As soon as the sun rose above the mountains, Jasper hastened out onto the lake. He waited and waited there afloat in hopes that Aurelia would take a look out her window and see him there and come to meet him as she had before. All the events of the previous night kept agonizingly rewinding in his mind. In his distress, he had acted on his fear and pushed her away. Sure, he had protected her physically, but then he had turned around and lashed back when she had only treated him with kindness. It was unacceptable and he didn’t know how he could make amends. Meaningless hours passed but nothing stirred except the birds and the rustling trees.
That morning I covered my puffy red eyes with concealer as best as I could and sat in the back seat of the car with the duty of holding the dessert – my parents and I traveled through the winding hillsides to the S’Klallam reservation. The local people were hosting a welcoming potluck luncheon for the doctors who were involved with establishing the clinic, which was due to be open by the New Year. At the long communal table we feasted upon salmon caught in the river just nearby. I ended up next to a girl several years younger than me, who was actually the granddaughter of the chief.
“You’re from California? I’ve always wanted to go…” Hannah gushed. “Do you miss it?”
“I do miss the sunshine sometimes.” I smiled wryly. “But I’m glad we moved. I can’t imagine now how it would have been if we’d stayed.”
Back home, a constant reminder of Abigail’s death might have torn our family apart. And from the passionate way my father was discussing the new clinic with the others, it seemed like he had rekindled his passion for medicine, as well as the real reason why he had begun in the first place – the joy of healing people.
From the sounds of the discussion, there were a few complications holding up the building completion. One calm voice of reason was missing from the cohort.
I turned to my mother. “Are Dr. Cullen and his family not coming?” The striking, pale, empathetic man was absent from the gathering; I only thought of him in the context of his adopted son. At the mention of that name, a few of the council members stiffened and glance my way with narrowed eyes. Even Hannah appeared a bit uncomfortable.
“Apparently he had important business he could not postpone.” said my mother.
“Speaking of Carlisle, he mentioned that one of his sons has an extensive background in architecture!” my father offered. “Maybe he can help us with the final logistics.”
“Which one of his sons?” the grey-haired chief named Saul asked tersely.
“The blonde one – I forget his name…”
“Oh, Jasper? I did not know that about him.”
I stopped chewing for a moment. How was the native leadership already so acquainted with the Cullens?
“We can ask him to come take a look at the blueprints and the roofing.”
The same men across the table gave their chief wary stares before returning to their conversations.
Saul gave a vague nod. “I’ll get back to you about that.”
There was definitely a story untold beneath their cautious demeanor. In the midst of the animated chatter Saul rose and was soon followed out by another elder. I excused myself to use the restroom and with a pounding heart, concealed behind a stack of chairs around the quiet corner from where the two men urgently debated.
“—They have never meant us harm, Mahlon. Carlisle is working on our behalf for the clinic.”
“No, I don’t doubt their intentions. But why can we not just hire a different consultant?”
“You know we’ve already gone over budget, even as careful as we planned. We cannot take ask for any more of the tribe’s savings. Our people have been desperately waiting for this clinic. If there were to be an accident in the future, our investment would be for nothing. Right now it would be foolish and arrogant to refuse help, even from a cold one.”
I frowned – what was a ‘cold one’?
The one named Mahlon ruffled in anxious frustration. “But – but the treaty! We cannot break it now, not after ninety years! For one of them to cross our borders…!”
“I understand how much of a risk it is.”
“Just because the Quileutes have accepted them--”
“I trust Billy Black’s judgment to the fullest. And since Jacob Black has imprinted on the halfling daughter, there is no way that the Cullens would threaten that bond.”
“Surely you know that the lion one has left his coven?”
“Of course I heard.” Saul paused somberly. “Still, that doesn’t mean he’s abandoned their ways. He too has been living peaceably.”
Mahlon sighed, resigned. “I don’t like it, Saul. The others feel uneasy too. Don’t you know that Jasper is the most unstable of them all?”
“Yes, but we can have the pack escort him while he’s here…”
With bated breath I crouched lower and tried to decipher all the cryptic words – cold ones, coven, imprinting, halfling, pack – which alluded to a dangerous world, one that Jasper, Carlisle, and I bet that even the fiery-eyed man from the night before were entwined in. There was perhaps a good reason why Jasper had wanted me to stay away.
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... There was no escape. A pair of murderous red eyes and razor teeth lunged at my neck -- I bolted up in bed in a cold sweat; sheets snarled around my legs like prisoner’s rope. My heart raced as if I’d just been running for my life and the sudden halting return to reality sent the room spinning. I scolded myself to slow down my shallow breathing. It was just a nightmare.
As my mind cleared, I smelled a savory scent that wafted from downstairs. I put on my slippers and curiously shuffled downstairs where my mother was preparing a full spread of bacon, eggs, toast, and fruit. I stood there, astonished.
“What’s the occasion…?”
“Your father is having a guest over this morning.”