Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. ©2010 MG2112

14 JUN 2010 UPDATE:
NOTE: This story is purposely told at times in first person and at times in third person. Sections that are noted as Bella's or Edward's POV are told in first person. Sections without any note of a special POV are told in third person. This strategy will become clear as the story progresses – trust me.

Many thanks to my NB betas RPLover, stuff4ang and Lemonless. I heart them!

Thanks for being patient with me, thanks for all your comments and thanks for reading this! MG


Prologue

Nothing, from nowhere,
I'm no one at all.
Radiate.
Recognize one silent call
as we all form one dark flame.
Incinerate.
Love your hate,
Your faith lost.
You are now one of us.

Miseria Cantare- The Beginning ~ AFI

I felt heaviness in my eyes and a sinking numb, almost tired feeling in my stone limbs. I dropped to my knees and stared at the agonizing, heart wrenching sight before me. My throat tightened and I wanted to strangle out a scream, but no sound would come. I no longer had the will to exercise my dead lungs to expel the screaming, shuddering breath. My mind was a morass of confusion and contradictions. I wanted to rage to the heavens, I wanted to tear the room apart, I wanted to cry like a baby, but I couldn't. I barely had the presence of mind to understand where I was and what was happening. I was broken, empty and utterly defeated.

Gone.

Gone. Why was she was always gone?

Was she ever truly real? I don't know.

I don't know anything anymore.

My outwardly human shell held nothing more than the monster within. Everything that made me who I was had been ripped from me bit by bit until there was absolutely nothing left.

I am nothing, no one at all; nothing, but an evil monster.

Aro stood in front of his throne and watched as the elegant man made his way toward my place on the floor. I hated this man in his dark grey, exquisitely tailored Armani suit. I loathed and reviled this despicable fucker more than anyone I had ever met in my ancient life. He gently placed his hand under my chin and lifted my head to look in his eyes. I had no choice but to look at the beautiful face; thin, yet angular with a strong jaw. His long wavy hair was black and curtained a face that always held a dark, judgmental look. The eyes in that face burned a deep red as his hand stroked my cheek softly, like a parent would a child. I heard his thoughts; hell, I heard all their thoughts. "We love your hate. Your faith is finally lost. You are now one of us."

Aro approached cautiously; steepled his fingers, and smiled broadly. "Delightful."


Chapter 1 - Down the rabbit hole

"Seriously Alice, how many suitcases can you possibly have? You guys are only going to be gone for a month?" I looked at the suitcases lined up next to the trunks and the bags.

"Bella! You know I'm going to Paris for three months! I need to have enough luggage space to bring home all the clothes!"

I turned in exasperation to Jasper. He put up his hands with a "I'm not fighting this one" look. "Oh, you're not going to say anything to her because you just want to get laid."

Jasper coughed and looked down in embarrassment. "Uh, I sure as hell hope so. It's our honeymoon, so I plan on keeping us locked in our room as much as this tiny ball of energy will allow." He stepped over, scooping up Alice in his arms and swung her around. Alice giggled in sheer delight.

"You two are hopeless," I sighed.

I was happy for them. I mean, how could I not be? Alice Brandon had been my best friend from kindergarten through to grad school. We met on the first day of kindergarten when this tiny black-haired nymph sat on a swing next to me and began chattering like we had been best friends from the womb. From that moment on, Alice and I were inseparable. We grew up through the trials and tribulations of grade school – chasing little boys on the playground, inventing fabulous stories of wonder where we were super women who saved the world. Fast forward to middle school where again, Alice and I stood apart from the rest of the girls. We were popular, but we didn't try to rule the school.

When we made it into high school, the boys started noticing Alice in a big way. She was still tiny and seemingly delicate in stature, but you shouldn't let that fool you. We took martial arts classes to make sure that either one of us could kick your butt. Alice's face was beautiful, with high delicate cheekbones that accentuated her deep, dark cat-like eyes. She had this lovely smile with straight, white teeth, that had a playful curve to it when she was happy. The guys would flock around her, but she seemed to have no time for them. Both Alice and I dated some of these high school boys, but it was always short and fleeting; never anything serious. We both knew that these "boys" just weren't right for us. Granted, we believed ourselves to be strong women, but at the depths of our cores, we were both helpless romantics. We knew there was someone out there for each of us and we just needed to wait patiently until those men arrived in our lives.

We decided to stay close to home and attend the University of Washington. In the early weeks of our freshman year, Alice met her Jasper. She was sitting in a diner not too far from our apartment, having a snack after a long afternoon of classes. Jasper walked in and took a seat at the counter next to her. She turned, looked at him and felt her heart melt. He had arrived and she knew; in the depths of her soul, she just knew. He introduced himself, as did she, and then she said, "Jasper Whitlock, I wondered if you were ever going to show up." He looked at her with polite amusement. "I'm sorry ma'am; I got here as soon as I could." And that was it; they were both done for. I couldn't have been more thrilled for her. My best friend, my sister, for all intents and purposes, had found her other half.

Jasper and Alice's romance grew and evolved into a deep love during our years at UW. On the night of our graduation, Jasper got down on one knee and proposed. Not only did Alice's life change at that moment, but my life changed as well. I am honestly not sure how I managed to make it into grad school considering all the time Alice and I spent over the next year planning their wedding. She designed her own dress, my dress and sewed both, no less! It all seemed like a whirlwind of white and flowers, gossamer silk, lace and ribbons. When she walked down the aisle of their intimate wedding, she was the most elegant bride I had ever seen.

And now she was off to her dream internship in Paris with up and coming designer Perrine Bruyere while I stayed here in Seattle pursuing graduate work in library and archival sciences, with a concentration on Italian works. Books and all things ancient were my passion. I remember waking up one morning when I was in high school and just… deciding that was what I wanted to do. It was as though the idea had come to me in a dream. It seemed odd, but I didn't question it because after that dream, I just knew down to my bones this is what I wanted to do and never wavered. From that point on, I lived in the library, poring through as many books as I could find. And when I made it to college, I had access to rare and ancient texts. I was in heaven. After our classes were over each evening and Alice and I caught up together and would babble for hours about what we'd learned about our individual passions.

Alice was actually going to take time out of her honeymoon to visit some of the churches and municipal buildings in Tuscany. I was trying to find information about an elusive text that was supposedly to have originated in a city called Volterra. That Italian city had always fascinated me, yet each time I tried to reach out myself or through the university to get information about the texts there, I hit a brick wall. The city refused to send any documents to me; they wouldn't even send me scans of the documents, much to my frustration. Our hope was with Alice there in the city, she and Jasper would be able to physically see some of the documents and find some way to bring me information I needed.

"BELLA!"

"What?" Alice's indignant scream pulled me from my daydreaming. "I'm sorry," I laughed. "I guess I was kinda reminiscing about us. We've been together for so long and now you're going away," I said with a pout.

Alice pulled me into a tight embrace. "Silly, Bella, I'm only going away for a few months, that's all. Anyway, you have a lot to do with graduate school now, so you'll be busy. You'll hardly know I'm gone." She then whispered in my ear, "And now may be the time that you find your man." She kissed my cheek and giggled, and then skipped back to the luggage. "Now come on you two! Let's get these bags to the car!"

Jasper and I looked at each other and sighed in defeat.

~~%%~~

I slowly wandered over to my couch and collapsed on it, exhausted. My ever present, furry companion Seth jumped up on the couch to join me and rested his head in my lap while the rest of him took up the remainder of the couch. Seth was my sandy-colored Tibetan Mastiff that my Dad gave me when I was in grade school. He was such a silly mutt, but I'd never give Seth away for anything. Next to Alice, he was my best friend. He knew all my deep dark secrets and he knew Alice's too. And I swore whenever I talked to him and looked in his eyes, he really seemed to understand every word I said. He always seemed to know exactly what I needed. And he has always known when I needed him and exactly what I needed. Alice and I always joked that maybe Seth was my soul mate because the way I felt about him was the closest thing to the way Alice said she felt about Jasper. So maybe he was, and I chuckled to myself as I scratched his ears. "You'll keep me company while Alice and Jasper are gone, right?"

Seth lifted his head for a moment, looked at me and panted, then shoved his head under my hand demanding more attention.

"Okay, okay boy. Just… let… me sit here… for a minute and… rest," my voice trailed off. I just needed a couple of minutes of rest before Alice and I said our final goodbyes and they left for the airport.

I closed my eyes and a few moments later, my heart started to beat faster. I wasn't frightened, so why was my heart beginning to race? I felt anxious, as if I was anticipating something exciting. I heard crickets and other night sounds, but I couldn't see. I was certain that my eyes were open; at least I thought they were, but they felt clouded. I tried rubbing them, but no change.

Why can't I see?

And then I … felt a presence. I never heard anyone approach, but I was certain there was someone behind me. My stomach began fluttering and my heart raced more. I felt breath on my neck by my ear that made my entire body begin to tingle. I felt the delicious tugs of desire beginning to shoot down my stomach and between my legs. I moaned softly and tilted my head to the side while a hand slowly and gently slid down my right side and rested possessively at my hip. I wanted to turn and face the presence, but I couldn't move. The other hand moved to my breast and I felt my dress being untied and loosened in the front. Both hands gently, yet knowingly caressed my breasts. The thumbs slid back and forth over my now tight nipples; each caress shot more bolts of desire through me. Dear god, I only felt hands on my breasts and I was about to explode. Had it been that long since I'd been with a man that just this touch would bring me off?

I felt the breath on my neck again, and I swore I felt a soft cheek nuzzling and kissing my neck.

"I love you, my exquisite Isabella."

I gasped awake, shuddering, coming and moaning. Panting, I ran my hands to my hair in disbelief. I must have been dreaming. "What…. the hell was… that?" I said to no one. Seth had rolled over and was snoring quietly.

"Bella, did you hear me?"

"What?" I yelped and shot off the couch, running to the door and my friends. I felt embarrassed and awkward when I made it to Jasper and Alice. My heart was still beating and my lady parts were still throbbing with release.

"What's wrong with you?" Jasper asked and raised his eyebrow as he gave me an odd look.

"Nothing!" I managed just a little too quickly. My eyes were wide and my hand still in my hair. When I realized it, I smiled quickly and dropped my hand.

Alice approached me. "Okay sweetie, here's our itinerary." I nodded without paying as much attention as I should have. My body was tingling from head to toe and I felt… giddy.

"Bella, you have the goofiest smile on your face." Alice crossed her arms and cocked her head at me.

"Huh?"

She paused for a moment and then continued. "When we're in Volterra, I'm going to see what information I can get you for your thesis. I can't imagine why they wouldn't even send you scans of any of the books you asked for. I wonder what's so special about them anyway."

I wrapped my arms around her and hugged her tight. "Thank you! That's exactly what I hope to find out – what's in those books, or journals, or texts. If you can find out anything for me… it could be just what I need for my thesis."

Jasper looked at his watch and said, "Okay, ladies, I love you both, but we need to get to the airport. I am eager to start this honeymoon." He politely bent at the waist and kissed Alice's hand.

Alice and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes, but I then caught her looking quickly back to Jasper and nodding slightly in agreement. I shook my head and smiled. They were gone a moment later. I closed and locked the door behind them and leaned back against it, hugging myself.

"Seth, I don't know what the hell that was – a dream or what, but I sure as heck want it again!"

Seth lifted his head and blustered at me.