This story is inspired by the 2022 film "The Invitation".
Plot: Isabella Swan a struggling college student wrestles with a shit hospitality job, poor relationships and not knowing what she wants to do in life. Her father died early and her mother passed away recently. A new DNA company reveals long lost family with ties to rich Italy, hesitant, Bella reluctantly agrees to meet them and her world is forever changed.
Chapter 1: Volterra
"Beef Carpaccio?" Bella said offering the platter of food to the gathered elites at what was yet, another catering job for another multi-million-dollar company that existed in NYC. Having emptied her tray of carpaccio, eating a few but mostly distributing most of the tray to the guests, she made her way back to the kitchen to grab another tray. This carried on for most of the evening, some of the guests even gave her tips.
"Ugh, really," Bella rolled her eyes as she looked at a $20 bill which had a phone number on it. "Call me – Mike" is what it read.
"You gonna call him?" Angela, her best friend since high school who had moved to New York with her asked.
"Definitely not, you know me Ang," Bella replied, Angela proceeded to swap the number bill with her own blank $20.
"Well then I might call him," she said while Bella gave her a look.
"What, beggars can't be choosers," she said mockingly offended, the two girls then proceeded to giggle with each other.
"You know, I pay you to work not gab. I have many girls who would love to work in your place," Tyler, the GM of the hotel said not even looking up from his clipboard.
"Sorry boss," Angela said, Bella rolled her eyes and muttered a 'sorry' before they went back to packing up.
"Oh Bells! I swiped us a Swag bag! There's a DNA test and Prosecco!" Angela said excited handing the bag to Bella.
"Gee thanks!" she said sarcastically.
Bella lived in a small studio apartment on Manhattan Island, it was cosy and filled with memories. The pictures on her chest of draws contained pictures of her mother and father when she was young, Charlie died when she was 5, he was killed in a robbery and the culprit had never been found. Her mother, Renee passed away from cancer last year.
After taking a shower, Bella grabbed her phone and opened up her saved voice memos. Putting her air pods in she pressed play and her mother's voice filled her ears.
'Hello my love, treatments going well. You know how it is, the nurses are all lovely like usual though I'm pretty sure Melissa cheated when we were playing cards earlier. I hope that school and work is going well, everyone always praises the painting you made for me to put in this dingy hospital room. Anyways, I don't want to keep you for much longer, you need your rest. I love you sweetheart.'
Melancholy, that's what Bella felt. Sure she had Angela, but she didn't have any other friends currently, even amongst her college classes. And at her workplace, well again only Angela. However, she was feeling very alone and without family and that sucked. The swag bag caught her eye, standing on the kitchen table. "What the hell" Bella muttered, she slipped out of bed and went over to the bag, digging out the small bottle of Prosecco and the DNA test. Following the instructions, she took the test, sealed it and put it in the envelope provided. She then popped open the prosecco and began to drink.
Life had been busy for Bella and she almost forgot about the DNA test entirely until she was checking her emails for her pay slip a few weeks later. She couldn't believe her eyes when the email stated she had living cousins.
"Edward Cullen, Emmett Cullen, Jasper Cullen, huh." Bella said in disbelief. She hovered over the + sign before clicking it a few moments later.
The family genealogy popped up tracing back to Bella's great grandmother who is connected with this "Cullen" family. A few moments later an instant message popped up from Edward.
"Hello my American Cousin! It is absolutely thrilling to connect with you! We had absolutely no idea we had another one of us over the lake. I'm in New York for a business trip and have some time if you'd like to meetup!". She left the message unreplied while she went to class but met up with Angela after class and showed her.
"Bella! This is amazing! You should definitely go! I mean this is what you wanted right?" she was overly excited.
"I don't know what I wanted, but like, the whole family is Italian and I hate pasta," Bella replied.
"Bella, give them a chance. Maybe you'll find the family you always wished for," Angela said, Bella couldn't argue with that point, she had no family left but she desperately wanted some. I mean, what 23 yr old who doesn't have parents anymore wouldn't want a family to support them while they have no idea what to do.
"Alright fine, I'll meet him," Bella sighed, as she typed a reply.
Eleven Maddison Park, that was the restaurant that Edward had invited her to. She had worn her best dress that she could afford and was nervous about the entire interaction she was about to have. Edward had bronze hair, tanned olive skin, a square jawline and hazel eyes. He was dressed in a business suit and stood up rushing over to pull out a seat for her.
"Isabella, it's so great to meet you!" he was… overly enthusiastic.
"Bella, please. It's nice to meet you too Edward," she said politely, taking the offered seat and then being given the menu by the waiter, she balked at the price. Edward seeing the expression chuckled.
"Don't worry about the price, I'm the one who invited you. I work in real estate you see, so don't worry. Order whatever you feel like," he said nonchalantly.
"So, tell me everything about you," he said, pouring both of them a glass of what she presumed was really expensive Italian wine.
They spent the next few hours talking to each other about themselves, Bella asked about Edward's brothers and his life while he asked about her own. They got along and by the end Bella felt very comfortable and even felt the kinship that she sorely missed.
"Okay, so I know this may be forward but the family is gathering for a family friends' wedding, it is the event of the century happening in Volterra, Italy. I've also told everyone about you and we would be positively thrilled to have you join us," he said.
"Oh, I would love to but I can't. I have to work…"
"Don't worry about it, all expenses will be covered. You just have to show up! Plus, Great Uncle Lorenzo is old and would be thrilled to meet you in his old age. You can think about it, just let me know before Monday," Edward said as he helped Bella into the taxi and gave cash to the driver.
Later that night Bella was on a facetime call with Angela who had asked about how the dinner went. Bella told her all about Edward, what he did for work and his upbringing and how he was overly enthusiastic about meeting her and had invited her to meet the family at the wedding of a supposed rich couple.
"Bella, it's an all-expenses paid trip to Italy, you're an artist. Why would you turn down going to the home of art! And sure, you don't like Pasta but you love Pizza and ice cream! Come on!" Angela replied, Bella shook her head her friend was way too excited about her going on this trip.
"Not to mention, Italian Men! Or Women in your case," Angela smirked and Bella rolled her eyes at her antics.
"If you don't go, I will disown you as your best friend. You will be regulated to friend and best friend will go to Mikayla or Lauren," Angela threatened half-heartedly.
"Alright fine! I'll go!" Bella conceded, picking up her phone and shooting Edward a text 'I'm in'.
First class, that motherfucker had flown her in first class all the way to Italy. It's official, flying by economy was officially ruined for her now. The seats, the meals, the extra space. Wow. When she got off the plant she was met with the warmth of the European sun, she collected her bags from the carousel and made her way to the exit. Edward was waiting with a chauffer on hand.
"How was your flight?" he asked as he approached, the chauffer took her bags from her and carried them.
"Well, you've officially ruined flying for me. First class is amazing," Bella replied giving Edward a hug before he led her to their car.
The drive from the airport to Volterra was a long one, however, she spent it looking at the beautiful countryside and talking with Edward.
"Emmett and Jasper are thrilled to meet you as are the rest of the family. Unfortunately, you won't get to meet our wives or girlfriends, this event is strictly blood family only. But they will be looking forward to meeting you another time!" he said, that didn't overly bother her I mean she was invited to a private family event.
"So, who's wedding are we attending?" she asked.
"Oh, just a rich family friends, it's being hosted by the Volturi family. They're the oldest family in Italy, some even argue the entire world. My family, the Cullen's have handled their real estate for centuries," Edward deflected, Bella raised an eyebrow but didn't question any further as an old grand castle came into view.
Bella was gobsmacked as the car took a turn into the castle grounds themselves coming to a stop outside the entrance where a van had pulled up and maids were in the process of moving expensive glassware into the castle. She got out of the car with help from Edward while the chauffer got her bags out, she retrieved the painting she had done as a gift for the bride and groom and her bag and slung it over her back.
"Well, I'm going to try and find our hostess, why won't you stay here for a few moments," Edward said heading into the castle, Bella just nodded dumbly spinning around the marvel at the beautiful architecture of the castle. It looks old but well kept.
Bella gasped as she accidentally backed into two maids who were carrying champagne glasses, apologising profusely she bent down to start helping them clean up.
"I'm so sorry about that," she apologised.
"It's okay Miss, you don't need to help," the maid replied with a warm smile, Bella kept helping anyways.
"If I don't then who will right," Bella responded.
Moments later a large man appeared, dressed in a fine suit. He appeared to be a picture of physique and very strong, his height was also intimidating. He frowned at the maids.
"What do you girls think you are doing? You fools," he scolded the maids.
"Hey dude! Back off, it wasn't their fault it was mine. Give them a break," Bella responded with an almost snarl, something she always wanted to say to Tyler.
"Be as it may, we have important guests coming today and thus everything has to be perfect," the man replied gruffly.
"That's enough Felix, I believe this is one of those important guests and she is taking responsibility for the… accident," the voice who spoke was soft and firm, Bella visibly swallowed as a gorgeous, blonde haired Italian woman approached. She was wearing a form fitting elegant dress with matching heels and sparkling diamond earrings with blood stones in the centre.
"I'm sorry Milady," Felix, the butler, bowed as the woman approached and stood in front of Bella, a head taller and far more breathtaking.
"You must be Isabella, I've heard so much about you. I'm Sulpicia Volturi, it's a… pleasure to meet you," the woman picked up Bella's hand and brought it do her ruby lips giving it a gentle kiss sending butterflies through Bella's stomach.
"B-Bella, please… he needs to apologise," Bella stammered as she struggled to control herself.
"Very well, Felix, apologise to the lady," Sulpicia said, the man immediately stood at attention and despite concealing his glare, Bella could see he was displeased.
"My sincerest apologies Miss Isabella Cullen," he said.
"Ah! I see you've met the lady of the house. Bella, this is my friend Sulpicia and the hostess of the wedding," Edward rounded the corner seeing them, said as he approached.
"Edward, how charming to see you again. Welcome to Volterra castle Bella, make yourself at home. I have some things to take care of, Felix will get you sorted. Until later, Bella," Sulpicia seemed to purr as she turned to leave, taking a few moments to say something to Felix who immediately nodded before approaching and leading her inside.
"While the castle can be confusing, you will find that most places you have access to Miss Cullen. That is, except the library, it is currently being renovated so you won't be able to go into there. The guest rooms are on this side of the castle, this is Heidi, she will be your personal maid for the duration of your stay. If you need anything, she will do it for you," Felix said, Heidi was another young Italian woman wearing similar robes to that of Felix, she was elegantly dressed with her hair up and porcelain skin.
"It's a pleasure to serve you Milady," Heidi bowed before taking Bella's suitcase from Felix and showing her into the room, as soon as Bella saw her room she was shocked by its size. The entire room was as big as her studio apartment with the grand four-poster bed taking up almost half of the room itself. The room was painted beautifully with intricate patterns of trees and flowers. Bella touched the curtains and felt the fabric before opening them, she frowned at the spikes and bars on the outside of the window.
"What's with the spikes?" she asked.
"The bats can sometimes be very violent at night, took a poor girl's eye out a few decades ago. They've been like that ever since," Heidi explained as she unpacked Bella's suitcase putting things into the provided chest of drawers and walk in wardrobe.
"What's this?" Bella asked amused, picking up a little nesting doll which was intricately painted. She put down the painting she had done on the chair next to the table as she looked at the dolls.
"They're a gift from the maids of honour," Heidi explained.
"Two maids of honour? Isn't there usually just one?" Bella asked.
"In this wedding, yes there are two. Don't fret though," Heidi said with a small smile.
"If you need anything, just let me know. Ring that bell just there and I'll be with you in moments. Give me a shout if you need anything," Heidi bowed before leaving the room, Bella looked around her room, much larger than her entire home. She then flopped down on the bed and took out her phone to call Angela.
"Giiiiirl, how was your flight? Tell me everything! Give me a full tour of your room!" Angela said excited.
"Angela! My fucking room is larger than my house! And I'm staying in a fucking castle, a castle!" Bella exclaimed excitedly, showing her friend around the room who 'oohed' and 'ahed' in awe as she was shown around.
"And what about the owner of the castle! What are they like?" Angela asked, a blushed crept up Bella's face and Angela noticed it straight away.
"Oh my god, who is she!" Angela said, coming close to the screen.
"Her name is Sulpicia Volturi of the Volturi family, she's the lady of the castle," Bella squeaked out.
"Oh my god that is amazing, is she gorgeous! Show me a picture of her! Are you two having a drink? Is she Single? Details Bella! Give me details!" Angela pressed.
And so Bella spent the afternoon telling Angela about her brief interaction with Sulpicia Volturi, a while later Heidi brought her food and some wine for dinner, then Bella changed into her tracksuit and a sports bra to go for an evening jog, something she had been doing every day since her mother passed. It helped her keep the demons out.
The atmosphere of the grounds at night were entirely different that they were during the day, it felt, cold and daunting. She stopped for a few moments to breathe and rest when she noticed an old stone house with closed doors through the trees. She frowned as the mist seemed to cover it briefly before she shrugged and headed back into the house.
A quick shower and a cup of tea sent Bella to sleep almost instantly, the next day was the Cullen family reunion and she would be meeting the rest of the family.