Well, this is my second fanfic, and my very first with Edward as a vampire.

Please let me know what you think!

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.


CHAPTER 1: Encounter

Stupid vampire! Damn, stupid, CARNIVOROUS vampire!

Edward practically stood on the brakes of his silver Volvo when that idiot jumped right in front of him. While he managed to control his car on the rain-slick forest highway, the driver behind him wasn't so fortunate. Two seconds later there was a loud slithery squeal of tires, followed by the terrible crashing and crunch of a heavy metal vehicle going down the embankment and hitting a tree.

His thoughts moved quickly as he hastily pulled his car to the side of the road and got out to check on the other driver. He knew that blond, long-haired vampire, and he saw what going through his mind. James was hunting the driver behind Edward, the girl in the ancient red pickup. She had her windows down, and he could smell her from the woods. He'd planned on causing both Edward's and the girl's vehicles to crash, thus providing both he and his mate dinner, when he realized that the driver of the Volvo was also a vampire. Deciding he didn't want to share his meal, James ran off.

Edward turned his attention to the driver of the red pick-up. He heard her breathing, and the faint thump of her heart, but no thoughts. Perhaps she was unconscious?

He scrambled down the hillside. Miraculously, the truck had gone down backwards, the rear of the vehicle suffering the brunt of the damage. As he approached, the wind changed direction and he was suddenly assailed by the most delicious aroma of human blood that he'd ever had the misfortune to encounter. Venom immediately filled his mouth, and he abruptly held his breath. If Edward hadn't been abstaining from human blood for over a century, surviving on that of animals instead, he would have immediately attacked the girl.

Pull yourself together, Cullen, he ordered himself. It's just a human girl. She probably has people who love her, who will be devastated if they lose her. You're a doctor, dammit. Go help her!

Edward determinedly fought the bloodthirsty monster within himself. It hadn't emerged for several decades, and there was no way that he would let it appear now . When the creature was once again firmly constrained, he approached the truck. Still holding his breath, he saw through the passenger window that the girl was indeed unconscious. Blood oozed from a gash in her forehead. Thank God she had her seatbelt on, or she would have been ejected from the cab.

The driver's side door was crushed up against a tree. Edward swiftly climbed in the passenger side. A quick examination told him that there was no damage to her neck and spine, although it appeared that she suffered a few bruised ribs from the impact with the steering wheel. He needed to know if there was any internal bleeding, but for that he had to be able to smell. Steeling himself, he started breathing again.

The aroma of her blood at close range assaulted him, threatening to overtake his self-control. This time he was prepared for it. Ignoring the open wound on her forehead, he focused on her torso. Good, no additional bleeding.

He gently unbuckled her and pulled her back from her slumped position over the wheel. Seeing her up close, he realized that she wasn't a girl, but rather a young woman, probably in her mid-twenties. She was slim, and her clothes were too big for her, as if she'd lost a lot of weight. Not surprisingly, she was very pale. Tearing a strip of cloth from the bottom of his cotton shirt, he made a pad and attempted to staunch the flow of blood from her forehead. She would definitely need stitches.

He examined her face more carefully, brushing her long mahogany hair away from the wound and attempting to clean up the worst of the blood with another strip of cotton. Hmm…she had a faint scar under her chin, and another just in front of her left earlobe. Clearly, he thought wryly, stitches wouldn't be a new experience for her. At this point, the best plan would be to call the state troopers to report the crash, then hide up in the trees until they and an ambulance arrived.

Suddenly, he heard James' thoughts as he returned to watch from afar.

So that freak Cullen won't drink from her, James smirked. She's mine. Such a delicious scent.

Forget the state troopers. Edward needed to get her away from here. Not wanting to cause her further injury by pulling her through the passenger side, he jumped out and pushed the truck far enough away from the tree to reach the driver-side door. The crushed metal caused the door to jam, so, without a second thought, he wretched it off.

There was nothing from the young woman's mind, so Edward assumed that she still hadn't regained consciousness. He was astounded to find a pair of chocolate brown eyes staring at him. They were round with shock and fear. He cursed himself for his carelessness. She must have seen him rip the door off. Why can't he hear her thoughts?

"It's all right," he told her softly, "you're safe." Sort of. "You lost control of your truck. I'm taking you to the hospital."

The young woman tried to speak, but no sound came out of her mouth. Edward spotted her bag, cell phone, and light-weight jacket, and grabbed them.

"Anything else you need from here?"

She pointed a trembling finger at the keys in the ignition, which he took and dropped into her bag. He heard James deciding he would look up the woman's vehicle registration to find out where she lived.

"Keep away from her, James," he growled under his breath, knowing that the other vampire would hear him.

"OK, freak, she's your snack. Or are you planning to take her as a pet?" sneered the other vampire. Edward felt James run off, but knew that this wasn't the end of it. After wrapping her in her jacket, he gingerly picked up the woman and rapidly climbed the embankment to his car, careful not to jostle her.

"I'm going to put you in the back seat, OK? Can you hold this pad to your head?" She nodded shakily.

Now that she was awake, he had to move at a frustratingly human speed. His instincts were screaming at him to get her somewhere safe, away from James. He'd seen his mind. James lived for the thrill of the hunt, and Edward, by protecting this human, had just made the game exponentially more interesting.

He quickly slid into the driver's seat and started the engine before looking back at the woman. "How are you feeling?"

"Fine," she murmured.

He didn't miss her wince at the pain from her ribs. "I'm going to take you to the hospital, and phone a tow truck. Anyone you'd like me to call for you?"

She shook her head. "Who are you? What happened?" she asked as Edward pulled onto the highway. Her voice was low and shaky.

He smiled at her in the rearview mirror. "Oh, sorry. I'm Edward Cullen. I'm just starting my pediatric residency at Seattle Children's. A…deer…ran in front of my car. I managed to stop, but you came round the corner, didn't see me in time, and lost control of your truck." She looked dazed. "Good thing you reacted so quickly, or my car would be an accordion right now."

"I'm Bella Swan," she told him. Her voice was stronger now. "I'm a grad student at UW." Edward heard her swallow nervously before she said in a rush, "I really appreciate your taking the time to come to my rescue. Normally I would have asked you to leave me with my truck. I could have called 911 myself. It's just that…"

Taking the time to come to her rescue? What nonsense was this? "It's just that…?" he prompted her.

She looked embarrassed. "For some reason I had the feeling that I needed to get away from there. Silly, I know…"

Perceptive. "Not silly," he responded. "There was no way I'd have left you there by yourself."

It was true, even if James hadn't been there. There was something about this young woman that made him want to protect her. In spite of his instinct to run from the siren call of her blood before he did something stupid, he stayed. Of course, staying could also qualify as something stupid.

They drove in silence until they reached the city limits. Edward kept trying to read her thoughts, but it was like pushing against a wall. Who was she, and how was she keeping him out? She was definitely human…wasn't she?

"The hospital is up ahead," he informed her at last. "Any place in particular where you want your truck towed?"

"Would you mind calling 555-6254? It's the body shop where my friend works." Bella sounded as if her thoughts were far away. Oddly enough, she didn't appear to be going into shock. Wouldn't a normal human be in shock by now? Instead, she was holding the pad to her forehead and looking around.

Edward made the call, pulled up at the emergency entrance, and carried Bella inside. She jumped when his hands touched her skin.

"What is it?" he asked. Damn, she must have realized how cold his skin was.

"Nothing," she muttered.

Edward got her a wheelchair, helped her make quick work of the registration process, and sat down with her to wait. Bella looked at him in surprise.

"You really don't have to stay, Edward. I'll be fine now. I can phone my roommate. You must already be late for something."

"I want to stay." He smiled down at her. "Unless you'd prefer that I leave, of course."

"No." He heard her heart rate spike. This puzzled him. She had just been injured in a crash, witnessed a strange man literally rip the door off her truck, got into a car with said stranger, and was now sitting in a hospital emergency room. So the only thing that caused her to panic was admitting the she didn't want him to leave? Perhaps she was functioning on "autopilot" earlier. He'd seen several patients emotionally shut down in traumatic circumstances.

"Isabella Swan?" The nurse called Bella's name, and she was promptly wheeled back into one of the rooms. Edward tagged along behind.

Hmmm… the nurse was thinking. Now I see why the registration desk said to speed this one along. Too bad he's not the patient.

Edward cringed away from the images in the woman's head of himself in a hospital gown with the back open. Vampires were naturally attractive to their prey, as long as they didn't get too close. He had lived long enough to realize that he was considered handsome, even among other vampires. In his case, a diet of animal blood seemed to have taken away the factor that caused humans to be afraid of him. Not that he couldn't be scary when he wanted, he thought dryly.

Focusing on Bella, he carefully lifted her from the wheelchair into the hospital bed, where the nurse made short work of taking her vitals. She took care to inform him of her findings in detail. Bella, Edward noticed, looked… amused?

"You're so calm," he commented after the nurse left. "I take it this is familiar to you?"

Bella nodded with a rueful smile. "I'm very clumsy. Emergency rooms and I are old friends."

She was clumsy? She looked too delicate to be clumsy. Again he wondered about her clothes. Had she suddenly lost a lot of weight? Why? He understood that she was a poor, probably overworked graduate student, but surely she could buy something that fit her? Perhaps they belonged to her roommate?

Edward studied the monitors, aware out of the corner of his eye that Bella was surreptitiously observing him. Again, he wondered what thoughts were going through her silent mind.

"Edward?" she whispered, "can I ask you a question?"

He turned to her with a questioning look. "Of course."

"What are you?"

Edward's eyes widened in surprise. "Like I said, I'm a new resident at Seattle Children's. In fact, I start there next week. Why do you ask?"

Bella shook her head. "That's not what I meant."

Fortunately, he was saved from answering by the arrival of the doctor. He was roughly in his fifties, balding with salt-and-pepper hair and a friendly disposition. "Hello Isabella," he greeted her. "It would be nice to see you under different circumstances sometime."

She grimaced. "Hello again, Dr. Mack."

He leaned closer to her and stage-whispered, "I see you brought your boyfriend this time."

The blood from the patient in the room next door didn't bother Edward, but for some reason Bella's blush made his internal monster take notice. He hastily shoved it back into the recesses of his mind and concentrated on Dr. Mack's thoughts.

The doctor was taking in Bella's condition with a critical eye. She's too thin, he thought worriedly. She wasn't like this six months ago. He quickly scanned her chart. This is the fourth time she's been in here in the past eighteen months. Edward's suspicions about those scars were confirmed.

"He's not my boyfriend," she protested, thoroughly embarrassed. "I tried to stop suddenly and lost control of my truck. He pulled me out and brought me here. Uh…his name is Edward."

"Ah, so he's your Good Samaritan." He shot Edward a smile. "Pleased to meet you, Edward." He gently pulled the pad away from the gash on Bella's forehead and examined the wound.

"Nice bit of first aid. Looks like a clean wound." He glanced at the torn hem of Edward's shirt. "Seems he gave you the shirt off his back, too," he grinned, shining a light in Bella's eyes and indicating for her to watch his finger. "No concussion by the look of it, but we'll do a CT scan just in case. Any dizziness, nausea?"

Edward spoke up. "She was unconscious for over two minutes."

"Hmmm…" Dr. Mack frowned. "Anything else hurt?"

"Everything," she groaned. "I think I bounced off the steering wheel when I crashed. My ribs hurt when I breathe in."

"Then we'll need a chest X-ray to go with that CT scan, Isabella. A touch of whiplash too, I suspect."

Edward turned away so that Dr. Mack could examine Bella's chest and back. He had no intention of being a voyeur, but he worried about the extent of Bella's injuries. The bruising he saw reflected in the doctor's mind made him wince.

One of the nurses appeared with a suture tray, and a few minutes later the wound was stitched closed. Dr. Mack scribbled something in his notes, and moved the curtain aside to leave. "Radiology will be by to get you. If your images look good, you should be out if here in less than an hour. I'll be back to check on you then." He disappeared with a fatherly smile.

"So I take it they know you here," Edward teased.

Bella smiled wryly. "This is my fourth time. Like I said, I'm clumsy." She hesitated, her smile disappearing. "Is the gash that bad? I hate blood, although you'd think I'd be used to my own by now."

Ironic, thought Edward, given his own reaction to her blood. He shook his head with a smile. "It's only about two inches long, and it's horizontal, which is good. He did a nice job with the suturing, too."

Soon Bella and her bed were wheeled to radiology. She eyed Edward as he followed behind, biting her lower lip. Bella's face was like an open book. She felt guilty for making him stay. While they waited outside the room, she voiced her concerns.

"You don't have to hang around here, you know," she told him. "As soon as I'm done, I'll phone my roommate, and she'll come to get me. She's used to it by now." Bella grimaced. This was probably true.

Edward frowned. He should use this opportunity to escape, especially as it was being offered for the second time, but something about this young woman held him. Was it the tantalizing scent of her blood, her mysteriously silent mind? After more than a hundred years of abstaining from human blood, why did hers affect him now? She was an enigma. He wanted to find out more about her.

"Bella," he responded, slightly hesitant. "If you don't mind, I'd like to wait with you until your roommate arrives. In fact, I can drive you home myself if you like."

"Why?"

Edward looked at her in surprise. He wasn't even sure that he knew the answer to that. It was time for evasive maneuvers.

"Maybe I just want to spend more time with a beautiful woman," he smiled.

Bella huffed, but smiled mischievously. "In that case, you're in the wrong spot. The nurse went back that way." She indicated the direction with her head, and abruptly winced at the movement.

He grinned. "Maybe I'm talking about the radiologist?"

Fortunately, Bella was saved from answering by one of the radiologists. Male. She shot Edward a teasing glance, and he rolled his eyes at her.

Inside the office, Edward surreptitiously watched the images on the screen as they were taken. No broken or cracked ribs, no head trauma. Thank God. It wasn't long before Dr. Mack gave Bella the "all clear" to go home, along with several admonishments to rest and not do anything foolish. Good thing he didn't know that she was already doing something foolish by allowing a vampire to keep her company.

Edward wheeled her outside the hospital doors so that she could phone her roommate. He walked a short distance away to give Bella some semblance of privacy. Pretending to admire the hospital's tiny garden, he noticed Bella frown slightly as the call went to voice mail.

"Hi, I can't come to the phone right now," a friendly female voice answered. "Leave a message!"

"Hey Angela, it's me. I'm at the emergency room. Yeah, I know…again! I was wondering if you could give me a ride home, but if I don't hear from you in ten minutes I'll just call a cab. No big deal. Bye!"

Bella closed her phone and called to Edward. "OK, all set."

Edward's golden-brown eyes narrowed at he walked back to her. "So your roommate is coming to get you?"

"Yup. She'll be here in a few minutes." Bella bit her bottom lip before forcing herself to smile. "Thanks again for rescuing me. I've taken so much of your time today. You probably need to be getting home now."

"My pleasure, Bella." Even if he hadn't been able to hear the message she left, he would have been able to tell that Bella was lying. She was clearly trying to get rid of him. Who could blame her? Most adult humans unconsciously realized that there was something "off" about him, something that made them nervous. Bella, however, seemed to lack this natural self-preservation instinct. Instead, she genuinely seemed to think that she was being a nuisance.

Nothing could be further from the truth. He'd never been so intrigued by a human before. He still felt oddly protective of her. On the other hand, he didn't want her to think he was some sort of stalker. Perhaps he could secretly follow her home, to make sure that James didn't show up there. Great, twenty-four seven covert surveillance of her house. That didn't seem stalkerish at all.

"Let me give you my number, in case you need anything," he offered. After a brief hesitation, Bella pulled out her cell phone and clicked to the contact list.

"Just add yourself here, please," she requested shyly, that quick blush staining her cheeks again. He could see that she thought he was being polite, and had no intention of calling him. Edward typed in his information and was just handing her the phone when two text messages arrived in rapid succession.