Author's Notes:


Disclaimer: I own nothing. I'm just an overdramatic pervert. All storylines and maincharacters belong to Stephenie Meyer.

Warning: Rated NC-17/MA for Adult Language and Sexual content. If lemons bother you, this isn't the story for you.

I'm baaack! And now for a new twist... i'm exploring the wolf side this time, with my favorite werewolf, Paul!

Thank you to my beta: ElvenIvy aka LauraWeasley


Chapter 1: Homecoming


Pleasure is saving up for three years to get the camera you want — the camera of your dreams.

I've dreamed since the tail end of grade school about this day. My trip to the camera shop in Vancouver with my Dad just moments ago has been the most exciting drive I've ever taken.

I sit in the kitchen, my eager hands practically tearing at the seams of the box. As I pull out the heavy weight of the Nikon D1, my heart reels with anticipation. My fingers tremble anxiously as I attach the 18-55mm lens to the camera.

My camera.

I'm shaking with excitement. I have to do some new test shots right away.

"We're going to get some groceries," my mother tells me, kissing me on my forehead. "Your father and I will be back soon."

"Okay," I respond absentmindedly as I fiddle with my Nikon's settings, not even looking up as they walk out of the door.

But I let my eyes scan my surroundings to look for something to photograph, and I begin to recall the way the cloud-filtered sun hits the kitchen table through the windows. Suddenly hit by a strong sense of déjà vu, I turn, my eyes scanning the house. The television is on a rerun of The Fresh Prince of Bell Air, and Becky is on the phone with a boy. Jacob is playing with his X-men action figures on the couch in the living room.

Wait a minute…

Suddenly, I feel sick. This moment is oddly familiar.

Something in my gut is screaming that this is wrong.

I look at my siblings going about their business as usual. Could it be?

No… I recognize it.

I recognize this moment.

I know what I am doing when this moment passes, when this happens the first time. What the room looks like. What episode of Fresh Prince they are running. What everyone is doing. I know what day this is.

Oh, God.

I know this day. I know what is going to happen.

Without another thought, my mouth opens. "Don't get into the car!" I try to scream, but no sound comes out.

I drop my camera, and it shatters into millions of pieces, but at this moment, it doesn't matter.

I have to stop them.

I run to the door, trying to turn the knob, but it won't open. "Stop!" I scream at the top of my lungs. "Wait! Don't go!"

I turn to my siblings, but no one hears me. Rebecca is twirling her hair around her finger and laughing flirtatiously at the voice on the other line. Jacob has Wolverine in his hand, facing off with Magneto in the other.

"Help me!" I exclaim towards them. "Help me open the door! We have to stop them!"

But they can't hear me, continuing on playing, talking, and laughing.

My fists pound helplessly at the door and the windows, my mouth stretching out, but my voice box is out of whack. I try the door again, using my whole body this time, pulling with my hands and with my weight, using my feet for leverage.

But when I finally break the door free and run out of the house into the rain, the car is a distant dot down the road. I know—I know within my gut—what news will return to us… and who will not be.

"Mom!" My legs try to run after the car, and all I can see is her waving from the rear window.

I stare helplessly after the bright smile on her beautiful face, slightly deformed from the streams of water on the rear window.

"Mom, no!"


My eyes flew open.

I lay shivering and gasping in a warm bed, trying to break free of the horrid dream. The sky outside the nearest window was grey, and it took a moment for me to gather myself. When I was back to the reality of a clean, unfamiliar room, I felt a little disoriented as I didn't recognize my setting. It took me a moment to remember I wasn't home.

"Rachel," Dana whispered from the doorway. "You okay?"

"Yeah, sorry," I said, rubbing my eyes as they focused around the unfamiliar room. "Nightmare."

I'd dreamed the same dream many times before, but it always brought with it the same feelings. I never got over the fear, the helplessness, the sorrow.

"I figured," she said with a knowing look.

The smell of bacon, eggs, and sautéed onions wafted from the kitchen. I looked at my friend, feeling embarrassed and silly. "Did I wake you?"

She shook her head of shoulder-length sandy blonde hair. "I was up already, but you did scare me."

"I'm sorry," I grumbled.

"Don't worry about it." She patted my hand before getting up to walk to the kitchen with a kind and understanding smile.

Dana Scott was one of my good friends. We'd met a couple years ago in a mixed critical theory class, and were roommates for two semesters. She was a year ahead of me, though we'd both graduated the same year. She was able to land a job right out of college while I finished up my credits this past summer.

It took a good four and a half hours to get to Seattle from Washington State's main campus in Pullman, with at least another two hours ahead of me to Forks. I figured staying the night at Dana's would be good. It was exciting to see her new apartment. I was envious that she'd found a job so quickly here in the big city, and I wanted that so much for myself. I had bigger dreams than to settle in on the reservation.

"Breakfast before you go on the road?" she offered after I got up to change and threw my pajamas into my bag. "I made some cheese omelets with a side of bacon and home fries."

"Ugh," I groaned. "That sounds so good, but you really shouldn't have." It was bad enough that I was crashing here, but the fact that she'd put the effort into breakfast just for me suddenly made me feel embarrassed. "And I shouldn't."

"Oh, come on," she teased. "I hardly have people over, and it's really good." She wasn't lying. Dana was an amazing cook.

I knew I had to get going before too much of the morning passed, but I sauntered over to the kitchen anyway, my stomach growling loudly. "Geez, that's quite a spread."

She chuckled. "I don't have guests often," she explained. "And you know with the extra room, I could always use a roommate."

"Don't tempt me," I said with a chuckle.

"I'm serious."

As I sat with her to eat, she knew better than to ask about home, instead talking to me about school and my last day at work. We laughed over what a relief it was that I wouldn't have to pour another cup of coffee at the Hillside Cafe for irritable professors or hung-over students on the WSU campus. I was looking forward to never having an exam to study for, or a corny school project to consume my time ever again.

Shortly after, I'd packed up my things and gave her a huge hug before getting back on the road.

I zoned out as the city of Seattle began to pass me by, with Mount Rainier behind me. It wasn't long before the Emerald City became an emerald forest. I arched my back forward, feeling the satisfying sensation of my joints cracking down my spine. A four hour drive would do that.

My heart began to race as I neared the Forks area. Coming home was never a treat for me, no matter how much I missed my dad or my brother. I sighed as I made a right onto 110 from the 101. It would take no time before it turned into La Push Road. Like most times, I wasn't too eager to get home.

In fact, I never was.

However, with my early graduation, there was nothing left for me at WSU, so I had no choice but to return to LaPush.

I wasn't moving back permanently.

No way.

I was just long overdue for a visit and temporarily staying until I could figure out my new living situation. I wanted to live in Seattle and get a big city job like Dana.

I figured it would be good to come back and bring a portion of my stuff with me. It would be less to move to Seattle once I'd found somewhere to room. I figured I might just take Dana up on her offer, since we'd gotten along so well living together in the dorms.

La Push Road was a long stretch of green, about 15 minutes of it before I hit the reservation. It was a good stretch of road to get lost in the tall forest, and the thick, chartreuse-colored blanket of moss, and just… think. I was excited to see my father again, as well as my little brother.

I picked up my cell phone as it rang. I heard a mirror sound of my voice on the other end. "You there yet?"

Rebecca, of course. I smiled to myself, knowing we never really had to greet each other to speak. "Not yet. Probably in the next fifteen minutes or so."

"Oh, okay. Congrats, again by the way. I'm sorry I didn't make your graduation."

"Beck, don't worry about it. You are a newlywed who still hasn't ironed out your finances with Solomon . I understand."

"But you made it to my wedding," she insisted.

"Barely. If you call booking it through the sand to make the first reading in your ceremony making it."

"You were there, Raych. I think that's enough."

I grunted. "Still! Stop feeling guilty! You can visit when you and Solomon have saved enough."

A sigh filtered through my receiver. "I miss you," she said.

Such a sap. Being hundreds of miles from your twin, your best friend from the womb, will do that to you. "Miss you, too."

"What street are you on?"

I hadn't realized the street had changed when it did, but the telltale signage and the tall trees were unmistakable. A pang of anxiety hit my stomach. "La Push." My voice was small, but I knew she heard.

There was a pause on the other line, not surprising to me. "Wow. Back home, huh?"

It took me a moment to answer. "Yeah."

There was another pause on the other end, but she didn't have to say anything for me to know what she was thinking. "You're stronger than I am."

I sighed again, seeing the sign for the La Push Reservation, a lump rising up the column of my throat and settling at my tonsils. "Not sure about that."

I had to be real. I hadn't been home in a good three years. My father came to Pullman once in a while to see me, and my brother would come along only half of those times. My sister had visited me once a year as well, but, like me, she didn't care to come home to the reservation. There was just too much pain out this way with so many memories, and we avoided the memories at all costs. Of course, I didn't have the same excuse that she did, and even choosing being an six and half hour drive away, I didn't have the pretext of ridiculously priced airfare as an obstacle.

I hit the town of the reservation after getting off the phone with my sister, and it just felt weird to be home again - to see the familiar streets, buildings, and surroundings of my childhood. I already hated it.

A few moments passed, and I realized that there were flyers posted everywhere… the same one over and over. My eyes focused as I read:

Have you seen this boy?

That wasn't the disturbing part because I'd seen about forty of them before my mind had processed its contents. Most disturbing of it was the picture - one that I recognized. It had come to me in the mail almost a year ago. Jacob's junior year picture.

My knees began to shake so bad that I pulled the car over. I stepped out and stalked over to the post, ripping the flyer from it and running back into my car.

Jake's picture. Text that read: Have you seen this boy?

What the hell was going on?

My knees nearly buckled as I was suddenly cast into a dizzy spell.

Missing? Jacob? My baby brother?

It felt like an anxiety attack, and I had to hold onto the post that I'd ripped the flyer from, squeezing my eyes shut while my body looked for balance.

Once I found my strength again, I was on the road and full of rage as I zoomed down La Push Road. I made a turn on the road that I knew so well, up the street to our property.

I drove past the barn that was my brother's self-made garage and approached my childhood home, the small red, humble structure that carried with it a whole lot of great memories, and the most painful ones, as well.

My fingers shook at the thought of being home as I parked the car, but nothing overpowered my anger as I held the flyer of my baby brother in my hand.

Flustered, I ran into the door. My father wheeled himself into the room.

For a second, pain shot through me as I saw my father in a wheel chair. I could never get used to that sight, even though I'd seen him last month at my graduation ceremony. Complications of his diabetes proved too much and eventually claimed the use of his legs. I quickly shook myself out of it.

"Rachel! Am I so gl—"

I unfolded the crumpled flyer and waved it in front of him. "Dad, what the hell is this?"

"What… ah." He stared at the piece of paper, guilt and sadness overtaking the look of happiness my arrival had brought. Yet, somehow, he shook his head at the flyer. "Rachel—"

"He's missing? Jake is missing?"

"He's not missing. He just took a leave of absence."

"A leave of absence? Since when does Jacob take leave? From his disabled father? From his life?"

He winced at the mention of "disabled" and then grimaced, unable to look me in the eye, but looking as if he was trying to find some explanation.

"Sorry," I muttered, immediately ashamed of what flew out of my mouth.

"He just took a much needed vacation," he explained further, ignoring my earlier insensitive comment about his condition.

"So how do you explain this?" I asked, waving the flyer in his hand.

He muttered something under his breath about Charlie, and I wondered what the Fork's Chief of Police had to do with this. "It's not what you think."

"So, then, it's a vacation? And you know where he took this 'vacation?'" I asked, my fingers quoting the word.

"Not… exactly—"

"My God, Dad," I grumbled. "When were you gonna tell me?"

"I didn't want to alarm you."

"And you thought keeping this from me would be a good thing?"

"I told you before, he's not missing. He just left for a while. Besides, you were busy trying to graduate, and your finals were coming. That's stressful enough. No need to worry you if I can help it. Your brother just left for a while. I assumed he'd be back before you got home. I figured you could be told when you got here if he wasn't."

My head was spinning, but I had to try to get a hold of his reasoning. True, it was a very stressful situation. Though my graduation was guaranteed before summer semester began, my GPA was not. My last semester was one of the hardest I'd had to endure.

"He'll be back," he reassured me.

"And you don't know where he went?"

He let out a frustrated exhale. "He's fine, Rachel."

"But you don't know where he is?"

"Your brother just needed some time away. Now, let's get you settled in."

"I'm not moving until you answer my questions." I inhaled in an attempt to suck up my frustration, but failed miserably. "How long has he been gone?" The question was breathed through clenched teeth.

"Rachel—"

I took another deep breath, trying to calm myself. I knew I was hardly home for fifteen minutes, so to come into my father's house yelling at him just wasn't right. "Dad, please," I said, sitting on our old couch in an effort to be eyelevel with him. "How long?"

He looked at me, his face calculating for a moment before he answered. "Since late June," he said.

"Dad." I shook my head in disbelief as I looked at him. "It's August."

His lips pressed into a straight line.

"What happened? Where did he go?"

He shook his head, a sharp exhale leaving his mouth. "I don't know, sweetheart."

"It doesn't make sense. Why would he run away? Why would he leave?"

"Maybe you should get settled in—"

"Why?"

As I sat to listen to a cliff notes version of the last couple of years, distaste surrounded my tongue. Charlie Swan's daughter moves to Forks, befriends Jacob, and turns my brother's world upside down. It seemed he'd been lead along, only to be passed up by one of the town's weirdest residents. I'd seen the Cullens once or twice before, and though I had a vague recollection of their good looks, I had much sharper memories of how I found them strange and sinister as hell.

"All this… for a stupid girl?"

"You're brother is brokenhearted. Not every day that you find out the girl you're in love with is getting married to someone else."

"With a Cullen?" I asked, disgusted. I wasn't exactly sure why I didn't like them, really. They'd moved here my senior year, underclassmen who kept to themselves, though no one really cared to be around them in general. I just knew that they gave me the creeps, and I didn't care to be near them, much less imagine marrying one. "What? Is she, like, knocked up?"

"Rachel," he chided.

"What?"

"It's the way he wants to deal with it. We just have to let him and trust that when he's ready, he'll come back."

"If you're not worried, then why the hell are there flyers plastered everywhere of him being missing?"

"Your brother is not missing. The flyers were Charlie's idea, not mine. I didn't think those were necessary."

Groaning, I furrowed my brow in pure aggravation. "How could you take this all in stride? My baby brother is out there!"

"Young lady, I know you are emotional, but you need to quit raising your voice at me."

My hands covered my face as I took a deep, calming breath. "I'm sorry."

"He is my son, too. My baby boy, as well, so we're hurting just the same. You think I'm not worried? I worry every day… about all three of you. But, in truth, he's not missing. He chose to leave. He's just… lost. He needs time to himself. He'll find his way back home. Trust me."

I shook my head in disapproval. "This isn't something you take on by yourself, Dad." Guilt plagued my heart for leaving my disabled father to care for himself and for not staying behind to try to be a mother figure for my little brother.

"I'm not by myself. I've got my friends. Charlie's here to help. Sue Clearwater. Sam and his boys." His hand reached out to mine in reassurance. "People are here for me."

I folded my arms and shook my head at him.

"Rachel, he will be fine. And he will come home when he's ready. Please believe me when I say that if it was any further cause for concern, I'd react appropriately."

I sighed in defeat. What else could I do?

"Why don't we get you get settled in. Let me help you get your stuff into Jake's room—"

"It's fine, Dad. I can do it."

"There will be none of that. Let me take care of my little girl."

I followed him out to the car, and pretended that seeing him in that wheelchair didn't hurt me. I humored him anyway, knowing he wanted to feel useful, and always insisted on living like his paralysis wasn't a handicap.

Handing him my largest bag to lay across his lap, he took it with a smile. He motioned to get the rest of my luggage, but I insisted that I was okay.

We entered the house, and I was immediately assaulted by the scent of home—the scent I was able to ignore in all my anxiety when I stormed in moments earlier and interrogated my father on the whereabouts of my brother. That familiar mix of old wood, moth balls, and aging drywall churned my stomach into something uneasy. It brought memories long suppressed in my time away—unwelcomed memories of a time when the Black family was complete and happy. I fought to push them in the corner of my mind.

Luckily, my father wanted an update on my studies, and I was more than happy to think of something else.

He asked me more about my last days at school as I turned the corner and walked down the hall, opening the door to my old room, now currently my younger brother's room. There was a twin bed pushed up against a window, a dresser, a book shelf, and the tiniest closet ever.

I realized I didn't miss the size of my old room, either.

"Listen," he began as we put the last of my stuff down in the room and were leaving. "It was poor planning on my part. Charlie is coming over Saturday morning…"

"Fishing again?" I asked with a knowing grin. It was routine and didn't surprise me at all. I followed him into the kitchen.

"Yes, but I can cancel—"

"No, Dad," I interjected. "It's okay. We've got lots of time to hang out and catch up."

He smiled, seeming to be pleased by the idea of more time.

The guilt rattled within me once again as I realized that the time wouldn't be that long, as I was eager to get back to my life away from LaPush again.

I spent the afternoon vacuuming and dusting the room, and then unpacking and rearranging my clothes as best I could. It took a while to get situated in a room that I knew would be occupied soon. If my father had the confidence that Jake was coming home, I wasn't about to try to make this room mine.

By the time I tidied the room and got my wardrobe in decent order, I'd worked so hard I managed to work myself to sleep right on the living room couch. All I could do the rest of the night after fixing me and my dad some dinner was crawl back into bed.

I tossed and turned, not used to my home anymore, feeling a bit disoriented as I slept in this house again after so long. I felt ill at ease here, without Mom and without Jacob. The fact that I was in his bed wasn't helping either, like it was wrong. I didn't understand how his disappearance didn't keep my dad up like it was doing to me. However, I realized I had to take his word for it—that Jacob would be back. Why wouldn't he, right?

Well, just because I took his word, didn't't mean I had to like it.

I woke the next morning with a renewed sense of purpose. The house was tidy but still quite dusty, and I'd inherited my mom's need for cleanliness and nesting. So, I dusted the furniture, swept the floors, vacuumed the carpets, and triedto make spick and span every crack and crevice in the house. My dad's handicap didn't help him get up into the lights or the upper cupboards and cabinets. Having something to do was easier than just sitting around and letting the memories suffocate me.

I was able to cook a full breakfast and a great lunch for my dad between chores. He wasn't happy that I took it upon myself to clean the house, but he was okay with whatever made it easier for me to be here. Billy was just happy to have me around. We drove to the grocery store to pick up some food. I even made us some nice juicy steaks and twice baked potatoes. He was truly impressed by how much I'd grown as a cook.

The next morning, I woke up to an empty house. Dad had left with Charlie for that fishing trip way early.

I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror after I washed my face. I frowned as I noticed the bags under my eyes and realized I needed to pull out the air mattress and sleep on Jake's floor later tonight. Sleeping in his bed while he was presumed missing just felt immoral to me—like I'd resolved to the impossibility of Jake's return.

I padded over to the kitchen and poured a bowl of Cheerios for myself, eating while I watched Good Morning America absentmindedly. It was better than silence. Silence in this house usually brought with it the faint echo of my mother's laughter. It accentuated the hollowness of a once complete and happy family that dwelled under this very roof.

It brought forward the hollowness of my mother's place in my heart.

After washing the dishes, I returned to the bathroom to put my face on. As I tried to ignore the bags under my eyes, I strained to look past it all to see what everyone always told me. They said my sister and I took after my mother. I wasn't so sure I agreed with them. She was much prettier than I was, and I was sure I had eyes like my dad. Jacob actually had many of my mother's features.

I suppressed a tear and swallowed a threatening sob. I was not going to do this.

I had to get away. I ran a brush through my hair quickly and pulled it into a ponytail. I did a quick smear of moisturizing lotion on my face, throwing on nothing but lip-gloss and mascara. I jumped into some dark wash jeans and a sparkly Hollister tank top.

The beach, I thought. I should go to the beach.

In case it got cold, I grabbed a sweater, shoved my feet in my yellow Havaiana flip flops, and shut the door behind me, jogging to my Corolla.

The beach sounded perfect.

Maybe there I'd find some serenity — some peace beside the ocean.

I decided to drive into downtown Forks to Sully's Drive-In and get a burger and fries to go. I knew I'd get hungry, and I had to be prepared if I wanted to stay the day on the beach.

On my way back into the reservation, I grew tense as I drove past the cemetery, training my eyes forward. It was clear that I wasn't ready to visit any grave sites soon.

As I drove up to the beach, putting the car in park, I noticed a quartet of guys playing football on the sand.

I walked forward towards the other side of First Beach, not caring to interrupt any game. I didn't want to socialize. Besides, I didn't know any of them. None looked too familiar to me, and they were so engrossed in their game that they didn't notice me either.

I took my lunch with me as I walked the coast on the opposite side of the beach of the football game, wanting to eat alone and watch the waves hit the sand in solitude. Sitting on a large rock, I pulled out my turkey burger, fries, and iced tea, consuming it slowly and just enjoying the beach.

After ditching my bag in a nearby trash can, I took a leisurely stroll. Enjoying the sound of the surf and the workout of walking through the sand, I thought to walk back to where I had parked. The boys were still playing football, and this time, I watched them mindlessly. I froze as I caught sight of one of them with the most pronounced muscles. He wasn't like the other three, the lines harder around his form than his buddies.

I wasn't sure why, but I was suddenly reminded of my nonexistent love life.

I'd never cared too much for the boys from our tribe. Somehow I'd only been attracted to every other race, but something about the man running around with the football kept my attention. Turning back to the ocean, I wondered, as I saw a pelican take a nosedive into the water for fish, why I'd never felt that way for anyone I grew up with. I figured maybe it was the fact that the reservation was so small that I felt like everyone was family. To think of the possibility that I might be related to prospective Quileute boys was a turn off.

However, I couldn't understand why I kept looking over at the football game and what it was about the guy that kept my interest.

The slices of sunlight that came through the cloudy sky cradled the contours of his body, his muscled shoulders enhanced to my sight.

Okay, so maybe I did know what it was that drew my eyes to him.

They all took a break, walking over to a cooler and a bunch of their belongings, pulling out soda cans. I observed as they took in their refreshments, practically leering at the one guy as he took a long pull of his Mountain Dew. I saw that he tugged at the hem of his shirt, and I couldn't help but gawk. He pulled the shirt off of his body, tossing it to the side, and I got the full load of what he was hiding underneath those fibers.

His back was… amazing. As he stretched his arms up to the sky, my eyes followed the chiseled lines of his body and… yeah.

Amazing.

There was no other word for it.

His muscles fanned out in a gorgeous pattern from his spine, splayed upwards towards his shoulders in large protrusions and indentations, running smoother in the graceful slope towards his waist. As he turned towards my direction in a play fight with the other boys, I saw that his pectoral muscles were just as pronounced as those on his back, and the large washboard abdomen of his didn't disappoint.

He didn't see me, of course, continuing to rough house with the other guys. Thank God, or else I would've looked away, completely embarrassed about how I'd shamelessly leered at him.

Just then, as my eyes got their fill of his golden-brown skin, I felt someone come up from behind me, startling me and causing me to turn away from those boys.

"Well, well, well… As I live and breathe," I heard a deep female voice say from behind me. "Rachel Black has returned to LaPush."

I turned my head as I knew that voice anywhere, my face lighting up in the presence of an old but dear friend. "Leah!"

We hugged each other tightly for a moment. If it was one thing I regretted about leaving home, it was leaving friends and family behind, like Leah Clearwater.

I guess you could say she was a best friend at one time. All three of us actually—Leah, Rebecca, and I—were the best of compadres since birth. We'd grown up together, went to school together. Unfortunately, life went on, and things changed. We'd kept in touch sporadically via email, phone calls and chat, but that was about it. Distance proved to be a feat when keeping up with a friendship. It was a shame.

However, in this instance, I realized I'd missed her. A lot.

"I got word that you were coming back," she said as I pulled away.

I shrugged. "Yeah, well, I'm done."

"Congrats," she offered, giving me yet another hug. "So proud of you. Washington State and a year early. When do you march?"

"Already did," I answered before thinking, my eyes still studying the hottie as they began tossing the football around again. "This past May fifteenth, actually." Turning toward her, I flinched a bit.

Her brows shot up in surprise.

I felt like I needed to explain further, realizing I was a bit guilty for not inviting her. "They let you march in the spring if all you've got is a summer semester to finish."

She shrugged it off. "Wow, that's… pretty cool. Awfully trusting of them."

"It is a bit presumptuous, yeah, but at least you know they have faith in their students, you know?"

We chatted and caught up with each other as she strolled with me, dusk coming quickly in the horizon to our left. It was strange how she seemed hesitant to talk about what's new with her, but considering the loss of her father, I didn't want to pry.

There were many things to feel guilty about. Missing Harry Clearwater's funeral was one of them. "Leah, about your dad…"

She shook her head, lifting her hand, palm forward, in my direction as if to stop me from speaking further. "I know," she breathed, looking forward.

"I'm really sorry," I offered in a soft tone. I couldn't let her stop me. I had to offer my condolences.

She just nodded her head and said nothing, continuing to take steps along with me on the sand.

"And I'm really sorry about not being here—"

"Rachel, you live close to nine hours away. I didn't expect you to make it." It was said with a shaky voice.

I winced anyway. It was nice of her to say, but I considered if she was just being polite. I couldn't blame her if she was upset that I wasn't here.

"But, thank you for the flowers." Her voice came out steady this time, more even. "They were the nicest ones that came." She smiled, but her eyes a million miles away. The sorrow was clear on her face.

And I knew exactly how it felt. I stopped to stand in her sight, because she was clearly avoiding eye contact. I wanted her to see my face. I was sure the grief in my eyes mirrored hers. "Well, I'm here now. So whether you want to hang out and talk about it, or do the total opposite like me…"

"Thank you," she said with a sigh. "I'd like that." I hoped that she came to the realization that I understood exactly how she felt, and that misery loved company, even if it was just to escape it.

However, I wasn't sure why I had brought up such a subject, because the thought of my mother laid heavy in my heart. Thank goodness there was someone to break the conversation.

"Rachel? Rachel Black?" I heard a young male voice ask.

I looked up to the sound of my name, seeing a young boy in a man's body walking toward me. But it wasn't till he was a few yards away that I recognized the familiar eyes and goofy smile of my younger second cousin. "Wait… Quil? Quil Ateara? "

"Hey!" He sped up to a jog and hugged me.

I hadn't seen my cousin in years. And I smiled, hugging him back. I did a once over on him as I took a step back. "Look at you! I can't believe how much you've grown!"

He beamed in delight. He was proud. "Yeah, finally."

"Finally? Quil, you're a giant."

He snickered bashfully. "Thanks." Turning away from me, he called over his shoulder. "Hey, Embry, look who's here!"

It wasn't until Embry Call came running over to me when I realized that there were only two guys tossing a football. They had been two of the four guys playing on the beach.

"Rachel!" Embry said, giving me a hug. "So glad you're back!"

"Thanks, Embry." I wasn't sure what was going on with these boys but they were suddenly a full head taller than I am.

"Yeah," Quil interceded. "Billy must be relieved to have you home."

Embry nudged Quil with his elbow and eyed him thoughtfully, in an effort to be discreet. I wondered what that was about before I realized they were probably trying to keep my mind off of my father… or my brother.

"He is," I agreed, nodding my head, though the statement only led me to think about Jacob anyway. It was hard not to, not when I was standing in front of Quil and Embry. These were his two best friends, and if there was anyone that he confided in, Quil and Embry would be the ones. "Hey, so… do you guys hear from my brother at all?" I would figure they'd know more than my father would.

They shook their head, unable to look me in the eye.

"We're sorry," Embry muttered. "I mean, he'll be back when he's ready, you know? He just needs some space."

"Yeah, Rachel, give it some time. He'll be back before you know it."

"So how's Rebecca?" Quil asked suddenly. "Is she coming to town, too?"

"No, she's—" I stuttered, my mind racing a million miles at the thought of my brother. "She's not coming anytime soon. Financial issues."

"Oh," Quil said, though the exchange was far too awkward.

They quickly changed the topic, though I'd tuned out. They were throwing jibes at Leah about skipping out on their football fun, and she had her snappy come backs, but nothing claimed my attention.

Frustration found me again. Why wasn't anyone more concerned about my brother? I sighed in deference, turning away from them in frustration, towards the parking lot as they teased Leah about something I wasn't interested in.

That's when it happened. The guy—the hottie, the one I'd been checking out hard core since I'd arrived at the beach—turned to face me.

Our eyes latched, clinging to one another, and my breath caught, my body freezing in its pose.

Though yards away, I felt that he was right there, in front of me.

Even at the distance from him, I could see his eyes clearly, the irises a bottomless mug of Starbuck's espresso. His gaze was like a soothing, warm caress over my body, though his chocolate eyes never left my own. My heart increased its pace, my blood running warm in rapids, coursing through my veins.

Time literally stopped.

In that instant—somehow, in my mind—I knew that things would never be the same.

I would never be the same.


End notes:


Thanks for reading!

Be sure to follow me on twitter achelle131 for updates, or find me in the twilighted forum under "achelledenalicullen".

For teasers and/or discussion on Hungry Like the Wolf visit HLW's thread on Twilighted Forums under the Breaking Dawn section.

For teasers on my Emmett/Rosalie fics Vanity and Patience/Strength and Remorse you may find the V&P thread under Pretwilight.