Chapter 8: Tracker
I gave a snarl as the three vampires emerged from the woods. The first male fell back allowing the other olive skinned, dark haired male to go forward, displaying who led the pack. The third was a woman with a startling amount of tangled, red hair.
As they approached close I noticed their gait was very cat-like and on the verge of slipping into a crouch. They were dressed in backpackers clothing with button-down shirts and jeans with heavy, water-proof fabrics. They were barefoot and their clothes were frayed with wear. Although the men had neatly cropped hair– the leader was down to his shoulders– the woman’s was a wild, tangled mess of orange with leaves and debris from the forest caught in it. She seemed to walk like a feline of some kind.
The first man flashed a smile at us but I never relaxed my stance. I stood with my arms crossed slightly in front of Bella and between Edward and Jasper. Jasper elbowed me in the ribcage and shot me a disapproving look. I dropped my arms and relaxed my pose as the vampires crept forward. They reminded me of lone animals that are approaching a big group of their own kind.
The man in front was the most beautiful; I could admit that. His skin was olive-toned underneath the paleness and his hair a glossy black. He was of a medium build, hard muscled but he was nothing compared to Emmett’s brawn.
The women was wilder, her eyes shifting between the men in front of her and the loose group crowded around Bella, her hair ruffling in the breeze. The second male hovered near her, his hand twitched towards hers. His light brown hair and regular features both nondescript. His eyes, though completely still, were somehow the most vigilant.
Their eyes were a deep burgundy red colour. I glanced at Bella to see her reaction. She gave a small shiver. I admit it did look scary; it made them look disturbing and sinister. That was how my eyes once looked.
The dark haired man then spoke. “I thought we heard a game,” he said in a relaxed voice, with a touch of a French accent. “I am Laurent and this is Victoria and James.” He gestured to the vampires behind him. Victoria gave a small nod of her head in greeting but James simply tilted his head, keeping a steady eye on Edward. I resisted the urge to growl.
Carlisle introduced us, calling us out in groups and not drawing attention to us. Bella seemed surprised that he called her name.
“Do you have room for a few more players?” Laurent asked sociably.
My father matched Laurent’s friendly tone. “Actually we were just finishing up. But we’d certainly be interested another time. Are you planning to stay in the area long?”
“We’re headed north, in fact, but we were curious to see who was in the neighbourhood.”
“No, this region is usually empty except for us and the occasional visitor like yourselves.”
I suspected that Jasper was using his gift to calm the situation from a tense atmosphere into casual conversation.
“What’s your hunting range?” Laurent casually inquired.
Carlisle ignored the assumption behind the inquiry. “The Olympic Range here, up and down the Coast Ranges on occasion.” I flashed him a disapproving look but he ignored me. “We keep a permanent resident nearby. There is another permanent settlement like our up near Denali.”
Laurent rocked back on his heels slightly. “Permanent? How do you manage that?” There was honest curiosity in his voice.
“Why don’t you come back to our home with us and we can talk comfortably?” Carlisle invited. “It’s a rather long story.”
Victoria and James exchanged a surprised look at the mention of ‘home’ but Laurent managed to control his expression better then them.
“That sounds very interesting, and welcome. We’ve been on the hunt all the way down from Ontario and we haven’t had the chance to clean up in a while.” His eyes moved appreciatively over Carlisle’s refined appearance and that’s when I realised what he just said. I opened my mouth in alarm but Esme shot me a look. I get a lot of those.
“Please don’t take offence, but we’d appreciate it if you’d refrain from hunting in this immediate area. We have to stay inconspicuous, you understand,” Carlisle explained.
“Of course,” Laurent nodded. “We certainty won’t encroach on your territory. We ate just out of Seattle anyway,” he laughed. I bit my lip to stop myself saying something I will most likely regret.
“Well, we’ll show you the way if you’d like to run with us– Emmett and Alice, you can go with Edward and Bella to get the Jeep. Shayla, you can get the bike and head with them as well,” he casually added as we started to head off. I watched James carefully as he stared curiously at Bella. I didn’t like the way he looked at her at all.
Then three things happened at the same time. One, Bella’s hair rippled with the soft breeze that came over us suddenly, two, Edward stiffened and three, James suddenly whipped his head around to face Bella, his nostrils flared.
Edward and I dropped into a crouch followed by the rest of the family who darted back. Esme pulled Bella back and Edward bared his teeth, a feral snarl ripping from his throat. I snapped my teeth together and gave a deep growl. Victoria leapt into a crouch beside James and I lined up in her view, blocking Bella from her line of sight. I gave a snarl and she responded with a hissing noise. I feel my hands shake and then my silver, lion-like claws burst out of my fingertips.
“What’s this?” Laurent exclaimed in open surprise but I merely hissed at him before baring my teeth menacingly like Edward. None of us relaxed our aggressive poses. James feinted to the side and Edward shifted in response. I flexed my claws menacingly.
“She’s with us.” Carlisle’s firm rebuff was directed at James. I could see Laurent had caught the scent less powerfully then James but awareness dawned on his face.
“You brought a snack?” he asked and he took an involuntary step forward.
I gave a loud growl and removed my gaze from Victoria. “She’s with us!” I snarled at him as I stepped forward, ready to rip him to shreds. Edwards snarled more harshly at him, his lip curling above his bared teeth. Laurent stepped back.
“We said, she’s with us,” Carlisle corrected in a hard voice.
“But she’s human,” Laurent protested, no aggressiveness in his voice, merely astonishment.
“Yes.” Emmett was very much in evidence at Carlisle’s side, his fixed eyes on James. James slowly straightened out as did Victoria and I but I could see that James’s eyes never left Bella, his nostrils wide and flared. I gave a small snort and bared my teeth again. Edward stayed tense like a lion by my side.
When Laurent spoke again, his tone was soothing– trying to defuse the sudden hostility I guessed, Jasper could of done a better job. “It appears we have a lot to learn about each other.”
“Indeed.” Carlisle’s voice was still cool and calm. How, I would never know.
“But we would like to accept your invitation.” Laurent’s eyes flicked between Bella, Carlisle and Edward. “And, of course, we won’t harm the human girl. We won’t hunt in your range, like we said.”
James glanced in disbelief and aggravation at Laurent and exchanged a look with Victoria whose eyes were still flickering eagerly from face to face before resting on mine. I glared at her, challenging her for look away. She in turn glared back, daring me to do what I was doing to her.
“Stand down Shayla,” Alice murmured from nearby. I gave an exasperated growl and at the same time, Victoria and I turned away from each other.
Carlisle, Esme Rosalie and Jasper were leading the foreign vampires across to the woods which led home. I followed the others, shielding Bella from sight to the other side of the woods. Not bothering to wait, I ran ahead, bouncing off the trees with Edward close behind followed by Alice and Emmett.
I got to the bike and turned to see Edward throw Bella in the back of the Jeep. Alice is in the front and Emmett in the back. I heard Edward growl a series of swear words and profanities before he got in the front seat and stomped on the accelerator.
I leapt on the motorbike and revved it angrily. I followed Edward and over take him as I think angrily to myself, knowing he would hear. I should rip their faces off!
But then, he turned away onto the highway, heading away from Forks. I missed the turn-off and shot past.
Idiot! I scream at him in my head. What the hell are you doing? Oi jackass!
I guess he didn’t hear me. I scowled and go faster towards home. When I get there, I skid my bike in, nearly hitting Rose’s car and sprinted into the house to find Rose, Carlisle, Esme, Jasper and Laurent.
“Shayla, where’s the others?” Rosalie asked as I skid to a stop in the lounge room where Carlisle was having a civil conversation with Laurent.
“Edward’s taking Bella away from Forks for some dumb reason,” I growled. “And I’m assuming Emmett is helping him, the idiot. Alice won’t go down without a fight, I bet.” I then realised only one of our new ‘guests’ is present. “Hang on, where’s Victoria and James?”
“I don’t know,” Laurent said sadly. “I believe James might start tracking the human and Victoria is helping him.”
“What the fu-” I start to say but Jasper puts a hand over my mouth to stop my swearing. I gave him a dirty look and he released me. “Hate you Jazz.”
He doesn’t smile for once. ‘What are we going to do about this Carlisle?” he asks Carlisle instead.
“I know what I’m going to do!” I ranted. “I’m going to rip James’s face off!”
“No Shayla,” Carlisle said. He had a firm grip on my arm. “I know you now consider Bella a member of the family and I also know how protective you are of us but for now we need to consider our options.”
“I see only one option,” I growled. “Kill him or let him kill Bella. Your choice Carlisle.”
“There are other options Shayla,” he said again, firm and calm. Esme glanced between us and Jasper placed his arm on my shoulder. I look up at him.
“You agree, right Jasper?” I asked. He doesn’t answer which bugs me.
“What are the other options?” he then asked Carlisle.
“We wait until Edward comes home and then we’ll figure it out,” he said, still calm.
“But that could take ages!” I protested. “Edward is stubborn! He would do what he thinks is best for Bella.”
Before anyone could answer me, I flip out my phone and speed-dial Alice. “Alice, what’s going on?”
“We are heading back now. Bella’s telling her father that she is going home to Phoenix. Jasper and I are going with her while Edward, Emmett and everyone else stays to hunt James,” she explained. She knows that I would know that James was a tracker.
“What do you want me to do? Protect or hunt?” I ask.
“Come with us, we’ll need you.”
I sigh. I wanted to hunt James. “Okay. Are you heading home now?”
“Yes. Shayla,please be careful and don’t go after him now.”
“I won’t,” I promised even though I was seriously considered it “I’ll see ya soon.”
“Bye Shay-Shay,” she hung up and I turned to the family. “You heard all that?”
They nodded and we stay silent for a moment until Rosalie decided to speak.
“Why should we help her in the first place anyway?” Rosalie asked. I give a feral snarl at her. Rosalie hissed back sounding like an angry snake. “She is causing nothing but trouble,” she hissed angrily.
“Bella is with Edward Rosalie,” I snarled, sneering her name slightly. “And I don’t know about you, but I protect my family. Even if it does so happen to include a human.”
Rosalie bared her teeth and sneered at me. I growled and bared my teeth back at her in return. She shifted into a crouch-like position, a sign that she may attack. Rose and I rarely fought, but when we did, it was horseplay just like I was wrestling with my brothers. But I had never attacked her seriously in an attempt to harm her or worse, tear her to shreds.
I don’t adjust my body to an attacking position. Instead I fold my arms and narrow my eyes at her. “I won’t fight you Rosalie.”
She glared at me and I glared back. “Why Shayla do you need to protect her?” she then asked.
“’Cause Edward would kill me if I wouldn’t. You know me Rosalie; I protect my family and friends– even if it means getting injured in the process or even killed.”
“You are willing to sacrifice your life for Bella?” she asked, quite surprised.
“Yes,” I simply say, bowing my head.
She seems to consider straightening up but instead she shifted forward. I shift into a crouch position, identical to hers. So she still wanted to fight eh?
“Stop it you two,” Esme cut in, her mothering voice on. “Fighting isn’t going to solve anything.”
“It might solve her attitude problem,” I murmured, knowing fully well that Rosalie would hear me.
She hissed again and gave me the ‘Ice Queen’ stare. “Shut up Shayla.”
“Make me,” I replied, rather immaturely.
“I’ll make you,” she snarls coldly. Carlisle and Esme glanced between us, wondering whether to intervene or not but they know that once Rosalie and I started to argue, almost nothing will shut us up. She was pigheaded and I was just as stubborn.
“Two words.” I give a smirk. “Bring it.”
Rosalie launched at me so fast that she’s a blur but yet, I still had time to sidestep her easily. Well not sidestep exactly, but rather leaping out of the way. She turned and snarled at me. I growled in response. She tried to leap at me again and that’s when I decide to infuriate further.
She threw punches and swipes at me which I dodged easily when I recite my favourite lines from the TMNT movie. “Funny thing about anger… Let it consume and soon enough…” I ducked underneath her outstretched arm and creep behind her, and whispered the next line near her ear. “You lose sight of everything.”
She swiped again, spinning around for me but I am behind her again, where I was standing from originally. She glared at me. “You are nothing but a stupid and immature smart-ass Shayla.”
“And you are nothing but a pigheaded bitch Rosalie,” I countered, dropping my smirk and baring my teeth slightly. This was one of the worst fights we have ever had.
We stared angrily at each other for a long time before Jasper intervenes. “Rose, Shay, stop it now! Fighting isn’t going to solve anything. Right?”
I nodded with my jaw tight. “Yeah, yeah, I guess. Sorry Rosalie.”
She flared her nostrils. “Sorry Shayla. And you’re right Jasper.”
I suddenly whipped my head around. I smelled Bella’s scent along with Edward’s, Alice's’ and Emmett’s. I also smelled James’s but his is further away. I snorted with frustration. “I can smell the tracker. His scent is sickening.”
“I know,” Jasper says softly. “Just don’t breathe.”
I hold my breath and the absolutely foul stench disappears almost completely. But the taste-like sensation stays in my throat.
The door flew open and Emmett raced in, clutching Bella. Edward and Alice soon follow. Laurent, who has remained quiet the whole time, rose from the couch. I heard Emmett give a grumble as he set Bella down beside Edward.
“He’s tracking us,” he announced, glaring balefully at Laurent.
Laurent’s face was unhappy. “I was afraid of that.”
Alice danced to Jasper and whispered in his ear; her lips quivering from her almost silent speech. They then flew up the stairs together. I decided to fly up as well. Not bothering to use the stairs, I ran towards the wall by the stairs, I ran towards the wall by the side of stair case and leapt, bound off it, grab the railing in one hand and propel myself over it. I ran into my room, almost breaking the door, and grabbed a backpack from my closet. I stuffed a change of clothes in there and headed back downstairs, slinging the bag over my back as I went.
Laurent was talking again. “Are you sure it’s worth it?” He was talking to Carlisle about Bella, no doubt. Edward let loose an enraged roar and I gave a furious growl. I also heard an angry snarl come from Alice as well. Laurent turned to look at me for a moment before cringing back.
Carlisle ignored me, Alice and Edward and turned and said gravely to Laurent “I’m afraid you have to make a choice.”
Laurent understood what he meant. He deliberated for a moment. His eyes took in every face, and finally swept the bright room.
“I’m intrigued by the life you’ve created here. But I won’t get in the middle of this. I bear none of your enmity, but I won’t go up against James. I think I’ll head north- to that clan in Denali.” he hesitated. “Don’t underestimate James. He’s got a brilliant mind and unparalleled senses. He’s every bit as comfortable in the human world as you seem to be, and he won’t come at you head on… I’m sorry for what’s been unleased here, truly sorry.” He bowed his head and I saw him flicker a curious look towards Bella.
“Go in peace,” Carlisle said formally and Laurent hurried out the door.
The silence didn’t last long.
“How close?” Carlisle asked Edward and me.
I sniffed, trying to pick up a scent. “By the river, about 3 to 4 miles out. The female’s is further away, around 5 miles away.”
I looked at Edward for conferment. Hr nodded at me and Carlisle. “He plans to meet with her.”
“What’s the plan?”
“We’ll lead him off; and then Shayla, Jasper and Alice will run her south.”
Edward’s tone was deadly. “As soon as Bella is in the clear, we hunt him. Shayla can run back if she’s like.”
“I guess there’s no other choice,” Carlisle agreed with his face rather grim.
“No, I think it’s better if I stay with Jazz and Alice,” I cut in, my face determined. Edward saw this and said no more, before turning to Rosalie.
“Go upstairs and trade clothes,” he commanded but she merely stared back at him with livid disbelief.
Bad move Edward.
“Why should I?” she hissed. “What is she to me? Except a menace- a danger you’ve chosen to inflict on all of us.”
I saw Bella flinched back from the absolute venom in Rosalie’s voice.
“Rose…” Emmett murmured, putting one hand on her shoulder. She shook it off.
“Shut up Rose!” I suddenly snapped at her. “You’re not helping!”
I turned to Edward, knowing of his temper. But he ignored her, and acted as though she hadn’t spoken, or even existed.
“Esme?” he asked calmly. Esme would, I knew she would.
“Of course,” my mother murmured and then she took Bella upstairs.
I could hear Rosalie arguing almost silently with Emmett. I rolled my eyes and pulled out my mobile. I hit speed dial for my Australian vampire friend, Matthew.
“What are you doing?” Carlisle asked curiously.
I put the phone to my ear before answering. “My friend Matt is in town. I want him to take my bike, so James will think it’s a decoy.”
I hear a Matt answer the pone. “What’s up Shayla?”
“Hey, Matty-boy, how’s it going? Listen, I need a favour. We got a small tracker problem and I need you to take my bike for a few days.”
He didn’t ask for details. “When?”
“I’ll be 5 minutes,” he promised.
“You know where our place is? It’ll be out the front,” I said as I ran out into the garage and started wheeling the bike out.
“Yeah, okay then. See you soon Shay.”
“Peace out bro,” I said as a goodbye. Matt and the rest of his friends, both boys and girls, were like adopted brothers and sisters to me while I stayed in Australia for a few months. I heard a small chuckle from him and then the line goes dead. I snapped the phone shut with a twist of my fingers.
“What now?” I asked when I run back into the house. Bella and Esme are back. Esme is in Bella’s clothes and Bella in Esme’s. Everyone was ready to leave and Carlisle was handing out cell phones to Esme and Alice. He was also was giving last minute instructions to Bella and Edward.
“Will they take the bait Alice?” he then asked Alice. She closed her eyes and became still.
“He’ll track you. The woman will follow the truck.”
“Will Matt be okay? On the bike?”
She nodded. “He’ll head back to his hiding place, a cave in the mountains. I see two girls and a boy with him.”
I think before giving a nod. “Ah… Maddy, Tiff and Theo. Theo is his best friend, Maddy is his mate and Tiff is Theo’s mate.” I turn away from her face and glance out the window, now worried. What if my friends got hurt because of me?
“Let’s go,” Carlisle walked toward the kitchen.
I walked there with them just as Edward pulled Bella to his side. He seemed unaware that his whole family was watching as he lifted Bella and kissed her with her feet off the floor. I glanced away, feeling uncomfortable and when I glanced back, he was gone along with Emmett and Carlisle. The others looked away from Bella as she had tears coming down her face streaking noiselessly. I walked over to her and held a hand on her shoulder, as gently as I could, to comfort her.
“Bella, it’ll be okay,” I whispered, even though I didn’t know if it would be.
She made no moment or sound to say that she heard me. The silence seemed to drag on before Esme’s phone rang. It was at her ear in a flash.
“Now,” she said. Rose stalked out the door, throwing a glare at Bella and I. Esme followed but lingered by Bella, her cold hand brushing her check.
“Be safe,” she whispered before turning to me. “Take care of her Shayla.”
“I will Mom,” I murmured. “I promise.”
She slipped out the door and we heard the truck thunder for a moment before slowly fading away. Then the roar of my motorbike was heard before it too faded away.
We waited. Alice’s phone rang and was at her ear before it seemed to ring. “Edward says that the woman is on Esme’s trail. I’ll get the car.”
I followed her and slid into the front seat. As it slowly backed out, I sighed and threw my head back. She shot me a questioning look while raising her eyebrows.
“I said it would be okay,” I mumbled. “I told her it’ll be fine. But what if it’s not, what if I’m wrong?”
“I don’t know,” she frowned. “There are a thousand decisions being made by everyone, it’s impossible to see.”
We stopped then and she ran into the house and returned with Bella in her arms. She slid her into the back seat before following and Jasper slid into the driver’s seat.
“Let’s go,” I said impatiently and we pulled out into the dark night, leaving the bright lights behind us.