18. Just Do It
"Here you go, Jake. Hope this helps," she said, handing Edward the single sheet of notebook paper.
Edward thought she was beautiful. And extraordinarily sweet with her dimpled, cheery smile. She acted as though, despite all the ridicule and embarrassment she'd been subjected to that it was still her pleasure.
After spending the night in Bella's tree and keeping a watchful eye on Jacob with Bella, Edward's sleep hours had been anything but restful. And he had not known what to make of it when while she slept, Bella had called out Jacob's name. His mind had been too tired to think about it, and his body was working on automatic, moving from class to class.
Once again, Edward had fallen asleep during history, and he already knew that Desiree's notes would prove helpful. Edward had thought it was such a shame how she was being treated by these boys when any one of them would have been lucky to have her. Remembering his promise to Jacob, Edward did not make extra conversation, nor did he give her flowers. Instead he only thanked her again, and when Quil and Embry joined him at his side, snickering as she walked away, Edward shot them a look full of disdain.
"What is it with you and Pee Pee Pants?" Quil asked as they pushed their loaded trays along the counter on the way to the cashier.
Edward stopped and faced both Quil and Embry behind him. "I want you to stop calling her that. Her name is Desiree, and you two are acting like children."
Both boys looked to each other in surprise at their friend's reprimand.
"Ohhhh…." Embry said, grabbing three cartons of white milk and plopping them onto his tray. "I get it. You do like her."
"I think that Desiree is sweet, but no, I don't have feelings for her." Though he was speaking truthfully, Edward did believe that in Jacob's body they would've made a very nice-looking couple. And though he was not the meddling type, Edward was finding it increasingly difficult to keep himself from ditching these boys to go learn more about this pleasant, helpful girl. "And she has put up with enough from all of you," he bit out.
Quil's brows rose in surprise. "You're not exactly innocent yourself, Jake."
Edward tried to hold back the boiling of his blood as he considered the verbal attacks Jacob had issued to this poor girl. At the same time, he had no idea why he felt so protective of her; it reminded him of how he felt on Bella's first day of school and how he wanted to shield her from the motives of that mean-spirited Stanley girl. "Well, like I said before, she has a name, and that's what I'm going to call her."
The three set down their overflowing lunch trays on their table and sat when out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Desiree and her friend at another table, but with someone else seated beside her, and to Edward's dismay, that someone was practically in her face.
Quil caught his friend eyeing Desiree and Paul and then shook his head. "Paul's at it again."
"He never learns," Embry agreed.
Edward's eyes narrowed as Desiree leaned away from Paul. It was plain to him that she was showing Paul that his attention was unwelcome. Hardly able to help himself, Edward began to rise from his seat when Quil stopped him.
"Don't butt in," Quil warned.
"You mean you're just going to allow him to pester her?" Edward hissed, meeting Quil's dark eyes with fury.
With eyebrows high on their foreheads, Embry and Quil exchanged a glance.
Quil patted Edward on the shoulder, urging him to sit. "It's never bothered you before," he said, "and besides, you know nobody's gonna convince Paul that Desiree's not his imprint except for Desiree."
Shocked, Edward tried not to allow the disgust to register on his face. Paul thought Desiree was his imprint? Up until the pack meeting, Edward had not even known about imprinting, but after hearing the chatter about Jared and Kim and Sam and Emily, even he could discern how very different those girls' reactions had been to their mates.
After shoving half of a corndog into his mouth, Embry began laughing, almost choking on his food. "Yeah, it's kind of like how you think Bella's your imprint."
At this, the two boys burst into exaggerated laughter accompanied by loud, obnoxious snorts.
Jacob thought Bella was his imprint? This was an even more disturbing thought.
"That's not true," Edward told them. "I know that she isn't," he said, reminded suddenly of the jealousy that was ripping into him as he watched Jacob cuddle her to sleep.
"You say that," Embry said, after swallowing the remainder of his corn dog. "But don't forget we know what's going on inside your mind."
During fifth period, Edward was having trouble sitting still as the conversation from lunch whirled like a tornado in his mind. Jacob thought that Bella was his imprint, and now Edward was finding that a grotesque jealous feeling was gripping his throat and threatening to choke the life right out of him.
And in the middle of the night, Bella had called out his name. Could she know or have suspected that it was he who had been holding her while she slept? Or could she have been developing feelings for Jacob?
As panic began to seize his brain, Edward began taking slow, deep breaths to calm himself. It was almost irrational how badly he missed her. Edward needed to see her, talk to her. Now with the weekend upon them, he doubted that Jacob would allow her the opportunity, and without needing any more motivation than that, he picked up his folder and books and made an excuse to the teacher to leave.
The delightful smells were almost suffocating to him. They were everywhere, around every corner, always within reach. Jacob was somewhat amused that now that Bella's blood was not such a strong temptation, the other several hundred scents there played and teased at his resistance. And it was doubly bad for Jacob. Jasper's control seemed to be paper thin, and since stepping onto the school grounds, he had been reliving his various kills and tasting those former tastes…
Jacob hadn't believed how he had made it to lunch. His throat was aflame once again with the magnitude of scents nearby.
She couldn't be more than fifteen. I wish she didn't smell so good. Certainly, not as good as Bella, though. I don't know how Edward does it…
Jasper's gaze was following a girl who had dumped out the contents of her tray into the trashcan. Her long blond hair swished back and forth as she walked toward the exit, pushing waves of her scent in heady zigzags toward them.
As Alice prattled on to Bella about the upcoming plans for a graduation party, Jacob held back the urge to roll his eyes. Well aware that Bella was not interested in any parties, Jacob was irritated that Alice insisted on pressing the matter. Blocking out their spoken conversation, he listened once again on Jasper.
It had taken a lot of practice during the first few classes, but Jacob had figured out a technique of blocking out the hundreds of voices simply by zeroing in on one. It had not blocked it altogether, but had reduced it to a manageable background hum. Unfortunately, there were not many minds he preferred to listen to, and Alice's worries about Jasper's thirst were what caught his attention.
And every time Jasper recalled the warm, inviting trickle of blood sliding down his throat, Jacob could taste it. It was unbearable…the sweetest torture – to be teased with the forbidden taste, to be taunted by its promise…to relieve that parched, uncomfortable ache in his throat. Jacob shot a pointed look to Jasper, urging him to change his train of thought.
Oh, sorry, Edward.
It was with some relief that Jasper's thought processes turned toward that morning's newspaper headlines. The mystery surrounding the intruder lingered on all the minds of the Cullens, and it seemed that every day produced more and more stories of mysterious killings.
There was only a week of school left, and Jacob was fairly confident he could make it through…still hoping that by that time he would be back in his own body. He had a bad feeling about what was to come.
During fifth period Calculus, the numbers appeared to be blurring together, and being in geometry at his own school hadn't helped him. Meanwhile, Jasper's internal voice was doing it again. It was maddening to him how Jasper kept imagining his teeth piercing through the flesh of the girl. He would hold her within his icy grip, ignoring the fear in her eyes, and before she could scream or even open her mouth, he could taste it. With Jasper across campus he couldn't tell him to stop, and with so many scents nearby, Jacob was feeling like a starved lion crowded by a feast of appetizing lambs. Consumed by thirst, Jacob could not even convince himself that the drinking of blood was disgusting. The fire blazed in his throat like a volcano, and it was taking all of his self-control not to reach out to the boy in the next chair, seize him by the collar, and tear into that inviting neck.
"Edward? Are you okay?" Bella called out to him.
He had been sitting there at his desk like a hungry statue again. This time, though, she wasn't the one who was feeling threatened. Since the dream the night before, she had unintentionally distanced herself from him. Recalling the feel of Jacob's lips on hers had summoned up too many emotions, and with little time to herself to think it through, she hid her worries, keeping her tone and mood light. This was not something she wanted to discuss with Edward until she had discovered the source of these bothersome feelings.
Weary, Jacob looked to Bella, who was just another tempting smell. He needed to clear his head.
"What's wrong?" Bella asked, becoming more worried.
Jacob shut his eyes, willing the fire in his throat to calm. But he could imagine the blood, the warm soothing comfort blanketing the flames. "I have to go," he told her, opening his eyes. "I just need to get out of here."
"Well…okay," she whispered. "I'll go with you."
He shook his head. "No, I'll just see you later. Okay?" The only thing he could think about was getting back to the Cullen residence, hoping that one of them would be able to distract him from this awful temptation. Maybe he could curl up into Mother Esme's embrace, or pick a fight with the cold blonde. Anything would be better than sitting through this torture.
"Wait," Bella said, but he was already up and whispering something to the teacher. And just seconds later, he was gone.
Jacob was not sticking to his plan. He had run past his car, the parking lot, and into the welcoming arms of the forest. The air felt moist, and as the trees rushed past him, he felt little relief, still recalling that awful thirst. This was Jasper's fault, of course, and Jacob could not understand why he struggled so badly when the rest of those bloodsuckers seemed to have their urges under control. Jacob hated that he could taste the blood, and what he hated worse was that it wasn't repugnant.
He slowed to a stop when he caught a whiff of a rabbit. It was less than five yards away just behind an oak on the east end, and led by instinct, he began making his way in its direction.
"I'm not a bloodsucker," he told himself. "I'm not a bloodsucker. I don't like the taste of blood." Jacob wanted to talk himself out of this madness, but every step was drawing him nearer, and his mind was in direct battle with the thirst.
The large grey jackrabbit burst into sight two feet away in an attempt to make its way past the clearing, and Jacob snatched it up mid-hop. His right hand grasped its fuzzy underbelly, and it seemed to go stiff under his grip. He tried to tell himself that as a wolf he had eaten rabbits before. No big deal. Rationalizing his actions, he told himself he would take a bite, and if a little blood happened to accompany the flesh…well then, that was hardly a federal offense. No one could blame him for that…
Feeling the warmth of the flow underneath, Jacob's jaws clamped onto the body of the rabbit, and still he told himself it was not the blood he wanted, but as soon as his teeth pierced through the fur and the flesh, the liquid squirted into his mouth like a splash of refreshment. Withdrawing his teeth, he found himself sucking onto the liquid. Again, he rationalized. It's just one rabbit. It wasn't so very much blood, and afterward he would run back to his car and go home. He only needed a little bit to quench that thirst…kind of like a sip of water. However, a second later, he had repositioned the rabbit, holding it upward, now biting into its furry collar, urgently emptying the body until there was not a drop left. To his dismay, it was not satisfying. The blood from the rabbit was a tease, and it made the thirst stronger. His hand dropped the drained body of the animal landing on the forest floor with a small thud as his nose caught the scent of a deer nearby.
After having caught the vampire scent leading out into the forest from the parking lot, Edward followed it and now was feeling mighty smug as he watched Jacob wrestle the mother deer out from a creek. Jacob's Edward body was a mess with blood staining the front of his shirt, hands, and cheeks. It was Jacob's second deer, so far, and Edward found himself impressed by the expert way Jacob's hands had locked onto the animal's neck and how easily his mouth had found just the right pulse point.
Leaning against a tree, Edward waited quietly until Jacob released the animal and stepped away.
Jacob's eyes closed, and his head tilted downward, eyeing the long Y shape of thick roots from a spruce close by. He would never admit how soothing the blood had felt, not quite good, but like watered down Kool-aid with no sugar. The burning had cooled at least and though he thought he should, Jacob would make no apologies. And it was unnerving to hear the self-righteousness in Edward's thoughts. When Jacob had claimed the doe, he had heard the familiar footfalls of Edward's Jacob body approaching. Too consumed with the hunt, he ignored him and pursued the larger female.
"Did you come to gloat?" Jacob asked, slightly disgusted with himself for having enjoyed the comfort of the fluid coating his throat.
Actually I came to see Bella. But this is good. Wish I had some popcorn.
Jacob turned his gaze to Edward, narrowing his eyes. "This isn't funny."
Edward shook his head, holding back the laugh in his throat. Jacob had two lines of red hanging down from each corner of his lips like bloody fangs. While Edward had never considered himself a sarcastic person, the quips were just begging to be let loose. "I'm sure Thumper over there didn't think so, or Bambi or his mom." It didn't matter that Jacob was shooting him a look that meant death, he remained quiet, and Edward was grateful he couldn't read Jacob's mind.
"First we need to bury the bodies, and then you need to go get yourself cleaned up," Edward told him. It would be very odd for Jacob to show himself in such disarray.
"I'm going to pick up Bella," Jacob protested.
"Not like that you're not."
Annoyed by the image of himself in Edward's mind, Jacob knelt at the edge of the creek and began to throw water into his face. His hands worked quickly to rub away the streaks.
It's not enough. Go home, sneak inside, and don't let anybody see you. I'll pick up Bella.
"What are you going to tell her?"
"I'm just going to say that I came to see her, which is true, and that I'm kidnapping her until later."
Yeah, how does it feel?
Jacob sighed, knowing Edward was right. He couldn't face Bella in this condition anyway. And he really didn't like the way Edward was trying to snake in the extra time with her.
"Fine," Jacob said. "I'll meet you at the treaty line tonight at eight."
Edward smiled at him, victorious. "Tell you what. Bella will call you later when she's ready."