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Summary:
AKA The Greatest Story Ever Told, by the Greatest Historian of the World. Aro's lived, figuratively speaking, for three thousand years. Ever wonder what he's seen and done?


Notes:


14. A Wedding Interlude

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In my sweet little Alice Blue gown,
When I first wandered down into town,
I was both proud and shy
As I felt every eye,
But in every show window
I’d primp, passing by.

“This is utterly pointless.” Adelina pursed her lips in disapproval as she sorted through various bolts of cloth.

“Of course it is.” Caius was in a foul mood. He had just finished calculating what the cost of such an extravagant wedding would be. The number was excruciatingly painful. “But Lidia wants a wedding and Marcus has never learned how to deny her.”

“So if she wanted the moon, Marcus would rope it and haul it down for her?” Adelina arched a disbelieving eyebrow.

“Basically.”

A moment passed as Adelina digested that piece of information.

“But it’s so pointless!” she finally exploded, her outburst causing several piles of elegant silken cloth to flutter to the ground at her feet.

“Oh, stop complaining!” I snapped. I had tried to be patient, but her numerous protests had finally worn down my last nerve. “You’re only annoyed because you’re not the bride so you have to do all the work. If the roles were reversed, you would verily expect Lidia to help. The only difference is that Lidia would be gushing enthusiasm for you at every turn.”

Caius and Adelina stared at me, slack-jawed and bewildered.

“Lidia has reduced you to flower arranging and you’re defending her?” Caius blinked in astonishment.

I glanced down at the entirely proportionate bouquet that had taken me several hours to perfect—and then shoved it away from me. “I think I’ve been inhaling the fumes for too long,” I muttered dismally.

“Good morning!” Lidia trilled as the door before her swung open and she skipped toward us. Marcus followed calmly behind her, his gaze affectionate.

“Oh, it’s good?” Adelina looked around as if trying to find something. “Where is the good? I fail to see it.”

I hid my grin at her words while Caius smirked into the parchment with his calculations.

Lidia ignored her. “We need your help with the list of invitations.”

“I thought you wanted it to be a private affair?” Caius frowned.

“Yes, we did,” Marcus spoke up. “But after the Belverde fiasco, I realized that we need to host something as equally extravagant in order to maintain the appearance of our power. We now have two covens with their eyes set on Volterra: Leo for the land and Piero for Aro. We cannot allow them to join or, much less, ally any other covens against us. “

“So you want to use the wedding as a way of showing off our power and prestige and thus make the other covens think twice before attacking us.”

“Exactly,” Marcus nodded at Caius.

“I suppose it could work.” Caius drummed his fingers on the tabletop thoughtfully.

“Or we’ll become the laughingstock of the vampire world when they realize we’re having a human wedding ceremony,” Adelina hissed under her breath. As I was closest, I was the only one who heard her. Though I held my tongue, I grudgingly had to admit she was right.

The preparations that ensued from that moment were inconceivable in their opulence. Silk from China and cotton from Egypt, precious stones from Babylonia, fantastic woodcarvings from Africa, even purple dye from Phoenicia.

Caius deeply regretted agreeing with Marcus and Lidia when he saw how the costs skyrocketed.

Eventually, the palazzo was ready. Decorated lavishly, everything was a testament to wealth and power. While the ceremony itself would be private, the celebration afterward was open to all covens. Thanks to Lidia’s numerous contacts, we had an even larger throng present than Piero had in Belverde.

Lidia, dressed in her bridal robes, was a remarkable sight. I had never seen her so happy as she was that day. The smile that alighted on her ethereal face every time she looked at Marcus or at the slender ring on her finger is one that I have never forgotten. Trying to describe her in full detail wouldn’t do her justice, because I fear that even your physical sight wouldn’t be enough to appreciate the beauty she exuded that day. It was something that you had to feel, deep within yourself. She was otherworldly. Never had I seen her as radiant as she was that day.

Marcus, for his part, never wandered from her side. He rained small touches on her: gently clasping her hands, tucking errant strands of vibrant titian hair behind her ear, stroking her cheek. They were the very image of a young couple in love. That image helped quell Adelina’s worries that the other vampires would look down upon us because of the nature of the wedding. One look at Marcus and Lidia and no one could criticize us.

I wandered among the guests, conversing amicably and keeping a sharp eye out for the new Belverde coven. Finally, I saw Piero appear, flanked by Livius and Anna. Three other vampires followed. Their manner was reminiscent of a guard, something that surprised me.

“Excuse me,” I said to the Roman vampire I had been speaking to. Anna was the first to notice me approach. The corners of her mouth twitched.

“Good evening. I am so glad you were able to come,” I addressed Piero, my voice giving away no particular emotion.

Piero stated the word “human” as if it were a disgusting curse word. “We had to see it for ourselves: a vampire coven disgracing themselves by means of a human tradition.”

“Understandable,” I acquiesced. “I only came here to honor the fairest woman I have ever seen and the fools that trail after her like lovesick infants.” I bowed to Anna. Her smile widened.

Piero’s eyes flashed dangerously. “You had best keep your distance from my mate unless you wish to suffer the consequences.”

“Consequences, you say?” I winked at Anna. “They sound decadent. Shall we head to a private corner and bask in sin?”

Piero and Anna were shaking, Piero in fury and Anna with laughter.

“You impudent fool,” Piero snarled. “Have you not yet realized whom you’re addressing?”

“Allow me to teach him.” Livius glared viciously at me.

Before I could prod them further, Adelina approached. “Aro, I need you.” She grabbed my upper arm and aptly hauled me away.

“Are you an idiot?” she hissed once they were out of earshot. “Why are you trying to infuriate him?”

“Because it’s absurdly easy. And cathartic.”

Adelina frowned at me.

“Don’t worry,” I grinned. “I’m not going to get myself killed.”

“If that were what I was worried about I wouldn’t have bothered interrupting. What I care about is that you don’t start a fight here that would involve Caius.”

I winked at her. “I would do no such thing. Besides, Lidia would kill me for ruining her celebration and I prefer to live. In a manner of speaking.”

Adelina rolled her eyes, finally focusing on me with a warning gaze. “Just keep away from them, please.”

“All right, Adelina. I promise I shall not taunt Piero anymore. Excuse me.”

I left her, losing myself in the crowd again. I scanned the area for Piero and finally found him. He and Livius were deep in conversation. Anna stood a small distance away. She must have sensed me watching her for she suddenly glanced my way, her scarlet eyes locking on mine. A small smirk graced her full lips and she quietly turned away from her coven, heading outside.

Follow her. Don’t let her leave.

I found her in the gardens, sitting at the edge of a small pool watching the colored fish Lidia had purchased swim in lazy circles.

“Following me?” Anna teased without bothering to turn around. She was in a much better mood than I had expected. She leaned back on her arms, her face turning slightly towards me. A mischievous glint glimmered in her eyes.

“Actually, you led me here, remember?” I corrected her lightly.

She did not respond for a moment, choosing to arch backward until she rested on the pool’s ledge; her midnight robes fluttered to her ankles, her eyes trained on the twinkling stars above her.

“No one before has ever discovered my power and fought it so quickly. You must be demonic, my idiotic son of god.” Her lilting laugh contrasted with her words. She did not sound at all bitter, but curious. What a strange woman, I thought, smiling.

“Idiotic?” I responded aloud. “You don’t know me enough to form such a judgment yet.”

“Oh, I but I do,” she replied jovially. “After the events at Belverde and the confrontation today, you are an idiot to seek out those amongst whom you are so clearly unwelcome. “

“I’m unwelcome to you?” I grinned.

Anna paused, slowly sitting. Her smile faded, her lips parting slightly as she observed me from under her long, thick lashes. Suddenly, she disappeared. Before I could gasp, she appeared before me, her hands resting slightly on my chest.

“You are most unwelcome to me,” she whispered, “Aro.”

Before I could even blink, Anna closed the small distance between us, her lips capturing mine.