The hunt. The hunt. That's all that matters—the hunt.

This game will be easy; snap the neck, hide the evidence. The blood isn't important.

Think of the new glossy black Ferrari you will have when you win this bet; think of Ashley's reaction when you ruin his undefeated record.

Oh, victory is sweet.

Slow down, Garrett, don't get distracted. The hunt comes first. Only the game is needed. The game. The target. The simple target.

Oh what a simple-minded target.

Too easy, I thought to myself. I felt a vicious grin slip from my control and onto my face. I quickly returned my expression to its earlier composure of careful concentration, only for Ashley's benefit. I know he's here watching. Like I even need to waste one moment of my concentration on a frail human. But let's not get too cocky now.

The victim Ashley has assigned to me was a business man who liked like he was about to hit forty. He had dark brown hair, but I smelled a hint of hair dye when he walked by. Trying to hide the grays, are we?

The bet Ashley made with me late last night was one I was waiting for my whole existence. I live for this game. We gamble such meaningless things that loose our interest in a few short years, but the rush of the sport is what it's for. We are challenged with a target to kill discreetly. We are judged on our control, quickness, and ability to hide all traces of the murder. Only the smart and experienced make it in this game. Only the smart and experienced make it in this life.

When the bet was made, there was no way I could back down. A challenge such as this was so compelling I had to accept. Ashley claims to have never lost a round of this game, and neither have I. Defeating him is the last challenge I can find, and I don't care how long it takes to beat him at his game, I will do it.

I can't say I was anything other than disappointed when he showed me my target. I was hoping for maybe a muscled man, who would at least try to put up a fight. That would be entertaining. Maybe even a drug lord would be challenging. All the body guards would be interesting and hiding the body would be more difficult with all the addicts looking for his merchandise. But a local business man? Where was the fun in that?

My victim—Sam Pierson—was pacing quickly down the sidewalk with a phone held up to his ear. "Yello?" he asked as he passed the bench I was sitting on. He didn't even give me a second glance.

Perfect.

Although he was probably ten yards away from me now, I could still hear his conversation as if he was talking to me. He was meeting a fellow business man in a money suit at a local restaurant in fifteen minutes. Could this get any easier?

Just as Mr. Pierson joined the crowd at the crosswalk, a bus pulled up to the stoplight. It was in intercity bus with an advertisement for a candidate for Senator: "Vote Sam Pierson, the Family Man". It had a picture of Sam, his wife, two daughters and a dog.

So this is what separated him from my other victims, he would be missed. Him dying would shake the city—the whole state of Connecticut. His family would be mortified. Friends, neighbors, local babies whose foreheads haven't yet been kissed by the great Sam Pierson.

Was he kidding me?

Did Ashley actually believe that I was a sentimental vampire? I had never heard such a thing. The wellbeing of humans never changed my decisions of anything. That's what separates us from society. What immortal would even think of putting a mortal's life before his own wants?

Carlisle Cullen.

The name just slipped into my head—there was no way of blocking it. It's true, the man would put anyone before himself, humans included. He even went out of his way to save their lives. Once when he was passing through the colonies, he urged me to join him, to become his brother, to live amongst the humans as one of them, to take his diet of animal blood. I'll have to say, I was tempted. I was so close to taking him up on his offer that I almost forgot the life I have here. Life of power and pride, of the nonstop rush that comes with the game. I regret to say that I more or less told him to piss off.

But I couldn't think about that now, much less let the memory reach my face. Ashley was undoubtedly watching my every move, him and his panel of judges. If they saw any apprehension while I was on the hunt, they would definitely deem Ashley as the winner.

There was no way that was going to happen.

When Sam Pierson saw the bus, he smiled to himself. A winning smile. He was absolutely sure he was going to win this election, and I could use that as his weakness. Cockiness is an unfailing weakness that is so easy to spot. I hope he knows that he just lowered the difficulty setting of this game by about ten points.

Once the stoplight turned green and the pedestrians were allowed to walk, I quickly caught up with the crowd and blended right in.

Well, I thought I blended.

A man in a less expensive-looking suit than Mr. Pierson's glanced over at me walking beside him. The first glance was casual, but the double take showed the fear I injected into him and others around me.

I stared politely back, resisting the urge to growl and scare him enough that he would jump right in front of the moving cars in the other lane.

Maybe I could've changed my appearance just slightly so I could fit in with these humans better.

I was easily a head taller than everyone around me, and if that didn't draw enough attention, then my dark jeans and brown leather jacket definitely would. Not to mention my shoulder-length hair pulled back at the nape of my neck. Not exactly noon-time business man apparel.

Knowing Ashley, that was definitely points off my score.

But that didn't matter now, because Sam had just walked into the Yankee Silversmith Inn, right off of Colony Road. Showtime.

I waited a few seconds before entering the restaurant after Sam. I say "entering" because when you're a vampire and so inhumanly glorious to all these humans, you never go anywhere unnoticed. People are always looking—no, ogling—at you. It really helps a guy with no money get a free room from the female receptionist.

It was a grimly cloudy day, so not many people wanted to be out for lunch, which made finding my target easier, but going on unnoticed harder. I sat in the farthest corner table, opposite Sam Pierson, best to discreetly analyze his every movement. His lunch buddy hadn't arrived yet, so he pulled his laptop out from the briefcase and began working. I'll make sure his friend never sees him. He'll just be viewed as the rude politician who didn't decide to come to lunch. There goes one vote.

Like he'll make it to the election.

I stood up and walked over to Sam's table, composing my face into an expression of sheer gratitude and respect. I imagined how Carlisle would look in a situation like this, if he was ever forced into one. Guilt rushed through me when I thought of how rude I was to him, but I put it at bay so I could concentrate on the kill.

"Senator Pierson?" I asked Sam when I got to his table. I reached my hand out for him to shake it. "Shane Smith, Smith Buisness Card and Logo Printing Incorporated." Shane, because it could go with my appearance easily, Smith, because there are millions of Smiths in the country.

He looked at me from over the computer screen.

"Nice to meet you, Mr. Smith, but I'm not senator yet." He looked at my outstretched hand skeptically, not wanting to shake it.

"Yet. But the future is near, my friend, and it is looking bright." I reached out and took his hand and gave it a gentle shake. Well, gentle to me—to him it was probably more pressure than expected.

When he noticed the temperature of my skin, I could see the first trace of fear in his eyes.

Beautiful.

"Well thank you, sir, I appreciate that." I could tell he was trying to hide his fear as he shot his Winning Smile, trying to gain another voter.

"You know, Mr. Soon To Be Senator, I couldn't help but notice your advertisement for the campaign on the local busses." I pulled a chair up beside him, all business. George Clooney couldn't do better acting.

"Oh, well, they are something aren't they?" He made a deliberate attempt to show he was busy doing something else, something he didn't need my help for.

"Indeed they are, sir. But what if I could tell you that I could do better?" I challenged. I don't know how easy this is for you to believe, but this, hands down, was my best performance yet. In my other hunts, I never had to do so much acting—it usually was handled by outsmarting the human, which, let's face it, isn't that hard. Lying like this wasn't difficult for me, but it did add a new element to the game.

"Excuse me, Mr. Smith, but I have the best advertisement money can buy," he retorted defensively. His hands were frozen on the keys and he was no longer looking at the screen, but instead right at me; his eyes had a hint of insult in them.

I'll be adding insult to injury.

"Now, now, Mr. Senator, I'm not talking money. I'm talking service. I can give you a better advertisement picture and logo for less, guaranteed." I leaned back in my chair, trying to mimic a human's way of showing triumph. "If you come with me, I could show you." I added a little bit of menace in my tone, and I saw another flash of fear in his expression.

"Well, I'm meeting a colleague of mine for lunch . . ." He was trying to avoid my invitation. He could never avoid me.

"I insist!" I had to remind myself to talk at a human speed, which isn't easy when you're this close to the kill. Just the thought made venom pool in my mouth. "My office is just down the street." I pointed to the north, where the alleys are. The dark alleys.

"Well . . ."

"It won't take but a minute!" I persuaded. "Please."

I wasn't asking—I was telling, and he knew that. My expression must have helped him make up his mind, because he put his laptop back in the briefcase and followed me outside to the cloudy day, where rain began to sprinkle down.

I led him about a third of a mile down Colony Road, whistling as I walked. Sam stayed a few paces behind, not wanting to be rude, but also not wanting to get near me. As he should.

We turned down the third alley to the right, claiming the front door was locked and the alley door would be closer to my personal office. When he wasn't looking, I went to the end of the alley and smashed the doorknob of an unclaimed office building with my hand and led Sam Pierson inside.

"Shouldn't we turn a light on?" He reached for a light switch.

"No, my office is just back here. Electricity bills," I explained. I chuckled and he forced a laugh. Strained, but a laugh nonetheless.

I led him to the back room that would serve as an office for now. He didn't look convinced, but his opinion can't be voiced for much longer.

"Now, if you like what we give you, you wouldn't mind using us for your next campaign, would you?" I grabbed papers off the desk, using them as props for paperwork and whatnot.

"We'll have to make it to this election first." He began to look more timid than before.

I laughed darkly. "Don't worry, you won't."

And I lunged for the kill.