Black hair and a skinny face. Pale as death. I knew what I looked like and I knew why people were staring. I was malnourished, my clothes hung off of me and they felt heavier than they should have. My lips were cracked and bleeding. My eyes were sunken into my thin face. I knew my clothes were dirty and torn and that I hadn't taken a bath in a month, so I knew people could probably smell me coming. Maybe that was why they were staring.

I was only seventeen years old and had run away from home. It had been difficult, of course. I was the prince of the vampire nation. Everyone knew who I was and I needed to escape all that. Of course, there was nowhere to escape was the problem. My people were everywhere. So far, I had managed to stay out of sight of any of them, but it was only a matter of time before I bumped into another vampire.

This city, though. It was a quaint, little town, hardly big enough to be called a city. The houses were well-taken care of and there were a million little, local shops and diners. It looked like there was some celebration of some sort or something because multicolored lights were strung up everywhere around town. People were walking by, even in the middle of the night, with steaming mugs and bright-red noses. Most people avoided walking near me. I probably looked like some homeless man and they outcaste me immediately, afraid to be asked for money. I didn't want money, though.

A gust of wind flew up, spreading white, powdery snow up and everywhere. The wind pulled at my clothes, seeping through to bite at my skin wherever it could. I wrapped my arms tightly around myself and rubbed them. It had been a while since I had been able to sit warmly and comfortably, but the cold never ceased to shock me. I shivered slightly. Maybe it was warmer through the day. I wouldn't know, however, unable to go out in sunlight due to what I was.

I looked towards the sky, remembering why I had entered the city in the first place. The sun would be rising soon and I needed to find somewhere to hide away safely for the day. Mostly, I'd been staying in abandoned, old buildings, but I couldn't find any here. I could not even imagine any in this homey, little town.

I looked frantically around myself, for someplace to hide for the day. I hadn't been able to bring any money with me. My father always kept it well-hidden, only giving me any if I really needed it. I had no credit card, no cash (nothing but a twenty I had managed to find buried under a small mound of snow), and no place to stay. I was a hopeless cause. Not for the first time, I thought about just waiting for the sun to rise to end myself, but self-preservation stood in my way.

I was coming to about the middle of town when some man pushed past me, intentionally shoving his shoulder at me so that I fell over. I had not fed properly since running away. Had I, my balance and strength would have held me to stand on my feet. Though, if I were healthier, no one would be messing with me.

I watched the back of the man as he laughed with a few guy friends. It was not worth it to get back to my feet. My sitting was only attracting more attention, however. I did not want attention, for I did not want the police to find me. I did not know how far my father would go to drag me back home, but I was not putting it beneath him to involve the human justice system.

Suddenly, relief washed over me when I spotted a rather narrow alleyway. It was a small passage between a comfortable looking diner and an old store claiming to have world-winning jam.

I got back to my feet, and walked the short distance to the alleyway. I poked my head around the corner, mainly looking for stray animals or any people who might be there. It was empty but for a couple of boxes and a small, metal trash can. The boxes were piled up near the garbage bin.

By this stage in my trip from home, I had developed a noncaring attitude and my shame had left me long ago. So, when I set up one of the larger boxes and crawled into it, I didn't feel at all embarrassed by it.

I was going to have an uncomfortable day here in this box. If anything happened to bump the front or open it, I would be screwed. I knew I would get no sleep today, so I decided to catch up on it while it was still dark out. I closed my eyes and curled up a little tighter into the box. I was cramped already and was starting to rethink this whole idea. I might have left if I had anywhere else to stay or if the sun was not so close to rising.

Suddenly, I heard a door opening and I stiffened. It would not be the first time I would have been yelled at for loitering. Hopefully, this person would not notice that one of the boxes had moved off from the small pile next to the dumpster.

"Hm…" I heard someone say. It was a female whoever they were and I took the noise to mean they had noticed something odd. There was no doubt they had noticed me. Just my luck. Still, I remained in the box, hoping they had only noticed a stray cat or something.

Another noise, this time something being dropped onto the ground. Then, I heard the crunch of footsteps passing over snow and towards me. I had no time to react before the front of the box was pulled open. A girl was crouched down in front of the box. She had wavy brown hair and big brown eyes. Her face was soft and her cheeks were full and rosy. She was wearing a dark-pink sweater with a grey and pink scarf. She jumped back, with a gasp after her slow, human mind finally caught on that something was, in fact, in the box.

I got out quickly, on my shaky legs and frowned slightly. "I'm sorry," I told her. It was easier to be passive the way I was now. That way, I did not attract any unwanted attention. I noticed the back door of the diner was open. She was obviously an employee of some sort there. "I'll leave."

I turned to go, having to pass by her to get to the entrance of the alleyway. However, I had just barely gotten passed her when I felt a hand grab my shoulder. Panic caught in my throat and I shrugged out from under the hand and threw myself off balance in the process. I fell into the snow on my backside, looking upwards. The girl was hovering over me now. She tucked a loose strand of her hair behind her ear and then knelt down beside me. I flinched.

Honestly, I was not afraid of this girl. The reason I had run from home was because my father was abusive. It went far above just him trying to toughen me up. "This is for your own good, Riccardo," he often said. "You'll make a strong ruler because of this." I knew the practice was to train young princes and princesses. That it was only customary to put them through rigorous training. I knew the difference, however, between training and wailing on me. Most often, it was wailing. I constantly expected to be punched, kicked, slapped, thrown around… I had been starved and tortured to the point I could not even walk, to the point I thought I was dying. Death would have been a comfort after all that pain.

"Hey," she said, calmly. "It's okay. I'm not going to hurt you." That was probably in response to my flinching.

I stared somewhat dumbly at her. Her brown eyes were full of compassion. She looked over me and I saw them mist over. "Here," she said, reaching a hand slowly out to me. She had to be only nineteen or twenty. It was not as if this was an older woman where kindness and general compassion was expected. "Back up on your feet. Come on," she said, bending her fingers, coaxing me to grab her hand.

I cautiously put my hand in hers and she looked almost startled for a moment and I thought about pulling away, but she seemed to get over it. I allowed myself to be pulled up onto my feet and then wavered slightly, but she grabbed my shoulders and steadied me.

"Here," she said, gently, taking my hand in hers again. "Let's get you inside, where it's warm," she said. She took a small step towards the diner door and looked at me. "Come on," she coaxed.

I felt unsure about this whole situation. Why would she be so kind as this? Was she planning on calling the police once she had me inside? I wanted to run and, for a brief moment, I started to pull away. However, looking at her eyes, I could not help but trust her. She honestly looked like she wanted to help me.

I bowed my head and let myself be brought into the diner. The door was closed behind me when I entered and immediately I felt warm. I closed my eyes briefly, enjoying the feeling of heat again. I felt almost numb to it, though. I had been outside in the cold for so long that I had grown mostly accustomed to it (though it still did bother me), but to be warm again was something almost heavenly.

"Joy," someone shouted from somewhere. "Ya were out there a long time and we were goin' ta –" A big man came through a door off to the side. When it was opened, the smell of food filled the area. I could smell soup cooking and some sort of meat. Vegetables and rices. A fresh loaf of bread had to be baking. I did not eat solid food, but even I could not help but appreciate those smells. However, my worry was back. The man was staring right at me, somewhere between confusion and worry on his face.

The girl, Joy, by the looks of it, smiled at the man. "Tom," she said, somewhat firmly, "he was outside our back door in a cardboard box."

Tom shook his head. "Ya can't be pickin' up strays like this," he said. He had a slight Cajun accent and a deep rumbling voice.

Joy looked at me and then back at Tom. "In the kitchen," she told him. She turned to me and smiled. "Why don't you go sit down in a booth," she said. "I'll be back out in a minute." Joy headed through the door of the kitchen and Tom followed a moment afterward.

I looked around the rest of the restaurant to occupy my time. The floor and walls were wooded and pictures of people whom I did not know hung up on the walls. The most popular of these had to be the man, Elvis. His name was plastered across a lot of his pictures and there was quite a collection of photos and paintings of him. I did not know who he was, but I did not know a lot about pop culture, so it was to be expected of me.

"He really needs help," I heard someone yelling finally. I looked at the kitchen. It was Joy's voice. "Do you see how thin he is? And he's so young. Probably a younger than my age!"

"How do ya know he's not just some criminal runnin' from the law," Tom said. His tone was quieter, but my hearing abilities were extraordinary due to what I was and I caught the words clearly.

Joy was silent for a moment and I worried that she might take that into consideration. Again, I deliberated on whether or not to leave. "He's so jumpy," she finally said. "I think he might have run away from abusive parents. Go out there," she urged Tom, "And try to shake his hand or something. You'll see."

I did not want Tom, with his widely built shoulders and overall large frame to come near me. I stepped back towards the door. Too late, however, for Tom and Joy were coming out of the kitchen. Tom looked me over. "Hey," he said, gruffly. "I'm sorry fer actin' so rude." He offered a hand out to me, and, even though I was expecting it, I flinched away, taking a small step back. I had just proven Joy right, though, because Tom looked at Joy, with a somewhat worried look to his eyes.

I took Tom's hand in mine, trying to redeem myself. "It's alright," I said. His handshake was firm and strong, I took note. Maybe I could have matched that any other day, but I could care less by now what anyone thought of me.

Tom dropped his hand to his side. "Well, lots of work to be done in the kitchen," he said, somewhat awkwardly. "I'll see ya two later, I guess."

"See ya, Tom," Joy said brightly. As far as I could tell, her name fit her well. She turned back to me. "Tom was just worried," she told me. "I've um… helped another man before and it turned out he was a murderer." She shrugged. "I wasn't hurt, but Tom's always on guard now."

She was quick to share things about herself, which was interesting. She had no worries about what I would think? I did not understand. Though, it was almost amusing what she said. The last person she had tried to help had killed a few people. If she only knew what I was… Suddenly, I realized I had not said a word to her since she had let me inside.

"Thank you," I told her. It was the polite thing to say, but was not something I had ever actually meant before.

Joy smiled brightly. "You're welcome." She looked me over again and her eyes hovered on my torso, as if she was trying to see through my shirt. "Hm…" she said, softly. She reached out to take my hand again, and I, again, withdrew away from her. "It's alright," she cooed.

I felt like she was treating me as if I was some sort of child or frightened, stray animal. In a strange way, I felt calmed by it. Her kind words were so very different to what I received at home from my own parents.

I took her hand again, and she led me deeper into the diner. I stumbled once as I followed her, but she turned immediately to steady me and then walked at a slower pace. "This was my parents' restaurant," she babbled. I realized, suddenly, she was disturbed by my silence. Her talking was just her attempting to urge me into talking. It explained why she was sharing so much.

"Was," I questioned. "What happened to them?"

"They passed away about a year and a half ago," she explained. I had no time to react to what she said, for she stopped walking when we reached a corner booth. "Here, sit," she told me. "I asked Tom to make you some warm soup."

I took a seat in the booth and melted into the cushions. It was very well cushioned for a restaurant such as this, or maybe that was just because I had not been comfortable in a very long time. "Thank you," I told Joy again. "And I am sorry about your parents." I had nothing to compare what that would feel like. Not only had I never lost someone, but I had no one I cared about enough to liken to what it would feel like to lose them.

"Don't be," Joy told me. "I got over it." She looked off towards the kitchen again. "I'll go get you your soup. It looks like Tom's done." Joy took off for the kitchen.

I rested my arms on the table and then my head on top of that. I coughed lightly. Over the last week, my coughing had grown worse and I had feared I would come down with something, but I hoped that would be prevented with Joy taking me in like this. Of course, I did not know how long this would last. If this was just a one night thing or what.

"You aren't taking him home with you," I heard an angry voice say. It was too quiet for any human to hear, but loud enough that it had picked up my interest. Again, this was Tom. So, it seemed Joy's compassion went well passed just wanting to help me for the night. Take me home with her? I wondered how she wasn't hurt with how naively kind she was.

"Well, I can't just kick him out onto the streets," Joy was saying. "Not after this. Hey, poor man, I'll feed you, but I don't ever want to see you again. No."

"Leave him here at the diner," Tom suggested.

"No," Joy argued. "I have to turn the electricity off. You know that. I can't afford to keep this place running 24 hours." Suddenly, I heard glass scraping across some sort of surface. "Now, I'm going to take him his food and offer him to come home. If you're so worried, you can stay at my place, too."

Joy suddenly came out of the kitchen. I only knew because I heard the door open and heard her walking towards me. I picked my head up when I knew she was close enough that, if I were human, I would have finally sensed her coming.

"Hey," Joy said. She had a steaming bowl in her hands. She set it down in front of me, and then took a seat across the booth with me.

I looked down into the bowl. The inside of it was filled with some sort of white, thick substance. I saw chunks of… potato? Maybe it would have looked delicious to a human, but I knew the next few moments of my life were going to be miserable. Solid, human food was not good for vampires. Especially if the food was not organic. With all the pesticides, preservatives, and various other chemicals that humans added to their food, their food was really not good for vampires. The chemicals ate at our stomachs and other organs. Vampire digestive system was fragile and there was quite a lot that could throw it off. I'd have to stomach this, though. Joy expected that from the starving man in front of her.

"Thank you," I told Joy, looking up at her with a weak smile. I picked up a spoon set out on the table and dipped it into the bowl. I brought the spoon to my lips and tried to hold a straight face at the food. It was thicker than blood and the consistency was far different than what I was used to. It was warm, for which I was glad, but I could not get past how slimy it was. I fought the urge to gag and instead forced it down my throat.

"You must be so hungry," Joy said. I looked at her and she had raw pity in her eyes. I nodded. "It's been a while since I ate properly," I agreed. I took another forced mouthful of soup and forced it down my throat. It tasted different, too. I knew that some vampires, a small portion, ate little nibbles of human food every now and again, remembering when they had been human, but I had never been human. The food was gross and unnatural to me.

Joy seemed pleased, however, so my acting skills were far more advanced than I thought.

I was almost rushing to get the bowl finished now, only hoping she would not bring out a second for me. After a while, the taste and consistency became easier to deal with and I had no problem keeping a straight face with every gulp. It was warm, too, and I was rapidly becoming aware of how exhausted I was. However, my stomach was starting to feel unsettled.

"How old are you," Joy asked me, suddenly.

I set the spoon down, glad of an excuse to do so. "Seventeen," I told her. It was easier to stick as close to the facts as possible, so that I would not get mixed up later.

Joy looked concerned, but I saw a spark in her eye, suddenly. "Oh, wow, I never told you my name," she said, not realizing I had picked it up from Tom earlier. She held her hand out to me, as if I was supposed to shake it. In my society, a lady's hand was not meant to be shaken, however, and I was unsure for a moment what to do with it. Not wanting to come off strange to her, however, I took her hand and shook it as I had done Tom's earlier.

"My name is Riccardo," I told her. I knew it was not wise to let out my real name, but I did not want to keep track of a heap of lies. Besides, I already knew it was inevitable my father would find me. I was only delaying the time by continuously running.

"And I am Joy," she told me, smiling.

My stomach suddenly heaved, and I felt the color leave my face. I started to get up out of my seat, so I would not throw up all over the floor, but everything spun around me and I suddenly found myself on all fours on the floor.

"Riccardo," I heard Joy question, frantically, and I was aware of her rising, and coming towards me.

I felt my stomach turn over again and the soup I had just eaten forced its way back up my throat. It landed with a sickening splattering sound all over the floor. When I opened my eyes, I saw that some blood had come up with it. Just a few days ago, I had found a homeless man wandering the streets. He had been easy to take out, and his blood had kept me going for the past few days. I did not understand how I could still have had some in my stomach when my body so obviously should have soaked it up immediately, but there it was.

"Oh my – Tom," Joy yelled.

My arms felt weak and I closed my eyes again. My stomach ached and my throat did as well.

I felt strong hands suddenly grip my shoulders and felt myself pushed back against the wall… or something similar.

"We need to get him to a hospital," Joy said. "Look how much blood came up.

I could not go to the hospital. Not with what I was. My heart beat slower than a human's, my blood was thicker and of a different type, and I did not even have the same organs. My very temperature would be a shocker, for it hovered roughly around 68 degrees. No, the hospital would be curious, they would find out I was different, and I'd be sent to a lab.

I looked at Joy and shook my head. "No," I said. "I can't… I have no money. You can't pay for that." I coughed again, only slightly, for which I was glad. "This is nothing I need to go to the hospital about."

I turned and suddenly noticed that Tom was sitting next to me. He still had a hand on my shoulder from when he had pulled me back into a sitting position. It was funny, I had not even heard him come out.

"I will get better," I told Joy, looking back at her. She and Tom were sharing worried looks.

"Some people just don' like ta go ta the hospital," Tom said with a shrug. He helped me to my feet. "Ya need ta lie down, though."

I nodded limply. I was safe from the hospital at least. Just a little more time added before my father finds me, was my last thought before my consciousness was lost.

Author's Note: Hey, everyone. Trying to make a come-back. I probably won't be continuing A Rose in the Rage because I reread it and my writing was terrible. I will, I promise, rewrite it, though. Should be interesting. I'll start on that soon. Summer's coming up for me and I hope to continue Eric and Ava's story because they've both come a long way as characters since then and I've come a long way as a writer. As for this story, it's kind of alternate Eric. For example, if Eric had changed into a different person due to Demetri beating him.