My entry in The Canon Tour – New Moon Round. Huge thanks to solareclipses for her hard work on the contest.
My day started out pretty much like every other day.
Who knew that within hours of high-tailing it out of my house to head to work, I'd feel awful. Even worse, I was driving home at noon, my sweaty hands gripping the steering wheel, thinking of the money I was losing.
My shift was supposed to end at six, but they'd sent me home early because they said I had a fever, and I could be contagious. Yeah, I didn't feel so great, but I didn't really want to leave.
It annoyed me that I couldn't figure out just what was wrong. This wasn't the type of achiness that preceded the flu. It wasn't a stomach bug. Not cramps. Not a migraine. Not even a rage-induced bitchy moment.
Just…this weird kind of sick.
My skin was flushed enough that it seemed red. Heat was apparently coming off of it, if my manager was to be believed. And I was shaking. A lot.
So despite the fact that I swore I'd be fine, the boss had pointed toward the door and said, 'Go home.'
I'd grumbled, but I didn't want to lose my job, so I'd rolled my cleaning cart into the supply closet and clocked out, resisting his offer of a lift home.
Nothing had been wrong with me this morning.
I'd dragged myself out of bed before six- still tired from the lack of sleep the night before, showered as quickly as I could, grabbed my travel mug full of coffee, and headed out the door without turning back.
I'd even pretended I didn't hear my mother entering the kitchen with a 'Good morning' as I shut the door.
Instead of school, though, I headed to work. Spring Break was a great time to pick up an extra shift or two.
Just like every school day, I left early. I didn't have to be there until ten, but by showering at six and leaving by seven, I avoided seeing my family members. It worked most days.
It was childish, I know, but it helped me get away without the questioning stares and secretive glances. And there were a lot. My entire family still wasn't sure whether they should pity me or cower in fear.
Honestly, I couldn't blame them. I doubt I'd know what to do if I were in their shoes.
Hell, I was in my own shoes and I didn't know how to handle me.
At least I'd found a job at The Lodge in Kalaloch.
It wasn't much, but it was better than working anywhere in Forks – or worse, on the rez. And it was helping me retain my sanity. A little, anyway.
I think my parents were glad I was focusing my energy on something besides anger and hurt. Or revenge.
What they hadn't realized was that I'd put nearly every penny I'd earned into my "Get the Hell out of Washington Account". If I hadn't used so much gas driving to and from work, my account would be double what it was right now.
But I had to leave. The sooner the better. If I had enough money by the end of May, I'd be gone the day after graduation.
Ever since last year, leaving was all I could think about. It was the only answer.
I cringed as the memories hit again, and clenched the steering wheel in my slippery hands.
There wasn't much time to figure something out before I got to La Push. My mom was home. And Seth was going fishing with a couple of his buddies.
If there was one thing I avoided above all others, it was being home alone with my mother.
It wasn't like she didn't care that I was heartbroken over Sam, but she just kept telling me that I was young, that I couldn't understand what had happened. Some day, I might. When I was older and more mature. Blah, blah, blah.
I'd always loved my mom, and we'd gotten along so well until Sam left. Now, we couldn't seem to find a safe topic when it was just the two of us.
Of course, I probably shouldn't have confessed to my mother that Sam had taken my virginity and then broken every promise he made during the months he was fucking me. Yeah, sharing that juicy tidbit during a shouting match hadn't been my most glowing moment.
Nor had it been good for my social life - as if I still had one.
She grounded me for a month after that fight, so it was better to avoid the possibility of opening my mouth like that again.
So I avoided her.
She was the one who was forcing my hand about being a bridesmaid, too.
"She's your cousin. It's not easy, but you're family. And one day you'll meet the right guy, and she'll be there for you."
I moaned as I thought about having another conversation like that. There was no way I could do it. Not today. Not while I was feeling so strange and sick.
So instead of taking the turn to our house, I passed it. I drove on, past the Blacks' house and the ugly red truck. Charlie's kid was there. Again.
When I reached the lot for the beach, I pulled my car into it and parked.
Leaving the car in the parking lot meant I might have to dodge a few well-meaning neighbors, but it wouldn't be the first time I'd turned the other way when someone waved at me.
If avoiding the empty 'I'm sorry' or the amazed 'You're so strong, being in the wedding and all' made everyone think I was a raging bitch, I really didn't care. Maybe they needed to pull their heads out of their asses and realize that I didn't want to talk about Sam and Emily.
I hurried across the rocks and sand, desperate to stay away from anyone who might be playing today, but it was unnecessary. There wasn't a soul at First Beach.
That didn't deter me from seeking out my favorite hiding place at the edge of the forest.
A huge rock that was hidden in the tree line along the coast provided a place to sit, and was situated so that there was a break in the trees that allowed an amazing view of the ocean. I'd been here countless times over the years. Watching the water lapping at the rocks and driftwood in front of me gave me a sense of peace, even as my life was falling apart.
It was the perfect place to think.
Before the breakup, I'd sit here thinking about what it would be like after I graduated. Sam and I would be married. We'd talked about waiting a few years to have kids, but I knew he was really looking forward to having a son because of the thing about his own father.
He'd wanted me. Wanted everything with me. Planned a future with me.
And then ripped it away.
Tears rolled down my face – again. It was all I fucking did anymore. Cry like a baby when I didn't have anywhere to be, anything to do.
I brushed them away, trying furiously to stop them. Like that was going to happen.
After a while, I just curled up in a fetal position on my favorite rock, allowing the pain to swallow me for a while. When it passed, the anger would flare, and then I'd be able to sit up and pull myself together.
Yeah, I knew what was coming. This wasn't my first pity rodeo.
While I was lying there, my body started to ache again, and the shaking increased. Chills and fever…that's what it was like. Shifting back and forth from too hot to too cold. But the last thing I wanted was a blanket. The air around me felt perfect, even though I was becoming aware of a storm coming in.
Wait, how did I know that?
I lifted my head and smelled the air. That must be it. The scent of rain was heavy. That wasn't something new. This was Washington, after all.
But that wasn't all. It was like the air around me felt different. Heavier somehow. Oppressive.
Before I could analyze it any more than that, I heard voices approaching my hiding place.
Seth's voice was one of three.
"Hey Seth, is it true what I heard at school last week? That your sister has some dude down in Kalaloch?"
My baby brother almost snarled. "Shut it. She just works down there."
The third boy chimed in. "Well, my older brother says she's become quite the…" he cleared his throat, "um…easy lay since Sam dumped her."
As if I'd let anyone get near me. But that still stung.
"Can't you all just leave her alone?" Seth growled. "Isn't it bad enough that her boyfriend broke up with her and is going to marry our cousin? Do you all really need to talk about her like that? Honestly, what's my sister done to any of you? And how the hell does Sam get off so easy? Everyone loves him. They love Emily. Even though the two of them broke Leah's heart."
Neither boy answered for a while.
"Come on, Seth. You gotta admit that she has been kinda bitchy to everyone. Even you."
"She made a teacher cry one day," the other boy said.
Seth's voice was quiet when he finally spoke again. "She really loved Sam, you know. Still does. And he flaunts his engagement to Emily. They are living together in a house that he told Leah was going to be hers, for crying out loud. And nobody cares. Even my mom supports Sam and Emily. It's some messed up shit."
"Did he really give Leah a promise ring a few weeks before he dumped her?"
There was no answer, but Seth must have nodded.
"That really sucks, man."
The promise ring was in my jewelry box – buried at the bottom. It still hurt to look at it.
"Did Leah know Sam was cheating on her? I mean, he must have been…"
Seth sighed loudly. "No idea what happened, man. He just…shifted gears or something. One day he's at our house, kissing on Leah like always, the next he won't get near her, and he's looking at Emily like he's starving and she's a loaf of bread. It was weird."
I could hear their soggy footsteps in the sand as they neared my sanctuary – which was odd. If they'd been that far away, how could I hear what they were saying?
One of the other boys spoke again, and my peaceful solitude came crashing in around me.
"My mom was talking to Embry's mom at her store the other day, and she said that a few of the ladies on the rez think Emily might be pregnant."
Seth's response didn't register. The only sound I heard was the whoosh of the blood moving through my veins – my heart thumping wildly out of rhythm. The only thing I could feel was the pain slashing through my chest.
The one thing I'd dreamed of giving Sam - the only plan I'd ever really made for my life - Emily would give him. Rationally, I knew that's how it would be, but to hear that it might be happening sooner…
It was like living through his rejection again. Only amplified to the nth degree.
I'd thought that there had been no hope left inside of me. That I knew there was no possibility that he'd come back.
But if Emily was pregnant, and they were married, then it was truly finished.
And I realized that I'd been holding on to some fantasy of Sam rethinking things.
I wanted to scream, but I bit my lip to stop the sound. There were three people nearby, and I didn't want them to know I'd heard them. Especially Seth.
With a strangled sob, I took off into the trees, heading back to the parking lot.
I had to get home.
To my bedroom.
There was enough money in my account to pay for gas. Maybe I could get to Canada and find a place to hide. I'd live in my car if I had to.
But I couldn't stay here.
It didn't take long to get through the trees, even with tears blurring my vision. My hands were shaking so hard that it took several attempts to get the key into the ignition of my car. And it took at least four tries to start the engine.
I'm not really sure how I saw well enough to drive. In fact, I couldn't guarantee that I hadn't bumped into anything on my way, but I got home in record time, slamming the door and pushing past my mother when she approached me.
"Leah? What's wrong?" she asked, following me into the small living room.
What could I tell her? That Sam and Emily were possibly going to have a baby, and that it ripped me apart all over again?
She'd tell me that I hadn't been realistic. That they were planning a wedding. That it was already over and I had no reason to be so upset.
So I did the only thing I could think of – I turned on her.
"Leave me alone!" I screamed, moving closer to her. "I can't stand it here anymore. I need…I need to go."
As I attempted to turn around and head to my room to pack, I felt a strong hand on my shoulder, and a deep, calm voice spoke to me.
"Apologize to your mother, Leah, and we can go sit down to discuss whatever it is that's bothering you right now."
My dad was home – I hadn't seen his car when I pulled in – and he was siding with my mother against me.
A feeling of intense anger spread through my body, my fingers and toes tingling with adrenaline.
"Get your hands off of me!"
I was shaking so hard that my father's hand started to slip off of my shoulder.
His voice was smaller when he spoke again.
"Are you okay? You're hot. Sue, I think she's getting sick."
My mother gasped, and I heard her mumble, "But, she's a girl. It's only the boys."
"What? So, you have a problem with having a daughter now?"
My mom stepped back, farther away from me.
"Harry, I think you should let go of her. You aren't feeling well today. Go into the kitchen and let me deal with her, okay?"
His fingers squeezed my shoulder for a moment.
"She'll need us both."
The shaking increased, and a rush of warmth hit my stomach, making me want to puke. I jerked away from his hand and turned to look at him.
He was stunned. His face showed his shock, and something…something I couldn't identify.
"Leah, we need to go to your room. I'll call Sam and he can talk to you about what's bothering you," my mother pleaded.
I lost control at the mention of Sam's name.
"Why can't you ever be on my side? Why do you care more about Sam and Emily than you do about me? What kind of mother are you anyway?"
"Leah, don't," my father said, his voice shaking slightly. His breathing sounded odd to me.
My own breathing changed, my body rippled with spasms that I had no control over.
And I screamed.
At least I started out screaming, but it ended in an odd growling noise.
Before I could really register the change in my voice, my body bent in half with a spasm. My fingers were almost touching the floor.
"Aaaahhhhh," I groaned at the feeling inside of my limbs – a feeling that was turning me inside out.
A flutter passed through my skin, a tremble rippled up my spine, and I felt myself ripping to pieces – only not.
I heard a strange noise behind me, but when I attempted to turn, I realized that I was on all fours.
All four paws.
I looked at my mother's face, and though there was some shock, she spoke calmly to me. "Leah, I need you to call out for Sam or Jacob. We need someone to help you."
I opened my mouth to protest, but the noise I made was a howling sound.
Another grunt sounded behind me, and I lithely turned, pushing the couch out of my way with my…haunches?
The sight of my father, sprawled on the floor, clutching his chest, caught my attention and started to cool the anger that I'd felt before…whatever it was that just happened.
And as I looked at him, I became aware of voices in my mind.
Shit, I'd gone crazy now. And my father needed help.
But the voices were familiar somehow.
"Who is that?"
"It's Harry Clearwater. Who is at their house?" Sam's voice asked. "Which of you is there? Tell me. Now!"
"Sam?" I thought.
An overwhelming feeling of shock tore through me, and I could sense that there were several of them who had just realized who I was.
"Leah?" Sam's voice was concerned, soft. "Is that really you?"
"What's wrong with me?" I thought. "I need to help my dad, but I can't figure out what's going on. I need…I need help."
As I stood, listening to the voices, watching the trees fly past different eyes, I could see my mother trying to help my dad.
"Harry, hold on. We'll get you to the hospital. Please, hold on."
The sound of large paws hitting the dirt outside of our home coincided with a visual of my car, the gathering storm clouds, and our front door.
And then the door was on the ground, the hinges ripped from the wall, and a large black wolf was standing in the room with us.
"Leah, you need to calm down. Take deep breaths. Think about who you are. Concentrate on your human form. You can't help your dad while you're in wolf form," Sam said.
"What are you talking about?" I asked.
The large black wolf nudged my side, pushing me to the out of the way so that he could approach my parents.
"They need you, LeeLee."
He looked from them to me, his large black eyes pleading. And it clicked, really clicked that it was Sam I was looking at. Sam who was talking to me in my mind.
"Embry, get the car ready. We need to get Harry to help. Hurry," Sam ordered, and I felt Embry stiffen in response, preparing to do as he'd been told.
My mind was reeling, but I was still aware of the shift when Embry wasn't 'there' anymore. I was shocked when I heard my dad's car start in the driveway.
"LeeLee, we've got to get him some help. I need to go with them, help your mom. I'm leaving Embry with you. Will you be okay?"
"I…I don't know. What's going on? My dad, what's wrong with my dad?"
"I need to change back. To help your mom."
I nodded, which felt all wrong, but at the same time, natural. My head wasn't my own.
Everything was happening so fast. It was scary. And strange.
A flickering thought passed through my mind – an idea really – that what was happening might give me some insight into what had happened to Sam a while ago.
"You're right," Sam said. "It will. We'll talk later."
He moved down the hallway of the house, and I could feel when he left his wolf form, leaving me with others that I couldn't identify in my head. When he returned only seconds later, he was human, a pair of cutoff sweats covering the lower half of his body.
This was real.
"Embry will try to help you phase back, Leah. I'll take your dad for help. When I get back, we can talk about what's going on. Okay?"
I just looked at him, stunned.
My father stood, grasping my mother's arm, and she was cautioning him against moving too much.
"Let's go, Harry," she said. "We need to get you to the doctor, right now. I have an aspirin in my purse that you can take on the way."
As they moved toward the door, I heard the sound of feet outside, and the clatter of fishing tackle in the box he carried. Seth was home.
I whined, and Sam turned to look at me. His eyes were wide, and he knew what I knew.
Before he could stop him, Seth stepped on the door that was on the ground. His words cut off when he saw me. "Mom, what's up with the front…?"
He turned to scan the room, taking in Sam and Embry, but his eyes stopped on me.
"What is…a wolf…?"
I noticed the shaking in his limbs. Sam did, too.
"Seth, calm down," he said. "Let's go outside and talk."
Seth shook his head, and I watched in horror as his arms and legs started to spasm.
Embry tried. "Seth, man, let's get out of here and we can tell you what's going on."
"I…I…can't…" Seth struggled with the words, and I could hear his voice changing timbre. It was lower, husky, almost a growl.
I was shocked. I could see what had happened to me happening to him.
His body jerked with a particularly hard spasm, bending him in half, and I felt it as he shifted. His clothing shredded, pieces of fabric flying through the air, and I realized that mine had done the same.
I stared at him as his body changed in front of me. It was fast, but my eyes caught everything, the fur pushing through the skin, the bones moving, altering his shape, his eyes changing from their deep rich brown to a golden brown as they grew in his skull. I saw the ears push through his hair as his face contorted from a nose into a snout, and his teeth twisted in his mouth, changing to sharp incisors.
In a split second, my brother had gone from human to wolf form.
"Seth," I called to him. "I'm sorry."
"Sorry for what? This is so cool! Paul, where are you? I can hear you." His mind turned from me to the other wolves we could both sense.
Of course Seth wouldn't be freaked out.
He was assessing everything the other wolves were thinking, seeing. And I was following him, seeing the things he was seeing through them. It was surreal, and we were caught up in it.
Until I heard the gasping, choking sound of my father trying to breathe.
I saw him first through Seth's eyes, and then with my own.
His face was grey, ashen, and his lips were turning blue.
Without wasting time, Sam picked my father up and carried him to the car – but I heard the source of the problem before they left. I knew that my dad's heart was seriously damaged and stuttering.
"Help him," I thought, and several voices answered me.
"He'll do everything he can to get him help."
For hours I fought with my body, trying to return to normal.
I didn't know how.
And Embry wasn't much help. He was frustrated at my inability to focus – even after he'd demonstrated several times how to phase back and forth, his cheeks blazing red each time he was in his nude human form.
Seth shifted back and forth a few times - a natural, it seemed.
Embry and Paul fixed the front door as I struggled with phasing, replacing the wood on the side of the frame that had shattered as the hinges tore through it.
The phone rang a few times, and each time, Seth would retrieve it.
The first time, he'd called out, "They're being admitted right now. Mom says they're taking dad right to the O.R. for a…um…angio-something. Says she'll call in a while."
Later, it was, "That was Charlie. He wanted us to know that they just heard from the surgeon. Looks like they had to do a bigger surgery. Cracked his chest open, or something like that."
The third time, it was my mom. "Mom wanted to see how we're doing. She hasn't heard anything from the surgeon in a while. Told me that we should stay here."
When he wasn't answering the phone, he was asking Embry more questions about how phasing worked.
It was much later when I heard the sound of a car outside. I realized that the phone hadn't been ringing for a while. We hadn't had an update in an hour or more.
And this was my dad's car pulling up.
The doors opened and closed sluggishly. The sound of lethargic feet moving on the dirt path to the house hit me, and I knew before they opened the door.
There was no way mom would have left the hospital.
I battled with myself, trying to return to my human form so that I could talk to my mother.
Holding my breath, I tried again to picture me as I'd always been, and I could feel something happening just as the door opened.
"Way to go, Leah," Seth said. "You finally got it."
I sighed in relief, opening my eyes to look around the room.
Embry was the first one I saw, and he was so red, he looked almost comical, which clued me in to the fact that I was standing in front of him completely nude.
"Shit," I grumbled, but as the word was leaving my mouth, I heard Seth's breathing change.
Glancing in his direction, I saw his face. The horror there. He was looking at my mother.
Sam had walked in behind her, and he was supporting her, helping her walk.
Her face was puffy, her eyes swollen and red, and her shoulders hunched forward. She had my dad's fishing hat in her hands, twisting it as she sobbed.
"Charlie's right behind us," Sam said. "You should probably get dressed. You may need to leave if you don't think you can hold it together."
My tenuous hold on my human form started to slip, and I could tell I was phasing before it happened.
"Get her outside," Sam told Embry.
I felt it as he shifted, and he quickly issued orders and pushed me toward the rear of the house.
"But I need to be with my mom," I shouted.
"Then shift back. We can climb in your window and get something for you to wear." I saw what he was describing.
"How do you know about the latch on my window being broken?" I asked him, angry that he had that information.
He didn't need to answer. I saw it all. Everything Sam had told them.
"Sorry," he said as he pushed me into the trees behind the house, just as Charlie's cruiser pulled into the driveway.
I concentrated as we stood there, forcing myself back to my human form in a matter of minutes, but I didn't move.
Embry shifted and pulled his sweats on. "I'll get you something to wear."
He was only gone for a few minutes, but I hadn't moved, and I didn't want to.
Standing up and going into my house would start the reality I didn't want to face. My dad was gone. I was a shape-shifter. Probably the only female if the reaction to my 'voice' earlier was any measure. Seth was a shape-shifter. All of the other wolves knew everything about my former relationship with Sam.
I would have to listen to Sam every time we were both in wolf form. I would know everything that Sam was thinking. I would see him with Emily.
Holding the clothes out to me, Embry tried to turn away, his face bright red again.
He was going to die of embarrassment if I didn't get dressed soon. I really couldn't see how it was a big deal. He'd apparently known for a while what I looked like without clothes on. That had become clear when I saw his memory of my bedroom window. Sam hadn't been discreet in sharing his memories.
It didn't take long to slip into the sweats and the tee that he'd pulled out of my drawer.
"We really should get inside. Do you think you can hold it together?" Embry asked.
Nodding, I started to walk to the house, ignoring Embry's frantic steps.
As I walked through the back door, I heard Charlie ask about me. He wondered where I was.
"I'm right here," I said. "Sorry. I was out walking, thinking about my dad." It was easy to lie.
Charlie looked like he'd been crying. He glanced at me, and then back at my mom, and I could tell he didn't think I knew.
"Your dad, well, his heart was pretty seriously damaged," Charlie said, standing up to cross the room. "I'm really sorry, Leah."
I dropped my head, the tears that rolled off of my face were real, but the words that I said were a lie. "I was hoping you had better news for me."
His arms wrapped around me, and I winced. Instead of hugging back, I pulled away a little, worried about what might happen if I phased right now.
I took deep breaths, calming myself.
When Charlie stepped back, I looked around the room.
My mother looked up at me with her red, swollen eyes.
"He went to change clothes. He was a mess from fishing." She cocked an eyebrow at me as she said it, and I realized that Seth was having a hard time controlling the phasing, too.
"What can I do, Mom?"
"The council is coming, Leah. You shouldn't have to worry about this," she said with a sigh. "We'll make arrangements. Charlie, do you think you could go get Billy? He was going to make some calls, but I'd like to have him here soon. The three of you were such good friends." She sniffled.
I sat next to her on the couch, and her arm wrapped around my shoulder, pulling me in closer to her. Charlie nodded and walked out of the door.
"I had no idea this could happen to you," my mom said as soon as the door closed. "I've been watching Seth for signs, but I didn't know, Leah. I didn't think…"
As if to punctuate her point, Seth walked into the living room, lifting his arms in front of him, looking at his hands while he wriggled his fingers. "That was crazy."
"What do you mean you didn't know? That you've been watching Seth?" I asked, a small flicker of anger registering in my mind.
"When the others started to shift, I thought Seth might. Our bloodline includes shape-shifters," she said, looking me in the eyes. "But none of the traditions talk about a female shifter. This is unheard of in our history."
"You knew about Sam? Embry? The others?"
I watched my mother in amazement as she nodded.
"And you kept it a secret?"
Taking a deep breath, my mother started to explain. "Only the council members know. My father carried the tradition, so he taught me. And well, I saw it firsthand when I went to help with Emily's injury. It was after the Cullens came back to Forks, when Sam disappeared, that it started this time. The Elders knew why. They knew that there would be others. But with the Cullens gone, something else must be triggering more of you. I think it's that other cold one, the redhead."
My head was spinning.
I was a wolf.
My mother just said there were cold ones.
Dr. Cullen had been despised and shunned by my tribe, and I'd laughed it off. I'd been told to stay away from them with no futher explanation. But the Cullens really were vampires, something that had seemed like a joke when I heard the whispers on the rez.
Leaning forward, I placed my head between my knees, taking deep breaths to pull myself together.
"I'm sorry, Leah. I wish I could change this for you," my mom said. "There must be a reason for your shift. I need to talk to the other Elders. We need to plan your father's funeral, and they need to know that there are two more wolves in our pack. Billy was going to make the calls for me. Some of the council was at the hospital, but there were a few who don't know yet."
I could hear Billy's chair moving down the walkway outside of our home. I had no idea where Jacob was, but Billy was with Charlie, and it was just the two of them.
I heard the rustling in the room, felt the shift in the air, and tasted Sam's scent as he got closer to me.
"We should talk," he said.
Seth stood to follow us, but Sam shook his head.
"Just Leah. But you should probably stay in your room while the Elders are here. We need to work with you on your shifting." He started to turn, but at Seth's excited expression, he added, "Tomorrow."
With a sigh, Seth shuffled down the hall to his room.
Sam opened the door to admit Billy, and I looked at Billy's face. He was studying me, looking at my legs and arms, my face. He cocked his eyebrows as he looked at my wild hair. He already knew.
"I've been on the phone," Billy said. "The council will be here within the next fifteen minutes. We can plan the funeral. Sue, you'll need to sit in Harry's place, if that's okay?"
She nodded before she spoke. "Charlie, do you mind helping with the arrangements? Everyone knows that Harry was like a brother to you."
Charlie's voice was raspy. "I'd love to help, Sue. Thank you." He reached over to squeeze her hand.
"I can't believe he's gone," my mom whispered, squeezing back.
Our house filled up quickly after that. One after another the council members arrived. My nerves were raw, and I knew that I needed space in case I phased again.
Sam seemed to sense that it was time to get me out of the room.
"Let's take a walk, Leah," he said, and I could see the surprise cross most of the faces in the room. "You need to get some air."
I did need some air. I needed space. More than I'd ever have here - as a wolf.
But I didn't say that. Instead I followed Sam out of the house.
I wasn't really ready to talk to him. But as he led me into the trees, I followed. All I could think about was the last time I saw my dad, the last words I had spoken to him, and my heart ached.
"It's my fault," I choked out. "If I hadn't been so upset. If I hadn't changed, phased, whatever it is, he'd be okay. He's dead because of me."
My eyes closed as the guilt took over my senses, and I dropped to my knees on the damp forest floor.
"I'm so, so sorry," I cried out.
I was surprised when I felt the warmth of Sam's arms wrapping around my body, and even more surprised when I felt him lifting me from the ground. Before I could ask what he was doing, he was running with me in his arms, threading through the trees.
"It's not your fault, LeeLee. You can't control this." His breathing was even, unaffected by running, or by carrying me.
I snarled. "Quit calling me that. You don't have the right."
Sam stopped running. He placed me on my feet. "You're right. I'm sorry."
We had moved through the trees, toward the ocean. I could hear the water slapping the rocky shore, mixing with the rain drops that were still falling.
"Why did you bring me out here, Sam? What's the point? I could have stayed in my room in case I phased," I said, crossing my arms and huffing.
"We need to talk. This is going to be a challenge for both of us."
Sure, it would be a challenge for him- now that I was aware what the 'Protectors' really were. His stupid boys' club wasn't so secret anymore.
He went on, "I think you already know that you'll see what I think about when we're both wolves. I'll see what you think about. We have to find a way to make it tolerable for all of the others."
My eyes filled with tears, and I swiped at them, angry that I couldn't stop their flow.
"You mean I'll find out all of the things you've told the others?"
Sam turned cautiously to look at me. "What are you talking about?"
"I saw it, Sam. When Embry was telling me we could get clothes by climbing through my window, I saw that you'd shown them how you snuck into my room. You showed them more than that, I'm sure. Is it funny to laugh about the ex-girlfriend? When the wolves are bored, do you share what a loser I was for believing you when you said you loved me?"
He stepped closer to me.
"It's not like that. Honestly, I can't help what they've seen. I passed your house one day, and when I looked at the window, I thought about it, that's all. You've seen how it is. I can't stop them from seeing more of my memories and thoughts than I want them to see." Sam reached for me, and I stepped back. "I'm sorry, LeeLee."
"Stop it. Just stop. I don't care if you're sorry. I don't care if you didn't mean to tell them. Can't you see that I'm stuck? That I don't have a choice now? I have to stay." I sunk to the ground, grabbing my knees and dropping my forehead to them. My words were barely a whisper when I continued. "All I wanted was to leave so that I didn't have to watch you with Emily anymore. It's killing me. And now…now I have to see you and Emily in your mind. God, what did I do to piss off the universe?"
Sam sat next to me, touching my arm. "I wish I could make it easier for you. I never wanted to hurt you."
I couldn't help the laugh. "Right. You didn't mean to hurt me when you dumped me for my cousin? You didn't mean to hurt me when you moved her into the house where we were supposed to live? And I wasn't supposed to mind that you proposed to her, that you're planning a wedding? Oh, and I'm just supposed to suck it up when she asks me to be a part of her wedding? Good old Leah, she won't mind. Yeah. I'm perfectly fine, asshole."
"You don't understand what happened. It could happen to you, too, you know. Now that you're a wolf. You'd see why I couldn't help it." He was frustrated, and pleading with me to believe him.
"Understand what? That she's prettier? That she's nicer than me? Believe me, I've always known that."
"It has nothing to do with that, Lee. It's a wolf thing."
I growled at him, surprising myself, and then we sat in silence.
"I could show you. If you wanted," he said quietly.
I sighed. I couldn't help it.
"Now what are you talking about?" I asked.
"I didn't come out here to relive what happened. But you lost your dad today. You became part of the wolf pack. You deserve to know everything. Maybe it'll make things a little easier for you."
Did I want to know? Of course.
Could I handle it today?
I didn't answer for a long time. There was so much I didn't know about being a wolf, and I was dying to know why Sam left, but my heart was already ruined, I doubted I could take any more.
Finally, when I couldn't stand thinking about it anymore, I answered. "Tell me."
"Can you phase? It'll be easier to show you what happened."
"I don't know if I can. It's getting a little easier to phase, but I'm not sure if I can just do it on command."
"Undress and try," he said.
He nodded. "You'll rip your clothes to shreds if you don't undress first. I won't watch."
Sam stood and walked into the trees, and when he returned, he was in his wolf form.
I sat on the forest floor for a few minutes, trying to decide what I wanted to do.
When I decided, I stood and walked into the trees and stripped. I focused on the grey, shaggy fur, on the paws and the teeth.
It happened quickly.
The length of one breath, and I was no longer on two legs. My body was bent over, four paws on the forest floor, and several voices in my head.
Sam's was loudest. "Guys, I need a few minutes to talk to Leah. Phase and stay human for half an hour."
"But we have to catch the bloodsucker," one voice said – it was Paul, I was pretty sure.
"Yeah, we lost her trail. We've got to pick it up again." Embry, I think.
"Enough," Sam said, and I felt them cowering. Slowly, the others shifted to human, and in moments Sam and I were the only wolves.
"Thank you," I said. "It's easier without so many voices."
I could feel Sam's unease after I said it. "It's worse when you're alone."
"What do you mean?"
"I was the first to phase. There weren't any other voices. I was alone. There wasn't another wolf to tell me what was happening. I was terrified. I ran."
I gasped – internally, which was weird.
"When you disappeared, you were a wolf?"
And then Sam remembered what it was like the first time he phased.
His mom was angry because he'd been out all night, and he was late for work. She was yelling, and he started to shake.
"You need to be more responsible. You aren't a child anymore. If you don't clean up your act, you'll end up just like your father."
Sam stormed out of their house, heading toward his car. But he never made it to the car. His body doubled over with the largest spasm, and he phased in his front yard.
Thankfully, his mother didn't see.
She was frantic, looking for him in the yard and the edge of the forest. Sam watched from a safe distance, trying to get a handle on what was happening to him.
I remembered her call to my house, and the way she cried. Sam winced at that visual.
"Does she know?" I asked, and he knew I meant his mother.
"No. I can't tell her."
"Like you couldn't tell me?"
"Exactly." I can feel him sorting through his thoughts, trying to avoid certain things.
"What is it that you wanted to show me, Sam? The others will be back soon."
"Well…I wanted to explain about Emily. But if you aren't ready…"
I could feel his hesitation. I knew he was worried. I heard all of the things passing through his head at an alarming rate.
Like before, I felt what Sam was feeling as he remembered. I was surprised when his first memory was not of Emily, but of me.
We were walking on First Beach, talking about what I'd do after graduation, what kind of job I wanted to get. Sam was planning on taking a few business courses, hoping to open his own handyman shop in a couple of years.
But that wasn't what caught my attention.
Sam was looking at me, and I could tell – no, I could feel – the love he felt. He loved me. There was nothing he wanted more than to fix up the little house his grandparents had left him so that we could be together.
He wanted to have me move in before I graduated, but he knew my parents wouldn't be fond of the idea.
There was worry, too.
About being a wolf.
He wondered if I'd be safe with him. The council hadn't convinced him that he was stable, yet.
When he pulled me into the trees that lined the path to the tidal pools, I could feel how much he wanted me.
I knew what happened next, so he didn't show me. It would hurt too much to relive an intimate moment like that.
Then I was crying, really crying, as I realized that Sam hadn't lied to me about loving me. At least not at that point.
"I did. I still do, but not in the same way," he said.
I'd forgotten he could hear my thoughts, too.
I asked the only thing I could think of at the moment. "Then why?"
"You remember the stories about Taha Aki?"
"Do you remember the Third Wife?"
I did remember the stories. I'd been listening to them since I was a very small child. As a teen, I'd laughed at the beliefs my parents had. Everything seemed like a silly superstition to me at that point.
But the story of the Third Wife had always been my favorite. I knew that someday I'd love someone enough that I'd be willing to die for them.
And that's when the realization hit me. "Emily is your other half?"
Nothing had prepared me for what Sam showed me next.
We were at my house, waiting for Emily to arrive. I told him over and over again how much he'd love spending time with Emily – because I did. She was the sister I'd never have.
He rolled his eyes when I told him, again, that she was my best friend in the world. But he smiled at me when I looked at him, indulging me. He wanted me to be happy, and if seeing Em would make me happy, he was all for it.
Her car was loud as it pulled into the lane that led to our house. Louder to Sam, I realized, because of his enhanced hearing. He could even hear her breathing as she drove toward our house.
"She's here," I said, laughing. "Let's go outside and help her with her bags."
Sam followed me outside, checking the forest around our house as he did. Always the Protector, I now knew.
Emily was standing by the car when Sam finally turned to acknowledge her.
And then his world spun.
He looked at her, and his heart sped up. His head felt like it was floating, like he was leaving the ground. A pulling sensation started in his chest, causing an ache.
Sam needed to be with her, to touch her.
I felt him as he pulled back, trying to avoid the feeling. But I forced him forward to greet her. Encouraged him to shake her hand when she offered it.
And when he did, any hope of resisting her was gone.
His hand tingled as they touched. His heart altered its beat – matching Emily's. Every fiber of his body changed in that instant.
Sam was hers.
He showed me how the task he'd told me he'd forgotten had been a ruse to leave – to get away from the situation.
Maybe if he cleared his head he could fix this.
There was only one place where he could go to be alone. The little house where he would be living soon.
Hours later, he was still pacing in the small kitchen, barely able to breathe as he thought about Emily and me.
Sam knew what it would do to me – and he couldn't stand the idea of causing me pain. He loved me.
But Emily…Emily was…everything. His every breath was hers, and he knew it. She owned him, whether she wanted to or not. He belonged to her.
And he couldn't tell me why. But he could tell Emily.
It was agony.
Every possible decision caused pain.
If he stayed away from Emily, he would never be whole, and he could already feel the pain of it in every cell.
If he went to Emily, I would be destroyed – at least for a while – and his heart ached for me.
Being a wolf changed everything. His…curse…pushed him in directions he wouldn't have chosen. But there was a choice here.
He'd stayed at the house for two days, and I remembered wondering what was wrong with him, but I'd been too distracted by spending time with Emily to worry.
I worked that weekend, trying to save money for the future I had planned with Sam.
While I was gone, he approached Emily, taking her to my favorite hiding place – oh, God, he'd taken her there – and told her everything.
Emily sobbed, knowing that the pull she felt toward him was more than just attraction. It was her destiny. She fought him, pushing him away, pounding on his hard chest with her fists, and screaming at him for putting her in that position.
But in the end, she allowed him to wrap his arms around her in comfort. He pressed his forehead to hers, sighing as the world righted itself.
"I'll be whatever you want me to be, Emily. If you tell me to stay away, I will. But I can't stay with Leah. It's not fair to her. Every minute, I'll be thinking of you, wondering if you're safe, worrying about your health and well-being. I can't focus on her when I was created to be yours."
The memory cut off as his lips met hers.
It wasn't fast enough.
I felt what he felt when their lips touched. I was encompassed by the rightness, the wholeness.
And I couldn't deal.
Before I knew it, I was racing away from Sam, away from his memories, away from everything that had happened to me.
I could hear him calling to me, "Stop, Leah. Come back, please."
He understood when I thought about outrunning the pain.
A new consciousness joined us, and shortly after, another one. Within minutes, there were five of us.
"Leah, can I run with you?" Seth asked.
I didn't answer.
After a while, they all left me to my own thoughts – to my pain.
There were a few snide remarks about me. I couldn't miss them.
"That's enough," Sam said with authority, and the thoughts were gone, followed by apologies.
"Should we follow her?" Embry asked.
I could feel Sam's indecision shift to resolve. "Let her run. She deserves to get this out of her system." Then, "I'll leave your clothes on your back porch."
The other wolves went back to whatever it was they had been doing earlier. Patrolling our borders, they told me. And I ran. And ran.
But you can't outrun heartbreak.
It stays with you no matter how far you go.
It was just after three in the morning when I returned to my home.
I phased easily this time, and picked up the clothing that Sam had left folded on the stairs.
The light in the living room was still on, and I shuffled through the kitchen, wondering who was still there.
My mom was sitting alone on the couch, her eyes closed, but she wasn't sleeping. I could tell that her breathing was too shallow.
"Mom," I whispered.
She looked at me, sorrow written on her face.
"Oh, Leah. I'm so sorry."
When my mom reached out for me, I dropped into her arms like I had as a child. I cried, and she cried. All the while her hand was stroking my hair.
"I wanted to tell you why. So many times I wished I could reveal it all to you. But I was sworn to secrecy. I've ached for you. Your father ached for you."
"Daddy," I whispered, and a fresh wave of sorrow hit me. "Mom, what will we do without him?"
Her chest heaved with sobs then.
Neither of us could speak for a long time.
When the room was bright with early morning sun, she finally moved to get more comfortable.
"I'm sorry, Mom. You should have gone to bed. You need your rest."
She shook her head.
"I can't sleep in there. Not now."
And I understood. I couldn't tell her that I'd spent most nights sleeping on the floor of my own room, unable to bear being in the same bed I'd shared with Sam so many times. She didn't know – and I didn't want to tell her.
"We have a lot to do today," she said, stretching as she stood. "I'll start breakfast."
There were a few things that I needed to do, too.
She turned to face me.
"Will you cut my hair short? It'll be easier when I phase."
I watched as her face crumpled a little before she caught herself.
"Only if you cut mine just like it."
And just like that, I had my mother back.
The tears came before I realized they were even beginning. "Thank you."
"Don't you know that I'd do anything for you, Leah?"
"Let's cut my hair, too," Seth said as he joined us.
He wrapped his arms around my mother, and she reached up to hold onto him.
Rushing across the room, I joined them in their embrace.
I realized in that moment that although nothing would ever be the same, and my dreams of being with Sam were truly over - that I would suffer as I watched him with Emily - I still had my family.
And for them, I would fight to the death.
Maybe that's why my life had shifted.
A/N Huge thanks to GinnyW, my pre-reader, and to Giselle-lx, my beta.
It was fun to play with the wolves for once.
Thank you for your support, and for reading the stories in the Canon Tour.