Summary: After being changed against her will, Bella struggles to adjust to life as a vampire. The hurdles she faces go beyond bloodlust, and her new perspective leaves her feeling torn between old morals and new desires. Edward fights to win her over, but when his world is threatened, he realizes there's more to lose than her heart. The sequel to HERE IN THE GARDEN OF SIN.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, situations, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. Please do not repost my stories elsewhere. A lot of time and effort went into writing stories that revolve around characters I didn't create in the first place. I don't take credit for them, so don't take credit for what's mine. Let's play nice, okay?

Author's Note:

Welcome to MALICE IN THE GARDEN! This is a sequel. I repeat! This is a sequel! If you haven't read HERE IN THE GARDEN OF SIN, please do so. It sets up this entire story, and if anyone asks me to explain what's happening because they didn't read it, my cold, black heart will break.

Hey, you guys! Seriously now listen up! When I decided to write MALICE last September, I removed the last two chapters from HITGOS. Both chapters were set in the future, and as far as I'm concerned, they never happened. If you read the original version, just forget everything that occurred after Bella ran out of the house. Trust me, it's better this way.

MALICE will be about the same length as HITGOS (50k words, give or take). I've written over half, and I plan on posting updates weekly (Fridays?). If everything goes according to plan, there won't be any downtime. *crosses fingers*

Liv, Joo, Hobo, and KB: Thank you for your input and support. You hoors are the best.

Follow my blog for updates and future author's notes. I'm also on Twitter and Facebook. Clicky links on my profile.

Thanks for giving this sequel a chance. I hope you enjoy it, and I look forward to your feedback.

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Bella ran.

Ruled by instinct, she zipped through the forest without a second thought to where she was headed. Her only concern was escape—to get away from the sights and sounds that overwhelmed her senses. She waited for exhaustion to kick in, but the pain in her lungs and the burn in her muscles never came.

She stopped.

The faint sound of footsteps advanced in the distance. She knew by the speed at which they approached that it was a vampire. She wondered which one had followed her.

It wasn't lack of energy that kept her from running. She was strong and didn't want to flee.

She wanted to fight.

Alice slowed her pace as she came within eyeshot. The newborn crouched, and a vicious snarl erupted from her throat. Alice rolled her eyes.

"I won't hurt you." Giving her a wide berth, Alice navigated to a fallen tree. She sat on one of the branches and folded her legs beneath her.

Bella stood a little straighter. The small vampire before her didn't seem threatening. She knew just by looking at her that she was stronger. As long as no one else joined the fight, Bella would surely win. She listened for the sounds of anyone else approaching, but all she heard were the noises of the forest.

"Why did you follow me?"

"Isn't it obvious?" Alice waited for a response. Bella stared back with confused, red eyes. "We want you to come back."

"Why?" Bella didn't understand. None of them had wanted her. She would be nothing but a burden.

"We want to help you adjust to your new life. Believe me, I know how overwhelming the change can be. We all do. We may not have wanted this life for you, but that doesn't mean we want you to learn on your own."

Bella contemplated Alice's offer. Carlisle had told her as much. She'd even considered it. She might have even agreed to stay if it weren't for Edward.

Edward.

She shuddered at the memory of tearing his head from his body. Her fingertips tingled where they'd fractured, a subtle reminder of her transgression.

"Aren't you angry with me?"

"Angry?" Alice laughed as she slid from the tree. "There isn't a single one of us who doesn't think he deserved it. If I weren't so shocked that you actually followed through, I would have given you a high five."

Bella stiffened as Alice approached. Every instinct in her body was screaming to fight or flee, but she stood her ground.

"You're doing exceptionally well," Alice said.

"I am?" Bella didn't feel like she was doing well. She was uptight and stressed. The sound of everything around her grated on her nerves. Each new scent that wafted through her nose served as a distraction. Even her enhanced vision was aggravating. The burden on her senses almost nullified the burning pain that concentrated in her chest.

Almost.

"Considering you're actually holding a coherent conversation with me instead of trying to kill me… yeah. Your control has come a long way in the past few hours."

Bella hoped it wouldn't take long for her to adjust. She yearned to feel like herself again.

"You'll help me?"

"We all will."

Bella nodded. "Okay. I'll come back."

###

As the Cullens' house came into view, an uneasy feeling settled over Bella. There would be at least three other vampires inside. She struggled to remember their names. It felt like an eternity since she'd been there, and her human memories were beginning to slip away.

There was Esme, the woman who'd been the first to welcome her. She'd seemed the closest with Edward, and Bella wondered if everyone would be as forgiving as Alice implied.

And Jasper. Just thinking about him sent a surge of fear through her, but without blood pumping through her veins, she didn't think he'd pose a threat.

Carlisle had been kind and welcoming at one point, but Bella's last cognizant memory of the family's patriarch was of him threatening her life, and it didn't sound like he cared whether she was human or vampire. Edward had promised to protect her, but now he was gone. Surely Carlisle's revenge for whatever Edward had done wouldn't extend past the end of his existence. If it did, she knew at the very least she could outrun him.

There were more, but Bella didn't recall seeing them in the house after her change. She hoped they wouldn't be there. Being around one other vampire made her paranoid enough.

"We can go inside when you're ready," Alice said.

Bella steeled herself and made her way to the door. When she grabbed the handle, the metal groaned beneath her grasp. Shocked, Bella yanked her hand away.

"Gently," Alice cautioned. "Try gripping it with your thumb and forefinger, like this." She held up her fingers and made a pinching motion. "It will help you regulate your strength until you get a feel for it."

Bella took Alice's advice. The door opened without any further damage.

"Good job." Alice gestured inside. "Go on. Everyone's waiting to say hello."

Bella entered the house first. Alice followed closely behind. When she reached the living room, she froze. She didn't notice the bright smile on Esme's face or Jasper's stoic presence in the corner.

On the couch at the far side of the room, next to Carlisle, sat Edward. The dark black, ragged scar circling his neck stood out against his pale flesh. Fear gripped Bella, but it quickly gave way to shock and confusion.

"You're alive."

Edward tried to stand, but Carlisle's firm grip on his shoulder kept him in place.

Beside her, Alice laughed. "It's gonna take more than pulling off his head to kill him, Bella."

"You lied." She glared at Edward. "You liar!" Without a second thought, Bella lunged for him.

In Bella's newborn state, it would have been hard for one vampire to overpower her, but Esme had surprise on her side. She took Bella to the ground with minimal effort. Alice and Jasper rushed to assist her. It took all three of them to keep Bella pinned to the floor.

"Don't hurt her." Edward's voice was scratchy and barely louder than a whisper.

"Get off me!" Bella screamed as she thrashed beneath the others.

"Bella," Carlisle said in a soothing tone. He stood from the couch but remained by Edward's side. "You need to calm down."

"You calm down!" she yelled.

Jasper chuckled. Esme shot him a warning look.

"I trusted you!" Bella used every ounce of strength she had to twist onto her back. She snapped her jaw inches from Alice's face, but she was no match for the three of them. "Why are you doing this?" The growl building in her chest turned into a sob. She stopped fighting and went slack on the floor. Her body convulsed as she cried without tears. "What is happening to me?"

"Newborns," Jasper said. "It never gets old."

When it became apparent that Bella had calmed down, Esme helped her to her feet.

"Carlisle, she needs to hunt."

"I know," he agreed. "I wish there were more of us. I'd call Emmett, but I don't think she can wait for them to get here."

"I can help," Edward rasped.

"No. You need to heal."

Edward rested his head on the back of the couch. He knew he was in no condition to leave the house, let alone run and attack prey. He hated feeling helpless. He considered the girl his responsibility, and he hated pawning her off on the others.

"It'll be fine," Jasper assured them. "We'll take her deep in the woods and stay close to her. We'll be back before sunrise."

Edward watched as his family left with the girl. His girl. He was thankful Alice managed to bring her back. By the time he was well enough to chase after her, her scent would have been long gone. That didn't stop the jealousy from bubbling under the surface. He should be the one with whom she experienced the firsts of being a vampire.

At least he no longer feared for her life. His only concern now was that she would leave while he was helpless to either stop or follow her. After her initial reaction to him, he worried it would be sooner than later.

Lacking the energy to move, he lay down on the couch and curled on his side. The venom burned as it mended the crack in his neck. He'd have to hunt soon in order to keep his body functioning. If it weren't for his family reassembling him and Carlisle using his own venom to jump-start the healing process, he probably wouldn't have survived.

As it turned out, those few minutes he spent in limbo were miserable. His senses had been cut off completely, yet somehow he still existed. It was uncomfortable, a wretched state to be in. He wondered if that was the fate in which all vampires were doomed. Perhaps there was no true death after all, only perpetual awareness with no sound, vision, scent, or feeling.

He still wasn't sure whether or not to be thankful for Carlisle's intervention.

###

"I don't know what to do," Bella admitted.

"It's instinct," Alice chimed from behind her. "When you catch the scent, you'll know. Your body will take over."

"Close your eyes and take a deep breath," Jasper suggested.

Bella did as she was told.

"What do you smell? What do you hear?"

Bella zoned in to her surroundings. One scent in particular caused her throat to flare with pain. She sucked in a stuttering breath.

"That's it," Carlisle said. "Follow it."

Bella didn't need additional encouragement. She took off in a run. The others followed at a reasonable distance. They didn't want her to feel threatened once she made the kill.

When she came upon the solitary mountain lion, she didn't hesitate to attack.

###

Edward heard his family long before they arrived at the house. Externally they laughed as they relived Bella's first hunt. He watched their memories replay snippets of her taking down a massive cougar. She hadn't toyed with the creature at all, instead opting to rip out its throat. She came out of the ordeal a mess of blood and shredded clothing, but she would hone her skills in time. Practice made perfect.

What he didn't like were the visions of her dressed in Jasper's button-up shirt.

Their faces sobered as they entered the house and saw him lying there. Between their pitying thoughts and seeing himself through their eyes, Edward became even more somber. He focused on the girl standing in the back of the group.

Bella felt a distinctive flutter surrounding her head as Edward slipped into the silent haven of her mind. It was slightly distressing, but it ended almost as soon as it began. Edward sighed as the mental voices and images disappeared.

"Make yourself at home," Esme told her. "Let us know if you need anything." She and the others slipped out of the room. Bella took one look at Edward's lethargic form before chasing after them.

"Alice, wait," she said, grabbing the vampire's arm.

Alice stopped. She nodded for Jasper to go on without her. "What's wrong?"

"I can't stay here."

"Why not? I thought you wanted our help."

"I do." Bella threw a glance over her shoulder. "I didn't know he was still alive."

"He can't hurt you anymore. You know that, right?"

"That's not it." Bella dropped her voice to a whisper. "If I stay, he wins."

Alice frowned. "This isn't a game. It's life. There are no winners. Get to know him. He's actually a pretty nice guy."

"How can you defend him after everything he did to me!"

"He treated you terribly. No one's arguing that. You're better off staying here. Trust me."

Bella stood in the hallway long after Alice departed. She didn't know what to do with herself, but she didn't want to be on her own. Not tonight, anyway. Not while this life was so new.

Making herself at home in a place where she'd been held captive didn't prove to be easy. She was only familiar with two rooms: Edward's bedroom and the bathroom across the hall. She didn't particularly want to occupy either.

Craving some form of familiarity, she returned to the living room, where Edward still occupied the couch. He held out his hand. Bella refused to take it.

"Stay," he whispered.

"It's not like I have anywhere else to go," she deadpanned. "Looks like you win."

"This isn't a game. There are no winners." The corner of his mouth curled into a smirk.

If Bella could have blushed at her faux pas, she would have. It was strange not to have her embarrassment manifest itself physically. "I should have known you could hear me. Nosy asshole."

Edward cracked a smile. "No name calling, remember?"

Ignoring his attempt at humor, Bella gestured to his neck. "Does it hurt?"

"It burns like I haven't fed in months. I suppose I feel a lot like you right now."

The pain in her throat increased at the reminder of blood. Hunting had quenched the thirst somewhat, but the pain still bordered on unbearable.

"Does it get easier?"

"You'll adjust."

Sinking to the floor, Bella reached out and placed her hand on Edward's neck. He sucked in a sharp breath, wincing at the pain. It made her feel powerful. Idly she wondered if this was the same way Edward had felt when she was at his mercy.

His skin was rough and indented where it had fractured. When she looked closer, she could see the individual fibers mending themselves from the inside out. It was fascinating.

"Will it heal like your other scars?" she asked.

"I assume so. I've never met someone who'd been decapitated and lived to tell about it."

Bella fought the overwhelming urge to tell him she was sorry. She refused to give him the satisfaction. She told herself it was justified. He deserved it for everything he'd done to her. If he didn't feel the need to apologize, then neither should she.

Edward studied the intense concentration on the girl's face. No one else in the family had gained control over their mind so quickly after their change. For some it took weeks in order to focus with any intensity. Others months.

"You're going to be an amazing vampire."

Bella sat straighter, putting distance between them. "You said no name calling."

"Now you want to play by the rules?"

"I thought this wasn't a game."

"Touché."

Edward reached for the girl again. Once again she denied his silent request. If she was going to touch him, it was going to be on her terms. Edward dropped his arm, letting it dangle over the side of the couch. During his entire life as a vampire, he'd never felt so physically drained.

"I mean it," he said. "Your control is quite impressive, and it's only day one."

Bella wasn't used to accepting compliments from anyone, least of all Edward. It made her feel exposed and uncomfortable. She thought back to her arrival at the house and how she'd lost her composure so easily.

"It sure didn't feel like I was in control earlier."

"Emotions tend to run high, especially after consuming human blood."

"News flash: I haven't consumed any humans. Some of us still have a perfect track record."

"No, but your own blood still lingers in your tissue. Right now you've got the highest possible concentration of human blood in your system. It makes you strong. It makes you volatile."

"Sounds like vampires are fickle creatures."

"Fickle? No." Edward thought about his feelings for the girl, for… Bella. What began as a need for the reprieve she offered had evolved into something more. Even while knowing the minds of others, his desire for her transcended what he believed he was capable of feeling. For anyone. "Our loyalties, our affections, for the most part don't change."

"Good, because I'd hate to think one day I might actually like you."

"You can't hate me forever, little newborn." Edward didn't have much faith in his own words, but he refused to let his insecurities show.

"Watch me." Bella sprang to her feet. Anger flickered in the corner of her mind. She pushed back the urge to scream and destroy everything around her. "The others are going to help me with my control, and once I know I'm not gonna run out and murder people, I'm out of here!"

"That's not their job!" Gathering what little strength he had, Edward reached out and grabbed the girl's shirt. It tore down the middle, and she scrambled to keep herself covered.

"What the hell is wrong with you?"

"They don't get to help you adjust; I do! I'm the one who changed you. You should be coming to me for help. You should be wearing my shirt."

Bella grabbed the tattered remains of Jasper's shirt from his hand. "You'd better enjoy whatever freaky mind thing we have going on while you can, because the next time I leave, I'm not going to kill you."

She turned and fled from the room before he could respond.

Edward remained on the couch, too tired to chase after her. He knew no good would come of following. While Bella had exceptional control considering the circumstances, she was still a newborn. Her emotions would change on a whim. Reasoning with her was nearly impossible. As it was, Edward barely had a grasp on his own temper.

He listened as she ascended the stairs and entered his room. It offered him some comfort. She had an entire house to her disposal, yet she retreated to a room that was solely his. The bed creaked under her weight, and then the steady rhythm of pages turning became a metronome for the remainder of the night.