Hello, lovely people!

Welcome to Part III of The Immortal Coil Saga. Some big changes are afoot.



Chapter 1:

Today is the day

2nd October 2011

Dawn broke in the city of Volterra, and, like every day, the humans went about their lives completely unaware of the vampires who existed right under their noses.

Watching the morning bloom from her bedroom window, Anna smiled. The sun's sleepy light caressed the ring on her finger, igniting the emerald glinting like a flame surrounded by sparks of diamond. Anna could almost see her sister, Beth, tossing her messy fringe out of her eyes to get a better look. Holy shit! Look at the size of that thing! But imagining Beth did not make her absence any less painful.

It was three months since Beth moved to a little town in America, Washington, with friends who, like her, refused to drink human blood to survive.

Today, Anna would tell her the good news.

Sitting down at her vanity table, Anna brushed her fingertips across the diary that lay there, enticingly open. Antoine should be here. As Anna gazed at her reflection, a bright-eyed almost-stranger stared back at her.

"I'm engaged," she whispered with a smile. If only Mother could see me now.

For all her lack of maternal affection, Viola Eden had been nothing but ambitious for her two daughters. Harriet, Anna's older sister, was a willing student, wanting nothing more than to find a rich, handsome man to give her mother the grandchildren she so craved. Young Anna often wondered if Harriet ever had a thought of her own. Finding solace in the reliable company of Elizabeth Bennett and Jane Eyre, Anna had few real friends, but they enjoyed gossiping about fickle fashion trends, or who was marrying who, never about what was going on in the world, or even the music that moved them.

If Anna wanted to marry anyone back then, she wanted to marry Tom, but Viola dismissed his baker's salary, plotting to marry her off to a prosperous work colleague of Father's instead.

Gerald. Anna had turned down so many suitors by then; Mother was desperate enough to ignore that he had been old enough to be her grandfather, had been married before, and had probably beaten that wife to death. Nevertheless, Mother had been quick to quash any dreams of running away with Tom.

What would she have thought of Aro? Well-groomed, charismatic, and above all, (as Beth would say) Aro was fucking loaded; Mother would have wanted to move in, too, into his marble and gold fortress.

Anna's family were all dead now, though she often wondered if there were probably some great-grand-nieces and nephews scattered around America somewhere.

Anna sighed. Children were not an option in this marriage. She needed to find her fiancé. A thrill coursed down her spine. "I am engaged!"

She had known it for months now with every kiss feeling like another promise from him.

Soon. But not yet. You are not ready.

Anna could see the change in her reflection now, the way her eyes sparkled as she shed her shawl. The strapless blue jump-suit she wore was a personal favourite of Aro's. Her fiancé would be in his study now, no doubt recording his musings on what the day might bring. Despite all his eccentricities, Aro was a real creature of habit.

As Anna closed the door behind her, she could hear Demetri listening to music in his room. He was singing quietly, so as not to disturb anyone, and Anna was surprised by how much it reminded her of Beth. I never thought I would find myself comparing those two so fondly.

She met Alec and Jane as they came upstairs. As they wished her well, their scarlet eyes flickered to her ring, warming in a way she never believed they were capable of doing.

"Isn't it a beautiful morning?" Anna said. She reached Aro's door when her phone buzzed against her leg.

"Guess who?" Jane murmured, and Alec laughed as they returned to their room.

"Hello?" Anna held her breath, waiting for her voice.

"Oh my God, Anna!"

"Hello, Beth," Anna said warmly.

The line crackled. "Hi! Wow, it's fucking awesome to hear your voice!"

"I was just about to call you." Anna stepped back as Aro opened the door. They smiled at each other for a moment. "How are you?"

Aro gestured to her phone. "Do I need to ask?" Anna shook her head, listening to Beth's laughter.

"Pfft. Never mind me! A little pixie tells me you've got news for me."

Anna giggled. "He proposed last night." Aro pulled her inside, spinning her gently.

"Fuck! Alice was right! Ooh, shit," – Beth's voice grew quiet – "sorry for waking you, hun. It's Anna. Yeah, Ness! The inevitable has – okay, I'll stop yelling," – Beth cleared her throat. "Anna?"

"Yes, Beth?" Anna smiled.

"Yeah, um, sorry. That was Nessie, wanting to know what I was laughing about. I may have woken her up."

Aro grew still. Anna frowned. "Nessie, meaning Renesmee?"

"Yeah. You'd love her," Beth replied casually. "So! Was it all rose petals, white doves, and confetti cannons? God, I bet it was."

"I'm sure Alice's vision told her all Beth needed to know," Aro murmured.

"Oh, hello, Aro." Beth sounded a lot less enthusiastic than before. "No. It didn't."

"What did Alice tell you?" Anna said gently.

"Not very much. Alice saw the ring. And you, dear sister, nearly giving Aro an eyeful." Beth snorted. "Anyone would think he'd surprise you as you came out of the shower intentionally, huh?"

Aro had the decency to chuckle uncomfortably. "It was an accident, I assure you."

"If you say so," Beth grunted. "So, when's this wedding's gonna be?"

"The winter-time," Anna said, sliding into Aro's lap.

"Uh, it's October," Beth scoffed. "Be a bit more specific, please!"

"Beth, we only got engaged last night!"

"Yeah, and Athenodora's been planning this thing for months," Beth gasped. "Do I need to book plane tickets soon, or what?"

Truthfully, Anna hadn't had the chance to consider what would come next. What a mess I am. She stroked Aro's cheek, partly as an excuse to touch him, while giving him access to her thoughts. What about January? Her eyes lit up, struck with romantic inspiration. Or Valentine's Day?

Aro closed his eyes, smiling placidly. "Whatever you wish, my love."

"February," Anna said to Beth. "Although you will certainly receive an invitation."

"I should think so!" Beth crowed. "I'll come around the end of January to help you out."

"Let me know when you'll be on your way."

"Will do. Oh! In the meantime," Beth called into the background again. "Hey, Ness?"

Anna heard a distant. "What?"

"I'm staying for Christmas!" A weary cheer erupted on her crackly line. Beth sniffed. "I think Nessie's happy about that."

"I agree," Anna smiled.

"Well, I guess I better tell everyone the news," Beth said. "Let you two celebrate properly, eh?"

"I'll call you again, closer to the time," Anna said.

"Glad to hear it, bride-to-be."

"And you, maid-of-honour!" Anna cried.

"Ha!" Beth snorted in mock-disdain. "Is that your way of asking me?"

Anna giggled. "Is that a yes?"

"Hm. Let me think about it." Beth laughed. "Hell, yes!"

"Just as I thought." Anna beamed.

"Alright, I better go. Bye, future husband-in-law!" Beth sang.

Perhaps not expecting to be acknowledged, Aro said, "Goodbye, dear Beth. Say hello to Renesmee for us."

It could have been the line, but it almost sounded like Beth muttered something rude before hanging up.

Anna sighed. "That went better than anticipated."

"Hmm," Aro said, kissing her, long and indulgent. Feeling bold, Anna twisted languorously in his lap, enjoying the noise her movements evoked out of him.

So, what have you written today, my fiancé? Aro's diary sat open on his desk. He had written just one line in Italian, warming Anna with its simple sweetness:

She said yes.

Turning back, Anna surveyed Aro's face, which was aglow with barely restrained joy – and something else, if the pressure against her leg was a clue. The shiver down Anna's spine wavered her courage. She kissed him harder. Yes, she did.

The inevitable wedding had lurked like an irritating cobweb in the back of Beth's mind for months now. Though Anna hated flamboyance at her own expense, Beth had always suspected Aro would propose while accompanied by an orchestra or marching band, like the deranged fop he was.

It was incredibly useful, having a psychic as a friend. Nevertheless, Beth had expected to wait a year at least, before Alice had a full-blown vision about the proposal. But life had a lovely habit of shitting all over Beth's plans, so she should have known better. Anna sounded so satisfied on the phone, practically purring like a cat, warming and breaking Beth's heart all at once.

Beth knew this day was going to come, but hated it anyway. I should be happy for her! Even if the Anna I knew is dying. Queen Anna is taking her place – oh, SHUT UP! I bet Aro feels really fucking smug right now. As for that quip about Nessie, he wouldn't dare try anything. Anna would never let him.

Often, Beth yearned helplessly for some respite from her bitter thoughts. For weeks now, she spent her nights imagining herself green-eyed and freckled – maybe an inch or so taller. The breeze would be cold, almost spring, but the sun would splash golden stripes through the trees, bleaching Beth's hair, rouging her soft skin.

Sometimes, Seth appeared, walking the forest with her; still a wolf, still an absolute giant, but Beth could hold him without hurting him.

More than anything, Beth wanted to sleep. Instead, she stomped outside, boots slapping the wet ground. The wind had teeth, snatching leaves from their branches as Nessie hurried after her. "What's wrong, Beth?"

Beth turned around. "Oh, Ness." She saw the bags under her friend's eyes. "You need an early night. I'm sorry for waking you."

"Beth." Nessie sighed. "I'm not a child."

"I know, hun. But your wolf may never forgive me."

"Jake might hold a grudge," Nessie said. "But I won't. I know you didn't mean to wake me."

Jake, Leah and Seth were arriving, still as russet, silver, and sandy-haired wolves, at Nessie's house. Beth looked away as they hastily tugged on their spare clothes.

Seth frowned at Nessie, puzzled. "Where the fire?"

Beth blinked. "You tell me." She glanced at Jake. "What have we missed?"

Leah's scowl deepened. She snapped. "What the hell's going on, Jake?"

"Let's talk about this inside," Nessie interjected. "I've made coffee."

"Sounds great, Ness," Seth said, letting Beth go ahead of him, even as his sister marched in front of her.

"You called the Volturi last night, Beth," Jake growled. "Why?"

The coffee machine hissed, and Beth was at a loss on what to say. "You called out a red-alert for that?"

"Don't blame him for overreacting," Nessie said from the kitchen.

"Red, you were breathing fire this morning," Jake groaned. "I thought the Volturi –"

"Alright, so I overreacted!" Beth raised her hands. "I'm sorry, but forgive me if my sister accepting Aro's hand in marriage doesn't fill me with glee."

Seth poured his coffee after Jake. "So, the wedding is happening?"

"Yup." Beth flopped down onto the sofa. "Last night, just like Alice said it would. Anna is now officially a Queen-to-be. Hurrah."

"So, what now?" Leah blew on her drink, unabashed. "Does your sister want you back in Volterra?"

Beth almost smiled. Do I detect a glimmer of hope, she-wolf? "Not yet. I'll probably go back in the New Year."

"Beth is going to be maid-of-honour." Nessie sat with Jake on the armchair, laying her head on his shoulder.

Seth made a sympathetic noise. "Aw. Bad luck, Red."

"What?" Beth blinked. "Oh, no. It's okay – I'm okay with that." She sighed as the Clearwaters exchanged a dubious look. "I just wish Anna wasn't marrying into the Volturi, you know? As bizarre as it sounds."

"But, your sister wants to be with them, right?" Nessie asked.

Beth threw her arms up in exasperation. "I know it's mad."

Leah shook her head. "So, is that all you wanted to tell us?"

No. I'm also pregnant and running away to join The Avengers. Beth sighed. "I guess so. Sorry for wasting your time."

"Naw," Seth said heartily. "Too early in the day for that."

His kindness melted Beth's heart. I fantasised about you last night, she thought and was glad, not for the first time, that Edward wasn't around to hear.

To be continued...