WE MADE OUR FLIGHT WITH SECONDS TO SPARE, AND THEN the true torture
began. The plane sat idle on the tarmac while the flight attendants strolled–so casually–up
and down the aisle, patting the bags in the overhead compartments to make sure everything
fit. The pilots leaned out of the cockpit, chatting with them as they passed. Alice's hand was
hard on my shoulder, holding me in my seat while I bounced anxiously up and down.
"It's faster than running," she reminded me in a low voice.
I just nodded in time with my bouncing.
At last the plane rolled lazily from the gate, building speed with a gradual steadiness that
tortured me further. I expected some kind of relief when we achieved liftoff, but my frenzied
impatience didn't lessen.
Alice lifted the phone on the back of the seat in front of her before we'd stopped climbing,
turning her back on the stewardess who eyed her with disapproval. Something about my
expression stopped the stewardess from coming over to protest.
I tried to tune out what Alice was murmuring to Jasper; I didn't want to hear the words
again, but some slipped through.
"I can't be sure, I keep seeing him do different things, he keeps changing his mind… A killing
spree through the city, attacking the guard, lifting a car over his head in the main square…
mostly things that would expose them–he knows that's the fastest way to force a reaction…"
"No, you can't." Alice's voice dropped till it was nearly inaudible, though I was sitting inches
from her. Contrarily, I listened harder. "Tell Emmett no… Well, go after Emmett and Rosalie
and bring them back… Think about it, Jasper. If he sees any of us, what do you think he will
She nodded. "Exactly. I think Bella is the only chance–if there is a chance… I'll do
everything that can be done, but prepare Carlisle; the odds aren't good."
She laughed then, and there was a catch in her voice. "I've thought of that… Yes, I promise."
Her voice became pleading. "Don't follow me. I promise, Jasper. One way or another, I'll get
out… And I love you."
She hung up, and leaned back in her seat with her eyes closed. "I hate lying to him."
"Tell me everything, Alice," I begged. "I don't understand. Why did you tell Jasper to stop
Emmett, why can't they come help us?"
"Two reasons," she whispered, her eyes still closed. "The first I told him. We could try to
stop Edward ourselves–if Emmett could get his hands on him, we might be able to stop him
long enough to convince him you're alive. But we can't sneak up on Edward. And if he sees
us coming for him, he'll just act that much faster. He'll throw a Buiclc through a wall or
something, and the Volturi will take him down.
"That's the second reason of course, the reason I couldn't say to Jasper. Because if they're
there and the Volturi kill Edward, they'll fight them. Bella." She opened her eyes and stared
at me, beseeching. "If there were any chance we could win… if there were a way that the
four of us could save my brother by fighting for him, maybe it would be different. But we
can't, and, Bella, I can't lose Jasper like that."
I realized why her eyes begged for my understanding. She was protecting Jasper, at our
expense, and maybe at Edward's, too. I understood, and I did not think badly of her. I
"Couldn't Edward hear you, though.'" I asked. "Wouldn't he know, as soon as he heard your
thoughts, that I was alive, that there was no point to this?"
Not that there was any justification, either way. I still couldn't believe that he was capable of
reacting like this. It made no sense! I remembered with painful clarity his words that day on
the sofa, while we watched Romeo and Juliet kill themselves, one after the other. I wasn't
going to live without you, he'd said, as if it should be such an obvious conclusion. But the
words he had spoken in the forest as he'd left me had canceled all that out–forcefully.
"If he were listening," she explained. "But believe it or not, it's possible to lie with your
thoughts. If you had died, I would still try to stop him. And I would be thinking 'she's alive,
she's alive' as hard as I could. He knows that."
I ground my teeth in mute frustration.
"If there were any way to do this without you, Bella, I wouldn't be endangering you like this.
It's very wrong of me."
"Don't be stupid. I'm the last thing you should be worrying about." I shook my head
impatiently. "Tell me what you meant, about hating to lie to Jasper."
She smiled a grim smile. "I promised him I would get out before they killed me, too. It's not
something I can guarantee–not by a long shot." She raised her eyebrows, as if willing me to
take the danger more seriously.
"Who are these Volturi?" I demanded in a whisper. "What makes them so much more
dangerous than Emmett, Jasper, Rosalie, and you?" It was hard to imagine something scarier
She took a deep breath, and then abruptly leveled a dark glance over my shoulder. I turned in
time to see the man in the aisle seat looking away as if he wasn't listening to us. He appeared
to be a businessman, in a dark suit with a power tie and a laptop on his knees. While I stared
at him with irritation, he opened the computer and very conspicuously put headphones on.
I leaned closer to Alice. Her lips were at my ears as she breathed the story.
"I was surprised that you recognized the name," she said. "That you understood so
immediately what it meant–when I said he was going to Italy. I thought I would have to
explain. How much did Edward tell you?"
"He just said they were an old, powerful family–like royalty. That you didn't antagonize them
unless you wanted to… die," I whispered. The last word was hard to choke out.
"You have to understand," she said, her voice slower, more measured now. "We Cullens are
unique in more ways than you know. It's… abnormal for so many of us to live together in
peace. It's the same for Tanya's family in the north, and Carlisle speculates that abstaining
makes it easier for us to be civilized, to form bonds based on love rather than survival or
convenience. Even James's little coven of three was unusually large–and you saw how easily
Laurent left them. Our kind travel alone, or in pairs, as a general rule. Carlisle's family is the
biggest in existence, as far as I know, with the one exception. The Volturi.
"There were three of them originally, Aro, Caius, and Marcus."
"I've seen them," I mumbled. "In the picture in Carlisle's study."
Alice nodded. "Two females joined them over time, and the five of them make up the family.
I'm not sure, but I suspect that their age is what gives them the ability to live peacefully
together. They are well over three thousand years old. Or maybe it's their gifts that give them
extra tolerance. Like Edward and I, Aro and Marcus are… talented."
She continued before I could ask. "Or maybe it's just their love of power that binds them
together. Royalty is an apt description."
"But if there are only five–"
"Five that make up the family," she corrected. "That doesn't include their guard."
I took a deep breath. "That sounds… serious."
"Oh, it is," she assured me. "There were nine members of the guard that were permanent, the
last time we heard. Others are more… transitory. It changes. And many of them are gifted as
well–with formidable gifts, gifts that make what I can do look like a parlor trick. The Volturi
chose them for their abilities, physical or otherwise."
I opened my mouth, and then closed it. I didn't think I wanted to know how bad the odds
She nodded again, as if she understood exactly what I was thinking. "They don't get into too
many confrontations. No one is stupid enough to mess with them. They stay in their city,
leaving only as duty calls."
"Duty?" I wondered.
"Didn't Edward tell you what they do?"
"No," I said, feeling the blank expression on my face.
Alice looked over my head again, toward the businessman, and put her wintry lips back to
"There's a reason he called them royalty… the ruling class. Over the millennia, they have
assumed the position of enforcing our rules–which actually translates to punishing
transgressors. They fulfill that duty decisively."
My eyes popped wide with shock. "There are rules?" I asked in a voice that was too loud.
"Shouldn't somebody have mentioned this to me earlier?" I whispered angrily. "I mean, I
wanted to be a… to be one of you! Shouldn't somebody have explained the rules to me?"
Alice chuckled once at my reaction. "It's not that complicated, Bella. There's only one core
restriction–and if you think about it, you can probably figure it out for yourself."
I thought about it. "Nope, I have no idea."
She shook her head, disappointed. "Maybe it's too obvious. We just have to keep our
existence a secret."
"Oh," I mumbled. It was obvious.
"It makes sense, and most of us don't need policing," she continued. "But, after a few
centuries, sometimes one of us gets bored. Or crazy. I dor't know. And then the Volturi step
in before it can compromise them, or the rest of us."
"Is planning to flout that in their own city–the city they've secretly held for three thousand
years, since the time of the Etruscans. They are so protective of their city that they don't
allow hunting within its walls. Volterra is probably the safest city in the world–from vampire
attack at the very least."
"But you said they didn't leave. How do they eat?"
"They don't leave. They bring in their food from the outside, from quite far away sometimes.
It gives their guard something to do when they're not out annihilating mavericks. Or
protecting Volterra from exposure…"
"From situations like this one, like Edward," I finished her sentence. It was amazingly easy to
say his name now. I wasn't sure what the difference was. Maybe because I wasn't really
planning on living much longer without seeing him. Or at all, if we were too late. It was
comforting to know that I would have an easy out.
"I doubt they've ever had a situation quite like this," she muttered, disgusted. "You don't get
a lot of suicidal vampires."
The sound that escaped out of my mouth was very quiet, but Alice seemed to understand
that it was a cry of pain. She wrapped her thin, strong arm around my shoulders.
"We'll do what we can, Bella. It's not over yet."
"Not yet." I let her comfort me, though I knew she thought our chances were poor. "And the
Volturi will get us if we mess up."
Alice stiffened. "You say that like it's a good thing."
"Knock it off, Bella, or we're turning around in New York and going back to Forks."
"You know what. If we're too late for Edward, I'm going to do my damnedest to get you
back to Charlie, and I don't want any trouble from you. Do you understand that?"
She pulled back slightly so that she could glare at me. "No trouble."
"Scout's honor," I muttered.
She rolled her eyes.
"Let me concentrate, now. I'm trying to see what he's planning."
She left her arm around me, but let her head fall back against the seat and closed her eyes.
She pressed her free hand to the side of her face, rubbing her fingertips against her temple.
I watched her in fascination for a long time. Eventually, she became utterly motionless, hei
face like a stone sculpture. The minutes passed, and if I didn't know better, I would have
thought she'd fallen asleep. I didn't dare interrupt her to ask what was going on.
I wished there was something safe for me to think about. I couldn't allow myself to consider
the horrors we were headed toward, or, more horrific yet, the chance that we might fail–not
if I wanted to keep from screaming aloud.
I couldn't anticipate anything, either. Maybe, if I were very, very, very lucky, I would
somehow be able to save Edward. But I wasn't so stupid as to think that saving him would
mean that I could stay with him. I was no different, no more special than I'd been before.
There would be no new reason for him to want me now. Seeing him and losing him again…
I fought back against the pain. This was the price I had to pay to save his life. I would pay it.
They showed a movie, and my neighbor got headphones. Sometimes I watched the figures
moving across the little screen, but I couldn't even tell if the movie was supposed to be a
romance or a horror film.
After an eternity, the plane began to descend toward New York City. Alice remained in her
trance. I dithered, reaching out to touch her, only to pull my hand back again. This happened
a dozen times before the plane touched town with a jarring impact.
"Alice," I finally said. "Alice, we have to go."
I touched her arm.
Her eyes came open very slowly. She shook her head from side to side for a moment.
"Anything new?" I asked in a low voice, conscious of the man listening on the other side of
"Not exactly," she breathed in a voice I could barely catch. "He's getting closer. He's
deciding how he's going to ask."
We had to run for our connection, but that was good–better than having to wait. As soon as
the plane was in the air, Alice closed her eyes and slid back into the same stupor as before. I
waited as patiently as I could. When it was dark again, I opened the window to stare out into
the flat black that was no better than the window shade.
I was grateful that I'd had so many months' practice with controlling my thoughts. Instead of
dwelling on the terrifying possibilities that, no matter what Alice said, I did not intend to
survive, I concentrated on lesser problems. Like, what I was going to say to Charlie if I got
back:' That was a thorny enough problem to occupy several hours. And Jacob? He'd
promised to wait for me, but did that promise still apply? Would I end up home alone in
Forks, with no one at all? Maybe I didn't want to survive, no matter what happened.
It felt like seconds later when Alice shook my shoulder–I hadn't realized I'd fallen asleep.
"Bella," she hissed, her voice a little too loud in the darkened cabin full of sleeping humans.
I wasn't disoriented–I hadn't been out long enough for that.
Alice's eyes gleamed in the dim light of a reading lamp in the row behind us.
"It's not wrong." She smiled fiercely. "It's right. They're deliberating, but they've decided to
tell him no."
"The Volturi?" I muttered, groggy.
"Of course, Bella, keep up. I can see what they're going to say."
An attendant tiptoed down the aisle to us. "Can I get you ladies a pillow?" His hushed
whisper was a rebuke to our comparatively loud conversation.
"No, thank you." Alice beamed at up at him, her smile shockingly lovely. The attendant's
expression was dazed as he turned and stumbled his way back.
"Tell me," I breathed almost silently.
She whispered into my ear. "They're interested in him–they think his talent could be uselul.
They're going to offer him a place with them."
"What will he say?"
"I can't see that yet, but I'll bet it's colorful." She grinned again. "This is the first good
news–the first break. They're intrigued; they truly don't want to destroy him–'wasteful,' that's
the word Aro will use–and that may be enough to force him to get creative. The longer he
spends on his plans, the better for us."
It wasn't enough to make me hopeful, to make me feel the relief she obviously felt. There
were still so many ways that we could be too late. And if I didn't get through the walls into
the Volturi city, I wouldn't be able to stop Alice from dragging me back home.
"I'm confused. How are you seeing this so clearly? And then other times, you see things far
away–things that don't happen?"
Her eyes tightened. I wondered if she guessed what I was thinking of.
"It's clear because it's immediate and close, and I'm really concentrating. The faraway things
that come on their own–those are just glimpses, faint maybes. Plus, I see my kind more easily
than yours. Edward is even easier because I'm so attuned to him."
"You see me sometimes," I reminded her.
She shook her head. "Not as clearly."
I sighed. "I really wish you could have been right about me. In the beginning, when you first
saw things about me, before we even met…"
"What do you mean?"
"You saw me become one of you." I barely mouthed the words.
She sighed. "It was a possibility at the time."
"At the time," I repeated.
"Actually, Bella…" She hesitated, and then seemed to make a choice. "Honestly, I think it's
all gotten beyond ridiculous. I'm debating whether to just change you myself."
I stared at her, frozen with shock. Instantly, my mind resisted her words. I couldn't afford
that kind of hope if she changed her mind.
"Did I scare you?" she wondered. "I thought that's what you wanted."
"I do!" I gasped. "Oh, Alice, do it now! I could help you so much–and I wouldn't slow you
down. Bite me!"
"Shh," she cautioned. The attendant was looking in our direction again. "Try to be
reasonable," she whispered. "We don't have enough time. We have to get into Volterra
tomorrow. You'd be writhing in pain for days." She made a face. "And I don't think the other
passengers would react well."
I bit my lip. "If you don't do it now, you'll change your mind."
"No." She frowned, her expression unhappy. "I don't think I will. He'll be furious, but what
will he be able to do about it?"
My heart beat faster. "Nothing at all."
She laughed quietly, and then sighed. "You have too much faith in me, Bella. I'm not sure
that I can. I'll probably just end up killing you."
"I'll take my chances."
"You are so bizarre, even for a human."
"Oh well, this is purely hypothetical at this point, anyway. First we have to live through
"Good point." But at least I had something to hope for if we did. If Alice made good on her
promise–and if she didn't kill me–then Edward could run after his distractions all he wanted,
and I could follow. I wouldn't let him be distracted. Maybe, when I was beautiful and strong,
he wouldn't want distractions.
"Go back to sleep," she encouraged me. "I'll wake you up when there's something new."
"Right," I grumbled, certain that sleep was a lost cause now. Alice pulled her legs up on the
seat, wrapping her arms around them and leaning her forehead against her knees. She rocked
back and forth as she concentrated.
I rested my head against the seat, watching her, and the next thing I knew, she was snapping
the shade closed against the faint brightening in the eastern sky.
"What's happening?" I mumbled.
"They've told him no," she said quietly. I noticed at once that her enthusiasm was gone.
My voice choked in my throat with panic. "What's he going to do?"
"It was chaotic at first. I was only getting flickers, he was changing plans so quickly."
"What kinds of plans?" I pressed.
"There was a bad hour," she whispered. "He'd decided to go hunting."
She looked at me, seeing the comprehension in my face.
"In the city," she explained. "It got very close. He changed his mind at the last minute."
"He wouldn't want to disappoint Carlisle," I mumbled. Not at the end.
"Probably," she agreed.
"Will there be enough time?" As I spoke, there was a shift in the cabin pressure. I could feel
the plane angling downward.
"I'm hoping so–if he sticks to his latest decision, maybe."
"What is that?"
"He's going to keep it simple. He's just going to walk out into the sun."
Just walk out into the sun. That was all.
It would be enough. The image of Edward in the meadow–glowing, shimmering like his skin
was made of a million diamond facets–was burned into my memory. No human who saw that
would ever forget. The Volturi couldn't possibly allow it. Not if they wanted to keep their
I looked at the slight gray glow that shone through the opened windows. "We'll be too late,"
I whispered, my throat closing in panic.
She shook her head. "Right now, he's leaning toward the melodramatic. He wants the
biggest audience possible, so he'll choose the main plaza, under the clock tower. The walls
are high there. He'll wait till the sun is exactly overhead."
"So we have till noon?"
"If we're lucky. If he sticks with this decision."
The pilot came on over the intercom, announcing, first in French and then in English, our
imminent landing. The seat belt lights dinged and flashed.
"How far is it from Florence to Volterra?"
"That depends on how fast you drive… Bella?"
She eyed me speculatively. "How strongly are you opposed to grand theft auto?"
A bright yellow Porsche screamed to a stop a few feet in front of where I paced, the word
TURBO scrawled in silver cursive across its back. Everyone beside me on the crowded
airport sidewalk stared.
"Hurry, Bella!" Alice shouted impatiently through the open passenger window.
I ran to the door and threw myself in, feeling as though I might as well be wearing a black
stocking over my head.
"Sheesh, Alice," I complained. "Could you pick a more conspicuous car to steal?"
The interior was black leather, and the windows were tinted dark. It felt safer inside, like
Alice was already weaving, too fast, through the thick airport traffic–sliding through tiny
spaces between the cars as I cringed and fumbled for my seat belt.
"The important question," she corrected, "is whether I could have stolen a faster car, and I
don't think so. I got lucky."
"I'm sure that will be very comforting at the roadblock."
She trilled a laugh. "Trust me, Bella. If anyone sets up a roadblock, it will be behind us." She
hit the gas then, as if to prove her point.
I probably should have watched out the window as first the city of Florence and then the
Tuscan landscape flashed past with blurring speed. This was my first trip anywhere, and
maybe my last, too. But Alice's driving frightened me, despite the fact that I knew I could
trust her behind the wheel. And I was too tortured with anxiety to really see the hills or the
walled towns that looked like castles in the distance.
"Do you see anything more?"
"There's something going on," Alice muttered. "Some kind of festival. The streets are full of
people and red flags. What's the date today?"
I wasn't entirely sure. "The nineteenth, maybe?"
"Well, that's ironic. It's Saint Marcus Day."
She chuckled darkly. "The city holds a celebration every year. As the legend goes, a Christian
missionary, a Father Marcus–Marcus of the Voltun, in fact–drove all the vampires from
Volterra fifteen hundred years ago. The story claims he was martyred in Romania, still trying
to drive away the vampire scourge. Of course that's nonsense–he's never left the city. But
that's where some of the superstitions about things like crosses and garlic come from. Father
Marcus used them so successfully. And vampires don't trouble Volterra, so they must work."
Her smile was sardonic. "It's become more of a celebration of the city, and recognition for the
police force–after all, Volterra is an amazingly safe city. The police get the credit."
I was realizing what she meant when she'd said ironic. "They're not going to be very happy if
Edward messes things up for them on St. Marcus Day, are they?"
She shook her head, her expression grim. "No. They'll act very quickly."
I looked away, fighting against my teeth as they tried to break through the skin of my lower
lip. Bleeding was not the best idea right now.
The sun was terrifyingly high in the pale blue sky.
"He's still planning on noon?" I checked.
"Yes. He's decided to wait. And they're waiting for him."
"Tell me what I have to do."
She kept her eyes on the winding road–the needle on the speedometer was touching the far
right on the dial.
"You don't have to do anything. He just has to see you before he moves into the light. And
he has to see you before he sees me."
"How are we going to work that?"
A small red car seemed to be racing backward as Alice zoomed around it.
"I'm going to get you as close as possible, and then you're going to run in the direction I point
"Try not to trip," she added. "We don't have time for a concussion today."
I groaned. That would be just like me–ruin everything, destroy the world, in a moment of
The sun continued to climb in the sky while Alice raced against it. It was too brigh:, and that
had me panicking. Maybe he wouldn't feel the need to wait for noon after all.
"There," Alice said abruptly, pointing to the castle city atop the closest hill.
I stared at it, feeling the very first hint of a new kind of fear. Every minute since yesterday
morning–it seemed like a week ago–when Alice had spoken his name at the foot of the stairs,
there had been only one fear. And yet, now, as I stared at the ancient sienna walls and towers
crowning the peak of the steep hill, I felt another, more selfish kind of dread thrill through
I supposed the city was very beautiful. It absolutely terrified me.
"Volterra," Alice announced in a flat, icy voice.