"Rania?" Carlisle's surprised voice asked from the front door. Immediately, the entire family convened in the living room faster than you could say 'eavesdroppers'.
"Carlisle, doll, it's so lovely you to see you again. You haven't aged a bit in the last two hundred years." teased a dark-haired, bone-white woman as she confidently pushed her way into the house. Carlisle stood aside for her with an amused expression.
"Rania, this is my family - " he began, but was interrupted by a loud squeal from his mysterious guest.
"You've found her!" she exclaimed, her deep golden eyes falling on Esme, who had been hovering curiously at the edge of the couch. "And changed her, too! Well done, my friend!"
"Excuse me?" Esme asked, looking from Rania to her husband in bewildered concern.
Carlisle opened his mouth to explain, only to be stifled once again.
"Oh! Of course you have no idea what I'm talking about." Rania said cheerfully, settling herself in an empty chair across from little two-year-old Nessie. The jolly vampire did a double-take on the half-breed child before adding, "You have been naughty, haven't you, Carlisle?"
"No, no, she's not what you think - " he attempted to say, but Rania waved an airy hand to silence him, apparently unconcerned by what she believed to be her friend's illegal creation.
"Anyhoo, as I was saying, I am Lady Rania Josefine Marriet de Lorenzete."
"You haven't been called that for three hundred years." Carlisle muttered. Rania paused to roll her large, playful eyes at him.
"And my spectacular talent is the ability to read someone's future soulmates." she went on, smiling in satisfaction of her beloved gift.
"Did you say 'soulmates'? With an 's'? Rosalie asked.
"Yes, certainly. Nearly everyone has more than one soulmate at a time. You can't expect someone to wander the Earth looking for a single person!"
"So Esme is one of Carlisle's soulmates?" Bella inquired, not looking at all surprised by the fact.
"Yes, indeed. In fact she is his only one. And has been for nearly a hundred years. You see, most people keep gaining new possible soulmates throughout their lifetime, even after they've already mated one. He's an odd fellow that way. Which is why I'm so thrilled that they have found each other!" Rania quieted for a moment, cocking her head to the side as if someone was whispering in her ear. "Ooooh, this is fascinating." she murmured, her yellow-ringed pupils dilating in delight. "It seems that I am in a room full of matched soul mates!"
Each couple glanced at each other nervously, hoping that they were with the right person.
"Now, don't tell me." Rania said, rubbing her surprisingly masculine palms together in preparation of her favorite game. She looked first to Rosalie and Emmett. "You two." They nodded and smiled in relief. Emmett pumped his fist into the air and grabbed Rose for an embarrassingly passionate kiss.
Alice and Jasper received the same treatment, giving sighs of relief when they were proclaimed to be with the right person. Rania hesitated a moment on Alice, looking as though she had something to add, but then chose to set her magical sight on Bella instead. She crinkled her striking eyebrows for a moment, and let out a joyful guffaw.
"You, lucky girl, have three soulmates at the moment. All of which are sitting in this room."
Edward, Bella, and Jacob met each other's eyes in alarm, guessing who two of those soulmates were.
"You, you, and you." Rania continued, predictably pointing to Edward and Jacob. However, her indication of Alice as the third soulmate came as a surprise. "Now, my dear, which of these very attractive people are you with? Or perhaps you are with all? I don't judge."
"Uh, no." Bella chuckled awkwardly at the thought. "I'm married to Edward. Jacob and I are just friends. Alice, too. Um, are you sure about her?"
"Oh, too bad. If I were you…." Rania trailed off suggestively. "And of course I'm certain about her. I've never been wrong."
Bella didn't seem to know what to make of this development. She glanced at Alice, ignoring Emmett's very inappropriate wolf-whistling. Alice simply looked back at Bella, her expression somewhere between confused and intrigued.
"Jakey, you're Momma's soulmate?" Renesmee asked, seeming a bit disturbed.
As Jacob attempted to fluster his way through a response, Rania's attention snapped to him.
"Oh ho. You're another interesting one. You have five."
"Five?" Jacob choked.
"Let's see." Rania tilted her ear toward her shoulder, listening to the inaudible voices again. "One is this lovely vampire here, whom you claim to be just friends with, then you have a beautiful Native American woman, a rather uncoordinated young man, a very sexy lawyer, and the next is, oh my - "
"Wait did you say that one of my soulmates is a dude?" Jacob hastily cut in, peering at Nessie out of the corner of his eye. Though he was a bit concerned about the amount of penis in his list of soulmates, his main focus was making sure that Nessie did not hear the end of that sentence. No use freaking her out just yet.
However, even without hearing the juicy little tidbit that Rania had nearly revealed, Nessie stared at her best friend in shock, little pink mouth hanging open. Her Jake had five soulmates? She was not pleased about this. In her mind, Jacob was hers, and only hers, though she didn't yet know how very true that was.
Oblivious to the tension, Rania happily repeated herself.
"Yes, of course. Everyone gets so twitchy when I tell them that they have a same-sex soulmate. Silly people. Though God knows the reaction has improved since I first started doing this in the fifteenth century. Anyway, I didn't get to your last soulma - "
"I still don't quite understand." Alice chimed in, trying to deflect Rania from revealing Jacob's true attachment to Nessie. It had been decided that she wouldn't be told until she was much older. "How can one person have so many different soulmates?"
"My favorite question." Rania said, lazily shifting positions in her chair. "You see, soulmates can crop up anywhere, anytime in our lives, though not always as lovers. It's perfectly common for one to meet their soulmate and stay simply friends with them. An excellent example is beautiful Bella here. She clearly knows both of her soulmates very well, and chose to romantically pursue one, while keeping a platonic relationship with the other. Though God knows if it were me in her shoes…." Rania cast a dreamy glance toward both Edward and Jacob, letting her eyes fill with harmless lust.
"Anyway, moving on. Basically, the point I'm trying to make is that each person is likely to have multiple soulmates throughout their lifetime, no matter how long that lifetime may be, and each may fill a particular role for them. 'Soulmate' does not always equate to 'head over in heels in love'. Your soulmate is, plain and simple, a person who you feel a deep connection with. It's up to you to choose where it may go."
"Have you found any of your soulmates yet?" Nessie asked, momentarily distracted from her jealousy.
"I found one many years ago, ma petite cherie, though she was not the one. We had a wonderful friendship, but her mortality took her in the end. She didn't make the choice to become like me, despite the fact that I offered it many times." Rania's voice took on the melancholy tinge of remembering centuries past.
"But why wouldn't she want to become a vampire?" said Nessie, to whom vampirism appeared to be a sought-after gift, not the curse that most saw it as.
"Well, she considered it at first. But then she found another of her soulmates, and they fell very much in love. Not even immortality could sway her from Lucille." Rania smiled at the thought of unshakable love, something that she lived and breathed to see.
"I said that I would turn her love as well, but Lucille had some convoluted notion that vampires were Satan's pets, or something like that." A hand waved dismissively through the air as Rania went on with her little story. "Needless to say, Lucy didn't like me much."
"Awww. I'm sorry that you haven't fallen in love yet, Rania." Renesmee cooed, much taken with the unusual vampire.
"Thank you, sweet deklitza, but I am not worried." Rania straightened and looked around the room. "Now, enough about me. Oh, dear, I don't believe that I've actually ever said that before." She gave a small giggle, laughing at herself. "Carlisle, please do tell me - "
The front door banged open and Leah came into view, flanked by Quil and Embry.
"What gives, oh Mighty Pack Leader? You were supposed start patrol with us twenty minutes ago." Leah said in lieu of greeting.
"Oh, damn, lost track of time. Sorry guys." Jake said, jumping up from his place on the floor and giving the top of Nessie's head a quick kiss.
"There she is!" Rania exclaimed, pointing a slim finger toward Leah, who looked irritated at having a vampire's extremity paying special attention to her. "You should consider mating with her, Jacob. She's even prettier in person than she was in my head."
Leah's mouth opened and closed a couple of times, unsure of how to respond to that.
"Um, can we go, guys? I wanna get home before five." Embry asked, not even attempting to make sense of what was going on.
Rania's head snapped to his face the moment he spoke, her expression shifting to one of delight. Embry noticed her interest and looked her in the eye for the first time. Silence spread through the room like a warm fog as something beautifully indescribable passed between the wolf and the vampire.
Leah was the one to speak first, shattering the moment like glass under steel-toed boot.
"Another imprint? I thought these damn things were supposed to be rare!"