AN: such a delay between updates. Hopefully with the summer I'll be more… diligent on such things. Note: the title means, "danger is sweet". It is in regards to Jasper's reaction to receiving his visitor. He is thrilled with the idea that what he believed would be a simple task has the potential to blossom into something more interesting with due time. (: Who knows? Maybe Jasper is correct.
Dulce Periculum Est
"This is the beginning of the end,
I'm always wrong, it's always me"
- "Conductor", Oceana
Esme sent me a concerned glance as I sunk into the couch, gazing carefully around the meeting room at each individual face of my family. They weren't particularly paying attention to me - not that I would expect their attention regardless of Bella's miraculous recovery.
Their obvious nonchalance over my appearance is, however, to be expected - I've made sure I'm able to fade into the background. It's a great maneuver for politics; without that skill, it's quite too easy to become enraptured within the lies and betrayals that are so subtle and hidden they can become overlooked.
"The lil' minx didn't follow you here, eh?" Gabriel drawled in question, his voice condescending. He draped himself artistically besides me on the sofa, crossing his legs at the ankle. "She seems to have become quite taken with you. I have noticed her padding behind you like a lost puppy. Quite adorable in way. I did not think that you would have kept her around for as long as you did."
"Duty comes before personal delight," I informed him in the same condescending manner. "Whether or not I enjoy watching over her, I have to."
"Mm," he replied, bored, and then smiled coldly. "Whatever you've done to subdue her, I'm impressed. But your tactic will last for only so long. She's belligerent by nature; quite enraptured, (yes, that was the phrase you used earlier was it not?), with her past." He lolled his tongue around his mouth as if looking for sweets, considering what he said aloud. Then smiled. "But then again, I'm sure you'll learn eventually."
I glared. "So you do know more about her than you've let on."
Gabriel shrugged. "I've never gave any sort of front that I don't know Angel. Cora, however, is a new person to me. Perhaps she has changed. And perhaps I'm the next in line to be England's bloody queen." He leaned in conspiringly, something devious flickering in his silver irises. "What I do know is that it's too easy to become enraptured within the lies and betrayals that are so subtle and hidden they can become overlooked. Be cautious."
My mind ticked away at how to respond and realized it to be useless with a mind reader. I fumed furiously and mentally about how he managed to break through my mental guard for a moment, sneering as a smug smile fixed his face. Considering my position, I gave him a meaningful glare, opting to ignore his prophetic message. I decided another tactic. "I'm not interested in your contradictions, Gabriel. I think that in your old age you've become slightly senile. T'was not long ago you were seducing me with the idea of her possibilities."
"Mm," he responded in the same bored, cold way, though his eyes were lit up like a Christmas tree. "I'd like to think of myself as your conscience, Jasper. The only difference is that I've lived through the past and exploited the future and know more than you."
"My conscience eh?"
"Mm. But it's your choice to discriminate whether I'm playing the devil or the angel." He chuckled and gave me a secretive smile. "Either way you'll have me twittering in your ear, balanced upon your shoulder."
He laughed again, before turning expectantly towards the door. "And here comes your pet now."
Cora strode into the room then, her heels clacking elegantly on the stone floor. Immediately, eyes were drawn to her slender figure with muted curiosity. The girl didn't notice their gazes; she searched feverously for my face, meeting my eyes with her bright claret ones.
As usual, she was dressed rebelliously against the current fashion taste. With Bella as queen, a romanticized fashion of Victorian dresses and dainty slippers circulated. However, Cora seemed to dislike the idea of the new silhouette. Her clothes appeared painted on, revealing each tight curve, in an unpopular black. Her hair, red and curled, framed her face in an untamable mane against the slicked waves that have grown popular from Bella's natural style. Each curl bounced as she clacked my way, sinuously sleeking over with the fluidity of a jungle cat hunting prey.
"Hullo dear," she sang cheerily, bending slightly to ruffle my hair. She turned to Gabriel quite coolly, nodding in his general direction as a greeting. "Snuck out on me this morning, huh?"
I pulled away repulsed, fixing my face into a scowl. "Obviously not if you caught me."
"Well," she said, leaning in. "Next time you won't get away."
I glared at her, before discretely glancing over at Emmet, who was desperately trying not to laugh. Noticing my heated glower, he flashed me a wolfish smile and even more ridiculously a wink. I cast my scowl else where, mentally tuning out his rapid conversation with Rosalie.
"Sit and be quiet," I told her. "You should feel honored that you're even here."
"Aren't you a bit grouchy?" she snarled before turning her eyes to where Bella was sweeping into the room, dressed in full skirt, Edward on her arm. I smirked at how irrelevant my brother looked against his wife, who dominated the attention of the room. I then gazed at Cora, who seemed utterly enchanted by Bella's presence. I resisted the urge to laugh.
Cora straightened to her full height, her lips constructing into a charmingly beautiful smile, instead of the sarcastic one she wore constantly around me. She stepped towards Bella and swept a feminine bow before grasping her hand and kissing it respectfully. On any other character I would have deemed the actions pretentious. If I had not seen the exchange with my own eyes, I would have deemed it condescending, especially because of Cora's patronizing attitude. Yet, the girl exuded a reverence uncanny for her demeanor.
"I'm honored to be included in this council, no matter if temporary or default," she said, grinning.
Bella swept an answering curtsey. "I am honored to have the woman who saved my life serving such a council, especially in such grave times."
Cora's eyebrow twitched curiously, but she smiled and accepted the thank you modestly before returning, sliding her slender figure between Gabriel and me.
"Council," Bella began, "I have completely no idea what had taken hold of me. I can merely say that whatever illness I had contracted, I am now free of.
"But that is not why I called this meeting. Jacob has returned from Bucharest and his meeting with the Romanian government and I am curious to what he has established."
I glanced away, slightly mad that they had sent Jacob - a hotheaded, naïve child - in my place as a diplomat for the Romanian government. The proximity to Alice's anniversary made them edgy about allowing me out of their sight, yet surely they could have found another, more fitting diplomat willing to go to Romania, Demetri for one. Or perhaps one who spoke Romanian - speaking the common language fluently always brought an unnerving sense of respect.
Jake smile grew grave as he unwove himself from Patricia's arms. "Sadly, I barely have news that would make either of us…pleased. Prime Minister Dragomir is…apprehensive about mythical creatures, especially werewolves. As Jasper's sources claimed, there are pack wars erupting in the streets, but at a higher platitude, where innocent humans are being slaughtered. I attempted to figure out why, but none of the wolves trusted me, and when they did speak to me, it was in a garbled language I could not understand." Jacob sent me a sharp glance. "And no, it was not Romanian.
"My promise of protection, as a werewolf myself, offered absolutely no comfort for Dragomir. I…," he frowned, turning towards Bella with a sigh. "I apologize for this," he spread his arms wide, "being a complete flop."
"Mm," I purred loudly, making sure to let displeasure poison the sound. "You've been gone a month and were not able to convince him of changing his mind?"
Jake shook his head, his eyes widening in a puppy-like manner. "They made it clear they want nothing to do with me. Dragomir and his ministers decided that the best tactic is to continue what they have begun - by killing all those with hints of werewolf ancestry. However, they haven't been able to get many." His hint of a smile explained what his voice could not.
"Did you not inform Dragomir that you, you ridiculous man, are joint-head of the universal pack and therefore all those young ones must obey you? Did you not ask to speak to the Romanian packs at all?"
Jake hesitated in a way that made my skin crawl and my hand itch to smack him. "At first I was…hesitant to tell them that I am indeed a wolf. However, eventually he found out and refused to honor anything I said."
"Jake…," Bella began, clucking her tongue.
"And I did tell you how I spoke to the packs. They ignored me. I even tried to talk to them in wolf form. I barely got away with my head and tail intact. I swear, there's something in the water in Romania. I have not known one wolf who could defy the law of the alpha without extreme circumstance."
I closed my eyes furiously, a shiver running down my spine as if ice water was dripped down my shirt. My hands clenched - unclenched with the urge to punch the sniveling dog in the face. Jake, as one of my right-hand men, works wonderfully. Alone, he is disastrous. I warned them - warned them, what would occur if they sent him alone to do a man's work, yet they ignored me.
"We've possibly lost all contact with Romania," I hissed through my teeth. I pushed myself out of the sofa and began pacing back and forth, hand shaking with the desire to beat Jacob to a bloody pulp. "Romania. The small, impressionable government has nothing to offer us to begin with! They have everything to gain from our guidance and yet you failed to sway their racist beliefs?"
"Say not another word!" I growled at him, turning towards Bella enraged. "I am leaving this meeting early to request audience with Dragomir."
"Wait one moment," Bella said, face flushing. "Are you forgetting two people?"
I turned on my heel, glaring at Jake, who had his tail between his legs. My eyes were then cast on Cora, who was sitting quietly on the couch, her eyes glazed and her lips parted.
"Don't you think that Jasper is under enough stress?" Esme asked, voice sudden and soothing. "I do understand that Cora is to be his charge, but is it completely necessary that she accompany him on his more formal work? Jasper will be too distracted to actually protect her to begin with. And should she travel and introduce herself to the world?"
"I agree," Rosalie drawled, glaring at the back of Cora's head. Through the anger boiling under my skin I realized with a strange curiosity how Cora was being received inside the council.
"She's apart of the council regardless of whether or not she has a mystical power," Edward argued. "She has to pull her own weight. We all must wake up and realize something; what Cora has isn't temporary. We're to protect her until the end of time. She has a coveted gift - extremely coveted, something no other living soul - besides Bella - has ever claimed to accomplish. As long as we have to protect her, she'll be apart of this council."
"My thoughts exactly," Carlisle said, his eyes sympathetic as he gazed at his wife. "We cannot keep her and Jasper holed up into the castle."
Rosalie frowned. "Must she have accompanied Jasper? Can she not stay here under our protection?"
"Do I not have a choice?" Cora asked, sitting straight. Her face sobered from the starry glaze that had masked it and looked somewhat frustrated. "And must you all speak about me as if I have left the room?"
This sparked anger in Rosalie's eyes. She opened her mouth to fight back, but Bella shot her a glare.
"I think that…we are being unfair," Edward spoke softly, trying to satiate her. "What I had said is true, Cora. You're not here temporarily."
"And so," Bella began in the same soft voice, "we believe you should have a choice in where you go during Jasper's ventures across the world as our ambassador."
"Well…," Cora sighed, shaking her crimson hair from her face. "I am quite taken with Jasper - I trust him. But if he does not desire I follow him I will not."
"I don't care," I snarled, suddenly fed up with the conversational peace that had taken over the council. Taking long, aggravated strides, I slammed the door closed and walked straight to where I knew I would find my secretary twirling her pen between her fingers in that bored fashion I always found insulting.
"Wait," Cora said, heels clacking erratically on the floor as she ran up to meet me. "Look, Jasper. I can't stand it here. It's cabin fever. I need to get out, go back into the world. I don't want to -"
I turned to the girl and noticed that with her heels she stood nose to nose with me. Sighing, I studied the fierce spirit in her eyes. Perhaps she could take Jacob's place as my right-hand. She seemed to enjoy arguing with me - but never compromising. A flaw, I suppose, but better than Jacob.
"Go pack our belongings."
"Salve, Councilor Jasper," Salvatrice chirped, placing the pen she was spinning gracelessly onto her desk. "E buona sera, signore."
"Mm," I replied, not interested in her greeting. I surveyed the office, loping over to my files. My eyes grazed over less important reports, pleased that between Demetri and Jacob (temporarily), they managed to keep my work somewhat easy.
"Signore Demetri is in your office taking the important calls," she continued, "and writing reports. More importantly, Signore Marcus…."
I didn't pay attention to catch the rest that she said as I disappeared into my office.
The green walls didn't offer calm for the throbbing in my chest - not a heart, however. It was the palpitation of interest, minor excitement urged on with the peace I gained from knowing that my private office was not trashed, nor reports discarded and or forgotten to be completed on my holiday.
Demetri smiled from behind the large expanse of my oak desk, a phone glued to his ear and his hand scribbling feverously on a pad of paper. However, he wasn't the one I wanted a private conference with. The tall, shaded creature glancing out into the city square was the one who made my mind whirl with simplistic thrill.
"To what do I owe your visit, Marcus?" I inquired, closing the door to my office. The man stirred, turning elegantly on his heel to face me. Again, I was impacted by the queerness of his youth. Reverting his ways over the years smoothed his once pasty complexion to a lineless mask. His bright ocher were clouded still, and seemed to evaluate me - to sum up my whole.
"I'll have you know Jasper, that it is rude to speak whilst a person is on the phone," Demetri growled playfully, standing and shaking my hand with respect. "Nice to see you back in the office."
"Mm, sad to see you locked in it. How the hell did you allow Jacob to take over the Romanian affair? I'm quite disappointed."
Demetri flashed me a smile uncanny for his face; it would have been more fitting on an alligator. "I'm not received peacefully in Romania for…," he winked, "personal reasons."
"Do tell me you haven't slept with some poor girl and received her scorn when you broke off any sort of relation with her," I sighed, running a hand through my hair, adding Romania to the list of places I definitely wouldn't want to send Demetri for his "personal reasons". I often wonder why I keep him in my office and am then reminded every time the dog opens his mouth. Demetri's conniving personality counteracts Jacob's simplistic view of politics to something similar to balance.
"I won't tell you then, master," Demetri said cheerfully before slapping me on my back in what could only be his version of an embrace. "Believe me, next trip I'll shove the dog into a closet and go in his stead."
"Too bad the damage has already been done."
Demetri's face grew grave. "So I've heard. Probably slobbered all over that pretty lil' wife Drago keeps holed up in his room and fell into his worst graces."
I gave Demetri a glare. "Is that what you did?"
"Not particularly," Demetri said with a slow grin. "Just trust me; I would not be safe in Romania."
"I'll take your word for it. Is there anything I should know about before you leave me to have audience with my guest?"
Demetri considered it, but understood my desire for him to leave quickly so I may receive Marcus in private. Coolly, he responded, "Everything you need to know is already written in the reports or contained in the laptop. I'll be taking the rest of the day off. Enjoy yourself, Jasper."
"And you," I muttered, shaking his head once more. I waited until I heard the second snap of the door closing and Demetri's retreating footsteps out of my wing before turning to my guest.
"Councilman Demetrious has certainly risen from the ashes of the old Volturi monarchy," Marcus commented, commanding voice subdued yet oddly serious. "I am pleased that he had done so well. The malice that our reign brought seems to have eased from his soul. He will live more pleasantly."
"Demetri is a good soul," I agreed, slightly agitated that he was not getting to the point fast enough. I perched myself on my desk. "I have not seen you in so long."
"Four years," he corrected. "I come here only in prelude to your diplomatic venture into Romania." I didn't question how he already knew - the spy master was notorious for knowing everything that occurred inside the castle walls. "However, I feel uncomfortable speaking to you constricted in this area. I only ask that you delay this journey.
"I am also interested in the young woman you have been rumored to be seen with quite frequently. Cora, I believe my sources call her?"
"Yes, Cora," I assured, quite disappointed that he resurfaced merely out of curiosity for the girl. I recalled the first time Marcus approached me (nine years ago); he had found information from his spy networks that a rebel group had congregated in our castle and managed to sneak into our personal guard. This resulted in the separation of castle from school and a fierce annihilation of said group. Our humble abode was transformed from a simple castle into three buildings in total, connected by underground passage ways (heavily guarded by the most faithful vampires). One is the castle in essence, whilst the other two are for students desiring to better their thirst or knowledge. The conspiracy also toughened the guard and who is allowed to live in Volterra's kingdom, something I pushed for in the beginning of establishing our reign.
"I will come for you in due time," Marcus hummed, placing a hand on my shoulder. His eyes ran through mine, penetrating and assertive. He appraised me once again, but this time his lips twitched with a smile, as if to tell me that I would do for now. His hand retracted and oddly I felt the seriousness in his touch the moment he pulled away.
"I will be waiting," I sighed as Marcus strode out of the room, using his prop-cane to hobble towards the door. He paused, hand on the doorknob.
"Alec will direct you where to find me."
"I'm sure Edward is thrilled you brought Alec back to Volterra."
To my surprise, Marcus laughed his way out of my office, closing it gently behind him.
ELECTRIC SHOCK ELECTRIC SHOCK ELECTRIC
"You look as if you've seen a ghost," Cora remarked when I finally stumbled back into our suite. I had spent the entire evening rolling around what Marcus could probably desire from me while reading article after article of world news, reports that Marcus's spies decided to send me for the more in-depth knowledge they gave me on said articles, letters royal diplomats sent me from various places around the globe, as well as responses from political powers.
"Why are you in my room?" I questioned her sourly, too tired to actually enforce my single rule; respect of personal space. She was lounging on my bed, ankles locked with, what looked like a Spanish magazine, splayed across her lap.
"I had to pack our things, remember?"
I rubbed my eyes, pulling the laptop bag from over my head and placing it besides the nightstand, stooping down and fumbling with the charger. Cora's slim hands slipped down and halted me.
"Relax," she said. "I'll take care of it."
My brain, which had reached its mental capacity for the evening, didn't think twice about her rare act of kindness. Instead, I sat down quietly on the edge of my bed while she plugged in the blasphemous creation.
"Are you going to tell me what happened?"
I focused my eyes on her face; her claret eyes were sharp, her lips tight like glass. Immediately my mind fell away. Did I need to inform her how the Japanese were attempting to concoct weapons to slaughter our kind? Or the vampire group who called themselves the Incorrupti - the "uncorrupted", who believed that fractions of any kind was a blasphemy? The sirens charged for prostitution that sent shockwaves? The wolves who are acting out in the streets suddenly for some unknown reason? Or more startling, the way humans decided to remedy these situations?
Cora placed her hand on my cheek, turning my face to view hers once again. I wondered when I turned away. "You can count on me."
"Don't touch me," I growled at her, pressing her away. Cora didn't seem insulted in anyway; she merely smiled meekly in response, turning towards her crimson nails. She inspected them with a bored air, in an attempt to be regal. However, there was nothing queenly about her sprawled on the floor in the skirt of her slinky dress and her heels.
"I'm going to guess that you're quite upset about whatever you experienced upon your return at the office," she said, glancing up at me darkly, then looked right back at her nails. "I won't hassle you about it. You'll tell me eventually. Though I do have my qualms. I definitely see no merit in your protection of me if you decide to leave me for hours alone unsupervised. I might have been abducted."
"They wouldn't get far," I assured her. "They'd most likely return you the moment you opened your mouth."
"Haha," she sarcastically responded. "I packed your things, you'd be happy to know. When are we departing?"
"I don't know." The simple words put me back into the same fit of frustration and perplexity I experienced when Marcus walked out of the room.
"How can you not know? Is there some sort of formality you must go through?" she inquired, genuinely curious, though she tried to mask it behind aggravation.
"There is formality behind it, but its simplistic," I informed her. "However, I must meet a friend before we leave Volterra for Romania. It might be quite serious. His information might just alter the way we enter negotiations with Dragomir. More importantly, I want to understand the danger before I happily bring you and that stupid puppy Jacob along."
"How gallant of you to consider my safety," Cora muttered. "Though I assumed we would be leaving tonight."
"I'm sure that your meager plans have not been compromised at all."
She huffed, deciding to stand. "We should go hunting then."
"Hunting?" I questioned her, bemused.
"Yes. I haven't been hunting since I came to this forsaken place. All I've had is goblet after goblet of frozen blood, which can satiate, but is nothing like the real thing. So…I believe we should go hunting."
"Mm," I hummed. "That would serve perfectly for my business."
"Business?" she questioned, big claret eyes widening in conspiracy. "Interesting."