BPOV

It had taken me four, seemingly endless years to escape from Victoria's holding cell. The abuse I'd suffered at the redhead's hands lay strewn across my marble skin like a silver patchwork quilt.

In the forty years that followed I'd learned to wear them with pride.

Besides- letting others of my kind see them did wonders for avoiding company and conversation. That, and it always gave me a thrill when I'd catch sight of the small shivers that they couldn't repress. Of course, there were always those that viewed them as a personal challenge, in which case I showed them no less compassion than I'd shown Victoria in the end.

Immediately following my escape, I had attempted to track down my former life. It seemed that the stories Victoria had conjured up for me weren't all bullshit. Most of those that had known me were either dead or missing, or both.

As I lay upon my own grave in Forks Main Cemetery, I pondered at the perfect recall of my more human days. Didn't vampires forget most all of their human lives once they turned? And why should I be cursed to carry these memories that weigh heavier with each year? I'd come to the conclusion that it had something to do with my turning, and how Victoria had somehow managed to drag it out for months and months, wanting me to feel the burn as long as possible. By all means, I should have died several times over, and it'd been obvious that Victoria had thought no different. One of my fondest memories was the look upon my captor's face the day my eyes had finally faded into a brilliant, bloody red.

Shock- that I, Bella Swan, the little needy human had triumphed, stuck it out, had held on by herself, with no vampires or werewolves running to her rescue.

Of course, at the time, I'd wanted to live. I had wanted to see my father again, see Jake again. See my classmates again. I wanted to ride my motorbike, and feel the wind slapping my mortal face. I wanted to apologize to Charlie for worrying him, to thank Jacob for lifting me up and tell him how important he was to me.

So I'd withstood the searing heat of the poison that was slowly ebbing through my veins without complaint. I endured it so long that I even started to convince myself that I was enjoying it. This only fueled Victoria's rage. Yet the more she bit, hit and broke my bones, the harder I had held on, right up until the day I broke free.

My heart had never stopped beating, my change completely botched.

After visiting my own grave, I went to visit my father's and realized that the driving need to survive had all but abandoned me. A bit more undercover investigating and I'd learned that Jacob had disappeared but a few days after I had been abducted.

Merely existing at that point had been harder than all the trials Victoria had put me through. Killing myself, however, was no longer an option; though my heart still beat, holding my breath until it stopped was nothing but uncomfortable. Though I could see the blood filled veins just under my hardened marble skin, draining them only left me thirsty.

Looking after Jake had given me something to do for the next ten years. I trekked back and forth across the States, down through Mexico and South America, and never caught more than a few overly large paw prints and the lingering odor of wet dog. Still- I was comforted to know he was at the very least alive.

It took me five years before I finally found him in Northern Canada. He looked worn, tired, and after observing him from afar for some time, I realized he was no longer unphasing. I'd wanted to leave him some kind of message, anything to let him know I was alive … well, kind of alive.

But then they would be remembered, and if there was one thing I really, truly, honest to God wanted- it was to never have to cross paths with them again.

The Cullens.

And surprisingly, it wasn't because I thought I'd fall right back into Edward's arms- Victoria had beaten any bits of leftover 'love' I thought I'd had for him into the walls and floor of my 3x5 foot cell.

No, not just Edward.

The love I'd felt for all of them had burned up- just like Victoria's remains that I'd flushed down the toilet of an AMPM on my way out of Missouri.

I was afraid I'd kill one of them.

And if I killed one of them-well...I didn't think I'd be able to stop with just one. They each had a good reason to die in my book, save Rosalie and Jasper.

Edward would die first, for obvious reasons. He was the one that had started this mess. He could have just walked away, let me be. But no. He had to goad my tender, young mortal heart into love, tempt it with chaste kisses and empty promises of forever.

Alice next- didn't she see it? I highly doubted there was anyway to block out the shit that I'd been through. She had to have known full well what would happen if they just packed up and left Forks. Hell! Alice had to have known what was going to happen the day of my birthday. How the hell does she miss her mate damn near eating her best friend? Seriously?

Then there was Emmett, Carlisle and Esme. They had told me that they'd loved me. Over and over again. Why had they bothered at all? I often pondered if this was just how they got their kicks, and every twenty years or so they find some new, naive little human to start over with. Fuck, I should off them just to spare the next one the pain and suffering.

And then to top it all off- they just up and leave, knowing full well there's a crazy redheaded bitch of a vampire just waiting to extract her revenge on Edward through me. No 'Goodbye!', no 'See you later!', or at the very least a 'Fuck you, ha ha!'? Nothing.

Shallow. Each one a miserable excuse for a piece of shit. A piece of shit I'd quicker burn and bury than fucking flush.

Cullens.

I couldn't leave Jacob anything, not unless I was willing to risk them finding me too. I could merely track him from a distance, keeping and eye on him to be sure he stayed out of trouble. Several times it seemed that he'd almost caught my scent, and he'd follow it, soon realizing he'd just back tracked down his own path and he'd sit for long periods of time, completely still. This was how I eventually figured out how to harness the real power of my 'shield'.

When at full concentration, the shield would dampen my scent. With much practice, I found it could also act as a physical barrier, but it was the most difficult to maintain. Still, it was a great boon when catching wind of nomads when I wanted to slip by unnoticed, or blocking blows when confrontation couldn't be avoided. I assumed it also shielded me from mental onslaught, being that Edward could never read my mind.

Eventually, I found I no longer had to concentrate to erase my scent, it was second nature, just like stopping the beating of my heart. It was then that Jake started to migrate towards home, veering here and there but for the most part sticking to a fixed direction.

In the ten years I'd followed him, not once had he unphased.

Presently, I found myself in Montana, speeding down the highway in my rusty, trusty red truck back towards Forks with the intention of checking in on said wolf. It'd been thirty years since he'd returned home and ten since I'd last seen him. Of course, I couldn't let him know I was there, no matter how much I wanted it. My fate would obviously bring him more pain, and if the Cullens ever came back, I really didn't want Edward picking my kind of dead/kind of alive state from his thoughts.

Besides- the last time I'd seen him, he'd imprinted on a pretty, dark skinned native and finally looked like he was at peace. It would kill me to ruin that for him. So I'd quickly pop in, see if he had some little wolf babies yet, maybe snap a picture if I could get away with it, and then get the hell out of Forks.

I had stumbled across my truck in a scrap yard just outside of Forks about thirty years ago. If I had to admit it, I actually went looking for the beast. When I'd spotted it, my cold heart had warmed just a tad, fluttering softly, the thought of reclaiming a little piece of 'me' too tempting to resist.

I'd spent a few hours in the library reading up on the make and model, and was soon equipped to to handle the repairs it was sure to need. It wasn't long before it was road-ready and some. The complete re haul didn't include a new paint job- something about the rust just felt fitting, reminding me of myself and my perfectly mauled skin. After footing it around those ten years, driving sure felt damn good.

Being that it was a somewhat special occasion, I pulled 'The Beast' into a second hand clothing store a few miles out of Tacoma to purchase some newer apparel. I'd be foolish to expect anything less than rain, and decided on a pair of tight skinny jeans (with only a small hole in the knee), and a black long-sleeved shirt to go over my red tank. I took only a moment to check myself out in the mirror, appreciating the way my well-worn shit-kickers(that I'd picked up in El Paso six years prior), and my large silver belt buckle made the whole deal work.

I was a little surprised at the woman in the mirror- her dark hair was wind tousled from constantly driving with the windows down, her hands a little black and greasy from playing under the hood of her truck, and tipping her sunglasses down just so would reveal her eyes to be...dark.

Too dark.

I can make a quick stop off the 101 in a few hours, I noted with an unnecessary sigh and pushed the shades up to mask the unusual burnt gold color.

Quickly, I purchased my items and made a beeline for the bathroom to change. When all was said and done I tossed my old jeans and frayed cardigan into the nearby dumpster- I couldn't stand to tote around any sort of unneeded baggage, a trend I'd fallen into while trekking Jacob.

Two hours later I was edging closer to Forks city limits. I knew that driving through town would be rather reckless, so I made a stop off at Solduck to purchase a camp site for the ridiculous price of thirty dollars. For one day! Fuckers. I made quick work of finding a site and stashing my truck, heading off towards the trails. The moment I was out of site I dashed into the woods at an inhuman speed, quickly catching the scent of a red fox a few miles out.

My heart boomed in my ears as I picked up speed, finally coming to a stand still as I let go of my human side to stalk my prey. I found it easier this way-thinking too much about the hunt slowed me down and spoiled the kill. Faster than lightning, I snatched up my unsuspecting dinner, draining it but unable to retain any satisfaction from the lessening burn. My nerves were starting up now that there were no more tasks between my visit and I, my mind returning to me and starting to cycle through all the things that could go wrong.

Someone could recognize me.

The pack might spot me.

Jake might spot me.

The Cullens might be back.

I slowed to a stop, taking a deep breath. Was this really necessary? Do I need to risk so much just to see Jacob? Frowning, I slumped to the forest floor.

Yes. I finally concluded. Jake risked ten years of his life for you. The least you can do is pop in once every ten years to check in on him.

Standing, I continued my cautious run with my shield up enough to mask my scent, and begin to reassure myself. I would smell Jake, and the pack before they spotted me. I would avoid town completely-no one was going to see me to recognize me. And the Cullens...

They shouldn't be back yet. It was too soon. Forty-four years was hardly long enough for everyone to forget your face. But just in case …

Maybe I should run past the house, see if there were any scents. I wasn't going to be able enjoy seeing Jacob- not until I knew there was no need to look over my shoulder for those asswipes.

The prospect of seeing the Cullen house left me suddenly cold, my heartbeat dropping off and a low snarl brushing my throat. I couldn't help it- it was my first defense mechanism. And I was feeling pretty defensive.

The glass walls couldn't yet be seen, but I knew it was but moments off for I could just make out the sunlight repelling against them. Though I knew I had little reason for worry, in the back of my mind I still found it hard to believe I hadn't crossed any other vampire trails, so I started a wide, slow loop around the property.

When I reached the small creek at the back of the house, I was hit by a smell that held the power equivalent of a fucking freight train, stopping me so fast that in the first time in forty years … I tripped.

Yes.

I fell straight to the pine blanketed floor; heart still, breathing erratic as I taste tested the smell that was nearly three weeks old at this point. But God was it lovely … sinfully delicious. What the hell?

What was it? I breathed deeply … mmmn, apples. And … hay, maybe? Or wet leather? Fuck. No, there was no way to comprehend it, so much more than my pathetic words could ever describe. I felt a bit envious that I would never smell that good.

Nnnn … I wanted to keep this scent for myself, take it with me-but how?

Roll in it! My inner monster demanded, and hell, who was I to argue? I flipped and rolled in the dirt and twigs, attempting to pick up as much of the smell as I could, feeling a little bit high.

When my predatory side was somewhat satisfied I stood, brushing some of the grit from my 'new' clothes, and picking leaves out of my hair. Good thing I had a shield, whoever left that trail would be a little freaked to find my smell had rolled all over their own. Not that I expected them to be lingering around … or were they?

I looked to the Cullen house, realizing the scent led straight up to the back sliding glass door. Oh shit. How fuckin' dumb IS me anyway? What if this delicious, powerful, heavenly smell belonged to one of them? My stomach flipped in a bad way.

God, this fucking smell is making me stupid. Maybe it's a trap. I was no longer being cautious, and I knew it vaguely as I stood on the opposite side of the creek, just inside the fringe of trees, pacing madly back and forth as I strategized.

Strategize? How could I do that with this scent haunting me? It was driving me mad! I swear it was crawling all over my skin, covering me like a blanket, creeping to my heart and cradling it in a comfortable burn.

Pulling me.

I had to get myself together … I couldn't fall apart here of all places. I slowed my breathing until my heart stopped, and proceeded to hold my breath as I inched across the creek towards the house. It was terribly uncomfortable, but the only way I could think now. It was also dangerous, being blind to whomever could be in the house. And I did plan on checking the house.

The back door was not only unlocked, but slightly ajar which I found mildly disturbing. Damn it, I couldn't go into a situation like this practically blind … I took a small breath, and my heart started up the smallest fraction, picking up into an incredibly slow beat.

Fuck … the smell was everywhere. I forced down the monster that was clawing at my insides, demanding it's release.

Calm, calm, calm … I chanted to myself, only slightly helping the situation as I crept through the empty kitchen and into the deathly quiet living room.

I could feel the memories threatening to play on a loop, begging to overpower me, but I hadn't the luxury of succumbing to them now. Not with my life endangered like this. Following the smell, I headed the opposite direction of the second floor- into a hallway off the kitchen.

It was then I noticed the muddied bare footprints, more evidence that this scent had my normally overly cautious and detail-orientated self seriously screwed up. They led to and from the back door, and I followed them to the top of a door-less staircase that descended into darkness.

The basement.

Not a Cullen then … must be a nomad squatting. Time to meet our house guest.

I let my heart continue to beat, but held my breath, knowing the smell would be ten times more powerful below. It was a tactic I liked to use to trick other vampires into thinking I was human. Vampires didn't go after humans with the same gusto as they did other vampires- too much pressure and you'd end up with a big, squishy mess.

The first step let out a groan of protest as I lent it my weight, and my heart almost stuttered at the low growl that ripped through the silence, but I'd been expecting it.

Male. Maybe twenty judging from the tenor. He was clearly warning me that I was in danger.

It was a warning I completely ignored, holding my breath and stomping down the stairs with a purpose. I didn't have all night to indulge in this shit- I had come to Forks for a reason, and it wasn't to play with obnoxiously good-smelling basement vampires.

There was something brushing the sides of my shield and I knew from experience that it was a gift being used against me. I couldn't help but smirk a bit, my eyes scanning the darkness expertly for my adversary.

The smallest movement near the corner gave him away, and the closer I came, the louder the hissing and snarling got. Normally the situation would have every bit of me strung out, coiled tight and ready for battle, but I found myself incredibly calm, my heart more light and peaceful the nearer I drew.

If I really were human it would be impossible to make out his features in the inky blackness; I wouldn't see how dirty he was, how he pathetically curled in upon himself, clutching his knees so tight to his chest that he might just fall apart if he let go. I wouldn't see his dirty blue jeans, the mud sealed into the cracks of his bare feet, nor the long sleeved black shirt ripped in countless places. The speckles of blood upon his clothing.

His face was angled away from mine, dark, dirty blond waves just long enough to mask the lips that were snarling, spraying his sleeves in venom. Scars glistened upon bits of his exposed skin and-

Holy fuck balls.

I knew this vampire.

Next Up: Bella's POV