Jacob and I sat across from each other at my dining room table. I faced the doorway which led into the living room, and through there I could see Jasper at his post by the window. Etienne guarded the back door, which opened from the dining room, and this was the side Jacob faced. Even with my back to him, I knew when Etienne would steal a curious glance or two toward Jacob, as I could hear the ruffle of his clothes when he moved.
After the incident in the street, Jacob had sent his pack to the corners of Forks to sniff out and find Edward; I had sent Alice to join in the same task. I had wanted Jasper and Etienne to go as well, but Jasper insisted the two of them guard the house, especially since I would otherwise be here alone with Jacob.
Carlisle had been called, and he and Ana were now en route to return. I didn’t know if they had spoken with Peter, and frankly I didn’t care.
The room was warm, even with the back door open to let the cold, humid evening air flow through. Jacob’s high temperature and stinking scent permeated the room. I didn’t breathe except to speak.
“You saw him this morning, right?” I asked.
Jacob nodded. “He and I…we spoke.”
“How much did you tell him?”
“As much as I could make sense of.” He narrowed his eyes at me. “He took it well, as you said.”
I cracked a smile. “You said he came over here.”
Jacob sighed, and his hot breath washed over me. “We talked for many hours about many things,” he said, his face twisting at the memory of these conversations. I could only imagine what sort of exchange they would have had, as Jacob would never divulge their contents. I wondered if Edward might have expressed opinions about vampires which Jacob would have abhorred. “Some time near noon, he tried to call you. Thought it would be productive if the three of us discussed the feral blood sucker that’s after me.”
That surprised me. I had told Edward a little about James after Jacob’s initial encounter, but Edward had never inquired much further into it. What did Edward think he would accomplish by arranging such a meeting?
Ironically, when Edward had called to arrange this peace meeting, I was deep in a chase at the jaws of Jacob’s pack mates. I wondered if Jacob was aware of what his right and left hands were doing while he was busy with Edward.
“And when I didn’t answer, he came here?”
Jacob shifted in his chair, which looked slightly too small to accommodate his large frame. “Not immediately. I tried to get him to drop the idea.” He paused, clenching his jaw as he bore into my gaze. “I tried to get him to forget about you, but you’ve got your claws into him too deep.”
I ignored the jab, but it took considerable effort not to dive across the table and throttle his throat. “When did Edward try to come find me?”
“Maybe half an hour after he called,” Jacob answered, shaking his head at words in his memory. “Paul showed up. I had to join him.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Did he tell you what he and your girlfriend were up to?”
Jacob’s glare deepened. “Magdalena isn’t my girlfriend,” he spat.
“Did you send them after me?” I demanded. I was leaning forward, my hands splayed on the table. My fingers dug into the wood, leaving permanent marks in the grain.
“Of course I did,” he growled. “Every day more of you show up.” He glanced behind me to Etienne to make his point.
“We’re supposed to help each other,” I argued. “Peter wanted us to work together to keep you safe from James.”
Jacob scoffed, looking disgusted. “That was a mistake,” he said. “Our pack can handle one vampire. There was no reason to bring you into it, and it just made you invite more of your kind here. Peter doubted our ability because all of this is new to us, but I’ve seen what we can do.” A perverse grin lifted his lips. “We almost got you, after all.”
My fingers broke through the table and splinters shot in all directions as my hands balled into fists. In my mind, I saw the large black wolf which had chased me down. I realized now that I was staring into those same eyes.
All thought fled my mind. I lunged forward, but I was held back by a pair of strong arms which pulled me away from the table. At the same time, Jacob had jumped to his feet, ready to defend against my attack. “Calm down, Belle,” Ana’s voice said in my ear just as Carlisle appeared at Jacob’s side. Jacob realized Carlisle was there at the same time I did, and he hopped back a few feet.
I tried to fight against the force which held me down, snarling and snapping and trying with all my strength to get to the hateful mutt which had tried to kill me. I didn’t care that he was Edward’s closest friend. He was my greatest enemy, and I couldn’t rest until he had been punished for what he did to me.
I turned on my captors, digging my teeth into the arm which crossed my chest. I heard a distant cry and then felt a blow to my head which disoriented me. Next thing I knew, I was thrown down face-first into the floor, the force of my diamond-hard body cracking the linoleum and leaving a girl-sized crater.
I couldn’t move. My arms were held tight against my body, my legs vice-gripped together at the ankles. I couldn’t even move my head: I felt pressure on my neck as someone held their hands to it, leaning down with all their weight.
Three vampires were on top of me: Ana, Carlisle, and Etienne. I slowly became aware of this. I breathed in the air, smelling Jacob’s scent. He hadn’t fled, although he should have. The moment my companions released me, I planned to jump at his throat.
But as I did this, another scent came to me, and this one made me freeze in my struggles. All thoughts of tearing Jacob apart were flushed from my mind; in fact, in a split second, I forgot Jacob was even there as that beautiful, overwhelming, electrifying scent filled my nose. It was him: Edward Masen.
I called out Edward’s name, and this sudden change struck my captors enough that I was able to release myself with almost no effort. But when I jumped up to my hands and knees and raised my head to look at that human which had brought me to new life, I learned the real reason why my companions had to easily released me when they had used so much effort to keep me still.
It was not Edward which had come to the open back door. Instead, a woman stood there. She was tall, lean, and her face was twisted into a mask of sadistic joy as she gazed around the room of vampires. All down her front was fresh, coagulating blood, staining the fabric of the white t-shirt and white denim shorts she wore. Red against white was striking: this was calculated for us to see.
That blood which she wore like an accessory sang to me.
And then she was gone.
No words were exchanged. No glances were shared. Jacob and I moved as one: we followed the woman out of the door and into the rapidly darkening evening. Moving at speeds the human eye could not discern, I heard beside a strange, alien sound, which I could only describe as like the sound which bones make when they break, followed by a deafening howl. In my peripheral vision I saw that same black blur which had once pursued me in the same manner it pursued this creature. Moments ago, the mental picture of that beast had sent me into a rage. Now, the idea of attacking it was the furthest thing from my mind.
Edward was in trouble. He was hurt. He might be dead. Either he needed help, or he needed to be avenged.
It was not hard to follow the woman. She made her presence known through the smell of Edward’s blood as well as clear signs of her movement: a dented car door here, a large crack in a roof there. I had no notion if the vampires had followed nor any indication if Jacob’s pack were nearby. None of it mattered, it seemed, while I chased the woman down.
She brought us to the woods, maintaining an advance of about five hundred yards beyond Jacob and me. She paused at the tree line to gaze back at us. In the dawning moonlight, I could see the white of her clothes and the red of her long hair before she disappeared into the mass of woods.
The woman left her mark along her path, and we followed her right into a great clearing. It was not a natural one: dozens of trees had been uprooted and thrown out of their proper places, now arranged in a barrier which marked the clearing. I spotted Edward immediately.
He was laid out in the center of the clearing, his arms and legs splayed out. He’d been stripped, and there were dozens of cuts along his arms, legs, and torso. They were shallow but enough to make him bleed. The scent of his blood permeated every millimeter of the surrounding woods. He was still as we approached, but stirred and turned his head to me as I jumped over the fallen trees.
Beside me, Jacob growled deeply, the ground vibrating with the sound. I gazed up into the trees, trying to sniff James out, but Edward’s blood covered whatever scent James possessed.
Edward groaned quietly and tried to sit up, but his limbs wouldn’t cooperate with the movement he desired. I moved to his side, dropping to my knees, and I took ahold of one of his hands. It was cold against my cold skin, trembling, shivering.
Jacob growled again, his gaze on the tree line, his snout turned up. His great, bushy tail beat the ground.
“You got what you wanted,” I bellowed into the trees, releasing Edward. “You got your prize right here. Come and claim him, you coward!”
Laughter rose from the tree line, faint at first, but growing louder. There were two voices, one male and one female. I recognized the tone of one, and the other I could deduce: James and his mate, Victoria. They were quickly approaching.
A force knocked into me, unseen and unexpected. I was thrown a few dozen feet, the velocity broken as I hit one of the fallen trunks. The bark gave way, splintering as I crashed through. I was disoriented for a moment, but gained my feet in time to see Victoria suddenly upon me.
She grabbed my head with both of her hands, twisting my neck in an unnatural direction. I moved with this direction so that the force would not rend my head from my shoulders, something which this woman certainly possessed the strength to do. I reeled into her to knock her off balance and followed through with a well-placed kick to the gut. She was thrown into the ground.
I heard a sharp yelp which hurt my ears, and I saw not far away that James was on Jacob’s back, his claws deep in Jacob’s skin. James pulled his claws out, releasing two great gushes of werewolf blood which overtook the scent of Edward’s blood and filled the woods.
I paid for this distracted with a sudden kick to the backs of my knees which caused me to crumple to the ground. Victoria was on my back, and she grabbed a fistful of my hair and pulled my head back. The claws of her free hand were at my throat, and she pushed them deep into my hardened flesh, causing minute yet painful cracks.
Fire licked at the skin on my neck, and I must have screamed, for the trees which still stood trembled. I was suddenly released, however, when the woman was knocked off of me by a great gray blur.
I was panting, recovering from my attack, when I looked up. The clearing was populated now: vampires and werewolves flew this way and that in a confusing flurry. My eyes couldn’t keep up with the unnatural speeds of the monsters which fought each other. I heard yelps of werewolves and cries of vampires.
I saw James bounding between the standing trees on the edge of the clearing. Jacob and another werewolf leapt up at him, trying to grab any of his long limbs in their snapping jaws. Jasper emerged from the branches of the trees, dropping down on James and catching him by the shoulders; the two of them fell into the snapping whirl of werewolf fur, where any distinguishable movement was lost.
I spotted Edward again. He had managed to turn over onto his belly and was trying to make an escape from his exposed position in the center of the clearing. I jumped to my feet and sprinted to him, dodging under the belly of a leaping werewolf. I gathered Edward up in my arms and made a line for the edge of the clearing.
A great scream rose from one of the vampires, horrid, chilling. It didn’t sound like Ana, and so I ignored it. My only care in that moment was getting Edward safe.
I was seized from this task, however, when Victoria grabbed me by the hair once again. She bit down on one of my arms, her teeth cracking my skin, and pain shot through my whole body. Edward fell from my arms, and my head was forced into a piece of rock half-buried in the dirt.
My vision bloomed into explosions which danced and dazzled behind my eyes. I heard Edward groan beside me, and I reached toward the sound, but it was gone within a second. I saw through my dazzled vision the shock of red hair of James’ mate as she retreated into the trees.
I screamed for Edward, and despite all the damage to my body, I pulled myself to my feet. I heard someone call my name, but I ignored the call. Instead, I ran through the battlefield, following the woman who had taken my Edward.
I found her among a thicket of mossy rocks and rotted wood. She had dropped Edward on the ground and stood over him, her face twisted into a mask of rage and hatred. I lunged at her, but she dropped to her knees and pulled Edward up in front of her like a shield, halting my movement.
“Let him go!” I screamed, my voice hoarse and unclear.
“You owe me now,” Victoria said, her fangs extended. Venom dripped down her lips and chin as she spoke. Before I could react, she bit down into Edward’s shoulder.
I was screaming again, and now Edward’s screams joined mine. The venom of a vampire’s bite brought with it unbearable pain, as if lava had been injected into the veins. She released him and turned tail. I did not give chase, but rather sped to Edward’s side.
I was joined not seconds later. The werewolves ran past me, fanning out in a wide formation, four in all. They pursued the woman and disappeared into the woods. I was surrounded quickly by vampires, my own clan, as I grasped Edward tightly against my chest.
“She bit him,” I cried over and over as Ana tried to pull me away. “He’s turning! She bit him and he’s turning!”
“Come along,” I heard a calm, male voice say in my ear. My panic and fear dropped, an unnatural and almost forceful change in my inner turmoil. I looked up into Jasper’s golden eyes as he and Ana pulled me away from Edward.
“He can’t turn!” I insisted, trying to hold onto my urgency. “He can’t turn! He wasn’t given a choice! He must choose! He can’t turn!”
I fought against my friends as best as I could, but I was exhausted. I had no more fight left in me. I could only watch as Jacob approached Edward, shouldering past the other vampires. He was no longer a great wolf, having regained his humanoid form again. There were two gashes along his back where James had clawed at him, but they had already stopped bleeding. In fact, they looked like they were hours old rather than minutes.
“I have an antidote,” Etienne spoke up. His words were rapid, faster than a human could speak, but Jacob seemed able to understand him. “Let me get him back to the house.” Jacob made no movement, but he did not stop Etienne from gathering up Edward’s tense, writhing body. He was gone in an instant.
I closed my eyes, wishing I could experience oblivion. I had been there once after my werewolf attack, but it never called to me. Instead, I felt Ana release me into Jasper’s strong arms. He carried my limp body out of the woods and back in the direction of town as clouds covered the moon and plunged Forks into darkness.