Believing what he heard when Jasper and Alice Cullen told their story about the human girl Bella? Absolutely not. They would have known that there was something more to the girl other than her shield ability. Not even when he read it straight from their minds, was he convinced that this girl was something to be feared.
Werewolves were easy to be dealt with. Of course, they were a big pain in the ass, but with careful planning and the strongest fighters, Aro had won many a battle with werewolves.
Aro was angry with the two Cullens for allowing the girl to slip away from them in the first place, breaking their word on turning the girl. He had already thought about to send out some of his guards to find Bella when he first learned of her betrayal, but had been unable to find her. Now that she seemed to be stationary, for now, it gave him the perfect opportunity to get the girl. Dead or alive. Preferably alive, her shielding ability could come in handy one day.
But first, he needed to know what they were going to be up against, to formulate a plan and make sure it was airtight. No one ever won a battle without careful planning. With Bella seemingly under the impression that the Volturi were going to leave her alone, it was going to be easy. He sent one of their most recent acquirements, an excellent tracker and able to stick to the shadows called Joshua, to get all the information they needed. Joshua was able to cover up his tracks very well, even, for some reason, suppress the sun’s effect on his skin for short periods of time.
Where did Bella live? Did she have friends? Who were they? Where did she frequent? Did her friends like her? And, most of all, was it going to be easy to extract her and take her to Italy?
Weeks later, the plan was almost ready, but when Aro learnt of the supernatural dead pool, he began to question Bella’s safety in this Beacon Hills, California and instructed Joshua to keep her safe, no matter what. Her name was on the list, as was the one of the boy she seemed to hang around with and had bought a house with. Aro didn’t care much about her friends, but she was not to be harmed by anyone.
No, the harming would be his, and only his.
Marcus attended Aro to Bella’s temper, that it would be even worse now that she was a werewolf and that maybe Jasper’s abilities weren’t enough. Would they even work on her? Not according to Jasper and Alice, but then again, they had promised the girl to leave her alone and they would do anything in their power to deceive him. Corin did a great job in making the two Cullens content in their current situation as she did with his and Caius’ wife, but that didn’t mean that they couldn’t lie. According to Joshua, some of the venom of a nomad vampire had been absorbed into her circulation and it seemed to work differently.
Joshua’s extensive research showed that the mental institution called Eichen House was the best way to subdue a werewolf due to its supernatural wards. Something about it having Mountain Ash all over the building, through the walls and everywhere else, and that upon entering, Joshua felt weakened. With the right amount of money, he had been able to bribe the director to clear an entire floor for them. Joshua declined any offer to make the floor even further supernatural proof, as they’d only need someone weakened enough to access them, not to completely subdue them.
While Aro didn’t like the idea that he, too, would be weakened by the effects of the Mountain Ash, he wanted to be certain that they would have access to Bella without her shield being in the way. Weakened was an entire different entity than cancelled out. The supernatural ward that Joshua had informed him of was too much. Overkill. Surely, Bella wouldn’t be too strong for them? Maybe have some Mountain Ash ready to put her in a circle.
Since they wanted Corin to come with them, it also meant that his wife and Caius’ wife had to come with or they’d go insane without her. Jasper and Alice were more under control with Corin’s touch as well, so they were packing up the entire family and would go on a road trip! Aro was strangely excited for this, it brought a lot of headaches with it, such as making sure that there were enough guards with them to travel and keep them safe, but the joy of doing this with the entire family was simply the best.
Now, he was furious that both Alice and Joshua had neglected to tell him that Bella was with child. It was painfully obvious when she walked into her own house, the hormones around her wafting around like a warm, cuddly blanket. If Aro had ovaries, surely they would rattle by now. However, while babies were the cutest thing on the planet apart from puppies, Bella being pregnant was another hitch in the plan.
On their way towards Eichen House in the mostly sunless morning, Joshua told him that he didn’t know. That it was something Bella refused to believe in, how was he to know that she was pregnant?
Bella was already under the influence of Corin, who waited for them down the road. She had given Alice another dose of her happy contentment and Bella was chatting away with Alice, like old friends, as if nothing had happened between them. That’s why Aro liked Corin so much, she did her job very well.
“You look good, Bella,” Alice put her arm around the girl and smiled at her. “I told you, you were going to have a great future!”
“Still not too sure about that, Isaac thinks his friends still need him,” Bella sighed as she put her head against Alice’s arm. “But he has such a different life at the moment, more like… looking in from the outside. That can’t be a nice feeling.”
“Maybe he’s used to that feeling, have you given that a thought? Anyway,” Alice gently put her hand on Bella’s stomach. “Congratulations!”
“Oh, that,” Bella sighed as she looked down on herself and swatted Alice’s hand away. “I’m sick, that’s all. Everyone keeps telling me I’m pregnant and stuff like that, but I can’t be. Isaac and I aren’t a couple and we both are still too much having fun.” Why were people continuously talking about her being pregnant? Wasn’t hearing it once enough? When was it going to go away? Of course, pretending she was sick wasn’t making it go away either, and it was that Isaac had asked her not to get rid of it that it was still there, but that didn’t have to mean she’d have to like it, right?
Aro frowned as he overheard the conversation, deliberately, almost as if Corin had used her extra influence on Bella to get the details right. Clever woman. If Bella truly didn’t want the baby, then there were more options. He could help her get rid of it. Or at least have it born and adopted. Yes, and then the girl in his guard. A werewolf. One who could walk in the sun. Smiling, he couldn’t wait to get to Eichen House to work with her.
Corin told him that she was easier to influence than she had expected, the shield that Bella had around her was virtually non-existent, maybe only for impact related issues, but the mental component was gone. She sensed it being around her stomach, which made Aro’s mood turn sour. There wasn’t a way to get rid of the kid then. He was just going to have to be patient.
On the way to the mental hospital, Corin had to influence Bella a few more times as it didn’t seem to stick for a long time on her, it was almost as if she was fighting it, but if she didn’t know what was going on, how did she know she had to fight it? She was good at what she did, sure, but she had never met a being who shrugged off her influence like that.
She instilled a little bit of excitement and happiness into the girl as they arrived on the floor that was secured for them. Maybe a little too much. The girl let out a high-pitched noise, oblivious to her surroundings but had zeroed in on her mate. Almost like a bee to honey she was drawn to him in an instant and leaped in his arms to kiss him.
“Well,” Marcus remarked as he sat in his chair. “I suppose it doesn’t have to take me to figure out how deep their relationship goes.”
Bella felt incredible. She had felt incredible the moment they turned round the corner to go to wherever Aro was taking her. It felt as if she was on a controlled rollercoaster; she would feel great and then plummet down to Earth but before she could react, she was back on her high again. She wasn’t even quite sure what she was doing, other than to walk and talk to Alice.
Wasn’t she supposed to hate Alice?
Wasn’t she supposed to rip the Volturi apart?
Just as her anger started to bubble up again, she was feeling alright again. Happy. Content. There wasn’t anything she could do about it and it was weird. She realized that it was probably a pregnancy thing. Mood swings. Jasper wasn’t anywhere in sight, he couldn’t influence her. On top of that, she had a shield that protected her from meddling. She wasn’t aware that it was on the fritz. Maybe it was. Wasn’t pregnancy supposed to do shit like that? Mess with your body?
And where did those thoughts about being pregnant come from? She was sick. And it would go away.
It was almost as if the happy thoughts wanted to pull her out of her head and it worked, sporadically. However, entering Eichen House – wasn’t that the nut house? – she felt how her spirit got dulled and felt her legs grow a little heavy as if she was trying to wade through mud. As if her special corner of her mind was getting locked off for some reason. When she laid eyes upon Isaac, however, her heart filled with so much happiness that everything else around her disappeared and jumped in his arms. “I’ve missed you! I was so worried!”
“I’m alright,” Isaac said after she stopped kissing him. “Your friends told me you were in danger, I’m glad that they managed to get to you.”
Her friends. Yes! She smiled at Aro, Marcus and Caius before seeing Jasper and blinked. She let go of Isaac and walked over to him. “Jazz!” She bearhugged him.
“Bella,” he said with a wince. “You don’t know your own strength,” he said when she let go of him eventually. He didn’t like seeing her like this. Corin was much stronger than he was and better at planting emotions in someone’s head while he could effect an entire room. Corin was struggling with Bella though, he could see that, and nudged Bella’s mind into submission. “I believe Aro wanted to have lunch with you.” He was surprised that it was easy this time to influence Bella. Due to her shield, he had always refrained from influencing her unless Edward asked him to. He should have done that on their wedding day, maybe then he wouldn’t be in so much trouble with Aro right now.
“I’m famished,” she said with a nod before walking back over to Isaac. “I thought you were helping Scott.”
“I was, but when I was at work, your friend Jasper told me to come with him for your safety.”
“Oh, that’s nice.”
“Come, let’s have lunch and discuss things like the civil people we all are,” Aro said, revealing a table filled with food. “I promise you, it’s safe for everyone.”
“Come,” Corin said as she wedged herself between Isaac and Bella and put her arms around them. “Aro has assured you have food, feel grateful.”
“Oh, but I am,” Bella said as she allowed herself to be lead towards the table. “Very. And also very grateful towards every single one of you wanting to keep us safe from the dead pool.”
“Me too, but I already said that,” Isaac replied as he helped Bella sit down on her chair. “Although I also said we’re not that valuable and they wouldn’t go after us.”
“Oh, but on the contrary,” Marcus said as he, too, sat down on a chair at the table. “She’s most valuable to us, and that makes you valuable too.”
“Cool, valuable by association,” Isaac smirked at Bella.
Bella blinked at Marcus’ choice of words. He wasn’t referring to the dead pool, was he?
“Eat,” Aro smiled as he pointed at the food. “I’m curious to what you’ve become, Bella, maybe after lunch, we can do some tests on you, yes?”
“Sure,” she muttered as she gratefully grabbed a piece of toast and started to nibble on it. No, not good. “This toast is delicious.” No, it’s not. It’s dry as fuck.
“What kind of tests?” Isaac wondered. “Because you can do them on me so she doesn’t have to do them.”
“Oh, nothing too intrusive, I promise you,” Aro replied as he watched the two werewolves eat. “And yes, we could do them on you if you had our kind’s venom in your body.”
“Oh, yeah,” Isaac sighed, feeling a little depressed. “That’s her alright.”
Bella let out a giggle and brushed his leg upwards to his groin. “You’re special to me,” she gently squeezed his upper leg. “That’s what’s important.”
Isaac smiled goofily at her and put another piece of toast on her plate. “Minx.”
After lunch Bella allowed one of the wives – she didn’t know whose or what their names were, she didn’t even know the Volturi had wives – to take blood from her with a syringe they had gotten from the medical staff of Eichen House. She didn’t want to, but she felt somehow compelled to do so; as a thank you for them keeping her and Isaac safe from the dead pool or something. She then curled up on the floor where Isaac was sitting against the wall and put her head in his lap for a nap. Napping was good.
It was a good thing the Volturi were afraid. Afraid to get caught or afraid that Bella would rip them to shreds. They only woke her up for food and some questions while they had Isaac show them what werewolves could do. Even with the building weakening him, Isaac took apart Felix as if he was a shred of paper – of course, when no one was watching him, Jasper had nudged Isaac a little bit with a sense of urgency to make sure he fought hard. Jasper wouldn’t want for Bella to lose her mate.
It was a good thing that he was good at pretending, and that Corin’s ability wasn’t quite working on him due to its closeness to his own. Sure, Jasper felt as if he was walking through mud when moving, but Corin couldn’t stop him from retreating in his own mind and form an opinion when it wasn’t supposed to happen.
He saw the same thing happening to Bella, although she easily slipped as well. Fighting against Corin’s influence was exactly what she needed to do to make sure that she and her mate would survive this. Aro was still thinking about either keeping her or discarding her. Insecurity sucked, but until Aro and the other Volturi had come to an agreement, he was going to play along.
On day two of their stay at Eichen House, a gunshot was heard from a few levels below and he was sent to check it out – what if they were going to get Bella and Isaac? Aro didn’t want that to happen! As it turned out, one of the orderlies got shot while going after two teenagers and the benefactor; the one running the dead pool was discovered. Only, for the teenagers, for it to be a letdown seeing as the benefactor was a crazy woman.
He remained quiet and observant as the teens were shipped off to the hospital and the woman was placed under arrest. The scent of fresh human blood was enticing; reminding him of the fact that he hadn’t fed in days. He should feed. Hell, everyone should feed but apart from the Volturi and their wives – and Corin – nobody was allowed to feed. Maybe returning with the information he had just learned would give Aro cause to reward him as a good little pet.
When he returned, however, he had to do his absolute best to stay neutral and not to freak out when he saw that Bella’s arm was bleeding. He’d smelled her from outside the door but thought he could handle it. He couldn’t. He wanted to feed. He wanted to feed on her. Just a taste, a tiny sip, it couldn’t do any harm. He’d been fine when the boy was bleeding, but Bella?
The moment he decided he was going to lick the blood off her arm, Alice told him off and the boy shoved Jasper across the room with little to no effort.
“Corin, be a dear and control those two,” Aro said with a singsong voice before motioning Jane to come closer while he observed the healing process on Bella’s arm. The mountain ash in the building made it harder for her to heal, but he also knew it had to do something with the extra mountain ash that he laced the blade with that he used to cut her. It had been fascinating. Two days under his control and in this building and Bella was as weak as putty. Ready to be molded. There was only one more test; Jane.
Well, and Felix, but Aro already knew that as of right now, the girl would lose to him.
It was fascinating how easy she’d been manipulated into submission, maybe Corin’s constant influence of her while she was asleep was finally paying off. According to Alice, Bella wasn’t making any attempts or decisions about leaving. She was with her head on Cloud Nine because of the baby growing inside of her. Aro was going to delight in having her get it born and then have it adopted. The pain and misery the girl was going to be in was going to add so much fire inside of her, it was going to be fantastic. His best bodyguard.
The best thing about hiding out in a working mental hospital was that screaming was normal, so if Bella would scream, it wouldn’t draw so much attention to them. Every test they’d performed on Bella showed that her shield was gone or at least failing.
Grinning when Bella writhed in agony, Jane felt incredibly happy that she was finally able to hurt the girl. She had tried before, but Aro had been right, her shield was not there. She looked over to Bella’s toy and smirked as he just had a confused look on his face. Simply because she could, she had him on the floor within seconds. Sighing happily, she smiled up to Aro. “I think she’s ready.”
“Excellent,” Aro replied as he sat down in his chair and looked over to Marcus. “You can go ahead with planning our trip back to Volterra.”