Kim spends her time eating Fruit Pastilles and putting up with Meg's insanity.

Meg spends her time eating Cool Whip and putting up with Kim's deliriousness.

This story is what happens when you spend an exorbitant amount of time Skyping and consuming sugar. We hope you enjoy.

Disclaimer: Lyrics in summary belong to The Lumineers. No beagles will be harmed during the process of writing this story.

May 2008


This silence.

It's something I've missed.

It adheres to my skin, branding my lips and tongue as it coats my thoughts in its white noise.

There's nothing but empty space around me, outlined by sandy mountains and the kind of green you don't get in the city. I swipe my hand down my eyes, trying to remove any lingering traces of fatigue that pull against my lids, and yawn, gripping the steering wheel a little tighter with my left hand.

I've made this journey countless times before, the deserted road familiar as dust shifts up from the tires, clinging to the windows before clouding the air a suffocating beige. It's a grainy comfort that reminds me of evenings spent racing my bike across the very potholes that jerk my body forward in my seat now.

The sun is low in the sky, but the humidity is still here, sticking to my arms and chest. It's one of the reasons my parents insisted on a pool when they first bought the house, the heat cloying no matter what the hour.

Tasting salt on my lips, I pull in a deep breath, feeling its damp dryness in my lungs, and crank down the window a little further.

I'm not sure how many minutes pass before I recognize the familiar jut of rock at the side of the road, half covered by dried up weeds. It's then I also spot the house up ahead—one of only two down this road—and ease my foot off the gas pedal, slowing down as I pull into the driveway of my childhood home.

Cutting the engine, I exhale slowly through my nose, relieved that this trip is finally over—it felt a lot longer than forty minutes. Making sure my lighter is still inside my pocket, I slide out of the car, taking a second to stretch my arms above my head. I feel the hem of my shirt creep up my stomach and brush against my skin. I also feel the way the sun beats down on the back of my neck, my eyes squinting against its brightness: still blue sky caught between half lowered lids as I grip my keys within my palm.

That familiar warmth and pull immediately spreads through my muscles, and I tilt my head back further, groaning in relief, glad to finally be out of the confined space.

Knowing I have no exams, no deadlines to worry about for at least twelve weeks, is just another weight off my shoulders, and I can't help but smile.

Clearing my throat, I straighten back up, my gaze momentarily lingering on the window of my old bedroom as I take in the same blue curtains at the glass. Everything from the outside looks exactly the same as it did at Christmas, except maybe the ground, which has become dry and cracked from the sun's rays, small fissures running out in a number of directions.

For the past two summers I've spent my time back here in Corona de Tucson, looking after my mother's house while she visits her boyfriend in Florida.

My parents split almost three years ago, a few weeks after my eighteenth birthday. It didn't come as that big of a shock, their arguments becoming more heated as the years went by. And, if I'm being completely honest, it didn't affect me as much as it may have if I'd been younger.

The civility that surrounded their divorce left me with little doubt that they had stayed together because of me—until I was old enough and no longer living under their roof—though I know they'd never admit it.

The subject of us selling the house had arisen a few times after that, but once I decided to attend school in Tucson, the choice was made to keep it—at least until after I graduated.

My mom stayed living in the house, while my father moved ten minutes down the road to a smaller place that required less upkeep, the yard out back mainly laid to concrete with just a few potted plants that mostly took care of themselves.

Blinking against the light, I leave my bags for the moment and round the front of the car, distracted as I sort through the keys on the chain, the metal warm in my palm.

As soon as I open the door, my feet force me directly to the thermostat, the air thick with heat. I run my palm across my chin, kicking on the air conditioning before heading to the kitchen, grimacing at how stuffy it is.

Wiping my palms on my jeans, I notice a note tucked under the fruit bowl that holds nothing but two oranges. Trapping the paper beneath my fingers, I slide it closer, my eyes grazing over my mother's familiar scrawl as I run my hand over the back of my head, holding in a sigh when I read the words 'garage' and 'boxes' and 'Goodwill' all in the same sentence.

She leaves me a to-do list every summer, whether she's here or not, and this one is no exception. They first started appearing when I was sixteen, her constant nagging about wanting more help around the house kicking into full gear the same year I started dating—I wasn't stupid enough to think this was merely a coincidence.

One of her co-worker's daughters had gotten pregnant around the same time, and I was under no illusion those chores were set to keep me a different kind of busy to the thoughts I generally had any time I got near a girl—especially the one that had just gotten her tits and would straddle me in the front seat of my car every time I dropped her home from school.

Smirking at the memory, and having no intention of starting my list of chores until tomorrow, I fist the note into a ball, heading back outside to collect my bags from the car.

Sweat sticks to the nape of my neck as I step through the doorway, the laces in my boots untied as I scuff the side of the leather against the potted plant to my right. Whatever was growing inside the cement box is now dead, gnarled from the base as it stems to a crooked point.

I pull a pack of cigarettes from my pocket, sliding one from its cardboard confine carefully: the filter gets placed between my slightly parted lips, and I tap the pocket of my jeans for the lighter I know I'll find inside.

Bringing the flame to the tip, I inhale, two drawn out pulls that crackle as I listen to the dry tobacco catch. Smoke fills my lungs, and I hold it for just a moment, liking the breathless feel of it inside my chest, before exhaling slowly.

I stand and watch the smoke haze the sky for a few seconds, repeating the action again and again, before another type of cloud catches my attention.

This one is made up of dust from the road, a suffocating blanket that rolls through the air with its maker.

A red Chevy is tumbling down the dirt path with some speed, swerving from side to side as laughter rings out from inside the cab.

My eyes squint as my cigarette balances between my lips, my hand rising to shade the sun's glare from my vision. I can't see who is behind the wheel, but there's only one other house down this road, and the people inside this rapidly moving vehicle definitely aren't here to see me.

I watch as it eventually comes to a stop in the driveway of the house opposite, my hand dropping back to my mouth as my lips pull, hold and exhale cloudy white. Both doors to the Chevy open, but my eyes drift to the girl who jumps down from the bed of the truck, legs long and skin pale, hair a tangled mess as she tilts up her face to accept the last rays of the sun before it retreats into inky black.

I hear more laughter as both of her friends disappear inside the house, but she stays in place, seemingly contemplating something.

She sways slightly on her feet, but she has a smile at her mouth, one that curls just slightly with eyes closed, like she's privy to the best kind of kept secret. I let my eyes travel from her lips to her eyes, suddenly caught off guard when I realize she's staring directly at me. Quickly averting my gaze, I focus on the rapidly burning cigarette between my fingers, slightly embarrassed at being caught staring at her.

Inhaling once more, I keep tabs on her out of my peripheral, noting that she doesn't make a move for a good thirty seconds. As I flick my cigarette to the ground, I hear a clattering followed by a muttered curse, and when I glance her way again, I notice she's dropped to her knees, lazily shoving items back into a bright green bag.

I keep my eyes on her as I grind my cigarette beneath my boot, certain I've never seen a person move as slowly as she's moving. I'm briefly torn between grabbing my bags and heading back inside the house, or making my way over to this girl because she's taking so fucking long to gather her shit.

Sighing heavily, I slip my lighter and pack of cigarettes into the pocket of my jeans, rubbing the back of my neck as I hesitate before finally walking over. My eyes stay trained on her the entire time, and I can't help but find it odd that she doesn't bother looking up, not once, even when I catch her staring at my boots.

I clear my throat, and I'm not surprised when I hear her speak, addressing the stranger who's standing above her.

"Are you going to stand there or are you going to help me?" she asks, pointing towards what looks to be a tube of chapstick near my boot.

I furrow my brows as I squat down to her level, balancing myself by keeping one hand on the ground while using my other hand to grab the thing for her. I hold out the black and white tube, waiting for her to reach out and take it, only to pull back quickly before she can grasp it.

"Hey!" she protests, confused, her eyes finally glancing up to meet mine. Her lids are slightly hooded, and there is a small trace of black smudged beneath her right eye, just under her lashes.

She gazes back levelly, and I tease, "What? No 'please' or 'thank you'?"

She says nothing and I toss the lip stuff into her open bag. Her eyes flick to the contents inside, following my movement with a blink, before focusing her attention back on me.

"Thank you so much for all of your help," she replies sarcastically. "Seriously. I don't know what I'd do without you."

Usually this kind of attitude would have driven me away by now, so I'm not sure why I'm still here.

"You're so very welcome," I say after a few seconds of debating, mocking her tone while shrugging.

I crack a smile when she looks away, and push off the ground to stand upright. Once all of her belongings are back inside her bag, she stands, keeping it between her feet.

"You know Sue?" I ask her, watching as her face contorts in confusion.

"Who?" she questions, securely tucking some hair behind her ear with her fingers. Her nails are painted this shade of red that reminds me of the first car I ever bought.

"The lady's driveway we're standing in," I point out, scuffing the dirt with my boot for emphasis.

"Ah," she says slowly, catching on. "Leah's aunt, right?"

I frown, briefly recalling Mom mentioning that Mrs. Clearwater had a niece. "I guess, yeah."

The temperature is finally starting to drop, a slight breeze that rustles the tall, dry grass in the surrounding fields. It creates this whispering noise that sounds like the hiss of a snake—it also shifts the hair she's just tucked behind her ear, bringing it back to her cheek, and my fingers twitch at my sides, fighting the urge to push it away again.

"What's your name?" I ask after a moment, running a hand over my chin because I don't know what else to do.

"Tell me yours first, and I'll think about telling you mine," she answers with that same secret smile from before.

"I don't play games," I tell her. For some reason, this makes her laugh.

"Why not? I do," she replies, dragging her front teeth over her bottom lip. Her pupils are big and the whites of her eyes are slightly bloodshot. The playful glint in her gaze keeps my feet firmly in place despite her revelation.

"I'm Edward," I tell her, and she finds it funny when I hold out my hand for her to shake.

She looks at my palm for a moment before taking it in hers, playfully narrowing her eyes as she shakes it twice. "Nice to meet you."

Nothing more follows and I look at her expectantly. "You don't have a name?" I question. Her fingers feel different than my own as they press against my skin.

She cocks her head to the side ever so slightly, her bottom lip caught between her teeth. "Everyone has a name," she answers simply.

"And yours is..." I hint, trailing off when she pulls her hand from mine completely.

She gets this look in her eye just before answering, and I remember what she said earlier, about liking to play games. "And I'm... just visiting."

I feel my brows meet, and decide to drop it... for now.

"From where?" I ask instead.

"We just drove in from New Mexico," she explains, leaning over to grab something out of her bag. I raise my eyebrows as she pulls out a yellow lighter.

"New Mexico," I repeat, waiting for her to go on, but she doesn't. "What brings you to Arizona?" I pry, trying again.

"You." She smiles, rolling her eyes before laughing. "I don't know. What brings you here?" she challenges.

My gaze sweeps over her face. "You," I tease, eyeing the lighter in her hands, pulling the cigarettes from my pocket to offer her one.

She declines and slides back down to the ground, folding her legs beneath her, uncaring of the dust. I'm a little surprised—most girls I know wouldn't be so quick to get dirty.

I run my palm over my jaw and watch as she sets her bag in front of her pale knees. The right one has a cut that looks to be fairly new, an angry pink that's bordering on red, and I briefly wonder how it got there.

"So, you smoke?" she questions without looking up.

I lick my lips. "Yeah," I answer her, swallowing.

She nods, but adds, "I'm not talking about the shit you can buy down at the nearest grocery store."

She pulls a smallish tin from the front pouch of her bag, zip pulled and sound lingering. Faded stickers and scratches decorate the metal surfaces, and upon opening, I can see that it holds more than just tobacco.

I lean back against the truck in the driveway and look down through my lashes as she balances a paper on her bare knee. She breaks up the bud with knowing fingers as I just stand and watch, spreading out the little bits of green evenly.

I've never met anybody so unconcerned with what another person thinks before. She doesn't know who I am, if I can be trusted, or what my reaction will be. And seemingly... she just doesn't care.

Rolling with familiarity, she tucks green inside weightless white and brings the whole thing to her mouth, ready to seal.

Her eyes lift to mine as her tongue slides across the edge of paper, and I shove my cigarettes inside my pocket, holding back a smirk.

"You can sit," she says, staring up at me.

She traps me in her gaze and I take a deep breath, swallowing thickly.

"I don't usually smoke with nameless people," I half joke, slightly annoyed that she still has yet to reveal her name.

"Bummer. You're missing out," she shoots back, flicking the lighter in her right hand three times.

I push my hair up from my forehead, tugging lightly. "If I sit, will you tell me?"

She doesn't miss a beat, her response instant as it rolls off her tongue. "No."

Her smile is back and mine has disappeared. She carries on looking, and I can feel the muscles in my jaw tick. I'm not even sure why I care so much.

"But," she adds, holding up the joint in her left hand. "I will share this... if you want?"

My eyes flick from it, back to her face, and before I know it, I'm sitting in the dirt beside her, ignoring the smile that is still in place, pulling at her lips.

I went through a phase when I first got to college, smoked my fair share of weed when offered, but I haven't done anything in a few months.

Something in my gut tells me that maybe I shouldn't trust this girl, but as I glance at her from the corner of my eye and take in her rosy cheeks and curling, dark lashes, I wonder how harmful she could really be.

She places the joint between her lips, and this time, when she clicks the lighter, it ignites the end of paper and green, and not just the warm, summer air.

My forearms rest over my jean-clad knees, and I rub my chin against the gray cotton covering my shoulder, staring out into the distance as the familiar scent of weed fills my nose.

It grabs my attention, and I watch as she takes another three quick pulls before nudging her elbow to mine, holding out the joint to me between her thumb and pointer finger.

The contact catches me off guard, and when I reach out to take it from her hand, the pad of my thumb brushes over her red nail.

Her eyes fly to mine for just a moment, and then she's turning her head again, exhaling into the open space in front of her.

I watch the smoke unfurl from between her parted lips for a second or two longer before bringing the joint to my own mouth, filling my lungs with the familiar burn that is more pleasant than not.

My eyes squint against the smoke as I exhale slowly, and this time it's she who is watching me.

"What?" I question, taking another couple of hits before passing it back to her.

She looks me over while she smokes, and this time she doesn't bother looking away when she breathes out.

"Your eyes are green," she states.

I laugh through my nose, shaking my head. "Yeah, I know. Weird, right?" I say, messing with her.

A smirk plays at her mouth as she bumps her hand lightly to mine, urging me to take the remainder of the joint. "No, they're like, really green," she says again, trying to explain.

I smile and say, "And I think you're really high."

"Hmm, maybe," she murmurs, ignoring me again as she sifts through the contents of her bag.

She pulls out her chapstick, twists off the cap and runs the end over her lips. I take another two pulls from the joint before crushing it under the heel of my boot, holding the smoke inside my lungs for a few more seconds before pushing it back out.

I try not to cough, and hear her giggle as she starts making patterns in the grains of dirt with her finger, scrubbing them out with her palm when they're seemingly not good enough.

The sun is setting, night creeping in, and my mouth is dry as I swipe my tongue over my lips. I'm suddenly thirsty, and think about asking if she has a bottle of water or something tucked away in that bag of hers, because cottonmouth is a bitch.

We smoke another joint, and I don't know how long we both just sit like this, side by side, but it's surprisingly easy, this silence that exists between us in this moment. Perhaps it's because we're strangers who just happened to be in the same place at the same time, relieving the pressure of words and continued conversation.

That is until I see a rather large initial drawn into the dirt, surrounded by what looks to be the outline of flames.

"B?" My voice is abrupt, and her lips pull up high. She doesn't turn to look at me though. Or say a word.

"That's your name?" I guess, but she shakes her head, still not answering me.

I'm undeterred this time. "Your name begins with the letter B?" I wonder instead, going for a different angle.

It seems she is too, though.

"I'm bored," she says suddenly, sitting up and glancing around the yard as dusk takes over the sky.

I take a deep breath, telling myself that an initial drawn in the dirt is better than nothing.

"Okay," I say, unsure of what she wants me to do. My limbs feel comfortably heavy as an idea pops into my head. "We can swim," I suggest, watching as her eyes light up in excitement.

"Oh yeah? Where?" she asks, removing the elastic band from her wrist and pulling her hair back.

I sit up as well, running both hands through my own hair before I point across the street towards my empty house. None of the lights are on inside, the windows reflecting back nothing but darkness.

She doesn't respond for a moment, and I use the extra seconds to stare at her profile, watching the way she licks her bottom lip before turning towards me.

"No shit? You have a pool?" she finally asks, standing to brush off the back of her thighs.

"Well. My parents do," I say, glancing up and openly staring at the curve of her ass, barely covered by the denim of her shorts.

Before I can look away, she bends over to grab her bag and begins running across the dirt tracked road, not bothering to wait for me.

It takes a moment for my mouth to catch up with what my eyes are seeing. "Hey!" I call out, maybe a little too loud as surprise rolls through me.

I'm stunned still, my fingers pressing into the dry ground, but before I know it, I'm on my feet, too, taking off in the same direction.

Once I catch up to her, she slows to a stop, smiling and slightly breathless as she walks around my house, looking for an entrance to the backyard.

"Over here," I say, gently yanking her arm and pulling her behind me, towards the gate. I fumble with the latch and push against the wood, letting her walk in first, more so out of wanting to stare at her ass again, than politeness.

"Nice place," she murmurs while assessing the backyard, looking over her shoulder to give me another smile.

"Yeah. My mom has lived here for a while now," I tell her, looking around the space to see what she sees.

"And where do you live?" she questions, tossing her bag onto an empty lawn chair.

"Tucson," I tell her distractedly, suddenly realizing we haven't actually exchanged any information about one another.

I know absolutely nothing about this girl. I have no idea of her age, where her family lives, or if she has a boyfriend.

Fuck, I still don't even know her name.

"Hey," I bark out, squinting my eyes to make out her expression in the early evening light.

But before I can say anything else, she takes off towards the pool, running to gain speed as she jumps through the air, using one hand to cover her tucked knees, and the other to hold her nose.

A splash follows, and I'm simply staring, wondering what the fuck just happened.

I blink and it takes me a moment to realize she's broken the surface of the water... and that she just jumped into the pool with all of her clothes on.

I lazily walk to the edge, staring down at the water as she filters into my line of sight, watching as she takes quick breaths to gain some air.

"Oh my God. The water is perfect," she comments, dipping her head back under again.

I shake my head. "What are you doing?" I choke out, maybe wanting to laugh. My chest feels a little tight, and who is this girl?

Her look is incredulous, as if I'm the crazy one. "What are you doing?" she shoots back. "Get in."

My hesitation lasts for half a second before I kick off my boots, making a move to unbutton my jeans.

"No. Come on," she says with a light laugh. "Just get in."

My fingers pause on my zipper. "I'm wearing clothes," I point out, just in case she hasn't noticed.

"So am I," she shrugs. And then she splashes me, managing to cover my jeans in water. I look down at the rapidly darkening denim as she says, "Now you're wearing wet clothes, too, so what difference would it make if you took them off or not?"

"Wow." I laugh, slightly irritated as I shake my head. "Are you always used to getting your way?"

Her teeth press into her bottom lip. "Wouldn't you like to know?" she taunts, her chin disappearing beneath the water. A few more seconds pass and she sighs. "Come on. They're just clothes. You're overthinking this, Edward."

It's the first time she's used my name. I didn't think she was listening before, and I definitely like the way it sounds rolling off her tongue.

"You're under thinking this, B," I counter, amused at the expression that plays across her face.

She doesn't respond, but merely waits patiently instead, maybe because she has a feeling I'll give in.

I narrow my eyes, looking her over as I try to figure her out.

Her hair is slicked back, a little darker from the water, and the sky is turning an inky blue, making her skin look paler than before. She's different—impulsive, maybe a little crazy—and my pulse speeds up as she holds my stare.

I'm not sure I ever had a choice, and so before I can think about what I'm doing, I sigh heavily and jump into the pool, giving her what she wants.

I keep my head under water with my eyes closed for as long as I can, until I feel fingers threading themselves through my hair, pulling me above the surface.

When I finally lift my lids, she's closer than I expected, and her proximity, along with the way her shirt clings to her chest, elicits an immediate reaction in my jeans.

"Why did you really come here, to Corona?" I question, using my arms to swim myself back a few feet, putting some distance between us.

"Because..." she trails off, looking up at the dusky sky, then back at me. "I was bored."

"You came here because you were bored," I say flatly, unsure of why this fascinates me.

"Yes," she tells me.

My jeans feel so fucking heavy, weighing down my legs. "How old are you?" I ask, because I have to.

Half a minute passes, and I figure she's not going to reveal her age to me. But then she swims over, closing the distance I've created between us.

"I'm eighteen," she admits, her palms skimming the water.

I wait for her to return the question, but when she doesn't, I feel the need to tell her anyway. "I'm twenty-one."

"Ah," she breathes out, watching the ripples her fingers make. "So... you're twenty-one year old Edward, who lives in Tucson, but likes to spend the odd summer evening in Corona, swimming with girls you don't know."

I frown, knowing exactly what she's trying to get at. "Why do you think there are girls?"

"Look at you. There are girls." She laughs, swiping a hand over her mouth.

There's a brief pause of silence where I let her words sink in. "I'm only with one girl right now," I point out.

There hasn't been anyone else for over six months. Or, at least, not in the serious sense anyway.

"Yeah. You are," she murmurs, sucking in both cheeks. "I'm sure all those other girls will be so jealous."

She laughs, and I'm not sure if it's at me, the situation, or something else.

"So, you're B," I say, rolling my eyes, "and you're eighteen. You like to spend the odd summer evening smoking and swimming with guys you hardly know."

She flicks a little water at me. "I wouldn't say I hardly know you," she scoffs. "You're Leah's aunt's neighbor. We're practically friends."

"Practically." I laugh out loud, fighting the urge to proclaim that there's something about her that makes me want to be her friend.

Maybe it's the weed, or maybe it's the way she's purposely withholding information about herself, but I suddenly want to know everything about this girl.

"How long are you here for?" I ask instead, filling the silence without coming off as too eager.

She stares up at the sky, blinking the water from her lashes. "However long I want," she replies coolly.

Her face turns back towards mine, and I stare at her for a beat longer, the water carefully, silently moving between us. It feels like I'll be unable to tear my eyes away from hers when the time comes.

"Tell me your name," I urge again, my voice a little quieter than before.

"Why?" she whispers.

I lick my lips, tasting the chlorine. "Because I want to know you," I admit, not caring how silly it sounds.

Her stare gets a little harder, her expression more serious. "You shouldn't want to know me," she insists.

I watch as she raises her brows and mimic the movement. "And why is that?" I press.

Her eyes narrow minutely. "Do you really need a reason?" she questions, a smirk playing at her lips, but I'm not sure if it's born out of lightness or not.

I don't hesitate in answering, "Yes."

Because I do... I do want a reason.

She thinks about this for a minute—maybe even two—and purses her lips. "Perhaps I'm not a good person," she finally answers.

"What do you mean?" I ask, unsure if she's joking. "Did you rob a bank or something?"

This makes her laugh. "No." She pulls the tie out of her hair, leaning her head back until she's dipping it under water, the strands spreading out, appearing weightless beneath.

"Well," I finally say. "You don't seem all that bad to me."

The look in her eyes screams caution, but the slight smile at her mouth tells a different story, a contradiction encased in brown. "That's because you don't know me," she says.

Before I'm even able to comprehend what she's saying, she averts her eyes from mine and swims past me without uttering another word. I stay in place, stupefied as I watch her climb the stairs out of the pool, taking a moment to wring her hair out.

"Hey!" I shout, trying to get her to stay, even though I know I don't hold that kind of power.

Now that the sun has fully disappeared, light drained from the sky, my eyes struggle to keep tabs on her shadowy form as she makes her way across the lawn. I squint and can just barely see her arm reach out to grab her bag from the chair, but she moves quickly, and I lose sight of her in the darkness.

When I hear the hinges protest and the gate slam shut, I know she's gone.

All too suddenly, I'm standing alone in the pool, wondering what to do next. She's unpredictable and slightly temperamental, and I'm unsure if I should go after her.

Replaying the conversation we've had over the past couple of hours, she's given me no real indication that she would want me to follow. But there's something inside me that's telling me I can't not.

Before I can let myself overthink this, I make my way to the edge of the pool, placing my palms on the surrounding cement to lift myself out. A mere five steps across the lawn, and I know I'm going to have to get out of these wet jeans if I'm going to catch her in time. The water has weighed them down, and they're almost impossible to walk in, let alone run in.

I don't think twice as I discard my jeans and run towards the gate—I don't give a fuck when I find myself standing in the middle of my driveway, wearing only a soaking wet t-shirt and boxers.

The lack of lights from both houses makes it hard to see where I'm walking, and I pause just before I hit the road, a muttered shit leaving my mouth as I run both hands through my hair.

I can't see her, and my fingers pull at the wet strands as I take one more look around, scanning the darkness for any signs that she's still out here.

Frustration makes my jaw clench, muscles ticking, and I'm just about to head back inside when a raised voice stops me.

"Bella? Where the fuck were you?"

The sound is followed by the flick of a porch light, illuminating the house opposite in weak yellow. My heart pounds inside my chest as the very person I was searching for comes into view, the green of her bag brighter than anything else.

Her back is to me, and although I can't make out her words in reply to her friend, I can hear her laugh.

I'm busy realizing that I now know her name, when my eyes catch them both disappearing inside, the door shutting after them with a click. The sound echoes out into the night, and before I'm able to even think or make a move, the porch light flicks off and I'm standing alone, swallowed whole by darkness once more.

Turning away, I force myself to walk inside, trying my hardest to ignore the pull this girl seems to have on me.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Closing the door behind me, I slump back against the glass, swallowing thickly as I stare up at the ceiling fan. Exhaustion settles over me, confusion seeping into my bones as I watch the blades rotate, my hands lifting from my sides to push through my hair.

I don't know this girl, have no idea how long she plans to stay in Corona, or if I'll even see her again, but I can't shake the fact that she's gotten under my skin.

Pulling in a deep breath, the events of the night spiral through my head, flashes of pale skin and furling smoke lingering heavily behind my lids when I close my eyes.

My shirt is clinging to my chest, and as I grasp the wet cotton in my fist, attempting to pull it away from my skin, I realize that my heart is still pounding.

I have a sudden, overwhelming feeling that my world is about to be turned upside down...

And I'm not sure I want to stop it.

Sup? Cheerio! Welcome to our latest story endeavor. We know what y'all are thinking, and the answer is no. Vampires don't actually have beagles. Or eat them.

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