I could see confusion warring with hope in his eyes, he tore his gaze from mine to look around the rest of the room, almost as if he were trying to reassure himself that others could see me too. My heart ached at the thought of visions of me haunting him, I wondered if they had brought him comfort or pain.
"Aro…" I whispered and his dark eyes shot back to mine. I had never seen them so dark. I wondered how long he had gone without feeding.
I could feel those around us fighting the compulsion I had placed upon them. Alice and Jasper especially as they fought to look at me, in a fit of bitterness I forced their heads lower and heard Jasper growl in irritation.
In my concentration my focus had wained from the beautiful man before me and he had taken that split moment in time to rush toward me, the wind of his rapid approach ruffled the hair around my face and I looked up to see him completely enraptured as his eyes swallowed me whole.
"Could it be…?" The longing in his voice turned the corners of my mouth down in sadness, how much had he suffered without me? "My Isabella has returned to me?"
His hand hovered over the skin of my cheek and I immediately leaned into his touch and cradled his hand. Almost instantly he dropped to his knees and a sob tore from his throat as he crushed me to him and rocked me back and forth.
His grip was bruising in its intensity but I did not mind, I was still unsure how long he had gone without me and I knew even a day without him would be torture to me. I was the lucky one, for me it had been only yesterday I was cradled in his arms.
"How… How are you here? Oh my beautiful little bird, I can scarcely believe it…" He pulled back from rocking me and devoured every detail of my face with his eyes, horror seemed to dawn on him then as his grip tightened and his voice cracked. "You were alive… I buried you alive…"
I shook my head and gripped his face in mine and pulled him to me, hard. He seemed momentarily thrown off balance by my strength as I crashed my mouth to his, aching to taste him. He responded with equal fervor and only when I pulled back to breathe did I meet his eyes and implore him to listen.
"I wasn't alive Aro, I have no memory of being entombed…" I looked around at the forms still subjugated before our display of affection. Many having given up fighting my compulsion long ago. The only one I hadn't placed it upon was Marcus, who was looking at us with a fond light to his usually deadened gaze.
"Take your mate and enjoy your reunion brother, I will keep Caius in check whilst you heal. Go."
Aro hadn't needed telling twice and scooped me into his arms, crushing me to his chest and disappearing at lightning speed to his rooms.
He closed the door behind him and cradled me to his chest, kissing every inch of me that he could reach before carrying me to the bed and placing me upon the silk covers. Still he did not let go of me but instead buried his head against my chest and breathed deeply and harshly, it took me a moment to comprehend that he was sobbing.
"Shhh, it's okay. I'm here, I will never leave you." Somehow I knew these were the right words to say as it was now my turn to cradle this powerful man to my heart and comfort him. "I love you…"
I had whispered it into his hair and placed a kiss there and immediately his breathing stilled as he raised his head and those pitch black eyes looked up at me with such vulnerability.
"Of course." I spoke with utmost surety and kissed him again, this time with less ferocity and more joy at being back in his arms again.
"Isabella" he groaned into my mouth and pulled me against the length of his body, I realized that he didn't feel as cold to the touch anymore and I reveled in the feel of his skin beneath my fingers.
I felt then, as though an agonizing pain was blossoming in my chest, under my rib cage and I clutched at it with fear in my eyes as I met Aro's dark gaze. He smiled in a bittersweet but knowing manner as he raised the hand to his lips and kissed it.
"It is the call to mate, dearest one. Our bond has gone without completion since the first time you took my blood, you are feeling it now that you are… awake again." His voice sounded knowing, painful and I felt the pain within my chest rise and swell at his words before it sent shocks of electricity through my limbs and I cried out in confusion and pain. "Shh my darling, it will pass now that we are together again."
He kissed me again before raising his own arm and tearing into it with abandon. "Drink my love, it will lessen the pain…" I hesitated and glanced between his arm and his gaze, I didn't need to ask the question for he responded already knowing my fear. "It wont hurt you again, now that you are… immortal."
He said the word with such joyous abandon and the smile that lit up his face was so infectious that I couldn't help but return it as I raised my own wrist to his mouth. "You too, you look starving."
His tongue swiped once over his lower lip and I could see the pure temptation in his eyes, I frowned in confusion and paused in lowering my mouth to his own wound to ask him why he wasn't drinking.
"To do so would be treason… now that you have fully unlocked your royal lineage. It is forbidden, against every sacred law we hold even after the believed extinction of your line." His voice was struggled, forced as he warred with the temptation before him.
"That's not all is it, i've offered it to you before and you barely hesitated… Why now?" I asked, cradling his hand gently as the blood threatened to spill onto his sheets. I had the gut feeling there was something he wasn't telling me.
"I don't know that I will have the control to stop, my darling." He whispered in shame. "It has been so long and I would rather starve than harm you. Your blood is so much purer now, I could smell it as soon as the humans entered the room but believed myself to be hallucinating as I had done so often before. Your visage, your scent, your voice has been my constant companion since I shut you in that awful tomb."
I raised his eyes to my own and he seemed confused to see the adoration on my face, his expression then turned to panic as I raised my own wrist to my mouth and before he could stop me my blood bloomed across my pale skin.
"I trust you, always. Now feed and when you are sated you will tell me everything." He had closed his eyes as the scent intensified and I could see his restraint falling. When my own lips caressed the torn skin of his wrist he lunged for my own, almost without control.
As soon as his blood touched my lips the excruciating ache in my chest lessened, the sparks shooting through my body abated to a small flicker in my very centre. The taste of him was somehow a million times more addicting than I remembered and I moaned deeply as I clutched him to me, feeling our bond renew itself, as though our very blood were repairing the crack in our souls where we had been separated.
I pulled away before him and placed a kiss on his wrist as it healed, unblemished before my eyes and took a moment to stroke his hair and pull him again to my chest as he fed. I felt stronger now, stronger than I had thought possible, I felt as though I could take on a thousand Victorias and win without even getting up from the comfortable place I had in Aro's arms.
We were destined for each other.
When he had first told me that I had thought it incredibly romantic but hadn't been sure if I believed it, but my reaction to him now, to the loss of him and to receiving his blood again made me realize the truth of his statement.
The pain of losing the Cullen's had been but a drop in the ocean compared to the waves of agony I had experienced for only a few moments at being separated from Aro. He had been right, it was physically impossible to be parted from your true mate and she wondered in horror how he had endured the pain.
I could hear the growls beginning in his chest as he fought with himself to stop, but I was not worried. I was sure that I could overpower him should I wish to and the strength I felt flowing through my body had not diminished with his long, deep draughts of blood.
I did not interfere as his chest physically vibrated as he warred internally, this was something he needed to overcome without her help, she knew. Else he would forever fear tasting her, knowing she'd had to stop him.
It took him only a moment longer before he pulled back and those beautiful clouded crimson eyes once again beheld her.
"There you are…" I whispered as I leaned forward and kissed my own blood from his mouth, he growled low and deep in his chest and suddenly I was pinned in place by his hard body as he held himself atop me, devouring my mouth with his own.
I growled back and fisted my hands in his thick, soft hair as I nipped at his lips. This only increased the fervor with which he set about ravishing me and the sound of the dress tearing in two was just audible above the growling. He lifted me from the bed with ease and threw me against the nearest bedpost, which splintered beneath the force whilst I felt nothing but his hands all over my body.
He had my hands held in a single fist above my head as he licked, sucked and bit his way down over my neck and chest and I only realized now that I had been naked under the sundress. Feeling thoroughly disadvantaged I decided turnabout was fair play and, whilst being careful of my new found strength, pushed him with fierce determination to the window sill. The glass cracked beneath his weight and I took a moment to be proud of my control that it didn't shatter entirely.
I pulled the shirt from his pants and tore it from his back with ease, I realised he must have discarded his jacket whilst he had been attempting to kiss every inch of my body. His beautiful, chiseled chest stole my breath for a moment and he took his chance to overpower me again, this time using his speed to launch me onto his writing desk which groaned and buckled against our animalistic movements.
I didn't know what had come over me, I just knew I needed him with such terrifying clarity and I wasn't going to wait a moment longer to have him. It felt as though I would die if I didn't, I had already after all and refused to live a moment longer waiting to feel him, to complete our bond.
From an outside observers perspective I imagined it must look like a tornado was tearing through the room, furniture split in two and clothing and sheets were mangled beyond recognition. We had even managed to displace the stone flooring as I had a momentary lapse of control and pounced upon him, knocking us both to the ground.
I remembered after, when I lay in his arms amongst the shredded bedding and destroyed mattress, that he had retained enough mental control to stop and ask me if I was sure… That we didn't have to just because we had been reunited, that he would wait.
I didn't know what I had ever done to deserve the love I received from this man but I swore to myself that I would treasure him always and told him as much, before crashing my mouth to his again.
Now after as we lay together, his fingers stroked my hair and every so often he would place reverent kisses at my crown, I realized I had a new kind of awareness flowing through me. Not only could I feel my own contentment and adoration for him… But I could feel his for me.
I looked up at him in wonder and he smiled softly, sated and happy as his fingers traced my mouth.
"So this is how a completed bond feels…" I breathed in wonder, laying my chin upon my hand which rested above where his heart lay still and silent.
"Yes, I imagine so. I am as new to this bond as you are my darling, so cannot speak from experience. But according to the literature on the subject…" He smirked at me and I rolled my eyes and smiled back at his playful teasing.
"That awful feeling is gone… Thank god." I breathed, feeling as though the tightness in my chest had been released and I could finally breath easily again. At his face saddened somewhat I frowned at him before releasing the question I hadn't yet asked. "How long was I… How long did you suffer through that agony Aro?"
"Does it matter now, my princess? It is done and you are here. We need not dwell in pain and suffering." He was trying to deflect from the subject at hand, trying to stop me from knowing.
"Tell me, Aro." My tone broke no argument and he sighed and pulled me closer.
"20 months." He spoke without emotion. "A month, it would seem, for every year you existed in your human form. Exactly to the day."
"You endured that agony for 20 months…" I asked in wondrous horror, my hand placed over my mouth as tears leaked freely from my eyes. "How have you not been driven insane?"
"Perhaps I have my angel, for here you are beside me." He stroked my face with such reverence that tears began to fall from my eyes again. He leant forward and placed kisses against the tracks across my cheeks. "Hush now, all is as it should be again."
He pulled back and his crimson eyes were lit with mischief as he threw the tattered remains of his bed linen from his body and stood, in all his perfect, naked glory.
"Now that you are awake, I can finally gift you with your birthday present."
With that he had gone and I sat up feeling somewhat confused, realising I had quite literally died on my 20th birthday and as 20 months had past I was now 21- nearly 22. Would I continue to age, I wondered? My heart could still beat and blood still pushed through my veins…
More research would need to be undertaken, I was sure. But without the ever looming threat of my mortality, I was sure it would be far more enjoyable and less stressful than it had previously been.
I clutched the tattered sheets to my body as i stood, not feeling quite as brazen as Aro with my nakedness, I gathered the material around me carefully and surveyed the damage with a proud grin.