Jewel in the Crown

Disclaimer: All the characters in the story are the property of Stephanie Meyer. I have borrowed them for my entertainment and (hopefully) your reading pleasure. I make no profit from their use.

Chapter 1: Rejection

The most wretched moment of my long and miserable existence, was the moment that Rosalie told me that Bella was dead. She jumped off a cliff in La Push to kill herself. Even my vapid sister had been able to connect the dots. Just as I couldn't live without Bella, she couldn't live without me. For six months, I had hoped and prayed that she would get on with her life. She would find some other human to fall in love with.

I had fought against fate. I had sworn up and down to Alice and Carlisle that there had to be another way. But I never imagined this. Alice's vision had been so clear. Her fate was tied to mine. So I thought that I could save her by leaving, by cutting the slender thread that held us together. But my leaving only changed her in such a way that she took this action. She changed her mind. She decided to die.

How easy it is for a human to die! I hoped that maybe Rosalie had it wrong. I thought that perhaps Alice's vision had been not true or not precisely what she thought it was. Clinging to this last little sliver of hope, I called Charlie's house. An unfamiliar voice answered the phone. It sounded hostile. When I spoke after assuming Carlisle's voice, it became even more hostile.

Dripping with hatred, the voice said, "Charlie's not here. He's at the funeral."

I asked no questions. I simply hung up. There were no questions left to ask. Of course, Charlie was at a funeral, Bella's funeral. And whoever answered that phone must have known why she killed herself. I am sure that Charlie, his friends and family, not only hate me, but all the Cullens. I wondered if Alice had found him that he even let her stay.

Charlie had always liked Alice. She was there to help him when he couldn't fully care for Bella after she returned from the hospital in Phoenix. At that point, I was the only one that Charlie hated. I could read it explicitly in his every thought. Charlie's generally muted thoughts were never more apparent than when he was thinking about me. The more Bella loved me, the more he hated me.

I thought that perhaps it was the natural jealousy of a father for the man that his daughter had chosen. I had read about that before and had seen it in the thoughts of other fathers. Daddy's little girl, that was Bella. But no sooner had Bella finally returned to him, than she fell in love with me. It was kind of ironic really. It wasn't as if he were working very hard at building a relationship with her.

Even though they lived together, he spent very little time with her. Between fishing and working, she was often left alone. Even though I couldn't read her mind, I knew that she was marking time. She had moved away from her mother to make her happy, the mother that she called her best friend. If she ever had any other friends in Phoenix, she never mentioned them.

She didn't even have many friends among the humans at Forks High School, but not for lack of trying on their part. She was painfully shy. She hated the attention they gave her. Even when I tried to get a read on her through their thoughts, I had to fill in a lot of blanks. She preferred listening to speaking, and that naturally made her more popular. What human doesn't like someone who sits and listens to her babble about herself, like Jessica Stanley does?

But she talked to me. Maybe it was because I was more tenacious than the others. Maybe it was because I was more interested hearing about her than listening to myself talk, but she talked to me all the time. When we finally broke down the barriers between us, it seemed like we could never stop talking.

I should have known that it could never last. I should have known that sooner or later, her proximity to my world would kill her. But how was I to know that even my absence could kill her, and in a most devastating way.

The Christians believe that if someone commits suicide, they are barred from heaven. They feel that such an action, such a flagrant waste of human life, damns his soul to all eternity. Well, my soul is already damned. So now to be with her, I will follow her to hell.

I feel as if I have damned her there myself. What worse sin could I have possibly committed? My beautiful, innocent, exceptionally good Bella has not been given a place in the afterlife that she so richly deserves. That one last mistake, all because of me, has sent her to the very place I sought to save her from. It is a tragedy that even the great Bard himself could never have envisioned.

So what was there to do, except to get on a plane in Rio and fly to Rome? After landing at the airport, I took off for Volterra. The beauty of the ancient Tuscan landscape did not penetrate my consciousness as I ran toward the fate that I had chosen. All I could see in front of my eyes was Bella's face. It seemed to be calling to me, begging me to join her in the depths of fiery hell.

What were those words that she hurled at me in our final meeting? If this is about my soul, then you can have it. I don't want it without you. I had no idea that in that wretched moment she truly was handing me her soul. If I had known, could I have changed my course?

Probably not, at that point, I was listening to no one but myself as I argued with all of my instincts that wanted to stay with her. After months of convincing myself that I was the protector of this danger magnet, I had failed her. At the outskirts of Volterra, as I looked up at the ancient walls, I had this enormous sense that I was running towards my destiny.

As I approached the entrance to the tower, I took in the little details, the iron gates and then the bland, human normality of the reception area. The receptionist was surprised to see me. But she didn't look at me with the same degree of admiration that most other human women did. She was comparing me to the guard Demetri and finding me lacking.

But the message was sent and another guard Felix (much to her disappointment) came to escort me in. He completely ignored her, but looked at me with interest. I realized then that he had known Carlisle. Of course he did. Most of the Volturi guard had been "employed" there for over five hundred years. Nearly all of them would have known this unusual curiosity of Aro's.

I entered the room to face the three of them, Marcus, Aro, and Caius. They were an interesting trio on first glance, a triumvirate worthy of the Roman Empire: Marcus, the bored one, Aro, the curious, and Caius, the irritated. The thoughts of no one else in the room mattered, although the overall feeling was one of curiosity, something interesting walking in to relieve the tedium.

"You do not need to ask, young Edward," said Aro, after he whispered to my side in the blink of a human eye and greedily grasped my hand.

He read everything in my mind rapidly and then turned to the others.

"Brothers, we must consult," he said quickly.

As if on cue, Felix poked me in the back and walked me into the anteroom with the receptionist again. Apparently, those words were the sign that Aro wished to speak with the others. I read the chagrin in Felix's thoughts. He had been looking forward to a quick execution. And of course, so had I.

Now, I am waiting as they consult and prepare for more disappointment. I am right. I return to face my rejection.

"I'm afraid that your gifts are to valuable to waste," says Aro, in his whispery voice, as he denies my request for death. "But if you are not happy with your lot, come, join us. We would be happy to make use of your talents."

I turn away, bothered because he is refusing to make this easy for me. I should have realized when I first approached him that he would take a second look at me for Carlisle's sake. I had no idea when he grasped my hand that this would be the result. I had no idea that he would be so delighted by my talent, when he had a mind reading ability of his own without boundaries.

But I can do what he cannot. I can read multiple minds at once and I don't need physical contact. I don't even have to be in the presence of the person I am listening to. And now he knows this. I could almost see the wheels turning in his head, along with his thoughts, the moment he let go of my hand. He asked for time to consult with his brothers. As if that mattered. He wanted me, another jewel to add to the collection.

Maybe that's all that's left of me, a cold stone. Aro seems to view me as a precious gem, a diamond or something. But I really feel more like cubic zirconia, worthless. Alice warned me that if I left Bella something like this would happen. The night I told them that we had to leave, she screamed at me that Bella would do something stupid and reckless. But when I asked her what, she couldn't tell me.

"Of course, I can't tell you, you idiot!" she had yelled. "You haven't told her that you are leaving. How can she decide to do something crazy if she doesn't know that the bottom is about to fall out of her world?"

"And why are you making that assumption then?" I asked her.

"Because I can still see the same vision of her fate," she said. "Look!"

And there I saw it. There I am, standing with Bella's lifeless body in my arms. And then the other, only that one has changed. It is no longer Alice, arm and arm with Bella, it is I. And we are not smiling.

"What the hell does that mean?" I shouted.

"I don't know," she replied through gritted teeth. "All that I can tell you is that you will not be able to stay away from her. Either you will return to her or she will find you. There is no other course."

"There has to be!" I said. "There has to be. And the only chance for it is if I go, the sooner, the better."

"C'mon bro," said Emmett. "Lighten up. Bella's tougher than you think. And it would only too easy for you to solve this problem. Whether you stay or go, as long as Bella is human, she's going be in danger every day of her life."

I hate it when Emmett gets all insightful on me. It's just easier to think of him as my easy-going, not so bright brother. I hated facing the six of them. None of them could possibly know how I felt. They were each partnered with their perfect mates. I had found my own soul mate as well. But leave it to Rosalie to have summed it up months ago.

"Don't you see? He's in love with a human. How so classically Edward!"

No kidding, Rose. And of course you were royally pissed off because I have never felt that way about you. You have always thought that you were the most beautiful thing on the planet. The idea that a girl like Bella, completely unconscious of her own quiet beauty, could outshine you in my eyes was unthinkable.

And yeah, Emmet, you were right. It really sucks. But I couldn't help loving her. I tried to stay away. But how do you stay away from someone who looks at you with big, brown eyes wondering why you hate her? And then you save her life when she is nearly crushed by a van. Then you save her life again when she is almost beaten and raped by thugs in the street. And then you give up.

You spend every night in her room, watching her sleep, hoping and longing that she will say your name. You live for the times when she begs you not to leave. How many times did she beg me never to leave? Even lying half-dead in the hospital in Phoenix, put there by your own idiocy, she was begging you not to leave. Her mother, sitting beside her, was glaring at you every time she said your name. Never once did she ask for anyone else, not even her parents.

Even then I couldn't leave her. I pretended to sleep in her hospital room, but really I was on guard. Suppose Victoria realized that we had killed James because he had almost killed her and came looking for Bella to finish the job? But no, that was just an excuse. If anything, I was endangering her life further with my presence. Sooner or later Victoria would come looking for me.

This past summer was . . . the best. I spent every day and every night with Bella. For three months she was my world. Sometimes Alice hung out with us, but mostly it was just she and I. You would have thought that we might have run out of things to say to each other, but no, never. There were books and music that we both enjoyed.

And we talked about the future. She was my life. I planned to spend every minute of her life that I could with her. She worried and worried about getting old while I stayed young. She didn't know how much I wished that I could grow old and die with her. And she didn't believe that it was she I loved, her heart and soul. The physical package was just that, a package. I was determined that I would not steal her soul from her.

Carlisle tried to talk to me of course. He has such an idealistic view of me. He is positive that I have a soul and that if ever I stop existing, I will go to heaven. He forgets that I murdered so many men in my thirst for human blood that I lost count. But he still swears that I am so intrinsically good that I never took a life that would not have taken other lives. He is convinced that this gives me a bye, that St. Peter will just throw open the pearly gates because I killed the right people.

But where Bella was concerned, our love was doomed from the beginning. Our three perfect months of bliss were shattered, not by some vindictive enemy, but by my own stupidity, in my own home. Do I blame Jasper for attacking? How can I, when I was the one who threw temptation in his way? All that I could hope was that if we left, then Bella might be able to live happily.

But my hopes were dashed as surely as her body was when it hit the rocks under the cliff at La Push. I was too late. I should have known that such a perfect love could only have turned into equal misery for both of us if we were apart. I couldn't live with my family. I couldn't live with anyone. I was days away from making the decision to return to Forks, afraid that she would have moved on, more afraid that she was miserable, yet too cowardly to find out.

What if I had returned home and found her in such deep despair hat she was ready to . . . do what she did? What could I have done to stop her? Would she even have believed me if I had fallen to my knees before her and begged her to take me back? What I wouldn't give to set the calendar back, to get on that plane in Rio, to reach her before it was too late? Instead, I got on a plane to Italy, to seek my own demise.

I was so arrogant when I mocked Romeo for killing his one true love through sheer stupidity. I did this to her, and I cannot live in a world where she doesn't exist. My last hope is that by some miracle of fate, Carlisle is right and I can find her on the other side. He loves me so much that he imagines that I will eventually find my eternal rest in heaven.

Perhaps, the goodness of her life will force them to reconsider her entrance into that place of eternal bliss. If an angel can love of demon on earth, so too can she love one in heaven? My mind is swirling with so many thoughts and notions of planning my death that I don't even know what to think of the future. I need to focus on what is left of the present.

But it will be no worse for me anyway. Either I will die and find her, or die and turn into nothingness. Whatever it is that I am living in now, surely nothingness is better. And this existence that Aro is offering me? He has seen into every corner of my mind. He knows that I have no desire to exist without Bella.

Why can't he just make it easier for both of us? Surely he saw in my mind that the only other option that he has left me is to provoke him into action? Perhaps the guards are bored right now. I saw the gleam in Felix's mind when he realized that he might get the chance to take me down.

And Demetri was excited by the idea of tracking me down. What a challenge! A mind reader who can hear him coming! They will both be very disappointed when I offer no resistance.

Aro does his best to hide his disappointment when I refuse, but he can't, not from me. I know that he is going to give the order to Felix and Demetri to bring me back alive, if at all possible. They will return me here and he will offer again.

Caius knows of his plan and is angry at the idea that Aro is so fascinated with my power that he will compromise the severity of the Voluturi's punishment to try and preserve it. And Marcus doesn't care. He has seen this conflict too many times before. Aro gets an idea and Caius thinks he is a fool for it.

And so I turn and slowly walk away, turning the possibilities for death over in my mind. I smile to myself as I hear Felix think that maybe he can get away with making a mistake and really killing me when he tries to capture me.

Yet before I can fully escape, Aro hurls one final thought at me, Carlisle.

Author's note: Some of the details that I have included come from the manuscript of Midnight Sun posted online by Stephanie Meyer.

(Revised 2 Jan 14)