Story Title: Breathe Again by ysar
Chapter: 7. Reassurance
Genre: Twilight – Romance / Hurt/Comfort
Warnings: Strong Language, Violence,
Post Word Count: 3994
Status: Work In Progress
Summary: “If Alice hadn’t seen Bella cliff-dive, what would have happened? Would Bella have given in to her feelings for Jacob? Was she even capable of moving on? Victoria’s hunting, Edward’s coming back—and that’s just the beginning!”
I was probably holding Jacob’s hand a little too tightly as we walked out to join the others around the fire, but if he noticed, he didn’t say anything. Emily was laughing, flitting between guests and glancing back every so often at Sam, who was leaning against a tree just beyond the flickering firelight, eyes only on her.
The rest of the pack was grouped to one side of the fire, talking loudly and occasionally throwing things at each other. Boys will be boys. Or wolves. Billy had parked himself beside them; plate perched on his lap, clearly enjoying the food. Rachel, Jacob’s older sister, had come to visit, and she waved at us when we walked out, eyeing our clasped hands. Her copper skin glowed against the fire as she spoke softly to a group of girls I didn’t know. The occasional giggle floated above them as they snuck frequent glances at the boys. I wondered if they had any idea just how extraordinary those boys were.
“Bella!” Emily was calling me.
“Go on,” said Jacob, brushing his lips across my forehead and releasing my hand. He walked over to join the pack. I stared after him, marveling at his enormous stature, then turned to Emily and gave a timid smile as she approached.
“I take it you’re feeling better?” she asked.
“Then come on,” she said, tugging at my hand. “It’s a party—enjoy yourself!” She led me over to a rustic looking bench at the edge of the fire’s glow and we sat down.
“Don’t be so nervous,” she chided, playfully elbowing my side. “No one’s staring at you—except Jake,” she giggled. Jake was sitting in the ground and leaning back against a giant log, his long legs sprawled out toward the fire. He was watching me with soft dark eyes. Embry was facing him and gesturing wildly as he talked. Jacob nodded occasionally, but his eyes didn’t leave me. Embry looked over his shoulder and, upon seeing me, rolled his eyes. He grinned broadly at me before turning back and punching Jacob’s shoulder. The force behind his fist would probably put anyone else in a coma, but Jacob just shrugged him off, laughing.
I was beginning to relax. Jacob and I still needed to talk about some things, I knew, but it was hard not to enjoy myself in Emily’s company. I hardly noticed the scars that mangled half her expression as she began pointing out the guests I didn’t know.
“The one over there is Isaiah,” she started, nodding toward a man standing with Sam.
“Is he a…you know?” I asked, not sure if I should mention the werewolf thing.
“No, just lucky. It’s hard to believe he’s only nineteen,” she laughed. “His whole family is just as gorgeous as he is. He came with his sister, Maria, probably to keep an eye on her. But I think he’s too busy eyeing you instead. Too bad you and Jake worked things out…” she teased. He was tall and muscular, almost like the wolves, but he didn’t have that rough-around-the-edges quality that they did. He smiled, flashing perfect teeth, and waved at us. I smiled politely and Emily waved back.
“That’s Clay,” she said, indicating a lanky older man who was animatedly talking with Billy. He’s from a tribe north of here, but all the women there have tired of his tomcatting, so he’s been trying to work his charms on a few of ours. No one has the heart to tell him his reputation preceded him.”
“And that’s his daughter Meg.” She pointed at one of the girls sitting with Rachel. “I think she has a thing for Embry,” she laughed, as Meg tossed her ebony hair away from her face and snuck another glance toward the boys. “She’d probably have better luck with him if she hadn’t brought a bunch of other girls with her!”
“The two younger ones are Ellie and Julia,” she continued. They couldn’t have been more than thirteen or fourteen, but they were awkwardly trying to appear older. Jared glanced over in their direction and they both sat up straighter. One of the girls leaned over to whisper to the other, pretending not to notice when the wide neck of her blouse slipped down her shoulder.
“That one with the shorter hair is Laura,” Emily stated, pointing to a girl about my age. Laura was the one Paul liked, and I could see why. Her straight hair was cut to sweep just below her ears, and it shimmered in the firelight. Her large eyes were framed by thick black lashes, and when she smiled it was blinding. She had a kindness in her expression that made me instantly like her.
Just then the girl sitting next to Laura laughed and stood up. Now, she was breathtaking. I was instantly envious…and mesmerized. She walked smoothly, like flowing water, toward the wolves. Her hips swayed gently as her bare feet glided over the grass. Her long jet hair rippled across her back and over her shoulders. She was a midnight version of Rosalie, with a figure that put every woman around her to shame. Everything about her was perfect, from her pouting lips to her svelte waistline. She was wearing a long flowing skirt, slung low over her hips, exposing her bronze, perfectly sculpted middle. The hem wove fluidly about her slender ankles as she moved. A white blouse hugged tightly at her waist, swelling over her breasts, the tops of which peeked out over the low neckline, and the sleeves were swept off her shoulders, revealing smooth glowing skin. She was the kind of woman poets immortalized. This must be Maria, I thought, praying that the stabbing pain in my chest would kill me quickly.
I tore my eyes from her and saw exactly what I expected. Every male in the group was captivated by her. Clay was practically panting, never mind that he was far too old for her. The wolves were enthralled, drinking in her every movement. Even Billy had dropped his fork, unable to take his eyes off her. A group of younger boys that had been playing at the edge of the woods stopped their revelry and stared. Are they even old enough to like girls? Jacob was pretending not to notice, of course, as she slipped over to sit beside him, laying one perfect hand on his knee. She turned her luminous almond-shaped eyes to him, and smiled.
My throat constricted. I choked back a gasp and dropped my eyes to the ground, wishing it would just swallow me up before the hole in my chest ripped open again.
“He’s loves you, you know,” came Sam’s low voice.
When did he sat down next to me? And why is he being nice? “I know that,” I hissed, but there was no conviction in my tone.
“I don’t think you do,” he countered. “But if you could see inside his head like we can…” He was still talking, but his words were lost beneath the pain thundering through my mind.
I wanted to argue with him, but I was too busy trying to figure out how to curl up in a ball and disappear without anyone noticing. Not that they would notice. Not with her there. Why did Man-Eating Barbie have to want my boyfriend? Could I even call him that? We’d only been together, mostly fighting, for such a short time. We hadn’t had a chance to talk things through, hadn’t even discussed a relationship, so for all I knew, we weren’t even in one. He should have just let me drown there below the cliffs.
“Bella!” Jacob was calling me. I looked up to see his eyes were…puzzled? Emily nudged me, and I stood up, walking slowly to him.
I tripped twice on the way–over nothing, of course, but I wasn’t lucky enough to land in the fire and end my misery. When I reached him, he smiled and offered his hand— I took it weakly. He jerked me down so quickly I could barely contain a shriek. But he caught me before I could hit the ground and sat me down gently between his legs. He pulled me to lean back against him, his arms wrapping around my chest, and his lips grazed my ear.
“I’ve missed you,” he breathed. “You were with Emily so long I think Isaiah was getting the impression you’re available.”
I guess that answers the boyfriend question. I peeked across the fire at Isaiah, and his smile was gone. He nodded curtly then walked over and began talking with Sam.
Is Jacob jealous? I tucked my face down to hide a smile and placed my hand on his leg, my thumb absently tracing circles, as I wondered about that. Maria’s hand was gone, too, I noticed. I sighed contentedly and relaxed against Jacob. His lips skimmed over the back of my my neck then nipped at my ear. His arms dropped to my waist and one large hand slipped up just under the edge of my shirt, exquisite warmth trailing across my stomach. I gasped and wiggled against him. His hand on my stomach pressed hard, and he yanked my hips back against him.
“Bella!” he growled. “If you can’t control yourself…”
I started to giggle before I realized what had happened. Blood rushed into my cheeks as understanding dawned, and I shifted forward a little. It was a good thing no one could see what had been pressed against my back.
“I’m sorry Maria,” I heard him say, snapping me out of the moment. “I don’t believe you two have met. This is my Bella.”
My Bella, he’d said. Was I his? Had I stopped being Edward’s?
“Hello, Bella. It’s nice to meet you,” she said too sweetly. Her bright smile did not extend to her eyes as she looked at me with curiosity. Before I could respond, she rose quickly to her feet and walked off to rejoin the girls.
“I don’t think she likes you,” Jacob laughed.
“She seems to like you well enough,” I responded glumly.
He turned me sideways to look at him but didn’t release his tight grasp. “I guess that explains the tortured look you had over there. Jealous?” he asked, grinning.
“Nope,” I teased. “I’m sure Isaiah wouldn’t mind keeping me company if you’re too preoccupied.”
“Oh, I’ll show you preoccupied…” he smirked. He mouth found mine, his tongue parting my lips, while his fingers traced lightly over my stomach. Fire shot through my core. My heart sped wildly and a low whimper escaped my throat. I was gasping for air when he ended the kiss, a smug grin on his face.
“That’s not fair,” I whined.
Jacob was beaming. “Careful, Bells,” he teased. “I could show you ‘not fair,’ too, but I’m pretty sure Sam would come unglued.”
Oh, no! Sam! A deep blush burned my cheeks as I remembered how not alone we were. I sheepishly turned to see what kind of audience we had. Jacob just laughed and hugged me close.
The younger girls were whispering excitedly and stealing glances at us. I felt a twinge of shame as I thought about how completely inappropriate our little display had been. The older girls were another story altogether. Rachel was gaping at us, shocked. Laura looked envious, probably wishing it were her and Paul instead of Jacob and me. Maria didn’t look our way at all. I almost felt sorry for her…but not quite. With her looks, she could easily attract any number of boys–men even!–and I was still mad at her for going after mine.
I peeked over at the pack. Paul was laughing openly, and I had the feeling Jacob would never hear the end of his teasing. Jared was a little less obvious, but his hand over his mouth couldn’t entirely suppress his snickering. Embry was grinning mischievously and had no problem looking me straight in the eye. I turned away from him quickly.
Billy had his head down, still eating, but an odd smile played on his lips. I was a little surprised at first, but then I realized he probably didn’t have any interest in “protecting” Jacob from girls. It would have been an entirely different story if it had been Charlie sitting there.
Isaiah was ignoring us. I guess Jacob had staked his claim pretty clearly because it looked like whatever interest Isaiah had in me was history. Then there was Sam. He was staring at us intently, his mouth pressed into a tight line. I cringed and felt Jacob shift, his arms tightening around me. Emily was looking at me with concern. When I met her eyes, she paused for a second and stared hard at me, like she was trying to read something. I instinctively tried to press closer to Jacob but there was no room left between us. Suddenly Emily’s expression smoothed and she smiled. She turned back to Sam, speaking quickly in a hushed tone, and he relaxed a little. I looked back at Jacob and was surprised to find I couldn’t read his expression.
“You okay, Bells?” he asked.
“Um hmm,” I murmured, moving to snuggle my face against his neck. His hand moved slowly up and down my back, and I closed my eyes for a moment. We probably still needed to talk about some things, but it was getting late, and my day had been more than a little eventful. I didn’t have the energy left to deal with anything else, and I just wanted to enjoy being with Jacob. It had been way too long since I’d felt truly happy.
I took Bella’s hand and led her outside. As we got closer to the fire, her grip on my hand tightened, and I looked down at her. She was nervous, and I guess I couldn’t blame her. She was hanging out with a pack of wolves.
“Bella!” Emily called.
I didn’t want to part with her. I’d just gotten her back. But Bella wasn’t a crowd kind of person, and I knew Emily would probably help her feel more at home. I kissed her on the forehead and said “Go on.” She flashed a sweet smile before I turned to join my brothers.
I sat down on the ground, leaning against a log and watched Bella. She was sitting on a bench with Emily, and she was watching me, a shy smile playing about her lips. Embry was talking to me, but I wasn’t paying attention. I saw her eyes grow wide then felt a jarring pressure in my shoulder, followed by Embry’s laughter. The idiot had punched me! I shrugged and laughed, and Bella resumed chatting with Emily.
Emily was pointing at people and talking, and Bella was nodding her head. She seemed to be enjoying herself, so I relaxed and looked around. Isaiah was watching her a little too closely for my liking, but Bella didn’t seem to notice so I tried to ignore him. I wasn’t having much luck, especially when I caught her smiling at him.
“So, are you back among the living?” asked Embry.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked.
“C’mon Jake. You were like the walking dead without her,” he teased.
“That obvious?” I laughed.
“It was disgusting” he snorted. “All that and you haven’t even imprinted!”
The others chimed in, with lots of verbal jabs and some really terrible advice. I watched Bella out of the corner of my eye the entire time. So did Isaiah, but at least Bella was too busy talking to Emily to notice. I glared at him for a while, much to Jared’s amusement, but Isaiah didn’t even glance my way. I was about to go over and say something when Embry distracted me again.
“So what do you think of Meg? You think I’ve got a chance?” he asked.
“No?” he repeated, surprised.
“You smell like wet dog,” I chuckled.
“You’re one to talk! Five bucks says she kisses me before the fire’s out.”
“You have to talk to her first, moron,” I said, my eyes going back to Bella.
Her pale skin glistened in the glow of the fire, and her hair danced over her shoulders as she laughed with Emily. Even her eyes sparkled, reminding me of the bonfire where I’d first met her, back before either of us really believed that monsters existed. She was beautiful like this, when the pain she’d been in for so long was nearly gone. I wondered how she’d managed to get past it. I wanted to think I’d had something to do with that, but I couldn’t be sure. Whatever the reason, I was going to make sure she never went back to that dark, destructive place again.
I was tracing her name in the dirt when I felt a hand on my knee. Had she come to sit with me? I looked up and was met with disappointment. Maria.
“I was hoping I’d see you here,” she said, smiling.
“Why haven’t you come over and talked to me yet, Jake?”
“I’ve been busy.” Oops. That sounded rude.
“Too busy for me?” she asked, moving closer.
Uh-oh. “Ah, no.” Crap. I was too busy for her. But saying that would just be mean.
“It’s a little crowded here, don’t you think?”
“Not really,” I said, pretending not to catch her drift. “There’s someone I’d like you to meet.” Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the smoothest change of subject, but I was willing to do anything to get out before things got any more awkward.
I looked over to see Bella still sitting with Emily. Sam was beside her now. It looked like he was talking to her and Bella was staring at the ground, her shoulders hunched down. Something was wrong again. Was Sam upsetting her? Whatever it was, it had to be fixed. Now.
“Bella!” I called.
Sam and Emily glanced at me, but Bella didn’t budge.
“Bella!” I called a little louder this time.
She seemed dazed when she looked up. But then she stood and walked clumsily, adorably, toward me. She now looked terrified. I held my hand out to her, and pulled her down to sit with me. I held her close and wrapped my arms around her. She was tense, and I started to wonder if she was uncomfortable just being here…with me.
“I’ve missed you,” I whispered against her ear. “You were with Emily so long I think Isaiah was getting the impression you’re available.”
She rested her hand on my thigh. Her thumb began moving in circles on the inside of my leg, the effect of which I was pretty sure she wasn’t aware. I heard her sigh as I felt her relax against me. Whatever was bothering her was gone. But what was bothering me was still moving in circles on the inside of my thigh.
I kissed along her neck and let my teeth graze her ear, and she shivered. I couldn’t help myself. I slipped one hand just under the bottom of her shirt, careful not to move too high, and trailed my fingers across her stomach. Suddenly she gasped and wiggled against me, and it was all I could do to keep control. I pulled her hips back roughly against me, knowing she could feel me hardened against her back.
“Bella! If you can’t control yourself…”
She just giggled and slid forward a little. Bella wasn’t going to make this easy on me.
“I’m sorry Maria,” I said, not surprised that I’d forgotten all about her. “I don’t believe you two have met. This is my Bella.”
“Hello, Bella. It’s nice to meet you,” she said, with a cold smile. Then she just got up and walked away.
“I don’t think she likes you,” I said to Bella.
“She seems to like you well enough.”
That’s what was wrong. Bella had gotten the wrong idea. I turned her to the side so I could see her face and smiled. “I guess that explains the tortured look you had over there. Jealous?”
“Nope,” she said, smiling back mischievously. “I’m sure Isaiah wouldn’t mind keeping me company if you’re too preoccupied.”
This will be better than confronting Isaiah, I thought. “Oh, I’ll show you preoccupied…” and I kissed her again, slipping my tongue past her lips as my hand found its way back to her stomach. I had every right to torture her like she’d done to me. I stopped only when her breathing became ragged and she whimpered against my mouth. I hadn’t really even done anything, but I loved her reaction. I smiled down at her as she tried to catch her breath.
“That’s not fair,” she pouted.
“Careful, Bells,” I teased. “I could show you ‘not fair,’ too, but I’m pretty sure Sam would come unglued.”
Her eyes grew wide with panic and her cheeks blazed red. I laughed as she tucked herself against me. A bunch of the girls were giggling, and the look on my sister’s face was priceless. I couldn’t resist giving Isaiah a smug smile, earning a nice glare in return. Yes, everyone had noticed, but it didn’t matter. Looking down at her I knew that what mattered was that she was my Bella. And we were happy.
Then I felt her cringe and I looked up. Sam was watching us, and he was not pleased. I instinctively tightened my arms around her and shifted my position. I took my eyes off Sam for a second and saw Emily was looking intently at Bella…and she looked worried. Bella pressed closer to me. This can’t be good. Suddenly Emily’s expression changed and she whispered again to Sam, who relaxed immediately. I didn’t have to be phased to know what they had been thinking. They thought I was pushing Bella again, and I was not about to explain myself to them. Since when is Sam so concerned about Bella? I could certainly appreciate their earlier advice, but Bella was mine to take care of now. How could they think I was stupid enough to hurt her? I didn’t lessen my hold on her until she turned to look at me, her eyes filled with questions.
“You okay, Bells?” I asked, trying to hide my annoyance with Sam.
“Mmmhmm,” she mumbled, then she snuggled her face against my neck.
I was stroking her back and still watching Sam when I felt her breathing change. She had fallen asleep. I held her close, listening to her slow breathing, silently reveling in the moment. It felt like I had waited forever for her. Months of watching her with that bloodsucker, followed by months of watching her fall apart over him.
The Bella that had first shown up with the bikes had looked so lost and fragile. Her eyes had been empty, and her face had lost what little color it had. I hadn’t been exaggerating when I’d told her she looked like a little china doll. She had looked utterly breakable. She was skinny and frail, and Charlie had been beside himself with worry. Every time he’d talk to my dad he’d complained about not knowing what to do to help her. And he’d had plenty of names for the bloodsucker who’d made her that way. I didn’t understand how the leech could have left her. Why would anyone leave her?
But now she was almost herself again. When she laughed, it didn’t sound hollow anymore. And when she smiled, her eyes blazed again. She still wasn’t over him, or at least the pain he’d caused her, I knew. But she was mine now, and I wasn’t going to let anything hurt her—especially me. The leech had made a mistake in leaving her, but I was selfishly glad he had. I wouldn’t make that same mistake.