Their shock was just a silent shout in my head. Wordless.
I was halfway home before anyone recovered. Then they all started running to meet me.
It was almost dark - the clouds covered the sunset completely. I risked darting across the freeway and made it without being seen.
We met up about ten miles out of La Push, in a clearing left by the loggers. It was out of the way, wedged between two spurs of the mountain, where no one would see us. Paul found them when I did, so the pack was complete.
The babble in my head was total chaos. Everyone shouting at once.
Sam's hackles were sticking straight up, and he was growling in an unbroken stream as he paced back and forth around the top of the ring. Paul and Jared moved like shadows behind him, their ears flat against the sides of their head. The whole circle was agitated, on their feet and snarling in low bursts.
At first their anger was undefined, and I thought I was in for it. I was too messed up to care about that. They could do whatever they wanted to me for circumventing orders.
And then the unfocused confusion of thoughts began to move together.
How can this be? What does it mean? What will it be?
Not safe. Not right. Dangerous.
Unnatural. Monstrous. An abomination.
We can't allow it.
The pack was pacing in synchronization now, thinking in synchronization, all but myself and one other. I sat beside whichever brother it was, too dazed to look over with either my eyes or my mind and see who was next to me, while the pack circled around us.
The treaty does not cover this.
This puts everyone in danger.
I tried to understand the spiraling voices, tried to follow the curling pathway the thoughts made to see where they were leading, but it wasn't making sense. The pictures in the center of their thoughts were my pictures - the very worst of them. Bella's bruises, Edward's face as he burned.
They fear it, too.
But they won't do anything about it
Protecting Bella Swan.
We can't let that influence us.
The safety of our families, of everyone here, is more important than one human.
If they won't kill it, we have to.
Protect the tribe.
Protect our families.
We have to kill it before it's too late.
Another of my memories, Edward's words this time: The thing is growing. Swiftly.
I struggled to focus, to pick out individual voices.
No time to waste,Jared thought.
It will mean a fight,Embry cautioned. A bad one.
Were ready,Paul insisted.
Well need surprise on our side,Sam thought.
If we catch them divided, we can take them down separately. It will increase our chances of victory, Jared thought, starting to strategize now.
I shook my head, rising slowly to my feet. 1 felt unsteady there - like the circling wolves were making me dizzy. The wolf beside me got up, too. His shoulder pushed against mine, propping me up.
The circling paused for one beat, and then they were pacing again.
There's little time,Sam said.
But - what are you thinking? You wouldn't attack them for breaking the treaty this afternoon. Now you're planning an ambush, when the treaty is still intact?
This is not something our treaty anticipated,Sam said. This is a danger to every human in the area. We don't know what kind of creature the Cullens have bred, but we know that it is strong and fast-growing. And it will be too young to follow any treaty. Remember the newborn vampires we fought? Wild, violent, beyond the reach of reason or restraint. Imagine one like that, but protected by the Cullens.
We don't know - I tried to interrupt.
Wedon't know, he agreed. And we can't take chances with the unknown in this case. We can only allow the Cullens to exist while we're absolutely sure that they can be trusted not to cause harm. This. . . thing cannot be trusted.
They don't like it any more than we do.
Sam pulled Rosalie's face, her protective crouch, from my mind and put it on display for everyone.
Some are ready to fight for it, no matter what it is.
It's just ababy, for crying out loud.
Not for long,Leah whispered.
Jake, buddy, this is a big problem,Quil said. We can't just ignore it.
You're making it into something bigger than it is,I argued. The only one who's in danger here is Bella.
Again by her own choice,Sam said. But this time her choice affects us all.
I don't think so.
We can't take that chance. We won't allow a blood drinker to hunt on our lands.
Then tell them to leave,the wolf who was still supporting me said. It was Seth. Of course.
And inflict the menace on others? When blood drinkers cross our land, we destroy them, no matter where they plan to hunt. We protect everyone we can.
This is crazy,I said. This afternoon you were afraid to put the pack in danger.
This afternoon I didn't know our families were at risk.
I can't believe this! How're you going to kill this creature without killing Bella?
There were no words, but the silence was full of meaning.
I howled. She's human, too! Doesn't our protection apply to her?
She's dying anyway,Leah thought. We'll just shorten the process.
That did it. I leaped away from Seth, toward his sister, with my teeth bared. I was about to catch her left hind leg when I felt Sam's teeth cut into my flank, dragging me back.
I howled in pain and fury and turned on him.
Stop!he ordered in the double timbre of the Alpha.
My legs seemed to buckle under me. I jerked to a halt, only managing to keep on my feet by sheer willpower.
He turned his gaze away from me. You will not be cruel to him, Leah, he commanded her. Bella's sacrifice is a heavy price, and we will all recognize that It is against everything we stand for to take a human life. Making an exception to that code is a bleak thing. We will all mourn for what we do tonight.