A/N - As always, thanks to Feebes, Mist, and all my readers for the much appreciated guidance and support.

Warning: This chapter has material of a sensitive nature that may be a trigger to some people.

Still don't own anything.

~B of L~

Chapter 19: Close Encounters

Songs: Enter Sandman by Metallica; Papercut by by Linkin Park

PPOV (Friday)

"Yo, Paul!"

I groaned, half for the interruption and half for the very, very pleasant dream I was woken from. Bella had been cooking breakfast for me - naked. I laid her out on the table like a smorasboard, taking my time as I tasted every inch of her skin. It was delicious.

I realized that she was gone as my arm reached uselessly across the cold sheets beside me. I sighed . All I had to hold onto was a very painful boner.

I barely recall her leaving early, and I couldn't remember if she had said where she was going. I had been in a full blown Bella-coma. For once my being tired had little to do with running my ass off as a wolf. She had worn me completely out.

"Dude, wake the hell up."

I growled in frustration as I buried my face into the pillow. The sweet, intoxicating scent of Bella wafted into my nose, further torturing me and my currently neglected dick.

I wasn't sure why she had left or even where she had gone, but someone needed to be blamed. As I heard the next thunderous rapt on my door, I knew who would be paying. I had a wolf's ass to kick.

A minute later, I groggily walked out of my bedroom rubbing my face as I tried to wake up. My eyes immediately landed on Jax sprawled out on my couch like he owned the damn place. He apparently didn't leave with Bella.

I smirked, no witnesses.

As I stepped through the living room to get the door, I told him to get down.

He rolled his eyes at me and then proceeded to lick his balls. Was that the canine equivalent of 'Fuck You'?


I opened the door and glared at the second nuisance of the day waiting for me.

Jared was leaning back on the railing of the porch, his annoying smirk on display. "Morning, Sunshine."

"What do you want? It's my morning off." I could be on the dessert section of that dream by now if it wasn't for this asswipe.

Now that I was awake, my first order of business was food since I was starved to death. After that I had some work to complete.

I had to finish some pieces of furniture so Gramps and I could deliver them tomorrow. I really didn't need his help, but it looked odd that one man could move large furniture all by himself. I think he got a kick out of acting like he was stronger than what he was. Total ego boost. But I guess it was also good bonding time too.

Jared pulled me from my thoughts. "Council meeting with the Pack."

I looked at him skeptically, "No shit?" It was probably a formal warning for me not to kill that little shit Seth for imprinting on my little sister. Good luck with that.

"Old Quil is on the warpath."

I chuckled, "Who pissed him off?" My uncle was an easy going guy; someone must have really fucked up.

"Uh... not sure. All I know is everyone is supposed to show up at nine."

~B of L~

Rarely had the Council Hall been quite so full. It was nearly bursting at the seams with humans and shifters alike.

Council meetings with the Pack were sparse events, meetings with the imprints were even less so. Bonfires really didn't count, as they were more social gatherings, and Old Quil had declared that productive meetings could not be had within any close proximity of food. Usually only the Alpha, maybe the Beta too, attended a meeting with the Council. The logistics of getting everyone in the same place had proved near impossible. I hadn't minded because the less time I spent around the imprints, the better. Of course, bonfires were the exception to the rule as food monopolized most of my attention.

Also, the Tribal Hall was hallowed ground; it felt like the Spirits themselves were watching the proceedings within its walls. Everyone felt it, but it was amplified if you were a wolf. The Spirit Wolf would pulse inside the Hall and I would feel more at tune with him than any other time that I was not phased.

So for the Shaman to call a mandatory meeting was a very big deal.

The five Elders sat stoically at the front of the room, with Chief Black in the middle. Old Quil sat to his right as tradition dictated the Shaman should. Harry Clearwater sat to the Billy's left and looked a little worse for wear, clothes disheveled and face ashen like he was getting ready to throw up.

Jeff Cameron and Douglas Uley both looked around with confused expressions. Jared had said that they both had been gobsmacked when he had informed them of the meeting last night. Old Quil was a very complex man. First, he was light and carefree, just as most of his descendants were. However, there was a mystery and magic that just seemed to be part of the Shaman's aura. People tended to gravitate toward him, and when he spoke, or called a Pack meeting, you listened.

Gramps was in attendance too. I guess Old Quil had filled him in on the unholy imprint between Seth and Max. He gave me a nod and an expression that told me to behave. Max was not here; so I was still unclear on when they intended to tell her. Never, if I had my way.

Billy began the meeting with some minor business before giving the floor to Old Quil.

The Shaman addressed Kim, "Miss Connelly, why don't you fill the rest of Council on the events of last night's bonfire."

Kim looked mortified at my uncle's request. He gave her the look that pretty much left no room for disobedience. With several nervous looks in the direction of Quil and myself, she stuttered her way through telling how she had suggested to Bella that things would be easier on everyone if Bella left town. Her rationale being that Bella was not an imprint.

When Leah giggled inappropriately at Kim's confession, the arms of the chair I was gripping snapped in two. I began to raise up but Embry's hands clamped down tightly on my shoulders from behind.

I hate that poisonous bitch!

Seth had just went down a few notches on my shit list. However, he still may take the other's beatings since I couldn't hit girls in good conscience.

Speaking of pussies…

I gave Jared a steely glare, but he wouldn't look at me. Fucker knew this morning what his bitch imprint had done, but chose not to tell me. Probably wise of him.

Old Quil rose to his feet and the room quieted. "Counter to some of your beliefs, imprints are not meant to be the priority of a wolf. Protection of the tribe and human life should be the wolf's main focus. The imprint is meant to lessen the burden and save the guesswork in finding a mate. It can be a wonderful gift, but it can also be a disaster if misused.

"Our history shows that not all wolves imprint. These wolves also found happiness with another and lived long, happy lives. Our last Alpha, Ephraim Black, was such a wolf," Old Quil said as he looked over to Billy.

"We do not know what the Spirits envision with each new imprint. Perhaps the Spirits choose one to keep a wolf from making a mistake with another," Old Quil looked at Sam as he said that.

I made it a point to laugh out loud at that. I could tell by Leah's venomous glare that she no more appreciated my humor than she did Old Quil's insinuation.

"An imprint is not meant to be an instant happily ever after. The gift is not meant to be the relationship. It is finding someone quickly that will be the wolf's other half."

"You may be one of the most important things to your wolves, but no more than any man who loves a woman." Old Quil looked at Jared and Kim, "Your love at the end of your days will not be any deeper than what Billy feels for my daughter, or what I feel for my Molly." He addressed the room again, "An imprint's life is not more important to their wolves than other members of this tribe, or individuals on our lands."

He looked each imprint in the eye for a second before saying in a commanding tone," You are not more important than family."

"Damn straight!" Jake yelled. His father and grandfather gave him stern looks, but the twitching corners of their mouths belied their irritation.

"All relationships take work, and the imprint is no different. It is to be a two way street. The wolf should not be tethered to the imprint, but connected to them. They should bring the wolf comfort as much, if not more, than he brings her. Fear, insecurities, prejudice: these things will not work with an imprint, just as they will not work with any relationship.

"If the imprint is at the detriment to the wolf or the tribe, it can be broken."

Needless to say, all hell broke loose.

~B of L~

It took ten minutes to restore order. Emily had cried, probably in fear of Sam dumping her like he had Leah for her. Leah was uncharacteristically quiet, but you could see the cogs a working. And poor Jared would need a crowbar to pry Kim off of him.

The Elders had argued amongst themselves on their views of the subject. I found it interesting that Mr. Cameron was for the practice, a fact that did not go unnoticed by Kim as she sniffled in Jared's lap pathetically.

Gramps just sat patiently and waited. He was no more happy that Makala had been imprinted on than me, but there was little to do at this point but listen to Old Quil.

Even if breaking Seth and Makala's imprint would make me happy, I didn't want to make that decision for her. Too many of my choices had been stolen in life to do my sister the same disservice.

Old Quil began to speak of an imprint centuries ago for a wolf named Uzumati. He imprinted on a child of only a year old, as there had been few females in the tribe at the time. The child's parents had been distraught with the prospect of their infant destined to an older man. They even feared, however misguided, that tribal law would allow Uzumati to raise the child.

I could see the horror on everyone's faces at the thought of imprinting on a baby. I couldn't help but think that even if Quil had to wait eighteen years or so for the girl to come of age, that would still be preferable to being shackled to Leah Clearwater. I told Jake as much, causing him to snort.

Quil, on the other hand, did not think it was as funny.

The Shaman continued, "For the sake of all involved it was decided to sever the imprint and Uzumati was free to find a mate elsewhere. A few months later he took a woman from a neighboring tribe who had been recently widowed. They were very happy together and had ten children."

"Why imprint at all if he was meant to be with the widow?" Jared asked the Shaman, several others nodded in agreement.

"The Spirit's view is a little higher from where they sit, not blinded by the obstacles of life. It is not in our power to know all they know, or even our business to know. Perhaps that event happened only so I could speak of it on this day," was the wise man's reply.

~B of L~

The meeting adjourned a few minutes later. Sam and Jared went to relieve the pups on patrol, while Emily and Kim left hand in hand to console each other in their new reality.

Massive eye roll.

Harry Clearwater asked to speak with Seth and Embry, and I'd bet even money that he still hurled before the day was through.

Uncle Quil stepped up to where Jake, Quil, and I were talking, a wry smile on his face.

"So, Paul. I saw the little incident on the beach last night."

I grimaced as it was not my finest hour. Or perhaps it was; I hadn't killed the little shit. I glared at Seth across the room.

Old Quil pulled me away from my murderous thoughts, "I could not help but notice Isabella's affect on you."

Where was he going with this? "She has a calming influence."

The old man laughed out loud. "I have never heard that before, but she is a very sweet girl if you peel back the layers."

I smirked. Oh, I had pulled back plenty of layers. Turns out she is a bit of a hellcat in bed as well. He probably didn't want to know about that.

"Does she calm both the wolf and man?" he questioned further.

I nodded.

"And there was no imprint?"

"No, sir."

"Can you explain his reactions to her? Does he not feel drawn to her at all?"

"He was excited when we first met her. Playful. He is more content when we are with her. However, he isn't agitated necessarily when we are apart."

"I see. Any pull at all?"

"There is no pull when we are apart," I hedged. I didn't want to elaborate, but my uncle looked at me expectantly, sniffing out the 'but' as I would a basket of cupcakes. I sighed, "Only when we are together."

"I'm confused," the Shaman said, his mouth skewed in a thin line at the admission.

"Bout time it happen to him," Young Quil whispered to Jake.

"The wolf is demanding when we... when we..." I hesitated again. What was the best word? "are intimate."

"Dude, I don't need to hear what your wolf wants to do to my cousin!" Jake cried. He looked like he was going to cough up a furball.

"Silence!" Old Quil chastised. He raised his hand to usher me to continue. "How so, Paul?"

Shit! I was no gentlemen, but even I thought I shouldn't be discussing this. "He wants to bite her during it. As much as the compulsion to phase sometimes is. It scared me. I resisted, but only barely."

"Marking is a rare occurrence of the wolf choosing his mate. The legends only speak of a handful of instances."

This was good news.

"So it is okay? It won't hurt her." I really didn't think I'd could hold my wolf at bay much longer.

"No, but it will probably impregnate her." Uncle Quil said as his grey eyes bored into mine.

Fuck! Definitely spoke too soon.

My wolf's plans were confirmed because he was salivating at the thought of marking Bella. This was not good. No way we were getting Bella pregnant. He was just going to have to suck it up.

Of course, that left me with my own issues.

I asked Old Quil how the hell I was to be with Bella and keep the wolf contained, because he was the Shaman and it was his job to know. Surely there was some spirit walk or something. I'd even be open to fasting.

He laughed and turned to walk away, "Celibacy."


I was just about to smart something off at him for laughing at others misfortunes when a feral growl sounded through the Hall.

All eyes zoned in on the other side of the building. Embry was shaking violently and then phased suddenly inside the Council Hall. Seth Clearwater stood sentry in front of his father, looking sadly at the snarling black and grey wolf in front of him.

My eyes heard the feeble "I'm so sorry" the older man whispered to Embry just before he destroyed the door as he bolted toward the woods. We watched in stunned silence as the tears fell down Harry's face, realization dawning on us what must have happened.

Not a minute later the pained howl of the wolf came through the hole that had once been the door and Harry Clearwater collapsed to the ground as he clutched at his chest.

~B of L~

Harry Clearwater was expected to make a full recovery… physically. Instead of being a heart attack, it turned out to be a panic attack. He was rushed to Port Angeles and was formed that a panic attack could masquerade as a heart attack. They asked him if he had been under severe stress.

Harry's relationships, on the other hand, suffered far more damage than his would have heart would have. Jake figured that Old Quil had figured Embry's parentage and had laid down an ultimatum last night. Harry decided to tell Seth and Embry at the same time, but it was still unclear whether Leah knew or not.

I felt bad for Embry, but I thought it was for the best that he knew. The not knowing had been eating at him, and perhaps now things were shaping up for him.

My life, on the other hand, was quickly unraveling.

I was at odds with my wolf. The relationship with the protector was a strange thing. I knew that he knew things I didn't. That we looked through the same set of eyes, but rarely saw the same things.

He was part of me, but not. The animal was more basic. Most people didn't need that instinct anymore since their food no longer chased them back.

I usually listened to his wisdom. Like when to show up at Emilys to get some food.

But my other half was of a Spirit that died centuries, maybe millennia, ago. The antiquated practices back then between men and women didn't fly nowadays. Centuries ago there would be no issue with marking. You found a girl you could like, you drug her to your hut or cave, and then had some fun filling it with rugrats.

But this was the 21st century. I couldn't knock a girl up without her consent. Ha, that is probably all teen pregnancies. No, I mean a guy couldn't go in and one hundred percent know that he would have a child because of it.

Not if you intended to keep your balls hanging in place afterwards.

And the thought of me a father? That was probably the most terrifying thing of all. I had no clue what to do. The bastard that sired me only showed me what not to do. Perhaps that helped.

I had no doubt that Bella would be a wonderful mother. She was too loving and protective not to be. But the trouble with Bella was that she was confused. She thought she didn't belong here, no thanks to those life sucking bitches known as imprints.

What would Bella do if I marked her? She'd feel trapped and would eventually resent me. She'd leave, and I'd lose both her and my pup. I couldn't lose either.

So, I couldn't mark her.

And the thought of not being with her was almost physically painful.

I'm pretty sure there was a word for my situation, conundrum.

I groaned; I was well on my way to my own panic attack.

~B of L~

I waited for Bella for several hours as I finished my pieces and loaded the truck for delivery tomorrow.

After three hours, I was on edge that I hadn't heard from her. Of course, we hadn't exchanged numbers as of yet. Also, we technically hadn't made definitive plans for the evening as I had patrol overnight, but I had hoped to see her.

When I showed up for patrol I found Jared had switched with Quil so that Quil could be with Embry.

Poor guy. I still felt bad for him. My father was no prize but at least he had gave me his name. Embry had spent his entire childhood around Harry with no acknowledgement that he was his son.

I patrolled with Jared in silence. He left me alone pretty much. I was still pissed he hadn't told me what his moronic imprint had said. But I was so worked up because of Bella, I feared I might seriously hurt him if I allowed even one fist to fly.

Quil and Sam relieved us at dawn and Quil said that he had not seen Bella either when I asked him about her. He mentioned that Uncle Quil was a little concerned too, but figured she had stayed with Charlie.

I knew damn well that that wasn't true.

I started searching her different places on the reservation, but came up with nothing. I was holding out hope that she had stayed with her father, but a sinking feeling was filling my chest.

Suddenly, I heard a scream in the direction of Third Beach and bolted toward it. There I found Bella laying down beside the cliff, panting for breath. She looked like she had just woken up.

Her face was bone white and wet from tears, and although she looked anxious, she looked otherwise unharmed.

"What are you doing? Where the hell have you been all night?" I roared. She had worried us all.

She looked around her and then raised an eyebrow at me.


"What the fuck, Bella!"

She flinched a little at my tone and the hackles of that damn dog beside her rose as he snarled at me. Fuck him and the dog hair he left on my couch.

"Jax, stop it," Bella reprimanded. She rose to her feet, dusting the dirt off that ass I love so much.

Pissed, remember?

"I came out here to think last night and must have fallen asleep," she replied nonchalantly as she rubbed the dog's ears.

My wolf growled.

"You fell asleep? On a 30 foot cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean?"

"Well, it was nighttime," she quipped.

I couldn't suppress the growl that came out of me. This woman would be the death of me.

She gave me that look sometimes she had. Like she was filing something away in a giant rolodex that she had in her brain. Sorting it all out for ammo when she would pounce.

And not the good kind.

"Why did you scream?" She gave me a surprised look like she wasn't aware I had heard that, then another damn calculating look.

"Well, I did wake up on a 30 foot cliff," she lied through her teeth.

Oh little girl, do not try to out smart-ass me. She had dived off the same cliff not a week ago.

Fuck this! "Give me your damn phone."

"Excuse me?"

"I want your number."

Her right eyebrow shot into her hairline and she shifted her weight to one leg, her arms crossing defiantly over her delicious rack.

Ah, hell! Realization dawned on me that I was being fairly demanding and Bella was not having it. I had just poked the proverbial bear.

"No." The word wasn't nearly as hard as her eyes.

I'm man enough to admit that that hurt a little bit. "Why?"

"Old Quil has it. Call him." Fuck, he is supposed to be helping me.

Think. Think.

"What if its an emergency with Makala?" Ahh ha! I had her. I knew and she knew it.

And we both knew that I would be paying for it later.

She grabbed my phone in a huff, typing her contact info animatedly. She was like an angry, little kitten. "You share this with anyone, and it will take a week to count the tire tracks up and down your back."

I smirked at the thought, irritating her further. She couldn't get that piece of shit going fast enough to catch me jogging before I turned wolf.

Bella didn't appreciate my doubt, which only caused me to chuckle out loud.

"I gotta get ready for work," she growled at me. She was way too beautiful when she was angry.

"Can I get a ride to my place?"

She shook her head, but wouldn't look at me. "No, I need to go by Charlie's house. I have some things to do."

I tried to man up and hide my disappointment. By the sad look on her face, I was not successful.

"Can I see you tonight?" I hoped. I didn't think I could handle another night away from her.

Ugh, it was official. I was pussy whipped, and I couldn't even blame it on an imprint.

No matter. I didn't give a damn as long as she stayed with me tonight.

Unfortunately, she was still debating things in her head. It was time for the puppy dog eyes. "Come on, Bella. Let's go do something. We can go on a date. Or we can rent a movie. It's not a proposal. I just want to spend some time with you."

She looked up at me, her brown eyes meeting mine. She nodded her head, and started walking back to her truck.

I followed.

"I get off at four," she said softly.

Perfect! Gramps and I should be back from Port Angeles by then.

"I'll pick you up on the bike." Well, Jake's bike. I'd just throw it in the back of my truck. Provided of course I could afford the bribe to get it.

She looked a little unsure. Whether it was the date, the bike, or something else, I wasn't sure. After an agonizIng thirty seconds, she said "Okay."

"See ya then, gorgeous," I said as I gave the roof of her truck a double pat. I watched her drive away for a minute then hightailed it to my shop.

~B of L~

BPOV (Saturday)

I was running after Chase through the forest. Falling over and cursing my clumsiness as I tried in vain to catch him. It was beyond me how someone so small could outrun someone four times their size.

For once, Chase was not all smiles and squeals of laughter. He was crying as he tore through the forest. I didn't blame him for being afraid. Thunderous roars echoed in the timber as we pushed blindly through the dark terrain to safety.

A fierce battle raged behind us. Growls and hisses could be heard and what sounded like the shearing of metal. The snarls continued until a beast's howl of pain whipped through the forest to our ears, making us pause our escape.

Chase turned around and met my eyes. His terror stricken face causing my heart to crumble and more tears to run down my face. He began to run again, and quickly disappeared out of my blurred vision.

I quickened my steps and emerged out of the tree line to find myself on a cliff by the Pacific.

Chase was nowhere to be seen.

Suddenly, a twig snapped behind me, and I felt ominous eyes on me. I closed my eyes as dread filled me in such a rush that it left me dizzy.

I took a long, last look at the ocean before me, as if its icy depths held my salvation. The threat behind, whatever it was, waited patiently for me to turn around. It knew, as I did, that I could not escape. I had been avoiding the inevitable long enough, and my time had finally run out.

With Paul and my family on my mind, I turned to meet Death slowly, my heart hammering in my chest.

And all I saw was red...

I woke up to screaming. As I gasped for breath, I realized it had been my own screams.

I didn't have time to think about it, because Paul's scowling face appeared almost instantly by my side. He was pissed to have found me out on the cliff.

In my defense, I hadn't told him I'd see him last night. He had told me he had some work to do for the reservation and I had planned to crash with the Atearas, although I had never told them.

With Old Quil I had an open invitation as long as I baked for him.

I had gotten several phone calls from Old Quil yesterday. At first, I was too out of it to take his calls. Then, later in the evening my anger made me lash out and ignore him unjustly.

The light of day had at least slain my anger toward him. Other things I chose to ignore for the time being.

Paul was his normal annoying and endearing self. And being the bitch I was, I pushed him and tried to blow him off - the bad kind not the good kind. But the annoying man persevered with the second most lethal weapon in his arsenal of making me cave, those eyes. Whether they were burning in desire or pleading with me to accept a date, they would forever be my undoing.

He was going to pick me up after work. I shouldn't have said yes, but I really wanted to spend time with him too.

~B of L~

After showering and getting some more clothes at Charlie's house, I arrived at work one minute before my eight A.M. shift started.

Mr. Newton had just turned on the radio to the lone eighties station that got reception in Forks. He'd had an 80's compilation CD that he would play incessantly. Every hour I had to listen to the same songs. I didn't mind eighties music, but I required more variety than fifteen songs at a time. After only two six-hour shifts, I had came to my breaking point and tested the boundaries of my employment.

I had explained to Mr. Newton, in a cheerful and respectful manner, that I wouldn't castrate the next of his son's friends posing as a customer that asked me to prove with them that the double sleeping bags really did fit two people, if he would never, ever play that CD in my presence again. I was joking, mostly, with him. Castration seemed far more cruel than even I could stomach, and besides, I would have to touch the slimy bastards to do it.

Mr. Newton had amazingly acquiesced to my demands by offering to just play a radio station instead. I had been cool with that. If he had refused I was contemplating a break in where only that CD was vandalized.

I wasn't sure if he found me amusing or terrifying. I suspected that I walked a thin line between both. But I had provided, to me, a sound argument and he was a reasonable man. I'm sure he was confounded by a woman using logic to make a point. I doubted Mrs. Newton could even spell logic, much less use it.

I actually would have preferred some metal, as it would hide how antsy I was. G-N-R would be a nice reprieve to The Pet Shop Boys and Madonna.

About a half hour later, the telltale opening of 'Thriller' came through the speakers. As Michael Jackson's distinct voice reached my ears, a cold chill ran up my back and instantly put me on edge.

Clearly, not a good omen.

I nervously looked around but did not see anyone watching me. And I didn't feel any unseen eyes on me... yet.

Anyway, the morning putted along with joking around with Angela.

"Girls, I'm going to run out for about an hour for lunch. Don't give anything away except smiles." I rolled my eyes at Mr. Newton words as he left for lunch, causing Angie to giggle. He was so cheesy, you couldn't help but like him.

"No worries, sir. Have a good time," I called after him as the the store bell rang at his exit.

I could have teased him that we would sell everything to the lowest bidder, but I wasn't sure if he would freak out. He had a hard time figuring out when I was joking or not.

Apparently, I was hard to read.

An uneasy feeling settled in my gut as I stocked the shelves with rope, gloves, lighter fluid, and matches. I may have kept the hack axes on the cart for as long as possible before stocking them.

After taking back the empty cart and then going to the restroom, I returned out front to relieve Angie from the register for her break.

But Angie was talking to a customer. A blonde man with longish hair pulled haphazardly into a ponytail at the nap of his neck.

A smile lit my face when I heard her giggle, happy that she was moving on from the asswipe Ben. My eyes raked over the stranger again as I turned to give Angie some space to flirt with whom I thought might be a visiting college guy based on my initial cursory view.

However, the grin slowly fell from my face as stone cold alarm shot inexplicably up my spine.

The more I looked at him, the more he looked just... wrong.

First, he had dirty clothing and unkempt hair that made it look like he had slept outside for a week. I had felt a little bad initially for judging the man as I had no room to talk really.

Next, there were no shoes on his feet and judging by the amount of dirt on them, there hadn't been for quite some time. A huge red flag in my book. Sure, he could have had problems and was here to get replacements, but my gut said otherwise.

He looked wild, not in a sexy Jeremiah Johnson way, but in an escaped convict living in the forest for a year kind of way. I would bet money that a bear stumbling on him would promptly retreat.

He just looked off, everything and nothing all at the same time. Like he blended in just enough in the periphery of things to not draw attention, but once noticed screamed otherness.

I had a really bad feeling about the guy.

But despite his appearance, Angie seemed completely taken with him. Her eyes were glazed over as if she had been drinking. Like a defenseless mouse caught in the trance of a dangerous snake.

When he turned his head slightly and looked at me from the corner of his eye, his mouth lifted menacingly and I was positive that snake didn't even come close.

He leaned over the counter and whispered something in Angela's ear then turned to face me completely.

A look of restrained excitement danced in his black eyes, that I would have sworn looked a deep crimson at first, as they drank me in. The hairs on the back of my neck were instantly standing straight up, and I took a small step away.

The only thing going through my mind was to bolt. This guy screamed sinister.

"Hello Bella."

He knew my name. Very bad news!

How the fuck did he know my name? I was getting ready to ask him when I noticed him looking at my chest and I recalled my name tag. Although, I didn't miss the amount of time his eyes lingered there.

"Sir." I acknowledged and then asked cautiously, "Is there something I can help you find?" Like the door!

He chuckled darkly as if recalling a private joke. My legs stepped back again of their own volition, but it did little to quell my nerves. This guy was creepy. Mr. Newton was due back anytime, and I was sure that it couldn't be quick enough.

Don't freak out. Keep a level head. I was beginning to panic in the inside, but I kept my form rigid and unyielding.

Show no fear!

"Yes, you can. I'm new to the area and need someone to show me around. Why don't we go for a drive to the reservation?"


"Ahhh... I'm sorry, Sir, but I am working at the moment. I can give you directions to First Beach if you are interested."

He smiled at me, much as a cat would to a canary. "I'm afraid that will not do. You see, I have plans. And you are vitally important to them."

God, I wondered if he even registered how fucking creepy that sounded. But the sight of my growing alarm just seemed to make that manic's grin widen, and I realized he knew exactly what he was saying.

Retreat! Retreat!

"I have no desire to go anywhere with you," I said as I stepped back and gestured to the door. "I think you need to leave," I demanded with authority, praying the fear I felt didn't bely the words. I cursed that I wasn't behind the counter so that I could hit the panic button. I could only hope that Angela had.

The fucker chuckled and mumbled something unintelligible, but I was pretty sure I heard two words: smell and fear.

That did little to calm me down.

He just smirked at me as he gave my body another leer. At his lack of movement I tried again. "Leave! I will call my father, the Chief of Police," I threatened, internally cringing as the words fell from my mouth. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. But desperate times called for desperate measures, and I'd drop my father's name a hundred times if it got me away from this guy.

The man sneered but began to comply with my demand. However, my nanosecond of relief was dashed as he, quicker than I could register, was suddenly before me, pulling me violently into his hard chest. I looked around for Angie, but I didn't see her. I hoped to hell she saw this and was calling the police.

A cold hand grabbed the back of my neck and moved my head to the side. His nose ran down my throat and back up, the gesture making my stomach begin to churn.

"You misunderstand, my piteous little pet. I am not scared of you or your estranged father. I am not asking. You come with me or I kill the other girl."

I gasped in horror at the thought of him killing Angela. And how the hell did he know about my relationship, or lack thereof, with Charlie? Unless he had been watching...?

The stalker cut off my errant thoughts, "It makes no difference to me. It might keep me from being too rough with you and ending our time together prematurely." He spoke as he ground his pelvis against me suggestively. And another chill ran through me, equal parts from the action and his cold frame against me.

In the span of a breath, every single Quileute story I had ever heard in my youth rushed through my mind.

Cold skin.

Red eyes.

Cold ones.


As a kid, I had always found those stories so intriguing. Listening while I snuggled up with Gran under a blanket to the smooth, even cadence of Old Quil's voice. Billy had often told them as well, but there was a magic quality when the Shaman of the tribe spoke of their ancient traditions.

But this was no story holding onto me. This was evil incarnate.

This was life and death.

This was Death's arms I was trapped in.

"I do hate to cut our introductions short, but I am anxious to be moving on. I'm in a bit of hurry, snack, and I have waited long enough."

He began to pick me up to leave, and I knew I would never been seen again, dead or alive, if he got me outside.

"LET GO!" I yelled as I began to fight his bruising hold,kicking and clawing at anything I could reach. But his skin was like granite, and all I managed to do was hurt myself. Merchandise littered the floor as my arms had swept the shelves in my struggles.

Although I didn't cause him pain, my flaying must have annoyed him as he clamped his freezing hand down on my arm and I screamed at the searing pain it caused. Motherfucker!

"You have fire," he purred menacingly into my ear, his cold breath chilling me further. "It makes it so much more enjoyable to see the spark die out."

My eyes widened, and I had to fight to keep the tears of panic from flowing. I hope now Angela hadn't called the cops. If Charlie couldn't hold his own with me, he had no chance against this thing.

Paul! I needed Paul... or my cousins. Hell, I'd settle for Jared. Because if the legends were true for the vampires, then the Protectors were real too. I didn't know how I knew they would be able to help me, but I knew they could.

"Is this man bothering you, Ma'am?"

My eyes flashed open to see my rescuer, another blonde man, looking at me with, thankfully, concern instead of anticipation. He had another person with him that I recognized as the Cullen giant.

I willed my eyes to scream 'yes', while I stared at them. I was too afraid to verbally out the psycho with my life dangling so precariously in his hands.

"No, we were just leaving." the maniac behind me said smoothly to the pair of men. He began to move toward the exit with me, but the big guy moved to block his path.

I felt the rumble in Psycho's chest as a deep growl broke through the eery silence; not even the music was playing now. However, it was answered by two other menacing growls, catching me up quickly to the similarities between my assailant and rescuers.

They were clearly vampires too, with the same pale skin and astounding beauty. Everything but their eyes. Their eyes were a strange, honey color, where the psycho's had been black although I'm sure they were usually red. One was tall but lean, his body leonine. Emmett, I think, was huge, broad shouldered with muscles over muscles; he looked like a dimple faced grizzly.

It dawned on me that the girl from the diner and Miss Congeniality were more than likely ones as well. I was a magnet for these things! And death shall follow her wherever she may go...

I shook my head at that thought. Much bigger fish to fry.

My attacker's face, in and of itself, was fear inducing, but not near as dangerous as the other blonde man's. Perhaps it was because he did not look quite so ethereal, ruggedly handsome to be sure, but something made him a bit more flawed human.

Whatever it was, his feral expression would rival even Paul's.

With stalker's plans thwarted, he pulled me against his stone-like chest more tightly causing a whimper to escape my throat. What felt like an erection poked me in the small of my back, and I had to swallow the vomit that rose in response.

"I'll see you around," he whispered into my ear, licking the skin behind it.

"I wouldn't count on it," I said through tears and clenched teeth, some of my bravado coming back. He chuckled again causing another shiver to run through me, the equivalent of ice water running down my back.

Suddenly, he hurled me toward the other blonde, and as if by magic, he was gone. Proof to me at least, he was the devil himself.

He left a trail of manic laughter, a probable broken arm, and a shattered reality in his wake.

"You okay?" Startled, I looked up to the other vampire and nodded blankly at his question while I willed my breathing to even out. He gently put me on my feet, but caught me when my legs gave out. I tried to exude calm on the outside, but on the inside… I was freaking the fuck out.

"Yes, thank you…."

"Jasper," he finished for me. "This is my brother Emmett. We called for help, they should be here in a few minutes, " he added with a bit of an accent, southern I thought.

The other man gave me a small wave while he talked animatedly into his phone, but I couldn't hear a word. I wondered absently how stealthy these vampires could be?

Probably best not to dwell on that given the circumstances.

"Thanks. I'm Bella. Do… do you know him?" I asked. Hopefully the vampire world was smaller than normal. I didn't want to contemplate if it wasn't. Shudder.

"No. Heard of him though. Bad news."

You think?

"Well, thank you for your help, but I'm fine. He's gone now." I hugged my arm to me as I took a deliberate step back. I didn't want to be rude, but instinct was screaming at me to get some distance.

Jasper's brow lifted and was about to comment when his head turned abruptly to the door. I was expecting Charlie or Mr. Newton to walk in, but was surprised to see Jake and Embry rushing in, their expressions livid. I braced myself for more drama.

Jake made a beeline for me, crushing me against his chest. I stole the comfort from him, as I relaxed in his embrace. I heard him whisper my name, as he took a deep breath.

"Embry, would you call Paul?" Jake said as he held me.

"Where is he?" I mumbled from against Jake's chest. Just the sound of Paul's name calming me a little more.

"Delivering some furniture," he mumbled into my hair as he hugged me. I felt safe in his arms, but not as safe as I would in Paul's. Unfortunately it was not a good time for a typical Jake hug, and I groaned as my arm throbbed.

Suddenly, I was startled by a deep, guttural growl vibrating within Jake's chest.

"Don't fucking start with me Cullen! It's your coven's fault he is still a problem. He is obviously a threat," he gritted out of his teeth lowly. "You either help get rid of him, or you guys leave the state. Treaties are for allies, and if you are not with us, you are against us."

Treaty? Treaty? Of course! The legends said the Quileute protectors made a treaty with a group of vampires. Legend said the Protectors were large, strong men that changed into wolves...

Ugh! I am officially the slowest person in Clallam County. Had to be the eighties pop music .

I was brought out of my self-deprecating thoughts as I saw Jasper nod his head in agreement. He turned to me and said, "On behalf of my family, I am very sorry for what our inaction has caused. Please accept our apology and promise to do all we can to keep you safe." He turned back to Jake, "we are at your disposal, Alpha."

Alpha? Oh God, Jake was in charge?

Jake just grunted at the apology, but I felt some of the tension ease out of his frame.

I could tell he and the Cullens were speaking very lowly. A few minutes later the vampires left and Jake hollered at Embry across the room , "Go get some gas for the car and bring it here. We will take Bella home afterwards."

"I have a truck Jake," I snapped, pointing outside to the behemoth at the back of the parking lot. "Doesn't it look familiar?" I asked sarcastically. I was not a child; I didn't need to be driven home.

I do not do vulnerable well. And pain made me bitchy… er.

"Bella, I don't have the time or am in the mood for your stubborn shit right now. You will wait here to be taken back to the reservation where we will explain some things, or I will take you with me now. And believe me, you don't want that."

I opened my mouth to tell him where he could shove his ultimatum, but stopped at the look on his face. Never, in all of the years I had known him, had my cousin exuded such a 'Don't fuck with me' vibe until now. His dark, brown eyes were almost begging me to force him to drag me out of the store.

Either his bluffing abilities had improved exponentially from poker night or he was serious. After careful consideration, I decided to fold on this particular hand. Pick my battles and all that.

He apparently saw the wind go out of my sails and flashed a triumphant smirk. Asshole. I'd make dinner for Billy and keep him from eating a damn crumb next time.

Hell hath no fury, buddy, like a cousin scorned.

I nodded my head in obedience, while simmering in anger internally. My head hurt too bad from being thrown like a beanie bag, not to mention my damn arm, to argue further with him. And I didn't know exactly what was going on and was positive that he did.

"Embry?" Jake said when it dawned on him that he was still in the store. Curious to see what the issue was, I pulled away from Jake slightly so I could see Embry.

"Embry!" Jake gritted out harshly, causing a smiling Embry to abandon his flirtations with my co-worker. The same co-worker that was fanning herself after Jake and Embry left the store a few minutes later. Her face was flushed and her eyes were bright with wonder.

Angela caught me watching her and finally asked, "Who... who was that?"

I pointed to the front door with a raised brow. She nodded, so I answered, "Jake and Embry."

"Embry," she sighed in a reverent whisper.

I rolled my eyes. You have got to be kidding me.

After one of the scariest ordeals of my life, she was standing making goo goo eyes at an empty doorway. Yes, Embry was very good looking. And I had thought of him often as 'the one that got away' over the years, so I could see her attraction.

But relationships that started under extreme circumstances never lasted. Didn't she watch Speed?

"Uh, Angela? Not to kill your buzz, but we got bigger problems than getting a date."

"What?" she asked as she sighed again, her eyes still on the door. Perhaps I should explain the concept of playing hard to get.

"We have bigger problems than you and Embry."

"Like what?"

"The creepy guy you were drooling over before he tried to kidnap me?" I asked sarcastically.

"I never drool!" she said in righteous indignation. Because of all the things I had just said, drooling was the thing to fixate on.

"Nathan Vaughn, Tony Marks, Justin Fancher..." I hadn't worked at the store long but I had caught the names of a few older kids from Forks that apparently Angela had been crushing pretty hard on for a long time. They were okay, but when compared to Paul and all the La Push guys they were hardly eye candy. But they were the best that Forks had to offer.

"I rarely drool," she countered in a cute, kittenish growl.

I smiled widely at her anger but got back to the point. "Seriously? You don't remember the guy from fifteen minutes ago? The guy was beyond creepy." And a whole lot of scary as fuck!


I shook my head at her. I am the sanest one here. That is just... sad.

Trying to coax the stress headache that had started away, I looked around for Chase; maybe he could make me laugh. Sure enough, I saw him sitting on the floor of the display tent, hugging his knees while he rocked back and forth. I couldn't see his face but I knew it was marred with concern. Nothing but fear shone from his usually jovial eyes as they bore into mine.

He was worried.

I wouldn't admit it out loud, but I was a little worried too.

"Bella, you okay?" Jake said from the doorway, making me pull my eyes from Chase. Jake's face was a mix between concern and impatience.

"Sure," I said as I took one last glance toward the tent, only to find it empty.

Thanks for reading!

updated 5-24-14