A/N: So, this is the original version of Break, which I actually kind of like better than the newer one. It'll be exactly the same for about the first half, and then it will change dramatically. I sort of got caught up in the storyline that you just finished reading, so this fell off the table. But I figured you might still like to read it :) Again, thanks to Endless Raindrops.
It was summer, but the weather didn't seem to realize it as it sent a chilly drizzle down over Mike Newton's campsite. He grimaced at the clouds above and put more (somewhat) dry wood on the fire. He'd been hoping to get in some quiet camping time to himself over the weekend, since his mother was so excited to have him home from college that she never let him alone, and the news had said it would be sunny. Apparently, though, they had lied, and for the sole purpose of ruining his getaway. He ate his overcooked lunch in silence, pulling his raincoat tighter around his body and wondering why his food didn't really taste like food. Sighing, he shoved the last couple of mouthfuls into his mouth and rinsed out the bowl with water from his canteen.
Then a noise in the woods behind him made him freeze.
Frowning, Mike stood up and pushed the hood back from his face, squinting through the damp air. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up, but there was nothing to be seen among the dense vegetation. He shivered, dropping his bowl next to the fire, and took a couple steps towards the direction of the sound, listening as hard as he could. The only sound was the drizzle lightly hitting the leaves of the surrounding trees, and yet he couldn't shake the feeling that he was unsafe… Slightly irritated at the most recent addition to the list of things that had gone wrong with his trip, he tried to push the uncomfortable premonition to the back of his mind as he repacked his dishes in his backpack so they wouldn't collect water overnight.
He was startled by the sudden thudding of hooves behind him, and he whipped round just in time to leap out of the way of a massive buck deer as it came crashing right through his campsite.
"What the hell?" he swore as he watched the galloping buck disappear into the forest. The deer's strange behavior made him even more nervous – they usually went out of their way to avoid humans, even if a predator was chasing them. Hell, even the predator would avoid people. What on earth could be in those woods to drive the deer to behave against its instincts?
Still on the ground where he'd landed when leaping out of the animal's path, Mike was hit by wave after wave of goose bumps, and he turned his head to watch the forest where the buck had emerged. Something was in there, and he was absolutely sure that he wanted nothing to do with it.
After several moments of tense vigilance, a man appeared and strode out from beneath the green canopy of the trees, heading straight for him. Frowning, Mike stood up, growing increasingly agitated as the dark-haired stranger neared him, walking with unnatural speed and grace and seeming as though he was constantly on the verge of dropping into a crouch.
"Can I help you?" Mike ventured.
The man was directly in front of him much faster than Mike would have thought possible, and smiling in a way that made shivers race up Mike's spine. His teeth were a blinding white, perfectly even, and he possessed an inhuman beauty that for some reason caused Mike's stomach to flip over a few times in fear. "I think you can," the man said, his voice like velvet and his eyes a startling burgundy.
"Maybe you have some food to share?" a syrupy sweet female voice cut in.
Mike whipped his head around – a woman had materialized directly behind him, regarding him with the same unnerving red gaze and malicious smile. She was also unearthly beautiful, her waves of black hair falling nearly to her waist.
"What is this?" Mike asked, looking back and forth between the two of them and trying to keep his voice from trembling. Despite their fluid grace and beauty, he knew in his gut that these people had no intention of being friendly.
"What do you think, Sasha?" the man asked his fair accomplice, speaking as if Mike were not there. "Should we find something else with more…bulk?" The stranger's eyes ran up and down Mike's frame hungrily, making him feel even more creeped out, if that was possible.
The woman's voice dropped to an eager husk as she said, "Not a chance. I'm hungry now."
Mike's heart began to race as they drew closer, and then it all happened very fast.
A savage roar, louder than any noise he had ever heard before, shook the leaves above their heads, and something else streaked out of the woods, knocking the woman across the clearing and into a tree. The tree snapped in half, falling over with a booming crack, but the woman seemed to be completely uninjured, albeit annoyed at the interruption. Then, in the blink of an eye, the man was also attacked by a similar force, so fast it was almost impossible to see. Mike staggered backwards a few steps before tripping and falling where he was, unable to take his eyes off the whirling struggle taking place before his eyes. It was hard to discern what was happening, they were moving too quickly, but as far as he could tell, the newcomers were winning.
Suddenly, the man was thrown downhill, rolling easily back onto his feet and not seeming to notice that the ground had been torn up where he'd fallen. Only a second later, the woman was given the same courtesy, and she crashed down the hill for several feet before landing gracefully in a predatory crouch. Faster than Mike would have thought possible, the newcomers appeared in front of them, forming a barricade between the strangers and Mike.
All Mike could see of the newcomers was their backs, but he could tell that they were younger than the man and woman, one male and one female. The male was enormous, looking as though he was made of pure muscle, and leaning forward aggressively, making his presence known in every way possible. The girl was smaller, more delicate, her long brown hair was tied back out of her face, and yet somehow she was just as threatening.
"You protect a human?" the first man said, astonished. The way he spat the word sent shivers racing up Mike's spine.
An angry snarl ripped from the girl's throat. "This territory has been claimed," she snapped with such ferocity that the man actually backed up a step.
"So you want it for yourself?" he guessed, still incredulous. "This is most irregular! What makes you think it's worth so much?" It took Mike a moment to realize that the 'it' referred to him. He shuddered again. Was this just a fight over prey?
"If we ever catch you hunting in this area again, you will be very sorry," the girl's Herculean partner growled. "I wouldn't risk it if I were you."
A tense silence stretched the air and made it hard to breathe for a few moments, until the man finally backed down, sliding out of his crouch and into a more natural pose. "Very well. Let's go, Sasha."
The woman gave a furious hiss, which was promptly returned with another lion-like snarl from the girl, before yielding, following the man as he turned and glided down the hill, vanishing under the dense canopy. As soon as they were gone, the newcomers seemed to relax, and turned around to face the human they had defended.
When he saw their faces, Mike involuntarily gasped.
"Jesus Christ…" he breathed. "Bella."