Who's the new vampire hanging with the Cullen Coven?

Crispin was settled deep into his favorite armchair in the family room, buried in the newest addition to Carlisle's library. It was a complicated, in-depth assessment of the chemical compositions of some animal venoms commonly used in medicine. Carlisle had purchased the book just for him. One day, Crispin would unlock the secrets behind his own venom. He'd know the mechanisms that made a vampire's nastiest weapon tick … and then he'd build a cure. An antivenom. It was one of his latest ambitions. One of many, all of them just as outlandish. Until the day came that he had all the tools he needed for his quest, Crispin gathered knowledge, soaking up information like a sponge, pouring through books and research for endless hours. He'd be an absolute venoms expert within a year or two.

But he couldn't focus tonight. Material that had once enthralled him was now difficult to absorb as his ever-active mind longed to work on other problems. There were two that distracted him at the moment. The first was the worrisome implications that Alice's latest visions had on the family … all that fire … never good as far as vampires were concerned.

The second concerned his recent encounter with a certain strange young woman in the library. The whole thing had been odd. The way she'd looked at him, those brilliant blue eyes set off against her fragile brown human skin like lightning against dark storm clouds, and that appalled face, like she couldn't believe what she was seeing, her heart skipping away like a startled jackrabbit bouncing through sagebrush. Crispin's stony stomach worked itself into a knot as he remembered. He stared at the pages of his book, not seeing them. If that look meant what he thought it might mean …

He was glad Edward wasn't here. The family had no business knowing about his speculations. The inner workings of Crispin's vast mind were his own, not theirs. He needed time to think about these things … to work out the details … to really understand. Action should only be taken when they were certain of things, not just estimating. It was no good to argue over mere ideas. And Crispin liked to be certain of things. All things.

Emmett was teasing him again. Crispin's burly, bear-like brother was tearing pages out of an old, out-of-date textbook that Crispin had decided he no longer needed. Every loud rrrriiip! set Crispin's teeth on edge. He could've bitten through steel. So what if it was an old textbook? It was still a book. One did not simply deface a book! Ugh!

Emmett crushed the paper into balls with his vast, heavy, frying-pan hands before tossing them like a basketball player at the freethrow line into Crispin's lap. Crispin had been ignoring it until now, but all the unanswered questions were rankling him and his patience was wearing thin. Finally, as Emmett lazily tossed the fifteenth ball of textbook pages at him, Crispin's hand darted up and snatched it out of the air. He raised his eyes from the book he'd been trying to read and fixed them on Emmett without moving a single other muscle.

Emmett grinned, raising his eyebrows as though to look innocent. "What?"

"I'm trying to think."

"You're always trying to think. Can't you do anything else?"

Crispin narrowed his eyes. He wasn't in the mood to be tested. "Unless you would like to be part of the fierydoom Alice has foreseen … no. I will not do anything else."

Emmett rolled his eyes, but he turned away from Crispin and shot a slightly nervous glance at Alice. She was sitting with Jasper in the loveseat, poking at an iPad, probably looking at a new fashion design. She liked to create them with Rosalie, who was absent at the moment, to Crispin's pleasure. Alice glanced up from her work, making eye contact with Crispin. A crease formed between her delicate eyebrows. "Any luck at the library?" she chirped.

"None," Crispin muttered. He closed his book, unable to focus on it any longer. "Only more dead ends."

"Any further developments?" Alice probed. Crispin smiled a little. Alice was one of the few who liked to know what Crispin was thinking. Most of the rest of the family, especially Rosalie, found his ideas too random and complicated for their liking. Crispin obliged.

"I think the answer still lies in that unusual color," he began, folding his arms and looking at the ceiling. "The one defining characteristic you've been allowed to see. But it should be enough: if I know how fire of that kind is made, it might tell us who's making it. It might even tell us where your vision is taking place, depending. If fire of that kind has a specific function, it might tell me why it's being made, too."

"I thought we already decided it was going to destroy us," Emmett said, already getting lost.

"Well, it could be," Crispin agreed. "But what if it's not? What if it's for some other reason? I think we should consider all possibilities."

Emmett rolled his eyes. "Now you're going down the rabbit hole again."

Crispin shook his head. "We can't jump to any assumptions. Not even worst-case scenarios."

"You talk too much. You just …" Emmett waved a finger around above his head. "Go in circles. You could spend your time doing something fun, you know. Like hangin' out with us."

Crispin raised a questioning eyebrow. "Fun? Let us be clear, Emmett … your idea of fun is not the same as mine."

"Making up nonsense is funner than wrestling bears?" Emmett challenged. Crispin narrowed his eyes.

"I don't make things up, Emmett. I learn. I think. I would like to speak no words but true ones."

Emmett snorted. "And I thought Edward was boring before you came along."

"I don't see anyone else in this family routinely altering the future for their own amusement," Crispin replied, smoothly. "Joined with Alice, I hold your futures in my hands. I can bend to my will anything that happens to you. Now that sounds fun."

Emmett glared. Crispin only smiled. He got to his feet, dumping all the balls of crumpled textbook paper to the floor, taking up his new book and tucking it beneath an arm. "Not that I'll make life miserable for you because I can. Contrary, actually. I'd like to work on keeping us all alive and safe. So, until I've managed to do that, I'll be in my room. Or the library." Crispin took one step toward the spiral staircase that led to the upper floor and then paused. He glanced back at Alice. "Did you see me meeting anyone unusual today?"

Alice raised an eyebrow, tilting her little pixie head. "No. I didn't see anything happening in the library."

"Hmm … good to know."

Crispin went to go upstairs when Alice stopped him. "Who did you meet?"

"I don't know," Crispin said, a little warily. He didn't like sharing too much information about things he wasn't perfectly sure of. The family seemed to take his word for everything, even if it was only speculation. "I didn't have a chance to ask her name. She was … odd. I'm starting to wonder if—" But then he stopped. Alice had suddenly gone a bit vacant. She was seeing something. Jasper tucked his battle-scarred arm better around her.


The tiny, pixie-like vampire came to life all at once. She pulled in a deep breath and pursed her lips. "Carlisle's gonna call."

Crispin had time to blink just before the family cell phone rang. Emmett, already bored and in need of something to do, bolted into the disused kitchen to grab it off the counter. He brought it back in his palm, already answered. He didn't have to turn it onto speakerphone for all the vampires in the room to hear Carlisle's voice on the other end. "Where's Crispin?"

Crispin launched himself off the stairs over the railing, landing catlike on the floor and zipping to the phone in a blink so the microphone could pick him up. "Carlisle?"

"Crispin, good. There's been an accident." Dr. Carlisle spoke at vampiric speed. None but vampire ears could understand him, and the microphone was having a hard time picking his voice up clearly. He sounded a bit crackly. "A drunk man in a truck. He barreled over the sidewalk and hit the general store. Smashed through the brick wall. Killed him instantly. But the important part—" the doctor paused for a split second to refill his lungs, "he hit a girl. Slammed her straight through the wall and into the canned vegetables aisle. She's still alive. Just scratches and a concussion, that's it. One witness. He says he thinks he saw red fire." Crispin's eyes narrowed, sharply.

"The girl. What does she look like?"

"Ah … long black hair. Dark skin. Wearing hiking clothes. She's small, too. All … fine-boned."

Crispin clenched his jaw, eyes widening. He glanced at Alice, who looked astounded. "Is she the same one?"

"The very same. I'd better go." Crispin shot to the stairs, skidding a little when he reached the bottom, grabbing hold of the railing to stop himself. He streaked up to the second floor, almost smashing straight through the door to his room in his haste. He seized his jacket and was back down the stairs in two seconds. The other three were clustered around the phone, still trying to talk to Carlisle. Alice stopped Crispin before he could dash out the door.

"Crispin, what about her?"

Crispin shook his head rapidly. "It was weird. She wasn't quite … right. She seemed … afraid. Flustered. I wonder …" he hesitated. No, he couldn't tell them anything he wasn't certain of. "Never mind. I still need more information. I'll be back."

Crispin ignored the shining cars in the driveway and started running. He couldn't drive very quickly on Kellogg's tiny streets. The hospital was less than five miles away. He could run there in just over four minutes.

The nighttime wind whipped his face and the trees whizzed past him. Crispin hardly saw the obstacles he dodged, busy running through options in his head. A suicide attempt? She had acted awfully strange in the library. Afraid. But, no, that was ridiculous. The vehicle had left the road entirely. It was a freak accident. She couldn't have planned such a thing. She was wandering the streets so late … alone? Or was the only witness with her? Was there a connection to the general store? Probably not. Poor, drunk fool … dead …

How had she gotten away alive? Crushed through a brick wall?! She was mortal. Crispin remembered her beating heart, her delicate little body, the rich smell of the light sweat that had risen from her pores when she'd confronted him. So mortal, so definitely breakable. How was she not dead? And only a concussion? Carlisle hadn't said anything about broken bones. Maybe there was internal bleeding? Surely there was more than the vampire doctor had said. Fragile humans did not get crushed through buildings without serious injury.

And, most importantly … red fire … ?