Ninety years I've been essentially alone, and I'm envious; people all around me, and ironically alone. I look at my adopted father and mother and I see what they have, and I want that too. They are so devoted to each other, it's like they never want to be separated. More on her side, really. He was turned first, and she was his 'project.' At times it's almost as if he has a personal servant, she doesn't want to be away from him long. I desire that. I lust after that kind of obsession directed at me. I wonder if I can get it for myself. I asked my sire how to go about getting myself a companion like that.

"Are you sure, Edward? You know what my price is for something on this scale. I just had to sit back and watch events unfold, swooping in at the perfect time to claim my prize. You will have to make everything happen, and even then there are no guarantees."

"Aye, 'father,' I know." I knew exactly what he was talking about, but I would not think of that just now. "I want someone who has no choice but to be with me, my own constant companion."

Carlisle gave me a piercing look. "Just so I know you understand. Now listen carefully…"

I'm following his advice as closely as I can.

Chapter One

Step 1: Get Noticed…

I began by choosing my future companion. It was an easy choice to make. There was a new girl in town. Not new, exactly, but she never lived here until recently, so she was new to me. I had heard from various people around town that the sheriff's daughter would be coming to live with him on at least a semi-permanent basis. New kids are always the easiest to get.

I guess she was enough of a novelty that she captured the attention of several guys. She was pretty, but not gorgeous, decidedly average features, and she had a faint charisma about her-that is, people seemed drawn to her. I don't know why, she certainly didn't seem to encourage them. Still, I knew I would have to move in quickly, but at least initial contact would not be hard, because I never fail to get noticed, especially when I'm with my siblings.

My family and I are vampires. Immortal, undead, blood-sucking denizens of the night. By nature we are also predators, and our primary prey is humans. In the way of predators all over the world, we attract our prey; we're beautiful, our looks are magnetic, our gazes hypnotic. One vampire can easily draw double-takes, but when all of us are together the effect is devastating. Our prey is drawn to us, and she was no exception. My actions and machinations would drive my chosen one to the edge; they might even destroy her. But then, I'm a vampire. It's what I do, and in this case it's what I would have to do to make her mine.

Phase one: lunch time. This was the easy part. All I had to do was sit at a lunch table with my brothers and sisters, and the rest took care of itself. Everyone noticed us, because we were instantly attractive. I can say that without an ounce of vanity, but honestly, 'I'm so vain, I know this story is about me.' I sensed her come into the room. I knew when she caught sight of us, caught sight of me, because I could hear her thoughts. I still haven't decided how to handle that one with her. She might think that it's some entertaining party trick or something. ("What am I thinking now? Now? How 'bout now?") or it might freak her out and cause her to stay far away from me. Either of those options would be extremely irritating and the opposite of my goal, so maybe I'll just pretend that I can't read her. Yeah, that should make her feel really special. Normally I can read anyone's mind, but I just can't read you, darling. How's that for a snow job, eh?

Alice poked me in the side. "Hey Edward, she's looking over here. That's your girl, right?" I refused to look over at Bella-what's-her-name. After all, the point was to get her to notice me, not the other way around. At this point I would have feigned indifference to everything around me, except that I didn't have to. I had been through the school lunch routine so many times that I already was indifferent. Every event, every conversation had been done or said hundreds of times at dozens of other schools before.

Alice got up to leave, I suddenly remembered that I needed them to play along with me in my "romance."

"Hey guys, we can fill Alice in later, but I have to need your cooperation with something. Don't let her see you, but look over at the new girl; brown hair, staring at us like people who have never seen us before do."

One by one, Emmett, Rosalie, and Jasper glanced over at her long enough to fix her image in their minds.

"She's my project. I need you guys to help me look 'good,' you know? The whole 'vampires resigned to their lot but trying to assimilate into normal society' act?"

"Sure, Edward," Rosalie said. "It's about time you found yourself someone. We're with you completely."

I smiled slightly. "Thanks. You guys are the best. Now, here's what I need you to do…"

Just as I finished telling them about the first stage of my plan, I felt a wave of pity and relief emanating from the girl, Bella. When I looked over at her, she was staring at me. When our gazes met, she quickly looked away. Damn! I'd hoped to begin hypnotizing her from day one. My control has been sporadic lately anyway, with "feeding time" coming up and all. I thought of the expression that would probably be on her face if she ever saw me feeding, and that brought a slow smile to my lips.

Step Two: First Contact

I went to my next class-Biology, and sat in my assigned seat. The seat beside it was empty, as always. Well, it was until she walked in. As she walked down the aisle to talk with the teacher, my thoughts raced. I hadn't expected this! First Contact was supposed to be in the setting of my choosing, not spontaneous like this! I glared at her, fuming, pondering furiously. Now what do I do? I'm in no position to think creatively, I need to feed! Furthermore, since the seat next to mine was the only empty one, she would have to sit there, forcing me to improvise what I thought might be a good, appealing introduction. Ladies and gentlemen, Edward Cullen is not a happy camper.

She came and sat beside me, and I could smell her hair. She used strawberry-scented shampoo. Mmm, strawberry-flavored human…shut up, brain! God, I needed fresh blood. The whole period was a facsimile of a sham. I couldn't concentrate, I was hungry—no help from Miss Strawberry Shampoo—my thoughts were in a whirl from our unexpected meeting, and that damn girl kept looking over at me. She thought I thought she smelled bad. Seriously? Shallow much? And anyway, how dare she upset my plans from the outset?

The bell rang-Thank God-and I was gone. I needed to talk to Carlisle. And I needed a drink.