Author's note from DragonGirl323:Hello everyone! Welcome to our collab! Just a few quick notes before you get started reading. First of all, parts of this storyline were created during an RP event on The Original Twilight Roleplay! – where the events of Breaking Dawn were skipped over. I (Jenna) provided all the dialogue for Stefan and Mortal provided all the dialogue for Bella, and will be alternating chapters. We're having a lot of fun writing this fic together and we hope that all of you enjoy reading it! Any and all reviews are greatly appreciated!

Disclaimer = We do not own or claim to own any aspect of The Twilight Saga, including the characters or plot line. All rights belong solely to Stephenie Meyer.

Preface – Heart of Stone

"From childhood's hour I have not been. As others were, I have not seen. As others saw, I could not awaken. My heart to joy at the same tone. And all I loved, I loved alone." – Edgar Allan Poe

The battle had been won.

And now, it would not be long until I won the war as well.

A victorious smirk slithered onto my face as I replayed the memory of the black cloaked figures dispersing into the mist covered valley over and over in my mind with crystal clear clarity, resembling a pack of dogs with their tails tucked disgracefully between their legs, and evaporating into the frigid air like specters carried off by the wind. A deep, satisfied chuckle erupted from my throat, disturbing the silence around myself and the two other vampires standing just to my right, and breathed in deeply, filling my lungs with the sweet smelling smoke that was still swirling off of the smoldering bodies at my feet. Glancing down, I nudged the decapitated body nearest to me with the toe of my shoe, sending a cloud of ash into the air.

Those two charred, indistinguishable masses had been Sulpicia and Athenodora, the wives of Aro and Caius, just twenty minutes ago. I chuckled again as I remembered the expressions on the faces of those pompous, glorified saints, relishing in the agony and torment evident in their eyes as they watched their wives burn, and took a vast amount of enjoyment in the knowledge that my pain was now theirs. The sound of their glorious, tortured cries had caused Vladimir and I to snicker with glee. After all, they had stolen our mates from us those long centuries ago, and we had finally taken our pound of flesh.

My Anya… At last, I have avenged you.

I turned toward Vladimir, his gaze immediately finding mine, and placed a hand on his shoulder. He cupped my shoulder in return and matching smiles of satisfaction broke across our faces. He was thinking of Ivana, that I was absolutely certain of. This was the turning point, the beginning of the end of the Volturi. Being hunted relentlessly after surviving the massacre of our coven and decimation of our armies had reached a culmination after fifteen hundred years. We had survived for this exact reason, and sharing such a pivotal moment in time with my brother in arms was sweet, so much sweeter than either of us could have anticipated.

Of course, this was only the inception of our master plan; it was mere child's play compared to the destruction we had yet to wreak upon them. Our legacy would echo through time long after the Volturi's had faded to a dim memory.

"And so it begins," Vladimir said smoothly, clapping my shoulder firmly with a light chuckle then heading back to the castle, but not before sweeping Athenodora's ashen body out of his way.

I watched his departure for the briefest of moments before finally turning my attention to the woman that had made this victory possible, Bella. Without her valuable assistance, none of this would have been possible. My smile widened as I studied her. She was a vision, even though she looked utterly defeated. She was standing not three feet away from me, her shoulders deflated, hugging herself as though the chill in the air was actually bothering her, and attempting to hide the grief that was chiseled into every facet of her expression. Her unfocused, crimson gaze was fixed on a point in the distance – the direction the Cullens had left in. My compelling influence, a secret I had safeguarded for thousands of years, ensured that she hadn't rejoined their sides as soon as she caught sight of her mate, something that had left each one of them stunned into silence. Deducing that they were hoping she would return with them was blatantly obvious and they were flabbergasted by her refusal. The only one whose expression reflected a deep, knowing sadness was the seeress, which only succeeded in amusing me. She had known this would come to pass and still had been unable to prevent it.

They had begged, pleaded, cried and groaned for Bella to see reason and come back with them to the horrifyingly dismal town of Forks, their disbelief a delicious sight to behold as she continually refused them.

It had taken them far too long to retreat and when they finally did, I almost wished I had opened the door when opportunity came knocking. The tantalizing temptation of stepping outside Bella's protective shield so Edward could read my thoughts, especially the ones concerning his mate and the erotically intimate activities we had performed, had been almost too rich to pass up. If the Volturi had not been present, with Jane and Alec's hilariously murderous glares zeroed in on me, I would have done just that. The smug grin I wore during the duration of their stay in my territory only succeeded in further infuriating Aro's little pets, which was compensation enough. It wasn't often that their powerful abilities were rendered completely useless. My extreme distaste for the witch twins nearly rivaled my hate for their self proclaimed king; he was nothing without his guard and he knew it.

Bella shifted, her shoes crunching in the snow, and effectively snapped out of my thoughts. Her shoulders twitched, hands clenching even tighter around her upper arms, as my gaze focused on her and I grinned, my lips pulling away from my glistening, venom coated teeth. Her eyes flicked briefly in my direction before she dropped her gaze to her feet, her brunette hair falling forward in luscious chocolate waves to conceal her face from me. The memory of my hands buried in those silken strands just the previous morning made a shiver of pleasure race down my spine. She truly was a prize, it was a shame that Edward had been unable to keep her.

She sighed sadly after a long stretch of silence and turned her head to look at me, her expression souring when she caught sight of the self-righteous glint in my eyes. "Well, you have what you want now." She shot one last, longing glance toward the snow capped mountains in the distance, then began trudging dejectedly back to the castle at a human pace.

I snorted, my smirk widening. "Not quiet, my dear," I shot back.

She stared down at her feet as she continued walking, unresponsive to my comment, and I watched her hair swirl through the air as an errant gust of wind suddenly blew most of the strands across her shoulder, still grinning confidently. Now that she was going to be a permanent resident of my castle, we would be getting to know each other much better. I snickered as I folded my hands behind my back and trailed casually behind her, leaving the wives' bodies to disintegrate into ash and be carried off by the wind.

I would have never been able to foresee that this woman, someone I had only acquired as a conquest, would be the redemption I hadn't known I was looking for.

Author's note from mortal-paralight20: Alright so here was the preface written by my good friend Jenna/Dragongirl323. We're both curious as to know what you all thought of this start of the story and we'd like to know what you thought of it in some reviews. Now, just so that you are all aware of this, we will be updating every two weeks (or earlier, depending when we get the chapters written) because I plan to update this story along with my other story Disappeared at the same time. So one chapter here, one chapter there. Everyone's happy.

So without further ado, please review! We'd appreciate your feedback very much!

Mortal-paralight20 & Dragongirl323