A/N This story is AU/OOC. They are your Twilight vampires in name and some characteristics only. They are familiar, but altered to fit the purposes of the story. No venom, no sparkling, very little vegetarianism.
Rated M for a reason. All warnings apply.
Disclaimer - Characters and all references to the Twilight series belong to their creator/author Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement intended or implied. I'm humbled and thankful she allows us to play with her story, especially with Edward...le sigh.
Beta'd by Octoberland. NOTE: I spell like a Canadian because I'm, well, Canadian. Go figure, eh.
Huge special thanks go out to my fabulous pre-readers Popola and Ania who were probably wondering if I was ever going to post this one. Thanks for hanging in and for the amazing amount of help you both have been. xo
**Story based loosely on the song, Temptation by The Tea Party.**
Prey for the Wicked
. . . . . .
Driven by restrained desire
I want what I need...
. . . . . .
He used to be a man.
Once upon a time in the Land of Nod, he reflects sourly, for all that seems like a dream to him now. His human memories are as vaporous and thin as the cigarette smoke drifting from the mouth of the doorman slash bouncer who shifts uneasily to the side to allow him entry into the dingy tavern. The human's mind scrambles to understand his sudden fear of the stranger before him, his uneasiness not quite overruling his ego. For a moment the fool even toys with the idea of denying him entrance, provoking a confrontation and therefore re-establishing his mental musings that he is a bad ass, afraid of no one.
In response to both the thought and the slight shift in the man's body weight, Edward raises his eyes. Eyes that used to be green - he does remember that much - and for a time topaz, though neither of those colours can be found now. Tonight his eyes are black. Black with his self imposed thirst and his impatience; empty windows to the soulless cavern his body has become. Rimmed in fading red, they are a glaring warning sign for anyone he comes in contact with.
The doorman and self professed bad ass blanches an unhealthy shade of white and narrowly avoids pissing himself as Edward's lip curls up in annoyance. Instinctual human fears kick in, and the man steps back away from the door, gesturing to it in sudden exuberant invitation, not caring in the least what he may be unleashing on the patrons inside. Only caring that Edward and his no longer green or topaz eyes turn their dark gaze, and even darker demeanour, elsewhere, anywhere, so long as it's not on him.
Smirking, Edward steps on the half smoked cigarette that has fallen from the male's suddenly nerveless fingers, snuffing out the glowing amber end. He grinds it to pulp and dust against the damp pavement, inhaling the man's fear as it flavours the air and ignites his thirst. He smiles once more, flashing teeth which gleam preternaturally white, before slipping through the now unbarred door. His boot heels thump in time with the staccato rhythm of the bouncer's racing heart.
Yes, Edward used to be a man, but as he steps over the threshold into the poorly lit interior, he's never been more aware of what he is now.
Sliding easily through the throng of bodies, half amused by the way they instinctively shuffle to create a path for him, he makes his way to a shadowed corner near the bar and into an empty booth. A tired looking cocktail waitress with a mind barely on her job approaches, and he asks for a beverage he won't drink. A necessary prop to soothe the herd, giving the illusion that he is one of them and therefore nothing really to fear.
How easily humans are fooled. How fiercely they cling to their naive belief that they rest solely upon the throne at the top of the food chain. He could easily disabuse them of their false notion. Strike down this entire room, starting with the waitress who places his drink down neatly on a cheap paper napkin. He would be finished with the others before her screams even filter through their consciousness.
The waitress moves away unharmed, tucking his generous tip into her pocket as Edward reclines against the aged upholstery. He isn't here to prove anyone wrong. He's here to lose himself in the thick, pulsing beat of live rock music. The driving thrum of bass, the sweet lick of guitar riffs, the melodic sounds of a throaty, baritone singer with rare perfect pitch. To drown out the incessant cacophony of mind noise that is the bane of his existence, his unrelenting cross to bear, his curse. For just one moment in his damned existence, he wishes to forget who and what he is.
For a while it works. Capable of hearing every subtle nuance of the music, relishing the old buildings acoustical attributes, Edward drifts in a sea of hard melody and sound, feeling the pound of drums and bass reverberate through the soles of his feet. The band is good, the singer better, and for a time even the human thoughts he can't quite keep out all center around the prowess of the musicians. This is as near to silence and bliss as he ever gets, and when it is stolen from him it feels like the equivalent of being doused in freezing water.
He sees her first. A shadow passing through his periphery of a slight young woman with mahogany hair and delicate features. The part of his mind not engaged with the music registers her, and then just as quickly disregards her. She is nothing more than another body, another human. Prey to most of his kind, nothing at all to him...
She pushes her hair away from her face, and the movement sends her essence drifting through the stale air. The universe shifts violently on its axis, hurtling him out of the music and straight into hell.
Her scent is every dark desire he's ever had wrapped up in one fragile package. He's up out of the booth and following her before he has time to process it all, moving in a way that red flags him as a predator and not caring a bit. Every sweet inhalation torches his throat, filling him with heat and hunger, and his weeks of deprivation are all for nothing. His desperate struggle to be more than what his nature demands is for nothing. The pathetic, scrabbling clutch at the distant memory of who he used to be dissolves, as though her aroma is acid and his resolve nothing more than buttery-soft human flesh.
He follows her out into the crowd, starved and primal, while she pushes and elbows her way past people who part for him without thought. Her blood beckons him closer as his mind plays out carnage and possibility. Slaughtering everyone around him is no longer the musing of a weary mind, but a cold reckoning, a certain fact.
To get to her he will gladly murder the masses.
She stops near the small stage, the vibration of noise through the massive speakers quivering the fine hairs on her arms and the succulent stalk of her pale neck. Her head falls back, and she begins to sway to the beat, a dancing siren calling him to his doom, to the shattering of his illusion that he is anything less than a monster. For years he has existed on the blood of men who prey on the weak, who take pleasure in inflicting pain and death on those as undeserving as the creature dancing in front of him. Tonight he is what he loathes, the very evil he's deluded himself into judging and condemning for the last century.
Not that it matters. His self hatred will not change anything for this human girl. He has fought temptation and won more times than even he can count, but this is not simple temptation, this is madness. Bloodlust so strong and pure it annihilates all else.
He watches her through the mind of the singer, snarling low in his throat as the man's thoughts show awakening interest. He likes the way she moves, losing herself to the rhythm he effortlessly coaxes from his instrument. He toys with the idea of having her body. Edward feels the snarl he's struggling to contain ripple louder from his throat, blending with the rising crescendo of the drums as the song sails into its climax.
The threat that another might lay claim to his meal accomplishes what lost sanity could not. Edward steps away from the girl, merging with the crowd. It changes nothing of her fate. He will have her, he will steal every last drop of blood from her body, but some reason is returning. This is not the place or the time. As he drifts farther away, her perfect scent waning in the crush of sweating bodies, he smiles darkly at his new thought.
She is a meal meant to be savoured. One taken slowly and in private, away from prying eyes and the necessity of closing them. He can be patient.
. . . . . .
From his perch on top a twenty story building a half block away from the bar, Edward can see everything. He assumes she'll leave through the front door, but with his vantage point he has a view of all exits. She won't be able to slip by him, and even if she did, he knows he would have no difficultly following her scent—to the ends of the earth if need be.
He crouches on the narrow ledge. The wind, stronger at this elevation, snaps his black jacket out behind him, though the rest of his form could be construed as a statue for all its perfect stillness. Nothing moves except his eyes, dark as the midnight sky above him.
He sees her the moment she steps outside, despite the growing throng of intoxicated mortals teeming from the building behind her. People linger on the sidewalks, spilling out into the road, waiting for Taxis and designated drivers to pull up and collect them. He attunes all his senses to her, blocking out the tangle of voices and thoughts coming from the concourse of revellers, searching for the singularity of her consciousness. Having never heard her speak or discerned anything about her beyond the rudimentary physical attributes he noted when she passed by him, he's not surprised when he cannot find it. He watches her come to a stop and turn to look down the street. He takes note of the landmarks her vision is encountering, attempting again to find her mind by searching for a match in the visual clues. It's another voice and mind, however, that catches his attention as he interprets a vision of the girl through their eyes.
"Bella! Bella, wait up a minute!"
Edward watches her turn on her heel toward the male approaching, and finds himself inhaling deeply as her hair fans out, hoping to catch the perfect, blinding scent of her again. The wind mocks him as it swirls in the opposite direction, stealing her scent and pressing his coat back against his body. He notes her name, seals it in his mind with all the other useless details he doesn't need, before growling low in his throat at the way a proprietary hand takes her arm.
"Hey, were you just gonna leave without saying a word?"
Edward's attention is so intent he finds himself leaning over the precarious edge as though he'll be able to hear clearer. Preposterous idea, his hearing is faultless even at this distance. Mere inches won't make the slightest difference, but his common sense is overruled by his eagerness to learn the cadence of her speech.
"Sorry, Mike. The crowd and all. It was crazy; I didn't know where you were."
Her voice surprises Edward. He struggles to equate the soft, musical intonation of words slipping past her bow shaped mouth with the call of the demon siren that lured him into near insanity with thirst. Surely the two should not be one and the same. He leans farther out, one hand gripping the concrete ledge beneath his feet so tightly it begins to crumble. Dust and small chunks of rubble rain down the side of the building, pattering against the wall and scraping past window panes. He loosens his hold marginally.
The man child's hand slips down the girl's arm, securing her wrist and tugging forcefully.
"Well, here I am. Come back inside for a bit. I'll introduce you to the band." The tone he uses on her is almost patronizing. Combined with the cajoling upturn of a smile, his mind shows Edward he's not used to being turned down. His irritation at the amount of effort he needs to expend with this girl pours from his thoughts.
When she tugs back against his hold and attempts to dig the flimsy soles of her shoes into the sidewalk to resist, his irritation grows. Edward watches the idiot's meaty fingers tightening over her tiny wrist. The girl makes a hissing sound of discomfort. Even from this distance, Edward can clearly read her body language and facial expression, both of which are demanding release from the wastrel's hold. The inner depths of her mind, however, continues to elude him, and his concentration is broken by the slight 'oh' of pain her lips form in reaction to the newest jerk on her arm.
In contrast, the thoughts of the boy are easily read, overlapping his spoken words and contradicting the seedy smile he means to placate her with. "Come on, Bella. Don't be a party pooper." Or a fucking tease, showing up here, dressed in those tight jeans, trying to play it up like you're so much better than me. "The night is young, we'll hang out, have a few more drinks." As many as it takes to loosen your tight ass up. "It'll be fun." Not half as fun as it's going to be to see you on your knees, that prissy mouth around my...
A disgusted hiss escapes Edward's lips as the boy's thoughts grow increasingly vile with the girl's continued rejection. In an instant, he lets go of the ledge and leaps down, falling the twenty stories to land behind a large redwood tree on silent feet. The shadows and his unnatural speed hide the movements that bring him up behind the girl before she finishes the sentence containing her current rebuttal.
"I'm tired, Mike. I'm going to head home. It's been a long...Ow, let go, Jesus..."
As she tugs back, Edward steps around her and clamps his hand in a vise-like grip over the male's wrist. It takes concentration and effort to resist tearing the hand off and presenting it like a gory souvenir. As it is, Edward's hold is calculated with only enough restraint to prevent permanent damage, not sharp, attention-grabbing pain. The greasy digits instantly release the pretty flesh beneath them, but Edward doesn't follow suit. Instead, he wrenches the boy's arm around so his palm faces upward, fingers twitching spasmodically as Edward adds pressure, transforming 'sharp and attention-grabbing' into full fledged agony. The squealing sound the idiot emits is utterly satisfying. Stepping closer, Edward uses his forward momentum to usher the boy backward three full steps, effectively placing his own body like a shield in front of the girl in an oddly protective move.
"I believe the young lady is not interested, Michael." Edward sneers the name. If it weren't for the lingering patrons of the bar surrounding him, he would happily grind the weak bones beneath his grip into splintered shards.
"Hey, ah, ahhhhh…shit. What the fuck, asshole...?"
Releasing him before the little cretin can turn his disjointed verbalization into any fouler discourse, Edward makes eye contact. Like the bouncer before him, Mike blanches and cradles his severely sprained wrist to his chest, self protective instincts kicking in. His face pales by several shades, and his bulging eyes reflect burgeoning fear.
"Whatever," he mumbles, his nerves making his voice shake even as he attempts bravado and nonchalance. "I'm going back inside, Bella. You do what the fuck you want." He shuffles away quickly, darting glances over his shoulder, worried that Edward will follow him, as well he should be. Even now with the perfect scent of his intended prey bombarding him, Edward's only thought is the desire to break the insolent little twerp.
A small hand touches his arm. The unaccustomed heat burns straight through the multiple layers of his coat and shirt to the skin beneath, startling him from his violent musings.
He turns to be confronted by large brown eyes full of life, framed by a delicate, heart-shaped face. Her expression at the moment conveys uncertainty tinged with gratitude. Inhaling her unique perfume delicately through his nostrils, he's surprised to find his thirst is outweighed by the stunning knowledge that her mind remains steadfastly silent to him. Combined with the continued warmth and weight of her hand, which has yet to move away from his arm, his curiosity at this enigmatic slip of a girl grows exponentially with the aching thirst that tingles in his palate. No mind has ever been immune to his gift.
She drops her hand, and Edward instantly misses the warmth. Still trying to delve beyond whatever obstruction her thoughts hide behind, it's a moment before he realizes his silence is doing what his mere presence should have. It's making her uncomfortable. It occurs to him that no human has ever willingly touched him before. The fact she not only did so, but lingered in the action, skitters through his fragmented thoughts, rich with a wealth of possibilities he can't yet define.
Colour in varying shades of pink flushes her complexion as it infuses with the blood his throat and body are screaming for. He watches her fidget, nervously rubbing her abused wrist.
"You're welcome." The words of his belated reply are accompanied by a rush of breath he knows is appealing to her kind. For the first time ever in his immortal existence, Edward enjoys the slightly dazed expression that clouds her eyes. Never before has he attempted to lure prey, always simply taking what he wanted, ending miserable lives in the same violent ways his victims were fond of perpetrating.
"Are you harmed?" he asks, dropping the tone of his voice several octaves in a way that adopts a seductive quality. Her eyelids flutter weakly, and he can hear the rich, liquid rush of blood through her veins accelerating. The sound is hypnotic. She swallows, and he watches her throat muscles contract in the loveliest way. Visions of his previous victims wash over him, their screams and terror soaked pleas playing an enticing background song to her soft reply.
"No. I'm fine, really."
The street has become a quieter place. Only a few people linger now, smoking the last of their cigarettes, grasping at dwindling threads of companionship, and Bella takes note. Her eyes move from him to them, then back again, and he wonders if increasing isolation will finally trigger the nervous reactions he's accustomed to.
Another taxi pulls to the curb close to where they stand, but she makes no move toward it. Instead, a young, newly matched couple tumbles inside, lips barely parting from one another in their alcohol induced lust.
Their carnal thoughts bombard Edward, mixing with the blood soaked memories still playing out in his mind. He finds a vision of Bella superimposed over the nameless pair, and it's her writhing in pleasure. Her delicate mouth opening in a purring moan that sounds like his name...
"Are you waiting for a ride?" he asks, gesturing to the street and several idling cars waiting for vacancies at the curb.
"No. I live only a few blocks away." Her lack of self-preservation astounds him, chasing away the last of his inappropriate fantasy. First the touch, and now the open way she shares personal information. "I thought I'd walk home," she adds, and his opinion on her lack of self-preservation is relegated to the higher degree of death wish. He struggles to understand both her actions and this new realm of desire that has nothing at all to do with her blood.
"Perhaps I could hail you a cab?" He finds the offer breaches his mouth before he's fully thought it out. The strange protective instinct that kicked in when he placed himself between her and the unwanted grasp of her would-be suitor, conflicts with his true desire. She seems so fragile, and he suddenly realizes why he likes that his presence is not affecting her in the normal way. There is no hope that he can resist her temptation, but Edward does not want to take this life the way he always has before. No. He wants her quiet, calm. He wants to kiss the perfect flesh, lick the salt and sweetness from the place where he will drain her, feel her warmth and life thrumming in his powerful, yet restrained embrace.
She combs her fingers through her hair, sweeping it away from her forehead before allowing it to fall back in place. The movement entrances him with the imaginings of its cool texture wrapped around his palms, twining around his wrists...
"No, really, it's fine. Like I said, I just live a few blocks up that way." She flutters a hand to the north. Edward's eyes are drawn to the reddened mottles of discolouration on her wrist that will soon darken into bruises. He captures the hand mid-flight and lets his thumbs play over the growing heat where her injuries lie, tiny broken capillaries leaking her precious blood into the soft tissue under her skin. A sudden desire to suck on that flesh has him dangerously bringing her hand closer.
"Then perhaps I could walk you home. I'm headed in the same direction." He restrains his true wants and presses a chaste kiss to her knuckles instead, releasing her before she has enough time to register his cold, unnatural touch.
"You don't have to do that," she says, lovely new spots of colour gracing her cheeks.
Oh, but he does.
"It's late. I couldn't in good conscience allow you to walk alone. Please?" he adds, leaning in a little closer. "Allow me to accompany you?"
She blinks, soft mouth going slack for a moment before tightening in a small smile, her head tipping slightly to the side as she regards him. Again he waits for her instincts to warn her away, and again she fails to have any.
"All right," she agrees, her manner quiet and pleasing. He holds out his hand in the direction she indicated, and falls in at her side as she begins to walk.
"My name is Edward, by the way," he offers, swallowing past the burn in his throat, struggling to remember manners long since unused.
"Bella," she replies unnecessarily.
"It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance,...Bella." Her name sits odd on his tongue. He finds it lacking. Despite its literal translation of beautiful, it's too common, too banal. She is something more, something elegant and regal and rare…
"This is really nice of you. Do you make a habit out of walking strange women home after you save them from overbearing guys?"
Edward finds himself laughing lightly, something he hasn't done in longer than he cares to remember. "Rescuing damsels in distress is a tedious task," he teases, "but someone has to do it."
She smiles in response, shaking her head slightly. Once again she rubs at her chafed wrist. She stops suddenly in her tracks staring down at the expanse of flesh covering radius and ulna. Her expression reveals distress, gaze searching the ground around her, hand rooting up into her shirt sleeve.
"Is something wrong?" he asks.
"My bracelet. I've lost it, I guess. I had it earlier..."
It's a testament to how her scent distracted him that he cannot remember seeing jewellery on her, but he glances around the ground at her feet as though, like her, he believes it might magically appear. He sniffs covertly at the air, searching for the unique tang of precious metals that might accompany such a lost article, not surprised when he finds nothing beyond the usual detritus of dropped coins and aluminum cans. Even distracted he would have heard such an item fall to the ground.
She sighs. "I must have lost it in the club."
"Shall we return and see if we can find it?" It is the last thing he wants to do, yet the words are spoken before he can censure himself. Perhaps more of those manners he thought he's forgotten have survived within him after all. The offer certainly seems like the chivalrous thing to do. He'd think it funny traits instilled in him centuries ago still lurk in his psychological makeup if his thirst wasn't burning him alive.
"No, that's okay. It wasn't expensive." She shrugs and resumes walking, her hand still encircling the tender joint of her wrist.
"You'll need to put some ice on that when you get home. It's beginning to bruise."
She regards the skin carefully, her expression clouding slightly when she finds several fingerprint shaped markings. He feels a momentary qualm at bringing an uncomfortable experience back to the forefront of her thoughts, but his curiosity overrides the brief sentiment.
"Your...friend...was very persistent."
Her brow furrows, delicate nose crinkling with distaste. "Mike? I don't know if I'd call him a friend. We used to go to the same school. We work together sometimes, but we're not close."
"Ah, I see."
"Do you?" she asks. The tone of her voice suggests sarcasm. Edward attempts to study her facial expression for a clearer gauge, only to find himself distracted by the fascinating play of light over her cheekbones as she passes beneath a streetlamp. Her mind continues resisting every attempt to breach her inner thoughts, frustrating his ability to understand her feelings or motives. He wonders why he even wants to.
"Well," he replies, "it seems a common enough scene. A beautiful girl and a lonely, unworthy boy, wishing for her unwarranted affections."
Her turn to laugh, and the sound does strange things to him, bringing light to dark places.
"Mike is hardly a "lonely boy," trust me. And I'm far from beautiful."
Edward can smell her newest blush, and it makes him ache. His impatience is growing.
So as not to make her uncomfortable by staring, he fakes attention in the increasingly residential neighbourhood around them. The number of small shops and restaurants dwindle, gradually being replaced with clusters of single family homes sheltering slumbering residents.
"You don't see yourself clearly," he tells her. He speaks the platitude expected of any man, before realizing how true it is. She is beautiful and mysterious, and every step he takes with her shows him more and more the very depravity of his existence. She is a true innocent, naive and utterly delectable. Her warmth radiates from her skin and body in waves he can feel against his side. He wants to embrace her, to be a part of that warmth, if only for a moment. To feel her heart pound against his chest, an echoing reminder of who he used to be when his own heart beat with vigour and life.
She makes a sound of dissension at his comment, but doesn't preen or seek out compliments by further degrading herself. Instead, she switches topics easily, taking him from his thoughts and back to the world of reality. The world where he is not human and can never hope to feel such things again.
"So, Edward. What brings you to small town U.S.A?"
"Just passing through," he answers vaguely, true enough of an answer. It's what he does, never lingering in one place long. Impatience prickles anew as he catches her looking sideways at him, wide eyes regarding him with unguarded curiosity. His hand twitches with the desperate need to reach out and touch her. He finds himself lamenting all that he is not in a way he hasn't in decades.
She stops, and he's been so lost in his thoughts and desirous wants, the action surprises him.
"This is me," she tells him, shyly. Her teeth worry her bottom lip, reminding him of his more primal needs; the desire for blood and sex warring for dominion within. He wants her the way a man wants a woman, and the way a predator wants his prey, two needs intertwining until he can no longer tell which is the more powerful of the two.
He should leave, run now until the wind clears his mind and the dark enclosure of the forest frees him from this twisted dementia, but he knows he will not. Knows that she is as doomed as he.
As if she knows it too, she tips her head back and looks up at him, invitation in her eyes as she asks, "Would you like to come in for a drink? It'd be the least I could do to say thank you for helping me with Mike, and for walking me home."
Oh, silly, foolish girl. She makes it so very easy for him...
. . . . . .
A/N I hope you enjoyed reading this 1st chapter. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you're inclined to share them. To all of you getting ready to click those follow and/or favourite buttons, hugs and thanks in advance.
* Just a few interesting facts pertaining to details found in this chapter. - Perfect pitch, as mentioned when Edward reflects on the singer's voice, is the ability to flawlessly recreate a musical note without having heard it first. (Most need to hear the note on a tuner or equivalent and then must practice to recreate it.) True perfect pitch is rare. Jeff Martin, former front man of the Tea Party and singer of the song used here for inspiration, has perfect pitch. He also has a voice that makes me swoon...but that's another story. ;-)
Land of Nod (found in the opening lines of this chapter) comes from several places and has several meanings. The most popular is a biblical reference from Genesis pertaining to Cain using the Hebrew translation of nod, meaning to wander. In this context here, I'm using the more modern meaning found in stories like Gulliver's Travels by Johnathon Swift and children's poetry by Robert Louis Stevenson that pertain to sleep and dreaming. In other words, "once upon a time in the Land of Nod," is Edward relating the memory of his human years to a hazy, insubstantial dream.