The Road Not Taken
Epilogue: “She didn’t really seem like that sort of girl,” Tanya commented, her tone just a tad sour, and Demetri quirked a smile.
“I get the feeling there’s a lot more to her than we’ve suspected.” Sequel to The Road Less Traveled by Daintress of tm_switzerland.
16. Chapter 16
Rating 5/5 Word Count 1697 Review this Chapter
Marcus was staring at her as she watched Aro and Edward, and after a moment, she turned toward him. To her shock, he smiled slightly. It was the most expression she had ever seen on his dead face. He had perceived a change in her relationship with Edward and he approved. She ducked her head, thankful that her cheeks stayed cool and white, but she couldn’t hide the smile that came over her face. Not just because of her joy at finally having things right between herself and Edward, but because of something she’d seen in Marcus’ soul. It had always been fractured in a way that she recognized instinctively, having lived like that for quite some time herself, when Edward had left her. She’d had Jake, though, to teach her how to repair it and he had, very slowly, managed it. Marcus had had no one. However, it seemed to her that when she looked into his eyes now, there was some healing. Maybe it was just seeing that she and Edward were reconnecting that had done it, maybe he was just so interested in her ability that it made him feel connected to her on some emotional level. Whatever the reason, any lessening of his long-endured pain pleased her. If there was hope for him, there was hope for anyone.
The conversation that followed was as grueling as Edward and Bella had expected. Although Aro seemed to accept their decision to let Russ live, and Marcus didn’t appear to care either way, Caius was furious. He was especially annoyed by their treatment of Jane. They answered for their choices many times over, and in the end both Aro, and to a lesser extent Marcus, were defending them. Caius was not to be convinced, however. Six hours after their arrival, he left Aro’s office in an impressive snit. Bella shook her head. Considering his age, he was such a child. Then she snorted in amusement at the thought. This, of course, peaked Aro’s curiosity, and Edward’s as well, and she was forced to repeat the thought aloud. “He reminds me of Will when Charlie would break one of his crayons while he was trying to color,” she explained, grinning. Will had been the careful one, in spite of being the youngest. Charlie had forever been breaking Will’s favorite crayons. Aro and Marcus looked at her blankly, but Edward grinned in return. It amused him that she could still use such human analogies. The older vampires were clearly stumped by it.
Following Caius’ departure, the conversation turned to souls. Aro wanted to know all about the souls of the werewolves. In order to explain, Bella told them the story of the Spirit Wolves, and how they’d come about. Aro fidgeted the whole time, casting annoyed glances at Edward, and Bella smiled. Aro always seemed surprised by how much she knew that Edward did not, but this should not have shocked him.
“…but the body of the wolf was too confined, too narrow to contain the depth and breadth of his emotions, and as he entered the wolf, he burst forth again, into a man, altering forever the makeup of both the wolf and his own soul. His new body did not look like the old, which stood trembling before him. His form was that of his spirit-self. Over seven feet tall, powerful, beautiful.” Bella smiled as Edward put his hand gently to the back of her head as though to comfort her, and she fell silent.
“You tell the story with authority, and with a love for the characters that is impressive,” Marcus commented, his voice dull though his eyes seemed to be seeing her, which was rare. A long sentence, for him, especially in the presence of so many people.
“In a way, it is the story of my people. Briefly, very briefly, I served as Alpha after Jacob died. Because they accepted the contract I negotiated for them, they accepted me in that role.” Bella understood the truth of her words as she spoke them, though it had never occurred to her before. She was not Quileute by blood, but she had served the tribe the best way she knew how. “I hope they remember my name,” she added, glancing at Edward. “I don’t want to be remembered as a nameless wife of someone important.” She was thinking of the Third Wife from yet another spirit wolf legend.
“They will remember,” he said, smiling at her. He was surprised how little it upset him to hear her repeat the legends as though they were her own. In a very real way, they WERE. He was coming to accept that. When he had first fallen in love with her, she had not been Quileute. That she now identified with that culture, however, was indisputable. He smiled wider, realizing this was yet another change that didn’t alter his love for her.
Aro broke in then to demand a detailed explanation of the Quileute soul, and Bella explained, as quickly as she could, trying to appease Aro’s obvious impatience. He often behaved this way with her. He was so accustomed to learning everything all at once that being required to hold an actual conversation in order to acquire the information he desired annoyed him greatly.
“As they come of age, the werewolves’ bodies take on the aspect of their spirit-selves, their souls. As a result, their souls look very much like their bodies. Not at all metallic in tone like a vampire’s soul, nor anything like a human’s either, from what I can tell with Gianna and the people we saw in the stores today.” She had already explained both of those types of souls to Marcus ad nauseam, and could see the same sorts of conversations concerning werewolves in her future. She was thankful for the unending endurance her new body seemed to possess. It was another two hours before she and Edward finally took their leave of Aro and Marcus. Edward took her hand as the elevator doors closed, and immediately pulled her to him. She stretched up to press a kiss against his neck.
“They’re absolutely insatiable,” she complained. Edward only laughed.
“You gave them enough new information to keep them busy for a few days, at least,” he teased, squeezing her tightly. “I, on the other hand, am not quite satisfied.” Even just holding her this close brought to mind the way they’d sat together on his couch at home, and his body remembered it almost more quickly than his mind.
Bella pulled back to look up at him and took in the lightness in his eyes. She was amazed that all that talk about werewolves didn’t seem to have upset his good mood. “No?” she asked, a wicked smirk creeping across her face again. He only shook his head and pulled her by the hand to his door, grinning.
Bella had not spent much time in Edward’s chambers. Mostly, he came to visit her. “So, you had more questions?” she asked leadingly as he closed his door behind them. She was fairly certain that wasn’t the kind of satisfaction he’d been referring to, but teasing him was a great deal of fun.
“Naturally.” Edward turned to look at her, standing in his sitting room, which was furnished much like hers except for the stereo. She hadn’t changed out of the dress she’d worn home from the store. It was good that their plane had come in so late. It had been quite dark by the time they’d left the store but her legs had still attracted attention, flawless and bare and white as they were they practically reflected the moonlight. If he’d believed in goddesses, he’d have envisioned them exactly like her.
He didn’t mean to stare, and he could see she was waiting for him to say something, but he was having a difficult time coming up with anything for the first time in memory. It occurred to him in that moment that she was vastly more experienced at this than he was. It was difficult not to let that bother him, but absolutely impossible not to let it intimidate him. It was disturbing, how thoroughly the tables had been turned.
Early in their relationship, HE had been the one with all the experience – a century of it – and all the knowledge, and thus all the confidence. Now, however, she was looking at him invitingly, and he hesitated. Of course, he knew the mechanics of it. You didn’t go around for a century reading people’s minds and NOT know exactly how it was done. It was this prelude that was beyond even his mental experience.
Swiftly, his mind sifted back through all the other times they’d almost crossed this line, so long ago: in his bed, in the meadow. They’d all had one thing in common, at least. They’d been laying down, and kissing. But how to talk her into that when neither of them had any need of sleep or rest was beyond him. Ironically, it had been so much easier to get her into bed when she was human.
“Edward?” Bella asked, wondering why he was staring at her with that pensive look on his face. He grinned.
“Are you thirsty?” he asked, knowing what the answer would be. It had been several days since she’d hunted in the forest in Peru. The longest she’d gone without. He wasn’t sure how this path would take him where he wanted to go, but it would surely be easier than trying to lure her into the bedroom he never used. He watched her raise an eyebrow, and searched her face for any disappointment, but couldn’t find a trace.
“Naturally,” she replied dryly, echoing him.
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