LITTLE DEAD RIDING HOOD

Chapter One

A hunger with no end in sight. A twisting, gnawing pain deep in my belly, eating me up from the inside.

I thirsted for blood.

No hikers passed by for many nights. Who could help me?

Dad and granny had left long ago, burying me in the cold, musty earth. They'd believed I'd died. The forest provided me with a temporary home, a camouflage so I could hide from the humans. I'd hollowed out a tree trunk and dug a hole deep underground.

I should never have followed the path to granny's that day. The swishing branches had been like dead arms and hands, lousy with leaves, while the bitter wind howled around skinny trunks. The forest floor had been green, I remembered that. Too green, layers upon layers of foliage and mud messing up my new boots. Now I only saw in black and white, cast in a world of grey.

To the wolf, I'd been easy prey.

I ran my thumb over my extended, needle-sharp teeth. Pain punched into my hollow stomach. I didn't know how much longer I could last without food. Without blood.

I'd tried to tell dad and granny all those years ago what had happened to me, but the sunlight burned me during the daylight hours. The hunger forced me to hunt for small animals during the night. Sometimes it would take me all evening for one measly pheasant. Now with so many years gone by, I feared the shock would kill them.

I huddled down out of the wind, hoping breakfast would walk by. The smell of moist earth and clean air hurt my nose. An owl hooted high in the trees. "If only I could climb that high," I whispered. A noise echoed in the distance. "Just an owl."

The snap of a twig sounded louder than a gunshot. "Food," I said, eagerly.

I focused all my senses on the direction of the sound. If there is one good thing about being a vampire, it's that I can hear and see further than I ever thought possible. I sprinted over the uneven ground, my footsteps quick as thought.

The prey couldn't smell me. I stood downwind. Yes, I felt mighty pleased with myself.

I picked out two boys who looked to be my age when I died. My stomach growled in protest. All right. All right.

The closer I got to them, the more I could hear snatches of their conversation. Lucky the moon didn't shine tonight and give away my presence.

They tiptoed through a mass of branches, but ended up making an awful racket. The tall, tubby blond one didn't want to go down this path. Smart lad. The skinny, malnourished dark- haired one looked hyped-up on sweets. He jittered all over the place and kept pushing his glasses up his nose and starting arguments. He insisted that they needed to find them.

Right. Them. Whatever they were, I had no idea. As far as I knew, I am the only regular in this forest. The only one of my kind. Unless...Unless the vampire who'd killed the wolf, and then almost bled me dry decided to stick around.

My skin gave me away if the boys cared to look around them. I glistened in the moonlight, glowing like the clouds.

"Hey," the blond one yelled. "What the heck is that?"

The spotlight of their attention spun to me, and I raced toward them in a flash.