Copyright © 2008 by Stephenie Meyer
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Epigraph for Book Three from Empire by Orson Scott Card. A Tor Book.
Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC. Copyright © 2006 by Orson Scott
Card. Reprinted with permission of the author.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to
real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
This book is dedicated to my ninja/agent, Jodi Reamer.
Thank you for keeping me off the ledge.
And thanks also to my favorite band,
the very aptly named Muse,
for providing a saga’s worth of inspiration.
2. LONG NIGHT
3. BIG DAY
5. ISLE ESME
Childhood is not from birth to a certain age and at a certain age
The child is grown, and puts away childish things.
Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
I’d had more than my fair share of near-death experiences; it wasn’t something
you ever really got used to.
It seemed oddly inevitable, though, facing death again. Like I really was marked
for disaster. I’d escaped time and time again, but it kept coming back for me.
Still, this time was so different from the others.
You could run from someone you feared, you could try to fight someone you
hated. All my reactions were geared toward those kinds of killers—the monsters,
When you loved the one who was killing you, it left you no options. How could
you run, how could you fight, when doing so would hurt that beloved one? If your
life was all you had to give your beloved, how could you not give it?
If it was someone you truly loved?
No one is staring at you, I promised myself. No one is staring at you. No one is
staring at you.
But, because I couldn’t lie convincingly even to myself, I had to check.
As I sat waiting for one of the three traffic lights in town to turn green, I peeked
to the right—in her minivan, Mrs. Weber had turned her whole torso in my
direction. Her eyes bored into mine, and I flinched back, wondering why she
didn’t drop her gaze or look ashamed. It was still considered rude to stare at
people, wasn’t it? Didn’t that apply to me anymore?
Then I remembered that these windows were so darkly tinted that she probably
had no idea if it was even me in here, let alone that I’d caught her looking. I tried
to take some comfort in the fact that she wasn’t really staring at me, just the car.
My car. Sigh.
I glanced to the left and groaned. Two pedestrians were frozen on the sidewalk,
missing their chance to cross as they stared. Behind them, Mr. Marshall was
gawking through the plate-glass window of his little souvenir shop. At least he
didn’t have his nose pressed up against the glass. Yet.
The light turned green and, in my hurry to escape, I stomped on the gas pedal
without thinking—the normal way I would have punched it to get my ancient
Chevy truck moving.
Engine snarling like a hunting panther, the car jolted forward so fast that my
body slammed into the black leather seat and my stomach flattened against my
“Arg!” I gasped as I fumbled for the brake. Keeping my head, I merely tapped the
pedal. The car lurched to an absolute standstill anyway.
I couldn’t bear to look around at the reaction. If there had been any doubt as to
who was driving this car before, it was gone now. With the toe of my shoe, I
gently nudged the gas pedal down one half millimeter, and the car shot forward
I managed to reach my goal, the gas station. If I hadn’t been running on vapors, I
wouldn’t have come into town at all. I was going without a lot of things these
days, like Pop-Tarts and shoelaces, to avoid spending time in public.
Moving as if I were in a race, I got the hatch open, the cap off, the card scanned,
and the nozzle in the tank within seconds. Of course, there was nothing I could do
to make the numbers on the gauge pick up the pace. They ticked by sluggishly,
almost as if they were doing it just to annoy me.
It wasn’t bright out—a typical drizzly day in Forks, Washington—but I still felt
like a spotlight was trained on me, drawing attention to the delicate ring on my
left hand. At times like this, sensing the eyes on my back, it felt as if the ring were
pulsing like a neon sign: Look at me, look at me.
It was stupid to be so self-conscious, and I knew that. Besides my dad and mom,
did it really matter what people were saying about my engagement? About my
new car? About my mysterious acceptance into an Ivy League college? About the
shiny black credit card that felt red-hot in my back pocket right now?
“Yeah, who cares what they think,” I muttered under my breath.
“Um, miss?” a man’s voice called.
I turned, and then wished I hadn’t.
Two men stood beside a fancy SUV with brand-new kayaks tied to the top.
Neither of them was looking at me; they both were staring at the car.
Personally, I didn’t get it. But then, I was just proud I could distinguish between
the symbols for Toyota, Ford, and Chevy. This car was glossy black, sleek, and
pretty, but it was still just a car to me.
“I’m sorry to bother you, but could you tell me what kind of car you’re driving?”
the tall one asked.
“Um, a Mercedes, right?”
“Yes,” the man said politely while his shorter friend rolled his eyes at my answer.
“I know. But I was wondering, is that… are you driving a Mercedes Guardian?”
The man said the name with reverence. I had a feeling this guy would get along
well with Edward Cullen, my… my fiancé (there really was no getting around that
truth with the wedding just days away). “They aren’t supposed to be available in
Europe yet,” the man went on, “let alone here.”
While his eyes traced the contours of my car—it didn’t look much different from
any other Mercedes sedan to me, but what did I know?—I briefly contemplated
my issues with words like fiancé, wedding, husband, etc.
I just couldn’t put it together in my head.
On the one hand, I had been raised to cringe at the very thought of poofy white
dresses and bouquets. But more than that, I just couldn’t reconcile a staid,
respectable, dull concept like husband with my concept of Edward. It was like
casting an archangel as an accountant; I couldn’t visualize him in any
Like always, as soon as I started thinking about Edward I was caught up in a dizzy
spin of fantasies. The stranger had to clear his throat to get my attention; he was
still waiting for an answer about the car’s make and model.
“I don’t know,” I told him honestly.
“Do you mind if I take a picture with it?”
It took me a second to process that. “Really? You want to take a picture with the
“Sure—nobody is going to believe me if I don’t get proof.”
“Um. Okay. Fine.”
I swiftly put away the nozzle and crept into the front seat to hide while the
enthusiast dug a huge professional-looking camera out of his backpack. He and
his friend took turns posing by the hood, and then they went to take pictures at
the back end.
“I miss my truck,” I whimpered to myself.
Very, very convenient—too convenient—that my truck would wheeze its last
wheeze just weeks after Edward and I had agreed to our lopsided compromise,
one detail of which was that he be allowed to replace my truck when it passed on.
Edward swore it was only to be expected; my truck had lived a long, full life and
then expired of natural causes. According to him. And, of course, I had no way to
verify his story or to try to raise my truck from the dead on my own. My favorite
I stopped that thought cold, refusing to let it come to a conclusion. Instead, I
listened to the men’s voices outside, muted by the car walls.
“. . . went at it with a flamethrower in the online video. Didn’t even pucker the
“Of course not. You could roll a tank over this baby. Not much of a market for one
over here. Designed for Middle East diplomats, arms dealers, and drug lords
“Think she’s something?” the short one asked in a softer voice. I ducked my head,
“Huh,” the tall one said. “Maybe. Can’t imagine what you’d need missile-proof
glass and four thousand pounds of body armor for around here. Must be headed
somewhere more hazardous.”
Body armor. Four thousand pounds of body armor. And missile-proof glass?
Nice. What had happened to good old-fashioned bulletproof?
Well, at least this made some sense—if you had a twisted sense of humor.
It wasn’t like I hadn’t expected Edward to take advantage of our deal, to weight it
on his side so that he could give so much more than he would receive. I’d agreed
that he could replace my truck when it needed replacing, not expecting that
moment to come quite so soon, of course. When I’d been forced to admit that the
truck had become no more than a still-life tribute to classic Chevys on my curb, I
knew his idea of a replacement was probably going to embarrass me. Make me
the focus of stares and whispers. I’d been right about that part. But even in my
darkest imaginings I had not foreseen that he would get me two cars.
The “before” car and the “after” car, he’d explained when I’d flipped out.
This was just the “before” car. He’d told me it was a loaner and promised that he
was returning it after the wedding. It all had made absolutely no sense to me.
Ha ha. Because I was so fragilely human, so accident-prone, so much a victim to
my own dangerous bad luck, apparently I needed a tank-resistant car to keep me
safe. Hilarious. I was sure he and his brothers had enjoyed the joke quite a bit
behind my back.
Or maybe, just maybe, a small voice whispered in my head, it’s not a joke, silly.
Maybe he’s really that worried about you. This wouldn’t be the first time he’s
gone a little overboard trying to protect you.
I hadn’t seen the “after” car yet. It was hidden under a sheet in the deepest corner
of the Cullens’ garage. I knew most people would have peeked by now, but I really
didn’t want to know.
Probably no body armor on that car—because I wouldn’t need it after the
honeymoon. Virtual indestructibility was just one of the many perks I was
looking forward to. The best parts about being a Cullen were not expensive cars
and impressive credit cards.
“Hey,” the tall man called, cupping his hands to the glass in an effort to peer in.
“We’re done now. Thanks a lot!”