17. Beautiful Nightmare
Now that Jacob could stand to touch her, he kept her hand in his as much as possible. He and Emmett had traded out cars, and comfortable with the Volvo now, Jacob drove with Bella slowly out to the rendezvous point. When they arrived, he hopped out and sped to the passenger's side to help her out of the car, and Jacob was surprised how he hadn't had to consciously think to do that.
They were early, but he was sure that Edward would be there at any moment. Before closing the door, he removed a cell phone from the glove compartment. Jacob had noticed how the Cullens seemed to have an endless supply of them; Jasper could not resist having the newest technology at his disposal. And money was never an object.
"Call me when you're ready to leave."
"I could have driven myself," she told him.
"It is my pleasure," he said, noting how very Edward-like that sounded without even trying. And it felt very natural to reach out and take her into his arms. He found her quiet once again as he enjoyed the way her arms snaked around his waist. Her silence was unnerving to Jacob. It was unfair that he could read everyone else's thoughts.
"Having second thoughts?" he asked, liking the feel of her body warm and comfortable against his. Although the elders wanted her at the bonfire didn't mean that he should force her to go if she didn't want to…
She shook her head. "No. It's just déjà vu. Reminds me of Renee passing me off to Charlie for the summer. I feel seven years old again."
Jacob laughed, holding her close and running his hand down her back. And there it was - the rough rumbling noise of the Volkswagen's engine. He would've recognized it anywhere.
He better be behaving himself.
"He's coming," he told Bella, already smirking at Edward's thoughts. She would smell like him, and Edward would be reminded of it all night. He ran his fingers through the soft strands of her hair and then cradled her face in his hands experimentally, leaning his head closer to hers. Could he get away with a kiss?
Edward's eyes narrowed as he pulled up alongside the dirt path and found Bella nearly crushed in Jacob's Edward embrace. It was so wrong. And it appeared that Jacob had found some control since Alice was not there to accompany them. Despite the seething jealousy imploding his every cell, the notion of Jacob actually being with Bella like he was, was deadly even if he could resist her scent. Would he really chance kissing her?
DON'T do it.
Ignoring Edward's thoughts, Jacob's eyes settled on Bella's, and a slight look of concern crossed her face. As he inhaled the massive potency of her scent, he withdrew his head just a little, and Bella's head turned to face the Volkswagen. Too soon, he told himself, wondering now if he would ever get to kiss her while in Edward's body. He doubted she would allow him to while in his own.
Happy to see she had noticed his arrival, Edward waved hi to Bella, relieved that she was pulling away from Jacob's embrace. It had only been fifteen hours since he had seen her last, but it was as though his reason for existing had been reaffirmed, and his heart leapt at her smile. He waited by the car, unwilling to breach the line and waited for Bella to walk to him.
And when she was less than two feet away, he could smell him on her. The vapor stung at his nostrils, but Edward didn't care, reaching out for her and taking her into his arms.
"Thanks for bringing her," he said, grinning, as though Jacob had done him a personal favor.
I don't care that she smells like you, by the way. She's all mine now.
Edward chuckled, taking Bella's hand in his and waving to Jacob with the other. The scowl on Jacob's Edward face was priceless. "Don't worry about her. She's in good hands."
"You gonna eat that?" Paul asked, looking across the fire at the wiener roasting on Edward's wire hanger.
Bella had been leaning her head against his arm and turned her face up to his. He had already had over eight hot dogs, along with a full bag of chips and two liter bottle of soda, but would likely have some kind of sarcastic comeback.
"Would you like it, Bella?" Edward was so full he thought he might throw up, which, from what he remembered, was not a sensation he wished to experience again.
She placed her hand over her own belly, shaking her head.
"It's all yours." Edward tossed the handmade skewer in Paul's direction across the circle, and Paul caught it deftly on the right end within his thumb and forefinger.
"Just like that," she said under her breath.
"Sure, why not?"
Bella shook her head again. "Okay." To her, Jacob's behavior had been well-mannered, and not at all as goofy as she had come to expect from him.
After having spent time talking and laughing with Quil and Embry and seeing Emily and Sam again, Bella found she was having a better time than she expected. She was also surprised to see Seth, but not his sister or mom. She felt a pang of sadness, wondering if Seth was next in line to join the werewolf family. Paul had only made a few snide remarks about keeping her scent downwind. Billy Black and Quil's grandfather, Old Quil, were also there at the head of the circle. She was feeling so at ease that she had not even had time to feel stressed about the threat of some unknown vampire intent on finding her. But when she caught the fiery sparkles of the bonfire blazing against the dark sky, she became alarmed.
"I can't believe how late it's gotten," she told him, sitting up, but still reluctant to leave.
Though the vampire scent had been disturbing to him as well, he did not like the way Bella moved away from him. Edward smiled, though, trying to fight back an unexpected twinge of jealousy. "Do you have somewhere you have to be?" he asked, wondering if she was in a rush to flit off to her imposter vampire boyfriend.
Quil cut in, "You can't go yet, Bella. The fun's about to start." He leaned toward her. "You're a first timer like me and Seth."
Edward thought wryly how he was a first timer as well, placing his arm around Bella's shoulder and hoping to put her back at ease where she had been before. He actually hadn't known for sure what was to come, but had overheard Billy discussing the topics on the phone. He had even heard bits and pieces of the speech as Billy practiced it from his bedroom.
As Emily sat beside him taking notes, Billy Black began his story with how the Quileutes had always had magic in their blood. Edward had never been one to believe in magic and would not have been drawn the way the others were to its allure. Yet, if not for the mystical powers of the talisman he would not even be there. He listened to the tale of the Spirit Chief Taha Aki's struggle with Utlapa, one of the strongest warriors, and how Utlapa had traitorously taken over his body and assumed his role. Edward could strongly identify with that -except that he was not left in limbo in the spirit world as Jacob masqueraded in a vampire's body. He was also fascinated by the history of how Taha Aki took the form of a great wolf to defeat Utlapa, and from there emerged the story of how the men could transform into wolves and vice versa. Like the vampires, they would not age as long as they held onto their spirit wolves, but the big, even enviable difference Edward realized was that they had a choice. These men could decide to stop and then resume aging.
Bella had been listening intently to every word that passed from Billy's lips as the fire crackled and roared, but she could not help but glance up at Jacob, whose dark eyes had fallen into an awed trance.
There was something different about him, and she felt herself undeniably drawn to him and these quiet mannerisms. Surely he had heard this story before, she thought, yet it was as though he was listening, realizing the meaning for the first time. There was that look of innocence and wonder, and Bella was completely captivated by his boyish expression. She reached out and placed her hand in his, relishing that familiar warmth, smiling when Billy finished his story and Jacob finally noticed their hands interlocked.
Old Quil began his story next, and Edward began to feel uncomfortable as the story of The Cold Ones emerged. He could feel the gentle welcome weight of Bella's body shrinking into his, as though, she too was uneasy with the content. It didn't take long before Edward was drawing a comparison to the vampire seeking revenge for her mate to Victoria and her twisted obsession with Bella. But now, he turned his face down to look at Bella's. Adorably, her eyebrows were drawn together, and her lips formed an o. And as Old Quil told of the third wife's sacrifice to save the tribe from the Cold Woman, Edward was quick to notice the previous horror of Bella's expression turn to fascination.
And disturbingly, just as Sam had said, the existence of the Cullens nearby – though indirectly - seemed to draw in others, others not as peaceful or well-meaning. It was no wonder the Quileutes hated them so much. Now, Edward understood exactly why Billy and the elders had wanted Bella there. Despite their stories, Edward doubted that they would have changed her feelings for him, but he imagined that if he truly were Jacob, he would've wanted Bella to have all the facts.
There was a steady rhythm to her breathing as she lay against him, but she was so quiet and still that as the rest of the group dispersed, Edward discovered that Bella had fallen asleep. With little effort, he took her into a cradle position, smiling as her cheek rested against his shoulder. He had missed this closeness. At the same time, he wondered if he should be jealous of this easy relationship she had with Jacob, also realizing that if a relationship with Jacob was what she wanted, he would bow out gracefully and allow her a chance at a more traditional life. Edward decided not to call Jacob right away – he didn't know when he would be alone with her like this again.
It was tempting for him to take her back to Jacob's home and lay her in the bed. Resisting that urge, he found himself placing her into the passenger side of the Rabbit and then taking the seat beside her. To Edward she had always looked like an angel as she slept, with her lashes impossibly long and her lips impossibly sweet. Unable to stop himself, he leaned in toward Bella's face and gently brushed his lips against hers.
After Jacob pulled up in the Volvo on the other side of the treaty line, Edward watched with a heavy heart as the love of his life headed sleepily into the arms of his rival…the wolf in vampire's clothing.
Upsetting though it was, Jacob had taken to Edward's role as boyfriend quite instinctively, as though his body had known its place was beside her. Jacob had entered through the window and was now wrapping the blanket around Bella as he cuddled beside her in her bed. Edward no longer feared that Jacob would hurt her, but now lingering atop the branch on her tree outside Bella's window, he would be sure.
Bella felt warm, pulling the blankets below her chin and snuggling into them. A smile curved her lips as she felt his form against her back. He was here, and Bella was always happy to wake up and find him still there with her. The rain pounded against the windows in the blackness, and Bella reveled in the security of his embrace.
"Did I wake you?"
"No, it's okay," she said, turning to face him, finding Edward on his side as he leaned on his elbow with chin resting on his palm. As always, she was taken aback by the perfection of his features. "What are you doing?"
His lips curved into her favorite crooked smile. "Just watching you sleep."
She scooted closer to him, desperately wanting to kiss those lips. "Is this okay?"
He hadn't flinched or tried to move away, but a look of hesitance fell across his features. "It's fine."
Despite the fact that her face was inches apart from his, he remained exactly how he was.
"Do you think…you could handle…kissing me, Edward?"
"I don't know, Bella."
Her heart sank. She understood why, and she hated that she was making it more difficult for him. "It's okay. It's too soon. I get it." Bella turned back around and tried to hold back irrational tears. She should have been happy that he could be this close to her, and he wasn't rejecting her – he was only taking precautions for her safety.
"I said it's okay."
He turned her around to face him, and she was now meeting the regret in that glowing amber gaze. "No. It's not okay."
Bella found no words would leave her mouth as his face leaned down toward hers, slowly, every millimeter measured with care. Her breath caught in her throat, and her pulse began to race as she smelled his sweet scent inch closer.
"Don't move," he said.
His lips were lingering just above hers, and it was all she could do to restrain herself from pulling him down to close the distance.
"Close your eyes."
Obeying, she closed her eyes, trying not to blink and remaining as still as humanly possible. A second later, his lips descended upon hers, molding to hers perfectly with gentle pressure, and as she felt her brain turn to mush, Bella forced herself to remember not to do anything stupid. Opening her lips was out of the question…
It was then she felt the warmth of his tongue dividing the part in her lips, at which she obliged. All reasoning was lost as her fingers threaded their way into his hair, and as their tongues danced deliciously and her chest pressed against his, she could barely think.
This was never allowed. He never let it go this far.
Bella could hardly restrain her body as every inch of her tingled with his contact, with the feel of his arms holding her…with the gentle, but insistent force of his mouth upon hers.
"I love you so much, Bella," he whispered, his voice ragged as his lips trailed down her cheek to her neck.
"I love you, too," she said with her eyes still closed. Her skin reveled in all the heated sensations, and her chest rose and fell violently.
"Open your eyes," he said.
Her eyes flew open, and though her vision was blurry at first, her gaze settled on the dark eyes against the russet skin, finding her fingers knotted into short, black hair. His expression was confused as she looked back at him in surprise.
She shook her head and tears sprung to her eyes, bewildered. "What are you doing?"
Her body twisted and turned to pull out of his embrace, and he kept whispering her name.
"Bella? Bella. Wake up."
When Bella opened her eyes again, she could now feel the ice of Edward's hand through her nightshirt on her shoulder, seeing the concern on his face.
"You were dreaming," he told her.
Jacob had not known what to make of Bella's tossing and turning and saying his name as she slept. She looked panicked, and he was disturbed that whatever she had dreamt about had stirred such a frightful look on her face.
"What were you dreaming about?"
Bella could hardly tell him that she dreamt she was kissing Jacob. "Nothing." The kiss, everything had been a dream, and disappointed, Bella turned away from him and pulled the blankets up to her chin, feeling his icy form against her back.
"It must've been a nightmare."
The kiss had felt so real and stirred such longings within her that her heart was still left pounding erratically. "Yeah," she said. "It was a nightmare."