This is a prologue to a 26-chapter story that's currently being rewritten. I am rewriting it after nearly a year in hiatus. I will be reposting it as soon as I'm done. Please refer to my profile page for further information. Thank you so much for your patience.

PREY

Once and for all disclaimer.

Twilight and all its characters are properties of Stephenie Meyer.

Summary: AU. A powerful group of humans know of the existence of vampires and werewolves and strict rules are in place for the uneasy coexistence between the three kinds. Transforming humans without tacit permission is banned and all violators and victims are ordered destroyed. Bella was attacked when she was eight years old but miraculously survived. She returns to Forks during her junior year in high school and encounters the Olympic Coven. Against her will, she is drawn to Edward Cullen and into the dangerous world of shifting loyalties and deadly intrigue.

Rated M for violence and sexual situations.

Thanks to Maylin and sleepyjo, Prey's wonderful betas, and to all those who've followed this story through its various convolutions.


Prologue

The thick snow blanketed the faint trail, making it almost impossible to see the path. Thin rays of light broke through the thick foliage. The young man trudged on, stopping only when he saw a faint glow at a distance.

It had been at least eight decades since he last walked this trail. This part of Forks was just wild forest then, part of his and his coven's territory. The humans had no idea whose land they have encroached upon.

He stood silently, opening his senses to gauge the humans that now occupy the area. He could smell the wood burning from a fireplace and the faint aroma of something cooking.

A few more steps and a house came into full view, a police cruiser parked in front and a grey family van next to it. His acute hearing picked up two voices - a male and female - arguing intensely. The woman was intent on leaving while the man argued that she "would not take his daughter from him." Both consciously kept their voices from rising beyond the walls.

He stretched his senses beyond the first house. The humans were preoccupied with various human concerns and he found nothing of interest in their activities.

He turned back to his trail when he heard a faint sound - the small sniff of somebody crying. It startled him, as the sound seemed near. There was no way he could have missed a human that close. He searched in the direction of the sound and sensed nothing.

He frowned, unsatisfied, but decided to leave nonetheless. Even if the human was near, he was sure that the forest had concealed him. Just then, the wind blew towards him, carrying a strange scent that burned through his nostrils and throat. It disoriented him, rooting him to the spot. It was not a strong scent, yet there was something about it. He had just fed an hour before but now he suddenly felt inexplicably thirsty.

Against his bidding, his legs carried him towards the edge of the forest and into a small clearing. He knew he was being reckless by coming so close, but it was like something was calling to him and he couldn't help it. Then he saw her.

She could not have been older than eight. She sat in a small tree stump, facing the forest, unmindful of the snow and cold. She was crying softly as she clutched her right hand. She had cut her finger and a small amount of her blood was slowly seeping out of the wound.

As he drew closer, he could see her oval shaped face, framed by fine brown hair. He stared at her hand, transfixed as a drop of blood fell from her finger, so small that it almost didn't stain the pristine white snow at her feet. The wind blew once again and the scent of blood from her hand and inside her small body slammed into him in full force. In a nanosecond, his thirst raged into a full-on hunger. Time slowed as his eyes turned dangerously darker, his face paler. He gave a low hiss, baring his sharp teeth.

He breathed again, a mistake. The child's scent seemed to snake around him. He could see that she was pale. The thin blue veins in her wrists and small hands were visible to his sharp eyes. He could see the small pulse beating in her young, breakable neck. He felt venom pool in his mouth. So soft, so young.

So defenceless, the monster within him rejoiced.

He scanned the area. Nobody was near. The couple inside the house were still fighting about mundane things, unaware of the monster outside. It wouldn't even take a second for him to take her right there or carry her to the woods and be done with her. He could dispose of her body cleanly, burn it or throw it into the river. Nobody would know any better.

"What's the matter, little girl?" he heard himself say as he approached.

She looked up, startled. Brown eyes stared into topaz. She sat transfixed, mesmerized, exactly how he wanted her. He crouched in front of her and reached for her right hand.

"Does it hurt? Let me help you." He continued in a low, soothing voice. He reached for her hand and licked her wound. The child took in a sharp breath.

He covered her fingers with his mouth and sucked gently, reverently. He closed his eyes. He had never tasted blood this glorious, this sweet, this fresh. The monster inside him strained, urging him make a bigger wound but he didn't want to be rushed. He bit her hand gently, making new fresh wounds. He released a small amount of his venom to numb her hand and dull her pain.

He looked up to the child, fascinated by her beautiful face, which was now starting to twist in pain. He increased his venom to immobilize her and stop her from crying out. He tipped his head to one side. The child mimicked him involuntarily, tilting her head to provide him with the unhampered access to the side of her neck. He released her hand and slowly aimed for her the jugular. He opened his mouth and poised to bite, eagerly anticipating the rush of her delicious blood.

"Stop!" A woman's voice, too low for the human ear, broke the air. He had not sensed the others coming. He had been too absorbed with the child and her blood that he had dangerously blocked out every thought, every sense.

Two set of arms pulled him away, just as the third set held on to the child.

"What the hell are you doing? She's a child." The man who gripped his right arm hit him. Hard.

Stunned, he let the others pull him away. They ran him through the forest, away from the scene of his crime. The monster within him raged and struggled, but the two set of arms held him in twin vicelike grips.

The third person, a man, stayed with the child. He quickly examined the wounds on her hands and looked for others. He looked worried as he noticed that blood had stopped flowing and her hand was starting to swell. There must be venom in her system, he deduced, but there was no way he could ascertain how potent it was without screening her blood or biting her to see for himself. He could hear the other humans coming down from the second floor of the house. He can either destroy her and the other humans now or take her away and destroy her later without witnesses present. He had no desire to do either. If she died, it would be hard to pinpoint the cause. But he hoped that she lived.

Young bodies heal quickly, he thought. He faced the child and calmly but firmly spoke to her.

"You will not speak of this to anybody, ever. Do you understand?"

"Yes." The child, still in trance, answered.

Her parents would be at the backdoor any moment now. The man looked at the child, silently asking for her forgiveness for his son's impetuosity, before he too disappeared into the dark confines of the forest.