Before the Grey:


Chapter 18:

Amber


It was a couple of weeks later, in the shiny surface of a toaster that I noticed it. It was shocking at first, in my few years of death my body hadn't changed a bit and now my eyes were some odd shade of amber, the likes of which I had never seen. They were somewhat similar to the shade of gold I had only seen in Jasper's eyes.

I didn't know what to think, I was confused but I didn't think the change was a negative one, in fact I welcomed it. I wasn't offended by the odd looks-

"New contacts?"

"Oh yeah!" I'd say. "Red is just too stereo-typical." One of the many reasons I would come up with to explain it to all the people, but there were four no-bullshit men I couldn't lie to.

"What's up with you? You've been acting like a freak ever since we got here."

Just what the hell was I supposed to say to that? I barely understood what was happening to my own body. Changes were taking place inside my body that I could not rationally explain. God, I felt like a little girl going through puberty all over again- which is a bit rich considering I don't have any memories of being a little girl.

Things continued to get more and more tense in my little family. I began to wonder if it was possible to keep climbing, something had to happen, I just didn't know what that was exactly. It was hardly possible that the climate would plateau. Every day, every moment we spent in each other's company pushed us farther away from each other and closer to the edge. There was no way for me to guess what would come next. Those guys were the only vampires I had established bonds with besides a certain person… who was no longer a person but a bottle of ashes.

At the thought of Victoria I grimace, her memory seems to haunt me. Even in death her hold on me hasn't loosened, hasn't faded. Time and distance really are just illusions.

In the next room, Rick and Dan are in the studio as Aubrey works his magic on his guitar. I never really cared about how the band's differing musical roles come together to produce our singles and albums, it just does. I guess that's what Rick gets paid to worry about. It might sound like my head is just filled with hot air, but really I have to be honest with myself. The only reason I never bothered with the details is because I never planned on being the lead singer of this silly band- I never wanted it. I can't realistically see myself playing this game for too much longer.

To put it simply it is exhausting, we go to great pains to conceal our true selves. What were we thinking -commanding such attention to ourselves? We just want what we can't have, what we can't keep. More and more often than ever before, I find myself loathing the performance, questioning my actions.

I catch the unidentified flying object about an inch before it collides with my face. I look down at it curiously, and I have to say I'm a little confused as to why it – a rock- was thrown at me from across the room. Riley meets my 'what the hell?' look with a blank stare.

"What's up with you huh? I was talking to you for a whole five minutes before I noticed you weren't listening." With that he stands to peer out the window. Another few moments pass before he walks back to the sofa across from me and sits. "Aren't you even worried about Seth?"

"What ever for?" I'm not at all interested in Riley's newest piece of gossip. As the worry-wart of the group Riley has proven time and time again his penchant for melodrama. The dirty looks he sends me is scathing, threatening enough to put starch in my spine. I hold my breath, I don't really think he'll attack but I can't control my instincts.

"Oh come on! Not even you are this dense!" His voice gets a little louder with each word, his hands flutter around as if he doesn't know what to do with them. He looks down withdrawing into himself for a minute and leans forward to rest his elbows on his knees. He rubs his chin, his eyes still troubled.

I can never get used to his personality to tell you the truth, but that was one hell of a mood swing. Either he is seriously troubled, or he is angry about me not listening earlier. I know it's irritating to be ignored but it is even more irritating to be in the presence of someone who acts ridiculously bipolar.

"Do you miss it?" I say testing the waters. I am immediately relieved to see the threat has left his eyes.

"What?"

"The stubble." He chuckles a bit before shaking his head. Could have fooled me, the way he was rubbing his jaw was a little odd.

"Do I look like a beard kind of guy to you?" I know he was in his late twenties when he was changed but honestly he doesn't look a day past seventeen. The over all boyish vibes he unthinkingly sends makes it almost comical to think of him as a 'man'. His blue-black locks in desperate need of a trim and the cluster of freckles spread across the bridge of his nose -you'd have to be a vampire to see- pretty much kill the bad-ass message he tries to send. But then he is still a vampire, and unearthly beauty or not, a natural menace to society- and people can't help but feel it. Even if they can't know why.

"Does it bother you?" I look anywhere but his eyes, which are steadily growing more intense by the minute. Much more so than what is really within the boundaries of friendly conversation. My eyes settle on his left ear, because I decide that yes, ears are a very neutral part of the body. And therefore a good place to stare when I can't meet his eyes but don't what to let him in on that. "Does it affect you at all to know that the staff around here are dropping like fucking flies?"

His voice is so low and calm, his face is stony and when I meet his gaze what I find there scares me a bit. He isn't the Riley I know in this moment. He is a stranger, and a serious, grave stranger at that. This is someone I don't like at all, a someone who looks at me with a hint of contempt and slight apprehension. I search his face for a second before the creak of the door cracks open the silence.

Asher walks in and runs a hand down his face. He looks tired and jumpy. It is obvious he has just come from the recording room. Anyone would look that way if they had just escaped from the clutches of a malicious and volatile animal. Or in other words he is exhausted from walking on eggshells around Aubrey. It irritates me to no end –he is such a child! No one should have to worry about being shredded to pieces because he can't get a grip. It seems his weird alpha-male complex is almost as much of an issue as his enormous ego.

I stand and turn on the spiked heel of my boot and stride out the door. I let my anger fuel me, ride the wave of my pent-up frustration right out of the room. Even down the hall I here Asher say "What's with her?" and I chuckle after he says, "What's with you?" to Riley. I wish I knew. I'd never seen Riley like that before today.

I walk into the recording studio like I own the place –it's hard to not act like a brat when everyone acts like its perfectly fine to. Almost as hard as trying to stop my knees from getting weak when Aubrey meets my gaze. It's not as if I have told myself time and time again that I can't be attracted to him, unfortunately I am not in control of what my body is inordinately drawn to.

Even though he is behind a wall of glass, perched on a little wooden stool with his guitar in his lap he might as well be snapping at me with his teeth and foaming at the mouth. Even if he doesn't look the least bit angry at the moment, I know he isn't going to be very pleased about why I have come. Dan and Rick punch a few buttons on the sound machine-thingy before pulling off their headphones and starring at me quizzically.

I pull at the edge of my skirt nervously, and then stop because I don't want to encourage the looks they are giving me. "Excuse us gentleman." I say curtly before talking three long strides toward the sound-proof room and open the door. Here is the part where my stomach sinks a little and I begin to wring my hands and chew the hell out of my lip.

Aubrey gently slides off the headphones and sets his guitar to rest against the wood paneling of the wall. He faces me and crosses his arms, "To what do I owe-" He stops suddenly and tilts his head a bit. For a second he looks thoughtful, and he takes a step forward. "Why Bella I haven't seen you this frightened since, well, I've never seen you like this." My eyes are trained straight ahead, to his chest.

I am surprised when he places his hands on my shoulders, but I don't flinch and my breath doesn't catch in my throat and for that I am proud of myself. It seems to be the push I need because before I have second to think about my actions I look up into his startling ruby irises and say boldly, "Does it bother you?"

A single, dark brow raises high on his perfect forehead. I have no idea why I am repeating these same questions Riley asked. I guess I just don't have the guts to speak my mind. "Does it affect you at all to know the staff around here are dropping like…like-" His hand is suddenly cupped around my mouth welding my lips shut.

"A little privacy please?" He hisses to Dan and Rick, who swiftly remove their headphones and look any where but in our direction.

I run a hand through my hair, the reality of what I just did, or what I almost did, overwhelms me. I chuckle softy, "Oops." Aubrey looks down at me warily.

"Oops indeed."

I shove my hand in my pocket and pull out the lint. "Bella, what's this about?"

Holy crow, I'm choking. Figuratively, that is. Choking on my words, kicking myself for charging in here like I was about to conquer the world. "Well you see…"

Suddenly he is laughing, loudly. It catches me off guard and I nearly jump a foot of the ground. "Bella, if you wanted to apologize don't. I don't want to fight anymore, I just want things to go back to the way they were. Before we got here and things got…well, you know, tense." I stared at him. "And not just with you, but with Asher and Riley. They've been acting so impossible lately."

"I can't believe you just said that." It comes up like vomit –unstoppable and leaving me with a sour taste in my mouth.

"What do you mean?" I can't believe the way he looks. As if he's innocent!

"Well you-" I'm scrambling for words "You just act like your going to rip their throats out if they so much as blink wrong." Well so much for tact.

"What are you taking about? I don't act like that."

"Are you serious?" I snort. Aubrey's sunny mood seems to have flown out the window. A dark cloud passes over his eyes, his hands clench into fists. I take a step back, and he takes a step forward which considering his stride is much longer than mine, a single step puts him flush against me.

"Aubrey." I squeak afraid. I put some distance between us but it isn't nearly enough. I can feel the cool wall against my back it does nothing for my nerves.

"You don't see the way they look at you." He says slowly through gritted teeth. His hand ghosts up my side, to my neck, where his thumb rubs circles over my throat. "It's like they are waiting for the right moment. Coiled to spring like a predator, and you-" He chuckles softly, leaning in close his lips caress the shell of my ear.

I take back what I thought earlier, ears are defiantly not neutral territory. They are too close to the neck and jaw. Said body parts are too sensitive, especially when another person is breathing you in, and their lips barely touch you skin. Just barely touching, and yet generating more electricity than I can bear.

"Well you are like a sheep." Slightly insulted my hands fist in his shirt ready to push him away, but he apparently mistakes it for passion. My baleful glare is impossible to misinterpret however, and it makes him smirk. "Soft and unguarded."

"I don't understand." My brow furrows. I don't know whether to laugh or to cry because yes, a vampire and the word soft are a very odd pair indeed. I'm so confused at this point I consider giving up, Aubrey is impossible. He is a mystery, and more than a little insane.

"You don't have to –just as long as I have you... it is enough." Suddenly everything clicks. The reason he doesn't like the Cullens, the reason why he is hostile to Asher and Riley. It's because he thinks I like them more than him. He's jealous.

I want to cry. Part of me knows he is right, he should be worried. He should worry about my relationship with a tall, blond with golden eyes. The same man I haven't stopped thinking about since that night at the club and after when he taught me how to hunt, when he opened my eyes. "That's not a very good reason." I say stupidly. Aubrey's bangs tickle my cheek. I know his lips are seeking mine, I turn my head before he can kiss me. I can't look at him, instead I look up, past the glass and see the two human males staring at us unblinkingly.

I step away from Aubrey, he doesn't say a word, doesn't move. It's an impossible relief when I open the sound-proof door, the two men look startled though and I could just kick myself. I shouldn't have done that in front of Rick and Dan. I have probably just thoughtlessly, wounded Aubrey's pride on top of rejecting him and chiding him. How idiotic can one person be.

The two men however have a different reaction then mine. I can feel more than hear their hearts jump into high gear. I can smell their sweat, deliciously complimenting the wet pounding of their hearts. My legs carry me out of there as fast as they can before something unfortunate happens. I leave the door open a little for Aubrey, so he can breathe. I know he doesn't have my control, and he definitely has no qualms with taking lives.

I can't help but feel like I have made some progress. I did confront Aubrey after all, even if I wasn't as assertive as I would have liked. I can't be like him, I don't get a kick out of making others fear me. It wouldn't make me feel good inside to know people cower when I enter a room.

Riley and Asher are arguing furiously, when I pass the room. Their voices are lowered so much that I can barely hear them. It entices my curiosity, they sound like cats hissing at each other that way. "I know your there nosy."

I scoff, "Well you're the one whispering," I say as I push open the door. They are sitting on the two sofas placed facing each other in the middle of the room. They are both on the edge of their seats, looking slightly agitated. "Don't mind me, you guys can just go back to gossiping like schoolgirls." I suppress a giggle and walk over to the pool table.

"I'll have you know-!" Riley doesn't get to finish. Asher cuts him off smoothly and abruptly, earning a scathing glare for his trouble.

"Seth killed that girl." I line up all the balls in the little triangle and set the plain white one down on the green felt. "And he did it in front of two of her friends. Who, right about now, are probably lying face down at the bottom of a very large cliff." I line up the shot and send several balls rolling all over the table and into the pockets.

"We've all killed several girls, I fail to see how this one is any different."It's acidic and I hate to say something so insensitive but I'm a little jaded when it comes to the insatiable appetite of my band mates. I find myself wondering how he knows any of this.

"This can't continue, we have to be more careful. We don't want the higher ups to take notice." At the mention of the Volturi, my body tenses up and I can't stop the vision of the cloaks. Their very name is a threat, impending doom hanging over us like a cloud. Their divine judgment clings to us, and the others of our kind like a shadow.

"Well I don't know about you guys," Riley says, "But I don't want to be here when the Volturi show up." With that he walks to the door. Asher stares up at the ceiling silently.

So now it's a when and not an if. But then what else can one expect from a pessimist like Riley. I try to tell myself that it is unlikely that the Volturi will step in, but it's useless. I drop the pool queue, I am no longer in the mood for games.


A/N: I take back what i said in earlier chapters, when I said that the bella's band in this fic was like a cross between Evanescence and Paramore. I thought that back when i hadn't yet heard of L'arc-en-Ciel. Yepp, they are genius, go listen.