AN1: Weee! Here we go, chapter 20, and with a greatly reduced SM content too. Credit to the lady herself for what I borrowed. We're getting more AU now, so hang onto your hats! This came back from beta today, and I've been working on it, off and on, all day, time permitting. But...here's the thing. Between working nights, looking after my mother, and this being my only day off this week, I haven't slept in like 30 hours. So, don't blame any errors in the text on my most excellent betas Im2xshy and jdficwriter. Any botching of the text will be my fault. Just do me a favor and let me know about it. Now, on with the show...enjoy.


Alice's POV

Friday was a fun day, thanks to Esme. She's the only mother I've ever known, and right this minute, I can't imagine loving my own birth mother more. I'd foreseen that she wanted to read Rosalie the riot act the night before, so I grabbed Jasper and we got the hell out of Dodge. Rose was so sufficiently chastened that she didn't even gripe when I made her undo all the crap that she'd done to my car. I do not want the car alarm going off every time I unlock the door, and the windshield wipers to run when I turn on the headlights. Do. Not. Mess. With. The. Psychic.

Fortunately, she had more sense than to do anything fatal to the Volvo. It might be mine now, but it was still Edward's baby. You don't mess with his cars. Rose may threaten his Aston Martin, but she's not stupid enough to actually touch it. If she did anything irrevocable to my Volvo, she'd have both a psychic and a telepath on her case.

In any event, Rose pulled in her horns and left me alone when I announced my intention to corral Bella at lunch. She didn't snarl or glare even once. I tried to get Jazz to join us, but he wasn't having any of it. He still didn't trust himself around her. It was more lack of confidence than a lack of control. Jasper was stronger than he gave himself credit for being. He'd need to get over that fairly soon, because she'd be visiting us frequently.

Bella had just walked into the cafeteria, when I made my move before any of her other 'friends' could act. Mike Newton was already moving towards her, followed by Jessica Stanley's glare; the oblivious moron.

"Bella!" I called, walking up to her and speaking a little too loudly. "Edward asked me to be sure and sit with you at lunch today!" I looped my arm through hers. Edward would kiss me for marking his territory for him. "I already have a table staked out." Mike stopped short, fifteen feet away, his face was aghast for a moment before he turned and slunk back to his would be girlfriend's side.

Bella hadn't missed the little chess move I'd played with Mike, and raised an eyebrow at me. That was unsettling. I'd never had a human see through me like she did. Of course, up to now, they'd all been too busy mastering their instinct for fight or flight in my presence to notice that I was lying like a rug.

"He asked you, did he?"

I grinned winningly. "Well, he would have if he believed that he had a right to ask."

"Huh?" Bella, the poor girl, looked a little flummoxed.

"Bella," I said softly, as I stood back to give her some room, "my brother is very courtly and old-fashioned. That's a polite way of saying the he has a serious stick up his ass. He likes you. A lot. And you're the first girl that he's ever displayed the slightest interest in." I smirked. "We were starting to wonder about him. Then you come stumbling along and wham, he's got eyes only for you." Bella flushed beet red, and her scent increased by an order of magnitude. Poor Edward would have his hands full with his human girl as his mate. "Anyway, in his old-fashioned sort of way he's trying to dot every 'i' and cross every 't' with you. So be patient with him, please. Had you sat with Mike while he was gone it would have made him nuts, doubly so because he doesn't feel like he has the right to be nuts."

"But why?" she asked.

"Why doesn't he feel like he has the right?" I replied. When she nodded jerkily I grinned. Modern girl meets turn of the century boy…last century that is. "Because he hasn't declared himself," I said.

Her mouth dropped open. "You're kidding? He hasn't?"

"Nope," I answered, "not to his way of thinking; I wasn't kidding when I nicknamed him 'Galahad' yesterday."

Bella gave me a small smile and held out her elbow so that I could loop my arm through it. "Lunch?" she said.

Internally, I cringed. "I can't wait." I wonder if it's too soon for her to find out that we don't actually eat?

She grinned. "I think we're going to be good friends, Alice."

Inside my heart, I felt a knot that I hadn't known was there unwind itself a bit "I'd like that," I answered, backed by my best non-threatening smile, as I let her march us towards the lunch line. Behind me I heard Rose snickering, as she took a little revenge by enjoying my coming horror…but not Jasper, he knew better. "How do you feel about shopping?"

She wrinkled her nose like she smelled something bad. "Shopping?"

Oh dear. I have a lot of work ahead of me.

Bella's POV

School had been fun, thanks to Edward's sister. Alice was a trip; every bit as slippery, evasive, and cryptic as her brother, but still a lot of fun. She even talked me into a vague promise to go shopping with her one day soon. I must like her, because, to me, shopping is something that you have to do, not something that you want to do.

Like I said, school was fun; after school, not so much.

I nearly canceled out of the beach trip. In fact, I tried to do just that. First, I lost my babysitter. Charlie got pulled into some sort of joint-investigation thing with the Clallam County Sheriff and law enforcement people from three other nearby counties. Apparently, there were some unsolved murders, a couple of which had a 'How the hell did he do that?' flavor to them. And I didn't feel right asking Alice to fill in this soon. Second, when I called Mike to beg off, he was altogether too whiny about it for my comfort; too whiny by half for 'just friends'. I had pointed him straight at Jessica, and he was still acting like a wannabe boyfriend. That was enough to make me want to pull out of the trip unilaterally and hang up on him to prevent further argument, which is exactly what I did.

Then the jerk sicced Angela on me. She called and pleaded with me. Eric had pulled out of the trip, and she'd sort of been depending on him as her 'date'. So after that she was depending on me as her wing-woman to keep Lauren and Jessica from picking at her about Eric's possible defection as her date to the dance.

I sighed and gripped the phone.

"Please, Bella?"

"Angela, I don't have anyone to watch my baby sister!" I whined.

"Bring her along!" she said, enthusiasm coloring her voice.

"You don't think that the other kids might not be pissed about that? They'd see a five year-old as a big, wet damp towel on their fun. They'd have to watch their language around her. They won't be able to relax. And I don't know that I want her exposed to the likes of Lauren Mallory." Then I considered the advantages. Nothing will dampen a teenage boy's desire for romance quicker than a younger sibling within earshot.

"I'll help you watch her, Bella, I promise. And if Lauren even glances at her, I'll…I'll…" she was stumbling and desperate.

"Okay! Alright already! I'll go!"

"Oh, thank you, Bella! If you ever need a regular babysitter, let me know. I'll throw you a freebie," she gushed.

"With Eric out of the picture, do you have a ride?" I asked, as I glanced out the window at my truck. I was growing ever fonder of my battered old soldier.

"No," she said. "Could you give me a lift?"

The note of hope in her voice made me wonder what exactly it was about this trip that held such a big attraction for her.

"Sure thing," I replied. "See ya bright and early tomorrow!"

She hung up, and I went to check on supper. Macaroni and cheese with pork chops; my weekly concession to comfort food and cholesterol. Tomorrow it was baked chicken and steamed vegetables.

"Kat, get cleaned up! Dad will be home soon!"

Her reply of, "Okay, Sissy!" came in tandem with the sound of Charlie's tires in the driveway.

Thinking back over my lunch with Alice, to tonight's homelike warmth, I gained another layer of certainty. Forks was the right place for us.

Jasper's POV

Saturday morning I was relaxing on a boulder out next to the river, thinking about nothing in particular other than the clouds, when Alice streaked silently out of the house. She didn't even pause as she passed me, though she did make a graceful leap and smack me in the head at the top of her arc.

"Ouch! What the hell was that for?" I shouted at her receding back.

The only answer I got was a shouted, "Come on, Jazz!"

"The hell," I muttered, as I took off after my crazy wife. I could feel a complex stew of emotions coming off of her. Love, anger, fear, worry, and determination all woven together, feeding off of each other. "Ali! Slow down! What's the matter?"

"Bella went on the damn beach trip this morning and took Kat with her!" she shouted. "Ten minutes ago their futures started fritzing out, like bad TV reception. First, they're there; and then they're not. It's like they're playing Schrödinger's cat. First, they're alive, then they're dead, then they're alive again. I'm going to go get them the hell out of there before they go dead and stay dead!"

"Whoa, Darlin'! You can't just go charging into Injun territory like you're the cavalry." I caught up to her, wrapped my arms around her, and lifted her feet clear of the ground as I skidded to a halt.

"Put me down, you lummox!" she snarled, kicking her legs. "They could be in real trouble!"

"Then again, maybe they're in no trouble at all," I replied firmly. "We have a treaty with those people, and we aren't exactly welcome on their land. How do you propose to get the Sisters Swan out of there without getting caught at it?"

"And how do you know that they aren't in trouble?" she all but growled. "You know what Bella's like! She can trip over air. What if she and Kat ended up in a deep tidal pool, and no one noticed?"

"I do know what she's like. I also know that if you get caught by the Quileutes, we're in a world of trouble. And even if you don't, you can hardly go 'super-heroing' in there and not have Bella know that you're different when you scoop her and Shortcake up and super-speed them out of there!"

"Umm, actually I thought I'd scoop up Kat, and you'd scoop up Bella," she said in a small voice, her lower lip was starting to tremble.

Oh no, not the pout. Anything but the Pixie Pout! I was about to argue some more when her eyes glazed over and she got a look of abject horror on her face. "Oh Crap!"

I froze. If something happened to Bella Swan when I could have prevented it…we'd lose Edward, and I'd never forgive myself. A minute ago I'd been holding Alice back. Now I was ready to hurl myself across the territorial boundary, and to hell with the consequences. "What? What did you see?"

Alice looked sad. "Bella. She was confronting me and Edward, she was holding Kat behind her, and man did she look pissed off. Kat was crying." She looked at me with those enormous eyes that she got right before she started crying. "Jazz, I think she knows."

I sighed. "Did you see how she found out?"

She shook her head. "No, but it isn't too hard to guess. Bella already has a lot of the pieces. All it would take is for some idiots down at La Push to run their mouths a bit about the neighbors."

"This isn't good, Darlin'. Rose will have a stroke, to say nothing of what the Volturi would do if they knew."

Alice smiled sadly. "Don't worry, Jazz. Esme has Rose on a short leash, and the Volturi are never going to know. I'll make it my mission in life to keep them in the dark." Her arms slid around me as she pulled herself close to me. My arms went around her as she laid her head on my chest. "Bella's going to be really mad at us for a while," she whispered. "She's too sweet, too smart, and too much in love with Edward for it to stay that way for long, but for a little while it isn't going to be nice to be a Cullen around Isabella Swan."

Bella's POV

The tidal pools were fun. Kat had never seen them. The other times that she'd been to Forks and First Beach she'd been too young for the hike over there. She certainly remembered the colorful stones from First Beach though. A good many of those would be going home with us today.

True to her word, Angela had stuck with us like glue, and she wasn't the only one. I started to realize why she wanted to go on this trip, even after Eric pulled out. Another boy named Ben Cheney had attached himself to our little 'family for a day'. He seemed less self-absorbed than Eric, and Kat really liked him. She actually held his hand through some of the rough stretches on the hike over to the tidal pools. It developed that the four of us became an 'outing within an outing'. The other kids went about 'their trip' at their own pace, and we went our own way. That suited me fine. We didn't interact with our peers to any great degree until lunchtime when we returned to the driftwood fire that Kat so adored for the colors.

Speaking of our peers, that was something of a surprise. Kat shied away from Lauren completely, and Tyler as well; which as not unexpected. However, she was okay with Mike and Jessica, which was unexpected. They were awkward and ill at ease with her, but she insisted that they weren't 'mean'. I was forcibly reminded that my baby sister relied on something that the rest of us didn't have when judging people; and that whatever that extra sense was…it saw 'deep'. The rest of the kids were a mixed bag.

The real problems didn't start until the local Quileute kids of both sexes showed up to socialize. One of them, the oldest boy, the one who looked like a poster-child for steroid abuse, seemed to take special notice of us, meaning Kat and I, directing a momentary glower in our direction before schooling himself into a careful impassive expression. Kat started to cling to my side like a leech. It took Ben being a goofball, and getting both her and Angela involved in a half-assed game of tag, to get her to let go of me, which I regretted instantly. One of the younger Quileute boys had been eyeing me since the introductions were made between the two groups, and he apparently saw my sister's momentary departure as a golden opportunity.

The boy sauntered over to take Kat's place by my side. He looked fourteen, maybe fifteen, and had long, glossy black hair pulled back with a rubber band at the nape of his neck. His skin was beautiful, silky and russet-colored; his eyes were dark, set deep above the high planes of his cheekbones. He still had just a hint of childish roundness left around his chin.

Altogether, a very pretty face. However, my positive opinion of his looks was damaged by the first words out of his mouth.

"You're Isabella Swan, aren't you?"

It was like the first day of school all over again.

"Bella," I sighed.

"I'm Jacob Black." He held his hand out in a friendly gesture. "You bought my dad's truck."

"Oh," I said, relieved, shaking his sleek hand. "You're Billy's son. I probably should remember you."

"No, I'm the youngest of the family — you would remember my older sisters."

"Rachel and Rebecca," I suddenly recalled. Charlie and Billy had thrown us together a lot during my visits, to keep us busy while they fished. We were all too shy to make much progress as friends. Of course, I'd kicked up enough tantrums to end the fishing trips by the time I was eleven. Then Kat came along and I took a year off from visiting Charlie to help mom look after her. By the time I saw Charlie's house again visiting La Push wasn't even on our radar, except for a couple of outings to First Beach to show Kat the sights, there was no reason. The Blacks had become strangers to me, and certainly to my sister. Still, it was a rediscovered piece of my past.

"Are they here?" I examined the girls at the ocean's edge, wondering if I would recognize them now.

"No." Jacob shook his head. "Rachel got a scholarship to Washington State, and Rebecca married a Samoan surfer — she lives in Hawaii now."

"Married. Wow." I was stunned. The twins were only a little over a year older than I was.

"So how do you like the truck?" he asked.

"I love it. It runs great."

"Yeah, but it's really slow," he laughed. "I was so relieved when Charlie bought it. My dad wouldn't let me work on building another car when we had a perfectly good vehicle right there."

"It's not that slow," I objected.

"Have you tried to go over sixty?"

"No," I admitted.

"Good. Don't." He grinned.

I couldn't help grinning back. "It does great in a collision," I offered in my truck's defense.

"I don't think a tank could take out that old monster," he agreed with another laugh.

"So you build cars?" I asked, impressed.

"When I have free time, and parts. You wouldn't happen to know where I could get my hands on a master cylinder for a 1986 Volkswagen Rabbit?" he added jokingly.

He had a pleasant, husky voice.

"Sorry," I laughed, "I haven't seen any lately, but I'll keep my eyes open for you." As if I knew what that was. He was very easy to talk with, but so not my cup of tea.

He flashed a brilliant smile, looking at me appreciatively in a way I had recently learned to recognize. I wasn't the only one who noticed. I glanced around, spotting Kat with Angela and Ben at the edge of the surf and wondered if I could get her back without being obvious about it.

"You know Bella, Jacob?" Lauren asked — in what I imagined was an insolent tone — from across the fire.

"We've sort of known each other since I was born," he laughed, smiling at me again.

"How nice." She didn't sound like she thought it was nice at all, and her pale, fishy eyes narrowed.

"Bella," she called again, watching my face carefully, "I was just saying to Tyler that it was too bad none of the Cullens could come out today. Didn't anyone think to invite them?" Her expression of concern was unconvincing.

"You mean Dr. Carlisle Cullen's family?" the tall, older boy asked before I could respond, much to Lauren's irritation. He was really closer to a man than a boy, and his voice was very deep.

"Yes, do you know them?" she asked condescendingly, turning halfway toward him.

"The Cullens don't come here," he said in a tone that closed the subject, ignoring her question.

Tyler, trying to win back her attention, asked Lauren's opinion on a CD he held. She was distracted.

I stared at the deep-voiced boy, my radar on alert, but he was looking away toward the dark forest behind us. He'd said that the Cullens didn't come here, but his tone had implied something more — that they weren't allowed; they were prohibited. Jacob looked uncomfortable as I was having a metaphorical 'ah ha' moment. At last, a source of information on the Cullens that didn't originate with a cagey member of the family itself!

I wasn't about to brace Mr. Glares-A-Lot for any gossip on my objects of interest, but, if Jacob's sudden discomfort with the turn of the conversation was any indication, I had the perfect source sitting right next to me. All I had to do was compromise my personal ethics to tap into it. I shuddered at my own hypocrisy, and was about to say something when I was interrupted.

"Sissy?" Kat said, yanking on my sleeve. Angela and Ben were standing behind her, looking very happy with today's turn of events.

Oh Eric, you idiot. I smirked before looking down at my sister again. "What, Sweetie?"

"I need to go to the bathroom," she said quietly.

I sighed, and turned to Jacob. "Can you hang out here for a couple of minutes? Duty calls."

He laughed and nodded. "Do you need me to show you the way?" he asked, as he waved his hand in the direction of the parking lot and its public restrooms.

I shook my head as I took Kat by the hand. "No thanks, we can find it."

Five minutes later, we were in a surprisingly clean and odor free public restroom while I waited for Kat to finish. What wasn't surprising was that Kat had something to tell me.

"Sissy?"

"Yes, Kat?"

"Do you like that boy?"

"Which boy? The one I was talking to?" I suddenly quailed a bit as I reconsidered my plan. "Why? Is he mean?"

"I don't know," she replied quietly, sounding worried about something.

Oka-a-ay. "What do you mean, you don't know?"

"I don't," she said, sniffling a bit. "I can't tell if he's mean or nice. It's like he's not there. That scares me."

"Not there?"

"No."

I sighed. I still felt like Kat and I were in the right place, but why couldn't things in Forks ever be simple? Apparently whatever sixth sense Kat used didn't work on Jacob's people. I paused. Hey…wait a minute.

"Kat, is it all of the Quileutes, or just that boy?"

"What are the Qi…Qui..Quitutes?" she finished mangling Jacob's tribal name.

I smiled encouragingly as I sounded out the word for her again. "The people that came with Jacob, the boy I was talking to. Are they all 'not there'?"

She shook her head. "Oh no, just him and a couple of others, like that great big one."

Ah, so Mr. Muscles had a piece of this too. Kat cut off my train of thought by saying, "I'm done, Sissy." I helped her clean up and we prepared to head back to the fire.

I halted her before we stepped outside. "Kat, I need to talk to that boy, if he's still there. Will you promise me to stay with Angela and Ben while I do?"

Kat nodded, with what passed for a sly look. "Sure! They're helping me collect pretty rocks!"

I sighed and nodded. I knew that Angela had volunteered for this, but Ben hadn't. I'd owe him big before this day was over. Thank God he was one of those boys that were truly sweet, without being obnoxious. If Eric dumped Angela for the dance, I had a feeling I knew who she'd ask in his place….once she got over being taller than him.

Jacob was waiting for me, as promised, and Angela resumed temporary custody of my sister as I steered my prospective victim off down the beach. I still didn't believe I had the physical good looks for this sort of thing, but the local boys didn't seem to agree…and Jacob was a truly local boy. So I batted my eyelashes like some movie ingénue and hoped for the best.

I succeeded beyond my wildest hopes, and probably planted the seeds of a long term crush, though I hoped not. Now, thirty minutes later, I wish that I hadn't tried. Ordinarily, I'd have hated myself for what I'd done, and that would probably come later, but for right now my self-loathing was on hold. I had bigger fish to fry. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing…

The weather turned sour, and we packed up and left immediately after my interrogation of Jacob. Thank god for Ben and Angela. They caught on pretty quickly that I'd 'checked out' for awhile, so they made sure that I was in the car with Kat in my lap when we left. I sat looking out pensively out the window and considered the insanity of what Jacob Black had spilled to me. Fortunately for me, lots of exercise and fresh air, followed by a car ride was a prescription for a sleepy Kat. She nodded off in mid-chatter about her booty of stones, shells, and beach glass.

Vampires? I could hardly make myself even think the word.

One thing was clear though. Edward Cullen was more than human. Alice had alluded to the idea that she was different as well….which led me to believe that all of the Cullens were alike in that regard.

As I thought about Edward, the whole mess reminded me of Romeo and Juliet, with warring clans conducting a secret cold war in the rainy Pacific Northwest. Forks became Verona. It was ridiculous. Werewolves versus vampires. Montagues versus Capulets.

Which left an important question. What was I? A Montague or a Capulet?

Billy's POV

I stared at Sam, and I must have looked horrified because that's certainly how I felt.

"Are you sure?" I asked, hoping that he was wrong.

He nodded sharply. "Yes," he growled. "I could smell it twenty feet away. They both stank to high heaven. They had the fresh scent of bloodsuckers on their hair and clothes. Not more than 24 hours old, if that. I'm damn glad that Paul was running patrol. If he'd been there…with his temper and lousy self-control…."

The new Alpha let his words trail off, but my imagination could fill in the blanks. It would have been a nightmare; one featuring an out-of-control giant wolf, screaming injured children, and my best friend's children very likely dead. The old stories warned about this, about how a wolf in the early days of his change was prone to control issues and regrettable accidents. That wasn't how the stories said it, but the implication was clear. I shook head in disgust. Of all the boys in this generation who could get the 'call', Paul Donner, the problem child of La Push, would be my last choice.

I can't believe that we hadn't considered this. We knew that the younger appearing leeches masqueraded as teenagers at Forks High School. Why didn't we consider that, even if they were barred from La Push, those who could innocently be carrying their scent were not? We couldn't very well isolate ourselves entirely to prevent anyone bearing a trace of their scent from entering our lands. It would be financial suicide, and attract unwanted attention.

This truly was like a nightmare scenario. Charlie's girls had somehow become of interest to the Cold Ones? I shuddered. That couldn't be allowed. I rubbed wearily at tired eyes, as I heard my father and grandfather laughing uproariously from the hereafter. I'd always stubbornly maintained that, with enough preparation, you could handle anything. Dad and grandpa had both believed that was hogwash.

Murphy wasn't a part of pop culture in their day, but they believed in him nonetheless. They believed that life was what happened while you were making other plans, and that the path to honor lay, not in making everything happen your way, because you couldn't do that, but rather in how you handled what did happen. A man rises to the occasion; he doesn't make the occasion rise to him. That wasn't the Quileute way. I was beginning to see their point. The rebirth of the Pack was only months old, and control of the situation was already slipping from our hands.

I sighed. Be that as it may, I couldn't permit the Leeches a free hand off of our land any more than they did on it. Not if Charlie's family was involved.

"Sam?"

"Yes?"

"I need you to do me a favor," I said quietly.

"Yes, sir?"

"Don't 'sir' me, Sam. You're the defacto Chief of the tribe now, and if Jacob never makes the change, you'll be the Chief in fact."

Sam shrugged. "It doesn't matter, Billy. You and the Elders are my advisors, and you're older than me. So, what's the favor?"

I smiled. "I want you to cross the line, into Forks. Charlie Swan's house is close enough to the border for you to be there and back unnoticed. Don't confront them. Just see if they've been there, and lay down a scent trail so that they know you've been there. I want them to know that we're watching. Every now and then, do it again. Keep them on their toes."

"You suspect them of breaking the treaty?" he growled.

I shrugged. "It doesn't matter whether I do or not. We're in no position to do anything about it yet even if they did. Giving them a nudge is about as proactive as we dare to get. If they're taking an interest in Charlie or his kids, we want them to know that we disapprove."

"And if the good 'Doctor' calls you on it?"

I smiled at him thinly. "I'm looking forward to it."

Bella's POV

It wasn't that late, and Kat's nap had her powered up for a while. She wouldn't be ready to go to bed until at least 9:30, if not later. On a weekday that would have bothered me, but I could afford to be more relaxed about it on weekends. It was part of Charlie's 'go with the flow' principle that I was trying to incorporate into my parenting style. Besides, tonight I had a project to focus on. Charlie was safely tucked away in front of the TV watching his beloved Sonics beat the Nuggets like a drum. Kat was happily sorting and categorizing her loot from the beach trip. I, on the other hand, was doing research…and not for school. Well, indirectly for 'school'. I'd spent the last 90 minutes using my antiquated desktop computer to research vampires. There was surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly, little serious data to be had. Most of what was out there was fiction, the odd Goth site, a few kinky people who thought they were vampires, and the odd tabloid article. The only site that really seemed serious was 'Vampires A – Z'.

All the same, what little information I'd gleaned contradicted itself, and little of it matched the Cullens to any significant degree. For one thing, did they eat only animals as Jacob had suggested? There were seven of them. If they made a regular habit of dining on people, even if they only fed once a month and given how long they'd lived here, this part of the Pacific Northwest would have been knee-deep in murders and missing persons by now. It wasn't. So I decided to try and work the problem from the opposite direction. If I couldn't figure out what they were, then I'd start by figuring out what they weren't.

A line from Sherlock Holmes came back to me, 'When you eliminate the impossible, whatever is left, however improbable, must be the truth.'

So, what was the truth here?

Edward Cullen, and very likely his whole family, was not human. They were pale-skinned, beautiful, and possessed super-human strength and speed…and durability, let's not forget that. Stopping that van should have shattered the bones in Edward's arms, and dislocated both of his shoulders. Yet he shrugged it off. The vampire attribute of being unable to enter a dwelling without an invitation didn't seem to apply. Either it was wrong, or the Cullens weren't….Now why did that tickle my memory? For some reason that made some part of my subconscious sit up and take notice, but it wasn't sharing the fact with my conscious mind yet. I tried to force it into the light, to no avail. I'd have to let my brain give up whatever was bothering me in its own time.

With a sigh, I went back to cataloging and trying to eliminate things. None of the legends mentioned odor, but unless Edward and Alice both spent a fortune on unique fragrances…and just like that it hit me. The rogue thought that had been playing hide and seek with me. Thursday morning Kat's hair had reeked of Edward's scent. Alice's own scent had seemed familiar to me as well, and I seemed to recall traces of it on Kat before now. Shit! My eyes narrowed as I glared at thin air. There was one way to settle this, and right now. I stood up to head for Kat's room when my cell phone rang.

The caller ID read 'Alice Cullen'.

TBC


AN2: A healthy feedback button requires good nutrition and clicking on it provides a balanced diet. (That's actually not true. Clicking on it is like bringing the Cheetos.)