Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight or any of the characters, else I wouldn't be writing fanfiction of it.
Story: After Edward leaves Bella, she's lost. Hanging only by a thread of hope in the form of the Volturi, she heads to Volterra, Italy with her death (and maybe her rebirth) in mind. There, three brothers will start to compete for her heart.
Set AU of New Moon.
Spoilers: For Twilight and some of New Moon, for sure.
Warnings: Smut in the future, language, violence, slightly suicidal thoughts, etc…
Pairings: Aro/Bella, Marcus/Bella, Caius/Bella, Demetri/Athenodora, Felix/Heidi, Charlie/Sulpicia
A/n: So, as promised, the first chapter as gift to all my loyal readers of "Devil in a Sweet Kiss" and "Stranger Happenings." This first chapter is just a taste and while it will be updated, won't have higher priority than other fics (especially my two other Twilight fics) unless I have like a huge inspiration and write up this huge new chapter or something. Thank you all and please enjoy!
Also keep in mind that I was writing this to realistically write out Bella after Edward left her, realistically how she would be able to get over it, and that she didn't need Edward to fix herself. Which I really find ridiculous that she would forgive him so easily, or taken him back so quickly. I know in real life, at least, there would be some hesitancy and that that kind of thing would plague a relationship after. Things like that aren't so quick to be wiped clean and give a clean slate. Sorry, barely edited. I'm in a hurry.
Stairway to Heaven
Chapter One: Sparkling Angels, I Believe
It wasn't like she wanted to die. The truth was that she was already dead, barely clinging to the world. So empty inside that she walked around lifeless, and if it weren't for the long ago whispered mentions of who he had addressed as the Volturi, the ruling clan of vampires that was her only lifeline, she wouldn't even have had the energy to summon a façade.
The day he'd left her, alone in that forest, she almost succumbed to the darkness. She lay there shivering, catatonic and almost completely gone. And then flashes of whispers, hearing him speak of the Volturi once more, and she had purpose. If she was to die, it would be by their hand. Edward had already killed her heart, mind, and will. She had entered his fantastic world, a world she never belonged in but longed for. And so her body will die as well by that world.
She'd brokenly traipsed back to her home, her worried father on the phone and ready to call a search party for her. She'd given a bland excuse of getting lost in the forest and that she was okay, and mentioned nothing of Edward to her father –even though he knew something about him had hurt her.
She'd gone back to school, finishing her senior year with good grades and with one goal in mind. The whole year, she was basically numb, but remembering the thread of hope that was the Volturi and her goal, she made herself seem outwardly normal.
They didn't talk about her. Her old friends. The school. She'd smile brokenly at them, and they didn't want to say anything because that broken smile hurt so much that even they felt the hurt. Even when she wasn't in sight and her broken smile couldn't be seen to haunt them, just remembering her and her smile made them silent. It was better to ignore and pretend she didn't exist, than to acknowledge that she was there and that a person could suffer so much and feel that much pain.
Mentioning Bella meant remembering how broken she was, and no one wanted to think about that.
So in between barely socializing with people reluctant to be near her and hanging onto the thought of the Volturi, she went through the motions of life until the time came. She'd talked about it with Charlie, saying she didn't want to go to college just yet. He reluctantly agreed to let her go, feeling that she needed time to herself and maybe a vacation would help her heal from whatever it was that had hurt her so much.
As soon as she set foot in the city of Florence, she knew she wouldn't be able to find a place to stay in or make it to Volterra in time. With the night quickly coming, she found a hidden niche and settled in, feeling miserable. But at least she was finally feeling something. Still, she had so long to plan this, she could've preplanned a hotel and anything else she needed…Not that any of it mattered, with her impending death…
She fell asleep quickly and night descended.
When morning came, she was surprised that she wasn't harmed in the night or a vampire had gotten to her. Her luck, for once, hadn't gone south. Feeling hungry, she searched out a place to eat. Finding a small café, she entered and walked up to the counter. She ordered quickly, barely noticing what she was ordering and felt around in her bag for her wallet.
Panicking, she searched her entire knapsack and found a single change of clothes and everything else was stolen. It seemed she did have horrible luck in the night, and that someone had stolen everything she'd own. Even her passport. She was going to die soon, but still. It seemed ridiculous she'd have such horrible luck happen to her then.
"I'm sorry. I seem to be missing my wallet."
Sighing, she left the café and walked away, aimlessly walking around the city. She found a free map and decided she should at least start her trek to Volterra, knowing she can't afford any other transportation other than to walk there herself.
For two days, she traveled on foot, only stopping to sleep at night in the niches, alleys, corners, and even occasional tree if she wasn't in a town in between Florence and Volterra. Finally, unable to stand it any longer, she stopped in a town. She knew it wouldn't be long until her end, but that didn't mean she couldn't afford to stop. She didn't have to hurry. She waited this long, she could afford to wait a little longer. She'll just earn some money and then she could travel to Volterra in better conditions, be able to eat, wash, and anything else she felt like doing before her death.
The only problem was that she didn't speak Italian, had no credentials, and wasn't qualified for anything.
After searching and searching, and no luck, she ended up at a small establishment that was mostly hidden and out of the way. It looked old and run down, but yet sturdy. Going in, she paled, finally reacting to something instead of the usual apathy.
A strip club was not a place she had been looking for or ever wanted to be in.
"You looking for work?" a man nearby asked her in a heavy Italian accent and awkward English, sleazily looking her up and down.
She wasn't that desperate. She was looking for her death, but with the Volturi. And she didn't want to be hurt anymore.
"Our dancers have room and food."
She was going to die. Her dignity and life didn't matter anymore.
The week passed, and she danced for the customers.
She came down, wrapped in cloth, bending her body and arching it this way and then that way. Her head tilted backwards before she'd turned it slowly, kicking her leg into the air and out of the confines of the cloth. When she'd finally slipped away completely, she sensually moved from the cloth to the floor, swaying her body uncaringly, the hood of her small black robe surprisingly having not slipped off once.
Sliding her fingers in between the front folds of her robe, she untied it and tossed it to the side.
And so she danced and she danced, even as tears started to mar her face, and she blew out candles and slid hot wax down her body, torso bare except for the dripping wax that burned their tracks down her body just like tear tracks paralleled on her face.
Funny how she hasn't tripped or done something clumsy since Edward left her. When she'd actually cared, she was clumsy. Now that she didn't care for anything, her clumsiness seemed to have gone.
In front of the mirror, she stared at her image and wondered what had happened. The mascara running down her face, complete with the tears, and the broken gaze she couldn't get rid of. The trembling lips. The watery eyes. The blank face and the tired body.
Where did Bella Swan go? What had happened?
That night, she cleaned herself up, took the money she earned and left without looking back, leaving her knapsack and that one change of clothing.
Nothing mattered anymore. It was time to meet her fate.
It was early morning when she'd finally arrived in Volterra, and the town was barely waking up. She walked around without any direction, visiting the main tourist sites that were near. Seeing the Piazza dei Priori, she wandered near there and found the early bunch of tourists being guided by a beautiful woman.
She smiled and slipped in.
Once inside the castle, she couldn't help laughing at that –it was, for once, typical of a vampire –, the beautiful woman that Bella knew for a fact was a vampire led them all into a room. And there, several beautiful people surrounded them and she knew it was feasting time.
Her smile on her face, she closed her eyes and readied for her inevitable death, even as screams echoed around her.
This was it. This was finally it.
A rush of wind blew back her hair, and she knew a vampire had sped right in front of her.
"You knew what we were. Even before we started to feed," his musical Italian voice whispered into her ear.
She frowned and opened her eyes. In front of her was an unbelievably gorgeous man, dark hair hanging softly around his face, and ruby eyes that had a milky film over them. He had very pale skin, paler than a regular vampire's even, and an unreadable gaze that felt like he could read into her easily without her having to say anything.
"Volturi," she whispered, and she knew without having to see her own face, that that broken gaze people was unnerved by was on it.
His hand rose up quickly, but she didn't flinch. But he only trailed the tips of his fingers down her face, pushing her hair slightly out of the way and behind her ear.
"How do you know of us?"
"Your kind killed me from the inside," she gave one last smile and collapsed, the hardship of the past days (but really the entire time since Edward left her) finally catching up to her.
Aro caught her before she fell to the floor and gazed at her curiously, her body limp in his arms.
The girl woke up days later, weak from lack of food and no proper sleep. She was pale and gaunt, but still so beautiful. For a human, he doubted anyone would be her match, even with how deteriorated she was. If she had been healthy, she probably would've been even more beautiful.
It was only he and his brothers in the room, staring steadfastly at the slowly becoming aware human. She blinked away sleep before looking around in confusion, eyes landing on them. When they lit up in recognition, she nodded to herself in content resignation.
"What is your name, girl?" Marcus asked, surprising his brothers. He was never interested in anything since Didyme's death, and rarely spoke if he didn't have to.
"Bella…Bella Swan," she answered hesitantly, her slight confusion showing.
"Bella…is that shortened from Isabella, cara mia?" he asked, making the girl blush and made his brothers even more surprised. Along with the fact he'd expressed an endearment to her, he was still interacting and speaking willingly.
"Y-yes. I don't understand. Aren't you going to kill me?" her voice was small and she was looking unsurely at them.
"We have not decided that yet," Aro spoke next, glancing at his brothers. "It is not everyday a human comes here willingly to be killed."
He, for one, did not want to kill her. Her smell was irresistibly appetizing, but she herself was very intriguing. And he could not deny there was a pull from himself towards her, one that he did not understand.
"If you will, Isabella, I would like you to know what led to your coming here. You won't even have to speak. Just hold my hand," Aro smiled pleasantly, trying to look outwardly friendly and kind.
Her face had a look of dawning comprehension.
"Your power then," she muttered, and before anyone had a chance to question her about it, she'd touched his hand.
He waited a couple of seconds, before realizing in shock that his power did not work on her.
"I'm afraid, Isabella, that you will have to speak after all. My power does not seem to work on you," her intrigue and draw became even more for him once he realized he couldn't access her mind.
She sighed, "Your power doesn't work on me either then…"
"From the beginning, cara mia," Marcus prompted.
Aro looked to the last brother, the only one having not said or done anything, seeing Caius calm and stone-faced. It was unusual. He would have demanded her death right away, ranting angrily and pacing like a wild cat. His face should have been an array of upset emotions. Caius would not have been calm and still, or have been able to keep his emotions in check.
He would have to check on his brothers later, but it could wait. Now, it was most important to get the girl's story out first.
Her lips twisted upwards in a bitter smile, before being wiped clean of emotion.
"I moved to Forks, for the sake of my mother's happiness. I settled in, and my father was happy I was there. Everything was just fine until I met him. It hurts still to think about him, but saying or thinking his name is worse. It's like my heart is being ripped out again and again.
"We met in my Biology class officially, though I heard about him and his family from a new friend at lunchtime. They were different and so they stood out. They were all so incredibly beautiful and perfect. I was fascinated with them, and I couldn't understand why. Then, in class, a fan blew my scent towards his direction and the entire class time, he'd stiffened up and was glaring at me hatefully. I had no idea what I'd done or what was his problem."
She burst into tears, compulsively grabbing onto Aro, who had been closest to her. He was surprised, and in his surprise he'd let his guard down and some kind of invisible force hit him and then retracted a little. Then it lashed out around him, gentling into what he could actually feel as waves, touching his brothers. And then he was seeing images. His last errant thought was that his brothers were probably being pulled into whatever was happening as well, if those waves meant anything.
And that she probably had no idea what was happening or what was going on by the look on her face as the area blacked out from his vision.
Then they were seeing exactly what she was talking about. Leaving her mother, settling into Forks, meeting Edward Cullen (the Cullens, of all vampires!), her figuring out the truth, the tentative romance starting between a human and a vampire, the nomads who were careless and could have exposed their kind by their reckless hunting, the tracker being killed, her birthday party, and then him leaving her broken. Her fractured life followed, seeing how she barely pulled herself together enough to live through another year, planning for her death all the while, and then her actual arrival to Italy. Her pains in getting here, and now her hope for an end to all of her pain.
The feeling of being slammed into his body disconcerted him, though Aro quickly composed himself. Another thing to add to the intriguing little thing that was Bella Swan, though he'd definitely needed to find out what had happened just then.
"I'm sorry," she whispered horrified. "I have no idea what had happened. Are you all alright?"
So, so intriguing…far more concerned about their sakes than hers –and they were vampires!
A smile made its way slowly across his face.
"I do believe, Isabella, that we would like you to stay with us for a little while longer. I cannot tell how much I sympathize for your pain, but we would like to give you another chance. A life with us. The Volturi welcomes you."
He stood up, smiling calmly at her when inside he was anything but. He didn't just sympathize with her pain. Having experienced her memories along with the emotions she felt deeply in each one, he was completely rattled and felt her pain as if it was his own. More than that, on behalf of her, he irrationally felt rage and was upset by all those who'd hurt her.
Well, the Cullens would be losing a family member soon. He would make sure of that.
And he wasn't talking about Edward.
He glanced back at the confused, slightly hopeful, and yet more upset girl. He could see now that she was conflicted, unable to truly trust him or his words but also unable to get rid of the hope of truly being accepted and loved. What was more, she wasn't sure if being turned could get rid of the pain and that maybe this turn of events wasn't such a good thing after all, not when it would be better to be dead than be in pain for eternity.
"Think about it at least, Isabella," Aro advised warmly, turning to leave.
Caius followed, still that strange calm and quiet, but Marcus didn't move. In fact, a second later he moved closer to Bella, sitting on her bed and facing her. He slowly moved to grasp her hands, holding onto it, as his brothers stopped at the door, turning halfway to stare curiously at him.
Aro definitely needed to look into his brothers' minds. This was turning out to be quite interesting…
"You have a broken bond, one that is beyond repair and completely mangled. It will never be the same. Know at least, cara mia…that it was never meant to last," he said softly.
She stared at him, trembling and face looking stuck in stunned dismay, before she carefully launched herself at him and cried into his neck. He gently patted her back, holding onto her.
The two brothers stared, before turning and continuing on their way and leaving the two alone.
Bella was inwardly horrified at her reaction and how much emotion she had been showing. These three vampires' presence seemed to pull the life out of her and made her feel vulnerable. She hadn't felt vulnerable in a while. She'd only felt numb or excruciating pain.
"I don't know who you are," she muttered, starting to realize the awkward position she was in, hugging and being hugged by not just a strange man but a vampire. And the fact she'd embarrassingly cried on him.
"My name is Marcus. I am one of the Volturi leaders that…he told you about. You don't recognize me from the painting you were shown in Carlisle's study?"
"Oh…yes, now that I think about it I do remember the resemblance. I haven't been thinking clearly for so long…"
He tightened his arms around her a little bit, enough to be comfortable but not enough to hurt with his strength.
"Sleep, cara mia. You have slept for a while, but you need more rest. I will be here," and he adjusted them to lie on the bed, he still holding her as she clung to him.
She let him, strangely calm and accepting of the situation and of his presence.
"He used to hold me like this. I went to sleep with his arms around me every night…I grew so used to it that I couldn't sleep when he went away," she murmured.
He hummed comfortingly and she immediately settled into a deep sleep.
If Aro was thinking the same thing as he, then Bella's destiny to become a Cullen would change.
She would take her rightful place as a Volturi.
Charlie was terrified. He'd phoned his daughter several times, and he couldn't get a hold of her. So he did what any worried father would do, regardless of emotional reticence. He resigned from his post as Chief of Police in Forks, sold his house, put his and her belongings in a storage facility, and flew to Italy in search of his daughter.
He had a simple knapsack with several changes of clothes and his wallet. Like father, like daughter.
He'd booked a room in an inexpensive hotel in Florence for a week, looking everywhere for a tip or a lead to Bella's whereabouts.
His week was up and he had to admit defeat in that town. Gritting his teeth, he looked at a map, trying to pinpoint his next likely lead on location. None of his police skills would work in this instance if he had nothing to work with…
Doing his customary call to his daughter, just in case she still had her phone and she'd pick it up this time, he ended after the 15th dial tone and furiously rubbed his palm against his forehead in agitation. The other hand gripped his phone, wanting to chuck it out the window, but then it just vibrated and his ringtone sounded.
Clumsily opening it, trying to answer as quickly as he could, he held it to his ear and said "Hello?"
"Charlie?" his old friend Billy asked.
His eagerness faded and he sighed. "Yeah, Billy? Sorry I left so sudden. I should've said goodbye before I left."
Charlie blinked and scrunched up his eyebrows in confusion. "What? What are you talking about?"
"If you're looking for her, that's where she would have gone…Don't go after her, Charlie. Please. It'll be too late for her. You don't need to lose your life too."
"I don't know what the hell you're talking about, Billy, but I'm not just going to leave her behind! I'm going after her!" he spat into the phone.
"She's dead, Charlie! She's dead! They'll kill you too –!"
"Thanks for the tip," and Charlie hung up.
Staring decidedly at his phone, he turned it off just when it started ringing again. Bella wasn't going to call. Wherever she was, she was in trouble and probably couldn't call him. He didn't know how Billy knew that information, but he seemed sincere and it was the only lead Charlie had.
Looking back at his map, he picked out an almost straight line leading to Volterra from Florence. He'll set off tomorrow when it was early light and he could catch a cab or something. He could check the towns on the way for any more clues, but he wanted to get to Volterra quickly.
"I'm coming, Bells," he murmured.
Starting on his search immediately, he found that he was getting closer. Several people had told him in broken English that they'd seen the girl in the photo he'd shown anyone he could in his path.
It was only a matter of time before he got to his baby girl.
In the same week that her father was looking for her, Bella had been left entirely alone. She quickly found that she'd been locked in that wing by herself, though no doubt any of the vampires there could break through. But it was a warning to them not to try.
And for her to be left alone in silence.
Perhaps, even, so she couldn't escape.
It didn't matter either way. She was looking for her salvation there –not damnation. She wanted to be saved in death, not to be trapped in her pain forever. So she had her mind made up, knowing the next time she saw a vampire, she'd do something incredibly stupid to hurt herself and bleed.
Her blood was incredibly tempting, after all. That was what he'd said.
For that week, she'd walked around, exploring that wing and wondering when they'd come to her. Bella was starting to feel bored, an emotion she'd not felt in a long while. It was strange. Here, in the presence of these vampires, she'd found life again.
She hated it.
Bella had died inside. It made no sense why she would feel again, and when she hadn't felt anything in so long. And that irritated her because she wasn't supposed to feel anything.
"You acknowledged us and then your first words to us had been 'Your kind killed me from the inside,'" Marcus' voice echoed in the corridor.
She whipped around, looking at him in surprise. She had not seen him since he'd left her in her room when they'd first met.
"And now you are confused, are you not, cara mia? Because 'my kind' has now brought you back to life and you are resentful and lost because you do not how to live again."
She scowled at him before doing as she'd promised herself. She saw the glass vase next to her and hit it with her hand, causing it to fall on the floor and break. Falling to her knees, she slammed her hand on a shard of glass, biting back a cry of pain.
She looked up, ready to face her death, only to see Marcus raise a slender eyebrow. But then he started walking slowly to her, and she thought that finally she would die. He knelt next to her, taking his time, grabbing her hand gently and slowly lapped at the blood pooling on her hand, his tongue sensuously darting out and tasting the red liquid languidly again and again.
But he didn't sink his teeth into her.
Bella squirmed, a heavy blush rising to her cheeks –something she hadn't done since he'd left.
"Don't you, you know…want to bite me and drain me dry?"
With a final lick, Marcus straightened up a little, and grinned at her lazily.
"No. I'm an ancient vampire, cara mia. I have had years to control my thirst –longer than your Carlisle."
She started to feel pain at the remembrance of one of them, when Marcus actually successfully distracted her from it by continuing to talk.
"Even though your scent is incredibly mouthwatering and nearly irresistible, I do have my control to restrain myself. Now, come. I shall you show you our library. It is Aro, Caius, and mine's personal collection."
Bella's eyes lit up. Her love of books was still there at least.
"Why is this wing locked?" she blurted out, curious but not meaning to ask it.
Marcus smiled at her, "This is myself and my brother's wing. We have it locked because we do not wish to be bothered unless it is absolutely necessary. When any three of us are in here, we are not to be bothered. So no, we had not meant to trap you in here."
"I also meant to come to you much earlier, but Aro forbid us from coming near you, wanting you to have your peace and quiet to make up your mind without the interference of others."
"So why are you here then?"
"Because I became just as bored as you and didn't feel like listening to his order anymore."
She gave a genuine smile at that, another first in a long while.
In another trip to their library, one she made by herself since Marcus had to attend to business outside with his brothers, Bella was embarrassed to find that it was already occupied. By a beautiful woman and man, both steadily moving as one on one of the tables in the large library. About to turn and run, she heard the woman purr out to her.
"Child, stay there. Wait," the woman ordered and Bella felt herself freeze on the spot, still embarrassed to have caught the couple having sex.
The couple finished up and then she was faced with the beautiful vampires, both with ruby eyes. She had fair hair, tousled from the sex, and he had natural messy brown locks, both of them slim and unbothered by being caught by her.
"I am Athenodora, Caius' wife," the woman introduced herself as, and Bella refrained from blushing at the implications.
"I'm Demetri. I am one of the Volturi guard and their best tracker," the man smiled at her pleasantly, though he seemed uncomfortable in her presence. She could guess it had to do with her scent and her being human, and that Athenodora felt the same. Their postures were entirely too straight to be anything but.
"You must be the human girl Edward Cullen has enchanted under his spell," Athenodora remarked in amusement.
Bella didn't notice she was hyperventilating. She didn't notice the tears immediately springing into her eyes. She didn't notice her backing away and starting to fold in on herself, her hands quickly moving to clutch at her chest. She didn't notice the two vampires looking at her in alarm, asking her what was wrong.
All she knew was the hole in her chest was ripped open again and the agonizing pain was hitting her like a battering ram.
"Rinse him from your system, Bells. He's bad for you." Jacob.
"Bella, you know that song? Just rinse and cleanse him. I told you about Edward." Jessica.
"He's a leech!" Paul.
"Rinse and cleanse."
"I can't. I can't. I can't! Edward, Edward, Edward, Edward," she started muttering to herself, rocking herself back and forth as her arms grasped around her body as if to hold herself together. That was all she could mutter. His name. Nothing else was registering.
Not even Athenodora picking her up and holding her to her bosom, running to a sofa to rock her near the fire, muttering reassurances into her ear and wincing from the emotions Bella was throwing out.
"Demetri," Athenodora struggled to speak. "Come here."
Demetri had been leaning his head heavily against a bookshelf, trying to clear his head and separate him and his emotions from Bella. Hearing his lover though, he forcibly looked towards them, taking slow steps to move closer. It was hard, what with the force of emotions blaring from the human and hitting him.
"I'm sorry," Athenodora gasped into Bella's ear. "I hadn't meant to hurt you."
When Demetri finally reached them, Athenodora reached out with one hand and led him to her other side, placing Bella between them. They muttered assurances into the girl's ear, but she didn't respond, eyes dull and face twisted into unimaginable pain.
"Edward, Edward, Edward, Edward, Edward," she repeated over and over again, like a broken record.
"Demetri, I haven't seen such a reaction before. You must find my husband. Or better yet, Marcus. He is the closest one to her," Athenodora said in worry.
Demetri nodded, extracting himself. He sped out of the room, hurrying to find either vampire. Athenodora held Bella closer, tighter, and kept whispering into her ear, eyes fluttering close and wishing that she could spill tears.
Marcus and Demetri burst in first, followed by Caius, Aro, and surprisingly Sulpicia, who wandered in behind the others with a bored expression. The group reeled back in horror as they were battered with wave after wave of agony, sometimes accompanied by flashes of images that they caught only because they were vampires and their minds were fast enough to process them.
"Edward, Edward –"
"It is here where I wish that Zafrina had accepted our offer our join us," Marcus winced.
Aro looked at him in confusion, barely able to be confused when his mind just wanted to be immersed in the pain and be left alone, even though he himself was logically wishing the pain gone. It was Bella's influence he knew. Because she could only feel pain and had no time or want to feel anything else.
But Aro forced himself to reach out and touch his brother's hand, face lighting up in understanding as Marcus pulled away and moved to Bella's side, taking her from Athenodora.
"Bella, my love, I am here."
And it was not Marcus' voice that spoke from his lips, but an imitation of a vampire that had ensnared the little human in his arms.
She stilled at his voice. Her eyes unseeing, Marcus got away with his illusion.
"Zafrina would have been useful," Aro muttered too low for Bella to hear, but the others did.
For the Amazon coven member had been able to project illusions into the minds of others, and a complete illusion was exactly what Bella needed right then.
"Edward Cullen, hm," Sulpicia surprisingly spoke up. "A woman's heart is a fragile thing, no matter how strong or independent we will ourselves to be. No matter what we say, we can't help but be ruled with our emotions. The next time that boy comes here, he is dead," she ended coldly. She strode passed everyone, close to Marcus and Athenodora, and knelt down to face Bella's unfocused eyes.
"I will never forgive a man who will destroy a girl so utterly she doesn't know how to go on without death."
She glanced at the rest of the men hanging back warily, "Go. This requires a woman's touch. Marcus, you may stay since she is clearly comfortable and safe with you. But don't use his voice. She must clean herself of that boy's influence."
That seemed to have reached Bella.
"I can't, I can't! I can't rinse and cleanse! I will die without him! Do any of you understand?! I can't rinse and cleanse! He's my personal drug!"
Sulpicia flinched. "Go."
And she was left with Marcus and Athenodora, and a broken human girl.
Started 9/7/09 –Completed 12/16/09