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Sundown, Part Three, A Companion Short to the Twilight Saga
Vampires. Surely not.
In the instant allowed to me, I studied the expressions of Sam Uley and Billy Black. They were serious. Worried, anxious looks crossed their faces, before they shielded themselves with masks of false calm. I decided to take precautions anyways.
“Girls,” I snapped over the cheerful chatter of the wolf pack, which had yet to notice anything was wrong. “Up in the air. Now.”
They could not refuse my order as the primary female of the flock. Rather reluctantly, with perplexed and annoyed looks on their faces, they got up and jogged to the other side of the house. A few seconds later, three monstrous hawks burst into the air. I whirled back to face the wolves.
“Now,” I said icily, “What were you saying about vampires?”
Mr. Black gave Sam a dark look, and rolled maybe half a foot forward. “Miss Cummings. I’m terribly sorry, but—”
I interrupted, “Save it!” much to my personal chagrin. “Answer my question, please.” I was beginning to see red.
It’s strange how fate works out. At that moment, the second the final word left my lips, two people ran out of the woods in the back of the yard. Melody let out a keening cry and began to dive.
“No!” Mr. Black shouted. “That’s my son!”
I twisted sharply, focusing on the black shape splitting down the sky. “Pull up!” I commanded. Screeching in anger, or maybe just irritation, Melody swooped up out of her dive. Her claws just barely raked the heads of the wolf pack, and they ducked as one, shouting in alarm.
“What the h*ll was that?” the new arrival yelled furiously. His voice was deep but young, and I couldn’t help but recognize it from my thoughts.
“Jacob Black, I presume?” My voice was like liquid nitrogen, freezing everything it touched before dissipating into silence. “Perhaps you would be so kind as to explain why you wish to bring vampires to this gathering?”
There was a stunned silence. I had yet to turn to see his companion, but I didn’t move from the spot I was at, slowly bending my legs, flexing infinitesimally for a leap straight upwards into the darkened sky. My vision sharpened, and my heart rate rose another six notches.
“All right, who told her about the vampires?” Jacob told off his flock angrily, giving them the Alpha version of rapping them painfully over the head with a yardstick.
I think it would be fair to say I “spazzed” at this point. With a completely embarrassing loss of control, my anxiety and anger burst through. So vampires were real. That wasn’t the surprising bit, I suppose. The surprising bit was that they would bring them HERE. Feathers sprouted from my skin, my skeleton warped, elongated, and hollowed—in the time it would take to wince, I had transformed back into the Red-Tail.
There was a beat of startled silence, both from the wolf pack, and my flock. It didn’t, unfortunately, last long. The reaction from the girls was hilarious laughter paired with annoyance at having to leave the (and I quote) *Hot werewolf guys.*
*Oh, shut up,* I muttered. They laughed, circling above me and the rest of the Quileute tribe. *How the h*ll am I supposed to change back now?*
Melody searched my memories helpfully. *Ask Leah for clothes?*
I snorted, *Right. That girl’s about as friendly as an angry cactus.*
*An angry cactus???*
“Miss Cummings, Miss Cummings, please calm down and let me explain. Can you do that for me?” Jacob walked forward on padded feet, lightly, gently, as though he was walking on a castle of cards that could collapse at the slightest miscalculation.
*Of course I can, you—* for the record, I know a lot of swear words, the accumulation of nearly nine centuries of continued existence *—and you have the gall to bring vampires here as well? I’ll—* Hannah, of all girls, contributed here splendidly, and I would have been shocked had I not been busy giving Jacob a hissy fit, complete with earth-shuddering hops and ear-splitting shrieks *—and you think I care?*
*Self-control,* Melody reminded me, and I cursed one final time. Digging my talons firmly into the concrete of the Blacks’ patio, I gave Jacob the predator’s glare to end all glares.
Jacob spoke, and the girl accompanying him crept up to his side, followed out of the trees by two more women and a man.
“These aren’t normal vampires—they don’t drink human blood.” He let that sink in for half of a second. “They only hunt animals. In fact, Dr. Cullen here has so much practice not drinking human blood that he works at the hospital saving lives every day! They’re not murderers or demons or anything like that, I promise. The Quileutes have a pact with the Cullens, one both sides have honored. We allow them to stay in the area so long as no humans are harmed. They even protect Forks FROM… normal… vampires.”
I’ll admit it, I was intrigued. Vampires, working at hospitals? The irony!
Jacob continued. “This here is my girlfri—er, my friend, Nessie, and she’s actually half-vampire and doesn’t even have to drink blood at all! Please, they’re no danger to you or your flock, I promise you that, and they’re scientists and everything and they want to meet you. Please?”
*That has got to be the dumbest explanation I’ve ever heard,* smirked Haley after a moment.
Hannah reminded me that I had yet to look at the new arrivals. She showed us an image of them. It was just like her to be looking at a completely different picture than the rest of us.
It was the sisters from the photograph! The younger had to be Nessie, although she’d aged maybe three or four years. The elder hadn’t aged at all, although she was a vampire, so I suppose this wasn’t all that astonishing. The third woman was small and petite. She had caramel hair, and looked like she wanted to give someone a hug. There was a heartbroken look on her face, as though she couldn’t stand the tension in the air. She was also pale, another vampire, I assumed. A male vampire stood protectively by her side, although he stared at me with a deeply fascinated look. He had blonde hair, and I pictured him wearing a white lab coat—oh yes, this one was a scientist. Probably the doctor Jacob had mentioned.
I held my breath, trying to block out the opinions of the girls—I needed to think. We knew nothing about these vampires. From their pale appearance and strange gold eyes, I had a feeling that these were legitimately the undead. Or at least the non-living. Could I dare to put my girls at risk?
But then… a whole new world was opening up at the same time. Vampires? What was to say there weren’t… fairies or trolls or something out there as well that we simply didn’t know about? Think of the things we two packs could learn from each other!
The two urges—caution and curiosity—were nearly overwhelming.
I asked my girls, *What should we do?*
The overwhelming response was *Stay!*
*Ignoring that,* I muttered to myself, which of course meant that every one of them could hear. I took a deep breath. Well, they hadn’t attacked us yet.
I cautiously leaned forward. The boy Quil, who happened to be in front of me, stumbled backwards and almost doused himself in ketchup. Carefully, I picked up a scrap of denim on the ground. Casting around a glance, I found the person I was looking for. I tossed the once-a-pair-of-jeans onto the ground in front of Leah. Aside from looking startled, she looked me straight in the eye, and nodded. Then she looked at Jacob.
“Give me a minute, Jacob,” Leah said from the other side of the arc. He waved an affirmative, still sneaking peeks at me as though he was afraid I was going to explode again. I rolled my enormous hawk’s eyes, and hopped carefully over to the other side of the house. Leah I heard running inside. There was the sound of a zipper, and the rustle of cloth.
*Girls, come on down,* I muttered grudgingly as Leah tiptoed out the front door. She watched with unabashed amazement as Melody, the twins, and I transformed down to our human forms. She tossed me the spare set of cut-off shorts and a tank-top. I dressed quickly, beating the current record held by Haley.
“Thank you, Leah,” I said gratefully. Then I lowered my voice, so quietly that only she and the girls could hear behind the house. “This is against my better judgment. Can you assure me that my girls will come to no harm?”
Leah nodded slowly, her beautiful dark eyes wide but serious. “They won’t hurt you. That’s all I’ll promise.”
I frowned, but said, “That’s all we can ask. Again, I give you my thanks.” Without waiting for an answer, I strode around to the patio. The girls fell into position behind me.
I walked right up to Jacob Black. I did not have to feign the condescension in my voice, the straightening of my spine, the paralyzing glare of the bird of prey that said, I may be in your domain, but this is my arena now.
“Jacob Black, we will watch, and we will listen,” I told him. My voice carried over the silence of the wolves, and the vampires moved for the first time. “That is all.”
The doctor grinned. The scared female breathed a sigh of relief. The elder of the sisters relaxed her obviously defensive position by half a notch. And the youngest girl, Nessie, let out a small cheer, which she hastily stifled by clapping a hand to her moving mouth. I battled wrathfully against the smile forcing its way out.
The wolves backed up as the blonde male vampire walked forward. It reminded me of the stories I’d heard of automatons from Greek myths—every movement was smooth, precise, and calculated. My chin rose as I estimated him.
“Miss Cummings,” he said in a voice that sounded like every other doctor’s in the world. “I’m Doctor Carlisle Cullen. Am I correct in saying that I would be the first to welcome you to Forks?”
I thought about it. “Yes. You would.”
He smiled. I saw the incisors, just barely longer than the average human’s. I saw his eyes, a strange shade of gold that was not as menacing as I would have thought. I saw the way the female with the caramel hair watched him protectively, and the way he seemed to place himself between my flock and her.
These vampires, I thought. They’re awfully human, aren’t they?
“Well, then,” Doctor Carlisle Cullen declared, the faintest traces of humor in his eyes. “Welcome to Forks.”