The Twilight Saga

What if there was someone for Bella besides Jacob? What if she helped her through it all?

 

This starts right after Twilight in August. Enjoy!

 

All characters belong to Stephenie Meyer except Amy and Abby.

 

 

Pieceing Her Together Table of Contents:

Chapter 1: Getting Away

Chapter 2: Meeting the Family...Clan

Chapter 3: Realization

Chapter 4: Princess of Forks

Chapter 5: Beserk About Blood

Chapter 6: Hole

Chapter 7: Pain

Chapter 8: Crowbar

Chapter 9: Turkey and Wolf

Chapter 10: Waiting

Chapter 11: The Lie

Chapter 12: Crazy

Chapter 13: Imagining Danger

Chapter 14: Messing With the Horns and Chapter 15: Under Reacting

Chapter 16: Company

Chapter 17: Mistakes ED POV

Chapter 18 Part 1: Giving Memories Not Gifts 

Chapter 18 Part 2: Giving Memories Not Gifts

Chapter 19: Dangers

New Year's Eve Outtake: Celebrating for the Greater Good

Chapter 20: Scissors

Chapter 21: Laurent

Chapter 22: A Night to Remember

Chapter 23: Time

Chapter 24: Hell on Earth ED POV

Chapter 25: Jets and Time

Chapter 26: Playing Poker

Chapter 27: Briefing and Voting

Epilogue: Not the End

 

Thanks Lynn Wolf for the Banner. I love it and owe you big time :)

 

Keeping It Together Table of Contents:

Chapter 1: Late

Chapter 2: Daniel Powter's Day

Chapter 3: Discoveries

Chapter 4: The Talk 

Chapter 5: Just for Kicks

Chapter 6: Crossing the Border

Chapter 7: Bunnies, Yum.

Chapter 8: Unplanned

Chapter 9: Treading Lightly

Chapter 10: Another Detail

Chapter 11: Ears and Eyes

Chapter 12: Stacking Up the Defense

 

 

 

Chapter 1

Getting Away

Abby Point of View

 

I missed California beyond belief. I had always been a girl who enjoyed warm weather, days at the beach, flying kites in the park with my sister, Amy. But I realized that life in Los Angeles was in no way good for her. I did not want her to grow up where there was constant ciaos.

 

My boyfriend had just been shot. He had never done drugs, had a single drop of alcohol, he had perfect grades, he was on the varsity football team, and he loved my sister like his own. And most importantly he cared about me. If I had to cancel a date because my sister was sick he understood, and then brought over a teddy bear, a get well soon card, and a bowl of chicken noodle soup. Even though she was just sick with the common cold. He was the best thing that ever happened to me. And then he was taken away. The main reason for moving was to get away from the bad memories. He was shot one day as we were walking to pick up my sister from school. He was not in a gang, but the members of a gang accidently shot him. I held him in my arms and watched him bleed to death. The last words he said to me were, “Don’t forget me, but move on. There is someone out there for you. Go find him. I was only part of your life. But you were all of mine. Be happy again. Take care of yourself and Amy. I will always love you.” That day, Amy and I sat in my bed and cried. We went through about four boxes of tissues, two gallons of ice cream, and five sappy movies. The next day we started to look for a new place to live.

 

I was eighteen, and held the custody of my five-year-old sister, Amy. My parents had died in a car crash. They loved us both and that was another unbearable event. I was sixteen, became emancipated, and took custody of Amy. She was the most important person in my life. And I was going to make her life better. After I went to court and did my part in putting the gang members away, I decided to take my sister somewhere she could be safe. We were moving to Forks, Washington. My mom had a brother named Charlie. He was ten years older than she was, and they did not talk very often. Maybe once a year, but often times not even that. When my parents died, I tried to keep in touch with him. I called him every three months and sent him Christmas cards, but that was it. Charlie was the Chief of Police. We were moving into the house next to his. Apparently his daughter Bella had moved in a little bit before us.

 

It was August and it gave us just enough time to move in and get settled before school started. It was my senior year and it was Amy’s time to start first grade. We moved in quickly. There was an extra room where we put all of our stuff. We were painting our rooms today.

 

“Amy, you sure you want your room pink?”

 

“For sure! I want to have a princess room! Can you paint a pretty castle on the wall like you did in our old house?” She asked with the biggest puppy dog eyes.

 

“Of course. Now let’s get to work.” We painted the room in no time at all. We were professional painters. NOT! But we were good. We let the pink in her room dry while we worked on my room. It was going to be a lavender color. Once my room was finished we went back to Amy’s room. I started on the intricate design of the castle as Amy watched. Then the door bell rang.

 

“I’ll get it!” Amy yelled and flew down stairs. I continued to paint knowing it would be Charlie at the door. He called earlier to let us know he was going to check on us and see how we were doing.

 

“Wow, this is a really good paint job. You guys should start a business.” Charlie said with a whistle. I set my paint brush down and went to hug him.

 

“Hey, Uncle Charlie, it’s good to see you.” I really was glad to be able to be around family. I loved my sister with all my heart but seeing family was good for the soul. “How’s Bella? I haven’t seen her since we were in diapers. So I guess that doesn’t really count because I don’t even remember that.”

 

“She’s good. She is over at the Cullen’s house as we speak. She is dating Edward Cullen.” He said that trying not to include too much distaste.

 

“I’m happy for her. Will she be home later? Because I want to introduce her to Amy.” And I also wanted to see her myself.

 

“Yeah, she’s coming home for dinner. Edward is too. You two are welcome to come over.” He offered.

 

“Count us in.” I said and went back to my painting. Amy and Charlie struck up a conversation for the longest time. I sat there in my own world, painting away. After about two hours Charlie left and Amy continued to talk to me. When I finished the Castle I wrote in purple lettering Where Fantasies Become Reality above the spot where her bed would be. We cleaned up the painting supplies, and then we cleaned up ourselves. I helped Amy shampoo her hair as she talked about her imaginary prince charming, Embry. It was really cute that she still had fun in life after all that had happened to us. I dried her off, put her hair in a French braid, and she went down stairs to read a book from the Magic Tree House series. I taught her how to read because she kept wondering what I was doing all the time with books. She became completely enamored with the idea of a world with in something so small. I took a shower and slipped on some clothes. I went and looked at the stuff in our extra room with dismay. There was no way I would be able to move the furniture. The movers put it in that room in the first place. Amy and I slept on the couch last night. But I did not want to keep doing that. I’d have to get Charlie and someone else to help me move it all. I went down stairs and helped Amy into her rain coat. I eased into mine and we walked outside. I locked the door, and then we raced to Charlie’s house. There were there cars parked out front, a Volvo, Truck, and a Police Cruiser. Edward and Bella must already be back, I assumed. We knocked on the door and Charlie yelled to us that the door was open. We walked in and hung our coats up. We walked into the living room to find Charlie watching football.

 

“What is this?” Amy asked Charlie and pointed at the football game.

 

“Are you asking what football is?” He asked completely shocked.

 

“Yeah, we don’t have cable Charlie. We have a television but it only lets us watch movies.” I reasoned.

 

“Then I’m going to have to teach Amy all about football.” He started, and then dove right in. He told her everything about football. I walked into the kitchen to find everything on the counter to make dinner. Apparently we were having spaghetti, but Bella and Edward weren’t home, yet. Just their cars.

 

“Charlie, where’s Bella?”

 

“She’s still at the Cullens. Edward’s sister picked them up this morning so that they could go play baseball.” He hollered back.

 

“Do you mind if I start making dinner?”

 

“Knock yourself out.” And then I was off. I started cooking like crazy. By the time I was done I saw a jeep pull up to the house. Two people hopped out, and I was assuming they were Bella and Edward. The boy sitting in the driver’s seat was a big muscle guy. He drove off once they were out of the car. They walked to the front door and came into the house.

 

“Charlie, I’m home!” Bella exclaimed. The put there jackets in the closet and came into the kitchen. “Abby! It’s so good to see you!” Bella said and hugged me tightly.

 

“It’s good to see you too. I hope you don’t mind but I started making dinner.”

 

“Not at all. Abby this is my boyfriend, Edward. Edward this is my cousin, Abby.” Bella introduced us.

 

“It’s nice to meet you.” I said and shook his hand. It was slightly cold, but assumed it was because of the weather. He looked gorgeous. Not in a way that I wanted him, but more in a way that I couldn’t deny he was handsome. “Hey, Amy! I want you to meet Bella and Edward.” I requested her presence. She merrily skipped into the room and came up beside me. I picked her up and settled her on my hip. She may have been five, but I would always want to hold her like this. “Amy this is your cousin, Bella. And this is her boyfriend Edward.”

 

She squirmed out of my embrace, got on the ground, and curtsied in front of them and bowed. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Sir Edward and Lady Bella. I’m Princess Amy.” She said playing her game.

 

Edward and Bella both played along, he bowed and she curtsied. “It’s is such an honor to meet you princess.” They played along.

 

“Queen Abby, is the feast ready?” Amy asked me politely.

 

“It is princess, as soon as you wash your hands.” She skipped to the sink and I helped her up so she could wash her hands. She was kind of short. But she was perfect that way. Once that was done we all sat around the table and ate spaghetti. Except Edward, he was apparently on a special diet. Bella asked us how the move was going. Amy told her about the painting session today. She and Edward were going to come over afterward and see it. Once we finished easting, Charlie washed the dishes and the rest of us walked over to our house. We walked up to Amy’s room and they both ogled at my Castle painting.

 

“This is absolutely amazing! How long did it take you?” Bella questioned. “A couple hours. No biggie. The real issue is getting all the furniture into our rooms. We had the movers put all of it in the spare room. And I can’t lift it all alone.”

 

“My brother’s and I can come over tomorrow and help move it.” Edward offered.

 

“That would be amazing. Thank you.” And then I noticed Amy trying to hide a yawn. “I guess it’s time for bed, Princess Amy.”

 

“No! Please! I’m having too much,” She yawned again, “fun… Okay, I’ll go to bed.” She said and went to change into pajamas and brush her teeth. I said goodbye to Bella and Edward. Then I went back upstairs to help Amy get ready for bed. I did the same. I was exhausted. We went downstairs and read for half an hour and fell asleep with the worlds of a magic wonderland.

Tags: Abby, Amy, Embry, Her, It, Keeping, Moon, New, Piecing, Together, More…vampandwolflover

Views: 1619

Replies to This Discussion

soon! cause she is going to be unable to hide it at all. so she is going to tell Charlie once they find out the gender. what do you think it is going to be? boy or girl? and thanks for reading, babe

awsome chapter...i wonder who the new vampire is?....well post more soon plzzz (:

I hope it is a girl

post more soon

I would like to apologize to all of you for not being better about updating this website. I have essentially converted to fanfiction.net because it was easier censorship wise. Sometimes I felt it was necessary for one of my characters to let a curse slip. Regardless, I am updating all of my stories as they are written now. I hope that some of you are still reading and willing to comment. Please do, because I still read the comments. Thanks for sticking around.

VampAndWolfLover

Chapter 8

Unplanned

“A new bloodsucker is running amuck in Seattle, and not the warm and fuzzy, I-eat-bunnies kind of vampire either. The human killing kind.” Jacob smiled at his joke.

            I leaned back in Embry’s arms, intertwining his fingers with mine. “Thanks for stating the obvious, Jacob. Now let’s get down to business.”

            “To defeat the Huns.” Emmett and Jasper whispered, high-fiving at the opposite end of the table.

            Rosalie and Alice each smacked their spouses on the head, before apologizing on their behalf.

            “That’s alright. It’s nice to know they’re keeping up on their Disney movies. The real reason for this meeting is to discuss the vampire in Seattle. I ran into him on my way to the bathroom. Shortly after, a woman was discovered drained in the mall’s bathroom.” I shuddered, remembering how close I came to him.

            “That’s a bad sign.” Jasper commented, pushing his hand through his hair in frustration.

            “Care to tell us why?” asked Paul, the ever irritable.

            Jasper remained calm, addressing the whole group. “It’s bad because if he is comfortable enough around humans to leave the body lying around in such a public setting, it means he is reckless and either doesn’t know the rules or doesn’t care. It also tells us that he can’t control his bloodlust if he has to hunt in such a public setting.”

            “In other words, he is bringing enough attention to vampires and Seattle that the Volturi will have to step in soon.” Carlisle voiced his concern.

            “Chances are they’ll stop by to see if Bella is still human, while they’re here.” Emmett added his commentary, feeling the need to add the importance to the discussion.

            “So what do we do about this vampire?” Sam asked, wondering what steps to take in eliminating this threat.

            “Let’s just go to Seattle and take him down.” Jared offered, already standing up to go.

            “There are at least three reasons I can think of why doing that would be a bad idea.” I objected, causing him to ease back into his seat.

            “Firstly, if he isn’t the only one, we run the risk of hurting other people, trying to take them down. Secondly, if he is part of a coven or has a mate, they might come after us for revenge just as Victoria is doing to Bella, now. Thirdly, what if he is working with Victoria? Then this whole thing is much bigger than we originally thought.” I listed each reason, counting them off on my fingers.

            “Man, this is a seriously messed-up situation. It would be a lot easier if we could just go take him down.” Paul’s blood-lust was showing.

            “For the meantime, we just need to let it play out. At least until it escalates to the point where Victoria shows herself again or it makes the news again. Frankly, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Victoria showing up at the border and a vampire popping up in Seattle is unrelated. I don’t see anything going terribly wrong in our immediate future. I think it would be best to just let this play out for a few more weeks.” Alice spoke for the first time, expressing her valuable insight into the future. Our future.

            “I agree. The worst that could happen is he comes to Forks and we have to take him down here.” I sided with Alice, nodding in approval. “Well, not ‘we,’ more like the vampires and werewolves in the room.”

            “Okay, so it’s decided that we wait until the situation escalates. I can’t say I am comfortable with waiting for something worse to happen, but that sounds like our only option at this point. And what do we do about the red head?” Sam questioned, needing something to move forward.

            “We are still waiting for Edward and Bella to come back before we talk about improving security at her house, or anything remotely close to that. Why don’t we plan to meet here, next Friday, for another meeting?” I offered.

            “As long as you’re cooking, I’ll be here.” Jared hollered, and all the omnivores in the room quickly agreed with that statement.

            The group agreed to meet at my house on Friday for another meeting. Slowly people started to leave, but only after a game of glow-in-the-dark ultimate Frisbee. I am still not sure who exactly won, but to this day, neither side admits defeat.

            At school on Monday, Bella and Edward pulled up to school in his Volvo. I stood with Alice and Jasper, waiting for them to walk over. Just before they reached us, I asked Alice, “has he told her yet?”

            “No,” she whispered, under her breath.

            “Is this going to all go to hell?”

            “Probably.” She replied, her psychic senses telling her what to do.

            “Fan–fricking –tastic.” I said sarcastically, causing Jasper to chuckle, just as Edward and Bella came into the circle.

            “What’s fantastic?” Bella asked, her hand intertwined with Edward’s.

            “Your boyfriend still hasn’t told you that he took you to Florida to keep you away from Victoria while she danced along the border between the reservation and the Cullen’s territory. Emmett and Paul had a disagreement, because Emmett crossed the border, trying to chase Victoria. The little dispute was resolved. There was a meeting at my house regarding Victoria, but I said nothing could be done until you came home. Then there was a vampire at the mall who nocked against me, while I was heading to the bathroom. Coincidentally, he had just drained and left a body to be discovered in the mall. And then another meeting was held to deal with that, but we decided not much can be done until we know more about this vampire and his intentions. That about sums it up. And Alice helped me shop for maternity clothes. But enough about me, how are your mom and Phil? Was the weather warm in Florida?”

            “When you asked if this was going to hell, let me tell you it just got there.” Jasper whispered to me, laughing at the situation.

            Bella looked astonished. She looked like she would smack him, but didn’t. He looked like he deserved it. They both seemed hurt: him because he had hurt her, her because he had lied to her.

            Then the argument ensued. “How could you not tell me? What if something bad had happened to anyone while I was gone? What if Victoria hurt someone? It would have been all my fault and I would feel nothing but guilt. How could you?”

            “I needed to keep you safe. Victoria is only after you, not Abby, not Alice, not Amy, not Jacob. No one else but you. Everyone else knew what they were risking when they were running after Victoria. I needed you to be safe.”

            “You could have told me that we were going to Florida to avoid Victoria.” Bella objected.

            “You wouldn’t have left. Come on, help me out, Abby. Would she have honestly gone to Florida if she had known?” Edward asked, turning away from Bella for the first time since their argument started.

            I looked at Bella, and saw the hurt in her eyes, she felt betrayed for being lied to, “Bella, you’re too stubborn, you would have stayed here. Edward is right, telling you would have made you turn around and come back to Forks. He was just trying to keep you safe. Edward, you need to be honest with her from now on though, and keep her in Forks. There is more protection for her here than there is anywhere else. You can’t even walk outside in Florida to protect her. At least here she has seven vampires, eight werewolves, a dad with a gun, and a hormonal, pregnant cousin to watch after her. You would think after the whole Italy ordeal, you two would be better at your communication skills.” They both marginally flinched at the mention of Italy.

Edward turned to Bella and said, “I’m sorry. I should have told you. I just can’t bear the thought of anything happening to you.”

            “Nothing will as long as everyone works together, including you and me. But don’t think you’re fully forgiven. I want a full-update on what happened this weekend.” Bella reprimanded, after kissing him on the lips.

            The bell started ringing, telling us we had five minutes to get to class. We all slowly started walking until I realized that there was no way I could hold my bladder from bursting for the next hour. I gave my excuses and detoured for the restroom. Alice had my exact schedule now, so she promised to give my excuses to our eccentric art teacher, Cora. After the Cullens came back to Forks, Alice decided that her schedule should be rearranged to fit mine, wanting to talk more often than we usually had the chance to. We sat next together in each period, rarely listening to lecture, her brain already possessing all of the knowledge with her vampire senses, my brain already possessing the knowledge because I exceled in my particular classes. Our conversations mostly consisted of my pregnancy now that she had full knowledge of it.

            Alice wanted to know what the plans were regarding my marriage to Embry. It was no secret among the wolves and vampires that Embry and I were engaged to be married. It’s just too hard to keep secrets with thought-sharing wolves, a mind-reader, a psychic, and an empath. Today’s conversation consisted of me recounting the proposal.

~~~

            Today was a normal Saturday for the most part. Emmett and Rosalie were watching Amy while Embry was taking me on a date. Not a usual date for most people, but we weren’t most people and this was a usual date for us. Sort of. We started hiking in the woods, until we were a safe enough distance away from other people so Embry could phase. Once I had his clothes in my backpack, I hooked a leg over his back and hoisted myself onto his crouched body. After I settled in, Embry took off, racing to our favorite spot. This was the same spot where Embry first told me he loved me.

            Ever since then we made it a point to revisit that spot on a regular basis. It was a cave hidden on the side of a cliff, with the view of the waves crashing against the rocks. A trail could be taken to get down to the cave, but no one ever used it except for us—the cave’s location was too secluded for any human to cross upon it accidentally. Once inside, Embry let me slide of his back. As he phased and redressed, I started a fire to cook our food over. Dinner: hotdogs, s’mores, and hot chocolate. We lounged against a rock couch of sorts that Embry had made a few visits ago. Just as the sun crept into the ocean, Embry pulled something out of his pocket. I wouldn’t have noticed, except he had to wiggle his legs to get the velvet box out of his jeans. I wasn’t even paying attention to what he was doing, my eyes too focused on the sunset.

            He whispered into my ear, “I realize that we’re probably too young for this, but I want to be joined with you every way possible. We have already talked about being together for the rest of our lives, but I would like to make it official. Abigail Emory Caldwell, will you do me the honor of being my wife, as long as we both shall live?” His fingers popped open the box to reveal a gold wedding band with diamonds placed all along the band. I just nodded, finding myself speechless for once in my lifetime.

            He slipped the ring out of the box and slid it onto my left ring finger. Perfect fit. A tension I hadn’t noticed before seemed to leave his shoulders the second the ring was safely on my finger. Did he honestly think I would say no? I guess there is always that doubt until something like a ring guarantees it.

            “You know you didn’t have to get me such an extravagant ring. Don’t miss understand me. I love it, but the ring couldn’t have been cheap.” How long had he saved that money, only to spend it all in one swoop?

            “I wanted to buy you the ring, to claim you as mine. I have been saving that money for a good reason to spend it, and I can’t think of a better way, than to spend it on the woman I love.” He kissed my forehead, and then moved to my nose, cheeks, ears, neck, saving my lips for last.

            When he broke away from the kiss he reminded me of another reason why buying the ring made sense to him. “You’ve also been cooking me meals, letting me sleep in your house, use your toothpaste. The least I could do is pamper you a little with a decent engagement ring.”

            I smiled, thinking of how we already shared everything. Toothpaste, meals, showers, sheets. We had become quite domestic without even meaning to do so. “You do know that I am going to have to wear the ring on my right hand until May, when we formally announce the wedding and pregnancy?”

            “I know, but you and I will know what the ring means, and that’s all that matters. You and me.” We continued to kiss, deciding clothes were unnecessary, needing to be warmer on this chilly night. In the cave, we slept on the picnic blanket Embry thought to pack. My body curved with his as we woke to the rising sun, reflecting off of the ocean water. I stretched like a cat after a good night’s sleep, snuggling back into Embry’s warm chest, searching for heat. He chuckled and wrapped his arms tighter around me, tightening his hold on me physically and emotionally.

            “Thank you.” He whispered, and if it hadn’t been dead silent, I would have not heard it.

            “For what?” I mumbled into his chest.

            “For saying yes.” He mumbled back.

            I titled my head backwards so he could hear me clearly. “Embry Call, if you doubted for one moment that I would say no, you need to be admitted to the closest insane asylum. I love you, and nothing could ever change that. Now help me warm up, my back is cold.” He rolled us so that he was on top of me and my back pressed into the blanket. He placed all of his weight on his hands and knees, but covered my body with his, ensuring that I would warm back up, quickly. Believe me when I say, I helped warm him up too.

~~~

            Alice smiled at the conclusion of my recounting of Embry’s proposal. “You guys are almost as bad as Rosalie and Emmett.”

            “Thanks, I guess. Should I be taking that as a complement? Or should I be offended?”

            “Take it as a complement. To even be compared to Emmett and Rose with regards to their love life is unheard of but you and Embry seem to be copulating just as often.”

            “Well, thanks then. But what else do you want to know about our engagement, exactly?” I continued to paint as I waited for Alice’s answer. That little pixy had a plan forming and I wish I knew what it was. However, I would only know if she wanted me to know. It appeared that she wanted me to know, because she started spilling her guts.

            “I haven’t had any visions of the wedding yet, but I was wondering what you had in mind for the actual event.” Her words were carefully phrased, intrusive—just the way I liked them.

            “We were going to marry during the summer, before the baby comes, and before I am so pregnant I can’t even enjoy a three hour wedding. Why, Alice? What are you thinking in that pixy brain of yours?”

            Her hands fidgeted with her paint brush, twirling it around between her fingers. “Can I…. would you and Embry want me…. Is it alright with the two of you if I planned your wedding?”

            I sat facing my painting, but slid her a look out of the corner of my eye. “I thought you already were?” Of course, she had yet to be notified that she was the wedding planner. Embry and I just thought it would be fun to see how long it would take Alice to bring up the topic in conversation.

            “Really?” Her meek voice asked, not sure of my words at all.

            “Of course! Who else has enough time on their hands to plan a wedding with all of the nuances in under two months? Besides, you’re the best of the best at throwing parties right?” I winked at her, letting her know that she was guaranteed to be our wedding planner.

            She started squealing, “I am so excited. If I can’t start planning Bella and Edward’s, at least I can work on yours. We should meet-”

            I had to interrupt her after making a comment like that one. “What? They’re getting married?”

            “Well, not yet. Don’t tell anyone, but I think it’s inevitable. In the meantime, I can work on your wedding. So how involved do you want to be? Do you want to be there for every step? Do both of you want to be making decisions? Or do you want to leave it all to me?”

            “Embry and I have already discussed a few of the larger wedding decisions, but from there on, we will let you do a decent amount of the planning. There are a few rules that cannot be broken. First, the wedding invitations cannot be sent until we formally announce the pregnancy, in May.”

            “Deal. I assumed that would be a stipulation. You don’t want to announce one without the other and you don’t want to announce one until you are far into the pregnancy. Second rule?” She asked, saying the words as if she was taking notes.

            “We must approve the wedding guest list. Most of Embry’s side will be people from the reservation and my side will be your family, my family, and people from school, work, and California. We want to keep the ceremony and the reception intimate so we don’t want to have too big of a guest list. If you want to come over today, Embry and I can list off the people we would like to invite.”

            “No problem. Can I bring Jasper? He wants to see Amy.”

            “Absolutely! You know you are both more than welcome to come over anytime. And I guess you will be coming over a lot more now to plan the wedding. And I thought that you already came over all of the time.”

            “It’s still not enough.” Alice remarked, continuing to add pink brush strokes to her painting. “What are your other rules?”

            “The last few are closer to requests with regards to venue and wedding party. We were hoping that we could have the ceremony on the La Push Beach, where we met. We would like to have the ceremony at sunset, because neither of us want to have a morning ceremony. As for the treaty, Embry said he would talk to Sam in the next few days to try and manage that. Vampires won’t be allowed to come on to the beach until right before the ceremony with the exception of you, to set up the ceremony. We’ve already haggled the help of the wolves to set up the ceremony, so you’ll have all the hands you could need. Would that be doable?”

            Alice simply nodded her head in response, and motioned her hand for me to continue. “We have the wedding party figured out, Embry just has to ask Jacob and Quil to be his best men, and I have to ask Amy to be our flower girl. I also have to ask my bridesmaids if they’ll be in the wedding.” Not looking at Alice, I toyed with her a little bit more. She was on the edge of her seat, waiting for my response. Should I keep her in suspense longer, just for fun? Probably not. Who knows what could happen when a vampire like Alice Cullen doesn’t get what she wants? “Do you think that Bella and Rosalie will be okay walking down the aisle on the arms of Quil and Jacob? I know Bella probably would not mind, but do you think Rosalie would be able to make it down without calling him a dog? Oh, and then there’s the problem of my maid of honor. Do you think you could manage the wedding and still have enough time to slip into a dress before the ceremony starts?”

            She was stunned, speechless. When I mentioned that Rosalie and Bella would be my bridesmaids, the disappointment on her face was heartbreaking. However, the second the words “maid of honor” left my mouth, Alice’s excitement would have shot her through the roof if it were not for the fact that she was still shocked beyond imagination. Playing with her emotions was a cruel thing to do, but if you cannot toy with your best friend’s emotions, whose emotions can you mess with?

            She still was sitting in her seat, not moving an inch. Could vampires go into shock? “Alice? Earth to Alice? Do you think you can manage all of that?”

            She started to come out of her daze, and realized that I still needed her reply. “Of course, I can manage all of that. But—I was just thinking—we are wasting time at school. We should leave now and we can still have enough time to go work on a wedding dress, and with the time constraint, it might be tough, but I am sure I could still fly in your dress with enough time to make alterations.”

            Before I could formulate a response, Alice was already packing up her art supplies. “What do you mean fly in my dress? And stop packing your art supplies away. I have no homework today and Jasper will be spending time with Amy, so I am obligation free. As is Embry, so we can get a good start on wedding plans today, after we finish school.”

            She was still packing up her art supplies and I said the one thing that would make her stop. “If you don’t want to sit down and act like a normal person, I guess I will just have to tell Rosalie instead.”

            Alice froze and contorted her head so that she could make eye contact while still facing her painting. “What are you going to tell Rosalie instead of me?”

            “Oh, nothing. I am sure you are not very interested in what I want the wedding gown to look like. Rosalie will have more interest in that, I am sure.” Another brush stroke or two to complete the painting.

            A minute of pause followed by resignation. With a humph, she sat back on her stool, facing me, not even pretending to continue her art work. “Please, tell me. I promise I will not fly in your wedding dress from Paris, and will just design it here in Forks, if you just tell me what you want. Please. Not being able to see the future because of Embry is killing me. I hate surprises. Will you just spill?” Her words tumbled out one after the other.

            “Slow down there. I promise to tell you if you promise to not ditch school in order to plan my wedding,” and then I thought that there was another even she could ditch school to plan. “Not for my baby shower, not for the graduation party, not for a bachelorette party, and not for a wedding shower. No ditching school for any sort of party planning. I have no problems with you bringing your work to school, but that is vastly different from making yourself look more conspicuous. Especially, now with what is going on in Seattle. It would draw to much attention if you were missing school all of the time. Besides, if I can sit here, craving a chili cheeseburger, then you can sit there and wait to plan.”

            “Deal, now tell me more wedding details so I can get a good idea of this in my head. Not being able to see your wedding is going to slow down the planning process, but it all should still be doable, as long as you tell me the extent of what you want to happen.”

            Finished with my painting, I started to clean my work station as I began speaking of the wedding details. “Everyone will know of the pregnancy, and I will be clearly showing, so both Embry and I decided that we have no problem with a wedding dress that shows my belly. We were thinking floor length, silk, with thick straps, but a sleek look. The rest of it is up to you. Oh, and no heels. Swollen feet could kill the mood if the bride has to sit down for half of the night. I still would like sandals, but no heel, at all. Are we clear, Alice?”

            “Crystal. Now what about the wedding ceremony? You said a beach wedding right? But what about the reception?”

            “Backyard reception at our house. We’ll need Emmett and Jasper to move the jungle gym, but there should be enough space with that out of the way. You can plan the table arrangements and all of that. My only stipulation is that I cook the food. I am going to pull in the help of Sue, Leah, Esme, Emily, and Bella, but I want the food to taste homemade, not fabricated from some caterer. But as for the wedding decorations for the ceremony and reception, there should be nothing too elaborate. I have money that I have saved for this day. It’s minimal but combined with some other savings, it will be enough. However, Embry and I have both decided that we would rather save the majority of the money for the baby, not our wedding. We just want to be married, and we could care less about most of the specifics.”

            “Anything that is ‘extra’ or ‘elaborate’ will be paid for by the Cullen family.” Alice offered, lightly, but with care.

            “Alice, you know I cannot accept that.”

            “You will have to accept it. Think of it as a wedding gift. Besides, you are practically family already, even though Bella and Edward aren’t married yet. It’s only right that your family help you, especially for an occasion such as this. Anything deemed extravagant, will be paid for by us. What would we do with the money? We have accumulated too much over the years. It’s time we circulate it back into the economy.” She finished her own painting with those words and began cleaning her work station, as well. “You and Embry do not even have to accept it, because we are giving it to you regardless.” With that, the bell rang and we were off to our next class.

            This style of conversation continued for the rest of the school day, as we discussed the wedding plans in detail. By lunch, Alice had a decent plan in her head of what the wedding would look like, so she felt at peace enough to wait another hour to plan the guest list. I needed to drive for a chili cheeseburger, pick up Amy from school, and then stop for groceries. Alice said that in order to speed up the process, she would do my grocery shopping on the way to my house from hers, where she would pick up all of her wedding books—why she already had those, I did not want to ask—with designs of gowns, suits, flower arrangements, and cakes to start.

            I just shook my head and laughed as I said goodbye to the gang while they sat down for lunch. Bella smiled my way when she saw my wedding ring. She just winked and I knew she knew. Edward gave a slight head nod that most people thought was a form of “see ya’ later,” when it was really a nod of approval. But he started smirking when Alice said that she would be leaving too. Clearly, he knew the ciaos in store for me.

            Leaving the parking lot, I called Embry’s mom at the diner to see if she could whip up a chili cheeseburger for me. She just laughed in response, wondering why I even had to call anymore, because I had ordered it every day for the past three months, finding that it settled my stomach and cravings. Before hanging up, she ensured me that it was already cooked with fries on the side and that Embry had just walked in to pick it up for me. I told her to have a good day and asked if she could tell Embry I would see him at home. She replied saying, “For you, yes. If anyone else asked I would say no.”

            I hung up the phone with a giggle in my throat. It was another average day, with chaotic Alice, loving Embry, and exhausting wedding plans, all until something shot out in front of my car.

Chapter 9

Treading Lightly

            As something shot across the high way, slow enough to see, quick enough not to see what, I slammed on the brakes. My car screeched to a halt just in time. Luckily today had been fairly dry and I had kept my speed at the speed limit. The combination of that is what allowed my car to stop in time and not hit whatever I saw. But what was that exactly? I bushed my hair out of my eyes to see a pair of black eyes staring back at me. The dark eyes belonged to a girl who could not have been older than sixteen, dressed in clothes dirtier than the forest that surrounded the highway. Before I could blink to clear my eyes, she was gone.

            I rubbed my eyes, and looked back at the road. Is this the pregnancy brain kicking in or was there really a girl standing in the middle of the road? Chalking it up to imagination, I hit the gas and started driving again. Before I knew it, my car pulled into the elementary school parking lot only to see Amy waiting with Seth. Why on Earth was Seth here? And why did it look like Amy had been crying?

            Pulling the keys out of the ignition, I ran to Amy’s side, uncaring that my car blocked the path in the middle of the parking lot. I dropped to my knees so that my eyes were level with Amy’s. Her cheeks were tear stained, but the tears had stopped flowing. “Baby, what’s wrong? What happened?”

            Her sobs started up again as she buried her face in my shoulder, throwing her arms around my neck. She tried to say the words but they were unclear because of her sobs. Her savior, Seth, explained. “At lunch, some girls approached Amy and said she was a loner, with no family. The insults worsened as they said she was homeless and unloved. I could feel her distress, but by the time I showed up, the girls were walking back to class, leaving Amy crying on the swings.”

            “Why didn’t the school call me?” I rubbed smoothing circles on her back, cradling her in my arms.

            “The school doesn’t know. The girls told the teacher that Amy wasn’t feeling well and went to the nurse’s office. The teacher didn’t think anything of it and went back to teaching. I have been with Amy for the past hour, trying to console her.”

            Hearing that my baby sister had been hurt, made me want to scream at the girls or at least punch a wall. I kept my calm; Amy needed me to be there for her now. I could deal with the punks later. “Thank you, Seth. Why don’t we get in the car and I can call the school later? Would that be alright Amy?” Directing the question to her, now that her sobs had quieted.

            “Why did they call me an orphan? Why did the call me homeless? Why did they have to hurt me?” Her words broke my heart and Seth’s as we stood there, unable to provide an answer.

            “Baby, they are just mean girls, who have no idea what they are talking about. First, you’re not homeless. You have a big house with a library and kitchen and jungle gym, don’t you?” She nodded. “Second, there is no way you are a loner. Think about how much time you spend with Jared and Paul and Quil and Jake and Sam and Emily and Kim and Leah. Third, they just don’t know that you have a big, loving family. Mom and dad loved you very much. Rosalie and Emmett love you as their own child, which is why the come over almost every day. Carlisle and Esme think that you are the brightest girl your age. Alice showers you with gifts because that’s how she says ‘I love you.’ Jasper wanted to spend the afternoon with you because he thinks you’re so much fun to be around. Embry loves you like a sister. Lobo loves you just as much as you love him, which I know is a lot. I love you more than all of them combined. And then there’s Seth here, who loves you tons too. Don’t you, Seth?”

            Hearing his cue, Seth stepped up to bat. “I do love you, Amy. More than you could ever imagine. More than anyone has every loved anyone else. What those girls said was mean, but not true. You have more love and family than all of those girls combined. You are the most loved person on the planet.”

            “I am?” She asked, turning her head to see Seth.

            “Yes, you are.” He smiled her way and took her hand into his bigger one. His presence alone seemed to brighten her mood.

            “He’s right, baby. You are the most loved person on this planet, but I have to ask something. Do you want me to go talk to the principal? These girls could be punished for saying those things to you.”

            She paused for a minute to think. “You don’t have to talk to the principal. It would only make them mad and I don’t want to get them into trouble, either. I will just talk to them tomorrow.”

            “You sure?” I wanted to help her, but not if she didn’t want it.

            “Yeah, I am sure. But can I make some cookies for them, as a peace offering?”

            I laughed in joy, at her kindheartedness. “Of course, baby. I am sure Jasper and Seth would both love to help you make cookies. Now why don’t we get in the car and meet Jasper at the house?”

            She nodded in response, a forced smile creeping across her face. Regardless of her bravery, the words still hurt. Saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is miles away from believing it. Amy would survive the words, but the pain was still there—for now. Seth lifted her into his arms and spun her around, causing her to throw her head back in laughter. Seth was Amy’s savior, just as Embry was mine. My little guy—or girl—agreed with a kick. Smiling to myself, I rubbed the spot where he kicked, letting him know I knew. Strolling back to the car, the relief spread to my body. At least Amy was safe and healthy. Seth would cheer her up and so would baking cookies.

            We drove back to the house jamming to Pink’s “Raise Your Glass.” Was there anything better to raise your spirits? We reached our destination in no time at all. Amy rushed into the house with Seth, ready to get cracking on the cookies. I glided past the kitchen, trusting that Amy knew what needed to be done. I headed straight to the garage, not to check paintings, not for a blank canvas, but for family mementos.

            Pulling out a few boxes, I carted the dusty, plastic, storage bins to the living room. I did not need explanations or answers—that’s not why I was going through these—but to see if there was anything they thought of that Embry and I hadn’t yet. Opening the boxes labeled “Wedding,” I knew I would need a tissue box to forge down this path. Not my wedding with Greg—we never made it past the engagement; but my parent’s wedding. A true fairytale. College sweethearts who gave each other all the love they could create. They saved every nickel from the beginning to the end, keeping it for the children, not spending a dime on them, already having all they needed.

            The wedding was a backyard one at his parent’s house in Los Angeles. Her dress had been her mother’s before her, minus the sleeves. Flowing to floor, form fitting up top, jeweled at the bust, it was elegant and tasteful. A twenty-minute ceremony and six hour reception fit their personalities, having close friends and family in attendance, adding up to a total of forty people. Tables crowded around a dance floor. A stage stood against the back fence where a band—taking occasion breaks for a DJ to step in—played live music all night. The ceremony took place on that same stage while everyone sat at their dinner chairs. Soon after, a buffet line was set up and true Italian food filled the stomachs of all in attendance. The album of photographs had page after page of my mom laughing at something my dad said, my dad shoving cake in my mom’s face, my mom smiling as my dad dipped her low on the dance floor. There was true love at that wedding. In that moment, I realized that I wanted the exact same thing; not our wedding to perfectly match theirs, but to have the same amount of passion for life that they had found in each other.

            As tears of joy dripped down my face onto my lap, I felt strong arms wrap around me, a kiss placed on my cheek, preventing the next tear about to fall. His burning cheek rested on mine, warming it. Looking at the mementos, he asked, “your parent’s wedding?”

            “Yeah, they had a backyard wedding. I pulled out the boxes trying to see if there wedding would remind me of something in particular I wanted to see in our wedding.”

            “Do you know what you want in our wedding that they had in theirs?” Turning the page of the scrapbook, he asked the question, already knowing my answer.

            “Love.”

            “Well, it’s a good thing we have plenty of that to spare.” He kissed my lips, and would have deepened the kiss, but the couch separated him from me.

            He groaned at the barrier as I smiled at his frustration. “You know if you wanted to be closer to me, you could just sit on the couch.” I murmured the words around his lips.

            Deciding that my suggestion was a welcomed one, he raced around the couch and slid in next to me. Resting an arm on my shoulders, he snuggled into the couch and looked at my parent’s wedding with me. Lifting out the next item in the box, he pulled out my mom’s wedding veil and slipped it into my hair, throwing the train to flow over the back of the couch. He said one word before kissing me again: “beautiful.”

            Her dress, garter, and shoes were the only items left in that box, so guess which one I pulled out. Lifting the lace up my leg, I tempted Embry to no end, causing him to lick his lips, as if he could already taste me on his tongue. He started to move in for a passionate kiss but was stopped by a knock at the door. He groaned as I hollered, “come in!”

            Alice raced to the living room with vampire speed and Jasper, Rosalie, and Emmett followed at a more human pace, oddly enough. She set her books down on the coffee table and ran to get more. She zoomed in and out of the room as the remaining trio spoke with us.

            “I hope you two know how ecstatic you have made her.” A smile seemed to be plastered across Jasper’s lips.

            “Oh, I think we have an idea.” Embry said, knowing that the pixy would be on a high for months. “We just hope this is not going to affect your life at home, or your family’s.”

            “It will keep her busy enough that everyone else will be able to pick their own clothes for a while. As for me, it will just make me happy to be around her while she is filled with such joy.” Jasper’s smile change to a smirk, as if he had remembered some inside joke. “Speaking of which, where is Amy?”

            “Kitchen, with Seth and Lobo. They’re making cookies. Today, Amy had a run in with a few bullies at school.” Alice stopped moving her books to listen. The mention of bullies caused everyone in the room to growl at the thought of anyone hurting Amy. “I know; I had nearly the same reaction. Physically, she is fine. They did not touch her, but they threw some harsh words and I think it broke her a little. Seth helped her bounce back a bit, but I think she’s going to hurt for a while, even if those girls don’t say anything more. She’s making cookies for the enemy right now, as a peace offering.”

            “What are the girl’s names?” Emmett asked, the gruff lingering in his voice.

            “She didn’t say, but I am sure she’d tell you if you asked. But don’t go hurt those girls; they’re in first grade for Pete’s sake.” I wanted to get even too, but that was not the way to do it.

            “So is Amy! She shouldn’t have to suffer that kind of ridicule in first grade.” Jasper responded with as much temper as Emmett.

            “Hey, you don’t think I want the same thing? But getting the girls in trouble with the school will only increase the taunting. Amy wants to talk to them, reason with them. She hopes the cookies will help. Just let her do it her way and do not physically harm those girls. It will not make you feel any better.” My words were firm, unwavering. “However, the best way to make Amy feel better and to prove those girls wrong is to love her. Say it to her. Show it to her. Do whatever you can to spread the love. Those girls called her an unloved, homeless, loner without a family. The more you prove them wrong, the less impact their words will have on her.”

            “I still think we should scare the poo out of those girls, pardon my language.” Jasper broke out of his usual gentleman persona to voice his opinion.

            “We still have those zombie costumes in storage.” Emmett pondered, allowed, an idea already forming in his mind. “We haven’t gone on a haunt spree in a while. What do you say?”

            “Count me in.” Jasper’s lips turned into an evil smirk. “Alice, Rosalie, you in?”

            “As much as I would love to have the use to use the wedding dress again, Seth is on patrol tonight, so I want to spend the night with Amy. Speaking of whom, you said they’re in the kitchen?” I nodded in response to her question and just gave up on Jasper and Emmett, understanding that was a lost battle.

            “I can see that my presence would only hinder the progress that you’ll make tonight. Have fun though.” Alice said the words to the conspirators, as she continued to cart the last of the wedding books from their car to the coffee table.

            Emmett and Jasper started conspiring on their way to the kitchen as they trailed Rosalie. Alice finished setting the last wedding magazines and cloth swatches on the table before heading back to the car for her notebook.

            “I thought vampires were supposed to have a perfect memory.” Embry whispered into my ear at seeing her notebook.

            “We do, but I like the tradition of it. Wedding planners always have a wedding planner.” Embry and I laughed at her pun, but she didn’t. Apparently this wedding planning business was serious stuff.

            Alice sat in the single across from our love seat. She eyed the garter and I realized that it was still on my leg. Completely embarrassed, I shed the garment and placed it back into the box next to my mother’s shoes and dress. Remembering I also wore the veil, I careful retracted it from my hair and set it next to the other garments.

            Turning to Alice, I smiled, acting is if I had not just been playing dress up. “So, Emb ry and I have been talking for a while what we wanted in our wedding and where. I already told you all of the locational information. So I guess we really just need to tell you the guest list, because I am taking care of the food and you’re taking care of the rest.” The thought of food made my stomach growl.

            Embry reached behind the couch we were sitting on and pulled out a greasy bag of food. “I almost forgot to give you your chili cheese burger. Sorry, baby?”

            “Sorry? You have nothing to be sorry for, especially because you just made me love you even more.” I opened the bag and the wave of grease hit me, relieving the nausea I didn’t know I had, and causing my hunger to grow much more. I kissed Embry on the cheek and then began to pull out a napkin and the burger. I draped the napkin across my lap and motioned for Alice to continue with the wedding planning.

            As I bit into the burger, the spices of the chili sparked appetite but appeased my hunger. Alice began to speak. “So Embry, why don’t we talk about your guest list? You don’t need to provide addresses, I just need names.

            “My mom; Jacob, Rachel, and Billy Black; Paul; Jared and Kim; Emily and Sam; Seth, Leah, and Sue; Brady; Collin; and Quil and Claire.” He ticked of each person on his fingers to make sure he included everyone.

            I took my last bite of the burger just as Embry finished his list. Alice motioned for me to continue with my side. “Amy and Lobo; Charlie and Bella; Carlisle, Esme, Edward, Emmett, Rosalie, Jasper, and of course you; Renée and Phil; Angela and Ben; Mike; Jessica; Lauren and Derik; Cora, our art teacher; Jonesy who own the tattoo parlor—I have his address if you can’t find it; Daniel Stuart, Greg’s dad—“

            “Are you sure you want to invite him?” Alice asked, knowing my past with Greg better than most.

            “He always said that I was like a daughter to him, that even after Greg died and I had moved on to someone new, he wanted to be there for me. He said that Greg would want me to move on and he just wanted to be there for me when that happened. I want Daniel there. He’s someone from my past who I want to be there. It’s not just that he was Greg’s dad, he’s the only person besides Amy who I still have a strong connection to from my life in California. I can’t explain it, but I need him to be there.”

            “Whatever you want. I just needed to assure that you wanted him there. Is there anyone else?”

            The last person on my guest list immediately popped into my head as Alice was finishing the guest list. “The last person I would like to invite to my wedding is Marcus Volturi.”

            Alice’s jaw dropped in astonishment. She was truly surprised for the first time in her life. “Are you crazy? You want to invite the Volturi to your wedding on Quileute lands? Have you lost your ever loving mind?” Alice’s protest brought everyone else into the room.

            “Calm down, Alice. I’m not inviting the big three, their significant others, and the entire guard. I am only inviting Marcus, and he is allowed to bring one guest, which will probably be one of the guard for his protection. He and I have been e-mailing since the Italy incident. He is interested in my work and I am interested in his history. We have become good friends, and he has expressed interest in meeting Embry, for the sake of knowing to whom I am giving myself, not because of Embry’s wolf heritage.

            “You saw him in Italy. He was the most apathetic of the Volturi, and he only showed any interest when Edward and Bella’s love, my and Embry’s love, and my artwork came up in conversation. Don’t you see? He has lost his life love and because of his power he is reminded of his lost love when he sees our strong love for each other. My art that he loves so much is from right after I met Embry, when I had fallen hard for him. Marcus is a helpless romantic, who lost his soul mate apparently many centuries ago, and is practically suicidal and apathetic now. Aro and Caius at least travel outside of their castle every few decades: Marcus hasn’t left since his Didyme died. If he cares enough to come to our wedding that shows that the Volturi not only has a weak link but that we also could have a strong ally in Marcus. What if their stipulation with Bella goes to hell? What if something else goes wrong with what’s going on in Seattle and the Volturi have to intervene, would it not be better to have Marcus partial to what we do, rather than against it?

            “Besides, he has become a good friend of mine. Just send the wedding invitation to him, and when the time comes he might not even come.”

            Alice groaned and turned to Jasper. “Can you reason with her that this would be a bad idea?”

            “Actually, I am sorry, Alice, but I have to agree with Abby on this one. It would be more beneficial to have Marcus on our side than not. Besides, from what Carlisle has told me, Marcus lost his wife Didyme and never knew what truly caused her death, then was forced to stay with the Volturi because he felt a tie to them, which Carlisle knew to be fabricated by Chelsea. Marcus apparently wanted to leave the Volturi centuries ago, but never did after Didyme died. If we could persuade him away from them, he could be the best asset ever if the poo hits the fan. Pardon my language, ladies.” Jasper’s tactical mind could see the benefits of Marcus’ friendship with me.

            Alice groaned in frustration. “But I won’t be able to see with all of the wolves, so it will be even harder to prevent catastrophe. And how do you expect Sam to allow Marcus on the reservation when he does in fact drink human blood. He’s only letting us on the reservation for your wedding, and we don’t even drink human blood. How on earth are you going to persuade Sam?”

            “He owes me, big time. First, I have helped solve a problem between you guys and the wolves, and I am sure there will be more to come. Second, I am the reason Leah hasn’t torn his head off, yet. Third, I am also the reason she is out of his basement and is now a functioning member of society. Lastly, Emily and I are pretty close. I am sure I could convince her to convince him to let it happen. The wedding is only going to last twenty minutes. We don’t want or need an hour long ceremony. Besides, Embry and I have already cleared it with Jake and Billy, who both hold more authority over Sam, even if they don’t use it. But they could and that is the point. Sam will agree because there is too much against him to not allow it. Don’t worry. Marcus isn’t going to do anything. He is too much of an apathetic man to care.”

            Alice continued to moan. “This is all going to go horribly wrong I can feel it.”

            I tried to calm her worries with one last effort. “Alice, you worry about the wedding and I will worry about Marcus. Deal?”

            “Fine. But this is only because you are even letting me plan your wedding.” She submitted with a grumble and continued to take notes. “Anything else you have already talked about?”

            “We know how we want our wedding party to be.” I turned my head to face Embry’s resolute jaw and smiled as he listed the names.

            “Jake and Quil are sharing the title of best man, because there is no reason I should decide between the two of them. And I have already asked Billy to preside over the wedding. It will all be official, being that he is ordained.” Embry had already done so much talking to everyone down on the reservation to ensure that our wedding could actually happen. I wasn’t even sure how he had time between running patrols, going to school, picking up food for me, and spending time with Amy and me.

            “And I already told you about the bridesmaid situation. But don’t tell anyone cause I still have to ask them if they will be in the wedding party. And I still have to ask a certain someone if he will give me away. But I want to do it at an appropriate time, so I will let you know on Friday if dinner goes over well this Thursday. Remember, everyone is coming over this Friday to talk about the Victoria/new vampire situation, so not too much wedding talk, because I don’t want it to overshadow the seriousness of the meeting.”

            “Fine, so we will just have to get going on it today. What colors or theme did you guys have in mind?”

            Embry looked down at me terrified. His expression said, can a wedding have a theme? I just squeezed his hand in assurance and took the reins. “No theme in mind. But we would prefer to be theme-less. We would like a powdered, baby-blue color for the dresses, ties, and a beach theme for the decorations and table settings. I have already looked into it a little bit so I will bring down my book of decorations that I liked. But I don’t want any table decorations that prevent people from seeing or conversing with someone on the opposite side of the table. All of it needs to be short enough that it doesn’t crowd. Let me go get the book.” I started to get off of the couch until Embry said he would get it. He gently shifted me off of his lap before placing me on the couch beside where we were lounging. He left a kiss on my forehead before taking long strides up the stairs to our bedroom. He knew exactly where I kept the binder of different decorations. It was one of the things we had worked on together. There was a book of how we wanted the wedding and a book of how we wanted the baby’s room. The wedding book was of course much larger and closer to being finished, whereas the baby book was barely started because we didn’t know the gender yet.

            “Alice, this book had all of the information you will need to plan our wedding, including the names and numbers of guests. Anything that is not in the book is up to you to decide. The only thing Embry and I haven’t decided on is the cake and the food. Tiffany is going to lead the cooking and Esme is hopefully going to be doing the cake. I haven’t asked Esme yet, but Embry’s mom already said yes. So don’t say a word until I can ask Esme on Wednesday.”

            “Do you honestly think I would say something?” She rolled her eyes and continued to take notes.

            “Of course not! But I don’t know how much you can see with Embry being so involved, so if I tell you then I can be sure. Come on, Alice, have a little faith that I have faith in you.” That moment, Embry walked into the room carrying the binder of clippings, print-outs and notes we had collected to plan our wedding. He handed it over to her, and within two seconds she was scanning the pages and finished in less than a minute. “This is so extensive, that I will probably only ask you guys for anymore help to pick a cake, test the food, fit you for your tuxedo and gown, and to practice the ceremony a few days before. I’ll start working on all of this tonight.” She smiled with a bit too much glee as she stored the binder and her notes in the top of her bag.

            “Should we go test some of those cookies?” Embry asked, offering me a hand. I nodded and—with Embry’s help—lifted myself off of the couch. The three of us wandered to the kitchen where a flour fight had broken out. Embry quickly shielded me from a batch that Jasper had thrown, but I was still hit by a puff of flour as Amy threw a fistful at my backside.

            “This means war.” My words resonated in the kitchen as the hollering, yelling, and shouts continued, while I grabbed a fist of flour out of the enormous sack and threw it at Rosalie. She ducked and it hit Seth instead. From there is continued until the flour had been emptied from the sack and could be seen on nearly every other surface. We all sat in a circle on the floor laughing at our silliness after an hour of vicious battle.

            Our group of eight cleaned up the mess and then we all said goodbye to each other so that we could clean ourselves. Rosalie made a promise to be back in an hour after she had showered. Alice left with her wedding books and excitement oozing from her pores at the thought of event planning. In reality, she was planning not just one event (a wedding), but four more (graduation celebration, wedding shower, bachelorette party, and baby shower); and that was if you didn’t count the fact that Edward and Bella would be getting married soon after us—even if they didn’t know it yet. Alice would be busy for a while. Emmett and Jasper said goodnight only before heading off to find their zombie costumes. Seth left for patrol, but only after forcing Amy to promise him that if she needed him, she would call for him; no matter is she needed him tonight or any other night, for any reason, she would yell for him, and he would come running.

            Embry didn’t have patrol tonight, so he stayed and helped me get the flour out of my hair. I am sure I could have done a decent job, but Embry insisted that only he would be able to get the part on the top of my head. I trusted that only he could be capable of the task of washing my hair, as he shampooed me from the top down. As we stepped out of the shower, I heard the phone ringing and rushed to pick it up before it went to voicemail. It was Bella.

            Edward had finished explaining to her all that had happened over the weekend. “Are you okay? Are you sure that vampire didn’t do anything to you?”

            A giggle slipped from my lips as I brushed off her worry; I had enough of Embry’s to last me eternity. With the phone pressed to my ear, I settled into the pillows on my bed. I watched Embry change into a pair of sweatpants as I relaxed, already wearing my own shirt and sweat-shorts. I admonished Bella’s worries as I felt none in me. “I’m fine, Bella. Don’t worry about me. Worry about you. Did Edward tell you about the meeting on Friday?”

            “Yeah, he did. I was actually calling to make sure I was allowed to come.” Her voice sounded insistent, but only to the point where she felt assured that she wasn’t being left out of the loop.

            “Of course you’re invited. You’re the reason why this meeting is happening this Friday, instead of this past weekend. Just make sure that you and Edward show up at five, and I’ll be sure that the wolves don’t eat all of the food.” With the mention of the wolves, Embry walked across the room in two large strides, and began to tickle me, signaling that any mockery of his brothers would not be tolerated. “Okay, the big bad wolf has warned me that any insults towards his pack will not be accepted, so instead let me ask you, are we still on for dinner Thursday?”

            “I’m still coming. Your house at five?” She asked for assurance.

            “Yup. See you then.”

            “See you tomorrow. Goodnight, Abby. Say hi to Embry for me.” Bella said her parting words, thinking she was being so cute by mocking me for having Embry over.

            Two can play that game. “And say hi to Edward and Charlie for me. Goodnight, Bella.” And I hung up the phone before she could formulate a reply.

            I turned to Embry and said, “Bella says hello.” He laughed, having heard the whole conversation anyways, and didn’t need me to repeat it.

            “I’m sure she does. So Edward explained it all to her?” Embry’s honest curiosity was a commonality I had found persistent in our conversations.

            “It sounds like it. And anything he didn’t explain will come up on Friday. He can protect her as much as he wants, but that can only happen if she wants that protection he is providing. I hope that he can learn to work with her stubbornness rather than against it.”

            “Me, too.” Embry agreed, kissing my lips. We would have continued kissing but it was dinner time, and Rosalie had just shown up with a meal I hadn’t been expecting.

            Rosalie laid out food that Esme had made earlier in the day. Esme had made it in case I was too tired to make a meal, and had luckily guessed right. Rosalie warmed up the lasagna in the oven with the seasoned asparagus, before adding a vinaigrette to the green salad. I thanked Rosalie and asked her to pass on the gratitude to Esme. Amy came down stairs just then and smiled at Rosalie before running into her arms for a hug. The four of us sat down to dinner, and with the exception of Rosalie, ate the meal in comfortable companionship. Rosalie and Amy went to Amy’s room to play dress up as Lobo trailed at their feet. Embry and I washed the dishes and headed back to bed. We fell asleep just minutes after settling in between the sheets. 

Chapter 10

Another Detail

            The next day started normally and continued into the afternoon with ease. The whole crowd came over again as usual. Esme cooked dinner for Amy, Seth, Embry and me. Carlisle had a late shift at the hospital so he couldn’t come over until later. Alice was working on wedding plans as she typed away on her laptop. Jasper and Emmett recounted to me and Embry how their scaring tactics worked on the bullies. They warned the girls that if they didn’t come clean with Amy they would eat their brains, as zombies are known to do. Rosalie, Seth, and Amy played fetch with Lobo in the backyard. We all joined them as steak and potatoes cooked in the oven.

            The only surprise of the day was Leah walking out from the forest. It was a welcome surprise nonetheless. She asked me if I minded her spending the night on the couch. I told her it wasn’t a problem as Esme went into the kitchen to add another steak and potato to the already cooking batch. We threw a Frisbee around until Carlisle joined the group. Our quirky family moved to the kitchen where the omnivores ate dinner and the carnivores sat around, making pleasant conversation. After dinner, the house slowly emptied until Seth, Amy, and Lobo were asleep upstairs, Esme and Carlisle were washing the dishes, Embry was leaving for patrol, and Leah and I were setting up the couch downstairs with sheets, blankets, and a pillow.

            After the couch was made up for Leah to sleep on, I sat down with her ready to talk about what had happened. “What’s going on?”

            The tension in Leah’s shoulders dissipated as the worlds rolled from her tongue. “Being back in my mom’s house was fine. Until Sam stopped by today to tell me that I wasn’t allowed to go so far off of the reservation.  I had been taking excessively long runs all the way to the US/Canada border. It had been one of the things to give me a sense of freedom lately. He didn’t even provide an explanation when I asked why. And then when I refused to stop taking my runs, he made it a direct order, one that I can’t break. I barely made it out of the house before I went wolf. I just needed to spend the night off of the reservation tonight.”

            “Leah, stay as long as you’d like. You’re practically family, with what has been going on with Seth. Even if he hadn’t imprinted on Amy, you would still be welcome anytime. On a different note, if you need some freedom, Carlisle and Esme are here and I think they would like to talk to you if I am not mistaken.”

            With those words, Carlisle and Esme walked into the room, caring smiles plastered on their faces. They sat down on the love seat across from the longer couch. Esme spoke first. “I know that Abby has already offered, but I wanted to tell you myself. You are more than welcome to stay at our house anytime you wish. We have extra rooms and no treaty laws will be broken if you stayed with us, because a female wolf was never even considered when the treaty was originally written. So you can come and go as long as you’d like, without Sam knowing, as long as our smell doesn’t bother you too much.”

            Leah snorted at the comment about the smell, and then excused herself and corrected our assumptions. “I can stand your smell far better than I can tolerate being so close to Sam. I’d like to take you up on that offer soon, because I don’t know how much longer I can spend on the reservation before I go wolf right in front of my mom or in our house, if you’re sure that I won’t be a bother.” Her trepidation was because she didn’t want to intrude, not because she would be intruding on vampires.

            Esme dissolved some of Leah’s fears, as she had the tendency to do. “It won’t be a trouble at all. In fact, it will be nice to have someone in the house to talk to while Carlisle is at work and the kids are all wreaking havoc on the town.” She smiled at an inside joke, before turning her softened smile towards Carlisle. “And now if I am not mistaken, you have something to discuss with my husband?”

            Even though Esme motioned to Carlisle begin, he left it to Leah to initiate the conversation. He knew, as well as I, that Leah needed to approach the topic on her own, before she could ever come to terms with the topic. It took a few steadying breaths before Leah could speak. I squeezed her knee in reassurance, and with a bit of support, she began to talk. “It has been a fear of mine, ever since I phased, that I won’t be able to have a child. Or that I am not even completely woman now.”

            “Why is that, my dear?” Carlisle asked, his brow furrowing in concern for her physical health and self-esteem. Carlisle knew far better than anyone else what it was like to be at war with who you were fundamentally, and not being able to comprehend the situation, let alone being capable to accept it.

            “I haven’t had my period since I phased, and a female wolf has never existed before, so I thought there could be something wrong with my genetics.” Leah spoke the words with trepidation, her voice shaking, until Carlisle squelched those fears.

            “From my understanding, there haven’t ever been this many wolves before either, so it may be more of a genetic anomaly, not genetic disturbance, that is causing you to be a wolf.” Carlisle’s brain was kicking into doctor mode, maintaining a level of curiosity while comforting the patient.

            “That’s what Abby said,” Leah submitted in resignation. “I just don’t understand why all of this is happening to me,” Leah moaned, burying her face in her hands. She could have cried and would have if she had any more tears left to shed. The damn had broken long ago.

            Carlisle started speaking, after her moaning had quieted down, for he understood she needed to vent. “If you don’t mind, Leah, I could run some tests on your blood, as well as perform a physical exam, to see what may or may not be preventing you from exhibiting a natural cycle. I will most likely need a control though to compare your blood samples. Do you think your brother would be willing to go through an exam as well?” Carlisle continued his line of questioning, gearing up for scientific discovery.

            An unexpected voice entered the conversation. “I don’t mind.” Seth’s words caused our heads to whip around towards the stairs.

            “I thought you were asleep.” Leah whispered, but what she meant was ‘I thought you wouldn’t have to hear this and see me breaking down.’

            “I couldn’t sleep when I overheard the conversation.” He answered Leah’s unspoken with a soft glance, saying: ‘I knew you were hurting, and I can’t bear it anymore.’ He finished coming down the stairs before turning to Carlisle. “I want to give you my DNA to give my sister a peace of mind. She doesn’t deserve not having answers.”

            Carlisle nodded in affirmation. “Of course. When would be best for you both to stop by our house?”

            “We’re not doing this at the hospital?” Seth asked, his eyebrow quirking with his own spiked curiosity.

            “If I took your temperature and blood pressure and heart rate, which are all probably off the charts, and another doctor or nurse saw it, they would start raising questions left and right. That would expose all of us in a matter of minutes. No, I prefer to do my own testing. So when do either of you have free time?” Carlisle explained matters easily, having already had a few hundred years to ponder the consequences.

            “I can come over tomorrow, after I run patrol. Is five o’clock alright?” Seth posed the question, with more fear than confidence. He had spent time with vampires all of the time because of Amy’s connection with the Cullens. What did he have to fear?

Carlisle gave a slight nod, feeling that would be fine. “It will be a quick procedure. I just need to do a basic evaluation on your health and take a blood sample. I promise it will barely hurt.” Seth let out a breath of relief. Seth had a fear of needles, it seemed. Even after his own nod of confirmation, Seth stayed, still feeling he was the child, and needed permission before being excused.

            “Seth, it’s late. Why don’t you head back to bed and I’ll be sure that you and Amy get a good breakfast in the morning?” I gave Seth his escape and he left the room in a flash, defusing the room of tension.

            “Can I come over tomorrow with some of my belongings to move in? And then I can go through the tests whenever you’re available?” Again, Leah’s voice was laced with a different nervousness than Seth’s voice had.  She was nervous for the procedure’s results, not the procedure itself. Nonetheless, Carlisle gave his response understanding that nothing he could say would ease her mind, until he had results.

            “I will be home at four, because today’s shift was longer and we always close early on Wednesdays. Shall I do your exam at four and follow up with your brother’s a five?” By giving Leah a question she could answer, instead of providing a command, Carlisle was giving Leah power. Power to help her gain confidence for what was to come.

            “That sounds perfect.” And with her response, a tension eased from her shoulders. Having a future Leah could rely on, she relaxed enough to sense the exhaustion weighing down on her. Her yawn spurned my yawn. Carlisle and Esme excused themselves and thanked me for the company, being polite as always.

            I locked up the house and said goodnight to Leah, before heading upstairs. Too tired to do much else, I slipped out of my clothes, into a maternity nightgown, and slipped into bed. With my hand resting on my baby bump, I fell asleep to thoughts of a definite future.

            And then the week continued with family every day after that. Wednesday, I drove with Amy to the Cullen house. I wanted to check up on Leah to see how she was settling into the vampire den. As I pulled up into the driveway, Esme opened the front door with her warm smile. She had an apron on and was whisking away at something in a metal bowl. As Amy and I walked up to her, I could smell the chocolate and realized Esme was in the middle of cooking a chocolate cake. Amy smiled, said hello, and ran upstairs to go find Emmett and Rosalie. Esme and I wandered into the kitchen where she had everything out to bake her confection from scratch. I sat down on a barstool at the island. Esme continued to whisk ingredients into her bowl as I spoke.

            “How did move in go? Is Leah adjusting?”

            “At first, she couldn’t stand the smell for more than ten minutes at a time. Now, she said she can handle it. I think that as her own scent spreads through the house and her room, it will help dilute our scent for her.” She added another egg. “Other than that, I was shocked at how few possessions she brought with her. She said it was everything, but she barely had any clothes: two pairs of pants, two shorts, three t-shirts, one bra, a few panties, no socks, and one pair of sneakers.”

            “Alice is going to have a field day.” We both laughed at bit at my comment, before Esme continued with her concern.

            “She had a framed family photo and a few books. The only toiletries she had were a hairbrush, toothpaste, and toothbrush. I am just concerned she has no physical possessions to help ground her when people aren’t there to support her.” Esme’s brow furrowed with worry.

            “Which is why we will be there to support her. Besides, this will give you the opportunity to go shopping with her. Didn’t you tell me that the room would need redecorating?”

            “Well, yes. And it is more along the lines of decorating, rather than redecorating. That room was stark naked, aside from a bed with sheets.” Esme not only held concern for Leah’s wellbeing, but also that the state of the room made it appear that the Cullens weren’t being gracious hosts.

            “Esme, don’t worry so much. Leah already thinks the world of you for taking her in like this. She will be happy to just stretch her legs and be free from Sam’s constraint.” My words put Esme at ease.

            She began to pour the cake batter into a tin, and I was reminded of my second reason for coming to visit the Cullens. “Esme, I have an ulterior motive for coming to see you today, and I hope you don’t mind.”

            “Not at all, dear. What it is?” She slipped the tin into the oven with her back turned towards me.

            I waited to ask, until she was facing me again. “You know that Embry and I will be getting married in early July, and I was hoping that you would be able to bake our wedding cake. If not, I completely understand, and we can go find a bakery that will do it for us, but I know you are so good with baking, and detail, and I wanted to ask you first. Especially because I know you would do the best job. So could you?” I felt like I was rambling, nervous because she wouldn’t say yes.

            “Oh, I’d thought you would never ask. I had already started thinking about it a bit, but was worried you wouldn’t ask me to bake it for you.” A smiled brightened her face as she glided around the kitchen, replacing her ingredients where they belonged. “What did you and Embry have in mind for your cake?”

            “Alice has the binder of everything we had thought about for our wedding, but the stuff we talked about for a cake is very minimal. We really have no idea what kind of flavors we want or anything like that.”

            “Why don’t you and Embry come over on Saturday, and we can test out some samples to see what you guys prefer?” Esme offer was laced with enthusiasm. I could see she was starting to make a mental list of all the different cakes she wanted to try.

            “Would it be okay if Jake and Quil come too? Embry has already asked them to be the best men, but they demanded that they be allowed to help decide on the wedding cake. I think they just want free food.”

            “I’m sure they do, but I’ll be sure there is enough cake for all four of you to taste test. Don’t worry.”

            Esme and I continued to talk wedding until Leah came down at four-thirty. She looked on edge as she sidled up in a barstool next to mine. Esme and I gave each other skeptical glances before I asked the question.

            “What’s got you so worked up?”

            “I just finished the procedure with Carlisle and I am just…stressed. What if I really can’t have children?” She groaned, throwing her face into her palms.

            “Leah, breathe and calm down. Stress isn’t going to help you get back on a normal menstrual cycle. You need to relax. You should take up yoga or something.” I rubbed her back in a circular motion the way I did to comfort Amy.

            Her head perked up at the mentioning of yoga. “Does that stuff actually work?”

            Esme gave her own words of wisdom. “I tried it back when I couldn’t control my urge to feed. It worked wonders to calming my thirst and balancing the strong emotions I was feeling as a newborn. In fact, I still do yoga every morning. I have an extra mat, if you would like to do yoga with me.”

            “I would love to. Thank you, Esme, for everything.” Leah’s words meant more if you could understand the emotional distraught she had been experiencing.

            “It’s my pleasure.” The oven sounded with a ding, signaling the cake had finished. Esme slid it out of the oven, placing it on hot pads on the granite counter. The chocolate aroma drifted towards Leah and me, and we both moaned simultaneously. Esme was a wizard in the kitchen.

            After a few minutes of letting the cake cool, Esme whipped out the frosting and ice cream. She evenly coated the cake in a whipped, vanilla frosting before cutting us slices to go with chocolate-chip-cookie dough ice cream. Without words, Leah and I consumed Esme’s confection, letting the ice cream melt in our mouths simultaneously as the cake dissolved on our taste buds.

            By the time we finished our pieces, Amy skipped into the kitchen with Rosalie and Emmett. Esme dished up a slice for Amy, before Amy could even ask for a piece. Emmett lifted Amy into her own barstool so she could eat. We all talked for a while about nothing of great importance. The simplicity of being surrounded by family was enough to satisfy the lack of topical discussion.

            However, Amy broke up that all by interjecting her own desires. “Can we watch The Lion King tomorrow night?”

            “Of course, we can. Rosalie, Emmett, are you still coming over for dinner tomorrow night?” I asked, needing to confirm that I would be able to reveal my secrets.

            “Absolutely! First, I love any chance to make Bella squirm without Edward around. Second, I still haven’t seen The Lion King, because it was further down on my movie queue.” Emmett looked so thrilled to be watching The Lion King that I was shocked he hadn’t seen it, because once he had he would love it even more.”

            I said the words just out of reflex. “Hey Amy, are you achin’… for some bacon?”

            “You could be a big pig too.”

            “Ughh.” We both grunted, after throwing our one liner towards each other. Timon had a sense of humor in the movie that would get Amy and me rolling on the floor, trying to fight our giggles. However, it was more that we would start laughing at each other laughing that the laughing would continue for a good five minutes. In this case, we just smirked at our little inside joke, knowing that Timon dressing in drag to do the hula could make a marble statue smirk.

            Emmett just looked confused at the reference and I could see that he almost wanted to move the movie watching to tonight. Before Emmett could voice his idea, Seth knocked on the glass door, leading from the backyard to the kitchen. Esme let him in and told him Carlisle would be in his study upstairs. With a slight thank you, Seth gave Leah a brave, barely-there smile and headed upstairs. Rosalie diffused the tension in the kitchen by asking Leah a simple, unexpected question.

            “So, Leah, how are you going to decorate your room?” Rosalie’s considerate side was showing.

            “I thought the room was decorated.” Leah almost tilted her head down to hide her shyness and shame, as she whispered the words.

            “Heavens no, that room is more naked than a new born baby. I was going to ask you if you wanted to go into town tomorrow to buy materials to decorate it.” Esme offered, her voice transitioning from shocked to caring.

            “You have already done too much. Besides, I wouldn’t know how to decorate it.” Leah had no idea what she was getting into with the Cullen Family. Esme would be decorating her room, Alice would be buying her clothes, Carlisle was already doing research for her well-being, and Rosalie would be helping her with hair and make-up before the week had ended. Hell, by next week, Jasper and Edward would be taking her car shopping while Emmett offered to wrestle and hunt with her.

            “We have barely done anything. Besides, if you will be living here, we have to make sure that your room is actually a good representation of you and makes you feel comfortable. We can look through my decorating books, paint swatches, and material samples to get a feel for what to buy tomorrow. If you want of course.” Esme wanted Leah to feel comfortable, but didn’t want to push her overboard, before she had even been in the house for twenty-four hours.

            “That would be really nice, thank you. But I am not sure how I could repay you.” Leah seemed uncomfortable with the idea of money and energy being spent on her for nothing in return.

            “I have already said that your companionship during the day while everyone else is out would be all that I need. Besides, I like projects and room decorating will at least keep me busy for a few days. But if it makes you feel better, you can help me with house chores. I have been trying to clear out some of the trees in the backyard to make room for a garden for doing yoga. You could help me with that.” Only a mother could know that the best way to have Leah feel comfortable would be to give her a task of repentance.

            “I would love to help with that. Thank you.” Leah stood up to clear her plate and mine, but nearly dropped the plates in the sink when she heard Carlisle and Seth coming into the kitchen laughing at some private joke.

            “What has you two laughing so hard?” I spoke and was met with absolute silence from both of them. They gave each other a sideways glance before bursting out into fits of laughter.

            I looked at the clock hanging above the sink and realized it was seven o’clock. Hopping off of the barstool, I looked to thank Esme for the food but she was already at the refrigerator door pulling out a pan of something covered in foil.

            “It’s getting late, and I am sure you and Amy must be getting home soon; but here is some baked macaroni and cheese for you to heat up for dinner.” Esme came over to hand the pan to me.

            “Thank you, Esme, for the cake and dinner. I’ll see you on Friday, if not tomorrow.” I kissed her on the cheek and gave her a one-armed hug as I held the tray in my other arm.

            Seth lifted Amy from the barstool and did a spin with her in his arms, forcing her to burst out into giggles. Emmett stole Amy from Seth’s arms to give her his own hug and kiss before passing the girl on to Rosalie who did much of the same. The goodbyes continued until Amy, Seth, and I had given everyone some sort of parting farewell. I barely notice Seth whispering something to Leah before giving her a heart-wrenching, brotherly hug.

            I gave Leah my own goodbye and hug, telling her, “if you need anything, don’t hesitate in asking the Cullens or giving me a call.”

            She nodded and thanked me in return. Seth, Amy, macaroni and cheese, and I left the house in my car, with Amy snuggled into Seth’s side in the back seat and the mac and cheese sitting comfortably in the passenger seat.

            “Seth, what did you tell Leah as we left, if you don’t mind me asking?” I looked in my rearview mirror, staring at him, as I said this.

            “I told her that Sam was holding a pack meeting tomorrow night in preparation for Friday. It will be very low-key but Sam told me to tell Leah, after what happened in the house the other day. I also said that I would back her up in anything she decided to tell Sam, whether she keeps the new living arrangement from him or not. I also said that I would always back her up, no matter what and no matter how far into the future she needs me.” He said the words, his eyes focused instead on Amy’s hand that he held in his.

            “That was very generous of you.” I remarked, but hopped he would continue his explanation.

            “No it’s not. If my dad where here, she would be standing firm against Sam and dad would be supporting her. But he’s not. I should have fought harder with her from the moment we phased. It wasn’t until last night that I realized how out of control this whole thing has gotten and her without my supporting her. I have supported her, but not enough that she knows it, and she needs a solid support system right now, if nothing else.”

            “I am glad that you are supporting her, and what do you think if I hung out near the meeting tomorrow and made a surprise appearance if she needed it, because I am one of the few people not bounded by Sam’s rules.”

            A devilish grin spread across Seth’s face. “I think that would be an excellent idea, but how would you know when to intervene?”

            “You and I can have a phone call going during the meeting, but have the phone hidden. That way I can hear the entire meeting and know whether or not I should intervene.”

            “But Leah doesn’t always speak her mind until she blows. So how do I signal to you that she is getting agitated?”

            “You could hang up the cell phone.” Amy interjected, providing a little bit of wisdom to the conversation.

            “Perfect. Great thinking, Amy. What time is the meeting tomorrow?” I needed to know the details, to see if I could still squeeze in dinner with Rosalie, Emmett, and Bella.

            “Ten o’clock. At Emily’s house. I have no idea why she continually volunteers her house for these things. Somebody is going to go wolf during a meeting someday and then her living room is going to get destroyed, if not her entire house.” Seth’s observation was a good one, but I had a decent explanation.

            “Maybe she volunteers it because you all are much less likely to go wolf for the fear of ruining her house, instead of it being Sam’s house or one of your own. If it was one of your homes, you all would care much less about going wolf and damaging your own living room.”

            “I guess that makes sense.”

            There was silence for another minute or so as I drove down the winding road, heading closer and closer to the populated part of Forks. But then, just like before, something shot across my line of sight and I managed to break just in time to see the same girl staring back at me. The only difference? Her eyes were no longer black, but red.

Chapter 11

Ears and Eyes

            The red eyes stared back into my own, and just as before, I blinked and she was gone. The only affirmation I had that she had existed at all was the fact that Seth was panting harshly, rapidly, trying to control his urge to shift. Amy whispered soft words to him, and slowly he calmed down.

            “I should go track her, or at least report this to Sam.” Seth submitted, almost as a whisper.

            “No, you shouldn’t.” The words rolled of my tongue effortlessly, but the strength in my voice broke no argument…almost.

            “And why not? Isn’t it my duty to protect everyone on the reservation, and Forks if I can help it, from those bloodsuckers?” His bark was worse than his bite, if he had any bite at all.

            “Or course, but you saw how young she is. She is about your age, and clearly she has no one to guide her. Would you end her life, which has barely begun, all because she had no knowledge that there is another way?”

            Seth sighed with resignation. He knew I was right. “Then what would you have me do?”

            “Keep it a secret. I will bring it up during the meeting on Friday, which will start to conclude whatever is going on with all of these newborn vampires. And the fact that she has not attacked me either time tells me that she still has some of her own control.”

            “Wait, you have seen her before?”

            “The day I came to pick up Amy from school on Monday, just as I was driving, she shot across the middle of the road just like she did now. The only difference is that her eyes were black, so she has fed since then. But I was practically a feast laid before her last time, and she could have easily fed on me, yet she didn’t. That says something for her control. We will keep this a secret between the three of us until the time comes to do something about all of the newborns in Seattle. Deal?”

            “Deal.”

            “Deal.” Amy said after Seth, confirming that we could keep this on the down low.

            I drove as fast as I could back to the house. I sent Amy and Seth to go wash up. The took individual showers and by the time I had finished heating up the macaroni and cheese, they had finished. As the three of us sat down to dinner, Embry came strolling in the back door, slipping on a clean shirt, in addition to his shorn jeans.

            His trademark, heart-melting grin slid my way as he walked through the kitchen, grabbing himself a plate and table setting, before sitting at my side.

            “It smells delicious, and I don’t just mean the mac and cheese.” His quick wink would have been missed if I wasn’t so in tuned with his personality.

            “Well, you have Esme to thank for dinner. Everyone dig in please.”

            We dished out our helpings and devoured Esme’s generosity, leaving only a Pyrex with some browned cheese around the edges. All four of us sat back in our chairs, rubbing our full stomachs, mine fuller than most. As I absentmindedly rubbed circles on my belly, I wondered how Leah was fairing on her first night in a vampire coven house—would she even get any sleep or would Emmett keep asking to wrestle? The later seemed to be most likely, but then my mind strayed to the other wolves in the pack who felt lost. Well, only one wolf. Jacob. His heart had not fared well in Edward coming back. He could feel the romantic distance between him and Bella, but I could tell part of him was still hanging onto the hope. Where he derived that hope, I will have no idea. I could only hope that he found love in someone else before it tore him apart.

            “Baby, what are you thinking about? I can practically see the gears turning in your head.” Embry gathered my left hand in his and brushed kisses across my knuckles, as he wondered what had me so concerned.

            “I’m worried about Jacob. And Leah. And everything else really.”

            “So Leah moved in today?”

            “Yeah, she seems to be doing well. As good as we can hope for, anyways.”

            “Baby, you need to worry a little bit less. Everything will work out.” Standing to his full height, Embry offered me a hand out of my chair. “Why don’t we get to bed?”

            “But I have to do the dishes.” I said, trying to politely excuse myself from sleeping for another five minutes.

            “I’ll do them, Abby. It’s the least I could do after all that you have done for me and my sister.” Seth offered and was already gathering all of the dishes.

            “Seth, it’s my pleasure. And thank you for cleaning up.” I walked to the opposite side of the table where Amy was sliding out of her seat. “Make sure you feed Lobo before heading to bed.”

            “I will, sis’. Goodnight.” She stood on her tipped toes and I leaned forward so she could kiss my forehead.

            “Sleep tight.” I followed with a kiss to her forehead.

            “And don’t let the bed bugs bite.” We spoke simultaneously. She giggled as did I.

            Amy and Seth went to bed soon after dinner, while Embry and I sat on the back porch at my insistence. I wanted to talk to him, help plan things out. His over-heated arms wrapped around my shoulders as my entire body lay over his, with our feet drooping over the edge of the bench swing.

            “I have to tell you something, because I want you to be prepared for when these things unfold over the next couple days. Tomorrow, as you know, Bella, Rosalie, and Emmett are coming over so we can talk about their roles in the wedding.” I paused, not for dramatic effect, but to sum up my courage. “Afterwards, I was planning on crashing Sam’s pack meeting.”

            “I think that sounds like a brilliant idea. Sam will be itching for a fight with Leah, and vice versa. If you intervened that would prevent them both from going wolf. Frankly, it would make me feel better that you were there. But we both knew something like this was going to come around soon. So tell me, what else is bothering you?”

            “You know how there was a vampire at the mall when we went shopping for maternity clothes?”

            I was trying to segway into my little, dangerous announcement. “Yes, but what does that have to do with this? We were going to talk about amping up security at Friday’s meeting.”           

            “Well, I think there might be a few more newborn vampires, one of whom has managed to make it all the way to Forks.”

            “Why do you say that?”

            “Because I have literally almost run her over twice with my car.”

            Embry’s breathing started to pick up pace, and I needed to start damage control before he caused any damage. “Look, she can’t be sixteen years old, and I doubt anyone is actually watching over her as much as she needs it; however, it’s clear to me that she already has serious levels of control on her own.”

            “Why do you say that?” Embry grunted, through clenched teeth.

            “Because the first time I saw her, she had pitch black eyes. She could have attacked me and fed but she didn’t. She clearly didn’t choose this lifestyle and she is so young, so innocent. I think she might be worth saving.”

            Embry’s breathing had returned to normal as he rubbed a pattern on my stomach, for his comfort, not mine (even though it felt comforting). He let out a chuckle at the last sentence of my omission, which ended up sound more like a plea than an assertion. “You just can’t help but save everyone, can you, baby? Even the bloodsuckers?”

            “If I am saving werewolves, I might as well save the bloodsuckers too.”

            Embry’s head shot back with laughter and I could feel the warmth reverberate through his chest, as he held me just a bit tighter. “I’m glad you like to save both, just promise me one thing.”

            “Anything.”

            “You will keep telling me about these things. I know I can’t protect you every minute of every day—no matter how much I want to—but it will help me protect you as much as possible if I know what’s going on. Deal?”

            “Deal. I will continue to tell you anything and everything I can. Now, can we please go to bed? My toes are getting cold.”

            “You’re not getting cold feet, are you Miss Caldwell?” He started to tickle my sides, knowing my weak points.

            Through my giggling I replied, “Not in the way you mean. Are you Mr. Call?” I retorted.

            “My feet are toasty warm. Feverish in fact.”

            “Maybe we should just elope in Vegas.” I said it as a fleeting notion, but before my very eyes, stood Alice, shaking her finger at me.

            “You are not eloping in Vegas! You are going to get married here and it is going to be beautiful. Understand?”

            “Jeeze, Alice, I was only joking. There was no need for you to run all the way here.” I insisted, trying to placate her.

            “Oh, yes I did. If I hadn’t shown up you two would have been doing a werewolf wedding at the love chapel at midnight tomorrow, with Amy, Seth, and Embry’s mom as your witnesses.” Alice continued to stare at me, trying to scare me into staying.

            “I wasn’t honestly considering that. Were you, Embry?” I twisted my torso to see his face and I could tell he honestly was.

            “Well, yeah. But it’s just a thought. And actually, the werewolf theme was just to mess with you Alice.” He laughed at her horrified expression.

            “Alice, ignore him. You have my word that we will be getting married in Forks, with the wedding you design.”

            Alice stood still for a minute, her eyes glazed over, and then she sighed in relief. “Everything’s back to normal. See you both soon.” Alice skipped away, now that all was right in her world.

            I lightly smacked Embry on the chest and he replied, “hey, what was that for?”

            “For scaring our wedding planner. Who knows what she could do in retaliation? It’s a good thing you have your looks to fall back on.” I smirked at him, knowing he could see the profile of my face and the humor that I meant in the situation.

            “Now that I have temporarily scarred one evil, little pixy, shall we head to bed?” He proposed, trying to emulate an aristocratic accent, that I could not identify being from any specific country, because it was partly crossed between English and French.

            I giggled, of course. “I’d love to.” And with that, he carried me to bed, again.

 

            Thursday started normally, with school being relatively uneventful. People continued to gossip about Prom and people were throwing around flowers and popping the question left, right, up and down. Some asked with creativity and romance, while others kept it simple. For the most part people would answer yes, and a chaste kiss and hug—or not—would ensue. Occasionally, a heart would be broken as the rejection fell upon hopelessly romantic ears; but time would ease the pain and the one that “got away” would be forever remembered. Embry and I had it easy. We were already getting hitched, so why was there need to go all out with Prom? I mean, Prom for us was like a date night, one of the last nights we would have without the pressures of parenthood. I could not fathom the girls getting pregnant younger than I, and without the stability of a steady income and a supportive family. Being a parent at this age was going to exhaust Embry and me, that I was sure of. Luckily, I was also sure that my awkward, extended family was not only able, but excited, to be able to help take care of our little bundle of joy. The vampires don’t sleep and the werewolves have enough energy to kill a horse, and then the sheer number of people that would want to cradle the baby in their arms. This child was going to be spoiled to the nth degree.

            As I was saying, Thursday began with the informative school day, and rolled into a fantastic lunch. I left the parking lot with Bella in my car, as Edward drove her monster home. Alice and Jasper were picking up Amy and would be taking her on a fun filled day with a variety of trouble. Rosalie and Emmett said they would meet at my house at five so I had two hours to whip up dinner, not that Rosalie and Emmett needed to eat, but Bella and I plus baby, needed to munch a bit.

            Bella helped me prepare a pink vodka sauce for the grilled chicken breast and fettuccini pasta. I threw some buttered garlic bread into the oven before throwing together a simple garden salad. Just as the oven timer binged, Emmett and Rosalie walked in the door. Just as the four of us were sitting down to the table, Embry walked in the back door slipping on a t-shirt. I smiled his way and kissed him on the cheek as he strolled to stand by my side.

            “I thought you couldn’t come tonight.”

            “Leah and I traded patrols. I wanted to be here tonight, for you.” He kissed me on the forehead and my heart melted all over again. I wasn’t sure if I would ever tire of his love and compassion.

            “Well, then it’s a good thing Bella and I made enough extra food.” I turned towards everyone else, and said—being the excellent hostess that I am—“ please sit down.”

            Bella, Embry, and I dished out pasta, salad, and garlic bread onto each of our plates. Emmett began to speak of Alice, saying he was grateful she was so busy with planning outfits for Prom, a party for graduation, and my and Embry’s wedding, and the baby shower that she hardly had time to pester him on what to wear.

            “Well, I am glad our busy lives keep her entertained enough so you can destroy the town.” Bella joked, but I could sense that she was uneasy about all of the dresses and heels Alice would undoubtedly be forcing her to wear.

            “Actually, thank you Emmett for bringing that up, because we—Embry and I—would like to ask you guys something important.” I paused for dramatic effect, but then I realized how overrated dramatic pauses were—I mean who really needs the suspense built after you have already invited them over for dinner, in advanced telling them something important is going to be announced, then repeating that same gesture of announcing that an important announcement is going to occur, it’s over kill really. Like a cliff-hanger that is more than just a cliff-hanger, like you’re tied to a rope, hanging over the cliff, which was already hung. Wait, that metaphor made no sense. Well, I guess I could just make the announcement instead.

            “We would like you two, Bella and Rosalie, to be my Bridesmaids.” They gasped with grins, and did a little jig in their seats before high-fiving. Then they turned to me and said simultaneously, “what are we wearing?”

            I put my hands up in a surrendering gesture. “Ask Alice. I gave her our tentative decisions, and she is going through with the final decisions, and just getting our approval once she is done.”

            “Well, as fun as dress talk is and all, I understand why you asked Rose and Bells to come over, but why me? I could have hung out with Amy, Jasper, and Alice tonight.” Emmett really had no idea. I mean, Rosalie and Bella had expected it to some extent. They’re my best friends so of course they are in the wedding party; our announcement just confirmed their hopes.

            “Emmett, I would hope, that because you have watched over Amy so much for me, and I care for you like a family member, that you would be the one to give me away to Embry.” Emmett’s jaw dropped. It was hard to surprise a big guy like Emmett, who always looked so sturdy and gruffy, who always looked like he could with stand anything—a nuclear bomb, parental control, and even a little surprise—but apparently not. His shocked expression seemed so out of place on a man who could withstand so much, well, everything.

            Rosalie lifted his jaw back into place, where it seemed to stay. He was completely unresponsive, and that worried me, because we needed a response. “Rosalie, can vampires go into shock?”

            Bella waved her hand in front of Emmett’s line of vision—no response. “I haven’t seen it yet, but I don’t see why that isn’t possible.”

            “We could always tackle him to see if he responds. Although, even when he is conscious he hardly responds during wrestling, I mean it is no contest. I always win.” Embry eased back in his chair, throwing his hands behind his head, and dropped his shoulders in a relaxed fashion.

            Emmett snapped out of it immediately. “You do not beat me, and it is going to stay that way if you expect to ever marry our little Abby.”

            “Are you trying to Blackmail me into losing, because you know that’s when you have become extremely desperate in trying to win that you have to stoop that low.” Embry’s face had cracked a smile so wide you knew he was spinning it so Emmett would challenge him. Man they were itching for a fight.

            I, of course, had to intervene or I would never get the reply. “Hold the phone and settle down boys. Before you start wrestling in the backyard in would like confirmation. Emmett, will you really give me away at my wedding?”

            “Of course I will. Did you even have to ask?” He joked.

            Rosalie, Bella, and I exchanged a look that said one word, but also volumes. Men.

            Not a second later, I could see Rosalie’s remark that would simultaneously belittle and praise the male race in one swoop. But then the backdoor crashed open.

            Our heads spun around to see a worried, panting Jake, pulling his shorts to his waist, as he ran through the hall into the kitchen. “Embry and Abby, you guys need to get to Sam’s house quick. Sam called Leah to the house early and now he has banned her from leaving.”

            “Wait, if you were down there and you saw this, why didn’t you calm her down and talk Sam out of it?” Embry asked.

            Jake’s breathing still hadn’t caught up with him, as he replied through labored breaths. “I was running patrol and saw her go wolf, she tried making it outside but he restricted her from leaving his house, not the reservation. So she went wolf in the living room. Luckily, Emily was in the kitchen, so she didn’t get hurt. But Sam just kept making it worse. I ran here as fast as I could. You’re the best at calming her down, Abby. You’re also the best at making Sam see reason.”

            I turned towards my guests and said, “I hope you three don’t mind me leaving. Is this okay? You are welcome to stay as long as you would like.”

            “We will head out. Alice and Jasper are watching a movie with Amy. Emmett, would you like to go join them?” Rosalie asked out of formality, she wanted to watch the movie with or without him.

            “I thought you would never ask. I am so excited for The Fox and the Hound. I hope they haven’t started yet.” Emmett was practically giddy for the Disney movie in a way a grown man shouldn’t be, but then again he was frozen in the teenage years, so I could see how he could waiver back and forth between the two.

            “And I am going to take the leftovers to Charlie. I hope all goes well with Leah.” Bella started to clear the table and I knew the house would be fine.

            I turned to Embry, asking, “Could you give me a ride?”

            He threw a wink back and said, “Anytime. But this time I’ll let you keep your clothes on.”

            I smacked his shoulder, gave him a kiss, and grabbed his hand. “See you guys tomorrow.” I ran out of the house dragging his hand, Jacob following behind. Jacob ran ahead and shifted, to keep my eyes as innocent as possible. But that wasn’t Embry’s style. He did a quick strip (throwing me a naughty wink, regardless of the situation) and hid his clothes in his usual spot. He phased, helped me on his back, and we were there in no time. I slipped off his back and waited for him to change back. He slid on a previously hidden pair of shorts and took long strides with me into the house. Jacob was already standing there, arguing with Sam. Ignoring their lover’s quarrel, I strode past them, heading towards the basement. Both Sam and Jacob paused in their shouting, realized someone had flown by them, and began to walk down the stairs after me. Embry followed Sam and Jacob out of respect for their Alpha positions, but I could sense his anxiety at letting me go first.

The second I my footstep echoed of the floor of the basement—the only place big enough in the house to hold a pissed, pacing wolf—Leah’s shoulders drooped. Her pacing ceased as her head snapped around to see had entered. Even though she remained in her wolf form, she appeared more at pace with the world, with just my added presence. Or at least that was the sense I got from her. Taking a tentative step, I held my hands in a surrender’s pose. Her head bobbed up and down in acceptance. She remained where she was: a safe distance from everyone else as to not enflame her temper any further. I completed my journey across the room, finally able to touch her. I first brushed the fur from her forehead until my fingertips were behind her ears. Then I began to scratch behind her ears, to ease her out of the stressful environment. It worked with any animal—humans included. For some reason, ears had all these nerves that helped to calm anyone down. I had found the sweet melody of a piano soothed me into a calmer state, just as a lullaby entrances a baby to fall asleep. So I continued to scratch Leah behind the ears, until her gaze dropped to the floor, until her the top of her head settled against my chest, until her muzzle brushed against my belly bump, until her hid leg started quickly thumping against the ground and her tail wagged, as encouragement to continue. I let a burst of laughter slip when I realized how easily, how quickly she relaxed.

Now it was time for me to turn my attention on to Sam, and not in the comforting way I had to Leah. I was breaking out the ball-buster—boy, was Mr. Alpha in for a treat.

I gingerly moved to stand by Leah’s side, as I left a hand on one ear, but turned my gaze on the boys. “Sam, tell me how you think Leah feels about being restrained.”

He fishtailed for an answer, replying with “um….” at first. “I think she is trying to break the treaty.” He finally responded sheepishly.

“No, I didn’t ask you what you thought she was intending to do, I asked you how she feels. Do you know Sam? I know with the whole mind reading thing you can hear each other’s thoughts but do you ever take time to actually listen to what she thinks, and try to understand what she feels? Because I don’t need to read Leah’s mind to know until a few seconds ago she was angry, hurt, restrained. Do you understand how she feels about being a wolf? About what you all think about her being the only girl, in the history of the tribe? Do you understand how hurt she is that she has to deal with you dictating her life, after you broke her heart? Have you ever stopped to think why she started taking those long-distance runs? Tell me, Sam, because I need to know.”

He seemed like a scared puppy, hiding his tail between his legs, not a fully grown alpha; nonetheless, he answered. “I don’t know.”

“Let me tell you why. Leah, correct me if I am wrong, but you run to relax, to think, to come to terms with your wolf genes, and to give yourself a sense of freedom that has been taken from your life as of late.”  Leah nodded her head in response, giving Sam the death glare. If looks could kill, Sam would be slow roasting on a spit, covered in barbeque sauce. “So tell me what legitimate reasons you could possibly have for not allowing her to take her runs?”

“She is putting herself in danger by separating from the pack.”

“Are you telling me Leah wouldn’t rip any vampire to shreds that threatened her?” Leah growled in response, confirming my suspicions as well as anyone’s doubts that she would be more than capable of handling herself. “Try again, Sam.”

“She is endangering the pack by separating at such a great distance.”

“Bull. The pack is larger now than it ever has been. Give me another reason why she can’t run, or I am going to declare your command against her runs, null and void.”

When he wasn’t forth coming with an addition reason against her freedom, he conceded, “Fine, Leah may continue running again. But this didn’t start because of her runs, this started because she is living with those blood-sucking leeches!”

“First, those ‘leeches’ are practically family to me, so choose your words wisely, wolf. Bear in mind that to the majority of the public, you would both be seen as abominations, menaces to society, so watch who you place into the monster category. Especially after the Cullen family has respected your treaty and your people when they could have easily taken command. Second, this did start because of those runs; this argument started all because Leah has been feeling restricted. She has to live with your commands, while day in and day out she has to be around people that not only don’t care for her well-being as they should, but also has to be surrounded by couples, hopelessly in love after she was lied to and left broken-hearted. Put the shoe on the other foot, Sam. How would you feel if the situation were reversed? Wouldn’t you need a little room to stretch?” I refused to wait for a response. Sam would either see the error of his ways or not. I wasn’t going to twiddle my thumbs waiting for his reply. “Lastly, as for her moving into the Cullen home, is she not a full grown adult, capable of making her own decisions? The Cullen family has kindly offered her a place to stay, in order that she can have some breathing room. She is not breaking the treaty, and they are happy to have her, especially Esme. Leah went wolf because she was so furious that you banned her from living there, so I believe that signals her desire to live there as well. So tell me Sam, why is it a bad idea for her to live there?”

He found his courage and his brain, so he could then give reasonable responses. “She is endangering herself by living with a coven of vampires.”

“They have never intended her harm, have offered her a place to live and you think they would want to hurt her? Wolves smell to vampires is like their odor to you: it’s mutually disgusting. They have offered to get past that, and the fact that Leah isn’t even the same species or part of their family, by offering her with a place to live. So I say again, try again.”

“She could reveal tribe secrets to them unknowingly.” He had a valid point, but then I had a valid counterpoint.

“Edward Cullen reads minds, and spends every night in the house next to mine, while Embry practically lives with me, so I find it difficult to believe there is little he doesn’t know. Anything else, Sam?” I said that last line with a little less decorum; I was exhausted with his excuses.

Just as he was about to open his mouth, I held up my free hand for him to pause his prattling. “For Pete’s sake! She just wants freedom from all of this! Her dad has passed, she has been given this wolf gene she considers a curse, she has lost her relationship, and she is forced to watch you live a happy life with someone related to her. Give her the freedom she so rightly deserves, and needs in order to accept some of this, and move on with the rest of it. Sam, we could go back and forth for hours with this.” I turned my gaze onto Jacob. “Jake, you were the destined Alpha, and although I know you have no intention of taking that from Sam—and I wouldn’t dream of asking you—but could you be so kind as to be a tie breaker in this. I ask you this because you aren’t and haven’t been romantically involved with Leah, and therefore have little to no bias in this situation. Just tell me, with all the information that has been presented to you, can you tell us whether it is realistically alright for Leah to have a little freedom, from all of this, by living with the Cullen family?”

Jacob was thrown off that he was being brought in to decide. However, he could see that was the logical choice, because of his lack of bias. Anyone standing away from the situation could clearly see that Leah needed her space, and if she didn’t get that freedom, she could either unintentionally blow-up and hurt someone or become more emotionally and mentally distraught. Jake new this, but paused to make it seem like he was giving more consideration, even though he and I both knew he had his decision even before I asked him to step in as referee. “I think it is in Leah’s best interests to allow her to live where she chooses—the Cullen house included—as long as she is aware of the risk she is taking by living with vampires, and off the reservation. You do understand the decision you are making, don’t you Leah?” She nodded and barked in response. We all read it as an ‘absofrickenlutely’ attitude. With her confirmation, the snapters in Sam’s brain started finally firing off; he seemed to realize in that instant what I had been saying on Leah’s behalf. She was emotionally damaged and needed the physical space to be capable of moving forward with her life.

Sam spoke then, leaving the role of uncompromising ex-boyfriend, resuming the position of Alpha, unbiased leader. “Leah, I relinquish you of all previous commands, you are free to run where you like and live where you like as long as you understand the risk you will be taking.”

Instead of nodding her wolf-like head one last time, Leah’s animal form began to tremble. The boys immediately turned around to give her some semblance of privacy. Emily took that moment to walk into the basement with a spare change of clothes. Leah took them, giving the best half-grimace, half-smile she could manage at this point. Emily accepted it and helped me give Leah some semblance of the bride she still possessed by turning around as the boys had. She slipped the clothes on quickly, and I knew she had finished when she placed a hand on my shoulder, whispering to me, “thank you.”

“Anytime.” I whispered back and gave her a sly wink.

Turning to the whole room, Leah cleared her throat. Everyone turned to hear her announcement, “I understand the risks I am taking, and am happy in my home, no matter how little time I have already spent there. Thank you, Sam, for your concern, but I can handle a family of vegetarian vampires.” She snorted at the end. I only then realized how much handling she really would be doing. She would be wrestling with Emmett and Jasper, be dress up doll for Alice, make snide comments with Rosalie, assume the role of the additional child Esme needed, had already become the scientific marvel Carlisle required, and possessed enough errant thoughts to even amuse Edward.

“Well, I need to take home my pregnant fiancée, if you all don’t mind.” Embry spoke the words, and was already taking strides across the basement, pressing his lips against my forehead. Just for my ears he said, “I knew you could do it, babe. But promise me you will no longer confront temperamental werewolves.”

Sheepishly, I whispered, “Are vampires off limits, too?”

“Absolutely.”

I could feel him smile as he his lips brushed the shell of my ear. It sent shivers and tingles up my spine that made me say, “Take me home, now. We can get in a quickie before your meeting.”

“I heard that, and unless Embry is a faster runner than Jacob and Leah combined, I doubt you can manage that.” Sam was going to command that Embry be on time for the meeting, as payback for me besting him in the argument.

Embry could sense the order coming, so before it was issued, he had me in his arms and out the back door before Sam could say, “Don’t be late.”

But just as Embry was leaping out of the window of my room, he threw me a naughty wink that made me want to blow him a kiss, to taunt him a bit. But then he said something that made me want to drag him back to bed. “Thanks for making being late to the meeting so worth it.”

Before falling asleep, I checked to ensure that Amy had made it to bed, courtesy of Jasper, Alice, Emmett, and Rosalie. She was deeply dreaming, though I couldn’t imagine how as Seth snored up a storm in the bed next to hers. I couldn’t imagine how Mrs. Clearwater was handling Seth’s absence as well as Leah’s. I guess Leah’s was to be expected, she was a high school graduate after all. But Seth was her baby boy. We needed to limit the number of nights a week he could spend over, patrol or no patrol.

 I tried going to sleep after checking on my sister, and I knew I should have been able to, but something was niggling at the back of my mind. Then I remembered my guests from earlier. They had all taken the news as well as anyone could. Especially, Emmett. The hard part was going to be finding a role for Charlie in the wedding, because under normal circumstances, he should be giving me away, being that he is the only male, blood relative I have. Embry and I would have to talk some more about it, because we hadn’t exactly figured that part out yet. I knew I wanted him as part of the wedding just not how exactly. Speaking of Charlie, and the Swan residence, Edward and Bella would be snuggling into bed to right now. Bing. I had promised I would tell Bella about the fiasco through Edward. I replayed the whole event as I saw it, for Edward to relay to Bella. A bit after I had finished, my cellphone rang. It was Bella, of course.

“So everyone is okay. Leah is alright?”

“Didn’t Edward just tell you how it played out? Leah is fine, living at the Cullen residence for as long as the Cullen family welcomes her and as long as she wants to be residing there. All is well. Except I am exhausted. Making Sam see his faults is like asking a bull to not run at the red flag, basically impossible.”

I heard Edward’s chuckle through the phone and then I heard him say, “Let me to talk to her once you are done.”

An image of Bella’s puzzled look popped into my head. How fittingly comedic. “I’ll see you at school tomorrow, and thanks for being my bridesmaid, Bella.” I knew how hard it would be to stand next to Alice and Rosalie, looking as radiant as ever, even though Bella would never say as much. I knew Alice would make Bella gorgeous—even as a bridesmaid. Nonetheless, I needed to thank her for her courage for the wedding and her love for me.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, and thank you for asking me. Here’s Edward.” The rustling of the phone exchanging hands came over the static until Edward’s clear voice rang through the line.

“I think I have a solution to your problem.”

“Which one? I have a pretty long list at this point, future-cousin-in-law.” If I said that then maybe he and Bella would get hitched sooner rather than later. I would already be the really pregnant bridesmaid, I didn’t want to be the elephant bridesmaid.

Edward just laughed at my aloud commentary as much as my inner monologue. “I was thinking of your Charlie problem. Now I know you have already asked Billy to preside over the ceremony, but Charlie is ordained as well. They could do it together, and then you would have Charlie in your ceremony, without him being hurt that he isn’t walking you down the aisle.”

“That’s actually pretty perfect. Now comes the tough part. Asking him to do it, when I am not really supposed to know that he is ordained.”

I could sense Edward’s grin and mentally told him to wipe it off of his smug face, which only made him laugh out loud. “Well, that sounds more like an obstacle rather than a problem, Abby.”

“Different word, same issue.” My yawn slipped out before I could catch it. “Well, I clearly need some sleep. Say goodnight to Bella for me, cousin-in-law.”

“I thought it was supposed to be future.”

“That’s too wordy, and it’s inevitable isn’t it. So you might as well get used to hearing it and I might as well get used to saying it.”

“Valid point.” He conceded. “See you at school.”

“See you in the morning, sneaking out of Bella’s window.” And I hung up before he could formulate a reply. I was really getting good at that. I drifted off to sleep again before I could be concerned about the fact that I was exhausted and it was only half an hour past nine.

I would normally say school the next day flew by, as usual. I don’t even know why I mention it any more. Oh that’s right, in case it is unusual. Like it was right up until lunch time, when I swear I saw red eyes hiding in the forest.

Chapter 12

Stacking Up the Defense

            I felt like those eyes were following me, but I couldn’t be sure. And I couldn’t be sure to whom they belonged. The normal chill that follows a sense of being watched, accompanied with standard goose-bumps and hair standing straight on the back of your neck, remained absent. In fact, I would have to say the watchful eyes were comforting, guarding. Creepy? Absolutely, but reassuring.

I didn’t mention this to anyone. I thought Edward would catch it in my thoughts, seeing as how he sat across from me at the lunch table; but he didn’t. Perhaps, someone else’s thoughts were more interesting.

I stopped by the grocery store after school—I was feeding an army for dinner, after all. The hefty woman who checked and bagged my groceries, slid me a knowing, familiar grin, saying, “You only have a little girl living with you, who all do you feed?”

“A pack of hungry wolves.” People rarely believed an honest, ridiculous answer. She was no different, as she threw back a hearty, raw, cigarette laugh, and continued to bag the food. She waved goodbye and continued to shake her head with a smile on her lips. I made the drive home without running over another vampire, barely.

As I walked into the kitchen carrying the first load of groceries, Esme and Leah stood at the island waiting to help cook. After giving me a quick hello and hug, they both finished unloading the bags from the car. The three of us slid around the kitchen comfortably, making dish, after dish, after dish. The conversation was a little more awkward but happened nonetheless.

Leah initiated it, feeling the need to thank me. “Abby, I owe you my life. Not just for last night, but for everything you have done to help me past this rough stage in my life. I know I am not through it yet, but your advice as well as your defense has been everything to me. Thank you.”

“Oh, Leah, think nothing of it. I know you would do the same for me, and besides we are practically family. You’re Embry’s sister—for all intense and purposes—and I am marrying him. Essentially, you are my sister-in-law. Regardless of that, I would help you. Never hesitate in asking if you need anything else. Sam is a hard-headed mule, so if I need to take care of him again so you can live your life, just say the word. Besides, now you have an entire coven of vampires who would stand for you.”

Leah still seemed puzzled that the Cullen family would do that for her. It was one act of kindness to let her live in their house, but it was another type of crazy to defend her in a fight. Esme spoke up, sensing that Leah didn’t believe that the Cullens would stand for her.

“Honey, you have gone against your instincts to live with us, when you could have easily lived somewhere else. You chose to defend our honor by standing by your decision to live with us. That means more to us than you can ever imagine. You have been raised to believe that we are monsters, more so than the rest of society, and yet you went against the grain by entrusting us with your life and by trusting us with private matters, such as your concerns about being a genetic anomaly. We owe you at least a small sign of gratitude, and if that means defending you against Sam, or anyone else who wants to restrict your freedom, we have no qualms with standing by your side.”

Just as Esme finished speaking, Embry strolled through the back door with Seth, Paul, Jared and Jacob at his heels. “We could smell the cooking from a mile away. Do you have anything we can taste test?” Embry asked, already poking his head into the oven.

“Only if you five wash up first. I know you were just running around on all fours in the forest, so don’t try to tell me that your hands are clean.” Esme said warmly, but brokering no argument. And the boys quickly divided and raced to the two bathrooms, but Embry, was smart, and strolled to the closest sink—in the kitchen. He finished drying his hands and was taste testing my sweet potatoes before the other four had begun lathering their hands.

He grinned after taking the first bite, his eyes rolling back in his head, his eye lids closing, as he savored the sweet potato flavor, accentuated by the cinnamon and brown sugar. “I love being smarter than the average dog.”

Leah burst with a tinkle of laughter, completely complimentary to her personality and appearance as of late. Prior to the change, her laughter could not have been possible, which is why the boys still seemed puzzled as they halted at the edge of the kitchen, before cautiously strolling into the room. Jake threw me a look with a hitched eyebrow, saying where did that come from? I could only shake my head, silently telling him to leave it alone.

After the boys, everyone slowly filed into the house, vampires and werewolves alike. Once Emmett and Rosalie arrived with Amy, Seth took her upstairs; no one wanted her part of this conversation, and no one needed her to have nightmares about vampires that drank the blood of humans. Seth traveled back downstairs after he ensured that Amy sat snuggly in bed listening to music and reading a book. Bella and Edward were nearly the last to walk through the door, but I knew Edward tried to keep her preoccupied enough so that she would forget coming. She not only seemed thoroughly kissed but also resolute in attending this meeting. In the end, Sam was the last to arrive, with a guest….Billy.

I stood next to the door as Sam wheeled Billy into the house, but ignored Sam altogether. Frankly, Billy was the elder and more authoritative figure, automatically deserving my unwavering respect, and I loved the old man. Plus, Sam’s pig headedness from earlier still rubbed me the wrong way.

“Billy, what a surprise? I wasn’t expecting you, but Esme, Leah and I made plenty of food.”

He rubbed his miniature belly, as if he had silently been wishing it could be filled. “I would love some of your grub, but you and I both know that I came here for more than your good cooking.”

“Of course, but I require that everyone needs to eat before the meeting begins. We wouldn’t want this to turn into an argument.”

“Of course not. Lead the way, my dear.” Billy gestured with a wave of his hand to the kitchen. Billy started to wheel himself, following me at the heels, so Sam left to grab his own plate of food. After the wolves were as full as possible, I began the meeting.

“So we all know why we are here. We have a vampire infestation, of the human-blood-drinking sort. What precautions do we need to take in preparation for this?”

“Wait, I thought we were talking about the red-headed vampire problem?” Paul objected, calm, but firmly confused.

“Frankly, I thought the problems were the same thing.” Jake threw in his thoughts, as he sat next to Billy’s left. Both Carlisle and Billy sat at the heads while I sat in the middle, but what was more curious was where Leah sat. Right in the middle, across from me.

“I know we talked about this last weekend, and decided to let it play out but I am starting to be concerned with the massacre in Seattle being so drastic. There is no way one vampire can be doing this all, right?” I proposed, swinging my head towards the Cullens.

Jasper was the first to speak up. “It’s definitely more than one vampire, but at this stage it is hard to tell how many and how uncontrolled they are. Just as you said at the last meeting, we need to wait. Before we decide to actually head into Seattle, we need to know what we are up against.”

“Wait, I thought Alice could see the future. Can’t you see who is behind this?” Jake’s mind as sharp tonight.

“Normally, yes. But there are too many unknown factors for me to focus.”

“What kind of unknown factors?” Jared questioned, just as curious as Jake.

“Whoever is in Seattle, I haven’t met before, so I can’t focus on their decisions. The decision making is the biggest part of allowing me to see visions clearly. I am also watching for so many other people making decisions, it’s harder to hone in on someone I have never met.” Anyone in the room could tell Alice was disappointed in herself for not being able to do more.

“Alice, thank you for trying so hard. But who else could you be watching?” Billy spoke this time, using one of the Cullen’s first names for once.

Even Alice took a moment, pausing in appreciation for Billy’s recognition, but did formulate her reply. “I am watching for Victoria, to see if she has decided to come back to Forks, but her decisions are extremely sporadic. I am not sure, but I think she might know this whole in my vision, based on what Laurent told her.”

“Laurent?” Billy asked, having no connection to the name.

“The vampire who tried to ‘mercifully’ kill Bella this winter. He and Victoria use to be in the same coven, so he held a certain amount of loyalty to her. He came across the information about Alice, and the rest of the Cullens, because he was residing with the Denali Clan up north. The Denali are longtime friends of the Cullens, so what they knew, Laurent knew, and what he knew, he told Victoria.”

“Thank you, Abby. But shall we get back to the focus of this meeting? What is our plan of attack?” Sam spoke gruffly, but I understood he was trying to direct the meeting. He spent the least amount of time with the Cullens, and therefore felt uncomfortable sitting in a room with them.

So I continued the direction of the meeting, to prevent Sam from losing his marbles. “The plan is to wait. We have no knowledge about this vampire, or group of vampires, in Seattle, and Victoria is being evasive as well, correct? So the only question now is what do we do about our line of defense?” Ironically enough, I say we like I am included with the rest and can fight and defend myself against a blood thirsty vampire.

“Before, we suggested extending the defense line to the Swan and Caldwell residence, right?” Jared’s memory was better than mine, because I sure as hell don’t remember my house being part of the deal.

“Absolutely. These houses lie between our lands and cannot be left undefended.” Jasper confirmed, agreeing with Jared.

“So it is settled that both sides will extend their security to encompass both houses?” Billy finalized.

I needed to stop this train before it flew off the tracks. “Hold the phone, there was no Caldwell in that last discussion. Victoria is after Bella, not me or Amy. And although I would appreciate the extra security, can we just ask before jumping the gun? None of you even asked Bella if she wanted this security either, before you,” I directed my stare at the Cullens, “started defending her. While this is admirable, people need to agree to the defense so they can not only help, but also so they don’t feel violated and lied to from the beginning. So at some point, you all better feel guilty for treating Bella like a child. Yes, she’s human and therefore a little defenseless in situations like these, just as Amy and I are, but we aren’t morons.

“Now,” I said, addressing the entire table, “I would love the extra security. What about you, Bella? Do you think we could use a few more guard dog and bats?”

A rare smirk crept onto her face as she winked my way. “I think I could tolerate a few more animals around the house.”

“Great, so you all can extend your borders, and we can all wait to see how these vampire situations play out. Agreed?” By the time I had finished my speaking, everyone looked sorely reprimanded, but nodded their heads or gave a verbal agreement of some sort.

“Fantastic. So who wants dessert?” And almost everyone perked up around the room. The ones who couldn’t eat knew they were forgiven and continued to talk animatedly with the rest of the group. Sam left immediately, incapable of tolerating the smell much longer. He may be the alpha through Jacob’s concession, but as of now, he seemed to not be a very good diplomat. However, the rest of the pack dove into dessert and started talking it up with the Cullens. Even Billy stayed for food and company.

Eventually, I started falling asleep on Embry’s shoulder, and everyone took that as the cue to leave. I tried to reassure them that I didn’t want them to leave, but they saw my exhaustion as a sign that the baby needed its rest. They left, taking the desserts with them and continuing their conversations in the front yard for who knows how long. I would not be able to tell you, because Embry carried me to bed. He whispered to me, knowing I was lucid enough to hear. “I have first patrol tonight. I’ll be back in a few hours to keep you two warm.”

I might have mumbled back, “Can you make sure Seth goes to his mom’s tonight? He needs to spend more time there.”

“Sure,” I could hear the smile in his voice. “Now go to sleep sweetheart, you’re sleeping for two.”

“Come back to me.”

“Always.” He pressed a kiss to my forehead, my lips, and our baby bump. I drifted to sleep, knowing that even though he couldn’t be in bed right now, he was still protecting my sister, my cousin, my uncle, me and our baby.

 

~~~

 

The red eyes stared back at me. I could not, would not look away. My instincts told me I should be scared. Hell, I should be running through the forest, clutching my stomach to protect my child. I should be screaming bloody murder. I should be calling for Embry. Or anybody, any pack member or any Cullen. They would run to my aid in a heartbeat. Did I even have a heartbeat to spare? Not against red eyes. My body knew it would be outnumbered before my blood could finish pulsing in my veins. But my heart knew that these red eyes were trustworthy. This one had never hurt me before. Why would she start now?

I could feel the desperation in these red eyes. That was the difference. There had never been this desperation before. But this desperation was not out of a fear of herself, rather out of fear of other people, for other people. A fear for me. But then these red eyes, framed by brunette hair changed. The worry and fear shifted to vicious violence and hatred. A red, curly mane shifted in front of these red eyes. Now my mind, heart, and body stood in agreement.

I began to run, over fallen trees, trying not to slip on the moss. The bite of the fresh snow froze my bare feet in a few strides. The cold crept up my legs. I dodged between the trees. I thought that maybe I could escape her, if I ran fast enough. But that just wasn’t true. There was no escape in my future. There was no one to rescue me now, no matter how loud I screamed, Embry couldn’t get to me fast enough, before the vengeful red eyes caught up to me.

Before I could run much further, her pace measured a few steps behind me, her hand wrapped around my hair and yanked it back. My head, my neck, and my shoulders immediately followed as my legs were still running forward. I ended up on the ground, being pulled my hair, my body thrashing in the mud and moss as my arms tried to claw at the hand grasping my head. My body curled, trying to protect the baby still inside me. She dragged me to an opening in the midst of all the trees. She dropped her grip on my head once I was in the center of the small clearing. I backed away from my attacker as much as I could, until I bumped into another pair of ice, granite legs. I looked up to the unfamiliar, red eyes matching the stone cold legs. Then my eyes jumped to another pair of eyes, and another, and another, until they landed on the red eyes and fiery hair. She snarled towards me and said to the other vampires, “finish her.”

Before she could finish enunciating “her,” they were on me, clawing at any limb they could find. I was crying and pleading as they sank their teeth into my flesh, sliding through muscle and grinding against bone, but I didn’t let out a piercing scream until one of them bit into my stomach, and I could feel my baby kicking and clawing against intrusion, already changing into a wolf as he phased inside of me. But as the teeth and claws fought for dominance I sat up with a scream.

I opened my eyes to find myself in my room, on my bed, drenched in sweat, clutching my stomach. My erratic breathing started to calm as Embry slid through the window. My mind and body relaxed a bit knowing it had all been a dream and that Embry was here. He crawled into bed, wrapping his arms around me, lifting me into his lap.

He whispered in my ear, his hands rubbing calming circles on my back, “What happened?”

“Victoria, she was chasing me, and I was running from her in the forest. It was winter though. Dead middle of winter. She caught me, dragged me to a group of newborns, and then they attacked me. I called for you but there wasn’t enough time for you to run to me. There were so many of them. And then one of them bit into my belly, and our baby shifted into a wolf while he was still inside me. He tried to use his claws to fight of the vampire from inside, and then I woke up.”

He rubbed my shoulders, kissing my ear. “Firstly, I would run so fast, I’d be there before you could say ‘bloodsucker.’ Secondly, I am not going to leave your side and be out of running distance from you, unless you order me away. Not even then would I leave you defenseless.”

“You’re right, I know you are. But it’s still nerve racking to think that Victoria and the newborns are all so close. And us with a baby on the way. It’s not exactly the safest world to bring a baby into.”

My hands rested on my barely there baby bump. He was awake and kicking, clearly shaken from what had been bothering me. I rubbed my belly, trying to reassure him. Embry continued his rubbing, trying his hardest to calm me down. “It may not be the safest time to have a baby, but you have an entire army of people ready to protect her, or him. You don’t think blondie would tear apart anyone who tried to lay a hand on our child?”

“You’re totally right. But that doesn’t make my dream any less frightening.”

He kissed my temple, leaning back onto the pillows, and taking me with him. We snuggled into the bed, into positions we could fall asleep in. “I’m here now, to chase away all of the bad dreams. Now you’re only allowed to think of me and you, naked on a beach in the Caribbean.”

My eyes drifted close, but I mumbled back, “Somewhere cold would be better, so you and I wouldn’t overheat while we were having hot, honeymoon sex.”

“Okay, somewhere cold, with lots of snow, and I can make you some hot chocolate. Now, go to sleep and dream of us.”

“Always.”

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