Chapter 1

Aro

Jane entered the throne room first followed by the Cullens and the human, Felix at the back. I could smell her long before she was in my sight, the scent enveloping me like few had before. I had seen her only in the young Cullen boy's memories, knowing soley of her beauty secondhand. As she clung to the boy, trying to shrink behind him, I could see his memories of her had done no justice to the sublime creature she was.

Isabella.

Having her so close to me at that moment, it was hard to keep myself seated between my brothers. However, more than the pull I felt to go to her, I felt the tension seeping out of every corner of the room. My eyes darted over to Alice, always happy to see her in Volterra but entirely too distracted by Isabella's heart hammering in her chest.

"Alice. How wonderful to see you!" She gave a polite smile but instinctively shifted toward Bella. Protective of her. "And wonderful to see young Isabella is alive and well." In an instant I was just before Edward, hand outstretched. I could see her flinch at my sudden closeness, trying to retreat further out of sight. I clasped his hand as he lifted it and focused in on the memory of her running to him beneath the clock tower only moments before. He had heard her cries for him, assuming it to be a hallucination of her just before his death, not opening his eyes to see her catapult herself into him. The feeling of her warm embrace crashing against him just as he stepped into the sunlight washed over me. The desperation in her voice as she pleaded with him to step back into the shadows, stirred a feeling in me I couldn't quite register.

"Che coraggio." I whispered, my eyes settling on the dark haired beauty, her heart pumping faster when our gaze met.

"I am curious," beginning as Edward hastily pulled his hand from mine, "as young Isabella is immune to your gifts, how she might fair against my own." I couldn't tear my eyes from hers while she flicked her gaze to Edward and then Alice, fear marking her delicate features. She seemed to get some kind of approval from the two, stepping from behind the boy toward me. I inhaled deeply as her sweet smell assaulted my senses, sending a jolt to my core, and listened to her sweet blood pump frantically through her veins.

"So nice to finally meet you in person, Isabella" I smiled warmly, wanting to ease the fear in her eyes. She didn't return the smile but furrowed her brows. No doubt having heard stories of me from the Cullens, I was aware she likely didn't have a pleasant opinion of me. Her pulse throbbed against the skin in her slender neck, and I suddenly felt myself wondering how it might taste. Shaking the thought quickly, I extended a hand to her as I had to Edward and she

tentatively placed her delicate hand in mine. I closed my eyes and prepared for the onslaught of memories that always accompanied another's touch, especially upon first meeting them.

Silence.

My eyes flew open, astonished. I concentrated harder, listening for anything while probing her eyes deeply. Nothing. "Fascinating." I dropped her hand begrudgingly, enjoying the warmth of her pliable flesh.

Then, curiosity struck as I glanced back at Jane, standing beside Marcus's throne, and she smiled sweetly at me.

"NO!" Edward roared as he read my intentions. He hardly stepped one foot forward before Jane threw him to the ground, writhing in pain. His cries reverberated fiercely around the room, his face contorted in agony underneath Jane's internal fire.

"Stop, please!" Bella's voice rang through the air, cutting through me. I raised a hand to Jane and Edward's cries ceased. He stood but warily looked at Bella. She scowled at me but braced herself. When I nodded to the small blonde, she focused her excited gaze on Bella's face.

Again, nothing.

A laugh escaped my lips before I could stop it. Jane's lip curled into a snarl but I was absolutely enthralled. "Magnifica!" How enchanting she was.

"You've had your fun, Aro." Edward growled, forcing me to tear my gaze from the young beauty. "And it's clear no laws have been broken, may I take Bella and leave now?"

"Are you sure of that, young Mr. Cullen?" I remarked in a polite voice. "Were you not aware that telling a human of our existence is a crime?" Another growl rose in his throat and I subdued the urge to rip it out of him. Don't forget your place boy, I thought, knowing he could hear the malice dripping in the words without speaking them aloud.

"I've seen her turned, Aro, I know it will happen." Alice interjected.

"Your visions are ever changing, dear Alice, and I've seen young Edward's intentions. He has no plans to change her and won't let any of you do it either. You and your family have left a human with knowledge of our kind. You both know that is inexcusable." I tisked lightly, hating to have to waste such talent with the two of them but knowing what had to be done. I almost felt my heart sink at the thought of hurting my dear friend Carlisle with this.

I wheeled around to return to my throne, flicking a wrist to Felix and the other guards and they surrounded the Cullens instantly.

"Aro, no, don't! You can't!" Isabella screeched. I halted in my steps. Can't? I thought. The sound of my name spoken from her lips pulled too many different feelings from my core. Her voice was angelic, but I hadn't heard a human use my name in such defiance in years, especially in my throne room. I pushed my anger aside, knowing she wasn't aware of her insolence in speaking to a king in such a way. The anguish in her voice pulled another emotion I again couldn't quite place. I raised a hand to halt the execution as I turned on my heels.

"Take me instead. Don't hurt them, please." She shrank against my gaze. I raised an eyebrow at her, not quite believing a human could have the courage to stand up and willingly sacrifice themself. I was a bit in awe of it. Slowly, I stalked toward her, hearing her heart increase with my every step.

"You would trade your life for theirs? Even after Edward left you so...broken?" She cringed, the wound of her heartbreak clearly still not healed.

"That doesn't matter. They don't deserve to die because of me." Her voice wavered but I could tell she was trying to stay strong.

"Bella, stop. You don't know what you're doing. I won't let you die. Don't be stupid." Felix had a strong grip around Edward's throat, Demetri held his arms behind his back, ready for my word. Before I knew what she was doing, Isabella rounded on Edward, glowering. I could feel the heat of her stare even from behind her.

"I am SICK of you telling me what I can and can't do, Edward! I am not going to let you die for me and I am definitely not going to let Alice die because of your stupidity!" She was practically screaming at him, and I was taken aback. In no memories I had seen of her from Edward nor Alice had I seen her quite like this. Every vision Alice had of her since their leaving had seen her only a shattered, broken mess, attempting to gather the shards of herself the Cullens left behind. Now, she was a fiery blaze of anger and I felt a wave of pride steal over me at her strength. "You left me and I picked up the pieces. You took my family from me, Edward, not just you. You made me love them and then took them away like I was nothing. I came here to save you because I love them, not because I love you. I'm not going to let you hurt your family by killing yourself over me." Edward's face was wracked with anguish at her words but I couldn't help but smile at her boldness. I had assumed she was still in love with the boy, but it seemed I might be wrong. How strange it was to not be able to peak behind the curtain of her mind. She finished and turned back to face me. Edward's head hung low, clearly hurt by her words.

"Please. Spare them." Her voice had lost its harsh tone, a pleading quality oozing her from her lips. I rather enjoyed hearing her beg.

Edward's head snapped up, no doubt hearing my last thought. I chuckled. "And what can you offer to the Volturi in return, young Isabella?" I thought I detected a shiver run through her when I lingered on her full name, but I couldn't be positive. She bit her lip, pondering, and I found myself again wondering what it would be like to taste her.

"Anything." She said finally. I smiled at her while trying to hide my darkest thoughts that word brought forth.

"I was hoping you would say that." I purred. She swallowed thickly.

"Aro, you know she can't stay here. She doesn't belong here." Edward growled.

"I beg to differ." I couldn't be sure why but I felt like she needed to stay. I wasn't entirely sure I could let her leave so soon.

"You can't have her!" Edward struggled in the grip of the guards, thrashing wildly to get to me.

"You will mind your place in the presence of your king, boy." I hissed. "Or I will be forced to remind you exactly why I am in control." I paused momentarily, wanting to rip the boy's head off myself, but refrained at the very least for the sake of dear Carlisle.

"You will leave her here. No harm shall come to her," Edward scoffed at my words. "And if you maintain your distance, no harm shall come to you or your family either." I noticed Alice out of the corner of my eye stare pointedly at Edward, no doubt convincing him to stay calm.

"Bella please, don't do this. He'll kill you." He pleaded with her.

"I have no intention of doing such a thing. I quite think she would make a fine addition to the Volturi guard." I noticed Isabella's eyes widened at my words.

"You would change me?" She sounded shocked.

"Bella-" Edward tried again

"Oh shut up! You made your choice to leave me and I'm making mine." She didn't even turn to look at him, simply speaking the words into the void, her eyes closed.

"Her father is the chief of police, you know he'll come looking for her if she disappears." There was a hint of desperation in his voice. Pleading. "At least let her come back with us to collect her affairs and say goodbye to Charlie. He'll go crazy without her." I could see her flinch at his words, clearly hurt at the thought of leaving her father. He was trying to get through to her. I had seen the sweet nature of their relationship through Edward's thoughts. She loved her father deeply and would likely appreciate the chance to say goodbye, a chance so few get. And as much as I loathed to admit, the boy was right. If they returned without her, it would raise a lot of suspicion.

However, after having her in my presence for even this short amount of time it was difficult to let her go.

"Alright, she may come back with you for the time being, but rest assured we will be along to collect her soon." I turned my attention fully back to the young human. I grabbed her hand once more to lightly brush my lips across her pale knuckles, barely keeping a smirk at bay when goosebumps surfaced up her arm. "And, Isabella, I look forward to meeting again soon."

Bella

The nights had been restless since my return to Forks, a month passing while I awaited whatever fate had in store. Charlie was furious at me for leaving and had grounded me of course. Which was fine with me anyway. I was avoiding everyone, especially Edward. Alice hadn't been to school in weeks and she was the only one I wanted to talk to. He'd been trying to convince me to run away with him but we both knew my feelings toward him hadn't changed and we both knew the Volturi couldn't be avoided for long. I still very much loved Edward and probably always would but I knew deep down he wasn't the one. I wanted to be friends with him, with the entire family, but I knew it would take time if it ever happened.

My favorite artist's most recent album was filling the room softly as I sat at my desk, willing myself to focus on my homework when I felt someone suddenly behind me. I smelled a sweet but slightly unfamiliar scent and I felt the hair on my neck raise up.

"Buona serata, cara mia." A deep voice purred just behind me eliciting a scream that hitched in my throat. I stood and spun around so fast I tripped over my feet and fell face forward, two strong arms reaching out immediately to catch me. Suddenly my face was mere inches from the intruder's chest, my hands reflexively catching myself on his suit jacket. I looked up into two bright red crimson eyes and exhaled sharply. Aro.

"Careful, young one." His voice washed over me, combining with his scent and invading every corner of my mind. I had to shake my head to focus my brain. I righted myself and stared at him, heart pounding. "It's nice to see you again, Isabella." As nervous as I had been about my future in recent weeks, I found myself happy to see him too. God, he looked good. His hair was half up in the same style I had seen before, an elegant black suit that clung to his form.

"Bells, you okay?" Charlie's voice floated up the stairs. "I thought I heard a scream."

"I'm fine, dad!" I called back trying to calm my squeaky voice. "I just tripped!" Aro chuckled softly as I heard Charlie settle back onto the couch and turn the tv back up.

He glanced around the room and I suddenly felt self-conscious for some reason. He looked so out of place in such a plain room.

He circled around my bedroom, prowling, and inspected a few things without speaking. I hadn't moved and he ended his short tour just behind me, his chest pressed lightly against my back. I shivered.

"I must say I've been thinking of you quite a bit since our first meeting, Isabella." My heart stuttered at his words.

"Oh?" I asked lamely.

"Indeed." His hands slid my hair from one side of my neck, exposing the skin that had been hidden beneath it. Slowly, he brushed his lips against my throat in a feather light touch, right where my pulse was. My skin burned beneath his cool touch and before I could stop myself I leaned back into him and crooked my head to the side to give him better access. A growl escaped him rumbling through me and I snapped myself back. My feet lurched forward as I pulled myself away quickly and whipped around to face him.

"What are you doing?" I said, wishing my words hadn't come out so breathless. He chuckled.

"I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself. You do smell quite delectable." I felt heat rising to my cheeks. His already black eyes turned to liquid onyx, a smirk framing his lips. "And I do so enjoy watching you blush." Just barely brushing his finger across my cheek sent a shiver down my spine and deepened the red in my face.

"I guess you're here to take me back to Italy." I said finally, unable to hide the sorrow creeping up my throat.

"Have you changed your mind, young one?" Genuine concern filled his voice, brows furrowing.

"No," As if I felt I had a choice in the matter. "I just…" I clamped my bottom lip between my teeth, willing myself not to cry just thinking about it. "I just hate the thought of leaving Charlie. I'm afraid he won't be able to handle it. I don't want to break his heart again." The last sentence came out as a whisper. I was afraid the tears stinging behind my eyelids would spill over when I felt a cold hand caress my cheek, one finger under my chin pulling my face up to look at the dark vampire in front of me. There was a tenderness in his eyes I'd never imagined seeing from someone like him, someone seen only as a ruthless leader by most.

"Do not cry, cara mia. I promise I'm going to make this all as easy as I possibly can." One of his arms snaked around my waist and pulled me a little closer to him, his tall but slender frame nearly pressed against mine.

"But, why?" Confusion crossed his features at my question. "Why would you want to make it easier for me?" I couldn't fathom why he hadn't just demanded I leave with him the second he appeared. Or just grabbed me without saying anything and left.

"Because I cannot bear to see the sorrow in your eyes if I can help it. It causes me great pain to see your divine face so full of hurt." His voice was low but filled with raw emotion. I hadn't had someone speak to me like that in a long time and it was hard to doubt the sincerity in his words. I leaned in closer to him expecting him to step away but his other arm was suddenly also around me, pulling me closer to him and capturing my lips softly. His mouth parted slightly, coaxing my own open, his tongue darting out across my bottom lip before deepening the kiss to explore my mouth further. I allowed him to lead the dance as I melted into his frame. His hand came up to the nape of my neck as I grasped the lapels of his black suit jacket, my mind a haze, the taste of him making me wild. He only pulled back when he sensed I needed to breathe, ending the moment with a chaste kiss on my cheek before I felt his arms let me go. I almost wished he hadn't, my knees felt a little unsteady.

Aro

I ran a hand through my hair, straightening and hoping to collect myself. It took no small amount of control to release her luscious lips. My body was trembling with the need to take her, to claim her.

"Please excuse my actions, Isabella. I should have better self control than that." I cursed myself silently, her sweet taste still lingering on my tongue. How hard it would be to not lean in again.

"That's okay." She said, panting slightly. Her face glowed brightly with the red tint in her cheeks. Her hands still rested on my chest and she hastily retreated when she realized, pulling a soft chuckle from me. She scowled slightly. "What is it with you vampires constantly trying to seduce humans?" Her eyes narrowed as a full force laugh bellowed from my chest.

"Well, darling, it is just too easy." She scoffed.

"Whatever." I suppressed the urge to grab her chin and scold her for rolling her eyes at me. "I'm sure a few people have resisted your charm at some point, king." The last word dripped with ice, her opinion of me as a leader clearly still colored by the Cullens. I grasped her waist quickly and pulled her very close, my lips almost touching her ear.

"I can assure you, carissima," I whispered, a low rumble running through me making her shiver. "I have bedded every woman, human or not, I have desired and never left one… unsatisfied." She caught her breath, stepping back from me once more.

"So you can actually.." She trailed off, blushing. "I mean vampires and humans can… and not get hurt?" She bit her bottom lip and my thumb came up to tug it out from between her teeth, trailing across the soft feel of it.

"It does take a lot of self control. Given our strength we must be careful as humans are rather frail. The blood lust is also much stronger, the arousal making you smell much, much more appealing." I let my voice become a purr, enjoying the way her heart accelerated with my words. "But with patience, and practice, it can be quite an enjoyable experience." She gulped.

"I take it young Edward never had the courage." She shook her head quickly and looked at the floor, tucking a strand of hair nervously behind her ear.

"God no!" She breathed. "He would barely kiss me. He made it seem nearly impossible, he was too afraid he would hurt me."

"And you never had sex with anyone else once you split up?" I asked frankly. Surely other males in town must have at least tried. She gaped at my forwardness.

"No, I've only ever kissed Edward." She still looked rather embarrassed. Well, not just Edward now, I thought gleefully. I almost growled, fighting every ounce of myself to not pull her into another kiss. How the young boy had wasted his time with her. A face like hers needed to contort with pleasure on a very regular basis. "Wait, why am I talking about this with you? And why do you care so much?"

"Curiosity." I said simply, knowing it was much more than that. She looked dubious but continued anyway.

"Would you really help make my transition easier?" Her voice softened.

"Of course. We can discuss your concerns and I will do my best to make you comfortable. I'm sure you have a lot of questions." She nodded. "Although if not I'm not mistaken, I do believe I interrupted your homework." With a taunting smile, I gestured to the desk she'd been sitting at when I arrived. She cocked her head in confusion.

"Am I going to school tomorrow? I kinda figured we'd be leaving tonight." As much as I longed to bring her back home with me I knew she needed time to adjust.

"I'll wait a few days to acclimate you, answer any questions you have and help ease your concerns about your father." She seemed to relax considerably.

"Thank you." Her breath whirled around me and I again had to force myself to not scoop her up in my arms. I turned toward the window intending to leave her alone to her work. "Wait, you're not staying for a bit?"

"I wouldn't want to distract you, cara mia." She fidgeted with the hem of her shirt, conflicted. "But if you wish for me to stay, I will. Any questions that come to your mind you need only ask." I sat silently in the chair in the far corner of her room, gesturing again to her neglected desk. She huffed but sat down and began to work again, pencil scribbling across the paper softly.

"So once I'm turned," She began after a while without looking back. "Will I live in Volterra as a guard?"

"Yes. Once we realize what your gifts have truly become as an immortal we will find a suitable place for you among the guard. The first year or so as a newborn you will be heavily restricted from leaving the grounds, as newborns are fairly hard to control. Once you've been acclimated to your new life, you'll be allotted much more freedom, given you still perform the duties expected of you."

She nodded in understanding but fell silent once more. I listened to the sounds of the tv downstairs and the soft snore emanating from her father's chest on the couch. I wondered to myself how his mind would sound in comparison to daughter's, if he would be as silent as her.

Finally she stood up and stretched her limbs, eventually sitting on the edge of her bed, facing me.

"Why are you being so nice to me?" She asked frankly.

"I am not the evil man the Cullens think me to be, Isabella." I responded, almost hurt. "I may only show the ruthless side of myself as king but I am not without compassion."

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that. I just meant that it seems… beneath you to deal with some insignificant human."

"You are far from insignificant, Isabella. I actually find that you haven't left my mind for a moment since you were in Italy." I hesitated opening up to her but the words seemed to spill out before I knew what I was saying. Her breath came out quicker, our eyes locked.

"I've thought about you a lot too." She admitted.

"Do you have any other questions tonight?" I moved myself to the edge of her bed with her, needing to be closer, to feel her warmth.

"I don't even know where to start." She paused. "Who will be the one to change me?"

"That's entirely up to you, my dear. If you have a request I'm sure we can make it happen." I left out the thought that I wanted it very much to be my venom that coursed through her. The idea made my mouth water heavily but I wanted to leave the choice to her.

"Will I ever be able to come back here?" She murmured, pulling her knees up to her chest, her back resting against the headboard.

"As I said, your first year you will need to keep close to keep accidents from happening but after that you can visit who you'd like as long as no humans gain knowledge of our existence." I sensed she was skirting around the question she wanted to ask.

"Will I ever be able to see Charlie again? Or will he think I'm dead?" Tears glittered her eyes, clinging to her long dark eyelashes like dew on the morning grass. I knew the typical procedure would be to fake her death, allowing her to move on with her new immortal life without raising suspicion of past loved ones. But I also knew I couldn't bear the look on her face if I told her that her father would soon be gone to her forever. I settled for prolonging the inevitable.

"I did have an idea about that." A glimmer of hope sparkled in her chocolate eyes, stirring a longing in the pit of my stomach. "I'm sure there's a way you could explain your absence through the summer at least. Some sort of internship or something." The joy that crossed her face then was like the sun on the brightest of mornings, blinding the horizon at every touch. God I wanted to be the one to make her feel that kind of joy every moment for the rest of my time on Earth. She suddenly flung herself at me, her arms wrapping around my neck and nuzzled her nose into my hair. I froze completely for a second, surprised, before returning her embrace. I savored the feel of her warm, pliable body against me.

"Thank you, Aro." She sniffled, pulling back.

"You should get some sleep, young one." She nodded but opened her mouth to speak before closing it again. "What is it?"

"Well.. I was hoping maybe you'd stay a while longer." As if I could resist. So I sat back on the bed, my back now resting against the headboard and she lay down next to me after turning off the light. We talked in the dark for a while before she drifted off, her breathing getting slower until a very light snore came from her. Shortly after she had stilled she started to jostle in her sleep. She rolled onto her side, flung her arms across my lap and nuzzled up to my leg. Contentment wasn't a feeling I'd felt in a long while but it settled into my mind like a fog. Still, I was considering disentangling myself and getting up to leave when the softest sound fell from her lips. I stilled, trying to listen intently. Surely I had misheard. But as I sat still a moment longer it happened again. She rustled lightly in her sleep, before ever so quietly whispering a name. My name.

"Aro." She spoke the word like a prayer, like a sacred thing to be cherished. I closed my eyes and allowed the feeling to wash over me in waves crashing down around every barrier I'd ever put up against the world. With one word, my world shifted.