Quick Author's note: Thank you all who have reviewed so far. I am so glad you are liking my story. Please continue with the reviews! They are most welcome!

I just wanted to answer a question one of you asked - I originally intended to finish this story once Bella arrived in Forks, but now I am thinking I might continue with Jacob's point of view for a while. No point in continuing with Bella or Edward as this has already done by SM. I am also toying with the idea of switching to one of the other vampire's p.o.v but haven't decided which one yet. Jasper is my favourite for the moment I think because of his problems in dealing with his blood-lust for Bella. What do you think? Anyone got any ideas?

Chapter Nineteen

Exchanges

February 2005 Forks, Washington.

We had heard the wolf crying out a few times since the night of the attack on the young girl from the Reservation. It was a solitary howl, full of pain and sorrow. There had been no visits from the Police though, so it appeared that the Quileutes were not blaming us, for once. They would, of course, know that were not responsible. The wolf, with his heightened sense of smell would be able to detect the difference in our scent to that of the strangers. He would have reported back to the tribe. Nevertheless, Carlisle was concerned and reminded us to all stay on alert. If the visitors returned, it would spell trouble.

As much as I loved Alice I was avoiding her, wherever possible. She was trying to disguise it, because she knew it was irritating me, but her visions of the dark-haired girl were becoming stronger and more frequent. She made attempts to disguise the visions by concentrating on something else, but it was alarming just how frequently they came now. Whoever this dark haired girl was, it was clear I was not going to be able to avoid her and she would have a huge impact on my life. It would probably affect all of us.

The girl in Alice's visions was clearly not a vampire though. It was obvious from her awkward, almost clumsy movements. If only the vision was clearer, if I could see her face it would help, but Alice's attempts to give me a full picture were fruitless. It was hurting her that I was avoiding her, and she tried really hard to keep her thoughts to herself. I hoped that the vision would become a reality soon so that I could be close to her again. I hated the pain it was causing her and I knew she missed me as much as I missed her.

I'll give Alice her due though; she had not mentioned it again to any of the others and she seemed to be struggling with the reality of it as much as I was. It seemed inconceivable that it could be one of the Quileute girls. How could I possibly form a liaison with one of them when their smell was so repugnant? Yet, if she wasn't a vampire, what other explanation could there be?

Tonight I was grateful to be out hunting with Carlisle and far away from Alice and her attempts to disguise the inevitable. Carlisle's thoughts were structured and responsible. His only concern was for the ultimate safety of our family and the importance of keeping our existence a secret from the humans. This was the way it had always been and the normality of his mind gave me a glimmer of hope.

The hunting around here wasn't great though. We had to make do with deer which did not satisfy the thirst as much as the mountain lions which could be found further afield.

"It's about time we took another proper hunting trip," I grumbled to Carlisle after discarding the spent body of the fourth deer I had consumed that night.

Carlisle didn't reply. He didn't need to, he knew I could read his thoughts and would understand the reason for wanting to remain close to home for the moment. We had a need to guard our territory until we could be sure the other vampires were not returning, and until we could be sure of the Quileute's intentions.

"Yes, I understand all of that Carlisle," I told him, "But surely it wouldn't hurt for Emmett and myself to take a trip to the mountains? We could take the cell phone with us and you could call us back if anything happened."

"I would just rather have you all around for the moment. Just until things get back to normal. Humour me please," Carlisle replied.

He was well aware that even if Emmett and I were up in the mountains we could be home in a couple of hours if called, but he wanted us closer than that in case an emergency evacuation was needed. He wanted us to be within a few minutes of the house at all times so that a proper family discussion could take place and plans could be made.

I absent-mindedly kicked out at a tree in annoyance as I muttered, "Yeah, ok." The tree trunk snapped about three feet from the ground, just above the point of impact from my foot and thundered to the ground, making a huge disturbance. Some of the small wildlife scattered in confusion, chattering noisily in annoyance at having their habitat so abruptly unsettled by the fallen tree.

Carlisle gave me a reproving glance. You need to control that temper of yours Edward. I know it's not easy and it won't be for much longer, I promise.

"Sorry," I offered. Carlisle nodded in acceptance.

Just then we heard a wolf howl, much louder than ever before. It was close, and now the sound of the angry chattering rodents had died down we could hear the thudding of the wolf's paws approaching us.

"Brace yourself, Edward, but do not attack!" Carlisle hissed at me as he swung around to face the direction of the approaching wolf.

I could hear the animal's heartbeat now, loud and steady. I could smell the revolting wolf stench as its footsteps got closer and instinctively I let out a warning growl.

The wolf must have heard it as it returned a loud menacing growl itself and came to a standstill just out of view, but close enough for us to be able to feel its warm breath and also, to my surprise I could actually hear what it was thinking. I had not expected this because Alice's visions were flawed. She could not see the wolves, and I had fully expected not to be able to read their minds.

"It's ok Carlisle," I whispered as he too had adopted a defensive crouching position just ahead of me. "He is not going to attack us. Well, probably not anyway. He is curious, that's all. He was startled initially by the falling tree and came to see what had happened. Now he knows the um, the cause of the falling tree, he is wondering how much we know about the other vampires."

The wolf snorted loudly and then took a few steps closer bringing it into full view. Huh? How do you know that? The huge black wolf was now standing no further than twenty yards from us and had purposefully adopted an elevated position presumably in case we were about to attack. I looked up in awe at the mighty animal perched defensively on a tall boulder, snarling and showing its huge fangs dripping with saliva. I quickly decided that now would be a good time to let our enemy know that we would not attack either.

"We will not attack you, please..." I began.

"Yes, allow us to introduce ourselves," Carlisle interrupted.

I know who you are, I heard the wolf think gruffly, but Carlisle continued because he had no idea what the wolf was thinking.

"I am Carlisle, the head of the family, and this is my son Edward."

"It's ok Carlisle, he knows who we are," I told him as I bowed towards the animal in politeness at Carlisle's introduction.

"You can read his mind?" Carlisle whispered to me.

I nodded and now the wolf turned to stare at me and appeared to cock its head on one side with curiosity. A mind-reader? I wasn't warned about that. It let out another low growl and again bared its menacing teeth at me.

"Steady, I mean no harm," I attempted to reassure the wolf. It wasn't often I felt threatened. As a vampire, there wasn't much that could threaten me, but this animal was different. I could sense its power and strength and knew that a one on one fight would be potentially fatal for either one of us.

However there were two of us and maybe we stood a chance. Carlisle didn't want to fight however so I put my concerns to one side and relaxed my posture as Carlisle spoke again.

"I don't suppose we could persuade you to adopt your human form so that I can be privy to your exchanges?"

The wolf snarled again and scuffed at the ground with one of its front paws.

"He doesn't trust us enough Carlisle. No wait...he is considering it. He has met us before. He is the one who came to see us back at the hospital, just after we moved here. He is trying to decide if we can still be trusted."

The wolf nodded its head once in acknowledgement that I had surmised its thoughts accurately. It was now contemplating that any attack would be futile if I could read its mind as I would know what to expect. I would be able to anticipate its movement.

"Really, we will not harm you," Carlisle continued. "You have my word."

The wolf continued to assess its position and was deciding that it would be able to transform back into a wolf quickly enough if necessary, but he would feel safer if he were nearer his own territory.

"Um, maybe we could follow you to the border?" I suggested.

Carlisle nodded in agreement. "Yes, of course, if that would make you happier," he confirmed.

The wolf nodded and then turned its giant body around, heading off in the direction of Quileute territory, which was a couple of miles West of where we had been hunting.

We followed, ensuring a safe distance of about fifty yards from the pounding of the animal's feet on the soft mossy ground. He moved swiftly, but not silently through the undergrowth. Carlisle did not want to intrude on the space that the animal seemed to want to surround itself with. I felt comfortable with this too. Fifty yards or so was close enough for me to be able to monitor his thoughts for any change in strategy and I would be forewarned if he changed his mind about attacking us.

Sure enough, as we approached the river which marked the border between our land and theirs, the animal slowed down and came to an abrupt halt at the top of the steep bank. He knew we would not venture on to Quileute territory and he could make a hasty retreat if he felt threatened. I could hear his thoughts clearly. He was judging the distance and he glanced down the rocky slope to the river, assessing whether he would be able to manage the descent quickly and safely enough in human form.

"Please," I reiterated. "Trust us, we will not hurt you." We now stood a few yards from him and watched in amazement as there was a sudden blur in front of us followed by a rushing sound and the animal transformed into a human. He was scrabbling around in the bracken behind one of the large trees looking for something and eventually found a pair of cut-off jeans which he hidden earlier. When he reappeared he was barely recognisable from the young man who had visited us all that time ago. His long sleek hair was now cropped short and he seemed much more muscular than I remembered.

"Thank you," Carlisle told him.

The young man, whose name was Sam I remembered, looked nervous. Far more nervous than he had been that day he visited us before. I guessed that being a wolf made him more vividly aware of our potential as enemies. I could see it in his thoughts now. The young woman who had been attacked was his girlfriend; the love of his life. His utter distrust made perfect sense now. Except that he felt remorseful about her face somehow. It then became clearer. He had done the damage himself. It had been an accident. I watched as he relived the moment he had transformed in anger and she had been too close. She had been pleading with him not to go and he had lashed out at her intending to push her away, but had misjudged the distance and caught her in the face. He corrected his thoughts and reminded himself of the situation he had unexpectedly found himself in tonight.

"What do you know of the cold ones who passed through here last month?" He demanded gruffly.

"Very little," Carlisle replied. "They are not friends of ours. We know there were three of them and that they headed south, but I expect you already know that?"

Sam nodded. "I have been monitoring the borders and have found nothing, but I have recently heard reports that they may be coming back this way."

"I was afraid of that," Carlisle sighed. "How reliable is your source of information?"

"Pretty reliable," he replied. I could tell where it had come from. His thoughts told me it had come from Charlie Swan. The Chief of Police would surely be reliably informed of any trouble heading our way.

"Sam, isn't it?" Carlisle asked.

Sam nodded.

"Sam, please be assured, and let your tribe know, that if these vampires return to the area we will do everything we can to attempt to head them off in a different direction. We do not wish to keep company with them any more than you do. Any adverse hunting activity in this area is just as awkward for us as it is for you."

"Thank you," Sam nodded in appreciation of Carlisle's assistance.

"Are you still the only wolf?"

Sam was reluctant to reply to this. He didn't want to give away his tribal secrets, but in the end he knew I could read his mind and would know if he was lying. He nodded and then added, "Yeah, so far, anyway. I expect I will joined by a couple of the others soon though, especially if these man-eating blood-suckers return." He contorted his face into a grimace when he spat out the last few words.

I knew in that moment that he was harbouring a huge secret from the other young men in his tribe. I pitied him. He was unable to talk to them about it and longed for another of them to join him so that he could share the deep secret. I felt his pain and sorrow at his isolation from the group and the anger he felt towards our kind for indirectly causing the accident which had resulted in the disfiguration of his girlfriend's pretty face.

"I really am sorry for what happened to your girlfriend," I offered, but it was obviously not the right thing to say. Sam's face angered and he seemed to shake with rage. He was trying to control himself; trying not to transform into a wolf. It seemed that anger triggered the transformation then. I hadn't meant to anger him; I was purely trying to show understanding and compassion.

He finally gained control and muttered, "I do not speak of it."

"Ok, I'm sorry," I replied.

Carlisle clearly didn't have a clue what we were talking about so it was easier to change the subject rather than try and explain. I could do that later.

"We will find a way of contacting you if we become aware of any visitors then," I told him, anxious to bring the conversation back to the subject of the transient vampires.

He nodded. "I will continue to patrol our borders to the south and will head them off in your direction if they return. You will then speak to them and encourage them to move on?"

"Sure," Carlisle assured him. "Let's hope it is not necessary."

Sam grunted. I could tell from his thoughts that he blamed us for returning here. He was convinced that the presence of our kind attracted others. I saw no point in trying to convince him otherwise. His mind flashed through a dozen or more faces of what I presumed must be young lads down at the Reservation. That was interesting. I would remember to tell Carlisle that later. It seems there numbers are quite strong, much stronger than when we were here before. Some of the lads looked pretty young though, maybe only eleven or twelve. Sam was feeling sorry for them, knowing what would become of them, knowing the pain and suffering that the transformation had caused him. He wished we would all go away and they could continue their peaceful lives.

I lowered my head to him, hoping that the gesture would show some remorse. I wanted to tell him that I hadn't wanted to come here anyway, but that would be disloyal to my family. It probably wouldn't do any good anyway. The fact was we had come and we had disrupted their lives.

Sam was feeling the anger and resentment building up inside again. He was fighting with himself not to speak out loud the angry bitter words that I could hear clearly in his thoughts. I watched as he fought to control himself. His large frame shook and his face contorted. His breathing became heavier and he knew he had lost the fight. Get out of the way! I heard him yell in his thoughts, Carlisle took a couple of steps backwards as a loud deep growl was followed swiftly by a loud rushing sound. The enormous black wolf shook himself and snarled at us once more, pounding the ground beneath its enormous paws. It sniffed the air in a southerly direction before jumping the river and loping off into the woods away from us. More loathsome blood-suckers, I heard him mutter in his mind. A short while later we heard a solitary howl to the west of us.

Alice and Jasper were approaching us from the South now. Sam had known this. He had become aware of this once he had transformed. He had been alerted to the approach long before we were. He knew more of our kind were coming and that he would soon be too outnumbered to deal with us safely. It was more than he could cope with.

Alice and Jasper came to an abrupt halt when they reached us. Are you ok? What happened? I could hear Alice's frantic mind working overtime.

"It's ok," Carlisle told them. "Edward and I just had an encounter with a wolf. It has gone now."

Alice stamped her foot in annoyance. "I knew it! I couldn't see what was happening. I just knew you were in danger. I knew it had to be something to do with them."

Jasper put his arm around Alice to comfort her and she rested her dainty pixie-like head against his chest.

"Well, that was an interesting evening. Edward, you have more information for us I presume?" Carlisle asked as he indicated that we should return home.

"What?" Alice snorted. "You can read their minds? That is so unfair!" She pouted at me and kicked the ground again.

I nodded. "Yes Alice, I can, and I have learned a great deal tonight." I couldn't help a smug grin forming on my face. It was nice to have one over on Alice for a change. I was about to begin to tell them what I had gleaned from Sam's mind during our encounter when another thought popped into my head and I let out a little laugh.

Jasper gave me a reproachful look as he put his arm around Alice again and led her off in the direction they had just come. He was wishing they hadn't bothered to come. Next time I'll let them fight their own battles!

Carlisle cleared his throat. "Edward! Stop winding her up," he hissed at me. "Come on, let's go. Wait until we get back to the house and then you can share your discoveries with everyone."

I chuckled again. "Sorry, hey Alice, I am not laughing at you. Honest. It's just..." Alice and Jasper turned to face me again.

"What then?" Jasper asked. Alice's mind was too full of angry insults to make any sense. Jasper's attempts to appease her were not working at the moment. She was too hurt and annoyed. When she had finished sulking I would point out to her the obvious advantages that being able to read their minds gave us. Right now was not a good time to attempt this.

"Edward! What is so funny?" Jasper asked again.

I grinned, knowing full well that Jasper would appreciate my little joke and so I told them, "It just occurred to me that Emmett is going to be furious. He has missed out on the action yet again."