Chapter 1

Ok, I know you all are wondering what the hell is going on with this story, so let me give you a quick explanation. I've been trying to edit this story for the past few months, however after reviewing the first few chapters, I got so disgusted with my writing that I just decided to bag it and start over. I know it's very inconvenient timing on my part, but I also ran into a few continuity problems and simple editing just wasn't going to fix them.

I'm leaving the other story up for another month, for personal reasons I won't go into right now. I apologize to all of you that loved my other story, but I promise you'll like this one more. It's going to make a lot more sense this way, I promise. And my writing has matured a lot since I wrote the beginning of that story.

There are a few differences and changes in this story, but the characters and plot are all the same. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, just send me a private message. My email is on my bio page.

Chapter 1

It is a universally acknowledged truth that every princess has a prince charming.

I think mine got run over by a truck.

Yes, that's right, in my world, I'm the princess, the head honcho, the whole enchilada. It means that what I say goes, for the almost 500,000 Hunters under my command. It means that I get to travel all over the world and see all kinds of places and people. It means that I can get a pizza from Italy with just an order and a snap of my fingers.

It also means that I have to take responsibility for said 500,000 Hunters, their actions, the actions of their families etc. It means filling out report after report, conference calls, administrative duties, meeting after boring meeting, sleepless nights, migraines, 12 hour Hunting shifts every other night.

And then of course there was AP Calculus.

As if being a teenager wasn't hard enough.

I know I know, in all those fairy tales like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White, the princesses were all beautiful, graceful, kind and flawless women who wore pretty dresses, said all the right things, met really hot studs and lived happily ever after.

Fairy tales lie.

I've been a princess for seventeen and a half years, and I'm awkward, flat-chested, clumsy, cranky, not to mention fashion-challenged. And I had no illusions that I'd ever be otherwise. I could only dream, or get implants…

But I was pretty, in a cute, cuddly sort of way. At least that was what I'd been told. At 5'5" I could only be considered tall at a midget convention, my pale porcelain skin missed being fashionable by about a century and my long, beautiful soft and silky black hair was ruined by the unruly locks that forced me to keep it eternally bound in the tightest French braid I could manage. But thankfully I did have one redeeming quality. My eyes. They were a blue so deep and rich that they looked like sapphires in the moonlight. They were what my vanity reflected upon whenever I was sitting next to someone like Felicity Watson.

I spared a glance to the girl that was seated on the other side of the booth. Blonde, gorgeous green eyes and legs that went on forever. Yeah, I was jealous, alright, not so much her looks as her life. She had one, I didn't. Simple as that. Well, at least not one that included guys who wanted to suck out your tonsils rather than your blood.

"Gwen." My head shot up and out of my reverie as I gazed over at Felicity, a teenage girl just a year younger than me. And the girl who'd managed to get me an invite to this exclusive party at such a late date. "I asked if you wanted something to drink."

I glanced around at all the other teenagers and saw them drinking hard liquor, and resisted the strong urge to shake my head. "I'll have a coke." I responded, trying my best to look sheepish at requesting such a "lame" drink at this "cool" party. Fortunately for my brain cells, however, I had too much secretive information to risk getting plastered. Not to mention the fact that if a vampire did show up tonight, it would make my life a lot easier if I could actually stay on my feet while I fought it. Felicity of course was totally oblivious to the real reasons, she just thought I was just new to the whole party scene. Little did she now that I'd been attending parties like these since I'd completed my basic training three and a half years ago.

She shot me an understanding smile and took off to get our drinks.

I closed my eyes, tried to block out the loud, blaring noise coming from the surround sound speakers on stage in the club, and attempted to sense any vampires that might be lurking about, looking for some juicy, red hot blood fresh out of the spicket of the first mortal they could get their hands on.

Gods I hated Friday nights. Stupid teenagers thought it would be fun to have an after-hours party, get drunk and/or high, and do who knows what else people who actually have lives do. Vampires on the other hand, thought it would be fun to drink said teenagers blood and kill them. I, however, didn't find it at all fun to spend my Friday nights protecting these stupid teenagers from vampires, because they were too plastered to care what happened.

But I was duty bound as not just a member, but the leader of The Hunter Clan, to do just that. Didn't mean I had to like it though.

Despite what you might read in those stupid vampire-hunter romance novels, hunting vampires was not fun, nor was it in the least bit romantic. It was messy, exhausting, not to mention painful. Like now, for instance, I was starting to get a migraine from the loud music that was quite literally vibrating through the walls and floor. And it was only going to get worse if a vampire showed up tonight.

Especially since I wasn't in my usual comfortable hunting attire. Oh no, if I'd showed up at this party in black baggy camo pants, lace-up knee high boots, and a tight black tank top, I'd have been laughed out of this spoiled-prep wanna-be pimp party and given directions to the nearest gothic freak show. I think I hated teenagers almost as much as Friday nights.
Felicity never came back with my coke. I spotted her sometime later on the dance floor gyrating with some guy that looked old enough to be one of my teachers. Sighing and muttering to myself about what a long night it was going to be, I sauntered over to the bar on the other side of the night-club. I ordered my coke, and got an inquisitive look from the bartender for my trouble. He was the one serving alcohol to kids as young as fourteen and he thought I was doing something wrong? Right.

I just sat there at the bar on the stool and drank my coke like a good little girl. Sometimes it pisses me off that while I am off busting my ass and getting my ass busted nearly every other night to keep people like this safe, these spoiled little brats turn around and decide to spend their free time getting drunk, high and sleeping around. I didn't even have time to sleep, let alone act like an idiot. There were times when I actually thought about tossing up the gauntlet and leaving said idiots to fend for themselves, let them get a taste of the real world. But my damned sense of honor wouldn't let me do it. It forced me to get up in the morning, go to school, train, hunt and do all those things that a proper Matriarch is supposed to do without complaining. Out loud at least. I could whine as much as I wanted to in my head.

And speaking of complaining…

I'd just finished my soda when the hairs on the back of my neck came to attention. And that familiar cold, dark feeling in the pit of my stomach that appeared whenever a vampire was around, spread like a wildfire throughout my entire body.

Damn. There had to be at least two. And they weren't rookies either. Was it too much to ask for an uneventful evening, once just once?

Blowing a few stray tendrils of hair away from my face, I slowly turned in my stool, and gestured for the bartender to give me a refill. While he complied with my request, my eyes scanned the room until I spotted my quarry. They had both found dance partners early on, although to be quite frank it looked like they were doing a little more than dancing. The phrase "get a room" came to mind.

Now all I had to do was figure out how to lure them away…It wouldn't do to kill them right in front of the whole room. Even though most of these kids were totally plastered, something told me that when those vampires went up in flames, literally, after I stabbed them in the heart with one of my specially-made blades, it would be the equivalent of a couple of cups of coffee and an ice cold shower to these delinquent teens. Mass panic and hysteria would ensue, as would a huge lecture from one or more of my brothers after I got home.

If I'd been as sexy as say, Felicity Watson, or those girls they were dancing with, I might have been able to seduce them away, but as it was, I had to make do with what I had. And what I had was…the fire alarm!

As casually as I could manage in three inch spike heels and a levi miniskirt, I got up and walked over to the wall by the bar, double checked to make sure no one was looking, caught sight of the vampires one more time to make sure I wouldn't lose them in the crowd, and I yanked forcibly down on the lever.

Immediately, the high-pitched screeching overpowered the deep bass beats coming from the speakers, and the bright white lights pierced through the strobe lights like butcher knives. For a few moments, it seemed like no one had noticed, but then as if by mass consensus, people began screaming and making a mad dash for one of the four exits in the club. I watched as the two vampires exited discreetly out the back.

I allowed myself a small smirk of satisfaction before going easily out the door behind the bar that led into the kitchen where I knew there was an emergency exit outside. Apparently everyone but the staff had overlooked it.

As soon as I stepped out into the cool crisp fall spring air, I took a deep breath and tried to scent the vampires. There is no real explanation to do justice to the way a vampire smells. It's like trying to explain how B.O. smells to someone who's never smelled it before. The most you can say is that it's bad. Well, vampires smell bad. Human noses aren't developed enough to smell it, a fact for which they should be very grateful.

My olfaction senses however are very acute, as is my hearing, my eyesight/nightvision and I could bench press 150 pounds without breaking a sweat. I guess Hunters have to have something to make up for their lousy jobs.

It took a little longer than I would have liked, but my senses were still reeling from all the overpowering odors and sounds in the club. But, I finally caught their trail and took off.

They were just around the block, and the fact that they hadn't moved on told me that they'd found their prey and were planning on feeding very soon, if they hadn't already. Vampires almost always killed the humans they drank from. The only exceptions I'd ever found were if they were planning to turn the human (which would require a blood exchange), or if they were old and powerful enough to withstand the urge to kill and drain only enough blood to tie the human to them.

Tying a human to a vampire was a tricky business. But if the vampire was powerful enough, he/she could certainly do it. It never turned out well for the human though. Vampires treat those humans tied to them like pets. I'm not even kidding. It's sick really. I've only run into a couple myself, but though their minds and bodies and souls are intact they have only one purpose: to serve the vampire they're bound to. The few that I have met all went to their masters willingly and continue to serve said masters, jovially even. As though by binding their human souls irrevocably to a vampire's damned one, they'd been done a favor. Like I said, sick.

But these vampires weren't looking for a servant, they were powerful, but not that powerful. And they weren't old enough to successfully turn a human, which meant that all they wanted was a midnight snack.

As soon as I rounded the last corner of the block, I came to an abrupt halt. The spring breeze played with the loose wisps of hair that had come loose from my braid. One of these days I swear I was going to hack all of it off and be done with it. But for now, I had to satisfy myself with tucking the unruly curls behind my ears.

I looked down at myself with a slight grimace. I could deal with the halter top and believe it or not the heels could actually come in pretty handy during a fight, but I was seriously regretting my decision to wear the skirt. I was half-tempted to cut the damned thing off, but it was the only article of clothing I owned that was slutty enough to get me into the kinds of after-hours parties they held in Washington D.C. on Friday nights. Besides, fighting vampires in my skivvies probably wouldn't be the best idea.

Pausing only long enough to grab the knives I'd pinned to the lining inside of my skirt, I continued down the street, careful to keep my steps soft and silent, my breathing even and controlled. The vampires were probably in such a fever of anticipation for blood, that they wouldn't have heard a bomb go off across the street, but I hadn't stayed alive this long by being careless.

The long street stretched on both sides for at least another mile, though there were lanes and alleys separating the shops that lined it. At least it wasn't a residential road. The last thing I needed right now was for some nosy neighbor to look out their window and see a teenage girl carrying two nine-inch blades. People tended to be a bit sensitive about things like that these days.

The farther I went, the stronger the stench got and that ice cold weight in the bottom of my stomach seemed to get larger with every step I took. My hands clenched unconsciously around the knives, and my fingernails dug into the bottoms of my palms. The hot adrenaline pumping through my veins clashed with the chill clinging to my bones. It wasn't fear though, oh no. I'd stopped being afraid of vampires a long time ago. But their presence always made me edgy, and I lusted for the kill every bit as much as they lusted for theirs.

I heard them before I ever saw them. Not only could I smell the metallic scent of blood on the air, but I could hear the vampires gulping it down like chocolate milk. I would have shuddered, but I was so used it by now that I hardly even noticed it.

They were already drinking from their victims. I only hoped that I wasn't too late to save them. I really wasn't in the mood to deal with dead bodies at the moment, the guilt that would come with not being able to save them.

I shook myself to rid my head of these thoughts. I couldn't afford to let myself get distracted even for a moment. Not now. Not unless I wanted to be a dead body. And boy wouldn't that just make my night.

I made a sharp right down an alley between a clothes store and an antique shop, and there they were.

Vampires looked like humans, so long as they maintained a regular diet of blood. The only way for a human to really tell if it was a vampire was to cut it. Vampires don't bleed as a rule. The blood they drain from their victims is absorbed by the heart, and is not redistributed throughout the body. It is the heart that keeps them alive, ironically enough, and the heart that is the key to killing them. Give one a good stab with a knife and it's bye bye birdie. It wasn't the only way to kill one, but it was my personal favorite. Up close and personal. Good anger management therapy.

I leaned up against the brick wall of the clothing shop and cleared my throat as I watched the vampires take their fill of the human girls. One vampire had his victim up against the wall only a few feet away while the other pinned his girl to the ground with his own body. Obviously they'd never learned proper table etiquette. Miss Manners would be appalled.

The girls were blissfully oblivious. These vampires were apparently powerful enough to keep their victims' minds occupied with happy thoughts while they killed them. How very thoughtful.

I cleared my throat loudly, in an attempt to get their attention, feigning nonchalance. Both vampires drew back from their victims with an alarmed start. The girl who'd been up against the wall slumped to the ground with a slight groan, but the euphoric smile remained. I couldn't see the other one, but I didn't have to, to know that she was in the same state as her companion.

It took the vampires a few moments to register who, or rather what I was, before the first one backed up slightly so that he was in-line with his partner. "Hello, boys." I flashed them my best professional smile, which was as cold and empty as their graves. "Now, didn't your mothers teach you not to play with your food?"

In one swift movement, they crouched down low in a defensive posture in perfect unison and hissed at me. I'm serious, vampires hiss at you when they're pissed. I can't count the number of times I've gotten vampire saliva sprayed on my face and clothes. It's downright irritating. But at least this time I was far enough away to escape the blast zone.

I played with the knives in my hands a little, swung them around with my fingers, allowed my quarry to see just how good I was, just enough to put them on edge.

Their elongated fangs glinted menacingly in the moonlight. Their eyes glowed an eerie red, a side effect of the blood frenzy from feeding. We stared each other down for a few moments, waiting for the other to make the first move. Until finally, the second vampire, moving faster than any human eye could see, pounced.

I easily dodged him by stepping to the side before bringing up my knife and stabbing him in the back, twisting the blade as I went. The moment I removed it, his body disintegrated in a fine mist of ash that dissipated on the night winds.

The other attacked the moment I stabbed his friend, only this one was more intelligent, not by much, but I had to give the guy credit. Not only did he let the other one create the distraction, he went for my legs, rather than my arms.

We went down together and hit the ground with a hard thud. He immediately came over top of me, using all of his strength to hold me down to the ground. One arm was pinned above my head, the other right beside it. His legs were attempting to hold mine down, but even though he was stronger, I was a hell of a lot smarter.

This time around I decided to take a page out of the vampires' book. I craned my neck up and bit him. Hard. My jaws clamped down on his ear, and ripped away ruthlessly, dragging away a little flesh along with it. I resisted the strong urge to gag and spit out the portion of ear I'd torn from his body. Blood spurted out of the side of his head like a fountain, and an ear-piercing shriek of pain filled the air.

He didn't let up his hold entirely. He was probably too much in shock to do that, but he was no longer using his full strength, and I was able to tuck my legs up against my chest before extending them above me.

The vampire rolled over the top of my head, and with one short, decisive move, I flipped over on top of him and plunged the knife as deep as it would go, again twisting it to make sure that the heart would be destroyed. His blood red eyes rolled into the back of his head, and he let out one more deafelning shriek before he too was reduced to nothing more than dust in the wind.

Groaning, I sat back on my haunches, stretching out my arms before me, turning them this way and that to make sure that nothing had broken. I winced a little when pain shot up my left elbow, but the bones were fine, I'd just sprained it. Again. but it wasn't anything that a couple of Advil and a Hershey's bar wouldn't fix. It'd be back to normal by tomorrow afternoon, Hunters had an annoying habit of healing ten times faster than the average human. The sooner you got healed up the sooner you could do something that would force you to need to heal again.

And speaking of healing—my good arm came up and rubbed cautiously at my right ear. And sometimes having extremely acute hearing really sucked. Like when a vampire decided to shatter your ear-drum as his final revenge against you. If I kept this up I was going to need hearing-aids by the time I was thirty.

My eyes drifted over to the girls who had now lost their smiles and were laying unmoving on the ground. Oh, please don't let them be dead. I pleaded to whomever might be listening at the moment.

I replaced my knives in their sheathes inside my skirt and rushed over to the one who was closest to me, and checked her pulse. It was weak, but it was there. After I checked the second girl and discovered that though critically weakened, she was still alive, I used one of my knives and cut a shallow wound on my wrist and watched as my blood bubbled to the surface.

I bent over the first girl and let some of my blood drip onto the bite wound on her neck. It took only a few drops before the mark receded completely. Hunters' blood had special healing properties. When spread on a mortal's skin it healed just about any external wound. Unfortunately, our blood wasn't compatible with human blood, so it wasn't able to fix any internal wounds, but for the moment, I was only worried about making sure that no one found out about the vampiric side of the world. It wouldn't do to send the girls to the hospital with a bite mark on the neck and half their blood supply missing. It wouldn't take a genius to figure that one out.

I preformed the same ritual on the other girl before pulling my cell phone out of my pocket. I dialed 911, told them that there were two girls who were seriously injured, gave them the address, then hung up before they could ask me anything else. Anonymity was sort of a requirement in my line of work.

I stayed with the girls until I heard the sirens. Then I took off across the street and waited until I saw the ambulance stop before I turned and continued walking down the street. I didn't bother looking back. The girls would be fine.

Glancing down at my watch, I sighed and stuck both of my hands in my pockets. I had just enough time to get home and change before I had to be on a plane to L.A. to meet with the district leaders on the West Coast in a few hours. It would be the third day in a row that I'd gone without any sleep.

I let out a small breath of air and gazed up at the stars longingly. The sirens were fading away with every step I took, and the only thing I could really hear was the wind as it teased the leaves in the bushes planted in the sidewalk, and the metallic clink of my shoes as they hit the pavement uninhibited.

So intent was I, on listening to the sweet silence that filled the night sky, that I failed to notice the shadow creeping up slowly behind me. It wasn't until I felt the cold bite of steel pressing into my lower back that I realized I was in trouble…

A/n: Ok, the second chapter is already written, I just have to wait for my beta to finish editing it. I should have it up by next week.

Please review and tell me what you think.