AN: I'm so nervous about publishing this. What if nobody reviews? Worse, what if no one reads it? I don't have a schedule yet. When I originally started this for the Thirst contest, I anticipated it would be a 6K word one-shot. I'm still working on it, and it seems the more I write, the longer it gets. At the moment, I don't anticipate it being longer than about 20K.

A big thank you to a couple people. Sweetgirl57 betas this for me. Thank you for the work, the patience, and the suggestions you offered. Brier Lynn Rose has held my hand and read over parts of it. Thank you for helping me along the way.

And the usual: Stephenie Meyer owns the characters. The plot and mistakes are mine.


Chapter 1

There was a chill to the night that comes with the rains of early Fall. Though it stopped raining earlier in the evening, its scent permeated the air. Streetlights reflected off the puddles on the ground; white and red beams from the cars traveling down Broadway refracted off the glistening road. The fresh smell of a day wiped clean that reminded her of her childhood home was overpowered by the exhaust of the city bus that drove by.

Bella's breaths were becoming labored as she as she raced down the block. She dodged the few revelers who refused to allow the dampness of the night keep them inside. She glanced down each alley as she sped past. Her lungs burned, but she had to keep going. She ran across another street sidestepping cars that were fortunately coming to a stop at a red light. She couldn't risk a moments delay. As she neared Addison, she was for once grateful the Cubs didn't make it into post season play. There is no way she would have made it through those crowds.

Her thighs were beginning to ache while her gun was hung heavily on her hip. Still, she needed to keep moving. Crossing Brompton and approaching Cornelia, she glanced down the alleyway, coming to a stop two storefronts down. She had no time to waste on an extra breath. She turned back to race down the alley.

There he was, crouching.

Shoulders heaving.

What was that in his arms?

She had to reach him. An extra burst of adrenaline allowed her to increase her speed.

With the little air she could spare, she called out, "Stop!"

He did not even pause for a second, either ignoring or not hearing her.

She wasn't sure how many more steps she could take. Her head throbbed along with her thighs and lungs, yet she continued.

"Stop," she called as she reached out nearly touching him.

In a flash she was up against the privacy fence, his body shoved tight against her, his right leg pressed between her thighs. He lowered his head, grazing a tooth along her jugular. She froze. After a few agonizing seconds her chest rose and fell rapidly as she tried to catch her breath.

He slid his mouth up to her ear, gliding his nose along the path and taking a deep breath. "Mmmmm," he exhaled. "You really shouldn't have done that." He slid his long, nimble fingers through her mahogany hair, moving it behind her shoulder as her sucked her earlobe into his mouth.

She was lost in the moment to his scent, to the feel of his body pressed against hers, and to the pleasure his tongue brought as he licked her ear. The sound of her own moan brought her to her senses.

"Edward!" She pushed on his solid form.

He was back to her throat grazing it as his pushed his leg tighter against her core.

"Edward, you have to stop!"

He licked a line along her jaw. No one had ever tasted so sweet.

"Please, Edward, don't hurt me," she cried.

Nose in her hair, he suddenly stilled and yanked himself away.

His unnecessary breaths were heavy as he closed his deep red eyes to center himself. With a final deep breath, he opened them and stared at her with a grimace of pain.

She gaped at his dark red eyes, still feeling the phantom weight of his body against her.

He brought his hands up, rubbed his face, then pinched the bridge of his nose. A look of devastation covered his face.

"Bella, I-. . . I'm so sorry."

"I know."

"You just. . . you shouldn't. . . you can't. . . approach me like that." He lowered his head and slouched his shoulders. "I'm not in control of myself when I'm like that. I never want to hurt you."

She took a few tentative steps away from the fence to stand right in front of him. Reaching up to touch his cheek, she whispered, "it's okay. You didn't hurt me."

Aghast, he was at the other side of the alley before she even realized he moved.

"Okay?! It's okay?! My teeth were against your neck!"

"You didn't hurt me."

"Don't you see? I very well could have. I could have killed you, Bella!"

"But you didn't," she whispered as she stepped closer.

He looked deep into her caramel-colored eyes, pulled her into his arms, and kissed the top of her head. "I can never lose you."

"You won't. I know you. I trust you."

"Don't! I'm not someone you should trust!"

Taken aback by the anger in his voice she stepped away from him with tears forming in her eyes. He showed the ignominy he felt by pulling at his beautiful copper locks. Edward and Bella stood still staring at each other until the sound of a horn on the street broke them from their trance.

Edward turned his head, peering at the spot where Bella had found him. She turned to see what he was looking at. There lay a man drained of his blood.

"What happened?'

He blew out a breath and said, "I heard him."

"Heard what?"

"There's a woman. She closes up her shop around this time every night. Just before she leaves, she brings the trash out to this dumpster. He was waiting for her."

He ran his fingers through his hair again. "She wasn't his first, and she wouldn't have been his last. I couldn't let him live."

"Edward, you can't keep doing this. You'll be discovered."

"Don't you see? I have to. I'm a monster, and the least I can do is use these monstrous abilities to protect people from other monsters."

Bella knew she wouldn't win this fight; they'd had it many times. She did not repeat aloud her thoughts that he was further from a monster than most humans that she knew, but she would find a way to reach him.

Edward walked toward the body. "I'll take care of this, then meet you at the usual place."

As they turned to walk down the alley, a few doors down a woman came out of a shop carrying a large trash bag. She was of average build with her dirty blonde hair pulled up in a clip at the back of her head. "That's her," Edward said.

Bella looked toward her and nodded her head. "Okay, let's get out of here."


AN: Please review. Let me know what you liked or didn't like. Is there anything about my writing style that could use improvement or is especially good? My last extensive writing experience was writing screenplays, so it's possible this might read a little like one. I'd love to hear your thoughts.