For Ouisa who told me to.

Of Vampires, Bears, and Friendly Banter

We frowned at each other standing at opposite ends of the table. Finally, he broke the silence.

"We were once human," he said.

"Carlisle, Carlisle, Carlisle," I shook my head, smiling slightly. "We were once but not anymore. You fed on animals while you were human. You took life. Why is it different now as a vampire?"

He grinned. "I suppose I just prefer animals. I'm simply lucky enough to feed on my favorite dish as a human and a vampire."

I shook my head disbelievingly. "Animals. What could animals have that humans do not?"

"They're appetizing," he replied.

"Truly? I suppose I'll have to try them then."

"And you really shouldn't put them down they'r—what?"


"What did you just say?"

I hid my smile. As if I were speaking to someone slow or to Caius, I answered, "I said 'I'll have to try them'."

Carlisle took a step back, topaz eyes widening in surprise. Golden eyes. It was an aberration! I shrugged it off. To each his own.

"So," I continued. "Shall we get going?"

"Now?" Oh where was Solimena when you needed him? I needed that particular look on Carlisle's face recorded for eternity.

"Of course. I do have more important things to do for eternity than wait. Anna is not a patient woman and if I'm not at our bedroom before evening falls, she will—"

"All right!" Carlisle cried, raising a hand in desperate bid for silence. I could have sworn he would have been blushing if he could. "I'll take you to my favorite hunting ground. Just, please, don't tell me about you and Anna."

"Fair enough," I said brightly. "Now, shall we be going?"

Looking rather as if he was heading to the gallows, Carlisle walked slowly out of the room. I traipsed after him. And here I thought today would be like every other day. This could turn out to be fun.

We ran out of the city, keeping to the safety of the shadows and speed in case there were any humans around. Carlisle stopped several miles away in a thicket of trees.

"There are bears here," he explained. "Larger game is more appetizing than smaller game."

"Understandable," I agreed. "Not much excitement in chasing deer than compared to harassing a bear."

He was still grimacing slightly as he continued, "Shall we start hunting, then?"

"Lead the way, my good man," I replied graciously. That earned me a small smile as he stood perfectly still. The only part of him that moved was his hair, brushing softly in the cool breeze. If it hadn't been for that, one could have mistaken him for a marble statue. "There's one close. East of here."

I surreptitiously smelled the air and a stronger scent than the others of the forest rose to my sensitive nostrils. Before I could speak, Carlisle ran silently in the direction of the smell. Sighing, I followed until he stopped. I looked around him.

"That's appetizing?"

"You have to taste it first."

"I don't need to. I could smell it from over there. The stench was that powerful."

"Trust me; they taste better than they smell. Don't humans taste better, as well?"

"Ah, but humans smell delectable and taste like sheer heaven. That doesn't even smell good."

"Do you need me to kill it and bring it to you? I shall."

"Carlisle, I do hate telling you this but, you won't win me over so easily. First, I'm a mated man. And second, I prefer women."

"Aro!" The man had perfect timing and pitch. My name stabbed into my ears. I raised a finger to my right ear to ensure I wasn't bleeding from it.

"It is true," I said. Carlisle arched a single eyebrow. "All right, I'll stop teasing you. I won't question your sexuality, masculinity or intelligence again."

"You've questioned my masculinity?"

"Not at all." I continued before he could argue. "We'll continue our friendly banter later but now, aren't we supposed to be hunting?"

He glared at me but I could see an amused glint in his eye. "Simply, aim for the neck. You do know how to hunt? Or must I call Anna to do so as she appears to be the man in your relationship?"

"Ah, ha, ha! Touché, my friend. I'll get you for that one later."

Carlisle shrugged nonchalantly but I could see an upward twist to the corners of his lips. Chuckling to myself, I positioned myself so that I was at a vantage point. The bear was currently scratching his broad back against a tree. I waited for the moment when he stretched completely and dove at it. Despite it being thicker and stronger than my usual prey, I had no difficulty in snapping its neck and have it collapse limp against me. I eyed its furry neck, imagining a smooth, hairless neck instead, one my hand could almost wrap completely around. Dredging up my courage, I lowered my head and bit down.

"Gah! Oh, ugh, that is revolting! Oh, ew, ew, ew." I desperately clawed at my tongue, trying to remove the disgusting taste. I jumped around the clearing, staying as far away from the corpse as possible as I continued spitting and raging. An echo of nausea fluttered at the back of my mouth. "I need blood! Real blood! Oh!" I moaned as a shudder crawled up my spine. A strange sound distracted me. I turned disbelievingly to see Carlisle bent at the waist, arms clutching his abdomen and gasping with hysterical laughter. He was backed against a tree for support, unable to control himself. If he had been human, I'm sure he would have been crying as well.

"It's not funny!" I roared.

"It—is!" he barely managed to gasp. Still attempting to retch from the aftertaste, I stepped to the body, hauled it and threw it at him. With a pleasing "Oof!" and even more delightful crash, the bear and Carlisle went through the tree he'd been leaning against, the carcass landing on him.

Pivoting on my heel, I stormed away. Caius was already planning on turning that Laurent boy. A few months before and turning with less blood than usual would hurt no one.