I panicked. We had spent the morning riding our motorbikes but were forced to stop when freezing rain began to fall. Having propped the bikes up against the railing of his front porch, we turned towards the warmth coming from inside his house. But as I turned to walk past him into the entryway he grasped my hand. I thought maybe I had forgotten something outside but I knew the look in his eyes. His other hand looked as though it were about to make his way up towards my cheek. My eyes widened and Edward’s voice returned, no longer angry. The imagined voice cracked, pain seeping into the words, “Bella, please, no”.
Shaking off Jacob’s hand I turned and grabbed my bike. Giving it a sudden start I kicked off before Jake could say anything. As I raced out of the reservation I became angry. Why would my subconscious make Edward utter those words? And in such obvious pain? He was the one that left me after all, would I never be allowed to experience intimacy with someone else? I knew the answer of course, there was no one else. There never would be anyone else. I did not want that with Jacob anymore than my imagined apparition of him.
Desolate tears began to mix with the cold rain lashing my face. I did not hear the rumble of Jake’s motorbike following me but I did not trust myself to turn around and look while driving on the increasingly slippery road back to Forks. Only a couple miles more laid between me and home.
The rain began to fall even harder and I slowed down. As I maneuvered around the next bend it happened. My front tire slid across a patch of fresh ice and my bike dragged me down towards the shoulder. I must have screamed. But all I could think about as I rolled down the small incline and into the woods was how lucky I was to have taken the time to put on my helmet in my hasty departure. I rolled to a stop, a low moan escaping my lips as I tried to assess the damage without moving. A couple of sharp pains in my side screamed broken ribs. Closing my eyes and preparing for the worst I wiggled my toes. Then my fingers. More pain in my right arm, perhaps a break then. I shifted on to my good arm and propped myself up. A flash of crimson on the ground below me and the sharp tang of rust alerted me to the cut on my forehead.
Before I could figure out how I was going to make my way home I heard a strange rustling in the woods in front of me. Edward’s voice urged me on suddenly, “Bella, get up! Get up and go now. You must go.”
I was so startled by the fear in his voice that I did not see the flash of black appear and disappear between the bare trees in front of me. But the voice that spoke next was not his. And it caused a shiver to ripple up my spine, one not caused by the cold or the shock of my crash.
“Hmm, I wonder.”
The voice was almost childlike but too calculating to belong to a child itself. Despite that, the person standing in front of me could not have been much younger than I was. Though upon seeing her shining ruby eyes I knew that she had likely been on this earth much longer than I had. My hand flew up to my forehead in a feeble attempt to hide what I was sure she was more than aware of. Her eyes widened before she gained control and narrowed them once more in my direction. More instincts kicked in and I tried to crawl backwards. I grimaced, having forgotten the break in my arm.
“I don’t suppose you were talking about Edward Cullen?” She sneered.
Two more vampires appeared at her sides, their identical black cloaks floating to a stop, the only sign of the speed at which they must have been running. They both glanced up at my still bleeding forehead before turning to look at the girl between them. Something about the heavy cloaks and the powerful presence of the three vampires warned me against telling the truth. I had a feeling about who I might be talking to but I hoped I was wrong.
I took a trembling breath, “Who?”
The girl, Jane, snarled. “Don’t play stupid. Were you talking about Edward Cullen?”
I found myself incapable of coming up with a suitable lie. Her eyes bore into mine and her head tilted slightly in concentration. Her eyes narrowed for a second before the taller of her two companions laughed.
“Is there a problem, Jane?”
Her gaze shifted to him instead and he instantly dropped to his knees, his teeth clenched together to prevent a scream from escaping. It stopped as soon as it had started and he jumped to his feet, glaring at the girl.
“No, Demitri, everything seems to be in working order. Pick up the girl.”
Demitri balked at the order.
Jane rolled her eyes. “She obviously knows what we are. And for some reason is immune to my...powers of persuasion. Aro will want to see her.”
The other man, who had remained silent during the exchange, turned to Jane. “What about our initial reason for coming here?”
Jane shrugged, “The shapeshifters will still be here. Surely this is a more pressing matter, Alec”.
He nodded in acceptance of her decision and Demitri walked over and kneeled in front of me, scowling. “Here, clean yourself up at least. I may have just fed but if Jane thinks Aro will want to see you then there is no sense in taking extra risks.” His lips curled up into a menacing smile as he handed me a handkerchief. I pressed the piece of fabric to my forehead. He slipped his arms underneath me and stood in one fluid motion. Whether it was because of the pain in my ribs as he grasped me too tight or the shock of all that had transpired, I felt myself slip into unconsciousness just as he took off running.
I awoke soon after but waited to open my eyes, wanting to try and take in as much of my surroundings as I could before they realized I was awake. The thrum of a car engine vibrated around me. My cheek rested against a warm leather seat and I could hear more rain lashing against the windshield. Taking a deep breath, I winced at the stab of pain in my ribs. I decided that my companions likely knew I was no longer asleep so I ventured to open my eyes. The one called Alec was sitting next to me on the back seat. He sat unmoving, hands resting on his lap, staring out the window to his right. Demitri was driving and from what I could tell he had as much disregard for the speed limit as the vampires I had ridden with. As I moved to sit up a little more Jane turned slightly to glance at me from her place in the passenger seat. All three of them appeared to be holding their breath.
Feigning ignorance seemed like my best option at that point so I decided to only speak if they spoke to me. While my lips may have remained silent, my thoughts raced. What would Charlie think when I didn’t make it home? Had Jacob been riding behind me and happened across the scene of the accident? Why were members of the Volturi in Forks? Would the Cullens be in danger if the Volturi found out about their relationship with a human?
Without turning to face me, Jane spoke, her voice cold, “Your arm is broken.”
It was not a question but I decided to respond anyway, “Yes.” I wanted to keep my responses as simple as possible, fearful of saying anything that could incriminate me or Edward’s family. Despite their betrayal, I felt a flash of protectiveness burn through me. Whatever happened going forward, I would try my hardest to not let their name be associated with my knowledge of their supernatural world.
Jane scoffed and I could practically hear her roll her eyes, “Humans. One fall and they snap in half.” Next to me Alec smirked but said nothing else. Based on her comment I deduced that there would be no visit to a doctor in my near future. I certainly could not picture the three cloaked figures huddling around me in the emergency room of a nearby hospital. At least the wound on my head had stopped bleeding. Tucking my arm against my chest, I closed my eyes once more and tried to take a few deep breaths. It hurt, yes, but I reminded myself that I had known worse. When I got a chance I would try and make some kind of makeshift sling.
The car began to slow as we pulled into what looked like a private airstrip. The first thought that occured to me was that my passport was shoved away in one of my desk drawers back at Charlie’s. But then I reminded myself that the Volturi probably operated in their own sphere of things, not unlike the Cullens. I doubted my lack of identification would be problematic for them. Sure enough, when the car came to a stop in front of a small private jet, the guard pulled off their cloaks and hid them away in a bag that Demitri had pulled from the trunk. My door opened and Alec looked at me expectantly. I allowed myself to glare at him before carefully maneuvering my way out of the car and following them to the plane.
Once on board, the three of them sat together. The only indication that they were conversing was the occasional brief movements of their lips. I heard nothing of what they said. Which was undoubtedly their intention. Turning away from the guard, I tried to get comfortable in the leather chair I had chosen on the other side of the plane. They still had not spoken a word to me since Jane’s assessment of my arm. Which suited me just fine. As the plane reached cruising altitude, the events of the day seemed to catch up to me. Waves of different emotions crashed into me from every direction. One second I was angry. Angry at the Cullens for deserting me and leaving me to fend for myself in a situation such as this. Angry at Jacob for wanting more than I could give him. Angry at myself for storming off. In the next breath I felt an overwhelming panic. Worried about what lay ahead for me. I knew that the Cullens and myself had broken the Volturi’s most important rule. That my short-lived time in their world would be sufficient enough of a reason to warrant their demise and mine. A wave of guilt threatened to pull me under. How could I have gotten us all in this situation? The only thing that reassured me was that the Cullens were no longer in Forks. If I could keep from mentioning them then perhaps they would be safe.
I started to think of Charlie coming home to an empty house. Or maybe someone would see the evidence of my accident and he would discover my disappearance while at work. When I started to feel the tears prickling in the corners of my eyes I forced myself to think of something else. I turned my attention back to the three vampires sitting across the aisle from me. At one point Jane suddenly turned her head in my direction, eyes narrowing as she scrutinized me. The look of pure hatred that flashed across her face made me shiver. She growled in frustration and turned back towards her companions.
To pass the time I closed my eyes and tried to will myself to create another apparition of Edward. For once there was a lethal danger looming and he was silent. Hours passed in this way. I drifted in and out of a fitful sleep until the rumbling of my stomach alerted the others to my obvious hunger. Without saying a word, Alec stood and walked towards the back of the plane. A few seconds later a sandwich and an apple appeared on the table in front of me. When I looked in their direction he was already back in his seat and nobody was paying me any attention. I hadn’t eaten since a quick bowl of cereal that morning so within minutes I had finished my meal. The combination of exhaustion, pain, and a full stomach at last brought on the deep sleep I desired.
The plane landed in the middle of the night. Another isolated airfield. Another car waiting. An overcast sky hid most of the stars from view and the sliver of a moon hardly gave off any light. Soon we were snaking our way through narrow cobblestone streets, a few streetlamps casting a glow over the darkened city. Under different circumstances I would be exhilarated by the discovery of my first European village, but the sense of dread that sat like lead in my stomach made it impossible to feel anything but nauseous. I leaned my forehead against the cool pane of glass and tried to breathe deeply.
At last the car drove through a dark stone archway and came to a stop in an empty courtyard. Alec and Demitri disappeared before I had even reached for the door handle. Stumbling out of the car I jostled the broken arm, eliciting a hiss of pain from my lips. Jane remained motionless, watching with exasperation. Once I reached her side, she nodded towards a large wooden door and took off at a brisk walk.
We weaved through drafty corridors, crossing nobody as we moved deeper into the castle. I knew I would never be able to find my way back out even if I wanted to. Any attempt at escape would be futile. Eventually we reached a sort of waiting room, the green polyester armchairs a stark contrast to the cold stone walls and centuries-old tapestries that hung from the walls.
Jane broke her silence, snapping a quick, “Wait here” in my direction.
I did not need to be told twice. I hardly even dared to sit in one of the chairs. There was no need, for within seconds Jane had reappeared in front of me and beckoned me to follow once more. We turned the corner and paused before a set of towering wooden double doors. Grasping the handles, she turned to look at me with a menacing glint in her eye, before whispering, “Ready?”