Chapter One

I closed my eyes, weirdly thankful to be deaf. It was an odd feeling: to be happy about the car accident that rendered me deaf at only seven years old. Being deaf made it so easy to be alone, no outside interference. All I had to do was close my eyes.

It wasn't often I felt like this, then again getting treated like this wasn't exactly a common occurrence either.

I'd always been treated as less than other people because of my disability. But very few had gone so far as to slowly enunciate every word, and act them out as they spoke. Those few were the ones that always made me feel as if I really was less than other people, like I didn't measure up. I didn't like that sensation, nor could I claim warm, fuzzy feelings for the people that caused it.

The best strategy to deal with such people was to leave, or avoid them as best I could. Being trapped here seriously impaired my ability to do that.

I hadn't wanted to take this small, twin engine plane, to Port Angeles. But it was all that was available at the time, and I'd wanted to get there quickly.

Now, I vehemently wished to be on any other plane, even one of those tiny, single engine planes that only held two very skinny people.

Not that it even mattered anymore. The decision had already been made and there wasn't any way to change it now. No, my only option was to wait. Hopefully, this... thing would land in Port Angeles soon. There I could wait in a tiny, over domesticated airport lobby for Charlie to make an appearance and take me to my new home—Forks, Washington.

Charlie was my biological father, and had lived in Forks since he was born. He didn't really have the mentality to live anywhere else; small town life suited his personality to a tee.

My mom, Renee, was also born in Forks, and lived there until she was roughly nineteen years old. She left town amid gossip and turmoil, because her ill-advised marriage to the star high school jock turned out to be a mistake. My mom wasn't known for her adult approach to life, but even she should have seen that for the disaster it turned out to be.

I guess, in a way, I had to respect them for at least trying. It couldn't have been easy to become parents before they graduated high school, but they had given it their best shot. Charlie proposed the day he learned she was pregnant with me. Renee, in all her misguided, teenage wonder, thought her dreams were coming true. At least until reality decided to make its presence known.

When I was only four months old, Renee left Charlie and escaped, with me, to Phoenix Arizona. That's where we lived until now.

I would still be there if it wasn't for Phil. Not that I resented him or anything, it was just that my life would have been very different if he hadn't fallen in love with my mom.

Or maybe not so different, perhaps I would have chosen to come back here on my own. I'd thought about it sometimes. Always wondered what it would be like to live a halfway normal life.

Well, as normal as I'd ever be. For reasons unknown to me, I'd never had the option of being normal. Even if one considered the possibility that I might have had a mature, responsible mom who raised me, rather than the other way around. I pushed that thought away, feeling disloyal to Renee. Never once had I truly regretted my life, Renee and my own abnormalities included. I liked the person I was.

A few years ago mom met a very strange man named Phil. Little did she or I know how much he would change our lives. Phil was a vampire and now, he's Renee's new husband. Or mate, whatever vampires call their significant others.

Thanks to the Psychotic Trio that pretty much destroyed life as I knew it. Mom is also a newly inducted member of the blood-sucking species. Which was comforting, in a severely weird way.

I mean she's indestructible; it's not like I have to worry about her well being anymore. In fact, I hadn't for quite awhile now. Phil was so completely devoted to her, it was impossible to believe he wouldn't see to her every need.

My mom, as a human, was so childlike that she couldn't do the simplest things for herself. If I hadn't been there to buy groceries, pay the bills, make sure her car had gas, and give her directions when she called lost, it wouldn't have gotten done. When Phil came into the picture he did all those things for her, spending every second he could, either with her or caring for her.

At first, it was just at night, but, in a city where the average temperature during the day is a hundred and four, that was not unusual. People tended to live their lives at night, in order to avoid a massive heat stroke. That was the price you payed for living in an Easy-Bake-Oven.

After we-and by 'we' I mean me-discovered what Phil was, things got interesting. I hadn't liked the idea at all, but I had liked Phil. So I decided to give him a chance.

I had a lot of preconceptions about vampires. In my head, I saw episodes of Buffy or Angel: vampires bursting into flames the second sunlight hit them, garlic, wooden stakes, holy water, the whole nine yards.

After a long talk with Phil, I realized I'd been so wrong about vampires. The violent, Hollywood idealized, horror movie, bedpost notching, Gods gift to women, image was totally wrong. The reality was so much worse.

Phil was honest, excruciatingly honest, with me during that conversation. Vampires weren't anything like I'd imagined. Their thirst for blood wasn't simply a desire or a necessity, it was an all consuming fire that burned away anything even remotely human within them. When a vampire smelled human blood, there was no thought, no personality, no compassion... no humanity. They killed violently, without control or remorse, tearing and ripping into their victims to get at what they needed.

Their strength was impossible to imagine. Their speed was impossible to escape. Their hearing and sense of smell made it impossible to hide. They were the ultimate predators.

It didn't matter that Renee loved him. Or that he loved her, one moment, a millisecond where he lost control, and he would cease to be the man she loved, and who loved her in return. He would turn into the very monster he described and kill her. He wouldn't have a choice.

I never worried that he would hurt me, I never even wondered if my abilities would be able to protect me. I yelled and screamed, ordering him to leave, to never contact my mother again. She was so childlike, I couldn't bear to think of her being hurt. Normally, I left her alone and let her make her own choices, steering her away from the more dangerous, but this was different. Normally she would have at least a chance of surviving, here there wasn't any hope of that.

Renee, of course, protested. She didn't care what he was, she loved 'who' he was, and accepted him.

That was the first time I forced my mother to put me above herself. What if he hurt me, he wouldn't mean to, but he could. I forced her to do what she thought was best for me, and she did. He left, amid her tears and apologies, swearing he'd never bother her, or me, again. Renee said her goodbye's, telling him that she loved him, more than anything, but she couldn't choose him over her daughters welfare.

I'd thought this would be another one of her quirky fazes. That she'd get over him like every other man she'd imagined herself in love with. Every time she broke up with someone she'd get over it pretty quickly, a few tears and then she'd move on to her next guy or her next hobby.

It didn't work like that, not with Phil.

At first she just cried, horrible, broken sobs that seemed like they would break her. She cried for days, it was then I suspected she may have loved Phil more than I'd thought.

The crying eventually stopped. She started doing things again, started sleeping, and going to work. I thought she was getting over him, I was wrong. She did normal things, but she wasn't normal herself. She pretended, pretended she was okay, pretended she was living, she wasn't. Every day her eyes dimmed a little more. She was becoming a zombie before my eyes, screaming inside. It took me far to long to realize that.

The nightmares were the worst. Like me, Renee talked in her sleep, usually it wasn't anything bad, not until I made Phil leave. When she slept she screamed, miserable, soulful shrieks that tore at my soul. She begged him to come back.

The day I came home to find her lying on the couch staring into space was the day I knew I'd royally screwed up. She looked as if she were dead, she was alive and breathing, but there was no life in her. She didn't hear me calling her name, begging her to get up. She stayed like that for three days, until Phil came back.

Watching her lying there, in a coma, I knew if something didn't happen she was going to die. The doctors came, they wanted to admit her to the hospital. Wanted to feed her with a machine, they talked about her like she was already gone. Which, in a way, she was. That thing lying on the couch was merely a vessel that housed my mother, Renee was trapped inside it somewhere, fading away.

I wasn't sure how to find Phil, but I knew I had to. I agonized over how I was going to do it. How did one find a 200 year old vampire, who wasn't supposed to exist and didn't want to be found?

In the end all it took was a simple phone call. He was there a day later.

He came home and Renee woke up. Even though she'd lost twenty pounds, and had seemed broken beyond repair, all it took was Phil to make her eyes shine again.

I wasn't surprised to see that Phil hadn't fared too well without her. He'd shown up wearing the same clothes he had on when he left, and he had the same look Renee had. Later, I'd monitored their conversation as he told Renee that he'd thought of himself as dead since he was changed, but that he hadn't truly died until the day he left her. It was nauseatingly romantic. Renee, of course, loved it.

I just shook my head and thought that if anyone on the planet was going to fall in love with a vampire it would by my crazy, unpredictable mother. That was the day Phil moved it with us. I didn't liked the idea of my mom's boyfriend moving in. Not because he was a vampire, I'd lost the ability to judge either one of them about that. I didn't like it because it was seriously gross. I loved her, and he was who she wanted, so I kept my mouth shut and let it go.

Renee, and Phil, seemed to recover almost instantly. Mom's weight went up, she started sleeping normally, -as long as Phil was with her- it was nearly miraculous. As long as she was with Phil she was herself again. It was like they literally needed each other to survive. Phil had said it was that way between mates, but until I saw the transformation his return caused, I hadn't truly believed it.

Everything went back to normal from there. Well, as normal as they can be with an immortal, vegetarian vampire, and a strangely talented teenager living under the same roof.

Our new version of lasted little more than a year. Three other vampires soon discovered Phil's relationship with Renee, and then things really got ugly.

In the beginning they simply wanted to kill Renee, Phil, and myself, in order to stop the Volturi from making an appearance.

The Volturi were the closest thing vampires had to a government. They made sure that vampires follow the one and only rule: Don't do anything that could expose us to the humans. The Volturi were incredibly powerful, and the only thing James's coven feared.

James was the leader of the coven that attacked us. He was also the vampire version of a big game hunter; in the vampire world he was called a tracker. Trackers had the ability to sense their prey through some unexplainable mental or emotional method.

In addition to being a skilled tracker, he was also a deranged psychopath who lived to hunt, and kill rare or difficult prey. When he discovered me, a human gifted with telekinesis powerful enough to fend him off, a unique kill unlike any other, he became obsessed with making me his next trophy.

The last time he attempted to do away with us, mom got hurt. I used my telekinesis as a weapon, and tried to defend Renee, I succeeded, until I lost sight of Laurent; the third member of James's coven. He attacked Renee before I could prevent it.

That was when I learned how strong my telekinesis really was; instead of trying to control it like I'd been forced to do my entire life, I let it go and allowed it to act on its own. I was directing it, but it was a force too powerful to be contained. Even by my rigorous control.

I hadn't ever experienced anything like that before, or since. In mere seconds it reduced Laurent to gooey, little, vampire pieces.

That was enough to cause James, and his bitch bride, to turn tail and run.

Unfortunately, I hadn't saved mom, she was wounded. It was so bad that I begged Phil to change her. He agreed, and the three worst days of my life followed.

Three days she spent screaming, begging to die. I'd never seen my mom like that before, in that much pain. It was worse than her zombie period. As much as I'd wanted to be there for her, there wasn't anything I could do. She couldn't hear me, and I couldn't ease her pain. The only thing I could do was watch her burn, and wait for it to end.

When she finally came out of it, she was different. The same person, just different somehow; and I didn't mean her new look or her new appetite.

Now, my mom and I weren't allowed to be near each other. New borns, as they were called, are notoriously famous for being volatile and savage; killing anything with a heartbeat. At least until they learned to control themselves, which wasn't even possible until after the first year, at least, sometimes taking up to ten years.

Being the typical newborn, Renee hadn't been able to control her thirst, and I couldn't be expected to defend myself every second of every day. So was sent to live with Charlie with the additional hope that James wouldn't be able to track me. According to Phil, I 'might' be a mental shield, and 'if' I was James's tracking ability 'shouldn't' work on me. The words 'might', 'if' and 'shouldn't' weren't big confidence builders, but they were better than nothing.

Phil was gifted, he could sense when a vampire was gifted, or if a human would be gifted when turned. Sometimes he could even tell how they were gifted. Apparently, he sensed something with me, but thought he could just be sensing my abilities. In his 200 years of un-life, he hadn't ever encountered a human like me.

I didn't mind going to live with Charlie, I actually wanted to. I just didn't want to leave mom to face all that alone. It went against my instincts, instincts it had taken years of care and supervision to develop. I knew this was the right choice, but it was still odd to walk away, and leave my mother in someone else's care.

I pushed that thought away, and focused on what I could do to protect Charlie, he needed me a lot more than Renee. Phil didn't think James would bother to search for me electronically. I wasn't so sure.

James knew who I was, it wouldn't be too hard for him to find out who my father was. If he looked for me in Forks, and I wasn't there, he would kill Charlie. I had no doubts about that.

I was hoping that if James came, and found me here, he would come straight for me, and bypass my father.

That's how I came to be sitting on a plane, desperately trying not to get irritated at a rather obnoxious flight attendant. It wasn't easy, I just wanted to be left alone. I needed time to think.

She stood a few feet ahead of me, waving both arms, while she emulated buckling a seat belt then pointing at me. I sighed and pressed my lips together, resisting the urge to call her the idiot she was so artfully portraying, and dutifully buckled my seat belt.

Really, I should be gaping in awe, this was a rare occurrence; few people could make stupid funny. I'd heard of them, but hadn't ever thought I'd ever seen one in person. I had always assumed they were like the abominable snowman: Widely considered to be either a hoax or simply a myth, and blurry, pixelated home videos were the only thing keeping speculation alive.

Then again, I'd seen a few things lately that were also considered to be mythical, so maybe the abominable snowman did exist? I'll have to ask Phil, I thought smirking.

I expected the flight attendant to leave when I buckled, but she wasn't done. She stuck her finger in my face and mouthed 'plane' very slowly.

I rolled my eyes covertly, and said "plane" as calmly as I could. She nodded vigorously, so I'd guessed right. Not that I'd actually had to guess, a three year old could outwit this mental Olympian.

She held her hand out and arrowed her finger towards it, slowly lowering it until it lay flat on her palm. If this girl had any sense at all, her finger was a plane and her palm was the land. She was trying to tell me that the plane was landing.

I slowly inhaled, thinking that I might as well help her out. Everyone in sight was staring at her like she'd lost her mind. If she'd even possessed one to begin with.

"The plane is landing?" I asked.

She nodded frantically, then turned and left. I grabbed my jacket from the seat beside, and crammed it into my face, before screaming softly in frustration. Normally, I wouldn't bother to hide it, but I didn't want to insult her. She was trying to be helpful, she just wasn't succeeding.

I should have been offended, but it wasn't her fault she was stupid. It was always irritating when people acted as she did, though they never mean it that way. The first thing that occurred to them was that I wouldn't know what they're talking about, so they went to extremes to make themselves understood. Explaining that I could read lips and had a cool, little device that translated spoken word into text for me was too much effort for someone I was only going to see once. So I just kept my mouth shut and tried to ignore them.

I sighed in earnest this time, as I closed my eyes and pressed myself back into my seat to contemplate what awaited me in Forks.

School would suck and I wouldn't fit in, although that was nothing new. I'd never fit in anywhere, a fact that hadn't ever bothered me. Until now, that is. If I was a stupid sheep like everyone else, it would help me to blend in, and become invisible that much sooner.

In a town as small as Forks anything new was bound to be of interest to everyone. The much absent daughter of the towns' beloved police chief moving home would be even more interesting. I would be a curiosity, a freak. Everyone would be curious, and everyone would gossip.

But that's okay, I told myself desperately. It won't last forever. In a few weeks everyone will get used to me, I'll become commonplace. I can fade into the background and ignore everyone like I did at my old school. It will just take a little time.

Friends weren't a luxury I could afford, my ability made that difficult. What if they discovered what I could do?

Not that I'd ever met anyone I truly wanted to be friends with, I hadn't. I'd never disliked the restraints my gift put on me, I didn't like the spot light, and was perfectly content to fade into the background, never to be noticed. It was were I was most comfortable.

Of course that's where Charlie came in. He'd pay me a lot of attention. Not directly, that wasn't his style. Instead he'd watch me, analyze my behavior and worry if I was happy.

It would be odd living with a virtual stranger. Even though I'd spent a month in Forks with him every year—except for last year when he vacationed in California with me instead—I didn't know much about him. What did he like to do for fun, besides watch sports and fish? Did he like to read?

Somehow, I think not.

It didn't seem like we had much in common.

On the plus side, Charlie was much more laid back than Renee. He wouldn't feel the need to hover or smother me with motherly concern. He would leave for work before I woke up, and I would get home hours before he did so, in a way, it would be like living alone. I was looking forward to that.

Jake would be closer so we could spend more time together. I'd always missed him terribly. Jake was the brother I always wanted, but never got.

Jake's father, and Charlie's best friend, Billy, was a Quileute elder who lived on the Quileute reservation just few miles outside Forks. Since Dad and Billy spent most of their free time together, so did Jake and I. We grew up together, and considered each other to be siblings.

I would also be able to drive my car a lot more. I smiled when I thought of my car, it was already there—a silver 1968 Mustang Fastback Eleanor. It was fantastic, it was my dream car. Phil bought it for me after I pitched a fit over one I'd seen in some movie. I'd accused him of trying to buy me, he'd simply laughed, and said that he just enjoyed spoiling his girls, which made me feel warm and fuzzy in a way I would never admit to. I was way too emotionally reserved to say 'I love you, too' so I'd just hugged him, and played with my car.

I was pulled from my thoughts when I felt my seat jolt beneath me. Though I didn't bother opening my eyes, I knew without having to look that the plane had landed. The passengers had all begun to move as one large mass. I could feel them standing, twisting and flowing, all in the same direction, with the same goal in mind.

I didn't move; instead waited for everyone else to leave first. I loved my telekinesis, but it was extremely irritating because I could not only control movement; stop any movement I want, and move things, I could also feel movement.

Normally it felt like a soft breeze brushing against my mind. It was nice, but very confusing because I felt everything, heartbeats, the motion of someone's lungs when they breathe, the movement of their arms and legs when they walk, their lips when they talk. Although confusing, it was usually very soft and understated. I had taught myself years ago to block it out, to ignore it.

I could usually ignore the breeze, the crowd was another story. It was like my telekinetic mind operated separate from the rest of my mind. Like it knew when I was feeling upset, nervous, or vulnerable and tried to protect me. I've had a few experiences where someone threw something in my direction, and my telekinetic mind reacted before my conscious mind even realized it was happening. It hadn't ever done anything that would expose me, the object would change direction or simply fall out of the air.

No one had ever attributed this to me, or anyone else for that matter. They merely thought it was weird, thank you God. Renee and Phil were the only people who knew about my gift. And I didn't tell them, Mom saw the evidence for herself as my ability developed, and Phil... Well, I showed Phil.

Actually, I'd thrown him through a wall, but a demonstration could still be called 'showing,' right?

I'd considered telling Charlie, but he wouldn't understand. He was happy with his life, his daughter, and his view of the world just like it was.

Jake on the other hand, would probably get a big kick out of it. But he was a kid, younger than me, and mentally he was younger than I imagine most five year old's to be. He might not react like I expected, what if he was freaked out buy it. I wasn't willing to risk it.

Other than that, the only problem with telling Jake would be explaining it. I didn't think he would fully comprehend how powerful it was, not to mention the accuracy. He would have trouble believing that I could distinguish between tiny, almost imperceptible differences in movement. It was accurate enough to identify people before I ever saw them simply because of the way they move.

Speaking of which, here came the in-flight entertainment. Why me? I thought. Wouldn't it have been kinder if, just this once, no one tried to help me?

Forgetting myself, and the fact that I had to constantly play the part of the weak deaf girl; I opened my eyes, looking directly at her. Her eyes widened fractionally, she obviously wasn't expecting me to know she was coming. I did give her credit, she recovered quickly, and came straight for me.

Sadly, she hadn't learned anything since her last performance. She stopped a few feet away and started waving her arms. She looked like one of those men who stand on the runway, with those glowing sticks, and direct the plane to land. Although, I was almost positive that was exactly what she was trying to recreate, it still looked ridiculous.

Sighing, I stood and grabbed my jacket from the empty seat beside me, and my carry on from the over head compartment. The second I turned around, my foot caught on the seat in front me.

I allowed my shield to protect me as I fell. Grateful for the security it proved when my forehead slammed against the armrest on the seat across the aisle. I didn't feel the blow, but I knew it wouldn't have been pretty if I had suffered it without my shield. I hit it too hard, and at the wrong angle.

I couldn't stop the blush that heated my face as I picked myself up and quickly straightened my clothes.

Once I looked presentable, I turned around to leave.

Standing there staring at me with wide, shocked eyes was the same flight attendant that had somehow managed to piss me off and make me want to laugh.

Studying her expression, I briefly flashed to a documentary the school had shown, during my sophomore year, about the hazards of reckless driving. I remember that it had featured a deer and a car, and that it hadn't ended very well. She had the same look the soon-to-be-dead-deer had just before he got turned into soon-to-be-sausage.

Seeing me move seemed to reassure her somewhat, "Oh my God. Are you okay?"

How to explain that I'm perfectly fine when I should be laying in the floor bleeding?

I rolled my eyes, trying to make light of the incident. "I'm fine, just a klutz. That isn't even the first time I fell today."

She didn't say anything, just glanced towards the seat I'd hit. Following her gaze, I saw that the armrest was plastic and severely cracked.

Oh, Crap, I thought, as I turned back to the flight attendant. Maybe she didn't notice.

I knew she had when I stared into her eyes. The wonder reflected in her gaze told me everything I wanted to know.

Yes, she knew, and yes, she was curious.

Hoping to escape before I could be questioned, I started walking towards the exit.

I'd spent a lot of time thinking of what would happen if someone was to discover my gift. The curiosity, the amazement, the desire, the thirst for power, the scientific implications, all these were things I'd considered.

It doesn't matter. If there is a risk of exposure follow the plan, cover your tracks and get away. Seems simple enough.

The name listed on the plane ticket was an alias originally intended to offer some protection against James tracking me electronically, now it would serve a dual purpose. Just in case she did say something about what she'd seen, which is unlikely, my flight information wouldn't lead back to me. Even if she found anyone willing to believe such an outlandish story.

Now, to get away. I tried to remember what had been said at the beginning of the flight. I couldn't recall anything about an emergency door in the back, so if I wanted out I had to get closer to her.

I ducked my head and let my hair fall around my face, hoping to obscure the fact that I didn't have a large bruise on my head. It wouldn't do any good to hide what I looked like; she'd seen enough of me throughout the flight, to recognize me.

"I'm really fine, a small headache, but it's nothing to worry about." I murmured. I didn't think her mind would automatically jump to the unexplainable. She was probably just worried that I'd suddenly dropping dead from a brain hemorrhage.

I glanced up as I neared her, and saw her lips moving.

"Are you sure? The airlines employ Emergency Medical Response personnel at every terminal. It would be a simple matter to have them examine you. You did hit your head pretty hard."

"Yes Ma'am, I'm sure." I picked up the pace and practically ran towards the exit.

When I reached the door, I looked back over my shoulder at the flight attendant trying to gauge her expression. Worry, and confusion seemed to be the dominant emotions. "This is my cue. Thanks for all your help," I said smiling my most blinding smile.

I didn't wait for a response. I didn't want her to relax enough to start questioning me, so I jumped the two feet to the ground, bypassing the little foldout stairs, and walking quickly into the nearest building.

Well, this is wonderful. Not that I could have changed anything. Without using my telekinesis to knock her down or something, my only options were to fall with or without the shield. The latter, wouldn't have ended well.

Once I got inside the terminal I saw Charlie, Billy, and Jacob waiting for me, and all thoughts of the flight attendant evaporated.

I shifted my duffel bag to the other shoulder and waved to get their attention. Jake was the first to see me, he used the back of his hand to swat Charlie on the shoulder. I watched his lips as he said, "There she is."

Reading lips was very cool. I didn't have to be within hearing range to tell what they were saying.

Jake was the first one to reach me. Probably because the second he finished that one sentence, he took off, sprinting the length of the terminal. The others chose to walk, like normal, sane human beings.

He skidded to a halt in front of me. I half expected him to fall over, he stopped so fast. He smiled and immediately started signing. The speed he used was impressive. He was almost as fast as I was, that was rare for someone who wasn't deaf or didn't live closely with a non-hearing person. "Hi ya, little sis."

I couldn't help smiling in return as I studied him, he'd really grown, at least a few feet since I saw him last. Other than that he looked just like I remember him, gorgeous russet skin, brown eyes, and a huge grin. "Jake you're huge! What have you been eating?"

He didn't answer. Instead he just smiled wider,—a feat that seemed impossible—picked me up, and swung me in circles. I laughed, I couldn't help it, I'd always loved merry-go-rounds, and I was childish enough to admit it was fun.

"It's good to see you too, baby brother." I felt him shake with laughter as he set me on my feet, grabbed my face in both hands, and leaned in, his face close to mine. I looked at his lips when he started speaking. "I. Want. To. Drive. Your. Car." He said each word slowly and distinctly. "Please?"

I laughed. "Yes. You can drive my car."

He hugged me again, tighter this time. "Jake... need... to... breathe." I felt his chest rumble and knew he was laughing at me again, but at least he put me down.

I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see Charlie grinning at me.

"Hey, Dad," I smiled, hugging him.

He pulled away so I could see his face. "It's good to see you, Bells."

"It's good to see you too, Dad." We hugged again, and quickly let go.

Next up was Billy Black. I remembered him very well, I nearly gagged at the memory of all the fishing trips I'd had to endure, and couldn't repress the shudder that memory always caused.

Billy and Charlie loved to fish. Even getting into a car wreck, and being paralyzed from the waist down hadn't stopped Billy. I doubt it would have stopped Charlie either.

"Hello, Billy."

"Hey, Bella." Even though Jake and I were like siblings, I'd never connected with Billy. In actuality, I didn't know him that well; so things were a little awkward.

Charlie waved his hand to get my attention. He wasn't any good at sign language so I always had to speak to him. It wasn't as bad as talking to strangers, but I still felt self-conscious and slightly nervous doing it. The only people I'd ever been comfortable talking to were Jake and Renee. I suspected it was because they were the only two people I really knew.

I turned to face Charlie again. "Yes?"

"We need to hurry." His face scrunched into an expression that could only be interpreted at disgust. "I've got a party to get too."

Charlie was going to a party? I couldn't fathom that, he hated parties almost as much as I did. "Why?"

He rolled his eyes. "The hospital does it every year. It's for everyone important in town, the hospital staff, the owner of Newton's Outfitters, the Mayor, the school principal, basically everyone. I'm the sheriff so I'm included in that, besides I'm obligated to go. Last year Mr. Newton got drunk and started dancing on the tables." He shook his head sadly.

I coughed to hide my laugh. "You wanna be my date?" The cough turned into choking.

"I... What...No!" There is no way I'm going to a party where everyone was a stranger, twenty years older than me, with my father. Ugh, each possibility was more terrifying than the last.

"Come on, Bells. I need an excuse to get out of there early." He looked like my mom when she was trying to talk me into one of her crazy stunts.

"Sorry, Sheriff, it's not gonna happen." I couldn't. They would all want to talk to me. I would have to talk back. No way, school was going to be hard enough. I could see him preparing his next argument, but I braced myself to be firm. I was not going to be talked into this.

Thankfully, Jake came to my rescue. "Bella, you can't go; I've got to go with Dad tonight. He's got a bachelor party to throw and, sadly, I'm not allowed. So I'll be stuck outside, in the car, for hours. Alone, bored, and looking like a loser. You've got to come. We can go see a movie while they party. Please Bella?"

I sighed. His expression was just too cute. Even if he wasn't throwing me a life-line, I wouldn't have been able to say no. Jake could do pleading puppy-dog eyes like nobody's business.

"Okay." I nodded vigorously.

Charlie rolled his eyes and groaned. "Where's your luggage? If I'm going to that stupid party I'm not going to be late." Petulant child was the phrase that came to mind, but I was way too smart to say it out loud.

I patted my carry-on. "This is it."

Billy blinked. "Is that all the luggage you brought? What about clothes?"

I laughed at his expression. "I've got two outfits in here. And everything else I'll need for the next two days. The rest of my stuff should arrive tomorrow."

Jake mock punched me in the arm, "Smart, little sister, very smart."

I rolled my eyes at him, "Smart for you Jake, common sense to everyone else." Charlie and Billy snickered, Jake glared.

Charlie grabbed my duffel. "Come on. Let's go." With that he turned and walked away. Billy quickly rolled after him.

Jake punched my arm, hard this time, and ran away with both arms wrapped around his head. Trying to protect it I imagine.

Good luck, I can wait for you to relax, I thought grinning.