Black Water (A Twilight FanFiction)

Summary

A Volturi based Fanfiction in which the three vampire kings find their mate. A Volturi based fanfiction in which the three vampire kings find their mate. The story is very AU. There are things that are different and things that I have added about vampires that isn't necessarily true in the Twilight world. I'm mostly just using the basic story line and characters that Stephanie Meyer created and making my own world for them to live in. This story does feature dark themes and is for mature audiences only. I don't own any characters except for my own.

Genre:
Fantasy / Romance
Author:
Maddie W.
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
2
Rating:
4.7 7 reviews
Age Rating:
18+

Chapter 1

Salem gripped the armrests of her seat so tightly that the friction caused her fingertips to burn. The plane jumped before the loud boom of thunder had her swearing. She licked her lips nervously in the window seat and turned to her right. Alice was reading a book on Italian dialect and Bella looked to be too focused on what was going on up in her mind to spare any thought on the shaky aircraft. Salem thought they were both crazy.

“The first thing I am going to do when I see Edward is hug him, but the second thing I am going to do is knock him so hard in the head he will probably sustain permanent brain damage,” she muttered seriously.

Alice sighed dramatically and looked over at Salem with amusement in her eyes. “Even if you could give him the beat down he deserves, you’ll have to stand in line behind me. He’s drug you into this and he knew you would follow him. Even knowing what he does about them...”

Salem shook her head, her eyes diverting away from the pity that shone so clearly from Alice’s eyes. Her fingers intertwined with each other in nervousness. She knew that she hadn’t exactly thought everything out when she had decided to go with Bella and Alice to Volterra to save her brother. It didn’t seem real that she was on an airplane heading straight towards the three men that she had been avoiding for over a year when she had found out that they were more than just figments of her imagination.

Before the Cullen’s had saved her, she had been servery abused. Instead of her life being filled with cartoons and coloring she got cuts and bruises. Her life revolved around her pain level and if she felt like dying or not. Her only reprieve was when she was finally able to drift off to sleep at night when The Man left her alone. She’d always had vivid dreams, but she remembered that she hadn’t always dreamed of them. It had started the night she had been beaten so badly that she had begged death to take her right before she drifted off into a pain-filled slumber.

The then seven-year-old Salem knew that she was dreaming. She couldn’t recall how she had gotten onto the roof, or where she even was, but she didn’t care. Anywhere was better than the basement with The Man. She felt something slide down her face before a warm, fat teardrop hit her hand. It took her a moment to realize that she was still crying because she still felt pain. It had never happened before in all her years of lucid dreaming and as she laid her hand over her lower stomach, she knew the damage must have been bad for it to penetrate her dreams.

She turned at the sound of footsteps and took a moment to take in her surroundings. The garden was massive and beautiful. Red roses, along with lavender and other colorful flowers lined the walkway in front of her and at her height, she couldn’t see over the many bushes very well. When she turned to glance behind her, a tall wall towered over the area, casting a cool shade in the otherwise hot and humid day. Ivy grew up the sides and white flowers contrasted against the deep green. The smell of flowers filled her nostrils and the sound of running water made her feet begin to move.

Salem had never dreamed of a place she hadn’t visited before. She was surprisingly excited enough to walk through the pain strumming through her body as she explored further, taking in all the sights and smells around her. As the sound of the water source grew louder Salem picked up her speed and giggled at all the space she had to play! Finally, she rounded the corner, but before she could make anything out her tiny body hit something hard and she fell back, splayed out on the ground. It didn’t make the hurt any worse or any less and she was sure it was because her physical body hadn’t been touched.

She looked up, expecting to see a saute or a fountain, but she froze at the sight of a man, He wasn’t The Man, but as she looked into his face she decided it didn’t matter. He was massive and terrifying at that, especially to her young eyes. Dark curly hair was pulled back at the nape of his neck, made even darker to her by this pale skin. It took her a moment to realize he was gazing down at her with a look of utter confusion and she caught a gleam of red in his eyes. She scooted backward on her hands as quickly as she was able to.

The man stayed where he was, not looking worried about the fact that she could run from him. When he spoke, she shivered at the cool tone of voice he possessed. “Come ci sei arrivato?”

Salem scrunched her eyebrows together. The stranger sounded like he was spouting nonsense. She finally found a bit of courage and stood from her spot on the ground, brushing the dirt from the dress her dream self had imagined for her. She crossed her arms across her chest and stared at him stubbornly. “Why are you in my dream?”

The man’s eyes grew wide and his mouth opened before closing. It took him a moment to compose himself, but when he did, he surprised her by speaking English. “Are you sick, young one? I am Marcus. Where are you’re parents?”

Salem frowned at him. “I’ve never seen anyone in my dreams before. It’s usually just me. Do you think I’m dying? It doesn’t usually hurt so bad,” Her tiny had hovered over the sharp pains in her stomach that had only grown worse since she had been there.

The man’s head arched sideways in confusion before she saw his eyes grow wide. He stepped towards her and she took a step back in fright. He stopped moving then and turned his head to look over his shoulder. “Alec.”

Before Salem had a chance to blink, a young vampire appeared beside the man, Marcus. He didn’t spare a glance at her and she raised an eyebrow. Marcus kept his gaze trained on her. He looked at Alec and then pointed to Salem. “Do you see the girl?”

Alec looked right at her, and right through her apparently. He shook his head slowly, his arms clasped tightly behind his back. Marcus choked out a little sound and he leaned down towards the boy and whispered something in his ear. The boy’s face became completely serious and he nodded briskly, looked back in Salem’s general direction, and then disappeared once more.

“My mommy used to say it isn’t nice to whisper,” Salem told the man. She knew he was up to something. She was young, yes, but not dumb. She sighed loudly. “I don’t think I like this dream very much.”

Marcus seemed to think about that for a moment. “Do you want to see something that’s beautiful?”

Salem thought about it for a minute before shrugging. It didn’t matter what she did while she was there she supposed. The man walked toward her, his robe trailing over the ground behind him. She looked up at him nervously when he held out his hand. “You aren’t gonna hurt me, are you mister?”

He narrowed his eyes before kneeling beside her. She was face to face with him now, which surprisingly made her feel no better. She drew in an uneven breath when he stroked the black and purple bruise that made up half her face. She knew her lip was split in a few places and that one of her eyes was swollen, but in the dreamland, she found herself in, it didn’t hurt. Only the pain in her stomach was strong enough to bleed through her subconscious.

“The Man does bad things when I’m awake. My face doesn’t hurt here though,” she explained gently. When his arms wrapped around her, she stiffened and winced as he pulled her against him and stood, partially sitting her on his hip to examine her. She cried out against him when the bruises on her lower stomach made contact with his side. Nothing had ever been able to affect her in her dream world before but somehow the man was touching her and it was affecting her body. He had been so gentle with her face that she had assumed that he wasn’t touching her. That wasn’t the case.

She heard him suck in a sharp breath before she was sat down quickly. There was such a fire in his eyes that she whimpered in fright. It didn’t seem right that this would happen to her right after all the pain she had been through. She couldn’t have dreamed of a park or the beach because that would have been too easy!

“Brother! Alec told us that there was an emergency that only we could deal with?”

Salem looked up at the sound of new voices approaching. She watched as Marcus spun wildly, a little hiss escaping his mouth that set her heart pounding. She peeked out from behind his legs when he moved far enough away and looked at the two new approaching men with awe. One looked similar to Marcus and the other had shoulder-length blonde hair and what looked to be a permanent scowl on his lips.

Marcus looked down at her when she attempted to sit up and pointed sternly at the ground. “Do not move from this spot until I speak with my brothers. Do you understand?” She nodded and laid back, looking up into the bright blue sky as white fluffy clouds passed by in the wind.

Content with her answer, Marcus continued his journey across the gardens to find the two vampires staring at the little girl he had just discovered was their mate. He couldn’t see the bond between them yet because she hadn’t seen him in the flesh, but he did not doubt that the young girl was dream sharing. His thoughts were only confirmed when Aro and Caius raised eyebrows at the little laugh she gave off. Alec hadn’t been able to see her and he knew no one but his brothers would be able to.

Without wasting any time, he tried his best to explain the situation in as few words as possible. “Alec cannot see her and she is dreaming.”

Caius looked shocked and a cry of outrage left his lips. Marcus grasped Aro’s hand in his so that the man would understand everything that had occurred, and so Aro could confirm or deny what he feared to be true. Aro looked over at the girl again, a new expression that Marcus couldn’t identify having stolen the smugness the man usually had written on his face.

“What he says is true Caius. You see her, do you not?”

Caius growled loudly. “That means nothing Aro!”

Aro advanced a step towards his brother and pushed him violently.“It means everything, you fool! There is only one reason that a mate, especially as young as ours, dream shares.”

Caius was shocked by this brothers actions. Aro had never laid a hand against either he nor Marcus in all their days together. It just wasn’t done. Then the words sunk into his brain like a slow-acting poison and he began to piece together the information he had been given.

“What’s wrong with her then? It must be a dire situation for the bond to act out in this way.“Caius tried his best to keep levelheaded but he could feel his vision start to flicker red. Anger bubbled up within him, a fury which he had never tapped into before. “Tell me!”

“Mister Marcus? Is everything okay?”

The young voice that asked the question had all of the men turning to face the girl. She was still on the ground and hadn’t moved as she promised, but it was clear that Caius’s outburst had scared her.

Marcus turned to address her. “Everything is okay. My brother is upset, but he will calm himself.” He said it as a fact, sending Caius a clear message. Caius was to be calm or he would have Aro send him inside.

Marcus turned back towards the two and lowered his voice. “Her face looks bad, but she assured me that she can’t feel that pain here. I picked her up to inspect her for further wounds and I could barely move to sit her up without seeing agony etched into her face. She spoke of ‘The Man’.”

Caius gripped a marble statue sitting beside him and he listened as it combusted into dust under his strong grip. His eyes rested on the body of his mate, so innocently watching the clouds float past. He may not have wanted a human mate, but by the Gods she was his and some dumb mother fucker had dared to abuse her and at such a young age. He didn’t know if he wanted to burn everything around him down or cry out at the unfairness of the world.

“There is nothing you can do to him right now Caius, but we can’t scare her or she will never tell us where she is. Do you understand why you have to be calm? You cannot let your anger rule you,” Aro lectured. He could see the state of madness the news was causing Caius to slip into. His hand came up and he squeezed Caius’s shoulder, letting him know that he wasn’t alone. All three men would have to carry the burden of being too late to stop what had happened to their mate.

“She is wary. To her, this is a dream. We aren’t real to her,” Marcus told them before leading them towards her.

Hearing them grow closer, she sat up again and threw Marcus a small smile. “I am glad this is not real. I wouldn’t want anyone to see my face like this,” she told him seriously. Her finger trailed over the grass in front of her and she watched with fascination as the wind swept through the blades, making them dance. The greenery responded to her, growing a bit taller at her touch.

Marcus sat and waited patiently until the other two men did too. “He cannot hide your sweet nature, or soft voice, no?”

She didn’t respond, her focus on the ground in front of her as she swirled her wrist in circles, causing flowers to sprout from the ground and bloom. Aro’s grin widened at the sight of his mate’s possession of a gift. He had expected for their mate to possess some kind of talent, but he hadn’t been counting on it. He glanced at Caius and Marcus with a gleam in his eyes. There was something else there too though, and it took him a moment to realize it was pride.

She finally broke from her work on the ground and acknowledged a part of Marcus’s comment. “My name’s Salem.”

One of the men she didn’t know, the one with brown hair smiled at her. “My name is Aro. It’s nice to meet you Salem.” He held out his hand for her to shake, just to see if his gift would work in telling him where she was, but when they touched he saw nothing. He wanted to sigh his sorrow.

Salem looked over to the last man, the blonde. The angry look that had overtaken his face before still occupied the space. She couldn’t help but frown. He hadn’t said one word to her and she couldn’t tell if he just hated her or double hated her.

“You’re face will get stuck like that if you let it and then you’d have to walk around looking like Grumpy all the time.”She informed him seriously.

The man looked shocked she had addressed him before he began to laugh. The joy on his face startled her. He looked so different, younger and more carefree. She liked it and decided that if she ever saw the men again after she woke up, she would be making it a point to make him laugh as much as possible.

“I suppose that would be a problem, wouldn’t it? My name is Caius and it’s very good to finally meet you Salem.”

“Hey, we are about to land,” Alice woke her, shaking her slightly. Salem blinked once, then again, coming out of her head. So much for judging Bella about being all over her brother every minute of the day when she was no better.

Salem had been pulled to reality almost immediately after meeting all three men on that first visit but over the next two years every time she fell asleep she ended back in Volterra. It took her a year to discover they were vampires and that’s when she had written the entire experience off as a delusion, especially since the dreams stopped the night she had been saved by honest to god, real vampires with gold eyes instead of red. She figured if they had been real, that they had probably been glad to be rid of her. She knew there was a connection between them all, but she also knew there was a large chance she was reading into it.

When her family did finally sit her down to explain to both her and Bella the concept of the Volturi, it took the Cullen’s days of begging for her to wait to go to her three vampires for Bella’s sake. She had been mad for days at all of them for lying to her. Edward had seen them in her mind, warned her father, and all of the Cullen’s had kept her ignorant on purpose. Still, when her anger faded and after one too many horror stories from Jasper about how evil they were, she had been content to give her family all the time they needed to think. The content was a strong word, but it was either stay away from her vampires or condemn her family to death. Now, It looked like that was what was going to happen anyway.

The three women descended off the plane and Alice rented a car faster than she could offer to call a cab. It wasn’t long before she realized why Alice had forgone the option of a cab. Her sister drove quicker than she knew was legal through Italy with a speed that terrified her. She was positive they were going to slip off the road at some point but thankfully, they never did.

Gazing out the window, the familiar geography made her heart clench. It was becoming more real with every single mile they gained until, eventually, Alice was driving through Volterra itself. She felt the car dwindle, heard Alice tell Bella where Edward would be, and then it was only her and her sister in a race against time. They too ended up discarding of the car before taking off on foot.

Salem was trembling. Her skin crawled and, despite the sweltering heat that had enveloped her, she still felt clammy. She didn’t know if it was shocking that after so many years she would finally meet them in person, or fear. It still didn’t feel real. Somehow, she had never truly imagined the possibility that she would be the one to seek them out, in their home no less!

Mentally, being back was strangely draining. She knew every corridor, stairway, and arch of Volterra. It had been her sanctuary when she was a little girl. It had been her only escape from her life. Her nightmare. The two years of dream walking had allowed her to become familiar with every inch. They trekked farther uphill on the cobblestone path, winding their way into the small village nestled in the mountains of Tuscany. Her hand ran over every stone she grew close enough to touch. The age of the ancient city spoke to her of tales of victory and despair, both love and war. The smell of fresh baked goods wafted down the mountainside and her mouth watered. How long had it been since she had eaten? Probably as long as it had been since she slept, which, according to her quick calculations had been roughly just over a day ago.

She stalked as quickly as her legs would carry her, her mind in such a blur that she ran into a tourist. She looked up quickly, her heart pounding in her chest. The smell of cheap beer permeated her nose and made it twitch. The big burly man sneered at her and she watched as his hand came down quickly, ready to strike when a flash of white skin blurred past her face and caught the man’s wrist.

“You wouldn’t want to hit a lady, would you?”

Salem watched as her sister tightened her grip until the man cried out and snatched his wrist back, profusely apologizing in Italian. She felt the brutal grip of Alice grasping her shoulder to turn her in the right direction, and Salem whimpered softly. Alice looked at her sheepishly and took her hand away, but didn’t slow her in her speed.

“I’m sorry, Salem. We just have to hurry,” the dark-headed pixie exclaimed. Salem shrugged it off. She had plenty of bruises and scars from her family. One push here, one jab there. It wasn’t intentional and that was what was important. Humans had done far, far worse and they had done it on purpose at that.

“It’s okay, Alice. I understand.”

Salem did understand. The vampires in Italy weren’t like her family. They were different and she knew exactly how they were different. She knew every gory detail and she knew it more intimately than anyone could have ever understood. Pushing her way through the crowd of humans behind Alice, she froze at the sight of the huge, looming clock tower that made itself a home in the middle of the plaza where a sea of red bodies swam in her sight. Her body stood still as she felt the world around her dissipate before she was sucked into a past she simply wanted to forget. She regressed into the little girl she had once been, small and powerless to do anything other than run away in the only way she knew how.

She felt Alice’s cold wrist surround hers and Salem sucked in a shaky breath, coming back to reality. Her sister looked at her with an understanding gaze but pulled her forward to what she assumed would be her downfall anyways. They stopped directly outside of the clock tower and she stood just outside the door as Alice barged through.

“-wouldn’t want to cause a scene, would we guys?” Alice said a bit too nonchalantly before tugging on her. Salem had no choice but to step in after her sister and shut the door behind her. Thankfully, Salem was shorter than Alice and she did everything she could to bury her face into Alice’s back and hide. A sharp intake of breath was the only thing that was heard and Salem knew the ruse was up before it had even really begun.

“Another mortal, Cullen? Is you’re entire coven this daft or is it only you two?”

Salem squeezed her eyes shut and tried to think happy thoughts. Why had she followed Alice? She was so stupid to think that she would have any sway over what was about to happen. The three men probably didn’t even remember her. Tears prickled her eyes at the thought as she waited for the next move to be made. The sound of approaching footsteps reached her ears.

“Enough,” a female voice spoke. The owner sounded young and Salem was tempted to peek out from behind Alice, especially so that she could make sure her brother and Bella were okay, but she stopped herself. “Follow me.”

Salem did open her eyes when Alice moved to the side a bit so that they could walk side by side. She saw the retreating female vampire first before her eyes drifted to Edward and then Bella. She sighed a breath of relief when she realized they looked unscathed. Terrified, but unharmed. Her brother looked at her with fury in his eyes and it took her a moment to realize that he wasn’t glaring at her. He was glaring at Alice.

“What have you done?” Edward all but growled the words. The sentence was enough to make Alice flinch and Salem placed her hand in Alice’s.

“I was coming after you with or without her Edward. You can’t just decide you are ready to die and expect me to be okay with it,” Salem bit out in a hiss. Now it was Edward’s turn to flinch. He straightened his back and gently took Bella’s hand, leading her down the hallway where two red-eyed vampires had already disappeared. Alice pulled her down the same path and she got her first good look at a red-eyed vampire in the flesh.

He was as big and tall as Emmett and, though he was smiling, he didn’t look as near as friendly as Emmett did. The curve of his lips was almost mocking her and his eyes bored into hers without flinching. She gazed right back, more curious than intimidated. This was a member of their family. Her face blazed red as they walked past him and she heard his danity laugh come from behind. She could feel his eyes on her skin and it made her so uncomfortable she wanted to dig a hole and die in it.

“A shame to waste such beauty,” she heard the vampire utter behind her with a sigh. Alice’s grip tightened and a little snarl made her lips turn up. Salem swallowed the lump in her throat, but she stayed silent.

She felt very underdressed and the cool temperatures of the inside of the building were making that more obvious than it had been before. Whereas almost everyone had donned red cloaks for the day to blend in, she was in blue jean short overalls and a yellow t-shirt. Her converses were the ones she painted in and they were ruined by different splatters and smear of colors. Her entire outfit looked like a canvas and she was sure there was a mess in her long auburn hair that was tied up in two tight space buns. She hadn’t had time to clean up before Alice had shown up. Goosebumps rose along her skin as they took a flight of stairs further into the belly of the beast. Eventually, they made it to the last flight and an elevator awaited them at the end of the hallway.

She climbed in beside Bella and Edward and clutched onto her brother’s arm for a moment, looking up at him with sadness in her eyes. He didn’t make eye contact with her, but she felt the small brush of his fingers against her skin. Whatever happened when they got to where they were going, he didn’t hate her. The elevator slowed as it reached it’s intended floor, and it opened with a ding. The native vampires got out first, and Edward and Bella followed before she and Alice did.

The space she stepped into was completely different than that of the dark and moldy tunnels. She glanced up at the arched ceilings and almost smiled at the paintings strewn across the ceilings. It looked like renaissance work and she stumbled a bit trying to get a better look at it. She mumbled a quick apology to Alice as she righted herself and continued. The hallway itself was wide and long and when they finally made it to the end, a little lobby awaited them, along with a human woman who greeted them in Italian. Two huge steel doors stood in front of them and there was barely a pause in step as the female red-eyed vampire knocked against the door twice. They were swung open with a force that it startled her and her heart began it’s fierce pounding again as they walked in.

Alice stepped in front of her then and she felt the big brute of a vampire step in behind her to make sure they both continued. Salem was shaking so hard that she could barely breathe correctly. Her gaze trailed down to her shoes and she refused to look up, too scared at what she would see when she did.

“Ah, sister! We sent you out for one and you come back with two and snacks. Such a clever girl,” she heard someone mutter. Her mouth grew dry and bile built in the back of her throat.

“What a happy surprise! Bella is alive after all. Isn’t that wonderful? I love a happy ending. They are so rare,” she heard one of her men exclaim. Except it wasn’t him. At least, it didn’t sound like him. His voice was just as beautiful as ever, but his tone was empty and... cold. She didn’t like it and the fear in her grew. So much could happen in a few years. They probably weren’t the same beings she once knew and she knew she had changed.

“Another mortal, Edward? I didn’t see her in your thoughts, but we will get to that,” she heard the king reprimand.

“La Tua Cantante. Her blood appeals to you so much. How can you stand to be so close to her?” She heard the king ask curiously. Salem had always wondered the same thing, but she knew Edward and Bella’s love was one for the storybooks. More importantly, she knew that her brother would never do anything to hurt Bella.

“It’s not without difficulty,” she heard Edward mutter.

“Yes, I can see that,” the king replied briskly.

“Aro can read every thought I ever had. With one touch. And now you know everything. So get on with it,” her brother hissed.

“I still did not see our other young visitor in your memories. The impression of her, sure, but if I had not known to be looking for her, she would have slipped past. Let me see her,” Aro demanded.

Salem gritted her teeth together and clutched onto Alice a bit harder. Her sister made no effort to move and she felt the vampire that had been standing so close behind her come forward. He gripped Alice by her hair and pulled her, slowly, out of the way. Alice cast her a wary look and Salem just nodded, telling her it was okay in the only way she could. She wrapped her arms around herself as she felt the Vampires in the room take their first real glance at her.

She looked up at Aro, and the look of shock on his face was something she was sure she would never get scrub her mind clean of. His mouth opened as if he was going to say something before it closed again. She bit her lip in nervousness and her gaze wandered towards her brother, who only glared at the vampire standing before her. Alice looked equally as helpless and Salem had never felt like crying more.

Before she could blink, Marcus was standing directly in front of her and, startled, she took a step back only to lose her balance and fell to the floor on her butt right in front of two of the three men she was certain she loved. Another blink later and Caius was beside his brothers, taking in her disheveled state. She didn’t move to get up off the floor, just stared at them with her big blue eyes, begging them to remember her.

“Should we dispose of this one master?”

The question, innocent enough in the context that she was human and they were vampire, was enough to send her blonde haired vampire into a rage. “Leave us!”

Her blood froze at the fury on his Caius’s face. When Aro and Marcus did nothing but continue to stare down at her, the vampires around them shifted uncomfortably.

“What do we do with the lawbreakers, Masters?” The question was worded carefully this time and Salem could hear the anxiety in the inquirer’s voice. She couldn’t blame them. Even in her dreams, Caius had a temper. In the flesh, it was entirely different. She could feel the rage rolling off of him in waves. It was almost suffocating

“Take them... below and keep them comfortable until we finish up here and come to a ruling,” Aro informed them, still not looking away from her. She pushed herself up and back when Alice appeared directly in front of the King’s line of sight to grab her. She could only watch as Caius grasped onto Alice’s arm before she could scoop Salem up and pushed her towards the door.

“Salem stays,” she heard Marcus tell everyone, daring someone to make a move against them. Salem dropped herself back onto the floor, giving up her fight with the inevitable. Her elbow rested on her knee and she hugged herself as tightly as she could. Both Alice and Edward opened their mouths to speak, but before they could dig themselves into a bigger hole, Salem intervened.

“I-it’s okay,” she whispered to them. Edward hesitated longer than Alice did, but he too stumbled out into the hall with the rest of the vampires until it was only the four of them in the room. The sounds of the door shutting seemed to rouse Marcus from his state of paralysis and he walked towards her. She flinched away from him it, stopping him from gaining any more ground towards her but he was as close as her other two now.

“You’ve been very bad in not coming to us before now, little bird,” she heard Caius hiss from above.

She looked up at him with teary eyes. “I-I’m sorry.”

All of a sudden the entirety of the trip caught up with her. The exhaustion, lack of food, and the emotional repercussions of finally seeing the three vampire kings after so long did her in. She covered her face with her hands as sobs shook her frame and looked down towards the ground. She felt the rush of air that someone had kneeled beside her before cool hands gripped her. Tingles ran the length of her arms and down her spine and the contact was just enough to stop the tears as she was dragged into Marcus’s arms.

Her arms wound around his waist and she squeezed him tightly and buried her face into his chest like she had when she was little. He held her until she found the strength to look up at him and then he only loosened his grip a fraction of an inch. She grew worried when she couldn’t read the expression on his face. Marcus had always just been... Marcus to her. Not the cold, unfeeling entity he was now.

“I didn’t think you were real,” she explained without being prodded too. When Caius opened his mouth to interrupt her, she looked up at him and began speaking once more. “After the Cullen’s found me, they took me from the man that was...” She didn’t finish. They knew what she had been through. “They gave me a home. I’ve never been able to control the dreams but they must have stopped because I wasn’t in danger anymore. It wasn’t until I saw a portrait of you three with my dad that I realized you were real. At first, I was happy. Then I realized that my family had broken the law and not just with me, but with Bella. If I did come forward, there was a chance...”

Salem didn’t finish her sentence, but she didn’t have to. If she had come forward, there would have been a chance that her entire family would have been hunted down and murdered. That was still a very real possibility. Aro knelt beside them then and before she could react, his hand stroked her cheek. It rested there for what felt like a lifetime as he gazed into her puffy eyes. His eyes glazed over long enough for her to understand what was happening and then he was on his feet, an entire array of emotions playing out over his face.

“She’s telling the truth. It wasn’t that she didn’t want us to find her,” Aro murmured, almost sounding relieved.

Marcus’s face relaxed and he stood and drug her up with him, still not relenting on his hold of her. Aro walked closer then, his fingers once again on her face, but this time the cold digits ran underneath her eyes. His expression was one of worry.

“You look tired, little bird, and too small,” she heard Caius note over Aro’s shoulder. He didn’t look completely over his rage, but he too looked better. Salem laughed softly then before stepping away from a hesitant Marcus and into Aro. She squeezed him with a fierceness usually only reserved for her family before letting go and grasping Caius. She sighed and rested her head on his shoulder.

“I’ve grown a lot since I was nine. I’m convinced you won’t be satisfied until I am as big as a house,” she whispered in his ear before pulling away from them all. “I’ve really missed you,” she told them with tears in her eyes again. “Can you forgive me? I wanted to find you, but my dad wanted to find time to call ahead and bring me himself after the Bella situation resolved itself somehow.”

She held her breath. Marcus nodded and Aro did too, even if the men didn’t look so sure about their answers. Caius stubbornly glared down at her and she frowned up at him, tears beading in the corner of her eyes. Aro gave Caius a pointed look and he sighed.

“There’s nothing for us to forgive, little bird. You were just trying to protect your family, si?” Caius asked. Salem nodded her head as quickly as she could, “Besides, Carlisle should have known to bring you here the moment Edward caught us in your thoughts.”

Her face grew white at the malice in his tone. “Please don’t hurt them. Any of them. Their intentions were good, I swear. Sometimes they just worry, especially Rose. When she finds out I came after Edward...” Salem didn’t know if she was more scared of her big sister’s response or her fathers. Emmett would be pretty ticked himself, but she knew how to bribe him.

The three vampires looked at each other with serious expressions before they focused on her. She wrapped her arms around each other then. She knew the look they were giving her. They were about to tell her something she didn’t want to hear.

“Salem, this had become a public spectacle for the guard and we have yet to make a ruling. We need to do so now. You may hear things that you don’t understand or things that scare you, but we need you’re trust and submission when you are in this chamber with us. When this necessity has been taken care of, we will talk of the future,” she heard Aro coach. She swallowed the lump in her throat as he and Caius glided over towards their respective place on the dais.

“Come with me, Salem,” Marcus commanded softly, holding out his hand for her. She took it without hesitation and she couldn’t help but be moved by the proud smile he shot her. He led her back to his throne and he sat down before addressing her. “Stand behind Aro’s chair.”

She did as he asked, her entire upper body exposed while the chair hid her lower half. She gripped the chair, her knuckles turning white. “A-are you calling them all back in?”

Aro didn’t turn to look at her but he responded. “Just the guard for now.”

She frowned at the news, terrified of the vampires that had been so cruel in demeanor. She had no say about what was going to happen, but she made a mental note to ask if all the vampires in their coven were assholes or just the ones that had retrieved them.

She saw Caius turn to look at her with calculating eyes. “Do not be afraid. No one will ever lay a finger on you again unless it is for your protection.”

The fierceness of the words replenished a bit of her courage. Salem gave him a stiff nod and before she could take another breath, the door was swung open and the guard rushed in with more red-eyed vampires than before. The door clanged shut behind them all and before she knew it, she seemed to be the focus of everyone’s attention.

“Dinner has been... postponed,” Aro addressed the group. Salem winced, knowing of the covens preferred food source. Marcus looked over with a concerned expression, but she just gave a short shake of her head. There wasn’t even a blink of a reaction from the group before them.

“What I tell you next is something that will never be spoken of outside of these walls. Anyone who disobeys this command kills not only themselves when we ultimately discover their treachery, but also the pour soul they informed,” Caius told them all with a sadistic smile. Salem’s face fell a bit further, but still, she held strong. She didn’t want to look weak in front of the strangers, but when she got in a room alone with Caius, she was going to have a long, long conversation with the vampire.

“We have joyous news. This mortal, Salem Cullen, is our true mate,” Marcus spoke then.

Salem couldn’t contain the confusion that must have been written all over her face, especially when the vampires began shifting to look at her. She had always known that there was a bond between the three and herself. A strong one at that, but to claim that she was their true mate was telling the guard that she was their wife. She had only seen it a few times with Carlisle and Esme, Rosalie and Jasper, and Edward and Bella. Their coven was made of matches, unlike other covens. She closed her eyes when her body swayed to the left a bit, but she caught herself before she could pass out. She had to be strong. For Edward and Bella and Alice. She could do it. For the only family, she had ever truly known or loved besides her three vampires.

“If anyone should so much as lay one finger on her at any time, for any reason, we will rip you limb from limb and start a fire,” Caius snarled the warning.

Yep, she was sitting him down as soon as possible for that conversation.

When no one contested what had been decreed, Aro spoke up again. “Bring the lawbreakers forward.”

She watched helplessly as the human receptionist appeared behind the doors, followed by Salem’s family. She instantly knew they both knew about the true mate connection, their guilty expressions giving them away. Edward would have known they were true mates from the first time she had ever thought of them, which meant that the entire Cullen coven knew too. She tried hard to stop the hurt from enveloping her, but she couldn’t help but feel like her family didn’t trust her. Maybe they hadn’t from the very beginning. The three lawbreakers, her family, approached the three thrones, guards on either side of them.

“I would thank you for reuniting us with our mate, but seeing as you kept her from us for years, I am more inclined to snap Isabella’s neck and leave you alive to suffer,” Caius spat. Before she could stop herself, Salem sent a sharp look towards Caius. If he noticed he gave her no indication.

“She will hate you if you do,” her brother bit back. Caius shifted as if to stand, but Aro stretched his arm out to stop him.

“Salem is our true mate, but she, nor anyone she knows, is exempt from the law,” Aro deadpanned. Her heart slammed against her chest at a painful speed. She knew what he meant. They were either going to kill her or turn her, and she didn’t know which would be the better choice. “If you wish the mortal girl to stay alive, you will turn her by the end of the year. At the time she is turned, Salem will be turned as well,” Aro decreed.

Edward looked as if he wanted to argue, but Alice shook her head beside him. He hesitated but continued anyway. “Salem is still a minor until December. I request that she come home until the time of her turning,” Edward demanded.

Beside her, Caius laughed. “So you can take our mate and run? Or, better yet, fill her head with prejudice when we aren’t there to contradict your false statements? I don’t think so, Cullen.”

Her breathing frozen at that. She hadn’t thought that she might not be leaving. Then again, she hadn’t given any thought to leaving behind her three vampires either. Admittedly, the thought made her just as uncomfortable. Her breath hitched in her chest and she looked towards her blonde haired mate.

“C-caius?”

He looked over then, the expression of amusement on his face falling quickly when he saw the panicked look on her face. She gripped the throne underneath her hands tightly as he responded. “Do not ask this of me. You have no protection there and your care has been neglected. You’re dead on your feet.”

She looked down at Aro and he met her gaze evenly. She didn’t know what to say, or if she could say anything to change his mind. It felt like either way she pulled, her family or the three men who had saved her life, she would be sacrificing something. Aro searched her chaotic eyes before sighing and turning to address the room.

“Salem will be returned home until her eighteenth birthday. The law keeps us from keeping a minor against her will, so we will reunite here on the eve of Salem’s birthday, a mere week before she is turned.”

She felt so moved by the act that tears sprung to her eyes in happiness. She watched as Caius cursed in his chair and Marcus looked at her with the saddest expression she had ever seen him use. She fought the sobs that wanted to leap from her chest at the thought of leaving them after finding them. Instead, she reached down to touch Aro’s hand, understanding now dawning on her of why they had placed her there. She never had to speak to talk with Aro. She only had to touch him. She sucked in a sharp breath when she saw the burden of him letting her go lift slightly as he read her thoughts. He knew she didn’t truly want to leave them, but she had to. For the moment.

“You will not be going back without protection. Jane, Dmitri, and Felix will be accompanying you back to keep our mate protected,” Aro continued, addressing her specifically this time. Salem swallowed, worried then for the wolves her family had a treaty with.

“We’ve protected her for years. She’s a Cullen in her own right,” Edward muttered. Salem admitted she found the idea of a guard repulsive too. She’d be finding out how to ditch them at every turn.

Caius rolled his eyes at her brother. “And now she will have more protection. Let me remind you that this isn’t a request. Our mate requires rest you have so badly deprived her of. You will leave when her needs are met.”

“You’re dismissed. Jane, be a dear and show our three guests where they can wait,” Aro commanded. The girl bowed before tuning towards Salem’s family members. Once again the room emptied aside from a few vampires who had stayed behind.

“Come with me Salem. I’ll show you where you can rest for the day,” Marcus addressed her. She nodded her head, not looking back at the two men who had just so ruthlessly commanded the room. She grasped Marcus’s hand, her fingers interlaced between his as they walked passed some of the guards on their way down the long corridor they had originally entered. She stumbled tiredly, her hands making tiny fists so that she could rub the sleep from her eyes. She felt Marcus slip his hand underneath her before she was lifted and his other arm cradled her head.

“I can wlk’,” she told him, her voice a bit slurred.

She felt his chuckle and sighed heavily the back and forth sway of his steps luring her into a dream world. She fought against her heavy eyelids, gazing up at Marcus. He looked down at her in a way no one ever had before as he stopped and they entered into what she assumed was his room. Books lined the walls and papers and notebooks were scattered everywhere.

Salem smiled up at him as he sat her on his bed. “I would expect nothing else of your room, Marcus.”

Marcus smiled sheepishly and sat beside her. His hand stroked fly away strands of hair away from her eyes. “Go to sleep, Piccola."

She swallowed the panic in her throat. “I don’t want to wake up and realize this was a dream. I also have...questions. I’m confused.”

The vampire chuckled. “This isn’t a dream Salem. I don’t think my heart could bear it if it was.” He shifted a bit, cutting off a lamp on the bedside table so that the only light was a dim one in the corner. “As for your questions, we can wait until you’re more up for a conversation.”

She nodded trustingly and gripped his hand before closing her eyes and embracing the darkness surrounding her. All of her problems could wait until she could think more clearly. She couldn’t function so deprived of her precious sleep.

Just as she felt she was drifting off, she felt a cool handshake her gently. Her hand flew up to bat it away as she whimpered and snuggled deeper into the covers she was wrapped in.

“You have to wake, little bird, unless you wish to stay?”

She scrunched her eyes together at the sound of the noise and realized someone was talking to her. She opened them slowly and blinked a few times. A low light above her had been flickered on and now shown brightly, further representing the fact she had to wake up.

She groaned loudly. “I still feel so tired.”

She heard Aro chuckle. “You’ve only slept for five hours, sweet one. The sun has set and we wish to talk to you and feed you before you leave. You can rest on the way home.”

She felt the impact of his words then, rolling over to look at her three mates who had been standing over her as they tried to rouse her. She pushed herself up and pulled the throw blanket tighter around her to keep warm. “D-do you think I could get a shower?”

Marcus nodded and stepped forward to help her out of the tall bed. She sat the throw blanket down with a shiver as she was led into a bathroom. Marcus quickly showed her how everything worked, before also showing her a bag that was sitting in the corner. He explained that it held anything she could need to get ready and then he took his leave.

She took a deep breath, finally alone with her thoughts. She stepped closer to the door and twisted the lock. Then she turned the huge shower on with a keypad on the wall and played with the settings until she found one she thought she would enjoy. For her mates to be vampires, they had the latest technology. There was something so ironic about it.

She turned toward the large duffle bag and pulled out what was needed to shower with. Her eyebrows rose at the sheer amount of product in the bag. It looked like someone had gotten one of everything on the shelf in Walmart. Stepping into the hot misty water, she moaned as her muscles relaxed. She couldn’t remember anything having felt so good.

It took her at least thirty minutes to finish and she knew it was because she had purposefully taken her time. The shower was a miraculous invention! When she got out, toweled off, and finished her hygiene routine, she walked towards the bag and opened another compartment, surprised but happy to find an outfit waiting for her. Undergarments, jeans, a plain white t-shirt, and clean shoes awaited her and she pulled them on with haste. When she pulled the last shoe out, she watched as something shiny fell back into the bag. She slipped the converse on before reaching down and grabbing the object.

She squeaked in surprise when she saw what was in her hand. The necklace was heavy and she did not doubt that it was real. A ‘V’ stared back at her, encrusted with three gemstones hanging from a long silver chain. She hesitated for a split second and considered leaving it in the bag, but then unclasped the chain and brought it around her neck. It dropped onto her chest with a heavy impression and she stared at herself in the mirror, running her fingers across the pendant.

After brushing her teeth and hair, she packed everything back into the bag, including her dirty outfit. Then she unlocked the bathroom door and walked out, feeling a bit like a new woman. She was surprised to see Caius sitting on the bed with a notebook and pen. Marcus held a book and Aro was nowhere to been seen. At her approach, the two dropped what they were doing and looked up at her. Caius stood, something feral gleaming in his eyes.

“That beauty of our crest has never been more apparent than with you wearing it,” he told her. She blushed, turning her head as his fingers came up to twirl the v between her fingers.

“Thank you for the clothes and,” she motioned towards the pendant and sat the bag down,” this. It’s so beautiful. I’ve never had real jewelry before.”

Marcus stood and clasped the book in his lap shut, siting it on the table beside him. “That will change rather quickly, Piccola,” he stated, standing. She shook her head but before she could argue he was before her, placing his finger against her lips. She froze, eyes wide. He took his hand away and moved it down to grasp the pendant in his hand. “This stays on at all times. Do you understand? If I find out it comes off for any reason while you are not within the walls of our home, I will not be at fault for dragging you back home where you belong.”

Salem had to admit, she wasn’t used to Marcus being so...forward, so dominating. Surprisingly, the command sent a low heat spurring through her.

Her cheeks flamed red and she nodded. “Yes, Marcus.”

He kept her gaze for a minute, letting her know just how serious he was, and only then did he let the pendant go, but he made no effort to move away until the door opened and he turned to go back towards his desk. He stared after him shocked for a moment before the aroma of food made her stomach growl. Smiling sheepishly, she apologized.

“There’s no need for an apology Salem. I brought you you’re favorite,” he told her, holding out a container. She shot him the most grateful look she could muster, thanked him, and then headed straight for the couch. Sitting down she opened the container and smiled at the sight of chicken alfredo. She giggled.

“What’s so funny, little bird,” she heard Caius muse from across from her. He had moved to the couch opposite of her along with Aro and Marcus was still at his desk, but his focus was on her.

She stuck her fork into the food before responding. “I’m eating pasta in Italy with three Vampires sitting across from me. Three vampires I had once thought my mind created,” she mumbled nervously. She stopped picking at the food in front of her and looked up.“I keep thinking that I’m going to wake up and be alone again.” She felt like she was going to choke on her words, but it was the truth. The only life she had ever know with them was a half-life at best as a child. Now, she was there in the flesh and she was about to disappear again. It broke her heart.

Aro was beside her before she realized he had even moved and he tugged her into his arms. As hard as this was for her, she knew it had to be even harder for them. At least she had known they were alive. She hadn’t even found a way to give them that. They had done so much for her when she was little, given her so much and been her protectors, and she had nothing to offer them in return. Now, she was leaving when they wanted her to stay.

“You’re wrong, Salem. So wrong. All we want is your happiness. If you need time to get used to the idea of being our mate, then we can do no other than giving it to you. Besides, it is only a few short months until you will be here with us, where you belong,” Aro murmured, his chin resting on the top of her head as she leaned on him for strength. It was going to take time for her to get used to Aro being able to read her thoughts when he was touching her, but she rather liked it.

“You meant what you said about turning me after my birthday, didn’t you?” Salem phrased it as a question, but it was more of a flat statement than anything. She already knew the answer.

“Everything that is said in the throne room, in front of the entire guard, becomes law, Salem. Your family committed the same offense twice. If we don’t stand by our laws, we can’t expect our people too. I’m sorry, little one.”

She sighed. “There are no other options for me then to become a vampire?”

Aro stiffened underneath her but he didn’t have to answer because Caius did. “Not for you. Are you afraid to spend eternity with us?” His tone was part accusing, part teasing.

“I hated fire when I was little. Of all the things he did to me, the burning was the worst. To think about my entire body in that kind of agony for days is like something from a nightmare. I’m a coward,” she whispered.

“No, Piccola, your fear makes you smart. I don’t want to start this with untruths between us. After the bite, its three days of hell. It’s a hefty price to pay, even for eternity. I can only promise that I will be by your side every moment of your conversion and once it’s over, I’ll have eternity to show you exactly why all your suffering was worth it,” Marcus spoke with absolute conviction. She could tell there would be no point in arguing with them about this, at least not then, so Salem began to eat instead.

“Tell us what happened, Piccola,” Aro asked gently. She knew he asked for this brothers benefit because he already knew, and as soon as she left he would no doubt get the third degree. She took a deep breath before telling them what they wanted to hear.

“Do you remember how bad off I was during my very last dream of you three? I woke up and found myself being beaten by him again and I snapped. I was so weak but I tried so hard to fight. He ended up having to take me to the hospital because of bleeding that wouldn’t stop. Carlisle was on call and Edward just happened to stop by the hospital long enough to hear my thoughts. I don’t exactly know what happened to him, but after two years of constant nightmares, Rose finally told me that he had been taken care of. At first, dad tried to find me a place to go, but once mom visited me she refused to leave my side and it very quickly became a question of when we’d be going home instead of where that home would be.” Salem couldn’t meet their eyes as she tried to give them as best an explanation as she could.

“It was hard to adjust at first. No one liked me in the Cullen house except for my parents and Edward, but I think Edward felt more pity for me than anything. Or maybe it was just that they didn’t know how to act around a child. Either way, Alice and Jasper came around first. It took a few weeks, but when I came home from the doctor to a closet full of new clothes, I knew it was Alice’s way of saying welcome to the family. Rosalie was the toughest nut to crack but it only took a few months before she sort of became a second mother to me. She’s going to go ballistic. I’ll probably be grounded for months.”
Salem winced at the thought of heading back home.

“As you should be, little bird. I don’t have to tell you how dangerous this little rescue mission was, do I? There were so many ways your plan could have failed, even with the Seer’s ability. You could have been hurt before ever reaching us,” Caius lectured. She bit her lip to stop the smart ass remark on the tip of her tongue begging to be released.

Thankfully, a knock on the further helped to distract her. Marcus rose and opened it and her eyes went wide when she saw the big vampire that had scared her so badly before, along with the young female from the clocktower and an unknown male. She sat her leftovers on the table in front of her and tucked her legs beside her, making herself as small as she could casually be. The three newcomers stood together by the door and, as if sensing her discomfort, Marcus joined her on the couch. His hand found hers and he clasped it in his, stroking his thumb over her knuckles.

Aro stood across from her, turning towards his guard members. “Ah, the three chosen to guard our mate. Salem, this is Jane, Dimitri, and Felix, who you already have become a bit acquainted with.”

The unknown male had been giving the name Dmitri and she now had a name for the big brute who had followed her and Alice into the castle. Jane gave her a chilly smile and she returned it as best as she could. Felix stepped forward.

“I would like to extend an apology from myself personally and from the entire guard for scaring you, mistress. There’s no excuse.” She didn’t know if she was more surprised than he had apologized to her personally, or how sincere his tone was. Then again, he had probably had lifetimes to perfect all forms of decite. When no one spoke any further, she realized they were waiting on her to say something.

“You were only doing what you were supposed to. There’s no need to apologize. Please call me, Salem,” she told them shyly. Marcus squeezed her hand for reassurance. Felix simply nodded before stepping back into line with the other two. Caius stood then to stand with Aro.

“You will accompany Salem back with the mortal girl and the Cullens. Carlisle knows to expect you. Please understand that if anything should happen to our mate while under your watch, you will find the consequences rather... uncomfortable,” Caius chuckled darkly. As fucked up as it was, Salem felt her heart flutter with the devotion of Caius’s care for her.

She watched at Dimitri stiffened and shifted slightly. Salem realized that Caius’s definition of uncomfortable could be a little bit worse than she first thought if it had a vampire upset at just the thought of it. Maybe a lot worse than she thought.

All three vampires nodded before responding. “Yes, Master.”

With a flick of Aro’s wrist, the three vampires bowed before taking their leave. Aro and Caius took a seat across from her and she suddenly found herself surrounded by her mates. She grew sad at the thought of having to leave then, knowing her time with them was dwindling. Caius picked up a bag that she hadn’t even realized he had before sitting it on the table and pushing it towards her.

“What’s this?” She asked with a furrowed brow. Her hands clutched the white bag ad she grabbed it hesitantly, pulling it onto her lap. A glance up and she found her vampires all looking at her with expectantly.

She opened it and her mouth fell open in shock. Sitting inside, she spotted a brand new laptop box, still wrapped in plastic, along with with a tablet, a few books, and when she moved the heavy box out of the way, there was a flash of red that caused her to freeze. Her hand clutched at the fuzzy material and she tugged it out of the bag, completely forgetting about the other items.

Stretched out, she flipped the material over and her heart flipped when she spotted her name etched into the top, along with the Volturi crescent. As a child, she had been gifted the item and she had quickly become inseparable from it. Every time she dream walked, it was the first thing she asked for. She brought the material up to her face and hugged it close to her, closing her eyes for a moment.

Her eyes shot open, glassy with unshed tears and she smiled. “You kept it.”

Marcus pulled her into his lap and a blink later, Aro was on one side of them and Caius was on the other. She flushed as deep a red as her blanket when Aro’s hand cupped her face and brushed a tear away and Caius reached out for her hand.

There was something so intimate about that moment in time, all of them connected physically in the way they were. She was startled when she felt shocks travel the length of her body. Her nipples beaded up underneath her t-shit and her breathing became a bit more ragged. She watched as Aro’s eyes dilated, obviously picking up on her thoughts and if she could have blushed any brighter, she would have. He moved his hand away slowly as Marcus’s grip tightened.

“Of course we kept it, Piccola,” she heard Marcus rumble underneath her, breaking up with sexual tension that had been so glaringly obvious before.

She cleared her throat. “I never thought I would see it again. Thank you so much,” she told them all. She sat the blanket in her lap and grabbed the bag. “This is all very nice, but-”

“No buts, Salem. Aro ordered all of this specifically for your trip back home. The rest we had sent directly to your home,” Caius interrupted her. Salem’s mouth dropped open.

“It’s too much. I don’t want you three going out of your way for things I don’t need,” she replied. How could she ever repay them when she had nothing to offer in return?

“Humour us, Salem. You’re taking it whether you want to or not,” Caius told her flatly, leaving no room for argument.

He reached into his pocket and placed something smooth and cool into her hand. It took her a second to realize it was a phone and she brought it closer to examine it.
It looked to be brand new, a little piece of plastic covering the screen. It was top of the line and it was wrapped in a red case. She flipped it over to reveal a ‘V’.

“All of our numbers have been programmed into it, along with Jane, Dmitri, and Felix’s numbers. We expect to hear from you regularly Salem. Very regularly. You wouldn’t want us to worry,” she heard Aro caution. She shook her head in agreement before thanking them again.

“It’s time, little bird. Unless you’ve changed your mind and wish to stay here,” she heard Caius offer up hopefully. Her heart sank and she clutched onto Marcus a bit harder at the thought of having to leave.

“It’s not that I want to leave, but I need to say my goodbyes and make sure that my family knows that I will be safe and happy here,” she told them. “I’m so grateful for this time you’ve given me and Bella.”

She watched as both Aro and Caius stood and eventually Marcus pulled her up too. She turned to Aro first, still clutching the bag, and gripped him around the waist. Her arms came around her and he whispered something in Italian before kissing the crown of her head. He let her go and she did the same with Caius and Marcus.

“I cannot watch you walk away from us, little bird. Marcus and I are struggling with your decision, so Aro will escort you to your family. This is goodbye for now,” he told her. She could hear the pain in his voice and she wanted nothing more than to tell him she had changed her mind. But she couldn’t.

“I don’t want to hurt you,” she croaked.

Marcus smiled at her. “That’s the only reason you’re going back. You need to do this for you, Salem. It’s a few short months in exchange for forever with you by our side. We will be okay,” he told her, pulling her to him one more time before kissing her cheek. Then he was gone.

Caius took his place and she gripped him just as tightly. “Be safe until you return home to us, Salem. Keep the phone on you at all times,” he warned fiercely before he to was gone. She felt their absence like a punch in her gut and Aro grasped her hand from behind, turning her so that he could hold her for a moment.

“It won’t be for long, little one. Come on. Your brother is quite worried that we have stolen your innocence. He will feel better once he sees you,” he joked. She couldn’t help the bashful smile she gave him before clutching the bag to her as tightly as she could. Aro led her outside Marcus’s room and she smiled at the three vampires who would be accompanying her back home. As they started for the lobby, they fell in right behind her and Aro.

It wasn’t a long walk to the lobby and she saw her brother and sister stand as soon as she entered the little room. They both glared at the vampires surrounding her but didn’t move. Bella was curled up in her seat asleep.

Now in Alice’s reach, her sister grabbed her and pulled her into her hold. Her sister looked her up and down and Edward turned to do the same. She rolled her eyes at them and sighed. “I’m fine, Alice. A lot better than Edward’s going to be after I have Em beat him to a pulp for me,” she teased. Alice relented her grip and Edward pulled her to his side. She hugged him as tight as she could before stepping back and mock punching his shoulder. “You’re so stupid! Do you know that?” She hissed. All she got was a sheepish look in return.

Aro stepped closer to them. “Our mate is being released to you. Please understand, as I am sure Carlisle will, that there is nothing more important than her safety. I fear for your covens fate if she returns to us in any way less than perfect.”

Salem rolled her eyes and stepped out of the Edwards grasp. Aro pulled her into him and she let a few tears spill onto her cheeks as he held her for what seemed like forever. Finally, he released her and she gave one last goodbye before he too was gone.

And once more, she felt completely alone.

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