'Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No copyright infringement is intended. Blah blah blah... just havin' fun.
This is an idea I've wanted to play with for a while. It's loosely (and I do mean loosely) based off stories told me by a Rosebud Sioux friend of mine. Someone suggested I try playing with Embry as a main character and this is the psych I came up with.
A short and strange little ditty, it's a even rougher than my usual (as in editing/smoothing because of time) and it's written to be a realistic (and a little raw) fairytale.
As usual, no prereader/beta – if typos were a commodity I'd be rich.
Ground rules: Events in the Twilight saga didn't happen, just playing with the characters (and am emotionally INCAPABLE of writing a jilted side-character Jake). I always try to provide context contextually lol but for your general info, most of these characters are in their early 20s and have been Phasing for 5 years. Only added Pack to books' mix is Levi who is the youngest and Jared's brother.
Warning: This chapter particularly features mature references to alcohol, drugs and sex and contains bad fuckin' language by one Mr. Paul Lahote and a few other culprits. This is my raw and dark spin on Embry (you shouldn't be surprised if you've ever read my stuff) but, like I said above, in its essence it's really a fairytale at heart.
Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy.
The hypnotic bass was undulating across the dance floor, bending bodies softened by substances to its indomitable will. Embry Call hit back a swallow of pure vodka and then wiped the burn from his lips with the knuckle of his thumb as he watched couples hypnotized by desperation and the 808 into basically fucking in public.
"Now that's a nice fucking pair of melons right there with an apple-bottomed ass to match," Paul whistled under his breath, tipping back his drink and swishing it in his mouth.
Embry's gaze slipped out to the female tittering away with her girlfriends at the bar. Propped up on six-inch spikes that jacked her ass up obscenely under a mini-dress that barely covered it, her legs went on forever. Embry had always been a legs man.
"You gonna hit that, man, or am I?" Paul laughed softly, setting down his drink on the stand-up table and leering at Embry out of the corner of his eye. Paul was an observant man, so he was well aware of Embry's tastes by now.
Sniffing a laugh, Embry tipped back the rest of his liquor, gasping as he set the thick glass down without comment.
"C'mon, Call," Paul taunted with pursed lips, shifting his lounge against the wall. "Don't be shy, y'little pussy."
Embry cut his eyes over at his Packmate with a bland hitch of lips. He wasn't shy, he was patient – there was a difference. He'd spent his entire life living off scraps that fell from the table so he had to be. He'd never been good enough to get a seat.
In fact, the only thing he'd gotten that was worth a shit was this body – six feet four inches of long lean muscle, brown skin and hazel eyes.
The girl turned over her shoulder with a coy tuck of her chin and looked straight at him.
"There it is, dude," Paul egged him on in a hiss.
Glancing at the wolf with a roll of his eyes, he pushed his hand through his hair and then picked up his glass.
Her painted lips oozed up in a pleased smile as he made his way across the room toward her.
Embry had never been much of a talker –because it never did any good – but luckily, looking like he did, all he had to do was show up suited up in a tight black tee and jeans, and they'd do the rest.
"Can I buy you another drink, handsome?" she cooed as he stepped up beside her and her friends magically disappeared.
Embry nodded with a small smile. "Vodka," he murmured as his gaze fell to the glass he slid across the bar.
Looking like she did, she quickly got the bartender's solicitous attention and ordered his drink and Sex on the Beach for herself.
When the bartender had left to get the drinks, she smiled up at him, "I'm Clarice."
"Josh," he told her, peering from under the wash of his bangs. The only name he'd been given – with no mitigating middle – was too odd to be dropped without comment, so he borrowed his father's like he did everything else. His mother had slipped one drunken night and confirmed what everyone knew and no one cared about. But him.
The girl nodded with a tip of her head that was meant to be sultry, but there was something about her that screamed insecure.
His eyes washed over her face, gathering the subconscious cues he was so cursed to see whether he wanted to or not: she'd been abused, sexual, physical… something. And she was desperately trying to prove she was good enough too. The damaged ones always picked him out of a crowd.
He'd have to be gentle with her. "You're beautiful," he told her quietly and watched the sun rise in her eyes.
"Thanks," she giggled. "You're not so bad yourself."
Embry's lips spread in a soft smile.
The bartender returned with their drinks and Embry slapped down a 20 and told him to keep the change. He always paid his rent.
While he sipped his drink, he listened as she made small talk around sucking her drink up a tiny straw. Every move of hers was intentional like she spent a lot of time searching the mirror for herself.
He led her to the dance floor and held her tightly when she would have tried to put on a practiced show (another thing she'd learned from the mirror). She was warm and soft and smelled like perfume and beauty products and it felt good to have her in his arms.
Half an hour later, wrapped in those long legs and latex, Embry was crushing her against the tile in a bathroom stall. He never liked the taste in his mouth so he spent as little time on lips as he could before he was painting kisses and reassurance over her skin while his hands pushed her g-string aside.
In careful hands, he gave it to her good while she bit her lip on moans. And for twelve heated minutes they borrowed the touch of skin and artificial intimacy from another in the grimy bathroom of a Port Ange bar that smelled like piss.
Then time was up.
A loud rap on the metal stall prefaced a voice pitched to intimidate. "Move on, you two!"
Panting, Clarice giggled up at him with sated eyes. "It's always the quiet ones you've got to watch out for."
Embry gave her a smile, pulled out and her dress back into place in a single move. He slid off his cum-filled rubber and absently tossed it in the toilet while he watched her straighten her dress and pull out a compact from the little purse hung on the stall door.
"I've got roomies," she told the mirror as she painted on new lipstick. "You want to take me home?"
Embry leaned his shoulder against the rusted metal, pushing his hand back through his sweat-damp hair. "You don't wanna come home with me, sweetheart," he murmured with a bitter sniff. No one did.
She replaced the cap as she looked up with disappointment she was a little too drunk to hide.
He pushed off the stall and his hand slipped along her jaw as he leaned in and pressed a kiss to her forehead. Painting on a smile, she blinked up at him and then unlatched the stall door.
They left the bathroom, ignoring the stares of the man pissing in the urinal and then stepped out into the deafening noise and anonymity of the club.
Embry leaned down to her ear. "Another drink?"
She nodded and he flagged down the bartender, ordering her the cocktail.
"You're not having another?" she asked.
Shaking his head, Embry shoved his hands in his pockets. "Gotta go."
The girl tried to hide the hurt behind a dismissive shrug but he saw it. He always fucking saw it. They were all desperate and lonely, lost and broken underneath their attitude and bling… just like Embry himself.
He slid his eyes away from her pain under the pretense of paying it down.
Turning with her drink in hand, he found her scribbling her number on a napkin. Capping the pen, she looked up with a smile, painfully cocked to be casual and wry.
His hands slipped to her shoulder as he leaned down by her ear. "Thank you, sweetheart," he whispered, brushing a soft kiss over her temple on the way back up.
And then Embry turned away.
He watched his hands fold the napkin over into a smaller and smaller square as he pushed out of the club and into the cool quiet night. His gaze crossed the road to the lights sparkling around the Port Ange harbor as the breeze trundled down the empty streets. Spring was finally on its way.
He'd just take a walk around the bay until Paul called him.
But as he glanced across the parking lot, he found the wolf in question already waiting, leaning back against the Camero and lazily buttoning his button fly while watching a girl sashay tipsily back to the club. Embry's eyes lowered as she passed by – he didn't want to know what her story was.
"See y'around Paulie," she called out twangily, hurting Embry's ears. Grimacing, he tossed the tight tiny folded napikin in a garbage bin as he passed it by.
"No-call Call," Paul snickered. That one never got old, apparently.
But unlike Paul, who had several go-to girls back at the Rez, Embry didn't have the heart to hit 'em up more than once. He could always see the yearning for more in their eyes and it made it harder and harder to turn away.
Continuing his unhurried amble across the lot, he met Paul's smirk with a dry flare of nostrils. "That was fast," he muttered.
"She's done me before," Paul chuckled. "Short n' sweet …and cheap."
Embry arched a brow. "Hooker?"
"Fifty bucks and a drink?" A cavalier shoulder hopped. " 'Didn't feel like spending time on the bullshit wind-up. And I got a 40 minutes of head…" Paul sniffed a laugh as he turned and opened the driver's side door. " 'Bet you got ten."
Embry sighed irritably at the fogged up windows.
Like the animals they all were, sex smelled good to them, but he wasn't really in the mood to steep in his Packmate's purchase-high for the long ride home. Like always though, he'd take the dregs as they came without complaint, even if they were Paul. It made him feel not so alone… and – as piss-poor as he was– it didn't hurt to save a little on gas.
Being the considerate asshole he was, Paul rolled down the windows for the drive back to the Rez. Embry watched the miles go by while he patiently listened to hardcore porn and posturing from the driver's seat until his ears bled.
Because eventually Paul would start on other stuff - important stuff - and he knew Paul didn't really have any friends. Like how he was getting sick of Jacob's big fucking mouth (he felt out of place and jealous) or how he had a dream last night that he was fucking Bella and it scared the shit out of him (he was afraid he'd ever find an imprint of his own).
" 'Had a few of those," Embry muttered out into the dark woods flying by.
"You too?" Paul barked a laugh. "Fuck, I just hope Alpha-boy don't get a whiff cause I swear you'll have to pick up the pieces with tweezers. Y'know, I don't have that alter-boy mind of yours."
Embry sniffed - didn't they all know? He wished he could bleach some of those images from his memory. Paul had lost his virginity at age 12 and had been heartily fucking out his rage with increasing kink ever since. Embry, on the other hand, had popped his cherry the day before his 20th birthday. Finally, simply unwilling to watch any longer, Paul had taken him up to Port Ange and paid a girl to show him how it was done.
And the rest was sorry, sordid history.
Embry didn't need much (and boy did he ever get it) but he found he needed to borrow the comfort and release every once in a while – two things that were pretty pitiful when you got them in a bathroom stall or stranger's bed.
"Shit, I wish the fucker would just go ahead and mark her already," Paul growled suddenly – still stuck on Bella. "Dreaming 'bout the preggo den mommy's a little too kinks even for me."
Sighing, Embry let his head settle back on the chair. He knew they were waiting until the baby was born.
But it was disturbing. Even if it was natural, he supposed, because Bella wasn't an imprint so that supernatural voodoo hadn't slammed her into the same sister category the way it had with the other girls. To make matters more complicated, she was kind and caring, giving and kind, and basically everything Paul and Embry had never had.
But secretly dreamed of. And then woke up feeling guilty.
" 'You think it's ever gonna happen?" Embry asked the long dark road ahead.
"To us?" Paul cackled. "Shit, no way," he clapped a heavy hand on Embry's shoulder. "You and me, asshole? We're the few and the proud." He chuckled to himself as he switched his hand back to the wheel and propped an arm on the door. "The few and the proud…"
Neither of them were proud of shit.
Except for their Alpha who wouldn't, imprinting had so far happened without fail around age 18 - or 17 if you happened to be sunny Seth. Well, Leah quit the wolf and moved away around then – she might have been the only other one of them fucked up enough to be the exception.
As they turned onto familiar Rez roads, Paul cocked his head, rearranging himself in his seat. "So 'moms still holding it down?"
Embry turned from the window and nodded. It was a part-time job cleaning toilets at Forks hospital, but at least it paid for her medication: alcohol and whatever other shit was into these days. Otherwise he'd never have been able to afford the bills.
"Well you can always hope for a DUI, dude," Paul snorted bitterly.
"Shut it, Lahote," Embry snarled, flashing canines across the car.
Paul laughed at him, unperturbed. "Shit, I dunno what I woulda done if the old man hadn't gotten ten for dealing. You can dream, bitch. You can dream."
Yeah, he could dream. And wake up feeling guilty.
Embry closed his eyes soundly and turned out the window before opening them again. As sick as it was, Paul was the only one who really understood. Talks like this in the car were the closest he ever got to a heart-to-heart. Even with what invariably slipped up in the Pack mind, Quil and Jacob – who were technically his best friends – would never truly be able to understand. He made sure it stayed that way. He didn't want to ruin their lives too.
Still laughing to himself, Paul pulled the car into the dark driveway of Embry's crappy little shack. The light in the living room was on at three a.m. on a Friday night.
This time Paul shockingly reined in his fucking mouth. "Welp," he popped, not bothering to put the car in park. "Guess I'll see you at the shop tomorrow, Call. Maybe we can still hit Buzz's this weekend for something a little longer."
Embry slapped a clap into his hand with a smile for the ride and no comment.
And then turned away and got out of the car.
"Take care, man," Paul called after him, quieter this time. More sincere. He knew what was waiting for him through that door.
Paul wasn't so bad – he was desperate and lonely, lost and broken underneath the mess. Just like they all were.
"You too," Embry turned and ducked down to meet his eyes. And then closed the door.
Paul didn't bother with useless niceties like waiting until he got to the dilapidated porch. The faster he got out of there, the more he lessened the chance of seeing something that would humiliate Embry. Like he'd said, Paul was the only one who really understood.
The lights whipped away from the house and Embry heard the macho squeal of tires on the road as he hopped up the flight of three steps. He could hear she was alone at least and snoring like a tractor. At least she was breathing.
The front door was left ajar and Embry gritted his teeth over the sour scents leaching out. He pulled open the rickety screen that didn't do much good when the bottom panel was kicked through. He needed to get that fixed. Spring was coming.
Embry edged silently into their living room where the old CRT TV was babbling away to no one in particular. It looked like a whirlwind frat party had hit it, and hit it hard. Bottles were strewn on the floor and table. The kitchen just beyond looked like Tohuko Japan after the wave. Wrappers and pizza boxes, bottles of gin.
Huffing out a sharp sigh, he crossed the room toward the water that had been left on, running endlessly into the kitchen sink. Tonight had been an unusually bad one – maybe she didn't still have that job after all. He was so incredibly fucking glad he'd taken Paul up on his offer and hadn't come home after work.
As he passed the couch he took stock of the woman passed out, sprawled halfway on the couch. Her face was puffy and sallow and she'd puked on herself and the floor.
"Fuck, mom," he spat under his breath as he passed by. In the kitchen he reached the faucet and yanked the water off to its incessant drip.
Pushing his hands through his hair, he turned back and skirted around the couch. Her box of drug stuff – that he never opened but could smell - a half-empty glass of liquor … whether it was the last paycheck or not, she'd obviously gotten paid and shared her bounty with a few friends.
Thank God they were gone.
Absently pulling out the coffee table, he stepped over mess and scooped her up in his arms. Tiffany Call groaned, whipping her head back and forth a few times.
"Shh," he soothed as he strode back around the couch. "It's just me, mom."
She quieted, leaning into his chest, as he shimmied down the narrow hallway to her room. Rearranging her in his arms, he swept clothes and junk from her bed and sat her down on it, steadying her with a hand at her back while he pulled her soiled shirt up. Her head lolled back and forth while she mumbled something unintelligibly.
"You're okay," he murmured, stripping the shirt and tossing it to the floor with the rest of the mess.
Settling her on her side – just in case her stomach decided for round two – he pulled a blanket up over her.
She made some kind of whimpering mumble as she pulled both hands under her cheek like a little girl and - for just an instant – she looked like a woman he vaguely remembered from healthier days. She'd never gotten over whatever had happened with his father and had been tanking slowly every since, but over the last five years he'd been a wolf, her "functional dysfunction" had spiraled wildly out of control.
This is what happened when you had nothing: sometimes you got sick of begging and started borrowing trouble instead.
Cocking his head as he brushed the hair from her face, he leaned down and pressed a kiss to her clammy forehead. "G'night, mom," he whispered.
Then he turned away.
Embry carried the casserole to the huge table set up in Jacob and Bella's kitchen.
"The Pack pussy's in true form," Paul snorted as he ambled through the doorway with a bottle of beer in his hand and a smirk.
"Shut up, Paul," Bella snapped, turning from the stove with a scowl.
Embry glared as he set the dish down in the middle. Like always, he made sure to pay his rent. Frankly spending time in the kitchen with women, soft music and softer conversation was soothing. Of course, it also afforded plenty of opportunity to watch.
"Anything else, Bella?" he asked his Alpha's mate.
Her eyes swept back to him and she gifted him with a smile. "No, you've done enough. Sit yourself down, Emb," she told him. "We're pretty much done."
Basking for just a heartbeat in the grateful attention of the four women, he turned his back and stepped over the bench at his place at the table.
"Fucking brown-noser," Paul spat as he sat down opposite him.
Embry flashed canines over the table. Even though he knew Paul was just blowing of disconcerted steam after that dream of his, Embry really wasn't in the mood after cleaning up barf and bottles all night.
Quil crossed the kitchen to the refrigerator and then came back to sit by Embry, handing him a beer.
"Thanks man," Embry murmured as he popped the top and took a sip.
While light banter and conversation went on around him, Embry listened and watched the world around him – like he always did. Jacob helped Bella ferry dishes to the other end of the table and Collin stepped over the bench beside Paul while Seth pulled Nina into his side. Emily tried to hide her impatience while Kim kissed Jared before he and his brother Levi left to relieve Sam and Brady of patrol.
"So you shoulda seen what Call hit last night," Paul snickered, pulling Embry's attention from where he was dishing out casserole. "Her legs went on for miles."
Quil elbowed him with a gawky laugh. " 'You find out where they ended, dude?"
He could only live vicariously… for the next ten years. His imprint was eight. As selfish as it was, Embry had actually thanked the gods that one of his two best friends had imprinted on a toddler… until Bella had come home and up made up for it twice over.
Embry took another swig of beer.
Paul passed the dish down to the wide eager eyes of Collin - a seventeen year old still jerking off to dirty mags. He and Brady were a few months apart with only Levi younger by a year.
"Oh yeah," Paul purred. "That rainbow ended balls-deep in a pot o' gold," he whistled under his breath.
Quil laughed again as he grabbed up a plate of ham. " 'She take you home, bro?" he asked.
Embry glanced up from the potatoes he was piling on his plate. "It wasn't like that," he told him quietly with a glance up to where Bella had her head tipped down to her plate with a blush.
"Hell to the no," Paul coughed with a leer. "Call did 'er good and nasty against O'Malley's bathroom wall 'til he got busted and-…"
"Stop!" Jacob snarled from the head of the table. "There are women in the room. Have some damn respect!"
Paul tucked his chin, hiding his smile as he reached for the rolls.
From under the brush of his bangs, Embry glanced down the table at where Kim, Emily and Nina were all a little too interested in their plates. A blush stained Bella's cheeks where Jacob rubbed an absent apology down her back.
Then she cast a covert glance at Embry.
Shit, he hated that look in her eye – betrayal, confusion, disgust. Somehow he was able to fake it enough for her to think he was worth something.
But still she was always so caring. Clearing her throat, Bella sat up a little more and took a sip of her lemonade. "Did you get her number, Emb?" she asked, turning to him with a forced smile.
Embry licked his lips uncomfortably. "Yeah," he breathed with a nod and reached for his beer.
"Threw it away," Paul goaded across the table. "No-call Call."
It was the last straw.
"Damn it, Paul!" Embry barked slamming his palm on the table so hard dishes rattled.
Everyone jumped into silence.
The harsh sound of scraping wood made everyone tuck their heads as Jacob stood up to his full height and stalked down the table on the other side. He fisted his hand in Paul's hair and yanked his head back as he leaned down by his ear.
"I don't know what your problem is today dickhead," he snarled too low for the human ear. "But if you don't leave it behind or take it somewhere else I'm gonna fucking beat it out of your sorry ass until you're shitting blood."
Paul's adam's apple jumped and struggled with his swallow.
"Got it, Lahote?" he hissed, jerking his head back harder.
Eyes rolling under their lids he nodded minutely in their Alpha's iron first.
With a low grow, Jacob threw the wolf's head forward so hard he nearly face-planted in his mashed potatoes. His eyes darted across the table, at where, chin tucked, Embry was looking up from under his bangs. The expression in his friend's eyes was cold and completely unreadable – even to Embry – and it sent a shiver down his spine.
Cracking his neck, their Alpha stalked back to the end of the table while heads bobbed back up. Slowly conversation rose up again on tiptoes skirting anything inflammatory for sports commentary and video games.
Altercations like this weren't uncommon for a pack of testosterone-driven wolves – with Paul in the mix like a potent accelerant – but usually they weren't such animals around the imprints.
Embry filled his plate and dug in, sullen and silent, ashamed that Bella had heard some of the gory details of last night. Every once in a while he'd glance up from his food to catch Paul glaring a million things at him across the table and then they'd both quickly avert their eyes.
Insight hit him like a ton of bricks: in their own ways, they were both were starving for validation from their borrowed mother in a family where both of them felt like the black sheep misfits. The sensitive soul she was, Bella gave it to them both when she could but, at only 22 herself, between her mate, a Pack and now an unexpected baby, she had so much on her plate.
But at least, being the best fighter and offense, Paul had seat at the proverbial table. Everyone had a place, it seemed, but Embry. Sam was second, Jared was a strategist, Quil was the fastest and Jacob was just Jake which would have been enough even if he weren't their Alpha.
Sensing his insecurity like she always did, one day Bella had told him he was "so sensitive he kept all of them balanced." Even though he should be grateful for any scrap of compliment, it was the kind of thing that girls said that made a guy's balls fall off, turning to dust before they could roll across the floor.
Pack pussy indeed… Embry couldn't even be a man right.
Suddenly all heads jerked up as the back door opened with a jubilant slam against the porch and Sam and Brady stumbled in together… laughing.
The table instantly froze, all eyes turning curiously to the sight of somber Sam Uley with a smile and his arm slung around the younger wolf.
"Hey guys," Sam greeted them all with unusual cheer. Slipping his arm from around the boy's neck he socked him playfully in the shoulder and then crossed immediately to where Emily stood from beside Bella. Wrapping his arms around her with his very usual devotion, he proceeded to suck off his imprint's face.
"Hey, Bray," Jacob grinned sunnily from the head of the table. "What's goin' on?"
The wolf stood in the middle of the kitchen, smothering a boyish smile while his complexion tried to mute his blush.
Sam came up for air. "Tell 'em, Bray," he pulled Emily into his side.
"I-I…" he stammered, his eyes finding where his toe was prying into a crack in the floorboards. "I imprinted."
The kitchen exploded.
Embry painted on a smile as questions and congratulations tumbled through the room while inside he felt his heart wither a little more. Now the only unimprinted wolves in the Pack were Collin – a few months younger – and Levi who was only 16.
And, of course, Embry and Paul.
Embry glanced up across the table at Paul who was tipping his beer back and waiting for his eye. His lips oozed up in a told-ya-so smirk as he set his bottle down and then dug into his plate.
The rest of lunch crawled by while they heard about that "fateful moment" from first Brady and then again from Sam. Apparently the boy had imprinted at the beach while they were rinsing off after patrols and on his childhood friend who'd just moved back to the Rez.
Appetite long gone, Embry pushed food around on his plate while all the imprinted wolves launched into spirited reminiscences of "how it happened" and all the quirky endearing mishaps ending ultimately in imprint fucking bliss that followed after.
When he just couldn't stand it anymore, Embry stood with his plate and stepped over the bench to get on the dishes. Pushing his hand through his hair, he stared out over the late afternoon while he filled the sink and tried to shore up a hope that was running dry.
He was so distracted, he didn't hear her until that cool, gentle hand brushed over his elbow.
"Hey," Bella whispered, depositing her prop dish into the soapy water with the rest of load of pans. "Are you doing okay?"
Embry looked down and nodded, his lips curving automatically in response to that kind smile.
She pulled open the dishwasher, watching him out of the corner of her eye. "It's going to happen," she breathed cannily.
Sometimes he wished she wasn't so observant.
"I know," he lied, diving his hands into soapy water for the first baked-on pot.
She continued on, presumably trying to for a casual caring conversation, "Is your mother feeling any better?"
Embry shrugged a shoulder. "Maybe." They all knew the basics at least: he had an addict loser mom. The rest, they didn't understand. Couldn't.
She pressed her lips together, obviously not buying it as she reached up to put away a dish.
Embry quickly dried his hands off and took it from her as she strained on tip-toe.
Bella laughed – a beautiful carefree sound – as he took it and easily shelved it just out of reach of her diminutive height.
"My belly's starting to get in the way," she snorted, happiness in her eyes.
"Sit down, mama," he teased her gently. "I got this."
Rubbing her swelling middle, she searched his face for a moment. "If you need to talk, Emb…"
Embry winced internally. Not only at the pity in her eye but also the fact that Paul was undoubtedly listening to every word.
Widening his eyes with theatrical exasperation, he huffed, "I'm fine, sweetheart."
Bella capitulated with a giggle and he smiled, leaning down for a peck against her hairline. She smelled sweet and warm and woman.
With a final assessing glance, she headed to the table. Embry turned back to the window with an audible sigh of relief and tried to immerse himself in paying for the meal.
He didn't know what he'd do without the ladies in the Pack… probably be eating deer in the forest so he didn't starve. He'd grown up on microwave dinners and macaroni and cheese and even if he'd had the first clue about a kitchen, who'd want to cook at home when it was like it was?
"If you need to talk…" a sarcastic voice whined in his ear.
Embry rammed Paul in the gut with his elbow.
He snickered devilishly as he deposited a load of dishes in the sink, splashing Embry's shirt with soapy water.
Gritting his teeth, Embry picked up the next dish.
"So you up for Buzz's?" Paul drawled, starting on emptying the dishwasher.
Embry expelled an exasperated breath. Paul could be like this - psycho-switching it up when one need suddenly outgrew another.
And, make no mistake, they both needed to escape this scene this afternoon.
"Dunno," Embry mumbled. He knew he'd still be in for a little more passive-aggression (or just the regular type) and – especially after the "good news" and last night – he didn't know if he could stomach it.
"I need two extras this evening to run the north border," Jacob's announcement cut through the general din of a more enthusiastic mealtime than usual. "Cullen called to inform us they're feeding tonight," hot sticky derision dripped from the words.
"I dunno why he lets them fucking hang around," Paul growled low in Embry's ear.
Jacob's imperious bass bellowed across the room, making both of them whip around, "Because we need them!"
The Cullens had come back five years ago, starting off the chain-reaction that stole all their lives. When Bella moved back, one of their coven had become infatuated with her at school (she hadn't given him the time of day) and Jacob had subsequently ordered them away.
But like a bad taco, several months ago they'd come back again because their seer had a vision about the leech who was avenging her fallen mate with a newborn army.
And that, as the Alpha's mate, Bella was in danger.
"I warned you, Lahote," Jacob was snarling, as he took several menacing steps across the room.
Paul certainly shouldn't have played with this one: Jacob hated those leeches with a passion, but he simply wouldn't do anything to risk the pregnant love of his life.
"I'll run the border," Embry spoke up quickly, throwing down a kamikaze play to diffuse two bombs. He'd wanted the night to himself, but he was pretty sure a shift was better than Paul right now.
Jacob stopped in his tracks, teeth still bared at the wayward wolf. With an abrupt about-face, he jerked his eyes across the room. "Collin, you're on too!"
Bella slipped up beside her mate and rubbed a hand up his trembling arm, soothing him like she did so well. Jacob turned, melting over her and snuffling her hair before taking her mouth in a tender kiss.
Embry turned away and went back to the dishes
Embry's paws pounded along the northern border, leaping rocks and dodging trees as he listened to Collin yammer on about some campaign in a war video game he played with Brady. He didn't know why they didn't get enough of war in their everyday lives but it was certainly better than talking about Brady's imprint.
The night was wet and dark with a storm rolling in from the ocean with the deep echoes of thunder in the distance.
A sound up ahead made Embry freeze in his tracks, shutting Collin into silence with a growl. He lifted his nose to the breeze, trying to catch scent through rain drops and uncooperative wind. His sensitive nostrils snatched the first molecule of the stench decay and candy and the beast went wild.
'They're close,' he told the young wolf as he went barreling through the forest, veering up to hug the border. 'Why the fuck are they this close to the border?!' It was the Cullen's scent – just a subtle difference to the timber of the rotting blood in their veins.
Other than his video games, Collin hadn't seen much battle and he immediately became an alert and timorous shadow at his heels.
Now Embry could hear it: the cat-in-heat hiss of a vampire on the prowl over the sound of thundering hooves.
Redoubling his speed, he hugged the border while the wolf chuffed and barked in warning. In the distance, his brother's howls climbed the night as the other two on patrol locked into the scene. The sky opened up then and rain poured down, obscuring his vision and muddling sense with their crashing splash over the canopy of leaves.
But he knew well where they were: near the meadow where they held the meetings with the Cullen coven.
Embry pulled up short at the edge of the tree line just as a flash of lightning jackknifed across the sky, illuminating a grisly scene. Five deathly white demons were diving into a herd of deer who were scattering and scampering away on terrified hooves.
He watched in disgust as a blond female – a demon in a woman's skin - leaped and grabbed the rack of antlers of one of the beasts, wrestling it to the ground while the creature bleated and growled. Rabid teeth bared, she dove for the throat, latching on as her arms wrapped around its neck like steel cables. The animal brayed piteously, kicking and bucking uselessly against supernatural strength while she fed from the blood pumped by its frantic heart while it lived.
It was the most horrific thing Embry had ever seen.
The other three were still slaughtering the herd. A small black haired female brought another big buck down, pouncing almost gaily on her prize before she dove for its throat.
Out of the chaos, a much smaller doe scampered free, ears plastered back, eyes wild, body twisting while it leaped in a frenzied flee.
One of the big Cullen males chuckled and reached out to bat a casual hand, catching her hind leg. The poor creature tumbled to the ground with a strangled whine of fear.
But before the leech could leap on its prey, a buck reared up and attacked the man with surprising gusto. Hooves fiercely pummeled the demon while the beast growled and grunted.
Obviously enjoying the game, the man threw himself enthusiastically into the flurry of hooves, tackling him in a rolling tumble while the buck writhed against its captor, doggedly trying to gouge him with is rack of horns.
But the leech finally got both arms and legs wrapped around the big animal and, lips peeling back with a hiss from razor teeth, he plunged into its neck.
Hoarse, heartbreaking bellows joined the crashing thunder.
'Emb, easy,' Jacob's soothing voice wrapped his mind in velvet. 'There's nothing we can do. They're on their side.'
It was only then that Embry realized he pacing back and forth snarling rabidly and far too close to fucking it all and crossing the treaty line. Muscles jerking and stuttering, his wolf was going ballistic.
Under taser lightning, Embry watched the other two leeches brutally bring down another buck each. The last two animals scattered, fleeing in terror into the thunder with white tails flicking in their wake as they sped off into the darkness.
The meadow was now a battlefield, littered with writhing bodies still braying in pain and fear over the soft grunts and swallows of the feeding demons.
Embry knew his people hunted but never like this. They respected their kills and never let the animals suffer.
'Embry!' Collin barked, dragging his attention from the gruesome feeding frenzy.
Embry's paws were moving before he'd even processed Collins garbled images (he was horrified by the scene too). There was movement on their side of the treaty line.
'Stay back, Collin,' Embry ordered.
As the rain poured over a blood-soaked meadow and Embry prowled toward the movement, he scanned and counted - all five leeches were gorging themselves, but he knew this coven had seven in all.
'What do you see, Emb?' Jacob asked tensely – he was cantering halfheartedly toward them, still trying to figure out whether he needed to be on scene.
A rustle in the leaves ahead prefaced a soft mewling cry that was almost drowned by the thunder. Hastening his step, Embry found the little doe, writhing frantically in the leaves. Somehow she'd made it out of the meadow and into the woods… on their side of the treaty line.
Head turned toward the meadow where her butchered herd were writhing and bleating as they were drained dry, she was struggling desperately to get up to three delicate legs. Her light fawny coat was spattered with crimson and her back haunch was crushed by the casual strength of the leech's hand. She smelled of blood and terror.
'Aww, shit, Emb,' Jacob sighed sadly, stopping in his tracks as Embry slunk toward the creature.
Head and ears lowered submissively he tried to be as non-threatening as a wolf the size of a pony could be. But at some sound he made, those ears spun around followed by her head.
Huge black eyes rolled as the creature scrabbled against the leaves with frantic little squeaks. Embry dropped to his belly in an attempt to reassure it, but it didn't do much good. Both his forms would scare the shit out of the poor little thing and he needed to stay in touch with his Alpha.
But he wasn't going to leave it alone either.
'Emb…' Jacob's voice was gentle, rueful.
Head resting on his paws, Embry ignored him, keeping one eye on the bloodsucking demons and the other on where the animal thrashed desperately until finally trauma and a weakened body won the fight. Slowly the flails became less and less enthusiastic until finally its head flopped heavily to the forest floor in defeat.
The doe's breath became rapid and shallow as she went into shock and wide blind eyes glazed over.
A soft whine slipping from his throat, Embry slowly scooched across the leaves toward the quivering animal. The wolf snuffled the dainty body, sticking his nose in fur so soft it felt like a puppy.
'A puppy?' Collin perked up, desperate for distraction from the macabre.
Embry turned over his shoulder and snarled viciously at the cub's approach.
'Whoa, Emb,' the boy whined, dropping to his belly and averting his eyes.
Ignoring him, he went back to inventorying the little doe. He snuffled over her body while his eyes warily watched the meadow. In the predators' jaws the carcasses were now silent and only twitching.
Embry rubbed his nose over her side, scenting bruising and broken ribs. She smelled so fucking good though – like moss and forests and spring.
'That's because you're a wolf dude,' Collin chuckled. 'We eat these guys.'
With a barking snarl, Embry spun on his paw with a snap of jaws and the cub bared his neck with another fearful whine.
'Emb, chill.' Jacob again. He still hadn't moved from where he'd stopped halfway. 'The wolf's just worked up because of the bloodlust and the scent of two kinds of prey. Do you need me there?'
Blinking soundly, Embry raised his head trying to clear it. Is that was wrong? Was he no better than these monsters in the meadow? A hungry animal whipped into a feeding frenzy just by watching?
Shoving down disgust, Embry took a few steps back…
And then crouched to the ground with a rabid snarl.
The biggest leech was crossing toward him with casual wave like he was meeting an old friend.
Embry was going to kill him. But first he was going to make him suffer.
'Steady…' Jacob was running now.
"Heya dude," the leech called out, stopping a respectful distance away from the line. " 'Mind tossing that snack over the line? Sorry, it -…"
Embry lunged forward with a wicked snarl, as he charged out into the meadow.
'STOP!' Jacob bellowed through the Pack mind.
The mental order flowed right over him but still it was just enough that Embry lurched to a stop mere inches away from crossing the line. Still he gnashed rabid teeth with hackles raised and ready.
All five leeches had sprung to their feet and into a defensive crouch, their hisses scurrying along under the thunder. Their piss yellow eyes bored a hole into where Embry was swaying back and forth on this paws, seconds from going for the kill.
"STOP NOW!" his Alpha's human bellow rolled over the meadow like thunder, pounding Embry's body down to the ground with its power.
"Embry, back up," he growled low.
The leeches did the same thing under the sheer weight of Jacob's congenital dominion.
His Alpha's bare feet passed right by where Embry was bound immobile in the grass. He didn't stop until his big toe was actually just on the line, pushing boundaries like he always did.
It was a little bit gratifying.
"What the fuck are you doing hunting so close to our borders," Jacob bit out, shoulders squared menacingly despite the face he was as naked as the day he was born.
"Jacob, I apologize," a simpering voice slithered through the rain. "We -…"
"Shut up, I won't speak to you," Jacob snapped turning his attention back to the big one who looked like a kid in comparison.
"Sorry, Jake," the leech shrugged with a good natured smile. " 'Guess we lost track chasing these guys from the hills. 'Haven't seen a herd this juicy-…"
The smaller blond cut in. "We owe you an apology, Mr. Black," he drawled like cowboy. "We'll have Carlisle go ahead and give you a call to see if we can make amends."
"You do that," Jacob hissed. "Now leave and take this fucking mess with you," he scoffed, waving a disgusted hand at the graveyard.
"Will do," the blonde nodded solicitously.
And, in a supernatural blur they disappeared, taking their leftovers with them without another word.
Arms akimbo, Jacob waited until the leeches were out of hearing.
Then he turned around.
"Collin!" he called out to the forest line. "You're off for the rest of the night. Go home and rest."
A wolf's chuff from the forest heralded the sound of the animal's retreat. Then Jacob turned to Embry, quivering under the Order in the grass as the rain continued to fall.
Lightning flickered through the night, backlighting the hulking form of his Alpha and best friend as he slowly slunk forward.
"Phase and talk to me," he murmured, soft and low over the whispering rain.
Thunder rumbled, vibrating the ground under his paws as Embry stood to all fours and then reared up onto two feet. He pushed his hand through his wet hair, as his eyes darted off to the tree line again where he knew the deer was dying.
"Emb," a firm hand clapped to his shoulder.
He turned back to his childhood friend's eyes, a heavy brow shadowing them with worry. "What's going on?" Jacob asked quietly.
Swallowing, Embry's gaze fell between them.
So, so much Jake. I just can't take it anymore.
Out loud he said nothing but shrugged a shoulder.
"I'm worried about you, Emb," Jacob murmured, turning them toward the forest and keeping a hand on his shoulder as he walked across the meadow.
Otherwise Embry would have run.
"I've been worried about you for a while," he conceded, continuing his slow fucking pace. "I know you're quiet and shit, but these last two years you've really been shutting down, man."
Keeping his eyes locked on the trees, Embry ignored Jacob's sideways appraisal.
"Then all this shit with Paul? It just keeps getting worse," he sniffed a humorless laugh. "I mean I know you gotta get laid-…"
Embry ground the mumble in the back of his mouth like pebbles, "Can we not talk about this right now…"
"Sure, sure," Jacob clapped him once on the back. "But we gotta talk about it soon, dude."
As soon as Jacob's hand dropped, Embry was eating up the ground with long jerking strides. Eyes focused on the little form in the leaves, he slowed his step and then slithered down on his knees. The animal was panting rapidly but its eyes were now closed – giving it the blessed illusion of peace.
Embry smoothed a hand over the creature's quivering flanks, brushing water droplets from that soft hide and feeling the heartbeat flutter under his fingertips.
"God, this is so fucking sad," Jacob sighed, kneeling down beside the Embry in the leaves. "I mean I know we hunt too-…"
"Not like this," Embry rasped, nothing but a gutted whisper. "We're nothing like them."
"No, we're not," Jacob murmured as his hands slipped gently up to the deer's head, cupping it in his huge palms.
It was the telltale twitch of muscle in his Alpha's shoulders that ripped Embry's eyes away from the shattered leg.
"NO!" he snarled, shoving the man so forcefully he flew several feet in the leaves.
Catching himself on a deft hand, Jacob's eyes inflated in shock.
"You were going to break her neck," Embry growled, the words bubbling like tar in his gut as he moved so he was between his Alpha and the beast dying on the forest floor.
"To end its suffering," Jacob gaped, incredulous eyes running over the face of his usually temperate friend.
Gaze falling to the leaves Embry shook his head vigorously.
"Emb, the deer's gonna die," he whispered, congealing into a crouch and trying to find his eyes. "Don't you want to honor-…"
Something about his tone made Embry's face snap up.
And then he could see it clearly: Jacob had been two heartbeats from saying something that would have made them be his last, Alpha be damned. In their culture it was shameful to waste any part of an animal that had given its life to the tribe - from hoofs to hide, they used everything.
Luckily Jacob had also seen that Embry would rip out his throat for saying it.
Licking his lips and then rolling them as he studied his friend, he then crooned in a voice that was liquid compulsion, "Go home. I'll take care of this. I'll bury the deer, okay?"
He couldn't. He just couldn't.
"Jake-…" Embry's voice broke, begging with his eyes even as he stood to his feet.
Brows knitting, Jacob straightened as well, "Okay."
And instantly Embry had his body back.
"I'll do it," Embry rubbed his face with his palms and then tipped his face up to the water droplets seeping through the leaves, hitting his face like tears. "Just let me do it. Please."
For several long moments there was silence while thunder shook the distance and the rain continued to tap across the canopy overhead.
Finally he heard Jacob swallow. "Okay," he released the capitulation on a long slow breath. "I'm gonna stay wolf for a few hours. Just call me if you need help and I'll be there, no questions asked."
Embry tipped his face down, feeling the water track down his cheeks. "Thank you," he whispered.
Jacob nodded curtly.
Ignoring the worry and fear screaming in his Alpha's eyes, Embry turned back to the deer and crumpled back to his knees.
Embry reached out a hand that shook as he stroked a finger down the beast's muzzle, over its black nose.
"Hey, take a few days off," Jacob murmured. "But come to Sunday lunch tomorrow and I'll make sure Paul's running patrols, kay man?"
Blinking slowly at the suffering creature he didn't nod or agree or anything. Eventually Jacob got the hint and he heard two feet jog across the leaves before turning into four.
Embry knew he'd lost his mind, but it had been a long time coming. There was so much in life that broke the fragile heart he'd been cursed with, so much so, that sometimes he felt like he couldn't go on. But he coped, as best he knew how – holding it inside, trying to erect boundaries, doing his best and then just trying to forget it.
Finally, though, he'd reached his limit.
This time he just couldn't turn away.
The sun was rising by the time Embry was splashing numbly through the stream in the woods behind his house. The northern border was miles away from home and walking as a human through mountainous terrain was arduous at best, but carrying the burden he had it had taken all night.
The doe was small for a deer but still a handful, even if she weighed next to nothing for his preternatural strength. He'd gone slow and tried his best not to injure the creature even more.
He'd expected her to die in his arms.
But she hadn't.
Pushing into his ramshackle shed, he set the animal as gently as he could on the old mattress he kept out here for when his mom had visitors and he didn't want to sleep in the house. Rearranging its limp head on the bare ticking, Embry straightened as his eyes ran over the blood spattered hide. The rain had eventually stopped – though he was grateful for the way it masked his scent from his brothers – and the pelt had dried to a light honey and cream.
She really was a beautiful animal – graceful legs and svelte body with a dainty head that came to a point in a black koala nose. The doe had to be nothing but a yearling but still she'd watched her entire herd be butchered by demons.
Of course, an animal didn't process things the same way – didn't all the wolves know – but still it made Embry sad.
Rubbing his face with his palms, he turned from the panting little heap and pushed back out of the garage, trudging across the wet grass to the house.
His car was still here –he'd hidden the keys – but he didn't hear a heartbeat so that meant his mother was either gone or dead. It was a possibility he'd resigned himself to face every time.
Feet dragging and even werewolf muscles sore, Embry wandered through the house, finding it messy but empty. He couldn't ever remember being this tired… even when he'd been human. He felt like he could barely move.
Rubbing his face blearily again, he stumbled through his bedroom door his mother had left open searching for keys or money both – and caught himself against the wall. After steadying himself for a moment, he stooped and grabbed the blankets and sheets from the single mattress on the floor, grabbed his cell from under the floorboard and then headed to the kitchen.
Embry was starving but he didn't have the energy to eat – even if there'd been something to heat up. So he pulled out a pan and filled it with water, found a rag and then schlepped himself and the supplies back out to the shed with superhuman effort.
His eyelids were weighed a million pounds as he splashed some water in the animal's mouth and then washed her wounds. Breaking an old mop from the back corner in half he then gently straightened the bones in her back leg as best he could while the doe whined and kicked her front hooves feebly in pain. Tearing the sheet into strips, he bound the broken leg to it in a make-shift splint - he knew it was stupid, but doubted the beast would live long enough for it not to work anyway.
Ghosting a hand over the doe's head, Embry tucked the blankets around her and then threw the last one on the cement floor, and promptly fell asleep.
A stripe of hot sun fell across Embry's face while something buzzed annoyingly against his leg. With a groan he turned over on his side, every muscle in his body complaining. The buzz stopped only to start again, now grinding into a thigh so sore it felt bruised.
Flopping onto his back, he blearily dug his hand into his pocket and pulled out the cell, still bleating away in his fist. Clicking it on with his thumb he brought it to his ear as thick lids cracked over dry eyes.
"Mmeh," he mumbled.
"Emb, you okay?" Jacob.
Swiping a clumsy hand down his face he tried to push some sentience into his murky mind.
"Mwuh…" his tongue felt like it was swollen in his mouth.
At a thumping knock and whimper, instinct made his head snap to the side.
And, eyes widening until they ran out of room in his skull, he stared.
"Emb? You there?"
Pushing off the cement, he clicked the phone off, letting it drop out of his numb hand as he gaped in mind-wiped shock at…
With chestnut hair so long that it cascaded demurely over her nude body, she was pushed into the farthest corner of the garage and frantically kicking a leg strapped to a stick. But it was her face that had him moving before the image was processed by his brain:
She was in pain.
Whimpering, she whipped her head around into the wall as Embry fell on the splint. His hands were ripping the sheet ties off before he could even fathom the impossibility of how they'd been bound to a leg that was spindly bone last night.
Gasping, he popped the bindings free, frantic eyes washing over the way it had cut into her skin and cut off the circulation. His palm was smoothing up a long lithe calf before he even realized what he was doing; gently squeezing to find a bone now healed, massaging blood back, touching...
Warm to his touch, petal soft.
So incredibly fucking soft, like silk that had been washed a trillion times.
Embry couldn't rip his eyes from the sight of his big hand caressing over honey skin several shades lighter than his own, smoothing away the raw white marks that had so blasphemously profaned perfection.
But then his brain made its big debut and Embry froze, sucking in a gasp through his teeth.
He yanked his hands back like he'd been burned while every cell in his body careened to a stop.
Behind him the phone started ringing again, buzzing over the concrete but he didn't even hear it. Slowly his eyes dragged up long lissome thighs to a thin body obscured by the spill of tangled cinnamon… and finally to arms scrunched up in front of her like she was cowering from a mortal blow.
Blinking, Embry scrabbled clumsily back.
His gaze washed over her head tipped fearfully into the space between her shoulder and the wall, hidden behind her hair.
His swallow squeaked in his throat. "Hey," he tried to whisper but it came out more like a rasp.
That chin tucked a little tighter and then turned incrementally toward him, peeking timidly from around the thick sable curtain.
Chin tucked, slowly a heart-shaped face turned to him. The longest lashes he'd seen in his life nestled against high cheeks and a tiny nose whose nostrils flared softly was complimented by perfect bow lips. Her features rolled pleasingly into a masterpiece that spoke to Native ancestry, mixed blood like his own and something else almost too inhumanly beautiful to be human.
But… she wasn't, was she?
She wasn't human.
Even wolf that he was, he couldn't wrap his muddled mind around it.
Licking his lips, he tried again. "I'm-… I'm Embry."
Her lashes were so long, they drooped when they fluttered as the girl slowly lifted her gaze.
And Embry felt like he'd been socked in the face.
Huge back eyes wrapped around his heart, so achingly soulful and tender that he wanted to fall at her feet and weep. They overtook her face like a child's, but with the presence of a woman and the magnetism of something more still. In an instant Embry knew, without a doubt, that he could fall into those eyes and drown without regret because surely there was nothing more beautiful in the world.
She blinked slowly, freeing him from their bewitching spell and Embry drew in the first breath of seconds or hours, he couldn't be sure.
Or maybe it was just the first breath of his life.
Her head tipped fluidly to the side as delicate brows pushed together, making her look both concerned and confused. She flowed out of her corner, subtly lifting her nose to the air like she was scenting him.
His breath hitching unevenly in his chest, Embry held as still as physically possible as she pushed herself toward him with an effortless grace that made her look like she moved underwater. He couldn't tear his eyes from hers as they washed over his face and her head listed the other way.
When she got to the edge of the mattress she tipped her chin out tentatively toward him.
Mesmerized he slowly scooted closer while he watched her study him with an endearing wonder like she'd never in her life met a man.
Her eyes returned to his, locking into place with two fluttering blinks and bow russet lips curved hesitantly. Without a sound, she leaned in, swooping slowly up until they were nose-to-nose.
Embry held his breath.
Then she leaned in and touched his nose with hers. A single gentle touch that was like ground zero in a nuclear holocaust.
Shockwaves reeled through his body and he shuddered in resonance as her warm breath spilled over his face and he sucked it greedily over his lips so he could savor it in the roof of his mouth. Just like the doe's, her scent was sweet but settled – like springtime and apple-blossoms and rain.
Suddenly she sprang back at the harsh explosion of sound behind him. As the phone bounced and growled across the cement floor, she scrabbled frantically back to the corner.
Embry reached behind him and picked up the cell, silencing it with his thumb– while cursing Jacob Black in every language he knew.
Keeping his eyes locked on the woman now cowering behind a curtain of hair, he brought it to his cheek. "Jake," he whispered to a voice already mid-bellow. "Call you back."
He clicked it off and slid it in his pocket.
Pushing his hand nervously through his hair, Embry's gaze darted over her little body curled in a knot under tangled hair, trying to figure out what to do and carefully ignoring the elephant in the room… or the doe.
These were the facts: here was a naked girl who was afraid; she'd just been through physical and mental trauma; they both needed food, a bath and clothes.
And Embry could hear the television blaring loudly over his mother's drunken laughter.
First things first, he needed to get her somewhere safe and stable.
Flipping his hair out of his eyes, he crawled along the mattress to other end and climbed up to sit on the corner and pulled out his phone again. He dialed one-handed and brought it to his cheek.
"Embry!" Jake growled before it had even rung.
"Jacob," he whispered. "You said if I needed help you'd be there, no questions asked?"
His Alpha immediately snapped to attention. "Yes."
"Well, I need help," Embry breathed, watching the girl peek at him through her hair. "But no questions, right?"
He heard Jacob swallow over the phone, choosing his words carefully – he never lied if he could help it. "No questions for now, Emb."
"Um, okay. I-… I-…"
His voice failed him and he could feel the phone shaking against his ear in his hand. He was scared shitless because if this girl really was a shapeshifter, there were a whole fuckload of implications, not the least of which was that they'd have to find out where she was from.
And take her home.
It was the last thing in the world he wanted to do right now. Or ever.
But right now she needed him and he needed his Pack and there was no way he was going to be able to pass her off as a normal girl– not acting like this. Embry had to think of her safety first and not be a selfish prick.
"Emb, promise," Jacob soothed, reminding him he was on the other end of the line.
Embry swallowed thickly. "I need you to come to my house…" he whispered and then paused, squeezing his eyes closed for a moment. "With Bella."
Jacob sounded like he was being strangled.
"Jake, I found a girl in my shed," Embry continued, barely audible to all but a supernatural ear. "No questions, remember?"
His Alpha drew in a long measured breath before blowing it out so harshly the mic went static. "Emb if Bella is involved," he said slowly. "You know I gotta ask one question."
"It's safe. Promise," Embry answered. "But pull around to the shed. My mom's home."
"Be there in ten."
"Oh and Jake?" he stopped him.
Embry squinted. "Can you bring her some clothes?"
"Sure, Emb," he bit out carefully, obviously battling the soliloquy that wanted to come along with it.
Without any more useless words, Embry clicked off the phone, letting it fall to the bed as his eyes returned to the girl.
He found her no longer curled into a ball and now watching him from under those ridiculous lashes.
Blinking he turned more toward her and offered her a soft smile. "I'm not going to hurt you, sweetheart," he whispered.
He'd never ever hurt her.
Her head swayed again to the side, as if trying to understand the words. Unlike the crisp lupine mannerisms, her every move was liquid.
Embry wanted to reach out to her so badly, but if his fucked up life had taught him anything, it was patience. He shifted stiff legs so he could turn to face her, pulling his knees on the mattress. Taking a deep breath he released it slowly and tried to let the tension seep out of his aching shoulders- he still felt like he'd been run over by a mac truck.
But this was worth it.
Just this moment here: those eyes, that timorous curve to her lips, the way she inched across the mattress toward him. For once in his life Embry was proud: he'd saved her life. He could have so easily turned away…
And let Jacob snap her neck.
A heated shudder raced up his spine and he tried to keep the fury out of his face.
But she noticed.
Those sensitive brows knit as she tipped her head to the other side but instead of making her pause it just seemed to propel her forward faster.
In the next instant she was pushing off the mattress with the heels of her hands and leaning toward him. Embry bent forward a little more and again she rose with little sniffs until she touched her nose to his. His body reacted instantly – all the heat was pushed away by the wash of pleasure from just the brush of her skin. He idly wondered if she had some kind of magic because he'd never felt anything like it.
She pulled back and those haunting eyes washed over his face like she was inspecting each pore. He couldn't help that his smile grew broader - she was the most beautiful, gentle creature he'd ever seen and he was getting to spend these moments with her.
Her gaze snapped down to his mouth and then back up to his eyes, the faintest echo appearing on her lips.
"I'm Embry," he whispered, slowly raising his palm to his chest. "Embry."
Eyes darting down to the movement, she looked back up into his face with guileless confusion.
"You?" he asked her quietly. "Embry," he patted his chest and then pointed to her. "You?"
She blinked up at him but instead of answering, she scooted closer and he found he really didn't mind because then she was leaning into his shoulder.
And nothing else mattered in the world.
She seemed to find it as soothing as he did because she released a shaky sigh as her body melted into his side.
Embry's eyes closed into the single best moment of his life.
He wasn't stupid enough to think he was going to keep it, but it was so much better than dreams. Just for now, he let himself slip into this novel sense of peace.
"It's okay. You don't have to have a name," he whispered through a pastel smile, leaning his cheek down hesitantly until it rested lightly on the top of her head. "I'll just call you sweetheart."
Until he had to give her back.
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