Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (Page 126)

I waited silently.

“When Victor couldn’t get to your father, I had him learn more about you. What’s the sense in running all over the planet chasing you down when I could comfortably wait for you in a place of my choosing? After Victor gave me the information I needed, I decided to come to Phoenix to pay your mother a visit. I’d heard you say you were going home. At first, I never dreamed you meant it. But then I wondered. Humans can be very predictable; they like to be somewhere familiar.

“And wouldn’t it be the perfect ploy, to go to the last place you should be when you’re hiding—the place that you said you’d be.

“But of course I wasn’t sure, it was just a hunch. I usually get a feeling about the prey that I’m hunting, a sixth sense, if you will. I listened to your message when I got to your mother’s house, but of course I couldn’t be sure where you’d called from. It was very useful to have your number, but you could have been in Antarctica for all I knew, and the game wouldn’t work unless you were close by.

“Then your friends got on a plane to Phoenix. Victor was monitoring them for me, naturally; in a game with this many players, I couldn’t be working alone. And so they told me what I’d hoped—what I’d sensed—that you were here after all. I was prepared; I’d already been through your charming home movies. And then it was simply a matter of the bluff.

“Very easy, you know, not really up to my standards. So, you see, I’m hoping you’re wrong about the girl. Edythe, isn’t it?”

I didn’t answer. My bravado was wearing off. I could tell she was coming to the end of her monologuing, which I didn’t get the point of anyway. Why explain to me? Where was the glory in beating some weak human? I didn’t feel the need to rub it in to every cheeseburger I conquered.

“Would you mind, very much, if I left a little letter of my own for Edythe?”

She took a step back and touched a palm-sized digital video camera balanced carefully on top of the stereo. A small red light indicated that it was already running. She adjusted it a few times, widened the frame.

“I don’t think she’ll be able to resist hunting me after she watches this.”

So this explained the gloating. It wasn’t for me.

I stared into the camera lens.

My mother was safe, but Edythe wasn’t. I tried to think of anything I could do to stop this from happening, to keep that video out of her hands, but I knew I wasn’t fast enough to get to the camera before the tracker stopped me.

“I could be wrong about her level of interest,” Joss went on. “Obviously, you’re not important enough for her to decide to keep you. So… I’ll have to make this really offensive, won’t I?” She smiled at me, then turned to smile at the camera.

She stepped toward me, still smiling. “Before we begin…”

I’d known I was going to die. I’d thought I was prepared for that. I hadn’t considered any other version but this—she would kill me, drink my blood, and that would be the end.

There was a different version after all.

I felt numb, frozen.

“I’m going to tell you a story, Beau. Once, a long time ago, my prey escaped me. Shocking, I know! It only happened the one time, so you can imagine how it’s haunted me. It was a similar situation in many ways. There was a delicious human boy—he smelled even better than you do, no offense—but only one vampire protected him. It should have been a very easy meal. However, I underestimated the boy’s protector. When she knew I was after her little friend, she stole him from the asylum where she worked—can you imagine the degradation? Actually working a human job for your food?” She shook her head in disbelief. “As I was saying, she took him from the asylum, and once she freed him she made him safe. He was important enough to her, but then, he was special. A hundred years earlier he would have been burned at the stake for his visions. In the nineteen-twenties it was the asylum and the shock treatments. Poor boy—he didn’t even seem to notice the pain of his transformation. When he opened his eyes, it was like he’d never seen the sun before. The old vampire made him a strong new vampire, and there was no reason for me to touch him then, no blood to enjoy.” She sighed. “I destroyed the old one in vengeance.”

“Archie!” I breathed.

“Yes, your friend. I was so surprised to see him in the clearing. This is why I’ve told you my story—to bring them comfort. I get you, but they get him. My one lost quarry—quite an honor, actually.

“I still regret that I never got to taste…”

She took another step toward me. Now she was just inches away. She leaned her face in closer to me, stretching up on her toes so that her nose could skim up the side of my throat. The touch of her cold skin made me want to recoil, but I couldn’t move.

“I suppose you’ll do,” she said. “But not quite yet. We’ll have some fun first, and then I’ll call your friends and tell them where to find you—and my little message.”

I was still numb. The only thing I was starting to be able to feel was my stomach, rolling with nausea. I stared into the camera, and it was like Edythe was already watching.

The tracker stepped back and began to circle me casually, like she was trying to get a better view of a statue in a museum. Her face was still friendly as she decided where to start. And then her smile got wider and wider and wider till her mouth was just a gash full of teeth. She slumped forward into a crouch.

I didn’t see what part of her hit me—it was too fast. She just blurred, there was a loud snap, and my right arm was suddenly hanging like it wasn’t connected to my elbow anymore. The very last thing was the pain—it lanced up my arm a long second later.

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