Chapter One - Cruel Summer

Summer 2002

"Got everything you need, Bells?" Charlie's voice echoed through the house.

"Yeah! Be right down, dad!" I yelled back, looking down at my meager supplies.

Sleeping bag. Clothes. Swimsuit. Sunscreen. Where in the seven hells was my bug spray? I refused to go to the beach and let the mosquitoes bite my scrawny ass.

I re-checked my bag, going through it twice, then ran across the hall to the tiny bathroom, searching the cabinet for the can of life saving juices.

"I'm leaving in two minutes!" Charlie warned.

Rushing back to my room, I grabbed my bag and ran down the stairs, tripping on my shoelaces first thing. Everything blurred into slow motion. My hands went out to break my fall, a slight squeak escaped my lips. And just as the hardwood floor came into view, strong arms caught me.

"Got your insurance card?" Charlie set me back on my feet.

Heart racing, I couldn't help but let out a little laugh. "Always."

"I should take Jacob up on his offer of mummifying you in bubble wrap." Charlie grumbled, taking my backpack. "Tie your shoes and let's go."

Planting my ass on the bottom step, I quickly re-tied my shoes, making sure they were double knotted and I was no longer in danger of ending my life by fall damage, then ran out to the cruiser. Charlie stood next to the front door waiting for me to walk out, something he'd never done before. The door clicked shut and he turned the key to lock both the knob and the deadbolt.

"It's that bad?" I asked, my voice faltering for a moment.

Forks wasn't the type of place where people had to lock their doors, let alone the Police Chief. Every once in a while you'd get the random crackhead that'd break into an abandoned house to steal stuff, or the occasional house party in the summer, but it wasn't the kind of town that people didn't feel safe in.

"Not much to go on yet." Charlie opened the trunk to his police car and placed my bags inside. "Better safe than sorry though."

I plopped down in the passenger seat and shut the door, watching my father carefully. He looked - unsettled. He wasn't the smiley type of person on the best days, but recently there'd been a hard line that furrowed his brow, like he was always in deep thought.

He drove in silence while I tried my best not to stare or pester him with questions. Charlie wasn't much of a talker, and well, I was too curious for my own good, something that never failed to land me in the thick of trouble.

The car stopped in front of the outdated diner - with its peeling paint and grimey windows - and for once my father's mood seemed to lighten. "We gotta make it pretty quick, I'm supposed to meet some important people at the station in a couple hours."

"I know." I rolled my eyes. It was no secret that there was an FBI agent hanging out at the local motel.

Charlie shook his head and let out a sigh, following me into the diner.

The tall waitress ran toward me. "Bellybug!"

My face burned at the nickname and I grimaced when all of Forks' Diner turned to smile at me.

"Laney!" I returned.

"Belly, Dad, your usual?" Laney asked, setting us up at our regular table.

My father flushed at the title, but nodded. "And some takeout for Billy and his crew."

Laney let out a nervous chuckle and looked over her shoulder toward the kitchen. "Hey Bob, we got the fridge restocked this morning, right?"

"Yep!" Bob the cook called back. "Why?"

"Feeding the Swans and Blacks." Laney smirked.

"Gosh darnit!" Bob swore, the sound of a pan hitting the floor echoing through the diner.

"I'll be back in a sec with drinks and the paper, Dad." Laney placed a couple of straws on the table.

I sat there quietly, reading my book, while random townsfolk walked up and talked to Charlie. Diner days usually went this way. Everyone wanted to know what he knew. Everyone wanted that first hand information that Charlie always refused to give.

Laney returned a few minutes later, all humor had left her face and her bright blue eyes were narrowed as she placed the paper face down on the table then unloaded my Coke and Charlie's black coffee from the tray.

"Feeling okay, kid?" Charlie asked, pulling his cup closer.

"Weather making me achy." Laney smiled tightly. "Be right back with your food."

Something was wrong. I watched Laney walk stiffly back into the kitchen, then turned to see Charlie flip over the paper, his eyes narrowing as he read the headline.


There was no time to read the rest of the article as Linda, the diner's oldest waitress, walked up holding a tray full of food.

"Bob will have the rest ready in ten minutes. Enjoy."

We ate in silence. Charlie methodically worked through his steak and eggs while refusing to let me see the paper. In the meantime, I carefully ate my pancakes while contemplating my devious plan.

Laney appeared just as we'd finished, arms ladened with four hulking paper bags. "Do you two need anything else?"

"Are we still going to see the new Slapface movie?" I asked, knowing Laney got a kick out of the comedy action films. "I'll be at the rez all weekend, maybe Jake and Rach can-"

"Monday." Laney cut me off. "If I'm not working."

I frowned. "Okay, but they have the matinee on Saturday so we can get a discount."

"Monday." Laney placed the bill on the table and walked away.

"Sure." I leaned back, a knot in my throat. Laney was never that abrupt, not in all the years I'd known her. She was always happy and easy going.

Something was definitely wrong.

Charlie laid a generous tip on the table then stood up. "I've got this, Bells. You go out to the car."

While I wasn't thrilled at being dismissed twice in as many minutes, I knew that this was the perfect time to observe. Rushing out to the car, I got in the passenger seat and closed the door, leaning forward to stare through the windows.

Laney was at the register, her mouth set in a tight line as Charlie handed her a few bills. He said something that made her crack a smile for the smallest second, and then her face went back into a scowl. God, I needed to get my hands on a newspaper. Or a computer! My plan was coming into focus. And I knew exactly what needed to be done.

Later that night, after Billy went to sleep, Jacob, Rachel, Rebecca and I all hovered around the computer listening as it dialed through to connect to the internet.

"Put a pillow over it or it's gonna wake him up!" Rachel hissed, slapping Jake on the back of the head.

Jake chuckled, grabbed a pillow, and smothered the pc tower, trying to drown out the loud beeping sounds the old computer made. "Why is this so important?"

"Are you dense?" Rebecca chucked another pillow at him. "You've seen the way the Elders are acting! Dad wouldn't even let me go out with Leah and Sam. All of those missing people aren't just disappearing."

"Ten people just don't vanish in one month without some kind of clue." I added, letting out a breath when the web browser finally popped up on the screen. "Could be a serial killer."

"Dad told Harry that it might be a rabid animal." Jake shrugged his shoulders.

"Rabid animals don't live past a week or two," I said, watching Rachel type. "The attacks have been going on for over a month."

"I wish it'd be over with." Jake whined. "Embry and Quil wanted to go camping next weekend and Dad said no."

"Here it is!" Rebecca exclaimed, pointing to the article.

We all went silent, eyes glued to the words in front of them. Ten people. Five men, three women, and two children under the age of twelve. People who had lives and families. People who went camping in the Olympic National Forest never to be seen or heard from again. I knew about the missing people second hand, as Charlie went on every single call. He'd be gone for two or three days, leaving me with Billy or Laney while he assisted the search and rescue parties.

The first few were considered random accidents, someone just getting lost in the woods and dying due to the elements. The next few were thought to be hikers trying to search for the missing people who fell into the same predicament. The rest were assuredly not an accident. The last two people to go missing were trained trail guides, well capable of taking care of themselves.

Thousands of people and as many man hours spent combing the forest and not even a scrap of clothing was found. Whatever or whoever was taking these people knew exactly what they were doing. And they did it well. Well enough that the trained hound dogs refused to go on the trail and only turned in circles, whining when they came to the edge of the forest. They were scared.

"Look at this!" Rachel clicked a link and pulled up a large scaled image. "It's moving closer!"

The map numbered the places the missing people were last seen. Sure enough, number ten was about ten miles east of the 101.

"It's gotta be a Yeti," Jake said, wide eyed as he leaned back against the bed.

"You're a dumbass," Rachel scoffed. "Yeti's live in snowy regions. This is probably just a typical Squatch."

"We have the Cascades to the east!" Jake was highly offended. "It could be lost."

The four of us spent a few minutes studying the map before the magic of the internet dragged us down the dark wormhole of urban legends and campfire horror stories. By the time we laid down to go to sleep, Jake was requesting to keep the light on and Rachel refused to open the window even though it was overly warm in her room. We all laid there, staring at the ceiling and jumping at each noise and bump in the night until the sun came up and we were too tired to hold our eyes open.

On Sunday evening Charlie arrived to pick me up. He and Billy exchanged a few words and joked around, then planned their next fishing trip while I scrambled around the small cabin to find my things. The three hugged me quickly before I ran to the cruiser and hopped in, ready to interrogate my father, but the moment he sat down in the driver's seat, I knew it wasn't the time.

"Have you had dinner yet?" He asked as he pulled onto the main road.

"Nope." I shrugged. "You?"


"I actually found a recipe for bacon and ranch cheesy hashbrowns. Mind if I cook?"

Charlie turned to me and smiled. "Sounds good. What do you need?"

"Just a few things from Thriftway."

We pulled into the parking lot fifteen minutes later and I jumped out and rushed through the store, grabbing what I needed and then ran back to the car, my arms loaded down with my purchases.

"You empty the bank account?" Charlie joked.

"Sam was working, so he gave me a good deal on some steaks. I only needed some potatoes and the ranch, and I bought the stuff for salad and soup for tomorrow. Figured I'd make some stuff for you and the guys at the station."

Charlie's mustache twitched. "You spoil us, kiddo."

As they passed by the diner, I noticed the crappy little white car missing from the parking lot. "Any word from Laney?"

"She has the weekend off," Charlie replied, the lines on his face became more pronounced as a frown appeared.

"Oh," I said, leaning my head against the window and wondering why Laney blew me off.

The rest of the drive was spent in silence, with me worrying about my father being out there with a possible serial killer or even a Sasquatch. It wasn't something that I'd dare ask him about, as I knew he took his role as both a police officer and as a father seriously, he'd never want me to worry. He also wouldn't give me case sensitive information, which was the biggest drawback.

All I needed was something more than a vague news article to assuage my curiosity. Charlie wasn't the man for the job. I needed someone who knew more. Someone who had ears on the entire town of Forks and her visitors. Which is why I needed Laney. Only Laney was acting weirder and more secretive than my father.

Dinner was cooked and eaten with Charlie's quiet company. On par with recent events, the phone rang around six thirty.

"Mark, give me five and I'll be there. Yeah, I got the address. No, keep those vultures back until I get there. I'll give a statement when there's something to tell."

"Another one?" I asked as soon as Charlie hung up the phone.

"Two more." He rubbed his face. "Get ready and I'll take you in with me, maybe Billy or Mrs. Stanley can pick you up."

Just the thought of spending an evening with Jessica had my dinner threatening to make a reappearance. "I'll be fine, dad. I've got to finish my summer reading and I'll never get that done with Jake or Jess around."

Charlie seemed to be second guessing himself, so I added; "And I need to take a shower and do laundry. You do want clean clothes this week, right?"

After a glance at his watch he let out a groan. "Lock the doors, don't leave the house. If you need me, call Beth and she'll patch you through. I'll be back as soon as I can."

Charlie went through the house, checking each window and door, pointing out the gun in the safe and had me recite the combination three times before he walked out the door, leaving me to my thoughts and plans. Phone to my ear, I set to work. It rang and rang, but there was no answer. Laney's house was too close to the most recent disappearance for comfort, but I couldn't just go over there - knowingly disobeying my father - without an excuse.

An hour later I stood in front of the counter, my work complete. One raw sirloin steak - seasoned and ready to be grilled-, mixed vegetables, and cheesy potato casserole. Laney would have no need for privacy with a meal like this in front of her.

Carefully placing the tupperware containers and bag of utensils in the cooler, I zipped it up and strapped it over my shoulder, then walked out the back door, locking it behind me. It was about a rough hour's hike to the old Swan homestead on the Calawah river, but I had time to get there and back before sundown. It was surrounded by national forest on all sides and the only way in or out was by the old logging road or through the woods.

Compass held tightly in my hand, I stepped into the forest on a mission. But after an hour of walking, nothing looked familiar. The thunder rumbling in the distance was a sure sign that the summer storms weren't going to let up and I was running out of daylight. Maybe I took a wrong turn, I thought, looking around at the base of the trees. Jacob told me that moss always grew to the north, but most of these trees had moss covering every side. Another look at my compass told me that I was indeed heading north, but how far I'd gone was a different mystery.

My foot caught on a root and I stumbled forward, barely catching myself on a sapling. Clumsy, Bella. Really clumsy. I berated myself. Laney had made this hike with me twice before, but the older girl was always there at my side to make sure I avoided the patches of poison oak and the worst of the roots that always seemed to spring up just to trip me.

"Fuck." I groaned, looking up at what little of the darkening sky could be seen through the heavy canopy of limbs and leaves. There was no way I would make it there or back before dark and I hadn't even thought of bringing a flashlight.

The rumble grew louder in the distance. Spiderwebs of lightning lit up the clouds and cast eerie shadows across the forest floor. I moved away from the tallest trees and knelt down, making myself as small as possible. It'd be just my luck to get struck by lightning in the middle of the forest.

Drops of rain began to fall, one by one they hit the ground, sounding more like small stones. I pulled my hat lower wishing that I'd worn something more substantial than shorts and a tank top. Wishing that I'd just brought that damned flashlight. And most of all I wished that I had heeded Charlie's advice to stay home.

The forest darkened to a pitch black, only the infrequent bursts of lightning giving me any view of what was around. Was that a footstep? I spun around, lightning flashed again, but the shadows it created were playing tricks with my mind. A gust of wind made my hair stick to my face. A gust of wind that I only felt on one side of my body. A low growl sounded nearby and my heart leapt into my throat. Another flash of lightning that showed something far taller and thinner than a mountain lion. I took one, then two steps backward, before taking off running with my hands stretched out in front of me to avoid running into anything.

Only I was too late. Something collided into me with the force of a battering ram. Claws dug into my arms, something heavy pinned me face down in the mud and leaves. A gasp filled the air, my own struggling scream stuck in my throat. Pain erupted in my shoulder. It burned! Worse than when I'd fallen into the bonfire at La Push. My blood was on fire. Burning up to my scalp and down to my fingers and toes.

A loud crash echoed in the night, mixed with a cacophony of growls and screams, and the weight disappeared. I was barely able to lift my head to see the source, but when the lightning flashed again I didn't want to see anymore. But I was unable to tear my eyes away from the massive, hulking, white wolf. It was the size of a large horse. Its blue eyes glowed like sapphires as it pinned a bedraggled man to the ground. White teeth half as long as my arm dug into his pale skin, his screams rending the air and making my hair stand on end.

The man flailed and I gasped out a cry as he punched the beast in the throat, sending it flying backwards. Then he was suddenly in front of me once again, his cold hands tearing me away from the safety of the ground. Another growl. Another set of teeth dug into my ribcage and I was violently ripped from his grasp and slung carelessly to the ground like a discarded squeaky toy.

My side burned cold, like frostbite. A million times worse than a brain freeze, it made me claw at my skin as it traveled through, causing my muscles to cramp up and my bones to ache with pain unlike anything I'd experienced before. Fire met ice in my veins and the pain reached a crescendo. The scream I'd longed for finally erupted from my throat, louder than the thunder and cracks of lightning. On and on it went until I thought I could scream no more. And then bile pooled in my mouth, making me gag and retch. Everything I'd eaten over what felt like my entire life spewed from my mouth.

The puddle of water around me grew, surely soaked with my own blood. Of all the ways to die, it would be in a pool of my own blood, piss, and vomit.

The dark clouds above me drifted by and I stared up at the sky, knowing this was my last moment, and all I could think of was that I hadn't left a note for Charlie. He would be worried about me. Who was going to make sure he ate something healthier than what Laney shoveled onto his plate at the diner?

The last thing I saw was the clouds part, giving way to the brightness of the full moon, before darkness encroached once again, leaving me alone in my suffering.

An eternity later, strong arms lifted me up, making the pain intensify ten fold. A soft familiar voice whispered apologies that I couldn't quite understand. If this was death, why was there still so much pain?

My heart beat faster beneath broken ribs, the sound echoing and throbbing in my ears. The low calm voice was all that kept me centered. I focused on that soothing tone and obeyed its every request. I thought about my mother. Renee had spent years begging me to move back to Phoenix, but I refused, loving my life in Forks with Charlie. Maybe that was a mistake. He didn't need me. Unlike Renee, he was fully capable of taking care of himself. He never forgot to pay his bills or wake up on time for work. He always made sure there was food in the house. I would miss him so much. I existed only to complicate his life. What wouldn't I give for five more minutes just to tell him that I loved him?

Pain engulfed my face and I snapped out of my thoughts.

"Listen to me, Isabella Swan!" That familiar voice ordered. "Don't you dare die on me, you hear?"

My body fought against me, forcing me to clench my fists, wiggle my toes and finally open my eyes only to shut them quickly when the overly bright, orange halo burned my retinas.

Another sharp slap to my cheek forced me to try again and brought a face into view. "There you are!"

"L...Laney?" I stuttered.

"For fucks sake!" Laney let out a breath. "I thought I'd killed you!"


"Of course it fucking hurts!" Laney ground out. "You just got… You know what, we'll save that for after your nap."

Nap? I couldn't think of anything less likely. But the thought had barely slipped through my mind before I couldn't make a rational thought or sentence come to mind. My eyes fluttered shut and darkness engulfed me once again. The pain was there and it was getting worse, but for some reason I wasn't able to fight it anymore.

Words were spoken in a language I didn't understand, but they eased my shattered nerves somewhat. What began to bother me was how I couldn't move or speak. My eyes refused to open. And the pain. The battle of fire and ice raged within me, freezing and burning every nerve and setting each alight in perfect symmetry.

And then the pain centered on my ribs and shoulder, scorching and freezing until there was nothing left but this dull ache in my throat and gums. A familiar ache. The memory came unbidden from the depths of my mind of being in first grade and biting Jessica Stanley because she'd stolen my purple crayon. God, I'd never wanted to bite someone more than I do now. I could feel that ache in my gums, that feeling of sinking my teeth into warm flesh and letting them clench down.


The voice startled me so much that I leapt up, opening my eyes and landing neatly on the wooden floor. There before me stood Laney, the same Laney who let me watch R rated movies and let me take a sip or two of vodka. Only Laney looked different. She had small white scars covering her face and arms. Her legs were riddled with longer, more painful looking scars. A few were fresh, the skin just beginning to stitch together. All of them shimmered when touched by the sunlight.

"How?" I pointed at them.

Laney grimaced and held out a hand.

I stared at her hand, the flesh that was right there in front of me, beckoning with an open invitation.

"Don't you even think about biting me, little girl." Laney's voice had a harsh edge to it that made me look up in shock. "I know you want to, but I wouldn't recommend it. I bite back."

"How'd you-"

"Follow me."

I placed my hand in Laney's, feeling the warmth she exuded, letting it ground me. It was all so surreal. Everything looked and felt new and old at the same time, like I was walking on air. My legs moved forward, no stumbling or awkward gate, just simple graceful movement. But it was all so sluggish, like a movie in slow motion. I took a few steps faster and Laney turned to shoot me a glare.

"No. You only move as fast as I do."

I swallowed hard, nodding my head. "Why?"

"Stubborn pup." Laney rolled her eyes. "Unless you want Charlie to think you were mauled by a bear and killed in the forest you'll do as I say."

Those words brought images and memories straight to the surface of my mind. The huge white beast, the screaming man, my father's words to stay home. I shuddered and slowly stepped into Laney's room.

"Acceptance." Laney moved away from me, pulling a floor length dressing mirror into view. "Is the first step."

The image in the mirror shocked me and I fought the urge to scream. Modesty required me to cover up, and I scrambled around for something to hide my nakedness.

"Seriously?" Laney shook her head. "You've still got your bra and underwear on, that's more than I had. Stop worrying about that for a second and take another look in the mirror."

The retort was on my lips, but for once I did as told. The figure in the mirror was still me, of course it was. It had my pale face and dark brown eyes, but I couldn't comprehend the new things that I was seeing. A huge scar across my ribs. Two long lines that wrapped halfway around my body. Another much smaller scar on my shoulder that showed the perfect imprint of teeth. My fingers traced it and I pulled back quickly at the odd sensation.

"It's cold!"

"Vampire bites tend to do that." Laney answered as though she was announcing the weather. "See mine?"

Laney moved closer, until I could feel her warm breath when she grabbed my hand and placed it on her wrist. "I have quite a few vampire bites myself."

"Vampire," I repeated the word stupidly. "Vampires!?"

"I forgot about this part." Laney winced.

"Fucking vampires!" I yelled. "Are you on crack? Vampires don't exist! They're fucking mythical beings!"

"How do you explain Sunday night?"

Lightning. Teeth. Growls.

"It was a bad dream!"

"Look at yourself, Bella. In the mirror."

I didn't want to. I knew what I would see. My own scars staring back at me mockingly. Scars that should have been fresh and gaping wounds.

"I have gunk in my hair!" I scowled, picking at a matted patch. "What is that?"

Laney frowned. "A piece of your attacker. I'll just burn that real fast."

"Burn it?" I asked, my mouth dropping open. "Why? Am I going to get a disease? Vampisyphylitis or something?"

"You've contracted enough diseases for a twenty-four hour period." Laney rolled her eyes. "You're immune to all of the other bullshit now."

"I am so confused!" I screamed, resisting the urge to grab her by the shoulders and shake her until answers poured out of her mouth.

"We'll talk after you have a long shower," Laney said, pushing me toward the bathroom door. "There's no way in hell I can take you home looking like that. Charlie will kill me."

"You promise?" I asked, not knowing what I wanted more, answers or my dad.

"I promise, Bells," Laney said, pointing to the shower. "Go wash your ass."

"Yeah, yeah," I mumbled, walking in the bathroom and flinging the door shut behind me.

It slammed hard against the frame, falling completely off the hinges and landing inches away from Laney's feet. Her glare spoke volumes, but she said nothing, simply picking it up and leaning it up to cover the hole.

"Sorry," I whispered, grimacing as I reached into the shower and gently turned the water on.

Without Laney hovering around, I took an opportunity to scout out any more abnormalities on my person. The first major difference was the clarity of my skin. Despite the grime and dirt, my complexion was clear. No annoying acne or blackheads. My hair was thicker too, with far more volume and shine than before. And that wasn't even the start.

"I have an ass!" I screamed. "And real titties!

"You just noticed?!" Laney called back.

"I'm taller too!" I yelped. "Holy shitballs, Batman! I'm smokin'."

Four hours later Laney and I were standing in the treetops, watching and listening to the droves of search and rescue workers combing the forest. Dogs barked in the distance, their scents finding me even though I was a half-mile away.

"Well, fuck," Laney hissed, snapping a branch off. "This is getting more and more complicated."

"What happened?" I asked, turning to see the frown on her face.

"Are you really that dense?" She arched an eyebrow at me and flailed her hand at the scene below. "They're searching for your dumb ass, that's what happened."

"Oh shit!" I gasped. "Charlie! Laney, I have to go home. Now!"

"Shut up for a second and let me think," Laney said, her voice a near whisper as her brow furrowed.

I waited, holding my breath as my rapid heartbeat thrummed against my ribs. And I waited. Until I was distracted by a bee. A bee that I tried to catch, losing my footing and falling about twenty feet until I caught myself.

Laney landed gracefully on the branch next to me, a glare on her face.

"Oops," I said, holding on with one hand.

Laney rolled her eyes and kicked out, breaking the branch that was holding me up. Shock overwhelmed me. The audacity of that hoe astounded me to the point that I didn't even try to land gracefully. I simply hit the ground ass first with a heavy thud that scared the birds.

Before I could blink, Laney was standing next to me, grabbing me by the shoulders and tossing me like a ragdoll across the mossy ground.

"What the fuck?!" I ground out, both hurt and furious. "I was clean!"

"You can't be clean," Laney said, her eyes frantic as she grabbed a clump of moss and rubbed it across my white shirt. "You need to look like you've been lost in the woods for the past few days."

"Is that the story?"

"That's part of it,"

"What's the other part?" I asked, grimacing as I rubbed dirt onto my face and neck.

"Confession time." Laney bent down and ripped my pants leg, then stood. "I wasn't sure you were going to survive the other night."

"Okay?" I tilted my head, wondering where this conversation was headed.

"I, um, trashed your house," Laney said, an apologetic smile on her face. "Sorry about that."

"Why did you trash my house?" I flailed my hands wildly, waiting for an explanation.

"I needed Charlie to think that the serial killer got you," Laney said quickly.

"Oh my god!" I covered my mouth in horror. "He's probably freaking out! Why would you do that?"

"How else was I going to hide your disappearance, Bells?" Laney replied. "I can't turn into a human during the full moon! All I could do was keep him from showing up at my place to look for you!"

"How bad did you wreck it?" I asked, slapping my palm to my forehead.

Laney shrugged. "I kicked the door down and tossed some shit around. Made it look like a bear attack. I owe you a copy of Pride and Prejudice, by the way."

"It was the schools anyway," I said, letting out a breath. "I hate that book."

"Yeah, it's destroyed now." Laney held out her hand to me. "A door for a door. Truce?"

"Truce." I shook her hand, rolling my eyes. "You didn't like, shit on the floor or anything, did you?"

Laney's mouth dropped open. "I am housetrained, Bella."

"Just asking!" I snickered, then sobered up. "Okay, so what's the plan?"

"You and I are going back to my place for dinner and a long chat," Laney said after a few seconds. "No shower this time. If I think you're capable of acting like a human being and not munching on random people, I'll take you home in the morning."

"Charlie's going to kill me," I said, grimacing. "I'll be grounded until I graduate."

It was a weird night to say the least. My normal brain probably would've imploded trying to process the massive amount of information that Laney flung at me. My new brain on the other hand was doing just fine sorting all of it out and organizing it into neat little piles of chaos.

"So what's the purpose of the Volturi?" Laney asked, pacing the living room floor.

"Keeping the existence of mythical beings a secret," I answered quickly.

"What's the first rule of the Volturi?"

"Keep the existence of mythical beings a secret."

"What's the second rule of the Volturi?"

"Clean up after yourself and don't act like the Nosferatu mother fucker that attacked me."

Laney stopped, pinning me with an incredulous look. "Spread out your hunting grounds and carefully dispose of the remains. That is the proper answer, Bella."

"That one doesn't really apply to me though," I said, taking another bite of my gross microwaved cheeseburger. "I eat people food."

"Okay, moving on." Laney rubbed her forehead. "What's the third law?"

"Kids make really bad vampires. So don't turn kids into vampires."

"The fourth law?" Laney asked in a dark tone.

"Associating with Children of the Moon is not tolerated under any circumstance," I said seriously. "Any known werewolf is to be reported to the Volturi at once."

"What do you not do in Volterra?"

"Hunting within the city or nearby areas is prohibited."

"Good." Laney nodded. "What happens if a human learns our secret?"

"I have to kill them or change them," I answered, swallowing hard at the thought.

"What happens if you change them?"

"They're my responsibility until they're through their newborn phase," I said. "It's also my job as their creator to teach them the rules."

"What happens if you break any of the rules?"

"They'll kill me," I answered, clenching my fists. "Laney, how long have you been a werewolf?"

"A long time, kid." Laney let out a laugh that held no warmth. "And that's enough for tonight. I think I'll give you a B+."

"B+!" I yelled in shock. "That was A- quality work!"

"You ad libbed." Laney arched an eyebrow at me, picking up her empty plate and taking it to the sink. "You're on dish duty tonight. If all goes to plan, I'll take you home in the morning."

"Do you think I'm ready?" I asked honestly, knowing I still had a lot to learn.

"Just be careful with your strength." Laney shot me a pointed look. "And no doctors. No matter what. And no biting people!"

"Are you sure I won't wolf-out like you do on the full moon?" I asked.

"Very sure," Laney replied. "You would've transitioned as soon as I bit you if that was the case."

"Well, that's good I guess." I shrugged. "I don't think Charlie would handle that well."

"Surely not." Laney replied. "Oh, one more thing."

"Yeah?" I asked, turning on the sink to start washing the dishes.

"You know that nap you took earlier?" Laney grinned. "I hope you enjoyed it, because you'll never sleep again."