A/N: Once again, I'm sorry about the delay. Real life got in the way. Anyway, you know the drill. Twilight characters are Stephenie's. New characters and plot lines are mine. No copyright infringement is intended.
Thank you, Costa for all of your insight and helpfulness.
Jacob had asked that his pack meet in the woods for a short and important meeting before they patrolled that night. The Cullens had arrived the night before, and Jacob wanted Matt's pack to meet them. Matt wanted to show Jacob's pack what sort of beasts they were facing.
Leah was tasked with the duty of escorting Edward and Jasper to the clearing. Jacob felt that it was best if only two Cullens came and Leah agreed. It wouldn't be good if Matt's pack felt threatened, especially when they all needed to work together.
As they trekked through the woods, the scent of vampire clouded around Leah. The windy conditions didn't help matters. It would take a little time for her to get accustomed to it again, but at that moment it was so strong, her wolf groaned. She wondered if her scent was as potent and bothered Jasper and Edward.
"It's not that bad," Edward answered her thought. "Although, the males of your group have a stronger…musk."
Leah glared at Edward. "Has anyone ever told you how annoying that is? If I wanted your opinion, I would have asked."
"I apologize," Edward said. "Usually Bella puts a shield around me so I'm not in everyone's thoughts. It takes some getting used to when she's not around."
"Where is Bella, anyway?" Leah asked. "I thought you two were joined at the hip."
Edward laughed. "I dropped her off at Jacob's shop to see Renesmee. Bella was eager to talk to her about that guy Renesmee's seeing. Besides, I don't want her around this yet."
Leah narrowed her eyes. "You're still playing that 'protector' card, huh?"
"I don't want her or Ness to get hurt," Edward argued. "Is it wrong for me to keep my family safe?"
"She's a vampire, Edward." Leah pushed a branch aside to walk under it. "There's not much that can hurt her now."
"The children of the moon are dangerous to even us, darlin'," Jasper interjected. "They shouldn't be underestimated."
Edward ran his hand through his hair. "Carlisle and I have been doing some research, and trust me, we are all just as fragile as humans in this case."
"I understand three of your wolves were attacked by them," Jasper said. "One of them was injured pretty badly and the other is still missing, right?"
"Yeah," Leah answered sadly. "Matt's pack found Aaron and Collin. If they hadn't found them, we might be looking for three wolves instead of one. We owe Matt and his pack for that."
"Collin's the one dating my daughter, right?" Edward asked.
"And how did you find out that information?" Leah began reciting nursery rhymes in her head.
"You can stop singing about the Three Blind Mice!" Edward rolled his eyes. "I picked it out of Renesmee's head. She practically had a fit when she realized I'd read her mind. She begged her mother to put up her shield, but Bella shooed me out of the shop instead."
"Yes, Renesmee was very angry with Edward," Jasper mused. "It was quite funny."
"I wonder why she didn't just tell she was seeing someone." Edward scratched his head as if truly perplexed.
Leah laughed loudly. "Are you serious? She probably didn't tell you because she thought you'd give Collin the third degree."
"I just want to see what his intentions are." Edward frowned. "There have been many young men interested in my daughter, and their thoughts weren't always pure." Edward sounded every bit like a protective father. Leah thought about her own father shooting so many questions at Sam, he needed a helmet. She wondered if Harry would like Matt.
"And before you ask, Collin won't be a the meeting. He's still injured and he's already seen what a werewolf looks like." Leah looked at the path ahead. "He's great for Renesmee. You have nothing to worry about."
"What if he imprints," Edward said, watching Leah warily. "I don't want her to fall for someone she's not destined for. I just wish Alice could see her future."
Leah shrugged. "He might imprint, he might not. The point is there are no guarantees in life. Sure, it's great to have your own personal psychic to make sure you choose the right decision, but sometimes choosing the wrong one is better for you. How will you learn if someone always gives you the answers?"
"So, you wouldn't want to know that Sam and Emily were going to be the cause of your heartache?" Jasper cut in. "You wouldn't want to avoid that?"
Leah breathed out and said, "There was a time when I felt that way. I remember when Red told me she and Collin were going out. I was so worried about her, but then I thought about Embry and Angela. I've seen the love that Embry has for Angela in the pack mind. It's just as strong as Jared's love is for Kim."
"Do you regret falling in love with Sam?" Edward asked.
"Sam taught me a lot. He taught me how to love and what it felt like to be loved. When I was with him, I was fearless, weightless, and most of all happy. I can't regret that." Leah paused and continued, "Remember when Red was in high school and that guy she was crushing on only dated her because he wanted free tutoring lessons?"
"Yeah, I wanted to rip his throat out." Edward gritted his teeth. "She cried for a week when he broke her heart. Bella flew to Forks for a few days to be with her."
Leah shared Edward's sentiment. She wasn't certain, but she thought Seth might have had a few words with the asshole in question. He stayed away from Renesmee, but it seemed to be more out of fear than anything else. "She learned an important lesson. Be careful, because there are assholes out there and sometimes you have to use your head and your heart to weed them out."
Edward looked thoughtfully at Leah. "I've never thought of things that way."
"That's why I'm here." Leah smiled. "To put things in perspective."
The sounds of chatter became louder as they stepped into the clearing. Both packs were mingling about, but the conversation stopped when Leah showed up with Edward and Jasper. While Jacob's pack greeted the two vampires, Matt's pack was cautious, moving protectively toward their Alpha.
"They don't seem to like us very much," Jasper said, eyeing the new pack.
"No, they don't," Edward agreed. Leah guessed he was digging around their thoughts.
"Please understand," Leah said gently. "Members of their families were wiped out by vampires and werewolves. They don't know anything about you, so they're going to be a little defensive, but they're good guys. We're all here for the same reason."
Edward nodded, but Jasper was silent. The emotions emitting from Matt's pack was less than friendly. She didn't need to be an empath to feel it.
"Hey," Jacob said, as he approached with Matt.
"Hi," Leah answered Jacob, but her eyes found Matt.
"Hi, Peaches," Matt said. His body stiffened as he eyed the two vamps cautiously. She moved next to Jacob, and she saw Matt's shoulders relax a bit. It seemed he wasn't comfortable with her being so close to them until he knew they weren't a threat.
Jacob's voice cut into Leah's thoughts. "Matt, this is Edward and Jasper. They're vampires with the coven I was telling you about. Jasper, Edward, this is Matt, Alpha of the Port Angeles pack."
The rest of Matt's pack stayed back, but kept their eyes on Edward and Jasper.
None of them offered handshakes, which was understandable. They were noticeably sizing each other up, and Leah wondered if it was just a male thing or was a natural enemy thing.
"It's a little of both, I suppose," Edward whispered, answering her thoughts again.
"Edward!" Leah glared at him and he held his hands up apologetically.
"How long have you been hunting these beasts?" Jasper asked.
Matt looked warily at Leah, then answered Jasper's question. "A while."
Edward's head tilted to the side as he eyed Matt. "How old are you, if you don't mind me asking?"
"I do, actually." Matt's answer was succinct.
Edward suddenly blurted out, "You're 67?!"
That revelation silenced the chatter. Only crickets chirping could be heard. Leah's eyes widened as she looked disbelievingly at Matt.
"Yes," Matt finally said. "As you know, shifters don't age if they don't stop shifting. Most of us are in our sixties, except Mickey who's in his thirties and Chris who is 23." There was a hint of anger in Matt's voice and she could understand it. It was awkward when someone else revealed something you weren't ready to tell yet.
"So, it really has been a while." Jasper smirked which really didn't help the situation.
"I didn't know your pack was…older," Jacob said with a hint of hostility. Jacob was an upfront sort of guy. He was honest and wanted all the information so he could find a way to handle it.
"Well, I guess that makes us even," Matt snapped back. "I didn't know you had a vamp who could read minds." His eyes zeroed in on Edward then he turned to Jasper. "And what's your special ability?"
"I'm an empath." Jasper moved his hands behind his back. "I can sense and control emotions and feelings.
"I know what an empath is," Matt answered sharply. "Is there anything else we need to get out in the open?"
"My wife is psychic, but she can't see the future of shifters or hybrids," Jasper answered.
"And my wife can block powers that affect the mind," Edward added.
"Good, since everything is out in the open, shall we start?" Matt didn't wait for an answer. Instead, he walked in front of the crowd which had quieted down some since that bit of information was revealed.
Leah shot Edward a look and he made a point of avoiding Leah's eyes.
"I know some of you are patrolling tonight, and I thought it might be helpful to know what you're facing." Matt looked toward the bushes. "John!"
"Holy shit!" Leah exclaimed as a feeling of dread settled in her stomach.
The trees parted for a huge creature. No, huge wasn't right. Massive, gigantic, and enormous worked better. It was walking on all fours as it moved next to Matt where it stood up on its hind legs. Its fur was like liquid obsidian, sliding over his muscle and bone, with hands larger than catcher's mitts. Each digit had a talon that curled menacingly. The werewolf also had a distinct scent. It was wild and off putting, which certainly should give them warning if they were in the area.
This monster was Leah's worst nightmare come true. The rest of her pack apparently shared her assessment. They all remained quiet, just stared up at him. Leah glanced at Edward and Jasper who exchanged wary looks.
"This is John." Matt patted the werewolf's arm. "He was bitten about fifty years ago when we were attacked by werewolves."
"So, what if we come across one of them?" Paul stared at John.
"Fight them the same way you would a vampire." Niko flashed a harsh smile at Edward and Jasper. "Go for the limbs and avoid their bite. If you get in a pinch, go for the throat. Since we have sharp claws ourselves, it's a good place to hit them. The throat bleeds easily if you cut deep enough. It will take them a moment to recover." Niko pointed toward John's chest. "The heart is their most vulnerable place. However, they usually run on all fours which make it hard to hit them there. It's also covered with layers of skin and muscle as well as bone."
"So we should aim for the heart," Aaron asked. "That's a definite kill shot."
"Yeah, but they know this too, so they won't leave themselves open. I recommend only taking that chance if you are certain you can hit it there."
Aaron simply nodded and Leah had a bad feeling. He'd been out for blood since his brother went missing. She just hoped that he wasn't so blinded by vengeance that the rest of the pack couldn't depend on him.
"We think they might have taken an interest in your pack," Matt explained. "The fact that they have one of your wolves and we haven't heard anything about him means that they are planning something."
"What do you think that is?" Jacob asked.
"Maybe they're trying to make stronger wolves." Niko shrugged. "Werewolf venom doesn't work in our systems, so maybe they're looking for a way. Just imagine a werewolf that can change in a moment's time, anytime they want that's not dependent on the moon for strength."
"You think they might be trying to cross the species?" Jasper asked.
"It's the only theory we have." Niko crossed his arms.
"How will we recognize John from the others?" Jacob asked. "We don't want to attack him by mistake."
"Look at his ear." Niko gently pulled John's head down. "It was cut during one of our battles." There was a circular chuck about the size of a walnut missing. "Here's another thing." Niko laughed. "John can whistle. Show 'em, John." Keeping his jaws closed, but opening his lips a little, he let out a sharp whistle through his teeth.
"Wow, that's pretty cool," Embry commented and nudged Brady's arm.
"Anyway, I wanted you all to see him before you went out on watch tonight," Matt interjected. "Remember, the throat is the most vulnerable place besides the heart. Good luck, everyone."
The meeting ended and everyone began to disperse. Some of them were scheduled to patrol that night, so they headed home to eat.
"As soon as I get home, I'll let Carlisle know what we've discovered." Edward sounded worried. "Maybe he has some other suggestions."
"We're going to start patrolling tonight, too," Jasper said. "Since we don't have to sleep, we should be able to cover a lot of ground. Emmett's strength should come in handy if it comes to that."
Edward's eyes shifted over her shoulder. She followed his eyes and found Matt smiling at her.
"I owe you an apology," Edward said. "Sometimes my mind reading ability becomes insensitive to others."
"I appreciate it," Matt answered. He sighed heavily and his voice went low. "Jacob says you're reliable allies and truthfully, any help is appreciated. We just don't want anyone else to get hurt."
"Understandable." Jasper nodded.
Leah guessed that that was some sort of truce. At least she didn't have to break up a brawl.
"Hey, Edward," Jacob said. "You got a minute?"
"Yeah." Edward looked carefully at Jacob. They walked over to the side and began a deep conversation. It was funny how things had changed. Ten years ago, both of them were in love with the same girl, and Jacob wanted nothing more than to rip Edward to pieces for hurting Bella. Now they were conversing like friends, well allies, anyway.
Leah felt a light touch on her shoulder. "Can I talk to you for a minute?"
Jasper caught the hint. "Let me check in with Alice. She's probably driving Rose and Esme crazy with wedding plans." He pulled out his cell phone and walked away.
Leah watched Matt's expression as he watched Jasper and Edward. "You don't have to worry about them. They aren't going to attack."
"Jake says you have a treaty that keeps them off your land."
"Yep." Leah nodded. "Red's the only one allowed on La Push, but she has to be careful. If she ever drinks from a human, she'll never be allowed back."
"So you said you wanted to talk to me about something."
"Yeah, um…" Matt scratched his ear as he looked at her. "First thing, I want you to know I wasn't hiding my age from you on purpose. You just found out I was a shifter and I never had a chance to bring it up."
"I'll admit that I am surprised. Actually, I'm flabbergasted." Leah looked at him warily. "You're older than my parents."
"It's still me, Peaches." Matt placed his hands on his chest. "I just haven't aged because I haven't stopped phasing."
Leah tugged on her bottom lip. "Let me ask you this. Would you have told me about your age if Edward hadn't said it first?"
"Yes." She saw the conviction in his eyes. "I was going to tell you before the vamp revealed it for me. There was a lot of information that flew around at Jacob's, and I didn't want to overwhelm you."
"One thing I hate is when people deliberately keep things from me because they're afraid of my reaction. I don't like having blinders on."
"I promise, I'll tell you everything." Matt held his hand up as if swearing. "Does that mean our date is still on?"
Leah smiled slowly. "Yeah."
"Good. There's one more thing." He looked over at Niko and nodded his head, obviously relaying some message. "Come with me."
"Where are we going?"
He apparently picked up on her hesitation. "We aren't going far. I just need a little privacy."
"What for?" Leah asked.
"I thought I'd show you my wolf."
"Yeah." Matt stepped closer. "Maybe if you see mine, you'll let me see yours. Do you want to see him?" He leaned down to her ear. "He's dying to see you."
"Sure," Leah answered and bit her lip.
"Wait right here." Matt placed his hands on her shoulder. "I'll be right back." He pulled off his shirt as he disappeared in the bushes.
The time seemed to move at a snail's pace while her heartbeat racketed to a new level. She had begun to pace to help calm her nerves when she heard a few twigs break behind her. Leah turned around and a shadow loomed from the place Matt disappeared.
Her mouth dropped open a little as she watched a huge black and white wolf emerge. There were white spots around its eyes that matched the fur of his underbelly and legs. The air rushed out of her lungs when she looked into those familiar green eyes. They were so striking, so brilliant, they almost glowed. Even though she wasn't in her wolf form, she felt his power, his dominance, all the things that made him an Alpha exuding from his form.
"Matt?" she asked and instantly felt ridiculous. Of course, it was Matt. He nodded, though.
He padded the earth gently as he made his way toward her.
She reached out to touch him, but pulled back. He made a noise from the back of his throat as if giving her permission and lowered his head. She ran her fingers through his soft fur as she walked around his body to admire his beauty. His tail was two-toned also, the top pitch black while the underside was white.
His eyes followed her, switching sides because his head couldn't turn a full revolution.
"Wow, you're beautiful," Leah responded breathlessly. He really was. He was so strong, powerful, magnificent. She felt her own wolf fighting to get free, but she held her back. Her hand went under his chin and scratched a few times. His eyes closed and he growled softly.
She laughed. "You like that?"
His big head nodded and she did it a few more times. He made a sound that almost sounded like a purr.
"Thanks for showing me your wolf," Leah said, slowly pulling her hand away.
Matt's large wolf head nodded and he walked back into the bushes.
Sam cowered in the bushes like a pervert and watched Leah with Matt's wolf. Her eyes were wide with wonder as she studied him, her hand weaving through his fur so carefully. Sam had seen the way Matt and Leah looked at each other. There was a fire there, and it gave him a sour taste in his mouth.
She doesn't know what she's doing! Sam thought to himself.
This new Alpha was dangerous and could break Leah's heart. That was why Sam didn't like him. At least, that was what he told himself.
But she didn't want his interference or his advice. She'd told him so on many occasions. She'd also told him that outside of pack business, she didn't want anything to do with him. Yeah, he hadn't meant to hurt her, but he did and she just wanted to move on. She didn't seek conversations with him or Emily. Leah was civil, but she had no interest in their lives and didn't want to share hers. For a while, Sam thought Leah was being selfish, but then maybe she deserved to be a little selfish. So many things were taken from her; maybe it was better to give her this.
It hurt seeing her move on. The few times he'd found out that Leah was getting serious with someone, an ache grew in his heart. It would fade once he knew she was single again. But Matt was a huge wrench in the machinery. Sam had seen the connection between the two of them and even though Sam was in love with his wife and even though he'd put Leah through hell, it still hurt him to break ties.
He reluctantly pulled his eyes away and headed home. He was patrolling that night and eating something first did sound better. Also, being near Emily would help him calm down.
When he walked in the front door of his house, he found his wife in the kitchen washing dishes.
"Sam?" Emily said, shaking the excess water from her hands, the side of her face that wasn't scarred lifted in a smile. "I didn't think you'd be home so soon." She stepped up on her toes to kiss him.
"Yeah, we had a break before we had to patrol so I thought I would come home for a little bit."
"I guess I have to get used to you patrolling again, huh?" Emily dried her hands on a dish cloth.
"Just until we get rid of these werewolves."
"I understand, honey." Emily's arms circled Sam's waist, chasing all his apprehension away. There was a lingering sadness in her voice. "I just don't want you or any of the wolves to get hurt."
"I know, Emily." He leaned down and kissed her again. "We're being as safe as possible." Sam looked around. "Where's David?"
"He's staying at Martin's tonight." Emily smiled as she pulled away. "I promised that I would let him spend the night if he got an 'A' his spelling test."
Sam sighed. "Do me a favor, honey. No more sleepovers for a while. I'd rather him be with you if he can't be with me."
"Okay," Emily answered slowly. "Did everything go okay?"
"It's nothing for you to worry about." Sam took a seat at on the stool at the counter.
Emily simply nodded, then asked, "Are you hungry? I can make you something before you go out again." Emily pulled a plate from the cabinet.
"That would be great," Sam said.
Emily heated up leftovers, some baked lemon chicken with corn and rice and Sam took a seat at the kitchen counter. She set the hot plate in front of him and grabbed a cold bottle of Coke from the fridge.
"Thanks, honey." Sam popped open the cap.
As he began eating, his mind wandered to what could have been. He thought of what it would have been like to be married to Leah. Their relationship had a lot of passion. They fought hard and made up even harder. One of the many things that attracted him to her was her stubbornness. He imagined that she'd be pulling every detail from him about what was going on in the pack. Leah Clearwater wasn't one to be left in the dark.
He'd be lying if he said he didn't miss that passion. Yes, Emily was great, but the imprint didn't let their arguments last too long. Usually, it ended with him relenting.
"Sam?" Emily touched his shoulder.
Emily laughed. "I asked how things were working with the new pack." She ran her fingers through his hair.
"Okay, I guess." Sam shrugged. "We saw what a werewolf looks like."
"Really?" Emily dropped down on the stool next to him. "How was it?"
Sam shook his head. "It's nothing for you to worry about, honey." He didn't want to give Emily nightmares. Shit, he might get nightmares from what he saw.
"How was it working with the new Alpha?" She raised an eyebrow at him. He'd been very vocal about his feelings toward Matt.
"I did things a little differently when I was Alpha, but he has his own pack, so…"
"Huh," Emily said, folding her hands on the table. "Well, he seems to be quite smitten with Leah, and from what I can gather, she likes him too. Maybe something could start between them. It's been a long time since she's found someone and it would be great if she was happy." Emily's voice was hopeful. To her, this was a chance to get back into Leah's life. If Leah was in love with someone else, maybe she would forget about how badly Emily and Sam had hurt her.
Sam, however, knew the truth. As much as Emily wanted it, she would never get that closeness with Leah again. When everything went down, he didn't know what hurt Leah more, the fact that they'd decided to start a romantic relationship or that they'd been lying about it and sneaking around behind her back. Leah took trust very seriously, and it would be easier to move a mountain than get it back.
Sam felt the need to change the subject. "So, how was work today?"
"It was good." Emily went into the trials and triumphs of running her own business. As she spoke, Sam thought about how lucky he was. He'd had the love of one great woman and as a reward for breaking her heart, he gotten the love another. It didn't seem fair.
Things weren't always easy for Emily. Through it all, she'd stuck by him. After he'd scarred her permanently, after she'd chosen him over her best friend, after all the whispers and hurtful words around town, she was his loyal wife and companion. People added to the pounds of guilt that they'd carried after hurting Leah, but together they made it through. Emily was his light, his heart, the keeper of his soul.
"Honey, are you okay?" Emily touched his cheek gently with the palm of her hand.
He closed his eyes and let her touch sink through his skin. "I love you so much, Emily." He kissed her open palm. "So much."
"I love you too, Sam." She stood up and stepped between his legs so she could hug him.
He held her tightly, knowing that having her close would help calm his unease. Sam was still in love with his wife, but there was one problem. While his heart belonged to Emily, there was a small spark within that longed for another. Over the years, it had smoldered in the background, overshadowed by the imprint, but it had never truly gone away.
Leah was that spark. He'd loved her with all he had and she trusted him with her heart. Her love had seen him through many trials, too: dealing with the strained phone calls from his father, worrying about the future, making a name for himself. So how did he repay her? He ripped her heart to shreds for the greater good.
The first time he'd felt that pain was when Leah left his pack. He remembered the moment she broke ties. He'd woken up in the middle of the night with a sharp pain in his chest. Emily had woken too and rubbed his back until he fell back to sleep. He realized what happened the next morning when Leah was supposed to be on patrol and he didn't hear her voice. She was gone.
Pain would blossom in his heart whenever another man had gotten too close and only went away when he was convinced she was still his. But this new Alpha was making that pain return. This new Alpha was threatening to quench that fire that burned for Leah, and Sam wasn't quite ready to let her go yet.
A/N: As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts.