He took only her with him.
Darkness licked around them, as consuming as the flames igniting the darkness. Sulpica felt her husband tense at the edge of the clearing, rage flowing through him in perceptible waves.
"Aro," she whispered. Her hand touched his arm.
Screams filled the air; childish screams… a girl's screams. Jane. She knew her name. Aro had spoken of it more than once. Eerie calm, almost a level of fear, centered on those gathered. The smell of burning flesh lingered in the haze.
"Save the boy," he said.
He moved into the clearing with purpose in his stride, his features hidden inside his hood. Others turned to look at him, words began and halted as they caught sight of a ruby flicker in his gaze. Feet stumbled back, faces turned—and necks snapped. Blood spattered the ground. Sulpica licked it off her fingers and went for the boy's captors. They threw him to the ground and ran.
But not fast enough.
Jane still screamed. Her hair blazed.
Snow fluttered in the air. The fire engulfed them and dissipated. Aro knelt, holding her in his arms. Gasping, she watched through a blinding haze as he lifted her charred wrist and sank his teeth into it. Agonizing pain tore through them both. Jane shrieked and her body convulsed. Aro felt as though he too were on fire.
He felt his wife's hands on his shoulders… and it stopped.
Jane fell motionless.
Then, she changed. Hair grew back. Burned skin turned milky-white. Redness entered her lips. Her eyes opened, scarlet, like his. She looked at him. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I did not mean to…"
"Not at all," said a voice that filled her with contentment, velvety and quiet. He looked at her with renewed fascination. "Come, Jane. I will take you home."
A centuries-old hand reached out to her. Jane's youthful fingers slid into it. He stood her up, devouring her with his gaze, excitement in each tremor.
She caught a scent on the air. Blood. She trembled with want. Her brother staggered up from the ground. He caught it too and his eyes turned black with desire.
Instinctively, Jane looked at Aro for permission. He consented. Whiteness scattered in her wake, little tuffs of it cast into the air.
Sulpica said, "We should stop them."
Aro folded his hands before his face and closed his eyes. He relived the memories Jane had shown him. "Not yet," he said quietly.
Violent screams filled the darkness, cut off suddenly.
And he smiled.