Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight or Rob Zombie, but I used both to write this.

My entry for the PickaPic Contest...Could be expanded...that depends on you guys... beta'd by the wonderful Perry Maxwell and preread by Julie. Enjoy!

I'd read the books, watched the movies, and listened to people moon over stories about all-consuming, soul sucking love. The kind of love that reaches inside your chest and wraps its fingers around the center of your being, penetrating the very core of who you are and shackling you for eternity.

I thought it was a sham. A hoax created by greeting card companies and movie directors to keep us all coming back, buying their cards, watching their movies and constantly wondering― will I ever have that?

But I was wrong, because it does exist, and I found it. But my love wasn't bursting with bright prisms of light bouncing off every surface, illuminating my world with the warmth of sunshine rays and caressing my skin with butterfly kisses.

No, my love hid in shadows, lurking in places where nightmares were born and sinners roamed free.

My love was cold, evil, death―and I'd never seen anything more beautiful.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I should start at the beginning, when death only hovered at the edges of my conscience. When it danced and twirled around me, targeting those I loved, leaving me barren and empty.

Before it barreled toward me at full speed, determined to wrap its spidery fingers around the strings of my fate and tear them apart...

I woke with a sense of anticipation, something stirring deep within me―pulling, tugging, demanding my attention.

Get up, it whispered.

I shoved the blankets away and rose from the bed, my eyes tired, bleary. I stumbled to the bathroom and braced my hands on the sink, the smooth porcelain surface cold against my sleep-warm skin.

Lines marred my face from the pillow I'd clutched to my body during the night, the only thing I had to wrap around so I didn't feel so alone.

Showered and dressed, I pulled my hair into a messy ponytail and breezed past the empty kitchen, deciding to hit the diner for breakfast this morning; I couldn't stomach eating alone again.

"Morning, Bella."

I smiled softly and waved at Vicky as she grabbed a menu and rushed toward me. Her hair hung loosely around her face, beads of sweat darkening the roots and causing it to stick to her skin.

"Would you like the usual, hon?"

I stared at her too-wide smile, the dark red lipstick staining her teeth, and the heavy makeup creasing around the corners of her laugh lines. She looked middle aged, but she was just thirty― only five years older than me.

"The usual will be fine."

Usual. Fine. Those words spilled from my lips daily, forming lies to people who pretended to care, who asked how I was doing because society deemed it the proper thing to do.

The poor thing, they'd say. Whispered words behind newspapers that served as props to hide their pitying eyes from the girl who lost her parents and boyfriend all in one day.

A tragic accident, they'd say. I knew better though.

The truth was, my no-good boyfriend had gotten wasted, and in a fit of jealousy decided to drive to my house and spy on me, only to meet my parents in a head on collision―killing them all on impact.

Three months had passed since everyone I loved had been ripped from my life, and yet the numbness remained. Instead of withdrawing its heavy blanket of protection I'd needed so desperately in the beginning, it sank into my skin, pushing into my pores, twisting and tangling, no longer a shield, but part of me.

I was indifferent to it all.

Bland grey painted the sky, dripping down from the heavens and washing away any color that dared to bring light into the world. Into my world.

I stared at my rapidly cooling plate of food, already knowing that it―like everything else in my life―would be tasteless, a fraud parading around in bright cheery colors of yellow and red, but underneath, it was all grey.

My eyes fell shut as I pulled in a deep breath, willing my body to push away the melancholy nothingness covering my mind.

My teeth snapped together suddenly, a sharp pain shooting down my jaw and intensifying in my chest. Each breath I inhaled through clenched teeth immediately syphoned from my lungs.

I flattened my hands on the table to rise from the booth, to move, to do something, anything to flood my lungs with air and escape the drowning fear of suffocation.

"It is you." A voice chuckled darkly, each syllable a hiss slithering into my ear and infecting my brain like poison.

My eyes flew open, locking on a face that could only belong to a fallen angel― beautiful and deadly.

He slid his hand across the table, his fingers ghosting over the back of my hand, the contact abruptly inflating my compressed lungs and filling them with air.

"Don't rush off. Please, sit. I insist." His smile was lazy, drunk with confidence and a sense of entitlement.

For anyone else it would have been off putting. They would've received the finger and a few choice words regarding their arrogance before I stormed out the door. And yet, the thought of doing anything other than what he'd asked seemed utterly preposterous.

I eased back into my seat, my eyes locked with his, their color a murky brown, cloudy, unnatural.

"Tell me your name." His voice held weight, thick like tar as it rolled over me and coated my skin.

"Do I know you?" I asked instead, my voice low and smooth, and completely foreign to me.

He leaned forward, blinking slowly, his face a blank canvas except for the dark twinkle in his mud-brown eyes. "You know me."

The tip of my tongue pressed into the back of my top teeth, preparing to push the word no past my lips, before a shiver tickled up my spine and crawled to the shell of my ear releasing a hissed exhale of yes.

I remained motionless, silent, unnerved. What was happening to me?

For the first time in months, the heavy blanket of apathy lifted as butterflies and something else, something more, something other began to filter through me.

"How?" I whispered.

"Because your body was made to know me. It was crafted solely for me, and I will have it, however I see fit."

Something shifted within me, like a lock engaging and sliding into place, knowing it fit― had found its purpose, its place.

"You feel it already, don't you?" His breath slipped between his parted lips, his eyes softening.

For the first time since he'd sat in front of me, I didn't feel like death had swooped in and pressed its withered blackened lips to my chest and beckoned the life to bleed from my body.

"I don't know what I feel." I admitted, my voice barely above a whisper. "I haven't felt anything in so long. I'm not sure how to process what is happening to me right now."

He licked his lips in a deliberate motion, his eyes drifting over my face languidly, a smirk pulling at the corner of his cherry-red lips.

"What's supposed to happen. Now...," he ground through clenched teeth, his voice suddenly harsh, penetrating, commanding. I wasn't sure if he was angry or in pain as he uttered his next words. "Tell me your name, Juliet."

I pressed my back against the vinyl of the booth, the pounding of my pulse deafening as my brief feeling of safety was replaced with nerves fluttering inside of me like hummingbird wings. "Why would you call me that?"

"Because," he exhaled, his hand reaching out and clasping mine. "You too, will die for love."

My breath caught in my chest as I processed what he'd said, the word death ricocheting through my mind like a pinball― bouncing from receptor to receptor, all of them chanting in unison, go to him, surrender, succumb.

"What are you doing to me?"

"Oh, Juliet," he sighed, his shoulders hunching inward, appearing tired, vulnerable. "I have no control over what is happening between us right now."

His posture seemed forced, like he was intentionally trying to appear less threatening. He looked like lies and deceit. A fraud.

"You may have no control, but I have the feeling you wouldn't use it if you did." I tried to strengthen my voice, to appear unaffected by his proximity, to gain some sense of control.

"Silly human, I have no wish to interfere with fate. You are mine as I am yours; we'd be fools to try and fight it." His dismissive tone did nothing to soothe the mounting fear blooming in my chest.

The brief shimmer of calm I'd experienced only moments before were no more than an echo of a mirage in my memory. My heart rate spiked, and my body began to shake as adrenaline jolted through my veins.

I shook my head, denying what exactly, I wasn't sure; I only knew I felt cornered and helpless.

His jaw clenched, his eyes narrowing as he withdrew his hand slowly from mine. "You're not ready yet," he hissed, each word dripping with disdain.

He rose from the booth, his eyes hard as he studied me. I followed his every move, my hand lifting from the table and hovering in the air, my body pulled toward his like a magnet.

A lecherous grin pulled at the corners of his mouth as he languidly swept his tongue across his bottom lip, causing it to glisten with moisture.

Suddenly my vision blurred, and my hands balled into tight fists as every muscle in my body coiled in preparation to spring from my seat.

My desire to taste him―to sink my teeth into his flesh, pull his lip into my mouth and suck the very essence of his skin inside of me― slammed into me with Herculean force. I felt possessed and overcome by something outside of my control and beyond my understanding.

He stepped to my side of the table and leaned over me, his lips brushing against the apple of my cheek. "But you will be, and soon I think." He inhaled deeply before pulling away. "I won't be far, sweet Juliet."

A gasp lodged in my throat as I focused on his eyes, the murky brown becoming fainter every second, replaced instead by violent crimson.

Before I could speak or even blink, he was gone, leaving me with a sense of loss and confusion.

I numbly pulled money from my pocket and laid it on the table. In a daze, I passed Vicky who stared at me wide eyed, her face paler than usual.

I pulled out of the lot and drove to my studio, ignoring the goose bumps spreading over my skin causing the hairs to prickle on my forearms. I tried to process what happened at the diner, why I'd reacted the way I had to a complete stranger, who, if I was being honest with myself, scared the hell out of me.

After locking my Jeep, I pushed open the front door, the scent of paint and clay grounding me, securing me to the present.

I surveyed the room; paintings and sculptures filled every corner, many tagged as sold and waiting to be shipped. I'd always considered my art more of a hobby, never once believing I'd actually make a living doing something I loved.

The money I'd received after my parents death made it possible for me to quit my part-time job at the art gallery and focus on creating more pieces. My boss couldn't get enough of my work and kept many of my sculptures on constant display in his showcases, providing me with more than enough to sustain myself.

I moved to the kiln and pulled out the latest vase I'd worked on, hoping to lose myself in my work and block out everything that happened earlier. I'd probably never see him again anyway.

My chest heaved as soon as the thought crossed my mind, my fingers tightening so fiercely, the clay broke and scattered across the floor. I stared at my hands in shock, my mind buzzing as I tried to understand what was happening to me?

The following week moved like hot lava, thick and scorching, as it rolled over me and charred my soul. It had been a week since Romeo crashed my breakfast at the diner, and he had yet to make another appearance. I'd taken to calling him that after realizing he'd never given me his name.

I found myself mimicking my actions of the day we met, hoping I'd see him again, that he'd come to me like before and set my world on fire. But he didn't; it was like he'd fallen off whatever cliff he'd climbed up to begin with.

I hated how I now woke in the middle of the night with the same tightness in my chest I'd experienced at the diner. I hated when I did manage to sleep, images I couldn't comprehend― flashes resembling scenes from horror movies accompanied with raw animalistic sounds― jolted me awake.

Each day the dark circles under my eyes grew more prominent, the pain in my chest more distinct, and my agitation almost unbearable.

I stormed into my studio, flipping on the lights and powering up my stereo, Rob Zombie immediately pounding through the speakers. I needed a distraction, something to pull my thoughts away from the man who was slowly consuming me without even being present.

I dragged my hand along the counter, stopping in front of a blank canvas. I was overcome with the sudden desire to plunge my hands into the surrounding paint cans and fist the thick liquid until it oozed between my fingers. I grabbed a screwdriver, using it to pop the lid off the closest container and flinging it to the side. I ripped my shirt over my head, leaving on my worn white camisole.

Without a moment's hesitation, I submerged my hands, flexing my fingers repeatedly to mix the paint and bring its full color to life. I withdrew them slowly, bright red paint dripping from the tips of my fingers and onto the floor.

I raised my hands to my face, watching the paint slide down my arms to my elbows. It was the same color splashed across the dreams that stalked my sleep like a predator attacking its prey.

I extended my arm to the canvas, my finger drawing first one oval, then another. I dipped my hand into the paint again, not caring that my jeans and shirt were now splattered in red.

I felt empowered, drunk with release as my hand worked quickly, blood-red eyes and hair the color of fire morphing onto the canvas and coming to life before my eyes. This is what I wanted, what I needed, what I craved.

I dragged my arm across my forehead, pushing back the hair that had fallen free from my ponytail. Suddenly a million butterflies exploded from the center of my abdomen as the door behind me burst open and slammed against the wall.

I spun around, a strangled gasp lodged in my throat as my eyes landed on my angel of death for the first time in a week. His face was hard angles and narrowed eyes that radiated with fury.

Before I could blink, his face was a just a hair's breadth from mine, nostrils flared and eyes pitch black except for the scarlet ring circling his pupils.

"Ah, Juliet, how utterly fucking perfect you look right now." He breathed, his finger trailing from the side of my neck to the center of my chest and between my breasts.

"Where have you been?" I demanded, my words bursting past my lips with each panted breath.

"Around." His tone was dismissive, his answer evasive.

A fire exploded in my chest as anger gripped me, all reason eradicated as I reached out and fisted his shirt, the material tearing as I yanked forcefully.

"Not good enough." I seethed, a haze falling over my vision.

A voice in the back of my mind screamed for me to let go, pleaded for me to step back, begged me to run away. But I was too far gone, consumed with something I couldn't understand, confused by every emotion coursing through me, and completely terrified because I had no control over my reactions, and no desire to resist them.

"Well, well, well." He tsked. "It seems like someone has missed me." The taunting lithe to his voice did nothing to deter me― I wanted answers, I needed answers, and then... I just needed.

"What have you done to me?"

"I've done nothing to you, Juliet, you're merely beginning to understand your purpose."

"And what would my purpose be?"

"To become mine."

"And if I refuse?" I tried to level my voice, stand against the throbbing pulse that echoed throughout my body.

He chuckled darkly, his hand rising once more and gripping the top of my camisole. "Why would you want to do something as foolish as that?"

With a flick of his wrist, my top, including my bra, was ripped from my body and flung across the room. My chest heaved as I stood before him, exposed for his eyes to feed upon greedly.

The music suddenly came to life, the speakers vibrating as the beat drummed through the air.

I am the bad one,

Distant and cruel one,

I am the dream that,

Keeps you running down,

With distraction,

Violent reaction,

Scars of my actions,

Watch me running out

He licked his lips as his eyes rolled back. "I'm going to have you, Juliet, in every possible way."

His arms snaked around me, my head lolling back as he pushed forward, walking me backwards toward the counter.

"What is this?" I was delirious, lost―obliterated with need for this stranger who consumed me.

"Fate," he hissed, lifting me onto the counter and wedging himself between my thighs.

"I don't have a say in any of this, do I?" I felt silly even bothering to ask, already knowing the moment I'd laid eyes on him in the diner my fate had been sealed.

"Not even a little." He leaned in, pressing his lips to my neck, a guttural growl vibrating from his chest as he reached up and palmed my bare breast roughly.

"Then fucking take me," I all but screamed, lost in the feel of his ice-cold hands as they traveled over my chest.

"I can't wait to see you painted this color with real blood as I lap it from your skin." He moaned, pulling my nipple into his mouth and biting down.

"Real blood?" I choked, my heart stuttering in my chest, "I...I don't understand." I fisted his hair, holding his face flush with my skin, unwilling to lose the contact of his mouth for even a second.

"Because you're not ready," he snapped, breaking my iron clad hold like I was nothing more than a child trying to contain a god. "But I'm tired of waiting. I will have you, and I'll have you now."

He lowered his arms and ripped apart my jeans, the fabric shredding between his hands as he yanked it from legs like it was nothing more than a delicate flower, an unwanted reminder of a barrier that should have never been.

"Tell me your name," I pleaded.

He smirked, his finger ghosting up my thigh before hooking under my panties and tearing the lacy material from my body. "Is Romeo not sufficient?"

His condescending tone flared my anger and stiffened my spine.

"Why would you say that?" I demanded.

"Because you call me that in your sleep," he smiled slyly, his tongue sliding across his bottom lip, "when you press your fingers against your swollen clit and moan over and over again as you come." His tone was saturated with sin, sex, and manipulation, but the way his breath caught and his eyes dilated let me know he wasn't nearly as unaffected as he tried to appear.

"How do you know that?" My voice became taunting, a devious grin sliding across my face. "And how do you know I'm talking about you?"

His eyes hardened as his fingers clenched my thighs roughly. " Because I can see," he hissed.

I didn't understand what he meant, but I didn't care. I reached for the waistband of his jeans, tugging the button from its hole and yanking the denim down his hips.

"Tell me your name." I commanded, palming his cock and squeezing.

"Yours." He flexed his hips, pushing himself into my hand, a villainous smirk pulling up the corner of his mouth as he watched me with dark, hooded eyes.

I gritted my teeth in frustration, my legs wrapping around his hips and caging his body against mine.

"Why are you playing games with me?"

He pulled away, his mouth twisted as his teeth sank into his lip. "You don't know anything about what is happening right now. I tell you what you need to know. I tell you what you can handle."

"So I can't handle whatever it is you refuse to tell me, but I can handle you fucking me on the counter in my studio?"

He groaned and stepped away from me quickly, too quickly. The movement so unnatural that in that brief moment the fog that had settled over my mind lifted and brought full awareness to the situation.

My eyes widened as I leapt from the counter and snatched on the shirt I'd discarded earlier, leaving me in front of him, with only that barrier, the rest of my clothing torn, useless.

"Get out." My voice was no more than a whisper, embarrassment and shock making me feel weak, small, inferior.

"I'll leave when I'm ready." He stalked toward me, his hands clenched at his sides, his chest heaving as his eyes burned into mine.

"Then I'll leave. I don't know who―or what you are, but I'm not sticking around to find out." My voice shook as I moved to grab my bag, my movements slow, like I was running through quicksand.

"Edward." His voice was low, gritty, angry. I spun to face him, unsure of the meaning behind the one word arrow of venom launched from his lips.

"My name is Edward."

I stared at him, wondering if the knowledge of his name really mattered at this point, my reflex to flee so strong, my muscles shook with the effort it took to remain still.

"What are you?"

"That won't matter in the end." He answered, evasive as ever.

"You know what? Forget this. You have suggested I have no control over my future, that you are my fate, and that I am going to die. Nothing I've felt since the moment I met you has made me feel rational or safe. I'm outta here."

"You will not move an inch toward that door." His voice seemed to reach across the room and wrap spidery arms around my shoulders, holding me in a cage. It was a plea; it was a request; it was a command―it was undeniable.

"And if I do?"

"Do not test me. I am showing every bit of restraint I have right now. I am trying to give you time. You don't want to force my hand."

"Then you need to give me something, Edward." I spat, his name like acid on my tongue.

"I am not like you, Juliet. We are very different creatures who have been bound together by forces neither of us can comprehend. To deny them― would end tragically." He crossed the room at a slow leisurely pace, his face slackened as his piercing red eyes locked me in place.

"Are you going to kill me?" My voice was low, flat...accepting.

"I am."

"Why?" I whimpered, fear of the unknown seeping into my skin and saturating me with hopelessness.

"Because I won't have a choice. Either you die and become like me, or you just...die." He extended his arm, his icy finger trailing down my cheek and leaving a trail of goosebumps in its wake.

"And if you don't become like me, and just die, then I die." He paused, his other arm snaking around my waist and pulling my body flush against his. "I have no interest in dying sweet, Juliet, not when I have yet to taste your skin, fill your body, or paint your flesh with blood."

He lowered his head, his breath washing over me, sinking into my pores, and filling the gaping holes left by the people who lay rotting in wooden boxes six feet under the blackened earth.

"Bella. My name is Bella." I moaned, completely overwhelmed with the feelings coursing through my body.

"I know, sweet Juliet. I've always known. I just needed you to want to tell me."

"More games?"



"I need your acceptance of what is to come, or the next couple of decades will be utterly miserable. Now hold still."

He pulled away from the pounding pulse at my neck and ghosted his lips over my skin, the fine hairs rising and swaying, following the path of his lips like the mere thought of being separated was too much to bear. And if I was being honest, it was.

The music changed again, his breath coming out in short pants at he chuckled against the corner of my mouth. "Oh, how fitting."

The beat thrummed, the music roaring in my ears as his mouth slowly, sensually, sinfully covered mine. His tongue delved into my mouth, his fingers curling into my sides to the point where it was almost painful, but deliciously so.

Crawl on me

Sink into me

Die for me

Living Dead Girl

"Bella," he groaned against my lips, the sound of my name causing every muscle in my body to bunch and twist, crying out for contact.

He suddenly tensed, his tightened grasp causing the air to leak from my lungs.


I was on the floor, dropped like a sack of potatoes before I could finish my word. Edward flew to the door, reaching it as it exploded open.

In the archway stood Jake, the only person from the reservation I still spoke with and who truly understood what happened with Jared. His mouth was set in a hard line, his eyes wildly darting between the two of us as his chest heaved.

"Go back where you came from," Edward warned, his voice taking on a tone I'd never heard before, it was raw, vicious.

"I'm not going anywhere." Jake spat, his eyes boring into mine. "Get up, Bella. Get up now and come with me. We'll protect you."

I moved my eyes between the two of them frantically, not understanding the situation, but knowing I had to pick a side and make a stand― or someone would die in this room.

I slowly rose to my feet, my eyes locked on Jake, as I took a shaky step forward.

Edward's back was to me, so when he spoke his words seemed far away, muffled, but no less bone chilling or terrifying.

"One more step Bella and I will shred his flesh from his bones right before your eyes."

"Ignore him, Bella," Jake soothed, his voice floating across the room and embracing me in warmth.

I froze, indecision and panic welling inside of me and fighting for dominance.

"Do you want your friend to die, Bella?" Edward taunted, his voice like silk wrapped around the jagged edge of a knife, poised to plunge into the heart of my friend and flay him before me.

"No," I choked, my eyes filling with tears, as my emotions wreaked havoc inside of me.

"Bella," Jake warned.

"She's mine," Edward snarled, his back hunching forward, his stance lowering into a crouch.

"I won't let you take her."

"Then you will die."

In a blur, my childhood friend disappeared, and in his place stood something I'd only seen in horror films and thought to be a complete fabrication of the human imagination.

Long lean legs covered in fur, paws with razor sharp nails dragging across the concrete floor, and massive incisors cutting through gums―pushing out from jowls under a pitch black snout.

Before the scream building deep in my chest could make its way from my throat, Edward was in front of him, their matching growls and snake-like hisses bouncing off the walls and penetrating my ear canals.

Grunts, the collision of bodies, and the sharp, deathly clashing of teeth echoed off the walls. A ghastly paw swiped through the air and slammed into Edward, the resulting sound a piercing screech of grating metal that caused my stomach to twist and burn.

My mind was complete chaos as I tried to process the scene in front of me as well as the ache building in my chest every time a hiss of pain left Edward's lips. I was overcome with the need to protect him, defend him, save him.

"Bella, no!" he thundered as if he'd heard my thoughts.

In the blink of an eye, Edward grasped the top of the wolf's snout with one hand and clutched the bottom jaw with the other. With a ferocious roar, he jerked his arms in opposite directions, the wolf's head splitting in two as the body fell limply to the floor.

"Oh my god, oh my God, oh my God." I chanted, watching as the wolf's body shifted and shrank, the fur disappearing, replaced instead by the sun-kissed skin of my childhood friend.

"Bella," Edward cooed, suddenly directly in front of me, his arms extended in front of him in a submissive gesture. His hands were coated in blood, the hands that ripped the head from my friend's body like he was pulling a paper towel from a roll.

"What are you?" I screamed, tears streaming down my face.

"I am a vampire." His words were slow, soft, reassuring. "And you are my mate."

"I am your nothing." I shouted, my vision warbling and dancing on the edge of consciousness as I tried to process his words, wrap my mind around what he was saying, and what it meant for me.

I was going to die.

"You can't fight this. You can try, but I won't let you kill us both."

"Watch me."

I stormed from my studio, careful to keep my eyes away from Jake, unwilling to add the visual of his broken body leaking his life's blood onto the concrete floor to the arsenal of nightmares that would surely plague my sleep.

Edward didn't follow. I knew this because the hollow ache that had consumed me for the last week began to intensify as soon as the tires of my Jeep hit the road.

All the way back to my house, the scene played on a loop in my head; over and over again I watched my friend turn into a giant beast before having his head ripped apart.

I didn't understand anything. Vampires? Teenage boys who turn into wolves? What in the hell was going on?

I slammed the front door behind me, engaging the locks before racing up the stairs and blasting the hot water in the shower. I needed to wash away the paint, the smell of Edward that lingered on my skin, and the pain of watching my friend die.

But no matter how much I scrubbed, how much the heat from the water scalded my skin, the damage had been done, and there was no going back.

The days began to bleed into one another just like the rivets of rain cascading down the window pane. My will to get out of bed obliterated as every cell in my body screamed for something I couldn't comprehend.

I stared vacantly out the window from my bed, my fingers absently picking at the skin on my arm, the flesh a sickly yellowish green.

Edward had disappeared again, and I had yet to leave my house.

And worse still? No one noticed I'd retreated into my home and hadn't been out for days. Obviously no one had been by my studio, because surely the police would be beating down my door by now.

I winced when my chest heaved, causing a rough cough to burst from my throat, the cracked dry skin on my lips pulling and splitting, opening for a thin trail of blood to trickle down my chin.

I hadn't believed Edward when he said I would die, foolishly hoping he'd been exaggerating, that my life hadn't become so entangled with his that I no longer had a choice.

My appetite had vanished, my stomach unable to hold even the slightest morsel of food. Every place Edward's hand had brushed against my body burned, the skin swelling and weeping, infected. The places where his mouth had laid claim to my skin―over my breast, my lips, my neck―it all ached as the flesh seemed to rot and decay.

Had he left? Was this how I would die? Alone in my parents home, surrounded by memories of the people who'd already fled this place.

I licked my lips, wiping the blood from my chin with the back of my hand.

"Will you leave me to die?" I whispered, the effort to speak causing my vision to blacken briefly, the sound of my voice foreign having not heard it in a week.

My heart thundered against my ribs, the rhythm so fast and powerful I feared at any moment the bones in my chest would crack and my heart would claw through my skin.

I remained perfectly still, my ears straining to catch even the slightest hint of a sound. Tears gathered in the corners of my eyes as I gritted my teeth in frustration, my entire face aching as my tired muscles strained.

"Edward, I don't want to die like this." My voice shook before breaking at the end, the reality of my situation so unbelievably unbearable.

I was certain I didn't want to live a life with him, to be like him, a savage beast who could snuff the life out of someone with a flick of their wrist, but I was also certain, I wasn't ready to join my parents.

"I've tried to give you time." He spoke, his voice strained and so very close.

I jerked my head to the side, my vision swimming with dizziness.

"Edward," I croaked as he lifted my arm to his face, gently pressing his lips against the irritated flesh.

"Are you ready to listen now, sweet Juliet?"

I nodded and pushed my body upright against the headboard as he slid onto the bed in front of me, his crimson eyes studying me intently.

"You are my mate. There is no equivalent I can give you in human relationships that will make you understand the extent of what that means. Humans are so fickle with their love, it takes only the slightest thing to break a bond promised to last forever. Animals have more dedication to their mates; swans, for example, mate for life. And when their mate dies, they mourn, and in most cases die shortly thereafter."

"But I'm not like you. How can we be...mates?" It was awkward to say the word; it felt wrong, abominable.

"Because as different as we are now, we were once the same. I don't understand how the process works, only that the moment I stepped into this town I was pulled to you by an unstoppable force."

"And when was that?"

"A month ago."

"So you watched me for weeks before approaching me in the diner?"

"I did." His tone was matter of fact, his face absent of even the slightest ounce of remorse.

"Why didn't you just leave? I was fine before you came. I could have kept going and never had to feel this way." I spat, the taste of blood filling my mouth as my teeth cut into my tongue.

"Because you belong to me," he ground, his pupils dilating as his eyes zeroed in on my mouth. "And you weren't fine; the moment my body became aware of you, yours became aware of mine. Only your reaction was slower, because you're human―but much more deadly."

"But you kill people; you killed my friend right in front of me."

"I do kill people; it's how I survive. Do you not eat meat?"

"It's not the same," I argued.

"Why?" he smirked. "Because you think you're a superior race to animals? Sustaining your life trumps ending theirs?"

"It's not the same. We have a higher level of intelligence than animals, others that depend on us for their well being."

"Why should I care if Daddy can buy baby Sally a new pair of shoes? You speak of higher intelligence and dependency, but both of those things equate to material possessions, things which hold no true value." He stared at me for a moment, the silence stretching as he appeared to be choosing his words carefully.

"Tell me, Bella, how many humans mourn the loss of their love until they perish? How many humans spend hours upon hours in the elements fighting and foraging to provide food and shelter for their young? Or better yet, tell me how many animals would discard a perfectly healthy offspring into a dumpster behind a seedy bar without ever looking back?"

I stared at him, my mouth open to form the words for an arguement I no longer had.

"No," he continued, shaking his head, "I feel much less guilty taking the life of a human than I would an animal."

"You killed Jake."

"He posed a threat to my mate. My animal tendencies override any remaining human emotions I still possess. Your friend was a shapeshifter, a wolf, a life mater― he knew the risk of trying to take you from me, but he chose to ignore it― which is why he's now dead." His eyes softened as he shifted closer. "I will never apologize for protecting you because vampires mate for life― you die, I die."

A wave of dizziness abruptly crashed over me, causing my vision to blur. "What is happening to me?" I begged, my hands planting against the bed to steady myself.

He sighed and moved his hands to my knees, his fingers wrapping around and tugging them apart. He shifted up on his knees, sliding around until his body was kneeling between my parted thighs.

My breathing picked up, my limbs heavy and weightless all at once.

"Your human body can't handle the intensity of the mating bond. The venom that lingers from my touch is slowly breaking down your cells; your soul is literally trying to come out of your skin to get to me. The pain in your chest," he whispered, leaning forward and pressing his lips against the exposed area, "is your heart trying to claw its way out and give itself to me."

"So, my heart will stop?" I asked, my eyes fluttering closed as his lips ghosted up my neck.

"Yes, your heart will stop." He smoothed his hands up my thighs to the top of my panties, his fingers hooking in the material and dragging it down my legs without a moment's hesitation.

"But if you make me like you, then I'll live?"

"When I make you like me. There is no but, Juliet, you will die tonight."

"Tonight?" I choked, my eyes flying open, panic causing my thighs to clench together.

"Do not deny me." He growled, his hands roughly gripping my hips and sliding me down the bed until he hovered over me.

"I don't want to die."

"Death is merely a bridge you must cross before you can truly begin to live." His voice dropped suddenly, his eyes reflecting a softness I had never seen before, still deadly, yet breathtakingly beautiful.

"I have so much to give you. So much to share. Let me." he urged, his fingers teasing the bottom of my shirt.

I nodded, no longer possessing the will to deny how I wanted this man, this vampire, beyond all reason. He groaned and slipped my shirt over my head, his hands making quick work of his own clothes until we lay naked, pressed flesh to flesh from head to toe.

Bright light burst and shattered before my eyes as my entire body hummed with pleasure from the inside out. My muscles no longer ached, instead caressed in a warm blanket of beautiful down feathers. For the first time in as long as I could remember, I finally felt at peace.

"You're ready now, aren't you, my sweet Juliet?"

"I am. Take me now, make me yours," I begged, my legs wrapping around his waist and pulling his body inside of mine. He flexed his hips as he sank further into me, rocking and pushing―pleasing, as he whispered promises of tender touches and sweet caresses, of love and forever.

My body tensed, my mouth falling open as my back arched from the bed, wave after wave of heat thrumming through my body. With a soft grunt and a chaste kiss his teeth pierced my neck, cutting through my flesh and pumping the very poison that would bring my death into my veins.

As my eyes rolled back and my hands fisted the sheets as I smiled through the pain, knowing that with my death I would be reborn into a new life―a life where I became the darkness.

More? yes, no? Lemme know, there is so much room for expansion with this mofo. If not, well, s'cool too peeps!

Love, love!