‘Pardon me for asking, but how was the distribution of the votes?’ We were seated at one of the small cafés on the airport, me sipping from a hot chocolate milk and the Cullens stirring idly in their coffees. The plane that would take us back to Seattle would depart in half an hour and that fact made me both happy and nervous.
Carlisle smiled at me, his eyes twinkling, as if he had already expected that question. ‘Five in favor of, one against.’
I was about to nod when suddenly my brain functions kicked in. Six votes. That meant one was missing. ‘And the seventh voter?’
Esme shook her head. ‘There was no seventh voter. Edward didn’t vote.’
‘But why no..-’
Suddenly, the sound of a phone ringing broke up our conversation and I watched as Carlisle got out his cell phone, looked apologetically, and answered. ‘Edward?’
My stomach twisted at the mention of his name alone and my breath hitched. That boy truly would be the death of me some day.. I watched as Carlisle’s face grew pensive, then serious and, at last, worried throughout the conversation. I couldn’t make out what it was about, though – since Carlisle would only hum and say ‘yes yes’ or ‘I see’ thoughtfully once in a while – but I knew something was wrong. Terribly wrong. I could only hope it had nothing to do with me.
After a couple of minutes, Carlisle told Edward that we’d be back in Forks in 5 hours, but that “he would have to wait until the morning to speak with her”. Whatever that meant. By the time he started to speak again, Carlisle had resumed his normal, calm and collected expression and he smiled at me. ‘I’m afraid there are some complications.’
I frowned, that didn’t sound good. ‘Complications?’
‘The vampire that I contacted about your gift,’ He sighed softly. ‘He wishes to meet you. He’s at our house.’
‘Should I? I mean, what if..’
‘He promised he came with no bad intentions, he simply wants to meet you because of your gift. As far as he could see, Edward didn’t believe he was lying, either.’
I nodded, taking it in. This would be the first vampire I’d meet outside of the Cullen clan – at least knowingly – and I didn’t know what to expect. Could this man be trusted on his word? And why was he so intent on meeting me? Did I have any choice in the matter, anyway? ‘Very well.’
I breathed in deeply, trying to calm myself as best as was possible in a situation like this. We’d arrived late the night before and, after a quick dinner, I had retired to my room. I had not been in any mood to face people. Edward had accompanied me to the guest room and had held me throughout the night. But despite that, I had not found rest.
Something about what the morning would bring, coupled with the bad feeling in my gut, kept sleep at bay. When at last I had fallen into a slumber, a strange voice had been haunting my dreams. Edward hadn’t spoken a word about any of it, but had simply hugged me close to him, softly stroking my hair and reminiscing on old memories. That were the relatively good parts of the night, though.
‘Why didn’t you put your vote in?’
‘I was at Bella’s house when they voted. I didn’t..-’
Holding up my hand, I shushed him. ‘It’s okay. You don’t have to explain.’ I pushed away that treacherous feeling. Jealousy. I knew how he felt for me, it shouldn’t surprise me that he’d rather be with his girlfriend. And yet, I couldn’t keep myself from wondering..
‘I would have voted against adopting you. Rosalie is right; taking you in was a foolish and most of all selfish thing to do.’
I had not asked more, simply because I had been too hurt by his words. Instead, I had diverted his attention to more pleasant subjects, trying to distract myself not just from tomorrow but from the pain inside as well.
But now it was time to face the music. And I would have to face it alone. For the Cullens were right: we did not know how powerful his gift was and it was better not to test it. Not while we didn’t need to.
Stepping into the forest, I felt the atmosphere change instantly. While I’d always thought the constant cover of clouds hanging over Forks to be smothering, there was something about the air between the trees that felt pregnant, almost electric.
‘What an honor to meet you. At last.’ He was before me in a second, but I tried not to show my surprise – or my fear. He was a tall man, his skin a fair brown and his features, though unique, appealing. There was something about his eyes, a strange greenish blue that drew me in.
He smiled at me, baring his white, straight teeth. ‘I forgot to introduce myself. How rude of me. My name is Antoine. And you.. you must be Dalia. You’re different, just like me.’ He ticked his finger against his temple. ‘I can tell just by looking at you.’
‘What do you want?’ I blurted out, unable to hold in the only question that was still on my mind. There was something about him that made me feel hazy and almost made me forget the danger that was in front of me. Almost.
‘You’ve already seen what I can do. I can be wherever I want. Whoever I want.’ Antoine tilted my chin up and I found myself looking at the face of Edward. Antoine laughed, a deep, rich sound. ‘I want to know you. To see what you can do.’ He caressed my cheek and I suppressed a shiver.
I had been wrong: I knew exactly how dangerous he was. I just found myself not caring anymore. Unconsciously, I took a step forward.
‘But this just won’t do,’ He purred, shaking his head. ‘Carlisle told me you don’t have conscious control over your gift. But as a vampire... you would be capable of so much more.’
I found myself content to listen, willing to please the man that was making my head spin and my mind grow hazy.
‘Together, we would be strong enough to overthrow even an elite as strong as the Volturi.. If you would but join me.’
Suddenly, the implications behind his words hit me and I shook my head, trying to get out of the trance he’d put me in. ‘Stop it.’ I bit my lip, forcing myself to look away from his hypnotizing eyes. ’I don’t want to overthrow the world. I don’t want to hurt people. And especially not with you.’
Antoine drew closer, a predatory smirk now in the place of the once friendly smile. ‘He doesn’t love you.’ He circled me, drawing ever nearer and nearer. ‘He will never love you the way you love him.’
‘You don’t frighten me,’ I said, clenching my teeth together. In reality, I was scared out of my wits. This vampire could kill me with just the twist of his little finger. ‘I know what you’re trying to do, but it’s not working. I won’t join you. Not now, not ever. So if that’s what you came here for..’
His eyes flashed a bright shade of purple and I suddenly realized that they had been changing all throughout the conversation. Antoine took another step forward, nearly touching me. ‘I came to see what you could do. But so far, I’m left a little disappointed.’
The words I was about to say got stuck in my throat when I was suddenly thrown again a tree violently.
‘Let’s speed things up a little.’ He smirked, standing beside me in an instant. And before I even had time to register my current pain, I was flying again.
I regretted taking my medications that morning, if only because I knew he would not stop before he’d seen something. If only he could understand it wasn’t that easy. ‘Stop.’ I managed to choke out, before he hoisted me up by my hair again. ‘Please. I can’t.. the medication, they keep the psychoses away.’
He studied my face, probably calculating the probability of me telling the truth. Then, at last, he lowered me back to the forest floor. ‘Tell your friends to return to the house, or I’ll snap your pretty little neck.’
Nodding my painful head, I told Edward mentally to go away. As much as I wanted to be saved, as much as I didn’t trust Antoine, I knew I had no choice. ‘It’s done.’
He smiled again, his eyes back to the greenish blue hue they’d taken on before and I found I was more scared than I had been before. ‘Since you can’t give me a small show, I will just have to take your word for it.’
I didn’t have time to register his words, for then an excruciating pain erupted in my neck. His teeth sunk through the skin as if it was paper and I knew this was it. This was what dying was like. With the last bit of strength I could muster, I trashed against his iron grip, trying in vain to pull away from his mouth. But with the blood, it felt like my energy left me as well and slowly, the world faded in and out of view around me. The last thing I remembered were voices calling for me, then everything went black.