Author's Note: I know it's been forever, so I just wanted to say, thank you so much for your patience and for sticking with me through all of my craziness. Of course, special thanks to those super awesome people who messaged me and helped me get through some of my trouble, and who really cared and just listened to me talk about whatever. I can't guarantee that I'm back for good, but I can guarantee that my next update won't be another year or whatever from now, as I'm feeling pretty good. Thanks again, and I hope you like this update.


Chapter 8

Hearing Bella hesitantly recount everything that had happened to her since she could remember was indeed torture. What made everything worse was the knowledge that they couldn't touch her to assure themselves she was okay, or destroy anything and everything in their fury. They couldn't even show any sympathy or sorrow on their faces; the one time Didyme's face had slipped from its unreadable mask, Bella had shut down, glaring at Didyme and saying that she didn't need anybody's pity, that she was strong and had survived whatever life had throw at her. It took Heidi to step in and reassure her no one felt pity for her, and that Bella should continue, despite how hard it was on all of the vampires there.

Eventually Bella did, and after finally muttering a, "Well, that's all," the room fell into silence. No one knew what to do next for the longest time how to continue, and with the Queens, and admittedly Heidi, so furious, no vampire who heard dared make a move or say one wrong word that might set everyone off.

Of course, Bella didn't realize how furious and heartbroken they were, having heard her story, and was only uncomfortable having spoken about all of the abuse, hatred, and evil directed towards her she had experienced in her entire life. She had never spoken out loud of these events before, save for a little bit to Heidi earlier, and felt incredibly vulnerable.

Do, desperate to get her mind off of her own fucked up past, Bella blurted, "So what's your stories, huh? You have to have something, having become vampires and all. I want to hear them."

Sulpicia, having been snapped out of her own musings, and the realization that there had to be a reason behind the immediate hatred humans felt towards Bella, was the first to speak. "Of course," Sulpicia said reassuringly. She moved to the only computer in the room, and with vampiric speed, wrote out a rather demanding email and sent it before sitting back down.

"What was that about?" Bella asked, eyeing her suspiciously. It broke all three queens' hearts to see her look at any of them in that manner, but of course, their faces and voices betrayed nothing.

"I just remembered I had to contact someone as soon as possible," Sulpicia half-lied smoothly. And while lying to her mate, especially wanting nothing more than her trust, hurt Sulpicia and had her instincts hissing at her, she didn't want to get Bella's hopes up, or possibly make her hate them more, before wanting to be absolutely sure.

Athenodora and Didyme exchanged a quick glance with each other, realizing who Sulpicia had contacted, but chose to stay silent.

"Well who the fuck was it then?" Bella asked, getting angrier as she knew the email had to have something to do with her.

Before anything could get worse, Heidi put a gentle hand on Bella's shoulder, drawing the human's attention, as well as the three queens, who all had to bite back hisses at the sudden contact with their mate. "They would never do anything to hurt you. You have to start trusting them, Bella. Please."

Bella softened visibly as she looked at the first person who had shown her kindness, but upon realizing that the queens had to have seen her expression, she put up her grumpy shield again. Crossing her arms over her chest, Bella muttered, "Fine, I'll drop it." All of the queens felt their dead hearts lift, as if about to be brought right back to life, only to be promptly killed again as Bella added, "But not because I trust them; because I trust you."

"Damn it, Bella-" Athenodora started, about to rise and demand Bella's trust and love in any way she could think of.

"Isabella," the only person outside of the queens who could get away unscathed for interrupting said, giving the queen a glare from her dual-colored eyes.

"No," Athenodora snarled, and was suddenly in front of Bella, putting a hand on the arm of each chair and leaning in close. The human didn't flinch, instead sitting straighter so that they was only an inch between their faces, hands curled into fists at her sides as if about to punch the queen. Even in Athenodora's fury and pain, all she wanted to do was close that inch of space and kiss the living hell out of the human. "You are ours, and you need to learn that. If only those close to you can call you Bella, you need to recognize that the three of us are closer to you than any human in your life and accept that we-"

"Athenodora," Didyme interrupted, grabbing Athenodora by the shoulder as Sulpicia grabbed the other, having to forcibly pull the queen back. In a voice so low only a vampire could hear, she added, "This is not the way to make our mate fall in love with us."

"I apologize for Athenodora's actions," Sulpicia said as Athenodora's shoulders visibly sagged, and she allowed herself to be sat back down by Didyme, who then sat next to her and started to rub her back reassuringly. "Your story riled her up a great deal, and that, combined with her temper, made it hard for her to hold back."

"Heidi said you'd never hurt me," Bella stated angrily. "Yet it was pretty clear that she was about to-"

"I would never hurt you, Isabella," Athenodora snapped, starting to rise again, only to be pushed gently back down by Didyme. "Never. Even in my anger, hurting you was the last thing on my mind."

"So what was on your mind when you were looming over me like that?" Bella challenged.

Before Athenodora could think it through, she blurted, "Kissing you."

Bella blinked as the two other queens and Heidi grimaced internally, knowing that Athenodora might have made a huge mistake. But Bella was much too confused by the sudden turn of events and couldn't process. "What did you just say?"

Had Athenodora still been alive, she would have been burning the brightest shade of red possible at her misstep. "Nothing," she grumbled, crossing her arms over her chest defensively and turning away.

"No, I'm pretty sure that wasn't 'nothing' because that sounded like you said-" Bella started.

"Isabella, please," Didyme interrupted, her voice so soft and pleading it was impossible for Bella to even growl at her. "We will return this topic at another time when you have learned to...trust...us a little bit more," Didyme said, picking her words carefully. "But for now, how about we get back to telling our stories?"

Bella considered each queen in turn for a long moment, then turned to Heidi, who nodded, encouraging her to drop the topic.

"Okay, but I'm not forgetting about this," Bella mumbled, with the words she was almost sure she heard from Athenodora echoing in her mind.

"Noted," Sulpicia said as she also sat back down, crossing her legs and leaning back in her chair. "Now, as my story is a bit like yours, I feel like I should go first."

This got Bella's attention, and she uncrossed her arms and leaned forward, Sulpicia taking all of her attention; something the queen certainly loved. A day would never come where she could get tired of Bella's eyes on her.

"I was born in the twelve hundreds, in Italy. And like you, Isabella, I was unwanted, and so became an orphan when I was just a baby," Sulpicia started, and immediately Bella felt a tug at her heartstrings, knowing Sulpicia was telling the truth. Just from that, she felt a type of camaraderie between her and the Queen, as if they had grown up on the streets together and knew each other's hardships.

In that moment, Didyme arched her eyebrows, having noticed that the connection between Sulpicia and Bella became much stronger. Nowhere near what any of the queens would have liked, but much better than before, especially if compared to the current connection Bella felt towards Athenodora and Didyme.

"Obviously times were different back then, and while I didn't have nearly the same hardships you did, orphans were much more unwanted back then, thought of as trash who had nothing to offer to society. Even those who were supposed to take care of us ignored us, and I would often have to sneak out and steal food just to survive. And if I had gotten caught...well, the punishment would have been severe," Sulpicia continued. "As I grew older, I already knew what was going to happen to me; I would most certainly have become homeless, and at best, I would have become a prostitute just to try and survive. However, after I was kicked out of the orphanage for turning of age, I was desperate not to end up like so many of the other girls who had left previously. And so, I stuck to thieving whatever I could, and I did so for years; sticking to the rich who wouldn't notice if a necklace or two went missing that I could sell. One evening, I had decided to go to a huge event, where only the rich would be attending. Of course, I knew I was beautiful, and used that, plus a dress I stole, to get in. I had planned on stealing all I could get away with, hoping to get off of the streets and out of the cold. However, I had made a mistake in choosing to steal from Aro."

Clearly, this was a name that everyone knew, and it weighed heavily on everyone present. Bella almost wanted to ask who the man was, but instead stayed quiet, out of respect for Sulpicia's story.

"He caught me, the only one to do so since my beginnings as a thief. I was sure I was done for, and that I would be executed at once. But instead, Aro only smiled at me, and led me from the room. Next thing I knew, his teeth were in my throat, his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming. After three days of torture, I woke up a vampire. Aro told me how he had been watching me, how he had come to the event just to see me, and how upon feeling my skin for the first time, he couldn't hold back, as he knew I was meant for him. That I was to be his mate," Sulpicia said with a disgusted look on her face. "Stupidly, I agreed, too afraid and confused to know what was going on. That is, until I met Didyme and Athenodora, who had husbands of their own and were just as unhappy, and we realized that we had to free ourselves from our chains by any means necessary." The darkness that seemed to have been steadily growing inside of Sulpicia, which was visible on her face and black eyes, suddenly vanished as she smiled warmly back at Bella, taking her completely by surprise. "Now, a few hundred years later, here we are. And we couldn't be happier."

There was a lot that Bella felt they skipped, like how they apparently escaped and ended up as such powerful and rich vampires, but Bella didn't bring it up. Instead, she just nodded, wanting to actually hug the woman who had gone through quite a similar situation to Bella herself. Of course she didn't, though; she wasn't about to give up that easily.

"Thanks," Bella muttered, having no idea what else to say to such a story. Now she knew how the queens must have felt listening to her.

"I'll go next, although I'm afraid I don't have much of a story," Didyme said, since Athenodora was still busy stewing over her stupid mistake and not quite ready to talk. "I was born around 1300 BC, about ten years after my older brother, Aro, who thought I would be useful," Didyme said, a look of distaste coming over her features at the mention of the man. "As it all happened so long ago, I can't remember my human life before then. I can't even remember my parents' faces. After I was turned, Aro took an interest in my power, but realized I wasn't about to fall into line and obey him. That was when he used his right hand man, Marcus, who was apparently in love with me. Marcus could make everyone around him feel happy, and used it heavily on me, making me feel like he was my mate, and that the reason I was happy was because I was with him, even though his bonds said otherwise. Still, it was hard to escape, and even harder to disobey, because without that happiness my real feelings would rise and I would feel miserable. I was almost even killed a few times when I did try to leave, which had to be stopped by Athenodora, who was my only light at the time." This got to Athenodora, whose lips couldn't help but turn up in a small smile at Didyme's words. "However, eventually Aro also chose a mate, and soon after, with her strength, the three of us were able to turn the tables, and gain much more than just our freedom." Didyme looked at Bella then and smiled, seeing that their bond was a little bit stronger as well after Bella had listened to Didyme's story, although not as strong as the bond between Bella and Sulpicia. "Now, as Sulpicia said, here we are." The warmth in Didyme's eyes was so strong Bella had to look away, feeling strangely guilty for having even once glared at the particular queen.

"I guess it's my turn now," Athenodora grumbled before Bella could even say another awkward "thanks" to Didyme for sharing her story. Unlike with the other two queens, Bella stiffened at Athenodora's voice, and started watching her warily, as if Athenodora was about to try something. This made Athenodora want to punch something, but the other two queens put their hands in each of hers, and it was enough to stop Athenodora from doing something too stupid.

However, Sulpicia nearly grimaced, feeling all of the pain and sadness Athenodora felt for being looked at in such a way, and how much Athenodora was kicking herself for her slip of tongue and trouble with controlling her emotions.

"I also don't remember much of my human life," Athenodora said, forcing herself to start speaking. "I'm between Didyme and Sulpicia in age, as I was born around 500 AD. All I can remember is that there was a vampire attack on my village. I have no idea who had attacked me; only that Caius had saved me. On a whim, I believe. I stayed with him because I had no idea how else I would survive, as there was a large war going on between vampires, especially with the romanian coven. We eventually met up with Aro, Didyme, and Marcus, and then later, Aro found Sulpicia, and we decided to kill the bastards to escape and take over." Athenodora shrugged, as if it was no big deal, and added, "There, that's my story. Now what?"

Didyme sighed, as her story would have been the best way to have gotten a little feeling from Bella. However, just like always, Athenodora was stunted when it came to her emotions; she had trouble showing them for as long as Didyme had known her. It was partially because of her personality, and partially because of what Caius had done to her for showing any weakness. Little of that mattered now; all that mattered is that Athenodora's chance of connecting in some degree to Bella was gone, and their bond hadn't gotten any stronger.

"Okay, so what now?" Bella asked, looking at two of the three queens in a slightly new light.

"Well, perhaps we could-" Sulpicia started, only to be interrupted by Bella's stomach letting out a loud growl.

"Oh dear, you must be hungry, let me get you something to eat," Didyme said as all three queens immediately stood, needing to provide for their mate. However, before any of them could dash off to get Bella food, the phone rang. All three glanced at the caller ID, and knew exactly who it was. "Sulpicia, why don't you take the call while Bella, Athenodora, Heidi, and I go get Bella something to eat in the kitchen?"

Sulpicia frowned at Didyme, wondering why she was the one who had to be left alone. But Didyme only smiled back and gave Sulpicia her hand. When Sulpicia took it, she saw just how much her bond had grown with Bella from simply sharing her story, and couldn't help but smile. Then she saw how Didyme's had only grown a little, and how Athenodora was the farthest behind the two of them, and sobered. They definitely needed more time with Bella-whatever it took to even get a chance of Bella liking them even a little more.

"Right, I'll take the call," Sulpicia said. "The rest of you go on ahead of me, I'll meet up with you soon."

"Does anybody want to hear what I have to say about any of this?" Bella complained, only to blush and shut up as her stomach let out another loud growl, letting its needs be known again.

"I think for now, you need food," Didyme said and, without thinking, put a hand on Bella's back to usher her out. Didyme then froze for a second, expecting some kind of backlash at her mistake, but Bella didn't seem to notice the touch; or at least not hate it like she had before.

Unable to hold back her smile, Didyme let her hand slide down to the small of Bella's back as she continued to lead the human out of the room.

The second everyone was gone, Sulpicia answered the phone, which was only a second away from going to voicemail. "Ah, Eleazar, I take it you got my email. You are to come to Volterra at once, I have a need of your gift."