Something Better Than Forever
Chapter 7. Aro's Lullaby
I always wondered where the crown jewels disappeared to after John of England pawned them in the thirteenth century. I suppose it doesn’t surprise me that the Volturi have their share.
Carlisle Cullen, Breaking Dawn, Chapter 27, p.532
All in all the rest of her day was rather anticlimactic, lunch was standard with the same good natured teasing by Eric and the same report on the comings and goings of the rest of the student body from Jessica. Nibbling on a sandwich; Bella was unusually quiet. Offering only slight observations on the rumors flying about school and the plans of everyone after graduation. Her mind was clearly elsewhere and as they all assumed it was something to do with a boy, all was forgiven. The truth was Bella’s thoughts where a thousand miles away, resting in an old castle in the middle of rolling wineries and ancient beauty. She had done her best all day to divert her mind from the jewel resting around her neck.
"What if after all is said and done he doesn't love me"
She had not meant to whisper such a dangerous thought aloud yet it summed up beautifully the deepest fear of her heart. Reaching up she caressed the stone as her musings turned to a sadder venue. How long would it last? could it last? Soon enough the novelty was sure to wear off. This train of depressing thoughts was interrupted by a sound behind her rather like someone clearing their throat and Bella raised her eyes from the table to see Alice holding a cell phone out to her.
"Sorry guys but Bella you left your cellphone at my apartment, you might want to go outside as its rather noisy in here"
Baffled she rose meeting her best friends eye for only a moment her expression carefully schooled into something like gratitude as she took the small black flip-phone from her outstretched hand moving toward the open doors to settle on a picnic table. toying aimless with a lock of her own hair a moment before gathering courage enough to ignoring the few stray raindrops that fell onto her jeans,
She had barely time to wonder who on earth would call her from an unlisted number when a familiar voice came over the line, distorted a little by the limits of technology she never the less could have recognized that velvety baritone anywhere even if his first uttered words hadn’t been,
Almost at once a rush of warmth flooded her. Sending all her dark thoughts back to the abyss from whence they came. She could breath again and suddenly her shadowed musings seemed so trivial. Almost on impulse her head snapped up to look around her, catching the familiar scent on the wind she scanned the grounds before feeling quite silly; her blush creeping across her pale cheeks.
"Cara, speak to me"
There was a soft purr to his tone as if he wished for nothing more in this life then to hear her speak, Bella would have called it closer to a plea had it been anyone else on the end of the phone. Vampire kings did not beg. Her mouth ran dry at the thought and she finally found words to give him.
“Aro...I've missed you”
The admission was out of her mouth before her mind had time to process what she said, having had all intention of saying she had missed Italy. The people, the places, the food, him, the chess players, him and everything else..However it seemed to please him. If the soft rumbling sound coming over the line was anything to judge by. She frowned in confusion, Was he? Purring?
“Turn around Cara”
“Turn?...then, oh God”
Shock flooded her as the phone fell from her hand as she obeyed, the wind catching her hair and whisking it off her shoulders as her eyes caught sight of the figure just out of sight of the school. Her jaw fell open, Standing shaded by the trees of the forest stood Aro Volturi. Closing his phone he beckoned to her and vanished leaving her a shaking wreck on the bench as a familiar hand touched her shoulder. It was Alice, who upon seeing everything from her vantage point at the window leaned forward to retrieve her phone whispering in her ear.
“Go, I'll cover for you”
She needed no further encouragement, she didn't care what anyone else thought, the impulse to follow was too strong. Let classmates, Edward, and the rest of the world say what they would. She rose and before she realized it had crossed the well-kept lawns and passed into the trees, there sheltered by the trees she had a nasty sense of deja vu. The crackling of the leaves, the swoosh of the wind through the branches all sounded the same. Sure enough her feet lead her to the spot where she had curled up for hours, shut down and cut off from the world when Edward had walked out of her life. Only this time as she entered a pair of strong arms wrapped around her cradling her as if she were the most precious thing in his world and a deep baritone rumbled in her ear.
How long they stood there Bella couldn't have said or truly cared, somehow she knew. These was something timeless about this, the feel of forever. Those ivory hands cradling the curve of her lower back, then running through her swiftly dampening hair she never wanted it to end. However as all good things must; she eventually had to move as her limbs were beginning to grow stiff.
“How did? Why? When did you?”
Raising one elegant brow he placed a gentle finger to her lips, ceasing the tumble of three opposing questions that all begged an answer. Fondness glowed in his crimson eyes as he waited as patiently as a stone for her to calm before lifting the finger and responding; taking a moment to caress the side of her face before speaking.
“One question at a time Ti Amo”
“First, I traveled here on the private jet. When? I arrived was a few hours ago and why? Perhaps that answer should wait awhile as the answer may be one you’re not yet ready to hear; for now be content with knowing my brothers wished to check on you, and despite their protests I am here.”
Inhaling deeply Bella swore she witnessed his elegant upper lip curl a moment before speaking, his voice dropping in pitch, low and dangerous rather like a lion would make right before bringing down his next meal. Scanning the clearing with crimson eyes.
“I saw this place in his memories, I had to see it. Mia Cara I can taste your despair, smell it on the leaves and feel it in the very earth we stand on”
Nearly on instinct he shifted around her, cradling her closer. A soft growl escaping his lips. In that moment Bella heard more of the wild predatory side of him, than the man that once walked the earth before the time of Christ.
“How did you survive, May I ask?”
The question was muffled as his lips were crushed into her hair, taking in her scent as if it was the only thing granting him life. Bella let out a soft whimper nodding gently against his suit; whatever imagined horrors lay in Edward's mind Aro deserved to know the truth. Lies did not become anyone. Yet she felt the need to warn him, whispered as it was she knew he heard.
“You may not like what you see”
Dipping his head gently, she felt the cool press of his lips against her forehead and a shudder passed through her as he slipped into her mind. Not due to this excessive molly coddling but past suffering, she had done all she could to make the scar tissue strong yet here he was, with nothing more than a few soft words and acts of simple affection ripping those safeguards apart. She braced for the onslaught of horror, shocked pain, and shadowed despair thinking about it brought, yet there was none! Her eyes flew open in surprise as she waited for him to return to the waking world.
It was an often murmured rule that the leader of the Volturi felt nothing. In a sense this was true, emotions faded after thousands of years thrown into the blend of human activities before the change, yet to say he could not feel was untrue. Every vampire who located their other half could feel. Taste the emotions and feelings of their loved ones and so reawaken their own. This was their gift. The light that bound their shadowed mates to life after eons in the embrace of night. Through the mind of his mate, mortal and fragile he not only watched but relived every moment of her life within the confines of her mind, beginning from the day she born to that fateful day she had walked into his halls, head raised in defiance to all she saw before her. Her joys, sufferings, triumphs, and failures all lay before him bare and without embellishment or retraction.
It seemed to Bella only moments until he stirred, a statue of beauty coming alive again under her fingers. She stiffened instantly, expecting reproach, disgust, or any number of other negative reactions. What she received was a moment she would cherish forever.
Aro Volturi fell to his knees, and wept at her feet.
Baffled and moved she knelt by him, reaching out to brush his hair tenderly; drawing it away from his face and was shocked as she found herself cradling his face in her lap while the noble form shook with silent broken sobs.
“Shh Aro.. shh”
For a time he seemed beyond the reach of reason, yet in time her gentle words had their effect. Under her gentle soothing coaxing he gradually calmed, the tremors slowed and then his form was still, each of his blood tears left dark stains on her jeans where they had fallen. Yet she never moved. To such distress she could never turn a blind eye. Family did not abandon family. It was a lesson painfully drummed into her head with the betrayal of the Cullen Coven. Yet how far she would let him in remained a mystery, she did not love Aro, at least not yet. Though there was much she could have loved about him. Power was carried naturally on those broad shoulders. Unnatural beauty his to command and with age unparalleled, yet in this moment Bella had never seen a more beautiful soul. How easy was it now to see beyond the vampire and see the man that had been.
“When do you leave?”
The question was a test in irony, kneeling where she did, mere inches from the spot she had curled to desolate a year before. He too seemed to find some dark amusement in it as he raised his eyes to her face, the tears having dried and vanished as if they never had been. Yet he did not move, merely shifting carefully to rest his head gently on her lap as she too settled to a sitting position cross legged beneath him.
“So eager to be rid of me Isabella?”
“I, to be honest, have no idea Aro, I know so little about you and yet...”
“Yet still the jewel around your neck cannot lie” He finished smoothly as her hand closed around the necklace, noticing the warm glow it sported around her neck even though she could not see it, the warmth radiated from it.
“So this truly is your Heart stone?”
“Yes, and within it, I placed my life. For if you wished it you could rid the world of me at any time simply by smashing the stone that is why Jane was so reluctant to part with it”
Then he was silent, Bella tentatively ran a hand through his hair having asked in silence for his permission and was silently thrilled by the gentle nod, thus given free reign she buried her hand in his dark hair letting the strands fall around her fingers . He remained perfectly still allowing her to ghost her fingers across his skin, so different from Edwards. Who had jumped and shied like a startled yearling horse when she overstepped a boundary. Aro merely held his tongue and began humming a gentle melody. Its rise and falls captivating to her ears. So much so she soon abandoned her exploration to listen. When at last he finished she exhaled.
“I've heard that melody before”
“Indeed you have Mia Cara, it was I who watched over you that first night in Volterra, Miss Cullen left to hunt her prey of choice, it was in my lap she left you. All through that night I sang the melody, it is a vampire love song, each is unique to the male who loves. My Lullaby if you wish to call it that.”