Companion story to Breathe Again, written as a side to Chapter 43: Waiting. Victoria pieces together the circumstances behind James's disappearance and plans her revenge. One-shot.

(Victoria's POV)

He was everything. He was my friend, making me laugh when this life we led was anything but funny. He was my companion, saving me from the mind-numbing solitude our kind so often faced. He was my lover, offering me his arms, his heart, his soul for eternity. He was my killer and my maker and my savior. And now he was nothing.

Before he left, we'd agreed to meet up again at an old mining museum outside Vancouver. It was our usual arrangement. He'd go off in search of some delectable prey, and then we'd come together again in a day or two. This particular chase was more of a challenge, which was a big part of the draw, and we both knew it would take a little longer than usual.

I waited for two weeks, but there was no sign of him. I tried telling myself he was distracted, still on the hunt, but in my silent heart I knew better.

After the first few days, the agony set in. I couldn't hunt. I couldn't move. I couldn't live without him. The hours became days became weeks...until finally something took over me. At first I thought it was just my thirst. I'd gone so long without blood that I was weak and disoriented. I pounced on the first human that strayed in my direction, with no regard for witnesses or secrecy. Too late I noticed he wasn't alone, and I had to drain his companion as well. I relished a certain degree of satisfaction in my kill. I was doing a good deed, a kind service to them. I was guaranteeing that neither would remain without the other. If only fate had shown me the same kindness.

The fire in my throat was quenched, but the flames in my soul still raged. A part of me was gone. I could still see his soft red eyes and feel the gentle curtain of his blond hair brushing against my cheek. When I breathed deeply enough I could imagine his sweet scent filling my lungs. I had to find him.

I followed the same directions I'd given him, racing south to Phoenix, refusing to rest until I found it, the address I'd discovered for him. A car was in the driveway and lights were on, but the house was empty. I paused and listened carefully, but the only heartbeat I heard was too small, too fast to be human. A cat darted from the shadows, hissing and baring its teeth at me before it regained its wits and disappeared into a storm drain.

His scent was everywhere, but it was weak. I rounded the house and entered through the back, tearing the door from its hinges as I hurried in my search for clues. It was the perfect little human domicile, everything appearing ordinary to the unschooled eye. But I was searching for something no one could see.

I followed the same path he'd taken so recently. His scent was strongest wherever remnants of her life here were displayed...her old room, her photos displayed neatly in cheap frames, and the video cases beneath the television. But that's where the clues ended. There was nothing to tell me where he had gone, what he had done, who had taken him from me. Conceding defeat, I left, intent on wandering the streets until I found him.

I happened upon his scent again outside. It was faint, but it had direction. I followed it through the night until I reached a small dance studio, and that's when my worst fear was realized.

Everything smelled new. New paint, new flooring, new glass. The chemical stench was nearly overwhelming as I disabled the recently added alarm system and let myself in. But it couldn't hide the smell of death. Mildew, still undetectable by humans, was growing behind the freshly painted walls. Faint traces of soot lingered on the ceiling. And the unique scent of burned vampire permeated everything. There was only one thing left to do: find her.

There was a reason James was a tracker and I was not. While I thrilled in the kill and enjoyed the hunt, I always overlooked important details. This time was no exception. In my haste to find my mate, I'd failed to look for clues in the most likely place...that sleepy little town where the nightmare had begun.

I headed north again, leaving the desolate landscape of Arizona behind me, and I soon found myself in the same lush clearing where we'd met them, the strange vampires with golden eyes. I didn't know where else to look. That had always been James's specialty.

I tried to remember what he'd taught me, straining to recall little details about this odd coven. I knew they had a permanent home here, one where they lived among and interacted with humans, but I knew nothing else. And I needed to hunt.

The woods around the town were filled with prey. Wandering hikers, nature lovers, ignorant tourists taking in the scenery. Before long I'd quenched my thirst, and I was eager to descend into the small community. But just as quickly, I caught the scent of something putrid, something rotten, something...canine?

I'd heard stories of these wolves, our only natural enemies. They changed by the full moon and wandered the night, occasionally killing vampires in their changed forms. But I'd never seen them, and I'd certainly never expected so many. They were enormous, fast, and not the least bit afraid of me. It was unnerving how quickly they took up chase, and I was forced to leave my last meal unfinished as I ran for my life.

It became the norm. No matter what path I took, no matter what time of day or night, they were always there, always waiting for me. The second I neared civilization, they were on my heels. They were worse than the legends. They ran in a pack, and they changed whenever they wished. In broad daylight, when the moon was waning, any time I was close. They refused to give up. And so did I.

Realizing I needed help, I tracked Laurent north into the mountains and snow, finally reaching him outside a small village in what I thought might be Alaska. I nearly attacked him on sight, a raging fury overtaking me at the sight of his golden eyes. But he held me off long enough that the small ring of red in his irises finally caught my attention, and in the end, he agreed to help me.

He gave me some small bits of information about the coven I sought, the Cullens, and about the frail human girl who'd destroyed everything. While I'd been searching for my mate, Laurent had been holed up in a home with a similar coven. They practiced the same diet as the Cullens, and they considered themselves a "family." They'd been welcoming and helpful, and Laurent had found himself quite taken with one of the females, but he'd left, unable to fully acclimate to their lifestyle. It made me resent him all the more.

We agreed that he would go back first, survey the area, and return to me with more information. He also confirmed my worst suspicion. The boy, the youngest looking Cullen had been infatuated with the human girl, and he'd vowed to protect her with his life. In doing so, he most likely took the life of my mate. I would make certain he regretted it.

Laurent had not returned. As had happened with James, he'd been gone for too long. Only this time I didn't grieve. In fact, a small part of me celebrated, hoping fate had led him straight into the jaws of those monstrous wolves. It would have been what he deserved after turning away from us and going to the Cullens with his warnings. And it gave me an idea.

The Cullens had only succeeded because there had been so many of them. One on one, or even two on one, James would have defeated them easily. But seven vampires had a decided advantage, even against such a fighter as James. And I was facing similar odds with the wolves. I needed back-up.

I would assemble a new coven, a miniature army, a group of vampires who would rage to the death by my side. But not just any vampires. Newborns. They would be disposable, easy to lead, looking to me for guidance. And I would tell them of the sweet blood of the little human girl, of her threat to us. They would yearn for her blood as I yearned for revenge, and our numbers would guarantee our success.

If fate was kind, I would not survive the attack, but I would achieve my goal. The Cullen boy would suffer as I had. He would lose his mate and rue his existence. He would live out eternity in a hellish solitude. And he would pay for taking my James from me.