A/N: Thank you, Costa for pre-reading. Also, thank you Anthrobug & NinaQ from PTB for all of your help!
Renesmee was sitting on the couch at her parents' cottage when she heard the front door open.
"Hi, Mom!" Renesmee shouted but didn't look up from the laptop resting on her legs.
"Hey, Ness." Bella leaned down and kissed the top of her daughter's head. "What are you doing?"
"Looking up information on werewolves." Renesmee scrolled through gruesome pictures of the beasts. "I hear they're pretty fierce, even fiercer than the Volturi."
"And where did you hear that? Did your father tell you about them?"
"Yeah, right," Renesmee muttered while rolling her eyes. "Like Dad would ever tell me something like that. The pack's been talking about it nonstop. At that meeting the night before last, Matt showed everyone what one of the werewolves looks like."
"Yeah." Bella leaned over Renesmee's shoulder to look at the images. "Edward said it was pretty scary." Bella started rubbing her arms from what she called "phantom goose bumps".
"I figured a little research couldn't hurt, right?" Renemsee watched her mother come around the couch and sit next to her. "We need as much information as possible to fight them. Most of it is myths and fairytales, but some of it might be helpful. Who knows?"
"Honey." Bella placed her hand on Renesmee's shoulder to catch her attention. "I don't want you to be involved with this. I don't know what I would do if something happened to you."
Renesmee closed her laptop and set it aside. "Remember, I'm half vampire, and I can defend myself. I've trained with Jasper and Emmett as well as the wolves. Don't worry so much, okay?"
Bella laughed. "I'm your mother. I'm supposed to worry 'too much'." Bella's face turned solemn. "You have no idea how scared I was when the Volturi came here. I thought I was going to lose my baby girl." Bella gently cupped Renesmee's chin.
"Everything turned out okay, though. The Volturi are back in Italy licking their wounds."
"Yes, it appears so." Bella nodded, although she didn't sound convinced. Renesmee knew that the thought of the Volturi coming back larger and stronger plagued her mother's mind.
"Let's talk about something else." Renesmee propped her elbow on the back of the couch to support her head. "The council met today, right? What did Jake say?"
"The council will allow Alice and me to walk on Quileute land as long as one of the wolves accompanies us." Bella didn't seem content with that ruling. "We are not allowed to be there by ourselves."
"Well, that's good, right?" Renesmee saw the irritated look on her mother's face. "That means you're allowed in La Push again."
"That amendment doesn't extend to the rest of the family, so your father can't go to the wedding." Bella rolled her eyes. "And this new amendment is only temporary. After the wedding, the old treaty is back in place. The only exception they made is if your life is in danger. Then we can come and defend you."
"I don't really think Dad will mind not going to the wedding," Renesmee said gently.
"That's not the point!" Bella slammed her fist on the couch, tearing the fabric. "We aren't a threat, and we aren't going to hurt anyone! The treaty shouldn't even be in place anymore! We're allies with the pack. We've fought together. That should count for something."
Renesmee eyed her mother carefully. There was something else that behind the fury in Bella's eyes.
"The whole family should be a part of this." Bella continued her rant. "Angela and Embry are friends of our family, too!"
"That's why Angela wants to have the reception at the house. So everyone will be included."
"Why can't she just have the wedding at our house?" Bella asked. "Alice did a great job for us when your father and I were married."
"Because Embry wants to get married on First Beach." Renesmee was trying very hard to be patient, but sometimes, her mother didn't see the big picture. "She wants to respect his traditions, too, Mom."
"You're allowed into La Push." Bella hands flew up. "I don't see why they can't make the exception for us, too. We don't need babysitters. I should be able to go see my best friend whenever I want, not wait for him to come visit me. It's bad enough that we had to leave, but whenever we come back, we have these new rules to follow." Bella played with the frayed ends of the couch she'd just torn. "I'm the same person I was before I became a vampire, just less clumsy."
And there it was. This was what was really bothering her mother. There was a time when Bella was part of the pack family. She had been included in their bonfires, the parties and celebrations, but once she chose Edward, she'd lost that. She was on the outside, looking in.
"I know this is hard for you, Mom." Renesmee rubbed her mother's arm. "But this is about Angela and Embry. There are a lot of things going on now. Angela's pregnant which is making Embry extremely protective, and to add insult to injury, there are werewolves that might have a special interest in the pack, which is making Angela anxious about Embry's safety. It's important that this wedding goes as smoothly as possible."
"Yeah," Bella said, sounding resigned. "You're right."
"It will be fine, okay?" Renesmee said, squeezing her mother's hand. "Embry and Jacob went through a lot of trouble to get the treaty amended. Just enjoy it. It means a lot to Angela that you're here and that you've agreed to be in her wedding. Don't ruin it by being stubborn, please?"
Bella sighed out of frustration, instead of necessity. "Okay, honey. I'm sorry."
"Think of it this way, the council letting me into La Push and giving you and Alice a free pass is progress. Who knows what will happen in the future?"
"Let's hope so." Bella smiled weakly. "Are you staying for a little while? Your father will be back soon."
Renesmee shook her head. "I'm going to see Collin for a little bit. I'll be back later. He's all alone at home and bored and really anxious to get back out there and fight. He says that having me over helps him forget that he's not able to phase yet."
Bella grinned. "I don't ever think I've seen you like this, Ness. You've liked boys in the past, but you're different now."
Renesmee shrugged. "He's great, mom. The funny thing is, he was right under my nose. We've crossed paths millions of times, but it wasn't until Seth introduced us that I finally saw him. He has such gentle eyes, but he's so strong. I never thought he'd be interested in me because I'm half vampire, but we just clicked." Renesmee's face fell. "He really scared me when he went missing."
"But he's back now," Bella said. "And he's okay."
"Yeah, and I'm taking care of him, which I really love doing." Renesmee couldn't stop the goofy smile even if she tried.
"Well, your father wants to meet him." Bella pushed a lock of hair behind her daughter's ear.
"Yeah, I know." Renesmee pursed her lips. She didn't think she'd ever be ready for the day when Edward Cullen met Collin Littlesea. "So he can pick his brain, right?"
"I'll make sure that doesn't happen." Bella winked. "When he meets him, it will be on fair grounds. No cheating."
"Good." Renesmee looked at her watch. "I should go before it gets too late."
"Okay." Bella hugged Renesmee and walked her to the door. "I love you and stay safe."
"Love you too, Mom!" Renesmee answered with a wave as she headed to the car.
Renesmee crinkled her brow at the gray sedan parked behind Collin's black pickup. She hadn't seen it before, and she wondered who was visiting. Then a thought hit her. There was talk that Seth was seeing someone new, but no one knew who except Collin and her father. Both of them were locked up tight like a vault. Their loyalty to Seth was honorable, but that didn't stop Renesmee from being curious. Could this car belong to his mystery woman? There was only one way to find out.
Renesmee quickly gathered her things and headed to the front door. She took a few moments to prepare her "surprised" look. Then she knocked twice and used her key to open the front door.
"Hi, Collin!" She stepped inside and locked the door behind her. She looked around for Seth, hoping to "accidentally" run into Seth's new girlfriend. "Whose car is that out front?"
She entered the kitchen, and the air froze in her lungs. A woman was standing in front of the stove heating up dinner. The blood headed to from her face to her stomach. Of all the people Renesmee expected to run into, Collin's mother was the last.
Mrs. Littlesea turned around abruptly, glaring daggers at Renesmee. She had never officially met Collin's mother, but she'd seen her in passing. Mrs. Littlesea was about the same height as Renesmee, but her demeanor made her seem taller and superior. Collin definitely inherited his eyes from her. Her hair was pulled up in loose bun, held together by two chopsticks.
"Well, I see you just barge right on in, huh?" she asked tersely. "What if Collin or Seth had just gotten out of the shower or something?"
"Oh…I'm sorry…I…" Renesmee struggled to find the words. She swallowed the knot in her throat and said, "I usually stop by at this time."
Collin was seated on the couch, his broken leg nestled on a pillow on the coffee table. She wondered why he hadn't warned her about his mother being there. Answering her internal question, he pointed toward his cellphone on the charger on the other side of the room.
Renesmee stepped forward, ignoring her nervousness. "I'm Renesmee." She held out her hand.
"I know who you are." Mrs. Littlesea looked at Renesmee's hand as if it were poisonous.
Renesmee's hand slowly dropped. "It's nice to finally meet you."
"So you're dating my son." Mrs. Littlesea's eyes raked up and down Renesmee, her mouth twisted in disdain. "It's too bad I had to find out from the town gossip." Mrs. Littlesea looked at the key hanging from Renesmee's hand. "She has a key." She shifted her eyes to her son. "It must be serious if she has a key to your place. And you didn't even tell your mother."
"Oh, no!" Renesmee said quickly. "Seth had a key made so Collin wouldn't have to hobble to the door when I came by." She held up the keychain of a wolf with a silver key dangling from it.
"So, it's not serious?" Mrs. Littlesea shifted her eyes between Renesmee and Collin. "From the talk around town, you practically live here."
"No, it is, but…" Renesmee looked at Collin for help.
"Mom, stop!" Collin exclaimed. "She's my girlfriend, and she can come by anytime she wants. As long as Seth doesn't mind her having a key, I don't mind either."
"Well, it would have been nice if I had the same offer," Collin's mother mumbled as she went back to stirring the pot on the stove. "You're my son, and I need to be able to take care of you." She laid the spoon down and wiped her hands on her apron.
Renesmee made her way over to Collin and sat down next to him.
"I'm sorry," he whispered, his expression that of a little boy who was trying to avoid getting in trouble.
She put her hand on his wrist. You could have warned me!
"I know, babe, but I couldn't get to my phone." He looked at her sympathetically. "And if I did, I didn't think you'd come over."
You'd be right! Renesmee answered, squeezing his arm. I'm not prepared to meet your mom, Collin! I would have worn something else, and I would have brought something! And I certainly wouldn't have barged in the front door!
"You look fine!" Collin whispered loudly.
"That's not the point!" Renesmee said in hushed tones. "Showing up with a key to your place doesn't do me any favors. I don't want to give her another reason to hate me."
"She doesn't hate you!" Collin looked briefly at his mother. "She just doesn't know you."
"Yeah? Did you miss the look she gave me when I opened your door with the key you gave me?" Renesmee held it up.
"Please, honey, it's fine. I'm sorry I didn't warn you, but please don't leave." Collin looked at his mother to make sure she was still cooking and not listening. "I had no idea she'd be coming over, but she showed up after Seth left. I couldn't tell her to leave, so I thought this would be a good opportunity for you and her to talk and get to know each other."
Renesmee ran her hands down her face. She knew this day would be coming. After all, she'd just had a conversation with her own mother about her parents meeting Collin. But she was a little annoyed that she wasn't warned.
"I'm assuming you'll be staying for dinner," Collin's mother called out from the kitchen.
She quickly looked at Collin, and he gave a slight nod. "Sure." She forced a smile.
"We're having beef stew, one of Collin's favorite meals, but there's no blood in my recipe. I hope that's okay." Her tone was patronizing, and her saccharine smile didn't help matters.
Renesmee gave Collin a harsh glare, and he cringed like a wounded puppy. "Do you want me to set the table?" Renesmee stepped away from Collin and went to the kitchen.
"Sure. That would be helpful."
Renesmee began pulling plates from the cabinets, while Mrs. Littlesea kept a close eye on her every move.
"You seem to know your way around this kitchen."
"I was here a lot during my childhood." Renesmee balanced the plates in her hands. "Seth didn't really change anything around when Sue moved in with my grandfather."
Renesmee placed the plates on the dining room table and went to grab some glasses.
"Oh, that's right." Mrs. Littlesea turned off the heat and pulled the pot off the stove. "They changed the treaty so you could come onto our land." Renesmee didn't miss the pompous tone of her voice. "I think things were fine the way they were. If it ain't broke, then don't fix it."
Renesmee stayed silent as she grabbed silverware from the drawer. It was hard listening to Mrs. Littlesea's vitriol. Each word hurt her. When she'd first walked into La Push, she'd heard the whispers. She didn't need super hearing to know that not everyone wanted her there. But time had passed and the gossip had shifted elsewhere.
Over time, Renesmee had come to accept that she was different, not part of the human or the vampire world, but there were times when it would bother her, and she would wonder if she would ever truly be accepted.
She felt warmth on her back, and she looked up at Collin. Supported by his cane, he'd hobbled to the table to comfort her. His face was sympathetic. He mouthed, "I'm sorry."
Renesmee looked away and muttered, "Sit down, and I'll make your plate."
"Oh, I can handle that." Mrs. Littlesea waved her hands. "Don't trouble yourself. Besides, I know what my son needs. Go ahead and make yourself something though. There's no raw meat, I'm afraid."
"Mom!" Collin exclaimed. "Stop it!"
"What did I say?" She feigned innocence. "She hunts animals, right? Isn't that what she eats so she doesn't attack us?" She looked at Renesmee for clarification.
Renesmee's lips formed a thin line. She felt the burning in her eyes. The air seemed thinner, making it harder to breathe. She had to get out. "You know what? I should let you two have your time together. I don't want to interfere."
"No, you can stay," Collin insisted.
"I don't want to intrude." Renesmee was barely holding it together. She knew if she stayed any longer, she would burst into tears, and she didn't want Mrs. Littlesea to witness that.
Mrs. Littlesea's eyes raised as a grin formed. "That's a shame. Just when we were getting to know each other."
"Let me walk you out," Collin offered.
"It's okay, Collin," Renesmee said, holding her hand up.
"No, I'm fine." Collin walked toward her. "Kim's taking the cast off tomorrow anyway. It's healed. It's just hard to walk with the cast still on."
"No, really. I don't want your food to get cold." Renesmee grabbed his wrist and silently asked him to let her go.
Collin sighed and whispered so only Renesmee could hear. "Are you sure?"
Renesmee nodded slightly.
He wrapped his arms around her. "I'll call you later, okay?"
"Okay." Whether she would answer or not was up for debate. She pulled away and headed to the front door.
"It was nice meeting you, dear!" Mrs. Littlesea said through a sneer before Renesmee closed the door.
"Can you stay a few minutes?" Eden asked Jacob as they stood on her porch, their fingers knotted together.
He looked at her cautiously, then back at the sky. The sun was slowly setting, and the crescent moon shone brighter by the moment. It was probably a good idea for him to leave, but he convinced himself that he should wait for Seth to show up. Since there were monsters lurking in the woods, Jacob included Eden's house on the patrol list with Charlie's place and La Push. He didn't want to leave her unprotected.
Eden sat down on the couch and patted the space next to her.
He sat down obediently and smirked at her smile. She cuddled next to him, folding her legs and leaning against his chest. He wrapped his arm around her shoulder, tangling his fingers in her hair.
"Do you feel better about Paul dating your sister?" Eden asked, nuzzling closer to him.
Jacob had mentioned to Eden that he was uncomfortable with Paul dating Rachel, so Eden had suggested a double date. He'd reluctantly agreed to an early dinner.
"I'll admit that he seems to like her," Jacob answered slowly. "But, honey, trust me when I say this. Paul has had a lot of…experience."
There was a time when Paul's temper and libido were out of control. If he wasn't fighting guys in a bar, he was trying to sleep with their girlfriends. Then Rachel moved back in town, and he started cleaning up his act. Jacob knew that Paul had a crush on his sister, but he didn't think Rachel would entertain being with someone like Paul. No one saw that coming.
"Do you want my opinion?" Eden drew figures on his chest.
"I think he really likes her. I mean, really, really likes her." She sat up. "He's been nothing but a gentleman around her. If all he was after was her body, he probably wouldn't be trying so hard. He's attractive enough to have his choice of women, but he chose your sister. And…"
"And…" Jacob tilted his head.
Eden pursed her lips. "This is going to sound strange, but he looks at you differently, almost like he really wants your approval. He respects you, Jake."
Well, that made sense. Paul was one of his wolves, and it was a bad idea to piss off the Alpha.
As hard as it was for Jacob to admit, he appreciated the care Paul took with Rachel. When she spoke, Paul's eyes stayed with hers and didn't float to her breasts or legs. He listened to what she had to say and even offered his advice.
"If he breaks her heart…" Jacob started, thinking of all the brokenhearted women that showed up for vengeance on Paul's doorstep.
"Then you'll break his neck," Eden finished, nonchalantly. "And I'll drive the getaway car when the cops come looking for you."
Jacob barked out a laugh.
"But seriously, Jake," Eden laid her head down on Jacob's chest. "she's a grown woman with a good head on her shoulders. Have a little faith in her. Women like Rachel are known to bring the best out of men."
Jacob agreed. Eden brought the best out of him. If it wasn't for her, he probably wouldn't have even considered a double date. He'd had his mind made up, but she helped him open his mind to the possibilities.
"How did you get so good at this?" Jacob asked, rubbing her shoulder.
"I'm the middle child between two sisters with different personalities, babe." Eden giggled. "That makes me honorary mediator."
Eden settled back on his chest. Jacob didn't want to move. He was perfectly content holding Eden in his arms, basking in her scent as the moon hovered behind the clouds.
His cell phone buzzed in his pocket, and he groaned.
"Hold on, baby." He leaned up to retrieve his cellphone. It was a text from Sam, wondering where he was. He quickly texted him back, telling him that he was waiting for Seth, then he'd leave. It was the seventh time he'd texted Jacob in the last hour.
"Wow." Eden sat up and looked at the phone. "That thing's been going off quite a bit."
"I'm sorry." His expression was earnest. "There's a lot of stuff going on."
"Yeah?" She placed her hand on his cheek. "Is everything okay?"
"Nothing I can't deal with." Jacob quickly put away his phone. He hated keeping things from Eden, but he wasn't ready to tell her about the pack yet, especially with the new threat.
"Well, you'd better be careful, Jacob Black," Eden whispered in his ear. "Because when you're not looking, I'm going to take that thing and throw it in the ocean." Her fingers trailed up and down his forearm.
"Oh, yeah? You would aid our declining environment by throwing my cell phone in the ocean?" he teased as he kissed her neck. "Al Gore would be very disappointed in you."
"Oh, the sea creatures will love it!" She tilted her head back as his lips moved from one side of her neck to the other. "They can use it to make a reef or something, and they'll probably get WiFi so they can check the weather, talk to their other fish friends, and even warn each other about fishermen." They both laughed. "But the best thing is I wouldn't have to worry about any more interruptions. I'd have your undivided attention."
He pulled back so he could look her in the eye. "You have my undivided attention, now."
"Yes, it seems that I do," she answered softly.
He placed his hand on her face and kissed her. He relished in the soft whimper that only came when he kissed her passionately. It was sensual and drove him and his wolf crazy. His fingers dug in her hair, palming her scalp, holding her in his tight embrace.
"Come inside?" Eden asked, her fingers moving slowly down his neck, then teasing the top button on his shirt.
Did she know what she was asking?
Her expression was completely serious, her eyes imploring him. Yeah, she knew exactly what she was asking. It was in that moment when Jacob noticed that her scent changed. It was still intoxicating, but now it was stronger, more potent. He watched her cautiously bite her lip and heard the thumping of her heart. Her scent was calling him, and it was getting harder and harder to resist it.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the sandy colored wolf peeking out from the forest and groaned.
Eden suddenly pulled out of his embrace. "It's okay if you don't want to come inside. I just thought…"
"No, no." Jacob kissed Eden again. "I want to come inside, but remember when I told you that some of the guys patrol our land, sort of like a neighborhood watch?"
"I'm supposed to be out there." He pulled out his phone. "That's what that text was about."
"Oh, so you have to go." Eden's face dropped.
"Yeah." It was probably a good idea that he leave. He didn't know how he'd be able to control himself, especially when she smelled so damn good. Before they went there, Jacob wanted to make sure she knew that she was dating a man who could turn into a giant wolf.
"Rain check?" Her voice was soft, and her eyes seemed a darker blue.
"Definitely." Jacob helped her to her feet and smiled as she adjusted her clothing in an effort to hide her blush. She was too adorable for words. "We're still on for Saturday, right?"
"Yep." She stepped up to kiss him. "I'm all yours." The double meaning was emphasized by Eden's smile. "I'll call you tomorrow."
"Okay." One more kiss and he headed to his truck. He drove out of sight, then turned off the engine. Seth appeared in his human form, wearing a pair of sweatpants and approached the driver's side.
"Hey, Jake," Seth said as he walked toward his Alpha. "Things were getting kinda steamy there, huh?" Seth waggled his eyebrows.
"Yeah, they were." Jacob smiled, still feeling Eden's kiss on his lips. "But I can't go there, not yet anyway."
Seth leaned into the window. "Do you think you'll be able to tell her about the pack?"
"I hope so." Jacob grimaced. "Ironically, her grandfather already told her, but she thinks they're just stories. How will she react when she finds out they're true?"
It hurt Jacob to think that he could lose her and that she would be afraid of him. Worse, if she saw him as a monster, he didn't know if he would recover.
Jacob's cell phone went off again, and he cursed. It was Sam again. It was like he'd never led the pack before.
"Is that Sam?" Seth asked, a hint of hostility in his voice.
"Yeah. Since Leah's off tonight, he's in charge until I phase." Jacob stuffed his phone back in his pocket.
"He's been in a bad mood lately," Seth said, shaking his head. "He's very touchy and sensitive, and his head's in a weird place. Most of the time, he's thinking about Emily, but sometimes, he thinks of Leah. No one has said anything about it, but we've all seen it."
Jacob rubbed his forehead. He didn't need all this drama. Sometimes being in a pack was like living in a soap opera. "All right, I'll take care of it." Jacob looked back toward Eden's home. "I'll stop by a little later to check in."
"You mean to see Eden." Seth raised an eyebrow.
"Don't be a smartass." Jacob playfully hit Seth on the back of the head. "Just get out there and patrol."
Seth laughed and ran back in the forest.
Jacob remembered complaining when he was younger that life was dull and uneventful. If he could go back in time, he'd shake the young boy and tell him to enjoy the boring life and not to take anything for granted.
A/N: As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts!