A/N: Thanks for all the reviews, yall are awesome and make me feel like I am too. Happy reading.

Pre-readers: luvinj and imaginaryheartx

Beta: CereuleanBlue, although, she has left for a while, hopefully she'll come back to help me one day. :) Love all you ladies like Whoa. Wow, that was straight old right there. :) Anyway, on with it now:

I've got a funny feeling
The moment that your lips touched mine
Something shot right through me
My heart skipped a beat in time

There's a different feel about you tonight
It's got me thinkin' lots of crazy things
I even think I saw a flash of light
It felt like electricity

Toby Keith- You Shouldn't Kiss Me Like This

April 16, 2006

The day seemed to start just like every other day- boring, monotonous, and slow. I stumbled out of bed, not stopping to glance at the clock to see what time it was but noticing the way the sun filtered into my room.

It was bright, unlike most days around here. I stifled a yawn as I made my way into the bathroom to get cleaned up for the day. My mouth tasted bitter with sleep, and the muscles in my neck protested as I rolled my head from side to side.

While brushing my teeth, I could hear Dad conversing with someone down the hall. Once I had washed my face and was finished with the necessary grooming, I made my way to the kitchen to find my sister Rachel flipping pancakes at the stove while Dad sat with Rebecca at the table.

"Well, look what the cat drug in. Sleep well?" Dad glanced up at me from his chair.

"Like a baby. When did you two get in?" I yawned into my fist, while running my other hand through my hair. It was growing back quickly, already longer than it was the day before.

"Hi to you, too, little brother." Rachel turned around from the stove, quirking an eyebrow at me.

"Sorry, I just wasn't aware that you two would be coming to visit. What brought this on?" I walked over to stand beside Rachel, waiting for her to finish flipping the last pancake onto the plate in her hand.

"Here, can you hold this?" She handed me the plate that was piled high with deliciously scented pancakes. My mouth watered involuntarily at the sweet aroma wafting through the air.

Rachel grabbed a plate of bacon and a jug of orange juice as we made our way to the table and placed the plates in the middle. We talked about nothing of consequence as we ate, catching up on time that we had missed together.

Once breakfast was done, I helped Rebecca wash dishes while Rachel ran to the store to get a few items for dinner. They were making my favorite, spaghetti.

"So Bella Swan, huh?" Rebecca asked as I dried the plate she handed me and sat it to the side.

"Uh, yeah. I guess so." I ducked my head as I rinsed a mixing bowl. This was not a conversation I wanted to have with my sister.

"Aww, you have a crush. That's cute." She giggled, dropping a fork in my side of the sink..

I didn't respond to her statement. I was sixteen, I wasn't 'cute'; this wasn't some kiddie puppy love I felt for some random girl. This was Bella. I loved her. There was no question of my feelings for her. This, whatever this was I felt for her, it was real.

"She's a nice girl. A little stubborn at times, but she's sweet. I think she may could even do you some good, get you out of the garage some."

"She is, nice and stubborn and sweet. She's all those things, and so much more." I mumbled as I thought about how she had come to me with the motorcycles a few months back. She was a wreck. The light in her eyes was gone and she looked so...empty, like the life had been sucked right out her.

Bad analogy, seeing as it very well could have been.

"Just don't hurt her, Jake. From what I hear, she's been through hell and back with her last boyfriend. Take it slow; if it's something that should be, it'll happen. Don't push too fast."

I breathed deep before turning the water off and draping the towel over my shoulder.

"I know, Becca. I don't need someone to tell me how to deal with her, okay? I'm the one that fixed her after that leech sucked the life out of her. If anyone knows not to push Bella, it's me." I glanced over at the clock. It was after nine. I needed to get to Sam's house for patrols before they came looking for me.

"Sorry, Little Brother. I was just trying to be supportive. Offer some advice, you know. I didn't mean to cause your tighty-whitey's to get in a bunch. You're good with analogies I see. Leech, huh? Next time you can call him a vampire or something. You know, like 'I 'vant to drink your blood'?" She walked over to the table to wipe it down. I caught my slip and thought quickly to cover it.

"Yeah, that's a good one. I'm sorry, it's just... look, I've got to go do some stuff, I'll be back later. I'm glad you're here." I kissed the top of her head on my way out of the kitchen.

I hollered at Dad that I would be back later before leaving out of the front door. With Rachel and Rebecca being here, it would be hard to come and go as easily as I was used to. There would more than likely be questions that we couldn't answer. That was just a thing to add to the list of reasons being a wolf wasn't much fun all the time. It did have its perks- the strength, the heightened senses- but the whole keeping secrets from important people in your life, not really having a life-those aspects made it suck.

I snuck around the side of the house, peeking in the kitchen window to make sure Rebecca wasn't looking towards the woods. That way, she wouldn't be scared shitless when a giant wolf took off running through the trees behind the house.

I stripped of my shorts and knelt to tie them to my ankle with the thin black string. I stood up and closed my eyes, pushing out with my mind and allowing the wolf from within to take over.

My limbs stretched and remolded themselves to their new form. It all felt so foreign, yet so natural.

'Bout time you showed up. Hurry up, we're almost to Forks. Jared thought to me. Embry began singing The Star Spangled Banner in his head, but I caught the tail end of something familiar again.

Hey Emb, what's with the patriotism all of a sudden? Hiding something? I dug my paws into the earth and pushed forward, hoping to catch up before they got too far ahead.

No, my mom was watching an old video of us from the Fourth of July when we were little. The damn song is stuck in my head.

Sure, whatever you say, dude.

I could see Sam's thoughts of him and Emily wrapped in sheets from the previous night. He was trying not to think about it, but it was no use. It was already out there.

What? Can't a man reminisce, or is that not allowed?

It's not nice to boast about getting ass when you know the rest of us aren't, dude. Not cool. Embry thought.

I ran as fast as I could to catch up with them, enjoying the feel of the wind as it whipped through my fur. I wanted to make a quick run by Bella's house, just to make sure that she was fine.

If you must, but hurry the hell up. We're all supposed to be doing this together, remember?

Sure thing, Sam. Speaking of all of us, where's Paul? I came around to a trail that was barely traveled behind her house. I could smell her scent, strawberries and lilac. It was strange to smell it this far away from her house. Surely, she hadn't gone wandering in the woods recently. Bella was smarter than that.

He said he had to do something with his mom and couldn't patrol.

I mentally shrugged it off, being okay with one less person in my head.

I followed Bella's scent around through the brush and trees before coming to a clearing. Bella stood in the center of the clearing looking lost and scared.

She was looking around frantically as if the boogie man himself would jump out and grab her at any moment.

Guys, something's wrong here. I found Bella in the woods and she looks completely terrified.

We're on our way. Embry, you're closer to where he is right now, run around the area and see if you can find anything.

Will do. Embry piped in.

I'm gonna phase so I can talk to her and see what's going on.

Okay, Jake. Just be careful.

I will, Sam.

I reigned in the calmness it took for me to phase back. There hadn't been any traces of vampires around when I came through here, so I wasn't worried about that, but something definitely had her scared.

After quickly pulling my shorts back on, I made my way out into the clearing towards Bella.

"Bella. What are you doing out here?" Her head snapped in my direction as she took off running to me.

"Jake, they said...but you...and then...oh my God, Jake. I was so scared. What the hell is going on? Why did Paul bring me out here?" She clung to me like a lifeline, her nails digging into my back.

"Slow down, Bella. You're not making sense- wait, wha...what do you mean Paul? He brought you out here, for what?" This was beyond weird. Why would he do such a thing?

"Sam called and said you were hurt, that you were in the woods behind my house and that Paul was coming to get me so I could be with you. What's happening?"

"I don't know. Sam called you?" I heard them before I ever saw them. The leaves crunched under their feet as they approached.

"Get away from her, Jacob." I turned around and faced Sam, keeping Bella tucked into my side all the while.

"What are you talking about, Sam? What's going on?" He walked towards me with Jared and Paul flanking him on either side, still in their wolf forms.

"Let her go, Jake. I really don't want to have to hurt you, but if you push us, then we will." I heard a twig break to my right, and found Embry standing at the treeline.

"Emb, what's going on? What are they talking about?" Bella curled in deeper to my side as I tightened my grip on her. Embry just stared at me, looking completely torn.

"You'd do good to listen, Jacob. Now, get. Away. From. Her." Sam's voice held the Alpha timbre he 'didn't like to use on us'. The wolf in me reared back ready to show who the True Alpha was; there was no holding him in this time.

The wolf knew what was his, and who could tell him what to do. Sam Uley didn't have that right anymore. I had suppressed my wolf's need for dominance for too long. This was going to end. Now.

I loosened my grip on Bella and pushed her away.

"Bella get back."

"What? No, Jake. I'm scared. What are you doing?"

"Just get back, Bella. When I tell you to run, do it." I gave her a push, causing her to fall backwards on the ground.

"Get ready." I phased quickly, shredding my shorts again in the process. Embry stood stoic. He didn't move towards Bella or anything.

What the hell are you guys doing?

Nothing.

Sam? Jared? Paul?

Not a sound. No flicker of thoughts. Just silence. Complete and utter silence.

I was so lost in confusion that I didn't notice Paul charge at me. When I did, it was too late. He head butted my ribcage and sent me flying into a tree on the opposite side of the clearing.

I yelped in pain as my ribs cracked on my right side. I struggled to get up, but when I did I only saw red.

Jared was in his human form stalking towards Bella. I let out an ear splitting howl, causing her to look at me in fear. I nodded my head to the side, trying to signal to her to run. She glanced around before running head long towards where I was standing. I bolted towards Sam and Paul, fighting the searing pain in my side as I did so. I tackled Sam to the ground, pinning him by his front legs.

"Oh, Jake." Jared drew out my name. I glanced up to find him holding Bella by the arms.

"Jake!" Bella screamed. That was all it took. That little pause where you contemplate saving the girl, or fighting off the bad guy; that was all it took to have me pinned on my back by Paul and Sam. I fought as hard as I could to get free, but I couldn't. They had me down and out for the count, Paul dripping spittle on my face as he snarled at me.

I didn't care what they did to me, but I couldn't let them hurt Bella. I would do anything for her. Die for her if I must. I locked gazes with Bella just in time to see her mouth the words 'I love you' to me before Jared grabbed her head in his hands and twisted it, breaking her neck.

"NOOOOOO!" I screamed and tumbled to the floor in a ball of sheets, sweat beading on my forehead. My body felt cooler than normal and clammy to the touch. I looked around and noticed the grey light filtering in through my curtains. The rain dancing on the tin roof was music to my ears.

It was just a dream.

So much for this shit not being in my dreams.

That wasn't a dream- that was a damn nightmare. I sat on the floor wondering exactly what that dream could have been about. It scared the day lights out of me to think that something like that could happen.

I was brought out of my thoughts by Dad pounding on my door.

"Jake? Everything okay in there, Son?" His voice was muffled through the heavy wood.

"Uh, yeah. Yeah, Dad. Everything's cool." I tried to shake the images of Jared's hands on either side of Bella's face from my head.

"Okay. Well, breakfast is ready." With that, he left me alone with my thoughts and wheeled back down the hall.

After contemplating the meaning of the dream and getting no where, I decided I would go get something to eat. Food always helped me feel better, even more so since becoming a wolf.

I sat at the kitchen table in my boxers, scarfing down a stack of pancakes while Dad stared at me wide eyed.

"What?" I looked up at him, chewing a mouthful of pancakes as syrup dribbled down my chin.

"Nothing. Is something bothering you, Jacob?" His brow furrowed and his nose scrunched up slightly.

"No. Why would something be bothering me?"

"You just ate three dozen pancakes and used a whole bottle of syrup." Was I really that obvious? This dream thing was really messing with me.

"Oh. Did you want some?" My mouth was full of another bite.

"No, no. It's okay, I already ate. Just uh, slow down some. I can't really help you if you start choking." Dad gestured to his wheel chair.

I swallowed the bite I had in my mouth and sat my fork down on the plate. Letting this - this thing, that wasn't even reality - get the best of me was not a good thing right now. There was a threat out there, and if I couldn't get past a dream, how was I going to deal with the bloodsuckers?

The only thing that I could think of to make me feel better at the moment would be to see Bella. If I could just see her and hug her, I would be content. I just had to make sure she was okay. I couldn't patrol with the others right now and not let these thoughts slip through.

I picked up my plate and walked it over to the trash to scrape the rest of the pancakes off before tossing it in the sink.

"What? Not hungry anymore? I was sure you'd clear the plate and eat two dozen eggs as well. Maybe even the horse out back." Dad raised an eyebrow at me before silently rolling himself into the living room.

"Very funny, Dad. We don't even have a horse." I called after him.

I waited until he turned the television on before I picked up the phone and dialed Bella's number. It rang twice before she answered.

"Hey, Jake. I was just about to call you. What's up?"

"Oh really? Any reason in particular you would be calling me? Maybe to tell me how dashing you find me?" I tried to ease my anxiety by joking with her.

"Haha. Sure, Jake. You're the apple of my eye, and I think I'd be the luckiest girl around if you would go with me to the Sadie Hawkins dance. Please say yes. I'm begging here." Her voice was laced with mock genuineness.

"I don't know, Bells. I may have to think about it. I've had quite a few offers...Do you really think I should pick you? What's in it for me?" Joking with Bella this way was easy. It felt right and took away most of my anxiety. Most, only because it wouldn't be completely gone until I could see her and touch her and know she was okay.

"A lifetime of servitude up on the table. Take it or leave it. Time's a'wastin here Jakey Poo."

"Hmm...a lifetime of Bella Swan as my slave...I guess that's doable."

"What do you mean 'you guess'? I'll have you know I'd make a great slave!"

"Sure, sure. How about for your first duty as my slave, you come over and clean my room? Dad's having a cow that it's such a mess and with being a rez super hero and all, I don't have time to busy myself with such petty things."

"Fine, but I'm not doing your laundry. Doing Charlie's is enough. Men are just...gross." I laughed as I pictured her shuddering at the thought of doing my laundry.

"So, when do you want to come over?"

"Uh, I'm not working today; do you have patrols?"

"Not this morning. I'm not feeling that well, so I'm not going. Want to come over now?"

"Cool. Give me thirty minutes, and I'll be there."

"Sure, just uh..be careful. Can't have anything happening to my lifetime slave before she even starts, you know?" The thought of her out on the road alone was causing the anxiety to return. I tried to keep in mind that within half an hour she'd be here and all would be okay.

"Always, Slave Keeper." She laughed. "Bye, Jake."

"Bye, Bells."

As soon as the line clicked, I dialed Sam's number to tell him I wouldn't be patrolling this morning.

"Why not, Jacob? Is something wrong?"

"No, no. Dad said he wanted me to clean up around here today. The clutter is getting a little out of hand and he's not able to do it himself. He doesn't want the neighbors to think they live next to hillbillies or something."

"It can't wait til later? What is it with you guys today? Paul isn't able to make it either, something about him and his mom having to do stuff, too." His words hit like a shot to the gut. That was coincidental with my dream, but I tried to shake the images from my mind.

"Not sure, but I'll be by there later. You're still meeting with the council after a while, right?"

"Yeah, just be here around lunch time if you can. We'll let you know how things went on patrol and I'll fill you all in on what the council says."

I hung up the phone and went to my room to pick up some before Bella came over. I didn't want her thinking I was a complete slob since I had been unable to clean it as of late.

Twenty minutes, a load of laundry in the wash, and one clean room later, Bella's trucked roared into the drive. I went out to meet her before she could even climb out.

Scooping her into a hug, I held her close to me while I closed my eyes and just inhaled the all-too familiar scent of Bella.

"Need...air...must...breathe," All of her words were muffled in my chest as she slapped at me with her tiny hands. Her arms were locked at her sides so she was only able to hit me on my hips. Laughing at her vain attempts to hurt me, I set her down on her feet, but kept an arm around her shoulders as I led her inside the house.

"Thanks, I kinda need air to live, you know."

"I don't know...if you ask me, I think the whole air thing is pretty over-rated. I mean, I could breathe for you if you want." I wiggled my eyebrows at her as she rolled her eyes and slapped me across my chest.

"Ha ha, I'll keep that in mind, but I think for now I'm good to breathe on my own."

"Suit yourself. What did you want to do today?" I asked as we headed for the kitchen to grab some chips and sodas.

"Doesn't matter to me really. What did you want to do?" I handed her a warm soda from beside the fridge.

"Not sure. Do you want to go to the beach later? Maybe cliff diving?"

"Cliff diving? Who are you and what have you done with my Bells?" I ruffled her hair and stepped back as she took another swing at me. "I need to finish the repair on that drive shaft for Mr. Ateara, but I should be free after that."

We walked out the back door towards the garage. It was beginning to drizzle and Bella's hair was starting to slightly frizz. The way the small hairs curled when the drops of water hit them made her that much more beautiful to me.

"Very funny. I just figured you owed me since you promised you'd take me sometime." She pulled her hair around to the side of her face as I pushed the door to the garage open for her to enter. "Ugh, my hair is a mess. I hate when it starts to frizz out like this."

"I think it's nice looking, even with the little horns you have now." I fingered the tiny curls that had formed near her forehead.

"You would. So, how much more do you have to do on that thing?" She asked as she sat down on the ragged old couch next to where I was working.

"Well, when I was taking out the broken one I damaged a seal, so I have to fix that and stick the new one back in. It shouldn't take too long." I lay back on the creeper and wheeled underneath the car.

"Wow. Should I find another mechanic for when the truck falls apart? I don't want you to mess it up anymore than it already is."

"Sure, sure, but I doubt you'll find anyone willing to fix it for free. Hey, can you hand me that wrench by your foot?"

"Which one is the wrench?" Bella giggled. I wheeled back out from under the car.

"Seriously? You've spent all these months with me in the garage, and you still don't know what a wrench looks like? Typical girl." I tsked as I reached for the wrench, but Bella grabbed it and jumped off the couch before I could get to it.

"What was that?" She raised her eyebrows at me as I stood.

"What was what?" I walked towards her as she backed up and kicked a coffee can full of nuts and bolts.

"Typical girl? What is that about, huh?" She hid the wrench behind her waist as she bumped into the work bench.

"Nothing, just stating that you lose five years because you don't know what a wrench is. That makes you what, like twenty-three?" I kept advancing towards her until I had her pinned between the work bench and myself.

"And you're still forty-eight? Getting up there, aren't you?" The air seemed to thicken around us as I looked down at her dark brown eyes. There was a hint of something there, something I hadn't seen from Bella before. It resembled what I think want would look like.

"Like I've said before, age ain't nothin' but a number." Her lips, all soft and pouty looking were pulling me closer. It was as if they were whispering to me- kiss me, Jacob. I leaned down, resting my forehead against hers. Bella's tongue snuck out and made a slow yet steady path across her bottom lip.

"Jake." Her eyes began to close, and she leaned her body into mine. I could feel the softness of her everywhere. Her breathing was shaky as it swept across my face.

"Bells, just say the word."

"Jake, I... plea-" Bella's phone began ringing, breaking us from our little moment. I backed away from her as she reached in her pocket to retrieve the phone.

"Seriously, Bells? Funky Town? Didn't really picture you as the Alvin and the Chipmunks type of girl. I had you pegged all wrong." She stared at her phone as Funky Town continued to play. "What is it, Bella?"

"Nothing, I just don't understand why Sam would be calling me." My body tensed at her words. Things were getting to be a little weird here lately and I, even though I'm a teenaged werewolf in Washington, am not a fan of weird.

"Sam called and said you were hurt..." Bella's words from my dream rang too loudly in my ears. Why would Sam be calling Bella?

"Give me your phone."

"What? Jake, why?" Bella looked at me confused as the music from her phone continued to play. Not giving her an answer, I grabbed the phone her hand and opened it.

"Hello."

"Oh, hey, Jake. Is Bella around? This is her number, right?" The voice on the other end of the line sounded surprised.

"Emily? What are you doing with Sam's phone?" I paced back and forth around the garage, letting some of the tension leave my body as Bella watched me, looking slightly peeved.

"I could ask you the same thing about Bella's. Is she around?"

"Maybe, what do you need?"

"Really, Jake? Twenty questions isn't really a game I like playing."

"Come on, Jake. Give me my phone back." Bella called from behind me. I turned around just in time to see her stamp her foot.

"Really, Bells? Stamping your feet? Kinda childish don't you think? I think you lost a few more years for that one."

"Yeah, cause taking my phone away isn't childish. I think you lose some years for that, too. Just give me the..." she struggled to get the phone from my hands as I lifted it above my head, "phone. Jacob!"

"Okay, okay!" I conceded once she pinched the skin on the back of my arm and twisted it. "Here, just stop pinching me already." I handed her the phone and rubbed the patch of skin she had just pinched. Being a werewolf had it's perks, but fending off the onslaught of Bella's fingers wasn't one of them. That shit hurt.

"Oh, hey Emily...Yeah, yeah things are fine. No, he was just being a pain. You know how that goes... Sure, sure, I can come by there. When did you want me?... .Now's fine... Okay, be there in a min-... yeah, I think I can pinch him into coming with me... see you then. Bye." Bella hung up the phone and turned to look at me.

"What was that all about?" she asked as she put her phone back in her pocket.

"Nothing, I just have some things going on right now. What did she want?" I leaned against the work bench as Bella walked over to the couch and grabbed her soda.

"She asked me if I wanted to come hang out with her and said that Sam said you're supposed to go over there later anyway. So you wanna go?"

"Sure, sure. Just let me go throw on some shoes and let Dad know real quick."

"Okay."

I ran inside the house, passing Dad on the way to my room.

"Hey, I'm gonna go over to Sam's for a bit with Bella. When are you supposed to be meeting with him?" I stopped when I was in front of the television.

"Here in a little while. Care to move so I can finish watching the game?" He peeked around me to try to see the T.V.

"Sure thing, care to tell me what it is you're meeting with him about?" I continued to block his view.

"You already know what it's about. Can't really tell you the specifics yet. It's not my place."

"Sure, sure. Be secretive if you want, it's not like you're my dad or anything," I replied as I headed for my room.

"Not at all. I've always wondered if you weren't the milk man's kid," he hollered after me, causing me to shake my head and sigh.

Once I had my shoes on, I made my way back out to the garage. Bella was sitting on the couch, looking lost in thought.

"Ready to go?" Her head snapped around at the sound of my voice, a look of surprise on her face. "What's the matter, Bella?"

"Yeah, no. Nothing's wrong. I was just thinking." She stood from her sitting position and smoothed her hands down her thighs.

"Care to share with the group? And by group, I mean me." I gave her the smile I reserved solely for her.

"It's nothing," she replied as she looked down at my shoes. "Nice kicks. I have to say, I don't think I've ever seen you in flip-flops before."

"Funny. So, are you ready?"

"Yep," she said, popping the 'p'.

The drizzle had stopped, so we decided to walk to Sam and Emily's. The sky was still grey with the clouds sitting low across the horizon. I took her hand in mine, noting the size difference. Her hand was like a child's in mine, so small and frail. Our arms swung back and forth, and I loved the feel of being able to just enjoy little moments with her.

As we walked, I thought about what had happened earlier in the garage. I had wanted to kiss Bella for the longest time, but I wasn't totally convinced she wanted it. Sure, she leaned into me and even began closing her eyes, but I just couldn't shake the feeling that she wasn't ready yet.

When we made it to Sam and Emily's house, we knocked on the door, and waited on the porch- still hand in hand- for someone to answer. Emily ended up being the only one home, so I felt a little out of place during their 'girl time'.

I sat in the living room, trying to watch the game, but couldn't help listening to Bella's laugh floating from the kitchen. It felt good to hear her laugh so freely; it was a natural, not one that was forced or faked. I couldn't help smiling to myself thinking I had something to do with the change in her over the past few months. Each day things were getting better for her, and each day my hope that she would feel for me the way I felt for her grew more and more.

"Jake," Sam said as he came through the front door, "what are you doing here? I thought you had to help your dad with stuff."

"Huh? Oh, yeah. I finished that up already. Have you gone to talk to the council yet?" Seeing Sam standing before me brought my dream to the forefront of my mind. I tried to hold down the anger that was rising up inside me.

It wasn't real, it was just a dream.

"Yeah, the other guys should be here any minute. We cut patrols early since I had to meet with them. I didn't want to leave Jared and Embry out there short three men."

"Good call. So what did they say? Anything helpful?" He walked over and sat down in the chair adjacent to the couch, sighing while running his hands through his hair.

"How much do you know about the powers some vampires possess?" He lowered his voice, most likely so Bella and Emily couldn't hear us. I thought about what he was asking and what it could have to do with whatever was in the woods yesterday.

"Not too much, I know that little pixie could see the future, and he could read minds. Why?" He glanced toward the kitchen and my gaze followed.

"Back when I was the only one phasing, I was out running patrol one ni-"

"Starting without us, are you?" Paul chided as he came through the front door with Embry and Jared right behind him.

"Good, yall are just in time. Emily? Can you get the guys something to drink?" Sam called towards the kitchen. Embry sat on one side of me on the couch while Paul took the other side and Jared leaned against the wall.

"Sure thing, is lemonade okay?" Emily called from the kitchen.

"Sounds great," Sam called back to her.

"Just a minute guys." I got up and made my way towards the kitchen. "Hey Emily, can I talk to you for a minute?"

"Are you going to ask me a million questions again?" She smiled at me from over her shoulder as Bella giggled next to her.

"Not a million, just one." I shrugged as I stuck my hands in my pockets.

"Okay."

She set the pitcher of lemonade down on the counter and came over to the doorway out of ear shot of Bella.

"Do you think you can take Bella down outside or something while we talk in the living room?" I asked in a low voice, hoping not to raise any suspicion from Bella.

"Sure, Jake. Anywhere in particular?" She gave me a quizzical look.

"Not really, it's just that...I don't want her to get scared by whatever information Sam is going to share with us." I hung my head when she gave me a knowing look.

"You haven't told her yet, have you?" I hated keeping things from Bella, but I didn't want her to be scared before I even knew what was out there.

"No, and I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell her either. I plan to, I just...I want to be sure what we're dealing with before I scare the crap out of her." Emily pursed her lips and gave me a look that expressed her irritation with me.

"Fine. I'll take her out back and show her my garden. It's nothing spectacular, but it should keep us busy for a few minutes."

"Thanks, Em, you're the best." I gave her a bright smile that she simply rolled her eyes at.

"I am, aren't I?" She winked as she went to help Bella carry the glasses of lemonade into the living room. I made my way back over to the couch and took my seat in between Embry and Paul once again. A minute later, Bella and Emily came out of the kitchen with their hands filled with glasses for all of us.

"Oh, hey, B. I didn't realize you were here." Embry piped up next to me.

"Hey Embry. Yeah, I came over with Jake to see Emily." They sat the glasses on the coffee table. "Well, I guess I'll see you all in a little bit. We're going out to look at the garden." Paul and Jared chuckled at the look of fake enthusiasm on her face.

"Cool, I guess I'll see you in a bit, then," Embry replied. What was his deal? What was his sudden interest in Bella about? And 'B'? What was that about? I glared at him out of the corner of my eye, a growl building in my chest. The guys all looked at me with questioning looks while Bella and Emily made their way toward the kitchen once again.

"Bye, Jake," Bella called, giving me a small wave over her shoulder. I smiled to myself, full of pride that she had addressed me personally.

"Later, Bells." And then they were gone.

"Okay, so if you're done with making googly eyes at your friend, can we get started now?" Sam asked.

"Sure thing," I replied, picking up a glass of lemonade, still smiling.

"Alright. So we're all aware of the strange incident of yesterday. I've talked to the elders about it and they think maybe it's a vampire with a different sort of powers." He watched all of us for our reactions.

"What do you mean a different sort? How many different kinds of powers can they have?" Jared spoke up. I hadn't looked at him until now, and as soon as I did, I began shaking violently. I clasped my hands together in front of me to calm the tremors that were wracking through my body. It wasn't that he had really done anything to me, it was just that the dream that kept making its way into every thought I had.

"I don't know, Jare, but the Elders say there's a such thing as a shield, one that can shield themselves from other vamps' powers mentally, or in some cases physically."

"Okay, so what is this leech, some sort of blocker?" Embry asked. I sat thinking over what he was saying. A shield? What the hell?

"That's what the Elders are thinking. When I was patrolling alone before any of you phased, I was out one night and came across a scent. It was the same scent we came across the other day. I didn't know exactly what it was, but knew it was some sort of vampire. I followed the scent, and it grew to the point of being almost unbearable. Before I knew what was happening, I was standing in the woods in my human form. That is what you saw in my head last night, Jacob." He gave me a pointed look before continuing.

"Anyway, when I tried to phase back, I couldn't. I looked around, freaking the hell out because as far as I knew, this was unheard of. I remember turning around and seeing a figure in the darkness; he was pale and had blood red eyes so I knew he was a vampire. He stepped out of the trees and towards me but didn't seem to want to attack me. I tried over and over to phase, but I still had no luck. As quick as he showed up in front of me, he disappeared and I hauled ass out of there as fast as I could. I assumed he hadn't followed me because as soon as I was on the outskirts of the rez, I was able to phase back."

"That sounds a little far-fetched, don't you think?" I asked, not wanting to believe there was something out there that could keep me from protecting Bella. "I mean, come on, Sam, do you really think there is a vamp out there that could potentially beat us in this..this war or whatever it is?"

"I don't know, Jacob. What I do know is that what happened the other day is proof that there is something that could pose a bigger threat than we ever thought of before." The look on his face was one of seriousness mixed with fear.

"I have to agree with Jake on this one. Dude, there's five of us and only one of the weird hoodoo voodoo freak vampire out there." Paul chimed in.

"Does your cockiness always have to outweigh your common sense? We can't phase around it, Douche Bag." Embry replied.

"I'm just sayin', I don't believe one measly ass bloodsucker can take the five of us down. Not all at once anyway." Paul added.

"Exactly, that's why we're all patrolling together from now on," Sam commented. I glanced over at Jared to find him deep in thought. He was picking at a loose string on the end of his shorts, seemingly not paying attention to the conversation at hand.

"Hey, Jared. What are you thinking about over there?" I asked, trying to keep my tone even. I still couldn't look at him without feeling like ripping his head clean off his body.

"What?" he looked up at me, "uh, nothing. I was just thinking about what it felt like not being able to phase. That shit was scary, Dude. I had never felt so helpless before in my life. It was like...like being trapped in a paper cage in an ocean full of sharks. There's no way to defend yourself and you're just a sitting duck really."

"Yeah well, I'll believe it when I see it. Or feel it, rather." I said, more to myself than anyone else.

"But you have seen it, Jake. You watched all of us phase unwillingly yesterday, and there was nothing any of us could do to stop it. What are you gonna do when it happens to you? What are you gonna do when none of us can phase and they come after Bella? That leech's scent was all mixed in with the red head's where we found it, so my guess would be that they're working together to get to her." Embry's voice rose as he spoke about Bella. I don't know why, but it was pissing me off that he held her with such... reverence. I was thankful more than anything that they were helping me to protect her, but really, weren't we protecting all of the people of Forks? Did the rest of the people in the area matter to Embry as much as Bella seemed to?

"I'll do everything I can to protect Bella. Make no mistake about that."

"Okay, okay. Can we all calm our nerves here?" Sam looked at Embry and me. "So it seems there was a case like this back in our grandfather's time, Jacob. There was a leech that showed up a little before the last time the Cullens were here. Old Quil said that they cornered the vamp up in the mountains and that he was able to wrap his arms around my grandfather. When he did, he phased back to his human form. The vamp crushed most of his ribs and stuff, but anyway, Ephraim was able to take his head off, and they were able to take his body apart and burn the pieces after that."

"I don't get why they're calling it a blocker, though." Paul said, sounding slightly confused.

"I'm not sure, I think it has to do with their ability to block our capability to phase. I mean, think of it like this- they can't really be considered a shield because they aren't technically shielding themselves from us. They're more like...like an anti-shield if you will. They're exposing us and leaving us vulnerable in a way. That's all I got; that's the best way I can put it into words." Sam shrugged and dropped his head in his hands.

"So why not call it an anti-shield, then?" Paul asked.

Sam sighed. "Call it what you want, but I'm just telling you what the Elders told me." I didn't know what to think. There was a part of me that felt like they were making it out to be worse than it was, but another part, an almost bigger part, felt like maybe I should be scared. Maybe this thing was bigger than us, in the sense that we wouldn't be able to defend ourselves against this and all make it out okay.

The front door opened with a thud just as Bella and Emily came strolling into the living room.

"Hey guys, are you done sharing secrets yet?" Bella asked as she came over and sat herself on my knee.

"Sure thing, now I have plenty to keep myself busy with as I picture you in nothing but your undies," Paul retorted.

"Ha ha. You're funny. So anyway, I think I need to be heading home here pretty soon." She looked up at me, trying to relay a message with her eyes.

"Yeah, I really need to get that...that drive shaft fixed for Old Quil. I should walk her back to the house anyway," I said, nodding my head towards Bella.

"Sure, go ahead and get out of here. I feel like lying down for a little while before patrols this evening," Sam replied.

"Mind if I come with? We don't all hang out anymore, so I figured maybe we could today." Embry spoke more to Bella than to me.

"Not right now. She's going home, and I'm not going to be much fun under the car. Maybe tomorrow or something?" I replied before Bella could make a sound.

"Oh, okay then. Yeah, maybe tomorrow. I guess I can go home and let Mom subject me to the home movies from when we were kids again. If I get the Star Spangled Banner stuck in my head again, I'm singing it over and over the next time we phase together."

I didn't respond to what he said. My body tensed and my hands curled into fists as my mind flashed to my dream for what felt like the millionth time that day.

Embry singing The Star Spangled Banner in his head...

Me catching the tail end of something familiar again...

Hey Emb, what's with the patriotism all of a sudden? Hiding something?

No, my mom was watching an old video of us from the Fourth of July when we were little. The damn song is stuck in my head.

Bella glanced at me questioningly, obviously feeling the tremors as they shook me.

"Alright, well thanks for showing me your garden, Emily. I really will have to come try some of your home grown tomatoes sometime."

"No problem, Bella. Anytime you want, you're welcome to stop by. It's not very often I get a female to talk to these days."

We stood and began making our way towards the door just as Sam called from behind me.

"Oh Jake, are you going to be patrolling with us tonight, or are you going to have something come up again?" I turned to find him looking at me with a raised brow.

"I don't know right now. I have to see if there are Martians landing on the beach tonight and then let you know," I replied.

"Sure thing," he remarked.

As we made our way back to my house, Bella took my hand and laced our fingers together once again.

"Penny for your thoughts." She looked up at me. The sun was working on making an appearance, but was failing miserably.

"Hmm?"

"You're distant all of a sudden. Does it have anything to do with you shaking back there at Sam's house or whatever your secret meeting was about?"

"It's nothing. I...I just don't want to talk about it right now." I felt like shit not talking to Bella about what was happening, but I had too many things going on upstairs to share at the moment.

"Sure, sure. Well, you know you can tell me anything, right?" She squeezed my hand.

"I know and I will, I just...I dunno."

"Okay, well when you're ready, I'm here."

We walked the rest of the way in a companionable silence, never letting loose of the other's hand. When we made it to the house, Bella stopped and released my hand.

"Well, I guess I should let you finish up that car for Mr. Ateara, so I'll just go home now. Maybe we can hang out again tomorrow?"

"What? No, you can stay. I just didn't want...I wanted to hang out with you without everyone else around."

"Oh, is that why you told Embry he couldn't come over?"

"Yeah." I ducked my head and rubbed the back of my neck.

"I see. So Mr. Hoarder, what did you want to do while we 'hang out'?"

"Mr. Hoarder? That's the best you got?" I chuckled.

"What? That's what you're doing. Not letting the rest of the world have a chance to spend time with me, keeping me all to yourself."

"Sure, sure, Bells. You wanna go back out to the garage for a bit?"

"Sure, sure."

We walked around the house to the garage, with Bella taking her spot on the couch and pulling her legs up to her chest. I sat down next to her and sighed as I placed my hand on her knee.

"What is it, Jake? I know something's wrong because you're flicking your thumb nail against the side of your finger repeatedly." I was doing what? I hadn't realized it, but she was right. It was a nervous tick I got when things were bothering me.

"Okay, I don't want to keep things from you, but I don't want you to get scared, either. Just know that above all else Bella, I'm going to keep you safe and not let anything happen to you."

"Wow, what a way to lay to on me. Thanks, Jake."

"No I...I dammit." I let my head fall back against the back of the couch. "When you said you thought you saw me in town yesterday when it was raining, and I said that you had, that was true. My reason I gave you for being there was also true, but only because it seems that...well, you have attracted a new species or something."

"What are you talking about?"

"When we were patrolling yesterday, the guys came across the scent of the red head and another vampire. The thing is, when Embry, Jared, and Sam followed the scent, they- for whatever reason- couldn't phase. Sam says it's like an anti-shield or something."

"Wait, Victoria's back, again and with a new vampire?"

"Seems like it. So yeah, and then there was the whole thing of Sam trying to Alpha-command me into not asking questions and the dream I had last night...I've just had a lot on my mind today." I looked over at Bella, and she seemed lost in her own little world. "Bells, what's wrong?"

"Huh? Oh, I was just thinking about the shield thing. I wonder if that's why... why he couldn't hear my thoughts." This surprised me. The bloodsucker could hear everyone's thoughts, except for Bella's? That was weird.

"So what was your dream about?" she asked, joining me back in the leech-free zone. I took a deep breath and held it for a minute before releasing it very slowly. She lulled her head on my shoulder while wrapping her hands around my upper arm.

"I dreamed that I was patrolling with the guys, but I was running late. I wanted to check on you, but when I got close to it, I could smell you in the woods. I didn't understand why. Then I found you standing there by yourself, and you were so scared looking. I went to you, and you clung to me and started rambling about Sam calling you. You said he told you I was hurt in the woods behind your house and Paul took you out there, but that I wasn't there and you didn't know what was going on. And then all of a sudden Sam, Paul, Embry, and Jared were there, and they told me to get away from you.

"Sam tried to use the Alpha-command again and this time I couldn't back down. I pushed you behind me and told you that when I gave you a signal, for you to run as fast as you could. Paul charged me, and Jared grabbed you and...and.."

"And what, Jacob? What happened?"

"He killed you, Bella. Right there in front of me. I couldn't save you. They had me pinned to the ground and made me watch the whole thing and I couldn't stop it. I couldn't protect you from my own pack brothers..." I hadn't realized it, but I was holding Bella to me the way a mother coddles a child to her chest. She didn't say anything for a while, instead just lay on my chest completely still.

After a while of holding her in my arms, she lifted her hands from my chest and pulled my face down level with hers. Bella looked in my eyes for what felt like the longest moment of my life before closing them and pressing her lips to mine.

At first I didn't respond- I sat there wide-eyed and shocked that she had kissed me. After I realized what was happening, it took me no time at all to match her movements. Her hands reached around my neck, her fingers lacing into my hair. I cradled her face in my hands, enjoying the softness of her skin.

My breathing was ragged and labored while hers seemed to be nonexistent. She was holding her breath for some reason. All too soon, she pulled away. I felt her breath blew across my face and leave my lips feeling cool where hers had just been. I opened my eyes to find Bella looking at me questioningly.

"Um, okay. Wow, Bells, that was-"

"I have to go. I'll call you later." With that, she jumped off of my lap and ran out of the garage. I was too dazed to chase after her. I just sat on the couch, feeling more hope than I had ever felt before. Bella had finally kissed me. It was the perfect end to a completely bizarre day.

:) Hope it turned out okay for you. -km3-