"I don't see why I got dragged into this while Jacob gets to spend a perfectly good day sulking in his garage just because his so-called best friend happens to be ignoring him," I grumbled, following after Embry.
"Shut up. Jake's going through a rough time at the moment; the Cullens coming back wasn't a treat for any of us. Besides, Sam wanted the whole pack here today. He only let Jake off easy because he's feeling sorry for him."
I rolled my eyes, "It's just lunch! We can eat later. I mean, we won't get anything as good as Emily's food, but at least we'll get a little more time to run."
Embry sighed, but didn't say anything else. I knew he didn't like the fact that he was a wolf nearly as much as I did - I had the most fun with it out of all of us. There was nothing that mattered more to me than being in my animal form and just running.
"So who's actually here today?" Paul asked Jared ahead of us.
Jared cleared his throat and began to repeat the same thing he'd said to me, Embry and Jacob - the traitor - yesterday. "Emily invited her brothers and their wives and daughters from the Makah rez to lunch, and Seth will probably turn up too: make it a big family event, I suppose." Jared's voice took on a hint of pity when he mentioned the Clearwater's name.
It would have been hard enough when Seth and Leah's father had died so suddenly...worse for Leah that she had to live with the fact that the heart attack was brought on by her phasing unexpectedly for the first time. Seth had followed shortly after from all the stress of his dad's death and his sister joining the pack. No one knew why Leah had phased. She was the only girl to have ever been brought into this wonderful life. Leah had been going through enough crap before all of the stuff with her dad and the pack, though. I didn't have to ask why she wouldn't be coming to lunch with her brother. It wasn't a secret that she was still torn up over Sam and Emily's imprint; we had to deal with her whining every time she popped into our heads.
I flopped onto Emily's sofa while the others made their way into the kitchen to meet the pack mother's family.
"Quil?" Embry's voice called out after a couple of minutes. He wandered back to the living room and his eyes narrowed when he saw me on the couch. "C',mon, Emily asked where you were."
"Naw, I think I'm just going to sit here and watch TV until Sam let's me go out again..."
"But you have to come and meet Emily's neices, they're so cute!" he sounded completely adored.
I flicked through the channels. "How old are they?"
"Two and five, I think."
I smirked. He'd let babies wrap him around their chubby littl fingers. What a wimp. "That's not the kind of 'cute' I'm interested in."
Embry frowned. "Quil, I don't know how Sam would feel if he caught on that you only wanted to be a part of this family for the food," he chuckled to himself. "Be a part of this like the rest of us."
I scrunched my nose at him, annoyed, then pulled myself up from the couch. "Yeah, okay. Smells like Emily's almost done, anyway."
He nodded and led the way.
"This is Quil," he told the couples sitting at the table.
"Hey," I politely offered my hand to the four of them squashed around the tiny little table. Half of my brothers were still standing, but a number of the cheap plastic chairs we occasionally had at council meetings had been brought in to cramp up the dining room. They each smiled and shook it in turn, introducing themselves, but I was paying more attention to the smell of the lunch Emily was cooking.
"...and this is Claire," the woman most right readjusted the baby on her lap. My eyes slipped, uninterested, and froze.
I could have pushed Embry over for his description of her earlier. 'Cute' didn't even begin to sum her up. She was completely gorgeous. I sucked in a quick breath, feeling everything I'd been stressing over recently become a pointless little waste of time. How could I have thought anything beautiful before seeing her? I hadn't known what I was talking about. There was nothing in the world that could compare to her. Claire. Claire, claire, claire. The world. My world. I immediately resented myself for spending the last two years without knowing this little girl.
I was only slightly aware that there were people speaking, but I couldn't figure out if it was directed at me or not.
"Uhh...Quil?" Paul waved his hand in front of my face while I continued to smile serenely at the child. Huh. Guess so.
"She's beautiful," I told her parents, not looking away from her.
"Uh-oh," I thought I heard Jared give a surprised snicker, very quietly.
Sam stood from the table in my peripheral vision. "Quil,"
"Hm?" I asked, still watching Claire.
"Could I speak to you outside for a minute?" his voice was stern.
I frowned without looking at him. "Why?"
"Because there's something very important that we have to discuss," he grabbed my arm and pulled me toward the door. I kept facing Claire until we had turned into the next room and I couldn't see her anymore. I pulled back against Sam's hand and looked back through the door to the girl again, smiling out at her. "Quil!" he barked, giving me a sharp tug. He caught my attention when we made it outside and took my shoulders.
"She is the most...exquisite thing on the planet!" the words were rushing out of my mouth before I had the chance to think them over. "Sam, why didn't you tell me about her?!"
He shook my shoulders. "Quil, you imprinted!"
I stared at him closesly, slightly aware my mouth was hanging open. "Ah...oh, I understand now." Those feelings we always saw through Sam when he thought about Emily and how he had reacted when he'd first laid eyes on her clicked in my head - but, no...something different. The intense love I saw through him for Emily was there, the desire to follow her forever, the need to protect her as much as I possibly could, but the precise way I felt about her was different. It was like she had automatically become the closest member of my family. The most important thing on Earth. "This is brilliant!"
He laughed once, I don't know whether for real or not and turned toward the house. "Now, I don't want you telling her parents about our...condition, but I know you'll be seeing a lot more of her from now on. I'll talk to Emily as soon as I can get a spare moment with her and see what we can figure out to make this as comfortable as possible for her parents and yourself. I wouldn't dream of agreeing with anyone trying to keep you away from her. I've been there, and I can tell you right now you'd go mad. But they're not to know."
I nodded quickly. "I can keep it from them."
He smiled tightly and pulled me into a quick, unexpected hug, patting me on the back. "I suppose I should be giving you a congratulations."
"Thanks," a huge smile seeped onto my face as we made our way back into Emily's house.
I took my seat next to Jared, who was obviously as aware as Sam was about my situation, and watched Claire again, wondering if I could ask her parents to hold her, or whether they would think that was inappropriate. Had to make a good impression. Nothing had ever given me the satisfaction I felt now, looking into her big, dark eyes. Embry kicked my shin under the table. I looked up at him, annoyed. "What?" I mouthed.
He raised an eyebrow, and I knew what was up. I shook my head, grinning widely like a complete idiot. "Later,"