Disclaimer: Twilight isn't mine. This story takes place in an AU, but most people will still remain in character. Bella, for obvious reasons will be OOC, but not insanely different. Your thoughts or comments are always welcome.

With a sigh of relief I stepped out of the small commuter plane from Seattle to Port Angelus that brought an end to the scent assault from Hades. I honestly didn't think I could take much more of the contained air that spoke of the hundreds of people that had ridden before me.

Everyone that goes anywhere leaves some of their selves behind. It's just a matter of quantity. A hair, some cologne, errant pheromones, intestinal gases, or a myriad number of other things all take root in the world around me. Humans don't really have to worry about most of them since their ability to smell is usually reserved for the more potent of odorous phenomena. For me and others like me it's a whole other story.

Hitching my backpack up on my shoulder, I scanned the concourse past security for Charlie, my biological father. I make that distinction for a specific reason. For the vast majority of my life, I didn't know he existed. Renée, my mother, impressed upon me at an early age that I was a surprise baby. In layman's terms I was a mistake, a lapse in judgment during a sexual interlude, originally unwanted; any of those will do.

That didn't mean she didn't love me – well, right up until the moment she found out I carried a specific recessed gene of Charlie's that was only supposed to be passed down through the males of his family. Up until then, I was the light of her life. She got married to Charlie, gave birth to me in Forks, Washington, and then six months later found out what her husband hid in his DNA. After that there was a divorce whereupon Renée decided that she'd had enough of the never ending clouds and rain, venturing to Phoenix, Arizona.

It was on my eighteenth birthday that I found out my entire life was a lie.

~O~

"Isabella," the cop said as he measured me up with his eyes.

Being what I am, I could tell that those blue eyes of his were actually colored contacts. If only I was lucky enough to be able to follow in those specific genetic footsteps.

"Charlie."

He was still in his Chief of Police uniform, hands on his hips, salt in his peppered hair, and mirrored sunglasses hanging from the left pocket of his poofy green jacket. It was the perfect cop stereotype. I almost felt like hiding my stash even though I didn't have any on me.

Gesturing to my pack he said. "You got everything?"

I shrugged. "Suitcase."

His eyes shifted to the people walking past. I could see he was measuring them up. It was a cop thing I suppose.

He grunted. "I'll be out front, waiting."

That was before he turned back around and headed out of sight.

What can I expect out of a father that hadn't seen me for seventeen and a half years – indifference? One would think that meeting your adult daughter for the first time would warrant a hug at least. Maybe it was the wide tinted circular glasses I wore to hide my eyes. Maybe I wasn't normal looking enough.

It's true; I'm abnormal, at least recently.

Two weeks ago I was five-feet tall with dull brown eyes and limp mousy brown hair. That's changed somewhat. When I was a little girl I wished upon every shooting star, every birthday candle, and after every penny I'd thrown in random wishing wells that I didn't look the way I did. Being the shortest, plainest, and palest girl in my class tended to cement me into a certain social strata, and it wasn't one of the good ones.

I had tried hair dye which never held more than three or four showers. Colored contacts irritated my eyes and still do. My skin was too sensitive to lay out in the sun or even tanning beds. In truth, I had the worst luck in the world. If there was something to trip over, I'd find it. If anyone around me was sick, I'd catch it. Forget getting my license – I put my driving instructor in the hospital. That's why people tended to skirt around me whenever I was spotted.

Bad Luck Bella; that was one of the nicer things I'd been called.

Once Charlie disappeared, I made my way to the luggage carousel and pulled off a battered light blue Samsonite and had my claim check verified while being ogled by the security guard. That earned him a nasty scowl from me.

I wasn't used to my newfound appearance. That was one of the reasons I had so little in terms of luggage; nothing fit. Renée's last gift to me was a debit card for new clothes. Then she wiped her hands of me. Who was I to tell her two hundred dollars didn't go a long way in terms of girls clothes. She knew. She just didn't care any longer. I was Charlie's problem, not to mention an adult, so I could buy new ones when I arrived in Forks.

My suitcase went into the back seat of the police cruiser and my backpack, along with myself, sat in the front. We were thirty minutes into our drive before he bothered to speak another word to me.

"Your house is set up on the west side of Forks."

I could feel my eyes starting to well-up. Being passed from one parent to another and then shuffled off to an entirely different house had been the tipping point for me.

"Your mother sent me a list and everything is there," he continued. "The utilities are turned on and the cupboard is stocked."

My lips pressed together as I stared out the side window willing myself not to break down right there. I wouldn't give either of my parents the pleasure any longer.

"She said that you don't have your license."

I ignored him since in thirty minutes he'd be ignoring me.

"Bella."

Then I heard a sigh before a thick manila envelope landed on my lap startling me. Looking down, I glanced at it before sending Charlie a quizzical glare.

"Open it up. It's your new life."

I started to say something but stopped myself. Being a sarcastic jerk only took me so far, and whether I liked it or not I needed my father for at least for the foreseeable future. So I undid the clip and slid the contents in my lap. My eyes shot up when I saw a new drivers license, a passport, a birth certificate, and a number of other things.

"You'll find your coordination issues disappearing over the next month. So I got you a car. It's not new, but it runs and it'll get you where you need to go."

My mouth fell slightly open as he continued with what sounded like a pre-planned spiel.

"Your medical records show all the usual childhood illnesses, nothing major. Since you can't get sick anymore you probably won't need them, but I like to be thorough in case you need to leave the country when the time comes. Your bank book is in there too. I gave you half of what I've got, so take it easy until it's built back up again."

I swallowed at what he was saying as I flipped through all the mess to find a checkbook. Opening it, I saw the amount that was just in the checking account. That didn't include savings which was on another register.

"Ch-Charlie…."

I didn't know what to say. Seeing that he'd just set me up for at least the next three or four decades made my heart clench.

Another sigh sounded from his side of the car.

"Look, Bella, I know I'm not the father that you were expecting. God knows that I shouldn't be anyone's father much less a young lady's."

He let that trail for a few seconds.

"We're solitary creatures. I tried the marriage thing with your mom, but you see how that worked out. I think it's best if we were separate. That way I don't drive you off too."

I sniffed and ran my hand up my nose to get rid of the dribbles that were starting right after a couple of tears ran down my face.

"So…," I started before sniffing again. "You actually want to know me?"

That seemed to stump him for a moment. "Uh, that's the reason you're here isn't it?"

The insecurity that had been bred into me for eighteen years wasn't something that I could let go of at a moment's notice.

"I guess. I…."

He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Look, something you need to understand is that men and women of our kind don't really get along very well outside of the… um, bedroom. That's why you've got your place and I've got mine."

My face started flushing with heat at the mere thought of sex, not to mention discussing it with a complete stranger, dad or not.

"I figure we can meet up at the local diner and I can go over everything you need to know, or any questions you might have. That way we don't get on each other's nerves."

I nodded my head and wiped away at my face. "That's cool. It's probably a good idea."

Charlie's shoulders relaxed and I saw the tension in his face start to slip away. "Good."

We drove on in silence for another twenty minutes before I saw the lights of the small town through the trees. We slowed and Charlie pointed out a small two story house.

"That's mine there if something comes up and you need me in the middle of the night."

The front lawn was small and wet, but kept up fairly well. Once the cruiser picked up speed again and entered the town proper he pointed out the police station and the diner that we'd meet at the following evening for dinner.

"One thing you need to know about Forks is that we're not the only supernatural things here."

My eyes widened briefly for the spot reveal. "We're not?"

"The Cullens, right down the road from you, are vampires."

When my breath caught, Charlie looked over at me. "Don't worry. They're vegetarians. They only drink animal blood and we taste like ass… uh, sorry. I mean we don't taste good so they won't be bothering you. I only told you because you might smell them when you go hunt. Just try to stay out of their way. They're good people mostly. Their youngest, Alice, is the one that volunteered to fill your wardrobe."

Vampires doesn't usually equate to good people. At least the ones in most fantasy novels don't anyway.

"Vampires that like to shop for people they don't know?"

Charlie nodded. "Yup. They're just as strong as me and you, but you're faster and come equipped with built in claws and teeth. You can tell the good ones from the bad by the color of their eyes. Gold is good, red is bad."

"Vampires," I whispered with disbelief.

"Werewolves too… well, shape-shifters really, but they phase into wolves much like we do as cougars. They usually stick to the reservation. I'll show you the borderlines. Whatever you do don't cross them until I introduce you to their pack."

"Werewolves? How will I know where the line is before you show me?"

Charlie shrugged. "Just stay north of 110 and you'll be fine. The res doesn't start for a few miles after your place."

Wonderful; I'm brand new into town and I get stuck living right between two supernatural horrors. Sure Bella, don't worry about a thing. What could go wrong?

It seemed as if I was riding a rollercoaster of emotion for the last hour. On one hand I turn into a feline freak whenever I get hungry; I just met a father that I didn't know existed until two weeks ago; said father treats me like I'm an inconvenience, and then turns right around and gives me a fortune only to stick me literally on the wrong side of the tracks among things I'd only read about in horror stories. This discludes me being one of the aforementioned horror story creatures. And to top it all off I start off my senior year in high school in only two days.

Yeah, my life is a peach.

~O~

Charlie was right; the house was pretty much set up. It was a three bedroom single story with a basement surrounded by dense forest. If I didn't know the house was there I'd have never found it. Everything was either brand new or freshly cleaned, mostly the latter. The living room had dark wood flooring mostly covered with a large area rug with a couch and a love seat, no coffee table. The kitchen was moderately well stocked with a lot of high protein foods.

That was something I had yet to get used to. I wouldn't call myself a vegetarian, but I rarely ate meat, maybe a chicken salad every once in a while. Ever since the change, I couldn't get enough, and meat is expensive. That's why I had to supplement, about once a week, with more natural ways, mainly hunting. That was included in Charlie's initial briefing over the phone when Renée called him to break the news. That's when she lost it.

My mother could forgive me growing ten inches in less than a week. She could even forgive me gaining two additional cup sizes, but the idea that I turned into a giant cat and had to bring down a full grown buck or its equivalent so I could eat almost the entire thing raw, was where she drew the line of acceptability. Hence, the boot to the road.

One of the smaller bedrooms was set up as an office, with a nice work area and a pretty decent laptop and printer setup. The other had a double bed and a single chest of drawers that I supposed would be a guest room. Though who I'd ever invite to stay the night was beyond me. I could just see that conversation.

Here's the bedroom and if you hear any growling be sure to lock your door, and do not, under any circumstances, feed the kitty.

The master bedroom was large, at least three times the size of the one I previously inhabited. The bed was king sized and quite soft, which I liked. There was an armoire and a large dresser, not to mention a vanity. Everything was done up in cherrywood and earth tones. I quite liked the warmth and knew immediately that Charlie had nothing to do with the decorating. He was obviously a simple man with muted tastes. Not that I was much different, but I did go out of my way to make sure I was comfortable in the evenings.

The biggest reason I knew it wasn't him was because of the sweet scent in the air that reminded me of amusement parks, funnel cakes to be more specific. I don't know the ingredients, but it always made my mouth water as a child. It was everywhere in the bedroom, but most especially in the closet.

My eyes widened at the amount of clothes hanging in the walk-in. They were separated by outfit with the appropriate shoes underneath. That was the biggest joke, because half of those shoes consisted of a heel height that I wasn't comfortable with.

When I just started off High School I wanted to be taller, so I tried out three and four inch heels. One, they hurt after about thirty minutes of wear and two I literally broke my ankle falling down half a flight of stairs. Needless to say, I stayed with flats, ballet slippers, and running shoes ever since.

"Well, obviously, this Alice person has never met me before," I said to nobody.

I chuckled at the little Post-it notes that had everything marked down by date of when I was supposed to wear it.

"And she's apparently quite anal as well."

I had to admit though there were some really nice looking outfits. I wouldn't have even considered wearing anything so expensive before. Mostly I was a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl by necessity. Renée was lucky if she made all the monthly bills on time much less supply me with enough money to buy leather pants… and was that a corset? Whatever!

The Monday, October 2nd outfit was more my style if I had the money and body – I had no excuse for the latter anymore: Burberry London jersey leggings, the taffeta trim wool tank was perfect as a top, and the black booties with a moderate one inch heel I could live with.

Alice had good tastes for some things. For others, I had severe doubts. Some of the stuff I didn't know if I had the nerve to wear. Yes, I now had the body for it, but my personality screamed NO freaking way!

~O~

The car was a Jeep Wrangler with mud tires on it. Considering how I drive that was probably a good thing. I could definitely see me sliding off into a ditch somewhere and not being able to get out. With this thing, off-roading, even by accident, seemed to be encouraged.

The high school supposedly had about eight hundred kids in it… total. The school I was at in Phoenix had 1300 in my senior class alone. Needless to say I was about to be exposed as the new kid with a vengeance; a school where literally everyone knew your name, and your personal business.

Why exactly did I move here again?

The parking lot was busy as I eased the Jeep into a vacant place without crashing into anything at all for the entire trip. It appeared that Charlie was right about one thing. My coordination seemed to be on the rise. Now if I can make it through one day without making a spectacle out of myself I can call it a successful venture.

I killed the engine and slipped the keys into one of many zipper pockets of my messenger bag before slipping the strap over my shoulder and jumping out. It made such a difference to have long legs. My decent to the ground was mere inches instead of drop I'd normally experience.

"New girl!"

Three guys waved from across the parking lot as I flicked my head to the side to see my first official welcoming party. Instead of encouraging them, I just gave a short nod in response. Charlie was right about another thing: we were loners. It wasn't that I didn't appreciate a friendship of most kinds, but I didn't really want to be the center of attention. Too many things were expected from popular people.

They had to surround themselves with others of the same caliber; they had to watch what they eat, what they wear, how they spoke, how they treated others. It was just too much and I wasn't really interested in being the center of attention. I just wanted a few friends unlike the solitary life I had before.

As I made my way up the front walk a dozen or so conversations filled my ears. It was one of the downsides to having enhanced senses. Sometimes you just weren't meant to hear what goes on around you.

"Get a load of those legs and that ass!"

It took a decent amount of restraint not to swivel around and call the blond boy out on what he said, but I shouldn't have been able to hear it so I was limited on options. Either ignore it or do something about it later. Not that I minded all that much. After being a homebody for the last dozen years it was nice to be ogled just a bit. My ego was doing a little backflip and for once it wasn't landing on its face.

"Isabella Swan," I said to the lady at the front office. "It's my first day."

She looked up at me over her bifocals. "I've got your paperwork right here, honey. You'll need to take off your glasses inside the building though."

I licked my lips and then raised my red tinted lenses. I could hear her breath catch quite loudly and her own eyes widen when she saw the crimson color of mine.

"I wear them because most people get freaked out about the color and it causes disruptions in class."

"Wh… wha…," she sputtered.

With a mild smile I slide them back on. "It's a rare genetic defect. The blood vessels in my eyes leak into the irises. They used to be a light blue until I hit puberty. Then boom, evil eyes."

Her gaze dropped to the desk in obvious embarrassment for her reaction. "Yes, well. Let me write a note for your teachers."

~O~

AP English, Government, and Physics crawled by since I'd already covered the material. At least I wasn't going to be behind because of the move. When I made it to the snack bar in the cafeteria, I ordered three hamburgers and found my way to a corner table where nobody was sitting at the moment. Taking the time to transfer the meat from two of the burgers onto just the one made it look like I was a weirdly picky eater. The thing was, all I wanted was the beef, but I didn't want to look really freaky. As it was, all I was eating was a triple burger and two buns. Don't worry; they were the thin kind of patties.

It tasted way too overcooked, but eatable.

Halfway through lunch there were several aborted attempts by various males to approaching my table, but with a mild glare from me they just waved and went about their business. I felt somewhat sorry for them, but I wasn't looking for a boyfriend and at the moment I had no desire to be hit on. Maybe it was that time of month or something.

My cycle had been totally thrown off when I changed, so I was already ten days late. Not that there was any chance of me being pregnant. I'd actually have to be having sex for that to happen. Nope, ol' Bella still had her V-card. It was pathetic, I know. Most of the girls I knew in Phoenix had cashed theirs in when they were fifteen or sixteen. Me, I thought I'd be a spinster petting my three dozen cats and talking to myself clear into my dotage. Of course I'm a dude magnet now.

One would think that when having lived all of my life as a social and physical underachiever that I'd be living the high life and taking advantage of what had been given to me. Sorry, but my life isn't a movie or a bad supernatural teen romance novel. The truth was that I was still the same person. I had all the same hang-ups as I did when I was barely five feet tall sporting A-cups.

I wanted nothing more than to find the perfect person that didn't care about how I looked or that I had the habit of sporting bruises up and down my forearms from falling down or slamming into things haphazardly. The problem was that I didn't have those issues anymore. It had been almost a week since I'd last felt like a rampaging uncoordinated idiot. However, the thoughts were still in the back of my mind.

My life is so very strange.

Out of the corner of my eye I caught movement of the female variety as a curly blonde haired girl approached and sat down without so much as a by your leave. She wasn't anything to write home about, much like I used to be. Plain would describe well: loose clothing, a little on the small side, her hair pulled back with an Alice band to keep it out of her face, and very short unpolished nails.

She glanced at me briefly before arranging her salad and pulling out a paperback from her backpack. It was almost surreal. I tongued a piece of gristle from my teeth and smirked as I finished my burger and cleaned up the mess I'd made. Afterward, I removed the small iPad from my messenger bag and shot off a final email to Renée letting her know I arrived and was still alive. She might not have wanted me in her life anymore, but that was her decision. I didn't want to leave.

With that done, I pulled up the spreadsheet I was working on over the weekend after I'd settled in. It was everything I had learned from Charlie during our first dinner.

I'd set up three different sheets on shapeshifters, vampires, and Thercougars. That was the condensed version of my race. The technical term was therianthrope. At first I thought I was a werecougar, but Charlie told me that was incorrect.

You have your typical werewolf, named after Lycaon, King of Arcadia, from Ovid's Metamorphoses. Weres of all kinds are ruled by the lunar cycle and can only change forms during the full moon. They're also quite insane and kill without remorse or much of any other kind of emotion except rage. They're your atypical horror monster.

Shapeshifters have the initial ability to change into whatever type of creature they want, but they also have a tendency to be steered in one direction, hence the wolves of the Quileute Indians. They could just as easily have become bears if they didn't already have a connection with wolves from their folklore.

Therianthropes are simply human to animal shifters; they could change back and forth into one form only, which was dictated by genetics. Charlie was a cougar, so that was our only choice at all. There are other types out there, but like Charlie and me we are all very rare. He only knew about three other people in the US, only one of which had a son. So, I guess that would make four technically.

Most of the information session concerned the very basics of the wolves and vampires, what I needed to know to survive in Forks until I met them. Everything else was all about little ol' me.

The warning bell sounded to alert the students that lunch was over. The blonde hastily packed her book away and stalled twice before giving me a nervous smile before leaving. I stashed my iPad and prepared myself for another few hours of school.

~O~

Charlie wouldn't come in my house.

"You'll have trouble sleeping with more than one scent hanging in the air," was his excuse. "I'll wait here."

Nudity was still something that I had a major problem with. However, it's really difficult to not totally destroy my clothes when I phase. The trouble comes because of the end result; even spandex can't contain a cougar the size of a large horse. Believe me, I tried.

What Charlie suggested was to convert a fanny pack using a stretchable strap that could hang around my neck while I was phased. In that pack would be a hundred dollars in cash in one pocket and my biking outfit in the other. It was made out of nylon and Lycra – one of the Speedo models in black with purple racing stripes – so it fit snugly inside. I would look odd wearing it, but it covered all the things that needed to be covered and provided me with cash if needed. I suggested a cell phone as well, but he let me know that sometimes the small packs don't make it through the night.

Anyway, I retreated into the house and stripped out of my clothes, set the pack loosely around my neck and phased.

There's no pain when this happens. I take that back. The first time it happened I thought I was going to crawl out of my skin, but that could have just been because of the situation I was in at the time. After that, it was smooth and uneventful. One second I was a human girl and the next a cat girl.

I took a second to get my bearings, smelling my surroundings and the light scent of Charlie at my front door, before padding out through the living room and the front door where he waited.

"You need to get used to it sometime, Isabella. There's nothing to be ashamed of especially from me."

I hacked in annoyance. It's better than a growl, because I wasn't angry, just embarrassed. Nobody, barring a doctor had ever seen me naked, even Renée ever since I'd turned seven.

To prove his point, Charlie started stripping out of his shorts and t-shirt right in front of me. I immediately sprang off the porch and retreated to the edge of the forest. There are simply some things that a daughter shouldn't ever see. Trying my best to scrub my mind of the images of Charlie's chiseled abs from my brain was a fruitless effort. No, I didn't have the hots for my dad. It's not like I'm from Hollywood or anything.

A few moments later a shiny black haired cougar padded up beside me. That was one difference we had from natural cougars other than our sheer size. Most mountain cats in the area, and though most of the United States, were tan colored. We were black and often mistaken for mutant panthers. We weren't panthers. Neither were we jaguars, leopards, or tigers. We all may come from the same genetic Family Felidae, but we split from there into Genus Puma and Genus Panthera.

That's as far as I got in the technical aspect of what I was, at least my cat side. There was a whole mixing of the species that proved to be beyond my scientific knowledge. Considering I only had the equivalent of a high school education I thought I was doing fairly well.

Charlie and I spent the first few hours running along the Quileute border so he could show me where not to go hunting. South of that line was wolf territory and while they wouldn't attack on sight, Charlie assured me they would let their displeasure be known. Supposedly he had a friendship with one of their tribe, one Harry Clearwater. They were fishing buddies. Since Charlie was only one cougar and the Chief of Police, the wolves didn't feel threatened.

He only entered their land in his human form and out of respect never phased on the reservation. If I wanted to be treated with the same courtesy then I had to follow suit. Judging from the unmitigated wet dog stench that permeated the soil along our route I didn't think that would ever pose a problem.

When we reached a turn-off road that led south Charlie phased back into his human form, much to my delicate sensibilities.

Oh God! Naked Charlie! Gag!

Turning my head, I hacked again in disgust. He only chuckled.

"Phase back and get into your outfit. We're meeting some of the pack so they can get your scent."

With that thought, I ran into the tree line and phased back. My fanny pack was still whole and only moderately scratched up from the brush I'd run into through our trip. I took out my Speedo biking outfit and slipped it on. The trouble with it was the skintight material left absolutely nothing to the imagination and that warred against years of ingrained modesty. Needless to say, my face was on fire as I made my way back out onto the road to find Charlie in a pair of seventies style running shorts and a tight tank. If I didn't know any better I would say he was flaming gay and heading to a bathhouse or something.

Again, gag!

"Is there something you want to tell me, Charlie?"

He looked down at his outfit. "What?"

"You know they make a guy's version of this that's infinitely more heterosexual. You look like you're trolling for guys in that outfit. Not that there's anything wrong with that, if that's your thing I mean."

He frowned and looked down again. "I've been wearing this for decades."

I nodded and gave him a sympathetic look. "It shows. Look, uh, straight guys don't really show so much leg these days, especially with a tank that's so tight. You look like you need a pair of green and orange striped tube socks to go with it, and that went out in the early eighties."

Charlie's face fell in annoyance. "I liked the eighties."

"Hence the porno mustache; I get that."

Before I had a chance to add anything else he cut me off. "Hey, if Burt Reynolds can make this mustache look good then I can."

"Who?"

I think I was annoying him even more. "Smokey and the Bandit, Deliverance, Cannonball Run… none of these rings a bell?"

Honestly, I thought he was about to have a fit. "Charlie… just let me buy you a new outfit. Trust me; all the MILFs of Forks will thank me if they see you in it."

"What's a MILF?"

"Uh… it's probably better if I don't explain."

He narrowed his eyes at me like he was becoming the butt of some teenage joke. I'm virtually positive that was the same glare he gave kids he caught while they were speeding or participating in a little underage drinking. Luckily we were interrupted by the sound of several four legged creatures approaching at high speed. It took most of my restraint not to phase and make a break for home; either that or attack, and I was trying to stay on everyone's good side for the moment.

Three horse-sized wolves bounded out of the tree line and came to a halt as their claws dug into the dirt by the road. Once they seemed to have caught sight of us the big black one kind of nodded at Charlie before turning around and disappearing again. The other two paced along the road looking annoyed. I could easily tell by the sub-vocal growling coming from their throats.

"Did we do something to tick them off?" I asked as I kept a very close eye on them.

Charlie shook his head. "Cougars and wolves aren't exactly bosom buddies in nature, kiddo. It's their natural instinct they're fighting. If they were really pissed off they'd be tearing up the ground and showing their teeth."

Before anything else was said, a large Native American guy in his late twenties, I'd guess, came strolling out from the trees only wearing a pair of surf shorts. I noted the defined muscles and large tattoo on his shoulder. I wasn't one for native art so I had no idea what it was supposed to symbolize.

"Charlie," he said as he approached and the two wolves sat their haunches on either side of him. It made me think that this guy was the one in charge, their Alpha.

Cougars didn't have that kind of pack ore leadership structure. Like Charlie said before, we were solitary creatures. I naturally looked up to him because of his experience and because I was still an intelligent being. However, I didn't look to him to tell me what to do.

"Sam, this is my daughter, Isabella." Turning to me, Charlie thumbed to the newcomer. "This is the pack Alpha, Sam. If you're on Quileute land and he says jump, then you either say how high or get the hell off his property."

Sam chuckled and held out his hand. "Nice to meet you, Isabella."

My inner cougar hacked inside my head. She didn't like the idea of touching another supernatural creature of the canine kind, but I reached out and did so anyway.

"Just Bella is fine."

He gave me a single nod. "Bella it is then. We just wanted to get your scent and pass it around the pack so we'd ask questions before attacking outright."

"I'd appreciate that. Charlie showed me the boarder, but I don't see any reason to cross into it unless something is seriously wrong."

"Fair enough."

Charlie grunted and then gestured again. "We were headed to the Cullen's place next. Anything you want to pass along?"

The two wolves raised their hackles and growled somewhat menacingly, before Sam waved them off. "No. I appreciate you being the go-between, Charlie."

"Part of the job, I guess; peacekeeper and all."

Sam chuckled. "It's not so much the peace. It's the smell we can't stand."

"I know what you mean."

That was pretty much it. They shook hands and took off leaving Charlie and I stripping again and phasing back into our animal sides.

Something I failed to mention before that I might have given a clue about was our animal sides. That's what they were, at least for me. Charlie says it takes a while to integrate the two beings into one once the cougar raises its head at the age of maturity. So, basically what I've got is a human side that thinks logically and emotionally, and an animal side that reacts on instinct. While I'm hunting, I usually let her run free until she's sated. That way she doesn't interfere too much with me when I'm in my human form.

Being around the wolf shifters brought her out protective instincts. It's not so much that she talks to me so much as she projects emotions in basic ways. Hunt, prey, danger, attack, and run; these are the ones I'm very familiar with so far. Moving to Forks has brought forth a handful each day I've been here since I try to phase as much as possible while I'm learning. Being caught unaware of a new instinct is a little disorienting at first. Unless I want her to run free around humans or whatever, I have to logically work it out before letting her loose.

There are people who go camping in the national forest and it wouldn't be good if I came across the instinct to investigate the human smell. It's best to just say away from them altogether.

Once I was back in cougar form, I chased after Charlie's cougar for a couple of miles past the turnoff for my house. It looked like the Cullens were a lot closer to me than I thought. I'd been going out of my way to steer clear of them. I mean seriously, vampires? No, thank you. I had no desire whatsoever to have my neck sucked on. Yeah, I'm aware that they really don't do that unless they intend to kill you, but still. Cougars and vamps just don't mix.

When we got within a hundred yards of the house, I caught their scent. It was sweet and the closer I got, the sweeter the smell. I felt like I'd walked into a confectionary or something. It wasn't bad, just strong. Apparently the wolves didn't have a sweet tooth, or maybe their own sense of smell was killed by the ever-present reek of wet dog twenty-four hours a day. I could see that.

I smelled chocolate, fudge, powdered sugar, Sweet Tarts, honey, and…

Stopping on the driveway right before the house I was reminded of trips to the amusement park and the one smell that I absolutely loved above all others – funnel cake. Memories of entering the park and heading straight to the first shop there was to have Renée purchase a single cake for me ran through my head. We'd always leave the shop and head to the rollercoaster. I'd busy myself quietly while we were in line. It was one of the happier memories that I'd ever had.

Charlie phased right out in the open again and slipped on his shorts and tank while I paced back and forth reliving my childhood.

"Stay a cougar until everyone gets here. I want to make sure they know your markings."

I hacked and kept pacing as I watched several people that were definitely not human exit the large three story house and take the stairs down in our general direction.

As predicted, my cougar was caught between instincts. She wanted to flee at the sight of a strange predator. She also wanted to get a taste of them to see if the scent matched the flavor. Lastly, she wanted to rip into them to show them that this was my territory and they weren't welcome. Like I said, she was torn.

I processed this while Charlie moved forward and started shaking hands.

All the men were in front staring at me, probably protecting their women. A few tentative steps forward and I stopped so I could define each of their scents. The large one with the dark hair was fudge. The shaggy-blond-haired one was powdered sugar. The young lanky guy was white chocolate, and the older one with the sweater vest was dark chocolate.

I hacked at their scent. It wasn't what I called pleasant because it was so strong, but it wasn't enough for me to run away from like the wolves.

The dark chocolate one approached me with his hands held out and a pleased look on his face. "This is young Isabella. She's beautiful, Charlie."

Sitting my butt down on the ground, I cocked my head at him and raised a single paw in the air, batting at it playfully.

Dark chocolate smiled. "It's a pleasure to meet you too, my dear."

"Bella," Charlie said. "Go ahead and phase so you can meet the rest."

Hacking once, I turned and leaped into the brush, far enough away so I could have some privacy. This time around I had to fish some dead leaves and a twig out of the Speedo after I put it on. Talk about uncomfortable. It was the price I paid for running around barefoot. Once everything was in order, I stepped back into the clearing and saw the women chatting with Charlie.

On approach I caught the scent of cotton candy which was coming from the woman that dark chocolate had his arm around. Sweet Tarts was the runway model clone tucked under fudge's beefy arm, and…

The smallest vampire of the lot had just turned her eyes on me and I came to an abrupt stop about ten feet away. She had a pleasant smile on her face, but it was her gold colored irises that held me in place. My lower abdomen tightened and I forgot to breathe somewhere along the line.

"Oh… fuh…." I mumbled before my knees gave out and I nearly collapsed on the ground.

Tunnel vision took away most of my eyesight as I seemed to be completely focused on just one person. My cougar rose up in my mind and gave out a harsh scream, a caterwaul, over and over again, sending my heart into a fast pace and making me finally breathe. It came in sharp short pants.

"Oh, crap," someone said. "Nobody move a muscle."

The scream pounded throughout my head after every fourth heartbeat until my throat tightened and tried its level best to imitate the sound, only at a much lower decibel level.

That same someone spoke again. "Bella."

"Why is she making that sound while she's looking at me?"

"She won't hurt you, Alice," that voice said. I was pretty sure it was Charlie, but I wasn't really paying attention. "And I really can't talk about it. It's an intensely private matter."

After a few minutes passed, my human mind started catching up and the tunnel vision widened to include Charlie and the rest of the Cullens. It was about that time that I realized the position I was in and what all the hubbub was about. My eyes widened and my face heated well past simple embarrassment stage that I normally felt during my klutz years.

"Bella?"

My eyes slammed shut. "Yeah?"

"You feeling okay?"

"Um…" No, I really wasn't. "I need to go."

"But…" he started, however I didn't wait to hear anymore.

As fast as I could I bolted up and ran into the forest. My cougar lent me her speed and stamina as I leaped over fallen trees and dodged live ones. Saplings and brush whipped against my skin and small woodland creatures scattered making irritated noises. Panic set in and I pushed myself even harder. My lungs expanded taking an ever increasing amount of air in to supplement what I was using as I made a beeline to my house.

The floodlights in the back yard told me I'd arrived at my destination much faster than I thought possible when I put on the brakes and tore up a good ten feet of soil coming to a stop. That's when I felt my cougar rear up and demand to be let loose. Not knowing what else to do, I stripped off the Speedo and phased before it hit the ground along with the fanny pack.

The catlike scream came back louder and more forceful than when it was trapped in my head as I started pacing. Except this time it was echoing thought the trees. The intense need that was trying its level best to escape out of my chest clouded my rational thoughts as I screamed again.

Running over to the closest tree, six-inch claws extended from my paws and ripped through the trunk in seconds, but it didn't satisfy the burning that was starting in a place I'd rather not talk about. That's when it became clear.

Turning again, I leaped to the porch and phased as I landed, slamming into the back door, nearly ripping it from its hinges as I sped to the shower. I whimpered as I turned on the cold water and closed the glass door to let the icy water do its job.

Goose pimples erupted all over my body, shocking my logical mind back into place and pushing down the subconscious-turned-conscious desire to run back to the Cullens and claim the little pixie vampire with the wispy hair and most sensuous eyes I'd ever seen as mine.

Gritting my teeth I growled out to my absent father, "You didn't freaking tell me about this, Charlie Swan!"