I ran until it was quiet enough for me to be sure I was the only one around for at least a hundred miles.
And then I ran some more.
I never got tired, but I stopped to drink from waterfalls and steam rose from my tongue when I drank the cold water. When it was daylight I ran in shadows; at night I ran across tundra. I was east of the Canadian Rockies before I consciously realized where I was running to—and that I wasn't running from anything at all.
Stupid vampires would make themselves good for something.
When I was laid up pretending to recover from my pretend injuries sustained in that pretend motorcycle accident- injuries inflicted by a newborn vampire, injuries that healed long before I could reasonably be seen without the casts on- I watched a lot of movies. In one of them, I heard a phrase that struck a chord with me: The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Edward Cullen was my enemy. He planned on killing the love of my whole fricking life. I was running to the one place I could think of finding someone who might stop him and his whole blood sucking family.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
I'd stop him myself except for two things: One, there was a treaty that I didn't want to be the one to break. I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if any of the Pack lost their lives because I got them mixed up in another vampire war. And two, Bella might never forgive me if I was the one who killed her undead ancient boyfriend.
So, I ran.
After several days, I smelled an ocean that was nothing like my ocean on a beach that was nothing like La Push. I decided it would be easier to stow away if I were smaller than a house, so regretfully I phased back to two legs when it was so dark I was sure no one would see if anyone were there at all.
I was hoping to hop a ship that would go to Italy, but since I don't speak Italian I miscalculated slightly and ended up in Lisbon after several days in a really smelly, wobbly lifeboat. Luckily I never got tired or cold, and even though I did get hungry I was able to hold out for the moments when the whole ship would go quiet and I could slip all super-stealth into the galley. Some of that stuff tasted terrible but, since wolves are less picky about flavors, I figured out that phasing to eat was my best bet. The only guy who thought he saw me was so drunk at the time that all he did was run away and pray.
From Portugal I ran to Italy in no time. I never realized how small Europe was, or how big North America was depending how you look at it. But I covered several countries in little more than a day, only stopping to hide out when I hit more-populated areas.
The trouble with Italy was finding the place I'd heard Bella talking about with the bloodsucker.
After she took off to rescue her precious Edward, I looked the town up on a map so I knew more or less how far south it was. But all the hills and towns started looking exactly the same so I had to resort to skulking around roadways in order to check out signs and road markers.
Turns out I shouldn't have worried. I could smell the place from about fifty miles out.
I circled the city for a few hours before I could calm down enough to phase to human. I knew better than to gallop in there as a giant wolf. All I had on me was a crappy pair of shorts as old as I was that I'd found lying around on the boat. But Italy was warm enough and the people I saw were total sun worshippers, so by a stroke of luck I didn't stand out too badly.
Except that I couldn't keep the snarl off my face from having to breathe that foul sickly sweet stench.
I was getting closer to my enemy's enemy.
I just followed my nose to the most pungent source of stink and ended up at this huge building that said 'Uffizi Municipali' with big carved doors and gargoyles and stuff all over it.
It looked like a public building.
Like I could just walk right in.
Instead of that, I decided to first scope out any possible escape routes around back. The trouble was, since the whole place reeked, I didn't notice straight away that I was being followed. It was just my luck that I was at the dead end of an alley when I heard two sets footsteps.
"You are American, I think." The guy who spoke to me was big, but not quite as big as me. I couldn't see his face because he wore a really silly Dracula cape with a hood.
"Good guess," I answered, sizing the two of them up and looking for a way around them.
"I've smelled your kind before," he replied.
"Uh huh. I've smelled yours too," I said. I wanted them to know I was no stranger to this crap.
It was full daylight out, and I noticed that even with the Halloween capes the guys stuck to the shadows that stretched out from the ancient-looking wall beside us.
"You've come to satisfy Aro's curiosity?" he asked as they broke rank and subtly shifted into a flanking formation that pinned me in.
Awesome. So far, things were not going to plan.
Now,the name Arrow was familiar. Bella's little leech friend had mentioned that name, must be their Alpha or whatever they call it, so I figured at least I must have found the right group of Dracula-channeling goons.
The sunlight that slanted in over the old wall hit the side of the building and went all the way down the length of the alley without interruption.
That meant I was backed against the exterior wall that ran around the boundary of the city itself. One jump and easy escape if my next words didn't go over well.
"I came to make Arrow an offer he can't refuse." I stood my ground and looked straight at them now that I had a decent plan.
"Is that so?" a high-pitched girly voice joined in just before the bloodsuckers jumped me and tazed me and kicked me and beat me and burned me all at once.
At least that's what it felt like, and it went on forever. Except when I opened my eyes and looked up from where I'd fallen, the sunlight hadn't receded any from the wall; the two bloodsucking goons hadn't budged; and the owner of the girly voice was just landing lightly on her feet beside her pals. I looked down at my body, expecting blood and burns, but there wasn't a mark, and there wasn't any pain.
It was freaking weird.
I guessed it was one of those creepy vampire things, like Edward picking through minds or the black haired corpse seeing the future.
I looked up over the vampires' heads and saw an open window about two stories up.
That must've been where she came from.
"I knew I smelled something foul," she said. "What are you?"
"Look," I breathed, trying to keep my voice steady as I got back on my feet. "Edward Cullen came here three months ago to die."
Three pairs of red eyes watched me steadily. I was almost fully twice as tall as the girl, but still, she creeped me out.
"My friend Bella came here and somehow stopped Arrow from killing him." I kept an eye on those three faces, gauging the level of danger I was stepping into. So far I could tell they were listening.
"So. Edward's not dead—well, not any deader than he was before—" The hairs on the back of my neck all stood up, and if I thought the stench couldn't get any worse, I was wrong. My eyes darted around the alley and caught the cautious approach of six more bloodsuckers. The time for talk was about up. Not much made me uneasy, but being in an alley outnumbered by pseudo zombies was enough to do the trick.
"And I'm pretty sure we all want the same thing here. Or one of the same things. So I suggest you let Arrow know I'm here," I finished with much more bravado in my voice than Bella's prissy fiancé ever could have managed.
"I'm sure he smelled you already," one of them said.
"We smelled it from the piazza and came to see what it was," said another.
My body vibrated. I took deep breaths to maintain control just a little longer.
That's when the smallest one, the girl, approached me. She just took normal human-like steps. She had no fear. None. The playing field was so uneven—this wouldn't even be a fight.
"Now, now." She scolded, and everyone quieted.
That's when I knew that the creepy vamp power—the thing that made me feel beaten and burnt—that was her.
"Don't be rude to our guest. I'm sure he has a name."
She stepped right up to me, and dropped her hood.
I swallowed about thirty times a second to keep from growling.
"The name's Black. Jacob Black." I'd always wanted to say that.
Her eyes were the reddest thing I'd ever seen. Like shining rubies. Instinctively, I knew two things from this. The first was that she was very well-fed. The second was that she only ate humans.
"Well, Jacob Black—friend of Bella—" she said in her scary sweet voice just two feet from me, "I'm afraid Aro is expecting his dinner. You may have passed the tour bus from Sienna on your way here?" She raised her eyebrows expectantly, taunting me.
I studied her evil little face. She looked like one of those history-book paintings of an angel.
Some of her gang chuckled at her joke and she turned her shoulders slightly to direct my attention to them—to not-so-subtly remind me that there were nine vampires facing me.
And I had my back to the wall.
"Sorry," I replied, since she seemed to be waiting for me to play along. "I took the scenic route."
"Ah, well, never mind." Her hand went to her throat where her tiny fingers tapped against a locket engraved with a fancy letter V. We were both playing cool, but she was kicking my ass at it. "I'm happy to escort you to our comfortable waiting room."
If I followed this little monster to some torture cellar, I'd never get out.
I squared my shoulders. "No thanks. I have a feeling Arrow knows where to find me. If he's still interested in ending Cullen… he'll find me."
With that I just took a deep breath and stopped fighting against the phase.
Just like with the newborns back in Forks last month, the vamps all froze for a second on first sight of the wolf. And one second was all I needed to get over that wall.
As I beat feet away from Creep City, I listened for them to follow me, but there was nothing. Nothing but a bit of confused chatter. I slowed down a little to hear when I realized I wasn't even being followed.
"A child of the moon!"
"—smells nothing like the ones I tracked through..."
"It wouldn't do for us to break the law and run into the sunlight."
"Children of the moon cannot change during..."
"—full moon is over a week away…"
"Like he said, Aro knows where to find him."
"—does not resemble any werewolf I have seen."
"…smelled many of their kind with the Cullen coven."
Then their voices were drowned out by the heavy rumbling noise of a diesel engine straining up the winding roadway on the hill just below me.
The tour bus.
I didn't even have to think about it. I just jumped.
I guess you could say luck was on my side in the fact that the driver seemed to be having trouble with the gears. The bus was crawling and all the passengers had the shades pulled down on the windows because of the bright sun beating in at an angle.
No one saw me.
All it took was a couple of snaps before I got one of the tires to blow out. I stayed right on that rear axle until the driver managed to brake without sliding off the road.
Stopping the bus was only half the problem. Those people would call the city and get some other transportation. I wanted to tell them to just turn around.
I paced back and forth just out of sight along the road to the evilest city on earth.
I wanted scream and curse! It wasn't fair! Vampires shouldn't exist in the first place, but they sure as hell shouldn't have an entire city where they bus innocent tourists in as dinner!
And to think I'd just walked right in there.
Well. Still. I also walked out. Or jumped, if you want to be picky.
And I spoiled the entree.
That was something.
I mean, the bottom line was still that vampires just wanted to kill but I wanted so much more than that.
So I had no choice but to quit moping and get back home.
Because the only thing worse than that city would be to see Bella turned into one of them.
*Chapter two of this story is already posted on a different forest (dot) com.
This story wouldn't have been possible if not for the patience, skill and time Emibella so graciously put in.
Many thanks to Tor for the artwork for High Noon which is featured on ADF.