Bella never goes to Forks, instead living with Renee and Phil throughout high school. During her 3rd year at NYU, she is studying abroad in Florence, Italy. Her life is forever changed when she is compelled to visit Volterra; stumbling into a world she never dreamed could exist. AU, OOC, MA, Bella/Jasper

A Note from Mae

I am an avid fan of Twilight fanfiction. I've also been a fan of writing my own stories from time to time. So I decided to combine the two and recently started writing my own fanfiction. Feel free to check out my profile on FFn.

This blog is primarily for additional info and pics to accompany my story, Unfathomable Bonds. This is my first multi-chapter fanfiction story and I'm very excited about it.

If this story sounds interesting to you, please check it out. If you do, please feel free to let me know how you like it.

Lots of love, Mae.

Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and all its affiliated characters; I just like to play with them. I also do not own any of the artwork discussed in any chapter of this fic. I am merely using them in one way or another for the purpose of my story.

Monday, December 7, 2009

UB Chapter 3 - Destino Benvenuto

My apologies for the delay in getting this out.  A bunch of stuff is going to be happening in this and next chapter and I needed to sort out what to put in each one.  So, here is Chapter 3 and I am currently working on Chapter 4.  I’ve been trying for Friday updates, but I’d rather post quality not quantity.

Sadly, sparagus, my beta, has too much on her plate at the moment and has had to step down.  However, JaspersDestiny has come to my rescue and agreed to take over.  She is an awesome beta, as well as a friend and a fellow Lamb (alsltwilight . blogspot . com).  Thanks, girlie!

Also from our blog, we Lambs are sponsoring the I Get Off in Volterra Contest.  So, please go write us a sexy one shot with one of the gorgeous men of the Volturi!  Details are on the contest profile page:  www . fanfiction . net / ~IGetOffinVolterraContest.

Rating: This story is rated M (MA) for a reason.  It will at times contain violence, lemons, and other adult content.  I really don’t do PG, as anyone who knows me could tell you.  So, if you aren’t of age, you should not be reading this.  

Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and all affiliated characters.  I just like to play with them.  Nor do I own any of the artwork discussed in any chapter of this fic.  I am merely using it in one way or another for the purpose of my story.  

Chapter 3 – Destino Benvenuto (Welcome Destiny)

Bella POV

Upon my return to the apartment, all was quiet.  As it was a Saturday night, I wasn’t surprised to discover that Hailey and Kelli weren’t home.  Peeking into my room, I saw Sera sleeping and didn’t want to disturb her. 

I hooked the camera up to my laptop to transfer the images from my day, and then went to make myself dinner.  The transfer was complete by the time I finished eating.  I sifted through the images, labeling each one before I forgot the details.

Once finished, I grabbed my sketchbook to try and relax before bed, but my mind wouldn’t stop replaying my day with Marcus and our discussion on fate.  I wondered again at the path that had led me here and where it was taking me. 

My gaze traveled to the image I had drawn while my mind was wandering.  I didn’t need to look at my drawings to remember him.  All I had to do was close my eyes and I could recall his image; his tall, lean body that I would love to be pressed against; his sexy, unkempt hair that I wanted to run my fingers through to see if it was as soft as I imagined; and those full, delectable lips that I wanted devouring my body. 

I groaned quietly and tried to relax, berating myself for getting so worked up over a stranger.  So, I put down the sketchbook and got ready for bed.  It took a while, but I eventually drifted off, wondering about his eyes that he had hidden behind the dark sunglasses.

The next day dawned early and was spent quietly at the apartment with Sera.  She was feeling better, but still a bit run down, so we curled up on the couch to talk.

I grabbed my laptop to show her the pictures and gave her the details of my trip, starting with the train and bus rides.  She was awed by the scenery and was upset that she hadn’t been able to make the trip with me. 

At the first image of Marcus, she was intrigued, commenting that he was “hotness personified”.  She listened intently as I told her about him and the sites he had shown me while in Volterra, trying to remember some of the details of the places I’d been shown.  Sera was quite taken with the photos of the Palazzo dei Priori and mentioned that she would like to see it herself, so I asked if she’d like to return with me and she agreed.

When I gave her the alabaster kitten, she squealed with delight and hugged me in true Sera fashion.  I also showed her the box that Marcus had given to me and she thought it was beautiful.  As I pulled out the pendant and gave it to her, I explained what Marcus had said about protection.  She also thought it was quite cryptic, but she thought the necklace was beautiful and had no qualms about wearing it.


It would be three weeks before Sera and I could schedule our trip to Volterra.  We had already planned a trip to Lucca the weekend after my birthday, spending an entire day exploring the walled city replete with layers and layers of history.  There were physical markers of each era that you could see in the architecture, such as Piazza Anfiteatro, which was designed in the shape of the original Roman amphitheater upon which it sits; and, Piazza Napoleone, created in a distinctly French style while Lucca was occupied by Napoleon’s sister, Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, in the early 19th Century.

The weekend following our trip to Lucca was filled with school projects and studies.  Sera and Kelli had projects due for their courses, while Hailey and I were studying for an exam on historical interpretations in Renaissance art.  It was a challenge, but the extra studying paid off in the end when I received high marks for the exam. 

I heard from Marcus often over those weeks.  We spoke on the phone every few days and even exchanged a few emails here and there.  He was pleased when I informed him I would be available the first weekend of October to return to Volterra and that Sera would be accompanying me.  Hailey and Kelli had already made plans to go to Rome for the weekend, so Sera and I decided to go on our own.

So, on another cloudy Saturday morning in early October, Sera and I were sitting on the front stoop waiting for the car that Marcus was sending to pick us up.  I had argued that we could take the train, but he was adamant and, to be honest, I preferred the one hour car ride to the two hours or more on a crowded train and bus. 

“Are you excited to see Marcus again?” Sera asked.

I dug a bottle of water out of my bag and took a swig.  “Yeah, he’s a nice guy.  He’s so reserved, though. Distant.”

“So, you like him?”

I looked over at Sera.  “You mean, do I like him, like him?”  I giggled.

She laughed, “Well, yeah.  Don’t you?  You’ve been chatting with him a lot lately.”  She grabbed the water out of my hand and took a drink.

“No!” I near shouted the answer, feeling my cheeks burn in embarrassment.  “Not at all.  I mean, that’s just...” I shivered at the idea and scrunched up my nose.  “It would be like dating my brother, honestly.  I have no romantic interest in him,” I told her.  “I’m just concerned about him.  He seems so sad, lonely.”

Sera beamed at me.  “Excellent!”

I rolled my eyes and stole back my water, putting it back in my bag.  “I can’t wait for you to meet Marcus.”  And I couldn’t.  Sera was such a flamboyant character that I was interested in Marcus’ reaction to her vibrant personality.

A familiar car rolled to a stop in front of us, its sleek silver lines seeming to move gracefully down the street.  I stood.  “This is it.”

“Ohhh, c’est magnifique,” Sera said when she noticed the extravagant vehicle. 

I was giggling at her reaction when the door opened and Demetri stepped onto the curb. 

“Greetings, ladies.”  He bowed slightly to us and I saw Sera raise an eyebrow, while glancing in my direction.  “Marcus was unavoidably detained this morning, but would like me to inform you that he will meet you at Il Duomo.  If you ladies would like to get in, I would be honored to escort you.”

Sera just turned to me to and said, “Is he for real?”

I laughed and saw Demetri’s lips twinge as if he were fighting a smile.  “Just go with it.”  I told Sera.

She narrowed her eyes, then shrugged.  “Laissez les bons temps roulez, non?”

Demetri opened the rear door and motioned for Sera to enter.  “Aren’t you the gentleman?!”  She smiled and winked at him before sliding onto the seat.

Demetri looked at me as he closed the door behind her. 

I just shrugged.  “It’s a Sera thing.” 

He did smile then as we rounded the car and he opened the door for me to enter.

The ride to Volterra was filled with excitement, mostly Sera’s.  She was praising the car and asked Demetri about it.  She also shamelessly snooped, opening compartments and pushing buttons.  I just shook my head at her.

Once she had finished investigating the vehicle, she commented on the scenery and discussed the sites in Volterra that she would like to make sure to visit today.  I made a mental note to mention them to Marcus when we saw him.

Before too long, Demetri was maneuvering the car through the streets of Volterra, coming to a stop before Il Duomo.  I looked up at the ancient walls and smiled, anxious to see Didyme again.

Demetri opened our doors, and then led us inside the building.  He stopped just inside the door.  “You shouldn’t have to wait long, ladies.”

“You don’t have to stay, Demetri.  We’re happy to wait here for Marcus.” I told him.

Demetri smiled politely, but shook his head.  “Marcus would burn me alive if I left you.  Please enjoy Il Duomo while you wait.”

I gave him a quizzical look, but didn’t say anything further.  Looking back at Sera, we both shrugged and I led her toward the aisle where Didyme lay ensconced in her niche.  She was still as beautiful as I remembered, her quiet elegance so subtle and yet, so apparent.

“She really is beautiful, isn’t she?” Sera said as she first saw Didyme.  “The detail is amazing and the veil?  It’s just pure genius.  I wish I could have met the artist.”

I nodded as my eyes traveled over the familiar piece.  “So do I.  I’d love to see more of his work.”

Sera smirked and grinned at me.  “Well, there is that, but I was thinking more along the lines of how talented his fingers would be.” 

“Oh geez,” I rolled my eyes at her, but laughed when she wiggled her fingers at me.

“Seriously, it’s like dating a guitarist.  You know how dexterous those fingers have to be to fly over the strings like they do?”  She closed her eyes and I swear she moaned a little.  “It’s deliciously yummy to be on the receiving end of that!”  She winked and turned back to study the sculpture.

I was somehow groaning and laughing at the same time when I looked over her shoulder and noticed  Marcus standing nearby.  I was about to greet him when I noticed his expression and hesitated.  He was staring at us as if transfixed, his face etched in astonishment. 

“Marcus?” I called to him, but he didn’t respond.

Sera, hearing me call Marcus’ name, turned from the sculpture to greet him.  “Oh, Mon Dieu,” she breathed as she saw him.  “He was in a damn fine mood when He made that man, wasn’t He?”

I pressed my lips together to keep from laughing as we made our way over to where Marcus stood.  I noticed he was still staring – at Sera.  My head quirked to the side at their reactions, a small smile playing over my face as I tried to keep in my happy laughter.  Wouldn’t it be interesting if my two new friends hit it off?  I already knew that Sera was attracted to him.  She had even been attracted to his picture.  And from Marcus’ reaction, I had an idea he felt the same, although he seemed more shocked than anything.  It was rather puzzling, but then so many things about Marcus were that way.

“Marcus, this is my roommate and best friend, Sera.  Sera, Marcus.”  With the introductions over, I leaned back and watched them both, gauging their reactions. 

Sera, ever the over-eager flirt, put her hand out to him with a bright smile.  “It’s great to meet you, Marcus.  Bella’s told me so much about you.”

Marcus smiled down at Sera and took her hand in his.  “I assure you, the pleasure is mine.”  I watched as he raised her hand to his lips and pressed a soft kiss to her knuckles.  I swear I saw her shiver in response and I again had to hold back a happy chuckle.

They stood there, with Marcus holding Sera’s hand in his, for a long moment.  I started to feel a bit out of place, so I cleared my throat discreetly, and then smiled at them as Marcus released Sera’s hand. 

“So, ladies.  I have a tentative agenda set for the day, if you are not opposed.  But, before we start, was there anything specific you would like to see?”

“Well, Bella told me about the Palazzo dei Priori, so I would love to see that, especially The Marriage Feast of Cana.  Otherwise, I’d like to see the Etruscan museum and the Roman theatre.  Beyond that, I’m all yours.”  Sera grinned up at Marcus and winked at him.

Marcus’ eyes flashed at either her comment or her wink, I wasn’t sure.  Probably both.  I almost laughed, but stifled it. 

He cleared his throat.  “Of course.  I have already included those locations on our agenda for today.”  Turning to me, he asked, “Was there anywhere you would like to see, Bella?”

“I’m good with whatever is planned, thanks.  Perhaps you could show Sera Il Duomo?” I suggested.

Marcus smiled at me, then looked at Sera in question.

Sera just nodded, then boldly hooked her arm through his and winked at me as she led him down the aisle.  “Now, sugar, don’t be shy.  I want to see it all.”

I choked back a laugh as they moved away, then turned back to Didyme with a smile.  “What do you think?”  I asked the silent statue.  “Yeah, me too.”

“Think about what?” The deep voice sounded from directly behind me.  I jumped and twirled quickly, stumbling slightly before righting myself.  I was met with a wide chest, which I followed up until I was met with Felix’s smiling face, the light in his eyes dimmed by the murky brown coloring of them.  I briefly wondered if he wore contacts or had any vision problems, although I had noticed that both Marcus and Demetri also had the same dulled, brown eye color.

Snapping my thoughts back to the present, I responded.  “I was talking to Didyme, actually.”

Felix nodded.  “I realized that.”  He was quiet a moment as his eyes traveled to where Marcus and Sera stood near the front of the church, near the altar.  “I’ve never seen him like this before,” he said, almost absentmindedly, as if he’d forgotten I was here.

“He’s never attracted women before?  I find that hard to believe.”

He smirked down at me.  “No, he doesn’t lack for companionship when he wishes.  But, that is just for a … physical release, if you will.” 

I rolled my eyes and muttered under my breath, “Men,” but he seemed to have heard me.

“It’s a need like any other, Bella.  After a while, sometimes you just need to scratch that itch.  He doesn’t do it often, and never leads the women on.  But, this. …” he trailed off, gathering his thoughts, perhaps.  “He so rarely speaks to anyone outside the family if he doesn’t have to, and he almost never smiles.  I was shocked when he spoke to you last month, and then spent the entire day with you.  But, this?  It’s different.”

I watched them for a moment.  Sera was speaking and gesturing animatedly at Marcus while he just smiled down at her.  It warmed me to see them together.  Perhaps something would come of it.  “Maybe she’s what he needs, to remind him how to smile again.”

“You made him smile, Bella,” he told me.

“Yes, but not like that.  Look at them.  I bet she has him laughing by the end of the day.”

Felix smiled.  “Normally I’d take the bet, but in this case I hope you’re right, Bella.”

Marcus and Sera completed their tour of Il Duomo before too long and we were on our way to the Museo Etrusco Guarnacci.  The museum was founded in the mid-18th Century when a local historian, Mario Guarnacci, donated his archeological collection to the citizens.  It became one of the first public museums in Europe, and holds treasures set in chronological order reviewing Etruscan history throughout the ages, going as far back as the 9th Century B.C. (Iron Age).  I also discovered that in Etruscan times, Volterra was known as Velathri, which I found interesting.

We spent almost two hours in the museum before departing.  Marcus led us down to a parallel street and back toward the center of town.  As we passed along via Gramsci, I saw a shop advertising hand-woven textiles with beautiful scarves and sweaters on display. 

I grabbed Sera’s hand and dragged her inside where we watched for a while as a woman used a manual loom.  We chatted with her for a few minutes, asking about her craft, the shop, and the materials she used.  She answered our questions politely and helped us pick out some items from the shop.  Sera and I both bought mohair shawls that felt incredibly soft against our skin.  She decided on a bright colorful sky blue one, while I chose one in terracotta orange.  I also picked up a blanket in blues and greens that I thought Charlie would like.

With bags in hand, Marcus informed us that he had set up a picnic lunch for us in the Parco Archeologico.  We continued our walk along the road, following Marcus to the park.  In one corner of the park were the ruins of a Roman era reservoir, but apparently this area was really used as a park, complete with grass, some trees, and gravel paths.  When we arrived, I noticed Demetri waiting for us next to a large blanket set-up for a picnic.  I hadn’t even noticed when he had disappeared, though I remember he and Felix trailing us through the museum. 

We spent a lovely hour in the park, eating and talking.  Well, Sera and I ate.  Marcus excused himself saying that he was on a special diet.  Sera and I let it pass, although I was sure she was as confused as I was.

Once we had finished eating our meal, we made our way deeper into the park where the Acropolis lay.  It was the highest point in the city and had the most breathtaking view.  I was beginning to worry I would run out of memory on my camera before the day was out.  However, I did get some great photos, including a gorgeous picture of Marcus and Sera with the rolling hills in the background.  They were both smiling.  After I snapped the shot, I grinned at Felix and he winked at me.

The afternoon was a whirlwind- exhausting, but exhilarating.  After our picnic, we ambled through town, stopping at the Palazzo dei Priori for Sera, which Marcus guided her through while I sat quietly in the Piazza, sipping my water and people-watching.  Demetri stayed with me and, while he was polite, he was not talkative, so I left him to his thoughts.

From there we continued on to the Teatro Romano where we wandered for a short while through the ruins, as Marcus did his best to educate us on the site.  Apparently, the ruins are very well preserved and date back to the 1st Century B.C.  I found that quite impressive.

We were making our way through town to Porta San Felice when we passed the Pinacoteco e Museo Civico, a small art gallery and civic museum.  Marcus told us about some of the works inside and mentioned that Rosso Fiorentino once studied here.  Excited, Sera grabbed Marcus’ hand and begged him to go inside.  He looked at her hand holding his, then smiled and nodded.  We entered the gallery and I noticed that they continued to hold hands.

The gallery was a treasure, containing many works from the 12th to 17th Centuries.  My favorite was the Apothesis of Christ with Saints, a late 15th Century piece by Domenico Ghirlandaio.  It was his last work, but if you look in the landscape of the background, you can see a giraffe.  Apparently, the Medici family collected quite a menagerie of animals and the artist included this one in his painting. 

Another stroll through town took us to Porta San Felice, which we passed through to reach the Guarnacci Roman Baths.  We couldn’t get very close, but we were able to see the signs of the excavation work and I found it fascinating.  If it were possible, I would love to spend a day with the excavation team, looking for clues of the area’s past. 

We ended our tour at Porta San Francecso, taking in the portions of the frescos that had been preserved in the vaults, and then surveying the view from above.  I snapped some great shots of the patchwork landscape in the distance before we descended once again into the city. 

Marcus chose a different route back through the city.  We were all fairly quiet as we traveled the narrow streets, Marcus only commenting briefly on a place we passed or a particularly interesting piece of architecture.  I tried to surreptitiously observe Marcus and Sera’s interaction. 

Sera was flirting shamelessly, as I would expect.  I had no doubt that she was attracted.  We had been out a few times together, and I had seen her in action before.  She was being even more flirtatious than usual, however.  I’m not sure if that was due to a deeper interest or Marcus’ more reticent nature, but I was hoping it was perhaps a mixture of both.  Sera had a beautiful soul and I had a feeling Marcus did, as well. 

Marcus was harder to read, as he was so reserved.  But, I did notice that his lips were more often than not curled at least slightly upward, even more so when he would look at Sera.  I did my best to give them at least the illusion of privacy so they could get to know each other better.  If anyone could break someone out of their shell, it was Sera.

Before long, we were seated in the garden of a very nice restaurant near the foot of the Acropolis.  Marcus had made reservations and we were immediately seated in what was probably the best seat in the house.  I was feeling a little underdressed, but no one said anything.  I also noted that there hadn’t been prices on the menu, and I wondered just how much Marcus was going to spend on us today.

Sera opted for the ribollita, a type of vegetable soup, while I chose the marinated calamari salad to start.  We then shared a bruschetta appetizer that was simply scrumptious.  For the main dish, I decided to try the stracatto, a Tuscan pot roast.  Sera wanted to be even more daring and picked the chingiale, a dish made with wild boar. 

Again, Marcus didn’t eat, citing his special diet as his excuse and informed us that he would be taken care of when he returned home later that evening.  We both gave him incredulous looks and tried to protest for his health, but he told us not to worry and the diet was safe, that he had been on it for so long he couldn’t imagine any other way.  We decided to drop the subject.

By the time we had finished our food, the sky had darkened considerably.  We had already gone over our day, mentioning our favorite places and pieces of art throughout the meal. 

As we sipped the last of our wine, Sera was describing what it was like living in New Orleans.  I had heard most of it, but Marcus was clearly interested.  She mentioned her schooling and living with her grandmother.  When she told him how her grandmother died, he expressed his condolences and reached over to rest his hand on hers.  She turned hers and squeezed it a moment as she thanked him.  Embarrassed, he withdrew his hand then and asked her to continue.

Felix caught my eye after that.  He was standing against the wall of the building, a smile on his face.  He seemed to be a very amiable man and it appeared as if he genuinely cared for Marcus.  He gave me a quick ‘thumbs up’ signal and I smiled at him. 

I looked around then, noticing that I didn’t see Demetri.  I wondered where he had gone.  As my eyes returned to Felix, I noticed his head turn toward the entry of the restaurant.  I wondered what he was looking for, but a moment later, Demetri walked up to him, said something, and then left.  How had Felix known Demetri was coming? 

Felix made his way to the table and leaned down to whisper in Marcus’ ear.

“Demetri has brought the car around so we may escort you home,” Marcus informed us. 

I guess now I knew where Demetri had gone. 

Felix pulled out the chair as I rose from my seat and gathered my bags, while Marcus did the same for Sera.  They then escorted us through the restaurant to where I assume the car was waiting.  I lagged behind and tugged on Felix’s arm, letting Marcus and Sera get ahead a few paces so they wouldn’t hear me.

“Are you driving?” I asked him.

He furrowed his brow at me.  “Yes, of course.”

“May I sit with you?  Or is Demetri coming, too?”

He grinned as he realized what I meant.  “Oh, I think Demetri may suddenly have an errand to run.”

I beamed at him and rushed to catch up with Marcus and Sera as I saw Felix pull out his cell phone and tap out what I believed was a text message.  This was confirmed when we walked outside the restaurant to see Demetri looking at his phone, shaking his head.

Ten minutes later, I was seated in the front with Felix while Marcus and Sera shared the back.  They were leaning toward each other across the center console, talking quietly, whenever I looked back. 

I spent the ride home chatting with Felix while tormenting him with my music choices via the satellite radio.  He was a good sport about it, though, and we had a good time.

When we reached the apartment, I quickly said goodnight to Felix and then to Marcus, thanking him for another wonderful day and suggesting perhaps next time he come to Florence for a visit.  He said he would think about it. 

Sera had already said goodnight to Felix.  As she turned to Marcus, Felix walked to the front of the car to stand and I went to the door, digging for my keys so I could open the door while trying to peek out of the corner of my eye at the couple. 

She had tilted her head up to him, speaking softly.  He said something back and smiled down at her.  Then, she raised herself up onto her toes and quickly kissed his cheek.  He seemed caught off guard for a moment, but then he relaxed and said something else. 

Sera turned to come toward the door, but then quickly turned back and crooked her finger at him.  He leaned down so she could whisper in his ear.  He straightened and was silent for a second, then another, and then he started laughing.  Not a big, boisterous laugh, though.  It was more like a hearty chuckle, but he laughed. 

I beamed at them and looked to Felix, who was also beaming.  I did a mini fist pump, hoping they wouldn’t see me.

A minute later, I had the door open and Sera was following me inside and up the stairs while the men drove away.  I waited until we’d reached the apartment to ask.

“How did you get him to laugh?”

We plopped down on the couch and put our feet on the coffee table.  It had been a long, exhausting day, much of it spent walking.  My feet were beginning to throb.

Her head was leaning against the cushion on the back of the couch.  “All I did was ask if he played guitar.  He said ‘No, though I am an artist.’”  She grinned.

“I don’t get it.”

“Remember this morning when I was telling you about guitarists’ hands?”

My eyes widened as I recalled the conversation.  Marcus must have heard us.  I giggled, then laughed as Sera joined me.

The rest of the night was spent talking about our day, but mostly about Marcus.  Sera was a bit hesitant to talk about any feelings as yet, and I didn’t push her.  She did say that he was very attractive.  Well, this is Sera, so she actually said he was ‘sex on a stick’.  I didn’t know about that, but I didn’t contradict her.

Sera POV

It was late.  Bella had been asleep for an hour while I lay in my bed, staring at the ceiling.  I sighed.

I felt like I’d been caught in the middle of a whirlwind.  I was so used to being the one to bring the whirlwind that I wasn’t sure how to react now that I was stuck in one I couldn’t control.  It was at once amazing, wonderful, breathtaking…and absolutely horrifying.  I wasn’t sure which way was up, or what I should be feeling.

Marcus.  He was the manifestation of all my dreams come true in a man, which is why I was petrified.  What if he didn’t live up to my expectations?  Or worse, what if I didn’t live up to his?  Did he even have any? 

From what Bella tells me, Marcus seemed sad and lonely.  She told me how she had tried to make him smile the day they had met.  I had been intrigued by the idea of the sad man, wanting to comfort him and, like Bella, make him smile. 

She had also told me that he was attractive.  That had been confirmed when she had shown me his photo, which only added to his intrigue.  I had been interested even then.  I had even felt a pang of jealousy thinking that Bella might want him.  When she assured me she didn’t, I had been relieved. 

Meeting him in person today was life changing and I knew it.  When he had looked at me, it was as if he was looking right into my soul, and that was just scary to imagine.  The idea of someone seeing me so clearly was daunting at best.  What did he see when he looked so deep? 

I sighed again, shifting in the bed, trying to find a comfortable position so I could sleep.  But, when I closed my eyes, I saw Marcus. 

His undeniable allure was more than physical.  I found him to be polite but reserved at first, even though I was sure he was attracted to me.  As the day wore on, I discovered he was highly intelligent, as evidenced by his amazing amount of detail while acting as our tour guide.  He seemed to be knowledgeable about every aspect of Volterra’s history, at least. 

It was also quite obvious that he was very well-endowed, financially.  He had refused to allow Bella or me to pay for anything but our shawls today, and I imagine the restaurant had cost him a pretty penny.  But his clothing and car also screamed money.  To be honest, that idea scared me, too.  I almost wish he were a penniless Bayou boy.  The money was a bit intimidating, while at the same time somewhat exciting.  What girl doesn’t dream of landing a rich guy?

Another sigh, and another shift in the bed, and I was facing the wall now.  My lips curved up as I realized how often I had gotten Marcus to smile today.  By dinner, his mouth had almost lost that sad downward tilt I had seen in his photos and when we first met. 

Then he had laughed.  While I was a wee bit embarrassed at how I’d gotten him to laugh, I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.  It was just a little chuckle, but it was a start.  I had to make him do that again, often.  He was so reserved that I had been shocked at his response.

He was an artist.  I wonder what medium he uses.  I didn’t think it was photography, or anything that used modern technology.  Painter, perhaps?  Sculptor?  Bella said he was quite interested in the sculpture of Didyme, and he does have great hands…

His hands…they were always cold.  He had mentioned a circulation problem, but it still seemed odd, as if he were not telling the whole truth, perhaps?   His eyes also seemed wrong somehow.  All three of them, actually, had the same dull brown eyes.  And then there was the ‘special diet’ he was on.  What kind of diet kept him so fit while denying him food?  He hadn’t even drunk anything today and we’d been with him the entire day and into the night.  It was perplexing. 

There was definitely something strange about him.  About all of them.

Marcus POV

My eyes did not leave her form until it was hidden behind the closed door of her apartment building.  I was in utter chaos at the events of this day.  Meeting Sera had been a shock from which I had not quite yet recovered.  I entered the vehicle and lay my head back against the seat, closing my eyes and remembering our first meeting.

She had not been facing me, but rather walking away toward the sculpture of Didyme.  She was only a few inches taller than Bella, but still quite petite, especially in comparison with my own height.  Her hair was a pale blonde that fell to her shoulders.  Her body was slender, I noted, as my eyes traveled down her back to the slight curve at her waist where her shirt had ridden up above her jeans, exposing a patch of skin.  My admiring gaze continued its path over her jean-encased legs and sandaled feet as I felt my body responding. 

This was a curious development.  While I often found women to be attractive, rarely had they affected me so quickly or so profoundly as this one had, and I had yet to see all of her. 

Curious, I closed my eyes and summoned my power.  While I was curious about the tie between the two friends, I was also perplexed by my own reaction to her.  Perhaps there was a thread between Sera and me as there had been when I had first met Bella.

Opening my eyes, I was so struck by what I saw that I very nearly stumbled in my amazement.  I did not even register their words at first, as I was absorbed by what I saw.  A thin, white thread bound us together.  The last time I had witnessed such a thing had been nearly 3,000 years ago, when I had met Didyme. 

I had never questioned my bond with Didyme. Our connection had been as strong as any other mated pair and I had loved her with everything that I was.  She had been a beautiful woman, both in manner and appearance, and I had missed her profoundly after her death.  I had always assumed the reason I felt as if I were missing something had been due to losing her. 

Countless times I had seen the thread of a mated couple.  I knew from experience that it would only continue to grow.  The thread would thicken and the color would brighten and pulse between mates as they grew indelibly closer to one another.

Now, as I stared at the thread, I noticed it was already a strong connection.  Where normally it would be a pale sliver at first then grow with time, this thread was thicker and brighter.  It was as if we had already bonded on some level.

Still unable to take my eyes from her slender form, I knew that it was this woman that I had been waiting for my entire existence.  The something that had been missing from my life was her.  It was a frightening revelation and I was not positive how I should proceed.  I was, for once in my life, at a loss.

 Cajun French translations:
- C’est magnifique! = That’s great!
- Laissez les bons temps roulez! = Let the good times roll!
- Mon Dieu = My God

UB Extras - Chapter 3

Well, lots of people asked about Sera and if she'd end up with a vampire.  I guess this chapter kind of answers that, huh?  Much of this chapter is focused on Sera and Marcus and the beginning of their relationship.  You may see their POV time to time in this fic, but they are NOT the focus of the entire story.  Much of their interaction will be seen through either Bella or Jasper's POV now.

Some may wonder why Sera with Marcus?  Well, I've always loved him.  He's always seemed so sad and troubled, apathetic.  And when I decided to make Sera into a more important role in my fic, she just seemed like the perfect mate for him.  If I do my job right, you will see how she brings him into the world of the living, rather than just existing.  In return, he will keep her from going too wild and rein her in when needs be.  They just screamed perfection for each other and I had to make them mates.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

UB Chapter 2 - Birthdays and Fate

Just a few notes based on some confusion reviewers had last chapter: 

Bella is in Italy on a semester abroad program with NYU.  Most students who study abroad do so via an affiliated American based school, in this case, NYU.  They have a beautiful campus and lots of information on their site, which is linked on this story’s blog.

Also, just to clarify, the Prologue mentions it is a few weeks till Bella’s birthday (which is Sept. 13th).  Chapter 1 deals with the time from the Prologue up until the evening before her birthday.

I hope that clears any confusion.  Thanks!

Maj, me love you long time girl.  Thanks for helping with the ‘research’!

Again, thanks to my beta, Sparagus.  My story would not be what it is without her! She has some amazing proofing skills.  You are a lifesaver!

Additional thanks to Jaspersdestiny for betaing part of this chapter.  Sparagus needed a much deserved break and Jaspersdestiny was kind enough to step in and help.

Rating: This story is rated M (MA) for a reason.  It will at times contain violence, lemons, and other adult content.  I really don’t do PG, as anyone who knows me could tell you.  So if you aren’t of age, you should not be reading this.  

Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer owns Twilight and all affiliated characters.  I just like to play with them.  Nor do I own any of the artwork discussed in any chapter of this fic.  I am merely using it in one way or another for the purpose of my story.  

Chapter 2 – Birthdays and Fate

Bella POV

I launched myself out of bed an hour before my alarm was due to sound, grabbed a change of clothes, and headed into the bathroom to get ready.  I was so excited that I nearly bounced everywhere as I got ready for my day.  I’d been waiting for this for nearly a year!  I didn’t care so much about my birthday, but rather that I would be in Volterra in only a matter of hours.  I would finally see Didyme herself and not a mild representation of ink on paper.

It was still quite early, so I decided to make breakfast for Sera and I.  Hailey and Kelli were late sleepers, and I knew I wouldn’t see them before we left, anyway.  We needed to be out of the house by seven if we wanted to make it to Volterra before it got too late.

With my iPod in my ears, I hummed along to Lily Allen and fried up some eggs and bacon.  I fried extra bacon for the girls so they could just reheat it later for breakfast, or more likely lunch, knowing them. 

As I sat breakfast on the table, I noticed it was later than I thought, and I hadn’t seen Sera.  Going into the bedroom, I noticed she was sitting up in bed, her pale blonde hair in messy clumps around her head, her nose bright red, and her eyes bloodshot.

“Geez, Sera, you look awful.”

Groaning, Sera fell back onto her pillow and curled up in a ball.  “Thanks, chère,” she said, or rather tried to say.  Her voice was raspy, and it sounded like it hurt.  “Damn, that hurt.”  She rubbed her throat and sniffled loudly.

I went into the bathroom and checked the medicine cabinet.  Last week, a bug had been going around campus, and Kelli had caught it.  It only lasted a day or two, but it was pretty rough.  I grabbed the leftover medicine we’d gotten from the pharmacy for Kelli and took it to Sera with a glass of water and some tissues.

“Here, take these,” I told her, handing her the pills.  “They’ll make you sleepy, but I imagine that’s what you need right now.  Lots of rest.  Dr. Bella’s orders.”

Sera sat up on her elbow and took the pills.  Grabbing a tissue, she sneezed into it, and then blew her nose.  “Ech!  This sucks.  I’m so sorry, chère.”

Taking the glass from her, I put it on the table and made her lie down.  “Don’t worry about it.  I was planning to go alone originally, right?  You just get better, and I promise you can come with me next time.  Are you hungry?  I made some eggs and bacon.”

Sera made a face and shook her head as she curled back up in bed.  “Eating is not an option right this moment.  Maybe later.”

I tucked the covers around her.  “No worries, hon.  I’ll clean up.  There is extra bacon in the fridge if you guys get hungry.  I’ll leave a note for the girls to check on you later.  If you need anything, just give me a call.”

Sera just nodded into her pillow, but she was practically asleep, so I grabbed my things I would need for my trip and left, closing the bedroom door behind me. 

I ate, cleaned up the kitchen, and left a note for Kelli and Hailey before loading up my bag and heading out the door.

It took about twenty minutes to get to the train station.  I had extra time, so I stopped and picked up a strong coffee, a bottle of water, and some snacks for later in case I needed them. 

I actually had to take a train to a town called Colle di Val d'Elsa and then get a bus from there to Volterra.  The entire journey would take almost two hours, but I had plenty to keep me busy.  Settling into a window seat, I put in my ear buds, picked a classic rock playlist, and pulled out my book.  I didn’t read, though.  Instead, my eyes were glued to the beautiful scenery speeding past my window.  The weather was mostly cooperating with me for my trip.  It wasn’t raining, but it wasn’t sunny out either.  There was an ample supply of clouds and no hints of the bright sun.  I had checked the forecast, so I knew it wasn’t meant to rain until tomorrow.  I mentally crossed my fingers that the weathermen here were more reliable and that I wouldn’t get caught in a storm on the way back to Florence.

I didn’t see much of Colle di Val d'Elsa except for the road out of the town.  I had heard it was known for its glassware and vaguely noted a few shops here and there, but I was so excited to get to Volterra that I didn’t notice much.  I had gotten a seat in the front of the bus, and my eyes were glued on the road ahead of me as we got closer to Volterra and Didyme.

We had been driving approximately forty minutes when I got my first glimpse of the wall surrounding Volterra.  I could see the upper stories of some buildings jutting up above the wall.  Since coming to Italy, I had come to the realization that pictures do the scenery no justice.  The same was true in this case.

As we approached from the east, I could see the city at the top of the sloping hillside surrounding it.  My eyes took in the beautiful scenery as we went up the road, seeing more the closer we got.  Camera in hand, I snapped off a few shots through the window and wished the sun were out so the colors would shine.

After taking some pictures of the surrounding area and a few of the city from afar, I packed away my iPod and the book I’d been reading. I watched out the window as we entered the city.  Winding through the streets, I marveled again at how the old and new worlds collided.  There was a mixture of architecture, designs, and even people, that seemed to come from varying periods of time in history, from past to present.  I was dazzled by the feel of the city already, and I’d not even stepped off the bus yet.

In moments, we were at the bus station.  After disembarking, I found an information kiosk and grabbed a map while looking over what events would be taking place in the coming weeks.  I had just missed the Astiludio, which seemed to be a flag throwing competition held each year on the first Sunday in September.  Nothing was planned for today that caught my interest, but next month there was some sort of truffle exhibition that looked interesting.  Volterra was also a gastronomical community, and it would be fun to drag Sera along and sample the truffles and other local products.  I took the pamphlet on the festival and tucked it into my bag. 

Checking the map, I made note of where I was and how to get to Il Duomo, the church that held Didyme. It wasn’t far from where I was, so with a bit of a hop to my step, I followed the map toward my destination, taking in the sights and sounds as I made my way through the streets.  There were a few bistros and a mix of shops selling souvenirs, leather bags, and clothes.  I didn’t stop at any of them since I was in a hurry to get to Il Duomo. 

As I walked along the sidewalk toward the church door, I pressed my hand against the ancient rocks, marveling at their age.  The last few weeks, seeing these structures and the various centuries-old artwork, I couldn’t help but feel that as beautiful as America could be, it couldn't compare to this.  Sure, we had the Native Americans, and their history was quite old, but I was more interested in the places like Il Duomo.  The original cathedral had been reconstructed in 1120 in the same spot as an older one had been.  Over the years, the structure had been updated and added to until it became what was now before me. 

Feeling awe for the age of the building and the fact that Didyme was right inside; I stood just outside the door for a moment and took a deep breath. 

Pushing open one of the portal doors, I stepped into the nave of the church, letting it fall closed behind me.  The door opened into the nave of the church.  Ahead of me were rows of pews leading to the altar.  There were marbled columns mixed in with the pews, and the ceiling of the nave was decorated in gold.  I noticed there were a few other tourists and a couple of people sitting in the pews near the altar.

I wasn’t sure where Didyme was, so I ambled around Il Duomo, exploring as I went.  Each of the chapels were named and held various works of art, from sarcophagi to wood-paneled paintings to statues. 

I had only just started down the aisle to the right of the pews when I saw her.  A niche was set in the wall with a small platform.  She was resting peacefully on the small pedestal within.  I approached her in awe, my hand raised to touch her, but I was hesitant.  I had been waiting to see this piece for a year.  It was the defining reason for my trip to Italy, regardless of what it could do for my education. 

“Didyme,” I breathed quietly. 

With great reverence, I pressed my fingers to the veil covering her face.  I knew it wasn’t cloth, but it was still surprising to find it so hard. It looked so much like a real veil. 

“I’ve waited quite a while to meet you.”  I kept my voice a whisper, in case someone came by and heard me.  “This is crazy,” I told her, speaking to the statue as if she would answer.  “Why am I so drawn to you?  Why do you comfort me when no one else can?”  I sighed.  “I miss her.  A lot.  I never really had very many friends.  I was always happy to just have her.  When she died, it was so hard.  Charlie is a lot of help, but he’s more the silent, hands-off type of Dad, you know?  With Renee, she was always interested in what I was doing.  She never let me wallow away my life in just my books, but made me try things.  I’m so glad for that.  She helped me realize that life can be pretty boring if you’re always afraid to try and live it.”

I didn’t know why I was pouring my heart out, but it felt right, and it felt good.  I felt like I was finally able to let go.

“I’m glad you brought me here.  I’ve had more fun here in Italy than I have in a very long time.  I love my classes and living in New York, but this is different.  Part of me feels as if I’m being pulled to you, or by you, to Italy itself, especially Volterra, and also to Sera.  She is so full of life.  In some ways she reminds me of Renee, with the same zest for life experiences.”  I smiled.  “But you and this place … I can’t explain the feeling I have.  Since coming to this city, and especially now, standing in front of you, I feel like I’m coming home.  It’s a strange sensation.  I haven’t seen much of the town, but I know I would love it.”

I laughed at myself.  “Maybe I am going crazy.  I’m standing in a church in a small town in the middle of Italy talking to the bust of a woman who has probably been dead for at least five centuries.  I’m losing it.”

“Perhaps she simply wants you to be happy,” came a soft, deep voice from behind me. It was heavy with an Italian accent and embodied masculinity.

Shocked and embarrassed, I spun around.  My cheeks heated as a blush spread across my face.

Standing next to the column by the pews, about five feet away, was a man who looked to be about my age.  He was tall, about half a foot taller than I, with long, jet black hair that flowed past his shoulders and down his back.  He was pale for an Italian, with a strong face and very expressive, dark brown eyes.  His stature spoke of elegance.  He wore simple jeans with a white button down shirt and a long black jacket, but contrary to the casual style, I had a feeling that he’d spent a pretty penny for everything that touched his skin.

He was absolutely gorgeous, but he definitely wasn’t breathtaking—not like my Mr. Hottie from the airport.

After a moment, I realized I hadn't responded to him, my mind busy processing his being as I checked him out.  Feeling awkward, I finally found my voice. 

“Who are you?”

His expression was curious as he appraised me.  I was starting to feel a little nervous under his scrutiny when he finally stepped forward and bowed slightly at the waist in greeting.

“Forgive me.  My name is Marcus Volturi.  It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Marcus POV

During my rare trips to the city, I often found myself at Il Duomo.  It had become my habit to visit the statue of her, of Didyme, my wife.

Standing next to the column across from the sculpture, I stared.  I knew my work had been flawless when sculpted.  The perfect recollection of a vampire helped me to create a beautiful piece of art, even if I had sculpted it so many centuries after her death. 

The statue was beautiful, but it paled in comparison to the woman herself. Her quiet soul was exactly what I had needed at a time when fighting was rampant amongst both humans and vampires alike.

Now, it was I who had become quiet, resolved to live a solitary life, regardless of the occasional women I bedded.  My days were spent attending to business matters, both human and vampire, while in the evenings I pursued a number of other interests.  No one had ever compared to her, and I imagine no one ever would.

So lost in my thoughts was I, that I nearly missed the woman who now stood so close to the likeness of my lost love.  I could see only the woman's profile, but her face depicted reverence, much as I had seen in the faces of zealots upon the arrival of a beloved icon.  Her expression piqued my curiosity.

The artist within me took note of her features.  She was a pale, young woman, perhaps in her early twenties.  Her long, dark brown hair was swept off her face and neck, secured atop her head with some kind of fabric.  Her large, expressive brown eyes held faint flecks of green and were surrounded by full, dark lashes.  Pale, pink lips were parted slightly as she studied the sculpture.  She had an understated beauty for a human. 

My curiosity only grew when she began to speak.  Her voice was a soft whisper, but I heard every word as she spoke to Didyme.  The cold stone was a silent audience as to this woman who spoke of her loss, her anguish, how she felt the need to come to Italy, to Volterra, and how she felt at home here.  I, too, was a silent audience to her words as she gave voice to her melancholy and confusion.

As I listened, my gaze again moved to the sculpture.  It was puzzling that this woman felt compelled to come here, to see Didyme, and that she was conversing with her as if she were a friend or relative in whom she might confide.  Was it fate?  Was I meant to meet this woman?  Who was she to me?  Who was she to Didyme? 

My mind was inundated with questions as I closed my eyes and called upon my ability.  When I felt the tell-tale tingle behind my eyes, I opened them and perused the small form of the woman in front of me.  Shock coursed through me, and I stared.  I was certain that I had never before seen this woman; therefore, there should not have been any ties between us.  However, I clearly saw the thread connecting us. 

I was baffled by this realization as I studied the thread.  In times past, when I had seen a connection between two strangers, it had been a strong, solid white thread indicative of mates.  This, however, was only a sliver of a thread, barely visible.  Also perplexing were the colors.  Pale versions of yellow and brown mingled together, surging back and forth between us.  Regardless, how might strangers also be friends and, even more bewildering, family? 

I must learn more about this peculiar young human woman.

Bella POV

“Bella Swan,” I smiled.  “Pleased to meet you, as well.”  I bit my lip and hoped he wouldn’t bring up my embarrassing conversation with the marbled figure next to me.

“Well, Miss Swan.  What brings such a beautiful young American to our city?” he asked.

I blushed at the compliment.  “I guess the accent is a bit of a giveaway, huh?” I grinned.  “I’m actually studying in Florence for the semester, but I’m in Volterra to sightsee.”

“I see you are interested in Didyme.”  His voice was soft, almost reverent as he spoke of the sculpture.

“Yes, very,” I told him, looking down at my fingers playing with the hem of my shirt.  “It’s a beautiful piece.  I first saw her in a book when I was studying in New York. I knew I had to see her in person.”  I shook my head and smiled at my bizarre urge that lead me here as I looked up at him.  “I’m not crazy, really.”

“I do not question your sanity, Miss Swan.”  One corner of his lips quirked briefly, as if he were on the verge of a smile.

“Please, call me Bella.  Miss Swan is so formal.  It makes me feel old.”

“Bella, then.  And you must call me Marcus.”  I nodded.  “May I ask…?”

He trailed off, as if he wasn’t sure if he should ask the questions, but I could imagine what he wanted to know.  “Why was I speaking to her?”  He inclined his head. 

I sighed and walked over to sit on one of the pews next to him.  He followed suit so that he was seated to my right in the pew behind me. 

“I lost my mother a little over a year ago.  It was a difficult time for me.”

“I am very sorry for your loss, Bella.  It’s never easy to lose someone we love.”

A sad smile crossed my lips as I looked at him again, the dark brown of his eyes staring down into mine.  I could see that he’d lost someone close to him, as well, and I wondered who it might have been.

“Renee, that’s my mother, was my best friend.  I’ve never had any really close friends.  Not that I’m a recluse, of course.  But nothing like with her.  She was very eccentric, to put it mildly, and oh so fearless.”  I giggled remembering some of the things Renee had gotten me to try.  “She signed us up for clown classes once.  Can you imagine me with mismatched clothing, big shoes, and a squeaky nose?” 

That got me a smile and I was glad to have lightened the mood somewhat.

“Well, last year I was researching for a paper, and came across a picture of her.”  I nodded in the direction of Didyme.  “She looked so serene, so calm.  Just looking at her…” I trailed off and looked down, not sure how to describe the feelings I’d had without sounding insane.

I felt Marcus’ dark eyes on me for a moment before he spoke.  “She made you feel calm in a time when your very existence was in uproar.”

I considered for moment, then nodded and turned to him again.  “Yeah, you could say that.  Is that weird to feel that way from just a picture of a sculpture?”  I didn’t wait for an answer, but continued on.  “Not only that, but it compelled me to do this year abroad.  I don’t even need it for my degree, but I needed it, for me.”  I sighed.  “I did all this so I could come here and see her.”

“Do you believe in fate, Bella?” he asked.

My eyebrows wrinkled as I considered his question.  “If you had asked me a year ago, I would probably have said no.  But now, I’m not so sure.  Maybe.  I know that I was compelled to come here, not just Italy, but here to Volterra.  To Didyme.  Now that I’m here, though, I’m not sure what to do next.  Perhaps fate was what pushed me to this point, perhaps not.”

Marcus was still smiling, but his gaze was now on Didyme.  He seemed to be recalling a pleasant memory and I wondered what it was.  I was about to ask when Marcus reached down to pull a cell phone from his pocket and answered it.  I assumed it had vibrated, since I’d not heard a ring.

“Excuse me, Bella,” he said, then stood and walked a few feet away.

I contemplated the man as he took his call.  He wore what looked to be designer clothing.  I could be wrong about that, though.  I wished for a moment that Hailey or Kelli were here to tell me if my observations were correct.  Regardless, they were very well tailored.  The only jewelry he wore was a signet type ring on his right ring finger and a jeweled watch that looked expensive.

I looked at his eyes.  The dark brown was a bit muddled, making his eyes look kind or murky, but he could have a vision problem or be wearing contacts.  He had an olive skin tone, but it was pale, almost deathly so.

He spoke like an old man, as if he had been born a hundred years ago.  It was strange.  But considering he seemed to come from money, and he’s Italian, perhaps he had attended some private or boarding school.  His mannerisms seemed very elegant and proper, as were his speech patterns.

All things considered, I was intrigued by him and glad I was able to speak with him.  Besides, he didn’t call the funny farm on me, so he can’t be all that bad.  And he seemed to truly understand what I meant about Didyme.  I wonder if he knew anything about her.

I noticed Marcus end his call then dial another one.  He spoke animatedly for a moment before snapping the phone shut and putting it back in his pocket.  He looked up and to his right. 

Following his gaze, I noticed a very large man come forward and speak with Marcus.  The man was well over six feet, by at least half a foot.  He was not only tall, but he was also muscular.  He was burly, with a wide chest and shoulders, a thick neck, and large hands.

In the darkened light of the church, his hair looked black and was cropped really short and matted to his head.  He had thick, dark eyebrows covering eyes that were dark like Marcus’ and the same pale olive skin tone as well.

I noticed the man’s attitude was respectful and polite, but as Marcus turned to walk back toward me, the man looked over to grin and wink at me.  I realized his features were very boyish and I couldn’t help but smile at his cheerful demeanor.

“Forgive me, Bella.” Marcus told me as he resumed his seat next to me.

“Not a problem, Marcus.  I’m not keeping you from anything, am I?” I asked.

“Of course not.  Just a small matter that needed my attention.  However, barring any further interruptions, my schedule is cleared for the day.”

“Do you live here in Volterra?”

“Yes, not far from here.”  He smiled at me.  “Bella, would you like to be my guest for the day?”

I frowned at him, confused.  “Your guest?  To where?”

“I would like to escort you around Volterra.  I do not know what you had planned for the day, but perhaps I could show you a few of the sites.  I am quite familiar with the city, as you know.”

“Oh!  Actually, I would love that, but are you sure?” I was excited at the prospect of being shown the city by a local. 

“Absolutely.  I have been having such a wonderful time that I hate to see it end so soon.” 

He smiled at me and I couldn’t help but return it. 

The rest of the day was a bit of a whirlwind. 

He started by showing me around Il Duomo.  I had already perused all the historical information on the church when researching Didyme, so I knew that the existing building had been here for nearly a millennia.  Marcus began by showing me the sections of the building that had been modified or added throughout the years in the various styles of the times.  He then took me around the building, showing me the artwork that he preferred and why, then listened attentively as I gave my own views on the pieces.

I had such an enjoyable time in Il Duomo with Marcus that I didn’t realize the time until my stomach growled.  I was embarrassed, but he didn’t comment.  He simply smiled and suggested we get me something to eat, but professed that he had a late breakfast and was still not hungry.

As we exited Il Duomo, I looked back to see the man Marcus had spoken to follow behind us.  Curious, I asked Marcus about him.  Marcus turned and introduced me to Felix, who was polite and again had a ready smile that I couldn’t resist returning.  Felix was a flirt, but apparently he was also Marcus’ bodyguard.  I found it a little disconcerting and wondered why Marcus needed a bodyguard, but decided to keep my questions to myself for now.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to know, and Marcus seemed relieved that I didn’t ask. 

Instead of sitting inside at a café, I opted to grab a sandwich and a soda so we could continue to explore.  At Marcus’ suggestion, we ambled over to the Piazza dei Priori and sat on the edge of the fountain.  I ate while he related the history of the piazza and indicated what each of the buildings were, the most interesting of which was the Palazzo dei Priori.  The massive 13th Century building was topped with a large tower.  Marcus informed me that the tower had been partially rebuilt after an earthquake in 1846. 

Once I’d finished my lunch, I excused myself from Marcus and pulled out my cell phone to call Sera.  Her voice was still raspy, but she assured me she was feeling a little better and just needed more rest.  I let her know that I would be home this evening and told her to call if she needed anything.

After hanging up with Sera, I returned to Marcus and we started inside the Palazzo dei Priori.  As we crossed the threshold, I noticed a stairway and a fresco that seemed to be of the Crucifixion.  I went to ask Marcus about it, but when I turned, I realized he was still by the door speaking quietly with Felix.  After a moment, Felix nodded, excused himself, and then continued further into the building. 

Marcus joined me and began to tell me about the fresco, confirming that it was of the Crucifixion and pointed out the saints.  As we made our way to the Council Hall and through the Palazzo, I was awed by the artwork in the various rooms.  Most of the artwork was religious in nature, depicted on frescos, paintings and wood panels.  My favorite was The Marriage Feast of Cana by Donato Mascagni, a large 16th century canvas painting depicting one of the miracles of Christ when he changed water to wine.

We were headed to the entry doors when I looked up and noticed that Felix was standing there, waiting for us, I assumed.  My assumption proved correct when he greeted us, handed a small box to Marcus, then followed us out of the building.   Marcus merely tucked the box into his jacket and led the way into the piazza. 

I told Marcus I would like to do a little souvenir shopping and he just nodded, again leading the way. 

There were a couple of shops situated in nooks and corners between the buildings.  I was charmed by the architecture of the city.  I was truly beginning to love it here.  Many of the walls were made of stone and gave an old feel to the city.  Many of the streets didn’t allow vehicles and some weren’t even wide enough for cars to travel, regardless. 

We made our way into several shops; most were souvenir shops, where I bought various gifts and postcards for friends and Charlie.  My favorite shop, however, was an alabaster shop. 

Marcus informed me that Volterra was known for alabaster and that I should check out one of the shops.  He led me to one called Alabastro Scali and showed me their work.  The pieces were beautiful.  They had everything from chessboards to vases to tiny animals.  I found the cutest little cat with a curled tail and an expression that just screamed Sera to me.  I had to get it for her.  For myself, I fell in love with a rectangular box that had a dark blue base with a white top, painted with a blue rose.  It would be perfect for a jewelry box, but as it was more than I was willing to spend, I reluctantly placed the box back on the shelf.

After buying the present for Sera, I made my way outside, glancing at my watch.  It was close to five o’clock.  Digging in my bag, I pulled out the timetables for the bus and train that would take me back to Florence.  As I tried to work out the schedules, Marcus came up to me and asked about them.

“I need to find out when the bus leaves so I can make the train to Florence.”

“Please, Bella, you are my guest.  I will ensure that you arrive home safely,” he told me.

“How is that?” I asked.

“I can have Felix bring the car and we will drive you back.  It is not far.”

I frowned.  “Isn’t it like an hour drive?  That seems pretty far to me.”

Marcus just smiled and shook his head.  “It is not an issue, truly.  Felix loves to drive and this will give him a legitimate excuse.”

I looked at Marcus carefully and considered if I should accept his offer.  On one hand, I had just met him, and while we had spent the day together, I still knew very little about him.  But, on the other hand, I had been comfortable with him all day.  He had made no overt passes at me, for which I was grateful.  He treated me very well and had been a perfect gentleman the entire day.

Finally, I shrugged.  “Okay, but I will need to go very soon.  A friend of mine has been sick all day and I would like to get back and check on her.”

“Certainly.  That is not a problem.  We could go now if you like.  It is still light out and you would be able to see more of the countryside on your return trip.”  He turned to Felix, who nodded and pulled out his cell phone.  “Now, Felix will have the car brought around, but these areas are still for pedestrian traffic only, so we will need to walk a few blocks over.”

After a few moments, we arrived at a silver sedan.  It was a very aerodynamic design that seemed to be a mixture of sport and sophistication.

Leaning against the car in a pair of khaki pants and a black button down shirt was a very handsome man.  He was about as tall as Marcus, but leaner, as if he worked out more, but not so much as Felix.  He had black, shoulder length hair that was cleanly swept back away from his face.  He didn’t have the olive coloring as did Felix and Marcus.  His skin had a peach hue and while he was tan, he still had that pale undertone.  His face was down, but he was looking up at us as we approached and his eyes stood out to me.  They were that now familiar dark brown, though slightly lighter, but they were piercing, as if he were trying to look through me.  A second later, his expression changed to what might have been shock, but I couldn’t be sure. 

I was beginning to wonder what was in the water in Volterra that there were so many attractive men in residence, regardless of their pallor.  Living here was looking more and more appealing every minute.

Marcus introduced the man as Demetri.  I smiled up at him, taking note that he didn’t offer his hand in greeting.  Now that I think of it, neither Marcus nor Felix had offered their hands, either.  In fact, neither had touched me in any way.  Perhaps that is why I felt more comfortable around them?  I filed that thought away for later.

Demetri opened the door for me to slide into the seat behind the driver.  He then rounded the car and opened the door for Marcus to get in next to me.  Felix got in the driver’s seat with Demetri next to him. 

I took a moment to look around the car.  It was, in a word, luxurious.  There was a console that ran the length of the car between the driver and passenger sides.  The seats were soft leather and very comfortable.  Looking up, I noticed a triangle-shaped sunroof over each of the rear seats.

“What kind of car is this?” I asked, curious.  “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Marcus smiled at me.  “No, you probably wouldn’t.  It’s a Mercedes F-700, a concept car.  Felix sometimes picks them up and offers to test them for the company.”

I was dumbfounded.  I had never been interested in cars, but I also never considered I’d be in a concept car.  It was exciting and intriguing in its novelty.

We began to move through the city slowly, Marcus indicating various points of interest for a return trip if I were interested.

“Would you like to return, Bella?” he asked me.

I nodded, smiling.  “Yes, definitely.  I want to see Didyme again, of course.”  I blushed a little at that.  “But I also want to see more of the city.  Maybe Sera can make it next time, too.  I think she’d love the Palazzo.”

“Felix,” Marcus called to the large man in the driver’s seat. 

Felix pulled a package from somewhere and handed it back to Marcus, who then handed it to me. 

I looked at Marcus in confusion.  “What is this?”

“A present, Bella.”

“You didn’t have to get me anything, Marcus.  You’ve done enough just showing me around today.  I’m sure you had better things to do.”

“I assure you, I haven’t had a more enjoyable day in a very long time, Bella.  Please, just accept your gift.”

“Alright.  So what is it?”  I peeked at the bag.  It was from the Alabastro Scali shop we had visited earlier.  I gasped.  “You didn’t.”  I reached inside and pulled out a brown box with the shop’s name on top.  Opening it, I saw, as I had assumed, the box I had wanted from the store.  I was stunned.

“Open the box, Bella,” he prodded.

Lifting the lid, I noticed a necklace of what looked like polished silver lying in a bed of blue velvet.  At the end of the chain links was a small oval shaped pendant with a crest of trees and birds.  Above and below the crest looked like small red gems, and in the background was a large V.  It was beautiful.

“Oh, Marcus.  You didn’t have to do this.  I love it!  Thank you so much!”

In my joy at the gifts, I did what I normally would.  I leaned over the console in the center and hugged him.  He went rigid and I noticed his body was hard.  My cheek brushed his and I noted how cold it was. 

Noticing his posture, I settled back into my seat, embarrassed.  “Sorry, I was just…”  I lightly fingered the box in my lap, tracing the rose detail on its top.

“Forgive me, Bella.  I am unused to…” he paused, as if searching for the word, “affection.”

I looked over at him, pondering quietly.  I wondered so many things about this man.  He seemed so sad, but aloof.  How did he expect to be happy if he never let anyone in?  And yet, he had taken the time to spend today with me and to buy me a gift.  Perhaps he just didn’t know how to get close to anyone.

“I am very glad to have met you, Marcus.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all you’ve done for me today.  I had such a wonderful time.”

“As did I, Bella.”

The car got quiet and I spent a few moments looking over the countryside.  “Marcus?”  When he turned to me, I asked, “If I were to come back to Volterra…” I trailed off and bit my lip, not sure if I should ask.  Is that considered pushy?  But, I liked his company and would like to see him again.  Looking up, I noticed he was waiting for me to finish.  “If I come back, would you like to … show me around some more?  I’d like to see you again.”

“I would love that, Bella.  I was hoping to see you again, as well.”  He smiled again.  I noticed he was smiling more as the day wore on.  I had a feeling it was a rare thing, so I was quite pleased with myself.

A sudden thought occurred to me.  “Oh, and I mean that in the most platonic of ways, really.”  I didn’t want to give him the wrong impression.  He was a very attractive man, but I had no desire for him in that way whatsoever.

His smile broadened.  “Not to worry, Bella.  I didn’t imagine you meant it any other way.”

I relaxed, relieved.  “Oh, good.  I mean, not that you aren’t attractive, but it would be like dating your brother, to be honest.  I just can’t imagine it.  It’s kind of icky, actually.”  I’m sure my face was aflame, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, either.

Marcus laughed and I smiled, and then laughed along with him.  “I know exactly what you mean, Bella.”

We spent the next half an hour alternating between commenting on the scenery and asking about each other.  I told him a little more about my schooling and what it was like growing up as a child of divorced parents.  He was also curious about the differences between Italy and the U.S. 

He was rather vague about his work, stating only that he and his brothers owned several companies.  But, he was fairly open about his love of art and literature.  We had just gotten into a discussion on the Divine Comedy by Dante when I noticed we had reached Florence.

Felix asked for the address and as I answered, my lips quirked down a little.

Marcus noticed.  “Why so sad, Bella?”

“I don’t want today to end.  I’ve been enjoying myself.”

Marcus opened the console between us and pulled out paper and a pen.  He wrote on it quickly, and then handed the paper to me.  On it was his name and a phone number.

“Please, call me whenever you would like to return.  I will be at your service.” 

“Really?”  I grinned up at him as he nodded.  “May I borrow that?” I asked, indicating the pen he still held.  I then wrote my name and number on the bottom of the paper and tore it off, handing it to him.  “Call me anytime, Marcus.  Even if you just want to chat.  I’d love to hear from you.”

He took the paper from me and tucked it into his pocket.  “Thank you.”

“I would like Sera to return with me, if that would be okay?” I hoped he didn’t mind.

“You may invite whomever you wish, Bella.  I would love to meet your friend.  From what little I’ve heard of her, she sounds like a very interesting young lady.”

I giggled at him.  “Interesting barely begins to describe Sera.  But you’ll have to see that for yourself.”

The car was drawing to a halt in front of my apartment building when Marcus spoke. 

“Bella, would you do something for me?”  His voice seemed almost hesitant.

“What is it?”

“The pendant I gave you.  If it is not too much to ask, please wear it.”

“Of course I’ll wear it, Marcus.  I think it’s lovely.”  I wasn’t sure what he meant by asking me this.

“Please, Bella.  It bears my crest.  It will protect you.  I cannot explain how, but please do this for me.”

I looked into his eyes, trying to decipher the reason behind his cryptic words.  I knew it was an odd request, but I could tell it was important to him.  “Alright, Marcus.”  I reached into the box and withdrew the pendant.  I admired it again for a brief moment before slipping it on.  When it rested snugly against my chest, I smiled at him.  “Good?”

“Thank you.”  He reached into his breast pocket and withdrew a small box.

“No more presents, Marcus, please.  You’ve spoiled me already the entire day.”

He grinned at me and I noticed he seemed so at ease now compared to when I met him this morning.

“I am afraid this is not for you, Bella.”  He handed the box to me.

I was confused.  “It’s not for me?”

“No, this one is for Sera.  Please have her wear it as well.”

I opened the box and noted an identical pendant inside.  “You’re very strange.  You’re lucky you’re cute and I like you.”  I realized how much like Sera I had sounded and laughed at myself.

A sharp bark of laughter came from the front seat as Felix laughed at my comment.  Marcus gave him a look and he quieted, but I just smiled.  When Marcus nodded his head, Felix and Demetri exited the car.  The rear doors opened a moment later and I climbed out of the plush seat onto my street.

Marcus appeared at my side as Felix closed the car door behind me.

 “Please wear the pendant while you are here.  If you get into any kind of trouble, mention my name.  And no matter how strange, please call me.”

I gave him a look, my eyes assessing him yet again.  “You’re very cryptic, you know.”

“I know, but it will help you, I swear it.”

“Okay,” I told him.

“I had a lovely day, Bella.  Good night.”

“So did I.  Thank you again, for everything.  Good night, Marcus.”

I opened the door to the building and walked inside.  As I shut it behind me, I heard the car doors close and the hum of the vehicle as it pulled away.