CHAPTER ONE DESPERATION

I couldn't stay away from her. Not for much longer, anyway. It had been little over a year-and-a-half since I'd last seen Claire; almost two. She was going to be in kindergarten soon. The time and distance was absolutely killing me. My little Claire Bear was growing older without me there to protect her innocence, and there was nothing I could do about it. I was stuck here in La Push, bound by obligations, while every bone in my body ached to run to the little girl who had absolutely stolen my heart.

Can you please just focus on the task, Romeo? I heard the bitter voice of Jacob Black in the back of my head; felt his intense rage as if it were my own. I wasn't angry. I was just miserable. He, on the other hand, had failed to get over Bella, something that he, at least, had the ability to do.

Maybe you'll understand some day, Black, I retorted, adding an audible snarl. My pace quickened in the night, and I left my companion far behind. I knew that if the others had been anywhere near, they would have told me how uncalled for my reaction had been, but I was left alone in my head, not even Jake chasing after me.

I ran until my muscles became so sore that I could barely even walk. It was an understatement to say how much of an accomplishment that had been for me. As a werewolf, I was used to unusual bouts of strength and endurance, but the pain had driven me to the point of almost collapsing. Life was Hell without Claire by my side. I felt as if I was going absolutely crazy. What was she doing right now? Was she smiling? Laughing? What would her parents do if some little punk bullied her on the first day of school? What if she fell? I tried not to think of all the horrible possibilities that came with each new day, but it was no use. Claire was my every thought.

With a resigned sigh, I stretched myself out across the dirt. I was too exhausted to change back into Quil Ateara or to even return home. My large, muddy-brown eyes just stared at the moon – my only connection with Claire – until I finally drifted off into sleep.


When morning hit, I reluctantly changed into my clothes and headed back. My body was so stiff from the run and the hard ground that I was limping. The minute I got home, I was taking a hot shower. I needed to wipe off all of this mud, anyway. It had decided to rain while I was asleep, so I had gotten my coat all matted in mud, which now meant that my skin was absolutely covered in it. Not that I usually minded, but I wasn't in the happiest of moods lately.

I should have realized how badly I'd be paying for that. Still having no energy, I couldn't find the will to actually speak to myself. I'm sore, I'm miserable, and I'm starving. If I'd, for some strange reason, seen a cow anywhere near me, I honestly think that I would have eaten the shit out of that thing.

It took twice as long to reach the house. Although I knew that my mother was going to be pissed at the sight of me (and the carpet when I walked on it), I really didn't care. I was going to shower, devour, and sleep.


The smell of pancakes, bacon, sausage, and eggs lingered in the air. It was faint, which meant that Mom must have cooked all of it at least twenty minutes ago. I felt my stomach grumble. Maybe I'd devour before I showered. I wasn't a neat freak or anything, and with any luck, there'd still be some food left.

Like with any man, my stomach decided for me. I headed to the kitchen, not noticing (or caring) the lack of bodies within the immediate part of the house. What they were doing did not concern me. What did was a lot of sausage. Frankly, I would've rather eaten the whole pig, but I was pretty sure that Mom would've bitched and whined about how "unmannerly" the whole thing would've been.

When I entered the kitchen, I instantly noticed a stack of dishes that practically had Quil written all over them. A groan rattled thickly in my throat but quickly died down when I stuck my head in the fridge. There was a small stack of pancakes still left over, but what I wanted was the meat. "Aha." To my delight, I found Tupperware filled with both the bacon and sausage. Like only a wolf could, I tore open the lids and sunk my teeth into the food. So what that it was cold? I was hungry; it made no difference.

Before I completely engorged myself, I snagged the orange juice from the fridge and chugged. Mom must have heard all of the noise because her voice suddenly addressed me. "Quil? Is that you? Honey, I've been worried sick about yo – MY CARPET!" Ah, just like my mother. "What a mess... How many times... Expensive..." Really, it was all just blah, blah, blah to me.

She found me with my face stuffed. "There you are." The voice that had been filled with such concern had already melted in annoyance. "Mike, Rachel, and Claire are going to be here in an hour. If you had actually been here, you would have known that! Your father is driving to the airport to pick them up and I've been cleaning for hours. So while I try to get all of that dirt out of my carpet, you need to shower and DO THOSE DISHES! Do you understand me, young man?" I opened my mouth to mumble a yes ma'am but was stopped before I got one sound out. "Don't. You. Dare. Just do it!"

As she walked away, I swallowed the half-chewed pieces. It wasn't comfortable, but I was far too excited to care about any of that. I was going to get to see my Claire today. The lids were half-heartedly placed back atop the containers and shoved into the fridge with the juice. I could barely contain myself. On the way to the bathroom, I was fumbling with my shirt. My Claire. She was coming!

Completely stripped and with the water running, I stepped into the shower. Actually, fell was more like it. Not only that, but I hadn't perfected the temperature of the water, so I hissed at how hot it felt against my already fevered skin. All of the anticipation was making me clumsy. There was no time to care about any of it, though. Claire was coming, and I had work to do!