I will just preface this story by saying, much to my surprise I'm having a blast writing it. That is due in large part to the always entertaining and educational feedback from my own personal cheerleaders McWinn77 and HeidiTown. (When they jump really high you can see their undies!)

Characters and canon all belong to Stephenie Meyer. Twisted Twi-verse is mine with a kiss behind the bleachers for Joss Whedon.

The Family Business

Chapter 1Bowling Shoe Blues (Edward)

I just wanted to get the hell out of here and go back to looking for my new job. Days like this I actively fantasized about having 'real' employment in the 'real' world. Today it was a bowling alley.

I would wear grungy band shirts and a bored expression while I mindlessly sprayed the insides of bowling shoes for eight long hours. I worked hard in my mind to be overcome by the craptastic smell emanating from each size 11 butt-ugly shoe. But I made the mistake of imagining too well. One deep breath and I was brought quickly back to the scent currently crawling into my pores.

Immolated vampire.

Exasperated, I raked my hand through my hair.


I'm sure I had vamp ash on my hands and now my hair would be full of the nastiness too. Would Head & Shoulders be effective on undead dandruff? I'd definitely be lathering, rinsing and repeating the second I got home.

I proceeded to survey the damage Emmett and I had done before taking my cruddy head of hair and tired ass back to town. One incinerated newborn vampire, swept up and separated into eight heavy duty trash bags. Check. Honestly, once they were a pile of ash, one bag was probably adequate but the Cullen family is known for its thoroughness.

And besides, there were always the urban legends about an immortal being smoked one day, then seen around town the next. Myths tend to be based in reality just enough not to screw around. Better safe than sorry and all that crap.

Emmett had left about twenty minutes earlier. He had a hot date with Rosalie Hale, Forks' own version of a Victoria's Secret model, so I waved him off, promising to clean up the rest of the mess. He muttered something about 'owing me' but there wasn't a lot of conviction in it. Everyone knew I had no life, much less a gorgeous girlfriend with which to collect paybacks for the favor. Well, who needed a girlfriend when there was a Heineken in a sexy green bottle calling my name at this very moment?

I threw four of the bags in the back hatch of the Lexus SUV and the other four divided between the front and back seat. I figured that should be far enough apart to keep any undead DNA from getting close enough to reanimate.

Emmett and I had discussed what to do with the abandoned ranch house before he left. We concluded and agreed it seemed to be a random spot at which the newborn was turned, and torching it wouldn't be necessary this time. If we think a vamp is creating a nest, we've been known to destroy a building, being careful not to raise arson suspicions. It eliminates evidence the local police would have no fucking clue what to do with and sends a subtle message to the bastard — or bitch — creating new blood suckers.

Out of habit — like I said, I'm a Cullen and we're crazy thorough — I did one last sweep of the trashed house for any oversights. It had clearly been used for drug use and God knows what else and I cringed at the thought of the germs and parasites coating every surface. Yeah, the shower was definitely edging out the beer when I got home.

The main rooms were clear and I did a quick scan of the kitchen trying not to breathe. It reeked of rotten food and probably a dead rodent or two in the cupboards. The last room in the back was the bathroom and with no window for the weak, late afternoon sun to enter, it was painted in shadows. I pulled the Maglite off my belt and swept the beam around the small, narrow room. The dirty shower curtain was shredded and hanging by one ring, allowing me to see every corner of the tub and room. I turned to go, switching off the light when my intuition blew all sexy like in my ear.

Something was off.

I depressed the button on the light again and grabbed my hair, momentarily forgetting about the ash on my hands. My mother, Esme, is convinced that constantly molesting my hair is a habit I have when I'm really focusing so she has long since given up admonishing me to tame the crazy mess. It took the third careful scan of the area to pick out what had nagged at my brain the first time. The dated, cheap paneling in the room — who the hell panels a bathroom? — camouflaged the sliding door on the back wall covered in the same faux wood grain. It probably led to a laundry closet since I hadn't seen one on my earlier reconnaissance. It was opened just a fraction of an inch but my eyes rested on one dark spot halfway down the door. It should have been innocuous, but somehow it looked a little darker than the rest of the grimy smudges and filth found all over the house.

I felt the warning vibe like a cold finger at the base of my neck. My family and I had been hunting and killing vampires for as long as I could remember and there wasn't a doubt in my mind that I drew breath today because of my total respect for the vibe.

Now I just had to decide what to do about it.

Besides the flashlight, my belt also contained two other items of great value: My cell phone and a long, heavy titanium stake. The former I could use to call Emmett to get his ass back here immediately with the large flame-thrower. The latter I could use to temporarily immobilize a sluggish newborn until I could bar-b-q it. I mulled it over for less than a second and quickly returned to the Lexus to retrieve the smaller fire unit I still had with me. Properly armed, I returned to the gloomy bathroom.

Using the stake tip, I slid it in the slight opening of the slider and eased it open as slowly as possible. Amazingly, the old door didn't screech on the track as I expected. I could now make out the soft sounds within, something moving ever so slightly at floor level. The flashlight beam faced straight down to the dirty linoleum, highlighting the texture — more of the fake wood grain, this time pretending to be a parquet floor. Esme would be horrified by the appalling lack of design and taste as much as she would be by whatever waited on the other side of the door.

At the very edge of the light's beam I could see the toe of one still sneaker. I exhaled completely and put the pieces together. I already knew there was no way a full-on vamp was still in the house. It never would have cowered in a laundry room if it had the strength to take out Emmett and me. If it was a legitimate concern I wouldn't have let Em leave, nor would he have left me alone. The Cullen hunters rank safety in numbers right up there with thoroughness.

No, most likely I had stumbled upon a dead body, probably a druggie who didn't know when to stop riding the meth train until he — or she, the foot didn't look very big — went off the tracks. Since I couldn't smell the familiar stench of decomposition, it must not have been very long. Hell, it's probably what drew the vamp here in the first place. Maybe he tried to drain the other addict but bailed when we showed up and ended up turning him instead.

The small whispering sounds were most likely a rat enjoying the best meal it's had in months.

Just great.

I relaxed a little and resigned myself to confirming my suspicions before going home, calling the police anonymously to report the body, and then washing Addict #1 out of my damn hair. If the scene on the other side of the door was particularly bad, I also promised myself a good hour with the want ads. There has to be a bowling alley hiring somewhere.

I pushed the sliding door six more inches to the right, simultaneously raising the beam of light to the little sneaker and following it up the jean-clad leg. Before I reached the curve of the hip — definitely a girl — the leg twitched and a small whimper from the closet effectively stopped my heart for several long seconds.

Shit. Not dead.

The question was, not dead as in alive, or not dead as in immortal.

Either way, from the prone position and the sound of the little moan she made I wasn't too worried about an attack. My biggest problem would be figuring out how to hold the light, the stake and the flame-thrower all at the same time and how to take action if I was wrong about the timeline and she was ready to try on her new skin, so to speak.

I had no problem with the emotions. I'd eliminated or helped to eliminate plenty of females over the years, and knew they were just as mean and determined to take human life as the males. Maybe when I was younger I would have hesitated upon looking at a supernaturally beautiful woman, but all it took was one look at the blood red eyes and I knew that I or some other poor bastard was just a meal to her.

Them or us. Her or me. The math was simple. The logistics were trickier.

Not only could I not juggle the equipment all at once, but there was still the possibility this was some unfortunate addict. If I reacted too quickly I could stab an innocent girl right through the heart. I had to make some quick decisions or I would be fucked.

The legs twitched again. As I continued to steadily draw the beam up the body, her back arched, pulling her shirt up to reveal two inches of stomach. A tiny gold hoop in her belly button gleamed briefly in the light. One pale hand lay on the floor by her thigh and suddenly spasmed into a claw, the tendons strained and defined clearly up her wrist. My mind automatically registered her clean skin and nails, the navel jewelry looked like real gold, and the clothing I could see wasn't grubby or ill-fitting, as I would expect on a crack whore. So, the question of the moment was, is the skin naturally pale or unnaturally so?

Only one way to find out.

I adjusted my grip on the stake, checked the accessibility of the flame-thrower on the floor by my left foot, and raised the light to reveal the face on the floor below me.

A tangle of long, dark brown hair fanned around her head, which faced away from the door, into the shadows. Her back was still off the floor and her chest heaved in short, shallow pants as she convulsed. I tensed instinctively and grimaced when I saw the single rivulet of blood running from her neck and disappearing into the cleavage of her pale blue T-shirt.

The bowling alley would apparently have to wait.

The right side of her neck, just under the delicate jaw line, was ragged and covered in blood where some asshole had taken a deep bite before leaving her in a closet to turn into a monster. It was apparently early on like the other newborn Emmett and I had handled, so she wasn't much of a danger to me yet. I could still wrap this up by myself; stake her to the floor and torch her before she even realized what was going on. From what I've seen over the years, they're suffering so much at this stage of transformation that they don't give a shit what you do to them. The venom burns from the inside out and is obviously excruciating for a good two days.

I was admittedly surprised she writhed in relative silence. An occasional whimper was the only sound she made, rather than the agonized screams I was used to from a vamp in the making. Well, good. Last thing I wanted was that kind of noise reverberating around a small, enclosed space.

Determined, I held the light steady and raised the twelve-inch long titanium stake. It wouldn't kill her, but I wasn't sure how much strength she had yet and it would hold her down long enough for me to grab the canister of fuel, squeeze the handle and reduce her to a tidy pile of ash.

I focused on the slight dip between her breasts where the trail of blood disappeared and where the heart was already forgetting how to pump life through her body for much longer. Taking a deep breath, I prepared to impale the suffering girl to the floor. Just as I put all of my strength into the thrust, she jerked her head towards me and her eyes shot open. The deep brown of her irises were just beginning to develop a red halo around the edges. The heavy stake slid like water through my hand and glanced off of her ribs before clanging loudly on the cement floor. The beam of light wobbled on her face as my hand shook erratically, and I stared at those eyes.

I whispered dully to anyone at all who may have been listening.

"Fuck. My. Life."

Oh, who could it be?! I like short chapters and I'm already working my way through the outline, so I'll probably update a couple times a week.