Dean found the crossroads, eased the Impala to the shoulder where an asphalt apron led to a gravel road through over-gown trees and shrubs, put it in park, and shut off the deep rumble of the engine. Looking around, he wasn’t impressed. Pine trees, telephone poles, and weeds in the middle of nowhere.
It wasn’t like he hadn’t been in a similar type of place hundreds of times before. At least the roads were paved, except for the one he was parked in front of. He sighed and scratched at his head. There were a couple signs, but they weren’t real helpful. He was on La Push Road. It intersected with Old La Push Road. He knew he had the right coordinates, but there wasn’t anything around. It was the middle of the afternoon, and most of the creatures he and his brother hunted preferred to come out at after dark, but there just wasn’t anything there. There wasn’t even a patch in the asphalt at the center point to show that someone may have buried something there.
He was about ten miles from a little town called Forks. What the hell kind of name was that? Well, they’d seen some strange monikers in their travels, but that was a new one on him. His brother Sam had wanted to do some research and the library in Forks looked like it was about to close up—for good. They’d driven all the way back to Port Angeles, past more damn pine trees, and Dean dropped him off, telling him he’d pick him up later. He’d driven back toward La Push, curious about the reason their dad had sent them those particular coordinates.
A couple hundred feet down the road was a house, but people were living there and it didn’t look like it was any kind of center for paranormal activity. Dean knew better than to take things at face value, but it was a sleepy, quiet place.
Even in their quick, initial research, they hadn’t found any unusual happenings or any particularly strange disappearances, although there had been more than usual. Many were attributed to animal attacks, but things like that did actually happen in places where there were hundreds of square miles of mountains … and pine trees.
It was why Sam had wanted to find a library, get his hands on their computers, and research the local lore. Dean was more than happy to let Sam at it. Research could be pretty damn boring, and Sam loved that word “lore.”
Dean climbed out of the car, shrugged on his worn jean jacket against the damp chilly air, and looked down the road. Not seeing anything but more faded asphalt and trees, he turned in the opposite direction and squinted.
He’d been there fifteen minutes and a car hadn’t even driven by. Mystified, he hooked his thumbs in the pockets of his jeans and leaned back against the hood.
In the distance, he heard the whine of a struggling engine and an exhaust system that had seen better days. “Midasize it” immediately came to mind. After another moment, he spotted a rusted old Chevy truck coming toward him from the south. He cocked his head, examining the vehicle. It wouldn’t be a bad ride if it was cleaned up, painted, had the dents pulled out, and had a new engine put in it. A little TLC would work wonders.
He thought it was a 1953 or ’54. Nice, solid vehicle.
As it chugged closer, he strained to see into the cab. Although it was cloudy, the glare on the windshield made it hard to tell, but he thought there was only one person.
The abused engine sounded like it was wheezing its last. As loud as it was, it didn’t appear to be going too fast. On a hunch, he activated the home-made EMF sensor in his pocket and waited for the truck to pass. He was under some power lines, but he hoped the detector would still work since there weren’t too many.
Dean really wasn’t surprised when the truck began to slow down despite the engine noise winding higher and higher. The rusted old behemoth coughed, sputtered, died, and drifted to the side of the road. The sudden silence was a shock to his ears.
Inside the truck, someone let out a screeching wail. Dean could hear pounding and then the door flew open. A dark purple backpack was thrown out, and then a girl with long brown hair jumped to the gravel shoulder. She slammed the door shut and then kicked it. Snatching up the backpack, she hoisted it over her shoulder, looked quickly back down the road, and started moving toward him in a half-jog, half walk.
Dean checked the EMF detector. It hadn’t alerted, so he shut it off, shoved it in his pocket, and started across the road.
The girl was crying and haphazardly brushing her hair out of her face. With the sleeve of the old blue-plaid flannel shirt she was wearing, she dragged her arm over her face, wiping away her tears.
Dean quickened his pace. “Hey. Hey, are you all right? What’s the matter?”
Had the girl been attacked? There were bits of leaves and grass in her hair, and muddy stains on her jeans like she had fallen, or had been thrown down. Mud caked her hiking boots. The good news was she had all her clothes on and they didn’t appear to be torn.
The girl jolted to a stop and her head snapped up as if she hadn’t even been aware he was there. Wide brown eyes stared at him in shock, and her hand went to the side of her head, pulling her hair out of her face again.
“You … you have to run!” she shouted, gasping as if she was out of breath.
He ran the last few feet and grabbed her upper arms. “Hey, what happened? Is somebody after you?”
She twisted around to look down the road again, and her dirty, tear-streaked face turned back to his. “There was a red-eyed va … uh…” Her mouth snapped closed and she gulped. “There were … g-giant wolves. In the woods. They were huge! We have to get outta here!”
Awkwardly, Dean pulled her to his chest and patted her back. “Is there anybody with you?” When she shook her head, he patted her back again. “It’s okay. C’mon. My car is right across the road.” He caught hold of the straps of her backpack and lifted it away as he turned her toward the Impala. “It’ll be okay. I’ll take you home, all right?”
Hesitating only a moment, the girl looked back the way she had come, nodded and promptly tripped. If Dean’s arm hadn’t been around her, she would have face-planted in the street. He opened the passenger door with a loud creak, tossed her bag into the back seat, and helped her in.
Once he settled in the driver’s seat and turned the key, he couldn’t help the smile that came with the sweet, deep purr of the engine. He loved that car.
“So, what’s your name?” He asked the girl as he checked out his mirrors and his passenger. She wasn’t as young as he had initially thought.
“B-Bella Swan,” she sniffed and wiped her face with her sleeve again. “I-I live in Forks.”
“Oh. Forks. I think I drove through that quaint little burg a coupla times.” Dean made a U-turn and sighed as he headed back toward the yawner of a town. He checked his rear view mirror a few times and kept glancing into the trees that bordered the road. “Nice to meet you, Bella. I’m Dean.” He gave a little smile. He’d caught her slip when she had first mentioned red-eyed somethings. It hadn’t been the wolves that had red eyes. “So, uh, you said giant wolves? How big were these wolves?”
“Th-they were the biggest wolves I’ve ever seen.” She peered up at him through her hair and tugged her flannel shirt loose from the lap belt and wrapped it tightly around her as she shivered. “They were bigger than horses. Really huge. I’ve never seen anything like … there was a black—”
“They were black?” Dean asked, straining to see into the shadowy woods. He couldn’t hide the urgency in his voice. Could the girl have seen Hell Hounds? If she had, how had she gotten away? How had she survived? People who saw, or heard, the demon beasts didn’t usually live to tell about it. But she hadn’t said the wolves had red eyes.
“No. No. There was only one black one. One was red like a fox, there were two grey ones, and a brown one. They were after … something.” She dropped her head and concentrated on her fingers picking at each other in her lap.
He still couldn’t believe Bella had seen gigantic wolves and hadn’t been attacked. “There were five?” He glanced at her from the corner of his eye and then back to the road, continuing his intense scrutiny of the tree line on either side.
Bella brushed her hair behind her ear and peeked up at him again. “You believe me?”
“Well, uh.” Dean shrugged. “I’ve seen a few strange things now and then.”
She studied him a bit more closely. “You’re not going to try and tell me they were bears, and I was just scared? Besides, bears don’t travel in packs and there were five of them.”
“No, I wouldn’t say that.” Dean blinked and flexed his fingers over the steering wheel. “Do you mind me asking what you were doing? There’s nothing out here.”
“I … I was hiking. Trying to find a m-meadow,” she mumbled barely loud enough for him to hear.
Dean’s eyebrows rose as he studied her again. He could tell she was wearing fairly new boots, despite their being covered in mud. The flannel shirt was huge on her, and with her pale, smooth skin, she didn’t look like the outdoorsy, hiking type to him.
“Did you happen to notice what color their eyes were?” Dean’s eyes darted to the trees and back.
“Kind of a golden yell—” her voice faded away. Her throat worked spasmodically as she swallowed. She crossed her arms and stared out the passenger window.
Dean watched intently as she closed down. Finally, he asked in a quiet voice, “Bella, what had the red eyes? Were the wolves after something? Is that how you got away from them?”
Bella sighed and her hand crept up to push her hair behind her ear again. When her eyes met his, he saw they were a dark brown. Sam would have said something like they were a nut brown, deeper and richer than any imported chocolate. Dean thought they were more like the luxuriant brown of a fine leather couch. He took note of the long lashes that glistened with her tears. While he was facing her, his examination drifted to the soft pink of her lips and how her tongue peeked out to wet them.
“How did you get away from them, Bella?” he asked, softening his voice and turning his attention back to the road. “What were they after?”
“Nothing,” she said too quickly, turning her face away again.
“I believe you saw the giant wolves. They would have known you were there, and if they had wanted you, there’s no way you would have been able to get away from them.” Dean cleared his throat before speaking again. “Unless you killed them all.”
From his peripheral vision he saw her head snap toward him. He kept his expression as neutral as he could.
“No! I didn’t kill them. I … I ran away. Th-they were after—”
Sighing, Dean glanced at her again. “Look, Bella, you said there was a red-eyed something. Then you said the wolves were after something, and then they were after nothing. So what was the red-eyed thing? What were the wolves after?”
Her hand flew up to cover her mouth as if she were trying to keep any words from slipping out. Sniffling, she turned away from him again, and stared out the window as the green and brown of the forest flashed by.
Dean blew out a breath from between pursed lips. “Okay, Bella, it’s like this. I think you’re trying to keep a secret. You think no one will believe you, but I will. My brother and I have seen things that most people would never believe. We’ve seen them and fought them.” He turned his face to her. “We fought them to protect people like you.”
Bella’s hand scrubbed over her face and dropped to her lap. “So, where’s your brother?”
She wanted to try and deflect him? He’d go with it for the time being. “He’s at the library in a town called Port Angeles—doing research on local mythology and lore.” Dean rolled his eyes. “Legends and fairytale type stuff. It’s, uh … it’s what we do.” Dean ran his hand through his hair and grabbed the steering wheel again. “You can trust me.”
She squeezed her eyes shut and tilted her head down. Her shaking hands were clenched into fists in her lap.
A moment later her head snapped up, her eyes popped open and she gasped out, “Legends. The legends! Jacob told me … those were the wolves of the legends! That’s why they didn’t eat me!”
Mystified, Dean scrunched his nose and one eyebrow went up. “What are you talkin’ about?”
In his pocket, his phone started ringing. “Dammit,” he muttered through his teeth as he worked the phone from his pocket and flipped it open. He glanced at the number on the screen. “Sam, I’m kinda busy right now.”
He rolled his eyes again. “Yeah, I found the coordinates, but there wasn’t anything there except … Cold ones? Spirit Warriors? What?” His mouth fell open as he listened to his brother and eyed the young woman beside him. “Hang on, Sam. Bella, was the red-eyed thing a Cold One? Were those wolves after it? Is that how you were able to get away from them? Because they kill Cold Ones?”
Bella’s eyes were wide and her lips were pressed into a straight line. She nodded slowly and then collapsed against the passenger door, her hand going to her forehead.
“Bella?” Dean said into the phone in response to his brother. “I’ll tell you about her later, you keep looking at those stories you found about the ki-oots werewolves. Whatever. I’ll call ya later.” He closed his phone, put it back into his pocket, and took a deep breath. “Bella, what are the Cold Ones?”
Her chest rose slowly as she pulled in a breath. Her hand fell to her lap. Her eyes gradually opened and a single tear escaped, leaving a shining, wet trail across her cheek. “Cold Ones are vampires,” she whispered, her voice flat. She seemed to almost deflate. “They’re vampires,” she repeated, her voice sounding resigned.
Nodding, Dean was thinking hard. The way Sam had described them, Cold Ones weren’t anything like the vampires he, and his family had come across. Could they just be a different breed of vamp, or something else entirely?
He believed Bella when she said she had seen giant wolves. What he couldn’t believe was that she had escaped them without a scratch—except for the few she must have received while running through the woods. A woman her size would have been nothing more than the appetizer before dinner for most of the creatures he’d had dealings with. He needed to find out what she was talking about.
Spending more time with her wouldn’t bother him in the least.
“You up for a trip to Port Angeles to get my brother?”
“I … yeah. Sure.” Her dark eyes flicked to him and then forward to the windshield.
“Why don’t you tell me about these Cold Ones and how you know about them.”
-o-o-o- -o-o-o- -o-o-o-
Bella hung up the phone and turned to the two men sitting at her kitchen table. “That was my dad. He’ll be late tonight because there was another giant bear sighting.” She crossed her arms and leaned against the counter. “You guys want something to eat? I was going to make some fish for dinner for Charlie, but since he’s …”
“Uh, sure.” Dean looked to his brother who was shaking his head and mumbling, “We couldn’t possibly—”
“So which is it?” Bella cocked her head to the side.
Dean put his hand over Sam’s mouth. It’d been too long since they’d had anything resembling food that hadn’t been bought from a Gas-n-Sip. “We’d love a home cooked meal, isn’t that right, Sam?”
Sam shoved his arm away and glowered at him. “Uh, yeah, Bella, that sounds great. Thank you.”
“Great,” Dean repeated with a huge grin. He didn’t even care what it was. “I can’t believe these monsters sparkle. What? Are they like fairies with glitter in their hides? Do they have pretty wings, too?”
“No. I don’t know why their skin sparkles in the sun, and they don’t have wings.”
“You said your dad was the chief of police and he never realized you were dating a Cold One? He never noticed they weren’t quite right?”
Bella deftly seasoned the filets she’d place in a baking pan and then went to the refrigerator. “He never liked Edward anyway, but I guess he didn’t see them that often. They never got in trouble or caused problems. Well, normal human trouble.”
“A bunch of teenagers that never got in trouble?” Dean snorted derisively. “That should have been his first clue they weren’t normal.”
Forcefully setting a large covered bowl down on the table, Bella glared at him. “I don’t get in trouble! Am I abnormal?”
“From what you told us, you were too busy herding your mother and going to school. You never got in trouble until after you met them, then it was nothing but.” Dean’s eyes were hard as steel, but then softened considerably when he saw tears form in Bella’s. “Bella, you never should have had anything to do with them. They’re not human. They’re dangerous. Did you ever think they were just using you?”
“Dean!” Sam hissed at him warningly.
“Look, Sam, just from what she’s told us, the whole nest was running a scam on her and the whole town. Pretending to be human for a few years and then they up and make like D.B. Cooper. ” He took a swig of the beer Bella had given him earlier. “Who knows how many victims they’ve left behind—alive, dead, or undead.” Dean couldn’t believe how angry he was at the thought of the Cullen coven using Bella the way they had. “The youngest ones were the worst. What were their names? Alice and Edward?”
Shoulders slumped, Bella nodded as she put the prepared fish in the oven and set the timer. “Sam, it’s okay. He’s right. I was nothing more than a brainless mannequin for both of them. All but two of them pretended to like me—acted like I was part of their family, and then they threw me away like garbage when Edward got tired of his game.”
She pulled plates out of the cupboard and gathered cutlery from a drawer. “I mean, Edward did save me from being crushed by a van, but since they left, I’ve wondered if they didn’t somehow set that up. Maybe I wouldn’t have been hurt. The van hit my truck near the front—I was standing at the back. Or maybe he saved me so I wouldn’t bleed all over the place and make them loose control.”
“That would have outed them,” Dean muttered.
Sam hastily closed his laptop and set it, and his books and papers on the floor, when Bella began setting the table. “You guys just travel around, fighting supernatural monsters?”
“Pretty much … yeah,” Sam answered. “It’s sort of the family business.”
“Where do you live?”
“In my car, mostly,” Dean filled her in with small smile. “But sometimes we stay in cheap motels. Other times we go to Bobby’s and hang out for a while. He’s an old family friend.”
Bella nodded thoughtfully. “One of my dad’s best friends is the chief of the Quileutes. His name is Billy Black. He said no one from their tribe would go to the Forks hospital as long as Carlisle was working there.” Bella pulled the lid from the bowl she’d taken from the refrigerator. “My friend Jacob, who is Billy’s son, was worried about some of the boys on the Reservation. He said they were in some kind of gang and were watching …” Her voice faded out when she opened the refrigerator again.
“A gang was watching who?” Sam asked.
“Is this potato salad?” Dean asked, gazing hungrily at the bowl in front of him.
Eyebrows drawn together, Bella was holding another bowl full of fresh lettuce and greens and a bottle of ranch dressing. “Sam Uley and his gang were watching Jacob. He’s my … he used to be my best friend. He kind of has a crush on me. I told him I wasn’t interested in that kind of relationship, but he’s been very persistent.” After handing the salad to Dean, she turned away and checked the timer.
In a well-practiced move, she slipped on the oven mitts, took the roasting pan from the oven, dished the baked fish onto a plate she’d set aside earlier, and served it. With a heavy sigh, she sat down across from the two men. “Help yourselves. I guess I know why he’s been ignoring me lately. The gang—they must be the wolves. They all grew really fast, and got all these muscles and tattoos, and …”
Her impromptu guests had left one little piece of fish on the plate so she took it. “I’d gone to the movies with Jacob. I noticed he’d had this growth spurt. Boys do that, right?”
Dean eyed his brother and nodded as he took a few more heaping spoonfuls of potato salad and shoved the bowl of green stuff toward Sam.
“But I’d never seen boys grow that fast.” Bella shook her head sadly. “After the movie, he said he didn’t feel good and he was really hot, like he had a high fever.”
“You haven’t seen him since then?” Sam wrinkled his nose at Dean shoveling in the herbed fish and potato salad like a starving man. “The fish is delicious, by the way. Thank you very much.”
Mumbling something and nodding enthusiastically, Dean took another bite.
“Uh, thanks. You’re welcome. I try different things with the fish that Charlie catches so I’m not frying it all the time.” Slightly disturbed, Bella watched Dean with concern for a moment and then turned to Sam. “Um, no. I haven’t seen Jacob since then. He won’t take my calls. His dad says he’s sick with mono, but I think he must have turned into one of the werewolves. I think he was the red one. He looked right at me. I swear it was like the wolf recognized me, but if it was Jacob …”
Dean finally came up for air and wiped his mouth with a napkin. “If he turned into one of those things, it’s good he’s staying away from you. If that Cold One hadn’t been there in the woods today, they would have been after you.” He emphasized his words by poking at the air with the serving spoon.
The table shook with the force of Bella slamming her fork down. “Their legends say they protect people from Cold Ones. Jacob would never—”
“Bella,” Sam’s voice was low with foreboding. “I read their legends. The wording was very specific. They protect their tribe and land from the red-eyed, cold monsters.”
“Yeah,” Dean agreed, pushing his empty plate aside. “Unless you’re a ki-oot?”
Bella shook her head.
“We checked this place out a little before we came here. There’s been a lot of animal attacks over the last few months. It happens in wooded areas, but there’s been more than ever. Along with sightings of giant bears.” Dean reached across the table and covered her left hand with his. “You know hikers and campers are seeing those huge wolves and thinking they’re bears because they’re scared and wolves don’t get that big. Are they the lucky ones that just happened to get away from them?”
Bella took another bite of fish, staring gloomily down at her plate. As she chewed, tears welled in her eyes again and she squeezed them shut.
Suddenly, her head snapped up, eyes as wide as silver dollars. “Emily!” she exclaimed. “Oh, my God, Emily,” she moaned.
“Who’s Emily?” Dean questioned, finally releasing her hand.
Resting her elbows on the table, Bella hid her face and explained, “Dad told me. Emily wasn’t from here. She lived up the coast on another reservation. She was visiting her cousin Leah in La Push. Somehow, she was attacked and clawed by a bear. Or that’s the official story. Dad said she nearly died, and she has bad scars down her face, neck, and her right arm. The other weird thing about it is Leah was engaged to Sam Uley—the supposed gang leader. Right after Emily got out of the clinic there, Sam broke up with Leah and Emily moved in with him.”
“Or maybe he encouraged her to.” Finished with his dinner, Sam put his knife and fork neatly on his plate. “Maybe she’s enthralled—a hostage. Supernatural creatures will often mark—”
“What the hell is that on your arm?” Dean stood abruptly from his chair and grabbed Bella’s right hand, examining her wrist. His eyes grew dark. “It looks like a human bite. It’s not as warm as the rest of your skin.” He shook her hand, forcing her to look up at him. “But it’s not from a human. What is this, Bella?”
Although her mouth was moving, nothing was coming out. She jerked her hand from his tight grip and stood up. She began clearing the table and loudly cleared her throat. “I-I told you about Phoenix. Well …” Her back to them, she leaned against sink.
Dean quickly crossed the room and rested his hands on her upper arms. “What is it, Bella?” he asked in a softer voice. He hadn’t meant to yell at her. “I know that’s not a normal human bite.”
“That vampire James didn’t just break my leg and throw me into the mirrored wall. He bit me and started drinking my blood. When two of the Cullens were tearing him apart, Edward sucked out the venom. You know, like you do with a snake bite.”
When Dean slowly turned her to face him, Sam was standing next to him. Sam lifted her hand and they both studied the unusual scar.
Lips pressed into a straight line, Sam looked directly into her eyes. “Their venom is still in there—that’s why it shimmers. It’s why it’s harder and cooler than the rest of your skin.”
Timidly, Bella nodded.
Sam’s eyes hardened and flicked to Dean’s. “They’ve marked her.”
“What does that even mean?” Bella’s voice took on a plaintive tone.
Dean let out a gusty sigh and glanced up at the ceiling. “Like Sam said, supernatural creatures will often mark their intended prey. It’s so they can find you again. It’s a sign of ownership, too. It’s supposed to keep others away, but it usually works the opposite way. It’s more like a flashing neon sign advertising free beer on a college campus.” He turned away and threw his hands up in the air. “As soon as you got close to those cold Cullen monsters, it started drawing in the other ones. Now you got that mark—they won’t stay away. Like us, you’ll be dealing with it the rest of your life.” He pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed again.
“Dean.” Sam reached for his shoulder. “Maybe we could find a witch to—”
“To what?” Dean spun around to face them. “Give her a hex safety bag? You know you can’t trust witches any farther than you can kick their asses!”
Sam tried to give Bella a reassuring look. “Maybe … maybe I can find a spell of protection and show her how to do it so she can renew it periodically and—”
“No! No, Sam!” Prodding Sam’s shoulder with one finger, Dean stepped closer. “It ain’t gonna work. She’ll be running from these things and looking over her shoulder the rest of her life, which might not be so long anymore since they’ve branded her.”
In the silence that followed Dean’s pronouncement, they heard a metallic scraping upstairs.
“What was that?” Dean hissed at Bella.
“I think that was the window he … Edward … always used to come in.” Bella whispered back. “It hasn’t been opened in months.”
“It’s in the house,” Sam said in a rush.
That’s all it took. In the next instant, Bella was shoved into the corner past the sink and Sam was standing right in front of her, his left hand holding her behind him. In his right was a knife that anyone would have called a short sword.
Dean had spun and moved toward the doorway, a large, chromed pistol in his right hand. In his left, he also had a knife with a long shiny blade.
In shock, Bella asked, “Where did you—?”
“Shh!” Dean cautioned when they heard the sound of wood creaking.
Without any other warning, one of the tallest Native Americans they’d ever seen appeared at the bottom of the stairs in the foyer. He was wearing cut-off shorts and nothing else.
“Bella, who are these guys?” the intruder asked with an animalistic growl.
“J-Jacob?” Bella took a step forward and Sam pushed her back.
Dean waved the semi-automatic at him. “Don’t come any closer, wolf boy.”
“How do you know—?” Jacob’s eyes narrowed in suspicion and his lips pulled back from his bright white teeth. “Bella, I knew you’d figure it out, but I thought you’d be smart enough not to tell anyone. You kept the leeches’ secret.” His huge hands curled into fists with his accusation, and he took one menacing step closer to the kitchen. His attention moved to Dean. “You think you can stop me with that?” Jacob sneered, jutting his chin forward.
“Silver bullets, and the blade’s silver, too.” Dean wiggled the weapon.
“Where did you get those?” Bella yanked on Sam’s shirt.
“We’ve got a few … uh, specialized tools in the trunk of the car,” he told her.
Jacob ignored Dean and reached out a hand. “Bella, I came to talk to you. Now that I know you know, I don’t have to stay away from you anymore. We can be together now.”
“I don’t think so, buddy.” Dean edged forward. Nobody was getting near Bella if he had anything to say about it.
“And who the hell are you? Besides, silver doesn’t hurt us.” Jacob’s voice was full of scorn. “That’s nothing but a myth. Besides, if you cut me or shoot me, it’ll heal really fast.”
“Is that right? Care to test it out?” Dean’s eyebrows rose in challenge. “I think a couple of hollow points bouncing around inside the ol’ brain pan would probably make you think different. If you had enough brains left to think with.” He squared his stance, preparing for anything. “And cutting heads off works most of the time. You’re not getting your paws anywhere near her.”
Jacob’s hands started shaking. “Bella knows I would never hurt her. Tell’em, Bella.”
“What about all the missing hikers and campers?” Sam questioned him. “All the people that have been torn apart? There seems to be a big giant bear problem in the forests around here.”
“That wasn’t us!” Jacob growled defensively. In a desperate move, he lunged forward, swinging his left arm at Dean to knock him out of the way and reaching for Bella.
Dean stumbled into table, but not before he sliced Jacob’s forearm.
He leapt away from the table and shoved the barrel of the gun against Jacob’s head. “Stop or I’ll end you right here, right now.”
Jacob froze, his eyes wild and flicking between Dean, Sam, and Bella. He slapped his hand over the heavily bleeding cut, and retreated to the foyer, his dark brown eyes flashing with yellow. “You shouldn’t have done that, dumbass. Bella, see? They’re dangerous! Come with me. I can protect you!”
Right before their astonished eyes, the gaping cut stopped bleeding and closed, as he smirked down at them.
It took a moment before Bella could find her voice. “W-what about Emily? That wasn’t a bear attack that almost killed her! It was Sam!”
“How do you know—?” Her former friend’s face twisted in rage. “That was an accident. He didn’t mean—”
“You need to leave, Jacob,” Bella said from beneath Sam’s arm. “Get out of my house!”
“But you don’t understand, Bella.” His hands still shaking, Jacob tried pleading with her. “I’m the only one that can protect you from those bloodsuckers. Guns and knives don’t work against them. You know that.”
“I said Get. OUT!”
When she tried to get around him, Sam caught her around the waist and pulled her into his side as far from the threat as he could get her.
Dean raised the pistol as he shifted to the side, trying to put himself between the potential werewolf and Bella. “You heard the lady. Get out.”
“I don’t have to listen to you!” Jacob roared, enraged. The air around him began to shimmer and he charged forward, his fingers curved like claws.
For a just a second, Dean thought he saw the shadowy outline of a wolf ripple around the man on the attack. His own instincts taking over, Dean fired off three rounds and jabbed forward with the knife, slashing at the strangely blurry being.
Snarling, Jacob slammed into him, sending them both crashing into the table, and plates and food went flying as it collapsed beneath their combined weight.
Bella’s scream pierced the air as Sam bounded toward them. He landed on the half-naked man’s back and thrust the blade of his knife into the base of his skull, cutting off the ear-splitting howl. Jacob’s entire body went rigid, he released one last gurgling breath, and then crumpled, collapsing on top of Dean.
Sam scrambled to his feet, latched onto Jacob’s shoulder and heaved, rolling the immense body off his brother.
“Dean! Dean!” Sam dropped to his knees next to him.
The next moment, Bella was on Dean’s other side. “Are you hurt?” Her hands fluttered impotently over Dean’s torso and face. There was blood everywhere.
His eyes flew open and he struggled to sit up, his fingers spread across his chest. He looked down and then lifted his hands and stared at them, speechless. They were coated in thick red liquid that fell in dense droplets to his legs and the floor.
“I’m okay,” he finally said, looking to Bella. “Are you all right?” At her nod he turned to Sam. “Is it dead?”
“I’m gonna be sick!” Bella lurched away from them, slapping her hand over her mouth. Practically diving head first into the sink, she gagged and retched as she hung over it, but nothing came up. “Oh, God, he tried to kill you.”
Checking for a pulse and not finding any, Sam let out a breath. “It’s dead. We’re going to have to burn it.”
Dean nodded in agreement, shoved away the broken dishes with a loud clatter, and hauled himself up from the floor. Sweeping his foot through what was left of both of the salads, he retrieved his gun and knife and tried to wipe them off on his jeans.
Quickly realizing it was a pointless exercise as he’d been splattered with werewolf blood all the way down to his boots, he gave up in frustration. “What the hell?”
“Two point-blank shots to the center of his chest and one between the eyes,” Sam murmured. “None exited the body. By the way, we may not have enough salt in trunk. He’s, uh, pretty big.”
Nodding in acknowledgment, Dean hurried toward the young woman bent over the sink. He set the semi-automatic and knife down on the counter, grabbed some paper towels to wipe of his hands and then awkwardly patted her back. “Bella, hey. It’s gonna be okay.”
Holding back her hair, she turned haunted eyes toward him. “He was going to kill you.” Her words were hardly more than wisps of air. “I never would have thought …” she covered her face with both hands, but her sob escaped anyway. “He would have killed all of us. I saw him. He was going to turn into a wolf. I saw it.”
“I saw it, too.” Dean gently patted her shoulder.
Shuddering, she wrapped her arms around her middle and peered up at Dean’s concerned face. “You stopped him. When you sh-shot him. You saved us.” She gulped. “As big as those wolves are, if he had turned into one …” She shook her head, closing her eyes. “I am so sick of all this! I can’t get away from it! First the vampires, and they all want to kill me. Now, the werewolves—everything just keeps coming after me. What the hell did I do?”
“C’mon, Bella.” Dean put his arm around her shoulders to block her view of the gore. He led her out of the kitchen. “Sam and I are going to take care of it. Do you have any salt?”
“Above the stove. Why?” She jolted to a stop, eyes wide with fear. She spun to face Dean and grabbed fistfuls of his jacket. “What if they come looking for him? The rest of the pack? What if they come here?”
“We could probably take them all out, but if there was more than one at a time …” Dean trailed off.
“They went after Laurent—that vampire—in a pack. They’re so fast.” Bella whispered. “Now there’s only f-four. Unless there’s more at La Push.” Her hands pressed against the sides of her head and she squeezed her eyes shut. “I wish I’d never come here. I love my dad, but …” With tear-filled eyes, she looked up at Dean. “Everything was fine before I moved here. Charlie was fine. This is all my fault. Now I have vampires and werewolves after me.”
“Then come with us,” Dean blurted, shocked at himself. He couldn’t believe he’d just said that.
“Dean!” A carton of salt in his hands, Sam rushed up to them, glaring into Deans’ eyes before turning to Bella. “B-Bella, we can’t … I mean, this is no life for somebody like you,” Sam tried to reason with her. “It’s not safe for—”
“Didn’t you already say I was branded as vampire bait? That I’d be running from them the rest of my life?” She stepped back away from him and poked him in the chest, ignoring the dark red smears. “The vampires are already after me, and I forgot about the Volturi and their rules. Then a werewolf shows up, and didn’t you notice he tried to take me—get me to go with him?”
“Vultures?” Puzzled, Dean tilted his head to look at her.
“I’ll tell you later. It’s just another group of vampires. They’re like vampire kings or something.” Bella rolled her eyes.
Dean was really liking that girl. He wouldn’t mind her with them in the least. There was something about her. “She’s goin’ with us,” he said decisively, throwing his arm around her again. “She’s right, Sam. She’s got a big ol’ bullseye on her back. These monsters have it in for her.”
“I want to leave and never come back to this place. I am so done with Forks.” Bella’s eyes sparked with determination. “I’m going with you.”
Shoulders sagging in defeat, Sam held up the salt. He studied Bella for a moment, then moved his gaze to his brother. He used the salt to poke him in the chest. “Vampire kings? She may be right.” Executing a snappy about face, he headed back into the kitchen and stood over the deceased. “These are different creatures than we’ve come across before. The silver in your bullets, and in your knife, didn’t burn him.” He bent over and grabbed Jacob’s wrists. “We have to get the body out of here and burn it. We don’t want any angry spirits of the Spirit Warriors coming after us.”
Bella clutched at Dean’s jacket. “Wait! Did you hear that?”
Sam dropped the limp arms and straightened to his full height. His eyes darted back and forth and his brows drew together. “It was far away, but it sounded like howling. By more than one.”
Alarmed, Dean caught Bella’s hand. “You got any gas cans?”
“In the shed out back.”
“Go get ‘em. Run.”
“What are you—?”
“We gotta salt and burn him.”
Another howl, not as distant as the previous ones, spurred Bella to action even though she had no clue what they were doing.
While she ran out the back door, Dean darted out the front to his car and flung open the hood. He grabbed more cartons of salt and a box of emergency flares.
He raced back inside. Sam had already unearthed his laptop and papers from the earlier debris, turned on all the burners of the stove and blew out the pilot lights. He caught the box of salt Dean lobbed at him, ripped it open, and poured it out over the rapidly cooling body.
Bella stumbled back inside, two old red gasoline cans in her hands. “Why does it smell like gas in here?” She jolted to a stop. “You’re going to burn down my house?”
Snatching the cans from her, Dean started splashing fuel over Bella’s former friend. “We have to. We don’t have time to drag him into the woods and burn him.” He shoved the flares under different points of the body, keeping one back. He’d have flipped the colossal freak over and shoved a couple in the quite large entry wounds, but he didn’t want to do that in front of Bella. He grabbed her hand and dragged her to the front door, Sam right behind them.
Dean passed off the remaining flare. Sam nodded and pulled out a lighter. As Dean swept Bella up and over his shoulder, and leapt down the front steps, Sam lit the flare and hurled it into the kitchen.
Dean flung open the driver side door of the Impala and tossed in the screaming Bella. Sam was quick enough that his body helped to cushion her landing.
They’d just swung the doors shut, and the engine rumbled to life, when they heard the explosion. Tires squealing, Dean floored it to escape any flying and flaming shrapnel.
“Sam!” he yelled. “Cover!”
“What—” Bella squawked when Sam shoved her over and covered her with his body. The entire car shook and rocked with the impact of the blast, but Dean kept it on the road. Luckily, nothing large hit them, and when they reached the next intersection, Dean slowed and stopped so they could all catch their breath.
Yelling like a banshee, Sam let Bella up and she twisted around and thumped his chest with the heel of her fist. “You blew up my house!”
“Not the whole thing!” Dean shouted.
“We had to, Bella.” Sam caught her hands before she could punch him again. He opened his mouth to explain why, but the words caught in his throat when he saw the stupefied look on Dean’s face. Their guest wasn’t faring much better.
“W-what is it?” Sam asked worriedly, quickly taking in the twin sets of glassy eyes and gaping mouths.
Dean gradually closed his mouth and pointed out the passenger side window. Guardedly, Sam shifted in the seat and looked over his shoulder. “Oh, shit.”
At the edge of the nearby woods, lit by the single, lonely streetlight, was a wolf so black all light appeared to be absorbed into the creature’s fur.
Sam gulped nervously. “It’s … it’s the biggest …” He dragged his hand down over his face. “It’s not a Hell Hound, but—”
The horrific beast’s eyes glowed an ominous, sickly yellow when it bared its teeth in an ear-ringing snarl. Its six-inch long fangs gleamed menacingly.
They all sucked in a breath when it lowered its massive head and took one predatory step in their direction.
“It might as well be!” Dean yanked Bella back against him, slammed the car in gear, and jammed his foot down on the gas. “Damn! Which way do we go to get outta here?”
Mute with fear, all Bella could do was raise one shaking hand and point.
“East? East is good.” Dean took the turn hard, the Impala nearly lifting up on two wheels.
Sam, one hand braced against the dashboard, the other clutching the top of the seatback behind Bella cringing and covering her head, choked out, “East would be great.”
-o-o-o- The End -o-o-o-