Chapter 1

The piercing, vibrant red eyes glared at him. The hazy red locks that framed her face were motionless, and her dress was immaculate. Almost as though she hadn't just bodily slammed into the side of his Toyota, catapulting it off of the highway.

Beaufort Swan tried to take a breath, but the action was difficult, as well as painful. Something was pressing into his sternum, flattening his lungs. The pain radiating from his ribs didn't bode well, either. Not that it mattered to Beau. Nothing mattered anymore. Soon, he would be dead, because after four long years, he'd finally been found.


Beau was sitting at the bar, watching his two coworkers down their shots. The three young men had gone on a short trip from Gatlin County to Myrtle Beach to enjoy the holiday weekend.

Marcel Bowers was Beau's senior at the paper mill six miles south of Beau's apartment in Gatlin County. He'd been at the mill for sixteen years. Beau's very first day on the job was spent under Marcel's careful gaze. Which had been a good thing, as Beau's clumsiness had very nearly caused him to fall into the pulper. Beau had been happy when Marcel's massive six-foot, four-inch frame, lunged over the railing, snatching him by his lanky torso. Marcel was happy that he didn't have to write a report on why the new trainee was missing and why half a ton of paper pulp was dyed pink. The two were steadfast friends ever since.

The third member of their clique was Stephen Ibrahim. He and his family had moved to the states from the Middle East when Stephen was knee high. Stephen's entire family were devout Muslims, but Stephen had left the faith behind him when he'd dropped out of high school and run off on his own. But anyone could tell that the remnants of his upbringing were still rooted somewhere in his heart. He refused to eat certain foods, claiming they were filthy. Though he no longer prayed at certain times of the day, he would always be silent for a minute when those times arrived. Beau often wondered if he'd left his faith, like Stephen claimed, or had his faith left him.

Stephen was twenty-one, same as Beau. He and Beau bonded immediately upon realizing they both were high school dropouts who'd run away from home. Stephen was open about his reasons for running off, but when he'd asked Beau why he'd done the same, he only ever got a vague answer. This, of course, set Stephen off on a rather entertaining guessing game of why Beau had chosen truancy and homelessness over his family. A game that was brought up about twice a month. He'd never guessed correctly, though he did get carried away.

Marcel would eventually intervene when Stephen started getting crass. And Stephen would withdraw into himself, apologizing shortly after. The young man was paradoxical in multiple ways. Likely a result of him being raised so conservatively combined with his new attitude of freedom and self-sufficiency.

Beau wouldn't trade either one of the two men for anything in the world. They kept him grounded. They put a smile on his face. They were simply good people. The kind that he found all over the southeast side of America. Even more so in a small town like Gatlin County. Truthfully, of the two small towns he'd resided in, Forks and Gatlin County, he would surely take Gatlin any day of the week. Of course, it wasn't as if he had much choice in the matter.

"C'mon, Beau. Have a fucking drink, man." Stephen cajoled him good naturedly. "You can't be the only one sober tonight."

Beau cracked a smile. "I can if you want to get home tonight. Or did you want to shell out another forty dollars for the cab fare?"

"Forty? Damn, cabs are so expensive here." Downing the rest of the beer he had sitting by his alcohol; Stephen shot a quick glance at Marcel that he thought Beau wouldn't notice. Beau did.

Marcel, seeming to understand the signal, stretched his long, muscled arms into the air. "So, where to next, gentlemen?"

It was still fairly early. Perhaps around ten. Beau's phone was charging in his Toyota, so he had no idea. It wasn't as if work would be calling him anyway. Just as Beau was about to suggest checking out the beach, Stephen cut in.

"I wanna go to the club." Stephen's suggestion made Beau stare at him.

A club? Really?

"I didn't know you could dance, Stephen."

"I love dancing, Beau. Come on. Let's head out. The cab I took back to the hotel last night told me about this place called 'The Crazy Horse'. Let's go!"

Beau chuckled as Stephen stumbled out of his chair. Looking to Marcel, who was also slowly getting up, he said, "Does he even know how plastered he is right now? He has got to have two left feet. There's no way this guy will be dancing tonight."

Marcel laughed, slow and deep. Clapping a large hand on Beau's shoulder, he gave Beau a knowing smirk. "Oh, he wasn't talking about dancing himself."

Beau had honestly remained oblivious during the entire ride to "The Crazy Horse'. But as soon as he pulled into parking lot, he took note of the neon sign.

Nude Girls!

"Oh, hell no." Beau was already pulling to the back of the lot, prepared to circle around. Stephen, who was in the passenger seat, stopped him.

"Why not, Beau? Come on, when was the last time you had a girl shake her tiddies in your face, man?" Stephen's whining was starting to make Beau wish he had partaken in the alcohol from earlier.

"In my face? Never. And I really hope that doesn't happen for a long time." Beau delivered his response evenly, with a straight face.

"This... this is why Bethany thinks you like dick, Beau. Comments like that. You gotta live a little. You can't stay a virgin forever. You know, I hear it will fall off if you keep beating the hell out o-"

"Stephen..." Marcel's voice cut in between the conversation and Stephen quieted down. Marcel took the reins as he leaned his body through the seats to speak. "Look Beau, I understand if this isn't really your thing. Hell, it ain't really my thing either, to be honest. I can think of a lot better ways to blow money than to pay for, what did you say, Stephen? Getting tiddies shaken in my face?"

To hear the normally straight lace Marcel speaking like that, made the two younger men snicker. Marcel continued., "What I'm trying to get at is this, Beau. Come in for a bit, sit down and have a drink. Check out some of the dancers. Indulge yourself a little. After half an hour, if you want to bail, we bail. We'll go down to the beach, catch sight of the midnight fireworks near Broadway. Sound good?"

Beau really didn't like the way Marcel and Stephen were making it sound as if he was sexually repressed. It was true, but he still didn't like the insinuation. It was... somewhat emasculating. He'd been emasculated too much in high school by... her.

"Fine, for half an hour. And Stephen, you're paying for me."

"Righteo, Beau. I got you, mate. You want some top shelf shit; you just say the word."

Getting into the club was a bit of a hassle. The front area was crowded, and even though no one was smoking, smog had drifted over the whole room. Or perhaps wisps floating in the air were intentional, some sort of ambiance thing. Handing his identification to the lady at the counter, she stamped his hand and waved him through the doors. Stephen and Marcel followed shortly after.

The second and third pairs of breasts Beau had seen in his entire life were almost simultaneous. There were two very large stages in the middle of the room, and both were occupied with a pole, and a limber dancer. He started regretting his decision to come even more, but at the same time he was steadily relaxing. Taking note of the rest of the interior, he was surprised by how big the club seemed. Not only were there two large stages in the front, but there were several other smaller stages dotted around the room. A couple also had dancers, but most of the patrons were seated around the main attractions.

Naked women can do that to you, I guess. I feel calm and yet I also feel like I need to just get the fuck out of here.

Marcel lead the way, and he and Beau sat around one of the miniature stages that littered the seating area. Stephen showed up a minute later with three drinks. They probably hadn't been there for more than two minutes before a scantily clad woman walked up to them and asked them if she could take the fourth seat. Beau, ever the gentleman, stood and even pulled out the chair for her. Though the move came natural to him, Stephen's scoff and Marcel's small smile made him feel awkward.

"Thank's Sweetheart. Its these damn heels they have us dancing in." Beau watched her strip the heels off as he retook his seat. Indeed, her feet did have some angry lines running across them. As for the rest of her outfit, it would be truthful to say she had the least amount of coverage to be in public legally. "But I don't get to 'sit down', unless I'm doing it with patrons. You fine gentlemen are a dream come true. Mind if I make small talk?"

Beau, already feeling awkward, could only nod his assent shyly. Marcel, being the more experienced person at the table, replied to her verbally. "Talk away and take all the time you need. We work together, so we understand how it is to need a break."

"Aww, thanks. I'm Melanie by the way. My stage name is Lemon."

Melanie sat with them for almost half an hour, chattering away. It didn't take long for her to focus her attention on Beau. If Beau ever had the time to look at this moment in hindsight, he would've been able to tell that she had marked him as an easy buyer. Shy and refusing to look below her neckline. Inexperienced, but still here at the club. Desperate for something he couldn't bring himself to ask for, or so she had thought. She really couldn't have been further from the truth.

In her mind, he was a guaranteed mark. She would make an offer, he'd say yes. No doubt. Why else would he be here? Suddenly a round of drinks was being delivered to their table. Marcel was the first one to notice the obvious.

"I'm sorry, Miss. We haven't ordered anything after our first round." His deep and calm voice was clear and the woman serving the alcohol smiled at them.

"I know, these were bought for you by a staff member." Immediately, the three men looked to Melanie who held her hands up in a 'I didn't do it' motion. "I hope you three enjoy your evening."

The waitress, who was far more modestly dressed than most other women in the building didn't leave. Instead, she made eye contact with Melanie. It was clear that she was trying to convey a message to the girl, but Melanie either didn't care or she didn't notice. After a long moment, the waitress left. Beau, being completely sober, had noticed the exchange, but dismissed it. He sniffed his drink to find it didn't smell like alcohol, and a brief taste confirmed his nose was spot on. As Beau was about to set his drink down, he noticed a carefully folded note that had been placed under his drink.

Understanding dawned on him that this note was probably for Melanie. It would explain the awkward, one-sided exchange between the waitress and her, at the very least. Offering her the folded square, he said, "I think this is for you, Melanie."

Melanie smiled at him. "Already trying to give me your number, huh Beau. Cute." Her grin faded when she read the short missive, before a slight snarl form on her lips.

"Not something good, I take it?"

Melanie stared at him for a hard moment, before seeming to decide what to say. "My boss noticed me sitting for too long. I'm probably gonna get fired in a few minutes. Damn, this sucks."

Marcel, who had been sipping his new drink, paused and set it down. "Sounds like a bit of a hard ass."

Stephen nodded along, completely draining his beverage. "No kidding. Can we help?"

Melanie shrugged. "Not really. I mean I have just been chilling here for almost an hour... Oh, shit, never mind. Beau, you should help me out and buy a private dance in the back room. Thirty dollars and you'll bail me out of this situation." Leaning into whisper in his ear, she quietly said, "And I'll let you see and touch a lot more than any other girl here would allow."

Even as Beau started shaking his head no, Stephen threw a fifty on the table. "Melanie, rock this man's world." Melanie smiled in delight, picking up the cash in one hand and grabbing Beau's hand in the other. Without a single look back, she led him to the private dance partitions. She slapped the money down in front of a greasy looking man with long hair. He eyes the pair with disinterest, before speaking.

"Fifty. That's two dances. Enjoy."

Beau was practically thrown through one of the curtains, landing haphazardly on the small couch. Melanie entered a moment later, motioning with a single finger for him to scoot over to the left. He did so, happy for a moment that things weren't about to take a really awkward turn. That moment died as soon as Melanie's top hit the floor and she shoved her breasts onto his face.

Whispering in his ear, she said, "The cameras in here are to the left, so as long as you stay in that corner, all they can see is my back. Fuck, I haven't been this excited to give a lap dance in ages." Melanie immediately turned away, shoving her ass into Beau's crotch, gyrating it up and down. Beau was hard in moments, much to his embarrassment. A small part of him was yelling to shove her away from him, a much larger part wanted press into her harder.

"Do you know why they call me Lemon here, Beau?" Melanie asked as she leaned her body back onto him, turning her head, almost as though she was about to kiss him. "It's because by the end of a dance from me, every guy puckers up."

At that moment, the song changed, signifying half their time was gone, Melanie turned again. This time she had a naughty smirk on her face. Beau's throat dried and he knew he wouldn't be able to speak without his voice breaking. Grabbing his fingers, she gently guided him to her bottoms. Her other hand was already pulling them to the side and Beau got his first sight of a woman's most intimate place. His mind blanked as he watched his hand get closer and closer...

"Can you keep a secret, Beau?" Her voice was sinfully tempting, and Beau's tiny and fleeting mental voice of dissent died. His hand was just a hair's breadth away when things went sideways.

Melanie vanished. The curtains before him swayed gently.

Beau blinked. She did not reappear. Beau waited several moments and the space before him stayed empty. Part of Beau's stupor could easily be explained by the fog in his head. But his mind, caught up eventually.

What the hell just happened? Did I just pass out? There's no way she just evaporated like water. Hell, only... they can move that fast. But Melanie was... like me. She was warm... she was soft...

Beau stopped pondering once he noticed the final song had ended. Standing up, thankfully now completely flaccid, he exited the curtain. As he made his way back to the front, he was shocked to see the greasy looking, long-haired man from earlier waving to him frantically.

"Sorry about the inconvenience, Sir. We will, of course, be providing you with a full refund." Being handed Stephen's crisp banknote, Beau stared at the man oddly.

"What just happened... uh, Jared?" Fortunately, the man had a name tag.

"A personal issue for Ms. Lemon. Bartender pulled her out of the room and told her she had a family member calling for her. Seemed kinda serious, but I'm sure things will be fine. If you'd like, we'll be happy to ask another dancer to perform for you..."

The offer was made, but Beau had no interest. Hell, he just wanted out of this place. His head finally felt clear since the first time he'd entered the establishment and he had to leave.

Speed walking back to the table, he handed Stephen the fifty dollars, and added in a fifty of his own. "I need to get out of here guys. Hail on of the cabs outside to get back to the hotel room. I'll see you guys later."

Stephen only stared at him with a shocked face, but Marcel was already on his feet, following Beau. "Beau, are you alright? Do we need to speak with the management about something?"

Beau shook his head, making his way to the front room. "Not at all. It's just like you said, this isn't my kind of place. I need some air, now. Sorry to bail on you g-"

"Think nothing of it, man. Keep your phone on and call us if you need something."

Nodding his head, Beau opened the door. He paused and looked back to Marcel. "Did you see the girl sitting with us leave?"

Marcel nodded, "Yeah, the girl manning the bar walked her out. I think the girl was crying to be honest, but I didn't know if I should bring it up or not."

Girl at the bar... why did that ring a bell...

"The girl who bought us those sodas?"

Marcel laughed. "Those were Jack and Coke's Beau. Alcohol."

Beau shook his head. "Mine was just a regular soda, Marcel. Did you get a good look at the bartender?"

Marcel pursed his lips and nodded. "Of course, went to thank her for the drinks right after you left with Melanie. Brown hair, maybe red. Hard to tell in the light of the club. Really cute, in a petite sort of way. Paler than the full moon, too. The trippy part were the damn red contact lenses though. Really off-putting thing to see."

Beau schooled his features in an effort to appear calm. Giving a simple nod, he left the building and made his way to his Toyota. Hopping inside he gunned it. Beau had to get back to Gatlin. Jules had told him time and time again, that Gatlin was the only safe place. He'd made a mistake when he agreed to this trip.

The moment things went out of control was when Beau pulled onto the highway. He realized he needed to let Marcel and Stephen know he'd bailed on them. It was an hour and a fifteen-minute drive to Gatlin, a pricey cab fare, but Beau'd happily pay it if they'd forgive his actions tonight. Reaching down for his cellphone, Beau took his eyes off of the road for a split second. He didn't even notice the streaking image that slammed into his truck's passenger side, throwing it off the road.

What he did take note of, and feel every bit of, was the impact. His head swung forward and to the right, causing the tendons in his neck to pull painfully. When the truck slammed into the embankment, somehow almost losing all of its forward's momentum, Beau's head swung the opposite way, smashing through the glass of his window. The pain eclipsed and Beau's consciousness briefly faded.

When he came to, he could see her silhouette through his dim vision. The piercing, vibrant red eyes glared at him. The hazy red locks that framed her face were motionless, and her dress was immaculate. Almost as though she hadn't just bodily slammed into the side of his Toyota, catapulting it off of the highway.

Beaufort Swan tried to take a breath, but the action was difficult, as well as painful. Something was pressing into his sternum, flattening his lungs. The pain radiating from his ribs didn't bode well, either. Not that it mattered to Beau. Nothing mattered anymore. Soon, he would be dead, because after four long years, he'd finally been found.

She approached his truck in smooth strides. As she neared, his vision began to clear. The red locks faded to their natural bronze color, but horrifyingly her eyes remained red. She knelt down next to his overturned truck, fingers reaching out towards his face. Beau flinched as she gently wiped her finger across a cut oozing blood from his forehead. He watched as she brought the finger to her mouth and slowly placed the crimson coated digit inside. Her eyes closed and the sound she made when she tasted him was the apex of sexuality. It was a moan of pure, unadulterated pleasure. As though she'd been brought to the peak in just a second.

Her lidded eyes slowly opened. Withdrawing the finger from her mouth, she allowed her lips to part as well. For the first time in four years, Beau heard the beautiful sound of bells personified.

"Oh, Beau. How I have missed you?"

It was just as horrifying as the last time he'd heard the voice of Edythe Cullen.