Chapter 8: Self-Disclosure
Self-disclosure is sharing with someone information which helps him or her understand you. Self-disclosure is most revealing when the sharing is in the present and least revealing when the sharing is about the past. - D. Johnson
"It's Felix, darling," my wife said, sweeping into my temporary offices in Volterra. "He's brought news."
I pinched the bridge of my nose between my fingers before I caught myself and laughed a little. "Send him in."
Esme first darted to my side to cup my face in her hands. "Carlisle... You don't have to do this."
"I do. Who else will, if I don't?"
"I'm not worried about anyone but you, sweetheart."
I took her hands in mine and smiled into her eyes - eyes like golden guineas from my younger years in this life. "My greatest joy is to see you," I said softly.
"Then I'll always be here."
I rose, enfolded her in my embrace, and allowed myself to thoroughly enjoy the soothing peace of her scent as it surrounded me. The days were stressful since I had agreed to be of assistance in Italy; moments like these with my wife were often my only solace.
It lasted only a few moments. I heard shifting of booted feet outside the heavy wooden door. "Felix?"
He entered, nodded at me and all but bowed over my wife's hand. "Mrs. Cullen. Carlisle."
"Esme, please, Felix," my wife said for the forty-fifth time.
Felix's smile was quick and sharp before it disappeared. "Esme. I have news." I gestured for him to continue and he did, not moving from his position three feet inside the room. "There is a rumor that nomads are feasting in Denmark."
The news was far too common. "Repercussions?"
"They're not being very careful, Carlisle." The tall man grimaced, shaking his head. "They're creating newborns."
The discipline of centuries of guarding my tongue was all that kept me from swearing out loud. Bad enough vampires were hunting in the full light of day, but now they were making more...
"What has been the human response?"
Felix frowned and took a moment to study my features. "Well. They have seen many movies and read many books."
Esme pressed her hand on the small of my back and I took comfort from her as I guessed, "Wooden stakes and holy water?"
"Fire," Felix said softly.
At this, I instinctively tucked Esme behind my body. At Felix's lifted brow, I shook my head, feeling foolish. "What is being done?"
Felix shrugged and, at last, moved to cross the room. At the far window, he paused and looked out upon the people. "Though the vampire numbers are increasing, there have been instances where the humans overwhelmed them."
God help me, I sighed in relief. I could not protect the humans, but they could protect themselves. Though it grieved me to hear of such widespread losses, I was thankful that some human lives were not lost through their own ingenuity.
Still, it was frightening. Esme's voice soothed me when she asked, "Do you suppose that these...incidents...will encourage others of our kind to keep a low profile?"
With a small smile, Felix turned to her as she moved to stand at my side. "I believe so, but at what cost?"
Before we could continue this discussion, my phone rang and I excused myself. Esme led Felix from my office to give me a semblance of privacy when I answered Edward's call.
"Son, how are you? How is Egypt?" I inquired. Forms and courtesies must be obeyed. As I did so, I reclaimed my chair and leaned back, hoping that from my son, at any rate, there would be good news. "Did Jasper and Alice make it to you, yet?"
"We're all here and fine, Carlisle. There's been a development. How well do you know Amun and his coven?"
I sprang up from the chair as Edward detailed the god-fantasy that Amun was perpetuating as well as the gift his mate Kebi had manifested. I couldn't sit still during such a recitation.
"And Gianna thinks that the coven should travel, to share Kebi's gift with others." I heard a wind blowing near him and wondered if he was speaking on the run. "She's quite the bloodthirsty newborn."
I nodded, though he couldn't see me. "How do you suppose this could be stopped?"
"How can we?" he shot back, clearly frustrated. "Who has the authority?"
"Well, right now? I might."
My son laughed a little. "Fair enough. But what can you do except send Felix or somebody to threaten this coven? They're very powerful, what with Benjamin's gift to affect the local geology and Kebi's human-mind control."
An idea occurred to me; would it really be so difficult, I wondered? "Can Bella block Kebi's gift from her mind as she did Aro's?"
Edward blew out a breath and I leaned against the wall next to the window where Felix had been earlier. "I'm sure she is thinking of something like that, but Jasper's notion is not to let the Egyptians know how flexible and powerful she has grown with her shield. Carlisle, there has to be a way to contain rogues that doesn't lead to the despotism of the Volturi."
"Ask Jasper for his best ideas, since he knows our resources here as well, and have Alice watch for consequences. And be careful, my son," I added fervently. "Some of the humans have been fighting back."
"I have to get Bella back home," was his first thought.
Despite the situation, I heard myself chuckle. "Do you think she'll stand for that?"
"You have a point. Call me if there are any changes?"
"Of course, son. Of course."
There was a great deal of good to be said for hunting in the daylight. After nigh on two centuries of hiding in the shadows, I supposed I relished being able to run free under the light of the sun, feeling the warmth on my skin and caring little if anyone saw me. My Alice ran with me and we scented them together - a pair of caracals, notable for their high triangular ears with the tufts of fur that sprouted from them. He'd never seen them in person before, but of course he had read up on Egyptian wildlife before traveling here. Not a large cat, but neither were they endangered. This was important to his mate.
Two blurring shapes sped by him. Edward, you show-off!
Bella couldn't keep up with her mate, but she tried hard. "Alice, you look like Tinkerbelle!"
Alice laughed and made a rude gesture that still sparkled in the light. "Does that make Jasper Peter Pan?" she asked. "Because you know he hasn't aged in a long time..."
The girls both laughed, the sound remaining in my ears as Alice and I turned to chase our prey.
Edward? We need to talk about what to do about the Kebi situation.
"I know!" he called back over his shoulder. "After we hunt!"
What would we do about the Kebi situation? I believed that Edward and I could take out Amun and Kebi if we had to — but I hesitated to do that. It smacked too much as if we were trying to take over the ultimate justice for our kind and though I figured we could do that, I didn't want the job. Carlisle had earned the respect of many and right now, everyone was content to have such a peaceful man in Volterra, but...
One couldn't govern a body of bloodthirsty immortals by stern looks and high expectations.
Still, something had to be done. I appreciated Benjamin's logic in terms of hunting our natural prey, but there was something about gluttony that smacked of my decades with Maria and the Southern Wars and I knew beyond a doubt that Amun's coven could instigate a new series of wars.
Speaking of which, we had to find and end Maria. That, I could say for certain.
"Go for the male." Alice pointed as she veered off to the right after the female caracal.
It wasn't much of a meal, but the unique, rich blood of a predator did take the edge off my thirst. As well as strengthen my libido.
"Maria?" Bella bit her lip. She knew of Jasper's hideous experiences in the Southern Vampire Wars, of course. We all did. "But what about Kebi? Edward, we can't let her—"
I held up a hand before drawing her close to me as we walked slowly to rejoin the others after our hunt. The Egyptian Coven invited us back to their tents and, needing to keep an eye on them at present, we had accepted. Still, I was concerned.
"So, will you join us?" Amun asked Jasper within the shade of the tent. Though the sun did feel pleasant, the constant reflections battering our eyes was annoying and the shade was soothing.
My brother, one arm around Alice, shook his head. "Not at present, no."
She didn't meet Amun's crimson gaze, but dropped her focus to the bracelet she wore on her arm. "I've not fed from humans. . .since I was a newborn." Sorry, Edward! she thought to me, her memory flashing with visions of chasing the Ticuna down after her change. "I want us all to be free," she went on, and seemed about to say something else when Jasper cut her off.
"We all want us to be free," he said. Sorry, Edward. I don't want her to inadvertently make policy when we still haven't talked about it. I nodded and he continued aloud. "Carlisle Cullen is doing his best to make sure that not only are we free, but that we're safe."
Amun's demeanor became even more haughty. "Safe? From humans?" The Egyptians laughed, as did Gianna, but I noted that Demetri was not so lighthearted. He had more reason to respect the dangers a large number of humans could present.
"Indeed," I said, making sure not to call attention to the former Guard. "They're uniting in defense of their kind."
Kebi smiled and leaned into her mate's side. "Well, they won't when we get there."
We ran with them along the north coast of Africa, easily crossing the Strait of Gibraltar into Spain.
Edward? Bella thought as we had paused to hunt before the crossing, I can block her gift in her mind. I can do it. I can make partitions in it with my shield, as I did with Aro.
"Doing so was exhausting," I reminded her, watching my words because Tia and Benjamin were nearby, engaged in their own private post-hunt mating ritual where we were stopping north of Taoutiet el Bioute.
She shrugged. I can't stay with her forever though.
"No. Not even to protect humans."
With a sigh, she wrapped her body around mine as we sat on the cool ground in the wooded area. "There has to be some way." With a quick shift, she moved to straddle my thighs, her hands on either side of my face, expression intent. "I'm sorry. I—I've been listening to everything and thinking, and you and Jasper are right. I should have sought your help, before. I shouldn't have gone off on my own to try to fix things. I—I wasn't seeing the big picture."
Regret blended with my relief as I covered her hands with my own and leaned in to caress her lips with mine. "Forgiven, love. Always. Your love for us, for our family, is so strong. Your ability to protect is highly regarded. But you have to learn to trust."
"I know. I am."
When we kissed again, she opened her mind more fully to me, and we engaged in our own post-hunt mating ritual until I heard Alice's thoughts, heralding their return.
A/N: ACK. lol I posted my notes (MY notes) here before. If you got this early, my apologies. I deleted them and then neglected to hit the save button. I am seriously blushing like Human Bella over here. lol