Such a Waste

Edward

As if life could get any more agonizing.

I'd just spent the last five months watching myself waste away, trying to hide the fact it was only because of my own selfishness.

"It's for your own good, Bella."

My own good, you mean. I didn't want to face what I was. Didn't want to take the consequences of what our relationship could—and would—become.

So I'd left her.

Rio de Janeiro had been my own living hell, because that's where I'd heard everything. Rosalie never could keep her mouth shut, anyway. I wondered if she knew the colossal error she'd made. I tried not to blame everything on her. After all, who had left the poor girl in the first place?

So here I was. I'd spent five months wasting away, twenty-four hours in purgatory, and the last few minutes watching my beloved's fate slip from one precipice to another.

He saw it all, of course. It passed through his mind like a ghost, without a shred of the meaning it meant to me. His greedy eyes assessed me before he spoke. "La tua cantante," he whispered, quoting a Latin phrase. He flashed a look at Bella before turning the same incredulous gaze on me. "It makes me thirsty, I admit," he said, chuckling. "However can you stand it?"

"It's not without difficulty," I said through gritted teeth.

"Obviously. I've never heard such a siren call before. It even surprised my brother, Marcus."

"Let's dispense with the pleasantries, Aro," I hissed. "Bella needs to get home."

Aro's eyes widened. I'm sure no one had said such a thing to his face before. It gave me immense pleasure to hear the tide of his thoughts turn rapidly to anger, until he calmed himself into a friendly smile. "You are quite a soul-reader yourself, Edward," he said. "But I'm afraid Bella would surpass you. Astonishing how neither you nor I can read her thoughts, isn't it?"

"She's not joining you," I snarled.

Careful, Edward. I would hate to lose my temper.

I snarled again. Bella looked from one of us to the other, her eyes wide and frightened. Aro released my hand, finally, and I swiftly passed my arm around her wait.

"She is part of our secret, though," Aro said carefully. "How can I be certain she won't reveal more than is necessary?"

"You have my word. And Alice's."

Aro smiled. "Yes, but what about Bella's? I should like to hear her promise, as well, without your direct influence on her, my friend."

Aro raised his hand slightly, and before I could react, Felix's arm was thrust violently around my body, dragging me several feet from where Bella stood. I tried to struggle, but his hand closed like a vise about my throat. I felt my neck straining from the pressure, and a web of cracks formed beneath his hands.

"Please!" Bella was screaming. "Oh, please! Kill me! Just not him!"

Tears trickled down her porcelain skin, tracing the shadows under her eyes. She covered her mouth as Aro turned towards her. I could hear his thoughts rushing to and fro in an attempt to explain her actions.

"How extraordinary…" he murmured, almost to himself. He walked slowly towards Bella. Poor, defenseless Bella, who stared at me with an expression that wrenched my heart.

"You would give up your life to become someone like us?" he continued. "A vampire? A soulless monster?"

I felt like my whole body had disappeared, leaving nothing but my brain. I heard his thoughts from across the room, hardly daring to believe…

Bella said nothing. Was she frightened? Worried?

I hung my head in despair. I wanted to help her, but I couldn't hear. I had never heard her…

Aro's face had grown very gentle. "Che bellezza," he whispered, too soft for a human's ears.

Could a vampire go insane? I was. His thoughts were pure poison. They flooded uncontrollably into my mind, taunting me, hurting me. My concern for Bella's safety was the only thing preventing me from ripping out his cursed throat…

Why does she not answer? Perhaps she is considering my offer. He sighed. Isabella. What a lovely addition she would be…

His eyes traveled over her face, memorizing every detail with pleasure. I gritted my teeth. I hated him so much.

Bella struggled to speak. "You don't know…a thing," she said bravely. "About his soul."

Aro answered softly in Italian, too obsessed with the girl's beauty to remember her native tongue. Perhaps, but it's either yours or his… and I would prefer you, mia bella…

I snarled, unable to restrain myself.

"This is unfortunate," he said, tearing his gaze away from her. He looked at me. "If only it were your intention to give her immortality." His eyes gazed reproachfully at me. Do consider, my friend. It would be unfortunate if I had to take…other measures.

My breath stopped. The image in his mind was unmistakable. I flashed my eyes towards Bella, silently begging. Run, Bella. Run! But she wasn't looking at me.

She was looking at Aro.

Aro moved silently, like a snake, masking his intentions with a smile. I would never hurt you, Isabella, he thought. But this is a difficult problem. Especially since Edward refuses to give his consent.

Felix's grip tightened, cracking more skin as I writhed in desperation. Any moment now—oh, why didn't she see the danger? Aro was in front of her, running his hand down her neck…

Bella!

He stopped. Alas, I cannot, he thought tenderly. Such a precious jewel… so great a waste…

The lust in his thoughts twisted my stomach. I couldn't bear it anymore. Wildly, I looked at Bella to see her reaction. She was still frozen with fear, staring at him.

Aro was tracing her lips in his imagination, just like I'd done so many times: the little shadow in the corners that suggested unlimited pleasures, the delicate, almost pouty look of her bottom lip, and the way the color looked like the sky at dawn…

Aro imagined all these things, with great clarity, but seeing it through another's eyes only caused my dead heart to wrench in my breast. I'd never felt so capable of murder. Never, not since those first awful weeks when Bella Swan had come to Forks…

Bella was wrong. I was soulless, and I wanted his blood.

Maybe it I convinced him we meant to change her…

I opened my eyes, focusing on Alice. Her little face was puckered; her plans apparent to me alone. She was already moving across the floor, offering her hand under Aro's amiable gaze.

"Bella will be one of us," she said, triumph in her sweet voice. "I've seen it."

Aro took the bait. I went through the vision with him, though I'd already seen it through her eyes: Bella, running through the forest, her white skin a mere glimpse in the stillness. I followed her, laughing, until she stopped, gesturing to a herd of deer in the glade. Her face was perfection. Her skin was spun moonbeams. But her eyes… I couldn't look at her eyes…

Aro loved it. "Incredible!" he breathed. "To see as you do, with such clarity, such precision." His face glowed down at my sister with a longing we both understood.

But his attention shifted again.

Bella stood alone, looking as if she wanted to reach out and touch Alice's hand. She didn't see Aro, not until he was several inches from her beautiful face.

I heard her gasp as his hand reached out, echoing my own cry of horror.

Aro was having difficulty concentrating. His thoughts bounced back and forth rapidly, but always, always returning to the girl whose cheek he was now caressing

"Your gifts," he whispered, "will make for an intriguing immortal."

My immortal. My Isabella. Standing beside me in all her lovely purity. Aro smiled.

I couldn't see Bella's face; he was in the way. But I saw it reflected through him. Everything was glazed over with lust, surprising me with its intensity. He noted every change in her face, from the parting of her cherry lips to the step she took away from him.

Aro pulled away, releasing me from my agony. "Make your preparations!" he said cheerfully, signing to Felix. I staggered over to my Bella, only too aware of Aro's covetous stare.

"I love you," she whispered.

"I know."

I kissed her quickly, avoiding her concerned gaze. She mustn't see that I was losing it, cracking under all the strain. I had to get out of that room before I did something really stupid. Caius' thoughts blazed through my brain, seething with resentment and warnings of the Volturi, but I barely listened. I sped through the door, Alice behind me, and Aro's voice sang out to us for the last time in farewell.