DISCLAIMER: Stephenie Meyer, along with Little, Brown and Company, owns all the rights to the Twilight Saga.
"Then what do we do?"
"Us? Nothing we can do. We sit and wait."
"No buts," Paul said with narrowed eyes at me. "Sam will want you safe and protected. So we'll sit here like a good boy and girl and wait until we've been told otherwise."
"How long do these things usually take?"
"Catching a vamp?" I nodded in confirmation. "Depends on the vamp and how many. Could take thirty minutes, a few hours or all night. You never know these things unless you're in the thick of things."
"There has to be something we can do."
He looked at me and shrugged. "You could cook."
I huffed in annoyance. "Honestly, is your stomach all you can think about it? Besides, dinner is already done."
"Hey, hey, hey. I'm not thinking about my stomach. Sam and Jared will be starved by the time they get back, and they'll want more than just that meatloaf after chasing the that leech to Canada. All that running burns a lot of calories."
"Oh. I guess you're right."
In a high-pitched, girly voice that I could only assume was meant to sound like me, Paul spoke, "I'm sorry, Paul, for insinuating that you're being an ass when you're actually being rather thoughtful. How rude of me to always assume the worst about you. You know the saying…when you assume, you make an ass out of you and me."
"You are such a drama king sometimes," I said, shaking my head and making my way to kitchen.
"Maybe, but I wouldn't be me any other way."
I started in on several deserts: two types of pie, a cake and some cookies. I let the measurements, mixing, and cutting take over my mind. And for an hour, it worked. The kitchen clock hit seven and my mind began to concoct all the things that could be keeping Sam from returning home.
But it didn't take long for Paul to notice my sudden lack of movement and noise in the kitchen. He came hobbling in to see what my 'deal' was.
"Well," he muttered, biting his lip, "we can play a game while we wait."
I rolled my eyes. "I'm not playing a game with the cheating likes of you."
"I won't cheat, scout's honor," he said, putting four fingers over his heart.
"Your honor obviously means nothing since the boy scouts use three fingers and cub scouts use two. Neither uses four. Let me take a wild guess, you were never a scout?"
"Not exactly, no. But regardless, I promise not to break any of the rules tonight. And that promise is only for tonight, for after it, all bets are off. I play to win any way I can."
"At least you're honest about not being honest," I snickered.
He smirked. "What can I say, that's just the kind of stand up guy I am."
"What kind of game did you have in mind?" I asked, weary.
"How about 'never have I ever'?"
"I may not be a partier, but I pretty sure that's a drinking game. Is it not?"
"Not necessarily. It can be, but I'm guess the chief of police's daughter wouldn't be up for that kind of game. Although, if you are, then I'm sure I can arrange for us to get the supplies we would need."
"I'll pass on the alcohol."
"I figured," he said rolling his eyes, "so we'll play sans booze. It'll be a great way for us to get to know one another."
Both of my eyebrows rose. "Why am I skeptical of your sincerity even though you didn't just say that last part sarcastically?"
"I don't know, why are you?"
"Because it actually sounded like you genuinely wanted to get to know me."
Paul raised one eyebrow. "Maybe I do."
"Why?" I asked suspiciously.
"Must you question everything? Perhaps you should just take my act of good will, accept it and move on. So who gets to go first? Ladies first, or would you rather I get the show going?
Paul and his antics had allowed me distraction from the thoughts running wild through my head. If I was worried about Paul's next action, then I wasn't fretting over Sam and the intruding vamps.
"Never have I ever dated a kissed leech," Paul said smugly. We were playing for cookies, and Paul had found a legal way of cheating, though, he stood firmly it wasn't cheating. He purposely picked things to say, knowing I had indeed done them. Most of them had to do with Edward or the other Cullens.
"Here's your damn cookie," I grumbled, sliding the chocolate chip cookie across the kitchen table at him. "Never have I ever…played a video game for more than an hour at a time." Cookie exchange. And to keep up, I had to use a similar tactic.
"Never have I ever been bitten by a bloodsucker." Another cookie exchange.
"Never have I ever licked my own butt before."
Paul's face instantaneously morphed into a scowl. "That was one isolated incident!"
I smiled triumphantly. "I didn't say I'd never done it more than one isolated time, so pass the cookie over."
"Humph." He sat quiet, and I fear the words to exit his mouth. "Never have I ever been an eighteen year old virgin." Sadly, a pass of the cookie was made.
"Never have I ever been a manwhore."
"Only in your dreams, babe," he said, sliding the cookie back over.
"How 'bout in my worst nightmares."
He ignored the comment. "Never have I ever been a prude."
"Ha, I'm not a prude, so I keep my cookie."
"Oh, but you are a prude, so pass it over."
"How am I a prude?"
"Shall I go back to the never have I ever been an eighteen year old virgin?"
"That's not my fault."
"How do you figure that?"
"Edward was my first serious boyfriend. I wanted to, he said it was too dangerous. Not my fault."
"I going to forget you just said you wanted to fuck a leech. My mind can't handle that. So we're moving on to Sam because I know it's not his fault you haven't done the horizontal tango."
"Kind of hard with someone always here."
"You've had opportunities before…"
"Just because he's my soul mate doesn't mean I should jump into bed with him. Sex means more than that to me, all right? I think you should be in love and fully comfortable with one another."
"Fine, whatever. I don't really want to discuss this. It's bad enough that I'll see when it does happen, so let's move on."
"Fine with me," I muttered.
"Your turn, paleface."
"Never have I ever been called an asshole."
A smirk took over his face. "Good thing each turn only requires one cookie. I'd be in debt to you if I had to hand over a cookie for each time I'd been called an asshole."
"Well, hand over the one cookie then." He threw said cookie my way.
"Okay, impatient. Now let's see…never have I ever been in the hospital."
I passed the cookie back to him. "You would have this week if you'd been normal."
"Ah, but you're wrong there. 'Cause if I was normal, I never would have been running around the woods hunting a leech and said leech never would have broken my leg and arm to begin with while I was morphed into a horse-sized wolf."
"I guess you're right. Never have I ever…had a sibling."
"Damn, I knew that little booger would cost me something one day," he grumbled, handing over the cookie.
"You have a little brother, right?"
Paul hesitated before answering, "Yeah."
"What do he and your family think you do when you're gone so much for patrolling?"
"It's just him and my mom. They think I do work for Sam. Repairs by day when I'm not in school and rez security by night."
"Do you find it as hard to lie to them as I do to Charlie?"
"Yeah. Especially when Mom needs me to watch Phoenix, but I can't because I'm patrolling. She doesn't understand why I can't just call in or switch shifts."
"Whoa, wait. Phoenix is your brother?"
Again, a single eyebrow rose. "I thought you knew that."
"Well, he is. Is there a problem with that?"
"No, not at all. I just really like Phoenix. We get along great at the community center. I never would have guessed he shared the same blood as you."
"If it makes you feel better, we're only half brothers."
"How come he's so sweet and you're so…not."
"He's the baby. He gets protected from the harsh reality of life. Just because I have such a bleak look of the world doesn't mean I want my little brother to share that view. Phoenix is an optimist. I'd like to keep him that way. He'll go places other than here with that type of attitude."
"So I'm guessing him being a half brother keeps you from worrying about him phasing."
"Yeah, his dad doesn't have the gene as far as Sam and the Elders can determine."
"Hell yeah, I asked. I don't want Phoen living like this. If there was a possibility of him phasing, I would have figured something out to keep that from happening."
"Who would have guessed you were such a good big brother, Paul."
"Nah, I good brother's there for him. I'm never around. You didn't even know we were related. He looks up to Sam more than me."
"Whether he realizes it or not, Paul, you're a good brother."
"Whatever," he muttered. There was an uncomfortable silence before he broke it. "Never have I ever been a girl."
I snorted. "Really? That's what you're going with?"
"Yep, so hand over the cookie."
"Never have I ever been a boy."
"Real original, paleface. Never have I ever been on a plane."
"You've never flown?"
"One, where would I go? And two, where would I get the money for the ticket?"
"I don't know. Where would you want to go?"
"Hmm, maybe Amsterdam. I hear they have a fantastic red-light district."
I rolled my eyes. "Figures."
And so the game went. Eventually we left all the obvious statements and moved onto statements that actually allowed us to learn new things about one another. Every once in a while we would pause the game to share a story that related to what we had or hadn't ever done.
We made our way to the living room to sit more comfortably at some point. In there, the game stopped and the stories kept going. I sat on the couch against the window listening to Paul tell another childhood story.
"So why did you think that was a good idea?" I asked skeptical.
"Well, Phoen said it wasn't possible, so that just fueled my determination. When people tell me I can't do something, even my little, annoying brother, I tend to work extra hard proving them wrong."
"And how old were you?"
"I had just turned twelve and Phoenix was six."
"You let the doubt of a six-year-old convince you that jumping off the roof was a good idea?"
"Birds have wings. Planes have wings. They both fly. I thought if I had wings, I could fly too. It made sense."
"That's faulty logic, but moving on. What exactly were the results of this flying disaster?"
"Well, I made my wings out of some the backs of some old, broken lawn chairs. And my plan was to fly, but my backup plan was to land in the pool. My aunt and uncle had sold us the previous summer their old, used above ground pool. Nothing fancy, but a pool nonetheless. Man, I thought we were the coolest kids on the rez with that thing."
"It's Washington, you got to use it, what, four days out of the year?"
"No," he said, dragging out the word. "More like two weeks out of the summer, if you must know. Anyways, the point is that I loved that piece of shit pool."
"So obviously plan A didn't work. No flying took place."
"Yeah, so jumping off the roof above the pool probably saved my life. Unfortunately, it killed the pool."
"What do you mean?"
"Somehow I got lucky enough that the 'wings' feel off me. 'Cause let's face it; landing with those still intact probably would have landed me in the ER with two broken arms."
"Coming from experience with multiple fractures, you're probably right there."
"But my luck ran out there. The metal somehow punctured the pool. I was so in shock that I stayed in the pool as it emptied from the leak. Once it was empty, I just sat there not moving. My mother came home from the store to find an empty house. She came out the backdoor freaked and looking for us. As soon as her eyes found Phoenix sitting at the picnic table in one piece, she started to calm down. But then her eyes found me sitting in the middle of the empty pool. The freak-out she had coming out of the house looked calm compared to the explosion that came out of her mouth after she'd seen what I'd done."
"So what happened afterward?"
"Well, I got grounded, understandably. My mother never left me in charge again of Phoenix and myself until just last year. But the absolute best part of what happened afterward…I established my bad boy status. After that, I was the kid no one wanted his or her kids to hang out with and get influenced by. But that also made me super cool in the eyes of all the other kids. I scored my first girlfriend only a week after the 'incident' as my mother likes to call it."
"Oh my God," I laughed. "This incident is what led to your bad boy persona?"
"That's so stupid!"
"You broke your own pool, the thing that you already thought made you cool. And it turn, you're made cooler. That makes no sense."
He chuckled with me. "I never said twelve-year-olds were the brightest things. That's about the age when stupid shit becomes the coolest shit. If the parents hate it, it's popular."
We both continued to laugh. Big bad Paul established his reputation from trying to prove to his little brother that he could indeed fly. It was amazing how one small event can change the course of someone's life.
Suddenly I found myself the only one still laughing. I looked up to see Paul standing stone still and staring toward the back of the house with a penetrating expression upon his face.
"Shh," he said, his eyes never leaving their spot.
We stood in silence for a few moments before he cursed.
"What?" He whirled around with a wild look in his eyes.
"Get away from window," he commanded.
Hopping up from my seat, I ran toward him. His left arm pulled me behind him and he walked us toward the kitchen where the back door was located.
"Paul, you're freaking me out," I whispered.
"Good because you should be."
"What's going on?"
"Here?" I questioned in quiet but high-pitched voice.
"In the woods, lurking."
"How do you know?"
"Kitchen window open; I caught the scent. Plus, I can hear it pacing the tree line, determining its next move."
My mind started racing, and words just starting tumbling out of my mouth at full speed. "Where are Sam and Jared? Shouldn't they be with the vampire? Are they hurt? We haven't heard howls in a while. What are we going to do? I'm useless and you're hurt."
"I'm fine. I can phase."
"No you're not. Sam said–"
"Guess what?" He asked, cutting me off. "Sam's not here right now, and I'm pretty sure he'd approve of me phasing a day early if it meant keeping you alive."
"But you're not fully healed, Paul. You could get hurt worse or killed if you try to fight when you're not one hundred percent okay."
"Well, staying human will get me killed a lot faster than phasing. At least we have a fighting chance if I phase. Sam and Jared can get here before it gets you."
"What about you?" I asked alarmed. He talked as if he wasn't making it through the impending doom.
"I can take care of myself."
"That's my point, you can't."
"Bella, I don't have time to argue with you. There's a bloodsucker out there waiting to kill you. We can debate what I can and can't do at a later time."
"We can't if you're dead trying to play hero."
He turned to me, taking his off of the backyard for the first time since we entered the kitchen. "I'm not trying to play hero, I'm trying to do my job as a protector."
"I don't see the difference."
"I'm not going out there to risk my life to go down in a blazing glory and earn myself some fancy title or honor. I'm going out there to do my duty and to save you, my Alpha's mate and a member of my tribe. There's a world of a difference."
"Here, little doggy. Come out and play," an all too familiar female voice rang from the backyard. It wasn't just any vampire out there; Victoria stood outside taunting us.
"Stay here," Paul ordered.
"Stay the fuck here, Bella."
"Please be safe," I said quietly.
He nodded before opening the door and existing the house. I closed my eyes, wishing it would all go away. When I heard Paul's loud roar, my eyes popped open and I rushed back to the window.
I watched anxiously as they went back and forth, almost dancing in a finely choreographed waltz. Victoria dodged to the left and Paul instantly followed her movements. After a couple of minutes of this pattern, Paul threw himself at her, but jumped back and then into a tree. He rammed into the tree, pushing it and her down. Victoria went for Paul's backside, but he turned in plenty of time and snapped at her legs. They continued to dance back and forth. Paul blocked her every advance toward the house.
Suddenly she pounced on him, and they tumbled around on the ground. I saw her grab for his back right paw. When they pulled apart from one another, it looked as if Paul was limping a little. It looked as if his right back paw was broken. I saw Paul try and put his full weight on the leg, and he let out a small whine.
She went to grab his front leg, throwing Paul's balance off. With a low growl, he snapped his jaws at her legs and latched onto the left one. She let out a feral scream and disentangled herself.
I was getting worried when I heard howls break through the woods. I felt myself get hopeful, but it didn't last for long. Upon listening to the second wave of howls, it registered that they were still quite a ways through the forest.
From the sounds of the howls, Sam and Jared were still far away, going against who knew what. Sam would have been there to fight Victoria if there weren't something keeping him away. She must have come more prepared this time with even further help than her last attempt.
So Paul was on his own against the revenge-thirsty, redheaded vampire. Even I could see that Paul was losing against Victoria. Paul required help. Victoria had reinjured his already broken leg. There was no way he could defeat her with a broken back leg and a still sore front paw.
The grey wolf needed a distraction to gain power over Victoria. I ran out the back door and into the yard with a two-folded plan. I'd talk to Victoria and try to use the conversation as a distraction. And if that failed, then words behind the conversation would ring true, and I'd hope she take me and leave Paul alive.
I called out to her, "Victoria, leave him alone. Take me. He had nothing to do with James."
"Don't you dare say his name, bitch!" She sneered at me.
"Why are you even here? The wolves had nothing to so with James."
"I want you dead."
"A mate for a mate?" I guessed.
"Yes, your stupid Edward took away my James. I want him to feel the same pain."
"But I'm not with Edward anymore."
"Our kind never stops loving their true love. Edward will love you until the day he ceases to exist. And even though I'm sure he hurts without you now, knowing you traded him in for a mutt, I know the knowledge of you dying as a result of his actions will cut him far deeper than anything else ever could. He'll pray for death after word of your demise reaches him."
"Aren't you afraid Edward or my mate will seek revenge against you after my death?"
Paul snapped at her, but she dodged his teeth and redirected her attention on me.
"I won't really care at that point. I'll have my revenge, so my love for James will be reaffirmed. Avenging his death is the only thing keeping me going. I'll happily die, but only after you do by my own hands."
Clearly the talking as a distraction wasn't working. It seemed like time for the second part of the plan.
"Then if my life is all that's keeping you, why don't you just take it and leave everyone else alone."
"Well, if this mutt would step aside, I'd love to kill you," she said, glowering at Paul.
"Paul, stop." Only received a vicious growl in return.
"Your little guard dog doesn't seem to take orders very well."
"He doesn't, does he? Paul, there's no use in us both dying. Just let her take me."
A loud howl rang out from the woods. I knew that howl –– Sam. I didn't want to leave him, but clearly Paul couldn't hold off against Victoria much longer. I'd be dead with or without Paul's feeble attempts against her. One of us might as well live. And she wouldn't stop until I'd taken my last breath, so it would be Paul to live.
"Just knock him out, a blow to the head will disengage him. Then I'm free for your taking."
"Don't you think I would do that if it was that easy, you stupid girl. The mutt is obviously stubborn about keeping you alive."
Paul jumped toward her again, effectively breaking off the exchange between Victoria and myself. He managed to push her into the tree line. With my view of them partly disruptive, I felt my panic set back in. Every once in a while during the conversation, I had heard Sam's howls. But they never seemed any closer.
Listening to the trees being plowed over by Paul's fight against Victoria, I follow they're movement even if I couldn't see it clearly. Standing there helpless on the back porch, Billy's words from a council bonfire in the weeks before flowed through my mind.
"The Third Wife She was no magical being, no special power but one. Courage. The Third Wife's sacrifice distracted the Cold Woman long enough for Taha Aki to destroy her. She saved the tribe."
I could do that. I could save Paul. A conversation with Victoria wouldn't be the kind of distraction he needed. I ran inside and looked around the kitchen for something, anything to use. My eyes stopped on the knife in the sink I used earlier to cut the broccoli for dinner. Grabbing it quickly, I hurled myself out the backdoor.
A crying howl seized my attention. I quickly sought out Paul, who was struggling in Victoria's clutches near the edge of the tree line. She had her arms wrapped around his back, crushing him.
"Victoria," I screamed. Her red eyes jumped to mine; they widened as they took in the knife in my right hand. I brought it to my left, slicing my palm. I winced at the pain but kept my eyes locked on hers. I felt the blood drip from my palm as her nose flared in response to the smell. Breathing through my mouth, I tried not to pass out from the smell myself.
With little hesitation, she dropped Paul and started toward me. I closed my eyes and waited for my end.