A/N I was never happy with this story, particularly the prologue, but I never could find the right way to change it to what I wanted. Since I'm finally writing again, and wanted to start positing on both this and B4, I went back and completely rewrote the prologue of LC:Brady. The next two chapters will be edited and adjusted to accommodate this new version too, but so far only the prologue is significantly changed. Yes, I'm working on TIC again, but I'm not rushing myself with writing it, and I'm not going to update very quickly. I've only started enjoying writing again, and I don't want to lose that enjoyment the way I did before. For anyone still reading this series, thanks for sticking out such a long wait. :)
Lost Chapters: Brady
The waves crashed across the rocky eastern shoreline, churning and foaming as the wind picked up. The weather would turn bad soon, there were dark clouds rolling over the horizon, and there was no one on this beach today except for one. A lone figure walked along the water's edge, staring pensively at the waves, her dark wispy hair blowing across her face and getting in her eyes.
It wasn't a good day to be on the beach, even if it was mid-June, but Nikki Connweller needed to think about things.
A few weeks ago, Nikki had been on her first date with a guy that she had really liked, Brady Jennings. Brady, who she had liked all school year. Brady, who she had been beyond nervous and excited to go out with. Sure, buying a basketball in Forks while two of their friends were there wasn't exactly a true date…but still. Considering that all of their contact up that point had been short, uncomfortable conversations and lots of lusty staring on her side, going somewhere with Brady had been close enough. Brady had even held her hand in the store, had even put his arm around her waist, had even snuck a kiss outside next to Collin Littlesea's Jeep.
It had been Nikki's first kiss, and she had loved every single second of it.
Nikki should have gone home and called her best friends, telling them all about it. She should have gone home and played basketball, thinking about the summer that she might have ahead of her. She should have gone home and eaten ice cream and daydreamed about Brady Jennings' mouth, and his shoulders, and that sparkle in his eye when he winked at her in the backseat of Collin's Jeep.
She should have done a lot of things. Instead Nikki watched three people she had thought she knew turn into horse-sized wolves, including the boy who had given her that first kiss, because a vampire passed only a few hundred yards away from them.
That day, Nikki hadn't done what Collin told her. She hadn't gone back to the Collin's Jeep. Instead she had stayed and watched Owen and Callie phase into a jumbled mass of confused, frightened, snarling wolves. That day she had watched Brady phase into a larger, angrier version of the same, driving the two others away from her and into the woods, as she stood wide-eyed and unable to run away. That day she had sat in Collin's Jeep on the side of the road for what seemed like forever, unable to drive it to La Push because she hadn't known how to drive a stick shift, stranded and shaking with stress and wondering just what the hell was going on. That day she had waited until Jared showed up out of the woods and driven her back to La Push, straight to the Tribal Council.
Nikki had never hated the Council before, but by the time Old Quil was done with her, she was pretty sure that she hated them now. They had lectured her for hours about things like phasing and shape-shifting wolves and vampires. Vampires, who regularly broke the borders of La Push and threatened the safety of the reservation. She was lectured about keeping secrets, about protecting the sons of the tribe, and about the dangers of her association with Brady. She was lectured about imprinting, and told that no, she wasn't Brady's imprint.
That one had been a hard pill to swallow, especially with a miserable looking Brady standing only a few feet away.
With the rest of the Pack occupied with something involving the Cullen family in Forks, and some other wolves from Canada, it had been Brady, Jared, and Kim who had stayed with her while she was with the Council. And afterwards, when Nikki had finally convinced the Council that she would keep her mouth shut, it had been Kim who had taken the brunt of her anger at the deceit. When she had finished tearing apart her sister for lying to her for all these years, Nikki had told Jared not to hug her no matter how upset she was. His ass had been lying to her too.
Brady, looking even more miserable, hadn't gotten yelled at. Instead he had walked her home, and when he had tried to see if she was okay, Nikki had told him that she needed some time to think about things. That she was leaving La Push for the summer with her parents instead of her original plan to stay with Kim and Jared, and she had left him standing on her porch alone, a rough-looking boy with an even rougher expression on his face.
Nikki was pretty sure that most first dates didn't end with the guy punching the girl's porch railing with a curse as he left, cracking the wooden post with just his fist.
When Nikki had left for Florida with her parents a couple days later, Jared had been fixing the porch, but Nikki hadn't said a word to him. After all, Kim had never lied to anyone before Jared, had never had to lie for anyone. For a few days Nikki was pretty sure she hated Jared too, although that anger was short lived.
Nikki Connweller had expected this summer vacation in Florida to help her clear her mind, to come to terms with the fact that not only was her brother-in-law a shape shifting wolf, but that all of his friends were the same. To come to terms with the fact that her sister had been imprinted on by Jared, and had known all about it for years. To come to terms with the fact that Shane Qahla was dead because of a vampire. Shane, who had always treated Nikki like his true little sister, not just extended family through Jared and Kim's relationship. Shane, who took her to movies and played sports with her, and made more time for her than Jared had ever been able to. Shane, who she had loved like he was her real big brother.
Shane, who was dead, and whose parents would never know why.
She thought about those things, but more than anything, she thought about Brady Jennings. She thought about how frightened he had looked when Collin ran off, leaving Brady alone with her and Callie and Owen. She thought about how angry he had seemed when the Council kept on her and on her, even when she kept promising she would keep the Pack's secret. How embarrassed he had looked when they explained imprinting to her, and told her that basically she would never be "the one" for any of the Pack, Brady included. She thought about how disappointed he'd looked when she'd shut the screen door and asked him to give her some space.
Nikki wished that she could take it back now, but she couldn't, and she was still confused and upset enough about the rest of it that she wasn't sure what to do or say. So she thought, and she walked, and when there was a rock, she climbed it. Boring, but that was all she had to work with these days.
The wind picked up, blowing Nikki's hair away from her face as she passed beneath a pier, climbing the partially submerged rocks and not caring if she slipped. She was a good swimmer and had always been a bit of a risk taker. Quiet, but a risk taker, and it took a lot to scare her. Thinking Callie Jennings had overdosed had scared her. Watching poor Owen phase for the first time had scared her. The three wolf dogfight that had occurred afterwards, with her only a few feet away, had scared her. The idea of vampires really scared her, but ocean waves over rocks? Not so much.
As much time as she spent talking to her friends on the phone, Nikki still felt very isolated. Her aunt and uncle had invited them all out here, and there was a reason why Nikki had originally planned on staying in La Push with Kim. Her parents were constantly visiting old friends of the family, none of whom had kids her age and all of whom seemed to be overly interested in what she wanted to do when she graduated. Nikki wasn't old enough to drive, and she was tired of watching movies at the cheap theater near the beach house they were staying in. Walking the beach alone was boring, but there was only so long that she could read before Nikki risked going cross-eyed.
At least there were lots of rocks to climb on in this area, where the shoreline cut back towards the road. As she was climbing down from the last one, feet finding sand again, Nikki realized that someone was standing near the water, further up the beach. The figure was obviously an adult man, a cowboy hat over his eyes and a cigarette hanging out of his lips as he stared out at the water, and Nikki wondered if maybe she should turn around and walk the other way. There was a big difference between not being easily scared and being stupid. But he must have seen her, because he glanced her way and met her eyes.
Nikki stopped dead in her tracks, suddenly forgetting what she had been so worried about.
The blond cowboy gave her a sexy smile, touching the brim of his hat respectfully. Instantly Nikki blushed, her pulse racing as she openly stared at him. She had known attractive men before. Her own brother-in-law was pretty hot, and Jared's friend Paul Coho had literally made her drool before. Nikki had seen Embry Call do pushups in a karate gi, and she had once been privy to Jacob Black taking a nap shirtless on Kim and Jared's couch. But never, ever had she seen anyone that looked like this.
He was the most beautiful man she'd ever seen.
As if he could tell what she was thinking, the cowboy's smile widened, and he winked at her before gesturing for her to join him. Her blush became fire in her cheeks, and Nikki found herself thinking things that she wasn't used to thinking. Certainly not about strangers that were probably twice her age. Biting her lip, she found herself walking towards him, stopping a few feet away.
"Hey there," the blond said in a friendly tone, his voice almost musical to her ears despite the low southern drawl.
"Hello," Nikki said shyly, aware that she was staring at him, but unable to look away. His eyes were so pretty: a blending of amber and red, like the one color was shifting into the other. He must not have minded her stares, because he waved her closer.
"Storm's coming. Most people don't hang around when the weather gets bad," the cowboy said, settling down in the sand and kicking his foot out in front of him. "Thought I'd be out here all by my lonesome."
Lonesome. That was a good word for how Nikki felt. Realizing that the people around her weren't who she had thought they were, that her own family weren't who she had thought they were, made her feel isolated. Alone. Yeah, lonesome pretty much summed it up.
"I was thinking about home," Nikki heard herself say softly. "I'm not from around here."
"Then we got something in common," the cowboy told her kindly. "It's hard when you miss home, ain't it?"
Nikki nodded, and then she settled down in the sand next to him, despite not having a towel or blanket to sit on. Normally Nikki didn't like getting sand underneath her clothes, it irritated her skin too much, but for some reason she didn't mind so much right now. The scent of his cigarette didn't bother her either, not when he smelled so good. Like the best cologne she'd ever smelled.
The cowboy was watching her, that smile still on his face. "You always go walkin' around by yourself? Cause it's not all that safe."
The young woman sighed, momentarily able to break away from his gaze as she remembered what had her out here. "I'm figuring that out," Nikki told the stranger. He was so nice, so friendly, that she felt like she could tell him anything, even the stuff she wasn't supposed to say. She just knew that she could tell him anything, how could she not? "Compared to some things out there, walking around alone isn't nearly as scary in comparison. You wouldn't believe what I found out a few weeks ago."
"Wouldn't I?" he chuckled, and Nikki found herself locked in his gaze again. Damn, he was gorgeous, with those lean muscles and strong jaw. And those eyes…she could lose herself in those eyes.
"Why don't you try me?" the cowboy challenged her playfully. "I've been around a time or two, and I bet I've got a few stories you wouldn't believe either."
Nikki grinned, because he was grinning at her, thinking that she might be out here because of another guy, but this one was pretty nice. "Okay, but you can't laugh at me," Nikki said, blushing again because he had scooted closer to her. "Oh man, you're going to think I'm crazy."
"I don't mind a little crazy now and then," the cowboy promised her teasingly, winking again and taking a drag on his cigarette. "Makes life more interesting. Plus, I doubt you're crazy, babydoll, you're too pretty for that."
It was the first time a guy had ever told her she was pretty before, and Nikki blushed deeply at the compliment, looking down at the sand in her embarrassment.
"What would you say if I told you that there are actually vampires out there?" she asked. "And that they're trying to eat everyone up? And I'm out here, thinking about a boy that I like, whose sole purpose in life is to kill them? And I'm worried about the vampire part, but I'm even more worried that he's mad I haven't called him. See? It's crazy, all of it."
Crazy, but true, and Nikki couldn't help shake her head and the cowboy gestured for her to continue.
"I'm not supposed to say anything, but I found out on my first date with him. Then afterwards I found out the part about the lying and how everyone's keeping secrets about it. So I came out here to spend the summer with my parents, to try and get my head wrapped around it."
She paused, and when he still hadn't interrupted her, Nikki allowed herself to continue, spilling her heart out to this stranger in the cowboy hat.
"All I can think is how stupid I feel because I never figured it all out. And I feel horrible for yelling at my sister and brother-in-law, because it's not like they could say anything. I mean, I'm still pissed, but it's not their faults. And then the guy must think I'm so terrible. I never even thanked him for protecting me, I just told him I needed some time to figure things out. He saved my life, I think, because I was standing really close when…when someone else decided to kill vampires too. He kept them from hurting me, and I basically shut the door in his face."
The cowboy didn't answer for a moment, and then he began to chuckle. The stunning man pinched the lit end of his cigarette out and rolled what was left between his fingers. "Babydoll, if you knew how many doors I've had slammed in my face, you wouldn't feel so bad. It ain't any fun if you can't rile a lady up at least a little."
Nikki smiled and shook her head. "That's what Jared thinks about Kim. It's almost like he enjoys getting her worked up, and she falls for it every time. But that's not really me. I'm calmer than she is, but some stuff does set me off. I don't like getting lied to, even when there's a valid reason for it.
"Want some advice?" When she nodded, the cowboy flicked his cigarette and took out another one, lighting it up. "When people ain't liars, they usually ain't all that good with getting lied to. But when people are used to telling lies, it's not so bad to get lied to, they're used to it. Same with keepin' secrets about themselves. While you're over here, eatin' your heart out over some boy that spun you in a circle because of his secrets, he's probably just sittin' at home watching a movie and taking himself a nice long nap."
Nikki blinked and then laughed. "Wow. That…sucks."
"People aren't always what they seem, but that don't always make them bad." The cowboy quirked her a knowing smile. "It don't always make them good either."
The young woman decided that his eyes were amazing. They were shifting color again, growing darker now.
"Yeah…so, why are you out here?" she heard herself ask.
The cowboy leaned closer, and Nikki's breath caught. He smelled so good, and he was so gorgeous, and all those things that she wasn't supposed to think about doing with a complete stranger came rushing to the surface again. She could picture kissing him, this pale haired cowboy, like she had kissed…who had she kissed? It didn't matter, because she wanted to kiss him. Only him. She wanted to touch him, and she wanted to sit closer to him. It didn't seem to bother him at all that her knee was pressing into his leg, or that her chest was tightening, her muscles tightening as if she was anticipating…something…
"What's your name?" the pale haired, dark eyed cowboy asked her, voice curling through her senses like liquid fire, burning her everywhere. She had never felt anything like this before, this pure unadulterated lust. She was pretty sure she shouldn't be pressing her chest into the bicep of a stranger, but she couldn't help herself. "Babydoll? What's your name? Where you from?"
"…Ni…Nikki…Connweller. From La Push, Washington."
"And this boy you're thinking about. He got a name too?"
She could barely speak, her throat had tightened, and her heart was beating so fast, but Nikki managed to whisper breathily, "Brady...his name is Brady."
If anything, the cowboy's grin grew even broader, as if that was exactly what he wanted to hear.
"Well, Nikki, I'm out here cause I made somethin' that I didn't like all that much, and it got me into trouble with someone that I liked a whole hell of a lot. It lost me a friend, actually, and I'm a little lonely myself. So I've been sittin' out here, thinking that maybe I ought to try making somethin' all over again. Try again, see if I can do it better this time."
The cowboy's eyes sparkled mischievously as he took her face in his palm, stroking his hand along her jaw. "I told them boys that getting Jackie hurt was going to cause them some problems. And then here you come along just when I was getting hungry anyways. Maybe you and I could go a ways with each other, see if you don't do any better than the last one did. Wouldn't that just stick in their craws?"
She didn't understand, but she didn't have to. Nikki was lost in those dark eyes, eyes that glittered pitch black as she stared at him. She licked her lips and his eyes followed the motion.
"How about this, Nikki. I'm gonna have you pick a number between one and five, and you tell me which one. I've got something planned for each, and all of them are fun, so you don't worry one bit."
He didn't want her to worry, so Nikki didn't. Instead she smiled and leaned closer, inhaling what must be the perfect cologne. "Four," Nikki decided. "I always liked the number four."
The cowboy liked number four too, although he told her that there had been far more interesting numbers that she could have picked.
The next part was hazy, but not at all unpleasant, not even when she tried to think about it later. She remembered the stranger pulling her hair back and doing something with his fingernail to the higher side of her neck, up where her hair covered what must have ended up being a scratch. She remembered the stranger's breath on her neck, cool and sweet, sending shivers down her spine as he whispered words to her. Words she didn't remember now, but that she knew that she was supposed to remember at some point. Then she remembered fixing her hair as the blond cowboy smiled and told her that she ought to get on home before he changed his mind, before he had himself a little too much fun with her.
Nikki vaguely remembered being disappointed as she obediently walked away.
Later, the young woman sat on her bed in the beach house guest room, rubbing at a sore part of her neck and wishing that she had handled things differently. Wishing that she hadn't yelled at her sister, that she had hugged Jared and told him that she was sorry again about Shane. Wishing that she had sat out on her porch and talked to Brady instead of bailing on him. Wondering why she felt lightheaded, or why she wanted to go find her brother-in-law's friends and stay with them for a while. Wondering why there were tears on her cheeks as she reached for her phone.
Kim's cell must have been dead, because it went straight to voicemail, but when Nikki called Jared's cell, her brother-in-law immediately picked up. He listened quietly as Nikki said that how sorry she was for how she had treated both of them. The couple were out to dinner, but they spent a good hour talking to her instead of continuing their date, passing the phone back and forth as they promised her that it was okay. They understood why she had been so upset, and they wanted a chance to talk it all out when she got home. They loved her and they missed her already.
After a brief hesitation, Jared had murmured that if she wanted to talk to Brady, they knew he was planning on spending all evening at their place. One of Brady's friends had taken off without warning right after Nikki had left, and Brady wasn't handling it all that well. Maybe talking to Nikki would help.
That call was harder, and it was past midnight when Nikki finally caved and reached for the phone again, dialing a number by heart and leaving a message for Brady on her sister's answering machine. It was the same call she would make three more times that summer before she gave up calling him. Gave up telling him that she was sorry for how she handled things. Gave up asking for him to call her back, so that they could talk.
There was really no point to it. For the rest of the summer, Brady Jennings never did.