Chapter 8

Ariadne had noted Aro’s absence which had made her subconsciously tense releasing an unexpected wave of relief as he re-entered the ballroom. Sulpicia had
been busy dancing. Men of all ages had
wanted to share a moment with the mistress of Volterra, so she had barely
registered Aro’s absence. Jane however
had noticed her master’s abrupt departure as had the other members of the
Volturi guard and they all relaxed visibly to see him return.

Aro made his way towards the place where Ariadne and Carlisle were chatting quietly together. “Carlisle
my friend, how are you enjoying your evening?” He interjected taking Carlisle by the hand and shaking it warmly. His words were directed at Carlisle
but his eyes were fixed on Ariadne’s and she was unable to look away. What did this man want with her?

“I’m enjoying it very much, Miss Miller is very good company.” Carlisle replied turning to Ariadne and smiling.

“Indeed, I wonder if you would allow me to steal her from you for a short while, if the young lady is of a mind to dance with me.” He added.

“Of course Aro my dear friend, if that is what she wishes.” Aro held out his hand for Ariadne to take and trance like she took it and allowed him to sweep her
into his embrace. Placing his left hand
on her waist he pulled her close into his body sweeping her out onto the floor
in one swift movement. Ariadne had
become aware of the intensity of Aro’s feelings the moment he had taken her
hand but found herself powerless to resist him.
A strange mixture of desire and fear swelled within her and she could
feel a desperation emanating from his contact.
She must tell him this was an impossible situation.

“You are beautiful.” He whispered placing his cheek against hers and closing his eyes. His soft words were sincere and full of truth. Ariadne knew that he wasn’t just speaking of
a superficial beauty. Nearly all of the guests could be described as beautiful
in some way. Aro was trying to give a
voice to his feelings for her which she could discern more clearly through his
touch than any simple words could express.
Aro was able to see her thoughts and reaction to his words and
feelings. He knew that she wanted him
despite her inner struggles. Ariadne
began to wish that she did have romantic intentions towards Carlisle;
at least it would be a lot safer. These thoughts made Aro smile and he puller
her even closer to him. “Please.” She
moaned. “What about your wife?” At her words he loosened his hold slightly so
that he could look into her eyes. “We
are only dancing Ariadne. To you and me
it feels much more intimate I agree, but to everyone else we are doing nothing
different from them.” He was right,
hardly anyone including Sulpicia had given them a second glance they were far
too engrossed in their own socialising. Although to Ariadne it had felt as if
they had been naked in public. The only
thing slightly odd about their coupling was that they were both dressed in the
colours of the moon, but even this was hardly scandalous as there were other
couples who were not allowing the dress code taboo to prevent them from dancing
with who ever they chose. Sulpicia
herself was dancing with Caius and the golden couple looked strangely well suited.

“Meet me in the clearing at midnight.” Aro said to her urgently closing his eyes and resting his cheek against hers again initiating a fresh wave of intimacy between them. Ariadne didn’t answer him, but then she
didn’t need to, he knew her every thought it was pointless trying to hide anything
from him. Aro knew she would come, even
if her intention was to say goodbye, he could change her mind just by touching
her. As the waltz came to an end Aro
returned Ariadne to where Carlisle had been
watching them. Carlisle
had begun to wonder just what his old friend was up to. Although Carlisle
possessed no discernible supernatural gift, he knew Aro and could tell that he
had more than just a casual interest in Miss Miller.

“Thank you.” Aro said bowing to Ariadne as he released her hand. Ariadne found herself reluctant to let go of him, the intimacy that was shared between them
was intoxicating and difficult to resist.
As the contact between them was severed she experienced a feeling of
loss like something vital to her existence had been removed. Ariadne curtsied in return to Aro’s bow
searching his eyes for the feelings she knew were there, but his genial smile
gave little away. Aro was practised at
hiding his feelings but Carlisle knew him
probably better than anyone else and witnessed the exchange of eye contact
between the pair. Ariadne also seemed
more nervous than usual and this made Carlisle
concerned about what Aro had said to her.
Aro took his friend’s hand in his own, just a formal handshake to the
casual observer, but it told him everything he wanted to know about the pained
look Carlisle was now wearing. “Don’t worry my friend, I guarantee it’s not
what you are thinking.” Aro laughed as he strode away secretively brushing the
back of Ariadne’s hand with his fingertips as he departed.

“What’s wrong Carlisle?” Ariadne asked eventually breaking the silence between them. Carlisle’s face looked troubled. “I don’t know.” He
replied truthfully “Is everything alright with you?” He countered.

“I’m not sure why you are asking, but I think so.” Ariadne studied Carlisle’s face wondering what he was so worried about. As Aro said to her, they had only
been dancing, could Carlisle see that it was
something more?

“It’s nothing” Carlisle smiled, the traces of concern melting from his handsome features. “I just thought Aro had upset you.”

Ariadne wanted desperately to discuss this illicit secret with her friend but knew that Carlisle would not approve and would very sensibly tell her that a liaison with Aro was
both unwise and dangerous. These things
she already knew but how could anyone understand the connection between
them. It was nothing that she could
express in words, it was like they were two halves of the same whole and that
at some point they had been separated only to have found one another too late.

“Aro! Why would you think that?” She stammered clumsily giving Carlisle more cause for suspicion.

At that moment Marcus approached them with Athenadora on his arm.

“It seems that Sulpicia’s plans to pair up night and day are being totally disregarded.” He joked with them both ending the awkward discussion much to Ariadne’s relief.

Marcus pressed on “Continuing in this spirit of rebellion, I wondered if I might steal a dance from your partner Carlisle, moon to moon as it were?” Carlisle smiled warmly at Marcus. Ariadne couldn’t help
smiling at him too, this was the most she had ever heard Marcus speak and it
seemed that he was not so dour as he appeared.
Marcus obviously had a rebellious sense of humour. “Only if I may be
traditional and dance with your moon.” He replied taking Athenadora’s petite
hand in his own.

Ariadne gave her hand to Marcus and allowed him to dance with her. Marcus’s feelings were guarded but sincere and she felt no malice in him. Being so close to Marcus Ariadne was able to
study his face in more detail than she had previously. If truth be told she had found little of
interest in him until now. Like Aro
Marcus’s hair was very dark against his pale skin but unlike Aro his was wavy
and he wore it loosely about his shoulders making him look slightly
untidy. Marcus was also several inches
taller than his brother-in-law and not as graceful but his face was kind and
open, when like now he wasn’t frowning.

“How are you enjoying the ball Miss Miller?” He asked her conversationally.

“I’m quite overwhelmed by it all Master Marcus.” She replied.

“Okay, I’ll call you Ariadne if you call me Marcus.” He laughed, “Things can be so formal and stuffy here. Not really my cup of tea at all.” He said conspiratorially wrinkling his nose in Sulpicia’s general direction and giving
off feelings that told Ariadne he was no great admirer of Aro’s wife. Ariadne found herself liking this strange,
usually quite grim vampire and had to remind herself who he was. She recalled that he was gifted with the
ability to judge the bonds between individual and was hit with the sudden
realization that Marcus knew her secret.
The attraction between herself and Aro was electric and to Marcus who
could spot even the smallest connection, theirs must be like a beacon. She closed her eyes trying to suppress the
panic which was slowly rising within her.
Marcus was sensitive to her discomfort and danced them over to the
French windows into the grounds before releasing her and sitting himself down
on a balustrade, his face quite calm.

“You know I was once in love.” His voice sounded sad and distant “And do you know what it taught me?” Ariadne looked up at him and shook her head. “My dear,
it taught me that one should never waste a moment worrying about what other
people think or what will happen tomorrow.
Seize the moment and to hell with the consequences, because none of us
know how long it will last.” As he said
this he hung his head in his hands.
Ariadne was surprised by Marcus’s attitude, he was practically giving
his blessing to Aro’s infidelity and for some reason she found this shocking.

“I’m so sorry.” She said placing a comforting hand on his shoulder. Marcus placed his own hand on hers and patted it in acknowledgement of her sympathy
sending his grief in icy waves down her arm reminding her of her own loss.

“Let’s go back inside.” He said finally composing himself. “Carlisle and Athenadora will wonder what we have been up to.” He chuckled winking at
her, his good humour returning. Ariadne
smiled back at him, somewhat relieved that Marcus at least understood the
situation and wasn’t about to betray them to her mistress.

The ball seemed an endless string of dancing. Ariadne had noticed at one point Caius, Marcus and a group of humans all leave the ballroom together along
with Felix, Dimitri, Renatta, Jane and Alec.
She wondered if they would be meeting with Aro to discuss whatever
business had been on his mind the past few days. They were now all returning looking very
satisfied with themselves. Aro returned
with them shaking hands with the humans and smiling encouragingly. Once again Ariadne felt that strange sense of
relief as Aro made eye contact with her momentarily before turning his
attention back to his immediate guests. Carlisle had been the perfect gentleman all evening and
had rescued her from many over eager would be suitors. She could still feel a great deal of concern
within him but couldn’t bring herself to ask him about it as she was certain
that it was with regard to her relationship with Aro.

Ariadne glanced back over at the group of men and found that Caius was walking towards her with a manic twinkle in his eyes. She sighed inwardly, Caius was
probably the only non-human with whom she hadn’t danced and had been hoping to
avoid the experience particularly after dancing with Alec. Alec was ice cold, he didn’t seem to feel
anything but a slow brooding malice and she was sure that Caius’s feelings
would be equally unpleasant. At times
like this she wished it were possible to switch her gift off.

Caius cleared the floor between them in a few graceful strides. There was no denying that physically as least, Caius was the most perfect of all the Volturi
and at close quarters Ariadne could appreciate why women seemed to throw themselves
at him it almost seemed as if he emitted his own internal light. “Miss Miller.” He said formally, extending
his hand and inviting her to dance with him.
Ariadne glanced at Carlisle for support
but he grinned back at her mischievously nodding his consent to Caius.

Ariadne had no choice and took Caius’s hand. She was immediately surprised by the complexity of Caius’s feelings, expecting him to be cold, vain and shallow,
much like Sulpicia. He did have a deep
rooted vanity but it was fuelled by insecurity.
He was also incredibly protective and she knew that he would stop as
nothing to protect something of someone he cared about. It was this emotion among the others that made
Ariadne wary of Caius. For all his
superficial flattery he would crush anyone including her that he felt was a
threat to his family. She also knew that
he would show no mercy.

Caius was incredibly nimble and Ariadne couldn’t help but admire his grace. He spoke very little to her as they traversed the floor making only occasional
polite small talk and using surprisingly little flattery. By the end of the dance the young woman
didn’t know quite what to make of him, although he kissed her hand
flirtatiously before relinquishing his claim back to Carlisle.

“Thank you for a wonderful evening Carlisle.” Ariadne said when Caius was out of ear-shot. “I don’t think I could have survived it without you.”

Carlisle smiled his warm smile. “It was my pleasure Ariadne, I couldn’t let the wolves have you.” They both laughed at this and placing her arms around his neck she embraced him with affection.
“Please be careful.” He whispered tightening the hug before allowing her to
leave. “I will.” She mouthed quietly
back before slowly walking out into the garden.
Carlisle followed behind her a few
minutes later, to give the impression that they were leaving together before he
headed off to hunt her well being foremost in his mind.

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