She embroiders elegant and colorful designs in soft fabrics outside her mama's apothecary, smiles sweetly at customers, and acts the dutiful, bright-eyed daughter of merely sixteen. In many ways she is exactly those things; she has never changed since becoming the hunter, the monster, the killer trapped in a child's body. Anna has never truly slipped from under the guiding arm of her mother, where it is safe and easy, where she is loved by a controlling hand.

He is just a man, barely even that. Anna has seen striking blue eyes like his for lifetimes. She has seen the fierce goodness and wrath burning in him before; she is not just a girl.

There's talk when he comes home from the war. People whisper and hiss about duty and loyalty and disgrace, they say, what a disgrace.

She watches the flint in those common blue eyes light, watches oftentimes when anger fills his fragile human frame. She watches how he loves, with a bitter and yearning abandon that's willful and sacrificial, and lost, she thinks, he's just lost.

Katherine's claws are deep in him. Her tongue spins lies and her fingers weave trouble, as always. Anna observes because she is invisible. She studies the tangled knots and follows their path, and she wonders when Katherine will run out of string.

Her games always have messy ends. Anna has never found them amusing.

"Miss Annabelle," he greets her in town. There is a lilt to his voice, and there's something in his look, something secret and flashing and dear.

It's a thrill, being acknowledged; she likes how it fills her up to the brim. Her lips turn up into a smile and she nods politely. "Mister Salvatore."

An eagerness lingers; she wants to be acknowledged again.

There are nights filled with dreams of having deeper curves and sultry smiles without the innocence of youth. She longs to dance in dresses of deep red silk. He is her partner, gentlemanly and charming; he holds her perfectly right and perhaps closer than he should. She laughs gaily when he makes remarks he shouldn't, and it is with a freedom that she has never felt but knows is just out of reach.

She flees Mystic Falls stricken with grief and terror. She does not stay to see the dark veins and bloodshot eyes tainting the foolish, beautiful elder Salvatore brother, or his sibling. Instead she cowers from memories of flames and churches and tombs, lashes out to kill and feed with tears flooding her eyes. There is nothing but wracking agony and dark promises and revenge fueling her forward. All she wants is her mother back.

She feels relief to be free; this is her secret.