**WARNING!** This story contains a whole lot of gross, gratuitous, and gruesome character death. All the other characters. It is a horror, mass-murder, Edward-gone-vampire-batshit-and-enjoying-it crazy fic. If that ain't your thing, please don't read any further. Stay tuned for next time, when I'm back to my regular program with a story that's promising to be all kinds of fun and sexy.

If you enjoy a touch of black humor with your slash, drink, and dismember, then by all means, join me in this raining blood-fest.

Thanks to SunKing for letting me yank her off her fluff cloud and gamely running it through the beta machine.

Happy Halloween!


LAST MAN STANDING

No one understood what the smell did to me.

Emmett thought he did, but when he ran into his singer, he'd been outside in the middle of nowhere with fresh breezes and wide-open spaces. He hadn't been locked in a small room with recirculating air and twenty other humans. The scent didn't permeate his clothing, his hair, his pores. He didn't have to soak in it for fifty minutes, fighting it, wanting it, absorbing it into his very being, calculating ways to make it his and have it run in appeasing, glorious ribbons down his throat. The need went beyond compulsion and into what would be, because there was no other option. I'd been in control of my choices and my will for over one hundred years, but in that moment, I gave into desire and instinct. It felt rapturous.

I was going to eat Bella Swan.

They'd try to stop me, of course. I could have done it then, in the Biology classroom, but I'd have to rush, and that would be a tragedy. I wanted to savor. The scent was too glorious for the taste to be otherwise, and if I was going to do it—and, oh, I was, I really was—I didn't want to waste one single molecule. I would enjoy and prolong every second, every drop, every slow swirl into madness, for that was what it would be. I didn't expect to experience such joy and survive, but my ultimate demise would be worth it.

I was going to eat Bella Swan and glory in doing so.

Gone from my seat seconds before the bell rang, I sat in the car as my siblings left classrooms on their way to the next. My thoughts and actions confused Alice, as I kept my purpose vague and ideas nebulous. By the time school was over and they made their way into the car, I knew what I would do but kept tossing ideas around in my head to keep Alice off the scent.

Oh, the scent. I shivered.

Alice's eyes grew wide with concern as she got in the car and examined my face.

"It's okay, Alice. I'm okay. It just took me by surprise, that's all."

My other siblings inquired after my strange behavior but settled into silence, used to Alice and me not sharing our unusual and private conversations. Visions spun through her head, but she never settled on one in particular. Good. She hadn't sensed my resolve, and I continued to carefully interchange my options.

Of course, once we got home, Alice ratted me out to Carlisle, and we had to have a family meeting where everyone looked serious and concerned. I sat quietly in my chair at the dining room table where all such discussions took place, keeping my head down and trying to look regretful and tortured. The tortured part wasn't hard, but I wasn't regretful in the least. I fortified my resolve and let their discussion run its course so I could get to the Swan residence as quickly as possible and make Isabella's amazing blood mine.

Get in my belly, indeed.

I'd been concentrating so hard on appearing subdued and keeping Alice guessing that I only made an offhand note when Emmett left the house. The triumphant tenor of his thoughts and the sound of him running through the trees as he approached front door broke through my preoccupation, and I realized he hadn't just escaped due to boredom. My head lifted, curious about what he held in his hands, his thoughts both proud and tentative.

What if even this is too much? What if Edward can't handle it? I don't want to be the one to make him leave, but if he doesn't get a grip somehow, Jasper will kill the girl himself.

I leapt to my feet, snarling. No one would have the glory of Isabella's blood but me. It was mine.

Alice's shout to Jasper preceded my motion by the barest fraction of a second, and he and Carlisle managed to grab me as I lunged for the windows. I went after Emmett for not only his thoughts but also for what he had done.

He'd gone to Isabella's house, where she lived, slept, breathed…bled. He'd taken her clothes and brought them back in a misguided attempt to desensitize me so I didn't kill her and we didn't have to leave Forks. He had no idea he was too late to change my mind and severely miscalculated my reaction to her beguiling scent.

I took Carlisle by surprise with the ferocity of my attack and flung him across the room as I spun to face Jasper. Surprise flickered across my brother's face before determination replaced it, but Emmett entered the room at the same moment, and her scent flooded my consciousness.

Jasper read my emotions and tried to explain. "Emmett was only trying to help. He thought this might work, so you didn't have to leave, and no one had to hurt the girl."

"Here," Emmett offered at the same time and thrust her clothes, damp from the rain, at me.

"No!" Alice screamed, leaping for Emmett, but it was too late.

I howled as the smell filled me like a living thing. It snarled, snapped, and slavered, but maybe that was me. I heard an almost audible crack as my mind splintered, and only one thing was left in my consciousness to the exclusion of everything else—will, reason, intellect, and sanity. I existed for no other reason than to protect what was mine. Not a single shred of doubt remained that Isabella Swan would be my kill. She'd been crafted for me specifically, and her blood would fill and soothe me as soon as I could make it happen. Starting immediately.

I gripped Jasper's forearm and pulled. Hard. The action took him by surprise, and I was able to yank him forward. As he crashed into my chest, we embraced like lovers. I opened my mouth and bit his head off. Alice shrieked as it rolled down my back and across the floor, and I had very little time while shock held the rest of my family motionless with disbelief. I leapt across the room and grabbed Alice against me in another embrace as I slashed my teeth across her throat, sending her head to join Jasper's. She couldn't warn anyone with her bothersome visions anymore or avenge the death of her mate.

Emmett roared, and he had to be next. He came at me, but I read his intentions with crystal clarity that made it easy to avoid his rush, grab his arm as he shot past me, and rip it from his enormous body. I spun and swung the appendage like a baseball bat in one smooth, ballet-like motion, connecting with Rosalie's pretty head as she, too, came at me with a shriek. Thanks to her thoughts, I knew where she was without even looking. Emmett's arm caught her directly on the ear and knocked her head from her body with a thundering crack. I made another economical spin and whirl, and the arm came down on top on Carlisle's head. For a split second, a twinge of remorse slowed my attack. The instant lasted for about as long as the split in his head, and I swung back the other way, proving I could switch hit with the best of them. Carlisle's blond crown went to rest with the others against the wall.

Esme heaved air into her useless lungs and stared at the pile in horror. Her wide gold eyes swung to mine as I moved to take her into my arms and hold her frozen form against my chest.

"It'll be fine, Esme. Just fine," I promised.

It would be, too, just as soon as I drank every drop of Isabella Swan's beautiful, bountiful blood. I held Esme's face between my hands, pressing her comfortingly into my chest before twisting viciously and tossing her head over my shoulder as I walked toward the front door. A satisfying thunk sounded as it rolled across the floor and settled unerringly with the others.

I really should have tried bowling at some point in my existence.

I paused at the small, delicate table in the foyer and reached into the shallow drawer for the matches located there. After lighting the box, I tossed it on top of the nearest headless body, beyond eager to find Isabella Swan and appease my madness. Thankfully, I'd parked my Volvo out front instead of in the garage. I zipped down the driveway as the house went up in flames behind me.

I went to her house first, because that's where logic dictated she should be. Not that I was operating on logic—far from it—but I was capable of some reason when it came to my primary and sole objective. In fact, my vampire mind, usually able to think of so many things at once, focused only on getting her blood flowing across my tongue and filling every crevice inside and outside my body. The only thoughts I had were singularly related to that goal. My mind snapped into hunting and killing mode with the Swan girl as my prey, and nothing on earth would stop me. Nothing on earth could stop me.

Except, it appeared, Isabella Swan herself. I barely controlled the urge to tear the house right down to the foundation when I discovered she wasn't there, where she should be—where I expected her to be. Enraged at being denied my prize, I stormed around the dwelling at vampire speed until my fury abated enough so I could think clearly again.

Perhaps she'd been detained at school. I made it to the campus in mere seconds, circling the perimeter and trying to pick up her scent. I found it, faint and aged, but I had to be thorough. The most recent concentration appeared to be in the main office, so I began my methodical search there.

I heard Mrs. Cope's thoughts as I approached the small structure housing the school's operational center. My senses heightened when I realized she was the only one left inside at that hour. I'd been mentally subjected to too many of her lewd and lascivious thoughts about my person, all completely inappropriate for a woman in her position toward the young student and minor she thought me to be. I dismissed the fact everything about me was specifically designed to elicit that exact reaction, having spent too many uncomfortable minutes in the reflection of her thoughts. Getting rid of her wouldn't take long or distract from my main goal of finding and drinking Isabella Swan.

"Edward." Mrs. Cope looked up, her eyes flaring wide when I entered the office. Her gaze quickly swept my body from tousled, damp hair to the toes of my sturdy yet fashionable boots. She mentally licked her lips, and the image settled my resolve. "What can I help you with?"

"I'm sure there's quite a lot you can help me with, Mrs. Cope."

My voice dropped to a low, seductive stroke as I glided across the room to brace against the counter and hover my face mere inches from hers. She blinked rapidly and started to move away until she inhaled my sweet breath. Her body visibly relaxed as she unconsciously mimicked my stance, leaning toward me across the old, worn surface.

"If you're willing."

"Oh." Her eyelids fluttered, and her face went slack. I swallowed venom even as I fought disgust when I sensed her arousal. "Oh. Y-Yes. Whatever you need."

"Closer. I need you to come closer, Mrs. Cope. Closer," I whispered.

Her breath panted in and out of her lungs as she rose on her tiptoes to bring herself almost across the counter.

"That's it. Now, tilt your head for me. Arch your back. A little more. More, Mrs. Cope. That's it. That's what I want. Good."

I brushed the back of my hand across her cheek before sliding my fingers along the expanse of her proffered throat. She shuddered, both in excitement and the first thread of fear, as I locked my gaze on hers.

"Thank you, Mrs. Cope. Such a good girl."

I lowered my head and ran my mouth from her collarbone to her jaw before pulling my lips back and sinking my teeth into the pulsing vein hidden in the folds of skin.

Bright crimson burst in a wet, wide arc. I'd forgotten how good human blood tasted. Glorious. Like nothing else in the world. It filled me, pumping sweet, thick nectar from my stomach to my fingers and toes, each suck and throb pulsing with delight, strength, and power. I growled and tore, a little careless in my excitement, and fat red droplets plopped all over the counter. The gleaming spots looked so pretty, so right, that I did it again, and more blood showered from the plentiful source. I ran the my fingers through the small beads even as I drained her and then lazily licked the blood off the tips as I let her limp form fall to the floor.

I studied the body dispassionately, waiting for a wave of the guilt and anguish I had lived with for so long, but I remained curiously numb. I tilted my head, waiting, but felt…nothing. I shrugged, my curiosity burned up in the renewed need to find Isabella Swan. The pencil that always danged haphazardly from behind Mrs. Cope's ear had slipped, and suddenly, I did feel something. Irritation. That stupid pencil had always annoyed me. I bent down and snapped it in half, tossing it at her drained body. I must have put more force behind the throw than I thought, because the jagged ends embedded themselves just above her ear and formed a V reminiscent of a peace sign. That damned pencil wouldn't dangle anymore. I grunted with satisfaction and left the office to continue my search.

I started toward Building A, humming with the electric buzz of human blood rushing through my body. My steps were lighter as was my mind for the first time in as long as I could remember. I stopped for a second and inhaled deeply, enjoying the crisp, clean scents, the bright, clear sights. I jumped to the roof and then back to the sidewalk, simply enjoying the ease and power of my body. I'd forgotten how joyous reveling in the good things about being a vampire could be—the incredibly heightened senses, strength, and graceful, flawless ability. A smile settled comfortably on my face as I made my way into the building.

The only occupant was Mr. Banner, and my lips curled in disgust at the thought of any part of him coming in contact with any part of me. I skipped into the room and over to the desk where he sat, knocking his head off with one quick swipe of my arm just because I could. Back out in the hall before the last tendon ripped, I prevented even the smallest drop of his blood from getting on me. No one else was around, so I made my way over to Building B, which held the cafeteria and the gymnasium. I kept as far away from the stench of the kitchen as I could and was delighted to sense Coach Clapp in the gym sorting equipment on the glossy court.

I didn't like Coach Clapp. A sloppy excuse for a human, his superior attitude and immature beliefs were annoying and petty. He held nothing but disgust for my siblings and me after we didn't live up to our physical promise. I'd found it hard to control myself even back then—difficult to hide my vastly superior abilities and appear merely human, when all I wanted to do was throw the basketball at him so hard it left a round hole through his torso like some cartoon. I smiled gleefully to myself. Nothing could stop me at that point, and it sounded like a fine idea. Plus, he'd been mean to Isabella Swan earlier in the day, and no one should have the right to torment her but me.

"Hello, Coach Clapp." My voice echoed loudly through the cavernous space.

He spun around to face me as I stood in the open metal doors, his heart rate escalating with surprise.

"Cullen," he acknowledged, wondering why I was there.

I enjoyed his confusion as I ambled toward him.

"I hoped to talk to you about trying out for the basketball team this winter." The idea was one of his secret fantasies—that and getting Emmett to play football for him. He had visions of riding the State Championships we would bring him to college coaching glory.

His heart rate leapt again in excitement, but he tried to play it cool. I tried to hide a smile.

"I don't know, Edward." He put on a fake frown of concern. "You haven't really applied yourself in class at all. I haven't seen the kind of interest or dedication it would take to make the team."

I stifled a laugh. Like it took all that much interest or dedication—or talent, for that matter—to make a insignificant little high school team in the boonies of Northwest Washington state, but I allowed his pretense.

"I've been holding back," I told him truthfully. "You haven't seen what I'm really capable of, Coach."

"That so?" He raised a brow and threw a basketball at me. "Let's see what you've got, kid."

I caught it neatly, reading his admiration for my grace and coordination. I dribbled the ball in front of me, and he stumbled back in shock at the expression I allowed to cross my face.

"Catch," I murmured, throwing the ball back at him.

It passed neatly through his middle, hitting the back wall with a curious splat. His mouth dropped open in a big, round "O," and he held his hands out at his sides as he stared down in astonishment. He glanced back up at me, mouth and eyes still open wide.

"Ow?" he said almost questioningly as he took a stumbling step back, his hands clutching uselessly at the basketball-sized hole that went through him.

I grimaced in false sympathy. "Yeah. I bet 'ow.' "

Coach Clapp really did resemble a cartoon, I noted with humor and delight. I could see the big red spot on the wall right through him where the ball had hit. He turned, listing slightly to one side to see what I smiled at, revealing that his innards had become outards and trailed down his back. The ball had sliced through him so cleanly there wasn't much bleeding—yet. I was quite impressed with myself.

"Hey, Coach Clapp. You've got something just…there." I pointed to his back, and he whirled around drunkenly.

"Huh?" He looked down at the hole in his middle and then back up at me, holding his hands out in supplication. "Huh?"

He swayed, and I sighed, growing quickly bored with our little game. Appearing at his side in an instant, I slid an arm around him for support, and he began making disgusting snuffling noises.

"So what do you think, Coach?" I asked cheerfully. "Did I make the team?"

"Huzzit?"

"Starting lineup? My first season? Yay me."

I reached in and grabbed his spine—what was left of it—and lifted him over my head to hook the rim of the basketball net through hole in his middle so he hung like a trophy on the wall.

I stepped back and pretended to stoke my chin. Something was missing. The scene wasn't quite festive enough. I nodded as the element occurred to me, and in a few short seconds, I had what was left of his intestines draped from his body in looping, celebratory arcs over the rafters. Blood dripped in merry accompaniment, exactly the finishing touch I had been looking for. I found the ball where it had rolled—not hard to track, considering it had left a thin trail of blood in its wake—and stuffed it into the net behind him. With the warm feeling of satisfaction for a job well done, I left Building B and my brief career in basketball behind.

Isabella wasn't at the high school. I'd checked the other buildings, but she was nowhere to be found. Mrs. Goff had been behind her desk grading papers, but I let her live. She'd always had kind thoughts. I heard her screams as she entered the main office to say goodbye to Mrs. Cope and wondered if I had, in fact, done her a favor. The thoughts scrambling through Mrs. Goff's mind at the sight of the randy old administrator's body indicated it would be a very long time before she was coherent or rational again.

Oh, well. Mercy is as mercy does.

I followed the freshest of Isabella's scents out to the parking lot and circled the empty spot where her truck had been parked. She'd definitely left the grounds, as the only other trail I could detect was from earlier that morning. I paused, staring out onto the wet street, closing my eyes and breathing deeply. I'd never really tried tracking before, other than hunting my prey, my food, and a smile crossed my face. Wasn't that exactly what I was doing? I tipped my head back and inhaled again, allowing my senses take over, instinct driving me toward her singular call. My eyes blinked open as I picked up the trail. Her scent was very faint upon the air but still detectable to my primed senses. I was on the hunt.

I followed the lovely fragrance down the street, realizing with a grimace it led to the Forks Thriftway. Ugh, all that human food. Her truck wasn't in the lot, and I couldn't quite tell where she'd headed from there. With a mental sigh, I decided I'd have to go inside to see if I could pick up her movements or intentions from the thoughts of anyone who might have seen her.

The cashiers were easy. I quickly discerned which one had helped Isabella and sliced the throats of the other two with my fingernail as I passed. The young woman who had rung up Isabella's groceries cowered against the register, her legs and bladder giving way as I came to a stop in front of her and licked my finger clean. I tipped my head as I read her thoughts and murmured impatiently, "Isabella Swan."

"Wh-What?" Her teeth began chattering.

"You helped Isabella not long ago."

"B-B-Bella?" Her mind finally focused on the dark haired girl, thinking about how nice she was—shy but friendly. Their idle conversation passed through her mind, ending in why her?

"That's the question, isn't it? Thanks." I leaned down and ripped her throat out with my teeth.

I turned toward the corner and cast my gaze up to where the offices were located, the manager the sole occupant behind the one-way glass. He hadn't noticed anything amiss, focused on his small television set and wondering if he could sneak a copy of Cosmopolitan into the men's room to masturbate with on his break. I snarled in distaste and jumped up the stairs before he finished his blink. I snapped his neck from behind, the thought of his bodily fluids disgusting me, and took stock of the humans left in the supermarket.

Only three more employees and two shoppers. The customers were quick work, a young woman in the produce section—I went back to take another gulp of her, she was surprisingly tasty—and an old man near the pharmacy whose bones broke with a brittle, popping snap. Osteoporosis, and no longer a concern for him. The meat department manager was fun. I'd always enjoyed the old mob films where they hung victims on the meat hooks, and entertained myself by ripping his intestines out and settling him on one of the hooks. It did reminded me a little too much of what I'd done with Coach Clapp, and made a mental note to vary my routine a little so as not to repeat myself.

Ben Cheney was busy stocking the cereal aisle, and I came up silently behind him as I scanned his mind. He thought of his girlfriend Angela—ah, of course. Angela. She and Isabella—Bella—had hit it off that day at school. Perhaps Bella had gone to visit her new friend. That would be my next stop. Ben was a good-hearted kid, so I ripped the organ out quickly to minimize his suffering. I placed the meaty tissue gently in his hands as he slumped to the floor, leaving a gory streak along the Rice Krispies boxes. I wiped my hand across my mouth, idly lapping at the blood as I made my way to the deli and the last living person in the Thriftway. I'd forgotten how good human blood tasted, how fulfilling it was, and how energized and invincible it made me feel. I could do anything, and no one could stop me.

I was going to eat Bella Swan.

A middle-aged woman sliced cheese—Havarti—on one of the big deli slicers. I poked a finger into her back, and she lurched forward, losing her grip and three fingers to the whirring blade. A gasp of dismay burst from her, and she stared, shocked for the second, at her digits lying on the slick stainless steel counter. Her head whipped around as she staggered back, hitting the edge of the counter and trying to grab it, but she was missing some fingers and the rest were slick with her own blood. She gave a thin, warbling shriek, staring at me with horrified eyes—I was quite a mess at that point. I picked up one of the severed fingers and popped it into my mouth, bloody end first, of course, and sucked on it noisily. Her next shriek sounded like a whistle that had run out of steam, reedy with disbelief and terror.

"Not bad for finger food," I commented, snorting laughter. I removed the treat from my mouth with a pop and picked up another. "Probably won't make the appetizer menu at the Lodge, but then, they deep fry everything, from what I understand. That would definitely ruin the flavor."

The finger sucked dry, I crunched down on it for a little different texture and brought my face close to hers, running my teeth down her cheek to leave a thin slice.

"Just like deli meat," I said, to which she answered, "please," which I ignored.

I twisted her head off, admiring the way the blood jetted like a fountain from the stump of her neck. It showered over me for longer than one would expect, and I rubbed it into my cheeks, my hair, down my neck and across my chest, smacking my lips and licking at the drops that misted in the air. I wasn't truly hungry at that moment, having glutted on the woman in the produce section, but it seemed a waste not to enjoy it in some manner. With a contented sigh, I left the Forks Thriftway and headed toward the Weber residence.

I took a shortcut through the woods, blood running off me in streams from the rain. I sensed humans ahead of me, sheltered in a thick copse of trees, and venom flooded my mouth in anticipation. I quickly determined neither of the pair was Bella Swan, and fury coursed through me. Where was that girl? The need to have her sweet blood grew more insistent.

Mike Newton and Jessica Stanley rolled around under the dubious shelter of trees, partially naked, wet, and half-heartedly fooling around. Jessica was cold, and Mike was horny. He tried to get her out of her wet jeans, but she wasn't interested enough in his sexual technique to risk the chill, having experience with his typical two minutes of fun. I wrenched his neck back and drained his body before Jessica even registered what had happened. She simply felt him jerk away and saw a blur manipulate his body before I had her head off her shoulders and dangling from my fist by the long, dark hair. But it wasn't the right long, dark hair, so I ripped the arms off her headless torso in frustration. The action helped with my irritation, so I ripped Mike's arms off, too. And that was fun, so both sets of legs followed. I made a little A-frame shelter out of the limbs and placed their heads under it, ear to ear, together for eternity. Served them right.

I continued on my way to the Webers' but got distracted when I passed a neatly kept two-story home just down the street. Someone moved around inside thinking about Bella Swan. I paused, recognizing Tyler Crowley's thoughts, and inched my way to the back door to enter the house. Mrs. Crowley hummed a sweet tune at the sink, preparing dinner, and I swiped at her neck as I passed. She spun like a pretty top before she collapsed to the floor, bleeding out all over the tile floor she'd just cleaned. Tyler was upstairs, and my nose wrinkled in distaste at what he was doing. He hummed a tune, too, in the bathroom, while lining up his cell phone, a bottle of lube, and a washcloth. The cell phone had a picture of Bella Swan he'd taken earlier that day at school, the lube—obvious what that was for—and the washcloth to clean up afterward.

I stood silently in the hall on the other side of the closed bathroom door, giving him a chance to get settled. Mike Newton had also been thinking about Isabella, imagining Jessica was the Swan girl as he touched her. My irritation escalated. Bella Swan was mine, but I wondered if she had some sort of strangely compelling appeal in general, not just to me. The humans appeared to be uncommonly attracted, and I wasn't sure if it was her in particular or because she was new, a shiny toy for them to get excited about. I scowled to myself. No one would play with her but me.

Crowley stripped his jeans and underwear, sat on the edge of the bathtub, and got down to business. I actually enjoyed the sexual thoughts and acts of a human for once. Because the object of his fantasy was Bella Swan? I contemplated that as I timed my entry with the start of his orgasm, kicking the door off its hinges and kneeling in front of him before he had time to react. I had planned on just snapping his neck and getting on my way, but I was still mildly excited from experiencing his sexual peak in my head, and instinct took over. I sank my teeth into his throat, and my eyes fluttered at the thick, rich taste. I'd experienced a faintly similar flavor in the mouthful of Mike Newton's blood, and wondered if the difference was the sexual arousal. An interesting thought, but not as compelling as my growing need for Bella Swan.

I left Crowley lying on the floor, his sightless eyes staring up at the ceiling and penis still in hand. His muscles had locked at the instant of death, and the swollen head just barely peeked out over top of his clenched fingers. Not much there to be proud of. I shook my head and patted him on top of his as I left. I'd saved him from further locker room teasing. Teenage males could be so cruel.

I loped back down the stairs at human speed as I sensed someone at the front door—Eric Yorkie, coming to visit with plans of staying for dinner and then playing video games with Crowley. He'd stay for dinner, all right. The knock sounded, and I pulled the door open, enjoying his shock when he saw me standing in the entry instead of Tyler or Mrs. Crowley.

"Hey, Yorkie," I greeted him with a wide grin, and he stumbled back in fear as my teeth flashed bright white and he registered my bedraggled, blood-smeared appearance. "Come on in. Tyler's dying to see you."

I grabbed him by the back of the neck and carried him into the kitchen. He made a pitiful whuffling noise when he saw Mrs. Crowley's mutilated body lying on the kitchen floor. Her sightless eyes stared right at us when I came to a stop in the arched entryway, holding Eric up off his feet. The wound in her neck gaped open in a purple-red slash, the dried blood almost black against the once-pristine white tile floor. I wrinkled my nose at the sharp scent of urine as Yorkie released his bladder and gave him a rough shake like he was a bad puppy.

I laughed a little uncontrollably when he began making high-pitched whining sounds, furthering my impression. I was a bit high on the smell, taste, and euphoria of drinking human blood again.

"N-n-no. Puh-puh-please," the boy moaned, his eyes rolling wildly in their sockets. "Oh, G-god. N-no."

"Let's see what would have been for dinner."

I stepped over the woman's crumpled form and peering into the sink, holding Yorkie effortlessly at my side about a foot above the floor. He stammered and drooled some more, and I sighed, getting tired with him. He was starting to smell.

"Well, looks like maybe stir fry. What do you think?" I held him over the sink, but all he could do was blubber gibberish. I sighed again and raised a brow. "No opinion? Okay. I hate to eat and run, but…I need to eat and run."

I licked his throat and delicately sliced through skin and tendon, cartilage and bone, sipping lightly. I felt a little full and didn't want to spoil my appetite for the main course. I suspected that once I got Isabella's scent in my throat, it wouldn't matter. I bounced on my toes as energy and delight filled me. Nothing tasted like human blood, felt like it, rolling rich and thick through my veins. So delightful, and I resented Carlisle for making me forgo that pure bliss for so long.

I sank my teeth into the jugular, opening my mouth to let the excess spray in a wide fan across my face and shoulders. Yorkie's feeble kicks slowed and then stopped, and I dropped him on top of Mrs. Crowley, rubbing the salty streams out of my eyes. I jumped easily over the humans and made my way out the front door, hopping with my feet together, purposefully leaving juicy, wet, red footprints on the white tile in the kitchen and down the length of the hall.

It was, of course, still raining, and I splashed through puddles, once again admiring the watery red rivulets coursing over my skin as the steady drizzle washed away all that glorious blood. I should always be covered in blood, I thought, holding my hands up and tipping my head back to feel the light rain coat my face. I took a deep breath of wet and green, of rich brown dirt. I really wanted to find Bella Swan. I was enjoying myself more than I had in a long time—a very long time—and she would be the culmination of a really excellent day. Humming, I made my way to the Weber home. I had some questions for the good reverend.

I knocked on the door, and Mrs. Weber answered, her eyes widening at my unkempt appearance. She'd never seen me look less than perfect, with so much as a hair out of place, and I grinned widely. She should have seen me a few minutes ago, before the steadily increasing downpour did its work. Her hand rose to her throat in mild alarm, and I remembered to close my lips over my teeth.

"Hello, Mrs. Weber," I greeted her cordially.

She glanced behind her. "Um, I think Angela is around…Edward."

"Actually, I'd like to speak with the reverend, if he's available," I requested politely.

She started slightly but recovered, nodding and stepping back into the modest entry hall to allow me inside the house. Her mind raced, trying to place my religious beliefs. She'd never seen my family or me at one of her husband's sermons or any other service in town.

"He's in his office." She gestured for me to follow to a small room at the back of the house, where I could hear Reverend Weber's thoughts as he put together a service he'd never get a chance to deliver. "Stan, Edward Cullen is here. He'd like to speak to you."

The Reverend stood as we entered, his thoughts very similar to his wife's about my spiritual needs.

"Edward," he greeted me warmly, nodding as Mrs. Weber shut the door behind her and left us alone. "What can I do for you, son?"

"I was hoping you could help me with a theological dilemma."

He sat back down in his chair, gesturing for me to take the one across from him on the other side of the desk. I remained standing, and he arched a brow.

"I'll do whatever I can to help, Edward. What is your dilemma?"

"Well, it's the basic good versus evil, man versus monster debate," I began, walking around his study and examining the titles of the books lining the shelves. "What makes a man evil? Is it his actions themselves? Intent? Can he be forgiven for them in the end if he's repentant? But what if he's not—not even a little? What if he sees nothing wrong with his actions? What if he sees them as natural and right? The given natural order of things? What then, Reverend Weber?"

"Those are some pretty deep questions, Edward." He watched me warily. "Why don't you give me an example, if you can."

I snorted and shot him a grin. "Oh, I think I can do that. I think I can get pretty darn specific, as a matter of fact."

I sat in the chair on the opposite side of the desk, crossing my legs and folding my hands over my knee. "When a man kills an animal—let's say a cow—he's not considered a murderer. It's for food, for nourishment, even for business or profit, right?"

"Well, yes. A cow is a beast of burden."

"Just so." I nodded, pleased with his words. "So, it's okay to kill an inferior beast to feed oneself. There's no inherent evil, no bad connotations. It's accepted, even encouraged. Glorified, for that matter, if you look at the price of a good steak nowadays, am I right?"

He tipped his head in cautious acknowledgement. My smile widened. He was a smart man.

"If someone killed an inferior beast for food, if that was part of his natural diet, would he be considered a monster? Evil? An abomination, even?"

"No. No, I don't believe so."

"Good. So, you don't think God would turn his back on someone like that. Someone who killed inferior beings for his own survival—so he could eat, thrive. God wouldn't require the ultimate sacrifice of his soul, banishment from Heaven, if that man killed another living creature because it was his natural diet."

Reverend Weber shook his head. "No. I don't think that at all. God wouldn't judge a man so harshly for feeding himself or his family."

"I used to think differently," I mused. "But that's all changed. I tend to agree with you, Reverend."

"Well, good." He wondered if there was anything else I wanted.

I smothered a small laugh. "Actually, there is something else I want. Not as badly as I did earlier, but the hunger for it never does seem to go away."

He didn't recall speaking his thought out loud, and I couldn't hold back the chuckle. "I'm wondering… Do you know where Bella Swan is?"

"Bella Swan?" Her kind face and brown hair, and then her father's, filled his mind as he made the association. His surprise and confusion were apparent both in his thoughts and expression. "No, I don't."

I sighed. Of course it couldn't be that easy. I stood fluidly, and his head filled with nothing but curiosity and faint admiration for my youth and the agility of my movements. No alarm. Not then. I briefly considered nailing his hands and feet to a makeshift cross, but dismissed the idea almost as soon as I thought of it. Much too obvious and common, and it reminded me too much of Carlisle.

"Well, you're no longer of any use to me, I'm afraid, although it has been an enjoyable interlude. I'd love to keep you around to debate your thoughts on God, murder, and for much less noble reasons than feeding oneself, but I'm feeling a little anxious to find my very own apple. My temptation," I explained further when he just stared at me uncomprehendingly. "Unholy temptation, to be honest. Sorry to have to cut this short."

I was surprised to find that sentiment to be the truth. Because of that, I decided to be quick. Before Reverend Weber could even recoil in shock, I held his face in my hands and smiled beatifically down at him. Stroking his hair and cheeks with my fingers, I shushed him as he began to struggle feebly, lowering my head and inhaling deeply as I got close to his thrumming jugular. I smiled against the warm, fragrant skin of his throat as I heard his thought of what the fuck? Such language from a normally pious man. I'd found humans were stripped down to the most basic, primitive thoughts and emotions when faced with Death.

I gently pressed my teeth into his flesh, and the tissue parted instantly under the pressure. I sipped easily at the flow of blood, fighting my instinct to bite and suck, draw the life-giving stream into my mouth and body as quickly as possible. He whimpered, and his thoughts swirled, focusing on his family, his wife, wondering what was happening. I forced my mouth from his neck and looked kindly into his glazing eyes, cupping my hands to catch the freely running blood, letting it overflow and trickle over my fingers. My eyes left his as they became unfocused and went dim, moving to watch the darkening red liquid as it ran down my wrists and forearm, dripping off my elbows and onto the once spotless carpet. I sipped a little more from my palms, unable to resist the call of human blood. It had started to thicken, so I opened my hands to let the rest plop onto the floor.

"Go in peace," I murmured, passing my fingers over his face and chest in sacrilegious imitation of Signum Crucis.

I wiped my hands on his shirtfront, gave his hair a ruffle, and slipped out into the hall to find Mrs. Weber and the children.

Less than fifteen minutes later, I ran shirtless down the road with Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 2, movement 3—otherwise known as the Funeral March—going through my head. My fingers mentally played the keys, each note clear and deliberate before playfully segueing into John William's Imperial March. So much more fun. I moved fast enough that no human could really see me and headed toward the Forks police station. I figured if anyone knew where Bella was, it would be her father, Forks' esteemed chief of police.

Mrs. Weber had put up quite a surprising fight—so feisty, that one—and the result had been a bit messy, requiring me to rid myself of my soaked shirt. Everything had worked out for the best, for when I walked into Angela's room, she'd been caught off guard and distracted at the sight of my bare, perfect torso, shoulders, and arms. She'd frozen, gaping at me, and I was able to gently remove her head from her shoulders and tuck it under my arm, idly admiring the way her tall, willowy body collapsed into a graceful heap next to her desk in her bedroom. The two young twin boys had been…loud. Their screeches and shrieks still rang in my ears, although the memory of them running around in frantic circles and bumping into each other and the furniture still made me smile in amusement. I'd set their sister's head on top of the brightly colored dresser and made as quick work of them as I could. The blood made them as slippery as little, squirmy eels, but I'd managed. I made a face at the memory of their taste. It reminded me faintly of veal, and I didn't think I'd been a fan even when I'd been human.

To say I caused a stir when I entered the small building that housed the police department would be fair. Well, as big of a stir as two deputies and a receptionist could make. Not only was I half naked, but the other half of me was covered in streaks of blood in various stages of drying, dripping, and oozing.

"Is Chief Swan in?" I asked politely, watching as one of the deputies' hands hovered over his gun as they all stared at me with wide eyes and open mouths. I don't imagine Forks saw too many mass murderers show up at the station after going on a bloody rampage.

"Edward Cullen?" one of them managed to rasp, the one that hadn't reached for his weapon.

I rolled my eyes. Who else would I be? I took a step forward, and the receptionist skittered backward, coming up hard against the file cabinets. She let out a gasp, and I sensed the bruise blooming under her dark skin. She thought she'd never seen a more beautiful, terrifying man in her life, and I rolled my eyes again, that time in amusement. She had no idea. I snapped her neck as I passed, picking her up in the same motion and throwing her at the deputy that had spoken my name. A satisfying crackling and snapping of bones filled the air—both his and hers—and they collapsed in a pile of tangled limbs against the wall.

The other deputy pulled and aimed his weapon in a fluid move that was actually quite admirable for a human, his eyes trained steadily on mine as I sauntered closer.

"Don't move," he said in a low voice.

If I hadn't heard the increased pounding of his heart and the rush of delicious blood through his veins, smelled the dump of adrenaline, I would have thought him cool and collected, like he faced gore-drenched, half-naked, blood-sucking immortal teenagers all the time. I bared my teeth at him in an inhuman smile, and the gun wavered the tiniest fraction of an inch.

"You can shoot me if you want," I told him. "But it won't do any good, and it will likely just piss me off."

He pulled the trigger as I moved forward. The bullet bounced off my forehead and fell to the floor with an almost simultaneous pinging sound.

"Nice shot," I growled, wrapping my fingers around his throat and lifting him of the ground. "Would have been a kill shot for sure, if I could be killed."

I tossed him up in the air and caught him with my arms wrapped around his torso, squeezing with even force until I heard his spine snap like popping corn—pop, pop, poppity-pop. He gurgled and gasped, trembling wildly until T-8, 9, and 10 shattered from the force, leaving him limp and sagging but for his head, which rolled and jerked wildly. I set him down on the floor propped up against the opposite wall from the bodies of his co-workers and eased down in front of him, sitting cross-legged and watching his face curiously.

"Do you know where Chief Swan is?" I asked.

His breathing hitched as his respiratory system began to shut down, becoming as paralyzed as the rest of him.

"On…call," he gasped.

"Good, good," I soothed when his eyes began to get wild as he struggled to breathe. "I'm really looking for his daughter, Isabella. You wouldn't happen to know where she is, would you?"

He slowly shook his head before it lolled to one side.

"Bummer."

I reached out and yanked his shoe away before pulling a toe off and then two more. He couldn't feel it, and I mulled things over while I juggled them idly. A quite nice pool of blood began to form by his foot, and I traced my initials in it and then Isabella's as I thought. Just as the warm liquid began to congeal enough to hold the form of the letters, I came to a decision. I'd go back to her house and wait. I probably should have just done that from the beginning, but then I wouldn't have had nearly as an enjoyable afternoon. I reached up and tore through the muscle of the deputy's thigh, opening the femoral artery. I ducked down for a mouthful and fluttered my eyes at the taste. So, so good.

I hopped to my feet, knowing he'd be dead in seconds and couldn't feel a thing in any case. The building had to have a locker room where I could clean up and find fresh clothes. It wouldn't do to show up at Isabella's house in such a state. It would be rude. I should dress up, like I was going on a date with her, and I guess in a way I was.

I found a small staff room with a shower that was surprisingly clean and stripped the fouled jeans down my legs to leave them in a heap on the floor. I wasn't concerned about evidence, after all. After soaping up and rinsing the day's grime from my smooth, hard skin, I detected extra sets of shirts and pants the officers kept hanging in an extra locker. Rifling through and glancing at sizes, I selected a shirt that was only slightly oversized, but unfortunately, all of the pants were way too big. I didn't usually wear a belt, and there wasn't one in the locker, so I just rolled the waist and hoped they'd stay put. When a commotion sounded from out front, I ran a hand through my unruly hair and darted down the hall to the reception area. Chief Swan had arrived.

I heard his automatic grunt of disbelief and horror when he saw the carnage behind the front desk. He drew his gun and assumed the position with admirable skill. I slowed my pace and ambled out of the hall with a reassuring smile.

"Get down!" he commanded forcefully, his gun pointed at me and eyes alternating between sweeping the room and focusing on my movements. "Edward Cullen?"

"Yeah." I held my hands up shoulder high and shrugged. "It's me."

"Get down," he repeated, and I frowned.

I could only get fleeting thoughts from his head, stuttering and incomplete, like hearing them through static or a radio station that hadn't been dialed in correctly.

"On your knees, Edward, now, hands on your head, until I figure out what the hell is going on here."

"Okay," I said agreeably, lowering myself to the carpet and lacing my fingers over the top of my head. I was interested to see what he'd do next and vastly curious as to why I couldn't hear his thoughts clearly.

I didn't need to read his mind to know of his grief when he saw the mutilated bodies of the two deputies and the receptionist. Still confused, he wasn't sure how I fit into the atrocity that had taken place in his station house. He hadn't yet realized I was the atrocity, but the time had come to change that fact. Time to move things along.

He didn't have an opportunity to react to my sudden appearance at his side before I flicked my finger against the back of his head, and he slumped to the floor, unconscious. I paused with my mouth hovering over his neck, wondering. Wondering if there was some connection between thoughts being hard for me to read, while his daughter's were impossible. Could it be hereditary? A genetic issue at work, or some sort of inherent talent or ability, not unlike my human intuitiveness that became mindreading when I'd changed? Not only that, but he smelled really, really good, too. Nowhere near Isabella's devastating scent, but venom pooled in my mouth. Yummy.

Damn my curiosity.

I ran my fingers down his spine, feeling for the correct vertebrae and snapping neatly when I found it. The same thing had worked on his deputy, after all. I wanted to talk to Chief Swan but didn't have the patience to be bothered by his useless flailing when he came to and realized my intentions. After a few minutes, he moaned, his thoughts fluttering much like his eyelids. I concentrated on them as they pulsed through my head, clear and precise one minute, fading and fleeting the next.

His gaze fixed on me, clearing with his thoughts. He tried to move, his confusion swiftly turning to horror when he realized he couldn't.

"What did you do?" he rasped, straining to lift his head or an arm, even a finger.

I knew he meant to him and not my other events during the past couple of hours. "I incapacitated you."

"Why?" His thoughts skipped through his head, the whys, whats, and how the hell do I get out of this?

"You won't. Get out of it. I'm sorry." I shook my head slowly, crouched down in front of him. I tipped his chin at a better angle to he could look me in the eye.

His heart rate tripled when he understood what was happening, what I was. He didn't know specifically—the word vampire had not yet reached his consciousness—but he knew Death when he saw it.

"I wanted to ask you about Isabella."

His mind went blank—literally blank—for a couple of seconds, and then his heart rate kicked again. "B-Bella? What… Why?"

"Because I want her. No, not like that," I said distastefully when horrific images of what I might want her for flashed through his mind. "She just smells so unbelievably good. You have no idea what she does to me."

"Please," he whispered. "Please. No. Do whatever you want with me, but… No."

"Oh, I will do whatever I want with you, thank you very much. And with her, as well. You see, no one can stop me, and she's just too delicious for me to resist."

"What? No." Chief Swan grew quite agitated.

"Do you know where she is?"

"No." He thought of her at home, alone, and frantically wondered how he could warn her, tell her to go to run, to…

He looked in my eyes and realized she couldn't run far or fast enough to escape what was coming for her.

Me.

"No," he repeated, his eyes filling with tears.

I cocked my head, wondering if his paternal emotion would affect me. A tear spilled down his cheek, and I reached out to touch it. Nope. Nothing. I felt no remorse, only aggravation that I wasted time in the damn police station. My curiosity vanished as if it had never existed under the renewed urge to find my prey and wallow in her. I made the mistake of inhaling, and his watered-down version of her fragrance spurred my craving for blood. Her blood. Isabella Swan's blood.

"I'm pretty sure I can promise you I'll make it quick when I drink from her. I'd like to keep her around and enjoy her for a while, but once I get close…" I put my hand on his shoulder and shook my head, my perfect vampire memory recalling every nuance of her compelling scent, her undeniable and singular lure. "I don't think I'll be able to control myself. I won't be able to stop until I've had every succulent drop of her blood."

Damn it, my mouth dripped with venom again, and the beast inside me raged.

"Sorry, Charlie."

I snorted at the line, dredged from my memory of the old tuna commercial. I lowered my head and sank my teeth into his neck, letting his lifeblood flow over my tongue and taste buds, but not swallowing any. Well, not much. Maybe just a little. I didn't want to ruin my appetite any more than I already had, but he smelled too good not to indulge a little and tasted even better. I shivered in delight and anticipation as I thought about Isabella's blood in my mouth. On my tongue, soothing my flaming throat, pooling warm, wet, and welcome in my belly. Chief Swan's blood slowed to a trickle, and I tipped my head to swish it around my mouth, through my teeth, and gargled a little with it before pushing it out with my tongue to let it drip over my chin and down my chest. Oh, yes. Miss Swan would taste sublime.

I'd made a mess again, so I took another quick shower and grabbed a fresh shirt from the locker I'd found earlier. I hadn't realized how late it was until I stepped out of the police station into the cool, dark night. I'd lost track of time somewhere along the way.

Imagine.

With my goal determined, I made it to the Swan residence in mere seconds. If Isabella wasn't home, I'd just wait for her. At least I'd be surrounded by things that carried her scent. It would either drive me further into madness or desensitize my reaction, but both options were acceptable. Turns out, I didn't have to worry as I approached the small white house. Isabella was home, where she was supposed to be. Finally.

I paused in the woods surrounding the yard, taking one last deep breath of clean air. I could taste just the slightest hint of her. The flavor tickled what was left of my mind, left a burning trail down my throat and a clenching, empty ache in my belly despite all of the blood I'd indulged in over the last few hours. I'd hoped gorging myself would lessen the hunger, but I should have known better. Just that faint whiff of her scent made me feel as though I hadn't eaten in months. I was starving, salivating venom, and desperate for her blood.

I took tiny, slow draws of air into my lungs as I approached the house at human speed to lessen the burn, but my breaths came quicker and quicker as I got closer to the back door. I panted heavily and wanted to tear the wood from its hinges, to race up the stairs to dive into her, but I forced myself to pause on the back porch. Trembling, I slowly, painfully mastered myself, promising my maddened brain soon, soon.

When I was certain I had a modicum of control, I entered the kitchen, not wasting a second before I was at the stairs and then at the top, heading unerringly for her bedroom. The smell was a living entity at that point, surrounding, engulfing, enticing, poking and prodding at my will. The concentration was even worse in the small space. I almost cried out as it hit me with a stunning physical blow, making me spin and clench and strain and tremble with the force of it battering against my resistance.

It was…maddening. I covered my mouth to keep myself from cackling out loud at the thought. It had driven me mad all right. All my strength was required just to stand still as the stone my body resembled in the corner of her room, inhaling in short, sharp pants, mastering myself, controlling myself. The only thing that made it possible was the knowledge I would be giving my madness full rein very soon. I would have her blood. Nothing could stop me.

My vampire brain was able to process so many different things at once, even in the depth of my insanity, and that was how I knew I'd gone mad. A human brain wouldn't have the comprehension. A human would just go on their merry mad way, not realizing the break from reality and rationality. But while one part of my mind had truly cracked, the others knew why. And when. And even how.

Those fifty terrible minutes in Biology class. The effort it had taken, mentally and physically, to restrain myself, deny my instinctive, natural urges—urges so compulsive they were impossible to deny. I had done so, somehow, but the struggle had cost me my reason and sanity.

I snorted at the irony. If I had allowed myself Isabella's blood in class, the act would have had its cost, but it wouldn't have been so undeniably horrifying. Yes, her life would have been forfeit, as well as the twenty other innocent children in the room plus the teacher, but it would have ended there. I would have suffered terrible guilt and had to enact quite a cover up, but it could have been done. I would still have my family and my sanity. Instead, I had fought against that scenario, thinking how wrong it would be, and a good portion of the town had been slaughtered—quite happily—at my mad hand. There would be no covering anything up, in the human or the vampire world.

The Volturi would send someone after me, but I wasn't worried. I hadn't quite decided if I would let them take and destroy me. After all, I had a much more pressing matter at hand. I supposed I would have to consider them at some point, but later, after I'd indulged myself. I wasn't worried, not at all. No creature in existence could take me against my will or sneak up on me if I didn't wish it.

My mind briefly considered what would happen when Bella and her delicious blood were gone, as it was a finite source. I would drink her, it would be done, gone, empty, and then…what would I have to live for? I'd been unbearably bored, ghosting through each tedious day until I'd run across this seemingly inconsequential girl. What would my existence be after she was gone? I would experience the greatest glory, the pinnacle of my being, and nothing could compare, nothing to look forward to, anticipate, or hope for. It might be best to let the Volturi exact their form of justice. Nothing would matter after she was gone.

I'd considered keeping her with me, as a snack, feeding on her occasionally, but dismissed that idea almost as soon as it came. I couldn't do it. It wouldn't be possible. I'd already descended into madness trying to deny myself the bounty of her blood in those fifty minutes, what state would I be in after hours, days, months? And that was if I could keep myself from glutting on her the instant her blood touched my lips, which was going to be an utter impossibility. The buzz of insanity trembled through my body at being so close, so very close, and forcing myself to once again refrain from taking her blood.

No. I would eat Bella Swan. Every drop. The only possible outcome from the second her scent had hit my nostrils. The ensuing lunacy caused by trying to control myself proved that fact.

Her mind fought through the dregs of sleep toward consciousness as her physical agitation increased. She sensed my presence and the threat I presented to her, even in her sleep. Tossing and turning, she murmured faintly, mostly nonsense, until I heard a word that arrowed through the cocoon of fog engulfing my mind and broke through the madness as no other sound on this earth could.

She said my name.

For an instant, so brief and delicate it balanced like a strand of crystal, sparkling and shining, giving off the bright light of hope, I experienced one brief flare of rationality. She said my name, and my resolve wavered. Instinct shrank away, will and reason flooded back in its place. She said my name, and humanity glimmered.

But then her scentSCENT scentSCENT battered, eroded, invaded, crushed me under its weight of craving and desire and pounding heart, rushing blood, flowing rivers of it provoking the fiery hell that had become my throat and lungs and I had to have it, nothing else would stop the infernal pounding pain and torment consuming me and burning me alive.

An agony I hadn't felt since my changing, and there wasn't anything, anything I wouldn't do to appease it.

I slid deeper into the shadows of her room where I wouldn't be detected by her inferior human eyes an instant before she sat upright, her breath heaving in and out of her lungs. Her hand flew to the lamp at her bedside, but I remained safe in the dark as she turned on the dim light. She glanced wildly around, her hand over her frantically beating heart, and I wrestled my instinct like the live, murderous thing it was.

Now now now nownownownownownow!

I held my position, locked and frozen, not even breathing, as she flopped back onto her bed with a gusty sigh, rubbing her face with a short, humorless laugh. She shook her head and reached over to turn out the light, curling up on her side. After a few long, interminable, agonizing seconds, her body relaxed and her breathing took on the cadence of light sleep.

I moved to the side of her bed, gazing down on her, trembling with desire. She looked so soft, so warm, so tasty. I lay down behind her, close but not quite touching. I took a careful, slow breath and curled my hands into fists, shuddering and giggling quietly in desperation and glee. She smelled so good. She inhaled—deeply, I was jealous to note—and stirred, rolling slightly toward me with a pleased murmur.

I ghosted a hand over her shoulder, and she sighed, turning in sleep to face me. She inhaled, her eyes fluttering as I blew cool breath into her face. A soft moan left her parted lips as she opened her eyes to look at me blearily, and I breathed on her again, careful to make it only an exhale.

Alarm struggled to break through her languor, but she was just as intoxicated with my scent as I was with hers.

"Ed-Edward?" She blinked, but her eyes wouldn't open past halfway. "Edward Cullen?"

"Shh," I whispered, almost out of air. "It's a dream, Bella. You're dreaming."

I stifled another giggle. She was so close, her throat just inches from my mouth. I shook when she frowned slightly and brought her hands out from under the covers to skim across my shoulders and settle around my biceps.

"This is a dream?" she murmured, her eyes heavy.

She greedily examined each feature of my face as I eased her onto her back. She didn't release her grip on my arms, but instead tightened them as I held myself over her. If I were human, I couldn't have maintained the position, but I wasn't human.

"I'm lying with you in your bed on a school night," I said nonsensically, turning the question back on her. "What do you think?"

She tore her gaze from my face reluctantly to glance around, only to snap those slumberous brown eyes back to mine. A smile turned the corner of her mouth. "Oh, yeah. I guess you're right. So, is this my dream or yours?"

I closed my eyes, inhaling deeply. Flames licked at my throat and swirled to coalesce in my chest. My fingers tingled, my toes went numb, and my mouth flooded with venom. I inhaled again, tripling the excruciating burn, and opened my mouth to taste the air.

"Both, I imagine," I said, and my voice was actually rough.

She stared at me, her hand rising to touch my cheek tentatively. When I didn't move, she traced each individual feature—my brows, nose, eyes, cheekbones, and lips. I only moved when her fingers came too close to my teeth. If she cut herself, the painful pleasure would be over too soon. If I smelled her blood, let alone tasted even the smallest amount, I'd be on her like a vacuum.

"If this is my dream, then I can tell you that you're the most beautiful boy I've ever seen." A small frown puckered her brows. "But you feel weird. Nice—really nice—but strange. Like…smooth and hard at the same time. Hard and soft. Cold, almost like stone. How can that be?"

"It's a dream, Bella. Remember?" I soothed in my most velvet voice, breathing on her.

She sucked in my breath, eyes fluttering shut, and moaned. I bent over her, slavering, wanting the rushing blood under her skin so very badly I shook with it. I didn't know how much more I could take before I lost control and feasted on the bounty finally within my reach. The anticipation was killing me.

I lowered myself until I hovered only millimeters above her warm, fragrant body, lying between her parted legs. I ran my hands from her hips to under her arms along her sides, barely brushing the sides of her small, round breasts, my nose following my hands' path up the center of her body. She arched, and I concentrated on keeping my mouth from touching her shirt. I'd never had a woman under my hands before, but I'd seen enough of both reality and fantasy in the minds of others over the past ninety-plus years that I had a better than good idea of what I was doing. I might not have been able to read her mind, but her physical reactions told me everything I needed to know.

"I like this dream," she breathed. "But if it's my dream, I really think you should kiss me. I've been thinking about you kissing me since I saw you in class today."

Holy hell. The thought of my lips on her… It could only end one way, and that was with her blood streaming in great waves down my throat. I swallowed convulsively at the image, licking my lips, and she mimicked the movement.

"Kiss me, Edward Cullen. Kiss me. Please."

I could kiss her. Probably. Maybe. There wasn't anything wrong with letting her enjoy something, at least, because I knew I would be getting the greatest joy in existence from her. I swallowed heavily, hoping I could hold on a little while longer and grant her one pleasurable wish. I laughed to myself. I was probably the most screwed up fairy godmother there was, but I'd do what I could.

"Kiss you, Isabella? Kiss you where? Here?" I experimented by lowering my face to hers, inhaling the warm, rich scent of her skin, of her blood rushing just under my lips and teeth. I decided I had better stop breathing again for that little exercise.

She whimpered and arched, her hands pulling at my shoulders.

"Here?"

My lips settled below her ear. I really pushed the limits of my control. My arms, my entire body, began to tremble, and not from fatigue. I thought about moving to her throat where she would be so sensitive to the touch of my mouth and tongue, but my control wasn't that reliable. I slid up in a smooth, swift glide, pressing my hard body lightly, glancing along hers until her lips were under mine.

"Here, Isabella? Do you want me to kiss you here?" My mouth ghosted over hers as I spoke.

"Yes, please!" She lifted her chin, reaching for the kiss, and I gave it to her.

I settled over her slowly, cautiously, making sure there was no parting of my lips, and placed soft, chaste touches to her mouth. She whimpered and twisted under me, seeking more, so I gave her that, too. It felt good. It felt really good. I wanted to open my mouth over hers, plunge my tongue, but I knew that my teeth would soon follow.

Her heart began to thrum wildly, pumping the blood hot and fast through her veins, under her lovely pale skin, a siren's call to my senses. I pressed harder and harder against her mouth, until her lips were pushed against her teeth, ripe and plump, ready to burst into bright, searing ecstasy. I brought my head back when I realized how close I was to actually eating her mouth, and she whimpered with the loss of contact. I watched avidly as she ran the tip of her tongue over her bruised lower lip, and I inched closer, my eyes focused on that target. Her lips parted on another gasp, and then curled.

"You tingle," she murmured, licking that swollen, purpling flesh, and I started in surprise. She could taste my venom. "My mouth. You made me tingle. And other places, too."

Her hips rose, and my hand settled low on her belly. In the safety of thinking everything was a dream, she rolled and writhed under my light touch. I heaved air in and out of my lungs, bringing that luscious, decadent scent into my mouth, across my tongue and taste buds.

I had to have it. I had to have that blood. I couldn't stand it any longer.

"Isabella. I've never felt anything like this. I want you."

"Me, too," she moaned, although we were thinking about two completely different things.

When she whispered "please," it was as if she begged me to take her blood, to satisfy my monstrous, consuming craving, ease my madness with her life. The tether on what was left of my control and mind snapped. I threw my head back and bared my teeth in an effort to hold onto my control for one last precious second, but it was all too much. I sank my teeth into her throat, and the first taste of her was as close to heaven as I could ever hope to get. It was close enough. It was rapture. Decadence. Debauchery. Depravity.

Divine.

Dead. Done.

I howled when I hit bottom, when there was nothing left, and went a little crazy. The room and her body were both in shambles by the time a modicum of sense returned, and my mind clicked through possibilities as I stood frozen and enraged in the middle of the mess.

Her father. His blood had been almost as good—not quite, but close. I'd already drained that source, but…

I recalled an image, a thought that had drifted through Charlie Swan's mind as his only daughter's life had flashed before his eyes, images of Isabella as a baby, cradled lovingly in her mother's arms.

I jumped to the window, balancing on the open sill, and spared a longing glance at the delectable, shredded remains of Isabella's dismembered body. Delight filled my being with warm waves of hope and anticipation. I'd have to stay one step a head of the Volturi after the mess I'd made of the good—and fairly delicious, if I were being honest—townspeople of Forks, but that wouldn't be a problem. I'd let them catch me eventually, when I had nothing left to exist for, but that wouldn't be until after I hunted down every last drop of blood even remotely related to Isabella Swan.

Starting with her mother, who lived in Phoenix. The Wild West.

Yippee-ki-yay.