Okay, so what if...
An icy breeze, carrying with it the season's first snowflakes, a shimmering dust visible in glimpses only, darting about like hovering insects, left the air gun-metal cold.
What little warmth remained, was held within the blanketing pine grove on the forest floor. A nearly impassable thicket of brush stretching from one trunk to another, and growing upward sometimes ten feet or more through a soft cloak of moss. Like a natural barrier from the outside world, teams of wildlife used the pine grove as a safe haven from both predators and the falling temperature, as winter's hostile embrace slowly tightened.
In this thicket, where even the solemn gray skies failed to penetrate, where cloved hooves and various forms of paws could pad across the forest floor atop millions of scattered pine needles without making a sound, an abundance of wildlife felt assured of their safety. They were wrong...
Walking hand in hand under the shaded canopy of evergreens, their movements seen as a fluid blur of motion, their footsteps as silent as the early morning air itself, Bella and Edward Cullen glided through the dense undergrowth with the stealth of a falcon slicing through an updraft at high altitudes.
Bella's hair had thickened since being turned. Appearing soft, like woven yarn the color of mocha, long strands trailed along behind her as she glided lithely through the forest. At her side, Edward's golden pelt of wavy curls bounced upon his neckline with each measured step. Together they resembled a pair of shimmering ghosts, fingers entwined, their souls skimming the forest floor without disturbing the fallen pine needles under foot.
On their feet were matching tennis shoes, white Nikes. A lightly fitting, ivory dress hugged itself to Bella's slim form, while Edward challenged the wooded thicket in khakis and a simple cotton t-shirt. The inclimate weather didn't bother them. Their pale bodies were already cold like stone. In fact, only one condition drove them to the pine grove with such urgency. Hunger.
Their eyes were dilated to the size of black pearls. The telltale sign of a vampire in need of sustenance. The couple moved about the thicket unnoticed. Together, they breathed in the scents of their surroundings. Hardened pine sap sweetening the frigid air. A tinge of mildew from the moistened needles underfoot. The sour taste of decaying leaves scattered about and rustling in the breeze. And blood. Pulsing through the veins of a crouched puma nearly hidden in a stand of creaking hardwoods. Sloshing under the thick coat of an elk, head bent low, sipping water from a stream across the valley. And a rogue buck. It's antlered head tilted awkwardly to the side, small teeth knawing on the bark of a towering evergreen. Completely unaware of their presence. So close Bella could practically taste it.
"Mine," she breathed.
Edward released her hand and nodded his approval.
As Bella dropped to a crouch, her attention focused entirely upon the nearby deer, Edward closed his eyes and leaned his head back, taking in the various scents of the forest around them.
It was then, as a gentle current sifted under his nose, and merely an instant before Bella launched herself into the air, when he detected another presence in the area. An alarming essence. And worse, one he recognized.
Startled, he sucked in a breath as Bella lifted herself from the ground.
Edward could only watch helplessly as she spread her arms wide, fingers curved into talons, her sleek form dropping silently upon the unsuspecting deer, when an arrow streaked by his face, leaving a whisper of death in it's wake.
The arrow pierced the deer's heart the very moment Bella's fingertips managed to brush a handful of coarse fir along the animal's back. Caught off-guard, she tumbled over the deer and landed with a thud in a nearby pile of leaves and debris.
In a fluid motion far superior to any maneuver a mere human could accomplish, Bella rolled upright, ignoring the dried leaves tangled in her hair, and crouched defensively, her eyes searching the tree tops.
She spotted her almost immediately. Hoisted roughly thirty feet up a massive elm, a girl not unlike herself in size and shape, was nestled comfortably upon one of the tree's heavier limbs.
Very much human, the girl of nearly the same theoretical age as Bella, was balanced on her knees, her back resting against the elm's trunk. Hair a shade lighter than Bella's, fell upon her shoulders in thin waves. She remained as still as the tree itself, her body poised behind an armed bow, her arm bent at the elbow, the sheathed arrow targeted upon Bella herself.
From where he stood, Edward took in the dramatic standoff with an air of apprehension. Both females remained poised for attack. He watched as Bella's mouth slowly opened, releasing an irritable snarl. From the tree, the girl was a statue, seemingly frozen in place behind her weapon. Now all but forgotten, the dead buck remained on it's cloven feet. The arrow had struck so perfectly, instantaneous death caused the deer to simply lean into the pine tree who's bark it had been feasting. Dead before even realizing it. Limbs now supporting a carcass.
Deciding that he'd better intervene with haste, a thought entered Edward's mind. One that didn't belong to him.
His eyes traveled back to the girl in the tree. While her focus remained on Bella, her thoughts had apparently strayed. A thin smile creased his upper lip.
"Hello Katniss," he whispered. "Nice shot."
The words, "Thank you," formed in his head. The grin widened.
"I guess I can assume that your repaired hearing from the Capitol is functioning well."
"It was the least they could do."
Edward turned to Bella, who remained crouched and hissing.
"Bella...sweetheart, it's her kill. She earned it."
"Little showoff," Bella growled. "That arrow wouldn't work so well on me."
"You mind putting a leash on your pet?" The words entered Edwards mind as if sent through a bolt of lightning. He quickly nodded.
"Bella please," he said. "Let's take the elk down at the stream. There'll be plenty for both of us."
With a huff, Bella finally straightened, but defiantly refused to turn away from the arrow, which remained targeted at her throat. Still smiling, Edward walked into the firing range, wrapping his arm around Bella's shoulder and guiding her out of harm's way. At last, Bella grudgingly turned toward the distant stream.
As the pair dropped below the quiet hillside, he glanced back toward the giant elm. The girl was gone. A moment later, a thought entered his mind. "Thank you Edward." He again nodded his head.
"Stop that," Bella snapped.
"You know what. Reading her mind. Don't think I don't know what you're doing!"
"Sorry, Sweetheart. It's just...well."
Edward grinned sheepishly. "The two of you...at each other's throats back there. ...that was hot."
"Shut up, Edward."
"Sweetheart...there's a leaf in your hair."
"Shut up, Edward!"