“Master, we believe they are all gone.”
Jane’s sweetly high-pitched words reverberated harshly through Aro’s mind. With each resounding echo, his jaw clenched tighter. The hand in which he held the small cell phone began to tremble while the other went to the burgeoning hollow ache in his chest.
He denied the words’ very meaning. The Cullens … Carlisle … could not be gone. There was some error. Jane, Felix, Alec, and Demetri had made some terrible mistake.
Though he knew his most trusted guardsmen would not have dared to speak such blasphemy if there was any chance it was not true, his vast mind refused to accept it.
Yet he knew they would not lie to their king. He knew it like he knew his own name.
As he knew the thoughts and dreams of every creature—human or vampire—he had ever touched.
He knew it, but he could not help but ask through the small device still clutched in his hand, “Are … are you certain?”
“Yes, Master,” Jane’s sorrowful voice replied. “Before informing you, we visited four of their homes in North America while we attempted to make contact through their various phone numbers. At Demetri’s urgings, we returned to their property in Forks, Washington and split up to thoroughly search the remains of the house and their territory. We came upon some very unusual and unpleasant odors interspersed throughout the rubble of the house and the forest that were unfamiliar to us all. Demetri—”
“Jane.” Aro’s normally sure tone quavered. “Is Demetri able …?”
Demetri’s low, subdued voice replaced Jane’s. “Master, I sincerely regret that I am unable to locate Carlisle.”
Aro gasped and the tiny phone slipped from his fingers and shattered on the travertine tiles at his feet. Caius’ and Marcus’ heads jerked up in shock from the ancient parchments spread across the wide table before them.
Marcus blanched at the sheer misery carving deep furrows in his brother’s face.
Greatly disturbed by the utter impossibility of Aro losing his grasp on anything, Caius glanced worriedly to Marcus and back to Aro. “Brother, what news?”
“I … I,” Aro stammered, taking one unsteady step toward them. His fingers curled sluggishly as he brought his trembling fists up to press into his chest. “I require your assistance.”
The two that had reigned by his side for millennia did not forsake him. Caius was at his side immediately. Marcus stood and slid a heavy chair from beneath the table, while sweeping scrolls and worn leather-bound tomes to the side.
The blond king placed a stabilizing hand at Aro’s elbow, as his other brought his own phone to his ear to contact Demetri and hear the report.
Between giving their guard at the ravaged scene their initial orders, and calling for further guardsmen in the castle to muster in the adjoining throne room, Caius informed Marcus of the grievous news and guided the unresponsive Aro to his waiting hands.
Marcus took the eerily silent Aro by the arm and gently urged him to sit in the leather-upholstered chair. “Aro, my brother, we will uncover who has committed this heinous act.”
“And it shall be avenged.” Caius’ quiet oath rang out as he swept from the room to speak to the Volturi’s most trusted sentry.