Chapter 11

Playlist selection:  Ain't No Rest For the Wicked - by Cage the Elephant

Victoria POV

Mmmm, God, I can still taste that little twerp's blood on my lips.  My throat flares again at the thought of my first taste of human blood in nearly three years.  How did I ever think I could give it up? 

I dodge another cluster of pine trees somewhere in the dense forests of northern California and cringe from the sudden earthy scent of a herd of elk.  How could anyone find that stench appetizing?  I don't have a clue, and I don't give a shit anymore; that lifestyle is not for me.  Trying to keep from making any planned decisions - not wanting to be followed - I run until I feel the need to stop and drink.  

Hurdling over a mountain stream, I pick up speed, getting as far south as I can before I have to kill again.  I know I shouldn't have plucked that skinny little fucker from the gas station while he was filling up his car, but the urge to feed on real blood - human blood - was overwhelming. One second he was setting the latch on the gas nozzle, and the next, I was carrying him like a damn football under my arm to a dark spot behind a nearby dumpster.  I gotta admit, the dumpster came in handy.  Snatch body, drink body, and dump body.  Simple as that.

It's just before midnight when I arrive someplace outside of Fresno and snag some trashed sorority chick heading toward a parking lot.  I approach her swiftly, flinging her into her car the moment she manages to open the door, and drain her instantly.  Her blood is sweet, probably a combination of the fruity mixers and alcohol.  Once she's cold and limp, I shove her into the passenger seat and rip the keys from her hand.  Taking a few side streets, I manage to find a fairly long stretch of dark, unoccupied road and pull her body over to the driver's side and wedge her lifeless foot on the accelerator.  I hop out of the car and watch with rapt attention as it careens down the desolate road.  It picks up speed until it hits a dip in the asphalt, veers off the road, hits several trees, and flips over into a ravine, exploding on impact.

Fuck yeah!  That was awesome!

Exhilarated by the recent feed and the fantastic grande finale, I continue my journey and sprint southeast.  Crossing into Nevada, the moon is bright in the desert, and my skin glows a bright white.  It's a strange sight for human eyes to witness a practically illuminating creature darting across the rocky terrain.  There's not much cover, and I don't want to hide out in Vegas until night fall again, so I decide to push further east.

Just as the sun begins to rise in the sky, I make it to Phoenix.  I make a stop at a shopping mall, not by choice, but by necessity.  My clothes are tattered from catching on the foliage, and I need a place to quench my thirst.  After I've changed my clothes and fed on a delicious little old man in the parking garage, I continue on my travels toward Texas.

It's a little after noon when I zip through the mountain area east of the city. Deer, elk, bear, wild boar, and a few other musky scents fill my lungs, but nothing stirs up my appetite like the sight before me.  A human male, hiking alone in the forest, talking into a short range radio.  He's got a nice body, wicked hair, and his voice is seductive even as he's yelling into the receiver.  Hot damn. 

I leap into a tree and watch as he climbs through the underbrush, steps over logs, and then stops along the perimeter of a small meadow.  His radio startles two deer and he curses as they scamper away into the forest.  The wind changes and his scent carries up to the canopy.  Oh, God, it's divine.  Venom floods my mouth, but I swallow it down, not wanting to feed on this sexy creature.  I grip the trunk of the tree tighter as he enters into the small pasture and palms himself while he stares at some rocks.  His heart rate picks up and the bulge in his pants thickens.  Mmm... is my big boy an exhibitionist?  He's a little kinky, gorgeous, and sexy as hell.  He's perfect.

He turns and heads down the hill, and I watch him disappear into the forest.  I sit among the tree tops for hours... contemplating, planning, scheming.  Could I handle a newborn vampire?  Yes, I think so.  Could I sink my teeth into his tender flesh and not drain his body of all its blood?  Maybe.  I've never changed anyone before.  Could I just run the other way and never look back?  No... He's just too perfect for me.  

With a tentative plan in my head, I head north to a tiny podunk town and devour the first poor, lonely fucker I can find.  I burst through his back door and pounce onto his lap before he even registers any movement.  I smile brightly at his confused face, teasing him about the network news channel he's watching, and then latch my teeth to his neck and gulp.  He doesn't have time to make a sound.

After my meal, I head back to the woods, capture my darling boy's scent, and follow it to a small cabin.  There are three distinct heartbeats inside, and I wonder if there are a few more young men, like him, in there.  I'm sure I could dazzle them into a fantastic orgy.  God, it's been years since I've seduced a human... and never three at one time.  

Unfortunately, through my eavesdropping, I discover that he's here with his parents, and so I perch in a nearby tree, waiting until the whole family goes to bed.  I haven't made any decisions on what I plan to do.  Change him?  Or not change him?  Kill him? Or not kill him?  Finally frustrated with indecision, I hop off the branch, landing softly on the ground, and assess the property: there's a black minivan parked along the side of the cabin, a book and a hammock tucked under a tall pine tree, and a couple of fishing poles leaning against the front porch railing.  I try the handle on the door - not that that would keep me out - but I'm surprise to find it unlocked.   

Inside, the delicious aroma of the three occupants infiltrates my nose and the venom rushes into my mouth, forcing me to swallow several times.  I find the parents' bedroom first, their bodies cuddled against one another.  As I turn down the hall toward the boy's room, I detect a slightly sweet scent wafting from inside his room.  It's not strong enough to indicate another person is with him, but it's noticeable enough that there must be a lot of items carrying the smell with it.  Inside, I find my sweetheart sleeping, snuggling his pillow.  Yes, the sugary scent is very strong in this room and all around him. It's definitely human.

I lean over my darling's sleeping form, run my fingers gently through his hair, and whisper, "Oh, so lovely."  I know instantly that I will change him... for me.  He will be mine.

He moves his head toward me slightly and I get a better glimpse of his beautiful face. "Whaddya say, handsome?  Wanna come home with me?"  I giggle at his unconscious, confused expression.

"Who are you?" he mumbles.

"Me?  Well, I'm your creator, sweetness, and you'll be my mate."

"You...absurd.  Bella is...mine...nothing you can do...married...couple weeks." He's fucking adorable, arguing with me in his sleep.  And who the fuck is this Bella?! 

"You're wrong, baby," I coo, trailing my finger down his neck and chest, hooking into the waistband of his shorts, and pulling him against my body. "You belong to me." 

It's now or never, Victoria, I tell myself.  I panic for a brief second, unsure whether I have the willpower to not drain him completely.  Then a thought hits me. 

Yes!  Perfect!

I bolt into the parents' room and pounce onto the bed, exhilarated by my strike of brilliance.  I laugh maniacally as the adults shriek in surprise, horror, pain... fuck, I don't really care why they scream.  I need to satisfy my thirst immediately before I attempt to transform my precious boy.  I tear savagely into the neck of one of them, gulping against the pulsing arteries.  My nails slice through the flesh of the other, simultaneously, desperately needing more blood to quelch my frenzy. 

Once my body feels sloshy from all the blood and my hunting instincts have calmed, I stand and turn toward the dresser, glancing at myself in the mirror.  Gah! I'm a damned mess!  I straighten my shirt and wipe the blood off my face with a blanket from the bed.

I can hear my sweet one's heartbeat getting louder and faster as he's walking closer to the room.  Swinging open the door, I meet him in the hallway and grab him by the throat. "Where do you think you're going?" 

He wrestles against my grip, but I hold him tightly enough to keep him from struggling.  "Wha-Wh-..."

"Shh... No questions yet, darling. There will be plenty of time for that later."  I smile gently at him, trying not to scare him too much - not that it would really matter.  He grips onto the doorjamb as we make it into his room, wiggling and thrashing to get out of my grasp.  I let go of him, but his feet manage to lose ground and he nearly falls to the floor.  At vampire speed, I catch him in my arms.

"I wouldn't let you fall, hon.  I won't let anything hurt you... for all eternity," I chuckle to myself.  He scrambles to get away from me, but I pull him closer and the scent of his blood is almost overwhelming.  Almost as much as my desire for him.  Frustrated with my warring emotions, I growl and toss him onto his bed and climb on top to sit on his thighs.  He claws at me, trying to push me off of him, smacking at my hands. "Don't try to fight me, sugar.  You will only hurt yourself."  I gather his wrists in one hand and raise them above his head on the pillow.  Leaning down, I take one long, tortuous whiff of this glorious human male before he's forever changed... for me.  I place a few light kisses against his lips, reveling in the warmth and softness of them - committing them to memory.  God, he feels so good under me.

He wrenches his face away from mine, and I sit up, annoyed. "I told you not to fight me, boy."  I scoot down further to cup his cock in my hand and snarl, "I'll take what's mine, if you won't give it up willingly.  You'll end up like your parents if you can't behave."

"MOOOOOM!!  DAAAAAD!!" he screams.

"Don't waste your breath.  They were collateral damage." I shrug. "Well, actually, they were kind of like my appetizer... so I wouldn't kill you, baby." 

"Who the fuck are you?" he roars, struggling under my grasp.

"I told you who I am, but you don't have to worry about any specifics for a few days, sweetpea."  I grind myself against him, excited about the incredible pleasure he'll give me once he's transformed. "You'll be my mate, and we will have all the time in the world for talking and, uhh, other things."

"What are you?" he croaks, tears forming in his beautiful eyes.

I lean toward his ear and whisper seductively, "I'm a vampire, baby, but you can call me Victoria."

His face and eyes snap to mine, gauging if I'm telling him the truth.  Yes, I am, my lovely. "What's your name, handsome?"


"Hmmm, I like it, Edward." I stare into his eyes and blow the air from my lungs across his face.  His features relax slightly and I smile at the ease to dazzle humans.  They are so fucking weak.  "So... We are going to play a little game, Edward.  Do you like games?" 

His unfocused eyes shift and he quietly whispers, "Yes."

"Good!  Let's start with I Spy.  Did you like to play I Spy when you were little?"


"Hmmm, me too.  I'll go first." He nods his head. "I spy something... blue."  His eyes glance around the room and he calls out various items: a shirt, a blanket, a picture on the wall. "No, those aren't it.  Let's try again.  I spy something blue and... delicious."  He looks up at me in confusion and shrugs his shoulders.

"I don't know, Victoria."  Mmmm, the sound of his voice saying my name has me all kinds of horny and the venom flowing.

"Wanna know what it is?"  He nods his head yes, staring blankly into my eyes.  "It's this vein, right... here..." and I sink my teeth into his flesh, infiltrating the venom into his body.  I automatically take two huge pulls of blood, but I yank my head away from him quickly and hold my breath, trying to reign in my urge to feed.  Once I control myself, I lick the wound to seal it.  I sit up and take a moment to savor his delicious taste.

Now, I wait.

I sit beside him on the bed for hours, listening to him scream, beg for someone to help him, and cry from the pain.  He keeps yelling for this Bella person -- calling out her name, telling her that he loves her -- and I'm getting pissed.  He will love no one but me.  I am his maker, and I will make him love me.

By his second day of transition, his wails have quieted.  His breathing is rapid, and I watch as his legs and arms convulse from the venom destroying his living cells.  I'm making this man into an immortal creature, giving him eternal life.   It may be sadistic, but it's a beautiful thing to behold.

At the end of the day, I get the overwhelming sense of possible danger.  Someone is tracking me, hunting me.  I need to protect my soon-to-be mate, but I'm not one for confrontation.  I'd rather not lure any nomads near my human, so I have to leave.  Now.

Kissing Edward on the forehead, I whisper, "I'll be back very soon, my lovely."  I tear through the cabin and escape through the patio door in the parents' room.  Heading further into the mountains, I run in random directions, trying to evade the tracker.  I arrive in a small town and take refuge in an all-night diner for a few hours.  I need to get back to Edward before he wakes up. 

By the time the sun starts to rise again, I zig zag through the forest as I sprint back toward the cabin.  There's no scent of a nomad anywhere along the way.  I slow to a walk as I approach the property, happy that I've successfully deflected the hunter when I notice something missing.

I can't hear Edward's heartbeat.

I should be able to still hear his blood pumping through his veins from several yards away, but I only hear the air whooshing through the trees.  Is his transition complete already?  I smile at the thought. "Edward!" I call, practically skipping up the front porch steps. "EDWARD!"

And that's when I smell them... "Fucking CULLENS!!"


After the Cullens kidnapped my mate, I tried to track them by scent, but I'm not very good at it; I lost the trail by the next day.  I returned to the cabin to contemplate my next plan to search for them, but found it completely surrounded by the police and one very familiar scent.  One that made venom flood my mouth and my muscles tense to attack.  I watched from my perch on a nearby branch as this little bitch stumbled in Edward's room, rummaged through his belongings, and then packed them into their vehicle.   

Oh, hell no.  That's my man's stuff.

For half a second, I contemplated annihilating the entire law enforcement crew at the scene, including the little cunt who was crying her eyes out in the backseat of a truck, but then I got this kickass idea.   If I followed that little twit -- Bella I assumed -- she could have eventually led me to Edward.  He may have wanted to go back to find her, even if he couldn't be close to her yet.  He would, though, in time.  The fucking Cullens would see to it that he lived and thrived around humans without feeding on them.  Damn them and their unnatural willpower.   

I followed them down the mountain, and then as they headed out on the highway.  Wanting to get a better look at this little bitch, I threw a tree limb in the truck's path.  I watched as she argued with the guy and then climbed on some rocks near the tree line.  God, I could have snatched her up and drained her skinny ass, but that would have defeated my purpose.  I needed live bait to lure Edward back to me. 

I chased their truck back to the suburbs of Phoenix and located the quaint house easily, and considered it my base camp.   

So, now I've been monitoring this little tart, off and on, for nearly four years.  Wanting to keep inconspicuous, I roam all over the Southwest and check in on Bella from time to time. 

I watch as she travels to and from college and from her little, piddly job at a cafe.  I take note of her friends and her family living in the houses next door.  And I notice that little pissant, Riley, as he starts to covet her.  Their little friendship blossoms into a sweet romance over several months, and due to my peeping, I witness more that I care to see.

A part of me is happy as hell that she's finally over my darling Edward, but I see that she still cries from time to time.  She never takes off that damn necklace or ring.  That's got to annoy the shit out of Riley.  But the other part of me is angry that apparently she and Edward had a special relationship.  He wanted to marry her.  No!  He's mine!, I snarl to myself. Finders keepers, bitch!

But after a while, I notice someone else - someone vying for Miss Swan's attention.  He's got a beautiful body, sandy blond hair, and a deviantly sexy smile.  But he doesn't have the goo-goo eyes for that little cunt.  No... no he's sickly obsessed.  I notice him stalking her at work and at school.  He tracks down her address and drives past her house several times a week. Sometimes he sits at the end of the street and watches her out in the garden, then goes to the other side of town and picks up a prostitute.  He doesn't settle for a quickie blow job in the car either.  No, James -or Jay as he likes to be called- is a sadistic fucker.  He beats and rapes the whores, then kicks them to the curb, cursing at them as if they were Bella.

"Shut the fuck up, Bella!  You know you want this, so quit teasing me!" he'd yell as he held their arms behind their backs, bending them over a dirty garbage can in an alley and fucking them.  The hookers would cry, begging for James to release them.  He'd slap them hard and shove them to the ground. "That's what you get for stringing me along, bitch."

God, he'd make a wicked vampire.  That gives me an idea...

I'm tired of waiting for Edward to return to Phoenix to find Bella; it's been four years already.  The fucking Cullens probably have him on restriction or some bullshit.  Maybe he never loved her enough to come back for her and has left his previous life behind completely.  Ha!  That would be a sweet surprise. Regardless, finding Edward is my priority, so I proceed with my plan. 

I follow James.  

One night, he tracks Bella and her friend to a night club.  He watches Bella sipping a cocktail and swaying her body on the dance floor.  Tensing his body every time a man gets too close to her, he finally decides to approach her, and wraps his arm around her gyrating hips.  She rudely turns him down, and I smirk to myself as his face goes from blissed to pissed in a second.  Bad move, you stupid twat. 

Quickly, Bella and her friend leave the dance floor and scramble to the safety of the booth with their other friends.  James is fucking livid, and it's a riot to watch as his nostrils flare and his gaze locks onto Bella as she scampers away.  Oh, this will be so much fun!

I hear one of the male friends in the booth ask Bella where Riley is, and she says he's at home.  Hmmm... I do need to be fed before I approach James, I think to myself.  Without a second thought, I slide out of the emergency door and dart to Riley's apartment.

I've been to the complex before, having followed Bella's scent there several times.  I breeze up to the third floor apartment and knock gently on the door.  A moment later, I hear his feet shuffling across the floor and then the door cracks open.

"Can I help you?" he asks, his voice raspy.

"Yes, you can, Riley," I reply sweetly before jutting my arm out and grasping his neck tightly with my hand.  He grunts and struggles to breathe as I push my way inside, his feet trying to find purchase on the floor. "You're cute."

He doesn't reply, but instead, he claws at my arms, trying to get me to release him.  Fat chance, buttercup.  I glance down at his body, noticing the quickly fading erection from inside his boxers.  The television flickers and my attention is drawn to the image of two women in a rather compromising position. 

"Oh, you are a dirty boy, aren't you?" I smirk, nodding to the flat screen on the wall.  Again he doesn't reply, but I decide to tease him. "So, you like to watch porn, huh?  I like that, Riley.  I like a man who's a bit freaky.  Does your darling Bella get freaky with you?  She likes to suck your cock, doesn't she?  I bet that little tart's not any good at it."  He stares at me, still struggling to breathe.  I toss him onto the sofa and rip his shorts from his body.

"No, please! Stop!" he begs, his eyes wide in fear and his heart pounding. 

"Why would I stop, now?  I thought we were having fun?"  I poke my bottom lip out into a mock pout.

"Please!  Just don't hurt me!" he pleads again, his entire body trembling.

"I promise you, Riley... You won't feel a thing."

I pounce on him like as a mountain lion would a hare and gorge myself on the blood spewing from his carotid.  When he's completely drained, I drop his lifeless body down onto the bed, leaving him naked and exposed for the cops to find him.

I return to the club, easily finding Bella and her friends still in their booth.  James is hiding out in the corner across the bar, pounding a beer, his hollow eyes staring angrily at Bella.  I decide to go in for the, err, kill.  Ha!

"Excuse me, is this seat taken?" I say, sliding out the barstool next to him.  He doesn't reply, but shakes his head 'no'.  I sit quietly for a few moments, pretending to sip on a beer.  Finally, I lean closer to James, whispering how badly I want to dance with him.  My breath fans across his face, and I smile as his eyes begin to glaze over.  He finishes his drink, grabs my hand, and leads me to the dance floor.  He doesn't flinch at the hardness and temperature of my skin, so I know he's either half blitzed or barely registering me because of his obsession with Bella.  Personally, I hope it's the latter.  It will make this game a lot more fun.

We plant ourselves in the center of the dance floor and I shamelessly position my ass right up against the front of his pants and run my hands up into his hair.  I turn my face toward his and smile to myself as I catch his eyes glaring in the direction of the little bitch and her friends.  Then he growls.

"What's the problem, sugar?  Someone stole your girl?" I coo, lightly skimming my fingers down his cheek.



James spun me around and snarled, "She's not my girl."

"Oh! I see some fire in those eyes of yours.  You want her badly." He doesn't say anything, but instead he wraps his arm around my waist and grinds his manhood against me.  "Maybe I can help you out."

"Whatever.  I don't give a shit anymore."  He leans his face down and kisses my neck, trying to convince himself, and me, that he doesn't want her.  I'm not an idiot.

"I don't believe you."  He scoffs, but I continue. "What if I said I knew how to get the woman you want?"  He squeezes me tighter and I can see his eyes flicker up to where Bella is sitting.

"Well, I'm dancing with you, aren't I?  What if I'm already over her?"

I chuckle. "We'll see about that, baby." I release my breath across his face again, entrancing him with my vampy-powers. "Why don't we go back to your place and we can figure out how to win your girlfriend back?"

He glances toward that little cunt again and then back to me. "How about I take you back to my place and fuck you until I can't remember her name?"

"Mmm, now you're speaking my language, sugar. Let's go."

I hook my finger through his belt loop as he leads me through the crowded bar and toward the exit.  The throngs of tasty, sweaty humans packed around me makes it difficult to keep my control, but I swallow several times to keep the venom from pooling in my mouth.  I could gorge myself in here - I probably should.  Hopefully, the blood from that little scrawny assed kid, Riley, will be enough to keep me from killing him.  Maybe Jay and I will do that once he's transformed.  He looks like he'll be a fucking handful to tame, but I know I can handle it.  I'll keep him occupied, I giggle to myself.  Just need to figure a way to ditch him once we find Edward.

We arrive at his tiny apartment a short distance from the night club.  The air is stale and there is the distinct, musky odor of sweat, spoiled food, and dried beer.  Typical bachelor pad.  He offers me a beer as he glances in the empty fridge.  I decline, of course. He waves his hand toward the living room, encouraging me to take a seat.  I slowly make my way toward the oversized bean bag chair near the window, giving him the dingy loveseat.  As I make myself to appear comfortable, he watches me intently, a calculating stare on his face.  I pretend to be oblivious to his wicked scheming.  I've watched him in action with the whores, so I know what he's contemplating.  

After a couple of minutes, he mumbles, "I'm tired of this coy bullshit."  A human wouldn't have been able to hear him from my spot, but it was loud and clear to my vampire ears.  James stands up quickly from the couch and places his beer on the coffee table.  He steps around to stand in front of me, his muscles flexing and tensing in anticipation.  I look up into his eyes with my most innocent, doe-eyed expression.

"So, are you going to help me forget that girl, or not?" 

"Oh, of course."  I look up into his eyes and mentally jump up and down in excitement at the hidden wickedness behind them.  Yes, he will be a force to be reckoned with as a vampire.  I smile and reach out to unbutton his jeans and slide the zipper down.  His groin is eye level with me sitting on the bean bag, so I sit up straight and pull his jeans and boxers down just below his hips.  He hisses as my cold hands grasp his erection, but in a flash, I wrap my lips around him and lift my eyes to look at his face. 

"Ah, shit! So good..." he whispers, placing a hand on the back of my head, guiding me.

I let him build up speed, fucking my mouth harder and deeper with each thrust, until his cock is so fully engorged with blood that I can't control my urge to kill much longer.  At vampire speed, I grab his hips and fling him down onto the floor.  I straddle his body and stifle a laugh at his confused expression.

"What the-?"

"I want to be riding you when you cum, baby, not sucking you off."  This seems to take a second too long for him to process, and he just looks at me like I've just spoken a foreign language.  I hike up my dress further and position him at my entrance and revel in the warmth of his body sliding into my cold one.

"Oh, fuck..."

"That's right, fuck me."  He seems to come back to his senses and we begin to move together - him gripping my breasts and me reclining back with my hands above his knees.  I grind my body hard into him until his heart rate and breaths are erratic and his body clenches in ecstasy.

"Jesus, woman, you are incredible."

"You have no idea the things my body can do, baby."

"Don't call me 'baby'. My name is James, or Jay."

"Okay, I like James," I say as I lean forward to bring my lips to hover above his. "How about we switch things up a little bit?" 

He furrows his brows and asks, "What do you mean?"

"Have you ever played I Spy?"


It's been nearly six months since James' transformation.  When he woke up, he was confused, but seemed to accept his new 'life'.  He felt it suited him, and I had to agree.  We hung around Phoenix for a few weeks until his family started posting notices about his disappearance.  I took him to Texas, and introduced him to an old friend, Maria.  She's been able to help him balance his new strengths and urges - he's pretty unruly at times, and especially careless with his dining selections.  I take a couple of side trips back to Arizona to keep an eye on Bella, but as James is calming and able to control his instincts, I spend more time with them in Texas.  Not like that little bitch is going anywhere anytime soon.

James, Maria, and I travel around the southern Midwest for a few more months, working on James' tracking skills and interacting with humans.  Once he has proven his ability to hone in on a specific scent over long ranges, he and I return to Phoenix one evening for two purposes: one, so he can have his fun with his little tart, and two, so he can start to track my Edward.  But that's where we run into a problem... his tart is gone.

Chapter 10

Playlist selection:  Nothing Compares (To You) - by Sinead O'Connor

Bella POV

Three weeks after the memorial service - post Hell day number forty-five - Charlie tells us that the Apache County Sheriff's Department has finally closed the case on the Masens and ruled all of their deaths an 'accidental homicide by animal'.  Accidental, my ass.  He notifies the Phoenix police department and they organize a proper service for Ed, complete with a gun salute and folded flag for Renee and Charlie to bring home.


They've never recovered Edward's body - thank God the finger wasn't his - but since his blood was found at the scene, and there were only fragments left of Liz and Ed's corpses, they assumed Edward's body had been taken by the animal, too.

The Masens didn't have much family.  Liz had a cousin in Iowa, but she was never close to her.  Ed was adopted as a child, and after he revolted during his teenage years, he didn't keep in touch with his family.  Other than a few casual friends, my parents were the only thing Liz and Ed had for family. That's apparently why they left all their worldly possessions to them.  Well, if Edward was still alive, it would have all been left to him, but since he's gone too, it was willed to Renee and Charlie as the secondary beneficiaries.

Ed liked to dabble in the stock market, and from time to time, he made a little bit of money and stashed it away for a comfortable retirement.  It's been enough to pay off their debt, but not the mortgage.  All that is left is enough to cover the next few years worth of the payments and the upkeep.  Charlie is determined to sell their house right away, but thankfully, Renee is on my side and refuses to put it on the market so quickly.  She says she can't stand the thought of someone else living in Liz's house and ruining her beautiful lawn.  I tell them that I want to stay in the house while I'm in college.  Again, Charlie tries to shoot the idea down, but I cry to my mom and play the sentimental card with her.  She then turns on my dad, heavily guilting him in to acquiescing, and finally Charlie agrees as long as I can take care of the house.

So, now the agreement stands that I can remain in the house as long as I can keep up with the housework, yard work, my course work, and I'll have to get a part-time job to help with my gas money and auto repair bills.  Edward's crappy truck was included in the entire estate package, and knowing we wouldn't make any money by selling it for scrap metal, I played the sentimental card again to keep it.  It meant so much to him, Daddy, I begged.  I just can't part with it.

Next thing I know, I'm sitting at the DMV getting my driver's license.  I still have my learner's permit, since Edward always drove me wherever I needed to go.  He tried to give me driving pointers, but Edward's definition of proper road etiquette didn't exactly line up with the law.  Now, Officer Swan is teaching me how to obey the rules of the road while attempting to drive that piece of shit.  Well, I guess it's my piece of shit now. Needless to say, it's been an interesting few weeks. 

The rest of the summer passes by slowly. My emotions remain on a continuous roller coaster with no signs of stopping, especially as my first fall semester of college starts.

Angela and Peter invite me to live with them during the week at their apartment in Tucson, but I turn down the offer, not wanting to leave my 'hobbit hole' as Charlie refers to it.  Edward's room - my safe haven, my home, my Fortress of Solitude.  I keep up with my end of the bargain: vacuuming the floors, dusting the shelves, mowing the grass.  Hell, I even try to tend to Liz's flower gardens, but unfortunately, I don't have much of a green thumb, and more than a few plants croak.  I tell myself that she would be turning over in her grave at my gardening skills if it weren't for the fact that she's eternally resting in a metal urn on the mantle.

During my first semester of college, I stick to myself most of the time, focusing on my studies and occasionally hanging out with Ang and Pete.  In the blink of an eye, the semester is over, and the Christmas holiday break without Edward is one of the most horrible times of my life.  I spend those two weeks in Edward's room, crying inconsolably until I fall asleep in his/my bed every night. 


A few days before Christmas, Charlie climbs into the attic and finds an old, artificial Christmas tree and decorations.  Renee, Angela, and Pete help me hang the lights and ornaments one evening while my dad's at work.  Most of the ornaments don't affect me much, but when I discover the three stockings with their names written in glitter, I cry so hard that I have dry heaves.  Angela and Pete hang the stockings on the stairway banister while Renee holds me, and together we cry into each other's shoulders.


By New Years Eve, all of the decorations are put away in the attic, and I spend a quiet evening at Charlie and Renee's house.  We watch the celebrations on TV, and I silently curse every minute that brings us closer to midnight.  I feel like I should be letting go of this past year and focusing all my attention on the future.  What do you do if your entire future is taken away from you?  What is there to look forward to? 


When February rolls around, I try to ignore Valentine's Day.  I've gotten a job at a small bistro, and I practically beg my manager to schedule me for a double shift, knowing it can serve two purposes; one, I can get tons of tips since we will be insanely busy, and two, if I'm really swamped, then I don't have time to dwell on the fact that Edward isn't here to be my valentine anymore.


The next several months continue on as the last ones have.  I gladly make the nearly two hour drive to and from school several days a week and work a few evenings and most weekends at the bistro.  The house is kept clean and the yard manicured.  I try to keep Edward's truck maintained because I'm not emotionally or financially ready to allow it to die on me.  I refuse to let it rust away in the driveway, and I sure as hell can't afford a car payment on my measly salary.


I spend an occasional night with Angela and Pete in Tuscon, usually when I have a late study group or when I'm too drunk to drive.  Those nights don't happen very often - usually when Pete comes home during the week and steals more liquor and beer from his father's secret stash.  Charlie would skin me alive if he knew I was partaking in underage drinking, but fuck, I'm in college.  It's what college kids do.


I rebel like most young coeds: underage drinking, a tattoo, a body piercing.  I even cut my hair and add bright red color streaks for a more dramatic effect.  Renee seems to think that my emo attitude and sudden change in hair style is a small cry for help.  Maybe it is... Help bring my love back to me!  Thank fuck she can't see my tattoo or piercing.  If she knew about those, she'd probably send me to therapy.   


My second year without Edward is much the same as the first, but with a few less tears shed.  My heart is still shattered in a million pieces, but I don't cry myself to sleep every night anymore.  I laugh more and cry less. 


From time to time, I get that eerie feeling that I'm being watched.  Sometimes while I'm at school, sometimes at work.  Hell, even a few times at home.  It's not a comforting feeling - like maybe it's Edward watching over me, making sure I'm  okay.  No, this is a creepy, hair-raising, bone chilling, fight or flight kind of sensation... and it's very unsettling. 


On post Hell day number six hundred and thirteen there's a change in my world.  I arrive at work, figuring it will be a normal day, but I'm surprised to be asked to train a new waiter named Riley.  Not that training a new employee is unusual.  I've been working at the bistro for over a year, and I'm frequently assigned to orient a newbie, but what shocks me is my response to Riley.  He's friendly and polite, unlike most of the typical college boys I've met, and very handsome too.  I actually get a little nervous and giddy during our close interactions throughout the day.  We finish our tasks for closing the bistro and say goodnight to each other as we walk toward the employee parking lot.  I smile and wave at him as I merge out into traffic, heading the short distance back to my house.  As I pull up to a stoplight, I burst into tears, suddenly overwhelmed by the feeling that I'm cheating on Edward.  I'm attracted to Riley and his beautiful blue-green eyes and brown hair, and in a way, he reminds me of Edward.  But he's not Edward.  No one could ever replace him.


I call Angela as soon as I get home and sob into the phone, retelling her the events of the evening and the uncontrollable feelings that ensued.  She listens intently, offering her thoughts and encouragement on the situation.


"But, Ang, I feel like I'm cheating on Edward.  How can I do that to him?" I cry, hiccuping into the phone.


"Bella, you are not disrespecting him.  Do you think he'd want you to be sad and alone for the rest of your life?  He's not coming back, sweetie."


I cry even harder at her comment, but I know it's the truth.  Sometimes the truth hurts, right?


"I know that," I snap.


"Just... be happy."


It takes a few months for Angela's words to sink in.  I know Edward wouldn't want me to be lonely forever.  I'm young, relatively attractive, and would really like to have someone to spend some time with.  But with the traumatic loss of Edward, I'm scared to get involved with another man. I'm afraid he'll wind up dead, too. 


On post-Hell day number eight hundred and seven - just at the start of my junior year of college - I give myself a pep talk on my way to work, trying to convince my brain that this will be a good idea.  It's time... for me... to move on.  God, I can't believe I just thought that!


I arrive at the bistro, enter the restaurant, and for the first time in a few years, I attempt to wrangle the butterflies in my stomach.


"Hi, Bella!" Riley says, smiling brightly.


"Hey, Riley.  How was your exam the other day?"  I clock in and grab an apron, tying it around my waist.


"It was a breeze.  Thanks for your help.  I might need to keep you as my biology tutor."


I smile and blush at his praise, and I realize that if I don't do this now, I will definitely chicken out later.


"So, uh, Riley?  I was wondering if you'd like to grab a bite with me after our shift tonight?  Maybe hit the diner down the street?"  I turn away from him to glance at the staff schedule, too nervous to look him in the eye.


He's quiet for a few seconds, and I wonder if he's already headed to the front of the restaurant and I've been talking to the dust motes until he touches me lightly on the arm.  "I'd love to go out with you tonight, Bella."


A few months ago, I told Riley about Edward and his family, and that I'm living in their house.  He asked me if I was ready to start dating again, and at the time, I told him that I wasn't.  I'm not even sure I'm ready now, but I don't have any plans of falling into a serious relationship in the near future.  Maybe just a few flirty evenings out with a nice guy to help ease me into the dating scene.  


We manage to have a few easy dates - dinner, bowling, a movie after class one afternoon. And when we spend time together, we both seem to have a blast.  We laugh and talk about our friends and families.  We even manage to schedule a triple date with Peter and Charlotte and Angela and Ben at a pool hall for billiards and darts.  Things seem to be slowly progressing in our friendship.  By springtime the following year, we finally graduate to innocent touches and chaste goodnight kisses.  He knows I'm not ready to move things forward, and I appreciate his patience with me. 


As spring turns into summer, I notice that things between Riley and me begin to shift.  During each date, things get more intense, more intimate.  We've hardly made it past first base, but there is a new spark between us, and it both scares and excites me.  Riley is a lot like Edward in many ways.  They share the same sense of humor and passion for wildlife, but in other ways, they are very different.  Edward was more outgoing than Riley, and although Riley's kisses are sweet and tender, they will never hold a candle to Edward's. Nothing will ever compare to him.  But I know it's not fair to Riley; I shouldn't be comparing the two of them.  Edward isn't here anymore... Riley is.      




The weird, unsettling feeling comes and goes from time to time, but I notice that the time span between the occurrences is less and less.  I notice it more when I'm in Phoenix than at school in Tucson.  It seems to come more frequently at work than at home, but the times are so erratic, it's hard to nail down a pattern.  I keep a diary of the amount of caffeine and spicy foods I eat, thinking that may be a cause of an overactive imagination.  My doors are always locked and the blinds are closed most of the time.  A few times I've even notice Carrumba squawking loudly and flapping her wings in a panic at the same time I get that sensation.  Sometimes I wonder if I'm becoming paranoid, or if I'm imagining it altogether. Somehow, I don't think either of those is the case.


The summer before my senior year of college has been the most trying.  I've been working extra hours at the bistro, hoping to bank a little bit of cash for grad school next year. Renee and Charlie have been pressuring me to continue my education in Arizona, but I'm not sure I want to stay here.  I consider a few universities out of state that could offer me a diverse education to enhance my current track, a Bachelor's in Natural Resources, but I haven't made any final decisions yet. 


My parents gave me a hard time when I finally selected a major.  They said that I was still holding onto Edward and doing something that I would probably regret later in life.  It isn't a field I'm particularly interested in, but it means a lot to me to continue a little bit of Edward's legacy - even if it doesn't deal with insects directly.  Edward loved the outdoors, especially the beautiful landscapes of the White Mountains, and had always mentioned he wanted to visit other parts of the country.  I think he would be proud of me for choosing this field of study as my major, and that alone has made me never think twice about it.  I mean... I love the idea of helping to save the environment.


The first day of my final year of undergrad, I make plans to meet up with Angela at our favorite sports bar across the street from campus to gossip about our professors and daunting course outlines.  After my final class of the day, I stride out to the parking lot, hop in my truck, slide the key into the ignition and... and... nothing.




I pop the hood latch and exit the cab.  Climbing up onto the front bumper, I slide my fingers under the large, heavy metal hood and peer at the engine as if it will speak up and tell me what its problem is.  As I'm poking around the wires and belts, I'm interrupted by a throat clearing.


"Car trouble?"


With my head still under the hood, I roll my eyes at the redundant question and then turn to face my visitor.


"Uh, yeah," I reply sarcastically to the nice looking guy, in his mid-twenties, with sandy blond hair and dark blue eyes smirking at me.


"Mind if I take a look, princess?"


I bristle at that term, but I need a hand with the truck, so I let it slide.  I step off the bumper and wave my hand in a 'go ahead' gesture.  He winks at me and climbs against the front grill, checking wires and other trucky kind of stuff inside.  Cocky prick.


"When was the last time you had your spark plugs changed?" he asks, his head deep inside the engine.


"No clue." I shrug my shoulders even though he can't see me do it.


After a few minutes, he straightens up and hops off the bumper, holding some small part of my engine in his hand. "I think this is your problem. I might actually have a replacement for it in my truck."  He nods toward an auto parts delivery van parked a few spaces away.


When he returns, he's smirking at me again.  His eyes travel down my body slowly and back up again, spending longer than appropriate on my chest.


"So... What's your name, beautiful?"


I spit and sputter, caught off guard by his blatant attempt at flirting, "I, er, I'm, uh, Bella."  


"Bella..." he whispers, as if committing it to memory. "I'm Jay."


"Okay. Hi, Jay."  I smile tightly, not wanting to seem overly friendly.  He winks again and turns to climb up into the engine, installing the new part.


When he steps down and closes the hood, he smiles at me and waves toward the cab of the truck. "Why don't you start it up, Bella."


I nod and dart to the open driver's side door and slide against the leather seat.  I crank the ignition and - VROOM! - it starts immediately, rumbling loudly in the parking garage of the college.  Smiling like a fool, I hop out of the cab and approach Jay near the front end.


"Thanks so much for helping me. How much do I owe ya?"


"A drink."


"Huh?" I look at him with furrowed brows, confused by his reply.


"You can repay me by having a drink with me." He raises his eyebrows and nods his head toward the same sports bar across the street.  


"Oh. Uh, actually, I'm meeting my friend for dinner in a little bit.  Maybe some other time?" I offer, hoping to let him down gently.


"No time like the present, Bella.  Besides, I promise this way is a better deal for you.  The part for your truck would set you back about a hundred and twenty bucks," he purrs as he slowly approaches me and rests his elbow on the door frame of the truck.  


"Well, uh..."


"Just one little drink."


I debate silently in my head, trying to convince myself to take the deal and get it over with.  I only have my check book with me, and I don't want to have to write one for the part, and for Jay to get my address from it.  Something about him just rubs me the wrong way.


"Okay, but just one drink."


I send a quick text to Ang, letting her know that I'm bringing a guest.  Jay smiles like a Cheshire cat as we cross the busy street toward the sports bar.  He tries to wrap his arm around my shoulders, but I step away from him quickly, pretending to look around the sidewalks for my friend.  Once inside, I tell him to just grab a high-top table at the bar, and I excuse myself to the restroom. When I get back to the dining room, I spot Angela at the hostess stand... with Ben.




I'm happy as shit that they are here, but now our numbers are even and this makes me feel more uneasy, like it's a double date.  Ugh.


Jay is already seated in a booth near the bar, and he smiles broadly when I approach. But not in a damn-she's-beautiful kind of way, but more like a I'm-going-to-devour-this-little-girl kind of sneer.  Of course Ben and Angela slide into the seat across from Jay, leaving me the spot next to him.  I smile lightly, gently sliding into the booth as Jay stretches his arm across the back of the bench and angles his body towards me.  I keep my arms tucked against my sides and sit on my hands, so as to not give him the impression that I want to touch him.


Angela raises her eyebrows at me, silently asking why I'm out with Jay, and not Riley. I roll my eyes quickly and shake my head, telling her not to question me about it.


We order a round of drinks as I introduce everybody to one another.  I'm hoping Jay finishes his beer quickly and excuses himself, but of course that doesn't happen.  He strikes up a heated conversation about sports with Ben and orders some appetizers. 


I try to ignore the repetitive light touches against the back of my head and the gentle tugs at the ends of my hair.  He's just being flirty, I tell myself. 


The next thing I know, Angela is asking about when I work my next shift at the diner, and I can see Jay's ears perk up in attention. He asks where I work, and I try to brush off his question, telling him that I work at a little place near downtown Phoenix. 


Needing to divert the attention away from me, I quickly change the subject and excuse myself for a moment, feigning an important call.  I escape toward the bathrooms and release a deep sigh as I lean against the wall of the corridor.  Mustering the courage to walk back out into the restaurant, I give myself a pep 0talk to approach Jay and thank him for his help with my truck.  I'm stopped short when a figure blocks the hallway exit. 


"I'm sorry, Bella, but I'm going to have to leave.  Work, you know?" Jay says, leaning against the doorjamb.


I nod and smile tightly, hoping to get this over with. "Okay. It was nice meeting you, Jay.  Thanks so much for your help today."  I hold my hand out to him, expecting a handshake.  What I get in return is a cocky grin and Jay's arm wrapping around my waist, pulling me closer toward him.


"Oh, it was my pleasure, Bella.  I'll be seeing you again soon. I promise," he whispers in my ear, squeezing my middle quickly and then brushes his hand across my ass before turning to walk toward the restaurant exit.


I stand in the bathroom corridor, mouth agape, with a surprised look on my face.  What a creep!  




By the time the holidays roll around again, my relationship with Riley has progressed.  We spend more time alone together outside of work - pizza and DVDs at his apartment, a few concerts at local pubs, and meeting up for lunch on my non-school days.  Our physical relationship is moving along too, just still at a snail's pace.  We've now managed to round third base, but that's about as far as I'm ready to go at this point. 


One day in December, the bistro is packed with holiday shoppers, stopping in for a quick lunch to fuel their shopping energy.  As I'm clearing off a table near the front windows, a familiar voice whispers in my ear, "Told you that I would see you again, baby."


A sudden chill runs down my spine, and I straighten up quickly, shocked to see Jay at my place of work. "Oh, uh, hi, Jay.  How are you?"  I try for nonchalance, but my shaky hands and trembling voice give my nervousness away.  Why does this guy make me so anxious?


"I'm better now that I've found you.  I've been looking for you ever since that day we met. It was just a matter of time before I tracked you down," he says smugly, reaching up to run his fingers along the infinity necklace around my neck. His eyes travel slowly down my body, pausing a bit too long on my breasts... and then he licks his lips.  Oh, gross.


I know I should probably just turn and walk away from the table, but I'm always one to be professional, even toward the asshole customers. I offer a tight-lipped smile and ask for his order.  He gives me his food selections and asks - if he pays double - will I sit and feed him.  Is this douchebag kidding me?  I laugh off his question and silently tell myself to have Riley or Hank bring him his order.  I don't want any of the other girls standing too close to him.


Unfortunately, his food is ready just as Hank goes on break and Riley is swamped with a ten-top table.  I quickly bring Jay's food out to him, ask him if there's anything else he will need for his meal, and I scurry away and hide out in the back until he's finished eating.  I promptly bring him the check, and he doesn't wait for me to collect it for change, just leaving the cash for the bill and an additional twenty bucks.  Hell yeah, I sure as hell deserve that just for dealing with your creepiness alone, asshole.


For the next month or two, Jay shows up at the bistro more frequently, and each time he's there, he's a total prick.  He usually asks me out for drinks after work and each time I let him down gently, not wanting to hurt his feelings for rejecting him.  Riley is really pissed that he keeps coming around, but I tell him that I'll handle Jay and I'm working on getting rid of him.


"Why don't you want to confront him and tell him to leave you alone?" Riley growls as he cuts Jay the evil-eye from across the bistro.


"I don't want to make the guy mad, Riley. It's not like I'm inviting him here," I snap.


"I know that, but you could just tell him that I'm your boyfriend, and maybe he'll take the hint and stop stalking you."


I stop rolling the silverware into napkins and whip my head around to look at Riley.  His face is flushed, angry, and his nostrils flare.  A slow smile crawls across my face, my brain replays the words he just spoke. Boyfriend. Riley's my boyfriend. I smile wider, really liking the way it sounds. A small twinge of guilt hits me suddenly, but I recover knowing that Riley is a really good guy and Edward would have liked him.  Riley looks at my face and tries to decipher my expression. I take an excited, galloping step toward him, place my hands against his cheeks and kiss him hard on the lips.  My boyfriend.


I tear my eyes away from Riley's stunned face and glance out into the restaurant.  Jay is staring at us, his hands gripped tightly into fists on the table and a evil sneer tugging at his lips.  In a flash, he slams cash on the table and storms out of the bistro.


I look back at Riley and smile. "Problem solved!"


The weekend of Valentine's Day, Angela begs me to come out to a night club with her.  I try to claim being too exhausted from my busy shift and having to work again the next day, but she doesn't want to hear it.  She shows up at my house a little before 10pm, hoochie-mama'd out in a short mini dress and stiletto boots.


"What the fuck are you wearing?" I ask as she steps into the living room and flings her makeup bag on the coffee table, startling Carrumba.


"Well, don't laugh, okay?  Ben has had this fantasy of picking up a hot, slutty chick from the club and fucking her in the alley behind it."


I can't help but to laugh.  Ben is such a weirdo.  Gesturing to her outfit, I inquire, "So, uh, this is the hot, slutty chick costume?"  She blushes and tries to bite her lip to prevent herself from laughing with me. "Is he coming with us?"


She shakes her head 'no' and tells me that he's coming later with a few of his friends.  I make a quick call to Riley, asking if he wants to join us, but he says he's wiped out from the insanely busy shift tonight and tells me to have a great time and be careful going home.  I tell him that I will text him when I leave and when I arrive at home, and he agrees that would be great.  He blows me kisses through the phone and I giggle, returning smooches back to him and tell him goodnight.


Two cosmos later, Angela and I are shaking our asses on the dance floor.  She's nearly twisted her ankle a few times in the damn boots, but has managed to stay upright.  We are laughing and teasing each other about our corny dancing styles when a warm hand comes to wrap around my waist and a firm body presses against me.


I smile, thinking it's Riley and that he's come to the club to surprise me, but when I turn around, I'm facing the intense glower of Jay.


"Hey, beautiful.  Where's your boy-toy tonight?"


I lie, "He's around here somewhere."  The music is loud, the deep bass pounding through my chest, and it masks the shakiness in my voice.


"I've been watching you all night and haven't seen him at all.  Are you sure he's here?"  He leans in closely to my ear, and reaches up with his other hand to secure my head against his cheek. "You sure do look very sexy tonight, Bella.  One would think that you would only dress this way for your boyfriend, but," he trails of for a moment to look around the dance floor again before pressing his lips against my ear as he continues, "since he's not here, I could fill in for him tonight. I promise you'll be very... satisfied... with my abilities."


Maybe it's the liquid courage, or maybe it's that I've finally had enough of his bullshit, but I finally snap and tell him to leave me alone.  He smirks at me like he was hoping to get that kind of response out of me.  So what does he do next?  He pulls his arms tighter around my waist and then palms my ass.  Mother. Fucker.  I whirl around him and slap his face as hard as I can manage and turn to storm off, but not before I hear him mutter, "I like you feisty."  


Angela grabs my hand and pulls me further away from Jay and over toward Ben and his friends.  The guys shift their seats and make room for us in the middle between the four of them.  At least if Jay tries to get handsy again, there's more protection.  Jesus, he's a fucking creep!


We stay at the club for about an hour or two more, and for the first little bit, Jay is staring holes through me from across the bar.  I try not to look at him, but I can't help but keep a close eye on his location and proximity to me.  That was something my dad always taught me - to always be aware of your surroundings.  After a while, I notice him talking to a woman at the bar, and immediately I am relieved.  I don't mind a little attention, but his stalker tendencies are way over the top of my comfort zone. 


That disturbing sensation is back and I can't help the uncontrollable shiver that runs through me.  I'll have to remember to add alcohol and Jay to my list of possible triggers.


Ben gains my attention back from Jay and asks me about grad school.  I tell him about being accepted at three universities, but I haven't made my decision yet.  My prospective colleges are in different corners of the country; however, to appease my parents, I also applied to the University of Arizona.  Daring to take another look for Jay's location, I lift my martini glass to my lips and scan the bar area quickly.  He's not there.  Shit! I try for nonchalance, bobbing my head to the music and slowly taking inventory of the people on the dance floor.  Finally, I find him grinding against some skanky redhead near the corner.  What a douchebag.


Thankfully, Angela starts rubbing up on Ben and letting him finger the tops of her thigh-high boots.  Time to go!  I thank Angela for inviting me and tell her I will call her tomorrow.  She nods her head slightly as Ben is nibbling his way across her neck in the middle of the booth.  The other guys take the hint to leave them alone, and agree to make sure I get to my truck safely.   


The next morning I wake up to overcast skies and a sharp chill in the air. Arizona doesn't usually get down to freezing in the winter time, but today seems to be one of those rare days.  I send Riley a 'good morning' text and head straight for the kitchen.  Thankfully I'm not hungover, but I definitely don't want to be up quite this early.  I make a hearty breakfast of eggs and sausage, knowing I'll need the energy for the Valentine's rush today.  Pulling my work pants from the dryer, I make a mental note to pick up some cologne or something for Riley.  It's been a while since I had a boyfriend for Valentine's Day, but I know he'll appreciate the gift no matter what it is.


I climb into the truck, crank the engine, and cringe when brain-piercingly loud music fills the car.  I always forget that your hearing is impaired for a while after you leave the club.  I turn down the volume and back out the driveway, heading to work.  Riley hasn't returned my texts yet, but I'll see him later when his shift starts at noon.


But Riley doesn't show up. 


No calls, no texts, no carrier pigeons, no LED signs... nothing.  That's not like him.  At the end of my shift, I decide to drive to his apartment to see if he's okay and was possibly too sick to call in.  When I pull up at his building, I notice his car in the parking lot.  But he doesn't answer his door.


And he doesn't show up the next day - Monday.  He hasn't called or texted.  Oh, I definitely don't like this feeling of deja vu.


I head straight over to his place again after my shift, but that's when I'm confronted with an all too familiar scene of police cars and a coroner van in front of the building. 




I bolt from the truck, fighting my way to the apartment building entrance, when I'm stopped by a police officer.


"I'm sorry, Miss.  I need some identification that you live in this building or I won't be able to let you in." He grabs my arm as I try to push past him, frantic to find Riley's door.


"I need to find Riley," I shriek. "Where is he? Is he okay?"  I try to pull away from the officer, tears forming in my eyes.  


"Are you friends with Riley Morgan, Miss?"


"Y-Yes," I croak, the overwhelming feeling of dread hitting me square in the chest.


Just as he starts asking me about the last time I had seen Riley, two burly men stomp down the stairs, carrying a gurney - a white body bag lying on top.


Oh, God!  




I'm crying against my mother's shoulder as she rocks our bodies back and forth. "Shhh, baby," she coos. "I'm so sorry this has happened."


Sorry?  Sorry!?  What is she sorry for?  It's apparent that something out there wants to destroy me by killing the men in my life.  First Edward, and now Riley... Who's next? Charlie? Peter?  I can't risk losing them too. I'm going to have to leave. 


As my sobs quiet, Renee leaves me on the couch in their living room to make me some tea.  She says it will help calm me down.  Nothing is going to help calm me down.  My entire world was blown apart when Edward died, and so slowly, I started to patch my life back together again.  But now Riley... sweet, caring Riley... has been murdered.  I don't feel safe.  That freaky feeling has been more and more frequent and it's really starting to scare me, plus there's a creepy guy stalking me, and I can't take this shit anymore!  I can't take Phoenix anymore.  I can't take the fucking Southwest anymore.  I have to go.  I need to go somewhere. Any-fucking-where.


Renee returns with my chamomile tea and sits the mug on the coffee table. "We'll help you through this, baby."  I stare blankly at the ceramic cup, lost in my own thoughts and barely registering Renee's words of encouragement. "At least you"ll be moving back home with us for grad school, saving your father and me some money."  She mumbles the last part and I turn to look at her, confused.


"Why would I move back home?  I already have a home. And what do you mean 'saving you money'? I can get loans or maybe a scholarship for school, and what happened to all the money from Ed's investments?"


She gets an oh-shit-I've-said-too-much expression on her face, and starts fumbling with her hands. She takes a deep breath and releases it slowly. "Honey... I was going to make your father tell you this, because he's convinced that we have no other options."


I swallow nervously, anxious about what more bad news I was going to have to deal with.  She shifts her body toward mine and grabs my hands, squeezing them lightly.


"We have to sell the Masens' house." 


My brain battles for a response, an argument, a fucking song to sing, anything, but I blurt out the first thing that pops into my head. "Yeah? Well, I'm moving to Washington."   
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight or it's character names - those belong to Stephenie Meyer. Bittersweet Irony and it's characterizations, backgrounds, and plot lines belong to SweetVenom69. No copying, translation, or reproduction is allowed without my written authorization.
© 2010 SweetVenom69.