Hold me
Like you held on to life
When all fears came alive and entombed me
Love me
Like you love the sun
Scorching the blood in my vampire heart

(lyrics from Vampire Heart by HIM)

Ripping into the carotid vein of a leopard deep in the Amazon forest, I try to shut out the images in the beast's mind as it struggles for life. I'm struggling too. Struggling for sanity. I'd tried again today to summon the courage to let the animal bleed me, to let it rip me to pieces in hopes that those pieces would be fought over, digested and scattered to the winds so that I could die a mortal death and forget.

Forget her.

But even now, as the copper taste of blood fills my mouth, instead of allowing the leopard's thoughts fill my imagination, all I can see is her, all I can taste is her blood, all I can smell is the sweet scent of her skin.

Cursing her pale skin and chestnut hair, I toss the carcass aside, not even waiting to watch the small things of the forest come and claim it. I need more. I need to gorge myself, to fill the void in my long dead heart.

And keep running. Most of all keep running, because every time I stand still, I feel the pull of her innocence, of her accident prone stubborn nature.

Bella….How I wish now that I had never fallen under her spell.

Yes I had envied my 'brothers and sisters' their relationships and yes I had wondered if there would ever be someone for me. That she was human and mortal seems now like revenge for all the mortals whose lives I'd taken. Gods! The pain, the anguish it causes me to know I could so easily be her undoing.

Would that I had not fallen prey like the rest of the boys in Forks to her mystery and her charm, that I had been able to continue laughing at them as they fell over themselves to get to her instead of falling myself. But I could no sooner be immune to her serious nature than I could stop feeding by choice.

If only I could be like others of my kind and take hers to keep her with me always. It could be a simple procedure to change her, or so Carlisle assures me. Simple? For him perhaps. Ever since I drained the poison from her blood put there by a rogue vamp the craving for her has only deepened, entrenching itself in my brain until it is all I can think of.

It's why I had to leave. I couldn't stay. Not with the taste of her on my tongue. Not with her being so human, so…fragile and I will not be the one to change her. I will not take that from her which makes her most precious to me. Even if it destroys me to be apart from her, I'm willing to take that risk, and it just may, if my omniscient sister Alice has anything to do with it.

If only she would not send me images of Bella fleeting enough to bring the taste of her back to my mouth, the scent of her back to the air but no more than that. The snippets she's allowed me to see are maddeningly brief but at least I know she is still my strong Bella, my independent Bella. I would never have risked leaving her if I wasn't sure she would move on and forget me. But I cannot pretend it does not fuel my rage to know she is already going about the work of replacing me.

Digging my fingers into the side of a perfectly innocent tree I uproot it and toss it across a stream in a adolescent attempt to curb my anger. Damn Jacob Black and his insipid pack! If I didn't know that my own family would tear me limb from limb, I would land among them and make short work of each and every one of those…dogs. The very thought of him touching her makes my cold skin grow even colder.

And yet…I must let her find her way, even if that means he is the one kissing her impossibly soft lips. At least with him she is safe or…as safe as can be amongst Canids. Had I not thought so I would never have left her in the care of their Alpha.

Of course I did not just turn and run and leave my beloved klutzy Bella alone in the dark forests surrounding Forks. Despite how certain I am that she must hate me now, I would never just leave her alone and unprotected. I wanted to watch over her. I wanted to stay near her and I would have had Sam not seen me off.

His words still ring in my ears. 'Haven't you done enough?' I had, enough to destroy her life, mine and the lives of all of those around us. It was that knowledge that made me run then, run and kept running and still it doesn't seem far enough. I can still feel her, like the other leg of a compass, like part of me is still holding on and no matter how far I go she's right there, so near I can reach out and feel the soft warmth of her skin beneath my fingertips. All I have to do is close my eyes and the intoxicating aroma that is Bella fills my head and then I'm not running, I'm turning back, heading for home.

Home. Esme has always said that home is where your heart is. For the last eighty years I'd thought that was with her and Carlisle. Now when I think of home, I think of that wisp of a girl in her tatty sweats and as long as I'm thinking that, I have to turn and keep running in the other direction. It is just too selfish to want Bella to be my home. It was never a real possibility. I'd known it from the very first moment her scent had assaulted my senses.

And yet I still have never wished that I'd given in to my first impulse. I am still and always will be grateful I did not drain her blood that very first day, crushed her windpipe in my jaws and watched the light flicker out in her eyes. I'd give anything, anything not to hurt Bella Swan.

So I run deeper and deeper into the forest.

I don't want to see another face, human or vampire. I don't want to hear another voice. I don't want to feel the touch of another being. I want nothing but claws digging into my cold white flesh and pain; sweet pain to chase away the deep agonizing ache of leaving Bella behind.

Still, no matter how far I run, how many trees I climb, rivers I ford, she will not let me go. I can hear her voice in my head, taunting me, telling me over and over that she is not afraid.

I should have made her afraid. I should have shown her my true face. For her I should have broken our family code and taken the lives of those men who hunted her. I should have made her watch me tear them limb from limb, drank from them until my golden eyes that she says she loves turned dark red, ripped into their throats and had them scream and beg for mercy that I would not give them.

Maybe then we could have both avoided this pain. If only I'd listened to Rosalie. She had tried to reason with me. Cold and calculating Rosalie, the perfect predator like a Venus fly trap, all rosy and beautiful until…snap, the teeth close down and it's over. If I had only listened to her, I would have stayed away or at least kept my distance.

But Esme and Alice, both softer, more…human, where the ones I listened to instead. When Alice told me that Bella and I would be one and that it was meant to be, I let those words break down my barriers. Then Esme told me that you don't always get to choose whom your heart loves. My cold dead heart that I believed had long ago ceased to beat for the last time began to beat in time with Bella's.

I won't blame them though. I made my choice, gave in to curiosity and yes desire. I had never truly felt that particular malady. Before Carlisle had brought me over, my only true yearning had been to carry a gun, join the ranks of those boys going to the front; for valor, for honor. I had only thought of the adventure of it. I was a boy still, what did I know of life?

Yes, I had flirted as young men do. I had noticed coy looks and the shapely turn of an ankle or two but I had not begun to understand women and if Bella Swan is anything to go by, I've learned nothing in my eighty odd years of immortality. If only she had been older, if Esme and Carlisle hadn't felt the need to keep sending us to high school, over and over again as part of our cover I would never have had her sit next to me in Biology.

But then, I'm a boy never grown old. Carlisle has made certain to keep us, my chosen siblings and I, all that way. For what is a vampire? Unbelievable strength and the absolute belief that nothing can kill us; is that not the definition of a teenager? I may have lived all these years, but I have not yet grown old. What choice have I had? Always in the company of youth, always feigning the immaturity of those around me, how could any of us have grown old? Of all my siblings I am the only one who chafes against the restraints placed on me, who pines for another sort of life, but even as the eldest of us all, I do not have the resolve to stand beside Carlisle and work with the maimed and dying. I don't have the control. Bella is proof enough of that.

Still, with all my eighty some years, there are still so many things in this world that I still know nothing of. I went from my mother's care to Carlisle's and neither wanted me to live in the darkness. Perhaps because like my sister Rosalie, were I to, I would gladly drown in tears.

What a pair we are.

Bella is an old soul. Her childlike mother Renee in all her scatter brained glory has made certain of that. Bella knows too much and guesses at more than anyone her age should. That's just one more reason I can't take her humanity away. She's already lost enough from her life and everything else she must be forced to take part in. She's too serious, too somber and far too sad. I will not be the maker of another Rosalie. I could not live with her regret and mine.

So I run and keep running, hoping that with each passing mile the ache will be a little less.

"So this she is a mortal eh? Cousin?"

Tanya's face appearing from the fern infested canopy above me catches me so off guard I trip against a rotten stump and go head over heels into a swamp, teeming with unfriendly gators and nasty poisoned frogs, all of whom turn from my cold dead flesh with contempt.

"How…why?" is all I can ask as I watch her somersault from the tree branch she is hanging upside down from, her honey coloured hair floating around her head made unruly by the humidity. It's interesting to note that the weather can have that sort of effect on the undead. I've never noticed it on Rosalie or Esme before. Alice hardly counts. She wears so much gel in her hair she singularly makes a solid investment in the beauty industry.

"I felt like some company," she muses, standing above me on the bank and turning her nose up at the stench of the fetid water around me. "When Alice told me you were…taking a little trip, I thought I'd join you. I've never been to Brazil. I have to say, I prefer a cool breeze now and again."

I don't ask her for help out of the water and she offers me none, but as I brush the mire from what remains of my clothes, I realize that I've gone somewhat native at some point, my pants having torn off at the knees and I don't remember when but my shirt has gone altogether and I now stand caked in blood and dirt and who knows what while Tanya looks…well like she could be modeling safari gear for a catalogue.

"You didn't answer my question Edward dear. Not that Alice wasn't a fount of information," she continues, leaning in to sniff at me and then turning up her nose, "but really…a mortal?" I know the question that she is really asking is the same one she asked me over and over again in a hundred different ways. It was the same question and for the same reason that Rosalie disliked Bella immediately.

"She's pretty. No…beautiful," I insist.

"Mmmm well, I hope she is for your sake cousin. Otherwise saving yourself for a hundred years for a pet…." I growl at the term. That is also one of the reasons I have never chosen to stay long with our northern 'cousins'. They tell their secrets to pets that they keep for a time, to play with, for amusement.

"You wouldn't understand," I reply through gritted teeth, turning and walking away, though my strides are so long that Tanya has to jog to keep up with me.

"I know that it's not allowed, that is…unless you're planning on bringing her over?" she challenges me while making it sound like she hasn't already heard my argument from Alice or Carlisle or both.

"I won't," I snarl, picking up the pace, hoping I can leave her behind. I've always been faster than my siblings, I'm used to being able to outpace them but Tanya keeps up, the wind we create blowing her hair back from her porcelain doll like features.

"Oh my dear cuz, I think it's you who doesn't understand. My poor sweet Edward. Do you have any idea what it's like to watch someone you love wither and die before you? That is the ones who will stay and still love you even as they grow old and you stay young and beautiful. Of course they are more likely to turn on you, to resent you for staying young while they lose their beauty. Do you know what it's like to love someone who hates you Edward?" she asks, the challenge more clear in her voice this time. I look sideways at her, feeling the fury shining in my eyes.

"Yesss," I hiss, certain Bella hates me already, will always hate me, even if only in the back of her mind. But I will always love her, this I had long ago admitted to myself.

"How can you be with a mortal Edward when you could be with one of us?" she whispers, her cold hands on my shoulders as she latches on to me like a parasite. A shiver runs down my back as her lips taste my flesh. It has always been thus with Tanya.

"Because she is not so fickle!" I howl, ripping her from my back, even as she digs her fingers into my flesh like claws. I send her sailing through the air. I have a moment of guilt thinking she will crash against the gigantic trunk of some ancient tree, but she only grabs a passing branch and stays swinging there, laughing at me.

"Incubus," she grins, dropping lightly to the ground and immediately going about the work of brushing herself off.

"Succubus," I counter, growling at her still.

"At least I can be with my pets without breaking them," she muses, brushing off her chalk white legs before turning her golden eyes up at me, shining with amusement, "can you say the same?"