Disclaimer: I own nothing related to the Twilight Saga. These are Stephenie Meyer's characters, and no copyright infringement is intended, now, or at any time in the future, near or far.
Chapter 4: Bloodlust
She couldn't seem to stop screaming. I stared at her helplessly. The venom pooled in my mouth, and I knew that very soon, I would strike...
Then she fainted. I cringed. She had just made everything so much easier for me. I shifted my eyes away from her, toward the living room, where I could see my finished paintings stacked against two of the walls. Perhaps I could turn my unholy, unbearable thirst, as well as my anger, into a creative frenzy.
I was only fooling myself.
I walked over to her unconscious body, feeling the pull of her delicate, simply delicious self. I wasn't breathing yet. If I allowed myself to do so, I would inevitably sink my teeth into her.
I hesitated. My two selves, the vampire and the human I had been, and was still, even if I tried to deny it at such times, warred with each other. I wanted to kill her. I had to have her blood. It had been sheer madness to bring her here. The human in me had been taken in by her helplessness, her vulnerability, the sadness I had felt in her. The human part of me had already fallen irrevocably in love with her...and yet, the monster raged, straining to kill. I had to squash the human, in order to do it, quickly and without a qualm. The horrible feelings would come later, I knew. But now, the monster fought to break free of the slim restraint imposed by the human.
My jaw worked as I stood over her. I bent down to pick her up, staring obsessively at her jugular vein, faintly visible underneath her skin. Only vampire vision was able to pick up such a delicate detail. I held her so carefully...as if I were afraid of breaking her. Ironic, of course. Soon she would be nothing more than another corpse to discard. My right hand was at the base of her skull. I closed my eyes, even as I prepared for my unerring, cobra-like strike. I didn't need to have my eyes open for that.
Then a vision came to me. I saw this beautiful girl, with an appropriately beautiful name, as she looked up at me, her goodness plainly visible in her eyes. She stared at me innocently, smiling, pronouncing my name in that breathy voice...
I opened my eyes. With a moan of anguish, I fell to my knees, her slight form still cradled in my arms. I wanted to kiss her, but didn't dare. I might bite her lips instead, and then, I knew I wouldn't be able to stop feeding until I was full of her blood.
I laid her gently on the floor, as the terrible thirst continued to rage through me. I threw back my head, howling like a werewolf. I had never suspected that vampires could make such a sound. The anguish was building up, so unbearable I knew I wouldn't be able to tolerate it any longer... If vampires had the ability to cry, I surely would have done it at that point.
I had to do something. I had to get away from her.
Then I remembered. How could I have forgotten? The animal blood in the fridge... I always kept at least three jars of it, in case of just such an emergency. After all, I couldn't risk going out in the daylight. And it would have looked very strange indeed, had I wrapped myself up in heavy clothing, in the middle of August.
Picking her up again, I hurriedly carried her into the bedroom, laying her on the bed. Then I ran back into the kitchen and frenziedly tore the refrigerator door open, although I was careful not to do this so forcefully that I would tear it right off the hinges. The hunger was now totally unbearable. Grabbing one of the jars filled with the blood, I twisted the lid open, and downed its contents in several gulps. I did the same with the second one. Then I stared at the third, wondering whether I should consume it, as well. I swallowed convulsively and closed my eyes, letting the blood do its work of reviving me. It wasn't as satisfying as human blood, of course. It would have to do for now. I simply couldn't picture myself taking this innocent girl's blood. I simply couldn't bear the thought that, because of me, her heart would no longer beat, would no longer pump the life-bearing fluid throughout her body.
Sighing, I took the third jar, and emptied it, as well. Then I rinsed all three jars in the sink, and put them in the dishwasher. Now that Bella was here, I would have to make sure she never saw filled jars in the fridge. Perhaps if I hid them in the back...
I was sitting in the kitchen, my bloodlust now under control. I knew that I would soon need more blood, however.
Then I heard her scream again.
At the same moment, my acute hearing picked up a knock on the door.
I rushed into the bedroom, where I noticed her cowering on the bed. The knocking was becoming more urgent, too. I looked at her, and she stared at me, puzzled instead of terrified. I knew then that my face no longer betrayed my true nature.
"Bella," I whispered, dismayed. She said nothing. Perhaps she was dazed.
The knocking on the door increased to a frantic pounding. "Open this door right now, Edward, or I'm calling the cops!"
I knew the voice. Jack Quinn, one of my neighbors. He would occasionally drop in for a beer, and we would chat while I painted.
"Hold on, Jack!" I called out. "Let me turn down the TV!"
"Bella," I whispered again. My voice, soft as velvet, would weave itself into her mind. Such is the power of vampire fascination. "Everything's all right. You're safe. Please believe me. I would not hurt a hair on your head. I promise. I rescued you, remember?"
She continued to stare at me, and then her gaze moved down to my T-shirt. I looked at myself, and saw fresh blood stains on it now, along with the dried paint stains.
I looked back at her, again willing her to calm down. I knew that the hypnotic effect of my eyes was working on her when I saw her visibly relax.
I hazarded a breath, and was more than relieved to find that I was pretty much under control.
"Now," I went on, as I proceeded to weave my spell, "I want you to stay here quietly, where you will wait for me. I'll shut the door, but I'll be in shortly. All right?"
She nodded, never taking her eyes from mine. I shut the door.
Breathing out another sigh, I ran over to the bathroom, where I whipped off my T-shirt threw it on the floor, and grabbed another one that was very conveniently hanging behind the door. Afterward, I ran over to the huge plasma screen on one side of the room, and grabbed the remote. In a split second, I had a zombie movie up on the screen.
Vampire speed can be so useful.
Jack pounded on the door again, and I was immediately there to open it. When I had done so, he stood there, arms crossed, glaring at me.
"What the hell's wrong with you, Edward? What's the idea, anyway?"
I smiled a little nervously. I had to get rid of him fast. I had to talk to Bella. But I couldn't arouse his suspicions.
"Sorry, man. I didn't know you were squeamish about horror movies."
He shrugged. "Well, hell, I don't particularly like them, but I guess they're better than some romantic slush flick." He peered into the apartment.
I had no choice but to wave him in.
He walked in warily, looking around. I wondered if he was expecting a skeleton to come dancing out of one of my closets. He glanced at the TV screen, where one of the zombies was running after one of the hapless humans. The human, a girl, was screaming, and I had the fleeting thought that I didn't know zombies could move that fast. So much for B movies.
Jack frowned. "You know, I could have sworn I heard a strange howl, too.'\
I shrugged, grinning. "There are a couple of werewolves in this movie, as well as zombies, and...vampires."
Suddenly, all the tension seemed to drain out of his body, and he turned to the painting I had propped up on three easels. He studied it for a couple of minutes, then grinned.
"Seems to be coming along great. When's the opening?"
I relaxed, too. My art was about the only thing that could take my mind off my hideously inhuman nature. That, and classical music, which I usually had playing when I was in the throes of creation.
"It's tentatively set for the first week of September. You're coming, right?"
"You know I am. I'm bringing Alice along, too. She just loves art - any style, modern, impressionistic, you name it."
I could feel myself becoming even paler than I usually was.
"Alice?" I mumbled. And then a picture of my Alice rose in my mind. Alice. My funny, quirky sister with the incredible visions. If I let my mind have its way, I would be able to...but there they were - my family. My chest tightened.
"Yeah. You haven't met her - we just started going steady last week. She's dying to meet you, too
I stirred uneasily. Funny choice of words he had. "Well, um, actually, Jack, I do have to get ready to go out in a while, but I wanted to get some painting in first..."
Jack barked a laugh. He was such an easy-going guy. "Sure, no problem. Got a beer I can swindle out of you?"
I grinned, and we walked into the kitchen. I didn't look at him as I gingerly opened the refrigerator door. Thankfully, it didn't seem to be broken.
I emerged from the fridge, two beers in hand. I would make sure to plant the suggestion in his mind that I had actually drunk mine. "Here you go."
I started to push him out of the kitchen. "Sorry to rush you, Jack, but I really have to get this painting finished. I promise I'll have you and...Alice over for dinner one of these nights."
He grinned. "Cool! Saves me the trouble of trying to get to first base with dinner."
I shook my head, laughing, as I walked him to the door. "You're impossible, Jack! I"ll bet she's your true love, too, right? For this month, anyway."
He shrugged as I opened the door. "Well, hey, just remember to keep the TV down, will ya? You wouldn't want Alice to get spooked when she visits, you know? And thanks for the beer."
I nodded soberly. "I totally understand. Later, guy," I closed the door practically in his face.
Then I sprinted toward the bedroom, and threw open the door.
She had remained on the bed, as I had ordered her to. She was staring unseeingly into space.
I was afraid to approach her, and bring her out of the trance. What would I say to her? A thought occurred to me, but then, I had never used the legendary vampire power of erasing a human's memory. I wasn't sure I wanted to use it on her, either.
No, I wanted her to be completely awake when I spoke with her next.
I walked thoughtfully back into the living room. My agent. I had to speak with my agent. My cell was on my spacious, sculpted coffee table. An identical one had been featured in Architectural Digest the previous week.
"Alex?" My agent wasn't far - just a couple of blocks away. "I need a huge favor from you. Yeah, I know, you'll want one of my paintings for it. No problem. Can you come over right now?"
There was a slight pause, and then he said this was a really bad time. I could guess why - my keen hearing had picked up a woman's frustrated sigh in the background.
"All right, Alex - two paintings. Just come over right away, okay?"
Having come so close to killing my beautiful Bella, I couldn't see myself causing another mysterious tourist disappearance. I didn't think I'd be able to tolerate the expression of terror on yet another human victim's face.
It was just fifteen minutes later, exactly, when I heard another knock on the door. I picked up my cell again, and dialed the number of Alex's cell. I didn't want to answer the door if it wasn't him knocking.
He picked up in two rings. "I'm standing right in front of your door," he said, obviously annoyed.
Flipping my cell shut, I put it in the pocket of my jeans. I calmly walked over to the door, and opened it.
Alexander Wainright was the only human I had ever trusted with my true nature, to a point. He did not know that I had killed humans. He always supplied me with the necessary animal blood when I requested it. As far as he knew, that was all I drank. I don't even know where he obtained the jars of blood, but they were necessary for those unfortunate times when I could not go out in the daylight without attracting attention due to my unusually heavy attire. Miami doesn't really have seasons. The temperature could hit the mid-eighties even in the middle of December, as it had the previous year. Snowbirds walking around Lincoln Road would be sure to stare at anyone who went out wearing a turtleneck sweater and gloves, not to mention a ski mask. Not even my face could be visible, of course.
The problem is that vampires sparkle in the sunlight. The Volturi would have been over here in a flash, had any stories hit the papers about a sparkling guy walking around the city.
"Okay, Edward," he said, visibly annoyed. "You need more blood, right? Jeez, why now? I was in the middle of something.,."
I waved dismissively at him. "I know, Alex, and I'm sorry. But this is a real emergency. It's not animal blood, either."
I stepped into the kitchen as I spoke, and he followed me. He gave a low whistle when I showed him the three jars in the dishwasher.
"Good God! You must have been ravenous!"
I nodded soberly. "I'm having a big problem with control today. I need you to go to a blood bank and...'
He didn't allow me to finish. "A what? Are you out of your mind?"
I sighed. I had known this wasn't going to be easy.
"A blood bank. You heard me. I need you to buy some human blood for me. Please. I'll make it really worth your while."
His eyes were wide, round. "You're really creeping me out, Edward."
I was starting to feel desperate. "Look, Alex, just name your price. I'll give you enough to buy the blood, plus a nice amount as a sort of commission, plus the two paintings. Cross my heart."
He shook his head, exasperated. "Do you think I can just waltz into a blood bank and ask to buy blood? Do you want them to lock me up in a padded white cell? You just don't buy blood, Edward! Only doctors and hospitals have access to the blood in blood banks!'
My panic rose. "But Alex, I thought you had connections." I stared at him meaningfully.
"Well, yeah, some, but..."
I grinned. "I knew I could count on you!" I clapped him on the shoulder.
He eyed me, unconvinced. "Why do you want human blood now? Isn't the animal blood satisfying you?"
I shook my head. "I guess not...at the moment. Believe me, I wouldn't ask you to do this if it weren't really necessary. You don't want me to start killing humans, do you?"
I saw him shudder, and he backed two steps away from me, eyeing me warily.
I smiled nervously. "Alex, don't worry. You're safe. But I do need the human blood right now. Please."
We stared at each other. Then he shrugged. He knew when he was beaten. I hadn't had to use my vampire powers to gain his compliance, either. Well, I never had, with Alex.
"I'll see what I can do."
"Thank you," I said, in all sincerity. "You have no idea how much I owe you for this."
"You sure do!" he put in, dryly.
We walked back into the living room, and I went over to one of the couches, where I had carelessly flung one of my good pair of jeans - a pair I would never dream of wearing while painting. I dug in one of the pockets, and fished out a thick roll of bills. Alex didn't bat an eye. He was more than used to seeing me pull huge wads of cash out of my pockets, in his presence. I never did so in public. I wouldn't want to be in a thief's shoes, if I ever caught one trying to rob me.
I peeled five big bills out of the roll, and handed them over to Alex, who took them nonchalantly.
"Keep the change," I said, wryly.
"How soon do you need this by?" He was already tucking the bills into a one of the front pockets of his jeans.
"By nightfall tomorrow," I answered, casually.
He snorted. "You're the weirdest vampire...but what am I saying? All of you guys are..." Then he paled, his eyes huge. "Wait a minute...just how many of you weirdos are out there?"
"Just be glad it's not a human being I'm asking you to bring up here, so I can drain them dry." I didn't answer his question.
He snorted again. "Funny, Edward!" But I had not counted on his typically human inquisitiveness. "Give me an answer. How many?"
I hesitated. "Well..."
"How many?" He hissed the words between his teeth.
"We're all around you. Although at the moment, I don't know of any others besides me in this city. And I'm telling you the truth."
And I really was, in a way. There was a small coven further north, in the Hallandale area. I had always steered clear of them, though, and doubted they knew of my existence. I was absolutely sure that there were no other vampires in my area, which was South Beach. That would have been an intrusion on my territory. I was free to stroll along Ocean Drive at night, and claim my victims from the tourists perpetually thronging that popular street.
He seemed to relax a bit. "Okay. Now how about my two paintings?"
"When you return with the blood," I assured him, as I stuck my hands in my pockets. I noticed he was keeping his distance from me, but I could hardly blame him for that. "You can pick out any two you like."
He sighed. "The things I do for budding Picassos," he muttered.
"Cullen. The name is Cullen. And I've always hated Picasso. In my book, Matisse is far superior."
My agent shrugged, grinning.
I grinned right back. "Later, Alex - and thanks,"
I shut the door, feeling the huge weight I had been carrying lifted, as if by magic, from my shoulders.
Now I would have to go speak with Bella. I hoped and even prayed that I would be able to convince her not to run away. I might have been fooling myself, but I thought that dealing with a sometimes thirsty vampire would be preferable to being drowned in the uncaring waves of the bay.
I can be incredibly stupid at times.