Chapter 1 "Play with Fire"
Disclaimer: We don't own anything that SM wrote (characters or plot lines). We do own some Twilight Pocket People, a million copies of each book and movie and two nice new crisp Wolf Pack posters. Oh, and we own Lillah and Carter. That's about it.
A/N: This story has been a long time coming. We really hope that you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it. Finally it's here, with an extra special thanks to dailyicandy.
Lil-lah, Variant of Lily: Lily flower, a symbol of innocence; purity and beauty.
Heart of mine,
You can play with fire,
But you'll get the bill
Don't let him know
Don't let him know that you love him
Oh, don't be a fool, don't be blind
Heart of mine
"Heart of Mine" - Norah Jones
I place a tray of sandwiches on the kitchen table and run to the door as soon as I hear the doorbell ring. I'm excited to finally meet Rachel Black face-to-face. Principal Green has teamed us up as co-coach's of the Forks High School cheerleading squad for the upcoming school year. I called Rachel yesterday to invite her over to my house for us to meet and discuss plans for the team, she happily agreed.
When I open the door, I'm surprised. I shouldn't be, I've never fit the typical description of a cheerleader myself, even in high school. I have never been perky, blonde or tan, but for some reason, I assumed Rachel would be. Instead, she's about five inches taller than my five foot three frame. She has rich, reddish-brown skin, long, straight black hair, and wide-set, expressive eyes. She's not a typical cheerleader, but she's still beautiful. I feel short and fat next to her, but I still put on a welcoming face.
"Rachel, I presume?" I extend my hand to shake, but she scoffs, pulling me in to a tight hug.
"Lillah! It's so nice to finally meet you! And to have a co-coach that isn't ancient. Bless Mrs. Cope, but if she told me one more time 'This is how we've always done it' I think I would have pushed her off the cliffs!"
I'm surprised by how friendly she is, making me laugh despite my nerves, "I'm glad to help, and to prevent you from having to push Mrs. Cope off the cliffs. I'm pretty sure that would mean jail time. Come on in."
Rachel follows me into the kitchen, laughing along the way, "True, jail time would be bad. So I thank you for coming along before I had to go to extreme measures. My fiance would probably also thank you, I think he'd lose it if I were in jail. This is a beautiful house. You're husband isn't going to mind me being here, is he?"
"Oh thanks, it was my grandparent's house. No husband or boyfriend to worry about. I do have a roommate, my cousin Angela. But she's out with her boyfriend, Ben, right now." We sit down at the table, where I've put out snacks and drinks.
"Thanks! So, Lillah, that's an unusal name."
Rachel's smile is genuine, which helps to put me at ease.
"Yeah, my mom's favorite flower is the lily, but for some reason my dad didn't like the name 'Lily'. My mom suspects an ex-girlfriend," I laugh softly.
"So, instead, she found 'Lillah'. Dad agreed and here I am. My dad always jokes and calls me his 'innocent little flower'. It was cute at eight, at twenty-one, it's a little embarrassing!"
Rachel wrinkles her nose, "Ugh, dads! They mean well, but still!"
I have to laugh, because I get the feeling Rachel feels my pain in the Dad department, "Exactly!"
"Are these cucumber sandwiches? Yum! Paul hates stuff like this." Rachel grins, trying a sandwich.
"Paul, is that your fiance?"
Rachel's smile lights up her face as she flashes her left hand at me. A simple, yet very pretty, diamond ring sparkles on her ring finger.
"Yep! We are getting married next spring."
"Lucky you. So tell me about yourself." I nibble on a cucumber sandwich, too excited to get to know Rachel better to eat much.
"Oh, not much to tell. I grew up on the reservation in La Push with my dad, brother and twin sister. I've lived there my whole life, other than when I went to college. Came back home, met Paul, love at first sight and we've been inseparable every since. I taught for a few years at the school on the reservation, but moved up to teach at Forks High School last year. I teach the subject most people hate; math! But I balance out my math nerd ways by also being a cheerleading coach."
Rachel smirks before continuing, "See, boring story. Now I want to know all about you. Especially how someone as adorable as you are could possibly still be single! The boys down at the Rez would love you."
"Why do you think that?" I suppress my laughter. I like Rachel so far, she has a vibrant personality and seems genuine, but I think she's way off base on this one.
"Have you looked in the mirror? Fair skin, strawberry-blonde hair, petite and curvy, and are your eyes grey? Girl, you are the complete opposite of a typical Quileute woman. The boys would eat you up. But enough compliments about how pretty you are, tell me your story!"
I hesitate, "There really isn't much to tell."
"Shush! I want to know it all. How are we supposed to be best friends if you don't tell me all about yourself?"
I have to laugh. Rachel is pushy, demanding, and obviously blind if she thinks I'm pretty, but I have to admit, I really like her. I take a deep breath, then launch in to my story.
I was born and raised in Forks, as were my parents before me and my grandparents before them. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents while my mom and dad worked hard to provide for me. I wasn't spoiled, but both my parents and grandparents doted on me. If I ever asked for anything, within reason, it was willingly given to me.
At the age of ten my dad was offered a partnership at his law firm, which meant we had to move to Seattle. In my ten year old heart and mind, it was the end of the world. I hated the idea of having to leave my grandparents and the few close friends I had there. My parents enrolled me in Seattle Prep. It's a prestigious school, and I should have been honored to have gotten in, but I spent the summer before my first school year there moping and brooding. Eventually I begged my parents to allow me to go spend a few weeks in Forks but they wouldn't hear of it, they wanted 'family time' and took me on vacation instead.
When I started sixth grade that fall, I kept to myself most of the time. The kids at Prep weren't very welcoming, to say the least. They were all privileged and they used that privilege against other people, including the teachers. I was not into cliques or the 'mean girl' persona at all. Not many of the girls understood that and after while, they steered clear of me. To be honest, I really didn't mind at all, I was happy and well adjusted whether they wanted to be my friend or not.
The next summer my parents finally allowed me to spend some time back in Forks. My best friend and cousin, Angela and I spent day and night at our grandparents' house. I loved being back home. Most kids would complain about the near constant rain, wanting to vacation somewhere sunny and warm. Not me, Forks was my safe place and I wanted rather desperately to be back there some day.
Angie and I would play this game where we would pretend we were two single women sharing this beautiful old house. We'd 'throw parties' and pretend to be college students at Peninsula Community College. As I grew older, my fantasies turned a little. I would tell my grandmother I wanted to live in the house one day with my own family. To marry someone and raise my own house full of children here, just as she did. She would smile and pat my hand, telling me we can never control fate, only enjoy the life we have been presented with.
I spent every summer in Forks until I reached my sophomore year of high school. The counselor at Prep informed me it would be great for my transcripts if I were to participate in some extra curricular activities. The only activities with openings were cheerleading and yearbook. I grudgingly signed up for both, the former was not something I looked forward to, the latter I didn't mind so much. I was 'hired' to take random pictures of the student body throughout the school year. I loved being behind the camera instead of in front of it, so it wasn't too big a deal.
Around the same time I started dating a senior boy named Carter Baldwin. He was the football captain and wouldn't hear of dating someone outside of the cheer squad. He also wanted someone with family connections, lucky me, I fit the bill to a 't'. Carter's family was one of the founders of the infamous Starbucks Coffee conglomerate and he expected everything in life to just be handed to him. I honestly have no idea how he floated through high school because Prep wasn't an 'easy' school with courses you could just coast through. I studied my ass off every day, even doing extra credit projects, so I could fast track through high school.
I didn't really have close friends at school, not even the girls on the cheer squad, whom I spent a good bit of time with, so I decided to graduate early and move on to college with Carter. I thought, at the time, it was a good idea moving on before most everyone my age. I'd gotten a little bored in my classes by my final year at Prep and hungered for more of a challenge, even taking basic college courses. Of course, Carter and his friends heckled me about being a bookworm, but I enjoyed learning more than I cared if they made fun of me. My parents and grandparents, who were all much more important to me, told me often how proud they were of me.
Looking back, it was not my best plan to stick with Carter, he was a less than stellar boyfriend. He was a safe guy to date because I wasn't really in love with him. And he was your typical jock that oogled other girls and made rude comments, even when I was around. But it's not like I was looking for a great romance, because honestly, I believed Carter when he told me no other guys would be interested in me.
After my high school graduation I followed Carter to the University of Washington. I lived in the freshman dorms while Carter's parents rented him an apartment. They assumed we would share it but I didn't feel comfortable living with him. Carter and his friends talked about the parties they planned to throw and I knew I didn't want to be caught up in that. I also knew I'd be able to focus on my school work more if I wasn't in an apartment that had a revolving door. The girl I ended up with as my roommate was pretty nice and enjoyed school as much as I did.
During the start of my freshman year my grandfather passed and a few months later, my grandmother passed as well. It was so sad to lose both of them so quickly but my mother confided in me that she felt my grandmother died of a broken heart. After their passing, I became so determined to make them proud that I dove deeper into my studies, declaring my major early on.
My parents were supportive of my choice even though I didn't follow in their footsteps of studying Law. I chose history and decided I wanted to teach. I had a passion for learning and wanted to pass that on to others but it also meant I would be taking college courses for a while longer than Carter. We began to spend less and less time together. He was fully invested in the party side of the "college experience" and I rarely went out with him. When I did, I felt like I was his shadow more than anything. He would ignore me until he was drunk, then he'd turn handsy and grabby.
As we got further in our college careers, I began to approach the subject of our future. Each time I would mention it, Carter would brush me off. I felt like it was time for us to grow up and start discussing what we would do after graduation. I tried talking to him about it many times and he made it crystal clear he didn't want to get married or have a family. Ever. Carter also wouldn't hear of moving to Forks, which was my dream. I came to realize that nothing I wanted mattered to him. To be honest, it probably never had, but I was so focused on school I hadn't bothered noticing. After that things were pretty much back to 'normal' for he and I. Him partying, me studying.
Around the middle of our final semester I discovered Carter was cheating on me. I'd left a book at his apartment and needed it for a class that afternoon. I swung by his place, using the key he'd given me to let myself in. When I walked into the living room I didn't see him but my book was lying where I'd left it the night before. I grabbed it and turned to leave but stopped when I heard noises coming from his room. His door was shut, which I found odd considering his roommates didn't appear to be home. The sounds slowly became louder during the short amount of time I stood there, contemplating what to do.
I might not have had a lot of experience, but I knew what sex sounded like. I quickly walked across the living room before I lost my nerve. My heart was pounding when I placed my hand on the doorknob of his bedroom and turned it, quietly pushing it open. I gasped when I saw Carter in bed with a girl I recognized from a few parties. She noticed me first, alerting Carter to my presence. I turned and fled from the room, Carter chasing after me, slamming the front door before I could open it all the way. Words were exchanged, including him telling me no other guy would ever want me. I'd known Carter was only with me because of what he thought my family connection could provide but I didn't think he'd stoop so low. He called me a few names he always threw at me when he was drunk. When I walked out he slammed the door behind me, yelling "fat frigid bitch" at me through the door.
I found out from a few mutual acquaintances Carter had been cheating on me for a while. For most of our relationship, in fact. Not that I really should have been surprised by this revelation, considering all that had taken place. Honestly, I wasn't what you would call 'upset' by the break up. I spent the rest of my semester studying and preparing for a plethora of papers and exams. I felt lighter, even with my course load. I asked myself over and over why I hadn't broken things off sooner.
I finished my college career at twenty-one years old with my Masters degree in education in hand. I went back to my parents house in Seattle and immediately began looking for jobs. My main focus was something in the Forks area, even though I knew a teaching position would be hard to come by there. I sent out as many feelers and resumes as possible and was elated when I received the call from Mr. Green. I came down for the interview on a Wednesday and by Friday I was packing up my things.
My grandparents had willed the house to my parents. They'd originally thought to sell it, but instead, remodeled it and gave it to me as my graduation present, making sure to tell me that they, and my grandparents, were extremely proud of my successes. I was pretty elated, knowing I would be living in the house that I had so many great memories in.
It was easy for me to cut my ties with Seattle and move back to Forks after everything that had taken place. My parents were going to be close enough for as many visits as I wanted but I would be able to start over.
A week before my big move I called Angela to give her the good news. She surprised me by asking to be my roommate. For years we'd talked about living together after my graduation; she even brought it up during her visit to Seattle last Christmas. But I thought she and her long-time boyfriend, Ben Cheney, would be living together by now. The two of them have been dating since high school and are completely in love and adorable.
My parents helped me move my things from Seattle to Forks at the start of this summer. I was excited I would be able to spend time there getting settled and hanging out with Ang before the school year started.
And then a few days ago Mr. Green asked if I would be interested in co-coaching the cheer squad, having noticed I'd cheered at Prep. I didn't want to seem ungrateful for my new job and happily accepted. I figured if not me, they'd stick an elderly teacher in the slot and I hated that thought. He sent me your contact information and here we are.
Rachel is wide eyed, but so engrossed in my story that it takes her a moment to realize I've stopped talking. She frowns slightly, "I don't like this Carter person. He seems like an ass. You deserve way better than a cheating jerk like that."
I shrug my shoulders, not wanting to comment on Carter.
"So what have you been doing other than getting settled in this big house."
I have to laugh, "It really is a big house. Great for a family, but a little too much for two single girls, one of whom is gone a lot."
Rachel nods, but doesn't say anything.
I smile, remembering her question, "In my free time I've begun to read the stockpile of books I've collected over the past few years. I also began working out, lifting free weights to tone my arms and running daily. I can't lie, Carter's past comments about my weight stuck in the back of my mind but mostly, I'm doing it for me. I wanted to get into shape and really, after I started a routine, I found I enjoyed working out."
"Good for you! I love running, you should come join me on the beach some time."
"Really? I'd love to," I nod and smile.
"I also planted a small vegetable garden in the back and placed pots of flowers out front. I think it makes the house look like someone really lives here again. In the evenings I love to sit in the swing on the screened in back porch and look out over the yard or curl up and read."
I smile thinking about being in this house. It still sends a thrill through me knowing this place is all mine. That it's now my home. My life may not be exactly like I had hoped, with marriage and children, but I have so many blessings to count.
School has been in session for a few weeks now and I can't believe how much I'm enjoying myself.
A couple of days ago Rachel and I were discussing our classes over lunch. I mentioned to her I'd like to explore more of the local area, that I was especially interested in the local tribe. I knew La Push was probably rich in culture and legends and I found it extremely fascinating. Rachel casually told me her father is a Quileute elder and that she'd see if he would set something up for me. I felt bad using my connection with her for my gain, but I was too excited to refuse her. That night Rachel invited me to dinner at the diner with her and Paul. She gave me the happy news that Billy, her father, had agreed to speak with me on Saturday.
Paul and Rachel seemed to be the perfect pair, as far as I could judge. He teased her endlessly and she returned his attentions in kind. It was obvious they loved one another deeply and I couldn't help but smile watching the two of them. Paul was huge, both tall and broad, but not fat, he looked like he was all muscle, a strong and handsome, man. He had a good natured personality and I was immediately at ease in his presence. I had a fantastic time at dinner with them. We lingered for a while, talking about work and our families before taking our leave.
I was so anxious about my visit to the reservation I could barely sleep and woke at dawn Saturday morning. I'd hoped to spend a little time with Angie this morning but she must have stayed the night at Ben's again. She'd been staying the night at his place more frequently the past week. We've only seen one another in passing once since last Friday. I don't begrudge her the happiness she's found with Ben, for sure. But I do find myself wishing I had someone to spend my time with. Not necessarily a boyfriend, but at least a friend.
So now here I sit at my kitchen table, chewing thoughtfully on a bite of Lucky Charms while I fiddle with the 'toy' from the box. It's a friendship bracelet with a dozen beautiful, bright colors intertwined. I place my spoon in my empty bowl and wrap the bracelet around my wrist, tying it gently.
I glance over at the clock on the stove and realize I'd better get moving. I'm meeting Rachel at a car repair shop in La Push and she's going to lead me to Billy's house so I don't get lost; since I have zero sense of direction.
I clear away my morning breakfast dishes and move to my bedroom to dress. Jeans, a t-shirt and hiking boots and I pull my long strawberry blonde hair into a ponytail, my weekend wardrobe staple. On the weekdays I might be girlie, but on the weekend I like to relax and be low key - one more thing that proves to me I wasn't meant to be with Carter. I was definitely not the 'trophy wife' type of girl, which is what he was looking for. He wanted arm candy; I am definitely not some brainless bimbo.
I grab my camera - my baby, and leave the house a little bit early, planning to stop at different places around La Push before meeting up with Rachel.
I drive across the Forks/La Push line and immediately the atmosphere is different. There is a feeling I can't quite explain. My Camaro, an impractical car in this climate, trudges along slowly. I'm in no hurry now that I'm actually here. I want to take it all in, not miss any of the beautiful scenery.
La Push is a quiet place, not overly showy and definitely a 'simple' community. It is sparsely covered in small houses and not many businesses. That doesn't take away from the magical feeling I get just by being here. I feel like I'm a part of this land and I wonder if I'm the only newcomer that has crossed the line and felt this way.
I pass a few small businesses before I see the garage with a sign plastered over the door. It reads "HWService" in large letters and "Hot Wheels Service" in small print below. I spot several guys, including Paul, just as they walk out of the building. I notice Rachel approach them and wrap her arms around Paul, who smiles happily and kisses the top of her head. The rest of guys are all as massive as Paul is. "So I guess it's not just him that is the size of a house," I whisper to myself.
I pull over in front of the building across the street from where they are standing and climb out of my car. My eyes roam over the face of each man, most of them laughing happily. They are all native; dark hair and eyes, with beautiful copper skin. My eyes travel to one of the guys and he's frowning. The jokes must be at his expense, I think to myself as I walk across the road, toward them.
There is scuffling back and forth between two of them, Paul and someone I don't know. I laugh quietly as I watch them. I've always been amused by the guy-friend dynamic. It makes me wish I had brothers when I see them interact.
I lift my hand to wave, to catch Rachel's attention. But just as I reach the back of the line of cars parked in the lot of the garage, I freeze. Paul is shaking and the guy he was play fighting with pushes Rachel behind his back protectively. I don't have time to take my eyes off of him and to look at his companions. Everything starts happening in slow motion.
His vibrating body looks strange to my eyes, like he's having some sort of odd seizure. I see Rachel reach out around the mountain that is standing in front of her and Paul backs away while another tall male moves toward him, arms spread wide. I can see his mouth moving but I don't make out the words because my body and my mind are frozen with fear. I don't even know what's going on but my instincts are screaming at me to run and don't look back.
My legs begin to shake from the inside out and I can't tear my eyes away from Paul. His face begins to change and it no longer appears completely human. My eyes travel down his body and I notice it looks like he's growing and his clothes are coming apart at the seams. The slow motion stops suddenly and Paul appears to explode in front of my face. In his place, there in front of me, he transforms into -
Surely my eyes are playing tricks on me. Maybe I need to have my contacts replaced.
He's turned into a massive silver animal?
I blink several times over and over, trying to make sense of what I'm seeing. The other guys surround Paul - a wolf? My brain is still trying to catch up. I don't even have time to process anything because I'm being swept up into arms that I didn't even see coming . I look over my rescuers shoulder, back at the group of people, trying to see more even though I'm freaked out by what might be in front of my face.
A man, just turned into a gigantic wolf. In front of me. Surely I didn't see that. I must be dreaming.
It's the only explanation.
Suddenly I'm pulled tightly to a rock hard chest. Arms wrap tightly around my waist and someone lifts me off of my feet just as my knees begin to give way. I hadn't even realized they I was falling. He's whisking me away before I can even protest. He runs with me in his arms, whispering words my brain doesn't absorb but I can feel the vibration of his chest.
Just as quickly as he carried me away he stops and sits down. I'm shaking like a leaf and I can't pull air into my lungs. All I can tell myself is 'Don't pass out'. I don't risk lifting my face where it's buried in his chest. I need time to calm my nerves before I can even look up at him.
He is rocking me back and forth in his lap. I feel pressure on the top of my head and his hand moving up and down my back. My heart begins to slow it's racing beat. I start taking deep breaths once I'm finally able to make my lungs function. I am oddly, immediately, comforted by his touch, his scent. I wait for several minutes before I feel like I'm capable of actually moving. I lift my head to look at him when I hear people approaching us rather loudly. My hands are gripping his shirt tightly, my knuckles white and my fingers cramping from being clenched so tight.
I look up at him and can't control the gasp that comes out. He has beautiful russet colored skin, short shiny jet black hair and deep dark brown eyes - All things that now that I'm so close to him, I can see more clearly. I can't force myself to look away from him. All of the men were handsome from afar but up close, he is breathtaking.
A flush begins to creep up my neck when his hands begin to move from my back to my sides, brushing the sides of my breasts. I feel like I'm running a high grade fever and it has nothing to do with what I've just seen. No, that is the furthest thing from my mind now. It is all about this huge man that has taken me away. This has never happened to me before. I have never had such an immediate reaction to a man, especially not a stranger.
I stammer out words that probably don't even make sense. I am pretty sure my brain isn't connected to my mouth. He has melted my senses. My eyes drift to his mouth and when his tongue flicks out to glide along his bottom lip I want to lean in and kiss him. I don't know him - But God I want to. Thinking that, doesn't help. I'm overwhelmed by both what I've seen and now by what I'm feeling. It doesn't make sense - How can I be so scared one second and so connected to someone the next when I can't even comprehend what I've seen?
His arms adjust me in his lap when he beings to talk to me. He tells me Billy is coming and he will explain everything. I can't figure out what he means at first and then I realize that he is saying that Billy will explain what happened to Paul. My brain is so disjointed that each thought I have is scrambled.
I don't answer him right away and he tightens his arms around me, trying to comfort me further. I gasp when he pulls me closer because I feel something hard against my butt. I frown slightly until I realize what it is I'm feeling. He's hard. And it is most definitely not something in his pocket. He's turned on. Because of me? Impossible. I don't even know how to act. I have never had someone have this reaction to me this quickly - ever. Not Carter, not anyone.
I'm overwhelmed by the desire I'm feeling coursing off of him and into me. It's coming in waves and I want to feel more, I need to feel more. I move against him on instinct, something I didn't really know I had until now. I don't know what it is I'm seeking. Maybe I want him to react even more or maybe I want him to tell me to stop because we are complete strangers. Except I don't feel so much like he's a stranger. Just one more twist of my hips and I'll stand up. Possibly.
I can't force myself to glance at the loud group coming toward us. I vaguely make out the sound of Rachel's voice, calling my name. Instead of looking in her direction I focus on the dark brown eyes staring back at me. They are wide, mirroring my own and then suddenly, his expression changes to anger. Someone places a hand on his shoulder and he pushes me away, practically dumping me on the ground in his haste. My legs are still shaky beneath me and he has to help me stand. This doesn't make sense. His face had been dipping toward mine and then suddenly he can't wait to get away from me. I move a few steps back, stumbling into someone else.
There is a deep male voice in my ear, barking out orders gruffly to everyone and then Rachel is by my side tugging my arm gently, asking me to follow her. I don't want to take my eyes off of my saviors face. I trip over tree roots and rocks as we walk from the beach and across a wooded area, away from the main road. There are houses scattered along the way, small and homey looking. I notice that most of them have flowers and gardens in their slight backyards.
I look around at the strangers surrounding me. If the men looked big earlier, they look gigantic now that I see them all up close. I glance at the one that picked me up and I see him staring at me, eyes squinting into slits. I turn my head quickly, rubbing my chin on my shoulder and allowing my loosened hair to fall into my face. I'm not quite sure what I did to piss him off, but it must be something huge.
We approach a small red house and everyone slows their walk for a man in a wheelchair to roll himself up a ramp and onto the porch. I stop while they all continue their journey and Rachel pauses next to me, speaking quietly into my ear.
"Come on, Lillah. This is Daddy's house and he'll explain everything," she takes my hand in hers and squeezes it gently. As I look toward the house I don't take my eyes off of the back of my saviors head. He walks through the front door and just before he disappears, he turns his head slightly and glares at me. What the hell?
"R- Rach, what happened?," I stammer at her, turning my body away from the house. I tell myself to remember to thank her later. To thank her for being my friend and for standing by me while I have a mental break down because I'm pretty sure that at some point, I will. Hell, maybe I'm having one right now. Maybe this is all an illusion. Except, I know it's not because I can still feel the heat of a strong male body and his scent is still in my nose.
"I think that it would be best if you listen to what Dad has to say."
Rachel nods her head toward the house and I turn to see a beautiful middle age woman standing alone, waiting anxiously on the porch. I glance back at Rachel and slowly nod my head and we go up the stairs. She introduces me to Sue Clearwater, a tribal elder and we both follow her into the house.
Billy's living room is small and barely fits bodies of the 'normal' size. The over-sized men that fill it make it seem like a doll house. I look around the room, surprised I'm even able to take it all in. It's a nice place, simple but comfortable. I feel instantly relaxed.
As I look around I peer into the faces of everyone gathered, nodding to each of them in turn even though none of them speak. Every man that meets my eyes is incredibly gorgeous. It's unreal. It's like I'm trapped in a movie. Last of the Mohicans, perhaps? Or maybe Dances with Wolves?
I notice there is a new female and she's sitting next to a male. I realize he is 'Deep Voice' from the beach when he says "hello". The female's face is scarred on one side but she's breathtakingly beautiful. She has the same beautiful skin the others do but it's her eyes that really draw me in. They are soft and friendly. Deep Voice has her pulled into his side tightly and she smiles faintly at me. I find myself hoping I'll have the opportunity to talk to her later. My eyes slide from her back to the face of Deep Voice and he's frowning deeply, looking to his right. He doesn't even look at me anymore and that makes me nervous all over again.
My eyes automatically drift in that direction and I see Rachel's Paul, kneeling on the floor. He has much the same look on his face, along with one that is a little pained when his eyes meet mine. Rachel skirts past me, touching my back as she moves. She goes to Paul and he pulls her down to sit on his bent leg. She kisses his cheek and wraps her arms around his waist, seeming to comfort him.
Still I glance a little further down the line and there is another face, looking just as angry. This face is young and handsome and I picture him smiling and carefree. I realize he's the guy in the other picture on Rachel's desk at school. Her brother, Jacob. I follow his line of sight and make it to yet one more face. This one unfamiliar but he seems to be more relaxed and he smiles at me just a little, much the way Deep Voice's girl did. Then he quickly glances to the right with everyone else. What in the world is going on?
I realize most of the house is full of men. Huge men that could become angry that I'm here. Men that could very well turn into what ever creature it was Paul became. It puts me on edge and I begin to ask myself if I'm going to end up getting killed here, in this house full of strangers. My knees start shaking all over again.
I feel Rachel reaching up and tugging my hand gently but I can't tear my eyes away from who is next in the circle. It's "Cranky Pants", as I've dubbed him. Everyone is glaring at the hulk of a man that picked me up and carried me away. I don't get it. One would think that the anger would be more directed at the one that turned into - well, what he turned into, instead of being directed at my knight in shining armor, as it were.
Cranky Pants is glaring at me again when I meet his blazing eyes. I bite down on my bottom lip and my brow wrinkles in thought. I am over taken by a need to go to him, to make sure he's 'okay'. I want to comfort him like the other females are doing with their mates. The thought is absolutely ridiculous because I'm the one that should be upset. Not to mention, he's a complete stranger. I start to open my mouth to apologize for whatever infraction I've committed because he looks so pissed at me. I'm interrupted by a throat clearing behind me and I slowly turn around.
Sue Clearwater introduces the man in the wheel chair. He is Billy Black and now that I can study his face, I see the resemblance between him, Rachel and Jacob. The young guy that smiled at me grabs his chair and moves it next to Billy, who forces me to sit even though I politely decline. When I respectfully do as he asks my right leg begins to bounce instantly and my hands clench into fists on top of my thighs. I can feel all eyes on me as I look down into my lap.
A rough hand covers one of my fists and pats gently and awkwardly, trying to put me at ease. On my left, I hear my name spoken by the voice I now know belongs to Sue. She reaches out and touches my back, rubbing it soothingly. I glance over at her, giving her a half hearted smile, hoping the worried look on her face disappears. I don't know her at all but I don't want to see her distressed.
Taking a deep breath I close my eyes and turn my head to Billy before opening them again. I can't manage to look at anyone else in the room, especially Paul and Cranky Pants. I'm afraid I might have some sort of freak out session. The latter seems like a likely option because I'm pretty sure I've already lost my mind completely.
I nod at Billy, letting him know I'm open to listening to whatever it is that he has to say. I'm really hoping, in the back of my mind, that he's going to pinch me and I'm going to wake up from the most bizarre dream I've ever had.
But no, that doesn't happen. "You should know that our people are proud of our heritage. We pass down legends from generation to generation. I want to share with you some of them to help you better understand what you've witnessed," Billy begins in his strong voice.
And that's where it begins. Billy and Sue both proceed to blow my mind even more, telling me things I never thought to hear come out of the mouths of rational people.
I stare back and forth between them, a blank look on my face. I am unable to really believe any of this but I don't really see why they would come up with a huge fabricated tale either. Billy pats my hand a few more times and looks into my eyes, trying to gauge whether or not I'm going to run screaming, I'm sure. He talks for what is probably hours but I lose all sense of time while listening to him.
The part of my brain that loves to learn things, that loves history, is wrapped up in his tales. The rational part of my brain is having a bit more trouble with the idea that grown men shape-shift into wolves to protect their tribe and their land from vampires. As Billy and Sue's stories come to an end they both spend the last few minutes making sure I understand how important it is for me to keep this a secret.
Like I'd go spouting to the few people I do know. They'd surely think I'm insane if I even uttered the words 'werewolf' or 'shape-shifter'. I almost blurt out my thoughts but I don't want to offend them any more than I possibly already have. I try to assure both Billy and Sue and the room at large that I'm not about to tell their secret. I see them relax and nod at me in acknowledgment. All of them except for Cranky Pants, that is. He just continues to glare.
When I meet his eyes again I feel my temperature rising automatically, the same way it did when I looked into his eyes on the beach. I move my hands back and forth across my thighs in agitation and then up to my hair. I can only imagine the catastrophe on top of my head. I pull the hair tie out and pull it back up with crisp, studied movements. Cranky Pants frown grows even deeper and he turns away from me, looking at Deep Voice and then down at the floor.
"Do you have any questions?" Sue's voice grabs my attention and I look over at her and smile weakly.
"No, I don't think so. Maybe I will later?" I hesitate only briefly.
"Of course, dear. You are welcome to come to me or Billy with any questions. I'm sure that Rachel would be happy to help you as well."
"Thank you, for everything. I know how hard it is for all of you to share something like this with an outsider. I promise, I won't let any of you down," I tell her earnestly and look around the room again, hoping that they believe me. I hear Cranky Pants sigh deeply, he is still looking at the floor but I imagine him rolling his eyes at my oath. While everyone else might trust my word, he clearly does not.
Abruptly, Rachel stands from Paul's lap and tugs the hand of Deep Voice's girl. Rachel swoops over to me, grabs my hand and jerks me toward the front door, pulling me out onto the porch before I can stop her.
"Rachel, what are you doing?" I demand in a shaky voice.
"We're going for a walk, just us girls," she explains in a 'duh' tone and nods her head toward the other long haired woman. "This is Emily Uley, she's Sam's wife and we're going to explain a few things that Billy left out. Now, come on."
Rachel jerks her head in the direction of the beach that we'd come from.
"Okay, okay! God, you're pushy," I grumble as I follow behind Rachel. Leave it to Rachel to act like this is an every day occurrence.
A little giggle escapes Emily's mouth and I grin shyly at her as we walk along.
"She's gotten her moxie back, Rach. I think she'll be okay."
Rachel stops abruptly and then leads us to the right. I follow her quietly, not having a clue where it is she's leading us.
"Yeah, I think she'll be just fine."
We finally stop, mostly because Emily sighs loudly and tells Rachel we don't have to go to China to talk.
"Rachel, do you care to explain what it is that you feel like I need to know? What else could Billy have possibly left out?" I ask. Now that I'm away from the guys and with just Rachel and Emily, I'm feeling like I can ask questions and talk.
Rachel drops down on the ground and Emily and I follow suit. I look at both girls, waiting patiently for them to expand on the story. I have a feeling this is going to be a doozy. Nothing compared to what Billy told me already, although it is pretty mind blowing. Rachel nods at Emily, who smiles at me and then begins to explain something she calls "imprinting".
I stare at Emily and Rachel, a theme I'm noticing is happening a lot with this group.
"Lillah, I'm Sam's imprintee and Rachel, she's Paul's. Imprintees and their wolves have a connection that is beyond just a normal human relationship. It is sometimes an instant connection, when you first meet - Other times, it takes a while. For Sam and I, it was the first," Emily pauses in thought and then continues, "For Jared and Kim, who you have not officially met yet, it took a bit of time. There is no real 'rule' for that part of imprinting. Do you understand?" she asks and I nod, my eyes wide.
"For the imprintees, it's, well, I guess the only way to explain it would be it's 'love at first sight'? But for the wolves, they become something different when they imprint. They feel bound to us, and we feel bound to them too, but for them, it's unexplainable." Emily glances at Rachel and frowns, seeming frustrated with something.
"When a wolf imprints, we are the only thing that matters to them, we are their world and they would do anything to protect and care for us." Emily stares into my eyes and I feel like she's trying to communicate with me silently.
I almost tell her 'I don't get it' but she continues on, "They are our protectors and we have to be together, there is no question of that. We can never be apart because if we are, it feels as if half of our heart, our soul, is missing." Her voice drops to a quiet murmur. "It is much deeper than just being in love with someone."
Emily continues explaining as best she can but she keeps telling me it's not easy for someone else to understand. I thank her over and over even though I don't really get why she's explaining all of this to me. We sit in our little circle on the ground talking quietly about the wolves and shape-shifting and the reasons they are here, when I feel like someone is looking at me.
I lift my head, looking over the tops of Emily and Rachel's and stare unblinking at the edge of a line of trees. There is a wolf standing there. At first I assume it's Paul and he's watching over Rachel. Then I notice he has a darker colored fur, deep grey. There is some part of me, deep down inside that is talking to me. I just know it's Cranky Pants as soon as his eyes lock with mine. We stare at one another in recognition and I feel the heat and flush rising on my chest again before he turns away.
What is happening to me? How could I recognize him so easily? I want to see him again, I want to taste his lips. I want him completely and I don't even know his name. This is something I've never experienced. The question is, what the hell do I do now?
A/N: So there we have it. Chapter 1. We really hope that you enjoyed it. Feel free to leave feedback and a review! Next up: Embry's POV!!