"Jake, what are you doing here?"
Bella was startled, but pleasantly surprised to see him waiting just outside the entrance as she, Alice, and Jasper headed out toward the parking lot after school. She was so happy to see him that she barely noticed the raised eyebrows of the kids who walked past them.
Alice's little nose scrunched up at the doggy smell.
"Hi, Bella. I've come to kidnap you."
Before Bella could react, Alice moved in front of her. "No, you're not," she told him protectively.
Edward couldn't help but smile at Alice's over protectiveness. "It's okay, Alice."
"That's not for you to decide, mongrel," she shot back.
Looking to Jasper for what he hoped would be support, Edward found there was none as the other vampire took Alice's side.
Breathing a sigh, Edward realized he had not clearly thought this through. Jasper and Alice were not likely just going to allow Bella to run off with him. "I made an agreement with your brother."
Bella tried to force her way through the vampire barrier, but it was like moving two oversized boulders, and when she tried to sneak around them they held their arms out to block her.
"And why should we believe you?" Alice asked.
Shrugging his shoulders, Edward tried to keep his face confident. "Call him and ask him yourself."
"I will." In a blurred motion, Alice removed her cell phone from her handbag and hit the button to dial Edward. "Yeah, Edward. Jacob's here and….oh…really?" She looked puzzled and then turned away from the group. The lack of visions was making her irritable. "Are you sure?"
Smug, Edward ducked behind Jasper and took Bella's hand in his, hardly able to resist touching her. After having been on edge the whole day, seeing Bella was like the clouds drifting away and allowing the sun to shine through, which of course was opposite of the typical grey that shrouded the sky at that moment. And he was really liking the smile on her face. "Ready?"
"I'm ready," she said, waving goodbye to Jasper and Alice, whose pale faces showed their concern. Jacob took her backpack from her, and they walked together to the Volkswagen.
When they were settled inside, Bella turned to him, watching his face as he pulled out of the parking lot. "So, I don't get it. You got Edward's permission." His behavior since he'd left over an hour ago had left her puzzled.
Of course she would ask. "There was something he had to do, so I told him we would meet him at the boundary later."
Bella's brows knit together. "What did he have to do?"
Edward shrugged his shoulders in a Jacob-like fashion, hoping to discourage her line of questioning.
"Hope everything's okay," she said, worried now about what kind of information may have sparked a meeting between vampire and werewolf. And Jacob appeared to be keeping his mouth shut. She sighed as she considered her situation. "I still don't like feeling like an infant – how I always have to be babysat."
His gaze swept sideways to her annoyed expression, and Edward smiled, resisting that impossible urge to run his fingers through her hair. He felt magnetized to her. "I have an idea. Since I'm younger than you, you can baby sit me. How does that sound?" There was too much irony in that statement. In Jacob's body this would be the only time he would ever be younger than her.
At this, Bella smiled back. "I don't know if you can afford me. You're quite a handful."
A yawn escaped his lips as the weight of his exhaustion began to set in. "I'll be on my best behavior."
"Kind of. I'll be okay."
"Then just take me home. You can get some sleep."
"I'll be fine," he insisted, rubbing away the wetness accumulating at his lashes. This human tired stuff was getting old.
"Okay." She had been thinking about Jacob the whole day, pondering that dream, convincing herself that it was just one of those weird nightmares that would vacate itself from her brain with the coming of the next morning. But for now, she could not shake how non-nightmarish it had felt. And another thing that bothered her was how she was not more concerned about being with Edward.
When they arrived at Jacob's house, they were both surprised to find it empty, and Edward vaguely recalled Billy saying he was going to see Sue that day – something about a problem they were having…something about Leah, but for the life of him he could not remember what. He gestured for Bella to sit and then went in search of some popcorn.
A few minutes later, they were sitting side by side and picking at fluffy kernels that were a little burnt. Edward blamed this on his lack of knowledge about using a microwave. Nothing else really mattered to him at that moment. Bella was here with him, and with his feet resting on top of the coffee table, he was feeling very comfortable and normal, watching as she flipped through channels on the television.
She scrolled up and down the guide, frowning at the selection and felt Jacob's head leaning against her shoulder. "So what do you think? Quantum Leap or the food network?"
What she had expected was to see those dark eyes looking up at her, but instead found his eyes closed as he breathed in even steady breaths. He had fallen asleep. Poor Jacob, she thought. He was exhausted, and though his head was becoming increasingly heavier against her shoulder, she dared not move. "Cooking channel it is."
The sprinkles against the window morphed from a light pattering to a heavy shower and then back again. After having shifted her weight a bit so that his head was now against her lap like a pillow, she'd lost count of how many shows, sure that most of the recipes were too elaborate for her purposes, and the grayish background light was becoming dimmer. The half-finished bowl of popcorn sat on the table and every now and then she would pause to look down at his face, noting the boyish innocence of his expression as he slept. It was easy to forget all the trouble and rivalry they had been through with the vampires. It was easy to remember the comfortable relationship she had with him. He was her best friend, and she knew at that moment that he always would be, and that was when it hit her; there were no hidden feelings, no more to consider. The dream about the kiss was only a dream, and she supposed that it was only natural that when two people spent time so much time together that crazy ideas were likely to abound in the subconscious. She smiled down at him as she noticed his body began to stir.
Edward's eyes blinked, and as Bella's face sharpened before him, he found her smiling down at him.
"Feeling better?" she asked.
He wiped at the bleary feeling in his eyes. "I fell asleep," he said apologetically, and that was when it hit him. Sitting up, he peered at the darkness outside. The day was gone, and he had wasted his time with Bella sleeping. "Oh no! I fell asleep! I'm so sorry, Bella."
"It's okay. You're only human…well, kind of."
Edward hated feeling that this precious time was borrowed, and as she rose from the couch and stretched he knew that his time with her was drawing to a close.
"I should probably call Edward," she said, confirming his fears.
He rose and set his hands on her shoulders. "No. Not yet."
"It's getting late, Jake."
"This is my fault, I know, but I don't want you to leave. I'll do anything." Edward hated how needy and desperate he was sounding, but he couldn't stand the thought of Jacob holding her in his arms for another night.
"I can't stay. You know that. Besides I'm sure Edward's waiting for me."
The determined look on her face left him devastated, and the jealousy that she preferred Jacob's company was driving a knife through his heart…but, he also realized that it wasn't Jacob that she thought she was running to. Deflated, he followed behind her as she made her way out into the drizzle to the Rabbit and tugged the hoodie over her head. This ugly jealousy seemed to be magnified one hundred times in Jacob's body, and he could not ever recall feeling like he could not contain his emotions on his own. Through his grief, he hardly felt the drops that were drumming onto his head, face, and back.
"Wait," he said, searching his brain for a possible solution.
She placed her hands in her pockets and turned toward him, expectantly.
He moved toward her, struck once again by the impatience in those chocolate brown eyes he loved so much. "Bella, I need you to understand," he pleaded, brushing away the fat raindrops that threatened to block his view of her beautiful face.
"I can't have you go back to him, thinking that…." He trailed off, knowing that it would never come out right, but then tried again. "He will never love you the way I love you. Do you understand?"
"I love you, Bella. I will love you every day of forever."
Her eyes turned away, and she took an unconscious step back. "I have to go."
"Jake, please. You know how I feel about you, and you know how I feel about Edward. Don't make this harder."
Edward reached for her arm. "Please. If you love him at all, then stay with me."
She shook her head. The lack of sleep must have left his head fuzzy because he was making no sense at all. "I think you need to go back to bed, Jake. You'll feel better in the morning. I'll call Charlie-"
"I'm fine," he cut in. "Everything is wrong. I am…." Edward, he wanted to say, but once again the curse bit back his name before he could say it. He closed his eyes, frustrated and searching his brain for a way to tell her.
"Forget it, Jake. It doesn't matter," she said, crossing her arms in front of her chest.
"It does matter, Bella," he said, stepping closer to her. "You love me, too."
Bella let out a deep sigh. "Of course I do, but it's no different than how I love Charlie. I'm not in love with you. Edward is my whole life."
"You're just saying that because you don't know…but, you really do love me."
She shook her head again, but now his fingers fell softly onto her cheeks. "And I want to marry you, Bella, now more than ever."
Moving his hand away from her face, Bella looked at him, her mouth agape. Had the whole world gone mad? First Edward and now Jacob?
"I'm not going to discuss marriage with you." It was a preposterous idea even if he were old enough. She turned away from him and headed toward the road. "This is crazy. I'm going home even if I have to walk."
With a sigh, Edward shook his head. "You have to figure this out. You saved me, Bella. I didn't want to live without you. Remember Volterra?"
She turned back around to face him. "What are you talking about? How do you know about Volterra?"
"I was there."
"No, you were here," she said, gesturing to the ground. She'd been wrong. It wasn't the world that had gone mad – just Jacob.
"Ask me about my mother's ring, or about the lullaby I wrote for you, or about how I pulled the application you threw away and sent it to Dartmouth-"
"Wait. You sent my application to Dartmouth?"
"Yes, but what about those other things? But how do you think I know that? It was me."
"Am I supposed to stay with you over something you overheard me saying when you were outside my window, or things you may have learned from Edward?"
She paused to note the devastation on his face. "You really believe you did these things?" He nodded, and she took another breath. "This lack of sleep is making you loopy."
He stepped toward her again and took her elbow in his hand. "Bella, more sleep isn't going to make my thinking clearer. You'll be with him, and everything will be wrong again."
"I'm sorry, Jake, but I really have to go." At that moment, she wanted nothing more than to distance herself from him. She began to turn away when his grip became tighter, and he spun her around to face him.
There seemed to be no other way to make her listen.
He snaked his arms around Bella's back and pressed her tightly to him, seeking out the comfort from those lips he had been missing for too many days. In his other body, she would never have struggled against him the way she was now. Ironically, in his other body, he would not have dared force her. But now, Edward held her firmly against him, and his lips brushed against hers at first, but then molded themselves to the familiar soft warmth of her lips.
And when his lips broke the part in hers, she stopped struggling. In fact, her tongue had met his, willingly, and as they danced and teased, Edward felt her hands now against his cheeks and threading into his hair. For the moment, he didn't care that the insistence of the rain was drenching both of their bodies, or even about what the consequences of his actions – of their actions would bring, or what it would all mean. All Edward could think about was the sweet sensations of her mouth meeting his and the heaven of how perfectly her frame fit into his…and how his heart felt whole again.
She was the first to pull away, remaining in the circle of his embrace, and when her eyes met his, he couldn't make out the meaning of the emotion he saw there. And then she spoke.