Disclaimer: All characters owned by Stephine Meyer.

A/N: Thanks for any reviews or comments you may have about this story. They are very much appreciated.

Chapter 1

October 21, 2005, Friday Cullen's Abandonment +35 Days

School was becoming unbearable. The constant looks, the casual whispers. One would think that after a month the gossip would die down and I could fade into the background once again wrapping my anonymity around me like a shield. However, those days were gone. I had walked with gods, or at least the Forks equivalent, and now I was one of them in the worst ways. My fall had been noticed by everyone and the more petty of them took far too much delight in my return to the mortal world.

Day thirty-five was nearly complete. I would return home, pop a generic casserole into the oven, pretend to care about Charlie's day, pretend that my life wasn't over before it had ever begun, and pretend to have a restful night's sleep before starting the cycle all over again.

Every night I looked at my clock and its constant eerie green glow as it switched from ten to eleven to twelve to one. Somewhere along that one o'clock hour I would drift off and the wake up again a three-thirty, alert well rested, and ready to start the day. Don't ask me why; I haven't a clue. With two and a half hours rest a night I should be one of the living dead, but not in the way that I want. I could only wish that Victoria would come back and exact her revenge for her mate's death. It's wishful thinking on my part.

Fantasy after fantasy played out in my head that she would show up and I could stall her long enough to get her to change me, telling her that would be the greatest torture Edward could experience. She would fall for it, change me, and I would hunt the Cullens down to be with my erstwhile boyfriend for eternity.

She never came.

I even left my window open advertising free nummy snacks for any passing vampires. Instead of waking up to find myself sparkly and with a craving for a few pints of O-negative, I woke up with the taste of maple in my mouth and on my lips as if I raided the pantry and dumped the entire bottle of syrup down my throat.

That wasn't the case. Every morning I would check to find it there where I left it, even going so far as to mark the side of the bottle to make sure the level hadn't changed. I would check it and sure enough, there wasn't a drop missing. So unless there was a strange creature of the night that ran around Forks with a bottle of Aunt Jemima dosing up the locals then I didn't have a clue as to why this kept happening.

The strange part was it started the day after He left.

I wasn't imagining it. There was no tumor in my brain that was pressing on some particular nerve that faked the taste of syrup in my mouth – at least I don't think there was. That would probably be my luck though, all of it thoroughly bad of course. What I meant to say was that there were no ominous nosebleeds, no headaches, I wasn't shooting laser beams out of my eyes, or reading people's thoughts. Those were sure signs that brain tumors were on the rise, at least according to most popular fiction.

November 22, 2005 Tuesday Cullen's Abandonment + 73 Days

People are starting to ignore me again. That may be due to the official start of Christmas season shopping. School let out early for Thanksgiving and I finished shopping in preparation. Charlie didn't want me to go all out, but he hadn't had a home cooked spread on a major holiday in almost a decade. An eight pound Butterball would be more than enough. I figured I'd do it one last time before I died; I had stopped eating on Friday, and one just doesn't stop eating unless they're going to die soon.

There was no bulimia involved; everything just tasted like ash. No matter what I put in my mouth and no matter the amount, it eventually came back up totally undigested. It sounds gross, I know. It is. Luckily, it happened well after Charlie went to sleep so he never knew.

The problem with all of this was I never lost any weight; there were no circles under my eyes. In fact, I was the perfect picture of health. My hair had never been thicker or shinier, my nails were strong and never broke – in fact they were harder to groom; I had to switch to a metal file. My skin stayed perfectly clear even when I forgot to wash my face the night before.

I was definitely dying. This much good luck regarding my health had to be a sign that there was imminent heart attack in my future, either that or a failed kidney. Maybe my pancreas was going to explode. I think I'm becoming a hypochondriac. Does it count when there's an actual reason to think that Death was going to whip out his scythe and end my existence?

Paranoia is also starting to set in. I could swear I'm being watched.

December 21, 2005 Wednesday Cullen's Abandonment + 102 Days

Thirty-seven days have gone by and I haven't kept down a single bite of food. How am I alive? The waffles I scarfed down in front of Charlie, along with the small glass of milk came up the second he left for work. I swear I'm not bulimic; I Googled it. There was no binge eating, in fact, I hated eating because it always tasted so nasty. There was no over-exercising, mainly because there was absolutely no exercising to begin with. I didn't stash any junk food. My teeth weren't discolored from – excuse me – vomiting all the time. Actually they were seriously white because of all the brushing I did to get the nasty taste of ash out of my mouth. By the way, the minty-flavored toothpaste tasted like old tires, not that I've gone around and licked an old tire to find out what it tasted like. It's simply what I thought licking an old tire would… you know what? Nevermind.

There was only a few days left until Christmas and Charlie asked if I would bake a ham, because he's apparently into those spiral cut, honey-glazed hams that are really popular recently for some reason. I tried a piece to see what the hubbub was about. Have you ever imagined what it was like to lick the side of a rusty oil can that they store nuclear waste and bury in unsuspecting landfills? I've had a really vivid imagination recently. Anyway, I'm not eating any of that nasty stuff. Maybe I could claim a pork allergy? I definitely needed to Google that and find out if it exists.

When I returned to my room, after the non-bulimic voiding of the morning, I discovered someone had been in my room.

If this was any month pre-Cullen Abandonment I would be delighted that Edward stopped by, or perhaps wary of what Alice had left in my closet without my knowledge. Being it was day one hundred and two color me in a semi-panicked state to find a reasonable sized package left in the center of my bed. The wrapping was evergreen with a bow on top in red, gold, and white. Forgetting about the present for the moment, I raced to the window, opened it, and stuck my head out looking for any sign of Cullen-like vampires, or any other for that matter. Not that it was impossible to scale the tree outside my window and perform a pretty dexterous leap to my windowsill, but given my history I'm going with a supernatural explanation before any other.

Having failed to spot any movement or sexily quaffed vampires clinging to the trees I searched my closet and under the bed as well. I may have casually checked behind the rocking chair also, but that was just a glance and a longshot besides.

There was no card, only a nametag with loopy feminine script that read Bella. It was definitely someone other than a Cullen. I was well familiar with their handwriting, but it did have Edward's overly-leaning E. I dismissed it almost as soon as I noticed it. While his handwriting is overly feminine for a guy, it wasn't this feminine.

Listening for a moment, I didn't hear any noise within, so I shook it and was rewarded with the telltale sound of tightly packed clothes, or at the very least, cloth. Perhaps a random vampire thought I needed a flag or maybe a new quilt. No, it wasn't big enough for a quilt; definitely clothes.

I frowned and sat down on the rocker as I glanced out the corner of my eye to the tree line in hopes of catching sight of whoever dropped the package off. Whoever he, more likely she, was she was an expert at concealment or she wasn't interested in my reaction in finding a strange box on my bed.

Maybe it was a fairy.

Ever since my exposure to the supernatural made real, I've become quite the expert on fictional creatures. I was pretty sure the Quileutes were hiding something from me. There were tales of giant wolves roaming the rainforest, and if the legends of the Cold Ones were obviously true then why not the ancient wolf protectors of the tribe. My best guess was werewolves. That's why I pretty much stayed inside during the full moon. I even included the day before and after as some tales say werewolves change on those days as well. With my luck they could probably change anytime they wanted. That was the trouble with legends; I never knew what to believe.

Virtually nothing about vampires was true other than they drank blood and lived forever. I had to assume the same about werewolves.

That's where I came to the conclusion that the package could have been left by fairies. They do stuff like that. From the state of my room it was apparent I didn't attract any of the cleaning fairies. I tried leaving a saucer of milk and honey out overnight once to see if some appeared, but all I got was a trail of overly happy ants leading out my window, so I discounted them for the time being. If I visited Ireland any time in my life I'd try again then – that is if I wasn't dead by then. I'm still not entirely convinced that my spleen wasn't going to rupture any day now.

Taking one last obvious glimpse out the window I reached for the package and slid it closer to me. It was wrapped meticulously almost professionally; there were definitely straight edges involved and not an overabundance of tape like Charlie tends to use. His attitude was if it doesn't stay the way he likes then obviously there wasn't enough tape involved. Needless to say I usually have to bring sharp objects to the Christmas tree in order to find out what he sent. Otherwise I wasn't getting it open.

Slipping a nail under the tape, I pulled it loose and warily pushed down on the paper to reveal a plain white box. It definitely wasn't Alice that left it behind; she'd take pride in making sure I knew that it was bought at some outrageously expensive store. Further investigating needed to be involved.

I ran my fingernail along the wrapping paper, ripping through until it was apparent I'd actually need to open the box to find out what was in it and who accepted my open window as an invitation to break in. Taking a deep breath I flipped the top open and reared back just in case.

Another frown dropped the corners of my lips as I saw some black clothes inside, a white envelope of greeting card size, and a single bottle reminiscent of the pint sized Yoo-hoo I used to drink in my early teen years, except the contents weren't brown and watery looking, they were red. Black clothes and tomato juice, just what every girl dreams of a few days before Christmas.

The envelope was my best bet for answers, but I restrained myself from immediately grabbing and pilfering its contents. It could all be a ruse of Edward's to make me feel even more useless and annoying so I wouldn't pine away after him, not that I was doing anything of the sort. I just missed my vampire family. There was definitely no more pining.

Screw it.

I pulled out the card to see it was green and cheerful like the wrapping paper. The total contents on the front were two words: Happy and Yule.


Wonderful. There were witches involved. They were the only ones that celebrated Yule, well them and Pagans, and… nevermind. It was probably witches. How else can a package appear from thin air on my bed without any sign of entry into my room – besides the open window, I mean. The red liquid was probably lamb's blood and this was some ritual… hold on. Don't witches dance naked in rituals? Then why would a witch send me lamb's blood and clothes if they wanted me to participate in a ritual?

Perhaps I was overthinking this whole thing. Maybe I should just read the card and put all doubt out of my head about who sent me a present on Yule instead of waiting for a few more days like a normal person.

No, I needed to go buy Charlie's nasty ham. The card and the… is that leather?

Setting the card aside I carefully took the bottle, possibly containing lamb's blood and set it on my dresser, before taking out the pants on top of everything.

"Ohh. Nice."

Calfskin; soft and supple; just begging me to slide my legs in. What else?

A generic red tank top that was fairly nice got tossed to the side in lieu of the matching black calfskin jacket on the bottom.

"Oh, momma likes."

Throwing caution to the wind I stripped to bare skin in about .02 seconds and slipped on the decadent pants, relishing in how they caressed my legs. The tank was pulled on as an afterthought, and then I threw the jacket on top and pulled out my hair afterward. I nearly purred. Just for entertainment's sake I did just that. Everything fit perfectly as if it were tailor made just for me.

Spinning around I looked into the mirror and saw who I really was. Gone was the Mousy-Bella that preferred to hide in the corner and ignore life as it passed her by. This was Libertine-Bella, her alter-ego, which sought pleasures and entertainment for her own sake without a care for others. Granted, this Bella had never ever made an appearance… ever. She was simply a product of trashy romance novels that were read in the dark of night so nobody would think that she was shallow. She only came out in fantasies that involved slim, pale-skinned, shapely-legged, bubble butt vampire boys coincidently named Edward, on those lonely nights when he was away feeding, and Libertine-Bella could finally release some pent-up frustrations in her bed, under the covers, with the lights off, and a pillow covering her mouth so her moans wouldn't be heard by nosey fathers that liked to open the door without knocking in the middle of the night.

I definitely couldn't wear this in public, especially not around Forks. The local church ladies would most likely spontaneously combust or possibly have a throw-down in the middle of town deciding on who got to damn me to Hell first – or was that Phoenix? Washington was a fairly liberal state, well, portions of it anyway. Maybe it was Phoenix.

When I turned back to grab the card to see who had gotten insight to the deepest recesses of my mind I noticed one last present and started giggling like a four year old. Booties. Leather booties. That wasn't the funny part. They were actually quite beautiful and went with the outfit perfectly; even with my lack of fashion knowledge it was obvious. What was so funny was the heels on them. They couldn't be any less than four inches high. Whoever sent them to me royally messed up. Putting those on guaranteed my imminent death in minutes, especially this close to the stairs.

The Cullens were permanently taken off the suspect list, so was anyone that actually knew me or had seen me attempt to walk on a perfectly smooth sidewalk and trip over the humidity in the air.

"Random vampire. Has to be. Maybe it's Victoria?"

Had my plans come to fruition? Was she back and this was a farewell gift before being drained? I thought back to the hideous outfit she had on the last time I saw her. No, definitely not Victoria. Damn!

Still, they were nice looking boots. Maybe if I sat down and slipped them on? I couldn't hurt myself doing that. Okay, maybe if I sat on the floor and put them on. No, there was no way I was sitting on the floor and possibly get some unforeseen dirt type substance on the seat of these pants. That wasn't happening. The bed it was.

Again, a perfect fit. And they looked really good. They felt even better, and I hate heels. Throwing caution in the wind I stood carefully and inched my way over to the closet where the larger mirror hung from the inside.


I looked like a goddess. Okay, maybe that was stretching things. Perhaps if Alice was here to do my makeup then I'd look like a goddess. Still, I looked damn good.

Turning around, I forgot myself and the heels I was wearing, promptly fell forward onto the bed and thanked my lucky stars there wasn't a stairway within five feet of me. I glared at the open door and sighed.


I hope you enjoy this gift, one of many I would like to share with you in the future. Enclosed is a beverage I think you might enjoy. If you would like more please visit me at the address below. Don't forget to wear the outfit for your visit.

~ K

"K? Who do I know that has a K name?"

I pondered that question for a moment. "Kirk? The Speedo stuffing swim team guy?"

A picture of his acne pocket face popped into my head along with his over-masculine physique. "Eww. No."

The only other person that I knew was Katie Marshall, but the address below wasn't the next street over where I knew she lived. And why would she buy me anything much less drop hundreds of dollars on this outfit? Perhaps Victoria talked her into it? They were both curly redheads. Maybe there was a solidarity thing going on that I didn't know about.

2 Elk Ridge Creek Rd.

After Googling the address I found it on the west side of Forks in the middle of an empty field. A perfect place for a vampire to snack on a Bella-sized human type person. Excellent!

"Where are my keys? Oh."

The drink.

It was most likely tomato juice and it was probably laced with some kind of drug that would make me susceptible to her or his desires, kind of like a vampire roofie. Maybe it would make my blood taste better for them or something. I shrugged. It was worth a shot. If I played their game then maybe they would play mine and leave me just enough blood to survive on for turning into a vampire.

I decided to leave a note for Charlie just in case I wasn't able to return.

Dear Char Dad,

Went off to start a new life. Still a virgin. I'll give you a call in a few days.

Love, Bella.

p.s. Merry Christmas

With a nod at the last minute holiday wishes I stuffed it in my desk drawer so he'd find it on a thorough search and not just randomly see it in case this is all some sort of stupidly expensive prank on me.


Elk Ridge Road, as I mentioned before, was on the east side of Forks. It was about as far out as you can go and still be in sight of the city if not for the trees in the way. That isn't saying much, so I'll call it somewhere between a half mile and a mile right before you get into the meat of the forest. I remember driving past it once and it was a dirt road at the time. Now it's concrete. Who uses concrete anymore? It's always that stinky black tar stuff that I inevitably get stuck behind whenever they're laying the road. You know the ones where you have to turn your air conditioner to recirculate because of the stench? Except it's always too late and the interior of your car smells like hot tar by the time you get the controls set. By then the smell is trapped and you're doing nothing but making sure that it stays trapped.

I digress.

Anyway, the road was nicely paved in all its twists and turns until I saw a bunch of dead end signs and no trespassing signs, followed by private property signs and last chance to turn around before becoming a nummy treat for my tummy signs. Okay the last one was a joke, but seriously I was expecting it any second. If there was any way to guarantee my interest it was to put danger signs along the roadway and I'd be compelled to follow along to my eventual doom; just ask the Cullens – if you can find them.

The road ended with a large mailbox and a gated entrance with nothing but the same road continuing on the other side. The only way I was going to be able to move on was by pressing the red button that was conveniently put at car level for my button pressing ease. There weren't any cameras around that I could see, but that didn't mean anything these days. There could be fifty of them placed all around and I wouldn't notice a thing. I glanced over at the bottle of tomato juice, and my new booties – driving in four inch heels? Ha! As if that's going to happen – and decided if I was going to solve the mystery of who took advantage of my open window I needed to straighten my spine and press the button.

After cranking the window down in the Chevy I reached out and tapped the button quickly before snatching my hand back and rolling the window halfway back up. I don't know why I bothered. If there was a sparkly villain out there a tiny bit of window glass isn't going to detour them from ripping my door off its hinges grabbing me and sinking their fangs in my throat. I should say their teeth since that's another fact that proved wrong in the vampire mythos. I was somewhat disappointed when I heard that; I always thought fangs were kind of sexy as long as they weren't too lengthy, because once you're gone past a half inch in length then you've entered into major lisping involved. Seriously, how is someone supposed to speak properly with those things in their mouth? There's nothing more disappointing than a lisping vampire. Well, I suppose there would be. Maybe a meowing werewolf would be more disappointing or perhaps one that barked like a Chihuahua.

The large gothic wrought iron gate opened on its own accord without anyone speaking to me from the little blue speaker box beside the red button. I guessed they were expecting me, whoever they were. The concrete road weaved another hundred yards before curving around a bend in the forest and opening into a large open clearing at least ten times the size of my clearing where Edward and I used to spend time together. This one didn't have flowers or much of anything in terms of wild growth. Considering it was mere days before Christmas and the ambient temperature was floating around the lower forties. About the only thing that seemed to flourish around here in this weather were the trees themselves.

At the far end of the area was another rich vampire-like two story house all spread out and closed off unlike the last one I've been too that was covered in windows all over the place. It was obvious Esme had nothing to do with the planning and building of this one. The outside was covered in brown veneer with a sharply pitched roof much like a lot of the local houses. It keeps snow from building up on the roof and caving in under the weight. There was smoke billowing up from a single chimney giving it a warm feeling from out here in the cold weather. I parked in front of the closed four car garage and killed the engine.

While I sat there and listened to the motor tick I grabbed the bottle of tomato juice and made my decision to go ahead and drink the contents without any care as to what else might be inside. By this point I was beyond any sense of self preservation, not caring if I was being used as a vampire's morning pick-me-up or as a spokesperson for a new brand of sports drink. I just hoped it wasn't a new flavor of Clamato. Spamato or Lobstermato would simply ruin my day.

Instead of some funky meaty smell entering my delicate nose, something else quite intoxicating issued forth from the wide mouth bottle. I couldn't place it and believe me I have a nose for just about everything in existence. Glancing out windows I didn't think I was observed quite yet, so I stuck a finger in the drink and quickly popped it in my mouth. Flavor exploded across my dormant taste buds. It was tangy and sweet, salty and spicy all at once. There was actual flavor to be tasted once more! Without wasting any time I gulped the contents, letting it wash past my tongue in a burst of absolute delight and down my eager throat. In seconds it was gone and I was going so far as to lean back and display my patience as the last drops left.

A moan left my throat at finally being able to taste something again which didn't leave an awful residue in my mouth that had to be brushed out as soon as I could. Did I want some more. The answer to that question was a definitive Hells Yeah! Thoughts of emptying my meager bank account to buy case after case of this stuff drifted through my head. It had to be addictive and possibly contain an amphetamine. I could already feel energy shooting down my legs and arms. My thought process was on high alert, my vision sharper, my hearing acute, my skin alight with sensitivity, and my stomach growling for more.

Capping off the bottle I set it on the floorboard and dumped the keys in my pocket as I alit from the Chevy. The hollow sound of my heels on the concrete helped me focus as I made my way to the wide stairs that led up to the main level of the house. It gave the impression there was a basement below since the side of a minor hill in back was part of the foundation. Tall double oaken doors waited for me and I saw no sign of a doorbell. Why would vampires need a bell? They'd hear me coming from down the street anyway. I smoothed my hands along my hips letting the sublime texture of the calfskin restrain my nerves before I knocked.

She stood a little taller than me with matching heel height. She had a perfect heart shaped face, full lips, and perfectly arched eyebrows, perfectly curved body, and perfectly… it was annoying how impossibly gorgeous she was. Her blonde hair was straight as corn silk, draped on either side of her moderate breasts. I was envious and I didn't get envious of the beautiful people, I just admired them. The one thing that threw me was that she had moderately pale skin much like my own and violet colored eyes. I knew that color existed in the human iris, but I'd never seen it before outside of Elizabeth Taylor. There was one indisputable fact I had to accept.

She wasn't a vampire.

"Hello," she said in a happily beautiful voice that was very reminiscent of Rosalie. "You must be Bella. I'm Katrina Denali, but you must call me Katja if you can pronounce it properly. So many westerners butcher my name.

Recalling the exact inflection of her name I repeated it precisely as I could. "Kah-ti-yah."

"Mmmm," she said before stealing in and kissing me on the cheek very close to my mouth. "Wonderful. You have a beautiful accent. I shall teach you Slovak. It is a lite guttural language, perfect for lovers in the height of passion. V skutočnosti, stavím sa, že všetkému rozumiete hovorím teraz, nie, Bella?"

The phrase she threw out sounded like a smoother version of Russian. It took a moment, but I felt like understood her, which doesn't make any sense. I was barely able to hold on to a B in Spanish class.

"I'm sorry. Did you just ask if I understood you?"

The side of her mouth lifted in a seductive way. "Close, pet. Very close. We must work on your comprehension. That can only be accomplished by total immersion, a ja tak chcem ponoriť, Bella. Enter of your own free will and eventually leave after a time as a friend, možno ešte oveľa viac."

Frustration edged on me as I listened to her speak this foreign language knowing that I should understand it and at the same time knowing that there was no way that I could.

"Come," she motioned and took my hand.

I was expecting her skin to be cold, but it wasn't, at least not as cold as a vampire's. Instead, it was cool to the touch, but not unlike someone that simply possessed naturally cold hands. Within a moment her fingers were laced with mine and there was a playful smile on her face.

"You are confused, aren't you?"

I nodded as we moved into a large area I could only describe a living room. There was no entertainment center, only three very comfortable looking couches in U-formation in front of an extremely large fireplace. In the middle, on top of the dark hardwood floor was a bearskin rug, something I'd never seen outside of a movie. Who has actual bearskin rugs?

There wasn't anything of any apparently intrinsic value such as art hanging on the walls. Everything was fairly plain and new, but I still got the feeling of warmth inside.

"I'm just moving in, so you'll forgive the lack of personality in my new home. Sit with me."

There wasn't really any other choice since Katja had a hold of my hand and didn't seem like she was going to be releasing it anytime in the near future. The couch was overly cushy, which I enjoyed. It was much more comfortable than Charlie's hideaway.

"You enjoy the clothes I sent you, yes? They suit you much better than the denims and Wal-Mart tee-shirts."

I knew someone was watching me. "How did you get the box into my room?"

"You're angry, aren't you. Pity. You leave your window open every night in hopes that the silly boy will return, and yet you are surprised when others take interest in you."

My mouth opened slightly in confusion. She wasn't a vampire and she talks as if she wasn't human. Maybe my fairy guess wasn't so far off after all. "What are you?" I whispered.

Katja tugged on my arm and before I knew it she was leaning back against the arm of the couch and I was spun around with my back leaning against her front and my head tucked just to the side of her chin. Her leg wrapped around my hips and her arm pinning mine neatly holding me in place without hurting me.


"Relax, pet. You will not be harmed. I have already put forth far too much time and effort to make sure you are perfect." She bent her head down and brushed against my face, inhaling my scent and sighed. "Yes, far too much time, but it will be worth it."

I swallowed difficulty. "Um, what are you talking about? And can you let go?"

"No. I have looked forward to this meeting, Bella. I want to enjoy myself for a small time. You have never been conscious for any of our previous rendezvous. Just lay still and let me play. You shall be released soon."

That didn't sound particularly pleasant. "And the first part?"

"Your preparation? Surely you've noticed certain oddities about your existence recently," Katja said as she stroked my hair, pinning some to the side exposing my neck. "Your lack of hunger, your increase in strength, your sudden escalation in sexual desire, the ability you have to reason and information retention; none of these sound familiar?"

The strength thing I hadn't noticed, mainly because I don't really do anything that requires strength and I haven't mentioned the sexual thing well, because it's nobody's business how many times I've been jilling a day, and it's definitely nobody's business about who I've been thinking about during said jilling.

"Maybe. Is it your fault I keep tasting maple all the time?"

"Maple? The tree?"

"The syrup, like for pancakes."

"Curious. It's said that everyone senses something different when tasting us. Maple syrup is a new one for me."

I tried to sit up, but Katja was really strong. "What do you mean tasting you?"

Her free hand stopped its insistent petting of my hair and dropped down to her other hand. I watched as she raked one of her nails across her wrist and a sudden welling of clear fluid collected on top of her skin.

"Drink, pet."

My eyes widened and I tried to scramble away, fighting against her leg like I was trying to bend steel. The wrist was pressed against my mouth and as soon as I tasted the slightest bit my spine turned to jelly.

"Mmm, that's it. Drink and be strong."

I pulled my tongue away and sucked as hard as I could. A second later my mouth filled with the sweetest taste I'd ever experienced, making a mouthful of rich cheesecake seem sour and dull in comparison. I forced it down my throat.

"Again," Katja said with a pleased sigh.

Pulling at her wrist once more I felt it almost gush into my mouth this time and swallowed as my eyes started to roll up.


My head was becoming light and the windows in the room started shifting in place, becoming brighter and more defined in the same instant. Slamming my eyes at the vertigo that was suddenly upon me I sucked and swallowed a fourth mouthful before Katja pulled her arm away and I gasped for air. The room was spinning and it felt as if I was on a drunken high, so much that I barely noticed a slight pain at my neck followed by a light sucking sensation that sent me over the edge.

A wave of orgasmic bliss washed over me undulating from my core and spread throughout my body. I was sure there was someone moaning loudly in the room and I was also pretty sure it was me, but if it felt this good why wouldn't I let the world know? My body was shaking and spasms were wracking my entire being.

Her wrist returned and I began nursing once more. All the tension of the last year washed out of me. All the pain, the anguish, the depression, even the highs of happiness that I felt were all cleansed in that moment as I floated on a sea of contentment. This must be what Heaven is like, I thought as I lay there in Katja's arms gently being rocked while her mouth tugged eagerly on my neck.

I was so cold.


When I regained consciousness I found myself still in front of the fire, still on the couch, but this time Katja wasn't there, and I was wrapped in a heavy handmade quilt.

"Be still," I heard her whisper near my ear. "You are at a delicate juncture, Bella. I've taken a good amount of your blood and you have ingested an equal amount of my venom. Your body needs time to adjust."

My eyes tracked movement to the left and I barely turned my head to see Katja sitting there tenderly looking at me. "What are you?"

Her lips turned up in amusement. "Vampire. What did you think I was?"

"But… your eyes and your skin…."

"Ah, I understand the confusion. Most vampires don't take the time to pass themselves off as human. I find it solves many concerns. I wear light blue glass contacts that result in the violet irises. Not a common color to be sure, but much more natural than red. The skin is a little more difficult to maintain. Only a few minutes a week with a tanning spray and I may walk among you in the light of day."

I nearly laughed. "Tanning spray?"

"For the right amount of money I can acquire different colors. I chose this so if I happen to miss a few days there won't be that much of a difference in tone."

"You're warm too."

She shrugged. "If I have enough warning I soak in a hot tub and stay near a warm fire. Our bodies take on the ambient temperature of wherever we are at. As long as I don't go outside for long periods of time I can feel quite lifelike. Other times I simply wear gloves."

All my fears were laid to rest. I wasn't insane. I wasn't dying. Someone was watching me and she didn't want me dead. The reason I couldn't eat… hold on.

"What did you do to me? You bit me and I'm not a vampire. How?"

Leaning over she pulled away the cover and lifted my hand. "You hold the answer to that question right here."

Looking down, I saw the nasty scar James left me on my wrist during our wonderful time together in Phoenix. "You sucked the venom out?"

She nodded and traced her fingers on my neck. "The venom you ingested will insure you don't have a scar this time. I'm surprised Edward or Carlisle didn't feed you then."

I tried to sit up at that announcement, but my head swam and I dropped back down until the room stopped swirling.

"Then again nothing surprises me about the Cullens anymore. They hate what they are. Self-loathing plays a large part of their daily lives. Not like it does with beings like us, Bella. Am I correct?"

I licked my lips tasting the remnants of the venom and its sweet flavor. "What do you mean?"

Katja closed inches away from my face where I could feel her cool breath against my cheeks. "You want to become a vampire, do you not? You have desired it from virtually the moment our existence was known to you."

"Why didn't you…?"

"…make you one of us today?" Katja closed her eyes and smiled wistfully. "Because I have plans, pet, and you are at the center of them for the time being."

"Me?" That was incredibly difficult to believe.

"Mm. My plans are multi-layered as befitting my station," she said with a grin. "I am the second oldest vampire on the North American continent. My sister Tanya is the oldest, granted not by much, but still older. Once a vampire attains a certain age their venom can do things that the younger ones cannot. Like what I am doing to you, for instance."

I started to ask what she was talking about, but she placed a finger on my lips, probably anticipating the question.

"Over the course of the next month we will repeat this exchange weekly, and then over the course of the following month we will repeat it daily."


She shrugged again. "Most vampires over a thousand years old don't have the patience I do. They insist on biting and draining most humans. If they desire a childe then they simply bite and let them change over the course of days. I prefer my children to be powerful, to have the full extent of their gifts revealed instead of simply a sampling which is what would happen if I bit you now and let you burn."

Carlisle and Edward both told me that my ability to block Edward from reading my mind was a gift in the same manner Jasper could manipulate emotions or that Alice could see the future.

"Additionally, I want you to encourage another person to join us. She is gifted as well. She will serve our coven. The three of us will build something that others will only aspire to."

Closing my eyes I tried to comprehend what she was saying, but there were pieces missing in the grand puzzle. "Why?"

Katja leaned forward and brushed my hair back lovingly. "Vampires are coming are coming out of their proverbial coffin, pet. The Volturi are weary of ruling and they don't want the Romanians insanity to infect the whole, so they are breaking apart the world into their various continents and establishing a local government in each. I am Magistrate of the western half of North America and Canada sans Mexico since that is going to Central America. I want you and Lauren to be my right and left hands."

I blinked and started to sit up again, only this time I was actually able to make it.

"Lauren? As in Lauren Mallory? You've got to be kidding me."