I slowed to a walk about a mile from the house, noticing that her scent was no longer in that direction. I cut down onto the beach and followed my nose until I was only a few yards behind her. She stood at the water's edge, her hair blowing to her side lightly in the breeze. I stuffed my hands into my pockets and remained where I was, I didn't want to disturb her and she had to know I was there. She'd address me if she wanted to.
Renee had chosen the white dress Bella would wear in her casket. It was a lovely choice, even I had to admit. It was mostly silk flowing down freely to her knees, accented with black stitching and three simple black strips stretching horizontally along her lower ribcage and upper stomach. The entire thing had a black outline, which only contrasted the beautiful pale tone of her skin. The deep "v" neck and strap that wrapped around the back of her throat accented her figure wonderfully, pulling your eyes over her collarbones and delicate shoulders. It was a bold dress for a casket, but leave it to Renee.
The dress caught the wind and danced around her thighs. I shivered as I watched those fantastic curls graze her back. After a few moments, Bella turned to look at me and it took every ounce of will power in my body not to fall to my knees. How could I have missed this before? Standing before me with the moonlight gleaming in her hair and the waves foaming and crashing behind her, Bella was the most stunning creature I had ever laid my eyes on.
I felt an odd sense of deja vu. The image of her standing in my doorway came to mind with crystal clarity. Seeing it for the second time I still felt the same way. She was incomparable. I let my eyes fall over her again, standing on the beach, and my inanimate heart broke inside of my chest. I had never seen anything as dazzlingly beautiful as she was in that moment, and she had the saddest expression in her eyes. I hadn't even realized it, but when she took my hand in hers it occurred to me that I'd reached out to her. I took a step forward, looking down into her face and studying the way her amazing brown eyes gazed back at me. I smiled down at her and let my thumb slide across her cheekbone.
"Your eyes are still brown, Bella." Her eyebrow lifted as I watched and I suppressed a grin.
"How is that possible? I'm not an ancient."
"Excuse me?" The way her expression seemed to absorb her shock was nothing short of hilarious, and my laughter only instigated a flash of anger in those lovely chocolate orbs of hers. I motioned down to the sand and seated myself as I tossed her duffle bag in front of us, slipping my arm around her small waist when she placed herself beside me.
"Being an ancient is not strictly being one of the first created, although that was the basis for my... rank. The largest and most important aspect of being an ancient is simple. Your feeding habits. I fed from no one except other ancients for the first few hundred years I was a vampire. After living so long, you can imagine I have not only turned my fair share of vampires, but I have witnessed even more. The one thing I have always taken note of is that when an ancient turns a human, that new vampire already has the most important part of our power. Our venom is different from other vampires, the same way nearly everything else is different. Ours is more vicious, but on the same level, it is more selective. It will turn everyone, to be sure, but it will alter certain changes in ways that other venom will not."
"You may find that you aren't even thirsty..." I turned my face to look at her and I watched her focus her attention on her throat, on the fire that simply would not be there. I watched the amazement dawn on her features as she turned her own face quickly to look back at me.
"How is this possible? The Cullens told me I would be thirsty almost all the time." I chuckled lightly and nodded, pulling her little body closer to me.
"Had one of the Cullens changed you, that would be the case. I reiterate my previous statement, our venom is more vicious. Some call it a curse, but really, it is a gift. The powers you will have, and you will have them, will be far greater than the powers the Cullens could have lucked into giving you. Seeing as my venom is so much stronger, it taps into your DNA on a completely different level. It digs further, so to speak. It will enhance some of your traits that would have been repressed using other venom. You will see, in time, once your powers start to manifest themselves."
"So simply being bitten by you has made me an ancient?"
"No, not quite. There is the factor of your diet, of course. Though it is not necessary to drink the blood of other ancients for hundreds of years, it is necessary to drink the blood of ancients for at least ten years."
"Do I have to drink from other ancients? Where do we find them? Do they just allow new vampires to drink their blood?" My laughter bubbled up in my chest and I couldn't help but chuckle and shake my head.
"It is actually more potent if you drink the blood of a single ancient, it helps your body adapt. If another vampire were to drink blood from the same human for the span of the human's life, said vampire would discover that he would be much stronger than he would have been had he been hopping from human to human to feed. It is a matter of consistency. Your body needs something steady in order to develop fully. And as an ancient, my blood is the most potent you can find. So when your thirst is quenched only by ancient blood for ten years, your body will be nothing short of it's prime. You will be at your best, permanently."
"How do you drink from humans without killing them?"
"Do they all turn into vampires?"
Ah, now I understood what she was getting at.
"No. That's another trick of my blood. You have to understand, I cannot just pull someone off the street to feed and then have them run off to their daily lives. I have to be careful about who I feed from, they have to know what they are getting into."
"Why does that matter?"
"Because they have to drink from me before I drink from them."
I watched Bella's eyes grow wide and I waited. Wider. I kept my eyes on her, my face expressionless, waiting. Impossibly wider.
"Once my blood is ingested, I can feed from them and the venom is useless. It is like an immunity, how you can never get sick with the same thing twice. Once my blood is put into the human's system, his or her body develops an immunity to my venom. There is venom in my blood, Bella, as there is with any vampire, but in much smaller quantities and with much less potency than the venom from my mouth. So, drinking from me first leaves the human immune. But only to my venom. Every vampire's venom is slightly different from another vampire's venom. Same as your DNA."
"But I drank from you. I'm a vampire."
"You fed from me after my venom was taking over your body. Had you not fed from me, you would be much less in control of yourself. You would be a typical newborn, save for your powers once they began to manifest."
The silence was almost tangible as Bella mulled things over for a few moments. I admired her profile as she thought, I watched as her eyes moved and followed the waves, I studied the way I could see the entire ocean reflected in browns and honey golds beneath those long lashes of hers.
"Why didn't I struggle with the change when you were around?"
"Because I suppressed your conscious mind." There went her eyes again. Wide. Wider. Widest.
"I told you I would keep you under control, am I correct?"
"Well, yes, but -"
"How else could I have done so, Bella? Even having fed from me, the thirst would have controlled you. You were surrounded by humans. You wouldn't have had a chance."
"So you... controlled my mind?"
"You could say that."
"Can you read minds?"
"Like Edward." Her voice was a whisper, the pain evident.
"Edward couldn't read your mind. I had no trouble."
"How often did you read my mind?"
"Once. When I was trying to find you in the hospital. I needed to know how you were before I went in there."
"That's it? Just that once?"
"Of course, Bella! Why would you even think I would have read your mind without permission?"
"You ask permission?"
"Doesn't Edward? It's an invasion of privacy. I can hear every thought, see every memory, smell every scent you've ever smelled. It's rude to go waltzing into someone's mind without expressed permission or desperate need."
"No, Edward doesn't ask. He reads everyone's minds."
"That's incredibly obnoxious." Her half-hearted laughter made me feel a bit better about insulting her ex-boyfriend. Not completely, but slightly.
"I don't know if he could help it."
"It doesn't take long to control it, Bella. Had he wanted to, he could have."
"It didn't take you long, but you're different."
"Edward and I are not the only telepaths, Bella. There are others. Many others. None of which are ancients. They did not have trouble managing their powers." She seemed thoughtful, again. As if she was questioning what she believed about this Edward of hers.
"So you're saying he was just lazy?"
"Or ignorant. Neither is an excuse." She nodded lightly again and tilted her head to rest against my shoulder. I pulled her impossibly closer.
"Can you read my mind now?"
"Shall I try? Would you be okay with that?" Her smirk tugged at her lips and she nodded into my chest.
"Yes. I'd like you to try."
I took a long, relaxing breath in the hope of bracing myself for what would surely come. I opened my mind up slowly, holding the image of an expanding bubble in the forefront of my mind. I imagined the bubble enveloping Bella and I and nothing else. This would keep out anyone outside of this bubble, shortening my usual fifty mile range to just the few feet that surrounded us.
There was nothing except my own thoughts, which were suddenly perplexed. I opened my eyes and looked at her. "You aren't thinking anything."
"Yes I am."
"I can't hear you." Her smirk turned into a snicker. When she met my eyes again she was smug.
"I've officially been able to keep two telepathic vampires out of my head."
"Well aren't you cocky." I smiled at her to keep her from being insulted. She wouldn't have been anyway, that was clear with her roar of laughter. "Bella, may I try something else? I have an idea, of sorts."
"I want to try to separate your conscious mind from your body, the way I did in the hospital. It's a form of mind control, but I swear I won't make you bark like a dog or any such thing." She laughed again, quieter this time, and nodded.
And so I tried.
Nothing. Maybe I just couldn't tell?
"Do you feel any different?"
Well, shit. My suspicions were increasing.
"Okay, I need to try another thing. Watch closely." I lifted my hand, which was not at all necessary for what I was about to do but it would help her to understand what I was doing, and focused my attention on her duffle bag. I raised my hand slowly, glancing at her as she watched the duffle bag lift from the sand at the same rate my hand lifted. I moved my hand to the left, towards her, and the duffle bag moved. "You see what I just did?"
"I want you to try to stop me from doing that again."
"What? How? Do I have to tackle you or something?" Now was my turn for a loud burst of laughter.
"No, no. I just want you to focus on me, focus on keeping my mind from being able to do that. All right?"
"All right. I can try."
And so I lifted the duffle bag again by raising my hand. I moved it to the right, back towards me. I pushed it out further towards the waves. I lifted it a hundred feet higher in the air. There was nothing stopping me. I felt no pressure, I didn't have to exert any more force than I usually did - which wasn't much.
I turned my hand over so the palm was facing upright, the bag didn't move because I didn't tell it to, and I curled my index finger in towards my palm quickly. The bag flew towards us faster than Bella could process due to her surprise and suddenly, the bag stopped.
I pulled my finger forward more. Nothing. The bag remained in the air. I pulled my middle finger in, focusing more on moving the duffle bag. Still nothing.
This went on for another half hour. I gradually increased the strength of my power on the bag. When I'd exerted nearly a quarter of my potential energy to move the bag it finally moved. I heard Bella gasp beside me as if she'd been shocked out of a dream.
"You just repressed my powers, Bella. I think you have a gift that I have only seen once before. And he referred to it as 'power negation.'"