmee?" Zafrina asked.
Renesmee smiled at Zafrina and shook her head.
My fury had almost entirely ebbed, and I clenched my teeth together, panting faster as I pushed out against the elastic shield; it felt like it was getting heavier the longer I held it. It pulled back, dragging inward.
"No one panic," Zafrina warned the little group watching me. "I want to see how far she can extend."
There was a shocked gasp from everyone there - Eleazar, Carmen, Tanya, Garrett, Benjamin, Tia, Siobhan, Maggie - everyone but Senna, who seemed prepared for whatever Zafrina was doing. The others' eyes were blank, their expressions anxious.
"Raise your hand when you get your sight back," Zafrina instructed. "Now, Bella. See how many you can shield."
My breath came out in a huff. Kate was the closest person to me besides Edward and Renesmee, but even she was about ten feet away. I locked my jaw and shoved, trying to heave the resisting, resilient safeguard farther from myself. Inch by inch I drove it toward Kate, fighting the reaction that fought back with every fraction that I gained. I only watched Kate's anxious expression while I worked, and I groaned quietly with relief when her eyes blinked and focused. She raised her hand.
"Fascinating!" Edward murmured under his breath. "It's like one-way glass. I can read everything they're thinking, but they can't reach me behind it. And I can hear Renesmee, though I couldn't when I was on the outside. I'll bet Kate could shock me now, because she's underneath the umbrella. I still can't hear you... hmmm. How does that work? I wonder if..."
He continued to mumble to himself, but I couldn't listen to the words. I ground my teeth together, struggling to force the shield out to Garrett, who was closest to Kate. His hand came up.
"Very good," Zafrina complimented me. "Now - "
But she'd spoken too soon; with a sharp gasp, I felt my shield recoil like a rubber band stretched too far, snapping back into its original shape. Renesmee, experiencing for the first time the blindness Zafrina had conjured for the others, trembled against my back. Wearily, I fought back against the elastic pull, forcing the shield to include her again.
"Can I have a minute?" I panted. Since I'd become a vampire, I hadn't felt the need to rest even once before this moment. It was unnerving to feel so drained and yet so strong at the same time.
"Of course," Zafrina said, and the spectators relaxed as she let them see again.
"Kate," Garrett called as the others murmured and drifted slightly away, disturbed by the moment of blindness; vampires were not used to feeling vulnerable. The tall, sandy-haired Garrett was the only non-gifted immortal who
seemed drawn to my practice sessions. I wondered what the lure was for the adventurer.
"I wouldn't, Garrett," Edward cautioned.
Garrett continued toward Kate despite the warning, his lips pursed in speculation. "They say you can put a vampire flat on his back."
"Yes," she agreed. Then, with a sly smile, she wiggled her fingers playfully at him. "Curious?"
Garrett shrugged. "That's something I've never seen. Seems like it might be a bit of an exaggeration___"
"Maybe," Kate said, her face suddenly serious. "Maybe it only works on the weak or the young. I'm not sure. You look strong, though. Perhaps you could withstand my gift." She stretched her hand out to him, palm up - a clear invitation. Her lips twitched, and I was pretty sure her grave expression was an attempt to hustle him.
Garrett grinned at the challenge. Very confidently, he touched her palm with his index finger.
And then, with a loud gasp, his knees buckled and he keeled over backward. His head hit a piece of granite with a sharp cracking noise. It was shocking to watch. My instincts recoiled against seeing an immortal incapacitated that way; it was profoundly wrong.
"I told you so," Edward muttered.
Garrett's eyelids trembled for a few seconds, and then his eyes opened wide. He stared up at the smirking Kate, and a wondering smile lit his face.
"Wow," he said.
"Did you enjoy that?" she asked skeptically.
"I'm not crazy," he laughed, shaking his head as he got slowly to his knees, "but that was sure something!"
"That's what I hear."
Edward rolled his eyes.
And then there was a low commotion from the front yard. I heard Carlisle speaking over a babble of surprised voices.
"Did Alice send you?" he asked someone, his voice unsure, slightly upset.
Another unexpected guest?
Edward darted into the house and most of the others imitated him. I followed more slowly, Renesmee still perched on my back. I would give Carlisle a moment. Let him warm up the new guest, prepare him or her or them for the idea of what was coming.
I pulled Renesmee into my arms as I walked cautiously around the house to enter through the kitchen door, listening to what I couldn't see.
"No one sent us," a deep whispery voice answered Carlisle's question. I was immediately reminded of the ancient voices of Aro and Caius, and I froze just inside the kitchen.
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