OH MY GOSH!

THANK YOU everyone who VOTED!

EMERALDS TO RUBIES

TIED for SECOND in the PUBLIC VOTING!

THANK YOU also to frozen soldier for the lovely, inspirational banner!

Pick A Pic Challenge
Title: Emeralds to Rubies
Penname: katmom
Banner: #33
Rating: M for violence

Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer makes all the money with these characters; I just run them in a different direction.

Summary: ENTRY FOR PICK-A-PIC CHALLENGE: Bella is undergoing scary and wonderful changes. Will Edward help her or is he going to be a meal? AU

To see all the stories that are a part of this contest please visit:

www .fanfiction-challenges. blogspot. Com


~!~!~!~ ~!~!~!~ ~!~!~!~

Emeralds to Rubies

Fear…

Red eyes…

PAIN…

The smell of blood…

The screams…

PAIN…

Fear…

Red eyes…

The smell of blood…

The screams…

The smell of blood…

PAIN…

FIRE…

The screams…

Darkness…

The smell of blood…

FIRE…

The screams…

FIRE…

The smell of blood…

FIRE…

Darkness…

The smell of blood…

And finally…silence…complete and total silence.

~!~!~!~

Wait, there was something in the silence, the smallest sound that then began to grow louder.

I recognized the sound…it was raindrops falling and hitting the earth. A low rumble of thunder, that I felt more than heard, startled me. I felt it through my backbone, my backbone that was pressed to the hard ground. Awareness of something lying across my lap and I sat up abruptly, pushing the weight off of me.

I took a deep breath into my lungs, feeling the urge to scream, but the taste in my mouth had me retching and doubled over. The flavors that had been pulled in through my open mouth had been ripe with blood and decaying flesh. Several minutes later the heaving stopped and I sat back on my heels and opened my eyes. It took me a moment to figure out what was before me.

The color was bleached from what I could see in the near darkness and there was a portion of my mind that was grateful.

Death surrounded me. I counted five bodies, three females and two males, tumbled together in a heap. One of them was the weight that had been lying across my lap. I tried to make sense of it, tried to figure out who these people were, who they had been. I searched my memories, but could find nothing that could explain the situation I found myself in.

The rain I heard was coming down harder and I could see where it was dripping in through some chinks in the walls, chinks that a bit of light filtered through. Rocks and dirt had been piled over what appeared to be an entrance to this cramped space.

Needing to get away from the stench and the bodies I got to my knees and began pounding and punching at the debris that held me trapped. I expected to feel pain in my hands as I scraped my way to freedom, but there wasn't any, none at all. In less time than I could even imagine I had an opening big enough for me to thrust my body out of. Once free, I took several deep breaths of air and ran a dozen feet away from what had been my tomb.

The cloud cover was thick and no moonlight lit the glade where I stood, but I could still see. It was definitely nighttime, but the fact that I could see astounded me and then I wondered why that should be so.

I looked back at the hole in the hillside. Confusion filled my mind and I wanted clarity. I needed information and began to catalog what I knew.

I had been in a hole with several dead bodies. I was now out. It was raining and I was getting wet. It was dark, but I could see. Taking a quick look around, I saw that there were several trees nearby with thick branches that I could find shelter beneath, as the needles below them were still relatively dry.

No sooner had I decided to move than I was standing below the tree. That seemed odd to me too. I had moved too fast.

Too fast for what?

Shaking my head I took stock of what I did know. The stench of death still surrounded me, although the open air had diluted it to some degree. Looking down, I could see splashes of something on my jeans and trailing down the front of the jacket that I wore. I lifted my hand and discovered that the jacket's collar was ripped and crunchy feeling. A quick sniff caused my stomach to clench again and I held my breath. I pressed my fingers against my neck. The skin was nearly smooth, but I could feel the faint outline of something where my neck met my shoulder.

That's about the time when I realized that my throat hurt and the hurt was steadily rising. Had I been sick? Is that why my throat hurt? I needed something, water maybe? Leaving the mystery of the mark on my neck for another time, I decided that the blood encrusted coat needed to be off my body.

The only thing holding the shredded jacket on me was a couple of straps that crisscrossed my torso. Shrugging out of the restraining bands and jacket I dropped them to the ground and discovered that the straps were attached to a backpack. I placed the jacket and pack down onto the pine needles by my feet. The backpack appeared to be intact although the jacket was a total loss.

Something stirred in my mind. Maybe there was information in the backpack. Kneeling, I grasped the zipper and pulled. The force of my grasp opened the pack as if it were a plastic baggie, spilling the contents around me. A hairbrush and flip flops fell free among several clear bags filled with clothes and socks, one with several notebooks and pencils, another with a toothbrush and paste, and one with a slim wallet. That's the one I scooped up and without a thought, ripped open.

The wallet felt familiar in my hands and I quickly flipped it open. A Washington State Driver's License was in the top slot. Gently I pulled it out and looked at the face of a dark eyed girl. Her brown hair was long and hung in soft curls in front of her shoulders. A grimace was on her face.

Name: Isabella Swan

Address: 1452 Walker Street, Forks, WA 98801

Birth date: September 13, 1991

Organ donor: Yes

Isabella Swan. I liked to be called Bella. And…

And nothing else. My mind was a blank before waking in the tomb. I felt that I should remember things, but it was just beyond my grasp. Wisps of memories seemed to be floating in a thick fog.

There was a second card in the wallet, an ID with a slightly different picture of Isabella Swan—of me—from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Looking around the woods I wondered if I was in Washington or Alaska right now. All I could see were trees. No way to tell which state I was in.

Once again I took a deep breath, just then realizing that I hadn't been breathing for several minutes. And once again the smell of the blood on my jacket and the smear of muck on my pants almost turned my stomach.

At least there was something I could do about that. I picked up the bag with the jeans in it and one with a dark blue t-shirt. I stripped and slipped the clean clothes on. Holding the others I debated for a moment about what to do with them, finally deciding to just leave them on the ground for now.

I put the rest of the baggies back into the pack. The zipper was shot, but I snapped the clip at the top closed to keep everything inside and swung the pack onto my back.

Red eyes.

Another flash of memory made a chill run up my spine. I had been wrong; my name wasn't the only thing that was coming back to me. Fear was making my shoulders tense. Something very bad had happened here, with the end results lying dead in that hole in the hillside. I needed to get away from here, needed to get away to someplace safe. The authorities needed to be told about the murder scene. A brief image of a man in a sheriff's uniform flashed through my mind. He had a thick brown moustache and there was a smile on his face, then the image was gone. I liked it much better than the one of red eyes.

Pausing to look at the jacket it occurred to me that I wasn't feeling cold so I left it on the ground and tried to decide on a direction to go to find help. A bit of light in the sky hinted at where the sun would rise eventually…east. But which way would I find help? I had no clue.

At least if I headed east, with the rising sun to guide me, I'd be able to continue in one direction, without going in circles. Decision made, I began to walk through the woods lightly massaging my throat that hurt more with each passing minute.

Sometime later I hadn't found any sign of people. No roads, no cabins, no Starbucks.

Starbucks, a place to buy coffee that littered nearly every street corner in every town in the State of Washington and beyond.

I stopped as that thought caught me off guard. I couldn't remember anything about myself, but I know something about coffee shops? Shaking my head I continued on through the woods.

Hearing something that I couldn't place, I stopped and listened harder, trying to figure out what it was. It sounded like a beating heart. Wait, it was more than one. A small group of hearts was beating in a nearby copse of trees.

But how could I hear a heart beating? That thought led into another, why could I see things so clearly, even in the dark?

Two things happened one right after the other that shocked me. First, as I neared the trees where I heard the heartbeats, a couple of caribou leaped out and away from me. The second was that the pain in my throat flared up, hotter than what I would imagine molten lava to feel like.

Reacting with an instinct that was foreign to me, I jumped and grabbed one of the fleeing caribou. My fingers sank into the flesh of its flanks and blood immediately began to spurt from beneath my grasping hands. All conscious thought left me and I pressed my lips to the open wound and sucked…hard. Finding that the flow wasn't nearly fast enough I ripped a wider hole with my teeth and lapped up the fluid. The more I drank, the more the pain in my throat subsided. I continued to suck until nothing else came out of the gaping cut.

The caribou had fought to begin with and I had subdued it without even thinking about it. Now it was limp in my hands. I dropped it and stepped away from the carcass. Holding my hands up, I could see dribbles of blood drying between my fingers. Sniffing at the gore I realized that the smell was different than what had been on my clothes. The difference was subtle, but my mind differentiated between the blood on my jacket and the blood of this herbivore. The one had made me gag, but this had soothed my throat and I wished that I had had the foresight to catch both of them.

Again my mind ground to a halt. I had just been thinking about coffee, with cream and a pumpkin muffin, at Starbucks and now I had the blood of a caribou on my hands. And I had liked it. Somehow I knew that this was different for me. It also occurred to me that caribou lived in Alaska, not Washington State. Briefly I wondered again at my selective memory, but that thought was quickly overcome with relief that I now knew which state I had to be in.

Putting aside the information of where I was globally and wanting more relief for my throat, I analyzed the way I had jumped the fleeing animal. If I had come in from a slightly different angle I would have been able to snap its neck and drink from its jugular vein. It wouldn't be nearly as messy and maybe I wouldn't have wasted any.

The spilled blood on the ground distracted me. I wanted more and I wanted more now. The heart beats had drawn me toward these two. Maybe I could find more. Focusing on the noises around me, I could hear the sound of the escaping caribou and my head whipped in that direction. I barely realized that I was following until I saw the flash of the cow's tail ahead of me. As soon as she felt my presence she jumped to the side. Calculating my trajectory I was beside her, grasping her neck and flicking my wrist. I followed her to the ground and ripped her throat open with my teeth. The warm blood assuaged the ache and I suckled like a child at its mother's breast.

With a smack of my lips I sat back on my heels when the carcass was empty. Glancing down at my body, I could see that I hadn't added any dirt or blood beyond what had been there after my first attempt. I was pleased to note that this meal was tidier. I wiped my hands on the soft fur of the caribou's hide. A small, smug thought passed through my mind that I could probably learn to be quite neat about the whole affair.

Wait…what?

More confusion rushed through my mind. I had to get this sorted out, but everything that had happened since I woke in the tomb seemed to contradict what my holey memories told me should be correct. I didn't have enough facts to compare what was right with what was actually happening.

Now that the ache in my throat was dimmed, I needed more answers.

I moved away from the animal and sat on the ground. Drinking caribou seemed wrong. Concentrating, I could see wispy memories of eating other things: that pumpkin scone at Starbucks; a cake with a pink #10 candle on it; a turkey, all golden brown with an oval slice cut from its breast; a sandwich piled high with ham, lettuce and tomatoes, chips on the side.

There was nothing in my meager memory about sucking the blood out of a living creature.

I went to touch my throat again, relishing the feeling of relief that it no longer felt like a fire was raging in there, but stopped when I saw the grime and dried blood on my hand.

The sound of water—a creek—caught my attention and I got to my feet and headed toward the source. Kneeling I scrubbed my hands in the crystal clear water. Once they were clean I scooped up a handful and filled my mouth, taking in a huge draught of it.

The water hit the back of my throat and I spewed it out, gagging. It certainly looked clean, but my body totally rejected it. Scooping up another handful, I sniffed it carefully. Maybe it was tainted by something. I didn't smell anything out of the ordinary; no odor of any kind came from the wetness. I didn't want to take the chance that there was something wrong with it so I didn't taste it again.

The sun was finally coming up, although it was still going to be overcast. The rain was gone and patches of fog drifted here and there among the trees. The landscape around me began to fill with color and I compared it to how it had looked in the dark. It still amazed me at how clearly I had seen everything.

More sounds filled my ears. Now that I knew what to listen for, I heard heartbeats all around me. High in the trees there were many hearts beating rapidly…birds. On the ground, at some distance from me, I spotted a rabbit. I concentrated and could hear its heart beating at a different tempo from the birds. I stood and the rabbit saw me; an increase in the beat and it was gone from my sight, but my hearing followed it as it leaped away.

From the size and color of the leaves I decided that it was late summer. Gold was beginning to shade the trees on the hillside with splashes of red here and there.

The red reminded me of the eyes from my memory and I again felt the need to move on…to get farther away from the scene of that crime. I dried my hands on my jeans and continued on toward the rising sun.

Even with the urgency that I felt to get away, to get someplace safe, I kept stopping to look at the world around me. The colors, the scents, the sounds…it really was like I was seeing things for the first time. It seemed to be more than just waking with no memories. It all seemed so new.

The pain in my throat began to burn after a couple of hours. A breeze wafting across my path was filled with the smell of caribou and without a thought I was on the hunt. The trees around me thinned as I sped in the direction of the aroma. I broke from the trees to see dozens of caribou grazing in a flat valley. I was downwind and they were unaware of my presence. Quickly calculating trajectory and speed I was in the middle of the herd and had one in each arm. The rest scattered and I was left with my meal.

~!~!~!~

~!~!~!~

~!~!~!~

Definitely Alaska. I had walked for two days towards the east. Never once did I cross a road or find a Starbucks. I really hated to change my direction, but I kept seeing a map of Alaska in my mind. The state was huge and if I did keep just going east then I'd pass out of Alaska and into Canada and who knows when I'd reach a city there.

So many things astounded me. I had expected to get tired as the overcast sun set behind me, but it never happened. The speed that I could run was a thrill as the trees nearly blurred as I raced past them. I had yet to get cold or overheat or hurt myself. The mosquitoes that were out in abundance didn't come near me; their droning a mild hum to my ears. Early on in my journey I came across a small patch of ripe blueberries; I had picked some and tried to eat them. They tasted like dirt, totally unappealing, and I spit them out. The same happened when I spotted some low-bush cranberries.

On the other hand, a rabbit had startled right in front of me and I had pounced and sucked it dry. The fire in my throat was barely quenched and the flavor was much less appealing than the caribou. On the second day I scented something nearly mouthwatering. Following my instincts, that I had begun to trust, I followed the scent.

A low grumbling and grunting alerted me to the fact that a creature was just out of sight beyond a small mound of grass. I stopped, shocked, when I came around the hillock and came face to face with a black bear. It was rounded out with fat, nearly ready for the long winter. The bear rose on its hind legs and barked a challenge at me. A small portion of my mind screamed for me to run. That advice was quickly overcome when I focused on the smell of the carnivore's blood; on the rushing sound it made as it moved through its body.

My mouth literally watered.

I growled back and the bear, after getting a good lungful of my scent, turned and tried to race off. Giving myself over to the instincts that were screaming inside me, I launched myself after the fleeing creature. A quick twist of my body and I brought the bear down, pinning it below me as I yanked its head up. My teeth were at its throat and biting deep even as my arms held its flailing legs still.

Ambrosia…That's the only word that I could come up with to describe the flavor of the blood that now poured down my throat. It was so much better than the caribou.

Even as I drained the living thing in my arms, I weighed the difference between my meals since I woke in the cave. Everything that I had drunk so far had been herbivores. The bear was a carnivore.

Sucking greedily, I made sure that I got every last drop out of its body. When no more was to be had, I sat back on my heels and put my hands on my throat. The relief was intense, the burn nearly gone. I hadn't felt that way even after a meal of three caribou, one right after the other.

It must have to do with what the animals ate. I'd be on the lookout for more carnivores, that's for sure.

Sated for the time being, I moved away from the flatland and up into the tree line. I had been walking at the edge of the woods whenever I could. It worried me to be out in the open. Settling down against the base of a sturdy tree, I opened the pack and took out the notebooks. I had looked at them the second morning and even though I knew, word for word, what they said, I wanted to read them again.

They were two journals. One of them had been empty and the other documented the field trip that I had been on when we were attacked. We were studying the flora and fauna of central Alaska for our shared Biology class at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. The six of us had been dropped off by float plane three days before the massacre and had planned to walk and study along a trail for 25 miles. We were to be picked up four days later.

As I had read the names of my fellow students, their faces had come to me, although it was like seeing them through a warped pane of glass. They had been Mike and Jessica, a married couple. Lauren, Tyler and Leah had been the others. As I recalled them, I realized that they were friends, not just fellow students.

According to the journal, we had been getting much of the information that the professor had asked for. I had sketched out the different types of flora that we had come across and had made note of the scat that we had observed. Apparently Mike had stepped in a huge pile of bear droppings and my notes said that we'd all laughed. There were also tallies of the wildlife that we had seen.

I studied the drawings and observations. There were assorted berries, lots of wildflowers, and surprisingly, a few outcroppings of marijuana. My notes said that Tyler had wanted to try some, he'd said to compare to the stuff that was available in Fairbanks. I hadn't written if he had done so or not.

My last memo mentioned meeting three other people who claimed to be students too. Their names were James, Victoria and Laurent. None of us had recognized them, but UA was a huge school and they could have come up from the Anchorage branch. I had noted that they wore their sunglasses all the time. Weird, but not out of character if they had been involved in more than just field work. Some people used the field trips to, well, trip.

Reading through my notes again, I wondered if maybe the three of them had tripped badly, if they had harmed us because of bad meth or something. None of them had been in the cave when I awoke.

Even if that were true, if they had killed the others and had tried to kill me, it still didn't explain what was going on with me now. I was drinking animals' blood for goodness sake! And food, real food, tasted totally awful. I had tried to drink water from a couple of other sources—a lake, another creek—but it was hideous and came right back up.

A word kept drifting around my mind, but when it got close to the surface, I'd push it back down…firmly.

Finally, today, after drinking a black bear dry of its ever so tasty blood, I let the word come to me.

Vampire.

Little bits of memory showed me that vampires drank the blood of humans. They had fangs; they could fly through the dark of night like giant bats; they lived in castles; sunlight burned them; they could be killed by a stake through the heart and silver bullets—or maybe that was werewolves?

I tallied that against what I knew of myself. I had no fangs but I could slice into the flesh of the animals that I sucked dry quite easily; there were no wings attached to my shoulders; there was no castle nearby. It had been overcast since I awoke, so I had no idea of how sunshine would affect me, but when the sun came out I was going to be very careful.

Closing the journal I put it back into the plastic baggie and pulled the other one out. It was no longer blank. I kept jotting notes to myself about what was happening to me. The first entries had been about seeing the red eyes, being terrified, feeling like I was on fire, the hideous smell of blood and then the silence. I didn't need to re-read those notes, the observations were seared into my memory. Taking a pencil I wrote on a new page:

Bear blood is so good.

Rolling my eyes I had a hard time believing that I had just written that. Blood was tasty? I had recalled that I liked my steaks cooked well done, with not even a hint of pink in the middle. Things had certainly changed.

I also wrote down that I had killed the bear cleanly, with no damage to me or my clothes. I really was getting good at taking down my prey.

Putting the journal and pencil away, I got to my feet. It was time to make a decision. Should I continue going east? Or should I head south? I didn't really know where we were in the interior of Alaska, but I knew that if I headed south, I would eventually hit the shore and could follow it to either Anchorage or Juneau. Eventually…because the state was so big and I had no clue where I was at this moment.

Wishing I had a coin to flip and dithering over the decision, I was startled when my ears filled with the drone of a float plane as it flew high overhead. It was heading north.

A plane meant people; people meant civilization; civilization meant help and safety. I didn't need a coin to help me decide. I'd follow the plane.

~!~!~!~

~!~!~!~

~!~!~!~

I woke with my head and shoulders aching. Shifting I realized that something sturdy held my arms behind me while I rested on my side on a floor. The sound of an engine resonated through my body. A slight tilt of the floor caused me to rock up against a wall. Opening my eyes just a slit confirmed my fears. I was in a small plane, curled on the floor behind the pilot's seat. The rear seats had been removed to make it a cargo area. Moving my head a fraction I saw through blurry eyes that Marcus and Aro were in the pilot and co-pilot seats.

Searching for answers in my throbbing head, I realized that my last memory was of Aro getting a phone call from Caius.

I had been standing near them on the shores of Lake Hood in Anchorage as we loaded supplies into the float plane. We were getting ready to head out to the marijuana and poppy fields deep in the heart of Alaska. Marcus had been out there the week before and they figured the crop would be ready to harvest by this week. The long Alaskan summer days were conducive to bumper crops of almost anything. We had all seen the 80 pound cabbages shown at the state fair.

That was why the men had begun their drug operation here a few years ago. This would be their sixth crop and they were anxious to get it cut, dried, processed and sold. They used to get their raw opiates from Afghanistan, but with the turmoil in that region they decided to try to grow it locally. Well, "locally" was relative in the vast State of Alaska.

I had been undercover for the DEA for two years, trying to find out where the crops were grown and to get close to Caius. He was the brains behind the operation. This was my first trip to the growing fields. I had a small satellite homing device that I'd leave behind when we were done there. It was state of the art and only weighed about four ounces. It looked like an IPod. It even played music. That and the rest of my belongings were already on board the plane in my duffle bag.

Aro flipped his phone closed, a tense look on his face. "Marcus, Masen, come over here," he ordered us as he moved to the far side of the plane, out of view of those standing at the fueling shed. Marcus came close behind me.

"What's up?" I asked.

Aro glanced around to make sure that we weren't seen and that no one was close enough to overhear us. Unfortunately, we were very much alone by the plane. He made eye contact with Marcus as he showed us a picture on his phone. My stomach clenched when I realized the pic was of my DEA ID. "He's a narc: Edward Masen, undercover cop. Felix made him and told Caius."

Before I could get to the blade I carried in my boot, Aro had his gun out and pressed deep into my belly. Marcus grabbed me by the arms, his fingers digging into my biceps.

With a twist, Aro dug the gun deeper and I grunted from the pain.

"What are we supposed to do now? We have to get out to the fields before it's past its prime." Marcus asked quietly as he pulled my arms back harder, nearly dislocating my shoulders.

A sly grin covered Aro's face as he turned the gun around and held it by the barrel. "He'll make good fertilizer for next year's crop."

I tried to jerk away, but Marcus held me as the butt of the gun hit my head and everything went black.

The plane dipped as we circled in to land. Marcus gently set us down on the water and I heard the sound of it rushing past us as he guided us to the shore. I decided to pretend to still be knocked out, hoping to get some information or a break of some kind.

With a bump the plane came to a stop and Aro jumped out on the float, I'm assuming to secure us to a dock. The plane rocked from the force of his movements and my stomach rebelled. That couldn't be good.

The side door opened and the two of them grabbed me and hauled me out and dropped me onto the short dock. I was grateful that they didn't just dump me over and into the water. One of them kicked me in the side and I couldn't stop the groan that was forced from my lungs. So much for pretending to still be out.

"Good, you're awake. We aren't hauling your ass up to the cabin." Marcus lifted me to my feet and the world spun around me. A wave of nausea had me nearly retching on his boots. I wondered if the blow to my head had given me a concussion. He grabbed my shoulder and helped me as I stumbled toward the shore.

Working hard to get my eyes to focus, I saw a small cabin set back from the shore of a medium sized lake. The lake was long and narrow, perfect for a heavily loaded plane to rise from. Stretching out behind the cabin were what appeared to be acres of pot growing lush and green. Somewhere in the fields were poppies too, although I couldn't see any with my eyes still not tracking well.

Marcus pushed me into the cabin's wall and I sank gratefully to the ground. He gave a snort of derision and went back to the plane where Aro was unloading the gear that would be needed to harvest the crops. They also had a bale of bags to carry the cargo back to Anchorage in. I wondered if they would be filling up my place with more bags, since I didn't think they planned to have me with them for the trip back.

After a short conference at the plane, they each grabbed bundles and walked toward me. I noticed that my bag with the fake IPod was not among the things they were carrying. Marcus, with a sadistic chuckle, continued on into the cabin. I heard him banging around in there, obviously looking for something.

"Masen, we could kill you now, but Marcus has a better idea." Once again Aro had a sly look on his face. One very similar to the one he had just before he hit me. "There are literally snow covered mountains between here and any help that you could possibly hope to find."

A grunt of discovery came from the cabin and then Marcus joined us. He had a set of shackles in his hands. There was a short piece of chain connecting them. Dropping to his knees he yanked my left foot to him and clicked the cuff into place at my ankle over my jeans. The jarring movements made my head ache again. The second cuff was quickly put on and Marcus stood up.

Aro hauled me to my feet and turned my back to Marcus. I heard the snick of noise as he took his knife from its sheath. My back tightened, but all he did was cut the tape holding my arms together. They fell like lead weights to my sides. The blood started flowing slowly and the tingles hurt like hell. Slowly I brought my hands up and started rubbing them together. Yep, hurt like hell.

Before they were fully awake a hand hit me in the middle of my back. I tried to take a step to catch myself, but the chain was so short that it caught me up and I fell flat on my face, my arms still useless to help me. I tasted blood on my lip where it had split when it met the ground. The ache in my head was back with a vengeance.

Marcus and Aro were both roaring with laughter.

"Yeah, we could kill you now, narc, but we'll use you to help us harvest the crop first. Since you're alive, you'll think there's hope. But you won't be able to go very far or very fast with that chain tethering you." Aro laughed again before his face turned feral, "hear this, Detective Masen, there is no hope for you. You will die here and help our next year's crop to grow and flourish. Just like the others that tried to cross us in the past."

Marcus stepped up and kicked me in the side, not hard enough to break anything, but enough to knock the air out of me. "You could refuse to help us; that's your choice. But know this: you won't eat if you don't help." He yanked me to my feet again and I worked to keep my balance. The ache in my head settled to a dull throb and I hoped that it wasn't a concussion after all.

"Come on; let me show you to your accommodations." Aro shoved me around to the back of the cabin. I took very short, careful steps, the chain clanking the entire way. Against the back wall was a lean-to, barely shoulder high, with a sloping roof and an opening with no door attached. It looked like a glorified dog house. There was a chain bolted beside the doorway.

"We've had a couple other…guests…here. Unless you're working, you'll be chained up. The chain reaches far enough away so that you won't have to muck up your bedroom." Aro had leaned down and attached the hook to my shackles. The lock snapping closed was loud. "Better rest up, we start to harvest at daybreak."

Marcus arrived with a bottle of water in his hands. "Since you haven't earned your first meal yet, you only get water. Better hold onto the bottle, because that's the only one you'll get. You can fill it at the lake when we let you loose in the morning." He tossed the container at my feet and the two of them disappeared around the corner of the cabin, their laughter echoing back to me.

Taking a deep breath, I shuffled over to the door of the shed and leaned over to look inside. Chinks in the badly fitted planks allowed enough light in so that I could see a pile of leaves and pine needles in one corner. That was the bed, apparently.

Standing straight, I looked around the yard, such as it was. There wasn't a lawn, just the short flora that made up most of the ground cover near almost any lake in Alaska. The crop of pot started a few yards away. At the far reach of the chain there was a small group of trees and I slowly made my way there and found relief for my bladder. I really didn't want to, as Aro so eloquently put it, "muck up my bedroom."

He had been right about one thing. As long as there was breath in my body, I would fight to stay alive. That was the only way justice would be served.

~!~!~!~

~!~!~!~

~!~!~!~

Grateful for the swiftness of my feet I followed the receding drone of the plane. Racing up and over the crest of a mountain, I paused when I reached the top. Another wide valley was stretched out below me. The plane had already reached the other side and I watched as it began to circle and then it descended out of sight on the other side of the snow covered range. I hoped that when I got to the top over there that I'd see it sitting on a lake below.

I sped down the mountain and when I burst from the tree line I startled a herd of caribou into running wildly away from me. Not needing to feed after being sated by the bear I just ran past them, my eyes scanning the ground before me before focusing again on the point where the plane disappeared.

The river in this valley was wider than any I'd come across so far. Even as I began to worry about losing time by finding a place to ford it, my mind kicked into high gear and I saw the perfect place to take off, how much I needed to speed up and the amount of force I'd need to use to get over the expanse. Trusting my instincts, I leaped and then landed lightly on the other side with barely any lessoning of my speed.

I was definitely going to write that down in my journal. Maybe I didn't need wings to be able to fly if that leap was any indicator.

My mind was busy with questions. Who was in the plane? Would they be able to tell I was different? Would they help me get to the police? I would have no answers until I got there so I sped up.

As soon as I crested over the mountaintop I searched the long, narrow lake below me. I breathed a sigh of relief when I spotted the little float plane bobbing gently at the end of a short dock. Two dark haired men were gathering up parcels and they moved to a cabin as I watched. Another man, with reddish hair, was sitting on the ground there.

With a clear destination in my mind I quickly left the snowy crag and worked my way down the mountain side. A trio of Dall sheep leaped away from me when I rounded a large boulder. They were probably surprised that a human came down from above them. If this was a hunting cabin, then they might recognize humans as predators, but they would have always come from below.

Briefly I wondered what they'd taste like before I continued down and into the upper part of the tree line. From a slight clearing I checked to make sure that I was on target to reach the cabin. The sky was still overcast, as it had been from my first waking moment. From my elevation I spotted something that I hadn't noticed the first time I looked down. There were several patches of red and pink flowers interspersed with a lush green growth stretching out for acres behind the cabin. Stopping my descent I worked to make sense of what I was seeing.

A drawing from my journal popped into my mind and I suddenly recognized the plants. Marijuana plants were laid out in grids, interspersed with plots of red and pink poppies.

The image of the sheriff drifted through my mind again. His voice was telling me that anyone cultivating this amount of drug producing plants would not be up to any good.

Great, just great. Behind me were five dead bodies and ahead of me some kind of drug cartel. Oh, wait, add in the fact that I'm apparently a vampire and my day is pretty much golden.

I had to rethink my plans. Plan A had been to rush to the cabin and beg them to take me back to Fairbanks so that I could report the murders to the right authorities.

Plan B was going to be needed.

After coming to that decision, I continued down the mountainside. Before I asked them for help, I'd see what kind of guys they were. Maybe they were just potheads that would be helpful in getting me to safety, as long as I didn't snitch on their operation.

That's what I'd hope for. Because the other choice was that they were hardened criminals, growing their illicit crops in the interior of Alaska, away from the prying eyes of those that wanted to keep the law.

I angled my arrival so that I could spy from the tree line. I was shocked when I saw one of the guys attach shackles to the ankles of the brown haired guy on the ground. When they stood him up and turned his back to the same man, I held my breath when he brought a knife out and was grateful that he only cut the tape binding the guy's arms.

I had come close enough to hear their words, while still being shielded by some trees just beyond the cabin. Their heartbeats stood out from the animals that I had become accustomed to hearing. The difference was noticeable. The shackled guy's heart was beating faster, probably in fear.

Anger began to build in my mind when they pushed him and he fell. Then they told him he was going to work for them, harvesting the drugs currently growing in abundance…and then be killed.

My eyes zeroed in on the blood spilling from a cut on his lip. It was red and caught my attention like nothing else had since I woke in that hole. A pull from something deep inside had me moving closer. Even as I listened to their conversation, my instinct pointed out that humans were omnivores. They probably would taste nearly as good as the carnivore that I had drunk earlier. Maybe they tasted even better…the vampires from my memories of movies certainly made it sound like it did.

I watched as the one guy pushed him behind the cabin. The vision of the blood on his lip kept me creeping even closer. Forcing myself to forget about the blood for right now, I listened to what they were saying. The shackled guy was one of the good guys. Again the vision of the man with the moustache drifted through my mind. He was a good guy too. I felt that he might even be a hero.

I wondered what I could do. I knew I was fast and strong but I had seen guns tucked into the back of the bad guys' pants. The bear hadn't hurt me, but bullets might. Heck, they might even have a wooden stake near at hand.

With a last jeer at the chained man, the two guys went back around to the front of the cabin. I shifted from my hiding place to watch them go inside and shut the door. Their conversation indicated that they were going to eat something and then sleep.

A couple of scenarios ran through my mind. I could steal the plane and fly back to find help for myself, and for this guy, this Detective Masen, too. Of course that wouldn't work since I don't know how to fly a plane.

That instinct that I had grown to trust pointed out that I could forget about the drugs, forget about the murders and have just a taste of human blood, right here, right now. I could see if the movies were right. And there were three samples nearby and maybe they might quench my thirst.

I found myself cringing at the thought. One of the things that kept coming through from my memories is that I always felt faint when I smelled my own blood or the blood of any friend that may have hurt themselves. Besides the burning that I felt before I woke, I kept remembering the smell of the blood in that hole. Even the memory made me shudder.

I shifted around to where I could see the back of the cabin again, and the man chained there. He was coming back from the trees and I heard him sigh when he lowered himself to the ground outside the shelter. The blood was gone from his lip. He had wiped it off on his hand and then smeared it down his jeans. I could see it there, darkening the denim. The cut had sealed over although he winced when he took a long drink of water from the bottle.

Not wanting to make a decision just yet, I settled down to wait, hoping that the right path would show itself. My instinct was warring with my moral compass and I was going to have to figure out which should win.

Night fell and the sounds from inside the cabin had settled into a cacophony of snores when the detective got to his feet and ducked into the shelter. There was a rustling sound as he settled down and then there was silence, only three hearts beating.

It was still weird knowing that my own heart wasn't beating. I had made that discovery on the first day and had written three pages in the journal about my shock over that fact. I still felt alive. I still needed to eat, so I guess I was living, at least in some way. That self-diagnosis kept staring me in the face:

Vampire.

And now the vampire in me wanted to get a really good, close look at the blood the Detective had wiped on his pants; and just maybe, the blood on his lip. Finally letting my instincts win I gave into the impulse and I slowly moved toward his flimsy shelter. I paused every couple of steps, listening for any changes in the three men.

I was grateful that the skies had stayed overcast so that I didn't need to test the whole "sunlight burning me to a crisp" theory and a bit of moonlight helped me now. Things were clear as I reached the opening to the shelter. His breathing was regular and quiet, unlike those in the cabin.

Suddenly realizing that I had been holding my breath, I took in a deep gulp of air. The scent of his blood lingered in the air and it hit me like a lightning bolt. Before I could restrain myself I was deep in the middle of the marijuana crop, on my knees and retching. Impressions from the attack were hitting me one after another.

The red eyes, the screams, the smell of blood…

During the entire time I burned the smell of human blood had filled my nostrils. I hadn't been able to get away from it. And now when I smelled human blood for the first time since then, it still had the same effect on me. Several minutes passed before I finally stilled, my arms wrapped around my middle.

Focusing back on the cabin, I listened to see if they had woken. There were still two bodies snoring away and one sleeper quietly breathing.

Getting to my feet I slowly made my way back to the cabin. I had to roll my eyes at myself. I was a vampire and the smell of human blood turned my stomach. Maybe the movies had it wrong, maybe all vampires drank from animals.

Wait…all vampires? Suddenly I wondered how many more vampires were out there. Again a question that I had no answer for.

Bringing my thoughts back to my current situation, I decided that I'd just have to wait and see what happened the next day. Maybe the two snorers would have a change of heart. Probably not, but I just couldn't make a decision on what to do. I'd just wait and see.

~!~!~!~

~!~!~!~

~!~!~!~

A yank on the chain around my ankle brought me from my fitful sleep. My stomach growling was nearly louder than Aro's voice telling me to get up, that it was time to start earning my first meal. The ache in my head was still there, although not as sharp as it had been. My eyesight was clearer too.

Weak sunshine was peeking over the snow covered mountains to the east when I stiffly came out of the shelter. Even after burying myself in the debris that made up my bed, I had several fresh mosquito bites on my body. They had been able to get in under the feeble protection offered by the leaves and pine needles.

Marcus unlocked the chain from my shackles as Aro chewed on a granola bar. He was drinking coffee from a tin cup and smirking at me.

"Well, narc, we'll work for three or four hours and if you have made enough progress, you'll get some lunch." He tipped the cup up and poured out the remaining coffee on the ground. I tried to ignore the rumblings from my body and finished off the water in my bottle.

Marcus laughed as I slowly followed him to the lake to refill the container. I hoped that there wasn't any Giardia lurking in the clear depths. That's all I'd need to complete this stellar week. I splashed the water on my face to finish waking up and then refilled the bottle.

Sighing deeply and hoping to be aware of any way to escape, I followed Marcus and Aro into the lush growth of pot plants.

~!~!~!~

~!~!~!~

~!~!~!~

Watching the one called Aro pour his coffee out on the ground, I felt the same as when I had seen the caribou blood on the ground after my first kill. What a waste!

Apparently the Detective felt the same. I could hear his stomach growling from hunger even where I was hiding, tucked behind one of the trees on the shore.

I was still ambivalent about what to do. I knew that the Detective was safe, for now anyway. And I felt an inclination to protect him, urged on in part, I'm sure, by the memories of the man in the sheriff's uniform. His identity had tantalized me for many hours during the night. After trying several titles on his image, I had stumbled on the one that suited him the best, the one that resonated with me: Dad.

It felt right to put that title to him and once I did I found his name too: Charlie, Sheriff Charlie Swan. Oddly enough, filling that memory hole in my mind made me feel better and even more eager to do what I could to help his fellow officer.

The sun was finally shining and I was leery about venturing out into it. Staying under the trees and keeping the three men in sight was easily enough done. They had no clue that I was even near them.

After working for about four hours, Marcus went back to the cabin and soon returned with sandwiches, chips and sodas for him and Aro. He gave the Detective a small granola bar and wished him "bon appétit."

Detective Masen just ate it, drank his water and rested while the other two stuffed their faces. Again I felt anger towards these two excuses for human beings.

That anger boiled anew when they were done for the day and Marcus shoved a fist into the middle of the bound man's back. He fell forward and landed on his hands and knees. I immediately noticed the smears of blood on his palms. At the angle I was watching from I saw him look up at Marcus and the light caught his eyes just right. They were green, a rich green that took my breath away. My mind supplied a word for the color…emerald. His face was impassive and he didn't retaliate against the injustice. He just got up and wiped the fresh blood on his dirty jeans and continued on to the lake to refill his water bottle.

After locking his chain, Aro brought him his food. At least this time it was a bit more substantial than a granola bar. He gave him a peanut butter sandwich and a small bag of chips.

For the first time I heard his voice as he quietly thanked Aro before sitting down against the cabin and eating.

Aro rocked back and forth on his heels for a few minutes, watching him eat. "It's too bad, narc, you're a hard worker. You could have been a great asset to our team. I guess you'll just have to do your part as fertilizer." He was laughing as he walked away.

Once again, the detective didn't answer back, but I saw his eyes glitter like emeralds as he watched Aro disappear around the corner. Somehow I didn't think those two idiots should count the officer out just yet. My guess was that he was just waiting for them to screw up, and then he'd make his move. Good, maybe I wouldn't have to do anything. I could hope anyway.

Listening closely I heard the two in the cabin making their dinner. They were going to have eggs, sausage and potatoes. My own hunger was spiking and my throat was beginning to burn. The thought of their meal filled me with envy, but since they were busy, which meant that their prisoner was safe, I decided to scout around and see what I could find to eat.

The detective had finished his sandwich and was taking short steps to the trees. It was probably a good time to give him some privacy so I headed out and up the shore of the lake. A different herbivore scent had tickled my nose a couple of times today. I had a suspicion that it was a moose and I decided that I'd try and find it.

~!~!~!~

I wasn't tempted by the blood on his hand during the night. Once was enough for me. For the first time my new instincts had steered me wrong and I refused to listen as it cajoled me into trying just a taste of one of the men. The memory of retching in the middle of a field of pot kept me from even wanting to attempt it.

The next day started off the same as the day before. Except that it seemed like Marcus was trying to get a rise out of his prisoner. He called him "Eddie" a few times and kept trying to trip him. After the third attempt succeeded, Aro yelled at him and told him to get back to work. Again the officer just watched them both, his face impassive.

By the third day I had begun to wonder if Marcus was trying the drugs they were working on. His mood swings were wild and "Eddie"—short for Edward maybe?—had taken to wincing whenever Marcus came near him. He already had one black eye and bruised ribs from the swings Marcus had taken at him. Aro seemed to have given up trying to keep him in line. I think he was grateful that the taller man wasn't using him as a punching bag.

Every time he hit the officer, I felt my ire grow. It was sunny again and I was still avoiding it in fear of what might happen.

About an hour before the time that they usually stopped for the evening, Marcus snapped. He had been mumbling something under his breath, causing both Aro and the officer to eye him carefully. I could only make out a word or two.

"Narc…"

"Freaking traitor…"

"Not worth the bullet…"

I watched in shock as he pulled his machete, the big one that he had been using to cut a trail through the massive plants, out of its sheath. He held it like a fencing sword as he stepped closer to the detective. The sun wasn't quite down behind the mountains yet and a ray of it filled the area where they had been working.

Straining I tried to hear what he was saying. I was right at the edge of the trees, poised on my toes, leaning out of the sheltering trees, but trying to stay in the shade.

"…kill him NOW…" The last word was shouted as Marcus raised the blade high overhead.

Aro turned to look at him, shouting something garbled as the officer carefully backed away, his arms raised in a defensive posture. He couldn't move fast because of the chain and he was being very careful, trying not to trip.

Marcus took a swing at him and he barely dodged out of the way. Another swing and the detective dropped to the ground and rolled away just as the machete slashed into the ground. Marcus was no longer forming words, he was just screaming as he raised the knife again and again, hacking at the man desperately fighting for his life.

One part of my mind was impressed that the detective was holding his own, at the way he had rolled and gotten back up on his feet, but just then he did trip and fell hard, apparently getting the wind knocked out of him. Marcus pulled his foot back and kicked viciously at the stunned man. I heard the sound of a rib snapping, maybe more than one, just as Marcus kicked him a second time and raised the deadly weapon high over his head.

There was no choice to be made, sunshine or no, I had to go to the officer's aid. My father would never forgive me if I didn't.

In a flash I was standing over him, a foot on either side of his body and my own arms raised as I caught the descending blade between my palms. The resulting clang sounded like cymbals being slammed between two rocks. Sunlight was bathing my body and I closed my eyes, wondering if this was to be my last moment on earth. Gasps from three throats reached my ears, so I guessed that I hadn't burst into flames. Opening my eyes I was startled to see the reflection of something highlighting the front of Marcus' body. I was still only wearing the short sleeved t-shirt and what I saw on my arms caused me to gasp too.

My skin looked like I had diamonds embedded in every inch of it. I lowered the machete, still clasped between my hands and turned my arms this way and that, watching the light play over them in a dazzling display.

Marcus fell back several steps and began stuttering, "What are you?"

A click from off to my side had my head whipping around as I placed the sound, finding it in my holey memories. A gun had been cocked and it was pointing right at my chest. Aro looked terrified, but the gun was nearly steady in his hand.

"Who are you?" he asked, with a small shake in his voice.

Several answers rushed through my mind, and I chose the best one for the situation, "I'm a sheriff's daughter."

Even through his fear of how I looked, that answer pretty much sealed my fate. Aro's eyes narrowed and he made a decision. I actually saw his finger tighten on the trigger and he pulled it before I could do anything but throw my hands up, the machete falling to the side. The bullet hit my right forearm and ricocheted away from me…and into Marcus' chest. He looked down at the blood spreading from the neat hole there then back up at us. His mouth opened and a dribble of blood escaped before he fell in a heap.

At the first sight of the blood I had ceased to breathe. I was grateful that the bullet hadn't damaged me at all, but then Aro started firing wildly and I worried that a shot would hit the man I was trying to protect.

Striding toward him as he popped off a couple more shots I finally reached out and grabbed the gun from his hand. With no effort at all I took it from him and tossed it far out into the woods. That's when Aro turned tail and ran. My newly discovered hunter's instinct urged me to race after him and take him down, but that instinct was overridden by needing to know if the officer was okay.

When I turned to face him he was just sitting up, his arm supporting the ribs that Marcus had kicked. Unlike the other two, there was no fear on his face, just something that looked a lot like awe. There was also more blood; his lip was split again and there was a deep scratch on his forehead. The color of the blood drew me in and I took in the slightest breath that I could.

Nausea immediately made itself felt and I stopped breathing again. Kneeling at his feet I grasped the shackle on one ankle and broke it open. I did the same to the other and then moved back away from him. A quick glance at Marcus and the puddle of blood surrounding him and I knew that I'd better not take a breath anytime soon.

The sound of the airplane engine sputtering to life caused my head to whip in that direction.

Aro was trying to get away, but if he took the plane I had no idea how we were going to get back to civilization. I was running towards the shore before I even thought about a plan. I heard the officer yell, "Wait," but I didn't stop. That plane couldn't leave. I wouldn't let Aro get away.

I came around the corner of the cabin and took in the scene on the dock. There were two ropes tying the plane to the dock, but Aro had only untied one. As soon as he saw me he jumped back into the cockpit and revved the engine, forcing the plane to shoot out toward the open water. He had a slight bit of speed when the plane reached the end of the tether. Maybe he thought that the rope would break and he'd be able to get away.

Unfortunately for him the rope was new and the dock was sturdy and a portion of the wing was ripped away. Instead of stopping, Aro gunned the engine again and sped out to the middle of the lake. He turned the nose into the wind and began trying to get enough speed to lift off. He actually got about twenty feet into the air before something failed and the plane plummeted back down into the water, nose first. I heard the wrenching of metal as it folded in on itself and quickly sank.

The officer had come around the cabin too and was standing about fifteen feet away from me on the shore. We both watched the waves quietly for several minutes to see if Aro would surface. He didn't.

I was upwind of the man and decided that I could chance a breath. Taking a sip of air, I was grateful to not taste any blood, only clean Alaskan air.

The sun dropped behind the mountain as I turned to look at him. He was kneeling on the pebbled shore, rinsing his face and arms in the clear water. The cuts had already stopped oozing.

He got to his feet slowly, a wince of pain on his face as he once again held one arm around his torso. Marcus had meant to do him as much harm as possible with those last couple of kicks. And from the way the officer was holding himself, he must have accomplished that.

Twilight surrounded us as he took a step towards me. I took a step back. His heartbeat had finally slowed, but the call to taste the blood that I knew was coursing through his veins was insistent. It was saying that maybe this time it would smell good and maybe it would taste even better. I forced the feeling down by remembering my moments of retching on the ground. The feeling ebbed the smallest bit but I just didn't want to take any chance on losing control.

His second step had me backing away again. A look of confusion crossed his face, but he stopped coming toward me.

"So, daughter of a sheriff, I'm Detective Edward Masen, currently undercover with the DEA. I can't thank you enough for helping me back there. Marcus was intent on killing me. Well, he and Aro—the guy who went down in the plane—they were going to kill me anyway, but they were going to try and work me to death first." He paused as we both thought back over that scene.

I wondered if it bothered him as much as it did me. Maybe he had seen people killed like that in his career as a DEA agent. I certainly hadn't. Beside the five bodies in the cave, Marcus was the only other dead person that I had seen. And I'd never seen anyone killed. I wondered if I could be held accountable since the bullet had ricocheted off my arm. Surely not…but maybe?

Focusing on the here and now I realized that he had asked me a question. "They assured me that we were alone out here. How did you get here? I haven't heard another plane." As I was trying to come up with an answer he suddenly shot a whole list of questions at me.

"How did you stop the machete with your bare hands? How did those bullets not hurt you? I saw how far you threw the gun, how did you do that? What was up with the sparkling thing? Is that some kind of top secret body armor or something?" His questions came too fast for me to answer him and he suddenly seemed to realize that because he stopped, his eyes searching my face. I wondered how clearly he could see in the soft light of early evening.

What could I say in answer to his questions? I was pretty sure that vampires weren't commonly found anywhere. I know that I had only read about them in books and seen them in movies…they were fictional. While I debated the questions and the answers he seemed to come to a decision himself

"You know, I guess it really doesn't matter, does it? You saved me, daughter of a sheriff, and I can't thank you enough." His green eyes were sincere and I felt drawn to him again.

I really needed to find something to say, so I started with the easy things first. "Bella, my name is Bella and I walked here."

A smile crossed his face and he said, "Bella…that means beautiful in Italian. It suits you. You can call me Edward, if you'd like." He shifted his feet and I could see that he was in some discomfort from his injuries. "I think I need to sit, maybe back at the cabin." A sharp chuckle was followed by, "maybe we could get something to eat in there too. My rations have been short for the last couple of days."

"Okay." My conversational skills seemed to have left me, that is if I ever had them, but he seemed to think that was enough as he turned and walked slowly toward the cabin. I looked back out over the lake once more, but there was still no sign of Aro although there was an oily sheen forming where the plane had sunk. Turning back around I followed him, still staying back several feet.

Edward opened the door to the cabin and stepped inside. He flicked on a battery operated lantern and a warm yellow light filled the small space. It was just one room, with a bunk on each side of the fireplace; a small counter space with cabinets above and below it; and a table with three chairs. I stopped in the doorway and watched him look through the cabinets. It seemed prudent to not be in a small place with him until his cuts had closed completely. He ended up at a cooler that was sitting on the table. The other two had been eating the perishable items that they had brought with them.

"The last of the ice must have melted today because this stuff still feels cold. This food won't last long now that it's gone." He was grinning at me as he placed some cold cuts, cheese slices and a jar of mustard on the plank table. "I think I saw bread over here…" He turned and grabbed a loaf of bread and some paper plates from the counter behind him before he sat down and started sorting things out.

"I'm not a great cook, but I can sure pile some meat and cheese on this bread for both of us." The light in his eyes as he looked at the food made me smile. He'd probably be thrilled to know that he wouldn't have to share with me. But then again, when he found out why he wouldn't have to share, he might be creeped out.

"That's okay, I don't need any, but you go ahead." Using my voice felt weird. I hadn't really spoken more than a couple of words since I woke. There hadn't been anyone to talk to.

"What? Why? It's dinner time and there's plenty for both of us." Edward was focused on the food and didn't even look up. I could hear his stomach rumbling in anticipation.

"I…ate earlier." My voice was getting easier to use but the sound of it still surprised me.

Edward had two sandwiches put together and placed one on each plate, pushing one towards an empty chair and motioning me in. He had taken a huge bite when he looked up to see me still standing in the doorway. I was hoping that he wouldn't choke as he tried to clear his mouth to say something.

"Come on in and sit down. You ate earlier? At your camp? Where is that? How long have you been there?" He took another bite of sandwich while looking at me in a questioning manner.

I was going to have to come up with some answers. Before I could say anything, Edward put his sandwich down on the plate, looking a bit green. He looked around for something but seemed to be at a loss.

There was a case of water bottles sitting on the floor beside the door and I picked one up and feeling greatly daring, stepped inside the cabin and handed it to him. I left the door open behind me. The twilight had brought cooler air temps but he seemed to be comfortable for now. At least he'd be able to sleep inside tonight. I'd had a peek inside that shelter…he'd been sleeping on leaves and pine needles. The rustling sounds I'd hear were him burrowing under them. So far I hadn't felt cold in my new state of being and for that I was grateful.

Taking the water from me, Edward quickly took the lid off and swallowed half of it. "Thanks, come on, sit down and tell me about yourself." I was surprised that he didn't continue eating, but just kept sipping the water.

Edward Masen was on the side of the law. Maybe he could help me figure out what to do. Searching for words, I decided to start at the beginning.

~!~!~!~

~!~!~!~

~!~!~!~

Who was this woman? She had saved my life at least twice. First when Marcus nearly split me in two and then when Aro started shooting like a maniac. Her skin during the fight was surreal. My mind kept flipping through bits of information that I'd overheard during my academy days. Maybe it was some sort of high-tech body armor. But would that account for her strength? Or how fast she was? She almost blurred when she went running after Aro when he started the plane.

The plane that was at the bottom of the lake…with my bag on it…with my fake IPod in it. The thing was watertight, but without someone pushing the "on" button, it was just so much debris floating in the water. Maybe the stuff would float out and we'd be able to find it on the shore. Unless Bella had some transportation at her camp, we were pretty much stuck here. Summer was closing down and the snow would be deep between here and civilization soon.

Questions kept bubbling up inside me, but I saw the way she shut down when I started asking them, so I backed off. Besides, I really was hungry and maybe she'd open up over food.

I hadn't been able to get a good look at her since the attack. The sparkle thing had diverted me from seeing what her face looked like and then the sun dropped behind the mountains and twilight hit hard. The lantern in the cabin wasn't all that bright either, just bright enough to make the sandwiches. She didn't seem interested in eating. After taking a couple of bites, I didn't feel like it either. They hadn't fed me much for a couple of days and maybe stuffing myself wasn't such a good idea. I'd eat more later.

Looking around I spotted the water and she noticed and got me a bottle. She'd probably noticed the way I wasn't moving very fast. I really was beginning to ache and my stomach was on fire. The water was really good though.

"Thanks, come on, sit down and tell me about yourself." At least she was in the cabin now. I kept thinking that she was going to bolt; she had left the cabin door open after all. She took a seat with the lantern behind her, keeping her face in shadow. From what I could see of it, she was quite beautiful. Her skin wasn't doing that sparkle thing anymore either. Maybe it was something she turned on and off? Gah, I watch way too much sci-fi in my small amount of spare time.

Then she started talking, her voice low and lovely, but her words shocked me.

"I'm a college student at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Five other students and I were on a research field trip. The trek was supposed to be seven days long with a helicopter picking us up at the end. We were attacked on the third day out; they were killed and I was left for dead. I've been trying to find help since then."

Bella hadn't looked up since starting to speak, but now she did with a look of appeal on her pretty face. Even after what we had just been through, this left me speechless. I took a moment to regroup, then the cop in me started asking questions.

"Your friends were killed, how? Did you see who did it? How far have you walked? Are you hurt?" The last question seemed stupid after I asked it. She had protected me just an hour earlier. But wait, she said she was left for dead, so she must have been hurt somehow. I finally paused long enough for her to answer me.

"I don't know how they were killed, but I had a wound on my neck and there was so much blood everywhere. I think it was these three people who said they were students too. I didn't see them afterwards. I've been walking east for two and a half days." Bella got up and paced around the small cabin, her long brown braid whipping back and forth behind her. "I hoped we could get out on the plane, but it's gone. I'm sorry; I should have been faster and stopped him."

Even though I was really starting to ache and I was feeling sick, I stood up and stopped her with one hand on her shoulder. "Wait, you saved my life, you did all you could." It took some effort to get the words out and I felt a warm sheen of perspiration forming on my upper lip.

Bella stopped and looked up at me. The light from the lantern finally lit her eyes and I felt my own widen. Her irises were crimson. It looked like they were backlit, they were so brilliant. I dropped my hand and stepped back from her in shock.

"What? What's wrong, Edward? You don't look well at all…" Her hand was rising to my forehead, to check for fever probably, but I took another step back, the back of my knees hitting one of the bunks.

"Your eyes, Bella…I've never seen eyes that color before. Are you wearing contacts?" That absolutely had to be the answer, because what else could it be?

Bella's hands had flown to her cheeks and her eyes darted around the small space before lighting on a small square mirror beside the door. She blurred for just a second before reappearing in front of it. After one quick glance her hands shifted to her mouth as she whispered, "Red eyes…" and then she was gone out the door. How did she move so quickly?

I sat down on the bunk with a thump that jarred my head and my aching stomach. My memory dredged up a report that I had read at the academy, one that mentioned a murderer with red eyes. He had never been caught and it was passed around like a ghost story around a bonfire to scare the new recruits.

There was no way this young woman could be that murderer, even if she did have eyes that looked like rubies. She had saved me, and though Marcus and Aro were dead, it wasn't her fault. I was trying to work out how that bullet had ricocheted off her body when I realized that I was really feeling sick.

Pressing my fingers gently into my abdomen I found a particularly tender spot in the upper left part of my belly. Damn, that's one of the places where Marcus had kicked me; that's where my spleen was. If he had ruptured it, well, that would be really bad.

The plane was at the bottom of the lake and I was pretty sure that we were deep in the interior of Alaska, far away from prying eyes. Maybe the copter that was going to be sent for Bella and her classmates would overfly us. A bonfire might be a good idea, so that we could signal for help.

My head ached and I couldn't think any longer. I lay down on the bunk, grateful that I wasn't burying myself under a pile of leaves, and closed my eyes. I'd just rest and then I'd get back to finding answers to my questions for Bella of the ruby eyes.

~!~!~!~

~!~!~!~

~!~!~!~

My eyes were the same color as those from my memory, the ones that terrified me when they floated through my mind. Without a backward glance I was out of the cabin and in minutes was halfway up the mountain.

I stopped when I realized that there really was no place to go. Full dark had settled on the valley and I could see the light in the window of the cabin. Edward hadn't looked scared, just shocked, when he had noticed my eye color. I felt petrified when I saw them in my memories. Since I was pretty sure that the people with the red eyes had killed my friends, and changed me into what I now was, surely I was different. Edward hadn't been afraid.

But he had been feeling sick. I had felt his fever rising from where I sat across the table from him. I wondered just how injured he was from the beating that Marcus had given him. He had had an injury to his head when I first saw him too.

Sighing, I decided that I had to face up to this. He was my only chance at figuring out where I was and how to get back to Fairbanks. Getting to my feet I slowly started back down the mountain. I had startled a bear on my way up and he hadn't settled down when I came across him again. Again the flavor of his blood filled me like nothing else had. That was probably a good thing because Edward was injured and wouldn't be able to fight me off if I decided that human blood was palatable. Once again the thought of it made me shudder.

After draining the carnivore I slowly walked down to the cabin. I had left the door open when I left and Edward hadn't closed it. Listening hard, all I could hear was his somewhat labored breathing and his slightly elevated heartbeat.

He was sleeping on top of the blankets on one of the bunks. His forehead was shiny with sweat and a grimace was on his face. Stepping to his side I could feel the heat pouring off of him. That couldn't be good. I gently put my hand on his cheek and with a groan he pressed it into my palm as his eyes flickered open.

"Your hand is nice and cool. It feels good." Edward brought his own hand up and pressed mine more firmly to his face. I brought my other one up and ran it around the nape of his neck. He closed his eyes as he sighed in relief. "I've never felt hands as cold as yours."

That was the first time I realized that my body might feel cool to another person. I hadn't even thought about that aspect of the changes that I had undergone. Right now I was grateful that I could be of some use to him.

Suddenly Edward's eyes snapped open. "Bella, watch the shore to see if any of the debris from the plane floats up. I had a green duffle bag on it. In an inside pocket there's an IPod. Press the Menu button three times, then the reverse button twice and then the play button three times. That will send a signal that can be picked up on by satellite and the DEA will send help. Remember, three, two, three…in quick succession."

His teeth started to chatter when he was done talking and he moved away from my cold hands. I quickly got the blankets from the other bed and piled them on top of him. There was wood stacked beside the fireplace and after a bit of searching I found matches and got a fire started. In a few minutes the cabin was warm and some of his shaking stopped as he fell back to sleep.

When he would wake up hot, I'd cool him with my hands on his neck and face. He seemed to be soothed when I'd run my fingers through his hair. I loved the feel of it as it slipped through my fingers. The texture was fascinating and the color reflected back the flames in the fireplace. Then he would get cold again and I'd build the fire up. At one point I looked through the cabinets, searching for anything that might help.

I gasped in relief when I found a first aid kit. It looked like it might have been a military one because it had a little of everything in it—including some generic antibiotics. I read the instructions carefully and got Edward to take a couple of them with a few sips of water. I just hoped that he wasn't allergic. I watched him but he didn't seem to have any worse trouble breathing than he had before I gave them to him. Maybe they would even help.

It was a very long night.

When daylight finally filled the valley, Edward was deeply asleep. I made sure the fire was banked and then I went and stood on the shore of the lake. There was some debris bobbing around on the gentle waves and a few pieces had washed up near the dock. I gathered the bits on the shore but there wasn't any green duffle bag there. I thought that I could see something green out much farther.

I swished my hand in the water; it didn't feel cold to me. I glanced back at the cabin and made a decision. Stripping off my t-shirt, jeans and shoes I waded into the crystal clear water. It didn't feel bad at all. Reaching deeper water I dove in and swam out to the flotsam. It was mostly just bits and pieces. The green that I saw was a bale of bags. I was grateful to not come across Aro's body.

Ducking my head under the water, I could see the plane's wreckage resting in about forty feet of water. The wings had been sheared off and the plane's body was lying on its side. Maybe the bag was still inside. I dove deep and reached the plane quickly. I was actually rather thrilled at how easy it was and that holding my breath was causing me no discomfort.

My brief feeling of happiness at my skill in the water was overlaid with horror when I saw Aro tangled up in the nose of the plane. I turned my gaze to the back of the plane and saw a couple more small bags and the green duffle stuck on a piece of the wreckage. A kick of my feet and I had it in my hand and was shooting to the surface.

The sun was actually out when I got back to shore. The sparkling effect was in full force while I used my t-shirt to dry myself off. It was actually quite pretty and I was happy that I wasn't turning to dust or burning or something.

Carrying the duffle, I hurried back to the cabin. Edward was still asleep so I emptied the contents and hung the clothes on hooks around the walls to dry after I wrung them out. The little IPod was in the pocket just like Edward had said. I pressed the buttons and was rewarded by a slight hum from the device. I hoped that meant that it was working as I put it on the mantle.

I threw a couple more small logs on the fire before getting my hairbrush from my pack. I sat on the floor and let the heat from the fire soothe me as released my hair from the braid and then brushed it out smooth. When I was done, I looked over at Edward. He was still sleeping fitfully. I'd give him water and more of the antibiotics when he woke and hope that help would arrive before it was too late.

Sighing, I wrapped my arms around my knees as I warmed myself by the fire. At least I wasn't alone anymore and that made me feel slightly better.

~!~!~!~

I heard their voices and then I smelled them. Every hair on my body rose up in fright and I took a defensive stance in the doorway to the cabin. I needed to protect Edward, no matter the cost.

A feminine voice called out from the direction of Marcus' body, "Carlisle, there's a dead man here. He's been shot!"

"Dude, that's one heck of a poppy and pot crop they've got growing here!" That one was male.

They were upwind of me and I smelled six distinctive scents. Suddenly they were standing in an arc around the front of the cabin, varying looks of shock on their beautiful faces. I had wanted help for him, but not from these people. Every instinct in my body told me that they were dangerous. The fact that they moved as fast as I could underlined that they were more than human. The last time I came into contact with people like them, my friends had died and I was now different.

There were three men and three women. They were grouped in pairs. A huge man with dimples was with a gorgeous blonde woman. The next couple was an elegant blonde man and a woman with caramel colored hair that waved gently back from her face. A tall lanky man was standing slightly ahead of the group with a small girl with spiky hair just behind him.

The man in the front was wearing a shirt with the sleeves rolled up to show the scars that he was covered with. He seemed more dangerous than the rest and I felt a growl rise in my throat and everyone stilled.

Then I noticed something even stranger. They all had golden eyes, not the red ones of my nightmares.

A moan from the cabin behind me broke the tableau.

"Carlisle, she has a human in there! She's protecting him. I can feel it." The dangerous man exclaimed.

The girl got a glazed look on her face and then said, "She's a newborn and she will fight to protect him."

The others spoke quickly, but I could hear their comments:

"Why would she protect a human when she's a newborn?"

"What's she doing out here? Did she shoot the other guy?"

"Carlisle, please be careful!"

I growled louder as the blonde man stepped forward. He was sniffing the air and a concerned look was on his face.

"I'm Carlisle Cullen and this is my family." He pointed at each of them as he made the introductions. "Rosalie and Emmett, Jasper and Alice…and my wife, Esme. We don't mean to harm you. Is your friend ill? I'm a doctor, maybe I can help." His had his hands raised and for some reason I felt my fear dissipate a little. If he really was a doctor, Edward certainly could use his help. But what if it was a trap?

Another groan from the cabin made my decision for me.

"If you are a doctor, we could use your help. But only you, not the rest." I made my demand and waited until they agreed.

When they all nodded I moved to the side enough to let the doctor in through the door. I was torn, should I stay and watch the others? Or should I go inside and make sure the doctor didn't hurt Edward? I finally couldn't stand it, so stepped inside and closed the door. I knew my own strength and that they could easily break it down, but it made me feel a little better. They were all murmuring together but ignored them and focused on what was happening inside the cabin.

Carlisle Cullen was kneeling beside the bunk running his hands gently over Edward's stomach. When he pressed in one place I could see Edward wince, even in his sleep.

"Who is he and what happened to him?" he asked.

I quickly filled him in on the head injury he arrived with, the lack of food and the beating he took the day before. The doctor's face was concerned as he continued examining Edward. When he finished he stood, giving me plenty of space as he turned to face me.

"Can you tell me your name and how you came to be here?" he asked.

I really wanted him to tell me what was going on with Edward, but I told him the same story that I had told Edward. There were several exclamations from outside filled with concern that a newborn was with a human. I didn't understand that.

"Bella, do you understand what has happened to you?" Carlisle asked. "Do you know what we are?"

With my eyes still on Edward I nodded as I whispered, "I finally figured out that all the signs say that I'm a vampire. You all are too? But why are your eyes gold?"

Smiling, Carlisle agreed, "Yes, we are vampires. Our family only drinks from animals; that's why our eyes are this color."

"But then why aren't mine gold too? They're red like the ones that hurt me and killed my friends! I've only drunk animals since I woke up!" My voice had risen to a wail and Edward stirred on the bed.

"Bella…" His voice was raspy and I rushed over to him, carefully slipping my arm around his shoulders and offering him a sip of water. He pressed himself into the coolness of my side and I could feel how high his fever was. After another small drink, he passed out again and I felt fear rush through me.

I looked up at the doctor by my side. "Is he going to be okay? Can you help him? You have to help him…"

A tap at the door had me growling as I cuddled Edward closer to my chest. Carlisle moved to stand in front of it.

"It's okay, Bella, they won't hurt Edward or you. I won't let them inside, but let me open the door, okay?" For some reason I trusted him and nodded, angling my body to shield Edward. Him I trusted, the others not so much.

The dangerous one and the little one were just outside the door. "Carlisle, he's her mate. I can feel it and Alice has seen it."

Their words didn't make any sense to me. Whose mate? What did that mean? And, "Alice had seen it," didn't make much sense either.

"Bella, would you come out here for a moment? We need to talk and I don't want to disturb Edward." Carlisle's voice was calm and soothing. Only his appeal to Edward's comfort made me agree to leave him.

They had all moved back from the cabin door, giving me space, which I appreciated. It felt weird to be the focus of all of their attention. The big guy, Emmett, winked at me when I caught his eye. It was a friendly gesture and I relaxed the smallest amount. Esme, Carlisle's wife, looked like she wanted to hug me. That was the look that made me relax a little more and for a brief moment I wished that I could let her do so, then I realized that I was in the midst of a group, a coven, of vampires and my anxiety peaked again before it began to ease off.

Carlisle spoke up, "Bella, we know you have questions and we'll answer then fully when we have a bit more time. Right now Edward doesn't have that luxury. I believe that his spleen has been torn—it was probably just a small tear—which is why he's still with us. But there is infection throughout his body and no way to get him to a hospital…"

I interrupted him, "But he has to live!" It felt like my unbeating heart was going to shatter.

"Bella, he only has one chance to survive. But you need to make the decision." Carlisle's words brought gasps from Rosalie and Esme and I wondered at that.

"Anything, anything at all that you need to do, just do it." If I could have, I would have grabbed Carlisle and pushed him back into the cabin.

"Bella, I'm going to have to change him, like you were changed. It's the only way he can survive."

Memories of burning flew through my mind and I shuddered. They were quickly followed by remembering how it felt to run, to jump over the river, to swim in the water without the need for air. And then the clincher, the feeling of how much Edward had come to mean to me in just a few days. It was a need on an almost molecular level. Even now it hurt to be twenty feet from him.

"He'll have red eyes too?"

"Yes, but we'll teach him about our dietary rules and given time, his eyes could be gold too. As yours will be if you continue to not drink from humans and only feed on animals. Right now your eyes are red because of your own blood, retained in the tissues of your body." Carlisle's words filled in that gap. Vampires who drank from humans had red eyes, vampires who fed on animals had gold.

"I can't drink from humans." A shudder punctuated my words. "I always got sick when I smelled blood, before, but I think being locked in the cave with my dead friends turned me off it afterwards. I was drawn to the idea of Edward's blood, but when I smelled it, it made me sick. I had to stop breathing when Marcus' was shot."

"About that," Jasper began, "we'd really like to know what happened here."

Carlisle waved him off, "There will be time for that later, right now we need to focus on Edward."

"Yes, Carlisle, please just save him…" I was begging and didn't care who heard me. At that point Esme came up and when she put her arms around me, I fell into the comfort of her arms.

Now that the decision had been made, Carlisle told me that he'd have to hunt first and then he'd be the one to change Edward while everyone else kept their distance. They told me how that happened and they theorized that the nomads that had killed my friends hadn't quite drained me; that a bit of my blood was left to allow the change to occur.

I asked why they all had to leave and was told that they, who drank animals by choice, were still drawn to human blood. "Carlisle, will you be okay with Edward's blood?" Fear that this man was going to hurt Edward had my anxiety levels ratcheting up. Again they immediately eased off and Alice told me that Jasper could do that for me, ease my fears.

"Bella, Edward will be fine in my hands. But I want you to go with the others when I start the change. You don't need to be near his blood either, even if you won't be tempted." I could see his worry that maybe I wasn't as strong on this as I had said.

"No, I need to be here, with him. I was scared when it happened to me and I don't want him to be scared." I was insistent.

Rosalie came and stood beside me. "I'll stay too, Carlisle. I'll hold my breath and help Bella. You know I stayed when you changed Emmett."

I looked at the gorgeous blonde and thanked her, she nodded and said, "Remind me to tell you how I found my mate being mauled by a bear."

There was that word again, mate. It fit the way that I felt about Edward. I had no clue how he felt about me, other than needing me that last day, but if there was any way that I could get him to see me that way, I wanted the chance for it to happen.

I sat with Edward while Carlisle hunted. I told him what was going to happen and that I'd never leave his side.

Rosalie moved the other bunk outside, saying that being the open air would help. Carlisle returned and the others left us. Once Edward was on the bunk outside Carlisle let me have another moment with him.

Pressing my forehead to his feverish one, I promised him that he would never be alone, that I'd be there for him if he wished. Kissing his temple I stood and backed away. Rosalie locked her arms around me and we watched while Carlisle stepped to Edward's side.

"Is he praying, Rosalie?" I asked.

"Yes, Carlisle is a man of faith and this is a huge step to take with a living being. He doesn't take it lightly. If Edward wasn't your mate, he probably wouldn't even do it." There was that word again.

Needing the distraction from the scene in front of me, I asked, "Tell me about what that means. Tell me about being a vampire…"

Rosalie's voice filled my ear as I watched Carlisle lean over Edward. He had told me that he'd make a bite at his neck and would pump his venom into his body. As weak as Edward was, he felt he wouldn't have to take much blood at all.

Edward's body arched as Carlisle bit and it was all I could do to not rush forward and slam Carlisle away. Rosalie's words helped to calm me as she kept telling me over and over that this was the beginning…not an ending.

Once Carlisle had sealed the bite, he waved me over and even Rosalie's arms couldn't keep me there. I looked down at Edward and his eyes were open. I memorized the lush green of them, the color of emeralds, knowing that they would soon match mine…rubies...before becoming topaz.

The beginning…it was the beginning. I'd hold onto that thought until he woke and I'd see if he thought I was his mate as well.

Emeralds to rubies, forever was beginning.


A/N…thanks for reading! This was a bit darker for me, but I did find it fun to write. www .fanfiction-challenges. blogspot. com

Two of my favorites in the contest are LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE by LJ Summers…made me SHIVER! And THE KEPT MENS CLUB by Melolabel…I do love her work.

A rather entertaining article on Giardia:

http: /www. outdoorsdirectory. com/magazine/dont_drink_the_water. htm

Again, thank you for reading!

Kathie