9. Too Much Too Soon
Jacob had been at Bella's house for hours, surveying the perimeter, watching for suspicious activity, tracking the surrounding area for scents. He was trying not to let Edward's news about Ida get to him. The phone call had been brief, and Jacob still wanted Edward to meet with him. But, where had the necklace come from, if not from Emily's neighbor? The truth of Ida's words was downright depressing – the two weren't any better off now than they had been the day before.
Meanwhile, Jacob had instructed Edward to return to his home on the reservation, and then meet him at Bella's house with his red Volkswagen. Now with Bella due home in just under an hour, Jacob waited for Edward to arrive. Soon, he heard the familiar rumble of the engine over a mile away and turned to face Edward as he pulled behind the Volvo. The difference between the two vehicles was almost comical. There was nothing but contrast between Edward and Jacob. Rich and poor, white and dark, vampire and werewolf. And even after all that they had been through in each other's bodies so far, seeing each other was still like a scene from the Twilight Zone.
Leaning against the Volvo, Jacob stood like a statue with his arms folded across his chest, already reading Edward's thoughts.
Why couldn't you just meet me at the boundary? And why are you still wearing my same clothes as yesterday?
"Something's come up," Jacob informed him, ignoring the second question. He continued to explain to the image of himself how Bella had had a visitor who had taken some of her things and left. Edward had listened, jaw to the ground, as Jacob recounted Jasper's and Emmett's trail to a car that had disappeared and how he and Carlisle had already searched the interior.
Edward began to pace. "And nobody recognized the scent – Jasper? Emmett? Alice?" His voice began to rise as he thought through the situation. Jacob shook his head in response. "Not even Carlisle?" Again, Jacob shook his head. "Why couldn't Alice see this?" Edward demanded, his voice rising in anger.
"Alice said she can't see you or me, and maybe because of whatever is happening with us she couldn't see the intruder either."
Edward felt his blood begin to boil, raging like lava beneath his skin and threatening to burst through the vessels. Someone had been in Bella's room…had taken her things. The worst thing was that if Bella had been home…Edward did not even want to think about that. He could feel his heart pounding inside his ribcage. "Or maybe Alice just wasn't watching," he seethed, gritting his teeth. She should have been watching.
Jacob definitely did not like the look of this. Edward appeared to be losing his temper, and Jacob was not sure that if Edward phased now he would be able to help him phase back. "Calm down. Everyone is doing everything they can." He was struck suddenly by the change of role reversals. Without even trying, Jacob was being so Edward-like. "Now, I need you to talk to Sam about extending the boundaries." He went on to explain how, with Sam's help, the Cullens and the wolves could work together to protect Bella. This gave Edward a small measure of comfort, and he hoped that when he returned to La Push he could convince Sam to work cooperatively with their natural enemies. It was a lot to ask, and Edward hoped he could pull it off.
"So, what about the other thing?" Jacob asked.
There had been a stranger in Bella's room. Did anything else matter? With brows pulled together, Edward looked at him. "What other thing?"
"We're still stuck…like this. For God knows how long. I mean…." Jacob paused and began pacing. The fire in his throat was beginning to burn again while he heard the quiet hum of a car still in the distance. "What if we don't ever change back?"
Edward stopped and looked into the sad face of himself. "We will. We must." He did not like the thought of it either. In fact, in just hours he would be facing a pack meeting. "But, for now, what if I need to change…." Into a wolf.
Jacob laughed out loud, shaking his head. "No. We have enough to deal with without worrying about you being able to phase back into my body afterward." Besides, the effects of the rest of the wolf pack finding out that Jacob was occupying a vampire's body could be everlasting. He would never hear the end of it.
There was another worry that seared through Edward's being, more important than curses, body switching, or even life or death. What if I can't stop you from hurting Bella?
It was a valid concern, and it had been troubling Jacob as well. The easy solution had seemed to stay away from her, but his encounter with Bella that morning had left a bad taste in his mouth. If the only way he could be her friend was to pretend to be Edward, that is what he wanted to do. But ,if in order to do that, he would have to endure that mouthwatering scent of hers…
He stopped in his tracks and glared at Edward. "I'm not going to hurt her," Jacob told him, annoyed. Besides, he had spent the whole day convincing himself that it was true.
I don't believe you. I don't know if I can trust you.
"I can handle it," he insisted. "Besides if you can do it, I can do it, too."
Edward met Jacob's glare, standing inches from him. That kind of self-control took a long time to develop. "It doesn't happen overnight!"
"I said I can handle it!" Jacob returned to the Volvo, sinking his back against it. "Hide."
"Alice is here with Bella; they think we hate each other, and this is going to look very suspicious." Out of the corner of his eye, Jacob found confirmation of his words as the yellow Porsche turned onto the street. For a moment, he considered hiding as well, but instead returned to the driver's seat and shut the door.
Edward did not like the idea of hiding. He had been missing Bella desperately, especially now that he was only a short distance from her front door. Reluctantly he agreed, ducking behind the trees. Alice was there, and that did give him some comfort, but even now he found he was desperately missing his ability to read Jacob's mind. His gut was telling him that Jacob was hiding something.
Bella's mood immediately perked up as she noticed Edward and his car in the same place as when she left that morning. Oddly, Jacob's car was parked right behind his, but he was nowhere in sight, and she was left to wonder where he was. Hopefully he was close by, she thought. She had been anxious to speak to both of them. No sooner had Alice pulled in to the driveway than Bella hopped out with books in hand. It had been a miserable day without Edward, and now as she neared his car and found his expression nearly the same, the familiar disheartened feeling enveloped her.
She waved to the vampire she loved on the other side of the window, not knowing what to say. A hopeful smile lit her face as he waved back.
"Hi, Bella," Jacob greeted through the window. Looking lovely as always, she was just on the other side of the glass, and the heat in his throat was only a flicker. Not so bad, he told himself. He could handle it. Sure. "I'm coming out," he announced, pointing out so that she would step back.
Concerned but hopeful, her brows drew together. "Are you sure?"
Jacob gave her his best reassuring smile as he opened the door, but as soon as it was open a crack, a heady whiff of her exquisite scent washed over him. He paused, still seated, somewhat relieved to find that Alice was now standing by Bella. What if Edward was right? Jacob could never live with himself if he hurt her.
"Edward?" Bella wondered if it truly was as bad as it had been before.
Bella is not a meal, he told himself. I don't like the taste of blood. He could read the concern in Alice's thoughts and posture as she took Bella's hand protectively in hers, ready to guard.
Fighting the urge to be close by in case he was needed, Edward watched from behind the tree as Jacob slowly emerged from the driver's side. Jacob was taking it slow, which was very, very good. "Baby steps," Edward whispered, willing Jacob to hear him. Bella tried to step closer to him, but Alice held her in place, and Jacob raised his hands in a gesture for her to remain still.
"Back up, please," Jacob told her, his voice hoarse. He closed his eyes as the full effect of her aroma drowned his senses, and the awful scorching threatened to inflame his throat. A wash of venom flooded his mouth. Bella was like prime rib, and Jacob was so very hungry.
Plug your nose! Alice's internal voice shouted as she and Bella took a few steps back.
His fingers pinched his nostrils shut, and he felt some relief, although the scent was still strong as the fire raged. Swallowing back the venom, he told himself, I'm not a bloodsucker. I do not eat my best friends, no matter how good they taste.
"You won't hurt her, Edward," Alice told him confidently, but her uncertain thoughts about her absence of visions had left her second guessing herself.
Jacob shook his head, still pinching his nose tightly. "I won't," he said, more for himself than for anyone else.
Alarmed by Edward's alien battle with his self-control, Bella simply stood there and watched. Sure, she had seen Edward struggle before, but could not recall him not being able to stand next to her. It was worse than she thought… No, she thought, Edward was stronger than this. He had held and kissed her many times, for heaven's sake. She looked to Alice, trying to lift her hand from Alice's steel grip.
"Please, let me try," Bella asked. "I have to try." Edward looked so miserable to her as he fought back his internal demons. Bella had never believed any such evil could have ever existed in him.
Deeply saddened by the situation, Alice searched her psyche for an outcome, and there was none. Taking that as a sign, she released Bella's palm, and Bella moved forward until she was standing three feet before him.
She said only three words, words she remembered telling him before. "I trust you." She held out her hand, unable to tolerate being apart from him.
Jacob was in awe of her, of how brave she was. He was awestruck by her devotion, by her faith…and it made him love her all the more. It made it slightly easier to ignore the scorch in his throat, and Jacob stepped toward her and took his hand in hers, still pinching his nose with the other. He didn't care that she thought he was Edward. Bella felt warm and sweet as her arms snaked around his waist…and she wanted him.
Edward, I don't think that's such a good idea.
Ignoring the image in Alice's mind, Jacob braced his arm around Bella lightly, wanting to hold her close, but the burn in his throat grew stronger. "I'm fine," he insisted.
Bella looked up into his expressionless face. "We can get through this. We've done it before. Everything is going to be fine," she told him softly, leaning her cheek into his chest and breathing in his irresistible scent. Any moment, he was going to tell her that she was crazy, asking for trouble, but she didn't care. Being apart from him was not a life at all.
Jacob believed her. Releasing his nostrils from the prison of his thumb and index finger, his other arm wrapped around her, and for a moment he felt happiness.
On alert behind the tree, Edward was watching. He did not like this one bit, but was amazed by the control Jacob was exhibiting. There he was, holding her, and though Alice was now right behind him, Jacob appeared to have it together. It had been difficult to watch, but what was worse was seeing Bella in the role of prey again. Edward had never wanted her to feel that way if he could help it. He glanced to Alice, who was very still, her eyes fixed in a trance, and it might have been imperceptible to others if he had not experienced it himself, but in a second of sheer horror, Edward saw Jacob open his mouth…and bare his teeth.
Bella cried out in pain as Jacob's grip tightened around her to the point where she could hardly breathe, and the shade of gold in his eyes blackened. His head was cocked to the side hesitantly as he scoped out the vein in her neck, but before his lips could meet her flesh, he felt himself pulled backward and thrown several feet into the air until his behind hit the concrete.
Edward raced to stand in front of Bella, and Alice hovered over Jacob with her arms and hands up in attack position.
"Get him out of here, Alice!" Edward directed.
She thought she had smelled the dog nearby, and she was sure she didn't like his tone. Alice had moved behind her sibling and was holding his arms behind his back, knowing that he could break from her grip if he wanted to, but was still exerting all her strength to hold him down. "Excuse me?" she asked the boy wolf. "You show up out of nowhere, and you're telling me what to do?"
"Please, Alice. I didn't come here for a fight." That was true. He could not fight her even if he wanted to.
Bella felt like her feet were frozen in place, her mind covered in a cloud of disbelief at what had just happened. She had been unable to process Jacob's presence even as he told her to get inside the house.
"Do what he says," Jacob told Alice and Bella weakly.
Alice was surprised by this, but complied, helping him to his feet. Her brother was not putting up a fight and might as well have been a robot for all the life he had in him at the moment. His face was a mask of devastation, and he allowed her to lead him to her Porsche.
Edward was pulling a limp Bella toward her front door, wondering if he would have to carry her. She appeared to be in shock. "Please, Bella. Quickly," he urged as his gaze returned to Alice. She was tucking Jacob into the passenger seat. He knew that Jacob could easily break free and charge at Bella once again.
Her gaze stayed fixed on the vampire she loved. She still could not believe what he had almost done, and the old hole in her heart was ripping into large uneven cracks. She could hear Jacob's voice, but not process the words. And before Alice drove off, she heard Edward's voice call out to her.