Won 2nd place, AU, popular vote at the Truly Anonymous Twilight Contest. If you're one of those who voted, thank you. And thanks so much to all who reviewed.

Beta'ed by songster51

Disclaimer: All SMeyer's, except for everything.

Warning: Contains vampires. Very much M.


Vampires flank the hallway, their faces in various stages of boredom. Red and black banners, stamped with the Volturi crest, flutter from the high ceilings. In the distance large doors that lead to a spacious room, like a yawning mouth ready to swallow the oblivious. The room used to be a throne room but was converted into a ballroom, then converted again into a wedding chapel with white lilies and purple freesias. The sun streams through its large, cathedral-like windows, spilling light into the designated aisle. To the mere observer, the scene is majestic, even romantic, and Bella takes a deep breath to calm herself.

"Try to smile," Carlisle murmurs beside her.

"I'm trying," Bella grits through her teeth, wishing for something catastrophic to happen so she can bolt and run towards the opposite direction. She knows it's no use thinking about running away so she thinks of the things she'd rather be doing instead, and of the people she'd rather be with, rather than walking in the midst of strangers, faking a calm that she doesn't feel.

She takes a deep breath as the entourage starts to move, more to steady herself than out of necessity. She consoles herself with the fact that Esme and Rosalie are right behind her, wearing seemingly unconcerned smiles to hide their own nervousness. Only Alice, who is mingling in the crowd with a camera in hand, is comfortable with the proceedings, loudly declaring the night before that she'd seen in her visions that everything will be all right, after all. Bella baited and taunted Alice into revealing what she saw but the other vampire had refused to bend to her pressure, only assuring that everything will be fine and that she shouldn't worry too much.

In front of her and Carlisle, two other vampires wait for their cue before they, too, start walking. Jasper and Emmett turn to her briefly as the magistrate signals for them to proceed. They smile their assurances, and Bella forces herself to smile back.

Bella manages to keep her expression blank, her legendary temper in check, until they reach the entrance of the great hall. Not until the procession moves beyond the baroque entrance does she let her expression drop, grimacing at the prospect of trading worthless vows with a stranger. Under the darkness of the awning, Bella consoles herself, her hysterical laughter at the offer would have given the groom enough of an idea just how much she hates the entire charade.

She takes Carlisle's arm, and lets him lead her along the edge of the room. In a while, she will be walking past the heads and representatives of vampire covens from all over the world, past the large and varied Volturi court and into the arms of her soon-to-be husband.

"It's not like I have a choice, do I?" she'd snapped at Carlisle, when he'd reacted with shock when she informed him of what she'd agreed to do.

"But why? Why marriage?" he'd asked. He'd thought that was all the mystery. He'd been mystified further when Bella announced that the future groom had consented to relocating to the Olympic mountains to try their "charming lifestyle." He couldn't imagine a member of the Volturi court curbing his natural predatory instinct to drink human blood.

It's going to be a nightmare to have him here," Rosalie declared. Members of the Volturi are not known for their tolerance for human existence, seeing them as nothing but weak creatures From what they've heard of Edward Masen, he seems to ne one of the most untolerant of the lot. She couldn't imagine him trying to pass himself off as a human teenager.

"How could you have allowed yourself to be manipulated so easily?"

Bella had no answer then as she has no answer now.

It's not all her fault anyway, she argued in her defense. Carlisle was big on having human friendships as a part of their experimental integration into society at large, and Bella had embraced the concept without reserve. She'd kept a close friendship with a shy and unassuming girl named Angela Weber, and that closeness had inadvertently revealed her secret.

The Volturi had learned of her violation the rule of secrecy, and ordered her to kill the human and for the entire Cullen coven relocate to Russia. Bella flat-out refused to do so and unsurprisingly, Carlisle and the rest supported her. With her typical 'I'm going to fix this myself" arrogance, she travelled to Volterra to seek a compromise with the ancients, confident of her own logic and powers of persuasion. She got a rude welcome when the ancients turned the tables on her and flat-out refused to consider her compromises. In the end, she Once in the castile, she begged and pleaded for the life of her human and made the stupid mistake of promising to do anything –anything–to spare Angela Weber her death.

They found one. The condition was so ridiculously medieval that Bella sputtered laughter at first, insulting the ancients further. It had been offered to her on her second day in the castle, like they'd arbitrarily come together and found the most hilarious proposal to punish her.

"We haven't had a wedding in the castle for over a century," Marcus, one of the ancients said, crowing with a malicious glint in his eyes. "Think of it as step towards greater vampire unity, with the old embracing the new. It would be a great occasion to invite everyone to come to Voltera."

"Like a reunion," Caius agreed. "We shall do it like the old times."

"It's settled, then, Isabella Cullen of the Olympic coven," Aro announced, even though she hadn't agreed to anything. "You will wed Edward Masen, member of the Volturi court, in exchange for the life of your human. If you renege on your commitment, we will send Volturi guards to the Olympic Peninsula to terminate Angela Weber."

Bella had been in no position to argue.

The choir master strikes the first note of the bridal chorus, startling Bella to the present. He motions for her to start her slow march. The groom, who until then had been quietly standing at the altar, turns his attention to the entrance. Across the wide expanse, Bella hears him take a sharp, unnecessary breath and she sucks in a snicker. She knows she can hold the attention of any man, human or vampire and at that moment, she knows that she's simply breathtaking. The red gown she'd insisted on wearing encases her deceptively delicate frame. A simple tiara holds her hair on top of her head, with random tendrils framing her face. Rosalie had spent hours on it, pulling and arranging until she'd pronounced her sufficiently feminine and ethereal. It's a far cry from her usual jeans, shirt and sneakers combination, but she manages herself with grace and dignity. Even Carlisle had to concede that she looked splendid when she first stepped out of the chambers she'd been assigned to earlier. He hadn't been happy with the gown at first, worried that the color would offend the court.

"Oh, I don't think they'd be offended," Alice dismissed the notion with a flick of her fingers. "Besides, the red would go splendidly with the groom's eyes, don't you think?"

Bella reaches the stairs and only then does she raise her head. Her eyes widen a fraction in surprise as she finds herself beside a young man. She knew that Edward Masen was turned at the beginning of the century at the age of seventeen, the same age as she'd been turned. What she hadn't expected is that he'd also be good-looking. But then, what did she expect? Someone old, ugly and sullen? All vampire men are, in general, attractive. All vampires, male and female, are equipped with the arsenal of a predator–faces and bodies of gods and nymphs with undeniable charms and most of all, the distinct lack of morals.

She'd seen him before, shrouded in the shadows of the court when she came to Volterra to plead Angela's case. He never approached her and she never had the chance to talk to him, much less look him over as intently as he'd watched her then. She even thought he'd followed her when she went into the surrounding forests to hunt the night she arrived at the castle. She'd seen a man at a distance, standing solitary among the leafless trees, watching her. She'd dismissed him as some other guard of the court. She'd told herself she was being fanciful when she felt the man's stare at the back of her neck, awareness prickling through her entire body.

She feels the same prickling now, worse in close quarters. She returns his open stare, taking in the bronze hair, the chiseled jaw, the patrician nose. But it's his eyes that hold her attention. Dark blood red eyes, with flecks of black around the pupil. His brows, thick and menacing, are pulled into the center, giving him a sinister air, as if he found her threatening, or worse, hateful.

Bella looks into his eyes without flinching.

He doesn't look like a monster, Bella tries to convince herself, and as if he heard her, his expression relaxes. Not much, anyway.

Amusement flashes across the groom's face, as if he'd just read her wayward thought. But it passes quickly and she sees wariness and determination again. It mirrors her own and she hates to think that maybe, just maybe, he may have been just as coerced into the arrangement as she.

It changes nothing, she tells herself as she remembers why she is in a red gown, about to take a stranger as her husband. It's a marriage for expediency, one that's designed to punish her for her gal ang arrogance. The shuffling of clothes and feet resounds through the room as Marcus, the officiating minister, tells everyone to be seated. Bella slackens her arm as Carlisle releases her hand and pronounces his blessing as her father before placing her hand over Edward's.

She fixes a blank gaze at the elaborate painting behind Marcus as he begins the ceremony and tunes out his voice. Careful to keep her voice flat and dead lest some of her disdain at the mockery of her wedding breaks through, she repeats her vows without prodding. Edward seems to be doing a little better. His voice is low and careful, but confident. His expression, on the other hand, contains no warmth in it.

In no time the ceremony is over. Edward steps forward to take her into his arms and Bella flinches as he reaches out to touch her bare shoulders. She braces herself for callous hands and a rough grip, but his hands are careful, almost gentle. He leans down to kiss her, his red eyes boring into hers, and all she can think of is the fact that he's tall and that his lips look dry. His lips touch hers gently, prodding hers into opening, but she can't bring herself to kiss back. Those in attendance break into applause anyway.

"Open up," he whispers into her mouth, "this doesn't have to last long."

She glares up at him but parts her lips a little, darting her tongue out, touching his briefly. Without warning, Edward opens his mouth, parting her lips forcefully and deepening the kiss as his hands leave her shoulders to snake around her, pulling her against him. Her feet leave the ground and she's disoriented, stunned by his audacity. She pushes at him to break away, covering her rage with embarrassed laughter, and the congregation laughs with her and applauds again. Shaking in anger, she takes his arm when he steps back to steady herself. He gives her a crooked smile, which she returns with a disdainful glance, and turns her face towards him in a picture of a satisfied bride, masking the scowl on her face.

"Smile, princess," he says through his own and she stiffens. She knows that the Volturi guards had given her the nickname when she'd flaunted her arrogance in front of the court during her brief but dramatic stay in the castle a few months back. She keeps a stubborn silence as they start to walk in the aisle toward the great cathedral doors.

Ahead of them, the Volturi guards pull back the doors, revealing a crowded hallway that's bursting with the curious. Left without a choice, she extends her hand and says, "thank you," to their wellwishers.

There's no wedding feast at the castle–not overtly, anyway–and for that, Bella is grateful. She doesn't need to be reminded just what kind of vampire she married. Those in attendance who need to feed are directed to the dungeons instead, where their human prey awaits, sufficiently dazzled and oblivious.

Aro and most of the Volturi court stay with the Cullens above ground to discuss their "union." As the red-eyed and topaz-eyed vampires mingle, Bella is suddenly struck with a strange sadness at how her life is going to change drastically. She watches Carlisle and Esme in deep conversation with Aro and the ancients. Her siblings sit still and quietly at one end of the table. She feels excluded, made even stranger by virtue of her union to someone so different.

She tries not to fidget and hide her discomfort, but she knows that the vampire next to her was starting to notice. She keeps knows well that she will not be able to control what comes out of her mouth, and it is not to her interest to antagonize him so soon. There are other vampires in attendance, all seemingly satisfied with how things are progressing, but Edward seems subdued beside her. Lounging in his chair, he watches the the other Cullens lazily, almost indulgently.

We amuse him, Bella realizes. The arrogant prick.

I bet he thinks we're all weak and sentimental human lovers, she thinks silently, fuming, and he turns to look at her curiously, as if he can hear what she's thinking. He sits back when she fails to say anything, and the evening proceeds in a humdrum manner.

Aro makes a speech after an hour of conversation, toasting the "great match" of one of the court's most brilliant thinkers to a daughter of one of the genteel covens of the North. Dancing and singing soon commences. The bride and groom dance the obligatory dance and Bella wishes that she wasn't naturally graceful, so she could have the excuse to step on his toes and dig the heels of her ridiculous little shoes into his feet. They go back to their seats where they watch the evening proceed in a maddeningly slow pace, and she takes some small satisfaction that he seems as bored as she is.

It's midnight by the time the celebration is over and one of the Volturi guards escorts them up to the suite that's been prepared. It's a lady's room and for a moment, Bella thinks her new husband is going to leave her alone now that the charade is over.

But when the door closes behind her, she realizes that Edward followed her into the room. She hears a guard position himself beside the door and another joins him a few seconds later.

"Why am I being guarded?" she asks, a little more sharply than she intends.

"I've no idea." Edward turns to her with a bland expression. "Especially since you've made your enthusiasm for this little charade quite plain."

Bella narrows her eyes at him. "This was the Volturi's brilliant idea. Make it grand, make it known to all and sundry that the vampires may differ in diet, but in the end, they are tolerant of each other."

Edward's smile is remorseless. "My apologies." He turns away from her to begin undoing his suit, shedding layers of clothing without modesty and she turns her eyes away, embarassed that she's embarassed by the display.

A nightdress has been left out for her, draped across the bed. Bella picks it up, holds it against the light and throws it away. She gets a small bag under the bed instead, where she'd told Rosalie to stash some of her things, and goes behind the panel to change into jeans and a shirt. She puts on a dark jacket with a hood that conceals half her face.

Edward seems largely uninterested in her, now that nobody is watching. When she steps out from behind the screen, he's still hanging his jacket inside the closet, taking more care than necessary. Stripped of his clothes, he looks less imposing and sinister. More boyish, lankier and she hates to admit it— sexier than Rosalie had described him.

Damn Rosalie for putting ideas into her head.

"Really, Bella, when was the last time you got laid?" Rosalie asked her, when she'd voiced her concern on what would happen after the wedding. It's been decades, Bella conceded, and her bitch of a sister knew it.

Bella turns away when he begins to strip off the plain black pants and what he wears underneath.

"As much as I hate to end this charming charade," she says, making her way towards the chamber's open windows, "but I must take my leave. Thank you for putting up with it."

The room is at least eight floors from the ground, but it doesn't worry her as she throws a leg over the window and readies herself for the jump. Before she can hoist herself properly, an arm encircles her waist and she's suddenly dragged back into the room.

"What are you doing?" she hisses, trying to pull away.

"It's my wedding night," he says. "I'm spending it with my bride."

"You can't be serious," Bella protests. She pulls, twists, lands a punch, but he blocks her, pressing too close to let her get enough leverage to really fight him. He's strong; she realizes her mistake in not paying attention during Carlisle's warnings about those who drink human blood. "This marriage is a joke."

"This marriage is for convenience, princess, but that doesn't make it any less real." His body feels hot, lean and hard, pressed against hers. It's been decades since she was this close to anyone aside from the familial hugs of her coven.

"I won't hurt you." His hands are wrapped tight around her, and he picks her up and throws her into the bed in the middle of the room. He follows, holds her wrists above her head as he pins her into the bed with his weight. His lips are cool against her throat, his nose skimming her skin. "But I won't be spurned, either."

"This is not part of the bargain." His lips brush her collarbone and Bella shudders.

"There is no bargain," Edward says. "There's you and me, and we're both getting something out of it. You've kept me waiting for months, princess, and I'm not very patient."

"Months? What are you talking about?"

"You took your time coming back to Voltera, when Aro expressly told you to expedite your decision."

She opens her mouth to argue—to offer a biting retort—and he kisses her. There is no violence, no aggression in it, just the press of his lips to hers, drawing away the breath she would have used to protest.

He stops and starts to talk again as though he wasn't just kissing her. "Pretend, for a moment, that I had nearly as little choice in this as you. That Aro chose me because by marrying you, they are not only saddling you with a human murderer, as you Cullens charmingly call me in your minds, but they are getting rid of an interloper in the court, someone who knows their every thought, whether they like it or not?"

"You're being exiled?" Bella asks in disbelief. "And what do you mean you know their every thought?"

He gives her a smile that sends shivers down her spine.

"You want to know my secrets, princess? You want to know why I agreed to this marriage and what I'm getting out of it?" His voice is low and velvety, seducing her into wanting to know more.

"No," Bella says. "Let's not pretend this is going anywhere."

"I don't expect you to forget how we got here," he agrees, much to her surprise. "But if you want things to go smoothly for you, then it's in your best interest to cooperate with me as there is no other way that this marriage is going to be terminated without my consent."

"I could," Bella says, wondering why he should feel so invested in an arrangement he admitted that he, like her, just got bulldozed into. "Or I could just terminate you."

Slice you into little pieces and burn you to the ground, Bella adds silently in her mind. Cut off your balls and feed them to you.

Edward starts to chuckle softly before bursting into loud laughter. "Or that, yes. That will annul the marriage immediately. I wonder though, how you propose to do that when you're deep inside enemy territory. In any case, princess, I'd suggest you wait until the farewell ceremonies tomorrow, and I've left the continent with you. It would be easier to kill me outside the presence of the entire Volturi."

Bella turns her head, clamping down on the urgent need to kick him in the balls. "You've an answer for everything, haven't you?"

"I wish," he murmurs, and he sounds honest for a moment. Then he shifts, leaning in close again and presses kisses to the hollow of her throat. "At the very least, if you're going to kill me, you should at least try to lull me into a false sense of security."

"Spare me the lesson," she says as she twists, trying to escape his mouth. It could be worse, she reminds herself. At least, she doesn't find Edward physically repulsive. On the contrary, she finds it hard to repel him when his hands burn hot on her skin, his breath cool on her face.

Edward reaches up to cup her face with a gentleness that seems strange but when he kisses her again, it's more demanding, his tongue pressing between her lips.

I should bite his tongue off, Bella thinks, if he gets rough, I will.

But Edward takes away her reason when he moves against her with a deliberate, careful attention, and she is surprised at the drawn out, needy groan he makes into her mouth when she squirms against him. The sound strikes a deep chord within her and somewhere, her body answers.

She trembles a little when he slides a hand under her shirt and cups her breast, his thumb grazing her nipple. Her mind blanks for a moment, before reason rears again.

Dammit, I should have worn some underwear.

"What are you, ah, waiting for?" she demands, distracted by his hands and resenting it painfully.

He props himself up on one elbow and looks right into her. "Do you want me to stop?"

She fights her instincts as the delicious scent of a man in heat overpower her senses. She can practically taste him in the air, fell the textures of his skin on her tongue as he held himself rigid above her. It has been so long since she took pleasure from another body, so long since somebody enjoyed hers, as well.

"No," she finally says, and he smiles.

"Then if it's all the same to you, I suggest you shut up and let me take over. I've had enough of doing things that neither of us enjoys."

His actions are in contrast with the roughness of his words and that makes it difficult for her to anticipate his moves. She finds herself caught in a limbo, unable to choose between feeling gratitude for the unexpected gentleness or anger at the selfishness behind it. While she's still frozen, speechless at his audacity, he pushes her shirt up with careful fingers, exposing her, and presses his mouth to her nipple.


Her body reacts instinctively, pressing firmly into him. His mouth applies wet heat and suction to her breast, his tongue flickering to tease her nipple.


He catches her other nipple between his fingers and pinches. Her back arches as his expert tongue laps at the underside of her breast.


It's been too long since she felt somebody's mouth on her, and her body is grateful for the attention even when her mind is not.

Damn, damn, damn, damn.

She sees him smile for a second before reaching down to unbutton her jeans and jerk them from her legs. Then he moves, pressing a knee between her thighs and shifting his weight so he's on top of her, rubbing his hard cock on her legs.

No, she almost says, but he's too selfish for that and her body is already wound in anticipation. He won't stop, and she doesn't want him to and besides, she's not about to give him the satisfaction, no matter how much she wishes for him to touch her.

He moves again without breaking momentum, sliding down the bed, pressing her thighs apart with his hands and kneeling between them, dipping his head—and he growls when he first tastes her. She shivers at the sound, concentrating on how his mouth feels on her. He's good at this, Bella concedes, the bastard. His tongue is agile as he starts licking her, his strokes focused. Bella curls her fingers tight in the sheets and holds on, trying to stay quiet. She has no desire to entertain the guard posted outside. She can only imagine the looks and sniggers she's going to get the next day.

He doesn't make it easier as he groans in response to every muffled noise she makes. His hands caress and stroke the insides of her thighs, heightening her pleasure. Bella trembles, her mind in disarray, her thoughts scattering, as Edward hitches her leg over his shoulder.

"God," she whispers, before she can stop herself, "oh god…" and when she looks down she can see his shoulder flexing, and she knows what that means, what he's doing—and God, his mouth so good, focused just where she wants it and when he thrusts one long finger into her—probing, pushing—a tingle starts from her toes, spread through her legs and he presses his tongue and nips just a little, right there—just like that—and, oh, God… Despite herself she makes a noise as she comes—a long, needy moan forced through clenched teeth as she trembles from the intensity of the sensation.

She's still gasping for breath, her limbs weak when Edwards lifts his head, pushes her other leg up and in one long, hard stroke, rams into her.

She gasps at the abruptness, her back arching. Except for that brief and disastrous affair with Garrett, it has been too long since she had someone inside her, and she had grown unaccustomed. There's no warning and even though she's ready, she feels pain as his cock slices into her.

"Yes," Edward breathes out, his voice ragged in her ear, "ah, dear God, yes." He slides his hands under her back, holding her close as he thrusts slowly, deeply. "Ah, yes."

He settles on an insane rhythm, hard but not too fast, sliding in and out, until the pain lessens. He stops rocking to pull her shirt off, leaving her completely naked. Her breast swells as he takes into his mouth one oversensitive nipple, nipping, pulling until she's whimpering. He presses open-mouth kisses to her throat and shoulders. Plunging his tongue into her mouth, biting her lips. "Ah, good, so good."

Bella almost tells him to slow down, but she can't deny the build-up of tension between her legs, coiling in her stomach, squeezing her muscles.

It feels better than it should, the hard muscular heat of his body, the pressure and fullness of having him inside her. She wraps her legs around his waist and puts her hands around his shoulders, her nails digging into his back. Her need turns into compulsion and her eyes, her moans command him.

I need...I want...do something. More..deeper..aaah, that's good.

"Dear God," he says hoarsely, as she rakes her nails down his skin. He changes position, his mouth on her shoulder, grazing his teeth over her skin as he fucks her harder, deeper. She clings to him as each stroke shakes inside, intensifying the dark sensation in her stomach until she's drowning in it. She screams when it finally explodes inside her.

She fights him, fights the brutal pleasure laced with pain as he pulses, engorged inside her. Each spasm, each jerk sends her into a series of explosions, but she can't move, can't force him away. His hips jerk, pushing his cock farther inside her, and she watches as his eyes widen before he shouts her name, reeling at the pleasure her body is giving him.

Vaguely, she remembers his. "Edward."

"Yes," he gasps. "Take it. Take all of me, Bella."

She remembers how she longed to be fucked and to fuck like this. Primal, brutal, selfish.

"God, yes," he groans on her shoulder as he empties himself inside her, and only then does she feel the needs of her body ease.

She pushes at him when she comes to her senses, long minutes later.

"Let me up," she says when he makes no move to extricate himself from her, his body sprawled on top of hers.

Edward raises his head, and looks down at her in concern. "Did I hurt you?"

"Let me up, dammit," she repeats, angry that he's not gloating. "I'm not a porcelain doll."

The noise he makes sounds a bit like irritation at her refusal to tell him anything, but he moves, sliding from inside her. Bella gets up, picks her clothes from where he had flung them and walks on unsteady legs to the washroom. She feels shaky, weak from using muscles she hasn't exercised in decades.

She cleans up as best she can. The water from the tap is cool, and soothes her bruised mood. He'd gripped her hard, but she knows the marks will be gone in a few minutes. She wishes she didn't feel so weak, especially with her mind in turmoil. She's honest enough to admit that she's just been thoroughly and magnificently fucked.

Nothing is going to come of it, she decides. Sex for their kind is just that–mindless copulation. There's no need to feel guilty that she'd enjoyed it.

She puts on her clothes, thanking God that they're not torn and opens the small window in the bathroom. Pulling herself up, Bella carefully slides herself through the narrow opening, making as little noise as possible. She doesn't wince as she drops to the ground beneath it, her knees holding her steady.

He's going to be the death of me. Bella admits, grimacing as a tingling sensation shoots between her legs. She can still feel him, feel herself wrap around him.

If I manage not to kill him first.

- xxx-

that's it, darlings. thanks for reading.