Chapter Thirteen

Laura was having a bad day. After that conversation with the alpha Embry had driven home, silent and grumpy. He had gone for a run almost immediately, came back for barely an hour, and then said he had patrol and left. That had been last night.

One of her patients, an older woman, had driven her cat out to La Push, but not without reminding Laura that she was going through a lot of trouble for her. Laura had a pretty decent set up in the living room now; she had nearly everything that she had in the clinic. Still, the woman had looked down her nose at her makeshift setup, no doubt silently thinking many horrible thoughts about veterinarians that moved their clinics into random Native American men's houses. It had taken all of Laura's self control to finish the examination without smacking the snotty look off the cat lady's face.

When they left, she breathed a sigh of relief and nearly lunged for the coffee pot. She was just glad Embry wasn't here to witness that examination.

He came in from patrol a bit later. Laura had already cleaned up her temporary clinic and was finishing some paperwork at the breakfast bar. She had made a bit of caffeinated coffee for herself, and the decaf was already brewing for him.

"Thanks," he mumbled as he grabbed the pot. "Where did I put the…"

Laura looked up from her reports. "Sorry, I moved it to the cupboard."

He grunted as he found the sugar, putting three in his cup. Her lips quirked as she watched, but then she frowned.

Even Embry didn't seem happy nowadays. She chalked it up to having a forced imprint taking over his house, even though whenever she brought it up he vehemently insisted that she stayed there.

"Sorry," she repeated. "Are you sure you're ok with me-"

He cut her off before she finished. "Stop it. Yes, I've told you it's fine." He opened the fridge. "Didn't I put some-"

"It's heating in the oven," she said without looking up.

He found the leftover chicken he was looking for was indeed in the oven. "You know you don't have to be my housekeeper or anything. I don't need you to cook for me."

Laura raised her eyebrows. "I know that. I just put your chicken in the oven. It wasn't a big deal. I want to help out; it's the least I can do." Her lips quirked upwards. "You get all grouchy when you come in from patrol and you haven't eaten."

Something about this was disgruntling Embry. He muttered as he poked at his food.

"What's the matter with that?" she finally asked, exasperated. "Do you not like my chicken?"

He shook his head. "No, it's good. Thank you." He still seemed unhappy, and she was sick of it. "Are you happy here?" he asked.

Laura wasn't sure how to answer. She was surprised by how the question she wanted to ask him had been turned around and flung back at her. "Yes," she said finally. "I mean, I miss my apartment, and my clinic, but this is fine for now."

"You're not happy," he said flatly. "I can feel it."

Laura felt weirdly attacked by his statement. "I'm fine."

"What do you want?" he finally growled at her.

She felt backed into a corner by this demand. She knew what she wanted: him, but she couldn't tell him that. She slammed her pen down on the table. "You're such a hypocrite!" she snapped instead. "You're not happy either. What do you want?"

Embry froze and his voice became very quiet. "I can't. You're the imprint. I'm supposed to be making you happy."

She shook her head. "Just tell me. What do you want?" He was probably too polite to tell her that he needed space, that she needed to find somewhere else to stay.

He looked away; his shoulders shook lightly. "Don't."

"Why? What are you afraid of?"

"I'm afraid to lose you," he mumbled finally. "I want you, but I know you don't want that kind of relationship. I'm…supposed to follow your lead on this. What the imprint wants." He exhaled roughly.

She stared at him in shock. He didn't meet her gaze. Laura wasn't good with words. She wasn't sure what to say. Instead she leaned over the counter and slid her hands up to his face, tenderly moving over his jaw, across his cheeks, and settling on his neck when she kissed him.

At first he remained stiff and inert as her lips moved gently over his. He jerked back a bit. "Laura," he mumbled. "Don't." His hands wrapped around her waist, but she wasn't sure if he was pushing her away from him or keeping her there.

She breathed deep, fighting the sting of rejection. "Embry, I want to be more than friends," she said finally.

His hands tightened almost painfully. "Don't you dare say that because you think it's what I want to hear. Don't you dare." His eyes burned into hers furiously, and she realized that somewhere along the line, while she was protecting Embry, she was hurting him too.

"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I'm so so sorry. I really like you, Embry." Her hands moved down to his shoulders and swept across his tense muscles absentmindedly. "I didn't want to force you into anything. I didn't want our relationship to be because of this wolf thing. I…couldn't have you if it wasn't real. You mean too much to me for that."

His mouth crashed down on hers possessively. It was like he couldn't stop himself; one hand curled around the small of her back; the other tangled into her hair. She pressed herself closer to him, giving as good as she got.

"Does that feel real?" he asked when she pulled away for air. He kept her close, as if afraid she would run. The counter was cutting into her hips, but she ignored it, latching onto him.

She buried her face in his neck to hide her blush. "Yes."

"Good." His chin rested lightly on top of her head and he breathed out deeply. "Please stop trying to protect my feelings. I want you to be able to tell me anything."

She poked his side. "Right back atcha. So right now, my stomach's starting to hurt, and you kind of smell."

He released her with a grunt of surprise, and she fell back over the counter to her seat. She rubbed her gut with a small smile. "But really, this is a two way street," she said. "You can tell me anything." She reached across and grabbed his hand.

Embry smiled distractedly. "Of course."

She blinked. Was he hiding something else?

He pulled her hand up and kissed it, and she simultaneously blushed and rolled her eyes. Maybe she had imagined it. Laura wasn't about to ruin such an amazing thing so soon.

The coven had returned, at Jake's request. Nessie wasn't here; she was in Greece perfecting her ancient Latin. Jake was a little hurt by that, and the fact that he hadn't seen her in over a year, but he hid it well as he faced Carlisle at the boundary line. He parents were also absent, but Jake was more thankful than anything about not having to deal with that mind-reading leach. "How can we help you, Jacob?"

Jake squared his shoulders, meeting Carlisle leader-to-leader. The rest of the pack was phased behind him, facing off against their allies. "One of our own was kidnapped by a couple of government agents a week ago. Turns out they're being funded from Volterra. Do you know anything about this?"

The bloodsuckers glanced at one another warily. "No. The Volturi should have no business interfering in your affairs."

"What I want to know is how those demons know we exist." The wolf's voice was quiet and deadly.

Carlisle spread his arms appeasingly. "We don't remain in contact with them. None of our friends know of your existence. It is possible that they have known about you since Nessie's birth, and that this is the first they have acted upon it."

Jake didn't like the sound of that. If they had known about La Push for nearly two decades, who else could know about them? "What would you suggest?" he asked finally, quietly.

Some of the vamps behind Carlisle smirked. Particularly that blonde one. Carlisle remained silent for a moment, pensive. "Jasper?"

The bloodsucker stepped forward. "It is strategically disadvantageous to attack them in Volterra. They have a very secure domain and your pack would be outnumbered. Further, you have no acknowledgment from them that the two parties are in conflict. I would suggest taking out the third party as a show of aggression." He stepped back smartly. His wife, the short one, smiled and took his hand.

The alpha had to sort through the jargon to get to his meaning. "You think we should go after the government facility instead?"

Jasper shrugged. "They're less prepared than the Volturi would be."

Jake shook his head angrily. "We can't. They're humans. We don't hurt humans."

"Maybe you don't need to kill them," Carlisle suggested. "Find out if you can blackmail them about accepting the money."

Jake nodded. "Thank you for your help," he said briskly.

"Black," one of the other vamps called as he turned away. "Nessie sends her regards."

He stiffened and nodded, then left, the wolves following silently. He did not stay to see Carlisle frowning thoughtfully in their direction.

"Just blackmail the government; that'll be easy," Leah mocked later when they were safely away from the border, sitting on Paul and Rachel's porch.

"Ok, I want everyone to stay on the rez unless they have permission to leave." Jake paused to look at Embry and Quil, whose imprints had family off the reservation. "We're keeping up the extra patrol notice just in case. Collin and Brady, you guys are in charge of figuring out as much as possible about that facility. I'll meet with the Tribal Council and let them know what's going on. They might be able to do something about people entering town. Any questions?"

Laura was reading in Embry's living room when she saw him walking towards the door.

"Where are you going?" She only meant it as an innocent question. She didn't think that he was working or on patrol tonight. She had sort of planned a movie night for the two of them, but they had been spending a lot of time together lately, after their talk in the kitchen yesterday. She fought a blush thinking about the last few days.

He turned at her question. "Quil's." He wouldn't meet her eyes.

Laura nodded slowly. He was lying. "Ok then. Have fun." She tried to keep the disappointment out of her voice.

"Do you want me to stay?" he asked to the floor, sounding guilty.

"No, go ahead." She waved her book. "It'll probably be a quiet night here anyway."

He paused for a long moment with his hand on the door. Then he rushed to her and kissed the side of her mouth. "I'll be back late tonight. Don't wait for me."

She slumped down once he shut the door. He was lying. He lied to her. And then he left.

She pushed down the paranoia that he had tired of the imprint, that he was off to cheat on her. She refused to be a distrustful, clingy girlfriend that fell to pieces the minute her boyfriend left her. She was strong.

But the hot betrayal of his lie still cut deeply. What if he had other secrets that she didn't know about? Something worse than being a shapeshifter? Her mind flew over the possibilities: felon, murderer, member of a cult…? What could be worse than being a werewolf that he couldn't tell her?

She pushed her book away. This wasn't happening tonight.

She wished she could call one of her friends, and dish about this. She briefly considered Kim or Claire. But no, there were no secrets in this group. If they knew, their boyfriends would know. Embry would know. And that was a confrontation she was wholly unprepared for.

Instead she pulled out a bottle of liquor that was stashed in the back of the cupboard and poured herself a glass. She settled in to wait on the couch.

Embry and the pack were waiting outside the government facility. After much debate, they had decided to just break in, and look around. See if they could find any proof worthy of blackmail. Jake wanted their financial records detailing the financial donations from Italy, or a security video of Laura's interrogation, or anything else that looked fishy. Sam and Jared, as two of the oldest, had stayed back home to run patrols, just in case.

The pack was all in human form, pacing restlessly around. This was not their normal order of things, and they were hiding their nervousness with false bravado. Embry was still throbbing with shame from lying to Laura about where he would be. He didn't want her to feel guilty or worried about them doing this. It wasn't her fault, but he knew she would think it was.

Suddenly Paul snapped up. "Do you smell that?"

It was vampire, faint but still there. They had been there, and it was clear that they were gone now.

Collin broke into the front door, using the code Laura had given them. That should have been the first bad sign.

They crept through the hallways. Jake flagged off wolves to check the offices off of the main hallway. Embry had a bad feeling about this. He was towards the back of the pack, and wasn't about to admit being nervous, though. He was one of the first to pick up the clear stink of…

Up ahead, Collin let out a roar of surprise.

The tight confines were difficult for the surprised werewolves. Collin and Paul couldn't phase in time.

There were five of vampires. It was an ambush.

Embry phased and leapt into the fray, practically mad with rage. These monsters had terrorized his imprint and threatened his brothers. He would rip them to shreds.