I GET OFF IN VOLTERRA CONTEST
Angie is enduring a vacation with her abusive husband when she meets a mysterious stranger. Demetri is stunned when this seemingly ordinary woman changes everything he's ever known.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Twilight.
"Goddamn it, Angie…can't you just shut up for two seconds?" My husband's face was contorted with familiar rage and I immediately ceased my humming. I hadn't even realized I was doing it.
"Sorry, hon," I offered apologetically, hoping he would calm and go back to ignoring me as I unpacked our suitcases. Tristan muttered a "fuck" before he turned on his side on the bed and resumed his nap.
We had just arrived in our hotel after a long drive from Florence and an even longer flight from Indianapolis, via New York and Munich. I knew the day-and-a-half of travel time had made his usual grumpy mood even worse, so I vowed to tiptoe around Tristan and try to make the best of this nightmare vacation.
It was miraculous that we had even made it to our five-year wedding anniversary, but here we were, on a trip that he had planned for us, with no input from me whatsoever. To be honest, I would have much rather gone to Paris, but even so, the thought of any trip with my husband was a nightmare.
I finished hanging the last of Tristan's shirts, taking extra care to smooth the wrinkles as best as I could, and walked to the window of our small, charmingly archaic hotel room. With tired eyes, I stared out across the stone plaza of the small Italian town he had chosen. Volterra. It really was lovely…I felt a twinge of sadness that I probably wouldn't enjoy one moment here in this place that would be paradise for anyone else. Such a waste…
I stifled a yawn, careful not to make too much sound. The clock on the wall told me that we had arrived at mid-afternoon. I had just enough time for a nap before we set out to find some dinner, and hopefully, a nice bottle of local Italian wine. Gently, I sat on the edge of the bed and eased myself down, my back facing my snoring spouse.
Immediately, he rolled to face me and gave my form a rough push, nearly knocking me off the bed.
"You woke me up," he grumbled, glaring at me.
I flinched almost instinctively. "Sorry, babe…go back to sleep." My shoulders slumped, I made my way to the small armchair near the window and curled up on it, staring out at the plaza once more. In no time, I was fast asleep.
Several hours later, Tristan and I walked along some of the cobbled streets, taking in the sights. The sun was fiery in the distance, and I stopped to watch it disappear over the stone walls. It was beautiful, and I found myself smiling for the first time since we landed.
"Come on," an impatient voice broke through my reverie.
We passed a small caffè where an older woman motioned for us to enter. The smells wafting from the open door were amazing — coffee, spices, tomatoes — but Tristan grabbed my arm and kept walking. He had spied a pizzeria down the street and all but dragged me there. I rolled my eyes behind his back, promising myself that I would have a cup of cappuccino at that caffè before the trip was done.
We took our seats at the more modern pizzeria and ordered a glass of the recommended vino nobile, the local specialty. When the waiter returned with our glasses, Tristan declared that we would both have the pizza romano, forgetting how much I disliked anchovies. I didn't dare correct him. It wasn't worth the public humiliation.
If I had to look back at our relationship knowing what I did now, I still wouldn't know the exact time when it all went wrong. Perhaps it had been wrong from the beginning, but I had been too swept up in him to notice. Tristan had always been too much of everything to my naïve 25-year old sensibilities. Too handsome. Too charming. Too wealthy. And when he proposed in front of a crowd at his country club after only two months of dating, I was too overwhelmed to say no. We were married four months later.
I quickly learned how "too much" he could be, once we were man and wife. Too controlling. Too manipulative. Too violent. And, thanks to his slowing metabolism, I could now add "too fat" to the list. I was miserable, yet I feared leaving him because I was scared of what he might do. Besides, he was all I had. My father had been my last remaining family member before I met Tristan, and he survived long enough to walk me down the aisle before passing away several months later.
What terrified me most of all, was that I could feel my personality — my individuality that made me "Angelina Walker Johnstone" — slowly slipping away. I was losing myself and becoming the sort of empty-shell Stepford wife Tristan wanted.
Our food arrived and Tristan ignored me as he dug in. I carefully removed the anchovies from my pizza and began nibbling, my appetite gone. As I ate, the sky slowly darkened and I noticed townspeople beginning to file into a large building across from the pizzeria. When our waiter came to top off our wine, I stopped him.
"What is going on?" I asked in broken Italian, motioning to the open doors of the building.
The waiter, thank goodness, answered in passable English. "Tonight is night for children's music theater. Is exciting for the school every year."
"Oh, a children's play," I exclaimed, pressing my hands together. "How nice! Can anyone attend?" I noticed Tristan's icy glare and downplayed my excitement, lest he think I was flirting with our much-younger waiter.
"Yes, is free."
He had no sooner walked away than Tristan hissed. "I'm not going to any play. If you're going, you're going by yourself." He sat up with a smug face, and knew he thought I would be disappointed that he wouldn't be with me. I played along, even though I was jumping up and down inside.
"Are you sure, honey?"
"I want to sample some of the Italian beers at the bar near our hotel. I'm sure they'll have a TV or something. Probably soccer though…" He began grumbling about Europeans and their taste in team sports.
I polished off my wine and stood. "It might be starting soon, so I should get a seat." He waved me off as if he didn't care. I made sure to stop and kiss his forehead like a dutiful wife on my way past, trying very hard not to grimace.
I knew he'd be watching my retreating form, so I kept myself from skipping or running across the street into the doors of the large, open auditorium. Once inside, my heart lifted and I felt free. An entire evening to myself!
The auditorium was surprisingly modern, especially when contrasted with the outer walls. From the outside, the town looked centuries old, appropriately. But inside many of the buildings, the comforts and necessities of a contemporary world were present. There was more to Volterra than met the eye.
I took a seat near the back of the room, just in time for the lights to dim. As my eyes adjusted, the curtain opened and half a dozen children took the stage in costume. I looked at the program in my hand. The musical for the night was a traditional Italian fairy tale of which I was not familiar. I was immediately impressed by the performance. The children were well-rehearsed and the stage and props were top-rate. Around me, proud mothers and fathers watched with rapt attention as their children danced and sang and acted out the story.
Following one song, I joined the audience in clapping and felt a strange prickling on the back of my neck. Furrowing my brow, I looked to my left and to my right, but no one sat immediately around me. Smiling softly at myself, I happened to glance to the side of the stage, near the wings. A man stood there, still as stone, and staring directly at me.
I gasped softly at his steady gaze. I wondered if he thought he recognized me somewhere, because I didn't know any other reason for his attention. Because I certainly had never seen him before — I would have remembered a face that beautiful. "Beautiful" was the perfect word to describe him, too, and I drank in his features for a second before tearing my eyes away, embarrassed at my boldness.
He was dressed all in black, obviously helping backstage with the evening's performance. His ashe blonde hair had quite a bit of brown and auburn in it, and his eyes were a striking, unusual sienna. He had the kind of baby face that made him look much younger than the wisdom and maturity of his eyes. I guessed him to be in his early 30s. He had high, prominent cheekbones and a perfectly sculpted nose. But what made him truly stand out was his flawless, pale skin — like the brightest white against the black backdrop of the stage.
Curious, I snuck another peek toward the wings of the stage before the next scene began. He still stood there, unmoving, his study of me unwavering. I offered a small smile, wanting to melt a bit of his frozen gaze. I thought I saw the corners of his mouth twitch slightly, and I turned back to the performance, feeling a small victory. I had flirted with a gorgeous man!
Intermission began and I stood to stretch, glancing over at the now-empty spot where my mystery man had stood. I felt a warmth in my belly at the memory of his gaze — it felt deliciously intimate for some strange reason, and the feeling it stirred reminded me of long lost yearnings from years past.
Around me, a flurry of the Italian language flew back and forth, and I sat back down to enjoy the people watching.
Parents struggled to control their rambunctious children, most likely the younger siblings of the performers. Many took the opportunity for a smoke break, walking past me out to the street. An ambitious young woman walked around offering fresh baked taralli and frittelle, along with popcorn and nuts.
A black figure strode past me, brushing by my shoulder gently on his way down the center aisle. I sat up immediately, and I thought I saw him slow for a moment as he passed by. And I swear I heard him inhale deeply as he did, as if he were smelling me. My face grew red, but my eyes watched his back as he walked to the bottom of the stage and turned, resuming his previous spot in the wings. With the lights up, I could appreciate what I hadn't noticed before — that his body was lean and muscular, his shoulders strong without looking brawny. He was a bit on the shorter side, probably close to 5'11. And in the light, he was even more breathtaking.
Also, the brightness of the room could no longer hide the truth that he was indeed staring directly at me.
I found myself transfixed — in a room of over one hundred people, it was suddenly just me and this man.
I have been a tracker for my 275-year vampire existence, but never have I been so unconsciously drawn toward a single being than this fragile girl in the back of my auditorium. I couldn't explain it, and it made me delightfully uncomfortable in its intensity. I was used to turning my mind over to my instincts when seeking out a particular immortal or human for the Volturi, and when I did so, I was the finest tracker who had ever existed. But it was always a conscious effort on my part.
This compulsion I felt toward the weak creature a mere fifty yards from me was unfathomable…as if an imaginary rope were pulling me her way. After existing for over 300 years, new experiences were few and far between…but this was very, very new.
And on tonight of all nights!, I thought, worried. Caius already disliked my involvement with the community theater, calling it "unnecessary," and kept a constant eye on my public activities. I knew better than to do anything to anger my masters, but I treasured my time with Volterra's eager children as they discovered their talents. The only remaining memory from my human life was as a performer of masques in England's royal court, and my volunteer work allowed me to feel tied to my past. Aro knew it made me happy to be involved with the dramatic arts, and he and Marcus took pride in the Volturi reputation as "patrons of the arts."
It wasn't without difficulty. I was limited to evening rehearsals and performances, and then there was the constant bloodlust. It was far easier to resist the children, as I avoided feeding on the innocent, but nights like tonight were often challenging. However, I was a controlled vampire. I fed when I needed too, and no more than that.
But this woman made me feel unsettled, out of control. I couldn't understand why I felt this inexplicable pull to a mere human. Through my dissolving brown contacts, she looked perfectly ordinary.
The lights dimmed once more and I cued the performers. Once the music began, however, I returned to my study of the girl sitting in the back of the hall. It was clear to me that she did not belong in Volterra — obviously a visitor or tourist. As the last of my contacts melted away, I chanced the danger of discovery and looked at her for the first time with my unobstructed vampire eyes.
I gasped aloud and had to turn away. How had I thought her ordinary before? Impossible! She was anything but! Her light brown hair reminded me of the color of toffee, and barely reached her delicate shoulders, which were bowed as if she were carrying a heavy burden. Her figure was shapely and voluptuous, yet still slender. As I gazed, her pink tongue slid quickly across her full lower lip nervously, stirring a different kind of fascination in the depths of my being. Her eyes were a striking green, which I could see from my spot fifty yards away.
"Emeralds," I murmured to myself.
A mouth-watering pink decorated her cheeks, and I realized she was looking back at me again. I quickly averted my red eyes, cursing myself inwardly for my moment of weakness. With vampire speed, I pulled replacement contacts from my pocket and put them in, lamenting the loss of clear vision to study my unexpected angel.
I didn't know if I was being called by fate to feast on her or for some other reason, but I had to know why. I had to know her.
He was still staring at me. I felt like I was being devoured by his gaze, and I wanted it. I tried to redirect my attention back to the talented little actors and actresses, but it was a lesson in futility because my eyes wouldn't stop shifting to the left, to the breathtaking man who, for some reason, was fascinated by me. The feeling was mutual.
Too soon, I could tell that the musical was coming to an end. I realized my evening of freedom was nearly over, and I would have to return to the hotel. I would have to tear my eyes away from my mysterious man, probably never to see such perfection again in my life. The thought made me sad. The small smile that adorned my face as I silently flirted with the dark figure disappeared, and I thought I saw my admirer cock his head to the side with a curious, concerned look on his face.
One, final perfect note rang out and filled the auditorium, and around me parents leapt to their feet in proud exaltation, clapping and shouting their approval. I followed suit, clapping enthusiastically. Out of habit, my gaze shifted to the wings, and the mysterious man was turned toward the performers, a wide, dazzling smile on his face as he proudly shouted "bravo!" I couldn't help breaking out into a smile of my own when I observed the glorious beauty in his happiness.
My eyes returned to the stage to watch the children take their bows, but when I flickered back to the spot where he had been, the man was gone.
I craned my neck to the corner of the stage, seeking him out. My heart plummeted when I realized that I could no longer find him, but I still whipped my head around, searching the dark spots near the stage for a glimpse of his magnificence. He was truly gone, and despairing reality crashed down on me. I sat with a defeated sigh, and turned to get my bag from the seat next to me.
And came face-to-face with a pair of deep, curious brassy eyes.
I jumped in surprise, and he jumped back a bit as well. I didn't know how he had gotten over to me so quickly, but I felt a rush of inexplicable relief and gratitude. I also felt the most intense magnetism toward this man, as if he were influencing my personal gravity. Then my self-consciousness took over. I averted my eyes, but he would have none of that. With shocking familiarity, he took my hand and ducked his head, chasing my eyes with his — seeking around as I moved my head until I finally stopped and met his interested gaze.
I didn't dare pull my hand away from his, yet my first instinct was to do just that. The moment his skin came in contact with mine, I felt something. I didn't know if it was due to his hand being very cold, but my own hand went numb as if shocked.
As the crowd began to file past us, he spoke, and his voice was like honey.
"Qual è il tuo nome, bella donna?" he crooned, sending dizzying sensations throughout my body.
"Angelina Walker…err, Johnstone," I replied, dazed, recognizing the simple question. "I must tell you, I don't speak much Italian."
"Un angela," he whispered. "You are an angel." With his other hand, he reached up near my face and hesitated, his brows furrowed in concentration. Then slowly, deliberately, he brushed his fingertips along my lower lip and then up my blush-covered cheekbones.
My heart thudded. I was aware of nothing but the dazzling man stroking my skin. I couldn't even separate whether this moment was reality — it was far too surreal.
"Me?" I stammered. "I would think the same of you." And, mimicking his bold move, I stretched my arm forward to touch his skin. He quickly caught my wrist in his hand, and pressed my pulse point to his lips, inhaling deeply.
"How do you bewitch me so?" he asked, hushed, and I could see he was serious in his question. This did not make sense…he was the one stunning me with his indescribable appeal. I did not know how to answer him. "You are American," it was more of a statement than a question. I nodded and he suddenly stood, pulling me to my feet. "Aah, good. English is my first language." We didn't break the contact of our hands — I felt as though I were physically unable. If I let him go, this entire fantasy would dissolve. "My angel, I must know everything about you."
A Casanova, I thought to myself, as he paused while we stood side-by-side and looked down at his hand enveloping mine. He must be a master of seduction. An intense expression crossed his beautiful face at the sight of our entwined hands. I could feel myself being drawn in by his very presence, and I welcomed it without question. He's very good.
"Come, I have one thing I must do first," was all he said as he led me up the aisle, and I followed willingly along, as if in a dream. He walked me up onto the stage and through the curtain to the backstage area, where a flurry of activity was present. I never took my eyes off of his flawless face, and saw as his mouth stretched into a brilliant grin at the sight of the excited boys and girls reveling in their successful performance.
He dropped my hand and I immediately missed the contact, but watched in awe as he laughed loudly. Capturing the attention of those in the room, he clapped his together, exclaiming aloud, "I miei cari, siete stati grandi…you were brilliant!"
The children surrounded him, shouting words of thanks, and he laughed again, joyfully. "These are my darlings," he told me loudly above the din. I nodded again, wide-eyed, watching as he stroked the heads of the tiny performers, giving one-armed hugs to some, waving as they departed to find their parents, one-by-one. I had backed up to the wall to watch him, mesmerized. He was other-worldly.
When they all had gone, he turned back to me. "Shall we?" He took my hand with his cold fingers again, and led me through the auditorium and out of the door.
And I let him.
The last two hours felt like an out-of-body experience, and I still wasn't entirely convinced I wasn't dreaming. My mysterious stranger brought me down the same block I had walked with Tristan hours before and into the very caffè we had passed. A small crowd murmured their conversations in the quiet little space, and we found a table in a far corner, away from eyes and ears.
Is this the beginning of an affair? I asked myself, and couldn't stop a smile from inching across my face. I wanted it to be. A miniscule part of me felt a twinge of guilt for this instantaneous flirtatious connection with a stranger, in full defiance of my marriage vows. However, that reminded me of who I was actually married to, and the guilt quickly disappeared.
The man reached across and enveloped my hand in his once again, as if he craved that direct contact with me as much as I did. His thumb grazed patterns on my skin, searing it deliciously with icy intensity.
"What is your name?" I finally asked, when my breath returned.
"My name is Demetri," he said. "I fear telling you much more than that for the moment, for your own safety."
His words confused me, but he continued.
"You shouldn't be here…I shouldn't feel this bond…yet, here you sit with me, willingly…unknowingly putting yourself in harms way." He was thoughtful. "I am truly a devil for luring such an angel."
"I'm here because I want to be," I whispered, my voice unable to hide the frightened waver. "I can't explain why, but it's where I have to be."
"You have ensnared me even more completely," he said, lifting my hand to his lips, brushing them across my knuckles and inhaling deeply with his nose. "I'm utterly spellbound." My heart stuttered, stopped for a moment, then began its erratic rhythm once more.
"What are you doing to me…" I whispered.
"You feel it too," his voice was hushed. "Remarkable." He leaned forward and I found myself doing the same. "You smell sweeter than anything I've ever known, yet I am in total control." I hid my confusion at his murmurings and enjoyed listening to the deliciousness of his voice. "I have to know everything about you…"
"And then will I learn more about you, Demetri?" It felt amazing for my lips to form his name.
He froze. "I…don't know. That might not be good for you."
"Can't I decide that?"
Demetri looked pained. "Perhaps it is out of my control anyway. It seems that there is something at work more dominant than our basest desires…the choice has been made for us." His features softened. "Alone for so long…" he murmured. "Could I dare hope?"
I felt a tug in my belly that compelled me to reach for his face, and finally he allowed it. The skin under my fingers was impossibly flawless and remarkably cold. I marveled at its texture and became lost in its beauty. His sienna eyes never left mine as I explored, running my fingertips along his scalp, feeling his soft hair slide between my fingers. I thought a heard a quiet purr emanating from his chest. I was starting to realize there was something even more special about him — he was more different than I could fathom.
He stilled my hands and asked me again, "Please tell me about yourself, Angelina. I must know…"
Looking at him, I knew that I could tell him anything. So I did. I told him about growing up without a mother. I told him about my awkward childhood and teenage years. I revealed how I had finally blossomed during my college years when I discovered a love of writing. I quietly spoke of losing my father, my last tie to my past. And finally, I told him of the last miserable years in a loveless, abusive marriage.
He never blinked, and slowly, I noticed that his gorgeous eyes were becoming more and more crimson. When I spoke of Tristan, they burned with brightness, the dark pupil growing and nearly encompassing the now blood-red irises. I knew I should have been afraid, but I couldn't fear this amazing creature.
"Angel, you are all alone," he muttered. "My poor Angelina…"
"No," I said, squeezing his hand, which didn't give under my fingers. "Not alone."
He smiled. "I suppose you're right." He looked thoughtful. "That does make the situation a bit easier…no ties to anyone else. At least, no one who matters. Yes…there's a possibility…"
My heart faltered in excitement at his words. I had the impression that he was considering something important. "A possibility for what?"
Demetri met my eyes and saw my hope. He dazzled me with a grin. "Anything, my angel…" He brought his lips to my hands again. "And everything." He paused, and seemed to struggle with something. "I…want you to know about me."
"I want to know," I breathed, leaning closer.
"I hope that's true," he said, his voice suddenly sad. "If you decide that it's not what you want, I will understand. And I will protect you."
Now he was really confusing me, but I still wasn't afraid. "I will want it…want you."
Demetri stopped. "But before that, I want to do one thing." His tone dropped to a deep, husky whisper, and he pulled me out of my seat and, before I realized it, I was perched on his knee, his nose inches from mine. It took me by surprise and I gasped. He observed me with wonder before inching closer and closer, agonizingly slowly. Every fiber of my being begged for him to kiss me, consume me. Yet somehow I knew to remain still, and let him take this at his own pace.
He stopped mere centimeters from my lips, closing his ruby eyes tightly and taking a deep breath. "Just you," he murmured, "You…your body, your soul, Angelina. That's all I desire. You do not call to my…less civilized instincts, thank heavens." He seemed to marvel at this discovery, and before I could think to respond, I felt the first miraculous touch of his lips on mine.
Softly at first, tentatively…as if he were testing out something altogether new. Then he pressed with more force and I sighed against his mouth, snaking my arms around his shoulders and feeling his hands cupping the curve of my hips. Demetri's mouth was unyielding, my lips molding around his…he was like responsive marble. I desperately wanted him to deepen the kiss, but he held back, careful with the position of his lips and tongue.
Finally, we broke apart and I sensed the rhythm of my heart as it regulated.
"In all my days, I've never believed in the existence of magic," he sounded awed. "But that…" He leaned in again hungrily and captured my lips for another fraction of a moment. I felt his lips curve into a smile against my cooled mouth. "Enchanting."
I ducked my head, overwhelmed. "Demetri…" was all I could whisper.
He chuckled lowly. "I could live another thousand years and never tire of hearing my name from those lips. I have so much I want to tell you. You have shared yourself with me, and I had accepted you with my whole heart from the very beginning. Even more so once you revealed your life." I breathed in sharply at his words, my breath wavering in my excitement. "I can only hope that I am so lucky, for you to accept me."
"Why wouldn't I?" I slid my hand up and down the smooth, pale skin of his arm.
He didn't answer, instead, he leaned toward me once again and skimmed his nose gently against my cheek, inhaling softly and brushing his lips against my ear. I almost couldn't stop my eyes from rolling back into my head, which was swimming with dizzying arousal. Could he feel the same instantaneous passion for me? I was beginning to believe it might be a possibility.
I was very nervous to take my beautiful, delicious angel into the heart of the Volturi lair unless she was certain of her path, so I needed to know I was as essential to her existence as she already was to mine.
If all went as well as I deeply wished, we would need an audience with my masters before long. However, a lot had to happen before that point.
I had never had a conversation like this before. My thoughts flickered to the family we had visited in the United States just a few months prior — the Cullens. A member of their coven, Edward, had been similarly drawn to a human who was now his mate. I wondered how that first revealing exchange had gone. I wanted sweet Angelina to make an informed decision, so I wouldn't hold back in anything, but I would also give her the final decision. This life would not be forced upon her if she did not want it. No matter how selfish a creature I was, I just couldn't take her life. But I also couldn't deny how deeply I hoped she would be as accepting of my nature as Edward's mate had been.
Because somehow, inexplicably, only mere hours after first realizing she existed in this world, she was the center of mine. I knew that she had been made just for me. I knew there was a reason I had not lived the libertine life of my friend and accomplice, Felix. I had been waiting, unknowingly, for my angel.
Before I could begin to explain my impossibly existence to her, I sensed a new flavor in the air — the presence of another vampire. I stiffened and had to calm my immediate territorial growl. The door to the establishment swung open and in strode a shorter vampire with dark brown hair. Alec. I couldn't help but be relieved that it was him and not his sadistic sister. Their scents were very difficult to distinguish between at first, as they were twins.
He knew I was here immediately by scent, and made his way back to me. His lips curled into a knowing smile when he regarded the angel at my side.
"Breakfast so early, my friend?" he asked, his immature, boyish voice much sweeter than the meaning behind his words. "Such a delectable morsel." His eyes darkened in hunger and I began growling lowly in my throat again, too quiet for Angelina to hear. Alec burst out in a laugh at my reaction. "So greedy, Demetri? Very well…I revel in the thrill of the hunt anyway." And with that, he eased past us and strode toward back out of the door.
Angelina shrank from him as he passed, pressing herself into my side even closer. I treasured the feeling of her body against mine, but her sudden fear was curious to me. She slowly calmed, her trembling ceasing.
"Are you okay, angel?"
She shuddered for a moment. "That boy gave me the creeps. Who was he?"
"No one of any importance to us this evening, Angelina. But it is curious that you fear him so. He is no different than me."
"He's nothing like you," she gazed up at me. "You have this aura around you…your soul is beautiful."
"My soul?" I was startled by her words. "Darling, I have no soul."
It was her turn to look surprised. "That can't be true," Angelina murmured. "I saw you with those children. I see the beauty and wisdom in your eyes."
I stopped abruptly, grasping her head gently and making sure she was really looking at me. She gasped as we found ourselves inches from one another.
"These eyes?" I asked, unable to keep the snarl from my voice. I motioned toward my blood-red irises. "I'm a monster, angel."
She surprised me by standing toe-to-toe with me, looking suddenly furious. She was angry and frustrated…and sexy as hell.
"Don't say that…Demetri, I've known monsters," she hissed. "Hell, I've lived with one for years. You might believe yourself to be bad, but I don't care. You can't be bad…I won't believe it. To me, you're everything good and glorious."
I just gaped at her in awe before pulling her to me in an embrace, mindful of her fragile body, but needing to feel her warmth against me. Her triumphant laugh was throaty in my ear. With a moan, I sought her lips again, subduing my ferocity as much as I could.
Breathlessly, she finally pulled back to draw in some needed air. "Demetri, you're…" she stopped.
Her lip trembled. "You're…remarkable. Who…no, what are you?"
She knew. She had to know. My granite heart was struck with sudden fear. This delectable being was everything I never knew I needed, and I could lose her with the truth. But I also couldn't completely have her without it either.
"Angel, I…" My voice died. I tried again. "I…" With conviction, I finally strangled it out. "I am an immortal. A vampire."
My powerful eyes looked for any hint of a reaction on her face. She blanched at my words, struggled with obvious disbelief for a moment, and then searched my eyes for the truth.
"A vampire," she repeated.
"Yes." I waited for her to say more.
"Yes," I repeated nervously, examining her eyes for the inevitable fear or repulsion.
Hanging my head, I nodded. "Unfortunately, that is my diet, yes. And now you can see why I am a monster."
She looked thoughtful. Not frightened, not repulsed. Instead, she seemed to be considering her questions. She seemed curious.
Her brow furrowed, she launched into a barrage of questions. "How old are you? Where are you from? Do you kill people?" She stopped and finally took a breath, studying me. "Please tell me."
She had not run screaming from the room. I allowed the first flicker of hope to come to life in my immobile heart.
"I am over 300 years old, Angelina. I was born in England in 1699, and I was made a vampire when I was 32. I lived with my maker for several decades. He was very powerful and drew the notice of the Volturi, a coven of vampires who act as the lawkeepers for our kind. They banded together to defeat him. They destroyed most of the vampires he had created, but I have a rather useful talent, so they kept me. I was brought here and have lived in Volterra for almost 200 years."
"What is your talent?"
I smiled for the first time in several minutes. I enjoyed my job. "I am a tracker. I find whomever my masters wish me to find."
She looked overcome with all of this info, but managed to choke out, "I see." I reached out and took her hand and she visibly calmed at my touch.
"I feed on human blood, but only when necessary," I said, watching her closely. She didn't act revolted, so I continued. "Once a vampire begins feeding, it is nearly impossible to stop until every last drop of blood is gone — so our victims do not survive." Angelina merely blinked. "I prefer to feed on the blood of those who are already dying, so I visit hospitals quite often. I have heard more than one of my victims call me their "angel of death" when I come for them. They feel no pain, and there is no difference in the vitality of their blood. Others may disagree, but I see no reason to validate my status as a monster."
"Are you going to kill me?" My heart nearly broke when she whimpered it.
I prayed that he wouldn't kill me — not because I feared death, but because I would never see his stunning face or be lost in his presence again. The mere thought of it was heartrending.
He gathered me in his cool arms, holding me firmly against his chest. "I could never end you, Angelina. My existence is tied to yours now."
"So what does this mean?" I murmured, confused and still hopeful. "For us?"
A growing smile transformed his worried face. "Us?" He reached up to stroke my cheek, covering my skin with his palm. "You know what I am, how I live, yet you still tie yourself to me?"
"It doesn't make sense, I know," I murmured. "But I know it in my heart. You are meant for me. And I accept you with everything I am." A single tear slid down my cheek and he stopped it with his thumb, gazing at me in wonder and concern. "But it's impossible, isn't it?"
His voice sounded so affected as he breathed, "No."
I physically felt my heart leap, and nearly swooned with overwhelming relief and excitement. "No?" I choked out.
His smile grew wider. "No, my angel…not impossible!" He was against me in the blink of an eye, his cheek against mine, his breath cool on my ear. "If you'll have me, we can be together for all eternity. If you become like me."
"How do I become like you?"
With his lips tickling my lobe, the explanation felt downright erotic. "I would need to bite you, love. My venom would begin the change. Your human life would end, but your eternal, immortal existence would begin." I shivered and pressed my legs together, becoming aroused. Against my ear, I heard his rapid intake of air. "Mia bella, I can taste your essence in the air," he groaned. "Would you make love with me first? Before the change? I need you so… I have never needed anything more in my 300 years."
There was not a moment's hesitation. I would do anything for this beautiful creature — die a thousand deaths if need be, instead of a single one.
"Yes…YES! Absolutely, yes!" I exclaimed, loud enough to draw the attention of some of the patrons in the dark restaurant. Lowering my voice again, I whispered, "Change me, Demetri…love me…be with me. I'm yours."
"Will you come with me? Now?"
"I'll go anywhere you want me to," I replied in total honesty.
Demetri smiled. "I am so selfish…I wanted you to say that more than you know."
We stood quickly, not wanting to hesitate. I needed him now.
"Congratulazioni!," the elderly woman exclaimed after us as we walked out of the door. "Felice matrimonio."
I giggled happily and Demetri turned and called back, "Grazie!"
We arrived at the inconspicuous entrance to the vast burrow of underground tunnels and connected buildings that comprised the Volturi network. I still clung to her warm hand — my lifeline to her constant pulse, which soothed me rather than stimulate my bloodlust — but released it for a moment so I could wrap my black cloak around her shoulders.
"Here," I murmured, fastening it under her chin and tucking her hair under the hood. "If we run into anyone, just let me talk. We must go and request an audience with my masters before we retire to my flat." Her large emerald eyes looked up at me in fear. I leaned down and kissed her nose. "I swear I will keep you safe, Angelina. Try not to be afraid." I pulled her close to my side.
"I'm not afraid of you," she said.
"Sometimes I'm not the only creature you should fear." I paused and tasted the air. It was still not midnight, so most of the vampires hadn't embarked for their evening hunting. Which meant that many of them would be on the other side of that door, and most of them would be thirsty. For a moment I thought about taking her somewhere else, but I knew that soon the city and surrounding country would be overrun with vampires seeking their first meal of the night. With a deep breath, I pulled the door open.
The hallway was dark and empty. My arm remained firmly around Angelina's middle, and even with my senses on alert, I could appreciate the way her hip swelled from her slender waist. I gently ran my hand down the curve and back up, marveling at its warm softness. I forced myself back to attention.
I led her down the shadowy hall, passing doorways to deeper sections of the Volturi labyrinth. It was very quiet tonight, yet I knew her ears would not be able to sense the far-away voices and movements of nearly four dozen vampires.
One right, two lefts and a long hallway later, we passed into another building. Down two flights of stairs, and we reached the reception and waiting area. Gianna's successor, a plump, overenthusiastic woman named Lucia, stood and welcomed us.
"Lucia, I need an audience with Masters Marcus and Aro, please." I wanted to avoid the unnecessary hostility that always surrounded dealings with Caius.
"I believe they are all available, il mio amico," she said, glancing at the angel clinging to my side. "Master Caius will not want to be excluded."
I sighed. "Very well." I led Angelina to the chairs across the room, cognizant that she was squeezing my hand as hard as her human muscles would allow. I nearly chuckled when I realized I could barely feel it.
She fidgeted at my side and I calmed her with a kiss to the top of her sweetly scented head. She stopped squirming and looked up at me nervously.
"Shh, it will be okay, amore mio. This meeting will be quick, and then I will take you away where we can be alone and I can show you my love properly." I ducked my head and brushed my lips gently across her forehead, inhaling her intoxicating aroma. "And then, the rest of time is ours, together."
Lucia looked at us curiously as the intercom buzzed, letting us know that the three powerful vampires were ready for us. As we walked past, she hesitatingly said, "Essere felici insieme, Demetri."
I smiled at her. "Thank you, Lucia. I believe we will be very happy together."
I could feel the tension rolling off my angel like waves. I wanted to take her in my arms and kiss her until she was speechless, but I knew such behavior would not assist our cause. Caius would be petulant regardless, but Marcus often reacted negatively to displays of passionate love. Still mourning his mate Didyme after all of these years, it was cruel enough that he always knew intensely how those around him felt, while he suffered through immortality alone. Aro would only worry about how Angelina's change might benefit him.
The door opened in front of us and I led us both into the great hall. I was surprised to see that the three were not alone. Felix stood near the door, and I stifled a growl when I saw Jane sitting casually off to the side of the masters' raised platform.
"Demetri?" Felix's voice was confused. "Are you fishing for the masters this evening? Who is this girl?"
I ignored his question and instead went right up to Aro. His crimson eyes flickered uncertainly toward the dazzling woman on my right and he held out his palm. I released Angelina, as much as it pained me to do so, and took my master's hand. It only took him a second to comprehend.
"Why, Demetri!" he sounded surprised. "After all these many years?"
I couldn't stop the happy smile from appearing on my face. "Yes, Master."
He regarded my angel. "And you understand what is to happen? You are to be changed into an immortal?" Shakily, she shook her head in the affirmative and I gave her hand a squeeze.
Aro turned to glance at Caius, who was gazing at Angelina with black eyes, and then at Marcus, who nodded.
"The connection is unlike anything I've ever witnessed," Marcus said, his voice slightly more interested than usual. "Instantaneous. Powerful. It rivals the relationship between the Cullen boy and his human."
Behind us, Felix chuckled as he realized what was going on. "Well, damn, friend! That's wonderful! Another Volturi bachelor bites the dust…"
"Wonderful?" Caius's sneer broke through the otherwise happy reaction. "I think not. A newborn mate will only distract you from your duties, Demetri. How could you be so selfish?" He stood suddenly. "No, I'm afraid this just won't do. We are preparing for an assault on the cluster of werewolves we discovered in Nepal. You can't concentrate on a battle with the Children of the Moon if you are diverted by a new mate."
It took every ounce of my strength to stop the snarl bubbling in my throat. I had to release Angelina's hand for fear I would squeeze it too hard.
"Now brother, be reasonable," Aro said, smiling. "Demetri has served us well…he deserves to have some happiness." He regarded Angelina. "Besides, she may prove to be a talented immortal." He held out his hand to her. "May I, my dear?"
She glanced at me in terror. I ducked down to her and whispered in her ear. "Aro can read your mind with a single touch. He just wants to get to know you. Don't worry, I'm right here."
Bravely, she stepped forward and my granite heart swelled with pride at her courage. Aro gathered her hand and was silent for several seconds. Finally, his brow furrowed and he released her.
"What a shame," he murmured. "No talent that I can see."
"Even more reason this is not a good idea," Caius spat, glaring at Angelina with hungry eyes. "Perhaps we should just enjoy her company and call it an evening. I'm thirsty."
This time I couldn't stop the snarl from hissing past my bared teeth. "Like hell!" I growled, crouching down with my angel behind me.
At once, I was on the ground, my vision seared with white-hot pain. My limbs were like lightning sparks, and I was aware of nothing but the agony. I shrieked and futilely fought the unconscious writhing that Jane's "gift" brought. I needed to know where my angel was…that she was alright.
I heard Aro's angry voice above the screaming in my ears. He called for calm, and at once I was aware again, the pain gone. Immediately, I leapt to my feet and found Angelina. She was being cradled in Felix's massive arms while Caius was held back by the team of Renata and Aro. In the blink of an eye, I had her in my arms, checking her for injury, kissing her tears from her face and clutching her to my body as tightly as I could without injuring her.
"I'm fine, Demetri," her voice shook with fright. "I'm fine…oh, my God, are you hurt? What happened to you?"
I turned and regarded my masters, my blood-red irises flashing in anger. "Angelina is my mate. She will be an immortal. I would like to change her here and continue my services with the Volturi. However, if this is not possible…" I shot a scathing look at Caius, who was struggling to control his bloodlust. "Be warned. I will take her far from here and change her anyway. You will never find me…there is no one who can track me."
Aro held up his hands in apology. "We would never wish to see that happen, Demetri…you know that." He looked in disappointment at his volatile brother. "Go and make your preparations. We will delay the campaign against the werewolves for a few months while you tend to your mate."
I didn't give Caius the smug grin I wanted to…I already knew he would make life difficult for me and Angelina for many decades to come because of this incident. No need to make the situation worse.
"Come, my love," I said gently, wrapping my arm around her waist once again and leading her out the way we came in, never looking back.
I shivered as we began the walk through the maze of hallways again. We had only been walking for a few minutes when Demetri suddenly stopped and pulled me to him. His lips met mine firmly, and I could feel the need in his kiss. My frightful trembling ceased, and a new shaking began. I finally realized that we were on our way to his apartment, to his bed. I pressed against him just as insistently, and I felt the first sign of his arousal against my lower stomach.
"How much more walking?" I moaned, turning my head so he could trace his tongue against my pulse point. "I want you now!"
He chuckled lowly and rasped, "Hold on to me," with his honey voice. I clung to his neck and suddenly we were soaring, the brick passageway flying past us and my hair whipping around my face. In mere seconds, we were in front of a simple doorway.
I looked down at the "Welcome" mat beneath our feet and cocked an eyebrow at Demetri. He shrugged, his cheeks dimpling with his smile. With a grand flourish, he swept me off my feet and into his arms, opening the door. He was carrying me over the threshold.
"Love, I'm so sorry we can't do this the proper way, but I will marry you as many times as you want during our lifetimes together."
"Technically, I'm still married, Demetri," I said with chagrin as he set me down.
Surprisingly, he smiled. "Not for long, you won't be. When you wake from the transformation in a few days, I'm taking you hunting. You can decide whether you want to feed from him or if you want me to take care of it, but either way, Tristan will pay for his treatment of you."
My first reaction was to blanch at the suggestion, but the more I thought about it, the wider my smile grew.
"I think I'd like to handle that situation," I whispered.
He slowly circled me, his eyes roaming up and down my body. "As for this situation…" The corner of his mouth twitched upward, his eyes dark. "I think I'd like to handle it right now." He continued to walk around me, moving closer slowly. He was stalking me.
"Demetri…" I moaned, watching him eye me hungrily. I could feel the area between my legs tingling, and I knew I was getting wetter by the moment.
"Strip," he commanded, crouching down slightly and pacing in front of me like an agitated panther. His eyes were coal-black and the front of his black pants tented from his erection.
I pulled my shirt over my head and let it fall to the ground. My jeans unzipped easily and slid down my legs. I stepped out of them and met Demetri's eyes as I reached behind my back to the hooks of my bra. He stopped his pacing and swallowed thickly, watching every movement I made. Slowly, I unfastened the satin straps and let it fall to the floor next to my other clothing. Demetri hissed lowly when my curves fell free, bobbing slightly with their weight.
"Glorious…" he murmured. "Angel, you are the most beautiful creature I have ever…" His words ended in a growl when I threw my panties at him. He snatched them in midair and brought the silk to his face, his gaze fixed on my naked body.
"Come here," I begged, holding my arms open for him, and he was against me before I could finish the words, kissing my cheeks, my lips, my forehead. I pulled at his clothing, untucking his shirt and groping at his waist. I heard his light laughter and he pulled back.
"Allow me, angel," he said, pulling his shirt over his head. My knees trembled at the sight of his smooth, pale skin, perfect over the rippled muscles in his abdomen. Mesmerized, I ran my fingers from his chest down to the reddish trail of hair that began at his navel. I wanted to finish undressing him and carefully unfastened the button and slowly unzipped his fly, pushing his pants down as I did.
"Holy fuck," I breathed when I saw that he was not wearing any underwear. His face was magnificently mirthful as he drank in my expression. In awe, I wrapped my hand around his pale, immense length and he bucked against my grip.
"Jesus, love!" he exclaimed, wrapping his arms around my waist and pressing himself against me. Even though his body was cool, everywhere our skin touched felt like an electric current. He gently cradled my chin in his fingers and pushed my head up so he could bring his lips to mine.
The kiss began chastely — small presses of lip on lip, and began to grow in passion, until my head swam with desire. I broke away to breathe, and that gave Demetri the opportunity to move his mouth to other places. He paused at the hollow of my throat, sucking gently until I knew the blood was close to the surface. He was marking me. He continued down until his face nuzzled in the warm, soft flesh of my breasts. Careful to cover his teeth with his lips, he nipped at the hardened peaks gently. I arched into him, running my fingers through his messy hair.
"Where should I mark you?" he murmured, darting his tongue out to tickle the tip of my nipple as I whimpered in need. "Here?" His hand roamed up to pinch the nipple he had been playing with. He shifted lower. "Here?" His tongue swirled around my navel, and he paused to suck until another raspberry spot marked the area. His voice grew more husky as his lips brushed against my skin lower and lower.
"Here?" He paused and looked up, meeting my eyes as his tongue flicked out and dipped into the wetness between my legs. At once, he growled. "Fuck, angel…I can't tell you how amazing you taste. And so warm…" He began to devour my sex, licking from my entrance all the way to my clit in slow, languid strokes. I cried out when he pinched my clit with his lips, and my hips rose to seek more friction against his face. He slid two fingers into me, thrusting slowly before adding a third.
The warmth of the fire in my belly, coupled with the icy intensity of his mouth and hand, made my body respond in ways it never had before. It wasn't long before I was screaming his name and tugging the hair of his head, as the muscles of my sex throbbed around his fingers.
He waited for me to still before crawling up my body, hovering over me with his face inches from mine. His face was a mix of emotions, but mostly, it was happy…calm.
"I've waited so long for you, angel" Demetri said in a hushed voice. "I…I never dreamed that it would be like this, that I could love someone so completely…so suddenly. But I do, Angelina. I love you. I will love you and worship you for the rest of eternity."
With that, he leaned down and kissed me softly. I felt his cock against the wet skin of my folds and I angled my hips toward him and rocked them up toward him. The tip of him slid up and down my slick heat and I held my breath. We both paused for a moment to meet each others' eyes. One happy tear pooled in mine and slid down my cheek, and he watched its trail for a moment before pushing into me slowly.
I threw my head back and groaned in ecstasy as he stretched and filled me. "Oh, GOD, angel," he cried out. "You're so warm… Fuck! So warm and tight." Slowly, he began to pump in and out of me, and my muscles tightened around him as he brought me closer and closer to my peak. His hands roamed across my skin, circling my marks reverently and paying close attention to my breasts.
"Demetri…yes!" I cried as my center reached a crescendo and burst into waves of pleasure. "God, I love you…"
Demetri speeded up his lovemaking, and I heard the hint of a rumblel coming from his chest. "You're mine," he growled.
"Yes…" I whimpered.
"Mine," he repeated, as our bodies crashed together, creating a symphony with his growls and my erratic gasps.
"Mine!" he snarled, thrusting one last time and releasing his seed inside of me. His eyes were heavy and dark, and they consumed the sight of my naked body writhing beneath him, sweaty and vulnerable.
"Yours," I said firmly, pulling him down to me for one final kiss before tilting my head to expose my neck, the pulse point throbbing rapidly from our lovemaking.
As he brought his lips to my throat, he kissed the spot and murmured, "Forever," before his teeth claimed me for eternity.
Author's Note: Reviews are much appreciated.