Reamhar is my beta for this. Any remaining errors – my fault.

I don't own Twilight.


4. The Poodle

Milan

I'm in a bit of a pickle – my throat burns and I'm pants are too tight due to the see-through white dress Bella is wearing on the runway today; a bad combination and I'm not sure I can remedy either one of these problems until much later. Upon Carlisle's suggestion I picked up some rats for breakfast (I'd like to emphasize: not my idea). The consistency of the blood itself was revolting: thick and sandy. The taste reminded me of rotten human food. My stomach is not feeling too well – and that's an understatement. I've been debating for the last half hour whether I should run to the bathroom to upchuck aforementioned breakfast snack.

As if spending the morning hours with my insufferable family wasn't enough to make anybody sick…

After listening to Carlisle's speech about the scarcity of food sources in the urban environment and his survival strategies for the undead for a good hour, I was dying to get out of the place. Enduring any of the members of my family would have seriously killed my otherwise fairly upbeat mood since I'd run back into Bella. Luckily, I managed to avoid Alice and Jasper altogether, and Rose and Emmett were occupied: she, watching the home shopping network, he, braiding her hair. Both minds blissfully blank. Esme was busy searching property sites for her next project. What else is new?

I wasted no time, running out of there and tracking down Bella on her way to her first assignment for the day. Heeding Alice's warnings, I made sure to keep my distance, but I swear I heard her stomach growl from a mile away (not sure whether I was the cause of it).

The show is almost over now. Apparently the white dress was the last piece. She has one more show to go to after this. I'm about to ditch the place when I become privy to some unsavory thoughts by one of the other models about Bella's behind. At first I barely listen, but then the girl's thoughts turn outright vicious. I'm not pleased, to say the least. The girl is green with envy about that see-through number my girl is donning and plans to tell Bella that her ass looked fat in it. Anybody telling her she's gained so much as an ounce would send her even deeper into starvation mode – just what I'm trying to avoid. If my goal is to get laid, the girl will need to eat, I'm certain of that. Right now, all I am to her is a wonderfully flavored Popsicle. I resolve that I can't let that disgruntled little girl disrupt my plans and decide to take action.

If I don't, I fear I'll end up masturbating until the cows come home … then I'd possible have to drain the cows … well … and I can't let that happen.

I hide near a clothe rack backstage and when she walks past me, I toss a shirt over her head and stuff her into a empty room nobody seems to be using. I do this all of course in record speed and by the time she starts yelling bloody murder and thinks about kicking me in the crotch, I'm a safe distance away and the door is locked.

She's already forgotten about Bella by when I exit the building.

I know Bella has one more show for which Alice couldn't obtain an invite and that means I have another hour to kill before our rendezvous tonight. I've decided based on the chat with my coo-coo sister that I'm going to feed her tonight, whether she wants to or not. Maybe once she's no longer hungry, maybe I can detect something other than her blood.

Speaking of blood – now is as good time as any for me to look for another snack.

I detect the smell of a meat-eating mammal…not rat…not mouse…

I spot a tall guy with hideous designer specs dressed in pants that look too small and tight to be comfortable, holding on loosely to a leach with a King Poodle on it. Hideous creatures, both of them, but at least the poodle's head isn't as polluted. The guy apparently wants to tie me to his bed and stuff a rolling pin up my ass.

Not up my alley. Not the way I roll.

Generally, I can handle the minds of mild mannered gay men who want to dine me, bring me flowers and pinch my nipples, but this one? I have to draw a line at kitchen appliances. I'm appalled.

The poodle is only contemplating one thing: canned food consisting of ground up bone meal with a minimal amount of processed meat.

But there's some meat.

Would poodle be an acceptable addition to my diet? Maybe I should call Carlisle? I decide not to. I don't care to listen to his preachy voice again today. I don't have time to hunt for something better, so the poodle will do.

Thankfully the perv drops said poodle off at an empty apartment and runs out of listening distance. I break into the apartment without much effort. The poodle barks.

For an overly domesticated creature, its instincts work well. I'm impressed. It doesn't shut up, its sounds alternating between high-pitched barks and low growls.

I pause for a brief moment before grabbing the animal and draining it. The thing tastes bad with a slight metallic aftertaste, but better than the rat I had for breakfast. Overall, not a bad substitute, I conclude. A mountain lion would of course be preferable, but I'm not kidding myself; I'm definitely not going to find a carnivore like that anywhere close…unless…ummm…

Before leaving the place, I toss the remaining skin covered in white curls and flesh into the fireplace and make a quick fire. The stink forces me to lean out the window until the carcass is burned. I can't believe I drank that.

Before I leave, I wash my hands and face and stare into the mirror with self-loathing.

Draining ugly pets … it's a sad state of affairs. Not that chasing after wildlife in this region is challenging or fun.

'Look at what you just did!' my conscience screams at me, 'and you want her to become one of your kind?

I'd keep her human once I gain her affection and trust, if it was an option. Unfortunately, I know it's not since I wouldn't be able to resist her blood. There's also the problem of the Volturi rules, which we all have to follow. One of them requires that once disclosure of our existences has been revealed to a human, we have to kill them or change them.

Breaking into a blood bank might be better than drying out pets, but the eye color? Freaky. Never mind that once you start on a "human" diet, you'll have difficultly stopping. Let's just say, the withdrawal symptoms are not fun.

Better stick to animals. I take some unnecessary breaths, mediate and stroll casually out of the building. Life could be worse.

~000~

I can smell her scent in the air before I see her. I wait patiently at the hotel's entrance until I see her approaching. She has some skimpy mini-dress on and high-heeled boots, leaving half the guys drooling in her wake as she struts with determination toward the hotel entrance. These days I actually appear to have competition though she doesn't seem to be paying them any mind either.

"Bella," I say, barely loud enough for her to hear when she's about to pass me.

"Mmmh?" She looks at me like she wasn't expecting me. "Oh, you again."

I give her the grin. No reaction.

Move on to a new trick, Cullen.

"I said I'd be here tonight." I pause and listen to the reliable gurgling sound of her stomach acid. "You look hungry. Actually, you sound hungry too."

She stares at me, wide-eyed.

"May I?" I carefully grab her arm.

"Not a restaurant. I can't."

"I believe you said so last night."

"If you think I'm going up to a room or your apartment with you, you're wrong."

I chuckle. I see her bra peaking out from her grey dress. I swallow, close my eyes and take a minute.

"My plans were more … cultured, you could say."

"What?" She cocks an eyebrow at me. "What exactly did you have in mind?"

"It's just a casual date, Isabella. Old high school friends catching up. Humor me. It will be fun. You'll see," I whisper near her neck. Goosebumps rise on her skin. A good sign, I think, but still no sure sign that she actually finds me attractive in any sort of way. It might just be my cold breath that's causing her hairs to rise.

For a moment I think she might actually protest again, but then she simply nods and follows me and we get into my car.

"You know they have speed limits in Italy?" She's eyeing the speedometer with a blank expression on her face.

I smile. The sweet, luscious scent of her blood is filling the car. My throat is itching and my jeans feel tight, but in comparison to her I look perfectly relaxed. She's sitting straight as an arrow, clutching the seat and the door handle. I can't detect fear though, only the sound of her stomach growling.

"Would you feel more comfortable if I'd slow down?"

"No. Keep it going. I don't mind. How much farther?" she asks, as I am about to pull up in front of our destination for the evening.

"We're here actually." Her hand pulls the lever to open the door the second the car comes to a stop and she jumps out. I get out of the car at humanly acceptable speed and stand next to her. "Shall we?" I point to the entrance of the old building in front of us.

She walks along beside me with her perfect, graceful runway strut.

"Buona sera," I greet the doorman. He knows me from this afternoon when I made the reservation.

"What is this? I told you I'm not going to your apartment," she's hisses.

"Senor Cullen." The doorman nods.

"I don't live here. In fact, I believe the building is strictly used for commercial purposes." I point to the signs of businesses near the entryway. "My intentions are completely harmless. I'm bored in this town. My nightly excursions are leaving something to be desired. So?"

I'm not even lying.

"Listen, Cullen. I don't know why you're so intent on hanging out with me, because God knows we were never friends in high school—"

"And I'm trying to remedy that now," I tell her as we step in the elevator. Another smile. Still nothing, but at least she's not running in the other direction. Yet.

The door opens and she stares at the sign near the door.

La Cuccina

I motion for the door and Senora Coppola is opening the door just as we exit the old-fashioned wrought iron gates of the antique machine.

"Senor Cullen. So pleased to have you here tonight! Is this the lovely lady who will be cooking with us tonight?" She smiles at me while drying her fingers on her apron. She inspects Bella and I can see her grandmotherly instinct kicking in. She wants to fatten her up just as much as I do. "Welcome! We'll have fun tonight and I promise you'll get to taste everything we're making."

Bella smirks at the Senora Coppola as she shakes her hand.

"Just to warn you, I don't know how to cook and I am blessed with two left hands," Bella says with a smile on her face the minute we're shown into the big industrial kitchen where several other students have already gathered.

"I'm sure it's not that bad," I say in a low voice, as I take her coat and swear I hear a whimper. I inhale deeply, but smell nothing but her sweet blood.

"Oh, you have no idea! I hope blood doesn't scare you."

I cough. "No, not at all. Though I believe there will be minimal cutting involved. It's an introduction to Italian deserts course." I check out the table near us to confirm the absence of knifes.

'I'd take a slice of that…ohlala … he looks so pretty.' I hear. I hate the word pretty. Handsome I can handle. But pretty? No way.

I glance around, and locate the source: a red headed girl with too much makeup covering up unsightly acne scars, standing behind the steel table staring at me. If it weren't for my x-ray vision, she'd be mildly attractive. Unfortunately her blood also smells like old socks. I'll have to try extra hard to block her thoughts.

'Look what the cat dragged in. Awoooo…wooo… bite her in the neck and mount her. I'll give her food and she'll be eating out of my paws in no time.' I locate the source of that one quickly. A dark haired guy with a pony tale and the stench of wet dog is licking his fingers.

Maybe this wasn't a good idea?


THANK you for reading! Reviews would as delicious as a mountain lion for Edward.