Chapter 1: September, 1918:
I smiled brightly at the starry night sky that was so rarely visible in the large city of Chicago. The night was warm for the season, although perhaps that wasn't quite so unusual for big cities. Orion and the Big Dipper smiled down at me as I walked slowly down the busy streets, my shawl worn loosely around my shoulders as I reveled in the warmth. It was a marvelous night, although my pleasure was mostly due to the man who walked beside me, his arm firmly linked through mine.
Edward Mason grinned down at me, his green eyes glittering with delight as he shared in my delight. His bronze hair was covered slightly by the hat that was perched stylishly on his head, which irritated me slightly. I preferred his tousled hair uncovered. His grip tightened on my upper arm as I tripped over the brown fabric of my dress. I blushed for a moment before joining in his laughter, my breath a little short due to the corset that was tightened around my waist. My brown eyes slid briefly to the thin figure of Michael, our chaperone, as he trailed behind us on the crowded streets, his expression sullen. I tried to ignore the stab of empathy that went through me at the sight of his expression; although to be fair, it wasn't my fault that he was so upset nowadays. I had told him several times that I could never reciprocate his feelings; he was the one who insisted on entertaining an attachment to me.
Edward chuckled when he saw who I was looking at, although I caught the brief flash of jealousy in his eyes.
"Poor Mr. Newton," he murmured. "He's still so entranced by your siren call, Miss Swan."
I blushed again, my skin nearly matching the tomatoes that lined the crates in the windows of a shop that we were passing.
"You have been reading far too much mythology, Mr. Mason," I reprimanded him gently. "Next you will confuse me a nymph."
"You are wrong, Miss Swan," he whispered with amusement. "Next I shall call you a goddess."
My blush deepened at that and I hoped that the light was too dim for him to see how pleased I was by his attentions, even if they were a bit flawed. There was no possible way that I could be a goddess in any form, and it was beyond me how a man as gorgeous as Edward could see me as such.
I sighed with disappointment when we reached the door to my home. I bit my lip as I debated whether or not to keep walking. Would Charlie notice?
Edward chuckled, seeing the expression on my face.
"Now, Miss Swan," he chastised lightly. "Don't tell me you are planning on running off without me."
I smiled and shook my head.
"Not without you," I whispered, almost too low for him to hear.
He did, though, and his smile widened.
"Miss Swan-," he began, only to stop abruptly as a dark shadow passed beside us, his head bent to avoid the gaze of bystanders. The shadow paused beside me, his nostrils flared as he looked up. I shrank back into Edward's arms at the sight of the man. His eyes were a deep, inhuman red.
Edward glared menacingly at the man, his frown echoed by Michael as he caught up to us. The shadow shrugged past us, his face lowering again as he walked away.
"Get Miss Swan inside," Edward ordered Michael quietly. "She should no be on the street with people like that about."
Michael nodded and hustled me through the door into my home. I turned and watched with undue concern as Edward waited for the door to close before quickly hailing a coach to take him to his own home across town. I watched the coach that carried him until it was out of sight, unable to shake off the feeling that I would not see him again for a long time.
My foot tapped the floor of the coach impatiently as we drew closer to the Mason household. Across from me, Michael eyed me with a resigned look, his blue eyes still sullen. It wasn't like me to be impatient; I was usually in a very good mood when I went to see Edward. However, in the fortnight since we had last seen each other, I had been unable to shake the disconcerting feeling that I would not be able to see him for a long time. The feeling scared me, and I wanted it to be disproved.
Finally, the coach screeched to a halt out side of the cream and chocolate exterior of the Mason home. I jumped hastily out of the coach, tripping once again on my skirt as I stepped down. Michael caught me reflexively, the sullen expression in his eyes lifting slightly as he helped me to regain my poor balance. For some odd reason, steadying me when I was a klutz was a pleasurable experience for him. I never understood what was so enjoyable about, although then again I never understood why Edward insisted on comparing me to figures in Greek mythology either. Perhaps it was a male thing…
As we drew closer to the Mason house, I could immediately sense that something was wrong.
The brown shutters had been drawn across the large windows that faced the cheerful square in front of the house, and there was a small group of black-clad people huddled around the front door of the house. I broke away from Michael's restraining arm and pulled aside a man who stood at the edge of the group. In my distraction, I barely noticed that he looked almost exactly like the man with the red eyes, although his eyes were black. The man looked at me expectantly, his eyes suddenly bright with some unknown emotion.
"Excuse me, sir," I said hastily, foregoing politeness for once. "Why are there so many people around the Mason home? Where are the Masons?"
The man's gaze softened with unmistakable pity at my words. His eyes slid past me to lock on Michael as he approached us, his expression wary. Michael stopped abruptly at the man's gaze, his face almost scared.
"Miss," the man said gently. "It may pain you to learn this, but the Masons are all dead. They were killed by the influenza a few days ago."
My face paled and I felt my knees start to buckle. Edward was dead? I had heard of the influenza of course, everyone had, but I hadn't thought that Edward would suffer from it…
Perhaps seeing the pain that the news had created, Michael murmured something unintelligible and moved past me into the crowd of people by the Mason home. Or, I suppose it was just a home now; the Mason's were no longer going to inhabit it.
The man's cold hand fastened itself around my wrist suddenly, his other hand going to my mouth. My eyes widened suddenly and I had a sudden urge to scream before I quickly smothered it. What did it matter if something happened to me? Edward was dead. Besides, I had the feeling that the man wouldn't be stopped by something as menial as attention. The man chuckled.
"Good girl," he murmured quietly, his words too low for any one else to hear. "Walk with me, now. We are going to take a small trip."
I hoped that I didn't trip; it would only anger him. The man half dragged me away from the crowd in front of the house, pulling me into a darkened alleyway. I looked up desperately at the grey sky, my fear returning full force. Edward… was he watching me from wherever he was?
The man picked me up easily once we were hidden in the alley, his arms supporting me as easily as if I weighed no more than a small bag. My eyes widened as he took off running, our surroundings blurring to a grey fog as he took me away from my home.
I fell onto the soft ground with a cry as the impact sent shockwaves up my arms. The man looked down at me coolly, his expression calculating.
"Are you scared, child?" he asked curiously, sounding almost surprised by the fear that was no doubt painted on my face.
I nodded mutely, too stunned to say a word. Who- no, what was this man?
"How strange," the man murmured. "You should be relieved. I am about to stop your suffering. Don't you want to be with the man you love now that he is gone?"
A part of me cried yes to his words, although I tried to ignore that part. No matter how upset I was by Edward's death, I didn't think that the answer was to get killed by a stranger.
"Trust me," the man pleaded his eyes hardening. "I am doing you a favor." Then he leaned down over me and bit my neck.
I screamed as fire filtered through my veins from his bite, tears seeping from underneath my suddenly closed lids. The man's hands curved around my neck, bringing me closer as he drank my blood.
I screamed again, feeling a dim flash of panic as my voice became weaker. Black smoke appeared in front of my eyes when I opened them, threatening to drag me into the black oblivion.
The man looked up suddenly, his eyes narrowing as he looked towards something that was too subtle for my senses. In a blurring flash, he threw my limp body away, sending it crashing into the trees that surrounded us. I barely felt the pain as my bones broke from the impact; I could only feel the burning as the fire went through me. I held back my screams as the man turned away, hoping against hope that he would forget about me and leave me here to die.
The man waited for only a moment before another man flashed to a stop beside him. Sunlight rebounded off of his skin in blinding lights, making me unable to see what he looked like. My kidnapper snarled and lowered himself into a crouch.
"Get away from here," he hissed. I shivered, barely holding back another scream as the pain throbbed.
"Where is she?" a voice like an angel growled in response. I felt myself instinctively relax at his voice. Why was it so familiar?
"Who?" my kidnapper asked silkily.
The other man snarled and threw my kidnapper against a tree at the other side of the clearing, his hand closing around the man's throat.
"Where is she?" he demanded. "What have you done with her?"
My kidnapper's eyes narrowed, his features blurring as the sun's rays glittered on his skin. His eyes flashed quickly to where I was lying, too fast for the other man to see.
"I killed her," he said mockingly. "I drank her blood and destroyed the body. There's nothing left."
The other man stayed absolutely still for a moment, his shoulders shaking slightly as a strong emotion washed over him. His hands dropped from my kidnapper, letting him fall onto the ground. Then, quick as a whip, the hands were back on my kidnapper's throat, their grip tightening.
The other man gave a roar of pure agony and disappeared into the trees, taking my kidnapper with him. I watched the place where they had been for a long moment, my mind showing me the single glimpse that I had gotten of the other man's features before he had left. He had had bronze hair.
I choked back another scream and stared up at the trees above me, waiting for death to take me.