CHAPTER 1-LEAH'S P.O.V.

I have screamed until my veins collapsed.
I've waited as my time's elapsed.
Now, all I do is live with so much fate.
I've wished for this, I've bitched at that.
I've left behind this little fact:
You cannot kill what you did not create.
I've gotta say what I've gotta say
And then I swear I'll go away
But I can't promise you'll enjoy the noise.
I guess I'll save the best for last.
My future seems like one big past.
You're left with me 'cause you left me no choice.

I push my fingers into my eyes.
It's the only thing that slowly stops the ache.
If the pain goes on,
I'm not gonna make it. "Duality"

Slipknot

I'm checking out…today.

I can't even produce tears as I drive out of La Push for the last time. This is it, I think to myself as the trees blur past me. I'm driving to my destiny. There won't be any last letter or any dramatics like that. I've refused to think about it in wolf form or around Edward Cullen. I have now officially hit rock bottom. Everyone has his or her limit. Everyone has a point where they're no longer strong enough. Thankfully most people don't ever reach that point. The majority of the world doesn't ever get more than they can handle. I'm not most people.

I have the plan and the motivation. I also have the guts to go through with it. I've done my homework…gotten the necessary equipment…and handled this like any other bit of business. That's all it is anyway…business. Killing is my pack's business. We destroy vampires to protect humans. Today I'm going to kill myself simply to protect myself.

If I was to trace the end, Sam was the beginning. I was nineteen and in love with Sam Uley. We here high school sweethearts and we were going to get married. It was your typical textbook romance and that was more than good enough for me. I believed in us even when he disappeared. When he came back I still believed it despite all of the changes. Looking back, Sam's disappearance was the beginning of the end. I just didn't know it.

Sam broke my heart by falling in love with my cousin, Emily. In one fail swoop I lost my fiancée in Sam and my best friend in Emily. Of course she didn't return his sentiment…at first. That didn't matter. Sam was no longer mine whether he was hers or not. I felt betrayed and heartbroken. This unleashed the new Leah…the bitter harpy everyone knows and loves. Even when I thought a bear had attacked Emily I couldn't forgive her. No shit…the woman I considered my sister was nearly killed and I couldn't bring myself to visit her in the hospital. I was broken beyond repair. Or so I thought.

I turn off the highway onto the dirt trail I'd found praying my old Mercury Cougar would make it down the rough terrain the mile into the clearing. I should've know it would…it's as tough as I am. Or…as tough as I used to be. This place is perfect. It's a small clearing surrounded by the usual trees, ferns, and moss. I found it while on one of my many solo runs a few weeks ago. It's nothing special to look at…just another clearing in the Washington forest. It's the location that makes it special.

This clearing is outside the patrol area of either pack. It's also away from the Cullen's house. Privacy central for what I'm about to do. There won't be anyone to stop me today. The nearest civilization is an RV park a couple of miles away that's nearly deserted during the week. This clearing is perfect for me right now. I'm free and clear. I'm going to get what I want…the privacy necessary to kill myself.

My thoughts drift back to my shattered life. I figured out what Sam's problem was, of course, the moment I phased myself…right along with Seth. Not only did that not help my broken heart but also it gave me a whole new set of problems. I was now a shape shifter. I was the first…and only…female shape shifter in Quileute history. I was a freak among the freaks. This was my first clue something…other than the obvious…was wrong with me.

I shake off my woolgathering as I come to a stop in the middle of the clearing. I put the car in park and climb out. I take a moment to gather up my shoulder length hair and clip it up so it will be out of my way before opening the trunk. Inside is a long length of rubber hose I found in a junk pile behind my dad's garage, rolled up and tied with an old piece of rope. Dad would have another heart attack if he knew what I was doing.

My next step on the road to damnation was when my period was late. No, being pregnant wouldn't have been the end of the world…if that had been the case. I hadn't been intimate since Sam and my monthly cycle just…stopped. I wasn't pregnant. I couldn't become pregnant. Sam had explained imprinting to all of us after Jared imprinted on Kim. He believed it was to ensure the shape shifter gene was passed to the next generation. Billy Black believed it was not only to make wolves…but make stronger wolves. That explained why Sam didn't imprint on me and why I became a wolf. I was menopausal at nineteen…could my life get any worse?

Yeah…it could and it did. My dad had a heart attack one afternoon and died the same day after seeing me phase. I didn't know he was watching. I had gotten pissed off at Seth for something or other and had made it to the backyard before I phased. I didn't know he could see me out the kitchen window. Harry Clearwater…Quileute council member and the only man I ever loved besides Sam…was dead. He dropped dead of a heart attack after seeing me phase. He was my biggest fan. He was the one that thought I was destined for great things. Seth was devastated by his sudden death. Being the one that killed him, I was never the same.

Jacob was going through his own depression about this time over Bella Swan. Not only had Bella chosen someone over Jacob, but also she chose a vampire…our mortal enemy. I heard something in his thoughts once. Would a bullet to the head kill me or just leave me with a huge mess to clean up? Morbid…yes. I thought about telling him so, but I was enough grief to my pack. So instead I filed this thought away…just in case.

In our wolf form, we could hear each other's thoughts. You name it…I heard it. I head everything in these boys' heads from baseball to sex. The ones with imprints were the worst. They thought about that specific girl all the time. Can you imagine being in Sam's head and hearing him think about Emily? Yeah…that really helped my harpy image. I became a bitch to live with. Being bombarded by those images…of Sam doing things to her he used to only do with me…was enough to push me over the edge. No one wanted to patrol with me. I was the outcast of the pack.

The Newborn War gave me even more to think about. Jake was injured when I decided I wanted to take on a vampire by myself. Thank God no one saw what I was really thinking. I wasn't trying to prove anything. I just saw an opportunity out of this pain and I took it. Jake is too damn noble sometimes. I survived. Jake did too…after breaking nearly half the bones in his body. That gave me more reasons to be depressed. I was the weak link in the pack…and I inadvertently showed it.

Jake took off after that. He spent months in his wolf form…giving in to the animal in us all. I considered it…but decided against it. I couldn't give myself in to my instincts like Jake could. Maybe it's proof of his bloodline. I don't know. He came back for the wedding and proceeded to throw a shit-fit when he found out Bella and Edward planned to have sex on their honeymoon. Well…duh! What did he expect?

Things got heated up with the pack when Bella came back from her honeymoon pregnant. Jacob…still in love with Bella…refused Sam's order to attack the Cullen's. Sam was afraid of what the baby could become. Instead, Jake broke away from Sam's pack to keep from being forced to bend to his will. Jacob…the descent of the true alpha…had the power. Seth went right behind him. It didn't surprise me…Seth was a true ally to the Cullen's and had a serious man crush on Jake. That stopped the attack. Once it was decided we were going to discuss this with the elders, I phased back to human and thought about it.

Seth was with Jake. That was reason number one to change packs. Jake was an alpha and as a shape shifter I have to belong somewhere meaning I had an alternative to Sam. That's number two. If I were a member of Jake's pack, I wouldn't be in Sam's head. That sealed it. I went to the lair of my enemies the next morning and joined with Jake and Seth. It wasn't easy. Neither one of them was thrilled with having me. They finally allowed me though. I guess one more misfit couldn't hurt.

Leaving Sam's pack helped. I actually thought I was on the road to healing once that started. Jake and I were actually getting close. Not imprint close…but close. We could share each other's pain. I was ready to help him when Bella died…which was likely. Of course that changed when not only did she not die but also he imprinted…on Bella and Edward's half vampire/half human baby, Renesmee. I didn't feel betrayed. In all honesty, I knew Jake would be all right. I just felt alone.

I hung around for Jake and my new pack. Jake…needing someone that could be the hard ass he couldn't…made me his second-in-command. His 'beta' as Bella once told him. Just like with Sam's pack, I stayed on the fringes of this pack too. I didn't like vampires and my head wasn't a nice place to be. Embry and Quil defected to the pack too. They took orders just like Jake told them too. I tried not to give them many…but the ones I did they took. I could never be an alpha…not that I ever wanted to be. This was as close as I'd ever get.

We ran with Sam during the confrontation with the Volturi. Jake was set to run with Renesmee if things went bad so the rest of us joined up with our former alpha. We were all convinced we were going to die….especially Sam. He had every wolf…regardless of age…in that clearing. Personally, it didn't matter to me. Living…dying…it was all the same. Of course the Volturi backed down. They weren't going to, but the sight of seventeen wolves ready to attack made them pause long enough for Carlisle to explain what was going on. Once again, I missed my chance.

I made a decision once the Volturi were taken care of. I wanted out of this life. I wanted to stop phasing, grow old, and live my life. I wanted to find someone to love, marry, have children, and forget the past few years. Surely life could give me that. I had fulfilled my duty. The packs had a sixteen other wolves…they didn't need me. I wasn't cut out for this existence. It was time to get on with my life.

I blink back tears as I kneel on the ground and feed about six inches of hose into the tailpipe of my car. I then use the rope that was holding the bundle to tie the hose to the bumper. This way it won't move. I burn my hand but I don't care. It'll heal. Once this is done, I stand up and open the back door of my car. I crack the window and run the hose through before shutting the door. I've got duct tape in the trunk…never leave home without it…so I finish sealing the window.

I've rolled this over and over in my head. The only way I can figure for a shape shifter to die is either by vampire venom or by stopping our heart from beating. No blood flow…no extremely fast healing. The best way I can think to do this is to place myself somewhere that has no oxygen. My heart will stop…I will die. Simple as that. I've picked my poison…carbon monoxide.

I'm doing this because I can't stop phasing. Not I won't stop or I'm having trouble stopping…I physically can't stop. The longest I can go is a week before I begin to tremor and I have to run into the woods before phasing happens involuntarily. The pain begins by day five and on day six I can't even get out of bed. I've had moments where I couldn't even get out of the house before phasing happened. There would be no trigger. I wouldn't be angry or frightened. Hell, I was passed out drunk once on day seven when it happened. For seven years I've tried almost every week to stop phasing. The pain is horrible. It literally feels like I'll burst out of my skin. Painful like my first phase. Even then I didn't give up.

I went to anyone I could think of for help. Paul and Jared had stopped phasing so I went there first. It was a mistake. They assumed it was because of my temper and ignored me telling them about the pain and phasing against my will. Paul was especially cruel, telling me it was because I was a "bitch on wheels" who couldn't control her temper. I went to Jake's dad next. Billy Black was stumped. There had never been a case of a shifter who couldn't "give up the wolf". Jake had no idea either, though he didn't give me as much shit as Sam's pack. At least the Black's believed me…not that it helped.

I finally gave in and went to the one person I thought might have any chance of helping me…Carlisle Cullen. True he is a vampire…but he's also a doctor. Not only that, he has a fascination with my tribe and our ability to shift. The fact it's genetic and not caused by venom like a vampire or a true werewolf is of profound interest to him. Carlisle gladly met me in his study…soundproof thank God…and listened to my tale of woe. I may not like them…but the entire Cullen family has never been anything but patient with me. He promised me he would let me know if he found something. He did.

"Leah," Carlisle began as we sat down two weeks later, "I've done all the research I believe possible. I'm afraid I have some good and bad news." "Ok, Doc," I reply, "which do I get first?" Carlisle took a deep breath. "I believe I know why you can't stop phasing," he begins. "And that is both my good and bad news."

"Well?" I prompt. Carlisle shifts uncomfortably. "With the assistance of Billy Black I have poured over your legends to see if I could find anything about your situation. Every wolf I've ever seen, heard, or read about that stopped phasing had one thing in common." "They were all guys," I cut in. Carlisle shrugs. "Well…yes," he admits, "but I already figured that. I was looking for something else." He peers closely at me. "I found it Leah."

Carlisle gives me a sad look. "Think Leah," he goes on, "what do Paul and Jared have in common?" "They're all in Sam's pack?" I ask. "What else?" he presses. I shrug. "They are all giving up phasing for one reason," Carlisle explains sadly, "to age with their imprints."

"So I can't stop phasing because I don't have an imprint?" I ask. Carlisle shrugs. "It's the only thing I can come up with," he admits, "I believe the imprinting magic of your tribe won't let you age without your imprint." A tear slips down my face. "Carlisle," I choke, "we don't believe I can imprint." Carlisle's head drops. "We don't know for sure Leah," he says softly.

"It's not possible," I explain, "if I was imprintable, Sam or one of the other wolves would've been the one." Carlisle frowns at my words. "There's also the fact I can't have children," I continue, "if I can't pass on the wolf gene there's no point in imprinting." "There could be more to imprinting than reproduction," Carlisle jumps in, "no one is really sure why your kind imprints." I begin crying in front of him…something I never would do in front of a vampire before. "It doesn't matter," I finally whisper as I jump up and run out of the house without so much as a "thank you".

"It doesn't matter," I whisper to myself as I get into the driver's seat and shut the door. You can bet your sweet ass I lock it too. I can't smell carbon monoxide even with my enhanced scent but I can feel the warmth of the car's exhaust. I've been researching this for four days now. I can't take pills. I can't shoot myself. I can't hang myself…or jump off a cliff…or run in front of a 18-wheeler. This is the only way I can think of. I know no one else will help me with this, so I have to do this alone. This seems like the surest way to get this done.

I turn off the radio and let my head rest against the back of my seat. Imprinting…the bane of my existence. I couldn't have a normal life as a human because of imprinting and I can't have a normal life as a wolf because of it. Right now I would take either…just to be normal. It's not fair. When I lost Sam, I lost my first and only love. I lost the man I had given my heart to. He got a replacement…I didn't. Now nature is going to make sure I live forever in this pain…if I don't change things myself.

Knowing what I know now, I can see Sam couldn't be everything to me. When I was nineteen…and still a human…yeah. Now…there's more to me. I've grown…matured…changed. Sam and I could've matured together then…but not now. Now I'm different. He's different. Sam got an imprint to help him with this but not me. I wonder what it would be like to have an imprint. What would I want him to be?

I know it's pathetic to have a fantasy about a man that doesn't exist but I'm pathetic. So it fits. I know it would be a him. I've never been interested in women despite what people say about me. Being muscular and having short hair for a while got the lesbian rumors flying. So did the angry bitch attitude. I also don't want a Quileute. Call me crazy, but I guess living on a reservation has made me jaded. Tall, dark, and handsome is overrated. Someone with a lighter skin tone against my darker one would look beautiful I think.

I think I could be happy with one of the Cullen's…if they weren't vampires. They're all smart, well mannered, and pretty hot to be the undead. He'd have to be tall. Not Jacob tall…but taller than I am. I don't want to look like an Amazon next to him. He'd have to at least be healthy. He wouldn't have to have the muscles the rest of the boys here have…but I don't want him out of shape. He'd have to have all his teeth. Light brown hair…or blond…hell, I'd take red. I want him physically more opposite than I am so no dark hair. Any eye color but brown. Green would be cool…so would blue. Yeah, I'm pathetic…dreaming about being someone's Indian Princess.

I wince as my head starts hurting. That's good though…it means the carbon monoxide is working. I'd want a Renaissance man. Hell, this is my fantasy…I can make him anything I want. I'd want someone I could talk to and debate with. Someone who reads something besides Sports Illustrated or Penthouse. He can like sports…hell, I like sports. It is a man I want…so he can do "man stuff". I'd want someone who could dance…and speak more than one language. I'd want him to look good in a suit…or jeans…or nothing.

Yeah, I'd be having sex with my imprint…lots and lots of sex. I'd make love to him in bed with the sound of the rain hitting the roof and we'd fuck on the trunk of my car in the woods with his pants around his ankles and my skirt bunched up around my waist with my panties tugged to the side. I've envisioned him good looking and strong…of course I'd want to sleep with him. Of course he'd be good too. I wouldn't have the patience to teach someone. Yeah, I don't want a child like Quil and Jacob got…I want a man.

He'd have to be a warrior. It would take a stronger than average man to stand by me. He wouldn't have to fight for me…but he'd fight with me. Shit…that eliminates any human I could imagine. There aren't any more wolves I haven't met and I don't like vampires. Maybe that's why I can't imprint. Nature seems to think I'm too tough for an imprint. Well, nature is wrong. I yawn…beginning to get sleepy. It won't be long now.

My only regret is my family and my new pack. Mom and Seth are going to be devastated. They won't understand. Mom had Dad and now has Charlie. Seth is still without an imprint but at least he can. No one took away his choices. My eyelids begin to droop and I feel tears beginning to run down my cheeks again. Jake will be without his second-in-command but he has Renesmee to take away his pain. I wish there was someone to take away mine. Alas, there is not. That's why I'm sitting where I am now waiting for death. Please God, I think, take care of Mom, Seth, Charlie, and the pack. Don't let them suffer for long.

I slump forward on the steering wheel and try to look at the clock on the radio. My vision is blurry now. Since I have nothing else to do but wait I go back to my fantasy imprint. I might as well enjoy my last thoughts instead of dwelling on my pathetic life. He'd be a scholar. He'd be good with his hands. He'd be tender to our children and a tiger in the bedroom. He'd be everything…if he existed.

The world is now going fuzzy as my brain loses access to oxygen. My heart is beginning to pound in my ears. It's working. Let's get it over with. I try to look at my gas gauge…though I know I filled up before I left the reservation this morning. I can't see it…it's too blurry. I let my eyes close again as blackness begins to overtake me. It's been so long since I've had any peace I've forgotten what it feels like. This is as close to peace as I can remember.

I hear a knocking sound coming from far away. It's my only warning. I flinch as a black fist flies through the glass of my driver's side window. The sound causes me to fully open my eyes as a rush of cool air blows against my cheek. "Stay with me darlin," a male voice says. What the hell? I open my eyes and see…through the blur…the arm wrap around my door and yank it off with a grunt and a scream of protesting metal. I inhale a huge gulp of air. I'm expecting to smell either the sweet stench of vampire or the woodsy aroma of one of my pack mates. No human could tear my door off…so it must be someone I know.

Instead I'm met with something completely foreign to my nose. It sort of smells like a vampire…but not really. This person smells like gun oil, clover, and just a hint of peppermint. He smells…really nice actually. "Hold on darlin," the voice says again. The voice reminds me of molasses and magnolias…definitely southern. Warm arms wrap around my back and under my legs and I'm pulled out of the car. Warm? No one feels warm to me…not even my pack mates. Who the hell is this?

I blink…trying to clear my vision…but it's not happening. The arms place my gently on the ground. No, I think. My body is crying out for those arms for some reason. I struggle and finally get my eyes fully open. There's still too much blur. A hand pushes my hair out of my face. It's black and I smell leather. Gloves? No one in my pack or the Cullen family wears gloves. My vision is still blurry and I'm fighting to breathe. The pressure on my chest is overwhelming me.

I can't see anything. The arms pick me up again. "I've got to get you to the hospital," the voice says. I begin trying to throw my body around, trying to protest this. "Hush," the voice says in that smooth, syrupy voice, "you're going to be alright." My tears return now. I can't let the hospital see me. Between the fact I'm a fast healing shape shifter with a body temperature that should mean I'm dead and the fact I tried to kill myself I can't go to the hospital.

Why? Why did this guy decide to be a hero today of all days? How did he find me and how did he get to me? I don't have time to ponder that because I'm dropped on the ground…hard. I whimper as my body flops unceremoniously onto the forest floor. A snarl echoes from above me. Wait…a snarl? Is there a vampire here? I begin breathing faster, trying to get enough oxygen to make my brain work again. It's then I smell them. Not vampires…my pack. The cavalry is here.

I smell the scents that belong to Embry and Seth. I would know their scents anywhere. Slowly I open my eyes again trying to see what's going on. I hear another snarl come from above me and finally get some of my sight back. I can see black harness boots…like motorcycle riders wear…under blue jeans next to my head and I realize the wearer is standing over me. He's also the one that's snarling. "Two questions," my would-be rescuer snarls, "who's going for help and who's first?"

Seth immediately begins howling. Shit, that means he's calling for reinforcements. They can't attack with him standing over me. "You want her fleabag," the voice continues, "you're going to have to come through me." Embry begins inching forward, looking for an angle. Another growl comes from over me and I turn to look up. I see the mystery guy's crouch get deeper. I weakly reach towards the blur that smells like Seth. I hear him whine as the three are locked in a stalemate.

I didn't want this. I didn't want to be found until I was already dead. I didn't want anyone else to suffer because I'm alive. Now my pack is about to slaughter my would be rescuer. I don't know who…or what…this guy is, but he did come to my rescue whether I wanted him to or not. Well, I also know he smells really good. My chest is hurting with an unknown pain. It's not a sharp pain like I can't breathe. It's like a pull. It's like my heart is trying to tug its way out. I've never felt anything like it.

The dizziness is beginning to return and I feel the blackness beginning to overtake me. There's a crashing sound coming from the other side of the car and I hear the stranger hiss. "Get away from her," comes a voice I recognize…Emmett. The Cullen's are here? "Like hell," comes the reply from the stranger. "We mean her no harm," comes another voice I recognize…Carlisle. "We're leaving," my rescuer snaps back, "she needs to be at the hospital." "I'm a doctor," Carlisle replies calmly.

The stranger laughs…and for some reason I feel much better about my situation. It sounds sarcastic…but for some reason I feel at ease. "Let me guess," the stranger says, "a vampire doctor. Next you'll tell me you're Carlisle Cullen." "At your service," Carlisle replies. "Prove it," the stranger snaps, "where was your coven in 1970?" There's a short pause. "Whitehorse, British Columbia," Carlisle replies. "Who was the first of your coven you changed?" the stranger questions. "Edward was the first in my family," Carlisle replies, "Esme was next if you're wondering." "Shit," the stranger says softly, "it is you. What about the wolves?" the stranger asks. He believes him? He knows Carlisle? "They will not harm you," Carlisle promises.

I reach blindly and wrap my hand around the top of the stranger's boot. He freezes at my touch and the pressure in my chest vanishes. "What's wrong with her?" Emmett asks. "Carbon monoxide poisoning," the stranger replies, "she needs oxygen…and a hyperbaric chamber if there's one close by." "We'll take her home," Carlisle tells him. "I can take care of her there." "I'll carry her then," the stranger says, "I've been looking for you anyway Dr. Cullen." Warm arms pick me up once again and cradle me to the chest of the unknown being. "We gonna have any problems?" Emmett's voice chimes in. "No," the stranger promises, "like I said I've been looking for the Cullen family. I only want to talk."

I feel wind against my body that tells me we're moving. "She going to be alright?" another voice questions. It's Jasper…I recognize the twang in his voice. "I don't know," the stranger admits in what sounds like a sad voice. "I think she'll pull through," Carlisle chimes in, "Leah is strong." I want to start crying all over again at that. "What's your name stranger?" Emmett asks as he runs beside me. "Julian," the stranger replies, "but y'all can call me Jude."

Julian? I don't know any Julian. I don't know anyone named Jude either. Who is he and why is he here? Not only that, why do I feel so good being in his arms? I don't have time to think about this for long. One yawn is all I can muster before I slip into oblivion.