Chapter one

Finally. The sun set far enough into the horizon that I could walk the streets unnoticed. It has been to long since I hunted, since I've fed. To be honest, the whole practice is wearing on me. I've been growing weary of this lifestyle for quite some time now, but like any addict I am not quite ready to walk away from it all. Just like the smoker that says "as soon as I'm finished with this pack, I'll quit." For me, it's more like "I just need to taste human blood one more time, then I'll quit."

Carlisle warned me that this would happen. Even though my thirst would be satisfied, my soul never would be, as long as I was taking human lives. I thought it would be different for me. I have the ability to read people's minds, and I use that ability as I hunt. I choose people that have already given up their souls. Evil is not reserved for demons like me, you know. So I figure if a person has already sold their souls, I am not really taking anything from them.

The business district in Port Angeles had cleared out for the day. It was all but deserted as I wandered along the rooftops, fishing for my next meal. I let my mind clear and reached out to the minds surrounding me. There weren't many out there. It didn't take long for me to pick up on some particularly nasty thoughts.

"That's it, bitch. Keep walking. Don't worry, we'll catch up."

"That is one fine piece of ass! I can't wait to feel her squirming underneath me."

Along with the thoughts were images. A beautiful young girl, probably seventeen or eighteen years old, with long brown hair and chocolate eyes. She was walking down a deserted street. What the hell was she thinking being down here all alone?

There were four men total, and their thoughts made it more than clear what their intentions were. But try as I may, I couldn't find her thoughts at all. I literally had no idea what she was thinking.

I scanned the streets below and found them. Two were hiding in the shadows at the end of the alley, while two were closing in behind the girl, boxing her in. She didn't stand a chance.

Her face held a determination in it, like she knew what was going on and was trying to figure out how to get out of it. She gripped her purse like it was her lifeline and her eyes darted around trying to find a way out. Just then, the two men that were hiding in the shadows stepped out and she saw them, her steps faltering.

The girl was beautiful beyond words. As her eyes darted here and there, she glanced up and looked right at me. Our eyes locked. Suddenly, the thought of these men laying one hand on her pissed me off beyond all rational thought.

I jumped off the building, landing silently between two of the men. I had snapped the first man's neck before the second man even registered I was there. One strategically placed punch to the nose, affectively shoving it into his brain and he fell lifeless to the ground as well. The third man pulled a knife. Please. Really? A knife? It took about two seconds to pull the knife from his grasp and stab him through the heart with it. The fourth man tried to run. I gave him a five second head start, but when I caught up with him only a few seconds later I sank my teeth into his neck and drank deeply, draining him of all his life blood and leaving yet another lifeless body in the alley. Not thirty seconds after I had jumped off the roof, it was over.

I allowed myself a deep breathe. I was rewarded with the most wonderful smell ever. It was floral almost, like lavender and freesia. But there was something else, too. Something was just, I don't know, off.

I looked around quickly and saw the girl standing in the same spot she had been. She hadn't even flinched. She was watching me with curious eyes.

Wait. Curious? That can't be right. She must be terrified. I reached out with my mind, but still could not find any of her thoughts. Maybe she was slow or something?

"Are you okay," I asked tentatively, taking small steps towards her.

"You saved me," she almost whispered. "Thank you." Her eyes met mine. They were a deep chocolate brown. I could get lost in those eyes. My own eyes must have been a bright red with the blood of the recent feeding running through my body.

"What were you doing in a neighborhood like this all alone?" I had to know.

"I got lost. I'm new around here and I must have taken a wrong turn," she muttered. She must have been embarrassed about being lost.

I took another step towards her, and she took a step towards me. This is so wrong. I should point her in the right direction and get out of here. But the desire I felt coursing through me as I looked at her had nothing to do with thirst. I had to touch her. I had to feel her. If for no other reason than to prove she was real.

"You should get out of here. It isn't safe for you."

I hoped she would stay.

I hoped she would go.

She quirked an eyebrow at me and took another step closer. She was only inches away from me now. I could feel her body heat. It was almost electric.

"I think I'm safer right here with you than I am anywhere," she said, motioning to the bodies strewn across the alley.

"Aren't you afraid of me? I could kill you just as easily, you know."

"You aren't going to kill me," she said with a small smile. "You would have done it already."

She was right, of course.

I was drawn to her.

I felt inexplicably protective of her.

I wanted her. More than I had ever wanted anything before.

"Who are you?" I asked as I hooked some of her long, brown hair back behind her ear. She leaned into my hand and I heard her heart rate accelerate.

"Bella. My name's Bella," she answered a bit shaky. "And you are?"

"Edward. Come on, I'll make sure you get home safe and sound."

"You're a vampire, aren't you?"

I paused before pulling her along to the other end of the alley. She followed me easily, putting up no resistance as we left the pavement and entered the thick forest that surrounded Port Angeles.

"You have to promise that you'll keep this between you and I. You can't tell anyone, or there would be serious consequences. Do you understand?"

"It'll be our little secret, I promise."

"Where do you live, Bella? I'll take you home."

She hesitated and I thought I saw fear flash through her eyes.

"What's wrong?" Four men attack her in an alley. A vampire swoops in to rescue her, effectively murdering the four men right in front of her, and yet she only shows fear when I mention taking her home?

"I…I can't go home."

"Where were you going when you got lost, then?"

She let out a deep sigh in frustration and kicked a nearby rock. "Away, Edward. I was going away."

"You ran away from home?"

She flipped her hair over her shoulder and kind of "hmphed".

"I did not run away. I…outstayed my welcome."

"Your parents kicked you out?"

"Uh, no. My foster parents. I turned eighteen, the checks stopped coming from the state, I got shown to the door. I tried asking my so-called-boyfriend for help, but that didn't work out at all, so I hit the road."

The night seemed to close in on us. I suddenly realized that we were in the middle of the woods, miles from civilization. I saw a whole new future open up for me. One where I wasn't alone for eternity.

Before I even realized where we had been heading, we stepped out of the woods in front of a little cabin. Home sweet home.

"You're welcome to stay with me, Bella," I said as I opened the door. She didn't even hesitate as she stepped inside.