A/N: Just a warning, this chapter is a little long. Also, I've borrowed some werewolf traits from Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series.
Disclaimer: All Twilight characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. Some werewolf qualities belong to Patricia Briggs, author of the Mercy Thompson series. All original characters and plot lines belong to me. No copyright infringement is intended.
Special thanks to Costa for being my pre-reader.
Jacob's house was larger than most homes on the Quileute reservation. It had three bedrooms, two and half baths, and a den. It was also in walking distance to Billy's, so he could check up on him. But the real reason Jacob bought it was the enormous backyard with the forest surrounding the edge. It made phasing and running under the cover of the woods easier. It was also accommodating to wolf traffic at all hours of the night. Billy was tired of waking up in the middle of the night to naked men walking around his kitchen looking for food. With Billy's help, Jacob secured a loan and the rest was history.
Jacob suggested that everyone meet at his house at 5PM. That gave them plenty of time to talk before they needed to be out patrolling.
Leah leaned over the railing of the deck and watched the two packs mingle.
She would be lying if she said she wasn't nervous about Matt's pack meeting hers. Sure, her wolf was all about seeing him again, and she didn't mind either. However, she wondered what it meant when they all joined forces. Would they all react the same way Sam did? Would they get along or would egos and pride destroy that bridge before it was built?
So far, things seemed to be going well. Leah was pleasantly surprised that everyone was coming together so easily. Her pack seemed to be happy to meet others like themselves, people they could relate to. It really was a great experience. For so long, they all thought they were the only ones of their kind, but to know there were others was an eye opener. So many questions flew around: Have you met other shifters? What kind of animals are they? How did their packs work…if they had packs?
Steve, Matt's third in command and pack doctor, had been talking to Kim and Jared since he walked through the front door. While Kim and Steve talked in medical jargon, Jared nodded along, pretending to understand what was being discussed. Leah did notice that Jared's arm stayed possessively wrapped around his wife's waist.
Matt had introduced Leah to his younger brother, Niko, earlier. He was also Matt's beta and according to Matt, his best fighter. He was a couple inches shorter than Matt, but a little bulkier. His hair was light brown and his eyes had splashes of gold within their brown depths. When he shook her hand, he grinned slyly and said, "You are definitely hotter in person." He took a few moments to appraise her figure. "No wonder Matt's got his panties in a wad." That earned him a smack on the back of the head from his older brother.
She watched Matt and Jacob speak with Billy Black. Billy's eyes shifted to Leah briefly and he winked, subtly giving his approval of Matt. After Harry Clearwater died, Billy Black and Charlie Swan stepped in to offer support for Harry's children, and they'd both been there whenever they were needed. Leah nodded slightly back at Billy with a smile.
There was one person she was concerned about. Aaron paced in the corner like a caged animal, waiting for its chance to attack. He was fully healed and given the okay to phase again. According to Steve, he didn't have a lot of venom in his system so he healed faster than Collin. A few of the other pack members tried to speak with him, but he wasn't interested. The only one that stayed near him was Jason, his best friend, and Leah was happy that Aaron hadn't pushed him away.
Leah watched Aaron closely as he rolled his shoulders and cracked his neck. She could almost see the bundle of tension in his shoulders as he anxiously waited for the meeting to start. He'd already volunteered to patrol that night, so the sooner the meeting ended, the sooner he could go hunting.
The search for Tommy hadn't turned up any leads, but they wouldn't give up. Jacob was convinced that he'd know if Tommy was dead. Whenever one of them was injured, they all felt some residual tingling in their bones, sort of like an itch they couldn't scratch. Because Jacob was Alpha, his tingling was stronger; it made him antsy and restless.
Leah was still getting the nightmares and learned that a few of the other pack members were experiencing them too. She'd woken up on more than one occasion covered in sweat with her heart beating like it was trying to break out of her chest. She didn't remember a lot, but she saw large beasts circling her like she was a prey and they were debating whether to eat her or not.
"He's having a hard time, huh?" a familiar voice said in her ear.
Leah looked up into Matt's concerned eyes and nodded. "I can't imagine something like that happening to my little brother. I can't…" she broke off and placed her fingers over her lips. Knowing that it very well could have happened to Seth was almost too much. The only reason he wasn't injured was because he switched shifts with Collin.
"Yeah, I know." Matt leaned down on the railing and looked fleetingly at his own brother. "Niko's always willing to go right into a fight, sometimes head first without thinking." Matt sighed. "He great at what he does, but sometimes he scares me. I'm his big brother and I'm supposed to take care of him."
Leah nodded and looked at her watch. She wondered where Seth was. He'd been acting guarded and secretive lately. Tommy's disappearance made everyone hold their family members a little closer and she didn't like not knowing where Seth was.
"Do you think Tommy is still alive?" Leah turned toward Matt, her voice low just in case Aaron was listening.
"Yes, because Jacob feels it. He would know if one of his wolves were dead," Matt answered with confidence. "But I have no doubt that Tommy's in trouble. He's a shifter so his immune system is stronger than a human's and I'm sure they've figured that out by now. It's what they choose to do with that information that concerns me."
"It sounds like you have some ideas." Leah studied the thoughtful expression on Matt's face.
"Nothing concrete," he answered evasively.
"I'd like to hear your theories, no matter how outlandish they are." Leah stood up to her full height and faced him. "At this point, we don't have anything to go on."
She wanted to hear his ideas on a lot of things, like the ones involving female shifters. There were so many questions running through her mind and more of them came up every day.
"So you got anything to drink around here?" His arm gently brushed hers, and a tingle of electricity hummed between them.
"Yeah, follow me." She pushed herself off the railing and headed inside. "I have a question for you."
He looked at her expectantly as he followed her, smiling mischievously like he knew what she was on her mind.
"What did you mean when you said that I was chosen?" Leah looked up into his eyes and watched his smile widen.
"Just what I said." He chuckled lightly. "You are unique."
"What was I chosen for, though?" Leah watched him cautiously, willing more answers from him.
"I'll make you a deal, Peaches." He opened the door for her. "You go out on a date with me, and I will tell you everything you want to know."
Leah stopped in her tracks and looked cautiously at him. "Everything?"
He lightly pinched her chin. "Everything." His hazel eyes flashed green briefly, and she felt her wolf rustle. She felt her heart beating in her throat as his scent surrounded her, bringing her closer to him. "What do you say?"
"Okay." Leah tried not to sound too excited but at the same time not too passive.
"Great." The warmth in his voice made her insides melt, and she found herself smiling as she looked into his eyes.
Leah cleared her throat to catch her bearings and pushed the kitchen door open. She stopped suddenly when she saw Sam and Emily. Although, Emily's back was facing the door, Leah had a clear view of Sam's expression. He looked at her adoringly as he brushed his finger over her eyelashes. Her light giggle filled the kitchen as he kissed the scared part of her face. Feeling she was interrupting, Leah turned to leave and ran right into Matt's chest.
"Whoa." Matt placed his large hands on her shoulders. "I thought we were getting something to drink."
Matt's voice caught Sam's attention and Emily glanced over her shoulder. When they saw Leah, they hastily snapped apart like teenagers caught making out. Leah wondered if they would always do that when she was around.
"Hi, Leah." Emily waved tentatively, the left side of her mouth quirking up in a smile.
"Hi." Leah headed over to the fridge. "Don't mind us. We just came to get something to drink."
Matt hovered behind her adding even more awkward tension to the room. Sam's eyes zeroed in on Matt's every move, a look of hostility marring his face.
"Hello." Matt's voice was friendly, but when Emily's face came into full view, Matt flinched. It was a reaction they all picked up on and Sam growled. Leah internally kicked herself for not warning him about Emily's scars, but Emily being there was unexpected. She rarely came to pack meetings; Sam had always insisted that she stay at home and out of harm's way. Leah glanced at the plastic bins full of muffins and realized that she was there to drop off food.
"I'm Emily, Sam's wife." She held out her hand, brushing off Matt's apologetic expression.
"Matt," he replied, shaking her hand with a smile.
"Oh." Emily grinned and glanced back at Sam with a knowing look. "You're the 'other' alpha. I've heard a lot about you."
"Yeah, that's me." Matt seemed to loosen up. Emily had that effect on people. It was like she could make people forget that she had scars. "It's nice to meet you."
"You too." Emily took the lid off one of the plastic bins. "Would you like a muffin?"
"Thanks." Matt perused through the choices and picked the banana nut muffin. "I love these." He took a bite and hummed happily. "It's delicious."
"Thanks." Emily beamed, as she shyly pushed a lock of hair behind her ear. "I hear your specialty is peach cobbler."
"Ah, it's alright," Matt answered coyly. "Peaches loves it, and it's worth it to see her smile."
Leah kept her face in the fridge to hide the heat creeping up her cheeks. It had been years since someone made her feel like this way. She'd dated before and even had some serious boyfriends, but they never made her feel so light.
"Yeah, Leah has always had a beautiful smile," Emily added. Leah felt all eyes on the back of her neck as she took her time pulling the bottled water from the package on the bottom shelf. "Well, we'll have to swap recipes sometime."
Confident that she wasn't blushing anymore, Leah stepped away from the fridge with two bottled waters in her hand.
"Sure." Matt leaned over the plastic bin. "Mind if I grab another?"
"Go ahead. It's probably better you get whatever you want now before everyone else gets in here."
Matt laughed. "Trust me, I know. I have a pack of my own."
Matt and his charm easily won Emily over. The same couldn't be said about her husband. Sam seemed a little upset that Emily had turned out to like Matt. He didn't say anything out loud, but Leah wondered what sort of things Sam was saying in his head. Probably nothing good.
Leah handed Matt one of the bottled waters and headed toward the door when Emily's voice stopped her.
Leah turned around slowly.
Emily took tentative steps away from her husband. She wrung her fingers in front of her as she approached. Leah could hear her heartbeat moving faster with each step. Emily cautiously looked back at Sam whose smile encouraged her to keep moving. She breathed in and grabbed a white box from the table.
"I saved these for you." Emily's voice was soft as she handed Leah the box. Leah carefully opened the box and found four jumbo double chocolate chip muffins. "I know they're your favorite, and the boys are always eating all of the food before you."
Leah sighed as she looked at the muffins. She knew Emily meant well. The thing was she hadn't been able to keep a double chocolate chip muffin down since her father died. They were her father's favorite too. The memory of her and her father baking them on Sunday mornings crowded her thoughts. Looking at them made her eyes sting and her throat tighten.
"Thanks, Emily," Leah forced a smile to keep her tears at bay, "but these aren't my favorite anymore." She gingerly handed Emily the box back. Emily's face fell, and Leah quickly added, "But I do love apple cinnamon."
Emily perked up a bit. "I made those too. I'll just swap these out, okay?" Her face was so hopeful. In that moment, her mother's words echoed in her ears. Emily was really trying to get past everything and start over. They could never get back the closeness they shared before, but maybe they could be friends again.
"That would be great." This time Leah's smile was genuine. Emily traded out the double chocolate chip muffins for the apple cinnamon with streusel topping. "Thanks."
"No problem." Emily moved like she was going to touch Leah's shoulder, but then hesitated. Leah was relieved; she didn't think she was quite ready for that yet.
She headed toward the door, Matt following closely behind her.
"Was it just me, or is there a lot of tension going on between you three?" Matt took another bite of his muffin.
Leah had to think how she wanted to approach this. Her past was something that she didn't want to think about, let alone talk about. She decided being vague was the best plan. Besides, how many people on the reservation would go up to Matt and tell him that Sam dumped her for her cousin?
They took a seat at one of the empty tables and Leah set her box of muffins down.
"Sam and I dated most of my high school career." Leah cracked open her bottled water. "He's married to my cousin now."
"Emily's your cousin?" Matt swallowed the last of his muffin in one gulp. "Was she dating him before you broke up?"
"It's a long story." Leah released a breath. "But that's why there is tension."
"Can I ask what happened to her face?" Matt asked, lowering his voice.
"She was attacked by a bear." It was the same lie told around the reservation. It was obvious that Matt and Sam didn't get along and Leah didn't want to fan that fire. Every single time Sam looked at Emily, he was reminded of how he lost control. Leah doubted that Matt would ever throw that in Sam's face, but she didn't want to chance it.
Eventually word got around that Emily had brought a truckload of muffins and everyone headed inside to get theirs. Leah smiled as she opened the white box, knowing that she wouldn't have to fight for hers this time.
The sun was almost down by the time Seth showed up. Seth's tardiness was holding up the meeting, and by the look on his face, Jacob had told him so.
Leah saw Seth slowly make his way to one of the empty chairs by the door with two muffins and a can of coke in his hand.
"Hey, little brother," Leah approached slowly.
"Hey," Seth said quietly as he placed his drink on the ground beside him.
"Why were you late?" Leah took a seat next to him. "Did you have a hot date or something?" The look on Seth's face took all humor away.
"Give me a break, Lee." He sounded exasperated and irritated. "Jake already gave me the third degree." Seth hated disappointing people, especially Jacob. Ever since he was young, he'd idolized Jacob Black.
"Don't take it personally." Leah waved her hand nonchalantly. "Jake has been in a pissy mood, lately. He had to cancel another date with Eden and he found out that Rachel was dating Paul and we have a new threat to worry about. Part of his anger probably had something to do with that."
Seth chortled. "I guess I can't blame him. I'd be a little upset if my sister was getting cozy with someone and I didn't know about it, oh wait…" He looked at her purposely as his smile grew larger.
"Ha, ha." Leah rolled her eyes.
"I met Matt, by the way." Seth cut his eyes to Leah. "Nice guy and I can tell he really likes you."
"Yeah?" Leah answered dryly. "How?"
"Because as soon as he realized that I was your brother, he was extra nice. He even let me have the last soda." He held up the soda can. "Guys that like you are always kind to me."
"Maybe he was just being polite." Leah shrugged.
"Yeah, sure," Seth answered sarcastically. "Whatever you say."
"Well, at least you're taking things better than Jacob." Leah watched Paul lean down so Rachel could whisper in his ear. His hand was on the small of her back, while hers rested on his chest.
"I can't believe they managed to keep it from him so long." The can hissed as Seth opened it. It really was a miracle. Everyone knew, most of the pack, Billy, Sue, even Charlie was aware.
"No one wanted to be the one to tell him." Leah shrugged. "He was so preoccupied with Eden, he didn't even notice that his sister had fallen for the wolf with the worst reputation. I wasn't there when he found out, but I heard he had a fit."
"I bet he did," Seth commented. "We've all seen the many trails Paul's blazed, but he's calmed down a bit in the last few years. Jake's got nothing to worry about." Seth bit into his muffin.
"Can I ask you something and you promise you won't get mad at me?" Leah kept her eyes focused on the crowd.
Seth glanced over at her and nodded as he took a bite of his muffin.
"What's going on with you?" Leah lowered her voice. "It's not like you to be late for pack business, especially when it's something this important."
Seth swallowed, but kept his eyes away from Leah's. "Track practice ran late."
Leah rolled her eyes. She could see through his lies like a glass window.
"Seth, come on." Leah put a hand on her brother's shoulder. "Don't bullshit me. Why are you being so secretive?"
Seth laughed then raised a questioning eyebrow at his sister. "Secretive? This is coming from someone who was dating another Alpha right under everyone's noses."
"Okay, first of all, we weren't dating, then," Leah said, with a guilty smile. "And second, I just wanted something…"
"Away from all this," Seth finished. He started peeling the wrapper off the second muffin.
"Yeah." Leah sighed. "This pack stuff has taken up so much of my life, I'd forgotten who I was. So, yeah, I kept it a secret. I didn't know that Matt was an Alpha or that he'd come knocking on Jacob's door, effectively blowing my cover."
"Yeah, I hate it when that happens," Seth joked and they both laughed. It was a few moments before he spoke again. "I am seeing someone, but it's new and I still don't know how I feel yet."
Leah looked at him and simply said, "Okay."
"And believe me, I get it." Seth blew out a slow, exhausting breath that seemed to release some of the tension in his body. "We have so little privacy, and everyone has an opinion."
"Yeah, I guess that's one reason I didn't tell anyone about Matt." Leah glanced over at Matt as he spoke with Billy.
"Just one? What's the other?"
Leah's shoulder hitched as she released a breath. "I'm sick of every move I make going back to Sam and Emily for one reason or another. It's been ten years, and people around here still look at me like I'm this torn up little girl." Leah laughed harshly. "Now I know how Jennifer Aniston feels."
Seth smiled. "We're like this weird family, involved with each other's lives whether we want to be or not. And the outside world doesn't understand how truly fucked up we are sometimes."
"With all the voices running around in our heads, it's shocking that we haven't gone mad." They both laughed at this. Seth had grown so much over the years. He wasn't the little boy who used to always get into her things. He was a man, with stubble on his chin and everything. There were times when she saw her father in his smile and heard him in his voice.
"Remember when you were ten and you broke dad's favorite fishing pole?"
Seth groaned. "Yeah. I wanted to prove that I could catch a big fish without his help and the line snapped."
"You came home so scared that dad was going to kill you. You were rambling so fast, I could barely make out what you were saying." A memory of a young Seth flooded her mind. He was holding two broken pieces of Harry Clearwater's prized possession with a look of horror on his face.
"I kept picturing the top of his head opening up with fire shooting out." Seth sighed and looked at Leah with gratitude. "But then you told me you'd take care of it. You took half of the money you were saving to buy a new CD player to buy a new fishing pole so I wouldn't get in trouble." Seth smiled. "You know, he never found out?"
"No, he didn't." Leah smiled, hoping her father would get a kick out of it now as he watched over them. "I'm always here for you, Seth, no matter what. You can talk to your big sister about anything."
Leah leaned on his shoulder as he wrapped a strong arm across the back of her chair. "You too, Lee." He lightly kissed her forehead as he squeezed her shoulder.
Jacob called the meeting to order and everyone quieted down. "First off, I'd like to welcome the Port Angeles pack." Matt's pack stood off to the side watching intently. Leah hadn't met all of Matt's wolves, but she couldn't help notice how diverse they were. Unlike the Quileutes, they obviously didn't come from the same bloodline.
"My father, Billy Black, is our chief and a member of our tribal council. They help us maintain our secret as well as advise us of how to proceed with threats."
Jacob waved a hand across the crowd. "Everyone here either phases into a wolf or knows our secret. My sister, Rachel is here representing the tribal council." Rachel waved. "Kim Cameron is married to one of our wolves and she is also our doctor, since we can't exactly go to emergency rooms with our injuries."
"Hello." Kim smiled shyly.
He walked over to Renesmee and placed a hand on her shoulder. She sat next to Collin, holding his hand as she looked up at Jacob. "And I trust some of you are familiar with our resident hybrid. This is Renesmee Cullen."
"Ness," she quickly amended.
"Ness," Jacob corrected. "She is both vampire and human, although she's not venomous. She only drinks animal blood, but she can eat human food."
Leah watched Matt's pack exchange wary looks. She'd hoped that they would understand about Renesmee, but shifters were understandably skittish around vampires. They were natural enemies, after all.
"Okay, I'll let you take the floor, Matt." Jacob walked off and took a seat next to Leah and Seth.
Matt's eyes scanned the crowd of anxious faces as he folded his hands together. Leah watched as his demeanor changed. He had the commanding presence of an Alpha, calling everyone's attention. "Well, I guess introductions are in order. My pack has nine members, although not all of us are present. This is my brother, Niko. He's my second in command and the best in combat."
Niko waved at everyone, then nodded at his brother to continue.
"Steve is our pack doctor and third in command. I thought it was important for him to be here."
"This is Mickey." Matt gestured the man sitting next to Niko. Mickey was a tall, lanky man, not quite as bulky as the average shifter. His black hair was cropped in a buzz cut, with deep, dark brown eyes. His skin was tan, just a few shades lighter than Leah's. "He's the best at tracking and has great instincts."
"Hey," Mickey uttered with a slight lift of the lips.
"And this is Chris." Matt gestured to the man standing like a sentinel by the door. His massive arms crossed over his chest with a serious expression haunting his face. His skin was the color of coffee with a few tablespoons of cream, but his dark eyes were wary, like he'd seen too much to ever let his guard down again. "He's new to our pack, but he's proven to be a very valuable warrior."
Matt turned and faced the audience. "The rest of our pack is out on watch." Matt started pacing. "When we lived in Arizona, a group of vampires moved to town, causing all sorts of havoc. You'd be surprised how many vampires live in the south. They activated our genes to protect. To make a long story short, the vampires that we didn't kill eventually fled. When we thought we could get back to normal, a pack of werewolves came to town and slaughtered members of our town and most of my pack. Only four of us survived. After the pack of werewolves fled, we followed them, vowing revenge for our fallen pack mates. Niko and Steve were a part of my original pack, but we've picked up a few new members on the way." Matt looked meaningfully at Mickey and Chris.
"What can you tell us about these werewolves?" Jacob asked. "What kind of weaknesses do they have?"
"They are strong beings, massive like grizzly bears and just as dangerous." Matt walked closer to Jacob. "They run in packs, just like us, with an Alpha, beta, and so forth. As far as weaknesses, they can't swim when in their werewolf forms. Their bodies are too dense to float, so that's an option if you're near a large body of water. But they will take you down with them if they get the chance."
Steve interjected. "You're probably used to fighting vampires, but unlike vampires, they are living creatures with hearts, brains, and other functioning organs. They have accelerated healing abilities, but they can't live without a heart or a lung."
"Or a head," Niko added quietly.
"So we could rip them apart like we would a vampire." Jared rubbed his wife's shoulder as she cringed at his suggestion.
"Yeah, except you wouldn't have to burn the pieces," Steve replied. "They are at their weakest when they're turning, since their bones are breaking and reforming. It takes about twenty minutes for a seasoned wolf, longer for the newer ones. Catching them is the trick. Once they have turned into werewolves, they are lethal and quick."
"Silver bullets won't work?" Paul asked and received a few chuckles.
"Any bullet will work if you have enough of them, manage to hit a major organ and cause enough damage that won't heal fast enough," Niko answered. "If that's done wrong, you'll have a really pissed off werewolf on your hands."
"I think it's a good idea if we all start training again," Jacob suggested. "We need to have some idea of what to do and what we're up against."
"Yeah, he's right," Steve interjected. "Their venom is in their bite and you'll want to avoid that as much as possible. The more in your system, the weaker you are and the slower you will heal. We do have an advantage because of our accelerated healing will, but the more times we're bitten, the harder it is for our bodies to burn it off." Steve looked Collin. "It's why Collin is still healing. His body is still needs to burn off the venom before it can work on healing his injuries."
"How successful have you been?" Embry asked. "Have you been able to get their numbers down?"
Matt exhaled. "We thought we had them. Then they showed up again, attacking and 'recruiting' new members."
"Where did you get your information?" Sam asked with a hint of a challenge, his arms crossed defiantly.
"Well, one of our pack members is a werewolf." Matt cautiously looked over at Leah and then at the rest of the crowd as silence fell over them. "Just like you have a hybrid as an ally, we have a Child of the Moon that is ours."
"And he's not a threat?" Sam asked skeptically.
"No more of a threat than your hybrid." Niko looked purposely at Renesmee, who shifted uneasily in her seat. "After the vampires fled, we let our guard down. We had no reason to fear anything else; we'd just taken down a coven of vampires. When the werewolves attacked, we were completely unprepared. In all the chaos, we'd lost track of my best friend and the werewolves found him first. By the time we got to him, there wasn't much left, but we heard a faint heartbeat. He was unconscious, so we assumed he wasn't in any pain. Then he started to get better. We were worried that John might be changing, but we didn't want to act rashly. After the full moon rose, we realized we were right."
"So that means they are aware of their actions, right?" Kim asked. "I mean, if there was a way to save your friend, then they have a choice."
"It takes control and John has it," Matt answered. "It wasn't an easy road, but he's always been strong willed. He's in control and helps us find the werewolves. He can't help what he is now, but he can do whatever is possible to keep it from happening to someone else."
"Since he's not a shifter, we don't have a mind link with him, but we have other ways of communication," Steve elaborated. "Signals, howls, things like that."
"Does he have a mind link with the werewolves?" Sam asked.
"No, he's a lone wolf, so to speak," Steve answered. "He did at one point, but once he was able to control his wolf, the link was broken. Usually lone wolves don't last long, but we think it's because he runs with us that he's able to survive."
"I have a question," Rachel said after raising her hand. "These werewolves are human, right? Do you have any idea who they are and what they do during the day?"
"They probably sleep during the day. They don't have jobs if that's what you mean. They steal what they need, including food, homes, water. And yes, we know who they are and they know us." Matt nodded solemnly. "I should warn you. Forming an alliance with us means they will know you, too."
"They already know about us," Jacob said, rubbing his hand over his head. "Especially now that they have Tommy."
"Tell us more about their venom," Quil asked from the corner. He'd come straight from work and was still dressed in his slacks and dress shirt, although he discarded his tie.
"Their venom works a lot like a vampire's, meaning it's designed to morph cells and remake them into something else. But unlike a vampire, one bite won't do the job. They basically have to rip apart the person, yet keep them alive enough to survive the bite and become one of them. It doesn't always work, though."
"That would explain the dead bodies found in the forest." Leah pinched the bridge of her nose. "So, we only have to worry about them during a full moon, right?"
"No." Matt shook his head. "They can phase with any moon although they are strongest when it's full. If the moon is in the sky, they can transform. Sometimes they will phase during the daytime, but they usually don't because the moon isn't at its brightest. The brighter the moon, the stronger they are. They have no choice during the full moon, though."
"What about vampire venom?" Renesmee popped up. "Will that help?"
"It has no effect on werewolves," Steve answered. "And with their razor sharp talons, they can slice through vampires like a hot knife through butter. Why do you think the vampires are trying to wipe them out? Aside from us, werewolves are their biggest threat. Besides, where would you get vampire venom? I thought you weren't venomous."
"I'm not, but my family is," Renesmee answered.
"Your family?" Niko and Matt said together.
"We have an alliance with the Renesmee's family," Jacob provided. "Because they are vampires and they activate our gene, they left, but they are our allies."
"But they drink blood." Mickey's brow furrowed.
"They drink animal blood," Leah amended. "Their eyes are this freakish yellow color instead of that creepy red color. But we've fought with them before."
There was uneasiness in the air around Matt's pack. It was to be expected, though. The Cullens weren't the average vampire coven, but they had to see for themselves. Leah could tell by the way they all moved that it might take a little convincing.
"They'll be in town for Embry's wedding," Jacob said. "They are aware of the situation and they may be able to help. Their leader is over three hundred years old and he's a doctor. He might be able to offer some insight."
"A vampire who's a doctor?" Mickey eyebrows jumped. "You're kidding, right?"
"Nope. He's one of the best surgeons around," Jacob answered matter-of-factly.
"I have a question." All attention turned to the voice in the shadows. Aaron approached slowly, the fading sunlight casting shadows on his face making the dark circles under his eyes evident. "Do you have any idea what happened to my brother and where he is?"
"No," Matt answered sadly. "We don't know where or why they're keeping him, but they've been planning something and it might have to do with Tommy."
"So what good are you?" Aaron threw his hands up. "You're supposed to be experts on this shit, yet they keep getting away from you. It seems to me like you don't know what the hell you're talking about."
"We obviously know a lot more than you." Niko rose from his chair. Jacob watched carefully and Leah moved to get up. "Remember, we saved your asses. If we hadn't found you, you'd be bleeding out in the forest."
"Yet, you let them take my brother." Aaron stepped closer to the new pack.
"We didn't let them take anyone," Niko countered, and Matt put his hand on Niko's shoulder to stop him. "We found you and Collin, not your brother. We didn't even know there were three of you until you woke up in our house the next morning!"
Chris stiffened, ready to move in front of his Alpha if needed.
"Aaron," Jacob warned as he rose from his seat. All of the wolves felt the slight tremor of a pending Alpha command. "They're here to help and they're the best defense we have."
"Help?" Aaron laughed harshly. "You know what would 'help'? If someone would knew what to do and stopped blowing smoke up everyone's asses. All you have are a bunch of theories."
Things could get worse if something wasn't done. Leah saw Chris slowly shifting into a fighting stance, while Niko's anger was causing him to tremble.
"Alright!" Leah stood between Aaron and Niko, holding a hand up in front of each of them. "Everyone calm down." She turned to Aaron. "We're here to get answers, not point fingers." She gently placed her hands on his shoulders. "We are all trying to find Tommy and bring him home. You know that. I know you're worried about him, but we all need to work together if we're going to bring him home and keep everyone safe."
Leah had never been close to Aaron, but she sympathized with him. What if Seth patrolled with them and he was kidnapped instead of Tommy? The thought sent a shiver of fear through her.
Aaron looked down at the ground, muttered an apology, and headed inside to cool off.
"He just worried about his brother," Leah replied as she watched Aaron walk inside Jacob's house. Jason followed him.
"It's fine," Niko said as his anger faded away. "I get it."
Once the tension in the air dissipated, the meeting continued. They talked about patrol schedules as well as training. Jacob's pack agreed to patrol La Push like always and Matt's pack would patrol outside that area. Since the Cullens were due in town in the next few days, they'd be able to help with patrols. That would help a great deal. Things were different now that most of the pack members had jobs and/or families to think about. It was convenient that the Cullens didn't have to sleep. However, that idea wasn't quite comforting to Matt's pack. Leah hoped that things would get better once they met.
After the meeting was adjourned, Matt caught up with Leah. "So we're still on for that date, right?"
"Yes," Leah replied and felt her wolf leap. After they swapped information, they said their goodbyes.
As Matt drove off, Leah could only think how ironic it was that she would be dating in the middle of a crisis. Why was her life always so complicated? She sighed and went in to help Jacob clean up.
He sat on the branch of a tree, watching her house. Even though the sun had set hours ago, he could see as if it was bright as day. All the details of the night were vivid, and he wondered how he managed the world before.
The shower was running and he could hear her singing sweetly. He imagined watching the hot spray hitting her body, soaking the ebony strands of her hair, causing it to stick to her skin. In his mind, he saw the rivulets of water cascading down her golden honeyed skin, washing away the troubles of the day.
He'd done this countless times before, but things were different now. He was different, but his feelings for her were still present. In fact, they intensified. Before it was just a slight affection; now it was a full blown obsession. She was always on his mind, like a video stuck on a loop, replaying the same movie.
He closed his eyes as her singing comforted him. In his mind, he saw her smile lighting up his world and her eyes glowing back at him lovingly.
The shower cut off and the sound of the shower curtain scraping broke through his thoughts, but she was still humming. She did that a lot lately, and he had a feeling it had something to do with that guy she was dating.
Her bedroom curtains were closed much to his disappointment, but he didn't need to see her naked. He'd pictured it enough in his mind. He couldn't wait to see if the images in his head matched the real thing.
So many scenarios formed in his mind. Sometimes he'd imagined himself waiting for her after she'd gotten out of the shower. She'd be wearing just a towel with the knot slowly slipping away. Other times, he would join her and help her reach those hard to reach places.
She emerged from her bedroom with a towel in her hand and walked into the living room where the curtains were open. Her still wet hair formed slick waves, soaking the shoulders of her shirt.
The shrill of a telephone filled the air and she hurried to answer it.
"Hello?" she asked, then smiled. "Hey, you." Her heart skipped happily in her chest as she causally leaned against the counter.
She was talking to him again. He hadn't seen him yet, but he could tell by the way she twisted a wet strand of her hair that she liked him. A lot.
He was too far away to make out his voice, but from her end he figured out that this guy had broken a date and was promising to make it up to her.
"Oh, Jake, it's no problem." She ran a towel over her damp head. "I understand. Maybe we could do something this week..." she continued, but he didn't want to know anymore. He just wanted to concentrate on how to get rid of this guy.
Eden Sloan was supposed to talk to him like that, not this Jake guy. He was probably some punk who knew nothing about her. He didn't know what scared her and how to make her happy. He had to go.
But things were different now. He would have to convince Eden that he was still a worthy choice, even though he was…different.
The moon hovered in the sky, shining its light over his skin. It coaxed at him, but he fought it. There was only one female that ruled his heart.
He hopped out of the tree, landing with a soft thud on the earth. After taking one last look, he headed back into the forest.
A/N: As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts and theories. :)