Freedom

As usual, I got many stares from the people walking by me. It wasn't just their instincts screaming at them to run, but my albino looks scared them as well. The crowded streets of Rome immediately would part in my presence, making it easier to where I wanted, when I wanted. No one would care to follow me, so I made my way to the house of my friend Valentino.

A slave boy let me in and led me to Valentino's office but there was another man there. Apparently Valentino was finishing a trade deal so the slave took me to the reception room until the business man left. Then Valentino came out from his office and welcomed me.

"Caius, welcome," he moved forward and shook my hand, flinching slightly at my cold skin, but trying not to show his fear towards me. It was natural though, for humans to fear me, I had gotten used to it after awhile; how to manipulate their emotions towards me depending on what I wanted. "It's been so long, and the times are trying." I smiled, if only he knew how little time meant to me.

"They are, friend," I agreed though money for my "family" wasn't a problem. "But tell me, how have you been?"

"The gods find me in their favor," he bowed his head in reverence and then continued, "yet despite the bad trade, my family has prospered in our trade markets. Also, my wife is with child."

"Congratulations," I said, for pagans a child was a gift bestowed from a god for being a good citizen. "Have you thought of a name?" I asked conventionally.

"Yes," he smiled, "Ceaser." I smiled, in my human life, I was Ceaser. I was rather proud of myself, I had built up quite the empire and my name would live on forever in that legacy. It was also slightly annoying, because I had to change my name to Caius so people wouldn't recognize me. I focused back on what Valentino was talking about, but I was distracted again by a beautiful servant girl walking in. She silently placed two glasses of wine and a wine bottle on a side table and waited by the door for orders.

"And what if it's a female?" I asked, staying current with the conversation.

"It won't be," he said confidently, "We'll kill it or give it away if that is the case. Women are not suitable for continuing the family name; they are only good for one thing, and nothing else." The servant girl at the door looked at Valentino with such ferocity that if looks could kill, Valentino would be a dead man; she was strong, probably royalty before she was made a slave. I knew that the explorers would often bring back whole civilizations, royalty included, back as slaves.

"Dora, bring us food," Valentino ordered. She made a stiff bow and left; the hate almost radiated off her body. I watched her leave, not really looking at her, just in her direction; any vampire would have noticed the difference, but Valentino, in all his human slowness, did not. "You want her?" he asked me. Want her? Did I want her? Of course I wanted her! She smelled quite delicious; like honey and peaches and lavender…it made venom pool in my mouth just to think about it. I didn't say anything for a long time, not until she came back with the food. I suddenly felt guilty at how easy it would be to lure her away and…

"No," I refused, mad at myself, and Valentino for offering.

"Oh," she said softly, jerking her hand away, thinking I was refusing the food.

"No," I repeated, guiding her hand back down in front of me until she had put down the food without incident, "I was refusing Valentino's question." I clarified.

"So you don't want her?" Valentino asked, not caring whether Dora was present or not. "She's pretty, and knows how to serve but keep her mouth shut." I wanted to kill Valentino for saying that while she was here, but I couldn't, so I watched Dora's reaction. She twirled around to face me, grasping what Valentino must have offered, but not registering my answer to his question.

"You!" she choked out. In a flurry of motion she took my tray of food and threw at me. "You vile, repulsive pond scum! Dumb bunny!" (hehe, vocab insults)

"Athenodora!" Valentino barked, standing up and kicked her, making her fall over. "Good for nothing bitch! Whore!" he piled insult upon insult on her. She looked at him defiantly, yet I thought the pain in her eyes was obvious. That's when I noticed them: her eyes. They were light blue, practically grey, but when she was angry they blazed with green intensity. With the realization of her eyes, came the realization of her whole face; she was pretty, beautiful, almost. Even though Valentino was beating her now, and small trickles of blood ran down her face, she was still beautiful.

Why was I analyzing this? I asked myself; I am the living dead, nothing living could affect me. Though I didn't think it was right for Valentino to beat her like this, I made no move to stop him; I had to admit, I was captivated by her. Almost like I was under a spell…and couldn't move…though I wanted to, so I could kill Valentino. As I looked at her, she looked straight back at me with her piercing eyes and it was clear what she thought of me.

Finally, Valentino stopped and made her get on her feet. "Get up! Clean yourself and be at the guest bedroom at sundown!" he ordered and she left the room immediately. Honestly, was her punishment for insolence to make her sleep with me? I for one had no intention of letting that happen; yet, if I wanted to save her, I would have to agree to his sick plan. Of course, then she would be my slave, but not for long. The plan had already formulated in my head and I had to admit, I liked it. She would be free…yes, free from Valentino…but I wondered if she would be free from me; could I let her go?

I didn't think about the answer to that question, but told Valentino on what an excellent punishment he had devised.

*****

I could hear coming down the hall, her light steps afraid and I wished there was some way I could tell her I meant her no harm and that I would not force myself on her. But I could not, so I waited for her. I wondered whether I should stand or sit…she came closer and I was still undecided. I ended up sitting at the very edge of the bed, almost ripping off the bedpost in my nervousness.

She quietly opened the door and then, with her back still to me, closed it gently. Then, she slowly turned to face me, dropping down her robe at the same time. I wondered what Valentino had threatened her with if she was doing this without a fight. But back to the situation at hand, my eyes did not travel down the length of her body; instead, I stayed, looking into her mysterious eyes. I stood up and picked up her robe, handing it to her, careful not to look at her; I was afraid I wouldn't be able to look away.

"Clothe yourself," I whispered. She quickly put the robe back on and then asked me where we were going. "Shh," I tried to quiet her, "We don't want him to suspect anything," I knew what this looked like to her, but I didn't have time to explain, only to act.

"I don't care!" she shrieked, "I'll scream until the devil comes to take me before you do!" I smiled, but did not let her see. I thought it was rather ironic; the devil coming to take her, me a vampire…what a morbid sense of humor.

"I'm helping you," I said, trying to make my voice sound reassuring, it only terrified her more.

"To hell you are!" she yelled. That was it, if she wasn't going to cooperate I would have to take manners into my own hands and take her by force.

"Your choice," I sighed, and in an instant was behind her with my hand clamped down over her mouth and my other arm holding her still. She screamed and screamed and screamed, but it was all in vain; I had her trapped. I felt bad, but now what choice did I have. I jumped, with her in my arms, through the window and thirty seconds later I was at my house and left her in the guest bedroom. I had made sure that I had left the correct amount of money at Valentino's house so it looked like I had bought her.

I listened intently, and I could still hear her screams and I wondered why I had saved her; it didn't make much sense…maybe I was just bored. I decided to clear my head and go hunt in the marketplace, it would also provide an escape from hearing her screams. Plus, this hour was the best for hunting; no one would notice if someone suddenly disappeared.

I left quietly through the garden and took less used alleys until I was in the central square. I went deeper into the mob of midday shoppers until an old beggar woman caught my eye. She was certain to not be missed and I began to make my way to where she was. I was suddenly cut off by a particularly obnoxious vendor selling an assortment of clothes.

"Her good sir, buy your lady royal robes! Look like royalty!" he shoved one of his products in my face. It smelled like wool…and it annoyed me further. I pushed him out of the way, already being able to smell the beggar woman's scent. Sadly, the vendor recovered quickly and was back to following me, persisting I buy his merchandise. Finally, I decided to spare the old woman, and turned to the vendor. I was doing his family a favor by killing him, he really was just annoying. He smiled, thinking I had given in to his "amazing bargain", little did he know that he was part of it.

"How much?" I asked, following him to his little shop. Thankfully, it was empty. I decided that since I was already here, after I killed the man, I might as well bring back something for Dora to wear since she had nothing. I pointed to a purple and dark blue robe with fur trimmed along the edges.

"Excellent choice," the man exulted, and turned his back to me, to bring down the article from off the hanger. I smiled; he would never see me coming. In a second I had snapped his neck and was quenching my thirst. I had to admit, the vendor smelled and tasted much better than the beggar woman, and now I had women's robes of every color. The only slight problem was that I had never had to go shopping for women's clothing, and now I had no idea what to look for; I took a little bit of everything.

After I was satisfied with my choices, I ran back to my house loaded with the robes. I had to laugh at a couple of the stares I got; I bet it looked like I had just finished shopping for a harem rather than one girl. Once at the courtyard of my house I slowed down and listened to see if there were any humans nearby. I heard the guards taking their rounds in the outer halls, the servants underground cleaning and preparing today's dinner. I tuned these out, and then I heard the soft pulsing sound of Dora's heart beating. I followed the melodic sound until I stood in front of the doors leading to her room.

I knocked quietly, and waited. I knew she would be angry and suspicious, but I had prepared and explanation…that is, if she opened the door, which she didn't. I knocked harder. Nothing. I impatiently opened the door and was stunned by what I saw. Well, for starters, she wasn't ignoring me, she was asleep. She was curled up in a ball in the very center of the sultan bed that was situated in the center of the room. She had been crying; the tears where still fresh on her face. I wiped one of with my finger, but it simply turned to ice and plummeted down her face, sparkling until it melted into the sheets. But how it sparkled…it reminded me of a vampire's skin. I looked at Dora and imagined her as a vampire. It hurt more than it should have. She didn't deserve to be a vampire; it didn't suit her.

She looked so angelic and peaceful in sleep. Sure, she was beautiful normally, and absolutely stunning when she was angry; but with a sudden realization I saw that her beauty was terrifying. She let out a soft sigh and shifted minimally, but it caught my attention. Her soft lips were slightly parted, and I could hear the air flow in between them. I noticed things now about her that had slipped passed me before, like her hair. The dim lightning accented the highlights in her hair; like fine spun gold. It was wavy, and it framed her heart-shaped face, but what caught my eye, was her pale skin. Almost the same as mine! Was she even healthy? Only then did I realize how delicate and frail she looked. And as this realization dawned upon me, her eyes slowly opened and she awoke. She looked around, and I saw her flinch when she saw me.

"It wasn't a nightmare?" she asked.

"No," I murmured sadly…so this was all just a terrifying dream to her? And, by the looks of it, I was the villain, the antagonist in her dream. I looked away from her, her hatred/fear of me hurt much more than it should have, and that angered me. I tried with all my might to shove her refusal of me out of my brain, but somewhere, it lingered, unwanted. Despite that, I decided to tell about the robes, and invite her to dinner; how small she was scared me. A human dinner, of course, not one where she would be my dinner. That meant that I would have to pretend to eat food, but I found myself willing to do this if it meant spending time with her.

"Dora," I began. I had wanted my voice to come out strong, but it simply could not when I said her name. Again, setting that aside, I continued with what I was going to tell her. "I…while you sleeping I was at the market. I knew you didn't bring any belongings or clothes, so I bought some." I gestured to the rather large mound of robes stacked on a chair. She glanced at them, then looked back at me, but said nothing. "Also, you haven't eaten anything…so…" I couldn't believe I said the next words that came out of my mouth. "I'm inviting you to dinner." By the look on her face she couldn't believe my invitation either.

"Excuse me?" she asked, appalled, "do you honestly think you can win me over with clothes—" as her anger mounted she stepped closer to me.

"Stop," I cautioned her to halt her advance.

"and then invite me to dinner with you?" she continued.

"Please," I begged her to stop. I had never begged to anyone before.

"Well you are sorely mistaken because I will never—" I had warned her to stop walking towards me, and she hadn't paid any attention to it. She had no idea how far over "too close" she had come; I couldn't take it anymore. I grabbed her shoulders, leaned down and kissed her. I had no idea whether she fought back or not, but what scared me the most was that I enjoyed it. I immediately let her go, but already thirsted for more, and that's when the thought occurred to me: I might love her. Might. And that was what made all the difference. If I knew for sure I loved her who knows what I would do, but I was unsure of myself. The fact that she hated me also contributed to that sentiment. While I thought of this, she was shocked into silence and I left; no other words passing between us. I couldn't even begin to formulate a sentence to say to her so I left. I told my servants to attend to her every need when she recovered, and then walked to my room. I was shocked at myself, at her, at everything!

I was stopped short by a guard.

"Master, your brother Aro is calling." I was not expecting a visit from him and wondered what the occasion was.

"Let him in, of course," I said, impatient and annoyed with pretty much everyone. My "brothers", Marcus and Aro, along with their wives, Didyme and Sulpicia were always welcome at my house.

I switched directions, from my room to the large reception room, and waited for Aro to come. Soon enough he was standing in front of me, wearing his long flowing black robes that we all usually wore when we were in Volterra.

"Brother," I said, both in acknowledgement and welcoming.

"Brother," Aro smiled. I had only known Aro for 900 years and had discovered he had an inexhaustible supply of energy. It irked me, it scared me, but most of the time I ignored it; it was the only way to stay sane (well, as sane as possible) when around Aro.

"What news do you bring?" I asked, getting straight to the point.

"The Romanian's," Aro growled. He went from being all open, smiles, and welcome to serious and angry in less than a second; that's what made Aro such a convincing enemy. "They've learned of our plans to overthrow them. This very moment they're amassing an army to counter ours."

"It is best to strike now then." I said, "before they complete their battalion and strike first." Aro shook his head in frustration.

"They just turned a newborn, Jesus. Apparently, he has the power to bring back the dead." Aro didn't like to lose, that much I knew about him, and if he could get any advantage he would take it; here there was none. "I don't know the specifics, but if it's true then they will be virtually unstoppable."

"We'll have to get rid of him as soon as possible, then." I said simply, no need to overcomplicate things…yet. "But, with what we have in Volterra now, it won't be enough. We're going to need more forces, talented forces."

"How many, do you think?" Aro asked. As smart as Aro was in fine arts, he was practically a child in military skill, which was where I stepped in to fill the gaps.

"The number is insignificant, though, of course we'll need a few disposable bodies, but the true body count mainly depends on the potency of the talents we find." I thought of my human war years, and applied to vampire standards.

"Potency?" Aro specified.

"Yes, why?" I asked.

"I've been watching two twins for quite some time, and I think they might be the "potency" we're looking for. When they're changed, I'm positive they'll have powerful gifts."

"Then why have you not changed them?" I asked impatiently, "The sooner they can be trained, the better."

"They are…young," Aro hesitated, "only children, about thirteen."

"I see," That did complicate things, but it made more sense. Aro could be an energetic wrecking ball, but he wasn't stupid; we both knew what immortal children could do. "Well then, we don't have very long until we will be forced to change them, but if, as you say, they'll be an advantage to us then keep an eye on them."

"They will be great," Aro said firmly. A servant came in just then,

"Lord Caius, your guest is…" he didn't quite know how to finish the sentence and I could only imagine what Dora was doing.

"Dinner?" Aro asked.

"Something like that," I lied, and then excused myself. Aro stopped me before I could leave.

"Well, I must go and tend to matters in Volterra. I will return with Marcus tomorrow so we can commune at Volterra. Until the morrow." He did a strange little wave and then was gone. I was somewhat relieved that he was gone, and also dreading at having to face Dora again. I realized that this was our "dinner" together, so I went straight to the large dining room just as the food was being served. I thought of how glorious she would look in her new clothes and was rather surprised to see her actually wearing them. Not that she didn't look gorgeous wearing them, but I expected more fight in her, oh well, might as well as enjoy the image while I could. It saddened me to think that soon I would be letting her go by freeing her.

I sat down at the head of the table, while she sat at the very opposite end. I knew it was custom more than anything, but I knew she liked being as far away as possible from me.

"Good evening," I greeted her.

"Good evening," she whispered much more quietly. I had no idea what else to say, so while the food was being served I asked her how she had slept.

"How did you know I was sleeping?" she asked. I had forgotten I hadn't quite told her what I was doing in her room when she woke up.

"I was…dropping of the robes, I'm glad you're wearing them." Though I knew it was probably way over line, I added, "they look good on you." She gave me an incredulous look, but said nothing, and I saw the faintest blush flutter across her cheeks. The conversation pretty much ended there as she pecked delicately at her food. Since I had no food in front of me, except a "wine" glass, I watched as she ate. I noticed that her posture, for being a "servant" was flawless; everything just added up. She had to be high-born before she was captured and made a slave. I wanted to ask her about it, but she was already suspicious of me, so I reluctantly kept quite.

I took a sip from my goblet and I accidentally spoke what I was thinking; I seemed to be having the problem a lot around her.

"You need not fear me," At least it might end the awkward silence.

"I don't fear you," her voice was ice cold. "I hate you." I had to smile a bit at her words, what exactly had I done to earn her enmity and hatred so convincingly?

"So be it," I sighed, "But might I inquire why I have your enmity?" She gave me a sardonic look before answering.

"You kidnapped me, made me your slave, and I'm guessing you're trying to win me over with lavish gifts. I will never be yours." She poured out her anger; and she looked beautiful the whole time. So much so, that I barely registered her words.

"I didn't know giving gifts was always with a bad intention," I smirked. "And, you assume wrong. I don't want to win you over." So far, that was pretty much the only lie I had told her, "and the gifts are for when you live by yourself, though I don't think you would be able to keep the suitors away for very long." Confusion washed across her face, but she tried to keep it hidden.

"I—I don't understand," she murmured.

"I'm setting you free." I explained simply. "I don't want you as a slave." True, I wanted her as much more than that, but otherwise true. "I bought you from Valentino to set you free. You're a Roman citizen now." She looked at me earnestly and without disdain for a few seconds before suspicion crept into her eyes. "I know you're of noble blood." I added, taking a guess. She nodded,

"From Greece," she smiled gently, "my real name is Athenodora."

"Athenodora," I got up and went to the opposite end of the table, where she was, and got down to kiss her hand. "I am Caius Volturi."

"A pleasure," she whispered in her soft, quiet voice. She blushed and withdrew her hand.

"The pleasure is mine."