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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.


50. Making Medicine

Rating 0/5   Word Count 9596   Review this Chapter

[Warning: This chapter contains content that might not be suitable for all readers.]

"After tonight,
who knows where we'll be tomorrow
what if we're never here again?

After tonight
This will be a lifetime ago
so let's stay up until the sky bleeds red.

And we'll stop stop stop the world from moving
Stop stop stop the clocks from turning
Stop this night from fading away

This time is ours
If I could hold this moment in my hands
I'd stop the world from moving
I'd stop the clocks from turning

This time is ours
inside a frozen memory of us
And we are motionless, motionless." - The Bravery.

Chapter Fifty

Making Medicine

*Jordan*

At some point, my eyes part, opening up to the bleak sky above. I'm slumped beneath a large pine, my back pressing into prickly branches. The fallen needles press into my palms and knees, rubbing against my skin smeared with crimson. I don't know how I got here, or why the hell I'm human and naked, but I don't have the brainpower to waste time working through any mysteries.

I huff and snarl at the effort it takes to tip my body forward and situate myself in a crouch. I teeter, unbalanced for a moment, before settling in place. The world around me shimmers, spinning around and around before I gradually come to.

I'm surrounded on all sides. Pine trees shoot toward the sky, their needles jabbing against my back as the wind shakes the branches. Night has fallen, meaning I've been passed out on the forest for a while now. Lovely.

My senses roam, combing over every inch of forest. They pass through the insignificant—a murky puddle of rainwater; a cluster of leaves pressed into the mud; the sway of the pine tree's branches—and search for any sign of an unwanted presence. My dark eyes, burning with the lack of use, train on the dirty skin of my bare feet.

After moments of nothing, my hearing pricks attentively. A caw—a sharp call of a bird from the branches—rings out over my head. My dark eyes flicker upward, sifting through the branches of the pines. Seated high up on a branch is the ruffled shape of a bird, its black body a blotch of color against the colorless pine washed grey in the dull moonlight.

I flash my teeth at the bird. Its head tilts, its beady black eye twitching as it settles on me. The bird cries out again, its wings fluttering as it hops down a level. Tiny feet clamp down on a branch while the same beady eye stares glassily at me, clouded with what seems like amusement. The stupid thing squawks when I growl, the sound mimicked laughter in my ears.

As the bird hops about, I drop into a crouch, my thighs slightly bent as I lower my body. One of my hands slips beneath the layer of needles, my fingers crawling along the ground. The bird flaps its wings, a flurry of movement in the still night. My fingers pause as they touch the rough surface of a small pebble buried in the mass of needles. I stare the bird down, holding its attentive glare. Moments pass, the silence filled by the hum of forest life. It almost seems as if the bird has finally shut up. But then, just as my fingers start to loosen, the bird screeches out again. Its voice sizzles in my eardrums, triggering my reaction without any thought.

My shoulder rolls as my arm snaps forward, sending a pile of needles flying every which way. My fingers release the pebble. It zips through the air, aimed directly at the bird. Its beady eye barely has time to blink as the pebble drives into the side of its small face. Frightened, the bird throws open its wings, but it never has a chance to enter the sky.

With a spurt of blood, the body of the bird tumbles down through the branches. It lands beside my ankle with a thud, the beak still gawking. In the place of the bird's shining black eye is a bloody hole filled by the small pebble.

Hilarious.

I tear my gaze away from the bird, spinning around and sprinting through the dark forest. The movement is sudden, causing blood to shoot through my veins at a rapid pace, spiked with adrenaline. I know better than to stay out in the forest, naked, bloody, and suspiciously alone. My legs carry me, and even though I'm subconsciously following an invisible path, I'm sure that my legs are sturdy and strong beneath me; they won't drop me.

After minutes of sprinting, lunging, and tearing my way straight through the forest, I break through the trees. Standing before a small hill, my eyes take in the familiar sight of the house before me. The white paint is peeling, beaten down by the dreary weather, the chimney has long since been retired, and the lawn needs a good mow.

I clear the porch in a single stride, my hand immediately reaching and catching the knob, pulling the door open with a soft creak. I slip through the small opening, careful not to allow any of the humid air to spill into the house as I click the door shut behind me. The house is peaceful, the quiet broken only by two patterns of light, feminine breathing and one obnoxious snore.

My mind rejects any reaction to the others inhabiting the house—they are no threat to me. With another graceful lunge, I noiselessly dart up the stairs and into a long, dark hallway. My footsteps are silent as I pass through the doorways of the occupied rooms, even as I catch glimpses of heads facing my direction and mouths slacked open. The instinctual sensation of my presence alone could interrupt their slumber and cause them to wake, but I don't bother to fret over any precautions.

The bathroom is small, cramped, and bright. I have to use every fraction of willpower left in my head to step in and shut the door behind me. Prickles run down my back at the soft thud of the shutting door. I'm trapped, trapped and suffocating in an enclosure. I'm. . .

"Get a grip, damn it," I whisper hotly to myself.

My hands clamp on the corners of the counter, the edges pressing into my palm. My eyes flicker over the white, smooth surface of the sink. My lip curls back, sneering at my faceless reflection. I spit over the silver drain. The saliva drools over the sides, mixed with blood.

Blood. I lift my hands over the sink, flipping them over to lift the palms up. Crimson stains my skin, and as my fingers curl in, I see it caked beneath my nails, too. I bare my teeth in a breathless snarl, nudging the water on. I rub my hands feverishly beneath the cool liquid, watching the rusty-colored water splash around the bowl as it drains away. I scrape and scrub until my skin feels raw before lowering my head and filling my mouth full of tap water, swishing the bitter wetness around in my mouth before spewing it into the sink and turning off the nozzle. I breathe deeply as the rush of water ends, trickling three final drops before running dry.

Focus. I drag both hands through my tumble of black hair, from the beginning of my scalp all the way down to the peak of my spine. The motion is caught in the mirror, distracting my gaze. I glance up, staring back at a woman, so familiar yet such a stranger. Her clothes are tight and clingy, torn into large tears and splattered with mud. I half-expect to see the woman portrayed as a short girl, drowning in an avalanche of emotions and poisoned by fear. But that girl is long gone, and in her place is the definition of angry. The monster within her doesn't show—it has shrunk away, now satisfied by the blood on the woman's hands, leaving an empty shell of a nameless woman and an ocean of anger in its retreat.

Sickened, I yank the back of my hand across my mouth and let out a puff of heated air, causing the woman in the glass to disappear beneath a cloud of foggy breath.

As I twist around to leave, I pause, my eyes attracted to a shiny glint of color. I reach down, breaking the thin thread of fabric around my ankle with a simple tug of my finger. I collect the engagement ring in my fingers, examining it carefully. It's barely recognizable beneath the caked layer of mud and blood, but the little sucker has managed to survive after all.

My fingers close around the slip of paper wound around the ring, peeling it away and tossing it onto the counter. I run warm water over the material, letting it eat away at the muck until the shiny golden skin is gleaming once more. My eyes take in the glowing diamond, flawless and extremely expensive looking. It might be fancy, but it's not unbreakable—I could easily crush it between two fingers and run, losing myself again in some idiotic act of selfless heroism, forgetting his name in a matter of years.

I shake my head at the thought, growling under my breath. I set the ring on the counter and grab the doorknob, ripping it open in a rush to escape the closed-in room. At the last moment, I pivot back and snatch the ring, using my elbow to flick off the yellow light as I duck back into the empty hall.

My room is unchanged. The layer of dust clinging to the corners and the crumpled sheets of the bed display a lack of attention. The dresser is full of clothes many sizes too small; the window still has a precautionary lock latched onto the bottom. This room can barely be remembered as my own—this house is not much of a home. I can't remember the last time I felt welcome here, in what has been the place where I've grown and lived.

I fall back onto the crumpled sheets of the bed, my long legs draped over the other side and my head sinking into a misused pillow. The air swirls with particles of dust that are thrown up by the sudden movement, barely visible against the solid black of night. I release a heavy breath as I drop my gaze to my hands, placed on the flat surface of my stomach as I flip the ring over and over in an endless cycle. My eyes stare at the empty circle, imagining the ring fitted nicely on my finger, hidden by the strong grasp of two ice-cold hands—held by my only true relief.

He isn't here right now. My relief is far, far away, miles and miles of forest stretched between us. I can only pretend that Emmett is with me, my body curled into his own, his breath sweet on the top of my head as his scent eases me into something that might be close to peace. I close my eyes and nearly feel him—nearly feel the sensation of his presence that raises the thin hairs on my arms—but I know better. I'm keeping myself here as the monster struggles to regain its control. Here, where he can't reach me; where he won't be safe.

The battle in my skull is wearing me down. I hiss at the feeling, my chest rising and falling as I let out an exasperated huff. My toes curl against the cold wooden floor of my room as I push myself into the scratchy mattress of my bed, staying completely still until the exhaustion closes in and pulls me under.

()()()

I'm floating. I don't sleep; I float, hovering above slumber while trapped beneath some sort of hazy unawareness. The heat of my body is enough to make me melt—my skin is clammy, covered in beads of sweat—and my muscles are tight enough that I feel like I've turned to stone. My mind is plagued with thoughts of buttery golden eyes and sweet kisses swelling against the bombs of doubt exploding in my brain. Still, my eyes remained closed, my lungs expanding and contracting with each steady breath.

Knock.

Knock, knock.

Knock.

My eyes squeeze as my ears pick up on the pattering sound of knuckles hitting wood. I clench my jaw, feeling it pop out as I rise into a sitting position, my hair tumbling over my shoulders. My vision is sharp and clear when my eyes open, trained on the closed wooden door. The knob trembles as it's shaken by another round of knocks before the door creaks, slowly easing open.

His musky scent gives him away before he even comes in, sending my nostrils flaring and my fingers curling into my palms.

"Order for Sleeping Beauty?"

"Don't gotta waste your breath, Paul," I mutter. "I might not bite."

There's a moments pause. Then, Paul slowly pushes the door the rest of the way open, his head bowed to avoid hitting the top. His black hair shines with rain that drips off the ends, sliding over his broad shoulders and down his bare chest. He leans into the room carefully, his lips forming a wary smile as it takes in the sight of me.

"I'm supposed to give you this," he says tentatively. His arm curves around the door, revealing the bagel clutched firmly in his hand. It's huge, sloppily filled with egg, ham, and bits of other veggies that have been slathered with a heavy layer of mayo.

I snort at the sight of it, rocking forward to pull the food from his hand. As I drop back onto my knees, I take a bite from the bagel, chewing thoughtfully. "Well done—I can't even taste the poison."

Paul's mouth twitches again. His massive figure slumps against the doorway, relaxing into it. "Figured you'd . . . like it enough without poison."

"Mmm. Very thoughtful." I slide onto my feet as I finish the bagel, swallowing down the lump of chewed food in a single gulp. I brush my hands off on my thighs, allowing crumbs to scatter over the floor. "Nothing says sorry like breakfast in bed."

My words catch him by surprise. Paul's body goes stiff, his eyes flickering over to the window as my gaze travels across his expression expectantly. I can see through him like a shallow pool of water—if someone is going to place food in Paul's hands, it would be gone in moments; he wouldn't ever bother to do something like this, especially if he's pissed. I know him.

He opens his mouth, protest hesitating on his tongue, before he quickly snaps it shut. He shakes his head, dropping his gaze to the floor as a smile creeps onto his face.

"Yeah. Guess so."

A silence settles between us. There's still a gaping space carved out by the weeks of hushed conflict, even though he's taken a step forward in making it smaller. I'm not bothered by the silence, but Paul is clearly uneasy. He shifts his weight to his other foot, his big hands sliding in his pockets. My eyes don't leave his expression, even as he casually steals a few glances my way.

Something is different about Paul. His brow isn't casting angry shadows into his irises and his posture isn't as cockily stiff and tall. They're subtle differences, but big enough that I can catch every one of them. Even though I can sense that he's changed, I don't bother bringing any of it up.

"You've wanted to talk to me before, haven't you, Paul?" I begin smoothly. I pause, waiting until his dark gaze meets mine, narrowed in confusion, before continuing. "After we met with the Cullen leeches."

Paul nods curtly. "I was gonna che—" he cuts off, clearing his throat and averting his eyes. "I was gonna . . . gonna end up bumping into you, so I. . ." Paul frowns, his brow furrowing. "So I noticed you."

I nod slowly, practically smelling the unease that radiates off of him. "That explains why you came over here to give me an apology gift."

Paul swallows hard, his frustration written plainly across his face. His eyes harden as he stares at the floor, taking time to think before he speaks. "Sam sent me over to inform you of a few things."

The tension blasts away from Paul and through me, immediately setting me on edge. My eyes narrow into suspicious slits. I lean forward slightly, focusing on Paul's expression. "About?"

Sucking in a deep breath, Paul rubs the back of his neck and looks back up at me, his brown eyes troubled. "Sam's giving up his place as alpha."

My brows shoot up. There's a faint ring in my ears as my veins start to pound, my senses sharpening as every ounce of my attention zeros in on Paul. "What the hell are you trying to say?"

"You heard me," Paul grumbles. He leans back slightly, unnerved. The icy gleam glazed over my dark eyes reflects in his irises.

"No shit." My teeth click as they snap down together impatiently. "Sam's not a wuss—he wouldn't do that for no damn reason."

Paul's eyes trace my movements as I begin to pace heatedly across my room, back and forth, back and forth. He shrugs his shoulders, folding his arms tight to his chest. "I dunno. He had a breakdown or something; he said he just can't take it anymore." His gaze grows heavy with an unspoken emotion.

I raise a hand as I turn to face him, closing the distance between us in a few brief strides, the flurry of my rapid thoughts bursting into a storm. We're only inches apart, the heat of our bodies sparking with our tempers. My knuckles twist against the fabric of his shirt, pressing hard into his chest. "Don't even try to say it's my damn fault, Lahote. He has shit to get together, but that doesn't mean I'm the problem screwing up his sorry ass."

Paul's arms unfold as he throws his hands up defensively, his expression clouding over with confusion. "Hey, it isn't my fault either! I never said it was your fault, I. . ." He shakes his head, blowing out a loud breath. "I don't know, Jordan. I don't know."

I gawk at him for a long moment, numbed by the rising fury. A moment later, I shake my head and return to my pacing, focusing my gaze on the smooth pattern of the shiny wooden floor. "Who's alpha, then?" I already anticipate the answer, but his name doesn't come off my tongue.

"For now, Sam. He hasn't made anything official.Yet." His eyes travel down to the floor, watching my footsteps as he gradually relaxes into the doorframe. "S'not gonna be just handed off. Sam's saying something about a fight, y'know, like they do in the ancient tribes. Last man standing gets the crown."

With each word, my lips curve further and further into a smile. I twist around and head to the window, staring down at the wet grass, cracking my knuckles. "And here I've been told violence is never the answer."

Paul chuckles shortly. "I never knew you actually believed in that one, Jord," he mutters.

My lips spread into a grin as I turn my head back over my shoulder. "Like hell I do. But if Sam's provoking a bloodbath, he can't expect it to be pretty."

Paul nods, holding my gaze. "It won't be, but it can't last long. We're designed to fight and kill vampires, not each other."

I work my jaw for a moment. "I wouldn't bet on that."

"If you say so." Paul hesitates before stretching out his hand, offering it to me. "May the best wolf win?"

I lower my gaze to his extended hand before grabbing it firmly with my own. My eyes don't leave his as I shake it once. "Oh, she will."

Paul chuckles and drops his hand. He glances around, his expression shifting into another emotion. His eyes are bright when he looks back at me. "That's not all."

I snort, sliding a hand through my hair. "Spit it out."

Grinning, Paul straightens up. He measures my expression with bright eyes before speaking in a smug tone, as if he's already expecting some sort of interesting reaction. "Jacob Black has stolen your sister away. I guess they're in some heavy duty romance now. I don't know exactly what it is, but it involves a lot of mushy-gushy crap."

I stare at Paul's face for a long moment, my mind wheeling, before slowly, the meaning of what he's saying dawns on me. I shake my head, laughing once. "Poor guy has no clue what he's in for," I say, before adding in a mutter, "Gonna kick both their asses 'till they bleed."

Paul starts to laugh with me, but stops short as I mutter. "What was that?"

I dismiss the question with a wave of my hand, letting out a long breath. "Any other scandals?"

"Not that I can think of." Paul takes a half step backwards, suddenly anxious. "But, uh, a bunch of the pack is meeting up at the cliffs. Sam's giving the pack a whole day off before the big day." He angles his body to leave, swinging his arm. "Coming along?"

His words instantly strike a strange sort of suspicion in me; something I know better than to question. I shake my head, returning my stare to the window. "Not for any good reason."

In the corner of my eye, I catch the flicker of relief that crosses over Paul's expression. "Alright, Jord." He retreats into the hall. "I'll see you around."

I listen as Paul thumps down the stairs, grumbling under his breath until he reaches the door. It swings open just wide enough for Paul to trudge through before slamming shut with a loud bang. The moment the lock clicks, I'm in motion.

Slipping down the hall, I shoulder through the door to Sam's room, stepping around scattered books, remotes, and extra pillows and yanking the cordless phone off the end table. I swivel back around in record speed, hurrying down the hall and into the bathroom. My eyes instantly shoot toward the counter, searching but not finding.

"Shit!" I growl.

I'm about to slip back into my room and tear through the sheets when a spot of color catches my eye. The tension in my body eases some as I peel the slip of paper away from the corner of the counter where it's managed to wedge itself. I unfold it carefully with my thumb, squinting to make out the digits scrawled neatly beneath the splatter of crusted blood. My fingers punch in the numbers as I read them before hitting 'talk.'

I lean back as I raise the phone to my ear, listening to each long, irritating ring. The sounds buzz in my ear, sending jitters through me. I drum my fingers on the countertop, waiting, my hand trembling slightly with the suspense. On the third ring, I feel like I'm about to explode, but then the ringing is abruptly ended by a voice.

"Forks Strip Club, may I help you?"

At the mere sound of his voice, I'm flooded with a surge of energy that sends my heart racing and my mouth breaking out into a full grin. My shoulders drop slightly, my body relaxing against the counter. I speak smoothly, all of the earlier traces of frustration and tension melted away.

"I'll take a large, with a side of fries."

A muffled laugh echoes through the phone. "Hmm, I'm sorry. We only serve the delightfully delicious Emmett Cullen. Will that be alright, ma'am?"

"Perfect, actually. Thank you, kind sir."

"One moment please." There's a pause, although my ears can still hear the slight drag of Emmett's unnecessary breathing, before he speaks again. "Why hello, beautiful."

I laugh, running my fingers through the tangle of my hair. "Hey, Emmett," I murmur.

"Something up? Or are you dying of despair every moment we spend apart?"

"I was actually just looking for a visit to the strip club," I joke. "Wrong number, but what a coincidence."

"Oh, were you now?" Emmett snickers into the phone. "No need to look, babe—I deliver."

The smile disappears, replaced by a frown. "You're nuts if you're thinking about coming over here. You'll be shredded in minutes."

"I'd find a way," he reasons. "I wouldn't be missed, 'cause there's a little bit of a scene going on over here. You know, your sister has a bite too."

"Is that so?" My fingers curl in at the thought of what I could have missed.

"I'd say so. Bella went over to your reservation to visit Black earlier and got a hell of a surprise. Ran into something other than a casual game of cards, I bet," Emmett muses. "And it didn't go well from there."

I'm silent for a moment, my lips slowly twisting into a smirk. "Karma's a bitch."

Emmett's infectious laughter booms into the phone. "Damn right it is!" There's a pause as his laughter fades, followed by a faint shuffle. "Shit, I gotta get that. I'll see you soon, Jordan. Love you."

Click.

I slowly drop my arm, staring at the shape of it resting in my hand. I half-expect it to ring again, with Emmett chuckling and apologizing for the interruption, but I know that he's gone, leaving a lingering sense of longing in the silence.

My legs carry me out of the bathroom and back into my bedroom. I flop back onto the bed, expelling a long breath. My eyes roll up toward the ceiling. Blurriness clouds the edges of my vision. It's only been moments and I'm already sinking back into the haze; falling into the strange daze-like state of non-existence. I press the phone to my chest, feeling my heartbeat thrum steadily against it as the blackness folds in around me.

()()()

As time passes, the familiar whoosh of heavy winds gives way to a downpour. Fat droplets splatter against the window like a storm of bullets with no sign of resistance. Eventually, something inspires my brain to spark back to life. I roll my head to the side, my dry, unblinking eyes peering blankly at the raging weather.

My senses adjust slowly. Time passes in a crawl, each moment stuttering before it passes completely. The dullness of my hearing subsides first, even though my vision is still littered with spots. A repetitive rapping catches my attention. It's not the sort of scratching, whacking sound that comes from branches being thrown against the wall. It's almost as if the sound is being made on purpose.

I kick off from the bed, rising up to stand on the hard wooden floor. My gaze is locked on the window, unmoving. Rain washes down the glass, smearing away the detail, leaving the forest behind it nothing more than a shaded black curtain. I lean forward slightly, angling my head as my hearing stretches out, searching for the tiniest disruption.

In that very instant, an eruption of sound bursts through the storm. My body moves without thought, pulled by the invisible strings of instinct. I leap toward the window, my hands grabbing the bottom and ripping it open. The howl has silenced, but my reaction hasn't. My chest rises and falls rapidly with each breath, my vision suddenly sharp and clear again. I scan the forest floor, my eyes trailing over every blade of grass and every inch of land, but I find nothing. I exhale sharply in irritation, but the feeling is short-lived—I find the answer in the breath that I reflexively pull back into my lungs.

One by one, each muscle in my body tenses. Slowly—very, very slowly—I raise my gaze up the trunk of the tree, climbing and climbing, passing through the gnarled branches until they reach the very top. My fingertips curl in as my gaze picks out the spot of color in the darkness, locking with the white flash of an unmistakable dimpled grin. As I spot him, he winks, cupping his hands around his mouth, creating a megaphone to carry his voice. It's unnecessary—I can hear the four words that leave his mouth clearly without any raise in volume.

"Delivery for Jordan Uley!"

Some part of his antics sends a blaze through my veins. It's not anger—it's a sort of hot flash of need, the kind that desires only to crush and kill and taste the salt of blood. The second reaction is stronger. It's a strong swell of amusement and admiration in the knowledge that not even a river and a pack of wolves can keep one of us from coming for the other.

But that doesn't mean that a storm won't keep the pack from coming for him, off duty or not.

I duck beneath the open window, throwing one leg out. My foot plants against the ledge as I lower my head, positioning myself in a crouch in the open window. The rain soaks me in moments, running through my scalp and into the fabric of my clothing. The cold can't touch me, but it does add another round of thrill to the whole situation, heightening my alertness.

My eyes hold Emmett's glittering gaze as I bunch my muscles. I push off fearlessly, my body unfurling as I swipe my hand through the air. My fingers brush the slick bark of the tree before they grasp onto a sturdy branch. I dangle for a moment before smoothly hoisting myself upward, my feet firmly set.

It's not even a full second later that I'm being pulled into Emmett's arms, encased in the tight reassurance of his hold and enveloped in the sweet calm brought by his scent. My body is pressed against his own, our drenched clothing squishy and wet but forgotten as he leans down and my lips find his.

Our kiss is a gentle reunion that sparks a fire. His arms are around my waist as mine are around his, holding him close to me as the urgency dies down and the relief sets in. My body molds in with his as the storm disappears, the hovering branches providing a slab of cover that's just enough to close us off from the rest of the world. Both of us know that allowing this to continue will get us both carried away, but I can't bring myself to stop.

Emmett has to pull away. His eyes squeeze shut, his grip tightening as he breaks the kiss. His eyes open, first the left, then the right, as he leans his forehead against mine. His lips curl back in amusement at my heavy breathing and he sighs, sending a rush of sweet, icy breath across my face.

"Is there somewhere we can go? Somewhere we can be alone?"

The thought alone brings a jab of excitement. I smile slightly, nodding as I slide away from him, only to lace my fingers through his. "Come with me."

I bring him back into the fury of the wind and rain, my hand locked tightly with his own. Our bodies brush as we dart across the yard. The grass is tall, tickling my knees, but thin and fragile beneath the pound of precipitation. I'm careful to wind through the smaller patches, lessening the chance of leaving any of Emmett's scent behind.

It's a half-mile walk, and at our pace, the distance is cleared in just over a minute. I lead him toward a shed, broken and battered, barely visible beneath the moss that has corrupted it like disease. It leans against a thick tree, the sides expanded as if the weak walls can't bear to support the sloppily shingled roof. It's no fairyland castle, but it's at least something.

I grasp the doorknob firmly, my fingers sliding over the rust. I twist slowly, but the knob doesn't even budge. With a soft growl, my shoulder rams into the door, forcing it to part with a cough of dust. I exchange a smug look with Emmett before ducking inside.

The coat of dust matting every inch of the shed screams of years of absence. It blows wildly in the air, excited by the burst of wind, before Emmett shuts the door behind us. He stays quiet, swiping at cobwebs as we move forward and muttering under his breath as they stick to his fingers. I take steady steps, stride by stride, my eyes taking in the scene as Emmett's fingers drop out of my own. The walls are rotting and the floorboards shudder and creak under the lightest pressure. Sam clearly isn't a master of construction.

While Emmett busies himself with plucking his fingers clean, I focus my attention on the only thing stored inside the shed. There isn't anything useful—not even a pack of nails. Just a lone, bathtub-sized wooden box kicked back in the corner.

I stop before it, tracing the hard wood. Dust gathers at my fingertips, leaving three streaks behind on the surface. I ignore the dirt, clamping my hands down on the edge. It takes a few minutes of strain and tugging before I manage to pry the top off. The box opens with a pop, releasing another round of dust.

One hand holds the top open while the other flips through the bottomless collection of clothes. An endless wardrobe of every werewolf's fashion dream—stained jeans chopped off just below the knee, blue and grey and some even black. My eyes catch one rumpled article that stands out among the rest. I pull it free and shake off the dust, snorting at the sight of the sweatshirt, so thoughtfully packed for the few who can't pull off the shirtless look in public.

"If you were cold, you could've asked to snuggle, Jordan."

I laugh once, dropping the sweatshirt back into the pile. "And you're assuming that I'd want to 'snuggle'?"

Emmett is silent for a moment. I close the top of the box, turning and bracing my hands against it as I take in the sight of Emmett standing back against the doorway, wearing a painfully shocked expression. He blinks, his gaze connecting with my own. "Well . . . yeah."

"Oh, come on now. Don't give me that look." I open my arms for him, gesturing him forward. "No hard feelings."

Emmett moves in a breeze, pressing against me as his arms slide through the spaces of my own. He chuckles lowly, close enough that I feel his laughter echoing in my chest.

"And you're sure about that?"

Very. I think the word, but my voice never comes. Instead, I study the movement of his firm jaw and the shape of his lips as he breathes the words. I lose every train of thought, taking in the sight of his face just inches from mine. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I can't take it anymore.

One moment, we're so close, and the next, there's no space at all. My lips crash against his in a fiery kiss. There's no slow build of gentle calm this time—the kiss takes right off the ground and explodes. My hands are clenching in Emmett's shirt, twisting and tearing at the fabric while his hands plant against the box, braced against it as he pushes himself against me.

Despite the need, our actions aren't primal—there isn't any demand to force this in motion. This is passion—a fire that can quench the monster, stomping the flames out to ash. This is his the reaction to brilliant scent filling my lungs; the sensation of his full attention that turns my blood to honey; the rhythm of his laughter that skips in tune with my pulse. And beyond that, it's also the pressure of his muscular abdomen against my own and the growing bulge in his jeans.

My hands grip the hem of his shirt, raising it up over his head without time for protest, destroying the stubborn strips. My warm fingers knot into his hair, so soft and dry. Emmett lets out a soft growl, his teeth clicking as he nuzzles my neck. He dips me into a bow, leaning over my body as he trails his kisses along my jaw.

"I know you need me," he whispers in my ear. His voice is husky, tinted with an edge that raises goose bumps on my arms. "I knew you needed me, and that's why I came. Not for this, but for you."

His words produce another spin of adrenaline. I breathe against his neck, my words soft. "I love you, Emmett."

A purr passes through Emmett's lips. "And I know you do." He retraces his path, finding my mouth and igniting the flames all over again.

Instinct swallows me whole. Keeping one hand tangled in his hair, I run my nails down the naked skin of Emmett's back, bracing myself against the box as I skillfully maneuver him out of his jeans, listening to his belt fall to the wood below with a satisfying thump. I shudder in anticipation, knowing that there's not much left now—just one final tug. But below the eager need, there's also a sense of reluctant patience—it's his turn.

Kisses smolder down my neck as anxious hands remove the barrier of my torn clothing and caress the smooth skin that's revealed. Emmett shifts over me, struggling to hang on to his own patience as his lips travel down my shoulder and down to the single strap along my back. Emmett's lips part slowly, his teeth grazing my skin as they slice through the strap and drag it away.

Emmett pauses again, stalling the crackling flames. He slips his hands over my skin, soothingly exploring every inch as he takes in my expression. His eyes are glinted black with hunger that stops the rush in its tracks. This will finalize everything. Every fiber of my being is screaming yes, to stop the torture and let it happen. But at the same time, the monster is screeching for me to stop; to not let this beast control me.

Kill it, the monster urges. He's only playing with his prey. This is a game.

I feel my breathing pick up. My teeth lock and my eyes drop down to hold Emmett's own. He's only a predator, and I'm allowing myself to be his prey; I'm giving in, bowing down; cutting my own throat. My hand starts to slide off Emmett's back, dropping back to my sides, while the other clenches in his hair, preparing to twist and pop.

"No," Emmett says softly. He doesn't change our position, but instead catches my hands and entwines our fingers. He adds pressure to the ring, holding my gaze steadily with a fierce determination. "This is us, Jordan. Nothing is going to stop that."

My bare chest shudders with a heavy breath as I fix Emmett with a searing stare. There are only a few moments between us and the finish line, but for now, the race is paused. I can end the race—I can eliminate the threat and finish on my own. Or I can fight the monster, force itto back down, and cross into a different finality.

The choice doesn't require any debate.

In the corner of my thoughts, my eyes pay close attention to my hand that I've wound into his hair. I lower my hand slowly, brushing my knuckles over the side of his face. My fingertips touch the satin-smooth skin of his cheek and rest there. I take in the sight of him—the honey of his eyes, the sweetness of his scent, the shape of his lips—and find myself slowly leaning into him, touching our lips together.

The kiss is slow at first, Emmett's reaction stalled by his careful intentions. I don't share the hesitation anymore though—I'm certain now. I return my fingers to the softness of his hair, holding him in place while drawing him into a deep kiss that sends sparks of heat tingling from the peak of my scalp all the way down into the tips of my toes, numbing and electrifying at once.

His tongue pushes past my teeth, skimming over the top of mine, dancing with it, twining, teasing. The quiet skim of our exploring hands is audible as Emmett's hands move toward the backs of my thighs. I throw away all the second thoughts, packing the monster's doubt in the dark, damp corners of my mind, relishing on the billions of buzzing sensations as I encourage Emmett to take the reins and venture further.

It's not long before I fall apart. Only, it isn't my sanity that collapses—it's the barriers built around my heart; the wall that separates Jordan Uley from reality. I set it all free, allowing Emmett to be the one to give my suffocating spirit its first breath.

It might not be the best time, place, or circumstance, but that doesn't matter.

There's no going back now.

I am still not whole, even with the completion. Like a doctor who stitches up the last open wounds of the broken, his love is an antidote to the monster within. But this is just another dose that will keep it at bay for a little while longer. It might not be permanent, but hell, if this means something to Emmett, it makes sense to me.

The moment the thought solidifies, I release the pent up longing and desire. And it's in that same moment that Emmett and I both free-fall into a new brand of fire, together.

*Emmett*

I catch a glimpse of her face as her expression breaks, shattering like glass, opening up into a mass of many different emotions that I've never seen before. We share a look—something intimate—and I can see the light of feeling in her eyes, filling with emotions that are too deep for me to describe. Emotions that have been locked in for a while, but now freely flicker over her face.

I listen to the words she manages to speak. It's hard not to—she's making it clear to not leave any of her thoughts to my imagination, and making sure I hear it all, too.

I feel every response her body gives in reaction to my own. We move together, as one. Her body is so in tune with mine, it's hard to tell there are really two of us. She responds in a way I've never experienced, even though we've both taken this trip more than once before. She is wild, raw, and uncontained. There is no lady-like hesitation, no holding back. It's all real, as she feels and I feel, until eventually, there's an impossibly long stretch of time where I swear we've both hit an unreachable level of heaven.

But it's not the light of God that touches our exposed skin. It's just the light of the moon as the roof of the shed collapses over our heads, revealing a rare sight of the round orb of the moon peaking through the clouds, its soft silver glow igniting the world around us.

And suddenly, it's all over.

Damn.

The moon is a spotlight, a flare in the dark sky that signals our presence. We force ourselves to remember how to move again, instantly setting in motion. I keep a close eye on Jordan's figure as she ruffles through the box, wrinkling my nose against the dull scent of wet-dog. I shake my head as she offers the chopped jeans, sliding my boxers where they belong. There's no hope for the rest of my clothes.

I start to grin, patiently waiting as I watch Jordan move. There's still an aftershock of trembles spreading through her body, visible in her shoulders and legs. She growls once, shaking her head and muttering something to herself. She twists to the side, allowing a wave of shakes to quake through her. Muscles tear and bones crack as they rearrange. Jordan's body mutates in a matter of seconds as she bursts out of her skin, hunkering down on all fours. She snaps her teeth and shakes out her fur as she settles into her other form.

The white wolf reminds me of her, even as she inhales slowly and narrows her eyes. The fierce gleam in her eyes; the sure posture of her stance; the smooth grace of her movement. I can see all of Jordan there, even through the fur. I start to smirk, but I stop short as the wolf lets out a loud huff through her teeth.

"Let's go," I agree, muttering the words under my breath.

I pivot back and reach for the doorknob, but I don't get a chance to open it—the door, loosely connected to the broken wall, sways and clatters to the ground the moment my fingers come in close contact. Jordan rumbles from behind me, her breath warm on my neck.

"Hey now, no laughing at me," I chide playfully. She huffs at me again, her massive form brushing past me and heading outside. I stroll out after her, entering the eerie calm of the night.

It smells like rain, and a layer of wetness clings to the forest, but there isn't any other sign of the wild storm. The sky is black, the forest oddly silent. I strain to hear any signs of the wildlife as I tag after Jordan, but my ears can't hear anything except—

I pause, my head tilting as my hearing picks up on something. At first they only hear a gentle whistle—air being blown out—and I assume it's Jordan. But it can't be, because there, in the shadows, I can hear the familiar pound of another wet, heavy heart.

My mouth opens to speak, but Jordan's already growling, her pace stopping as she lifts her large head. I follow her narrowed gaze. The huge black form is hard to pick out from the shadows, but the glittering light of his eyes is still visible as they burn into me, frozen and searing.

We're no longer trapped in that feeling of being suspended in time. Now, the world is real, even though my head still swims from the sights, smells, and sensations scalded into every corner of my memory. The black wolf starts to snarl, quietly at first and then slowly longer, his muzzle wrinkling over his teeth. I know he's about to pounce—I can see it in the ready curve of his shoulders and the light puffs of rank breath huffing from his nostrils. Reflexively, I would have slipped into my own crouch and taken his challenge. But this isn't my fight.

Before me, the white wolf echoes the snarl. She raises her voice above the others, jogging forward a few paces to block the space between the black wolf and me. Her neck is stiff and her own teeth are bared in warning. Tension radiates off of the two of them as they lock eyes, each a stubborn statue, unwilling to back down. I remain frozen, my gaze set between them, until finally, the black wolf lets out a grunt and melts back into the shadows.

Jordan doesn't move at first. I have to slide beside her, resting my hand on the round shape of her shoulder. She turns back to look at me, her gaze hardened with a harsh emotion that I don't understand at first. I give her a bright grin in return, watching as her gaze softens.

"I don't think that guy was looking to give me an invitation to hang around," I whisper to her.

The wolf straightens her stance, bumping the side of her large head against my own. She holds it there for a minute before tossing her weight to the side in a playful shove. I chuckle, allowing her to gallop ahead into the forest, and I cast one final glance around me before sprinting after her.

()()()

Pretty lucky guy, I am—I get her in bed with me again in that same night.

But isn't likethat, if you know what I mean. This time is more innocent—light breathing, blankets and pillows, closed eyes and still hands. Jordan rests on her back, her head turned into my chest as she sleeps, her face a restless slide show.

What can I say? A man has to be efficient if he's going to get the job done right.

We've ended up back at the house after a few miles' run. There hasn't been any other prowling wolves to creep on us—just the wind in our faces and the exhilaration of our matched speed. We lunged up the porch in record time, entering the still house without any caution. The rest of the family's already dispersed into other nightly activities, leaving the house empty.

Jordan fell back into herself after shoving through the large doorway. She all but collapsed into me, dizzy and mumbling nonsense, disoriented from the rush. I, being the gentleman that I am, took her upstairs with me and settled her in for a nice little sleep.

I never got the chance to find any clothes for her. She doesn't seem to mind it anyway—there aren't any rivers for her to hide her body in here, regardless. I keep her close in a tender embrace, allowing her to breathe on my skin. Every now and then, I swear I hear a whistle of my name, but her voice disappears beneath her gentle snore moments later.

So we lay here, together, her heartbeat thumping evenly against my chest. I trail my fingers through the loose tangles of her hair, allowing them to skim the top of her shoulder that's peeking out from the blanket. Her skin is weathered—not as soft as mine but still smooth. It's alive—not a perfect sheet of ice that can split and shatter if gripped too tightly, but real skin, warm and thick like flesh should be.

My fingertips pause over a splotch of color. It's barely visible, blended in with the russet, but still there. A spot of yellow—a fading bruise. I smirk at the sight of the healing mark, knowing full well that if it's still there when she wakes up, she'll wear it like a prize.

There isn't much that is fragile about Jordan. She's wild, raw—something that could be born to nature itself. I breathe in the scent of her—not sweet and flowery, yet not musky and repulsing. It's almost bitter, with a sweet bite to it that tingles in my nostrils. But at the same time, it's something different that's distinguishable enough to be picked out from miles and miles away. Her scent is mixed in with a tang of dry blood and the airy smell of pine, but I decide not to question that.

Jordan stirs suddenly. She lets out a gentle sigh, adjusting her shoulders and pulling herself up until she bumps the headboard. Her legs push away from her body, yanking the blanket down to her hips. I raise my hand, hovering over the air as my eyes take in the emotions playing on her expression. Her brows pull down and her eyes tighten slightly before her breathing slows back into its steady rhythm.

I pause for a moment before allowing my hand to drift back down to her skin. The urge to touch her refuses to be denied—I can't even help myself. The newly exposed skin causes a reaction down south, but I push those thoughts away before they turn into something uncontrollable.

My hand is traveling across her skin again. My fingers are pure white against the dark tone of her skin: ice on fire. There's something even more striking about the heat of her now. It feels like every touch sets me on fire, but there isn't any flame and instead of pain, there's a deep pleasure. I hum low in my throat, literally feeling my eyes darkening as my hand slides lower. When they hit a certain point, a movement catches my eye—it's the blanket, starting to creep farther away from her body as Jordan's hips begin to rise.

Oh damn.

I inch my touch backward quickly, before the movement sets off another round of demands from the southern areas. Jordan's body slacks again as I near her ribs. I tilt my head as her hips fall back down, pausing before slowly sliding my hand down her body. When my hand touches the area just above her belly button, her body starts to arch once more. I chuckle under my breath, unable to help myself.

Alright, alright. That's enough, Emmett.

The little voice of reason inside my head knows better. It's these little amusing games that can spark the steam all over again. Knowing better than to press my luck, I snake my arm around her body and gently pull her close to me, careful not to disturb her. My eyes set on her face as I move her across the sheets, seeing as her expression flickers once more. Jordan will wake soon, even though I want her to sleep. She's going to need some extra energy to throw that shed back together.

Pulling Jordan against me, I notice how hot she really is. Her body heat is a blaze, like a layer of heat that surrounds a wildfire. It makes sense that it would be—her body heat has to consume every bit of me, frying out my venom from her system.

It's a shame, but I know that I won't be out of her for long. There is no way in hell that I can willingly resist the chance to relive this night again. She isn't soft, hesitant, or careful, but at the same time, she isn't in it for the thrill. Jordan is soft to the touch but tough to the grip, an equal partner in the avalanche of emotion brought by our steamy encounter. Never before has any woman been able to make me feel that way—like I'm the one on the verge of losing everything; like the sensations that crash through me are the doings of another and not just my own natural reaction. This has to be real.

As my attention drifts, my thoughts take a turn down a new route. I haven't ever had this before, not even with Rosalie. I almost start to wonder what there really has ever been with her. Not this. There isn't an equal. There's always been Rosalie's wants; Rosalie's dreams; Rosalie's despair and pursuit of what she can never have. I could never give her what she wants and needs. She craves escape from what she is—something that can be found in a fiery death, but not from me. Rosalie has always wanted nothing more than a way to work through the curses of this life—she's wanted nothing more than the bend the rules and have something I can't give her.

I always have thought Rosalie was beautiful, but back then, I never truly understand. I know Rosalie is a looker, but she doesn't hit the definition of what there really is. Jordan is beautiful. Not because of the shape of her body or the seduction spoken in her voice or the feel of her touch. She's beautiful in the mystery of the beautiful person hidden deep inside her. She's beautiful because I can see past what might mistake her as someone ugly; she's beautiful through the person that I'm bringing out of her.

Jordan is fighting to have me. She isn't saving me because of the genes I've inherited and using me as an anti-depressant. She is fighting to keep me—to keep what we have. Jordan wants me—my appearance is nothing but a plus to her. Jordan has a choice—she could have put up a fight and came after me, but instead she's choosing to fight against herself to savor what we can have together—an equal balance; a happiness.

Rosalie might still be out there, and she might be a pain in the ass. There might be a threat on the horizon—or what I'd like to think of as action—that might pile on even more trouble than there already is. But none of that can change this.

Everything is certain now. Everything is final. Jordan ismine.

"My Jordan," I whisper, testing the words on my lips.

In her sleep, Jordan's mouth curves into a smile. I chuckle to myself and nestle my head in her neck, unwilling to allow her to stir just yet. There's a moments pause before she breathes four words that bring me more pleasure than any amount of sex ever could.

"I love you too, Emmett," she sighs.

Jordan's body turns into mine as the words leave her lips. A jolt shoots through my empty veins as she winds her arms around my neck, pressing into me like I'm her personal pillow, crafted just to fit her shape. The smooth brush of her hot skin against my own raises another grin on my lips, impossibly large.

Eventually, the sound of Jordan's voice fades off into a light, breathless snore. I wind both arms around her torso, holding her tight to me with a fool's grin planted on my face. For the first time in centuries, I swear I could almost feel my heart beating hard against my chest, racing and pumping and impossibly alive.

She has that effect on me.