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Finished. Six years after Breaking Dawn, a brutal murder is committed near Forks. When called in the middle of the night, Charlie Swan rushes off to do his civic duty and protect the public. Three hours later, he returns home with a new ward: the only survivor of the double homicide. From the beginning, it is clear that the poor thing needs a new start, a new life- and someone to save her from her old one, especially when ghosts from the past resurface. And, with Nessie determined to overcome her own demons, the two realize that friendship can come from the strangest places.

All of this belongs to Stephenie Meyer. Duh…

16. Chapter 16

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Chapter Sixteen––

Love. Now that was a funny word. For a long time, Seth thought he knew what it was. He loved a lot of people. He loved his mother, loved Leah, loved La Push and his brothers with all of his heart. He was willing to die in defense of his tribe, kill to save someone innocent, and die to spare his brother’s life. Even with the girls he casually dated in high school, and then those he pursued when began to seriously search for a mate, he was gentlemanly and polite. He was the perfect man that every mother dreamed her daughter would find. He loved them as much as he could in the short time he knew them. Yes, for a long time Seth was sure loved with all of his heart.

Then he met Iris, and she had turned his world upside down. He was always spinning, running, turning and catapulting. He could not make sense of up and down, right or wrong. Everything in the world seemed to revolve around the whims of that impudent child. And, outrageously enough, Seth found himself adding to the chaos. Everything he did, he did for her. Even if it was getting her mint-chocolate chip ice cream in the middle of the night, or letting her burrow down into his chest when the rest of the world was at the hospital, he was powerless against her. The control she had over him was utterly and unbreakable. The worst part: she unknowingly worked her control over him, bent him to her will, and controlled every aspect of his life. He revolved around her, as she acted like it was the most normal thing in the world.

It was not imprinting that much was certain. If it was, his thoughts would be consumed with her: her smile, her eyes, her small body. He would know that he loved her, and would forever. Besides, Alice said she was not his imprint. She was destined for Nahuel. It was impossible for him to love her, anyway, even if he wanted to. The kind of complete devotion that came with imprinting. There was no certainty, no commitment. Without an imprint, it was hard to fully love. Yes, he decided, he did not love Iris Potter.

It’s so wrong to hear you think about somebody like that,’ Jared thought. ‘You still seem too young to me,

Together, the feet pounded into the soft ground. They were going on a border patrol. Routine, just to make sure that everything was all right. Nothing smelled odd or felt out of place. The woods were dark, and calm. The sun hung hidden away behind the clouds, shielded away from the rest of the world. The perfect day for a vampire to come out of hiding; the perfect day for a hunt.

I didn’t know you thought of Iris like that…’ Brady added in. He ran alongside his brothers, step in step. He was the youngest member of the pack, but he made up for his youth with braun, bravery and stupidity. ‘Though I can’t blame you. She’s a nice piece of ass,’

Dude!’ Seth snarled. He skidded to a halt as he barred his teeth as his youngest brother.

What?’ Brady recoiled. He crouched down and pulled his haunches down in submission. ‘I was only saying––’

Well, don’t,’ snapped Seth. ‘I don’t ever want you to think about her like that again!

‘Are you sure you haven’t imprinted on her, dude?’ Brady whined softly. ‘Cause it sure seems like you have.

I haven’t!’ snarled Seth. ‘I’m just capable of treating her respectfully. Sometimes, I think I’m the only one who can!

Dude,’ Jared warned. ‘You sound like a chick,’

Seth turned on his long time friend. ‘What?’ he cried.

Jared shrugged his shoulders as much as he could. ‘I’m just saying,’

I do not sound like a chick,’ Seth snapped. He shook his head, clearing it, angry at his brothers. One had no reason to say such things; the other was going to get his eyes ripped out if he kept thinking lecherous thoughts about the ebony haired girl.

Oh yes you do,’ Brady egged him on. ‘Always worrying about Iris’s emotional state and her feelings. All you should be thinking about is getting down her pants. She certainly seems to be eager to get into yours,’ he tacked on. In his mind, it was probably a simple statement, not meant to make Seth angry. It was just the truth.

Only Seth did not want to hear the truth. He rounded on Brady. ‘How the hell do you know that?’ he roared. Spit gushed from his barred teeth as he snapped at the pup’s heels. Brady danced backwards with wide eyes and submissive posture. ‘How the fucking hell did you know that?’

Brady whimpered in fear. Seth did not care as he brutally advanced on him, furious and rightly so. He had absolutely no idea how the little pack pervert knew that Iris attempted repeatedly to get into his pants, and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to. But he would have to stop any rumors that something had happened––because it most certainly hadn’t.

Seth!’ Jared called loudly. ‘Calm down!

Either Seth did not hear, or he did not care. ‘Tell me!’ he roared at Brady.

‘N…no one told me,’ he stuttered out. ‘If that’s what you’re worried about––

How do you know?’ Again, he demanded. His bright yellow eyes flashed and he snapped his jaws threateningly. No one was going to harm Iris in any way as long as there was breath left in his body.

Yo…you…you’ve go…go…got hickeys a…a…all over you,’ he whined. ‘She doesn’t,’ he added. ‘It isn’t hard to figure out, especially since she always smells like you,

‘Have you told anyone?’ Seth demanded to know. If word got out, that could hurt Iris even more. More gossip, more rumors, more drama. She did not need that. She needed normalcy and consistency. A clandestine affair would only give her terrible grief.

Brady shook his head rapidly. ‘No!’ he cried. ‘I swear, Seth!

Good,’ Seth backed off, finally satisfied. ‘And you won’t.’ He let the threat hang heavily in the air. There was no need to spell out the consequences of betrayal. All Brady ever needed to know what that they would be severe, and that Seth would be relentless, and unforgiving.

I won’t,’ he promised. ‘I won’t,’

Seth’s eyes swiveled to meet Jared’s. His brother shook his head. ‘You have my word as well. What happens between a man and his mate is sacred. It is not another’s business,’

Seth nodded his head in thanks. ‘She isn’t my mate,’ he said, but Jared did not care.

‘We’re almost done here,’ Jared told the two of them. ‘Head on back to your house, Seth, and check on her. You’re too nervous to be of much use right now,

Are you sure?’ Seth asked. He looked around. ‘We haven’t finished yet,

‘I know,’ Jared answered. ‘But you’ve pulled more double shifts that I can count so I could be with Kim. This is just me beginning to repay you for that. Besides,’ he grinned––a very feral gesture for an intimidating wolf, ‘there are no leeches around. We’d have smelled them long ago. Today is going perfect. Get back to Iris,’

Thanks,’ Seth said with a relieved look.

It gets easier,’ Jared promised him as he bounded off. ‘You learn how to cope with being away from them,

She isn’t his imprint,’ Brady said confoundedly as Seth quickly disappeared.

Jared gave him a patronizing look. ‘You don’t need to imprint to find love,’ he told the boy. ‘You’ll understand someday,’

Seth ran swiftly back to his house, a happy grin on his face. A long pink tongue hung from his open jaws as he ran, flapping in the wind. He was going to see Iris again soon, and that made him happy. It seemed like days since he had last seen her––she had been asleep still when he went for patrol––and it was almost lunch time. It was unbelievable how he missed her. He thought about her constantly, and her drawing the startling confession forcefully from him, to the point where it annoyed his brothers. Jared might have been able to explain this feeling if he weren’t so nauseated. Brady just thought it was funny.

He skidded to a halt, however, when he heard a very distinct sound that he never thought he would hear. Humming. Peering out of the thick woods, Seth eyed his house warily. He knew who was doing it, and it was so utterly unexpected that he immediately imagined the worse. The windows were open and the shutters were thrown wide back. Iris was lightly humming as she rummaged around her room so the fresh air could float through the house. Her surprisingly high voice mingled with her throatiness, and for a moment, he could only listen to her.

She walked out of the house a moment later, leaving the paneled backdoor open. In her hands was a worn book, and a glass of iced tea. She was smiling, obviously content with the world. Her day must have gone quite well, despite the fact that she had not seen him all day. He didn’t like that.

A thin tank top hugged her slim torso. He could easily see the shadowed contours of her bony stomach and the faded read bra that gently cupped the small swells of her breasts. Lucky bastard. Dark jeans hugged her hips and fell to the floors. They were once Nessie’s and too long for the short Iris. She shuffled along, barefoot, letting her hot pink toes peep out daintily. Seth mused for just a moment truly how little his tiny lover was. He loomed a head, shoulders, and even part of his chest of her. She was barely five two. Everything about Iris was little––except for her lustrous hair that usually hung down her back. It was now swept up into a loose braids spun around the back of her head. She even had twined freshly cut flowers into the lovely coil.

She was in a good mood.

Iris looked up with wide eyes as he walked up to her, still as a wolf. She smiled brightly, and her make-up free face brightened. “Well, hello,”

Even with such simple words, she seduced him. The siren would stop at nothing! He nudged her leg as she reclined in the woven hammock and whined.

“I missed you, too,” she told him. “Very much,”

Pulling back, she instructed, “Go get changed, and hurry back. I’ll bring out some lemonade,”

With a wag of his tail, Seth hurried inside, shifting as soon as he was in his room. He did not bother with a shirt––it was abnormally hot for early November, and he was still hot from his run. He slipped into baggy sweatpants––they were both comfy and loose––and ran down the stairs two at a time. Iris was already lounging in the hammock, two glasses of lemonade in her hands. Her previous glass of tea lay on the ground, empty.

“Cheers,” she said as she handed him his glass. They clinked together, and Iris took a gentle sip of hers. Seth downed his in one gulp. He was thirsty.

“Nice,” she teased.

“It was a long run,” he told her as he settled into the hammock beside her, “I was thirsty.”

“You poor baby,” Iris pouted for him. “How do you ever stand such torture?”

“It’s more exercise than you do,” Seth feebly defended. “You sat in school today, and was lazy. The only moving you had to do was open your locker.”

“What can I say?” Iris shrugged. “I’m just lucky that way,”

“What did you do today?” he asked her. He held her close, feeling the comforting beat of her heart against his chest. He dreamed the night before that he had woken up and she was gone. Blood was all that was left: no body, no clothes, nothing. No one had remembered her either; it was like she was just a dream belonging solely to Seth.

“Nothing, really,” she told him. “I read during school today, and almost got a detention. The principle does not like me much,”

“What did you do?” he yawned.

“Nothing, really,” she replied. “Kenzie was being a bitch, so I dumped my Diet Coke on her head. I only got away with it because Alan Coster had started an impromptu wet tee shirt contest, and got her wet with a squirt gun. It was awesome,”

“Who won?” he asked, mildly interested. There was no point in chastising her for dumping Diet Coke on Kenzie. The bitch probably deserved it anyway.

“Maggie Thatch, but that’s only cause she was voted best rack and everybody wanted to see if it was true.” Her eyes met Seth’s and she grinned. “It totally was,”

“Really?” he asked her with an amused smile and quirked eyebrow.

“Really,” she emphatically nodded her head. “I’m a girl, and even I was impressed. She is surprisingly skinny for someone with natural double-D boobs. Victoria’s Secret models everywhere need to be jealous. They were that impressive,”

“I don’t know if I like you checking out other girls’ boobs,” Seth said.

“I only care about your penis, if that makes you feel better,” she answered. “I just was surprised is all,”

“Please don’t talk about my penis out in the open,” he told her. His alert ears listened intently for any noise. His brothers were still out there, and more than likely, could hear everything that was said. “I don’t want people to get the wrong impression,”

Iris darkly glared. “There’s no way they could,” she told him. “You’re too pure to even think about it,”

“I just don’t want to take advantage of you,”

“You wouldn’t be taking advantage of me since I keep offering it,” she snapped exasperatedly. “One day, I am going to snap, and rape you.”

Seth could not help but smirk. “I think I could fend you off. I am quite a bit stronger and bigger than you are,”

Iris raised an eyebrow. “Is that a challenge?” she queried.

Seth blanched. “No…no,” he stuttered out. “Anything but. I don’t want you getting any ideas––”

Iris smirked victoriously at him. She drawled in a husky voice, “Consider it accepted.”

He could only groan.

“Don’t worry,” Iris quickly said. “You’re safe for right now. The ‘rents could be home at any moment, and I am not dumb enough to be riding you in the middle of the lawn as Charlie drives up.”

Seth knew the sweats were a good idea. No matter how filthy her mouth got, she would never see the fruits of her labor. Whoever invented them definitely was a genius in his book.

“Besides,” she prattled on, “When I jump you, it’s going to be a complete surprise. You’ll never see it coming.” She grinned deviously. “Pun intended,”

It took a second for him to get it, but when he did, Seth groaned loudly. “Iris!”

She pecked his cheek. “Save it for later,”

He groaned again. Forcing himself to think of something else so he didn’t end up riding her in the middle of the lawn, he asked, “Are you okay?”

She sobered instantly. “I think so,” she told him. “I was in shock for a long time. I hated the idea that some old man could so easily manipulate my life, and control my fate. I don’t like the idea that he can tell me what to do whenever he wants, and that he can make me stay here, marry one of you all. But,” she shyly glanced at him. “I do like being with you.

“And I don’t know if it’s love,” she quickly hurried on. A widespread blush color her entire body in the most delightful manner. “I don’t think I’ve known you long enough for it to be love, but I am attracted to you, Seth. I’m sure you have guessed that part,” she grinned weakly. It was then he realized she was scared that she might scare him off. He smiled at her. Silly girl.

“I guess what I am saying is that I am willing to wait it out, see where it goes. I have no intention of leaving right now, anyway. I’m happy,”

She let the fact that she had not been happy in a long time hang in the air. It was something that did not need to be said.

Seth looked at the young girl before him struggling so hard to come into adulthood. It broke his heart and made his soul weep for her. Arms tightening around her, he pulled her against his chest. “I’m glad your here,” he whispered into her ear. “And I don’t have any intention of letting you go anytime soon,”

Which was surprisingly true, Nahuel and Alice be dammed.

“Does anyone else know what happened” Iris suddenly asked. Her little head rested on his hot chest, so she could listen to the comforting rhythm of his heart. Not only did it comfort her, it kept the side of her face warm.

“Sam does,” he answered. “But that’s because Old Quil told him,”

He needed to know,” Iris agreed. “He’s the alpha,”

“How’d you know that?” he asked her. As far as he knew, he had not mentioned Sam’s authority. In fact, he hadn’t told her very much about pack life in general, simply because she did not need to know. He did not want her to get attached to his brothers or become fascinated with the lifestyle. Not when she was destined to leave.

Iris shrugged. “I just did. I know a lot of stuff,”

Seth chuckled, “I know you do.” He kept the worry out of his voice. There was no need to alarm her. What else could she know, though?

“I don’t want Chief Swan to know,” her whispered confession startled him. “He knows too much already,”

“He’s a brave man,” he told her. “He wants to stand by you, no matter what.”

“I know, I know. I just don’t want him getting caught in the crossfire or interfering with whatever is supposed to happen,”

Seth replied, “I think he’s smarter than that; he knows stuff, too.”

Iris laughed, “Most of what he knows involves police work and your mom.”

“Oh, ha ha, very funny,” drawled Seth. “Real original, Iris,”

Iris grinned. “I thought so,” she boldly declared. “If something does happen, promise me you’ll look after him,”

“What are you saying?”

His body tensed beneath her, but she did not care. “Just in case something bad happens,”

Seth sat up to stare down at her. Iris rolled confoundedly into his lap with wide eyes and an irked look. The sudden weight shift left her more startled than anything. “What did you see?” he demanded. “Why do you think you won’t be here soon?”

“I didn’t see anything,” she demurely whispered.

“Then, why did you ask that?” he demanded. “Tell me!” he cried.

“Don’t freak out,” Iris chided. “It isn’t that important,”

“It is if you think I’m going to let you leave me,” snarled Seth.

Iris grinned at him. “I don’t want to leave, either,” she told him with a confident gleam in her green-gray eyes.

“Why would you ask me something like that?” he asked her softly as they lay back down into the hammock. His arms wrapped around her gently, cuddling her against him.

“Just in case the worst should happen,” she replied. Her fingers danced over his thrumming heartbeat, and she listened to his joyous life.

“Just in case,” he echoed. “Let’s not worry about that right now,” he told her. “I’m going to protect you, and Charlie. I promise,”

The girl in his arms let out a sigh of contentment. “Thank you,”

He kissed the side of her head as he settled back into the hammock. “That’s my job,” he whispered into her ebony hair.

The wind blew the warm air over their glistening bodies. It was a gentle breeze, tranquil and serene. Soothed by opulence, Iris let eyes flutter shut, and she drifted off into a light sleep. As her breath evened out, Seth stroked her back with tender love. The fact that she was at ease enough around him to fall asleep told him more of her love than all the words in the dictionary.

“Seth,” a shrill voice loudly yelled from the house. “Where are you?”

“Out here, Leah!” he called her. He tried not to yell too loudly. He did not want to wake Iris as she peacefully napped.

A few moments later, Lead popped out from the house. She saw only Seth lying in the hammock, not the small girl in his arms. “How’s life going?” she asked as she sauntered out into the yard.

“Same old, same old,” Seth answered. His eyes finally caught sight of his tall sister. A small shirt hung from her slender hips, exposing more tight Seth liked, and the belly shirt that rode too high up her toned tummy. He saw the looks on guys’ faces as she walked by, and he did not like it. No sir, not one bit.

“Life’s going great on my end, too,” she said as she looked down. “Hadn’t seen you or mom in a couple weeks, so I thought I’d drop by––”

Her eyes widened when she saw Iris snuggled up against him. The softest smile trailed up the corners of her mouth, and her hair tumbled around their bodies awkwardly as it fell over the edge of the hammock. She pointed with a shaky finger and an open mouth that collected dust.

“Surprise?” Seth squeaked with a weak grin.

“Is she your––” Leah trailed off, both hopefully and fearfully.

Seth quickly shook his head. “No,” he answered. “She isn’t,”

Lead speculatively eyed the bites and scratches that littered his chest, and the way Iris possessively clung to him. “So you’re just sleeping with her?”

Seth flinched. “I do have more morals that, thank you. No, we haven’t done that,”

Leach still checked Iris from head to toe, just to make sure. “She sure is possessive,” at last, she said.

“Tell me about it,” Seth grinned. “Not that I’m complaining,”

“Of course not,” Leah rolled her eyes. “Be careful, though, okay? Don’t get her so attached to you that if you do imprint, she can’t go on,”

Seth’s eyes flashed. “You were able to go on,” he said. “It took a long time, but you did,”

“It was hard and rocky in a lot of places, Seth. Don’t put her through that,”

“She’s strong,” Seth defended the girl.

“She’s been through hell already. Even the strongest can break,” Leah warned.

“She is still awake, and can hear you,” Iris muttered suddenly.

The two Clearwaters flinched at the sudden intrusion of her harsh voice. They thought that Iris was fast asleep, lulled into dreamland by Seth’s steady breathing. Apparently, she had just been resting her lovely eyes. Propping herself up on her elbow, Iris peered at Seth through heavy lashes. “Which begs the oh so important question, why didn’t you imprint on me?”

Leah laughed loudly at the confounded expression on her brother’s face.


There was a bonfire that night. Seth told her that it was for her initiation. Old Quil––the bastard––had made her an official part of the pack, and though not everyone might know what her exact place in the pack was, she was still a part of it. Sam urged her to tell people at her discretion, if only to help ease her into the lifestyle.

She had a wonderful time, leaning against Seth as they sat in the sand on the beach. They roasted weenies, and made s’mores. Brady quickly befriended her, and Iris quite liked the idea of having a friend at school. Billy Black, Sue and even Chief Swan came. The first two, coupled with Sam, told old tribal legends that made her toes curl and her skin crawl. After that, the adults left them to their own devices. Though it was not a peaceful night, Iris enjoyed the ruff-housing and cat-calling more than anything else. And when Seth pulled her into a possessive kiss that told everyone just how off-limits she was, the laughter and cajoling was worth the embarrassment. In fact, it promised to be a wonderful weekend.