This is a work of derivative fiction. All things TWILIGHT are the intellectual property of Stephenie Meyer and/or her assignees. I write merely to entertain myself and others and receive no compensation.The hard part is keeping the secret...
The hardest part was not that Mom kept grounding me. The hardest part wasn't the fear, or the lack of self-control – those things, I was overcoming. I knew it. The hardest part was keeping it from my two best friends. The hardest part was not telling Jacob or Quil. It was being gone for a week and coming home to my mom all freaking out and not being able to tell her, either. It was having to avoid my friends while knowing with almost one hundred percent certainty that they needed to know what I knew so that they wouldn't be as scared as I had been.
I had been terrified when I first became a werewolf.
But I obeyed the injunction. I had to. Sam was Alpha and his word, when he laid it down, was law. Unbreakable.
Sam called us together one afternoon. Jared showed up late but wolf-fashion, and we all could see where he had been keeping himself since school got out. Sam ignored the memories our brother brought with him, Paul snorted and barked with some derision, and I howled. Jared! You have to find some other place to put that stuff, you know? Kim's a cutie and all that, but, man!
Paul shook his head as if he had a bad smell in his nose. I thought this imprinting stuff was supposed to be rare, Sam. But here we are, with half of us imprinting. That's a huge percentage.
I hadn't thought about that until just that moment. Right. Yuck. Well, we'll just have to stay clear of that one, Paul.
Enough, Sam said, his mental voice stern. We need to be thinking about what comes next. I've heard that Jacob's been getting fevered, lately. Billy Black has said so.
And have you seen how huge he's got? Paul remarked, sitting on his haunches.
I have been spending time with him, trying to see what he has learned already, but he doesn't know, yet.
Can't we tell him? I asked again. Can't we say anything? We know he's going to be joining us. Should've happened already, right? He's Ephraim's great grandson! He'll know it all soon enough. It'd be nice if he didn't have to be as freaked out by it as the rest of us.
Sam paced. No. The secret must be kept.
But he's – he's our friend. He's like a brother to me, I protested. Weakly, because Sam was the Alpha, but still.
He'll do well enough when it is his time. Should be soon. Should be very soon.
I remembered when it had been my time. I remembered finally having got up the nerve to ask out a girl at school and then finding her making out with another guy. It had been enough to make me lose it, that first time. Then it took me about a week to find my human skin again.
Paul rumbled in his chest. Well, that won't happen to Jake. He's already seeing the leech-lover. Bella Swan. He won't phase because of her.
I sighed. I knew that if – when – Jake became one of our pack, he'd have to give Bella up and that would break his heart. It really would. I'd never seen him as into a girl as he was into the Police Chief's daughter. Not that she was all that pretty, I recalled. Last time I'd seen her, she looked totally messed up. Pale and shadowy, like she'd been really sick for a long time. Still, she'd probably been getting better. She and Jake had been practically living in each other's pockets when they weren't in school.
That night, we heard from Sam that Jake phased for the first time. I immediately leapt from my low bedroom window and tied my jeans around my ankle before phasing. I found Jake's mind and showed him it was me and that we'd all help him.
I'm so relieved you're with us now, Jake! I've missed being able to talk to you about stuff.
His mind was tangled, terrified. I showed him how to get out of his house and to get outside. We met him, there, behind the house. The four of us. Wolf-skinned. Jake! Man! We're here. You're not crazy. We'll help you!
I told him everything, then. There were no secrets in the pack. I told him about the bloodsuckers and the treaty and all the stories being for real. Unsurprisingly, foremost in his mind after we assured him he wasn't going crazy, was Bella Swan.
Sam forbade him to speak to Bella about any of this. It just about broke Jake. My gut hurt for him, but what could I do?
We heard, over the next few weeks, that Bella was trying to see Jake. We also heard that Jake wasn't talking to her, thought, just as he'd been told.
Then the bloodsucker came into treaty territory. And it was stalking Bella Swan. We watched, because if it was a Cullen, we couldn't kill it without starting a war. And it was talking to Bella, too, so we were really careful.
Is this one of them? Come on, I want to rip him apart! Paul insisted silently.
Jake focused. Not HIM, anyway. Don't think it's a Cullen.
I peered through the foliage too, into the open meadow. He's advancing on her. Look.
Jake turned at Bella's gasp. Bells honey, don't worry, he was thinking. We'll get him. Don't worry. He won't hurt you.
Jacob! Attention to the job at hand! Jake jerked his head back and we all advanced on the leech. When he ran – we ran!
The speed! The speed was amazing. It's one of the best things about being a werewolf. I love the speed. We ran like we could fly, following the dark-haired, red-eyed parasite who had been going to feast on Bella. Sure, she was a friend of the vamps herself, but she was human and we were bound to protect her.
How could I know how far-reaching that concept would be?
The hard part is stealing your best friend's girl...
We all knew Bella had been calling Jake. We just never really expected her to show up at his house like she did that rainy day. And it was plenty wet. We were all at Jake's house already and heard her ancient truck almost as soon as it hit La Push. The motor was chugging, sounding like it was trying to pull an entire train instead of just the truck body. Slow thing; I'd had to ride in it, before Chief Swan bought it.
Bella drove right up to the front of Jake's red house. Billy looked out the window at her, and she refused to come in, refused to leave. She was just waiting.
"Guys, I gotta talk to her," Jake said, his voice tortured even though he was trying to make it calm.
I clapped him on the shoulder. "We'll all be here for you. Don't worry. You gotta keep her safe, too, right?"
"Sure, sure," he muttered, his breath coming faster as he tried to keep the oxygen flowing and his temper under control.
Part of me was hoping for something – that my best friend could be like Jared and Sam and imprint. On Bella Swan. He loved her already, so it wouldn't be the huge shock that it had been for Sam. "Maybe you could look at her," I whispered next to his ear to try to keep it just between the two of us. "Before you go out to see her."
He whipped a glance at me, a huge What the hell? in his eyes. It was clear to me that, right to that point, he hadn't really thought of that. That maybe the freaky werewolf mating thing could be for him and Bella, too. I heard him swallow and his heart give a heavy beat before he pushed out a huge breath.
The rest of the pack heard those parts, but they didn't hear my suggestion. Which was a good thing. Sam wouldn't have appreciated that.
"All right. Let's go talk to her," Jake said, sounding resigned. He didn't peek out the window at Bella, as I'd hoped. Instead, he went out in the drizzle to meet her, with his pack at his back, as was right.
Bella was in the cab of the that ancient Chevy Jake had been working on a couple of years before. Looked like she was writing something. Sam, Jared, Paul and I backed off a little when Jake went to knock on the truck and get her attention. I saw her head lift, saw her look all anxious as she stared at Jake and I wondered, briefly, if she loved him, too. Like he loved her.
And then she looked past Jacob to the rest of us. We stood there, our arms crossed, waiting for Jake to tell her goodbye. I grimaced and prepared to meet her accusing expression –
Wide brown eyes met mine and I gasped. I felt my arms fall out of their protective stance. All the pieces of my life took a few steps back, distancing themselves from the girl who had suddenly become the center of my universe with a jolt that left me breathless. Mom? The pack? School? My best friends, Jake and Quil? None of them held my heart or loyalty anymore. Not like she did. Not like Bella Swan. Everything made perfect sense, now. Everything. My head felt light. I felt a heat start burning in my heart. It was like something was glowing inside of me. I was imprinting. Me. Wow.
I saw her blink while I tried to get a handle on this. Of course; she had no idea what was happening, did she? She knew vampires, not werewolves. Well, now she would. Anything she wanted to know, I'd tell her.
I approached her eagerly, only belatedly hearing my brothers' shocked exclamations. "Bella," I said, reaching the door of her truck and standing right next to Jake. "It's you."
"Embry?" Jacob's husky voice hit me sideways, but I couldn't drag my eyes from Bella's face. Her deep brown eyes, the growing blush in her cheeks. I felt like I could stare at her all day and be completely happy. I was fiercely glad that I was a werewolf because I knew that I had helped rescue her, that day in the meadow.
When Jake called my name again, I tried to pull my attention from Bella, but it was really hard. I needed to talk to her, to hear her voice, to touch her...
"Jake," I said, my attention divided between his face and hers. Hers was puzzled at the attention, I guessed. Wondering why one of Jake's brothers was staring at her like she was something precious and beautiful and amazing. But she was! In all the stuff that Jake had inadvertently communicated to us – there are no secrets among the pack brothers – never once had he said how perfect she was. Never once. Was he blind? "What is it?" I asked him, still caught up in the wonder of seeing my mate.
Of course, that's what she was. My other half. Right there. She was right there!
"Embry." The way he said my name got my full attention finally and I turned to meet his eyes. His own narrowed, his nostrils flared and I sensed the deep anger and sorrow that vibrated from his entire body.
"Jacob!" Sam called, his voice staccato and commanding. "To the forest! Now!" Jake didn't even pause to think about it; he was gone, followed by Sam. Jared and Paul left, too. I saw Jake go, knew I'd have to talk to him, knew all of that, but... It was distant, really. Not nearly as important as Bella, who was following Jake with her eyes.
Bella, who was right there and really confused. I wished she would say my name. I wished she would let me hear her voice, so that it would settle in my mind, my heart, as it would be for the rest of my life.
I got my wish. "Embry?" she rasped. "What the hell is going on?"
"You want to take a walk?" I asked, forgetting that she didn't know me, really. We'd met that one time in Jake's garage, but it had been Quil making the biggest play for her attention that day. And then Jake had threatened us with dismemberment...! Seemed kind of far-away, just now.
Bella tossed her notebook aside and scowled at me. Later, I'd laugh, because, really, it was a bizarre way for a lifetime partnership to start, you know? "Fine. Yes. Only if you promise to tell me what's wrong with Jake."
I grinned. Her voice was music, to me. Aggravated, of course, but she had every right to be irritated. "Do you want me to get you an umbrella? Something to keep the rain off?"
She rolled her eyes. "No, Embry. I'm getting used to the wet. Just, please, tell me what's going on?"
I opened her door for her and stopped her when she would have rolled up the windows. I had seen she had trouble with that. Well, I'd do it for her. I inhaled deeply as she brushed past me. She had her own scent, reminding me of flowers in the sunshine –
Wow. The fragrance caught me powerfully, making my heart race and my breath catch and my skin tighten. Wow.
"Let's go," I said, wanting to take her hand in mine, to feel her skin, to learn how she walked. I didn't. I reminded myself just in time that she didn't know me. Not very well. So I shoved my hands in my pockets and started walking in a different direction than Jake had taken. Jake. That was going to be a problem. He must be feeling like I've stabbed him. I'd find out later, I was sure.
"All right." Bella allowed me to go about fifty yards beyond the edge of the Black's yard. "Tell me, Embry. This is just killing me."
I took a deep breath and wondered if it really would work. If I could really tell her. I opened my mouth and tried. "We know," I told her using the pack plural, "that Jacob told you some – some stories. Last year. About our tribe and some legends. He wasn't supposed to do that."
Bella bit her lip and I was momentarily distracted. So soft... "He told me he wasn't supposed to. Did he get in trouble?"
I shook my head. "Nope. But he didn't know... He didn't know the stories he told you were real." She used to run with bloodsuckers; I figured she would know that much, anyway.
I heard her heart. It skipped a little and pain carved lines into her face. I felt that pain like it was my own and I didn't know what to do. "Hey. I'm sorry. Um. I am just trying to answer your question, Bella."
"Okay," she whispered. "What does that have to do with Jake?"
"There are the legends, remember. Legends of the Cold Ones and their enemies."
Her breath came fast and she swallowed. Shivered. I pulled the hood up on her jacket to help keep her warm. She didn't seem to notice. "Werewolves..." The word came out on a shuddering breath as she crossed her arms in front of her chest.
"Bella? What's wrong?" I wished, then, for Jake. Jake would know what was wrong with her and he'd be able to tell me how to help her. But no... Jake probably – more than probably – didn't want to even think of me just now.
Suddenly, the pale girl collapsed, right there in front of me. I scooped her up before she could hit the wet earth and held her next to me, glad again for what I was, because I was hot enough to keep her warm. Quick! Shelter! Over there, a tree. I carried her to the tree and lowered us to the ground. The wet ground was only barely uncomfortable for me; for her, she was out from the rain, off of the ground and warm. That much I knew for certain. "Bella?"
Her eyelids fluttered open and she stared at me. I wondered what she saw. "Sorry," she grimaced. "Did you say werewolves?"
I smiled into her eyes, relieved she was able to say the word. "You did, actually."
She nodded slowly. Then, she shifted a little and seemed to realize I was holding her. I totally didn't mind. She, though, did, and I couldn't blame her. "Um, yeah. Okay. Let me up, all right, Embry?"
"Sure." I stood, still holding her, and then put her on her feet. Okay, so maybe I was showing off. "Are you all right with this?"
She shoved her hands in the pockets of her jacket, but stayed with me under the tree. Around us, the rain started coming down harder, making wet slapping sounds on the ground and softer sounds in the trees. I leaned against the tree trunk and waited for Bella to work her head around this stuff. "Werewolves," she said again, looking out into the rain, her back to me. "All right. I got it. But what does this have to do with why Jake was so – angry? Why didn't he just tell me? He's got to know I can keep a secret." She rounded on me, her face scrunched together. "I've been calling him for weeks, you know? He hasn't even talked to me. What's up with that?"
"I know. And I know he's really wanted to tell you, Bella. He really has. He just wasn't allowed to."
"Why not?" she demanded, her voice flat.
"Sam said –"
She threw up a hand. "I don't want to hear what Sam says, Embry. Can't Jake just make these decisions for himself? Is Sam, like, everyone's boss, now?" Frustrated anger rolled from her in waves. I wanted to comfort her, but knew that the truth probably wouldn't.
I puffed out a resigned breath. "I'm guessing you want the whole truth and nothing but?"
"You guess right."
"All right then." Pushing off the tree trunk, I came to stand next to her. I just had to. "Whole truth and nothing but. Got a minute or should I take you home and get you comfortable first?"
Surprise widened her eyes. "Here's good."
"All right." I thought for a minute. "You know about the whole 'being descended from wolves' thing, right?" She nodded, watching my face. I tried not to let that make me too self-conscious. "Well, in some of the bloodlines, there is the possibility of becoming werewolves, like our ancestors. But only when our enemies are in the area. You know who they are and why this happened, then, right?"
She gasped and wrapped her arms around herself again. "The Cold Ones."
"The Cullens," I said firmly.
Her lips went bloodless and I moved instinctively to put my arm around her in case she fainted again. "Bella? Maybe I should at least get you inside. I could take you to my house," my mom was working, "or drive you up to yours?"
"What do you mean, about the Cullens?" she asked, her voice thin and edged. It hurt my ears to hear the pain, there.
Still, I wasn't fooled, of course. "We know you know about them, Bella. We know."
"Know what?" She refused to meet my eyes, but she hadn't shrugged my arm off, either. I was glad about that; I wanted her to be warm and safe.
I understood she was protecting a secret, too, but it was unnecessary. "We know what they are. We know you know. So give me a break and take it as read, okay?" She flinched, but also leaned into my arm, so I stayed where I was. Then, she nodded. So did I. "All right," I continued. "So Jake's a werewolf. Just like me."
"You – you were in the meadow..." Her breath started coming fast and panicked and I watched her carefully. "When... When Laurent came..."
I nodded. "We were. Yeah. He was going to attack; you know that?"
"Right. We had to wait to make sure. But yeah. So we killed him." I grinned in vicious satisfaction with the memory of the metallic ripping of the bloodsucker's flesh. "He won't be after you anymore, I promise." If only we could figure out what the other one wanted...
She blinked and looked up into my eyes, her lips white. "Embry? But wait. You...you got him? But he's a vampire. And his skin's so hard and he's so fast... I didn't think a vampire could be killed except by another vampire...?"
I felt the deep wish to ease her anxiety. "With a pack like ours? Piece of cake. We're fast, too, Bella. Fast enough to run him and his kind down. Well, we're having a problem with the redhead, though..."
Without any warning, Bella doubled over, almost falling on her face. Almost terrified, I picked her up and ran her through the falling rain to Billy's house since it was closest. "Hang on, Bella," I said, wracking my brain as to why she might be so green around her jawline. "Let's get you to inside, okay?"
"No!" she whispered, her insistence obvious. "No, I'm all right."
"You're NOT all right. You're having a rough morning." Stubborn girl. I loved her spirit, but she was a stubborn girl. "And you're sick. If you don't want to go to Billy's house, I can take you home." Her well-being was naturally my first priority.
"Home... Charlie... Victoria... No!" Even still in my arms – uncomplaining, so I figured she had to be pretty out of it – she crunched in on herself.
Charlie I knew, but – "Who's Victoria?"
"The redhead," she rasped, swallowing convulsively.
We were at her truck, and I leapt into the back of it, still holding her, sort of bending over her to keep the rain out of her face if I could. "What?"
"Red-headed vampire." She shuddered violently in my arms and I clutched her closer, my eyes frantically checking the trees in the area. I'd seen the redhead. She was the most unpredictable creature ever.
"You know her," I murmured, assured of our current safety and returning my focus to Bella's pale face. She looked almost as bad, now, as she had that first time I'd seen her in Jake's garage.
"Yeah." Another shudder.
Everything in me wanted to bundle her up next to me and hide her away to keep her safe, but I had to find out what she knew to do that. "Bella. We need to know what you know. So we can figure out how to protect you."
"It's what we do. We're protectors. It's why we're here."
She shook off her fear for a moment. Her focus sharpened and she looked – really looked – into my eyes. "So it's not a cult. Or a gang. You're... You're in a wolf pack."
I was pleased she had put that together in spite of her obvious terror. "Yeah."
"And you fight – vampires... But not the – the Cullens," she went on, closing her eyes against some inner pain.
I nodded more slowly. "Yes. We have a treaty with them."
"Right... Jake told me..."
"Are you feeling better?" I wanted to know what she knew about the redhead, but I would not ask her when she was so upset and sick. Her health and comfort had to come first. "Do you need something to eat or drink or..."
She shook her head abruptly, making the hood of her jacket slide off her hair. In a sharp motion, she was out of my arms and sitting awkwardly on the rusty metal bed of her truck, just like I was. The softening rain wet her hair. I tucked a strand of it behind her ear so it wouldn't get in her eye.
She gasped. "You're hot. Like - like Jake was when he got sick."
"He didn't get sick, Bella," I reminded her, feeling both excited to have been able to hold her for as long as I had and sad because she had left me so suddenly. I felt kind of...empty. "He phased into a wolf that night."
Her breath came fast and she closed her eyes. "Right. So." She swallowed. "You said you needed to know something?" When she moistened her lips, I was distracted and didn't answer right away. "About the redhead?" she prompted.
Focus, Em, I told myself. "Right. Yes." She was going to run screaming from me if I didn't take care. And now, she was the center of my universe. I felt tied to her, more every moment. Like her heart had a cable tied to my own and I needed to be close to her. Already I was thinking that leaving her at her house – which I'd have to do soon, so she could get warm and dry – would be really, really hard.
I was startled when I felt her cool touch on my arm. "Embry? Are you all right?" Her concern thrilled me. I wondered how her fingers would feel on my face, how her face would feel under my fingers... Her lips...
I blew out a breath. She didn't really know me. I wasn't stupid. I knew that imprinting wasn't a two-way deal. I remembered what Sam had gone through...!
"The redhead. Yes. We need to know what she wants."
She rolled her hand as if it were self-explanatory. "Oh, that's easy," she said, her tone matter-of-fact that was belied by how sick she looked. "She wants me."
The hard part is finding out she's in deadly danger...
My heart just about stopped. "What?" I demanded, gasping at even the idea of Bella being chased by that wild, unpredictable red-haired bloodsucker. "Why the hell would she want you?"
I didn't know why the new pain lashed over her body, causing her to double over again. I felt it, though. Felt it like it was mine. "Just a sec," she begged, her hands in fists.
I reached for her, of course. It was, again, involuntary. Took her now-freezing hands in mine, hoping to warm her. "I'm sorry, Bella," I murmured, trying to comfort her. "I don't know the story, see, and ..." You're an idiot, I told myself. I didn't get it, but I felt horrible for being part of the pain she was feeling. "I only meant that I didn't know why she'd be after you. In our stories, they get mad when their mates are killed and want revenge, you know? And we killed her mate. We killed that other bloodsucker who was after you. So we thought she'd be coming after us and she's not. She's avoiding us. Avoiding our lines."
I'd talked long enough for Bella to recover a little, at least. Her hands were still in mine, though. I liked that. "Laurent was not her mate," she whispered at last.
Shocked – at the information and the fact that Bella felt able to give it to me – I could only stare at her. "He wasn't? But..."
"James. James was her mate," she went on, straightening a little and, inevitably, pulling her hands gently from my warmer ones.
Fear for her gripped me again and I checked the perimeter of the yard, tempted to phase wolf to meet with my brothers and give them this news immediately. I waited, though. Just in case there was more. "So, what does she want with you?"
Bella inhaled, a shallow, ragged sound that rubbed my nerve endings all wrong. "Ed - Edward killed James. Victoria's mate. Laurent said that – said that she wanted to, to kill me. Hurt me. To make Edwa - Edward suffer. M-mate for mate."
"Edward...?" I whispered, hesitant to ask, as if some instinct was guarding me against it, but unable to NOT know something so necessary to keeping Bella Swan safe.
"Edward Cullen. But - but he doesn't feel that way. About me. Anymore."
The story came together in an instant in my mind and I ached for her. I knew about Bella Swan getting lost in the woods when the Cullens left. I just didn't know – hey, we didn't run in the same crowd, and Jake's mind hadn't gone there – what the connection was. I remembered Sam's memory of finding her, though...
Fury leapt inside of me. Fury that anyone could abandon this marvelous, fragile girl and leave her to suffer as much as she had. I made a decision, based upon her well-being. Always. I decided I would not tell her about the imprint thing. Not just now. Instead, I'd just provide her with the answers she wanted, get the bloodsucker's 4-1-1, and take her home.
I inhaled deeply, sending the tremors away for now. "All right. So, the redhead is after you. We'll make sure you're safe, Bella. I promise."
I asked her to repeat what she had told me, and she did, her voice stronger. Then, I hesitated. "I, um, need to call my brothers. To tell them. Then I can take you home, okay?" I wanted them all alerted as soon as possible.
"I can drive, Embry," she muttered, sounding disgruntled.
I smiled and leapt from the back of her truck. "I know," I assured her, because that's what she most needed to hear. "So maybe you can drive and I can just come with?" She rolled her eyes at me. "Please? I just need to know you're safe, Bella." That last came out a little too heavy and I winced inside myself. She'd hate that. I just knew it.
Well, I thought I did. Instead, a strange expression passed through her features. "You're probably as stubborn as Jake, right?"
Leaning over the back rear panel of the rusty red Chevy, I extended my hand to her. "Probably more."
She sighed dramatically and took my hand. "Fine. I'll drive. You can come with."
I needed to talk to Sam and tell him what I was doing, but I wasn't going to run off to the treeline to phase and leave her alone. "Sam!" I called aloud, directing my voice to the woods, "I'm seeing Bella home. I'll be in touch as soon as she's safe." I caught Bella's eyes when I'd done so, and she looked distinctly annoyed. Well, that wasn't something I could fix. I just had to remember to keep conversations about Sam's authority to a minimum, maybe, until she understood us better.