Seventeenth Chapter of the Prequel for:

"Where's the Excitement?"

"Where we've been"

Peter Whitlock:

I tried not to let my attention linger on Isabella as we collected ourselves after we stopped to talk. We picked right back up and continued on our way home, locking away the words that had been spoken, but my mind was still focused on the information I had obtained from that talk…

God that talk…

I hadn't expected her to open up like she did, to let me see the things I did. I never thought all the holes in her story would be filled…I assumed I would always be in the dark, wondering about the mystery of Isabella Swan, but now, I no longer had to wonder.

Somehow, it all made sense.

When I first met Isabella, I knew there were many things that were messed up and wrong with her. The torture from the Volturi alone could fuck a person up good, but there was so much more…

The shit with Edward, losing Nessi, and then suffering over Jasper for so long had done a real number on her. I had no idea those traumas would continue to haunt her for so long…I thought for sure at some point she would change, she would get over her pain, she would move on at least in some way.

But she never did.

She had been walking around since Alaska, just coping, a husk of herself.

She had put on a good show, really, spectacular.

I don't think her family had any idea that she had been lying to them this entire time. Okay, maybe lying is a harsh way to look at it. She may not care for them the way they think, but she did save them, not for the same reasons they believe, but Isabella did save them nonetheless.

To know, every female in her coven was just a readymade replacement for Nessi made me a little sick. I was slightly disgusted that Isabella had tried to fill the hole left by her daughter with random girls. I was slightly relieved at the fact that she hadn't killed them when they disappointed her, but then again, she couldn't kill them. She needed them.

Even if they did not live up to her expectation as replacements for her lost child, they did serve a purpose. They served to strength and draw attention to her coven, to draw the attention of Maria, which had been Isabella's goal since South Dakota.

Again that sickening feeling settled in my stomach.

This was all to get to Maria.

But you knew that.

The all-knowing voice whispered the truth in my ear. I had always known that Isabella was working her way up to Maria. I just hadn't been prepared for how she was intending to do that.

I had no knowledge when I first found her that she would change so many vampires just to get to Maria. And these were just the ones she had changed on her way to get to Maria. What about all of the newborns Maria was going to force her to change…

God my head hurt.

Thinking about all of the revelations from Isabella's mind had really put me on edge, and not just because I felt like I could finally see behind her mask, the real one, not the one I thought I had been peaking behind.

Now, I could really see everything

When she was in her bubble in South Dakota she was hallucinating… the bubble wasn't to keep us out like I'd thought, it was to protect us from what she was experiencing. She was hiding because she didn't want us to truly know how crazed she was becoming. She thought she was losing her mind and she was scared of the repercussions it may have on the rest of us.

The way she would humiliate and put down Ethan was because of Emmett. She could possibly really love Ethan if he didn't remind her every day of Emmett. I could tell Ethan and Andrew were the only ones she actually cared for in an honest manner since they were there from the beginning. She had spared them because she couldn't kill anymore. But she had kept them alive because they started to grow on her, and because she dreaded being alone.

That made me wonder what would have happened if she had been truly alone when Nessi died. I don't think the bubble would have saved her. I think she may have actually found a way to kill herself. In my heart, I hoped that I would have been able to save her if she had been alone. I hoped my gift would have been smart enough to send me a sign to go save her.

The thing that weighed the heaviest on me was the truth about her coven.

About the girls.

I knew it was only instinct to want to replace what you lost. If it had been her mate though, she wouldn't have been able to replace that. In this case it was her daughter, so she did the only thing her mind could come up with.

But these girls…Melissa and Stephanie had been badly beaten and raped for a while before they escaped. They looked at Isabella like an angel, a savior, exactly how she wanted them to see her…

But I could see it now, Isabella wasn't a savior…she was more like a serial murderer with very particular victims.

The victims were always young girls, pretty but not gorgeous, most with sexual or drug abuse in their pasts, usually depressed or had some other type of emotional imbalance, families estranged or not present, typically kept to themselves, and were alone at the time of their deaths…shit.

Isabella is a serial killer…

But she's a vampire…but it fits. I could see it.

Like most serial killers, Isabella had trauma in her past that caused her to lash out. She had a pattern, normally every couple of decades she would take another victim, except for the first time when she got two for the price of one. But that was just chance.

Looking at all of the facts this way, like it was an FBI case made me even sicker. I'm sure if I pieced together all of the evidence, she would be guilty. But…all vampires are guilty. That is something I believe, but not all of us chose to change our victims the way Isabella did.

I didn't want to think of her as a serial anything…so I tried to look at the events from her point of view.

It started with the death of Nessi. She immediately killed Victoria, Irina, and Laurent.

Okay, that's a natural reaction to such an extremely painful event.

Then there was Ethan and Andrew…she didn't kill them, no, by that point she was tuckered out, emotionally drained and could not bring herself to kill them, but instead, she basically kidnapped them. She killed their makers so she adopted them, and took on the persona of a leader using Victoria's name. She did that spur of the moment to separate herself from Nessi who was then gone.

Fuck…an alternate identity.

The more I thought, the more it made sense.

Right after she kidnapped the boys, she folded in on herself and neglected them. If she hadn't come to me and Charlotte, the boys would have had no direction and probably would have caused a fuck ton of trouble in Alaska and would have eventually been killed. They would have drawn too much attention to themselves. They would have put the secret in danger. If that had happened, it's possible the Volturi would have sent someone or called another coven in the area to dispose of the newborns.

While is South Dakota, she formed a plan to get Jasper. That's what brought her out of her bubble. She had a new goal. A new objective. So she took the boys and bonded with them, making them dependent on her…and all while she was looking for her next victim.

The twins.

When they ended up being mates to the boys, she was pissed. She felt betrayed. The bonds she had worked so hard to formulate with the boys paled in comparison…she could never be as important to the boys as their mates.

So she ran away. I'm not sure if she ran away to punish the boys or not, but it was obvious to me that wanted to find some sexual gratification for herself, which led to her finding Henry, who turned out to be another disappointment.

Damnso many disappointments, no wonder she's always so serious.

Every choice she made somehow came back to bite her. No one was ever good enough, and the only one who was good enough was too far out of her reach. She felt small in comparison to Jasper. She thought she needed to do more and to be more, to be with him.

I never told her that I thought that was bullshit. I didn't think she would hear me. She was so consumed by her plan that she wasn't interested in hearing the obvious solution.

She could have just gone and found him. But Isabella didn't want easy…she thought she had to fight for what she wanted.

She was doing all of these things because of the complex she had developed about herself. She felt immensely unworthy of Jasper because Edward made her feel like nothing, because the Volturi treated her like a slave and a science experiment, because she thought it was her fault Nessi died…all of these things attributed to her dysfunctionality.

Fuck…

A serial killer with a personality complex.

Perfect.

Another couple decades passed…she was restless…and went looking for sexual gratification again. This time she called Demetri back. Then she became incredibly angry and jealous because Ethan and Andrew married their mates. More of what she couldn't have.

So she ran, again…and then found Trisha.

Her next victim.

Almost the exact same scenario in which Isabella found Melissa and Stephanie happened with Trisha. As Trisha was turning, she called Henry because she did not get the sexual gratification she wanted from Demetri. But even after Trisha was changed, Trisha attached herself to Stephanie, finding happiness in her, and not Isabella. This left Isabella bitter like it had before with the twins, but she didn't run this time. This time she couldn't because Melissa took that chance to run. Isabella must have felt some type of obligation to stay behind while Andrew grieved for his mate who had abandoned him for human blood.

Like clockwork, a couple decades later, Melissa had returned, Trisha was accustomed to their way of life, so it was time to move on. The next victim was slightly different because Isabella had a sense that this was her last chance.

This one meant more.

Katherine was only slightly different though, again things didn't work out the way Isabella had hoped they would.

Isabella's intentions truly did start off honest, but once she saw that Katherine was weak and would try to kill herself, Isabella immediately withdrew her honest intentions. She claimed she was going to wait for Katherine to go to college and live a life before she would change her, but secretly I think she was glad Katherine tried to kill herself. Isabella immediately switched her honest intentions for dishonest ones, under the guise of saving Katherine from her suicide and only claimed Katherine for her gifts. Gifts that made their coven the threat Isabella had been working so hard to cultivate.

Once Katherine was changed, Isabella's goal was close to complete. She had her four victims, and while none of them lived up to the image Isabella had of Nessi, they were enough to draw the attention of Maria.

And now we were here.

On the road to war with Maria.

Fuck…the amount of manipulating and human sacrifices Isabella was willing to make in order to get to Jasper was downright fucking scary. And she had yet to actually join Maria…

I was fearful for what would become of Isabella once she reached Maria. She wouldn't have to hide her true nature anymore…

Rage cannot stay inside. Rage has to go somewhere, or it becomes a poison. It will kill you from within.

Isabella would be able to let out her rage once she was with Maria. She would finally be able to let go of all the binding emotions and pain she had trapped inside herself.

This was her chance to release it, to release the rage that had been bubbling inside for so long. She had exhausted all other options.

There's only one left.

Maria.

I tried to see this as a solution for Isabella, but my experience with Maria was not a choice, let alone an answer. It was a fucking punishment. It was living in Hell on Earth.

But for Isabella, maybe it would be different. Maybe going to Maria was the right thing to do, not just a means to an end, but a way to help Isabella.

The disgust I felt for Maria made it fucking difficult to believe that monster could ever be anything else to someone.

Was it even possible for Maria to do something good?

We all knew that Maria had her own intentions for wanting Isabella to join her, evil and selfish as they were, but I could see the possibility that Isabella would be able to reap some kind of benefit from serving Maria.

But then a scary thought was whispered to me and I couldn't stop the terrifying thought before it happened.

What if Isabella is happy with Maria…What if she doesn't come back…What will happen if she stays with Maria?

Something inside of me turned…the wicked thought shrouded me with worry, just the glimmer of a possibility that Isabella would not come back to us.

The thought felt real, like that could be a real possibility. I had worked so hard to avoid thinking such a thing, but my gift made it known. This was the worst case scenario. And I felt myself buckle at the thought; I almost lost my balance when that thought rocketed through me. I was careful to correct myself because I knew Isabella was up ahead. I hope she didn't notice.

Another shot of dread and fear ran through me.

Fuck! I hope she hasn't been listening to my fucked up thoughts…

It is one thing to think all of these terrible thoughts about her, and it was a whole other deal if Isabella knew what I was thinking.

How would she look at me if she knew I called her a serial killer?

Maybe she wouldn't care? Or maybe she had no idea what it looked like from an objective standpoint?

She doesn't know.

Well okay then, so she doesn't know what it looks like, she has no idea what it could be misconstrued as.

Does that make it any more or less of a crime against humanity? Does taking the lives of innocent damaged unstable girls become less of a pattern because she doesn't actively acknowledge what she was doing?

Either way it was in the past. The lives in question were already altered completely by her presence. There was no way to undo what had been done to them. Even if you asked them what they would have wanted, they were at the brink of death when Isabella took them. Would they have wanted to die?

I didn't have the answer to that.

I shook my head, trying to erase the fucking mental monologue before it could continue.

Fuck my internal ramblings.

I didn't want to think about the things Isabella had done…I needed to focus on the now. Isabella was leaving, soon. None of these realizations or rationalizations mattered. Everything I was mulling over had already happened.

I was dwelling on the past, when I should be thinkin' about the very unstable future ahead of us. I should be focused on all of the possibilities of what could happen while Isabella is with Maria.

The heavy fear and dread of my earlier thoughts seeped back into my mind.

We had been so worried thinking about what if Maria found out about her true intentions to destroy her, but what about if Isabella did not kill Maria?

What if Isabella actually joined her?

What if Isabella wanted to stay with Maria?

What if Maria could offer her a sense of freedom from her pain, a way to let go and unleash her beast…Isabella would become a monster with Maria that I knew for sure, but what would bring her back from the brink of death?

What would save Isabella?

Jasper.

God that was so fucking obvious.

The promise of Jasper was the only thing that would be able to save Isabella from Maria.

At some point I would have to find a way to remind Isabella that everything she was doing was to get to Jasper, that even though she will probably love the death and carnage that Maria offers, bringing justice and ending her would bring her solace, would bring her Jasper.

And Jasper was the only thing that could truly fill the hole in her heart.

It may be a masochistic type of love, but Isabella does truly love Jasper. I knew her actions had proved what she was to him. His true mate. But he couldn't be involved in this war… it was too dangerous to bring him into this. If he even got close to Maria, she would pounce on him and never let them go.

But how will Isabella be able to get out if Jasper can't be involved?

You will show her. You will save her.

The voice that whispered to me the secrets and knowledge of the world laid another heavy burden on my shoulders.

I would have to remind her of her love for Jasper. I would have to be the one to bring her out of the darkness once again. I would be the one to show her the light in her heart…the reason she fights.

For Jasper.

XxXxX

The house looked the same as we approached Whitlock Ranch after our little detour on the way home…but the closer we got, the more obvious it became that things were not all peachy at home.

We scanned the area and checked the perimeter before entering the back field. We could sense everyone around the property. I watched silently as Isabella took stock of the situation at hand.

The first thing I noticed was that our African visitors were still very upset with how Isabella had treated the newborns we had collected. They found her behavior barbaric and crude. I found it amusing that they tried to stop her, and tell her what she was doing was 'wrong' when god knows that would never stop Izz from doing what she wanted, nor from what she thought was right.

Their leader, Duna, was causing the most trouble. Kamau was still following Izzy around like a little lost puppy even though she had erected a wall between them, making it clear that there would be no more physical interaction between them. Still he was drooling over her like a damn fool. And lastly, Ramla, he didn't seem to care what Isabella did at all. He knew what needed to be done to win this war and the casualties meant nothing to him. I admired that he could prioritize his revenge over his brother's morals.

Then there were the two newborns that looked a little worse for wear.

Just as before I left, Charlotte was still closely watching Claire…there was something there, more than just friendship, but I didn't want to pry.

That didn't stop me from seeing the obvious though. Charlotte was seeing the resemblance between Claire and Elaina. The pull toward Claire was strong now because we had just lost Elaina, but I knew the feeling would dull. Not everyone was going to make it out of this war, and it wasn't smart of Char to get caught up.

It could be something else…perhaps it was wrong of me to assume that Char would obsess over some girl simply because we lost ours. I was comparing her to Isabella without realizing it. I instantly felt guilty for doing that to my mate. Again the thoughts from earlier in the day were still clouding my mind, and my judgement. If this doesn't stop, it could get bad. I needed to push away the bitter thoughts and focus on Isabella.

I refocused, moving my attention to the other newborn in the house. Layla was shacked up with Kat as if they were old friends. Layla had stopped shaking and was forming full sentences and Kat was positively beaming at the girl. I looked between them and Claire and Char, and I could see the similarity, there was somethin' more brewing between them as well.

Our little army didn't seem like much in comparison to Maria's army and I was worried that our numbers would not be enough.

I could tell Isabella shared my concerns, and I hope she was thinking of a way to fix this problem because fourteen vampires would not be enough to defeat any army. And it was only fourteen if we included Isabella, who would not be a part of our united front when we attacked, we would be on the other side facing her.

My mind was racing through the possible ways to win with our numbers without losing anyone, which didn't seem likely because there are always casualties in war, and with our lack of training and lack of time to prepare, we would probably not do so well.

Isabella had a serious look fixed upon her face, a look I had seen on Alice before and on Ramla. She was attempting to read our future and by the looks of her, our future wasn't lookin' too good.

I didn't have the sight that Isabella or Ramla had, but I could still use my military training to contemplate our course of action.

As we made our way inside the house, Kat noticed the look on Isabella's face, and mine for that matter. We both looked grim and not very positive.

"Welcome back, sir." Kat gave a weak smile as we came into the living room. The room was empty, save for us. It seemed we wouldn't be getting a warm welcome from everyone. Before Izz or I could say anything to her, Kat was voicing the fears we all felt, but knew better then to talk about in the house. "What are we going to do Izz? We need more soldiers." Her tone was fearful, but not disrespectful. Kat's eyes were wide with fear and distraught with the reality we were facing. It was clear from her comment that she didn't believe we could win like this either.

I quickly looked to Izz as she responded, "I will figure it out, don't worry." Isabella's cold tone did little to lessen the fear in Kat's eyes. I could tell that Izz did not want to discuss this here, nor did she appreciate being told what she obviously already knew.

Kat looked at me with a serious expression and nodded her head to the door. I nodded back. Kat made a quick exit, not making any noise, or drawing attention to herself.

Izz looked at me expectantly, do what you can to calm her fears. I'll start working on something.

I heard her voice clear as day as her thoughts entered my mind, I nodded and turned to leave the house. I strolled outside, and walked toward the woods beyond the property line. I could smell Kat's scent in the air and quickly made my way toward her, following through the woods after her.

As I approached her, I immediately noticed her taught posture, clenched fists, and the sounds of heavy breathing as her chest rose and fell much faster than would be healthy for a human. I knew she was trying very hard to control the urge to affect the weather around her. I was actually surprised how well she was maintaining her composure. That was until she began to speak, more like hiss at me.

"We need more soldiers and she's not doing anything! We should go get more of Maria's minions or change someone! We don't have time for her to plan her way out of this, we need to be ready to fight now," Kat raged.

"Kat you need to calm down, okay?" I started to say, but Kat's posture was quickly turning into a crouch as she became more unstable, the anger and fear were trying to control her. The growls that fell from her lips were quiet, but audible. I did not want to have to fight her. Not that I couldn't take her, but because I did not want to be at the hands of her gifts. She could do things that would leave you truly scarred.

I lowered my head a bit in submission, trying to keep my hands in plain view. "Kat, I know you're worried. I understand where you're coming from. You're going to be in charge of the family when Izz leaves and she is going to leave soon. I'm here to help you train and plan, and I am sorry I had to leave on such short notice. I'm here now, okay?"

My words were a Band-Aid. She felt hopeless. I was supposed to be helping her, but I had run off. I knew it looked bad, so I would have to do my best to calm her like Izz had said. I wasn't sure my words would work, but she slightly receded from her crouch, coming back into a rigid stance before me. She stayed silent as she stood in front of me.

"Look, we will not change anyone without permission unless they're in serious danger of dyin'. You know that. And if we go after Maria's newborns again it will only bring her here faster, and we are not ready. I know this isn't going to help, but you need to try to relax, this tension isn't helpin' any," I said calmly as I stayed locked in her gaze. She knew I was right, I could see the recognition flash in her eyes.

I tried to sound as relaxed as possible, but she was right. We didn't have time for this nonsense, but I had my orders and so did she. We would listen to Isabella.

"Fine. But, I'm not happy about this. I will wait because I have my orders too, but there is only so long I can do nothing." Her eyes were hard as she spoke, she would listen, but she was on the edge.

I tried to lighten the mood a little, "Thanks sugar." I smiled at her and watched as she scoffed but a small smirk slid onto her face. "So…what's goin' on with you and Layla? Huh? I see the way you've been looking at her." My tone was flirtatious as I raised my eyebrows suggestively at her. I smirked at her as her embarrassment became prominent.

"I don't know what you're talking about. She is just my friend. I'm her mentor…or whatever! I'm supposed to be helping her not standing here listening to this stupid crap." She huffed and turned to leave but I caught her arm, and pulled her back around.

I narrowed my eyes at her and smiled, "Really? You think I don't know love when I see it? Honey, that girl has it for ya. Don't you get it? You saved her and now she sees you as a guardian angel. I would take advantage of that while you can, she may not be with us very long." I tried to soften the blow with my smile, but it didn't quite work.

Katherine's eyes widened in sadness and fear because she understood what I meant, loud and clear. Layla was going to die in this battle and Kat shouldn't be wasting her time wondering 'what if' because she didn't have that kind of time.

Her face changed quickly as my words sunk all the way in. Before I could say another thing, she muttered a quick "I have to go," and left me standing by myself. She ran back to the house at full speed; zipping through the trees and making the damn birds fly away like they were on fire.

I dreaded going back to the house. The love and desire there made me sick.

The war was here and we weren't ready.

I hated to admit it, but I was slightly afraid that we were going to lose this war.

My fears were not the only one's present among the army, others were afraid as well and with that fear present among the ranks, we would never win.

Isabella needed us to be training and yet no one was. They were all inside findin' love and lust and runnin' with it like they'd never get another chance.

I felt her presence only after she had arrived. Her strong body held up high in the treetops, hanging from a branch, lookin' down at me like her prey.

Isabella hissed as my body turned upward in a violent growl. My mind switched to fighting immediately as did hers.

She launched down on top of me, effectively shoving me to the ground, immobilized.

"If you want to train so badly why don't you? You have the power Captain, so why the fuck aren't you using it?" Her hiss filled me with anger and violent thoughts.

I felt her challenging my mind, forcing me to push her out, but I felt helpless with Izz invading my thoughts and affecting my decisions.

She relented and got off me all while looking at me with a sad expression. She was trying to push me, make me do something, get me out of my funk.

And so I did.

"We need more soldiers." I said bluntly, turned, and walked back toward the house.

Training resumed that night and didn't stop for the next few weeks.

We would be ready, no matter what.

XxXxX

As our training continued, our army began to grow.

Slowly, but steadily.

In the week after we returned from the Cullen's, more newborns began to make their way to our property. I knew Isabella must have found more of Maria's soldiers and turned them to our side, but I wasn't thinkin' much about where they came from. I was just glad they were here and increasing our chances by the second.

It wasn't just newborns who found their way to us. Others must have heard what was happening because soon there were seasoned fighters on our doorstep.

A tall Amazonian woman named Cassandra and her equally impressive mate, Damon, joined us a couple weeks after I spoke to Isabella.

After they joined, a young vampire named Mathew showed up. He was about my height, but slightly lankier with light brown hair and eyes that made all the girls swoon. At first I hated him because he could make Char all starry-eyed and lustful, but later I learned that it wasn't really his fault and that he just happened to be half incubus. He found it difficult to stay away from our women, but we managed without killing him.

Soon after Mathew arrived, a young teenage vampire with short blonde hair, and very small build named Cherry came into our lives like a bombshell.

Her gift was unfortunately not very useful for us in battle, but it did lift our spirits every time she smiled. She said she didn't know how else to explain it besides always being happy and making others around her happy as well.

With these four new members our group was still not as strong as I'd hoped we'd be, but the sudden joining of two more males put us into a safe number, which made our chances much better.

The two men were brothers who were changed in their late twenties. Both of them were very tall and muscular, and they shared the same dark facial features. They both seemed a bit shady, but it wasn't a problem for us.

Our work tended to be on the dark side and with their sadistic minds workin' for us, I figured we'd be better off. Their names were Jeremy and Derek, and boy did they try to change our group's dynamics.

They immediately felt they deserved more power and control then the rest of us, but Isabella never allowed that. They thought they were stronger than us and better so that meant that they should be in charge. I found it very enjoyable to watch Izzy take a whack at them when they stepped their obnoxious feet out of line.

They didn't see it coming at all. They had heard what everyone said about Izz, but for some reason, they needed a real demonstration to learn their lesson.

Izz was not a fan of either of them, but that didn't stop her from fuckin' them on occasion, but I knew she was just usin' that as a way to control them. And boy did it work.

It didn't really matter how they acted because we all knew they were so damn attracted to Izz that they would do any little thing she asked, without a second thought or a shred of doubt in their minds.

Their strength definitely made me more optimistic about our chances, but they also brought unnecessary tension into the house.

I always felt like they were plottin' against us even though they were supposedly on our side. Isabella knew how I felt and she seemed to share my feelings, but if they were planning anything, Isabella must have put a stop to it.

Their animosity stopped seeping into every word they spoke, and they began to listen and follow orders from people other than Isabella. Like Izz had replaced their brains with the ones of obedient submissive children.

Our numbers were stronger now, and Char was less worried too, which always made me feel better. I tried to take comfort in her, always keeping her close, and making sure to keep an eye on her.

In the coming days, Isabella would be leaving, and we would be on our own.

Izz would be off slowly working her way into Maria's good graces, trying to gain her trust. All while we would be here or possibly at another nondisclosed location, so Isabella wouldn't have to worry about us.

And then, we would wait and continue our training until it was time.

Time to strike.

Izz wasn't sure how long it would take to worm her way in, but there would be sign. And, whatever the sign, I would know it when it happened.

I will be ready, we would all be ready.

She will bring an end to Maria, and we will be right there with her.