A note about this story: I used some of Stephenie Meyer's vampire "rules," but also incorporated ideas from other vampire genres and made up a few of my own as well. I tried to keep the characters' personalities fairly true to canon, though I have changed some minor details. Pairings are also canon. Story contains some swearing and violence, and explicit love scenes in later chapters. Stephenie Meyer owns the characters...I just brought 'em out to play with for awhile.
Big Red chose the middle of a downpour as the inopportune time to give up the ghost.
And the thick of the Olympia Forest was, naturally, the place my ancient Chevy decided to wheeze and groan to a stop. I did manage to pull the rusted behemoth of a truck Charlie had given me over to the side of the road before it gasped its last breath, sputtering to a noisy halt as I uselessly applied the brakes to stop it. I set the parking brake in case it had half a mind to roll down the muddy embankment and into the dense thicket of evergreens yards from the county road. With a resigned sigh, I pulled out my cell phone and speed-dialed my father's number at the police station before I realized that I was getting no signal in the thick of the forest. Great. What a perfect time to have to get out and walk to an area with a mobile signal.
I pulled the hood of my utilitarian jacket over my head and trudged out into the rain. The ominous clouds had prematurely darkened the dusk, and occasional shards of lightning split the sky with the promise of more inclement weather to come. I walked north along the road toward my father's house, though I was still miles from home, occasionally pulling out the phone to check for telltale service signal bars. Still nothing. Knowing my luck, the lightning had probably temporarily knocked out one of the cell phone towers.
Why hadn't I accepted a ride home from work with Mike Newton when I had the chance? The truck had been acting up the past couple of days, starting only when it pleased. Charlie had made an appointment at the shop for Friday, so apparently Big Red sensed it was headed to the "hospital" and balked in protest the day before. I knew damned well why I hadn't taken Mike up on his offer, though. He would have taken my acceptance of the gesture as a sign that I was suddenly interested in the overtures he'd been making since I'd moved to the small burg of Forks, Washington a month before. It's not that I didn't like Mike. He was pleasant and seemed harmless enough. He tried very hard to make me laugh, which wasn't such a bad thing, since I was the new kid in school. But perhaps the fact that he tried so hard is what had me cringing in response to his enthusiasm.
I wasn't used to being the center of attention. In Phoenix, I had been one in a sea of girls slightly prettier, smarter, funnier or more talented than I was. I was distinguished primarily by my pale, un-tannable complexion and refusal to wear any shoes other than sneakers or flip-flops. I loved the sun even if it didn't love me. I missed the warmth, and I thought of the old stucco house that I'd shared with mom as I slogged through the steady rain, vainly hoping another car would pass so I could flag the driver down for assistance. Renee Swan was the opposite of me: a free, child-like spirit who found joy in mundane things, and maintained her youthful, if sometimes immature, attitude toward life regardless of how the years ticked by. "Bella," I could hear her saying in my head, "Forget living in Forks! That infernal, constant rain is one of the main reasons I left, never mind catering to that lovely-but, you've gotta admit-stodgy father of yours. You'll love Jacksonville, baby! It's sunny all the time, and Phil is really moving up in the minors, he's doing so well! Come live with us, it'll be great!"
Great…except for being the third wheel. I had nothing against my mom's new husband. He was a nice guy, and made mom feel young again, which seemed to be her main goal in life. Something had been telling me to go live with my dad Charlie for awhile, even while a big part of me resisted the move with every fiber of my being. And now, caught in yet another Washington-style deluge, I was beginning to question that errant part of my psyche that brought me to this soggy, godforsaken jungle.
Lost in my memories of sunnier climes and times, I didn't notice the form crouched low on the side of the road. The sky had been darkening, and a tinge of worry had begun to seep into me along with the cold rain. Surely Charlie would be wondering where I was by now. The sporting goods store where I worked had closed almost an hour ago, and the shortcut through the woods sliced a good ten minutes off the drive. I should have been home, cooking him dinner, half an hour ago.
I pulled my cell out of my pocket and peered at its glowing face in the dark. Suddenly, I hit something-a large stone?-with my shin, and lost my balance, toppling forward. Grace had never been my strong suit, and I thrust my arms out to catch myself as I went down. I was shocked to feel, rather than see, a pair of hands catch my arms as my knees buckled and slammed against something hard. I slid down into the mud on my shins as steely hands continued to grip me, and found myself face-to-face with a rain-soaked man.
A muffled scream of surprise escaped my mouth, and my frantic eyes sought his in the dark. Staring back at me were the blackest eyes I'd ever seen, wide and slightly wild, with long lashes framing them. A sudden flash of lightning illuminated the stranger's countenance, and his features jolted me harder than the clap of thunder that followed. Rain dripped down the loose curls of his dark reddish hair, gathering in thick, arched eyebrows and running down cheeks of sculpted stone. His skin was almost shockingly white, even paler than mine, and his clenched jaw jutted out like a buttress from the ivory column of his neck. Rain glistened off of his pink lips, and I found myself licking my own just looking at them. He looked like one of the Greek statues in my Ancient Art History textbook at school. He could only be described as achingly beautiful.
And then he spoke.
"What do you think you're doing?" he demanded. His words and expression were harsh, but his voice sounded like angels singing. I was beginning to think I was dreaming. I felt as if I were drifting into some sort of trance, gazing at this stranger's face. He shook me slightly, brows knitted, as if to snap me out of it. Somewhere behind my brain fog, I realized I was behaving like an idiot.
I blinked hard a couple of times to clear my head, and finally replied, "My car broke down about a half-mile back. I was trying to get a signal on my cell phone." He said nothing, just continued to penetrate my soul with those enormous eyes. As I stared back at him, the bizarre reality of the situation finally struck me. "What are you doing here, sitting on the side of the road in the rain? Are you hurt? Do you need me to call an ambulance when I get my phone working?"
He regarded me with an odd look for a moment, and then quite suddenly, he burst into laughter. I would have laughed with him, except it was a slightly maniacal laugh, tinged with hysteria and…desperation? Bewildered, I leaned away from him, suddenly wondering about the man's sanity. I wracked my brain to try to remember if there were any mental health facilities near Forks, because this guy might very well be an escapee.
He removed his steel grip from my arms and rubbed his hands over his face and up through his hair, sending droplets of rain flying and making cowlicks stand up in disarray all over the top of his head. "I'm sorry," he finally gasped, his laughter fading. "I'm not hurt, trust me. It's fine, I'm fine. Don't worry about me. Just go on and get help." He motioned north up the road in the direction I had been walking, then slumped his shoulders and stared down at my knees, which were touching his.
I tried to make sense of what he was saying, and wondered what the hell was going on. He shook his head and grinned a crooked grin, which another burst of lightning rendered dazzling under its brief glow. I again felt myself drifting, gazing at his face in wonder. Who was this boy, and what was he doing here alone in the dark? I should have been afraid, but I wasn't. There was something so defeated in his posture, so downright tragic in his somberly elegant features and lean build. As I stared shamelessly, I realized that though the sharp planes of his face were all man, his soft skin and rosy lips belied his true age. He couldn't have been much older than I was. And he was soaking wet, all alone, on a county road in the rain, with no car in sight.
"Where is your car? How did you get here?" I tried again.
He smiled wanly and shook his head again. He wasn't going to answer. His eyes, from which I couldn't seem to tear my own away, were pained.
"Listen, just stay here," I instructed. "I'm sure another car will come soon, or I'll pick up a cell signal in a minute. Don't move, I'm going to get help for both of us." I tried to rise to my feet but my Converse sneaker slid in the mud as if it were WD-40, and I awkwardly lurched forward again, falling right against the boy's chest. He caught me up in his arms, murmuring "Careful," into my ear. The velvety sound of it sent a shockwave straight down my spine, and my eyes locked with his, mere inches away. His breath was cool on my face, and incredibly, it smelled spicy sweet, as if he'd just eaten warm apple pie. The scent of him cut through the rain and bathed me in its irresistible fragrance. What boy smelled like this?
My new best friend, the lightning, again revealed his face to me in vivid detail. His eyes seemed to register a dozen different emotions alternately as he bored holes into me with his gaze. His breathing grew ragged and he gripped me closer to him. I wondered wildly if he were going to kiss me, and what would I do if he did? Shouldn't I be running away, screaming, from this stranger, this crazy situation?
His eyes were like an animal's, chaotic and fierce. And then, suddenly, they were pleading…almost apologetic. "Please help me," he whispered, his voice barely audible above the relentless rain and thunder. "Help me." He looked…terrified.
I began nodding numbly, the cold and wet and his raw need getting to me. "I'll go right now," I replied shakily. But before I could try to rise again, he gripped me tighter, closing his eyes as if in pain and breathing deeply. He appeared as if he were in some sort of internal struggle and he clung to me, grasping my coat in his long fingers. Then his eyes flew open and a thrill of fear ran through me at the depthless, inky blackness of his expression. He didn't look human.
That's when I felt it. It happened so quickly, I didn't see it coming. I couldn't see anything but the night sky and the rain stinging my eyes. His lips were on my neck, my head bent back, his hand tangled in my hair and clutching it wildly. Part of me wanted to scream, but only a strangled cry escaped before I felt the warmth trickling down my neck. I tried to comprehend what was happening, while visions of scary movies past played like a vaudeville show in my mind. I felt a dull ache, no pain, as it slowly registered that his teeth were somehow, impossibly, sunk deep into my neck, right to the jugular, his tongue and lips working like silken leeches against my skin.
He was drinking my blood.
I wanted to laugh, the same demented laugh that my attacker had emitted moments ago. This couldn't be real. It was some ridiculous nightmare, and I would wake up any moment now.
He moaned loudly into my neck and the vibration shook me to the core, tingling down my stiffened spine. His hands gently massaged my scalp and my back while he held me in a vice-like grip, as if he were somehow trying to lessen the horror of what he was doing to me. My vision began to blur and weakness began to make my limbs heavy and useless. I desperately gathered my waning strength and twisted against him as the realization hit me that this was real. He was a…I couldn't bring my brain to conjure up the word. But whatever he was, he was killing me.
I felt my heart rate slow, and a loud pounding filled my ears. The pounding of my dying heart. A second, steady drumming soon joined it…a thrumming vibration in harmony with mine. His heart? It felt as if it were so. Two hearts, beating together in a terrible, slow death march. It was at once terrifying and erotic. I had never felt so close to another being in my life.
"Beautiful," he murmured into my neck, his cool lips resting a moment against my skin. He groaned softly, in a tone that would have been the most sensual sound in the world under any other circumstance. His eyes were closed, long wet lashes grazing his cheeks, and an intense peace seemed to have settled over him. A strange stillness had overcome me as well. My breathing was so shallow that I couldn't muster the strength to tell him to stop, or to wrench myself free from his velvet death-grip. And as I gazed at the work of art that constituted his face, a delirious part of me didn't want to. The throbbing of our hearts continued their slow, sensuous rhythm, and I didn't want it to end. At that moment, time could have stopped and I would have died happy.
Except that I didn't want to die.
A final stab of fear woke me to the fact that death was, indeed coming, and I inhaled deeply in a choking gasp, a sickening gurgling noise coming from my ravaged throat. The boy blinked at the sound, as if waking from the same trance I had, and looked down at me with warm, soft gray eyes. It was as if the storm clouds had lifted, leaving a clear blue sky in their wake.
His expression soon changed from calm to agitation as he gazed down at me…as if he just realized what he had done. Even as his features blurred in my fading eyesight, I saw an unmistakable look of guilt and horror seize his face as he viewed his handiwork.
"No," I heard him whisper in a ragged baritone, his hands stroking my hair and smoothing it off of my face. "No!" He knelt over and I whimpered pitifully as his lips grazed my cheek. "I'm sorry," he whispered, over and over. "Please forgive me."
Unable to reply or to move, I simply stared into his beautiful eyes, uncomprehending. A bright light slashed over us…more lightning?…and his haunted expression was the last thing I saw before the dark night enveloped me.