Carlisle took the cup from Bella's hand. "I'll be right back."

Bella stared at me while he disappeared.

"Jake, you look awful," she croaked.

"Look who's talking."

"Seriously - when's the last time you slept?"

I thought about that for a second. "Huh. I'm not actually sure."

"Aw, Jake. Now I'm messing with your health, too. Don't be stupid."

I gritted my teeth. She was allowed to kill herself for a monster, but I wasn't allowed to miss a few nights' sleep to watch her do it?

"Get some rest, please," she went on. "There're a few beds upstairs - you're welcome to any of them."

The look on Rosalie's face made it clear that I wasn't welcome to one of them. It made me wonder what Sleepless Beauty needed a bed for anyway. Was she that possessive of her props?

"Thanks, Bells, but I'd rather sleep on the ground. Away from the stench, you know."

She grimaced. "Right."

Carlisle was back then, and Bella reached out for the blood, absentminded, like she was thinking of something else. With the same distracted expression, she started sucking it down.

She really was looking better. She pulled herself forward, being careful of the tubes, and scooted into a sitting position. Rosalie hovered, her hands ready to catch Bella if she sagged. But Bella didn't need her. Taking deep breaths in between swallows, Bella finished the second cup quickly.

"How do you feel now?" Carlisle asked.

"Not sick. Sort of hungry... only I'm not sure if I'm hungry or thirsty, you know?"

"Carlisle, just look at her," Rosalie murmured, so smug she should have canary feathers on her lips. "This is obviously what her body wants. She should drink more."

"She's still human, Rosalie. She needs food, too. Let's give her a little while to see how this affects her, and then maybe we can try some food again. Does anything sound particularly good to you, Bella?"

"Eggs," she said immediately, and then she exchanged a look and a smile with Edward. His smile was brittle, but there was more life on his face than before.

I blinked then, and almost forgot how to open my eyes again.

"Jacob," Edward murmured. "You really should sleep. As Bella said, you're certainly welcome to the accommodations here, though you'd probably be more comfortable outside. Don't worry about anything  - I promise 111 find you if there's a need."

"Sure, sure," I mumbled. Now that it appeared Bella had a few more hours, I could escape. Go curl up under a tree somewhere.... Far enough away that the smell couldn't reach me. The bloodsucker would wake me up if something went wrong. He owed me.

"I do," Edward agreed.

I nodded and then put my hand on Bella's. Hers was icy cold.

"Feel better," I said.

"Thanks, Jacob." She turned her hand over and squeezed mine. I felt the thin band of her wedding ring riding loose on her skinny finger.

"Get her a blanket or something," I muttered as I turned for the door.

Before I made it, two howls pierced the still morning air. There was no mistaking the urgency of the tone. No misunderstanding this time.

"Dammit," I snarled, and I threw myself through the door. I hurled my body off the porch, letting the fire rip me apart midair. There was a sharp tearing sound as my shorts shredded. Crap. Those were the only clothes I had. Didn't matter now. I landed on paws and took off toward the west.

What is it?I shouted in my head.

Incoming,Seth answered. At least three.

Did they split up?

I'm running the line back to Seth at the speed of lightLeah promised. I could feel the air huffing through her lungs as she pushed herself to an incredible velocity. The forest whipped around her. So far, no other point of attack.

Seth, donot challenge them. Wait forme.

They're slowing. Ugh - its sooff not being able to hear them. I think...


I think they've stopped.

Waiting for the rest of the pack?

Shh. Feel that?

I absorbed his impressions. The faint, soundless shimmer in the air.

Someone's phasing?

Feels like it,Seth agreed.

Leah flew into the small open space where Seth waited. She raked her claws into the dirt, spinning out like a race car.

Got your back, bro.

They're coming,Seth said nervously. Slow. Walking.

Almost there,I told them. I tried to fly like Leah. It felt horrible being separated from Seth and Leah with potential danger closer to their end than mine. Wrong. I should be with them, between them and whatever was coming.

Look who's getting all paternal,Leah thought wryly.

Head in the game, Leah.

Four,Seth decided. Kid had good ears. Three wolves, one man.

I made the little clearing then, moving immediately to the point. Seth sighed with relief and then straightened up, already in place at my right shoulder. Leah fell in on my left with a little less enthusiasm.

So now I rank under Seth,she grumbled to herself.

First come, first served,Seth thought smugly. 'Sides, you were never an Alpha's Third before. Still an upgrade.

Under my baby brother is not an upgrade.

Shh!I complained. don't care where you stand. Shut up and get ready.

They came into view a few seconds later, walking, as Seth had thought. Jared in the front, human, hands up. Paul and Quil and Collin on four legs behind him. There was no aggression in their postures. They hung back behind Jared, ears up, alert but calm.

But... it was weird that Sam would send Collin rather than Embry. That wasn't what I would do if I were sending a diplomacy party into enemy territory. I wouldn't send a kid. I'd send the experienced fighter.

A diversion?Leah thought.