Story Title: Breathe Again by ysar
Chapter: 28. Overwrought
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 tried reading, but my mind kept wandering elsewhere. So much had happened in so little time, and while it all made sense, it was all so hard to digest.
I’d gone from normal, albeit clumsy, girl from Phoenix to ex-girlfriend of a vampire and current girlfriend of a werewolf. If I hadn’t been living it, I would have sworn it came from the front page of one of those grocery store tabloids. The logical part of me wanted to pick it all apart and analyze it, as if that would somehow make it easier to believe. But the fact was that I was living in some kind of supernatural alternate reality now, one in which a one-armed vampire was hunting me and a pack of werewolves were hunting her, and I just needed to get used to it.
I’d been staring at the same page forever. I sighed and dropped the book beside the bed. It was getting late, and I was mentally exhausted. I headed into the bathroom for my nightly routine of brushing my teeth and washing my face and then pulled on some sweats and a tank top.
Once changed, I headed downstairs for a glass of water and an excuse to call Jake. It was after eleven, and long past the polite time to be calling anyone, but I knew Billy wouldn’t mind. I quickly dialed Jake’s number before I could change my mind and waited for someone to pick up.
“Hello?” Rachel answered on the fifth ring, but she didn’t sound sleepy. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know why it had taken her so long to answer.
“Rachel? It’s Bella. Is Jake there?” I asked hopefully.
“No, I haven’t seen him since after dinner. I thought maybe he was with you,” she replied. “But Paul’s not here either, so maybe they’re doing some kind of pack thing.”
“Yeah, that’s probably it,” I sighed. “Well, if you see him, can you just let him know I called? I’m going to bed, so I’ll just talk to him tomorrow.”
Rachel and I made small talk for a little while. She still seemed pretty worked up, but not nearly as emotional as she had been last night or as bitchy as she was this morning. If anything, she was now overjoyed to be “part of the legends,” as she put it, and she even went so far as to say we were like sisters. Sisters who don’t get along, I thought. It made me miss Alice all the more.
When she finally stopped gushing about how “cool” it was that the boys were wolves, I yawned loudly, and she let me off the phone. I set my glass by the sink and dragged myself upstairs and into bed. I was asleep the second my head hit the pillow.
I awoke with a start, my heart thundering in my chest. I hadn’t had a nightmare, but I was uneasy all the same. Something was off. I could feel it.
I rubbed at my eyes and blinked a couple of times. The cloud cover must have been thick. It was black as pitch, and I could barely discern the outline of my window against the wall. The curtains were wide open, and yet no moonlight shone through. It was clearly way too early to be awake.
I untangled the sheet that had wound itself around my legs and yanked the covers back up, turning on my side to curl up with Jake’s shirt. I loved wearing it, but I was afraid the scent would fade. So I simply held it against my chest, breathing it in as I fell asleep.
If only I could clear my head. My mind was simply playing tricks on me, probably a result of the whole Victoria mess. I was just being paranoid. There was nothing out there. And just I closed my eyes and began to drift off again, I heard it. Tapping.
I sat up and turned toward the window, trying to see something in the darkness.
My heart wasn’t thundering anymore. It had simply stopped.
“Bella!” came a muffled voice from outside.
I fumbled for the lamp switch and glanced down at myself. Not exactly my finest, but Jacob was never one for dressing up, so I didn’t suppose it mattered.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
“Okay, I’m coming,” I answered, trying to keep my voice down.
I hurried over to the window and pulled. It hardly budged. I pulled again, and it rose about an inch. Apparently that was good enough, because he reached one long arm out and, hooking his fingers under it, raised it with hardly a sound. I stepped back as the cold night air rushed in.
“You’re gonna need to oil that,” he said before springing into my room.
“Oh really?” I asked. “Are you planning on making this a habit?”
“Definitely,” he said, pulling me into his arms.
A comforting heat radiated from his bare chest. We stood there for a while, just holding onto each other in silence, until I finally yawned.
“Okay, sleepy, let’s get you into bed,” he said, still holding me close as he backed me away from the open window.
“Are you leaving?” I asked. I knew Charlie would kill us both if he found Jake in my room, especially after that thing with Mrs. Newton.
“Not a chance,” he replied as the backs of my legs hit the mattress and I fell back on the bed.
“But Charlie…” I tried to argue.
“I don’t care,” he said, lying down and pulling me against him. The cloud cover must have thinned because I could now see his smile in the dim light.
“Jake!” I tried slapping lightly at his chest, but he caught my wrist easily.
“He sleeps like the dead, Bells,” he laughed. “And you know as well as I do that half the floorboards in that hallway creak, so it’s not like I can’t hear him coming.”
He had a point. Charlie was pretty observant, but as long as he was snoring, we were probably in the clear. Still, I felt a little guilty. Charlie was pretty understanding as far as dads went, and he trusted me. Yet here I was, lying with my half-dressed boyfriend in my bed. But we were just talking. Even if Charlie wouldn’t have approved of the way it looked, we weren’t doing anything wrong, right? I pushed the guilt aside and tried to focus on something else—like where Jake had been all night.
“So what are you doing here? And where were you tonight?” I asked.
“I just… needed to be with you,” he said, his breath warm in my hair. “And sorry about earlier. Sam called us together, and I didn’t know it was going to take so long.”
“Did something happen?” I asked.
“You could say that,” he sighed.
He reached over to turn off the lamp and then pulled the covers over me.
“You cold?” he asked.
“No.” Actually, with the window still open, I was a little cold, but I knew with Jake next to me that wouldn’t last long. “What happened?” I asked.
“We’re growing, Bells.”
Well, I knew that. I’d only known Jake for a little over a year, and I was pretty sure he’d grown about a foot in that time. Not to mention all the muscle…not that I minded. But Jake and the rest of the pack had appeared to be proud of their new physiques. So why did he sound so worried? Unless…he wasn’t going to end up ten feet tall or something…was he? “Is that bad?” I asked, hoping he’d answer all my silent questions as well.
“It’s just sad, I guess,” he said. “I thought Seth was young, but Collin…and probably Brady pretty soon.”
“You mean the pack is growing?” I asked.
“Yeah, we took in a new one tonight. Collin…he’s just…” he drifted off.
I had a million questions. Would they all become werewolves? Why did this Collin kid phase so young? How many more were there that I didn’t know about? But something in the tone of his voice, something wistful and lost told me not to interrupt, that he just needed to talk. As the silence stretched on, my curiosity grew. He felt…distant, and I wondered what he was thinking. But I remained patient, waiting while he worked through whatever was on his mind, until he could put it into words.
“He’s only thirteen,” he sighed. “His mom thinks he’s possessed or something. And he can’t go home. What if he hurts her? Or his little sister? She’s only seven.” Now he was just thinking out loud. “I mean, I was lucky. We all heard the legends, but Dad knew about them. He knew what Sam was, what Embry became. And I was scared shitless when it happened, but Dad just stayed with me. This poor kid…his mom just turned on him.” His hand was rubbing up and down my arm as if he was trying to make me feel better.
I felt like I was supposed to respond, but I couldn’t find the right words. “I…I don’t know what I’m supposed to say.” It was the truth. What do you say to something like that? I’d have been lying if I said it would all work out because I honestly had no idea.
“Sorry,” he sighed. “You shouldn’t have to deal with all this.”
“No, Bells. You shouldn’t have to worry about bloodsuckers stalking you and kids turning into wolves and stupid legends actually being true and all this…shit.”
I’d never seen Jake like this. It’s not that I thought he was somehow immune to it. It’s just that he usually found something to laugh about. If he’d been cracking bad jokes, or even so mad that he shook I wouldn’t have been surprised. But I’d never seen him so…sad. “It’s okay, Jake,” I said.
“No, it’s not. You deserve better than this. Better than me.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “Why would you…? No! You’re good for me, Jacob. You’re just…everything.”
“Don’t you see? I can’t be everything for you, Bells. There’s a whole world out there for you. I’m just…stuck here, stuck being this…this thing.”
I pushed myself away from him and sat up so fast I nearly tumbled off the bed. I’d heard this song before, the one about not being good enough, not being human enough. It was like talking to Edward all over again. The self-loathing was only the beginning. Next he would tell me that I wasn’t safe with him, that I couldn’t trust him not to hurt me. He’d be blaming himself for my clumsiness and bad luck and…I didn’t even hear the slap.
He was sitting up staring at me with a look of shock on his face, and my hand hurt like hell. Had I actually slapped him?
“Oh my God. I…Jacob, I’m sorry,” I said, tears stinging my eyes.
He wrapped his arms around me and crushed me against his chest. He was holding me so tight I could barely breathe, and I didn’t even care.
What was wrong with me? How could I have hit him? He was talking to me, telling me how he felt, letting me see that he was upset, and my reaction was to hit him. I tried talking, but my words were strangled, and I just gave up, sobbing against his chest.
His hand was rubbing up and down my back in long warm circles. Each breath I took filled my lungs with his earthen scent, slowly calming me and causing me to question my reaction even more.
“I’m so sorry,” I whispered.
“I’m not,” he said.
“Shhhh. It’s okay, honey.” Was he laughing? “I think I needed that.”
I pulled back and looked at him, confused.
“I was getting way too down on myself,” he said.
“But…did I hurt you?” I asked. I couldn’t see any marks on his face, but I could still feel it in my hand.
He threw his head back and laughed, his whole body shaking as he tried not to be too loud. “No,” he said, almost gasping from laughter. “I didn’t even feel it. You might wanna use a baseball bat next time, though. That might sting a little.” His expression suddenly turned serious and he lifted my hand, turning it over carefully. “Did you hurt yourself?”
Yes. But my throbbing hand was the least of my pain. I’d actually hit Jacob. Really hit him. “It’s not bad,” I said, watching as he raised my hand to his lips. And then the pain was forgotten. He touched his warm lips to my palm, grazing his mouth along my hand, over my wrist, to the bend of my arm. It was the most erotic thing I’d ever seen, and yet my eyes fluttered shut, unable to continue watching his lips ascend.
“Better?” he asked, his mouth suddenly at my ear.
I tried to hide my shiver with a nod.
“Do you wanna sleep now?”
No. Sleep was the very last thing on my mind at the moment. “We can talk some more,” I offered, my mind scrambling for a topic. “Why were you gone so long tonight?”
He lay back down and patted the side of his chest for me to join him. I curled up at his side and he wrapped his arm around me, tugging me even closer.
“We had to decide what to do with Collin. Even if his mom would let him, he can’t go home.”
“Where will he stay?” I asked.
“My house for now. It’s not safe for anyone outside the pack to be around him until we’re sure he can control it. Sam is afraid it might happen again.”
“Like with Emily?” I asked, instantly picturing her marred smile.
“What about Rachel?” I asked. It’s not like she could defend herself against a werewolf any better than Emily had. “And your dad?”
“Rachel’s gonna stay at Leah’s. She’s gonna be pissed, too,” he laughed. “There’s no way Sue’s gonna let Paul stay over. And Dad can handle Collin. He’s already dealt with it once.”
“So I guess I won’t be coming over, either,” I said, a little disappointed, even if I did understand why staying away was necessary. And Jacob was always welcome at my house, but it was a little uncomfortable with Charlie watching us as closely as I knew he would be.
“Yeah, you can,” he said. “Just not when Collin’s there. He’ll probably be with Sam most of the time. He really just needs a place to sleep until he’s got better control and his mom comes around.”
“Is that normal? You know, for the parents to…well…freak out?” I felt silly the second I asked. Of course they would freak out. Who wouldn’t?
He laughed wryly. “If they find out, then yeah, I guess. But they don’t always know.”
“How is that even possible?” I realized that the pack was a secret, but it didn’t make sense to me that those closest to the wolves would remain ignorant.
“It’s not something we advertise, Bells. And sometimes it’s just easier not to say anything. Dad knows. I think Grace suspects something, but no one will tell her—”
“Grace?” I asked. He’d never mentioned her before.
“Embry’s mom,” he explained. “And Sue doesn’t have a clue. She just thinks her kids are delinquents,” he laughed.
Jake had always been pretty open with me about the pack—well, after I’d figured out what he was. But usually I just found out things when I needed to know them. I’d never really asked him for all the little details. There was definitely a lot more to who they were than just hunting vampires. And my curiosity wasn’t waning. “So who’s Brady?” I asked.
“He’s next. Probably any day now. His dad’s an elder, though, so his parents know what’s coming. Sam’s already been over there a lot.”
“Is he gonna stay at your house, too?” I knew it was selfish, but I really hoped not.
“Probably not. I think his mom’s gonna go visit family, and his dad’s gonna stay home with him.
“So…I thought you guys only…you know, changed, if there were vampires around.”
“Yeah, but they’d already started the change before last night. Once it starts, you can’t stop it, even if the leeches are gone.”
Neither of us said anything for several minutes. His finger traced patterns on the back of my neck as I listened to his heartbeat vibrating under his chest. The silence was calming, a rest from all the craziness around us.
“Why’d you get mad?”
“Ah…I just…” Crap. I didn’t want to lie to him. But the truth probably wasn’t something he wanted to hear. Then again, the last time we’d talked about Edward, he’d been really sweet about it. Did I want to chance that?
“Whatever it is, you can tell me,” he said softly.
‘It’s just…” I wasn’t sure how to say it. I didn’t want him to think I was comparing him to Edward, even though in a way I was. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. “Edward used to say things like that.” I waited for a reaction, but none came. So I opened my eyes and continued. “He was always telling me he wasn’t good for me, he was dangerous, I should want something…someone human. But he didn’t mean it. He didn’t mean any of it. He just left and forgot about me.”
“I’m not him.”
“I know that. It just—”
“Look at me.”
I turned my face up to see him watching me in the dark.
“I don’t deserve you. You do deserve better. And I hope you never realize that because I’m not letting you go. I love you too much.”
He always knew just what to say, and I couldn’t stop my smile. “I love you, too,” I said, nuzzling my face into his shoulder.
“I’m sorry about last night.”
“Last night?” I asked. He wasn’t seriously apologizing for Victoria, was he?
“I should have just talked to you,” he explained.
“Will you stop apologizing? We’re fine, Jake.”
“I know, but I still…I just need you to know…I know I handled it all wrong,” he said.
“Well…I guess I make it hard for you,” I admitted. “I know I get…uncomfortable about certain things.”
“You mean sex,” he said, and I was sure there was a smirk behind those words.
“Ah…yeah…like I was saying,” I stammered, playfully elbowing him. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about…whatever.”
“When you stop calling it ‘whatever’ maybe we’ll do that,” he laughed.
“You know what I mean.”
“Yeah, I do. But…you really thought that’s what I was mad about?”
“Well, no…Okay, maybe a little,” I admitted.
He let out a melodramatic gasp, overplaying his innocence.
“I didn’t want to think that!” I insisted. “I just…didn’t know what to think. I mean…you’re not…you know, ready for that, are you?” I immediately regretted asking.
Quite honestly, I had no idea how I wanted him to respond to that. I wanted him. There wasn’t any doubt about that. But I also thought it was too soon. We’d only been together for a couple of weeks, and I was so afraid of rushing into things. It wasn’t sex I was uncomfortable about. It was putting too much trust in someone again that was the problem. But I should have known he’d have the perfect answer.
“Not until you are.”
“Okay then,” I said, instantly relieved. “Can we change the subject now?”
Laughter ripped through his chest. “Yeah. So what can you tell me about Jessica?”
The more we talked, the more I realized Jessica simply defied explanation. She was nice and rude and friendly and annoying all wrapped up together. She was convinced that Embry was her boyfriend now, a development anyone that knew her would have seen coming. To explain her stalker-ish behavior, Embry had gone so far as to tell the pack that he’d told her she could drop by some time. None of them believed him, of course, and the second he phased, they all knew the truth.
According to Jacob, Jessica had taken Embry to her house, where he’d been subjected to not only her attention, but also her mother’s. When he’d finally convinced her that he needed to leave, she ignored his demands to go to La Push, and instead dragged him to a florist to look at corsage designs. Before he realized what was happening, Jessica was telling him what color her prom dress was, what time to pick her up, and which after-party they were expected to attend. Embry barely got away from Jessica in time to meet with the pack, and then he’d holed up in Jake’s garage and refused to leave.
“So why haven’t you mentioned your prom?” Jacob asked.
“Oh…no…I can’t…just no,” I sputtered.
“Any particular reason?” he asked.
“C’mon, Jacob. You know me. I haven’t even mastered walking yet. We’d have to have a trauma unit on standby if I tried dancing. Besides, I don’t see what the big deal is. “
“The big deal is that it’s supposed to be all …I don’t know…romantic or something. What kind of girl doesn’t want to go to her prom? You know they’d all see you with me and be jealous.”
“Whatever!” I laughed. “Are you saying you can’t be romantic unless there’s cheap streamers and bad music?”
“I don’t know…what do you think?” he asked, his voice suddenly lower as he turned, pressing me onto my back as he hovered over me.
I didn’t have a chance to answer.
His nose grazed up my neck, just below my jaw, and behind my ear where he placed a single soft kiss before dragging his tongue to my collarbone. His body pressed gently against me, and I shifted as his leg slipped between mine. He was getting too good at this. Vampires, werewolves, snoring fathers…all forgotten. The brief thoughts flitting through my mind were only of Jacob.
His lips finally landed softly against mine, his tongue darting out teasingly as his hand moved down my shoulder, over my side, across my stomach trailing invisible sparks in its wake. I could feel each muscle in his back twitch and roll beneath my hands, and my brain just fizzled. His hands, my hands, our lips…the sensations were too much to think straight.
His lips moved down to my neck as his fingertips brushed the waistband of my sweats, and I gulped in a deep breath, brought suddenly back into the reality of the moment and trying to figure out just how to slow this down. But before I could string together the right words, it moved to my hip, ghosted over my side, and slid around my back.
“Is this okay?” he breathed into my neck, his hand slowly inching downward over my rear.
I nodded, not even realizing he couldn’t exactly see that, and after a second he tensed and raised his head to look at me.
“Bells?” His eyes were filled with worry.
“It’s…fine…good,” I stammered. I didn’t even know what I wanted, but whatever it was, I didn’t want it to stop just yet.
He didn’t look convinced, so I reached my hand up around his neck and pulled his mouth down to mine, nipping at his bottom lip. He responded with a low groan and I immediately felt myself being lifted. I choked back what was sure to be a very unattractive squeak as my hips were raised and pressed into his thigh.
We need to stop. I rolled my hips against him. This is Charlie’s house. I could feel him pressed hard against my leg. This is too much. My hands roamed down the lines of his chest, over the thin trail of hair that began at his waist, and then slipped around his back, gripping the flexing muscles there, urging him closer. Heat radiated from his skin, seeping through my clothes and enveloping my body in his warmth. With no conscious thought, I lifted my free leg and wrapped it around his, anchoring myself against him as he gently rocked against me. Our kissing was more urgent, crushing and gasping and—
“Bells…” his voice was rough and shaky as he lifted up and rolled over onto his back, his arm rising to rest against his forehead, over his eyes.
I knew I shouldn’t have been disappointed, that I should have been relieved, but at that moment I felt more conflicted than I would have thought possible. “Sorry,” I said.
He laughed and pulled me closer again. “Don’t ever apologize for that.”
Emily was standing in the doorway when we got to Sam’s. She pointed to the side of the house, and we rounded the corner to find the rest of the pack waiting.
“You could have just called,” Paul said.
“Mom wouldn’t let us use the phone,” Collin mumbled.
Collin was almost as big as the rest of us, but his eyes were those of a scared little boy. He stood between Sam and Jared, staring at the ground and shifting his weight from one foot to the other. His hands were shoved in his pockets, and he looked down, almost like he was ashamed or something.
“She’ll come around, man,” Jared said, patting him on the back.
There was no need for introductions. We’d all seen Collin around before, even if he had been a little young for any of us to have spent much time with him. But Sam pointed everyone out to him anyway, and he just nodded quietly as we were each introduced. His eyes brightened a little when Seth stepped up, probably because they were so close in age.
Sam went over the basics—patrol assignments, staying out of sight when phased, trying to stay calm so he wouldn’t phase uncontrollably. Seth surprised us all by volunteering to pair up with Collin on patrol, but Sam vetoed that, saying Seth was still too green to take on that responsibility. He did, however, let Seth and Embry take Collin out on a run, trusting that they would keep him out of trouble.
It felt like they were gone for hours, and I was getting impatient. It was getting late, and I wasn’t even sure Bella would still be at my house. The thought of not getting to kiss her goodnight was almost as bad as knowing that wherever she was, no one was there to protect her.
“Hey, Sam? Is it okay if I take off? I need to look out for Bells,” I said.
“She’s fine, Jake,” he said. “No one picked up any trails today.”
“But—” I started to argue.
“We’re not done yet,” he said, cutting me off.
There wasn’t really any reason for me to stay. So what if we had a new pack member? I already knew the drill. Anything Sam had to say I could pick from his mind later. He was just flexing his muscle, and I wasn’t in the mood for it. I let my irritation show, but Sam didn’t care.
“We need to make arrangements for Rachel,” Sam said.
“Send her to Paul’s,” I replied. It’s not like I cared where she went.
“Already tried that,” Paul grumbled. “Billy’s not going for it.”
To everyone’s shock, Leah suggested Rachel stay with her. Sue would probably be thrilled. She didn’t know what we all were yet, but she was sure there was something wrong with her daughter spending all her time with us. She’d probably think a girl staying over was a positive sign. I wondered what she would think when she took her place on the tribal council and learned the truth.
“You’ll have to keep Bella away when Collin’s there,” Sam told me.
“I know,” I said, rolling my eyes. That wasn’t news to me either.
“Aw, don’t look so disappointed, Jake,” Paul sneered. “It’s not like she’s putting out.”
All eyes were on me as I turned toward Paul, snarling and dangerously close to phasing.
“What?” he asked, acting like he hadn’t just crossed a line.
“That’s none of your business,” I growled.
“Oh, like it’s a secret you can’t get her to spread—”
I was phased before he could finish. Sam was nearly as quick, and just in time to get between us, but Paul was already phasing, and as soon as Paul snarled, Sam stepped aside.
‘What’s the problem, Jake? She still in love with the leech?’ Paul taunted.
And that would be why no one got along with Paul for very long. He was an arrogant jackass, and on the rare occasion that he could control his own temper, he was just provoking everyone else. I couldn’t even think clearly. My thoughts were nothing but rage. No words, no intentions, just rage. We collided in mid-air, slamming against each other as he twisted, trying to avoid my teeth. I was going to kill him.
He threw himself backward, pushing off my body, but I was ready, pitching forward and ready to attack again. The second I touched down I sprung at him, clawing into his chest and sinking my teeth into his shoulder. Paul’s thoughts went from arrogant laughter to fear and pain, and I tasted blood.
I hadn’t even realized Sam was still with us, and his command dropped us to the ground. I phased back instantly, glaring as Paul clumsily rushed to keep up with me. He’d never be as fast as I was.
“Go see Emily,” Sam told Paul. “And you,” he said sharply, turning to me.
I was shaking, my hands clenched in fists. I didn’t care what he said. Nothing could convince me Paul hadn’t asked for it. I simply raised an eyebrow.
I hesitated. He wasn’t going to tell me how wrong I’d been, how I shouldn’t attack my brother, how Paul had just been kidding?
Sam stepped forward. “Go check on Bella,” he sighed.
I doubted there was any point, but I checked my house first. Sure enough, Bella’s truck was gone. I just hoped she wasn’t mad at me for disappearing like that. We hadn’t exactly had the best day.
It only took me a few minutes to get to her house, and that wasn’t nearly long enough to improve my mood. I still wanted to kill Paul. What business was it of his whether or not Bella and I were sleeping together? Just because my sister gave it up the first night didn’t mean Bella was like that. Sure, it got a little painful at times, but nothing I couldn’t handle. As long as she was happy, as long as she was with me, I really didn’t care how slow she wanted to take things. Hell, I’d wait until our wedding night if that’s what she wanted. Okay, maybe I wouldn’t be telling her that anytime soon. Planning a honeymoon was definitely rushing things.
The night was perfectly still and cloudy enough that there was almost no moonlight. It was so dark that I phased right in the middle of her backyard. Even if someone had been looking out the window, they wouldn’t have seen me. I tried the door, but of course Charlie had locked it. It looked like I was stuck going through her window again.
I made quick work of climbing the tree and stretched out on a branch to knock on her window when I was stopped short at the sight of her. Her dark hair fanned out across her pillow and one arm was flung out, hanging off the side of the mattress. The covers had been kicked down and twisted around her legs. One tiny foot peeked out at the bottom. Even in sweatpants she was beautiful.
The next thing I knew I was sprawled out on the ground, a broken branch pinned beneath me. I looked around quickly, stupidly worrying that someone might have seen. But there wasn’t anyone else lurking in her yard, and the lights in the house remained off.
I brushed myself off and climbed back up. Bella had turned on her side, facing away from me, and covered herself back up. I leaned out more carefully this time and knocked on the window. She sat straight up and looked around, her gaze quickly turning to me. I waved at her to let me in, but she just kept staring. I knocked again and was surprised to see her eyes grow wide and her lips part. She drew her hand to her chest. She looked terrified.
“Bella!” I called more loudly than I wanted to.
“Jake?” I heard her whisper.
Bella padded over and tried to open the window, but it was stuck. She managed to pull it up a little, but then she just shrugged. I reached out, yanked it up, and jumped through.
For a second, I was disappointed. Even though I already knew what she was wearing, in my mind I’d pictured her in the shirt I’d given her. It was my favorite mental image…until now.
How did she make the most innocent things look so damn sexy? Her plain gray sweatpants hung low on her hips, her soft stomach peeking out below the thin white wifebeater tank. Too thin. Thin enough that I could see the pink blush of her nipples through it. Damn. Now I had another perfect detail to add to my fantasies, probably the last thing I needed.
“Are you planning on making this a habit?” she asked.
Oh, that’s right. I’d said something about oiling the window. “Definitely,” I said, trying not to stare.
It wasn’t working, so I just pulled her into a hug. That didn’t help any either. Cold air swirled in through the open window, and what I couldn’t see, I could now feel. I needed to pull away, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. So I held her close, feeling her breath against my skin and wishing I didn’t feel like such a perv.
“Okay, sleepy, let’s get you into bed,” I said when she yawned.
“Are you leaving?” she asked.
As if I could. “Not a chance.”
It took me a minute to convince her that Charlie wasn’t a problem, but in the end she really didn’t put up much of an argument. Besides, I had the feeling Charlie knew more than he let on. Sure, I’d be staring down the end of his gun if he knew I was here, but he wasn’t stupid either. I mean, the man let his daughter spend the night at my house. Either he really trusted us, or he just didn’t want to know.
“So what are you doing here?” she asked. “And where were you tonight?”
“I just… needed to be with you,” I said, not knowing exactly how to explain it. I wasn’t obsessed or anything. I just hated being away from her. I worried about her. I needed her. She was…she was my whole world. “And sorry about earlier,” I said. “Sam called us together, and I didn’t know it was going to take so long.”
“Did something happen?”
Yeah, something had definitely happened. “You could say that,” I admitted.
I really didn’t want to tell her about Paul. It would probably just upset her, and it’s not like knowing would do anything about the fact that he was an asshole. I turned off the lamp, and reached over to pull the sheet up over her shoulder before she could catch me staring at her chest.
“You cold?” I asked, trying to explain my sudden need to cover her up.
“No. What happened?”
I couldn’t tell her our lack of a sex life was tonight’s entertainment, but I could at least tell her about Collin and Brady. Only the more I talked, the more I realized how much it bothered me.
None of us had asked for this. We’d sat around for years listening to the stories and legends, always thinking it was so cool and even playing like we were wolves when we were little. But none of us really wanted it to come true. It had messed up Sam’s life, driven Leah pretty much crazy, and even killed Harry. That wasn’t a detail I wanted to share with Bella, either. She didn’t need to know his heart attack happened because his daughter phased.
And now it was happening to kids. How the hell was a thirteen year old supposed to handle the responsibility of being in the pack? If it kept happening, we wouldn’t be able to keep it a secret. Half the rez was whispering about how big we’d all gotten. And Forks was beginning to notice, too.
No, it wasn’t cool at all. It was like we were all cursed, and I just wondered what good thing it was going to tear apart next.
“I…I don’t know what I’m supposed to say,” she whispered when I stopped.
“Sorry. You shouldn’t have to deal with all this.”
“No, Bells. You shouldn’t have to worry about bloodsuckers stalking you and kids turning into wolves and stupid legends actually being true and all this…shit.”
“It’s okay, Jake,” she said. She was always so damned understanding.
“No it’s not. You deserve better than this. Better than me.”
“Why would you…? No! You’re good for me, Jacob. You’re just…everything.”
And that was the problem. Bella was smart. She could go place, do things, have everything that life had to offer. She’d be going to college soon, and no matter where that was, it wouldn’t be close enough to the rez. Me…I was going to be in La Push forever.
“Don’t you see? I can’t be everything for you, Bells. There’s a whole world out there for you. I’m just…stuck here, stuck being this…this thing.”
I saw it rather than felt it. Her hand came flying at my face. One second we were lying there, and the next, we were both sitting up. She was staring at me, horrified.
“Oh my God. I…Jacob, I’m sorry,” she whispered shakily.
I grabbed her and pulled her against me, half lifting her into my lap. What the hell just happened?
She made a noise, like she was trying to say something, but she just sounded like a wounded animal, and then her whole body melted against me as she cried. I had no idea what to do, so I just held her. Whatever was going on, it was more than just Bella getting mad about something. She wasn’t the kind of person that just hit someone, and yet she’d just slapped me. Granted, I didn’t even feel it, but still…
“I’m so sorry,” she finally said.
“I’m not,” I told her.
“Shhhh. It’s okay, honey,” I chuckled. “I think I needed that.” And I did need that. I couldn’t afford to get all emo about the one thing that let me protect her. Yeah, I didn’t relish being a werewolf, but she needed me to be. Even if it didn’t fit into some normal kind of life plan, this was what I was, and I couldn’t change that. “I was getting way too down on myself,” I told her.
“But…did I hurt you?” she asked.
I really shouldn’t have laughed. The look on her face was just plain tortured, but the question was too funny. Bella could have slapped me a hundred times, and I wouldn’t have felt a thing. “No. I didn’t even feel it,” I said. “You might wanna use a baseball bat next time, though. That might sting a little.”
A little of the pain faded from her eyes, and it suddenly dawned on me. Just because I was practically unbreakable didn’t mean she wasn’t. I picked up her hand, turning it over and looking for damage. Her palm was bright red, but other than that it seemed fine. “Did you hurt yourself?” I asked.
“It’s not bad,” she said.
Liar. Even if nothing was broken or bleeding, I could tell it stung. And worse was the look of shame still on her face. So I kissed her hand, brushing my lips over her palm, across her wrist, up her arm. I kissed a trail from her hand to her shoulder, hearing her soft sigh, feeling her relax again.
“Better?” I asked when I reached her neck.
She nodded weakly.
“Do you wanna sleep now?” I asked.
“We can talk some more,” she said, trying to sound happier. “Why were you gone so long tonight?”
I leaned back against the pillow and waited for her to join me. She curled one arm against her side and stretched the other across my chest. Her head rested against my shoulder and she slung one leg over mine. She fit perfectly.
“We had to decide what to do with Collin,” I told her. “Even if his mom would let him, he can’t go home.”
“Where will he stay?”
Bella had a million questions, and I realized she didn’t actually know that much about how the pack worked. Sure, she knew what we were and why we were. But other than what we did to protect her, she didn’t know much of anything. And she cared.
She cared about what would happen to Collin and Brady, where Rachel would go, how safe Dad would be. She cared about all the little day-to-day details that I’d never thought to share with her before. And I loved her even more for that. In fact, I deserved to be slapped, probably a thousand more times, just for not realizing how accepting she was of everything…of me. If Bella could handle all the craziness that I came with, there was no reason I couldn’t. But I did want to know what that slap was for. Something had struck a nerve that I didn’t know existed.
“Why’d you get mad?”
“Ah…I just…” she trailed off. I felt her tense up, and she tucked her face in toward me, like she was hiding or something.
“Whatever it is, you can tell me,” I told her, trying to sound reassuring. In reality, I was just bracing myself for the worst. It had to be something really bad to have brought her to violence.
‘It’s just…” she trailed off again. I felt her tense, and tried desperately to keep my own body relaxed as she drew in a deep breath. “Edward used to say things like that,” she said.
Okay, that wasn’t so bad. The bloodsucker probably said all kinds of things, but in the end he’d left her lost and broken in the woods. As long as she didn’t think I would do the same thing, we were good.
“He was always telling me he wasn’t good for me, he was dangerous, I should want something…someone human. But he didn’t mean it. He didn’t mean any of it. He just left and forgot about me.”
Dammit. She was afraid of that. The childish part of me was pissed. How could she even think I was like him? We’d been over this before. I loved her. I needed her. I wasn’t capable of leaving her. “I’m not him,” I said.
“I know that. It just—”
“Look at me,” I said. I needed to see her eyes. I needed to see if she really doubted me or if she was just scared. Scared I could handle. And scared is what I saw in her eyes.
“I don’t deserve you,” I said. “You do deserve better. And I hope you never realize that because I’m not letting you go. I love you too much.”
If she didn’t believe that, there was nothing more I could say to convince her. But then she smiled and said she loved me. And as long as we were talking about serious things…
“I’m sorry about last night,” I said. I knew I’d already apologized when it happened, but I just needed her to know, really know, that we could talk about anything, that I’d do better, too.
“I should have just talked to you,” I said.
“Will you stop apologizing? We’re fine, Jake.”
“I know, but I still…I just need you to know…I know I handled it all wrong,” I said. I still felt bad about it, shutting her out like that. I could only imagine how she must have felt, lying all alone in my room and wondering why I wouldn’t even look at her.
“Well…I guess I make it hard for you. I know I get…uncomfortable about certain things.”
“You mean sex,” I said. I couldn’t help that I found it funny that she wouldn’t even say the word.
“Ah…yeah…like I was saying,” she laughed. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about…whatever.”
“When you stop calling it ‘whatever’ maybe we’ll do that,” I teased.
“You know what I mean.”
“Yeah, I do. But…you really thought that’s what I was mad about?” I guess I was still stuck on that.
“Well, no…Okay, maybe a little,” she admitted.
I drew in a big breath, like I couldn’t believe she was saying that, as I tried not to laugh.
“I didn’t want to think that! I just…didn’t know what to think. I mean…you’re not…you know, ready for that, are you?”
What kind of trick question was that? Of course I was ready for sex. I’d been ready for it since that summer when I was twelve and Naomi Whistler ‘forgot’ to wear a bra, giving Quil, Embry, and I a new purpose in life. It was the only reason I’d even talked to girls before I got to know Bella. I was a guy. When wasn’t I ready?
“Not until you are,” I said. And surprisingly, it was the truth. There was no one else but Bella now, and for the first time in my life, I was in no hurry.
“Okay then. Can we change the subject now?” she laughed nervously.
She filled me in on how Jessica used to be obsessed with Newton, and I told her all about Embry’s day from hell. After all the seriousness, it was good to laugh about something. It sounded like Embry was going to the Forks High prom whether he liked it or not. Bella, on the other hand, begged off, pleading adorable clumsiness. I have to admit I was relieved about that. She would have looked beautiful all dressed up, but she was always beautiful to me.
“Are you saying you can’t be romantic unless there’s cheap streamers and bad music?”
She just had to ask. “I don’t know…what do you think?” I asked, rolling over to kiss her.
Why did she have to smell so damn good? Everything about her…the way she looked, the way she smelled, the way she felt… It was all too much to resist. Before I realized what I was doing, I was pinning her down, my knee pressing between her legs.
Her lips parted the second I touched them, and a tiny moan vibrated from her throat. I couldn’t stop touching her. Her face, her neck, her arm, her side, her—no, I couldn’t touch that. Every breath she took pressed her against me, and I was more aware than ever how thin that little shirt was as it rode up her stomach and offered more of her smooth skin to mine. She was the perfect torture.
I ran my hand down her exposed stomach to her hip, my fingers tracing her hipbone, and she gasped. Those noises…those gasps and moans and whimpers against my lips were going to be my undoing. Her body was exactly the way it was in my dreams. I knew each scar, each curve, each sensitive spot, and I just wanted to know more.
Her body was moving beneath me, rocking gently, forcing her thigh up between my legs. I should have backed away, but I couldn’t. My weight was resting less on my arm, and more on her, and it was the most amazing feeling in the world. She was kissing me harder now, pushing off the mattress and closer to me, and I couldn’t take it anymore.
I slipped my hand behind her back, silently begging her to need me as badly before sliding my hand downward and under her ass. She tensed just a little, but she didn’t pull away.
“Is this okay?” I asked.
She had stiffened, not even breathing.
“Bells?” I asked, so afraid I’d gone too far. I lifted up to look at her, probably the stupidest thing I could have done.
There it was again. That look. Heavy eyelids, parted lips, flushed cheeks…lust.
“It’s…fine…good,” she whispered shakily.
I stared at her for a second. Was I supposed to take her word for it? Was this some kind of test? Was I going to fail? Before I could figure it out, she pulled me down to kiss her, and her teeth pressed into my lip, and I was gone.
I tightened my grip on her, pressing my fingers into her soft skin and lifting her up. She wanted this. I could smell it. I could feel it, hot and needful, crushed against my leg. She made a funny little noise as I pushed myself against her, but she didn’t push me away. In fact, she pulled me closer.
Good. I was sick of playing it safe, sick of hiding how much I wanted her, sick of worrying that I was too close, that it was too obvious. And it was obvious now. She was grinding against me and running her hands all over me and breathing all heavy. I thought I was gonna lose it when her fingers inched down my stomach, and I was tempted to lift up just a little, just in case she wanted to…
Shit! What am I doing? Two weeks ago she freaked out when I touched her boob, and now she’s rubbing against me, making me crazy, making want to just rip all her clothes off and—
She wasn’t ready for this. She was just acting on instinct, doing what felt good, not what felt right. Yeah, I wanted her, and it was pretty damned clear she wanted me, but this wasn’t right. If we didn’t stop, there were only two possibilities. One, we’d go too far and then she’d regret it. Or two, she’d pick the worst possible moment to stop, and I would have the first fatal case of blue balls in medical history.
“Bells…” I kind of grunted, rolling away from her while I still could.
Pain. I was definitely in pain. Lots and lots of pain.
“Sorry,” she said quietly.
I had to laugh. Of course she would apologize for the best few minutes of my life. “Don’t ever apologize for that.