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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.


51. Dimples and Duties

Rating 0/5   Word Count 6627   Review this Chapter

"Don't share all your dreams in one night, no
Don't tell the whole story
Why should you hurry?"
- 10cc.

Chapter Fifty One

Dimples and Duties

Oblivion.

If there is such thing as any kind of escape, this is it. I've never know it to be possible to fall beneath the hell raging in my skull, but now, I've just managed to duck beneath them. My eyes are closed, my body nearly relaxed as I rest on some sort of smooth, comfortable surface. I breathe in slowly, my lips curling as they draw in the sharp scent of someone familiar, and behind it, the smell of furniture, rain, and even a little bit of bloodsucker.

The hell?

My eyes fly open.

Sleep might drug my mind, but it fails to dull my senses. I burst right out of unconsciousness without any drowsy side effects. My breath catches in my throat as my body tenses, preparing to strike. I take in the sight of the heavily-carpeted floor beneath me as my mind assesses the situation.

I'm in the 'sucker den. The thought hits me like a blow to the gut, and if not for my position, I probably would have lost my human skin right then. I'm stopped by the feel of marble skin pressed against my own, suddenly injected with a brief recollection of the previous night. It's then that I realize that my arms are wrapped around a thick neck and my body is laying flat across a chest that shakes with muted laughter. I mutter a curse beneath my breath before glancing to the side, meeting the slits of Emmett's downcast eyes. He breaks out into a huge grin as his eyes find mine, his teeth visible through the face-full of my hair.

"Sweet dreams?"

"I'm about smothering you to death."

"I'm gonna take that as a yes."

Laughter flutters through my body, warm and real. I breathe out against Emmett's chest before pushing myself up into a sitting position, my knees digging into the mattress. The movement tugs at the sheets, causing them to slide away from Emmett's body and reveal a lot of smooth skin and rock-hard muscle. My eyes are drawn to his figure, my heart soaring at the mere sight of him while my mind is flooded with crystal memories.

It's just too bad he managed to find his boxers.

Or maybe it isn't, because there's no other way I'd be able to retain some level of control right now.

Emmett hums low in his throat, his eyes measuring my expression. I tear my gaze away from his body and return it to his face, taking note of the emotions he's openly displaying. With smugness pulsing off him, he folds his hands over his abdomen and rests his broad shoulders against the headboard.

"Go ahead and take it all in," he encourages. "I know it might be. . ."

As he speaks, his eyes start to lower to my exposed figure, causing his grin to falter. I raise a brow as he trails off, his eyes running over my bare skin. Heat jabs in my core, interpreting his body language as a challenge. I push it away, knowing better—the darkening of his eyes speak of a different brand of desire.

Emmett swallows hard—hard enough that his Adam's apple bobs in his throat. His gaze has frozen on my naked body, his pupils dilated; black splotches of black ink fan out in his irises, staining the yellow hazel. "Hey, Jordan?"

I try to control my breathing, gritting my teeth against the shivers triggered by the husky edge. At the very least, my stare remains steady. "Yeah?"

"You know you're still naked, right?" he asks, the words coming slowly.

Another shiver shoots down my spine. Shit. "I know."

Silence settles. We only breathe, motionless, both of us buzzing with want yet stalled by an invisible wall between us. My muscles contract as they begin to shake, strained by the force of my own free will battling against desire. It takes every ounce of willpower inside of me to control my stare alone as it's helplessly distracted by the sudden tightness of his boxers. Emmett is a perfect statue, all until he notices the curl of my fingers clenching into the sheets. His eyes shoot up to my face as he reads the thoughts doubtlessly visible on my expression.

The second his gaze locks with mine, I freeze. My body becomes a block of stone, momentarily stunned by the look of pure want in Emmett's stare. A second later, my control collapses. I all but throw myself at him, while he rises to meet me. Our bodies clash, his hands grabbing my sides and pulling me in while my fingers glide down his abdomen to tear away his boxers. Our mouths mold together, our bodies joining in a tangle of limbs. It happens suddenly, both of us heavily charged with adrenaline and fueled by an anticipation neither of us can extinguish.

After, I'm not plagued with the same heavy, dizzying sort of exhaustion. Instead, I'm riding on a more pleasant sort of high, like a young girl with butterflies in her stomach, only magnified a million times. Emmett smiles cheekily up at me, pressed down against the mattress while allowing me to rest across his torso. A shower of powder sprinkles in his dark curls and dusts over his face as it puffs out from the defined split in the wall, angered by the motion of my body as I turn my head to catch a glimpse of his priceless expression.

"Stop smiling at me like that, you big goof," I tease. His dimples are setting off another round of jittery emotions inside me and it's just enough to stir the smoking embers between us.

Emmett shakes his head slowly without dropping his smile, rubbing circles with his thumb on the small of my back. "No can do—you haven't given me any reason not to smile."

Laughing under my breath, I nod in agreement, propping myself up on my elbows. "All payback for the damage."

I brush my lips across his own, quickly ducking my head before he can steal another kiss. A disappointed growl vibrates in his throat. I press my face into the cool marble of his skin, nuzzling his neck lightly.

"Damage only means that I'm doing my job pretty damn well," Emmett reasons, his tone edged with playful boasting.

"Oh?" My lips spread over my teeth. "And here I haven't even worked up a sweat yet. Shame."

Although I can't see his expression from this position, I can clearly imagine the fake-hurt playing across his face. Emmett winces, his chest trembling with a contained laughter. "Ooh, ouch. Big injury to my ego."

I place an apology kiss beneath his jaw, and then lean up to return his narrowed gaze. His honey eyes sparkle as they connect with mine. "Is your endurance suffering at all?"

The air rushes around me as the scene abruptly changes. With a crack of protest from the weary bed below, Emmett positions himself over me, his face inches from my own. His teeth are bared in an enormous, gleaming grin as he bends his head, capturing my lips in a short yet simmering kiss. Just before it sets a fire, he dips his head and breathes lowly into my ear, his icy breath brushing across the surface of my blazing skin.

"Now that," he whispers, caressing the silky skin of my thighs as he braces my body against the soft mattress, "isn't gonna be running short any time soon."

()()()

"Ooooh, aaaaah. Yes, that's very nice."

Emmett muses quietly to himself, picking through the thick carpet in search of small bits of wood. He wears a mask of complete focus as his eyes crawl along the floor. He cocks his head, his eyes zeroing in on an area toward the wall before he darts forward in a sudden, inhuman movement, snatching up a sliver of wood and raising it high above his head in triumph.

"Gotcha!"

I smirk, watching him study his catch in the corner of my eye. He tugs up his black basketball shorts, forcing them to ride up on his hips, and then shoots a casual glance my way. I avert my gaze, draping the torn strips of what used to be a layer of sheets over the cluttered mess of broken furniture piled sortlessly in the opposite corner of the room.

"And done," I conclude.

I shoot a risky look over my shoulder, finding Emmett watching me. I'm hot beneath his gaze, even covered by a long sleeves of grey cotton. The after effects of our intimacy have yet to completely subside. His dimples pop up as I grant him my attention, the familiar easy amusement returning to his features.

"That it, babe?"

"Mmm." My gaze races around the room. It's not as spotless as it used to be—the flawless carpet is littered with bits of wood and plaster, the wall clearly cracked and split behind a smashed painting hastily thrown over it. The large bed is in bits and pieces, thrown in the corner and hidden by the remains of the sheets. I return my stare to Emmett after my brief assessment, cracking a grin.

"It could use one more little detail." I slip past him, ducking into the empty closet and searching through the endless sea of men's clothing. After a few moments, I pull out a dusty box and shake off the dust, revealing the cover of the Monopoly box. I flex my fingers, flicking my wrist and sending the box spiraling across the floor. It lands on its corner with a muted thump, the top tumbling off. The pieces scatter over the floor while the board topples face-down on the carpet.

Emmett cracks his knuckles thoughtfully as he takes in the scene. I lift one eyebrow, then the other, patiently awaiting his response. He takes the time to slowly pace around the game before he faces me again, curiosity written across his features.

"Board game gone wrong?" he guesses.

"That's the idea."

Emmett snickers, clapping his hands together loudly. "Excellent! No one will suspect a thing."

"Why thank you, Emmett." I return his praise with a bright smile, bowing in mock flattery.

"Alright, alright, back to business," Emmett chides, faking seriousness. He appraises me with bright eyes, his gaze lingering on my bare legs before shooting back up to my expression. "Looks like there's still one thing left to clean up."

In a blur, Emmett clears the distance between us and tosses me over his shoulder, breezing into the bathroom and setting me on the smooth tile. He ghosts his hands down my sides as he pulls away and takes a half step backwards. My eyes travel around the bright whiteness of the impossibly large bathroom. Emmett doesn't speak, remaining silent until my questioning gaze settles on him.

"Figured you could use a minute alone," he reasons. His voice is low, his eyes trained on my expression. When I don't object, he gives me a reassuring smile and continues. "I'll be right downstairs if you need me. Take your time."

With that, Emmett retreats into the bedroom, shutting the door softly behind him and leaving me alone with my thoughts.

My happy-high parishes in his absence. I blow out a hot breath, running my hands through my straggly hair. My fingers touch the dipping collar of the sagging shirt three sizes too big, curling in and slipping it off of my body. I avoid looking in the mirror, unwilling to fully enter my own furious, fiery reality so soon.

I take in the room around me, dragging a slow breath through my nose. Everything is white—the floor, the walls, the lights, the sink, and even the rug. Not an inch is flawed with a single spot of dirt. The room shines beneath the blinding haze of the glowing light above my head. I shake my head, wondering why the hell a parasite would need a shower anyway. It rains so much, even half the tribe doesn't bother with showers, much less a fancy, thousand-dollar bathroom.

Stepping forward, I press my hand against the glass of the shower down and push it open. The shower itself is huge and round, topped off with a single silver shower head. I shake my head, sliding in one leg in, then the other before twisting the first nozzle my fingers reach. Water immediately shoots out of the shower head, coating the walls and splattering my skin with a frenzy of droplets. I duck beneath the icy spray without a second thought, doused from head to toe in moments.

My skin crawls with the contrast in temperatures, although I barely mind. I burn, a stubborn flame unwavering in the chill. My eyes pass over the soap packed neatly behind a miniature shelf built into the wall of the shower, but I make no move to use them. For all I know, they could be full of bloodsucker poision. Not only that, but I'm covered in Emmett, and I have no desire to wash him off. The sensation of him—his scent, the taste of his skin, the memory of his skin on mine—crowds my mind and sings through my veins like a live wire; forced to accept the electricity that finalizes his place.

I've been with men before, many times. Too many times to count. It's nothing to be proud of, and in my head, there isn't any room for senseless shame, either. I sure as hell know what sex is, and I know that whatever's happened between us is nothing like anything I've ever dealt with. This hasn't been a claim; it hasn't been an entertaining distraction. At the same time, it's more than just an expression of love. I might not be an expert in that area, but there's something different about what happened in the past few hours, time and time again.

It's a possession.

Before now, there's been a push and a pull. A pull gravitating us together, but a push reversing our direction, like identical magnets being shoved at one another. Now, that's all but disappeared. My vision has cleared and my pulse has changed course. The frantic kill, kill, killbeating with each thump of my heart has been replaced with a different chorus.

Emmett, Emmett, Emmett.

His name swarms through my brain, bombarding my mind and swelling my veins. At the same time, the thought of him tugs at my core and engulfs me in a sense of near peace. There's not just me and the monster anymore. Now it's me, Emmett, and my monster, all molded into one and struggling for dominance.

Before, the monster had found no competition for its rule. But now, it's outnumbered, and the chances of it ever finding its throne again are nearly diminished.

My thoughts are disrupted by a knock on the door. I rake my hands through my hair and turn off the water, sliding back the shower door just enough to peer around it. Drawing in a deep breath, I gather myself, working my jaw before speaking. "Yeah?"

"Got some clothes." Emmett's arm snakes around the open door, a rolled-up outfit grasped in his fingers. He pats around, inching in a little further without peeking in before he finds the counter and releases the clothing. They unfold over the sink, dipping into the bowl.

"Thank you," I murmur distantly.

Emmett nods from behind the door. "Anytime, babe. I'm still out here if you need me."

The door pulls shut.

I lunge out of the shower, relieved to escape the smothering whiteness. My feet pad over the tile as I pick up the clothes and snap them in the air in a few lousy attempts to rid the scent of leech. The smell's embedded in the fibers by now and impossible to get out. I mutter to myself as I grudgingly tug the clothing over my body.

Emmett's clearly put thought into his choice of clothing. The shirt's fitting: short sleeve, v-necked, and white, although stained see-through at the shoulders by the collected pool of dripping shower water. Figures. The jeans are simple—chopped above mid-thigh and torn around the edges, as I like them. Once the clothing is slid over my skin, I assess my reflection in the mirror, only to shake my head and snort.

It's a joke, at best.

I run my tongue over my teeth, half turning toward the door. It's not like Emmett will be expecting much, but I at least want to make an impression. I skim the counter as I think, my gaze pausing on a brush placed just behind the sink. I stare for a moment before picking it up and slowly starting to drag it through the thick tangle of my hair.

Three inches in, it catches. I curse under my breath, yanking roughly at it. The brush digs in, tangling further with each pull. I snarl out, slapping my hand against the counter to avoid throwing an impulsive punch at the mirror.

In the corner of my eye, I see the flash of movement, but I pay no mind to it, too focused on my mini-battle with the brush. It's not until footsteps sound that I tear my gaze away from the sink, meeting a pair of buttery pools of golden. They stare at me, unblinking, before lighting up with amusement.

"Need a little help?"

I huff through my teeth. "Possibly."

Emmett grins, cracking his knuckles together. "Challenge accepted."

Stepping forward, Emmett gathers me in his arms and grins as he dips me into a bow, holding my body against the edge of the shower while his hand pushes back the glass wall. I raises my brows but don't object, watching him reach for a bottle of soap and twist the water on. A hot splurt gushes from the nozzle, rushing through my scalp.

All of it is charming and all, until he squeezes a handful of soap into his open palm, sets the soap aside, and works his hands through my hair. His icy fingers tickle my hair while his hands rub my scalp, slowly and carefully as if each movement is thought out. That, and the sight of his soaked shirt clinging to his flexing biceps sets me on edge.

It isn't long before the scent of my unease rises into the air. Emmett sniffs once and glances down and meeting my steady stare with a chuckle. He pops his suggestively, wiggling his brow for extra effect.

"You like this?"

I don't answer. Instead, I reach up and place a hand on his shoulder, trailing my fingers across the muscles on his back before curling them in slowly, gripping him as I press our bodies closer. A smirk curves my lips as a restrained shudder quivers through my body and passes into Emmett's.

"Let's not do that," Emmett whispers roughly. He pulls back slightly, meeting my gaze with a half-smile. "We can't tease my McCarty too much or he won't ever let us finish."

"You're right," I agree with a semi-serious smile. "The board's had enough trouble for the day."

Emmett chuckles. "Got that right." He rests a snow-cold hand at the nape of my neck, lifting my hair and raising out the soap. I allow him to continue his work, studying his features as he goes. His dimples show as he turns off the water with a squeak, twirling me around to stand before the mirror.

"You're a real charm," I note, my tone casual. I'm doing anything I can to strangle the last bits of want inside me, and this is the only play I can pull off.

"All part of the job," he assures me, seeming to not detect anything. I watch him move like a ghost, his head a few inches above my own as he stands behind me. He takes the brush his hands and slides it through my straight black locks, one by one.

I can't help but drink in the sight of Emmett, taking advantage of his distraction. Careful to not look directly at myself, I trace his reflection with attentive eyes, lingering on the strongest of his features—the firm set of his jaw, the familiar shiny black color of his hair, the bright shine in his eyes, and the entertained curl of his mouth. Even his skin—so pale, a ghostly white against the russet hue of my own—is flawless. It seems to glow beneath the bright bathroom lights. For all I know, he could be an angel.

An angel with the curse of exciting that little bitch down south with even the most innocent of touches.

Emmett's hand suddenly pauses. The teeth of the brush scrape at the fabric of the shirt on my back, springing back into place. I'm quick to avert my gaze, dropping my attention to the counter as he looks up. A smile teases at the corners of my mouth as I raise a brow. "Done?"

"Mission accomplished," he confirms, setting the brush down. Stepping aside, he catches the door and pulls it open, filling the spaces of my fingers with his free hand. "Or, I should say, mission one."

"Already up for another adventure?"

A chuckle passes through Emmett's lips. He walks at a leisurely pace, leading me through the bedroom and back down the stairs, his footsteps echoing on the wood. "I guess you could say that. Though, this adventure isn't the type action you'd expect."

I flash a smile. "Ooh. Just what would you say that this adventure leads to?"

"We'll have to see about that." Emmett smirks, raising his hands and holding them in front of my face. "Hold still."

As his icy skin covers my eyes, my muscles bunch. I have to force them to unlock, one by one, gritting my teeth as I wrestle against the stir of instinct inside of me. Emmett pauses for a patient moment before taking a step forward, waiting for a reaction. When I remain still, he continues the rest of the way, winding us around a corner and pulling something out of the way. He lowers me down onto the object—something like a chair. My nose is assaulted with a flurry of scents that water my mouth. I start to speak, but Emmett removes his hands just then, opening my eyes to the source of the smells.

I'm sitting in a chair, seated at a fancy sort of table. A plate rests before me, filled to the edges. A tender steak, still sizzling, is stretched across the center, surrounded by a fluff of mashed potatoes and a mixture of colored vegetables. The rim of the steak is charred, accidentally cooked too long, but my eyes don't worry about the flaws. My hand catches the fork waiting beside the plate and guides it into the meat.

"I figured you could use some protein," Emmett says while pulling out a chair from himself. "You know, after all of your hard work today."

Emmett sits on the side to my left, assessing my reaction with a satisfied expression. He folds his hands together as he settles in, lifting his brows expectantly as I tear off a large chunk with my teeth. I chew for a few minutes, testing the flavor before swallowing.

"Perfect," I breathe. My stomach snarls, demanding more. I tear off another chunk before the first is finished.

"Excellent." Emmett leans back slightly, grinning as he watches me. I wait for him to speak again, but he doesn't, as if he's content with sitting there as I fill my stomach.

I eat like a wild woman, scooping, tearing, and swallowing without much thought, the juices of flavor tickling my taste buds and sliding down my throat while my appetite grows and grows. Emmett observes without a word, relaxed and patient. Something about the feeling of him watching, so close and attentive while I consume my food, raises the tiny hairs on the back of my neck. I choke on a warning snarl as I near the end of the plate. The wolf shakes inside of me, threatening to unfurl and burst out of my skin. I shake my head briefly, shutting her up with a snap of my teeth on the tip of my fork.

Seeming to sense the change in my mood, Emmett averts his gaze. I keep an eye on him, crunching through the bone of the steak and shoveling in a heap of mashed potatoes. His thumbs twirl, around and around and around, and his eyes crawl across the room lazily as if checking out a room he's studied millions and millions of times before. I feel my expression soften slightly at the sight of him just as I lower my fork to jab another scoop of food. The tines cling on the empty plate.

The twirling of Emmett's thumbs slows before stopping. He turns his head but not his gaze, keeping it on the refrigerator. His eyes move up and down, the yellow of his irises darting in my direction. After a moment, he breaks into a huge grin, sweeping up my plate and reaching over to set it on the counter before dropping his arms back onto the table and twisting his torso to face me.

"So, how was that for my first dinner, my lovely future wife?" His lips twitch.

I scoot my chair across the floor, moving closer to him—a sign that all the defensiveness has passed. I lean in, clasping my hands on the table as I hold his gaze, my lips twitching. "Nothing short of absolutely perfect. Is there a thank you required for such effort?"

Emmett rubs a hand over his chin, squinting his eyes. "Hmm. . . I'm gonna go with yes."

"Well, if you insist," I murmur. Grinning, I rise and stretch across the table until my face is inches from Emmett's own. I stare into the brightness of his eyes, my warm breath fanning across his face before leaning in and touching my lips to his.

The instant our mouths meet, sparks are lit. They flash behind my closed lids, and I have to pull away, even as Emmett tries to return the kiss. I sink back into my seat and slide my hands beneath the table. They ball into fists, tight enough that the veins on the backs of my hands pop out over the skin.

Emmett shifts in his seat. His eyes are slits now, resting on me with something more than just disappointment. He's quiet for awhile, his elbows pressed to the corner of the table before he speaks.

"Jordan." His voice is gentle—none of it matches with the hardness of his expressions. "I need...I want to ask you something. You don't have to answer if you don't want to."

All thought trapped in my skull vanishes. I swallow thickly, my pulse suddenly pulsing in my bones as my brain refills. I mask my expression, turning my steady gaze into Emmett's caring stare. His mouth opens, but he hesitates before speaking.

"What was it that . . . made you the way you are?"

I pause again. I have to scatter to collect my thoughts again. This isn't what I was expecting. I work my jaw, moving the muscle as I contemplate.

"I've been like this since I was fourteen," I tell him. And my voice leaves me then, my throat full of sand.

Emmett nods once. He ducks his head down briefly, skimming his hands through his hair before trying again. "Could you tell me about it?"

The air around me is suddenly tight. It squeezes my throat, blocking my windpipes and ringing in my ears. My heart pounds heavily, theglump, glump, glumping sound of it echoing through my brain. There's something about the way Emmett's speaking—something beyond simple curiosity. I don't know what it is, but whatever it is sends me spiraling back in time. I grab my knees, bracing myself as I breathe out slowly and describe the image pulsing in the forefront of my thoughts.

"I was forced to fight. I'd been kidnapped as a punishment for my crimes. I'd run off as a child—Sam had assumed I'd taken off for some time alone again, and he'd assured the pack of the same. Nobody thought anything of my absence, of course, and they shouldn't have. But as time passed, the fighting and the blood staining my hands, I felt myself rot, inside and out. I would burn with fever, my throat dry and my skin cracked beneath the waste. I wouldn't make a sound as I stood there, in the cold of that cell, feeling my heart crunch into my ribs as something awful grew inside of me with each passing by, feeding off of not just the decaying skin of my body, but she was feeding off of what was left of me—of that small little scared girl that I used to be. Eventually, there wasn't much left. I would have—should have—died, but my phasing saved my life when they tried to torture me to death."

I'm drumming my fingers on the table when I finish, the movement pushing the gears of my mind and allowing me to speak. Emmett stares at me through narrowed eyes, not speaking as if he expects more. I exhale, blowing out a hot breath through my nostrils. "That's all I have to say about that."

Emmett is silent, his jaw propped open but his tongue making no sound. His gaze drops to the table before darting back up. He probes my blank eyes before stretching a pale hand across the table, taking my hand with his own. He holds my gaze, speaking lowly and pressing his thumb on the ring settled on my finger. "I've made you a promise, Jordan. To heal you. And I'm still planning on keeping it."

Heal you. My eyes burn in the dryness of the air, frozen. My mind is whirring, millions and millions of miles away, still trapped in the memory. Emmett doesn't move, despite my lack of answer—he slowly starts to smile at me, reassuring and comforting, while rubbing his icy thumb over the back of my hand.

Trapped in the moment, neither of us have time to register the breeze of movement as the house becomes occupied. Instinct sends an alarm through me, snapping me awake. I sit up straight while Emmett tilts his head, just in time. Carlisle and Esme enter the kitchen seconds later with a friendly causality ruined by their inhuman grace. Their eyes take in the sight of us and their expressions soften.

"Hello, Emmett," Carlisle greets. He even nods at me, his lips curved in a slight smile. "Hello to you as well, Jordan."

I don't respond. Emmett squeezes my hand, answering his parents with a wide, beaming grin. Their yellow eyes flicker between us again, surprise written on their expressions.

Esme's is especially evident as she takes in the sight of the white plaster dusted in Emmett's hair. I glance at his hair in the corner of my eye, noticing the tiny splinters still sprinkled in his dark curls. Carlisle follows her gaze and wrinkles his brow, looking as if he's about to comment but chooses to question him at last second.

"Has something happened?"

Emmett shrugs, leaning back in his chair far enough that the legs rear up, balancing himself without using his hands. "Dunno, Pop. One moment, we were rolling dice, then the next, BOOM!" Emmett hops to his feet, smacking his hands together for effect before turning to his parents. "Wall collapsed right in."

Carlisle frowns, speculating Emmett's stance with something more than casual interest. "I see."

"Alice and Jasper came back earlier," Esme chimes in. Her yellow eyes blink in my direction. "Where are they now? Perhaps they could help repair the wall and help to fix any damage done."

I exchange a look with Emmett, a sliver of amusement rising inside of me. He laughs, folding his arms across his chest while leaning against the corner of the wall. "Well, Jordan's becoming really fluent in a new language lately."

"Is she?" Esme smiles, looking at me with polite interest.

"She is," Emmett answers, quick to save me from having to speak. "When the game started to get a little tough, and the yelling started. . . damn, that's gotta be what spooked 'em off. They're probably halfway to Texas by now."

Looking between us, Carlisle's eyes tighten slightly. He and Esme are still sporting warm, welcoming smiles, but there's a certain tightness to Carlisle's eyes and a flare in Esme's nostrils that give away their suspicion. Emmett crosses his arms, leaning against the corner of the wall while I shift in my seat, forcing a semi-convincing grin through the eye-watering leech stench pouring off of them.

Suddenly, a howl sounds far in the distance, carrying on the wind over the trees. A jolt strikes my stomach and I'm on my feet in seconds, pushing away the chair and striding over to the glass window. Emmett follows right on my heels, groaning quietly under his breath as I immediately reach for the door.

"Already?"

My fingers catch the knob but don't twist. I look over my shoulder at Emmett, my face inches from his own. The pout of his bottom lip and sad glow of his eyes strike a different jolt through my body, directed at my heart. I can only nod, the ties of my loyalty all but tugging me out the door.

Emmett doesn't object. He gives a small, understanding smile and catches my chin, tilting my head slightly before finding my lips with a soft kiss. It's over in moments, but it's enough to set off a chain reaction inside of me that gives way to a pleasurable shudder.

We don't have to say anything else. I hold his eyes with my own, giving him a final smile before ducking through the door. I take two paces across the porch before throwing myself into the wolf, hitting the ground running.

The pack gossip is in full swing by the time I pass through the river. Their minds swirl and spin with a mixture of anxious worries and gnawing anticipation. Various images of different colored wolves, standing proud and tall on the ledge with the rest of the pack below them, float through many minds. All the daydreams and desires stutter behind my lids as the pack registers my presence. Another chorus begins—a churning, scattering, bursting roll of images and thoughts buzzing around the memory of the broken shed and the stink of the appalling scents left behind.

Sick!

Have a nice night, Jordan?

I think I'm gonna hurl. . .

Dude, c'mon! Focus!

Damn! Never woulda guessed the leech had the balls to go that far!

Uh. . .

Sorry. No pun intended.

My easy lope stalls as my pace slows into a steady jog. I snort as I push through the green branches guarding the perimeter of the clearing and enter the muddy space. Don't shit yourselves. It's not exactly flattering.

The slop beneath me sucks at my paws, splashing my underbelly and turning my fur brown. I curl my lip warningly as the pack exchanges glances of shock, disgust, and curiosity, brushing off their thoughts as I search for Sam. The oval of the flat, brown land comes together in a point, meeting the ledge of the miniature hill jutting out from the ground. A low hum of private thought spills into the pack mind, stirred with images of a grassy slope rising up toward the grey sky. I rest my gaze at the crown of the hill, my muscles straining with the effort of holding my body still.

Swishing tails, padding paws, and tumbling thoughts continue on around me. The pack is all wonders and endless motion, minds slipping away from the pack's as they plunge into depths of doubt and fear. Only few wolves keep their heads straight. The dark grey wolf, still and silent, assesses the pack with narrowed eyes from the opposite edge of the clearing. The russet one paces in the center, his head raised and his shoulders rolling with his relaxed movements. Even the silver she-wolf has smuggled her nerves away and mixed in with the rest of the pack, her icy eyes a glass with no reflection.

After what seems like half of eternity, my full attention returns to the top of the hill, attracted by a sudden movement. A large, muscular figure trudges up to the top of the hill; a striking black shadow against the bright green of the long grass. Flanked by the brown, hovering shape of Jared, Sam takes his place at the top of the hill, his gaze flecked with regret, relief, and a hollow, lost shine. His shoulders are sunken, the majestic aura about him having evaporated into the air. He doesn't speak as he steps into position, holding an unsettled patience while the wolves raise their heads and cease their pacing, falling silent.

Suddenly, Sam's voice projects into each attentive mind, filling our ears and skulls with his careful words.

We all know why we're standing here right now. I have made the decision to resign my position as alpha of the pack—it's what's best right now. His dark blue eyes sweep across the pack, taking in the sight of the of each wolfish face turned up to him. Because of that, we're here today to earn our ranks within the pack. I want as little violence as possible. Any wolf who places a step out of the clearing is removed from battle and the same goes for any wolf who falls.

The ranks will fall out in order of those who fall or pass the edge of the clearing. I will watch, and so will Jared, as he as chosen to resume his position as Beta. And . . . I suppose that's all there is to it.

I snarl through my teeth, dipping my head as he finishes. The monster inside builds me up, activating as I wipe my mind clean of thought and reason. I can't deny the need to be on top—never crushed below anything. The monster desires dominance; I can only think of the want to show what I'm worth—I'm more than just a leech-loving wacko. Together, we make an unstoppable force.

Not a damn thing is going to get in my way this time. Not even Jacob Black.

Sam shifts his weight, unease seeping off of him. His dark eyes capture all of ours at once as he makes a final statement, the last traces of his authority draining out with his final order. Don't make too much of this. I'd rather not see blood.

Growls rise in my throat as Sam slowly paces backwards, exiting my muzzle with each breath as they mix with the understanding grunts and huffs of my pack mates. Shot through with adrenaline, I shift into an offensive stance, bracing myself at the edge of the clearing. My eyes sweep over the backs of bristling wolves, picking out vulnerabilities as Sam's closing thoughts blur from my mind.

Finally, Sam gives a parting nod to Jared, disappearing over the grassy slope. Heads turn and tempers flare, the tension growing heavy, building with choppy breathing patterns and brief growls until all at once, a choir of howls split the forest and the pack clashes in a mass of fiery, furious fighting.

The fight begins, right there in the tiny clearing, humanity forgotten and instinct turned on high as all hell breaks loose.