A/N: Since the prologue is always short and uneventful, I wanted to get this chapter up at the same time.

Hope you enjoy, and see you at the end!

Chapter 1: First Sight

At that precise moment, there was only one thing I wanted—or at least, imagined I wanted.


For a human being, sleep was the time of day when the body could finally be inactive, when it shut down and went to the relaxing work of compressing memories, either storing them away or discarding them, occasionally slipping in a few images during the REM cycle to satisfy the secret longings of the subconscious, or else momentarily draw up secret fears that otherwise would have no release.

But of course, my kind did not sleep. No rest for the mind, no period of release.

Although, if I was being honest with myself, there was something I wanted much more than sleep.

We were sitting in a high school cafeteria. A cafeteria packed with humans, though they gave our table a wide berth, sensing, instinctively if not consciously, that it was better to keep away from us. With every breath I took, I drew in their scent, and I could hear their beating hearts. At their proximity, I felt the venom fill my mouth, the empty hunger in my stomach, as the instinct to hunt rose from the buried depths of my inhuman mind.

Yes, if I was being honest, I wanted blood more than sleep. Even though sleep would have allowed my overly crowded mind to rest, would have put an end to the monotonous tedium of every day of my existence, the instinct for blood trumped all other desires.

And yet, I was now long used to it. I could suppress my instincts with absolute control, as I had been doing for so long. My brothers and sisters at the table nearby held their instincts in check as well—we had all grown used to it. It was part of our way. But the control was generally not so mentally exhausting for them as it was for me, perhaps because it was not only my own thirst I was forced to combat.

Of course my mind was always awash with the voices of others. My mind was not a quiet place. That was a power peculiar only to me—the humans would have called it mind-reading. The power to know the thoughts of anyone nearby. For myself, it was often more a curse than a gift. The continuous babble of inane human voices with their perpetual trivial concerns constantly inserting themselves into my consciousness without my permission. I did my best to tune them out, but still I seemed to know more than I ever wanted to know.

Today, they were all astir over a new student. I knew all the gossip—it was the son of the town police chief, whose wife had run off and deserted him years ago. The reaction was predictable—fascination with the scandal, followed by interest in something new in the otherwise repetitive, predictable events in this small town, where new faces were rare.

One thing I knew about human nature was that they thrived on the new—they were easy to please.

I also often wished I could block the thoughts of my brothers and sisters from my mind, though for another reason—they were used to the lack of privacy in my presence, and rarely gave it a thought, but still it bothered me. I was always an intruder in their minds, trying not to listen, but never able to stop the stream of voices.

I did not look at any of them, yet I knew what they were thinking.

My brother Royal was leaning casually against the back of his chair. He was not thinking of human blood, for which I was relieved—rather he was, as he often was, thinking about himself. He'd caught sight of his own profile in a bit of metal in the welding of a table nearby, and was mulling over his own perfect physique. That was fairly typical—if any of our kind personified the human from the legend of Narcissus, it would be Royal. The depths of his self-absorbed mind wouldn't come up to your ankles.

Eleanor's thoughts were also far from the hordes of easy prey mulling around us. She was irritated, busy plotting to orchestrate a rematch against Jessamine, after losing a bout of sparring the night before. Eleanor rarely, if ever, had a thought she felt the need to hide. She didn't mind sharing everything that went through her mind to the world—sometimes to a fault. But it was a relief not to feel like an unwelcome intruder in her mind, unintentionally mining her most sensitive secrets, as I did to the others.

Archie... Archie was worried about Jessamine.

And he had a right to be.

It had been maybe two weeks since we had last hunted—not a problem for most of us, but I couldn't turn my attention in Jessamine's direction without wishing I could somehow block it out. My own thirst I dealt with easily enough out of habit, but adding the thirst of someone else's mind to mine always compounded it. And Jessamine was struggling.

Jessamine stared down at the table, not looking at anyone, but she was radiating such an intensity that I wouldn't have doubted that even the normally unobservant, blind humans would have been afraid to come near her today.


I knew Archie's voice immediately. In the past, whenever someone thought the name, my head would automatically turn. I had been relieved when the name had fallen almost completely out of style.

However, I didn't turn—we had gotten fairly good at these silent conversations. My eyes stayed on a few lines of plaster that ran along the ceiling.

How is she? he asked.

There was no good answer to this question, but I responded honestly. My brow furrowed ever so slightly, the corner of my mouth turning down. The others wouldn't notice.

Archie was worried now, and I could see through his perspective as he carefully watched Jessamine through the corner of his eye.

Think there's any danger?

But even as he asked the question, he was already scanning ahead, checking the immediate future, skimming through the continued tedium to find what my signals meant. That was Archie's power—the power of foresight, to read the future like an open book. The humans would have called him a psychic.

I turned my head slowly to the left, as if I was looking at the bricks, sighed, then back to the right and cracks in the ceiling. A shake of the head only Archie would be able to translate.

Archie relaxed a little. Tell me if it starts getting too bad. And—thanks for doing this.

I didn't respond, only kept staring at the ceiling cracks. Monitoring Jessamine's thoughts was far from a pleasant experience. I often thought it was less than wise for her to experiment like this—to push her limits. Jessamine wanted to get better, but perhaps she ought to accept her past was not the same as the others. The progress she had made was already remarkable, there seemed no reason to take risks like this.

Of all my brothers and sisters, I probably had the best control over my instincts. I couldn't match Carine, our mother, but then, no one matched Carine. I'd lived a few years on a diet of human prey, so I knew the taste of human blood well, and though the taste was still burned in my memory, different as light and day in comparison with the animal blood we subsisted on now, I had always considered restraint one of my strong points. I had never accidentally killed a human I didn't mean to. That was more than could be said for Eleanor, whose loss of control had forced us to move more than once, and Archie, who had tried the vegetarian lifestyle from the moment he was born, but being all alone, had only had partial success.

I continued to monitor Jessamine's thoughts for Archie, looking for any sign of a change, a weakening of resolve. She was holding on—but barely. Jessamine had lived on our natural food source for over a century, and she struggled the most of all of us. She was positively dangerous right now. She was like a keg of black powder—ready to explode.

At that moment, a boy paused at the end of the table closest to ours. He was a bit on the small, scrawny side, a freshman. He bent to talk to someone, scratching the back of his neck as he did so, kicking up skin flakes in the air—just as the heaters blew his scent in our direction.

I was used to the way the scent affected me. The dry ache in my throat, the hollow yearning in my stomach, the automatic coiling of my muscles. After so much experience, it would have been almost easy to ignore—except for one thing.

Jessamine's resolve wavered, just for an instant—she didn't turn her head, but she saw the boy in her peripheral vision, and a new image formed itself in her mind. She saw herself getting up from the place she sat beside Archie, going over to the boy. Pressing her lips to his throat as though to kiss him, feeling the hot flow of his pulse beneath her mouth—

I kicked her chair under the table.

Jessamine's eyes refocused, and she met my gaze for a fraction of a second before her eyes dropped. Shame and rebellion warred in her head for a moment. Shame finally won out.

"Sorry," she muttered.

Archie leaned over. "Don't worry, love, you weren't going to do anything," he murmured in her ear.

I returned my eyes carefully to the ceiling cracks. Archie could lie to Jessamine if it made him feel better. I wouldn't say anything—we had to stick together, he and I, with our disturbing, intrusive gifts.

Jessamine didn't reply and Archie, sighing, got up from the table, his still-full food tray in hand. While Eleanor and Royal flaunted their relationship at every opportunity, Archie and Jessamine were so in tune with one another they could almost read one another's minds. And Archie knew when Jessamine had had enough encouragement.

Jessamine would have to go hunting tonight. It was senseless, putting herself through this kind of torture just trying to build her endurance, and taking this kind of chance.

My mind was feeling tired again, weighed down with the strain and tedium. If only I could sleep.

Edythe Cullen.

I turned my head in reflex at the sound of my name, though I wasn't hearing it spoken, only in thought.

My eyes first fell on one of the other students facing away from me, before sliding automatically to meet the gaze of a pair of blue eyes staring back at me.

I instantly recognized the face I had seen a dozen times in the thoughts of all the humans here, though it was one I had never laid eyes on myself. The new student, brought to Forks thanks to a new custody situation. Beaufort Swan, though he seemed to prefer Beau—I couldn't blame him for that. Beaufort was the kind of name that would likely invite bullying.

In spite of the hype surrounding his arrival, especially from the girls, he seemed remarkably ordinary, even for a human. He had dark hair, clearly combed through but kept in no particular style, and wide, pale blue eyes that gave him a permanent look of uncertainty. Some of the girls were a flutter because of how tall he was, but even sitting down, I thought he looked like he would be a bit gawky on his feet.

My gaze returned to our table, my momentary vague curiosity already lost. It was simply impossible for me to be interested in the trivial dramas of human high school...

Oh great, don't tell me he's already into Edythe Cullen. Dream on, man.

This was a continuation of the other thought, and I realized, belatedly, that the new kid had not been the one to think my name. I recognized the mental voice of Jeremy Stanley—I tried not to look into his thoughts if I could avoid it. For a while he had nursed a kind of extreme infatuation with me, and I was certain that if I was capable of sleep, his disturbingly graphic sexual fantasies would have given me nightmares. He'd seemed to have gotten over it now, but I'd only gotten through it at the time by entertaining myself imagining what would actually happen to him at even the earliest stages of his crude, warped daydreams—there would probably be a lot of moaning, but not the kind he imagined. Probably screaming, too.

Yeah right, thought Jeremy. If he thinks he's all that just because he's got half the girls in the school gawking at him like he's some kind of rock star, he's got another thing coming. The Cullens couldn't care less. And even all this is just because he's the new guy. Things will settle down after a while... I hope.

I saw through his eyes as his gaze flickered to McKayla Newton at the next table over, who was watching the new kid with a look of open fascination. McKayla was a fairly popular student, and the girl Jeremy had most recently set his sights on, though she had always been oblivious to him. McKayla ought to count herself lucky she couldn't read Jeremy's thoughts.

Jeremy perked up. But you know, on the bright side, if I'm hanging around this guy, maybe I'll get a chance to get to know McKayla better. Sounds like a plan—yeah, you're a genius, man.

I pulled my concentration away from Jeremy and his internal monologue of self-congratulations. Humans were all the same. Constantly trying to use and manipulate each other for some advantage. I was so used to it, this probably shouldn't have annoyed me, but it did.

What? Eleanor thought, directing it at me. She had seen me turn to look, and her mental tone was curious.

"Nothing," I murmured back, too low for anyone to hear. "Just someone airing all the nice rumors about us for the new student."

Eleanor flashed a smile. Anything good?

"Hardly," I murmured back, lip curling. "The usual scandal speculation. Not even a hint of horror, I'm disappointed."

What does the new guy think of us? Eleanor asked. She had forced her expression back to neutral to avoid attracting attention, but the tone of her thoughts was delighted.

In all honesty, I didn't really care to know. I'd seen all manner of human thought before, especially where we were concerned. And in case he was another Jeremy, I was certainly not looking forward to being subjected to another array of mental sexual exploits. He appeared to be the quiet, shy type, but in my experience, sometimes they were the worst.

Still, it was part of my job in this family to act as a lookout, to keep an eye on the minds of the humans around us. If for some reason they began to suspect something unnatural, I could give us early warning, so we could quietly slip away without incident if it became necessary.

I listened carefully, focusing my attention on the spot beside Jeremy, where I'd seen the new boy a moment before. However, I heard nothing. Only silence.

I frowned slightly. He couldn't have moved, I could still hear Jeremy talking to him, and I could see the new student's face through Jeremy's eyes.

Very strange. I looked up to check, to see if he was still there, and found that he was. His eyes were on us as Jeremy recounted for him all the local gossip, and as my gaze rose, his eyes met mine.

He looked away quickly, red splotches of embarrassment creeping up his neck and blooming on his face. But I didn't look away. I felt my eyebrows furrow slightly as I concentrated—but, try as I might, I couldn't hear anything. The spot where he sat felt empty. As though there were no one sitting there at all.

I felt the barest flicker of unease. I'd never encountered this before. What did it mean?

I kept my eyes glued to the back of his unsuspecting head as Jeremy kept talking, concentrating. Suddenly the babble of voices I'd been trying to tune out were a roar.

...wonder what he likes to do, McKayla was thinking. Maybe I'll ask him what music he likes. I think we have our next class together...

You've got to be kidding, Erica was thinking, eyes on McKayla's absorbed expression. She has half the guys in the school after her, and of course she has to zero right in on the new guy. He's off-limits, blondie! I saw him first!

...looks like a serious dweeb, a boy named Logan was thinking, eying the new kid with disgust. But just the kind of pathetic loser girls flock to. Unbelievable. He's even got Edythe Cullen's attention.

...bet just about everyone's already asked him that, thought Asher Dowling. But wonder if he's into basketball?

...if he's in my Spanish class, then maybe... Jordan Richardson was thinking.

All thoughts at the table seemed to revolve around the new kid—all but a quiet boy, sitting at the far end of the table, too absorbed in thoughts of the piles of homework that waited for him when he got home. Allen Weber—he'd always been quiet and kept to himself, more focused on his own responsibilities than getting caught up with gossip over the newest thing.

I could hear every mental voice as clear as crystal, every frivolous thought magnified in my focused mind so they sounded like a cacophony of shouts. Yet the focus of all this attention was almost eerily silent—like he wasn't really there. A nonentity.

Now that my focus was directed at the table across the cafeteria, I could make out their actual voices. So I heard it when he asked about me.

"Which one is the girl with reddish brown hair?" he asked in a low voice. His head turned partway around, looking at me from the corner of his eye—his gaze darted away quickly when he found my eyes were still on him.

My brow creased again. I'd hoped that hearing his actual voice might help me identify the particular sound of his mental voice—normally the two were very similar, and easy to match. But spoken aloud, I knew for certain this was a voice I'd never heard before. New. A mental voice I'd never heard.

Yeah, that's what I thought, Jeremy was thinking. Might as well give it up, pal. You have no chance. Zero. Zilch.

Jeremy answered, saying his thoughts aloud, though tempering them a bit—he wanted the new kid to like him if he was going to use him to get attention from McKayla.

"That's Edythe. She's hot, sure, but don't waste your time. She doesn't go out with anyone. Apparently none of the guys here are good enough for her."

I looked away to hide my smile. Jeremy and the others really had no idea how fortunate they were none of them personally appealed to me. If they wanted to make it to twenty, anyway.

I didn't look in that direction again, but my thoughts lingered there, with the new kid. More than likely, he wasn't thinking anything worth knowing. But I was used to knowing absolutely everything in a given room of people; I immediately knew all the hidden dynamics invisible to everyone else, held all the pieces of a given puzzle. This was unsettling—a room that was a perfectly finished puzzle to me, but for one tiny piece missing, right in the middle. I doubted he could possibly be any danger to us. But still, having the blind spot was... frustrating.

"Let's go." Royal got up from the table.

I blinked, coming out of my reverie, and shook my head. Foolish, to obsess over one tiny blind spot, when there was no reason to be nervous or alarmed—it could only be a glitch of some kind. My obsessive-compulsive impulses were better suppressed.

"So," Eleanor said, grinning as she leaned down to mutter to me as we left the cafeteria. "New kid scared out of his mind of us yet?"

I shrugged.

Eleanor took that to mean the story of whatever was going on in his head didn't make a very interesting one, and she let it drop.

In truth, it probably wasn't very interesting. Still, I couldn't deny the strong compulsion I felt to complete the puzzle—to see every part of the common, high school dynamics that held absolutely zero interest for me.

Eleanor, Royal, and Jessamine were pretending to be seniors, while I was playing a role a year younger, so they headed off for their classes while I left for mine. Archie had already gone to his class—I could sense his thoughts, all focused on Jessamine, watching for even the slightest hint of danger. I turned for my junior level Biology class—again, I felt a rare flicker of envy for the humans going to the class as well. They could sleep through it if they chose. I, on the other hand, had an hour of uninterrupted, mindless tedium ahead of me. It was unlikely Mrs. Banner, hardly the most gifted or original teacher in the world, could manage to pull out anything in her lecture to pique the interest of someone with two graduate degrees in medicine.

In the classroom, I slid down into my chair at my usual table. I was the only one who had a table to myself. The humans couldn't help but fear me on some primal level, even if they didn't consciously understand the reason, and so they naturally kept away from me. It was better that way.

The room slowly filled as they all trickled in from the halls. As I waited, my mind drifted back automatically to the anomaly at lunch. I was a little curious—was there somehow a glitch in my power, or was it something unique about this new student? I didn't yet know how to test such a theory; I would have to put some more thought into it.

Perhaps because I still was thinking of the cafeteria, when I heard the new student's name in someone's thoughts, it drew my attention. Allen Weber entered the class with the transfer student beside him.

Beau... seems kind of like a quiet guy, like me. He looked kind of uncomfortable out there. I sort of want to ask him what kind of stuff he likes to do. If he's a reader, maybe we like some of the same books. But he's probably sick of questions...

McKayla glanced up, and I felt a flutter of pleasure from her. It's him! I knew it.

Still, I couldn't hear the new guy. Where Beau Swan stood, there was nothing, like the space was empty. Like he was cloaked—invisible to my gaze. A missing puzzle piece in an otherwise complete puzzle.

I kept my eyes on my table, shifting the books I'd pulled from my bag so they were only on one side. There was only one empty spot in the entire classroom, so that would be where Beau Swan would have to sit. I doubted he would like it much there, humans found themselves repelled by us by nature. But perhaps it would afford me the chance to introduce myself and ask a few probing questions. Just to give me an idea of what kind of threat he might pose regarding our secret.

The boy was left alone as Allen Weber turned and headed to his own table. The boy shuffled a little awkwardly down the central aisle, likely headed for the teacher to have his paper signed and be assigned a seat, though it was obvious which one he would be given.

As I watched him, unable to completely conceal my curiosity, he shambled past my table. As he did so, he happened to step in front of the nearby air vent, the heated air blowing toward me—and that was when it hit me.

In that instant, everything changed. One moment, I was Edythe Cullen, daughter of Carine Cullen, who had chosen this pacifistic, somewhat odd way of life. The next, the world shifted on its axis, and there was only one thing I wanted—that I realized I had ever wanted. That I would have searched the world for if I had only known it existed.

I was a predator, and my prey—prey I had not known until this moment that I had been waiting a hundred years for—was before me.

I sat in a room full of witnesses, but they were nothing—they could not be allowed to live, of course, seeing what I was about to do. But I was prepared to do worse—much worse—to only taste that exquisite blood coursing through those pale veins.

My throat burned like fire, my mouth dry and desiccated, but it was a wonderful feeling, when I thought of the taste with which I would soon quench it. The venom filled my mouth and I bent slightly over my desk, coiling to spring.

Not even a full second had passed, and he was still in midstep, still right beside my desk.

Just as he passed, his gaze slid toward me, and our eyes met.

I noticed, for the first time, just how wide his eyes were, the pale blue of a cloudless spring sky. For an instant I saw my own face reflected back at me in them, a dark outline against the light.

The face I saw was not human. It was feral, contorted with fury and thirst.

The shock of seeing that face froze me for an instant—saving Beau Swan's life. At least for a few more seconds.

Seeing my expression, he quickly looked away. Unfortunately, as he did, blood flooded his face.

I couldn't look away. The sight of the blood in his face—the overpowering aroma—it was like a fog in my mind, muffling every other sense. I couldn't escape the feeling that everything in my life, no, my existence, had been leading up to this. So I would be able to taste it—a blood like no other.

My eyes followed him as he continued, more quickly now, up the aisle. He half-tripped over something in the walkway and had to catch himself on the edge of the table. His face was still... appealingly red.

But the memory of the dark face I saw in the blue eyes halted me. That face was not one that was unfamiliar to me—it had once been my face, long ago, as I stalked my prey in dark back alleys, slaking my thirst with the blood of those humans whose thoughts most infuriated and disgusted me. The monster covered in blood, who thought she would be less a monster if she only killed other monsters.

I had spent decades trying to crush that monster from existence. Decades of uncompromising discipline and rigorous control—and now was it to be all undone in a moment?

The voice that asked the question was a small one, muffled by the scent that swirled around my head, addling my thoughts, intoxicating me.

I clenched my fist against my leg beneath the table, as I aimed all my concentration at staying in my seat. Of not springing on his unsuspecting back as he went up to the teacher.

He would come sit beside me. And then... and then.

That was when it would happen.

I would lean over, as though to speak with him, and then I would touch my mouth to his skin. I would kill him instantly, long before he even had a chance to realize what was happening. However, I would have to be quick—I would have maybe half a minute before the others realized something was wrong. Saw what I was doing. And then I would have to take care of them. They couldn't be allowed to leave—not the eighteen other children and the woman—after seeing what they saw. They wouldn't be able to escape through the windows, they were too high up, so all I would need to do was block the door. Then none of them would be able to escape.

But there would be a lot of screaming. That would attract more witnesses I would be forced to dispose of. And it would be harder to kill them, ensure I got them all, when they were in a panic and scrambling in chaos.

I was slightly more rational than I had been a moment ago. I was rational enough to feel guilt—I felt sick at the thought of murdering an entire room full of innocent humans. But I didn't see another way.

Still, my mind continued to race, forming a new plan as I realized the flaws in the first.

The only thing to do was to kill the witnesses first. I pictured it in my mind, calculating. I was in the center of the room, the furthest row in the back. I could take the right side first—I could kill four or five of them per second. It would be quiet, just a quick snap of the neck. The right side was lucky—they would not see me coming, have no idea what was about to happen before the end came. Once I was done with them, I would move around the front, taking out the teacher, then move down the left side. The entire process would take, at most, five seconds to complete.

In this scenario, Beau Swan would have a moment to see what was coming for him. A long enough time to realize, and feel fear.

I breathed deeply, drawing in the burning scent that ran like a tongue of flames through my empty veins. He was turning now, coming back to my table. In a moment, he would sit down beside me.

I readied myself to do what had to be done, and I felt the venom fill my mouth in anticipation. I was glad I was going with this plan, kill the witnesses first—this way, when I killed him, I would have a chance to savor it, and the blood would still be warm.

Someone slammed a folder shut on my left. I didn't turn to see who it was, but the motion sent a wave of ordinary, unscented air wafting across my face.

For one moment, my mind was suddenly clear. Once again, for one short second, I was Edythe Cullen—Cullen, the name I had taken after Carine. My creator, my mentor, my mother... the one who for all these years I had so struggled to emulate.

But Edythe Cullen was about to be lost. In a moment, my eyes would glow red with human blood, and all the effort I had exerted, how hard I had tried to be someone that Carine could be proud of, would be for nothing.

I knew Carine would forgive me for this terrible thing I was about to do. Because she loved me as I had never deserved to be loved. She had believed in me, that I was better than I was, and she would still love me—even as I proved her wrong.

Beau Swan sat down in the chair beside mine, his movements stiff and awkward. Again I was assailed by his scent—it surrounded me, too powerful to resist.

I was about to prove Carine wrong about me, fail her in every conceivable way. She had trusted me, believed I would help her uphold her ideology of sacrifice and selflessness and pacifism, and now I was about to betray her.

Hatred suddenly blazed to life in my empty chest—a hatred so crippling it nearly drowned out everything else. Hatred for this intoxicating scent that I could not resist. Hatred for this boy, who could have gone to any town, but had to pick this one, just when I'd finally begun to feel I could be the person Carine hoped for me to be. And hatred for myself, the monster.

You have a choice, a voice whispered in the back of my mind, a voice that sounded very much like Carine's. Remember, no matter how great the temptation, you always have a choice, Edythe.

I had been leaning away from him, my fist clenched tightly against my leg as I fought to resist, though I knew it was a hopeless effort. That any moment I would begin. The right side first, then back down the left...

You always have a choice.

But the scent was in my nose and mouth, overshadowing everything else. There was no choice.

You always have a choice, Edythe, Carine's voice whispered.

I was perfectly still for several seconds. I closed my eyes—then, with a tremendous effort, I cut the air from my lungs.

My mind cleared, and the relief was powerful, instantaneous.

But even so, I could not remove the memory of the scent. It was still there, filling my body with longing. I had delayed the final act, no more—but then, if I could just wait one hour, that might make all the difference. The teacher and the other students wouldn't have to die. Only one. They could be saved.

Time seemed to slow to a crawl. Every beat between the click of the second hand seemed to hang in the air, lasting an impossible eternity.

It was uncomfortable, not breathing, being without a sense of smell. The memory of the smell of the blood had my throat burning with thirst, and I burned with hatred against that which had reduced me to this—the scent that was trying to take control of me, trying to force me to betray Carine and everyone else I loved, betray myself.

I concentrated on the hatred, letting it expand, and remembered my irritation with the boy for being the missing piece in my perfectly completed puzzle. I tried to let the emotions consume me—hatred for this pale, gangly creature that, with all its ordinariness, could somehow possess such power over me, make me into something I did not want to be. Hatred and irritation were easier to deal with than the blazing thirst.

I had to make it through this hour. That was all. If I could just make it through this one hour...

When he walked out of this room, what would I do then? How could I get him alone?

I would introduce myself. "Hello, my name is Edythe Cullen. Would you mind if I walked with you to your next class?"

He would agree. It would be the polite thing to do, even if, instinctively, he already feared me—saw in my eyes the monster he did not consciously know existed. I could take him the wrong direction, perhaps say I'd forgotten a book in my car. A spur of forest reached out like a finger to touch the back corner of the parking lot. I could kill him in an instant and disappear into the forest. I would have a few minutes, and then I could be back to my next class, no one the wiser...

But would anyone notice that I was the last person he'd been seen with? It was raining as usual, and two dark raincoats heading in the wrong direction shouldn't pique much interest. And most would probably find the idea of a girl with my small frame senselessly murdering a new boy I didn't know incredible. Yet surely it would be suspicious, and there was no doubt the other students would notice if he left the class with me. McKayla, in particular—she had been watching the new student closely, and she would definitely notice if I got him to leave with me.

In that moment, I hated her almost as I hated the stranger sitting beside me.

Then, if not in one hour... what about two?

The fire burned in my throat, and I flinched at the thought. Of enduring this torture for another—I saw the clock out of the corner of my eye—hour and fifty-six minutes.

But that had to be the better choice. He would go home to an empty house. I knew Police Chief Swan worked a full day, and I knew exactly where the house was, as I knew every house in town—it was nestled right up against thick woods, with no close neighbors. The perfect place to do what I had to do.

Wait, just two hours. Wait, so I didn't have to kill any of the others in this room. Wait, so I didn't put my family in danger of discovery. That was the way to do this—the responsible way. I'd gone so many decades without tasting human blood, surely I could last two hours if I held my breath.

No one else would have to die then, I thought.

And, the other darker part of me added, then there would be time to linger over the experience. To enjoy it to the fullest.

Of course, even as the thoughts passed through my mind, I knew—I knew that even if I waited, saved the lives of everyone in this room by effort and patience, that would not change the monster I was about to become, when I murdered this young, innocent human. I hated myself as much as I hated him—and I would hate us both so much more when he was dead.

The hour lasted an eternity. I concentrated all my thoughts, all my attention, on strategy. I pictured in vivid detail how I would slip inside the home, how I would come up behind him, and kill him before he could be any the wiser. Before he had time to scream, to realize his life was about to end... I didn't allow my imagination to go further than that. To imagine the blood in my mouth, the taste—that would have undone me. Over and over I saw myself going to the house, slipping inside, stalking up behind him, my hand snapping his neck in one quick, painless motion. No need to be cruel, as I had sometimes been in the past to those who deserved it. No need for him to suffer...

I barely noticed what was going on around me. If someone had spoken my name, I wouldn't have heard it.

As we neared the end at last, someone came around, passing out papers—an old quiz from a previous class period—and handed one to the boy to hand to me. He glanced at it. Then, as he slid the paper over to my desk, for the first time since the beginning of class his gaze flickered toward me.

Again I saw my own face reflected in his wide blue eyes. The face of a monster—a monster that was even now plotting his death, and blaming him for it, hating him with every fiber of her being for her own weakness.

He looked away quickly, going red again—I didn't breathe, though the image of having him right now once again flashed through my mind.

But just then the bell rang, distracting me enough to push the picture from my mind, and return to my original plan.

I didn't walk as slowly as I should have as I exited the room. If someone had been watching me, they might have noticed it seemed unnatural. But as I heard the thoughts, no one was thinking about me. They were all thinking about him. The boy who was about to die in an hour's time.

I raced to my car, to get away from their thoughts, and from that room. I needed to be alone—away from their thoughts swirling around my target, and away from the warm bodies that I, in this weakened state, might find myself tempted by.

I turned on a CD, listening to the music play, and I breathed deeply, sucking in the wet, clean air that drifted in with the light rain through my open windows. It didn't flush out the memory of Beau Swan's blood from my mind—but as I took in fresh breath after fresh breath, the clear, cool air rushed through me, clearing me out, as though purifying me from a disease.

Sanity returned. I was Edythe Cullen again. I could fight the monster—I could be who I wanted to be.

I didn't have to go to his home. I didn't have to kill him.

You always have a choice, Edythe...

I did have a choice. I could see that now, now that I was away from the scent. So long as I was away, I was fine. I could resist the temptation. If I only took great care to avoid him, perhaps my life didn't have to change. The way things were now, everything was in perfect order, just as I liked it. I didn't have to let that be ruined by a stranger. I didn't have to betray myself, betray Carine.

My thoughts, for the first time, flickered to Archie. Surely he had to have seen the massacre I plotted, or at least seen me murdering the new transfer student. Why hadn't he come? Was it possible that maybe he hadn't seen anything because I wouldn't have done anything? Was I stronger than I had realized?

But I knew, even as I thought it, it wasn't true. The only explanation was that all his concentration was on Jessamine. It seemed inconceivable that, in all that time, his mind hadn't turned to me for even a moment, even seen a flicker. But then, it was only an hour—an hour a thousand times longer to me than to anyone else.

I expanded my mind, searching for his familiar mental voice, and sure enough, his mind was focused like a laser on Jessamine, watching her smallest choices with minute scrutiny.

I was torn. On the one hand, I wanted someone to talk to, badly—I felt the need for help, support, more than I could ever remember. But a part of me was glad he had not seen it. Had not seen just exactly what horrors I was capable of.

I felt the beginnings of a deep shame well up inside me, burning. I didn't want any of them to know. And if I could keep away from him, hold myself in check and refuse to contemplate it again, while still going about my normal life, maybe none of them had to.

The last hour of school was almost over. I decided to take steps for my latest plan. Better than sitting in the school parking lot where he would no doubt go, and destroy my hard-won resolve.

He was my worst enemy. That was the only way I could think of him. But he would not control me, so long as I kept studiously away from him.

I walked swiftly, a little too swiftly, across the empty parking lot to the school office.

I found it empty but for the receptionist, Mr. Cope. He was bent, writing something on a paper on his desk, and didn't notice my silent entrance.

"Mr. Cope?"

He glanced up, startled.

"Oh—" he began. "Edythe Cullen." He composed himself and turned his chair slightly in my direction. "What can I do for you?"

I knew from his thoughts I had all his attention. He wanted to please me. There were some advantages to being an attractive young girl, small and slight—it often automatically triggered a protective instinct in males. If there were any indecent thoughts in Mr. Cope, they were still on the periphery, not fully realized. For the moment, anyway.

"I was wondering if you could help me with my schedule," I said, using a soft, gentle voice that always seemed to help put humans at ease, and make them more amenable.

"Of course," he said, scooting the chair a little closer and leaning forward. "What is it?"

This time, this close, he couldn't stop his gaze flickering appreciatively over my face.

Easy on the eyes, this one. It's a wonder she doesn't have a boyfriend already. In some ways, Mr. cope was almost as plugged into the school gossip as the students.

"I was wondering if I could move from my Biology class to a senior level science? I was thinking perhaps physics..." When Mr. Cope raised his eyebrows, I answered his question before he could ask it. "I realized I've already studied this material."

"I see," Mr. Cope said, frowning. "I remember you were in an accelerated program back in Alaska. Hmm..." They really should all be in college. Never a wrong answer on a test. Hard to believe how gifted they all are, and aren't even related. I wonder if their parents put them through some rigorous home-tutoring. I guess their mother is a doctor...

"Well," he said aloud. "I would like to do that for you, Edythe, but physics is pretty much full right now. Mrs. Banner has a limit of twenty-five students per class, and there wouldn't be enough seats."

"Might I drop the class then?" I asked, my voice still soft and polite. "I could use the period for independent study."

Mr. Cope stared at me, perplexed. "But then you won't have enough credits to graduate." What is it? Does she have some problem with Mrs. Banner? But she's willing to take physics from her. Is it something else? These Cullen kids are just so strange...

Mr. Cope was getting suspicious. I was clearly not being convincing enough, and I had to distract him. It was time to get down and break out every trick of persuasion I knew.

The door opened behind me, but whoever it was did not think of me, and all my attention was on my mark.

I leaned over the desk, making my eyes wide and vulnerable—I only hoped the current blackness didn't unnerve him.

I heard his heart stutter, and his thoughts were briefly completely incoherent. The indecent thoughts on the periphery crowded in for a second.

"I can catch up next year," I said softly, pleadingly. "Isn't there another section I could switch to? An open slot somewhere... Sixth hour Biology can't be the only option..."

"Well..." Mr. Cope began unsteadily, wavering as he couldn't seem to keep a continuous train of thought. "I could... perhaps talk to Mrs. Banner and see..."

Just then, someone else entered the office—I knew her, of course. Samantha Wells. She placed a signed tardy slip in the basket on the desk, then left as soon as she came.

But when she opened the door, it sent a breeze from the doorway in my direction. And as the scent hit me, I suddenly knew why I hadn't heard the thoughts of the person who had entered a moment ago.

I felt every muscle in my body tense. I slowly turned, though I didn't need to, to know who it was standing behind me.

There he was, back pressed to the wall beside the door, a piece of paper clutched in his hand. Beau Swan.

My prey. My nemesis.

The smell of the impossibly alluring blood saturated every particle of air in the small, hot room. My throat seared. As I looked into the wide, pale blue eyes, clear as a summer afternoon sky, I saw my face again—hideous, grotesque with fury and hunger.

My hand hesitated in the air above the counter. I would not even have to look back, in order to reach across it and slam Mr. Cope's head into his desk with enough force to kill him. Two lives, rather than twenty. A trade.

As I looked into my enemy's wide, startled eyes, I saw a flicker of fear there—his limited human experience did not know what to make of me, my behavior, but even so, he could read my intentions in my murderous eyes. His body instinctively knew the danger his mind could not fathom.

You always have a choice, Edythe, Carine's voice whispered.

My mind was in a fog, so I did the only thing I could—I cut off the motion of my lungs. I slowly turned back to face Mr. Cope.

He stared at me in open astonishment—at the inhuman look on my face that I'd directed at the new student. He, too, felt an instinctual fear he could not put into rational words, even in his mind.

Instead, he simply thought, Oh, I guess that explains it. Beaufort Swan had sixth hour Biology, too. Something must have happened, I bet he made a pass at her. Can't totally blame him for coming on to her, but—what an expression! Feel bad for the kid, getting on her bad side on the first day...

Using every bit of control I'd mastered over decades of self-denial, with my last bit of air, I said softly, "Never mind, then. I can see that it's impossible. Thank you so much for your help."

I fled from the room like a bat out of hell—trying not to feel the heat of his form as I passed, barely inches from him.

I strode, too fast across the parking lot. The lot was mostly empty, and the one head that glanced in my direction quickly disregarded any oddness as imagination.

I didn't stop until I was safely inside my Volvo, slamming the door shut behind me like a protective barrier. I tried to control my breathing, but I was gasping at the fresh air like I'd nearly suffocated.

The others were already in the car, and the look on my face immediately had their attention.

"Edy?" Archie said, from where he was sitting shotgun, looking alarmed. "What is it? What happened?"

Eleanor leaned between the two front seats, frowning. "You look like a wreck."

I didn't answer. I threw the car into reverse and swung it around—had to get out. Had to get out before he could follow me here, too. My own personal enemy, who was determined to ruin me.

I pressed the pedal down hard, hitting forty before we were on the road. On the road, we were doing seventy before we reached the corner.

I didn't look back, but I sensed when all eyes in the car turned to look at Archie for an explanation. He shrugged. He couldn't look into the past, only the future, and he hadn't been watching me all afternoon.

I felt when Archie probed my future. We both saw it at the same moment, and I was almost as surprised as he was.

"You're leaving?" he asked quietly. We both knew he didn't mean school. The image we both saw, I was leaving Forks, speeding away to the north at two-hundred miles an hour...

"Am I?" I hissed through my teeth. I felt my resolve waver—and Archie saw it. We both did.

Just flickers, at first. Beau Swan, lying dead. Me, standing over him, my eyes glowing crimson with the fresh human blood flowing through me. An organized search, as people sought out the police chief's missing son. The careful time we would wait before it was finally safe for us to pull out again...

Archie's face had gone blank with shock. The usual smile lines around his eyes were gone.

The vision sharpened, growing more specific.

Chief Swan's house—though I had never been inside, I knew instinctively that was where it was. I saw a small kitchen with yellow cupboards. Beau Swan stood at the counter—washing dishes, it looked like, a drying rag over his shoulder—and I stalked silently through the house, emerging from the shadows. He didn't know, didn't even turn as I—

"Stop!" I shouted, pressing a hand to the side of my head.

The image faded, then disappeared.

"Sorry," Archie whispered. He was pale.

Even as I was reviled by myself, a deep part of me felt a flicker of satisfaction, anticipation—the monster, the beast within, a slave to the desire for the boy's blood.

But I clenched my teeth and forced it down, and a quieter vision filled Archie's head, the same as before. An empty highway at night, lined by trees coated in snow, flashing by like a blurred oil painting.

Archie nodded slowly. "We'll miss you while you're gone."

Eleanor glanced at Royal, and he was frowning.

We were almost to the turnoff onto the long drive that led to our home.

"Just leave us here," Archie said. "You should go back and tell Carine... what you're going to do."

I nodded once, sharply, then brought the car to a sudden, screeching stop.

Eleanor, Royal, and Jessamine all got out in silence—they would make Archie tell them everything once I was gone. Their thoughts were all concerned, somber. I could see my face in their minds, an amalgamation of too many emotions—desire, rage, desperation. And above all, terror. Terror of the monster—the monster I continually referred to in the third person, as though it were something outside myself, a entity of its own, separate from Edythe Cullen, even when, deep down, I knew it was me. I wanted it. There was nothing else in this world I did want.

The image in Archie's mind had shifted again. A kitchen with yellow cupboards, my eyes a blazing crimson.

Before Archie got out, he reached over and touched my shoulder. He met my eyes. "You will do the right thing, Edy," he said earnestly. It was not a prediction—it was more like a plea. "You kill that guy... He's Chief Swan's only son, you know. His only family. Killing that kid would kill him, too. Focus on that, okay?"

I didn't answer, only turned back to face the road.

Archie got out of the car, and I felt his wariness as he and the others turned and melted into the woods.

I accelerated the car back toward town, heading toward the hospital where Carine worked. Or was I?

Archie was out of my range now, but I knew what he would be seeing. Visions flashing from light to dark and back like a strobe light, as the monster tried to take control of me—no, as I tried to convince myself to give in to my desires, to justify doing as the creature I was yearned to do.

I tore back down the road toward Forks, where I knew either I could be Edythe Cullen, daughter of Carine Cullen, or Edythe Cullen the monster.

My choice.

A/N: Hey!

Normally, the first chapter is always the longest for a Twilight book, but this is actually about average for this project... yeah, sorry about that. I guess I went for natural flow over trying to keep things concise.

Thanks for reading! If you have a chance, let me know what you thought, and see you next time!

Posted 5/7/18