THIRTY SEVEN

Masen makes a beautiful blonde girl piss herself in an alleyway.

Pulls her from behind the counter of a convenience store with a gun to her temple.

"What are you doing?" I ask, staring at the crack of her cleavage that's heaving with every gulp of air. She's crying and he's holding her still with a fist through her hair, her neck craned awkwardly. He eyes her pumping jugular for a moment before throwing her to her knees and she sprawls into the gravel, whimpering.

"This is Rosalie." Masen strolls around her, still pointing the gun at her head but he's talking to me. "Rosalie here has the kind of body even I get weak over. Perfect tits, nice ass . . . baby face." He tucks the barrel of the gun underneath her chin and forces her face to the sky. Her makeup is running clear down her neck but he's right. She looks fresh and clean and brand fucking new. Not like Bella. Not like me or Masen.

"Why are you working in this shit hole, baby?" Masen sounds sweet, even though I know he isn't. She blubbers, but nothing understandable, clutching her hands together in a delicate lace-up of fragile bones and gooey tendons. I can't even appreciate a girl anymore without thinking about how the human body can be broken.

"What did you want to be, when you were a little girl?" Masen tries again.

More frantic stuttering.

"The question, Rosalie, is WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE?" Masen snaps, voice echoing over and over and over as he stands back and pops the safety, gun pressed firm to the spot between her eyebrows. She's shaking but he's stone still and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he'd actually do it. Angelface rubbed him raw tonight and he's unstable at even the best of times. I don't trust him worth a damn and he looks too trigger happy for my taste.

"Answer him!" I shout at her. She doesn't struggle, doesn't even try to run, just glances around wildly like someone might be able to save her.

There's no saving anything from Masen.

"A model," she finally whimpers. Masen clicks the safety back and tucks the gun into the waistband of his pants. I wonder if he'd going to bite her instead.

"Rosalie, you have exactly fourteen days to resume that dead goal of yours. I know where you live. I know where you work. I will check on you, and if you fail . . ." He leans down right into her face and bares his teeth at her, flashing his pearly whites. Fangs and all. "I will kill you."

He hauls her to her feet, gives her a sharp swat on the backside and she goes off like a shot into the night. The farewell wave of her hair and a trailing fog of sobs.

"Jesuschrist, Masen." I watch her go and wonder if it could be that easy to just outrun him. Probably not. "What the fuck was all that about?"

"Imagine how she feels right now? The adrenaline and the joy and the fear. The relief that she's alive." Masen stares after her, nearly salivating. "That was the most important moment in her whole trivial life."

"Her near life experience?"

Masen winks at me. "You're catching on."


THIRTY EIGHT

Masen and Bella take the gun to bed with them that night. I can hear them using it to assault one another for hours.

On your knees, you dirty fucking bastard.

Take it all the way, you filthy slut.

Yes. Jesusgod. Just like that.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

When a bullet finally rips through the wall and buries itself in the busted remnants of sidewalk across the street, I delete Masen. I insert myself and dig my dick out.

Roll onto my stomach, burying my moans like bodies into the pillow.


THIRTY NINE

I don't go to insomnia group. I just stand outside and wait.

I tell myself it's not for her, but I can't think straight when she comes fluttering by. She waves her cigarette hand at me and all I can see is Masen's mouth. The curl of his lips and the steaming acid pain he held beneath his tongue.

"What the fuck is that?" I grab her hand then drop it immediately, stomach roiling with disgust. Her skin is mangled, freshly burned in a delicate swipe across the back and I can't believe he did it.

Let his venom go.

For her.

"What, am I not special enough to be in your club?" She glares at my hand and I shove it in my pocket to hide the scar. Bella pushes herself right up against me, all tits and lips and big bloodshot eyes and purrs like an overfed cat. "Haven't seen you in a while, dollface. Did you get your fill of me last time?"

"Please. Like you would ever give me what I want." I almost laugh in her face. What I want is her in my bed and not his. What I want is to kiss her until our lips crack. Blood blends. Bones break. To fuck her and then let her beat me senseless. The urge is almost too savage to contain.

It makes me feel more like Masen than I ever have before.


FORTY

There is someone standing on the porch when I come home. Emmett. With a broken nose and a tear in his lip. I watched a new guy beat the fuck out of him last night. Sit on his head and pound iron fists into his ribs until they cracked under the strain. From the wheezing sound when he breathes, one of those splintered ribs went through his lung.

He doesn't acknowledge me, even though I stand right there and stare at him. Neither of us have been to the hospital basement in a while and I can't even remember how to cry.

Masen is in the kitchen.

"There's someone on the porch," I say.

He sips from his coffee cup and adjusts his dick. "He's been there all day."

"Tell him to fuck off."

"I can't. It's part of the process."

"What process?"

"He's here to be reborn. He wants to be part of this."

"This?"

Masen tips his head toward the back of the house. "The shed."

"What the fuck is going on in the shed?"

"Angelboy is out there."

"Angelface?"

"Whatever," Masen shrugs. "He's just the first."

"The first of what?"

"We're building an army, Edward."

"Can't we do something simple? Like make soap?" I try, but Masen just shakes his head at me.

"We're not making soap." Masen shakes his head at me.

"What do you mean, an army?"

"This is the dawn of a new era, Edward. We are ushering in the future, can't you see it?" He waves his hand in the air like I'm supposed to see what he's talking about. I see nothing. "We have front-row seats to this rebellion. Enjoy the show."

"You can't create an army of vampires, Masen. What are you going to do with all of them? They'll run rampant."

"Exactly."


FORTY ONE

I let the phone ring twenty two times before I answer it.

"Is it you?" Her voice hits like a gallon of acid wash to the face.

"Who were you expecting?" I know she's calling for Masen. I also know that he's off somewhere ushering in some sort of destruction. Blowing something up. Tearing something down. Guerilla warfare waged with teeth and rage. It comes off him so strong that when he's close by, I get drunk on fury.

"I need you to come over," she demands.

"Why?"

"There's something wrong with my tits." She doesn't sound panicked or fretful. There's no fear. No dread. She sounds bored. Unsurprised, like she expected this.

"They seem alright to me." Sprinkled with a pebbled pattern of bite marks, but alright. Every time I see her, there's more of them and they never really heal. If you took a marker to her and connected all those little dots, she'd be more complicated than the goddamn milky way.

"Just come over and look at them, will you?"

Masen might be gone right now, but he gets bored easily and I'm sure that his fledgling army of two won't keep him occupied for long.

"I'll be there in ten minutes."


FORTY TWO

Bella's apartment is a shit hole. Just like Masen's, but Masen's is so empty, drained and lifeless. Carcasses of furniture and years' worth of neglect and abuse, piled in the corners like dirt. She has shit everywhere. Colors so bright my head spins. Collections of crap and piles of all those ridiculous clothes. She's in a kimono that looks like it's been stolen from someone's dead grandmother. Frayed and stained, just like all the rest of her pointless junk. Moth bitten blankets and yellowed curtains.

Beautiful from afar. Fucked up on closer inspection.

"So, what's up with your tits?" My mouth is dry and I try not to glance down at her chest.

"They just feel weird," she shrugs.

"And you think I'm going to be able to tell the difference?"

She scowls at me and stomps three steps to her full length mirror, ripping off her sash and throwing it aside. It flutters to the carpet and I'm behind her before I even know it. An inch of space between us. Watching through the mirror as she lifts her hands to the back of her head. The kimono falls aside and her nipples are puckered, pointing right at us. Not pink like I hoped, but she does have nice tits. I fold my arms around her and put my hands to her skin, cupping them first for good measure. She doesn't stop me, just squirms into my hands and rubs her thighs together as I begin to feel around.

Warm flesh, washed watercolor grey, all rough edges gone.

Like she's been rubbed down with fine-grained sandpaper.

The freshly burned scar from Masen's venomous tongue on the back on my hand is the only thing that distracts me. When I pull my eyes off our mirrored reflections, its unwelcome twin is right there in front of my face.

The lesion across the back of her hand like a fucking announcement. Territorial pissing.

Property of Masen.


FORTY THREE

"They feel fine." I wrench my hands off her and stalk to the other side of the room, trying to put some fucking space between us. Trying not to get my feet tangled in her clothes, certain that they'll swallow me. She blisters head to toe in rage and follows until I've got nowhere to go but down. Ass to her bed, which is the last place I want me and my dick to be.

Especially when she's this naked.

She plants herself right between my legs and pushes the robe off, flashy black lace wrapped around her crotch. Her skin is littered with holes. Every inch of it ruptured, bruised around each puncture. A bolt of something like guilt flashes over my tongue. Stunned by the bleeding billboard of how completely Masen uses her.

She moans and I snap out of it.

Open my eyes and my lips are pressed to the skin near her hip.

Right over one of Masen's bites.

"Fuck." I pull away and she goes for my belt, frantic fingers and heavy breathing. She kisses me and her mouth tastes like a gasoline fire. Like napalm. I have visions of my house exploding when she pushes her tongue between my teeth. I yank her underwear to her knees and find her acid slick with my fingers, burying three of them to the knuckle and sucking blood from her wounds. She tastes different from me. I'm used to my own, the slightly sour flavor of it. Hers is a solid gulp straight from a bottle of corn syrup. Thick and sugary. The kind of sweet that makes every bone ache from the inside out.

I try to treat her decently, since Masen obviously hasn't. Try to soften my mouth and and hold back my teeth, but she wants none of that.

"Come on," she whines. "Bite me."

"No." I shake my head and grind my jaw around something soft and vulnerable so that I don't tell her to shut the fuck up and just enjoy it. Stand up, spin her around and when her palms hit the mattress I shove myself into her, hoping to silence that infuriating mouth. Spread her cheeks to get a better view and pound.

Nothing but my ragged breath and someone's manic heartbeat.

"You know you want to," she taunts, bucking against me and I scowl at her mess of hair. Her back is riddled with bites, scattered like feathers. She hisses when I push my hands over them. I get a good handful of her hair and yank her head back. Plant my scarred hand in the sheets next to hers and bend down to get near her ear.

"No. I don't."

"Then fuck me like you mean it," she spits.

Fuck it then. If she wants some Masen out of me, that's what I'll give her.

I grunt when I shove. Pant as I ram myself home and Bella turns her head to bite my arm, but I don't even feel it. Every muscle from my lungs down constricts and I cum, shallow and sloppy and spilling out of her as I pull free. She growls, frustrated, and falls to her back on the bed. My dick aches like she set it on fire.

"That's the best you can do?" she scowls. Her fingers slip between her legs and my knees give out.

From this angle, I can see everything.

The gleam of her skin. The thick white drip puddling to the sheets beneath her ass. The dark red color of a fresh bruise blooming around the deep dark hole. I want so badly to be inside of her again that I push her out of the way and shove my own fingers in to finish the job myself. Give in and finally bite her like she wanted me to. Clit between my teeth. Hard enough to bruise, and she screams. Twists around my fingers and everything I shot inside of her comes rushing out over my hand.

I can taste myself, but I ignore it.

Suck her dry.

Just like Masen.


FORTY FOUR

I don't tell Masen about Bella, but he knows.

He ignores me.

Lets Angelface turn Emmett at fight club that night without even batting an eye.


FORTY FIVE

Everyday, there's more of them.

Soon the extra rooms are carpeted with humans who are preparing themselves to die and the basement is stuffed full of newborns who'd just as soon kill you as each other.

I find Masen in the field out back, burning bodies in a big, stinking pile. Thick black smoke with the popping of bones when the marrow boils over. These are the recruits who didn't make it, either the last fight they had as a human or their transition. Now that there are newborns involved, fight club has turned into an experiment. Participants turned into lab rats with the parking lot as a petrie dish.

Can a human fight a vampire? Can they possibly win?

So far, the answer is a resounding no.

This isn't fight club anymore.

This is bite club.


FORTY SIX

I stand beside him and watch the bodies burn. The wreckage of the last few club meetings, humans falling like trees, piled in the backyard like stacked wood for winter. There are groups of reborns stirring stinking barrels in the shed and humans in the house, curled into fetal positions, writhing in pain.

"What are they doing in the shed?"

"Making napalm. Obviously," Masen shakes his head as though I'm wasting his time. "Gasoline and kitty litter, makes for some powerful stuff."

"How do you know how to do that?" I can taste the caustic stench of it, even over the burning bodies. The corrosive wipe off the back of your throat that's almost like unquenchable thirst. Masen turns to look at me, smudged skin glowing nearly lifelike from the flames.

"Because you do."

I don't remember telling him that.

"What are you going to do with it?"

"I haven't decided yet."

"And the humans?"

"Burning off their fingerprints."

"With what?" Certainly not napalm. Masen smiles to himself before turning it on me, terrifying in its morbid pleasure and extra sharp teeth. He looks downright fucking pleased.

"My venom."


FORTY SEVEN

The moment the word venom slips from his mouth, the back of my hand starts burning.

"This is getting out of control. I don't think you know what you're doing."

Masen narrows his eyes at me and they're red. Redder than they've been for a long time, bleeding around the iris. "I've been doing this for longer than you think."

"How long?"

Masen lifts an eyebrow at me. "Since that fucker Davinci tried to molest me in his studio, the bloody pervert. Since Jack went off ripping up humans and tried to pin it on me. Since Hadley." He licks his lips as her name escapes. "I started three clubs right after she died."

"Jesus, how many are there?"

Masen shrugs. "New York, Florida. Canada. Europe. The newest is in Seattle."

"Newer than this?" I wave my arm at the bodies that are crisping off into the air, falling like snow. It felt like we'd been rushing headlong into the burning eye of god since the moment we met and I could barely believe he had time for anything else.

"Their inaugural session was last night. Decent turn out. Looks promising."

I shake my head, stupid and scratchy eyed. Masen rolls his eyes and looks bored with me. Snaps his fingers in my face and makes me blink. "Focus, Edward. I was just there."

"When?"

"Yesterday. Don't you remember? I stayed at the Hilton."


FORTY EIGHT

She doesn't pick up until the seventeenth ring. Not until I've just about given up on her.

"Is it you?" she exhales and my insides boil.

"Who were you expecting?" I fume.

Bella sounds half in the bag and fully pissed off, which is normal for her. "The guy who fucks me senseless and tells me that I taste like shot straight from the vein. Obviously, I got the other one."

"I have to go out of town for a while. Just . . . stay away from the house while I'm gone, ok?"

"Like I'd go there. That place is a shit hole."

"I'm not interested in your opinion. I'm telling you what to do."

"You are the worst thing that has ever happened to me," she hisses.

"You sure about that?" I think about the puckered smear across the back of her hand that exactly matches mine. Think about her chewed-on chandelier earrings and ruby red chokers, gaudy gifts from Masen.

I can't tell her that there's an army of newborn vampires in the basement.

Can't tell her that they're mixing napalm and burning off their fingerprints. I can't tell her that they bow out of fighting for a while before they turn so that they're not forever stuck with their broken mugs, like Angelface. Can't tell her that I let Masen beat me into the ground yesterday, right next to that pile of burning bodies.

I can't tell her that I'm afraid of what he'll do to her.

"Listen, I'll call you when I'm back. Just stay low until you hear from me."

"Why are you doing this?" She asks the one question she shouldn't.

"I think I like you."

I'm such a fucking jackass.

"Not love?" she asks.

"Don't push it."