After checking with my lawyers it would appear that I neither invented nor own any characters in the Twilight series. That distinction belongs to the talented Stephenie Meyer for whom I have great admiration and affection.
Also since this story involves vampires in Paris, I should mention that
I don't own any of Anne Rice's stuff.
Oh yeah, it also takes place during the Bohemian Revolution and somewhat revolves around a theater so just to be safe, I don't own Moulin Rouge either.
This is story dedicated to Jennifer, my wife
She is my Beta 'on line' and my Bella in life.
The well dressed audience waited silently for the curtain to open. The auditorium had been recently remodeled and everything shimmered with newness and richness. Deep tones of blue were offset with creams and gold. The waiting crowd had all purchased their tickets well in advance and now many of the men were impatiently checking their pocket watches to see if it was time.
At the stroke of midnight the sapphire curtain parted smoothly and the room was filled with the sound of applause as a petite young woman walked out. Miss Bella Swan glided across the stage wearing an elegant blood red evening gown that dusted the floor behind her and wrapped her small frame in a wreath of scarlet. Her pale face looked like an innocent white bud in the middle of a dangerous red flower. A simple silver locket was the only jewelry she wore and long white gloves cradled her delicate hands. Dark brown curls rested against her naked back.
When silence once again claimed the hall Miss Swan began to sing. In truth, what she did was far too beautiful and haunting to be described by a word as pedestrian as 'sing' however there has not yet been a word invented to adequately tribute the breathtaking aria she performed. Her Italian was flawless; her phrasing brilliant and her voice was magical.
The whole of the audience was deeply moved, but none more so than a bashful and beautiful young man who sat close to the stage. He marveled up at the breathtaking woman and twisted the playbill nervously in his hand until his sister snatched it from him with a hiss. He barely noticed. His heart pounded in his chest and his stomach was an unforgiving tangle of gears and knots.
He wasn't just in love, he was reborn. Before the first song was over he had decided that hers was the most heavenly voice he had ever heard and he inadvertently captured her attention when he whispered, "Bella Voce."
Theatre of the Night
Paris, like New Orleans, has long been rumored to have a large vampire population. In the case of the City of Lights this is very true. Although not in politics or positions of obvious authority (that would come later), vampires flocked to Paris for one simple reason; an artistic renaissance known as the Bohemian Revolution. Art, music and theater all took a great leap forward in the late nineteenth century and most of the leaping was done in Paris.
Vampires are voyeurs by necessity, if not by nature, and the theater provided a marvelous opportunity for them to watch daytime activities, delicate romances and human rituals. It was especially fun for them to play other people and lose themselves in a life that was not their own. If only for a little while.
In 1891 the most powerful and beautiful vampire was a young opera singer named Bella Swan. She sang short operas and quietly educated herself at the Bataclan but Bella was simply too talented to go unnoticed. Within a year she was performing at the Theatre Garnier and, as she had already amassed a considerable wealth, she owned her own auditorium a year after that.
She chose a modest building in a muddy corner of Place de Pigalle, a neighborhood that already boasted severalwell worn stages, and called her little playhouse Theatre de la Nuit. Her midnight shows were sold out weeks in advance and since she only performed once a week, she held the interest of an entire city. Bella was a clever and shrewd business woman but started out a long way from a Paris stage.
She first sang as a young girl in an English abbey over 350 years before. Her family had been poorer than most and her only single delights were church services. She was only ever truly warm after an hour or so in the abbey where she felt like she was connected to something larger. She also sang like she could knock the walls down and it attracted the attention of the monks. Bella's parents were offered the chance to send her to the convent where she would serve Almighty God as a nun.
It was not a hard decision to make as it would protect and educate Bella her whole life. Not many peasants were allowed to apply for, let alone be offered a place in the church. Her mother cried sorrowfully a week later when she was taken by a Bishop and his attendants traveling to Elsebridge.
She was turned by a priest eight years later in early 1540 to protect her from the plague. It had saved her lifebut everyone she had ever loved died that winter. Everyone she had ever known was dead by Christmas and the man who transformed her kissed each cheek on New Years Day then left on foot to find what he called "Comforts in the East."
Upon his departure, Bella was the only person left alive in Elsebridge - a nineteen year old vampire nun.
Just bloody great.
She first went to Spain, where she matured, then later to France, where she grew up. She took with her only a silver locket, a gift from her father, and a few happy memories of her childhood in England. The happiest of which was when she was eleven and performed in King Henry VIII's court in a children's choir. She had been assigned a solo in the canon and the sound of her voice echoing in the large chambers had given goose bumps. She would never forget how that moment felt. She pleased her choir master and she stunned the court. The King was sleeping.
It was the first and last time anyone slept while Bella sang. Even now, she could hear almost 400 heartbeats speed up as she breathed music into their ears. She had a way of exciting people even when she performed the most timid and fragile arrangements. Her voice was engaging, passionate, beautiful.
"Bella Voce." She heard the whisper quite clearly and a few measures later she allowed herself a glance at who said it.
He was devastating. Apollo in the second row! His hair was tousled and completely covered one of his forest green eyes. Still the intensity of his stare caught her off guard, and the unsolicited compliment would have made her blush, if that were possible.
Meanwhile, the young man held his breath as the Goddess above him looked his way. Right at him actually. He had accompanied his sister to the much heralded performance and was not prepared for the suffocating desire he felt upon seeing Bella. A moment later, when she started singing he almost moaned with awe and pleasure. When his senses swam back to him, he uttered the only two words he could think of. One of them was her name.
Upon hearing those words Bella had been intrigued. After seeing the lips that delivered the complement, she had decided he was to be her escort for the evening. True - he was a bit young for her but she had to have him. Besides she needn't feel too guilty…
He wouldn't feel a thing.
Lucky vampires had guard dogs. Bella was luckier than most, she had Jacob. He appeared to be in his mid-twenties, stood over six and a half feet tall and had long dark straight hair that complemented his olive complexion. As a man, his kind face betrayed his hulking mass, but when enraged, he became a wolf twice his size and the transformation alone was famously frightening.
Jacob's loyalty was fierce and he served Bella in many ways. Tonight he was a bouncer.
His usual duties included protecting Bella during the day while she slept, procuring and disposing of her gentlemen callers, and some light cleaning and maintenance on the theater.
You know…the dirty work.
He was well paid for his services but owed Bella his life and would never leave her side. Except, of course, when she hit the higher notes on stage. His hearing was even more acute than hers and coupled with a particular sensitivity to higher frequencies, he often slipped into the lobby or even onto the street to escape the piercing invasion. Since the performance had just begun Jacob was still in the auditorium so he too heard "Bella Voce."
He watched as Bella looked for then found her prey. A moment later she looked at Jacob who obediently waited for her command. A hint of a nod confirmed that he was to invite the unfortunate bastard to meet his maker.
The show was a remarkable experience for those congregated. Bella was as skilled as she was beautiful and she hypnotized the crowd with ease. Literally. She learned recently (within the last 50 years) that she had developed certain abilities. Hypnotism was the first and easiest skill she cultivated. Even mass hypnosis required little more than her presence. The tricky part was to provide and institute a 'release' for anyone inadvertently mesmerized. Without direction, a dazed person might just sit in their chair after the show or might go out into the street and get trampled by a horse.
Bella was becoming more powerful every year but since she planned to retire after a decade or two and move to America she felt that she could handle the unintended side effect of her performances. She had never taken advantage of her control and developed a release cue in her last aria: Mozart's Queen of the Night from The Magic Flute.
That night she felt very antsy on stage and wanted badly to be alone with her unkempt beauty. She even cut a few numbers much to the delight of her rapidly sobering orchestra. Bella liked to look at the pretty boys but never touched and never allowed herself to be possessed by anyone. She was a maid when she was transformed and although she recognized stirrings and desires she didn't get along well with other vampires and humans were out of the question.
As the ovation spilled out in a wave that threatened to make Bella almost blush for the second time that night, she drifted to the back of the stage, opened one of two closed doors and disappeared inside where she waited for Jacob to bring her dessert.
The crowd rose almost as one when the curtains slid together again and Jacob was already en route. He could not exactly see who Bella had chosen but he knew the general area she was focused on and, besides, he knew her type.
The gentleman was exactly what Jacob had expected, shy and shaking. At closer inspection, Jacob realized he was a bit young for his mistress but appeared strong and handsome and quietly alert. Oh yes, he was her type all right. Jacob approached the boy.
"Excuse me, Mr. ah?"
The young man gazed up at the giant dark man and stammered. "Cul-Cullen. Edward Cullen." He remembered his manners and hastily included, "And this is my sister, Rosalie."
"Mr. and Miss Cullen please forgive the imposition." He turned to face Edward, "Miss Swan has asked to meet you, Sir."
Edward became so wide eyed that Jacob had to discretely cover his grin with an errant playbill he recovered from the floor on his way down. Rosalie, who was threatened by all beautiful women, rolled her eyes and countered with "No. Thank you. We have to get home."
Jacob hadn't anticipated the complication but knew exactly what to say to part the two siblings for the night. He took her hand in his massive paw and said, "My dear Miss Cullen. I would not dream of delaying you a minute longer and, if your brother will permit me, I should like to see you to your door by way of my private carriage."
"I'm not sure." Edward said, obviously torn. "I should accompany my sister home."
Rosalie fixed her brother with a well practiced glare that said, "Don't you dare ruin this for me."
"Don't be such a prude, Edward! Shall we?" Rosalie breezed by her brother and took Jacob's arm. She was secretly thrilled as she had just saved herself a miserable walk with her insufferably boring brother. And now she had the opportunity to make friends with this very large and attractive beast.
Edward shrugged his shoulders.
"Splendid!" Jacob cheered, his smile almost as big as his hands. "Mr. Cullen, would you please go through the double doors at the rear of the stage? Miss Swan will be expecting you shortly."
With that, Jacob and Rosalie were gone.
Edward was too scared to be nervous but had always been brave and vaulted onto the stage without hesitation and trotted towards the doors. Before he could knock he heard her speak.
Bella's gentle voice easily passed through the gap and found Edward panting. He took a quick moment to steady himself and slowly pulled both doors open to reveal a room that appeared to be filled with cushions.
Black carpet on the floor and walls complimented many gold and purple over-stuffed love seats placed back to back throughout the low ceilinged room. Then there were the cushions and pillows, dozens of them scattered on the floor and lounging on chairs. Edward admired the choice in colors; more purple and gold of course but also light pink, midnight blue, silver and the occasional tiny teal green pillows with brick red stitching.
Bella was now wearing a white fluffy robe. She sat in the farthest chair from the door and motioned for Edward to come in.
Edward obliged and crossed the room almost at a skip. Plucking Bella's hand from her lap, he shook it vigorously with both hands and gushed, "Oh, Miss Swan! I am so pleased to meet you. I must confess that I have never been to one of your shows before. I've heard of you, of course, and I played at the Garnier a week after you once. I came here with my sister and – thanks by the way for providing her an escort home – and I was so impressed with your performance tonight – and I – it was just – I'm really glad to meet you."
He was still panting and his eyes glistened with real admiration. He was so awed by her that he hadn't noticed that she was obviously naked under her robe. He released her hand and wiped his sweaty palms on his trousers.
Oh Hell. Bella thought. He's a virgin. I can't kill a virgin.
It wasn't that she had anything against killing virgins; it was just that she had never met one in Paris before.
Bella was suddenly thankful she had built up her strength before her performance. She had always had a problem with temptation and years as an immortal had not taught her any impulse control or patience. After a moments consideration, she felt it was safe to continue the conversation but also recognized that his sheer loveliness would soon wear down her resolve not to harm him.
"Won't you sit down." Bella cooed.
"Oh, of course, thank you." Edward said as he practically threw himself at a lavender love seat, stumbled over the ottoman and bounced off the arm. "Oops, sorry." He said to the furniture.
Bella regarded him silently with no hint of emotion on her beautiful face.
Edward tried again and successfully deposited himself in the waiting seat. He brushed the hair out of his eyes and looked up at his hostess. "I like your eyes. They look like honey."
Bella was touched. "Thank you. What is your name, Sweetheart?" Bella usually did not get this far in the conversation with her other escorts. Usually, once they saw that robe and the empty spot next to her in the love seat, they were planted and moving in for the kill. She just always beat them to the punch.
"I'm Edward Cullen, Miss Swan."
"Please. Call me Bella."
"Oh no! I couldn't do that."
Bella frowned, "Why not?"
"It's just that…" Edward knew he had displeased her. "I mean… You deserve so much respect."
"Only enough respect to be addressed by my name, and that name is Bella."
"Bella Voce," he whispered again and the sound of his voice made her heart ache. The more she listened to this innocent child speak, the more she wanted to know him. She knew that she would always have to feed before they spent any significant time together.
Or she would make another mistake.
"What is your profession, Edward?"
Edward blushed, looked down then blushed even harder. "I'm a piano teacher."
Bella liked this. "Where did you learn to play?"
"I played as a child with private tutors, but after prep school I studied at the Opera Garnier." He said and then sheepishly added, "Just as you did."
"Would you play for me sometime?" She glanced at his hands. He was a piano player alright. Long slender fingers were laced together on the hump of his trousers.
Edward, who was already lit up like a puppy, vibrated with excitement. "May I?"
Bella was pleasantly surprised by his response. She expected to have to talk him into it - in other words, wait until he got that hazy look and simply suggest it. Come to think of it, he didn't seem to be getting that hazy look. This puzzled her but she did not allow it to distract her from the conversation.
"I can arrange to have a piano onstage tomorrow evening. Could you come by at 6:30? We could have dinner afterwards." She blinked, not believing what she had just said. Did she just ask him to call on her?
"I would be happy to." Edward could not believe his luck. She was such a talent and she wanted to hear him play. He knew he would have to choose something special.
Bella stood up, walked to the doors and opened one. "I will meet you right out here tomorrow evening."
She was starting to feel a deep need to taste the sweet nectar of Edward's blood, if she did not get him out of here fast she was going to rip his beautiful neck open in a frenzy to get to it. She wanted Edward so bad, but knew that it would be a tremendous crime to take a life like his.
In his nervousness, Edward stumbled twice more on his way out and actually bowed a few times before turning to leave.
Bella went into the back room and closed the doors. Then she made her way back to the corner where their conversation took place. She straightened some of the cushions Edward had dislodged upon his exit and pushed the chair she had been sitting in back against the wall. This revealed a small hole in the floor and an iron staircase leading beneath the stage.
She would have to go out now so she trotted down the stairs shaking her robe open as she did so and considered her evening wear. Maybe she would have time to meet up with Alice.
Bella suddenly stopped.
Thinking about Alice still gave her great pause and sometimes the guilt overwhelmed her. Even though Alice had completely forgiven her, Bella would never forgive herself.
Now she was thinking about doing it again? Well, this time would be different.
For one thing, she would ask permission.
As you may have noticed, I decided to use the more traditional vampire lore in this story concerning their habits. I hope this is not a distraction for you as it will become important to the story.
As I post this first chapter, I am putting the finishing touches on the next two chapters (which will be longer, I promise). I know that this story will take us all on a fascinating and funny journey with Bella, Edward, Jacob, the professor and Mary Ann…
Thank you forever to my wife, Jennifer, for spending most of her time deleting commas and reminding me that I will need to include a lemon (or two or three...)
Thank you to Heather who read this first chapter prior to its posting and who has been helpful in launching me into the fan fiction world.
I owe my new found bravery to SR and UoEM.
Updates will hopefully be weekly. (Sunday nights I predict.)