Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyers owns Twilight. I do not. I do however, own my 'gang'.

A/N: Flying solo folks.

This is the long awaited sequel to A Mortal Life. To my new readers, I seriously recommend that you read that story before starting this one.

To my regular readers, this story will be written in third person narrative. This will also be a large story and yes, there are OCs (Original Characters). MSCML picks up a year and several months after the final chapter of AML.


Chapter 1

"Don't do this. I'm begging you!" Taylor's voice cracked at the end, revealing his desperation.

"This is my choice, Taylor. Nothing you can say will change my mind." Bella drew in a fortifying breath, steeling herself against his anger.

Hurt flashed in his eyes. "Nothing, huh? So what about me? What about us?"

Bella blinked back the tears stinging her eyes. Why couldn't he see how hard this was for her? Nothing about their situation was easy for her. She felt her resentment toward Alice grow because of the choice she was being forced to make now. If only Alice had kept her big mouth shut, Taylor wouldn't have been so scared.

"Please try to understand. Everything will turn out fine. I just need you on my side." In her heart of hearts, Bella knew she was doing the right thing.

There was a small flicker of doubt in his eyes. "But Alice said–"

"I don't care what Alice said," she snapped before softening, placing her hand over his heart. "I need your support, Taylor. I can survive this. We just need a little more time."

"Alice told us what she saw. You heard what Carlisle said. There's only one choice to make." Taylor practically radiated concern.

"How can you ask me to do that? I won't do it… not even for you." She felt as if her heart was literally breaking in her chest.

Silence descended between them as they gazed at each other. Both refused to back down because doing so would result in the death of something they cherished. No matter who won, it would be a lose/lose situation.

"Well I guess there's only one thing left to say." Taylor drew in a breath. "It's over between us." It looked as if it physically hurt him to say those words.

"You don't mean that." Bella shook her head in disbelief, her tears flowing freely. How could he abandon her now when she needed him most?

Taylor withdrew from her touch, leaving her feeling more alone than she'd felt in years. He wore a sad, tortured look on his face. "If you go through with this… I swear I will never forgive you."

Bella was startled awaked by Taylor calling her name. His eyes shone with concern as he placed a hand on her shoulder. Memories of fear and grief faded as she glanced around the car. Taylor was sitting beside her in the backseat while Ryan drove to Forks with Liz riding shotgun.

"You all right there, Izzy." Ryan glanced at her in the rearview mirror.

"Yeah," Bella murmured, hating the quiver in her voice. The dreams always left her shaken.

As always Taylor quickly picked up on how rattled she was. He traded concern for wariness in an instant. Even Liz had turned around in her seat to observe Bella's reaction.

Bella didn't have to be a mind reader to know that Liz was using her empathic ability to read her emotions. They were all wondering if she could handle the upcoming visits to Charlie's and then to Leah's house.

"Are you sure you're all right?" Taylor placed his hand over hers and squeezed gently.

"Seriously, you guys. I'm fine." She mustered up a smile when, in truth, all she wanted to do was snap at them for staring at her. Immediately after those thoughts occurred, the usual wave of guilt followed. Her friends had moved to Washington for her, to give her some stability. Bella tried to tell herself that they were just worried about her. Still, their constant monitoring only added to her agitation.

They'd just flown in from Florida, subsequent to a weeklong stay at Renee's. After living with the Cullens for a year, Taylor decided that they all needed a change of scenery. Somewhere she could start over and put the past behind her. He was even buying her a house in Port Angeles so she could be closer to Charlie. There was no end to the distance Taylor would go to ensure her happiness.

Unable to bear the weight of Taylor's scrutiny, Bella turned away from him and gazed out her window. Though Taylor had good reasons for his watchfulness, Bella still struggled with feelings of resentment.

With everything that happened between them a year ago, Bella's relationship with Taylor was still on shaky ground. The first hit came after Alice and Carlisle explained the reason for their visit, the second came when Bella decided to come clean with her friends concerning the Cullens being vampires and the Volturi. Taylor had stayed with her through it all. And except for the tiny incident where Taylor threw Edward through a window, both men eventually learned to tolerate each other.

She closed her eyes, leaned her head against the glass and thought about her dream. Even in sleep, she was still being haunted by the painful memories of last year. She didn't know how to begin to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. How was she supposed to move forward when all she wanted to do was go back? Back to a time when she had everything she'd ever wanted. Back to a time when life made sense to her.

When Bella reopened her eyes, she was greeted by the familiar scenery of Forks. As it was still early, there wasn't much in the way of vehicular or pedestrian traffic. As they drove pass the Newton's store, she wondered if it was still being ran by Mrs. Newton. The town of Forks had hardly changed at all in the four years she'd been gone. And yet, everything had changed for her in that time.

Bella tore her attention away from the neighborhood to give Ryan directions to Charlie's house. They had to park in the street as there wasn't any room in the driveway, which was currently occupied by Charlie's police cruiser and Sue's Scion.

With a gentle hand, Taylor helped her out of the car and Liz smiled at her. "So, this is where you grew up?"

Bella nodded with a pasted on smile. No. She didn't grow up in Forks. It was where she'd lost herself. Where she'd become so wrapped up in love that she forgot who she used to be. She'd done all her growing up in Hanover, the cruel, harsh way.

They climbed up the stairs and the front door swung open before they could knock. Sue stood there with a kind smile on her face. "Hello, Bella," she said and then shouted over her shoulder. "They're here!"

She let them in and Charlie came around the corner when the introductions were finished.

A range of emotions flickered across Charlie's face when his eyes landed on Bella, before settling on relief. Without a second thought, Bella went to Charlie and threw her arms around him. He embraced her with a quiet sigh and allowed himself to finally relax. His little girl had finally come home, safe and sound. A father couldn't ask for more than that.

Charlie stepped back, blinking the moisture away from his eyes. His voice was gruff when he spoke. "How was your visit with Renee?"

"She spent the entire visit fussing over me and then she almost kept me from getting on the plane," Bella only half-joked. Her crisis did what motherhood and two marriages had failed to do. It forced Renee to grow up.

"We were just about to sit down and have breakfast. Are you kids hungry?" Sue asked and a famished Ryan practically knocked Taylor out of the way to get to the kitchen.

The scent of bacon made her mouth water. She'd been too anxious to eat or sleep on the plane.

Bella glanced around her, noticing Sue's influence all over the kitchen. The cupboards and walls had been repainted, new curtains hung by the windows. For the first time the kitchen's atmosphere felt warm and inviting.

Charlie and Sue were mildly surprised when Bella passed over the scrambled eggs and bacon in favor of oatmeal and nonfat milk. Her friends didn't even bat an eyelash as they were already used to her newly adopted eating habits.

Bella covertly observed Sue and Charlie's interact. The little smiles, the gentle hand pats. They were like an old married couple, content and settled. She wanted that for them.

Her father had come a long way over the past year. He still had trouble believing that the Cullens were all vampires. Bella had confessed everything to him soon after his hasty arrival in Hanover. She'd left out the werewolf involvement as much as she could. He'd experienced a multitude of emotions; from disbelief to shock and then finally wary acceptance. The vein in his forehead had begun to throb dangerously when it dawned on him that he almost had a vampire for a son-in-law. He'd been understandably angry at her for endangering her life and then lying to him about it. But his anger had rapidly dissipated once he took another look at her frail body.

"Where's Seth?" Bella inquired, sprinkling raisins on her oatmeal.

"Still asleep. He got in late last night." Sue commented vaguely and Bella interpreted that to mean Seth was exhausted from late night patrol.

"Sounds like somebody had a hot date." Ryan grinned and Liz wrinkled her nose when he went back to shoveling eggs into his mouth.

"He was most likely working late." Charlie took a long drink of coffee before setting it down beside his plate.

"I didn't know Seth had a job." Bella seemed genuinely surprised.

"We talked about it a couple of days ago. Don't you remember?" Charlie frowned in concern and all heads turned to look at her.

"I must have forgotten," Bella murmured softly, dropping her gaze in embarrassment.

"Yes… of course. You had a lot going on at the time." Charlie exchanged doleful glances with Taylor.

An uncomfortable silence settled, until Sue mercifully spoke up. "Seth runs a small garage down on the res." Her words hung in the air.

Seth ran his own garage?

Bits and pieces of that conversation with Charlie began to float back to her. Charlie had cosigned a business loan with Seth, enabling him to open his own garage five months ago.

Once upon a time, Jacob had wanted to open his own garage. She wondered if he worked with Seth and then quickly shoved those thoughts out of her mind. He'd made it clear that he didn't want to have anything to do with her. Besides, thoughts about Jacob Black always seemed to have a terrible effect on her temper.

After breakfast they into the living room to catch up. Ryan and Liz did most of the talking when Sue steered the conversation toward their recent graduation. Eventually Bella began to withdraw from the discussion happening around her and gazed out the window. She had nothing to contribute because she didn't graduate.

Across the room, Charlie joined Taylor as he leaned against the wall, observing Bella.

"How is she doing?" Charlie kept his voice low so Bella wouldn't be able to overhear their conversation. He had been so worried about her these past few months. Ever since Taylor called him up out of the blue, saying that Bella needed him, his blood pressure had been through the roof. He never imagined how much heartache fatherhood would bring him.

"She says she's fine." Taylor lifted a shoulder in a shrug.

"Do you believe her?" Charlie raised a questioning eyebrow.

Taylor went to say something, but then reconsidered it. There was no need to worry Charlie, not yet anyway. "She's having a good day."

"I thought her memory loss was getting better." Charlie didn't want to say it out loud, but he was especially bothered by the occasional blankness in Bella's eyes.

"It is. She has lapses every now and again, but Carlisle said things should get better." Taylor hoped that Carlisle was right. Each day he felt her drifting further and further away.

"She still won't talk about it?"

"No." Taylor's eyebrows drew together in a frown. "I'm thinking about taking her to see someone."

"You mean like a shrink? Do you think that's necessary?" Charlie was skeptical. He didn't think Bella would go for that. When it came to sharing feelings, she was like him. Content to keep it all on the inside.

"Even though she tries to hide it from me, I can see how angry she still is over everything that happened. That's anger she can't afford to have right now, Charlie. She's far too unstable for that." Taylor turned his attention back to Bella, more worried than he was willing to admit.

Almost as if she sensed their gaze, Bella's eyes scanned the room until she found them. Her face remained expressionless as she stared and Taylor's frown deepened. One tentative smile from Bella was all it took to make that wrinkle on his forehead disappear. Charlie laughed quietly to himself, that poor boy doesn't stand a chance. Bella had him wrapped around her little finger. There would be no psychiatrist if she didn't want it.

Moments later they heard the distinct sounds of heavy footsteps coming down the stairs. Bella looked up just in time to see a very grown up Seth tugging a t-shirt down over his sculpted abs. Seth Clearwater was most definitely a man now. The hardness in his features, his height and physique brought up too many old memories. Unwanted memories.

Sue introduced Seth to everyone and Liz slipped Bella a sly smile. Obviously Liz found Seth attractive, but little did she know that he was just the tip of the iceberg.

Bella stood and carefully schooling her face to only show playfulness. "Look who's grown up."

Seth's face broke into an easy going smile as he crossed the room to stand in front of her. "Well, if it isn't my little sister."

"Little? I'm older than you." Bella laughed.

"Debatable."

"I don't think four years is debatable, Seth," Bella joked, and then had to choke back a gasp when he hugged her. She'd forgotten how it felt to be enfolded in warmth.

Seth's grin slipped a fraction when he inhaled her scent. Mindful of their audience, Seth inhaled again, trying to identify the smell. It wasn't something she put on. The scent was actually infused in her body. Over Bella's shoulder, his eyes met Sue's briefly in silent question. What had his mother and Charlie been keeping from him? Why did Bella smell so wrong?

Seth's eyes skimmed over her body as she stepped back. She fidgeted under his searching gaze and asked, "What?"

"Nothing. You just look different, that's all."

"Yeah, I gained a little weight." She was still a little self-conscious about that. Over the past year, she managed to gain twenty-five pounds and only recently lost fifteen of them.

"Really? I didn't notice. I was talking about your hair." He smiled again but this time it was a strained one.

Even though Bella sensed the odd look from him had to do with more that just her hair, she couldn't help but grimace. Oh great. Her hair was another thing she struggled not to be insecure about.

Once again, Sue came to the rescue. "Seth, there's still some breakfast in the kitchen if you're still hungry."

"We should probably head over to Leah's now." Taylor–sensing Bella's growing discomfort–pushed himself off the wall and strolled over to where she stood.

Seth's eyes narrowed in speculation, watching as Taylor gave Bella's shoulder an affectionate squeeze. He wondered how Jacob would react to seeing that. True, their relationship was over and had been for four years now. Still Seth couldn't help but think that Bella's homecoming was going to cause all sorts of problems.

When Seth hugged Bella goodbye, he whispered something in her ear that made her smile.

On the walk back to the car, Liz hooked an arm around Bella's and asked what Seth said to her. "He said, better late than never."

Nostalgia washed over Bella as they drove to Leah's house. As the Port Angles house was still in escrow, they'd accepted when Leah offered them a place to stay. Leah's business offer was part of the reason she decided to move back to Washington. At a time when Bella felt like she had nothing, it gave her something to hold onto. It made her feel as if she still had a future to look forward to.

After parking the car, Ryan and Taylor went to get their suitcases. Bella stepped out of the car and froze. The weirdest sensation washed over her and she found herself scanning the tree line next to the house. Her pulse spiked when her eyes landed on a shadow in the dense foliage of the forest. She squinted, trying to determine if it was a tree or… something else.

She started when Taylor asked, "Is something wrong?"

"I thought…" Bella glanced at Taylor but when she turned back to the forest, the shadow wasn't there anymore. "Nothing." Maybe her eyes were playing tricks on her. It wouldn't have been the first time she had a hallucination.

They climbed the steps and the front door swung open before they could knock. "About time you guys got here." Zach greeted them with a smile. His stay at Leah's house would only be temporary. If Zach landed the ranger job up at Lake Crescent, he would be moving into the Port Angeles house with his friends.

"They're here, Lee!" Zach shouted, unaware that Leah had already heard their car pulling up to the house. Bella knew that Leah had to keep up appearances because she still hadn't told Zach that she was a werewolf.

It was difficult for Bella to resist rolling her eyes when Leah rounded the corner with a look of surprise painted on her face. An Oscar worthy performance indeed, Bella thought with a small smirk.

A strange look crossed Leah's face, before she covered it up by commenting on Bella's hair. "Well, this is new."

"Yeah." Bella reached up and fingered a lock of hair self-consciously.

"Jeez. Would you tell her it looks fine? She never believes us when we tell her," Liz said.

Leah gave it a shot. "That color looks nice on you. It makes you look paler."

"Thanks," Bella muttered dryly and a sly smile tugged on the corner of Leah's mouth.

Giving compliments was never Leah's strong suit. "Come on. I'll show you guys where you'll be squatting for the next few days."

"So much for hospitality," Bella remarked sarcastically and Leah barked out a laugh. Leah was beginning to like this new sharp-witted Bella, who had no problems saying whatever popped into her head.

She led them upstairs and Zach went back to watching his favorite show, Mad Men. Stopping in front of a doorway, Leah gestured to the room that would belong to Liz and Ryan. Then she led Taylor and Bella into the room next door. Taylor set their suitcases on the floor next to the bed and noticed Leah and Bella standing quietly.

"I'll go see what Zach's doing." That was his way of giving them privacy to talk.

He left the room, closing the door softly behind him.

"Why do you smell like that?" Leah asked pointblank.

"Like what?"

"I don't know…" She stiffened when Leah leaned forward and actually sniffed the air around her.

Bella silently cursed. She'd forgotten that werewolves would also be able to detect the difference in her smell. Although, she'd taken extra care to ensure that no one noticed any changes in her appearance, her scent was one thing she had no control over. The Cullens had mentioned her altered scent, but Carlisle had assured her that it was only temporary.

Apart from the gang and the Cullens, Emily and Angela were the only people that knew what had happened to her. And while Leah was one of her closest friends, she'd finally gotten to a place where all she wanted was to put the past behind her. She wasn't ready to talk about it with anyone.

While appearing calm on the outside, Bella scrambled for a logical response.

"Well, I'm fresh off a seven hour flight with one layover, so I'm guessing that's what you're smelling," she joked lightly.

Leah shook her head distractedly. "No, that's not it. I'd be able to tell the difference between you stinking up the place and you smelling like… that." She wrinkled her nose.

"I don't know what to tell you." Bella shrugged lazily, appearing as if she didn't have a care in the world.

Leah sighed roughly. "Fine, be mysterious. I just want to make sure you're not going to keel over on me until we get our business off the ground."

"Your concern for my wellbeing is heartwarming, but you don't have to worry about me taking a dirt nap anytime soon." I hope, she added silently.

Reluctantly reassured by Bella's words, Leah left and Taylor returned a couple of minutes later with a glass of water.

Feeling a deep weariness settle in her bones, Bella sank onto the bed and removed her shoes. "What's the water for?"

Taylor set the glass down on the nightstand, knelt down and rifled through her suitcase until he found what he was looking for.

"You haven't taken your pills today."

"Can't I take them tomorrow?" Chugging down pills was the last thing she felt like doing right now.

Taylor shook his head stubbornly. "Carlisle said you need to take them every day. Just be grateful Leah doesn't have the ingredients to make your special smoothie."

This wouldn't have been the first time they'd had a fight over her refusal to adhere to Carlisle's treatment plan. Knowing that she'd never win, Bella stifled her arguments and took her medication without further complaint.

"You look tired." Taylor's face creased with concern.

"Just what every girl wants to hear." Bella smiled sardonically.

"You didn't sleep on the plane. Get some rest and I'll wake you later."

Too tired to protest, Bella settled on the bed and drifted off to sleep.

Hours later Bella was awakened by fingers brushing against her cheek. "Time to get up." Taylor smiled weakly as he stared down at her.

She rolled onto her back and smothered a yawn. "Already?"

The rest had done some good. Her body felt reenergized and she was grateful that her sleep had been dreamless. But she'd worked up a sweat and was now in need of a bath.

Bella went to undress in the bathroom and tried not to cringe when she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. As always the sight of her reflection filled her with a sadness that made her eyes sting. She stood shivering, letting her tears mix in with the cold spray of the shower.

When Bella was finished, she stepped out of the shower and wrapped herself in a towel. She opened the bathroom door and stopped in her tracks.

Taylor was still sitting on the bed and didn't show any signs of leaving. She forced her body to walk into the room, telling herself that she was being silly. Taylor had seen Bella at her absolute worse. It shouldn't have mattered that he was here now, but it did. She needed to find a way to get used to him seeing her naked again.

Trying not to rush, she felt his eyes following her as she toweled off and searched for clothes. Bella wondered if she looked as hideous to him as she did to herself.

After dressing, she stood in front of the mirror, fussing with her hair. Despite her newly developed dislike for mirrors, Bella had learned one thing was true. If she could make herself appear fine on the outside, people would be more inclined to believe that she was okay on the inside.

Without warning, pain flared up in her hands and the brush slipped from her grasp.

"Are you in pain?" Taylor's brows knitted in perpetual worry.

"No. It's just a little numbness this time." The lie rolled smoothly off her tongue.

Sometimes it amazed her how good she'd gotten at it. In the past, lying would've made her feel guilty, but over the past year it had become a necessity. Her friends had suffered enough. None of them needed to know that she sometimes felt like she was circling the drain. She'd do everything in her power to keep her private agony to herself.

"Go sit on the bed." He opened a suitcase and dug around until he found what she needed.

He sat beside her, opened the jar and began to massage the ointment into her hands. Bella gritted her teeth against the sharp pain his touch brought. The pain gradually lessened as the ointment's burning sensation began to take effect. By the time Taylor was done, she could flex her fingers again with only a slight amount of pain.

"Are your feet numb too?" Taylor asked when he was finished with her hands.

"No. They're fine." At least she had that to be grateful for.

She waited by to door while Taylor washed the medicine off his hands, after commenting on how much it burned him. Try as she might, Bella couldn't help but feel responsible for his discomfort. Her chronic guilt was like an uncontrollable disease that ate at her constantly. A small part of her guilt came from not knowing if they'd ever have a normal life again. The remainder of her heartache stemmed from not knowing how to tell Taylor that the woman he loved was dead and gone… maybe forever.

But those were private thoughts she didn't have the courage to voice. She couldn't bring herself to burden Taylor with her fears. He was struggling with his own demons. By the time Taylor emerged from the bathroom, she was wearing a calm smile on her face.

Bella's friends immediately clammed up the moment they saw her coming down the stairs.

Real smooth, guys, she thought bitterly. I'd never guess you were just talking about me.

Bella decided to break the awkward silence. "Where's Leah?"

"She took off after a mysterious phone call, saying she'd be back later." Despite Zach's nonchalant attitude, Bella could tell he was bothered by Leah's sudden disappearance. She was also wondering where Leah had gone.

Bella's ass had barely hit the sofa before Liz said, "Alice called… again. When are you going to talk to her, Izzy? She really misses you."

"I… I just can't deal with her right now." Alice was the last thing she wanted to talk about. The day Alice took Taylor's side over hers was the day their friendship died.

Liz's expression morphed into stubbornness. "But–"

"Leave it alone, Liz." Taylor's voice was low, but the warning in his tone was unmistakable.

Liz opened her mouth to come to Alice's defense yet again, but one look from Ryan told her that now was not the time to press the issue. She decided to move onto a safer topic. "Anyway, I talked to Rosalie and they're enjoying their vacation in Japan. She said there's a Japanese company that makes an incredible herbal shampoo. She's going to send you a box of the stuff."

Being friends with Rosalie still took some getting used to. After Alice's betrayal it was Rosalie who stepped in to offer Bella support. By then, Alice didn't have time to repair their badly damaged friendship as she'd been far too busy, pouring over medical journals with Carlisle and Edward.

"I'm glad their having a good time. They deserve it." Bella smiled.

After receiving the all clear from Carlisle, Bella had an understandable desire to put as much distance between her and Hanover as possible. So she could identify with the Cullens' need to do the same. Her crisis had almost succeeded in tearing their family apart when they were forced to take sides. This trip to Japan was an opportunity to repair that rift. Only Carlisle and Esme had decided to stay in Hanover.

"Oh and you just missed Emily's call."

"Emily called?" Bella frowned.

"Yeah, she wanted to invite us over to her place–if you're not too tired." Liz quickly added.

Bella had to bite her tongue against a sarcastic remark. Too tired? She just woke up from a nap for crying out loud.

She forced herself to smile. "I'm up for it if you guys are."

The prospect of seeing Emily boosted her spirits.

Taylor blocked Bella path when everyone else left the house. "Are you up for this visit?" he asked, his green eyes studying her face intently.

Bella stifled her protests when Taylor swept the hair off her shoulder, and pressed his cool fingers against the pulse in her neck. He knew she didn't like it but he wasn't willing to take any chances. If her pulse was too high, she was staying home. No arguments.

Drawing in a breath, Bella tried to relax the tenseness in her body. She knew she'd never get out of the house without his approval. "I'm fine." This time she couldn't keep the defensiveness out of her tone.

Taylor regarded her in silence and then scowled. "It's a little fast."

Bella sighed quietly, understanding that she'd catch more flies with honey than vinegar. They'd been together long enough for her to know what made him tick. In knowing how his mind worked, she'd discovered the secret he'd tried so hard to keep hidden; that she was his biggest weakness. She had no qualms when it came to exploiting that chink in his armor.

Her lashes came down and when they lifted back up again, she'd undergone a subtle transformation. A moment ago, she was drowning in despair. Now, she drew on her strength as a woman, wielding a power she seldom used.

She moved forward, and placed her hands on his chest, peering up at him through her lashes. His hands automatically went to her hips and pulled her closer until she was pressed against him. Though he appeared to be the very picture of calm, she felt his heart thudding away beneath her palms.

"Please, Taylor. I just want to get together and reminisce with a few old friends. I promise I'll keep the emotional spikes to a minimum." She paused and continued when she still sensed his hesitancy. "Liz will have her feelers out. She'll be the first to know if I have another episode. We'll leave if I can't handle it." Her lips quirked into a hopeful smile.

Taylor studied her face silently, going over the risks in his mind. He was sure she knew what was at stake. She wouldn't jeopardize her progress just for a visit with people who didn't even know her anymore. As much as he would've liked to keep her in quarantine, she needed some freedom.

"Fine." Taylor finally agreed, though he still had some reservations.

The smile she gave him then was mysterious and utterly female. It lit his heart. It had been a long time since he'd gotten a genuine smile out of her. Little by little his Isabella was coming back to him.

Overcome with relief and happiness, Taylor yanked her to him and crushed her lips in a fierce kiss. She was left gasping when he pulled back and rested his forehead against hers.

"Wow. It's been a while since you kissed me like that. Almost makes me want to stay in." She gazed up at him, lips slightly parted, the flush of pink in her cheeks.

Their conversation was cut short by the obnoxious honking from the car out front. "Sometime today, you guys!" Ryan shouted rudely.

They parted and Bella tugged on his hand, smiling wryly. "Come on, Spanish man. We have places to be."

On the ride to Emily's, Bella was bewildered by the nervous fluttering in her stomach. Except for the fact that she was about to introduce her past life to her present, she had no reason to be nervous. Knowing how she felt about Jacob, Emily wouldn't have invited her of he was going to be there. She heard Zach giving the others the don't stare at Emily's scars speech and smiled. Everything would be fine.

"Hey, Izzy. How many people are supposed to be at this thing?" Ryan inquired from the front seat.

Emily would probably host a small get-together, so they could sit and catch up on each other's lives. Bella wasn't expecting more than a couple of people. "I don't know two or three. Why?"

"That's why." Ryan parked the car and climbed out.

What fresh hell is this?

At some point, Taylor must have guided her from the car because the next thing she knew, she was on her feet, staring at what was starting to look like a frigging ambush.

A considerably large group of werewolves were gathered next to the house. And each of them was staring at Bella and her friends with rapt attention. Though, most of their interests were entirely focused on Bella. Some of the glances stemmed from curiosity while others were mildly hostile. She recognized a few faces in the crowd, but most of them were unfamiliar to her. Clearly, the pack had grown in her absence.

Then her eyes were pulled, as if by magnet, to the man she'd hoped never to see again.

Only a blind person would've missed him. Even in a crowd of werewolves, Jacob Black stood like a giant among men. His tautly muscled body appeared to have grown since she last saw him. She could almost feel the undercurrents of the Alpha's power from where she stood. His dark hair, which was just as thick as she remembered, framed the harsh lines of his face. His arrogant mouth firmed, lips thinning in disapproval at the sight of her. Bella almost flinched at the barely concealed fury she found in his dark eyes.

Remember, she told herself. Remember, he doesn't give a damn about your being alive. Bella struggled to suppress the black rage tightening in her own chest.

So her being here upset him, did it? Well, that was too damn bad. She wasn't exactly moistening with excitement to see him either.

She took a deep, calming breath, fighting against the wave of rage that threatened to make her lose all sense of reason. If she didn't regain control of her emotions, Liz would alert Taylor and he'd make her go back to the house. She had to prove that she could remain composed.

Through sheer force of will, she bridled her contempt and chanted the word calm over and over in her mind.

Just when Bella thought she'd wrestled herself back from the precipice of darkness, an obnoxious voice sneered, "Well, look at what we have here. The prodigal bitch returns."


A/N: Hope you enjoyed the first chapter and the new writing style.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on what happened and still happening to Bella.

Who's the person that confronted her?

Review and receive your teasers folks.