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Monster

Summary:
I'm nothing but a monster burning in a hell that only exists in my head. There's no hope left until one harmless glance chances logic and binds two eternal enemies together in a twist of fate. Can the escape from this hell be found in an infuriating dimpled grin? Or is this another dark, dirty trick of my own mind? A forbidden passion, heat, and intense anger—this is no fairytale.


Notes:
[Disclaimer: Monster is an originally plotted fic. The ideas within this fic are not to be copied in any way, shape, or form—I have not given my consent to any manner of copying. All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the intellectual property of their respective owners. All canon concepts and characters are the property of the Twilight Saga's author, Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended. Similarities are for the sole use of fan fiction, and no profit has been or will be benefited from the posting of this fic.] Emerging Swan Award 2012, nominated into Fandom Choice Awards.


33. Ugly Introductions

Rating 0/5   Word Count 7169   Review this Chapter

"We are all living the same way
We are escaping the same way
Circling
We are a part of the same play
We think we're making our own way
Circling." - Imagine Dragons.

Chapter Thirty Three

Ugly Introductions

The vast stretch of humid forest isn't so suffocating anymore. I breathe in the natural, damp scents of my surroundings. This time, it doesn't choke me. Instead, the heavy moisture in the air is almost comforting. It's almost as if this is truly home.

Emmett has always been the missing piece of the puzzle—I'm nearly sure of that now. I have belonged here all along—belonged here, with Emmett.

I shake my head once, sending a stream of rain down my neck. My mind clears instantly, focusing solely on the forest. Time—I need to mind the time. I peer up at the sky through the dark branches of the trees, studying the thick layer of grey. Although the clouds block out the sun, they fail to conceal the dull glow of light it gives off as it rises. It's still morning, but it's getting later by the second. And the later it gets, the more dangerous it is for me to be out here.

Danger never has been much of a real feeling for me. In my book, danger is a synonym for excitement. But this kind of danger isn't fatal. At least, not yet. But it will be a hell of a mess if Sam gets involved.

Morning patrols are only a punishment. The pack members assigned to run them groan and grumble, rising up and heading out to beat the morning drizzle. Few wolves ever are sent out unless they do something that Sam finds worthy of punishment. Apparently imprinting on a leech is punishable enough. Maybe it does make a slight bit of sense to punish me for my "actions."

If it is possible to actually control who you imprint on.

Sam doesn't have a binding control on me when it comes to Emmett and my interest. He might think he does, and it's good for him to believe that, even though it's a lie. I won't let him—or anybody else—pull me back and crush me down. Not again. If he's going to try to strangle and suffocate the free will out of me, he's going to have a monstorous result.

I always have had a rebellious nature and the wolf seems to take advantage of that.

My feet have guided me stealthily across the forest, following an invisible trail. I sense the river in the near distance, but I still don't pause. I press forward, passing straight through the flooded waters. The river that has always been a symbolic barrier is almost nothing to me now. It's nothing more than a separation between him and me.

I move straight through it without a second thought.

The forest is much the same on the Cullen side. Everything is still shaded in various hues of green, although the scents are more natural—the sharp sent of the pack is absent, allowing the natural flavors of the forest to thrive without interruption. I allow my eyes to trace the treetops casually, expectantly searching the trees. My gaze skims over the branches until it pauses on a distant blur of white, perched high up in the wide arms of the tree to my far right.

He's been waiting.

"Boo," I mutter under my breath.

The white splatter of color remains completely still for a moment. Then, suddenly, it's in motion. It blurs across the forest, darting around the trees until it is settled on a wide, moss-covered trunk. Emmett leans his shoulder against the tree and looks me up and down.

"Why, hey there, beautiful," he greets with a dimpled grin.

I shake my head and press my lips together, trying hard to form some shape of a smile. As I come up with nothing, I only nod to him, gesturing toward his casual white outfit. "Looking sharp."

Emmett booms out a laugh. "It's kinda necessary for me to be dressed up for this occasion."

"Missing Seattle already?" I study the usual curl in his short dark hair and the gleam in his buttery eyes, trying to find some sign that he has prepared himself for another date.

"No. I think we had our fair share of excitement," he reasons. A shade of mischievousness breaks out over his expression. He is silent for a moment, most likely only building effect, before he speaks. "I'm gonna take you to meet my family."

I stare at him for a moment. Images of everything that will go wrong whip through my mind—most of which are filled with fire and screaming, dying leeches. I force my lips to curl slightly. "That's funny."

Emmett chuckles, the sound coming from deep within his throat. "I'm serious this time." He paces backward, thoughtlessly stepping over the scatter of vegetation on the ground. Raising one hand, he curls his pointer finger to his palm, beckoning me to follow him. "C'mon, they won't bite."

My eyes remain glued to his expression, searching for any sign that he is joking. He holds onto his usual childish gleam, but otherwise looks completely serious. I remain in the same position until Emmett starts to grin—at that point, I can't resist. With a sharp exhale, I start to follow him, taking my time to catch up with him.

"You're sentencing your . . . family to their doom," I say as I fall into step with him.

"Yeah?" Emmett shakes his head, allowing his gaze to settle on me while we make our way across the muddy ground. "I say it might even impress them."

I snort. "If murder is impressive now, I must have been gone far too long."

Emmett beams at me, not removing his gaze. "You could have come around earlier. But if you did, you wouldn't have ever found me. We were out of town for a while. MIA."

"Isn't that a shame?"

Emmett's lips curl back in a smirk. "You would have missed out."

I hold his gaze, unable to turn away from him. "Missed out on what? All the dramatics?"

Emmett lifts and drops his broad shoulders. "Any sort of happening is entertaining when you've been alive for decades with nothing to do but collect high school diplomas. Even if the events all center around an average, stumbling human. Personally, I didn't see any fun in Edward dating a human woman, at the start. The danger and jokes were about it for fun, until Bella's danger magnet turned on. That made things start to get interesting. She draws in all the danger available. And where there's danger, there's asses to kick. My specialty." He cracks his knuckles in emphasis.

I try to twist my lips into the shape of a smile—into a shape that they have forgotten long ago. Emmett's bright mood is contagious, radiating out of him and onto me. I continue to work my jaw, focusing mainly on the form of my smile. I try to come up with a reasonable response, but my scattered mind can only manage to form one word. "Oh?"

Emmett breaks out in a large grin, seeming unbothered by my short answer. I study the smooth features of his face while he keeps his full attention directed at me. The scents of the various bloodsuckers loom in the air around us, but I barely mind as I listen in on the deep, smooth hum of Emmett's voice.

"Everything was hectic at the start. Edward almost killed her when they met, because he was dying to taste her blood. But instead, he started to get all 'you are my life now' with her and it sorta got to her, I guess. Things were rocky when Edward decided everything was too dangerous and forced us all to take off, but they got back together, made up, probably made out, all that jazz." He laughs at my expression. "Everything is even more humorous now that they're back together. Bella is bringing in even more trouble, and now she seems pretty much set on getting it on with Edward, if you know what I mean."

I am still trying to make my lips take shape and am unable to think of what to say, but I have listened intently to each of his words. Even if it is possible to tune out his voice, I can't bring myself to do it. So, I settle for another short answer. "Point taken."

Emmett laughs deeply, his gaze following mine while it scans the passing forest around us. "Excellent." He pauses for a moment before his eyes find mine. "I don't get how Edward can deny her. I mean, when you lost your fur and your clothes . . . it took supernatural effort to stand there and be a gentleman."

"Mhmm. . ." I narrow my eyes. "Hold up. Did I just hear a cheap pick up line?"

Emmett ducks his head away from me, acting innocent. I can see the corner of his lips raised in a grin, even as he turned. "It's possible."

I find myself mirroring his smirk. I walk close to the rain-splattered green of the brush, keeping a small distance between us. "So, you're coming on strong now?"

"Well, I am pretty damn strong. There's just no denying it." He chuckles while curling his arm up, causing his large biceps to flex. The movement earns a steady stare from me. He continues speaking as if he doesn't notice, although a new thin layer of smugness is present on his expression. "I'm your average man, too, beneath all of my own sparkle and dazzle. Most of us manly males naturally have a trail of thought that only leads downward. But, I am also cuddly when necessary. The offer is always on the table, for you." He winks.

As I take in these words, my lips finally part into a smile. It's not just any smile, it's a real smile. I feel lighter, almost as if I have broken through a dark mask and set a little piece of myself free, releasing a heavy weight that has held a part of me down for far too long.

Emmett has moved closer to me while I have been distracted—close enough that our arms brush. His bright golden stare burns into mine while his eyes trace over the sudden smile on my face. His dimples pop up and his own smile widens.

"Shit . . . I think you just dazzled me," he murmurs.

I continue to wear the smile, although I feel my heart start to skip at his words. He still doesn't seem to know what he's getting himself into. An impulsive surge of warning fills me. I stop for a moment, feeling my feet sink slightly into the earth. My hand abruptly catches his. I raise them both up together, spreading my hand out to match the shape of his. Our skin burns, flame against ice, upon contact.

"Doesn't this bother you?" I ask him slowly. My gaze holds his, searching for the slightest bit of a wince.

Emmett remains at ease. He leans his head in slowly towards me, his lips brushing my neck. "No, it doesn't." His cool breath touches my neck while his lips peel back. In the corner of my eye, I can only see the black top of his hair while his teeth bare and press lightly against my skin. "But does this?"

The second I feel the sharp edge of teeth on my skin, the wolf in me stirs. Heat explodes from deep within my body, sending out waves of shakes across my arms and shoulders. I manage to hold onto my human form, but the need to defend myself is instantly triggered.

I can't hold back.

My arm winds around his neck, locking in place. I don't give him any chance to react. I twist his throat with a sharp crack, feeling him crash down into the ground. Hard. The boom of his landing shoots into the air, echoing throughout the forest. I remain crouched, holding him down while my free hand wraps around his head, my fingers slithering through his hair before setting into an unbreakable hold. Just one quick pop, and it will all be over. . .

Emmett snorts into the dirt. "I'll take this as a no to the cuddling?"

My muscles lock in place at the sound of his voice. Reality washes me in a wave of chills. I slam back into a tree, jerking away from his fallen form. The branches of the tree shiver with the force of the sudden movement. Emmett rises to his feet slowly, shaking his head to get rid of the dirt that has clumped in his hair. The cracks that have split the skin of his neck and the side of his face pull shut in the blink of an eye.

My reaction must have woken him up—it must have made him realize that I am a monster, made to kill, and that there most likely isn't going to be a chance of things ever growing serious between us. Instinct has led me to defend myself against him—it has led me to nearly kill him a second time. I've risked his life; his fate has rested in the control of my own two hands. A very familiar sizzle of rage bursts inside of me. Rage at myself, rage at my instincts, and rage at what I am. I feel pure and utter rage at the fact that I have just nearly destroyed the one light in my life.

It takes me a few moments to clear my head, ridding myself of all of the nasty thoughts. I take in a deep, clean breath before forcing my eyes to meet Emmett's. Once again, he takes me by surprise. His bright eyes are shining with a thrill, absent of the expected hurt, anger, and disgust everyone else has shown me. He shows no sign of being even the slightest bit upset by my actions.

"That's what I get for messing with a badass werewolf," he jokes.

Joking. No spitting, yelling, staring in disgust, or shutting me out. He is joking with me after my attack, as if what I have done is nothing. As if he almost understands that my actions are not under my control.

Emmett flashes a big smile at me when I don't respond. "I have to say, I am impressed, and that's a rare thing to hear from me," he admits with a chuckle. He waves his hand in the direction of the thinning forest in front of us. "But we probably shouldn't get into that. My family is just past these trees, and they might get a little anxious if they hear us tearing the forest up out here. It could send out the wrong idea."

The storm of emotions inside me seems to have stolen my ability to form words. I only nod once to him. Emmett smirks and places his hand on the small of my back, taking me up to the house. His gentle touch concludes that he is not at all bothered by my aggression.

As we near the house, the Cullen's scents hit me first. The raw stench of leech, all pulsing out in thick, sickening waves from the source. I don't allow any reaction of that to show, though, and I continue to allow Emmett to guide me through the shade. His touch doesn't trigger a defense inside of me anymore. In fact, it's the only thing that keeps the trigger still.

Once the house comes into view, my eyes wander over it, taking in each detail suspiciously. The house is fancy, but it isn't the cold, dark place that I have expected. A wrap-around porch circles the first floor of the house, with a few steep stairs that lead up to the front door. The house itself is painted a gentle, fading white, built three stories high and rectangular in shape. Clearly, this residence is an old one, although it is kept neat enough to pass for a modern design. I can sense the presence of the other Cullens behind the dark windows, but the only sound that can be heard is the bubble of a nearby river.

Emmett patiently allows me to observe the house while he slips past me and heads up the porch. He stops with a foot planted above the stairs, one of his knees bent as the other foot rests on the bottom stair. Emmett grins and stretches his arm back, silently offering his cool palm for my own. I stare at the shape of his offered hand, feeling myself starting to slowly get sucked away from the world. In a flash, I am drawn back into a different scene at a much earlier time.

Out of nowhere, his hand whooshes down in front of me, only a blur until it smacks into my right cheek. The force of the blow causes me to collide back into a locker. My skin scrapes against the floor.

"You're disgusting," I snarl breathlessly, cupping my cheek where it throbs. The laughter ends abruptly as his expression morphs into one of pure fury. His dark eyes flash while red blossoms from his cheeks.

"You're just a little whore that shouldn't be alive. It's obvious Sam only looks after you because he takes pity on you. You're a worthless screw-up who wants nothing more than attention and people to feel bad for you." He pauses to take a shaky breath, his shoulders trembling with the sharp intake. "YOU KNOW I'M RIGHT! I'M ALWAYS RIGHT!"

His voice rings out through the empty halls, loud enough that it's a wonder why nobody comes out to see what's going on. I continue to stare at him, wondering how I have missed this side of him. This furious monster that seems to have come out of nowhere. I try to piece things together, but my thoughts are ended with a sudden burst of pain. His fists zip forward, pounding into my face repeatedly. The pain isn't nearly as bad as the betrayal that has cracked my heart in two.

I blink my eyes as the memory evaporates. The sound of a long forgotten voice echoes in the more murky shadows of my mind. It has only been a second, but it is enough time for Emmett to start to think that I'm hesitating. My eyes sweep over the smooth skin of his palm, following the trail of each defined line. I raise my gaze toward his own, looking deep into the light depths of his eyes.

I stare for only a moment, but it is long enough for me to decide to pocket away my screaming instincts and take his hand.

"I'm gonna go out on a limb here and guess that I don't have to invite my werewolf inside for her to come in with me," Emmett muses me while he reaches for the doorknob.

His gaze is set on the side of my face, but I keep my eyes on the door, trying to keep my mind on the feel of his fingers. A small reflection of my earlier smile creeps onto my lips. "That's a rather old vampire joke. Classic."

Emmett pushes his bottom lip out in a mock pout. "Classic?"

"Nearly."

"Damn. Well, there goes the chance of you liking my family—I'm the most unique one out of all of us."

"You might as well humor me, then."

"Mmm. . ." Emmett wraps his large hand around the door and pauses. He leans his head around to look into my eyes, as if he somehow knows it is crucial for me to be focused on him when we go in. If I'm not, there will be a much more damaging repeat of my earlier aggression.

"Now that is something I'm good at," Emmett finally says.

Suddenly, his hand twists the doorknob around, opening up the entrance to the house. Through the small opening, I can make out the shape of a very large room. It can't possibly have always been only one room—the walls must have been knocked out for any room to be this size. A bright airiness seeps into the room from the farthest wall, which is only a stretch of firm glass. The high-beamed ceiling allows enough area for me to breathe, although the combined stench of numerous leeches poison the freshness. Everything is white, from the floors to the ceiling, in many different shades. It seems humorous, almost, to have a house that matches the skin tone of the household members. They probably use it as camouflage.

As Emmett leads me inside, even the white "camouflage" can't hide the presence of the Cullens. They stand huddled in the front of the room, all of them neat and alert, almost as if they have been expecting us. Emmett guides me over to the group, completely relaxed. Despite his ease, my eyes set on the gleaming white teeth that are revealed in the leader's smile. Even the friendliness doesn't hide the nearly invisible layer of venom that coats his teeth. I clench my hand around Emmett's.

"And this," Emmett says to the attentive Cullens, seeming to sense the tension in my stance, "is my lady."

My feet plant against the thick carpet beneath them. The mouth of the leader Cullen moves as he speaks, but I don't take any notice to his words. My gaze bounces from the heart-shaped face of a female Cullen with a far-too-fond expression beside him before moving back to the honey-haired Cullen. His narrowed yellow stare seems to be set on me. I tighten my hold in Emmett's hand in order to control myself, although I stare him down warningly.

"And it is lovely to have you here," the female Cullen finishes. She sets another stomach-churning smile on me, forcing my stare away before she turns her head back to look at the leader.

He nods and glances at Emmett before his warm eyes rest on me. "Welcome. I am Carlisle, or Doctor Cullen," he begins. I start to feel a bad impression until he chuckles and gestures to his side. "This is my wife, Esme, and—"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa." Emmett waves his free hand in the air, cutting Carlisle off. "Not so fast, Pops. I've even prepared myself for this."

Emmett bares his teeth in the hugest grin I've ever seen. He squeezes my hand reassuringly before he lifts our arms up, gesturing to the two smiling, relaxed Cullens in front of us. "This is Carlisle, my adoptive father, and Esme, my adoptive mother. Questions?"

I shake my head, trying to show my amusement, but the only thing I can do is grimace. Emmett only laughs at my expression and pulls me tighter to his body—it's another silent reassurance, but some manner of understanding, nonetheless. He moves our hands to point at the honey-haired leech—Moody, I think it is—who looks like he's about to murder something, and the bright, short Cullen appears to be pasted to his side.

"This would be Jasper. He's more of a war veteran, so he can be kinda tense. And the, uh, shorter one is Alice." Emmett looks between Jasper and Alice before turning his gaze back on me. He arches an eyebrow.

Jasper only nods curtly. His jaw pops out as I turn my attention on him again, and he squints his eyes at me. He parts his lips slightly, but it is clear that he is intent on staying silent.

The small Cullen, Alice, seems to be more welcoming than he is, but only slightly. She mirrors Jasper's nod, although her nose is wrinkled. Clearly something about me is making her unhappy. Or maybe it's just my presence that's setting them all off.

"It is very nice to meet you, Jordan. We appreciate this," Esme interjects, breaking the stiff tension. Her gaze flickers over to Jasper and Alice uneasily.

I force a convincing smile, nodding to the gathered group of them. I don't pay much attention to any of the Cullens—at this point, I'm trying to not choke on the fumes of their sickening scents. I make my eyes to scan across the room with fake interest. At least, the interest is fake until my gaze meets the brown eyes of a girl that I haven't noticed.

Heat stacks up inside me. It builds, block after block, moving up from the center of my torso, fanning out into each of my veins while heating up my bloodstream. My pupils dilate and my body comes alive. I can feel my fingers slowly curling into my palm as my eyes take in the sight of her.

She is there, in the back of the room, seated on a small sofa. The cluster of the Cullens' bodies have hidden her. The plain features of her pale face, accompanied with her uneven lips and wave of brown hair is unmistakable. I have only seen her once, in the pack's drifting thoughts, but I am certain it is her. She is crammed up next to the bronze-haired Cullen, her brown eyes settled on me. She takes in the sight of me and a shy smile creeps onto her lips.

"Oh, yeah, and that is Edward. With him is the human I told you about," Emmett adds. He slips his hand free of mine, placing both of his hands on my arms. The sweet scent of his breath rids the disgust that has come from the scent of the Cullens, making more room for the fire that is spreading internally.

"Hi . . . I'm Bella," she says, her cheeks darkened with embarrassment. Her eyes trail across the room, seeming to be looking at everything but me.

I don't respond. My attention is suddenly undivided—the world around me blurs, all of the sharpened senses and sounds draining away. It is as if I am a hunter again, and the shape of a target has been drawn around Bella's face. Bella's sickening, too sweet, all innocent face.

I focus in on the darkening of Edward's intense stare. His eyes are glaring in my direction, his bronze brows furrowed as he stares. I can almost feel him picking through my mind, but even that doesn't matter right now. All that matters is that finally, I have my chance to knock some sense into this little bitch.

The Cullens are all silent. Emmett's hands still hover over my arms, brushing across the smooth surface. I find myself leaning back into his chest while I search for the willpower to not pound her face in.

It's going to take a ton of willpower.

Bella's gaze darts around before she looks at me, seeming to be nervous as she picks up on the mood of the Cullens. A small curve of a wary smile lifts on her lips. "So, you know Jake?"

My dark stare remains locked on her. I don't even hesitate as I answer. Words fly out of my mouth, all of them aimed directly at her.

"Yes, I do know him," I respond in a sharp, curt tone. "Oh, yeah, I know that poor, hopeless guy that you're stepping all over. Here's a tip—get off his ass, and stay the hell away from La Push. We've all had enough of your little dramatic problems. As if you're actually worth our time." My eyes narrow further. "There are many other humans out there needing protection, who have better intentions in life than to stumble around, forcing the world to revolve around them. Unlike those who seem to live for chaos and love to step on those who are actually doing good for them."

Silence envelops the room. Five stares rest on me, the weight of them seeming to be meant to pin me down and erase my words. I hold my ground steadily, feeling my fingers flex. I can only imagine wrapping them around Bella's head right now, crushing the sorry ass skull of hers right in. But I don't need to use my hands in this attack. No, my words are my weapon—crude, sharp, raw facts.

They stare at me like I've sent their last friend to hell, but I don't give a damn. Someone has to lay the facts out if this 'Bella Revolution' is to ever end.

A low growl tears from Edward's chest. He leans protectively over Bella, trying to shield her from my motionless advance. His eyes puncture into my own, prying into the flames of my thoughts. "Careful, love. Wolves are dangerous," he whispers to Bella, refusing to directly acknowledge my presence.

Bella looks between Edward and me before she lets out a huff. She shakes her head, her eyes tightened. "Jake? I-I wouldn't do that to Jake. W-Why . . . what are you even saying?"

Bella's voice grinds into me, tearing through to the wolf inside of me. I feel like I might just erupt as I hear the innocent, timid tone of her voice as she stumbles over her words. It would give anyone else the impression that she is a harmless, shy girl just looking to be accepted, or at least looked over without fuss. The desire to bash her head in is nearly unbearable, but the feel of Emmett's hands holds me in place. His palms have closed around my arms and his firm body holds its place behind me.

I snort at her words, my jaw working. "Like hell you wouldn't. Like hell you don't expect every male creature in the state to drop down and die for you. Who the hell do you think you are, huh? What do you have to say for yourself? What makes you so perfectly innocent and unbearably special?"

Bella's appalled expression lets loose another round of sparks inside me. She stares at me as if I have just broken her neck. Her expression is horrified—it's comparable to an expression one might wear if they were told that their best friend has died.

Jacob is better off dead than having to be alive and put up with her issues.

Bella's teeth lock. By the amount of hurt and glower in her expression, I realize my thoughts have burst straight past my lips. She stares at me with a blaze in her pretty little brown eyes, as if she is willing my head to be cut off right then and there. I am amused by this, knowing she won't last a second if she makes the slightest move. I shift my weight forward eagerly, zeroing in on my target.

I will kill her. I will end her—and all of the problems in this whole damn state—in just a moment. My hot breath puffs through my clenched teeth; my breath is a steam that represents the fire of the predator. I am so close to finally bringing peace back to our quiet reservation. Nothing is going to stop me.

Except for the big, muscled guy behind me, of course.

Emmett's hands follow the tense line of my arms, heading up to my shoulders. His large hands cup the shape of each round curve before they clamp down securely. The chill of his touch is injected from the tips of his fingers. Ice bites its way through my skin, tearing through until it hits my veins. Instantly, it grips and suffocates the heat until it is extinguished. The fire fades off into a muted roar.

At this point, the Cullens have had enough. A wave of calm radiates out through each of us. I snarl under my breath at the sensation, my eyes shooting in Jasper's direction. He misses the gesture, though, because his intense stare is glued to Edward.

A small smirk rises on my lips at the sight of the mind reading Cullen. Edward's shoulders tremble, his expression murderous. He glowers openly at me for a long moment, choosing not to speak, which is a smart move on his part. His tousled bronze hair catches the light as he smoothly stands to his feet. He keeps his head turned in my direction, not breaking his stare. At least these leeches have enough sense to never turn their backs on me.

Edward's coal black eyes settle on Bella. He wraps an arm around her waist and lifts her up before he steers her out the back door. He still doesn't say a word. Bella's muffled stutters are hushed by Edward's soothing words. I stare steadily, watching them until the last trace of the two of them has vanished.

The silence remains, although an uneasy buzz still hums over the surface. Carlisle is the one who breaks the silence. He steps forward, standing in front of Emmett and me. His golden gaze is troubled.

"Emmett, son," he says in a careful, selective tone. "May I please speak with you in the kitchen?"

"Perhaps that is not the best idea, dear," Esme says thoughtfully while placing her hand over Carlisle's own. She turns her gaze on me, and she smiles, although the hurt is clear beneath it. "I am very sorry that you and Bella don't seem to be getting along. We should have made sure you were comfortable with everything before your visit."

"Or perhaps you should not have invited the wolf here at all," Jasper notes lowly. His eyes drop onto the pixie-sized leech who clings to his side.

"Oh, hush, Jazz," she chides gently. "She should come around."

Carlisle shakes his head in disapproval. He sighs before he meets Emmett's gaze evenly, his golden eyes hardened. "I wish to speak with you alone, Emmett."

"That's not necessary," Emmett mutters. His tone is stern and full of warning—I have never heard anything like it. My gaze flickers back, meeting the black, glowing burn of Emmett's eyes. He doesn't return the look.

"So that's it?" he demands, not giving anyone else a chance to speak. As if anybody would—the sudden gnarled frustration in his tone sends out heavy waves of impulsive anger. "One problem with her and you're going to rush us out?"

"Emmett, please—"

The gentle tone of Esme's voice instantly pulls the defensive trigger inside of me. "What is it then?" I tense back against Emmett, willing him to hold me in as the fire starts to grow. My dark blue gaze reflects in each golden pair of narrowed jewels. "Never heard a bitch work magic?"

A cloud of tension hangs over each of our heads. Emmett holds me against him, bracing me back while unknowingly keeping me in my human skin. The darting glances of the yellow eyes along with the sting of their scents is slowly taking over my mind once more, bringing out my inner predator. The crackle of tension is expanding. I tense further, grinding my teeth together while feeling Emmett's anger feed off my own. The wolf inside of me is howling, begging me to let it loose and do what I am meant to do.

Of course, I don't get the chance.

A sharp hiss erupts from the mouth of the honey-haired Cullen. He is standing perfectly erect, his hands clenched into fists at his sides. His eyes have crinkled, almost as if he is struggling against his instincts, too. The hard black gems of his eyes trigger a connection in my mind, matching his expression with a memory of Emmett's words.

Jasper? Nah, he has a power, one of empathy. He was feeding off your fire and what you were feeling. He's not so bad. Usually.

"Emmett," he utters in a hushed tone. His mouth barely moves as he forces out the word. He hasn't said much, but now it is very clear why he has been refraining from speaking. The hostility laced within his words is clear and unhidden. "Get that thing out of here."

Neither of us wastes another moment. Emmett's hands drop, catching one of mine with his own. My fingers weave into the spaces of his and clench tight. Emmett plows straight through the room, heading toward the door—he seems to have sensed the shadow of his anger as it soaked into me.

The door bashes against the side of the wall. I clear the porch in two strides, not allowing any space to weasel its way between Emmett and me. We both charge into the forest, leaving the Cullens behind. We don't stop until the heavy scent of the house has ebbed away and we are circled by the forest.

Almost instantly, Emmett's arms surround my waist. I allow him to pull me tight against him, not having any problem with it. Emmett growls softly as he feels my body press against his. I lock my gaze into the black circles of his eyes, holding his gaze for a moment.

This time, I can't help myself. My hands knot into his hair and I bring his head down to mine, causing our lips to crash together. His hands wrap around my hips, holding me in place while making an escape impossible. The fire of our kiss builds slowly until it seems to burn away at my mouth. A tremble passes through my body before echoing in his own.

A pull from the pit of my stomach draws me into him. I melt into his arms, giving into the desire that now gnaws and thrashes from deep inside of me. I kiss him without any hesitation—our lips move in a rough pattern, locked together as one. My hands tug at his hair while my emotions swirl and steam. I can't get enough of him.

We kiss for what could have been seconds or maybe even hours, just until the fire has dulled into a smolder. Emmett leans away slowly, being the one to break the kiss. A growl slips through my lips as he pulls back. He chuckles but doesn't say a word. Instead, he wraps his arm around my torso and pulls me down next to him. He settles back against a tree, pulling me back to lie flat against his chest.

Another smile breaks across my lips. My head finds the crook of his neck and settles in place. Curious eyes trace the shape of his collarbone, trailing across his broad chest and down the flat plains of his muscled abdomen. A strong desire to reach out and run my hands across each of those muscles swells inside of me, but I manage to keep my hands to myself. For now.

Instead of torturing myself with longing, I force my gaze to drift up toward Emmett's face. A thin black strand of my hair jiggles in the breeze, stubbornly refusing to be blown back. Even though it is rather irritating, I don't bother to swipe it away. In fact, I can't move if I wanted to—my stare has set and locked me down as I take in Emmett's expression.

His eyelids have fallen shut, enclosing the warm golden pools beneath. His brow is relaxed, settled down straight. There isn't a single crease in his forehead or beneath his eyes—his skin is completely smooth, like a light layer of freshly fallen snow that contrasts against his dark hair. I briefly wonder why I haven't even fully realized how handsome he is. He is so peaceful. The winds and rain could beat at his body forever, and even then he probably wouldn't be bothered. His features radiate out from beneath a mask of pure peace. All except for his lips, which are pressed together as if he is savoring the sensations of our kiss inside of him, not letting a single second of it slip away.

He holds peace, something that I have lost long ago. He is everything that I am not. He is almost a relief, a shadow of what I have lost. I can't help but admire him.

I am falling. Suddenly, I can feel the feather-light squeeze in the core of me; I can feel the height that I have pulled myself to as I plummet through the air. My mind is scattered, my thoughts bouncing off one another. They are all trying to sort out right from wrong, trick from truth, monster from angel. Emmett isn't questionable—his thoughts, actions, and feelings are displayed in his face, clear enough for the world to see. But what I need to know is as I fall, will he catch me? Or will I hit the ground and shatter into a million tiny pieces once more, only this time, to never collect myself and be damned to the monster inside of me?

My stomach rolls with the truth. There is no denying it. There is no turning back. The pull is much more than an attraction. He will be mine, and I will be his. Vampire and shape shifter, matched by fate in some twisted, sick, unnatural meaning. But I feel nothing for a vampire. No, suckers are only suckers, and nothing more. It's Emmett; it's him and the human in him that is drawing me in.

Emmett has to realize what he's dealing with. He could try to touch me again and I could end up tearing him apart. He could try to kiss me and his venom would poison me. I am designed to kill him. But is it my purpose, my duty, to allow him to be the one to help fight the monster inside and find Jordan Uley somewhere in here?

As my thoughts wander, I am struck with a strange pang. It's not painful; it's more of a rush of emotion that smacks me right in the heart. Images of the dark expressions of each Cullen scroll through my mind. All except for Emmett's, who stands behind me, his own emotions a mystery.

"Emmett," I breathe. His name slides off my tongue and through my lips without me even thinking about it. I can't think at all, really—my mind is buzzing with the idea of me having truly upset someone. For once, I can't bear the thought of hurting someone. I can't bear the thought of hurting him.

Emmett seems to have caught the tone of my thoughts in that odd, understanding way of his. He laughs once, disrupting the comfortable silence. I lean my head back, only to see him grinning as he stares down at me. All of his sudden defensive anger has vanished, leaving him full of the same optimistic, upbeat mood that has always found a way to lighten the atmosphere. He leans down as if to kiss me, but instead, he lowers his lips to my ear. I hold onto the low, comforting sound of his voice as he chases off each doubtful thought with only five words.

"It could have been worse."

It's those five words that first start to teach me how to let go and move on.