Happy 17th December everyone. So some people were commenting on how most of my advent stories are wolf-centred so today's offering is all about the vampires... mostly. I hope you like it.
Thanks go to naelany who kindly beta'd this story for me. As always, I don't own anything to do with Twilight.
I stared at my opponent. He stared back at me.
I bared my teeth. He bared his and accompanied it with a growl of displeasure at me.
Then, completely ignoring my continued displeasure, he turned and pranced away into the kitchen without a single glance back.
Realising that I was now left growling at the wall, I cut off my snarl and my shoulders slumped. I didn't know when I'd lost control of my household so badly.
Actually, thinking back, I could pinpoint the exact moment.
It had come on the same day that Rosalie and Emmett had taken Renesmee to the zoo for the first time.
Nessie had been fascinated by all the exotic animals, but disappointed at the same time that she couldn't get into the cages with them to investigate them closer. She also hadn't liked that many of the prey animals had sensed the presence of stronger predators amongst them and had hidden away for the duration of my siblings' visit.
Faced with my daughter's frustration, Rosalie had compromised by taking Nessie to an animal shelter, knowing that she would be able to get up close to the animals there, and hoping that the larger number of predatory cats and dogs would respond better to the vampires' presence.
Unfortunately, Rosalie was never able to say no to Renesmee and when my daughter had discovered that she could bring these animals back home with her, it had been hard to persuade her that there wasn't room at our cottage for all of them.
My brother and sister hadn't been able to resist letting her bring one animal home though, a tiny Springer Spaniel puppy that had been abandoned behind a skip. When Bella and I had tried to explain why having a puppy when we moved around so much – and might possibly get hungry around – wasn't such a good idea, Nessie had pouted and cried until we relented and let her keep it.
Shortly afterwards, she had announced that her puppy's name was JJ. When asked why she had chosen that, she revealed that eye colour wasn't the only thing she had inherited from my wife; she had also developed Bella's inherent love of terrible names. Renesmee had decided that as Jacob was a wolf and her pet was a dog, they were innately linked together, and therefore Jacob Junior was a perfectly acceptable name for the poor mutt.
Unluckily for me, I found that the new family pet had more in common with Jacob than I would've liked. JJ smelled appalling, managed to eat all of the food Bella and Esme had stocked for Nessie's use and always managed to interrupt any quiet time I tried to spend with Bella and my daughter.
Even worse, the puppy had absolutely no respect for me in my own house.
When Renesmee had first brought him home, and after the argument about whether we would keep him or not, I had immediately taken to the internet and looked up dog training techniques. Within the space of the night, I knew at least twenty different methods to make sure that our new pet would be exceptionally behaved. What I hadn't counted on, was JJ not recognising me as being the dominant member of our household.
I tried training sessions, I tried sending the puppy to his bed, I tried bribery, and none of it made a slight bit of difference. Every time I walked into the same room, JJ would immediately begin growling and snarling at me. The best response I ever got from the dog was him ignoring me.
What I found most galling was that I was the only person that the mutt didn't like.
He adored Jacob, evidently following the examples of the other wolves in obeying him as his Alpha. It was utterly ridiculous at times to see the pack sprint off into the forest to take care of a threat, only for the short-legged pup to attempt to follow them. On those occasions, either Renesmee or Bella would have to go after the wolves to save the puppy from getting involved in a fight he wasn't prepared for.
JJ never disobeyed Jacob's orders, instead fawning over the bigger wolf and cuddling up to him the second he sat within reaching distance, and because Jacob loved anything that Renesmee did, he paid an excessive amount of attention to the puppy. The rest of the wolves in his pack treated JJ with a good deal of amusement, although I had caught the Clearwaters fawning over the small dog on one occasion.
The rest of my family weren't loved by JJ – he could probably sense that occasionally Jasper and Emmett wondered if he would taste appealing – but he tolerated their presence when they were in my daughter's company.
Bella was slightly more beloved than the rest of us, but I often suspected that the puppy was taking his cues from both my daughter and Jacob with regards to her.
Despite my misgivings about having an animal in the house, I had to admit that JJ was good for Renesmee. Through him, she learnt how to be more careful with creatures more fragile than the rest of us, and Bella thought that as fast as she was growing, it was good for her to learn some responsibility before she reached full maturity.
My daughter and her pet were inseparable. Where Renesmee went, JJ went, although I drew the line at him sleeping in her bed with her. This rule, however, always seemed to fly out the window every time Bella and I spent a night away from the cottage. We would always return in the morning and peer around the door to check on Renesmee, only to find her curled up in a ball, one arm wrapped tightly around her pet.
No matter how many times I put my foot down when it came to JJ, Renesmee would whine and cajole and bat her eyelashes at me until she got her own way. On the rare occasions when I managed not to cave in to my daughter, she would immediately enlist the support of the rest of the family, and I would receive either a sympathetic talk about the trials of parenting from Carlisle or a tongue-lashing about how unreasonable I was being from Rosalie.
Bella kept out of it. She thought that I was being too harsh on the puppy, especially considering how young he was. She didn't know just how trying the dog could be when no-one else was around.
Charlie and Sue were meant to be coming to dine with us this evening, accompanied, of course, by Jacob, Leah and Seth, and Bella had been worrying about it for the last three days, wanting everything to be perfect for our guests.
Given how much the wolves ate, she had settled on grilled steaks as the perfect meal, planning to leave mine and hers as rare as possible so our lack of eating wouldn't look strange to her father. She had marinated the meat and left it sitting in a bowl on the table while she and Esme conjured up the perfect accompaniments back in the larger kitchen in the main house.
My sole job for today was to watch Renesmee while my wife was busy and keep her out of trouble until the evening. That had been easy enough initially. We had watched a movie together, had a lesson in Greek and then gone outside to pick a bunch of flowers to put in the centre of the table for tonight. Renesmee had then asked me to go and see if Alice had any ribbon that she could use to tie the flowers up while she fed JJ his own dinner.
I had been halfway back from the main house, ribbon in hand, when I heard a crashing noise coming from the cottage, glass tinkling as it bounced off tiled flooring. What made me worry was my daughter's muttered "oops".
Sprinting back to the house, I had burst into the kitchen only to find my daughter frantically trying to clean up the shattered bowl, which appeared to have been knocked over by the giant bag of dog food she had tossed onto the table.
While Nessie tried to hide the evidence of the broken glassware, evidently JJ had taken advantage of the accident and was chewing and swallowing the marinated steaks so quickly that I was surprised none of it was getting stuck in his throat.
She had looked up guiltily.
"What happened here?"
I could hear all the possible excuses for her carelessness that flitted through her mind, but in the end, she didn't say anything. Instead, she burst into noisy tears and fled to her room, slamming the door behind her.
I was left facing the dog.
All of the steak had disappeared with remarkable speed and the only sign that it had ever existed was the shattered bowl on the floor and the smears of orange-coloured marinade that decorated JJ's face, neck and ears. From the look of him, he must have dived into the food head first.
All of this led me to where I was now – being ignored by a dog while my daughter sobbed in her bedroom.
Seconds later a scratching noise came from Renesmee's door and her cries cut off to allow JJ access to her room.
I pinched my nose in frustration.
What was I going to do? My wife was going to kill me, and I was going to kill that dog.
Just as I was contemplating murder, Bella walked in, carrying dishes full of food. She was followed by Jacob who had clearly been given the rest of tonight's meal to transport over.
She took one look at the mess in the kitchen and the look on my face and then sighed.
"Whoa!" Jacob whistled lowly. "What happened here?"
Bella just shook her head and put the food down on the counters, indicating to Jacob to do the same. "Renesmee, can you come out here, please."
A whimper came from our daughter's bedroom and Jacob frowned at Bella, crossing his arms over his chest defensively. I had to fight the inclination to roll my eyes at his protective thoughts for my daughter.
Renesmee stuck her head cautiously around the door, before shuffling forward slowly. She sped up her last couple of steps into the room and crashed into the back of Jacob's legs, clinging to his knees. The Alpha wolf immediately drew himself up to his full height in response.
"Jake!" Bella smacked his arm. "Don't be like that. We just want to know what happened here. Renesmee?"
Our daughter stubbed her toe onto the floor and avoided our eyes.
Bella continued. "I take it from the mess on the floor and on JJ that he was the one who ate our dinner?"
"It wasn't his fault," Renesmee burst out passionately. "He wanted his dinner, but then he wanted steak too, and three of those were for Jake and I knew he wouldn't mind if I gave JJ one, so I went to get one from the bowl, only I couldn't reach, so I had to climb onto the chair and then JJ jumped up and I lost my balance, and then everything just...fell on the floor," she finished quietly.
I shook my head at both my daughter and her pet, while Bella looked like she was struggling not to burst out laughing.
"I'm sorry," Renesmee offered weakly. She gathered JJ up protectively, still mostly hiding behind Jacob's bulk. "I didn't mean to. And neither did JJ. He was just hungry."
Bella bit her lip and then winced. No matter how many times she hurt herself doing that the habit was too ingrained for her to break.
"Okay," she finally decided. "Renesmee go to the bathroom and clean JJ up, he's smearing marinade all over your dress and Jake's pants."
Our daughter hung her head, but quickly scurried out of the room to comply. Seconds later, we heard the water in the bath turn on and her excited chatter as she talked to her pet. High-pitched yelps from the puppy were her reply.
Jacob grinned at both of us. "I'll go and help her out. The pup doesn't like water so someone'll have to hold him while Nessie gives him a bath."
"Do you really think that's a good idea, Jacob?" I asked.
He laughed at me. "Hey, dude, he actually likes me. He'll do whatever I tell him to. It's only you he thinks is weird; I can't say I blame him."
With a wink, the wolf disappeared out of the room and I ground my teeth in annoyance at his parting dig.
A soft laugh came from my side and Bella wound her arms around my waist, hugging me to her.
"You shouldn't get so irritated at him," she chided. "You know he's only playing you."
"I know," I bit out. "But it's not just him. It's him and that damn dog."
Bella slapped me playfully on my chest. "Don't be like that. JJ's just a puppy. He'll learn to love you."
I snorted. "I doubt that."
Bella chuckled again at how petulant I sounded. I don't know why it bothered me so much that I couldn't bond with just one tiny mongrel.
"Come on now." Bella dragged me down to her height and gifted me with a kiss. "Even if you'll never be JJ's favourite, you're still mine."
I had to laugh at how ridiculous her statement sounded, especially as we were only talking about our daughter's pet. I really needed to get a grip. It was clear now that my chances of the puppy going back to the pound were slim to none.
Sensing that she had won me over, Bella offered me another kiss and then pushed me towards the door.
"Go. Buy more steak. I'll clear up the mess here and then make sure that Renesmee knows that she can't treat JJ the same way that she treats Jake...no matter the similarities between them." She giggled.
"I love you," I told her, pressing my lips to her forehead.
"I love you too," she replied. "Now go, buy more food."
I hummed to myself as I walked towards the garage, happy that some rules were finally being laid down, rules that would no doubt be listened to since they came from Bella and not from me. I would just have to bow down to the inevitability of being bossed around in my own home by the women of the household and their pet canines.
My good mood dissolved the instance I entered the garage, my eyes instinctively flying to the back left corner of my Volvo.
The paintwork on that part of the car had been completely destroyed, tiny claw marks plainly visible to me.
My jaw clenched.
Me and that puppy were going to have words.