Darkward Vampfic Contest

Title: Silence

Penname: Pange

Beta: Herinfiniteeyes

Disclaimer: S. Meyers owns, which makes me die of jealousy on a regular basis.



The air in the bar is thick with the smoke of what seems like a hundred lit cigarettes. It swirls and eddies through the atmosphere like a living being. If it were necessary for me to breathe, it would have choked me. Luckily, breathing isn't a necessity, only a habit.

I am a vampire. A monster of the darkest persuasion.

I sit in the corner of the room, away from prying eyes, swirling the amber-colored whiskey in the glass, but not drinking it. It was my favorite drink as a human, but now it would taste like ash in my mouth. Swallowing would lead almost immediately to the most unpleasant regurgitation. For a moment I long for the mindless calm of a drunken stupor. It would, at least, be entertaining.

I am unexpectedly lost in memories. I can forget nothing since being turned and it is wearisome.

My sire, Carlisle, found me on a French battlefield, bleeding from my belly where a German bayonet ran me through. I guess I should be grateful to the bastard for saving me from certain death, but in reality he doomed me to an eternal hell, walking the earth as the undead. I remember the tortuous pain of the transformation, writhing in agony as the burning threatened to turn me mad. Finally, when the scorching sensation faded from my bones and my heart turned silent in my chest, I opened my eyes to a world that glittered too brightly to be comfortable. The quietest of sounds grated against my ears and had me rocking myself in a corner.

I raged at Carlisle for days for his impertinence for assuming that I would want to be changed into a monster. I loathed the crimson eyes reflected in the mirror, even as I marveled at the beauty of the face that stared back at me. Even when I calmed and my senses became accustomed to my new perspective, I carried a hard, bitter ball of hatred toward him in the pit of my now useless stomach. He tried to explain the way he lived to me, existing on the blood of animals rather than hunting human prey.

I thought it was ridiculous, but I did attempt it. I spent more than a decade attempting to live by his strict rules, only to face his disappointment every time I slipped. When Carlisle found Esme broken and battered at the base of a steep cliff, he changed her and I realized he didn't need me as a companion anymore. I couldn't live with the two of them as their ward. I was a grown man and now a powerful vampire. So I left.

I spent some time in South America, but the sunshine around the equator made it difficult for me to hide from the townsfolk. I eventually made my way back north to the Canadian wilderness. I lived quietly on the outskirts of Vancouver for many years, avoiding the main parts of the town. For the most part and mostly out of habit rather than conscience, I continued to abide by Carlisle's teachings, eating only the predators and small animals deep in the forest.

That was until the stormy autumn day that changed everything.

I wandered into town, bored, looking to supplement my music collection. I made my way directly to the music store, ignoring the glances from the humans around me. Ever careful, I spent the morning hunting so that my thirst was somewhat slaked, although being around all of those warm bodies tended to cause a continual burn. However, I was able to ignore it and go about my business, flipping through the racks of records.

I looked up from the bin sharply as I caught a draft of the most tempting smell that teased my nose. A pretty blond girl was standing a few feet from me, intent on going through the collection. She flipped her damp hair over her shoulder and her scent washed over me. Venom pooled in my mouth and a low growl vibrated through my chest.

Vampire lore told of certain types of people with blood that fairly sang to a vampire. The stories told of the rare occurrence of a human smelling so good that they would be irresistible to the vampire for whom they sang. I only have vague memories of experiencing hunger as a human, but I likened this experience to the smell of roasting meat for a man who hasn't eaten in a week. I wanted to feast on her.

I glanced casually around the store, tallying the collateral damage in my head. It was too much. I wanted to take my time, consume her slowly, and thoroughly enjoy the taste of her sliding down my throat. I would have to dazzle her.

With the decision made, I opened my mind and listened for her thoughts. They would be easier to distinguish if I could touch her, but I didn't yet trust my control for that. Still, it helped that she stood so close to me.

Turning back to the bin in front of me, I listened. She thought I was a fox and she had caught me staring at her. She was glad she had ditched her friends and she liked that I looked like a badass in my leather coat with my bronze hair slicked back. I was pleased that this should be fairly simple.

I turned to her and smiled, introduced myself. Her name was Rose and she really was beautiful with hair the color of honey, luminous cornflower blue eyes heavily ringed with dark lashes, and a full sensual mouth. I flirted and teased and finally lured her out back behind the music store to an alley that saw very little traffic.

She tasted like ambrosia, incredibly sweet and warm. She barely struggled against me, although her mind screamed in horror. I discovered that day it was impossible for me to close down my mind when I fed. After it was over she lay limply at my feet, her legs twisted unnaturally under her body and her bright blue eyes already beginning to cloud over in death.

I regretted my actions almost immediately. Not out of any moral obligation to Carlisle's old rules. I grieved that she was gone and with her, all of the sweetest blood that I ever tasted. I mourned the fact that, according to all of the myths, I had just drained my singer and no one would ever taste the same.

Vancouver lost its charm for me after that. I relocated a little further south to Seattle and started hunting humans exclusively. At first I only hunted the vermin criminals, using my additional capabilities to listen to the litany of their crimes in their minds. Soon they were no longer enough, their blood often bitter with their own loathing and regrets. I began to tell myself that any kind of sin or transgression was enough to earn a place as my prey, making no distinction between the murderer and the adulterous husband or the lying teenager. Eventually I stopped telling myself anything and began to just hunt.

So yes, there were times when I wished for a good mind-numbing drinking session. But, alas, even if I were to choke down the vile tasting liquid contained in the heavy glass in front of me, it would not affect me in those ways anymore. There is nothing to dull my senses. I smell a woman's fruity perfume from all the way across the room. I hear the scrape of a match as the gentleman at the end of the bar lights his smoke. I see a fly buzzing around a trashcan in the back hallway.

And always, always there is the drone of endless thoughts cataloguing petty grievances and imagined slights. I have long since ceased being shocked by the foolish drivel that occupies the brains of the lesser species. I have learned, as a way of self-preservation, to tune it out. Or rather, turn it down, so that it is only a humming noise in the background of my mind.

The waitress comes by, her shirt dangerously low cut, and I can see her pulse hammering just under the skin of her neck. One dark look from me and she is clattering away on her ridiculously high heels. I am in no mood for company tonight. No, tonight I am brooding.

And I am hunting.

So far I have not seen anything that tempts me. Two dirty looking older men sit at a worn, beaten table in the middle of the room. Both wear the grey beards, long hair, and shiny leather usually associated with the remnant motorcycle culture of the sixties. The woman who wears the fruity perfume is flirting outrageously with the bored barkeep, a middle-aged man who, by the look of his beer belly, spends too much time drinking his own product.

The door opens, letting in a swirl of clear, cold air that quickly dilutes in the smoky haze. A gaggle of giggly coeds stumble inside, leaning heavily on each other's shoulders. They are dressed inappropriately for the weather in short skirts and skimpy blouses.

And they smell delicious.

I make a purring sound in the back of my throat, the ever-present venom seeping into my mouth. Now this was the kind of prey that I could enjoy.

I watch silently as the group settles at a table beside the ancient jukebox. The blond one tosses her hair and looks around, searching for a better opportunity. As soon as her eyes land on me, I grin, taking care to keep my teeth covered, and raise my glass in her direction. With a predatory smile of her own, she turns momentarily back to her friends before sauntering across the bar towards me.

She slides in to the chair beside mine, leaning over so that I can take full visual advantage of the cleavage she has on display. "Hi, I'm Tanya," she shouts over the music. I wince internally; her voice is shrill and grating.

"Edward," I tell her. "Can I get you a drink?" Tanya giggles and nods. I wave to the waitress who totters over and nervously takes her drink order. I lean in a little closer to differentiate Tanya's smell from the others in the room. Obviously the mojito she ordered was not her first of the evening, because she smells of mint and limes. It is actually kind of nice.

"I don't think I've seen you in here before, Edward. Are you new to the area?" She takes a sip of her new drink, batting her eyes at me.

I am already bored.

I mentally sigh, debating with myself rather she is worth the effort of draining.

Movement across the room catches my eye. One of her friends stands up from their table and walks toward us. Unlike the others, this one is dressed simply in blue jeans and a long-sleeved black t-shirt. Long mahogany hair falls in gentle waves around her shoulders and long lashes frame lovely espresso colored eyes. She approaches our table and leans down to whisper in Tanya's ear.

The air current created by her motion carries the most enticing scent to my nostrils. Immediately my hands clench down on the arms of my chair and venom pools in my throat. A snarl threatens to erupt from my chest and I can feel my nostrils flaring.

The last time someone's blood tempted me this much, I left her body in a cold, dirty alley behind a music store.

I instantly open my mind to listen for her, sifting through the detritus of the others' thoughts, searching for her. To my immense astonishment, I cannot find her and it infuriates me.

She glances up from her whispered conversation with Tanya and pales when she catches the look on my face. I immediately smooth my features into a mask, grinning at her slightly. The corner of her mouth sneaks up and blood courses to her cheeks. With a last glance at her friend, she turns and walks to the bar.

"Excuse me," I murmur to Tanya. She huffs out a disappointed sound, but she is disregarded before I've taken more than two steps away from the table.

I follow the dark-haired girl to the bar, stopping just behind her, close enough that I can lean forward and run my nose along the crown of her head. Her scent is intoxicating, causing venom to course roughly through my entire body. I step back quickly before the temptation becomes too much.

I slide onto the stool beside the dark-haired girl. She is watching me from the corner of her eye without turning her head. I realize she is pretending to ignore me, but her body is almost quivering with awareness.

"Hello. I'm Edward," I lean in so she can hear me. She turns to me and her gaze is so open and frank that I am staggered. If ever there was a force in this world to make my cold, dead heart beat again, it would be the power in her gaze.

"Bella," she replies softly, one corner of her mouth turning up slowly. Her blush is unceasing, tempting me with its warmth.

"May I buy your drink?" I am suddenly afraid that she will leave me to return to her friends and am relieved when she gives one quick nod. I order our drinks and we sit in silence, waiting.

I find myself stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place. Her body, her blood, sings for me. It calls me to her with an unceasing melody and I want nothing more than to taste her, to draw her life force down my throat like a warm spring. And yet, I am intrigued by the silence of her mind. Never, in my almost seventy years as a vampire, has a mind been silent to me.

I wonder at the implications of this.

Bella's voice surprises me when she speaks again. "So what do you do, Edward?" She sips at her drink innocently. I strain not to fidget under her gaze. I am shocked to realize that I don't want to lie to her. But it isn't like I can be truthful.

"I'm a writer," I reply finally, flashing a smile at her. "And before you ask, no, you haven't read anything I've written." Her laugh is low and sultry. Before she can speak again, we are interrupted by yet another one of her irritating friends.

"Bells, we're leaving," her friend says, winding her arm around Bella's delicate shoulders. My eyes narrow. I am furious that our time has been cut short before I can even decide her fate. I glance around the bar and see Tanya standing by the door, mouth turned down in a ridiculous pout. She flinches under my gaze, but I turn back to Bella.

She is watching me, biting down on her lower lip. Her friend has wandered off to join the others waiting by the door. Bella hops down from the stool and turns away. I am already regretting that I will have to stalk her until she is alone and will only be able to momentarily enjoy her taste in my mouth before she is dead.

I catch a fleeting thought from yet another of Bella's friends. "Typical Bella. Picks up a hot guy and then just walks away. If he was mine, there's no way I'd leave him sitting." I quickly tune it out before her thoughts become x-rated.

But then Bella turns back to me.

"Thank you for the drink," she says softly. She glances back at her friends and then squares her shoulders resolutely. "I was thinking about coming back tomorrow. Just so you know. In case you were to come back too?" She blushes once more and I am inordinately pleased at seeing this strange creature again. I nod once, feigning indifference by turning back to my drink. I hear her footsteps as she hurries away to join her friends. The cold air swirls through the building as they exit. I am the only being that doesn't shiver.

I settle my bar tab and turn to the door. It's time to eat.

o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o

Later I stand staring up at Bella's bedroom window. When I left the bar, I planned on grabbing a quick meal down by the bridge, but I realized that the next night my eyes would glow crimson and I had no plans to skip my meeting with Bella. In addition, the prospect of tasting someone else's blood turned my stomach.

I followed Bella's scent from the bar to this address, where her scent is mixed in with other less enticing smells. I can smell Tanya, but her signature is less pervasive, leading me to believe that she doesn't live here. Perhaps she only visits.

Every window in the house is dark and, if I listen closely, I can hear the steady rhythm of several different heartbeats. I don't bother opening my mind to listen for thoughts. I know I won't hear hers, and that's the only one I would want to hear. I wonder what she dreams about.

For several long moments, I am tempted by the siren call of her blood. Even from this distance, it pulls me forward like a magnet. I growl deeply from my chest and tense as if to spring, but then I remember her open and honest gaze. I also remember the peaceful silence of her mind and I can feel my body relax.

I turn from her house and stride down the dark city street. My decision is made. I will not kill her, but I will make her mine.

o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o

The next day my hunger makes me jittery and restless. My decision hinges on being able to control myself, which leaves me only one option. I must bring my Bella back here, to my home, and then leave to feed before putting the plan in motion.

That evening I sit at the back corner of the bar where I can face the door. My heart leaps every time the door opens, but the one time I'm not watching is when she enters. The bitter wind announces her, swirling her scent through the room to tease my nose and torment my throat.

When I look up from my glass, her gaze is already centered on mine. Those captivating coffee-colored eyes stare innocently at me, even as her mahogany hair settles softly around her shoulders. She smiles at me and begins to make her way across the room, sliding gracefully on to the stool next to mine.

"Hello," I whisper, the corner of my mouth twitching in a grin I can barely suppress. I am remarkably glad to see her.

Bella's smile is wide and she seems happy to see me. "Hi. I'm glad you're here."

"Did you have a good day?" I flag the bartender down and order her a drink.

"I did. Although I was nervous about tonight." She shrugs out of her coat and I swallow reflexively as another gust of her scent wafts around us.

"Why would you be nervous about tonight?" I wonder if she has begun to listen to her instincts. I wonder if they are screaming at her to run away from the predator.

"I was afraid you wouldn't show up. I regretted leaving when I did." Her voice is soft and she blushes, taking a sip of her new drink instead of looking at me.

"You wanted to stay?" I am stunned. I don't think anyone has willingly spent time with me since Carlisle.

"Of course."

Bella takes another sip of her drink and then glances at me out of the corner of her eye.

"Things don't usually happen the way that they did. Men don't usually leave Tanya's side to come talk to me. She's incredibly beautiful." She shakes her head as she turns on her stool so that she's facing me.

"I don't think you see yourself very clearly," I tell her. Her blush is back and she's having a hard time meeting my eyes. I lay my hand on her cheek. She doesn't flinch away or make any other sign that she notices the coolness of my skin. I lean forward and brush my lips across her temple, pleased when I hear her heartbeat stutter the tiniest bit. "I think you are very alluring." I pause, running my nose along her delicate jaw. "Dare I say enticing, even?" Her heartbeat stutters again and I don't resist as she pulls away slightly.

"Thank you," she says simply, biting her lip.

Having a conversation isn't something I typically do with humans. I live my life in a solitary fashion, interacting with them only when I'm hunting or if it's unavoidable. But Bella charms me, telling me intricate stories about her friends and about growing up in the foster care system.

She asks about my family. I only tell her that most of them are gone and that I haven't talked to my father in many years. She nods sadly, but changes the subject to tell me about a trip to England she took the previous summer. It was her first time out of the country and I find myself talking to her about France. Not about the war, of course, but about how the sun glinted off the brick walls of the ancient buildings and how friendly the people were.

Hours pass and the bartender does an excellent job of keeping Bella's glass filled. Even now she sways toward me, giggling. Her face is flushed and she is laughing and I can't help but laugh with her. Someone changes the song on the jukebox to some sort of trendy dance song with a repetitive drumbeat and, to my astonishment, Bella squeals and hops down off her stool.

"Dance with me!" She grabs my hand and pulls me to the tiny dance floor. She is graceful, but her dancing is awkward. Her limbs flail and her hips sway enticingly off the beat. Somehow this only works to make her more endearing. I am relieved when the song changes to something slower and more intimate.

Bella stops and bites her lip. She glances between me and the spot at the bar where we had been sitting. Before she can move away, I capture her hands and pull her body to me. I place one hand at the small of her back just above the curve of her hip. I wrap my other hand around hers and pull it to my chest. She fits like a puzzle piece, her softness molding to my hard angles.

We sway slowly, Bella's breath brushing over the skin of my neck. I can feel her heart pounding against me and I find that I no longer have to fight the urge to kill her. Sometime during our long evening together, she has charmed me completely.

For the first time, I regret that I cannot hear her thoughts. I wish that I could know how she feels about me, if she's going to hate me for what I have planned tonight.

I pull back from her slightly and she looks up, lip trembling and eyes damp with unshed tears. I smile gently and release her hand to trace her bottom lip with my thumb. She smiles back shakily and her eyes flutter closed as I lean close, pressing my mouth to hers as gently as I can. She moves her arms so that she can twine them around my neck.

The touch of her satiny tongue against my lips surprises me, but I open my mouth to allow her to explore. She tastes sweet and a little salty, drawing up memories of myself as a boy, eating taffy and licorice at the seashore. Her flavor makes me ache for things I can no longer have, places I can no longer go. With a small sound of distress, I end our kiss, leaning my forehead against hers. Her breathing is labored, but she doesn't open her eyes. Instead she buries her face in the crook of my neck and holds on to me tightly.

The lights in the bar flicker on just as the song ends.

"Closing time," the bartender bellows, wiping down the wooden bar with a damp rag.

Bella sighs in my arms, but makes no move to pull away.

I chuckle, but gently push her away from me. Her eyes open slowly to focus on me.

"I don't want to go," she tells me softly. If I had a heartbeat, it would be hammering in my chest at her words.

"Come home with me."

Her eyes widen, but she nods. I follow her to the bar where we both pull on our coats and I settle my tab. Threading my fingers through hers, I pull her lightly along behind me. I am ever careful not to expose to her how strong I truly am.

Bella settles into the passenger seat of my car and rides quietly beside me all the way to my home. Her pulse pounds against my fingers where they rest on her wrist. I know she is nervous, but I can only stroke her hand comfortingly. As the road darkens and narrows closer to my home, I can only hope that she will not change her mind.

I pull my car into the garage, turning off the engine as the door shuts behind us. We sit in silence for a few minutes as I try to gauge her mood. The silence of her mind is once again frustrating me.

"Are you okay?" I ask finally. She nods and reaches over to open her door. We both slide out and she follows me inside.

I take Bella on a quick tour. My house isn't large, but it is nicely decorated and there is little to point to my true nature. I only hope she doesn't ask about the heavy blackout drapes that cover the windows.

Finally we enter the bedroom where a massive king size bed dominates one wall; the feather bedding is designed to be welcoming and comforting. I don't sleep, but old habits, like keeping a bedroom, die hard.

Bella gasps softly and runs her hand lightly over the stark white bedspread. She stills as I walk up behind her, running my hands tenderly over her shoulders and down her arms. I want to give her pleasure before I give her pain. I lean down and drop kisses along her shoulder and she shudders against me.

I turn Bella to face me, cupping her delicate face in my hands. I kiss each eyelid, then her nose, and finally find her mouth. As I deepen our kiss, she presses against me and my body responds accordingly. The burn I feel now is not for her blood but for her body and there is an instant when I fear it will turn me mad. Wrapping my arms around her waist, I pick her up and move towards the bed. I lay her down softly, leaning over her and placing the softest of kisses along the arch of her neck and down over her shoulder.

Somehow I have removed my clothing and hers until she is clad only in a pair of silk panties and filmy bra. I ache to bury myself in her softness until I find salvation, for she is surely an angel sent to save me.

I kiss my way down her body as she pants above me. I free each beautiful breast from its prison, soothing each nipple with my mouth and tongue until the scent of her arousal fills the room. I continue my journey down her abdomen, growling low in my throat as I glance up and see that her hands have taken the place of my mouth, her fingers kneading and stroking her own breasts.

Bella's lacy panties are an obstruction that must be dealt with and I only barely register that I've ripped them away. I gaze in wonder at her shaved sex, glistening and swollen with need. I kiss the top of her mound softly before slipping my tongue between her folds, tasting and exploring. Bella cries out; her hips buck up against me when I find her clit and I pause to suckle it gently. She moves unceasingly against me.

Her hands tug at my hair and I break my rhythm to look up at her. Those dark eyes are burning in her face and her lips are swollen from my kisses and from her own teeth. Her hair is tousled around her face and she is gorgeous, a goddess in my bed.

"Come here," she whispers, tugging once again at my hair. I slide up beside her and she crashes her mouth to mine. I push back until I'm leaning against the headboard, pulling her with me. Before I can even think, she hovers over me and slides down on my hard length. We both moan. Her silky softness surrounds me and I know now why so many thoughts center on sex. Bella is not my first partner, but the need has never been this intense with anyone else. I am blind to everything except the feel of her sliding over me, the brush of her nipples against my chest and her heartbeat beating quickly between us.

Bella bounces against me as I lave kisses over her breasts and neck. I can feel myself tightening, my orgasm quickly approaching. Bella's rhythm starts to falter and I realize she is approaching her own climax. My hands settle on her hips, helping to keep her in motion. This is bliss, almost painful in its perfection.

I shout my climax just as Bella's walls start tightening around me. She lets out one long keening wail and I realize that now is the time. It will be kinder to mix the pain with her pleasure, so while she is still shuddering around me, I nuzzle into the curve of her neck. I lick the skin where her pulse pounds just underneath and I sink my teeth into her.

As her blood fills my mouth, Bella stills above me. I am not surprised that even in this most intimate of moments, her mind is still silent to me, but I am grateful.

She tastes exquisite; luscious and savory and it is all I can do to pull away before I drain her. I pull back to see her eyes wide with horror. My brow furrows and I softly kiss the corners of her mouth.

"I know it hurts, but it will be better soon. I promise," I tell her, stroking my hands through her hair and down the satiny skin of her back. Her eyes are already fluttering closed as she begins to lose consciousness. I wish that there were some way that I could spare her the pain, but I don't regret making this choice. I need her with me. The silence of her mind is like a balm and I cannot let it go.

Gently, I lay her back on my bed. I step to the dresser where I find the elegant nightgown that I purchased earlier in the evening. I wash her body with cool water and slip the nightgown over her, dressing her carefully. I pull on my jeans that were discarded earlier and pull a chair up beside the bed. There is nothing to do now but wait.

o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o

She burns for three days. Bella makes no noise, suffering in silence. The only hint that she is in pain is when her back suddenly arches off the bed for several seconds before resting rigidly back down again. I whisper nonsense to her, stroking her hands and her brow and wishing I could make this transition easier.

Finally, late on the third day, I hear her heart thump, then pause, and then thump again. This time when it pauses, it does not start back up again. I sit up in my chair beside the bed and gaze down at her gorgeous face.

Her eyes open and, instead of the espresso color that I held so dear, they burn scarlet in her pale face. Her tongue darts out of her mouth, wetting her lips and she stirs slightly under the sheet.

"Ouch," she whispers and I chuckle. This makes her eyes dart to me and her brow furrows. She pushes herself up in the bed and glares at me.

"What the fuck did you do to me?" Bella is still speaking softly, but she is furious. I smile at her proudly.

"I gave you immortality." And I explain about vampires and about how I was turned and about how her blood sang for me. "It was the only way I could keep you with me," I finish, capturing her hand with mine.

Bella's eyes are wide in her face and I begin to get nervous. Too late, I remember suddenly how angry I was with Carlisle for choosing this existence for me. I can only hope that one day she will forgive me for taking that choice away from her.

I reach for her other hand, but she jerks them both away from me, scowling.

"What have you done?" Her voice begins as a whisper, but she is shrieking by the end of the question. Since I just explained what happened to her, I assume that the question is rhetorical and say nothing. She pushes off the bed and bounds across the room, panting as she lands heavily and unsteadily.

"Yeah, about that," I begin, "you're going to have some new…powers…that may take some getting used to." She laughs but it comes out with a hysterical tinge. I stand and slowly approach her. But I only take a couple of steps before her eyes narrow and she hisses at me.

"Don't." One word and all of my carefully laid plans are shot to hell. What use is it turning her into a vampire if she won't even let me near her? Or worse, what if she is so angry that she disappears?

"Bella, I..." My words are cut off by a low and angry growl.

"I said DON'T!" To my astonishment she is screaming at me. Her hands fist in her hair, but then her anger finds focus as her gaze centers on me. In a flash, she leaps in the air, landing on my chest and pinning me down. Her whispered words are vicious, "I should kill you now. I know that I can. I can feel the strength coursing through me and I can see the fear in your eyes."

Her words are true. There are few things stronger than a newborn vampire and I am not one of them. Before I can speak, she leaps away from me and I push myself up to stand. Her back is turned to me, but her shoulders are shaking with what I know are tearless sobs. My heart breaks for her and for the first time I truly regret turning her; I regret taking this choice away from her.

"Please leave." Her voice is soft and it makes my chest ache.

"Bella, please, I –"

"I said, please leave!" Her voice is vehement behind the polite words and it's just enough to push me out the door. I cannot face her at this moment and I slip into the hall, closing the door behind me. I lean back against it, scrubbing my hands across my face. I can hear her crying, but I know from experience that she will find no relief from the dry shaking.

The ache in my chest intensifies with a nameless emotion. For the first time in years, I admit that I need help dealing with a situation. And like all sons, the first being I thought of was my father. Of sorts, anyway.

I stride down the hall to the kitchen, plucking my cell phone from its charger on the counter. I dial the numbers and wait for what seems an eternity before the line clicks.

"Edward?" His voice is questioning.

"Carlisle. I need help. Can you come?"

o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o

It takes him nine hours. He hops a flight from across the country. I had forgotten that he and Esme lived in Connecticut now. But he shows up at my door after nine very long hours of listening to Bella alternately cry, smash things in my bedroom, and shout obscenities my way.

I lead him down the hall and open the door slowly. Bella has been quiet for a while now and I am unsure of what we're about to find.

She is crouched defensively; her eyes dart around the room and her back is against the wall.

Edward, what have you done? Carlisle's thoughts are pained and I am shamed. He takes a step closer to Bella and I am shocked when she sinks to the floor and pulls her knees to her chest. She is cowering, her small body trembling violently.

"Please don't kill me," she whimpers and Carlisle stops his advance immediately.

He smiles and holds out his hand. When he speaks again, his voice is comforting. "I'm not going to hurt you, child. Did Edward explain what's happened to you?"

Bella's eyes fly back towards mine and the mutinous scowl returns. Carlisle laughs softly.

"Edward, I noticed you looked thirsty. Why don't you go hunt and leave Bella and me to get acquainted?" He speaks without looking at me.

I consider shortly, but it has been too long since I fed and I run from the house. The evening breeze slaps at my face and the rain drips down into my eyes. I consider running back to the city, but I don't want to go too far from the house in case Carlisle should need me.

I take a strong buck down easily and drink my fill. Once he is dead and I have disposed of the carcass, I sit in the grass, letting the rain wash over me. I hope that Bella will forgive me, but I'm not sure even Carlisle has that kind of power.

Rising, I turn and head back to the house. I can hear Carlisle murmuring in the back room. I peek in just long enough to see that Bella has relaxed enough to sit cross-legged on the floor across from Carlisle. She senses me in the doorway and glances up and I can almost swear that I see a look of relief cross her face before she frowns at me again.

"Bella, I'm going to go talk to Edward now. Will you wait here for us?" His voice is still softly soothing and she nods once to show she understands.

Carlisle rises gracefully and exits, expecting me to follow him. We head outside on to the porch where he sighs.

I'm still not sure what you were thinking. He doesn't bother speaking out loud. He knows I can hear him and he doesn't want her to hear just yet.

"Right now, I'm not sure either. I'm not sure I can explain it clearly." Frustrated with myself and the situation, I shove my hand through my hair. "At first, I just wanted to taste her. She's my singer, you know."

His thoughts betray his surprise at my having another singer in so short a space of time. I only nod.

"But then I realized that I couldn't hear her thoughts. Her mind is completely closed to me, Carlisle. Even in the middle of changing her, I couldn't hear her. It's incredible and I…I just didn't want to lose that. I couldn't take a chance that she would reject me." I lean on the railing. My excuses sound weak even to my own ears.

I explained the differences in our lifestyles, Edward. You should know that I'm going to give her a chance to leave with me.

A low growl rumbles through my chest before I can stop it. The thought of my Bella leaving on these terms disturbs me. But I know that I have already screwed this up once and I will not prevent her from leaving with Carlisle if that is what she wants. I nod sharply, turning away from him.

Esme is going to join us in a couple of days. She misses you, but she wanted to get Alice and Jasper settled in first.

I turn to face him. "Who are Alice and Jasper?"

Two vamps who showed up a couple of weeks ago. The female has the power of precognition and the male can influence emotions. They discovered our way of life on their own so they seem to be fitting in rather well with us.

I nod again. "Good, I'm glad. You and Esme were made to have friends and family around." A pained look crosses his face and he begins to recite Dante's Inferno in the original Latin to keep me from seeing whatever bothers him. His recitation breaks off quickly.

I'm going to take her to hunt. She'll feel better when she's fed.

We return to Bella's room where she has not left her spot on the floor. Even as a vampire, she bites her lip and I grin at the sight of it. Carlisle kneels down in front of her, carefully keeping a respectful distance.

"Bella, I believe you'll feel better if you hunt. Will you come with me to try?" Her eyes widen and she looks up at me uncertainly.

"I think it would be a good idea," I tell her, warmth spreading through my body at the realization that she checked with me before deciding. Carlisle's thought breaks in through my joy, Maybe there's hope for you yet, Edward.

o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o

Esme arrives the next day. The love and adoration between her and Carlisle is, at times, painful to watch. Esme hugs me fiercely and looks me over, as if I'm her child that she's making sure is uninjured. I wait patiently until she taps my cheek sharply.

"Now. What kind of trouble have you gotten into?" She smiles and winks at me. I can't help but smile back. Until that moment, I hadn't realized how solitary my life had truly become.

Esme follows Carlisle and I through the house to Bella's room. She doesn't even hesitate. She walks straight up to Bella and sinks to the floor beside her. To my astonishment, Bella doesn't even flinch; she just stares at Esme.

"Bella, my name is Esme. I'm Carlisle's mate. I'm very, very pleased to meet you." She smiles winningly and apparently even Bella can't resist her, because one corner of her mouth turns up in a grin. Esme turns back to us, still standing in the doorway. "Why don't you boys leave the two of us here to chat? We'll be fine, won't we Bella?"

Carlisle and I back out of the room.

I'm off to hunt. Will you join me? I shake my head at his unspoken question and he claps his hand on my shoulder. Have it your way. Try to give them some privacy, okay?

He leaves and I think about following, but I feel a compulsion to hear what Bella has to say. I need to know if she will ever be okay with my actions. It seems impossible that she will ever be the mate I hoped she would be. I hover outside the bedroom door, all but pressing my ear against it.

"Did Edward try to explain why he turned you, Bella?" Esme's voice is low. Bella scoffs.

"Something about singing blood and the gift of immortality. I don't know. I was pretty angry and couldn't really focus on what he was saying." It was the longest sentence I'd heard her say since her transformation. It hurt that it wasn't spoken to me, but I guess it is no more than I deserve.

Esme chuckles and then sighs. "Carlisle turned Edward first, then me when I was injured and close to dying. So admittedly I don't know him as well as Carlisle does. I know he's lived a very solitary existence since he left us. But he was lonely before that."

There is a pause for several very long seconds. I don't know if she's waiting for some kind of response from Bella. Finally Esme continues.

"Did he tell you about his additional gift?" There is another pause and I assume that Bella is responding nonverbally. I realize that I never did tell Bella how I could hear the thoughts of others.

"Most people refer to Edward's gift as mind-reading. But it would be more accurate to say that he hears what others are thinking. Bella, the only mind he has ever come across that he can't hear is yours. I can only imagine how weary Edward must be of the constant bombardment of the thoughts of others. Being in your presence must seem like a peaceful haven for him." She laughs softly again.

"Now Bella, I'm not trying to tell you whether or not to forgive him. You are more than capable of making your own decisions, although I would ask that you let us guide you these next few weeks until you get used to this existence."

There is movement in the room and the temptation to open my mind to watch through Esme's thoughts is almost overwhelming. I refrain, trying to give them as much privacy as I can.

"What I do know, Bella, is that you are already infinitely precious to him. Surely that is worth something?"

"Esme, I didn't want this!" Bella cries out suddenly. I cringe in my hiding spot in the hallway. "I didn't ask for this. He IMPOSED this life on me! I'm never going to grow old or get married or have children. I'll never get to talk to my friends again or graduate from college. I have infinity stretching out in front of me and my only options are to spend it with the bastard who stole my life or spend it alone!" She is crying again; the dry, wrenching sobs ripping from her chest.

I cannot resist anymore and open my mind to Esme's. She watches Bella for a moment and then gathers her close in a hug.

"You're right, Bella. It was a horrible, selfish act on Edward's part. And I can't say that I would blame you if you disappear. But you have a family if you want one. You know Edward doesn't live with Carlisle and I, so just remember if you choose, you can always come live with us. Two new vampires joined us just last month! Alice is about your mortal age, I think you could be friends."

I watch through Esme as Bella's sobs quiet after a moment.

"Dear Bella, I'm not saying that Alice or Edward or Carlisle or I could ever replace what you've lost. But you have a choice now. You can continue to lament the life that is gone or you can move forward. Just because it's different doesn't necessarily mean that it's bad."

Esme takes a step back from Bella and looks into her eyes. Bella is distraught; her hair hangs in strings around her face and her clothing is dirty and disheveled from her hunt with Carlisle. Suddenly Esme speaks to me in her thoughts.

I've let you listen long enough. Now get out of here and give us some real privacy.

I don't wonder how she knew I was there. I just step noiselessly down the hall and out the door. Then I run. Away from the girl I've left in ruins. Away from the consequences of my selfish actions. Away from the true monster I became as soon as I changed her.

o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o

Another week passes. Another week of one word sentences from Bella when she is forced to speak to me at all. Another seven days of Carlisle, or more often Esme, running interference between the two of us.

Carlisle assures me that she'll come around to forgiving me, but his thoughts betray his doubts.

Esme dances through the house, making changes to my sanctuary, and claiming to make it more welcoming for a female. Her thoughts are filled with concern for Bella and pity for me.

Condemnation would be easier for me to take.

Finally I cannot stand either of them and their noisy minds any longer. I push them out the door for a date night, assuring them the whole way that Bella and I will survive just fine.

I wander through the house, the darkness familiar and welcoming. There is no sound from Bella's room and the barrier between us feels impenetrable. I drift down the back hall to the room that I use as a studio. I have not played in a long time and sitting down in front of the black and white keys feels like greeting an old friend.

My fingers trace over the keys, slowly warming up to the melody running through my head. I play several pieces all the way through before the hair on the back of my neck stands up, alerting me to another presence in the room.

I turn slightly and see Bella hovering uncertainly in the doorway.

"Hello," I say shortly, turning back to the keys, switching to something soft and sad. She says nothing, so I keep playing.

"Where did Esme and Carlisle go?" She murmurs finally.

"I sent them on a date. They were too loud." I am impatient, even though I know I have no right to be.

I peek at Bella again and she is gnawing on a strand of her hair.

"I didn't think they were loud," she whispers, removing her hair from her mouth and twirling it around her finger. I pause from playing long enough to tap my temple. She nods, understanding. "Oh."

I continue to play, expecting her to disappear back to her room now that her curiosity has been satisfied. She surprises me by pushing away from the doorframe and sliding on the bench beside me. A tiny flame of hope flares in my chest.

"I didn't know you played piano." I nod, afraid that the sound of my voice will break whatever spell she's under that is causing her to feel this comfortable around me. "I had a foster mom who played. She was one of my favorites." Bella's voice is sad again and I swallow hard at her sorrow.

She sighs and listens to me play another song. I search my brain for something witty or sweet to say. Hell, I would settle for a topic of conversation that wouldn't send her running from the room. I was right though: being with her is peaceful without a constant barrage of thoughts and emotions in my head.

Finally Bella shifts her body and rises from the bench. "Thank you for letting me listen to you play," she says formally, taking a step away from me.

Panicking at the thought that I might have let this opportunity pass me by, I capture her hand, running my thumb over her knuckles.

"Bella, I'm so sorry," I whisper. I don't know how to adequately convey my regret at the decisions I have made for her. She turns slightly to face me, but doesn't meet my eyes. She only nods and pulls away, disappearing back down the dark hallway.

o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o

Carlisle and Esme stay for another three weeks. Together we teach Bella how to hunt and how to hide her powers from humans. The red of her irises begins to fade on the vegetarian diet that we abide by with them around. She is astoundingly, amazingly, incredibly beautiful and I find myself very much in love with her. She comes to trust me a little more each day. I count myself lucky that I am getting this second chance with her and that changing her has not affected her sense of humor or her sweet nature.

The night before Carlisle and Esme leave, I take Bella into the city with me. Even without being able to hear her mind, I know she is nervous. She has not interacted with anyone other than Carlisle, Esme or I since her change. He and I discussed it and agreed that she needed to say goodbye to her previous life.

Bella and I stand in the backyard of the house she lived in as a human and watch her roommates through the windows. They laugh as they prepare dinner, tossing bits of food at each other and pouring drinks. To them, Bella has simply decided to travel on a whim. I managed to clear out most of Bella's things and leave a note explaining her "decision" while she was still in transition.

"I miss them," her soft voice interrupts my thoughts. The grief on her face tears at me. "I know that they will go on and live full lives. They'll get married and have children and careers and then eventually they'll die." Her voice hitches and breath shudders out of her. "They were the only family I ever really had."

"I'm so sorry, Bella." I rest my hand on her shoulder, my voice full of sorrow. I watch as her face hardens.

"I've made my peace with it," she tells me. She takes one long last look at her former life and then turns to me. "Can we go now?"

I nod and we run quickly back to the car. I stop with my hand on her door handle.

"Um, Bella, would you like to hunt while we're here?" She looks up at me in bewilderment.

"You want me to hunt humans?"

"Well, it's up to you. Carlisle told me he explained the differences in our lifestyles."

She looks away from me before answering. Her voice is a whisper. "I don't want to. And I don't want you to either." She looks back at me and lays her hand on my cheek. "I like you with the lighter color eyes." She grins and slides into the car, leaving me frozen in place.

o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o

Carlisle and Esme are waiting for us in my living room when we return. They are both tense and I immediately listen for their thoughts. Carlisle is reciting Dante again and Esme is singing some song by a current pop princess. She knows I hate that shit.

"It's time for us to leave," Carlisle speaks without preamble. I feel Bella shiver beside me and my heart sinks.

"Edward, you know you're more than welcome to come home at any time." Esme hugs me fiercely and then turns to Bella. "And Bella, I hope you'll think of us as your family now. If you would like to come with us tomorrow, you're more than welcome."

Bella looks up at me and I force myself to keep quiet. Mentally I am begging her to stay, to not leave me here alone again. Her gaze slides to Carlisle who smiles benignly and then to Esme who pats her arm reassuringly.

"May I have some time to think about it?" Her voice is uncertain and shaky.

"Of course! Our flight doesn't leave until tomorrow afternoon. You just let us know." Esme releases me and hugs Bella quickly. "Carlisle and I are going to run an errand. We'll be back in the morning." She turns and winks at him and I don't want to know what this errand of theirs is.

I stand frozen in place, listening to their footsteps fade in the distance. Bella is silent, but for once she isn't fidgeting. We stand like that for several very long minutes. I want to find the words that will convince her to stay, but I am mute. Finally Bella breaks the silence.

"If I stay, it doesn't necessarily mean I'm okay with what you did," she tells me softly. She turns to me, but I cannot look at her. "I mean, I forgive you, but that doesn't mean that I trust you yet."

I nod once to show I understand. She huffs out a sigh.

"Will you look at me please?" The warmth of her hand on my arm stirs me into motion.

"Bella, I'm…" She stops me with one delicate finger over my lips.

"I know you're sorry, Edward. You can stop apologizing." Her hand drops away and she runs it through her long hair. I wonder idly if she picked that habit up from me. "I'm trying to tell you that I want to stay with you. If that's okay. I mean, if that's what you want too."

She is chewing on her bottom lip again and automatically I reach out to smooth it. She ducks her head and peeks up at me through her lashes. I know that if she were still able, she would be blushing right now.

"I would like that very much, Bella."

My voice is rough with need and I am only barely able to restrain myself from crushing her to me.

"Okay then," she whispers and her smile lights up her face.

For the first time in decades, I don't feel like a monster. My sole goal becomes to keep her smiling at me just like that. Somehow I know that my Bella will love me some day. And, for the moment, that is good enough and certainly more than I deserve.

o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o - o


Thanks to Herinfiniteeyes for a fantastic beta job!

Thanks to ZephyerSky and her DH for their help working out the kinks. I couldn't have done it without their assistance. =)

Thanks to Araeo, Cheddah, DawnoftheDead, DeviKalika, Namariel, NoBloodNoFoul, and Saranic for hosting this contest.

I don't usually recommend playlists for stories that I write, but I would be remiss if I didn't recommend the New Moon Soundtrack. I listened to it nonstop while I was writing this and it helped set the mood. Plus, it's just really, really good music. =)