Italians Do It Better
I stared at the man-vampire- in front of me, suppressing a telltale shiver from escaping down my spine. He was classical, yet dangerous beauty personified, with long burnished black hair restrained by a clip, stark patriarchal planes for a face and body, and mesmerising red eyes.
Aro, leader of the Volturi.
From the moment our eyes met, there was a panicked voice within yelling at me to run, and keep running, just to escape those haunting eyes, like iridescent rubies, deadly and powerful. My attention was riveted on them, unaware of Edward standing close to me, still swathed in the red cloak of the Volterra revellers, or of Alice watching the three vampires in front of us, simultaneously keeping an eye on the Volturi guard standing behind us. I swear I could feel Jane's eyes on me, as if she wanted to pierce my skin with her eyes. But I couldn't tear myself away from Aro.
He was everything.
His hands were pressed, palm to palm, together as if in prayer under his chin, staring at us, an air of diffident puzzlement about him. "What will we do with you now?" he asked me directly, his eyes riveted on mine. I struggled not to look away, staring him down. Or trying to; I was never going to win a staring contest with a vampire.
Clearly his fellow Volturi were tired of his games.
"You already know what you're going to do, Aro," Marcus sighed from his throne, his apathetic gaze steady on his brother. The blonde, haughty Caius spoke.
"She knows too much. She's a liability," he said, with a bored smirk in his drawling voice.
"That's true…." Aro paused, sighing heavily. As if he needed it. I shivered, as Edward tensed beside me, frowning darkly at the Volturi leader. This was not good. Aro cocked his head to the side, still watching me through those predatory eyes intently. A tense silence spiralled in the chamber stretching my nerves like chewing gum. I actually jumped when Aro finally broke it. "Felix."
As those two syllables reverberated around the room, the world spun. As I turned around at the bestial snarls coming from behind me, Edward swung me behind him, and lunged at Felix, taking him down to the floor. Alice started forward, but Demetri caught her by the throat, holding her easily. A moment later Edward grunted in pain as he was slammed into the marble floor by Felix, and Jane stepped forward, smiling beatifically, so angelic it was actually repulsive.
"This might hurt just a little bit," she said in her singsong voice, innocent and heavenly, just before Edward began to writhe in pain on the floor, fighting back the screams. My own was torn involuntarily from my throat as horror filled me.
"No, please! NO! Please!" I rounded on Aro, begging him to release Edward. I moved closer, and saw the female vampire standing close to him gasp, as Aro's eyes narrowed in speculation. Even Caius looked surprised.
I moved closer to Aro, pleading with every ounce of my being, putting it into my eyes. "Please stop this. Please, I'll do anything, just stop this,"
Aro smiled lazily and held up his hand, at which I heard Edward's grunts of pain stop, with a sigh of relief. My eyes were still fixed on Aro's, my breath shallow and quick.
A puzzled expression appeared in his eyes when his gaze left mine to look over my head.
"Well, well, well this is unexpected," he chuckled wryly. I span to find Jane glaring at me with all the enmity in her small body. I frowned, wondering what was supposed to be happening, until I realised. She could torture people with her mind, like she had Edward, but…not with me. I was safe from her.
Growling, obviously frustrated, Jane crouched ready to pounce, when I felt Aro's hand slide around my waist.
"Patience, dear one. She confounds us all," he said softly, yet his voice was pure silk. It flowed over my skin like icy water, and I struggled not to shiver or squirm under his touch, letting fear freeze me up into rigidity. I felt his fingers on the side of my face, moving my loose hair away from my cheek, before the backs slid down it, over the contours of my cheekbone to my jaw, turning my face to meet his eyes. "She confounds even me."
I could only stare up at him, frozen as the mouse is before the snake.
"I can see nothing. She blocks us all," he murmured, almost to himself, almost so low I couldn't hear him, but every vampire could. Edward growled from his position on the floor, still held by Felix.
A moment later I felt Aro's breath on my skin, as he breathed deeply of my scent. Fear rose in me but so did something else, something far more insidious and compelling. It quickened my breathing, set my pulse rocketing even more than it was already, in a way that only Edward had been able to evoke before.
"La tua cantante," he murmured, before I felt his eyes leave me and rise to the two vampires still being held by the Volturi. "Such protectiveness, and now I see why," he muttered. "Release them," he barked. Felix and Demetri let Edward and Alice go with low growls, still standing close to them so they couldn't try anything more. "Remember your words, Bella," he whispered in my ear, so low only I could truly hear him as close as we were.
Aro let me go and walked gracefully over to Edward and smiled condescendingly down at him as he stood up, rigid as a board. "You'll have to excuse us, Edward, Alice. I need to talk to Bella in private," he said, perfectly polite, but Edward growled anyway.
"No. Bella isn't going anywhere with you," he said, glaring at the older vampire.
"Edward…" Alice said warningly, taking his arm. Edward turned and looked straight at her. "No."
"I can't…." he began.
"No, Edward. He won't hurt her," Alice stared at him intently, trying to communicate something with her eyes. I narrowed mine, wondering what silent communication was passing between them.
"You have my word, Edward, redundant though it may be with Alice's assurance. She will not be harmed," Aro added. Just wanting to get it over and done with, so we could go home, I stepped up to Edward and squeezed his arm.
"It'll be alright, Edward. I don't think he'll hurt me," I assured him, trying to pretend I trusted the vampire leader. I didn't and I'd always been a terrible liar, and as expected, Edward's eyes narrowed. "Trust me I'll scream loud enough to break the sound barrier if he tries anything."
"And I'll be there in a flash. Be careful," he whispered, pain in his black eyes, before he let me go, brushing his lips over my forehead. A moment later I felt Aro place my hand in his, leading me away from Edward and out of the room.
I was led down interminable hallways of marble and stone, gilded with what I would have sworn was pure gold, ancient paintings and exquisite works of art littering the walls. Candelabras lit the halls with a gentle luminescence, more for effect than by necessity since vampires could see in the dark. But despite the opulence surrounding me, I couldn't relax or feel optimistic about this private meeting with Aro. Especially not with his gang of bodyguards throwing mental daggers at my back as I walked beside their leader.
At last we reached a great arched doorway, and Aro turned to his bodyguards.
"Leave us," he ordered softly. They all melted away into the shadows bar one, a young female who stayed as close as she could, until Aro shooed her away.
"Go, Renata. She may have defeated you, but she is no danger to me,"
With a slight whimper of distress, Renata left us.
"Gee, thanks for the compliment," I muttered under my breath, forgetting he could hear me. Aro chuckled and handed me through the door, and I couldn't help but gasp.
What I guessed to be Aro's personal quarters were elegant and luxurious, all gold gilding and opulent burnished mahogany. I was stood in a large sitting area, surrounded by tables holding candelabra and finely wrought alabaster figurines, a few books scattered over the tables' surfaces, ranging alongside mahogany framed sofas upholstered in cream damask. Books lined the cream coloured walls, as well as a few glittering pieces of art. I recognised a painting of the Mona Lisa, and pondered if it was a copy or not.
"Not exactly," Aro said from behind me, and I turned to meet his eyes. "I saw you looking at the painting. I knew Da Vinci and persuaded him to paint another before he presented his masterpiece to the world."
"Oh," was all I could say, nodding once. I tried to hide my shaking hands as Aro left my side to sit down, undoing the middle button of his black suit jacket, before fixing me with his gaze. I swallowed, uncomfortable.
"Why did you bring me here?" I finally asked, trying to inject some confidence into my voice. Aro's gaze did not waver.
"You are a puzzle, Bella Swan. You've confounded my bodyguards, particularly Renata and Jane. You've flouted vampire law and risked your life to save a man who abandoned you-" Aro began, speaking slowly, thoughtfully, before anger broke through my fear and my jaw firmed.
"Edward did not abandon me! He…he was trying to keep me safe-I-I…." I stopped and took a deep breath; fighting down the angry blush I could feel heating my cheeks. No need to tempt the bloodthirsty, carnivorous vampire. I turned to look Aro in the eye, where I found him staring at me. His gaze was fixed on my face.
"What?" I asked nervously.
"I see why Edward adores your blush so much. It really does enhance your beauty," Aro replied, calmly and smilingly. I stared at him, before his words sank in.
"That's none of your business. Why did you bring me here?" I reiterated, stepping closer to him. Aro smirked and regarded me through ruby eyes.
"So we may talk freely. Here your lover and his sister cannot hear us, and I would prefer that neither my brothers nor my guard hear the…substance of our conversation," he answered eventually, before standing in a blink of motion, to whisper in my ear. "So no matter how loudly you scream, Edward cannot hear you."
Instead of feeling fear at this statement, I felt only an odd yearning, one that surprised me as I stared at him. "Fine, so what do you want for sparing Edward's life?" I asked, hoping to just get it over with and get out of there. This situation was making me decidedly uncomfortable, particularly whilst he prowled around me predatorily, like a circling lion about to move in for the kill.
"You are a direct one, aren't you, Isabella Swan," he murmured, it wasn't a question. God, the way he said my name was a sensual caress in itself. "It's not quite as simple as that, my dear,"
"It's Bella," I blurted out. I really didn't want him calling me Isabella. "And what d'you mean it's not that simple?"
"What would you give me for your safe passage home, Bella?" Aro asked, looking directly into my eyes as he stopped in front of me. I stared at him blankly, my heart sinking. Tremblingly, I reached for my sleeve and bared my arm, where my pulse throbbed so hotly. I felt unbelievably warm under Aro's gaze, and it rankled slightly.
"If you want my blood, just take it. Let Alice and Edward go free," I whispered, fighting to keep my voice steady. Aro's amused chuckle sent me into shock, before anger set in. "What's funny? That's what you want isn't it?"
At my outburst, Aro sobered up, his eyes flashed, and I found myself spun around and clasped in his arms, my back to his torso. One cold hand was splayed loosely over my stomach, keeping me against him whilst his other hand sought out my bared wrist and pulled it up, so my upper arm and the crook of the elbow was level with his mouth.
"As tempting as your blood is, Isabella, it isn't what I want," he said, brushing his lips over the skin of my wrist, and up the length of my arm, before he draped it around his neck. God, the touch of his lips on my skin, it felt so-so good! Watching him do it set me aflame. I felt almost ashamed to admit it, but it did. I licked my suddenly dry lips, and managed to choke out,
"What are you doing?"
Aro's eyes met mine, his mouth mere inches from mine. "Just enjoying the bouquet. Unlike Edward, I need not fear that my control is too weak to enjoy the scent of you."
"Why are you doing this? What do you want?" I snapped, exasperated with his games. If he didn't want my blood then what did he want? I guess my thoughts showed on my face because Aro actually answered my unspoken question with a straight answer.
"I think you know what I want," he whispered, pulling my hair free from my neck and sweeping it over the other side of my shoulders. He pulled me against him tighter, as I gasped. "I know what you want as well."
Horrified comprehension filled my mind. He wanted….that. That three letter word I never discussed with Edward because it was too 'dangerous' for a human and a vampire.
"No!" I yelled, trying to break free and finding it impossible to do so. "And no I don't want this. How dare you just…presume….th-that!"
Aro's hold still didn't budge a single iota, instead it tightened possessively. There was no way I could get free.
"I may not be able to see into your mind, Bella, but your body is an open book," Aro whispered lasciviously against my artery, before that teasing sweep of cool lips again, sent my pulse racing. I felt the softness of his hair playing over the back of my hand where it was draped around his neck, the cool, slender yet hard body I'd been hauled against. There was a very good reason I shouldn't be here.
Edward, Edward, Edward…
But all thought was ripped away when Aro pulled my head around and set his lips to mine.
I was so going to hell for this.
It was rough and furious and passionate, yet never did I feel threatened by his strength. I twisted around in his arms and returned it, all thoughts wiped clean, just the instinctive desire to return the pleasure he was giving me remained. I opened my mouth to let him take it, sinking against Aro almost involuntarily. An intoxicating compulsion rose in my veins, one I couldn't fight for anything.
Aro's hand slid into my mussed hair, sliding around my nape and locking me to him. I struggled to breathe against his rock-hard chest, oxygen deprivation making me dizzy. I felt the sensation of flying, then falling as something soft pressed into my back, and the feeling of cool silk flowed over my skin. I opened my eyes and pulled back from Aro's lips, staring dazedly up at the ceiling.
Wait, the ceiling? Oh God…..
"God won't be much help to you right now, Bella," Aro stared down into my eyes. Whoops I hadn't thought I'd spoken aloud. I'd never thought I'd be lying on a bed with the leader of the Volturi either, but hey!
"Bella," he murmured, focussing my attention back on him, from where it had wandered in panicked procrastination. Then I realised where I was.
I was laid over his bed, hair flung out over the covers, one leg bent, whilst Aro, lying on his side, cradled me against his expensive suit-clothed chest, one long-fingered hand trailing over my forehead and face, lingering on the line of my lips. The other one rested on my abdomen, still making my heart race. I hoped in vain that the vampire beside me couldn't hear it.
His satisfied smile indicated otherwise, as he ran his thumb over my lower lip. Fresh desire rose at the contact, making the tender flesh of my lips throb. Chuckling slightly, Aro bent his head and teasingly brushed my lips with his, making me seek his lips. I was operating on auto-pilot; I locked my hand around his neck and kissed him. Hard.
I felt him shift, so his weight fell on me a bit more, and his hand glide under the material of my shirt, caressing the skin of my stomach and midriff. I gasped into our joined mouths, and arched my back, pushing my skin into his hand as it moved higher, brushing the rise of my chest. Aro's lips left mine, pressing hungry kisses onto my jawline, and down onto my neck. Soft gasps escaped from my mouth, as heat rushed through me, replacing any reluctance that could possibly have remained in my mind. I couldn't escape this, couldn't escape the realisation that I wanted him. Guilt had long since been subsumed by desire.
I'd never liked being passive with Edward, and I sure didn't like it now with Aro. I wanted to touch him as well as to be touched; I guessed he had a greater control over himself than Edward did. Tentatively, I raised my hands from where they lay by my sides, and gently touched his raven hair. Aro's mouth became greedier on my skin, as if he wanted to devour me, and my hands tightened around his skull, threading my fingers into the rich silk of his hair. I could feel his hands already pushing up my shirt, sliding up my ribcage, as I traced the line of his shoulders. Despite the fact he was slender, Aro was still broad-shouldered and muscular, his body as hard as any other vampire's. I splayed my hands over his back, holding him to me, aching to feel his cold skin warm to mine.
Aro pulled my shirt over my head, as I raised my arms to let him. He threw it away disdainfully. I had a sneaky suspicion that it landed quite neatly on a chair not far away.
Damn, perfect vampires with perfect aims!
Aro's lips crushed mine with newfound urgency, his hands now exploring my bared torso, possessively touching all he intended to claim. Impatiently I pushed at his suit jacket, which he ripped off with equal impatience, before I sat up to unbutton his shirt, revealing his toned, pale chest. I ran my hands over it hungrily, all embarrassment gone, pressing my lips to his neck, hunger for him dominating all. A second later, Aro pulled my head up to capture my lips in a kiss that should have been illegal. It was dark, enthralling…addictive.
When he tumbled me back, he broke from my kiss, to smile down at me.
"You are full of surprises, Isabella. I'm surprised Edward has managed to resist you for so long. He truly does not know what a jewel he has, mea înger," he whispered, a gentle, amused smile on his face. I felt a strange, almost burning chill all over as his full weight fell on me, and I realised that we were both naked. I'd been so caught up in his kiss I hadn't noticed him undressing me completely. Seeing my puzzlement, Aro smirked wickedly, and set his lips to my breast.
I arched, pressing my lips together to avoid crying out. After a few moments of pleasurable torture, Aro raised his head to chuckle softly, as if amused by my struggles. It was so unbearably annoying, that smirk, that I longed to wipe it off.
"What?" I demanded, a touch belligerently, glaring at him. All my fear of him had seemed to have dissipated from the moment our lips had first touched.
"Don't hold it in, Bella. Like I said before, no matter how loudly you scream, no-one can hear us here," he chuckled, amusement and desire in those crimson eyes. I shivered, as the amusement disappeared and Aro suddenly pinned me down to the bed, kissing me deeply, passionately, possessively. I groaned, this was seriously becoming addictive, as I draped one arm around his neck, twining my fingers around his hair, whilst the other traced the lines of his neck and chest. I felt him shudder under my touch, but it was my turn soon enough when I felt him against me.
Thought fell away, and I was lost in a dark chasm of lust and passion, with a ruby-eyed god.
Alice's eyes narrowed at me suspiciously as we drove out of Volterra in the Porsche.
"Aro had you alone for a long time, Bella. What did he want?" she asked me. Jumping out of my skin, still cradled in Edward's arms, I struggled to come up with a plausible excuse.
"We just talked. I think he was sounding me out, to see if I would join him," I muttered, holding onto Edward's hand, trying to block out memories of him. We'd just made it out of Volterra with our lives, and I was relieved to be away from that beautiful but terrible city. Suddenly, my brain jerked into gear, as I felt Alice's eyes still on me. "Wait, didn't you see what was happening in there, Alice?" I asked, frowning tiredly. I was exhausted, covered in bruises, and holding onto Edward for dear life. I felt like such a hypocrite, but I didn't want to let go. He was going to leave me when we got back to Forks, and rightly so if he knew what had happened between me and the leader of the Volturi, and I intended to cherish every moment. But memories of him kept intruding, those words in a soft, musical language he'd whispered soothingly into my ear, when I'd collapsed into his arms, drained of strength, his skin, his lips, his hands…
At the sound of my name, I snapped out of it. "What?"
"I was just saying that I didn't see it, and I'm not sure why. I saw you coming back to us unharmed, but nothing else," Alice frowned and looked ahead.
"It doesn't matter. We're safe now, and Aro kept his promise," Edward murmured, in that musical voice I loved so much. It drove memories of Aro away for a moment, as I nestled in his chest, feeling my eyes begin to flutter shut, despite my will. I was running on no battery whatsoever. Not even guilt could find its way in at the moment, as memories flashed in front of my eyes. Edward standing at the mouth of the alley, poised to step out, the confrontation with the Volturi, watching Edward tortured by Jane, begging Aro for mercy and…all that came after. I still couldn't quite process the fact yet.
"Sleep, Bella," Edward leant down and whispered against my forehead. Sleep sounded like a good idea, and then I could process everything that had happened later.
Yeah, sleep sounded like a perfect idea.