Author's Note: Thanks for the awesome amount of reviews I'd received on the last chapter! I figured I'd get just one more chapter in before school starts on Monday. I'm not excited, but hey. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. Plus this really hot guy came up to me and talked to me for like a half hour so I'm a little pumped to see him again, I guess. Wooh. Go Courtney. Now back to Barbarian Jacob and the world of war. (;
Portrayal of Jacob: Let's just say I am so fickle on what I want Jacob to look like. He's so perfect and he's just beautiful and hot and ugh…and I think I have FINALLY found the perfect facial features to fit this sexy barbarian. ON MY PROFILE, there is a link to the man who I think Jacob, in my thoughts, resembles. It's perfect. He's perfect, and totally melt-worthy. You're probably thinking like, "Courtney shut up you already gave us three different people to look at." I know, but you guys just gotta see this man! He is so…Jacob!
Chapter 21: Crux
I'm leaning against him on the couch situated near the fire, my head resting on his shoulder as my eyes scroll through the pages of a book. As I sit up a little bit, I feel like I've just been punched in the stomach…but from the inside. I gasp in shock and put the book aside.
He'd just been dozing off a little, but my loud gasp causes him to jolt awake. "What?" he asks me groggily. "What's the matter?" I don't even know. I touch my stomach just as I'm 'punched' again. I realize that it's my baby, kicking in my stomach.
I let out a breathy laugh and take Jacob's hand, lifting his hand off of his lap where it is resting. "Feel my stomach," I tell him. His hot, huge hand settles over my protruding little belly just in time to feel the baby kick his hand.
He sits up a little. "Is that…" Without my answer, he puts his hand on my stomach again. The baby kicks even harder this time, somewhat knocking the breath out of me. The child is stronger than I thought unborn children could be.
I nod my head at him. "The baby." I finish for him. He looks up at me, a look of pride in his eyes. He rests his lips against my temple as his hand makes circular motions over my stomach.
"He's strong," Jacob comments with a clever grin. "I've always known that our baby would be strong."
I raise my eyebrows and smile at him. "How did you know I would be the one bearing your children?" I ask him. "You could have been having babies with a foreign princess."
He pulls me closer to his chest and strokes a thumb down the side of my cheek. "I've always known it'd be you," is all he says to me. And that's all I need to hear.
As the baby settles down inside of me, I catch a glimpse of the first snowfall of the winter season. I gasp and run to the window. "Look, it's snowing." Big, white flakes float down from fat clouds in the sky. He joins me at the window and watches as the green grass slowly turns white as a blanket of fluffy snow covers it. He frowns and shakes his head, turning away from the window. I frown. "What's the matter?"
He grits his teeth. "I hate winter and snow and the cold." He goes to sit in his great bearskin chair by the fire, grabbing a glass of wine to numb the pain of past memories. He drinks it down quickly.
I stand by the window, looking at him as he soothes himself with the red drink. "Tell me why you don't like winter then." I say to him, grasping his arm. "I have always thought that winter was a majestic season. Everything becomes white and the ground sparkles in the sun like it's made of pure crystal."
He is staring into the fire, the glass of wine in his hand. "Winter is when everything dies. There are no leaves on the trees, the warm air has disappeared and the animals seem to run for cover. Winter leaves everything dead."
"But…" I twiddle my thumbs awkwardly. "But everything grows back in the springtime."
He reaches over for his pipe and lights it with a spark from the fireplace. "My mother died in the winter. So did my sister and White Fawn. Ten years before was when we attacked Pateros. We lost many men that winter." He inhales on the pipe and then he pulls away, smoking curling from his lips. "Winter only brings death."
I decide that it's best for me to pull the animal skin curtain over the window to spare Jacob the agony of watching the snow blanket the grass. I'd always thought of winter as something beautiful, but this new enlightenment makes me rethink everything.
When I go to him, he opens his arms and pulls me close to his body. I revel in his scent, smoke, pine and wine. His hands roam over my body, trying to feel the deepest connection with me without taking my clothes off and just cuddling flesh to flesh.
With my height, I'm easily tucked underneath his chin. I listen to the rise and fall of his breath as he calms down slowly. His skin is very hot, but as I hold him tighter it begins to cool down a little. It's like I'm meat being cooked on a stove. I look up at him. He is staring at the fire with his dark eyes, like he's trying to speak to it.
I climb out of his lap to fetch myself a glass of wine. He stands abruptly from his seat and darts out of the room and down the hallway. My brows furrow together as I take my wine glass and peer after him. I decide not to call after him. He seemed tense and maybe he's going for a walk to clear his thoughts.
Angelina and I are outside in the snow. Scar is running around like a rabid animal, trying to capture each little snowflake inside of his powerful jaws. The small wolf pup that I'd first seen had grown to a frighteningly large size. But to my wolf, I am like the alpha female—his mother.
Angelina is about six months pregnant whereas I am four and barely showing. I take a peach, one grown in the indoor garden in the castle, and break it in half, dropping the pit into the snow. I hand the other half of the peach to Angelina, who takes it and greedily stuffs it into her mouth.
I'm freezing out here, but I love to watch the snow. My heavy animal skin cloak draped over a warm cotton dress. I even wear cow leather boots to warm my feet. My ring is on my finger and my crown is on my head. Standing next to Angelina makes me feel different. She is my friend, and we have both come so far from somewhat wealth to endless riches.
Scar brings back a small rodent and sits at my feet, beginning to pull it apart and eat it up. I put the peach to my lips and bite into the sweet flesh of the fruit, tasting juice pour into my mouth. It makes my fingers and lips sticky.
"How are you feeling?" I ask Angelina when I notice that she's holding her stomach. She brings my hand closer to feel her child kick her stomach. The outline of a tiny foot presses against her sheer dress.
"The baby's been quite active and demanding," she confesses. "I can't seem to stop eating." She points at the other half of the peach that I'm holding in my hand. "Are you finished with that?" I hand her the peach and she downs it almost instantly.
I can't help but laugh at the starved look in her eyes. "If you're still hungry, you can ask Scar if he wants to share." We both look at the young wolf, whose head pricked up at the mention of his name. Rodent blood is on his white muzzle and the gory sight makes us both shiver.
"No thank you." Angelina replies to me, grimacing. "I actually don't think I'm hungry anymore. That gory mess of a rat isn't too appetizing to me."
From behind us, a young servant boy scuttles out into the snow with scraps of leftover food to feed the wild wolves lurking in the forests beyond. The Quileute people feel strongly connected to the wolf and serve them like they are their makers. After all, legend tells of them being descended from wolves.
Scar watches him as he bounds out into the open snow with the bucket of scraps in his hand. A half eaten chicken leg falls out of the bucket and he scurries after it with an open mouth, laying down in the snow to devour and chew on it. We watch the boy trudge through light snowfall, bringing the bucket closer to the forest's edge.
Angelina and I turn back to each other. "It's getting rather chilly. We ought to head back inside before we catch cold," I say to her, stuffing my hands under my armpits to warm my numbed fingers.
She's about to agree when we hear an ear-splitting scream echo in the distance. Our heads whip towards the woods, where the young servant boy stumbles around with an arrow protruding from his back. He's trying to run, but the arrow's preventing him from doing so.
Scar stands up on all four legs and begins to growl. Angelina and I are so stunned that we don't move, we don't say anything. He begins to run towards us, but another arrow whizzes out of the forest and spears him right through the heart. He coughs up blood before planting face first in the snow.
Angelina screams and tears stream down her face as she panics upon seeing the boy die. I clamp a hand over her mouth and we both run into the door behind us. Her hysterical crying eventually attracts the attention of many servants, and even Drinks of Waterfall. He picks up his wife and cradles her in his arms, whispering soothing words into her ear in his native language.
Jacob comes around the corner with his eyes ablaze. "Bella! What's going on?" he asks me. My eyes are watery with tears and my heart pounds faster than a horse can run. I've never been so shaken in all my life.
I point a shaky finger at the door we'd rushed in at. "At…attack," I manage to get out. "A servant boy went out to throw away the scraps and he was shot with arrows right in front of our eyes!"
Jacob's eyebrows furrow immediately as he pushes me behind him and opens the door. There, Scar sits growling in the snow, covered in blood. I gasp. He must be hurt. But then as we look further, there's a man lying dead in the snow, mauled pretty badly.
I realize that it's not Scar's blood in which the wolf's covered in. It's the man's. Jacob bends down to look at the seal on his armor and growls loudly. "Forks," he spits. "Fuck. Fuck! Get inside. Now."
I usher Scar inside and the white animal clings to my side. He still growls, but when I pet his head he licks my fingers, smearing blood onto my fingertips. I cringe. Jacob's gone to his quarters with his men to discuss things and I'm completely alone in the hallway except for a small maid that looks to be about fourteen years old.
She offers me a tissue to wipe the blood off of my fingers. I thank her silently and make my way down the hall.
"I want fifty men patrolling the forests tonight," I growl at my brother in the Strategy and Tactics room. "I can't believe the guard let that motherfucker slip past and kill one of the servant boys. There has to be more. One Forksman isn't foolish enough just to cross into barbarian territory without a reason to risk his head."
Iron Coyote gives a list to one of the servant boys in the room and the kid runs out faster than lightning to assemble the search troops. "Maybe it's a trap," he says to me. "I've seen things like this before, little brother. He could have been the bait, provoking the big fish into shallow, dangerous waters. I don't want to send the troops out unless you're sure. Are you?"
I rub my hand over the stubble forming on my chin and lips. "Then what do you suggest?" I ask him with a growl, because I'm not sure. I'm not really sure at all, but I'm sure that my kingdom needs to be safe and out of harm. I'm really not in the mood for his 'I know more than you do because I'm older and better and should have had the crown' shit.
He walks around the table to Emilia, who sits curled up in the chair. I'd protested her presence but my brother wanted her there more than I was willing to argue over. He takes a draw from his pipe, smoke tumbling from his lips. "Guerilla. Warfare." He says the two words like they're gold on his tongue. "I say we disguise the men to hide in the brush and wait for soldiers to come by, or wait until they see fire from camp."
"What brush?" I question. "It's winter. Everything's gone except sticks and trees and snow."
Iron Coyote rolls his eyes. "Then they'll wear the white coats. Stop worrying so much about this. You're being petulant—"
"Petulant?" I want to hang him by his long hair and let his scalp slowly peel off to see if he had any brain at all. "Do you remember what happened in the last war? Our father died! He died, you fucking pathetic shit!"
My brother grabs me by the necklace around my neck. "You think I don't know that?" he growls at me. "And maybe I'm wishing you'll die too so I can finally get what I deserve."
I rear back and punch him square in the face. He hits the ground hard. I see red; I'm like a bull charging at an enemy. Emilia screams when she sees the blood pour from Iron Coyote's nose. I shoot her a wild look that immediately shuts her up.
"I should kill you," I growl deep in my chest. How fucking dare he start this when the enemy's practically on our door step! I can't believe he such a thing to me. He wishes I'd die? I'd always known it was in the back of his mind but to say it out loud was uncalled for, and dare I say it? Hurtful.
He spits out the blood from his mouth and wipes the excess on the back of his hand while struggling to stand up. He laughs darkly. "What's holding you back?" he points to the dagger on the belt attacked to my breechcloth.
"But I won't kill you," I finish. "I'll let someone else do the honors. I hope you ride into battle with your head held so fucking high that the enemy's sword chops it off. I hope that they take your head back to their kingdom, mount it on a fucking post, and dance and chant around it, saying that they just killed the prince of the barbarians. Hell, I'd dance with them!"
Emilia dabs at my brother's nose with a tissue. He bats her away like she's a pesky fly. "No. I know what's holding you back. You're afraid you'd lose and I'd get the crown, and make every product of your nightmares come true. You're afraid that I'd be greater than you, and hmm…maybe I'd even take your bitch too."
I pounce on him again, enraged by his comments. I beat the hell out of him, watching his head snap back and forth. He's not fighting me on purpose. "Yes…" he mumbles. "Each hit takes me one step closer to the crown."
I beat him one last time, finally knocking him into unconsciousness. I stand up, my body shaking. I see my older brother's crippled body and I spit on him, disgusted by his presence on my floors. I don't have time for this shit.
My body is still shaking uncontrollably. My skin heats up like a fire, smoke rolling off of my biceps. This sort of thing has been happening more and more often, and it scares me to know that something might be wrong with me. I'm sick, and the anger that builds inside of me each and every day is just fueling that fire.
I make my way down the hall to Three Horses, who is sending out the troops now. Normally I would send my brother to take care of this, but since that bastard's lying on the floor in a pool of his own blood, I have to. Three Horses looks up at me and nods in acknowledgement.
"I just sent fifty men into the Forest of Thieves to take care of business. They'll look until dark and then the midnight guard will keep watch until sunrise." Three Horses tells me, leaning against the wall. "Do you know where your brother is? I have to discuss a few things with him."
I can feel myself heat up again. I stand against the cool wall to breath the freezing air in through my pores. "He's lying in a puddle right now. Anything you have to say, I can tell him later." I say it nonchalantly. Three Horses looks at me like I've just grown a second head out of my right shoulder.
Without questioning (which is a smart decision for him), he nods and gives me the parchment scrolls to look at. They are maps, and red paint points out where the men had sighted both Pateros and Forks soldiers. They would look for camps along those areas and follow the dry river a little ways down.
I give the papers back to Three Horses and make my way down the hall. I need to see Bella. I need her.
When I finally get back to our room, I find her in the bathing quarters, rubbing soap over her soft skin. My mouth begins to water. Her long brown curls frame her heart-shaped face. Big pink lips, innocent brown doe eyes, and a perfectly sloped button nose are only one part of her that makes her perfect. There's her body, her breasts, which I can easily fit in the palm of my hand, her belly protruding with my child, and a supple backside to top it all off.
I strip off my clothes and instantly join her. The warm water soothes my skin and washes Iron Coyote's blood off of my knuckles. She smiles and makes more room for me in the tub. "Hello," she drawls softly. I shudder at the sound of her angelic voice.
She brings her knees up to her breasts and rests her chin upon them. "What's the matter?" I ask her, nodding at her legs. "Why are you hiding yourself from me?"
She gasps a little, looking down at her now concealed body. "Oh. I didn't mean to cover up like that." She lowers her legs a little, leaning her elbow onto the lip of the tub. I see those taut pink nipples perk up from the cold air that hits them. "I'm just…worried. Jacob, I just saw someone get killed before my eyes. I scared for my life."
I frown at this. "You don't have to be afraid for your life. I'll always protect you, no matter what." My hand reaches out and plays upon her thigh. "Told you that before."
She cups her chin in her hand and rubs her hand down her wet neck. "But you weren't there. You didn't even know that I was outside. I just went out with Angelina, bringing Scar out for some fresh air. What happens when you're not there for me?" she whimpers.
I can't ever see myself being far away from her. I knew she was outside from word of the maids that saw her, but what I didn't know was that there would be an attack on one of my servant boys. She's got a point, a scary point, but a point nonetheless. I won't always be able to be there.
For once in my life, I don't know what to say. What if there comes a day where I can't save her? I could be injured or trapped or taken hostage or gods forbid, dead. Losing her is something I can't bear to think of. Losing her and not being able to do a goddamn thing is even worse.
He crawls forwards towards me until he's lingering over me in all his naked glory. His black hair spills across his gorgeous face. I stroke a hand down his hot cheek, over the sharp ridges of his prominent cheekbones into the little dimple on his chin. High cheekbones, strong jaw, full lips—in my wildest dreams I couldn't have created a more perfect example of male beauty.
His hands brace himself up on the lip of the tub. I get comfortable under his heavy body, every inch of his skin pressed against my body. He makes sure not to apply too much pressure to my stomach to avoid hurting the baby. The bathing room is hot from his body heat and the steaming hot bath water. I nuzzle against him and listen to the rise and fall of his body heat. His lips are on my forehead.
Outside the wind whips and screams with its freezing agony. "I just want to get away from the war for a little," he whispers to me, his muscles bunching as he tenses up. "I know they're out there but I feel as if I am in denial."
I run my hands over the small of his back and cuddle against him, the bath water. He slips into a corner beside to me and we just hold each other for a moment. "You've got the world on your shoulders. So many responsibilities to uphold. Many eyes look to you for guidance. But sometimes you just have to relax and let your troubles drift away in the wind."
He bends down and kisses my lips with passion, his lips latching onto my lower lip and suckling it into my mouth. I tilt my head back a little, sighing in contentment. I, too, am afraid of the war. I'd just seen a man get killed right before my eyes and saw the aftermath of a wolf attack.
And now that I'm living in La Push, married to the king, hell, ruling La Push, I'm on the other side. I was very sociable back in Forks and most young gentlemen knew my name when it came up. What would they think of me when they realized that I am now the queen of the barbarians? Would they be disgusted? Would they kill me?
The thought makes me shudder. But I also know that I have Jacob and he will protect me. As will Black Bear and the other king's guard. I suppose that sometimes I forget I am queen. I hope and I pray that the men do not find anything in the woods. I don't want the war to happen, let alone start.
"We will get through this," he whispers to me, recognizing my tenseness. He grabs my hand and kisses my wet fingers. "And we'll do it together."
I slowly lay my head down on his shoulder, gazing out the window at the snow falling like heavy raindrops on the ground. Gods, I hope everything will be alright.
This war will toll its bell, and it will make sure that everyone hears it.
Ahh, so here's the deal. Next week, starting on Monday, I start school. And cheerleading gets CRAZY! I have a baseball game to perform at, then we're performing at a fair, the next two days are practices until like 8:30, and then on Friday is our very first football game. Do y'all think I'd be able to get a chapter in? Ehhh. Chances are slim. I might not even be able to touch an electronic device until Saturday! So, as far as updates go, it might take two weeks to get this out to you guys.
Anyways, I'd love tohear your reviews on this chapter. I worked pretty hard to finish it for you all tonight after an 8 hour competition cheerleading practice. Let's just say I'm sore everywhere, but my fingers still fly on the keyboards. Hope you enjoyed!