LOYALTY
(Embry's POV)

I knew it the second I saw them together in his garage. Quil was flirting, trying to impress her or something, but I knew better than to even try. Jake was already falling for her. He was doomed.

I felt bad for him when he changed, when he joined the rest of us in the pack. Sam told him he couldn't tell her what he was, and that he couldn't hang out with her any more. It was supposed to be for everyone's safety, but Jake nearly lost his mind.

So I wasn't surprised when he found a way around the injunction. We'd always been pretty good at breaking the rules, and if there was anyone Jake would break that rule for, it was Bella Swan.

How could Jake be so stupid? Someone told Bella he was screwing around on her, and he wasn't even going to do anything about it! Okay, so maybe he kind of asked for it. He was the one who thought flirting with some random girl was a good idea. He'd been trying to make Bella jealous because she was at a party with another guy. But anyone with half a brain could see that she didn't want anyone but Jake. Anyone, that is, except Jake. Apparently his half brain was severely damaged.

Bella had shown up at Jake's looking like someone had punched her in the gut, and she was rearing to hit back. If you asked me, Jake was lucky Bella even bothered to come to him about it instead of just dumping him. And now he was too scared of stirring up trouble and upsetting Bella to do anything about it. The pack was lucky, too, because dealing with Jake when he and Bella were on the outs was no picnic. But a call to Leah and a trip to Forks High would solve everything.


I timed it perfectly, pulling up to Forks High School during lunch. Jake's bike got their attention immediately, and people were staring, especially the girls. Too bad I didn't have any time to waste. I stepped off the bike and kicked it up on its stand as I looked around for Bella. She wasn't going to be easy to find in a crowd this size. I just hoped she hadn't gone home sick or decided to spend lunch inside. I may have been fully dressed for once, but I certainly wasn't going to be able to blend in. Then I saw her.

She was sitting at a table with several other students, and the look of surprise on her face was laughable. I was pretty sure the blonde sitting across from her was the one who'd started all the trouble. I smiled at Bella, and she looked around nervously. That's right---Jake said she didn't like being the center of attention. But I certainly did.

Her little lunch group was pretty easy to figure out as I walked over to their table. The blonde and her frizzy haired friend were just glaring at Bella. Two enemies. The guy who'd been with Bella at the party---was he the Newton kid?--- was off to the side. I wasn't sure what to make of him yet but from the way he was watching me and eying Bella, I was thinking enemy. There were two other couples at the table with her, but they looked harmless enough.

"So this is where you go to school..." I said to Bella as I looked around.

"Um...yeah," she replied warily.

I leaned against the end of the table and stared down some of the guys in the crowd. They turned away. Ha!

"Ah...Embry? What are you doing here?" Bella asked.

"You're welcome to join us," Frizzy said, smiling flirtatiously.

Hmmm…this could be fun. I sat down beside Bella and asked, "Are you coming to the rez after school?"

"N-no. I have to work," she stammered.

"When do you get off?" I asked.

"Nine. Why?" she asked skeptically.

"We need some camping stuff," I told her. It was as good an excuse as any. I just needed Blondie to know where we'd be.

"For what?" she asked, sounding a little surprised.

I couldn't help myself. "You don't think we just sleep on the ground like animals, do you?"

"Well, no," she said.

Yes, she did. "So we can come by around eight thirty or so?"

"We?"

Perfect. Now I had a reason to mention Jake. "Me and Jake. And maybe Paul. And Leah." I snuck a look over at Blondie. Yep. Her eyes lit up the second I mentioned Jake. So far, so good.

"Who's your friend, Bella?"

Now this was an unexpected bonus. Newton had come up behind Bella. And he was touching her. Poor Bella. She moved her shoulders like she wanted him to let go, but either he couldn't get the hint, or he just didn't care. Oh, this was going to be more fun than I thought.

I looked right at him. "I'm Embry. You must be Newton." And you're touching Jake's girl, you moron.

"Mike," he replied, reaching over Bella to shake my hand.

Not very bright, are you? I thought about breaking his hand, but Bella looked like the squeamish type. Plus, getting arrested for assault would probably screw everything up. So instead I settled for making it clear to him that I could hurt him if I wanted to. He tried to hide it, but he winced. Wimp. At least he got his hands off Bella.

Before he could rethink that decision, I put my arm around her. She didn't seem too comfortable with that either, but she had to know I was just looking out for her. Maybe not. She was giving me that "are you crazy?' look. She tried to move away from me, too, and Newton noticed, his eyes lighting back up. Don't even think it, Newton. Sorry, Bella, but you're not going anywhere.

I just smiled at her, nearly laughing at the confused look on her face, and then I turned to see what I could do about Frizzy and Blondie. Actually, Frizzy was kind of cute.

"I don't believe we've met," I said to her.

"I'm Jessica," she replied.

She had a nice smile. And she was giggling. Oh, yeah, this was going to be easy.

"And I'm Lauren," Blondie said. She'd stopped staring daggers at Bella and was now holding her hand out to me.

I felt Bella tense up under my arm when I took Lauren's hand. She definitely had a problem with her. But not for long, not if I had any say in it.

"We should all do something sometime," I said. Like tonight. "Bells, you don't mind if they join us sometime, do you? I could bring a couple of the guys along." Uh-oh. Guess only Jake gets to call her that.

It looked like I'd done all the baiting I could do without making it obvious. Frizzy---I mean Jessica---was definitely interested in me. Jake hadn't said anything about her, so I wondered if…No, I had to stick to the plan. Lauren was easy. It looked like she didn't care who I was, as long as she got more attention than the other girls. All I needed to do was show a little love to Bella and Jessica, and I was pretty sure Lauren would trip over herself trying to steal the spotlight. Girls like her were so predictable.

"Embry, I don't---" Bella started, but I leaned in, kissed her on the forehead---Jake wouldn't kill me for that, right?---winked at Jessica, and walked away.

"Eight thirty, Bells!" I yelled back over my shoulder.

So far, the odds looked good. Those girls were so easy to play. I'd given them a time and a place, and something told me they'd just happen to show up. It would have been even better if I could have thought of a way to get Newton there, too, but I hadn't planned on him, and I was all out of ideas. He was nothing more than a nuisance anyhow. It was really just Lauren that was the problem. Maybe Newton would just show up anyway. He'd looked pretty jealous when I put my arm around Bella. I couldn't wait to see what he did when Jake was around.

I stopped by Paul's as soon as I got back to the rez. I knew just what to say to get him to join me, but Rachel ruined everything, as usual. Some friend of hers had cleared out her dorm and brought all her stuff over. She was moving back home. Paul said he wanted to help her unpack and get settled back in. Wanted to, my ass. More like she told him to. Imprinting must suck. The upside was that he'd switched patrol shifts with Quil. Sam wouldn't be happy about that, but I was. That meant Quil would be free tonight, and I knew he'd be up for anything.

Quil was easy to find. He was sitting in Jake's garage when I pulled the bike in.

"Where's Jake?" I asked him.

"Inside, asleep."

"You seen Leah?" I asked.

"Not since lunch."

"Come on. We need to find her."

Quil went by her house, only to find Sam and Emily there with her Sue. Seth had no idea where she was, but my guess was as far away from Sam as she could get. I tried phasing, but I couldn't hear her. Wherever she was hiding out, she was human. And that didn't bode well for my plan.

I'd counted on Leah to be the bitch she always was. I hadn't told her what my plans were, knowing that her natural reaction would be more than enough. But I had told her we were doing something tonight. I wasn't sure what she expected, but she agreed without asking any questions. The whole thing with Sam had really messed her up, and being a giant dog didn't do anything for her less than charming attitude. I knew that if she saw Lauren trying to come between Jake and Bella, she'd go postal. It didn't really matter who the couple was. Leah would have a problem with anyone getting in the way of a good relationship. Some scars just don't heal.

Quil and I finally gave up on Leah and just went inside to wait for Jake to get up.


Jake's bedroom door opened, and Leah stepped out. Jake was right behind her. Okay, that was weird. But whatever.

"Really, Quil? You think I'd go for a wolf? Quit being a dumbass and tell me why we're all here," Leah snapped.

"To help Jake, of course!" Quil said. His excitement was obvious. At least someone appreciated what I was doing.

"I told you I don't need your help," Jake argued.

Why couldn't he just be like Quil and have some fun with it? So much for Jake going along. You would think he'd want to at least make sure Lauren didn't cause any more problems. Bella might be his girl and all, but she had to have a limit as to what she'd put up with. I'd have to try another approach. "Okay, if that's what you want," I shrugged. "Come on, Quil."

I started for the door, and Quil followed along, for once smart enough not to ask any questions. "Oh," I said casually, "and tell Bella I'm sorry about kissing her."

That did it. Jake lunged into the doorway, blocking our exit, and stood there ready to phase at any second.

"What?" he snarled.

"It was nothing, really," I said.

"You kissed her?"

Jake was pissed. Quil was trying to get in between us, and for a second I wondered if I'd gone too far, but Jake was my friend. He wouldn't really hurt me. Unless he phased right now. And killed me.

I knew I needed to explain things--- fast. "Yeah. I went to see her at school and---"

"EXPLAIN!"

"Calm down, man. It's not like that," I said, taking a step back. "I just went to check out that Lauren girl---she's awful, by the way---and I might have gotten a little carried away."

"Carried away? YOU KISSED HER!"

Oh shit. I'd counted on him being mad, but I hadn't planned on dying today. I tried to maintain a casual attitude. "Just on her forehead," I said, laughing at his reaction. He was being a little possessive. Maybe I could just change the focus a little. "I couldn't help it. Really, man, he was asking for it."

"He who?" Jake asked.

Okay, he was still about a half-second from phasing, but maybe I wouldn't be his victim after all. "That Newton kid," I told him "You have to do something about him."

"You kissed her."

Great, back to this again. "C'mon, man, you know I would never make a move on Bella, right?"

"Yeah," he said, his fists still clenched and shaking.

"If it makes you feel any better, she looked totally freaked out."

"Why would that make me feel better? You upset her!"

Damn, wrong move. Why did he have to be so protective of her? Bella was little, but she had spunk. I had no doubt that if I'd really upset her, she would have done something. This was a girl who hung with vampires and werewolves. "Besides, she's not my type anyway. You're the only one here who likes 'em little and pale."

Who knew calling Bella little would calm him down? At least his fists had relaxed. Maybe he wouldn't rip me to shreds after all.

"We need to borrow your car," Quil said, thankfully changing the subject.

"What for?" Jake asked.

"Just trust us," I said.

"Trust you? After you kissed my girlfriend?"

He was never going to let that go. "C'mon, man. It was like kissing my mom, okay?"

"Whatever," he said.

Five minutes later, Quil, Leah, and I were leaving La Push and Jake's murderous thoughts behind.


We rounded the corner next to Newton's Outfitters at exactly eight thirty, and just as I'd hoped, the girls were there waiting for us. They were standing beside an old white car and talking in the corner of the lot. Bella's truck was parked nearby, and I knew that couldn't have been an accident.

"Who are they?" Leah asked.

"Friends of Bella's, I think," I said. Well, maybe not friends but I didn't know the word for girls-who-hang-out-with-Bella-but-not-so-secretly-hate-her. "The blonde one is trying to steal Jake."

"Yeah," Quil volunteered. "She's been spreading rumors and shit."

"But he's happy with Bella, right?" Leah asked.

"I don't think happy is the word. More like ecstatic," I said.

"He's probably already picking out names for their kids," Quil added.

"Hmm," Leah mumbled. She didn't sound happy.

We parked right next to them. I was careful to practically ignore Lauren as I made my way over to Jessica. Lauren immediately turned her attention to Quil, but I'd already warned him. He stuck by Leah's side, leaving Lauren to pout and complain for longer than I thought I could handle. But even with Lauren's pain in the ass attitude, everything was falling into place perfectly. Leah was pissed, even if she was trying to hide it. Lauren was ready to throw herself at the first available male, just to prove something to everyone. And Jessica was a pretty good kisser, so that was a nice bonus. Now if only Jake would hurry up and get his possessive ass here, the show could begin.