"Yeah, Jazz, I need you or Emmett to hang out here at Bella's, and get here quickly."
With his head bowed, Jacob listened as Alice spoke. He could hear the panic in her thoughts, but kept her voice calm. Jacob was more than ashamed of himself and at his loss of control. Hearing the questioning voice on the other end of the line made him want to bury his head inside the glove compartment.
He supposed he was not being a very good Edward…not that it mattered at that moment.
Leaving the Volvo there for one of the boys to pick up, Alice drove her Porsche at a snail's pace away from Bella's house, reluctant to leave her friend without vampire assistance. Although having the mongrel there would have to do for now, she definitely did not want to chance letting Edward near Bella again. Until it was too late, she had not been able to see the outcome of that risky hug they had engaged in. She should not have allowed it, and although she could tell that he was mentally beating himself up for it, she was angry that he allowed himself to get so close. Fortunately, she had been able to pull him back before his teeth could touch Bella's neck. And though Bella's blood was overwhelming to Edward, Alice knew that he truly did not want to hurt her.
He buried his face in his hands, gripped again by the horror of his actions. The emotions, the visions that Alice was thinking were becoming too much. Jacob wished there was a switch to shut it all down so that he would not have to hear everything, other people's thoughts, every little sound.
Maybe tomorrow would be better, Jacob recalled having told Bella that morning. But would it? The wildfire in his throat still blazed. Edward's suggestion had been to hunt, and still, Jacob could not see it. Aside from the shame he was feeling at nearly attacking his best friend, Jacob wondered if Edward was angry with him. How could he not be? What if Edward had done the same thing, but in Jacob's body? He would be livid. What other irreparable things could be taking place with his body, affecting those that he cared about? Jacob had not considered the weight of those matters before, plotting even to kill Esme and the others. What if Edward had harmed his father? There would be no forgiveness.
The worst regret, by far, was how Bella was affected. What if he and Edward never switched back? Could she ever forgive him?
Her expression was blank as Edward moved Bella toward the small kitchen table and pulled a chair out for her to sit. He removed a glass from the cupboard and filled it with water, but when he placed it front of her, she still did not move.
"Bella? Why don't you drink some water?"
She shook her head. "I'm not thirsty."
He guessed that she was in shock. Edward considered for a moment taking her to Carlisle, except that going to the Cullen house was not an option in the body of a wolf boy, so for now he could only watch her for signs of fainting or dizziness. He took her hand in his, pressing his index finger to her pulse point.
Breaking out of her stupor, Bella looked down to find Jacob's warm fingertips touching her wrist, and his gaze was focused on the clock above her head as he counted the beats per minute. "When did you learn how to take a pulse?"
"CPR class," Edward lied easily when he determined that the beat was normal. This was much easier to do in vampire form – it had not required any touching as he could simply monitor the rhythm of her heart beat with his superior hearing. And fortunately, her skin did not appear pale. "Bella, are you okay?"
"What…just… happened?" she asked in disbelief. "It happened so fast. Edward looked like he was leaning down to kiss me, but his arms were so tight around me, and then…." She remembered the sight of his teeth as his upper lip exposed them. "And then…."
"It's over now," Edward reminded her softly, not wishing to relive the horror of that moment. Jacob had been a breath away from attacking her, and Edward did not know if once he got a taste of her blood if even Emmett could have pulled him off. It was a devastating sight, and all the while Edward had felt so helpless. The image of himself about to attack Bella was more than he could bear, and he wondered, even with his imperfect human memory, if he would ever be able to make that vision go away.
Poor Bella. This would be likely to haunt her for a long time. "He and Alice went home," he continued. "But, I don't suppose that hugging him was such a good idea."
She put her hand up, already blaming herself. "Please, Jake. I don't need a lecture about how dangerous vampires are. Okay?"
"Okay," Edward said, but continued as an afterthought, "I suppose werewolves are pretty dangerous, too."
Although she had not known Jacob to be violent, the image of Sam's mistake flashed into Bella's mind. Beautiful Emily's face was marred by the pack leader's involuntary anger. "Very. But at least you can resist the smell of my blood."
It was true, and Edward could hardly hold back his smile. For once, he could just enjoy being with her, not worrying about the demands his throat was making. He could sit with her, and hold her hand…and be normal.
"Well, you do smell pretty tasty," Edward admitted, trying to lighten what was a very heavy situation. Although he was devastated by what Jacob had done in his body, Edward hoped he could help Bella to forgive him.
A tiny smile cut through her expressionless mask. Jacob could always make her smile. She still did not know how to feel about what had happened with Edward. Her heart belonged to him, and he was suffering right now, she could see that. But would she have to worry that it might happen again?
"I was going to call you," she told him, changing the subject.
Right. She had been angry with Jacob about the whole "becoming a vampire and being dead to him" thing. "I'm so sorry I said that, Bella," Edward said, hoping that she would forgive him. If there was ever a time that he needed her - even if it was in Jacob's body - it was now. "I didn't mean it. I'll do anything. Please?"
"Like I could stay mad at you."
Edward smiled at her gentle nature, knowing full well she was not one to hold grudges. "I just can't lose you, Bella. I don't want to live in a world where you don't exist."
Once she did become a vampire, she would exist for a very long time, she wanted to tell him. If only Edward had made her a vampire already, they all wouldn't have to suffer through this. Bella nodded. "That sounds familiar," she said, thinking of all the times Edward had said that to her.
Of course she would remember that. "Because I've said it to you before." He could pretend to be Jacob with Sam, with Billy, with Charlie, but not with Bella.
Shaking her head, Bella could not recall a time where Jacob had ever said that before. "No." Could he have overheard him tell her that? "Maybe you've been spending time with Edward behind my back?" she suggested.
"Bella, I am…." Edward.
"You are spending time with Edward?"
"No." That wasn't what he was trying to say at all. "I am…." Not Jacob. He wanted to say that, but the words seemed to be under lock and key inside his mouth. Edward tried again. "I am…beginning to understand him better."
"So, you don't hate him?"
A part of him did for being so careless, and another part of him understood how hard it was to resist her tempting scent. "I don't hate him, but I don't trust him either...yet."
Considering what Edward had just done, she supposed that was fair. At least Jacob was not telling her that she was stupid and crazy for wanting to be with him, insisting that she stay away from him.
"He loves you, Bella. If he wanted to kill you, he could have done it a long time ago." It was damage control, plain and simple.
Bella was surprised by what he was saying. It didn't sound like him at all. He was being very understanding, and she really needed to hear this. "Thanks for being here right now, Jake."
"Anytime you need me."
She stood from her chair. "Are you hungry?"
He smiled wide, happy for the opportunity to eat again…but with Bella. "I could eat." He rose, following behind her as she shuffled through the cupboards in search of a snack.
She paused for a moment, feeling his presence close by, his breath warm on her neck. Her body turned, and she leaned her cheek against his chest, bracing her arms around his back. This was a place she had missed. It was safe and comfortable.
Edward cherished the feel of Bella in his arms, the warmth, the softness. He didn't crave her blood and did not have to use caution with his every touch. It was heaven. But then her shoulders began to shake, and he heard sobs begin to burst from her lips. The gravity of Jacob's near attack must have sunken in. As she wept, Edward ran his fingers through her hair in a soothing gesture, feeling his heart breaking.
The incident was over, she knew. It had been her fault for moving too quickly. Edward had not meant it. He loved her. Bella knew this from the very bottom of her core. But for the first time since they had been together, she recognized the ugly feeling that was sitting there like a little demon on her shoulder. It was fear.
"It's going to be okay."
Her voice was soothing as she spoke, and Jacob could tell she was doing her best to hide the disturbing feelings behind the words. Nevertheless, back on the same loveseat as before, Esme held him tightly, and for the second time in one day Jacob was sobbing like a little girl.
"She hates me. I just know it."
"That's silly, Edward. Bella could never hate you."
Jacob sniffled, realizing how lame it was that he still had not remembered that there was no mucus…or tears. Only venom and fire. And thirst…The unyielding thirst always seemed to be there, yearning to be quenched. Here he was, one of the most strong, powerful beings, yet now he felt so small and weak.
"You didn't see her face. The way she looked at me."
Esme pulled away and set her hands on the sides of his cheeks, staring at him with motherly golden eyes. "You listen to me, Edward. You and Bella are going to get through this."
His lips quivered as he began to sob again. "That's what Bella said, and I almost…I could have killed her!"
Jacob could hear the thoughts from down below. Expectation – that was coming from the wicked blonde. Sadness and regret – Alice. Understanding…wait, understanding…
She smells too good.
"Son, your mother's right," Carlisle told him, laying a hand on Jacob's back. "Things seem bad right now, but after some time Bella will forget."
Bella could already be one of us. And you wouldn't have to worry about things like this happening. Or happening again…
Those were not Carlisle's thoughts, he realized. They were Jasper's.
"Why not call her? Tell her how you feel?" Esme suggested.
"What if she doesn't want to talk to me?" he asked.
"Then you give her some time," Carlisle replied. "But, knowing Bella…."
The ringing of the phone interrupted Carlisle, and a quarter of a second later at his desk, his eyes were focused on the screen of the caller id, confirming what he had been about to say.
"Hello, Bella," he greeted pleasantly into the cordless phone.
Jacob looked up, hopeful, hearing her voice on the other end of the line. She sounded…uncertain.
"Of course," Carlisle told her. "Edward's right here."
Esme gave him a reassuring smile, gesturing for him to take the phone from Carlisle's waiting hand.
"Hi, Bella," he said, hearing the click of the door as Esme and Carlisle departed.
"Are you okay?" they both asked at the same time.
"I'm okay," Bella told him. There was that small period of time where she was not, but after Jacob's reassurances, she was feeling much better. "How are you?"
Miserable…regretful…stupid… "I'm so sorry, Bella. I wasn't thinking, and I hate myself right now."
"It's all my fault, Edward."
"Don't be…that's crazy, Bella. None of this is your fault."
"No. If I hadn't pushed you…if I hadn't insisted…."
"Please don't blame yourself. Can you ever forgive me?"
"That's a dumb question."
"God, I miss you, Bella." Those words had left Jacob's lips so easily.
"I miss you, too."
"Is Jacob there?" he remembered to ask, grateful that Edward had been there.
"He left – had to go to a pack meeting," Bella replied. Although, he had promised to return later.
Right. Edward had to speak to Sam. Bella was still in danger, not only from himself.
"Edward? I guess you're not coming over tonight?" It was a dumb question - she knew it, but still hated being apart from him, even though he was having trouble right now.
"Probably not a good idea."
A sigh escaped her lips. "When am I going to see you?"
"I don't know." It was killing him, but how could he be near her again? How could he chance it? He could hear sizzling in the background; she was probably making dinner.
Bella hated this. "What if…what if we're more careful? You could just stand really far away from me, keep your nose plugged."
Jacob did not trust himself. "I just can't…not yet. I would never forgive myself if I hurt you, Bella. Please try to understand."
Tears began to well in her eyes. "I understand." She heard the sound of a car door slamming from outside. "I have to go. Charlie's home."
She was mad. Hurt. Sad. And Jacob hated making her feel that way. "Hey, I'll talk to you soon, okay?"
"Okay. Bye, Edward."
Dejected, Bella waited until the dial tone sounded in her ears to hang up the phone. He had not told her that he loved her. And now, she hoped that this was something that could be overcome.
Jacob hated leaving things this way. After stewing in Edward's room, he decided that after letting everyone down, he was going to have to try harder. Besides, it was one thing to disappoint people he didn't really care about. It was another to hurt Bella. He didn't care about Edward and Bella's relationship and trying to keep up the farce. What he did care about was not wanting to see that look of fright in those brown eyes of hers ever again. Jacob would rather have died than see her look at him that way again.
He already imagined his next course of action, but before he called her back to tell her, he needed to speak to Edward first. Bella's safety and the threat of the intruder was still a big issue. Sam Uley and the pack meeting was not going to wait.