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The Twilight Saga 2: New Moon

The Twilight Saga 2: New Moon: Page 71

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He looked up slowly, his eyes bright with excitement. "That was fascinating!"

Alice smiled dryly. "I'm glad you enjoyed it."

"To see the things you've seen��especially the ones that haven't happened yet!" He shook his head in wonder.

"But that will," she reminded him, voice calm.

"Yes, yes, it's quite determined. Certainly there's no problem."

Caius looked bitterly disappointed��a feeling he seemed to share with Felix and Jane.

"Aro," Caius complained.

"Dear Caius," Aro smiled. "Do not fret. Think of the possibilities! They do not join us today, but we can always hope for the future. Imagine the joy young Alice alone would bring to our little household�� Besides, I'm so terribly curious to see how Bella turns out!"

Aro seemed convinced. Did he not realize how subjective Alice's visions were.' That she could make up her mind to transform me today, and then change it tomorrow? A million tiny decisions, her decisions and so many others', too��Edward's��could alter her path, and with that, the future.

And would it really matter that Alice was willing, would it make any difference if I did become a vampire, when the idea was so repulsive to Edward? If death was, to him, a better alternative than having me around forever, an immortal annoyance? Terrified as I was, I felt myself sinking down into depression, drowning in it��

"Then we are free to go now?" Edward asked in an even voice.

"Yes, yes," Aro said pleasantly. "But please visit again. It's been absolutely enthralling!"

"And we will visit you as well," Caius promised, his eyes suddenly half-closed like the heavy-lidded gaze of a lizard. "To be sure that you follow through on your side. Were I you, I would not delay too long. We do not offer second chances."

Edward's jaw clenched tight, but he nodded once.

Caius smirked and drifted back to where Marcus still sat, unmoving and uninterested.

Felix groaned.

"Ah, Felix." Aro smiled, amused. "Heidi will be here at any moment. Patience."

"Hmm." Edward's voice had a new edge to it. "In that case, perhaps we'd better leave sooner rather than later."

"Yes," Aro agreed. "That's a good idea. Accidents do happen. Please wait below until after dark, though, if you don't mind."

"Of course," Edward agreed, while I cringed at the thought of waiting out the day before we could escape.

"And here," Aro added, motioning to Felix with one finger. Felix came forward at once, and Aro unfastened the gray cloak the huge vampire wore, pulling from his shoulders. He tossed it to Edward. "Take this. You're a little conspicuous."

Edward put the long cloak on, leaving the hood down.

Aro sighed. "It suits you."

Edward chuckled, but broke off suddenly, glancing over his shoulder. "Thank you, Aro. We'll wait below."

"Goodbye, young friends," Aro said, his eyes bright as he stared in the same direction.

"Let's go," Edward said, urgent now.

Demetri gestured that we should follow, and then set off the way we'd come in, the only exit by the look of things.

Edward pulled me swiftly along beside him. Alice was close by my other side, her face hard.

"Not fast enough," she muttered.

I stared up at her, frightened, but she only seemed chagrined. It was then that I first heard the babble of voices��loud, rough voices��coming from the antechamber.

"Well this is unusual," a man's coarse voice boomed.

"So medieval," an unpleasantly shrill, female voice gushed back.

A large crowd was coming through the little door, filling the smaller stone chamber. Demetri motioned for us to make room. We pressed back against the cold wall to let them pass.

The couple in front, Americans from the sound of them, glanced around themselves with appraising eyes.

"Welcome, guests! Welcome to Volterra!" I could hear Aro sing from the big turret room.

The rest of them, maybe forty or more, filed in after the couple. Some studied the setting like tourists. A few even snapped pictures. Others looked confused, as if the story that had led them to this room was not making sense anymore. I noticed one small, dark woman in particular. Around her neck was a rosary, and she gripped the cross tightly in one hand. She walked more slowly than the others, touching someone now and then and asking a question in an unfamiliar language. No one seemed to understand her, and her voice grew more panicked.

Edward pulled my face against his chest, but it was too late. I already understood.

As soon as the smallest break appeared, Edward pushed me quickly toward the door. I could feel the horrified expression on my face, and the tears beginning to pool in my eyes.

The ornate golden hallway was quiet, empty except for one gorgeous, statuesque woman. She stared at us curiously, me in particular.

"Welcome home, Heidi," Demetri greeted her from behind us.

Heidi smiled absently. She reminded me of Rosalie, though they looked nothing alike��it was just that her beauty, too, was exceptional, unforgettable. I couldn't seem to look away.

She was dressed to emphasize that beauty. Her amazingly long legs, darkened with tights, were exposed by the shortest of miniskirts. Her top was long-sleeved and high-necked, but extremely close-fitting, and constructed of red vinyl. Her long mahogany hair was lustrous, and her eyes were the strangest shade of violet��a color that might result from blue-tinted contacts over red irises.

"Demetri," she responded in a silky voice, her eyes flickering between my face and Edward's gray cloak.

"Nice fishing," Demetri complimented her, and I suddenly understood the attention-grabbing outfit she wore�� she was not only the fisherman, but also the bait.

"Thanks." She flashed a stunning smile. "Aren't you coming?"

"In a minute. Save a few for me."

Heidi nodded and ducked through the door with one last curious look at me.

Edward set a pace that had me running to keep up. But we still couldn't get through the ornate door at the end of the hallway before the screaming started.

DEMETRI LEFT US IN THE CHEERFULLY OPULENT RECEPTION area, where the woman Gianna was still at her post behind the polished counter. Bright, harmless music tinkled from hidden speakers.

"Do not leave until dark," he warned us.

Edward nodded, and Demetri hurried away.

Gianna did not seem at all surprised by the exchange, though she did eye Edward's borrowed cloak with shrewd speculation.

"Are you all right?" Edward asked under his breath, to low for the human woman to hear. His voice was rough��if velvet can be rough��with anxiety. Still stressed by our situation, I imagined.

"You'd better make her sit before she falls," Alice said. "She's going to pieces."

It was only then that I realize I was shaking, shaking hard, my entire frame vibrating until my teeth chattered and the room around me seemed to wobble and blur in my eyes. For one wild second, I wondered if this was how Jacob felt just before exploding into a werewolf.

I heard a sound that didn't make sense, a strange, ripping counterpart to the otherwise cheery background music. Distracted by the shaking, I couldn't tell where it was coming from.

"Shh, Bella, shh," Edward said as he pulled me to the sofa farthest away from the curious human at the desk.

"I think she's having hysterics. Maybe you should slap her," Alice suggested.

Edward threw a frantic glance at her.

Then I understood. Oh. The noise was me. The ripping sound was the sobs coming from my chest. That's what was shaking me.

"It's all right, you're safe, it's all right," he chanted again and again. He pulled ne onto his lap and tucked the thick wool cloak around me, protecting me from his cold skin.

I knew it was stupid to react like this. Who knew how much time I had to look at his race? He was saved, and I was saved, and he could leave me as soon as we were free. To have my eyes so filled with tears that I could not see his features clearly was wasteful��insanity.

But, behind my eyes where the tears could not wash the image away, I could still see the panicked face of the tiny woman with the rosary.

"All those people," I sobbed.

"I know," he whispered.

"It's so horrible."

"Yes, it is. I wish you hadn't had to see that."

I rested my head against his cold chest, using the thick cloak to wipe my eyes. I took a few deep breaths, trying to calm myself.

"Is there anything I can get you?" a voice asked politely. It was Gianna, leaning over Edward's shoulder with a look that was both concerned and yet still professional and detached at the same time. It didn't seem to bother her that her face was inches from a hostile vampire. She was either totally oblivious, or very good at her job.

"No," Edward answered coldly.

She nodded, smiled at me, and then disappeared.

I waited until she was out of hearing range. "Does she know what's going on here?" I demanded, my voice low and hoarse. I was getting control of myself, my breathing evening out.

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