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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…

23. Chapter 23

Rating 5/5   Word Count 4069   Review this Chapter

Chapter Twenty-Three––

They all sat together, watching Criminal Minds. Seth had not really paid attention to the show before, but Iris seemed to like it. He had to admit, it was enjoyable, but he did not like Iris going all gaga over Dr. Spencer Reed. He wasn’t that good looking. Surprisingly, Germain agreed with Iris’s assessment. Miracles kept happening around Iris now.

Germain was braiding Iris’s hair, another miracle, while they chatted over Reed’s various accomplishments. Apparently, the fact that he had an IQ of 187, and that he had six or seven degrees made him super hot. His body and face and hair was really hawt too, according to Germain. Having Seth in the room made Iris at least gentle enough to just nod.

“I don’t get it,” Brady scratched his head as he watched the two of them. “They hated each other an hour ago,”

“Boys can do that to a girl,” Cheyne said knowingly. He would know. He had put up with Germain’s madness for sixteen years. He was definitely the expert among them when it came to girls.

Seth glared. “He isn’t that good looking,”

“Looks like a dork,” Brady agreed. “Bet we could beat him up,”

“Totally, dude,” Seth agreed.

As the two chuckled and fist bumped, the girls glared at them. “Not funny,” Germain said.

Cheyne stuck his tongue out. “So is,”

Germain’s face fell. “Is not!” she protested.

“Is too,” Cheyne argued.

“It is not, you butt muncher!” Germain snapped.

“Hey! You’re going to make some smelly trucker very happy one day with that mouth of yours,” he retorted.

“You’d make some woman happy, but you’re penis is so small even gay men laugh!” taunted Germain.

Cheyne’s face fell. “Dick licker,”

“Ass sniffer,”

“Fat man,”

“Lonely woman!” Germain snorted.

Cheyne glared and started to shake. Immediately, Brady and Seth were on their feet, hands open. “Calm down, dude,” Seth said in calm, quiet tones. “Calm down,”

“She didn’t mean it,” Brady added. “It was a joke,”

“Uh…yeah,” Germain quickly caught on. “I’m sorry, Cheyne. I was out of line,”

Their words had very little effect. Cheyne’s shaking had grown even worse. His hair stood up on end, and his face was barely starting to elongate. Seth and Brady were ready to spring at any second if he lost control. Thus far, his control had been superb, but no one was perfect––not even Bella, who fell off the bandwagon back in Virginia three years before.

Iris, who was sitting on the ground in front of the couch, rolled her eyes. “Oh, sit down,” she snapped. “It’s back on,”

And even though he was still shaking in fury, Cheyne sat down on the couch. All heads swiveled to look at the unimpressed girl. She arched an eyebrow. “You all can too,” she snipped.

Seth immediately plopped down beside her, and draped his arm over her shoulders. Leaning into him, she settled down with a smile. Germain and Brady sat next to each other on the couch, with Brady separating the twins––just in case. “How’d you do that?” he asked.

Iris chomped on her gum. “Do what?” she asked.

“Make him calm down,” Brady said. “He didn’t explode,”

“Another of Old Quil’s nifty shaman tricks,” she explained.

“How’d you do it?” he pressed.

Iris glared at him, irked, miffed that she had to miss the show. “Remember that thing I tried to show you at Sam’s last week? It’s an extension of that. I can get into your heads like the Alpha can, hear all your thoughts and stuff, see your relationships, imprints, all that jazz.”

“But you’re not a wolf!” Brady protested. “Sam can only do that when we’re all wolves,”

She shrugged. “It’s a shaman thing. I’m not good at it yet, and I really don’t want to be in your head, so don’t worry about that. Leah says your heads are scary,”

Seth’s brows furrowed. “I don’t think I like that,” he told her.

She shrugged. “Leah’s a pretty reliable source.”

“I suppose I’d rather not have you in their heads,” Seth agreed with a shrug of his own shoulders. He laughed as Iris bobbed up and down by his sudden movement. Her jarred expression was adorable. “You’re cute,”he told her.

Iris grinned, her expression still daze. “I know,” she babbled.

“Dude!” Brady cried, “speaking of Alpha’s, can you believe Sam’s quitting?”

“What?” Iris sat up, leaving Seth’s burning shoulder a little bit colder. “You’re kidding!”

“Nope,” Seth chimed in. “He’s retiring. Emily is almost thirty now. They have two kids with another one on the way. It’s time he has a stable, family-oriented life.”

“Who’s going to be the Alpha, then?” Germain asked. She seemed to come around to pack life eventually. It was now an integral part of her, like it was anyone else in that room. No one could imagine life without the pack, not even the foreign Iris, or adventurer Brady.

“That’s the best part,” Cheyne said. “Jacob Black is coming back,”

“What?” Iris shrieked.

Seth grinned. “Yup,”

“They’re at college!” she protested. “At Dartmouth,”

“But the semester ends in a few weeks. Nessie will transfer or something. Maybe just wait ten years before they reenroll at some other Ivy League,” Seth explained.

“Whoa,” Germain whispered.

“Won’t Jacob be Alpha forever, then?” Iris pushed. “I mean, Nessie is, and I doubt he’ll die or leave her,”

“He will probably stay for just a few years,” explained Brady. “He’s close to Jared and Quil’s age. People will notice if he hangs around for twenty or thirty years without aging. Plus, he doesn’t want to be Alpha; he’s doing it because it is best for the pack,”

“It’s a temporary solution at best,” countered Iris. “Who will be Alpha after Jacob?”

Seth shrugged, but Brady looked pointedly at Iris. Leaning down conversationally, he clasped his hands and said, “Uhm…duh. Seth,”

“That’s awesome!” Germain clapped her hands. She was already very fond of the older man. Iris did not like that one bit. She shot a glare at the girl before looking back at her friend, not understanding.

“But, there are older members,” she protested. “Embry, Quil,”

“Yeah, but Quil has Claire to think about. He can’t bare to be away from her for more than a few hours,” Brady said.

“Sam is the same way with Emily,” argued Iris.

“She’s a grown woman who can take care of herself. Claire’s still a kid,” Brady retorted. “Plus, he isn’t exactly leader material and he doesn’t want to be the leader. Seth’s got a legacy. His family has been wolves for generations. Plus, he had two family members in the elders at this time. He’s got……other benefits too,”

Brady flushed and Iris knew what he had meant to say. He’s got you.

“Embry,” Brady went on, brushing off the awkward moment. “Well, he technically has elder blood, but’s not a legitimate claim,”

That was right. She had forgotten. The affair.

Iris turned to look at Seth. “I had no idea,” she whispered.

He shrugged. “That’s a while off. Who knows? Maybe I won’t be Alpha. I’m certainly not missing anything,”

“There’s always Paul, too,” Germain chipped in, trying to be a part of the discussion and the pack.

Cheyne shot her a look. “Paul’s barely younger than Sam,” he said. “And he has Rachel. He won’t be a wolf too much longer either. Embry will stay on, just because he has nothing hold him back. Quil doesn’t want to age because of Claire. Same with Seth and Iris,”

At least he had the decency to be blunt about it, and their unconventional, not necessarily permanent relationship. He hadn’t gotten around to imprinting on her, and Iris was fairly certain that he would not. There would never be certainty in their relationship; she was not entirely positive that they would even have commitment.

“Iris,” Seth suddenly asked. “I’ve been meaning to ask you, who’s jacket is hanging on the door?” he pointed to the door hangers that held jackets outside the coat closet. “I don’t recognize it,”

“It’s Nahuel’s,” she answered without thinking about it. “He left it over here a while back,”

Seth stiffened. “When?” he asked.

She shrugged, “I’m not sure.” Quickly realizing that he was not pleased, she hastily lied, “I think Nessie was wearing it the last time she was over here, and left it.”

“I never noticed it,”

She tried to act nonchalant. “I’d forgotten about it,” she replied.

“Okay,” he pressed a kiss on her head. “Whatever you say,”

Which meant he knew she way lying.

Cheyne stretched his arms out. “It’s almost time for the Winter Formal,” he remarked. “You going, Iris?” he asked.

Seth looked pointedly down at her. She had not mentioned it at all. Iris flushed. “Hell no,” she answered. “I’d rather be here watching old Christmas reruns,”

Germain’s eyes bulged out of her head. “You’re not going?” she shrieked.

Iris shook her head. “Nope. Let me guess, you are?”

Her head bobbed furiously. “Yes!” she cried.

“Who’s your date?” Iris asked.

Germain looked unsure around the room. “I don’t know,” she answered. “Seth? You wanna go with me to the formal?”

Iris’s mouth dropped open. Seth shrugged. “Sure. Apparently, Iris was not going to invite me,”

“Cause I didn’t think you would want to go!” Iris protested.

“Great!” Germain exclaimed. “I’ll pick a dress and then tell you the colors!”

Seth laughed. “Whatever you say, Germain,”

She grinned, pleased with herself. Iris glared at the both of them.

Uncomfortable with the tension, Cheyne quickly asked Brady: “Who are you going with? Since the girl you were going to ask has a date already?”

“What?” Germain and Iris cried. “You like somebody?”

“Nah,” he waved his hand. “The guys caught me thinking about some chick and have blown it way out of proportion,”

“Dude!” Cheyne protested, suddenly angry again.

“What?” Brady shrugged. “It’s the truth,”

“She’s––” Cheyne began, but Brady cut him off.

“I don’t care,” he snapped. “I like that other girl,”

“She’s with––”

“I am aware,” Brady informed Cheyne crisply. “Very aware,”

“But he’s––”

“Still know, dude,” Brady snapped.

Germain’s mouth fell open. “I’m so confused,” she declared.

Brady shook his head. “It’s really not your business,” he said. “Stay out of it,”

Germain huffed loudly and slumped back on the couch, annoyed that no one would explain anything.


Later that night, they sat together on the couch. Iris leaned into Seth, glaring slightly at the tv. She was not pleased with the sitcom they were watching, as evidenced by her angry mutterings and frowny face.

“Iris,” Seth suddenly asked. “How’d you get that jacket again?”

“It’s Nahuel’s,” she said with a shrug, not really paying attention to him. Raymond was yelling about somethings stupid at Deborah again, and that was far more important. She did not like that mook.

“Yeah,” Seth said, “But how did you get it?”

“He gave it to me,” she answered. Deborah had just smacked Ray upside the head. Good for her.

“When?” he pressed.

“I was cold the night I ran away,” she absentmindedly replied. “He talked to me, and was nice enough to give it to me when I was cold. I need to give it back though,”

“I see,” Seth glared. “And when did you run away?”

“The night I found out about Chief Swan,” she mused. “I wasn’t very happy that night,”

“Oh,” Seth said. Pulling his arm away from her, he stood up suddenly. Her head flailed wildly, and she looked at him with wide eyes. He did not say anything as he stood up and walked out of the room. Iris stared after him confusingly. Eventually, she slumped down on the couch and started to sob. After that night, Seth stopped talking to her completely.


Saturday morning, Iris woke up to someone knocking on her door. Groggily sitting up, she gurgled, “Come in?”

When Brady opened the door, she grunted and fell back on her pillow. “What do you want?” she asked.

“Good morning, Miss Sunshine,” he teased her. “It’s good to see you’re up bright and early,”

“Go die,” Iris ordered, clamping her hand over her eyes.

“It’s after eleven, Iris,” Brady said as he sat down on the edge of her bed. “It’s time to get up,”

“No,” she argued. “It’s still sleepy time,”

“Come on,” Brady tugged back at the covers. “I’ll buy you Panera for breakfast,”

Iris cracked open an eye. “Whatever you want to talk about better be worth it,” she said.

Brady shook his head. “Well, hurry. I’d hate to keep you in suspense.”


He took her to the Panera on Parkington Lane. It was always the busiest Panera, the one were most people from their school worked at or frequented, but it was also loud and almost impossible to be overheard. They ordered, and sat down to wait for their food, but they were only sitting down for a moment before the buzzer rang. Brady was awesome enough to go get the food, so Iris fiddled with her straw while she waited.

“Here you go,” he said as he sat down.

Iris took the plate with her chocolate chip muffie and B-Radical black cherry smoothie. “Thanks,” she said with a slight grin.

As he sat down, he sipped his own coffee. “Ooh,” he winced. “Hot,” he smacked his lips.

Iris bristled. “Smoothie?” she offered him a sip.

“Nah,” he held up a hand. “I don’t like black cherry,”

Iris rolled her eyes. “Commi,”

“No,” Brady denied it. “I just have functioning taste buds,”

“Mine work wonderfully well, thank you very much,” Iris replied. “I’m healthy and get to enjoy a variety of flavors,”

Brady chuckled. “Sure, Iris,” he said with a grin. “Whatever,”

Sipping her drink, Iris asked him, “Did you see what happened to Germain yesterday?”

“You mean where she ran sobbing out of the cafeteria?” he said. “Yeah, I saw,”

“Any idea what happened to her?” she asked. Why she suddenly cared about Germain and her feelings, Iris had no clue. She told herself that she was more interested in the gossip. Every girl loved some good gossip after all.

Brady shrugged. “No idea,” he answered, and then fell silent for a long time––almost ten awkward and heavy minutes.

“So,” Iris bit into her muffie, “What did you want to talk about?”

Brady sighed. Any levity in the room was suddenly sucked out of the room by a Dyson vacuum. He pushed his coffee back and forth in between his huge hands as he stared at the table. He let out a deep sigh, and did not answer her for a long time. Eventually, he said, “I have a problem,”

“Tell me about it,” Iris said. She was pretty sure that he brought her out and bought her breakfast so that he could unload. Ergo, she was willing to listen to him and try to help him as much as possible.

“I have this friend…” he slowly began, and he glanced at Iris. Quickly, he looked back down at the table, unable to keep looking at her. “Who likes this girl. At least, he always thought he liked this girl. The only problem is, he doesn’t any more.”

Iris shrugged. “I don’t get it. Just date the other girl,”

Brady glared at her, “I never said it was me.”

“True,” Iris conceded. “And you don’t have a girlfriend either,”

“Yeah,” Iris grunted. “But he always really thought he liked this girl. I mean, really liked her. To him, she was the perfect person to date: she was awesome, and funny, she didn’t get offended easily; she was basically just another guy with a great ass.”

Iris nodded slowly, not sure if she liked where this was going. “Okay,” she said softly.

“But then…” he trailed off.

Timidly, Iris reached across the table. Taking his hand in hers, she squeezed gently. “It’s okay,” she told him, ignoring the tight fear in her stomach. She did not like where this was going.

Brady swallowed hard and licked his lips. “You see, he thought he really liked this girl, and I mean really liked this girl, but then he imprinted.”

The blood rushed from her face. “Imprinted?” she whispered. “On whom?”

Brady snorted. “It doesn’t really matter,” he said with a peculiar look of self-loathing on his face.

“You don’t have to hide it from me,” she said. In a last ditch effort she added, “I want to know who you imprinted on,”

Brady looked at her imploringly. “I never said it was me,”

“But then, who…?”

“Forget it,” Brady said with a wave a his hand. “I shouldn’t’ve said anything,”

“Tell me,” Iris pleaded. “It’s okay,”

“Where was Seth this morning?” he quickly changed the subject. “I didn’t see his car,”

Iris glared at his obviousness and at the mention of the man who was ignoring her for a four-eyed geek. “He’s with Germain,” she confessed heatedly. “Apparently, he was serious when he said he would go to the dance with her. They’ve been hanging out a lot, getting ready for it even though it’s like two months away,”

“Oh,” Brady said and let his gaze drop. “Are you two still fighting?” Iris had filled him in on all of her drama and Seth’s annoying habit of suddenly ignoring her existence completely. He thought it was odd, too; she wasn’t being a girl about it.

She shrugged and retracted her hand. “I guess so,” she said. “He won’t talk to me, speak to me, look at me. It’s like I suddenly don’t exist anymore, and it is frustrating the hell out of me,”

“I don’t get it,” Brady confessed. “What happened?”

“I don’t know,” Iris said with pleading eyes. She sniffed. “I don’t know what happened to make him suddenly hate me,”

“He doesn’t hate you, Iris,” Brady responded instantly.

“Oh, yeah,” Iris scoffed. “Because this is how you treat a friend,”

“You’re dating,” Brady reminded her.

Iris shook her head. “No, we were dating. I’m pretty sure its over now,”

“You don’t know that,” he tried to calm her down. “He hasn’t said anything,”

“Don’t be a girl about it,” Iris snapped, throwing his words back in her face. “He won’t talk to me and acts like I don’t exist. I’m pretty sure that that was his way of breaking up with me,” she sniffed loudly, and Brady realized that Iris was trying to hide the large tears in her eyes. So much for her no crying record. “It’s no big deal,” she whispered more to herself than to Brady. “I’ll live,”

“God, that bastard,” Brady shook his head. “He didn’t deserve you, Iris. Not if he is treating you like that,”

Funny. That was exactly what Nahuel had said. Maybe the hybrid was right after all.

“I’ve heard that before,” she admitted. “And I think that they had it backwards. I don’t think I’m good enough for Seth.”

“Bullshit!” Brady declared loudly as he slammed his fist on the table. The dishes shook and the silverware rattled. Iris had to grab ahold of her smoothie to make sure it didn’t topple over. That would have made a bad week worse. Her wide eyes met his. “Listen to me, Iris,” he fervently declared. “Don’t be one of those stupid girls who constantly sell themselves short. You are awesome and amazing, and if Seth doesn’t want to date you, it’s his own damn loss. You are a fine piece of ass, and you will have no trouble getting some other guy to fall head over heels for you.”

“Yeah,” Iris said. “Sure,”

“It’s the truth,” Brady glared at her, annoyed with the pity party.

“Of course it is, Brady,” Iris said plaintively. She did not want to argue the point any way. She just wanted to be alone with her pity party. They were fun when they were a party of one. She looked up from the table to meet his eyes, to tell Brady to shut up. When she did, her heart froze. There was serious cast to his face that was not usually there, and there was a distant fire in his eyes. The very air around them seemed to turn into liquid opium, intoxicating her as she stared at him. Slowly, without even thinking about it, she leaned forward, responding to his own gravitating proximity.

He said something, whispered it tenderly, but Iris could not hear what he was saying. All she could feel was his all-encompassing heat, and smell the fragrant aroma that was both wolf and Brady. It made her nose twinge, but it was very pleasant. She liked it.

Their lips were just a hair’s breadth away. She could feel his breath on her lips, moistening them. Her body was weightless, and the only reason she was not hitting her head on the yellow ceiling was the table. Her eyes were halfway shut, and her mind was lost somewhere in a dream.

“Iris,” Brady whispered.

She didn’t say anything, but inched ever so slightly closer. Brady chuckled and move forward, too. Just when their lips were about to meet, when the fission that had gone unspoken between the two of them was climaxing, he pulled back. “I…can’t,” he muttered, sorrowfully. “Seth…”

Iris slumped back in her seat. “He finds a way to ruin almost everything fun,” she muttered, irked. “Didn’t even want to have sex.”

Brady chuckled. “That’s not really the problem you have with guys,”

“Tell that to him,” she darkly muttered, stirring her drink with the straw. “He wouldn’t know because he’s always with Germain, talking about the stupid dance. And at dinner––when he’s there––he talks about her a lot, too. It’s always Germain this or Germain that. It’s sooooo annoying. And he won’t even tell me why she was crying yesterday though. That’s the one thing I can’t figure out,”

Brady shrugged. “He probably made some joke about imprinting, and she took it the wrong way,” he supplied.

She was taking a sip of her smoothie, but when he said that, it slipped from her numb fingers. Brady swore as he jumped up from the seat. “Shit, Iris!”

Heads turned to stare, but Iris did not care as she stared uncomprehendingly at the other booth. Brady’s words, Seth no longer acknowledging her existence, the way he was obsessed with Germain…it all made sense now.

Whipping out her cellphone, Iris dialed a number she rarely called. Sue picked up on the second ring. “Iris, honey,” she said in her warm tones. “What’s going on?”

“Did he imprint?” Iris demanded fearfully. There was no need to say his name. Sue would know immediately who she was talking about.

“Oh, Iris,” Sue said regretfully on the other end.

“Did he imprint on Germain?” Iris repeated, her voice raising an octave with each syllable. “Tell me!”

“We didn’t know how to tell you,” Sue said. “You two had become so close recently, and we didn’t want to upset you.”

But Iris did not hear her. The phone slipped from her fingers and clattered to the floor. The battery popped out and her precious sim card slid across the carpet. Her mouth dropped and her wide eyes sagged with heavy tears. The flashing green light on the phone slowly faded on, leaving nothing but black. It was over.