A/N – This first chapter is directly quoted from New Moon (pp. 235-242). I hope I don't get sued (although what kind of lawyer has the time to read fan fiction?). I just wanted to set the story up, without anyone having to go grab his/her copy of New Moon and read seven-ish pages before being able to start my story. (And I tried very hard to type this carefully, with correct punctuation and such. So I hope it is right.) I'll post another chapter right after this, since this is nothing new.
Also, I'm going to say this once, at the beginning: I do not own any of Stephenie Meyer's characters. Duh.
Chapter One – Meadow
Bella Swan – Saturday, March 4, 2006
"Laurent!" I cried in surprised pleasure.
It was an irrational response. I probably should have stopped at fear.
Laurent had been on of James's coven when we'd first met. He hadn't been involved with the hunt that followed—the hunt where I was the quarry—but that was only because he was afraid; I was protected by a bigger coven than his own. It would have been different if that wasn't the case—he'd had no compunctions, at the time, against making a meal of me. Of course, he must have changed, because he'd gone to Alaska to live with the other civilized coven there, the other family that refused to drink human blood for ethical reasons. The other family like . . . but I couldn't let myself think the name.
Yes, fear would have made more sense, but all I felt was an overwhelming satisfaction. The meadow was a magic place again. A darker magic than I'd expected, to be sure, but magic all the same. Here was the connection I'd sought. The proof, however remote, that—somewhere in the same world where I lived—he did exist.
It was impossible how exactly the same Laurent looked. It supposed I was very silly and human of me to expect some kind of change in the last year. But there was something . . . I couldn't quite put my finger on it.
"Bella?" he asked, looking more astonished than I felt.
"You remember." I smiled. It was ridiculous that I should be so elated because a vampire knew my name.
He grinned. "I didn't expect to see you here." He strolled toward me, his expression bemused.
"Isn't it the other way around? I do live here. I thought you'd gone to Alaska."
He stopped about ten paces away, cocking his head to the side. His face was the most beautiful face I'd seen in what felt like an eternity. I studied his features with a strangely greedy sense of release. Here was someone I didn't have to pretend for—someone who already knew everything I could never say.
"You're right," he agreed. "I did go to Alaska. Still, I didn't expect . . . When I found the Cullen place empty, I thought they'd moved on."
"Oh." I bit my lip as the name set the raw edges of my wound throbbing. It took me a second to compose myself. Laurent waited with curious eyes.
"They did move on," I finally managed to tell him.
"Hmm," he murmured. "I'm surprised they left you behind. Weren't you sort of a pet of theirs?" His eyes were innocent of any intended offense.
I smiled wryly. "Something like that."
"Hmm," he said, thoughtful again.
At that precise moment, I realized why he looked the same—too much the same. After Carlisle told us that Laurent had stayed with Tanya's family, I'd begun to picture him, on the rare occasions that I thought of him at all, with the same golden eyes that the . . . Cullens—I forced the name out, wincing—had. That all good vampires had.
I took an involuntary step back, and his curious, dark red eyes followed the movement.
"Do they visit often?" he asked, still casual, but his weight shifted toward me.
"Lie," the beautiful velvet voice whispered anxiously from my memory.
I started at the sound of his voice, but it should not have surprised me. Was I not in the worst danger imaginable? The motorcycle was safe as kittens next to this.
I did what the voice said to do.
"Now and again." I tried to make my voice light, relaxed. "The time seems longer to me, I imagine. You know how they get distracted. . . ." I was beginning to babble. I had to work to shut myself up.
"Hmm," he said again. "The house smelled like it had been vacant for a while. . . ."
"You must lie better than that, Bella," the voice urged.
I tried. "I'll have to mention to Carlisle that you stopped by. He'll be sorry they missed your visit." I pretended to deliberate for a second. "But I probably shouldn't mention it to . . . Edward, I suppose—" I managed to say his name, and it twisted my expression on the way out, ruining my bluff "—he has such a temper . . . well, I'm sure you remember. He's still touchy about the whole James thing." I rolled my eyes and waved one hand dismissively, like it was all ancient history, but there was an edge of hysteria to my voice. I wondered if he would recognize what it was.
"Is he really?" Laurent asked pleasantly . . . skeptically.
I kept my reply short, so that my voice wouldn't betray my panic. "Mm-hmm."
Laurent took a casual step to the side, gazing around at the little meadow. I didn't miss that the step brought his closer to me. In my head, the voice responded with a low snarl.
"So how are things working out in Denali? Carlisle said you were staying with Tanya?" My voice was too high.
The question made him pause. "I like Tanya very much," he mused. "And her sister Irina even more. . . . I've never stayed in one place for so long before, and I enjoy the advantages, the novelty of it. But, the restrictions are difficult. . . . I'm surprised that any of them can keep it up for long." He smiled at me conspiratorially. "Sometimes I cheat."
I couldn't swallow. My foot started to ease back, but I froze when his red eyes flickered down to catch the movement.
"Oh," I said in a faint voice. "Jasper has problems with that, too."
"Don't move," the voice whispered. I tried to do what he instructed. It was hard; the instinct to take flight was nearly uncontrollable.
"Really?" Laurent seemed interested. "Is that why they left?"
"No," I answered honestly. "Jasper is more careful at home."
"Yes," Laurent agreed. "I am, too."
The step forward he took now was quite deliberate.
"Did Victoria ever find you?" I asked, breathless, desperate to distract him. It was the first question that popped into my head, and I regretted it as soon as the words were spoken. Victoria—who had hunted me with James, and then disappeared—was not someone I wanted to think of at this particular moment.
But the question did stop him.
"Yes," he said, hesitating on that step. "I actually came here as a favor to her." He made a face. "She won't be happy about this."
"About what?" I said eagerly, inviting him to continue. He was glaring into the trees, away from me. I took advantage of his diversion, taking a furtive step back.
He looked back at me and smiled—the expression made him look like a black-haired angel.
"About me killing you," he answered in a seductive purr.
I staggered back another step. The frantic growling in my head made it hard to hear.
"She wanted to save that part for herself," he went on blithely. "She's sort of . . . put out with you, Bella."
"Me?" I squeaked.
He shook his head and chuckled. "I know, it seems a little backward to me, too. But James was her mate, and your Edward killed him."
Even here, on the point of death, his name tore against my unhealed wounds like a serrated edge.
Laurent was oblivious to my reaction. "She thought it more appropriate to kill you than Edward—fair turnabout, mate for mate. She asked me to get the lay of the land for her, so to speak. I didn't imagine you would be so easy to get to. So maybe her plan was flawed—apparently it wouldn't be the revenge she imagined, since you must not mean very much to him if he left you here unprotected."
Another blow, another tear through my chest.
Laurent's weight shifted slightly, and I stumbled back another step.
He frowned. "I suppose she'll be angry, all the same."
"Then why not wait for her?" I choked out.
A mischievous grin rearranged his features. "Well, you've caught me at a bad time, Bella. I didn't come to this place on Victoria's mission—I was hunting. I'm quite thirsty, and you do smell . . . simply mouthwatering."
Laurent looked at me with approval, as if he meant it as a compliment.
"Threaten him," the beautiful delusion ordered his voice distorted with dread.
"He'll know it was you," I whispered obediently. "You won't get away with this."
"And why not?" Laurent's smile widened. He gazed around the small opening in the trees. "The scent will wash away with the next rain. No one will find your body—you'll simply go missing, like so many, many other humans. There's no reason for Edward to think of me, if he cares enough to investigate. This is nothing personal, let me assure you, Bella. Just thirst."
"Beg," my hallucination begged.
"Please," I gasped.
Laurent shook his head, his face kind. "Look at it this way, Bella. You're very lucky I was the one to find you."
"Am I?" I mouthed, faltering another step back.
Laurent followed, lithe and graceful.
"Yes," he assured me. "I'll be very quick. You won't feel a thing, I promise. Oh, I'll lie to Victoria about that later, naturally, just to placate her. But if you knew what she had planned for you, Bella . . ." He shook his head with a slow movement, almost as if in disgust. "I swear you'd be thanking me for this."
I stared at him in horror.
He sniffed at the breeze that blew threads of my hair in his direction. "Mouthwatering," he repeated, inhaling deeply.
I tensed for the spring, my eyes squinting as I cringed away, and the sound of Edward's furious roar echoed distantly in the back of my head. His name burst through all the walls I'd built to contain it. Edward, Edward, Edward. I was going to die. It shouldn't matter if I thought of him now. Edward, I love you.