Paradise Regained (12)

esme

I hadn’t spent much time with Esme alone.  I was rarely without Edward, and that was fine with me.  Every once on a while, however, I knew he really liked going on a hunting trip with his brothers.  It made me smile to think of them horsing around and laughing.  I was glad he had them. 

My boys had left from Alaska with the Denali boys and the rest of us were set to travel home.   They’d be gone for four days we were set to hunt locally.  After returning on a full stomach, I was sitting on the couch braiding Renesmee’s hair, when Alice’s eyes changed.   They glazed over for a few seconds and I knew she’d seen something. 

“Alice?” I asked.

She snapped out of it quickly but looked at Esme instead of me. 

“Esme,” she said, “It’s time.  It’s going up for auction in three days. Westchester county.”

I was puzzled.  Esme had a small smile on her face but was looking down, but she nodded. 

She walked into another room without saying anything about it and I didn’t press the issue.  I just continued to braid Nessie’s hair. 

I put Ness to bed and was closing the door to her room when Esme appeared next to me.

“I wondered if you’d leave Renesmee with Alice and Rosalie for a few days so that I could show you something,” she said. 

I looked at her.  I was both surprised by her invitation and curious.  She’d never asked to spend time alone with me.  I wasn’t opposed to it in anyway.  I liked Esme very much.  It just hadn’t ever happened before. 

I nodded having no reason to deny her.  I was also curious.

We went to the airport with the others but got on a different flight.  I stole a glance at Alice who had a smirk on her face.  Obviously, she knew where we were going.  For once, I was content to let things unfold as they would without being impatient.  After all, I literally had all the time in the world.

An auction, I thought.  What could she possibly want at an auction, and why didn’t she already have it.  I mean, if she wanted something, couldn’t she just take it?

The flight was a red eye so most of the passengers were asleep, and of course, it wasn’t hard for us to converse without anyone hearing anyways.  It was me that finally broke the silence.

“Can I ask where we’re going exactly?” 

She smiled.  “Yes,” she said.  “There is a necklace that belonged to my grandmother that is up for auction and I want it.  The previous owners were kind to me so instead of taking it, I decided just to wait for it to become available.  I knew it meant something to the lady that just died.  She of course, has no idea what significance it has to me.  To her it’s a family heirloom that she wouldn’t have parted with for the world, but not that she’s gone and no one in her family remains to pass it down to, I’m going to take it back.”

“What does it look like?” I asked.

She smiled again.  “It’s a simple little thing.  It has a silver chain and a one inch pendent.  It is oval shaped and it actually has the Cullen crest on it.  Around the outside it has an intricate pattern also of silver.  It’s really very beautiful.”

I had never thought about where the Cullen crest came from.  I was intrigued.   I knew she could have a replica made if she wanted to so I was interested in finding out why this particular necklace warranted not only a trip across the country to acquire it but also the patience to have waited for it in the first place.

She must’ve seen the question in my eyes.

“How much has Edward told you about me?” she asked.

“Just that you are biologically three years older than Carlisle and that you tried to jump off a cliff like I did.  He said Carlisle found you and changed you to save you,” I told her.   Edward and I had not had a conversation about Esme’s past since I became a vampire and I couldn’t remember anything more from before my change.  And whether that was due to memories being lost or not, I wasn’t sure.  My two years with Edward as a human didn’t exactly leave much time for random conversations.  It had always been so jam packed with worry and angst.  At any rate, I was content to hear them first hand from Esme herself. 

She smiled and look away from me like she was remembering.  Finally she spoke.

“I actually met Carlisle for the first time when I was sixteen years old,” she began.

I was shocked.  I knew she’d been married and had a baby with another man so this was unexpected to say the least.

“It was stupid really,” she continued.  “I had climbed up in a tree in my parents’ back yard.  You have to remember, back then we didn’t have the same kinds of pastimes that people do nowadays.   My parents had a farm just outside of Columbus Ohio.”

“What was your name before it was Cullen?” I asked her.

“My real name is Esme Anne Platt,” she said.  “It was Evenson after I married, but we’ll get to that.”

I was about to tell her that she didn’t have to tell me all this if she didn’t want to.  The last thing I wanted to do was pry.   But she continued without any hesitation so I just sat back and listened to her.

“I fell out of the tree and broke my leg.  They took me to a hospital.  It was night time when they got me to the hospital and the regular doctor had gone away for the night.  It was a gorgeous blond doctor that took care of me that night.”  She smiled and shook her head.  “I specifically remember the first time I saw his face.  It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.  When he looked at me, it felt like he looked right into my soul.  I felt like if I wanted to hide anything, I couldn’t have because he could already see.  I was a little scared at first because I’d never felt like that before but he was so kind and when he smiled at me, I knew, right then, that I’d never be the same.

“I was in the hospital for six weeks while my leg healed.  I had trouble sleeping at night and he always said he was never tired.  He’d come to me and read to me while the others slept.  I loved the sound of his voice, and his eyes always stayed on me just a little too long.  I was…happy then, but I had no reason to believe he’d leave.” 

She smiled.

“At the time, he was posing as a 35 year old and it was just about time for him to move on.  I was devastated when he left but since he was “35” there was no way he could be with a sixteen year old.  He never said goodbye even.

“I never got over the experience.  Every other man I met was unable to measure up.  I eventually conceded that no man ever could and agreed to marry whomever it was that my parents decided I should marry. 

“At first, I wanted to be a school teacher.  I enjoyed the idea of living on my own, but my father didn’t think it was suitable for a woman to live on her own and in the woods no less.  All my other friends had gotten married.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to, but there just wasn’t anyone that caught my eye, at least not like Carlisle did.”

I understood that.  When Edward had left me, Jacob’s love had been staring me in the face, and I hadn’t seen it.

She continued. “My father had been friends with another family in town and convinced me to marry their son.  I was indifferent to him but I agreed to give it a chance.  His name was Charles Evenson.  Very soon after we were married, his true self came out.  He”-she paused and looked down-“was abusive.  He used to hit me over the slightest thing, mostly because he was drunk.

“It was a relief to me when he left for the war.  I told my parents about what he was doing to me but in those days, you didn’t divorce for any reason.  I remember them telling me to just continue on as if nothing happened and to be a good wife.”  She shook her head.

I was angry.  The thought of someone hurting Esme pissed me off.  She was nothing but kindness, and why someone would do such a thing was beyond me. 

“When he came back from the war I became pregnant.  As soon as I realized this, I decided to run away.  There was no way I was going to raise a child in that environment.  I made it to Milwaukee first, where a cousin of mine lived, and eventually to Ashland and where I began teaching.  I was able to hide for a while but my parents figured out where I was, and of course, I was pregnant, so I couldn’t run.   My baby was born sick.  He was all I felt I had left.  My parents were not on my side, my husband was abusive, and I hated my life.  My boy died four days after he was born from a lung infection.”  She looked at me.

“Believe me I know,” she continued, “exactly how you felt when you were pregnant with Renesmee.  I’m glad I was able to speak for you.  Even though it was hard to watch you go through that knowing you might die, I knew how you would feel if you lost her.”

I felt a twinge of pain.  I remembered what it felt like to think I might lose Renesmee. Even though, at the time, I thought she was a boy.  I knew it would’ve killed me in a way that no man, even Edward, would’ve been able to understand.  It’s a bond that can only be understood by a mother. 

“Did others wonder where your husband was? I mean, how did you hide that?” I asked her.

“I just told them that my husband died in the war.  It was easy enough to blend in since so many other women had the same story.

“Once my baby died, I was…empty.  I was beyond dead inside, and I didn’t want to go on.  I knew there were cliffs close by so I decided to kill myself.  I had no idea that Carlisle was working in the hospital in Ashland at the time.  I threw myself off the cliff and broke my back but I didn’t die.  Some strangers found me and brought me to the morgue.  They knew I was not going to make it. 

“I opened my eyes and saw Carlisle’s face.  I actually thought I was dead.  He looked at me with such concern.  I remember him telling me that everything was going to be alright.  Then the pain started, and not the pain of my injuries.  This was a fire- a fire from inside me.”

esme1

I knew what she was referring too.  Carlisle’s venom was what healed her injuries and brought her into this life. 

“I had no idea what was happening to me but he never left my side.  He held my hand the whole time.  When it was over, he told me that I was different now and that I had to stay with him for a while, but after that, he said if I wanted to leave him, I could.

“I had no intention of leaving him. Even after he explained to me what he was, I knew I wanted him.  The life of a vampire was a small price to pay to be rid of my former life and to be connected with his.  It took no time at all for him to return the affection that I felt for him.”

I was happy for her.  I can imagine that it was a hard life to go through.

“Do you ever regret what happened to you?” I asked her.  “ I mean, do you ever wish, like Rosalie, that it had just ended for you?”

“No!” she said quickly.  “I am completely content here.  I think that once you fall in love, you never want it to end.  I can’t imagine ever being without him.  Everything else in my life is secondary to my relationship with him.”

I nodded, and completely understood.  It was the same way I felt for Edward.  Being a vampire was just the price to pay for what I’d gained.  Edward had once explained his choice to be with me as a human as “opportunity cost.”  Being around me as a human had been incredibly difficult for him and even dangers at times. 

“When I was five years old, my grandmother showed me a necklace.  It was something her father had made.  I always remember her wearing it.  When I got hurt, that first time, she gave it to me.  I had it on when Carlisle helped me.  He commented on it and even touched it once.  It was something that was precious to me because I knew he liked it.  And when he was gone, it was a reminder, both of him and of my grandmother who had meant so much to me. 

“When I ran away and made it to Ashland, there was a girl, about the same age as me, whose family took me in and helped me.  I could’ve had my cousin help, but I worried that she would tell my parents where I was.  And as it turns out, she did.  But while I was in Ashland, this other family, the MacNamera’s helped get me the teaching job and a place to live.  The mother helped me through the pregnancy and even delivered my baby. 

“Rachel, was the daughter’s name, and she was such a good friend to me.  They had no earthly reason to help me and I had no way of paying them back.  Their kindness was without condition it seemed.  When I decided to kill myself, I wanted to leave something with her.  I placed my necklace on her dresser before I left for the cliff. 

“She kept it after I’d been reported dead.  She knew it’d been passed down to me, so she passed it down within her family.  I wanted it back but there was no way I was going to just take it away.  And since it continued to be passed down, I decided to wait until it became available without having to steal it.  Its last owner was the great grandchild of Rachel’s.   Her name was Jacqualine.  I had known that she didn’t have any children to pass the necklace on to, and Alice told me that it would be put up for auction. 

“So that’s where we’re going.  We’re going to bid on the necklace.  The original Cullen crest.  Carlisle knew I liked that necklace so he gave me a bracelet with the same symbol on it when I was first changed.  We’ve been using it ever since.”

“Do you ever regret it?” I looked at her “Do you regret being changed or anything else?”

“No,” she shook her head, “not at all.  If when I was human, you were to have told me all about this and I truly understood, I still would’ve done it.  In comparison, this isn’t a big deal at all.  I was always in love with Carlisle.  And when I was changed, that love just intensified to the nth degree.  I love everything about him.  I love everything about being with him, including all of you.  I couldn’t have asked for a happier life.”

“I know what you mean.  The whole time that I was human, I knew there was a price, but…I was totally willing to pay it to be with Edward.  I don’t regret my choice even for a second.  Even if you’d told me all that I would have to go through, I still would’ve done it gladly.

“Part of me is surprised though,” I said.

“About what?” she asked.

“Well, I’ve never been really close to anyone in my human life, except my parents.  I mean, I had friends and all, I was never close to them like this.”  I shook my head and continued. “I never thought I’d fit in with anyone like I do with all of you.  It’s like this is where I was meant to be the whole time.”

She gave me a hug and smiled. “We feel exactly the same about you, Bella.”

I was happy.  I truly was happy with my life.  There was nothing I wanted for-nothing at all.

We arrived in a Mt. Vernon, Ohio and went through the auction process.  Alice had informed Esme about how much money she’d need, and of course, it came true.  Esme’s eyes sparkled as she held the necklace in her hand. 

She let me look at it.  It was beautiful.  I touched it with my finger and was grateful for the family that had been kind to Esme.  Who knows how things would’ve turned out if they hadn’t.  I’d learned that the smallest decision could change so much about the future.  Perhaps I had them to thank for my life with Edward too.  Edward was with Carlisle when he changed Esme.  Perhaps if this family hadn’t chosen to help Esme that their path would’ve been different, and different enough to have not crossed mine.

Then she looked up at me.  She smiled and began to put the necklace around my neck.

I was speechless. 

“Wait,” I said to her, “what are you doing?”

“This is something that gets passed down to family members.  Now I’m giving it to you.” 

“You haven’t had it in years, and you’re just going to give it to me?  Just like that?”  I asked her.

“Yes,” she responded.  “Don’t be so shocked Bella.  You don’t have anything with the Cullen crest on it anyways, and it’s not like I won’t be able to see it if I want to.  Besides,  you’re one of us now, and I want you to have it.”

I shook my head and ran my fingers over the pendant.

“Thank you, Esme.  It’s beautiful.”

She smiled.

“You’re welcome.  And you’re right by the way.”

“Right about what?”

“About fitting in with us. We’ve waited a long time for Edward to find the right person.  It’s always felt like something was missing.  And now it doesn’t.  You and Renesmee made us whole. You made Edward whole, and I can’t tell you what that means to us.”

I ran my fingers over the pendant again and smiled.  Neither one of us said much on the return home but I knew that we had bonded.  That’s not to say that we hadn’t before, but now I knew her story, and I knew that I was right where I belonged.  More and more each day, I felt a part of the Cullen family and knew that it was my first and best destiny.  

Bella

In Love and War (11)

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We sat around the fireplace where Renesmee sat in Jacob’s arms bundled up in a blanket.  Though none of the rest of us needed the fire or blanket for warmth, it was a cozy feeling it sit together like this.  I sat on the floor with my back against the corner of the couch that was full.  Edward lay on the floor and put his head in my lap.  Everyone was relaxed.

It had been a nice day.  Since the Denalis lived in the mountains of Alaska, there were lots and lots of snow and hills.  We’d bundled Renesmee up in the warmest clothes we had and took her sledding. 

This was quite amusing to watch because the Denalis were into every kind of snow activity there was and had the equipment to prove it.  Eleazar was quite the expert snowboarder.  He had a Nitro snowboard, which Edward said was one of the best.  But who needed a snowboard when you could slide down on your stomach? 

Being a vampire definitely had its advantages at the moment.  I laughed so hard when Edward put Renesmee on his back and slid down the hill without a sled.  It had taken them almost no time at all to get back to the top of the mountain.  His hair had been completely full of snow.  Since I’d grown up in Phoenix, who ever would’ve thought that I’d enjoy snow like this? 

Yes.  It had been a very fun day.

Now, as we were settled down in front of the firelight, a new atmosphere arose.  I knew Renesmee was waiting to hear Marcus’s story and so was I.  It surprised me that Eleazar and Carlisle had never talked about their common knowledge.  I guessed that it was because both of them had lived with the Volturi for a while that it talking about them just wasn’t very interesting.   I too never enjoyed speaking of my experiences with the Volturi, although for me, my experiences with them had always been unpleasant.

The sun had finally gone down all the way, and the crackling of the fire was the most dominant sound. It was quiet for a while, and we all just relaxed into the stillness of the evening.   I saw Renesmee stir in Jacob’s arms to look at Eleazar. 

“Will you tell us now?”  she asked.  “Will you tell us what happened to Marcus?”

He smiled and looked at me for approval.  I nodded, of course, and was every bit as attentive as she was.  I wondered how much Edward already knew. 

“We don’t know everything,” he began, “and I think the only one that really does is Aro.” 

“That would make sense,” I said.  “All he has to do is touch someone and he knows all the thoughts.”

“That’s part of it, but not only that, but he’s the only one that can totally keep secrets.  Aro knows more about the rest of them but none of them know what he’s thinking unless he says it.  They know that’s a danger but they’ve been around him for so long that they figure they can trust him.  They figure, by now, they know all of his major secrets.”

I raised an eyebrow. 

“And you don’t think they do?”  I asked.

“No,” said Eleazar, “I’m certain they don’t.  The Volturi are, above all, selfish and power hungry.  Most vampires to have a superiority complex but with the Volturi, they sought power above the vampire world.  That suggests that they wanted power before they were changed.”

I considered that and agreed.  Even with my change, my personality had come through as well including my distaste for attention and expensive gifts.

“How did the Volturi start? Were they always…royalty?” asked Jacob.

“No, they weren’t always in power,” responded Carlisle.  “I asked Aro about it once and he told me some of it.  For most of the Volturi its common knowledge, and they’ve been together so long that they rarely speak about it.

“Aro and Caius were changed around the same time and by the same vampire,” he continued.  “I’m unsure of those circumstances except to say that they didn’t know about each other at first until Payne brought them together.   It didn’t take Aro long to figure out he had a gift, and even less time to start using it to manipulate people, including his maker. 

“I believe he traveled for a while as most vampires do, but Caius was with him.  Within the ten years, there was some kind of altercation between the Romanians and Caius and Aro.  Suffice it to say that Aro and Caius both were very interested in becoming just like them in terms of power in the vampire word.   The castle in Volterra originally belonged to one of Stefan’s ancestors.  At the time, the Romanians had a few other vampires with gifts helping them and had over 100 years of experience.    Aro knew they could never beat them unless they gained others. 

“They came upon another town where they met Marcus.  Aro was shocked to find another vampire with a usable extra gift like his.  Marcus had tried to change several people, including his own brother, but was unsuccessful.   Aro was impressed by Marcus’ focus on gaining power, as well as the idea of gifts being genetic.  He had a sister at the time of his change but she was at least ten years younger than he was.  It made him want to go back and find out if his she also had a gift. 

“Marcus , of course, was able to see bonds between people.   Aro realized what an advantage they would have if they stayed together, especially against the Romanians.  It didn’t take much persuading for Marcus. 

“The three went in search of others with gifts that could help them when they went against the Romanians again.  They even went separately for quite some time.”

That brought me up short. 

“Why did they separate?”  I asked.  I had never thought of the Volturi acting alone.

“I would imagine because they thought they could cover more ground, and I don’t think I need to remind you of what a one track mind Aro has.  Once he decides he wants something, he’s tireless and relentless in trying to get it.”

It was Alice who spoke up next.

“That makes sense,” she said. “That’s why I saw their decision to come after Renesmee before Irina even told them about her.  It’s like they had always planned on coming to acquire us but were patient enough to wait for the right time.”

“That’s true,” said Edward, “and even when they were here, they saw the Romanians and it irritated them.  That’s one thing that made Aro think about wanting to use the wolves as guard dogs.  He’s still afraid to lose his position.   It’s like he expects it to happen at some point, or at least for someone to try. ” 

I heard a huff from Jacob.    The wolves would choose death rather than service to the Volturi. 

“Is that why he’s afraid of us?” I asked.

“A little bit.  He knows that from touching my hand we have no desire for power.  That was a relief to him.  But he was defeated because so many people chose to help us without manipulation.   He usually has to use Chelsea initially,” Edward responded.

I looked at Carlisle to continue. 

“This is where my knowledge gets a little spotty.   He was reluctant to tell me this, almost as if he felt a little guilty about it.  I was never able to get him to speak of it more than once, and at the time, I had no reason to push him on it.”

I almost laughed.  The idea of Aro feeling guilty about anything was downright hilarious.  I didn’t see him as being capable of having a heart.

“I know that while Aro was apart from the others, he made it back to his own village.  He didn’t have any contact with anyone, but watched his sisters and one brother from a distance.  Since his point was to find others with gifts, he decided to watch his siblings to see if he thought any of them had a gift worth changing.   He knew that changing one of them would be risky, he was after all less than ten years into his vampire experience and certainly not in control of his bloodlust. 

“He chose to change Didyme,  his sister.  He thought that of all the three, she’d be most likely the one with the gift, and as it turns out, she did have a gift.   It wasn’t the same type of gift that he had but he’d already changed her so he couldn’t take it back.  When I talked to him, I sensed a bit of disappointment in him over that.”

“What was her gift?” asked Jasper, who until this point had been quiet. 

“She had a gift a lot like Chelsea’s only it was much stronger.  She could make people bond together or forget their bonds, but she could only do it to one person at a time, and she had to touch both people in order to do it.  She could even make people feel a strong attachment to herself.  Once she touched them, however, the attachment stayed.  Aro used this gift over his years but it was inconvenient in a way.  It wasn’t the edge that he had hoped to gain over the Romanians.

“Eventually, he took Didyme and met up again with Marcus and Caius who had brought “followers” of their own.   A few had gifts but some didn’t.   Didyme’s gift helped the others to feel beholding to the Volturi.  That’s about where my knowledge of their beginnings stops,” said Carlisle, “I know only bits and pieces of the war.”

Eleazar spoke up next.

“I have a bit more, I think.  I saw Marcus in a room looking at a huge picture of Didyme, and I asked him about her.  I had known she was Aro’s sister, but hadn’t realized at first that there was an attachment to Marcus.  She had been his wife.”

I gasped.  “What?”

Eleazar nodded his head.  “I know.  They were introduced by Aro, of course.  Marcus was aware of her gift, but she didn’t have any reason to use it on him, because he was already in league with Aro.  After a time, they fell in love. 

“Because his gift was seeing relationships, Marcus was very intrigued by watching her actually use her gift.  He said he always loved seeing the bonds in people change.  He loved watching her manipulation, especially since he was the only one who could really see it.  

“Aro was pleased, at first, with Didyme’s relationship with Marcus because even though Marcus shared a lust for power, he was unsure if he always wanted to stay with the Volturi.  Didyme’s presence anchored Marcus to Aro.”

“Did Caius know that Marcus was unsure?”  Jacob asked.

“I don’t think so, and of course, the reason that Aro knew is because of his own gift,” responded Eleazar.

“Wow, he used his own sister to keep Marcus.  Is there anyone he hasn’t manipulated?” I asked.

“I doubt it,” said Edward.  “It’s so much a part of him that he doesn’t even think about trying to function without it.  He sees himself as entitled.” 

I looked over at Renesmee, who hadn’t said anything in a while.  She looked…thoughtful. 

“You ok, honey?” I asked.

“Yes, mommy,” she looked up at me, “I’m fine.”

Since she didn’t seem upset or afraid in anyway, I was alright with the story being continued. 

Eleazar continued. 

“Over the next two hundred years, the Volturi perfected their gifts and sought others to join their guard, promising power and prestige to those who joined them.  They always picked those who had gifts over those that didn’t.  And like I said last winter, whenever there was a challenging coven, Aro would always be present to “spare” the ones with gifts.  Didyme and eventually Chelsea would be there to help form the bond. 

“During this time, it seems that the Romanians had fortified their rule a little with a guard of their own, but only a few had gifts and it was rare that anyone directly challenged them.  Even when they did, it was never much of a fight.  

“I think that as Marcus’ relationship with Didyme grew, it made them rethink about battling with the Romanians.

“You mean they would’ve chosen to leave over gaining that power,” I said.

“Yes, I truly believe they loved each other.” 

“What happened to her?” asked Renesmee.

“She died,” Eleazar responded, “in the battle against the Romanians.”

Carlisle shook his head in disapproval. 

“What about the other wives?”  I asked. “I remember seeing them in the clearing, and also when I was in Volterra.  They didn’t look aggressive really.”

“They rarely see any real action.  They’re in the tower most of the time.  Caius and Aro would never let them near a battle, not after what happened to Didyme.  That’s why I was so surprised to hear that they came last year.  That hasn’t happened in thousands of years.  They must’ve weighed the options and decided that it was better to bring them along than to leave them in Volterra unprotected.

“They’re agreeable enough to speak to, as agreeable as vampires can be I suppose.  They never converse with vampires that aren’t apart of the Volturi or their guard without someone else present.  And their guards are always with them.   I’ve spoken to both of them but not to say much, and certainly not for any personal information.”

I wondered what that would be like.  I remembered being “guarded” by Edward, Alice, and even Jacob when I was still a human.  I couldn’t imagine being surrounded like that all of the time.  I think I’d kill myself.  Maybe they wanted to.  Maybe they didn’t.  Maybe they didn’t have a choice.  I mean, Edward had said you don’t mess with the Volturi unless you wanted to die.  But what if you were Volturi and you wanted to die.  Then what would you do?  And having Aro around that knows if you even think of such a thing!  I shuttered at the thought. 

I looked back at Eleazar.

“Ok,” I said, “so how did she die?”

“I had one conversation about this with Felix when I was with the Volturi.  I’m assuming he got it from Demetri, but I can’t totally be sure.

“Felix has only been with the Volturi for about five hundred years.   Demetri on the other hand has been with them since forty years before the Romanian war.  I believe that Aro thought he could use Demetri’s gift to find the Romanian guard and pick them off one by one.   Felix spoke of Demetri as if he was looked on with great favor by the Volturi, and if he was the reason they won their power, I can understand why Felix would think that. 

“This is all speculation on my part, but I also think that Demetri would be one of the Volturi if Aro was at all into sharing.”

There were several chuckles from around the room on that one.

“Demetri’s gift would’ve grown over time and he would’ve been able to convince the Romanians that he’d never heard of Aro to find out information from them,” said Eleasar.

Carlisle added, “I had several conversations with Demetri and he spoke of his travels after he was changed.  He never said anything about hunting anyone, but he was all over the place and back and forth between those travels and the Volturi.   I never saw it as reluctance, but maybe he’s supposed to hide that information. 

“The fewer questions the better,” said Edward. 

Esme nodded her head, “We do that all the time.”

The existence of a vampire seemed to be ninety percent lies and ten percent blood. 

 “I’ve spoken to the Romanians and they claim that Aro came and challenged them for their position sighting that if their guard was leaving, it must be because they no longer wanted to serve and that the Romanians should step down for someone more worthy.    The Romanians claim to have had a verbal argument first but that Marcus and Caius had left with their two guard members. 

 “Aro must have used his knowledge of the disappearing guard to challenge Stefan and Vladmir and say that maybe the others wanted to leave and that perhaps the Romanian rule was failing.  They were beyond insulted but spoke out strongly against the Volturi.   Since there were only three guard members with the Volturi, they didn’t see it as much of a threat.  They never dreamed that Aro would actually attack them. 

“I’ve spoken to both sides, and both claim the other struck first. 

“This is where Didyme’s death comes into play.  And keep in mind, I’m putting conversations together from Aro, Caius, Marcus, the Romanians, and Felix to get this and I’m certain that not all of what I’ve been told is the truth.   When I had these conversations originally, there wasn’t a specific point to my inquiry, I was listening and merely curious.  I had no idea that there might be something bigger to be looking for.   That’s probably why they all thought it safe to talk to me about it.  Thank goodness I haven’t touched Aro’s hand since before I put this together.   And again, it just speculation anyways.

“The wives were hunting with their own guard near Rome.   Athenodora, Aro’s wife,  let it slip that the three were going to challenge the Romanians.  As much as Didyme wanted her husband and brother to gain power, she’d rather things stay as they are than loose Marcus.  The Romanians were the only vampires in existence that posed a physical threat to Marcus.

“She went to Volterra, without her guard, and showed up at the castle.  Marcus claims that he was urgently sent by Aro to get Demetri to join the fight.   He would’ve known Marcus’s intention to leave his wife out of it at all costs.    My guess is that Aro never told Marcus that Didyme was already there so Marcus had no reason not to go.  

“He also would’ve known Didyme’s intention to talk Marcus out of the fight.   Aro must’ve known that he’d side with Didyme.    Somehow he was able to keep them apart until Marcus left.

The Romanians claim that Aro and Didyme came to negotiate a cease fire bringing the rest of their guard with them this time.  This was seen as a deliberate challenge. 

The fight began rather quickly with Aro’s temper and the Romanian pride.”

“They fought even though they were outnumbered?”  I asked.

“Yes, remember the Romanians were much older than the Volturi so they probably weren’t as worried as they should have been.  Aro promised that if the others would join them, they could have a place among the Volturi guard when it was over.  A few accepted.  I’m told that some accepted went and stood right next to Chelsea.”

“Guess we know what happened there,” said Emmett.

Eleazar nodded. 

“We know that Marcus and Demetri weren’t there when the fight started.   We know that most of the several of the Romanian guard died because they were outnumbered, and also that the Romanians surrendered.  Vladmir said that not all of their guard was there that day, but they didn’t know if they just weren’t there yet or if they had been eliminated like the others who had disappeared.  Remember that the Romanians didn’t know Demetri was responsible. 

Marcus and Demetri arrived to find Aro screaming over Didyme’s ashes,  near part of the castle that had burned.  He claimed that other members of the Romanian guard had gotten to her while he was fighting someone else, but no one else had seen that.  Marcus was beyond furious and hurt and went after the remaining members of the Romanian guard.”

“Wait,” I was confused, “why would Aro leave his sisters side in the middle of a battle? That doesn’t make any sense.” 

Eleazar shook his head.  “I know.  I know.  This is pure speculation on my part but I think that Didyme  and Marcus wanted to leave the Volturi together.  Now whether they had talked about it or one of them had thought about it, I can’t be sure.  But Aro must’ve known this somehow and decided he wasn’t going to let that happen. 

“Didyme would’ve known  her brother would never give them up but couldn’t hide her thoughts.  She may have  tried to persuade Aro not to destroy the Romanians, and when she did, he made a choice to kill one of them if he couldn’t have both.  As far as maintaining control, Marcus was a better choice for Aro.”

I was floored.  “So, you think Aro killed Didyme so he could keep Marcus?  He killed his own sister?”

Eleazar responded.  “It’s the only thing that makes sense to me.   Every other explanation comes up short.  Not only that, Aro is willing to forego just about anything to keep his power, including people he claims to love.”

Carlisle spoke next.  “I remember Aro telling me once that this battle was the reason the wives always have guards and rarely leave the tower.”

“They would’ve all seen what pain did to Marcus as well as the fake pain from Aro,” Eleazar nodded.  “It would’ve been a perfect excuse to put more control over his family.”

“Wow,” I said.  I was in disbelief really.  The evil that was the Volturi had me stunned.  I’d always seen them as evil but this was a whole new level, especially for Aro.

“So, if Aro killed Didyme, why didn’t Marcus rip his head off?” asked Jacob.

“I’m only speculating that Aro killed Didyme.  With all I’ve seen of him, it fits his personality and as a vampire he’s accustomed to lying.  I do know that it destroyed Marcus.  Nothing stirs that mans attention now.   They’d been married for almost two hundred years.   I don’t think Marcus has an idea that it’s Aro’s fault. “

That made me shutter.  I could see Aro doing something that horrible and then going on as if nothing happened.  That fit what I knew of him. 

“Ness,” said Edward, “you don’t need to feel sorry for Marcus.”

Of course, my daughter saw through people’s monstrosities and chose sympathy.

Edward picked her up and gave her a hug.  I was glad that he could hear her thoughts.  I’d hate to think of her going through things without anyone to talk to.  With Edward here, she couldn’t hide things like that. 

“That’s all I know of their beginnings.  I’m sure Stefan and Vladmir would like to be in power again.  They haven’t acquired much of a guard however and it’s been thousands of years.”

“How afraid are the Volturi of us now?” I asked.

It was Edward that answered.  “It really isn’t a matter of fear of us now.  They know we don’t want power so we aren’t a threat.  The only thing they don’t like is that we made them stand down and that others now see their true intentions.  It’s still possible that they’ll try to pick us off one by one to erase that memory from the vampire world.  That would be an incredible amount of work just to get rid of vampires that don’t want to take their position anyways.”

The fire was reduced to embers at this point and Renesmee looked so tired. 

“I think it’s time for bed, hun,” I said to her.

She nodded her head wearily and climbed into my arms. 

I rocked her in the chair and all of us stared into the night, contemplating all we’d just heard.  I kept Renesmee’s hand on my neck to watch for any signs of distress in her dreams.  I found none, and that made me happy. 

She’d always been able to handle more than would’ve been humanly possible.  I was glad that the information was shared with us all at the same time.  I was sure she’d have more questions in the future, but I knew I’d made the right decision not to hide things from her.  I hoped that this would foster trust between us and that she would always feel that I was on her side. 

For now, I let her sleep peacefully in my arms all night long.

More later.

Bella

Burning (10)

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We sat around the Denali’s kitchen table.  Eleazar sat next to Carmen as Edward sat next to me.  There were about twenty that still remained.  Kate and Garrett were on their honeymoon, but the rest of the Denalis, the Cullens, Zafrina, Benjamin, Peter, and Charlotte, were still there. 

Since becoming a vampire, Jacob, Renesmee, and I were learning about various histories and vampire lore at the same rate.  It felt a little funny to be on the same learning curve as my daughter, but she always posed very intelligent questions. 

Renesmee was currently very curious about the Volturi.  Even though they had come to take her life, she was not affected by this in a negative way.    She was able to let things go in a way that I wasn’t.  Edward had once told me that the Volturi were not supposed to be the villains as I saw them.   I’d only had three encounters with them.   I didn’t care what anyone else said or believed about them.  I would never trust them as long as I existed nor would I actively seek to be in their presence.  As long as they stayed out of my life, I would stay out of theirs. 

Renesmee posed her questions to Eleazar, since he’d actually worked for the Volturi at one point.  I was sure, as I’m sure she was, that Eleasar would’ve had a more active role with them.   By doing so, he would have earned a deeper place in their confidence than Carlisle would have.   I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted her to know everything, but at the same time, Jacob and I were hearing the same stories.  Maybe it was better that she hear the truth without any sugar coating. 

I could tell that Edward was not comfortable with this at all.  He had always tried to protect me from too much information, knowing that the more information I had, the more danger I seemed to put myself in. 

I smiled to myself at this.  I wondered how much she would be like me in this respect.  Perhaps this trait would come back to haunt me, and I briefly thought of all the ways she could get herself into trouble.  I thought of the anxiety I’d put Edward, and even Jacob, through with some of my choices when I was still human.  Even though she was stronger than any human, she was still no match for the Volturi or any other vampire that wanted to hurt her, so I was glad Jacob would always be at her side.  I considered speaking to her about this like-minded trait we shared when we were alone.  For now, I let her ask her questions. 

“Why do Jane and Alec like to hurt people?” she asked.

Eleazar sighed. 

“Their history goes back quite a ways,” he remarked.  “Marcus, Aro, Caius, and their wives formed the Volturi in roughly 300 B.C., but it wasn’t until about 1500 years later that they found Alec and Jane.  The family was searching at the time for extra talent to help them secure their control over the vampire world.  By this time, they’d already acquired, Chelsea, Demetri, and most of the rest of their guard, but Aro knew they were still vulnerable.  He continually sought ways to strengthen their power.

“A vampire, named Jalen, was with them at the time.  He had a talent similar to my own and was used to find talent that would be useful to the Volturi guard around the world.  He came across a small town in Sicily.  It was widely known that the church was very suspicious of witchcraft, and Alec and Jane were less than subtle about their abilities.” 

That brought me up short. 

“Wait,” I said, “are you saying that Jane and Alec had abilities before they were changed?” 

“Yes,” he said, as he looked at me. “Most vampires with talents have some form of it before they change.  It’s usually very subtle, however, and hard to detect.  It’s rare that abilities show themselves as strongly as yours did.”

“What powers did they have?” asked Renesmee.

“Jane and Alec were ten years old when Jalen found them,” he explained.  “He was posing as a refugee when he came to their town.  They were standing next to a riverbank with some other children who weren’t hiding the fact that they didn’t like Jane.  One of the boys knocked something out of her hands in true bully fashion.  Alec touched Jane’s arm, so she didn’t go after them. 

“The children walked away from Jane and Alec under a series of trees.  Jane was said to have great anger in her eyes and looked straight at one of the branches that was sticking out.  It had a sharp enough edge that it could hurt someone if they fell on it.  The boy suddenly lunged himself towards it, seriously cutting his arm.

The other children looked at Jane as she stared smugly at the injured boy.  His arm never healed quite right and was never able to explain why he’d purposefully injured himself.  The town was already suspicious of them, but up until now, it had been nothing more than superstition as far as Jalen could tell.

“He took up a residence near the town and continued to watch them.  Being a vampire, he could watch and listen to them from a distance, so they never realized they were being watched.  After some time, it was clear to him that he was, indeed, seeing extra talents in them. 

“Aro eventually confirmed Jalen’s suspicions, but because they were so young, Aro had planned to wait before changing them.  He visited the town frequently with Chelsea, helping to form a bond between himself and the twins. 

“He warned them both about using their powers, but as you know, Jane not one for being controlled.  A few of the town’s people set up a trick of some kind making it look like Alec and Jane had done something.   Ironically, they were tried and convicted for something they didn’t do.  It angered Jane greatly.   Aro and Jalen happened to be away when they were first taken and tried. They were in the middle of receiving their sentence when Aro got to them.”

“What do you mean?  They tried to burn them at the stake?  Humans can’t survive that anymore than one of us could,” I pondered.

Eleazar nodded.  “Both Jane and Alec were in the middle of the flames when Aro got to them.  He was able to pull them out using his speed and strength.  Jane says he put them both on the ground and bit them hoping the venom would keep them alive. “

“He did that all in front of the town’s people?” asked Jacob, who was just as dumbfounded as I was.

Eleazar nodded again.

“What about the secrecy clause of being a vampire?  I can’t see Aro ever doing anything to reveal himself like that,” I said.

He held up his finger to say, “Let me finish.”

All eyes in the room were glued to him as we listened to the story.  I quickly glanced around, and it was clear that I wasn’t the only one hearing this part for the first time.

“Aro had already been around for 1500 years.  He knew a thing or two about the world and about the various technologies it had, primitive as they were.   He was not happy that he’d been forced to change them too soon.  He was livid actually, and after biting them, he used his knowledge of gunpowder to burn the town and everyone in it.  His strength and speed, not to mention Jalen’s help, made it impossible for anyone to escape.”

It took a few moments for all of this to sink in.  Finally, there was a question from Rosalie.

“So Jane always had the power she has now?  Even before she was changed?”

“Sort of,” explained Eleazar.   “It’s just a theory, but I think when people concentrate on things as they’re brought through, it manifests in their vampire physiology to some degree.  A large portion has to do with genetics, of course, but some of it is about the mind.  The human brain only uses about ten percent of its capabilities, so if you add the enhancing power of vampire venom, you get increased mental capacities.” 

Carlisle glanced at me and smiled, and I knew what he was thinking too.  During my transformation, I had fought so hard for control.  I never went through that crazed stage that most newborns went through and there was debate as to whether that was a supernatural talent or a product of my preparation.

“When Aro first asked me to search for potential guard members, I was curious about the others in the group with powers.   I spoke to Jane and Alec once about their transformation, and she told me that the whole time she was burning, both on the stake and during her change, all she could think about was manipulating everyone’s mind to feel the same pain that she was feeling.  Alec on the other hand was thinking of nothing but the relief of pain.  He could see the town burning near them and knew the pain they were all in.  That’s not to say that he wasn’t angry.  He was furious, but he kept thinking that even if he could make them all not realize they were burning it would be enough.  Hence the two gifts they have today.” 

“I feel bad for them,” said Renesmee.

Of course!  She saw past their monstrosities and felt sympathy.  That was very much in line with her character.   I didn’t quite see things that way.  I wanted her to always be as far away from Jane and Alec as possible.

It was Emmett who spoke up next.

“So the next time we change someone, we just tell them to think of a really cool power the whole time, and they’ll have it when they wake up?” he asked incredulously.

Everyone laughed.

“It doesn’t work like that,” answered Eleazar.  “Powers don’t seem to be created, but rather enhanced, during the change.  So unless someone is born with the trait you’re looking for, they won’t have it after.  Jane and Alec were born with traits that were enhanced by their thoughts and the venom as they changed.”

I sat there for a while, thinking about all I’d just heard.  It was interesting, and a little scary, to hear of the Volturi beginnings.  What a crazy world we lived in.  A new thought occurred to me.

I looked at Edward.  “You know what this means don’t you?”

He shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.

“Angela really could be a witch.”

He laughed.  “That’s right, team Switzerland.”

“Absolutely,” I giggled.

“I think you’ve got enough monsters to deal with,” he remarked.

I saw Jacob roll his eyes.

I looked at Renesmee who seemed to be deep in thought and oblivious to the joke I’d just made.

“Renesmee, are you ok, honey?” I asked.

“Yes, mommy,” she said, but she wasn’t looking at me.  “Why isn’t Marcus married like the other two?”

I looked at the clock.  It was way passed her bedtime.

“That story is actually about one hundred times more complicated than Jane’s and Alec’s,” said Eleazar.

“Why?” asked Renesmee.

“Because I’m not entirely sure of the truth,” he told her. “I have my theories, but I can’t be sure.”

“I, too, have some thoughts on that,” said Carlisle.  “It’s impossible not to overhear things when you’re with the Volturi, and I was there for quite a while.”

“Can we save this discussion for when Renesmee has slept?” I asked.

Carlisle smiled. “Of course,” he said. 

Renesmee hugged everyone, and Edward and I took her to lie down.  We stayed with her until she was asleep.

“Promise me you’ll tell me,” I said to Edward. “If these discussions give her nightmares or something, I want to know.  I think if we tried to hide it from her, she’d find out anyways.”

He smiled.

“Yes, she is your daughter in that respect.  For now, she’s fine, and I’d rather us be aware of what she knows, if you know what I mean.”

And I did.  I put her hand on my skin and took in her peaceful dreams for a while.  Maybe I had nothing to worry about.  That would be nice.

Bella

Blue and White (9)

 bellaanded

All of us stood up when the music started, and I saw him take her arm around his. Her dress was beautiful with lace and flowers perfectly placed. Alice was beaming as the two took their first steps down the aisle. Once again, she’d created a masterpiece.

I flashed a look at the groom whose smile was as wide as I’d ever seen.

With a little nudge from Alice, Renesmee started down the aisle in her little lavender dress, tossing rose petals into the isle. We smiled at each other as she passed.

Kate and Edward walked slowly down the aisle behind her and stopped in front of Carlisle, who had agreed to perform the ceremony. Kate took Garrett’s hand and Edward returned to my side. It was a small ceremony. Kate and Garrett wanted only vampires in attendance so they didn’t have to worry about being themselves. Many who had stood with us in January had been invited but there weren’t more than thirty all together.

I looked quickly at Zafrina who stood by Nahuel and her family. It was nice to see them all again without the pressure of impending danger.

Edward’s grip tightened around my waist as the nuptials began. I knew he was remembering our day not so long ago. The memory was hazy for me but I remembered the look on his face when I first saw him at the end of the aisle. It made me smile.

They’d gone with the traditional vows like we had replacing “til death to us part” with “as long as we both shall live.” Each time Garrett made a verbal promise to Kate, Edward would whisper it in my ear. His voice was low enough that only I could hear. I loved the sound of his whispered words in my ear. I was going to have to find a way to thank him for that later.

The ceremony eventually turned into music and dancing. There was a little bit of food for Renesmee and Jacob and a cake for decoration.

Edward led me to the dance floor as our song began to play. He twirled me around and pulled me in close. I loved that I could really dance with him now. No more worries about tripping over my own feet. I was happy.

“How are you tonight, Mrs. Cullen?” asked Edward.

It made me smile because he’d asked me the same thing during our first dance at our wedding. I put my arms around his neck to dance with him more closely and smiled.

“Very well, my love,” I answered.

“Are you sure you’re ok with staying here for two weeks?”

“Yes, it’s nice to see the Denalis and some of the others, especially when it’s not for something stressful,” I said.

He smiled.

“Yes, that is a plus.” He put his forehead to mine. “How do you feel about spending the day with me tomorrow? There’s something I want to show you.”

I looked at his eyes. I was always up for spending time with him, but I was also intrigued. I knew better than to ask him what he was going to show me, so I just smiled and nodded. He smiled in return.

For now, he rocked me back and forth on the dance floor, Claire de Lune marking time. I stared up into his eyes and enjoyed his embrace.

When morning broke, he led me to the water. As a human, I could never have endured this. It was much too cold. But my vampire body was able to withstand extreme cold and not be uncomfortable. We were deep into the mountains in Alaska. We’d had to run our way there, because no vehicle would’ve been able to get up there, not even by air.

The water was so still. It reflected the snow covered mountain tops perfectly. We were on a cliff about twenty feet above. Edward took my hand and we dove into the crystal sea.

The last time we’d been near water like this had been our honeymoon when I was still human. I remembered being jealous that he could hold his breath for so long and swim so deep.

He grabbed my hand as we went along the arctic floor. It was incredible. The light changed the ice and rocks into different shades of blue and gray. We swam by glacial structures that were centuries of years old. Cavern after cavern lined the waters floor.

We came to what I thought was the end but instead of getting out, we went under the glacier and into another tunnel. After another few miles of swimming I saw a whole in the surface. The light strewn in and it was breathtaking.

Edward pulled me out of the water and smiled at me. I didn’t need arctic caves to be amazed. He turned me around, put his arms around my waist.

“Look!” he said excitedly.

And I did. We were inside an enormous cave. Inside the cave there was an island of ice that was surrounded by water. Icicles hung down from the ceiling and patterns were formed all over the walls. The water was flowing steadily down a tunnel and everything was blue and white.

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In the center was a huge pillar of ice that was textured from centuries of being untouched.

“Can I touch it?” I asked him.

“Yeah, sure.”

He took my hand and we ran our hands over the pillar.

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“Stuff like this just doesn’t exist.” I was overwhelmed.

“It does in our world.” He smiled at me and took my hand. “This isn’t even what I brought you to see.”

I was shocked. How could anything be more beautiful? He led me down a tunnel. Its ceiling was a perfect arc. It was like it’d been hand carved on purpose, but I knew that this was just how glaciers worked. The light was coming through some of the ice and it made an even more magnificent blue.

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After a minute of walking, I saw the on opening in the tunnel. He led me out of the tunnel and turned towards the sun. It was about to set. Since we never slept, I never really thought much about time. The only marker for me was when Renesmee needed to sleep. We’d actually traveled all day to get here. Being vampires, that was saying something. This was a place that no human could ever really come.

He sat me down on the edge of the water and put his arms around me as he leaned us back against some ice. There was blocks of ice floating, but still, all the way to the horizon. The sun was turning the water and sky to a goldish hew. Other than his breathing, there wasn’t another sound to be heard. It was perfectly peaceful.

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My head was on his chest and I turned to look at his eyes. “It’s beautiful.”

He was already staring at me. I’m not sure he’d looked at the sunset even once. “Yes, beautiful.”

His lips were very close. Suddenly the sunset didn’t hold any interest for me anymore. I put my hand in his hair and kissed him. He rolled me to the ground and his kisses got deeper. I was completely fine with that. Part of me considered telling him that he hadn’t needed an arctic sunset to get me to do this. I thought better of it and continued into the most beautiful part of my day.

I love my husband.

Bella

Unforgiven (8)

Wolfpack

It was like a trial, minus the gavel and the jury. Sam sat with his fists clenched on his lap and his jaw was as tight as could be.

We were gathered in the Cullen’s dining room that had always served as a discussion room, because no one ever ate here. Sam, Seth, Jacob, and a few others sat opposite, on the other side of the table.

Emmett had his head in his hand as Rosalie rubbed his back from her chair next to him. Carlisle had spent the better part of the day trying to convince Sam that the alliance between our families need not be broken.

The man that Emmett had bitten had not been changed. Emmett had stayed clear of humans for over a month, until he was under control, and I had saved the man’s life.

I looked over at Edward, who hadn’t said a word in quite a while. I had known he was listening to everyone around us but had obviously thought it better to let Carlisle negotiate.

Jacob had been furious at first, but since his personal reactions were secondary to Renesmee’s, it hadn’t turned into action he would regret. Renesmee still had a way of forgiving the unforgivable and uniting the gravest of enemies. It had been that way since she was born.

The two packs were divided at best, with palpable unrest present in each.

Emmett’s mishap with a singer had disrupted the peace between the Quiluete’s and the Cullen’s. The tension was high.

Since the families had united to defend Renesmee when the Volturi came, the wolves and Cullen’s had begun to build friendships. This was a step up from the mere allies they’d been at the beginning.

“Thank you for agreeing to talk with us, Sam. I know this wasn’t easy,” said Carlisle.

Sam and his guard stood up to leave. I knew it would take a long time for Sam to get passed this and the rest of them would follow his lead. Only Jacob’s pack seemed able to give Emmett the benefit of the doubt at present.

They walked to the door and out towards the woods. I followed.

I didn’t dare try to negotiate with Sam, but I wanted to know where he stood with me.

“Sam?” I called.

He stiffened but did not turn to look at me. I knew he was listening.

“I am sorry……for what happened. I never would have-“ I started, but he cut me off.

“I know Bella, but if we start making compromises, everything we are is lost.”

I took another slow step towards him.

“Can I ask, where you stand with me?”

He took a deep breath.

“I don’t know, Bella,” he said. “I trust Carlisle more than the rest of the Cullen’s, and I believe that you did what you had to, to save the man, but it’s still a breech. I know that the alternative was to let the man change, but it needs to be clearly understood that even the idea of the loss of human life at the hands of a vampire is not negotiable. Perhaps in time, things will be different.”

I felt Edward behind me. I rested the back of my head on his chest, as I watched them disappear into the thick of the woods.

“Is he going to be able to get passed this?” I asked Edward.

“It’s hard to tell. He’s questioning a lot right not, including his ability to lead. He feels that if he hadn’t allowed the alliance in the first place that the line would be more clear to us. What I wish he would understand is that, it is. The line has always been clear to us. There’s just no way for him to understand what it’s like for us to resist.”

“This was a singer for Emmett though. It’s different. He should be able to understand it. It’s like imprinting. It’s not something you can help,” I said, frustratingly.

I took Edward’s hand as we walked back toward the house.

“You’re preaching to the choir love,” he said. “He not really mad at you, either. He’s angry with the situation itself. The most dominating thought he had was that vampires should not exist.”

I looked at him incredulously. Edward shrugged his shoulders.

“Somehow he needs to understand that idealism and reality can never coexist,” said Carlisle, who opened the door. He and walked onto the porch and said, “Sam needs to come to a place helping someone who isn’t perfect doesn’t equate to lowering his standard. That isn’t enough for him at the moment.”

“How does the treaty stand now do you think?” I asked.

Carlisle shot a glance at Edward, who nodded his head.

“You might call it a stale-mate,” said Edward. “Jacob’s pack will be fine. He’s not happy with the situation but he does understand that mistakes can be made that forgiveness can cure. His pack will follow him, especially Seth. That kid has the biggest heart of them all. As for Sam, he’s furious, and like Carlisle said, he’s just not at a place where he can let it go. “

Carlisle took the question right out of my mouth. “Would they work with us again if the need arose?”

“Yes, I believe so, because whether we’re right in his eyes or not, his goal wouldn’t change. If there were other vampires that came to Forks, he’d defend it just the same. But as far as him showing up to the next Christmas party…” he shook his head and then looked back at me.

Back in the Cullen’s kitchen, Renesmee played with Jacob’s hair, and the rest of the Cullen’s were scattered throughout the house. Rosalie had gone upstairs leaving Emmett leaning against the window in the dining room. I was about to go offer my encouragement, when I saw Seth inch closer to the doorway. I wondered.

In true Cullen style, I pretended to be preoccupied with helping Esme clean up the kitchen where the Quileutes had eaten.

He entered the room, hands in his pocket, and walked closer to Emmett. Emmett seemed surprised by Seth’s approach. He looked quickly at Seth, then back out the window.

Seth, undaunted, took another step forward before speaking.

“Emmett,” he began, “I just wanted you to know that I’m sorry about what happened to you, and I know you didn’t mean it. I don’t know what’s going to happen or anything, but I wanted you to know that I don’t hate you or anything.” He shrugged his shoulders, “I’m not even mad.”

Emmett looked at him a little dubiously, but cracked a smile.

“Well, I guess I’ll see you around,” concluded Seth.

I looked at Edward, who had been listening too, and we smiled at each other. I knew there had been hope. Seth had always been the open one of the group. He’d left Sam’s pack with Jacob, when Jacob first came to defend me when I was pregnant of his own accord.

I walked out toward the door to give Seth my own encouragement and Edward followed.

“Thanks Seth,” I said to him.

Edward put him in a headlock as Seth punched in the stomach.

“I knew you’d be the easy one of the bunch!” Edward said as he released Seth from his hold.

I rolled my eyes.

“Boys,” I said.

Seth walked to the door and waved goodbye.

Edward stepped closer and put his hands on the side of my waist and pulled me close. I put my arms up around his neck. He kissed my forehead and I closed my eyes. Edward’s presence always calmed me. I knew that no matter what turn this event had taken us in, I could face anything with him at my side.

Bella

 

 

Venom and Breathe (Part 3) (7)

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Two full days passed and no one returned. The haze had lifted from my eyes but the memory was still just as potent and it was hard not to think about. At no point did Edward’s arms let go of me, and I knew that this was partly to restrain me if I needed help, but also because he was worried sick about what this had done to me.

He’d tasted human blood before and know all too well the mental state this could put a vampire in. It was definitely getting easier to focus on other things. Edward said that I was “recovering” faster than the rest of them would have. He attributed this to the self-control I seemed to always have had. I would never have known that if he hadn’t told me.

I talked to Renesmee and Jacob by phone and assured them that I was going to be fine. We hadn’t heard anything from Carlisle but knew that he would do what he could to save the man and protect our secret at the same time. They had done this before.

Emmett now had four others with him, who took him as deep and far into the wilderness as possible. It would be some time before they were able to return and there weren’t exactly cell towers in the frozen tundra.

Instead of being inside the cottage, Edward had us on the ground outside. The fresh breeze had been comforting to him when he first tried to stop hunting humans. I could feel him watching me as I lay there with my eyes closed. He’d been watching for a while.

“Bella,” he said softly, “tell me what you’re thinking.” His lips moved softly across my forehead and my hair.

I took a deep breath and opened my eyes. I watched the snowflakes fall between the trees.

“I don’t really know what to think. I feel bad for Emmett. It was hard enough for me and that man wasn’t a singer to me. I don’t know what I would do if…..”

He nodded. “That’s partly why it’s good that we all stay together. Consistent animal blood helps us maintain control. That’s why we can’t go back and forth on it, it makes us less controlled and more likely to snap – even to people that aren’t singers to us. But worrying about coming across a singer is like worrying about the sky falling.”

“I know. I’ve never really thought about it, certainly not with experience.” I looked at him, recalling things I’d always pushed away. I hadn’t wanted to know how much effort it had taken to be around me before I changed. I thought about how I had pushed him in various ways thinking only of myself. 

Pain.  I had known my blood had caused him pain while I was human, but I didn‘t really get it. I thought of our honeymoon and my condition for marrying him. I hadn‘t understood what I was really putting him through, and for what, a few moments of my pleasure? My distress must’ve been in my eyes.

He rolled so that he was slightly over me and put his hand on my face. “Stop. I know what you’re doing Bella. I don’t want you to think that way at all.” But how could I not?

I reached up to touch his face. “How did you do it? Every day for two years! I can’t eve…” I shook my head unable to finish the sentence.

He sighed and ran the back of his finger across my cheek, just like he used to. “I just realized that there were more important things and that I had to choose. It wasn’t much of a choice once I realized what I wanted.”  He looked me in the eyes. “It was worth it, completely.”

I stared back at him with the newfound respect that I knew I could never forget. Still, I wondered how he could ever think of me as the prize instead of the prize winner. I would always see it that way. There was no way to put a price on how incredible he was or how much he meant to me.

I took another deep breathe, wrapped my arm around his neck and kissed him, breathing in his scent. He sat us up and I rested my head on his shoulder for a time.

The knowledge of forbidden fruit could not be erased, but I agreed with Edward, other things were so much more important.

Bella

Venom and Breathe (Part 2) (6)

  
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I pulled his blood in and was unprepared for the shock. I’d never experienced anything so incredible in my entire existence, and it was so much more than taste! Every bit of my body reacted to his blood. I felt change in places I didn’t realize I could feel. I was on the edge of losing my sanity when I felt him struggle beneath me. This jolted me out of my crazed state long enough for me to remember that there was a purpose to this.

The taste of venom in his blood was all that kept my resolve as a red haze took over my eyes. I pulled and pulled at his blood until the venom wasn’t there. I could no longer see anything but the red. I wanted his blood more than anything else I’d ever wanted, but I willed myself to drop him. As I did, I heard the sound of my own growl very deep and very strong. It took everything I had to crawl away backwards.

I did not take a breath at all though I could still taste his blood in my mouth and feel it on my face. I locked my teeth together, growls and hisses still getting through.  Eventually, I was out of breath, so I pulled some carefully through my teeth.

I had no idea if what I’d done had worked or if the man was going to live. I did not even have the presence of mind to check to see if he was bleeding out. Lying on my back, I felt the trunk of a tree over my head and I raised my arms, digging my fingers into the base of the tree, willing myself not to let go.

The red haze was all my eyes would allow me to see, and I could hear nothing but a weakened heartbeat – a sweet, tempting heartbeat.

Slowly, I began to see movement above me. The movement of the leaves….still red to my eyes, but it was something else to focus on.

I wasn’t sure how long it had been since Emmett’s initial attack. It could’ve been minutes or hours. This was the first time since turning that time hadn’t meant anything to me. If Emmett had found us and wished to continue, there was nothing I could do to stop him. I barely had control of myself and I’d reached my limit of what I had to give.

I heard movement at the edges of my hearing.  More animals approaching, still several miles away but I counted. Four? No, five. There were five heading directly for us. Startled by their direct approach, I gasped. The small breath I‘d taken brought the scent of blood ripping down my throat like flames and covered me again in red haze.

I growled again, giving vent to my frustration, and used up all of my air supply. I would not take another breath unless I absolutely had to. This helped to clear a bit of the haze and once again I heard their approach. While I’d been preoccupied, five had become a group of three, now headed away, and a group of two, very close.

Finally, I recognized the sounds. It was Edward and Carlisle. I should’ve figured that Alice would see both Emmett’s choice and mine. They were speaking, but I couldn’t respond to their words.

Edward got to me first. I couldn’t see his face clearly through the haze.

“BELLA! BELLA!” he shouted.

“Edward! Get her out of here! Go!” said Carlisle.

I couldn’t relax my grip from the tree and he was alone in helping me as Carlisle was attending to the man. Edward’s hands ran up and down my arms trying to get me to snap out of it just long enough so that he could pull me away from there. It worked after about thirty seconds of trying, but not in the way he wanted. 

Once my hands were free of the tree, the tension inside me broke.  I clawed at Edward’s chest with a fury that I hadn’t known I possessed.  Luckily, Edward was an experienced fighter.  He grabbed my arms and flipped me onto my stomach.  My arms and hands he had tightly locked behind my back.  I didn’t have the strength to hold back the growls and hisses anymore. 

He lifted my body by holding onto my entangled arms, and moved me forward into the wilderness. I could feel my legs kicking in an unnatural way as more tension inside me released.  It took the better part of a half an hour for me to gain any semblance of control.   

He dragged and dragged me away until we were behind the next mountain.    He put me face down into the snow and held me there. 

“Bella! Bella! It’s safe now, you can breathe!” said Edward.  “Breathe, Bella, just breathe.”

I took in a breath.  And then another. 

When the haze cleared further from my eyes, Edward’s arms still had me locked and it was the first time that I had the presence of mind to realize that I wasn’t near the tree anymore.

I took a couple more deep breaths, knowing I could trust him and started to calm down.

“There are bears just over the next ridge. It will help calm the burning if you drink as much as you can.”

I nodded deliriously as he picked me up again.

I could quickly smell a scent I’d never smelled before. It was nothing like the humans blood I’d just been exposed to but I focused my eyes on what was in front of me and it was a cave with two hibernating grizzlies, but alive nonetheless.

“Drink it. It will subdue the thirst and calm the burning. Drink it,” said Edward as he lifted me right to the bear’s neck.

He kept my arms restrained as I drank in the blood. It didn’t take away everything but when I was done, I was definitely full. A grizzly was far more than I’d ever need but I drank until I couldn’t drink anymore. Now, even if I could find a human, I wouldn’t be able to fit anything else inside.

Edward felt me still and rolled me over into his arms.

“I’m sorry, Bella. I’m sorry you had to do that alone. I’m so sorry!”

He put my arms around his neck.

“Hold on.  Hold on to my neck,” he said.

I obeyed, rested my forehead on his shoulder and breathed in his scent.  Concentrating on his scent as he moved us again, calmed me down even further.  I still couldn’t speak.

I felt the air fly beneath me again and knew he was running. I didn’t want to open my eyes. What would they look like? My eyes should never be red with human blood – for any reason.

We reached the cottage where Rosalie, Jacob, and Renesmee waited on the porch, naïve to the change in the day.

I heard shocked gasps as they saw the dried blood on my clothes. No sooner had Edward explained what happened did Rosalie dart off to find Emmett. I knew Jacob would not be happy about the breach. Due to his trust in Edward and the pack’s alliance with our family, Jacob listened completely to Edward’s explanation having seen everything in Alice‘s vision.

Emmett had inadvertently come across a “singer.” A singer is what the Volturi called someone whose blood was extra potent to a specific vampire. Most did not have the will to resist such a temptation and never knew when it would hit. Emmett seemed to be extra prone to this kind of thing and his family had had to relocate for this reason before. Edward explained that a singer was no more a choice for a vampire than an imprinting was for a werewolf.

Jacob was definitely not happy but he was more worried about what happened to me for Renesmee’s sake. She was extremely worried about all of us – me, Emmett, and even the man Emmett had bitten. She could see the distress on Edward‘s face and believed that Emmett would never hurt a human intentionally. Her grace in this situation was all that kept Jacob from reacting.

I did not attempt to move from Edward’s arms at all and neither Edward nor Jacob would let Renesmee touch me. Jacob had her behind his back only allowing her to peer around him at me.

“Jacob,” I managed to croak out. “Take Renesmee into town until we call you. I think I’m fine but just in case. I want to be sure.” Jacob nodded and turned around to pick her up.

“I love you, Mommy.”

“I love you, too, baby.”

“Tell Emmett I hope he gets better. I love him too.”

“I will,” I said.

And with that, Edward and I were alone.

Bella

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