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The Twilight Saga 2: New Moon

The Twilight Saga 2: New Moon: Page 70

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It was trembling.

He glided closer, and I believe he meant his expression to be reassuring. But his papery features were too strange, too alien and frightening, to reassure. The look on his face was more confident than his words had been.

Aro reached out, as if to shake my hand, and pressed his insubstantial-looking skin against mine. It was hard, but felt brittle��shale rather than granite��and even colder than I expected.

His filmy eyes smiled down at mine, and it was impossible to look away. They were mesmerizing in an odd, unpleasant way.

Aro's face altered as I watched. The confidence wavered and became first doubt, then incredulity before he calmed it into a friendly mask.

"So very interesting," he said as he released my hand and drifted back.

My eyes flickered to Edward, and, though his face was composed, I thought he seemed a little smug.

Aro continued to drift wnh a thoughtful expression. He was quiet for a moment, his eyes flickering between the three of us. Then, abruptly, he shook his head.

"A first," he said to himself "I wonder if she is immune to our other talents�� Jane, dear?"

"No!" Edward snarled the word. Alice grabbed his arm with a restraining hand. He shook her off.

Little Jane smiled up happily at Aro. "Yes, Master?"

Edward was truly snarling now, the sound ripping and tearing from him, glaring at Aro with baleful eyes. The room had gone still, everyone watching him with amazed disbelief, as if he were committing some embarrassing social faux pas. I saw Felix grin hopefully and move a step forward. Aro glanced at him once, and he froze in place, his grin turning to a sulky expression.

Then he spoke to Jane. "I was wondering, my dear one, if Bella is immune to you."

I could barely hear Aro over Edward's furious growls. He let go of me, moving to hide me from their view. Caius ghosted in our direction, with his entourage, to watch.

Jane turned toward us with a beatific smile.

"Don't!" Alice cried as Edward launched himself at the little girl.

Before I could react, before anyone could jump between them, before Aro's bodyguards could tense, Edward was on the ground.

No one had touched him, but he was on the stone floor writhing in obvious agony, while I stared in horror.

Jane was smiling only at him now, and it all clicked together. What Alice had said about formidable gifts , why everyone treated Jane with such deference, and why Edward had thrown himself in her path before she could do that to me.

"Stop!" I shrieked, my voice echoing in the silence, jumping forward to put myself between them. But Alice threw her arms around me in an unbreakable grasp and ignored my struggles. No sound escaped Edward's lips as he cringed against the stones. It felt like my head would explode from the pain of watching this.

"Jane," Aro recalled her in a tranquil voice. She looked up quickly, still smiling with pleasure, her eyes questioning. As soon as Jane looked away, Edward was still.

Aro inclined his head toward me.

Jane turned her smile in my direction.

I didn't even meet her gaze. I watched Edward from the prison of Alice's arms, still struggling pointlessly.

"He's fine," Alice whispered in a tight voice. As she spoke, he sat up, and then sprang lightly to his feet. His eyes met mine, and they were horror-struck. At first I thought the horror was for what he had just suffered. But then he looked quickly at Jane, and back to me��and his face relaxed into relief.

I looked at Jane, too, and she no longer smiled. She glared at me, her jaw clenched with the intensity of her focus. I shrank back, waiting for the pain.

Nothing happened.

Edward was by my side again. He touched Alice's arm, and she surrendered me to him.

Aro started to laugh. "Ha, ha. ha," he chuckled. "This is wonderful!"

Jane hissed in frustration, leaning forward like she was preparing to spring.

"Don't be put out, dear one," Aro said in a comforting tone, placing a powder-light hand on her shoulder. "She confounds us all."

Jane's upper lip curled back ever her teeth as she continued to glare at me.

"Ha, ha, ha," Aro chortled again. "You're very brave, Edward, to endure in silence. I asked Jane to do that to me once��just out of curiosity." He shook his head in admiration.

Edward glared, disgusted.

"So what do we do with you now?" Aro sighed.

Edward and Alice stiffened. This was the part they'd been waiting for. I began to tremble.

"I don't suppose there's any chance that you've changed your mind?" Aro asked Edward hopefully. "Your talent would be an excellent addition to our little company."

Edward hesitated. From the corner of my eye, I saw both Felix and Jane grimace.

Edward seemed to weigh each word before he spoke it. "I'd�� rather�� not."

"Alice?" Aro asked, still hopeful. "Would you perhaps be interested in joining with us?"

"No, thank you," Alice said.

"And you, Bella?" Aro raised his eyebrows.

Edward hissed, low in my ears. I stared at Aro blankly. Was he joking? Or was he really asking me if I wanted to stay for dinner?

It was the white-haired Caius who broke the silence.

"What?" he demanded of Aro; his voice, though no more than a whisper, was flat.

"Caius, surely you see the potential," Aro chided him affectionately. "I haven't seen a prospective talent so promising since we found Jane and Alec. Can you imagine the possibilities when she is one of us?"

Caius looked away with a caustic expression. Jane's eyes sparked with indignation at the comparison.

Edward fumed beside me. I could hear a rumble in his chest, building toward a growl. I couldn't let his temper get him hurt.

"No, thank you," I spoke up in barely more than a whisper, my voice breaking in fright.

Aro sighed. "That's unfortunate. Such a waste."

Edward hissed. "Join or die, is that it? I suspected as much when we were brought to this room. So much for your laws."

The tone of his voice surprised me. He sounded irate, but there was something deliberate about his delivery��as if he'd chosen his words with great care.

"Of course not." Aro blinked, astonished. "We were already convened here, Edward, awaiting Heidi's return. Not for you."

"Aro," Caius hissed. "The law claims them."

Edward glared at Caius. "How so?" he demanded. He must have known what Caius was thinking, but he seemed determined to make him speak it aloud.

Caius pointed a skeletal finger at me. "She knows too much. You have exposed our secrets." His voice was papery thin, just like his skin.

"There are a few humans in on your charade here, as well," Edward reminded him, and I thought of the pretty receptionist below.

Caius's face twisted into a new expression. Was it supposed to be a smiled.

"Yes," he agreed. "But when they are no longer useful to us, they will serve to sustain us. That is not your plan for this one. If she betrays our secrets, are you prepared to destroy her? I think not," he scoffed.

"I wouldn't��," I began, still whispering. Caius silenced me with an icy look.

"Nor do you intend to make her one of us," Caius continued. "Therefore, she is a vulnerability. Though it is true, for this, only her life is forfeit. You may leave if you wish."

Edward bared his teeth.

"That's what I thought," Caius said, with something akin to pleasure. Felix leaned forward, eager.

"Unless��" Aro interrupted. He looked unhappy with the way the conversation had gone. "Unless you do intend to give her immortality?"

Edward pursed his lips, hesitating for a moment before he answered. "And if I do?"

Aro smiled, happy again. "Why, then you would be free to go home and give my regards to my friend Carlisle." His expression turned more hesitant. "But I'm afraid you would have to mean it."

Aro raised his hand in front of him.

Caius, who had begun to scowl furiously, relaxed.

Edward's lips tightened into a fierce line. He stared into my eyes, and I stared back.

"Mean it," I whispered. "Please."

Was it really such a loathsome idea? Would he rather die than change me? I felt like I'd been kicked in the stomach.

Edward stared down at me with a tortured expression.

And then Alice stepped away from us, forward toward Aro.
We turned to watch her. Her hand was raised like his.

She didn't say anything, and Aro waved off his anxious guard as they moved to block her approach. Aro met her halfway, and took her hand with an eager, acquisitive glint in his eyes.

He bent his head over their touching hands, his eyes closing as he concentrated. Alice was motionless, her face blank. I heard Edward's teeth snap together.

No one moved. Aro seemed frozen over Alice's hand. The seconds passed and I grew more and more stressed, wondering how much time would pass before it was too much time. Before it meant something was wrong��more wrong than it already was.

Another agonizing moment passed, and then Aro's voice broke the silence.

"Ha, ha, ha," he laughed, his head still bent forward.

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