Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight

Chapter 1


My mind was abuzz as I shoved suitcase after suitcase haphazardly into the trunk of Carlisle's Mercedes, fighting to keep my annoyance from bubbling to the surface.

Three weeks ago, Alice had gotten a vision of our family receiving an invitation to a ball. And not just any ball. The Volturi - the closest thing vampires had to royalty - had invited anyone and everyone to this particular celebration of sorts. For what, I had no idea.

And as much as I'd wanted to, I, unfortunately, couldn't weasel myself out of going because:

a. Being on the Volturi's bad side was basically a death sentence.


b. Alice had a good feeling about us going to this ball. Something I'd learned to never question over the years.

Our family and the Denalis would be the only 'vegetarians' - or animal drinkers - at the ball, which made us all just a little uncomfortable, but it was still a way for us to socialize with our kind. Having spent the past four years around no one else but my family and the humans of Forks, Washington, it would be a pleasant change to greet some new faces.

Plus, there had to have been a few human-drinking vampires out there that didn't know another way of life, but would be open to the idea.

That, admittedly, was Carlisle's main reason for deciding to go - so that he could save a few vampires from living like monsters. Of course, he was also eager to catch up with his old friends, though it had been years since they'd even made contact with one another. Marcus, Caius, and Aro, the leaders of the Volturi - the Kings of the vampire world.

Carlisle had gone to them in the early days of being turned, living in their home – or palace, rather - for years on end, until he'd grown tired of the constant screaming from humans being drained, week after week. It was still difficult for us to grasp how he'd survived there for such a lengthy period of time in the first place. The way he'd described his stay had sent an unpleasant chill down my spine. I'd been haunted by those images ever since.

It was part of the reason I so dreaded our trip. We collectively hoped that the Volturi would at least be polite enough not to satiate their hunger in the castle while we were guests. Our stay was short, after all - only a week or two - so to have actual real-life cries attack my thoughts instead of the imaginary ones from Carlisle reiteration... well, that was something I wished to avoid altogether.

Going through a dark phase in my own life, I understood that human blood could be hard to resist, and that some vampires simply didn't have enough willpower to change their diet. But for me, that time in my life had long gone. The dull ache in my throat had subsided over the years, and I no longer had an overwhelming urge to drink human blood. I had, after all, once been human, so I didn't particularly enjoy 'the kill', no matter how vile the human.

As I slid into the backseat, I let out a long, drawn-out sigh, already anticipating what the ball would be like.

These events never failed to exhaust me, from the forced conversations to the persistent flirting I was never able to avoid - that particular prospect was the main reason I avoided social gatherings whenever I could. Being a mind reader didn't exactly help the situation either.

But I was outnumbered – I could either whine all day, or live with the fact that I couldn't possibly get out of going on this trip. At this point in time, I decided to be mature about it.

My hand delicately grasped the handle of my suitcase as I followed behind Emmett, whose own hand remained on the small of Rosalie's back as we exited the airport.

Primarily, I'd felt an insurmountable amount of relief being greeted by a taxi van, ready to take me far away from the memory of our plane ride. It was difficult trying not to reimagine the thoughts racing through one of the stewardess's minds. Thoughts centered on me, and then my brothers when she'd caught sight of them. It was at times like these that I wished I could've had a better distraction than classical music. Hell, it made me envious that Jasper and Emmett had women of their own as distractions and initimidation.

After successfully packing our suitcases into the seven-seater, we all clamored in, forcing a couple of stumbles to make us appear more 'human', and preparing for the relatively long drive that awaited us. I was happy to zone out and listen to a new album I'd just downloaded, needing my space from classical music for the moment after that flight.

By the time we reached the castle, I wanted nothing more than to get settled in, left to my own devices in solitude.

Naturally, that was asking for too much.

I had to once again remind myself to keep my expectations of this trip as low as possible, as we were greeted by an overly talkative human porter at the entrance. Immediately, he relieved us of our baggage, though they weren't the least bit heavy – more of a hindrance than anything. I almost felt bad for the guy while he struggled to lift Rosalie's many overloaded suitcases onto the cart. Almost – until I got a glimpse of his thoughts, once again needing to distract myself after hearing his vulgarity. Man, I could not catch a break today.

I expected the familiar burning sensation in my throat to continue as I was led forth through the entrance. The Volturi usually employed humans to do all the mundane chores: transport the luggage to the various guest bedrooms, answer the phones, greet the guests, etc.

However, as I trudged forward, I felt no burn.

Instead, my senses were overwhelmed by the most incredible scent: a mixture of strawberries and freesias. It was so… irresistable, there was a primal side of me that wanted nothing more than to close my eyes and breathe that scent for eternity.

After a moment with my thoughts, my eyebrows began to wrinkle in confusion. I'd assumed this scent belonged to a vampire – it was delicious in the sort of way that one would say a particular perfume is.

But, I could hear a steady heartbeat coming from down the hall, so then, I knew that the scent belonged to a human. But… why wasn't I affected by it?

My eyes wandered over to Jasper. He was the newest to convert to our 'vegetarian' lifestyle, and he still struggled to refrain from succumbing to his vampiric senses.

But one glance at him told me that he was as calm as ever.

Though his demeanor didn't seem affected, his thoughts were running in the same direction as mine:

"Why isn't this blood calling to me?"

I shook my head, just as baffled by this conundrum as he was, but deciding to continue following my family regardless.

My questions would be answered soon enough.

My feet continued to lead me along, following the group, finally making it to the receptionist's desk, where, yet again, my senses were overwhelmed. This time it wasn't my sense of smell, but my hearing, consumed by a bell-like, melodic voice. The strawberry-freesia scent intensified, confirming that this was in fact the girl that the scent belonged to. Unfortunately, a large, blond figure stood in the way of me finally getting a glimpse of her. Again this animalistic side was grappling with the urge to shove the man aside, just to see who on Earth was generating such an abnormal reaction within me.

"How old are you, anyway?" the blond asked, appearing to be toying with one of the paperweights on the desks, not seeming to note our presence at all. Or if he had, he was doing a brilliant job of ignoring it.

"Sixteen," the only way for me to accurately describe her voice was… well, angelic, but her tone was blunt, clearly uninterested. My forehead creased.

They were hiring teenagers to work now?

At once, I felt the little respect of the Volturi I had left completely leave me. And then all I could think, or wonder rather, was what would become of this girl when they grew tired of her. Would they change her? Or drain her? I frowned at both options. Despite not knowing anything about her, the thought of any human having their life taken away from them… it didn't sit well with me.

I tried listening out for her thoughts, curious to know more about her, but I was only accosted by the ones of my family.

Again, I tried zoning out of my family's thoughts, but the only other thoughts I came across were of the perverted blond in front of me. Straightway, I tuned those out, keeping down my shudder.

Still, I was greeted with radio silence, as if this girl was on a different frequency than everyone else. Or maybe it was just me?

The blond whistled, "Okay, we can get past the legalities. When can I take you out?" My hands balled up into fists. Everyone was fully aware of what he really meant when he posed that question, especially with the statement he'd started off with.

"There are other people waiting for help," getting no reaction from the blond, she continued.

"I will get someone to forcibly remove you if you don't leave," the girl's frustration was now ringing clear in her voice. I was amazed at how she was managing to keep her cool despite these ridiculous advances. Rosalie would've dealt with a similar situation entirely differently. In fact, I could tell she was getting ready to, by her clenched jaw and balled fists.

It was lucky that the blond wasn't too persistent. "Fine, whatever."

Upon making eye contact with his red irises, my own eyes narrowed, before actually realizing how brave this girl had been for standing up to a guy who could've easily killed her with one move.

My family wore similar expressions of disgust on their faces as the vampire left our line of sight, but finally, with his body gone, we were allowed the chance to zone in on the girl all of this ungodly attention had been directed to.

Against my own control, my jaw went slack, and I felt weirdly frozen, just staring at her. It was like no matter how hard I tried, I physically could not tear my eyes away.

Now, I wanted more than anything to find out what she was thinking, to understand what that adorable frown on her face meant. I couldn't for the life of me understand why I was being blocked from her thoughts - it was frustrating being blocked from anyone's mind, but especially someone whose mind I wanted to read more so than anyone else's.

Her mahogany hair fell down in soft waves, framing her heart-shaped face, which was filled with hints of angular yet dainty features. Upon seeing us, her face relaxed, and she took a deep breath, gazing at each of us with her deep brown eyes – beautiful eyes that suited her well.

"I'm terribly sorry about all of that. It really took some time for him to get a hint," she laughed, and I had this weird desire to make her laugh again.

As soon as that thought entered my mind, I snapped out of my reverie, thanking God that none of my family members were mind readers themselves. My thoughts about this girl could've made them question my sanity.

What am I thinking?

I shook my head, attempting to clear it.

In the meantime, Rosalie spoke up, "Why are you apologizing? I was tempted to rip that guy to shreds on behalf of you."

The girl blushed. My eyebrows rose, and again I felt like my eyes were being glued to her face. Her blush only seemed to increase the inviting aura that surrounded her; she looked so pure and innocent.

"Thank you," she smiled politely to Rosalie, who easily smiled back.

And then my eyes were darting to Rosalie - along with the rest of my family - shocked that she was extending kindness to this girl, this human girl. Rosalie despised humans, and she didn't hesitate to show it. It was more of an intense envy than hate, actually. After all, she had been robbed of her own chance at humanity when she was turned, and she still hadn't fully gotten over that fact.

Naturally, considering her past, her defensiveness for this girl had made sense.

"I guess you all must be the Cullens?" it came out as a question, but we all nodded, not concealing our astonishment at her spot-on comprehension. How does she know? Random people must walk in and out of this place every day.

She glanced at me, and for once in my entire life, I felt self-conscious – like I actually cared what her opinion of me was. After noting my expression, she explained with a small smile, "Your eyes gave you away. And I know that the Denalis aren't coming until next week."

Her statement confused me even further. "How do you know so much about... vampires? I didn't know they clued in the receptionist like this," I spoke my thoughts aloud, realizing a moment later how rude they had actually come out.

Thankfully, she wasn't offended at all, but rather, now it was her turn to appear surprised. Realization dawned on her face and her mouth formed a small 'o' - it was actually quite cute - before she clarified, "Oh, I'm not the receptionist. I'm just filling in for her while she's gone to run an errand. I'm Bella."

Bella - 'beautiful' in Italian. It suited her perfectly.

"It's lovely to meet you, Bella," Esme smiled warmly towards her, as Bella returned the smile easily, "Likewise."

"So um, Bella… who… exactly… are you? I feel like I'm missing something important here," Jasper spoke up, his eyebrows lifted.

Just like that, her eyebrows were furrowing together, and it seemed that her next words were her thoughts spoken aloud, "When Felix said you guys were out of touch with the vampire world, he meant really out of touch."

Our expressions remained blank, and Bella deliberated for a moment, before sighing, "Well, you guys are probably wondering why a random human is lurking about in the Volturi right now, for no apparent reason."

We all nodded simultaneously.

"Right," she sighed, "well, I'm not exactly… human," she spoke cautiously, awaiting our reactions. I arched my eyebrow at that. What did she mean? Of course she was. I could hear her steady heartbeat from across the desk.

Observing our disbelieving expressions, she plowed on, "No, I mean, I am. It's just… Not completely. I'm half human, half vampire." Bella finished.

We all stood there, even more confused than when she'd initially started talking. Was she joking?

She didn't seem to be. If anything, she looked more solemn than ever.

Carlisle spoke for the first time, "How is that possible? And why would Aro, Caius and Marcus allow you to stay here, when the most important rule in the vampire world was broken in order for you to be created?" His face was contorted in an expression of complete bewilderment, and he too, seemed to be thinking out loud.

"You should know the answer to the first part… same way all children are created," she bit the inside of her cheek, "And as for your second question, probably - and this is just a guess. Probably because one of them is my father," I could tell Bella was trying to explain this prospect without shocking us too much. She spoke slowly, gauging our reactions every few words. Even still, we were all fixed in similar states of shock.


It took a few minutes until I could actually process her words, and it was only then that I realized it was the only theory that actually made sense.

Her scent didn't make me crave her blood, and she didn't cower away from us.

In fact, her personality was similar, if only slightly, to one of the kings of the vampire world. Her humour and wit…

"You're Aro's daughter, aren't you?" I asked, making her head snap up to stare into my eyes, a burning intensity floating through them. I stared right back, even though it felt like my dead heart was palpitating.

"Yes, Edward, I am," she said softly. My name rolled off her tongue wonderfully. I wanted her to say it again, and again, until…

My eyes squinted. "How do you know my name?" See, this is where the whole mind-reading thing would come in handy. So I wouldn't have to ask so many questions. I felt like a pest.

Her striking blush returned, causing me to refrain from smiling, before she explained to all of us, "I did background checks on everyone before we sent out the invites. So, I know almost everything about everyone. Your powers, et cetera. I didn't want total psychopaths attending." She shrugged, making us all laugh, temporarily forgetting the huge bomb she'd just dropped on us.

"Just partial psychopaths?" I clarified.

Bella laughed, this time making me full-on smile, "Yeah, basically."

Her eyes twinkled, making me take my time before actually processing what I'd just said. And with that, I mentally cringed. Was I... flirting? It was like I had no control over my mouth around this girl. Words came flying out before I could really think about them.

She bit her lip, shifting her eyes to each of us, "So, you all probably have more questions."

We all nodded, almost simultaneously.

"Well, lucky for you, Gianna just came back." As if on cue, an older woman who was most definitely fully human walked in, looking extremely frazzled.

"Bella, thank you so much for doing this. I totally spaced on picking up Bruce from his lessons - God, I'm a terrible mother," the receptionist lifted a hand to her forehead, unaware of our presence.

Bella, completely at ease, stood up with a kind smile on her face, "No, don't say that. I understand. My parents almost always forgot to pick me and Jace up from our extra-curriculars." She rolled her eyes, apparently recalling some distant memory.

Jace? Who's Jace?

"Good luck with the rest of your work," Bella said goodbye to Gianna as she began to waltz towards my family.

The receptionist had seemed to relax, until she noted our presence. Instantly, she was quickly peering down into the work on her desk, looking busy, and trying to look oblivious to us. I didn't blame her. If I was human, I would be terrified to make eye contact with anyone around here.

"I'll show you to your rooms," Bella started, before continuing, "oh, and if you want, you can start the questions now." She led us to a pair of large, oak doors, and opened them.

The last time I'd visited this place had been about thirty years ago, yet not a thing had changed. Everything still stood in all its Roman glory.

Large white pillars were raised in each corner of the room. There were several doors leading to different quarters, and a winding staircase was placed on the right side of the foyer, leading to a floor above.

Emmett started off first, "So your mom and dad, was it a one-night stand?" My family and I snapped our heads in his direction, with similar expressions of shock.

He held his hands up in defense, "What? You can't tell me you weren't thinking the same thing." Admittedly, my train of thought had wandered across that possibility but I'd thought it much too inappropriate to ask her. Unfortunately, Emmett didn't exactly have a filter.

Bella giggled, thankfully unfazed by the line of questioning, "Um, no, it wasn't. My dad was about to… feed on her, one day, but he didn't end up doing anything.

"She was different. My mom, Renée, wasn't scared at all of what was happening. My dad found that extremely strange, yet intriguing. She didn't seem to fear vampires, so my father decided to keep her around: first, as a receptionist. But eventually, they developed feelings for one another… and they got married. No one knew, except for Uncle Marcus and Caius.

"They didn't exactly approve of his decision, knowing that it was breaking one of their rules, but they didn't want to prevent him from being happy," her lips upturned into a small smile then.

"My dad didn't know that it was possible for vampires and humans to have children. So after their honeymoon, he was shocked when she got pregnant-" and then she cut herself off, staring just behind us at something.

Or rather, someone.

I turned around to see a guy, about Bella's age with jet-black hair and pale blue eyes. "I thought you weren't going to be back for another two weeks," whoever he was, Bella seemed shocked to see him.

"I was expecting a little more enthusiasm, Bells," the boy feigned disappointment, as she laughed, walking over to him, "Shut up." He engulfed her in an embrace, and the two looked happy to see each other again, even though I was currently feeling the complete opposite of that.

What was this nauseating feeling in the pit of my stomach?

"God, I'm being so rude. I was just explaining… well, everything… to the Cullens. You can help me fill them in. Unless you'd prefer to rest?"

The boy shook his head, slinging his arm around her shoulders. Again, I felt that sickly feeling making an appearance. I couldn't even hide it from Jasper, seeing him throw me a curious glance after a while.

"Nah I wanna make up for all the lost time while I was away. Football is fun and all, but I feel like my summer's been wasted enough."

My guess following that statement was that he'd been on an exchange program of sorts playing sports?

"So wait, you guys are the Cullens? We've heard loads about you. Great to finally meet you," he removed his arm from Bella's shoulder, stretching it out for Carlisle to shake.

"I'm Jace, Bella's brother," he smiled, showing off a row of perfectly straight teeth, and suddenly making everything click in my head. How could I have not made the connection that he was Aro's son? The hair alone should've triggered it.

Embarrassingly, that wasn't the only thing that happened after hearing that Bella and Jace were related. My whole body relaxed, I had no idea why it had been tense in the first place. I shouldn't have cared if Jace was instead Bella's boyfriend, or something. I didn't even know her.

I shouldn't care, I convinced myself. "How many of you are there?" Rosalie asked, eyes wide.

Jace began to laugh, "Just two, just Bella and I. We're fraternal twins. There aren't going to be any more of 'us'." There was a hint of finality in his tone of voice.

I crinkled my eyebrows in confusion, "What do you mean?"

Thankfully, I could read his mind:

"Finally some vegetarian vampires. Dad was right about them; they seem friendly enough"

He didn't answer my question in his mind, but at least I knew that Jace wasn't shielded like Bella. Could that be her gift? A shield?

Bella explained, "Well my dad realized the consequences of fraternizing with a human. He reinforced the 'no relationships with humans' law. He doesn't want any more abominations to be created." At the end, her voice dropped, and Jace bit the inside of his cheek as if recalling something from the past.

"Your father believes that of you?" Esme asked gently, letting some of her shock seep through. Both Jace and Bella visibly softened under her tone, and I smiled knowingly. Esme just had that motherly effect to her, that made it impossible for anyone to be mad while with her.

"Well yeah, we weren't supposed to happen. Our mom had to be changed after our births, because we were basically breaking her body from the inside, due to our strength. Despite all of that, we're not vicious, man-slaughtering monsters, but my dad's convinced that if this ever happens again, the 'product' may not be as controlled," Jace rolled his eyes at the end, while I nodded in understanding.

I mean I kind of understood where Aro was coming from. He didn't know what would happen to the next half-human, half-vampire creation. For all he knew, it could end up being volatile. I highly doubted that, after meeting Bella and Jace, but I guess Aro was only trying to be smart.

"Don't get me wrong. Our dad loves us, and he cares about us," Bella shook her head with a smile on her face, "He just doesn't want something like this to ever happen again."

I guess things had changed after all. Who knew Aro would ever have kids? Who he loved and cherished?

The twin siblings showed us to our rooms where we got settled in, and I got the distinct feeling that this trip wasn't going to be nearly as terrible as I'd initially imagined. Quite the opposite, actually.

So how was that? It didn't come out how I wanted it to. Hopefully, it'll get better. Please just give it some time

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