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Darkest Hour

(Edward pov.) "There was a bad hour," she whispered. "He decided to go hunting." - What did Alice see and what made Edward change his mind at the last minute in Volterra?


1. Chapter 1

Rating 5/5   Word Count 2073   Review this Chapter

It was the soft footfalls against the dew damp cobblestones that echoed like a phantom heartbeat inside my head.

I followed the sound in Volterra’s pre-dawn darkness, blending in seamlessly with the gray shadows. Stealth was second nature to me and not something I had to think about. It was as easy as breathing and just as involuntary.

Hunting a human, however, was my choice.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and in these darkest hours of my pathetic immortal existence I am a desperate man. With suicide being an impossibility and death denied to me, hunting on forbidden ground would be an easy antagonism. Certainly the Volturi will kill me for this.

“Bastards.” I hiss with barely a sound. “Couldn’t kill me when I asked them to, damn it.”

But is this horrible nightmare justification for the life I’m contemplating to end?

I keep pace with my prey, a middle aged man that reeks of whiskey from twenty feet away. I can hear his troubled thoughts, almost feel the anger and violence brimming beneath his alcoholic stupor. It’s a pale image of my own impotent rage. It makes the thirst burning in my throat and twisting in my stomach that much more potent.

Even as I function on this most basic level, stalking silently, my inner turmoil has me far away from the reality of this narrow street in this ancient city.

I’m already with her.

I do not dare think her name. It is hard enough to breathe picturing her face in my mind. And I see her so clearly, just as she was the last time I saw her. Skin whiter than bone, lips trembling and her chocolate eyes lost in a chaotic maelstrom of painful emotion.

Those last moments with her have haunted me. At first it was all I could think about. Seeing her pain and knowing that she believed my carefully phrased lies was… hell. I thought I would kill me to walk away. Instead it killed her.

I only wanted her to live without the constant danger I brought to her life. I wanted her to have a future. She deserved far better than eternal damnation. She was my saving grace. How could I turn her into a monster?

I promised I would not return. I promised her no reminders. It would be easier for her to move on if I cut ties quickly and completely. I knew it would take a little time but she was human and humans are known for their amazing adaptability and resiliency. She would get over this dangerous infatuation and forget me. At least, that’s what I told myself.

Alice warned me but I did not listen. I was stubborn, arrogant really, and utterly convinced that my plan was the only way. And yet I had a moments doubt when I watched the last shred of hope die in her eyes. I do not think I’d ever seen her look quite so fragile, not even when James had done his worst, as she did when my heartless words finally hit their mark.

She promised she would not do anything stupid. I made her say it and I convinced myself it was enough. I should have known better. I should have expected something like this to happen. It was slowly killing me to be apart from her, how small minded of me not to realize that the same would apply in reverse.

Now the time has come to end this. She has gone to a better place, a place I’ll never touch. And there are no words in any damn language that could even begin to describe this horrible, excruciating feeling churning inside me as I embrace the fact that I’ll never see her smile again.

I would give anything for one moment with her. Just so once more I could hold her close. I‘ve missed her for so long, even while my memories will never fade. With uncanny clarity I can recall the warmth of her skin, warmer than a ray of sunlight. A warmth I would steal for myself. My guilty pleasure.

The memory of her scent plays around the edges of my thoughts, dancing in and out weaving an intricate trail of freesia and lavender with a hint of jasmine and wild flowers, soft and floral yet mouthwatering in its delicacy.

And in response my chest tightens painfully as my throat catches fire, the intensity of my thirst rivaling my heartbreak.

First and last I am always a monster. Always.

And can she see me now, I wonder, hunting a defenseless, unaware human in the shadows of the coming dawn? Is she disappointed in me? Or revolted? Would she fear me now as she rarely did when she was alive?

No! I will not think of that. I am acting out of necessity. I am being driven to do this ghastly deed. I can hear Demetrius and Felix moving in the fading dark, watching. Waiting. I can hear from their thoughts how anxious they are for action. Seems I am the first prospect for a good fight that they have had in decades.

I’ve only to make the move, close in the remaining distance and take down my prey. The moment blood is spilled I will have broken their precious rules and they will have no choice but to end my pathetic existence.

The anticipation of oblivion makes my hands shake slightly. I can not endure this… this… aching pressure much longer. It rips at me, clawing and tearing away my sanity. I’m crumbling away, the little bits of me falling to a place seeped in black where only death is company. Only fitting, I think.

And so what if there is a hell? I don’t give a damn. Anything, even a burning pit of sulfur, would be better than the empty agony crushing me. I’ll never reach heaven so I will settle for fire. And maybe, just maybe, there is nothing at all. Endless nothing. Now there is a comforting thought.

If I kill this man I will deserve hell and every torture the demons there could give me. Not that I don’t already. This is not the first human I’ve killed in cold blood. I’ve enough blood on my hands to stain the streets of Volterra and then some.

And now I have her blood on my hands too.

Why Bella? Her name tears through me, catching the breath in my throat. I cast my eyes up to the faintly grey sky. Why couldn’t you let me go? Or just hold on a little longer? I would have caved. I would have come back, promise or no promise.

But she did not know that. She had no reason to suspect my weakness.

It would have been better if I had killed her in that first moment, in that stupid classroom with all those silly children. Then the world would know me for what I am. A blood thirsty demon.

From up ahead the man turns, looking over his shoulder as the first spark of awareness penetrates his drunken daze. He realizes he’s not alone even thought my footsteps make no sound, or none that he could hear anyhow. Does he feel as if he’s being watched? Are the first tendrils of fear curling in his gut?

Of course. I can hear his scattered thoughts, a rambling jumble of Italian. But I don’t waste time translating. I push it away to join the usual hum of voices in the back of my mind.

I shy away from the part of me that is appalled, instead embracing the monster that is teeming with anticipation. Fear is a stimulus for my kind. I can smell his as he begins to walk faster and with less coordination. I advance on him five feet in less than a second.

I’m close enough that I can hear his heartbeat. It is loud and racing madly, foreign and intrusive to the early morning stillness. Not at all like her heartbeat, a sound I would know and welcome anywhere.

The man looks back again. This time he stumbles, barely catching himself against the stone wall. I close in another five feet.

The man looks around, eyes panicked.

“Hello?” He calls out, his native language slurred. “Anyone there?”

I continue creeping toward him, unseen in the darkness.

“I know someone’s there! Show yourself!”

His voice wavers and I smile in triumph. He sacred whittles, huddling against the wall as a nameless threat looms just beyond where he can see. Fear has him paralyzed. The alcohol is making his imagination far worse than reality. But I will not torture this man. I prefer masochism to sadism.

In the time it takes him to blink I am across the street. The dawn is growing brighter and I use that to my advantage as I step from the shadows, seeming to bleed out from them. The man gasps, his eyes going wide.

I can imagine I must look a fright. My skin his corpse white, my eyes gaunt and black as pitch and my hair is probably a mess from the countless times I’d run my hands through it. I bet I look like a classic vampire. Or maybe a B movie zombie.

I have the strange urge to laugh simply because I can’t cry.

“Wh..what are y..yo…yyou? The man stutters. A drop of sweat drips off his chin.

Before it hits the ground I have the man by the collar of his shirt. All else fades as his staccato gasps of breath create a harmony to match the frantic pacing of his hart. His terror is as fragrant as a fine wine as he sees nothing but death in my eyes.

I should go in for the kill. The demon in me is straining, clawing, yowling to break free. And I can imagine it, the earthy taste of his blood, hot and rich as I drink it greedily. Venom is coating my mouth. My throat is burning with thirst and my stomach twists in vague response.

And still the humanity resurrected in me stays my hands from quickly breaking the man’s neck.

Here I stand on a precarious edge. My life is over. Its meaning, its purpose is gone with her smile. I’ve nothing left to give. So why do I care? Why should I not do what it is in my nature to do?

Presume not that I am the thing I was. Perhaps there is truth in that quote. She made me more… or rather made me want to be more. And Carlisle too. How could I forget the decades of his patient mentoring?

I’m sure Alice is watching and I would rather not have my last moments remembered by committing a murder. If I do this it would not only disappoint Carlisle but it would be disrespectful to Bella and to what she represented for me. A blasphemy of the things she made me feel. I owe them all more than this.

My life is over… but not his.

My thoughts turn their circle in scantly more than two heartbeats. With concentrated effort and a sardonic smile, I release the man’s collar from my fist and straighten it with jerky movements. “This is your lucky night.”

“Dddon’t hurt mme…” He mumbles, his voice catching on a whimpering sob.

Taking a step back I roll my eyes. “Go home. Sober up. Or I might change my mind.”

When the man looks at me, I give him a light shove. “Go damn it!”

This time he jerks away from the wall and stumbles away as fast as his wobbly feet can carry him. From the shadows I hear Felix heave a disappointed sigh.

“Don’t fret gentlemen. I’ve a better idea.” I say to the watching shadows.

Today is Saint Marcus Day. The streets will soon be overflowing with locals and visitors all intent on celebrating and having a memorable day. What could be more memorable than seeing a real live vampire sparkling in the sun?

In the main square, I realize. The more witnesses would mean a quick and speedy reaction. No one will be hurt but me and that is how it should be. Bella brought me into the light and that is how I’m going to go out. Throwing rainbows and all.

A humorless chuckle escapes me as I start off toward the palazzo.

Once again I look up to the sky. The hue of grey is turning blue around the edges. The walls in the ancient city are high and it will be while before the sun is over head. I will bear the pain a little longer and immerse myself in her memory for company.

So be it. Death can wait until noon.