"What are you looking at?"
Startled by her brother's voice, Leah closed her palm possessively. "Nothing."
To her annoyance, Seth had snuck up from behind her and had been quietly peeking over her shoulder. His mouth fell open at the sight, and he swung her around to face him. "What are you doing with that?" he asked, appalled.
Wanting to kick him out of her room and tell him to mind his own business, Leah realized that she had two choices. She could lie or tell the truth. Telling him the truth was not an option, and since he had already seen it, she couldn't very well hide it now. Her hand reluctantly opened, revealing the small round turquoise stone. It was framed by a ring of tarnished silver that contained a small hole for a chain.
"It's pretty," she told him. "I'm going to wear it."
Narrowing his eyes at her, he leaned closer to get a better look. It looked like a simple pendant with its shiny surface, a nice piece of jewelry to wear across one's chest, but the tiny etched silver symbol of a lightning bolt in the middle was what made Seth suspicious.
"Leah! Are you crazy? That thing is dangerous!"
Her dark eyes met his innocently and she laughed. "Seth, you don't really believe this has any powers, do you?"
"Yes! I do." The younger Clearwater backed away as though she were holding a weapon. "Put it down, throw it away, but stop touching it!"
Her brother was being too loud, and Leah moved to her door to close it. This was not something that she wanted to bring to her father's attention. "Stop freaking out."
"Nobody really understands its powers. You have to get rid of it. Now."
The Clearwaters were well aware of their family legends. She had always questioned, though, which of her grandfather's bedtime stories were true and which might be spun from his imagination. When he was alive, Jack Clearwater had been fond of parables, and when he told the story of how Levi Uley and Ephraim Black had both handled the delicate stone nearly a century before, their souls had switched bodies, and they had been forced to see through each other's eyes. The rivalry that had existed between the alpha and the beta had dissolved, leading to a greater understanding and a deeper respect for one another.
"No." Leah's position was firm, and she closed her palm over the stone again. "It's just a piece of jewelry. Grandfather made up the story anyway. This doesn't have any powers."
He was quiet for a moment. "Then why did you dig it up?" Seth could still see the dirt underneath her fingernails.
Of course he remembered that the ancient talisman had been secretly buried in the earth beneath a trapdoor in the floor of the tribal ceremonial lodge, Leah thought. Her brother had the memory of an elephant. They both recalled how their grandfather had given his own family this privileged information that had been passed down from his own grandfather. Tribal legends were to be shared. However, this particular story was to be kept secret. It was too risky for such an article to land in the wrong hands.
Leah was silent. As desperate as she was, she could not make the words pass from her lips.
Seth's eyes widened, and he set his hands upon his sister's shoulders. "I won't tell as long as you promise not to use it."
She turned her eyes away from his.
Seth turned at the sound of his dad's voice. Father and son were about to embark on an extended fishing trip. "Coming!"
"Please, Leah," he pleaded. "Put it back where you found it. Promise?"
She didn't look at him when she said it. "I promise."
"Okay, I gotta go."
"Have a good trip," she said. Seth leaned in to hug her goodbye, but then moved backward toward the door, recalling the pendant in her hand.
"Get rid of that thing." He opened the door.
"I promise," she said. Opening up her hand again, she eyed the polished stone, admiring the gold speckles ingrained on the surface. She had no intention of keeping it.
Tiny droplets fell from above as Leah watched her second cousin drive away. She held the small brown paper bag tightly in her grip. From the side of Sam and Emily's home, Leah tiptoed toward the entrance, pressing the bag close to her in an effort to keep it dry. Sam wasn't likely to be home until later, and as she entered and set the sack down on the kitchen counter, Leah nearly changed her mind.
The interior of their small home was tidy, everything in its place. Emily was good at everything she did, from sewing to baking, to keeping the perfect home. It hadn't mattered that their furnishings were old and the exterior was comparable to that of a worn shack. They didn't have money. They didn't need it. Sam and Emily were happy and devoted to each other, content solely with each other's love.
The last time Leah had been happy was before she had introduced Emily to Sam. The love that Leah felt for him still burned like a torch. Since Sam had imprinted on her second cousin, Leah's ache for him had never subsided. It had been four long years, and never in her life had Leah felt so hardened, so bitter. In turn, she had become the worst version of herself. Sam didn't love her anymore, he couldn't, and never would again. Not in that way, anyway. She knew this, of course, but the reality of it consumed her every day.
Being Leah was not enough. The only way to be with Sam was to become Emily. She only hoped that it would work. It was an act of desperation, and although she loved her cousin dearly, she loved Sam more.
She set down the scrunched paper bag, confident that as long Emily's hand touched the stone's glossy surface, the change would take place. According to her grandfather, the contact had to be fresh, or after too long, the stone wouldn't retain her essence. Leah took a deep breath and disappeared.
1 hour later
Emily entered her home, her arms loaded down with two large paper grocery bags, and from her hand dangled a smaller one. She had set those down on the counter when she took notice of another sack that hadn't been there before. There was a knock at the door which tore her attention away.
Emily smiled. "Hi, Jacob. Come in. Sam said one of you'd be here."
She began to unpack her groceries, removing various fresh vegetables from a bag. With hands full, she gestured to the counter. "There it is." Her head bent to the side to indicate the object he was looking for.
Jacob entered as she continued to shuffle items around in the refrigerator drawer, but upon seeing the two similar bags, he paused. He picked up one, but the weightlessness of the bag did not indicate a six-inch submarine sandwich.
Emily pointed to the other one. "No, that one is his lunch. Roast beef on wheat. Jerry made it just the way he likes it."
After setting the lighter bag down, Jacob reached for the other.
"What was in that one?" she asked, her eyebrows drawing together in curiosity.
"Open it, will you?" With her arms full of produce, she turned back to the refrigerator.
Jacob opened up the bag, peering down at the stone, which seemed to glow a bright turquoise in contrast with the dull brown of its container. A silver chain was attached to it.
"What is it?" she asked, reaching into the grocery bag for more items.
"That's weird." Her hands were full as she peered at the pendant.
"Then where did this come from?"
"I don't know," Emily moved past Jacob to a cupboard and began to place canned goods on the lower shelf. A thought struck her suddenly, and she turned to face Jacob. "Oh! Probably my neighbor Ida – she makes jewelry, and when I brought her cookies yesterday, she insisted she was going to repay me."
Jacob set the bag back down, and with Sam's lunch in hand began to move away from the kitchen.
"No wait. Take the necklace with you, Jacob. Please?" She didn't want to have the item around in case Ida made a surprise appearance.
"Why? Don't you want it?"
She shook her head. "It's pretty, but… I think you should give it to Bella."
"Bella?" he exclaimed. His friend from childhood was not speaking to him at the moment, and Jacob was still pretty angry with her as well. Bella's insistence on becoming a bloodsucker was affecting him on too many levels. "No."
"She's mad at you," Emily guessed.
Sam's fiancée was very intuitive. Jacob imagined that was one of the traits the couple shared. "I'm mad at her."
Emily smiled knowingly, handing him the bag. The paper made a small crunch as it reached Jacob's large fingers.
"You know what they say – forgiveness begins with jewelry."
Late that night
Leah returned. Feeling disappointed to still be inside her own body, she realized that there were only two possibilities. Either the stone didn't work or Emily had not touched it, and now Leah was desperate to find out which one it was.
Everyone was at the bonfire, and while no one seemed to notice her absence. Leah did a desperate search inside Sam and Emily's home, careful to replace things the way she had found them. There was no trace of the bag or the pendant. She continued her search inside the bedroom only to recall one fact about her second cousin that she had forgotten. Emily had never cared for jewelry.
"Oh, crap," she muttered as she left the house, feeling the dread grate down deep inside her bones.
It was gone, and now the location of the ancient pendant was anyone's guess.