take point, if you want flank, Quil offered. There was more excitement in his mind than most of the others. When Quil had watched Jasper's instruction those nights, he'd been dying to test his skill against the vampire's. For him, this would be a contest. Even knowing it was his life on the line, he saw it that way. Paul was like that, too, and the kids who had never been in battle, Collin and Brady. Seth probably

would've been the same - if the opponents were not his friends.

Jake?Quil nudged me. How do you want to roll?

I just shook my head, t couldn't concentrate - the compulsion to follow orders felt like puppet strings hooked intoall of my muscles. One foot forward, now another.

Seth was dragging behind Collin and Brady - Leah had assumed point there. She ignored Seth while planning with the others, and I could see that she'd rather leave him out of the fight.There was a maternal edge to her feelings for her younger brother. She wished Sam would send him home. Seth didn't register Leah's doubts. He was adjusting to the puppet strings, too.

Maybe if you stopped resisting...,Embry whispered.

Just focus on our part. The big ones. We can take them down. We own them!Quil was working himself up - like a pep talk before a big game.

I could see how easy it would be - to think about nothing more than my part. It wasn't hard to imaging attacking Jasper and Emmett. We'd been close to that before. I'd thought of them as enemies for a very long time. I could do that now again.

I just had to forget that they were protecting the same thing I would protect. I had to forget the reason why I might want them to win....

Jake,Embry warned. Keep your head in the game.

My feet moved sluggishly, pulling against the drag of the strings.

There's no point fighting it,Embry whispered again.

He was right. I would end up doing what Sam wanted, if he was willing to push it. And he was. Obviously.

There was a good reason for the Alpha's authority. Even a pack as strong as ours wasn't much of a force without a leader. We had to move together, to think together, in order to be effective. And that required the body to have a head.

So what if Sam was wrong now? There was nothing anyone could do. No one could dispute his decision.

Except.

And there it was - a thought I'd never, never wanted to have. But now, with my legs all tied up in strings, I recognized the exception with relief - more than relief, with a fierce joy.

No one could dispute the Alpha's decision - except for me.

I hadn't earned anything. But there were things that had been born in me, things that I'd left unclaimed.

I'd never wanted to lead the pack. I didn't want to do it now. I didn't want the responsibility for all our fates resting on my shoulders. Sam was better at that than I would ever be.

But he was wrong tonight.

And I had not been born to kneel to him.

The bonds fell off my body the second that I embraced my birthright.

I could feel it gathering in me, both a freedomand also a strange, hollow power.Hollow because an Alpha's power came from his pack, and I had no pack. For a second, loneliness overwhelmed me.

I had no pack now.

But I was straight and strong as I walked to where Sam stood, planning with Paul and Jared. He turned at the sound of my advance, and his black eyes narrowed.

A/o, I told him again.

He heard it right away, heard the choice that I'd made in the sound of the Alpha voice in my thoughts.

He jumped back a half step with a shocked yelp.

Jacob? What have you done?

I won't follow you, Sam. Not for something so wrong.

He stared at me, stunned. You would... you would choose your enemies over your family?

They aren't - I shook my head, clearing it - they aren't our enemies. They never have been. Until I really thought about destroying them, thought it through, I didn't see that.

This isn't about them,he snarled at me. This is about Bella. She has never been the one for you, she has never chosen you, but you continue to destroy your life for her!

They were hard words, but true words. I sucked in a big gulp of air, breathing them in.

Maybe you're right. But you're going to destroy the pack over her, Sam. No matter how many of them survive tonight, they will always have murder on their hands.

We have to protect our families!

I know what you've decided, Sam. But you don't decide for me, not anymore.

Jacob - you can't turn your back on the tribe.

I heard the double echo of his Alpha command, but it was weightless this time. It no longer applied to me. He clenched his jaw, trying to force me to respond to his words.

I stared into his furious eyes. Ephraim Black's son was not born to follow Levi Uley's.

Is this it, then, JacobBlack? His hackles rose and his muzzle pulled back from his teeth. Paul and Jared snarled and bristled at his sides. Even if you can defeat me, the pack will never follow you!

Now jerked back, a surprised whine escaping my throat.

Defeat you? I'm not going to fight you, Sam.

Then what's your plan? I'm not stepping aside so that you can protect the vampire spawn at the tribe's expense.

I'm not telling you to step aside.

If you order them to follow you -

never take anyone's will away from him.

His tail whipped back and forth as he recoiled from the judgment in my words. Then he took a step forward so that we were toe to toe, his exposed teeth inches from mine. I hadn't noticed till this moment that I'd grown taller than him.

There cannot be more than one Alpha. The pack has chosen me. Will you rip us apart tonight? Will you turn on your

brothers? Or will you end this insanity and join us again?Every word was layered with command, but it couldn't touch me. Alpha blood ran undiluted in my veins.

Icould see why there was never more than one Alpha male in a pack. My body was responding to the challenge. I could feel the instinct to defend my claim rising in me. The primitive core of my wolf-self tensed for the battle of supremacy.

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