Disclaimer: All Characters belong to Stephanie Meyer. The plot is all mine.


Bella

I sat at on the edge of the bed, my feet dangling off the ground like a wayward pendulum. A dumbstruck expression on my face as I continued to stare at the closed door before me.

My mind was stuck in a loop replaying the last few seconds before he departed and the words he spoke – I refused to believe that something spoken so casually could be attained quite so easily.

It was the crux of this whole catastrophic situation.

I could go home, just like that? …. But I had a sadistic she-devil redhead holding me responsible for her mate's death. And if I weren't around then she would look elsewhere. But if I went back then I would only lead her to my father and other innocent bystanders that would fall to her savage path to revenge. There was neither guarantee nor limit to Victoria's cruelty. If she was anything like James and how he relished his methods in making me scream in pain before he wanted to kill me then …

I shivered when I recalled those memories. But does that mean I could still stay here, in this den of equally savage predators, and endure even another day? Even though I was that one who decided on accepting this – what ever this was – it was still done under deceitful pretenses. Had I not looked pitiful to Aro, then I would have been sitting here, still thinking of myself as a foolish, oblivious, martyr.

The tingling sensation that still lingered on my swollen lips sent a phantom shudder across my skin and I clutched the light fabric of my robes to my body, feeling more exposed than covered. I had to change out of these clothes. And I wasn't going to wait for Jane's approval to enter and pick from a closet that was only a few feet away from me and was probably considered mine!

I pushed myself off the bed and though I was dauntless a second ago, I began to feel a bit of apprehension with each moment passing as I took wary steps to approach the door that stood between me and the main sitting area of the living quarters.

When I gently opened the door to the bedroom I went from casual walking to lightly tiptoeing like a miscreant, looking left and right like I would be caught doing something I shouldn't. When my paranoia dimmed, as I knew I was actually alone I made my way to the closet. And after sifting through each row of clothes that looked more outrageous and far too extravagant than the next, I found a light knit sweater long enough to be called a dress.

A quick round to the bathroom and a good scrub later and I was marginally looking and feeling better as I exited the bathroom with semi-wet hair and a preoccupied mental state of mind – thinking about everything yet nothing, all at the same time. So much so that I walked out of the bathroom and didn't take notice to the person standing beside the only door in and out of this chamber if it not had been for the deep shade of red of the dress she wore. But even then I could have easily walked passed her, as she stood as silent as an inanimate figure, but her perfect pitched tone rang so clear against the contrast of the dead silence in the room that it was like having a bell ring beside your ears or fingers being snapped in front of your eyes that you actually get startled back into reality.

"Well, well, well ... aren't you just adjusting fittingly to your quintessence arrangements,"

How long has she been standing there was beyond me but she looked more intrigued than agitated the last time I had caught that final glimpse of her before she and Caius … clashed. It still felt too surreal to even think it to be true. But it also made me wonder as to what sort of person this woman was to go in a hand-to-hand combat with someone as dangerous as an ancient vampire leader.

However her volatile temper is still to be determined.

"I wouldn't call it adjusting more than resignation." I replied timidly.

Her eyes sparkled with interest. "Resignation you say? Hmm .. to what?" She placed her fist on her hip and eyed me up and down. Her gaze lingered on my bare feet for longer than required.

"I'm trying not to delude myself into thinking otherwise … of the sort of predicament I put myself in."

Her ruby tinted eyes dragged lazily slow to meet mine. She lightly chuckled. "Do you really believe you willingly placed your fate into this – that you had control over the choice to be here?"

I clenched my teeth. "No one forced me."

"That is what you believe, child." She spoke tilting her head and gazing at me slyly like she purposely let something slip.

I didn't know if it was my own imagination but the air in the room grew a touch cooler. "Look, I wasn't dragged kicking and screaming. And I did not plead for otherwise." I don't know what this woman believed she knew but clearly she needed to get her truth straight.

Instead she smiled knowingly, perfect white teeth gleaming against the chandelier lights. "That is what my husband wants you to think. He truly is a genius in so many ways." She uttered in a fond tone.

"Your husband?"

Her eyes widened suddenly. "Oh! … I haven't suitably made introductions. How undignified of me." She feigned embarrassment and righted her stance in decorum.

"I'm Sulpicia, Aro's devoted wife and loyal mate." She announced with pride in her sultry voice.

It was my turn to be genuinely flabbergasted. "You .. Y-you're …his wife?!" I couldn't discipline my features from the shock as my eyes sized her up once more now that I fully knew who she was.

She raised a perfect high-arched eyebrow at my riposte. "Did you expect someone else? Am I not up to par with your high standards?" she scoffed with an arrogance of someone who was born of a high position and reveled in looking down on the subsidiary class.

The venom in her voice was like cold water to my visage. "I didn't mean that." I shifted in my place feeling a pink tint creep on my cheeks.

My humility seemed to have appeased her as she approached the lavishly stitched sofas and slowly lowered herself to recline in it. She fluidly placed one leg over the other; the extensive slit of her dress opening to expose two perfectly shaped, long flawless, ivory legs, covered in luxurious velvet red pumps.

"And I do not give a glimmer of care to your opinion either way. I was guilefully teasing you." She smirked.

"A-alright …?" It slowly became dauntingly clear that she was effortlessly getting under my skin. Her smile, her demeanor, her words; they baited.

"I was furthermore curious about you, although I could not approach without having that retched bastard intervening." She exclaimed, huffing in annoyance.

"So you waited until he left me alone to make your move?"

Her perfectly sharp features scrunched into a condemning frown. "I do not wait, child. People like me do not have a need for patience. But let us not dwell nor distract for the pivotal matter …" She leaned forward in her chair and motioned to the other end of the sofa for me to sit.

I felt a sense of trepidation but then I wasn't going to rebuff someone who had such a down right cutting attitude. She reminded me strongly of Rosalie; only she exuded magnitudes of tyrannize. And here I thought Rosalie was a unique brand of vanity and intimidation, but no, this woman was in a whole other league.

I sat as further away from her on the sofa without deeming it to be offensive. But from her supercilious aura I wouldn't peg her for the closeness type.

"How are you?" She suddenly voiced.

Her question caught me by surprise that I openly gapped before I remembered to snap my mouth shut and respond. "Ex … E-excuse me?"

"Are you deaf, girl? I wish to know how you fare." She looked very intrigued, eyeing me like a prime piece of …. well, something that I was not sure I wanted to acquaint with.

"I'm sorry. I heard you, but why would … why do you care?"

She laughed, her voice ringing so effortlessly that I couldn't help being envious. And then suddenly she cut herself off, like someone pushed a mute button on her. "Personally I do not care at all." She examined her nails to emphasize her point. "But Aro cares a great deal about you. Heaven forbid if something would befall you, he would be most upset. And that is something I do not wish to see on my darling husband's perfect face."

"Did he ask you to see me?"

She gave me a sharp sideways glance – so sharp it felt comparable to a needle stab in the ribs. "He has no need for that. However, considering your special circumstances and the company that surrounds you …. Let us just say this is no place for a human to be living in. If that was not so brutally obvious by now."

"Well, he wouldn't need to worry about my well being for much longer."

She appeared very interested and leaned in her seat, like I was some form of entertainment that was about to begin. "And why is that? Does Caius abuse you, did he physically harmed you?" She spoke with a mock cooing tone.

I felt myself going rigid. Again, that feeling of her getting under my skin was itching at the seams. "That's not what I was saying. Caius … told me I could return home." I stated sharply.

She smirked. "You barely been here a few days and already he grew tired of you? Aww you poor little girl."

Her words stunned me.

I ... I … I didn't know what to say.

"So it is true. Oh well …. I'm not surprised. You should consider yourself lucky none the less." She shrugged.

I blanched. Lucky? "How am I lucky?"

"The one before you wasn't granted such mercy." She sneered.

I was perplexed to whom she was referring to. When she saw my oblivious reaction she tilted her head back and started laughing, much more sincerely this time. "He didn't tell you, did he? This is most fascinating! What a devious little snake he is." She threaded her fingers together and batted her eyes at me.

"Tell me what? What are you talking about?"

She giggled again, but attempted to feign muffling the sounds. That knowing look crossed her eyes. A moment later she placed the same hand to rest on her cheek as she smiled widely and replied. "Caius' former mate and long long long long loooo-oong time wife."

This shouldn't have made me feel anything. But then why did it seem like I was punched in the gut, stabbed in the chest, fell to the ground and got kicked in the face. This revelation shouldn't concern me – yet I found that words spilt forth without my permission …

"Where is she? What happened to her?"

"He killed her – ripped her apart with his bare hands while she begged and screamed throughout the entire castle for his mercy." She snarled in obvious disgust.

She slithered slightly closer to me on the sofa, but kept an arm's length between us. She smiled wickedly, her stance suggestive and provocative. I couldn't help my eyes wandering over her lithe form.

"Regardless of that, do you know what is even more… riveting?" she whispered, ignoring the fact that I was …. Checking her out. I bit my lip to control my embarrassment but it was futile as my cheeks reddened.

"What?" I inquired, holding my breath. My nerves were hot like live wire.

"Nobody did a thing to stop it. They just .. allowed it to happen. Even when her cries of help reached every ear in the castle."

"But why? Surely being mated to someone of such a high position meant she had some form of protection. E-even from her own mate."

"Haah!" Sulpicia scoffed. "You need to understand something, child. When one of the leaders acts, even on impulse, no one can stand in their way except for the other leaders." She pointed her sharp index finger at me. "That … is an actual law." She smirked before she melted back into her seat, and rocked her heel back and forth while she examined her shoe with interest.

After a long stretch of silence, once these new details were laid on tenterhooks. With a stiff spine, and an even stiffer throat, I finally managed to find my voice. "So they can… end… anyone they wished, even their own mate … for no reason whatsoever?"

"Yes." She hissed, her eyes flashing, like the masquerading predator that she was. But suddenly she retreated to her side of the sofa. "Except for myself, of course. I only get punished. And my 'punishment' is only by my beloved Aro's hands." She smiled gleefully, teeth glinting ominously. I muffled the perturbation at her expression, as I didn't even want an elaboration to what her words entailed.

But one thing was still very unclear to me. "Why are you telling me all of this?" I frowned.

Her eyes wandered around the room as she spoke. "You could not possibly reside her and not have knowledge of the rules and hierarchy within the castle. It would be in your best favor if you wish to survive another day. One person's demise could very well be your … salvation." Her eyes slowly met mine and her lips stretched wider into an inhuman smile.

The creepiness she was exuding made me uncontrollably squirm under her severe gaze. I clasped my hands on my lap and squared my shoulders. She will not get under my skin.

"Well thank you for the advice, but I don't need to know any of that. I said before, I would be leaving here soon. So please don't waste your time with me. I'm sure a person as important as you has far more pressing matters to focus on then just some ... random human girl." I told her, mustering a calm and resolute tone. My voice slightly wavered but it was the best I could do.

As I knew … I knew I was talking down about myself, but if this woman is anything like Rosalie, then I just had to simply center her attention on her own narcissism instead of on me. And I would just like for her to leave as what she was saying has been seriously rubbed on me the wrong way and I wasn't sure why. I really didn't care that Cai .. that he had a mate, or if she is dead by her own husband. Focusing on things that transpired within these walls was none of my concern. The more I detach myself from this place, the faster I can make haste to leave.

Those small precious moment where I was rapt in my own head, and the quietness lasted all but a few seconds, where the silence was deafening, and a phantom chill crept up my legs and froze the air in my lungs. I knew that her charade was over. That demonic smile on her painted lips melted into a bare expression. But those eyes … oh god those eyes, they held an alarming amount of cruelty. All of which were directed at me. "Waste my time, you say …."

She slowly rose from her seat, a coiling reptile ready to strike, looming over me. Paralyzing me. Those terribly awful eyes looked down at me. "Then I shall take the gratification of elaborating your situation in simple words you will comprehend,

"You. Are. Not. Going. Anywhere." She mouthed slowly.

"I beg your pardon .."

"Oh you can beg …" She spoke over me. "… you can certainly try. Although it is a futile effort … accept it now."

"I will not .."

"What you will do is shut your disrespectful mouth, or I will sew it shut with my own hands. And for once in your pathetic miserable life … listen." If I thought she was standing close and over me then I was sadly mistaken as she took a final step forward. Her pointed shoes almost hitting my bare toes – almost. And dominated me with a presence that nearly had me weak at the knees had I not been gratefully sitting down.

"My perfect benevolent husband went through his means to bring you here. Not just so you can serve the sole purpose of being an entertaining debauchery for that arrogant son of a swine. I do not give a shit what that pathetic excuse of a man wants to do to you, but my husband plans to keep you around. And it is my duty as his loyal wife to ensure his 'fascination' remains … in line.

"And when he deems his curiosity has peaked it's inevitable end – only then you can leave. And I do not give a fuck where you go. You may go back to your abominable human family … or you can go wherever the wind blows your way." She crossed her arms over her torso and quirked a mused eyebrow. "Hell .. I'll even bestow upon you a substantial endowment to make sure you live in affluence for the rest of your mortal years away from us all. And all you need to do is just be a good little respectful girl, keep that offending trap shut, and do whatever my husband wants."

I… I cou … I couldn't speak! I couldn't even make my hand twitch if my life depended on it. She seemed to have noticed my state and her eyes flashed in vile pleasure.

"Don't try to give yourself mental damage to utter a word. Just nod your desolate little head to express your compliancy."

Whither it was a defense mechanism, or just out of sheer fear of this woman standing in front of me – my head involuntary tilted down and then up once.

Her eyes glazed with drunken satisfaction and approval. "And if I find any deviation from our agreement, I will do so many horrible things to you and the people you love that it will be whispered among our kind and your kind for centuries to come."

She bent down, her lips an inch from my ear. Her cold whisper prickling like sharp frosted needles down my back. "For centuries I have watched my beloved Aro exercise his justice upon our enemies. I learned a thing or two from him that I am just … itching to try. If you play your part unfittingly I will gladly use you as my trial subject."

With a flutter in blonde and red she twirled around and gracefully glided her way across the sitting chamber to the exiting doors.

With the massive wooden door half ajar and her robust form half way out, she turned her head towards me as though she came across an afterthought.

"Oh … and you needn't worry about Caius – if he truly is grown bored with you, that is. The unmated females that reside in this castle, they also serve another purpose beside guard duty." She arched a hinting brow and winked conspiratorially. "Though I call you such, you are by no means a child. I believe what I said speaks plenty for you to understand at your age."

"But this place does have its merits for a human like yourself. Do have fun … while you still can – Oh … and do put some shoes on. You are not a peasant, so I suggest you cease acting like one." She sniggered before closing the door silently behind her.

I pressed my hand over my ears. Her laughter echoed distinctly in my ears along with her words that rippled and disturbed my consciousness. "It doesn't concern me. I'll be leaving this place soon." I spoke softly to myself. Willing the words to give me some strength. But instead, all they did was fill me with anger and other pessimistic emotions.

I rose sharply from my seat, my knees slightly shook but I just couldn't care. As I made my way back to the bedroom in a daze, something caught my attention in my peripheral vision. Something draped over one of the ornate chairs at the corner of the bedroom.

I didn't recognize what it was at first. But as I slowly approached the chair and picked up the piece of heavy, dark luxurious, material it was like a switch of recognition that flicked in my brain. And instantly I knew what it was, as what I had clutched in my hands were Caius' fine embroidered Volturi robes.


Sulpicia leaned over the large, intricately carved, door with a satisfied smirk across her noble, albeit deviant face.

"It doesn't concern me. I'll be leaving this place soon." She heard the girl whisper. And she laughed anew to herself at the foolishness that this young gullible mortal girl has deluded her mind into.

"That was not nice, sister." A soft brittle voice stated behind the blonde vampress.

"Sneaky as always aren't you, Marcus my dear?" She turned around to face her accuser.

"I share your sentiment." Marcus inclined his head with a mild disapproving look in his veiled eyes. A novel emotion, as considered, he hasn't shown in such a long time. And it caught Sulpicia off her guard, stunning her for a moment.

But immediately she collected herself and lifted her chin high, mustering every bit of aristocracy that was groomed into her. "If she is going to stay under our roof then she needs to learn her place."

"That is not for you to decide, sister – You heard what she said. She wishes to leave." Marcus looked to the grand door then to his sister in many ways.

Sulpicia scoffed. "The underworld would freeze over before she gets what she wants. Aro won't allow it, and neither will I. The little bitch needs to know what is expected of her. She is nothing more than Aro's current interest, and a little side plaything for that fucking bastard."

"She will be ripped apart so fast that I even doubt she will live to see another mortal day, let alone to live long enough to become an immortal." Sulpicia mused thoughtfully. "Although … if she did survive. She will certainly earn a minuscule part of my awe."

"Aro will not like this."

"Not if you decide to spoil my joy and tell him, my dear brother." She walked up to Marcus and pecked him on the cheek before she gracefully sauntered down the hall.

Marcus approached the closed doors to Bella's chambers and placed his hand on the door with a long lost contemplative gaze. "May you be granted the strength to survive, dear child." He softly murmured then turned to walk along the corridor and disappeared around the corner.


Somewhere on the other side of the castle …

Another leader was pacing back and forth in the throne room. A small door to the side of the massive circular chamber opened and behind it emerged a tall, blonde immortal.

The leader halted his pacing and narrowed his eyes at the other male. "You are late." Aro sneered.

"Do you have any idea how important this meeting is?"

Caius looked around the throne room. "Do not blame me for punctuality when Marcus isn't even in attendance. Are you planning to reprimand how he manages his itinerary as well?"

"Marcus has his own tasks to fulfill. And you need to worry with sorting your own … priorities." Aro's tone was casual but the hidden meaning in his eyes conveyed his current displeasure with his brother's distractions from official duty.

"Forgive me, brother, but I do not recall what is so special about this visit from the many ones we had in the past."

Aro waved a hand in the air in frustration. "We need to solidify our relations with our European tributaries. Now that the Cullen Coven is under our influence, we need to ensure that our allied covens throughout the continent unify themselves under the Volturi name." He took a seat in his throne and eyed his brother.

"The world is changing and we need to adapt, Caius. The covens across the west are growing weaker and decreasing in numbers. As newer immortals are born, if they haven't found mates, they would prefer to live a nomadic life of solitude. And since we took the Cullen coven, one of the largest and most gifted, under our reign. The other covens that have good relations with Carlisle would have no choice but to fold in line."

Caius crossed the chamber to stand before his dark haired partner. "Are you quite confident those other covens that fawn over Carlisle so much would even bend to our direct authority so easily? Even I know that your precious Carlisle would encourage them to do the opposite." He spoke with contempt as he approached his own throne and took a seat beside his brother.

"You may find it ludicrous to believe, but I already anticipate that Carlisle would weigh toward the less violent option." The dark haired leader smirked and waved a finger between himself and his blonde brother. "Ergo; us!" He declared confidently and placed his hand on the armrest of his throne. "… After all, they already face trouble with a rogue out for her mate's revenge. I expect that dear Carlisle doesn't want more tension with us that could jeopardize his good name and reputation."

"I hardly believe that one scorned female can cause such mayhem." Caius sneered.

Aro turned in his seat toward his brother, his eyes flashing mischievously. "You have no idea, brother! From the intelligence reported by the guards we sent to 'aid' the Cullens, it would appear the rogue female has created quite the little army, ready to reek havoc on that little town of theirs."

A lazy devilish smile stretched on Caius' lips. "And how is your precious Carlisle planning to deal with such a conundrum?"

Aro's smile matched his brother as he leaned closer. "Carlisle will be privy to that bit of information when I deem the time to be right. As of now, the army is laying dormant, awaiting their mistress's signal."

"And where is this so called; love scorned, vengeful 'mistress' now? It would be problematic to your plan if she was to lay her siege on the Cullens and they were unprepared. After all your hard work, that would be a waste."

Aro laugh, his voice echoing across the ivory marble tile of the throne room. "She fled! Abandoned her army, she did. Her failed little act of terrorism played right into our strategy."

Caius' smile faded into a confused scowl at his dark haired brother. "She is still a problem. She needs to be eliminated before she truly causes a greater catastrophe. I do not see how you can be so relaxed about this."

Aro eyed his brother closely as he spoke. "Because we have the very thing she wants; our dear sweet Isabella." Caius stiffened at the mention of the human girl. Aro noticed his brother's intriguing reaction, but chose to proceed rather than jibe about it. "She doesn't know that we have her with us. Our extraction was very quick and discreet. She is going to waste her time searching in all the wrong places."

Caius turned his head to look across the chambers. His jaw was set tightly and his fists were clenched on the armrest in agitation. "For all our sakes, I hope your expectation are righteous."

Aro noticed the tension in Caius' profile. "I am highly offended you would think otherwise. These are all simple war strategies with minimal casualties." He looked at his blonde brother in disapproval. "I wish you would at least make an effort to read those books I gave you on neo-politics and war." Aro sighed.

With a pout on his lips, Aro then added snidely. "At the very least Marcus has the decency to be on the same page as me when the time requires. You, on the other hand, take to sulking and whining like a reckless infant."

Caius suddenly whipped his head in Aro's direction. Glaring a glare of a thousand daggers. "Excuse me for expressing my brutal honesty that always falls deaf on your ears. Some of us do not have our heads stuck up your arse like others do."

"You can be such a boor oftentimes, Caius. Honestly!"

"Save those undesired criticisms for when you wish to complain to Marcus about me behind my back."

"It wouldn't be behind your back if you already know about it." Aro retorted.

Just then the main doors to the throne room opened and Alec entered. He stopped at the center of the circular chamber and bowed to his superiors. "My kings. The honored guests have arrived."

"Splendid!" Aro declared. "Show them in."

"As you wish." Alec nodded and left.

Caius straightened in his seat to show a more authoritative yet rigid demeanor. While Aro exuded the same ambience of supremacy in his own relaxed pleasant fashion.

Caius' lips automatically curled in annoyance. "It seemed to have crossed over my head. Nevertheless, could you prompt as to whom is about to walk into our domain?"

Aro clicked his tongue in reprimand. "The Venetian coven. And I ask that you keep the deprecating remarks to a limit. Lorenzo recently lost his mate, so we should pay our respects accordingly." He shot the blonde immortal a hard gaze.

"Very well. I will attempt to bite my tongue. Although do not expect me to start shitting flowers and poetry and be achingly charming as you put on." Caius huffed.

Aro chuckled. "I wouldn't wish for anything else."

The grand golden embellished doors of the throne room opened again. Entering the chambers was Demetri, Alec, and Felix. Following behind them was a man of medium stature in his early forties with jet-black, wavy, hair that ended around his shoulder blades. His face was passive yet held the chiseled sharp jaw and long nose of a noble with hereditarily pureblooded birth, enhanced to look even more refined and handsome with venom. Beside the man was a young woman with straight dark brunette hair, and behind them were two men that looked nearly the spitting younger image of the older gentleman.

Aro smiled as he rose from his seat and stepped down from the dais to approach the visitors. Not wishing to give his brother any ammunition to be harped on later, Caius rose from his seat as well and walked behind him.

"Welcome my friends!" Aro exclaimed. Alec and Demetri flanked their masters' side while Felix stood behind the visitors. "I can not express how happy you made me when you accepted my invitation." Aro approached the older gentleman. "It is so good to see you, Lorenzo."

"Your summons couldn't have come at a better time. I have been meaning to pay you a visit, it was a good a chance as any." Lorenzo motioned with his hand to the two men standing behind him. "Aro, you remember my sons?"

Aro's smile widened even more as he looked at the young men. "To forget would be an offense I wish not to commit. Dante, Giovanni, you honor my home with your visit."

"The honor is ours." Giovanni replied brightly.

"Thank you for having us, your grace." Dante nodded more timidly.

Then the older man pointed to the brunette beside him. "And this is Viviana. She has very recently joined our coven and we have grown exceptionally fond of her."

As sure as night and day, Aro was positive he has met the entire members of the Venetian coven. They were a group of a moderate size. But the thing that piqued his curiosity was that they were all consisting of men, except for Lorenzo's departed mate. So it went without saying that Aro preserved his emotions when he noticed his old friend put his arm comfortably around the female and brought her very intimately close to his side. His hand stroked her hip in a way Aro was all too familiar with; it was possessive. And it sparked Aro's insatiable interest. For he could attest that he has seen, in his long years, many peculiar ways in which the loss of a mate was handled.

Itching to get his hand on the Venetian leader and gaze into his memories for further details about this new addition to their fold, Aro decided take their meeting to a more close setting.

"Come my friend, let us move to a comfortable social location. Marcus is awaiting us in my private lounge so we may continue our conversation. We have much to discuss." Aro motioned to the small door to the side.

"Indeed we do." Lorenzo agreed as they walked beside one another. The remaining party fell silently behind.

Aro clasped his hands in front him. "My brothers and I wanted to express our condolences for the loss of your precious one. Severin will be greatly missed." Aro uttered with a sympathetic yet casual tone. And kept his eyes trained carefully on the other man's reaction to his words.

Lorenzo's shoulders moderately sagged. "A horrible tragedy, indeed. We were not prepared for her to leave us."

Examining the man's eyes, Aro frowned. "I see you have not fed in your time of grief. You should not neglect that need. If you desire, we can prepare something for you and your companions."

The older coven leader's eyes widened and darkened in growing thirst at the mention of sustenance. "Certainly. I would be a fool to decline your offerings. Since you clearly scout the best quality there is."

Aro quirked an amused eyebrow. "Oh …Why do you say that?"

Lorenzo peered behind Aro and over at a silently brooding Caius. "Judging by the scent lingering on Caius, of course – The moment I walked into the room and that smell is all I could think about. It is positively …. mouth watering."

Both the Volturi leaders and the guards slightly stiffened at the remark. Aro turned to look at his brother and inhaled deeply. He clenched and unclenched his hands in growing anger. For there was an undeniable hint of Isabella's unique fragrance that lingered and mixed within Caius' fine tailored garments. Aro reprimanded himself for not thinking about that little detail sooner. However, for the past days the smell has been lingering on his brother's clothes and it has become a part of his redolence that Aro had grown to overlook it very smoothly.

Aro causally scrutinized his blonde brother who was at the moment trying to contain his own affronted reaction. And then turned to his guest. "Do pardon me, Lorenzo, though it seems Caius has already indulged in that … selection. And greedily consumed it all to himself." He reached out and placed his hand on the other man's shoulder. "Fear not, for Heidi is an excellent huntress. You will have your pick of the finest, I assure you."

Once affirmed that the older man was appeased by his response, Aro turned his eyes discreetly toward his brother. Another detail he belatedly noticed was that Caius showed up to the meeting appearing slightly … underdressed. Aro couldn't voice aloud his censure. But the second his raging red eyes met the gaze of his irate brother's, Aro slowly dragged it down the length of Caius' uncloaked form.

Aro didn't need to speak the words, for he couldn't say it now in front of company. But he didn't need to. The look in Aro's eyes was enough.

'You stupid, bloody, inconsiderate, fool!'

And for once, Caius couldn't actively nor silently argue with his brother. His recklessness and distraction could very well have royal fucked them up.