Chapter 3: Army Brats

A/N:

In case you’re wondering? No, this story isn’t up on my WP or Stars yet. I need to check in with 4padfoot first and see if she has time to post it for me, because I am officially WP challenged. I will let you know whenever they do go up.

Disclaimer: I own nothing. Twilight belongs to Stephanie Meyers. I’m just an addict who got taste of ’em good ol’ country boys and liked it just a little too much…


Bella

At first, Bella felt like she was floating. It was like taking a dip in the warm waters of Florida, peaceful and relaxing. Then the water rapidly cooled and realization slammed into her with the force of a wrecking ball; she wasn’t floating, she was drowning. The blood in her veins ran cold and her lungs desperately screamed for air as she looked around, her eyes wildly scanning the dark waters for the barest hint of light. Catching a glimpse of what she thought might be the night sky overhead, she furiously kicked her way towards it.

With a loud splash, Bella finally fought her way to the surface of the chilly lake she’d ended up in. Shivering uncontrollably, she sucked in a deep breath and treaded water as she looked around, searching for the closest sign of land. Luckily, the moon was out, illuminating the unfamiliar shoreline, and she took in another deep breath before swimming towards it.

A good five minutes later, she climbed out of the water on her hands and knees before collapsing on the shore from sheer exhaustion. Rolling onto her back, she stared at the unusually bright stars overhead for a few minutes, letting her furious pulse slow on its own.

Time travel. Victoria and Carlos had thrown her back in time. Biting down on her fist to keep from crying out, Bella desperately shook her head, a silent protest that came too late. Grief stricken, she didn’t bother wiping away the tears falling down her already wet cheeks. If they were telling her the truth, then she was so screwed that it wasn’t funny. She had no food, no clothes, and no money. She was stranded in what looked to be the middle of nowhere, trapped in a foreign place and time.

Loneliness gripped her at the thought; she’d never felt so utterly alone before, so isolated. Not even when Edward left her in the woods.

If she’d had the funds, Bella silently lamented, she could’ve gone to Italy and spoken with the Volturi. Carlisle had lived with the Italian coven at some point and there was even a small chance he could be there at that very moment. Of course, Carlisle wouldn’t remember her even if she did manage to track him down, but at least she wouldn’t’ve been alone in a world she no longer recognized. The only other person she knew in this time, Jasper, was someone Carlos had warned her to avoid.

Jasper’s here somewhere, Bella thought to herself in longing. She hadn’t heard from the Cullens in months and the temptation to find one of the vampires she considered family was a powerful one. After thinking she’d never see any of them ever again, she was almost overwhelmed with the desire to seek him out. The only thing stopping her from doing that very thing was the chilling warning Carlos had given her.

As much as Bella wanted to ignore the concerns of a vampire cruel enough to tear her out of her time, she found that she couldn’t. His crimson eyes had been so painfully earnest when he delivered his warning that it was impossible to dismiss. For whatever reason, Carlos had been trying to spare her unnecessary pain and she recognized it. To her dismay, that meant that seeking out Jasper was not an option.

What about the others? she wondered.

Sadly, Bella didn’t know if the other members of the Cullen coven had even been born yet. She only knew Carlisle was alive because Carlisle was older than Jasper; the two were the coven’s eldest. It was very possible that Edward, Carlisle’s first companion, wouldn’t even be born for many years to come.

Taking in a deep, calming breath, Bella slowly sat up and took a quick inventory of herself, noticing the faint bruises on her arm from where Victoria had held her. The skin around her mouth also ached and she had a feeling the redhead had bruised her face too. Other than that, everything looked okay and she thanked God for that small mercy.

Getting to her feet, Bella looked around uncertainly, studying the unfamiliar terrain. She knew she was somewhere in the South, but she couldn’t be sure of her location beyond that. From the temperature of the surprisingly warm breeze that coasted over her wet skin, she had a feeling she was actually somewhere in the Southwest. Texas or New Mexico, maybe. If she remembered right, Alice had once mentioned that Jasper was from Texas, so she was leaning more towards the Lone Star state.

Looking at the acres of green farmland surrounding the small lake she’d been swimming in, she ruled out Arizona. From what she remembered, the farms in her home state were a bit dryer. The trees most certainly were.

Her gaze eventually swept over a dirt path that led to a wider, dirt road. Numbly, she stumbled towards it, deciding it’d be best to follow it until she came to a town.

With a shiver, Bella spared a glance at her drenched clothing and let out a miserable laugh. She was still wearing the clothes she wore to bed, a pair of black sweatpants and one of Charlie’s Forks PD shirts. She wasn’t even wearing a pair of shoes and winced at the feel of the pebbles beneath her bare feet.

Sighing wearily, she trained her gaze on the ground in front of her and began carefully making her way down the road, doing her best to avoid as many sharp rocks as possible. She was trying her hardest not to think about the situation she’d found herself in and the fact that nobody she knew had even been born yet, but she was failing miserably at it.

After the Cullens left, Bella hadn’t thought things could get any worse. She’d thought that nothing would ever compare to the loss she felt, but Victoria had proven her wrong. Thinking back on her pathetic behavior over the last few months, Bella felt shame rise in her chest. She’d completely shut down after the Cullens disappeared, acting as if her entire world had ended. It was an immature, childish reaction to a bad breakup and the horrible truth of the matter was that Bella hadn’t understood what true loss was.

She could confidently say that she understood it better now.

Thanks to Victoria, she hadn’t just lost the Cullens, she’d lost Charlie, Renee, Phil, Jake, Angela, and every other person she cared about back in Forks and La Push. She had no way of getting back to her own time, not unless she took the long way around, and she had a very strong feeling that there was more than just a decade or so separating her from her loved ones. It was entirely possible that she’d never see any of them again, that she’d grow old and die long before she ever got the chance.

In the face of that very real loss and grief, Bella realized now just how ridiculous she’d been acting and felt the bitter sting of regret. If she died here, in this time, she would never have the chance to tell Charlie just how sorry she was for shutting down on him the way she had. Uncaring of the pain she’d put him through, she’d completely withdrawn from the world and he hadn’t deserved it. She’d never get the chance to make amends for that or thank him for the unconditional love and endless patience he’d shown her. Losing the opportunity to do that was, by far, her biggest regret.

The soles of her feet stung horribly by the time she finally made it into town, but Bella ignored it and doggedly continued putting one foot in front of the other. Her eyes were wide and incredulous as she took in her surroundings, dread pooling in the pit of her stomach as she noted the eerie lack of cars and paved roads. There were no stoplights and street signs, let alone anything with a motor. Instead there were horses and buggies and she started to realize with a growing sense of panic that the town itself resembled one from an old western way too much for her liking.

She didn’t know what to do now. She had nowhere to go. For a brief second, she considered seeking out the local Sheriff’s office, but what would she say? Bella couldn’t even explain the clothes she was wearing, let alone anything else. How would she explain that she didn’t know what year it was? Was Washington even a territory at this point? Because she highly doubted it was a state. She knew for a fact that Arizona wasn’t and wouldn’t be until 1912.

Has the Civil War even happened y-

A cold chill swept down her spine, making her freeze mid thought. Her feet faltered as the skin on the back of her neck prickled. The sudden, unnatural quiet blanketing the area gave Bella goosebumps and the hairs on her arms stood on end. She threw a nervous look over her shoulder, her eyes drawn to the dark shadows that pooled around the buildings she’d passed, but the sight of her own bloody footprints distracted her. Unknowingly, she’d been leaving a trail of blood behind her as she walked through town.

“Vampires used to breed entire armies of newborns to fight for feeding territories in the South,” an echo of Victoria’s taunting voice reminded her, “before the Volturi put an end to it all.”

As if summoned by her thoughts, she felt an unnatural gust of air blow past her. Bella whipped around on instinct, searching for the threat, but her tired human eyes failed to detect one. The dusty street looked just as empty as it did before.

Despite how alone it appeared she was, Bella wasn’t fooled. She knew with every fiber of her being that a vampire was toying with her and, sadly, she realized that she couldn’t even fault him for it. Foolishly, she’d practically advertised just how tasty her blood was by walking through town, leaving a decadent smelling blood trail that led straight to her. Glancing at the bloody footprints once more, Bella let out a defeated sigh and cursed under breath, “Damn it all.”

She swore she heard a chuckle.

Deciding not to play this twisted little game, Bella tiredly took a step over to the wall of the nearest building and sat down on the wooden walkway in front of it. Leaning her back against the wall, she crossed her arms over her chest and promptly got comfortable. Running was pointless and she knew it. Besides, something told her that she’d have a greater chance of surviving the night if she made this vampire come to her. And if he decided to make her a late night snack anyway? Well, at least she wouldn’t spend the last precious few minutes of her time running for her life.

If she was about to be drained, she’d die on her terms.

Nothing happened for a good ten minutes and Bella started to feel like she was playing a game of chicken, waiting for the other guy to blink first. She felt her lips start to curve at the thought, amused by the idea of out-waiting a vampire, and only then did something happen.

A tall, dark figure stepped into the soft lamplight at the far end of the dusty street. Bella felt her heart stutter in her chest and took in a deep breath to calm herself down, determined to show no fear. Squinting, she tried to make out the features of the man standing there, but quickly realized that it was a futile endeavor. In what she assumed was an attempt to hide his unnatural, red eyes, the vampire had pulled a black cowboy hat down low over his face. Making out his features was impossible.

Despite that, Bella couldn’t help thinking that something about the man looked vaguely familiar. Maybe it was the confident, yet casual way he stood, his stance relaxed as he lazily leaned against the lamppost, or maybe it was the way he watched her to see how she would react first, like he was testing the waters before wading any deeper. She couldn’t place her finger on what, exactly, it was that felt so familiar, but something about him reminded her of someone.

Then she caught a glimpse of blonde hair and a name fell from her lips without her permission, “Jasper?”

It came out no louder than a murmur, but she knew the vampire still heard her. He straightened up in surprise, his muscles tensing at the sound of a familiar name like a cat about to spring. Internally cursing up a storm, Bella clenched her eyes shut and scolded herself for the slip. If he wasn’t Jasper, then he definitely knew him and Bella really didn’t want to be taken back to Jasper’s army of bloodthirsty newborns.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

She heard the sound of a heavy boot stepping onto the wooden walkway where she’d decided to hold her impromptu sit-down and her body went rigid. On instinct, she turned her head the other away and clenched her eyes shut even tighter, which only made the vampire laugh.

“Keepin’ your eyes closed ain’t gonna do you an ounce of good, sweetheart,” he chuckled in amusement. “I ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

“It can’t do any worse than leaving my bloody footprints all over town,” she retorted, keeping her eyes firmly shut. He inhaled sharply in surprise and Bella felt a surge of triumph, taking a sick sense of pleasure in catching a vampire off guard.

“Well, you are a fascinatin’ li’l thing,” he drawled and Bella decided she was definitely in Texas. She suddenly got the eerie feeling that he was crouching down in front of her and tried not to flinch in reaction, struggling against her instinct to shift away. “Even if ya ain’t much to look at. You kinda remind me of a drowned rat.”

Bella let out a startled laugh and finally opened her eyes to look at him. Like he said, keeping them closed wouldn’t do her any good anyway. Her fate had been sealed the second Victoria entered her room back in Forks.

The vampire smirked and tipped his cowboy hat towards her in greeting, “Evenin’, ma’am.”

Even though he was now within arm’s reach, Bella still couldn’t see his features clearly. His hat sat strategically on his head, tilted downward in a way that cloaked most of his face in shadows. Distracting her from her attempt to get a better look at him, he tugged gently on a wet lock of her hair and asked in a quizzical tone, “Why on earth are ya soakin’ wet?”

“I was dropped in a lake,” she said flatly and he grinned, looking extremely entertained. Embarrassingly, Bella suddenly felt the childish urge to stomp her foot and whine that it wasn’t funny.

“And who would drop ya in a lake?”

“A petty redhead and her Mexican friend,” Bella absently replied and ducked down to see beneath the brim of his hat. “You’re not Jasper,” she said without thinking. The smile he gave her in return sent chills down her spine.

“Jasper,” the vampire repeated softly. “Now see, that’s what I thought ya said,” he murmured and tipped his hat up to look her in the eye. Bella was certain he noticed that she wasn’t surprised by his eye color, but she just couldn’t be bothered to pretend that she was. It’d been such a long, trying night and she was so very tired, much too tired to care about keeping up pretenses anymore. “And just how would a li’l bird like you know Jasper?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” she said with a miserable laugh.

He raised a skeptical eyebrow at her and asked, “What, ya don’t think I’ll find out eventually? All I gotta do is bring you back to camp and I’m sure Jasper will fill me in.”

Bella nearly laughed at the way he pronounced the name, as if it felt foreign on his tongue. He obviously wasn’t used to referring to Jasper by name and Bella wondered to herself what her friend went by now. Carlos had called him “the famed Major of the South,” so maybe they just called him Major?

“He won’t know who I am,” Bella said with an amused grin, feeling uncharacteristically cheeky. She liked this vampire. He made her smile, which was something she hadn’t done in months. “Besides, from what I hear,” she taunted, “he’s not exactly a friendly type of guy. You sure he would tell you even if he did?”

Bella was highly entertained by the uncertain look that swept across his face. Apparently, she’d hit the nail on the head. Judging by his expression, her description of Jasper was actually an understatement.

Deciding not to answer her, the vampire studied her quietly for a moment. Listening to the oddly sedate sound of heartbeat, he finally asked, “What’s your name, sweet pea?”

“Bella Swan,” she said quietly, letting the endearment slide, “you?”

“Peter,” he shrugged, “can’t remember my last name.”

“Can’t you take your sire’s last name?” Bella wondered and Peter inhaled sharply for the second time that night. Noticing, she cursed herself all over again and hastily muttered, “Covens up north do it all the time.”

“Up north,” Peter repeated, suddenly looking very thoughtful, and Bella started to wonder if Peter even knew what vampire life was like outside of Texas.

Before she could ask, Peter snatched up her arm and trained his gaze on the bite mark on her wrist. Bella jerked her arm back on instinct, but Peter held firm, refusing to loosen his grip. Staring at the scar, he shook his head in disbelief before lifting his eyes to hers again, “You survived a bite, Bella? How? How are ya still human?”

“A vampire didn’t want me to change,” she said hollowly, looking away, “so he sucked the venom out.”

Bella’s chest ached at the thought of Edward, but it wasn’t the same unfathomable hole that she’d grown used to. The visit Victoria paid her had changed things for Bella. She was angry with him, she suddenly realized, angry that he’d kept so much from her. Sure, Bella had known for three months now that Edward didn’t want her anymore and believed she wasn’t good for him, but she’d never before felt so insulted when she thought of him. There was so much he’d kept hidden from her, so much he should’ve told her.

Foolishly, Bella had thought he’d trusted her once, but if that were true, then why hadn’t Edward told her about the threat the Volturi posed? About their laws? Why hadn’t he told her about the warring vampire factions in the South? Why hadn’t he told her about Jasper and what he’d been through? About his scars?

Did he not trust her with any of it? Or did he just think that her weak, human mind was incapable of processing it?

Maybe he thought there was no point. The human mind was a sieve, anyway, wasn’t it? What was the point of telling her something so important when he believed weak, human minds forgot so very easily… At least, he thought hers would. In addition to having so little faith in her memory, he apparently didn’t have much faith in her ability to understand and process the pitfalls of the supernatural world.

That had to be it, Bella decided, wrapping her free arm tightly around her waist, an action she once hoped would keep her from falling apart. Edward had always treated her like she was so fragile, like she needed to be shielded from the realities of his world. He hadn’t told her because he thought she couldn’t understand it and she resented him for that. She felt so belittled, which made her even angrier. She was furious with Edward for making her feel that way.

Bella wasn’t weak, though. She wasn’t. Yes, the loss of the Cullens had wounded her deeply, but she had never intended to let that loss destroy the rest of her life. Eventually, she would’ve forced herself to pull her act together and move on, even if that wound never fully healed. Edward was so very wrong about her. She had a fortitude that would shock him, a will that was ten times stronger than any vampire’s skin, and she intended to prove it.

“You didn’t want him to,” the vampire noted, reading her body language. He looked even more puzzled than before, like he couldn’t understand why she would ever want to be changed.

Letting her arm relax and fall back to her side, Bella sat up a little straighter and focused her eyes back on the vampire crouching in front of her. She wasn’t weak and she refused to let anyone believe that she was.

“It might be hard for an army brat to understand,” she joked and looked down at her wrist, “but things are done a little differently up north. The coven I wanted to join was peaceful, compassionate. Practically a family. I wanted to be a part of it.”

Peter fell silent for a long, tense moment. He was obviously thinking hard about his odd conversation with what he thought was tonight’s dinner. She was even beginning to get the impression that he didn’t really want to hurt her, but she doubted he had much of a choice.

“Ya know I can’t leave ya here,” he said eventually, voicing her thoughts. “It’s against our laws. A human with knowledge could stir up all sorts of trouble and I ain’t takin’ that risk, sweet pea. I can’t.”

“I know,” Bella agreed roughly. Despite her best efforts to remain strong, her eyes started to burn and her throat grew tight. “I really screwed myself over by walking into town barefoot, didn’t I?”

“A li’l bit, yeah,” he replied, looking amused by her choice of words. His expression sobered as he offered, “I can always change ya, sugar. Life as an ‘army brat’ won’t be easy, but it’s still better than death.”

“Until your year’s up,” she whispered tearfully and Peter’s eyes widened in full blown surprise, “then it all looks the same to me.”

“That won’t happen. Not to you,” Peter said forcefully and Bella skeptically raised her eyebrows at him. “It won’t,” he repeated matter-of-factly. “You’re different somehow. I got a real good feelin’ about ya, sweetheart. You don’t think like the rest of ’em. You and me will be just fine.”

“You think so? I’ve never been much of a fighter,” Bella sighed, wiping away a tear with her free hand. She desperately wanted to believe him, but worried she’d just be lying to herself.

“I know so,” he said confidently. “I’ve got a gift for shit like this. Besides, a vampire fight ain’t nothin’ like a human fight. We’ll train ya up first before we turn ya loose. I ain’t worried about that.”

Desperate to change the subject, Bella latched onto something he said, “You got a gift, huh? Like Jasper’s empathy?”

“How do ya know so much?” Peter asked with open curiosity, not answering her question. “I sincerely doubt the covens up north know that much.”

“The petty redhead and her Mexican friend,” Bella said sadly, not really lying. Everything she knew about the area and time she’d landed in was from Victoria and Carlos. She looked down at her wrist pointedly and explained, “Her mate thought I smelled amazing and tried to steal a taste. That coven I mentioned didn’t take too kindly to that, so they destroyed him. Then they left me behind a few months later and the redhead returned for me. She heard about Maria’s territory and decided dropping me in the middle of it sounded like fun. Like I said, petty.”

Peter whistled admiringly, “Sounds like ya made some serious enemies there, sugar. Droppin’ ya in a territory like this one? That redhead ain’t messin’ around.”

“She wanted me to suffer,” Bella halfheartedly agreed, preferring not to dwell on it. She was trying her hardest not to think about what laid in store for her if she did let him change her. It was exactly what Victoria had been hoping for and she wouldn’t let the vindictive redhead win by fearing it.

To her surprise, a shadow of guilt flickered across Peter’s face, disappearing so quickly that Bella nearly missed it.

“It’s not your fault, Peter,” she whispered, gently squeezing the cool hand still wrapped around her wrist. “You can’t run with vampires and not expect to get bitten.” Blinking back tears, she swallowed heavily and focused her eyes on the bank across the street, “Always knew I wouldn’t die from old age. I just wish I had a chance to say goodbye to my dad first. She stole that from me.”

Peter hummed in agreement, staring at her in thought. He cleared his throat to draw her attention back to him and said honestly, “I don’t know if I should pity ya for your luck or commend ya for your bravery.”

Bravery?” Bella scoffed, but the glint of admiration in Peter’s eyes didn’t fade. She could tell that he truly believed she was brave. Rolling her eyes, she muttered, “Didn’t have much of a choice in the matter, Peter. I couldn’t stop them, so I didn’t even try. Nothing braveabout it…”

“It ain’t up for debate, Miss Swan,” he drawled, his dark eyes shining with amusement. “I told ya, I got a gift for shit like this and that gift’s tellin’ me you’re braver than most the soldiers I’ve served with. Seein’ as how you’ve been talkin’ to me without battin’ an eye, a bloodthirsty vampire who thinks ya smell downright sinful, I’m inclined to agree.”

“I didn’t fight,” Bella argued, ashamed of her weakness. She was stronger than that. She had to be stronger than that. “I didn’t even try. The second I realized I had two vampires in my bedroom, I gave up.”

“Is that right?” Peter challenged in a low voice and leaned in, stopping a breath away from her face. “Tell me,” he whispered, “did ya beg, Bella? Did ya get down on your knees for her?” Bella stopped breathing, her veins turning to ice at the mere thought. “Did ya plead for your miserable life and ask her for mercy?” His eyes darkened a little more with every word. “Tell me, Bella, did ya give the bitch that satisfaction?”

She stared at him for a second in silence. Heart in her throat, she jerkily shook her head. Unsurprised, Peter chuckled darkly, “So ya didn’t fight, but neither did ya fold. Do you think that’s normal, sugar? ‘Cause in my experience, most humans beg.”

Stunned, Bella blinked slowly, finally beginning to understand why he felt she was brave. She would’ve accomplished nothing by fighting against Victoria and her friend. Common sense told her she would’ve just hurt herself in the end. That didn’t mean Bella had given up, though. She’d fought the only way she could, by refusing to give Victoria the satisfaction of hearing her beg.

Noticing her small epiphany, Peter leaned back and flashed her a vindicated grin. A weight lifted from her chest when he finally retreated. Relieved, she inhaled deeply, feeling like she could finally breathe again now that the lethal vampire was no longer crowding her.

“Now, I ain’t sayin’ ya don’t have the worst damn luck I’ve ever seen, sweetheart, ’cause ya do, but you’re definitely no coward. Even now, I smell no fear on you and I’m guessin’ she didn’t dump ya here without tryin’ her damnedest to scare the hell outta ya first. In fact, I’m thinkin’ they even told ya about the vampires who run this territory before they dropped ya in the heart of it. Am I right?”

Bella nodded in agreement, her eyes alight with dark humor, “Maria and the leader of her army, the ‘famed Major of the South.’ They made sure I knew that Maria’s ruthless and told me that Jasper would likely kill me, if not now, then a year from now, and here I am.” She looked at him dryly and whispered, “Now I’m Peter’s midnight snack.”

“You do smell awfully good,” he added helpfully, his eyes twinkling with mirth. Bella let out a delighted laugh, more than a little amused. Peter smiled at the sound of it and sat down next to her, remarking, “It’s mighty nice to hear someone actually laughin’ before I bite her. So much better than a scream.”

“I bet,” Bella agreed, trying not to notice how he still didn’t trust her enough to let go of her arm. Sobering, she whispered, “I’m not ready to die, Peter.”

Peter’s grip subtly tightened around her wrist. He gave her a searching look and slowly started to relax, satisfied by something he saw in the depths of her sad eyes. Gently sweeping a thumb over her pulse point, he nodded at her in understanding.

“Before I do this,” he cautioned, “don’t tell anyone back at camp ’bout the vampires ya know up north. It wouldn’t end well for you and I want ya to stick around.”

“Okay,” Bella quietly agreed. Peter nodded gratefully and lifted her wrist, making it clear that he intended to bite her over the scar James left behind. By replacing the mark with one of his own, he would be erasing the proof that Bella had encountered vampires before, which she had a feeling was the point. He hesitated a second and Bella couldn’t help teasing, “I don’t think I can laugh, but I’ll try not to scream.”

Peter grinned and looked at her with amusement, “I’d like to see ya try. Never seen a human change without screamin’. You’d baffle ’em all.”

Bella started to laugh and he struck like a snake, taking advantage of her uplifted mood to sink his razor sharp teeth into her flesh. She flinched in surprise and gritted her teeth, hissing out, “Asshole!”

She meant it too. Bella really didn’t swear often, but this time she felt entirely justified.

Though she got the distinct impression that he was amused, Peter ignored her, concentrating on flooding her veins full of venom. When he was done with that wrist, he moved onto the other and finished with her ankles. He avoided her neck on purpose and Bella suspected he was too afraid he’d give into the temptation to drain her dry if he tried it. She knew her blood was sweeter than most and drinking from her neck was likely an invitation too risky to accept.

By the time Peter finally pulled back, Bella was glaring furiously at him. Not the least bit intimated, he chuckled apologetically, “Sorry, sweet pea. Just wanted to bite ya before ya tensed. Pain’s worse that way.”

Bella wanted to call him a whole slew of bad names, but kept her mouth clenched firmly shut. Peter gave her an expectant look, like he was counting down the seconds until she broke, but Bella wouldn’t indulge him by complying. She flat out refused to scream.

She was tired of people underestimating her. It was high time she started proving them wrong.

Looking impressed, Peter gingerly scooped her up and started running back to camp. Wincing, Bella rested her head on his shoulder. The running jostled her, causing the burning sensation creeping up her limbs to spike. Trembling from the pain, she let out a low moan of protest and Peter taunted, “Sounded awful close to a scream there, sugar.”

Bella glared at him again and very pointedly closed her eyes, just like she did when he first found her. Idly listening to Peter chuckle, she focused on running through as many human memories as she could. She hadn’t forgotten what the Cullens had told her about how human memories often faded during the change. Her very survival could one day depend on what she could remember from the future, so she was determined to retain as much of it as she could.

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