I watched, bewildered, as Jacob fled into the forest, vanishing into the brambles.

Sam yowled, aghast. Jacob Black, you will return this instant! he ordered frantically.

Save it, Alpha, I thought at him sarcastically, narrowing my eyes and pulling my muzzle back indignantly. You know he's not coming back.

Despite my calm, the rest of the wolves were in a frenzy, and in a few short moments, everything had spun out of control. Panicked thoughts swirled through the air, fear and dread locked into a building hurricane of emotion as the pack howled in grief.

We need him!

Why would he leave now?

We'll never win!

What will we do?

How will we fight against our brother?

In all the commotion, only Seth and I stood back, growling uneasily. Seth dipped his neck towards the earth, ears flattened back against his head. He was whining and pawing at the ground, thoughts conflicted. After a few moments, I felt him decide. He growled and jumped up, taking off into the trees.

I could only stare in mingled irritation and shock. Where the heck do you think you're going? I snarled, starting after him. Seth, you idiot, get back here!

Sam bounded in front of me, barring my path. No, Leah! You stay with the pack! he commanded, standing over me like a vulture. I buckled under his pressing gaze. We will not lose another member tonight!

Helpless anger roiled in my stomach, and I itched for something–or someone–to fight. Instead, I settled for snapping my jaws in frustration, glowering up at him powerlessly.

Satisfied I'd been put in my place, Sam stepped backwards again, allowing me to recover. Everyone, quiet! he barked out, and the pack fell silent. He cocked an ear, listening intently. The rest of us watched him. Jacob and Seth have left the pack, he finally affirmed.

Tell us something we don't know, I snapped at him bitterly.

He ignored me. But we can't let this stop us from protecting the tribe! I know this creature must be stopped. But perhaps tonight is not the night.

Translation: I just wanna sulk about how Jacob hammered me in our little catfight, I scoffed.

Leah! he growled, glaring down at me. I reluctantly stepped back; but a flash of wicked satisfaction tugged at my jowl as I scowled up at his disconcerted expression. He shook it off and returned his gaze to the other wolves. I'm planning on meeting with the other Elders first thing tomorrow morning, he went on, to devise a suitable course of action. But know this: the vampires will not get away with this treachery.

The other wolves barked in agreement, and Sam stared down at me, looking fairly ticked off.

I just shrugged the sting away. Fine. I'm going back home, I declared, challenging him to object. His hackles rose, but I quickly pushed past the rest of the pack, flying off into the woods before anyone else could protest.

The moment I reached my room, I tore my filthy outer shirt over my head and slammed the door with a cry of frustration.

I stormed over to my dresser, pillaging through the drawers, thinking while I changed.

I hated the pack. I hated Sam. I hated everything; but what was new? I was used to being unwanted. I was used to being ashamed. It wasn't a recent development for me, believe it or not. Being a rejected wolf girl and all. But to Jacob, it might've been a little new.

When I thought back to the new high-and-mighty-Alpha's motives, I snorted. Jacob's rebellion had done much more than liberate him; it had stirred an incurable fear in the pack. They were uneasy, knocked off-balance by the blatant betrayal. Not to mention Sam; from what I could see, he was completely and utterly distraught.

What did I think of Jacob leaving? Whatever. Good riddance. But Seth was a different story. I would never admit to myself that I loved my baby brother, but I did know that I cared about him. And Jacob was taking him to the vampires. I knew Seth and Jacob were the best of friends with the leeches; they cared about them. They trusted them.

I didn't.

But if I stayed with the pack, there was a good chance I'd either have to fight Seth or stand by while the others did. And no matter how much Alpha voice Sam used on me, no matter how much he shamed, or embarrassed, or degraded me…I just couldn't do that.

I'd dressed by now, and as I thought, I leaned forward against the low top of the wardrobe, glaring intently down at the worn, water-stained wood.

Turning traitor with Jacob and my baby brother wasn't exactly what I'd planned out for myself. But at least in joining them, I'd have a chance at protecting Seth. At least in joining them, I'd have a chance at being alone…

Alone.

It was then that the realization finally hit me. The whole two-separate-packs two-separate-minds thing suddenly seemed like a miracle cure. No more Sam listening in on my thoughts. No more perpetual embarrassment. No more Leah, the Alpha's pathetic ex-girlfriend.

Being the Cullens' lapdog was one of the last things on my list. But if it meant that I could get away from Sam… I ground my teeth in resolve and narrowed my eyes.

So be it.