A/N I don't own any of these characters or their back stories. They all belong to Stephenie Meyer. Maybe one day I'll come up with my own.
CHAPTER ONE: ESSENCE
She smashed her victim into the wall in front of her. The alley was dark and no one was around. It was easy, just like every time. And she loved the ease of it. Once he was unconscious, she pulled him off the ground, leaning forward to whisper:
"And now, for me, you give your life."
As she sunk her teeth into the fleshy loveliness of his neck, her ruby red eyes rolled back in her head. Ecstasy coursed through her veins with the pulsing and throbbing of his blood. Slowly his body became limp and his heartbeat slowed. She continued to drink his life from him, enjoying it all until the very last drop. He hadn't known until it was too late to stop her. Not that he could have.
"Fool," she whispered to him again as she let him slither from her grasp and collapse on the ground. Just another Italian, in a bar too late one night. He was too drunk, it was too dark, he hadn't noticed her strangeness, only her beauty. And her contacts, now removed, had covered her give-away eyes. She thought briefly of who he may have left behind, then slung the body over her shoulder so she could dispose of it. To her, the weight wasn't noticeable and she raced through the streets undetected.
Rome was her favorite place to hunt. Aro didn't like her far from Volterra, but he allowed these little jaunts as long as she was careful, as long as she returned before dawn. He needn't worry. Aro had been her life as long as she could remember, and she liked to think he needed her as much as she needed him. But she wasn't going to spend a lot of time fooling herself. Their relationship was one of mutual appreciation for the other's gifts. Not respect, it didn't reach that far. To Aro, everyone was expendable. He had proven that with Marcus's wife many years ago when she had tried to convince Marcus to leave the coven. Her ashes sat on display in a specially crafted crystal ball in Aro's office as a constant reminder to those who chose to follow him. Marcus never went in there.
She buried the body with the speed and skill no human could imagine, much less match. The woods outside of the city were deathly silent - animals always had the sense to flee her presence if they had time to get away. The depth of the grave ensured it would be years before he was discovered, if ever. But she gracefully dismembered him completely to make it harder to identify the body. Again she found herself thinking if he had anyone else, anyone that would miss him. It was unlike her to wonder about her victims, but tonight, when he realized what she was, he had such a different reaction from any other victim. And she remembered them all with detail thanks to her vampiric brain.
He had left the bar with her, tripping over himself in his drunken state. His words were as sloppy as his movements. Usually she didn't go for humans so inebriated, but time was short and it was getting late. Aro would send for her if she wasn't home soon, and she knew from experience she did not want that to happen.
Her victim's mumblings were incoherent at best. They had shared a few words at the bar, enough to convince him to leave with her, to somewhere dark, away from there. The smell coming off of him was intoxicating to her in the sweaty little hole of an establishment they were in. Every drop of salty water that oozed from his pores lit the fire in the back of her throat and made control almost impossible. Almost. But she had hundreds of years of experience in control.
Once she had him in the damp alley, she took out her hateful, uncomfortable contacts and put the full force of her stare on him. When he met her eyes, he gasped, his cloudy gaze clearing unexpectedly.
"I knew vampires were real. I just knew it." She could feel his pulse quicken under her grip around his neck. He was... excited? For a moment, she pushed her mental shield away from herself and enveloped him in it. By default, it stayed around her, protecting her from mental forces. With a small amount of effort, she could shield other people with it, too. And Aro kept her close to him because of it. This time, she put him inside her shield so she could open her mind to his.
All this time, all my research, I knew it, I just knew it. How fitting that I should go this way after devoting my life, my entire existence to proving that such a creature exists. And so beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous, and those eyes... She probed further. If he had research, she would need to destroy it. While his thoughts whirled, she picked out a couple of addresses from his brain. When she gathered his personal effects later, she would check for an address there, too.
She brought her shield back around her. That was enough information, and it justified his death, not that she needed justification. Aro's Rule Number One was: "No one can know about us." He would find this interesting to say the least.
"Are you reading my mind?" His voice pulled her back to the present immediately, and she hissed at him, not answering. "This is just so amazing. You have no idea..." he trailed off and she could see the wheels inside his mind spin as he processed the new information she was giving him.
"Does it matter?" Her look was ravenous and she tightened her grip on his neck, relishing the feeling of his veins moving against her fingers. She could hear his heart working in his chest.
The look in his eyes didn't change. Fear never touched the dark brown orbs looking back at her. Not having paid any attention before, thinking only of her next meal, she hadn't realized how handsome he must have been to other humans. His brown eyes, dark skin and black hair must have caught some female's attention - but it had been so long since she'd been human, she could barely put these thoughts into completion in her mind.
"Can I have one request?" he whispered, again catching her off guard.
"A request?" she repeated. The idea was interesting to her. Usually her victims were too full of fear to be coherent, much less request something. She was curious.
"And what might that be?" her voice was a low growl as she anticipated the taste of his blood in her mouth. She leaned in closer and his whispers became softer.
Utter shock was the only reaction she could fathom. She even released her grip on his neck to get a better look at him. Pushing her shield out again, she reached inside his mind for a clue to this odd behavior. But all she found there was peace and calm. He had accepted his imminent death and was only looking for one last memory - kissing the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his life, who was a vampire - the culmination of his life's research. She was like his holy grail and he just wanted a taste.
Indulging victims was not her habit, but this victim was certainly an anomaly to her. Leaving her shield around them both, she leaned toward him again, this time with a different purpose. Her cold, hard lips met his warm, soft ones. His response was immediate as he wrapped his arms around her and tried to deepen the kiss. The thoughts in his brain bombarded hers. Jumbled, crazy, confused, his emotions were hammering her own. She had never left her shield down when kissing someone before and had only done it because she thought this mere human would have no effect on her. The implications of her actions hit her full force. His feelings were changing hers, affecting her thinking. NO! she screamed in her mind.
"ENOUGH!" she shoved him away from her and into the wall. He was knocked unconscious.
She pulled herself away from the recent memory as she located one of the addresses plucked from his mind. Taking a quick look around, she determined he was the only one who had been here in a long time - good. When she returned to Volterra, she would send some of her associates here and to the other addresses she had uncovered to destroy evidence and make sure this information was never found. Wondering if Aro would be mad that she had inadvertently dined on a vampire researcher, she decided he would be even more upset if she wasn't home by dawn, which was coming fast. She left the house and raced off into the coming light, keeping to the darkest shadows.