I had this bad feeling I needed to get to Volterra. Flying is faster than swimming, I kept reminding myself as I stared out into the black nothing outside the tiny window of the plane. I tried not to think of the previous days. Esme herself came to give me the papers. She seemed sad and remorseful when I saw her. I honestly didn't know what she expected from me, and quite frankly I didn't care anymore. I took the papers from her hands, signed them, and handed them back to her instantly. I saw the hurt in her eyes. She wanted me to tell her to stay.
"That's it?" she asked me, confused. Was she expecting me to beg her to stay with me? It had been months since I last talked to her. I had called her several times to tell her what was going on with everyone, but she never returned my calls.
"What were you expecting from me, Esme? You filed for divorcé. I am only giving you what you want." She looked as if she would cry if she could. I wanted to comfort her, but it was no longer my place, by her decision. I already had my bags to head to Volterra ready to go. I grabbed them and was in the car heading to the airport without so much as a glance back.
The plane had finally landed and I knew I already had a car waiting for me; my parent's intuition had told me I needed to hurry, something wasn't right. I had a pressing need to see my family.
"Yes, I have a reservation for Cullen, Carlisle Cullen." The young attendant looked at me like I had three heads. I cleared my throat, hoping she would snap out of it.
"Oh, yes sir. Umm… here are your keys; it's parked straight outside these doors in A-1." Her heart was beating so fast I didn't know if I should be polite and smile. I decided against flirting I didn't want her to faint, because I didn't have time to deal with that. It had been so long since, I hadn't even noticed when a woman looked at me, and now being single, it was kind of a rush. Rush, if I wasn't in a rush I would have tried flirting with the young girl. So, I made it quick. I smiled and looked deep into her eyes.
"Thank you, you've been most helpful." I said as I grabbed the keys and headed out of the airport.
Once I was on the long road to Volterra, I turned off the lights and drove as fast as I could. I made it in record time; Alice would be pleased knowing I pushed the limits of my driving more. I wonder if she had seen me coming. I tried to call but couldn't get a hold of any of them. That made me more nervous; at least one of them always would answer my phone calls. Something is very wrong. I was just outside the walls of Volterra now; I saw a large cloud of smoke behind Aro's castle. Oh,no. I drove around to the back and jumped out of the car as soon as it was in park. Immediately I could smell the trail of the other vampires heading out into the forest. Then I caught the scents I knew all too well; Bella, Jasper, Emmett, Alice & Edward. Where was Rosalie? I followed the scents quickly; as I was getting closer to the smoke cloud I began to slow, fearing what I would find. It was some sort of bonfire. I came through the trees and into a small clearing. To my left were Aro, Marcus, Caius, and the other Volturi members, Felix, Demetri, Jane and Alec, amongst a few others. I looked to my right and saw my family. I sighed unnecessarily, relived for a brief moment before I noticed they were all in black. Alice and Edward stood behind Jasper, whose arm was wrapped around Bella, whose cheeks were stained with tears. She held on to Emmett's arm as he stared in to the fire. Oh no, Rosalie. Alice, Edward and Jasper saw me but didn't make a move to come close to me. Emmett didn't even look up at me. When Bella finally noticed I was standing there, she ran up to me began to cry again.
"Oh, Carlisle." She whispered and hugged me. I hugged her tightly.
"Bella, what happened?" I looked down at her and she sobbed again.
"I'm so sorry, Carlisle. Rosalie…" And she couldn't speak anymore.
"Shhh…. It's okay Bella, it's ok…Come on, let's go get the others." I said softly. She nodded and we walked back to where the others were.
"Ahh, my friend Carlisle, I'm sorry for your loss." Aro said softly. I stared across the flames and noticed all of the Volturi were staring at us, none looking at all remorseful. I couldn't say anything. I only nodded to acknowledge him. It was then I saw a young vampire; she couldn't have been more then 17 or 18. She was standing off to the side of Marcus. She stared at Emmett, and she was the only one out of all them that looked truly sad. She glanced at me, and I saw the pain in her eyes briefly before she hung her head. Hmmm….
Let's go. I thought, and Edward turned and pulled Alice along. Jasper followed, holding Bella at his side as she buried her head into his side, silently sobbing. Emmett didn't move. I walked to his side and stood with him for a moment.
"Come on son, there's nothing we can do here." I placed my hand on his shoulder and he turned to look at me. The anguish in his eyes was unnerving. I had never seen Emmett like this. He didn't need to be here. He put his head down and we began to walk away from Aro and the others. I glanced back to them; they were all watching us, glaring actually. But the one girl, she stared at Emmett.
"What have I done?" she whispered so softly I almost didn't hear her as she looked to Marcus, and then she began to silently sob as he embraced her in an almost fatherly hug as she sobbed in to his chest. He glanced at me and I briefly saw the guilt in his eyes. I turned away and continued to walk with Emmett after my distraught family.
It had been a week since I arrived in Volterra. No one has spoken since that night. Edward and Alice filled me in on what happened. After that, no one left their rooms, except for Bella to eat, but she went straight back to Jasper. I stayed in what I guess we would call the living room. Aro had set them up on a floor of his castle that was the size of a four bedroom house, equipped with a kitchen and huge living room. I kept trying to talk to everyone but they always said later. I don't like to be authoritative with them, but I had finally had enough. I needed my family back.
Edward, you and Alice be out here in 20 minutes. I didn't have to speak out loud to them; I know Alice saw my decision and Edward would hear me.
"Jasper, you and Bella be out here in 20 minutes. We're having a family meeting."
"Okay," they both said, as I left to go find Emmett. He said he was going to go hunting, and that was eight hours ago.
As I was leaving the castle, I saw the young vampire girl, Verona, they said her name was, sitting outside in the garden. I decided to speak to her then; she seemed to be having as difficult time with all this as the others were.
"Hello, Verona. I am Carlisle. Emmett's…" she jumped up and finished my sentence.
"…Dad. Umm, hello, it's nice to finally meet you." She said as she extended her hand for me to shake but pulled it away quickly. I noticed she was wearing her gloves.
"You're wearing gloves; I think it is safe for us to shake hands, is it not?" I asked her. She sighed and shook my hand again. "It's not your fault, no one blames you. I know you're beginning to care for Emmett, and would not hurt him intentionally. Emmett is just confused at the moment. I am actually on my way to go get him now. We're going to have a meeting when we get back. I would like for you to join us. Will you come?" I asked her. She could say no, and that would be fine, but I think she needed to be there for us all to move on from this.
"If you think it's a good idea, I will be there." she said quietly.
"Thanks dear. One hour, and then please come to our suite?"
"Okay, I'll be there. Thank you, Carlisle. I am so sorry, I …" She began to sob.
"There is nothing to apologize for." I put my hand on her shoulder and she turned into my chest, so I hugged her. This poor girl; she didn't belong here with these heartless vampires. She was different, special. After a minute she had stopped sobbing and stepped away.
"I'm sorry. I haven't been this emotional in quite some time. I will pull myself together, and meet you all in an hour. Again, thank you." she said softly. I smiled at her and nodded. Now, to find my son.
He wasn't entirely difficult to find. He sat in the tallest tree in the top branch looking over the country side.
I climbed to the top and sat with him. We sat there for a few minutes, and I finally spoke up.
"I know this isn't just about Rosalie, and I am here if you want talk Emmett, you should already know that."
"I do," he said quietly, "and you're right. I don't want to disrespect Rose or her memory, but I…" he didn't know how to continue, and I left him to his thoughts for a moment.
"Emmett, things happen that are not in our control. What happened to Rose was a set up, and they even set up Verona. I spoke to her today." He turned around and looked at me suddenly.
"What did she say? Is she okay? She doesn't think I am upset with her, does she? I know it wasn't her fault," he gushed out quickly.
"She's doesn't know what to feel; she, too, is very confused about all this, but she does feel extremely guilty about it all. About Rosalie; I know she resented this life since the moment she woke up. But Emmett, she did love you, she wouldn't want to see you this way, and you know that. You knew Rosalie better than any of us; you know she wouldn't want you moping around. She knew you two were moving different ways before this day ever came. Maybe she was hoping to give you closure when she handed you the papers." He smile and nodded. "Come on, I have the others waiting for us. We all need to discuss this, and start to move on from this."
"Okay, let's go," he said and jumped a hundred feet to the ground, and I followed.
After the funeral for Rosalie, we all kept to ourselves. Alice and Edward shared a room on the other side of the suite. Luckily they had their conversations silently.
Bella and I had talked about what happed amongst ourselves. Neither one of us blamed Verona for what happened. She was used. We all were. I am a military man at heart. I know exactly what Aro is doing. He is trying to get us into a depressed state of mind, thinking it would weaken our bond, so he could take his pick from our family. I knew instantly, when we first arrived that's all that was radiating off of him - want and envy. Rosalie was the first one, in his silent attack. We should have seen this coming; I should have seen this coming. I never thought he would act so quickly in his plan. We need to move past this, we need to be ready. I know he wants Bella; he wants to change her and is getting impatient. The thought of his ancient, vile lips getting anywhere near her puts me in a rage I haven't felt since I was in the south. He has no idea I can kill him before he even thought of me as a threat. Just because I can feel emotions doesn't make me weak. It would be his underestimation of me if he tries to get to Bella, or anyone else in my family.
Alice and Edward. He's wanted them since the moment he met them. I know he wouldn't go after them. But Carlisle, Get rid of Carlisle and there goes the foundation of our family. Aro is anything but ignorant. He knows Carlisle well enough to know that Carlisle feels betrayed. We have some time, before his next attack. We need to plan. We need Emmett back.
Emmett was a bundle of emotions. He was confused and angry, He spent most of the time hunting, or sitting in that damn tree. When Bella is fast asleep, I slip out to go hunting. Several nights in a row I would just sit with him in his tree. No words were spoken. I knew he would talk when he was ready. I would leave silently with a pat on his shoulder and make my way back to Bella before she awoke.
Bella was still asleep when I came back from hunting. I envied how she was able to escape her thoughts and sleep at nights. How I wish I could lie in her arms and drift into unconsciousness for a few hours. She looked so peaceful, her soft hair fanned out around her. I slid into bed carefully not to disturb her and wrapped my arm around her softly. A small smile fell on her lips as she turned and curled herself into my body.
"Mmm… Jasper…you're back…" she whispered so quietly I almost didn't hear her. She knew I had left; I didn't think she noticed when I would go, and she was usually sound asleep when I left.
"I'm here. It's still early; you can sleep more," I said to her softly as I kissed the top of her head. She snuggled more into me, wrapping her warm arms around me, tangling her legs with mine. I was running my fingers through her hair as she started to caress my back softly. It was an incredible sensation; her warmth was incredible, and her scent… I could breathe her in all day. I barely even noticed the burn anymore.
"Jasper, you and Bella be out here in 20 minutes. We're having a family meeting," Carlisle told us; we both answered with an 'OK'.
I was running my fingers across the small of Bella's back where her little shirt had risen up slightly, unintentionally causing Bella's heart speed up, and felt it against my chest, her desire spiked, and the pressure of her hands on my back became harder. She squeezed my leg that was tangled in hers. She turned her head slightly up to kiss me softly on the neck. It felt incredible; a small growl escaped and I felt her smile in satisfaction. I tangled my hand in her hair and wrapped my other arm around her little waist. I pulled her head back so I could kiss her. She looked at me innocently and bit her bottom lip. That one little move turned me on so badly. I lowered my head to hers and took her bottom lip in my mine. I bit it, and sucked on it roughly, but not enough to break the skin, causing her to moan softly against my lips. I was nearly undone. I want her, now. I grazed my tongue lightly across her lip that was starting to swell; her hands were in my hair in an instant, pulling me closer to her, wanting more. In an instant, I was on top of her, and she didn't miss a beat, her legs wrapped around my hips, I could feel the heat of her arousal building, and I knew she felt how hard she made me. I had my hand on her hip, holding her close to me, grinding myself roughly into her. She arched her back, deepening the kiss. My other hand was on her back, pulling her close to me. We couldn't get close enough; actually we could. I had my hand on the waistband of her pants…
"I said twenty minutes. We are waiting for you two, "Carlisle said as he knocked on the door for both of us to hear. Bella slumped back to the bed disappointedly. I was, on the other hand, kind of pissed. What the fuck, they could wait another twenty minutes.
"Don't be angry. Let's get this over with; we can continue later," Bella whispered softly, running her fingers through my hair. She was right; we needed to go out there. I crawled off of her and pulled her to her feet before she could even blink.
"I'm going to hold you to that," I whispered in her ear as she blushed and bit her bottom lip again. I kissed her quickly and softly, and let her go.
"I'm counting on it," she challenged as she turned around, grabbed her clothes and headed into the bathroom.
This better be a good meeting. I can't believe Carlisle interrupted us like that. Well actually I can. We had all been avoiding each other, especially Carlisle. How could I, we, even face him? He trusted us to travel over here and take care of each other, and look what happened. Not even 24 hours into our trip and we get one member of the family killed. We lost Rosalie. Why didn't they let us help her? Why didn't they let her pull herself together or whatever it is vampires do to heal themselves. This is probably what he wants to talk about.
We made our way to the living room. Immediately, I missed the other house and the family meetings at the dining table. Edward was sitting on the sitting chair and Alice was at his feet with her head leaning against his leg. They really are cute together. I smiled internally, knowing now wasn't time to think about these things. Emmett was sitting on the big sofa; I sat next him and Jasper to my other side. Carlisle continued to stand; he paced actually.
I was getting nervous and beginning to feel guiltier. Jasper grabbed my hand and started to soothe me. I wanted to yell at him and tell him this was my entire fault…
"This isn't your fault, why would you think that?" He questioned me, breaking the silence. Nice, now I'm the center of attention. How did he know what I was thinking? Everyone was looking at me like I was a freak.
"Thanks," I muttered. "Well, it is my fault. If I were already changed, or didn't know about this world, Rosalie never would have stood up to Aro, you all wouldn't even be here. It's because of me we're even here," I had started my argument strongly, but ended in a whisper looking down.
Of everyone in the room, Emmet was the one to pull me into a hug.
"Bella, how can you even think that? This isn't your fault. You didn't hold us back or send someone to attack Verona! Stop blaming yourself, please!" He yelled at me.
"Everyone, please quiet down. What happened to Rosalie was most tragic. I am truly sorry I wasn't here with you from the beginning, this wouldn't haven't have happened if i would have been here with you." Carlisle said, looking down.
"I don't think this is over," Jasper said quietly, causing everyone to stare at him in shock. "Seriously, you all think this was a random one time occurrence? You think Aro didn't plan this?" he demanded. There was a pain in his eyes as he looked down. Edward looked confused trying to grasp Jaspers thoughts.
Ahh, my Major, always thinking ahead. Of course, he was right. Aro is picking us off one by one. It all made perfect sense now. Rosalie held no interest for Aro. She was the first to go. Who would be next? I stared at Jasper, watching him for a sign to silently reveal what he wasn't saying. And in a brief glance he said it all, without even realizing it. The pain in his eyes was nerving,
"No!" I yelled at him, and I felt his shock, everyone's shock. "We have to stop him; he won't take anyone else in our family. I need to be changed, now! I need to be ready for the next time he tries. Jasper, we can't let that happen." I was sobbing now.
"Carlisle," Edward whispered, causing Carlisle to turn around and face him, only he wasn't calling him. He figured it out. Carlisle would be next. Take him out and you may as well have taken all of us.
"Oh, I see. Well, now there is something to discuss." Carlisle said as he realized what Aro's next move would be.
"Okay, so what do we do? I haven't seen that. I have been looking for something since it happened, but I haven't seen anything," Alice said in a defeated tone.
"That just means they haven't knowingly decided yet. Or they are working around your visions," Edward said calmly.
"Or maybe I should just be watching out for Verona's future!" She growled. I had never heard Alice speak with such disdain.
"Alice, don't," Emmett growled back. "You don't know her."
"And you do? She attacked Rose before you both even started talking. Was that a coincidence? Maybe that was the first move in Aro's plan, Emmett. Did you think of that?" She was standing now, glaring down at Emmett.
"Stop, both of you. This isn't helping." Carlisle commanded. "Alice, Verona is deeply affected by what happened. I spoke to Marcus earlier and it seems that Verona didn't know that the people she changed, or confused, as he called it, would subconsciously protect her with their life. What happened in the throne room was an accident. She immediately felt the need to protect her family when Rose threatened them. Not to mention the pull to Emmett and she knew of Rosalie's and Emmett's past. I think she may have been… jealous? I don't know if that's the right word. But she never meant to hurt Rosalie, or any of you for that matter," he explained to us. Well, mostly Alice.
I mean, duh, we all knew she was head over heels for Emmett the first time she saw him.
"There's something about her. I know... I know what you're going to say. But I know the difference between vampires. It's something I feel. She's not like Aro and the rest of them. I really don't think what she did was to intentionally hurt anyone. Regardless of if she knew us or not." I said.
"Thank you, Bella. I think you're right. Which is why…" there was a light knock at the door.
"You didn't!" Alice exclaimed as she threw her hands up in the air and looked at Carlisle.
"I did, Alice. Between a mind reader, an empath, and a fortune teller, I think that should be enough to convince you that she isn't like the others here. If you can't be civil…" Carlisle scolded her.
"Fine, I'll behave." she growled as Edward pulled her down to his side and wrapped her in a hug, just as Carlisle opened the door.
There stood Verona. She was nervous, debating on whether or not to leave.
"Verona, thank you for joining us, please, come in." Carlisle welcomed her.
"Thank you," she said softly, looking down, barely stepping inside. Emmett got up to say hi but didn't move. He just stood there. "I am very sorry, everyone. I should have come to speak to you sooner, but I...I didn't know how to face you all. I am truly sorry for what happened." She was still looking down.
I was going to go hug her and tell her not to be ridiculous, but Jasper held on to me tightly. I turned to protest but he nodded towards Emmett, who suddenly started moving closer to her. Slowly, I saw Alice and Edward having a silent conversation, and she rolled her eyes and shrugged. I looked at her, confused, and she mouthed she was sorry. She knew Verona was sincere and whatever she saw must have made her realize she was wrong about her.
Finally, Emmett made it to her.
"This wasn't your fault. We all know that. Please, please I wish everyone would quit trying to blame themselves." He was moving back from her.
She looked at him, confused. "Who else's fault would it be, Emmett?" She glanced at me, and I looked down, feeling the blush come across my cheeks. "Why would you think this was your fault at all?" she demanded. Is she angry at me? Jasper growled and everyone was on their feet. "I'm not going to hurt her. Why would you let her think this is her fault at all?" she demanded from everyone else. Why is she yelling at everyone?
"Because it is." I spoke up. "We are here because of me. You attacked Rose because Aro or Caius threatened ME and she stood up to them to protect ME! They wanted ME dead from the very beginning, because I figured out this world, because I fell for a vampire. None of this would have ever happened had I never come along. Rosalie is dead because of ME, and Esme is gone because of a war that began to have ME killed! God, don't you all realize this! Ever since I came into this family, I've done nothing but tear it apart. And now we're stuck in Volterra where everyone just wants to kill us; one by one we're going to be eliminated and it's my entire fault!" I ranted, not even realizing I was crying.
I could feel Jasper trying to calm me and I tried to fight it. I struggled from his grasp and he let me go. I ran to our bedroom and slammed the door. I felt like a five year having a temper tantrum, but I just couldn't face them right now. I needed a few minutes to myself. Ever since Rosalie's death, we really didn't talk about it, never really mourned. Emmett would run out and the rest of us locked ourselves in our rooms. Carlisle was right; he's always right. We needed to have this 'meeting;' to mourn, to grieve and to begin to heal.
I went to the bathroom to wash my face and pull myself together. I needed to get back out there. I wasn't going to run out on them; they need to know that I would help keep this family together, even if killed me.
I headed back to the living room, pausing at the door and taking a final big, deep breath to steady myself. I opened the door and everyone was in their previous positions, with Verona sitting on the arm of the sofa next to Emmett. Jasper was up and by my side in no time. He was sad and worried. I can't believe I hurt him when I pushed him away. He pushed some of hair behind my ear, and brought his forehead to mine,
"Are you okay?" he asked quietly. I wrapped my arms around his neck and nodded.
"I'm sorry," I whispered back. "It all just got a bit overwhelming." He lightly kissed my head and led me back to the couch. "I'm sorry for running out; I just didn't want you all to see me break down. I guess I understand why you called this meeting, Carlisle." He smiled and motioned for me to sit down.
"Bella, I didn't mean to yell at you. I am sorry; it wasn't because I was mad at you. I just didn't understand why you would blame yourself," Verona apologized. I smiled at her.
"It's okay, and I too, am sorry for yelling at you, at all of you." I sat back down and Jasper wrapped his arm around me. "So, what did I miss?"
"Well for now, were going to move on and live like normal. We don't want Aro to suspect that we know about his plans, so we're going to continue our 'vacation'. We're going to be careful; no one is to be alone - ever. Especially you, Bella, and…" Carlisle paused, looking at Jasper, and then Edward and Alice. My eyes followed his, confused.
"What? Are you shipping me away or something?" I asked, still thoroughly confused.
"Actually Bella, we think you're right," Edward said. "About you being changed, and soon." He had a pain in his eyes but I understood immediately. Hmm… I guess I will be dying. I laughed to myself. Thank god Edward can't hear me; he probably would have gotten mad at me for that remark. Jasper raised an eyebrow, probably sensing my humor. I just shook my head to him.
"Okay, so when are we going to do this?" I wasn't hesitant; I was ready. I wanted to stand by my family, not behind them. "Now?" I asked.
"Well, Bella, maybe you and Jasper should talk about this privately. We all think it's a good idea, and we also can't imagine Aro having someone change you unexpectedly. So basically, whenever you're ready." Carlisle stated as he looked around the room, and everyone nodded, even Edward and Verona.