Rain returned to Forks that Sunday morning, freeing me to walk about the town as I pleased. I didn’t often walk around in town; normally when I wanted to get out and think, I would take to the woods. But the presence of the werewolves in those woods, and the fact that I couldn’t trust their ilk, made me hesitant to go to my normal running spots.
I bundled up like a human would for a walk in the chilly spring rain and held a black umbrella over my head even though the rain on my head and face didn’t bother me. I walked through my small neighborhood, glancing at the houses as I passed by. I thought about the people that lived within: most of them I didn’t know. I may have shared classes with their children. They had probably never seen my face before, yet partially because of Ana and me, they were all in mortal danger.
I had never before been so concerned about the safety of humans. They were always my prey. For over 150 years, I had no problems with draining a human of their blood to continue my horrid existence. I couldn’t say exactly when the change had happened, when that human part of me had reawakened. It may have been as far back as when I joined Ana. I wished more than anything that I could bury that human Bella again. Things were so much simpler.
I found myself walking down the street which would lead to the high school. I hadn’t been paying attention to where I was going, and I had apparently traveled my routine path. The white building shown in the distance, exposed by a completely empty parking lot. I could see the orange double doors of the school, locked until the following morning when students and faculty would return to a new week of public education, entirely unaware of the supernatural struggle happening around them.
I became aware of two sets of footsteps behind me, followed by the scent of werewolves. The rain had dampened their scent, and they had hidden their presence from me until this moment.
Turning around, I met Paul and a young black teen girl. Paul had grown a couple of inches since our meeting just a couple of weeks ago. The young woman was quite tall herself, her muscles well-built and strong. She gazed at me coldly, her nose turned up.
“Am I not allowed to walk in my own neighborhood?” I asked.
“We got this,” the girl said, her gaze turning into a glare.
“Get out of here, blood sucker,” Paul spat. “Get out of town, while you’re at it.”
“We’re not going anywhere,” I shot back. “This is my home. I made a deal with Peter that we would leave, but you guys have reneged on the deal. So we’re staying.”
Paul scoffed. “Peter shouldn’t have made that deal.”
“Isn’t he your alpha or whatever?” I asked. “Don’t you have to listen to what he says?”
“It doesn’t work like that,” the girl said. She shifted, her muscles tensing. “Peter’s weak. Jacob know what’s what. We don’t tolerate you.”
“Jacob,” I breathed. I should have known he would be the driving force behind all of this.
A deep, unnerving growl left Paul’s throat. “You better run,” he snarled, “or Magdalena and I’ll tear you in half.”
My instincts threatened to take over, and I only wanted to run. I glanced around myself, however, trying to hold onto my rational self. I had been trapped by these werewolves before, and I couldn’t help but wonder if Paul and Magdalena wanted me to run, to shepherd me into another ambush.
I tossed my umbrella aside and braced myself, bearing my own fangs. “I’m not afraid of you,” I spat, balling my hands into fists. “You can’t hurt me like that, and you won’t dare transform out in the open.” I nodded to the houses along the street and hoped someone was watching.
“What makes you think that?” Magdalena challenged, and already I saw her eyes change shape. “These mortals should know who’s keeping them safe, you don’t you think Paul?”
Paul’s muscles bulged, and he hunched forward, his jaw elongating, his bones popping and cracking. I watched in horror as they started to transform right in broad daylight.
The sound of speeding tires rose, however, gaining all of our attention. I saw my car speeding down the street right toward us, and in the driver’s seat was Alice. At the very same time, Jasper appeared right in front of me; I hadn’t even been aware of his approaching run, and upon later reflection was impressed by how silent he had been. Alice maneuvered my car into a breaking slide like some stunt driver, so that the car halted just inches from the werewolves.
Magdalena stumbled back, but Paul held his ground. Jasper bared his fangs and hissed at the werewolves as Alice threw the passenger door of my car open. I grabbed Jasper by the arm and pulled him into my car, and Alice sped away from the werewolves, laughing as if this were a great game.
I landed in the back seat as Jasper pulled the passenger door closed. I looked out the back window and, to my horror, discovered two great beasts on the tail of my car. “They’re chasing us!” I nearly screamed.
“They really do not care,” Alice said, glancing into the rear-view mirror. She pushed the car to a greater speed, heading not toward home but toward the middle of town.
One of the werewolves—one was a reddish brown, the other pale gray, and I did not know which was which—clamped their jaws down on the bumper of my car, causing us to jilt to the side. The bumper came off in the wolf’s great jaws, and the car began to spin out; Alice worked to correct the course, but the slick streets and our high speed proved too a great challenge. I knew we were headed for collision.
We barreled through one intersection and then a second beyond it, this one a red light. There were so few cars on the street that we were in no danger of hitting anyone, but the car continued to careen, entirely out of Alice’s control. We hit a curb, and I was launched into the low ceiling; then I was flung backward as the car tipped over onto its roof, coming to a screeching halt in the parking lot of the local grocery store. My body slammed into the back window, the glass shattering, although the tempering held the pane in place. A spark of pain jolted up my spine but faded within seconds.
“Shit,” I heard Alice say. I looked up to see her crumpled against the crushed ceiling of the car. She unfolded herself and kicked at the driver’s side door, the ruined steel giving way to her strength. “You okay, Bella?” she called to me.
“I’m fine,” I groaned, shaking my head. “Where’s Jasper?”
“I’m not sure,” Alice said, looking around. Jasper was not in the car. “Come on.” She crawled backward out of the car, and I followed her, belly-crawling along the ceiling and over the shattered glass of the passenger windows. My clothes were shredded by the glass, but my skin was not penetrated.
We found Jasper getting to his feet on the pavement a few feet from the car; evidently he had been launched. I looked around wildly, expecting the werewolves to bear down on us, but they were nowhere to be found. We did hear the approach of sirens, however, and without a word to each other, all three of us took off at top speed toward the woods.
In the steady branches of a redwood tree that was probably older than all of us, dozens of feet above the ground, the three of us came to a rest. I clung to a branch, digging my nails into the wood, snarling through the anger and shock that coursed through my body. Alice stood, unnaturally still, while Jasper sat down and gazed around us for any sign of wolves.
“Those damn animals,” Alice growled. “What were they trying to accomplish? They have no know a stunt like that’s not gonna kill us.”
“Intimidation,” Jasper said, his voice hoarse. “They’re trying to run all of the vampires out.”
“I’m going to kill them,” I hissed. “I’m going to kill all of them.”
“Easier said than done,” Jasper said with a sigh. “They’ve got us on the ropes right now.” He glanced between me and Alice. “Let’s all calm down, now.”
Quite suddenly, my anger left me. It wasn’t natural, yet it was welcome. I looked to Jasper. “Did you do that?” His only answer a raise of his blond eyebrows.
Alice let out a breath and shook her head, her short hair tossing with the movement. “That’s going to be a difficult mess to clean,” she said, leaning back against the trunk of the tree. “Sorry about your car, by the way,” she said to me.
“You came to my rescue,” I said. “You must have seen the attack, then?”
Alice nodded, biting her lip. “They weren’t going to kill you, but you weren’t going to come out of it too pretty, so Jazz and I decided to help out.” I smiled my gratitude at her.
“The police will probably come looking for me,” I said. “Even if no one saw us leave the scene, the car’s in my name. What exactly do I say to them?”
“Tell ‘em it was stolen,” Alice said, cracking a smile. “That’s technically true.”
“How does this affect things?” Jasper asked Alice. She closed her eyes for several moments, her brow furrowing in concentration.
“It’s complicated,” Alice said. “This is going to make things a lot more complicated. But Jacob lives. And Edward.” She opened her golden eyes and looked at me. “And you’re right. The police are gonna bring you in for questioning.”
“You’re really seeing the future,” I said, still struggling to grasp it despite how much I had benefited from it already.
“I’m seeing a possible future,” she corrected. “It’s always in flux until it actually happens.”
“Are the wolves going to attack Bella’s house?” Jasper asked.
Alice shook her head. “We’re too concentrated there. The four of us, and Ana and someone she brought with her. That’s six again.”
“Ana is back?” I asked, gazing toward the direction of my home. “We need to get back.”
“In time,” Jasper said. “The wolves may be seeking us out. Give it some time.”
I was about to protest, but Alice spoke up. “Listen to him, Bella. He’s—”
“—tactical,” I finished. “That’s what Emmet said.” Jasper chuckled at that. “Fine,” I said, hunkering down on my branch. After a few moments, I said, “I think Jacob is behind all this. The female werewolf said as much.”
“It’s not all of them,” Jasper said. “I think they want us to think it is, but there are only five werewolves in and around Forks.”
Alice raised an eyebrow. “Think there was some kind of split?”
Jasper shrugged, then looked to me. “You’re more familiar with this situation. What do you think?”
I thought over what little I knew of Jacob and the other werewolves for a moment. “Jacob just about hates me. He blames me for James. I don’t think he wanted to work with us at all. When Carlisle and I met with Peter, Jacob walked out of the meeting.” Jasper and Alice exchanged a look. “He’s also protective over Edward. They’re close friends. I saw Jacob outside of Edward’s house when I left.”
“You didn’t mention this,” Jasper said.
“I know,” I said. “I didn’t think it worth mentioning.” Jasper nodded. “Magdalena said Peter is weak,” I added after a few moments’ reflection.
“As a leader or as a werewolf?” Alice wondered.
“Could be both,” Jasper said. “Peter is willing to work with vampires, and that looks like he’s afraid to eradicate us directly.”
“Meanwhile, Jacob, the target of the vampires, looks fearless,” I said. “I don’t know for sure if he’s among the ones who attacked me, but I would bet money on it.” I sighed, thinking back on what Peter had told me at our meeting. “These werewolves haven’t transformed in a very long time. I don’t think their grandparents even have memory of it. They’re mostly adolescents, and I bet they are all eager to have us, the problem, gone.”
“And so they follow Jacob, because he is willing to make the problem go away. I’ve seen it countless times,” Jasper said as he got to his feet. “We should be clear to get back now. And we need to tell Carlisle about all of this.” I nodded in agreement.
Staying in the trees and as far from the ground as we could, we circled around Forks before entering the town from the south side. From there, we walked back to my home, a brief yet tense journey in which each of us were hyper-sensitive to our surroundings, expecting our werewolf nemeses to pop out of a bush or tree at any second.
I spotted Ana’s car in the driveway, a sign of relief. There was another car parked on the street, one I did not recognize, but even from the sidewalk outside, I could see and smell who it belonged to: the local county sheriff.