"In The Dark" Contest

Pen Name: araeo
Title
: Memory in Blood
Summary: AU. Edward is an unapologetic "Recycler" of the scum of the human population. But when his plan is suddenly ruined by the appearance of a certain brunette, his world is changed irrevocably.
Word Count: 15,094

For Rules and Other Submissions, please visit: http://www(DOT)fanfiction(D0T)net/u/2003775/

Disclaimer: Not mine-- Twilight, Flowers in the Attic, or Darkly Dreaming Dexter.



There's another way
There must be another way
This is not a game
We will play it anyway…

……I love your stranglehold
I need your stranglehold
Just squeeze until I go, go

"Mayday (Maidez)"- People in Planes



The fat harvest moon hung in the sky like a poor imitation of the sun. Splashes of faint orange color reflected off the ocean waves, glowing like a giant pumpkin lit up for Halloween. I didn't care that the moon was second best to the sun, doomed to reflect the light generated by a nuclear furnace millions of light years away. The moon was what I lived by. The moon guided me through each special night's work.

I didn't have a conscience. I didn't have, nor did I want, emotions. When every fucking meaningless sentiment in the spectrum bombarded me from all sides, thoughts and feelings of perfect strangers crept into my brain at any time I let my guard down; it was too crowded for my own. If someone had asked me if I had feelings, I would have laughed in their face – had I not been so concerned with keeping up appearances. Camouflage was the most important element of the life I chose to live. If I walked, talked, looked and acted like prey, the prey didn't have a fucking clue what was coming for them when I finally made my move.

I didn't know what it was like to feel fear or anger, love or regret. I couldn't remember if I'd ever known these things, even in my life before, the life that was so faint I could barely remember its events. All I felt tonight was a cold shiver of excitement, the icy feeling creeping down my spine that was so familiar and comforting. Something akin to adrenaline shot through my veins as I saw the dark shadow of my focus creeping across the sparsely lit warehouse parking lot. I let my lips stretch into a cold smile as I tightened my fingers into fists, the black leather of my gloves creaking softly. I had no need for the gloves, since I did not leave fingerprints. Although my fingertips retained the ridges I'd been born with as a human, my body no longer produced the sebaceous secretions that were left behind in the ridged pattern. The gloves were simply a part of the routine.

I'd been here only two hours ago, completing the necessary reconnaissance for the appointment that must be kept tonight. My target was the best kind of prey and the worst kind of human. A challenge; at least, somewhat more difficult than the herds of cattle in this sea of humanity I lived in. He liked to think of himself as a predator, at the top of the food chain. I loved the ones who thought they were smart. They might have been, when comparing themselves to the average human, but they'd never come across someone like me before. A real predator.

My appointment for tonight was a lady-killer in more ways than one. He was handsome and successful; he attended charity galas and volunteered for Big Brothers Big Sisters. He had a new beautiful woman on his arm for every event he attended and had a reputation for liking all women. He also liked to kill them.

Four women who'd volunteered for the organization had disappeared in the last year. They'd all had one connection: Laurent Chevalier. Every single one of them had crossed his path before they'd disappeared.

I crept to the door and eased it open soundlessly, my pursuit made soundless by the WD-40 I'd used to prepare the squeaky door two nights ago. Silently, I glided through the hallways and the large production rooms, my form a blur to any observing people or cameras (if there had been any, but I was too meticulous to allow such a mistake), to what must have once been the back offices. Milky white light shone through the cracked door. He was speaking, and I knew suddenly that he had deviated from his plan.

My plans were suddenly shot to Hell. I cursed the Seattle weather; the unusually sunny day had allowed him to move about the city without me today. Evidently, he'd decided to move up his timetable. I took a split second to decide whether or not I'd go through with it. In the end, it came down to two things: hunger and boredom. It had been so long… and I simply didn't want to wait.

It looked like I'd be eating well tonight.

I heard every sick word he said to his companion, as he called her, and every sweet whimper she uttered through the gag that I knew filled her mouth. I relegated his comments to the back of my mind. I'd listened to his pathetic drivel for days now. I had no patience for his illusions of grandeur, his conceited thoughts of superiority.

I knew who the better predator was. And soon, he would too.

I pushed up the sleeves of my black knit shirt and tugged on the cuffs of my gloves, part of the simple ritual I performed just before each 'outing.' Admiring the contrast between my unnaturally pale skin and the dark fabric, I smiled at the fear the image would inspire in my prey. It wasn't glaringly obvious, but it was enough to set instincts ablaze with uneasiness of what I might be. I took a moment to let the icy pleasure trickle through me as I flattened myself against the wall next to the door, taking special care not to pass through the light shining from the room.

The ice came as it always did: it began as a single drip at the base of my skull, then another, and another, until it was a steady trickle. The ice took on a life of its own, flowing and crackling as it spread down my spine, sending tendrils of fluid, tingling, burning pleasure out into the peripheral nerves.

I could taste the burning sweetness on the back of my tongue, the sign my body was ready for its task. I swallowed heavily; no need for the burn at the moment. I took in a breath I didn't need but craved, all the same. I could taste the sweet, addictive tang of fear… delicious. The scent caused the icy fire in my throat to flare up, like a gasoline tossed on a bonfire. This was the most alluring fear I'd ever smelled in my over one hundred years of existence.

I considered letting him kill her, if only to see how the luscious scent of her fear swelled as he took her life. You see, I didn't kill to protect humans. I used to tell myself that's why I'd begun my little hobby, but over the decades my need to justify what I did had waned.

I killed because I wanted to. Because I enjoyed it. Because it was the only thing that provided me any excitement in this life. I chose the sick ones because they were more fun. If the 'good' citizens of this city were more entertaining prey, I would have no qualms about taking them down. They simply weren't devious enough. Coupled with my ability to pick thoughts out of their feeble brains, they were all too easy.

I inhaled again, scenting the acrid notes of his rising arousal on top of the sweet and sharp melody of the woman's terror. I sighed, becoming disgusted; his fetid stench was ruining the luscious bouquet. I guess she would live, after all... at least; she wouldn't die by his hand. I let his thoughts in, trying to gauge how far I could let this go before I intervened.

A man had to take his entertainment where he could get it in this life.

I think I'll take the gag off of this sweet piece. I want to hear her screams. So innocent… so much fun.

Delving deep into his mind, past the miasma of violent and bloody fantasies worthy of some of my past 'projects,' I caught a glimpse of slender limbs stretched high into the air, above flowing, dark hair, like perfectly tempered chocolate.

I scoffed at myself for knowing what tempered chocolate was. My diet didn't exactly include human treats.

Actually, I supposed it did include human treats, but those did not fall into the same food group as chocolate. I smirked to myself as I waited, listening for the perfect time to make my grand entrance. The rasp of rough cotton reached my ears, signaling that the gag had been removed for the final act. I couldn't blame him for wanting amusement; I planned to toy with my prey as well. I felt a shimmer of respect for my target, but that was no different than usual. A bit of regard for one's prey was necessary to be an efficient predator.

"My father will find you," the woman said. "Go ahead and kill me, I don't give a fuck. Just know he'll take you down when he finds you, and whatever death you give me will be heaven compared to the way you're gonna go out."

Her voice was pitched slightly lower than that of most women I'd encountered, yet was still utterly feminine. Though it was scratchy from screaming and held just a trace of fearful tremor, I very much enjoyed hearing her. Her voice somehow complimented and combated the icy excitement; created a paradox that swirled in my stomach, hot and cold warring inside.

I shook myself out of my reverie. Why was I thinking of this woman in terms of someone who needed to be rescued, instead of as a potential victim?

"Oh, little girl," Laurent laughed softly, infusing his tone with every bit of his insidious amusement. "You don't think I slacked on my research, do you? I know everything about you… including that you're currently without live parents." So brave, beautiful and pale, he thought. We'll see how brave she is after the first cut… I removed myself from his thoughts, only monitoring the tone to get a general indication of his actions. He was too absorbed with his little pet to notice anything but her at this point.

I heard the soft hiss of a blade as it was removed from its leather sheath. The luscious scent of her fear spiked suddenly, and I knew she'd seen the knife. Venom pooled in my mouth in response to the stimulant, but I swallowed it back, not yet ready to utilize my innate weapons. I concentrated hard and heard her swift intake of breath as he stepped toward her.

"I have plenty of friends who will come after you," she growled, trying her best to sound strong and unafraid, and she might have succeeded, to someone with less acute hearing. She was panicking, scrambling to say something that would throw him off. "They're going to know I was with you, and they'll figure it out that you're that sick fuck that gets off on torturing women." An almost hysterical laugh bubbled up from her lips before she continued, her voice escalating in volume and pitch. "What's the matter, Laurent? Can't get it up without a little torture and blood? Is that the only way you can get off with your tiny dick?" she shouted.

She's a brave one, but she's not very smart if she thinks baiting him is going to save her. I sighed, knowing the pre-event entertainment was coming to an end. I was so enjoying hearing her tear into her captor, not to mention the exquisite scent of her fear and the intriguing sound of her voice. I decided then that I would let her live, for the immediate future. Which meant I would not be able to take nearly as much time with my prey as I normally liked. Perhaps I would toy with her for a bit before letting her go. It would be interesting to provoke her…

"Your tiny little female brain couldn't possibly comprehend my motives," Laurent was saying, sounding uninterested. I knew better. His heartbeat and breathing had sped up minutely in angry response to her taunts. I could hear his growing frustration with her refusal to scream and cry in fear. It wasn't important that I listen to his direct thoughts any longer; I knew what he planned – the exact sequence of events that took place at every one of his kills.

Her heartbeat was easy for me to separate from his. It was louder, faster, and somehow seemed to plant itself in my brain, speaking to some long-dead part of me. It was important that this heart keep beating, for some reason that I was not willing to entertain.

"What the hell made you such a crazy fucker, huh? Did Mommy let you sit in your shitty diapers for too long? Daddy didn't love you?" she taunted. I shook my head at her feistiness. She was a piece of work. Her bravery and sharp mouth intrigued me to no end.

Why the hell was I so focused on this insignificant piece of the plan, this pawn? I once again had to direct my focus back to the matters at hand: inspiring terror in my target, and of course, making sure his 'sacrifice' didn't go to waste. I laughed at the irony: I used the strength of killers to commit my own special brand of murdering. My own sick little circle of life… or death, as it was.

"Bella, Bella," I heard him chide, the strain in his voice becoming more apparent. She was only succeeding in angering and provoking him further. Bella, I thought. An unusual name, to be sure. The name would roll off my tongue so easily… But I didn't have time for this. I was beginning to grow angry with myself for my lack of focus, and even angrier with her for causing it. Perhaps I should let him kill her after all…

No. If anyone was going to kill her, spill that sweet blood, it would be me. Bella would be mine to take.

I opened my mind to his once more, soaking in the images of her bloodied and broken; begging him for mercy. He savored the sounds of her screams and the contrast of bright red blood on skin with only slightly more color than moonlight. I closed him off once again when I realized that the description of her skin was not his, but my own. I needed to focus.

"Fuck you," she spat. Suddenly, she whimpered, the sound accompanied by his malevolent laugh and yet another spike of her delicious fear. But that was not the only scent that permeated the air this time.

Every muscle in my body tensed when it hit me. It was the rain in spring, fresh freesia and fruit and sunshine in my meadow. I gripped the wall to prevent myself from springing into the room at the wrong time, from grabbing her and draining her dry in an instant. Venom flooded my mouth and every nerve ending pulsed with energy and strength, readying my body to spring.

Blood. Not just any blood, but her blood. He'd cut her. I trembled with the need to rush in there and dispatch him to hell, if it even existed… just before I savored every drop of blood her body had to offer. I couldn't do that, however, because that would deviate from my carefully constructed plan. Following the plan was only second to camouflage when one lived a life like mine.

But what to do with her? I didn't know.

I'd deal with Laurent first; adhere to the plan, take care of my 'project,' and then I'd deal with Bella. In whatever way was necessary.

A disturbing thought niggled at the back of my mind: when had she become more than merely the pawn, more than a simple female pronoun? When had she become Bella? It must be her scent – her fear, her blood.

I stopped breathing, attempting to temper the effect her scent had on my nearly overwhelmed brain. I might have felt an inkling of fear, of uncertainty, but I had only the experiences of others on which to judge those feelings. I quickly focused on relaxing my muscles in groups, one after the other, until I was as calm as I could be when I was 'working.' It was time to intervene, before he cut her again and liberated more of her exquisite blood, possibly causing me to lose control.

I looked in on his thoughts once more, to assure he wasn't watching the door. Satisfied I wouldn't be seen, I eased the door open with a gentle push of my fingertip, knowing exactly the right amount of pressure to use.

"So brave," he crooned in a dark voice. "But such a filthy mouth for a lady. Should I cut out your tongue next, hmm? Then I'll still be able to hear your beautiful screams, but none of those uncouth words."

I had to act immediately; if I allowed him to cut out her tongue, there would be so much blood… and I'd lose all control.

I swept in at preternatural speed, invisible to the human eye, swiping the knife from Laurent's hand as he prepared to take another slice. Before a second had passed, I was safely ensconced in the shadowy rafters of the ceiling directly above them, clutching the knife in my gloved hand. I was completely silent, nearly invisible and totally motionless. I still refused to breathe, the scent of her blood permeating the heavy, stale air. I knew it coated the blade in my hand; the minute amount of liquid was tethered to my body as surely as if it was connected with rope. Before I realized what I was doing, I'd raised the knife to my mouth and licked the blade clean. It was the most wonderful, yet most disturbing blood I'd ever tasted. Current shot through my body as the first drop hit my tongue, sizzling straight to my toes. I'd never had such a reaction before.

I had only a moment to absorb the sweet flavor of her blood before flashes of memory assailed my mind; split-second vignettes of crowded high-school halls, failed dance recitals, and quiet nights in a tiny, messy bedroom. Were those Bella's memories? I sucked in an involuntary breath as I snapped out of whatever hold her blood had on my mind. I was so shocked by the unexplained visions that tasting the blood hadn't sent me on a downward spiral into bloodlust. Was it her blood that had caused it?

I felt like I'd been sitting here for hours, but in reality, only a few seconds had passed. I broke away from my thoughts as I heard Laurent's terrified but furious voice. I had to push this interesting development to the back of my mind.

"Where the fuck did my knife go? What the hell was that?" he shouted, his eyes darting around the room. Bella didn't speak; the only noises she made were her sharp, staccato intakes of breath. Refusing to study her for fear of becoming even more distracted, I watched him curiously as I crouched above; monitoring his thoughts to ensure I knew how he would act next. His confusion and fear might make him a bit unpredictable.

I've only just begun, Laurent. It's a shame I won't be able to take as much time with you as I'd like. Lucky for you, disappointing for me.

I leapt silently to a spot in the shadows, my victim completely unaware of my movement. I cocked my head to the side as I watched him, feeling the cold smile stretch my face as the icy pleasure once again took the reins. I rushed past him again, slicing a shallow line across his cheek. I heard Bella scream, but forcefully tuned her out of my mind. There was time to deal with her later. Once again hidden, I tasted the blood on the knife, waiting to see if I was once again swamped with memories.

Nothing. Just the dark, spicy tang of fresh blood. It was wonderful, but it only intensified the familiar burn in my throat and caused venom to pool in my mouth. No visions, memories, or any associated feelings other than the intensification of my hunger.

How interesting. Extraordinary. I knew then I had to have her… explore this unknown factor until I knew exactly what it was.

Yet again I realized I was caught in my own mind because of this woman. I had to put an end to this before I made an irreversible mistake. Luckily for me, my lapses in vigilance lasted only seconds at most.

"Who the fuck are you? Come out, you cocksucker!" Laurent was yelling. I smiled at the racing beat of his heart. "You little bitch, someone followed you, didn't they?" he screamed, backhanding Bella and sending her swinging on the rope I only just now noticed bound her. She was strung up by her wrists in the center of the room, her toes barely brushing the floor. She cried out at the strike, followed by soft sobs that I knew she couldn't control. From what I'd seen of her so far, she would not be crying if she had any power over it.

"Speak!" He backhanded her again, this time on the other cheek, before turning to stalk to his makeshift work bench, an old, decrepit desk left behind by the previous owner. A fresh wave of her scent wafted over me, laced with the alluring tang of her fear and the nearly irresistible sweetness of her blood. I briefly wondered if he'd split her lip or if she'd bitten her tongue, but I couldn't allow myself to focus on her any longer. I had to block her out until Laurent was taken care of. She was too much of a distraction.

I was less than five feet away, but of course, he didn't notice me. His 'tools' were laid out in a pouch that could be rolled and tied, all the instruments fitting neatly in single pockets. Before he could reach the bench, I swept the tools away. To his frail, incompetent human eyes, it seemed like they had simply disappeared. Laurent froze, his eyes widening at the suddenly empty space in front of him. He still had not seen me.

That was about to change. It was time.

I rolled up the pouch in a fraction of a second, making no noise. I then bent it neatly in half, rendering the instruments useless. I tossed them at his feet, finally ready for him to see me. His eyes darted to the lump of fabric and twisted metal at his feet, then up to me as I stepped into the light. I smiled at him, a full, wide smile that showcased my gleaming teeth to perfection. I was showing him the instruments of his death.

He looked at me incredulously, like all of my victims did upon first sight of me. His eyebrows rose and his lip curled in disdain. I knew what he saw, because it was what I wanted him to see. He saw a young man dressed in black, tall and thin, with an angular face that looked as if it had only just transitioned out of boyhood. He saw the small, wire-framed glasses that served to mitigate the impact of my pitch-black eyes and prevent my irises from reflecting the light with an eerie red glow.

What he didn't see were the lean, ropy muscles that were concealed beneath my black shirt and jeans, and he most certainly couldn't see the greatest weapon in my arsenal: my mind. The weapon that had orchestrated more deaths than he had seen years on this earth.

"Who the fuck are you?" he spat, kicking the ruined tools out of the way and taking a step toward me. "Go get your fucking dope somewhere else, junkie." Stupid fucking druggie college kids. I'll have to fucking kill this one too. I hate killing the men. They're not nearly as entertaining as the fresh little coeds...

I simply cocked my head to the side again, removing my glasses in the process and tucking them into my pocket. The motion of my head caused the light to hit my eyes; Laurent gasped as he saw the red light reflected and amplified. I let a low growl escape from my throat, knowing he wouldn't be able to tell where it came from, and he wouldn't believe that it had come from me. I watched him dispassionately, studying him as one might study a specimen prepared for dissection.

I'd done plenty of that in my lifetime. Dissection was a necessary tool for diagnosis and learning. And everyone knows that to be an efficient predator, one must know everything possible about his prey.

"You don't need to know who I am," I said smoothly, taking another step toward him. "You only need to know that you're going to die." He suddenly rushed me, but I darted out of the way easily, tripping him as I went, laughing richly at his shock. I stopped directly opposite of him, letting him see where I was.

"What the fuck are you, man?" he asked, his voice trembling with the sure knowledge of his impending death. His heartbeat was furiously fast, and his breath came in clipped bursts. I caught the unmistakable acrid scent of urine and saw the dark stain spreading over his trousers.

Even under all of this, I could still detect the essence of the woman, of Bella, in the back of my mind. I had to put an end to this, and quickly, so I could figure out the mystery that was less than three yards away from me, witnessing everything.

I rushed forward, grabbing him by the throat with one hand and seizing his wrist in the other, running until I slammed his back into the old exposed brick. I cut off his air for just a few seconds as I leaned in, frightening him just a bit more and causing his adrenal glands to work overtime. Although adrenaline was slightly bitter, nothing was more exhilarating than blood liberally dosed with the precious hormone. I loosened my hand as I leaned in close to him, allowing him a few breaths. I didn't want to suffocate him; the lack of oxygen would lend a sour and stale taste to his blood.

"Vampire," I whispered before sinking my teeth into his wrist, my eyes never leaving his as I drank. I enjoyed the fear in his eyes immensely. It was just another perk that added to the total package.

He screamed and kicked uselessly at my shins, likely breaking a few toes as his feet glanced off my impenetrable skin. I chose his wrist because it would take longer to drain him. It would be more painful, drinking the blood from smaller veins. I bit him several times as I held him there, switching arms, and as his struggles and groans began to weaken, I allowed my attention to focus on the girl. Her scent was overwhelming… which should not have been the case at all. Normally, when I fed, the scent and taste of blood was all-consuming.

When feeding, creatures such as I were reduced to their most primal of selves; the predator took over and animal instincts overwhelmed the intellect. But now, I found myself hurrying through the kill, ripping bigger holes in his flesh and being generally wasteful with my food. I was grateful for the typical M.O. of this project; he lined his kill sites with plastic sheeting to keep trace evidence from being left behind. It would serve to erase all evidence of my carelessness.

This was completely unlike me. I was meticulous and neat with my kills, always. But tonight, all I wanted was to finish my meal and investigate the enigma that was hanging behind me, more than likely terrified by the show I was inadvertently giving her. Her heart was beating fast, seeming louder to me than the whir of helicopter rotor blades. The harsh sounds of her breath came in swift gasps, but the scent of her fear remained steady, neither spiking nor waning. I hoped that meant she wasn't watching my untidy little meal.

I noticed that Laurent had ceased his feeble struggles, signaling it was time to ensure there were no… lingering consequences from this project. Tossing his limp body over my shoulder, I carted him to the room at the very back of the warehouse that I'd prepared ahead of time. I'd collected myriad pieces of leftover palates and office furniture and tossed them into a pile in the center of the room. I knew this step was more important than ever, given the sloppiness of the kill.

I had no way of knowing if I'd left enough blood behind to complete a transformation, but I certainly refused to take the chance. I didn't leave loose ends. Tossing the body onto the pile of wood, I grabbed the industrial-sized jug of lighter fluid and rags I'd stashed in the corner, coating the rags in the accelerant and placing them liberally throughout the pile. I emptied the rest of the lighter fluid onto the stack and struck a match, the sharp burst of sulfur clearing some of her scent from my nostrils. I dropped lit matches all around, creating a large funeral pyre that was much too good for the likes of Laurent Chevalier.

I rushed back to the kill site, gathering up the plastic sheeting and other loose evidence of the evening, making sure to move so fast that she couldn't see anything but a blur. When I got back to the other room, the fire had grown into a large, hot blaze, the sickly-sweet stench of burning flesh permeating the air. I tossed the bundle onto the pyre, watching as it melted into the flames, sending plumes of oily black smoke wafting up to the ceiling. The fire would spread throughout the building, taking with it all evidence of my transgressions. Laurent would disappear forever, and I would move on to another target. Everything was wrapped up neatly, just as I liked it. Except for the girl, Bella.

As I stared into the blaze, I tried to decide what to do with her. Then it hit me, something I couldn't believe I'd failed to notice before.

I hadn't heard one single thought from her. The only time I had come close was when I'd tasted her blood…

I can't read her mind.

I couldn't believe I had missed such a crucial piece of information. Of course, I'd been so preoccupied with keeping her out of my thoughts… was it possible that I'd managed to prevent myself from hearing every thought in her head? I'd never been successful in completely silencing a mind before. I had to know if this was the case.

Before I'd finished the thought, I was back in the doorway of the back office, watching as Bella hung there, swaying back and forth as she tried in vain to find a way out of the rope. She wasn't crying hysterically or screaming, just working determinedly, her hands twisting back and forth, chafing the delicate skin of her wrists. Each movement sent more of that incredibly delicious scent my way, causing the predator inside me to claw its way even closer to the surface. I swallowed back the flood of venom it triggered, knowing that there were more important things to investigate – her possibly impenetrable mind… and the strange phenomenon I'd experienced when I'd licked her blood from the knife.

I went to her, not bothering to move as slowly as a human would. She'd already seen what I was capable of. She froze, her eyes wide, dry, and terrified. They were a rich shade of brown, large and luminous. She was quite beautiful, I supposed, for a human. She would be, at least, if she were not bloodied and beaten. Her dark hair hung limply in tangles down her back, the roots damp with sweat from her attempts to escape.

I still could pull nothing from her mind, and I was actively trying. I knew there was no way her mind was blank; her eyes were too intelligent for that. Letting my gaze wander from her face, I followed the elegant line of her neck down to the vee-shaped neckline of her blouse, where a single slash rode high on the swell of her left breast, blood still oozing from the shallow wound. I was unable to tear my eyes away.

I told myself it was because of the blood.

I lied. Mostly. It was enticing. But the soft swells of her breasts held nearly the same appeal, something I'd never personally experienced. Only through the thoughts of others had I felt sexual desire. It was a heady, disorienting feeling. I finally raised my eyes to hers and lifted my hand, tracing the back of one finger over the soft curve of her cheek. Over the angle of her jaw and down the incredibly soft skin of her neck I stroked, until I reached her wound. Her eyes never left mine as I dragged my finger through the blood that seeped from her flesh. What began as terror gradually morphed into defiance, then anger, then acceptance.

"You're not human," she whispered. It wasn't a question. I shook my head and traced my fingertip over the slash on her chest, drawing a gasp from her. "You… you bit him."

"So you saw that?" I asked. She nodded shakily, licking her trembling lips. She was so brave… I wanted to see if I could provoke her.

"Are you going to bite me?" Now that question… I didn't quite know how to answer to that. I knew I wanted to find out more about her, to solve the mystery of the flashes of memory and her silent mind. But once those puzzles were solved, would she still hold interest for me? I didn't know. I might very well decide to kill her then. It's probably best not to tell her now.

"Do you want me to?" I asked in a low tone, employing the voice I used to get others to do what I wanted. I slowly raised my finger to my lips as her eyes widened, licking the red smear away. The current returned; burning through me as my eyes rolled back at the taste. The predator clamored for the surface, but was forced back when I was once again hit with glimpses of a life that was not mine.

tripping in a crowded high-school cafeteria and the ensuing mortification… the embarrassment of a fender-bender in a store parking lot… an awkward kiss with a raven-haired, dark-skinned young man.

I couldn't prevent the growl that rumbled in my chest at the vision of her kissing another man. It baffled me. Why did I care about her past exploits? What I felt concerning her was purely clinical curiosity, nothing more. I was interested in her strange, delicious blood and the fortress that seemed to encase her mind. If I wanted her body, it was a purely physical need, therefore I didn't care who had come before me.

"Just kill me and get it over with," she snapped, bringing me out of my musings. She met my stare head on; all fear gone, just calm conviction. This girl was an enigma that I couldn't wait to unravel. I could have stood there all night, studying her. But smoke was starting to creep through the open doorway, and if I didn't want her to die (at least until I was ready to kill her myself), we needed to make a hasty exit.

I leaned in closer to her, still significantly taller than she was, even with the added height from being suspended on her toes. Raising my hand, I traced my fingers up the sensitive skin at the underside of her arm, all the way up to the rope above her hands, bound high above her head. I let the tip of my nose drift over her cheekbone, down to the soft skin just beneath her jaw. She tilted her head to the side, offering me her neck as calmly as if she came in contact with bloodthirsty vampires every day. I drew in a full breath, absorbing the rich scent of her: that sweet, delectable fear, intoxicating, perplexing blood, and woman.

Lowering my mouth to her throat, I discovered she wasn't as calm as she seemed: her pulse was pounding beneath my lips. I wanted to scrape my teeth along the tender skin; I was surprised to realize that while the urge was of a primal nature, it was not due to the desire to feed. I wanted her body; I wanted to mark her as mine. Ridiculous, I thought to myself. She can't be mine. She's nothing more than a fragile little human. A passing curiosity. So instead, I dragged my lips over her pulse, back and forth, contenting myself with the closed-mouth contact.

"Not quite yet," I said against her flesh, letting her feel the cool wash of my breath against her skin. My free hand slid around her slender waist and anchored her to my body. She was soft, where I was hard; warm, where I was cold. Her body molded perfectly to mine, her shape conforming to fit against me, and I wondered if I was using too much of my strength. I'd never touched a human without intent to kill, so I was unsure how much pressure to use. She made no noise, just a small exhalation of breath at the contact; a disruption in the rapid rhythm of her breathing. Without warning, I tugged on the rope, snapping it at its anchoring point on the ceiling. She let out a sharp, staccato scream as I effortlessly tossed her over my shoulder and sped out of the warehouse, leaving it and the evidence of my project to burn to ashes.

*****

It was bad luck for Bella that I'd driven the Vanquish tonight.

"I'm sorry, little lioness," I said as she struggled in my arms. "But I can't very well have you screaming bloody murder as I drive, can I?" I laughed at my own bad pun.

"You fucking asshole! Let me go or kill me, you sick fuck! You're no better than that pervert you just murdered!

I hit the keyless entry and the trunk popped open. She was still struggling madly and screaming loud enough to alert any passersby, so I quickly laid her in the trunk. I always kept a spare set of clothing in the car, so I used a strip from the clean t-shirt to use as a makeshift gag.

"You're telling me you won't try to scream your head off or bail out of the car at the first stoplight?" I smirked as she scowled around the gag, knowing I had her. The Vanquish was a convertible; I didn't feel like putting the top up, so it was easier for me to put her in the trunk. For all my intricate planning involving my projects, I was all about simplicity concerning most other things. "I thought so," I chuckled, earning a muffled growl from my captive. She kicked out at me, still not quite able to use her arms. I was positive they would be sore from her previous position. I wasn't sure how long she'd been hanging there.

I knew from her squirming and thrashing that I would have to immobilize her somehow. She was rapidly becoming more trouble than she was worth. I sighed, staring into her liquid brown eyes as I looped the rope underneath her knees several times, her hands still bound. She was effectively hog-tied in reverse, and could do nothing but squirm uselessly in the confined space.

"See you in a bit," I said cheerfully, simply because I knew it would make her angry.

I slammed the trunk lid shut on another furious growl and grinned as I drove off.

*****

I lived in a large house just outside of the Seattle suburbs. It was a cold, modern monstrosity, but it suited me. It was intimidating and didn't attract many door-to-door visitors.

I thanked whatever God the humans were currently worshipping for this situation as I pulled into the garage. Bella hadn't ceased moving, grunting or growling for the entire thirty-minute drive. My patience was gone and killing her was sounding more and more attractive.

"I see I was right to leave you in the trunk," I said as I hauled her up to a spare room on the third floor.

"Mmmmph!" was my only response. She was certainly a feisty one.

"Come on, it wasn't so bad, was it?"

She squirmed even more, thrashing about as best as she could. "Mrrrmmmmmph!"

"What, nothing to say?" I teased, earning more squirming and growling. The girl growled more than a wet, irritated cat. She bounced twice when I dropped her on the bed. I tsked at her, which only served to make her angrier. I was so enjoying this reaction. "I might untie you if you quit squirming, you know," I said conversationally. She had the nerve to look at me with an arched eyebrow, but she stopped moving. I burst out laughing at the look on her face. This situation was absurd. I sat lightly on the bed next to her, ignoring the way she tried to shift away from me. Crossing my arms over my chest, I pretended to consider my options.

"I think I rather like you like this." The statement set off another fit of squirming and unintelligible warbling behind the gag. I removed the gag quickly, using my normal speed. She blinked for a few seconds until she suddenly realized she could speak again. I had no idea what would come out of those full little lips, but I knew for sure it would be entertaining.

"Fuck you, Oprah! 'Never let yourself be taken to the second location,'" she mocked. I chuckled at her childlike tone of voice. She didn't react. She was now mumbling her way through a list of self-defense tips. "Of course, you forgot to tell your audience how to defend yourself from fucking vampires, Oprah!"

"She wouldn't, you know," I told her. "She's one of us." Her jaw dropped open and her eyes went wide. It was a complete lie, of course, but it was so entertaining to provoke her. "And it seems to me that you didn't follow her advice with the human who was bound and determined to torture you to death this evening. Or did you think it would be fun to meet a sociopath in a deserted warehouse?"

She began laughing hysterically. "Oh, my God. I've had a break with reality… I've hallucinated this whole night, haven't I?" I kept silent. I didn't think she really wanted an answer. I waited for her to continue, a smirk pulling at my lips. "Wait a minute," she muttered. "Vampires can gain and lose weight? Is there such a thing as a vampire diet program? What do you do? Go to Blood Watchers meetings? Is there a Points system? 'Better not have that diabetic tonight; all that extra blood sugar goes right to my ass,'" she laughed, tears leaking from the corners of her eyes.

She was baffling. Since she was just lying there laughing, I reached over and loosened the rope I'd bound around her knees before ripping the nylon binding apart at her wrists. The rope had chafed and pulled at her skin, leaving angry red marks and abrasions in some spots. I picked up her wrist, marveling at the small size of her delicate bones. She let me hold her wrist in the palm of one hand, while I stroked a fingertip across the abused area. I heard her sharp intake of breath and looked up to meet her eyes.

"Why won't I just wake up now? Usually, when I realize I'm dreaming, I wake up…"

I brought her wrist to my lips and pressed my lips against her warm, sweet-smelling skin. Her pulse beat against my lips, like her blood was trying to jump out at me. And I wanted it – but did I want it because it was the most exquisite blood I'd ever tasted, or was it because I wanted her memories? I wasn't sure.

She gasped, likely startled by the coolness of my lips against her abraded wrist. Holding her gaze, I licked my bottom lip and was rewarded with the tiniest drop of her blood. I braced myself for yet another glimpse of her distant past, but what I saw surprised me.

It was me.

My skin was pale, luminescent and otherworldly, set off by hair that first appeared dark, but shone with golden, bronze and red strands as I passed through the light cast by the bare bulbs of the warehouse. The memory was infused with one particular word: beautiful.

She tried to yank her wrist out of my hand; breaking me out of the trance her memories seemed to put me in. I smirked at her.

"You think I'm beautiful?" I asked her, letting my amusement color my tone.

"What?" she squeaked, her eyebrows shooting up near her hairline and her cheeks flushing an appealing shade of pink. She recovered from her initial shock quickly and laughed. "Jesus H. Christ, no! You're a sadistic, perverted, scary asshole! You kidnapped me and locked me in the trunk of your car!" Her voice had escalated to a yell and she was breathing hard, her face the picture of indignation.

"Bella, it doesn't escape my notice that those are all assessments of my character, and not my physical person," I said, keeping my voice low and rough. She swallowed convulsively, obviously trying to formulate a response. Finally, her brow knitted in a tight expression of annoyance.

"It doesn't escape my notice that you didn't deny any of my assumptions about your character," she snapped. "And how do you know my name?"

"You can thank your friend, Laurent, for that." I leaned over her until my lips touched her ear. She tried to shrink away, but as she shifted, I caught a trace of another, more earthy fragrance in the air. She was aroused.

"You know what else I noticed, little lioness? You didn't deny you find me attractive," I murmured.

"You conceited jerk!" she shouted. I chuckled in her ear, letting my cool breath wash over the delicate curve before pulling back. Her cheeks were enticingly pink, her precious blood so close to the surface.

"Although I admire your talent for… interesting nicknames, my name is not 'conceited jerk' or 'scary asshole.' My name is Edward, should you ever have the desire to call me by my given name."

"What would I ever want to do that, fucker?" she retorted.

I barked out a laugh as I stood and went to the door, so quickly that I knew she hadn't seen me move. No matter the trouble she caused, I would definitely be entertained for however long she lasted here.

*****

She refused to speak to me for a week.

I brought the ungrateful little grump food and water every day, made sure she had clean clothes, and even had a TV brought in for her entertainment. I'd tried to convince her to let me tend to her wounds, but she refused. I could have forced her, but it was simply too much trouble. I was forced to leave her the supplies and let her tend to herself. Not one word of thanks was uttered. So what if I'd locked her in my home and refused to let her leave? I was providing her with the necessities. What more did a human need?

I visited her at least three times a day and tried to engage her in conversation, asked her questions and tried to be generally charming, but she simply looked at me through narrowed eyes or ignored me altogether. On the third day, I decided I would give her a week to come around. Then, she was mine. I would have her blood and her body, and this ridiculous obsession with the enigma she presented would go away. Then I could get rid of her without a second thought.

Every night, I watched her sleep. It was fascinating to me. She spoke strange phrases in a soft, throaty voice. Sometimes, she spoke my name. Those were the nights I had to remove myself from the room, because the predator in me threatened to step to the forefront at the husky sound of her voice. The predator's intentions had changed. Make no mistake, he still wanted her blood, but he was beginning to want her body more.

I wanted her body, her blood, and her memories. I not only wanted her memories; I wanted to be in her memories, create memories with her. This fascination I had for her was bordering on obsession.

I wanted Bella. For the first time, I wanted the companionship of a human, and not just for the few hours to stalk, torture, tease and kill them. I wanted Bella… for as long as she'd have me.

It made me angry… and I was amazed at the intensity of the emotion. I couldn't fight it. I was feeling.

Determined to ignore the changes she was wreaking in me, I began to plan my next project. I hacked into the Sherriff's department database and found my next victim. On day six, I did reconnaissance. The day was sufficiently cloudy, so I was out all day, enjoying the familiar routine of stalking my prey.

Beginning a project was still as satisfying as it had ever been, but she was always in the back of my mind.

It was quite disturbing.

On the seventh day, I unlocked her door to find her sitting on the floor with her back to me, the wooden legs of my antique Queen Anne chair snapped off the base. I crept into the room, ready to scare the life out of her, when I noticed what she was doing. She had removed the wrought-iron register cover from the floor and was busily shaving one end of a chair leg into a sharp point. I couldn't contain the laugh that suddenly welled out of me. She jumped and leapt to her feet, the makeshift stake clutched in her hand. She didn't notice that she was holding it the wrong way.

"You think that's going to work?" I laughed. She let out a rather amusing battle cry and rushed at me. I grabbed her hand just before the blunt end of the stake connected with my chest. "Wait, little lioness, I may have some garlic in the kitchen, and there's a church just a few miles from here. I can go get you some holy water."

"Does anything kill you?" she asked, squirming and kicking at my shins.

"She speaks!" I crowed, yanking the stake from her hand.

"Ow!"

She put her finger to her lips a second before I smelled it. She was bleeding. Venom flooded my mouth and I inhaled sharply, my eyes rolling back in my head at the scent. One arm snaking around her waist, I pulled her flush against me. I tossed the stake across the room with a flick of my wrist and captured her injured hand. A rather large splinter was embedded in the fleshy pad of her index finger. I took a moment to make sure I was in control before speaking.

"See what happens when you try to kill innocent vampires with the remnants of very expensive antique chairs?" I held her finger in front of her face so she could see it, grinning at her. I'd figured out the smirk only irritated her, so I was trying a different tactic.

"Innocent?" she laughed. "You've got to be kidding me. You killed a man right in front of me!"

"I was only defending my lady's honor!" I protested, giving her my most charming look. She snorted and squirmed against me, invoking a reaction down below that I was beginning to believe was a permanent condition around Bella. I no longer believed that her blood held the strongest draw for me. It was insane. The woman hadn't spoken to me for a week, yet I couldn't get her out of my mind. She was only growing more beautiful to me; the worst of her bruises from the ordeal with Laurent having faded to pale yellow smudges across her cheekbones. I constantly found my thoughts drifting to her: the curves of her small, soft body, the tone of her voice, the silky, shiny fall of dark hair… I forced myself to stop thinking about it.

I drew her to the bed, the only place to sit in the room now that she'd destroyed the chair.

"Sit," I instructed. She looked at me, one eyebrow raised.

"If you think I'm getting in that bed with you, you're even nuttier than I first thought, jackass. And I am not 'your lady'!" she huffed, trying to pull her hand from mine. "I'm your fucking prisoner!"

I sighed, barely resisting the urge to roll my eyes at her.

"Oh, would you like to go home? Why didn't you just say so?" I knew my lips were twitching, but I hoped she didn't notice. Her jaw dropped open as she stared at me in disbelief. I nudged her mouth closed with my index finger, and she tried to smack my hand away. I simply moved my hand to cup her jaw as I forced her to sit next to me on the bed. I still held her injured finger in my other hand.

"Take me home, now," she growled. I pretended to think it over, then shook my head regretfully.

"Maybe later." She wasn't going anywhere until I was done with her. Ignoring her struggles, I yanked the splinter from her finger.

"That hurt, you ass!"

"I imagine it would hurt more if we just waited for it to fester out. You humans are so fragile; so susceptible to infection."

"Yeah, you wouldn't want your precious prisoner to die on you," she groused.

I leaned closer to her, inspecting the single drop of blood that oozed from her finger. "Not if that prisoner is you," I admitted. The words were out of my mouth before I could rein them in. Her laughter a second later told me my little slip had flown over her head.

"Whatever. It would be so inconvenient for you to have to run out and find yourself another source of amusement."

"Well, you do amuse me…" I began, succumbing to temptation and slowly pulling her finger to my mouth. I was surprised when she didn't fight me. "And intrigue me…" She simply watched me, her eyes wide, pupils dilated. Her breathing quickened, and then stopped altogether when I licked away the drop of blood before drawing her fingertip into my mouth. I couldn't resist the urge to suckle at the cut, drawing forth another sweet, incomparable droplet. My eyes dropped closed of their own accord as I savored the essence of her. Releasing her finger before the predator could take control, I steadied myself for the impact of the memory I knew would form in my mind.

Absolute terror followed the searing pain of Laurent's knife. But the knife was gone in the blink of an eye and a rush of cool air fanning across her face…

She skipped forward, until the first time she'd seen me. Was this what she relived every time we spoke?

Deadly beauty… savior, or simply another killer?

Another jump, to the time just before I'd snapped the rope that held her up.

Electric pulses as cool lips brushed over hot skin, the urge to arch against the danger, to welcome it…

To welcome me. Fuck, I wanted her to welcome me. In every way.

I opened my eyes to find her staring at me. We sat there, watching each other for a long moment. She was the first one to break the spell.

"Why were you there? Can you tell me that?" she whispered, sounding far away. She was still half trapped in the memory of that night.

"I was there to kill him." I offered no excuse. I saw no advantage in lying to her at this point. "Bella, he was a serial killer. He was going to torture you to death. He deserved to die." I said seriously.

"How did you know he would be there?" she demanded.

"Do you really want to know?"

"I wouldn't have asked if I didn't, Edward."

She refused to look at me; her eyes focused intently on her finger, squeezing it between her thumb and forefinger.

"It doesn't burn, does it?" I wasn't entirely sure if venom could penetrate her bloodstream without an actual bite, but one could never be too careful…

"No," she snapped. "Why?"

I shrugged. "Infection?" She didn't need to know the specifics. It would only give her another reason to be pissed at me. Thankfully, she let the topic drop.

"You still haven't told me what you were doing there." She was a persistent little thing, I'd give her that.

"I picked him. I stalked him, followed him for days. I planned to take him down that night."

"So you're just as sick as he was. You're a serial killer, too!" she said. She scooted back on the bed, away from me, curling her arms around her knees as she leaned against the headboard.

I smirked at her. "First of all, I resent the term 'serial killer.' How about something more PC, like 'Recycler?' And I'm not 'sick.' It's impossible for my kind to get sick." She groaned in frustration, tossing her head back and smacking it against the headboard.

"Ow," she moaned, one hand going back to probe at the tender spot. I started to come closer, to make sure she was fine, but she held up the hand that had been clutching her head. "Sorry, Dracula, no snack this time."

I couldn't help but chuckle at her wit. It should have been annoying.

"And you know I meant 'sick' as in psycho, sociopathic, batshit crazy…" she trailed off, one eyebrow arching high.

"Actually, the data suggests most serial killers are highly intelligent, functioning individuals of the community, and are very far from 'batshit crazy,' as you so eloquently put it," I teased. I was full-on grinning at her, and a smile pulled at one corner of her lips. Ah, progress

"Your victims… are they all like him?" she asked rather timidly.

"Yes. They're all killers, abusers, rapists…"

"So, you're like some kind of vampire Watchman? Like the comic books?" I laughed outright and she smiled.

"If you want to call it that," I conceded. I didn't think she'd appreciate the fact that evil people simply made for more exciting meals. It didn't exactly paint me in the most favorable light, and for some reason, I cared what Bella thought of me.

"Do you make a habit of kidnapping your victims' victims and keeping them prisoner, Flowers in the Attic style?"

"No, only you," I responded, shaking my head at her quirky references. "What is 'Flowers in the Attic style,' if I may ask?"

"It's a book. The evil grandmother locks her orphan grandkids in the attic and feeds them arsenic-laced powdered sugar doughnuts."

"So I'm the evil grandmother?" I asked incredulously. She nodded firmly. Her mind became more and more mysterious every moment I spent with her.

"So why did you take me?" she inquired, changing subjects just as fast as she had before.

I leaned closer to her, planting my hands on either side of her feet. Her knees kept just enough distance between us to give her a sense of security, but still satisfy my need to be close enough to feel her warmth and smell her mesmerizing scent. I was comfortable with her, in spite of her abrasive words and sarcastic personality. I was beginning to wonder if she would ever cease to fascinate me.

I rested my chin on her knee and waited until she met my eyes.

"Because I had to know if you feel this too," I admitted.

*****

I went shopping for her the next day. My motives were not entirely altruistic, because that would be simply disgusting to me. I had to find out for myself what this Flowers in the Attic book entailed.

I came home with sacks upon sacks of books, a new laptop, and an iPod. I knew this was close to trying to buy her affection, but what was a conscienceless vampire 'Recycler' to do when he was trying to impress a lady friend?

I unlocked her door and swept in with my purchases.

"What the hell is all this stuff?" She stared, wide-eyed, at my armload full of tokens of my misguided affection.

"Things to occupy your time while I'm out," I explained.

"Here's a novel idea," she exclaimed, her lips turning up in a gigantic fake smile. "How about you let me go home, and you can take all that shit back? You've got quite a long time to live, you know. You should be saving your money."

"Hmm, let me think," I mocked, mirroring her mannerisms. I shook my head before finishing. "No, I think I'll keep you." To my surprise, she didn't protest, she merely rolled her eyes and began digging through one of the bookstore bags.

"Oooh, I've wanted to read this!" She pulled out a trade paperback and flopped onto the bed to read, ignoring me. I grinned when I saw the title, because that one was a book I'd read and enjoyed. It reminded me very much of myself.

It was Darkly Dreaming Dexter.

*****

Over the next few weeks, we developed a routine. I devoted whatever hours I needed to prepare for my next project, and spent the rest of the time with her. I'd begun to let her have free reign of the third floor, since I was able to lock the door at the bottom of the stairs that led to her level.

I hadn't tasted her blood since the "stake incident," and I found that didn't bother me as much as it should have. At night, I made her read the Dexter books to me, and by the third week of her captivity, she would let me rest my head in her lap as she read. I stayed with her on the nights I was home, simply watching her sleep.

When we finished with the trilogy, she moved on to Flowers in the Attic. I mourned the loss of my masculinity, but agreed to listen on one condition: that she was never to refer to me as the Evil Grandmother again. She reluctantly agreed.

She grew more and more beautiful to me with every passing day. I was in a constant state of arousal, even when I wasn't with her. All the while, I told myself that my obsession with her would fade, that nothing could compare to the thrill of the chase and the kill. I would prove it to myself with the culmination of my current project.

I didn't know how wrong I was. While it was just as satisfying as ever, I realized that despite my satiation from the kill, I was still looking forward to spending the rest of the night with Bella. I had to make a choice, and soon. I needed some distance.

*****

I managed to stay away from her for a day. One. Fucking. Day. I sighed as I stood in front of her door, clenching and unclenching my fists. I was still trying to talk myself out of seeing her when I realized I couldn't hear her moving around inside the room.

"Bella?" I called, easing her door open. If I'd had a beating heart, I was sure it would have been racing out of control. I didn't like the feeling. She hadn't been in any of her usual spots on the third floor, and the thought that she might be gone inspired feelings in me that I didn't want to consider.

Was this what fear was? This sensation of unease, this certainty that something you once had, once taken for granted might be gone forever? I was convinced that bringing her home from that warehouse was the worst mistake I'd ever made… the only mistake I'd ever made. But I couldn't bring myself to wish that I'd killed her, in spite of the hatred I had for the feelings she brought forth. I couldn't even wish I would have simply let her go. She'd become such a part of my life, bringing me something to live for other than my dark pursuits.

She was even more of an enigma than she had been that night. Now I knew that her mind was truly impenetrable to me, aside from the memories I saw when I tasted her blood. But even more, I found myself craving her company, her wit, her intelligence.

I heard the water in the bathroom switch on, and I was standing in front of the door before I'd made the decision to move. She's not gone… Relief washed through me, yet another goddamn emotion I felt because of her. She was just on the other side of this door, naked and perfect… I was suddenly infused with a shot of sharp anger. Anger at Bella for making me feel. Anger at myself for allowing myself to care about her. Anger at being fucking angry. I stood there, yanking on my hair, a low growl of frustration escaping my lips.

I had to get rid of her. I couldn't keep going like this. If I was going to continue on my chosen path, I had to remove Bella from my life. I would make a mistake sooner or later, leave evidence behind that could attract undue attention to my kind. Before Bella, I wouldn't have cared. I would have gone down fighting and enjoyed it. But now, when before I'd cared for nothing else but the hunt and the kill, I cared for her. It was unacceptable.

Releasing my hair, I pressed my palms flat to the door and rested my forehead between them. I heard the subtle shift in the sound of the water as she stepped beneath the spray; memorized her sigh of pleasure as the water cascaded over her soft curves… My dick hardened at the sound, the rough denim of my jeans tightening to the point of discomfort. I pictured her, soft, wet skin pinkened from the hot water, her long hair slicked back and clinging to her form. She would be obscured by the mist, but I could imagine her hands moving over her body, smoothing slick, scented soap over her skin.

The bright, clean scent of the soap wafted through the cracks in the door, but the smell of Bella herself was stronger, threatening to ignite the fire in my throat and set the venom flowing. It was enough to make me even harder, if that was possible. All noble intentions of letting her go without touching her disappeared. I would have her, just as I said to myself that first night. She would be mine, even if I never saw her again. I'd make sure of it.

I don't know how long I stood there, separated from her by only a flimsy piece of wood. I just knew that the door was now open and there she was, right in front of me. She was wrapped in a fluffy white towel, her dark hair in wet disarray all around her shoulders.

"Edward!" she gasped, one hand clutching the towel to her chest. "You scared me." I grabbed the bottom edge of her towel and tugged. She could lose the towel or come even closer to me. Either way was a winning result for me. She chose to come closer. I hooked my arm around her waist and dipped my mouth to her ear.

"That's really not unusual, is it?" I murmured before running the tip of my tongue up the delicate shell of her ear.

"No," she said shakily, as her arms curled around my neck.

"Are you afraid of me?"

"No… but you scare me, Edward." I knew what she meant. She scared the shit out of me. I wasn't afraid of her, but I was afraid of what she did to me. We were such a sick pair. I could kill her in an instant, had wanted to kill her many times, yet she still couldn't keep herself away from me. She was a danger to the only way of life I'd ever known, and I couldn't bring myself to leave her.

I pressed my lips to the soft, fragrant skin of her neck, my tongue darting out to taste her sweet flesh. Her breath caught in her throat and I pressed harder, letting the edge of my teeth barely graze her neck, I tried to ignore the flash of white-hot pain searing my throat. The predator in me snarled in anticipation, sensing how close I was to letting him out.

"Do it, Edward," she whispered. I was suddenly pressing her against the wall at the far side of the room, telling myself to back away, to leave her alone and run far away from here. But my body was not about to obey the commands of my mind when it was so close to the very thing it craved more than anything else. I growled against her neck, the sound causing her pulse to race even faster than it had been before.

"You don't know what you're asking," I grated, my lips still not leaving her neck. I ground my cock against her soft belly and groaned. I wanted to mark her so badly…

"I don't care!" she shouted, her hand sliding down to push at my shoulders. I let myself be moved, if only so she could see my eyes and the red shimmer reflected in my black irises. She met my harsh gaze head on, her earth-colored irises gleaming in the light that filtered through the window. "I don't fucking care, Edward," she repeated, and then she crushed her lips to mine. She knotted her hands in my hair as she took my lower lip between her teeth. I could tell she was trying to hurt me, spur me to action, but she should have known by now that she was wasting her time. Her nails tried to dig into my scalp and she yanked on my hair, all to no avail. I loved every second of it.

I ripped the towel from her small frame, my fingertips tracing her newly revealed skin lightly. As much as I wanted to be every bit as rough as she was being, in the back of my mind, I knew it would kill her. She shivered at my cool touch, while I burned from the heat of her body. She was the sun and I was the moon, absorbing her heat for my own, reflecting her inner light. I ran the backs of my fingers over her erect nipples, drinking in the moans I drew from her throat. Her tongue was tracing my lips now, and I parted them, my tongue coming out to meet hers for the first time.

I groaned at the taste of her, which was even better than the flavor of her exquisite blood. I wanted to let my teeth graze her lips and tongue, make her bleed, so I could sample them both at once. Barely holding the bloodlust in check, I let my hands wander down to her hips and pressed her into the wall with my chest. Her soft flesh yielded to the pressure of my fingertips as I let my thumbs drag over her hipbones. She curled one leg around my hip and kissed me harder, her warm, wet body burning mine at every point of contact. Her hands slid out of my hair to frame my face, and I could feel how her fingers trembled against my cheeks.

She was pushing my control to the very limit and I found I no longer cared. This was inevitable. Her irresistible scent, the memories she gave to me with her blood, and her fortress of a mind made her unique and perfect for me.

But I didn't want the kind of permanence she deserved. And she wouldn't want the kind of life I could offer her. I was at heart a killer, and I wouldn't change. I didn't want to change. So I would take what she offered today, and then let her go. This was the last time she'd ever see me.

My decision made me even more desperate. I searched through all the thoughts I'd eavesdropped upon for all those years, all the thoughts of fucking, sex, and making love. As much as I despised the latter term, I knew that's what this would be. If I was capable of love at all, I knew I could feel it for Bella. I wanted to make this good for her – I was not only a killer, I was a selfish bastard as well. I didn't want her to ever forget me. I wanted her to find every other man lacking, I wanted her to pine for me. It was only fair, considering I was certain that I would pine for her for the rest of my existence.

I dragged my lips away from hers, tasting the skin from the corner of her mouth, dragging the tip of my tongue down her chin. Gripping her hips even harder, I scooted her up the wall with minimal effort, until her breasts were level with my mouth.

"Beautiful," I murmured roughly, keeping her pinned to the wall with one hand and bringing the other up to cup the underside of one breast. Her chest rose and fell rapidly, her hot breath fanning across my cheek when she looked down at me. She met my gaze boldly, never flinching, even when I knew she could see the slight reflection of red light from my eyes. I brushed the pad of my thumb over her nipple, one corner of my mouth pulling up at the ragged gasp I drew from her. She locked her legs behind my back, and I groaned as I felt the heat of her pressed against my stomach, the thin material of my t-shirt offering very little protection for my hypersensitive skin.

As she watched, I licked my lips slowly before dragging them over the lower curve of her soft flesh. I nipped her with my lips, careful to keep my teeth away, occasionally letting my tongue snake out to taste her.

"Edward, please," she begged, arching her back and gripping my face, trying to direct my mouth to her stiff little nipple.

"Shh," I breathed, letting my lips hover right above her puckered flesh. I dragged my lips over the hardened tip, my tongue coming out to tease her with a tiny lick before I drew her into my mouth and sucked gently. My erection ached behind the confines of my jeans as she tightened her thighs around me, and I groaned against her nipple, wishing desperately for something to grind into and relieve the ache.

"Oh, God," she gasped, her hands moving to my shoulders and digging her little nails into unyielding muscle. For one moment, I wished she could mark me, score my skin as surely as she'd scored my insides. For as much as I invaded the minds of others when I read their thoughts, she had penetrated my mind. She had shoved her memories into my brain, and marked me forever. I kissed my way over to her other breast, rubbing my lips over her soft skin. Venom flowed freely, dripping down the back of my throat, burning sweetly all the way down. I wondered what it felt like to her. Did it burn coldly, like alcohol on a cut, or was it warm and tingling, bringing her sweet blood to the surface…

I growled as I fought back another strong wave of bloodlust, the predator causing my skin to itch with the need to let him free. I had to hold him back, because while it was nothing to me to kill anyone else, I knew I couldn't take it if I caused the death of this one fragile, little human.

Her hands clawed at my t-shirt, yanking the thin cotton up my back. I couldn't get it off in one piece without letting her go. I reluctantly lifted my head from her chest and let her slide down my body, hissing when she brushed up against my erection. She ground her hips against me and yanked at the collar of my shirt, growling in frustration when it wouldn't budge. I brushed her hands away and gripped the collar, the fabric splitting effortlessly under my hand. She gripped the torn edges and pulled it off my shoulders. I could feel the fluttering currents of air against the bare skin of my back as the shirt dropped to the floor.

She ran her hands down my back and around my sides, her nails dragging up my ribs and back down. Her fingers dipped beneath the edge of my jeans and every muscle in my body tensed as she came oh-so-close to brushing them against my dick. I grabbed her hands in one of mine and pinned them just above her head. Breathing heavily, I hung my head next to hers, trying to regain some control. If she touched me right now, I would explode. I wanted nothing more than to rip off my jeans and fuck her into the wall. But she deserved better than that, and it would likely kill her.

I turned my head toward her and set my lips to her neck, suckling strongly. Her legs were wrapped tightly around my waist, supporting her weight. I let my free hand trail down her thigh, stopping to caress the silky skin just behind her knee, before stroking up the back of her thigh. I sighed when I ran my fingertips over the hot, wet flesh between her legs. She's so ready for me.

Jesus Christ, I'm ready for her too…

I parted her lips, biting back a groan as I sunk two fingers into her slick heat.

"Jesus," she gasped, arching toward me, using my hold on her wrists as leverage. "I want to touch you, Edward," she protested. "I want to feel you." Her lips were at my ear, causing every inch of my skin to prickle with awareness.

"You will… but you have to be careful. I don't know how well I can control myself," I admitted, unwilling to say more. She didn't need to know how much power she held over me.

"I trust you," she whispered, the words making me both elated and angry. She had no idea. I'd toyed with the idea of killing her more than once. I was afraid I might still do it, even if by accident. I tightened my grip on her wrists, looking her straight in her beautiful eyes.

"You shouldn't," I growled, before covering her lips with mine. She met me eagerly, her tongue slipping past my lips before I could react. She came dangerously close to the sharp edges of my teeth, and I ripped my mouth from hers. "Do you have any idea how fucking dangerous that is? How dangerous I am?" My chest rose and fell against hers with my unnecessary heavy breathing. A small smile curved one corner of her lips before she licked them and gave me an innocent shake of her head. She was playing with me, and it was infuriating.

"Edward, I don't care. If you were going to kill me, you would have done it by now. You know you don't want to kill me."

Oh, but there was part of me that very much wanted to kill her. He just wasn't as strong as the part of me that wanted to fuck her. Then, I heard her next words. It was as if she'd read my mind.

"You don't want to kill me," she murmured. "You want to fuck me."

The last thread of my control snapped and I let go of her wrists. Her hands immediately went to the fly of my jeans, her little fingers pulling and tugging uselessly at the buttons. Since I was no longer restraining her, I curled my arm around the small of her back. I leaned away from her, watching my fingers disappear into her body. I'd seen this in the minds of others, but I'd never fully comprehended how it would feel to be involved. It was amazing, frustrating, exhilarating…

I gritted my teeth as her soft hands finally closed around me, freeing me from the restriction of the rough denim.

"Oh, fuck…" I groaned, my forehead dropping to hers. "Jesus, that feels so good." I was panting now, mindless with the need for release. Her hips bucked up at me as I withdrew my fingers from her slit and wrapped my hand around hers, showing her how tightly I wanted to be gripped.

"I want you now," she begged, trying to pull me into her. I could do nothing but obey. The tip of my cock slid against her wet heat and she let me go. I wrapped my fingers around her hip and pushed forward, a harsh moan tearing from my throat as I saw her envelop me to the hilt. She was so hot. I could see straight down to where we were joined, and I pulled back and pushed forward experimentally, marveling at the sight of me sinking into her. I knew I wouldn't last long at all. It was simply too intense. I clenched my eyes shut, hoping the lack of visual stimulation would help to cool the fire burning at the base of my spine.

"Oh, God… Edward!" She raked her hands up my abdomen and over my chest, burying her fingers in my hair once again. She thrust her hips against mine as I began to move faster, unable to control my pace. I was too busy concentrating on not pounding her through the wall.

"Bella, I can't… I can't hold on," I gasped, feeling myself grow even harder inside her. I couldn't hold back as my thrusts grew shorter and more forceful, drawing little moans from her throat on each stroke. The throbbing pressure built and built, my whole body tightening until I cried out, releasing inside her in a flash of white-hot pleasure.

When I was finally able to open my eyes, I realized we were slipping down the wall. I gathered her close and staggered over to the bed, withdrawing from her before laying her down with shaky arms. She wouldn't let go of me, her fingers still clenched in my hair. I followed her down, caging her in my arms and lying just to her side, trying not to crush her. She brushed back the lock of hair that had fallen over my forehead and opened her eyes, licking her dry lips as she caught her breath. I knew I hadn't satisfied her, but that was something I could remedy quickly.

Leaning on one elbow, I laid one hand against her neck before slowly drawing it down between her breasts and over her soft belly. Her hips bucked up as my fingertips inched down, slowly, slowly

"You're perfect," I said softly, leaning so close to her our lips nearly touched. I rubbed my lips over hers lightly, my tongue darting out for another taste of her. I'd never get enough, but I would have to content myself with this one night. I finally traced my fingers through the wetness between her legs, swallowing the moan I pulled from deep inside as I plunged my tongue past her lips. She tasted different now that I'd had her, better somehow, like our flavors had combined into something more intoxicating than even her sweet blood alone.

But oh, her blood…

Too soon, I had to pull back, the temptation to graze her soft lips with my teeth becoming too great. I planted small kisses all down her neck, torturing myself with the feel of her throbbing pulse against my lips.

"You're mine," I murmured, pressing two fingers deep inside her and brushing my thumb over the peak of her sex. I watched her face, taking in her flushed cheeks and swollen lips. She was beautiful, and she was mine. Eyes closed, her head moved back and forth against the pillow as I worked my fingers between her legs. I experimented with different touches, varying the pressure and gauging what she liked by her reactions. She bit her lip and her muscles clenched around me when I circled my thumb over her clit. I couldn't watch, because I wanted to bite her lip, to join our mouths in the most blissful, bloody kiss. Bending down, I pressed my lips to her ear.

"It's good, isn't it? Tell me."

"Yes, yes… don't stop." Her voice was small, breathless. I hooked my leg around hers, pulling her thigh toward me, spreading her wider and allowing my fingers to reach deeper. "Oh, fuck, Edward…" she breathed, clutching at my shoulders. I trailed my lips down her neck, increasing the pace of my fingers as her breathing sped up and the throb of her heartbeat seemed to surround me. I swiped my tongue over her nipple before drawing it into my mouth, the extra stimulation sending her straight over the edge.

"That's it, give in. You're fucking mine," I said against her skin, knowing the rough rumble of my voice would only add to the sensations coursing through her.

Her hands slid up my neck and pulled at my hair, trying to pull my face up to hers. I let her guide me, still working her slick heat as she came down. Her brown eyes blazed hotly at me, shiny with moisture, and for a second I worried that I'd been too rough. Those worries were dispelled the moment she opened her mouth. A familiar, delicious scent tickled my nostrils, but I was too immersed in Bella to recall what it was or why I should worry.

"You may be right," she said, trying to temper her breathing. "But you're fucking mine too." She crushed her mouth to mine and I accepted her willingly, because she was right. I was irrevocably hers. Letting her go would be the hardest thing I'd ever done, but I had to do it. I couldn't drag her into my sick, depraved world. At least we'd both have the memories from this night.

I traced the inside of her bottom lip with my tongue, growling deep in my throat at the amazing taste of her.

Black eyes shining with a hint of red, smirking lips, then fading to black as the trunk lid slammed shut…

I rolled fully on top of her, settling in the cradle of her thighs and wrapping both arms tightly around her back. The kiss deepened, her tongue stroking mine slowly.

Snapping the legs off of a rickety old chair…

God, she tasted so good.

The sharp sting of pain as a pair of hard, gentle hands pulled a splinter from soft skin…

I pulled back quickly as I realized I was seeing her memories.

She was bleeding.

Her lips were red with her blood. I inhaled and licked my lips, finally realizing that the reason she'd smelled and tasted so good that last time was because she'd bitten her lip. I couldn't tear my eyes from her mouth, shiny and wet with blood and my venom. Her lips moved, but I didn't know what she said. All I could hear was static, because the predator had raged to the forefront. He wanted her too, wanted to bite and lick and taste… devour.

And I couldn't control him anymore. I dove back down, swiping my tongue across her lips.

"Do it, Edward," she whispered again, just as she had earlier. And I didn't have the strength to resist. I let my teeth graze her lip, creating the tiniest of nicks, her hot blood trickling into our kiss. It was even better than I'd fantasized. It was hot and wet and lush with the flavor of Bella, of me, of us. I groaned as I dragged my lips down her chin to her neck, leaving a bloody trail that I couldn't resist retracing with my tongue.

I knew I was making a mistake, one that I'd never forget. One I'd never recover from. My chest ached where my dead, silent heart lay, yet I still couldn't bring myself to stop.

She'd ruined me. I wanted, I yearned, I felt… all because of her. I'd never be the same. And neither would she.

"I'm so sorry, Bella. Forgive me, little lioness," I whispered.

Then I sank my teeth into her throat.


How long?
How long was I sleeping?


Help me, help me
You know me better than I knew myself
Mayday, mayday
Send angels, I'm a danger to myself

Lyrics by People in Planes


My lovely Beta, Isabella303/Shelly: Betas are nice, but real friends are necessary. ILY for being both.

To EchoesOfTwilight/Echoingsilence and AmeryMarie – I can't thank you enough for the prompts, suggestions, advice, WC's & Badward and Hugward teasers that kept me motivated to get this sucker finished. Echoes, I owe you so many chocolate cakes and sneak-peeks of WiP it's ridiculous.

Title credit goes to AmeryMarie, because I am title-deficient. Dexterward is yours for whenever you want him. I can't promise you'll come out unscathed, though.

Reviews are amazing. Leave me one. Thanks for reading.