Finally! The next chapter! I hope 2014 is treating you all well so far!
I may not be able to read minds without physical contact, and I may not be able to feel others emotions, or visibly judge the strength of one's bonds. But I know my guard and I know my brothers. I can practically taste the tension in the air. If the guard were not as well-trained as they are required to be - they are indeed an elite group - I'm quite certain the castle would be requiring many repairs at this moment.
Due to the phenomenon that is Isabella Swan, they have already been experiencing an inexplicable concern for her welfare and a draw to be near her. In addition, I can now see admiration, devotion, dare I speculate...love?, blooming within bodies that many rumor to be incapable of substantial change. They have indeed all changed, and I believe the final impetus was the moment a sweet human girl invited them to share in her life's tragedies, as if they had been good friends of hers, not hours-long acquaintances, or the hardened and ruthless killing machines we all are deep in our beings.
My brothers and I underwent a similar change when we were first exposed to Isabella. Caius, being her mate, was the obvious candidate to undergo such an immediate burgeoning of emotion. How it took him more than a few moments to realize her significance to him, I will never know. But shortly after, Isabella infected myself and Marcus as well. She seeped in, filling crevices we had not known were empty, and now her unique form of gentle corruption has spread firmly into the guard. I cannot say that this particular talent of hers does not worry me. It's implications could prove to be a great thing indeed - or a catastrophe waiting to happen. For fleeting moments after the discovery of her talents, I seriously considered whether or not she should be allowed to live. After all, she holds a truly devastating potential. Not only is her human form powerful enough to thwart certain vampire powers, including mine, but she also unconsciously compels us to love her. Her removal is of course an impossible situation - for how could I cause such a harm to my brother, when I have already seen all too clearly what a devastating effect losing ones mate produces? I believe that if Isabella's disposition had not been so inherently pure and self-sacrificing, I would say that I had met - first hand - the one with the power to knock the entire vampire population to its knees.
But now is not the proper time for such musings. Marcus will no doubt need some time alone today to recover from such a sad tale. Though still an able fighter, if the situation arises, he has lost his taste for death and violence. With Didyme by his side, one could seldom find so formidable a vampire, but now...
And Caius, my beloved hot-headed brother, is putting up a valiant effort to hide his true feelings - his berserker rage - from Isabella. Speaking of which, I would love to have a more in-depth interview with Mr. Whitlock at some point. I wonder what insight he could provide me on my brother's inner demon. It is almost impossible for vampires to accept injury to a mate. I must admit I am thoroughly impressed with the fortitude Caius shows.
I must also remember to place a bet with Marcus as to how long it will take for Caius to convince Isabella to undergo the change. Ah well, I suppose it would be kind of me to clear the room, so that Caius and his lady love may have a moment of peace. Rising from my chair, I swept a respectful bow to Isabella.
"I believe I speak for us all my dear, when I say that we greatly appreciate the very personal information you have shared with us. Thank you Isabella, for letting us in."
A small ripple of astonishment flashed through me when instead of filing out directly behind me, the guard stopped, one by one - mere inches from Isabella and Caius. Each dropped a quick bow, so deep that one knee touched the ground before they rose and exited the room. I turned my still-wide eyes first to Marcus, who solemnly nodded - answering my unspoken question, then to Caius, who seemed to share in my incredulity.
Carlisle and Jasper approached her as the last of the guard exited the room. They look noticeably uncomfortable and upset by this mornings revelations.
"I'm so sorry Bella." Carlisle began. "We had no idea..." He ceased trying to excuse the actions of his family when shockingly, Isabella glared at him, shook her head 'No', and pointed to the door. "I understand. I hope in time we can regain your friendship," he replied before ghosting from the room.
Even in the face of her obvious disinterest, Jasper remained. Seeing that she was not about to budge and hoping the information might help in some small way to heal the wounds in her heart, I made my way to her side, leaned in close, and whispered. "I believe you might appreciate knowing that two members of the Cullen family decided to disregard the decision made by the majority, to leave you to live your life without their interference. These two in fact, came looking for you to ask forgiveness and offer you the immortality denied you by their brother. They were led to believe you dead, but never gave up hope, and have spent the years since searching for you."
Tears welled up in her luminous brown eyes as she looked questioningly back at me, then to Caius. "It is true." He confirmed softly.
She exhaled loudly and her body shuddered. A large tear fell from each brimming eye before she hastily wiped them away and slid off the bed. She walked slowly to stand before a vampire who many of our own kind would not dare approach.
I placed a hand on my brother's arm, hoping to anchor him for this interaction. It would not do for him to snap under his strain and cause accidental injury to Isabella. We both held our unnecessary breath as she came to a stop and merely looked up at the remorseful, scarred blonde vampire. It was apparent a silent conversation of sorts was taking place between the two. He broke the silence, addressing her aloud.
"Yes, we hurt and disappointed you. I won't ask forgiveness. We don't deserve it."
She studied him for approximately half a minute longer before tentatively reaching for him.
His response was immediate.
He swiftly closed the gap between them, allowing her arms to settle about his waist as his own wrapped gingerly around her shoulders.
I truly believe that witnessing the innate gentleness displayed for his mate - for Jasper held her as if she were the most delicate of glass - was the only thing that kept Caius rooted to his position in that moment. I could literally feel the quivering tension racking his frame. As for me, I may as well have been watching a polar bear cuddle a baby sea-lion. It was almost too much of an oddity for my ancient mind to digest.
Jasper Whitlock, who has personally killed more humans and immortals alike than any other vampire in the castle, closed his tawny eyes against the glistening fluid quickly accumulating in them and swallowed thickly before he dropped his arms, croaked out an emotional "Thank you, Bella", and darted from the room.
Caius relaxed substantially upon Jasper's exit, and reached over to give my shoulder a squeeze, thus showing his appreciation of my actions. Marcus and I then left the room together, finally providing Caius and his Isabella some much needed privacy.
Marcus touched my hand shortly after closing the heavy wooden door, confirming my suppositions. Our guard are indeed currently bound tightly to this very special slip of a girl. As the first syllables of concern formed on my tongue however, I spied a despondent Jane gazing listlessly out of a small window tucked into a shadowed alcove.
"We will speak later." I murmured to Marcus before approaching one of the pair of vampires who came close to breaking our own law referencing immortal children. There have been moments that I mourned my decision to save them, as this existence has not always been easy, especially for Jane. "Would you like to talk dearest?" I asked, reaching out and gripping her elbow gently.
She turned her angelic face up to meet mine, its youthful features creased with confusion and sadness.
"How could they just leave her like that Master? Their actions not only broke the law, but led to the destruction of her family, and very nearly cost Isabella to lose her own life!" Her exclamation was punctuated with a tiny fist as Jane made a nice little crater in the stone wall. I raised an eyebrow at her slight destruction of the castle but said nothing. She knows my feelings on that subject very well already. Hanging her head she added, "You know she didn't even care if she died when she came here, don't you?"
Oh, my secretly soft-hearted Jane. Without hesitation, I wrapped her in a comforting embrace "It does not surprise me, my dear, but take heart. She is safe here with us now and we will do all in our power to see that no one harms her again, shall we not?"
Her answering smile warmed me, for within her shining ruby eyes I could discern the return of their customarily devilish glint.
That's my girl. Only a fool would glare trifle with one who is dear to Jane.
Tree after tree groaned and split under the force Jasper exerted. Boulders crumbled to dust. In time I suppose, this area will make a nice meadow. For now however, with all the destroyed trees and shrubbery debris, it looks like a small natural disaster has taken place. Again and again he lunged, but instead of ripping or punching at them he merely used them as a poor attempt at damaging his own body. I have seen him like this a few times before. In the early years he would fight against us, whomever happened to be available. Though those incidents were terrifying, the worst part was when it became apparent that he engaged not to win, but to be hurt. He would push and provoke until someone lashed out. Then instead of defending himself, he would take the punishment almost gleefully. I am thankful that he has stopped using us to torture himself. However, seeing him now, bashing his body against the largest trees and rocks he can find is still just as painful to witness.
"How could Alice have missed so much? How could I have not have sensed Victoria's connection to James? Why did I have to lose control on her birthday? Oh, what have I done?" I strained to hear as Jasper furiously whispered when his madness finally came to a halt. He crouched at the base of a ruined tree, rocking slightly while coming perilously close to ripping out his own hair.
"Jasper," I called out to him, having learned many decades ago not to approach him when he is buried so deep inside himself. "Jasper, you know we all made mistakes, every one of us. It is true that Bella may not be the girl she once was, but she is thankfully still alive. She has begun to forgive you at least, you told me yourself that you felt it. Focus on that. We have a great deal of blame to shoulder, but it is clear that our lives will not be forfeit due to our foolishness, so we must use this as an opportunity to begin again."
His troubled eyes locked with mine, the madness slowly leaking away, giving way to reason once more.
"We will atone." I pledged solemnly.
Isabella sagged heavily onto her bed the moment the room was cleared. All my rage disappeared in that moment, smothered by concern. "What can I do?" I asked her helplessly. Smiling weakly, no doubt to try and make me feel better, she took my hand and pulled me to stand directly in front of her. She drew me close, wrapping her arms about my torso and leaning her head low on my chest. I wound one arm around her shoulders, behind her neck, and the other I tangled into her mass of silky hair as I held her to me. Knowing that she is human is not all that hard to accept. Hearing in explicit detail how close she came to death - she who is meant to be mine - terrifies me however, in a way I have never known.
When she finally pulled away, she thanked me.
"Whatever for?" I blurted out, my confusion all too clear.
'For just being here.' She explained. 'For giving me a moment to put it all away. I have come to terms with the path my life has taken, but I still don't like facing the memories.'
I nodded. Who didn't have elements of their life that were unpleasant to dwell upon?
"Well then, unless you wish otherwise, perhaps we could procure your morning meal and take a walk in the gardens. I would love a chance to learn some of the happier aspects that make up Miss Isabella Swan." Her face lit up in excitement, and that was all the answer I needed. "If you will excuse me then, I will give you a moment to change into your day clothes and fetch you something to break your fast." Unable to withstand the call of her once again smiling lips, I dropped a quick kiss onto their softness and embarked on my food finding mission.
Heading toward the kitchen, hoping for once to encounter one of our human staff there, I was thankfully spared the irritating prospect of conversing with them by the sight of Jane heading my way with a small tray. "You Jane, are a life-saver!" I exclaimed.
Her laugh filled the hall. "And just how many others in the castle are there that can even identify human food?" She asked wryly.
"Certainly not I! Thankfully dear Jane, you have saved me the effort!"
She thrust the tray into my hands, exasperatedly explaining that it held Isabella's favorite coffee, an apple (which I could have identified myself, thank-you-very-much), and a generous slice of an odd-looking pie Jane called quiche. She further explained that it contained potatoes, sausage, eggs and cheese. Curling my lip slightly at the disgusting looking food, I nonetheless thanked Jane and made my way back upstairs.
Isabella had changed her attire by the time I returned. Today she wore a lovely green blouse in what I have been lately instructed is called the peasant style, along with a dark grey pair of pants. I surprised me to see that she had braided back the front sections of her hair similar to the way Jane had styled it, which resulted in the bulk of her hair being pushed behind her shoulders instead of shading her lovely neck. I drank in her beauty but did not comment for she already had hungry eyes locked on the tray in my hands.
Apparently the food tasted better than it looked, because she devoured it quickly and did not leave even the tiniest crumb on her plate. Once she had returned from brushing her teeth again, I took her arm in mine and led her proudly through the castle to my favorite garden.
We spent almost a full hour admiring the ingenious landscaping put in place by Sulpicia. Just having Isabella beside me sends a rush of emotion coursing through my being. I find that I can somehow manage to be both jubilant and calm at the same time. As we walked, we traded information of the trivial sort - favored novels, hobbies, and the like. Every moment spent in her company further convinces me that I am ruined for all other forms of companionship. Nothing anyone can say will ever be as interesting as what I can learn from this woman. No beauty will ever match hers. No heart will ever be as kind. Her scent overwhelms me and drowns out all others. I am lost to her.
I look longingly upon her glowing face as she animatedly describes growing up in the desert and a pang of uncertainty catches me in its grip. I didn't realize I had stopped walking until she was before me with her warm hand on my cheek and her eyes filled with concern.
"I..." My words faltered, how could I expect her to understand the immediate and burning love that has taken me hostage since meeting her? She would surely believe me insincere. Her past experiences must have jaded her opinion on what love means to a vampire.
She could reject me.
"I don't know how to...I need..." My breaths became raw and agitated. She was gripping my arms now, silently begging me to explain my distress. No words would come and in the end I let my body lead me instead of my mind. I swept her into my arms, lifting her body so it was pressed flush with mine and I kissed her.
I poured my love and my fears out upon her lips and she caught them graciously. Her mouth moved eagerly with mine, devouring, claiming...loving. One tiny hand gripped my shoulder while the other wrapped behind my neck, her thumb stroking maddeningly across the hollow just below my ear. I pulled away just enough to scatter feather light kisses across her beautiful face, each punctuated with a silent sentiment.
Cheek - I need you.
Brow - I cannot live without you.
Eyelid - I love you so much it hurts.
Nose - please be mine.
Chin - It's only been days but I am yours.
Returning her to her feet, I mastered myself once more. "Please forgive me Isabella. I..."
But she did not let me continue. She pulled herself up determinedly, fisting her hands in my robes for leverage and silenced me with another searing press of her lips. I was losing myself again quickly in her embrace, when our moment was shattered by a vulgar whoop that echoed off the stone walls of the garden.
"Yeee-ah! That's how it's done!" The soon to be dismembered individual shouted.
Turning with Isabella held tight in my arms, I glared at the intruder. He was the tall burly sort who would no doubt, have put me in mind of Felix if not for the mop of curly dark hair and completely childish glee that covered his face. His smile was so wide it caused dimples to sink into his cheeks. Beside him stood a statuesque blonde who looked as if she wished the earth could just rear up and swallow her whole. A growl had just begun to rattle my chest when Isabella sucked in an uneven breath and her hand twitched lightly against my arm. Looking down, all thoughts of destruction were wiped from my mind as I witnessed the tentative longing of my mate.
Marcus had warned me. She will need these vampires in some capacity if she is to make a healthy transition to immortality. If I ever get the opportunity to speak with her about it that is. Tamping down my resentment at having to share her once again, I questioned my lady. "Do you wish to see them? I can easily send them away."
She sent me an apologetic glance before signing her reply. "Yes, I think I would like to see Emmett. Rosalie can stay if she must."
"Don't worry my love. This misunderstanding with the Volturi will be cleared up soon enough. I don't know who they believe they have with them in Italy. You've been here with me this whole time..."
"No, I don't believe they would begrudge us wanting to delay your change until after the wedding so your father can walk you down the aisle. Aro and Carlisle have a long history..."
"I'm so glad you finally agreed to be my bride. We will be together forever my love. Nothing will ever separate us..."
"I was right, my mother's ring looks fantastic on your delicate hand..."
"No, I suppose the family hasn't been very supportive of our relationship lately, but don't let them spoil our happiness. They'll soon realize that we were meant to be. You were made for me..."
"Oh! Do you know what would be perfect? We could take an extended trip all on our own after the wedding. We can start out on Isle Esme... What? I've never told you about that? Well yes, they do own an island...That's just something you'll have to become accustomed to as a Cullen my love. We like to give extravagant gifts. Carlisle gave the island to Esme one year for their anniversary and I think it will be the perfect place for us to begin our life as man and wife, don't you?"
"Mmm, you smell so delicious. How I hunger for you! Feeling your soft skin against mine is almost my undoing. I knew that one day I would be able to overcome my desire for your blood. Who knew the answer was to replace it with another desire? Yes...come closer my love."
Oooooh creepy! I wonder who Edward was talking to? Hope you enjoyed! Thanks for all the support!