12. SOME PEOPLE JUST DON'T GRASP THE CONCEPT OF "UNWELCOME" 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! Go away, 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 —f—\ 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 —2—/ meant, shut up, most high Alpha. Why the hell are 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 a huge 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 to me 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 to someone —u—and don't think I haven't tried breaking off on my own, you know yourself how well that 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 I am 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? Seth, just coming up behind us now, whined; I'd offended him. Great. I've been helpful, haven't I, Jake? You haven't made too much a nuisance of yourself, kid, but if you and Leah are a package deal ——if the only way to get rid of her is for you to go home.... Weil, can you blame me for wanting you gone? Ugh, Leah, you ruin everything! Yeah, I know, she told him, and the thought was loaded with the heaviness of her despair. I felt the pain in the three little words, and it was more than I would've guessed. I didn't want to feel that. I didn't want to feel bad for her. Sure, the pack was rough on her, but she brought it all on herself with the bitterness that tainted her every thought and made being in her head a nightmare. Seth was feeling guilty, too. Jake... You're not really gonna send me away, are you? Leah's not so bad. Really. I mean, with her here, we can push the perimeter out farther. And this puts Sam down to seven. There's no way he's going to mount an attack that outnumbered. It's probably a good thing.... You know I don't want to lead a pack, Seth. So don't lead us, Leah offered. I snorted. Sounds perfect to me. Run along home now. Jake, Seth thought. / belong here. I do like vampires. Cullens, anyway. They're people to me, and I'm going to protect them, 'cause that's what we're supposed to do. Maybe you belong, kid, but your sister doesn't And she's going to go wherever you are —— I stopped short, because I saw something when I said that. Something Leah had been trying not to think. Leah wasn't going anywhere. Thought this was about Seth, I thought sourly. She flinched. Of course I'm here for Seth. And to get away from Sam. Her jaw clenched. / don't have to explain myself to you. I just have to do what I'm told. I belong to your pack, Jacob. The end. I paced away from her, growling. Crap. I was never going to get rid of her. As much as she disliked me, as much as she loathed the Cullens, as happy as she'd be to go kill all the vampires right now, as much as it pissed her off to have to protect them instead ——none of that was anything compared to what she felt being free of Sam. Leah didn't like me, so it wasn't such a chore having me wish she would disappear. She loved Sam. Still. And having him wish she would disappear was more pain than she was willing to live with, now that she had a choice. She would have taken any other option. Even if it meant moving in with the Cullens as their lapdog. / don't know if I'd go that far, she thought. She tried to make the words tough, aggressive, but there were big cracks in her show. I'm sure I'd give killing myself a few good tries first. Look, Leah... No, you look, Jacob. Stop arguing with me, because it's not going to do any good. I'll stay out of your way, okay? I'll do anything you want Except go back to Sam's pack and be the pathetic ex-girlfriend he can't get away from. If you want me to leave ——she sat back on her haunches and stared straight into my eyes——you're going to have to make me. I snarled for a long, angry minute. I was beginning to feel some sympathy for Sam, despite what he had done to me, to Seth. No wonder he was always ordering the pack around. How else would you ever get anything done? Seth, are you gonna get mad at me if I kill your sister? He pretended to think about it for a minute. Well... yeah, probably. I sighed. Okay, then, Ms. Do-Anything-I-Want Why don't you make yourself useful by telling us what you know? What happened after we left last night? Lots of howling. But you probably heard that part. It was so loud that it took us a while to figure out that we couldn't hear either of you anymore. Sam was... Words failed her, but we could see it in our head. Both Seth and I cringed. After that, it was clear pretty quick that we were going to have to rethink things. Sam was planning to talk to the other Elders first thing this morning. We were supposed to meet up and figure out a game plan. I could tell he wasn't going to mount another attack right away, though. Suicide at this point, with you and Seth AWOL and the bloodsuckers forewarned. I'm not sure what they'll do, but I wouldn't be wandering the forest alone if I was a leech. It's open season on vamps now. You decided to skip the meeting this morning? I asked. When we split up for patrols last night, I asked permission to go home, to tell my mother what had happened —2— Crap! You told Mom? Seth growled. Seth, hold off on the sibling stuff for a sec. Go on, Leah. So once I was human, I took a minute to think things through. Well, actually, I took all night. I bet the others think I fell asleep. But the whole two-separate-packs, two-separate-pack-minds thing gave me a lot to sift through. In the end, I weighed Seth's safety and the, er, other benefits against the idea of turning traitor and sniffing vampire stink for who knows how long. You know what I decided. I left a note for my mom. I expect we'll hear it when Sam finds out... Leah cocked an ear to the west. Yeah, I expect we will, I agreed. So that's everything. What do we do now? she asked. She and Seth both looked at me expectantly. This was exactly the kind of thing I didn't want to have to do. / guess we just keep an eye out for now. That's all we can do. You should probably take a nap, Leah. You've had as much sleep as I have. Thought you were going to do what you were told? Right. That's going to get old, she grumbled, and then she yawned. Well, whatever. I don't care. I'll run the border, Jake. I'm not tired at all. Seth was so glad I hadn't forced them home, he was all but prancing with excitement. Sure, sure. I'm going to go check in with the Cullens. Seth took off along the new path worn into the damp earth. Leah looked after him thoughtfully. Maybe a round or two before I crash... . Hey Seth, wanna see how many times I can lap you? NO! Barking out a low chuckle, Leah lunged into the woods after him. I growled uselessly. So much for peace and quiet. Leah was trying —u—for Leah. She kept her jibes to a minimum as she raced around the circuit, but it was impossible not to be aware of her smug mood. I thought of the whole "two's company" saying. It didn't really apply, because one was plenty to my mind. But if there had to be three of us, it was hard to think of anyone that I wouldn't trade her for. Paul? she suggested. Maybe, I allowed. She laughed to herself, too jittery and hyper to get offended, i wondered how long the buzz from dodging Sam's pity would last. That will be my goal then ——to be less annoying than Paul. Yeah, work on that I changed into my other form when I was a few yards from the lawn. I hadn't been planning to spend much time human here. But I hadn't been planning to have Leah in my head, either. I pulled on my ragged shorts and started across the lawn. The door opened before I got to the steps, and I was surprised to see Carlisle rather than Edward step outside to meet me ——his face looked exhausted and defeated. For a second, my heart froze. I faltered to a stop, unable to speak. "Are you all right, Jacob?" Carlisle asked. "Is Bella?" I choked out. "She's... much the same as last night. Did I startle you? I'm sorry. Edward said you were coming in your human form, and I came out to greet you, as he didn't want to leave her. She's awake." And Edward didn't want to lose any time with her, because he didn't have much time left. Carlisle didn't say the words out loud, but he might as well have. It had been a while since I'd slept ——since before my last patrol. I could really feel that now. I took a step forward, sat down on the porch steps, and slumped against the railing. Moving whisper-quiet as only a vampire could, Carlisle took a seat on the same step, against the other railing. "I didn't get a chance to thank you last night, Jacob. You don't know how much I appreciate your... compassion. I know your goal was to protect Bella, but I owe you the safety of the rest of my family as well. Edward told me what you had to do___" "Don't mention it," I muttered. "If you prefer." We sat in silence. I could hear the others in the house. Emmett, Alice, and Jasper, speaking in low, serious voices upstairs. Esme humming tunelessly in another room. Rosalie and Edward breathing close by ——I couldn't tell which was which, but I could hear the difference in Bella's labored panting. I could hear her heart, too. It seemed... uneven. It was like fate was out to make me do everything I'd ever sworn I wouldn't in the course of twenty-four hours. Here I was, hanging around, waiting for her to die. I didn't want to listen anymore. Talking was better than listening. "She's family to you?" I asked Carlisle. It had caught my notice before, when he'd said I'd helped the rest of his family, too. "Yes. Bella is already a daughter to me. A beloved daughter." "But you're going to let her die." He was quiet long enough that I looked up. His face was very, very tired. I knew how he felt. "I can imagine what you think of me for that," he finally said. "But i can't ignore her will. It wouldn't be right to make such a choice for her, to force her." I wanted to be angry with him, but he was making it hard. It was like he was throwing my own words back at me, just scrambled up. They'd sounded right before, but they couldn't be right now. Not with Bella dying. Still... I remembered how it felt to be broken on the ground under Sam ——to have no choice but be involved in the murder of someone I loved. It wasn't the same, though. Sam was wrong. And Bella loved things she shouldn't. "Do you think there's any chance she'll make it? I mean, as a vampire and all that. She told me about... about Esme." Tel say there's an even chance at this point," he answered quietly. "I've seen vampire venom work miracles, but there are conditions that even venom cannot overcome. Her heart is working too hard now; if it should fail... there won't be anything for me to do." Bella's heartbeat throbbed and faltered, giving an agonizing emphasis to his words. Maybe the planet had started turning backward. Maybe that would explain how everything was the opposite of what it had been yesterday —2—how I could be hoping for what had once seemed like the very worst thing in the world. "What is that thing doing to her?" I whispered. "She was so much worse last night. I saw... the tubes and all that. Through the window." "The fetus isn't compatible with her body. Too strong, for one thing, but she could probably endure that for a while. The bigger problem is that it won't allow her to get the sustenance she needs. Her body is rejecting every form of nutrition. I'm trying to feed her intravenously, but she's just not absorbing it. Everything about her condition is accelerated. I'm watching her ——and not just her, but the fetus as well—u—starve to death by the hour. I can't stop it and I can't slow it down. I can't figure out what it wants" His weary voice broke at the end. I felt the same way I had yesterday, when I'd seen the black stains across her stomach ——furious, and a little crazy. I clenched my hands into fists to control the shaking. I hated the thing that was hurting her. It wasn't enough for the monster to beat her from the inside out. No, it was starving her, too. Probably just looking for something to sink its teeth into —2—a throat to suck dry. Since it wasn't big enough to kill anyone else yet, it settled for sucking Bella's life from her. I could tell them exactly what it wanted: death and blood, blood and death. My skin was all hot and prickly. I breathed slowly in and out, focusing on that to calm myself. "I wish I could get a better idea of what exactly it is," Carlisle murmured. "The fetus is well protected. I haven't been able to produce an ultrasonic image. I doubt there is any way to get a needle through the amniotic sac, but Rosalie won't agree to let me try, in any case." "A needle?" I mumbled. "What good would that do?" "The more I know about the fetus, the better I can estimate what it will be capable of. What I wouldn't give for even a little amniotic fluid. If I knew even the chromosomal count..." "You're losing me, Doc. Can you dumb it down?" He chuckled once ——even his laugh sounded exhausted. "Okay. How much biology have you taken? Did you study chromosomal pairs?" "Think so. We have twenty-three, right?" "Humans do." I blinked. "How many do you have?" "Twenty-five." I frowned at my fists for a second. "What does that mean?" "I thought it meant that our species were almost completely different. Less related than a lion and a house cat. But this new life ——well, it suggests that we're more genetically compatible than I'd thought." He sighed sadly. "I didn't know to warn them." I sighed, too. It had been easy to hate Edward for the same ignorance. I still hated him for it. It was just hard to feel the same way about Carlisle. Maybe because I wasn't ten shades of jealous in Carlisle's case. "It might help to know what the count was —2—whether the fetus was closer to us or to her. To know what to expect." Then he shrugged. "And maybe it wouldn't help anything. I guess I just wish I had something to study, anything to do." "Wonder what my chromosomes are like," I muttered randomly. I thought of those Olympic steroids tests again. Did they run DNA scans? Carlisle coughed self-consciously. "You have twenty-four pairs, Jacob." I turned slowly to stare at him, raising my eyebrows. He looked embarrassed. "I was... curious. I took the liberty when I was treating you last June." I thought about it for a second. "I guess that should piss me off. But I don't really care." "I'm sorry. I should have asked." "S'okay, Doc. You didn't mean any harm." "No, I promise you that I did not mean you any harm. It's just that... I find your species fascinating. I suppose that the elements of vampiric nature have come to seem commonplace to me over the centuries. Your family's divergence from humanity is much more interesting. Magical, almost." "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo," I mumbled. He was just like Bella with all the magic garbage. Carlisle laughed another weary laugh. Then we heard Edward's voice inside the house, and we both paused to listen. "I'll be right back, Bella. I want to speak with Carlisle for a moment. Actually, Rosalie, would you mind accompanying me?" Edward sounded different. There was a little life in his dead voice. A spark of something. Not hope exactly, but maybe the desire to hope. "What is it, Edward?" Bella asked hoarsely. "Nothing you need to worry about, love. It will just take a second. Please, Rose?" "Esme?" Rosalie called. "Can you mind Bella for me?" I heard the whisper of wind as Esme flitted down the stairs. "Of course," she said. Carlisle shifted, twisting to look expectantly at the door. Edward was through the door first, with Rosalie right on his heels. His face was, like his voice, no longer dead. He seemed intensely focused. Rosalie looked suspicious. Edward shut the door behind her. "Carlisle," he murmured. "What is it, Edward?" "Perhaps we've been going about this the wrong way. I was listening to you and Jacob just now, and when you were speaking of what the... fetus wants, Jacob had an interesting thought." Me? What had / thought? Besides my obvious hatred for the thing? At least I wasn't alone in that. I could tell that Edward had a difficult time using a term as mild as fetus. "We haven't actually addressed that angle," Edward went on. "We've been trying to get Bella what she needs. And her body is accepting it about as well as one of ours would. Perhaps we should address the needs of the... fetus first. Maybe if we can satisfy it, we'll be able to help her more effectively." "I'm not following you, Edward," Carlisle said. "Think about it, Carlisle. If that creature is more vampire than human, can't you guess what it craves ——what it's not getting? Jacob did." I did? I ran through the conversation, trying to remember what thoughts I'd kept to myself. I remembered at the same time that Carlisle understood. "Oh," he said in a surprised tone. "You think it is... thirsty?" Rosalie hissed under her breath. She wasn't suspicious anymore. Her revoltingly perfect face was all lit up, her eyes wide with excitement. "Of course," she muttered. "Carlisle, we have all that type O negative laid aside for Bella. It's a good idea," she added, not looking at me. "Hmm." Carlisle put his hand to his chin, lost in thought. "I wonder... And then, what would be the best way to administer___" Rosalie shook her head. "We don't have time to be creative. I'd say we should start with the traditional way." "Wait a minute," i whispered. "Just hold on. Are you ——are you talking about making Bella drink blood?" "It was your idea, dog," Rosalie said, scowling at me without ever quite looking at me. I ignored her and watched Carlisle. That same ghost of hope that had been in Edward's face was now in the doctor's eyes. He pursed his lips, speculating. "That's just..." I couldn't find the right word. "Monstrous?" Edward suggested. "Repulsive?" "Pretty much." "But what if it helps her?" he whispered. I shook my head angrily. "What are you gonna do, shove a tube down her throat?" "I plan to ask her what she thinks. I just wanted to run it past Carlisle first." Rosalie nodded. "If you tell her it might help the baby, she'll be willing to do anything. Even if we do have to feed them through a tube." I realized then ——when I heard how her voice got all loveydovey as she said the word baby—˙—that Blondie would be in line with anything that helped the little life-sucking monster. Was that what was going on, the mystery factor that was bonding the two of them? Was Rosalie after the kid? From the corner of my eye, I saw Edward nod once, absently, not looking in my direction. But I knew he was answering my questions. Huh. I wouldn't have thought the ice-cold Barbie would have a maternal side. So much for protecting Bella ——Rosalie'd probably jam the tube down Bella's throat herself. Edward's mouth mashed into a hard line, and I knew I was right again. "Well, we don't have time to sit around discussing this," Rosalie said impatiently. "What do you think, Carlisle? Can we try?" Carlisle took a deep breath, and then he was on his feet. "We'll ask Bella." Blondie smiled smugly ——sure that, if it was up to Bella, she would get her way. I dragged myself up from the stairs and followed after them as they disappeared into the house. I wasn't sure why. Just morbid curiosity, maybe. It was like a horror movie. Monsters and blood all over the place. Maybe I just couldn't resist another hit of my dwindling drug supply. Bella lay flat on the hospital bed, her belly a mountain under the sheet. She looked like wax ——colorless and sort of see-through. You'd think she was already dead, except for the tiny movement of her chest, her shallow breathing. And then her eyes, following the four of us with exhausted suspicion. The others were at her side already, flitting across the room with sudden darting motions. It was creepy to watch. 1 ambled along at a slow walk. "What's going on?" Bella demanded in a scratchy whisper. Her waxy hand twitched up ——like she was trying to protect her balloon-shaped stomach. "Jacob had an idea that might help you," Carlisle said. I wished he would leave me out of it. I hadn't suggested anything. Give the credit to her bloodsucking husband, where it belonged. "It won't be... pleasant, but ——" "But it will help the baby," Rosalie interrupted eagerly. "We've thought of a better way to feed him. Maybe." Bella's eyelids fluttered. Then she coughed out a weak chuckle. "Not pleasant?" she whispered. "Gosh, that'll be such a change." She eyed the tube stuck into her arm and coughed again. Blondie laughed with her. The girl looked like she only had hours left, and she had to be in pain, but she was making jokes. So Bella. Trying to ease the tension, make it better for everyone else. Edward stepped around Rosalie, no humor touching his intense expression. I was glad for that. It helped, just a little bit, that he was suffering worse than me. He took her hand, not the one that was still protecting her swollen belly. "Bella, love, we're going to ask you to do something monstrous," he said, using the same adjectives he'd offered me. "Repulsive." Well, at least he was giving it to her straight. She took a shallow, fluttery breath. "How bad?" Carlisle answered. "We think the fetus might have an appetite closer to ours than to yours. We think it's thirsty." She blinked. "Oh. Oh." "Your condition ——both of your conditions——are deteriorating rapidly. We don't have time to waste, to come up with more palatable ways to do this. The fastest way to test the theory——" "I've got to drink it," she whispered. She nodded slightly —u—barely enough energy for a little head bob. "I can do that. Practice for the future, right?" Her colorless lips stretched into a faint grin as she looked at Edward. He didn't smile back. Rosalie started tapping her toe impatiently. The sound was really irritating. I wondered what she would do if I threw her through a wall right now. "So, who's going to catch me a grizzly bear?" Bella whispered. Carlisle and Edward exchanged a quick glance. Rosalie stopped tapping. "What?" Bella asked. "It will be a more effective test if we don't cut corners, Bella," Carlisle said. "If the fetus is craving blood," Edward explained, "it's not craving animal blood." "It won't make a difference to you, Bella. Don't think about it," Rosalie encouraged. Bella's eyes widened. "Who?" she breathed, and her gaze flickered to me. "I'm not here as a donor, Bells," I grumbled. "'Sides, it's human blood that thing's after, and I don't think mine applies ——" "We have blood on hand," Rosalie told her, talking over me before I'd finished, like I wasn't there. "For you —2—just in case. Don't worry about anything at all. It's going to be fine. I have a good feeling about this, Bella. I think the baby will be so much better." Bella:s hand ran across her stomach. "Well," she rasped, barely audible. "I'm starving, so I'll bet he is, too." Trying to make another joke. "Let's go for it. My first vampire act."
13. GOOD THING I'VE GOT A STRONG STOMACH Carlisle and Rosalie were off in a flash, darting upstairs. I could hear them debating whether they should warm it up for her. Ugh. i wondered what all house-of-horrors stuff they kept around here. Fridge full of blood, check. What else? Torture chamber? Coffin room? Edward stayed, holding Bella's hand. His face was dead again. He didn't seem to have the energy to keep up even that little hint of hope he'd had before. They stared into each other's eyes, but not in a gooey way. It was like they were having a conversation. Kind of reminded me of Sam and Emily. No, it wasn't gooey, but that only made it harder to watch. I knew what it was like for Leah, having to see that all the time. Having to hear it in Sam's head. Of course we all felt bad for her, we weren't monsters —2—in that sense, anyway. But I guess we'd blamed her for how she handled it. Lashing out at everyone, trying to make us all as miserable as she was. I would never blame her again. How could anyone help spreading this kind of misery around? How could anyone not try to ease some of the burden by shoving a little piece of it off on someone else? And if it meant that I had to have a pack, how could I blame her for taking my freedom? I would do the same. If there was a way to escape this pain, I'd take it, too. Rosalie darted downstairs after a second, flying through the room like a sharp breeze, stirring up the burning smell. She stopped inside the kitchen, and I heard the creak of a cupboard door. "Note/ear, Rosalie," Edward murmured. He rolled his eyes. Bella looked curious, but Edward just shook his head at her. Rosalie blew back through the room and disappeared again. "This was your idea?" Bella whispered, her voice rough as she strained to make it loud enough for me to hear. Forgetting that I could hear just fine. I kind of liked how, a lot of the time, she seemed to forget that I wasn't completely human. I moved closer, so that she wouldn't have to work so hard. "Don't blame me for this one. Your vampire was just picking snide comments out of my head." She smiled a little. "I didn't expect to see you again." "Yeah, me, either," I said. It felt weird just standing here, but the vampires had shoved all the furniture out of the way for the medical setup. I imagined that it didn't bother them —u—sitting or standing didn't make much difference when you were stone. Wouldn't bother me much, either, except that I was so exhausted. "Edward told me what you had to do. I'm sorry." "S'okay. It was probably only a matter of time till I snapped over something Sam wanted me to do," I lied. "And Seth," she whispered. "He's actually happy to help." "I hate causing you trouble." I laughed once —u—more a bark than a laugh. She breathed a faint sigh. "I guess that's nothing new, is it?" "No, not really." "You don't have to stay and watch this," she said, barely mouthing the words. I could leave. It was probably a good idea. But if I did, with the way she looked right now, I could be missing the last fifteen minutes of her life. "I don't really have anywhere else to go," I told her, trying to keep the emotion out of my voice. "The wolf thing is a lot less appealing since Leah joined up." "Leah?" she gasped. "You didn't tell her?" I asked Edward. He just shrugged without moving his eyes from her face. I could see it wasn't very exciting news to him, not something worth sharing with the more important events that were going down. Bella didn't take it so lightly. It looked like it was bad news to her. "Why?" she breathed. I didn't want to get into the whole novel-length version. "To keep an eye on Seth." "But Leah hates us," she whispered. Us. Nice. I could see that she was afraid, though. "Leah's not going to bug anyone." But me. "She's in my pack" —2—I grimaced at the words——"so she follows my lead." Ugh. Bella didn't look convinced. "You're scared of Leah, but you're best buds with the psychopath blonde?" There was a low hiss from the second floor. Cool, she'd heard me. Bella frowned at me. "Don't. Rose... understands." "Yeah," i grunted. "She understands that you're gonna die and she doesn't care, s'long as she gets her mutant spawn out of the deal." "Stop being a jerk, Jacob," she whispered. She looked too weak to get mad at. I tried to smile instead. "You say that like it's possible." Bella tried not to smile back for a second, but she couldn't help it in the end; her chalky lips pulled up at the corners. And then Carlisle and the psycho in question were there. Carlisle had a white plastic cup in his hand —2—the kind with a lid and a bendy straw. Oh——not clear, now I got it. Edward didn't want Bella to have to think about what she was doing any more than necessary. You couldn't see what was in the cup at all. But I could smell it. Carlisle hesitated, the hand with the cup half-extended. Bella eyed it, looking scared again. "We could try another method," Carlisle said quietly. "No," Bella whispered. "No, 111 try this first. We don't have time...." At first I thought she'd finally gotten a clue and was worried about herself, but then her hand fluttered feebly against her stomach. Bella reached out and took the cup from him. Her hand shook a little, and I could hear the sloshing from inside. She tried to prop herself up on one elbow, but she could barely lift her head. A whisper of heat brushed down my spine as I saw how frail she'd gotten in less than a day. Rosalie put her arm under Bella's shoulders, supporting her head, too, like you did with a newborn. Blondie was all about the babies. "Thanks," Bella whispered. Her eyes flickered around at us. Still aware enough to feel self-conscious. If she wasn't so drained, I'd bet she'd've blushed. "Don't mind them," Rosalie murmured. It made me feel awkward. I should've left when Bella'd offered the chance. I didn't belong here, being part of this. I thought about ducking out, but then I realized a move like that would only make this worse for Bella ——make it harder for her to go through with it. She'd figure I was too disgusted to stay. Which was almost true. Still. While I wasn't going to claim responsibility for this idea, I didn't want to jinx it, either. Bella lifted the cup to her face and sniffed at the end of the straw. She flinched, and then made a face. "Bella, sweetheart, we can find an easier way," Edward said, holding his hand out for the cup. "Plug your nose," Rosalie suggested. She glared at Edward's hand like she might take a snap at it. I wished she would. I bet Edward wouldn't take that sitting down, and I'd love to see Blondie lose a limb. "No, that's not it. It's just that it —n—" Bella sucked in a deep breath. "It smells good," she admitted in a tiny voice. I swallowed hard, fighting to keep the disgust off my face. "That's a good thing," Rosalie told Bella eagerly. "That means we're on the right track. Give it a try." Given Blondie's new expression, I was surprised she didn't break into a touchdown dance. Bella shoved the straw between her lips, squeezed her eyes shut, and wrinkled her nose. I could hear the blood slopping around in the cup again as her hand shook. She sipped at it for a second, and then moaned quietly with her eyes still closed. Edward and I stepped forward at the same time. He touched her face. I clenched my hands behind my back. "Bella, love ——" Tm okay," she whispered. She opened her eyes and stared up at him. Her expression was... apologetic. Pleading. Scared. "It tastes good, too." Acid churned in my stomach, threatening to overflow. I ground my teeth together. "That's good," Blondie repeated, still jazzed. "A good sign." Edward just pressed his hand to her cheek, curling his fingers around the shape of her fragile bones. Bella sighed and put her lips to the straw again. She took a real pull this time. The action wasn't as weak as everything else about her. Like some instinct was taking over. "How's your stomach? Do you feel nauseated?" Carlisle asked. Bella shook her head. "No, I don't feel sick," she whispered. "There's a first, eh?" Rosalie beamed. "Excellent." "I think it's a bit early for that, Rose," Carlisle murmured. Bella gulped another mouthful of blood. Then she flashed a look at Edward. "Does this screw my total?" she whispered. "Or do we start counting after I'm a vampire?" "No one is counting, Bella. In any case, no one died for this." He smiled a lifeless smile. "Your record is still clean." They'd lost me. "I'll explain later," Edward said, so low the words were just a breath. "What?" Bella whispered. "Just talking to myself," he lied smoothly. If he succeeded with this, if Bella lived, Edward wasn't going to be able to get away with so much when her senses were as sharp as his. He'd have to work on the honesty thing. Edward's lips twitched, fighting a smile. Bella chugged a few more ounces, staring past us toward the window. Probably pretending we weren't here. Or maybe just me. No one else in this group would be disgusted by what she was doing. Just the opposite —u—they were probably having a tough time not ripping the cup away from her. Edward rolled his eyes. Jeez, how did anyone stand living with him? It was really too bad he couldn't hear Bella's thoughts. Then he'd annoy the crap out of her, too, and she'd get tired of him. Edward chuckled once. Bella's eyes flicked to him immediately, and she half-smiled at the humor in his face. I would guess that wasn't something she'd seen in a while. "Something funny?" she breathed. "Jacob," he answered. She looked over with another weary smile for me. "Jake's a crack-up," she agreed. Great, now I was the court jester. "Bada bing" I mumbled in weak rim-shot impression. She smiled again, and then took another swig from the cup. I flinched when the straw pulled at empty air, making a loud sucking sound. "I did it," she said, sounding pleased. Her voice was clearer —i—rough, but not a whisper for the first time today. "If I keep this down, Carlisle, will you take the needles out of me?" "As soon as possible," he promised. "Honestly, they aren't doing that much good where they are." Rosalie patted Bella's forehead, and they exchanged a hopeful glance. And anyone could see it —u—the cup full of human blood had made an immediate difference. Her color was returning——there was a tiny hint of pink in her waxy cheeks. Already she didn't seem to need Rosalie's support so much anymore. Her breathing was easier, and I would swear her heartbeat was stronger, more even. Everything accelerated. That ghost of hope in Edward's eyes had turned into the real thing. "Would you like more?" Rosalie pressed. Bella's shoulders slumped. Edward flashed a glare at Rosalie before he spoke to Bella. "You don't have to drink more right away." "Yeah, I know. But... I want to" she admitted glumly. Rosalie pulled her thin, sharp fingers through Bella's lank hair. "You don't need to be embarrassed about that, Bella. Your body has cravings. We all understand that." Her tone was soothing at first, but then she added harshly, "Anyone who doesn't understand shouldn't be here." Meant for me, obviously, but I wasn't going to let Blondie get to me. I was glad Bella felt better. So what if the means grossed me out? It wasn't like I'd said anything. 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 —4—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 —2—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 —u—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 light Leah 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, do not challenge them. Wait forme. They're slowing. Ugh ——its so off not being able to hear them. I think... What? 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. Were Sam, Embry, and Brady making a move alone? That didn't seem likely. Want me to check? I can run the line and be back in two minutes. Should I warn the Cullens? Seth wondered. What if the point was to divide us? I asked. The Cullens know something's up. They're ready. Sam wouldn't be so stupid..., Leah whispered, fear jagged in her mind. She was imagining Sam attacking the Cullens with only the two others beside him. No, he wouldn't, I assured her, though I felt a little sick at the image in her head, too. All the while, Jared and the three wolves stared at us, waiting. It was eerie not to hear what Quil and Paul and Collin were saying to one another. Their expressions were blank ——unreadable. Jared cleared his throat, and then he nodded to me. "White flag of truce, Jake. We're here to talk." Think it's true? Seth asked. Makes sense, but... Yeah, Leah agreed. But. We didn't relax. Jared frowned. "It would be easier to talk if I could hear you, too." I stared him down. I wasn't going to phase back until I felt better about this situation. Until it made sense. Why Collin? That was the part that had me most worried. "Okay. I guess I'll just talk, then," Jared said. "Jake, we want you to come back." Quil let out a soft whine behind him. Seconding the statement. "You've torn our family apart. It's not meant to be this way." I wasn't exactly in disagreement with that, but it was hardly the point. There were a few unresolved differences of opinion between me and Sam at the moment. "We know that you feel... strongly about the situation with the Cullens. We know that's a problem. But this is an overreaction." Seth growled. Overreaction? And attacking our allies without warning isn't? Seth, you ever heard of a poker face? Cool it. Sorry. Jared's eyes flickered to Seth and back to me. "Sam is willing to take this slowly, Jacob. He's calmed down, talked to the other Elders. They've decided that immediate action is in no one's best interest at this point." Translation: They've already lost the element of surprise, Leah thought. It was weird how distinct our joint thinking was. The pack was already Sam's pack, was already "them" to us. Something outside and other. It was especially weird to have Leah thinking that way ——to have her be a solid part of the "us." "Billy and Sue agree with you, Jacob, that we can wait for Bella... to be separated from the problem. Killing her is not something any of us feel comfortable with." Though I'd just given Seth crap for it, I couldn't hold back a small snarl of my own. So they didn't quite feel comfortable with murder, huh? Jared raised his hands again. "Easy, Jake. You know what I mean. The point is, we're going to wait and reassess the situation. Decide later if there's a problem with the... thing." Ha, Leah thought. What a load. You don't buy it? I know what they're thinking, Jake. What Sam's thinking. They're betting on Bella dying anyway. And then they figure you'll be so mad... That I'll lead the attack myself. My ears pressed against my skull. What Leah was guessing sounded pretty spot-on. And very possible, too. When... if that thing killed Bella, it was going to be easy to forget how I felt about Carlisle's family right now. They would probably look like enemies ——like no more than bloodsucking leeches——to me all over again. I'll remind you, Seth whispered.
/ know you will, kid. Question is whether I'll listen to you. "Jake?" Jared asked. I huffed a sigh. Leah, make a circuit ——just to be sure. I'm going to have to talk to him, and I want to be positive there isn't anything else going on while I'm phased. Give me a break, Jacob. You can phase in front of me. Despite my best efforts, I've seen you naked before ——doesn't do much forme, so no worries. I'm not trying to protect the innocence of your eyes, I'm trying to protect our backs. Get out of here. Leah snorted once and then launched herself into the forest. I could hear her claws cutting into the soil, pushing her faster. Nudity was an inconvenient but unavoidable part of pack life. We'd all thought nothing of it before Leah came along. Then it got awkward. Leah had average control when it came to her temper ——it took her the usual length of time to stop exploding out of her clothes every time she got pissed. We'd all caught a glimpse. And it wasn't like she wasn't worth looking at; it was just that it was so not worth it when she caught you thinking about it later. Jared and the others were staring at the place where she'd disappeared into the brush with wary expressions. "Where's she going?" Jared asked. I ignored him, closing my eyes and pulling myself together again. It felt like the air was trembling around me, shaking out from me in small waves. I lifted myself up on my hind legs, catching the moment just right so that I was fully upright as I shimmered down into my human self. "Oh," Jared said. "Hey, Jake." "Hey, Jared." "Thanks for talking to me." "Yeah." "We want you to come back, man." Quil whined again. "I don't know if it's that easy, Jared." "Come home," he said, leaning forward. Pleading. "We can sort this out. You don't belong here. Let Seth and Leah come home, too." I laughed. "Right. Like I haven't been begging them to do that from hour one." Seth snorted behind me. Jared assessed that, his eyes cautious again. "So, what now, then?" I thought that over for a minute while he waited. "I don't know. But I'm not sure things could just go back to normal anyway, Jared. I don't know how it works —2—it doesn't feel like I can just turn this Alpha thing off and on as the mood strikes. It feels sort of permanent." "You still belong with us." I raised my eyebrows. "Two Alphas can't belong in the same place, Jared. Remember how close it got last night? The instinct is too competitive." "So are you all just going to hang out with the parasites for the rest of your lives?" he demanded. "You don't have a home here. You're already out of clothes," he pointed out. "You gonna stay wolf all the time? You know Leah doesn't like eating that way." "Leah can do whatever she wants when she gets hungry. She's here by her own choice. I'm not telling anyone what to do." Jared sighed. "Sam is sorry about what he did to you." I nodded. "I'm not angry anymore." "But?" "But I'm not coming back, not now. We're going to wait and see how it plays out, too. And we're going to watch out for the Cullens for as long as that seems necessary. Because, despite what you think, this isn't just about Bella. We're protecting those who should be protected. And that applies to the Cullens, too." At least a fair number of them, anyway. Seth yelped softly in agreement. Jared frowned. "I guess there's nothing I can say to you, then." "Not now. We'll see how things go." Jared turned to face Seth, concentrating on him now, separate from me. "Sue asked me to tell you —u—no, to beg you——to come home. She's brokenhearted, Seth. All alone. I don't know how you and Leah can do this to her. Abandon her this way, when your dad just barely died—u—" Seth whimpered. "Ease up, Jared," I warned. "Just letting him know how it is." I snorted. "Right." Sue was tougher than anyone I knew. Tougher than my dad, tougher than me. Tough enough to play on her kids' sympathies if that's what it took to get them home. But it wasn't fair to work Seth that way. "Sue's known about this for how many hours now? And most of that time spent with Billy and Old Quil and Sam? Yeah, I'm sure she's just perishing of loneliness. 'Course you're free to go if you want, Seth. You know that." Seth sniffed. Then, a second later, he cocked an ear to the north. Leah must be close. Jeez, she was fast. Two beats, and Leah skidded to a stop in the brush a few yards away. She trotted in, taking the point in front of Seth. She kept her nose in the air, very obviously not looking in my direction. I appreciated that. "Leah?" Jared asked. She met his gaze, her muzzle pulling back a little over her teeth. Jared didn't seem surprised by her hostility. "Leah, you know you don't want to be here." She snarled at him. I gave her a warning glance she didn't see. Seth whined and nudged her with his shoulder. "Sorry," Jared said. "Guess I shouldn't assume. But you don't have any ties to the bloodsuckers." Leah very deliberately looked at her brother and then at me. "So you want to watch out for Seth, I get that," Jared said. His eyes touched my face and then went back to hers. Probably wondering about that second look ——just like I was. "But Jake's not going to let anything happen to him, and he's not afraid to be here." Jared made a face. "Anyway, please, Leah. We want you back. Sam wants you back." Leah's tail twitched. "Sam told me to beg. He told me to literally get down on my knees if I have to. He wants you home, Lee-lee, where you belong." I saw Leah flinch when Jared used Sam's old nickname for her. And then, when he added those last three words, her hackles rose and she was yowling a long stream of snarls through her teeth. I didn't have to be in her head to hear the cussing-out she was giving him, and neither did he. You could almost hear the exact words she was using. I waited till she was done. "I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Leah belongs wherever she wants to be." Leah growled, but, as she was glaring at Jared, I figured it was in agreement. "Look, Jared, we're still family, okay? We'll get past the feud, but, until we do, you probably ought to stick to your land. Just so there aren't misunderstandings. Nobody wants a family brawl, right? Sam doesn't want that, either, does he?" "Of course, not," Jared snapped. "We'll stick to our land. But where is your land, Jacob? Is it vampire land?" "No, Jared. Homeless at the moment. But don't worry ——this isn't going to last forever." I had to take a breath. "There's not that much time... left. Okay? Then the Cullens will probably go, and Seth and Leah will come home." Leah and Seth whined together, their noses turning my direction in synchronization. "And what about you, Jake?" "Back to the forest, I think. I can't really stick around La Push. Two Alphas means too much tension. 'Sides, I was headed that way anyway. Before this mess." "What if we need to talk?" Jared asked. "Howl ——but watch the line, 'kay? We'll come to you. And Sam doesn't need to send so many. We aren't looking for a fight." Jared scowled, but nodded. He didn't like me setting conditions for Sam. "See you around, Jake. Or not." He waved halfheartedly. "Wait, Jared. Is Embry okay?" Surprise crossed his face. "Embry? Sure, he's fine. Why?" "Just wondering why Sam sent Collin." I watched his reaction, still suspicious that something was going on. I saw knowledge flash in his eyes, but it didn't look like the kind I was expecting. "That's not really your business anymore, Jake." "Guess not. Just curious." I saw a twitch from the corner of my eye, but I didn't acknowledge it, because I didn't want to give Quil away. He was reacting to the subject. "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. They are 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 it she thought. Seth snorted. Funny. Why don't you two shut up and sleep?