Chapter One

The Meeting of the Mates

Aro's POV

There he sits, in his miasma of grief, for another pointless day of existence without his beloved Didyme. Through a dense veil of numbness, he finally senses my increasingly irritated attempts to get his attention. "Yes, Aro, what is it you wish from me?" Marcus drones dully.

"Marcus, pay attention," I snap. "Young Edward has found his Isabella alive and well. Dear Alice misinterpreted her vision and has brought her to us. Unfortunately, she is still human and we need to make a deci-."

"What decision? They broke the law. Just kill them all and be done with it," interrupts Caius with his signature impatience.

"Peace, Brother Caius," I smoothly respond. "We must be seen as just and impartial. First, we will gather the facts, then pass judgement fairly."

"What facts? He introduced this piece of human filth to our world and left her alive with the forbidden knowledge. I don't care if it upsets your oh so dear friend Carlisle Cullen. The law is the law. Finish this farce and let me resume my day," Caius growls.

I sternly replied, "The law IS the law. Young Edward is claiming Isabella as his mate. Of course, she will need to be changed if this is true. As YOU KNOW CAIUS, a human mate may be informed before the change takes place. If you had a mate, you would understand his attachment to her."

"Oh yes," rejoins a sarcastic Caius. "His attachment was so deep he abandoned her for months and left not only her town and country but her continent. A very deep attachment indeed! As for a mate, I have a wife who allows me my outside interests and am quite content with my lot."

"True, it is very rare for a mate to fight the bond. Nonetheless, it does occur albeit usually when the vampire has a prior attachment to a long-standing companion or his human wife. Regardless, the bond ultimately will prevail," I insist.

I fume silently. Really, can't Caius overcome his disdain for humans and see the wonderful possibility of gaining two gifted guard members? For Edward's indiscretion, a sentence of one hundred years service commitment in the guard was reasonable. Make that two hundred years. Mates can't live apart, conveniently, making Isabella and her probable gift of a shield available for as long as Edward's sentence. I am positively giddy with excitement. My biggest dilemma is whether we should sentence Alice and gain her gift as well. Her mate, the renowned warrior, Jasper Whitlock Hale would be a bonus unless he should choose to fight the sentence. Before I make an irreversible fatal error, I need to consider the ramifications of forcing Alice Cullen into the guard. Oh well, we should still come out with two gifted members without the seer.

"But let us put first things first. Marcus if you would please read Isabella and Edward's bonds," I calmly request.

Marcus POV

Wearily, I brought my gift to bear upon the human and her hapless vampire, knowing the penny colored hair boy could not be her mate. Yes, the bond can be resisted but for a few days or at most a week. I suppose an exceedingly stubborn person could hold out for a month before returning to his or her mate. The pain of separation combined with the usual inability to harm one's mate made mating bonds gloriously immutable.

Oh my, this is going to rock the foundations of the castle. Hastily, I press my hand into Aro's so he has a moment to prepare before I speak.

"Isabella is truly not the mate of Edward Cullen. His bond to her is the sickly green of predator to prey. It is strong because she is his La Tua Cantante, his singer. Combining the intrigue of her silent mind, the singer's pull, and his inexperience with women, he has been confused. While lust can be a component of bloodlust, it is not indicative of a mating bond. Her bond to him is a dark gray, tattered, and shredded bond of disappointed and broken love. Isabella truly loved him before he abandoned her with such cruelty; indeed she loved the entire Cullen family. He was never her mate." I declare authoritatively though my dead heart breaks for the pain she has endured. I rejoice that soon she will have better news.

Aro's POV

The guard has wisely kept them separate. I watch as Edward explodes and attempts to grab her and run. Felix and Demetri quickly subdue him on the floor before us. He is snarling, drooling venom, and screaming no over and over. In this moment, he resembles a newborn or a human toddler throwing a tantrum. I motion to Alec to cover Edward with his gift and blessed silence reigns again after a minute. I look at the girl as she stands pale, shaking, and tearful. She must realize she has put her heart and life in jeopardy for a vampire who consciously or unconsciously never saw her as other than a meal.

"Wonderful! We're done and I am out of here. Do you want me to drain her on my way out?" offers Caius with a nasty smirk. I glare at him for upsetting her further.

"Dearest Isabella," I comfort my new unknowing sister. "I am sure Caius apologizes for the poor attempt at a joke, but do not despair. While I grieve for your pain and suffering inflicted by Cullen and promise he will be punished, he has been the instrument for you reaching the home of your true mate."

Her tear filled eyes fasten upon me as a hundred questions flash across her face when she begins to take in the faces of the shocked vampires surrounding her. I take note of the unattached male guard members not so subtle assessment of her graceful curves, beautiful mahogany hair, and heart shaped face with her expressive eyes, elegant nose, and full lips. Even before her transformation, she is beautiful. They are undoubtedly imagining having her as a very desirable mate; they are in for a disappointment. I catch Jane's eye to alert her that I may need her services.

"Dearest sister, Marcus found that you have a mate's bond to your true mate. I know this will surprise you, but your true mate is none other than my brother Caius," I gently state as I rip the proverbial band aid off.

"WHAT! NO! NO! NO! HELL NO. I.AM.NOT.MATED.TO.FOOD. Let me at her and I'll drain her myself," roars Caius as he begins to lunge toward my new sister. I frantically nod to Jane and she complies. Second toddler is down. I motion for Jane to stop and Felix to stand ready.

"Caius, Caius, CAIUS! Calm down and behave yourself or I will have Jane start up again. I know this is a shock, but I remind you that we ALL were human once upon a time. Isabella will be a magnificent and almost certainly very gifted vampire. You are very fortunate to find your true mate after these millennia. I assure you she will bring you much joy and happiness. Marcus would love to have his true mate again and here you are throwing a childish fit over the greatest gift fate can offer," I remonstrate.

While I have been dealing with the latest toddler, Marcus has taken Isabella into his care as he offers his handkerchief, guides her to sit on his throne, and calls for beverages and human food. Her shaking is down to slight tremors and the crying has stopped; she still looks shell shocked. Ah well, it is a lot for a human to take in before Caius' unhelpful attitude and actions added further stress.

Bella's POV

This cannot be real. I am having a nightmare. Yes, a nightmare. I am going to wakeup now and go see the pack; maybe we can cliff dive or ride motorcycles if Embry will loan me his spare. This is not real. The platinum blonde king currently foaming at the mouth cannot be my mate. Ouch. Apparently pinching myself in a dream still hurts. I take a deep breath and lift my head. The scent of old books and ink hit my nose as I find two very kind red eyes anxiously looking at me. Marcus gives me a tiny uncomfortable smile.

"Cara take slow deep breaths. There, there. You will be fine. No one will hurt you. You are a treasured sister and ma... You are treasured by us all and I'm sure Caius will soon get over the shock and realize your importance to him. Do forgive him as he has been alone for over two millennia. It has been a great shock to him," he soothes.

Riiight. No one will hurt me other than my mate who offered to have me for lunch and not in a good way. A horrible thought occurs to me. I send a begging look at this gentle dark haired man.

"Marcus am I going to have to be alone with him anytime soon?" I ask timorously. All those things I wanted to do with Edward seem terrifying right now with Caius hating me so much. He'll probably just drain me. Six months ago, I wouldn't have minded; I have plans for college and life now. I so don't want to die, nor do I wish to spend eternity with a mate who hates me. Plus he's not attractive to me other than in the usual all vampires alluring sense. If he's my mate, shouldn't I feel something, or it could be his overwhelming interest in killing me? Yeah, wanting me dead is a big turn off.

"No Cara," Marcus assures me. "He won't be allowed to be near you until he calms down. Usually a mate can't hurt their mate, but I can only imagine the shock after being alone all these centuries is too much for him. He'll soon realize what a gift you are to him and feel so sorrowful and guilty for having scared you."

"Carlisle told me true mates know instantly and then it's pretty much love at first sight. No offense meant, but is it possible you are wrong? I mean I'm human and mostly all I feel is fear, and he clearly didn't experience any kind of urge to protect me. Carlisle said a mate will give up his or her life to save the other." I looked up at Marcus with my trepidation showing.

"I am able to read bonds of immortals and mortals. Under usual circumstances, Carlisle is correct. There have been rare exceptions; the handful Aro has come across looking through the various minds have been vampires who have had spouses or companions before the true mate arrived on the scene. The bond always prevails although there may be a brief delay. Caius does have a wife, Athenadora. They have been married for over fifteen hundred years. It was never a love match, and they both have had multiple relationships with others. Aro had insisted Caius needed a queen to help our image as a stable regime, and conveniently Athena wanted the status and wealth that came with being Caius' wife. There are entire months that they never see each other and when they do, it is because of an official function. If they share a bed, it completely due to convenience. Otherwise he shares his favors as his whims desires.

Because you are still human, the bond pull will be much weaker. If you combine his unwillingness, your humanity, and your understandable caution following the heartbreak from Edward Cullen, it makes sense that this bonding will take a bit longer than usual to settle," Marcus reassured me.

"Whoa - Stop the music. Wife, fifteen hundred years! If the fiftieth anniversary is gold, what is fifteen hundred. I'm a home wrecker! Wait, not faithful to her. So Marcus, I'm getting a mate who hates me, is married, and a cheater. Reincarnation must be true because how else could I deserve such a mate. Was I Elizabeth Bathory in a previous life? I must have been some kind of horrible person to deserve this cosmic screw-up. A mate is a gift? Where is the return counter? Would you treat your mate that way? Would you offer to kill her before and after you found out she was your mate?" I knew I was being reckless, but can anyone blame me. I stopped, realizing Marcus' eyes held an unfathomable pain.

"Oh Marcus, I'm so sorry; I don't mean to hurt your feelings. What did I say? I mean how did I hurt you because I can see the pain in your eyes. You lost someone didn't you? I am sorry, so very sorry. Here I am complaining and you feel such loss."

He gently squeezes my shoulder and assures "Don't worry Cara because it is a centuries old pain. My mate, Didyme, was killed by werewolves allied with the Romanians when we first came into power. I am used to the pain and can certainly understand your dismay at being mated to Caius. Just remember that once you're a vampire, the pull will be stronger for both of you and Caius' issue with your humanity will be moot. From your savaged bonds as well as your existing bonds to your father and friends, I can see you are capable of bearing the deepest and most profound love for your mate. Caius is very fortunate man. Come I will take you to my wing and show you your new room. You will stay with me and under my protection until you are ready to be Caius' mate. Unless you have objections, I'll be the one to change you and put you under my protection; I will not allow anyone to harm you."

With one last look at Caius' rage filled face, I turn and follow Marcus out the small door behind the thrones and into my new world.

Caius POV

No. Hell no. Double no. Triple no. One Hundred times hell no. Not ever happening. My mate will be immortal, strong, sexy, beautiful, and most importantly not a loser from the idiot Edward Cullen's reject pile. What was Marcus thinking? Clearly he is demented from centuries of grief. Even that skank, Athenadora, is better. I'll show them 'mates'.

Author's Note

La Tua Cantante - Term for human whose blood especially 'sings' to a particular vampire making the human the perfect meal for the vampire.

Cara - Italian for Dear One