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.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

UB Chapter 11 - Allayed Fears and Cryptic Remarks

Chapter 11 – Allayed Fears and Cryptic Remarks

Bella POV

“So…have you decided?”

I opened my eyes and rolled my head to the side so I could look at Sera.  We were both lying on the floor, staring up through the twisting branches and vines to the stars beyond the glass ceiling of the conservatory.  My right hand was held in her left as we talked quietly.  She had just finished telling me a - thankfully - abbreviated version of her night with Marcus, smiling and gushing like crazy. 

Regardless of how it had happened or what she now had to do to be with him, Sera was ecstatic.  She looked forward to her new life with him as an adventure, as she did with everything else in life.  There was something about Sera that was hard to describe, but I envied it just the same and tried to emulate it to a certain degree.  She just had this zest for life, like an insatiable need to experience anything and almost everything.  A perfect example was this whole thing with Marcus - meeting him, finding out he’s a vampire, knowing she has to be changed and can’t go back to her old life… None of this deters her.  She jumped in with both feet and she has no regrets. 

As much as I wish I could do that as well, I just couldn’t.  While Sera was able to make the sacrifice for the man she loved, I had no such temptations.  Well, there was Jasper.  He was a temptation all right, but regardless of my attraction, we barely knew each other and he most likely considered me more of an obligation than anything else right now.  The fact was that I would not be choosing this fate to be with the man I loved but to avoid a permanent death. 

I felt a tug on my hand and sighed, my thoughts overwhelming me.  Looking over at Sera, she gave me a soft, encouraging smile and I smiled back, just a little. 

“Penny for your thoughts?” she asked.

“Just thinking about all this.  You.  Marcus.  Me.”  I shook my head, feeling exasperated.  “I just have more questions than answers and I have no idea where to start.” 

Sera released my hand and turned onto her side, propping her head on her arm.  I did the same, mimicking her pose.

“And what about a certain tall, dark and sexy-as-hell vampire that you’ve been fantasizing about since I’ve known you…?” she prompted.

“Shh!” I berated her, slapping her arm. 

“Ow!” she cried, though it was a fake cry.  I just glared at her, which made her laugh.  “Well, he is even better in the flesh, chère.” 

I blushed, making Sera snicker.  “I can’t disagree with that.”  I felt a small smile form on my lips and she raised a brow at me.  “Nothing happened.  Not really.”

“’Not really?’ Bella Swan!  Spill!” she ordered, poking me in my side.

I laughed and reddened more.  “Well, I sort of answered the door in…a towel.”

Sera nearly choked on her laughter.  “That’s just…brilliant.”  I glared at her as she continued to laugh.  “What did he do?”

I shrugged.  “Nothing.  He just stood there a bit and then came in and gave me my suitcase.”

Her laughter died down to the occasional giggle.  “So, do you think he’s interested?”

“Hell, how would I know?  Why would he be?”

Sera rolled her eyes dramatically at me.  “Bella, you are a gorgeous woman, you know?  Didn’t you tell me he did something at the airport when y’all first saw each other?” 

“Yeah, he touched my hand…barely.”

“So?  Do you think he does that to everyone?” she asked.  “I highly doubt it, chère.”

I thought for a moment.  It would be strange if he did, and it could cause unwanted questions…  I sighed.  “Ugh!” I fell onto my back again and covered my eyes with my arm.  “Whatever.  I’ll worry about that later.  He is a definite distraction, but I really have to make some decisions here.”  I heard movement but I didn’t move my arm to look.  “How do I come to terms with this, Sera?”  My voice was quiet and I frowned upon hearing a hint of desperation in it.

After a short pause, Sera spoke.  “Well, chère.  What has you so worried?”

“My entire life will change, and I worry about the sacrifices I’ll have to make, I guess.”  I shrugged, frowning as I turned back to my side to look at her.  “And what about Charlie?”

I could see her working through my problem in her head for a moment, but then she stood up and brushed the imaginary dirt from her pants.  “Come on, Bells.”  She reached down and grabbed my hand, pulling me upright.

“Where are we going?” I asked, suspicious.

“To get you some answers.  I know you.  You’ll worry and mull over it until it drives you insane before you find out what you need to know.  So we’ll just skip that part this time, yeah?”  Her voice was so matter of fact.

I opened my mouth to argue with her but closed it because I knew she was right.  “You’re right.”

She laughed and continued to pull me along.  “Of course I am.  What are best friends for, chère?”

I just chuckled and let her lead me through the halls and up the stairs to the section of the castle that held the Masters’ studies.  She stopped before the door I remembered Jasper telling me led to Marcus’ study and knocked sharply. 

A moment later the door opened to reveal Marcus, who had a welcoming smile on his face.  Sera’s face lit into a brilliant smile as she leaned up to give Marcus a soft kiss on his lips, which he returned.

“Hey there, sug.  You have a minute or twenty?” she asked him.

Marcus smiled.  “Of course, cara mia.  Bella.  Please enter and make yourselves comfortable.”  He turned to the side and swept his arm out, motioning us into the room.

“Hi, Marcus,” I said, smiling as I walked into the study. 

My eyes took in the room, admiring its elegant simplicity.  Dark hardwood seemed the theme for Marcus’ rooms, as it was found in this room as well as his living quarters.  But instead of the contrast of creams and golds like in those rooms, this room used a more muted, deep wine color – the kind of dark red in which you could see hints of purple. 

The furnishings were fairly simple as well.  A large desk sat in the middle of the wall between two large windows to the right of the door, facing the interior of the room.  There was a big, comfortable looking desk chair behind it with two smaller, similar versions resting on the other side for guests. 

Across the room was a seating area – a long couch, love seat and two wingback chairs in the same theme as the desk chairs.  Between the chairs I could see a large fireplace over which stood a large, blank space where a painting seemed to have been hung.  Flanking the fireplace were shelves.  Indeed, the shelving encompassed the entirety of the walls where there was not a door or window.  In spite of the cold fireplace, I loved this room and found it kind of cozy.

Sera pulled me behind her to the seating area and sat on the couch, tugging on my arm to sit next to her, which I did.  Marcus followed and sat in the seat across from us.  He seemed curious but waited for one of us to speak first. 

After a long, silent moment, Sera sighed in exasperation.  “Marcus, Bella has a problem and I think you can answer some of her questions for her…or at least give her some advice.”  She squeezed my hand, making me look at her, and she urged me with her eyes to speak.

I sighed and smiled at Marcus, feeling a bit foolish.  “I’m sorry, Marcus.  I know you’re busy.”

He smiled.  “I should not be so busy that I cannot afford a small amount of my time for a friend, Bella.  Please explain the manner in which I may be of assistance.  I presume this has to do with the decision before you?”  I gave him a slow nod.  “Would you prefer that I gather my brothers as well?  I may give my thoughts and opinions, but all final decisions are accomplished through the combined efforts of the three of us.”

I made a little bit of a face at that.  “No, I’d rather just speak to you, Marcus.  For now, at least.”

“Certainly.  Please, Bella.  How may I be of service?”

I glanced at Sera, who was sitting quietly beside me.  “Don’t look at me!  In fact, I’m gonna sit here and be a wallflower so y’all can talk it out,” she admonished me.

I laughed at the idea.  Sera had never been a wallflower her entire life.  But the laughter broke some of my tension and I relaxed and leaned back on the couch to ask advice from the man who had become like a brother to me.

“I know the choice I have is basically rebirth as a vampire or permanent death,” I began.  “I guess I want to know the logistics.  I just… I have a million questions!

“I understand this is a difficult decision, Bella.  I do not expect you to enter into it lightly.  I will answer any questions you have to the best of my ability.”

I started with the first thing that came to mind.  “Would I have to be changed immediately?  Or is the timing…flexible?” I asked, searching for an appropriate word.

Marcus sat back in his chair, one hand rising to his chin as he contemplated my question.  “It is an unorthodox request.  In fact, I have never heard of such a thing having taken place.  However, were the parameters something we could agree upon, then you would have my support.  I would suggest the change not be put off for long.  You are at an agreeable age and in perfect health.  Do not forget that you will remain at your current age for all time.”

I shook my head.  “No, not for long.  Just…I would like to finish my schooling here and maybe see my father one more time.  I won’t see him again after, right?”  I felt Sera’s free hand rubbing my arm, trying to offer comfort, and I squeezed her hand in thanks.

“Perhaps I should explain the change process.  First, you will be bitten in various strategic places on your person – neck, wrists, ankles and your chest near your heart.  This will cause the venom to spread more quickly throughout your system, thus minimizing the duration of the change by some hours.  Even so, you will burn for nearly three days until the change reaches completion.  It is an excruciating pain - one that is never forgotten.

“After your change, you will be what we call a ‘newborn’.  Jasper could explain in more detail, but essentially during this time your bloodlust will be high, uncontrollable at first.  In addition, you will be temperamental as you attempt to learn and adapt to your new body, mind, and abilities.  This stage can last for quite a while, although the standard is generally one to two years.”

I thought this over for a few minutes, my teeth worrying at my lower lip.  “So we’ll be moody bitches with a craving for human blood?”

Marcus raised a brow at my contemporary terminology but nodded.  “In a manner of speaking.”

I huffed out a breath.  “Then what?”

“Then you are welcome to stay and become part of our guard, or you may wish to go out on your own and experience life as a nomad.  It is entirely your choice, Bella.  So long as one adheres to our laws, there are no restrictions.”

“So I could see my father again after this newborn stage?”  I asked, sitting forward in anticipation.

“I see no reason why you could not do so once your bloodlust has been managed successfully.”

I heaved a sigh of relief, the largest of my worries having been seen to.  “Thank you, Marcus.  My father and I are the last of our family except for a few distant relatives that I’ve never even met.  They live in New Mexico or something.  I know I don’t see him in person often but we keep in touch.  I don’t want to lose him or cause him any pain.”

“That is understandable,” Marcus said simply.  “Nonetheless, if it continues to be your wish, you will need to speak with my brothers regarding the waiting period and attain their approval.”

“I will.”  I smiled and stood, Marcus and Sera standing with me.  Stepping forward, I leaned up to kiss his cheek.  “Thank you, Marcus.  I feel much better now.”

“I am pleased that you will become one of us, Bella.”  He gave me a small, gentle smile before looking down at me as if trying to impress his next words and their meaning upon me.  “I have discovered much in reading the unfathomable bonds between humans and vampires alike, as well as experiencing said bonds myself.”  His tone was quiet but steady and I again got the feeling he was trying to tell me something.  “I believe it was fate that brought you here at this time in your life.  She brought you to me, which in turn brought me Sera.  But perhaps fate has not finished in her task.”  Marcus took my hand and laid it over my heart.  “Live with your heart open and allow her to guide you.”

Friday, December 17, 2010

UB Chapter 10 - Didyme

Chapter 10 – Didyme

Bella POV

I was drifting in and out of dreams for a while before reality fully set in and my eyes fluttered open.  Rolling onto my back, I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, yawning and stretching from head to toe in the oversized bed.  I nearly moaned at the feel of the satin sheets sliding against my bare skin.  With no other clothing, I’d had to sleep nearly nude.  It had felt a bit decadent, but I had been so tired that it barely registered to me before passing out.

Glancing at the bedside table, I noted the time was nearly three in the afternoon.  “Wow,” I said and giggled.  It wasn’t like I had to be up for anything specific, so I took my time, snuggling under the covers for a few more minutes before my bladder demanded I rise. 

Slipping out of the bed, I padded across the room and through the door that led to the bathroom to use the facilities.  Once I’d finished, I went to the sink and splashed some water on my face and rinsed out my mouth, rubbing my teeth as best I could without a toothbrush or toothpaste.  I made a face in the mirror as I considered how awful my breath must smell.

Turning around, I grinned and went to the large tub.  Like a kid in a candy store, I turned the knobs, fiddling with them until the water coming from them was hot but not scalding.  Then I went in search of towels, finding some on a shelf along with some floral smelling bath salts.  Grabbing two packages of bath salts, I tossed their contents into the tub with the water and smiled as the floral scent wafted through the air of the bathroom.  When the water reached the proper level, I turned it off and discarded the last of my clothes.

Gingerly I entered the tub, hissing a little at the initial heat.  But as I sat in the tub, sinking until the water reached my neck, I sighed with pleasure.  Actually, it was more like a moan.  I lay back, eyes half closed and thoughts adrift as I allowed the heated water to soothe my aching muscles.

I considered everything I had learned last night - or this morning, I suppose it was.  Vampires.  That was something Sera and I never once considered.  Who would have, though?  Marcus was out in the daylight.  Or, now that I thought about it, the days had always been overcast when we’d been outside with him.  That sneaky bugger.

Regardless, real vampires are nothing like the legends say, except maybe the strength, speed and blood drinking thing.  But all the other myths were truly useless in the discovery of real vampires.  Whatever they were doing to keep their existence a secret has obviously been working very well for them.

Now I had a choice to make, not that there was really a choice to make.  I don’t want to die.  I’m so young and there is so much I still want to experience in my life.  I want to grow up, finish school, work on my art, maybe try my hand at writing a novel, travel… Would I have to give up these dreams if I were to be changed? 

I sighed again, exasperated.  At this point I had more questions than answers.  Deciding to discuss it with Marcus later, I continued my bath, scrubbing my body and hair with the sweet smelling soap before allowing myself to relax once again.

When the water started to cool, I sat up and flipped the lever for the drain.  Standing, I wrapped a towel around my body, the water swirling around my ankles as it rushed for the drain.  I stepped out onto the mat and used the other towel to wring the water from my hair.  I would really need to get some clean clothes…and a brush would be lovely. 

Thinking of clothes made me wonder what had happened to my purse last night.  And we hadn’t called Hayley or Kelli.  They would worry.

I left the bathroom, still toweling my hair dry, and frowned at the sight of my dress on the chair by the window.  I really didn’t want to put dirty clothes on my now clean body.  I had a sudden thought, which had me smiling, as I dropped the towel in what looked to be a hamper by the door to the bathroom. 

My bare feet sunk into the thick carpeting while walking into the living area and over to the phone by the couch.  I lifted it from its cradle and dialed the number that Jasper had left on the pad there.  He answered after one ring and I felt a frisson of pleasure at the sound of his voice.

“Well, good morning, princess.  Did you sleep well?”

“Yes, the bed was lovely.  Thank you, Jasper.”  I bit my lip, feeling nervous speaking with this man for some reason.  Correction - this vampire.

“Now, there’s no need to be so formal, Bella.  Besides, I have something for you.”  As he said the words a loud knock sounded at the door, startling me and making me jump.  “Open the door, princess.”

I crossed the room and opened the door to find Jasper standing there.  He really was an attractive man.  He had one hand on his cell phone, holding it to his ear.  His other hand was half in the pocket of the black denim covering his legs.  He wore a dark blue sweater with the lapel and tails of a white button down shirt peeking from underneath.  His feet were encased in a well worn pair of black cowboy boots.  He looked absolutely gorgeous standing there with his hair in slight disarray and a few stray curls falling in his face.  But his eyes…they were blazing with an emotion I couldn’t name.

“Jasper,” I greeted, feeling breathless.  I fisted my hands to keep them to myself, only then remembering the phone that was still in my hands.  I looked down and ended the call, leading to another reminder – I was still in a towel.  “Fuck,” I cursed, feeling the blush spread from my face, down my neck and over my chest.  “Um…” I felt so awkward standing there in nothing but a towel.

He cleared his throat as he snapped his cell phone shut and pushed it into his back pocket.  How can a move so simple be so sexy?  But it was.  Crap.  Focus, Bella!

“Bella,” he greeted.  “I thought you might like this.”  He leaned down to pick up a suitcase that I’d just noticed had been sitting on the floor next to him.  It was my suitcase. 

I smiled, forgetting my near nudity.  “Oh, thank you, Jasper.  I’d dreading having to wear that dress again.  How did you get it?” I asked as I stepped aside, allowing him to enter and place the suitcase on the floor next to the coffee table.

“Master Marcus thought you both might prefer some of your things from home to make you more comfortable.  So, he had Mistress Sera call Hayley - one of your roommates, I believe?” I nodded.  “She and your other roommate put together the suitcases.  Felix picked them up this afternoon.”

“Well, I’m so grateful,” I told him, and I really was.  Looking down at my towel-clad body, I blushed again.  “Um, I’m just gonna go…change.” 

I grabbed my suitcase and hefted it into the bedroom, throwing it on the bed before opening it.  I grabbed a pair of jeans, a red camisole top and a white sweater.  Digging through to the bottom, I found a pair of white sandals and smiled. 

It only took a few minutes to throw on the clothes, so I decided to take an extra few to throw on some make up and run the brush through my hair.  I had found a bag of accessories with various clips and ties, so I pulled my hair up into a simple ponytail and wrapped it with a red scrunchie.  Then I tossed on a minor amount of eyeliner, mascara and lip gloss.

With a final glance in the long, free standing mirror in the corner of the room, I made my way back out to the living room and Jasper. 

He was standing next to the door still, his head down as he spoke into his phone.  I could hear him speaking, but it was too fast for me to understand what he was saying.  Seeing me, he spoke again and then closed the phone before returning it to his pocket, his eyes moving up and down my now clothed form. 

“Master Marcus wants me to take you on a tour of the castle, if you like,” he suggested.  “Unless you want to do something else?”

I shook my head and smiled, reaching back to dig my hands into my back pockets in a nervous gesture.  “I’d like to see Sera and Marcus at some point, but a tour would be nice so I don’t get lost while I’m here.”  Then I added under my breath, “However long that will be.”

A look I couldn’t recognize crossed Jasper’s face, but it was quickly covered.  “Well, then I can give you a tour first and then take you to Master Marcus and Mistress Sera.”

I giggled, practically snorting in my amusement.  “Mistress Sera?”

Jasper nodded and grinned.  “Yeah, they are big on old world etiquette here, so there are the Masters – Aro, Marcus and Caius – and their mates are the Mistresses – Sulpicia, Sera, and Athenodora.”

I laughed aloud now.  “Mistress Sera.  That’s funny.  I bet she loves that.”

Jasper smiled again at my laughter.  “I’m not sure if anyone has used it on her yet, but I bet it will be funny when they do.”  He turned toward the door, twisting the knob and holding it open for me.  “Shall we?”

I smiled again and walked past him through the door.  “Yes, sir.  Let’s see what you got around here.”  I heard Jasper laugh again behind me as he joined me in the hall and started my tour.

The next hour was filled with a variety of rooms.  I only got a peek into most of them, but it was enough for the purpose of the tour.  Some of the rooms held the old world style, like the throne room, ball room, music room and the gallery.  They were filled with elegance and ornate flairs in the furniture and décor.  It was beautiful but it often made you feel like you were stepping back in time when you entered them.  When I made that comment to Jasper, he just laughed.

They also had a pool and, believe it or not, a gym.  I asked why they would even need one and Jasper explained that they had a number of humans living and working in the castle.  The rooms don’t clean themselves, as he put it, and there were other tasks that the humans performed for them that were difficult for a vampire to carry out at times.  Or maybe they were tasks that were just simply tiresome.  Most of the humans knew what the Volturi were and they hoped to one day be turned. 

There was a modern game room filled with large TV screens and every kind of game you could imagine - often more than one - as well as a number of arcade games off to one side.  Jasper told me that the TVs were used more for the games before he led me to room that was decorated like a miniature movie theatre.  I laughed when I saw the popcorn machine in the corner.  When I asked about the room, he told me there were three of them in total in varying sizes.  One of the larger rooms ran movies nearly 24/7, he explained, and a new schedule was sent out each week, which included movies not yet released in theatres.

I was impressed and delighted.  I’d always enjoyed a good movie, and you can’t beat seeing them on the big screen like that.  I was grinning as he led me out of the room and down the hall to a set of doors that led outside.

The grounds of the castle were just as vast and beautiful as the inside, also with a mix of old and new.  There was every kind of plant and flower imaginable growing either out of doors or inside a large conservatory along the western edge of the castle. 

In various areas of the gardens, you could find a fountain, or a gazebo, or a set of what looked like ruins, and so on.  There was even a small patio off the kitchens with a grill and outdoor dining furniture that the humans used.

For as much as Jasper was informing me of various parts of the castle, he was mostly silent.  I wasn’t sure exactly why that was.  Did he not like me?  Or perhaps he didn’t like humans, but I didn’t think so.  He seemed personable when I did speak with him.  He was just a bit distant, it seemed.  Perhaps he had other worries that had nothing to do with me and I was just overreacting.

So, while I asked questions here and there, I mostly allowed the silence to reign.  Even so, I found I quite enjoyed being with Jasper, not simply because of my physical attraction to him but because when he did speak, he was charming, polite and intelligent.  The more I learned about him, the more curious I became.

We re-entered the castle through the kitchens, where Jasper introduced me to the cook and her assistant.  I sat and chatted with them for about twenty minutes while I ate a large sandwich the cook had made for me and drank down a bottle of water.  I hadn’t realized I was so hungry or thirsty what with everything else going on to distract me.

With my stomach full, we continued on, following the long corridors and going up a flight of stairs where Jasper told me the Masters’ studies were.  As he was showing me which study belonged to which Master, Aro exited from his.

“Ah, Bella.  How pleasant to see you again, and with Jasper,” Aro hailed us, an amused look in his eyes as he mentioned my being with Jasper.

“Hello, Aro,” I greeted with a small smile.

“Master,” Jasper addressed Aro formally.  “I’m giving Bella a tour of the castle.”

“Very good, Jasper.  Bella, how do you find our humble home?” Aro asked.

I laughed.  “Not all that humble, is it?”  My eyes twinkled and I could see he was amused.  “But I love it, actually.  It’s a beautiful mix of old world and contemporary styles, but it still adheres to functionality.”

Aro’s smile deepened.  “Ah, yes.  Many of us have lived so long that it is comforting to have things from or that remind us of our homes or other instances from our past.”  He held out his arm, offering for me to take it.  I did, tucking my hand in the crook of his elbow as he walked us along the corridor.  “Now, which rooms have caught your interest, my dear?”

I smiled.  “Well, I wouldn’t mind seeing a movie in that mini movie theatre of yours.”  We both chuckled at that.  “And I would love a better look at the art in the gallery.  We didn’t really go the entire way around.”

Aro’s eyes brightened at that.  “I think you should.  There is something you may like to see there.”

“I am sure you have treasures in there I would love to get my hands on to study.”  I grinned up at him.

Aro chuckled.  “No, not this particular piece.  I believe it will be of a more personal interest.” 

I couldn’t deny I was curious about this piece he wanted to show me.  I peeked back at Jasper, who was following us quietly.  He gave me a small smile and I returned it before facing forward again and letting Aro lead me back to the gallery.

The gallery encompassed the entire outer rim of the second floor on three sides.  We passed by a number of works, starting with the most contemporary and moving backward in time as we walked.  I was in awe, barely noting that my mouth was half hanging open as I stared at everything.  I even noted a number of works that were supposed to have been destroyed or had just disappeared.  But we didn’t stop.  Aro continued to lead me along until we reached the midsection of the southern wall. 

To one side were the huge, nearly floor-to-ceiling windows that covered much of all the walls in the gallery.  On the other side were two large doors with some sort of security device to the left of them.  Aro went to it and tapped a few keys until I heard the door latch trigger.  He turned back to me and then led me through the doors, opening them wide.

I knew there were a number of pieces in the room, but I could only focus on one.  I ignored all else and moved forward, raising one hand to ever so gently stroke my hand over the plaster of her arm.  “Didyme,” I breathed.(1)

The head was the same – the beautiful, serene look covered in a veil with a crown of flowers – but unlike the bust in Il Duomo, this was a full statue.  Didyme was kneeling, the veil covering much of the upper half of her body, the rest adorned in a simple gown from what looked to be Roman times or older.  I didn’t know.  In her hands was a small platter of, if I had to guess, fire. 

I had one hand to my mouth in awe as I viewed her.  I was still studying her when Aro came to stand beside me.

“She was so beautiful,” he said, his voice quiet and wistful as he, too, looked at the statue.  “She had a smile that lit up the room and a soft laugh that made you wish you knew what she found amusing so you could laugh along with her.”  He sighed.  “I miss her every day.”

“What happened to her?” I asked, my eyes moving between Aro and the statue.

“War,” he said, his voice bitter.  “War with the Romanians, many centuries ago.  They captured Didyme and attempted to use her as bait for Marcus.”  He looked down at me and took my hand before leading me to a small bench that was positioned not far from the statue.  We sat down and he continued.

“Marcus was not always as you see him now.  When we met, Marcus was a warrior, as were Caius and me.  While human, we fought the Babylonians.  That was over 3000 years ago.  At the time, Marcus was full of war and anger over the devastation of his homeland and the loss of his family.  When he met Didyme, she was exactly what he needed to soothe the beast within him.  As the centuries passed, Marcus let go of the pain of his human life and focused on the present.

“When my sister was taken, he went mad.  Much of the time, it is Caius who has the short fuse.  But taking Didyme…well, you can imagine how he must have felt.  So we mounted an assault with both victorious and disastrous results.  On the one hand, Caius discovered Athenodora, his mate, in the dungeons of the Romanians’ castle.  She was being held for feeding.  And through her, I later found her sister, Sulpicia, to be my mate.  For that, I allow that a part of me is grateful.  But the cost…” 

Aro paused and laid my hand on his, patting it gently.  Trying to offer what comfort I could, I chose not to speak as I waited for him to finish the telling.  He gave me a sad smile and covered my hand with his cool one.  “Thank you, my dear.  As I was saying, the cost of that battle was my sister.  We cornered the Romanians, but they distracted us by ripping her apart before our eyes and tossing her body into the fire.  Marcus and I roared in our grief, only able to watch in dismay as Didyme’s remains were reduced to a blue flame.”

I didn’t realize I was crying until I choked on a sob.  Lifting my free hand, I wiped at my cheeks and sniffled.  After a moment, I got myself under control and took a deep breath.  “I am so sorry for your loss, Aro.  And Marcus…”  I sniffled again and shook my head.

“He was never the same.  He became melancholy, apathetic.  The only thing that has kept him going these many years has been his strong sense of duty, of responsibility to Caius and me…to his people.  He never laughed, never smiled, rarely spoke…until you, and Sera of course.”

I smiled at that.  “Yeah, she is one of a kind.”

“She is an enigma.  She both reminds me of Didyme and is the opposite of her at the same time.  Didyme had a quiet soul.  She was calm and soothing even in her enjoyment of life.”  He smiled in memory, but then his smile widened and he chuckled.  “Sera is so full of life.  She doesn’t want to miss a moment of its joys, which is exactly what Marcus needs to be taught.”

I grinned back at Aro.  “Yeah, I couldn’t agree more.  I think Marcus will be good for her too,” I said thoughtfully.  “Sera is always in such a rush to get to her next adventure that she doesn’t stop to ‘smell the roses’, so to speak.  I think Marcus will show her how to take a breath and enjoy the now as well as the future.”

Aro looked down at me with a thoughtful expression.  “You are quite observant for one so young.”

I blushed at the compliment.  “Yeah, I’ve heard that a lot.”

“So, Bella, tell me more about you.  Where are you from?  How did you come to be in Italy, and how did you meet my brother?” Aro asked.  I could tell he was genuinely interested.

“I’m just your average American girl, I suppose.  I was born in Washington State in the U.S.  I moved when I was a toddler to Phoenix with my mom and then again to Jacksonville when I was a teen.”  I smiled as I remembered my mother and her vibrant spirit.  “She died the summer after my first year at NYU.  She was a wonderful woman, for all her wacky ways.”  I laughed.  “And she’s one of the reasons I love art as much as I do.  She was always signing us up for different classes – dancing, tennis, art.”  I shrugged.  “I just fell in love with it and decided to study it in college when I went, so I did.”

“And your father?” Aro prompted.

“Charlie.  He’s a good guy.  I see him a few times a year, usually.  He still lives in Forks - that’s a city in Washington,” I explained.  “It’s a tiny, little town but really quaint.  Dad is the Chief of Police there.”  I looked up at Aro and saw him staring over my shoulder.  I turned to see Jasper returning the expression.  “What?”  I asked them, curious about their reactions.

“Forgive me, Bella.  It’s nothing to worry over.  We were just surprised by your mention of Forks.  Jasper was in the Seattle area recently and I have a friend who lives there with his family.”

My brow furrowed at this.  “A friend?  A vampire?  Should I be worried?”

Aro laughed and patted my hand in reassurance.  “No, no.  He is a ‘vegetarian’.  There is no cause for alarm, my dear.”

“Oh, good.”

“Please, continue your story, my dear.  How did you come to Italy?”

I returned to my storytelling, informing Aro - and ultimately Jasper - about the events of the last few months of my life – finding the picture of Didyme, coming to Italy, meeting Sera and Marcus, and ending with how we ended up in the alley with Laurent.  Much of the story was abbreviated, omitting the inconsequential events, but the important facts were covered.

Finishing the last of my tale, I turned to the statue again and smiled softly as I took it in once more.  “Thank you,” I said as I turned back to Aro with a smile.  “For showing her to me.”

Aro smiled back.  “Marcus mentioned your…connection, shall we say…to my sister.  I felt you could appreciate her beauty.” 

I knew he meant more than just the physical beauty of the art or the woman herself.  “Maybe you can tell me more about her sometime?”

“I would like that, Bella.”

UB Extras - Chapter 10

I always imagined Marcus as not only a patron of the arts, but an artist himself.  His apathy for all but his loss would cause him to be severely introverted and art would give him an outlet for expressing himself.  As you would imagine, much of his art in some way, either directly or indirectly, relates to Didyme.  In this instance, I imagine him recreating her with plaster and stone - perhaps a simple, innocuous memory from their past - her quiet happiness and serenity plain for all to see.

And then there is Aro.  The older brother pining for his lost sister.  Perhaps he blames himself or their ambitions for her death?  We'll never know.  But I think he would miss her quite a bit - not as much as Marcus, of course, but enough that she is often in his thoughts.  

In this chapter, Aro learns more about Bella, most notably her history and her rapt interest in his sister.  He was interested enough in her at first - as a friend to his brother, mate to one of his most loyal guard, and her power.  But now he is starting to enjoy her company for Bella herself.  At least, I hope it comes across that way.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

UB Chapter 9 - Briefing

Chapter 9 – Briefing

Jasper POV

I inhaled Bella’s scent as we tread slowly to her rooms.  She was silent as we walked and I could feel her fatigue mix with confusion and a touch of despair at her situation.  I wanted to help her but I knew she needed to handle this on her own, so I just walked quietly beside her.

Marcus had informed me earlier that I was to be Bella’s primary guard.  I was shocked at first.  Generally my assignments were not so domestic, usually given to Demetri or Felix if they were in residence, but I knew how Marcus felt about her and that she was important to him.  Until her decision was made, she would need to be under our protection.

Upon reaching her door, I opened it, first assuring myself that there was no one inside by probing for any emotions within.  Feeling nothing, I swung the door wide and waved her in. 

Most of the castle’s bedchambers were suites in the same layout as those of the Masters’ but in varying sizes depending upon the importance of the inhabitant.  Obviously, the Masters’ occupied the largest rooms in one wing of the castle.  Next were the elite of the guard, such as myself.  Below that were the suites for the main guard.  Each included a living area, bedroom, bathroom, and large walk in closet. 

Guest rooms were ranked in a similar fashion, and it came as no surprise to me that they had given Bella the Green Room, which was equivalent in size to rooms afforded to the elite guard as they were only reserved for very special guests.

Stepping inside, I took in the layout and décor of the room.  The walls were painted in a dark hunter green that contrasted pleasantly with the creams of the furnishings.  The living room held a large couch and two chairs, all of which were overstuffed and looked comfortable.  There was a fireplace with a flat screen television set above it, and one corner of the room held a small desk and bookshelf with stationary and a few random novels filling them respectively.

Although I did not enter the bedroom at this time, I knew its design.  Indeed, all the guard knew the design and general layout of nearly every room in the castle.  It was a strategic necessity that we know our terrain if attackers were to ever make it inside. 

Because of this, I knew the bedroom held a large bed covered in a cream colored duvet with a hand stitched abstract design.  The same design adorned the curtains in both rooms as well.  The sheets were green satin, partially turned down so the light shone on the shiny material.

The bathroom continued the dark and light contrasting color scheme and was again a smaller version of those held in the Masters’ quarters and nearly as luxurious. 

While I took a moment to notice my surroundings, I again inhaled Bella’s scent - strawberries and a flower…freesia.  It was intoxicating and I began to wonder if I would ever grow tired of it.

Turning to look at her, I noticed her eyes were half closed with fatigue.  “Bella,” I called to her in a quiet voice.  She turned to look at me with those deep, dark eyes that seemed to draw my attention like none other had before.  I mentally shook myself.  “You should rest.  You are safe in these rooms, but do not leave them without an escort.  Understand?”

“What if I want to go somewhere?” she asked, but her voice was quiet and I could feel how tired she was.

“Tell you what, princess - why don’t you go crawl into that bed in the other room for now,” I told her as I made my way to the table next to the couch.  On it was a phone and a small notepad.  I grabbed the pen next to it and wrote my number down.  “Call me when you get up and I’ll be right over.  We can talk more then and see what you wanna do.”

Turning back to her, I saw her tired smile.  “Okay.  Thank you, Jasper.”

I made my way to the door and opened it before looking back at her one more time.  She was quite beautiful for a human.  If she were turned, she would be a stunning vampire.  “Good night, princess.”

I closed the door behind me and started across the hallway.  I could hear her soft reply, though I doubt she intended for me to actually catch it. 

“Good night, Mr. Hottie.”

I smirked as it was confirmed that I was, indeed, Mr. Hottie.  Shaking my head at the name, I opened the door to my own rooms. 

They were a mirror image of Bella’s, but while hers were decorated more like a hotel room, mine were a reflection of me.  The deep green walls in Bella’s rooms were painted dark blue in my own, but the furnishings were mostly the same.

The difference was that mine was filled with my belongings.  Paraphernalia that I had gathered over the last century and a half were housed here and tall book cases along one wall were filled with books, DVDs, CDs, and games.  There was a large, wooden desk in one corner of the room with a custom built laptop and various papers sprawled on top of it.  The other corner held two guitars – one acoustic and one electric, complete with amplifier.  Spread across my coffee table were books and game controllers from when I had played the night before leaving Italy weeks ago. 

Striding to the desk, I plugged my phone into the charger there before making my way into the bedroom.  The same color and décor as in the living area were continued here.  A few books were scattered across my side tables, but otherwise the room was fairly neat.  I usually spent the majority of my time in the living area. 

Seeing my bags on my bed, I silently thanked Charlotte but left them where they were and continued on to the bathroom.  Making my way across the bathroom to the shower, I opened the frosted glass door and twisted the nozzles.  Stripping out of my soiled clothes, I tossed them in the hamper and stepped under the heated spray.

Arms braced against the wall, I ducked my head under the spray and sighed, staring down at the tiled floor and allowing the hot water to slide over my head and shoulders and down my back.  While heat and cold did not harm us, the extremes were not always pleasant.  Thus, we could still enjoy a nice, hot shower.  It was unable to soothe any physical aches, as we didn’t get them, but it was still soothing on an emotional level. 

I closed my eyes and unbidden came the image of Bella.  She was a beautiful woman, of course, but I had learned so much more about her tonight.  She was smart and quick-witted, as her debate with Aro could attest.  She was also good, kind and caring; strong, independent and courageous.  If I had not been so drawn to her before, I would be now.  Beguiling was the apt word for her, as I had mentioned to Marcus earlier. 

I could not escape thoughts of her for long, I noticed.  I wasn’t sure why that was nor was I sure how I felt about it.  For now, I would watch her and learn about her through observation while guarding her.  Perhaps if I knew more about her, I could figure out what it was about her that drew me so.

An hour and many thoughts of Bella later found me sitting at my desk, sifting through emails and surfing the internet.  I had spent some time unpacking the last of my things from my bags before coming out here to relax and catch up on things left undone while I’d been away. 

I was interrupted by the sound of my phone beeping, alerting me of a text message.  Picking it up, I saw it was from Peter and read, ‘Report time, hotshot.  Throne room. 5 mins ago.’

Rolling my eyes but smiling, I pocketed my phone and left my room, locking the door behind me.  I took a quick moment to listen at Bella’s door, hearing her soft breathing and steady heartbeat.  Her emotions were somewhat chaotic, most likely from the day she’d had, but she seemed to be sleeping peacefully.

Stepping away from the door, I made my way to the throne room, my stride swift to I would not keep the Masters waiting.  Coming to a set of large double doors, I pushed them wide open and strode inside.

The room was replete with old world elegance.  There were three large thrones on a dais for the Masters, each with a smaller one beside them for their mates.  A short set of five steps led down to the main room, which was large and mostly unfurnished except for a few comfortable couches and chairs along the sides where one could wait their turn for an audience with the Masters.

Peter and Charlotte stood at the bottom of the steps, speaking quietly to one another.  The Masters sat on their thrones and they all seemed to be waiting for me.  There was no one else in the room.

Aro greeted me as I approached.  “Ah, Jasper.  I trust your charge is doing well?”

“Of course, Master.  She’s still sleeping,” I informed him as I reached Peter’s side, glancing over to smile in greeting to both him and Charlotte.  Peter smirked while Charlotte elbowed him in the ribs and smiled at me.

“Very good.  I am most confident you will see to her quite well,” Aro said innocently, but the tone and the rush of excitement that ran through him at that moment made me wonder.  Before I could even contemplate questioning him however – not that I would have – he continued.  “Please, gentlemen, we would have your report now.  What is happening in the Americas and who is this man you have in our dungeons?  I would like to know more before I question him directly.”

I stood up a bit straighter as I gave my report.  “When I arrived in Las Vegas, I met up with Peter and Charlotte.  We confirmed our suspicions that the newborn population was substantial for the area, based on the news reports and a few scenes we ran across.  We were able to catch up with one of those newborns, but he was crazed with bloodlust and there wasn’t much we could get out of him but a name – Laurent.”

Peter spoke up then, taking over the telling.  “Charlotte and I had been hearing reports not only in Vegas but also in southern California, which is why we asked for further investigation.  When you informed us that there had been similar reports for Seattle, we expanded our research to all the U.S., Canada and Mexico.  From what we’ve gathered, the sightings are most specific to the original three areas in the western U.S., but they seem to be growing.  It’s very peculiar.”

As Peter left off, I picked again.  “We tracked the newborns in Vegas and eventually came across Laurent.  We informed him that the creation of newborns would stop or he would be punished for his actions.”

Caius’ eyes narrowed at that, but his tone was even as he asked, “Why did you leave Laurent alive?  By law he should have been killed on sight.”  I could tell from his emotions that Caius was not angry per se.  He was a legendary tactician who I greatly admired.  The respect seemed to be mutual, so I could tell he was more curious about my motives than upset that I had not killed Laurent outright.

“It’s all too much coincidence.  We have not had this level of newborn activity in the Americas since the Southern Wars and, to be honest, Laurent did not strike us as much of a leader.  Our intent was to scare him into running and then see where or to whom, he ran.”  Caius smirked at that and I felt the respect coming from him.  I gave him a slight nod in recognition before continuing.  “We chased him to Seattle where he met up with two others named James and Victoria.  They seem to be a mated couple.  Seattle was similar to Vegas in regards to newborn activity but on an even grander scale.”

“That’s when we figured we could pick off the weakest link and bring him here for you to ‘see’ him, Master,” Charlotte said, not wanting to miss out on her turn at reporting.  “So we chased him for a few days until we finally lucked out and he came here on his own.  We still aren’t sure why.  He knew we were after him and that we were Volturi.”

“But once we got to Florence, he eluded us.  I was tracking him down while Peter and Charlotte came here to report to you when I got the call from Master Marcus.”  I nodded my head in Marcus’ direction.  I felt a spike of anxiety from him and added, “We were able to save both women before the others arrived.”

“Well, you did have some help before we got there, hon,” Charlotte said to me.

“You mean Bella?” I asked, turning to glance over at Peter and Charlotte.  She nodded and we all smirked.  “Yeah, I suppose I did.”  My expression twisted into more of a smile as I remembered what Bella had done.  Sometimes I do enjoy my job.  It feels good to beat up the bad guys and save the damsels in distress - even the ones who don’t always look like they need it. 

“How did a human aid in a fight with a vampire?” Caius asked, his voice filled with derision.  It was no secret he was not a fan of any human.

“Popped him one in the balls with a lead pipe,” Charlotte said.

I glanced at everyone as Charlotte explained.  Marcus was not surprised - he’d most likely been told by Sera about what had happened - but his emotions swirled with pride, as did Peter’s and Charlotte’s.

Caius seemed doubtful, but that was no surprise.  However, he knew that what we said was true and, after a moment’s thought, his doubt turned to a faint shadow of respect that was quickly squashed.

Aro looked for a moment at Charlotte.  “What a colorful description,” he said.  His voice held a hint of disapproval, but he knew what she was like.  He didn’t bother taking her to task for her language or behavior anymore.  At first he had, decades ago when she’d first come here, but he soon realized that she meant no disrespect by it and it was just her way.  Besides, I knew he was amused by her shocking quips and looked forward to hearing them.  “Miss Swan is turning out to be quite an interesting young woman.  I do hope she joins us, but I digress.  Let us return to the matter at hand.”

“Did you see Carlisle while there?” Marcus asked.  It was Carlisle Cullen who had called in the report on the Seattle sightings.  He was the head of a rather large clan of gifted vampires and a close friend to the brothers, specifically Aro, regardless of the fact that they were ‘vegetarians’.

Peter shook his head and answered, “No, we spoke to him on the phone a few times.  Carlisle phoned us with information gathered by one of the members of his coven, a seer.  It was through her that we knew that Laurent was on his way here.”

“We thought it best to follow him.  We wanted to capture him and bring him here for questioning.  There are too many unknowns at the moment, which makes me uneasy, so information would be our best recourse at this time,” I informed them.

With our report concluded, Aro turned to each of his brothers.  “What think you, Caius?  Marcus?”

Caius was quick to answer.  “I agree with Jasper.  Knowledge could be our greatest weapon at this time.  We need more information.  We should question this Laurent with your gift, Aro, to see what he may know before making any further decisions.”

“I have to agree.”  Marcus’ voice held a strange note I’d never heard before and I could feel the dark anger he was barely keeping leashed.  “And when we have everything possible from him, he will be destroyed.”  It was a statement, not a suggestion.

Giving Marcus a sympathetic look, Aro turned back to us.  “His life is forfeit, but only after we have interrogated him and gleaned whatever information we are able to get from him.”  His brothers nodded their agreement.  Charlotte, my dear, if you would please?”

Charlotte grinned and turned, heading out a side door to our right that led to the dungeons. 

As we waited for her to return, my thoughts fell to the mahogany haired beauty sleeping in the chambers across from my own.  I had not yet received a call from her, though I honestly did not expect one for another few hours.  She had been completely exhausted, both mentally and physically, and she would need a lot of rest to recover. 

I was still thinking about her when Charlotte reappeared at the door with Laurent in tow and Felix behind her carrying a large canvas bag. 

Laurent looked haggard, to say the least, and he was missing both his arms.  Due to the various abilities vampires possessed, we’ve had to become more ‘creative’ when jailing our prisoners.  Generally we didn’t keep them for long.  They were constantly under guard and we often took some or all of their limbs.  The limbs were stored separate from the main body so that even if the vampire were to escape, they wouldn’t get far.  Besides, not many vampires relished living without their limbs.

I continued my perusal of Laurent, noting that his clothes were a little dirty and there were large holes in the shirt where the arms had been but otherwise they were intact.  Venom seeped from his wounds and I sensed his pain when I tested his emotions.  Along with pain there was anger, but mostly there was fear.  He knew he was not long for this world. 

Charlotte stopped him in front of Peter and me and pressed down on his shoulders until he was kneeling before the Masters.  For all his stupidity, Laurent was a fighter and he held his head high. 

A flicker of rage rushed through me and I looked up to see Marcus’ eyes blazing with barely leashed fury.  Concerned that he would lose his cool, I sent him a small wave of soothing calm to take the edge off the emotion.  It was still there, but it was now muted and more controllable.  Marcus glanced at me and I felt his grudging gratitude, but I knew we should hurry or we’d run out of time.

Aro began to speak at that moment.  “Laurent, you have been sentenced to death for endangering the secret of our existence and knowingly attempting to end the life of the mate of one of your brethren.  Do you have anything to say?”

I passed another wave of calm to Marcus as his rage escalated at Aro’s words.

Laurent glared at Aro and then gathered the venom pooling in his mouth and spat it at Aro’s feet.  “Volturi scum.  We should be ruling the humans, not hiding from them.  Your fear of them makes you weak.”

“Master,” I interrupted.  “I don’t think he will willingly tell us what we want to know.  We may run out of time.”  My eyes shifted to Marcus.

Aro looked over at his brother, noting the rage blazing in his eyes.  Turning back to me, Aro’s lips firmed into a tight line.  “I fear you are correct.  Very well.”  Reaching out, Aro laid a hand on Laurent’s shoulder and spent a long moment ‘listening’ to Laurent’s thoughts.  As he did so, I gauged his emotions - curiosity, disdain, apprehension.  Stepping back, Aro glared down at Laurent.  “I have what we need.  He is of no further use to us.”

Aro’s words were like a catalyst.  I stopped the flow of calm to Marcus and was unsurprised when he appeared in all his enraged glory in front of Laurent.  His hands gripped Laurent’s head firmly and wrenched.  The rumble of stone splitting from stone whipped through the room, the head having been completely removed.  Marcus dropped the head and turned to Felix.  “Burn it,” he said, his voice gruff with emotion as he returned to his seat.

My respect for Marcus had always been great, but it grew even more at that moment.  I can’t imagine what it must have been like to nearly lose your mate, but I admired that he’d seen to it himself, regardless of his position as Master.  Were I in his shoes, I would have felt the same.  I’m not even sure I’d have been able to wait as long as he had before killing the bastard. 

Glancing over at Peter and Charlotte, I could see we had matching smiles on our faces before helping Felix gather the pieces of Laurent for disposal.  Moments later, Felix exited the room with the large sack slung over his back like Santa Claus.  He would return to the dungeons, which held an incinerator for just such occasions.

The door was closing behind Felix when Caius spoke.  “What did you learn, Aro?”

“Not as much as I would have liked.  He was a peon…and not a very smart one at that.  His superiors, this James and Victoria, are indeed a mated couple and they are behind the newborn activity in Seattle and the surrounding area.  What I did learn is that James and Victoria are peons themselves, working for someone else, but Laurent was never given a name.  His instructions were to mimic the Seattle organization in Vegas, but he was overzealous, which led to Peter and Charlotte hearing of the situation and bringing it to my attention, thus causing further inquiry.”

“Did he know anything about this person leading James and Victoria?” Charlotte asked.

Aro shook his head.  “Not much.  Just that it was a woman.”

A sense of foreboding swept through me.  “Could it be Maria?” I asked aloud, praying that I was wrong.

Peter and Charlotte tensed, but they were not so surprised.  They must have thought the same as me. 

“Fuck, I hope not,” Peter said.  “You’d think she learned her lesson last time.”

“Maybe not,” I told him, frowning.  I had no wish to come across that bitch ever again, but a part of me was itching for vengeance. 

Aro raised a hand to stop our talk.  “Let’s not jump to conclusions.  We will not rule out her involvement just yet, as she seems a likely choice, but we must keep our minds open to other possibilities as well.  There is too little information and it makes me uncomfortable.”

Caius was sitting forward in his throne, looking to the floor lost in thought.   “Aro, perhaps you could share this information with Carlisle and ask him what his seer has seen lately.  Perhaps they have new information.”

“Excellent idea, brother.  I shall do that this evening,” Aro agreed, looking at the others in the room.  “Does anyone have anything to add?”  At everyone’s negative response, he stood from his throne and said, “Then we will adjourn for now until I have spoken with Carlisle and his seer.”

Peter, Charlotte and I all bowed our heads.  “Masters,” we uttered respectfully in unison before turning and heading out the door. 

I heard Aro ask Marcus about Sera as the doors closed behind me.