"Don't worry, Leah. I'll heal pretty quickly. It just hurts for now, but I'll be fine."

Every nerve in my body was alert and at attention. The hairs on the back of my neck rose, and a shiver ran down my spine. That voice…was feminine. I thudded towards the sound, to the living room where they now were, without caring that I was making my presence known.

Leah and her visitor looked up, and instantly I caught sight of—of someone who should've been dead.


Chapter 12

It was a split-second analysis of her condition that made me furious. Forget the fact that she was supposedly dead, that I suffered for weeks, that she was inexplicably here. Her dark and wavy brown hair was matted with dirt and sweat and blood. She was barefoot, wearing tattered clothes, which, along with herself, were caked with blood and dirt and leaves. I wasn't even sure where the blood came from at that point—it had stopped flowing, at any rate. But the smell of it was in the air, in my mind.

Then there was Leah. She had been supporting Jani when they came in and, when I remembered that, I also remembered what they had spoken. I directed a growl at Leah, now knowing that she had something to do with this. Ignore the fact that Leah didn't seem a bit surprised Jani was back—she had hurt her. And this couldn't go unpunished.

"Embry, stop it," Jani snapped, bringing me out of my haze. I turned my eyes to hers, feeling something inside me seem to come alive. Even if it was angry. Jani gave me a sort of sharp look. She was defending Leah? Defending Leah? I glared back to Leah, who matched my look and even snarled. Jani placed a hand on her arm. "Leah, quit it, it's not worth it."

I snapped. I turned and stormed out of the house, heading straight for the woods, but exploding into wolf before I made it. Whatever. My chest hurt the farther I got from the house, so I stayed reasonably close. There was no doubt in my mind that it was Jani.

But she was so cold. What the hell had made her like that? Leah? I snarled and swiped my paws and sharp claws at tree trunks as I went, tearing bark from the trees. She had glared at me. Jani had narrowed her eyes at me. She looked defiant. She looked strong. Angry.


She had a right to be. I let her freaking die and failed her as a protector. And that, above all else, made me angry as heck. In fact, I wanted myself to suffer for letting her die. I should have died in her place. There was no doubt that she had died—at least, I didn't think so. I didn't care how she was alive, just that I had failed her and made her have to come back by her own.

I stopped, my mind pausing to digest all this information. She had died, hadn't she? Yes, she had—that corpse was real as anything. More so. The question was, how did she get back? She was alive, wasn't she? Certainly looked like it. But how? Things like that were impossible.

But so are werewolves and vampires.

My mind swirled with all these thoughts, conflicting and otherwise. I was dizzy and confused, so I tried to get my mind in order. That had definitely been Jani in Emily's living room—Jani, my imprint, my soul mate, my love. And she had definitely seemed alive.

So I gave a wolfy smile, and the pain and pressure that had been in my body for these few weeks lightened, just a tad. My baby, my girl, my love, my imprint—she was alive! I pushed out thoughts that told me I could've just imagined the entire scene. I needed to cling to this fragile shard of hope I had. I couldn't hope to begin to understand or dream up ways she could possibly be back. But the fact that she was back, now that I took that into my mind, made me yearn for her even more than I had for the past month. I didn't think that was possible. Yet, being only yards away from her, the pull was so much stronger, so much harder to resist.

There were conflicts, too, though. Would she still love me? She was cold in the living room… Not very much the Jani I had last seen. Then again, I was not exactly the same Embry she had known, either. Would she ever forgive me for letting her down? Would she ever trust me again? Part of me cringed at what the practical, self-sacrificing me suggested. Maybe I should stay away. Maybe it would be better for her. She could move on—find someone who could protect her like I couldn't. It was a disappointment that would haunt me forever.

Jani had always joked around with Paul—maybe he would be better. He was the best fighter of us all. He could take on any vampire. He could protect her.

The wolf in me—the wolf whose form I occupied—snarled and slashed at more trees in fury. I did not want Jani with Paul. He had a bad temper, anyways, and would end up hurting her with that and his chauvinistic ways. No. I didn't want Jani with anyone but me. Was that fair? No. Not really. Nothing better could be expected of me, though. She was my imprint. Although that was supposed to make her good for me, make me perfect for her, it was like a death sentence. She was forced to be with me, when she could do so much better—find someone safe, someone who could protect her.

I felt like I knew nothing about Janiya anymore. I felt like she was a stranger—I did not recognize her anymore. Not just her appearance—her persona seemed entirely different. I would not be able to know if she would want me or not, or if she would approve of this or not. Either way, Janiya was going to find herself a better…boyfriend…even if I had to force her to do so. I needed to give her space—I needed to stay away, for her own good.

Maybe I could just go see her…talk to her…and say goodbye…just a little…

I couldn't risk seeing her, indulging in her presence. I might get selfish—I might want to stay with her forever. Jani didn't deserve that—she needed better. I had to keep telling myself that. Every fiber of my being protested against the idea, but it seemed to me the most practical or logical. Then again, after the month I've had, I doubt I was the best judge of what was rational or not.

I shook my head, trying to clear my thoughts of Jani before they, along with the pain, overwhelmed me. I tried to think of anything that might be happening now, unrelated to her and Leah. As soon as I was struggling, someone phased and interrupted my thoughts. I focused on them, ignoring the thoughts I had. It was Sam and Quil. They were watching Jacob, making sure he didn't do anything stupid. Why? Where was he?

Bella's wedding, Quil answered. Seth's with us, too, but in human form.

What's going on, Embry? Sam asked, noticing my frenzied thoughts and that I was trying so very hard not to think of something.

Nothing, I replied, struggling to silence my mind. I focused on my surroundings. Leaf. Rock. Tree. Plant-whose-name-I-forget.

Embry, Quil interrupted my random train of thought, exasperated. That's distracting. We actually have to keep Jake from killing the guests, you know? There's, like, some other vampires from—where was it?—Alaska?

Embry, weren't you supposed to be helping Emily with something? Sam questioned. Crap-in-a-bucket—that's right. The tables. And chips. How did he know that?

Yeah, I'll be getting there soon, I murmured. Does Jake know he's having a party?

Not that we know of.

I mentally nodded and phased back. I wanted to be alone with my thoughts. What was going on? How was Jani impossibly back? She did die, didn't she? So how was she back? Maybe she was astral projecting or something. But she looked so solid, so real. And she wouldn't have been so bloody and dirty if she was a projection. Besides, didn't she once say that she would fade away and couldn't project if she was dead? The questions swam in my mind, each more perplexing than the last. They were like bees—no, they were wasps, stinging me repeatedly with the same frustrating questions. They refused to die.

So what was I supposed to do? Think, Embry, think!

I guess, before I did anything else, I had to get the tables and chips for Emily. She'd probably be pissed off that I hadn't brought them yet. But I had a good reason. So as I ran back, naked, human, to Emily's house, hoping I could find a pair of shorts or something outside, I took my time and thought about what to do once there. If Jani and Leah were still there, I would have to probably avoid them as best I could. That would be hard, because the closer I got to the house, the stronger the connection between Jani and I pulled at me, no matter how much I stalled. I tried to force down all the yearning for her. It was practically impossible.

So here I was now, in the woods outside Emily's house, searching the trunks for spare shorts. I almost ran the entire perimeter without finding any.

"Oh, come on, there's got to be at least one," I muttered, running a hand through my hair exasperatedly.

"You mean one of these?"

My heart hammered in my chest and I felt the urge to run—whether to her or away from her, I didn't know. I warily looked over my shoulder, finding Jani standing akimbo, a pair of navy cutoff sweats dangling from her fingers. I had to turn towards her, and I reached for them, but she moved back, her face stoic. It was odd. Here she was, after being missing or dead or something for nearly a month, and I was so off-balance. I think heat flooded my face when I realized I was nude in front of her, but she didn't blink an eyelash. What was going on? She wasn't like this—what had happened to her?

"Jani? Um. Can I have the pants?" I asked hesitantly. Jani frowned. I winced at the same time. Was she displeased with me? What did I do?

"Take 'em," she replied, tossing them to me, almost like dropping them. Somewhat embarrassedly, I turned my back and slipped them on, feeling at least a little better now that I was clothed, at least normally. Now that I was less concerned with my…um…appearance, I took the time to look over Jani. She was standing strong, and she no longer had dirt and blood coating her like a second skin. Her dark hair was clean and braided back, longer than I remember as it grazed her hip. Her skin was tanner than I remembered, too, and her eyes were sharp. She was wearing a ripped-under-the-bust tank top and cutoff sweatpants I figured were once Leah's—and, I noticed, she'd grown a few inches in height. How the heck? She was dead—I still couldn't wrap my head around this. It terrified me, yet I loved it. Standing in front of her now, my heart raced, hammering in my chest, and my muscles were tensed. I was nervous. Anxious. Excited. There was something different about her. Something stronger, wilder. Something dangerous.

I had to grudgingly admit to myself, ignoring the gravity of the situation, that it was hot.

"Well?" Jani said expectantly. I didn't get it. What did she expect?

"We need to talk." I frowned.

"No kidding."

"Jani, I'm so sorry," I whispered, taking a step towards her. She made no inclination to move, and nothing in her facial expression showed that she heard me, though her eyes were boring into mine. "I'm so sorry I couldn't protect you. It was my fault. I just—I was weak, and I failed you. I'm so sorry—like you'll never believe."

I hung my head, unable to look up at her any longer. But I really, really wanted to. I missed her unbelievably so. I ached to have her by my side. My heart wanted her. My body wanted her. My mind needed her. I needed her. I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder, and when I raised my head and saw Jani's face so close to my own, I almost had a heart attack—a good one, if there is such a thing. But she was so close. It only made me want her even more. I still needed to settle things—was she alive or wasn't she? Did she die or didn't she?

I barely noticed when her lips pressed against my forehead, lingering only a second, leaving a burning spot. She was warm—how was that possible? The list of inexplicable things only grew more and more with each passing moment. Jani stared at me, her mask still on but her eyes holding a flicker of emotion.

"There's nothing to apologize for," she said. I almost groaned internally. I got her killed, and she said there was nothing to apologize for? At least some things never change.


"A lot's happened in a short amount of time, Embry." Hearing her speak my name did weird things to me. I thought my heart pounded against my chest before—now, it practically shattered my rib cage. I clenched my fists to keep my hands from reaching for her. I bit my lip to keep myself from kissing her breathless.

I didn't know her that way anymore. And it killed me to think that.

"Jani, I love you," I blurted. Her eyes widened a fraction—the first hint of emotion I'd seen on her face today. For a moment, it looked like she was struggling with something.

Then she moved back minutely—I felt a sting of rejection. It happened so fast I didn't notice when she pressed her lips to mine and immediately pulled away and started running into the forest. I was still lost in my stupor as I pressed my fingertips to my lips, unsure about whether to felt overjoyed or depressed. Everything was hot and cold now.

And then I remembered Jani ran into the forest. I was up and running after her as fast as I could.

"Jani! Where are you?" I called out. Where could she have possibly gone? I kept following her scent, but it was so much more difficult than it would be if I was phased. But I didn't want to phase. Not to hear my brothers' voices, not to be unable to communicate with Jani once I found her. I heard rustling from ahead, so I ran to catch up with whatever it was. "Jani, please! What did I do? Did I hurt you? I'm sorry, alright!"

"You didn't hurt me," said a quick voice to my left. I snapped my gaze upward, where Jani was perched on a tree branch a few yards from the ground. She kept a stoic expression, but there was a crease between her brows that betrayed her discomfort—or confusion—or something. Jani was crouched on the branch, on the balls of her feet, with one hand gripping the bark under her. I took a few steps forward. She could fall—she could kill herself—again.

"Jani, what's going on? How did you get up there? Are you okay?"

"Embry, stop," she said. "I can't." Jani sighed. I continued forward, reaching the truck of the tree and looking up at her from the ground.

"Can't what?" I asked, getting a grip on the bark as I began to climb the tree.

"Embry, no—stay away—" Her voice trailed off, quivering. I knew she was about to break. That hurt me, a lot, but I also knew she did not really mean that she wanted me to leave. She loved me—and she told me she would love me forever. Why would now be any different? I didn't care about the details right now. I just needed to have her. So I climbed on up until I was sitting on the branch, only inches away from Jani, and she was looking down at the ground, her face contorted in sadness.

"Tell me," I said softly. "What's wrong? You don't look happy. I don't like you being not happy." I reached out my hand to her, and Jani looked at me out of the corner of her eye. She sighed again. Then she turned her body slightly, facing me, and frowned.

"I'm sorry," she whispered. My brows furrowed in confusion. What did she have to be sorry for? And then there were tears—Jani was crying. I reached for her and she nearly flew into my chest with surprising strength, her closed hands resting on my chest. She sobbed silently, and I wrapped my arms around her, relishing in the feel of having her with me, in my arms—having her home.

"Shh, baby, shh," I murmured, rubbing her back. I placed kisses on her forehead, on her cheeks—trying to make the pain go away. But that was kind of hard to do when I didn't know what was bothering her, where the pain was coming from.

"I'm so sorry, Embry," she breathed, looking up into my eyes abruptly. "I had to do it—they couldn't just…" And then she started shaking with repressed sobs. I felt a surge of anger. Who was they? I pulled her face up, gently, to look at me.

"Listen, Jani, it's okay…it'll be alright," I reassured her. "Tell me what's wrong." Jani trembled, then shook her head. "Ja—"

"No, Embry," she said, wiping her eyes. "I have to tell you all at the same time." All? Who did she mean by—oh, the pack. I nodded. Hopefully, I would get some answers. I was so confused by all of Jani's actions, and even more by her appearance. This was giving me a headache. I loved Jani, though, so much so that I would tolerate all this befuddlement just to hold her as I did now. I felt happy, in some weird way, and complete—for the first time in what felt like years. I hugged her tight to me and just focused on her breathing. She didn't argue. I breathed in her scent—it had changed… Another question to add to my list. But I was not going to think about them now—I just needed to focus on my imprint, my Jani. She was alive.

"What was that with Leah?" I asked her softly, running my fingers through her hair. I felt Jani tense in my arms.

"That's…part of what I need to tell you," she answered. "Leah kind of…caught me, earlier today. It was just her, so she's the only one here who knows."

"Caught you?" I was taken aback. It was pointless to even question these kinds of things in my head anymore. There were too many questions to keep track of.

"It'll make sense when I explain."

"When are you going to explain?"

"When everyone's together."

"Everyone meaning the pack?"


"Then we can go see them right now," I informed her. She suddenly looked nervous. I smiled at her, placing a kiss on her forehead. "It's nothing. There was going to be a small bonfire or something because Jacob returned and—"

"Jacob returned? Where's he been?"

"Well…he kind of ran away."

"Why?" she demanded, her tone fierce. It bothered me just a bit that she reacted this strongly to Jake's leaving. "Don't tell me—Bella-bitch?"

My mouth dropped open a little at the sound of the swear word rolling off her tongue as if it were nothing. Jani must have noticed, because she faintly blushed and excused herself.

"Yeah. Her."

"I knew she was gonna break him one day, didn't I?" Jani insisted, eyes fiery. "I told him, and what happened? Ugh. What'd she do now?"

"Long story short, she admitted she loved Jacob. But she's marrying—or, actually, probably already married—the bloodsucker today."

"That b—" Jani cut herself off. I had to admit, there were still so many things about this Jani that I was surprised by, and I was sure there were going to be even more. "I mean, that two-timing airhead! What's wrong with her?"

"Can we not talk about Jacob's messed up love life?" I deadpanned. Jani flinched at my tone. I sighed and played with her braided hair. It was getting wild and slipping out of its order. She still looked tantalizing, regardless. In fact, she probably looked even more amazing like this, all wild, than she would if her braid was perfectly neat.

"Sorry," she murmured. Then she shuffled out of my arms, and I began to panic.

"What are you doing?"

"Um, getting down?" She dropped from the branch, from my arms, to the ground below, landing in a crouch with a faint thud. Another question. I dropped to the ground, too, and followed her silently as she walked through the forest again, heading back to Emily's house.

Crap! Emily! I forgot the tables and chips!

I watched as Jani fluttered around, pacing back and forth. She was beautiful. Something had changed in her, but she was stronger. She was lovely. I found myself captivated by her more and more now that she was back.

"Embry?" She snapped her fingers in front of me.

"Huh?" Jani gave me a whimsical smirk.

"Funny. I asked if you think it's a good idea to just barge in on festivities like that."

"Hey, there's more to celebrate once they find out you're back," I told her, moving to stand behind her, my hands on her waist. Again, Jani tensed before she let herself relax. It bothered me a little, but I let it go.

"Then we'd better go before it gets dark," she said.

"I agree."

Neither or us moved, trapped in this moment. But we had to. She broke away from my embrace and headed outside. I went into the kitchen to grab the multitude of bags of chips that should have been at the bonfire long ago, only to find that they were gone. Leah's scent was here, so I was pretty sure she took them to the bonfire. Unlike some of the guys, she wouldn't really keep it all to herself because she was a werewolf with a massive hunger.

If she took the chips and tables, that means she took the truck. Great. But at least I would have a bit more time alone with Jani until she had to spill her guts to the entire pack. Maybe I could learn something about where she was. The questions burned in the back of my brain, and I really wanted to know where my angel had been.

Jani was outside, in the shadow of a tree in front of Emily's house. As I thought, the truck was gone. We would have to walk. Jani lifted away from the trunk and started off in the direction of the beach, as if she already knew where she was going. She might. I caught up with her and kept to her side, my hand reaching for hers.

But for some reason, I felt like I shouldn't. Like she didn't want me to take her hand. And those doubts alone were what kept me from doing so. Pathetic, I know. We walked the whole way in silence—somewhat tense, somewhat awkward, as if we had known each other days rather than the way we did.

When we got to the beach, it was a little before the sun set, meaning there was some light out. The bonfire was already up and roaring, though, and the pack was gathered around the food and eating standing up, just chatting. I immediately saw Jacob sitting alone on a log, glaring into the bonfire with his hands clenched tightly, his jaw set. Something went wrong. Moody Jacob was back. Now that Jani was near me again, I felt like I couldn't connect with how he felt anymore. I'd talk to him later, though. I took Jani's hand in mine suddenly and locked down at her just as her gaze snapped up to me in surprise.

"I'm so glad you're back," I whispered, brushing my lips across hers. She tried to smile, but I could see that it pained her. Why?

"So am I," she said. I smiled and led her to the bonfire, determined, but with a bundle of nerves in my stomach. The pack, and the other imprints, as well as some other people like Billy and Sue, were all eating and enjoying themselves. I saw Leah sitting with her back to a log—it was hard not to notice her; she was staring intently in our direction with an indiscernible mask.

The havoc began when people began noticing. As we approached, some werewolves looked up curiously, probably at Jani's and my scents being wafted in their direction by the light breeze. Some of them froze, and others had shocked expressions. I'm not exactly sure what happened, but there was a clamor in an instant and everyone's eyes were trained on us. Jani shifted nervously beside me as we stood in front of the others. They all openly stared at her. No one seemed to want to begin the conversation—it was silent. I saw Jacob glance over from his log out of the corner of my eye.

"…Embry…?" My gaze snapped to the voice—Quil. He was looking between Jani and I with an incredulous look. "What—? How—? Is—?" he stuttered.

Sam pushed through the pack and stood at the front, as the Alpha, directly across from us. He immediately looked to Jani, his eyes widening the slightest. He took a small step forward, and Jani ran and hugged him around the waist. Sam lifted the corner of his mouth slightly as he embraced her back. I frowned as I closed my hand, the one that Jani had let go of, bitterly.

"What is this?" Sam muttered. "You're—you can't be—"

"I know you buried me, Sam," she said, pulling out of the embrace with her cousin. Jani had a small, wry smile on her features. "Thank you. It was…very respectful." I winced. I felt like a ton of lead was dropped inside of me. A heavy weight burdened my heart for the moment—I should have been there when her body was buried. But I was too unstable…I still should've been there, though.

"How are you here? Is this you—are you alive?" Sam inquired. Jani bit her lip momentarily. She nodded.

"I am alive," she answered, somewhat blankly. "I am alive again."

"How?" He paused. "You—no, that's ridiculous. You're not a vampire. You're too warm—but…" You could practically see the gears turning in Sam's mind as he tried to work this all out. It was practically impossible, though. We didn't know anything. That bugged me.

"Jani, it's explanation time," I said.

"So that really is Jani?" called a voice. Suddenly, Jani was tackled by a little girl, who clung to her in silence. Tears ran down her face as Jani crouched down and placed a hand on the little girl's cheek. She smiled sadly and hugged her, wrapping her arms around the younger girl. That was Cali, Calindra, Jani's little sister. I'd practically forgotten her. I looked around for her werewolf companion—Seth, who had imprinted on her—and found him beaming as his imprint reunited with her sister. Cali was smiling, true, but for how long?

"Yep, that's Jani," Seth said as he crouched down, too, near Cali. He looked up at Jani for a moment. "Right? You are Jani?"

"She is," I supplied for her, and my lovely imprint glanced back at me before turning again to her little sister.

"Cali, honey, I'll see you in a short while—I have to talk to the big boys, got it?" Jani cooed to Cali. It caught me off guard for a moment—I'd never really seen Jani like this. She hadn't acted like that to Cali before—never that motherly, but like a sister. This image, this moment—it surprised me.

"Come on, Cal, let's go talk to Emily and Kim," Seth prompted. Calindra hesitated—she clearly wanted to be with her sister—but she eventually gave in as Seth carried her away. I could see them walk over to the other imprints, where Emily and Kim were watching earnestly.

"So?" Sam asked, managing to sound more respectful than impatient and curious. Jani turned back to him, but she was bit more rigid than I'd ever seen her. She looked like she was opposing all of us, like we were from an enemy tribe or something.

"Come on, Pipsqueak, no need to be shy," Paul called arrogantly, grinning. Jani shot him a sharp look and bared her teeth before catching herself in the act. There was a moment of confusion—what was that?

"Jani?" I whispered. She tried not to look at me, but I could tell she was panicking on the inside. I took her hand slowly and reassuringly. "Tell us the whole story, Jani," I prompted. The curiosity burned at me. Her eyes flickered around the now circle of werewolves around us; she was frantic. Jani blurted out one statement in her panic.

"I'm a werewolf!"

I have issues with this chapter... But on the whole, it's alright. I hope you enjoy it. The next one brings answers, which I know you all are probably frustrated about. I know, I know, sorry!

I'd love to thank my amazing reviewers. You know who you are. ESPECIALLY those who review every chapter or so. I loooove you guys the most, because I know I can count on your words of motivation.

Oh, and go ahead and review. As much as I love being favorite- and alert-added, reviews are probably more of a help because they give ideas, even if it's just your opinion of what happened. It helps give me a sense of what you take from the story and what you'd like or not.


PS: Some really good fanfics I've read lately include wolf-grl2008's Broken on the Inside, which is an EmbryOC, and Coming Home, which is a SethOC.