Happiest Birthday to mah #1 fan, MaleficentKnits ... This one is for you, Mistress!

Howling winds race through the trees outside. The moon is glowing, but the forest behind Forks Hospital is thick, the darkness murky. I don't have to look to know he's out there.

I can feel him.

My skin pricks with cold and want. My lungs rush to expand, bringing in life that more quickly escapes, leaving me gasping. My feet itch to move, my fingers to touch.

I know he's waiting for me.

Pulling the sanguine wool cloak from its hook, I swing it around my shoulders as I try to slow down my breathing. The long, thick fabric flies around me in an artfully fluid flourish, bringing to mind the silken cape of a matador. The movement slows, my eyes watching every detail as the cloak disappears behind me, resting about my shoulders. I blink, and time rights. The toggle clasp is quickly closed, and I smile to myself as I lift the hood and settle it atop my crown.

This is the night.

Pale moonlight leaks through the high canvas of leaves and branches, landing on the windowpane of the back door. The latch is tricky, but I grasp the handle firmly and twist. My small frame belies my strength, and this usually works to my advantage, especially when it comes to working with the patients.

Stepping outside, I'm surprised by the bite of the temperature. It slices through me, stealing my calm and my breath. A flurry of dry brown and crackling rust surrounds me in a tunnel of wind, the forest's offerings lightly scratching at my face and exposed ankles. Abruptly, the air calms and the collection of dead foliage falls to my feet, lying prone like an offering ... or an omen.

I peer into the dark, seeing my route only in my mind; the forest has consumed any visual markers. I know exactly where I'm going, but my legs have yet to push forward, off of the bottom step and out of the dim light above the back door.

I admit to myself that I am afraid. Not of the dark, but of the unknown. The lurker. The red eyes that haunt my dreams. They're his eyes, but he has yet to reveal himself.

During the midnight hours, I would take my breaks and wander between the beds and the corridors of the South Wing, stopping at every window. I'm looking for him, but I never see. I only feel. Desperation tightens around my heart, my chest constricting with inexplicable feelings. It isn't fear, exactly, but it is not quite pleasant. It is ... curious.

Every night, but this, Sunday night, I look for him. Once, last week, I could have sworn I'd seen a pair of red eyes at the edge of the wood. As soon as I'd passed over them, I had to double back, but they were gone, leaving me to wonder if I'd imagined them, or if I was dreaming.

Or maybe, the cure was a lie. Perhaps I had broken for good.

Finally, my soles tingle, the electricity in my muscles propelling me from my perch. My ears perk when I simultaneously hear a howl, the frightened wail nearly vibrating the windows, at the same time as my foot first leaves the cement block step. I spin, facing the tall, imposing structure of the hospital, the dirty, stone walls reaching into the night. It is a familiar visage for me, but the sound was new. If I place it correctly, I'd guess it was Jane, or perhaps Demetri. Both schizophrenics, but typically silent at night. Rarely have I heard either of them cry out so hysterically.

A strange feeling pits itself in my gut as I consider the coincidence of timing. I can't tell what that means, but I quickly decide it is not strong enough to deter me from my task. Facing the wall of trees once more, I continue up a small hill to the edge where the curtain of dark woods seemed to part. Once I pass over the threshold, leaving the open grounds of the hospital for the murky grove laden with shadows, I stop. My heart flutters, the blackness leaching my vision and sending shockwaves through my bones. In mere moments, my pupils expand, almost painfully so, bringing more of the light through the tapestry of thick and thin wooden limbs. The textures and shapes of the weald begin to carve themselves out of the inky setting, easing the shock the loss of sight in darkness usually brings.

Swallowing any trepidation, I force myself forward, occasionally flicking my eyes upward, to the slices of the celestial orb brightening the indigo sky. I try not to laugh as the pieces stitch together in my mind's eye, substituting the inconsistent canopy of the trees and revealing the full moon.

I follow the skinny, dirt path through the elms and oaks, a full bag of necessities for Rosalie hanging over the crook of my left elbow, weighing heavily against the bone and pinching at the pulsing veins. It's a happy burden, for my sister-in-law awaits the birth of her first child, restricted to bedrest and unable to venture out herself. As I have no one else in my life to care for but my brother, Emmett, who serves our country overseas, I do it gladly.

More and more details of my scenery are unearthed as my eyes slowly adjusting. I had briefly considered bringing my lantern, but decided I preferred the cover of night. I would not announce my presence to any possible predators visibly with such a bright beacon.

Pushing my hood off my head, I feel the chill wrap around my ears, but the voices of the trees are clearer now. Will they tell me about him? Can they share his secrets? So far, the brushes and whirrs tell me nothing.

Each step falls one after another, my momentum constant and steady. My heart, however, beats erratically. Now, it is heavy and thumping itself against my ribs, the pressure that announces him inhibiting its expected rhythm.

I wonder what has kept him away. It has been almost a month since I last felt him near, his red eyes cloaked in the mask of trees. He should know he can't really hide from me. I'm sure he senses that, but I am also sure he couldn't stay away if he tried. Why it is me that draws him, I can only hope to discover.

The stillness within the forest is interrupted by a malicious gust of wind, forcing my eyes shut as dirt and particles of leaves fly like shrapnel. My feet, however, keep moving. My heartbeat slows, though I don't quite understand why. As the violent swirl of debris settles to its rightful place on the earth, a hand stops my movement. A palm gently kisses my belly above my clothes, my forward motion softly halted.

I gasp, knowing its him. His body just behind mine is not touching my back, so my skin seems to pull toward him, reaching out and stretching to break from my skeleton. My feet feel rooted to the spot like I am just another tree in the grove, though my body may be weightless. I feel filled with light and air, floating away from the earth.

I wait, though impatiently, aching to hear him speak, to see his face ... to search his eyes.

"Where are you headed, milady?"

I can barely comprehend the feel of his voice as it wraps around me. Its low timbre warms me from the center to the far reaches of my every cell, and soothes me like a blanket knit of the softest cashmere, swaddling me tightly. Yet, it held warning, the arousing tones providing the wolf with sheep's clothing.

My breath temporarily stolen, I am silent as I feel my heart trip and stutter. I struggle to create sound, but his hand on my stomach interrupts my flow of thought. Yet, he waits, still as death.

What could be several minutes later, my answer spills forth. "I'm headed to town to visit a friend."


His hum confuses me as much as it sends shockwaves of equal parts lust and horror through my veins. I cry out in surprise when his hand pulls my back to his body. Immediately, all my senses are reeling. My eyes blur as I am surrounded in his scent, a heady taste of earth and warning on my tongue. My body molds to his solid form, exploring each plane with any available pliability. I can feel he is tall, but his being seems to impossibly entomb mine.

But there is no breath in my ear, or sweeping across my cheek or the top of my head. His chest does not rise with a lungful of air, nor does it fall, collapsing with his exhale.

A chill is seeping through the fabric of my dress where his hand rests still. When I move to place my hand over his, to confirm my suspicion that his flesh yields no heat, he is instantly gone, the forest floor kicked up again in a tiny windstorm.

"You walk alone," his voice echoes from many yards away on my left. Less than a second later, it is mere feet away on my right. "That is quite dangerous."

My head whips left to right, but I see nothing but darkened trees and shrubs. I close my eyes, straining to hear the crackle of a twig underfoot, or a branch brushing across a muscled thigh. I hear nothing.

"I am not afraid." This is not completely true, but I feel that I am confident enough, regardless of the slight waver in my words.

"A lady shouldn't lie."

My left eardrum dances, the shell of my ear vibrating with the closeness of his lips, his words.

"I am ... excitedly curious, but not afraid," I assert. "I have made this trek many times in the last year."

My right ear is tickled. "I'm well aware, sweet girl."

"I know." My whisper seems to echo, hollowing the space around us.

He is unmoving, still a mere inch from me, but I cannot convince my eyes to open. No matter how badly I wish to see him, touch him, I admit to myself that I do not want the fantasy to end. If I open my eyes, is it possible that it all will end?

My cheek flushes with heat where his eyes are assuredly studying me. I take in a deep breath, the air cooling me from the inside out. My heart has peculiarly slowed and steadied, I notice finally, and with this calm, I find the courage to open my eyes and see.

Now directly in front of me, his tall figure is an arm's length away. I have to trail my gaze up his pale, bare chest, over a bobbing Adam's apple, strong chin, full dusty-pink lips to find his wide, red eyes. They are dancing with wickedness, the vermilion irises morphing and changing like sealing wax over a burning candlewick.

Entranced, my lips part, as if to absorb more of this moment through my tongue, so that I may never forget any detail. I am caught in his intense gaze, trapped and kicking against the confines of its net, tossed about by crashing waves of blood-red seas. Once again, my calmed heartbeat skips.

"You look for me."

When he speaks, my eyes drift to his lips. My mind feverishly wanders through unseemly fantasies, my delicate, white cotton panties growing damp. I nod simply, still beguiled by his eyes.

"Do you know why, my pet?"

I couldn't begin to imagine, ruled only by the magnetic pull. "Every hair on my body, every layer of skin reaches out when you're near," I confess, my eyes dropping to the dirt floor.

A quick, low hiss stings my ears. Before I can shift my gaze up to investigate, my back hits the rough trunk of a looming oak. My head is cradled by his palm, though the wind is instantly knocked out of me, and the bag for Rosalie drops.

I blink and stretch my eyes, struggling to focus, but my disorientation is exacerbated by the weight of his body, pinning me to the tree's thick bark. Another hand snakes beneath my hips, gripping me with a strength I don't understand, though he does not injure me. He is tightly controlled, and I wait for him to break.

I close my eyes, waiting for breath and balance to return, but am lost by the feel of cool lips on my throat.

And teeth, ever so lightly scraping the thin layer of flesh hiding my pulse.

"You seek me, but ... you do not know why?" His words against my skin entice my blood to the surface, bubbling and rushing so fast it feels like it is on fire.

"I don't ... I just feel," I pant, my breath jagged, my lungs aching.

His palm abandons my scalp, and my stomach twists, pain shooting up my spine at the loss. His grip on my bottom loosens as his hand slides away pulling my knees up. My ankles lock behind his back, his body pressing against me more forcefully.

I am still trapped in every way, and my body responds overwhelmingly, violently thrumming with heat and pressure and electricity.

Heavy with want and adrenaline, my upper limbs dangle from my body, and I am nothing but prone for him. His hands free, he dips his hands behind my cloak, fingers lightly tickling down my arms. A tender clasp wraps his hands around my wrists, lifting both my arms above my head. Fingers woven together in a fabric of flesh and bone and sinew, my hands are held fast under his one palm.

"What do you feel now?"

I find it difficult be so forward—the only people I converse with regularly ... are insane, but I cannot deny him. Pink stains my cheeks, his head snapping upright, those hypnotizing crimson orbs staring at me from mere inches away. The smooth tip of his nose traces over my cheek like a feather, so light. His chest pushes even more firmly into mine as he inhales. My mouth drops open and without my permission, I release a moan into the air to be ensnared by the webs of branches around us.

"No matter," he assures me, lips so close to mine, his voice loud enough only for me to hear. It seems otherwise to be swallowed by the blackness. "I already know."

The kiss from a man so otherworldly is a kiss that ruins you for all others. Since this man elicits such unimaginable reactions from me—and my body—that can hardly be contained, the sensation of his smooth, cool mouth firmly on my own slightly chapped lips is almost more than I can bear. My equilibrium, already shaky, spins out of control.

Gasping, panting, breathing ... nothing I do satisfies my physiological need for air, but I return to his lips, begging for more with my own. When I do, it seems to incite him, the passion with which he attacks intensifying.

Humming takes the place of my rising moans as his tongue slides through my teeth, sweeping and leading mine in a dance of sin. For the first time, I realize my hips are writhing, bucking, grinding ... seeking him out. My arms struggle against their restraint, aching to touch, hold, scratch — but his grip is like the strongest ropes, though silky against my skin. It frightens me minutely that he has taken me apart so easily, my mind far and separate from my body. If he voiced the question, I would easily consent, but I am so jarred by his touch, his hands, his mouth ... I am in pieces.

Attempting to apply needle and thread, I mend enough to form a plea. "Please," I gasped. "Want ..."

The breath had scarcely completed its exhale when the scrap of damp fabric was torn from between my legs like tissue paper. A deep growl resonates in his chest as his teeth again scrape my neck, one cool hand tracing tiny circles high on my inner thigh. The combined effect pulls me to the edge of a cliff; a soft-blowing breeze will fall me.

In my ear, he asks, "What do you want?" He gently slides a single finger along the surface of me, teasing and sending convulsing waves of inexplicable desire through my body, more potent than lightning.

My blood pulses madly, my body aching ... I am bare before him—wet, wanting, waiting for him to "Take me ... please. Make me regret this." I have never heard such wanton lust in my voice, I scarcely recognize it as my own.

His lips brush the shell of my ear and whisper across my cheek before crushing them to mine in a kiss more fiery than the last. He continues to manipulate with his fingers, my hips squirming in both greed and protest.

More. I want more.

The fog of rapture is hazy and thick, and time seems to snap and stretch, speed and slow. I read promises from his kiss, his mouth, his fingers, his body. When those fingers leave my body, I hold my breath. The anticipation for him is at fever pitch, and though it is less than one beat of the second hand, I am sure I will combust before ...

He enters me. One strong, deliberate and perfect thrust, and I am free.

My soul seems to float out of my body on the deluge of breath and cry, the space so wide, she is completely unfettered by fences and walls. The ecstasy washes through me as I feel him move within me, like a demon and an angel, both hellfire and cool water damning and blessing my body simultaneously. It is communion with sacrifice, peace with animal rhythm, confession with curses, purity through obscenity. With every stroke, the cycle began and ended — it was too much, and never enough.

His own pleasure begins to consume him, and he unravels our hands, his fingers raking through the bark of the tree as they descend. His palm cradles my face, and his kiss is mine once again. My arms fly around his shoulders, my fingers clutching at his skin.

As his pace increases, I urgently grasp at him wherever I can reach, clenching his shoulders, back, sides, neck. Each tactile sensation ignites a new stimulation, a new sense of exhilaration. I follow each touch with my lips, tongue, teeth, and as I do so, his movements become wild, more savage.

The sounds he emits become a new impetus; he groans, but it is like a growl, his cry, a roar. I match him in return, calling, moaning, expressing my elation.

Within my belly, a warmth I'd never known began to pull taut, the tension so exquisite, I nearly mistake it for pain. My every wail and murmur is an entreaty never to stop. And he doesn't.

There is only more ... hands, lips, touch, force.

Finally, the heat and tension within me has radiated so fully, I am certain I will soon shatter or crumble. Instead, the coil snaps, unleashing light and heat into every corner of my being. My muscles seize and jerk, trying to contain the rush, but failing faultlessly. I ride the euphoric waves, preparing for the decline when I feel his teeth on my skin. Dragging his tongue along my dancing pulse until his teeth close over.

Believing his breaking point to be moments away, I lean my temple to his shoulder, pressing my lips against his neck. My arms holding me to him, I thread my fingers into the soft curls at the back of his head.

His frenzy peaks, and I scream.

Teeth break my skin, my pulse goes erratic. I feel his lips warming with my blood as they seal around the open artery. For the first time, I panic.

As my short fingernails scrape desperately at the planes of his shoulder blades, slinking back and forth beneath the surface, I imagine I am once again trying to claw my parents back from death through their massive marble gravestone. This time, however, I am beneath the stone.

Was this fantasy no more than a chimera? A sob chokes me as I contemplate the chance that I am irreparably mad, that I had not been deemed healthy, and not a threat to myself.

With every whimper, he holds me tighter. As if I could escape, or run.

My arms fall idle at my sides, my feel unlocking, all the strain in my muscles ebbing away as I give up. I realize soon that it is not that I gave up, but that I'm too weak. Dizziness begins to turn me in a leisurely pirouette, the dark world around me beginning to blur and fade as my heartbeat slows.

I am no longer afraid. In many ways, I knew this was my end, and am somewhat relieved. He has gifted me such heights that my burdens have lifted.

I am no longer crazy, no longer unwanted. I have meaning. I am not the suicidal freak they take me for, bent with grief and loneliness. I am no more the near-silent, mousy volunteer, accepting orders and fists from the two male orderlies in turn for a place to stay, and a purpose. No more will I reek of their sweat and their lies and their threats in my prison of a dormitory. Emmett doesn't have to worry about me from the battlefield or homefront. Rosalie can be relieved of my awkward visits, nothing comfortable to talk about with her sister-in-law, the mental patient-turned-orderly.

If I had the breath left, I would laugh. My body rushes with a perverse joy as my eyes close. "Thank you," I whisper, my lungs expelling my last full breath.

Stillness engulfs me. No light, no sound.

There is absolutely nothing but my peaceful consciousness crowned in dubiety. My soul is flummoxed at the bizarre impasse of death ... until there is a prickle. The sensation grows quickly like the rain of a hundred thousand needles from a thunderstorm of fire.

I've not left my body at all. My limbs, my skin, my bones ... I can detect them all with a sharp thought. I begin to thrash and grapple, but I am subdued physically. My throat, however, scratches with slicing pains as I shriek.

I am burning from the inside out.

In my agony, three strange words repeat in a surprisingly soothing loop:

"My mate. Forever."



Mr. and Mrs. Emmett McCarty,
of Bellevue, are blessed to
announce the birth of
their first child, Alice Emily.

Named for her late aunt, who
disappeared only a week prior,
Baby Alice was born

November 29, 1941.

A/N: thanks to MrsTheKing, AzureEyedI, and CarminMoon for prereading & such ... XOXOXO

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