Author's Notes: And another new story begins! According to the poll, you'd rather have me post as I go, no matter how sporadic. So I'm going to post this chapter and try to write fairly consistently, but I can't promise anything. I'm working on an original piece, too, as well as working two jobs, so my time's kind of packed. But this is how I unwind, so I'm good to go.

The unique thing about this story is that each chapter is inspired by a challenge over at various livejournal communities. It started as a one-shot with this first chapter, but I got so much great feedback and a desire for more that I wrote another chapter. And now I'm working on the third. My projects have a tendency to get out of hand, yes? This takes place during Twilight, starting off when Bella goes to Port Angeles with Angela and Jessica.

Disclaimer: Characters to Stephenie Meyer, I'm just playing with them.

Chapter One

Too Late

"Geez, Edward, calm down," Emmett said with a knowing smirk. "All your jittering is making me nervous."

I glared at him, but stopped my restless pacing back and forth and dropped down to lean against a sturdy looking tree. It wasn't long, though, before I began tapping my knee anxiously as I waited for him to finish his meal. He and I had been far north when we caught wind of a particularly large grizzly and took chase. He groaned as I stared him down impatiently, but didn't make any further comment, knowing it was useless.

That didn't stop him from thinking, though.

'So impatient today. Amazing the effect a girl can have on the boy.'

I felt a growl start in the back of my throat as he continued, unashamed. 'I know you can hear me, Edward, and you know it's true.' He looked maddeningly smug as I refused to justify his remark with any further comment.

"Just hurry up," was my grumbled reply.

My phone vibrated against the rough fabric of my jeans and I whipped it out, glancing at the caller ID. Alice. She was back in Forks with the others, why would she need to call me? My brow furrowed in confusion as I answered.

"Yes, Alice?"

"Edward," her voice was hesitant, uncertain, as if she didn't want to deliver this particular message. It put me on edge instantly. My muscles tensed automatically and she continued. "You need to get to Port Angeles," she said in a rush.

I sprung up immediately, running off without bothering to explain to Emmett, ignoring his shouts of protest at being left behind.

"What happened, Alice? What did you see?"

She hesitated again and I wanted to throw the phone in frustration. "It's Bella. She's in trouble."

Suddenly her words starting spilling out like water as my breath caught. "Edward, I'm so sorry. It was a spur of the moment decision, they hadn't planned anything until they saw her, I didn't know, couldn't see…"

I couldn't run fast enough. I hung up and raced to where we had left the cars. I felt like I was trudging through the heaviest mud, through solid rock. Even as I wrenched open the car door and threw my phone on the passenger seat, slammed the gas pedal down, pushing the speedometer as high as it would go, it felt like I was moving backwards, like time was moving too fast. Time, which usually meant nothing to me, was suddenly inexplicably precious.

Mercifully the sun was setting as I reached the outskirts of the city in what was probably record time, and I abandoned the car knowing I would be much faster on foot on the city streets. I let the steady buzz of voices in my mind raise to a dull roar, searching for sign or mention of Bella, all the while trying to prepare myself for her scent to hit me. I stopped breathing as I caught the faintest whiff of her, steadying myself against the pull of her very being.

But nothing could have prepared me for what I found.

I was off before I knew where I was going. I found her in a dark alley, surrounded by male minds full of the most disgusting and most inhumane thoughts of unbridled and unchecked lust.

For Bella. My Bella.


And I could not check my own fury.

All it took was the sight of Bella surrounded by these men, beaten and bleeding, her clothes ripped… and I gave into the monster that roared inside my heart.

There were four men, all facing away from me, their focus clearly on their prey. I punched the one closest to me so hard he was blown back into the brick wall behind him, crushing his skull, dead in an instant. I hadn't even had time to think, I simply acted.

The other three snapped their heads up at the sound and knew I was there now, the element of surprise gone. Two stood to face me as the third finished with the crumpled girl beneath him. It was no longer necessary for the two hunters to hold their prey down while the third partook – she was far too weak and broken to fight back.

I wanted them to suffer.

I could taste the adrenaline and fear, still refusing to breathe even as my maddened mind screamed with desire. The two lunged toward me, shouting and cursing, too angry to realize I had already killed one of their comrades. I stood still and poised before them, tense, coiled and ready to pounce.

They tried to take me from the sides, but I was much too fast for them and far too strong. I swung my arm around and punched the man on my left with deliberate aim. I heard the satisfying crunch of bone as I whipped around and gave his friend the same treatment. I'd broken skin. The fresh sight of bright red blood gleaming in the moonlight assailed my senses and blinded me. The mere sight of it started the flow of venom in my mouth.

I simply lashed out with all of my might, crushing anything that came near me, then shoved it away before I surrendered to my senses and drank. I wanted them dead and I wanted them to rot.

Somewhere in the commotion the fourth man wizened up and realized he had no chance of survival. He tried to make a run for it, leaving his three dead buddies behind him without a second thought.

He didn't make it very far.

The alley was a dead end and the only way out was past me. Foolish human tried to outrun me.

I let him think he was almost free before bodily slamming him against the brick. His head slapped against the wall with a dull crack so heavy it was clear I'd broken bone. His body went slack. A piece of fractured skull cut his spinal cord, his eyes lost focus as I bared my teeth in anger. I knew he was still conscious – barely coherent pleading for mercy filled his thoughts.

But I was far too gone to remember mercy.

I threw him once more against the wall in a fit of rage. His heart finally stopped and the red blood stopped flowing. The blood was calling to me and I craved it. I couldn't remember why I couldn't have it.

Then an angel spoke and I suddenly remember with alarming clarity.

"Edward?" Bella's voice – so soft and weak – called me.

Oh no. Please no. She hadn't been conscious for that. Please tell me that she hadn't seen me like that. If my heart could have stopped, it would have.

I was at her side in a blink of an eye and cradled her head as gently as I could, adamantly not breathing. If I breathed now, I wouldn't be able to resist. She was so utterly helpless. Bruises were already forming on her arms and face, one leg looked broken, blood pooled around her. Her breathing was labored, as if each breath hurt. Her ribs must be broken, too.

She struggled to keep her eyes open, searching for me. "You really came…" she said weakly, voice full of wonder. "You…"she could seem to find the strength or breath to finish.

"Oh Bella, I'm so sorry. I should have gotten here sooner…I should have stayed near you. I should have been here. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." I didn't care that I was supposed to be ignoring her. It was far past time to stop that game.

Her heartbeat was agonizingly slow. Each beat threatened to be the last and her eyes fluttered shut.

"Don't," she breathed, "'s my own…stupid fault…danger magnet, remember?" She attempted a weak smile, tearing at my heart. Of course she would blame herself.

I didn't know what to do. Carlisle was too far away to help, and by the time even I got her to a hospital it could be too late.

Her soft voice interrupted my racing mind. "Edward," her eyes met mine in a piercing gaze. "I'm dying. I can feel it."

I could feel it too. Every sense was screaming this at me and I could not ignore it. "No, no, you'll be fine," I tried to reassure her. I didn't believe me, and it was clear that she didn't either.

Her eyes never left mine. "You can save me," she whispered.

I exhaled the stale air in my lungs, "You don't know what you're asking,"

"I don't want to die." She begged me. "Please."

"I don't know if I can," I admitted fearfully in a whisper.

"Please." Her lids fell shut.

I looked around hopelessly, searching for some kind of answer, something to help me, even though I already know it was hopeless. She was dying, and there was no stopping it.

But I could not lose her.

My frantic eyes landed on the still-warm bodies strewn about the dark alleyway. Perhaps…

"Edward," one last silent plea fell from her lips.

It might have been the most selfish thing I've ever done and ever will do, but I could not watch her die.

I laid her back on the cold cement as gently as I could. She whimpered in protest and fear and I brushed one hand against her cheek. "Shh, I'm not leaving you."

Truthfully, I don't think I could've left her. But there was no one to stop me if I lost control, so I needed to take as many precautions as possible – even it was only this one thing.

Perhaps if I drank my fill before biting her, it would be easier to stop. It wasn't much of a plan, but I had to try. It was all I had.

I quickly made my way to the nearest body, picked it up and hesitated a split second before biting into his neck, preparing myself. The venom pooled in my mouth like saliva.

I bit down and drank the still-cooling blood.

The rush! It had been so long since I had tasted human blood that I had forgotten how powerful it made me feel! The vampire in me took over, draining the corpse in minutes, moving on to the next without thought or hesitation. I was an animal, acting purely on instinct. I was on the hunt, and I would have my reward.

I didn't regain my sense of thought until the second body was drained and I began to feel full. I drained the third and felt gorged. Half way through the fourth I felt as if I could drink no more. I finished anyway, just for good measure.

Their strength was mine now. Human blood coursed through my veins, and I felt more alive, more on fire than I had in decades. I wanted to run and see how fast I was. I wanted to hunt just for the thrill, to see how powerful I was.

Then I saw Bella's limp form and my veins froze. My task, my sin lay before me, waiting.

I had not taken a breath since I had entered the alley and I did not dare breathe now with the thrill of the feast still in the back of my mind. Her heartbeat seemed impossibly slow and the dull thud filled my ears. I squared my shoulders and faced her. I could do this. My bloodlust was momentarily satisfied. I could drink no more.

I knelt beside her once more.

"Bella," I whispered, my lips at her ear, "Don't leave me…"

My teeth hovered over her throat, poised.

I prayed.

And then I sank my teeth in.