"In The Dark" Contest

Pen Name: SavageWoman

Title: Blood and Venom

Summary: "Suddenly the burning lifted. I found Bella crouched in front of me, the careful placement of her body blocked Jane's attack." While fulfilling a debt to the Volturi, Edward finds himself forced to take an oath of blood and venom binding himself to a human woman whose blood sings to him.

Word Count: 2,494 (according to MS Word)

For Rules and Other Submissions, please visit: http://www(DOT)fanfiction(D0T)net/u/2003775/


A/N: Although this prologue is rated T for the contest, the story itself will be rated M for language, violence, dark themes, and mature content.

I want to thank my beta pochacco906 for her willingness to beta my last minute entry to this contest! You're wonderful! (Yes, I'm sucking up! LOL)

Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns any characters and plot lines that are associated with the Twilight Series that may appear in my stories. The remainder is my original work. Copyright 2008 and 2009 by SavageWoman. No copying or reproduction of these works are permitted without my express written authorization.


Prologue

I looked into her deep brown eyes and marveled that she still trusted me. Me! A monster, a fiend of the night – the vampire who would, in one way or another, cause her death. The part of me that thirsted for her blood scoffed at this stupid lamb for living amongst lions.

She knew what I was, what we all were. She was a human living within the walls of the Volturi stronghold; witness to everything vampire, our laws, our ways, our nature. And this knowledge spelled death for her. She would die. The question remained, who would do it and to what end?

After binding her to me through an ancient ritual of blood and venom, Aro declared that I now 'owned' her. She was mine to do with as I pleased as long as she remained alive and human until Aro deemed it time for her to make her choice.

Her choice was nothing more than a thinly veiled ultimatum. Either become a vampire and join the Volturi in eternal servitude or be given back to me as a gift from Aro. She was my la tua cantante, my singer, and as such, the vampires of the Volturi assumed that I would kill her and drain her. Her blood was a rare gift. Everyone considered Aro's gift a great honor and to refuse it would offend him immensely.

Of course, when Aro made her this degrading offer, it was assumed that if she chose to return to me, I would give into my nature and accept her blood. She was nearly irresistible to me. These longs months spent in her presence have been torture. And what a sweet torture it has been.

The dark monster that lurked within waited patiently for the decision that was upon us and was now licking his lips in anticipation as Chelsea brought Bella forth. It was time for her to announce her decision. I knew Bella wasn't ready, but she'd told me she'd made her choice. It was a choice that sickened me, but given her alternatives, it was the least objectionable in her eyes. Either way, her heart would stop and life as a human was over.

"Bella, my beauty," Aro crooned as he stepped toward her with open arms. This gesture held no warmth.

"Aro." Bella stepped into his embrace out of obligation. The stony set of her eyes told me she was disguising her disgust with indifference. As soon as Aro released her, Bella stepped back and took her rightful place next to me. A deep sense of sorrow filled me. I struggled with what had to be done. She understood that decorum dictated her actions with her peculiar position in the Volturi. I offered her the only protection she had within these walls. A condition often caused me to question how she felt about me.

Aro turned to the assembly of vampires who were curious enough to see what most considered a circus attraction – the human exhibit.

"Welcome my children. After spending these past months living among the Volturi, it is time for our dear Bella to give us her decision," Aro declared with an arrogant air that demanded the attention of every vampire in the room. He turned to Bella and with a confident smile asked, "What say you? Are you ready to join our family and become a member of the Volturi?"

Bella looked at me for a moment, as if trying to draw courage from me. I felt helpless, unable to do anything for her. Part of me wanted to grab her, jump out the window and run away with her. Another part of me wanted to sink my teeth into her warm pulsating flesh and drink from her, sating my thirst once and for all. And yet another part of me resented her very presence. She was my own personal demon sent from the depths of hell to torment me.

But my hands were tied by my past, by the arrangement I'd made with Aro, and by my rights to her. We both were walking our own tightropes of peril and with her decision, a simple shift of the wind could spell disaster for one, if not both of us.

Squaring her shoulders, she stepped forward to address the triumvirate. "Aro, I have made my decision."

Aro smiled in anticipation, so sure that she would chose a life of servitude.

"I choose to give my life to Edward, to do as he pleases." Her voice hung in the air and held the tone of finality.

Aro's thoughts instantly turned malicious. This was not part of his plan. Bella's promise for a great vampire talent was almost a certainty. Aro had spent the better part of Bella's time here anticipating the addition of her gift to his already formidable force.

"I'm sorry to hear that Bella. I must admit, this is not what I expected of you. Have we not treated you with hospitality, attended to your human needs, attempted to keep you safe?" I almost laughed out loud at Aro's hospitality and efforts to keep her safe, but I knew better than to disrespect the most powerful vampire in the world.

"Yes, Aro. You have seen that my human needs have been met. I have not forgotten your kindness. However, an eternal lifetime of servitude as a vampire is not something I desire. So I will respectfully decline your offer and leave it at that." I knew she did not want to have a discussion with Aro about why she would not serve the Volturi. And she also knew that is was not wise to provoke Aro by insulting him. But it still angered me that she had to supplicate herself to him, forced into this position.

"Perhaps all you need is a bit of motivation, Felix?" As Aro uttered his words, his plan became painfully clear - a forced renouncement of the blood and venom that joined Bella to me.

"No!" I roared, taking a defensive position in front of Bella. I had to protect what was mine. This woman belonged to me. Her body… her silent mind… her blood… All mine! The black monster in me that had waited patiently roared to life. I did not intend to share her with anyone. If anyone partook of her blood, it would be me and no one else. She chose me!

"Burn him." Aro's soft words had barely made it to my ears when a white-hot pain pierced my head, engulfing my body in the worst kind of misery. It was like experiencing the pain of transformation, but with the clarity of vampire senses, it magnified the experience beyond description.

Barely aware of the cold stone under my body as I writhed on the ground, I agonized leaving Bella exposed, defenseless. I heard a horrid screaming sound, only to realize it was coming from me. As my mind slipped into a pain-filled oblivion, time and space ceased where nothing else existed except for this ceaseless torture. An eternity in hell was suddenly appealing if it meant relief from this fiery affliction.

"Stop it! Please, Stop!" Bella's screams started to cut through the pain and I focused on the sound of her anguished voice. "You're killing him!" Jane continued her assault on my mind but hearing Bella's voice gave me hope.

Suddenly the burning lifted. Blinking a few times, I found Bella crouched in front of my prone body on the floor. She took a defensive stance as if to fight for me. I looked at her in wonder as I realized that the careful placement of her body between Jane and me blocked the attack.

Jane's answering hiss filled the room as she took an attack position, ready to spring on Bella. Even in my weakened state, I quickly jumped up and pulled Bella back behind me as I readied myself for Jane. Aro placed a gentle hand on Jane's shoulder and she relaxed her stance immediately, but her malevolent glare and vicious thoughts told me she was not nearly as willing to break off her attack as she let on.

"Now, now, Jane. This is not the time. We don't want to lose our precious Bella because you don't appreciate her ability to block yours," Aro admonished.

I didn't need to hear Jane's thoughts to know what the curling sneer of her lip meant.

Aro turned to his brothers and boasted, "Cauis, Marcus, did you see? Think of the potential when she becomes one of us." It was clear. Aro had no intention of honoring his agreement with Bella. He would force her to become a vampire of the Volturi.

"You, Bella will be one of us," Aro ordered before waving a hand dismissively. "Felix, take her."

My feral growl filled the room as I prepared to defend what was mine. "Edward, you won't win. She is too valuable to waste. I'm sorry, but I have to deny you this – la tua cantante."

Before Felix could make his move to lunge at Bella, I flew at him, reading his intentions in his mind before he acted. As we fell to the ground, Felix rolled and got the upper hand. Picking me up by my throat, he pinned me to the wall, the stone cracking with the force of the impact.

I looked at Bella to find her in the clutches of Demetri, his lips pressed to her neck, teeth at the ready.

"Get your filthy hands off her!" I snarled struggling against Felix's iron grip. The thought of him tasting what I'd denied myself for months was agonizing. I struggled to rein in the wild thoughts of the black monster within before I lost control.

"Edward, it doesn't have to be this way," Aro said, as if we had options.

Before I could respond, Bella's angry voice rang out, "That's it? Is this the best the Volturi have to offer? You gave me your word to honor my decision. You, who uphold the laws of the vampire world, have now declared yourselves above your own rules. And why? Because you didn't get your way. And yet you want me to be subject to your decisions." She tried to shrug off Demetri to no avail. But a subtle nod from Aro freed Bella. She didn't even blink twice when Demetri released his hold on her. She just continued her tirade.

"We had a deal, Aro. I upheld my end. I remained here in Volterra, within the walls of your fortress, surrounded by evil, vile creatures. Made to spend every waking moment with a vampire who loathed my very presence, who wanted to savagely drain every ounce of life-giving blood from my body before casting my dead corpse aside like a piece of trash. I didn't have to stay here." As Bella uttered those words, my dead heart sank. Is that how she saw me? Did she really think I felt that way about her?

A sinister chuckle spread around the room as every vampire in the room mocked her words.

"Bella, my child. You don't really think we would have let you leave?" Aro said, clearly amused at her naivety.

"I'm not so foolish to think you would let me walk out the door, Aro. But I could have left simply by killing myself. As you've so aptly pointed out time-and-time again, I am a fragile human whose life is so easily snuffed out. Do you think vampires are the only ones capable of killing a human? How easy would it have been for me to throw myself off the highest tower of this castle? Even with Edward's constant presence, he didn't know my mind. I could have killed myself at anytime without anyone knowing what my intentions were until it was too late.

"I have honored my end of the agreement. I have remained in Volterra under the watchful eye of my mortal enemy. I have allowed you to keep me here against my will, mock me, test me, degrade me, and humiliate me like a sideshow freak. I have never complained once. So tell me, Aro, are you a vampire of honor? Will you stick to our agreement or was all this just another game to you – toying with a pathetic human?" Bella ground out the last of her speech with calm dignity. I stood in awe of this frail human who dared to take a stand against one who would end her life with the flick of a wrist if he so deemed it.

How could I ever consider killing this magnificent creature? She was amazing in more than just the smell of her blood singing for me, only me.

Aro stood silent, considering her words. His mind raged at her argument, but he saw the truth there. He struggled with the choice she'd made. He looked up and saw me watching him with a smug smile on my face. He narrowed his eyes at me before closing his mind.

He turned to confer with Caius and Marcus, each one taking Aro's hand to convey their silent thoughts. I knew once their decision was made, there was nothing I could do. I would have to abide by their decision or die at their hands.

Caius made no attempts to shield his thoughts from me. His heart was full of hatred and malice for Bella and me. He was outraged that a lowly human dared to stand up to the Volturi in that way. His vote was clear – either she be turned and serve forever or be killed by Felix, cutting me completely out.

Marcus, on the other hand, was surprisingly animated on the subject, not that you would know it by looking at his outward appearance. He still looked bored, as if his eternal life had ceased to hold any joy and was nothing more than a bitter life-sentence. His mind, however, was alive with his opinions on how to deal with Bella's request. Not only was he surprised by the strength of the bond between Bella and me, he wanted us to have the opportunity to continue our lives, exploring the options of a vampire and a human relationship.

Aro shook his head at the wistful thoughts of Marcus. Volturi Law would never allow Bella to remain alive as a human. She would either live as a vampire or die as a human. Marcus sighed and cast his vote to honor Bella's decision.

The decision was split, leaving it up to Aro to break the tie and decide which direction to take. The anticipation was killing me, tension rolling off me in waves. I felt Bella's hand slip in mine, instantly calming me. I looked down into the face of the woman who held the strings to my dead heart and saw trust shining in her eyes. I knew what she wanted of me, but the question was… Could I live with it?