This is something I had written as a request by the lovely Ouisa in October 2007, but never posted. As always, special thanks to my wonderful beta reader, somethingblue.

What happened in Eclipse to cause Jacob to finally make the decision and tell Bella he loved her? We know she ended up with a broken hand after his first kiss ... Poor Jake ... why can't real life be more like dreams?

Ticking Clocks

Stumbling through the front door, I collapsed on the couch, tired down to my bones. I'd been patrolling for over 25 hours on only a few hours sleep. The word exhaustion just didn't cover how wiped out I felt. Closing my eyes, I heard the rubber tires of my dad's wheel chair roll over the carpet toward the living room.

"You'd sleep better if you used your bed once in a while." I could hear the worry in his voice, it was a little annoying at that point.

"Yeah? I'd sleep better if…" this had never happened to me and if that stinkin' bloodsucker had never come back"…yeah, I know." There was no reason to snap at him. He was worried about me and everything else that had been going on around us. I was just too exhausted to even think straight.

"Are you hungry? Do you want me to fix you some dinner before I go over to Sue's house?"

"Sure, sure. Thanks. I'm starving."

Sue was having a hard time with Leah. Seth was doing fine, actually, he was totally psyched. But, since her transformation, Leah was being impossible, a real bitch, making it that much harder on her poor mom and all of the pack members who were forced to share thoughts and feelings with her. She was constantly threatening to hunt down the vamps on her own and that had everyone worried. She was a loose cannon.

She blamed the bloodsuckers for her dad's heart attack and death. It was their fault, even if indirectly. She would never have phased if they hadn't decided to come back to Forks when they did. Both Sam and I had given her orders to stay away from the Cullens, but she was so pig-headed and reckless she refused to drop the threats even knowing she could never do anything about them unless Sam and I said she could.

Never in the past had so many of our people phased into their wolf form at one time and never a girl. Something was coming. All the elders were worried and held constant meetings discussing what was causing this strange phenomenon. It wasn't just the local vamps being here, nature or some other mysterious force was preparing us for something much worse than a small family of 'cold ones'.

With all this patrolling and virtually no sleep, five hours maybe in the last two nights, I was feeling so drained, stretched thinner and thinner every day, like a rubber band being pulled in every direction at once and very soon I would snap. God help whoever happened to be around when that happened. The only thing keeping me sane and focused was knowing that I was doing this for Bella.

Her occasional visits were the highlight of my life. The only thing I seemed to be living for these days. I thought about her all the time. I couldn't not think about her. I wanted to touch her, to smell her, to know she was safe. Every time I closed my eyes to catch a little sleep, there she was. And I would be happy… even if it was just a dream.

Because they were my dreams, my perfect world, she always said exactly what I wanted to hear… she loved me, not him… me. I was free to kiss her as much as I wanted and she always kissed me back.

Unfortunately, I would wake up and she would still be with him.

I swore to myself I was going to do it…the very next time I would see her, I would tell her I love her, I would kiss her for real. But, every time I saw her the words stuck in my throat. I was sure she knew that I loved her, but I never came right out and said it. So, maybe… she didn't know there was another option.

How could she really pick him over me? How could she want to be with something so cold and dead inside? Nothing more than a walking, talking corpse. It didn't matter to me that she swore he was different… he was going to change her into a murderer!

It turned my stomach to even think of him kissing her.

He was a flipping freak of nature, dammit!

I guess Bella could think the same about me, but… I wasn't a freak! I was still human. And it certainly wasn't my fault I changed into something else… It was his fault!

My heart still beat, blood flowed in my veins, I still ate food and slept, occasionally, and I was alive!

I could share my life with her! Life! Not an eternity of drinking blood just to exist! We could make wild crazy love without the fear that I would bite her, and if I did bite her, so what? It would in fun… only in play! I would never hurt her on purpose and she wouldn't have any nasty side affects from it like dying!

I was everything he wasn't! Everything about me was warm and alive. We could get married, have fun making beautiful babies and grow old together the way it's supposed to be. Screw the imprinting thing. It was never going to happen to me. Bella was the only girl I would ever love.

Even though I didn't have any say so in my transformation into a wolf, and that would have never happened if the bloodsuckers weren't here, I had the choice to live a normal life if I found someone to share it with. And I had. I found Bella.

Glancing over at the clock on the wall, I watched the second hand tick away the seconds before I realized that I had about an hour and a half before we would do the 'exchange'. I really needed a shower, but I was just too tired to get up from the couch. I laid my head against the wall and closed my eyes for just a minute.

I could hear my dad moving around in the kitchen, pulling a skillet out of the oven, placing it on the burner, the faint click of the igniter before it burst into flame, the refrigerator door opening…then the steady ticking of the clock drowned out every other noise…

I was running, the wind whipping through my shaggy hair as I pounded through the trees, dodging and jumping, thoroughly enjoying the felling of freedom. Bursting out of the forest into the open, I found myself running across the rolling ground toward the cliffs when suddenly, headlights flashed in my eyes, blinding me temporarily before I heard brakes squeal. The lights swerved wildly to the left, gravel and dirt flew into the air all around me. I caught the sight of the familiar old red truck out of the corner of my eye as I leapt out of the way.

I ran to the driver's side door, phasing back to my human form immediately, sticking my head into her window to make sure she was okay.

"Bella! Are you all right? God, you scared the crap out of me!"

Her hands were frozen to the steering wheel. Her beautiful face turned almost in slow motion to look at me. She'd been crying, her face wet with tears. Rage flashed through me instantly.

"What did he do to you!" I barked in her face, so sure the bloodsucker had hurt her in some way. Suddenly, I realized my worst fear. "Did he bite you?" Oh God, please don't say he bit you.

"He didn't do anything, Jacob." Her sad face turned away from me and my heart sank down into the pit of my stomach. It was me… I did something. "You didn't come for me, so he took me home, but I was so worried about you. I was so afraid something had happened and you couldn't call me. I tried to call your house, but no one answered and I just couldn't take it. I had to come make sure you were okay."

"Oh Bella, I'm so sorry." I smiled as relief sank in. Thank God! Reaching my hand in I touched her soft face. "I…"

I what? I couldn't remember why I didn't come to meet her. I would never have missed picking her up. Never.

I shook my head wondering if maybe I had just lost track of time while I was out running.

"Bella, I'm fine and I'm so sorry I made you worry. I would carry a cell phone but…" I looked down at my naked body and grinned, "no pockets, see." I took a step back from the truck as Bella's red-rimed eyes glanced over at me.

"Jacob! Holy crow! You're naked!" She stared at me for just one second too long before whipping her head back to look nowhere else but out the windshield of the truck. With my wonderfully keen eyesight, I could see the heat rising under her skin. Her face was on fire, a deep pink blush moved quickly up into her hair. However, in that one extra second, she saw me, all of me and she liked it. Her shy little smile gave her away completely.

"I can't stay here with you all… you know… naked." Her tears had dried up, but now they were threatening to pour out of her once more. I could only hope it was because of having to leave me again. "I need to get back." She choked out. So much of her face was hidden by her dark hair, I couldn't see if she had started crying again. "Edward will worry."

Damn him! I gripped the door of the truck, "Don't… say… his… name." She flinched as my order came out in a nasty growl between clenched teeth. I didn't mean for it to sound so menacing, it just came out that way. I took a breath and blew it out, embarrassed by my barefaced show of jealousy. "Please Bella, when you are with me, be with me." Is it so selfish to want you, to love you, to want to save your life?

"I want to be with you Jake, I really do. I want it more than you can know." Her voice was so low, a whisper that turned my mouth into a giant silly grin forcing me to look down, hiding my face from her.

"Then stay, Bella." I hoped she couldn't hear the absolute delight in my voice when she was feeling so down. "I want you to stay with me." Composing my face, I reached into the cab and touched her cheek again, turning her to look at me. "Just for a while, please." She smiled again, the moonlight reflected off her tears making her skin sparkle. "Let me take you for a ride."

"No way! You are not driving my truck naked."

I couldn't help but laugh at what she didn't understand. "No Bella, let me take you for a ride, you know on my back. It'll be fun." It was a great reason to put the silly grin back on my face and just the thought of her riding on my back was enough to get me more than excited. "It's like riding a horse. Come on." I stepped back from the truck again, her eyes flicked down and then away just as fast. God, could my grin any bigger?

In what took just a couple of seconds, I phased into my wolf form and stood wagging my tail, whining and panting at her, waiting for her to decide. She shook her head 'no', but I saw her hand move down to open the door. She stepped out of the truck and walked over to me. I was so overly excited I ran in crazy circles around her like a love struck pup before stopping in front of her.

She looked into my eyes, "Okay, but only a short ride." Her face broke into a beautiful smile and I couldn't resist… I licked her cheek.

"Oh yuck!" She wiped it off with her jacket sleeve. "Do that again Jacob and I am out of here."

Shaking my head, I snorted at her, something that I was sure sounded more like a sneeze.

"That should teach you." She laughed.

Trotting over to the truck, I stuck my head in sniffing around behind the seat. Dad and I had stashed a blanket back there because the heater wasn't always reliable and Dad needed to cover his legs sometimes. Cool, it's still here! After pulling it out, I tossed it over my back, it would be a little more comfortable to sit on than my hard muscles and bones.

I crouched down low enough for Bella to throw her leg over and climb up seating herself as comfortably as possible and grabbing two handfuls of fur on my back. Her legs squeezed my sides. Man, this feels so good! Wish I had her legs wrapped around me more often...in all kinds of ways. And, damn, didn't that thought just send a shudder throughout my entire body.

"Jacob! Let me off! I'm too heavy for you!"

I just snickered at her, she was totally clueless, and then I was off.

I started out slow then picked up the pace until I was all out running with Bella laughing in my ears and holding on for dear life. After taking her through the forest, I ran down to the beach. Her strength was giving out, I could feel she was getting tired, so I slowed my pace to an easy walk.

"Jacob, I need to get off for a bit. My hands are beginning to cramp up and I can hardly feel my legs anymore." She was tired, but still giggling.

Stopping in a patch of sand that was clear of driftwood debris, I began to lower my body to the ground when she slipped off and landed on her butt in the sand. I turned just in time to catch the amusing look on her face.

"I think my legs are numb." She looked up at me, the moon reflecting as shiny white pools in her dark eyes.

Pulling the blanket from my back with my teeth, I tossed it on the ground next to her, she straightened it out enough to sit on. Pulling her knees to her chest, she wrapped her arms around them in order to keep warm. I wanted to snuggle with her, keep her nice and toasty so she wouldn't want to leave too soon. I circled her a couple of times then turned to face her and slowly walked forward nudging my nose under her arms, forcing her to let go of her knees, then took one more step until my forehead pressed against hers. I pushed her back just a little, enough to let her know what I wanted and she lay back, stretched out beneath me, letting me rest my warm fur over the length of her body. My whole body vibrated, a rumbling purr of pure pleasure. What I wouldn't give at that moment to be in my human form lying on top of her just that way.

Nuzzling her face with mine, I rubbed her cheeks with my fur, marking her with my scent. I sniffed at her hair, behind her ears, along her neck, making her giggle like crazy underneath me. I couldn't fight it any longer… I licked her again. A long slow taste of her skin from the base of her throat to the back of her ear as she shivered beneath me, enjoying it more than she may have wanted to. Then moving to the other side, I tasted her sweet clean skin mixed with the saltiness of the ocean air that clung to her. It was surprising how unbelievably delicious she was. I could lick her all night.

Her heart was pounding, her breathing even more rapid than mine.

"Jacob! Stop! You're getting me all wet!"

That's the idea, Bella. If she really wanted me to stop, I would but…by the scent coming off her, I could tell she was enjoying the way I made her feel.

Grasping the zipper tab of her jacket in my teeth, I pulled it down. She reached down and unfastened it at the bottom, spreading it open for me. I nuzzled my nose inside her blouse, pushing it up to expose her skin, smelling heat throbbing inside her.

Oh God, she even smells delicious.

I kept pushing her blouse up, nudging it higher and higher until she reached over and pulled her jacket sleeve off her left arm and then off her right, took the bottom of her blouse and pulled it off over her head.

Her white skin almost glowed in the light of the full moon. No bra. Her little breasts were perfect. I knew I was staring, I couldn't help it. She was so beautiful. Damn, I could eat you up girl. My mouth was already watering when I started licking my lips like a hungry animal looking down at something really tasty, a treat held out to me for good behavior. My jaws snapped shut. It was a good thing I couldn't blush in this form.

Her hands came up and smoothed back the fur from the tip of my nose to behind my ears. No one had ever 'pet' me before, stroked my fur that way and I could feel it through every hair covering my body from the end of my nose to the tip of my tail. It felt so wonderful to have her touch me that way, accepting me the way I was, totally without fear. I curved my muzzle into what must have looked like a sheepish grin because Bella broke into another fit of the giggles, wiggling under me, making me want her even more.

I licked her again, long and slow.

"Jacob…" She was trying to protest, but I continued licking her neck, her jaw, her shoulder, moving down.

"Jacob…Jacob…" My name turned into a pleading whisper as I licked the little valley between her breasts before moving even further down to the soft flesh covering her stomach, rubbing my face back and forth across her skin – marking every inch of her with my scent before starting all over again. I wanted to bathe her, roll all over her, crawl inside her and saturate her whole body with my scent, make her part of me.

"Jacob…please stop…" Her hands found my face, forcing me to look up at her. I cocked my head to one side in confusion – she was thoroughly enjoying what I was doing, I could feel it, hell, I could smell it!

"Jacob… You can't possibly imagine how wonderful that feels but… If this is going where I think it's going, maybe… for the first time…since I have never…I just… Jake, you are opening up a whole new meaning to the words 'kinky sex' and I'm not sure I'm ready to explore that quite yet." She was totally serious. "I want… my Jacob."

I burst out laughing and instantly phased. Her hands never left my face as my muscles twisted, my bones contorted and within seconds I could feel her cool palms on my warm cheeks.

"Oh!" Her eyes were wide reflecting the full moon over my shoulder. Her breath hitched as my weight rested on her. "There you are. My Jacob." She whispered with a smile, her brown eyes twinkling.

Immediately, I felt the heavy ache in my groin, so hard and hot as it throbbed against Bella's body. I never knew pain could feel so damned good.

"Kiss me Jacob." Bella whispered as if someone else were here watching us on this deserted stretch of beach. I couldn't help but smile… a silly happy grin that I wanted to wear for the rest of my life.

Kiss me Jacob. I never realized how long I had waited to hear those words until she said them. How could she whisper when all I wanted to do was howl to the moon? I wanted to kiss her and I wanted her to kiss me back… I wanted her to feel what it was like to be alive, to feel her heart beat hard and fast in her chest.

I lowered my mouth to hers, kissing her softly at first, watching her reaction. Her eyelids closed as her fingers moved around the back of my neck, my body moving against hers, her lips parting to take in my tongue.

I closed my eyes, just concentrating on feeling her. My heart was pounding, Bella's doing double time to mine, skipping beats here and there as our kiss became more aggressive. Her mouth was so cool compared to mine, cool and sweet. Her breath came in short gasps, but she held tight to my neck, pulling me into her as if she couldn't kiss me enough, which was exactly what I wanted from her… to give in to me… let me love her.

When I could feel her struggling to breathe, I pulled my lips from hers giving her a chance to catch her breath.

"Maybe we better slow down, honey." I smiled as I tried to roll off her, give her some room, but she locked her hands behind my neck, refusing to let me move.

"No… I'm fine… I'm okay… just give me a minute." She began breathing a little easier. Unlocking her fingers, she moved her arms beneath mine, wrapping them around my back as far as she could, crushing her breasts into my chest, hitching her leg up over mine, holding me to her.

She felt so good, so perfect, as if we were made for each other. I pressed my body against the inside of her leg. I knew she could feel me twitching and throbbing, hot even through her jeans.

"Jacob…" She whispered, her eyes searching mine, "It's going to hurt… a bit… isn't it? I mean, at first?"

I couldn't stop my knee-jerk reaction, couldn't hide the truth that flashed swift and hard in my eyes. Yes, I was going to hurt her… but just this one time. It was the only way I could keep her, the only way I could save her. She let me go as I rolled to the side, my hands behind my head, lying next to her looking up at the stars. What could I say? I wouldn't lie to her. I couldn't.

"Yeah, I think so." She sat up next to me, her eyes fixed on my face. She was so small, so perfect and I was so… big, and being the first time for both of us… "Just at first." I think… I hope. God please don't let me hurt her too much. I reached up and touched her cheek. "But…it's… natural… the first time." Ah crap! That sounds so lame! "I promise to go slow."

I didn't want to make her any other promises, promises like, 'I'll stop if you need me to, if it hurts too much'. If she was afraid, we would have to stop right then, kissing her would have to be enough… for a while.

But damn it! I wanted her, I loved her, I needed her to stay alive. She just couldn't die! Become one of them!

"Bella…I…" Her eyes were no longer on my face, but had traveled down my chest and locked onto my groin. I completely lost my train of thought as I watched her eyes widen at the sight of me.

"Jacob… you are so… beautiful." Her dark eyes stared at me in my full glory.

"Bella," Rolling my eyes at her comment, "Men are not beautiful, they're…"

"You are. You're perfect… like a work of art."

I flashed her a smile. "Okay, I guess a work of art is not bad. I can go along with that." I chuckled, "There's no arguing with you - is there?"

She smiled and shook her head as her hand moved in slow motion toward my stomach. I held my breath as her trembling fingers touched my skin and slowly moved down through the course black hair that surrounded my groin. God, she's driving me crazy! The waiting… waiting for her to touch me as her fingers played all around me, her knuckles barely brushing me.

Breathe, just breathe.

I touched her cheek again, and even to my warm fingers she felt so hot. She was blushing something awful as she leaned into my hand. Her fingers began to move slowly up and down my hard length, barely touching me, making me insane.

"You're so… soft." Her tiny voice was almost drowned out by the sound of the waves.

"Bella! First I'm beautiful and now I'm soft. You're really crushing my ego here."

"I mean… well obviously you're … very…" Her skin temperature seemed to rise under my fingertips as she struggled to find the right word.

"Hard?" I helped her along with a huge grin.

"Yes! You are. But, you're skin… it's like touching velvet."

I was curious, "Haven't you ever touched a man before?" She shook her head 'no'. Even though she was a virgin, I had always thought that since he spent the night with her every night they must have done some things.

Maybe he'll lose control if… maybe he can't… now wouldn't that just be a living hell to not be able to have sex for eternity? I couldn't stop the grin that spread across my face at the thought of living forever without ever being able to make love…what a horrible existence. Ha! That was… if I was right.

I didn't want that for Bella. I wanted her to know what we could have together, what we could do. Bella's eyes had not moved. She watched her fingers moving over my tight skin, a sweet little smile on her face. My fingers stroked her soft cheek, matched the rhythm of hers as she gently touched every throbbing inch of me. It quickly drove all thoughts of him out of my mind, all I could think of was her and how she made me feel.

"Good God, girl! You're driving me crazy touching me like that." I could hardly breathe. Bringing my hand over hers, I curved her cool fingers around me, squeezing her against me. "There… just… like… that." I panted out as I guided her hand up and down my length before letting go with deep moan.

"I don't want to hurt you." She whispered.

"It already hurts… but in a really nice way." I moaned again. "God, Bella, that feels so good." Her fingers tightened around me causing me to gasp and shudder.

"Sorry… did that hurt?" She is so clueless. She had so much to learn and I was more than willing to teach her.

"Not at all." I touched her cheek again, let my fingers trail down her neck. "You can't hurt me, Bella. It's not that kind of pain." I cupped her small breast, ran my thumb over her hard nipple as her breath caught, her skin broke out in goosebumps. "It's an ache… inside… it's tight, it burns… every little thing you do makes me want to explode."

Her whole body shivered. "I know what you mean… I feel the same way."

Wondering if she could blush any further, I wrapped my hand around her neck, pulling her down to me, "Bella." I moaned as her lips found mine. In one smooth movement, I rolled her onto her back, our mouths still locked in a kiss, our tongues exploring as her hand came off me and settled on my chest. My hand moved down her stomach, unbuttoned, then unzipped her jeans, sliding them down and off her hips and legs together with her panties in one swift motion.

Bringing my hand back up the inside of her thigh, she gasped as my fingers brushed over her soft curls and then slid over her, slowly stroking back and forth. I pulled my lips from hers needing to see her face, to know she wanted this. Her eyes were dreamy looking as she moved into my fingers. Her hands came around my neck, pulling me down to her.

"Kiss me." She panted, "Kiss me." I eagerly lowered my mouth to hers, my tongue sliding hungrily between her waiting lips as my fingers slid deep into her body. We both moaned, fully enjoying the feel of each other.

You are so hot… so wet… I smiled. So soft… so unbelievably tight. So ready.

Her body tightened around my fingers as they gently explored deep inside her. Her hands moved to my shoulders, fingers digging into my muscles holding on for dear life as her body began to shudder. She pulled her mouth from mine as she cried out.

"Oh God! Jacob!"

She was so beautiful, trembling and shaking as every muscle in her body vibrated with her climax.

As she began to relax I leaned over her, licking her breast, taking it into my mouth, gently sucking, flicking her nipple with my tongue, tasting her sweet skin. Moving slowly, I laid my body over hers, settling between her parted legs, wrapping my arm around behind her knee, pulling her leg forward over my hip to open her just a bit more. Resting on my elbow, I guided myself to her and gently pushed forward little by little, not wanting to hurt her or at least, cause her the smallest amount of pain if possible.

Her breath hitched as I began to slide into her.

"Oh Bella! Damn! You are so tight, honey, so… !" It came out as a strangled growl. "Oh honey!" We both moaned as I sank deeper and deeper into her.

I moved so slowly, as gently as I could manage, watching her face the entire time, waiting to see pain shoot across her eyes but it never did. I almost wanted to see it… see the exact moment her innocence was gone, the moment she truly became mine.

It seemed to take forever to completely sink into her, to bury my full length. She lay beneath me, her dark brown eyes wide and full of love, her whole body trembling, our hearts pounding. I was breathing heavy, but she was barely taking in any air at all. Please Bella, what is it with you and not breathing?

I wrapped my arms around her, resting my weight on my elbows as I whispered in her ear. "Breathe honey, breathe for me."

She gasped, sucked in a lung-full of air, letting it out in a sweet little moan, "Jake… Oh Jake…"

"I need you…I need to keep you safe…" I whispered as I began to slowly move within her, in and out, in and out. She relaxed into my movements, her body moved with mine, taking me in as deep as I could go. "I need to make you mine." It came out as a deep growl with my next thrust into her. "I love you, Bella, I love you so much."

She clutched at my back, holding on tight as she buried her face in my chest. "I love you too."

She loves me. I knew it! I felt like I could fly. I picked up the pace and drove into her, she willingly took me in, moving with me as her legs wrapped around my mine, held onto me, clutching at me, feeling every movement of my body as I felt hers.

Just then, her body tightened around me, her fingers digging into my back. Sweet soft moaning came from between her lips as she moved, arching her head back. I could feel her whole body spasm as she climaxed again.

Looking into her soft brown eyes, I saw tears running in little streams down her face, disappearing into her hair. She was crying. Oh Bella, I'm so sorry.

"Oh Bella, honey." Tears blurred my vision, but I couldn't stop. I was already past the point of no return as every muscle in my body tensed and rippled.

"I love you, Jacob." Her tiny voice quivering.

A guttural howl ripped through my throat as I exploded into her. "Bella… Bella… Oh God, Bella!"

"Jacob… Jacob…"

"Jacob… Jake wake up!"

My eyes shot open to see my dad's worried face starring at me. I had curled up into a ball on the couch, breathing heavy, my heart pounding, sweat dripping off me like I had just run in a marathon.

"Another nightmare? You were calling out Bella's name again."

I shrugged my shoulders feeling a warm wetness around the waistband of my sweats and it was spreading, sliding down across my hip. "I'm okay." I could smell it along with the smell of hot food that came from the kitchen, and another scent I recognized right away…Sam. Ah crap.

"You're dinner's ready." My dad backed up his wheelchair and rolled down the hallway calling back to Sam, "I'll be right there, Sam."

"Sure, no problem." Sam looked over at me, a big grin plastered on his face. "Nightmares, huh? Having those a lot lately?"

"Yeah, every chance I get." Grabbing the afghan from the back of the couch, I wrapped it around my shoulders in an attempt to hide the big wet stain that had spread over the front and side of my sweatpants.

"Better than a cold shower." He chuckled.

"Much better." I shot him a grin.

Sharing all our thoughts and feelings with the rest of the pack had been a pretty embarrassing at first, we all had normal male urges and took care of our business in private and no one thought twice about it, until Leah joined. After that, taking care of business was almost impossible. She was ruthless with her sarcastic comments on that subject. A nice wet dream was something none of us could control or even wanted to.

"Are you ever gonna tell her you love her?" Sam knew how I felt, they all knew.

"Yeah – probably." Not that it will make any difference. Standing up, I glanced at the clock, I had dreamed away twenty-five minutes. The best damned dream I ever had. But, time was running out, running out for both of us. I would tell her today. Dad will be gone and we'll have the house to ourselves. Maybe… no. Don't even think about that yet.

My dad came back into the living room and headed for the door. "I'll be back around ten."

"Say hi to Sue for me, dad. Thanks Sam." Sam helped my dad out the front door closing it behind them. I stood there in the middle of the room, tossed the afghan back on the couch. The clock on the wall was ticking off the seconds before I would see Bella again. Turning, I headed down the hall toward the bathroom. No cold shower for me.