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The Twilight Saga 2: New Moon

The Twilight Saga 2: New Moon: Page 68

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It was probably no more than guilt��the same guilt that compelled him to come here to die when he'd believed that it was his fault that I'd killed myself. But I felt his lips press silently against my forehead, and I didn't care what the motivation was. At least I could be with him again before I died. That was better than a long life.

I wished I could ask him exactly what was going to happen now. I wanted desperately to know how we were going to die��as if that would somehow make it better, knowing in advance. But I couldn't speak, even in a whisper, surrounded as we were. The others could hear everything��my every breath, my every heartbeat.

The path beneath our feet continued to slant downward, taking us deeper into the ground, and it made me claustrophobic. Only Edward's hand, soothing against my face, kept me from screaming out loud.

I couldn't tell where the light was coming from, but it slowly turned dark gray instead of black. We were

in a low, arched tunnel. Long trails of ebony moisture seeped down the gray stones, like they were bleeding ink.

I was shaking, and I thought it was from fear. It wasn't until my teeth started to chatter together that I realized I was cold. My clothes were still wet, and the temperature underneath the city was wintry. As was Edward's skin.

He realized this at the same time I did, and let go of me, keeping only my hand.

"N-n-no," I chattered, throwing my arms around him. I didn't care if I froze. Who knew how long we had left?

His cold hand chafed against my arm, trying to warm me with the friction.

We hurried through the tunnel, or it felt like hurrying to me. My slow progress irritated someone��I guessed Felix��and I heard him heave a sigh now and then.

At the end of the tunnel was a grate��the iron bars were rusting, but thick as my arm. A small door made of thinner, interlaced bars was standing open. Edward ducked through and hurried on to a larger, brighter stone room. The grille slammed shut with a clang, followed by the snap of a lock. I was too afraid to look behind me.

On the other side of the long room was a low, heavy wooden door. It was very thick��as I could tell because it, too, stood open.

We stepped through the door, and I glanced around me in surprise, relaxing automatically. Beside me, Edward tensed, his jaw clenched tight.

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WE WERE IN A BRIGHTLY LIT, UNREMARKABLE HALLWAY. The walls were off-white, the floor carpeted in industrial gray. Common rectangular fluorescent lights were spaced evenly along the ceiling. It was warmer here, for which I was grateful. This hall seemed very benign after the gloom of the ghoulish stone sewers.

Edward didn't seem to agree with my assessment. He glowered darkly down the long hallway, toward the slight, black shrouded figure at the end, standing by an elevator.

He pulled me along, and Alice walked on my other side. The heavy door creaked shut behind us, and then there was the thud of a bolt sliding home.

Jane waited by the elevator, one hand holding the doors open for us. Her expression was apathetic.

Once inside the elevator, the three vampires that belonged to the Volturi relaxed further. They threw back their cloaks, letting the hoods fall back on their shoulders. Felix and Demetri were both of a slightly olive complexion��it looked odd combined with their chalky pallor. Felix's black hair was cropped short, but Demetri's waved to his shoulders. Their irises were deep crimson around the edges, darkening until they were black around the pupil. Under the shrouds, their clothes were modern, pale, and nondescript. I cowered in the corner, cringing against Edward. His hand still rubbed against my arm. He never took his eyes off Jane.

The elevator ride was short; we stepped out into what looked like a posh office reception area. The walls were paneled in wood, the floors carpeted in thick, deep green. There were no windows, but large, brightly lit paintings of the Tuscan countryside hung everywhere as replacements. Pale leather couches were arranged in cozy groupings, and the glossy tables held crystal vases full of vibrantly colored bouquets. The flowers' smell reminded me of a funeral home.

In the middle of the room was a high, polished mahogany counter. I gawked in astonishment at the woman behind it.

She was tall, with dark skin and green eyes. She would have been very pretty in any other company��but not here. Because she was every bit as human as I was. I couldn't comprehend what this human woman was doing here, totally at ease, surrounded by vampnes.

She smiled politely in welcome. "Good afternoon, Jane," she said. There was no surprise in her face as she glanced at Jane's company. Not Edward, his bare chest glinting dimly in the white lights, or even me, disheveled and comparatively hideous.

Jane nodded. "Gianna." She continued toward a set of double doors in the back of the room, and we followed.

As Felix passed the desk, he winked at Gianna, and she giggled.

On the other side of the wooden doors was a different kind of reception. The pale boy in the pearl gray suit could have been Jane's twin. His hair was darker, and his lips were not as full, but he was just as lovely. He came forward to meet us. He smiled, reaching for her. "Jane."

"Alec," she responded, embracing the boy. They kissed each other's cheeks on both sides. Then he looked at us.

"They send you out for one and you come back with two�� and a half," he noted, looking at me. "Nice work."

She laughed��the sound sparkled with delight like a baby's cooing.

"Welcome back, Edward," Alec greeted him. "You seem in a better mood."

"Marginally," Edward agreed in a flat voice. I glanced at Edward's hard face, and wondered how his mood could have been darker before.

Alec chuckled, and examined me as I clung to Edward's side. "And this is the cause of all the trouble?" he asked, skeptical.

Edward only smiled, his expression contemptuous. Then he froze.

"Dibs," Felix called casually from behind.

Edward turned, a low snarl building deep in his chest. Felix smiled��his hand was raised, palm up; he curled his fingers twice, inviting Edward forward.

Alice touched Edward's arm. "Patience," she cautioned him.

They exchanged a long glance, and I wished I could hear what she was telling him.
I figured that it was something to do with not attacking Felix, because Edward took a deep breath and turned back to Alec.

"Aro will be so pleased to see you again," Alec said, as if nothing had passed.

"Let's not keep him waiting," Jane suggested.

Edward nodded once.

Alec and Jane, holding hands, led the way down yet another wide, ornate hall��would there ever be an end?

They ignored the doors at the end of the hall��doors entirely sheathed in gold��stopping halfway down the hall and sliding aside a piece of the paneling to expose a plain wooden door. It wasn't locked. Alec held it open for Jane.

I wanted to groan when Edward pulled me through to the other side of the door. It was the same ancient stone as the square, the alley, and the sewers. And it was dark and cold again.

The stone antechamber was not large. It opened quickly into a brighter, cavernous room, perfectly round like a huge castle turret�� which was probably exactly what it was.

Two stories up, long window slits threw thin rectangles of bright sunlight onto the stone floor below. There were no artificial lights. The only furniture in the room were several massive wooden chairs, like thrones, that were spaced unevenly, flush with the curving stone walls. In the very center of the circle, in a slight depression, was another drain. I wondered if they used it as an exit, like the hole in the street.

The room was not empty. A handful of people were convened in seemingly relaxed conversation. The murmur of low, smooth voices was a gentle hum in the air. As I watched, a pair of pale women in summer dresses paused in a patch of light, and, like prisms, their skin threw the light in rainbow sparkles against the sienna walls.

The exquisite faces all turned toward our party as we entered the room. Most of the immortals were dressed in inconspicuous pants and shirts��things that wouldn't stick out at all on the streets below. But the man who spoke first wore one of the long robes. It was pitch-black, and brushed against the floor. For a moment, I thought his long, jet-black hair was the hood of his cloak.

"Jane, dear one, you've returned!" he cried in evident delight. His voice was just a soft sighing.

He drifted forward, and the movement flowed with such surreal grace that I gawked, my mouth hangmg open. Even Alice, whose every motion looked like dancing, could not compare.

I was only more astonished as he floated closer and I could see his face. It was not like the unnaturally attractive faces that surrounded him (for he did not approach us alone; the entire group converged around him, some following, and some walking ahead of him with the alert manner of bodyguards).

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