Helloo girls and boys (yes, we've established you're out there) This is the novella I wrote for FGB. I want to thank my team for the awesome support and all the $$ they raised for such a good cause. Those lucky ladies got to read this in full a week or so ago. I will post it here bi-weekly for the next several weeks. This chapter here, is the teaser chapter I gave you before AND the next chapter. Please note. This does carry off of the outtake I posted at the end of Creature of Habit, so you may want to re-read it-not necessary but I did get inspired from there. Thanks~angel
Creatures of Habit
On my way-E
Good. Love You-B
I laid the phone on the desk. The text made me feel better but until he was back in this house I wouldn't be content.
We had never been apart for this long. What started as a three day business trip ended up taking a week. I tried to be patient. Getting upset was useless and a bit immature. Edward couldn't help if something unexpected came up that he had to follow through on—the non-profit was important. It always would be to him. Even so, it shouldn't have been a big deal for him to be gone for a week. We'd been married for six years.
But it was a big deal. I still craved him. His scent. His touch. His laugh.
I supposed this was a good thing since we were bound for eternity. Falling out of love with your mate would be devastating. From what I understood it was rare. Vampires mated for 'life.' Only one thing could cause a break in the bind.
And that line of thought was off limits.
So like a dutiful wife, I stayed behind and continued the project we were currently focused on. My eyes skimmed the newspapers laid out across the enormous desk. Edward taught me his methods for meticulous research and I found it useful. It was also distracting as each minute passed by tediously slow.
Buried on page eight of the metro section was the tiny article I'd been searching for:
Cashier abducted from 24 Hour convenience store. Darius Miller, age 23, was working the graveyard shift on April 14. At approximately 3:45 am a customer entered the store and found it unlocked but empty. Concerned he notified the authorities. So far, Mr. Miller has not been located and the police are considering the circumstances suspicious.
"Suspicious," I muttered, flipping the page. "More like, 'there goes another one'."
Edward and I had been tracking a series of missing men and women from various late night establishments for the last six weeks. We were convinced vampires were behind the disappearances. There was no evidence on site—security cameras held no information other than one minute the workers were there—the next they were gone. Then Edward had visited each establishment after the abductions and each time caught the same distinct, vampiric scent.
Now we were looking for clues to who was behind it and what they were doing. At best, it was a rouge vampire foolishly drinking his way through the city. At worst…well, we both knew what the worst could be. It was unspoken, but I knew we both had the nagging fear that another army was being built. This is why I stayed home while Edward traveled back to Washington for some Pacific Northwest Trust business.
After what seemed like hours since his text, I heard the car in the drive. In a heartbeat the door opened and the sound of his feet traveled across the hardwoods. My ears caught his inhalation—seeking me out—pinpointing my location in the house. I could go to him. I wanted to go to him.
But I knew better. So I waited and let him come to me.
Edward loved the chase. The hunt. It's why he did what he did. There was nothing more exhilarating for him than to set his sights on something and pursue it. He wanted to conquer it. Solve the puzzle. Complete the mystery. And when it came to me he wanted nothing more than to claim ownership. It was his nature. Our nature. In another life I would have found this offensive—even demeaning. But here, in this one, it was about instinct over progression. And as a vampire instinct always prevailed.
His feet finally met the landing and with a gush his scent wafted through the room. I tapped a pencil on the desk, pretending to mull over numbers, facts and figures. Really, I did have a job to do, but I knew nothing more now than I did an hour ago or two days before that. The information wasn't remotely as interesting as the smell of him. I allowed my tongue to touch the air—to taste him.
He spoke first. "Hi."
My phantom heart warmed, but I didn't turn and instead simply replied, "Hi babe—just looking over some stuff—give me a minute."
"I missed you." No longer across the room, he was now behind me. Vampire speed. His lips were on my neck. I fought a shudder, but I wouldn't cave first. Not yet at least. "That was too long." He continued—his fingers reaching under the hem of my shirt.
"Only a week. Not too bad." I lied.
His fingers splayed up my back and I arched despite myself. He laughed low and in my ear, calling my bluff and spinning me to face him.
"Too long," he repeated kissing under my ear and down my jaw.
"Next time I'm coming with you," I said, leaning back on the desk, brushing his hair back.
Edward's lips found mine and he kissed me long and hard.
One thing I've learned since my transformation is harder is better. Soft is nice. But harder is definitely better.
His hands began to roam, inspecting my body as though it had possibly changed while he was gone.
"How was your trip?"
I wanted to know. I did, but not as much as I wanted to annoy him. It was futile though—he was a man on a mission.
"Take it off," he said, eyeing my shirt.
I quirked an eyebrow at him. "Edward you've seen my boobs before. In fact you've probably been exposed to more images of breasts than any man outside the porn industry."
He blanched of course. You can take the vampire out of the twentieth century…
"I mean, we can actually do this with some of our clothes on, you know?"
"I know," he said gruffly. "But I don't want to. Take it off."
I laughed and nuzzled my nose into his chest—breathing him in. "You smell like plastic and airplane food and…," I sniffed the cuff of his shirt, "did you sit next to a dog on the plane?"
With that he tossed me over his shoulder, obviously tired of my stalling, and carried me to the couch dropping me with a thud. I hissed in response, but he smothered it with his mouth, a low growl of his own rumbled through his chest.
"Shirt off," he mumbled as he moved his mouth down to my stomach, pushing the material away roughly. I rolled my eyes, but removed it. I actually liked this shirt and wasn't prepared for him to destroy it in haste. For the first time since he came home I relented by removing the gray t-shirt over my head and dropping it to the floor. The instant I began taking it off Edward stood and rapidly removed his clothing head to toe and was now tugging my pants off—dragging me down the cushion.
"Eager much?" I asked, reaching for his waist to pull him on top.
It only took a moment for Edward to join our bodies, efficiently and quickly, skipping our normal foreplay. Once buried, he let out a low moan and for the first time in day I felt complete and full. He dropped his forehead to mine, peering down so I could see his eyes were dark from hunger and lust.
My teeth found the firm, smooth skin on his neck and I scraped the razor sharp points down his flesh. He tasted so good.
"More," he grunted, pushing his body into mine and I complied by sinking my teeth in and pushing back. There was nothing I wanted more than to please him.
Edward moved our bodies into oblivion, his hips meeting mine, his body grazing against my flesh, his fingers woven through my own like an anchor. I couldn't help but thank God I was changed as a twenty three year old woman. There was no way I could have kept up with Edward and his perpetual, seventeen year old horniness if I was the same age. At seventeen sex was intriguing but not a dominant desire. At twenty-three my hormones wanted more. He was typically insatiable, and luckily his maturity evolved even though his body didn't.
"I missed you." I said into his neck, once he was lying beside me, his back wedged against the cushion.
A lazy smirk tugged at his lip. "I know."
I pulled up to lean on palm, my elbow resting on the leather and wrinkled my nose. "So, do you want to tell me now why you smell like a dog?
It was well noted amongst my family that I was habitual. I liked being at home and doing my work and spending time with Bella. Traveling? Typically not an issue. I'd seen the world over more than once and expected several more trips before my time ended.
But traveling alone? Without my wife?
Add a meeting, an unexpected visitor from the past and disturbing news and all I wanted was to come home, bury myself in my wife and pretend I never left. I accomplished the first two, in record time I may add, but the pretending part wouldn't work. Human Bella would never have been the wiser about who I'd met with and where I had been. Vampire Bella sniffed it out within seconds of me being in the room whether she knew it or not.
My wife was currently pulling her t-shirt back over her head, effectively spoiling my view. I frowned at her current state of re-dress.
"The dog? Don't make me ask again."
I ran a hand through my hair. "Well, remember the grant proposal meeting I had?" I asked, thinking it would be best to start at the beginning.
Bella nodded as she tugged her pants back on—sans underwear. God, was she was trying to kill me?
"I'm sitting there, listening to proposal after proposal—all worthy causes, trying to discern which ones should be awarded the actual grant and we get to the final meeting and you will never believe who applied for one." I looked at her hopefully, thinking maybe she knew.
No such luck.
Bella's mouth actually dropped in shock. "What?"
Again, I ran my hand through my hair. The grant proposal was only the beginning of this story. "Yeah, Jacob. From the Quileute Tribe. He applied for a grant."
Bella moved back to the couch and sat next to me. "What for?"
"He wants to start a college scholarship fund in Leah's name. Help other girls who want to go to college and experience life off the reservation."
"Really?" She paused and pulled her hair back into a ponytail. "It's been a long time to just now apply—don't you think?"
I grimaced because I thought the same thing and asked him about it in the meeting. "It is. But I think it took the tribe a while to absorb the losses from the situation with James. Not to mention coming to grasps with phasing and the wolf lifestyle."
She became quiet, thinking about James and Jacob and all the other things that had brought us to this life. She never regretted it—I knew this—but it could still be hard to think about, especially when it involved those from before the change.
"How is he?"
I laughed. "He looks the same. Huge."
Jacob Black was a giant. I'd been shocked when he walked in through that door for the meeting. He looked exactly the same. No one in my life—other than my family, looked exactly the same six years later. To my eyes, which were better than a magnifying glass, I could typically count the wrinkles one gained around the eyes and mouth. I could spot the fine gray hairs that sprouted from on top of their head and in their minds…I could feel the effects of aging. Impulse control. Memory loss or confusion, depending on the age and the person. But Jacob, he was exactly the same. Tall and lean. Muscular. The same boyish face, but there was one noticeable difference. His eyes were weary.
"They don't age right?" She asked, picking up my hand and threading her fingers though mine.
I shook my head, "No, not until they stop phasing. It's a choice."
We both paused at the idea. Having a choice to end one's life was a luxury neither of us had.
"So he wanted a grant?" she prompted.
"Yes," I replied, "Among other things."
Bella looked up. "What other things?"
"After our meeting he asked if we could get together. It was highly unethical—to socialize with a candidate, but clearly he wanted something. It wasn't as though we were actually friendly. So we met at a park outside Seattle at dusk."
She waited for me to continue, rubbing her hand along mine. I suspected she could feel my tension. I was tense. I wasn't exactly sure what Jacob wanted me to do with the information he shared.
"Apparently, after my family left the area things settled down for the tribe. The transformations stopped, other than the men and women already affected. Once you change you can't go back, but the younger members of the tribe were saved the responsibility after they moved from Forks. They still do regular patrols, but other than the occasional nomadic vampire things have been fairly tame."
I smiled. She knew me too well. "But, in the last month three teenaged boys started to transform. The only explanation is that vampires have been residing in the area for quite a while. It takes time to cause the change. Jacob and the others have no idea where or who the vampires are. Whoever it is they are lying low and concealing themselves somehow."
Bella's forehead furrowed. "Is that possible? I thought they could track just about anything."
"I know and it's understandable that they are so upset. It's a huge threat."
"So what did Jacob want you to do?"
"He wanted to know if I knew anything—any vampire or anyone that could block this—the way they block Alice or the way I can't read your mind, but I haven't heard of anything."
I shook my head. "He had no idea. He's going to call Jasper and they're going to do some research."
"So this is why you stayed extra days?" She asked.
"Yes. I offered to patrol with Jacob. We spent three days combing the area surrounding La Push and Forks. We didn't find anything suspicious."
I nodded. "I went by the house—it's still locked up tight. It doesn't appear anyone has been there in years other than Esme or Carlisle checking in occasionally."
Bella stood and offered me her hand and I let her pull me up off the leather sofa. "So what's next?"
I shrugged. "I told him to keep in touch. It's not really any of our concern and I have no idea what it could be. It may just be some mutation of their wolf gene for all I know."
Bella placed her hands on my chest and gently raked her fingers down to my waist. "True—but keep me in the loop?" she asked with an arched eyebrow.
"Of course." I kissed her and pulled her bottom lip with my teeth.
Her nose wrinkled and it didn't take a mind reader to figure out what she wanted from me. "I'm going, I'm going," I laughed, and left her to wash the stink off my body.
The following week Bella and I are deep in the forest. Its past dusk and everything this far in is already dark and damp from the impending night. I inhale deeply catching a strong, feral scent and abruptly turn to my right, covering a large track of land quickly.
I want to beat Bella.
I hear her footsteps pounding on the dead leaves and grass, the sound of branches and brush being decimated by her strong legs and arms. She is a worthy opponent, but still, no one is faster than I am. But that doesn't mean I don't let her win.
Tonight is one of those nights. I lag back, allowing her some space to take the lead on the animal she is tracking. It would only take me a moment to catch up and even over take her, but I love following her scent—letting her take the lead. I would chase her to the ends of the earth if she would allow it and I suspected she would.
Bella began to climb a steep hill, using her hands for leverage. I sniffed again, this time catching something coppery and full of decay. Dead, but old. Bella looked down from her position and challenged, "Race you to the top?" Her bottom lip was curved and taunting, daring me to beat her, daring me to catch her.
Without a word I flung myself forward, up the sheer incline—passing her by in a heartbeat. I crested the hill, prepared to fly over the edge and was slapped in the face by a harsh, horrific scent.
Putrid and vile.
My feet teetered on the edge of the hill, threatening to topple over from the speed I'd been traveling. Bella was fast on my heels and I lunged for her, stopping her from falling over the edge.
"Oh my god! What is that?" She said, instinctively, clamping her hand over her mouth, but her eyes were wide, taking in the scene below.
"I don't know." I muttered, tightening my grip around her waist.
I surveyed the cavernous pit below me. "I think I see maybe fifteen or twenty."
"At least." We were animals ourselves. Blood drinking beasts, but what lay below was more than even we could handle.
I looked Isabella in the eye and with all seriousness said, "Stay here—I'll be right back."
My instructions were unnecessary. She looked devastated and could barely even look at the area. I quickly scaled the side of the hill and noted that each body was in a different state of decomposition. They had not been murdered at the same time. I walked to the closest one and studied the body. There were definite tears in the skin along the arms and neck.
One of our own had done this.
The smell of decay was so strong that I was unable to catch any scent around it so I leapt back to the top .
"Let's go." I told her, trying to pull her away—down the hill and away from the carnage. "I'll call the police. It's better that we get away from here anyway."
With one last look, I tugged her away, intent on keeping her away from such things. No one should know horrors like this, even us.
I called the police immediately using one of the throw-away phones we keep on reserve for situations like this. Those people were definitely killed by one of our own and the last thing I wanted to do was alert them to our presence.
This was why I was currently half a mile away, midway up a tree listening to the officers and investigators excavating the remains. I needed to know what they found so I could catch this deviant first. There was no need for anyone else to get hurt.
"Hey John—come here," I heard one of the officers call.
I heard the muttered thoughts of the officers reeling over the sight before them. There thoughts were all similar—prayers and shock. Disbelief and sheer will power not to vomit. It was difficult to pick out who was saying what.
"What have you got?" I heard in reply.
"Look at this one—can you see her face?"
I focused and was able to pinpoint an image—dirty blonde hair and purplish skin, eyes rolled into the back of her head. Jesus Christ. A name popped in his head—Mary Mitchell.
One of the missing.
I craned my neck around the tree as though that would help me hear and see better.
"Mary Mitchell. Do you think that's her?"
"Yeah. It's her. See the tattoo?" The officer said, and I saw him push her leg to reveal a large red flower etched into the flesh around her ankle.
"And you think the rest…" he trailed off as he surveyed the mounds of bodies around him.
"I do. Look over here," he said and walked toward another discarded body. He pointed out similarities on the victims that matched those of the missing people.
From this point on the investigators changed their focus from recovery to identification of the bodies. They were convinced they had found evidence of a serial killer. Which in many ways they had, but it wasn't the kind they were prepared to deal with.
As disturbing as the murders were I was relieved they had been killed and not turned. Fighting an army of newborns was something I never wanted to do again. The memory made me angry and think of Bella. How I got her—how she came to me.
I jumped from the tree, landing with a heavy thud on the soft forest floor. Newborns were no longer my focus and the past needed to stay there for the time being. This murderer was in my town, terrorizing my city.
It was my job to stop him.