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Warning: The following chapter is not suited for T readers. If you are uncomfortable with mature themes, skip the middle part of the chapter.

oooooooooooooooooooooo

The Bet

I spent the remaining time, till Heidi brought in another batch of humans, with Felix. I was glad to hear that he hadn't been tortured by Jane after I had managed to escape.

"But you should have seen the temper tantrum she threw once she realized that you had gotten away," Felix said chortling. "She destroyed a few rooms with some valuable antiques in them. Aro was very displeased."

I made a face. "Of course Aro would be displeased because of some furniture, never mind her torturing me."

Felix immediately sobered down. "Aro might not have cared, but Alec certainly did. I've never seen him so furious. He was so mad that even Jane seemed scared of him. I don't think that in all these hundreds of years Jane has ever been afraid of her brother before."

I didn't know what to say to that, so I changed the subject. The rest of our conversation was just small talk. I thought of telling Felix about the bet, but since there was a pretty good chance of me losing it, I didn't want to add to the number of people laughing at me afterwards.

Eventually, word reached us that Heidi was about to come back. Alec was already waiting in the room when Felix and I arrived. I still hadn't decided on what course of action to take. Basically I had the choice of humiliating myself in front of the entire Volturi guard or humiliating myself in front of Alec by losing this bet. Not really great choices. I looked around me. At least Jane wasn't here.

Heidi brought in the humans and the doors were closed. I looked again at Alec and saw him smirking at me. That decided it. Screw the other Volturi, who cared what they thought. There was no way that I was going to lose this bet.

I flung myself into Alec's arms with such force that he toppled over, with me landing on top of him. Before he could recover I rubbed my nose against his neck, breathing in deeply his scent. The humans around me ceased to matter. The other Volturi ceased to matter. Everything but Alec ceased to matter.

"Hmm," I murmured softly. "You smell like the night air after a rainy day." I laid my head on his chest, enveloped in his scent. "Nothing else smells as good to me."

I ran a hand through Alec's hair, not lifting my head. "Your hair is so soft, like threads of silk." I slowly let my hand glide over his forehead, his eyes, nose, cheekbones, like a blind person trying to see someone through touching. Which I practically was in this situation, since my face was still buried against Alec's chest. I traced the contours of his mouth.

"And you are beautiful," I said almost sighing. "Like an angel with burgundy eyes."

I moved a bit upwards and rested my face in the curve of his neck. "Every time I'm around you I have to force myself not to touch you. And it keeps getting harder instead of easier."

I was quiet for a while, happily snuggled up against him, my hand playing with his hair. My reverie was interrupted when someone tapped me on my back.

"The humans are all dead," Heidi told me quietly.

I jumped on my feet. Everyone but Heidi and Aro was gone. I glanced down at Alec, who still hadn't stirred, looking a bit disheveled and completely dazed.

Aro chuckled amused. "That is certainly an interesting way to control one's bloodlust. I don't think that I have ever seen someone use that technique before."

Alec stood up and took my hand. "Can't say that I've seen it before, either. If you would excuse us now," he nodded politely in Aro's and Heidi's direction and dragged me out of the room.

Back in his quarters Alec immediately took me in his arms and kissed me till I thought I might faint. We were both breathing heavily when he stopped.

"You cheated. You didn't hold back on your own," Alec accused me and grinned. "And what you used to hold yourself back wouldn't be with you in Alaska."

I frowned at him. "I didn't cheat. I held myself back by concentrating on something else. That's how you do it. The bet never said that I would have to use something that I can take with me to Alaska, only that I had to keep myself from feeding until you told me to. I won fair and square. Do we have to get an impartial observer?"

Alec held up his hands in defeat. "Alright, you won the bet." He walked over to his bed, pulling me with him. He looked into my eyes, his were still slightly dazed. "My scent is more appealing to you than blood."

It wasn't a question. I nodded anyway. The next second I was lying on the bed with Alec smiling down at me. "And now the entire guard knows that."

I was really glad I couldn't blush anymore. Alec saw my mortification.

"Don't be embarrassed. I don't mind them knowing that I am your mate. You shouldn't mind either, since you are mine."

I blinked slowly, certain I had misheard that. "Mate? Did you just say mate?"

Alec gave me a wary look. "Did you think my behavior around you is normal for me? And did you think that it's normal for you to be able to control your bloodlust with my scent? You lost it completely every time Heidi brought in the humans before. You can't control your vampire instincts in that situation yet. And those instincts tell you to feed in order to survive. They just override your brain. But the same instincts tell you that my scent is even more important than feeding, more important than surviving. What does that tell you?"

I shook my head vigorously. "Oh no. We are not mates. You might have a bit of a crush that causes you to behave differently around me, and I might feel a slight physical attraction towards you, but that's all. We. Are. Not. Mates!"

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Three days in a relationship and Alec thought that we were mates. Makenna and Charles had been mates. A mate bond between two vampires was extremely strong. It changed them irrevocably. There was never anyone else again for either vampire, and if one of them died, the other usually tried to follow. The Volturi leader Marcus was one of the exceptions and he was suffering every day for it. Truthfully, the thought of having a mate had always been a little frightening to me. A mate bond with someone like Alec was utterly horrifying.

Alec sighed. "Yes, we are. You are already mine, ask Marcus if you don't believe me and it's only a matter of time till I'm yours. It's inevitable. I wasn't sure before, but now I don't worry anymore. Your brain just has to catch up with your instincts."

I jumped out of the bed. "No, I just have to learn to control my instincts better, the same way I do with my bloodlust. We are not mates!"

I ran out of the room, almost colliding with Felix who came down the hallway.

"What's all the screaching about?"

I huffed. „Alec is being delusional. He thinks that we are mates."

Felix looked a bit uncomfortable. "Well, you are."

"No, we are not! If Alec was my mate I would certainly be the first to know it, and I'm saying he is not!"

Felix grinned at me. "The lady doth protest too much, methinks. I, for example, do not think that Alec looks like an angel with burgundy eyes. I also have no problems keeping my hands off him."

I groaned. So the others in the room had heard that. Maybe I should start thinking about hiding in some secret dungeon with a mask on my face. An old castle like this one ought to have something like that. "I'm not saying that I don't feel attracted to him, but that doesn't make him my mate."

"No," Felix said earnestly, "it doesn't. But the way you are reacting to his scent, even under the influence of bloodlust, kind of does."

This had to be some sort of conspiracy. I was not Alec's mate and he sure as hell wasn't mine. I fled to the roof before I gave in to temptation and throttled the next guard who used the word 'mate' around me.

ooooooooooooooooooo

It was the middle of the night, and I was still lying on the roof, when a big thunderstorm hit Volterra. I watched the bolts of lightning crackling in the sky, while the wind whipped rain into my face, and my ears were ringing from the deafening thunder. It was great. I felt as if all my worries were being washed away, and for the time being I was almost at peace with the world.

Another reverberating clap of thunder erupted and prevented me from hearing the attacking vampire. Before I knew what was happening he had me in an escape-proof grip, my head tilted to the side, his teeth at my throat. My mind was screaming in fear while waiting for my head to be ripped off my shoulders, but my body was reacting to the scent and didn't try to struggle. Alec.

He chuckled softly and kissed me on my neck. "If any other vampire had attacked you like that you would have fought back instinctively. Still convinced that I am not your mate?"

I tried to squirm out from under him. "You are not my mate! It's just some physical attraction, that's all."

Alec didn't losen his grip in the slightest and stared at me with eyes that were as black as the night surrounding us. "It's not just some physical attraction," he hissed. "We are mates. Stop being so stubborn and just accept the truth."

There was no talking with him when he was like that. I redoubled my efforts to get out from under him. "Get off me."

Alec was gone in a flash. I sat up and looked over to where he was standing. The rain had soaked his hair and clothing. The white shirt he was wearing was completely see-through by now. Hastily I looked up in Alec's face again. He held my gaze and slowly started to close in on me again. I just sat there as if hypnotized, watching every of his graceful, predatory movements.

Another thunderbolt lightened up the sky and blinded me momentarily. The next moment I felt Alec's lips against mine. I gasped and Alec deepened his kiss, his hands running over my breasts that were clearly outlined against my wet blouse. I moaned and he pushed me on my back, his mouth wandering where his hands had been. The thin wet fabric of my top offered no protection at all, I could feel everything. Every touch of his lips and every slow circle with his tongue. I felt like I was burning up from the inside. Then he started sucking. White hot desire raced through my body and I heard a sharp ripping sound. I had shredded his shirt.

Alec leaned back and took the remnants of his shirt off. I ran a hand over the marble perfection of his skin, glistening from raindrops. I licked some of them off, they tasted of his scent. Alec drew in his breath with a hiss and his mouth covered mine, hungry, possessive. I wrapped my legs around him and pressed my body against his. He groaned and started moving against me in a rhythm that even someone as inexperienced as me could easily identify. I matched his movements, shock waves running through me with each touch of our bodies, but still feeling somehow unsatisfied. This was not enough. I needed more. I grazed with my teeth the skin of his neck and let my hand wander down to his pants.

Alec grabbed my hand and pulled away from me. He leaned his forehead against mine, his breath ragged.

"Anna, if we continue this any longer I won't be able to keep point two of our agreement."

I was confused. What was he talking about? Alec raised his head when I didn't say anything and watched me through hooded eyes. "Do you want me to continue?" He asked huskily. He started to slowly unbutton my blouse and I understood. Point two: taking it slow. He was talking about having sex with me right now here on the roof. I stopped his hand and Alec took it to his mouth, giving each of my knuckles a light kiss. He looked into my eyes again, his gaze intense. "I can wait. For this and also for you to realize that I am your mate."

I stiffened. "We are not mates and we never will be mates. If you keep thinking that this might change some day, then maybe it would be better if we discontinued our relationship."

Alec's expression hardened and he chuckled darkly. "If I were you I wouldn't talk about ending our relationship. Because if you end it, then there's no reason for me to honor our agreement any longer." He slipped a hand under my already half opened blouse until it was right above one of my breasts, only a whisper away from touching it. "Are we still in a relationship?"

I fought against the urge to close the small distance between his hand and my body and nodded without speaking, afraid that my voice would betray me and break.

Alec smiled knowingly and withdrew his hand, but not without a featherlight touch that sent another jolt of electricity through my body. He laid down beside me and took my hand into his, our fingers intertwining. I was quiet for a while, trying to sort my thoughts. I certainly hadn't succeeded tonight in convincing Alec that we were not mates. Not that I had done such a great job of convincing. Telling him that we weren't and then ripping off his shirt a minute later would send a mixed message to anyone. I needed some distance between us, so that he could realize that his feelings for me weren't as deep as he thought. It was just physical attraction, he would see that once his emotions weren't clouded by my presence anymore.

"So, about Alaska," I said tentatively.

Alec's grip on my hand tightened to the point where it almost hurt. "Why do you have to bring that up now? Eager to get away from me again?"

I couldn't really say no in answer to his question, so I decided to give him one of the other reasons I wanted to get away. "You said that my reaction towards your scent during the feeding shows that you are my mate. Would other vampires see that the same way?"

Alec propped himself up on one elbow and looked at me, his expression serious, almost cold. "Yes, they would. Why are you asking?"

"So if Jane heard about it…," I trailed off. No need to explain it any further.

Some of the coldness in Alec's expression seeped away. "You don't have to be scared of my sister. I think most vampires are more scared of her than they are of me, but the truth is that I'm the stronger one of us. I can and I will protect you from her."

I huffed exasperated. "I don't want you to fight with your own sister because of me. I won the bet, which means you have to let me go to Alaska at some point anyway, so what better time is there than now?"

Alec's gaze turned thoughtful. "You do have a point. Giving Jane some time might be good." He smiled suddenly. "And the sooner you start your vacation, the sooner you will be back with me again."

ooooooooooooooooooooo

Once Alec had decided that there was no sense in trying to delay my departure, everything went very fast. It was only a few days later that I was standing at the front door of the Denali's house in Alaska with Alec right next to me. He had acted as a chaperone on my flight to Alaska, but he would return to Italy as soon as I was safe with my new hosts. We were still in a relationship, but nothing serious had happened between us since the night on the roof. Alec was giving me time to think, and I was very grateful for that. His mood, however, had soured a little more with each passing day. He was not happy at all about my continuing and obvious relief that he was keeping his distance.

Right now the scowl on Alec's face let Eleazar back away a step when he opened the door to greet us. Introductions were hastily made, Alec's frosty demeanor didn't really call for a hearty welcome. Besides Eleazar and Carmen, who I already knew, the Denali coven consisted of Kate and her mate Garrett and another female vampire named Tanya.

Alec bade them all to into their living room, because he apparently needed to make some announcements before he left. Once everyone was sitting around a huge table he started talking.

"There are three things that have to be clear to every one of you before I can leave. Please don't interrupt me before I have finished speaking." He looked at me after that last part. I nodded for him to continue.

"First: Anna is not in complete control of her bloodlust yet. Because of that she has broken the Volturi's laws before, and there is a good chance that it might happen again if you are not very careful with her. If she does break the laws someone will have to pay for it or the Volturi will look weak. But since there is no way that I will ever let anything happen to her, I hereby declare all of you to be responsible for her actions while she is staying with you. In short: She screws up and you others will die for it."

I wasn't sure, who was looking more aghast by now, me or the Denalis. Alec carried on with his little speech without reacting to our shocked expressions.

"Second: If anything happens to Anna while she is staying with you, each of your lives will be forfeit, too. But in this case I will kill each and every one of you personally, and I will make sure that every death will be as long and painful as possible. I don't care whose fault it was, even if it was her own. She gets hurt and you will all die the worst deaths imaginable."

Alec actually smiled a little before his next words, but it wasn't a nice smile. "Third: Anna is my mate. If anyone else touches her, I will kill him and I will take my time. Since you Denalis value life so much, make sure that no one takes any liberties with her."

Alec leaned back and folded his arms in front of his chest. "Now that you've been made aware of the risks of letting Anna stay with you, if you decide to rescind your invitation, no one will think less of you. Anna and I can leave right now."

That was it. I was so mad I could barely think clearly anymore. "Have you completely lost your mind, Alec? What kind of asinine rules are those? Take them back!"

Alec shook his head at me. "I most certainly will not take them back. This is how it's going to be, and they needed to be made aware of the risks."

"And you couldn't have told them that before we flew all the way out here?" I almost screamed.

Alec shrugged. "I wanted them to see my face to make sure that they know how serious I am."

"You made me sound like some sort of nuclear bomb, only waiting to explode in their faces. The one time I screwed up was a fluke and you know it! And rule number two is even more ridiculous. I'm a vampire, what could possibly happen to me?"

Alec raised one eyebrow at me. "The last time I let you alone for ten minutes you got attacked by two vampires trying to rape you."

I was seething. "That was also a fluke, as you very well know. And by the way, stop telling people that I'm your mate. We may be in a relationship, but we are not mates."

The Denalis watched our exchange with wary expressions on their faces. Garrett was the first to speak. "I can't speak for the rest of the coven, but I think that Anna is right. The risk we put ourselves under by letting her stay is minimal." Slowly the other Denalis nodded their agreement.

Alec's expression turned into his typical calm mask. "Fine. It is your decision." He turned to me. "I have a few things for you."

He gave me a credit card and a handy. "All the numbers of the members of the guard are already programmed in. Call me once you are not mad at me anymore." He took a deep breath and gave me one other thing, a little wrapped present. "This is something to remind you of me." He pulled me into his arms and kissed me almost desperately. Even though I was furious with him I couldn't help but return the kiss. Eventually Alec broke our passionate embrace and sighed. "I love you." With that he turned around and left without waiting for a response or giving another look to the other vampires in the room.

I glanced at the stunned faces surrounding me and didn't know what to say. Alec's words were even more shocking after he had threatened every one else in the room with horrible deaths. Such were the wonders of being in a relationship with Alec.

Tanya was the first to speak. "Well, that was certainly interesting. What's in the package?"

I unwrapped the present and a delicate stone butterfly emerged. The light shone through its wings and made them shimmer in a multitude of colors. It was beautiful.

"It's very pretty, but why would a butterfly remind you of Alec? That's not exactly what comes to my mind when I think of him," Tanya commented dryly.

"Because butterflies feel drawn to me," I answered without thinking. I was still dazed from Alec's declaration of love.

Tanya exchanged a look with the others. "Aha, well, like I said, it's pretty. I wonder where he got it and if they have more of them."

I stared at the butterfly. "He didn't buy it. He made it himself. Sculpting is one of his hobbies."

No one said anything after that. Finally it was Carmen who spoke. "This was a somewhat rocky start, but nevertheless: Welcome to Alaska, Anna."

I smiled. Yes, welcome to Alaska.

oooooooooooooooooooooo

I just found out that my boyfriend is cheating on me, the worthless piece of shit. I'm not feeling especially humorous or romantic right now, so it might take a while till I start writing again. Sorry.