Jacob knew he would probably never forgive himself for what had happened with Bella, but knowing what Edward was facing, he realized that preparing him for the upcoming pack meeting was what he needed to focus on. Billy had answered the phone as Edward walked in, and Jacob felt a pang of sadness. He was speaking to his dad, but pretending to be someone else. And his dad was speaking to him as though he were a stranger…worse than a stranger…
"Go speak to Sam before the meeting," Jacob told him as soon as Edward took the phone from Billy. "Just go and say what needs to be said."
"I can do that," Edward replied, shifting his body away from Billy's sight in the kitchen. "But, what about later?"
About a half mile from the Cullen residence, Jacob held the cell phone to his ear, thankful to have a signal. As he made his way through the forest in no particular direction, he thought it best to stay out of ear shot from the vampire siblings. "About later, just go, keep your head low, listen to what Sam says, and keep your mouth shut."
"Is that the best you can do?"
"Yeah. For now. And don't talk to Paul. Try not to even make eye contact with him."
"Because he's an ass. He's not a bad guy, but he can't help but be an ass. He will push your buttons if you let him, and trust me, you don't need that."
But he doesn't even know me.
"It doesn't matter," Jacob told him, amazed that he could read his mind over miles and a receiver. "He will push your buttons, so stay away from him."
"But, what if…." What if I have to change to a werewolf?
Jacob rolled his eyes, feeling a light sprinkle touch his skin through the canopy of thick branches high above. He really wished Edward would stop asking him that. Phasing was simply not an option, and he hoped Edward would use his brain to get out of it. "I think I have a bad signal." He began making scrambling sounds with his mouth, more than ready to end the call.
"Wait! Can you hear me?"
"Really…cutting…out," Jacob told him, making hissing noises between each word.
"Please?" Jacob! His inner voice cried out, but found that there was nothing but silence on the other end of the line. Frustrated, Edward replaced the receiver back onto the cradle, dreading what was to come.
"Everything okay, Jake?" Billy asked.
Edward turned to face the man in the wheelchair, wondering what he was thinking. "Trouble with Bella, and I just have to go talk to Sam."
She had spied him from the window, and he was standing out on the front porch, peering down at the piece of paper in his hands. Hesitantly. And Emily could not recall Jacob ever doing anything hesitantly. After tying the red plastic strings in her hand, she lifted up the bulky garbage bag and hefted it outside.
"So, it didn't work?" she asked him, trying to hold back her smile.
Edward looked at her, stuffing the paper into his pocket. He didn't know what to say and wondered who this young woman was. Or what that awful scar was on one side of her face. What he did not expect was that the location would be next to Old Ida. Was this young lady with dark features and marred cheek Emily? What connection did she have to Sam Uley? Sister? Girlfriend? For the moment, he pushed those questions aside. This woman, who had dumped the trash bag into the large black can on the side of the small house, was now looking at him expectantly.
"What didn't work?" Edward asked, missing his ability to read minds. The words not spoken were usually helpful ones.
Emily closed the lid on the trash can and moved to Jacob. "The necklace? Did Bella forgive you?"
Jacob had not mentioned giving Bella the necklace in hopes of gaining her forgiveness, but it made sense. "Bella never got the necklace, but can I ask you something about that?"
Her brows pulled together. "Sure."
"Where did it come from?" There, he asked her directly. Now there could be no confusion, no misinformation.
"I already told you. Ida… I think," Emily said, pointing her head in the direction of her neighbor's home. Although, now that she had had some time to consider it, it was unlike her elderly neighbor to help herself inside and leave something on her counter unmarked. "Why?"
Why did she give this to Jacob for Bella? Had she had any clue as to its powers? Longing to shoot a barrage of questions at her, Edward held back. Yet, she seemed to appear innocent about the whole thing. No, he concluded, she could not possibly have known the effects of the pendant.
"I wondered why you didn't want it for yourself."
Emily looked at him uncertainly and held out her hands, wiggling her bare fingers. "In case you haven't noticed, I am not a jewelry person." She paused for a moment. "What's going on, Jake? Is there something you want to tell me about the necklace?"
There were a lot of things he wanted to tell her about it, but he doubted that the curse would allow him to. "No," he said. "It's just that I've never seen anything like it, and I wondered where such an odd looking pendant would come from."
"So, Bella didn't like it?"
Bella had not even seen it. "Bella's not real big on gifts," he told her honestly. Now, Edward was extremely grateful that Bella had not touched the pendant after Jacob had. The effects would have been dizzying.
"Don't encourage him, Em," Sam said, appearing at the front door and then stepping outside to meet them.
Sam's arm gripped Emily's waist, and he set a long kiss on her cheek. Edward was grateful to have at least one question answered. Girlfriend.
"If Jake knew what was best for him, he would forget about vampire girl. She runs with those bloodsuckers," Sam teased. This seemed to be the consensus.
Edward pursed his lips, suppressing the urge to stick up for his kind. And he wasn't so sure he liked Bella being referred to as "vampire girl." Instead he remained silent, watching as Sam leaned his head onto Emily's.
"I need to talk to you. Wolf business." Edward hoped he was sounding official enough.
"Well, since you two are going to talk wolf, then I'm going to figure out what to make for dinner."
He watched as she pulled away from Sam's grip, but their hands remained threaded until the last possible moment, and anyone could see how enamored they were with each other. Edward found himself missing Bella. Emily had returned inside the house, and Edward followed Sam out into the garage.
"So, aside from vampires and Bella, what did you wanna talk about?" Sam asked, making his way toward an ancient looking metal toolbox and shuffling through some tools. His curiosity was piqued by Jacob's serious tone.
Edward took a breath and hoped for the best. "Actually, that's exactly what I wanted to talk to you about."
After explaining to Sam about the intruder in Bella's house, the missing items, and asking for help from the Cullens, the leader of the pack appeared thoughtful, having taken a seat atop the toolbox. He was quiet for a long moment and if Edward wasn't mistaken, Sam appeared a little torn.
"So, they want our help?" he asked.
Edward nodded. "Yes. They have no idea of the intentions of this new vampire, but because our boundaries are set, they are limited."
"I see." Sam sighed. "I'm going to get on the phone with the tribal council, and I'll meet you and the boys out at the usual spot in an hour."
The usual spot…Edward referred back to his map as Sam slipped back inside his house. Fortunately, most of the locations were within walking distance, and the spot appeared to be a quarter mile from the lodge at a clearing deep inside the woods. When he returned back to Jacob's home, he found Billy nibbling on a slice of pizza, seated beside Jacob's good friends Embry and Quil, who were also eating and watching television. While Edward knew that these two boys were his friends, he was not sure which was which.
He kept his gaze between the two. "Hi, Embry," he greeted, his eyes darting to see which of the dark-haired youths would raise his eyes and speak. "Hi, Quil." To his dismay, neither looked at him, both in favor of focusing their attention on the game on television as they all but inhaled the pizza slice in their hands.
"Hey," they both said in unison, both still chewing.
One leaned forward – with an ever present smile, he appeared the same age but slightly bigger in frame than the other. He swallowed the last bite. "Missed you at school today, Jake."
"Yeah," the other said. "You don't look sick to me. Did you ditch school to hang out with Bella?"
Billy spoke up. "Now, now, boys. I let Jacob take the day off." He gestured toward the coffee table where half of the pizza lay in the box. "Hungry?"
Edward was so hungry that he could eat not only the remaining slices, but also the cardboard. "Thanks, Dad."
He snatched up a slice and stuffed it eagerly into his mouth, all manners aside as it became a contest between the three to see who could shove the most down their throats the fastest. Edward could imagine a similar match with Emmett and Jasper if they had been human; Emmett would likely put these boys to shame.
The mozzarella was delectably cheesy, and the spices of the sauce seemed to dance on his tongue. Though he would have preferred to savor the tastes for more than a quarter of a second, his stomach begged for more.
Fortunately there was no need to fill the silence as they ate. Edward had no interest in the game on TV and was now dreading what might take place during the upcoming meeting. He knew nothing of being a wolf. What if they expected him to transform? When Billy broke the silence to remind them of the time, he rose, thanked Billy for the pizza, and departed with the boys.
The thought of transforming was wearing on Edward's mind, and as the three made their way to their meeting place, Edward was silent as he considered the best way to broach the subject with Jacob's so-called buddies.
"So, did you hear about Leah?" Embry asked, walking on one side of Edward with Quil on the other.
"I heard it was a rumor," Quil said. "What about you, Jake?"
The two looked at him expectantly, and Edward had no idea why. "Dad says that Leah has a fever."
Quil leaned behind Edward and smacked Embry on the shoulder. "I told you! I wonder what Sam's gonna say."
"If he says anything about it."
"Yeah. This is going to change everything."
They kept pace as they walked, but Edward stopped. "Why does Leah having a fever have to change everything?" He hated having to ask these questions but felt ignorant.
Embry looked at him in disbelief. "Because she's a she!" Something seemed to be going on with Jacob, and he wasn't sure what.
"Yeah, and can you imagine how awkward it's gonna be for Sam? For the rest of us?" Quil put in, gesturing for them to continue walking. "You know…the phasing...."
The three were quiet for a moment. Edward wondered if this fever had something to do with wolf transformation, and that this girl Leah was about to become the newest member of the pack. Could this be possible?
"So, how does it happen?" Edward asked.
"Well, she's the right age. The Clearwaters are descendants like the rest of us…."
"So, how is she going to do it?" Edward continued, looking from one to the other, begging for answers. "How does she phase?"
"Probably like the rest of us, Jake," Embry answered, his dimples visible like half moons on his cheeks. "But I guess she'll have to tie twice as many clothes to her legs." At this Quil and Embry began to laugh.
Edward gave up. It seemed like asking them outright would draw too much suspicion.
Once they reached the clearing, Edward made sure to stay quiet and listened closely, observing the behavior of the others as Sam spoke.
"Jared, I want you to run this flag to the northeast boundary." Sam handed an orange flag to Jared. "The northeast border will now be extended out one hundred fifty yards." The group sat on large boulders, and he made his way one by one to the rest, circling them while handing out flags and issuing similar instructions.
"Any questions?" Sam asked. Paul stood, his eyes alight with fire, and the leader's eyes rolled in anticipation. "You have something you want to add?" No doubt.
"Is it just me…." Paul's voice began calmly, but gradually rose with each word. "Or am I the only one who thinks its nuts to be extending century old boundaries to help out a bunch of bloodsuckers?" His arms were raised in question, and his gaze was murderously darting to each member.
Edward was quickly reminded of their earlier conversation. Paul was one to be avoided; Jacob had already stressed that to him.
"You're missing the point, Paul," Jared told him finally, raising the orange flag he had in his hand.
"That's right," Sam said. "We're working with the Cullens to help protect Bella."
Paul scoffed and faced Edward. "Tell me again why I should care about some girl who loves leeches?"
It was all Edward could do to keep himself from rising up and socking Paul in his ignorant mouth.
Ignoring the sneer on Jacob's face, Paul crossed before the rest of the pack. "Aren't we all a bunch of hypocrites? In human form, you say nothing, but in wolf form, you all feel the exact same way as me. Right, Embry?" he asked, pausing before him and then turned to the one beside him. "Quil? I'm sure I heard your thoughts pretty clearly on our last run."
"Enough." Sam's voice was tight, authoritative. "As a pack, we are like brothers, right?"
Paul looked away, his jaw tensing.
"I would say more than brothers," Sam confirmed. "Now, Bella is your brother's friend, and I don't care whether she needs protection from the boogeyman, Bigfoot, or Freddy Krueger; we will do what we can to help her. Got it?"
"I wonder how the tribal council would feel…." Paul grumbled, but was quickly cut off by the anger in Sam's voice.
"Who do you think recommended this plan? Now," he said, raising his hand up to silence Paul before he could speak again. "Unless we have any other objections, let's get started."
"Are we doing any drills tonight?" Jared asked.
"No. But, we're taking turns guarding the borders." Sam ignored the grumbles from his pack. Lately, sleep had been a luxury. "Tonight, Jake, I want you to stay near Bella and Charlie. Embry and Quil will take first watch while one runs the north and south borders, the other east and west. Jared, you and Paul will take second watch, and at dawn, Jake and I will take third watch."
Edward was relieved. At least for the first part of the night, he could be with Bella. Though he wasn't sure what the morning watch consisted of, at least he trusted in Sam to guide him through. Then, of course, there was school the next morning and Edward did not want to think about that.
The group set out with flags in hand into the woods, and it was not long before Edward discovered that running with the boys had activated some kind of physical switch in his body. It was as though he had been flying alone before, awkward and undirected, but upon joining the pack, his body moved, fluid and cooperative, like part of a formation. A new sense of belonging seemed to grip Edward with both hands – tight, but not overwhelming. Nimbly, his legs shot out through the underbrush along the wooded acres, and he breathed the fresh musky smell of earth and leaves and dirt. The rate at which he ran and negotiated the uneven terrain was impressive in Jacob's body, and Edward felt as exhilarated by his new level of speed as when he was a vampire.
Later, when he walked in the door, Billy was on the phone, and with that look of disapproval, Edward guessed who the caller was before Jacob's dad handed over the receiver. Billy was willing to go along with the tribal council's plan, but consenting to assist the Cullens was not his idea.
"How did it go?" Jacob asked.
"Sam extended the boundaries and says to tell you that you have the cooperation of the Quileutes," Edward reported proudly. At least for this meeting he had not aroused any suspicion. Billy heaved a loud sigh and wheeled himself away to his room. "Sam and I are doing guard duty for third watch."
"Okay. You can get out of it. Just tell him that you're working with the Cullens on a trail leading away from Forks."
"Why not just tell me how to phase? I could be a lot more useful," he stopped, peering around the corner to make sure Billy wasn't listening. "If you would just tell me how to become a wolf," he continued in a low voice.
"It's not as easy as all that. You probably won't be in my body long enough to be worth the trouble, so don't worry about it," Jacob insisted.
Edward sighed. "What can you tell me about Leah?"
Surprised by the mention of her name, Jacob had a bad feeling about this. "What do you want to know?"
After Edward explained about Leah and the fever, Jacob's bad feeling had escalated to dread. He informed him about Sam's former relationship with her and how he had imprinted on Emily, Leah's second cousin. Also, because of her lineage, he supposed that Leah was now the pack's newest member, especially if Billy had already confirmed it with the mention of the fever. This was something Jacob did not look forward to. As disturbing as that was he could now hear something else in Edward's thoughts. He was going to ask about phasing…again, but before Edward could speak, Jacob spoke up.
"The reason I called you is because I have school in the morning." Jacob proceeded to fill him in on his school schedule, telling him which classes he had with Quil and Embry, advising him once again to steer clear of Paul. "Now, what about your schedule?" he asked again.
Edward laughed at the absurdity of Jacob's question. "Don't worry about it. A few absences won't hurt me. In fact, tell Esme you need a break, and she'll tell the school I'm ill…or transferred to another school." Apparently, Jacob did not like this answer, and this time Edward told him he had to get off the phone.
"I told Bella I'd be back to see her," Edward continued. "Sam's orders." I'm hanging up now. "Bye."
"No, wait!" Jacob shouted, not caring that everyone below could hear him. "This conversation is not finished! Don't you hang up on me!" The silence on the other end of the line confirmed it…and there wasn't anything he could do about it.