Story Title: Breathe Again by ysar
Chapter: 18. Retribution
Genre: Twilight – Romance / Hurt/Comfort
Warnings: Strong Language, Violence,
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!”
If you haven’t already done so, read the short companion story LOYALTY before you read this chapter. It’s Embry’s POV regarding what he’s been up to and what’s about to go down.
I couldn’t say I liked being back at work, but at least it wasn’t a busy night. I suppose that wasn’t unusual for Forks, though. Of course, that meant I had to find things to do to keep myself busy. In a momentary lapse of sanity, I felt relieved that Mike was working, too, because it meant I had someone to talk with while I came up with busywork for myself. But then I realized he wasn’t even on the schedule, and the way he was following me around as I cleaned the display cases had me thinking of odd little things…like restraining orders and anti-stalking legislation.
Eight thirty came and went, and I was both relieved and disappointed to see no sign of Embry. Relieved because his behavior at my school had been disconcerting at best, and disappointed because I’d been looking forward to Jacob showing up early. I’d tried calling him again, but this time Billy said he wasn’t there. Maybe he was already on his way to meet me. At most, I had another half hour to go before being able to tell Jake how weird Embry was acting. But I could survive thirty more minutes…right?
“What are you doing after work?” Mike asked.
Then again, maybe another thirty minutes would kill me. “Going home, I guess,” I said. ‘Meeting my boyfriend!’ That’s what I meant to say!
“If you want, we could maybe go get something to eat,” Mike said hopefully.
“Ah…I really can’t, Mike. I’m supposed to—”
“Why don’t you two go ahead?” Mrs. Newton interrupted. “It’s so slow here tonight. I’ll be fine closing up.”
I opened my mouth to protest, but she gave me that ‘no arguments’ look and shooed us both toward the door. I grabbed my backpack and followed Mike. Great. Now I was going to have to stand in the parking lot waiting around for Jacob to show up. Mike was sure to try to take advantage of that.
Of course, I could have just grown a backbone and told him I had a boyfriend. I had actually been about to do just that when his mother said we could leave. But now I was having second thoughts. I knew that the minute I told him, Mike would have a million questions…not to mention opinions. And while it was really none of his business, I didn’t want to be completely rude to him. Even if he was annoying at times, he was still a nice guy, and on some level, I considered him a friend. But after Lauren’s little show the other day, I wasn’t looking forward to what he might say. I knew he’d disapprove, just like he had with Edward. Only now, he’d think I was dating a guy who was cheating on me with Lauren, and if I wasted any breath defending myself or Jacob, I would come off like one of those stereotypical girls in denial about her two-timing jerk of a boyfriend. No, I couldn’t avoid it forever, but I could certainly avoid it for now.
I started out the door and headed toward my truck, groaning inwardly when I heard Mike’s faithful footsteps catching up to me. “See you later,” I said. Take the hint, please!
“Sure you’re not hungry?” he asked.
“Sorry, Mike. I already have plans,” I said.
“I’ll just walk you to your truck,” he replied. “Girl…parking lot…alone…”
Yeah, sure he was just being chivalrous. I knew better than to believe that. This was Forks, where the worst crime to happen in the last century was probably a speeding ticket. And it’s not like Mike could provide any protection from the real dangers I knew lurked in the shadows. He didn’t look like much of a vampire-slayer to me. I was pretty sure I’d be just as safe walking to my truck alone.
“We could do something tomorrow night instead,” he offered.
“I really can’t. I’m sort of seeing someone.” There. I said it. Now I’d get to be even more uncomfortable while I waited. Hopefully Jacob would show up soon and save me from the onslaught of questions.
“Who are they?” he asked suddenly, stopping me short.
“Huh?” If I’d been paying attention, I would have noticed sooner. But I’d been looking at the uneven pavement, concentrating on not falling down for fear that Mike would see the need to catch me. But now I saw them. Just a couple of spaces away from my truck stood Quil and Embry, talking to Jessica. And not ten feet away from where I now stood, Lauren had her arms around Jacob.
This isn’t what it looks like. It can’t be. Jacob wouldn’t do that. Why is Lauren here? What’s Jessica doing with Embry? Crap! I have to tell Jake about Embry. Maybe it was nothing. It looks like nothing now. But Lauren and Jacob don’t look like ‘nothing.’
My thoughts were a rushing jumbled mess, and I couldn’t move. Jacob turned, his expression a mixture of surprise and relief as soon as he saw us. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mike step closer to me. Tell me this isn’t what it looks like, Jake.
I wanted to say something, but my voice was gone. I just stood there, dumbly staring, silently begging Jacob to walk away from her. And he did. He walked right up to me as Leah descended on Lauren.
“Hi,” he said.
Hi? I find you with Lauren and all you can say is hi? “What’s going on?” I asked.
“I have no idea,” he said, pulling me closer. Lauren was scowling at us. I breathed a sigh of relief and leaned my head against his chest. Whatever weird scenario was playing out, Jake wanted nothing to do with it.
And as long as we were on the subject of weird scenarios…“Embry came by my school today,” I said.
Uh-oh. “What did you hear?” I asked. Was he mad? Did he already know Embry was insane?
He smiled and said, “He has a death wish.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at that. I stretched up on my toes and kissed him, instantly forgetting about Embry’s weirdness, Mike’s stalking, and Lauren’s overall stupidity. It was supposed to be a quick kiss. After all, there were people around, and the whole situation was beyond strange. But Jacob wasn’t letting go, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted him to. I loved kissing Jacob, and if Mike got an eyeful at the same time…well, maybe now he’d take the hint.
I guess Lauren got an eyeful too, and it sounded like she didn’t like what she was seeing. I suppose it would have been childish to stick my tongue out at her, but I can’t say I wasn’t tempted.
“But she’s so…plain.”
Jake’s lips broke from mine so fast I swayed on my feet. Before I could even make sense of what was happening, he spun toward her and took a long stride in her direction. The rage rolled off him in waves, and I instinctively grabbed his arm, knowing all too well there was no way I could stop him if he really wanted to…what was he going to do? Whatever it was, I knew it wouldn’t be pretty.
“Jake,” I pleaded. “It’s okay. She’s just…like that.”
It was the truth. Lauren was just like that. She was mean and blunt, and in this case, absolutely correct. I was plain. My skin was sickly pale, my eyes were the most boring brown imaginable, my figure was…well, not much of a figure at all. Next to Lauren and Jessica, I just blended into the background. And Jacob… Jacob was just beautiful. There was no other way to describe him. He’d gone from a sweet, smiling kid to the kind of man you’d see shirtless and leaning over some beautiful woman on the cover of a romance novel. And I didn’t hold a candle to him. A girl would have to be blind not to notice him. No wonder Lauren was shocked. I was shocked myself, and I imagined it was just a matter of time before Jacob would realize he could get any girl he wanted. I felt uncomfortably like I had with Edward. Never quite good enough. Never quite deserving.
Oddly enough, Jacob stopped and turned back to me. Only now, I just wanted to go home and get away from the awful truth behind Lauren’s observation. I stood there for a moment, crossing my arms over my chest and trying to think of a graceful way to make my exit. But grace was never my strong suit, so I just awkwardly excused myself. “Ah…I should probably be getting home,” I said.
I stepped around Jacob and headed quickly toward my truck, only vaguely aware of Mike still standing behind me. I was so not looking forward to his questions now. I yanked open my truck door.
Damn Jake and his silent movement. He was right behind me.
“Hmmm?” I mumbled. Please just let me leave, Jake. I’ve had about all I can take for one night.
“Why are you way over there?” he asked as I turned around.
“I’m only a foot away from you, Jake. Where should I be?” Home. I should be at home, preferably having nightmares. That would be better than this.
He stepped closer and I felt the edge of the truck seat pressing into my back. I didn’t look like I’d be running and hiding any time soon. His fingers found my chin, raising my face so that I had to look at him, that perfect, amazing face reminding me of everything I wasn’t.
“Right here,” he said.
In spite of myself, I felt myself leaning toward him. Why did he have to be so irresistible? His arms were immediately around me, pulling me closer.
“You’re perfect,” he whispered, his lips claiming mine before I could say a word. And there it was, that effect he had on me. I was lost. I just had to be closer to him, had to feel him against me, had to taste him on my tongue. I stretched up toward him, my hands feeling their way up his chest, over his broad shoulders, around his neck. I felt his hands slide slowly down my back, skimming lightly over my bottom, and then gripping my thighs. Well, this is new.
Then suddenly I was being lifted, my legs pulled around his waist, and, whatever he was doing, I couldn’t bring myself to stop him. His mouth was rough against mine, his hands on my legs gripping tightly. He placed me on the edge of the truck seat, pushing me back away from him slightly, and a very bold side of me was disappointed at the distance. But he hadn’t stopped kissing me, and that was all that mattered. I finally had to come up for breath, wishing all the while that oxygen wasn’t such a necessity.
Overwhelmed, my head rolled back, and I felt his lips on my neck. His mouth, his tongue, his hot breath, all mingled together sending wondrous sensations through every nerve in my body. I tried moving forward, closer to him, but his hands on my hips held me still. I was gasping, craving more of his touch as he found his way behind my ear, down my neck, over my collarbone…
“I think you made your point!”
Oh my God. How had I forgotten we weren’t alone? My head snapped forward and I caught Jake’s eye. A small smile played about his lips, not smug, but happy. I couldn’t help but smile back. Who was I to care if there were people around when he made me feel like this?
“What’s your point, Leah?” Jake asked, his eyes never leaving mine.
“My point is that whiny boy’s in shock, and I’m not sure what to do with this,” she said.
I peeked over Jake’s shoulder, ignoring a stunned Mike, and I had trouble believing what I was seeing. Wow, Leah certainly wasn’t someone I wanted to make angry. She had Lauren pressed up against Jake’s car, nowhere to run, and Lauren looked like she was about to cry. For the first time I saw how truly frightening Leah could be. She was taller than most girls I knew, and there was no hiding her strength. Tensed, her arms showed off long sinewy muscles that somehow complimented her feminine build. Whether it was genetic, or just a result of growing up with a bunch of rough boys, I wasn’t sure, but she was definitely able to take care of herself. The vindictive side of me was happy to see Lauren knocked from her pedestal. The human side of me felt a little sorry for her.
I looked back at Jake, his eyes still on me, completely uninterested in what was going on behind him. I poked him in the chest. “I think you’d better turn around.”
Jake turned just enough to see what was happening. “Leave her alone, Leah,” he said, sounding a little annoyed.
“She’s not really as bad as she seems,” I added, not really sure if I actually meant it.
Leah stepped back slightly, and I took my eyes away from the unfolding scene, distracted by the much more interesting bare chest in front of me. Beautiful.
“Come on, Jessica!” I heard Lauren pleading.
I looked up to see Lauren already buckling herself in the car, while Jessica extricated herself from Embry arms. Embry? Oh, I so did not need to see that.
“Remember, you promised to call me,” Jessica giggled.
“He’s in trouble, isn’t he?” Jake asked me.
“I think so,” I laughed. Poor Mike had been suffering Jessica’s wrath ever since they broke up for the millionth time. Embry was definitely in trouble.
“Me? Trouble?” Embry asked. He tried to sound innocent, but the smirk on his face betrayed him.
Jake turned his body away from me, and facing Embry now he leaned back against me. My fascination with Jake’s chest was immediately replaced by a new, equally attractive set of muscles. Mmmm. Deltoids.
I scooted forward now, Jake’s hands no longer holding me back, and wrapped my arms around his chest. Leaning my chin on his shoulder, I peeked over Jake to see what was going on…and get my mind back to more appropriate matters.
“How about you tell us what just happened?” Jake asked Embry.
“How should I know?” Embry asked.
Leah spoke up. “Embry got everyone here. You two went at it in front of everyone—”
I felt my face turn six shades of red, and I briefly considered curling up into a ball and hiding behind Jake. We really had just put on a show for everyone, hadn’t we?
“What Leah means is that Newton here and Blondie won’t be a problem anymore. You can thank me anytime now,” Embry said.
I snuck a glance at Mike who was suddenly utterly fascinated by the ground at his feet. He looked up at me briefly, and I mouthed, “I’m sorry.” He shrugged and turned to leave. And I was truly sorry. I hadn’t appreciated his persistent attempts to get me out on a date, but I’d never wanted to humiliate him.
“Thank you? What the hell, Embry?” Jake asked, taking the words right out of my mouth.
“I know. I’m a genius,” he replied, grinning like the Cheshire Cat.
“You’re an idiot,” I said. I tried not to laugh, but I couldn’t help it. The last ten minutes had been one big well-coordinated disaster, and he just looked so proud of himself, like he’d just executed the successful takeover of a small country.
“I believe our work here is done,” Quil said theatrically. “So…you’re not gonna be needing your car, are you?”
“Why?” Jake asked.
“Well, there were these girls—”
Leah rolled her eyes and climbed into the car with Embry and Quil. The let out a few howls as they pulled away. Boys.
Jacob turned back to me then. “Now, where were we?”
Embry. What was his problem? We’d been friends our whole lives, and I knew he liked to cause harmless trouble, but kissing Bella? Was that really necessary? Knowing I was overreacting, I tried to shake the feeling, but it still lingered. Even if it was just a harmless peck, it bothered me. I knew he wasn’t really trying to come between us. Embry had an ego the size of the Grand Canyon when it came to girls, and if he was interested in someone, there was nothing subtle and on-the-forehead about it. Besides, he would never betray one of his brothers. So what was he up to?
He’d been trying to get me to do something about Lauren. Was there really something I was supposed to do? I knew nothing about her except her first name, so it’s not like I could call her up and tell her I wasn’t interested. Hell, the fact that I hadn’t asked for her number or even tried to find her should have made that clear. Maybe Embry was trying to make me jealous, like Bella had felt when she’d heard that ridiculous lie. But that didn’t make sense either. I saw how hurt Bella had been, and I knew she wouldn’t have wanted me to feel that way. Besides, why would Embry suddenly care about Bella’s feelings?
I was running through the woods, trying to make sense of it all, when I finally gave up. Embry had a way of scheming and complicating things that should have been simple. There was no point in trying to figure him out. The best thing to do would be to just ask him. Only I couldn’t do that until he returned my car…if he returned my car. He was a shitty driver. It was too bad we hadn’t been phased at the same time today. It probably wouldn’t have made much more sense, but I’d at least know what he was up to if I could have simply picked the thoughts from his twisted little brain.
When I came to the last patch of trees near Newton’s, I stopped and phased back. I immediately wished I had thought to bring a shirt, if not shoes. I didn’t mind waiting outside the few minutes until she got off work, but I didn’t want to just say hi and then call it a night. I’d hoped we could just hang out at her place for a while, but I knew it would irritate Charlie if I showed up shirtless. Of course, I had no problem with making Charlie uncomfortable, but I had the feeling Bella would. And after Lauren’s shit yesterday, and Embry’s today, I didn’t have the heart to put her through anything else, even if it was all in good fun. Maybe she would want to come back to my house instead. She didn’t really have a curfew, so as long as she called Charlie first, he probably wouldn’t mind. I’d just have to wait until another time to make the veins in his head pop out.
I stepped out of the woods and walked down the street toward the store. There were a few people hanging around at the other end of the parking lot beside an old white car and a red…my car. What the hell was Embry doing? If he’s waiting for Bella… My hands clenched into fists again, and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. Embry was lucky I had so much control over phasing.
Then I saw her. That girl from the beach, Lauren. It looked like she was throwing herself at Quil, who appeared to be desperate for an escape. Better him than me. Another girl was talking to Embry while Leah paced back and forth nearby. She looked like she couldn’t decide if she was bored or furious.
“Finally! It took you long enough,” Leah said as soon as she saw me. “I’ve been stuck here watching this,” she said disgustedly.
“Sorry,” I said. “I didn’t realize I was invited to…whatever this is.”
“Jake!” Lauren squealed, running up and hugging me before I had a chance to react.
“Ah…hi,” I said, trying to extricate myself from her grasp. Would I have been justified in just shoving her back about thirty feet? I was honestly considering it.
“Aren’t you happy to see me?” she asked, sticking her bottom lip out in a fake pout.
The second I stepped back she was on me again. This was going to be awkward or ugly…and I was leaning toward ugly.
I heard a faint gasp and turned to see Bella standing several feet away. She was just staring, and for once, her face wasn’t so easy to read. It was like a thousand different thoughts were flying through her head, but only one of them mattered at the moment. Hurt.
Newton was with her, and upon seeing me, he stepped possessively closer to her. When he reached over to put an arm around her, I couldn’t conceal a low growl. He immediately drew his arm back, but he didn’t step away. He must be suicidal.
“And why would he be happy to see you?” Leah snarled, stepping in between Lauren and me.
Okay, now I didn’t mind Leah’s bitchy attitude so much. I quickly stepped over to Bella, smiling a little to myself when I saw Newton nervously back away from her. He looked like he wanted to run away and hide, while she looked up at me with a hesitant smile and wide eyes.
“Hi,” I said quietly. How was I supposed to explain this? What the hell was I explaining anyway?
“What’s going on?” she asked. She was trying to hide it, but I could tell she was nervous.
“I have no idea,” I said, reaching for her hands and pulling her closer to me. We were just inches apart as the chaos played out behind us, but I didn’t want to turn around. I didn’t want to look away from Bella. She leaned forward and laid her head against my chest. I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding.
“Embry came by my school today,” she said.
Her head snapped up. “What did you hear?” she asked hesitantly.
I smiled. “He has a death wish.”
She giggled and stepped up on her toes to kiss me. I could feel Newton staring. Leah was laughing at Lauren, who was stuttering and tripping over her words now. Embry was probably just sitting back admiring his handiwork. God only knows what Quil was doing. But none of that mattered when Bella’s lips were touching mine.
She started to pull away too soon, but I held her tightly, silently refusing to let her go. I knew she was probably worried about having an audience, but this was one audience we needed. Newton would now know that she was mine. Later on, I’d find a way to let him know just what would happen to him if he had any trouble accepting that.
“Bella?!” I heard Lauren say disbelievingly. “But she’s so…so plain.”
I let go of Bella and spun around, all rational thought fleeing. Plain? She was calling my Bella plain? I wasn’t sure what I intended to do, but I took a step toward her, stopping only when I felt Bella’s tiny hands pulling at my arm.
“Jake, it’s okay. She’s just…like that,” Bella said.
She was using all her strength, digging her heels in, but other than the electric touch of her skin on mine, her grip had no effect at all. We both knew she wasn’t strong enough to stop me, but something in her voice was. I turned back to her and was heartbroken at what I saw. Defeat. Shame. Resignation.
She dropped her hand from my arm and crossed her arms over her chest, but something was different. She didn’t look like she was trying to hold herself together this time. Instead, she stared at the ground, self-consciously shifting her weight from one foot to the other.
“Ah…I should probably be getting home,” she said as she stepped around me and walked toward her truck. What the…? One minute she was laughing and kissing me, and the next she was walking away? She made no sense. Or did she actually believe what Lauren was saying?
“Bells?” I said, following her.
“Hmmm?” She stopped at her truck and opened the door, turning toward me instead of climbing in. Her head was down, but she was peeking up at me through her lashes.
“Why are you way over there?” I asked.
“I’m only a foot away from you, Jake. Where should I be?”
“Right here,” I said, raising her chin so I could kiss her again.
There was a moment, an almost unnoticeable second, when it felt like she would pull away from me. But in the next second she’d stepped forward, closing the space between us, and I pulled her against me.
“You’re perfect,” I whispered against her lips, and before she could argue I pressed my mouth to hers. Her lips parted under mine, her tongue slipping into my mouth. Her hands snuck up my chest and over my shoulders, into my hair. I felt her raise up on her toes again, and I slid my hands down from the small of her back until I was holding the backs of her thighs. She gasped into my mouth but didn’t pull away as I lifted her legs around me and sat her on the edge of the seat.
She clamped her legs around my waist as her hands flitted back over my chest. Charlie be damned, I was never going to wear a shirt again. My fingers dug into her hips, wanting so badly to pull her closer but knowing I would only get myself into trouble. I could feel her trying to scoot forward, and I wondered if it was instinct or if she was consciously trying to drive me nuts. But it didn’t matter. This was enough for now.
We finally broke the kiss, both of us a little oxygen deprived, and her head fell back, her neck begging for attention. God, she was beautiful. My tongue slid along her neck, down to her collarbone, along the top of her shirt as her breath became more and more ragged, her chest rising and falling rapidly just below my chin…
“I think you made your point!” Leah’s sharp voice came crashing into us.
Bella blushed and smiled, but didn’t let go of me. Her sweet brown eyes were large and sparkling. I couldn’t take my eyes away from her.
“What’s your point, Leah?” I asked, unable to sound as annoyed as I was. Bella had me under some kind of happiness spell.
“My point is that whiny boy’s gone, and I’m not sure what to do with this.”
Bella peeked over my shoulder and her eyes widened before she looked back at me. She poked me in the chest and said, “I think you’d better turn around.”
I looked over my shoulder to see a very nervous and clearly humiliated Lauren backed up against my car, Leah standing menacingly over her. If there was ever a girl that looked like she was capable of ripping someone’s throat out, it was Leah.
“Leave her alone, Leah,” I sighed.
“She’s really not as bad as she seems,” Bella added.
Leah seemed to consider her words, an evil smirk crossing her lips. Lauren cowed as Leah leaned in closer, whispering something I couldn’t quite make out. As soon as Leah stepped back, laughing, Lauren scrambled away, practically throwing herself in the passenger seat of the white car.
“Come on, Jessica!” she whined.
Jessica pulled herself away from Embry’s busy hands, giggling that he’d better call her. My eyes automatically rolled when he winked at her. She looked like the persistent type.
I looked back at Bella. “He’s in trouble, isn’t he?” I asked.
“I think so,” she laughed.
“Me? Trouble?” Embry asked, feigning innocence as the two girls drove away.
I turned around fully this time, leaning back against the seat, against Bella. She slid forward a little, her legs still around me, and wrapped her arms across my chest. She propped her chin on my shoulder, inadvertently pressing herself into my back. At least I hoped it was inadvertent. I tried not to react, but Embry saw my face and laughed.
“How about you tell us what just happened?” I asked before he could make some smart-ass comment.
“How should I know?” he asked, that mischievous glint never leaving his eye.
“Embry got everyone here,” Leah said, “You two went at it in front of everyone—” I felt Bella tense up, and Leah must have seen it, too, because she stopped mid-sentence. Had she finally grown a conscience?
“What Leah means is that the Newton kid and Blondie won’t be a problem anymore. You can thank me anytime, now.” Embry said smugly.
“Thank you? What the hell, Embry?”
“I know. I’m a genius.”
“You’re an idiot,” Bella laughed. At least she thought it was funny.
I glanced over at Newton. Had he been standing there the whole time? My eyes narrowed, and I was tempted to say something smug, but hesitated, worried that Bella would just think I was an ass. And then he looked up, taking in the image of Bella wrapped around me, and I saw defeat in his eyes. He scuffed his feet along the pavement as he walked away.
“I believe our work here is done,” Quil said with a grin. “So…you’re not gonna be needing your car, are you?”
“Why?” I asked. So far, both times I’d loaned Embry my car, it had somehow led to drama with Bella.
“Well, there were these girls—”
“Go.” At least they’d be out of our hair for a while.
They piled into the Rabbit, and I turned back around to face Bella. “Now, where were we?”