A/N: This story is one that has been in my head for a while. Currently mapped out to finish in twenty chapters, it is a tale that will span about sixty years. It is a story of Bella and the Quileute Werewolves…more particularly, Levi Uley.
But that's not all it will encompass.
With thanks to every wolf-girl who has encouraged me and to every vamp-girl who has read and supported my fictional forays into different AUs, I write this story.
This is a work of derivative fiction. All things TWILIGHT are the intellectual property of Stephenie Meyer and/or her assignees. I write merely to entertain myself and others and receive no compensation.
Chapter One: Meeting
"We know her." The sonorous voice wasn't even breathless after the chase she'd given them.
"No, she's not one of them," Isabella heard. She was clinging to the highest part of the trunk of the Sitka spruce here on the lands of the Quileute Nation. The stench below was horrendous – nothing like it had ever invaded her nose before. Mangy fur, rotten meat, old milk and vinegar. What was worse was that it was such a strong scent that it not only hit her nose but her tongue. In the worst way. She wanted to vomit all over them.
A bizarre thing for a vampire to want to do. It wasn't as if she had anything to regurgitate.
The rain misted gently down on the men and wolves below her. Two of each. The wolves growled, their steps soft on the wet earth. They could have jumped into the tree, gaining purchase with their powerful limbs, but they didn't. They waited.
As did the men. Finally, the older one cleared his throat. "I'm Ephraim Black, chief of my people. Are you associated with the coven of Carlisle Cullen?"
"She's not!" the younger, less layered human voice pronounced. "She wasn't with them. There were only the two females, not a third!" The wolves' growls grew deeper and more continuous. Isabella was frozen, her fingers latched onto a branch in front of her as she tried to gauge what she could to do get away. The wolves had almost caught her!
She judged it good to speak, and quickly. "I am not associated with anyone named Cullen. I hunt alone."
The wolves grew loud and started hitting the tree with their powerful shoulders. Isabella set her jaw and clung to trunk of the tree instead of the branches.
"You will not escape," the man named Ephraim said calmly. His sense of certainty was palpable to her. "We can make it fast for you, but only if you –"
"Wait!" she called desperately. "Why are the Cullens different? Why does being a Cullen matter? What is it?"
"What color are your eyes, bloodsucker?" the younger man snarled. "We don't let your kind hunt on our land. Solo or not."
She weighed the possibilities in a wolf's heartbeat before lowering herself down so that she was closer to the men and wolves below. She made sure her eyes were widely open as she gazed on them. "Can you see my eyes, human?"
Four pairs of eyes fixated on her face and she heard them all suck in air simultaneously.
The wolves' fur smoothed a little, though she could tell they were diligent in their guard. One of them snuffled the tree trunk and seemed to want to sniff at her own skin. She was too far for him to do that. Still, she tried to look as nonthreatening as possible.
"Gold. Like the Cullens," the chief said with a nod. "Young Quil, she does not hunt humans. We should not kill her."
The one called "Young Quil" glared up at her and sneered. "Just get her the hell off our land."
Chief Ephraim Black beckoned with a motion of his head. "Come down, Golden Eyes. If you can be trusted not to slay us, I would like some news. Quil?"
Isabella's focus went to the angry youth who was still eyeing her but she found that Quil was also the name of one of the wolves. A large wolf, brown with a black streak on his back, chuffed softly.
Chief Black made a vague motion with his arm. "Take your son and run back to the village if you want. Or take him for patrol. Levi and I will be fine with Golden Eyes up there."
The black-striped wolf chuffed and seemed to perform an obeisance to the chief before apparently herding his son away. The other wolf, the one who seemed to be eager to get Isabella out of the tree, made a strange sound in a combination of a whine and a growl. She had never heard it before. He – Levi, she guessed – moved away and started pacing, his black-tipped muzzle always pointed in her direction. He was, she noted, a mottled gray wolf, with at least five different shades of gray in his fur coat. It provided excellent camouflage, she would guess, with the surrounding woods. She had read in the newspapers that the men in the armed services fighting in Europe had special fighting uniforms that blended in with their environment. Something olive-hued.
The human, Chief Black, was wearing only a pair of denim trousers. His bare chest was scarred in what looked to be parallel lines. Had it been a ritual defacement, Isabella wondered, or the result of some terrible fight? His hair was cut short to his scalp and he was at least six-foot-four, she judged. He spoke with a deliberately cajoling tone. "Come down. We won't attack."
"Promise?" She felt mildly more relaxed since there were only two of them, but she knew Chief Black had been a wolf, before. He had only assumed his human form once she had been treed like the veriest raccoon. "I won't attack you, either. I just want to pass through in peace, if you don't want me hunting on your lands." Sacred hunting grounds? What did they call them, anyway?
The wolf whined a little and nudged the tree again, making the fine pine needles shiver and whisper in protest. The rain continued to mist and Bella sighed into it. She was wearing a pair of denim trousers herself, and they were getting heavy with the moisture in the air. Across her chest, coming between her breasts, was her haversack. A faded stamp said U.S. just above a circular badge with the initials CCC, and there were a few useful, capacious pockets. Isabella had pinched it from Fort Missoula two years prior. The haversack contained a dress and change of blouse and trousers. Because sometimes a nomadic vampire got stuck in the rain.
"Can you give me some room?" she asked after a period of soggy silence passed between herself and the two remaining guards at the foot of the tree.
The wolf growled but backed awkwardly away, his tail flatly parallel to the ground. The Chief stepped back to join him. Neither took their eyes from Bella. They even eyed her haversack with suspicion as she gripped the strap in one hand and touched the ground with the other to help balance her landing. She could run faster than anyone chasing her had been able to from Volterra, but her leaping and landing skills were clumsy, even after all the decades since her change.
"Thank you," she said, smoothing her hands over her wet clothing and sodden hair. The males – human and wolf – stared at her, making her even more on edge though they were no longer overtly threatening her. The rain continued to filter through the leaves of the trees, sounding like the scratchy background sound on the shellacked discs that played on the phonographs. Interesting to think of, as if she were in a radio drama on the airwaves, here near the Pacific Ocean. "I think this is as far as I can go in this direction," she mused out loud, used to having only herself to talk to for so long that, with her feet on the ground, it seemed normal to speak her thoughts as they came to her.
Her audience, however, found it odd. "What?"
She stilled and then forced herself to relax. "Sorry, Chief Black. Sorry, Levi," she added, meeting the eyes of the striped wolf who was shifting about uneasily on his paws, sniffing the air loudly. "I was thinking about phonographs."
The wolf cocked his head at her and made a chuffing sound. The man smiled a little. "Yeah, I think you can probably phase if you want."
Bella shifted her focus rapidly. "Wait. Do you have a secret language or something? Or do you speak, uh, wolf?"
The human flashed a grin with strong white teeth. "No. There is much you don't know about us, Golden Eyes." At a lupine affirmative came to her ears in a slight whine as well as a shake of a shaggy head. "We might know you better than you think."
Levi barked shortly and Bella watched as he leapt swiftly from them to hide in the trees. "What...?" she wondered, able to see a shimmering in the shaded greenery. From the distortion in the air, she saw a man emerge, naked from his hair to his feet. A man in his mid-twenties, perhaps, as humans showed aging, he was over six feet in height and had skin the color of a kind of blended granite she had seen in the mountains. A medium brown with a hint of red – provided by iron in the rock – that was warm to her touch. She remembered the color with fondness because of its warmth. It had almost felt alive to her fingertips. That was the color of the man in the woods.
"Pants!" his human voice demanded. It was deep and clear and rushing, like a river.
Chief Black snorted. "Don't go anywhere, Golden Eyes. We'll track you and kill you if you do."
"With such a charming invitation, how could I do anything but stay right here?" Bella shot back, tugging her jeans back down to her ankles and straightening the cuffs on her nearly-wet-through blouse. She heard the men adjusting clothing, heard the faint sound of the fabric shuffling as they emerged bare-chested from the mostly useless cover they had adopted.
The rain did not wash away their stench – it was just intensified by the layering moisture. "I'm Levi Uley," the newly-dressed man told her as soon as he stopped walking. His eyes were gray, surprising her. Most Indians that she had spied during her cross-country journey over the past few decades had dark eyes and hair. Levi Uley's skin wasn't as dark as Ephraim Black's, his hair was a tad less black, and his eyes were light.
Striking, even if he stank to high heaven.
"I'm Isabella. I – I don't know my last name, exactly. My identification says I'm Johnson. Isabella Johnson."
"Isabella Johnson. You are not from around here." She shook her head and the Chief continued. "You're not a Cullen, but you have golden eyes."
"Yes," she said, to reassure them – again – about her choice of food. "I – I was introduced to the, ah, usual..."
Both men lifted a hand in eerie synchronicity. Levi looked like he wanted to vomit. Bella didn't blame him. "We get it, but it's plain you don't do that now if you ever did. And if you did, Isabella Johnson, I don't want to know."
Chief Black studied her for a moment longer and rolled up on the balls of his feet. He seemed to be listening for something or someone. Bella listened, too, hearing the distant sound of the ocean, the animals in the forest, the distant howl of an annoyed wolf. The older man – Black – nodded as if coming to a decision.
"We have made a treaty with the Cullens and only with the Cullens, Isabella Johnson."
The name made her cringe because it wasn't hers. "Please, just call me Bella," she begged. "Sorry to interrupt, but that's my name. It's the only one that means me."
"Bella." He puffed out a loud breath. "We have a treaty," he said again. "And you're not a part of it."
"Not yet. We don't know you and we need to. Levi?"
"Will you stay with her while I talk to the Council?"
The light-eyed man sniffed the air and his whole face wrinkled in obvious distaste. "Okay. Where are the boundaries?"
"Keep her outside of the village, but inside the Reservation."
Bella watched, her fingers moving restlessly over the doubled-thickness of the strap on her haversack. "Excuse me? I'm right here."
Levi whipped his head around from focusing on Ephraim so that his entire attention was on her. "So? You think we want you here? We have to make sure you're safe, Isa - Bella. So you'll stay with me."
"Fine. But then I probably need to talk to you before you go talk to – whomever you're going to talk to," she said on a sigh as truths ran through her mind. "I don't want you to be in any danger because of me. I'm being tracked."
So what do you think so far? I have written ahead so….there will be teasers if you're interested. ~LJ