Disclaimer:All publicly recognizable characters, quotes, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners and are simply used under 'fair use'. The original characters and original plot aspects are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. This story is written for the legally recognized adult population. MA version posted only on STARS Library (formally known as TWCS or The Writers Coffee Shop), blog and journal. MA version not on FanFiction due to FanFiction T&C's.

Dine and Dash

Chapter Fifteen : Know The Fearless

"The song is ended but the melody lingers on…" (Irving Berlin)

I'm dreaming. And I'm fighting. I can't see them but I feel them. It feels different to the trees and thicket that usually grab at me and try to stop me as I run through the forest from La Push to Forks… I'm fighting someone. This is a person. I know it. I feel it. I feel them.


It must be.

Who else could it be?

My mother is what disturbs me. She's what's haunted me for as long as I can remember…

A mother who despite her absence has managed to steal my peace, my sanity, my sense of safety every waking second of my life since she walked out... A woman with a title to serve as my protector who instead sought to destroy me.

This dream feels wrong. I can still hear six-year-old Jake calling out to me? Asking me with frantic childlike desperation where I'm going, imploring me to come back?

I'm still in La Push…

How is this possible? How did she get out the house? Why isn't she in Forks? What is she doing in the forest with me?

Somewhere in my dreamlike state I know this isn't the first time my nightmare has changed. I remember seeing her tears recently. I remember her black eyes crying sharp ice that slits me open, draining my soul from my body, and claiming my life.

It doesn't matter why or how she's here. What matters is that she is.

I feel her drawing close— closer than I've ever felt her before. A sense of doom taints the air around me.

She's coming.

My brain screams at me to resist her. Instinct tells me there's danger. It tells me to battle her; but fuck is she fighting back, and man, she doesn't want to go down.

"Bella. Bell—Aaah!" she shouts at me.

But she can't get me. No fucking way. I ain't letting that happen.

Her hands grab at me, pinning me down, but I'm like, "Move! Bitch! Get out the way!" I hold my own, swinging that bitch off me in a style that Ludacris would be so fucking proud of.

A sense of safety envelopes me. Dad and I are safe. We're all safe. My family is all good.

I'm about dust off my hands and turn back into the softness of what must be my moss covered pillow, but at the last second she captures my arm and drags me down with her. I scream with no sound, falling off the edge of the cliff at Jake and my beach with her… but there's no ocean bellow to drown me... it's not an abyss that waits to swallow me…

No, I plummet off the bed.

Holy shit!

Caught fighting a tangle of covers, I tumble taking dream-Renee with me into reality. I panic.

She's here with me!

I land on her and we simultaneously each let out a loud, "Oomph!"

She's here! She's fucking here!

There's someone laughing loudly at us instead of running off to get help like they should be doing.

The fuck? How rude! Fuck that! How dumb!? Where's their sense of priority!?

My eyes crack open to find Rachel glaring up at me from where she's pinned down to the floor.

"What the hell!? I've been trying to wake you up for fucking ages!" she growls. "You're gonna be late, little wolfy fucking wonder!"

"Oh my, God!" I'm squishing her. In a haste, I release her arms. "Holy shit! Fuck... sorry!" Scrambling off her proves difficult because she's moving too so the covers knot around us. "Shut up, Paul!" I bellow at him over my shoulder, yanking the dumb comforter off and at last freeing Rach and me from our prison with zero help from him.

We both glare at the gremlin in the doorway when we're upright, he's seized with hysterical laughter, grabbing onto the wooden frame to keep himself from falling on his ass.

"Man, I wish I had a camera," he hoots loudly, reminding me of Seth, only thank God Clearwater isn't here because he would be a million times worse.


I scowl at big brother wolf and grab my stuff, stalking off. I have to squeeze past him because he doesn't seem able to move at the moment and his bulky-ass frame is blocking off most of the tiny doorway.


"You didn't help—" Rachel barks at him, "At. All!"

Paul nearly dies. He swipes tears out the corner of his eyes as he doubles over again, wheezing. "Babe, that glare would've worked so good if I didn't just see baby-wolf take you in her sleep. I mean in her actual sleep. Holy shit. Fucking priceless."

I don't hang around to find out what her response is because I need to pee and I definitely need to get ready. Before shots can be fired and makeup sex possibilities can be put on the table I decide to disappear into the safety of the bathroom. I cough to cover the laughter that threatens to erupt when Paul holds his fist out to me outside the room. I bump it quick and head for the bathroom hearing Rach's squeal and his chuckle as I shut the door behind me.

They're adorable. I hold back a smile.

Rach squeals different this time.

Eww! I hold back some bile.

I turn on the shower to drown out the sounds and allow the water to heat while I heed natures call. As I get off the cold porcelain and flush, I sway; unexpectedly lightheaded. I have to grab the wall quickly to maintain my balance. My head spins, forcing me to stand still for a while to allow the dizzy spell to pass. It takes some time before the cloudiness in my head dissipates. I fucking ache.

My skin feels tight and uncomfortable where the scabs have formed. Walking the short distance to wash my hands in the sink is unpleasant but in a way I welcome the sensation because it takes my mind off my troubling nightmare... it takes my mind of Renee…

Paul's back to normal which is a welcome relief. So much so that it's hard to believe I ever saw him and Jake the way that I did… It's surreal to think how mind-fucked they'd been yesterday while crashing... Anger and worry... Stress and rage... Care and vengefulness… Honesty and illusion...

My emotions start to play up at the memories, but I try to take Rachel's advice and push it from my mind. We're all fucked up and fucking up but we're still the same people. They're still my family and we've all got secrets, I have to remember that.

The warm water from the shower cascades down my skin, making it singe where my wounds are. Though the damage wasn't as extensive as we would have thought considering the state of the house, all the bruises have had time to fully set in now. Ugly blotches of purple, black and yellow, dot the expanse of my body, along with all the gashes.

On the superficial side I try to ignore the fact that I look like the lovechild of Pongo the Dalmatian and Bozo the Clown… because of all the fucking crossbreeds I could resemble why that one!? And on the physical side, for the most part it doesn't bother me much— aside from the one cut on my leg which hurts like a bitch— they aren't that deep and I can keep them covered with my clothes. Also, if I'm being honest, the external pain is welcome when it so nicely drowns out the internal one and keeps me focused.

The bags under my eyes and abrasions on my face are harder to ignore while I brush my teeth though… I use some make up to cover-up whatever damage I can and shove on my jeans, satisfied that the semi-loose fit of it doesn't feel too bad against my tattoo or wound.

My hair is less of a problem because, thanks to JC, tying it isn't even on my list of options. Pulling my hair back would hurt like a motherfucker so I let it fall loosely, going natural with my mane today. I look at my reflection in the misty mirror. Not bad.

I touch my fingers to the back of my scalp experimentally. Hurts like a bitch and brings on a new dizzy spell.

Fuck JC...

I grip the edges of the sink and give the room time to stop spinning. This is bad but I know it wasn't just me that got hurt. His blow was on the inside, not physical like mine. I know those wounds better, I've dealt with them longer than he has and I don't like being the one dealing it out, especially not to one of them.

I haven't heard from him, I wonder if he's okay… I hope he is.

Dammit… I really need to talk to him and make things right. Making a mental note to do exactly that as soon as I can, I pull a turtleneck over my head because it's fucking freezing and I'm out the bathroom in record time.

Scrambling around to get my bag, I stuff some shit into it, including a pack of Paul's Marlboro that's lying around. He spots me do it and snickers, tossing me a lighter from his pocket as he heads for the bathroom.

I put on my boots and walk to the kitchen rolling up one of my long sleeves, waving Rach over to ask her to please help me secure a bandage on my wrist because despite several attempts I can't get it tied properly myself.

She's glowing and chipper, looking gorgeous in a blue woolen dress and black leggings, ready to leave for work, but she goes silent when she takes a seat across from me.

"How'd a fire leave handprints on you?" she asks arching a perfect brow at me. In her fury she looks just like her cousin. Won't Jake be proud?

It's impossible not to know that she's immediately assumed that these are the result of me dating Edward. Rachel is livid and I need to shut it down quickly before things blow out of proportion.

"Look closer to home…" When I say this she looks at me puzzled so I go on, mumbling under my breath so Paul won't hear, "JC…"

That startles her.

"Ex—cuse me?" she chokes out. I don't think she ever anticipated that one.

Yeah, you and me both, girlfriend.

"Jared," Rachel shakes her head, placing emphasis on his name like I've made some kind of mistake, "Jared Cameron, left these marks on you, Bella Swan? He'd never— He loves— Jared?"

She looks at the revolting wound at the center of the blue and black impression of JC's hand on my wrist. Clear disbelief is spelt out on her face, she honestly can't fathom that he'd ever do this to me, especially on a place that had obviously been injured sufficiently enough to begin with.

"He didn't know." I answer the unspoken question. "He had no idea I was hurt there."

She begins to wrap up my hand with blatant irritation. "He's a fucking idiot anyway. Did you at least tell him what he did?"

"Nope." I pop the 'p'. Didn't seem relevant at the time. I'd already broken his heart...Didn't want to up my bitch-game and make him feel like shit about this too.

I feel like complete and utter trash again. I really need to talk to him.

"Well, you should."

"No." I shake my head and pull my sleeve to cover the bandage. "Just let it lie. You know him. He didn't mean to do it. He'll feel crappy." Crappier than I've already made him feel.

"It doesn't matter. Asshole should have known better!" She gripes then goes deathly still.

It starts to make me antsy too. "What's wrong?"

Her face is a little pale as death. "Jake is going to lose his shit."

I look at her with my head lowered. "Probably shouldn't tell him then, huh?"

She doesn't miss the fact that I've used almost the exact same words that she did last night. Rach chews her bottom lip furiously; her eyes are a mixture of worry and resolution. I'm learning fast just like she needed me to but she doesn't know if it's a good thing or a bad one. After much deliberation she gives me a firm nod, seeing it for the necessary evil that it is. This is how we stay safe and keep them safe. We're the Wolves girls.

We shove granola bars down our throat, and by order of Jake, Rach watches like a hawk as I swallow down my medication before we hurry out the door to the car.

Paul is ready too. He's heading back to La Push. Without him needing to say anything I know the job they're doing for Smokez is still unfinished, all the phases haven't been completed yet so they'll need to keep working despite everything that's going down.

On cue, following any thoughts of the house, I shiver. This dread lingers. I managed to save us by only a hairsbreadth from the explosion, but I've never once been able to accomplish that in the nightmares. I never save us in there and this feeling is a lot like those nightmares, but it's real this time.

"Hey?" Paul snaps his fingers in front of my face as Rach unwraps her arms from around his neck. "You with us, Bell?"

I throw Paul a smile. He scans the marks on my skin that couldn't be camouflaged with mild hatred. After what I saw I shudder to think what they'll do if the ever find the person responsible for crossing the Wolves by harming one of their kind. They're ruthless when they're on errands, I'm certain now.

Paul kisses Rach on the lips, then leans down to hug me too. "Stay with someone or in the open. Never alone or outta sight. Phone on you?"

"Yupp." I smile wide. My own mask is pretty impressive too. They groomed me well.

"Shout out if you need me. You'll get me on the burner." He's pleased that I get the order. "Stay safe, little sister."

Paul ruffles my hair and I hold my breath bracing myself for pain if he makes contact with the wound at the back of my head but he misses it. Tugging my sleeve lower; I make a mental note to keep that from view today and my sore head.

From what Rach tells me on the drive to school there were no signs of Jake plotting mass slaughter when he left earlier in the morning so that's good. He came in to check on me, went out to make a call and then told her he had to cut out. Paul was acting normal today too so it would appear that neither of them heard my daring and stupid confessions last night.

It still doesn't comfort Rach. She repeatedly tells me to watch my back. She means that I should be careful because of the attack at the house even though they're all hiding it from me with this bad wiring story. Edward's in her warning too because he's a Shadow Fang. She doesn't know what his intentions with me are so she still wants to meet him. She warns me against being honest about my relationship with Edward with Jake and the boys. In her head the Wolves finding out is dangerous but she's crazy cause they'd never hurt me.

Reaching over I throw my arms around her. She hugs me back tightly. My front hurts because of the impact I made with the floor but in that moment all I want to do is hug her.

"You're a wolf-girl." She looks over my shoulder at the bleak building that I have to face alone today. The students that are in the parking lot are aware of my arrival. They talk among themselves. Word of what went down has clearly spread through the school like wild fire. Today's going to be fun... "So fuck them." Rach scoffs. "Born and raised with wolves, Isabella; you're fearless. Those bitches won't even try because the Wolves will eat them alive."

I'm not even worried about them. "Relax, I got this." I wink at her and jump out the car.

She blows me a kiss and flips the fuckers in the lot the bird before she drives off causing me to laugh my head off. My phone is blowing up. I start going through it, ignoring the people around me as I walk into school.

I reply to the texts from Embry, Seth and Jake, who are headed to the Den, reassuring them that I'm in perfect health so that they can focus on whatever it is they're doing today. I fire off a similar reply to Sam who's already waiting for them at the garage.

There's a voicemail from Sarah, she says that she is coming over after school. It's followed by a message from dad. He says he's going to pick me up. My day instantly starts to look up and I feel the beginnings of a smile start.

I can handle this.


The first class progresses with no incidents. People stare and whisper sometimes, but that was to be expected. I look like shit and an explosion of any magnitude in a town like this is breaking news. No doubt, all sorts of rumors are circulating, but no one dares to vocalize anything to me so I don't give a fuck. I get a few fake sympathetic hugs and smiles from anyone who bumps into me. It's not like they can run off without saying anything. A few guys take the time to speak to me, but it's like they're duty bound, so I figure they're in some way affiliated with the Shadow Fangs, or that they hope to be affiliated with them.

The only form of actual acknowledgement that anything has transpired comes from the staff. They ask how I'm doing and appear to be cutting me slack on well… everything. I don't know if that's due to my house blowing up or my boyfriend blowing up last week but it's frustrating me either way. I've worked my ass off at this school, I'm one of their best students, I'd love for them to go back to recognizing me for that.

No such luck.

"Mr. Crowley." Mr. Banner, says just as we're seated for second period. "Can I help you?"

I'm startled, only now realizing that they're back.

En masse the students turn to where Tyler stands nonchalantly in the doorway. He's completely unfazed by the stares he's getting as he toys with the cigarette that's hooked on his right ear. Clad head to toe in black he seems to thrive off their fear. He's a threat and they need to know it or he'll remind them. It's standard behavior for the crowd he runs with.

The Shadow Fang jerks his head in my direction. "I'm here for Bella."

Aaand now everyone is staring at me. Great.

Tyler rolls his eyes, looking bored but his air of menacing coldness is still present as he pushes off the wall. The second his foot passes the threshold the students get themselves on point and go about their business. Ignoring them, he hands a note over to Banner who scans it quickly and clears his throat.

"Right, then. Miss Swan, you're wanted in Mr. Greene's office immediately. Please gather up your things. You're excused."

My eyes bug out so hard and so fast it's like they want to fly to the front of the room and read the note for themself.

What the hell did I do!?

He must be mad about the stunt Edward pulled? Or that I cut school? He's going to suspend me!? Or tell my dad!? Maybe it's because he thinks I brought a pig's head for lunch and stuffed it in my locker?

I'm freaking the fuck out, going through scenario after scenario of my various transgressions. As if reading my mind, Tyler sends me an infinitesimal shake of his head from across the room telling me to chill out. Wordlessly, I grab my stuff and trudge forward, looking to him for any sort of indication as to what's going on.

"Sup'." He gives me an upward nod, not feeling the need to stare like everyone else has even though we're face to face, and up close, and he can see some of the marks that they couldn't.

"Hey." I adjust my backpack and wait for him but he dismisses that idea by staying put.

"Nah Shortie, I'm gon' hang back." Banner stiffens next to him, but Tyler doesn't bother with him. Stray droplets of water drip from his leather jacket down toward his muddy Nikes. He leans closer to me to block out the rest of the conversation from any eager ears. "Grab your phone and whatever other shit you need and head outside. Greene's taken care of."

Tyler takes my bag from me and holds it while I fish out the device in question. When I have everything I need, he jerks his head to the door signaling that I should leave. I do. Immediately.

They're back from the house. I don't need to be told twice. I'm gone. I head down the hall in a hurry to exit the school. I'm about to swing open the doors but I hear Angela calling out to me.

"Hi. Hey, wait!" She speed walks over, heaving her heavy backpack onto her thick sweater covered shoulder when it starts to slip off. "This is crazy! I heard so much about what happened. I've been so worried. Are you okay?"

I recall Jake's reaction when Sarah asked me similar questions. "I'm good." I answer.

She hugs me lightly, her touch careful and soft. She winces when she gets a good look at me. I can only assume the bruise on my forehead has become visible again because she adjusts my hair to cover the exact spot where it is.

"Thanks, Ange." I want the attention of me badly. "What are you doing out of class?"

"I had to get an article to Jess." She adjusts her glasses, rolling her eyes and chuckling. "You know how she can be."

I do. But she doesn't really speak to me anymore.

An awkward silence ensues when Angela realizes this as well. Thankfully its cut short by an addition to our little impromptu meet and greet session.

"Bella!" Someone shouts eagerly trying to get my attention. Surprisingly enough the person sounds really happy to see me— bloody ecstatic to be more specific— but I can't recognize their voice for the life of me.

Pivoting in their direction, I find Alice, the babysitting girl from Nell' Ombra.

"Hey, Alice!"

Her smile is contagious, I find myself returning it with equal vigor. She's all punk rock in her gear, which I'm starting to gather is her signature look. Her iPod buds hang loosely around her neck swinging against her turtleneck that's similar to mine, her black tights have pink skulls printed over the knees, and she's wearing steampunk ankle boots that click against the floor as she bounds down the stairs, sprinting to me like I deal coke and she's missed her fix.

This whole time I'm expecting her to stop but she's not in the mood to keep it casual. I barely have time to brace myself before she barrels into me, wrapping her arms around me tightly.

I'm shocked out my mind and so is Angela. I'm not sure what to do considering I didn't realize we'd reached this level of 'bff', so I tap her on the back awkwardly because Pixie-cut's squashing me and I hurt like a motherfucker.

"Thank, God!" Alice says.

"Are you alright?" A hint of concern touches my voice because the girl is straight panicking. I look behind her but there's no one giving chase so I'm at a loss. Angela adjusts her glasses and watches the entire exchange in utter confusion.

"Man, are you a sight for sore eyes." Alice gulps in mouthfuls of air, she's definitely been running around for a while. She thrusts her schedule at me, her Disney-eyes large and pleading. "I have no idea where my class is. The people I asked sent me on a wild goose chase."

God, if I could swap problems with her.

Taking the schedule, I give it a once over and do a mental air punch. "Hey, we have classes together!"

Her face lights up instantly and I grimace inwardly because I know it's about to dim down again.

"Go left at the water fountain. Then straight down the hall. It's the last door on the right. You won't miss it." I direct her to where she needs to be, and then drop the bomb. I shudder. Horrible choice of words. "But I'm not going to be around today."

Like clockwork, the happy smile falls from her face. "Oh."

She sounds like I killed her cat, while screwing her boyfriend, on her birthday, and I feel really bad about it.

"I'll definitely catch up with you tomorrow though." I give her my word, while she and Angela share a tentative smile. I remember my manners. "Alice, meet my friend Angela. Ange, this is Alice. My friend from Nell' Ombra."

The title lifts Alice's spirits a bit. She smiles at me, then exchanges a quick "Hello" with Ange before she excuses herself.

"See you tomorrow." she calls over her shoulder as she speeds away.

I wish she'd save her energy, because it doesn't matter if she gets to class now or in five minutes. Late is late for the man she's heading toward. Banner is going to chew her up and spit her out.

"And where are you going?" Ange turns her attention back to me and eyes the doors I'd been in the middle of pushing open moments ago.

I swing it open and the question answers itself. Edward stands across the lot, propped against his bike, sucking on a white-bodied demon stick.

Angela inhales sharply, taking an involuntary step back like she's faced with the Grimm Reaper. She gapes at me but we both know what's going on so I just shrug.

I sense when we catch Edward's attention and turn toward him automatically, drawn to him like a moth to a flame. With his head still lowered, his green meets my brown. He exhales through his teeth, smirking at me condescendingly; the smoke hangs in the cold air around him like a sinister halo, making him look more dangerous than usual. Taking the last pull from the cigarette he lets it drop unceremoniously as he crooks a finger at me in a come-hither fashion, and mounts the bike.

Now, I inhale sharply.

"Oh yeah," Ange interrupts our moment. She peers over my shoulder, using me as her human shield against him, as she muses out loud in a daze. "Jasper said—"

I must've heard that wrong. The fuck?

I spin back to her fast but her mouth snaps shut even faster. She stares at me wide-eyed like a deer in the headlights.

Nope, heard that right after all.

I gape at her. I don't think I've ever seen Angela so red before. This is new. "When did you talk to Jasper?"

If possible she blushes even harder. It's hilarious. I almost give in to the urge to laugh. Her eyes dart everywhere but to me, she looks so damn guilty that I take pity on her.

"Talk to you later, Angie?"

She nods her head gratefully. Edward starts up the bike and I start to walk to him but Alice pops into my head again and I swing back to the school quickly.

"Hey, Ange!" I shout.

"Bella?" she spins back to me and holds the door open wide enough to speak to me while still hiding from Edward.

"Maybe, keep an eye on Alice for me will you? She doesn't know anyone at the school."

"Sure," she says, with a smile. She risks a glance in Edward's general direction, and her smile falters. "Be safe."

"You too, Angie," I smirk at her teasingly, she blushes furiously again, turning tomato red, before quickly disappearing behind the door; this time ducking away from me and not my boyfriend. I run up to Edward laughing and throw my arms around his neck.

"You're in a good mood." He arches a brow and smiles lopsidedly down at me. His hair is wind tousled and slightly damp; in a sexy disarray from the ride here. He's dressed head to toe in black, a living breathing darkness.

Like Angela when I see this shadow I seek safety too, but unlike her, the safety I seek is found in him.

Smoke and leather fill up my lungs as I burrow into his solid muscled chest, hiding in his arms. He holds me to him protectively. His towering frame cloaks me in warmth and safety, he's a shield around me. I want to lock myself there, allowing the feelings to bathe me for as long as possible. I feel untouchable in his arms. Nothing can hurt me here.

"You're here early?" I mumble into his shoulder.

"Muthafuck," he hisses through his teeth when I turn my face into his neck and bite him. Darkening the mark I'd left previously. It's like an addiction. I'm never going to let it fade if I can help it. His velvet words kiss my ear but there's a dark undertone to it. "Wanted to see you."

Liar. "You were gonna see me later, anyway." I point out.

Something about his vibe is off. I pull back and squint at him, about to ask what's wrong but his mouth descends on mine. Silencing me, consuming me. He's like a drug. His tongue sneaks past my lips, running along mine and coaxing it to play with his. Mine in turn chases after his with neediness every time it pulls away. He kisses me the way he does when he's inside me, a mindfucking contradiction of tenderness and ferocity, all-consuming love and possessiveness, mixed into one. He's intentionally distracting me. It almost works too. Almost.

"Spit it out, Shadow Fang?" I lift an eyebrow, looking at him cynically.

He stares down at me for a beat with a wicked glint dancing in his eyes. It takes me a second to realize I've just acted like him and that he's seen it too.

Edward chuckles softly, he looks carefree and amused as fuck but it fades out quickly and the dark undercurrent lurking in the stormy green puts me on edge. Licking his lips in frustration, he runs a hand through his messy hair and looks away, staring at the end of the school that hides the Lovers Tree, before turning back to me. I'm getting more nervous by the second and he can see it so whatever is on his mind is big, because it's something he doesn't seem to know how to tell me about or how to handle. A first.

Keeping his hypnotic gaze on me he reaches between us to remove his jacket instead of answering me. He drapes it over my shoulders, and threads my arms through it with so much care behind the act that I honestly think that he's afraid of breaking me.

Edward kisses my scraped cheek softly, letting his breath soothe the pain away. His hand trails up my stomach carefully, zipping the jacket as it goes, cocooning me in the warm leather and drowning me in his heady scent. I feel safe in his hands despite the ominous atmosphere around us.

"Change of plans." Edward leans back to hand me the helmet, signaling me with his head to hop on the bike. "I won't see you later."

"Why not?" Automatically my fingers clutch at him.

In a flash he brings his body closer to mine. "Fuck— Relax, mia bella. It's not permanent. I'm coming back. No escape from me. You can't outrun your, Shadow," he placates me with a teasing smile. He dips his head down and frowns, pressing his lips to my forehead and ridding it of the creases. "I gotta ride out of town for a while babe, and I don't know what time I'll be back. Figured I'd see you before heading out."

I don't buy his coolness. There's a dangerous storm raging behind it. It's like he's keeping it together but if his temper is tested he's going to lose it because something is wrong, he's angry. I can almost see the war he's waging inside his head, because he has something he has to say but he's wondering if telling me is going to send me into a nosedive. He knows about the cuts and burns so I school my features. Trying to convey to him that no matter how tough these last few days have been I'm not going to breakdown on anyone. It's a lie. But I don't care if I crumble as long as I know everyone around me is going to be fine.

The conversation with Sarah and I goes through my head again. Jake's face stands out. "I'm okay." I say automatically.

Edward looks pissed and I can't maintain my eye contact with him. He is on the brink already. He came here in a bad mood and this bullshit of mine is testing him because he knows I'm lying, he knows I'm trying to play him. The fact that he speaks through his anger clues me in that this is serious because he clearly lacks the option of not telling me anything.

"We found something."

It's like all the air around us disappears. His arms circle me even before I try to take the first step back, knowing exactly what I'm going to do even before I do it. He keeps me in place; making sure I can't bolt. I feel my heart pound against my sternum like it is banging its way out to go in search of my father. I want to see him. I want to see him now. I have to keep him safe. I have to hide him and protect him and just do something! Anything but just wait on the sidelines like everyone is trying to make me do by hiding the truth about the attack from me.

He's my father; don't I deserve to know if he's in danger? Someone is trying to kill him for God's sake.

"What?" I claw at Edward's arms but it has no effect on him. He won't let go. He leans forward and places his lips on my forehead instead of giving me what I want.

"Bella, calm down," he breathes against my skin, holding me as gently as possible given how badly I'm freaking out on him.

How!? I want to scream at the top of my lungs. I can't be calm. Not about this. I need to see my dad. To save him. Someone tried to hurt him. They almost killed him! They actually almost killed him…

How fucking dare they!?

"You're going to hurt yourself, Bella," he tries to maintain his calmness, but I wince once from pain shooting up my arm from the thrashing and I've tried his thin patience too far. "Stop!" he growls, "Muthafuck! He's safe! At work. Saw him with my own two fucking eyes before I came here." Frustration radiates off him in waves but he takes a second and watches me, trying to calm himself down. He lowers his tone. "Now, relax. He's safe. You're both safe."

I'm pissed off and scared, but in this brief moment of lucidity I remind myself to be rational or I won't get anything more from Edward. What I'm doing isn't helpful, not to dad and not to my boyfriend who looks like he's got a lot on his mind already.

Shadow knows about the scars I've given myself, if he thinks this will cause me to self-destruct I won't get anything out of him. I'm under no illusion that he's doing any of this for anyone but me; dad's just an unavoidable addition to his life because anything affecting him affects me. As Edward's reminded me previously, everything that he does revolves around me alone. Dad and the Wolves are just inconveniences that he's forced to deal with because of me. That's unfortunate for him because I'm attached to them irrevocably and he should've known that going into this with me?

Something occurs to me belatedly… "You went to check on him?..."

He doesn't reply. He'll never admit it, I don't expect him to but I can see it in his eyes. Edward Cullen leader of the freaking Shadow Fangs actually went to check on my father, the Chief of bloody Police. My chest swells with emotion and I step closer to him, pressing my lips against his softly.

"Thank you…" I murmur into his mouth, pulling back I try to say more, but he takes the helmet from me and gently places it over my head so I won't speak. The extra trouble he takes when maneuvering the helmet tells me that despite my best efforts, Edward sees through my pretenses that I'm okay so I decide against keeping up my act. The soft padding settles on me and I whisper imploringly to him, "Please, Edward?" No one is willing to tell me anything and it's driving me crazy. All I want is to, at the very least, know is what's going on. He's my father… and someone is posing a threat to his life… I'm scared. Shouldn't that be understandable? That's my dad. I need to know. I rake my brain for possible people who could be targeting him. "Is it someone from a case?"

Edward lets out a breath. "I don't know, piccola. But I'm working on it. I'm trying everything I can from my side. I swear to you, we're finding out as fast as we can 'kay?" He tugs the jacket I'm wearing. "But it's cold as fuck and you're freezing. I'll tell you everything when we get outta here, yeah?"

My heart skips a beat and I tremble. He's being genuine. He'll be honest with me… It makes me feel guilty for doubting it in the first place because when has he ever been dishonest with me? Edward is honest with me even when he knows I won't like what he has to say. He hits me with the truth every single time and lets me deal with it, helping me along whenever he feels I need him to.

Shadow guides me behind him, watching as I climb onto the bike and take my place against him. I think he likes what it symbolizes. My place with him.

"Tyler'll handle your stuff at school." He reaches up and snaps the front of the helmet down. I fist his hoodie and he puts his hand over mine, making sure I'm secured before turning back. "I'm waiting on a call but we should be back before it's out."

His specific use of the word 'should' interests me but I don't get to question him on it because we're suddenly moving. Fast.


The second we pull up to Edward's place, his phone goes off and I wait with bated breath assuming this is the one he's been waiting for. Whatever the person on the other end has to say piques his interest. He cuts the engine and walks to the far side of the warehouse, firing up the computer and reading through whatever the person's sent him.

The bike's parked close enough to the pool table for me to reach it in a few short steps. I hop up and plant myself on the familiar felt, taking off the jacket and helmet I place it beside me and sit patiently. Waiting for him isn't a problem because I have a lot on my mind too.

Dad obviously knows that he's in danger, that's why he has us in two different locations. I'm not happy being in La Push while he's in Forks but in a weird way the fact that he's keeping us separate placates me because it means Chief's got his wits about him. He's not going in blind. I'm still bothered that they got that close to him anyway, and he clearly is too which is why we're still apart.

I can understand Edward's problem too. It's the same one the Wolves would have because, if this is regarding a case dad is working, then they're going to have so much difficulty finding anything out. It's not like they can straight up march up to the Chief and ask him how things are going on his side. Dad would love Shadow Fangs dropping in to shoot the breeze so much, he'd have their heads mounted on the station walls just to commemorate the moment.

'Cause of this little matter the gangs, Wolves or Fangs, have to dig and find a way around to get the information they need. That will prove to be problematic because how do you get your hands on a Forks case file? Edward's feds in Seattle can't get hold of that information if they're not privy to the case. This takes control out of their hands so they can't speed anything up. This is why the guys are only able to do anything as the dribs and drabs that they find are pieced together and that is going to take time. That's probably what's got them all so tense. We have to follow so many avenues to even try to get ahead of whatever this is, and those avenues come with the price of time; time we may not have.

Time ticks on and while he works I end up with a plate of pasta that he's heated and brought to me. The gesture forces me to smile despite the situation. I'm not hungry, I'm too tense to have an appetite but he isn't taking no for an answer. His intense green threateningly looks at me when he notices that the plate remains untouched. It says, "Don't fuck with me," and he means it. I don't need to be told twice.

I start nibbling on the food and he continues with the conversation. The first bite makes me smile again; it's the same pasta I ordered at his restaurant the day I dined and dashed it...

The tension behind his every movement fuels my trepidation. Even from this distance I can tell how stressed he is, he's wound tightly about to snap at the drop of a hat, and fighting hard to stay in control of it. His internal frustration bleeds out of him, marring his Adonis features with sharp traces of Hades fury.

Whatever he's doing is going to be big. From across the room he catches me staring and he winks at me, smirking. It takes my breath away because I know he does it for me, to ease my worry. I've seen how he interacts with people, even his own people. He's the definition of the word sinister. Despite being his cousin, even Rosalie exerts levels of caution around him and by his own standards he's nice to her. But he's never been like that with me. He's never made me have to be cautious around him. If anything he's gone out of his way to encourage me to be me with him. Rose really was telling me the truth… he is different with me, I get to see a side of him that no one else has ever seen, and it makes me feel amazing because he consciously allows me to do that and he doesn't even realize what a big deal that is.

"I gotta hit up Seattle with the guys in a bit." His velvet voice cuts through my thoughts as he finally walks up to me. He signals to his phone indicating that he's waiting for a call.

I'm long since done with my lunch, just sitting on the table and playing with the pool balls. It's cool against my cut, soothing the abrasion. I remind myself to hide that from him. He slips a hand in my pocket, taking my phone, and fiddling with it.

"Use the burner if you need me 'kay?" He hands it back to me with the burners number stored.

He watches curiously as I erase "Edward" and type in "Shadow" instead before resaving it. When he chuckles under his breath, I throw him an air kiss.

"Is it going to be really dangerous?" I don't hide the fear from my voice. I'm worried about him as much as I am about the others.

"I'm not going to let anything happen to you." He moves closer to me. His body towering me and shielding me consciously or unconsciously. "I will never let them touch you."

He means it but I can tell he's worried about something breaking me anyway… Me. There's apprehension over what I will do to me and I can't fault him on it because he's seen my self-destructive side. My cheeks flush with shame and I dip my head down.

"Who was it?" I ask, trying to shift the subject away from me.

Edward knows what I'm talking about, he shakes his head. "Don't know yet. We got to the house just before your mutts did so we had to split too quickly." He curses under his breath.

This is news to me. The boys went there? That must be why Jake left so early in the morning. He went to check out the house. I don't know how he's doing because he hasn't returned my text yet but I imagine he's a wreck since seeing it. Setting aside the added stress of keeping this all a secret from me, he's also in the middle of working the Grey Wolves job, and simultaneously trying to deal with this attack. It must be taking a toll on him.

"From what we could tell the type of explosive that was used on your place wasn't high end. Someone with limited resources made it." Edward watches me closely, noting my reaction he goes on. There's a vein throbbing at his temple, and running down his neck. "It was delivered personally… The device was placed and whoever triggered it only did it when it was moved inside your house." He says slowly, giving me time to fully grasp the meaning. "So they were there, watching. They knew when it got inside."

I was right. Someone really had been there.

I recall the sensation I had when I first saw the package and shiver, regretting taking off his jacket. He catches it. He catches everything. His hands come up and gently rub my upper arms, lending me his heat.

"Met back with the guys at the garage, and the type that was used tweaked Jaspers interest. He thinks he knew someone back in Juvi that was in for something like that. We ran the name through the streets and turns out he was in town recently. Fucker doesn't live here so Waylon's doing some digging for me."

"That's why you're not going to be around?" I ask, already knowing the answer. He's going to Seattle to see if he can find this guy and then he's going to have to follow any leads that could possibly come from that.

He nods, then cocks a brow in question. "You gonna be 'kay?"

The nod I give him in return doesn't appear to be a sufficient enough answer for him though.

"Give me details, Isabella, or I'm keeping you here." He's quiet but lethal. Completely resolute. He's so serious that I finally see what this really is.

I almost choke. It hits me that this is the reason he picked me up in the first place.

How could I have been so fucking stupid!? Why didn't I see it before I jumped on the back of the bike?

He brought me here, because he needed someplace safe to stash me if there was nowhere else that was going to suffice while he was away, too far away to be able to get back in time and protect me if something went wrong. He kidnapped me.

Fucking bastard!

Ready to fight I scowl at him, I'm furious, I want to reach for the blade he gave me. I feel murderous. I must look it too because the bastard before me? There's barely concealed bloody amusement at my fury behind his otherwise disinterested emerald orbs— it does nothing to calm me down. I could punch him. He doesn't back down and neither do I.

"Don't try my patience, Bella." He says, seriously. He finds me cute but apparently not that cute. He has a lot to do and I'm wasting his time.

It takes a while but I give in because I know that my answer is required for him to figure out how to proceed.

"I'm going to be perfectly safe." I speak through my teeth, growing more annoyed when he ignores my griping and listens attentively. "My dad's at the station right now but I got him and the Wolves all after school."

I expect a fight because anything dealing with the Grey Wolves sets him off. I want a fight so I can release this anger and every other thing I've been feeling since this mess landed on my doorstep. His jaw is tense but I'm stunned when he exhales through his nose and just nods in acceptance.

"Good." He doesn't sound happy about it at all but he's legit saying 'good'. "Stick with 'em till I get back into town."

I blink at him a couple of times, making sense of what's just happened... He chose his house instead of Nell Ombra for a reason... He's going to need all hands on deck for whatever he's doing. They're all riding out. Too many for him to have any proper manpower left behind to watch me sufficiently at the restaurant if the worst was to occur.

"Edward, what are you going to do?" My anger cools and a dull horrible sensation settles heavily in my belly. I touch his face and he turns his head to trace the tip of his tongue slowly, sensually, along my ring finger. He licks it from the bottom to the top where he places a kiss on my fingertip. He wraps his lips around it, sucking on it till he's pulled my finger into his mouth and he bites down where it meets my palm. I hiss low, a coil tightening in my abdomen. It's tender and almost reverent how he does it. An act of complete devotion that I don't even think he realizes he's done. He pulls away, his teeth impressions locked around my finger— a ring formed in the mark of his love bite. He kisses my lips softly.

My heart pounds wildly, this time trying to reach out to him.

"The guy we're going looking for… Fuck knows where we'll find him and we gotta bring him back here if we're gonna get anything out of him while he's still alive." He says. "The people he's with are going to need some convincing to let him go."

The word "convincing" is used crazy-loosely... This is going to be really dangerous.

I swallow thickly. "Edward—"

"Stop that." He steps even closer to me, until his body is wedged between my thighs, and his chest is against mine. Aligning us, as if to remind me that he's right there with me. Reassuring me. "Don't worry about me. I'm going to be fine. Let me handle this. All I need is to know that you're safe until I get back." He dips his head so that he's looking directly into my eyes, making sure I can't lie to him.

"I am." I promise. It's the truth and he can see it. "I'm going to be with my entire family the whole time. They'd never let me out of their sight. I know you don't like them but trust me, Shadow. They will always protect me, baby."

Edward nods in reluctant acceptance, he licks his lips, his annoyance and stress is palpable in the air around us but every endearment that falls from my lips has his rapt attention. He thrives on it. It makes my pulse speed up how he despises them with an all-consuming passion but he's still willing to see me with them if it means keeping me safe. He touches my thigh, over the spot where his ink is, rubbing his thumb in small circles. I don't know if it's to remind me or assure himself that I am his. I'm marked by him. I trace the bite marks on my ring finger with my thumb.

"You really would have left me here?" I ask him, looking around the large expanse of the warehouse, to change the subject.

"Why wouldn't I?" He looks genuinely puzzled. If he didn't have such daunting eyes today it would be adorable.

"It's your house." It seems that my point is only obvious to one of us so I elaborate. "You're your home. Aren't you worried about me snooping around and finding stuff I shouldn't? Or— I don't know— me breaking out or something?"

He snorts looking at me with a mixture of impious amusement and a predatory type of affection…

"I don't care what you find. Tu sei la mia anima gemella." He chuckles at my obvious confusion when he slips into his Italian. Sexy as it sounds and as hot as it makes me it also pisses me off because I can't understand him, and my irritation amuses him which is why I think he does it. Evil bastard.

He leans down, locking me in place with his arms on either side of me. He waits for me to meet his eyes and he repeats it for me. "Tu sei la mia anima gemella... You are my soul mate."

My heart is kicking into overdrive again. I lean into him without meaning to.

"You belong to me. I already told you everything is yours. You can do anything you fucking want." He smirks and chuckles, raising a condescending brow. "Just like you finally do at Nell' Ombra."

The first thought that pops into my head is the money I took from the restaurant to pay for the tattoo and lace my pockets. My little show of ownership over him and his property, that I'd intended for Tanya and Kate, has apparently left its mark on him as well and his approval of it bleeds through despite his teasing tone. The full force of his flaming dark green eyes are suddenly sparkling with possessiveness, telling me how much it turned him on that I'd done it, how much it meant to him to see me do that.

"26426…" It's said soft and tender unlike the burning intensity of his eyes. I watch wordlessly when he reaches into his back pocket to retrieve the burner. He presses the corresponding numbers on the keypad without taking his eyes off me. He tilts the screen to me when he's done and I see what it spells out; Anima. "You don't break out of your own house, Bella…" he says meaningfully. HHis hair casts a shadow on his eyes as he turns to point to the thick solid iron door at the side of the building. "That's the code. Any time you need someplace safe, you come here. Come here any time you fucking want, piccola. It's yours."

The level of trust he has in me is devastating. I inhale heavily, unwittingly it causes my heaving breasts to rub against him and his eyes dart down to watch them.

"I'll be back at Nell' Ombra when we're done though." He smiles crookedly. "If by some fucking miracle we finish early, it should be late tonight. Just in case you want to stop by…"

I shake my head and laugh. He can be so romantic, then so crude. I don't know if he's talking to me or my rack. Much like I hadn't known if he was talking to me or my hymen back when he was eating me out the first time. I remember the feeling of his tongue there and my thighs clench, trying to close, seeking friction but that's not possible because he's standing between them. He darts his eyes down to where my legs tightened around him, holding him to me, and he smirks crookedly.

"No?" He teases. "Want me to stop by then?"

"Don't you, dare." I threaten him, starting to giggle then stop abruptly. He's got a brow arched at me. Looking amused as fuck. I know better to challenge this boy. I quickly back track. "I'm spending tonight with my family. Remember? Do not even think of coming around again. I'm going to be with my dad and the Wolves."

I peck his lips quickly to pacify him because I don't need him to drop in unexpectedly again. It's dangerous for Fangs to come into our territory. I mean it to be fast but he holds onto me and deepens the kiss. His lips are soft and undemanding against mine, it's sensual. He gently coaxes my mouth open and touches his tongue to mine. Heat pools between my legs and my heart pounds. I angle my head and run my fingers through his hair, pressing my lips firmer to his. He allows me to do it. Giving me the freedom to do what I want— take whatever I want. He kisses me harder, when I want harder.

We're such extreme opposites. A Shadow Fang and a Grey Wolf. It isn't right but it feels it. We're not supposed to click but we do— hard. I press my body against his and focus on his reactions to every move I make against him. I claw him, scratching his scalp and tugging at a fistful of his unruly mane. He hisses through his teeth when nip at the cut on his lip. I smile against his mouth as he struggles to stay in control. He's disturbed. I dive in and kiss him again. I want him to fall apart with me.

"You really won't make love to me?" I ask him softly, slowly grinding lower half against his very prominent erection.

He looks at me intently, searching my face for something, before he dips down and kisses my eyelids. "Whatever you want, anima gemella..." He lets out a frustrated breath, he's told me that a hundred times already but I'm hurt this time. Things go quiet for a long time and I can see him at war with himself wondering if he can say no to me this time. I roll against him, trying to make the refusal as hard as possible. He groans and snaps his teeth at me. He knows I'm doing it intentionally. "You fell forward?"

I nod but his stormy green eyes still scan over every scar and bruise visible to him. I can see the struggle he's having but it gives me hope because he's considering it… the best way to fuck me without hurting me… He's going to give in. I love it and it starts to perk me up.

"I thought my body can't handle it?" I tease him and he nips at my lip like a predator in response. It's playful until I try to slip away from him. His body follows mine instinctively and his eyes blaze fiercely. He growls low in his throat when I scrape my nails down his hard abs, I feel them flex as I curl my fingers around the top of his jeans. "I thought you won't let me have your dick till I beg for it?" I tauntingly throw his words at him and look at him from under my lashes, it's an open challenge, I'm pushing him.

Edward smirks back at me. He's menacing and thrilling at once. The devil staring back at me in all his sinister glory knowing I'm trying to provoke him. He pulls me forward till he's looming over me, his tall frame casting a shadow on my face. "I'm not giving you my dick, piccola."

Does he really want me to beg? As if.

He laughs low, bringing his chin to his chest so he can meet my eyes threateningly. "I'm gonna lay you on your back and spread you open on my bike so I can eat out your pretty, perfect, sparkling pussy without damaging you."

Aaand I'll beg.

I'm so wet someone needs to throw my panties a lifejacket. I'm drowning them. I don't know if the sound I let out qualifies as a cry or moan but whatever it is Edward grins when he hears it and his green eyes darken promising bad, bad things.

I squeal in surprise when he backs me up, stalking forward predatorily, till my feet stop right next to the bike. He's over me like a dark cloud; he cups my ass massaging the flesh in his large hands and locks me against him. My body hums to life. I'm encased in his iron arms but he keeps our closeness gentle as he eyes the offending marks on my face. He doesn't know where all my injuries are and that's looking to be a problem. He lowers his head to lick the shell of my ear, quickly trying to remedy that situation.

"You're not supposed to have the ink covered up." Edward whispers huskily against my throat as he runs his nose up the column and reaches down between us to grab hold of my jeans.

"Neither are you." I bite back, as I fist his hoodie.

Bastard is so smug. I can't tell if he's surprised or not that I know but I hope he is. I hope he's super impressed that I knew what it was under the bindings when I touched it at Nell' Ombra.

The fuck is wrong with me?

I mentally smack myself. The boy drops my IQ fast when I want him to drop my pants.

His answering smirk is magnificent. "Show me yours and I'll show you mine," he teases, arching his brow at me in a challenge. The double meaning isn't lost on me. Shadow presses his lips to mine and undoes my jeans. He pulls them open as much as it will go because I clamp my legs together stubbornly so he can't take them off and gain access to my ink.

Why should I give him any fucking thing when he's playing hard to get with his cock? All he's said so far is he wants to eat me out but I want it all. I need to feel him make love to me again. I need the feel of him to ease this pain. I need him inside me making me whole.

Edward looks down anyway, his grin turns wicked when he sees the fight I'm putting up. I'm hurt and I know I'm not being realistic with my demands, but I know him. He won't take it too far because he knows I'm hurt too. He treats me like I'm made of glass on a regular day, I know he'll be able to do this without breaking me now that I actually am injured and he has reason to be careful with me.

Edward tries to gently push my legs apart but I clamp them together tighter. He laughs thoroughly amused and kisses my nose. "You're gon' do it anyway, shortie."

Picking me up he effortlessly moves us both down until my back flattens slowly against the bike. My legs automatically fall on either side, straddling it with my ass on the seat and my head hanging near the handles.

"Get your hands on the handlebars and lift." He stands at the end of the bike ready to pull off my jeans.

I'm about to argue but he loses patience with my teasing. His one hand slides down into my jeans. I'm dripping. Judging by the groan he lets out he's pleased by the reaction I have to him. My arms stretch over the handle bars to keep me balanced, and my head falls back between them helplessly. It's not lost on me that he's made me do exactly what he wanted me to.

What I don't realize until it's too late though is that my body's reacting to him in more ways than one. He brings his eyes back up to my face and his brows furrow as he watches me writhe under him, my thighs open and my hips rolling for friction- with my top riding up he has clear view of gashes along my stomach from the fall; he knows I can't ride him.

"Don't move so much or I'll stop." Edward warns me. He swallows thickly, eyeing the jeans he has yet to remove. He won't be at peace until he can see the full extent of the damage and figure out how to maneuver around it. It's taking so much restraint on his part. He pulls back his hand and my hips automatically lift up to chase after magical fingers. Cocky bastard uses that moment to slide off my jeans and panties off at once just like he said he would.

All playfulness exits his stance. He goes rigid, his jaw locks tightly and a vein throbs furiously along his neck. I'm immobile. Pinned under his murderous glare.

What did I do?

The air around us is charged with something menacing. I follow his stare, wondering what has him so pissed off because I'm doing exactly what he said and not moving a muscle. But it's not me. It's what's on me that interest's him. It's the large beginnings of the scab that's formed inches from my tattoo.

Trying to bring his mind back to me, I run the fingers of my good hand along his temple and across his forehead, brushing away the strands of his unruly hair that fall into his eyes. I can't lose him now because there's a lot more, and if just these have him looking like this, he's going to lose it when he sees the rest. I bite my lip, now undecided if I want him to see the rest.

"I'm okay, Edward. I'm right here. With you." I trace the throbbing vein on his neck, then let my hand fall away. He follows it with wild eyes, almost like he's spellbound, all the way down to my thigh where I lightly finger his initials tattooed on my skin. "Make me feel good, boyfriend. Make it go away. I need you…"

He's suddenly leaning over the bike and shoving his tongue down my throat. I kiss him back with equal force, grabbing onto the handlebars again to keep from dropping even though he's using his body to keep us steady. His tongue dominates my mouth, stealing the air out my lungs and breathing life into me all at once. I want him to do the same to my pussy down below that's eagerly awaiting his attention.

When he backs away, we're both panting uncontrollably and lined with a thin layer of sweat, it makes our clothes cling to us. I tug at his hoodie and he allows me pull it off. It peels of his body along with his shirt. I see his dogtags wound around his wrist because the bandages are gone this time and every detail of the punishing new art marking his body is now exposed.

Celtic cross-shaped daggers embedded in a dark heart, spikes and vines snaking through a menacing skull with a cigarette hanging from its lips and smoking gun held in a bony hand, and several more markings I don't understand. It's intricate and stretches from his arm to his collar before it drizzles down his chest. His skin's still got a lot more healing to do but it's beautiful. There's so much going on, different pieces tied together to form a half sleeve and then some.

There's so much that I can't even decide what to focus on. I don't even know if it's a completed piece but what I do know is that this was a painful session to sit through in one go and I don't know what possessed him to do it. I think it was anger, I think it was frustration. It looks vicious, as ominous and enticing as the man it marks.

I follow the overwhelming ink from his elbow up to his shoulder, tracing the design and writing along his collarbone. I want to ask him what story they convey, if they convey one at all, but my train of thought derails drastically when I continue my journey along his skin and reach the details he's added on his chest too.

There are ascending black birds blended into the new intricate design there. They are innocent enough at first. Most are small, unpretentious. But as I trace them from his side inwards, they get larger and it forces me to look closer and closer until I reach the last one… It's that one that captivates me. For some reason I instinctively think of the part used from Adam to create Eve as I stare at the swirls and lines of black and red that are used to pattern the Celtic bird. This one isn't in flight like the rest, it's also the only one done in two colors, his colors. The bird sits proud and dominant where it; knowing its place, knowing where it belongs, and from there, its long elegant neck extends gracefully up his skin, to finally bow its beautiful head right where his heart must be. The red on this bird is so dark and it's designed so perfectly that it actually looks like its bled right out of him. Bled straight from his heart to take its shape on its perch on his rib.

It's a swan.

For the first time today fear isn't an emotion I feel. Heart pounding I shut my eyes, and he nudges my thighs apart with his hand, this time I let them open as wide as he wants them to. Inhaling deeply, I look up at him again as he stands at the end of the bike. His gaze is intense as he trails it away from mine. I can almost feel it as a physical touch on my burning skin as it moves inward.

~.~.~.~.~.~ MA version on TWCS link at end ~.~.~.~.~.~

He's magnificent, drenched in sweat, completely out of breath. I watch the heavy rise and fall of his inked chest as he stands in front of me; I can't take my eyes of him as drops of moisture trail down his torso, covering each tense hard muscle, before it dips down the defined V to disappear where we're connected.

My legs fall helplessly on either side of the bike and his body lowers to cover mine. Leaning over the bike, he kisses me softly, breathlessly, before he anchors me to him and gently pulls me up as he straightens.

He rests his head on my damp shoulder, holding me close, as I grab at him and lock myself to his body with my arms around his neck. In that moment the world seems perfect. There's no threat. There's no rivalry. There's no impending doom. It feels like we're guaranteed forever in that lone moment when we just are.

After a second he pulls back and looks at me like losing me is his one and only fear and the concept of fear is so foreign to him that he doesn't know how to handle it. If possible, I seriously think he'd lock me in this warehouse forever if he thought it would keep me safe— if he thought I'd actually stay...

"You fuck up my control." He takes one of my hands in one of his, so gentle as if he hadn't just fucked my brains out while I lay spread on his bike like his own personal porn star. He kisses my fingertips, lingering on my ring one and speaking against the pad, the vibrations shoot straight up my hand all the way to my heart. "Ti amo, piccola." he murmurs.

I understand that. God, I do.

"I love you too," I whisper back, "I love you so much, Shadow."

I feel euphoric. All pain is forgotten, endorphins hum through my body, temporarily numbing my emotional and physical wounds. I'm untouchable, safe up on cloud nine.

He presses his lips to my forehead, then my wedding finger again, and pulls away. He watches the remnants of our sex leak out of me and drip onto his bike with rapt fascination. He throws me a lopsided smile. "Fuck me. That's the hottest muthafucking thing I've ever seen, piccola." He pulls on his jeans and does up the fly.

Instinctively I try to shut my legs, shy now that I'm no longer drunk on lust, but his hands move out and slide down the inside of my thighs till they join over my sated, sensitive sex.

"Don't hide from me. I love all of this. I fucking live for it, every bit of you. C'mon." His arms hook under my legs and back, carrying me bridal style toward the sofa, he plops me down and disappears for a second, returning with stuff under his arm.

He seats himself on the coffee table in front of me and pulls my legs apart again. I'm nude but not self-conscious this time because he's not looking at me in a sexual way. "What are you doing?" I giggle when he skims his fingers over my skin, it makes him smirk.

"Taking care of my girl." He grins at me crookedly.

His playfulness is dimmed as he works though. His experience with treating his own wounds for year's shines through as he goes through his self-assigned task and cleans all the injuries that I'd left uncovered this morning, not liking them being exposed. He does excellent work of cleaning and dressing them so that my clothes won't rub against it. There's nothing sexual behind what he's doing, he's doing it to take care of me, but without him meaning for it to be it turns into the sexiest sweetest thing I've ever experienced.

"What?" he asks, aware of my gaze on him even though he's not looking at my face. He grabs a tub of goo and spreads it over my ink, his eyes trained on the movements of his fingers over my skin.

"You're staring."

"So," he smirks, "I don't complain when you stare." He laughs thoroughly enjoying himself when I audibly gasp. He's playful now. His face scrunches up into mocking despair because I take advantage of him so. "Do I express how violated I feel when you watch my cock disappear inside your hot as fuck pussy over and over… and over…" his voice drops an octave with each word until he's hissing it huskily and staring straight at me with his head lowered like the natural predator that he is, sinful and sexy. He does it intentionally, scaring me because how skittish and innocent I am compared to him thrills and amuses him, it turns him on because I'm so different to him... and he knows it secretly thrills me too.

I love the boyish smirk he gives me before he pounces, getting me giggling on my back and panting under him as he locks his arms on either side of my head. The muscles on his arms and shoulders flex as he dips his head to look at me, pouting all wounded like a puppy.

"How do you think it makes me feel when you just watch your tight, hungry little pussy swallow me up whole with a vise fucking grip on my innocent dick?"

"Innocent?" I choke. "You?!" That word should never be used in the same sentence as him, let alone his dick.

"Yeah, poor me." He juts out his chin defiantly. "I deserve some kind of compensation for the way you treat me. My dick didn't ask for an audience while he does his job. You know the kind of pressure you put my childlike mind through when you keep those big brown gorgeous greedy eyes on my tongue when it tastes you," he licks my lip slowly from corner to corner, "and my fingers when they touch you," he skims the pads of his fingers over my breast tweaking the nipple and making me cry out, "or my cock when it fucks you?" He quirks a brow and looks at me while drawing lazy lines from my heart to my stomach, going lower and lower with each stroke. "But do I complain?"

He dips down, his nose trailing my skin until his head is in between my legs. He comes up to kiss my mouth with us both on his tongue to see if I'll take it. It should be disgusting but all I feel is hot and bothered as I taste us on his tongue that wraps around mine, like he's feeding it to me. I moan into the kiss.

"I love how you react so crazy to everything I do. You're so damn innocent it drives me crazy. So fascinated, and hesitant, but so quick to learn. Innocent as fuck until I get you hot and bothered and then you're ready to play dirty with me. Only me." He kisses me sweetly, but I detect the possessive threat behind his husky voice. He loves that it's all new to me, he finds me endearing. I'm the one person he's soft with, he's willing to go at my pace. My inexperience draws him closer instead of pushing him away. He promised he'd take care of me and it apparently extends to sex as well. "I'm gonna do such beautifully filthy things with you when you're better, anima gemella. I'm gonna make you feel so good, mia bella."

I pant under him; his green eyes watch me intently as his pink tongue darts out, running across his lip till the healing cut.

"Look at how red your pussy is from me fucking it, baby."

I start to get hot and bothered just like he said, wetness starts to pool where I'm still sticky and swollen. He chuckles low. "Insatiable."


The phone call he's been waiting for finally comes not long after we're cleaned and clothed after round two. The atmosphere in the room had changed drastically as soon as the device vibrated. Reality set back in. Now I watch him wordlessly from the passenger side of his car waiting for him.

At the other end of the warehouse Edward checks his glock, tucking it into the back of his jeans, and shoves another one into his jacket along with spare magazines, before he kicks himself off the wall and walks across the floor to the car with silent footsteps. He gets inside and backs us out the warehouse. The sound of rain beating softly against the car and the swishing of the wipers fill the quiet as we wait for the warehouse door to shut.

"You remember the code?"

I turn to him and bob my head in a silent yes.

"Good." He lights a cigarette, filling up his lungs with the toxic smoke before releasing it through his nose, and jerks his head to the road. "Pay attention to the route. If something ever fucking comes up; you get your ass back here and call me."

It's neither a question nor a demand. It's a statement. I'd bet my life that he still wishes that I'd just stay here in his safe haven. I take the cigarette out his mouth and bring it to mine. His piercing eyes follow the movement deceptively calm. I take a hit and he leans his head back against the seat.

Frustration rolls off of him, his mind is not at peace at all. His muscles tense and bunch tightly, as he inhales deeply. I wish I knew what was going through his head, because he looks as if there are a million thoughts running through his mind at once. I kiss the corner of his mouth and he calms down fractionally, opening his stormy eyes, he jams another demon stick between his lips and uses mine to light it up.

Edward kisses my lips once quickly before the engine roars and we're heading out. I worry over the fact that he hasn't tried to stop me from smoking, I worry over the fact that he's so fucking stressed.

The trip back to school is silent and swift. He's clearly on the clock so they're leaving as soon as he drops me off. The burner buzzes on the console between us and he picks it up without sparing a glance at the number.

"Cullen." His voice is sharp. Whatever the person on the other end says has his mind working a mile a minute. "Whatever, we're heading out, Rose, handle it." He cuts the call. Just like that.

How rude!

I glower at him and he somehow catches it. He's staring straight ahead but his eyes flare with a wicked amusement and he smiles condescendingly as we pull into school.

"You're flashing those fangs again, la sirena. James will be proud." Though he's teasing me on the surface, I can see the violent flow of emotion hidden in those green irises. It speaks volumes of the storm he's keeping at bay in the background. I catch glimpses of his reluctance to leave me again. "You sure you're going to be covered?"

"I promise." Looking down, I laugh lightly because, really, I've survived so long without him. "I'm going to be with someone the entire time, they don't want to let me out of their sight either." They're handing me over to each other like a baton; there is literally no point that they've let me be alone since this fiasco. I can't even drive anywhere, someone is always there to see me safely off and guarantee a safe return even when it's unnecessary because that's how shaken up they are. They won't let anything go wrong. "Sixteen years alternating between a cop and the Wolves before you showed up, Shadow Fang. I can't get any safer." I wink at him teasingly trying to ease his tension to no avail. I lean across and touch my lips to his, trying to make my own apprehension subside as well. "You handle you and come back to me, okay?" I run my tongue along his lip and lick the cut that I enjoy worrying so damn much. "Watch my boy for me."

Edward chuckles, "Do the fucking same with my girl for me."

He kisses my forehead. Inhaling the scent of my hair, he exhales against my eyelids and they flutter closed. I realize too late that it's a huge mistake. I don't see his hands coming up to cup my head and tilt it up to his lips, not until his fingers make contact with the semi-scabbed wound under my hair. His fingertips brush the tender skin, and I know hell is about to break loose. The air around us turns arctic and it doesn't matter that I tried to conceal the shudder of pain because I know that he's seen it. I jerk away from him sharply, and the action unintentionally causes his fingers to press harder against the wound, and I scream bloody murder from pain.

My eyes clash with fierce green. His silence is unnatural and unnerving. Immediately I know the damage can't be undone. The black specks in his eyes flash like lightning, his jaw locks tightly, his nostrils flare, and his lips curl back exposing his teeth in a menacing sneer.

"What the fuck is that?" Edward snarls.

He looks murderous like I've never seen him before. I'm terrified of him on a level I have never been before. Even when I first him met him, I was never as afraid of Edward Cullen like I am in this moment. He's furious.

I take off from the car running like my life depends on it because there's no mistaking it, someone will die if I don't run and that person is Jared.

"NO!" Edward roars. I hear his door tear open and his footfalls as he comes after me. Grabbing my arm he turns me back to him. All gentleness forgotten. "Where the fuck did you get this?" He shouts, glowering down at me.

He's fucking furious. There's no explanation to cover this one and he knows it— I know it. He knows this wasn't caused by the blast and it wasn't caused by me. There's another person responsible; a person within reach that he can hurt a lot sooner than the person in Seattle.

"Who the fuck put hands on you!?" His voice is so loud that I actually want to cover my ears to protect them from the booming sound. The person standing in front of me doesn't resemble my boyfriend. Not a trace of the Edward I know can be found. I thought I'd seen him mad before but it's nothing compare to the hellfire that's raging in front of me right now. As he bears down on me I can't stop the tremors; he's completely unhinged— he's terrifying like the leader of the Shadow Fangs that I heard about all through the years.

I'm terrified.

This is why everyone is so scared shitless of him. This is what his reputation is built on. This side of him— the one that's dropped more bodies than the total number of years I've lived. Shadow Fang is unleashed; the man who leads them is out in all his glory and it's a frightening sight to behold.

"Open your mouth and speak, Isabella." He orders, not shouting this time. If he's trying to appear less menacing it's not working. He's disturbingly still. Deceptive. Coiled. Like a snake about to strike. The white from his eyes is tinted a raging red. I've never seen anyone look so blood thirsty in my life. He looks like he's ready to murder absolutely anyone the second I drop a name, regardless if it's his family or mine.

I stay silent. I can't give up Jared's name. Edward will butcher him. I know he will.

"No, it's not what you think." I lie.

He knows I'm lying. He bares his teeth, his lips curl into a snarl. I'm protecting someone, I'm intentionally keeping it from him— he knows that I know the person.

He knows it's a Wolf.

I'm scared beyond belief. He looks like he's about to spit fire but what am I supposed to do? JC's actual life is literally in my hands. A lot of lives are in my hands. A bloodbath between the Wolves and Fangs lies in me breaking my silence because an attack on Jared will bring war. If Edward attempts to kill Jared the Wolves will retaliate. Then gangs will massacre each other. God, knows how many of them will die.

Edward's eyes flash dangerously. Fighting against my terror, I free my arm from his hold, ripping myself away from him before he can read my body language to know I'm going to do it. Then I'm running like I have the devil on my back because I actually do.

Somewhere in my subconscious I know that I've only managed to get away because he let go of me to allow my arm free when I jerked but still I race. I expect him to be running after me again, to drag me back and demand that I point him in the direction of the person who harmed me— the person who intentionally caused this pain— the one who is more within his reach than the person responsible for the explosion— the person that he can release all his built up anger on, but he doesn't come.

I can feel his eyes on me the entire time but he doesn't say a fucking word or come after me. A chill creeps its way up my spine.

Alice cuts into my line of sight as she pushes and holds open the school doors. I fly inside the building that has failed on multiple occasions to keep Edward out. Alice has a book in her hand held up like an improvised weapon, she looks scared out her mind but she reaches for my hand, grabbing it and propelling us forward, leading us anywhere to get away from the doors.

We keep running until our legs are about to give out. We collapse against the wall outside the cafeteria.

"Who the hell was that!?" Alice whisper yells at me petrified.

"Edward Cullen." Jessica answers for me as she runs up, catching up to us, with Angela. She looks at me as if I should have seen this coming a mile away. The tone of her voice is sharp and it pierces its target with precision. Me. "Forks' lead gangbanger. Bella's boyfriend."

Alice gapes at me in shock. I don't know if it's because she doesn't believe it or because she thinks I'm fucking crazy. Honestly at this point it's all lost on me. I'm a shaking mess. I can still feel the heat from his eyes burning on my back as I ran away to protect a Wolf.

I know I should be grateful that I'm away because I have no idea how to handle this. It gives me some time to figure out what the hell I could possibly say or do to make him back off because giving up Jared's name is not an option. No matter how upset Edward gets at me, it's better than attending the funeral of either JC or him or God-knows how many others when the Wolves and Fangs clash.

I keep telling myself I have to fix this— that I have time because he's needed elsewhere to handle this shit in Seattle that I've already made him run late for— but I have absolutely no idea how to fix it.


Alice sits with me as I fiddle with the books Tyler dropped in Angela's locker for me. I've been transferring notes and doing homework to keep my mind occupied. I look at the texts that I sent to Edward when I first began.

~ Please calm down… Please... – B ~

~ Edward? I'm begging you... – B ~

~ Say something?… – B ~

~ Edward? – B ~

~ Talk to me... – B ~

~ Please... Don't do anything… – B ~

~ Baby, please? Say something... – B ~

These, along with several desperate others, remain unanswered even when I'm done with all my work and it crushes my insides slowly.

I tell myself he's driving and can't answer the texts. But I'm not brave enough to call him.

What will I say? Will he even answer? He let me go…

I remind myself that he had to be somewhere urgently. I read through my notes again but they're so simple I'd have known them even if Tyler hadn't done it. Upon closer inspection though, the writing is very feminine, so I doubt it was him who took them down for me. He probably got someone to do it then handed it off to Ange before he cut school to wait for Edward with the other Fangs.

"Are you sure this is a good idea?"

Alice looks up questioningly at my voice. I gesture to the bleachers we're currently under. We skipped our last class and considering how freaked out she was this morning about being late I wouldn't have guessed that she'd have opted to leave with me but she did.

Then again, a lot of stuff about her surprised me.

She didn't hesitate to stand beside me in front of everyone when the bell sounded. Even though it would probably secure her a spot as a social pariah. Even though she just found out that the guy that had seconds before scared the ever living shit out of us was my -justifiably- notorious boyfriend…

Alice shrugs dismissively. "Yeah, it's nothing. I've done the readings already. I'll just tell them I got really, really lost and spent the duration crying woefully in the bathroom over my miserably unfortunate plight." She blows a huge bubble and smiles timidly.

I want to chuckle despite how tense I feel but I can't bring myself to so I smile back at her instead. "Thanks… for hanging out. I don't think it's going to do wonders for your rep though." My warning is genuine. She was so nervous about switching schools to begin with and I'm a sure way to fuck up her social prospects here. I've never cared about the school but she probably will.

"Are you kidding me?" She reaches into her bag and takes out a Kit Kat. She snaps it in half and holds out one portion of the fingers to me.

"Nah, I'm good. Thanks." I look at her quizzically when she places it in my hand anyway.

"I insist." She sticks her gum in the wrapper and tosses it over her shoulder carelessly. "You have to or I'm going to feel really bad about the cigarette I'm about to bum from you."

I blink at her and she laughs. This time she manages to get a halfhearted chuckle out of me too. I reach into my bag and pull out my pack. She slips two out and leans forward to light them before sitting up and handing one to me.

"You're really dating that guy?" There's a hint of dread in her voice, no doubt she's recalling what she saw.

"Yeah." I suck hard on my demon and blow out a heavy cloud of smoke.

Her cartoon eyes are wide and scandalized, there's a slight grimace filled with apprehension on her face. "And he's really some kind of biker gangster dude?"

I don't know if it's a question or statement but I shrug in answer. I like her and stuff but I don't really know her, this is information I won't give up. It's not safe for him. "He has a temper." I answer noncommittally instead.

Her eyes bug out as if to say: I'll say!

"Then why do you stay with him?" she verbalizes instead.

I shake my head. "You caught him at a bad time. He's not like that normally." Fuck. This was the first time even I ever saw him achieve that bone-chilling intensity. "Most of the time he's…" Sweet? Nice? I don't know what to say. How do I explain that I don't see any of this through their eyes because I've grown up around it? The things that so easily scare them about these guys are perfectly normal to me. They're scandalized by even the smallest of things that they see the guys do or hear about them. "It's really complicated, but just trust me on it…"

I rub my eyes with the heel of my palm, catching sight of the cut on one of them under the long sleeve of my top. If he'd seen what's under the bandage on my wrist I wonder what he would've done. My eyes wonder to stare at my phone that still hasn't rang or beeped. Now I'm not even sure if he'd do anything at all...

"Are you okay?" Alice fiddles with the wires on her in-ear headphones, untangling them before dragging the cigarette to her mouth, "You looked lost for a second." she says as she exhales a long strip of white.

"I'm fine." I shoot her a fake smile. "How's your grandmother?"

The fact that I remembered seems to make her happy but the smile she gives me is filled with sorrow despite her trying to hide it. "She's on a steady decline… The doctors aren't sure they can do anything more."

She swipes her hand under her wet eye trying to be inconspicuous but I see it and feel compelled to give her hug. It's awkward 'because we're sitting cross-legged on the floor but the gesture is welcomed and she embraces me back tightly. I get the impression that she really needed some form of comfort. She sniffs into my shoulder then composes herself and leans away with flaming red cheeks.

"I'm sorry." Her laugh is forced and she looks embarrassed as fuck.

"Don't be." I say simply. Sometimes it can't be controlled. I know this well. "We all have our moments."

Her smile this time is real and laced with gratitude. "What was he so mad about?" she asks, wincing the second the verbal vomit escapes her mouth. "I'm being so nosey! I'm so sorry. You don't have to answer! Holy crap, Alice."

She looks hilarious and I can't help the snort of laughter I let out despite my dreary mood. I shrug dismissively, letting her know that I don't care and she perks up.

"He wanted me to tell him something but I didn't." Something really bad that I couldn't tell him.

"I don't get it. Why not just tell him and avoid all that?" she asks bewildered, looking at me like I have a death wish. There's a potent tremor of terror in her voice but there's also mild awe like I'm so brave to have done what she saw me do… Which was just stand there? "I would've sung like a canary," Alice clarifies at my puzzled look. "If he was ever in front of me, looking like that— God forbid! I'd have told him anything he wanted to hear and then some." She shivers. "He's completely terrifying. I thought he was going to kill someone."

Bless her soul… The irony…

He was going to kill someone, that's why I didn't say anything.

I can't very well tell her that though, now, can I? So I water it down a bit. "I'm from La Push. He doesn't like my friends from there… and they don't like him very much too." Understatement of the millennium.

"And the answer to his question dealt with them." She pieces it together and I once again neither confirm nor deny it. "They're like him aren't they? You're a Grey Wolf?"

Immediately I'm on alert, startled that she knows this.

"I heard some people talk about it at lunch…" she admits reluctantly, omitting the names to spare my feelings. I relax again. As appreciative as I am that she doesn't provide their names, it's unnecessary, since I already know the people she would have sat with at lunch because I'm the one who directed Angela to her in the first place. That would have lead them both to the table I used to previously occupy with my friends at school too. Alice obviously knows about the Wolves from the things they've said to her, and she's witnessed the Fangs personally thanks to me, so I decide to cut the bullshit. They're going to tell her everything anyway.

I take a deep hit, inhaling the remainder of my Marlboro and stubbing out the end. It calms me enough and I brace myself for her departure that will follow.

"Honestly, Alice, I'm probably not the best person to be making friends with if you want a chance at Forks High." I'm being truthful; trying to look out for her but she tilts her head to the side and peers at me contemplatively, her doe-eyes holding a quiet sincerity in them like she doesn't understand how my mind works.

"Too late," she answers easily with a shrug. "We're friends already. And I usually stick with my friends, not the crowd. Kind of like you." She says it with an air of confidence. I don't know if she's referring to the throw down I had with Tanya over Tia or the fact that I stick with my gangs even though she's witnessed firsthand that it can make life hell for me. "I don't think you're the type to abandon your friends and loved ones, but them," she nudges her head at the school, "I think they are."

I don't know what happened to make her form these strong opinions about me but it leaves me stunned speechless. The bell rings loudly in the background. We stand up and dust ourselves off. Schools out. Students file out of the buildings and we join them. I see dad pulling up as Alice is about to head off to her car. This time when she hugs me goodbye I do it with the same level of familiarity and she beams at me. Jessica breezes past us like a hurricane. Alice and I look at each other, blink twice, and smirk.


"Am I late?" Is Charlie's brilliant response when I run up and hug him tightly—not giving a flying fuck that it's in full view of all these evil fuckers that occupy Forks High.

Way to ruin a moment daddy-o.

"No. We just got out." I say it like I escaped prison and it makes him laugh. I feel his warm chest vibrate against my cold cheek, and relish the sounds of steady thumps I hear from inside of him before I detach myself from his awkward one-armed hug.

"Good. I thought I was running late. Got held up at the house."

"No kidding." I jump into the car and I see the backseat full of things from home. "What is this stuff?"

I reach for one of the smaller boxes as he opens his door. There are piles of papers inside. Insurances, title deeds, pictures. Feeling particularly inquisitive, I keep digging, but dad takes the box quickly out of my hands just as a familiar picture with a Christmas tree pops into view.


"Just documents I need to put in order," he says dismissively, placing it back in the backseat with the rest of the stuff before he drives us away from the Hellhole that is my school, "and some other odds and ends. Didn't want to leave anything valuable lying around so I made a trip to remove whatever I could. The house will be ready in no time though, Bells," he pats my leg and smiles widely. "Repairs just got underway."

The pride he says it with makes me melt on the inside. There isn't a person on the planet as selfless as my father. Everything Charlie does he does for others. He puts himself second in every instance and I don't want him to— especially not this time when his life is on the line. It's too big and too important. I want to protect him this time, and share his pain like he's done for me all my life, so that he knows he's not alone, he's never been alone.

I swallow thickly realizing I'm not the one he needs.

I'm his daughter; he'll never be able to look to me for support. Charlie feels like he has to be strong for me because I'm his child, it's how he's felt ever since Renee left.

It breaks my heart. I mean our house went up in smoke and when he goes back to salvage things he makes sure he saves that photo…I wonder if he was worried that it was lost. Gone from our lives just like she is... If he had been worried about it, I can't imagine how relieved he would have been when he found that the keepsake hadn't been burnt to ash. I hope it's still in good condition… for his sake.

How much must he miss her right now? Does he feel like he needs her and she's not here?

He never talks about her but she was his wife and one day he just found himself the single father of a three-year-old… Renee played a big part in his life—his friend, his wife, the mother of his child, the woman he thought he'd spend forever with. She probably still plays a major role in his life if this is anything to go by.

She left us both but he only ever focuses on protecting me from that reality even though he was the one that truly knew her and loved her.

I watch him silently as he maneuvers us through the streets, leading us God-knows where.

"Where are we going?" Hope rises inside me. "Your motel?"

I'd love to see the place. He's being very secretive and it makes me uneasy. I know he's working on something dangerous and if keeping me away allows him to focus on it— keeps him safe— then I don't mind being away. But I wish I at least knew where he is in the meantime, just for my peace of mind.

No such luck.

"The diner, I told Sarah we'll wait for her." At my quirked brow he elaborates. "She's running a little late. Car trouble. She said she's going to get Jake to look at it or use his car? I don't know how she's getting here honestly because her phone was giving out, but she promised she'll be on her way." Dad clears his throat. "I thought maybe you and I could talk?"

Bless their soul for believing Jake would let one of us use his car solo under any circumstances. It's too infamous with the wrong type of people. He'd never loan it out to us, especially in Forks, for purely safety reasons.

"Yeah, we can talk." Hope surges inside me once again.

He's going to tell me about the case? Or at the very least, about what's bothering him?

Dad parks us outside the diner but we don't jump out the car. I don't care I just need him to feed me information. I'll find a way to assist him through that not the diner. I don't care if I find I have to stay away, I don't care if I need to get the Wolves, Fangs, or fucking Terminator involved, to help. Whoever will be in the best position to protect him, I will get them, regardless of the lengths I have to go to. All I need is for him to give me some idea as to how to help him and I will safeguard him.

He yawns wide then rubs his tired eyes. He steels himself, and reaches behind us. Without needing to see it, his hand seeks out what he's looking for and he places it on my lap. I'm unable to look away from it. Every fiber of hope in my body burns away instantly.

He wants to talk about Renee.

"I wanted you to have this, Bella." He misreads my reaction. He thinks I'm confused as to why he'd ever give me a jack-in-the-box. But I do know why and that's why my heart is pounding in my chest like a sledgehammer. "It's yours. Your first ever Christmas present."

I know it is. I recognized it as soon as I saw it. The toy shakes in my lap because my knee is bouncing; I have no control over it, my nerves are shot like they were in the hospital. I can't bring myself to touch the toy. I'm looking at an object from the photograph— it's tangible because my father who never speaks of her just placed it in my lap— hits me with the force of a fucking wrecking ball.

My eyes sting. I send a thank you to JC for forcing me to wear my hair down. I blink rapidly behind my hair.

"She started hating everything after she had me didn't she?.." I don't mean to say it out loud but dad's head snaps to me and I know he's heard me speak my fears.

He pushes back my hair before I can pull away. His hands fall away like he's been burnt, and his fingers tighten until his knuckles go white.

"No, Bella." he says horrified. Making sure I hear him loud and clear. "Your mother was angry with herself and she was angry with me. Not you. Never you."

"You didn't do anything." I point out to him. A cold wind comes in through the window. Droplets of water pat down softly against the toy. It must be raining. "I found the photo of us in your room... She looked happy in it, dad." I breathe out the words. He doesn't deny it but knowing I've seen the photo seems to have him staggered. "Then what— she just wasn't happy anymore? That doesn't make any sense. I'm what changed, dad. I grew and it put a strain on everything."

I don't remember much about her but I do remember that money was always a problem, she screamed about it often before she left. Renee would yell out hurtful stuff to dad, about him and his friends being deadbeats. She hated the small town we lived in; she told dad that I'd amount to nothing but a small-town bitch as well. Completely out of the blue she saw no future here. She went from being as happy as she looks in that picture to being so poisonous almost at the drop of a hat after I was born. Not right away, judging by the picture but eventually. It was fun at first I'm sure, like getting a new puppy, but then I started getting expensive and their lifestyle declined. A baby is a fulltime job. Dad's job didn't cut it for maintaining both of us and she ran up bills and grew unhappy.

"Babies are a fulltime job. We cost time, money and attention, and the amount of it that we require increases as we grow. That's what pushed her away." It's brutal saying it out loud, like I've been slit open across my chest.

Too guilty to look up, I keep my eyes down. My vision is blurry. More water spills onto the box and I go to wind up the window but stop when I realize it's not raining. Dad's hand comes up and turns me toward him. He rubs his thumb under my eyes, wiping away streaks of tears.

"Tell me you don't really think that? You can't really believe that— Don't you ever say that again." He chokes out; his voice is gruff and stern. "She loved you, Bella. She didn't leave because of you. You're our daughter. She loved you."

I peek up at him and am startled by the deep strain etched in his features. I know he's got a lot on his mind because of his case and the house so I immediately regret ever opening my mouth to encourage this conversation. I'm about to say sorry but he silences me with a look. His severe gaze softens and his shoulders sag in defeat. I'm immediately preparing for the worst.

"Your mom had some trouble when she was younger. I always thought it hurt her more than she liked to let on. She liked to act like she'd gotten over it but I don't think she really did."

The wind howls around us. It, fittingly enough, sounds ominous as fuck.

"What kind of trouble?" I push back some stray strands of hair that blows across my face.

"You know your mother and I weren't always together, sweetheart..." he says it so softly that it's almost drowned out by the lamenting wind. Dad rolls up his window but there's a storm going on in the car and that one can't be silenced. He lets his words sink in, holding onto my hand tighter as if he expects me to run for the hills. Honestly, I'm tempted.

What the fuck is going on? So they dated other people before they got together? How is this of relevance?

"Oh-kay?" I say but my hand shakes in his because this behavior is so strange for him. I desperately want to snatch it back but I think it's calming him down so I let it stay in my fathers.

"Your mother was full of life. It was one of the things about her that I used to love the most. She was sweet, bubbly and talkative, very different from your boring old man," Charlie chuckles but it's filled with sorrow he can't hide properly. "She was very popular, and when I transferred to Forks Highs from La Push she was the first person who took the time to welcome me. She was just being polite— but for me, she became really important." he says emphatically, he sounds wistful and happy at once. It's a confusing combination. "I started looking forward to seeing her. She was dating someone already— much older than us, rich, good looking; the quarterback. I didn't stand a chance and I knew it, but there was just something about her that I just couldn't resist and we became close, closer than we probably should have but she was my first friend here."

Dad is proceeding with caution. He watches me, gauging my reaction to his every word. It's really awkward; he's out of his element, having a deep and meaningful conversation about the woman he's tried so hard to never mention before. He waits for me to process whatever he's said before he continues.

We're actually having a conversation about Renee… It's surreal.

"What was his name?" I ask quietly to let him know its okay to get the ball rolling again. I keep my face neutral but really… I think I'm my head's going to explode.

"Phil. Phillip Denali."

I nod. Okay. "And how is he important?"

A smile shines in my father's eyes. My bluntness reminds him of himself. Finding the important thing to ask, just like a cop.

"Phil leaving was important. Like I said he was older than us, heading off for college soon. Right before he left though, he and your mother had a huge fight, and she took it really badly. The second he moved away, she left with your grandparents too. They said it was because her father got a job out of state. They were only gone for a year but when she came back her whole life had changed from what it used to be." Dad pauses and I think he chooses his next words very carefully. "There were all kinds of rumors about why she left and it made life difficult for her when she came back."

I swallow thickly. "What kind of rumors?"

"All kinds, some said she left to follow Phil, others said that she left because she was pregnant… others thought it was both… kids in high school can be nasty when they want to be."

I may be experiencing a heart attack. I mean the possibility really is there, because at the rate this month is going I'm going to develop a fucking heart condition before I'm seventeen.

"And… was it true?"

Dad looks like he's having a stroke of a magnitude equal to my cardiac arrest. "She told me that they moved because of her father's job."

"And you believed her?" I clutch his hand tightly holding on for dear fucking life.

"I did." He breaks eye contact.

It's like someone just cut of my air supply. I wrench open the door and slump against the car to stop myself from falling over. Breathing in deeply I start to count backwards from a hundred. Charlie comes around faster than should be humanly possible and worriedly fusses over me.

I don't understand why he has so much faith in her that he wants me to believe in the best in her too! Does he even really believe her!?

"Breathe. Just breathe. I got you. Dad's got you, sweetheart. Daddy's here." He pulls me to his chest and rubs my back comfortingly as his voice catches. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't—"

"No. I want to know." I beg urgently between gasps. We were bound to have this conversation at some point right. We may be a few years overdue in fact. I signal him to give me a second. Throwing on my metaphoric big girl panties, I wipe my nose against my sleeve. It's disgusting but I fear stopping this conversation even long enough to grab a tissue because that may be all it takes to ruin this. I take a deep breath and hold it once I've counted down enough.

Calm the fuck down, Bella.

I regain composure and go back to leaning against the car, keeping my stance relaxed. "Sorry, it was just the weather and allergies." I ramble, stuttering slightly. "I'm okay now."

He's reluctant, but it would do more harm than good to stop now. Why he wants to defend Renée is beyond my comprehension. "You have her smile."

Aaand it's like I've been kicked again. Brilliant.

With great effort I keep the grimace off my face. I force a smile up at him and he seems to buy it. He smiles and keeps telling me stuff that he assumes will make me feel better.


"That's where you get all that beauty from Bells, not this mug here. You're beautiful like your mom," he chuckles at his own joke. "Your mother had reddish-brown hair, vibrant just like her. And when she was outside and the sunlight hit her just right, you could see the hints of strawberry blonde from her mothers side of the family shining through clearly." He wears a nostalgic smile. "Her eyes were so dark they were almost black, but man oh man, they could sparkle like diamonds when she was excited." He laughs happily, and then it slowly stops.

"That's how she used to be before she left. When she got back the light in those had died and all the rumors and bullying didn't help her out a bit. The kids were horrible to her. One day she looked so sad and alone that I skipped all my classes and stayed with her, just keeping her company because she looked like she needed it. My friends thought I was crazy, of course, but it didn't matter because she was Renee. We didn't say a word to each other until school was over, can you believe it?" Charlie chuckles. He smiles at me, it's wide enough to cause the crinkles by his eyes to show. "The entire day we were just comfortable not saying one word to each other until we have to leave each other…"

Holding back my tears I watch him get lost in that memory of her. He's so clearly still in love with her. He still believes in her despite everything she put us through—put him through. That's why it hurt him to talk about her in the past because he loves her. I'm happy I never asked him about her when I was growing up and caused him this pain before he was ready to speak about her.

"First we spoke about small things and before I knew it night fell and we were at this diner getting burgers." He jerks his thumb to the diner, his gaze is wistful.

This was their first date— unofficial— but the one that started it all... I choke back my tears.

"We spoke every day after that. She started to ease back into things, and things got better, and together we moved on…"

Or he thought they did... but he can't say out loud to his teenage daughter. I nibble furiously on my lip, feeling the distinct need to smoke. I want to cry on his shoulder, like a little girl. Anything to dispel the emotions I'm feeling from my body. I want him to cry on my shoulder.

"Her father wasn't a good man." Dad surprises me by saying when I thought our talk was over. "He was a drunk and I think he abused her. Beat her up. She used to have bruised arms… and those cuts and scars on her legs and the long one on her stomach. Some of those long ones, the one on her forearm and the one on her stomach especially didn't ever go away. Those burns, bruises and marks she always had couldn't have come from nowhere."

I suck in air sharply through my teeth, it makes a low whistling sound without me meaning for it to. I hear nothing that he says past that.

Those burns, bruises and marks she always had couldn't have come from nowhere. Bile rises in my throat. I want him to stop talking. Now I need him to stop talking. I fist my hand digging my fingers into the wound on my palm, trying to keep it together but it's not working. I'm going to throw up.

He said it was her father that put the marks on her. She didn't put them there herself. Calm the fuck down, Bella! I scream in my head, trying to stop hurting my wound but I can't. I keep doing it until the pain on the outside quiets the pain on the inside.

I feel faint, like I'm going to blackout. I look at him through the curtain of my hair, allowing it to stay between us because I need the protection. My hand throbs and I feel a massive migraine is coming on, but I concentrate hard to steady my breathing.

"I always suspected that but Renee never said a word against him even when we were married." He lets his chin drop and puffs out his chest before sighing in defeat.

Dad wishes she'd have let him protect her. There's regret painted across his face. He blames himself, not her. I want to convince him otherwise but I can't find the words. I think he became a cop because of her… Renee brought out my father's need to protect people, especially her… and that very same job she inspired was what she hated him for, what she cursed him for because in the end it wasn't good enough for her.

"We we're still teenagers when her parents passed away…"

"That's when you married her." I finish for him and he nods.

Anger and sadness are pushing and pulling inside my head, fighting for dominance. Anger is winning.

She didn't just leave. Renee made sure she broke everyone around her first. She made sure she broke him before she split. I remember all the stuff she used to say to cut him down. I remember dad not being able to make payments on the fuck-ton of bills she ran up before she left and how every time the mail came it had a big red stamp on it. We almost lost the house because of her after she left. I remember going into dad's room one night and seeing his eyes red. He told me he was tired but even at that age I knew it was a lie because his eyes were wet. I'll never forget it because the next day Billy and Sarah took me away with them and dad stayed at home alone and started working more. He used to split his time between the station and La Push for years wearing himself thin so he could be around me. He worked himself to the bone to keep us afloat and get us back together. The bitch intentionally destroyed him when he had saved her.

"For the time that we had, we loved each other, Bella. Beyond that we always, always, loved you. She just wanted more than I could give. It didn't have anything to do with you." He looks at me with soft eyes, trying to pick the right words to use for me. "Your mother's not a bad person."

"Yeah?" I snap, losing momentary control. My thumbnail scrapes against my palm irritating the burning skin. "Then why'd she screw us over before she left?!"

I expect him to say, "Language, Bella!" Instead, he really looks at me before pulling me closer and hugging me tightly with both arms. "I don't know, kiddo. I really don't know…" he tucks my head under his chin and his voice gets thick with emotion, "I don't know why she changed, I don't know or care what she did or didn't do, all I know is she gave me you, and that's all that matters. Your mom was good, kiddo, she gave me the moon."

"I love you so much dad." My voice is soft with tears but I say it with undeniable conviction because he needs to hear it. Dad feels guilty for having not told me all of this earlier. He expects me to be furious with him. I'm not. I hug him tightly around the waist. I love him so much.

"Love you too, kiddo." he whispers back before clearing his throat. "Right, let's get you going before Sarah decides to hunt you down herself." A telling grin works its way to his face as he looks over my shoulder and I know she's here.

Wiping my eyes, I lift my head, turning to face her. Sarah is dressed in blue jeans and a white-grey poncho sweater, unintentionally and unknowingly donning her son's colors. I feel hollow inside but seeing her walking up to us helps ease it. Today's been a day scripted by the anti-Christ himself, it's sucked that bad. I don't think it could ever get any worse.

Sarah comes straight to me, engulfing me in a huge, warm, tight hug; it's filled with her love. "How are you, darling?"

"I'm good." Lie. I bury my head in her shoulder and let the smell of her shampoo wash over me. The familiar scent is comforting. I never want to move away and she doesn't seem to want to let go off me either. Dad and her exchange pleasantries while she holds me as if it's the most natural thing in the world— and it is natural because she's my mom. Sarah has been my mother every single day of my life since I was three. "Where's Jake?"

She looks back at her car and laughs. "Jake is returning a car to a client."

Ah, he's stuck in Montesano.

"He had Seth stop by after school to take a look at the car for me." Sarah is none the wiser, she doesn't know Seth hasn't even been to school today, he's been at the Den. "Running good as new now."

"That boy is going to be a great mechanic," Charlie praises my favorite twit.

Thank God, the boy in question isn't here to hear it or I'll never hear the end of it. Seth's ego needs no boosting.

"He'll probably join the shop with Jake, huh?" Dad goes on with pride evident in his voice and Sarah nods her head enthusiastically in agreement.

Oh, boy. If you two only knew.

"Where are we going? What are we doing?" I bounce on the balls of my feet as a chilly breeze picks up around us.

Sarah raises a brow and grins at me. "Nowhere. We're here. We grab lunch then I'm going to relax and applaud you encouragingly as you finish your homework." She waves imaginary pompoms in the air.

The joke is on her because all my work is done and dusted. I grin smugly at her and she kisses my temple laughing even though she doesn't know my secret.

"Then if we have time we'll go for a drive and do something." She looks to Charlie for an okay.

"We'll have time." I butt in. Dad looks down at me quizzically and I shrug a shoulder. "I'm not working today."

"Perfect." Sari says delightedly, pulling me to her side.

Dad laughs quietly and brushes back my hair. He sees the black mark on my forehead and his mouth sets into a thin line. The explosion is at the forefront of his mind again. He's in Chief Swan mode.

"Can you meet us later?" I pull his hand away trying to get his focus elsewhere. "We'll grab some food and bring it to the motel?"

"No!" he practically barks out the order.

Sarah starts next to me too so I know it's not my imagination. Her grip on me is tight, she instinctively pulls me closer to her; if it was possible I think she'd bury me inside her body.

Dad rubs his thumb between his eyes. "I need to be at the station now but I'm going to meet Billy after work," he both sounds and looks remorseful for his outburst, "so how about I see you guys at the Res and I can bring Bells back with me tonight?" He smiles but I'm still in shock.

What the fuck was that? Is he even staying at a motel or is he at the house?

"Sounds good," Sarah answers for the both of us because the tension is thick. "More girl time for us. We'll see you boys tonight." She smiles.

Dad gives us a salute and reaches into the car to retrieve my bag; he places the jack-in-the-box inside and hands it to me. As I take it, he leans in and kisses my head quickly. "Love you, kiddo."

"Love you too, dad. Be careful dad, please."

"Always am." His keys jingle as he offers a salute to Sarah and walks around the cruiser. He gets into the car and calls out the window. "I'll see you later."

We nod and watch him drive away. Sari breaks the silence. "You've already done your homework haven't you?" she says knowingly. It makes me smile and she laughs. "What am I going to do with you?"

I check my phone. There's still nothing from Edward. I start to wonder if there ever will be… This was big. I think he's done. He's finally had enough.

"Well, we've got lots of time." I say, "I'm sure you'll find something."


"Anyone ever tell you a watched pot never boils?" Sarah diverts my attention away from my phone. The battery's hanging on by a thread anyway so it's pointless staring at it any longer.

"A wise woman," I say with a playful smile so my gloominess isn't visible to her, "once or twice." My eyes unconsciously start to move to the phone again.

With pointed look Sarah grins down at me, laughing lightly. "Then maybe you should listen to her, little one."

"Sorry." I mumble thinly just as I hear it die out.


"Anything you want to tell me?" Sari feigns innocence.

I shake my head in the negative and am grateful when she moves on instead of questioning me. She holds up the two types of cheese she's been trying to make me choose between for what I imagine has been a while. I nudge my head in the direction of the Ricotta and she drops it in our cart. The instant her hand is free it falls to her middle and rubs between her side and bellybutton.

She's done this several times since we left the diner but every enquiry I make about her health is shot down with a dismissive smile and her saying it's just nerves because there's so much to do in such little time.

We're fully stocked now so we can leave. Good thing too because after grabbing a small lunch Sarah decided to hit up Port Angeles for some groceries. Considering that we'll all be in La Push tonight after the incident she wants us to have a proper family meal. If we don't leave now we're going to get home too late to start dinner.

Jake called a little while ago to say they'd be leaving once Papa Smokes is done examining the merchandise. I now know enough to know this could be a whole host of things besides the boosted cars. I'm choosing to ignore it for the moment so that I can focus on having my family with me in a few short hours—aside from one person who isn't allowed in the Grey Wolf territory, is too far away, and also isn't speaking to me.

Despite the dreary atmosphere part of me is grateful and excited about having a normal dinner with everyone. Near death experiences put life into perspective.

We need to get back and cook for the family dinner. And yes, I do mean 'we'. Sarah— by far the person with the largest amount of faith in me— has assigned me dessert duty. Seth who's probably already at the house with Dad and Billy, and Jake who should be en route home from Montesano, will be pleased to know that I have opted to be merciful this night and picked up some ice-cream. Food poisoning isn't something I want to add to our list of problems.

The drive back is silent and long. Really bloody long. I could push the car home faster.

I chance a glance at Sarah to see if there's a particular reason we're driving at a pace that could legit have us lose a race against the grocery cart we used at the store, but as if she senses me looking her foot presses down on the gas. The speed only lasts until we've reentered Forks.

We've barely driven five minutes past the welcome sign when Sarah lurches forward, grabbing her middle with one hand. She jerks the wheel, getting us off the road, and I hear the tire blowout. The sudden movement causes my seatbelt to lock, throwing me against the seat and making it difficult to reach her while she struggles to free herself from her one.


I get the belt off me just as she throws open her door and vomits violently onto the grass. I sprint around the car with wet foliage tangling at my feet, and the mud helping it harbor my movements. Holding back her hair, I cup her face with my other hand, touching her forehead, trying to figure out what the hell is wrong because she can't answer me through retching. Sarah is hot to the touch but her skin is paling enough to make me look tan.

"Sarah, what's wrong? Sari?" There's obvious desperation in my voice because she's still throwing up. I run my hand up and down her back as she continues to expel the contents of her stomach. Her body is weak and getting weaker. I tie her hair haphazardly into a bun to keep it out the way of her puking and tap her face when she starts to wilt. "Keep your eyes open." Her eyes shut again. "No... Look at me Sari... Do you have your phone?"

Her arm shakes as she feebly lifts it, pointing weakly to her bag. I dump the contents on the floor of the car and scramble for the phone. The weather is building up to level Armageddon so there's no fucking service.

Fucking brilliant.

Sarah breaks into gut wrenching sobs, holding her stomach, and I grab her hand. She squeezes it tightly. She shakes her head from side to side, almost rolling in pain.

My arm flies around her when she tries to get up, supporting her weight as she sways unsteadily. Her body is shivering and weak. She starts to fall and in my attempt to steady her I make contact with her once flat abdomen, it's distended now. She cries out in pain the second I touch her. My hand flies away. I'm shaking in fear.


Sarah drops to her knees on the muddy ground. It's almost as if it happens in slow motion. Reacting on instinct I reach for her again because I need to get help but I can't leave her on the ground. Every attempt I make to get her back in the car is met with a shake of her head. She's delirious with pain.

"It's going to be okay. Trust me, I'm going to get help but I need to get you in the car, mom." I sound confident even to my own ears; it's a miracle because I have no fucking idea what to do. The tire's blown and the phones are out. The weather is getting bad. The wind picks up again, bringing a drizzle with it this time. I need to get her out of the storm that's coming. "Please get in the car for me, mom. Come on…" Kneeling down to her I hook my hands under her arms as carefully as possible because I don't know what hurts and what doesn't. With some effort I manage to get her into the backseat just in time before her body seems to give out. Sarah collapses against the seat and starts to force out bile and traces of blood.

"Mom!" I scream.

Tripping over myself to get to the other end of the car, I open the door and tilt her head to stop her from choking. Rubbing her back helplessly is the best I can offer until she stops throwing up.

This isn't fucking helping. I need to get help.

"Sari, I'm going to get help, okay?" I don't want to leave her but I need to. She's burning up badly, white as a ghost, and covered in sweat. I push damp hair off her face, and hold the hand she's squeezing to her abdomen. She places her other hand atop mine and squeezes it. "It's going to be okay." I promise her. "I'm coming back with help. Don't be scared, mom."

For some reason she smiles at me. Her lips are pale and the smile is weak but it looks almost as if she's trying to tell me not to be scared. I'm not. I'm going to make sure she's okay. I kiss her flaming forehead and hop out the car, breaking into the sprint of my life.

There aren't any cars on the way except for a black fancy Beamer but it speeds past me when I try to flag it down, almost running me over.

Son of a bitch!

I continue running. As soon as I see the familiar streets I try to run faster. My muscles burn in protest but the adrenaline pumping through my veins helps me fight against the exhaustion and dizziness. I'm almost certain there's a payphone around the corner that's coming up. The instant it's within reach, I snatch it and dial 911 like a mad woman.

I'm panting into the phone but I go through the motions and feed the dispatcher the info that she needs as quickly as I can, before slamming the phone back down and pivoting to run back. I return to the car to find Sarah's passed out in the backseat.

I tap her face, calling out her name but she doesn't wake up. Tears form in my eyes. My only consolation is that she's still breathing. Her hand remains on her abdomen so I rub my hand up and down hers to ease the ache while I wait for the ambulance.

"It's okay. They're coming." I chant to her and wait for the sirens. I hear them eventually. "They're here." I say in relief.

I get out the car and out the way as they rush to us. Her hand slips out of mine as they take over. There are two of them, a young woman and a graying middle-aged guy. Snatching my bag, I shove the phones and the keys inside, keeping myself ready for us to leave.

"Can you tell us what happened?" The male asks.

"We were driving. She got this really bad pain in her stomach and couldn't get up." I parrot the events to them quickly as the female starts to check Sarah. "She threw up a lot and she's been unresponsive for a while now."

I watch powerlessly as they speak to each other in medical terms I don't understand.

"What's her name?" The female directs to me over her shoulder as they cross Sarah's arms over her chest and move her to the gurney.

"Sarah Black." I lock the car and follow them in as they put her into the back of the ambulance.

"You're her daughter?"

I want to say yes but I know she means a blood relative. I shake my head as I sit down. "Like her daughter."

She shuts the door behind us. Her partner starts up the vehicle and the sirens blast loudly as we're propelled forward. She reaches for a needle and I divert my eyes.

"Is she on any type of medication?"

"She is. She's on something, I've seen her take it a few times but I can't remember the name." My frustration is evident in my voice. I know this is an important question but Sarah's never shown me the medication. She tried so hard to hide that she was sick that I have nothing useful to offer these people that are trying to fix her.

My knee bounces nonstop. I try Jake on Sarah's phone when the signal comes back up but there's no answer, I leave him a message, and try Billy next but the battery dies out before he picks up.

Fuck my life. Are you kidding me!?

The sirens blare outside, I focus on the flashing lights and the streets as they blur past us. I can't see Sarah white as a sheet, strapped to that surface as a stranger sticks tubes and needles in her.

It doesn't take long to get to the hospital. I'm in daze but I answer them to the best of my knowledge. I know it's not enough though. Sarah being lucid, or Jake or Billy showing up would be more helpful but neither is happening.

I rush after them as they move her. The female doctor attending to us shoots off to the staff on hand what could possibly be orders or stats or a pizza order for all know. I hear "Peritonitis" or "Peridontis"—something to that dinosaur-sounding effect but I can't for the life of me understand a word coming out her mouth by that point because they're speaking so quickly in medical terms I don't recognize.

When she says something about preoperative testing and internal scans though I know I need someone to show up, because surely this process can be sped up by cutting out some of the testing that wouldn't be needed if I had more information to provide them with? I follow them as they wheel Sarah away up until I'm not allowed to anymore. The doctor turns to me and tells me to call her family. I'm on it.

"Can I?" I gesture to the phone on the counter and the nurse at the station nods. There's a payphone not too far away but I only notice it after Billy answers.

"Hello." There's jovial chatter in the background, whatever joke is said causes him to laugh. We're running so late, dad must be there already. It's a relief. At least they'll all head over together.


"I've been trying to call you." There's a smile evident in his voice even though he's reprimanding me. It doesn't last long.

"Our phones are dead. Billy, I'm at Forks Hospital—"

"Are you okay?"

I remember Jake's face again. "I'm okay." They need me to be in check. "It's Sarah. You and Jake need to come in."

"What?... What happened?" The alarm in his booming voice causes dead silence in the house around him. "Is she okay?"

"I don't know yet. They just took her in." I answer him calmly, ignoring the tears that fall when I blink. "I don't know if Jake got my message. Call him please? They need one of you to come in as soon as possible."

"I'm on my way kid." his voice is shaky. "Seth, get Jake."

My hands start to tremble again. It's nothing short of a miracle that I've been making it to keep things together up until this point. Panicking wasn't going to be of any use to anyone but now that I'm alone everything is starting to catch up.

Taking a second, I regroup and move to the payphone because Rach needs to know what's going on too. I try her twice but no one answers. I sag in defeat when the third call goes unanswered as well.

I give up; we really should toss our phones out a fucking window.

I can't for the life of me recall Paul's burner number offhand so I'm forced to leave Rach a message on her machine similar to the one I left for Jake on the way to the hospital.

My walls really start to come down crumbling when I hang up. All my energy is suddenly spent. I'm exhausted and alone, and I really need someone here with me in anyway or form.

What's wrong with Sarah?

I shove coins blindly into the slot and wait for the beep because for this call I know I'm going to get the machine. But I'm desperate and it's the only number I can think of offhand so I don't care. It rings and rings before the office machine picks up.

"I know you're so angry with me. I don't blame you." I lick my quivering lips; it tastes salty. "But I'm at the hospital. Sarah—" I force myself to breathe to stop from crying. It's harder to not let go because there's no one on the other end of this call that I have to be strong for. As if my anxiety is a living entity and it senses this crack the vulnerability I've been trying to keep at bay starts to leak into my words. I'll break down on the phone if I don't keep this short. I try to calm down. "There's something wrong with Sarah. They're running tests and I can't really help until someone from the family gets here. And I'm just… I don't know—" I'm incoherent. Try as I might I keep drawing a blank. I don't know what to say? I need you, Edward… Please… You've been ignoring me since school… "This is so stupid—"

My head shakes at the sheer absurdity of it all. I'm calling Edward Cullen because Jacob Black's mother is in hospital. He hates her, and anyone else associated with the Wolves. He's told me this. He hasn't even tried to return any of my messages all day. Today I saw him reach a level of fury that could contest the wrath of Lucifer himself; and I'm calling him up to tell him this!?

I don't know how much more he'll take, or if today was the last straw and he's finally realized I'm more work than he signed up for. My chest tightens painfully, leaning toward the latter because today was a huge fight. I literally refused to give up a name to him. A Wolf name. I protected the Wolves and ran from him to do it.

I don't even know if we're still even together so why am I calling him and telling him all of this?Fuck, I'm not even talking to him; I'm conversing with his machine at the office!

"My phone is dead and I don't know the burners number offhand. And I just really wanted to talk to someone... Because I— I don't know what to do…"

A cry slips out and knowing I'm about to break, I disconnect and walk to the chairs near the nurses' station to wait on any update on Sarah. I collapse onto a seat just before my legs can give out and pull my knees up to my chest and hug them tightly to me. Tears stream down my face as I picture Sarah's pale unconscious one.

Nurses rush past me. Another patient's just been brought in. My heart immediately goes out to the boy who runs in after the stretcher screaming for his father who's bleeding profusely. The boy is pulled back by a woman who I assume to be his mother. She shushes his cries through her own. They watch grief-stricken as his father is taken through a set of doors. The woman holds her chin steady with visible effort and walks over to the nurses' station, filling out and signing the forms that they hand to her, while still making sure to support her son.

She's there for him even in her own hour of need. I think back to the smile Sari gave me before I left to get help.

This is a mother. This is this boy's Sarah.

Wiping my tears away, I wait impatiently for anyone to come to me with news on her. My leg bounces nonstop the whole time. Every second that passes is more agonizing than when I was the one in the hospital room. Was this what it was like for Sarah when she was waiting for news on me out here after the explosion? It's a horrible feeling.

In my peripheral vision I notice a familiar woman walking up. She hands in a file to one of the other nurses.


She's startled at first when I call. I must look hysterical when I spring up, because she walks quickly toward me.

"I need help please?"

The serene way about her is exactly as I remember it. Jane places both hands on my shoulders and steady's me when I sway precariously on my feet. "What's the matter?"

"Sarah Black, she's—" I point back to the end of the hallway where they'd originally taken her but stop when I see that Sarah is being brought back out at a frightening speed. There's another doctor with her this time; a male one. He's tall with striking blonde hair; his features are alarmingly familiar but they move too fast past me for me to place them. I catch a flash of green eyes as he has Sarah wheeled through the same doors the bleeding man had been taken through moments ago. "Where is that?" I stab my finger toward the doors. "That means they're going to start operating or something, right?"

She peers past me and nods her head. "Yes, honey. That's why they'll be going in there. Is someone with you?" From the soft tone she uses I can tell that I resemble a freaking train wreck. It makes her feel merciful apparently so no complaints here. "Wait here for me," she steers me back to the chairs, applying downward pressure to my shoulders so that I plop back onto a seat. "I'll go see if I can find out what's going on."

Every second I don't hear back from her fills me with trepidation. I can't stop feeling Sarah's grip slipping from my fingers. I feel like I'm losing my parent. There's a gentle tap on my shoulder, it brings me to attention immediately.

"They've taken her in." Jane looks down at me. From the expression she's wearing I can tell that this isn't supposed to have happened. "We're going to need these forms to be filled and signed as soon as a family member comes in." She points the papers, speaking very quietly. "How well do you know Mrs. Black?"

"She's like my mom. I've lived with her since I was a baby." I'm trying hard to convince her to ask me for whatever she needs but it looks like she doesn't need to be convinced. She nods, trying to silence me quickly as she looks around us nervously.

"Okay. Anything she's allergic to?" She asks in a formal, albeit soft, voice. We do a short rapid-fire Q and A process until she's got enough from me, and asks for the name and number of Sarah's doctor in La Push. Then as fast as she came she races off.

I don't know what's going on, but this is a private hospital and it's obvious they've broken some kind of protocol regarding Sarah. Why they've overlooked their rules, I have no clue, but this is one gift horse I will never look in the mouth.

"Thank you!" I don't know who I'm talking to but relief can do these things to you.

"Miss, Swan?"

I'm shocked to be addressed by name. I turn to the male nurse that's looking at me for confirmation that this is in fact the name I respond to.

"Yes," my reply is laced with trepidation. "Is something wrong with my mom—I mean Sarah Black?"

"No, ma'am," he gestures for me to follow him. "There's a call for you at the nurses' station."


Billy must have given him the number. I take off ahead of the nurse and snatch up the phone.

"Jake," it almost sounds like a prayer leaving my lips. I brace myself with my free palm against the desk. "Jake, please, hurry."

"The fuck?"

The sharp voice on the other end isn't Jake. I gulp audibly. "Edward…"

"You 'kay?"

"I'm fine." I don't know where we stand, and he sounds on borderline pissed off with my opening line, so my reply comes out uncertain. He doesn't seem to care one way or the other. My throat tightens. "Are you leaving Seattle soon?"

"In a bit." his reply is concise.

There's a long pause, neither of us says anything and I genuinely fear that he's going to hang up on me but his velvet voice finds my ear again.

"She taken care of?" The question is blunt. There's a dark calmness to him that scares me; it makes me feel lonely because he's so distant from me in spirit right now.

"Yeah… They just took her in."


"Hmm." I mumble quietly. I'm not sure how to respond to him for the first time in a long time. It's been so easy being around him lately that I completely forgot that at one point I was tongue tied from sheer terror every single time he was around. I forgot that talking to Edward Cullen period wasn't as natural for me as it feels now. My heart breaks a little when I realize that not once has it ever been the other way around though… From the very first time he spoke to me he was flirty and persistent— he was open. He's none of those things at the moment. My eyes well up. I've lost him? "Edward…"

"What, Isabella?" I can almost picture him pinching the bridge of his nose.

I whisper through my tear clogged throat meaning it with my everything. "I love you, Edward, I really do."

"The fuck did you just say?!" The voice comes deadly thunderous directly behind me, echoing from the force of it.

"Bella?" Edward questions, his voice immediately hitting a 180 from the unconcerned detachment he'd had seconds ago.

The hairs at the back of my neck abruptly stand on end. Time stands still. I feel every drop of blood drain from my face; goose bumps erupt on my flesh covering the entire expanse of my body. I whip around, praying this is a nightmare. This can't be happening— but it is.

Two pairs of once warm brown eyes are glaring back at me, darkened to the point of being as black as death itself. The violent expression on the stony faces they are set on causes my airways lock in fear.

"What the fuck did you just say?" he repeats taking a step forward.

I let out a strangled whimper trying to step back but my brother just glowers at me. "Jake…"

I hear Edward yell out an expletive followed by my name loudly. Sam rips the phone from my trembling hand and sends it crashing to the floor.

The male nurse comes around, immediately picking it up, and opens his mouth as if to speak his displeasure. I think he's going to throw them out but the words die on sight of them. They dwarf him easily and one look at the blind fury displayed on their faces and his face pales. They haven't even spared him a glance but he steps backwards with his hands raised, palms open, until he's as far away from them as the counter will allow. "I—I didn't see anything. I didn't. I wasn't even here." He bolts down the corridor like a bat out of hell.

My own fight or flight instinct kicks in. For the first time in my life when faced with them I feel like I should flee too. There's danger. Warning bells are ringing insistently in my head but I've lost all motor control.

I'm vaguely aware that someone in the distance is wheeling Billy towards us, but the myriad of unfathomable emotions flashing across Jake and Sam's face hold me captive.

"Kids!" The worried tremor in Billy's voice cuts through the tension like a blade, snapping my attention to him. His shivering hand seeks out mine, clutching onto it for support, I squeeze his hand back offering him whatever comfort I can. "How is she? What's going on? Did they say anything?"

I shake my head. "No. They're still with her."

The silence and stillness of the older Wolves shadowing Billy shakes me to the very core. Their unblinking eyes don't shift from me once. Seth lets go of Billy's wheelchair and looks between the boys and I in confusion.

To say Sam's face is grim would be a severe understatement. The lead Wolf holds me to the spot, physically rooting my feet to the ground with just that one fierce look. Beside him, Jake's body vibrates with an unparalleled fury. Veins protrude all over, mapping the clenched muscles on Jake's rigid frame in an angry path that leads up to his ticking temple. His jaws are clenched so tightly that I'm surprised we can't actually hear the grinding of his teeth. The coldness from their glares is unprecedented.

"They need some stuff filled out." My fingers grab the paperwork, clutching it tightly in my hand as if it will protect me. A barrier between them and me, something I would have never dreamed of needing even in my wildest dreams. "I'll wait for Dad and we'll handle this stuff if you want. You should go through."

"Oh, good," Billy breaths out in slight relief, "You touched base with him. I tried the station and his phone but couldn't get him."


Where the fuck is my dad?

"I'll handle these." He takes the papers, completely unaware of the blow he's just dealt me. "Let me know when Charlie gets here. Who can I talk to?"

I point blindly to where they took Sarah and it's only at this point that Jake blinks. He shifts his gaze to where I'm pointing and then grabs hold of Billy's chair, practically sprinting toward the door. Sam hangs back until Billy passes.

No one can account for my father's whereabouts? It's a more pressing matter than the fact that I've been found out by the Wolves. I wait outside, unmoving, while Sam signals Seth to follow him.

Dad where are you?

Just as Seth is about to disappear past me I grab hold of his hand. Despite Sam's obvious agitation, Seth stops immediately and looks at me curiously. There's no trace of his usual playfulness, it's probably the most serious I've ever seen him. He's not stupid; he can tell something is very wrong with the situation he walked in on. I know the subtle hints of concern I detect his gaze will die out as soon as he finds out what I've done, but I can't bring myself to worry about that right now.

"Lend me your phone?"

Sam's muscles flex dangerously, his jaw clenches as he grits his teeth harder. Seth can see it too but he silently hands me his phone anyway before walking off with the head of the pack to wait for Jake at the other end.

With clammy hands I try calling my father again. It rings almost endlessly before going to voicemail. I try again and it's the same outcome.

This isn't like him at all.

Maybe he hasn't heard his phone.

I'm about to try again but Jake walks back into the hallway. Ignoring Seth's questioning gaze, he marches straight to me and grabs me by my upper arm. He's flanked by the other two as he hauls me to the secluded area near the stairs, but we're moving much quicker than they are.

I shout out and ask him to stop but it falls on deaf ears. My feet barely keep up with his long strides. If it wasn't for the painful death grip he has on me I'd be flat on my face. Jake flings me forward, using my arm to twirl me around to face him as he does it.

"Jake—" I cry out from both pain and shock. Face to face with someone who looks like my brother but also doesn't.

Jake says nothing and he doesn't have to— his deadly stare is suffocating enough for me. His body vibrates with barely contained rage. He's a living cyclone, ready to destroy everything in its path. I'm in his path.

I think back to Rachel's warnings. "You've never seen him angry, Bella… He keeps you far away from real Wolf dealings so that you don't see him like that… You want to tell Jake, then you make fucking sure Edward is right there with you... You've never seen him pissed... We know who they are but don't forget what they are… They will crush you…"

I wish she was here, I wish I fully comprehended her warnings when she first laid them on me. I honestly don't know what's going to happen next because two of the guys I've spent my life with are a distant memory, seemingly from a completely alternate universe from reality altogether. I've never met these guys before.

Jake is beyond the furious. I've never been on the receiving end of a look so potent before, it puts to shame the vicious one Sam is donning as he stalks toward us. In this moment I'm terrified to the point of literally cowering before them like a newborn fawn.

Finding courage from God-knows where, I swallow thickly and quietly ask, "How is she?" I need to know she's okay.

He doesn't answer me. Only the dull sounds of the hospital around us remind us that we're not alone on this floor.

"Sarah, doing 'aight?" Seth asks, joining us with Sam.

"They took her in before we got here." Jake's voice is murderously calm. He answers Seth but never looks away from me. "Ruptured appendix. There are some complications but the doctor's with her."

Ice shoots through my veins. The nightmarish sensations start taking hold, almost crippling me with a familiar sense of dread. I feel like I'm losing someone.

Maybe I didn't get her in here in time?

"She's gon' be good tho', right?" Seth stares between us perplexed, because even a blind person can see that there's more wrong in this situation than just Sarah's health.

"We'll find out soon as the doc is out." Behind the anxiousness over his mother Jake is volcanic, reminding me of Edward in the school parking lot today, but this anger is a million times worse because it's directed at me. I'm the target of this fury, not JC. There's a raging storm, and it's about to break, and it's headed straight for me at full speed. "How long?" Jake asks directing his treacherously quiet question to me.

Like Seth I almost think he's asking when Sarah fell sick, but he shakes his head slowly and threateningly and I know its judgment day.

"How long, Isabella?" The barely controlled anger causes his eye to twitch and his veins to protrude more violently.

I know it's not my imagination because Seth hears it too. He take a step forward, unsure what's going on but quick nonetheless as he moves to put himself between Jake and I, but a look from Sam tells him to fall back and stay fucking put.

My answer is soft and fearful. "Not long…" It's the straw that breaks the camel's back.

"Are you fucking kidding me!?" Jake explodes into a rage; deranged spiteful laughter pouring from him. "This really fucking happened!?" He slams his fists into the wall right above my head.

I jump back in terror. It's lost on him as he bears down on me seething.

"Are you fucking joking right now, Isabella!" He spits each word at me in disbelief and disgust. Each word louder than the previous one until I'm certain we're going to be kicked out or I'm going to be knocked out. "You're telling me you're fucking Cullen, Edward motherfucking Cullen, just recently like that's supposed to make it any motherfucking better!?"

Visible shock rocks Seth when he registers what's actually going on. All initial concern evaporates. His face contorts. "What the FUCK!?" he explodes.

I shudder from the force of it and tear my gaze away from Seth as Sam's huge body starts to close in on me. I cower and am boxed in by a raging mass of fury that gets in my face before Sam can. Jacob.

They're going to kill me.

"It's not like that, Jake. I swear!" My lips quiver and I force out the words with tremendous effort swallowing back all the terror. "I'm so sorry, Jake. I should have told you. I'm so sorry. I wanted to but I was so scared, Jake… I didn't mean for it to happen. I'd never hurt you on purpose, it just happened— Please, let me explain… I swear… Jake I swear it's not what you're thinking… He loves—"

Jake laughs livid. "Love? You think you know love? You're SIXTEEN!" he hunches down and screams in my face. "He played you and you fucking fell for it! You're a smart girl, how did you get so fucking brainless!? Cullen's made you his fucking whor—" he punches the wall repeatedly unable to finish what he's saying.

He looks irate and helpless. I blink rapidly fighting back tears. The sclera from his eyes have turned red with anger and frustration, I think he wants to shake me and me make me hurt too.

"He's using you to get to me!" he explodes, this time hitting the wall so hard I hear a crack. I don't know if it's the wall or his fist.

My tears spill out I reach to check his hand but recoil the instant he looks at me. "Jake—"

Jakes body trembles with a rage instinctively making me move backwards again to stay safe from him. Betrayal and murder show in his eyes. He wants me to stay away because of it.

"I'm so sorry." I hiccup reaching out for him but he moves away and I start sobbing. My breaths drown in tears. "Jake—"

"For what? Being a slu—" He steps back, looking at me in disgust. "I can't handle this bullshit right now. Stay the fuck outta my sight. Just fuck the hell off."

"Jake, no— Please—" I cry out desperately running after him. I grab his arm to stop him from walking away and he turns back so fast that I don't even see his hand coming until it's almost a hairsbreadth from my face. Screaming, I brace myself for the hit.

Unclenching my eyelids I see Jake's swollen bloodied knuckles suspended in midair so close to my face that I can feel the heat radiating of the back of his hand on my tear streaked cheek. I can see the physical strength it's taken to hold himself back from connecting his hand to my face. Jake and I don't move.

Seth drops his hand from Jake's shoulder letting him go from where he grabbed him; and like Jake's just woken up my brother stares at his hand horrified. Our breaths are labored from shock. Jake's gaze moves from his hand to me. He swallows and closes his fingers into a fist, he drops it to his side.

"I fucking trusted you. Do you get that?" Jake's words are like shards of quiet ice that slice through my chest.

I wish he had hit me. It would have hurt less. Behind the rage I can see the hurt I've dealt to the person who least expected it from me. I can't bear to look at him. The rare vulnerability he exudes in that moment is my six-year-old Jake. I'd rather die than have him look at me like that.

"Does it even mean anything to you?" he asks but there's desperation and despair buried in his voice. I'd take the fury over it in a heartbeat. "I can't even look at— Do you even realize right now— Fuck! Just stay the fuck away from me, Isabella… Stay the fuck away from every fucking thing, everyone, so you can't fuck anything else up."

My heart stops. The gravity of what I've done truly dawns on me. I betrayed him. I'm the biggest idiot because by his sister falling in love with Edward, Edward Cullen who Jake hates more than the others do, I was disloyal to my brother.

What the fuck was I thinking? That we'd all live happily ever after? How!? Two of the people I love the most actively loathe each other. How could I have been stupid enough to think that this would play out in any other way?

Jake turns his back on me and one deadly look from Sam who's been uncharacteristically silent tells me that I shouldn't even think of following while they have to deal with Sarah. I can't move at first. Childhood memories flit through my mind and Jake is in every single one of them with the Wolves.

I stand there— the backs of three gangsters to me— three boys that I've loved more than I can put into words for as long as I can remember. Their colors fade away and for a second I imagine if we were normal… Living normal lives, facing normal problems, nothing like our real lives... if we would we still be us? What if we weren't and we lost this? All those memories.

I stare after Jake silently thinking. If I had to do it over would I change anything if it meant I wouldn't have you, our lives, our memories? Was everything prewritten to lead us here? Because, now we're at this juncture, facing complications we never dreamt we'd face and I'm watching you walk away from me… also something I never dreamt I'd face…

All my thoughts directed at him go unanswered. Jake doesn't turn back once. None of them do.

Their colors come back into focus as the tears that blurred my vision begin to fall. I've been in denial this entire time, playing myself so that I could have all the people I love, because the reality is that there is nothing else. Our reality is this! Territory, blood, and war. Survival, honor and law breaking. We're not like everyone else, this is who we are. These are gangs. They are rivals. This is our 'normal'. It could never be any different. I understand what Rachel was telling me… but I've understood it too late. Jake disappears from view and the whole world comes crashing down around me.

I've lost them.


I wish I could go to Jake but I don't want to make things any worse for him as he waits for news on Sarah. I know I'm no longer welcome. They're facing away from me on the extreme other end of the hallway. I feel like Seth looks this way sometimes but no one ever approaches me and I know better than to try to.

I keep my distance and try dad again. I'm all over the place but dad's absence is overshadowing every problem. He insisted he was going to meet me at the Res but he didn't he show up and now hasn't he answered anyone's calls. He doesn't answer again. With a final look at the guys I slip away to find him. Leaving them hurts because I know it means nothing to them, I've lost already them.

The wind beats at my face outside as I check if I have enough cash for a cab. Thanks to the cash I pocketed from Nell' Ombra it appears that I have more than enough… I think of Edward, it leads me to Jacob, which leads me to Sarah. I've lost everything.

The wind keeps pushing me back, but I manage to find a taxi. The address I give to the driver is for the house because I have no idea where dad's motel is and I need to start looking for him somewhere. A metallic taste fills my mouth. I wince and touch a finger to my lip. It comes back crimson. I lick the spot where my teeth broke skin. We pull up to my house and the driver turns around looking shocked that this torched disaster zone is where I'm getting off. I toss him some bills before he opens his mouth knowing that I've overpaid him as hop out but unable to worry about it as I face my home.

The garden and house looks and feels different and foreboding like it's no longer ours. Most of the debris has been cleared and a new door has been attached to the front as a temporary fix to keep people out. The windows are boarded up too. Faulty wiring my ass…

I look around. It's dark and the light from the street makes the woods look animated. The wind sounds like its screaming through the trees. The branches shake looking like shadowy arms reaching out the forest to grab me. I get a cold feeling. That was where the person waiting to kill my father was waiting to watch the bomb get in the house. I tap the cold blade inside my bag reassuring myself that it's there.

Footsteps sloshing against the muddy ground alert me to another person's presence. My fingers automatically lock around the knife and flick it open, keeping it ready behind me as I face my possible attacker.

"Isabella, is that you?" The old woman from next door asks, squinting to see if it is me and causing me to relax my stance. She looks like a marshmallow in her thick pink robe and fluffy mud-spattered slippers; I wouldn't be surprised if she floated off in the next gust. "Chief Swan's girl?"

"Hi, Mrs. Rodriguez." I walk toward her because she's old and frail, and the gale-force wind is going to topple her over. She stops and waves me over smiling like her scouting is on the same level as James Bond. I meet 007 in her driveway and attempt to return her smile. I don't quite pull it off because I'm miserable. "You got me."

"Oh, I knew it! I did! Second I saw you through the window, I could tell. Wasn't even wearing me' glasses." She's tickled pink. Any other day I'd entertain her like I usually do but I'm in a rush today. "Came to see Charlie?"

Well that keeps me in place.

"Have you seen him?" My question falls on deaf ears. She's prattling on about something I don't care about. Placing my hand on her shoulder, I try to remain polite and repeat myself louder because she's old and hard of hearing and the wind is hosting a rock concert around us. "Have. You. Seen. Him?"

"Oh 'course, love!"

Instant relief.

She can't see very far off so she squints but I follow and see the cruiser parked at the back of the house. Dad is here. My relief starts to falter. If he's here why hasn't he checked his phone?

"I'll just catch him before he leaves." I wave at her but her words grab my attention.

"Oh, is he heading out? Good for him. Been cooped up half the day he has."

"He's been here half the day?" I ask stupidly needing her to clarify because what happened to the station?

Her gray brows frown in thought and she nods her head vigorously. "Yes, yes… had to be 'round three or four when I saw him? I remember 'cause I was talking to my hydrangeas when he came in, you see. These storms scare them and they get so lonely. I told Chief Swan hello too while I was out."

He's been here the entire time? That can't be right. I'm too wound up to be polite this time. I leave without saying goodbye.

"What's wrong, dear?" she yells after me starting to follow at a much slower pace with her age.

I don't turn back. I have a gut feeling like when that package showed up but infinitely worse. I don't have a key to the new door so I run to the back of the house. The soggy ground suddenly starts to crunch beneath my boots. I look down and see shards of glass on the grass. It's not from the house. I glance at cruiser and see the back window is broken.

Instinctively I'm wielding my blade again, racing to the house like I'm competing against time itself and time is winning. My feet falter as I close in on the doorsteps. Dark stains dot the surface like breadcrumbs for me to follow.

"Call 911!" I yell back at Mrs. Rodriguez. She's halfway up my driveway but she stops in alarm. She doesn't move. "Call 911!" I bark out more forcefully. "Go home and lock the door! DON'T come outside!"

My voice is like thunder, I sound like my father. This time she turns quickly and hurries away, following the order. Something buzzes in my pocket. Seth's phone. I didn't even realize I brought it with me. Jake's name flashes across the screen, I answer as I run up the steps to the backdoor.

"Answer the fucking phone—" Seth's annoyed sharp voice is chanting midway on the other end. It's badly static on the phone but he silences when he realizes his request has been granted. I don't have time to concentrate on that as I take in my surroundings. "I need my—"

"Please don't be blood." I pray quietly following the crimson trail.

"What?" Seth asks. The line is terrible, barely audible. "What blood— Isa—" Lightening shoots across the sky and thunder cracks loudly outside. The wind picks up, roaring and howling, shoving me to the side. "Where are—" The phone crackles, getting worse. "Hell?— ello? —Fuck."

"Seth, there's blood in— Seth? I know you're angry with me but— Seth? I'm home, there's blood—" The call's dropped already, the storm is too bad. I enter the kitchen and find red handprints smeared on the wall like someone dragged themself through the kitchen using the wall as support. I lock my fist around the blade ready for an attack and start to run.

"Dad!?" I scream following the blood to the hall. The trail splatters and gets thicker from the stairs going up. "Dad, where are you!?"

There's no answer as I run upstairs. I look around and desperately call at the top of my lungs, "DAD!?" There's a feint light under his door even though it's dark here. I run to it and end up stumbling into the bedroom because the door is broken of the hinges and the floor is slippery for some reason. I crash in with a bang, thrown onto the floor, unable to keep my balance on the thick murky substance that's beneath me. I violently hit the ground and cry out in blinding pain as I'm sliced open by stuff on the floor that shouldn't be there.

The wind is knocked out of me. Opening my eyes, I find the desk lamp is flickering, hanging off the side of the table. Dad's room is turned upside down, everything is broken like a hurricane hit and it was searching the room for something. Fighting through the pain I pick myself up. Movement causes the debris beneath me to dig into my skin again. I free my palm and the inner side of my elbow of three substantially sized pieces of glass from the shattered remains of dad's furniture and ignore the rest when I realize there's too much blood under me for it to be from my arm alone. With cloudy vision I look to the floor beneath me and scream. I'm in the center of a cold pool of blood.

Scrambling, I try to climb to my feet but the blood is what I slipped on in the first place. When I'm finally able to stand upright that's when I see him.

Hope drains away and a sense of complete terror and panic seeps in replacing it. He's lying face down on the bed with his head and arm hanging over the edge in an awkward position. There's blood all around him, staining his sheets and uniform as it leaks down his body onto the floor pooling all the way from the bed to my feet at the bedroom door.

"NO!" I scream. My throat closes. The stench of blood floods my nostrils. I can't see properly anymore. I limp to him, pulling the glass out my thigh and fall to my knees, clutching him tightly. "Dad, wake up." I tap him and try to move him but he doesn't move.

I shove him with all my strength, only just managing to roll him over. He's slightly stiff and heavy. Tears drop onto his colorless cheeks but when I make contact with his ice skin I know that it's from me not him. I stare down at him. My dad's brown eyes are open but he's not seeing me… he's not seeing anything…

"Daddy?" I press my bleeding hands on his chest repetitively and blow air into his mouth without bothering to check his pulse because of course it's there. He's my dad. His pulse is there. "Daddy?" I press on his chest again and then push air inside him. "Daddy? No! Please no. Dad?" I hug him tight. I need to put him back together. I repeat the CPR, over and over, stopping to tap his face and try to make him respond but he doesn't do anything. He just lays there and doesn't talk to me, or blink or move. "Please, don't dad… Dad, wake up. You're scaring me. Please, daddy, wake up. Daddy?"

I shake him. I cry. I beg. But he doesn't do anything. He doesn't hold me back. He doesn't say, "It's ok, Bells" or"Dad's here, I got you." He just lies there and lets me sob till my throat feels like I swallowed crushed glass.

"Please, daddy, wake up?" I weep and my head falls. I feel the stillness of his cold chest against my cheek. There's no steady thump, thump, thump.

"D-daddy…" I sob, looking back to his face, my fingers trail the wrinkles. His lips are bluish and his face ashen. He doesn't reply… "No..." My body gives out and I sag down the side of the bed and kneeling at his head side. I reach up and brush back his hair that's matted with crusty blood.

Pain like nothing I've ever felt before rips through me. It's excruciating, it's maddening, it's what destroys souls, it kills spirits, it consumes me.

He's gone. My dad isn't waking up.

My chest heaves violently and I lurch forward expelling everything from my stomach. I reach up and clutch dad's hand. I never want to let go of it. I want to bring him back and tell him how much I love him. I want to tell him he's given up so much for me and that I'll never be able to repay him for it. I want tell him so much but he won't hear me. He'll never ever hear me again.

He's dead… I'm alone.

Glass clicks under my trembling legs, my fingertips seek it out, running along the edge of the longest piece I touch. Crying I rest my forehead against his.

"Please! Please! Please! Daddy, don't leave me here alone. I love you, daddy, wake up. I'll hurt whoever hurt you. Daddy, please wake up." I start to shake uncontrollably, I beg and pray to him between gut wrenching sobs as a razor-sharp sting shoots through my body but I keep going deeper and deeper. I bawl, cough and sputter.

I'm alone. There's nothing.

My breaths start to get shallower and I start to feel cold too; cold just like my dad. I look down feeling liquid trickling steadily from my leg, arm and wrists. I don't try to stop it. My blood meets his on the floor. Nothing makes sense but it doesn't matter because the room is spinning and I feel faint. Too weak I drop the bloody piece of glass.

I look at dad. He doesn't move. My body is struggling to move too. There are sounds far away, like a person is shouting and banging, but it's far away as if I'm hearing it from underwater. I'm going under already. Everything starts to turn black. My sight fades in and out as I struggle to stay focused on dad's face. My vision blurs… I clutch onto my father until I can't anymore, holding onto him until I'm able to before he slips from my weakening grasp. I collapse limply onto the floor beneath him unable to think, or feel, or move as coldness spreads all through my body. Darkness starts to consume me, and right before it wins, I think I see Seth running toward me… I think he kneels and grabs me… And even though I know it can't really be him I think I tell him I'm so, so sorry... but I'm not sure, because it's right before I'm consumed and everything finally fades to nothing.

~.~.~ Thank you for reading ~.~.~

Prompt: Full chapter with MA content on STARS Library (formally known as TWCS) Author name: KittyTylz.

Dine and Dash Video: Address on bio.

Beta and translations awesomella, Dee, SecondCharmedOne. F. Thank you so much.

Note: Do not know how or when story copies on TWCS were deleted (didn't even know the name changed to STARS Library?). D&D has been re-added. Beta required for 16. Thank you for all your messages. Wish you well. Take care.