Story Title: Breathe Again by ysar
Chapter: 26. Quiet
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!”
I had to get up so he could pull the thin blanket over me, and then I slid to his side, resting my head on his chest. Much better than his pillow. We lay there in silence for a few minutes, both lost in our own thoughts, before he finally spoke.
“You weren’t scared,” he said quietly.
“Yes, I was,” I told him, rising up just a little so I could look at him. “I was terrified. I didn’t know what was happening and Seth said there were six—”
“I meant of me,” he explained.
“Of you? Why would I be scared of you?”
“When I was phased,” he said. “I was a…monster, and you weren’t scared.” He sounded ashamed and disbelieving.
“You weren’t a monster, Jake,” I argued. “Besides, I was just happy to see you safe. I didn’t even think about it.”
“And if you had?” he asked.
He sounded like he was scared of how I might answer, and I knew better than to tell him how I’d briefly wondered if I’d lost my sense of self-preservation. So I hesitated, choosing my words carefully before speaking. “You wouldn’t hurt me, Jake. I think I knew that.”
His arms wrapped around me more tightly, and he didn’t say anything. I lay my head back against his chest, listening to his heart thump beneath my ear. It was such a soothing sound, and I was suddenly reminded of Edward. He’d always loved my heartbeat. At least, I thought he had. Then again, I’d thought he loved me, too, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I quickly banished the thoughts from my head. I was with Jacob now. Jacob, who loved me and fought for me and protected me.
“But it was kind of weird,” I admitted. “Standing in middle of pack of huge wolves…”
“Only you,” he laughed quietly.
“I love you,” I said.
“Love you, too, honey.”
“But you did kind of smell like dog.”
His chest shook with silent laughter.
“Come here,” he said, just as I was beginning to fall asleep.
“Huh?” I was here. How much more ‘here’ could I get than practically lying on top of him?
“Up here,” he said. “I believe I owe you a kiss?”
“You sure do,” I laughed. I raised myself up a little, not sure how I was supposed to do this. Stand up and lie back down in the right place? Crawl up?
Before I could decide, his hands were under my arms, pulling me up until I was looking down at him, into his eyes. I relaxed against him and lowered my mouth to his.
It was easy to forget about vampires and werewolves and the rest of the world when we were like this. “Goodnight, Jacob,” I whispered.
“Oh, no, you don’t,” he said, pinning me against him.
I laughed and tried to pull away even though I knew it was useless. And when his fingers tangled in my hair and pulled me in for another kiss, I was only too happy to comply.
Jacob was always so gentle with me, yet at the same time so different from the way Edward had been. Our kisses always started out slow and sweet, and even when they didn’t develop into quite the make out session we’d had in the parking lot at Newton’s, I always felt something deeper, something more passionate underneath. I didn’t have to question Jake’s attraction to me. I didn’t have to wonder if I was the one with the problem, always pushing for just a little more. I knew where I stood, what we had. Unfortunately, I also knew we were in a house full of people who could walk in on us at any second.
As soon as his arm loosened its hold on me I slid down a little, kissing my way from his lips to his neck to his chest. It was no wonder Lauren had tried so hard to get his attention. He really was amazing.
“Hmmm?” I said, feeling his muscles tense and relax beneath my lips.
“What are you doing?” he asked, his voice just a raspy breath.
“Getting comfortable,” I said as innocently as I could. I kissed his chest and wrapped my arms around him, then slid back to my spot beside him.
I slept soundly…too soundly, actually. I drifted back into consciousness feeling warm, even a little sweaty, and there were strange noises coming from close by. And the smell of something burning.
My eyes flew open, failing to register my surroundings as I looked around frantically. But Victoria hadn’t come back. It was just Rachel and Paul making a mess of the kitchen. I pushed myself up and away from Jake, picking at the t-shirt that was now sticking to me.
“Come back,” mumbled Jacob sleepily, pulling me half on top of him again.
I pushed away again, planting a quick kiss on his lips. “Nope,” I laughed. “I think I need a shower.”
“No, you don’t,” he insisted, refusing to let go of me.
“Ah…I’m all sweaty,” I said. “And I’m pretty sure it’s your fault.”
He opened one eye and looked me over, his eyes lingering a little too long. I crossed my arms over my chest and stood up.
“You look fine to me,” Jake said, a playful glint in his eye.
“Shower,” I repeated, backing toward the hallway.
“Oh, thank God!” Paul said loudly. “Bella, you’ve gotta get in here. Betty Crocker here is trying to burn the house down!”
There was a loud slap as a spatula made contact with Paul’s head.
“Shut up! It’s not like you’re any help,” Rachel said angrily.
“I’ll get the fire extinguisher. Is that helpful enough for you?”
“Give me five minutes,” I said quickly.
Perched on the grab bar above the tub were a generic bottle of shampoo and a bar of soap. That was it. And that just wasn’t going to work. I looked under the sink, and was relieved to find Rachel’s stash of toiletries. It’s not like I needed an entire salon’s worth of products, but with my hair, conditioner was a must.
I made quick work of my shower, not wanting to linger too long in case someone else needed the bathroom. One bathroom at home wasn’t too bad since it was just Charlie and me, but I couldn’t imagine what mornings were like with three (probably more like four if Paul was as permanent a fixture as I thought he was) people jockeying for bathroom time. I toweled my hair mostly dry and pulled it up into a ponytail, and then I was stuck. I needed to brush my teeth, but of course I hadn’t thought to pack a toothbrush when I’d left for work the night before. When I’d stayed at Emily’s, she’d actually had a new toothbrush, still in the package, for me to use. I had the feeling that wasn’t going to be happening here. Finally, I settled on just putting some toothpaste on my finger and doing the best I could. At least I wouldn’t have morning breath.
I eyed the t-shirt I’d slept in. It didn’t look dirty, but there was no way I was putting it back on when I’d just cleaned up. And I hadn’t thought to grab my clothes from yesterday. Crap. I wrapped the towel tightly around myself and just prayed that I didn’t fall down on the way to Jake’s room.
“Careful!” Jake warned as I made my way toward the kitchen.
“What happened?” I asked.
Jake was fumbling with a broom and dustpan, sweeping up a wet mess of broken glass.
“Damn glass slipped,” he muttered. “I think I got it all, but…” he trailed off and quickly looked me over. “Good,” he said. “You’re wearing shoes. But I liked you better in just the shirt.”
I’d dressed in my jeans from the day before and stolen another one of Jake’s t-shirts. “I’m sure you did,” I laughed as he stepped over the mess and pulled me into a hug. “Now let’s get some breakfast before we’re late for school.”
“Oh, yeah, school’s cancelled today,” Jacob said. “Charlie called.”
“Oh,” I said. “Well, I should probably be getting home then.” I really didn’t want to. After all, I did have the day off now, but I probably need to at least make an appearance with Charlie.
“Nope,” Jake said smugly. “You’re staying here until Charlie comes by tonight.”
“But—” I began.
“Official orders from the police chief, Bells. You’re stuck with me,” he said with a big grin.
“Dammit!” Paul exclaimed from the kitchen. “You’re gonna kill us all!”
“You’d better get in there,” Jake said, nodding toward the kitchen.
“Are you sure it’s safe?” I asked, only half-jokingly.
I shrugged and headed into the war zone.
“What can I help with?” I asked.
“How about cooking lessons?” Paul asked. “Ow!”
This time Rachel forgot about the spatula and just hit him with a skillet.
“What’s that?” I asked, pointing to the charred remains of God knows what that were stuck to the skillet.
“It was supposed to be eggs,” she huffed, glaring at me.
I quickly put Rachel to work doing things that did not involve the stove top, and though she seemed less than thrilled with my directions, she didn’t argue. She chopped and whisked and mixed, but at no time did she go near a burner. Paul was stuck with dish duty, something he complained about loudly. Occasionally I looked away from the food I was preparing, only to be met by Rachel’s dirty looks. Whatever her problem was this time, I was determined not to let it affect me, and in no time we had more than enough food.
Just as we were starting to plate everything, the front door opened, and Billy wheeled himself in.
“Smells good,” he said in his usual quiet way.
Jared was right behind him, and within seconds everyone but me was seated somewhere, at the table or on the sofa, stuffing their faces. The mood was unusually somber, not awkwardly so, but quiet nonetheless. It seemed the playful banter I’d grown used to was at a minimum.
“Okay,” I said, breaking the silence. “So what really happened last night? Do you know anything more yet?” Without Sam around, I felt a little more comfortable asking questions.
“From what we can tell, she started fires around town to distract everyone,” Jake said. “Embry was closest, so he headed to your house, chased her off before Charlie even noticed. Don’t look like that, Bella,” he said, and I tried to mask the fear that I’m sure was on my face. “We were with him the whole night.”
“Who were the others? Was it a new coven?”
“Don’t know. They didn’t seem like the other bloodsuckers…you know, the Cullens,” Jared replied.
“Well, the Cullens were…unusual,” I said tentatively. I looked around and was surprised there were no glares or growls. Everyone simply looked…interested. So I continued. “They consider themselves a family, and I guess you know they don’t…um…hurt people. The others I met seemed more like…drifters? Not really settled or even very civilized.” I stopped then, not sure what else to say.
“They were disorganized and kind of wild…and young,” Jacob explained. “Maybe it was the thrill of the hunt, but it just didn’t seem right.”
“Yeah, the red haired one grabbed another one and threw him toward us when we were after her, like she was sacrificing him or something,” Paul added.
I bit back a gasp, unable to imagine any of the Cullens ever putting one of their own in danger. If anything, each one would have sacrificed himself before letting another be hurt.
“But she got away,” I said quietly, mostly to myself.
“Yes, but that doesn’t mean she’s coming back. We burned her arm, and it’s not like they grow ‘em back, so she’s weakened. We might not see her again for a long time.” Paul sounded confident, and I tried to believe him. I just couldn’t.
“But that doesn’t mean she won’t be back. I just have to sit here and wait. I can’t…I can’t just live my life, I always have to wonder…”
“Well, maybe if you hadn’t associated with bloodsuckers in the first place—” Rachel started accusingly.
“Rachel!” Billy growled.
She had the good sense to look chastised, but Billy didn’t stop there.
“Bella is one of us, now,” he said sternly. “You said so yourself. Now, the pack is responsible for protecting people—all people—and that includes your brother’s girlfriend, the daughter of my very good friend. You are an imprint, you will behave like you are worthy of that title, and you will accept what comes with it.”
No one said a word. Billy calmly lifted another bite to his mouth and continued eating his breakfast as if nothing had happened. Rachel looked like she was about to cry, and Paul just looked embarrassed. The tension was actually painful.
Jake dropped his fork and walked over to put an arm around me. It was such a simple gesture, but it was enough. I looked up to smile weakly at him, and he brushed his lips against my forehead.
“Aw, geez. Can’t you two ever quit?” Quil stood in the doorway, a mischievous grin on his face. He was quickly distracted by the smell of breakfast. “Wow, Bella. Giving Emily some competition?”
“Hey, why do you just assume it was all Bella?” Rachel asked defensively.
“Because you can’t cook, that’s why,” Paul jabbed.
“Oh, thank God!” The door opened, and Embry walked in, eying the food appreciatively. “Emily didn’t cook and I’m starving!”
“You could always eat at home, you know,” I laughed. There was a sudden hush, and I could feel them all looking at me.
“No, I couldn’t,” Embry replied with a wink as he grabbed the plate I was holding.
I looked over at Jacob, who smiled adoringly at me, and I was relieved when the chatter started back up again. I turned back to the kitchen to make another plate for myself, and the front door flew open again. This time it was Seth and Leah, followed by Sam. I gave up on my own breakfast for the moment and just made plates for all of them. They were taking this pack cohesiveness thing a bit far.
When I finally had everyone served and had a chance to sit down with my own plate of food, there was a knock at the door. I counted off the pack in my head. They were all here, so at least no one else was expecting me to feed them. Besides, whoever it was didn’t have “walk right in” privileges.
I shoved a bite of food in my mouth. I’d just made breakfast for everyone and barely seated myself. There was no way I was getting up to answer the door. Rachel shrugged and pushed back her chair. She opened the door just a few inches, and from where I was sitting, I couldn’t see who it was.
“Who the hell are you?” she asked the visitor.
“Is Embry here?”
I’d know that nasally voice anywhere. Jessica.
There wasn’t much room on the sofa, but we made it work. I pulled her on top of me, and then she slid over to my side a little, her head resting on my chest and her leg slung over mine. I wished we could lie like that every night.
Neither of us said anything for a few minutes. I couldn’t get over how lucky I was. Bella had amazed all of us with her reaction when we’d come home. Not only had she shown no fear of us, but she’d actually come running, wanting to be close to me even when I looked like I’d just stepped out of a horror movie. I’d seen the look on my sister’s face. She knew exactly what Paul was, and even acted a little too proud that one of the pack had imprinted on her, but when faced with the reality of it, she’d practically turned green.
“You weren’t scared,” I said.
“Yes, I was,” she replied. She raised her head to look at me. “I was terrified. I didn’t know what was happening and Seth said there were six—”
“I meant of me.” Of course she’d been scared while we were gone, and in true Bella fashion, scared for us instead of for herself. But she hadn’t been afraid of me.
“Of you? Why would I be scared of you?”
“When I was phased. I was a…monster, and you weren’t scared.”
“You weren’t a monster, Jake,” she argued. “Besides, I was just happy to see you safe. I didn’t even think about it.”
“And if you had?” I asked. Surely if she’d taken just a second to think about what she was doing, she would have turned and run the other way. I knew what we were. And even though Bella knew as well, it didn’t mean she had to just…embrace it the way she did.
“You wouldn’t hurt me, Jake. I think I knew that.”
She was simply amazing. I didn’t care what anyone else said. Imprinting was nothing compared to what Bella and I had.
“But it was kind of weird,” she finally said. “Standing in middle of pack of huge wolves…”
“Only you,” I laughed, remembering the looks on everyone’s faces, the thoughts in their heads when she’d come running across the yard to us.
“I love you,” she whispered.
“Love you, too, honey.”
“But you did kind of smell like dog.”
We lay there for a moment, both of us quiet. I was grinning, and I would imagine she was too. Even after the night we’d had, everything was perfect when we could just be together.
“Come here,” I said.
“Huh?” she asked, sounding confused.
“Up here,” I said. “I believe I owe you a kiss?”
“You sure do,” she laughed, lifting herself up a little.
I hooked my hands under her arms and pulled her higher. What I wasn’t counting on was the feeling of her body sliding up mine. Maybe the sofa wasn’t so safe after all.
Her hair fell down around us as she hovered over me, her lips softly touching mine as her legs slipped down on either side of me. I had a bad feeling she was just naïve enough not to realize she was actually straddling me. I probably should have said something, but I really didn’t want to.
“Goodnight, Jacob,” she whispered against my lips.
“Oh, no, you don’t,” I said, wrapping one arm around her waist and pinning her to me.
She giggled and playfully struggled to get away until I wove one hand into her hair and pulled her face back down to mine. I loved hearing her laugh almost as much as I loved kissing her.
Her lips were so soft. Everything about her was soft…gentle…sweet. And, God, the way she kissed me. There weren’t words to describe the feel of her, the taste of her, the rush of her breath and the tiny sounds she made.
She broke the kiss and I sighed, glad that she was happy and safe and lying with me, and knowing it was going to be a very long night. And then I felt her lips on my neck.
“Hmmm?” she murmured as she kissed her way down to my chest.
“What are you doing?” I teased.
“Getting comfortable,” she replied impishly as she slid herself down.
Her hands slipped beneath my open shirt and she placed a kiss in the center of my chest before rolling to my side again and snuggling against me. She sighed contentedly and yawned.
It wasn’t long before Bella drifted off to sleep. We’d both had an impossibly rough night. But as wiped out as I was, I had too many reasons to stay awake.
At first, it was just that she was there, pretty much lying on top of me. As innocent as it may have been, it didn’t feel innocent at all. It felt like every breath she took pressed her closer to me, and it seemed that sleeping Bella was created just to torture me. I could feel her breath against my neck, and occasionally her hand would wander over my chest. And then there were the dozen or so times she curled even closer, drawing her knee up just enough to…um…get my attention. Each time I shifted and slid her leg back, and each time she waited exactly long enough for me to get comfortable before she did it again. I was about to wake her up when she started talking.
At first, it was just mumbling, although I did make out my name a couple of times. But her words progressively got louder and clearer, and it became apparent whatever she was dreaming about scared her.
“Come back…” she murmured.
“I’m right here. I’m not going anywhere,” I whispered, wrapping my arms more tightly around her.
I hadn’t had a lot of experience with Bella while she was sleeping, but I’d thought my being with her would at least lessen her bad dreams. It seemed I was the subject of this one. I waited for the nightmare to subside, but it only seemed to get worse. She said the leech’s name, and then she started begging me to wake up. Her body tensed, and she pulled her arms back to curl them to her chest. And then the tears started.
“Bells? Honey, wake up,” I said, shaking her gently.
“Mmmm…Jake,” she mumbled, curling back up to me.
“Bells?” I asked, not sure if she was really awake.
She quieted again and for a while her sleep seemed peaceful. And then it started again.
“Jake…” she said. “Victoria…no…” she practically sobbed. Her breathing sped up and her hands curled into fists. “Please…don’t go.”
“Bells,” I said, shaking her a little more roughly than I should have.
“Huh?” she asked, groggily raising her head. She didn’t open her eyes, and I realized she didn’t even know she had been dreaming.
“Shhhh. Go back to sleep, honey,” I said, rubbing her back.
“Love you,” she mumbled.
“I love you, too.”
The sun was beginning to rise before I finally fell asleep. After what seemed like only a few minutes, I felt Bella trying to sit up.
“Come back,” I said, trying to hold her to me.
She got up anyway, kissing me and laughing. “Nope,” she said. “I think I need a shower.”
“No you don’t,” I argued sleepily.
“Ah…I’m all sweaty?” she said like it was a question. “And I’m pretty sure it’s your fault.”
I made the mistake of opening my eyes then, and what a wonderful mistake it was. My t-shirt was of course way too big on her, but I don’t think she could have looked sexier if she’d tried. Her hair was all messy and her skin was flushed, glowing with the thin sheen of sweat she was complaining about. And it was just enough that the shirt refused to hang loosely. It wasn’t what I would call revealing, but it definitely accented curves Bella normally didn’t show off.
“You look fine to me,” I said, trying to pull my gaze back to her face.
“Shower,” she insisted, backing away before I could pull her to lie down with me again.
I heard Paul yelling from the kitchen, begging Bella to save us all from my sister’s attempts at cooking, and I lay back down as Bella hurried off to the shower.
Between the sight of Bella standing before me in a clingy t-shirt and my imagination going wild now that she was in the shower, it only took me a few seconds to figure out there was no point in trying to get anymore sleep. It probably didn’t help that Rachel and Paul were turning cooking into a contact sport.
Groaning, I finally gave up and dragged myself off the sofa.
“Rough night?” Paul laughed as I walked into the kitchen.
“Shut up,” I grumbled.
I poured myself a glass of water and leaned up against the counter. Rachel looked over with a raised eyebrow. “Nightmares,” I said.
“I knew she wasn’t okay with it,” she said.
“The wolf thing. She’s not like us, Jake. Did you really think she’d just accept you, fur and all?”
“Oh, you’re one to talk,” I countered. “Standing there with your mouth hanging open.”
“Well what did you expect? That was the first time I ever saw you guys. But at least I didn’t have nightmares,” she said snidely.
“For your information, her nightmare wasn’t about me. It was about the leech.”
“Sure it was,” Rachel said dismissively.
“Don’t mind her,” Paul said. “She’s just jealous because Bella knew everything.”
“She didn’t know everything,” Rachel argued.
“Whatever,” I said.
Paul shrugged, and I decided to take my drink and go into the living room. Just then I heard the bathroom door open, and I looked up to see Bella scurry down the hall wearing nothing but a towel. The next thing I knew, I was surrounded by broken glass and Paul was laughing again. I stood there for a second, trying to clear the images from my head, then bent to the task and started cleaning up the mess I’d made. The last thing I needed was for Bella to get cut just because I couldn’t keep my mind out of the gutter.
“Careful!” I said a little too loudly as Bella came too close to the glass.
Well, I was picturing you naked… “Damn glass slipped. I think I got it all, but…” I glanced at her feet. “Good. You’re wearing shoes.”
And thank God she was wearing more than just the towel. Although… “But I liked you better in just the shirt,” I said.
“I’m sure you did,” she laughed.
I stepped over the pile of glass and pulled her close. She didn’t smell as much like fruit and flowers as she usually did.
“Now let’s get some breakfast before we’re late for school,” she said, pulling away and stepping around the glass.
“Oh, yeah, school’s cancelled today. Charlie called,” I told her.
“Oh, well, I should probably be getting home then.”
“Nope,” I grinned. “You’re staying here until Charlie comes by tonight.”
“Official orders from the police chief, Bells. You’re stuck with me.” I wondered if Charlie would mind if I bought him a giant Thank You card.
Paul started yelling again, and Bella’s eyes darted toward the kitchen.
“You’d better get in there,” I said. It was that or no one was getting breakfast.
“Are you sure it’s safe?” she asked.
While Bella put out fires in the kitchen, possibly real ones, I hopped in the shower. The bathroom was still warm, and her scent filled the air, tempting me to linger. But at that moment she was in the kitchen…where we kept the knives…with two of the three most unstable people I knew. I needed to make it quick.
I soaped up and rinsed off as fast as I could, then yanked the curtain back to step out. There on the old fuzzy bath mat were two perfect little wet footprints. Proof that Bella stood there…naked…wet…shit! I barely managed to dry off before I pulled on my shorts and got out of there. It was either that, or spend the rest of the day in there with a bar of soap.
Bella was still in the kitchen when I rounded the corner. She had three pans going and was barking out orders like a little drill sergeant. It was too damn cute. Paul looked up and rolled his eyes at me. I just smirked at him and walked out the front door. Served him right for laughing last night.
I jogged across the yard to the woods and phased. Only Jared was out, and from the looks of it he was headed our way.
“Everything cool?” I asked.
“Think so. Where’s everyone?”
“Probably still sleeping. Last night was insane!” he said.
I didn’t make any effort to respond. He could read my thoughts anyway, and it was no secret I wasn’t nearly as excited about last night as the rest of them were. They were acting like it was a game, something fun that we had won, and I knew it was so much darker than that. I’d seen that male leech go after Bella in the meadow. I’d seen the fear in her eyes, heard her sobs as she ran away, smelled the cold sweat breaking on her skin. And she’d told me about the other one, the one that lured her into that dance place, the one who bit her.
“Bit her? Dude! What the…how…but she’s not a leech!”
Dammit, I knew better than to think about that when I was phased. I tried to clear my mind, think of other things like Sam taught me, but Jared was begging to know. And the more he prodded, the more I saw her telling me about the scar on her hand.
“That’s…shit, man,” he said.
Jared’s thoughts were a mess, first confused, then pissed off, then awed…and then confused again.
I phased before he could get anything more from me and yanked my shorts back on. Great. I hadn’t meant to keep it a secret from everyone—I just didn’t like thinking about it, and I certainly didn’t want to have to explain it. The way he’d nearly killed her, the way Cullen had saved her…it was all so messed up. Bella deserved better. She deserved to be happy and safe.
“Son,” Dad said, nodding his simple greeting at me as I walked back up to the house.
“Things are quiet,” he said.
“Good. Food’s almost ready,” he said.
Bella was still the queen of the kitchen when I went back inside. She had enough trouble on her hands with Paul and my sister, so I just stayed out of the way. Dad came in a few seconds later, followed by Jared, and Bella started serving everyone.
She seemed so in her element that I couldn’t stop watching her. She belonged there with us, with my family, with me. She was like Emily that way, just accepting everyone and finding her place with us. She looked so at home, and my imagination took off, picturing a future where it was our home.
“Okay,” she said suddenly. “So what really happened last night? Do you know anything more yet?” She leaned back against the counter and looked at us expectantly.
I knew it was too much to hope that she wouldn’t have any more questions. So I spoke first. “From what we can tell, she started fires around town to distract everyone. Embry was closest, so he headed to your house, chased her off before Charlie even noticed.”
Her eyes grew wide and what little color she had fled her skin.
“Don’t look like that, Bella,” I said. “We were with him the whole night.”
“Who were the others? Was it a new coven?” she asked.
“Don’t know. They didn’t seem like the other bloodsuckers…you know, the Cullens,” Jared said.
“Well, the Cullens were…unusual,” she said. She paused for a second and looked around, then continued. “They consider themselves a family, and I guess you know they don’t…um…hurt people. They others I met seemed more like…drifters? Not really settled or even very civilized.”
“They were disorganized and kind of wild…and young,” I said. “Maybe it was the thrill of the hunt, but it just didn’t seem right.” Even if they were drifters like she said, it didn’t add up.
“Yeah, the red haired one grabbed another one and threw him toward us when we were after her, like she was sacrificing him or something,” Paul said.
Bella looked horrified, and I wondered if she was thinking of them, the Cullens.
“But she got away,” she said softly.
I wanted to say something reassuring, but I just didn’t have it in me. She was right. The leech got away. And she’d probably be back.
“Yes, but that doesn’t mean she’s coming back,” Paul said.
At least someone was optimistic.
“We burned her arm,” he continued, “and it’s not like they grow ‘em back, so she’s weakened. We might not see her again for a long time.”
“But that doesn’t mean she won’t be back,” Bella said, echoing my concerns. “I just have to sit here and wait. I can’t…I can’t just live my life, I always have to wonder…”
“Well, maybe if you hadn’t associated with bloodsuckers in the first place—“ Rachel said.
You can’t hit a girl. You can’t hit a girl. You can’t hit a girl…even if she deserves it.
“Rachel!” Dad said angrily.
She tucked her head and pretended she knew she was wrong. Dad knew as well as I did that it was an act. Even Paul looked skeptical.
“Bella is one of us, now,” Dad continued. “You said so yourself. Now, the pack is responsible for protecting people—all people—and that includes your brother’s girlfriend, the daughter of my very good friend. You are an imprint, you will behave like you are worthy of that title, and you will accept what comes with it.”
Everyone was quiet, and Bella shifted uncomfortably. I didn’t even realize I was moving, but suddenly I was standing right next to her. I put an arm around her and pulled her toward me, and she gave me a little smile. I kissed the top of her head, trying to say without words that she didn’t need to feel bad about what had just happened. Rachel had been asking for it.
“Aw, geez. Can’t you two ever quit?” Quil interrupted, and for once I was glad for the intrusion. “Wow, Bella,” he said. “Giving Emily some competition?”
“Hey, why do you just assume it was all Bella?” Rachel just had to open her big mouth again.
“Because you can’t cook, that’s why,” Paul said.
“Oh, thank God!” Embry exclaimed loudly, letting himself in. “Emily didn’t cook and I’m starving!”
“You could always eat at home, you know,” Bella teased.
Crap. Everyone went silent. Bella didn’t know about Embry’s home life…if you could call it that.
“No, I couldn’t,” Embry laughed, winking at her and taking the plate right out of her hands. This time I would let him get away with it.
Seth, Leah, and Sam joined us, and I watched as Bella played hostess to them before finally sitting down herself.
A knock on the door surprised everyone. Unless it was Emily—and she probably would’ve just walked in, everyone was already here. Rachel got up to answer it, and when she opened the door, I caught a glimpse of curly hair. I shoved a huge bite of omelet into my mouth to keep from laughing. Embry was in for a shock.
“Who the hell are you?” Rachel asked.
“Is Embry here?”
Bella’s eyes widened and she looked quickly at me. I nodded my head and turned to Embry. He looked like a deer in headlights.