Disclaimer: These are not Stephanie's vampires.
There is always a beginning.
If there is anything I have learned in this life, it is that there is always a clear beginning and a clear ending to every story, every experience and every painful memory. That's not to say there were things I would rather forget – things that needed to be forgotten, because remembering them was simply too much to endure.
The death of my grandfather is something I very much wish to forget. I had witnessed his murder when I was a small child – it was before the time of our current governing system, when the covens were more like packs of wolves than beings that resembled humans. One of the rival covens had come into my grandfather's territory in the far north to challenge the ownership of the area; my own father had hidden my mother and I away with the other women and children and, through a crack in the door, I had watched as blood spewed across the wooden floors.
I watched my grandfather fall, his face ashen, and I watched – and admired – how my own virile father took revenge for the death of our coven leader. From that day forward, Carlisle Cullen became the leader of the coven and he nearly single handedly organized the ranks of government all covens around the world used today.
There are memories, however, that I wish to keep for as long as I live.
I am nearing five hundred years old.
I have seen many things.
But none have ever been comparable to her.
If I were to forget her, I believe I would simply cease to exist. The one night I had her, the night she became mine forevermore, would always be my strongest, most treasured memory, one that I replay frequently.
I clench my jaw, looking down at my grandfather's ornate silver pocket watch – the very one that he had given to me the day he died. The sharp points of detailing push against the skin of my hands, trying to make an imprint even as the small hands tick closer and closer to eight in the evening and I realize how late I'm going to be. As the carriage begins to slow, I put the watch back in the interior pocket of my heavy navy coat and allow my body to tense, prepared for violence – because this unplanned stop was not part of my ride.
A gruff voice speaks to the carriage driver and I feel movement as the driver steps down from his post. He knocks once on the carriage door and opens it. "Sir-"
"Anderson. What is the problem?"
Anderson looks down, sweating – though it is very difficult to discern sweat from the pouring rain that drips over his thin face. "I beg your forgiveness, Sir, but this man's carriage broke down and his daughter is inside. He pleads for assistance, as he does not want his daughter to fall ill in this weather."
My eyes flicker past Anderson and to the man with thick facial hair and the carriage with two broken wheels behind him. I sigh. "Very well. But this stop is making me tardy, Anderson," I warn lowly.
Quickly, the man rushes to his carriage and retrieves his daughter after Anderson informs him of my assistance and I move over to the opposite side of the carriage, to the smaller seat that faces the back of the cab.
The man helps his daughter into the carriage first, as is the protocol for this time, and the large jacket that she borrows from her father is soaking the upholstery of the seat.
I force my face to remain composed as I take in the appearance of my new passengers, refraining from taking deep breathes as their scents are noticeably enhanced from the rain – I do not want to take any chances of becoming thirsty while trapped in this small area.
The man looks familiar now that he is inside, with a balding dark head of hair and dark eyes but he is nothing remarkable. Simply very human. His daughter, however, seems to exceed her parentage; youthful pale skin, full dark pink lips, long very dark hair piled on top of her head and hanging down her back and her figure tightly encased in a corseted creamy taupe gown, adorned with lace and a voluptuous skirt. I lick my lips, my fangs threatening to slip out at the thought of sinking my teeth into her smooth throat.
"Monsieur Cullen?" The man asks in a thick, gruffly French accent, surprise evident in his voice.
My eyes move slowly from his daughter and I stare at the man again. It's no wonder he looked so familiar – Simone Roux was a human associate of my father's and was slated to be attending tonight's function – the celebration of the New Year of 1752. I nod at him once. "How fated it is that my driver passed by your carriage," I say.
Though I am not looking at her, I am very aware of how her eyes dart to my face when I speak. Her father, on the other hand, becomes quite nervous and refuses to meet my eyes; he must have suspicions about my family.
"Oui, very fortunate," he agrees, pulling out a handkerchief and dabbing his forehead.
The rest of the ride, though short, is filled with silence, save for Simone Roux's heavy anxious breathing and his daughter's fluttering heart when she glances subtly in my direction.
Once, I smile at her and her face turns the most brilliant shade of pink.
I find I quite like that.
I'd like to see it again.
I had planned to behave like a gentleman and assist Simone's lovely daughter out of the carriage, but he beat me to it, hurriedly thanking me for my kindness while his daughter stood behind him with her head bowed slightly. And then, before I can escort them into my parent's lofty Victorian home in the depths of Georgia, my younger brother, Emmett, comes to greet me.
"Brother," he says, shaking my hand for appearance's sake. "Are you aware you are standing in a rather large puddle?"
I nod at him, struggling to remove my eyes from Simone Roux's daughter, though the wetness seeping into the leather of my shoes prompts me to move.
Emmett follows my gaze and whistles lowly. "And now I can clearly see what has you so distracted."
I hiss at him. "Watch your tongue."
"And what would you do about my tongue, big brother?"
"I would cut it from your mouth," I tell him, finally moving and walking towards the entrance of the home. I can smell firewood, ale, cookies and blood; the sound feels deafening between the string band and the echoing of fifty heart beats.
Emmett follows me. "It would just grow back, I assure you."
I glance at him sideways. "Then I would just be forced to cut it out again."
He laughs. "I don't think Mother would appreciate the stains on her carpets."
"What makes you think I could cut your tongue out inside the house?"
"It would be unkind to cut it out anywhere else."
We pass through the foyer. "But if I cut it out here, right now?"
Emmett shrugs. "It is forgivable."
I laugh a bit at my brother's ridiculous logic and begin mingling with the guests, coven members and human alike. I spend the most time watching for Simone's daughter and often find myself distracted from conversation as I look for her.
It is only when I am speaking to another of my father's human associates that I see her, dancing with a young man – and I am grateful to my brother for his quick hand on my shoulder, holding me back. The human I was speaking to turns white and flees and I can only imagine the fury on my face in reaction to seeing her dance with another man.
"Brother? Calm down. You're scaring the humans." I feel a growl rumbling in my chest as I try to shake his strong hand off my body, but again, Emmett pulls me back. "Brother, you will scare that girl if you go over there now, looking to the rest of the world like you wish to end her life."
I take a deep breath, forcing my reason to over power my stinging jealousy – and jealousy over a measly human, at that. "I'm calm," I tell him, feeling the pressure let up from my shoulder.
I don't understand my reaction to this girl, whose name I do not even know. I simply know that I want her in any capacity I can have her and it is with that thought that I move to the dance floor, waiting for the song to finish. When it does, I swiftly move towards her dance partner. "May I have this dance?"
"Oui," she answers breathlessly, trying to untangle herself from her partner's clumsy embrace. When he does not move, I bare my teeth slightly at him and his eyes blink wide. He nods dumbly and I assume that he must be one of the duller humans and, as such, he should not be allowed in the presence of such grace and beauty.
I lock eyes with her as he moves away, startled at the vivid dark blue, almost violet color of her irises; the odd color made her even more lovely. Cautiously, I hold my hand out to her, thrilling when a hot dash of electricity races across my skin when her tiny hand settles into mine.
It is no wonder I have been so drawn to her the entire night.
This stunning human girl was destined to be mine – to be my mate.
If the call of her blood or the seduction of her beauty were not enough to convince me of this, the sparks that flashed over my body when my skin made contact with hers would be more than enough.
A blush steals her cheeks as we begin to dance and she looks shyly up to me, following my lead with grace as we move around the dance floor.
I lean towards her ear, just barely allowing my lips to graze the delicate shell. "What is your name, lovely one?"
She makes a small, confused noise in the back of her throat and I pull back, staring at her; she knows less English than her father and I curse myself for not learning French. But, I quickly decide that it doesn't matter. I can learn French in a few days or enough French in a few hours to learn what this creature is called.
We continue to dance and I am so lost in her that I nearly miss the countdown to the New Year; flutes of fine French champagne have been passed out and the majority of the party has turned their attention to the large clock in the foyer.
The rest of the party, however, are congregated in the back of the room. My father is part of that group and when he catches my eye, he motions for me to join him with urgency.
I had very much wished to bring the New Year in with my little mate, however unofficial our union was at this point.
I also had duties that were more important than my desires.
Sighing, I place my flute down on a small table and turn to my little French girl, who has turned to me in confusion. She had been happily counting down to midnight in French when I turned away.
I lean towards her, carefully touching her cheek. "I'll be right back," I whisper, more for my benefit than hers since she doesn't understand a word I've said.
It is almost painful leaving her and the most intense feeling of foreboding fills my body, making me tense.
"Yes, Father?" I bite out as I enter the small circle that includes my brother, my mother and a few others in our coven.
Father ignores my attitude and looks at with a grave face. "Edward, we have just gotten word of an intrusion-"
And that is when the explosion happens – a bomb or cannon fire or a flame to gas, I'll never know.
The explosion has knocked us all into the crumbling wall and under collapsing posts; the humans scream out and cry and the scent of fresh blood explodes into the room; the large clock in the foyer rings a total of twelve times.
I scramble out of the wreckage, stunned by the amount of fire and smoke that had already filled the house.
And then, my heart lurches and I rush with vampire speed to find my little human mate.
I find her, violet eyes staring up at the flames blankly, with a trickle of blood gently sliding down the side of her face, and my body goes cold and numb. I am on my knees beside her, my hands fluttering over her frail form, not able to understand how she can look so flawless even as her heart isn't beating.
She is dead.
And I am dead, too.
I wish I had died. I wish it a thousand times a day and every time I recall her vivid violet eyes.
I had been angry with my brother, who had physically removed me from the burning property and into the underground maze of tunnels that led to a safe house. I had wanted to hold her little body to my chest and take her with me and he had ruined that.
By the time it was safe for the coven to come out of the underground, the house was charred and bodies were unrecognizable.
Some times, I'm still angry with him.
And incredibly bitter.
He found his mate almost a hundred years later – a blonde vampire by the name of Rosalie. If the coven was ever attacked again, Rosalie would survive.
I found it all unfair, though I'd come to adore Rosalie as a sister. She even tried to set me up with other vampires but none could ever and would never compare to my little French mate.
I still did not know her name and there was no way for me to ever know it; Simone had also died that night and his documents were lost in transition when he moved to the New World from France. There were no records of her to be found.
After her death, the date I mark as the ending of my life – though, unfortunately, not my existence – I did not allow myself to properly grieve. I put all of my energy and then some into finding out who attacked us and killed my mate in the process.
I enjoyed making them meet the sun and their deaths.
I was certain that each and every one of them had been killed by the sun.
There were seven vampires involved and I had personally taken each of their bloodstone rings – personally tied them to silver stakes in the ground with silver chains myself.
I keep their bloodstones in a jewelry box in my room as a trophy. I hope my mate could see all that I had done for her life after she died.
Some vampires claim that finding their mates change them and I am inclined to agree. It's been two hundred and forty one years since she came into and abruptly left my life and I still take into account of how I thought her delicate sensibilities might react in every decision I make.
I swallow painfully and try to force my thoughts away from her, painfully aware that it wasn't New Years and that I had tried to restrict myself from reliving her death on every day except January first.
I sit up in my light tight day chamber, pushing the bed sheets from me and prepare to rise of bed.
A shock goes through me.
A single thud of my heart.
And I gasp, my hand flying to my bare chest.
My heart doesn't beat again.
I growl, upset that I must finally be losing my mind after so many years without her.
Settling my feet on the cold floors and ignoring the chills that rush up my spine, I stand.
And sit back down again.
Another thud of my heart.
A quick beat.
Almost a flutter.
It reminded me of her immediately.
I feel my brows pull together as I wait for the next beat, which is as strong as the last two and accompanied by a little zing of electricity across my skin.
My eyes dart to grandfather's pocket watch for some unexplainable reason and I can't tear my eyes from it as I wait for the next beat.
I wait for one full minute.
And when my heart beats, the old silver of the pocket watch glows just a little bit.
It's almost unnoticeable.
But I remember my grandfather telling me about how demons made the pocket watch and that it had a special use to each owner.
I'd always thought that it was the ramblings of a very old vampire.
Now, I knew different.
Quickly, I reach out and grab the pocket watch, flipping it open and looking at each of the faces – one for the year, another for the month and the third for the day on one side of the watch and one large clock face that told time to the second.
Something was telling me to watch this watch.
To wait for the beat of my own heart.
That sting of electricity.
And the hands of each clock moving, moving, moving and stopping only for a moment before going back to normal.
The year sets to two thousand and twelve.
The month sets to October.
The day sets to the thirteenth.
And the time sets to the hour of five in the afternoon, fifty two minutes into the hour.
I wait for another beat.
The same thing.
Clenching the watch closed, I lay back, my eyes closed.
This had never happened before – not even close.
But I couldn't ignore the fact that it had been over two hundred years since I felt that electricity and that sheer fact ignited a pit of excitement in my chest.
For the first time in a long time, I felt like I was able to take full breaths.
I felt alive inside – and guilty for feeling alive.
There was the tiniest inkling to what this could be – this slow beating heart, the demon watch, the times.
I was reluctant to admit.
Even more reluctant to admit to hope.
But as another beat echoed in my chest, I saw violet eyes behind my closed lids, and I just knew.
She's alive again.
And I would find her.
I started the search right away, in France as it seemed to be the most logical place to start looking.
I sent my men, my coven guards, and even requested to the King of Europe that he send some men to France, looking for a girl with violet eyes. The King granted my request, though he was under the impression that our coven was looking to convict the girl – and I let him think whatever he wanted to.
But she was no where in France.
And so, the search continued, all across the globe, though I let only my men handle it.
Eventually, the group of men narrowed down to the top three trackers under the rule of our coven and they were instructed to search for the violet eyes year-round, non-stop.
I searched too. Everywhere I could think of when I had the chance or the time away from my duties.
And for years – nineteen years to be exact – the pocket watch still repeated that same time for every beat of my heart.
I was between feeling a great amount of pain for having to wait so long to see her and just being thankful she was alive somewhere.
I had to believe I would see her on October 13, 2012.
Rosalie was certain that I would – as tough as she pretended to be, she was truly a hopeless romantic. She had heard about that night in 1752 more times than I could count and cried for me when I refused to let myself shed a tear.
She even went on searches herself - sometimes with me, sometimes with the trackers, sometimes alone.
Rosalie had a theory, too.
One that I hadn't considered in the very beginning.
Maybe, that first time my heart started beating, my little human mate was a baby.
Maybe she was nineteen right now.
I didn't particularly like the thought of her being older in this life – I knew she had to have been only fifteen or sixteen in 1752 – and I knew that most girls these days gave their virginities away without thought or consequence.
I've been prone to fits of rages just at the thought.
But her being alive was the most important thing.
And she was alive.
I'd gotten used to the waiting, to the reports from the trackers that claim nobody with her violet eyes had been found.
So, when Rosalie and Emmett came to my personal office this morning around four, right before the dawn, almost exactly nineteen years since my heart started beating, I was expecting just that.
I wasn't expecting Leigh's huge smile.
And I most certainly wasn't expecting what my brother said;
"They found her."
This time, my heart beat twice.
A/N: I'm back ;)
So, to head off any super worried reviews – this is an HEA!
Also, chapters are going to be shorter than this by at least half so, most likely, shorter wait times in between updates.
I'm off to watch more Queen of the Damned!
As always, be brutally honest. I can take it.