"What the hell are you?"
"The last thing you'll ever see in your life." The creature backhanded her, and she was thrown back with such force that she felt dizzy for a moment. "You're strong. I'm stronger." The creature smirked, his red eyes glinting in anticipation.
"Duly noted," she murmured, scrambling to her feet.
The creature was faster than anything she had ever faced before. It grabbed her by her neck before she was fully standing, blocking the flow of air into her lungs. "I'm going to enjoy watching you die, feeling the blood as I drain it from your body, feast on your power as I drink your life and relish in it."
Holding onto the hand that was choking her, Isabella gathered the last of her strength and kicked the creature between his legs. Whatever you may be, she thought, you're still a male. The creature responded in the desired manner, dropping his hold on her and slumping to its knees.
There is a time to fight and there is a time to run. Now is definitely the time to run.
Chapter One – Welcome, My Enemy
Phoenix, Arizona, June 1998
Alucard watched the young brown-haired girl from a safe distance as she fought one of his minions. He didn't care for them; they were nothing more than pawns—created to serve and easily replaceable. What Alucard was interested in was the girl, the Slayer. It had taken him more than a decade to locate her. The Council had hidden her well, but when one had eternity, time ceased to be a problem.
He remained in the shadows, keeping himself out of reach of her senses, and he watched as one by one, five minions turned to dust. The girl was strong, fast, and appeared to be well trained. Her Watcher had done a good job with her; it was too bad that he was going to kill the chap very soon.
Putting a stake through the minion's heart—and thus turning him into dust—the Slayer completed her patrol for that night and headed home. There had been an increase in vampire activity lately, and Isabella Swan knew that this meant there was a new master in town. She wasn't worried, despite her Watcher's advice to not underestimate this new threat. She had already killed two masters who had been under the impression that they could turn Phoenix into their feeding ground, and she had done so before she had even turned seventeen. She believed that she was strong enough to take down her third as well.
She began to sense a follower about two blocks away from her home, leading her to change course and turn into a dark alley. Acting quickly and relying on her instincts, she climbed to the second floor of the emergency stairway of a building and hid in the shadows, waiting for the inevitable arrival of her pursuer.
Alucard went down the alley into which the girl had disappeared and was surprised to find the dead-end alley to be empty. He paused as he reached out with his senses. He could feel that she was close, but before he could focus enough to pinpoint her location, the girl jumped out of her hiding place. She landed a kick in the middle of his chest, making him stumble backwards.
"Why are you following me?" she demanded.
Alucard smirked. The girl had spirit and he liked it. "Why do you assume I was following you?"
"It's late, I'm tired, and I don't want to play games. Why were you following me?" Isabella knew that she was facing a vampire, and a powerful one at that. Her Slayer senses—the ones that gave her a warning whenever a vampire was near—were all over the place as she tried her best to keep her face expressionless.
"Maybe I just like you," he offered.
She slid the stake she kept hidden in her sleeve into the palm of her hand, taking comfort in feeling the warm wood now in her reach.
The demon's sharp eyes caught the movement and he smiled faintly.
"Are you trying to pull that 'I have a soul' act on me?" Isabella asked. "'Cause that's, like, really old."
Alucard saw her lowering her gaze from his eyes to his chest right before she lunged at him. He wasn't surprised; he was expecting her to attack—the eye movement gave her away. Isabella's stake missed him when he stepped aside at the last moment before contact, and he used the momentum to throw her against the wall of the building she had dropped from earlier. He heard the cracking sound of her head hitting the wall and grinned.
She recovered quickly, jumping back to her feet and sending a well-aimed kick towards his chest. She didn't reach her target; instead, he caught her leg and twisted the foot downward, causing her to fall to the asphalt. It was only thanks to her fast reflexes that she didn't land on her face but was able to stop the fall with her hands.
He expected her to try to stand up before she continued her assault, but again, Isabella surprised him when she twisted her body and kicked him in the shin. He stumbled, and it gave her enough time to recover and get back to her feet.
She was fast and determined, Alucard noted to himself as he took a punch to his ribs. He also had to admit that she was much stronger than he gave her credit for; he was going to feel that bruised rib for the rest of the night at the least.
Isabella smirked when she noticed that her punch had hindered his movements. He was a strong opponent, strong and well trained, she thought as he dodged a second punch and threw her against the opposite wall. He was still in his human façade; something that she knew was fairly uncommon. Most of the vampires she had fought so far usually fell into their demon face soon after the first punch was thrown, if not beforehand. For a vampire to do so while he was fighting meant that he had a great amount of control over his feelings—control that could only come from age. Young vampires were volatile and guided by their own emotions.
The two rounded each other for several more minutes, but it was soon obvious that Isabella was getting too tired to prolong the fight and was about to go in for the kill. Alucard couldn't let that happen, nor did he want to kill her, at least not yet. Isabella Swan was someone he had great plans for before he made sure to stop her heart from beating again. He kicked her in the stomach, causing her to stumble back and land on top of an extremely smelly garbage pile, and turned to leave the alley.
"I'll see you around, kid," he called before disappearing into the darkness.
Isabella huffed as she stood up and grumbled something under her breath that sounded very much like, "Stupid, cocky, bloodsucking vampire."
Isabella's Watcher, Jonathan Stewart, wasn't very pleased when she gave him the details of her encounter with the vampire. Her failure to stake the demon was not only a reflection on her training—or the insufficiency of it—or on his performance as her watcher; the crux of the matter was that Stewart was worried about a new powerful vampire showing up and the danger it posed to the young girl that he was ordered to care for. It was frowned upon in the Council for a Watcher to grow attached to his Slayer. The expected short life span of the Slayer was one of the reasons, the other was that it was meant to be a productive relationship and the Council viewed emotions as an obstacle to their ultimate goal – fighting evil.
"What else can you tell me about him? Did he tell you his name?" Stewart pressed, trying to gain as much information as was possible from the young girl. He knew that the key to being able to recognize this new vampire – who was undeniably an old and powerful one to have escaped an encounter with the Slayer without turning into a pile of dust – would be to examine every detail about him, no matter how small it might seem. Stewart was a very experienced researcher for the Council, and he was determined to be just as successful in his first assignment as a Watcher. He didn't like to think about the possibility that it might not be his last assignment in the field of watching; a second assignment as a Watcher meant that his protégée was dead.
"I wasn't interviewing him for a job, Stew!" Isabella exclaimed, exasperated. She was pacing the library floor from one side to the other, agitated. She wasn't upset with her Watcher, not really;, she was angry at herself for letting the vampire get away. It hadn't happened very often, let alone when she had the vampire one on one.
"Oh, yes, yes, of course, I apologize," Stewart stuttered. "It's just that every detail…" he trailed off. He picked up one of the books and began turning the pages.
"Is important," Isabella finished, plopping down on top of one of the desks. "I know, but other than his really freakish almost-completely-white hair, nothing really stood out."
"Did you just say white hair?" Steward paused his leafing of the book and looked at her from the top of his glasses. "Shoulder-length white hair?"
There was a familiar spark of excitement in the Watcher's eyes, one that Isabella knew to mean that this particular piece of information might be the breakthrough he had been waiting for. "Yes., I'm not sure about the shoulder length part, though, because his hair was tied back."
"Oh!" he exclaimed excitedly, before sobering. "Oh."
"I'm guessing it's not good?" she asked, swinging her legs beneath her.
"I need to check my books," he said, evading her question.
Stewart sighed and gave in to the question in the Slayer's eyes. "I believe that you might have run into the oldest vampire ever to be documented."
"Oh." Isabella knew that wasn't a good thing. A vampire only gained power as he got older; he might never age, but with each passing generation, his power would grow.
Stewart went inside his office and came back a minute later holding a very old and tattered book in his hands. He turned several pages, looking for the paragraph that spoke of the old vampires, and began to read aloud. "Alucard, estimated to be around three thousand years old, originated from the Indo-European people that occupied what is today known as Germany." He skimmed through several passages before he looked up at Isabella with grave eyes. "It says here that Alucard is responsible for killing at least three slayers and a dozen or so watchers."
Suddenly, losing the fight last night didn't seem like such a bad thing to Isabella. Unlike her predecessors, she had walked away from the fight still breathing. "That would explain why he was so strong," she murmured.
"I would imagine it would." Stewart took off his glasses and rubbed the lenses with a handkerchief from his pocket, a nervous habit of his for a very long time. Isabella's worry grew with each passing moment, because seeing her Watcher nervous definitely meant bad news in her book.
"But it doesn't explain why he walked out of the fight." She suspected that he had a hidden agenda—don't all evil masterminds have one up their sleeves? She had a feeling that she wasn't going to like it once she found out what it was.
"No, it doesn't," he agreed. "This only means that you will have to be very careful, Ella," he said, worry coloring his voice. The nickname he used was more evidence of how seriously concerned he was about this matter. He was the only one who ever called her by that name; her parents usually used 'Bella' if they wanted to shorten her name. Isabella secretly preferred her Watcher's nickname for her, rather than the one her parents gave her, but she was sensitive enough to not mention it to them.
"I will, I promise," she said softly. "So what do we do next? I mean, other than try to find where he's hiding and drive a stake through his heart." She grinned at the prospect of ridding the world of yet another evil creature. The thought always lifted her spirits considerably.
Stewart was in no laughing mood. "That's exactly what I don't want you to do," he stated firmly. "We need to learn as much as possible about his strengths and weaknesses before we even attempt to launch an attack on him. Alucard will no doubt be surrounded by a large amount of minions, so going in without having all the information could prove to be fatal!"
"Relax, Stew," she huffed. The old man worried too much sometimes. "I'm not about to go on a suicide mission. I happen to like living."
"Good. Now go home before your parents start worrying about your whereabouts."
"My parents aren't home yet." She shrugged.
"In that case, I wouldn't mind a hand with the research…" Stewart trailed off, hiding a smile.
"No, no, that's okay. I really should get back home, you know, homework and stuff," she said quickly as she jumped off the desk she was sitting on.
"I thought you might," Stewart murmured as he lowered his gaze to the book that he was still holding in his hands.
"Yeah, so, I'll see you tomorrow. Bye," she mumbled as she walked towards the doors of the library.
"Ella," he called, and she turned to look at him. "Be careful on patrol tonight."
"I will. Promise." She flashed him a cocky grin and stepped out into the night.
Stewart watched as she left. The cockiness of her grin had him worried, as he feared that her arrogant attitude would be her downfall. While he had a lot of faith in the abilities of the young Slayer, even the small amount of information he already had about Alucard painted him as a more than worthy opponent for her.
Stewart and Isabella had been working together almost two years, ever since she was called to duty shortly after her sixteenth birthday. He had come to respect her strength—both the mental and the physical—as well as accept that she would have a quirkiness about her that he would never fully understand.
The duties that were required of her as Slayer made it hard for her to have any close friends, and he was aware that it was something that Ella was struggling with. However, while the Council's official policy was complete discretion, Stewart believed that it was the small piece of normality that Ella insisted on maintaining that allowed her to handle her destiny as well as she had so far, surviving much longer than most of her predecessors. Slayers were known to have a very short lifespan. Stewart was one of the top researchers for the Council and he had seen the statistics; the oldest a slayer had ever reached was the age of twenty-five. Eighty percent of the slayers in the past two centuries had died before their eighteenth birthday. The odds were stacked very high against his slayer, and with the new threat in town, Stewart's worry reached a new level.
Phoenix, Arizona, September 1998
Carly Montenegro didn't come to Phoenix to make friends. In fact, she was dragged there, screaming and fighting tooth and nail against going to that stinking hellhole. Carly was a foster child. She had been in the system ever since her parents had died in a car accident when she was twelve.
She had gone through several families before ending up with the Stevensons in Phoenix, Arizona. Each family had given up on her shortly after her arrival, and Carly wasn't expecting anything different this time around. Therefore, when the girl who sat next to her in History class tried to introduce herself after class was over, Carly blew her off. She knew that it was better to not become attached to anyone because she wouldn't be staying long anyway.
Carly had been stuck in detention for being rude to a teacher, so she was late getting out of school. It was getting dark outside, but she didn't care. There was very little waiting for her in that house, and most of it would be unpleasant as soon as the Stevensons found out about her detention, so Carly walked slowly, keeping her head down and her mind focused on the blaring music coming from her headphones.
Alucard had been itching for a fresh meal, and the tall girl looked like a very good candidate. She was a little on the skinny side; dressed in the rebellious black that teens seemed to have a preference for these days. Most importantly, she was completely alone, paying attention to nothing other than the music blaring in her headphones. He hid in a dark alley a little further down the street she was walking on and waited for her to pass by.
Carly didn't even have time to scream before she was pulled into the dark alley and a cold hand covered her mouth. She tried anyway, but the sound was muffled and she knew she wouldn't be heard.
"There's no point in screaming, little girl," the monster whispered against her ear. She felt goosebumps spread over her skin and her heartbeat begin to race. She knew that nothing good could come out of the situation she currently found herself in; the best result she could hope for was that the monster behind her wanted nothing more than sex. The tone of his voice, however, made her insides turn, and she knew that she was about to die by his hands.
She whimpered when she felt him brush her dark hair away from her shoulder and his cool breath on her neck. The darkness of the alley and her spiking fear had turned her almost blind. She could never describe a single thing about the alley, but she would forever remember the sickeningly sweet voice of her attacker, and she hoped against hope that forever would mean more than the next few minutes.
"Your fear is absolutely intoxicating," the monster whispered right before she felt a sharp pain in her neck.
As her life was slowly draining away from her, Carly wondered what kind of a monster would bite their victim on the neck. The possibilities that came to her mind were irrational. There's no such thing as vampires, she thought, but the creature that held her in a vice grip, effectively paralyzing her while his mouth was attached to her throat, was very real.
Alucard rejoiced in the warm blood flowing down his throat. He had gone much too long without feeding, and there was nothing he liked more than the blood of a young innocent girl. It was spiced with just the right amount of fear and desperation. He drank slowly, savoring every drop of the precious liquid. He was so focused on his meal that he failed to realize what his senses were telling him until it was almost too late to respond. He dropped the girl and turned around just in time to find himself face to face with the Slayer.
"Didn't anyone tell you it's not polite to bite?" she quipped as she threw a punch to his face.
Alucard's head flew backwards and he stumbled over the body of the girl, almost falling to the ground. Only his quick reflexes saved him from the Slayer's next blow; a wooden stake aimed for his heart. Unfortunately, he wasn't lucky enough to escape completely unscathed; the sharp weapon plunged into his shoulder and he howled in pain.
Alucard knew when it was time to fight and when the odds were not in his favor. He would never admit to the slight pang of fear he felt at that moment, just before he turned around and disappeared into the shadows. Isabella, however, did see the flash of fear in his eyes just before he ran away, and for the first time in the past three months, she felt a sense of satisfaction.
The sense of fulfillment was short lived when she knelt next to the girl, who lay unconscious on the ground. Isabella was saddened to recognize her classmate; she hated knowing that had she been even a minute or two later, she would have lost someone she was familiar with. In the three months that had passed since Alucard's first arrival in Phoenix, too many people she knew had lost their lives.
Isabella knelt down next to Carly's body and used her own sweater to press against the open wound in Carly's neck. She knew that time was of the essence for Carly; the bleeding was slowing down, but the girl had lost a lot of blood. She debated with herself for a minute longer before picking Carly up and bursting into a run. Luckily, the hospital was a mere block away.
It always amazed Isabella how the medical staff in Phoenix was able to overlook the obvious. Of course, what's obvious to you isn't so obvious to them, she argued with herself. It had been almost an hour since she had brought Carly in, and there was still no word from the doctors. Isabella had told the doctor that she'd heard a scream and then found Carly bleeding in the alley.
Another hour passed before she saw Carly being moved to a recovery room. During that time, she called Stewart to let him know what had happened, and he told her to stay in the hospital to see how much the girl remembered. Isabella was certain that it was a waste of time; normally, victims didn't remember being attacked, and even when they did, they came up with a rational explanation to ease their mind. She had no doubt that Carly would do the same, but she trusted her Watcher, and deep down she wanted to be sure that Carly was going to be fine.
Isabella snuck inside the recovery room shortly after the medical staff left. Carly had an IV inserted in her left arm and was being infused with a bag of blood hanging on the pole next to her bed. A white bandage covered the wound on her neck, and she looked as though she was sleeping. Isabella sighed and sat down on the only chair in the room.
She hoped that Carly would wake up sooner rather than later, since she had school the next day and would have loved to get at least a few hours of sleep before classes. Fortunately, she didn't have to wait long because about thirty minutes after she came in, Carly began to come around.
Carly blinked a few times as the room came into focus. The sharp scent of detergents and the sickeningly white walls were enough to tell her that she was in a hospital. She felt a dull ache in the side of her neck and her eyes flew open when memories of what had happened flooded her mind. She gasped sharply and almost jumped out of her own skin when she noticed that she wasn't alone in the room.
"Gabriella?" she asked, her voice weak and barely above a whisper.
"It's Isabella, actually," Isabella corrected. "How are you feeling?"
"Like someone bit me on the side of my neck," Carly spat. Part of her was aware that the small girl standing in front of her couldn't possibly have been her assailant, but she was angry and the girl was a comfortable target.
Isabella was surprised by the amount of anger in Carly's voice, but she held her relaxed posture. "Well, looks like you're doing well enough."
Carly raised her hand to her neck and groaned when she noticed the tubing in her arm. "I hate needles," she grumbled.
Isabella chuckled. "I don't think anyone likes them, unless you're a doctor, and even then I'm not sure."
Carly rolled her eyes. "What are you doing here?"
"Just wanted to make sure you survived." Isabella shrugged. "I brought you to the hospital."
"Call me sentimental, but I didn't think leaving you to bleed to death was the best way to handle the situation."
Carly took a second look at the girl standing next to her bed. She was shorter than Carly by about five inches or so, but there was something about her that emitted a confidence that Carly usually associated with representatives of the law. Logically, she knew the girl in front of her wasn't a cop, but the question flew out of her mouth before she could stop herself. "Are you a cop?"
Isabella laughed. "I'm not dumb enough."
Carly smiled. It was only a slight twitch of the corner of her mouth, but it was significant; she hadn't smiled very often after losing her parents. "I think I like you."
"I think you're high."
"Are you trying to be funny?"
"Nope, it comes naturally." Isabella smiled. She began to like the tough new girl. "But seriously, how are you feeling?"
"I've told you already, like someone bit me on the neck." Carly almost missed the short flash of surprise on Isabella's face, but she was so well trained in reading people's emotions that it was enough for her to catch. "I'm not lying," she added with a frown.
"Never said you were."
"Then what's the problem?"
Isabella hesitated, trying to think of a way that she could frame her answer in an innocent-enough response so as to not arouse further suspicion. "People don't usually remember what happened just before they were attacked."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing." Isabella shrugged, trying to appear innocent.
"You're lying." Carly accused. She was used to people lying to her, but that didn't mean she liked it when they did.
"I'm not lying."
"Fine," Carly huffed. "You're omitting facts. That's just as bad as lying."
"Fine," Isabella said in the same huffing tone. "What do you think I'm 'omitting'?"
"You know what attacked me."
Isabella was stunned speechless. How could this girl have figured it out? She considered lying once again, but just like before, she chose to format her answer as truthfully as possible.
"I think I might know who attacked you."
"What was it?" Carly shot.
"What. Was. It?" Carly said each word separately. "I know I'm not crazy, and I know that that thing wasn't just your run of the mill murderer. That thing wasn't…" This time she hesitated. Even to her own ears, the idea sounded crazy, but she knew what she had seen and felt. The thing that had held her in that dark alley wasn't human.
"Human." Isabella completed for her. "It wasn't human." There was really no point in lying to the girl any longer.
"Don't," Isabella cut her off immediately. "Not here."
"Once you get out of the hospital, meet me after school in the library. I'll explain what I can."
Carly studied Isabella's face for several minutes before speaking again. "Fine."
"Try to get some sleep."
"Did anyone call my, um, parents?"
"No. I told them I didn't know who you were, just that I found you bleeding in the alley. They'll probably ask you as soon as they know you're awake." Isabella turned to leave but paused before opening the door. "I would suggest telling the doctors that you don't remember anything about your attack. It's easier that way."
"Wasn't planning on becoming Phoenix's next top lunatic," Carly said with a chuckle.
Isabella responded with a smile of her own. She opened the door and made a step to leave. "I think I like you, too," she said with a wink at Carly before shutting the door behind her.
Thank you for reading,