Edward turned away from them, and he was the burning man again. His eyes met mine for one moment, and then I dropped back to all fours.

I ran back into the dark forest, running to join Seth, running away from what was behind me.

Worse. Yes, she was worse.


I was right on the edge of sleep.

The sun had risen behind the clouds an hour ago - the forest was gray now instead of black. Seth'd curled up and passed out around one, and I'd woken him at dawn to trade off. Even after running all night, I was having a hard time making my brain shut up long enough to fall asleep, but Seth's rhythmic run was helping. One, two-three, four, one, two-three, four - dum dum-dum dam - dull paw thuds against the damp earth, over and over as he made the wide circuit surrounding the Cullens' land. We were already wearing a trail into the ground. Seth's thoughts were empty, just a blur of green and gray as the woods flew past him. It was restful. It helped to fill my head with what he saw rather than letting my own images take center stage.

And then Seth's piercing howl broke the early morning quiet.

I lurched up from the ground, my front legs pulling toward a sprint before my hind legs were off the ground. I raced toward the place where Seth had frozen, listening with him to the tread of paws running in our direction.

Morning, boys.

A shocked whine broke through Seth's teeth. And then we both snarled as we read deeper into the new thoughts.

Oh, man! Goaway, Leah! Seth groaned.

I stopped when I got to Seth, head thrown back, ready to howl again - this time to complain.

Cut the noise, Seth.

Right. Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!He whimpered and pawed at the ground, scratching deep furrows in the dirt.

Leah trotted into view, her small gray body weaving through the underbrush.

Stop whining, Seth. You're such a baby.

I growled at her, my ears flattening against my skull. She skipped back a step automatically.

What do you think you're doing, Leah?

She huffed a heavy sigh. It's pretty obvious, isn't it? I'm joining your crappy little renegade pack. The vampires' guard dogs. She barked out a low, sarcastic laugh.

No, you're not. Turn around before I rip out one of your hamstrings.

Like you could catch me.She grinned and coiled her body for launch. Wanna race, O fearless leader?

I took a deep breath, filling my lungs until my sides bulged. Then, when I was sure I wasn't going to scream, i exhaled in a gust.

Seth, go let the Cullens know that it's just your stupid sister - thought the words as harshly as possible. deal with this.

On it!Seth was only too happy to leave. He vanished toward the house.

Leah whined, and she leaned after him, the fur on her shoulders rising. You're just going to let him run off to the vampires alone?

I'm pretty sure he'd rather they took him out than spend another minute with you.

Shut up, Jacob. Oops, I'm sorry - meant, shut up, most high Alpha.

Why thehellare you here?

You think I'm just going to sit home while my little brother volunteers as a vampire chew toy?

Seth doesn't want or need your protection. In fact, no one wants you here.

Oooh, ouch, that's gonna leave ahuge mark. Ha, she barked. Tell me who does want me around, and I'm outta here.

So this isn't about Seth at all, is it?

Of course it is. I'm just pointing out that being unwanted is not a first for me. Not really a motivating factor, if you know what I mean.

I gritted my teeth and tried to get my head straight.

Did Sam send you?

If I was here on Sam's errand, you wouldn't be able to hear me. My allegiance is no longer with him.

I listened carefully to the thoughts mixed in with the words. If this was a diversion or a ploy, I had to be alert enough to see through it. But there was nothing. Her declaration was nothing but the truth. Unwilling, almost despairing truth.

You're loyal tome now? I asked with deep sarcasm. Uh-huh. Right.

My choices are limited. I'm working with the options I've got. Trust me, I'm not enjoying this any more than you are.

That wasn't true. There was an edgy kind of excitement in her mind. She was unhappy about this, but she was also riding some weird high. I searched her mind, trying to understand.

She bristled, resenting the intrusion. I usually tried to tune Leah out - I'd never tried to make sense of her before.

We were interrupted by Seth, thinking his explanation at Edward. Leah whined anxiously. Edward's face, framed in the same window as last night, showed no reaction to the news. It was a blank face, dead.

Wow, he looks bad,Seth muttered to himself. The vampire showed no reaction to that thought, either. He disappeared into the house. Seth pivoted and headed back out to us. Leah relaxed a little.

What's going on?Leah asked. Catch me up to speed.

There's no point You're not staying.

Actually, Mr. Alpha, I am. Because since apparently I have to belong tosomeone - and don't think I haven't tried breaking off on my own, you know yourself how wellthat doesn 't work - choose you.

Leah, you don't like me. I don't like you.

Thank you, Captain Obvious. That doesn't matter to me. I'm staying with Seth.

You don't like vampires. Don't you think that's a little conflict of interest right there?

You don't like vampires either.

But Iam committed to this alliance. You aren't.

I'll keep my distance from them. I can run patrols out here, just like Seth.

And I'm supposed to trust you with that?

She stretched her neck, leaning up on her toes, trying to be as tall as me as she stared into my eyes. will not betray my pack.

I wanted to throw my head back and howl, like Seth had before. This isn't your pack! This isn't even a pack. This is just me, going off on my own! What is it with you Clearwaters? Why can't you leave me alone?