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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…

7. Chapter 7

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Chapter Seven--

The sky was painted a lovely shade of crimson that morning. Iris hadn’t slept the previous night. Her nerves were frayed from the tenseness of her situation. She had been afraid that every snap of a twig or rustle of branches signaled that the game was up. Fate was smiling on her, though, as the night sky parted for the coming dawn. No one had found her through the night and would make it back to Chief Swan’s house without much trouble.

Though optimistic in the morning, it had faded as she wandered through the forest. Hopelessly lost, she had no idea how to even try to find the house. It wasn’t like she could ask directions or hitchhike without someone recognizing her. Around ten-thirty, she struck gold. Squealing as she stepped into the familiar backyard, she rushed forward to the door. She could shower and get all of the blood off of her. She was still feeling feint, but it had scabbed up or something. Not having her life threatened was a good feeling.

The warm water cascading down her back felt amazing. Iris stood under the steaming waterfall, letting the spray hit her back. The scalding pressure slowly worked out the knots in her muscles, stripping away all the tension from the previous day. The mud that was caked on her scratched feet peeled off, exfoliating the rough skin. She had to be careful as she washed her body. The doctors had taken precautions to not get the heavy bandages on her left shoulder wet, something she had not even considered when stepping into the bathroom turned sauna. She shampooed her hair until her arms hurt, and then did it again. Just to be sure. She shaved the forest that had grown on her legs, and under her arms incase she felt the need to wear a tank top.

Then, and only then, did Iris turn off the burning water and step out of the shower.

Wrapping a fluffy towel around her that scratched at her smooth skin, she opened the bathroom door. For a moment, hot mixed with cold and a euphoric feeling swept Iris off her feet. It lasted for the tiniest of seconds, but it was enough for now. Iris let out a contented sigh. For now, she could just breath. Toweling her hair dry, Iris descended the stairs clad in her brother’s favorite sweatpants and a tank top, with a soft smile on her face.

All in all, it had been a good morning.

That was, until she saw him sitting on the couch. The towel dropped to the floor as she let out the tiniest of squeaks. She cursed herself immediately for letting him catch her off guard, and see the tiniest bit of weakness. That would have to be rectified as soon as possible. “What are you doing here?” she snarled at him. He reclined on the sofa, so at ease in a house that was not his. What was even more infuriating was Harley. Her trusted hound had betrayed her, forsaken her for him. The mutt lay on the couch, next to Seth, with his muzzle on Seth’s knee. The two had gotten all buddy buddy while she was in the hospital. Typical males.

“I think the better question is,” Seth said as he petted Harley’s head, “what are you doing here? You should be at the hospital with Charlie.”

“That’s none of your business,” Iris snapped back. She crossed her arms beneath her chest and spread her legs slightly. Digging in deep, she prepared herself for the fight that was bound to ensue.

“I think it is since you have half the town--and my family, out searching for you. You ran away,” he accused her.

“No shit,” she rolled her eyes. “I’m not going back,” she tacked on. There was no way that anyone could force her, not after all she had gone through to get out of the place. She was still willing to die before she went back, reaffirming her vow from the night before.

Seth watched her with his dark eyes. “I never said you were,” he told her gravely. At least he took her case seriously, Iris thought. Most people would have shook their heads like she was a naive child, and taken her back by force. He was nice enough to understand that she physically couldn’t got back. Not after everything that happened in that room.

“How’d you know I was here?” Iris interrogated. She kept her tone icy and distant. Seth was not allowed to think that she wanted to talk to him. She needed to pump him for information so that her escape from Forks could succeed. Iris glanced at her traitorous dog. Harley seemed quite content perched on Seth’s knee.

“Truthfully?” Seth shrugged at her icy glare. “I wasn’t looking for you. I mean,” he flushed, “I had been earlier, but that’s not why I’m here. I’ve been taking care of this fella here while you and Charlie were at the hospital.”

Though she felt a rush of gratitude, Iris was determined to keep it off her face. It wasn’t any of his business how she felt, after all. “I don’t need charity,” she informed him crisply.

The tall man did not seem to be affected by the chill that Iris emitted. It was like he was used to feeling it all the time. “It wasn’t charity,” he told her calmly. “It was a friend helping out another friend. Besides, if I hadn’t,” Seth paused for dramatic effect. Iris scowled at him, but once again, he was unaffected. “He would have gone to the Humane Society. We both didn’t want that to happen,”

Begrudgingly, Iris had to admit that he was right. If Harley got put down for whatever reason, she would be devastated. That dog was the only thing that kept her going, the only family she had left. Once he was gone, Iris planned to follow. The more she thought about it, the more acceptable suicide became. It wasn’t like she thought she was going to Hell, and she didn’t believe that it was the ultimate sin, even if she was Catholic. Still, the boy sitting on the couch in front of her had saved her life for a couple more years. She owed him for that. “Thank you,” she muttered as lowly as she could.

Just because the universe loved to piss her off, Seth heard it. He gave her a wide, cheeky grin. “I can’t believe you just said that,” he told her. “That makes us friends, you know.”

Iris glared at him. “Fuck off,” she snapped. “Come on, Harley,” she whistled to her dog. Immediately, his ears perked up. With an acknowledging woof, he jumped off the couch and jogged over to her. Iris sank down into a crouch so that she could rub behind his head and neck. “I missed you,” she told him in her baby voice. “I missed you so much, my little Harley Boo,”

Seth’s eyebrows shot up so high that they hit his forehead. “Harley…Boo?” he asked incredulously.

Surprisingly, Iris flushed. “It’s what I called him whenever I wanted to annoy my brother.”

Once again, the mention of Micah made tears well up in her eyes. Somewhat prepared for it, she treed to hold back the flood. The levies in her eyes weren’t doing their job properly, because those cursed tears slipped out anyway. Choking back a sob, Iris wrapped her arms tightly around Harley’s neck. Burying her face in his soft fir, she began to softly weep. It wasn’t the all out bawl fest that she had had the night before, but it was still crying. She heard Seth get off the couch and come sit beside her and her dog. He must have heard the story from Chief Swan, because he did not try to touch her. Yet, she found his presence comforting. So when her dog started to whine from the cut off of his airflow, Iris released faithful Harley only to throw her arms around Seth, who was just as good as any dog. Determined to be of some use, Harley lay down beside her, and tucked his face in her lap. Seth held her with one arm, and petted Harley with the other. They stayed like that for sometime. Iris occasionally muttered something incoherent, but for the most part, it was their silence and her tears.

Some time later, after her sobs had quieted, and the silence of the house descended desolately on them, the overwhelming need to strike up a conversation burst out of Seth. “I thought that you didn’t like to be touched,” he muttered softly.

Iris pulled away, still sniffing. She rubbed her watery eyes with the back of her hand. “I don’t mind it as long as I’m the one initiating it. I don’t like to be surprised or anything with it,”

Slowly, Seth nodded. “That’s easy enough to understand, I guess. I think Charlie’ll understand it if you explain it exactly like that.”

“Why would I tell Chief Swan?” she asked him, puzzled. She had made it perfectly clear that she was not going to go back to the hospital. Since that was where Chief Swan was, she was not going to be seeing him ever again.

“Because you freaked out on him back there,” Seth said like it was the most obvious thing in the world. He looked at her with his large, dark chocolate eyes. A gentle grin lit up his face, letting her now that he didn’t understand. He thought she was not going to go back to the hospital, and only the hospital. He did not get that she was leaving the stupid town forever. “He’s really worried about you, you know.”

Great. Now the guy sounded liked Micah. Her brother was probably listening to everything that was being said upstairs. He agreed with Seth, undoubtedly. He was a traitor, just like his dog. “Why should I care?” Iris asked in the most distant voice she could muster. She looked at Seth with dark eyes, looking for his angle. Every one always had an angle; no one did anything for free. Television had taught her that, if nothing else.

“Well, you guys are living together now, aren’t you?” Seth shot back dubiously. “I figured that you should at least try to get along.”

Iris scowled at him, giving him the look that told him just how much of an idiot she thought he was. “I’m not staying here,” she said slowly. She spoke like she was talking to a kindergardener, over pronouncing each word and pausing between syllables.

“You have to,” Seth told her. She shot him a questioning look, warily scooting away from him. She knew better than to trust people, especially when they wanted something. He wanted her to stay, and she did not have the faintest idea why. If he got desperate, Iris was afraid of what he might do. His large eyes pleaded with her, begging her to not pry. She knew she must if she was going to stay.

“Why?” Iris dared ask the dreaded question. Iris was surprised when she felt a pang at the pain that splashed across his face. For some reason, she did not want to cause him pain. That was so odd.

Seth flinched at the sarcastic bite in her voice. He knew that Iris was callous, but the iciness was her voice was like an arctic blast. If she wanted to drive away all human contact, she was doing one heck of a job. “Charlie needs you here,” he whispered in a throaty voice.

“Why does he need me?” Iris asked. “He barely knows me. The only reason he took me in was because there was no where else to put me.” She frowned grumpily. For all her talk, she still did have emotions. It was not a good feeling to know that you were unloved and unwanted.

Seth looked at her hopelessly. “He’ll need help moving around for a little while. The blow to his head was pretty serious.”

“I’m not his babysitter,” Iris reminded him. Arms folded, she looked at him with those serious eyes that glistened with tears, though she had no reason to cry. “I won’t feed him or wipe his butt,”

“He doesn’t need you to do that,” Seth reminded her. “He isn’t completely inept, you know.” He shot her a glare. It was not nearly as scathing as Iris’s, but it was still semi-effective. “He’ll need help with cleaning the house, and making dinner. He always needed help with cooking, though,” he added as an afterthought. There was the most adorable smirk on his face as he chuckled to himself. Iris decided that he must have been reliving some moment of particularly gruesome eating.

“Besides,” he told Iris in confidence, “He’s lonely. Ever since Bella moved out, all he has done is work and fish. He needs some company.”

Iris felt her heart soften against its will. She knew very well like it was to be lonely, to sit and watch as the rest of the world moved on by. That was not something she would wish on Chief Swan. Iris let out an agitated snort. “Fine,” she growled. “I’ll stay.” Flinching at the look of relief dance across his face, she added sharply. “But only until he gets better. As soon as he can walk straight, I’m gone.”

“That’s good enough for me,” Seth said with a grin. “Now that that’s settled, how about some lunch?”

Iris raised her eyebrows. “Isn’t it a little early?”

“Nah,” Seth shook her head. “I’m always hungry and I bet you haven’t eaten breakfast yet,”

“I’m not hungry,” Iris defended. “Food is never one of my priorities,”

Seth gave her the up down. Crossing her arms over her chest, she looked pointedly down. An unfamiliar flush rose to her face, though she did not know why. It was the first time that he had ever seen her arms bare, and it made her feel uncomfortable. It was only a matter of time until he saw the scars on her arms. She knew that the nurses had seen them and told Dr. Cullen. Thus far, he had been indiscreet, but it was only a matter of time. Once Chief Swan found out, her life was over. Another reason to add to the endless list on why to leave.

“You do look awful scrawny,” he admitted.

Iris scowled at him. “That isn’t something you say to a girl,” she informed him with eyes blazing.

Seth flinched. “It’s the truth,” he told her.

“You don’t have to be so blunt about it,” Iris snapped.

“You are,” he pointed out.

Iris glared at him. Turning on her heel, she stomped into the kitchen, Harley on her heels. Yanking the fridge open, she hastily scanned the shelves for anything edible. There was just about nothing. “What are you doing?” Seth asked from behind her.

“What’s it look like?” she retorted as she scooped an armful of food onto the counter. “I’m cooking,”

“You can cook?” Seth exclaimed. “I didn’t know that! That is awesome.” Any pleasure Iris felt from his praise was cut short by his next words. “How come your so skinny?”

Looking at him with a mixture of shock, incredulity and annoyance, she held up her middle finger. “Bite me,”

Seth wagged his eyebrows suggestively. “Don’t tempt me,” he said in a pathetic attempt at humor.

Iris was far from impressed. “Perv,”

Blanching, Seth withdrew several paces so as to let Iris cook in peace. Nodding her head in concordance, Iris set about to cooking her famous recipe of fried bologna and cheese sandwiches. They were a huge hit up in Amsterdam, and she had a feeling that Seth would like them. Why she was cooking to please the idiotic, testosterone laden male was beyond her. Something inside her told her to be nice, and going against all odds, Iris listened to it.

As she put the two sandwiches onto plates, the doorbell rang. “What the--” Iris said to Seth. He gave her a sheepish grin, and she knew that it was his fault. He had gone to the bathroom once; he must have made the phone call then. She had been a fool. He had gotten her comfortable and then called in the calvary. He was going to make her go back to the hospital, and there wasn’t a damn thing she could do about it.

The door burst open. Nessie, Bella, Edward, Jacob, Emse, and Dr. Cullen poured into the tiny living room. Iris could not believe how many of them had come. She thought that Seth might summon one or two, but not six. There was no way that she was going to get away from them. She looked around at them with large eyes. She tried to stand tall, and glare at them, but it was difficult. It was disconcerting to be in a small place with them, no other humans around. Even Seth was somehow different, that much was obvious. Her hands danced behind her, skimming along the top of the counter. The sensitive tips glazed over something cold, something familiar. She didn’t have to look behind her to know what it was; the sharp knife she sliced the sandwiches with. It wouldn’t do much against six of them, but hopefully she could get one or two through the heart.

Edward looked sharply at her. Those freakish golden eyes sliced through her. A strangled cry escaped from her lips as she grabbed the plastic handle. He knew…how the hell did he know? He was before her before the sound faded from the room, towering like a tree. Iron fingers clasped her wrist, jerking it in front of her. Her shoulders hunched instinctively and her face contorted into the ugliest scowl Edward had ever seen.

“I never knew you were dangerous,” he hissed at her. He glared malevolently down at her, but she was too far gone to care. Her eyes flitted around the room faster than the wings of a hummingbird. The door was wide open but full of gaping Cullens. The windows were closed; locked no doubt. Seth was close by, but he seemed to have a particular affinity for the vampires. He would be of no use. She was alone, and defenseless without the knife. And Eddie Boy knew it.

He dropped her hand as if he had been burned. His eyes widened considerably and he looked at her in a new light. She didn’t know why, but she sent him a triumphant smirk just the same. Any advantage over the monsters was good. Toes curled, ready to spring, she took a step backwards. Vaulting had always been a specialty of hers. There was the tiniest of noise--Bella, it sounded like. Iris couldn’t make it out; whatever had been said was too fast for her to hear. Edward was busy concentrating on his darling little Bella. Knife clutched for dear life, Iris took a single step forward. She hadn’t even made it an inch off the ground before he had her in his clutches again. This time, it was his words that entrapped her, tangling her converse sneakers around her feet.

“She knows.”

The words were plain and simple. He spoke them with the intent for her to hear--for everyone to hear. The air in the room turned to ice, and frost formed on the counter. Silence cloaked them like nighttime, curling up around every hair and every limb. He had said those dreaded words, and he could never take them back. He faced his family with large, dread-filled eyes. There were blank stares and open mouths facing back at him.

“What are you saying, Edward?” Dr. Cullen asked. His voice was professional, aloof even. He looked at his cohort, understanding the words but not comprehending them.

“I’m sorry, Bella,” he addressed his wife or fiancee or whatever they were to each other. Bella’s own golden eyes were cloudy and glazed over. Her focus was far off, seemingly staring past Iris, and out the window behind her.

“Edward,” beautiful Esme prodded. “Explain what you said to Carlisle.” Maternal. Open. Warm. Inviting. Matronly, she ordered Eddie Boy around. Creepy.

“She,” he gestured towards the scowling Iris, “knows. That’s the only way I can think to say it. She knows the secret.”

“Oh dear,” Esme’s eyes fluttered down. “I had hoped that I misheard.”

“I’m confused,” Jacob brusquely interrupted.

“Me too, dude,” concurred Seth.

Edward let out a loud sigh. Turning to face the two native boys, he spoke slowly and placatingly, like one would talk to a preschooler. “The secret it out. She knows what we are,”

Shivers ran up and down her arms. Still holding the knife, She gingerly rubbed her arms, trying to get the blood moving again. No one else seemed bother by the chill, but Iris supposed that dead corpses really didn’t have to pay attention to nuances like temperature. The putrid smell of decay filtered slowly into the room, dancing around with ostentatious movements. She heard the dry chuckle before she saw it; felt the cold breath of the metaphysical presence.

“So Vicky wasn’t lying,” Micah mused dryly corner. He leaned against the wall with his arms folded across his chest. That impish smirk that she loved him so dearly for dominated his handsome face, making his dark eyes glitter. Iris glanced at her brother. Involuntarily, her mouth pinched and tightened, and her perfectly arched eyebrows crossed. Her hand clutched the knife so tightly that it bit into her skin and turned her white knuckles the transparent color of snow.

Edward was looking at her again. His features were marred, confused, like he couldn’t process something. Perhaps he sensed her stupid brother’s presence. “Vampires,” she blurted out.

Every face turned to her and she cringed. Not the best way to distract them.

“Yes,” Edward drawled out, “Vampires.” He looked warily at her, trying to figure her out. She wouldn’t let him, though. She was too guarded, to withdrawn for that misfortune to befall her.

Dr. Cullen released his breath all at once. “I’m sure that you have many questions,” he told her gently. “It’s all right for you to ask them. You won’t be prying,”

“Come, Iris dear,” Esme cooed in her melodic voice, “Let’s sit comfortably in the den.”

“No thank you,” was the crisp reply. “I’d rather not know anything,”

Dr. Cullen stood up a little straighter. Head bowed ever so slightly so the sun encased his golden hair like a halo. His golden eyes added to the angelic presence in the room. Iris wasn’t a fool. She knew exactly what he was trying to do. The only problem was, it was working. Shoulders squared, she met those damnably kind eyes and waged a war within her very soul. One hand unconsciously gripped her silver crucifix. Micah let out a low whistle from his hidden post. She spared him a single glance, but focused on Dr. Cullen. Something alerted Eddie Boy to Micah’s presence, and the last thing she needed was the complication.

“Be that as at it may,” he completely dismissed her wishes. “There are somethings we would like to know about you. It is only fair if we tell you about our family in return,”

“My life is none of your business,”

“You are part of our family now, Iris, dear,” Esme cooed at her. “Of course it is. We care about you,”

Iris did not even try to keep the scoff off of her face. It was ludicrous to even think that the Cullens liked her. She was not a fool; love did not happen in the span of a few weeks. It was all a game to them; they would lure her into a false sense of security--like Seth had done–and then eat her. She was not an idiot, thank you very much.

“We don’t want to eat you,” Edward said with a twisted grin. “Far from it, in fact,”

“Daddy!” Nessie exclaimed loudly. “Don’t tell her that! You might scare her!”

Edward opened his mouth to say something, but Iris cut him off. “Daddy,” she hissed out the word, “Ain’t any scary shit, sweet cheeks. Hate to tell you that, but none of you all are scary.”

The vampires plus Seth and Jacob looked at her with wide eyes. It was a silent rule that no one swore in front of Esme. The woman found it repulsive and uncouth. Even Emmett refrained from it around the caramel haired vampire. Iris didn’t know, nor would she care if she did. It was her mind and her words, and no one was going to tell her what she could and could not say.

“What did you just say?” Esme asked. Her eyes narrowed ever so slightly and her face was tightly pinched. Appalled at Iris’s word choice, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Esme would correct her. It was anyone’s guess to the type of tantrum Iris would throw, though.

“You all aren’t scary,” Iris responded cooly. “And I’m not sorry to tell you it. You might think you are some big assed vampire, striking terror into the hearts of many, but you’re not.”

“You are never to swear again, young lady. Do you understand me, Iris?” Esme asked in a cold tone.

“Yeah, no,” Iris snapped. “Freedom of speech, first amendment. You should check it out sometime. It’s fascinating,”

“It does not protect such vile words,” Esme hissed through pursed lips.

“Like I give two fucks what the government says I can say,” Iris replied. “No one can tell me what to do,”

“I will be speaking to Charlie about this,” Esme threatened.

“No big shit. He’s nothing more than some old ass who got stuck with me because of my crazy-brained mom and war fucked dad. He doesn’t want me, and I can promise you he doesn’t give a damn. Hell, I don’t give a damn. Don’t try to intimidate me because your the matron of the vampire family thing. It won’t work,”

“Show her some respect,” Jacob growled. “She deserves it,”

“Not from me,” Iris shot back. “I never met the woman before that night. She means nothing to me,”

“She’s the one who’s been taking care of you!” Bella reminded Iris with her ugly wide eyes.

“Geez, thanks,” Iris rolled her eyes. “You could have done the decent thing and let me die, but no…you had to patch me up. Now I have to stay in this old creaking house and take care of your broken old dad. Yay me!”

“Letting you die would have been wrong!” Jacob roared. “Be glad that someone has enough decency in the world to make sure you didn’t bleed out on the floor!”

“I wouldn’t’ve cared!” Iris screamed. Her hands dropped to her sides. Her tiny fists balled as she prepared herself for a vicious battle. Blood pumped through her body, tangy with the aftertaste of adrenaline. Bella felt the hair on her arms stand up from the aroma. It was sickening and enticing all at once. “I would have loved to have finally gotten away from this fucking hellhole! Why couldn’t you just have let me die?”

“Death wouldn’t solve your problems!” Jacob yelled back.

“How the fuck would you know?” she screamed. “How? Have you ever stood there and watched as your mother shot your dad? Did you ever see him falling to the floor with that what the fuck just happened expression. No! Of course not! You have your little perfect life! Don’t fucking tell me you know what I feel and what the hell will fix my problem!”

Dr. Cullen halted the fight. It was probably a good thing since Jacob had begun to convulse. He fought valiantly to stay in control, but was swiftly losing the battle. His golden eyes sliced through her skin like a knife as he demanded, “What did you just say?”

“Why the fuck do you care?” Iris hissed out. Her breaths were labored and her entire body racked with her breathing. She glared at the room. She was angry and tired…so very tired. She wanted this conversation to end. It had to before she let something slip.

“You just said that you watched your mother shoot your father,” Dr. Cullen reminded her gently. He watched as her gray-green eyes widened in alarm. Her heart rate sped up from the fear and his narrowing eyes. He kept his medical gaze fixated on her chest, waiting for the blood to froth from her wound. She kept tearing at it, and opening it up. She would be bleeding in minutes again, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. She was too obstinate to listen to his advice. “Why did she shoot him?”

“She didn’t,” Iris defended.

“Was he abusive?” Dr. Cullen demanded to know. He slowly walked towards her. He risked injuring her further, but Iris Potter did not seem to be the type of patient who cared. She shifted her weight around, and bit her lip hard: the classic signs of holding information back.

When he asked the question, he was not prepared for the unmatched rage that she screamed at him. “No!” she screamed at the top of her voice. “No! Don’t you EVER saying something so FUCKING WRONG again! Never blaspheme my father! NEVER EVER FUCKING EVER! He was perfect! Amazing! A great dad! He wasn’t the fucking problem!”

“Who, then, Iris?” Dr. Cullen pressed intently. “Who was the problem?”

“Who the fuck do you think you asinine doctor?” Iris screamed. “She was! That was who. That slimy little bitch that no one could trust! She was the problem!”

“Who, Iris? Give me a name,”

“My mother you bastard! That’s who! The little bitch who had it coming. I was so relieved when I saw the blood. Her blood. I thought that she killed my father, and there was nothing we could do. I though that the last link to my sanity was gone, but it wasn’t. Thank God, it wasn’t. The bitch got what was coming to her in the end,”

“Who killed your mother, Iris? Who shot her?” Dr. Cullen asked. He knew better than to ask questions now. Never try to force an answer on Iris, or else he would overreact. She was infuriated that he dare suggest her precious father do something wrong. He did not want to pin the blame on a beloved aunt or grandfather and get her more riled up.

“That is none of your business,” Iris told him with steely eyes and frigid breath.

“You need to tell me, Iris. Who was it?” Dr. Cullen pressed. He had to apply pressure to her. She had fought long and hard to keep the secrets secret. It was time to let it out. The more he knew about what happened that dreadful night, the more effectively he could patch up her relationship with Charlie. Perhaps all hope was not lost, not if she was so emotional distraught. The pressure would overwhelm her until she cracked. Telling them what happened would be the first step to healing, and that was what the poor child needed more than anything.

“Why the fuck do you care?” she yelled back. Her eyes shifted and her posture became very defensive. She brought the knife up between them in a last attempt to keep them apart. She could not handle them coming in closer. They would see the scars and wonder where she got them. That was inexcusable. There was no reason for them to play Dr. Phil and delve into her personal life. Those were her private memories, and they would stay that way.

“I just need to know. Tell me,” he demanded. “Now!”

“Why?” she screamed at the top of her lungs. “What if I don’t? What are you going to do? Hit me?”

Silence rang out around them. That was not a revelation the Cullens had expected. Looking back on it, it was obvious the direction that the conversation was going; Dr. Cullen had not expected his pressure to reveal such delicate situations. No one knew how to respond to her. Iris knew immediately that she had made a mistake. Her eyes widened and her body fell slack. Eyes tightly closed, she swore every curse word she knew. They were never going to leave her alone now. She had been doing so well, too…

“You poor child!” Esme exclaimed.

“Who?” Seth now demanded. Iris did a volte-face to meet his eyes. She balked under the blazing fury. Never had she imagined that Seth would be capable of such palpable rage. His entire body shook as his eyes glowed. His look was so intense that she felt herself shrink under it. Iris was willing to confess everything if it meant him stopping.

“No one,” she whispered in an almost timid voice. It shocked everyone who heard it. “No one did,”

“Who?” he took a step forward, “Your father?”

“What?” Iris gasped out. “No! How many times do I have to fucking tell you people? My dad was awesome! The best dad in the whole damn universe. Get it, already!

“Then, who?” he roared in front of her. “Who was so terrifying that you let them hurt you?”

“I never said that I was hit!” she retorted.

“You exhibit all the classical signs of abuse,” Nessie pointed out sagely.

Iris threw her a dark look and the middle finger. “Fuck you,” she snarled. To Seth, she hissed, “It isn’t any of your business. Get the fuck away from me, now.”

“Not until you tell me who it was,” he told her firmly.

“Why?” she said. “So you can hunt them down and hurt them? Why do you care? You’re just a stranger. No one gives a damn about strangers, Seth…or didn’t you know that?”

“Iris,” he warned her.

Iris flinched as he moved his hand. He intended to hug her, to comfort her and tell her that it was okay, but she was too programmed on fear. She expected him to lash out, to attack her. She did the only thing she could do in her defense. With a feral shout, she jerked the knife upwards. Seth swore as he reeled back, clutching his face. Iris looked down at the knife, eyes engorged from shock. Crimson blood covered the shiny silver edge, bringing life to its otherwise dull existence. Seth pulled his hand away from his face to examine the damage. His entire palm was stained the color of a valentine; the entire right side of his face had been cut by it. He looked at Iris with pain filled eyes.

She couldn’t believe it. Sure, she had shot two guys a week ago and killed them. Sure, she watched her family be brutally murdered by a lunatic. Sure, she slit her own wrists weekly. But to see the ruby blood of someone so pure as Seth stain her hands, she could not handle it. With a wretched cry, she let the knife slip through her stained fingers. The sound of it clattering to the floor filled the kitchen as Iris turned on her heels and ran as if the devil himself were on her heels.