The Ashen-Cloaked Child
Aro may not have been able to get Renesmee, but he was going to have a half-vampire in his guard. Somehow.
1. Quid pro Quo
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Soon after I returned home that evening, my doorman buzzed me, saying that a pale man in a dark cloak had come to visit, claiming to be my employer. I told him to let him up before frantically straightening up my apartment. The Volturi had never paid me a house visit before, and I had no idea who exactly it was. Felix? Demetri? Would Alec count as a man by my doorman's standards?
Already fairly neat, my apartment was looking clean long before the knock sounded at my door. He had taken the time to walk at human speed. How thoughtful.
I was rather shocked when I opened the door. Even in my wildest dreams I could never imagine it would be Aro.
I found enough control to remember my manners. I sank into a deep curtsy. “Aro. I am honored. Please come in.”
His face broke into a smile. “Why, your dwelling is absolutely lovely, Gianna. So modern – I love to see the direction humans are taking in their style. Though of course you have some of our ancient taste.” He gestured to my seventeenth-century Solimena. “I remember sitting for this one. It's lovely.”
I smiled in return. “I remember you always.”
“Indeed. You have always proven such a loyal servant, Gianna, and for that the Volturi are grateful.”
“The pleasure is mine.” And out of habit, I said “Won't you sit down?” before realizing that he didn't need to sit. And then – my heart nearly stopped – were any of my chairs fine enough?
Noticing my distress, Aro merely laughed. “Don't fret, my lovely Gianna. I will most certainly sit.” He chose the large sofa underneath Solimena's portrayal of him and his brothers. “But do sit with me.” I took the space to his left, leaving perhaps one, one and a half meters between us. I had never been this close to him before.
“I've come to let you know that you have been accepted into the guard of the Volturi, provided” - he extended his index finger - “you perform one final task.”
Perplexed, I mulled this over. “Something I can't do as a vampire?”
He laughed lightly. “Oh, but how astute you are! No, you can only accomplish this in human form.”
“What is it?”
Aro had hardly moved since he had lighted on the sofa, but now he waxed even stiffer. When he spoke again, the sound came out several pitches higher. Was this him being . . . nervous? “Now, I don't suppose that someone had debriefed you about our trip to Forks this winter? About the . . . peculiarity we had to deal with there?”
“Yes.” Felix had told me about the half-vampire children. The offspring of a vampire male and a human . . . “Oh.” Of course! Aro would want one for himself. And he didn't want just anyone from the guard providing it. It had to be his own. And he wanted me to be its mother. Me! A warm feeling of relish rushed through me. How jealous would Jane and Renata be! And Aro's wife . . . what would she think? I should be scared of their wrath, but they wouldn't touch me, not with Aro's child in me. And after, when the child was born, I wouldn't be a weak human anymore. Perhaps subservient to them, perhaps talentless and unuseful, but still able to hold my own. And with a newborn's strength! A whole realm of possibility opened before me.
Aro's voice yanked me back to the present. “You understand, then.”
I nodded. “You'll father your child on me.”
“Should you survive, you will be guaranteed a spot in the guard, even if you show no talent. No one will question it. You will have earned it.”
This was more than I ever dreamed!
“Do you accept?” And he held out his hand, obviously trying to find out how much of a yes my yes would be.
I nearly shoved my hand into his (not that he would have noticed if I did). I had nothing to hide.
His smile stretched slowly wider as he heard my latest thoughts. “We'll never openly say the child is mine, of course. But everyone will know.”
“Of course,” I said.
He lifted my hand to his lips and kissed it. Then he pulled me closer and kissed my lips. Oh, I'd never kissed stone before. Smooth, cold, stone. In all my years with the Volturi, I'd never sized any vampires up as a potential partner, but now, with Aro, I wondered how I had ever tolerated a human man. Being with him would be like having a god in my bed.
Aro laughed. “I appreciate the compliment. And may I say, I've never met a human woman with beauty to rival yours. I simply can't wait to see you as an immortal.”
I grinned back. “Then we should get that to happen as soon as possible, shouldn't we?”
And we went to the bedroom to complete the night's work.
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