A/N - This story has been abandoned for a very long time. Not completing it has haunted me. This chapter is my (possibly pathetic) attempt to reingage with the characters. I'm rusty. I have no idea if anyone will read, but I'm compelled to post this anyway. I may be crazy... I mean who does this? *sigh*

This chapter picks up where chapter 22 left off. This story has an intricate plot with multiple character storylines. If you haven't read recently you'll likely be lost. It is my heartfelt wish you'll consider rereading. And, yes, I know that's a lot to ask. Please know that my absence never met a piece of my heart hasn't always been here in this amazing fandom.

Warning/Reminder - This is a dark story with mature themes revolving around a possessive and unrepentant vampire. If you prefer your romance light and sweet this may not be for you. Preyward bites, albeit in the most sensual ways imaginable. ;-)


Prey for the Wicked

Chapter 23


. . . . . .

And we cling to the past to deny and confuse the ideal…

. . . . . .

The scar behind Isabella's knee draws Edward's touch like a magnet. He traces the slight raised edge, his mind mapping out the surgery involved in its creation.

Isabella sleeps lightly, legs stretched across his lap, her complexion flushed from the heat permeating her home. The air conditioner remains off per her wish. It's a concession he makes grudgingly. His gifts fail to impress. She fights him at every turn.

His touch slides lower, finding a similar scar on her ankle. A rash of goose bumps follows in the wake of his caress. She shifts, murmuring something unintelligible.

A frown tightens his brow. What harm befell her before he knew of her existence?

The weight of unaccustomed guilt sits heavy on his shoulders. If he found her sooner could he have prevented needless suffering? Protected her?

He isn't sure how to protect her now, he scoffs internally.

A human mate. Such a complication…

It would be the work of a minute to gain access to her medical files, yet he has not done so. A long buried conscience rising to the surface to balk at invading her privacy? Or perhaps he prefers the mystery of her unravel naturally; a novelty his mind reading ability robbed him of these last two centuries.

They have so much to learn about one another, after all.

The television momentarily draws his attention. After weeks of searching, missing members of a notorious Motorcycle gang have been found slaughtered in a warehouse on the outskirts of Seattle.

As the Anchor attempts to mask her glee at being the first to report the atrocity, Edward briefly reminisces. Theatrics aren't his usual style, but men who prey on innocent females are a particular kind of trigger. Posing a meal holding onto their own heads was a touch dramatic in hindsight, though it apparently served its purpose…

"Rival gangs are suspected, but police aren't currently naming any one in particular. This could put to rest public speculation that Seattle has a vigilante..."

Their deaths were quick; merciful under the circumstances. With the exception of Michael Newton, he isn't normally inclined to play with his food. Still, a part of him regrets not sending them to their maker wailing the songs of suffering. Certainly they'd never hesitated to impart misery throughout their short lives.

Edward shifts his bare feet which rest comfortably upon Isabella's coffee table, his ass equally comfortable upon her worn yet pleasing to his form sofa.

And to think he once accused her of living in a crumbling home. Although he could live without the stale fug of wolf lingering like a bad memory, the small house is homey—a sanctuary he's finding hard to leave.

He glances up to see Isabella has awakened, her gaze shifting to the television.

"Forensics is dating the actual murders to have taken place several weeks ago, near the time the men were first reported missing…"

"I heard about this," she says around a yawn. Her eyes flit back to him. "Was it you?"

Clever lamb.

The drowsiness apparent in her relaxed limbs likely spurs the question he isn't sure she wants answered, not to mention the wine lingering in her system.

He nods, studying her, waiting for judgment, recrimination.

The news anchor, in a timely fashion, adds, "The men were under investigation at the time of their disappearance for connections to a sex trafficking ring..."

"There's been other disappearances. Regular people. A friend was telling me about a man who left home one day to go fishing, and no one has seen him since. Weird since his boat never left the dock." She feigns interest in a bit of dry skin near her fingernail.

He remembers the friend she speaks of; a vapid young woman named Jessica. Her thoughts had refused to center on Isabella the night he spied from the copse of trees across the road, fresh from the killing of Michael Newton, fresh with the realization he wouldn't be able to leave his prize.

"I don't take random lives." Edward stretches an arm to tip her chin up, forcing her to meet his gaze so she can see the truth.

"Right. Just the bad guys. I remember."

She holds his gaze, letting him measure the belief in her expression. He runs a thumb over her bottom lip, proud of her.

"Do you ever worry about getting caught?" she asks, her tone curious and absent of censure.

"It's not my usual style to be so blatant."

She glances back at the screen, an eyebrow arching as the anchor divulges the placement of bodies.

"In certain situations it's better to let police come to clichéd conclusions. Such dramatic staging is familiar in organized crime." A simplified answer. He finds himself hesitant to divulge the need he felt to strip away their dignity, to mock their belief of power.

"Sends a message, too."

Again she surprises him. Intuitive minx.

"I guess it doesn't matter. It isn't like a vampire would make their list of suspects," she adds dryly.

"Doubtful, but it's really never them I'm concerned about." His grin is unrepentant.

She studies him for a moment, the intricacies of her brain doubtless sorting a deluge of information. Will she ask him why?

He watches her nibble her bottom lip. "So…who worries you?"

Clever phrasing. He suppresses the urge to laugh.

"Vampire kind is loosely governed by an interesting Monarchy. We call them the Volturi. They reside in Italy and rarely take an interest in the States unless extreme circumstances dictate a need to intervene."

He watches her try and assimilate this new facet of vampire lore. "And that," she points at the television, "wouldn't concern them?"

"Not in the slightest."

"What would?"

Edward skims his hand down the side of her leg, enjoying the silk of her skin. He circles the scar on her ankle, watching for a reaction.

"Nothing you need to worry your pretty head about."

Isabella sits up abruptly, bringing her knees to her chest and her hand down to cover the mark he stroked. Self-consciously or to avoid his perusal?

"Don't do that," she snaps. Swinging her legs to the side, she stands and snatches up the remote control, an aggressive jab of her finger silencing the TV. Tossing it carelessly back upon the coffee table, she watches it clatter and skid its way to a near edge. She turns her head to look at him once more, storm-dark eyes lit with a tempest of sparks.

Edward leans forward, intrigued by the abrupt mood change. "Do what, lamb?"

Hands moving to her hips, she glares. "Treat me like a child. Play master! Take your pick."

How delicious she is when she's mad. His thirst rises on the heels of arousal. He debates reminding her that he isn't simply "playing" at being her master. He could do so in creative and pleasing ways. Have her panting his name and begging him to own her.

But he wants more than her body. Her lust is easy. It's her trust and acceptance that's proving difficult in the extreme.

"I'm done doing this dance with you. You can't drag me into your world then refuse to tell me anything about it," she says, arms raising to cross her chest.

He doesn't like the closed off posture. It makes him feel vulnerable; another emotion he hasn't felt since…he cannot remember when. Perhaps in his time as a human? Temper rises in the wake of unfamiliarity.

"I can." The words are spoken softly but there's no misinterpreting the warning they deliver. Tread careful, little human.

"Right," she answers. "Typical from you. Dumb of me to expect different." A flash of her teeth imparts disdain, her posture rigid as she spins on her heel and gives him her back as she retreats. "I'm going to bed. Good night." She closes the door behind her, not with a slam but with a faint snick of sound that rings in his ears.

Her anger smells like burnt almonds. He stares at the closed door then snaps his jaw shut when he realizes his mouth is hanging open.

A grin follows his surprise. Hot on the heels of amusement is a sudden vision of turning her over his knee, bringing his hand down on her supple ass until it's a soft shade of pink matching the angry flush on her cheekbones. Until the warm, arousing sting of playful punishment ignites the submissive sexual side of her desperate for dominance, desperate for the relief of the tension currently making her snap at him.

Oh, how she pleases him. She's fucking glorious. And surprisingly she does have a point.

. . . . . .

Jake has put the folder back on the desk by the time Charlie returns, coffee in hand, maintaining the subterfuge put in play when he left Jake alone with a report he has no legal right to see.

He forces himself to stay seated as Charlie moves behind his desk.

"What happens now?" Jake asks, jaw so tight the words sound like he's biting at them. His stomach twists. Learning Newton raped the young girl he saw outside Charlie's office is sickening enough. Realizing she was a substitute for Bella only ratchets up the feeling, making him want to puke.

Charlie, to his credit, looks like he feels the same. "Now I stop looking for a missing person, and get a judge to issue a warrant for Mike Newton's arrest." He scrubs a hand over his face, the rasp of stubble hinting he's overdue for a shave, the bloodshot eyes, highlighting he's overdue for a good night's sleep. "Not sure if that will help much at this point. The guy is a ghost in the wind."

He looks at Jake. "You pick up anything new on his whereabouts on your end?"

"Not yet. You get any leads with those names I gave you? Or anything new on Newton selling drugs?"

"A couple witnesses willing to corroborate they've bought from him a time or two, but nothing about his supplier. If it's that James you mentioned last time we talked, I didn't get any hits based on his description."

Jake frowns, wondering if Charlie's holding out. If Quil knows about him, others do as well.

Charlie waves a hand like he knows Jake wants to dig deeper. "Never mind that for now. Look. I need to ask you some questions. I wasn't going to do this tonight, but since you're here…"

"What kind of questions?"

"Questions about where you were the night Newton was last seen."


"Just answer."

"Not until you tell me why you're asking, because I'm thinking I know why, and I'm also thinking you've lost your damn mind."

Charlie curses, glancing at the closed door before lowering his voice. "Listen to me, son. If something happened—like maybe you lost your cool that night—you need to talk to me."

"Christ," Jake mutters, feeling a weird urge to laugh. "You actually think I did something to Newton? What? Locked him up somewhere? Killed him and buried him in the woods?"

Charlie glances at the door again. "Keep your voice down," he says. "Nothing about this talk is official. Do you understand?"

"I understand you're wasting time you should be using to get that warrant."

Charlie's eyes narrow.

"How the hell can you ask me this shit?" Jake growls. "You know me."

"You're right. I do know you. Which is exactly why I have to ask, and you being honest with yourself right now have to get that."

"Yeah? Why don't you spell it out for me?" Jake leans back, crossing his arms, muscles so tight his veins pop.

"Fine. How about this scenario? Someone tips you off that Bella's at the Twilight Tavern. You go there hoping to talk to her. You spot her with Newton, and it pisses you off. You bide your time. Wait for Newton to leave, thinking you just want to warn him to keep his distance. Stake your claim."

"Are you kidding me?"

Charlie continues without missing a beat. "Maybe you see her leave with someone who isn't Newton. Maybe that makes you angrier?"

"Yeah, that's enough!" Jake leans forward, hands gripping the arms of the chair so hard there's an ominous creak from the wood frame. "I wasn't at Twilight that night. End of discussion." He gets to his feet.

Charlie stands as well, leaning into his desk. "You got proof of that? An alibi?"

"Yes." The reply is curt. At this point Jake will be damned if he offers any more information that isn't forced out of him.

A vein throbs near Charlie's temple. "This alibi. Wouldn't happen to be that you were with the woman you so conveniently strolled into my precinct with tonight, would it?"

"Conveniently? What the hell are you implying now?" Jake takes a warning step forward before he catches himself and cements his feet to the floor. He'd never touch Charlie, but the desk is looking like it needs a new placement in the room, maybe even through the wall and into another room altogether.

"I'm not implying. I'm saying. You coming in here with her looks a lot like you planting the seed that you've moved on and are no longer looking to reconcile with my daughter. Therefore establishing you wouldn't have a reason to hurt Newton the night he vanished into thin goddamn air!"

Jake can't digest this. He stares at Charlie, wondering when all this suspicion began. Has it been brewing all this time?

"Just so you know," Charlie snarls, "I'm not buying it."

"Not buying what?" Jake snarls back. "Me being innocent of the crime your scenario paints or me moving on?"

"Right now, both."

Fighting another wave of fury, Jake jabs a finger at Charlie. "You know what? You need to get a clue, Chief Swan."

"Yeah? About?"

"About all of it! You're thinking like a father and not a cop."

Charlie lets loose a muttered profanity then slowly sits back down in his chair, the movement measured and forced, like he's trying to diffuse the situation.

"Damn. Where's your head at, Charlie?"

"My head is wondering why you'd show up here with her?" Charlie points in the direction of the waiting area, and Jake feels a whole new spike of pissed off. There's an innuendo to the tone of 'her' that doesn't sit well.

"That her has a name. Leah Clearwater."

Charlie tilts his head, hearing something he probably doesn't like. "So what's going on? She's more than a side piece now?"

Jake's eyes narrow, clear warning flashing in the depths. "Not liking how you're talking about her right now."

"Pretty much answers my question right there, doesn't it?"

Jake measures his reply, digging deep for control. Charlie's goading him, but Jake's not about to give him additional ammo. "If I was moving on—and I'm not confirming that one way or the other cause it's really not your business—I'm not the only one. Or are you forgetting the evidence that says Bella has someone new in her life? You think it's a coincidence she's pulled a vanishing act to Seattle? Because I sure as hell don't. So you know what, maybe it's time we all moved on." Jake punches out the word 'all' with pointed emphasis.

"You need to let Bella and me work this out on our own. Focus on finding Newton," he says, pointing at the folder. "Do your job but keep out of our personal life. We're not kids. You don't get to play parent."

Charlie drums his fingers on his desk in a pattern that matches the blood throttling full tilt through Jake's veins, bringing on a headache that radiates up from the base of his skull.

Like a dog with a bone, Charlie exhales hard out of his nose. "You two were good together. I'm never going to understand why you're throwing it away."

Jake feels that comment in his solar plexus like a punch, forcing him to shake his head. "You're wrong. If you weren't so focused on wanting Bella locked down and looked after, you'd realize you're missing something important."

"Yeah, what's that?"

"She wasn't happy with me. I tried but I'm not who she needs."

Charlie's lips thin. Before he can argue, Jake continues. "And just to be crystal clear, I had nothing to do with Newton's disappearance. You ever ask me that again, you better have handcuffs and a cell ready."

Charlie fixes him with an icy look. "I ever have another reason to doubt, I guarantee they'll be ready."

Jake bites back a curse then turns for the door.

"Not sure how letting go is working for you, Jake. Seems to me a man letting go of a woman wouldn't be so consumed with keeping her safe."

Hand on the doorknob, Jake doesn't bother turning around. "Yeah, well, that's the difference between you and me. Letting go doesn't mean I stop caring about her. Sure as hell doesn't mean I turn my back and leave her to fend for herself." It's a barbed jab, and Jake knows it finds its mark by the way Charlie sucks in a breath through his teeth.

Once upon a time, Charlie left Bella's mother Renee and never looked back, never cared that Renee, sick as she was, incapable as she was, ended up looking after Bella on her own. And maybe that's where this all started. Maybe that's on Charlie.

Hardly matters because right now it feels like it's on him, and damned if he'll ever be like Charlie, or worse, like his own father.

He's there until Bella doesn't need him to be there. The rest of her life if she'll let him. He doesn't abandon the people he cares about, sure as hell not the woman he loved more than his own life.

He closes the door with more force than necessary, letting Charlie know the line he's crossed won't be uncrossed any time soon.

. . . . .

Bella makes it less than three feet into her bedroom before Edward is on her. Turning her to face him, pinning her back to the door so her weight closes it again, this time with a slam. Her breath leaves her in a rush as excitement hits. Adrenaline and desire; twin fires of her destruction.

All day he's been rational, calm, accommodating her every whim and seeing to her every comfort while she's suffered a rising tide of irritation at all of it.

It's all been so reasonable, but nothing about any of this is reasonable.

He's not reasonable now. His eyes flash, dark and ominous. It's wrong on so many levels that she likes the way he looks at her, all consuming, possessive.

An arm on either side of her, hands pressed to the door, caging her in. He's not touching her at all, yet it feels as though he's touching her everywhere. Her spine seems to melt into the wood it's pressed against, relief a sweet sensation. Hours upon hours she's fought the pull of him, her body making her pay for it, hollowing her out, encouraging the miserable ache. It vanishes now, but she's not cowed. Physical reaction aside, she's over his lack of respect and controlling bullshit.

"I told you I'm going to bed. Alone," she reminds him. The fact her words come out breathless and lacking power sucks.

"Yes, you did, lamb, and I'm very tempted to punish you for it."

Punish her? She seriously considers punching him. "I am not a child!"

"Leaving the room in a fit of temper might say otherwise, Isabella."

"God, you are such a condescending…"

She finds herself spinning around to face the door, her arms tugged above her head. Soft fabric slides across her wrists, and she looks up to see Edward using the tie of her silk robe to bind them together, the deep blue a sharp contrast to her pale skin.

It happens so fast it takes a second for her mind to catch up, a second longer for her heart to beat faster, for her breath to leave her lungs in little pants. There's no apprehension, no fear, just…heat. Oh, god, such heat, exploding in her abdomen and searing up and down every inch of her body. The best kind of heat that makes her thighs clench and her nipples tingle with a sweet rush. A secret world of hidden fantasies unlocks, spilling confessions she isn't sure she's ready to voice.

He pulls her arms up higher, wrapping the remaining length of tie around the hook close to the top of the door—the hook where she always hangs her robe. Only now the robe is somewhere else, and it's her draped against the wood. She turns her cheek, seeking the cold painted surface. Her eyes close as she tries to find her sanity and resolve. She tests the ties and finds she could easily get free. She doesn't even try and can't comprehend why that is.

"Tell me, little beauty, have you ever been spanked?"

She grits her teeth as his question creates a startling contrast of feelings. Trepidation, humiliation, and pure arousal spiraling around with dirty images of being stripped naked and having Edward's hand coming down on her ass. What would it feel like to let him do that to her?

"Answer me," he says with a tone too silky for such a demand. The hand not keeping the tie taught moves down her back, sliding under her shirt where it's bunched at her waist, touching that strip of skin in a slow caress that slips around to the front of her. Her stomach muscles contract, fluttering, his temperature that weirdly cool perfection she needs like a fix.

"No," she tells him. Then just as quickly a memory sneaks in, tries to take her out of the delicious head space she's being pulled into, all panting breaths and blissful need.

Yes, her thoughts clarify, though she says nothing out loud, her eyes closing tighter. A stupid moment. Renee, furious that Bella dumped out a half empty bottle of booze. A single half-hearted slap. It didn't even hurt...

Bella isn't sure why her mind regurgitates those details now of all times. She was seven. She isn't sure she can trust the memory. Renee had many failings as a mother, being physically abusive wasn't one of them. Did it even happen the way she remembers?

Edward turns her back around slowly, sending the hazy memory ghosting away. Her hands are still over her head, but there's extra slack now, allowing her elbows to bend.

His eyes seem darker. The hand that was on her stomach curls around her neck, his thumb curved under her jaw, seeking her pulse. The action comforts her and brings back the heat.

He makes a hum of sound, attention acute. He might not read her mind but he knows. Has anyone ever looked at her like this? Seen inside of her like this?

"Later we're going to discuss what it is that made your body turn from that sweet place you were only seconds ago, little beauty. For now though, listen to me. Nothing happens between us sexually that you do not want. Shame has no value when it comes to pleasure. And never doubt, Isabella, punishing you, should you desire that kind of play, will be pleasure. Mine, yes, but more importantly, yours. Do you understand?"

"No." It's a breath more than a word because her lungs feel too tight to allow space for both. Cravng is its own beast that doesn't care her brain tells her wanting what he offers is wrong.

He smiles. "When you stop fighting me, you will." The smile fades, his expression morphing into something more thoughtful.

"You asked me a question in the living room. I owe you an apology for not answering. It was wrong of me to be dismissive, though my reasons were not to treat you like a child." He frowns and lifts his hand to trail a finger across her cheek. "I'm trying to protect you, Isabella."

"Protect me from what?" Exasperation creeps in. Her head spins with the deluge of contradictory information and emotions, and suddenly she's standing by herself. Her hands fall to her sides, making her realize he's untied her. She inspects her wrists, confirming what she already knows. Every action, every touch was careful and precise. There's not a mark on her.

She looks up to find him on her bed, stretched out and reclined against her pillows, legs crossed at the ankles, hands folded over his stomach. He looks relaxed, but she's been learning his tells. There's tension in his jaw, wariness in his eyes. He seems almost nervous?

"My world and the creatures in it," he answers after a moment, like he knows she's struggling to adapt to their new positions in the room. "Knowledge isn't power here, lamb. It's incrimination and evidence of the law I'm breaking."

Bella exhales, her mind trying to sort out this new information while her traitorous body tries to convince her to let it all go, submit…

"What law?"

"We have only one. Humans cannot be given proof of our existence."

"I don't have any proof."

His expression darkens. "Oh, but you do, Isabella. You asked me once about the abscence of marks from my bites."

"You told me you were careful. That you can heal them."

"I am, and I do...now."

Bella feels a cool wisp of unease shiver it's way across her skin. "But you weren't before?"

"The first time. Before I realized how utterly precious you were to become. Just that once I was something less than careful."

He nods when she touches the side of her neck, the memory of that first night visceral and real between them.

"I left a mark. Human eyes cannot see it, but my kind can and will. They'll know I've claimed you, and your beating heart will damn us both."

His gaze drops to where her fingers are pressed, dark eyes swallowing her up. His tone hints apology and regret, but those greedy eyes whisper something else. He might regret the position he's put her in, but the mark, what it implies?

Oh, no, he doesn't regret that at all.

. . . . . .

Leaving Charlie's office, Jake makes a detour to the men's room, needing a minute to decompress. At the long row of sinks he cranks on a tap. The tepid gush of water does nothing to cool him off. He needs to get his head together now, not later. He's already put Leah and whatever she wants to talk about off too long.

His reflection catches his attention and he scowls, not liking what he sees.

He needs a haircut and a shave, but that's not what throws him. It's the t-shirt he swore fit last week stretched tight over his shoulders, and the new hint of gold in his eyes, more pronounced since yesterday. There's a restless itch under his skin and hyper awareness making his pupils dilate. Everything about him looks threatening.

No wonder Charlie's questioning him.

He feels like he doesn't fit in his own skin.

For a second a cacophony of voices spills through his head. Billy, Old Quil, Sue, Leah, a dozen others over the years…

You're different. Pure blood. Ephraim's heir. Legacy.


A memory flashes to the forefront of his thoughts. Billy on one of his many rants… "You didn't transition because your mother took you away from me. If you'd been here during puberty maybe..."

"For crying out loud! Stop being delusional. Look at me. No fur, no freaking tail, not then and sure as hell not now!"

"Just because you can't take the wolf form doesn't change what you are! You carry the blood of our future!"

Jake gives his head a shake, tossing the memory out. He's not going there. He just needs to slow his roll, get a grip. If he lets shit like that get too deep into his brain, he's going to start thinking thoughts he has no business thinking.

He isn't sure he's successful. He's even less sure when the door opens and Embry walks in, taking a wide-legged stance in front of him with arms crossed and a determined look on his mug. Jake's teeth grind.

What now for fucks sake?



Jake snorts. "Well, now that we've established we know each other's name, mind telling me why you're standing there blocking the door?"

"I need to talk to you."

Jake rolls his eyes. "Yeah? Get in line."

Embry scowls. "What the hell does that mean?"

"Never mind. Look, I don't have time right now."

"Make time."

Leaning against the counter, Jake crosses his arms in a pose that mirrors Embry's. He forces himself to cross one foot over the other at the ankle to avoid looking as pissed as he feels.

"Fine. You've got sixty seconds."

Embry lets his arms relax, shoving his thumbs under his police belt. "Billy called me."

"Shit," Jake mutters. Of course he did. "Please tell me you aren't about to take his side. Because I'm telling you right now, I'm not going to invade some poor old dude's personal space and accuse him of being a two hundred year old vampire."

Embry evades Jake's eyes for a split second. It's not much, but it makes Jake's teeth clench with suspicion. Has everyone he's ever known lost their damn minds? Embry's supposed to be rock solid. His one ally in the war on Quileute superstitions.

"Yeah, well you might want to reconsider. There's a lot of attention being paid to that property and who's living in it. Not just the Tribal Council. The whole damn town is interested, including the editor of the Fork's Gazette."

"What? Why?"

Rolling his eyes, Embry shakes his head. "Tell me you aren't really this clueless? Are you living in this town?"

"I've had a lot going on in case you haven't noticed."

"Yeah, well, heads up then. Between the massive crew that's been hired to renovate that old house, and rumors Tyler Crowley and his crew are being paid a frigging fortune to manage it all, people around here are getting curious."

Jake shrugs. "It's a small town. People are nosy. Can't see how it's my problem."

"No? Because I can. If all these parties start converging, situation could boil over and get out of hand. I think it's in the best interest of anyone Quileute, but especially you, to find a way to control it."

The pieces of the puzzle slide into place for Jake. "Meaning you want me to make sure no one on the Fork's Gazette gets wind of the fact certain people are wanting me to turn wolf and run a vampire off."

"You have to admit that kind of information getting out is going to attract a lot of unwanted attention. Or maybe you think becoming the laughing stock of our neck of the woods would be a good thing for our people." He hammers "our people" with extra emphasis. Laying on the guilt.

Jake groans internally. Embry has a point, much as he wishes he didn't. Having it spilled that the Quileute are taking the old stories and using them to persecute some hapless man, who from the sounds of it is single-handedly boosting the economy of Forks, would make an interesting front page spread. The Gazette is known to delve into tabloid territory on a slow news week. He can literally see his picture being plastered under some ridiculous headline. Werewolf to Take Down Vampire.

"Get ahead of it, Jake." Embry tells him, probably noticing the defeat in the slump of his shoulders. "Defuse the situation. Make Billy happy before he goes off half-cocked on his own. Because you know he will."

"Fine. I'll see what I can do."


Embry starts to turn away then seems to think twice. "By the way. Not sure why you think this guy overhauling the Cullen place is old. Based on what I'm hearing, he's our age. A good-looking son-of-bitch, too, if rumours are believed."

A weird sensation skates down Jake's spine. Like the touch of icy fingers. He stands upright, arms dropping to his sides.

A slight mocking smile twists Embry's features. It doesn't last, slipping away as fast as it came. "Changes things, doesn't it?"

"No. It doesn't matter. It doesn't mean anything." Too late he realizes he sounds like he's trying to convince himself. The restless energy seems to spike, making his calves quiver, the hair on the nape of his neck stand up. Too many stories. They've gotten under his skin, that's all.

"Charlie's met him. He mention that to you? Cause I get the impression there's something about the guy that got under his skin. He's another one that's poking around, curious."

"I had Seth look into this guy..." Jake trails off, too late realizing he probably jumped to conclusions given the little info Seth managed to uncover. Charlie's interest throws him. What connections has he missed here?

Embry makes a derisive sound in the back of his throat. "Seth is a kid. He's smart as hell, but his brain isn't as big as his ego. He's also got other priorities."

Jake curses and rubs the back of his neck. "You're talking about Quil, aren't you?"

His question is answered with silence and a stony expression. Embry's known about Quil's little marijuana side business for years. He lets it slide, probably because Quil's dilapidated shed in the back woods of the reservation isn't exactly a major grow op.

"This your way of telling me I should be worried about them?"

Embry shrugs. "Quil getting himself in trouble is one thing, dragging Seth into it is another."

Jake shakes his head. "Right. Great. Anything else you want to dump on me while I'm here?" he asks, tone dripping sarcasm. "While I'm chasing down imaginary vampires, stopping the Fork's Gazette from making the Quileute a laughing stock, getting all up in Quil's business—not to mention tracking down a psycho rapist obsessed with my ex—maybe you'd like me to pick up your fucking dry cleaning."

Embry's lips thin to a hard line. "Always the smart ass," he says. "So damn cocky and sure you know everything. Here's a news flash for you, Jake. You want to look out for Bella? Grab a clue."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"It means Mike Newton should be the least of your worries."

Embry drops the cryptic comment as he spins and stalks to the door, slamming out and leaving Jake with two choices. Chase after him and demand answers he clearly isn't inclined to give, or tip his head back, suck in air, and unleash a string of foul curse words at the water stained ceiling.

Since he can feel his blood boiling, making it likely he'll end up slamming Deputy Embry Call into a wall, he chooses the latter.

Turning around, he once more faces his reflection. He takes a second to congratulate himself on his restraint with Embry, even while he contemplates smashing a fist into the thick acrylic safety glass.

He really needs this day to be over.

A few minutes later, looking around an empty precinct waiting area and finding Leah gone, he gets a sinking feeling his days not even close to being over.

. . . . . .

A/N If anyone is reading this, thank you from the bottom of my writer's heart for giving the story a second chance.

This chapter was not blessed with a beta's red pen. Please forgive any small errors but feel free to point out large ones.