"I'll let Sam know about your... instructions. Goodbye, Jacob."

 I sighed. "Yeah. Bye, Jared. Hey, tell my dad that I'm okay, will you? And that I'm sorry, and that I love him."

 "I'll pass that along."

 "Thanks."

 "C'mon, guys," Jared said. He turned away from us, heading out of sight to phase because Leah was here. Paul and Collin were right on his heels, but Quil hesitated. He yelped softly, and I took a step toward him.

 "Yeah, I miss you, too, bro."

 Quil jogged over to me, his head hanging down morosely. I patted his shoulder.

 "It'll be okay."

He whined.

"Tell Embry I miss having you two on my flanks."

He nodded and then pressed his nose to my forehead. Leah snorted. Quil looked up, but not at her. He looked back over his shoulder at where the others had gone.

"Yeah, go home," I told him.

Quil yelped again and then took off after the others. I'd bet Jared wasn't waiting super-patiently. As soon as he was gone, I pulled the warmth from the center of my body and let it surge through my limbs. In a flash of heat, I was on four legs again.

Thought you were going to make out with him,Leah snickered.

I ignored her.

Was that okay?I asked them. It worried me, speaking for them that way, when I couldn't hear exactly what they were thinking. I didn't want to assume anything. I didn't want to be like Jared that way. Did I say anything you didn't want me to? Did I not say something I should have?

You did great, Jake!Seth encouraged.

You could have hit Jared,Leah thought. wouldn't have minded that.

I guess we know why Embry wasn't allowed to come,Seth thought.

I didn't understand. Not allowed?

Jake, didya see Quil? He's pretty torn up, right? I'd put ten to one that Embry's even more upset And Embry doesn't have a Claire. There's no way Quil can just pick up and walk away from La Push. Embry might So Sam's not going to take any chances on him getting convinced to jump ship. He doesn't want our pack any bigger than it is now.

Really? You think? I doubt Embry would mind shredding some Cullens.

But he's your best friend, Jake. He and Quil would rather stand behind you than face you in a fight.

Well, I'm glad Sam kept him home, then. This pack is big enough.I sighed. Okay, then. So we're good, for now. Seth, you mind keeping an eye on things for a while? Leah and I both need to crash. This felt on the level, but who knows? Maybe it was a distraction.

I wasn't always so paranoid, but I remembered the feel of Sam's commitment. The total one-track focus on destroying the danger he saw. Would he take advantage of the fact that he could lie to us now?

No problem!Seth was only too eager to do whatever he could. You want me to explain to the Cullens? They're probably still kinda tense.

I got it. I want to check things out anyway.

They caught the whir of images from my fried brain.

Seth whimpered in surprise. Ew.

Leah whipped her head back and forth like she was trying to shake the image out of her mind. That is easily the freakin' grossest thing I've heard in my life. Yuck. If there was anything in my stomach, it would be coming back.

Theyare vampires, I guess, Seth allowed after a minute, compensating for Leah's reaction. mean, it makes sense. And if it helps Bella, it's a good thing, right?

Both Leah and I stared at him.

What?

Mom dropped him a lot when he was a baby,Leah told me.

On his head, apparently.

He used to gnaw on the crib bars, too.

Lead paint?

Looks like itshe thought.

Seth snorted. Funny. Why don't you two shut up and sleep?

14. YOU KNOW THINGS ARE BAD WHEN YOU FEEL GUILTY F

VAMPIRES

When I got back to the house, there was no one waiting outside for my report. Still on alert?

Everything's cool,I thought tiredly.

My eyes quickly caught a small change in the now-familiar scene. There was a stack of light-colored fabric on the bottom step of the porch. I loped over to investigate. Holding my breath, because the vampire smell stuck to the fabric like you wouldn't believe, I nudged the stack with my nose.

Someone had laid out clothes. Huh. Edward must have caught my moment of irritation as I'd bolted out the door. Well. That was... nice. And weird.

I took the clothes gingerly between my teeth - ugh - and carried them back to the trees. Just in case this was some joke by the blond psychopath and I had a bunch of girls' stuff here. Bet she'd love to see the look on my human face as I stood there naked, holding a sundress.

In the cover of the trees, I dropped the stinking pile and shifted back to human. I shook the clothes out, snapping them against a tree to beat some of the smell from them. They were definitely guy's clothes - tan pants and a white button-down shirt. Neither of them long enough, but they looked like they'd fit around me. Must be Emmett's. I rolled the cuffs up on the shirtsleeves, but there wasn't much I could do about the pants. Oh well.

I had to admit, I felt better with some clothes to my name, even stinky ones that didn't quite fit. It was hard not being able to just jet back home and grab another pair of old sweatpants when I needed them. The homeless thing again - not having anyplace to go back to. No possessions, either, which wasn't bothering me too bad now, but would probably get annoying soon.

Exhausted, I walked slowly up the Cullens' porch steps in my fancy new secondhand clothes but hesitated when I got to the door. Did I knock? Stupid, when they knew I was here. I wondered why no one acknowledged that - told

me either to come in or get lost Whatever. I shrugged and let myself in.

More changes. The room had shifted back to normal - almost - in the last twenty minutes. The big flat-screen was on, low volume, showing some chick flick that no one seemed to be watching. Carlisle and Esme stood by the back windows, which were open to the river again. Alice, Jasper, and Emmett were out of sight, but I heard them murmuring upstairs. Bella was on the couch like yesterday, with just one tube still hooked into her, and an IV hanging behind the back of the sofa. She was wrapped up like a burrito in a couple of thick quilts, so at least they'd listened to me before. Rosalie was cross-legged on the ground by her head. Edward sat at the other end of the couch with Bella's burrito'ed feet in his lap. He looked up when I came in and smiled at me - just a little twitch of his mouth - like something pleased him.

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