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.
4. Chapter 4
Rating 5/5 Word Count 1742 Review this Chapter
When her whimpers ceased entirely, and her body began to relax, she felt his hand in her damp hair. She opened her eyes. Carefully, she raised her own hands and noticed how much clearer her vision was. She glittered, even in the dimly lit room. She could see every facet of her own fingers. She glanced at Edward – more quickly than he was used to – and caught him staring at the bracelet that still adorned her left wrist. Or maybe he was looking at her rings. She wasn’t sure, but she could sense his embarrassment as he looked away.
She studied his face anyway. There was something different about it. His eyes were the same dark ochre she recalled from before her transformation, but there was more to see in them. “Look at me,” she commanded curiously, noting the crystalline quality of her own voice only dimly as he looked up again.
She reached out a hand and caught his jaw, forcing his eyes to hers, and squinted. There was something different. Or – not different, but more visible than she expected. Something she’d always known was there. Jacob’s words came back to her. You see souls… She shivered and let him go, looking away.
“Can you hear my thoughts?” she asked, covering her own discomfort.
“No. You will always be a mystery to me,” he replied, partially amused, but mostly sad.
“Not always. I will just have to be very honest.” Bella smiled. It wasn’t much like the smiles Edward remembered – it didn’t quite reach her eyes, but it was the first non-miserable expression he’d seen on her face yet. He couldn’t help but quirk a smile back at her, and when her completely unnecessary breathing caught for a moment, he full out grinned.
Bella kept her eyes on him and forced herself to breathe. It was easier than it had been as a human. She had intended to tell him immediately about her newfound ability, but something else caught her attention in that moment. “What stinks?” she asked, wrinkling her nose. One of her hands strayed to her stomach, which shouldn’t be capable, anymore, of feeling like she was trying to keep down her last meal.
Edward grimaced. His whole body tensed as if he expected to have to restrain her at any moment. “Are you thirsty?” he asked resignedly.
Bella cocked her head, considering. “Yes. But something reeks in here! It’s turning my stomach.”
She met his worried eyes with confusion. Why did he look so concerned? And then, suddenly, he was laughing. She hadn’t heard him laugh in more years than she cared to count. It was a beautiful sound but astoundingly loud – so loud that she was sure it would have injured her ears if she’d still been human. As it was, it sounded joyous to her, like a deep gong ringing through the tower. She shook her head bemusedly, wondering how she’d been unintentionally funny this time.
A knock sounded at the door, and she heard it in spite of the ruckus Edward was making. He shot up from the bed and grasped her hands, pulling her to her feet. “You answer it,” he said, still grinning.
Bella had never been one to care much about her clothes, but she rolled her eyes as he pulled her to the door in her sweat-stained pajamas. It didn’t bother her enough to prevent her from following, however. “Come in,” she said. She and Edward waited, their hands clasped together, while someone unlocked the door. Bella shrugged and blurred as she moved to open it before anyone else could. She smiled again, as one of Aro’s bodyguards stumbled over the threshold, the door handle having been wrenched from his grip. He hastily stepped back so that Aro, already laughing, could precede him into the room.
“Oh ha ha ha!” Aro looked back and forth between Bella and Edward. He offered Bella his hand, as if she should shake it, and she raised her own to take it, while Edward smirked. He knew it was pointless of Aro to hope that the transformation had opened her mind to either of them. Aro immediately shook his head and released her.
“Welcome to the family, my dear,” he said warmly. Bella’s smile fell. This was not her family. She had left all of her family in Forks. Charlie, the boys, the pack, and the Cullens. She met Aro’s eyes calmly, however, knowing that this was the price she paid for their safety. It was worth it.
And then, as she gazed brazenly at him, she noticed it. The sheer timelessness of his soul took her breath away. She took an involuntary step backward, blinking.
“Are you alright?” he asked, and she could see in his eyes that his concern was real. She recovered quickly. Years of hiding other people’s secrets were going to pay off for her now. He would have to know, eventually, but she wanted to tell Edward first. It seemed only fair.
“I feel a little sick to my stomach, to be honest,” she said, confusion tingeing her voice. “I didn’t think that was possible. I don’t remember Edward ever feeling sick.”
“Do you taste the venom?” Aro asked, and a wickedness crept into his tone.
“No. I don’t taste anything. But I smell something vile. Like – rust, and salt…” she trailed off, her eyes widening in sudden comprehension. She spun so fast Aro’s old eyes could hardly follow the movement, and she was looking at Edward, her face full of shock. “I can’t possibly still be sickened by blood!” she exclaimed worriedly.
Edward was clearly holding back laughter. He turned to Aro to explain. “Bella, as a human, could smell human blood. It made her pass out. I had to carry her to the nurse’s office the day the Biology class did blood typing, and she hadn’t even pricked her own finger. I didn’t think it was possible for a human to smell blood, especially in such small quantities, but she could describe it perfectly. It seems she isn’t going to be swayed by the room you’ve offered her,” he added, his voice tightening.
“I don’t understand,” Bella said at once, turning back to Aro. He looked both shocked and uncomfortable. As if he’d forgotten that Edward would know what he was up to when he placed Bella in this room for her transformation, though of course, it was impossible for him to have forgotten anything. He didn’t reply.
“Aro thought that he could tempt you from the diet you’ve chosen if he gave you the quarters directly above their feeding room. He made sure there would be humans present today, so that you couldn’t help but smell them.”
Bella heard the anger in Edward’s voice, but she knew this was exactly the sort of tactic Aro would try. She could see it through his eyes. His was a crafty soul. Gunmetal gray, ancient, and only barely disguised by the cloudy red of his eyes. At least, only barely disguised to HER vision. She turned back to him and smiled as naturally as she could manage. As if his diet and way of life didn’t thoroughly disgust her.
“I can’t possibly live in this room. I’d feel ill all the time. Isn’t there anywhere else I can stay?” She shamelessly fluttered her eyelashes at him, as she’d done to Jacob during her first trip to La Push with her high school crowd. The memory of it made her heart ache, but she didn’t let it show in her face. Aro caved as quickly and easily as Jacob had done.
“Of course, my dear. Imagine! You must be the only vampire in the history of the world to dislike the scent of human blood! I wonder how you will react to Edward’s diet. I should think all blood smells quite similar. What will we do if you can’t feed at all?” he joked weakly.
“Actually, it’s remarkably different,” Edward contradicted him, smiling again. Bella looked at him gratefully, pleased he was able to control his anger. She recalled his temper very clearly, though it had never been directed at her. “I’m sure she’ll be fine. But it probably would be prudent for me to take her hunting tonight,” he added. He drank in the expression she directed at him. This, he could do for her. After all he’d put her through, for her to look pleased with him for any reason was a miracle, in his opinion. And a welcome one. He stared at her, realizing she was holding his gaze much longer than was strictly normal.
“What time is it?” Bella asked after a moment, turning back to Aro. In a room with no windows, writhing about on the bed in agony, she had not managed to keep track of the hours. And hunting sounded good.
“Almost noon,” Aro replied, amused. Then he turned slightly. “Take her things upstairs to the vacant room, and Edward’s as well. Give him the room across from it.” One of his bodyguards stepped forward.
The man looked at him with his jaw locked. “That’s Demetri’s room,” he reminded Aro unnecessarily. As if he might not already know it.
Aro only looked at him mildly until he complied. Bella watched the man through hooded eyes, afraid of what she might see if she caught a glimpse of his soul. She imagined it was as dark as the gray cloak he wore, and far more malignant. She suppressed a shudder, and realized how simple it was. Her new body was far easier to control than her old. No more blushes, or unconscious reactions. And Jacob had thought her a good liar before. Any pleasantness in her expression vanished with that thought, and she turned her eyes back to Aro, braced, this time, for the glimpse into his soul.
Aro was gesturing for her to follow him so she did, and she could hear Edward moving behind her. She had never heard his steps before. They were whisper soft, even now, but she reveled in the thought that he wouldn’t be able to sneak up on her anymore.
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