Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No copyright infringement is intended.
Thanks to Eowyn77 for beta-reading this chapter.
Crazy Old Fool by Heartbroken1
Chapter Two - Take Care
By the time Bella finally decided to grace us with her presence, my nerves were shot. She walked across the grass and Jacob was fidgeting next to me. His anticipation of just being near her was palpable and only added to my irritation.
"Calm down," I growled.
He looked down at me, both hurt and annoyance on his face.
I didn't have time for compassion right now. The leech was watching Bella with so much intensity, I could almost feel the air crackling.
"Hey, Billy. Hi, Jacob." There was a false cheerfulness in her voice that bothered me. She was upset by our being here. Her face had a forced smile on it as she continued, "Charlie's gone for the day -- I hope you haven't been waiting long."
"Not long." But long enough for you to get out of that damn truck. I stared into her eyes, letting her know I meant business. "I just wanted to bring this up." I held up my excuse -- a bag of Harry's fish fry.
"Thanks," she said, seeming to buy my lie. "Why don't you come in for a minute and dry off?"
Perfect. If I could get Bella alone, maybe I wouldn't have to speak with Charlie at all. Maybe I could talk some sense into her. She was a bright girl.
We walked into the darkness, and Bella began flipping lights on. When she reached down and took the brown paper bag from me, I said, "You'll want to put it in the fridge. It's some of Harry Clearwater's homemade fish fry -- Charlie's favorite. The fridge keeps it drier."
"Thanks," she said again. She was trying to keep things light, but I got the definite impression that my visit was wearing on her nerves. "I was running out of new ways to fix fish, and he's bound to bring home more tonight."
"Fishing again?" If she thought I were going to track him down, our conversation might be more pleasant. "Down at the usual spot? Maybe I'll run by and see him."
"No," she said quickly, lying. "He was headed someplace new… but I have no idea where."
I wanted to scold her for lying to her elders. It wasn't polite and was out of character for our dear Bella Swan. If she were willing to lie about Charlie's whereabouts, what was she hiding and how far was she willing to go with it? Irritation and fear struck a cord in my very soul.
I couldn't go on a fishing expedition of my own with Jacob's innocent ears around. A wild goose chase was exactly what I needed. "Jake, why don't you go get that new picture of Rebecca out of the car? I'll leave that for Charlie, too."
Jacob was going to be really pissed when there was no picture, but I needed to have this conversation without him.
"Where is it?" His expression was as blank as his question.
"I think I saw it in the trunk." I felt horrible for lying to him. "You may have to dig for it." It wasn't fair that I was sending him out in the rain for no other reason than privacy, but it had to be done.
His only response was an aggravated sigh, and he left us, disappearing out into the rain.
I wasn't sure how to start my interrogation and hoped that maybe she would just start talking -- spilling the beans. Yeah, like that's going to happen.
After an awkward silence, she turned and started toward the kitchen. I wasn't about to let her get out of this so easily and followed her, the wheels of my chair squeaking on the linoleum.
"Charlie won't be back for a long time," she snapped as she appeared over the refrigerator door.
I only nodded, encouraging her to fill the silence with her voice -- her excuses.
"Thanks again for the fish fry." If she hadn't had a better upbringing, she would have just told me to get out.
There were a thousand words sitting on the tip of my tongue wanting to fly out and accuse her, but I clamped my teeth down on them and simply nodded.
She folded her arms across her chest.
I was getting to her. Now was the time. "Bella," I said quietly.
Her eyes bored into mine as she waited.
"Bella, Charlie is one of my best friends." Starting with the obvious is a good idea, I thought. Nothing threatening there.
I concentrated on my voice, speaking slowly to keep it in check. "I noticed you've been spending time with one of the Cullens."
"Yes," her simple reply was quiet and cold.
I took a deep breath, refusing to allow her to sway me. "Maybe it's none of my business, but I don't think that is such a good idea."
Her face was hard. "You're right."
That was easy.
"It is none of your business."
Oh. Charlie would not approve of her tone at all. Snippy. Defiant. Rude. I raised my eyebrows and acted as though I hadn't noticed her attitude. "You probably don't know this, but the Cullen family has an unpleasant reputation on the reservation."
"Actually I did know that." Her answer surprised me, but I kept my face composed. "But that reputation couldn't be deserved, could it? Because the Cullens never set foot on the reservation, do they?"
I didn't know how to respond to her questions. It seemed she knew a little more than I gave her credit for. This revelation was even more frightening. My eyes met hers, neither of us looking away.
"That's true," I said quietly. "You seem…" How to word it… "Well informed about the Cullens. More informed than I expected."
Her stare was hard, emotionless as she narrowed her eyes at me. When she spoke, her tone matched her face, "Maybe even better informed than you are."
Well, if that don't just take the wind out of your sail. "Maybe." I glared back at her, still holding the ace -- I hoped. "Is Charlie as well informed?"
She flinched, and I knew I had her. Charlie didn't know the proverbial fire she was playing with.
"Charlie likes the Cullens a lot." Her statement was true enough, but I knew Charlie well enough to know that there was no way in hell he would allow his daughter to date a vampire.
I would stop at nothing in order to protect Bella, whether she wanted that protection or not. "It's not my business, but it may be Charlie's." It seemed that the treaty may have been broken already which meant, if push came to shove, I may just tell Charlie the whole truth.
"Though it would be my business, again, whether or not I think that it's Charlie's business, right?"
Damn! She was smart -- and stupid.
The rain started coming down faster, harder, and my thoughts turned to my poor son searching for the picture that didn't exist. This confrontation with Bella was getting me nowhere, fast. I would simply end it and leave. "Yes, I guess that's your business, too."
The rush of air flowing from her lungs told me she was relieved. "Thanks, Billy."
"Just think about what you're doing, Bella." Think long and hard… until I can come up with another way to convince you to think about your safety. Charlie's safety. Not only was she putting herself in danger, but every time she brought that monster near her father… I shuddered at the very thought of it.
She nodded. "Okay." Her expression was a bit smug, and I wanted to bust into a screaming lunatic in order to get my point across.
I spoke quietly, "What I meant to say was, don't do what you're doing." My message couldn't get more clear than that. I stared at her, waiting for her response to my request.
She said nothing. She didn't move. I'm not even sure she was breathing.
Bella and I both jumped as the door swung open. Jacob stomped in from outside just as I expected him to -- mad and soaked to the skin. "There's no picture anywhere in that car."
Needing to get out of this house and away from this whole situation. "Hmm, I guess I left it at home."
Jacob snorted and rolled his eyes. "Great."
I knew Bella had no intention of listening to anything more I had to say, and in order to make a better plan, I had to spend some time alone, thinking. "Well, Bella, tell Charlie," I paused, giving her a double message. "That we stopped by, I mean."
Jacob's irritation was rolling off of him just as the rain was. "Are we leaving already?"
"Charlie's gonna be out late."
Jacob watched me move out of the kitchen. "Oh." The disappointment on his face actually hurt. He liked Bella, and I knew it. I'd used his feelings for Bella Swan in order to get him over here. "Well, I guess I'll see you later, then, Bella."
"Sure," she said to Jacob, looking at me.
I turned to meet Bella's gaze. "Take care." There were multiple messages in that statement, and I knew she'd caught every last one of them.
No one said another word until Jacob and I were settled in the car on the way home.
"What the hell was that, Dad?"
"I don't know what you mean."
"Don't lie to me. This isn't a joke, and if you don't stop going on about the Cullens, people are going to think you're nuts. Just leave it alone, Dad. Please."
"I can't, Jacob. I wish I could…. This is too important."