22. Stupid Jacob
As planned, Jacob had waited for her to awaken, giving her the opportunity to shower and eat, and had called to designate a time to retrieve her. He noted that when Charlie answered the door, he was displeased to see him, and Jacob had to remind himself that the chief was dismayed by the presence of what appeared to be Edward rather than with him.
There was also this other bit of information to consider. Whether either of them admitted it, Bella was confused, and the idea of it had Edward in a tizzy. It was Jacob's only advantage, and it was hard for him to think of anything else but getting back at them. They had gone against his warnings and had behaved like horny teenagers. It was disturbing to think what might have happened if he had not interrupted them.
Jacob sat at her kitchen table, waiting as she rinsed the last of the dishes and set them in the dish rack to dry. "Sleep well?" he asked.
Bella had bags underneath her eyes but was feeling more rested as she glanced back at him, searching for a hint of that familiar easiness from hours before. His posture looked stiff as he sat there, eyeing the disturbing headlines. Every day the newspaper and television was reporting a mysterious mass of killings that was escalating out of control.
"Yeah," she replied and he turned his gaze toward her. Her breath was taken away at the sight of him in all his perfection. Those bronze locks were in their usual state of disarray, and the golden warmth in his eyes sent a wave of tingles through her body. In the light of day, seeing him sitting there like that, Bella questioned whether she had dreamt the whole body switching incident.
He could hear Charlie moving around upstairs in his room, so he rose from the chair and took Bella into his arms.
For a moment, she felt herself melting into the icy coolness of his rock hard body.
"I missed you," Jacob said softly, leaning down and setting a kiss onto her forehead. He could not forget how she had called him Edward, and for now he wanted to use that to his advantage, though he knew Bella would not be fooled for long at least he could have the satisfaction of messing with her.
Bella pulled away from him as the confusion fought to take hold of her mind. "I don't see why," she snapped, keeping her voice low. "You just saw me a few hours ago, Edward." She noted the glint of amusement on his face, but she was not finding this at all humorous.
"Ready to go?" he asked, keeping his features composed.
Nodding, she grabbed her jacket from the chair and called out her goodbye to Charlie.
Once they were out the door, Jacob smiled to her and set his arm lazily around her shoulder. Bella, in turn, moved away from him.
"I know what you're trying to do."
"You're trying to confuse me," she said, irritated by this realization.
"Are you confused?" Jacob asked, opening up the door on the passenger side for her with a smirk.
"No," she denied, sitting. Beneath the light from the gray sky, she could see him clearly, and his actions were very Edward-like. However, when he started the engine, loud and coarse music filled the space, very unlike Edward's taste. "You know, you're not a very good Edward."
He heaved a little sigh. "I've gotten better." She had seen through his façade for now, but he still hoped to catch her off guard.
Fiddling with the buttons, she tuned the radio back to its previous location. "This explains so much," Bella remarked, now only beginning to realize the extent the curse had played on her life. After hours of sleep her thinking was much clearer.
"Sorry, by the way."
"For what?" she asked. The last time they were alone in her room, she had been apologizing to him for making out with Edward in Jacob's body, and a pang of guilt struck her once again.
"For almost attacking you."
She shook her head. "That was you! I knew it was wrong for Edward to be going through that again."
Jacob smiled. "Yeah, you're pretty hard to resist, Bella." Even now, waves of her delicious scent wafted through the Volvo's interior. He pressed a button on the door which opened the window a half inch to allow some of the moist morning air to penetrate the thickness. She smelled tasty, but at least the wolf smell was gone.
All of a sudden she had the urge to smack him. "What were you thinking? You could've killed someone!"
"What was I thinking?" He looked at her incredulously. "What were you thinking?"
Bella mentally sifted through the past few days, contemplating her actions. "What?"
"Kill me or change me," he mimicked exaggeratedly. "What the hell was that all about?"
Her mouth fell agape. It was bizarre the way Jacob was making Edward's face mock her. "Shut up."
"No, you shut up. What is wrong with you, Bella? You don't want a life like this. Trust me. Yesterday, I sucked the blood from a rabbit."
"Oh, you hunted. Is that why you left school?"
"Yeah," he said, glancing over at her distastefully. "It was not pretty… and kind of gross…and messy." He purposely didn't mention the two deer that followed or the bothersome fact that his throat was feeling aflame again with her so close. The difference now was the control, and Jacob was still confident he could never hurt her. "You're not thinking about any of that."
Bella folded her arms across her chest. "We're not going to talk about this again." She recalled Alice's remark from school the other day. Her vision had no longer showed her as a vampire, and now Bella wondered if that was because at that time she was uncertain of Edward, or because he could possibly be stuck in Jacob's body…
"So, I was thinking we could tell Alice…."
"No. She hates me!"
"Alice doesn't hate you, Jake. She just feels the same way about you that you feel about her."
"I don't hate her," he admitted. Though most of the past week he'd spent with bitter feelings toward Alice, he could also hear in her thoughts how much she loved Edward and Bella. Her actions were solely to protect. "Sometimes I wish I could make her go away."
"And the rest?" she asked. After hearing so many negative things from him about bloodsuckers and leeches, she was curious about what was his current impression of them.
Sheepish, Jacob replied, "Esme's great. She reminds me of my mom. The others are very forgiving…I never expected that. When Emmett's around, he's fun to play video games with, and, oh, I really like messing with Rosalie."
"What do you mean? What did you to Rosalie?"
"Yesterday," he began, trying to hold back a chuckle, "she was changing the oil in the Jeep, and she got up to get a filter. And before she knew it, I had unscrewed the cap."
"Yeah, and when she moved underneath, she barely touched it, and the oil dripped down all over her face," he said, openly laughing. "It was hilarious. You should've seen her with streaks of black oil running down her white face! I had to run clear across the woods so she wouldn't hear me laughing."
Bella's mouth fell agape. "What is wrong with you?" She pursed her lips together so that her own amusement at the image of an oil-streaked Rosalie would not show on her face.
"Just having a little fun. And you know what the greatest thing is? Whenever I move the remote, or the video game controllers, or the car keys, or switch the clothes from Alice's closet to Rosalie's, they never suspect Edward."
"Why do you do that?
"There's nothing better to do! Can't sleep, can't go anywhere. You're off in La Push. Gotta have some fun."
"Well, I'm going to tell them."
"No, you're not. Remember we all decided we weren't going to say anything?"
"I don't care. I'm going to tell them." Bella was feeling very confident about it. For all they knew, maybe once one person knew it would open a door for the rest.
"They're not going to believe you."
"We'll just see about that."
"Oh, hi, Bella," Alice said, distracted as she pushed hanger after hanger of outfits aside in her oversized closet.
"I wanted to talk to you."
"Where is it?" she muttered, "I swear we have a ghost in this house!"
Bella's brows knit together. "What are you looking for?"
"You know that teal dress with the plunging neckline? Well, I can't find it."
Heaving a sigh, Bella was sure she knew exactly where to find it. "Listen. I need to talk to you about Edward."
Alice's golden gaze met Bella's. "What's wrong with Edward?" she asked, cursing her limited foresight.
Just say it, Bella. "Edward's not …." Edward, she was going to say, but his name wouldn't leave her mouth the second time.
"Edward's not what, Bella?"
"Edward's not…." Who he says he is, she was going to say, but the words wouldn't come out. "Isn't he different to you?" she asked, trying another approach.
Alice shrugged her shoulders. "At first, he was acting really weird, but now he seems normal."
"Normal? No, I mean isn't he acting kind of …?"
"Emo? Yeah, but that's just Edward…sometimes."
Emo? "No, Alice. Maybe this thing with your visions and Edward are related."
Running her fingers through her short locks, Alice tried to fight back the frustration. "The problem is, Bella, is that Edward seems to have overcome his trouble with you, so now, it's just me who has the problem."
"What if it's not just you? What if there's something …." Weird, she wanted to say, but was stuck. "What if something's wrong?"
Alice reached out a hand and set it on Bella's shoulder. "Something is definitely wrong. The news reports are getting worse, we have one week of school left, I have your graduation party to plan, and I can't find my teal dress! So, yeah, there are several things wrong." She went back to shuffling through the hanging garments, positive that she had not moved it.
"That's it!" Bella huffed. "I'm going to find him."
She left Alice's room and heard the tune from the piano ringing out from downstairs. Bella wondered if Esme or Rosalie had played.
When she reached the figure of Edward, she could see his back straight as he sat upon the shiny bench, and his fingers were sliding along the keys with little effort. Bella was taken aback by the sight. Esme was standing beside him, her expression peaceful as the melody filled the air.
"What is this?"
"Hi, Bella," Esme greeted, bracing her arms around her gently. "It's nice to see you."
Jacob turned to face her with a big, crooked smile that, for a moment, left her head spinning. "I'm so happy you joined us, Bella."
Esme stepped away as a smile played at her lips. "I'll leave you two alone."
"No, wait, Esme…."
Stopping in her tracks, Esme waited for Bella to speak. "What is it?"
"Doesn't it seem like something's not right?"
Turning back to the piano, Jacob resumed his position, picking up on the tune where he had left off.
"Absolutely," she said, placing an arm around Bella's shoulder. "I understand your concerns with the threat of the strange vampire, but you shouldn't worry, Bella. We are monitoring the situation. And Edward's going to be with you every step of the way."
"Every step of the way," Jacob repeated.
"Nothing at all to worry about. Now, if you'll excuse me, Carlisle's missing his favorite tie."
From Jacob's direction came a tiny giggle.
With a huge sigh, Bella stared wide-eyed from Jacob and back to Esme, who was leaving the room. "Don't you think it's odd that things have gone missing?"
She stopped and turned to her. "I think it's very odd," she said. "But, doesn't this ever happen at your house? I mean, besides the items that were taken from your room. Isn't it common to misplace things?"
"Not for you, right? You all have perfect memories."
"What are you suggesting, Bella?"
"Maybe someone is playing a joke on you."
The piano became silent.
She pointed in Jacob's direction. "Him."
Esme shook her head dismissively. "Edward's not a practical joker."
"Yeah, but what if he's not…." Edward, she wanted to say. "What if he's …." Somebody else…again, the words remained inside her mouth.
"What is it you're trying to say?" she asked, her features showing her concern.
In the blink of an eye, Jacob was standing beside Esme. "Yes, Bella, what is it you're trying to say?"
Bella had never wanted to smack that beautiful face more than she did now. It seemed like this would never work without his cooperation. She soon felt Jacob's icy fingers grazing at her hand, but moved it away.
"Maybe you're just a little confused. Not enough sleep?" he suggested.
Esme leaned in toward Bella and embraced her. "You do look a little tired, dear. Maybe you should go upstairs and take a nap."
Shaking her head, Bella could smell that comforting sweet unique floral scent from Esme's hair. "No, thank you. I'm not sleepy."
With a motherly smile, Esme pulled away. "I heard that cucumber slices are good for bags underneath your eyes," she said with a wink, and then the mother vampire turned and made her descent from the room. "See you later, Bella."
Bella was left there with her mouth hanging open, and now Jacob's Edward face was smiling at her.
"Don't you just love her?" he asked. "Esme's great. I wish I could keep her."
The anger was now bubbling up inside of her, and Bella faced him with her eyes narrowed. "You are such a jerk!" she hissed.
Jacob's brows creased together, and he paused before replying. "Oh, great. Everybody heard that. Now they think we're fighting."
Bella lowered her voice. "We are fighting." She shook her head, and her gaze fell to the shiny black instrument. "Did you just inherit the ability to play the piano?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "My mom taught me when I was a kid, but I didn't feel like I was ever really good at it…until now."
"You're only good at it because you're in Edward's body!"
"Now, now. There's no reason for the hostility," Jacob replied.
She turned from him and took a seat upon the piano bench, missing the way things used to be with her Edward playing her lullaby. Everything had been turned upside down with Jacob confusing everybody.
"What is your problem? Why are you so afraid of Edward phasing? Or of telling the Cullens about what happened?"
Jacob stood there, his Edward body like a statue, and his face pulled into a frown.
"Oh, I get it," Bella said. "You're afraid they'll be mad at you. They won't. This isn't your fault."
He didn't say a word as he took her hand and led her outside a safe distance from the house. "Bella, if you're thinking that once they know I'm only pretending to be him that they'll be all accepting of me, you're living in a dream world. Werewolves and vampires are natural enemies, remember?"
"No, it doesn't have to be like that."
"It is what it is," he said, his tone cold as the myriad of voices from the forest played like music in his ears. "Do you think if Edward phases that the pack is going to just welcome him with open arms? No way! And it'll be the same with the Cullens!"
Bella frowned at the outcome Jacob was painting. "I think you're wrong."
He turned away from her, staring out at the huge trees whose branches swayed with the breeze. "We're not telling them."
She could feel the mist in the air that signaled oncoming sprinkles and looked up at the thick clouds settling overheard. His tone had been so final, and she hated that he could be so stubborn. "Then take me home."
"I want to go home."
Jacob sighed. "No, you're safe here."
Folding her arms, she stood across from him, unyielding. "I don't want to be here with you anymore. You're acting like a jerk."
"Oh, please. I'm just being realistic."
She turned her face away. "I want to go home."
"Why? What do you have that's so pressing at home?"
Anything sounded better than staying and arguing with him. She doubted that Jacob would change his mind, and while she knew the truth of the situation, Bella could hardly stand by and pretend any longer. "I have to scrub the toilet."
He shook his head, feeling like he couldn't win no matter what he did. "Fine."
After Bella explained to Esme about an onset of a migraine, she and Jacob made their way back through the dirt path out of the forest and onto the main road into Forks. Heavy drops of rain began smacking against the Volvo's windshield.
"So, what are we going to do at your house?" Jacob asked, keeping his eyes fixed on the road as they pulled onto Bella's street.
"Not we. Me. And I was thinking of going to La Push."
A surge of irritation coursed through him. "So you want to go visit me, but only as long as it's him in my body?"
She smiled. "Exactly."
"You can't tell me 'no'."
He heaved a sigh and decided to try another tactic. "Oh, I see. You just can't wait to get some more wolf loving."
Bella glared at him. "I just want to be with Edward. It has nothing at all to do with the fact that he's in your body."
"Hmmm…I disagree. I'm a good kisser, eh?" he asked lightly, pulling into the Swans' driveway.
"Shut up. It wasn't you I was kissing."
This acknowledgment only drove the stake further into his heart. Jacob hated having all these feelings for Bella, but always holding them at bay. It was one thing to be her friend, and it was another thing to know that she could be really happy if she just gave him a chance.
"Yeah. I wanted to talk to you about that." He cut the engine and removed the keys from the ignition.
"I already promised to behave with him."
"No, I mean…."
"What is it?" she asked, noticing his hesitation.
"It's just that…I've been wanting to tell you this for a long time, Bella." He sighed, forcing his gaze to the concerned depths of her brown eyes. "I'm…in love with you."
She sat there frozen, having no idea what to say. "Jake-"
"No. Let me finish. I just can't go another day without you knowing how I feel about you. I know you think you don't feel the same way, but it doesn't change anything. I love you, Bella. And I want you to pick me instead of him."
Bella blinked for a moment, her breath taken away by his declaration because for just a fraction of a second it was no different than Edward looking at her and saying this, asking her to make a choice.
"You wouldn't have to change for me."
That was a very sobering thought considering who was saying it. "How can you even say that? What if you're stuck this way?"
"The point is, even if I were, I would never ask you to change."
She shook her head, now fully aware of the direction this conversation was taking. "Well, you should know by now that Edward has never asked me to. In fact, he's done everything to discourage it. And I love him, Jacob. Edward is my whole life." Her fingers tugged on the door handle, but the lock had been enabled, effectively holding her captive inside the Volvo.
"Bella, you love me, too. And he's not your whole life either. Not anymore. Remember he left? Now you're stuck with me."
"You're impossible," she said, frustrated and yanking on the handle with all of her weak human strength, but to no avail.
Gently, he took her chin in his hand to face him. "Until your heart stops beating, Bella, I'll be here – fighting. Don't forget you have options."
She tried to pull her chin away, but it was forced there within his icy grip. "I don't want options."
"All the more reason to fight." The fire in his throat burned at such close proximity to her face, but he was determined to make his point. Jacob leaned in toward her, and though she struggled to move away, he kept her face steady. And before she could say another word, he had closed his lips and pressed them against hers.
Although her mind steeled against Jacob's unwelcome advance, her lips welcomed the icy closeness of his, but it took no more than a few seconds for the realization to kick in.
This was all wrong.
Forcing her mind to acknowledge Jacob disguised as Edward, she opened her eyes, and the fact that he was confusing her angered her even more. Seeing that it was useless to struggle, she became very still, until, at last he pulled away, and the grin across his lips made her want to scream.
Her hand swung at him, landing her palm against the hard stone of his cheek, and she recoiled from the sting that was like slapping a block of ice.
"Ow!" she squealed, moving her hand to her chest and hoping that she hadn't burst a vein or two.
"Are you okay?" he asked, suddenly concerned.
"Just let me out!"
There was a click from the release of the lock, and Bella rushed out of the car, tucking her chin into her chest to avoid the rain. She hurried through her front door, making a beeline for the freezer. To her dismay, fake Edward was following behind.
"What's going on, Bells?" Charlie asked, having just grabbed a beer from the refrigerator. His daughter looked agitated as she favored her right hand.
"Jacob kissed me!" she said, retrieving an ice pack and holding her palm against it.
"Oh," Charlie said, looking pleased at first, but then as he noticed Edward standing there, his brows pulled together in mock anger. "Oh."
"Yesterday," she corrected. "Stupid Jacob kissed me yesterday," she said, throwing a meaningful look at him. "And when I slapped him, I hurt my hand. And it still hurts."
Jacob realized suddenly that he should look upset, even if he was still giddy from the kiss they just shared. He pressed his right fist into his left palm. "I'll kill him if he does it again!"
"Now, now," Charlie warned. "I'll have none of that."
"Stupid Jacob," Bella repeated as the ice pack soothed the sting along the length of her fingers.
"Yeah, maybe you shouldn't go to La Push after all," Jacob suggested.
She narrowed her eyes at him. "No. I'm still going," she insisted. "I already set him straight."
Charlie looked at his daughter curiously. There was a very strange dynamic to the way she was speaking about Jacob and leering at her boyfriend, but he couldn't put his finger on it. "Are you sure? You can stay home."
Jacob nodded in agreement.
"No," Bella said. "Sam Uley's girlfriend Emily is going to show me this necklace she has," she lied, noting the uneasy look crossing Jacob's face and finding her victory. She imagined that Jacob was pondering the idea of what Charlie would think of Jacob disguised as Edward.
As much as Jacob wanted her to stay with him, the idea of her spending more time with Edward in La Push was growing on him. Since it was Saturday, it wasn't likely they would have much time alone together anyway. She would probably be hanging out at his home with Billy while Edward attended a pack meeting or guarded the perimeter.
"Don't do that again," she reprimanded as Jacob helped her into her Chevy. The truck gave a loud roar as she started the ignition, and she turned on her wipers to clear the water from the windshield, happy that it had stopped raining. Bella insisted on taking her own vehicle so Edward wouldn't have to meet her. Her palm still stung, but at least she hadn't broken her hand or a blood vessel.
"Admit it, you're confused," he said, smiling again.
"I'm not confused."
The grin was spread across his face. "I don't know. Now that I think about it, when I found you two on the bed, you looked pretty happy with your arms around my back. It looked very natural." To him, it was the way things were supposed to be, and with any luck she would realize it once the curse had been broken.
She shook her head, and the blood was rushing to her cheeks. She wished he had never seen them like that. "Just please…stop saying things."
He wasn't happy about her spending time with him, but after issuing a threat of wreaking more havoc upon the Cullens, Jacob warned Bella once again to behave herself with Edward. As he watched the Chevy make its way down the dirt path the rest of the way to La Push, Jacob realized how much he missed home and his family. His only consolation was that one day Bella would be a part of it.