I woke beside my sister when the flames finally ebbed, my mind working faster than my body, but not by much. I struggled to see through the fog of my mind, to remember how it was I came to be saved, Jane and I both, but I could not.
My sister’s urgent whisper brought my focus clear, but only for a second. My eyes were taking in everything, a catalogue of details. The stone floor, the scents, how far exactly I was from the other threats in the room, my sister’s velvety smooth skin, how odd, was she ok, was this heaven, why did heaven smell so delicious, why was I in heaven at all, how did we get off the stakes, each speck of dust in the light from the solitary window, who is this man staring at me, why are his eyes red, why are everyone’s eyes red, where are Jane and I, who are these people, was there another stake waiting for us, were we in even more trouble now than before, —
His loud chuckle, elated, brought my focus again to a singular point.
"Dear children, you are quite the curious kittens."
My head snapped in his direction, my sister planted firmly behind me as two men advanced a fraction of a millimeter toward us, one closest to me, the other’s attentions directed at Jane.
I reacted immediately, as did Jane, in two very different fashions. The taller, gentle afforded man’s eye went blank, his smile breathtaking.
"Oh my! How incredible…I can’t see a thing. Hear a thing! Am I speaking? Caius! You must come here the children are doing something remarkable! Can you hear me brother?"
But Caius, who I presumed had been the other man to make a move toward us, most certainly could not. Or if he could, his attentions were otherwise averted. The blond man, beautiful to the naked eye, was curled backward on the floor, a silent scream of pain etched into his perfect features.
I wondered, why was he like that? My concentration then moved to him, and his face calmed, his expression not pained, but blank. Terrified.
"Oh, dear. Child?" The darker haired man stepped toward me. "Please, release him from this hold you have. He is my brother, Caius, and no threat to you. I am Aro. I have saved you."
I stared at the darked haired man I now labeled Aro.
"Saved us?" I asked, curious. My face must have shown my surprise, for my voice was softer, music to my ears.
He simply nodded.
"Yes Alec. I am Aro. You are in Italy. I’ve changed you into something…spectacular."
My sister’s tiny hands rested on my shoulders, and she peeked out from behind me. She looked… perfect. Small but strong, her eyes a startling shade of crimson.
She smiled, a terrifyingly clear smile of hatred.
"Tell us what you’ve done to us." Her voice was strong and clear, ringing out like bells on Sunday.
He nodded again, his brilliant smile as genuine as I had ever seen.
"I’ve changed you, Jane. Come. There is no one to fear here, certainly, and I have much to teach you."