At first, all Bella could see was red. It wasn’t just the red of the cloaks the people of Volterra were wearing. That certainly accounted for the swaths of red that flowed across her vision, moving fluidly as people walked around and celebrated in the streets. No, what Bella saw was pure—red. It was anger, plain and simple. And anger was red.
She had never thought of emotions in color before. In the months that had preceded her spontaneous trip to Italy, the world had darkened and become gray, but Bella hadn’t realized it. Although her world had become sapped of color, the tones of her life dulling into browns and grays and charcoals, she had been too wrapped up in her self-pity to realize.
In fact, she didn’t realize her world had become colorless until this overwhelming surging red overtook her as she stood at the edge of the square of Volterra.
She knew what she had to do. Alice had told her.
Edward believed that Bella had died, and so had requested death from the Volturi kings. Being denied, he planned to force their hands by revealing himself to the hoards of red-cloaked people here in the small city of Volterra. According to Alice, only seeing Bella alive and well would stop such a rash and suicidal action.
Only Bella had the power of his life and death in her fragile human hand.
But she stood there, uncertain, hovering, her vision filled with red anger.
Why must she save Edward? Why must she care about him when he left her crying and begging on the floor of a freezing forest? He had told her she had meant nothing to him, that he didn’t love her. Now he loved her so much he wanted to die if she were no longer in the world? It all seemed so nonsensical to Bella. Was he lying then in the forest when he sucked the life from her heart, his hands stained metaphorically red with her lifeforce? Or was he lying now and using her supposed death as a pretext? Was he lying all along? Had he ever spoken a true word in his century-old life?
Red cloaks flitted across her vision, stoking Bella’s anger even further.
These people were celebrating the defeat of vampires in the world. They were all dancing and chattering and smiling in the shadow of the greatest vampire threat in the world—the Volturi kings. Edward, if Alice was to be believed, was on the other edge of the square, ready to blow their worlds apart, just by stepping into the light.
Edward, when he had left her there in the cold, had promised Bella that she would never see or hear from him again—and yet she must clean up his mess? Why must she be the savior of the entire city when all she wanted was anonymity and obscurity?
Everything Bella saw was tinged with red and she choked on it. She could feel it clawing at her throat and she could barely breathe. It pressed on her chest. Somehow, Bella wasn’t certain how she was breathing. Her world sped inward, twirling around her like red-black flashes, and she curled in on herself until a scream broke out somewhere on the other side of the square.
The clock was striking twelve noon.
A glimmer of shimmering diamonds caught her eyes and through the scattering red cloaks, she saw the diamond skin of Edward on the far end of the square for the briefest of moments before he disappeared again.
Taking an abortive step forward, she was uncertain what to do. Should she go to him? Should she rush through the crowd of red cloaks and find Edward, now that he had done the unforgivable and revealed the existence of vampires to a crowd of humans?
She hovered there for a moment, not taking a second step, and took a deep breath—
At first Bella thought she had fainted. The world went black and she was shoved backward into the darkness. Bella was suspended in motion and her breath was knocked out of her. Her back connected with something hard and then she realized she was being lifted and shoved into a small space. The sound of a car door shutting filled her ears and she realized she was in the trunk of a car with a bag over her head.
She barely had time to grasp the situation when the car she was in began to move and screeched forward, and her body was flung forward with the motion in the small confines of the trunk.
Bella realized, in the haze of pushing the bag off her head, that she had been kidnapped and she had been too wrapped up in Edward to realize she had been in any danger.
Being a cop’s daughter, Bella knew how to look for weak points in a car. The trunk did not open from the inside and the seats did not fold forward. Instead of wasting her energy by banging on the top of the trunk, she lay in the darkness and listened to the sound of the car along the road. They were going fifty, sixty miles per hour, and they were certainly on the highway as the ride was smooth and there were no curves or stops.
At some point, Bella lost all track of time, and her anxiety exhausted her into a restless sleep.
She awoke to the car trunk being opened and her eyes popped open to see the night sky and the rough face of a man with dark skin and a full beard. “Out,” he shouted, but Bella just lay there, staring up at him. “Out,” he commanded again, reaching out and grabbing at Bella’s long hair. His breath washed over her, smelling distinctly of garlic and marinara sauce.
Squinting in pain, Bella grabbed at his hands, but the man pulled her up until she was almost resting on her knees, her fingers still clawing at his hands.
“Out,” he commanded again, squeezing the strands of hair harder before shoving her away.
Anger flitted through Bella, the familiar red, but then the darkness of the night shifted with the man’s movement, and all she felt was fear.
Bella fell against the edge of the trunk, but quickly climbed out of the car. Her legs felt weak and she thought they would give out on her, but after a moment she stood tall in the nighttime darkness, and looked up at her captor.
He was steadily looking back at her.
His large hands shoved their way into her hair again, pushing it away from her face, and Bella felt a shiver of disgust run through her. If the man noticed, he didn’t comment. Instead he grabbed her by the chin and looked into her eyes.
“Not blue,” he muttered to himself before forcing his thumb between Bella’s lips and inspecting her teeth.
Bella began to shake and told herself not to bite the man. Angering him would only jeopardize her safety. The man’s hands were rough and large, and she felt he wouldn’t have any qualms roughing her up. He might not hit her face, he seemed to be preoccupied with her physical beauty—but her arms? her legs? her torso? That could be hidden.
When he was finished with her teeth, his hands ran over her thin shoulders and then cupped her breasts, massaging them, and she shrank away from them. It only caused him to laugh and squeeze them a little before his hands sank to her hips.
Bella took a shaky breath, as her mind began to grasp what was happening. “Bleed?”
“Bleed,” he answered, accent thick. “You bleed?”
She opened her mouth to say—something. She didn’t know if she meant to answer him, but Bella found she had no voice. She snapped her mouth shut, her teeth clicking together, and she shut her eyes in humiliation before she nodded.
The man took her by the hips again and looked at her face for several long moments, but Bella couldn’t meet his eyes. “Americano?” he asked.
Her breath escaped her lungs in a ragged exhale and tears began to swell beneath her eyelids. “My father can pay,” she told the man carefully.
At first, she thought her captor hadn’t understood, but then his hands slid over to her backside and patted it. “No pay,” he told her. “Very special client.” He patted her again and his garlicky breath washed near her ear.
For a moment, Bella thought this horrible man was going to kiss her, but he only leaned in to smell her hair before leaning away again. Bella quaked in fear, feeling her legs visibly shake, but she tried to keep the rest of her body still. She didn’t want to show her captor that she was afraid of him. She had to be strong. She had to keep her wits about her until she could escape. She had to stay alive until Charlie could find her—
–except Charlie didn’t know where she was. Bella had left him a vague note, taken her passport, and followed Alice to Italy.
Alice didn’t even know where she was. Would Alice’s visions extend this far? Would they include Bella when Bella was no longer tied to Edward? It was at least six—eight—hours since Edward had stepped into the sunlight in the center of Volterra, circled in red dancing cloaks. He had certainly been executed by now for breaking Vampire Law. There was nothing, now, to connect Bella to the Cullen Family. Moreover, Bella had been less than useful. She hadn’t even tried to save Edward. She had just stood at the edge of the crowd and seen—
Red. Around the man’s neck was some sort of red medallion with a symbol on it that Bella couldn’t quite make out.
She swallowed convulsively, and she noticed the man’s dark eyes drifted to her throat.
His hands drifted up from her backside, one resting on her hip, and the other skirting the side of her arm before it hovered over her throat. Then his dark eyes looked into her frightened gaze. “Americano?” he asked again, his voice slightly more dangerous than before.
Bella swallowed again nervously and, glancing down, being unable to hold his gaze a moment longer, she nodded.
His thumb came to rest on her throat, a threat.
“Yes,” she whispered. “I’m American.”
His thumb stroked her throat once, then retreated.
She glanced up at this man and saw he was nodding and smiling to himself.
“Bene, bene,” he murmured, as if to himself.
Then his hands were in her hair again, stroking it away from her face into a semblance of neatness. “Virgin?” His voice was casual, as if he expected a certain answer from her, and Bella’s stomach dropped.
If she had any doubts that she was going to be trafficked for sex, now she knew for certain. This man meant to sell her to his ‘special client’ for her young pretty face and her virginity.
Before she could think about it, she tried to dash away to her left, away from the road, but he just reached out and grabbed her, hauling her back until she was pushed up against the car. His dark eyes flashed in red anger and his body was shoved against hers, one hand at her throat and another pressed warningly on her hip. “Stupid,” he told her, and then he spit on the ground mere inches from Bella’s left foot.
Bella was frozen with fear, pressed against the car, feeling his slow heartbeat against her own in the parody of a lover’s embrace.
Slowly, the man looked at her once more. “Virgin,” he stated, as if he knew that was the answer. Then he stared at her.
Her eyes, Bella knew, were wide with fear, but she couldn’t—wouldn’t—couldn’t answer him.
He nodded once and squeezed Bella’s hip tightly before manhandling her back toward the trunk of the car, that he had left open. Bella struggled, but the man was too strong for her, and he lifted her completely off the ground before slamming her into the trunk, knocking the wind out of her.
She didn’t even realize he was no longer above her, the trunk open, until he reappeared with lengths of rope and began to tie her wrists and ankles. She was fighting by the time he was finished, but the man only chuckled. Then he slammed the trunk closed over her and Bella was met with darkness again.
Bella banged her shoulder up against the trunk for good measure once, maybe three times, but the car only pulled back out onto the highway, and she turned quiet, reserving her strength. At least he hadn’t put a bag back over her head or muffled her in any way.
The trunk smelled of old sweat and seawater, and Bella wondered if that’s where they were headed—back toward the sea. Surely it would be easier to smuggle Bella out over by land, but the water would be the next best option. Airports, even private ones, were well guarded and patrolled… unless security was paid to look the other way.
As the night stretched on, the movement of the car lulling Bella into sleep, Bella lost all track of time. She wasn’t even aware she had fallen into a light doze, until the bright light of morning met her eyes and the man, who was now outlined by the morning sun, was standing above her.
“Out,” he demanded as he reached for her hair with his thick fingers with chipped nails.
Bella shrank away from him in fear, the murmurings of a nightmare still somewhere in her mind, but the man only grabbed her fast and pulled her up. Bella grasped at the edge of the car with her bound hands, trying to pull herself up, but her hands were numb from lack of blood flow and she couldn’t get traction with her frozen fingers.
The man, if he noticed, only grumbled to himself, before picking Bella up and depositing her on the ground next to the car.
Bella looked out past him and saw that they were now in the mountains, and the valleys of Italy stretched out below them. They also seemed to be at a grubby gas station.
The man hauled her toward a greasy door and shoved her into a room with a sink, a broken toilet, and no mirror. She looked around and wondered if he was giving her a bathroom break. Swallowing convulsively, Bella looked at him.
He was now holding out a box to her.
Bella carefully took it and noticed it was what appeared to be a hair dying kit, in Italian. It showed a smiling blonde haired woman with bleached blonde hair, even though she had olive Italian skin and dark eyes.
Looking up at the man, Bella asked him her question with her eyes.
He showed her his watch and then closed the door behind her.
Blonde hair. Blue eyes. It seemed like he wanted her—or his client wanted—a barbie. Sighing, Bella used the disgusting toilet and then opened the box, looking at the pictures in the instructions.
Unfortunately, Bella had a lot of hair, but the peroxide covered it all. She was careful not to get any on the cubit zirconium earrings she wore—they had been a birthday present from Edward, the only one he had allowed her to keep. He hadn’t been able to steal them back from her when she was lying on the forest floor because she had been wearing them at the time. Somehow, despite all he had done for her, she hadn’t been able to take them out even after all these months.
Bella didn’t have a timer, but she guessed half an hour before washing her hair out in the sink and Bella took in the length of her hair in her hands. Although her hair was wet, it was distinctly lighter. Her thumb traced over her left earring and she wondered if—now that Edward was dead—she should take out the earrings and toss them down the drain. For whatever reason, she found she couldn’t, and left them in.
Her stomach dropped. Fear, deep red and angry, filled her gut and she could feel tears well up at the corner of her eyes, but she forced herself not to cry. She would not show weakness to the man that had taken her.
Sure enough, within about two minutes of Bella composing herself, the door opened and her captor appeared. He took her in, probably noticing the discarded plastic gloves and bottle which held the hair dye in the sink, and nodded in what seemed to be approval. “Bene, bene,” he said, coming forward and taking her by the arm. He pulled her forward and out into the harsh light of the noonday sun.
Their car was still the only one there, and Bella didn’t even resist when he retied her wrists and put her in the trunk. There was nowhere that she could see where she could run.
Her hair smelled of bleach in the smallness of the trunk and it made her sick. She wasn’t able to fall back asleep, and the road seemed long and interminable. It must have been three, four hours before they stopped again, but this time they weren’t at a deserted gas station.
The sun was low to the ground, meaning it must be evening, and they were not entirely alone.
From higher up on the ridge, a jeep was driving through the crags. It was wind-beaten and open to the elements, obviously meant for combat. Bella had seen jeeps like this in the occasional military movie Charlie would put on when there wasn’t a game playing. There was a man behind the wheel, darker than the man who had grabbed her, a full beard on his face. There were other men in the vehicle, a man in the passenger seat, equally dark with black eyes, with a figure or two behind them in the backseat—holding assault weapons.
Bella swallowed convulsively in fear, and tried to make herself as small as possible on the ground next to her captor. She wasn’t the brave girl who had pursued Edward, trying to figure out if he was a superhero. She wasn’t the lovestruck girl who followed Edward out into the forests of Forks until she was left shivering on the forest floor among the pine needles. Instead, Bella was the shell of the girl he had left behind. The girl who curled in around herself at night because she felt like someone had reached into her chest and pulled out her heart. She was the girl who woke up screaming from nightmares because she knew, deep down in her chest, that Edward had never loved her—and no one ever would. She was the shell of the shy, introverted Bella Swan. Now she was only the husk of the body that remained.
The jeep continued to approach and Bella heard it pull up near them and the men get out. She should have expected it, but she was taken by surprise when her captor took her by the underarm and pulled her up so she was in a somewhat assisted standing position.
The driver, who was a man with swarthy skin and a thick dark beard, looked up and down once before saying something Bella could not understand.
He and her captor had a clipped conversation in—was that Russian? Bella couldn’t be sure. The new man—the driver—took her by the chin and forced her to look into his eyes before rapidly speaking to her captor again.
“Americano,” the captor told him quickly, as if to appease him. “Vergine.” Then, after a moment, as if he were trying to find the word, “Devstvennik.”
Bella was too afraid to look between the men, and when the driver let go of her chin, she dropped her eyes to the rocky ground.
They continued to talk in broken Italian and Russian until the driver, suddenly, asked Bella, “How old have you?”
At first, Bella didn’t realize he was speaking to her, but then, at the silence that followed his words, she looked up at him hesitantly. “What?” she murmured, scared.
The driver breathed out of his nose in annoyance. “How old have you?” His voice was firmer and his accent like a villain in a James Bond movie.
She swallowed once, wondering if she should lie. Should she make herself younger? Should she make herself too old?
Bella took too long because the driver backhanded her, causing Bella to lose her precarious footing and fall to the ground. Her palms scraped the rocky terrain and she could smell the red blood swelling to the cuts on her skin. She felt the usual light-headedness that she always felt when she smelled blood, but she prayed she wouldn’t pass out. She didn’t want to leave herself at the mercy of these men.
The driver walked up to her and with his toe, pushed her over onto her back so she was looking up at his ugly face and at the sun. “How old have you?” he demanded of her, quiet and deadly.
It was then that Bella’s original captor spoke. “I have passaporto.” There was some rustling and then Bella saw her bag swing above her, and she realized when she was kidnapped her captor must have grabbed it with her.
A few moments later and her passport changed hands.
Great, now they knew who she was. She knew they weren’t looking for a ransom, so her name would be more of a hindrance than a help, but right now the driver was pawing through her passport and looking at her passport photo. Then, “Eighteen.” He nodded and slid her passport into his back pocket.
He nodded to one of the men with the assault rifles and a duffle bag of what was presumably money was tossed toward her captor. He reached down and slid out a wad of hundred dollar bills and nodded in appreciation.
She’d been sold then—to men in a jeep with guns. For sex. A shiver of horror crept up Bella’s throat and she thought she was going to be sick, but nothing happened.
Instead, the men from the jeep (except for the driver) came and picked her up off the ground and carried her to the backseat. She was settled in the back, a seatbelt put over her, and then one of the men shoved a piece of cloth into her mouth. His fingers tasted like sand and oil and Bella almost wretched as the gag was tied to the back of her head before a bag was placed over her head.
“Yalla! Yalla!” someone shouted and then the jeep was backing up and they were turning, before starting up the road up into the mountains—or so Bella thought.
The men, at first, were quiet, and the jeep jerked back and forth as they continued to climb into the mountains.
Bella felt like her body was a livewire. She was hyperaware of the three men around her, of the jeep, of the road, of the gag in her mouth and the ties around her wrists and ankles. Her stomach burned with emptiness. She hadn’t eaten anything since she left Forks—which must have been two days ago.
How strange and far away that seemed now. What she wouldn’t give for that drab little house she and her father lived in, for haunting the high school like a ghost, for days in the rain with Jacob Black. She hadn’t appreciated the luxury of freedom until it was taken away from her. Bella hadn’t appreciated the luxury of choice until she was sold into slavery.
She wasn’t naïve. She knew that slavery existed in certain parts of the world. She knew that girls were trafficked. Somehow, though, she thought it could never happen to her. It was so divorced from her reality that she had never even considered.
At some point she had begun crying, her tears making her skin sting beneath the hood.
She curled up on her side, away from the man sitting beside her, though still held in place by her seatbelt. He was now speaking to the men in the front seat, words rapid and fierce, in a language that Bella couldn’t understand. She wasn’t entirely certain it was Russian anymore.
They drove until the night turned cool and then they drove even longer. They stopped sometime when the world was pitch dark, and her hood was taken off and her gag removed. Bella was given water which she should have spit in the man’s face, but instead she drank down hungrily.
The youngest of the three men came up to her and asked, “You scream? No?” He held up her gag.
Bella looked between him wildly and the gag and shook her head vehemently. “I won’t scream,” she promised.
He turned to the driver and told him something in one of the other languages, and the driver considered her. Then he nodded.
The gag was put away into Bella’s backpack and the hood was placed over her head again. She was buckled into the back seat once more and the men piled back into the jeep. The original driver, the man who had purchased her, was now sitting beside Bella. She could smell him. He smelled like gunpowder mixed with sunshine. It seemed they were trading off drivers so they could drive through the night.
Bella must have fallen asleep because at some point one of the men was shaking her awake. The sun was beating down on them hard, and she was lifted down out of the jeep and her hood was once again removed.
They were still in the mountains, but they were in the desert. Bella’s geography had never been bad, but she had absolutely no idea where she was—and she was too fearful of her captors to ask.
“Almost there,” the young one told her as he gave her another large mouthful of water.
He was kind enough to untie and retie her handcuffs a little looser, but left her ankle-ties as they were. She was bundled back into the back of the jeep, with the hood placed once again over her head. “No scream,” the young one said distinctly into her ear before the world once again became hot and black-tinged-red.
They drove for perhaps another three hours. At some point they got off the road, and Bella had the sense they were driving through sand, upward again into the mountains. She could feel the sand against her ankles where her socks had sweated and rolled down. The jeeps were no less quick through this new environment, having been built for such rough terrain.
The men, too, became more animated, talking in what Bella thought might be Arabic, but still might have been a different language. After two more hours of driving (or could it have been longer?) the jeep stopped, and Bella could hear voices all around her—more than just the three men in the jeep. Greetings were being called out, and when the jeep stopped, she was immediately pulled down out from where she was sitting and carried forward through what must have been an encampment of some kind.
“No run,” the young voice told her from the side, and she promised, “I won’t run.”
She felt a blade against her wrists, and she breathed in deeply in fear, but a moment later and the ties had been cut away. Then, after some rustling, her ankles were cut free.
Her arm was taken by a steady hand and she was led forward, into a darker space, colder, and she knew there were many people around her.
Then, somewhere in front of her, she heard a door being opened up ahead, and she was led through and brought forward.
“Greetings, Tony Stark,” a great big boom of a voice said before descending into yet another language Bella could not understand.
A new voice, somewhere in front of her began to translate into English, and she focused on it with all of her senses. “Greetings, Tony Stark,” the meeker voice told them, “this is a great day. This is your wedding day. We are so pleased with your friendship, we are giving you a young and fertile bride.”
There was the sound of shuffling somewhere ahead of her and she tilted her head toward it.
“You will care for your bride and you will place your tent over her head,” the voice continued, and Bella wondered if that was a fully accurate translation. “She will nurture you as you continue to build us the Jericho Missile.—Here is your bride, Isabella.”
Then, with a flourish, her hood was pulled off her head, and Bella was blinded for a long moment. When her eyes were able to focus, Bella saw that she was in a cave in the presence of several swarthy men, all with assault weapons. In front of her was a little man with glasses, and the strangest and most beautiful man she had ever seen. He looked at her with dark American eyes, fear and determination in them as they looked her over.
He then turned to the man who had been speaking in the strange language and said, “I accept your gift”—the little man translating for him.
He stepped forward and took Isabella by the hand and pulled her close to him. “Don’t worry, sweetheart,” he murmured in her ear. “You stick with me and I’ll get you out of here—wedding or no wedding.”
Bella looked up at him with her large brown eyes and saw only truth looking back at her.