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.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.Of course, I thought to myself as I got into the car, it wasn’t like I had much idea, either.The roads were slick and dark, but driving didn’t intimidate me anymore.My reflexes were well up to the job, and I barely paid attention to the road.The problem was keeping my speed from attracting attention when I had company.I wanted to be done with today’s mission, to have the mystery sorted out so that I could get back to the vital task of learning.Learning to protect some, learning to kill others.I was getting better and better with my shield.Kate didn’t feel the need to motivate me anymore—it wasn’t hard to find reasons to feel angry, now that I knew that was the key—and so I mostly worked with Zafrina.She was pleased with my extension; I was able to cover almost a ten-foot area for more than a minute, though it exhausted me.This morning she’d been trying to find out if I could push the shield away from my mind altogether.I didn’t see what the use of that would be, but Zafrina thought it would help strengthen me, like exercising muscles in the stomach and back rather than just the arms.Eventually, you could lift more weight when all the muscles were stronger.I wasn’t very good at it.I had only gotten one glimpse of the jungle river she was trying to show me.But there were different ways to prepare for what was coming, and with only two weeks left, I worried that I might be neglecting the most important.Today I would rectify that oversight.I’d memorized the appropriate maps, and I had no problem finding my way to the address that didn’t exist online, the one for J.Jenks.My next step would be Jason Jenks at the other address, the one Alice had not given me.To say that it wasn’t a nice neighborhood would be an understatement.The most nondescript of all the Cullens’ cars was still outrageous on this street.My old Chevy would have looked healthy here.During my human years, I would have locked the doors and driven away as fast as I dared.As it was, I was a little fascinated.I tried to imagine Alice in this place for any reason, and failed.The buildings—all three stories, all narrow, all leaning slightly as if bowed by the pounding rain—were mostly old houses divided up into multiple apartments.It was hard to tell what color the peeling paint was supposed to be.Everything had faded to shades of gray.A few of the buildings had businesses on the first floor: a dirty bar with the windows painted black, a psychic’s supply store with neon hands and tarot cards glowing fitfully on the door, a tattoo parlor, and a daycare with duct tape holding the broken front window together.There were no lamps on inside any of the rooms, though it was grim enough outside that the humans should have needed the light.I could hear the low mumbling of voices in the distance; it sounded like TV.There were a few people about, two shuffling through the rain in opposite directions and one sitting on the shallow porch of a boarded-up cut-rate law office, reading a wet newspaper and whistling.The sound was much too cheerful for the setting.I was so bemused by the carefree whistler, I didn’t realize at first that the abandoned building was right where the address I was looking for should exist.There were no numbers on the dilapidated place, but the tattoo parlor beside it was just two numbers off.I pulled up to the curb and idled for a second [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]