Chapter Thirty Five.
We had a rather elegant reply from Aro, Caius and Alec accepting our kind invitation. We knew immediately that Marcus had fallen to be replaced by Alec. An interesting choice and one not without its problems. Jasper had said they would need to watch Jane who was power-hungry and would be grieved her brother was advanced before her. We collected together so Aro would see how strong we were and what a threat we could be if he decided to threat us. The meeting was set for midnight on Friday in the meadow beyond the Cullen house and the wolves and Guardians positioned themselves around the perimeter.
This would be the final confrontation with the Volturi and we needed to show them our strength, so we stood together in ranks behind Bella who was to be our spokesperson, they had wanted me but I felt that might be too provocative. I was happy to let her take over, she was a far better mediator than I was. Peter had bitched about the decision but after Bella flattened him a couple of times he decided discretion was less painful. We were ready to talk, or fight, or both, depending how the Volturi decided to react.
We gathered well before midnight, taking our stations as planned, the wolves and Guardians around the perimeter, Jasper, Esme and Peter in the first row, Emmett, Jake, Rose and Charlotte in the second row and myself as spearhead. The mist came down about an hour before we were due to meet but it didn't bother any of us, we could all see perfectly. I heard a growl from the wolves and turned to face the oncoming enemy. Aro, Felix, Jane and Alec were the first into sight followed by Caius, Edward, Demetri and assorted of the guard. They stopped about a hundred yards away then Aro, Alec and Caius stepped forward to meet me. "My dear Isabella, you are quite stunning. Congratulations on your wedding too. I'm only sorry I did not know in time to send a present." I acknowledged them and thanked him, "Aro, none of these assembled here want to fight. We have no quarrel with the Volturi and only wish to live in peace in our small groups." I could see he appreciated the meaning behind that sentence, we were not going to stay as a large coven. He smiled, "Thank you for clarifying that point Isabella. We have not come here to argue either. In fact we have an apology for you. Your father was brought to Volterra against his will and although I was responsible for his conversion I know it was already planned."
He gestured and Charlie came into view, magnificent as a vampire. He strode across the clearing nodding to me but with eyes only for Esme who ran to him with a cry of welcome. "Thank you Aro". I said with a smile, "There are a couple of minor issues I wanted to raise with you." "Of course my dear, please go on." I was getting sick of the forced pleasantries but I bit my tongue and continued, "We would like your promise that we will be left in peace as long as we do not threaten your power." He nodded, "Of course, we only want peace in our world." "The other matter is a little more delicate." I explained. He looked at me and smiled, a cruel knowing smile, "I think what you are going to ask has already been decided upon. When we leave we will not be taking Edward with us." I nodded, "Agreed." Aro took my hand trying to reading my thoughts and I had nothing to hide from him this time so I lifted my shield momentarily. He looked surprised and thanked me politely. "Well Isabella, I look forward to meeting you again in the future but for now I must say goodbye." They retraced their steps and all except Jane, Felix and Edward followed them. Edward tried to follow but was held in place by Felix who smiled broadly. "Not so fast Cullen. You have an appointment here with destiny." Jane scowled but did no more, she seemed unhappy but undecided.
I knew the balance of power in the vampire world had changed, the Volturi were still powerful and in control but with the backing of this new super power and I wasn't sure where I belonged any more. I knew Aro still counted me as one of his most valuable assets but after Alec's promotion over me I felt I was less important and I didn't like that one bit. I could carry on as I had in the Volturi guard or I could try for a new position in a third power block if I could get Edward out of his present difficulty. He was a fool but he would make a very good puppet with the strings being pulled by me. After all, with our combined gifts we would be a match for the Volturi if not the new super power headed by Jasper and Bella. I even considered inviting Felix to join us but there was something about him that I didn't trust. I never found him doing anything I could use against him although I had watched carefully but he always seemed to know, to be in the right place at the right time and I wondered if he had a latent gift that had never been exposed. If so, it would make him valuable to us. My biggest problem would be getting Edward out of here alive, he had so many enemies each hungry for a piece of his hide and I could only do so much. I could protect him from the Volturi but not from his greatest enemy, the Cullen's and Whitlock's, her shield would prevent my gift from working unless I could provide a distraction.,my mind worked furiously while the others talked.
I could hear all their thoughts and I knew I was a dead man, then I heard a lone voice talking in my defence, Jane! Jane wanted to help me and I didn't care why. It was my only chance, she needed a diversion and I tried to think of one. I scanned the ranks opposite us, was there a weak link? Charlie, a new-born and the Volturi blood drinkers. I looked over at the others, the wolves, no, the bears, no, but there was one human shape there, Jake was in human form at Emmett's side, would his blood be distraction enough for our needs? It was worth a shot, quite literally, and I crouched down casually, picking up a sharp-edged flint in my hand. I was a good shot so I knew I could throw hard enough to hit him, but would it be hard enough to cut him? There was only one way to find out, I flicked with my wrist and the flint flew straight and true.
I saw Edward's face change as he came up with a plan and he smiled at me. I tensed ready to move fast when he made his move. I saw the flint fly and realized what he was trying to do so I stopped breathing and tensed ready to move fast. He almost pulled it off too, but Charlie had been watching him and he jumped, catching the flint in mid-air. There was a terrible roar and a blur of movement followed by a loud screeching sound as Edward's head detached from his body and flew through the air. When the dust cleared Esme stood over her sons dead body a look of determination on her face. I heard her shout, "No one takes two men from me. Not even my son" before throwing her lighter on the body in front of her. I realized my decision had been made for me and I moved to Aro's side.
It was finally over at last. Aro and his guard were leaving, happy with the outcome although we'd never drop our guard and our spy would keep us in the loop. Edward had taken his last throw of the dice and come up snake eyes. I turned to Bella and lifted her into the air with a shout of triumph. It was time to start our life together without having to look over our shoulders. The Cullens and Whitlocks were safe...for now.
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