The rest of my Thursday dragged on. Sam loved me and I'd been riding on that high since breakfast. Even my leg playing up couldn't bring me down as I walked between classes, listening to Kim talking animatedly about anything and everything or Jared talking about the bonfire tomorrow night.
"Bells, can you make something for dessert tomorrow night? Sam never stops talking about them and you KNOW we Res boys need to eat a lot!" Jared was practically drooling and I just smiled. Jared had been practicing signing with me and I had a sneaking suspicion Sam was helping him.
If I do, will you pick them up tonight? I don't have room in my fridge.
Jared smiled, comprehending. With shaky hands, he signed back 'Yes' before speaking, "What time do you want me to come over? I can take everything to Sam's house after – he's working tonight."
You can come over for dinner if you like? I was going to Kim's to study but she had to help her Mum out with something.
"Really? You'd cook dinner for me? That would be amazing!"
Of course. I cook for Sam all the time. Come over after school?
Jared high fived me, smiling as we took our seats as Mr. Banks walked in.
After school, Jared followed me home in his car. I'd text Sam to let him know that I was cooking for Jared and told him he could stop by if he had time after work.
I'm not sure if I'll be done in time, babe. What time is dinner? – Sam xx
Dinner will be ready about 7? – Bella xx
I should be able to make it by 7:30. Is that OK? – Sam xx
OK, can do. I'll see you then? – Bella xx
See you soon. I love you, Angel. – Sam xx
I love you too. – Bella xx
The smile I had on my face was ridiculous; I couldn't help it. Realising that I was in love with Sam had changed so much in such a short time. I felt like I wasn't alone anymore and that maybe I'd have something to look forward to once I was eighteen and could get out of my father's house.
Once we got back to my house, Jared helped me lug groceries inside – the fixings for apple pies, berry tarts, white chocolate & macadamia cookies and lemon meringue tart. Jared was excited at the concept of desserts and sat at my dining table trying to sneak ingredients while I made pastry and cookie dough. He laughed when I threw flour at him for stealing some cookie dough and I smiled, glad he was enjoying himself.
Stop it! If you keep eating all the cookie dough, there won't be any cookies left.
"Okay, okay sorry! It just looks great! Sam has really been holding out on me. Your cooking is awesome, Bells." I smiled at him, turning away to put the berry tarts in the oven and stir the apples cooking on the stove with cinnamon and sugar. I kept glancing at the clock – it was already 6:50 and Sam would be here soon.
Suddenly worried, I pulled veggies from the fridge – beans, carrots, baby corn – and chopped them up before putting them on the stovetop to steam. I took the steaks that had been marinating all night out of the fridge and put together a quick mushroom and garlic sauce while they sizzled in a hot pan.
"I'm seriously impressed with your multitasking skills, Bells. I feel so bad that I can't help!" Jared started to stand up and I smacked his hand with the spatula I was holding before giving him a stern look that made him sit down. I heard laughing from the doorway and turned quickly, terrified Charlie had come home early for some reason and was about to do something terrible.
"I've never seen someone scare the great Jared Letby before! If I ever doubted it, I'm pretty sure you're the one, Angel." Sam's voice sent a jolt of calm to my heart and my chest stopped pounding and I leapt at him, letting him cocoon me in his arms. He kissed me soundly before letting me go. "I missed you, Angel." He kissed me again, eliciting a smile I reserved only for him. After a moment, lost in his stunning brown eyes, he spoke again "Hey this smells great, babe. What are you making?" I smacked his hand with the spatula as he reached to dip his finger into the mushroom sauce and gestured for him to sit down next to Jared. They shook hands and I noticed that Jared relinquished his seat at the head of the table for Sam.
"She's making steak and mushroom sauce." Jared chimed in, "Honestly, Sam if you don't marry her I will. This food smells incredible!" I froze, the word 'marry' echoing in the empty space in the kitchen. My heart exploded in my chest but I forced myself to continue what I was doing in an attempt to pretend I hadn't heard what Jared said. I took the last of the pies out of the oven and took the steaks out of the pan as I listened for Sam's response.
"To late man. I'm keeping this one all for myself. She's the best thing that's ever happened to me." Sam's response was confident; the conviction in his voice was enough to steady my hands.
"As long as you're OK with that, Angel?" Sam pulled me onto his lap, tucking a loose strand of hair behind my ear and resting his hand on my cheek. I nodded quickly, leaning in to give him a quick kiss before untangling myself from him.
Within a few minutes, six different pies and tarts and five trays of cookies were cooling on the bench and Sam and Jared were digging into their meals – plates piled high to feed their ravenous appetites. "This is amazing, Bella. Can you teach my Mum how to cook?" Jared's eyes were smiling as he joked but Sam smacked him over the back of the head anyway. "Don't joke about your mother like that, J. Appreciate what she provides for you." Sam chastised him gently but I heard the pain beneath his voice and knew he was talking about his mother. I knew she'd died when he was younger but he hadn't been able to tell me much more than that.
"Sorry, Sam. You're right." Jared was humble, accepting Sam's words quickly as he shoved more food into his mouth.
I hadn't put much on my plate and was finished quite quickly, despite Sam and Jared's penchant for inhaling their food. Just as I was about to get up and wash my plate, Sam reached across and added another, small piece of steak to my plate with a small smile. I accepted it without response and kept eating as I felt him squeeze my knee in reassurance before finishing off his own plate.
When I got up to clear the dishes, I put too much pressure on my left leg and faltered, Sam catching me before I lost balance. "You okay, babe? Your leg playing up again?" His hand was immediately on my thigh, massaging the muscle and unknowingly massaging a deep bruise in the same spot. I flinched before I could stop it and as Sam's eyes widened I knew I was busted. "Babe? What's happened to your leg?" His face was worried and a quick look at Jared showed that he was, too.
It's just a bit sore at the moment. I slipped on the wet grass the other day and it's been sore ever since. I'll get over it.
My explanation was lame and I watched Sam process it slowly, unsure if he was going to believe me. My heart rate spiked when he responded, "Are you sure that's all it is, Angel? If something's happened, I can help?" He didn't believe me. He knew something was happening. I was busted but Charlie's voice was ringing in my ears – "If you ever say a word about this, no one will believe you. You're a pathetic loser and you've lost everyone who ever cared about you. I'm the law and what I say goes. That's how it works in this town, bitch."
"Bella – tell me what's happened? Jared's gone into the other room so we can talk." Sam's voice snapped me out of it and I looked around to see that Jared had left the kitchen and the dishes were piled in the sink.
Honestly, Sam. I'm fine. My leg just bothers me sometimes. It doesn't help that I'm clumsy! I smiled, trying to play it off as a throwaway comment and desperate for him to believe me. Images of Charlie throwing things around the kitchen, smashing walls with my body were suddenly replaced with images of Sam being attacked, Charlie with his gun out. I fought back tears desperately. Maybe I can sit down? My leg hurts. Sam immediately picked me up and walked me into the living room, laying me down on the couch opposite where Jared was sitting in Charlie's lazy boy.
"You sit here, Angel. Jared and I will do the dishes while you rest. We won't be too long." He kissed my head gently, pulling a blanket over my lap, "I love you, Angel." With that, he handed me the remote and walked into the kitchen with Jared in tow.
Jared followed me into the kitchen, pausing to look back at Bella as she curled into a ball on the couch under the blanket I'd covered her in. We could both heart her heartbeat as it slowed from erratic to slightly faster than normal after I stopped questioning her. Something was very wrong and we both knew it but Bella wasn't willing to talk to me about whatever is happening. The fear that had been consuming me since Paul mentioned Anna to me weeks ago was back in full force and I was sure that Bella wasn't being honest with me. She was scared of something or someone.
"What the hell is going on, Sam? Bella isn't clumsy; she's more and more graceful every day I know her. I can't imagine her slipping over and hurting herself." Jared's voice was so low that Bella couldn't hear him but I could easily pick up on the worry in his tone.
"I know, J. I think someone is hurting her but I don't know who. I can't figure it out and you saw – she won't tell me." I explained the gash I'd seen on her head last week and Jared's reaction was just as furious as mine had been. He growled low, understanding the implication of my words. The fury burned hot in my stomach as I realised that someone could be happening to my imprint and I didn't know about it. I couldn't protect her.
"I thought you said that you were watching her at school, J?!" I growled, hating the implication in my tone but unable to stop it. I started running the water in the sink, grabbing a sponge to wash the dishes we'd left so Bella wouldn't have to.
"I am, Alpha. I swear. No one is touching her at school. The only place I can't follow her is the bathroom and, even then, I wait for her outside." Jared had switched tones, recognising his Alpha was speaking to him.
"I want her watched every second of every day until I can get to the bottom of this. I'll get her to stay at my place this weekend – her Dad is out of town so we won't need to patrol around her house. Next week we will keep someone posted on her at all times." Jared nodded, taking up a dishtowel and drying off the plates I'd washed. " I don't like this, Jared. Suddenly my imprint turns up with bruises all over her and there's a rogue vampire sniffing around..."
I was about to continue discussing who the threat could be when we both heard Bella walking back into the kitchen and shut up. I turned to look at her, smiling as I took in how beautiful she was.
"Babe, what are you doing up?" She smiled, waving her hand in dismissal and gesturing to the desserts she'd made for the bonfire tomorrow night.
"These look amazing babe. Jared said he's taking them back to my place – are they fine to take like this or did you want to pack them up?" She nodded, walking over to a cupboard and pulling out some Tupperware to stack the cookies in, before packing the pies in containers as well before stacking it all on the table.
"Seriously, Bells. You made so much food. Thanks so much for this. The pack will love it!" As soon as Jared said it, he froze. He knew I hadn't told Bella about the wolves and he knew he'd just slipped up in a big way.
Pack? Bella signed, looking confused. Before Jared could respond, I interjected, "Just a name people came up with for the guys that work for me, namely me, Paul and Jared." She nodded, smiling and accepting my explanation and the guilt of lying to my imprint hit me straight in the chest. I had to tell her, soon. But I had to find out what was happening to her first.
"Anyway, guys. I'm going to take off. Bells – thank you so much for dinner. It really was amazing!" Jared hugged her gently, careful of any bruises she had that she hadn't told us about. Surprising me, she hugged him back. It was nice to see that my Bella was comfortable with my pack mate, despite her aversion to physical contact. "Sam – I'll take this stuff to your place if you like?" I nodded and Jared collected everything before leaving with a wave.
As soon as he left, I was tempted to ask again about Bella's leg but caught myself. Instead, I pulled her into my lap on the couch and kissed her soundly, wrapping her in my arms in an attempt to convey just how safe she was with me. After I pulled away, I whispered into her hair, "I love you, Angel. I'm here for you no matter what. You know that, right?" She nodded, kissing me again before snuggling into my arms and focusing on the TV.
"Bella – I want to ask you something." She turned to me, waiting. I noticed that her signing had slowed down tonight more than usual and she was sticking with gestures. Curious, I filed that information away for later, careful not to scare her with too many questions again. Instead, I focused on the plan to keep her on the Res as much as possible over this weekend.
"I was wondering… I know your dad is out of town this weekend so I thought that maybe… maybe you could stay with me?" I was suddenly so nervous, terrified that she would say no or that the idea would bring up memories from when I'd nearly lost her.
"I promise I won't put any pressure on you. I can sleep on the couch if that would make you more comfortable. But I'd just like to keep you close while your dad is gone. What do you think?" No one else could make me a bundle of nerves like Bella could and I was, once again, rambling because I was scared of her answer.
Gently, she placed a finger over my lips to tell me to shut up. Out of instinct, I kissed it before she pulled her hand away.
That sounds really nice, Sam. Tomorrow night?
"Yeah, tomorrow night until Sunday night?" She was agreeing! Bella was planning on staying in my house – with me!
I can't stay Sunday but I can stay Friday and Saturday. Thank you.
"I'm so excited! Do you want me to take you to school tomorrow? Or do you want to drive yourself? Do you remember where my place is?"
I'll drive myself and yes I remember where your house is. I'll come over after school?
"Sounds perfect, Angel." She kissed me then, and I forgot all about my nerves and reveled in the feeling of being with my imprint.
I phased as soon as I got my truck home, circling back to Bella's house after checking in with Paul. I planted myself in the trees outside of her window and watched her bedroom light go out. I heard her walk towards her bed, one footstep heavier than the other showing further evidence that her leg was more hurt than she'd let on. Once I heard her breathing even out, I relaxed and let my paws curl into the earth beneath me. Her injuries scared me and whoever had caused them was scaring my imprint. That threat had to be eliminated. And I wouldn't stop until I figured it out.
When the sun rose, I heard Jared check in. He did a few laps of the La Push perimeter before heading over to Quil Jr's house to check in on the potential new member of the pack. The argument he overheard in the house between Quil and his mother triggered something for my wolf that made me immediately take off towards his house. I was there in minutes, phasing back and pulling on my cutoffs before walking straight into the house.
Quil Jr was red-faced and screaming as his mother stood by the stove holding a cell phone in her hand.
"Give me back my phone, Mum!" Quil screamed, taking a step towards her.
"Quil don't you dare speak to me like that. You're grounded and that means no phone! Stop screaming right this second!" His mother's voice was shaky but firm as she tried to discipline her son, who was shaking slightly in his anger.
I recognized the blurred outline of his body as preparing to phase and had to step in. He hadn't noticed me yet so when I grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him back, he turned and immediately tried to swing at me. I caught his fist easily, twisting his arm behind his back.
"Quil. Calm down – now. We're going to go for a little walk." The Alpha had spoken and, even as an un-phased wolf, Quil instinctively responded to it and allowed me to lead him outside and into the woods. His mother watched us leave with a knowing look in her eyes.
Once in the woods it didn't take long. Quil was angry enough that a few choice words from me and he exploded into a small grey wolf, snarling before he realised what had happened. I'd phased immediately, as had Jared, and I stood feet above Quil ready to show him who was Alpha of this pack. In seconds, we'd collided in a snarling, bare-tooth explosion.