Chapter 21

MPOV

Isabella is clearly shaken by her revelation and I silently promise painful retribution onto the entirety of the Cullen's despite whatever the official ruling of their crimes is to be. She is so insecure in herself and I can see that a large part of that is due to their actions and lies towards her.

After a few moments she tucks herself close to my chest once more and I decide to move us back to our rooms, hoping that she can gain comfort in a place more suited to her needs rather than rooms so heavily influenced by Aro.

Scooping her up I easily balance her weight against myself with my elbow under her ass, upper arm bracing along her back allowing me to grab my sword with my free hand. Bella gasps quietly and clutches me tightly still automatically worried about being dropped. I am patient though; she will eventually learn I would never allow such to happen.

Afton, as expected is down the hall and standing at attention off to the side. One of the reasons he led the guard's training for so many years is that he is very attuned to what is going on around him. He's picked up on my instincts concerning Isabella and wisely decided to give me extra space. He's still close enough to do his job, yet is far enough away and familiar so that I don't feel threatened by him. It is so refreshing to have someone with competence around. Upon seeing me he dips his head respectfully. I nod back and enter our rooms once more. I then settle my mate onto a chair near the fire again. I can only hope Aro will be quick about getting information from the Cullens as I find I have little patience for all the chaos surrounding me, what with Isabella recovering, the Romanian threat and now their arrival.

APOV

I grit my teeth and smile brightly as Miss Denali enters the throne room. The main issues with accusing the Cullens of anything at this point is that I cannot truly say that I have seen evidence to support the claim that they ousted us to a human. I know there is more going on here, and they admitted themselves that they informed Isabella about their existence, but if Carlisle chooses to press the issue, and collect around the globe his numerous supporters, well we may have a problem. I know of at least one truth-teller that he has influence over that could bring things to light. I cannot say that I saw Isabella in his mind in such a situation that makes him guilty. Carlisle is also aware of the fact that Isabella is likely a shield. If she can block my gift she can almost certainly block Edwards and he can likely extrapolate my deficiency in that area. No, there is something going on here, something that they are blatantly hiding along with any connection to Isabella. We desperately need more information but we cannot be seen to torture them for more when they seemingly are working to help improve our power, or over a human girl that we have already sealed the deal with so to speak. All that I can do now is attempt to access everyone elses minds in their party and find someway to break through this haze that covers select memories. Later I will revel in the new challenge but for now, I am merely livid and focused upon succeeding in my goal.

I turn my attention to the Succubi before me. Why my wife ever worried that I would fall for such brazenness confuses me. Everyone and anyone can see almost all of her breasts all the way down to her navel. The skirt on her garment is so short if she bends or moves too quickly she will be presenting the entirety of herself to the room. Yes she is beautiful, and I am a man, but that does not mean that I respect the woman who would carry herself so. To me she seems as though she is the equivalent of human junk food- easy to get, sometimes disgusting and cheap as hell. Quite honestly it makes me thankful that vampires do not transmit nor carry disease.

Do not get me wrong if Sulpicia was not a part of my life I would likely consider fucking the woman, but that is all it would be, a physical release. Mates connect on such a different plane that it is difficult to compare the two. Not to mention I would never let someone in my bed have power over my decisions. Let them think they do so I can laugh at their obliviousness yes, but true power from an outside source- never.

I grab Tanya's hand in greeting kissing her knuckles and grinning flirtatiously at her. Thankfully she only grins back and does not attempt to curtsey in return as is traditional- that skirt was not made for anything formal- though are we not due at least a modicum of respect anymore?

I force as much of my focus and gumption into my power as I can without appearing that I am. It has been literally millennia since I have had to work as hard as I am at my gift currently. The woman's life flashes before my eyes and I speed it until I am going off intuition instead of sight. Dear gods does she really have to give her favours out so easily? I did not need to see half of these encounters.

Finally I start to see more recent interaction with the Cullens and then that damnable fog with only hints of emotions. I press harder and can only make out blurred images. The same pattern that Carlisle's mind went through: bland, blurred, sex, bland, sex, blurred, sex, sex, bland. Nothing of use other than some very faint feelings of paranoia and current cocky confidence. I release Ms. Denali and move back before continuing our conversation and setting up the arrangements of their stay. However I have the suspicion that this is going to be a running theme amongst these unexpected guests. I also have the unsettled feeling that our only advantage is going to be the wrecking ball of surprises that follows Marcus' little Isabella. My brother is not going to be pleased.

APOV

"This is either an extension of the gift of Edward's or at the very least time in his presence has allowed our guests the advantage of only thinking of alternative thoughts other than their main goal once previous memories were obscured. After checking all of our arrivals I was able to determine that they are partially here for a distraction- why else send the Succubus as young Emmet's mind briefly pointed out. However, there is something else as well that I cannot get at. No other bits and pieces to add together into anything concrete. I will list out as much of the bland life memories as I can in recent years for you Caius to see if you can see any patterns that I cannot, but I simply cannot acquire enough information to concretely accuse them. They know of Isabella, they have admitted it and that they left her human, however she has been isolated since or lost all human contact from their time of departure. We can indeed punish them but not to the extent we have all agreed they deserve. We do not yet have confirmation of Isabella's story of the newborn army- and though we believe her others of our kind will not. Not to mention that as she is still human the Cullen coven can argue their side to their allies."

Both my brothers and our women frown or look worried. Isabella herself seems momentarily surprised by the mention of appropriate punishment. I continue hoping I can get all of my observations and plans out before Marcus interrupts. I can tell he is holding himself back already and yet I am not even at the most distressing part for him.

"As I see it our only advantage is Isabella herself. They will not expect her I do not think, to have any skill in subterfuge. Anger and pain, yes, but no alternative motive. I believe she is our trump card, because from my brief discussion and impression from Isabella herself- they believe her too cowed and led by her emotional need for connection for this to be possible." I turn and look at Isabella, taking note of her paler than normal skin.

"You are normally too sweet my dear, but if we coach you and work with you before unleashing you on them, we have a decent chance of actually getting enough scraps of information to form a picture," I continue speaking to Marcus' mate and feeling a string of unease in my gut from her widening eyes. I continue speaking hoping to convince the girl of going along with my idea. I am positive there is more to Isabella than she has let show thus far, we just need to convince her that taking flight doesn't mean she'll have no where to land when the storm comes.

"We need to know if the blocking ability extends to current thoughts or merely past memories. If a trigger word or phrase or action is involved to lift the haze or if instead they are actively avoiding full thoughts that they are trying to keep from our knowledge. If only Eleazar was not involved we could have a better idea of the entirety of this gift.-" Caius interrupts me. Well I was done for the moment anyways.

"We need the information on what has caused the Cullen's to give up their normal way of living for a debt. Esme herself said that they went north due to a favour. Not a project, or experiment or visit but a favour; meaning that there is the implied return of some debt owed. I do agree with Aro however, there is very much more going on here than Carlisle is letting on. For now let us just ensure that a minimum of two guards are watching all of our visitors at all times.

MPOV (Next day)

As I enter our rooms I can hear Isabella making little upset sounds, as though she is straining to achieve something. After a moment she curses quietly, then huffs almost tearfully in frustration. Upon hearing this I swiftly move to her dressing room and knock on the door.

"Are you alright, Isabella?" I question.

She stills and I can hear her take a deep breath. There then is a crush of fabric before she shuffles somewhat awkwardly to the entry. A moment later she opens the door a crack and peeks out from behind it.

"I, I just can't get this corset get-up to cooperate, Marcus. I'm really not sure this elaborate gown thing is going to work. I mean I'm about as far opposite of elaborate as you can get. I'll look like an idiot!" she says her face showing her distress and worry brought to the forefront by her frustration with the garment but rooted in her fear and anxiousness regarding the upcoming confrontation with the Cullens.

"Isabella, you will look stunning in the dress. I will be there beside you for the entirety of this complete mess, and I will never let you look anything less than how striking you truly are. As for the dress will you allow me to help?"

My little mate blushes a tad but nods and shuffles back into the dressing room. Once she has moved the fabric and layers of the ballgown out of the way I follow and close the door behind me. She stands in front of the full-length mirror, both arms clasping the bodice of the dress to her chest modestly. The back of the dress hangs loosely on either side and the ribbons hang limply in a large tangle around her back and sides.

Pushing up the arms of my sleeves I step up to her and turn her so she faces the mirror and her back is to me. The corset of this is integrated into the design of the bodice, which is honestly a much better idea than previous centuries multiple variations on this type of undergarment. After detangling the worst of the knotted ribbons I glance up and realize she's still wearing her modern bra.

So that I don't startle her I rest a hand gently on her bare shoulder before trailing my fingers down her spine then stopping over top the hooks. "Corsets such as the one in your dress are designed to fully support you, sweet. I am positive Athenodora has had yours made to fit. May I unlatch this?"

As expected Bella blushes hotly whispering a soft "Oh," of surprise as she grasps what I mean. She grips the top of the dress tighter but nods ducking her head so she doesn't have to meet my eyes in the mirror. I press a series of small kisses to her shoulder as I first attempt to figure out how the hooks detach before deftly undoing it. It never ceases to amaze me how much more stretch materials can have these days. As the bra is strapless all I need to do is grab both sides and gently tug down off her breasts before slipping it out between the fabric of the gown and her skin. Tossing the bra off to the side I softly sooth the marks it left on her back with the pads of my fingers before holding the sides of the stiffened fabric. Pulling slightly so that she lets go of the front I lower the bodice a touch and then bring it closer and back up slightly into place against her.

Transferring my hold of the side panels to be held loosely in place by the ribbons at the back with a single hand I smooth the other up over the indigo fabric from her hips over her waist to her ribs. "Do you need to adjust it any?" I question. She nibbles her lip a second before reddening and moving her breasts an increment upwards. I pull the fabric at the back accordingly.

Mouthing along the line of her neck I simultaneously re-thread the ribbon through the silk loops that line the back and start about mid-shoulder blade. This I have done many times before, quite often during the time period where these were the height of fashion for both Athenodora and Sulpicia but also for my occasional private entertainments.

"It is no wonder you were so frustrated, dearest. These still require two people to get into unless you have a great amount of practice or they are pre-laced," I say trying to ease the tension in my little one some.

"Athenodora on a great many occasions would get her ribbons tangled or snagged somehow and require someone to rework them for her, and as I had no mate for the time period where these were popular I became a safe, spare set of hands to do her bidding. Not to mention the amount of times I and various others would walk in on Aro doing up Sulpicia after finishing their current tryst in any number of rooms in the castle. Mostly though a maid helps out. Expand your ribcage for me," I say lightly finishing correcting the loose lacing along the back.

"Expand?" she asks looking up into my eyes once more. I move my hands around to cup her ribs, moving them with my words.

"Breathe in, low into your lungs and move your ribs out through here. Vampires may have themselves strapped into a corset as tightly as possible, but I will not have you fainting in need of air. This way if you hold your breath in for a moment I can tighten the lacing enough so that you can still breathe deeply, but have it secure enough it still fits you like a second skin," I explain. I still remember the various swooning spells rich human women underwent from too-restrictive corsets or the horror stories of illnesses from impacted organs. There is a sensible way to achieve the silhouette a corset offers. Of course it is not as though my mate needs much to amplify what she already possesses with her waist being as slim as it is. Though not what I would describe as curvy she does have the virtues of womanhood enough that she in no way resembles the skeletal ideal current society idolizes.

"'Kay. Breathing is desirable," my Bella agrees somewhat sardonically. I chuckle then smile at her as she does as instructed.

"Good girl, hold for a moment," I praise, already tightening down the row of crossed lacings so it lies flat and snugly against her back. When I reach the end she lets her breath out naturally and I hold the silk ribbon together at the bottom, just above her rear.

"How is this, too tight surrounding your ribs? Too loose around your bust?" I question ensuring that she will be supported yet still comfortable.

"I think it's good," Bella says after a few experimental breaths. I nod and tie the ribbons off before tucking them so they hang between different layers of the skirts out of the way. Finished I move my hands to circle her tiny waist, ducking my head down to nuzzle against her neck and teething against her fair skin slightly. She shivers back into me.

"Magnificent," I state softly and she blushes. The vivid indigo brings out the paleness of her skin and highlights the blue of her veins ever so minutely. The bodice is embroidered with white gold twirls in a simple brocade pattern. Her hair Sulpicia has done half up and half down, showing off her blemish-free neck but leaving the lovely waves against her shoulders. Amongst the portion pulled back are the dry-textured, vivid purple of Xeranthemum and delicate white Sweet Alyssum blooms. I smile a touch at her intentional use of certain flowers, Sulpicia has always been one for hidden meanings. She has had to be with Aro as her mate.

Isabella's floor length, full skirt adds elegance with a subtle ripple effect of the overlay fabric over the underlying layer. Someone has painted her nails a shade to closely match the dress and tinted her lips a sheer red like she has been eating berries. The fabric of the inner skirt is imprinted so that when the light hits it just so the Volturi crest is visible to the vampire eye.

Isabella turns beneath my hands but wobbles as the skirts catch around her unpracticed feet; I tighten my grip in response. She laughs breathily, before leaning into me, embracing me around the waist. I press a kiss to her forehead before crouching enough that she can wrap her arms over my shoulders and I can lift and embrace her properly.

"I'm still not sure I'm going to be able to move in this all that well," she admits and I smile at her sheepish and amused expression.

"I will carry you if necessary," I promise reassuringly. She leans back a moment, looking into my eyes.

"You don't need to carry me all the time," she offers softly. I tilt her chin and kiss her, my tongue sweeping into her giving mouth with little effort causing her to moan quietly.

"I enjoy having you in my arms and close to me, Carissima. Besides it is no trouble, even when I was human you would not have weighed much to me. Not to mention sweet, I can tell it brings you comfort and that gladdens me. Now, I believe there are just a few small details missing."

She laughs a little playing with the ends of my hair. "Well I don't have any shoes on, and the stone floor is freezing. But if you're going to carry me then I guess it doesn't really matter."

"Not necessary no, however we cannot have it seem as though we cannot afford shoes for you, dearest," I reply teasingly. She giggles at me sweetly and I carry her out into our bedroom before placing her gently on the edge of the bed.

"I may have something that will suit to keep your feet warm, one moment," I say and she nods patiently. It takes barely a second for me to go into my own dressing room where I had temporarily placed her accessories and retrieve them, quickly reappearing before her.

I set aside the other array of boxes except the largest of the group- which holds her matching shoes. "See if these will do," I instruct sitting beside her so that I may have the best view of her face.

Isabella tilts her head curiously at me for a moment before reaching forward and opening the understated cardboard box. Inside amongst packing foam is a wooden box with the designer's brand burned into it. The designer is an Italian one, one of Athenodora's favourites, though knowing my Bella I do not expect her to recognize the logo. She admires the wood momentarily running her fingers along the smooth grain before lifting the edge with her fingertips.

Isabella's lips open into a small surprised smile as she sees the delicate shoes arranged for her. Dark indigo-purple suede flat shoes lined with silk and cushioning with a ruffled design on the top dotted with diamonds, river pearls and sapphires. There is rubber on the soles of them, though it is thin making the pair much like the dancing slippers of old. Feminine; yet still practical enough that the opportunity for chaotic injury is greatly reduced.

"They're lovely Marcus," she states smiling at me before looking back to the shoes and fingering the gems, a furrow forming momentarily between her brows.

"These aren't real are they? What if they fall off and I lose them?"

"You are my mate, anything you receive will be real. As for if they're lost or damaged they can easily be replaced. Things are meant to be worn and used not kept in a chest and gazed at once in a while," I say trying to not sound displeased. I find it difficult sometimes to wrap my head around her modern upbringing- women of my time either thought jewelry was their due right, the ability for their family or husband to show off their wealth, or proof of their husband's affection and esteem. Of course I have always been a noble and therefore rich. There were a small series of lean years when Aro, Caius and I were young but between our three skills once we met and formed our bonds we rarely wanted for much- or it could be regained quickly enough.

My introspection is quickly stopped when I realize Isabella is looking down at the shoes with a frown on her brow and teeth digging into her bottom lip.

"Dearest," I scold affectionately, sliding my one hand into her loose hair and drawing her lower lip into my mouth to protect it from her torment. I suck gently and occupy her tongue for a moment before leaning back leaving her breathless and wide-eyed. Leaning my forehead against hers I look into her eyes and hold her gaze.

"You are my mate, cost means nothing to me, I merely wish you to be comfortable, safe and happy, and Dearest jewelry does and continues to have an effect on all three of those things. Never mind that you will be my queen and I intend to treat you as such. I have known few women who have disliked the look of all jewelry, or how they look in it. I also know that you do appreciate and enjoy pretty things, sweet, as well you should. If you cannot get pleasure out of simple beauty in the world it would be a duller existence on this earth- I know for I went the centuries until your arrival to re-inspire such in me."

Bella blinks "I do like them, I'm just unsure how jewelry can possibly have an effect on my safety or comfort," she admits before slipping her feet into the shoes. She wiggles her toes in them and stands.

"Oh these are so soft! And the soles are gel-like, that's so neat!" she exclaims before sitting again. My lips quirk at the side, pleased by her delight, it would be the comfort and practical uses that would excite my mate. I touch her elbow gently easing her down back onto the edge of the bed again.

"By comfort I am alluding to the fact that the majority of allied covens will have similar expensive accessories and wardrobes. Especially during formal events and the occasional ball we hold or attend. I do not wish for you to feel under-dressed or somehow lesser than any way. As for safety having sufficient jewelry and show of wealth impresses upon others that the Volturi is wealthy and powerful and is not a force to be reckoned with. Essentially it is safety through subliminal messaging."

Bella blinks at me again. "Does that actually work?" I chuckle at her incredulous face.

"Sadly dearest, yes. It does indeed work."

"Weird," she comments under her breath. I think I can safely assume Isabella is not going to be swayed by gems and silks.

"Excluding that, I do hope you like these, dearest," I say handing Isabella two velvet-topped jewelry boxes.

Bella takes a deep breath and looks up at me. "Thank-you Marcus. I appreciate that you are making sure I'm prepared."

I gently press a kiss to Bella's forehead. "Always, my sweet. Now take a look and tell me if it is to your liking. I had these custom ordered for you."

Bella blushes and turns back to the boxes, opening the top along the hinge of the smaller of the two. Bella gasps and runs the tip of one finger along the edge of the ring nestled inside. The ring is platinum and deep purple enamel with scrollwork detailing both within the enamel and along the edges. Lining the edge is small diamonds which frame the single diamond stone in the centre.

"Oh Marcus, I've never seen anything like it. It's stunning, thank-you," Bella whispers, seemingly finally coming to the realization of realm of wealth the Volturi holds.

The next jewelry box yields a strand of dark purple and green Tahitian pearls with matching pearl drop earrings. Bella tilts the box slightly to catch the iridescence of the pearls in the light, speechless as she pets the natural gems. Seeing that my mate is speechless I take her right hand and slide the ring onto her finger before gesturing for her to turn so I may attach the necklace around her throat. Bella puts both earrings into her ears, and she looks at me still stunned. I tip her chin slightly to look at me. "Now you are finished my sweet. A better being I have not met to bring out the beauty of the gems instead of increasing the beauty of the wearer."

A moment later Bella wraps her arm rapidly around my neck. "I love you, Marcus."

"I love you too, sweet."

MPOV

Isabella's limbs have the barest hint of a tremor, though she is attempting to hide it by tightly clasping her hands together. I pull her back so that her back settles against my chest, and I am framing her fully. As she is on my lap her feet dangle, heels resting against my shins and I cradle her clenched hands within my own. The mass of her skirts waft over my legs but my cloak-clad shoulders dwarf her petite frame easily. I am wearing all black providing a striking background to her brilliance.

Everything about this has been thought out and obsessively planned. As Sulpicia rightfully pointed out earlier there is no larger statement that can be made than to use a leader of the Volturi as one's personal throne, shield and dais; to have them not only allowing such to be done to them, but readily insisting on such. Even the stupidest of vampires can read the signs here.

I personally know Aro is looking forward to Carlisle's reaction, though I could not care less. Carlisle is never someone I felt the need to deal with unless necessary. Unfortunately this little meeting has been deemed necessary, much to my displeasure. The only positive, is that it is not as though as I am merely an object here, if my mate becomes threatened I will be burning corpses. Truthfully I am merely waiting so I can eventually invoke retribution rights.

Bella grips my hands tightly and takes a deep breath shakily. Abandoning my silent show of support, I duck my head and lightly press my lips behind her ear. They brush her skin as I speak.

"You can do this. They are not worthy of your anxiety and no matter what occurs once they arrive they cannot touch you. You are my mate, and I am one of the eldest and most deadly vampires on this planet. That means that if anyone ever fucks with you again Isabella, they will die a very slow and painful death. We may need Carlisle at the moment but the instant we do not I am going to shred his worthless hide and introduce him to the fires of Hades personally."

Bella shivers and looks up at me with large eyes. I've frightened her. I work for a moment to temper my lust for violence on her behalf, morphing my face into something soofter. "I will never harm you, sweet. Never. Those who have wronged you however are mine by the demands of honour. I know that you are too young to understand, but I come from a very different time and amongst vampires if you do not retaliate to the harm bestowed upon you and yours it is seen as weakness. And I will by no means allow you to come under peril if I can simply fix the issue."

I nuzzle into her neck and wetly kiss and lick my scent onto her skin. When she is sufficiently distracted from the topic as this is not the time for her to dwell on my darker nature, I kiss her lips gently and move my mouth back to her ear. "I believe in you, just follow my lead if needed. Simply try to ask questions that require more detailed answers as we discussed earlier. Say what you wish to them and try to gain some closure from this. If it becomes too much scratch along my palm and I will get us out. Understand?" I question.

Bella nods gripping my hands again and sitting up more, pushing her shoulders back.

She pauses before glancing up at me again. "When we're done will you kiss and distract me for a bit?" she asks timidly.

Instantly my eyes darken and I grin hungrily at her. "Oh, my Isabella. I will gladly make your perseverance worth your while. Would you like that sweet? Would you like me to pleasure you so that you do not remember anything but the feel of my tongue and fingers on your flesh?" I question whispering my words huskily down to her.

Bella's response is immediate. Her pupil's dilate and I feel the muscles in her lower abdomen contract through the fabric of her gown upon which our clasped hands rest. She gasps lightly and her face flushes while she bites hard into her bottom lip. A moment later the scent of her arousal wafts up and my nostrils flare slightly. I am positive my eyes are black as pitch with how intensely responsive my little mate is. If it were not for the sound of Aro and Sulpicia coming down the hall toward us I would be sorely tempted to leave with her back to our rooms.

"Be good for me, get through this trial sweet, and I will take very good care of you. Are you ready?"

Bella quickly becomes much more subdued at my unfortunate reminder, a flash of shame crossing her face. She nods grimly. I make mental note to address that particular reaction later, possibly once I am stripping her of this dress that I tied her into, or when she is under me half out of her senses.

Aro and Sulpicia enter, taking over the loveseat beside the chair we are occupying. Sulpicia threateningly grips Aro's wrist when she smells how strung up both Bella and myself are. The action is unneeded however, as Aro merely raises a teasing eyebrow at me. He is well aware I would not take kindly to him riling up Isabella with his glib words in this circumstance.

"Do you remember what we spoke of Isabella?" Aro asks and she nods. My brother grins wickedly and Sulpicia smiles at my mate encouragingly.

"Alright Honey, here they come," Sulpicia whispers to Bella patting her comfortingly on her arm.

I too can hear the four Cullens coming towards the room. A moment later they are at the door knocking.

Aro glances at us and I squeeze my Bella's hands reassuringly before nodding in return to Aro.

"Enter!" my brother calls and the door opens allowing a portion of Carlisle's coven to join us in the room. Bella tenses minutely on my lap.

AN: So I am alive. I've had a bunch of personal stuff going on specifically with my health the last little while so I very much appreciate your patience for this chapter.

First news if you haven't seen it yet there is a side story featuring Athenodora and Caius that shows the Volturi's first meeting with the Romanian coven. There are also some short prompts on the facebook fan page if anyone is interested.

Now onto the researched part of this chapter (pictures are available on the pinterest page of Bella's gown, her ring, her earrings, something like her shoes and her necklace.)

Xeranthemum- these flowers have a dual meaning of Cheerfulness under adverse conditions as well as representing a symbol for immortality.

Sweet Alyssum- Means worth beyond beauty as well as the idea that they are supposed to provide serenity (taken directly from the name meaning without rage).

Both flowers were picked under the idea of providing Bella with a little something extra when she confronts the Cullens. The immortality aspect in particular is a bit of a F*** You to them as well.

The colour of Bella's dress is indigo which also is symbolic. Indigo is supposed to provide the wearer a focus for personal issues, the ability to increase intuition, an alternate way of viewing a problem and increase inner communication. All things Bella is going to need in the coming chapter.

Black or Tahitian pearls are said to be grounding, and offer stability and protection. Pearls in general often are linked to purity as well as the ability to accept oneself and provide calm.

I want to apologize for the length of this chapter, I originally planned on it being much longer but I really wanted to get this bit out, so instead the next bit is already half-written. This also is when things start to speed up plot-wise (hopefully). Although I will say Marcus and Bella have made themselves quite clear that they are expecting more sexy-times, in particular in the most ridiculous places. Sometimes I'm not even sure where my characters are getting their ideas.

Much love everyone, until next time. And of course thank-you as always to everyone who reads and reviews and messages me. I treasure every one of you and your support.