Gifts and Wishes – one shot


~o~ Gifts and Wishes ~o~


“Gentlemen, and lady,” Klaus added with a small smile and a slight nod. “Thank you so much for coming on such short notice.” Setting his glass of deep red wine aside, Klaus rose smoothly from the small table placed near the fountain in the enclosed courtyard and buttoned his tuxedo jacket over a red velvet vest. “I trust your trip was uneventful?”

At the silent, barely perceptible nods from the seven visitors standing stiffly before them, Klaus reached a hand to his sister. “Though our brother Elijah has, Rebekah, I believe you’ve not had the opportunity to meet our guests from Italy.”

“Can’t say I’ve had the pleasure.” Taking her brother’s hand, Rebekah flipped her golden hair over her shoulder and stood beside him.

Their older brother, Elijah, smoothed his dark hair and tugged at his tuxedo jacket as he made his way to stand on Rebekah’s other side. Weaving his fingers together, his deep brown eyes perused the black-clad company, an unreadable expression on his face.

A bright twinkle in his blue eyes, Klaus stepped forward and gestured to each as he named them. “Rebekah, I’d like you to meet our guests from the quaint Tuscany village of Volterra—the Volturi—Marcus, Aro, and Caius.” Pausing and touching one fingertip to his lips, Klaus’ eyes widened. “Forgive me, Aro. I seem to have forgotten the names of your … escort.”

Enough with this supercilious nonsense!” The white-haired Caius hissed and took one step forward to glare menacingly at their hosts. “Aro, you bade us come with you on what you called a mission of some import.” His murderous gaze went to Aro and snapped back to the seemingly unconcerned vampires. “You clearly stated it was a grave matter, though you gave us no details. Marcus and I, your fellow kings, trusted in your word. Yet here we are in the presence of this … this wolf,” he sneered, obvious disgust and hatred marring his cold handsome features.

“Ah, ah, ah!” Klaus warned, his eyes flashing yellow and his teeth showing sharply in a threatening grin. “Might I remind you—wolf vampire hybrid. One whose fangs would have no trouble slicing through your hardened skin.”

“Nik, it’s Christmas,” Rebekah said with a pretty pout. “We’ve spent days buying up all the fairy lights in the city my sweet niece loves so well. And you know how she giggles and claps her hands at anything covered in glitter.” She turned to him and placed her hand on his arm. “You are aware how excited Hope and everyone is, and though I think the more the merrier, you invited these ruffians into our home?”

Lightly clearing his throat, Elijah soothed his sister with a hand on her shoulder. “Not all of them are being so disrespectful. But should such unbecoming behavior continue, perhaps we could crush them and paint portions of the exterior trim with their remains to add to the festive decor. The rest would be contributed to our bonfire. I’m sure our other guests would find the purple flames and smoke most entrancing as they make their wishes.”

“Yes, brother, splendid idea. I shall keep it in mind,” Klaus agreed, smiling widely and displaying his dimples. “I dare say Hayley’s pack, and our vampire and human guests, would be enchanted by the show.”

Aro gulped nervously and put a restraining hand on Caius’ chest. “Brother. Please.”

“You’ve been abnormally quiet, my brother,” Caius spat harshly. “Speak now. Explain why you’ve brought us here and had us subjected to these empty threats.”

In a flash of movement and a thunderous crack, Caius was pinned to the wall, Klaus’ hand around his throat.

“Might I also remind you—” Klaus’ fangs grew longer as he growled out his words. “You requested an audience with me and are guests in my home, and I never make empty threats.”

As all eyes were trained on them, there was movement from the shadows beneath the gaily decorated upper walkway surrounding the courtyard. Vampires, dusky veins spreading over their cheeks from scarlet-tinged eyes, and men and women with their eyes nearly glowing yellow, advanced on the Volterran contingent.

Others dropped as silently as wraiths from the roof above to join their compatriots.

The lone female guard shuffled closer to her two kings. “How can this be, master? Are they not Children of the Moon? How can they—?”

“There is no full moon!” another exclaimed.

The tallest Volturi turned to face the hissing and growling crowd, his hands raised defensively. “Not for another week!”

“Jane, Demetri, Felix,” Marcus rumbled, speaking for the first time, his voice rough from disuse. “They are Children of the Moon, but it seems they are no longer bound by the phases of their namesake. Alec,” he called to the youngest looking male next to the petite Jane. “It would not be wise to make any attempt to subdue them.”

“Precisely,” Elijah said softly. “You were not invited here to be slaughtered, though should you wish it, we could accommodate you.”

Caius clutched at the hand around his throat and bared his own razor sharp teeth as he rasped out, “You, Klaus Mikaelson, dare to ambush us—”

Rebekah rolled her eyes. “Oh, please. They’re not here to ambush you. They’re here for the celebration.” She plucked at her shining sequin-covered red gown, “We thought you’d like to join us since you were here in America and asked to see us. My brothers mentioned how eager they were for us all to meet and do some catching up. We’ve plenty of food and drink for everyone. Even you with your limited diet.”

She swiftly turned on her five-inch heels and spoke to those assembled around them. “Oh, good. Nearly everyone is here. We can start soon.” She turned back to her brother holding the pale so-called king against the wall. “Nik, do finish with him one way or the other. We’ve a party to get started, a new family member to officially welcome, and wishes to make. I’ve mine ready to go.”

“Right you are, Rebekah.” Klaus lowered the sneering Caius so that his feet came in contact with the tiled floor again. He maintained his grip on his throat and raised one finger to hold in front of his face. “Should I ever find the witch, or the last of those of her line, who conjured you poor imitations of vampires …” His words faded out.

Klaus released Caius with a snarl, spun around, and strode away. He raised both his arms to catch the attention of everyone gathered in the courtyard. “A brief bit of history, my friends. For those of you who don’t know, these wretched facsimiles,” he gestured grandly toward the frightened group, “are the disastrous result of a witch’s spell. She, or he, was attempting to turn true vampires back into humans. It was an experiment that went horribly wrong.” Klaus quickly paced from one end of the enclosed space to the other, his hands clasped behind his back. “They’ve told their own people they’ve been on this earth for thousands of years, but we know this is not true as I and my siblings are the original vampires. There were none before us.” He stopped and turned to face the Volturi across the wide open space. “Those three have set themselves up as the kings of their race. Their own people believe these lies. I and my brothers and sister have chosen to allow them their inconsequential attempts at rule and their playing fast and loose with their historical significance.” He smiled and raised one eyebrow. “For now.”

He paced slowly toward them, Caius having rejoined the small, outnumbered group, and stopped several feet in front of them. “Their kind continues walking this earth simply because we allow it.”

“Perhaps we should get to the point of their visit,” Elijah suggested, as he adjusted his shirt cuffs.

Aro glanced quickly at each of his co-rulers and then brushed his long black hair over his shoulders in a show of nerves. “Wouldn’t it better suit if we spoke of this in private?”

“Oh, no. Do go on and tell us.” Rebekah cocked one hip to the side and crossed her arms. “The food and the blood is getting cold.”

Trailing his fingertips across his own brow, Aro cleared his throat. “You know of our greatest law?”

“Yes, yes. Humans who learn of your existence must be turned or killed.” Elijah sounded bored. “A rule you adopted from us and follow rather haphazardly. Please continue.”

“Erm, yes. Of course.” Aro’s hand next went to the large, golden, ruby-encrusted V pendant on his chest. “One of our covens—their leader a dear friend of mine—befriended a human girl a short few years ago. They insisted they would grant her the gift of immortality, but she has disappeared and they are unable to find her. They fear for her safety.”

Rebekah couldn’t contain an exaggerated sigh of exasperation. “And this is our problem how? You’re faster and stronger than a human, and you never sleep. How did this pitiable excuse for a coven lose her?”

Narrowing his eyes in suspicion, Elijah pointed at the Volturi leader and then slowly brought his finger up and touched his own bottom lip. “Yessss. How is your loss of one human girl our problem?” He raised his head and looked down his nose at the three of them. “Unless …”

Klaus’ eyes took on a wicked gleam. “Unless there is something special about this wayward waif? Other than she knows the secret and she hasn’t the required skills to be one of your receptionists or tailors.” He chuckled. “She’s certainly not the only human to learn of it and remain among the living is she?”

All the Volturi but Marcus looked guiltily at each other.

“So what difference would it make?” Rebekah had a puzzled frown. “Is she an heiress? A child of some government official? That’s not it.” She huffed loudly, closely examining their reluctant guests’ faces. “She’s a supernatural being, isn’t she? She has some sort of power you want.” Rebekah began to grow angry. “You want her so you can use her! Well, I will not allow it!” Turning to her brothers, she grabbed their arms. “Niklaus, Elijah, we must protect this girl from these … these vampire wanna-bes.”

“Rebekah.” Klaus patted her hand. “Not to worry. The girl must be very special indeed, and must have great power for them to seek an audience with us and request our assistance.”

“Fear not, Rebekah,” Elijah said to comfort her. “Gentlemen, you’ve not refuted what my dear sister has said. I believe there must be more to the story. It’s more than just the girl has some sort of ability you wish to make use of. We would like to know why you came to us specifically. Please enlighten us.”

When Caius growled again, Aro caught his arm and held tightly. “She … is the claimed mate of one in the coven I spoke of earlier. They … they, uh, had a small spat and she left him.”

“You are so tongue-tied, Aro, this leads me to think it was more than a mere lover’s quarrel between the two.” Klaus batted his eyes and bounced up on his toes. “And if she is his mate as you claim, why did he not turn her? You know how vulnerable humans can be when they associate with your kind.”

Caius yanked his arm from Aro’s hold and his face further twisted the ever-present sneer. “After a promise to wed him, she abandoned him at the alter this June past! Such insult will not be excused.”

Mouth dropping open in surprise, Rebekah gasped out, “So what you’re saying is she, a mere human, fled the creatures, and you haven’t been able to find her for four months?”

Stepping in front of the still-snarling Caius, Aro raised his hands in what he hoped was a placating gesture. “She has been most resourceful, I must admit.” He glanced warily around the large area. “Our captain of the guard—”

“You mean the relentless bloodhound—Demetri,” Elijah interjected calmly.

“Er, yes,” Aro tittered nervously. “Our best tracker—he has been unable to locate her.” He swallowed and quickly continued. “We did manage to trace her to several rural towns throughout the country—always arriving within a day or two after she had left. On one occasion, her bereft fiancé thought he had found her through her credit card use, but it was simply a false lead. She’d lost the card.”

“Ditched it, you mean,” Rebekah grumbled. “Smart girl.”

“In any case,” Aro gave Rebekah a slight bow. “We thought we had caught up with her in a small town in Virginia. We were surprised to find the place populated with many … members of your race.”

“And that’s when you decided to ask us for assistance!” Klaus fairly beamed with good humor. He sidled up to Aro and whispered, “Or when you three kings finally realized you were in over your heads.”

He chucked Caius under his chin despite the pale blond’s threatening stance. “Cheer up, old boy. I think we may have an answer to the mystery of the run-away bride, but we will get to that shortly. I hear the pitter-patter of tiny feet and that can only mean it’s time to begin the festivities.” He dashed to the foot of the stairs. “Do I hear my precious daughter and her lovely mother?”

At the head of the stairs, stood a smiling, wobbling toddler dressed in red velvet and white tights, held securely by her brunette mother, who wore a clinging black gown. She reached outward, making grabbing motions with her tiny fist. “Da!”

“Merry Christmas, my princess!” Klaus raced up the stairs and scooped her up into his arms, while the crowd beneath them chorused, “Merry Christmas, Hope!”

“Hayley,” the delighted father whispered. “I barely recognized you without your combat boots.”

“I could go put them on if you’d rather,” she said with a smirk and shifting just enough so her long leg was revealed by the slit in the skirt.

“No, no, little wolf. You’ve done your daughter proud.”

Just then, Hope squealed happily and bounced in her father’s arms. She grabbed the edge of his vest and giggled. “Da! Red!”

“Yes, my brilliant child.” Klaus nuzzled her cheek and spoke softly to her. “Daddy had his vest made specially to match your beautiful dress.” He kissed her dimpled cheeks and handed her to Hayley. “Go say hello to your Aunt Rebekah and Uncle Elijah. We must bring out and introduce your new aunt to all of our friends and family!”

Watching them gracefully descend the stairs with an indulgent smile on his face, Klaus’ eyes flicked to the somberly dressed, and worried looking, Volterrans. He was pleased to see his vampires and wolves had moved to surround them more closely, as the wait staff began circulating with silver trays filled with flutes of champagne. Two female servers bore golden trays of opaque black wine glasses and stopped in front of Aro and his entourage.

Aro’s eyes widened comically and snapped up to Klaus, who gestured with one finger for them to help themselves, while Rebekah had sent one of the staff to bring a tray of champagne to him.

After taking his glass, Klaus loudly cleared his throat. “Might I have your attention? Honored guests, I’d like to welcome you all to our home during this most festive of seasons. We have much to celebrate—not the least of which are our family and friends. We’ve decided to share with you a custom from my youth. Bonfire night. You write your wishes for your loved ones on a slip of paper and place it in the fire and burn them for luck. Our staff has paper and pens for your use. Marcel?”

Taking his cue, Klaus’ right hand man directed two vampires and two werewolves to carry in and place a four-foot wide, footed, hammered copper bowl in the center of the courtyard. Inside it was a teepee of logs. After it was set down, Marcel took a long wooden match from his pocket. With a flick of his thumb it was lit, and he tossed it into the bowl. Bright yellow and blue flames burst into existence and soon the wood itself began to catch.

Raising his voice above the soft exclamations of the crowd, Klaus gained everyone’s attention again. “But before we make our wishes, I want to introduce to you the newest member of our family.” He turned and extended his hand.

A pale arm appeared from the shadows behind him and a woman dressed in a form-fitting satin gown stepped forward and took his hand. The midnight blue enhanced the silken cream of her bare shoulders and brought out the deep red tones in the waving curls of her rich brown hair.

“You are a vision.” Klaus brought her fingers to his lips. In a low tone meant only for her ears, he said, “Remember, none here will harm you. You are a Mikaelson. Hold your head high.” When she raised her head and smiled at him, he turned back to those gathered. “Allow me the great honor of introducing to you to the woman who graciously consented to be my bride—Isabella Swan.”

Aro’s shocked gasp and Caius’ hateful snarl were quickly drowned out by cheers, clapping, loud whistles, and strong hands clamping down on their arms.

“What is this treachery?” Caius shouted and tried to wrench his arms away. “That is the girl!” He struggled to break free, but more hands gripped him. “You’ve had her this entire time! You knew she was the one we were searching for and—”

“Caius!” Aro leaned as close to him as he could and glared heatedly at him. “Cease your outbursts. Do you not see that we are at a bit of a disadvantage?” Aro let out a slow breath. “Let us speak calmly and rationally. You slavering like a rabid beast will not garner us even the tiniest of courtesies.”

“So unbecoming of a man of your age.” Rebekah took a sip of her champagne. “You’ve spilled your blood and broken the glass we had made with you in mind. That was very rude.”

“Courtesies? Courtesies!?!” With his bulging black eyes and venom leaking down his chin, Caius resembled the beast Aro compared him to.

Elijah appeared before Caius and gripped his chin. “You will be quiet and discontinue your attempts to escape or we will have no choice but to disassemble you. I hear it is very painful.” He snatched his hand from Caius’ face, retrieved the red silk handkerchief from his breast pocket and proceeded to clean his hands.

As sedately as a king with his queen, Klaus and Isabella made their way down the stairs, and their guests parted as if it had been previously choreographed to allow them through.

“Isabella Swan?” Aro asked in a high, weak tone. “She is to be your wife? But, she was claimed. She was to be married. She and her new husband were to join—” He snapped his mouth shut and tried to back away, but he was held by too many hands to move.

“Ah! As I suspected after hearing Isabella’s story.” Klaus kissed the back of her hand and wrapped it around the crook in his elbow. “Claimed you say? You, nor anyone else, has no such claim.” He smiled down at Isabella and nodded. “Isabella is her own.”

She held up her right arm and her lips curled in a smirk. “As you can see, the scar is gone.”

“But, how—?” It didn’t seem possible, but Aro’s eyes grew even bigger.

“Our blood heals, while your … ichor … causes torment.” Klaus shrugged and smiled brightly.

Isabella brushed her hair back over her shoulder. “A naïve girl gave all her love to a beautiful boy, but it was never really returned. He was only obsessed with her blood and the fact he couldn’t read her mind. He and his pseudo father saw great potential in me, but the boy—Edward—was too afraid to bite me himself and introduce a little venom into my system. He thought he would drain me. Through some unfortunate events, I was bitten by another vampire. Edward used that as his chance to get his own venom into me. He knew he wouldn’t kill me with four other vampires there to pull him off.”

She squeezed Klaus’ arm and leaned into his shoulder. “Edward couldn’t read my mind, but he was able to compel me. He was doing it practically the whole time I knew him.” She drew in a deep breath. “One of the others finally figured out Edward and his sister were up to something and managed to break the compulsion. It took a few days, but he helped me escape.” She rolled her eyes. “As I was about to walk down the aisle for that bullshit wedding.”

“She ended up in the finest establishment in Mystic Falls!” Called a voice from the back of the crowd.

“The only such establishment in Mystic Falls,” Klaus chuckled. “Damon, do join us.”

A man with inky black hair and ice-blue eyes wove his way through the spell-bound throng. “Which makes it the finest—as I am a frequent customer. Klaus, I love what you’ve done to the place!”

“All Rebekah’s doing.”

Isabella grabbed his hand and pulled him closer. He smiled down at her and kissed her cheek.

“Everyone knows I can’t resist a damsel in distress. Of course, she told me she was on the run. No one can resist my rakish good looks!”

Isabella laughed and returned his kiss. “You’re such a jerk!”

“That’s why you love me.” Damon turned back to the captive audience. “I knew she was something special the minute I laid eyes on her. And I must say that shade of blue is your color. The only thing your ex ever got right.”

He gave her a wink. “My friend Bonnie happened to be having lunch with her friends at the time and was drawn to her. She felt her power but told me she didn’t think Bella was a witch. When Bonnie convinced her to have lunch with them, I called my ol’ buddy, Klaus.”

Klaus reached across Isabella to grip their joined hands. “For which I shall be forever grateful.”

“That’s right. You owe me one, pal.”

That’s why you allowed that human to leave Volterra alive!” Caius hissed at Aro. “You were plotting against us—Marcus and I! To take all the power for yourself!”

A young woman broke through the crowd, walked right up to Aro, and took hold of his hand.  Her pretty face twisted in a grimace and a groan escaped her.

Klaus grinned even more broadly. “Bonnie Bennett! So good of you to come.”

After several long moments, she jerked her hand away and clutched at her head. “So many memories, but I got what I needed.” She glowered at Aro and turned to Bella and Klaus. “He read their minds and knew about your power even though he couldn’t read your mind, Bella. He thought you were like a magical object—a living talisman. He saw how Edward and Alice used their powers to speak to each other. He offered to let you and the whole coven live if Alice and Edward promised to bring you to him later. When Alice said ‘the date has been set,’ that was when they agreed to his terms. He was going to imprison you in some tower and use you to overthrow his brothers. Then he was going to come after the Originals.”

“The plot thickens,” Elijah murmured.

“No! No!” Aro lunged frantically against the hands holding him, but they shoved him to the floor. “She lies! I would never conspire against—”

With a roar, Caius very nearly slipped from his captors.

Elijah bounded forward and struck, taking off his head. “You were warned.”

“Klaus!” Isabella gasped. “In front of the baby?”

“Don’t worry, my heart. Hope is already safely away,” Klaus assured her. “On Christmas day, we will have a more intimate family gathering and set another bonfire for her to make her wishes.”

Growling, Aro jerked impotently against the restraining hands. “You shall not have her! A claim was made! She has been promised to me! Jane!”

“I cannot, Master,” the little blonde vampire choked out through the fingers around her cracking neck.

“Something is preventing—” her brother said with a cough as hands tightened around his throat.

“My daughter Hope is a brilliant star that brought light to the darkness of my world. Isabella is the sun that shines brightly and warms, and protects, us all.” Klaus grasped Isabella’s hand and a smirk curved his mouth. “She also happens to be the last remaining descendent of the witch that created you.”

“How did you—?” Aro managed to get out before someone’s hand slapped down over his mouth.

“You thought you would take her to ensure the spell that created you was never undone. My beautiful Isabella is not a witch, but she does harbor quite a bit of power. She is very much like a living talisman whose power can only be used at her discretion.” Klaus kissed her again. “And I refute your deceitful and underhanded claims. No one claims Isabella for she has made claim to us!” He paused for a breath. “Well, I think we’ve had enough of this drama.”

Klaus kissed Isabella’s hand once more and then clapped his together. He turned toward the last Volturi king who remained upright. “Marcus, you understand Aro, and the two little ones there, have forfeited their lives. Since you have not been implicated in this grand conspiracy against me or my family, and your guards, Felix and Demetri, have been so well behaved, you are free to go. You may choose whether to take the snarly rude one with you. Or you could all stay and join in the festivities.”

“Yuletide friendships could be most beneficial,” Rebekah urged coyly and batted her lashes.

Elijah nodded at his sister. “I concur.”

Slowly, Marcus’ dark scrutiny tracked across his two guardsmen behind him and then down to Caius’ bodiless head that appeared to be shouting. Aro and his twin vampire weapons were screaming against the hands pressed over their mouths.

Marcus blew out a disdainful breath when looking at them and then met Klaus’ eyes. “I should like to keep Caius. Although his anger sometimes overtakes him, he has a keen, analytical mind. Now his life is mine.” Hands released him and he glanced over his shoulder at his two guards. “I think we would like to stay and partake of your hospitality.”

Klaus bounced up on his toes again. “Ah, ha! Wish granted. We have much to discuss later. Now, my Isabella. Are you ready to make your wishes?”

“More than ready.” Her dark brown eyes glittered. “Damon, did you bring the wishes?”

“Yes, ma’am! I sure did!” He raised his arm and snapped his fingers.

“Oh!” Bella practically squealed. “You brought the whole gang! I didn’t even know they were here!”

“Our Christmas presents to you, Bella.” Damon grabbed his brother Stefan and hauled him forward. “C’mon, guys!”

“Bella, good to see you again.” Stefan handed her a set of keys.

“It’s good to see you, too, but what’s this?” she asked, puzzled, holding the keys up in front of her face.

Damon clapped each of the three young men on their backs. “Matt, Jeremy, and Steffy worked double and triple-time to have your truck ready. It’s a lovely shade of Christmas red, too. Picked it out myself. It’s parked outside.”

“No way!” She leapt at them, throwing her arms around all three and squeezing them. “Thanks! My dad gave me that truck. I never thought I’d see it again. I love you guys!”

“Take it easy, Bells. You’re gonna crush us!” Jeremy laughed, patting her back.

“No problem, Bella.” Matt pried her arm from around his neck. “We were happy to do it.”

“Ahem!” came a loud, high-pitched throat clearing from behind them.

“Caroline and Elena!” Bella started toward them and jerked to a stop when she saw what they were holding.

Posing like they were being photographed for the holiday issue of Bon Appetit magazine, Caroline and Elena each held a large, high-domed covered dish.

“Is that—?” Bella asked in a breathy voice, her fingers at her mouth.

Both girls nodded enthusiastically.

“Where’s the rest of them?” Bella shook her head. “I don’t mean … um, I mean where’s the rest of the family?”

“Cooling their heels until you decide whether they should join us or not.” Klaus stepped up to Bella and rested his hand at the small of her back. “Now, Isabella. Are you ready to make your wishes?”

“One for me and one for you, Klaus.” Bella searched his eyes. “Though I think I’ve gotten everything I could have ever wished for.”

“As have I.”

They gazed deeply into each other’s eyes and shared a brief kiss.

“Um, Klaus, I hate to break up your special moment and all,” Bonnie began, “but I think you’d like to know the little black-haired one had a vision of you and Bella together soon after Damon called you.” She pressed her lips together and tsked. “She saw it but she kept insisting Bella was meant for Edward, even after we caught them.”

“Is that so?” His eyes flashed yellow and his canines elongated. His head snapped toward Elena and Caroline. “Ladies?”

“Ta-dah!” they sang in chorus as they whipped the lids from the gleaming trays and raised up their offerings for all to behold.

Gasps of shock, chuckles, and outright laughter rippled through the party-goers.

“Come, my heart.” Klaus put his arm around Bella and they approached the girls.

Bella let out a little cough. “The glittery apples in their mouths are a nice touch.”

“My idea.” Caroline grinned proudly and wrinkled her nose. “I had to keep breaking their jaws so they wouldn’t bite through them. Elena put the little wreaths around their necks.”

“Christmas-y.” Bella nodded. “I like it.” She looked up at Klaus. “How about you take Alice’s head and I’ll take Edward’s?”

“You’ve read my mind, beloved. After you.”

Bella clenched a handful of Edward’s reddish hair and held it up at eye level. “I really don’t have anything left to say to you, Edward. You used and abused me. I wasn’t even a person to you—I was less than nothing. Just a human to control.” She sauntered toward the copper fire pit. “Oh, which I no longer am, by the way. I do have to thank you though. For refusing to turn me into one of you. If it hadn’t been for you, I wouldn’t have met who I really belong with.” She dangled his head over the crackling flames. “Another good thing out of all this is you won’t have to suffer any longer. No more hating yourself and what you are. That’s my gift to you. Good bye, Edward.” She opened her fingers and dropped his head.

Klaus was right beside her, Alice’s head held firmly by her short hair. His blue eyes flashed yellow again and he snarled in her face as her eyes blinked frenziedly. “I only regret I didn’t have the pleasure of dissecting you with my own hands.”

His fingers spread, and he caught her with both hands before she reached the flames. He squeezed, sending cracks through her crystalline face. “I can see into your mind,” he hissed, “and all I see is the black Hell you deserve.” He let go.

Turning his back to the roaring purple flames, he raised his arms. “Marcel, my good man, thank you for retrieving the rest of the Cullens. Come forward, Cullens, Don’t be afraid. Isabella?”

She sighed as she looked them all over. “They can stay.”

“How marvelous!” Klaus exclaimed. “You can celebrate with us as we rid ourselves of the former king and his twin toadies. Carlisle, right?” Klaus wrapped his arm snuggly around the coven leader’s shoulders and walked him to where Aro was being held down on the floor.

“Carlisle, here is your old friend and former king, Aro. Pay your respects quickly as he’s about to be permanently deposed. It’s very like that Christian hymn about the three kings bearing gifts is it not? Such gifts we have received!” Klaus slapped him on the back and turned to his guests. “Wolves, my gift to you.” He pointed at Aro, Jane, and Alec. “Rend them to pieces, but mind the venom!”

To a discordant symphony of shrieks, growls, snarls, and the screech of tearing metal, Klaus returned to Isabella. “Beloved, which Cullen was it that assisted you in breaking the compulsion?”

“Jasper.” She went to him and took hold of his hand. “He made me feel so pissed off I wanted to kill somebody. That’s when Edward’s control broke.”

“Come, Jasper. I owe you a debt for helping break free the woman who ended up stealing my heart. I hope you’re not too upset about the little seer?”

“Not after what she and Edward did to Bella, no. I’m more mad at myself for not realizing it sooner.”

“Don’t be angry at yourself, Jasper,” Klaus gripped his upper arm and pulled Bella back to his side. “It all worked out in the end. You have a place with me if you should wish it. I might even be able to persuade a certain Bennett witch to concoct a special daylight ring just for you.” Klaus raised his eyebrows as he studied Jasper’s stunned face. “No rush, mate. You think on it and get back to me.”

He patted Jasper’s shoulder and then raised his arms. “Everyone! Retrieve a glass of your preferred beverage and raise it high.”

He had to nearly shout over the howls and whoops from the wolves who were throwing sparkling bits, pieces, and dust into the fire pit bowl, causing the flames to leap ever higher.

Bella handed him a fresh flute of champagne and sipped from her own. “So Klaus, the king is dead.”

“Long live my queen,” he replied, nuzzling her cheek. He held her to his side and lifted his glass. “To family and friends, and my Isabella!”

“To Isabella!” they all cheered in return.


~o~ the end ~o~


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