A/N: Anything Twilight related belongs to SM. I am so excited to be publishing this new story. I am still working on Ms Busy Bee and her fancy pants. I originally wrote this for another purpose - it is different for me - as I try with each story to challenge myself. It will be a multi chapter story. I hope you like it.
The spacious conference room was brimming with activity as the security team were sweeping the room for listening devices and no doubt for explosive devices as well. With security completed the next wave of activity was the administrative staff who went straight to their task of setting the room ready for the meeting.
The expansive Board table was set so that each place included a setting for the family head and their advisers. Along the wall comfortable seating with small side tables were placed for the limited number of invited guests would sit.
The catering staff bustled around the room arranging platters of savoury treats, pastries and fruit and the delicious smell of freshly ground coffee filled the room.
After the staff had completed their work and left the room, the security team were sent back in to do yet another sweep.
With the all clear given, phone calls were made and the meeting participants were given the green light to arrive. Nervously waiting to greet the guests as they arrived was Charles Swan who was the appointed host for the meeting. He and his daughter Isabella waited to greet each new arrival.
His daughter had overseen all the arrangements and would now serve refreshments to the guests of each family head while also making sure introductions were made where necessary. It was her duty to know the likes and the dislikes of all the guests. It pleased her father to see her manage it all so well given her usual reserved, shy nature. Charles was to welcome each family head and their advisors and to see their needs as they waited for the Boss to arrive.
Aro was the first to arrive and he greeted Charles warmly, which was unsurprising given they were from the same Family. Aro's adviser Marcus was by his side as was Aro's son Caius. Charles was surprised, however, that Aro's wife Sulpicia did not attend as invited. This could only be seen as a breach of courtesy and protocol. It would be seen as an insult, not only to Charles and Isabella as hosts of the meeting but also as an insult to the Boss who would expect each family to be represented fully.
Aro must've realised that Charles had noted Sulpicia's absence and was quick to try and comfort his friend. "I am so sorry my dear wife Sulpicia could not attend today, my dear Charles and Isabella. Please do not take offense. She has been so unwell since the unfortunate outcome of our recent troubles. Her brother Felix was lost to us, you will remember, and she is still grieving, poor dear."
Being selected to host this important meeting of the Five Families was an unexpected honour for the Swans, given Charles had loyally stood as a lower ranked member of the Volturi Family. Unfortunately for them, they failed in their attempt to overthrow the leadership of the Cartel and due to their failure, Charles' fortunes and rank had been significantly diminished.
When the Boss had asked the Swans to host this meeting, it was a signal to all the Families that Charles was a man of honour and dignity, even if he was no longer a man of wealth and power.
For Sulpicia not to attend was indeed an offense. It was a particularly sharp slap in the face to Charles' daughter, whose social standing and worthy prospects for marriage had diminished in accordance with the loss of their wealth. In true Isabella fashion though, she never spoke of the change to her social standing, instead she stood as always with dignity and unfailing loyalty to her father.
Charles had expected more loyalty from the Aro family, frankly he knew he deserved it but he chose to ignore the social slight and guided Aro with his team into the conference room seeing to his needs politely before returning to welcome the next guests.
Emmett McCarty was the next to arrive with his advisor Laurent. With them were Emmett's heavily pregnant wife Rosalie.
Charles was grateful to see that despite being enemies during the conflict the McCarty's were adhering to protocol. The family was represented by their leaders as well as their women as a show of faith in Charles' security arrangements and as a mark of respect to the hostess, Isabella.
Isabella welcomed Rosalie warmly; she had been fearful that Sulpicia's rudeness was a sign of how all the families would behave but she was quietly relieved that this was not the case. She happily offered Rosalie her favourite beverage as she had memorised it and Rosalie was very pleased and grateful for Bella's attention to detail.
Rosalie was a successful engineer with her own company which in tandem with her husband's construction business, brought good legitimate profits to their Family's, and therefore the Cartel's, financial bottom line. She was well respected in her own right and often stood in for Emmett on Family matters. But for this conference Rosalie was attending in support and as a witness.
"Isabella, I am so pleased to finally meet you." Rosalie offered. "Are you thinking of entering the workforce now that you have earned your degree? Or is marriage your first priority?"
Isabella was honoured and pleased that such an important woman as Rosalie, wife and equal partner of the Head of the McCarty Family knew of her recent graduation, having just finished her bachelor's degree in Business at University of Washington. Isabella greatly admired this strong woman who balanced her role of successful professional woman with her leadership responsibilities within their Family.
The Swans were members of the Volturi Family and closely aligned with the Black Family, both of which were much more traditional with regards to expectations and liberties allowed to their women.
The McCarty, Cullen and Masen Families were more progressive; the fact that Rose often stood in for Emmett on family matters was remarkable and not something that would ever happen within the Volturi aligned Families.
Isabella had to negotiate carefully to be even allowed to go to College without being engaged or at the very least spoken for, which was the normal requirement in her Family.
She blushed at the suggestion of marriage and offered in response that she would like to get a job, if Aro as Head of her Family would allow it. She did not share that she felt certain Aro would not allow it, as it was only normally allowed with the support and permission of one's fiance or husband.
The Cullens were the next to arrive and when Carlisle entered the conference hall with his wife Esme, his daughter Alice as well as his adviser Garrett and his daughter Kate, Charles called his daughter to his side immediately. Isabella stood with her father as he introduced her to the second most prestigious family in the Cartel. Esme was delighted to meet the young woman and immediately encouraged a friendship between Isabella with her daughter.
"Isabella, may I congratulate you on the delightful arrangements you've made for this meeting. Alice has been most excited to meet you and insisted on joining us today."
Alice stepped forward and shook Isabella's hand. "I have pestered my parents abominably but they finally gave in and agreed that I could come. You really have done so well to manage all these arrangements by yourself."
"It is lovely to meet you both. May I offer you a glass of Moroccan sweet tea, Mrs Cullen? A chai latte for you Alice and iced lemonade for you Kate?"
"Why Isabella, how lovely of you to have my favourite tea on hand and to know Alice's and Kate's favourites as well."
Isabella guided the women over to join Rosalie where she left them while she went to ensure the beverages were prepared to her exact specifications. She instructed the servers on which foods were best for which person and once the drinks were delivered she excused herself to stand again with her father as the next Family were arriving.
William Black, his wife Sue, their son Jacob and his wife Leah all entered greeting Charles and Isabella warmly. The Blacks had also stood with the Volturi in their unsuccessful bid for control and they too had suffered significant loss as a consequence.
Isabella had known the Blacks all her life as the Swans worked closely with the Blacks on most business ventures. She was relieved and happy to see familiar, friendly faces especially Leah who had always been very kind to her. While Leah was like a sister to her, Sue was like a second mother to Isabella whose own mother had died after a lost battle with cancer.
The women embraced each other fondly and Isabella guided them to the refreshments table where she introduced them to all the other women. She had no trouble organising their favourite beverages and foods as she knew them all so well.
Polite, formal but still pleasant conversation was made amongst the women with no hint of the hostilities and loss which had led to this meeting.
Isabella was enjoying listening to Alice explaining her joy at studying her first year of a Architectural Design and her plans to work hard hoping to be selected for an internship by a most prestigious firm. While she admired them, she was also quietly envious of the freedom the Cullen and McCarty women enjoyed.
There was a flutter of activity in the foyer and Isabella knew it was time for the Boss to arrive, she moved quickly to her father's side and straightened her clothes and ran her hands over her hair. She was nervous as she had heard many things about the Masen Family and she'd heard that Mr Masen himself was a perfectionist with very particular tastes and demands.
She also knew her father's precarious standing and position was dependent on pleasing Mr Masen who had surprised everyone by selecting Charles to host the event.
For these reasons she had worked very hard and paid attention to every detail to ensure Mr Masen's satisfaction with the day's proceedings. She had gone to considerable effort to ensure his food and beverage preferences were prepared exactly, having made most herself to be sure of their exact quality.
"Mr Masen, welcome. Everyone has arrived and all is as you requested." Charles offered his most formal greeting of the day, clearly offering due respect for this man whose arrival had quieted the whole room.
Mr Masen shook Charles' hand, "Charles, thank you for arranging this meeting on behalf of the Five Families." His voices was deep, calm and sent a shiver down Isabella's spine. His voice was rich with unforced power.
"May I introduce my daughter to you, sir? She has taken full responsibility for the arrangements for today and has seen to every detail herself. Isabella, this is Mr Edward Masen, Head of the Masen Family and Boss of the Five Families Cartel. "
Isabella internally braced herself to meet one of the most powerful men in America. She tried not to shake and managed to keep herself to a small tremble when she took his outstretched hand. She knew she had to look him in the eye as he would expect this even though all her Family's deportment training had taught her otherwise.
When she took him in she saw that he was a tall man, solid but lean, clearly very well built beneath his very expensive and perfectly fitted suit. His manner and look commanded attention.
She gave him a small smile, "A pleasure to meet you Mr Masen, I hope the arrangements meet with your satisfaction. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you."
As Masen held her hand he was struck by the young woman's confidence and beauty. She was small and despite her demure outfit he could see that she was curvy in all the right places. He held her gaze for a few moments until a slight blush bloomed on her cheeks. His lips lifted to a small half smile, making Isabella blush even further.
Edward turned his attention back to Charles, "I wonder Charles if I might ask for your daughter Isabella to assist me with the supervision of my daughter Elizabeth during our meeting today?"
Just then Mr Masen's second Jasper Whitlock walked in holding the hand of a pretty young girl perhaps 5 or 6 year's old.
Isabella looked to her father for permission and with his nod of approval she stepped forward and spoke quietly, "I'd be very happy to spend time with your daughter, Mr Masen."
She bent down to eye level with young Elizabeth. "Hello Elizabeth, it is lovely to meet you. My name is Isabella. Would you like to come with me Elizabeth? I have your favourite chocolate milk with mint chocolate sprinkles ready for you as well as some homemade almond macaroons."
The young girl smiled and took Isabella's hand and together they walked over to join the other women when Isabella left to prepare the milk and macaroons for Elizabeth herself.
Charles was deeply honoured that the Boss had brought his own daughter to the meeting. After the conflict between the Families, it was a great sign of trust and confidence in Charles.
He walked Edward and Jasper into the main conference room and to the head of the Board table. As the Boss took his seat, so too did all the other men who then waited for him to declare the meeting open.
The wives and daughters took seats around the room to quietly observe the meeting in progress. Isabella took Elizabeth to the furthest set of chairs so they could speak quietly without interrupting the meeting.
The Boss spoke and the room silently listened, "Thank you all for accepting my invitation to bring our Families together here today. Your trust is demonstrated and appreciated. It is unfortunate that this meeting follows a full year of difficulties and squabbling amongst us. This squabbling has caused significant loss of revenue for some and loss of life for others."
He clapped his hands together loudly and Isabella noticed that several people around the room flinched at his sudden movement. She however sat completely still, transfixed by Mr Masen's presence and his velvet voice which both resonated with power.
"But today marks an end to these difficulties within our Cartel, formally and finally. Three years ago, I became Boss after purging our Cartel of the scum who killed my parents.
At that time I promised you all that my leadership would see the beginning of the end of doing Cartel business according to 'old ways' and that I would lead us into more modern, corporate way to manage our business. Some of you took this as a weakness and decided to attempt to overthrow me as Boss."
The tension in the room was thick and many of the witnesses grew uncomfortable at his words, wondering what was going to happen as the Boss called out the treachery of many in the room.
"My victories in the past year's conflict and the soaring profits of the Masen, Cullen and McCarty Family businesses have shown all of you, I hope, that though I am ruthless in the corporate world, I am fucking lethal in the old ways." His voice grew cold and he thumped the table so hard with his fist the Volturi and Black men understood immediately the threat in the Boss' words.
Seeing the Boss reach for his glass, Isabella rose immediately to ensure it was filled with the water infused with three wedges of lime, as he preferred. Her arm brushed his as she reached across to the water jug and then poured his drink before placing his glass on the coaster by his hand. She felt a buzz of excitement at the contact, almost as if he was humming with power. She could feel the danger building in the room.
He gave her a small half smile and almost imperceptible nod of thanks before he resumed his eye contact with the men around the table.
Jasper stood and distributed a bound set of papers to each man as the Boss spoke with a calm business-like tone, "The document in front of each of you outlines the new boundaries and compensation rates for each Family; the changes are a direct consequence of the outcome of the failed insurgence. I ask you to now peruse your new agreement and then to ratify its contents."
Each leader around the table reviewed the documents before them. As expected the Cullens and the McCarty's had gained territory while the Volturi and Blacks had lost territory.
Aro was the first to speak. "Edward, my dear friend, there must be some mistake. According to this document you are removing one half of our territory and sharing it across the Masen, McCarty and Cullen Families."
Edward leaned back in his chair and smiled, replying to Aro with the same false politeness. "You must understand that your attempt to overthrow my Family failed. Your territories have been altered to compensate the three successful families for the trouble you caused them with your dispute. To the victors go the spoils, which is in keeping with the old ways you fought so hard for, my old friend. In short, these documents contain the terms of your surrender. You should be grateful that we are so civilised, if I followed the old ways to the letter you, your wife, your children and all your co-conspirators would be executed with all your territories divided amongst the victors. I think the agreement in front of you is very reasonable by comparison."
William Black, hearing Edward's thinly veiled threat and knowing first-hand that Edward's ruthless reputation was well-deserved, picked up his pen and signed the document in front of him, passing it to his son Jacob to witness and then passing to Edward for his signature. William stood and formally declared his position, "The Black Family accepts the terms of the new agreement and pledges its loyalty to Edward Masen as Boss of the Five Families Cartel."
Everyone, except the Volturi family, in the room applauded William's declaration.
Every other family head, except Aro, signed their agreement, and like William Black, declared the allegiance to the Masen Family and to Edward as Boss of the cartel.
Edward turned to Aro who so far showed no sign of signing the document, although his son Caius and his advisor Marcus were whispering their encouragement to do so.
In response to Aro's silence Edward confused most everyone in the room by taking a different tack to the one expected. "Tell me Aro, where is your good wife Sulpicia? I am surprised and quite disappointed she did not accept my invitation to attend today's proceedings?"
Aro snarled his reply, "She is grieving the loss of her brother and takes to her bed in sorrow."
Edward gave another half smile, Isabella wasn't charmed by this smile, however, as it was sinister and dangerous. She thought Edward looked like a cat playing with his prey.
At that moment a commotion could be heard in the foyer followed by the conference room door being thrown open. A scantily clad woman and naked man, both with their hands tied to each other, were dragged into the room and thrown to the ground by a couple of large henchmen.
Everyone was shocked at the sight while Isabella immediately positioned herself so that young Elizabeth was sheltered from the man's naked form.
Edward laughed, "Ah, here is the grieving Sulpicia now. I think you were right Aro that she has taken to her bed but I do not think it is in sorrow. Isn't that Demetri, your butler?"
Aro stood in horror at the sight of his wife who has obviously been screwing their butler, of all people. He looked around the room to see everyone but his son and brother laughing. He reached for his gun, not really deciding yet who he wanted to shoot more in that moment, Edward, Sulpicia or his damned butler, but his hand found his holster empty.
Edward thumped a weapon on the table, "Looking for this Aro?"
Edward toyed with Aro's gun as he spoke, "This conflict you started and then lost, has cost this cartel a great deal more than money, my friend. Instead of growing our business interests and enjoying the spoils of our labour you have set us against one another."
"The Blacks, and with them the Swans, followed you out of loyalty but that ends today. Everyone here has already declared their allegiance to me and my Family so they will no longer pay any of their profits to the the Volturi Family."
William and all the other Family heads banged the table in support of Edward's words.
"Aro, I have decided to amend the agreement offer on the table with you now, Jasper please give Aro my new offer."
Jasper produced another document and slid it towards Aro. Marcus stopped its glide along the table as Aro slowly took his seat at the table again.
Edward spoke again, "Aro, my friend it is time for you to retire. Honestly, I think you need to spend some time at home as your woman seems desperate for attention." He was enjoying Aro's humiliation and everyone in the room could sense it.
"Caius, you are now Head of the Volturi family. Congratulations. I am further dividing your portfolio so that a portion will be awarded to Charles Swan to compensate him for the losses he made supporting you in your attempt to overthrow my leadership.
"Caius and Marcus, if you sign this new agreement Aro will be granted leave to remove himself, and his dear sweet wife, to your property in Italy never to return to the United States."
Still toying with the gun on the table, Edward added, "Of course, if you do not sign we can settle this according to the old ways."
He looked around the room, "Are there any objections?"
The other four Families once more banged the table in agreement with Edward's wishes, while the Volturi Family remained seated.
Edward turned once to Caius, "What say you?"
After a long look at his mother and without a word, Caius picked up the pen and signed the document, followed by his second Marcus. Aro stood, hugged his son and whispered words of encouragement to him before being led from the room by a heavily armed contingent of Edward's men.
Edward shouted as he looked with disgust at Sulpicia and her pathetic lover, "Someone get this cheating slut out of the room, her foul fishy stench is making me sick."
The woman and man were dragged from the room, Sulpicia screaming for Aro's mercy. Caius momentarily dropped his head in shame and sorrow but with Marcus' encouragement he soon sat taller knowing he had the responsibility to protect his family and their interests from further decimation.
Caius stood and with an even voice declared the Volturi's loyalty to the Masens and to Edward as Boss. Everyone applauded and relief was felt all around the room.
With Aro removed and the agreements all signed, everyone expected Edward to close out the meeting but he had one more surprise in store.
"William, Charles and Caius, I am pleased and honoured to hear you pledge your loyalty to me and my family. But blood has been spilled on both sides and I believe that the only way to ensure your loyalty to me and my family is also through blood."
The men shifted uncomfortably in their seats wondering what Edward had in mind and whose blood he wanted to 'ensure their loyalty'. Aro's gun was still on the table in front of Edward who was still toying with it menacingly.
William Black spoke up first to ask the question they all feared the answer to, "Whose blood do you desire to quench your thirst, Edward?"
Edward turned his gaze to the far corner of the room. "Isabella's," was all he said.
Shocked gasps were heard around the room. Charles rose so quickly from the table that his chair flew backwards; William rose too, standing with his friend. From nowhere guns were cocked and pointing at the two men. Isabella sat in stunned silence, wondering what she had done to offend the Boss so badly that he wanted her death. Sue and Leah moved to her side protectively.
"You want to kill my daughter?" Charles was experiencing panic and disbelief in equal measure. William tried to calm his friend knowing that to openly threaten or resist Edward would be a death sentence for him.
Edward held up his hand in a peaceful gesture and let another smile creep across his face, "No, no, my friend you misunderstand me. Sit, calm yourself and listen."
Charles picked up his chair and sat at the table keeping his eyes locked with Edward's; the guns were all lowered and returned to their holsters.
Edward continued, all the while toying with the gun on the table, "You have all pledged your loyalty to me and my family. I am very pleased and honoured by this trust. However, with all the blood spilled in the recent conflict, I need to ensure that your loyalties are secured with something more meaningful than pretty words and oaths."
"After all, I believe that according to our old traditions as victor of this conflict I should exact a price from my enemies to compensate me for the losses I have personally endured."
He smiled at the obvious confusion to be seen clearly on the faces of those around him.
"My dear friends, when I say that blood is the answer I mean simply that by merging our blood lines there will be no risk of disloyalty in the future. What I mean, Charles, is to take your daughter Isabella as my bride."
A/N: So I think this Edward is fine. Your thoughts?