"See you in a few," I told him, and hung up.

This trip was about more than protecting my father from the twenty-seven oddly matched vampires  - who all had sworn not to kill anyone in a three-hundred-mile radius, but still... Obviously, no human being should get anywhere near this group. This was the excuse I'd given Edward: I was taking Renesmee to Charlie so that he wouldn't decide to come here. It was a good reason for leaving the house, but not my real reason at all.

"Why can't we take your Ferrari?" Jacob complained when he met me in the garage. I was already in Edward's Volvo with Renesmee.

Edward had gotten around to revealing my after car; as he'd suspected, I had not been capable of showing the appropriate enthusiasm. Sure, it was pretty and fast, but I liked to run.

"Too conspicuous," I answered. "We could go on foot, but that would freak Charlie out."

Jacob grumbled but got into the front seat. Renesmee climbed from my lap to his.

"How are you?" I asked him as I pulled out of the garage.

"How do you think?" Jacob asked bitingly. "I'm sick of all these reeking bloodsuckers." He saw my expression and spoke before I could answer. "Yeah, I know, I know. They're the good guys, they're here to help, they're going to save us all. Etcetera, etcetera. Say what you want, I still think Dracula One and Dracula Two are creep-tacular."

I had to smile. The Romanians weren't my favorite guests, either. "I don't disagree with you there."

Renesmee shook her head but said nothing; unlike the rest of us, she found the Romanians strangely fascinating. She'd made the effort to speak to them aloud since they would not let her touch them. Her question was about their unusual skin and, though I was afraid they might be offended, I was kind of glad she'd asked. I was curious, too.

They hadn't seemed upset by her interest. Maybe a little rueful.

"We sat still for a very long time, child," Vladimir had answered, with Stefan nodding along but not continuing Vladimir's sentences as he often did. "Contemplating our own divinity. It was a sign of our power that everything came to us. Prey, diplomats, those seeking our favor. We sat on our thrones and thought ourselves gods. We didn't notice for a long time that we were changing - almost petrifying. I suppose the Volturi did us one favor when they burned our castles. Stefan and I, at least, did not continue to petrify. Now the Volturi's eyes are filmed with dusty scum, but ours are bright. I imagine that will give us an advantage when we gouge theirs from their sockets."

I tried to keep Renesmee away from them after that.

"How long do we get to hang out with Charlie?" Jacob asked, interrupting my thoughts. He was visibly relaxing as we pulled away from the house and all its new inmates. It made me happy that I didn't really count as a vampire to him. I was still just Bella.

"For quite a while, actually."

The tone of my voice caught his attention.

"Is something going on here besides visiting your dad?"

"Jake, you know how you're pretty good at controlling your thoughts around Edward?"

He raised one thick black brow. "Yeah?"

I just nodded, cutting my eyes to Renesmee. She was looking out the window, and I couldn't tell how interested she was in our conversation, but I decided not to risk going any further.

Jacob waited for me to add something else, and then his lower lip pushed out while he thought about what little

I'd said.

As we drove in silence, I squinted through the annoying contacts into the cold rain; it wasn't quite cold enough for snow. My eyes were not as ghoulish as they had been in the beginning - definitely closer to a dull reddish orange than to bright crimson. Soon they'd be amber enough for me to quit the contacts, i hoped the change wouldn't upset Charlie too much.

Jacob was still chewing over our truncated conversation when we got to Charlie's. We didn't talk as we walked at a quick human pace through the falling rain. My dad was waiting for us; he had the door open before I could knock.

"Hey, guys! It seems like it's been years! Look at you, Nessie! Come to Grampa! I swear you've grown half a foot. And you look skinny, Ness." He glared at me. "Aren't they feeding you up there?"

"It's just the growth spurt," I muttered. "Hey, Sue," I called over his shoulder. The smell of chicken, tomato, garlic, and cheese issued from the kitchen; it probably smelled good to everyone else. I could also smell fresh pine and packing dust.

Renesmee flashed her dimples. She never spoke in front of Charlie.

"Well, come on in out of the cold, kids. Where's my son-in-law?"

"Entertaining friends," Jacob said, and then snorted. "You're so lucky you're out of the loop, Charlie. That's all I'm going to say."

I punched Jacob lightly in the kidney while Charlie cringed.

"Ow," Jacob complained under his breath; well, I'd thought I'd punched lightly.

"Actually, Charlie, I have some errands to run."

Jacob shot a glance at me but said nothing.

"Behind on your Christmas shopping, Bells? You only have a few days, you know."

"Yeah, Christmas shopping," I said lamely. That explained the packing dust. Charlie must have put the old decorations up.

"Don't worry, Nessie," he whispered in her ear. "I got you covered if your mom drops the ball."

I rolled my eyes at him, but in truth, I hadn't thought about the holidays at all.

"Lunch's on the table," Sue called from the kitchen. "C'mon, guys."

"See you later, Dad," I said, and exchanged a quick look with Jacob. Even if he couldn't help but think about this near Edward, at least there wasn't much for him to share. He had no idea what I was up to.

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