Edward loves three things in life: His wife, his family, and his music. When the last of the three is in question, Bella cannot imagine a more superior being to exist. But when the master among pianists appears at their doorstep, Bella can only observe in awe as Edward is tutored by this grandiose, though slightly eccentric vampire. Music has never seemed so complicated before. Yet: Are musical notes really all this man weaves together, or is there something more involved? Something... Romanian?
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10. The Deception
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He added the last touch to his arrogance by excusing himself after the first hour.
Yes, by excusing himself – the Pianist simply stood up after a while and politely informed us that he would be back soon, without so much as warning us to stay where we were. He acted as if we were nothing but his happy guests, and he nothing but our generous host. As if we had chosen to be there with him.
It was almost as if we were so helpless that he had no need to baby-sit us.
That is why we all shot him an icy glare when he passed which, unfortunately, seemed to go unnoticed.
We waited silently for a few seconds. Finally Alice whispered, "Is he really gone?"
Edward stared in the direction of the front wall for a second, and then nodded.
"Yes... yes, he is."
I instantly jumped to my feet and angrily threw my hands in the air. "Then what are we waiting for? Let's get out of here!"
But Alice and Edward only looked up at me sadly and shook their heads.
"We can't leave," Alice said carefully, obviously not wanting to upset me. I growled and slumped back down on the black couch. "As long as they have Nessie, we're trapped. Only Gerasymenko knows where they're keeping her, so if we anger him…"
I winced. Once again my emotions did a full turn and landed back at despair. The image of my only daughter, shaking with fear in the hands of a dangerous illusionist… I shook off the thoughts. They were too painful.
But it was so frustrating! Technically, we were free to leave anytime we wanted to. I ached to run through the woods where I hoped they were holding her, and to finally relieve some of the tension that had nestled itself into my muscles. Not only was staying here painfully passive, but humiliating, too – we were being lead like marionettes, and we had no choice but to let it happen...
The urge to break something overwhelmed me. The glimmering shape of the professor's pianoforte suddenly grabbed my attention.
I was just about to establish a plan on how to ruin it, when Alice laid a tiny hand on my shoulder and cautioned me: "Not a good idea, trust me. That piano is like a child to him."
"Yes, and he took my child away!" I cried, still not intending to have mercy on the abominable thing. "Consider this my revenge…"
"He hasn't taken anyone permanently away from us yet," Alice reminded me.
I growled, but let it go. I was stuck, and there was nothing I could do about it. I felt like Tantalus – always surrounded my luscious water, but never allowed to quench my thirst with it.
But I needed to calm down. I tried taking a few deep breaths, but it didn't work – the air was so tainted with his stifling scent that it made me queasy. I tried shifting on the couch, but that didn't word either, as it only redoubled my need for action.
Hoping to receive help from Edward, I looked up at him.
Edward was pacing the length of the room with closed eyes, his fingers pinching the bridge of his nose and his lips sealed tightly shut. He looked utterly lost in thought.
"Edward?" I approached him, suddenly more worried for him than for myself. "What's wrong?" Apart from everything, I appended in my mind.
His eyes snapped open at my words and he came to an abrupt halt in the middle of the room.
"I think he might be wavering," He spoke too fast to sound unruffled. I exchanged a glance with Alice, who was looking at him with an equally concerned expression. "There has to be a reason he left us alone now. Good hosts don't do that, not unless it's absolutely essential…" He trailed off.
I tried to put the pieces together, but I couldn't see the whole picture. "What do you mean?" I asked him, now a little hopeful again. If whatever it was excited him so much, it had to be a good thing.
"The professor," he continued and began pacing again. "He pretended not to take my words to heart, but the truth is he did believe them. He's too far away for me to hear him, of course, but maybe…" His hand covered his mouth as he closed his eyes. "Maybe he wants to verify what I told him earlier. It would make sense – he's been considering it all evening… He can sense the Romanians have fooled him…"
Somewhere inside of me, the light bulb came alight. "What, you weren't lying when you said the Romanians are playing games with him?"
Edward nodded. "It's true – they don't care about music. The professor is nothing but a tool to them."
"Yes!" Alice jumped up from her seat with newly ignited fervor.
"Yes, Alice, they've been playing him all alone. And he sees that now."
My mind rushed over the possibilities that this new advantage would bring us. A break in their party could only work for our favor, and we were in serious need of something to work with. Maybe, just maybe, we could convince Gerasymenko to switch sides and…
"We have to find him. Now."
I was already halfway out of the room when Edward caught up with me and grabbed my arm.
"No, Bella. We have to let him think this over by himself. The professor is not a man to mistrust easily, and he has to decide to do so without any outer influences. If we disturb him now we might ruin all our chances."
I barked out a humorless laugh. Why was it that I wasn't ever allowed to do anything? "I thought the man was a genius."
"He is." What – Edward was still defending him? "But their offer of musical domination over the entire world was something he couldn't resist. He is usually very careful when forming new acquaintances, so once he's teamed up with someone it would take a disaster for him to switch sides. He's a loyal man…"
"Well, I think this is disastrous enough."
"Maybe…" Edward trailed off again in his thoughts. I watched him walk from one side of the room to the other until he suddenly altered his route. He stepped leisurely over the black marble floor to the equally black piano on the other side of the room.
My eyes widened when he sat down at it and carefully lifted the unblemished lid.
"You can't be serious."
I couldn't deny that the sound of his hands gliding perfectly over the notes wasn't soothing and beautiful, but the irony of the situation was really too much to bear. This was practically the reason we were in this mess.
Well, at least he was playing his own songs and not Ligeti's.
Somewhere in the far corners of my mind, I wondered what the pianist would say when he found my husband playing on his treasured piano. One part of me dreaded his reaction while the other looked forward to seeing him rage over Edward. And then there's was the one part – that one tiny part – that abhorred me for being able to think such thoughts at times like these. How had I fit spite into the cauldron with all those other emotions floating around? Incredible.
But I had to stop living in the future. I had the moment to enjoy.
So I simply leaned back, closed my eyes, and tried to let Edward's music dispel the panicked thoughts out of my mind.
Gerasymenko looked back through the trees.
He was already ten miles away from the house – surely that was enough? Edward's mind-reading couldn't extend over a limitless distance, he was sure. But the pianist was nothing if not prudent. Unlike most people these days, he knew it was better to play on the safe side than to live life on that fine line of danger.
So he ran another mile and a half until he was satisfied that there was no chance Edward could listen in.
Standing straight among the crooked trees, Gerasymenko drew his mobile phone out of his pocket and dialed in the long number. There were three long rings on the other side of the line.
Then he picked up.
"Hello?" The deep, resonant voice sounded from the tiny speakers, causing Gerasymenko to pucker his brow. He hadn't thought he'd have to hear that voice again this soon.
The silence of his conversional partner confirmed that he, too, had recognized the caller.
"I will make this short, Grandinetti, and I hope you will help me make it so. That is why I would appreciate it if we could jump over the conventionalities."
The abominable bass voice was not a snarl when it surfaced, but the pianist could tell that it had started as one.
"Vladislav Gerasymenko. What an honor." The sarcasm came out warped through his thick Italian accent.
"Yes, yes, my dear old friend, it is indeed an honor. But let us talk about the things that really matter."
"You'd better have a good reason for disturbing me. I was in the middle of a rehearsal, mamma mia!"
Gerasymenko wrinkled his nose. It had always been a mystery to him why the most undeserving people had to be blessed with such heavenly talents. Why was it that Grandinetti, who was not only a self-important fool but also an Italian, was allowed to perform in the greatest concert halls of Europe? He, like all other Italians, knew nothing of respect and elegance.
And yet he was the best basso in the world. It was men like him that had made the pianist lose his trust in justice.
But Gerasymenko was an aristocrat who would lower himself to petty name-calling. "I shall get straight to the point then. I have but one question. Answer it truthfully, and I will let you go."
Solely pride was keeping Grandinetti on the phone, but he assented all the same.
"I will be direct and I will be rude: Are you or are you not in league with the Romanians?"
The question seemed to dumbfound the basso.
"I thought you had a rehearsal to go back to, old friend."
The deep voice finally returned, only this time with more vigor and obvious enmity. "What is it to you, Gerasymenko?"
First the words only affronted Gerasymenko, who had to take a few breaths to restrain from snapping back at him. How dare he talk to the world's greatest pianist in such an insolent manner? Composers like himself were practically the employers of the singers who became famous through their melodies. Did his discourtesy know no boundaries?
And then the conviction hit him like a tidal wave.
"Thank you, Grandinetti. Don't let me keep you away from your practicing." The pianist ended the call with one push of the button.
Grandinetti's defensive manner could mean but one thing.
Humiliation acted as the fuel, surprise as the first spark – ferocious anger flared up inside Gerasymenko as he acknowledged that he had been deceived.
Knocking down a tree in his rage, the pianist calculated his chances in his mind.
The Romanians would pay dearly for their deception.
Renesmee looked up carefully from the couch.
The man was still staring straight at her, giving her no hope of escape. She couldn't even twitch without instantly being pored over by her vigilant captor.
Come on, Nessie thought as she stared defiantly back at him, let your guard down for one second!
It seemed to be a vain hope, though. His eyes were always firmly fixed on her.
Renesmee sighed. If the situation wasn't so treacherous it might have been exceedingly funny. There was something so comical about the way he observed her every move and refused to let her shift a single inch from where she was now glued to the shabby couch. And he's eyes were so big, too… like two flying saucers.
Or like two massive headlights that were constantly directed at her. Renesmee bit down a giggle.
That didn't prevent the little shake that ripped through her, though. The guard's eyes narrowed immediately.
To lessen the tension which was becoming quite unbearable, Nessie decided to strike up a conversation with the not-so-conversational guy. Maybe he was less careful when distracted by talking.
"Are my parents all right?"
No answer came. Renesmee grumbled in annoyance.
"Oh please, that bit of information won't help me escape! It would just make me feel a little better to know that my mom and dad are okay."
The guard hesitated for a moment, but finally answered: "They should be fine."
"Should be?" Renesmee asked, already knowing that she would receive no answer.
The silence returned and Nessie leaned back on her seat – the movement being closely recorded by the man's sharp eyes, of course – and looked up at the dirty ceiling. She started counting the numerous cracks there.
It annoyed her greatly to know that despite her parents being only a few dismal miles away from her hiding place she could hope for no rescue. The fact that she wasn't saved already meant that these men had her family in a headlock. But why were they keeping her here for so long? Surely they didn't want ransom. Vampires were rich as a general rule. They didn't need any stupid money.
So that had to mean they wanted something else. Her, maybe? No, that was stupid – Renesmee knew that she'd be stuck to test tubes by now if that was what they wanted.
So the only possibility left was her family. That made sense – her family was a very powerful one, and had many enemies…
Fear whisked through her slight body, causing another shiver to attract the guard's attention. But this time Nessie didn't see his surefire stare. All she could concentrate on were the questions: Why could they not leave her family alone? Why did her parents have to be so gifted, out of all people?
Why did she have to be so darn kidnap-able?
Ah, it was useless to worry. And still that was exactly what she did – Nessie worried and planned her escape.
Her eyes shifted back to the watchful guard.
The escape seemed more and more unlikely each minute.
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