“Please,” I gasped. Laurent shook his head, his face kind. "Look at it this way, Bella.

You're very lucky I was the one to find you." “Am I?” I mouthed, faltering another step back. Laurent followed, lithe and graceful. “Yes,” he assured me. “I'll be very quick. You won't feel a thing, I promise. Oh, I'll lie to Victoria about that later, naturally, just to placate her. But if you knew what she had planned for you, Bella…” He shook his head with a slow movement, almost as if in disgust. “I swear you'd be thanking me for this.” I stared at him in horror. He sniffed at the breeze that blew threads of my hair in his direction. “Mouthwatering,” he repeated, inhaling deeply. I tensed for the spring, my eyes squinting as I cringed away, and the sound of Edward's furious roar echoed distantly in the back of my head. His name burst through all the walls I'd built to contain it. Edward, Edward, Edward. I was going to die. It shouldn't matter if I thought of him now. Edward, I love you. Through my narrowed eyes, I watched as Laurent slowly took a step forward. He seemed to appraise me, watching to see if I might try a futile attempt at escape. But that’s what it was, futile. I was going to die. Edward, I’m sorry. With what seemed to be a single, fluid motion – one that must have been performed a thousand different times with all the same end – he sprang across the gap between us, lifted my paralyzed face level with his, and his fangs unerringly sought my human neck. I felt the razor edges of his teeth sink effortlessly through my skin and his icy lips press firmly to my neck. I screamed as his sharp teeth gouged painfully deeper into my skin. I felt an icy cold wave of panic as I felt my blood drain away from me. “Fight, don’t give up!” my beautiful hallucination pleaded, but his voice – Edward’s voice – seemed full of dread. My brief scream faded. I didn't want to fight anymore. Even if somehow my feeble strength could repel my attacker, even if somehow my clumsy body could outrun my predator, I couldn't bring myself to even bother trying. I was almost happy that it was over. Even if this death was painful, and terrifying, I was somewhat glad it would be over very soon. Darkness started to drift across my vision. I jammed my eyes shut, not wanting the last thing I saw to be the wild red eyes of my murderer. I thought briefly of the clichés, about how you were suppose to see your life flash before your eyes. I was so much luckier. Who wanted to see a rerun, anyway? I saw him, and I had no will to fight. It was so clear, so much more defined than any memory. My subconscious had stored Edward away in flawless detail, saving him for this final moment. I could see his perfect face as if he were really there; the exact shade of his icy skin, the shape of his lips, the line of his jaw, the gold glinting in his furious eyes. He was angry, naturally, that I was

giving up. His teeth were clenched and his nostrils flared with rage. “No! Bella, no!” I first I thought I was hearing Edward's furious growl, but I quickly realized it was something else. Edward's growl wasn't nearly so rough and guttural. I then heard an entire chorus of these growls, and snarls. Laurent froze for the briefest moment, and suddenly dropped me, spinning to face whoever was challenging his kill. My knees buckled as my weight was returned to me, and I crumpled limply to the ground. My hand clapped weakly over my torn neck, feeling my hot blood flow fast from under my hand, lacing around my fingers. My eyelids fluttered open, and I dimly registered massive dark shapes detaching themselves from the forest, hurtling themselves toward my would-be murderer. Five massive beasts seemed to descend upon the vampire, but I could hardly follow the movement with my eyes before Laurent fled with the animals pursuing him. Confusion flooded me at the same time that the pain did. Now that I was free of the crushing grip and slicing fangs, I registered for the first time the fire. My neck was burning and the pain was quickly spreading and increasing as it slowly inched further from the bite with every beat of my heart. I realized what was happening with a start, and I realized that this time there would be no one to stop the spread like before, no one to draw out the venom quickly infecting my system with fire and pain. No! I cried out at the hellishly cruel irony of this situation. I had only wanted to become a vampire to spend forever with Edward, and now, I was condemned to spend eternity without him. The flames spread and the pain that accompanied them was unimaginable. I writhed and screamed as I tore at my neck, my fingers clawing uselessly at the fire, as if trying to extinguish them. But the flames refused to be swayed and, as if in protest to the idea of my trying to extinguish them, they suddenly grew more intense and I knew I’ve never felt such agony in my life. My hands drifted further from my neck as I clawed at the line of fire slowly razing through my body, and I screamed and cried out as more of my body was consumed in pain. By the time my whole body was plunged into the scalding flames, my throat was already hoarse from the screaming. But I continued regardless, it was utterly impossible to endure this pain silent. With my entire body now filled with fire, the pain unexpectedly rose and peaked, and rose again. I was temporarily stunned by the intensity of the flame, before my mind restarted with a single thought. Let me die! Let me die! Let me die! Let me die! But I was trapped in the pain. I couldn’t even comprehend the time as I was sucked into the endless moment of agony. It might have been seconds or hours, but it might as well have been an eternity in hell and fire as I lay in the meadow. The meadow where Edward first told me he loved me, but now the clearing held new memories for me, ones now forming as I flipped and writhed in the grass and dirt, gouging marks into the earth with my frantic body. Over my screaming, I faintly heard nearby growling, and it seemed a thousand deaths ago when I had first witnessed the dark beasts break out of the forest. The confusion filled whatever tiny portion of my head that wasn’t already filled with pain as I now actually considered what actually had the tenacity and strength to challenge a vampire and now seemingly emerge alive. But my thoughts could hardly unravel this mystery as the pain broke my thread of concentration. But now I could hear the beasts louder as they growled and snarled at each other, apparently only a short distance away. Hope suddenly filled me. Please kill me! Please kill me! I mentally chanted hoping the monsters would turn on me, finish me when the pain would not. I was aware when the snarling increased and I heard the violent sounds of fighting.

Why are you killing each other? It’s me you want! Kill me! Please kill me! A sudden chorus of howls filled the air. I dimly saw one of the beasts stalk closer to me and as it filled my vision I was suddenly able to register what it was. It was a wolf, a monstrous reddish brown beast with black eyes –black eyes that locked on my own with a frightening intelligenceand it seemed to slink hesitantly closer, a low whine escaped it’s parted jaws. I realized I was still screaming from the pain, and I hoped that the sound wouldn’t put the monster off killing me. Please kill me! But the animal turned, its hackles raised and faced the rest the giant wolves. A stream of yowls and snarls issued from the beast, and it seemed to back closer to me, protecting me from the four other wolves I now properly saw for the first time through my pain. The wolf in front was probably the largest and jet black. The wolves on its flanks were an assortment of colours. The black beast held its ground against the reddish wolf’s fearsome noise. The black wolf seemed to switch its sight between me and the red wolf a number of times before finally issuing a long, loud howl. It ran toward the forest and the remaining three wolves seemed almost torn on whether to stay or follow the black monster before they too plunged into the forest. Finally, I was alone with the russet wolf, who now turned to properly examine me. All I could do was scream with pain and wish for death, but death didn’t come. The wolf sat beside me, gazing at me with an expression that didn’t belong on an animal. It’s brows seemed mashed together over it’s frightening black eyes, and when it finally opened it’s jaws – please bite me, please kill me! –only a low whining seemed to come out. Why wouldn’t it kill me? Here I was, an impossibly easy meal for such a monster. It seemed determined to sit and gaze while I screamed and thrashed on the ground. The fire continued to rip through me, charring my body from the inside out. I couldn’t focus on the wolf for much longer before the pain once again shredded my thread of thought. I tossed on the ground, breaking my stare with the wolf, and continued down the eternal moment of pain. As I continued to endure the fire, I slowly began to think around it, and I was vaguely able to mark a passing of time as the sky started to darken. Other than that, I was only aware of the monstrous wolf that continued to sit and watch me. Confused, but unable to attempt to understand through my pain, I finally decided that hoping for death from this beast was a lost cause. The time came when the darkness of night shrouded the meadow and I was lost in the agonising pain of fire. If it weren’t for the mysterious wolf beside me with its heavy breathing and occasional whine, I couldn’t have been sure if time even existed anymore. What should have been a million burnt deaths later, the sky seemed to lighten, but there was no change in the blistering tongues of flame that ravaged my body. I thrashed and shrieked while the flames continued to lick through my veins with searing agony. As the sky brightened further, I started feeling some slow change. Both my mind and senses were slowly shifting. I could now hear the wolf’s low breathing with remarkable clarity and the hidden river near the meadow seemed louder than before. I could smell the upturned earth and grass from my thrashings with new appreciation, but was also mildly repulsed by the wet dog scent that rolled off of my watching companion. As well, my mind slowly revealed new space to me – more space to suffer in – but also to think. The fire raged on inside my body, unrelenting, with no change. But now I took advantage of the mysterious beast beside me, using its low even breathing to mark the time. I concentrated on them, slowly attempting to grapple with my screams so that I might count them. It took every last drop of what little willpower I had to muffle my shrieks just enough so that I could listen. Nine thousand, seven hundred twenty two of these breaths later, I noticed that the sky once again darkened. And once again I was thrown into a blind hell, with only the racking fire and quiet wolf to keep me company. Eleven thousand, four hundred five heavy breaths later, the sky slowly began to lighten again to

mark the second day. There seemed to be so much more space in my head now, and I was able to wonder more about my bewildering companion. No answer came to me, how could it survive after chasing Laurent? No way could any animal, even one as massive as the one next to me, could kill a vampire. Beside this train of thought, I was also able to mourn this horrible turn of events, wonder about my endless future, able to think ahead to the seemingly impossible end of this blazing hell, the hell whose scalding flames continue to chew at my body. When the sky started to prematurely darken as the clouds thickened over the clearing, the wolf seemed to finally break out of its mysterious role of sentinel. It bent low over me until I was able to meet its dark eyes, and gave a single low whine before turning and walking into the forest. I wondered why, and some strange part of me felt sad and confused to see it go. Despite its unknown motives, I felt grateful for it watching over me and I wanted it to come back to help me pull through this excruciating pain with its unwavering presence and slow breathing. The loss of this simple repetitive sound unnerved me, it was enough to will myself to slow my writhing and completely muffle my cries so that I might listen out for its return. I was shocked by how much I heard. Now, that I was focused on my hearing, a barrage of new noises filled my head. Over my ragged breathing and rapid heartbeat, I heard as the wind picked up and whispered through the grass before tousling the leaves in the trees into an audible scraping. In the branches of the trees, I heard the ruffling of birds and below in the brush was the rummaging of small rodents. The hidden stream was practically deafening now that I listened to it. But I was unable to locate the monstrous wolf. I waited while listening to the forest around me, a strange hope filling me that my companion might return. Some time passed before I picked up the light padding of paws through the forest undergrowth and I felt mysteriously elated that the wolf didn’t decide to abandon me after all. Along with its entrance came a wave of its disgusting wet dog smell, but it also brought forth a new scent, one that was very sweet and warm smelling and I found that my mind snapped onto this scent with a single mindedness that would have had me pursuing its source if I hadn’t been paralyzed in pain. The wolf gave me a long stare; I wondered if I resembled the charcoal briquette I felt like. It seemed as if I must be just a pile of charred bones by now. Every cell in my body had been razed to ash. The wolf seemed to give a heavy sigh and settled back down in its old position to continue to watch me. The sky continued to darken further with grey clouds as I resumed listening to the wolf’s calm breathing. I picked up an odd pittering noise, one that came from all around me and became louder as the minutes passed. It took me a slow few minutes to figure out it was the rain, after all I couldn’t even feel the cool droplets against my searing skin. The rain increased and I was aware when my vision blurred as the water gathered on my face. I closed my eyes to keep the rain out of them, and decided it wouldn’t be worth opening them for a while since the dark night was coming soon anyways. I continued burning through the long night, and finally morning came once again. It was day three, the last day hopefully. What would this mean now, that I was about to become a vampire? What would I do? Where would I go? Charlie. What about him and Jake? I wallowed in these thoughts for a while, letting them occupy the portion of my mind not filled with burning and agony. Outside my mind, I continued to keep my eyes shut, and I was able to gain control of my voice enough to stay quiet. I was somewhat glad that if this did have to happen, that it happened here out in the middle of nowhere. I couldn’t fathom how someone could hide and stay quiet enough to avoid discovery in a city. I wondered how he’d done it? I was about to change my train of thought, it was doing no good to think about them, when suddenly the pain changed. On the good-news side of things, it started to fade from my fingertips and toes. Fading slowly, but at least it was doing something new. This had to be it. The pain was on its way out...

And then the bad news. The fire in my throat wasn't the same as before. I wasn't only on fire, but I was now parched, too. Dry as bone. So thirsty. Burning fire, and burning thirst... Also bad news: The fire inside my heart got hotter. How was that possible? My heartbeat, already too fast, picked up – the fire drove its rhythm to a new frantic pace. The fire retreated from my palms, leaving them blissfully pain-free and cool. But it retreated to my heart, which blazed hot as the sun and beat at a furious new speed. The loudest sound in the clearing was my frenzied heart, pounding to the rhythm of the fire. I steadfastly kept my eyes locked shut when the increasing pain caused a scream to break through my silent façade. My new shockingly musical cry did little to distract me from the excruciating pain in my heart. Quickly, my wrists became free, though, and my ankles. The fire was totally extinguished there. The fire ripped hotter still through my chest, draining in from my elbows and knees. And then – oh! My heart took off, beating like helicopter blades, the sound almost a single sustained note; it felt like it would grind through my ribs. The fire flared up in the center of my chest, sucking the last remnants of the flames from the rest of my body to fuel the most scorching blaze yet. The pain was enough to stun me, and I found I couldn’t have screamed if I wanted to. My back arched, bowed as if the fire was dragging me upward by my heart. It became a battle inside me – my sprinting heart racing against the attacking fire. Both were losing. The fire was doomed, having consumed everything that was combustible; my heart galloped toward its last beat. The fire constricted, concentrating inside that one remaining human organ with a final, unbearable surge. The surge was answered by a deep, hollow-sounding thud. My heart stuttered twice, and then thudded quietly again just once more. There was no sound. No breathing. Not even mine. For a moment, the absence of pain was all I could comprehend. And then I opened my eyes and gazed above me in wonder.Everything was so clear. Sharp. Defined. The sky was the first thing I saw, the clouds forming a thick grey blanket over the horizon. Yet while it should have been a dull smooth expanse, I saw the play of subtle shadows and lighting on its surface with amazing clarity. I could tell where the sun was hidden behind their grey depths by a glowing change in their colour that I knew I never would have discerned before. Framing the horizon was the circle of trees that formed the meadow, I could clearly see every single leaf on the trees as they shifted and fluttered in the air. A small bird darted out of one the trees, and I absorbed the tiny movements of its body, the way it frantically pumped its short wings, and I watched as it fled from the meadow. I only had a second to take in all these new sights, before a sound made me aware of what I should be thinking about right now. The giant russet wolf beside me whined quietly, and I turned my gaze to look at it properly. It was standing now, a massive bundle of fur and muscle. It gazed at me with wary concern; it seemed unable to decide what to do. The scent of the wolf –a disgusting wet dog smell- assaulted my senses. I felt a strange tension lock over me, and my body responded to the wolf’s presence in a way that shocked me.

Air hissed up my throat, spitting through my clenched teeth with a low, menacing sound like a swarm of bees. Before the sound was out, my muscles bunched and arched, twisting away from the animal. I flipped off my back in a spin so fast it should have turned the clearing into an incomprehensible blur—but it did not. I saw every stalk of grass that swayed in the breeze, every leaf in microscopic detail, as my eyes whirled past them. About a twentieth of a second later, I found myself pressed up against a tree, crouched low as my body prepared to defend itself. But the instinct confused me. If this beast wanted to kill me, wouldn’t it have already done so? I still didn’t understand the wolf’s motivations though, and I remained crouched and watched with my new eyes as it took a hesitant step backwards. It slowly started moving backwards, keeping its dark eyes locked onto my own, still wary as they seemed to measure what I might do. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do though. The giant wolf continued to move steadily towards the meadows edge, and once it reached the shade of the trees, it paused for the briefest moment before it turned to face the forest and ran off. In the half a second it took the wolf to turn, my eyes had noticed an dark square of fabric bound to the animal’s back leg with a cord of leather. A strong wave of confusion and frustration washed through me, I felt compelled to follow the giant wolf and try to solve this unrelenting puzzle. But some instinct to defend had been triggered, and I remained backed against the tree, my body not having moved a single inch. Suddenly I heard a voice calling from the trees. “Bella?” Shock, confusion and horror flooded through me. Jacob! What was Jacob doing here? He can’t be here! How did he find me? That didn’t really matter though, because now he’s in horrible danger. Am I not a blood craving vampire? Would it be difficult to control my thirst? More horror swept through me. What if I hurt him? What if I killed him? “Bella? Are you okay?” I turned to face the point where the voice came from the woods but I could not see him. I needed to warn him, then get away from here immediately. I needed to run and go somewhere far away where I wouldn’t be a risk to Jacob. To everyone. I was certainly ok; it was Jacob who was not. “Jacob –” I started, but was abruptly shocked by the tone of my voice. Even full of dread, it sounded like I was singing. My voice was as clear and musical as a bell. Before I could get a hold of my voice again, Jacob interrupted me. “Geez, Bella. Even your voice is freaky. But seriously, are you ok? I mean, you won’t attack me or anything will you?” Shock stunned me into silence. What did he know? Was he not the one who had told me about vampires in the first place? Did he actually know what I now was? But he hasn’t even seen me yet. I hadn’t spotted even his face yet through the trees. “Jacob, what is going on?” I demanded before I was reminded of the danger he was in. I quickly changed the topic, making Jacob safe was far more important than understanding how he knew. “I really don’t think you are safe Jacob! You need to get out of here!” I admitted, my new voice heavy with anxiety. “Relax Bella, I’m perfectly safe. But I’d still like to know if you’re going to attack me, just so I can

be prepared.” Jacob voice was nonchalant, and I could almost imagine him rolling his eyes as he said this. “Jacob! I’m really dangerous, I could kill you!” Stress made my voice rise. “Don’t worry. I think I’ll survive.” Suddenly, Jacob emerged from the trees, he was wearing nothing but a pair of dark cut off jeans. Jacob had changed radically in the last weeks since I'd seen him. The first thing I noticed was his hair—his beautiful hair was all gone, cropped quite short, covering his head with an inky gloss like black satin. The planes of his face seemed to have hardened subtly, tightened… aged. His neck and his shoulders were different, too, thicker somehow. Maybe it was my new eyes that made him seem so different, but I somehow couldn’t believe it. I could hear his heart thudding loudly; its wet appealing sound sending a dull wave of burning down my throat. I tried to ignore this and was about to run – warning Jacob didn’t seem to do any good – when a sudden gust of wind picked up from his direction. The smell wasn’t what I was expecting. It was only mildly appealing. I could smell an odd edge to his blood that instantly repelled. My nose wrinkled slightly in disgust. How strange. Shouldn’t I be drawn to human blood? Maybe avoiding humans wouldn’t be as hard as I thought it would. The scorch in my throat was easy to ignore in the current situation. “Actually, you seem to smell pretty bad Jacob. I’m really surprised.” I admitted, extremely confused still. “Are you kidding? You’re the one who stinks!” Jacob laughed and theatrically plugged his nose. He chuckled as he slowly walked forward. He stopped several feet away, and I saw wariness cross his expression. His eyes slowly gazed over me, and then he spoke again. “Huh, you should see yourself Bella. You look crazy, especially the eyes.” I realised with a start that my eyes must be red now. I wondered dully how long it would take for them to turn gold. Other than the eyes, how much more different did I really look? It seemed unlikely that such an excruciating transformation could have granted me the inhuman beauty of a vampire. I felt like I should appear ravaged and burnt by flames after those three days plunged in hell. I continued to look at Jacob. His face was so clear in my new vision, like I’d never seen it before. Everything was so clear, sights and sounds alike, and I stopped to once again marvel at my new senses. “I feel kinda crazy, this is so overwhelming. I’m having a sensory overload here.” I laughed nervously. It sounded like the peal of bells. Jacob laughed too. Now had a good feeling that I wouldn’t try to kill my best friend, a new storm of questions flooded my mind. I was determined to find out what was going on. “Jacob, seriously, what the heck is going on here?” I demanded. The humour disappeared from Jacob’s face, replaced by a thoughtful expression. “Well, there is so much to catch you up on. I feel really bad that I couldn’t tell you before. But trust me, I really couldn’t.” He paused, and his face seemed to lighten “It feels so great now, now that I’m free from those limitations. Wow, where do I start?” He took a deep breath, eyeing me warily again.

“Remember those stories I told you? The first time I met you on the beach? The legends I thought were so silly at the time... well, looks like quite a few of them are true now. I suppose you believed at least one of them before I did.” He eyed me darkly, but continued. What was he getting at? “Remember what I told you about the wolf legends?” Did Jacob know about that giant wolf? It seemed so odd that Jacob found me the minute the animal had left. It felt like I was missing something vitally important. I could vaguely recall what Jacob had once told me. It came slowly to me, I could barely recall my memory of the beach, but I heard the words like they were lifted from a book. —well, not the wolf, really, but the wolves that turn into men, like our ancestors. You would call them– “Bella, I’m a werewolf.” Shock pinned me where I stood, yet my mind reeled wildly with the implications of this. As the mystery of the russet wolf unravelled, the whole world lurched, tilting the wrong way on its axis. What kind of a place was this? Could a world really exist where ancient legends went wandering around the borders of tiny, insignificant towns, facing down mythical monsters? Did this mean every impossible fairy tale was grounded somewhere in absolute truth? Was there anything sane or normal at all, or was everything just magic and ghost stories? A small, dry voice in the back of my mind asked me what the big deal was. Hadn't I already accepted the existence of vampires long ago—and without all the hysterics that time? Exactly, I wanted to scream back at the voice. Wasn't one myth enough for anyone, enough for a lifetime, or –as I supposed now- an entire existence? Besides, there'd never been one moment that I wasn't completely aware that Edward Cullen was above and beyond the ordinary. It wasn't such a surprise to find out what he was—because he so obviously was something. But Jacob? Jacob, who was just Jacob, and nothing more than that? Jacob, my friend? Jacob, the only human I'd ever been able to relate to… And he wasn't even human. He was a werewolf, a very large rusty brown werewolf that had watched over me as I burned. A large wolf, so large that had once been confused for a massive bear. One of five massive wolves behind a number of cold blooded murders of innocent hikers. I gasped, as I realised this. Hardly two seconds had passed, as my new mind processed the onslaught caused by Jacob’s information. “Those attacks... those wolf attacks. Jacob! Don’t tell me that werewolves are behind those!” Despite my horror, my voice still sounded like singing. Jacob raised his hands slightly, palms forward, as he continued to speak. “Hey now! Don’t go thinking that we werewolves are bad! It’s been me, Sam, and the rest of that gang I once told you about. We’re trying to protect people. We haven’t been killing anyone. You have that to blame on the stupid bloodsuckers we’ve been tracking!” “Wait, what?”

Jacob looked exasperated. “Seriously Bella, I just told you that I morph into a giant dog and the first thing you’re worried about is that I attack people?” He sighed, and then smiled hopefully, reflecting a flash of light off of his white teeth. I could see each color of the rainbow in the white light, and, at the very edge of the spectrum, an eighth color I had no name for. “I think I have to start at the beginning here, it’s a little long, but I hope you can listen and not freak too bad.” Jacob smirked and plunged into his story, the way he narrated it seemed as though he had been considering how to tell me during the past few fire-filled days. “First off, the attacks have been caused by two filthy bloodsuckers we’ve been tracking. We were always just a little too late, missing the damn leeches by a couple minutes, by then it would be too late for the hikers...” Jacob shook his head “we finally managed to get a solid trail on the black haired bloodsucker, we were following him, and when we finally caught up to him... that’s when we spotted you.” The pain that crossed Jacob’s face looked agonising. He looked like he was going to be sick. “I feel horrible, absolutely awful. I can’t even cover how bad I feel for letting this happen to you.” His voice was hardly a whisper now. “We saw him, standing there and talking to you, I wanted to rip his head off, but Sam wouldn’t allow it. Not until we knew he was truly a danger. Right now we are technically on the Cullen’s turf. If we attacked them on their land, it would have broken the treaty and started a war. We couldn’t be sure if the black haired leech was one of them or not. I was arguing with Sam, it got so bad that we were distracted for a moment. And that’s all it took. Next thing I knew, you we screaming.” He blanched, and changed the subject, eager to shake the memories of my attack. “Remember I told you that the cold ones had only one natural enemy? Well, that’s us, the werewolves. I never knew, not until a couple weeks ago, just how true our old legends were. It happened right after that lame movie with that Mike kid, I felt great that evening. Really happy. After I drove home Billy was looking at me funny the way I told you about before, then he said I looked weird. That was it. Next thing I knew, I couldn’t stop my self getting angry, I was shaking with rage. It was the strangest feeling. But then it became horrifying. I couldn’t stop, I just kept shaking worse, then I felt my body explode. I thought I had died for a moment. But then I felt myself take on this new shape. I’ve never been so terrified in my life. Poor Billy looked like he was going to have a stroke. But then he started talking to me all calm like, and he quickly got on the phone with Sam. Seems that the so-called gang was actually a pack.” I could hardly think straight, but after Jacob mentioned Sam’s name, I felt old rage fill me. Sam. Sam and his gang – more of a cult – forcing new members to join, making Jacob miserable after he recruited Jacob’s friend Embry. The strength of the emotion startled me, and I struggled to calm myself somewhat. “Did Sam do this to you somehow? Did he somehow make you a werewolf?” I asked, trying to keep my clear voice level. Jacob sighed slightly, and shook his head. “Nope. Seems I was doomed the moment some stupid vampires moved into town.” His expression filled with anger, “My great-grandfather was apparently a werewolf too, but my grandfather or Billy never did change. We think it’s because there weren’t any of our natural enemies around to kick start the change. But the werewolf potential was passed on, straight down to me. And with those damned leeches running around in the woods, it was only a matter of time.” He looked disgusted, and changed the subject.

“Also, Sam’s actually a really good guy, Bella. He simply had a lot thrown on his shoulders when he was the first of us to phase into a wolf. There wasn’t anyone there to help him, to tell him that he wasn’t going crazy. I couldn’t imagine trying to understand by myself. I had Sam and Embry telling me what exactly had happened, and what to do. Sam leads us because he’s been a werewolf the longest. He helps keep us safe, which unfortunately meant that he wouldn’t let me see you or even tell you what was going on.” “So you weren’t really sick then?” “Nope. I’m so sorry I avoided you, I wasn’t actually sick... at least, not in that sense. It’s just... it’s so hard to control yourself sometimes. If you get too angry... bam!” he threw out his arms, imitating an explosion, “you phase into a wolf. He wouldn’t let me see you. He feared that I could hurt you if I wasn’t careful. He was the one who wasn’t being careful, if only he’d listened to me!” Jacob suddenly looked infuriated, he started trembling hard, and he clenched his fists and shut his eyes as he visibly struggled to calm himself. The shaking slowed, and he finally opened his eyes again, looking at me slightly ashamed. But I hadn’t moved an inch since he’d started talking. “Sorry,” he muttered, his voice low, “that’s what I was talking about, that anger thing.” “Anyway,” he continued, his voice regaining that edge of anger again, “as I told you, we caught up to that black-haired bloodsucker. And, we were too late. We realised what happened and immediately Sam ordered us to attack. I wanted to go over to you, to try and help you, but he wouldn’t let me. The leech was priority one. So we ran after him, and we caught him easily, too easy actually. Five against one was hardly any fun. But, by the time we tore him a new one and got his disgusting body burned, we had come back to find you screaming.” For the first time in minutes, I moved. I shuddered as I remember the agony I’d endured in the past three days. But I didn’t say anything, I was so absorbed in what Jacob was saying. “Sam realised what was happening... he didn’t want you to turn into one of them, he wanted to kill you, Bella. I absolutely refused. I wasn’t about to let him lay a claw on you. I promised I would never hurt you, and I wasn’t about to let Sam hurt you either. Plus, he had no right to kill you since you were completely innocent in all of this. I was horrified at the thought of what you were becoming, I’ve heard the legends. But I also knew the other legend, the bloodsuckers that don’t kill people. That was my only hope. I no longer cared what form of alive you would be anymore. You would still be Bella, and I would continue to keep my promise. Sam and I... fought. He was doing what he thought was right, he didn’t want to put any innocent humans at risk. I convinced him to stop fighting. I assured him that I wouldn’t let you kill anyone. He assured me that he wouldn’t stop the fight next time if you did. He left then, and the others decided to follow him. They weren’t convinced you could be good. I admit, I wasn’t sure either, but I had to try. So I waited, it was absolutely horrible watching you, but I knew I had to stay with you. I wasn’t sure when it would end, plus I wasn’t about to give Sam an opening if he decided he wasn’t going to be patient with my idea. I got hungry though, starving really, and I was forced to leave you for a quick break while I snagged myself a meal. I practically choked down half a raw deer in ten minutes, I was so worried.” He laughed slightly, but the pain on his face was plain, “After that and a little more waiting, we’ve basically caught up to the present.” He shrugged, trying to keep things light. But he eyed me seriously. The silence slowly extended between us. Jacob stayed quiet, waiting for my response. My mind was submerged, drowning, in everything he’d just said. Even with all the extra space, my head struggled to absorb everything. As I managed to finally grasp the last few sentences, my mind cleared enough room to feel something that I should have been unable to ignore. Something that had been suppressed as I listened in awe and shock at Jacob’s story, but suddenly, free from his words, and having just been reminded of the warm scent that lingered

after the wolf’s disappearance during my transformation, my throat abruptly ripped into flame.Suddenly, the dry scorch was all I could think about, and the more I focused on it, the more it hurt. I realised that I had to go hunting, and very soon. Although Jacob’s scent wasn’t overwhelming, it fuelled the fire in my throat, and I knew I had to quench it with something other than my best friend. The thought of having to go hunt and kill some wild animal frightened me. I had no idea what to do. But the thirst clouded my mind, confusing my thoughts. Jacob must have seen the flash of alarm on my face, and decided to break the silence. “Well, enough about me and my story. What about you, Bella? How are you? Do you think you’re going to be alright?” He asked, unsure of how I felt to be a vampire. “Jacob, I’m... really thirsty.” I admitted, and my throat seemed to reaffirm my words with another wave of baking dryness. Alarm crossed Jacob’s face, but before he could say anything, I spoke again. “I’m not going to attack you or anything, but I think I need to try and hunt, it really hurts, my throat.” Jacob nodded, but kept a wary expression. “Well, I guess we better find you some of the local wildlife before you decide that a hiker smells good or something.” He joked, “Um, I think I’ll need to keep an eye on you. Sam’s still prowling around somewhere, and I don’t think I could stop him if you started going after a human.” I nodded, hoping that I could safely hunt with Jacob nearby. It was already starting to take some concentration to not let his scent overwhelm me. “Keep your distance a little. You don’t smell very good, but I’ll admit, you’re probably edible.” He laughed, and then spoke. “Well then, let’s find you something a bit more edible.” He walked off, directing himself into the trees. He then paused and watched me, waiting for me to follow. For the first time since I opened my eyes, I consciously moved my body. I was momentarily preoccupied by the way my body moved. The instant I considered walking forward, my body was already moving. I moved slowly toward him. As I got closer, I could feel the heat roll off of him. His heart beat was practically deafening. I stopped a few feet away, struggling to contain the thirst that hazed my mind. “You ok?” he asked, noting my sudden stop. I shook my head, and I didn’t blame him when he took a step back. “Um, maybe I’ll let you go on ahead. I’ll follow just close enough so that I can stop you if something should go wrong.” I didn’t stop to give him a response, I quickly ran into the forest, eager to get away from the temptation of Jacob’s blood. Flew would be a better word. I could finally understand why he had never hit the trees when he ran—a question that had always been a mystery to me. It was a peculiar sensation, the balance

between the speed and the clarity. For, while I rocketed over, under, and through the thick jade maze at a rate that should have reduced everything around me to a streaky green blur, I could plainly see each tiny leaf on all the small branches of every insignificant shrub that I passed. The forest was much more alive than I'd ever known—small creatures whose existence I'd never guessed at teemed in the leaves around me. They all grew silent after I passed, their breath quickening in fear. The animals had a much wiser reaction to my scent than humans seemed to. Certainly, it'd had the opposite effect on me. The wind of my speed blew my hair out behind me, and, though I knew it shouldn't, it felt warm against my skin. Just as the trees limbs that whipped against my skin shouldn't feel like caressing feathers. It was a physical relief to let the fresh air wash away the warm smell that just recently had filled my mind, and I now concentrated on finding a similar smell that I could actually safely pursue. I slowed my run to a pace just faster than humanly possible, and let my senses range out from me. My hearing picked up everything, the whisper of birds preening their feathers in the treetops, their fluttering heartbeats, the maple leaves scraping together, the faint clicking of ants following each other in a long line up the bark of the nearest tree, and as well, the sound of massive wolf paws padding after me, and a large thudding heartbeat, following me about fourty yards back. I realised that Jacob must have phased into a wolf. I was really surprised he had been able to keep up with me, but the wolves must have been fast if they managed to catch Laurent. I let my ears range outward, seeking something different than the small hum of life that surrounded me. There was an open space near me—the wind had a different sound across the exposed grass—and a small creek, with a rocky bed. And there, near the noise of the water, was the splash of lapping tongues, the loud thudding of heavy hearts, pumping thick streams of blood... It felt like the sides of my throat had sucked closed. I was suddenly fervently thankful that Jacob was downwind from me, so I couldn’t focus on his scent. I could smell the rich, earthy smell of rot and moss, the resin in the evergreens, and the warm, almost nutty aroma of the small rodents cowering beneath the tree roots. And then, reaching out again, the clean smell of the water, which was surprisingly unappealing despite my thirst. I focused toward the water and found the scent that must have gone with the lapping noise and the pounding heart. Another warm smell, rich and tangy, stronger than the others. And yet nearly as unappealing as the brook. As I listened and breathed in the scent, another bout of baking thirst intruded on my awareness, and suddenly the warm, tangy odour wasn't quite so objectionable. At least it would be something hot and wet in my desiccated mouth. I let myself drift with the scent, barely aware of my movement as I ghosted down the incline to the narrow meadow where the stream flowed. My body shifted forward automatically into a low crouch as I hesitated at the fern-fringed edge of the trees. I could see a big buck, two dozen antler points crowning his head, at the stream's edge, and the shadow-spotted shapes of the four other elk heading eastward into forest at a leisurely pace. I centered myself around the scent of the male, the hot spot in his shaggy neck where the warmth pulsed strongest. Only thirty yards—two or three bounds—between us. I tensed myself for the first leap. Half-crazed with thirst, I launched myself at the large elk. His hard, sharp hooves, kicking me with force that should have shattered human bones, could have been someone poking me for all I knew. His thrashing did nothing to break my iron hold. My teeth unerringly sought his throat, and his instinctive resistance was pitifully feeble against my strength. My jaws locked easily over the precise point where the heat flow concentrated. It was

effortless as biting into butter. My teeth were steel razors; they cut through the fur and fat and sinews like they weren't there. The flavour was wrong, but the blood was hot and wet and it soothed the ragged, itching thirst as I drank in an eager rush. The elk's struggles grew more and more feeble, and his grating cries choked off with a gurgle. The warmth of the blood radiated throughout my whole body, heating even my fingertips and toes. The elk was finished before I was. The thirst flared again when he ran dry, and I shoved his carcass off my body in disgust. How could I still be thirsty after all that? I wrenched myself erect in one quick move. Standing, I realised I was a bit of a mess. I wiped my face off on the back of my arm and tried to fix my clothes which were now blood and dirt stained. My hair was also tangled and covered in dirt. The hooves that had been so ineffectual against my skin had had more success with my shirt and pants, large tears covering their surfaces. I was aware that the rest of the small herd of elk had fled far into the forest. I was determined to try and slake my burning thirst as much as I could before returning to Jacob. It took me a quick minute to catch back up to the herd and launch myself again at the next elk. And like the last time, I made a huge mess. I tried to be a little more careful, but its sharp hooves still slashed at my already ruined clothing. I was glad when I slowly felt my thirst become muted as I drained the second elk. I had a feeling that the dull burning would never quite be erased; thirst would be an inescapable part of this life. My new life as a vampire. My head swam with dread that filled every portion of my body as I now, after committing my first act as a vampire, registered this fact as unquestionably true. This should have come much, much sooner to me, but before my mind had been filled with pain, and Jacob’s confession had distracted me very well after that. As the implications of this knowledge crashed down on me, I felt my knees go weak, and I sat on the forest floor and let my head fall into my marble hands. Depression settled deep into me as I wondered what I would do now. I would conceivably never see Charlie again. For the rest of my life, no, my existence. Maybe I could write a runaway letter, the idea that I could be dead would destroy my father. I heard Jacob make his way through the trees, this time as a human, his steps were no longer padding paws. He reached the place where I sat, and although my smell must be as bad to him as his was to me, he surprised me by sitting down next to me. He didn’t attempt to touch me, he obviously wasn’t that comfortable yet. But he spoke. “I’m so sorry Bella, I guess this has finally sunken in for you, huh?” I merely nodded my head in my hands. “I thought about this a bit. We’re going to have to stay out here in the forest. Can’t risk letting you get close to Forks or La Push. Especially not La Push. I just spoke to Sam, and he’s not going to tolerate you going anywhere near there.” “What do you mean, how did you just speak to Sam? Weren’t you following me?” I asked, still depressed, but slightly distracted. “It’s a weird werewolf thing. When you phase into a wolf, you can hear the thoughts of all the other wolves around you no matter how far away they are. It’s really annoying and embarrassing, but when we need to get serious, it helps to coordinate us in an attack.” “Weird.” I agreed dully, keeping my head in my hands and trying hard not to think about someone else who could hear thoughts. Jacob paused for a moment, then continued.

“I used to be able to hear all of their thoughts, but I guess that doesn’t work anymore now that I’ve chosen to part ways with them. Now I just hear Sam’s.” I looked up then, taking my head out of my hands. Jacob saw my questioning stare and he suddenly looked uncomfortable, and I guessed that this time it wasn’t because of me. “It’s another weird wolf thing I suppose. Sam is the leader of the pack over in La Push. You could call him the Alpha wolf. It’s a pretty absolute thing. If he were to command one of the other wolves to do something – if he really meant it – they’d pretty much have to obey. You simply can’t go around an Alpha command. But he was only the Alpha because he’s been a werewolf the longest. He’s the most knowledgeable, so we let him lead us. But truly, the Alpha should have been me.” “Why is that?” I asked, curiosity flaring in me. It helped to distract me from more depressing thoughts. Jacob continued to look uncomfortable, but he continued. He must have also wanted me distracted. “Because Ephraim Black, my great-grandfather and our last tribe chief, was the Alpha in the last pack of werewolves, and I suppose that blood right went straight down to me. I didn’t want to be the Alpha though, I didn’t want to lead them. Did you know that Sam’s technically our tribe’s chief since he’s the acting Alpha?” Jacob snorted and shook his head. “But, what’s worse is the fact that I should be technically chief. Sam even offered to let me be the Alpha after I became a werewolf! But I didn’t want any of it, Bella. It was bad enough that I had become a werewolf, I didn’t also want to be a leader.” I was slightly comforted. I wasn’t the only one overwhelmed by a sudden change into a mythical creature. I continued to listen, absorbed in what he was saying. “Well, there he was. Sam, the high and mighty Alpha, Sam who ordered us not to attack the damned black-haired leech, then ordered me to stand aside while he killed you.” I felt the sharp intake of my breath, shocked at this revelation. It sounded like a low hiss. Jacob looked furious again, his hands trembling. But he didn’t stop with his story. “He would have done it, Bella. I can’t believe how close it was. If I hadn’t had my magical bloodline, he wouldn’t have had any opposition. But I drew on that, I drew on the fact that I should be Alpha, and it quickly became absolute as I embraced it. Now, Sam couldn’t control me, the rightful Alpha, I challenged him. We fought, and he stopped, he didn’t want this to end in death. I managed to convince him that I would keep you safe from yourself.” “Thank you. Thank you Jacob for saving me.” I could hardly express my gratitude as I was now realising how much he’d done for me. “Hardly, I had a promise to keep.” But he smiled warmly, eyes softening. “I didn’t get to explain though, seems like while in wolf-form, I can now only communicate with the other Alpha. Before, I could hear all the thoughts of the whole pack, even all of the stupid and annoying things. But now, I can only hear the thoughts that Sam wants me to know, and he only hears from me what I want him to know. It’s a lot nicer, knowing your head is private. While I was following you as a wolf, Sam was out patrolling as well. We agreed to meet back in that meadow to talk. There are a lot of things that need to be settled. I don’t think he’ll attack you, he promised to meet in human form. He needs to talk to you as well, Bella.” I felt trepidation as I was about to go speak with the man who at one point, and probably still now, wanted to kill me. But Jacob seemed somewhat confident, so I looked at him and nodded.

“We’ll have to run to meet him. He’s probably already waiting there. Give me a second so I can phase, and we can get going.” Jacob stood up, and darted off into the bushes. I was surprised at how graceful Jacob seemed to move. The last time I’d seen him, as a human I realised, he was much more awkward on two legs. Being a werewolf must have changed that. A monstrous rusty brown wolf loped back to the place where I was now standing. He motioned with a quick flick of his giant head toward the direction of the meadow, and we started running. Jacob led, his massive body surprisingly nimble as it twisted its way through the thick forest. I found that it was easier to follow his trail of his scent and the sound of his claws clipping the forest floor than keeping a visual tab on him. I once again noticed the square of dark fabric tied to the wolf’s back leg, and I recognised it as the pair of dark cut off jeans he had just been wearing. I realised, embarrassed, why he must have gone into the woods to phase. The giant body of the wolf seemed ill suited for pants. We ran for a couple minutes, and quickly returned to the beautiful meadow. A crash of emotions ran through me as I took in the perfect clearing, but the greater portion of my attention was held by a new detail. Sam stood, arms crossed, with a hard expression on his face. At his flanks sat two wolves. The moment I came into view, one of the wolves, a large dark silver one, raised its hackles and issued a low growl. Sam turned his head to look at the wolf, who met his piercing gaze and fell silent. Jacob quickly came to a stop. He nodded once at Sam before he turned and swiftly trotted back into the forest. I supposed he left to phase. As I was turning my head to gaze back at the waiting party, a low voice sounded clearly in my head. “Stay still and be quiet” the perfect honey-and-velvet voice commanded. I stifled a gasp, and my head swam as I heard the perfect voice. I was irrationally happy that my transformation had not shaken my hallucinatory voices. But then I registered the message behind the words, and I stiffened as I realised that despite Sam standing calmly before me, the same could not be said for the two wolves. Maybe my scent had just blown toward them, because they were now on incredible edge. They stood, growling with lips raised over dagger-like incisors. Their ears were pressed flat against their skulls and their hackles were high. They trembled as they seem to struggle to keep themselves from giving in to their instincts and lunging as me.My new vampire instincts kicked in once again. I braced myself slightly, feeling my muscles bunch as I prepared to defend myself. A low warning hiss escaped my throat, but it only seemed to antagonise the wolves further. The dark silver wolf’s growl turned into a heavy snarl. The perfect voice in my head sounded again. “Don’t let this turn into a fight.” He warned. I was lucky. At that moment, Jacob jogged back into the meadow in human form. He glanced at the tense wolves, his eyes hardening. He ignored them and addressed Sam. “I believe we just plan on talking.” His low voice was hard. “Paul, calm down.” Sam commanded, turning to face the grey wolf again. Again the massive wolf settled back down, but kept his murderous gaze fixed on me. Sam flashed a glance at the second wolf but it had already followed the grey wolf’s lead and was now sitting quietly. Sam turned back to Jacob and spoke directly to him now. “Of course, but I still don’t trust her.” Sam nodded fiercely in my direction, “I won’t be caught off guard if this half-thought plan of yours turns bad. I still don’t like that you’ve chosen to desert us for her... we want you back. I’m willing to negotiate this fairly. You are right, she doesn’t have to

die.” “Sorry Sam, this choice feels kinda permanent. I can’t just turn this Alpha thing on and off like that. It wouldn’t be smart to go back now, you felt that instinct, the competitive side of being too close. Not to mention that I have a promise to keep to Bella. I think it would be best if I stuck with her for now.” Sam glared at Jacob for a moment. It was hard to tell what he was thinking. Several emotions were present on his face. But then he turned his eyes in my direction, and spoke directly to me. “Bella, I admit that at this point, you are still innocent. But that does not mean that I will trust you going anywhere unsupervised. Until we can be certain that you are controlled, and are not a threat to any humans, Jacob must remain with you at all times.” Sam said, glancing a look in Jacob’s direction. “I’ve seen the eyes of your kind, and I’ve heard of the eyes that are possible when you control yourself. I won’t be satisfied in Jacob’s plan until you bear yellow eyes. I’m unsure how long it will take for the colour to change, but only when they have, will we consider adding you to our treaty. If we hear that you have killed any human at any time, we will have to kill you. I will not allow any innocent people to live in unnecessary risk. As well, if the time comes that we do add you to the treaty, we ask that you please be prepared to leave Forks for good. It severely limits our ability to protect the town and La Push when we are forced to remain inside our treaty land if you choose to occupy your given land.” Despite the fact that Jacob said we’d come here to talk, it seemed Sam was the only one speaking, handing me ultimatums. But I knew he was justified in not trusting me yet, and I was surprised when he spoke of adding me to the treaty. I supposed that this would be the best deal I’d get. I nodded and spoke. “Sure, I’ll agree to your terms.” I declared flatly. Sam nodded, slightly pleased, and spoke again. “We have another problem, this one more immediately pressing. Unfortunately, your father has reported you missing, and has located your truck abandoned at the trailhead.” I felt the deep stab of depression as I realised how worried and afraid my father would be for me. I felt pricks at the corners of my eyes, and I realised I could no longer cry. Sam saw my agonised expression, but continued. “You must realise that we can not allow Charlie to continue his search in the woods. You are still not to be trusted around humans, plus we have yet to catch the second vampire who has remained in dangerous proximity to Forks.” The second vampire? My memory quickly recalled what Jacob had said. “First off, the attacks have been caused by two filthy bloodsuckers we’ve been tracking. We were always just a little too late, missing the damn leeches by a couple minutes, by then it would be too late for the hikers...” Jacob had said, shaking his head. My mind more slowly recalled one of my last human memories. Already, the memory seemed dim, like I was watching through a thick, dark veil—because my human eyes had been half blind. Everything had been so blurred. "Look at it this way, Bella. You're very lucky I was the one to find you." "Am I?" I had faltered a step back, but Laurent had followed, lithe and graceful.

"Yes," he had assured me. "I'll be very quick. You won't feel a thing, I promise. Oh, I'll lie to Victoria about that later, naturally, just to placate her. But if you knew what she had planned for you, Bella…" Victoria was here. Looking for me. Killing strangers in the woods. I felt my insides go icy with horror. I gasped and struggled to remain upright on my hollow-feeling legs. My head spun sickeningly. “Bella?” Sam asked alarmed, seeing my twisted expression. “Bella! What’s wrong?” Jacob demanded. "Victoria," I gasped as soon as I could catch my breath through the sickening horror. In my head, Edward snarled in fury at the name. I felt overwhelmed, yet overwhelmed seemed an understatement. Everything was being thrown on me one after another. I had been attacked, endured a searing transformation, listened as my best friend admitted he was a werewolf, and then struggled to keep myself from attacking him. I had to go hunt for the first time, broke down when my new life sunk in, agreed to ultimatums from a pack of mythical protectors, and heard how my father must be wrought with worry, and now my problems were just getting worse. “Who?” Jacob demanded, “The red-headed female bloodsucker?” No, no, no. No! How could all of this be happening? How could this day get any worse? With a jolt, I grimly realised this day would never come to an end for me. It was too much. My stony legs failed me, and I sank to the meadow floor, my new marble arms wrapping into an all-too-familiar pose around my torso. My head fell to touch my knees, and I felt a dry sob escape my chest. “Bella!” Jacob cried, his voice sounded strangled as he watched my overwhelming breakdown. “Bella! Talk to me!” With a shock, I felt a fiery hand press down on my back, rubbing circles as he frantically tried to calm me. Jacob’s skin felt like an open flame compared to my own. It took a slow minute, but he let me calm down, and I looked up. His nose was wrinkled, but he was apparently determined to overcome his discomfort to the proximity to help me. I could feel the waves of heat rolling off of him, and felt my throat ache slightly in response. I took a deep breath to settle myself, but immediately regretted it with Jacob so close. At least the smell helped to control my thirst. I realised that the edge to his blood was animal-like. I gathered my thoughts, and then spoke. “Victoria is after me.” I stated dully, my voice betraying my own inner turmoil. “What do you know about her? It’s really important we know. Why is she after you?” He asked intently. “Because her mate was killed, she wants revenge.” I whispered. “That black-haired leech? But if she’s after revenge for him, shouldn’t she be after us?” “That can’t be right Jacob,” Sam interrupted, “We thought his mate would want to fight us—in the stories, they usually get revenge bent if you kill their mate—but she just keeps running away, and then coming back again. She makes no sense. She keeps dancing around the edges, like she's trying to look for a way past us. If she wanted to, she’d have found more than plenty of opportunities to fight us by now.”

I nodded my head slightly, my theory was confirmed. Not that it needed confirming, I knew the truth. “Laurent wasn’t her mate, they were just old friends.” I muttered, “He told me James was her mate.” “Laurent is the black-haired leech? But then who’s James? Did he tell you anything else, Bella? This is important. Why does she want you?" "Edward killed James," I whispered. Jacob’s overheated hand froze on my back. "She did get… revenge bent. But Laurent said she thought it was fairer to kill me than Edward. Mate for mate. She didn't know—still doesn't know, I guess—that… that…" I swallowed hard. "That things aren't like that with us anymore. Not for Edward, anyway." Jacob was distracted by that, his face torn between several different expressions. He looked like he was about to say something when Sam cut him off. “I’m very sorry for you Bella. But we must continue discussing the issue at hand. Victoria is still out there, and while it is unfortunate, it is also lucky that we now know her target. We’ll change our pattern. We'll try leaving a few holes, and see if she falls for it. We'll have to split up, and I don't like that. But if she's really after you, she probably won't try to take advantage of our divided numbers.” Something like a growl—not a real growl, just a human approximation—rumbled in Jacob's chest. “Bella is not bait.” “We will try not to put her in harm’s way, but this is an opportunity not to be ignored. We will certainly try to take out Victoria on our own. She probably will have no idea that Bella will be staying out here in the woods, so her target will most likely be Bella’s house.” I felt the horror as I realised the risk my father was in. “You can’t let her go to my house! Charlie would be in danger!” Despite my anxiety, my voice still sounded like I was singing. “We won’t let her get anywhere near your house, and definitely not near Charlie.” Sam reassured me, “We will just take advantage of the fact that we know her intended destination and try to cut her off and trap her before she reaches it. If she still proves too evasive for us to capture her, we may ask for your help, Bella.” “My help?” I asked, I wondered what I could do, what a large pack of werewolves couldn’t. “Yes. I would never ask this of you if you were still... human. But now that you have the speed and strength to properly defend yourself, you are no longer as helpless. Realise that I will only ask you for help as a last measure. I would prefer that we would be able to take out Victoria without you. What I am asking is, would you be willing to confront Victoria if she continues to elude us?” “Absolutely not.” Jacob growled. “I would rather not either Jacob, but this would only be in the circumstance that we can’t catch her ourselves, or would you rather she continued killing more hikers?” Sam’s accusation was hard, and Jacob flinched at his words. “Bella would be in no real danger. We would be right behind her the entire time. We just need Victoria to stop for a second, so we could catch her. The sight of Bella may be enough to provoke her to stay and fight.”

The thought of me confronting Victoria was frightening enough, but I couldn’t bear to think of Jacob and the others getting injured or killed. Not so much Sam, I admitted to myself. But even as oversized wolves, I found the image of them fighting Victoria frightening. I didn’t want any of them getting hurt from fighting off the vampire who was after me. “Sure,” I stuttered quietly, “I’ll try to help however I can.” “Thank you Bella. Hopefully, we won’t need it.” Sam turned to Jacob now, “We will patrol as usual, Paul and I will take the out perimeter, and Embry and Jared will take the inner. We are expecting her to reappear in the next few days, as is her pattern when we chase her off. We will howl if we get a solid fresh trail. Jacob, if you could then phase so I can call on you and Bella for help in case we need it.” “Sure.” Jacob agreed. Sam looked at me again, he looked satisfied that their plan was hammered out. “We also are facing the problem I mentioned earlier. Charlie and his search party are currently scouring the forest, looking for you.” I clutched my chest tighter, I felt horrible for how I was making Charlie feel. “We need to get them to stop searching. Victoria has yet to be caught, and you are yet to be trusted. We have considered faking your death, making it look like you’ve been attacked by a bear...” he trailed off. For the first time, I felt real hate toward Sam. How could he consider that? Wouldn’t he know how much that would destroy Charlie? “No way! I’m not letting Charlie think I’m dead.” The anger in my ringing voice was apparent. “But we need to get them to stop –” “Then I’ll write a runaway letter! I’m not going to let my father think I’ve died!” I shouted at Sam, interrupting him. Sam’s eyes narrowed at my tone, but he nodded slightly. “Very reasonable, you should write it as soon as possible. We’ll come back later with a pen and paper.” I nodded and felt myself calm down slightly. Jacob patted my back with his large, hot hand. “You should probably include me in the letter somewhere. Charlie will get suspicious if I’ve also gone missing.” Jacob added, his voice full of sympathy. I nodded, and rested my head against my knees again, feeling once again like I would have started crying if I could. I heard Jacob address Sam again. “Bring a couple pairs of clothes, would you? We’ll probably need replacements sometime down the road. Bella’s are practically already ruined.” “Practically?” I snorted, “They are already messed up beyond repair.” Jacob chuckled, eyeing my torn up, blood and dirt stained clothes. “Yup, I suppose so.” Then he laughed. “Grab a mirror as well, Bella should get a good look at herself.”

I eyed him suspiciously, wondering what I looked like. I looked back to Sam, his face mirrored some of the humour that Jacob had. He chuckled once. “Sure, sure. We’ll get going then, we’ll be back soon enough.” “Oh, Sam, can I ask you something else?” Jacob said, voice slightly strained. “Hm?” “Why didn’t Embry come too?” That question seemed to catch Sam off guard, surprise crossed his face. Jacob seemed to scrutinize Sam’s response carefully. “We needed someone to watch La Push, we weren’t leaving it unguarded.” “Sure, ok then.” Jacob said lightly, but his eyes were hard, and it looked like he didn’t fully trust Sam’s answer. Sam did look uncomfortable, and I wondered why. “We’ll be going now.” He said stiffly. With that, Sam turned around and walked into the forest with the two wolves on his heels. When my senses could no longer pick him up, I turned my head to look at Jacob. “What was that about?” I asked. “Embry?” I nodded. Jacob paused for a moment, making sure the wolves were definitely out of hearing range, and then spoke. “I can’t help but wonder if the reason Sam chose Embry to stay behind was because he feared Embry might jump ship.” Jacob saw my questioning gaze and continued. “All of the other doubted that you could be a... y’know, a good bloodsucker, Embry was the same. But Embry was, and still is, one of my best friends. That never changed after both of us became werewolves. He doubted for good reason, but he backed me up for a while before Sam had the idiotic nerve to try to order me down. Embry was really sympathetic, and I know that we are still good friends even after all this. I wonder if Sam was afraid that Embry would ditch his pack and join me if he gave Embry a chance.” “Huh. I bet Sam wouldn’t have liked that.” “Nope.” The silence grew for a few minutes. I closed my eyes and allowed my forehead to touch my knees again, and Jacob sidled over a few feet, obviously no longer comfortable where he had been. Thoughts swirled dizzily through my mind, taking advantage of one of the first few moments I’d actually had to sit and think. I felt exhausted by everything that had happened to me in the past three days. Not tired, with a jolt I realised I’d never sleep, but I yearned to have a quiet moment to gather myself. It was hard, my expansive mind was brimming with dozens of thoughts

and all the emotions accompanying them. I felt like I was equally drowning in horror, anguish, fear, worry and a multitude of other uncomfortable emotions. This was going to be hard, trying to survive. Not surviving the uneasy truce between myself and a pack of werewolves, or even Victoria. Those would be only somewhat challenging compared to what I had in mind. I doubted I could survive the overwhelming emotional pain. I doubted that my new mind would easily slip into the thick willing haze it often used too when I didn’t want to think. I was going to have to endure this overwhelming mental anguish as my constant companion. This companion would be more fearsome and merciless than any vengeful vampire or monstrous pack of wolves. I no longer even had the escape of sleep, no merciful few hours of unconsciousness. Even a nightmare would be a welcome reprieve... “Are you going to be ok?” Jacob said, dragging my mind back to my surroundings. I was suddenly aware of an odd, choking sound. Jacob stretched his arm across the gap between us, placing his hot hand against my cool shoulder. I felt his hand shift and tremble on my skin, as though he was shaking. Was he angry? “Bella?” his voice carried no rage, only a soft tone of concern. Then I realise I was the one shaking. I was trembling hard without even realising it. Oh. Now that noise made sense. The sobs were muffled by my position, but they still escaped my chest and shook my body on the way out. No, I was not going to be ok.

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