An Italian Winter

Disclaimer: The characters of Twilight are owned by Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement intended at any point.

Summary: "There was a reason behind Edward's rebellious period – a reason that still holds true and brought him to Italy. His existence has been predicated on revenge for decades, to the point that forgiveness seems impossible. When Edward meets Bella, only a winter separates him from his last human prey and his own destruction." AU-Vamp

Here we go. Edward's POV. A literary suggestion at the end of each chapter. If you are interested in twific recs, you can find plenty of them on http:/ myreadinglounge. blogspot. com. Here I'll try to suggest something different. Enjoy!


Chapter 1 – Earbuds


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Even without looking at the clock, the clatter of my neighbors' dishes and cups signaled that morning had come. My hearing could pick up all the sounds from the surrounding apartments, through the thin walls. It was breakfast time–for the humans, that was. My last meal had been a couple days ago and, unlike my neighbors' food, mine had fur.

"Good morning, sweetie!" Jake's cheerful voice from the next building was the first to intrude. Better than a rooster.

His roommate mumbled something inarticulate. For the umpteenth time, I tried to read her mind. Nothing. Her voice wasn't connected to any stream of thought–like listening to a song a cappella. Not that it mattered: I had already listened to so many people's musings that one less couldn't make a difference. I had heard enough for a lifetime–especially my lifetime.

I heard her clear her throat. "Morning, Jake...wish it was a good one," she slurred.

A glance at the clock told me it was seven sharp. Was it too early for a human to function properly? I listened to them for a bit longer. After all, for the first time in my vampire existence, I didn't live–no pun intended–in the woods. I actually had some neighbors. Why not pry into their everyday conversations for a short while?

"Bad night?" Jake guessed.

"You said it! I like staying here, but I'm going to kill your neighbor if he doesn't switch off that damn music at night."

Who was she talking about? I had played the piano last night, but I hadn't thought that anyone was listening to me.

"Again? I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault, Jake. But how can you sleep at night? Don't you hear it?"

"Not at all," he answered. His thoughts told me that he was almost smug about being such a heavy sleeper.

There was no doubt that the boy had slept. He snored so much that could have woken up everyone in the neighborhood. His snores were louder than any music.

"But the other times you said it was classical music. Shouldn't it be able to lull you into a peaceful sleep?" he suggested.

Classical music? Were they actually talking about me?

The girl snorted. "You know I've got nothing against classical music–I even like it. I just don't want to hear it when I'm trying to sleep! It was something ridiculously Wagnerian yesterday. He must be crazy to listen to that stuff in the middle of the night," she continued.

It couldn't be me. I had played Mozart last night. How could she mistake him for Wagner?

"Or maybe he's a deaf insomniac," Jake joked.

I chuckled. If they were talking about me, I was an insomniac indeed. But definitely not deaf.

"If these night concerts don't stop, I'll set his damn stereo on fire!" she threatened.

Stereo? So she was talking about someone listening to a concert? I hadn't paid enough attention to the other neighbors, but I didn't recall any stereo playing last night.

"I've heard the house has been rented by an American man who's always by himself. Do you want me to go and speak to him?" Jake offered.

"Change your mind, boy," I muttered under my breath. "I'm not very friendly."

"No, not at all, really..." she answered. "I don't want to bother you. I'll go over there tonight and take care of it, okay? If I'm not too tired, that is. I'll be polite, I promise!"

Was I going to get a visit from the girl with the silent mind?

On the other hand, the thoughts of her roommate weren't silent at all. He was concerned for her. Bits of memories flickered in his mind like a movie. Through his eyes I saw the girl crying, and figured out that it must have been something that had happened often. Some of his thoughts showed her during the day, some at night. A man–a policeman–was soothing and holding her. Was he her father, perhaps? Jake was with them, talking with her, trying to convince her to go out for a walk.

His voice went lower. "Sweetie, the reason why you don't sleep...is it always the same?"

She didn't answer, but I heard her rushing out of the room. "Gotta go, Jake. Have a good day!" she told him.

His thoughts changed again. The mystery about the insomniac girl would remain unsolved, at least for today. I blocked them out: they had their work, their worries, and their life. I had my chase to focus on. I went back to my research, as if I was just another dutiful human and not a merciless killer.

The only interruption of my day came in the form of a knock on the door in the late afternoon. The neighborhood was buzzing with people's thoughts, and I was doing my best to block them out. Walking at a human pace, I went to answer the door.

"Who's there?" I asked, to no avail.

No thoughts were coming from outside. My suspicions were confirmed when I opened the door: there stood the girl with the silent mind. She was so lost in her own musings that she hadn't even noticed me.

"Hello. May I help you?" I asked, trying to be polite.

She blinked a couple of times. Her heartbeat was increasing and her embarrassment enhanced her scent. She smelled like orange blossom with a hint of mint. I closed my eyes. Her blood sang of a summer day in the pinewoods by the sea, a light breeze gliding through the branches.

I needed to take my mind off it; otherwise, the girl wouldn't see another summer.

"Miss? May I help you?"

"Are you Mr. Masen?" she managed to stutter.

I nodded. "I am."

"I'm your neighbor," she went on.

As if I didn't know it. So, this was sweetie in the flesh: medium-height, slim, with long chestnut hair that hung loosely on her shoulders and framed the alabaster skin of her face. A fine young woman. She didn't have any make-up on. With her tight blue jeans and a black short coat under which a green tartan scarf peeked out, she appeared to be younger than I had imagined. She couldn't have been older than her early twenties.

I smiled, trying to reassure her.

But she didn't smile back at me. "I've got a present for you!" she blurted.

A present? She was surprising, indeed.

Was I supposed to invite her in? I was barefoot, wearing just a white t-shirt and a pair of faded jeans. I ran a hand over my hair, trying to smooth it over. I looked like I had just rolled out of bed...or had done other things that involved a mattress.

"I can come back later. I'm afraid I arrived at a bad moment," she said worriedly.

"Please, come in," I urged.

From what I had heard, she had lived in Jake's apartment for some months. So, why in the hell had she suddenly decided to bring me a present now?I laughed to myself.

As she entered my home she glanced at the foyer, but suddenly became very interested in her shoes. She's a shy one, isn't she? I silently mused.

She looked around what would normally have been called a family room, if I had had a family. I was sure that to her it appeared too empty, but leaving the house devoid of silly human trinkets made me feel less bound to their mundane form of existence.

She handed me a small package. I ripped off the gift wrapping and frowned. It wasn't the typical gift for a neighbor.

"Earbuds?" I asked.

"Yes. I know that you like music and seem particularly fond of piano music. In this way, you will be able to enjoy it all by yourself, or at least without me. You know, some people sleep during the night, or try to," she said in a rush.

I stifled a laugh. Were the earbuds for my stereo? Come on, what stereo? Hadn't she noticed the black baby grand piano in the living room?

She looked around herself. Here we are. I could pinpoint the very moment when realization dawned on her. Although I couldn't read her mind, I could read her face: the piano...the source of the music...the absurdity of the earbuds she had just given me.

"Err... I thought that you..." she tried to explain.

She was very funny in her embarrassment, but I was kind enough to let her off the hook.

"I understand, and I owe you an apology. I didn't notice it was so late when I played, and I didn't know I had an audience." I couldn't help a smug grin. "But, since you heard what I was playing, can you at least tell me if you liked it?"

"I didn't think it polite to listen," she spat, glaring at me.

The laugh I had been holding in erupted. She narrowed her eyes at me and stiffened, her lips pursed in a tight line. Her cheeks became a pinkish shade. She was fuming, but I found her lovely.

"Goodbye, then. I suppose you got my message," she said coldly.

My grin faded. I didn't want to have fun at her expense anymore. After all, I still had some manners. "May I offer you something to drink before you go?"

She was still sullen. "No thanks, I'm fine."

I decided to use the lower, reassuring tone I reserved for putting humans at ease, curious to see how it worked on her. "May I ask your name before you go back to your dreams?"

Her expression softened, but not as much as I was expecting. I quirked an eyebrow. Could she resist my magic?

"Sorry," she apologized. "I realize I haven't introduced myself. I'm Isabella."

Her name was a surprise. Her roommate had called her Bella or "sweetie." I had never heard this Isabella. Regardless, I tried to behave and be serious and polite.

"Nice to meet you, Isabella. I'm Edward."

Finally, she gave me a full smile. She had beautiful lips, well-defined and with a slight lift of the upper corners, but it was her gaze that struck me. Her eyes were a warm shade of brown, with golden flecks that shimmered as she looked at me. I would have liked to bask in the softness of her expression, but I didn't have enough time. She mumbled a goodbye and quickly walked away.

I stood in the foyer, disconcerted, staring at the door. Then I paced nervously into the living room, taking deep breaths. I inhaled Bella's scent as much as I could, as to be sure that her presence there had been real: for the first time since I had purchased my house, a human had entered it. For the first time in years, I had spoken with a human out of desire, not necessity.

I ended up in the bathroom, splashing cold water on my face. I couldn't tell how much it was a remnant of a human habit; regardless, it was a good way to weaken Bella's scent on me before the desire it elicited became too powerful. My reflection in the mirror showed that any trace of red– a memento of the last human I had killed just a few weeks before–was almost gone. My irises were an odd orange shade that could almost pass for a more human, light brown color. As if there was something human in me.

From my living room, I looked at the apartment building where Isabella lived. The light in my favorite neighbor's room was on, but I didn't hear anything coming from her apartment; no thoughts and no voices. It seemed that Jake wasn't at home, meaning there were no conversations for them and no entertainment for me. I was disappointed.

I switched off the light and, hidden in the darkness, I stared at Bella's window. Her delicious scent still lingered in my house.

The control I had acquired during all those years when I had fed from animals had proven to be steely as usual. I was almost proud to acknowledge how strong I could be in my restraint, even faced with a scent like hers. It had been a blessing for my nice neighbor; regardless, it was a curse for me. I could confirm that I hadn't any ungovernable instinct to blame for the human lives I had taken.

Isabella was never going to know how lucky she had been. I had even tried to make her stay longer, offering her a drink, just to enjoy her company. In different circumstances, I could have been the one taking a drink.

In the few minutes I had spent with the girl, her mental silence had been pleasantly relaxing.

Finally, I had been able to talk to someone without being forced to know the first mental draft of everything they were going to say. It was like being able to read a book in its final version, while so far I had been forced to read all the drafts, following the entire editing process. Nice comparison. When in hell have you followed any sort of editing process, Edward?

The light went off in Isabella's room. I imagined her curled up in her bed, with the lips that had smiled at me parted as she abandoned herself to her slumber. Sleep well, I wished her.


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A/N

A cappella (Italian for "in the manner of the chapel") indicates a music performed without instrumental accompaniment (vocal only).

"I didn't think it polite to listen" is a quote from The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. If you haven't read it, what are you waiting for?

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Many thanks (and earbuds, LOL) to Camilla10, Marlena516, Corinne Tate, and Jmolly. Thanks also to Pastiche. Lethe and WellMadeMistake (Sparkly Red Pen).