Disclaimer: SMeyer owns the originals.

Thanks: To my pre-reader, furiouskitten, my lovely betas ElleCC and B-Rizzle-Dizzle, and to each of you, for continuing to read.

~: Chapter 9: Trouble in the Air :~

30,000 feet above sea level, Ben's POV:

It was a long plane ride home.

Ben stared at the closed door of the bathroom. From his perch on the toilet seat, he had four visual choices. He could stare at his feet, his brown shitkickers freshly scuffed from his mad dash across the tarmac and into the plane. He could stare to the left, wishing his mind could be as blank as that wall instead of racing with nasty possibilities. He could stare to his right, letting his own sleep-deprived eyes stare back at him from the mirror, the dark bags building up under each one almost matching the rising bruises on the side of his face from Emmett's help with his unexpected journey into the bathroom itself.

Or he could stare straight ahead at the door, locked tight. The smooth panels were marred in just one place, a bulging indentation reaching in at him. Rather than a simple knock in the metal, this indentation was precisely shaped.

Three fingers, starkly outlined, pressing into the metal and almost making it through before being snatched away.

Aunt Tanya.

One minute she'd been helpless, hanging onto him like he was the last life preserver on the Titanic. He'd tried to keep her talking, but her replies had gotten more and more garbled as her consciousness faded. By the time the taxi had pulled up next to Emmett's private plane, Ben had a flopping, lifeless doll to deal with in the backseat.

A doll with a temperature of well over a hundred degrees and rising. Even as he pulled her out of the cab, she seemed to be heating up. He'd thrown all the money he had at the driver, draped her over his shoulder, and raced for the plane where Emmett waited, concern etched onto his features.

"What's going on?" Emmett had shouted, stepping out of the shadows of the cabin door and starting down the stairs. Ben, tripping, had flung his aunt forward by way of explanation, the heat of her skin starting to raise steam in the cool Russian air.

Emmett had plucked Aunt Tanya out of mid-air and deftly maneuvered her through the cabin door without any of her limbs connecting with the plane's unyielding exterior. Ben had used the side of the plane to haul himself up, panting his way into the nearest seat. Emmett had laid Aunt Tanya on the floor, where she looked like a peaceful dreamer, her face showing no trace of the alarm Ben knew etched his features.

The only sign something was wrong was the steam that rose gently from the floor. A few quick words in Russian from Emmett and the stewardess disembarked, her heels clicking down the stairs briskly as she made her escape. With one massive yank, Emmett had pulled the cabin door shut after her. Ben had eyed the display of strength with alarm, but the pilot had simply nodded, locked the cockpit door, and gotten them airborne.

Ben had watched Aunt Tanya in silence from his seat at the head of the aisle, eyes darting between his aunt, who was disturbing, and Emmett, who was clearly disturbed. It was the second most frightening sight of his life to see a full-fledged vampire having a full-fledged freak out at 30,000 feet.

The most frightening moment of his life happened about five minutes later, when Aunt Tanya abruptly stopped steaming. Her skin cooled so fast Ben could see moisture start to condense around her.

Then she opened her eyes.

Her bright, red eyes.

Ben barely had time to register the movement before Emmett was arched between them, holding her back. "No! He is one of our people!"

One thin, elegant hand had simply reached for him, stretching around Emmett's ribs to grab at him as a voice he'd be hearing in his nightmares softly enunciated his name, "Benjamin. . . "

Ben shook his head to clear the vision and gingerly fingered the side of his face. Emmett had acted fast, but almost not fast enough. The door in front of him probably only represented a symbolic barrier, reinforced not by steel but by Emmett's headlock on Aunt Tanya. Ben therefore eyed it warily, ears straining for sound, but there was nothing now.

There had been a series of plane-shaking thumps just after his incarceration. Then an ominous silence had prevailed, stretching out, on and on and on and playing on Ben's last nerve like a dark symphony. In his mind, bright red eyes stared at him from just beyond the other side of the door. Waiting . . .

. . . waiting . . .

. . . wait—

Chapter 10 up tomorrow!