ALL OUR ATTEMPTS AT SUBTERFUGE HAD BEEN IN VAIN.
With ice in my heart, I watched him prepare to defend me. His intense concentration betrayed no hint of doubt, though he was outnumbered. I knew that we could expect no help - at this moment, his family was fighting for their lives just as surely as he was for ours.
Would I ever learn the outcome of that other fight? Find out who the winners and the losers were? Would I live long enough for that?
The odds of that didn't look so great.
Black eyes, wild with their fierce craving for my death, watched for the moment when my protector's attention would be diverted. The moment when I would surely die.
Somewhere, far, far away in the cold forest, a wolf howled.
Chapter 1. ULTIMATUM
I don't know why you're making Charlie carry notes to Billy like we're in second grade if I
wanted to talk to you I would answer the
You made the choice here, okay? You can't have it both ways when
What part of 'mortal enemies' is too complicated for you to
Look, I know I'm being a jerk, but there's just no way around
We can't be friends when you're spending all your time with a bunch of
It just makes it worse when I think about you too much, so don't write anymore
Yeah, I miss you, too. A lot. Doesn't change anything. Sorry.
I ran my fingers across the page, feeling the dents where he had pressed the pen to the paper so hard that it had nearly broken through. I could picture him writing this?scrawling the angry letters in his rough handwriting, slashing through line after line when the words came out wrong, maybe even snapping the pen in his too-big hand; that would explain the ink splatters. I could imagine the frustration pulling his black eyebrows together and crumpling his forehead. If it'd been there, I might have laughed. Don't give yourself a brain hemorrhage, Jacob, I would have told him. Just spit it out.
Laughing was the last thing I felt like doing now as I reread the words I'd already memorized. His answer to my pleading note?passed from Charlie to Billy to him, just like second grade, as he'd pointed out?was no surprise. I'd known the essence of what it would say before I'd opened it.
What was surprising was how much each crossed-out line wounded me?as if the points of the letters had cutting edges. More than that, behind each angry beginning lurked a vast pool of hurt; Jacob's pain cut me deeper than my own.
While I was pondering this, I caught the unmistakable scent of a smoking burner rising from the kitchen. In another house, the fact that someone besides myself was cooking might not be a cause for panicking.
I shoved the wrinkled paper into my back pocket and ran. I made it downstairs in the nick of time.
The jar of spaghetti sauce Charlie'd stuck in the microwave was only on its first revolution when I yanked the door open and pulled it out. "What did I do wrong?" Charlie demanded. "You're supposed to take the lid off first, Dad. Metal's bad for microwaves." I swiftly removed the lid as I spoke, poured half the sauce into a bowl, and then put the bowl inside the microwave and the jar back in the fridge; I fixed the time and pressed start.
Charlie watched my adjustments with pursed lips. "Did I get the noodle's right?" I looked in the pan on the stove?the source of the smell that had alerted me. "Stirring helps," I said mildly. I found a spoon and tried to de-clump the mushy hunk that was scalded at the bottom.
"So what's all this about?" I asked him.
He folded his arms across his chest and glared out the back windows into the sheeting rain. "Don't know what you're talking about," he grumbled.
I was mystified. Charlie cooking? And what was with the surly attitude? Edward wasn't here yet; usually my dad reserved this kind of behavior for my boyfriend's benefit, doing his best to illustrate the theme of "unwelcome" with every word and posture. Charlie's efforts were unnecessary?Edward knew exactly what my dad was thinking without the show.
The word boyfriend had me chewing on the inside of my cheek with familiar tension while I stirred. It wasn't the right word, not at all. I needed something more expressive of eternal commitment?. But words like destiny and fate sounded hokey when you used them in casual conversation.
Edward had another word in mind, and that word was the source of the tension I felt. It put my teeth on edge just to think it to myself.
Fiancée. Ugh. I shuddered away from the though.
"Did you miss something? Since when do you make dinner?" I asked Charlie. The pasta lump bobbed in the boiling water as I poked it. "Or try to make dinner, I should say."
Charlie shrugged. "There's no law that says I can't cook in my own house."
"You would know," I replied, grinning as I eyed the badge pinned to his leather jacket.
"Ha. Good one." He shrugged out of the jacket as if my glance had reminded him he still had it on, and hung it on the peg reserved for his gear. His gun belt was already slung in place?he hadn't felt the need to wear that to the station for a few weeks. There had been no more disturbing disappearances to trouble the small town of Forks, Washington, no more sighting of the giant, mysterious wolves in the ever-rainy woods?.
I prodded the noodles in silence, guessing that Charlie would get around to talking about whatever was bothering him in his own time. My dad was not a man of many words, and the effort he had put into trying to orchestrate a sit-down dinner with me made it clear there were an unusual characteristic number of words on his mind.
I glanced at the clock routinely?something I did every few minutes around this time. Less than a half hour to go now.
Afternoons were the hardest part of my day. Ever since my former best friend (and werewolf), Jacob Black, had informed on me about the motorcycle I'd been riding on the sly?a betrayal he had devised in order to get my grounded so that I couldn't spend time with my boyfriend (and vampire), Edward Cullen?Edward had been allowed to see me only from seven till nine-thirty p.m., always inside the confines of my home and under the supervision of my dad's unfailingly crabby glare.
This was an escalation from the previous, slightly less stringent grounding that I'd earned from an unexplained three-day disappearance and one episode of cliff diving.
Of course, I still saw Edward at school, because there wasn't anything Charlie could do about that. And then, Edward spent almost every night in my room, too, but Charlie wasn't precisely aware of that. Edward's ability to climb easily and silently through my second-story window was almost as useful as his ability to read Charlie's mind.