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The Ripple Effect

Summary:
What if Bella’s parents never divorced & she was a normal girl. Best friends with Jacob Black for all her life & suddenly the Cullen’s moved to Forks. Everything is Alternate Universe, Romance, drama and friendships galore.


Notes:


20. Chapter 20: The Volturi

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Chapter 20: The Volturi

It was a race against time, Alice kept her eye on the clock; counting down the minutes until Edward would board the plane. We were driving faster than any car should travel, but none of that mattered right now. My mind was made up. From the moment I realized I could loose Edward forever, it was painfully clear, crystal-clear. Married, or not married, human or vampire I was as connected to Edward as he was to me. We would have always found one another, and now I had to go to him; to stop him from making a mistake for my sake.

When Alice's sports car skidded in front of the airport entrance, I thought for sure the security guard was going to pull out his gun. Instead, she tossed him the keys like one would to a valet and ran into the airport behind me. I had no idea where to go, Edward's letter clutched still tightly in my hand. The weakness from fighting the flu was gone; adrenaline now coursed through my veins, as I reacted to Alice's direction throughout the winding airport.

My breath hitched when I caught sight of him, standing with Carlisle, arguing quietly with his father. My lungs burned from running, yet when my eyes locked with Edward's nothing else existed. I had no idea when my legs had begun to run, but suddenly I was in his arms and never wanted to let go.

“I love you Edward, I love you.” I was crying, my hot tears falling onto his cool face.

His arms were wrapped protectively around me. He had lifted me gently off the ground to settle comfortably against his chest. The airport was filled with people coming and going, a typical scene for a busy airport. Everyone watching around us must have thought we were reunited from some long trip. Edward was a beautiful specimen holding onto me for dear life, but the world had long faded away. My heart swelled to twice its size, as it did the first time I fell in love with Edward. This was right; the feeling of doubt and fear had tested me but in the end lost out. There was something more powerful between Edward and me, something that couldn’t be severed.

“You came.” He managed to whisper, staring into my eyes an astonished smile on his face.

I should have been mad, but my heart was fluttering too much to let anger in.

“Of course I came; we go to Italy together when we go.” This was the perfect time for a kiss, and a grin played upon my lips as I leaned in.

It was a hungry embrace, the spectators’ eyes on us watching in awe. But that was the magic. Edward never trusted himself with me and today, I had a crowd of people watching for backup. There was a hint of electric atmosphere that linked us, engulfing this kiss. My hand cupped his cheek as Carlisle cleared his throat, dragging us back to reality.

“Son, I am hoping this means you will stay and wait with us.” He asked, a hint of humor underlying the question.

Edward let my feet touch the floor, but still held me close to him. He laughed dryly, before meeting his father’s gaze.

“Of course.” He managed to say, the emotion hung upon his lips. “And thank you.” He added, turning to his sister.

“I told you Edward.” Alice commented, smirking at me and then back to her brother. “She is crazy about you.”

“Or just plain crazy.” Edward added, his fingers lacing with mine.

“Well, we should be getting home either way.” Carlisle chided, as the crowd who were trying to watch covertly, began to whisper to one another.

The week flew by and then another, with only six days left until spring break everyone was on edge. Even those around me who had nothing but vacations, or stay at home plans felt the uneasiness. The chasm between them and us became more profound. They orbited around us with keen curiosity, a gravitational pull towards the Cullens and an odd interest towards me.

It must have been the question of the year ‘How did Bella manage to befriend the beautiful newcomers. And not only befriend them, but managed to date the once only single member of the group.’ I smirked at the thought while sitting in homeroom, as Angela talked my ear off about her plans.

"So he hasn't asked me officially but I'm pretty sure he will, he has to right Bells?" Angela asked, staring at me hopeful.

"Yeah, of course Ben's crazy about you." I replied, pulling a stock answer out of my head. It was a bad friend day and I was at my worst. Taking a deep breath, I decided to engage in a conversation with my friend. "So what would you do if Ben wanted to take that next step?"

Angela paused in mid-sentence; a blush crept up her face as she leaned in closer to me. Had my question been too loud? I looked around the room, but no one seemed to notice us talking.

"What do you mean?" Angela finally squeaked, an eyebrow perked with interest.

"I mean, he's your first boyfriend, but what if he wanted to get serious?" My friend sat back in her chair, her thoughts swirling as a smile brightened her face.

"Why have you heard anything? Or is this about Edward and you?" She teased tilting her head to the side.

"It's completely hypothetical." I replied narrowing my gaze at Angela, she tensed for a moment before answering.

"Okay, well in that case I think if you love someone and I mean really love them; then it's only natural to want to take it further. My Dad's always saying that ‘there are certain things you do when you are married that are sacred.’ But seriously, I don't think you need a ring around your finger to prove you're in love." Angela became doe-eyed, as she sighed lost in thought. "Of course a ring couldn't hurt." She laughed as the warning bell rang and the homeroom teacher flew into the class.

When Angela and I finally meandered our way towards first period, she picked up the conversation where it had last left off.

"Of course if I ever slept with Ben before marriage I think it would end with a shot gun wedding." I laughed as Angela smiled continuing with her line of thought. "My Dad would have a coronary, after he killed Ben and then me."

"Who would have a coronary?" Jessica asked, Lauren trailing behind her while we headed into the classroom.

"My Dad." Angela giggled as I shook my head to my friend.

"Why?" Jessica looked puzzled, turning to both of us as we sat down in our desks.

"Oh it's hypothetical." I replied for my friend who burst out into a fit of giggles. Lauren frowned while Jessica smiled, wanting to get in on the joke.

"Seems you lost your escort Bella." Lauren sneered, her head tilting upwards in attack mode.

She was trying to change the subject, to take over the conversation and gain the upper hand. I had no idea when this game of cat and mouse between the sandy haired girl and me would end. Nevertheless, eventually I would have to ignore her all together, or it would be a drag out fight.

"I can make it around the corridors without Edward for a few periods." I smiled, seething underneath the facade, as Angela cleared her throat.

"Besides, too much of a good thing can be bad for a relationship. After all they're spending a whole week in Italy for spring break." My friend added, laughing dryly as she finished. "What are your plans Lauren?"

Lauren flushed sitting back at her desk, pretending she did not hear the question as Jessica perked up ready to answer for her.

"She's going with her cousins to San Francisco." Jessica beamed, unaware of her mistake.

"Well San Francisco is sort of like Europe." Angela snapped, turning away from Lauren as Jessica grimaced, finally aware of her misstep.

"How about you Jess?" I asked, alleviating some of the tension. "Any plans, does Mike have a few ideas up his sleeve?" Jessica blushed, leaning closer to my desk happy for the bait.

It was nice to see Jessica happy, no more fantasizing about my boyfriend and finally able to settle down with one of her own. If only someone would take Lauren out and save us from her wrath, the world would be a better place.

The classes went by quickly and soon the final bell of the day rang. Edward and I erupted from music class hand in hand, ready for Monday to be over.

“So I have you all to myself today right?” He asked walking me to my locker to exchange a few books.

“Yes, of course.” I replied, blushing before closing my locker with a thud.

It was a full twenty minutes before I realized where we were going. With a smile I turned to my boyfriend, a grin permanently chiseled perfecting his features met me. My heart skipped around in my chest, before I sighed in defeat.

“I have realized a lot over these last few months Bella.” He chimed, turning from me to the road a sly glint in his eye.

“Oh yeah what is that?” I responded, flirting a bit myself.

“Well, with a little help from Alice, I now know that the whole proposal was done incorrectly.” He laughed at himself, Edward never spoke like other teens but I was having that affect on him.

A dry laugh escaped my throat as we sat in silence, the comment lingering for a moment. When we finally parked at the side of the woods, I wasn’t surprised. Edward wanted this to be special and I wanted to be alone with him. It was a few quiet moments before we sat in the middle of the clearing, the ground still chilled from a hard winter, a double lined blanket beneath us. It was my turn to say something, to break the silence with an explanation of my own.

“I never thought you would ask me to marry you Edward. I guess the question caught me off guard, and then the doubts were too much.”

“I know.” He whispered turning towards me, his eyes searching mine.

I couldn’t help but smile, it was the only thing keeping my mind focused.

“But then I had time to think, and being proposed to in a car before school isn’t exactly ideal.” I finally managed to say.

Edward sat up, excitement glistening his eyes. “Then do you want me to ask you again?”

I laughed sitting up with him. “Yes, eventually but not right now, not today. I want you to ask me; but not because there is imminent danger and you feel you need to protect me. I am a human girl Edward. I have hormones and that coupled with being a teenager; I just need the timing to be right. Does that make any sense to you?”

Edward smiled, cupping my face in his hands while pushing my hair away. He gazed longingly into my eyes, before answering my question. I could smell his sweet breath, it sent shivers down my spine but I waited patiently enjoying the contact. This was one of those moments that I often dreamed about, it was a dream that I never wanted to wake up from. There was nothing like this, the feeling of having a connection with another being. He didn’t have to be human for our bond to work, it was magical.

“I will wait for you.” He smiled his lips so close to mine, as the hair stood on its end at the back of my neck. “However long it takes. I will wait for you forever Bella.” He was so serious; my heart skipped a few beats as the heat burned my cheeks.

“Not forever Edward, just maybe until after we’ve dealt with the Volturi?” I teased, watching his lips as he leaned in and kissed me. Softly and so controlled, taking extreme care not to let himself go.

The countdown to Volterra was enough to keep us all busy, Edward worrying over what to pack and what to say. Alice worried about what to where, and Carlisle just plain worried. The Cullen house was bustling with just two days before our departure. As I sat at the kitchen counter watching Esme, tinkering with a new recipe Alice stared at me lost in thought.

“You can’t be serious Bella.” She finally sighed exasperated, before I looked at my friend clueless.

“What?” Alice sat down next to me, her bottom lip protruding with little difficulty.

“You don’t pack five pairs of jeans to go to Italy, that’s not fashion forward.” She replied, as Esme smiled to the two of us before turning away.

“So are we thinking shopping Alice?” Rosalie asked, sitting on my right side joining the conversation, I was trapped.

“Look it’s not exactly a vacation right? We’re on a serious mission and the last thing the Vultori care about is what I’m wearing.” I looked at both the girls, first Rosalie then Alice who stared back stone faced.

“Sure, you are just representing the entire human race. The only humans they see either work for them or feed them; so I guess it is no big deal.” Rosalie commented, sarcasm echoed through her voice.

“Fine, you win.” I gave up throwing my hands in the air, as the two sister smiled triumphant.

“So we’ll go after you eat something then.” Alice chimed, as Esme began to plate her newest concoction.

“I hope you like this Bella; it is a Clam soufflé with a fish cream sauce.” Esme beamed looking down at my plate while I began to eat the creation.

“We are going to grab a bite ourselves, see you in twenty.” Rosalie commented grabbing Alice’s hand as they sped out of the house.

“The thought of shopping always gives those two an appetite.” Esme sighed, smiling to herself.

I had never eaten a soufflé before, other than watching the food network; I had never even seen a soufflé. To eat one was to die and go to heaven. The creamy flavors were so rich and cooked to perfection. The sauce had a lemon bite to it. I felt like one of those food judges on Renee’s favorite cooking show. There was a light spring salad with a gentle citrus and olive oil dressing. Esme watched me closely, enthralled at every reaction to each bite.

When I was full and my plate clean, she smiled at me expectantly.

“How was it Bella?” She asked as I gave a satisfied nod.

“It was delicious, thank you so much Esme.” I beamed, feeling a cold arm drape across my shoulders.

“Going on a shopping trip?” Edward asked his voice soothing as he sat down next to me.

“Yes actually, and your Mom is an incredible cook.” Edward looked up at his mother as Esme smiled, before turning towards the sink with the empty plate in hand.

“Just one of her many talents.” He winked at me before making a face. “I happen to like you in jeans, so don’t let my sisters get too carried away will you?” He asked, his eyebrows rising for emphasis.

“We heard that.” Rosalie chimed, as she stepped into the dinning room from off the balcony; Alice joined her in an instant.

Both girls looked flush, their cheeks pink from their latest kill. When they looked like this, I imagined that they were human. The rose on their cheeks made it easier to envision it, like a time machine for a day or two. Rosalie’s pale perfect skin and the hue that glowed from her cheeks complemented the golden tendrils that lay in a soft silky sheen. Alice was also a remarkable sight as her eyes danced, the hunger completely satiated to a point of bliss. The look reminded me of Renee after she ate a double chocolate cupcake.

It was my second time shopping with the two sisters, but still their love of the mall astounded me. We flitted from store to store, while my arms grew tired of the bags that piled up. Rosalie was a very good sport; it seemed she enjoyed dressing me as much as Alice did. They picked outfits and paired accessories together in such a manner that was remarkable to me.

When I finally arrived home, Rosalie and Alice looked to the house oddly, before hiding their feelings behind smiles. I said goodbye to my friends, walking into the house slowly maneuvering the bags as they hit my calves.

“Hey Sarah.” I greeted my mother’s friend, hugging her before smiling at Renee. It was the first time I had walked in the house with giant shopping bags. “Is Jacob upstairs?” I asked hearing my stereo playing from the second floor.

“Yeah, go right up.” I smirked and with a nod ran up the stairs to greet Jacob.

My door was slightly ajar while Jacob sang to the music that vibrated the walls. The first thing I noticed was the ceiling fan on full power and the windows were open. Jacob was busy spraying febreze on the loveseat, Edward’s love seat. He had an odd look on his face, as if a skunk had sprayed him when he turned to greet me.

“Finally Bells.” He smiled, setting the spray bottle down on my dresser. “You have a new perfume or something?”

I shook my head as Jake’s gaze lowered to the stuffed shopping bags in my hands.

“Well it smells like you spilled a ton of some cheap stuff on this seat.” He added before eyeing me for an instant. “You’re going to Europe for a week, not a year.” He joked, when I dropped the bags on my bed.

“I know, it’s just Alice and Rosalie they want me to wear something other than jeans and t-shirts. Apparently I have no style, and you can’t go to Italy without style.” I finished collapsing on the bed; it was slightly wet from the febreze that Jacob had sprayed.

“What is with you anyway? My room smells normal to me.” I commented as Jacob collapsed next to me, his feet hanging off the edge of my double bed.

“I don’t know, maybe some new fragrance or something. My senses have been all out of whack lately.” He shrugged turning towards me with a smile.

“Bella’s going to Italy, I had to come and see it for myself.” He laughed, shaking his head as I sat up annoyed.

“Yeah well I’ll send you a postcard or something.” I spat as Jacob chuckled dryly when I started to pack my new clothes away into an old red suitcase.

“Send me a nice Italian girl instead, at least that would make it up to me. I can’t believe your first time out of Washington is going to be flying to Europe.” He added, dumbfounded.

“Well technically we have a five hour stopover in London so I’ll be going to the UK and Europe. For some reason the British don’t like to be called European.” I laughed shrugging, while removing the tags from my clothes.

“Well then send me an English girl too then, one from each country that way I have options.” I threw en empty bag at Jacob’s head, rolling my eyes with feigned annoyance.

“Whatever, it’s not like this vacation is all about having fun and relaxing.” I admitted, grimacing to the realization of my mistake.

“No?” Jacob asked looking at me with renewed interest.

“Well Edward’s father Carlisle, is into history and stuff so there’s going to be a lot of museums and historical trivia.” I covered, shaking my head hoping it was enough to throw my friend off the scent.

"Sounds horrible." He joked smiling a toothy grin.

"Jacob, Bella!" Sarah called from downstairs as Jacob jumped to his mother's call.

"Great now I get to spend another twenty minutes getting lectured by my father again." I frowned to my friend's remark, waiting for him to follow me out of my room.

"It's not getting any better is it?" I asked, when Jacob rolled his eyes.

"No, not even close it's basically a living hell and Sam is the devil." He chuckled as we walked down the stairs.

"Oh I forgot to tell you we are flying first class; apparently Carlisle has frequent flyer miles or something and we got an upgrade." I added before Jacob chuckled as we approached our parents in the living-room.

"Of course he does." He teased, before tensing at the sight of his father.

It was strange watching Jacob and Billy interact. The two seemed a pale shadow of the father and son duo they once were. Sarah's demeanor was different too, she stood in-between them like the eternal peacekeeper. I couldn't help but wonder when things had gotten so bad. Now instead of the mild chiding and jokes that flew between the Black men, there was tension and anger.

My mind raced with thoughts of Jacob and La Push. It wasn’t like my friend to keep his problems to himself. But, lately it was harder than pulling teeth to get him to open up. My plan was to help Jacob as soon as I helped the Cullens; hopefully it was the right choice. I hadn't had butterflies in my stomach, since the first time Edward said my name. Right now, he was screaming it trying to get my attention before we packed his father's Escalade.

"Bella, you have your passport and your ID right?" Edward asked for the fifth time, as Alice rolled her eyes snickering at her brother.

"Give her a break Edward." Rosalie commented watching with the rest of her family as we prepared to leave for the airport. "I'm sure Alice would see if he forgot anything."

Alice gave a nod to her brother; she was holding Jasper whispering some promise in his ear. He was the first one she told about finding out her past; I knew he would be the first she confided in. Jasper was her light and it was natural to want to share everything with the one you love. It was nice that they were seeing us off. It took half an hour to leave my house, saying goodbye to my parents was hard on my mother.

"Okay we are ready to go." Carlisle finally announced, as Esme approached him for a goodbye kiss. They were so tender and loving it was a nice sight.

The family left behind, watched us leave with a sense of determination in their gazes. I sat in the back seat with Alice, as Carlisle and Edward talked quietly in the front.

“Is this your first time traveling to Europe?” I asked Alice, a subject that should have been broached months ago.

“No.” My friend answered nonchalantly. “We’ve traveled to many places. You will love it Bella, there is nothing better than traveling.”

I sat back thinking about my friend’s words with excitement and nervousness. When I thought about our mission, a combination of fear and curiosity would eat away at me. Before long, we were heading to the British Airways terminal to check in. My hands shook slightly as Edward handed me my ticket, before giving my luggage to the clerk.

“You okay?” He asked smiling to my nod.

I would be okay, I would be better than okay the traveling bit is the easy part. Moreover, how many times have I looked to the sky when a plane was flying overhead, and wished I were on it? Too many times to count, this was my chance and I would worry about everything else when we got there.

When we landed at Heathrow Airport, the night air was chilled and the humidity was so different from Washington. We didn't have much time to travel around, but Alice took us to and fro taking advantage of the little shops. The airport was like a high-class designer mall, there was Hermes, Gucci, Bvlgari and Channel; names I had only dreamed of. My friend meandered in and out of stores with us not far behind, purchasing little accessories at every stop. When we boarded the next plane to Pisa, all of us had to carry Alice’s bags; and I was ready for a nap.

When I awoke, it was to Edward smiling our hands still intertwined.

"We are here." He purred as I looked out the window, the lights glowed in the city so clear and bright against the starry night.

I had slept through the flight, we had only a few hours Italy time until dawn. The plane landed with ease and after a difficult time through customs, we emerged luggage in hand. My body was confused, I had slept only a handful of hours but it was late morning in Washington. My mind was trying to acclimate fast, while my travel partners seemed like perfect jet-setters. A beautiful man in his early thirties, stood with the other drivers behind a rope. He was holding up a sign that read Cullen. His light brown hair was slicked back wit a slight curl, in an old-fashioned style that accentuated his perfect cheekbones.

Carlisle smiled at the man, nodding a welcome to him.

"Raul, it has been too long." Carlisle grinned as the man turned to the rest of us, his eyes settling on me.

"Carlisle, I see you have a new addition to the family?" The man was staring at me, his nostrils flaring. I was used to the look of confusion Raul gave to his friend, before leading us out of the airport. He couldn’t smell me, the irritation from vampires at our first meeting was starting to become a welcomed sign.

"I have taken care of everything; the council will meet you on Tuesday." He talked quietly, his voice heavy with an accent. It sounded like a mix between Spanish and Italian but also something else.

"He's Portuguese." Alice smiled, as her brother grabbed my suitcase.

We were heading towards a large black vehicle; a driver was idling inside until he saw us approach. There was a look of fear in his eyes, as he hopped out of the car to take our bags to the back. His gaze lingered on me; he was human, maybe in his late twenties. The look of fear in his eyes, told me he had seen too much already.

"Works for the Council." Edward whispered in my ear, giving my hand a reassuring squeeze before helping me into the car.

Raul sat in the front seat turning back towards us, as the car moved through the small narrow seats.

"Here are cell phones, Vodafone works the best here. Don't worry about minutes, call your wife; the Council is taking care of everything." He smiled; I couldn't see his eyes since his sunglasses covered them perfectly. Not that it would matter, if Carlisle trusted this man I would too, no matter what or who he ate.

The house we were staying at was right out of a fairy tale. It belonged to the Council and was built around the late 18th Century. The front gates painted white opened to a cobble stone drive. The outside of the house was at least four stories with vaulted ceilings. The tires crunched the rocks underneath the cobblestones, as the driver came to a stop. The front of the house was like a plaza. The drive was shaped circular so the horse-drawn carriages could circle to let the guests in and out, now it barely allowed for large vehicles.

There was soft light illuminating many rooms and I realized it reminded me of a small castle. A long set of stone steps gradually angled, led us to the second story.

"A Baron lived here many years ago." Raul said, smiling as he looked to the rest of us. But now it is all for you, for the week of course. A maid and butler await you and your beds have been turned down." He smiled my way, as I looked down avoiding his gaze.

Raul oozed elegance and power; it wasn't full of menace like other vampires I had met. He seemed to genuinely enjoy being part of the night, and mingling with those of us who weren’t. He had a kind smile; it was unusual and also comforting. It was the kind of smile that you would expect to tell a joke, or make an offhanded remark. When he was human, he must have been the life of the party, now I wasn’t so sure.

When we walked into the house, the first thing I noticed in the pale light was the floor. White and black marble tiles lined the entrance-way to the beautiful house. The ceilings were painted with cherubs and angels having a grand old time in the clouds. Everything was antique; the lights that lined the walls had been converted from gas to electricity long ago, humming while turned on. A butler greeted us with two maids following behind him.

“This is Sebastiano.” Raul introduced us as the large man bowed, his tuxedo tails gently following his gesture. The two maids were dressed in the traditional uniform black and white dresses, a white apron tied in the front.

“These two are Emilia and Santina.” They live on the bottom floor with the other servants.” Raul looked to me giving a quick nod.

“A full cleaning crew will begin every morning at eight; please do not pay them any attention.” He finished looking to Carlisle, who smiled nodding approvingly.

“If that is all I believe we will get settled Raul.” Carlisle finally replied, motioning to Edward and Alice as they led me out of the room and down a corridor.

“The butler is getting our things.” Alice whispered before twirling around the hallway before we approached another set of stairs. “Isn’t this wonderful Bella?” She asked, I was tired and overwhelmed with my new surroundings, but it was wonderful.

“Yes.” I replied smiling weakly as Edward helped me up the stairs.

“Our rooms are on the third floor, Carlisle will be with us in a minute.”

My room was beautiful, there was an antique four post bed with a valance and hanging curtains. The floors were made from a honey oak and reflected the light from their last waxing. The plush mattress and handmade goose down feather comforter lulled me to sleep. I took the opportunity to rest, while the small family convened in the library. It was my weakness, being human meant having to sleep and recharge while the Cullens had no need for it.

But I slept so soundly, so comfortably that I was unable to dream let alone worry. The jetlag had made my head fuzzy, ‘but tomorrow I would be okay.’ I thought, but it was already tomorrow. Hopefully, I would catch up to Italy time before we were back in Washington.