Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight. All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the properties of their respective owners. I am in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
a/n: Wolfgals/guys - For those of you who read In Omne Tempus, just a warning - this is NOT a continuation. When Darkness Falls is a Bella/Paul story and I hope if you did check this out thinking otherwise, you'll at least give it a chance.
A big wonderful thanks and hello to my beta Twiticulate who helped make this happen... she has graciously agreed to join me for another story and I couldn't be happier to have her onboard. As always, any and all errors are mine, and that will remain the case for the ensuing chapters. I am aiming to post bi-weekly on Wednesdays and Sunday, but if that changes I will do my very best to let you know.
...and that's enough from me... enjoy. LVN.x
His tongue slithered out of his mouth, wrapped around the chapped crevices of his lips and then retreated again; all the while his beady eyes followed her like a falcon hunting its prey.
"So, this weekend, you free?" He leant back on his bright red Camaro with a casual arm and Bella felt a little repulsed when he began trailing the body work with a long, spindly finger.
"Umm, I can't; after everything that's been going on, my Dad won't let me out of his sight." She said, trying to appease him by looking a little forlorn, but not so much that he would think she actually meant it.
Taking his pause for concentration as a cue, she whirled around on the spot, vying straight for her old beat up truck as she drew her thick coat a little closer to her skin.
The cold town of Forks had been a learning curve after the almost touchable heat of Arizona, but a little over a year in and she was almost beginning to feel native. Her truck wheezed down the street in an archaic grunt and knowing she had to push it a few miles further than home, she eased up on the gas pedal, coaxing the old beast into the slovenly ordeal.
As she hopped out into the yard, a cloud of dust and dirt jumped up from the arid ground, coating the lower legs of her jeans with a fine layer of grime. The sky, a deep navy blue, was just as it had been for the past four weeks, and not a single cloud marred the wide expanse. She'd already endured three passing conversations about the lack of rain today, but as Billy Black peeled back the screen door and peered up past her to the sky, she knew it wasn't her last.
"Still no rain? That's never a good sign." His eyes drew back from her, hiding his true feelings behind a blank stare and involuntarily a little shudder spread from her shrugged shoulders down to her toes.
Seeing her reaction, he visibly mellowed, his dark eyes softening with aged creases. "I'm guessing you're here to see Jake?" He asked, but he obviously couldn't help himself when he continued with a further question, unable to keep the parental disapproval from his voice. "Does Charlie know?" Shaking her head, she couldn't help the honesty that naturally spewed from her well groomed instincts.
"Well, he's gonna be mad when he finds out, just you be sure to tell him I didn't encourage this. Either way, Jake's out back." A flash of sadness and something that looked a little like resignation crossed the old man's eyes, indicating there was a truth in his words that she should possibly heed.
Sighing, she stepped back, but she didn't get far before Billy's words halted her progress.
"Bella, tell Charlie to give me a call when you see him; it's important." His eyes met hers and she understood he was trying to convey just how vital it was that she followed his request.
"I'll make sure to tell him." Bella said while tripping back from the porch, her eyes darting down as her feet took steps in retreat. Heading back around the worn property with a scuff of her toes, Bella shoved her hands deep into her pockets, trying to find some joy in her day.
"Jake?" She called, her head peering around the sheet of tin that Jake always haphazardly slid in place, a soft attempt to replicate a door.
"Bells?" The astonishment was clear in the slightly raised pitch of his voice and immediately the source was clear.
The whole of Clallam County had been on high alert for a few months now and friendly visits had been few and far between. The disappearance of Sam Uley might have initially gone unnoticed, and potentially might have remained that way for those folks residing outside of La Push, were it not for the outspoken voice of Leah Clearwater.
Sam Uley and Leah Clearwater had been foreign names on her lips less than two months ago, but now Bella could speak about them with a look of authority on her face. Because not only was her father the Chief of Police for the small neighboring town of Forks, but her best friend just happened to have the inside scoop on the Quileute Tribal Council.
As far as Jake could tell her, Leah had caused herself a certain amount of trouble by being so vocal about her fiancé's disappearance, mainly because it just wasn't the done thing on the rez to bring in the outside authorities. From what Bella had seen of the beautiful dark haired girl on the local news though, she seemed utterly consumed within her own grief and therefore probably completely oblivious to the controversy she was courting.
"Has anyone heard anything about Sam?" Bella asked, before even bothering with the perfunctory pleasantries that normally passed between them. Stalking back towards the pile of metal scraps spread out of the concrete floor, Bella noticed Jake's eyes narrow down to sharp points, focusing intently on the tool in his hand.
"Nah. Not much anyway, not that it stops the cops from coming round all the time and asking my dad questions." Jake slid to the floor and picked up something that looked complex and confusing.
"What do you mean?" Bella asked, her voice low and cautious as Jake didn't exactly seem in the mood to share, "... what's 'not much'?"
Placing herself down on an upturned crate, Bella brushed the dust absently from her knees.
"Nothing Bells. It's nothing." Jake responded, his voice full of finality and then something awkward and jovial when he began again. "Anyway, I can't believe Charlie let you come down here. He was freaking out with my dad about you going anywhere alone when he showed up a couple days ago."
Bella didn't respond, mostly because she didn't know how, but eventually she let a 'yeah' slip through her lips, spoken to no one in particular.
The awkward friction between them grew to an insurmountable pressure and Bella couldn't help her awkward little jump of surprise when the slice of metal guarding the doorway slid open.
"Jake? Oh hey, Bella. I didn't know you'd be here."
Bella grinned up at Embry, waving her hand in a friendly gesture as he approached, throwing his gangly body down by her feet. Bella looked up to see Jake staring at them, unhappiness written all over every inch of his body as he threw his wrench down with a clang.
After a few months of being 'friends' with Jake, she had readily come to the conclusion he was hoping for something more, but with more than a year between them, it just wasn't in the cards. Funnily enough though, her precaution didn't stop her feeling a few softer emotions when it came to the effortless charm of Embry Call; a few years she'd told herself, and maybe they could be something more.
"So, Charlie finally let you out of his sight!" Embry jeered, looking up at her with a playful glint in his eyes.
"Nope, well not exactly anyway. I just happened to make a little detour on the way home." She said, grinning though she knew later her expression over this choice would need to exude something far more sullen.
"Wow. He's gonna kill you; you do know that right?" Jake joined in, seeming both a touch impressed and concerned by her sudden desire to throw out the rule book.
"Probably, but what's he gonna do? Ground me? It's not like he's let me out of his sight recently anyway." Bella said grimly with a side order of defiance. She understood the gravity of someone local going missing, but unlike her overprotective father who had probably encountered no worse crime than a few parking violations and some drunken brawls; she'd lived in a big city. The evening news in Phoenix had been a passing montage of violence and murder. So the disappearance of a strong, able bodied guy wasn't enough to rattle her in the slightest.
Embry shrugged at her and Jake went back to fiddling with his scraps of metal, the one thing she didn't enjoy about their friendship, was their passive responses whenever she challenged them.
"So, the Cullens are back!" Bella mused passively, pretending to pick some dirt from her nails as she viewed their reactions from her periphery. Both Jake and Embry had always been a little weird about the Cullens, well as weird as anyone could be about a family who managed to move to Forks and then away again, all within the expanse of a week.
It had been towards the end of her first week in Forks and the middle of her Junior year. When she'd pulled up to Jake's garage with news of the weird but alluring new kids at school, both Jake and Embry had passed back and forth glaringly obvious looks of interest and concern. They'd never indulged her though, calling her interest an obsession and at times when they made their denial almost a negative sleight on her character, the three of them had even argued.
"Oh." Jake said quietly, but Bella wasn't buying it. There was just too much history there for a simple 'oh'.
"Jesus guys, for the last time, would you just tell me what the deal is? What is it about them to make you act so freaky?" Bella pleaded, although she was more than aware it was likely futile.
"I don't know what you mean Bella." Jake said and she leapt on his words, almost jumping out of her seat in enthusiasm.
"Ha! Right there…" She waved her arms, trying to emphasize her point. "…You called me Bella, you never call me Bella!" Feeling a little smug, she sat back, crossed her arms over her chest and waited. Embry and Jake exchanged looks, the silence expanding, until suddenly they were both laughing. Loud, booming, expansive laughter, that spread through her gut like an irritating little itch.
"Fine. Keep your little secret; see if I care." Standing up, Bella threw down her arms petulantly, her actions shocking them both into silence. Stomping away she neither listened to their pleading words, nor did she stop her pounding steps when she heard someone bounding behind her. She was already pulling back the door to her truck when she felt an arm over her shoulder, muscles and force pressing the metal in an opposing direction.
"What the hell?" She exhaled loudly, angry by the physical intrusion.
"Just stop for one second Bella."
Whipping around, she turned to face Embry, his body moving too close with his arm still pressed over her shoulder. He wasn't much taller than her five foot five, but he seemed to easily fill the space around her with his expansive presence.
"Just stop. Okay?" He asked again, taking a small step forward.
Instinctively she took the remaining step back into the truck and paused; her mind bellowed that he was still too close. His eyes locked on hers and she could tell that though he'd come here with a different intent in mind, their proximity and his emotions were leading him down a very different path.
"Emb, don't do this. Not now. You know I don't want this." He nodded, but still he didn't move, his eyes darting down to her lips, the bottom of which she was worrying away under her teeth.
"Give me a reason?" He said, his voice soft, betraying the demanding nature of the question with his harmless soul.
"Because it's my senior year Emb, and the last thing I want to do is find a distraction, to have a reason why getting out of this town is going to be harder than just leaving Charlie."
He sighed, because they'd spoken about this often. Forks had always been a two year stop-gap, a release for her mother, and a chance for her father to finally know her as a person, but it was never meant to be anything more. Judging from her bare circle of friends that she kept at arm's length, it was something that she spent a great deal of time upholding.
"Okay. But in two years when I join you at Washington State, I'm asking you out on a date."
A light darkening of his skin appeared over his cheek bones and Bella couldn't help the light kiss she laid there, truly appreciative of the bravery behind his words.
"It's a deal." She said, wrapping her arms around him and burying her head into his neck. He grasped her right on back and they didn't let go; not until the frantic voice of Billy Black scoured over the land.
Pushing Embry back from her quite aggressively, she half ran over to Billy whose eyes looked dark and dangerous.
"Bella, you need to get back to Charlie. Now!"
She stood there, gaping at him for the longest moment, because even though he'd all but told her to get her feet moving, they weren't obeying.
"Now Bella!" Billy said again, the strain in his voice and the fraught tension in his eyes making her retreat a little into herself.
Stepping back, she almost tripped over Embry in her haste but she didn't stop to bother with any form of farewell. Stepping down on the gas, she knew the limits by heart, but struggled to obey even one of them. It wasn't like Billy to omit any kind of extreme emotion and was even less in character for him to so obviously rattle her without an apology. Keeping both hands on the wheel to handle the heavy truck, she wound through the narrow roads, the surrounding forestry pressing down around her, until finally she could see the shimmering lights of town. Unconsciously she sat back slightly, her spine loosening as turned down a familiar street, seeing houses whose occupants she could distinguish by name.
Pulling up to Charlie's little detached property, which was hidden back at the end of the road, the tension returned when she saw him twitching agitatedly on the porch steps.
He didn't give her time to pull the cab door open herself and though she could tell he was acting out of contorted emotions, she couldn't help the sting of repressed tears when he began to yell loud enough for the entire street to hear.
"What the hell have I told you Bella? How do you think it looks when I can't even get my own daughter to pay attention while the whole town is falling to shit?"
Almost physically retracting from his harsh words, Bella hitched back, the hand he held on her wrist burning as he pulled her from the truck and into the house.
Once safely inside, he let her go, but she was left to linger in the doorway, almost afraid to step forward as he paced back and forth maniacally.
"I'm sorry Dad. I just wanted to see Jake and Embry." She said softly, almost not wanting to draw attention back to herself. She'd never seen her father like this and it wasn't the fear of what he would do, but the fear of what he knew that kept her rooted to the spot.
"Dad, what's going on?" Bella asked tentatively. Her words seemed to stop him in his tracks, his eyes full of troubled pain as they met hers.
"Come sit down Bells?" He requested with a heavy sigh, placing himself down on the couch rather than his usual individual recliner. Her feet followed him and she gingerly graced the edge of the cushions, waiting for whatever words he needed to impart.
"Is it Sam?" She asked impatiently and he lifted his head, looking her over quizzically.
"No. This isn't about Sam… Bells, this is… well, it's worse…."
He stopped and Bella felt her lungs expand in preparation.
"We got a report a few days ago about a girl who's apparently been missing from the Makah reservation for a couple weeks now. Emily Young?" Charlie added, as if the name might mean something to her.
Shaking her head, Bella tried to beg him to go on without words.
"Apparently she's the cousin of Leah Clearwater, Sam's…" Before he could finish, Bella was speaking for him, "…fiancée, she's Sam's fiancée."
Charlie nodded and Bella couldn't help the adrenaline that seemed to be pouring throughout her body, feeling both afraid and impatient for what Charlie was trying to tell her.
"What about her?" She said eventually, knowing what she was asking but unwilling to put into words.
Charlie nodded and unlike the usual perfunctory space that was held between them, he rustled closer and she wasn't sure if he was trying to offer comfort or looking for some himself.
"She's dead Bells. A hiker found her in the woods this afternoon; it looks like an animal attack, but…"
He didn't need to say anymore, even to her it sounded far too suspicious, first Leah's fiancé went missing and now her cousin had shown up dead.
"I need you to stay put Bella. I know you think I've been too strict on you recently, but I can't watch you all the time and I know Jake's a good guy, but I don't like the idea of you going down there. Not until I can figure all of this out."
He was all but begging with her, asking rather than demanding. She understood both his fatherly and vocational predicaments. Knowing she had little space to maneuver, she agreed, nodding her head and hoping that in the morning they could reassess the situation somehow.
He left a few minutes later when his radio crackled a code she couldn't understand. Closing the door shut behind him, she wrestled with the chain, wondering just when her fingers had begun to shake. She didn't like feeling so weak, especially so unnecessarily, she thought. She bound up the stairs two at a time, laying out her books and flinging down her backpack, hoping to delve into a mountain of homework. It didn't happen though, and it wasn't only because her mind was caught in a whirlpool of horror. Nestled on the edges of a flourishing eco-system, animal calls weren't out of the ordinary in Forks. But on this night the whole town looked to their windows in disturbed interest; as barely ten minutes passed when the darkness wasn't penetrated by the piercing wail of a painful howl.