Disclaimer: All characters belong to Stephenie Meyer.

Chapter II.

"Dad, I'm going to trek my way to Third Beach, if that's fine with you."

Billy looked up from the newspaper and smiled broadly, as if he had just won a gamble. "Sure, Ray Ray. You should get out of this house once in awhile. Fresh air is good for heath. It's been a long time since you've hiked, anyway, and if you want, you can go beyond Third Beach. The forest is vast."

"You sound like you can't wait to abandon me."

He laughed heartily, so hard in fact, that the chair he was seated on started to shiver under his weight. Honestly, there was nothing funny about it.

"You have a sick sense of humor, Daddy. Just saying."

When his laughter died down, he grinned. "I'm heading to Charlie's in an hours' time. I won't be back 'till late. You are free to do your own stuff, kid. Just make sure you stay safe."

"You're not afraid that I'll get raped or eaten by bears in the forest?"

Highly amused, Billy buried his nose into the newspaper once again, his words muffled. "Our forests are protected, Rachel. It's not as if you've never heard of the Quileute legends before. Our Guardians still do protect our forests."

"Shape-shifters don't exist, Dad," She said in her usual 'matter-of-fact' tone, which she frequently used in college debates. "As much as they do exist in legends, they can't exist now. Researchers have proven that they don't."

"Do you believe that air exists, Rachel?"

"Dad, don't start - "

"Well, you can't see air, either. But you know air exists."

With a look of exasperation, and knowing full well that she will lose her sanity in no time, she grabbed her backpack and hurried out of the door, pulling on a pair of sneakers while she half-jogged, half-walked towards the forest.

The scent of the soft earth hit her instantly; It was the smell of fresh air, and age old trees that have survived for centuries. She even caught a whiff of mint, followed by a mysteriously sweet scent which must have been exuded from the flower species growing by the undergrowth layer of the forest. The golden rays of sunlight shimmered through the canopy of leaves, taking every opportunity to slip past the trees and to embrace the ground. She made her way deeper into the trees, utterly absorbed by the stunning beauty Mother Nature had to offer.

The conversation which took place back home had been completely washed away from her memories.

ll o.O.o ll

When the sunlight became significantly dimmer, Rachel looked up to the sky and sighed.

It was going to pour, and she was not even close to Third Beach - judging from the never-ending rows of trees ahead of her. The loose grey t-shirt which she wore was now stained with traces of sweat, and luckily for her, the choice of wearing a pair of khaki shorts, which were slightly above mid-thighs, gave room for the expulsion of perspiration.

She reached for the water bottle in her backpack, and took a few gulps of water. While at that, her free hand raided through her pockets for her cell phone, only to realize that it had been left at home.

A drop of icy dew hit her skin.

And another.

And many more subsequently.

Before she could even blink, a sudden downpour drenched her to the bone in just a matter of seconds. As much as it was refreshing to bathe in the rain, she was all alone in the unfamiliar forest. Abandoning all thoughts of visiting Third Beach in this weather, she decided to make a run for home.

The unbelievably strong winds did not ensure a safe journey back. They howled and swished in the air, causing her eyes to water as wild strands of hair escaped from her ponytail and whipped her cheeks. Her grip tightened around several abandoned logs on the ground as she made her way down the slope, lowering her body stealthily to reduce the risks of falling down. Her body shook from the cold, and the rain only became heavier, as if God was throwing an ocean of water down from the clouds.

The next few moments became a living nightmare for Rachel Black.

Just as she was about to take a step towards another tree for support, the soil beneath her feet loosened in a sudden, shocking instant. Her knees buckled at the unexpected movement of the earth and her vision whirled, just in time for her mind to process the sickening crunch which bounded off her contorted surroundings to her ears. A shrill cry pierced through the rain, and it took her nerves a long while to process her happenings. Her body had tumbled down from the slope, and slammed into a boulder in less than five seconds.

A distinct crack broke through the air, and the next thing she knew, she was lying on her stomach, almost immobile.

Disoriented, she clutched her hipbone, shrieking in agony as a jolt of sharp, piercing pain shot through the rest of her body. A sticky, wet substance flowed rapidly down the sides of her head, and she knew without a moment's doubt, that she was bleeding. She lay there, soaked in blood, rain, and sweat, crying in sheer torment as the pain pressurized her body to give into the darkness.

Just as nothing could get any worse than the plight she was already in, she felt a scaly, slender rope winding itself over her exposed calves. Gathering all her strength, she kicked it aside, only to hear a hiss of anger.

"Help me..." She whimpered. "Somebody..."

The snake continued to slither around her leg, wildly irate at her violent reaction. Even though she could not see it, she could feel its mocking glare, challenging her to a duel which she would lose indefinitely.

"Daddy..." She whimpered. "Jake..."

A blinding wave of pain ran through her thighs, and she shrieked in anguish at the sudden affliction as two sharp needles pierced through her skin. She felt as though some spirit had shoved a bar of hot iron down her windpipe, bent on suffocating her to death. Her throat strained, and with all the air gone, she could only utter one last name...

A name she would never have called under any circumstances. Why she called that name then, she never knew. Perhaps it was her subconsciousness that yielded her to call out to him.


Her vision blurred, and dimmed. She heard the cry of a wolf ripping through the storm, as if it were in pain as well, before it cut off completely. The raindrops continued to descend upon her mercilessly, hitting her skin like knives coated in ice.

"Stay awake, Rachel!" She heard a strangely familiar voice urge. He sounded almost miserable, as if he had been weeping. "Don't sleep! Stay with me!"

She wanted to respond to him. The feeling of being wrapped into a warm embrace was the only thing in the world she needed then, and she felt it. She could also feel another pair of hands checking her injuries, speaking quickly and loudly over the storm to her. But her ears had stopped functioning, blocking out all noises of the world - like a box of vacuum.

Her head rolled back and a large hand squeezed hers gently, noiselessly begging for her to keep her eyes open. But she could not.

Paul panicked. This was the worst feeling he had ever felt in his entire life. He was...lost. His mind struggled to comprehend the sight of the limp figure lying in his arms. The Rachel he had met three days ago and imprinted upon was now covered in soil and blood, completely drenched.

His Rachel.

She had called his name, and he heard it - that pitiful cry, full of terror and pain.

Her breaths were no longer consistent. They came out shallow and fast, before slowing down at an alarming rate, and then picking up speed to race even quicker than before. His arm which cradled her head was now covered in her blood as her eyes remained close.

"Snake bite," Sam confirmed, fighting for a voice through the downpour. "Non-poisonous, but it still threatens her life. Her hipbone must have been fractured badly from the collision. Bruises on all parts on her body. Ankle twisted. Several deep cuts on her arms which are already infected. Her head injury is..."

Paul stopped listening. Every information received from Sam was a blow to his body. There was a knife in his chest, thrusting in and out of his heart at the knowledge of how much she had suffered. Strands of hair were plastered across her cheeks and forehead, covering the beautiful features which he wished the world could see. With a shaking hand, he pulled them aside to reveal her pale, death-threatened face.

"...and to the hospital, you hear me? Paul? Paul! Look at me, Paul! Pull yourself together. She's lost too much blood, and she's losing a lot more now! We need to get her to the hospital before it's too late! Quick! Carry her and follow me!"

With a numb nod, Paul gathered Rachel into his arms, running along after Sam, who seemed to have lost his composed facade. It dawned to him then, that her condition was far worse off than he had thought it to be.

It was a matter of life and death, and Paul prayed that she would live, because he could not give her up.

Not for the world.

A/N: The next chapter will be up soon (say, in two days - latest?). A huge thank you to ShootingStar92, DoneDiedLastYear, NtwilightprincessN, and Princess Mariana. My first four reviewers for this story! Your feedback means a lot to me!

:] Reviews are greatly appreciated!