Chapter 1 Prologue
Alice had been driving like a lunatic, the whole way from Florence to Volterra, but we were still cutting it very close.
"Five minutes. You only got five minutes, Bella." She reminded me, for the umpteenth time, before bringing the yellow Porsche to an abrupt stop on the side of the narrow road. Honestly, if it had been up to me, I would have chosen a less conspicuous car, but considering what was at stake, the brand and color of a stolen vehicle were the least of my concerns right now. All that mattered was that we made it here, in one piece, and hopefully just in time.
I didn't wait around for an invitation to leave the car. But not just because of the whole time shortage thing. Of course, I was worried that we might be too late, but right here and now I was far more concerned about me.
True, I wasn't exactly known for exercising caution. In fact, some might say I completely lacked in the whole self-preservation department. And maybe they did have a point, given my track record, but I didn't think that those particular instincts were completely missing from my genetic makeup. They were still there, latent most of the time, true, but still there. Otherwise, I hardly would be on high alert right now.
Needless to say our friendship had suffered a serious blow, after the whole vanishing act, but I still trusted Alice, completely and without reservation. I hardly would have gone with her if that hadn't been the case. I knew that she would never hurt me on purpose, physically speaking. However, given her current state of mind, I wasn't quite sure that Alice was able to remember who she was dealing with. A mere human, someone who was extremely fragile … well extremely fragile compared to her. True, she looked like a fourteen-year-old child, size-wise, but I knew that she was anything but delicate. A simple, encouraging, well-meant shove from her could easily result in serious injury on my part … hence, my decision to get out of the car on my own, right away. I surely didn't want to take any (more) chances. We had enough on our plate as it was. We certainly didn't need to add physical injury resulting from negligence to the list.
But I still needed a little bit of guidance, so I leaned back into the car. I really shouldn't have been surprised that I didn't get the chance to voice my question. After all, Alice was a psychic, someone who was always a step ahead, able to anticipate everyone's next move. Well almost always …
"Edward will be under the clock tower." She informed me, pointing towards the alley to my right. "Just keep straight ahead. You can't miss it. And remember, you have to hurry."
I tried my best to ignore the anxious tone of her voice and the panic-stricken look on her face. Of course I felt the same way. I was worried sick, but at the same time I knew that I had to keep it together. Freaking out wouldn't do any good, especially now, when it was all up to me to save the day. With the sun high up in the sky, Alice couldn't accompany me. She couldn't risk exposure too. I had no choice but to go the rest of the way alone, but that didn't mean I liked it.
Not wasting any more time I gave her a stiff nod of understanding, and then I turned around and ran.
I ran as fast as I could.
The clock chimed.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
It was almost noon. I pushed my body to move faster, but there was only so much I could do. After all, I was only human, and unfortunately there were too many people on the streets, celebrating Saint Marcus Day. Alice had told to me about it earlier. But right now I didn't give a damn why they all were out here. All that mattered was that they were in the way, blocking my path to rescue Alice's brother from doing something stupid and totally uncalled for.
I still couldn't believe that Edward would actually do something like that. It made no sense to me, no sense whatsoever. Why was he going to kill himself? He said that he didn't want me, that he didn't love me. Why would my (alleged) death drive him over the edge all of the sudden? His stupid act of committing suicide was hurting his family, and he didn't seem to care at all. What has changed to make him act this way?
Whatever the answers to these questions were, I knew that now wasn't the time to speculate. Hopefully there would be time to get to the bottom of this later.
'First I'm going to save him, and then I can yell at him.'
I continued to fight my way through a sea of red. Apparently the color was very popular on this day. People wore cloaks, dresses, shirts, even scarves in various shades of red. Oddly, I kinda liked the image. I really would have liked to stop and enjoy the procession, but I couldn't.
'God, what am I doing here?'
It took me long enough to let go of the past and move on, probably longer than it should have (not just according to Jake), but that didn't mean that I'd forgotten. Contrary to someone's belief, my mind wasn't a sieve. Sure, it hadn't been that long yet, only a couple of months, but even before Alice's unexpected arrival on my doorstep, I knew that no matter how much time would go by, five years, twenty, or even fifty, I would never forget.
I would always remember … meeting the Cullens for the first time, learning the truth about them, nearly dying at the hand of one of their kind, my disastrous eighteenth birthday party … all of it.
And even though I found a way to cope, the memories still stung. I was still mad about the way Edward had ended things between us, but I didn't want him to die, because despite everything he'd done, I still cared about him. And I surely didn't want to see his family suffering, unnecessarily. But those were only two reasons, why I'd allowed Alice to drag me down to Italy to save her brother's sparkling ass. For the most part I needed closure, once and for all.
I kept pushing my way through the crowd, earning me some swearwords. I didn't understand any of them, since they were in Italian, but I could guess their meaning. Normally I would have stopped and given them a piece of my mind, but I knew right now was not the time. I had a mission ... saving Edward.
I turned around the last corner, and there it was – the town square. I could see the clock tower at the far end of it. Unfortunately, there were even more people here, gathering in large groups, barely moving at all, inadvertently but effectively blocking my path. Looking for the best and quickest way to make it across the square, my eyes fell on a fountain in the centre. Without thinking about it twice, I went straight for it. I stepped over its edge and waded through the cold water. Surprisingly, I didn't even slip once … probably only thanks to my determination. Reaching the other side in record time, I climbed out. I didn't pause, but immediately continued to fight my way through the crowd.
And then, at last, I was where I was supposed to be, right at the front entrance of the huge clock tower. Alice had told me that Edward would be here, waiting for the perfect moment to step out into the sun. That was his master plan, exposing himself to the humans, thus forcing the Volturi's hand. And as far as I understood their laws, he wouldn't leave them a choice. They would have to act accordingly … and thereby granting him his wish.
The clocked chimed again, twelve strikes this time. It was noon. I made it, arriving right on time, but there was no sign of Edward. I tried the massive door, but it was locked. I looked around anxiously, not sure what to do next.
I didn't know where Alice was. And since I didn't have my cell phone on me, I couldn't call and ask her. And something told me, that it wouldn't be a good idea to wait here until dark. After all, this was vampire central, quite literally.
Around me the festivities proceeded. No one was paying me any attention. I turned into the alley, separating the clock tower and the adjoining building. It was significantly darker there, certainly safe from any direct sunlight. The alley was completely vacant, which I thought was kinda odd, but it didn't stop me. I walked back and forth, searching for a second entrance to the clock tower. But I couldn't find any. Suddenly I stumbled backwards, hitting a concrete, cold wall. Before I could wonder how I'd managed to do that, the wall moved and strong arms encircled me.
I breathed a sigh of relief. "Edward."
"Sorry to disappoint, my dear." A deep and unfamiliar voice countered, sounding anything but apologetic. "I'm not Edward."
For a moment I was frozen in place, thinking that was it, that I was worm food, well more precisely vampire food. But I quickly recovered from the initial shock. With a lot less struggle than anticipated I managed to free myself. In fact, instead of tightening his grip, the stranger let go of me … willingly. I didn't wait for him to change his mind, seizing the chance to take put some distance between us. Of course, I didn't try to make a run for it, because I knew that I wouldn't stand a chance in hell. Instead I slowly turned around, facing the unknown vampire.
He wasn't tall, only about my height, and equally slender, and probably somewhere about my age, too. If he had been a human, I could have easily taken him. But since I knew exactly what he was, I didn't even try. But still, I instinctively took another cautious but deliberate step back. A dark grey cloak billowed around his slender frame, protecting him from the sun, but I could still see his blazing red eyes underneath his hood. Even though I was kinda prepared for the sight, a small shiver ran down my spine.
The boy smiled at me. "Please don't try to run, Isabella. It won't do you any good." It sounded more like a plea than an actual command. But I wasn't stupid. The hidden warning underneath his gentle words didn't elude me. Like I didn't know the odds already... what chance did I, a mere human, have against his vampire speed and strength? None whatsoever … which was why, I stayed right where I was.
"Who are you? And how do you know my name?" I asked, sounding more confident than I felt. I really didn't want him to know, how truly frightened I actually was.
He was just about to give me an answer, when two other cloaked figures approached us from the shadows, accompanying a small female vampire. Alice. The new arrivals were the exact opposite of the boyish vampire. Both of them were tall and very muscular, the very definition of threat.
"Alec." One of them addressed the boy, while the other one was giving me a once-over-glance, like he was checking me out. Creep. "I see you've accomplished your task."
'Task? What task? What the hell is going on here?'
I tried to catch Alice's eye, but she kept her head down. I could tell that she wasn't scared. But going by the way she was purposely avoiding my gaze it was very obvious that she was ashamed.
"Alice, what's going on?" I demanded to know.
Thanks for reading!
Revised and reposted on 2013/12/08.