Disclaimer: Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer and The Thorn Birds is the work of the late Colleen McCullough. Original characters/subplots are mine. For purposes of this story, a few decades have been lopped off The Thorn Birds. Fear not, those characters lost in the cut have been incorporated into other characters. And that's about all I can say without spilling the beans.
Il Profumo del Mio Paradiso
Book 1 - Aro
Campo Santo Teutonico
Aro Cardinal Volterà cloaked himself amid the shadows cast by the ancient cloister that allowed entry into the small cemetery. The fierce Roman summer arrived early this year: the stifling heat baking the bricks of the Campo's walls to such a degree that the statuary and palm trees of the graveyard seemed to be undulating toward him in a vulgar dance—their shimmering sways taunting him to step out of the cool darkness and into the blinding light. Aro closed his eyes to the vision before him, stilling the urge to reveal himself too soon.
Aspetta, Aro! Pazienza! Wait, Aro! Patience!
He knew to wait for the proper moment to act as timing was the most important tool in any seduction. Ill-timed words or actions, regardless of any subtle nuance, lost their power to persuade. And without persuasion, there could be no seduction, and if a seduction failed, there would be no surrender of power.
His hands clenched in greed—oh, how he wanted this man's surrender.
Nothing was more exquisite to Aro than the admission of a shamefully dark secret, the acknowledgment of an obscenity, a base behavior yielded to him with complete confidence and trust. Aro suppressed a contemptuous sigh. Such naive fools! Did they really believe that he would not use their actions against them? That he would not take that delicious power for himself? These were not sins offered by a penitent under the Seal of Confession; they were secrets given up in a seduction, in a complete surrender—to him.
Aro paused and allowed a brief shudder of delight to course through him at the thought of this penitent's submission … of the consummate surrender of this man.
Pazienza, Aro, pazienza! Patience, Aro, Patience!
Now in his sixty-sixth year, the old cardinal long ago had perfected his ability to find weakness and exploit it to his purpose. Aro understood human nature all too well—even those who seemingly radiated only goodness and light had some element of darkness hidden away, and Aro Volterà was nothing short of masterful in seducing the darkest of secrets from his subjects. How else would a person such as himself, a peasant by birth, with his stunted height and hawkish features, have achieved such stature and power in life? Was he not wearing the red biretta bestowed upon him by a grateful Church, in acknowledgment of his talents? Did she not reward his financial acumen with a seat on the board of the Vatican Bank?
Aro was forced to press his fingers to his mouth, smothering the chortle of glee that threatened to escape his lips—si, il Gambero had done quite well for himself.
The old cardinal's thoughts returned to the object of his current seduction. Once again, and not without some difficulty, Aro had to compose himself; his lack of control was uncharacteristic but given the subject, not entirely unexpected. Just the thought of this singular man had caused Aro's mouth to water.
The air was increasingly close, and the humidity was just short of suffocation. He forced himself to focus on the task at hand. What was a bit of suffering the day's heat when compared to the possibility—no, certainty—of claiming such an ultimately exquisite reward? Aro smiled to himself. Just the thought of a beautiful and broken Edward Masen, supplicant, giving him entry into the darkest corners of his soul, shamefully whispering secrets to him that would shock even the most seasoned of confessors, sent shivers of delight down his truncated spine.
Arranging his features into a pious and benevolent mask, Aro stepped from the shadows and descended into the Campo, gliding towards the Archbishop of Sydney.
A/N: This story would have not been written had it not been for the Babies at the Border compilation, so many thanks to Jeannie Boom and Consuelo Hernandez. The beautiful artwork is the creation of IpsitaC77 and Pa Trizia 88. My pre-readers are shouldbecleaning and LayAtHomeMom. Hadley Hemingway is my beta. I am deeply humbled that these wonderful women came on board to work with me-my gratitude towards them holds no bounds. Thank you, ladies. All mistakaes are mine.