"You know Bella, Jacob?" Lauren asked—in what I imagined was an insolent tone—from across the fire.
"We've sort of known each other since I was born," he laughed, smiling at me again.
"How nice." She didn't sound like she thought it was nice at all, and her pale, fishy eyes narrowed.
"Bella," she called again, watching my face carefully, "I was just saying to Tyler that it was too bad none of the Cullens could come out today. Didn't anyone think to invite them?" Her expression of concern was unconvincing.
"You mean Dr. Carlisle Cullen's family?" the tall, older boy asked before I could respond, much to Lauren's irritation. He was really closer to a man than a boy, and his voice was very deep.
"Yes, do you know them?" she asked condescendingly, turning halfway toward him.
"The Cullens don't come here," he said in a tone that closed the subject, ignoring her question.
Tyler, trying to win back her attention, asked Lauren's opinion on a CD he held. She was distracted.
I stared at the deep-voiced boy, taken aback, but he was looking away toward the dark forest behind us. He'd said that the Cullens didn't come here, but his tone had implied something more—that they weren't allowed; they were prohibited. His manner left a strange impression on me, and I tried to ignore it without success.
Jacob interrupted my meditation. "So is Forks driving you insane yet?"
"Oh, I'd say that's an understatement." I grimaced. He grinned understandingly.
I was still turning over the brief comment on the Cullens, and I had a sudden inspiration. It was a stupid plan, but I didn't have any better ideas. I hoped that young Jacob was as yet inexperienced around girls, so that he wouldn't see through my sure-to-be-pitiful attempts at flirting.
"Do you want to walk down the beach with me?" I asked, trying to imitate that way Edward had of looking up from underneath his eyelashes. It couldn't have nearly the same effect, I was sure, but Jacob jumped up willingly enough.
As we walked north across the multihued stones toward the driftwood seawall, the clouds finally closed ranks across the sky, causing the sea to darken and the temperature to drop. I shoved my hands deep into the pockets of my jacket.
"So you're, what, sixteen?" I asked, trying not to look like an idiot as I fluttered my eyelids the way I'd seen girls do on TV.
"I just turned fifteen," he confessed, flattered.
"Really?" My face was full of false surprise. "I would have thought you were older."
"I'm tall for my age," he explained.
"Do you come up to Forks much?" I asked archly, as if I was hoping for a yes. I sounded idiotic to myself. I was afraid he would turn on me with disgust and accuse me of my fraud, but he still seemed flattered.
"Not too much," he admitted with a frown. "But when I get my car finished I can go up as much as I want—after I get my license," he amended.
"Who was that other boy Lauren was talking to? He seemed a little old to be hanging out with us." I purposefully lumped myself in with the youngsters, trying to make it clear that I preferred Jacob.
"That's Sam—he's nineteen," he informed me.
"What was that he was saying about the doctor's family?" I asked innocently.
"The Cullens? Oh, they're not supposed to come onto the reservation." He looked away, out toward James Island, as he confirmed what I'd thought I'd heard in Sam's voice.
He glanced back at me, biting his lip. "Oops. I'm not supposed to say anything about that."
"Oh, I won't tell anyone, I'm just curious." I tried to make my smile alluring, wondering if I was laying it on too thick.
He smiled back, though, looking allured. Then he lifted one eyebrow and his voice was even huskier than before.
"Do you like scary stories?" he asked ominously.
"I love them," I enthused, making an effort to smolder at him.
Jacob strolled to a nearby driftwood tree that had its roots sticking out like the attenuated legs of a huge, pale spider. He perched lightly on one of the twisted roots while I sat beneath him on the body of the tree. He stared down at the rocks, a smile hovering around the edges of his broad lips. I could see he was going to try to make this good. I focused on keeping the vital interest I felt out of my eyes.
"Do you know any of our old stories, about where we came from—the Quileutes, I mean?" he began.
"Not really," I admitted.
"Well, there are lots of legends, some of them claiming to date back to the Flood—supposedly, the ancient Quileutes tied their canoes to the tops of the tallest trees on the mountain to survive like Noah and the ark." He smiled, to show me how little stock he put in the histories. "Another legend claims that we descended from wolves—and that the wolves are our brothers still. It's against tribal law to kill them.
"Then there are the stories about the cold ones." His voice dropped a little lower.
"The cold ones?" I asked, not faking my intrigue now.
"Yes. There are stories of the cold ones as old as the wolf legends, and some much more recent. According to legend, my own great-grandfather knew some of them. He was the one who made the treaty that kept them off our land." He rolled his eyes.
"Your great-grandfather?" I encouraged.
"He was a tribal elder, like my father. You see, the cold ones are the natural enemies of the wolf—well, not the wolf, really, but the wolves that turn into men, like our ancestors. You would call them werewolves."
"Werewolves have enemies?"
I stared at him earnestly, hoping to disguise my impatience
"So you see," Jacob continued, "the cold ones are
traditionally our enemies. But this pack that came to our
territory during my great-grandfather's time was different.
They didn't hunt the way others of their kind did—they weren't supposed to be dangerous to the tribe. So my
great-grandfather made a truce with them. If they would
promise to stay off our lands, we wouldn't expose them to
the pale-faces." He winked at me.
"If they weren't dangerous, then why…?" I tried to
understand, struggling not to let him see how seriously I
was considering his ghost story.
"There's always a risk for humans to be around the cold
ones, even if they're civilized like this clan was. You never
know when they might get too hungry to resist." He deliberately
worked a thick edge of menace into his tone.
"What do you mean, 'civilized'?"
"They claimed that they didn't hunt humans. They
supposedly were somehow able to prey on animals instead."
I tried to keep my voice casual. "So how does it fit in
with the Cullens? Are they like the cold ones your greatgrandfather
"No." He paused dramatically. "They are the same ones."
He must have thought the expression on my face was fear inspired by his story. He smiled, pleased, and continued.
"There are more of them now, a new female and a new male, but the rest are the same. In my great-grandfather's time they already knew of the leader, Carlisle. He'd been here and gone before your people had even arrived." He was fighting a smile.
"And what are they?" I finally asked. "What are the cold ones?"
He smiled darkly.
"Blood drinkers," he replied in a chilling voice. "Your people call them vampires."