DISCLAIMER: The characters do not belong to me…they are all the creations of the wonderful Stephenie Meyer.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is the third installment of Bella's life as a vampire. The first is titled The Fairytale Continues and the second is My First Year as a Cullen. Bella's second year starts off with her standing before Aro and the Volturi with her family.
I'll update as much as I can, but this is still very much a work in progress. You guys have been so great and loyal and I don't want to risk giving you guys crappy chapters. So unlike Life's Choices, this probably only ever be a chapter a day. I really hope you all like it as much as First Year. The POVs will alternate between Edward and Bella and the letter after the chapter number indicates the POV. You guys are awesome and I appreciate you reading and reviewing like you do! I hope you all find this a worthy sequel.
We sat in silence until the doorbell rang. We quickly stood. Edward was on my right and Carlisle on my left, both holding tightly to my hands. The rest of the family stood to our side and behind us, within arms reach.
"Come in," Carlisle called.
The door was opened by someone I didn't recognize. Two other strangers entered the room, eyeing us closely. They stepped aside and Aro entered the room.
"Carlisle! How wonderful to see you!" Aro called, raising a hand in a flourish movement.
"Aro," Carlisle nodded. "Welcome to our home."
Jane, Alec, Felix and Demetri filed in next. Demetri closed the door and leaned against it.
"The beautiful Bella! Even more lovely than when I last saw you in Demetri's mind," Aro said, taking a step closer.
Carlisle looked down at me. "Bella, this is my friend Aro that I was telling you about."
I turned my attention to Aro, saying my final prayer for everything to turn out well and for everyone to be safe. "Hello."
"Do not fear me, child," Aro said, stepping closer.
I gripped Edward's hand tighter than I ever had dared to before. My stomach was doing flips and for the first time since becoming a vampire, I had the urge to throw up. I thought of the man standing next to me and took courage from his love and devotion to me. He would not let anything happen to me, just as I would protect him.
I wasn't afraid of Aro … I was afraid of what he could order his guard to do to my family. I moved closer into Edward's side. "I don't like strangers."
"Forgive me," Aro replied, bowing slightly. "Of course you would not remember meeting me. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Aro of the Volturi from Volterra, Italy." He repeated the slight bow.
"What brings you so far from home?" Carlisle asked.
"I missed you, old friend," Aro said, smiling. His smiles always looked more like upside down screams. "I wanted to see this family of yours for myself. Edward's memories were so strong and passionate regarding all of you. I wanted to see for myself what all the fuss was about." He turned his gaze to me once more. "I am so very happy to see you as one of us, Bella." He focused on Carlisle again. "Does she have a power?"
"She still has the ability to block Edward and Demetri," Carlisle answered. "We have observed no other changes in her."
"May I?" Aro asked, holding his hand out toward me.
I looked up to Edward. His jaw was rigged. I squeezed his hand, trying to reassure him. He nodded once. I released Carlisle's hand and put one finger against Aro's palm. He smiled at first, but quickly frowned.
"Yes, she is still just as blank as before."
I quickly took my hand away and grabbed my father's hand tightly once again.
"Your eyes are the gold of your family, Bella. You must have an awful lot of control to have not slipped."
"Bella does have great restraint. We have also found that her thirst is not as undeniable as most newborns find it. She has taken to our diet without any trouble," Carlisle said.
"Pity," Aro mused with a slight grin. "She could be so very strong if she decided to try an alternate meal."
"As we asked Demetri months ago, please refrain from talking of such things. I ask this of you as my friend. Bella has a very gentle heart and is greatly bothered by the idea of hurting a human. This topic will only upset her," Carlisle said.
"Carlisle, she is immortal, not fragile. There is no need to shelter her from her true nature," Aro replied.
"Aro, I respect you immensely," Carlisle whispered. "Please respect my family and myself. I am only trying to protect my daughter as I see fit. After Demetri's visit, we were forced to explain to her how others choose to live. As I said, she has a gentle heart and she was very disturbed by the news."
"Then she has no memory of her time in Italy?" Aro questioned.
"She has only a few fragmented human memories. Her time in Italy is not among them," Carlisle answered.
Aro bowed toward Carlisle. "For now, we will leave these matters alone. Please introduce me to the rest of your family."
Carlisle kept hold of my hand and turned slightly. "This is my wife, Esme. You know our daughter, Alice. This is our son, Jasper. He is Alice's husband." Carlisle pointed to Edward's side. "This is my daughter, Rosalie and my son, Emmett, her husband."
Aro clapped his hands. "Just like a human family. How remarkable!"
"We are a family," Carlisle stated, lifting his head higher. "We wish only to live in peace with each other."
"I assure you, Carlisle, I am only here out of curiosity," Aro said. "You know how much I love a mystery and discovering talent." Aro stepped closer and touched Carlisle's arm before he could move it. "Old friend, you were not completely honest with me."
"About?" Carlisle replied.
"Bella is blocking you from me," Aro chuckled. "Or did you not know she could do that?"
"I suspected, but had no way to prove it," Carlisle said.
"Bella, do you know that you are blocking your father from me?" Aro asked, stepping right in front of me.
I lifted my head high, wanting to show nothing but strength and confidence. "I am aware," I replied. "I have the strangest feeling that I did not enjoy meeting you and I'm feeling very protective of my family."
"Wonderful!" Aro exclaimed, bringing his hands together under his chin. "I wish to put your fears at ease, Bella. I only want to test your powers," Aro said.
"I don't have any powers," I replied. "I was able to block before. Edward told me so. Being a vampire just made it so that I can share it. It didn't seem important to mention it to my father since I have never felt in danger before now."
"Bella, your Edward can hear thoughts. We both know that if he had heard any unreasonable intentions on my part, he would have whisked you away by now," Aro chuckled. "Although, maybe he was hoping for a rematch with our dear Jane."
"That is the second time a stranger has come and mentioned Jane in reference to my husband. What exactly happened?" I asked.
"Why don't I show you?" Aro offered. "Let you feel what Jane shared with Edward?"
"By all means," I said coldly.
I squeezed Edward's hand, begging him to be still. I was confident that Jane would not affect me. But I would not be able to stop myself from protecting him if he got in the way. I saw him nod his head the slightest bit, letting me know he understood.
Aro stepped aside and Jane stepped forward. "How I have waited for this!" she hissed. She stared at me and I stared right back, a small smile at the corner of my lips. When nothing happened, she crouched down and hissed at me.
Emmett was suddenly standing right in front of me. He somehow looked bigger than he ever had before.
I quickly whispered just for him. "Em, move now! I can't protect you and block. She won't hurt me." Emmett moved back to Edward's side without any indication of having heard me.
"How wonderful!" Aro squealed. "Bella is still immune to our dear, Jane. Don't fret, darling," he said as he stroked Jane's cheek. "Bella is just as immune to Demetri and I." Aro turned toward my father. "Carlisle, I can see without Marcus that your family has a strong bond. The boy moved in front of her so quickly and she is not his mate."
"She is his little sister," Carlisle replied. "The sibling connection among my children is very strong and second only to their connections with their mates."
"Interesting!" Aro chuckled. "Marcus will be so pleased to learn of these connections."
"Will he be joining us?" Carlisle asked.
"Of course not!" Aro laughed.
I hated the sound of it. It was like nails on a chalkboard.
"Marcus does not travel beyond the walls of Volterra. You know that," Aro chuckled. "I have come to ask you all to travel back to Italy with me. Caius and Marcus wish to meet the rest of the family and catch up on old times."
"Aro, I am afraid now is not the best of times for us," Carlisle said slowly. "We are moving to a new location where I have accepted a wonderful job. My children will be starting college next week. We have had these plans for some time now. I'm sure you can understand my desire to follow through with them."
"You have always had a strange desire to surround yourself with humans," Aro mused. "I offer you a compromise, old friend. Postpone your move one day and give me your word that you will spend two weeks with us over the summer break. I have heard that summer is a free time for students. Two weeks should not be suspicious for your job. Am I correct?"
Carlisle pressed his lips together. It was the most I'd ever seen him lose his calmness, except for the day he'd slapped me. "Yes, you are correct Aro. I can certainly agree to postponing our trip for one more day. As to the summer … barring any need for summer school for Bella, we will arrange a short visit."
"Excellent!" Aro beamed. "Let's not continue to stand. Let's sit like old friends and chat."
Edward and I took the loveseat with our family standing behind us. Carlisle sat on the arm, keeping my hand in his. I noticed Demetri and Felix standing rigidly by the door. They didn't very happy that things were still pleasant. Aro sat on the sofa with Jane and Alec. The three I didn't know stood behind the sofa.
"Bella," Aro called.
I looked up at him, keeping my face blank.
"I must say, I was a little disappointed when Demetri told me of your refusal to join us in Italy. May I inquire why you have refused?" Aro asked.
"I'm where I want to be. I'm with my family and my husband. I have no desire to be anywhere else," I replied.
"Fascinating!" Aro chuckled. "All of you cling to the human family ideal. Bella, you say you do not desire leaving. How do you know? What if you came to train with my guard and liked it? You may enjoy a break from Edward. You have been together for quite some time now."
"Oh, no, Aro," I said, feigning shock. "I could never want time away from Edward. I am tied to him too completely. My sisters tease me that I am useless without him."
Edward squeezed my hand and smiled proudly. "Bella's few human memories are all of me. She gets apprehensive if I am away from her for any length of time."
"Demetri's memories did show her refusal to part from you, Edward," Aro said. "Marcus was wondering just how much you have strengthened your bond by changing her. Are you still glad that I did not agree to your request?"
"Very much," Edward replied.
"What about you, Edward?" Aro asked. "Any desire to join us and bring Bella along?"
"No, Aro. Thank you for the offer, but my only desire is to remain here with my family and wife," Edward said.
"It really is remarkable to sit here and see Alice's lovely vision as a reality," Aro chuckled. He turned toward my sister. "Are you still set on staying with your family, Alice dear? You could bring Jasper with you."
"No, thank you. I am content with my family and helping Bella to adjust," Alice replied.
"Well!" Aro chuckled. "I cannot say that I am surprised. Carlisle, they are very loyal to you."
"It's not loyalty, old friend. It is love. We are a family," Carlisle stated.
"Yes, I am starting to see that," Aro mused. "They could not ask for a better father figure than you, Carlisle."
"Thank you for the kind words, Aro," Carlisle said, nodding to him.
"I don't suppose I could convince you to relocate your family to Italy," Aro mused.
"No, Aro. We prefer the modern world at this time," Carlisle replied. "There are many wonderful hospitals that I can be of service at and the colleges are excellent for the children."
"No matter," Aro said with a wave of his hands. "We do not wish to impose on you. Please feel free to go about your daily routines. We will talk again later."
I let myself into Edward's thoughts, being careful to leave him open to everyone else. 'He's making us sound like a science experiment.'
'We are, love.' Edward frowned.
I let go of our connection. I really was too observant sometimes. My anxiety level increased as I realized we would be followed around our own home. I might never get a moment alone with Edward with these monsters here.
"Children, please go upstairs and finish any packing you may have," Carlisle said.
"Edward and I are done. Does anyone need help?" I asked, knowing Alice had seen my decision.
"You two can come and help me and Jazz," Alice replied.
"We're done as well," Rosalie added. "It will take all of us to get your closet finished, Alice."
We all chuckled, trying to seem calm and normal as we made our way up the stairs and out of sight. I was a little apprehensive about leaving our parents alone with these 'visitors', but my siblings and husband seemed okay with it.
We made our way into Alice's room. Alice and Jasper sat on her bed, holding tightly to each other. Rose and Emmett clung to each other, standing near the bathroom. Edward and I sat on the floor.
I sighed heavily and began to unwind the strip of leather. It wouldn't be a good idea to keep it on with so many eyes in the house. Edward rubbed my back and kissed my temple, trying to sooth me. The six of us exchanged glances, each of us wondering what would happen next and if we would all still be together when this visit ended.
"Demetri is coming," Edward hissed suddenly.
We all started moving around the room, packing for real. Emmett, Jasper and Edward put together some boxes while I knelt right next to Edward. Demetri entered Alice's room and stood in the doorway, watching us. Alice brought me stack of clothes and Edward and I stared putting them into a box. Our faces were very close as we leaned down. Edward started growling, deep in his chest.
"Edward." I whispered so softly so that he was the only one to hear me. "His thoughts don't matter. I know they are unpleasant for you, but please ignore them. For me."
He nodded and I kissed his cheek. I looked up to see Demetri looking at me in that same speculative way as last time. I forced myself to not shiver and started putting more clothing into the box. When I looked up again, I saw that Felix had joined Demetri in the doorway. I didn't care for the way they were looking at Edward.
Emmett and Edward were whispering too low for me to hear as they put together the tops for the boxes. Suddenly, Emmett pulled himself up to his full height and swung around toward the door.
"Is there something we can do for the two of you?" Emmett asked, his voice echoing throughout the room.
"We are only observing," Demetri smirked.
"Then you can observe without sending thoughts to my brother and ogling my little sister," Emmett snarled. "Or would you prefer if we head downstairs and have a chat with Aro about this?"
"Did I hear my name?" Aro chuckled from the hallway.
I jumped up and grabbed Edward's hand tightly. The two guards stepped aside, allowing Aro, Carlisle and Esme to enter the room. Esme walked over to me and took my free hand in hers.
"What seems to be the trouble?" Carlisle asked.
"These two …," Emmett said, venom dripping from his words, "…are being rather rude to my brother and sister."
"Is this true?" Aro asked, turning to his guards.
"It was not intentional, Aro," Felix replied, bowing his head deeply.
"Still, apologies must be made," Aro said. "We are guests here, Demetri. Let us act as such. Are we clear, Felix?"
"Yes, Aro." Felix lifted his head and surveyed the room. "On behalf of Demetri and myself, I sincerely apologize if we have offended you in any way. That was not our intent."
"Children, why don't we all head downstairs?" Esme offered, wanting to have us all together. "We can finish packing later since we are staying an extra day. Alice, dear, why don't you pick a movie for us all to watch?"
We waited for Aro and his guard to leave the room first. Edward gave me a small smile as he gripped my hand tighter. At least one of us was confident things would be okay. I just wanted to crawl into his lap and pretend we were alone somewhere safe. This was going to be a long night.