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Carlisle could convince me to do anything. If I didn’t know him any better, I would think that he takes advantage of that fact. When he asked us to stay home from school this morning and train, I didn’t think anything of it. Now, I’m beginning to regret not questioning why he would ask that of us. 

Jasper has become the de facto leader of our little training party. He and Emmett have been close to tearing each other apart for the last half an hour.

“What do you think this is about?” Rosalie finally asks Alice, who is lounging in the tree next to me. Alice just shakes her head. I know she hasn’t seen a single thing that would warrant this leave of concern from Carlisle and he’s too good at shielding his thoughts with medical babble for me to be able to piece together whatever is bothering him.

Emmett drives Jasper into the ground ten feet below us and howls in triumph, scaring the wildlife for at least a half-mile around us. There goes an easy lunch. He points at me. “You’re next!” My mouth curls into a small grin. It’s been a while since we’ve given in like this, to our natural instincts. 

Within moments, the fangs are out, my knee is on his chest and we’re grappling in the dirt and pine needles that coat the forest floor. 

I would say the events of the morning were a draw, but Rosalie was the clear winner. Even with dirt under her nails and mud streaking her forehead, she looks divine. Even I have to admit, flexing these muscles feels incredible. Makes me wish sometimes that for once we didn’t have to hold up the farce that is our existence in this small town. Sometimes, I think that our cousins at Mount Denali have the right idea.

“Oh good, you’re home,” Esme says with a smile when we enter her house, filthy and stained. Behind that lovely smile, there’s a world of worry that she’ll never admit to. 

We need to figure out what this is about, Alice says to me in the privacy of our own heads. I nod to her and with a flurry of hugs and excitement, she sways our adopted mother away into the kitchen while the rest go upstairs to bathe and change. I follow Alice until it’s just the three of us in the kitchen that’s never been used. 

“What is it?” I ask, finally.

“What is what?” Esme asks, nervous.

“We’ve been here for three years and Carlisle hasn’t so much as thought something negative about this place. Why ask us to train, Esme?” 

Her lips press into a thin line, but the thought is clear in her head. My eyebrows furrow and just as I open my mouth to say something, Alice grabs my forearm. It’s a vision. A new coven in Seattle. Not just a new coven, a large coven, and not the friendly sort. Carlisle is preparing for a fight for territory and protection for people of this area. That’s where he is this morning. 

“He didn’t take one of us with him,” I say.

“I tried, but he thought it would be threatening.”

I haven’t been worried in a long time. There are more than enough of us to fend off any threat. No one would be stupid enough to want to threaten us when we occupy such a small part of the larger world. But now, if I could sweat, I would. I have to get to Seattle. Now.

I’m out the open window before anyone can stop me. I hear Esme’s strangled “Edward...” just as I land in the tree outside. It doesn’t take long for me to get to Seattle—after all, Emmett and Jasper may be strong, but I’m fast—but after that, things get muddy. Carlisle’s scent is so mixed with my own that I barely notice it anymore and in a city full of people, it’s hard to pick up. I’m by no means a tracker. 

Instead, I try to find anything unusual around the city’s perimeter. Faint, but it’s there, the smell of a fresh kill. The scent always reminds me of a darker time in my life, when I was young and foolish, back when I didn’t understand the merits of living like we do now. With a century of never getting older, your emotions start to dull, but one that I will never be able to get rid of is guilt. 

I find them in a broken-down warehouse on the outskirts of the city. Carlisle’s gentle mind is amongst those of ruthless killers. Seven of them. A strong and blood-thirsty coven and there he is, in their midst. He’s too trusting. 

I enter through a broken second story window that looks down upon a gruesome scene. Human bodies litter the floor—at least four of them with various pieces missing. The scent hits me like a truck and I attempt to stop breathing out of habit. I’ll never get used to somethings. Carlisle stands in the midst of it all, unfazed. 

“Looks like we have another guest,” an unfamiliar voice rasps. He’s an older one of our kind. Years in the dark have made his rock-hard skin pearly white and almost slippery to the sight. His eyes are as red as the blood of his victims. 

If Carlisle is surprised to see me, he doesn’t show it. I leap down to join him, my boots squelching in the puddle on the floor. “Have you ever thought of investing in a mop?” I ask, unable to help myself. His meal smells incredible, but the sight of the mangled bodies and Carlisle’s serene face is enough to dispel my appetite.

The stranger hisses.

“Edward, this is Albion. He and his coven are new to this area. We’ve been discussing the merits of moving someplace else.” His mind is old, older than even the Volturi and their henchpeople. The language in which he thinks is almost incomprehensible, but the motive to leave whatever hole he crawled out is clear. The Volturi found out about him and his odd little cult and wanted to put an end to them. This kind of attention is bad for what Carlisle has built. It could be bad for even solitary hunters in this area. 

“And your coven leader has yet to present a convincing argument,” Albion snarls.

Carlisle’s stoic face betrays nothing, but his mind lets slip a flash of something he has not thought of in a very long time. 

“They can’t be within the bounds, can they?” I ask. 

“They are,” Carlisle says. He turns back to Albion. “There is a greater threat to you here than in other regions.”

Albion scowls. “Who? You?” His accent has an odd affectation as if he has not spoken in a long time. It’s an old-world accent. British, perhaps. 

“No. There is an old pact at work here between us and the blood of Ephraim Black, the leader of a pack of shapeshifters. Hunting on these grounds betrays that pact. If they catch wind of this, not even we will be able to stop them.”

Albion’s lips split into a grin. “Tall tales from such a young soul. Take them elsewhere before we tear you limb from limb, Carlisle,” Albion says. That’s when I hear their thoughts. They’ve got us surrounded, two on the second story, one at the front door, and one at the back. 

“Time to go,” I say to him.

“Just think about it, okay?” Carlisle says, already backing up. Someone snarls at him and I can’t help it, I snarl back, knowing very well that they could kick my ass. All of their minds are unlike any I’ve ever felt. I can barely read them, but I know enough to understand that they all think as one. Millennia of living together will do that to you. I shudder to think that one day Rosalie and I will be a part of the same consciousness.

“Why didn’t you bring one of us?” I ask, already sprinting fast at Carlisle’s heels.

I tried all morning to convince them, Carlisle says, ignoring me. The image of the human faces on the floor is clear in his mind. He’s mourning.

“You can’t save them all,” I shout as we leave the warehouse behind.

No, but by now you should know that we have a duty to try.