Light flickered across Alice's face as she gazed raptly at the large screen. Humans surrounded us in the theater. They were exhausted from a long day at work, but excited to spend their dimes here. I tried to focus on the film rather than the tempting scent of their blood.
This wasn't really my kind of movie. It was a low-budget production about centipede aliens. They didn't even have to try nowadays, and people would come anyway for something to watch. But who was I to judge? We'd bought tickets, too.
The film ended with an orchestral flourish, and Alice turned to me with a big smile.
"Ready to go?" she asked.
I nodded and helped her to her feet. She hooked her arm in mine, and we filed out into the dimly lit lobby. We were continuing our journey to find the Cullens. I was enjoying our travels so far. Spending time with Alice made my life worth living.
As we exited onto the sidewalk, she stopped and stiffened by my side. Her eyes were wide and clouded.
"Alice?" I murmured.
The other theater patrons walked around us, some muttering in annoyance. Alice's eyes refocused, and she glanced around the street. This was the first time I'd seen her afraid.
"What is it, Alice?" I demanded. I didn't mean to be brusque, but I had to know what was coming.
She finally turned to me. "We're going to meet a vampire," she whispered.
She repeated herself, but my eyes were already scanning our surroundings. It was too late.
A male vampire emerged from an alley on the other side of the street. He was wearing a hat, scarf, and long grey coat. He must have been in his late 30s/early 40s when he was turned. He appraised the people walking down the sidewalk till his scarlet eyes landed on our golden ones. His face shifted in shock. We stared at each other for no longer than two seconds before my instincts kicked in.
I grabbed Alice by her waist and dragged her away, moving as fast as I could among the humans. I darted into an alley where we were out of sight, then scooped her into my arms and ran.
"I didn't see it coming," Alice said in disbelief.
I didn't blame her. The visions weren't an exact science. The only thing that mattered now was keeping her safe. I scaled the fire escape of the nearest building and pushed us both against the wall. I listened carefully and sniffed the air.
"Jasper, you have to stay calm right now," she said firmly.
I wasn't looking at her, so she grabbed my chin and forced my head around.
"Alice," I growled.
"I didn't see anything bad happening."
"What exactly did you see? Describe it me."
"I saw him coming out of the alley, that's all. But you're not going to like this next part."
"What is it?" If my heart was still living, it would have been thundering.
"He's following us."
I whipped my head around and glared down the alley. I had hoped to go the rest of my life without killing another living thing. I never wanted her to see this side of me. I turned back to her and cupped her face in my hands.
"If this goes wrong, I want you to look away," I said gravely.
"I don't think he means us any harm."
"Not all vampires are like me or the Cullens, Alice. If he thinks we're competing for his turf –"
She scowled. "I know that! Trust me. We don't have to go out guns blazing. Let's just find out what he wants."
I tried to glance behind me, but she grabbed my chin again. Her other hand clenched the front of my shirt.
"You don't have to hurt him."
It felt like she was talking about more than the immediate situation. Like she was telling me I could change the way I see the world. I wanted her to be right. Anything to avoid showing her what a monster I really was.
I huffed and dropped my hands from her face. His voice drifted up cautiously from an unseen place below us.
"Hello? I'm sorry if I startled you. You startled me, as well. I know it's odd for me to pursue you like this, but I have an overwhelming curiosity."
He stepped cautiously into view. Alice moved forward while I kept one arm protectively around her waist. I sensed fear in him as his eyes met my deadly glare. My scarred appearance alone was enough to warn most vampires away. He really must've been curious.
He removed his hat. "Good evening, miss."
"Good evening," she said guardedly.
"My name is Eugene. Pleasure to make your acquaintance."
I squeezed Alice's side to indicate she shouldn't reveal anything, but she ignored me. "I'm Alice. And this is Jasper."
"Charmed. I couldn't let you get away without inquiring. I've never seen any of our sort with eyes like yours."
Alice glanced at me before answering. "We don't feed on humans."
His eyes widened. "No? How do you survive?"
"We drink animal blood." Alice seemed to be finding some confidence now. She was almost proud as she explained our lifestyle. My irritation was growing. I wanted to be rid of him as soon as possible.
"I've never heard of such a thing! Is it the same?"
"Not exactly, but we believe it's the right thing to do."
He laughed aloud. "Uh, forgive me. It's just…well, I've never heard of this before. So, where are you two headed?"
Alice was about to respond, but I interjected, "That's none of your concern."
She threw a disapproving glance at me. "We're only passing through," she said, "We'll be gone soon."
Eugene smiled and donned his hat again. "Then I won't keep you. Enjoy your travels."
He walked away. We remained still, listening till he was some distance away.
"He's not coming back," Alice murmured.
"Are you sure? He could change his mind, couldn't he?"
She rolled her eyes and started down the fire escape. "Of course, he could. But I can't see that future, can I?"
We left the city immediately. I looked behind us every couple of minutes as we started the trek to the next town.
"Jasper, stop. You're making me nervous. Why can't you admit he was a nice man?"
"A nice man?" I muttered under my breath. I'd never thought of any vampire as "a nice man" before, but I resisted the urge to look again.