I do not own Twilight, nor do I own any of the characters. The Twilight Saga belongs to Stephenie Meyer. Any references to dialogue from Eclipse are purely for reference. This story is in no way an attempt at copyright infringement.
Part Two of Three. This is my favorite chapter of the entire series. It carries the most intense dialogue of Eclipse. It is deeply revealing and incredibly interpretive. I think fans love to think of Edward as this sensitive yet chauvinistic übersmensch, but the reality in the story is that Edward is terribly a dualistic and constantly conflicted character.
I had so much fun with this. Enjoy.
Continued from Chapter 22 – Fire and Ice, Part One...
"At least you know she wishes it was you," He spat.
My mask was working. I felt the corner of my mouth turn upwards a little. In the most nonchalant manner I could muster, I responded.
I could only hope with all of my being that his words were true...
Jacob's thoughts were beyond annoying. In fact, they'd begun to carefully creep along the border between insulting and disgusting. I'd tried to focus on the infinitesimal sounds of the storm, the wind, the rushing moisture of the snow, the subtle crashing of the conflicting air temperatures; cold against freezing. But, ultimately, it was Bella's heartbeat that was securing my lifeline to sanity. And, Bella's heartbeat was also saving Jacob's life. Repeatedly. It was only natural; he'd saved her life tonight…so, after tonight, they would be even.
But, that didn't mean I couldn't dream. Well, I couldn't really dream, but I could in my own way. It was wrong. I knew it. I blamed it on my instincts and felt justified by telling myself that despite these urges, I would refrain from crushing Jacob Black's smug face into an indistinguishable pile of bone and skin.
It would only take seven seconds! A very short time. Seven seconds and it would all be over. I grinned to myself as I considered my impossible option. But, eventually, the vision lost its luster, since I could no longer avoid the tiny detail that rendered the entire prospect hopeless: Bella's reaction. Even in my imagination, causing her pain was beyond excruciating.
So, after enjoying my vivid imagination's various versions of Jacob Black's death, I'd given up the whole charade. Instead, I'd decided to intently focus on the little thumps of Bella's life. My entire world revolved around its musical rhythm, especially now. Naturally, I'd succeeded in blocking his heartbeat out entirely. No need for additional reminders of his existence…
Ah…yes. My refuge, my peace, my sanity.
It didn't block him out entirely, but it was a formidable distraction. Of course, this presented another problem. After I'd renewed my focus, and my dedication to abstaining from breaking his face…in seven seconds…his constant interruptions were an almost flagrant provocation. They were consistently breaking through her beautiful sound: loud, obnoxious, shameful, and achingly tender thoughts. But, I held my tongue…and my hands, right in their place, clenched at my side. Nothing was worth having if it wasn't worth working for, right? I would earn the pleasure of hearing her heartbeat…
…I wonder what she's thinking right now about me being here with him…when we were down at the beach, she told me…-…I wonder if Charlie ever told her that he knew I really liked her…I mean…-
Ugh. He was almost as consumed with his love for Bella as…well, as I was. I didn't like that. It was irritating. I focused.
…this feels amazing…she's cold, but I can feel her skin warming slowly…she's so soft...her hair smells so good…
…like…almost like strawberries…
I sighed and cast a look at Bella. She was falling asleep. I couldn't feel her warmth in the room yet, but I was sure it would return. Her scent would return soon as well, of course, much quicker if I killed Jacob now…but, well… find another consolation…
…so pretty…I wish I could see her face better…ha…although she is kind of glowing…if I didn't know better I would think she was almost dead…still pretty...
Idiot. I groaned inwardly. He was becoming impossible to tolerate. But, I did have one other consolation and that was the knowledge that Seth Clearwater was due to arrive shortly. Perhaps I would not have to be confined to Jacob Black's thoughts for the entirety of this dreadful night! Perhaps I would not have to kill him for the sake of my sanity…
Another gust of wind shook the tent violently and Jacob and I looked at each other, listening. Bella shuddered, but…with less intensity. I looked away from Jacob Black's gaze. He could interpret the gesture as he wished. After all, I could ignore the smoldering thoughts, perhaps even the tension in his eyes, but the image of him – his body pressed so closely next to her, in such an intimate position - pushed my frustrations to the edges of their carefully maintained boundaries. Seven seconds…
I peered at him from the corner of my eye. It appeared as if he'd nearly forgotten my presence, although I was sure he could still smell me. Did he realize it would only take seven seconds? Did he truly trust my love for her so implicitly? Well, he should. I would never hurt her, but was he taking it for granted? Using it to his advantage? I wasn't sure. Was he intentionally attempting to irritate me with these machinations, or was he so lost in the moment that he failed to realize I could hear everything he was thinking? Surely it was the latter. I saw his arm shift slightly. He was holding her closer to him. My fists had a mind of their own and I watched them with surprise as they continually clenched and unclenched with a deliberate methodology. I didn't stop them. The clenching, the pressure, the controlled movement was helpful. Between the movement and her heartbeat, I could handle this -
"There," Jacob murmured, obviously pleased with himself. "Feeling better?"
Bella opened her eyes at the sound of his words and blinked a few times, attempting to answer his question honestly. She was still so pale, so lovely.
"Yes…" she said.
I searched her face in suspicion. Was this another attempt to disguise her true condition? I couldn't be sure. Although she was still luminous, it was true that she was not shaking anymore. She did sound a little better. I fought a smile as I realized that for the first time in five hours, or three hundred minutes, she'd actually spoken a full word free from chattering. I longed to tease her about it. Maybe later. The chattering would have been incredibly endearing, actually, if it had only lasted for a brief period and not for the entirety of one of the worst nights of my existence. And, this was one of the worst nights of my existence.
…she does look better actually…although she should be closer just in case…her lips are still blue, but I could warm them up…
"Your lips are still blue," he simpered, with animated concern. "Want me to warm those up for you, too? You only have to ask," he smirked, looking into her expression as if they were the only ones in this small, aromatic tent.
His eyes quickly darted to mine, but I averted them. Provocation is not wise, Jacob. I felt Bella's gaze then. I realized that his glare was in response to Bella's visual search for me in the darkness. I lowered my head, focusing on nothing. I had the fleeting fear that she was searching for permission, but that was unlikely. It was worse. Her search for me was for reassurance, reassurance I was in no condition to provide her with; to remove myself from my cloaked position would do more harm than good.
"Behave yourself," she muttered, sensing my discomfort.
She snuggled against him closer, angling her face toward his. My mind reeled as I peered at her face, assessing each of her movements. Was she going to kiss him? What would I actually do if she did kiss him? Would she expect me to endure it? Of course not! I tensed and for a fraction of a second I considered moving toward them.
Then, Bella pressed her white cheek against his shoulder and he drew back away from it as if she'd burned him.
…ugh!…damn it…she's freezing…
A sly smile crept up on her face and although she could not see me, I knew it was for my benefit. She was punishing him. My chest shook as I fought a sincere chuckle, both at her genuine attempt to dish out any form of revenge for his insulting behavior, and at my own madness. I felt a strange emotion…was it pride? Had I ever done anything to deserve her? No. Of course not.
I watched her silently as she shifted her weight, rubbing her feet together to remove her shoes. I moved slightly, wanting to help her, but I withdrew. My closeness would irritate them both. As I slid back into my corner, I watched Bella press her feet and her legs against Jacob, searing his skin with hers. I thoroughly enjoyed his discomfort.
…ughhhhh!...maybe she just wants to touch me…it's not like she can ask with him sitting there watching everything…
He convinced himself of this fact easily. Jacob leaned his head down to her shoulder, angling his face to her cheek. He closed his eyes when his face met hers. It was too intimate, but I did not intercede.
…hmph…she's just trying to be polite for the leech…if he weren't here who knows what we would be doing right now…her nose is so cute from this angle…I wonder if I've told her that…no, there is so much I've never told her…I've never had enough time…-
I blocked him again, but only through great effort. I could still hear him, but his voice began to take on a familiar muffled quality. Her heart was stronger. I simultaneously focused on both her rhythm and my internal recitation of the facts: Bella was recovering. Bella was warm, we were safe from further threats, and Jacob's presence was necessary for now, but it had no degree of permanence…
The howling wind broke my meditation. The change in air pressure was different somehow and the intensity had lessened. This time the temperature did not relent as it had the previous thirty-six times. I tilted my head to focus. I was no weather expert, but perhaps my previous calculations had been correct. Dawn would break soon enough…
….she almost kissed me…her lips are so nice even when they're blue…if she…-
I heard him, but I didn't listen. I felt a grim satisfaction. I'd know it all along. Time was the master of this situation, but patience was the master of time. My best bet was to wait. Wait for her to recover, wait for the storm to completely pass, and wait for Jacob Black to serve his purpose. Wait. Another incredibly inadequate word! But…I could do that.
"Jake?" Bella slurred, speaking with her eyes closed. I averted my gaze to her face, watching her from the corner of my eye. I was careful not to move. I wasn't exactly sure how much of me Jacob could see in the darkness. His senses had to be advanced enough to see me. For now, I hoped he could not.
"Can I ask you something? I'm not trying to be a jerk or anything, I'm honestly curious," Bella said.
…will she ask me now?...oh, the look on his face…"Sure…" he responded…jerk?...why would she be a jerk?...jerk to me, or jerk to him…those were the same words I used…
"Why are you so much furrier than your friends? You don't have to answer if I'm being rude," she asked. She was speaking, but only in very weak words. She would be asleep soon enough and, hopefully, he would follow right after.
…why would she wonder that?..."Because my hair is longer," he said too quickly. He moved his head downward to tickle her with his long, unkempt hair. But, she didn't respond to his playfully intimate gesture. Not even a giggle. I surely would have gotten at least that.
"Oh." she responded. "Then why don't you cut it? Do you like to be shaggy?"…shaggy?...I thought she liked it when it was longer, maybe not as long enough for a full tie-back, but she always seemed to like it in the sun…I don't even like it when it's this long, but I could have sworn she'd…
Oh. Poor Jacob Black. I chuckled quietly, unwilling to restrain my amusement. I could no longer contain myself. Laughing at his expense was a temporary relief. It occurred to me that even if I had wanted to taunt him, anything I would have said would have been inadequate compared to what Bella's innocent inquiries were capable of inspiring. His thoughts were embarrassed. He heard my chuckle and stared at me, narrowing his eyes, understanding what I'd intercepted.
"Sorry," she yawned. "I didn't mean to pry. You don't have to tell me." Bella said as her eyes closed in fatigue. She was completely oblivious, of course. I tried to stifle another laugh as I felt his gaze intensify. From the corner of my eye, I saw him look back down at Bella, again, trying to avoid my presence.
"Oh, he'll tell you anyways, so I might as well…I was growing my hair out because…."…how do I say this so that I don't sound stupid?..."it seemed like you liked it better long," he said.
"Oh, I, er, like it both ways, Jake," she stuttered. "You don't need to be…inconvenienced."
Immediately, he glanced back at me, I screwed my eyes upwards, gazing at the suddenly interesting connection point of the poles. My grin was impossible to suppress. It was truly amusing after all.
…I bet you are enjoying this aren't you bloodsucker?...well, at least I have the option…you'll be stuck with that hair for the rest of your…existence…he thought.
He had a point, but I still couldn't help feel a little satisfied. It was petty.
"Turns out it was very convenient tonight, so don't worry about it," he said.…in fact a lot was pretty convenient about tonight…
I rolled my eyes and hoped he could see me this time. In fact, I was pretty sure that he could.
…she is so small and delicate…even from here she feels so good…every inch of her is warming up now…
"That's right honey go to sleep," Jacob whispered, his head slightly leaning on her head intimately.
Bella sighed and at his words, but the tension in the sleeping bag seemed to relax a little, her left leg sliding from its position directly parallel to her right as she lay on her side. She was falling asleep.
…I wish he wasn't here, I would take her softly into my arms and caress her face, holding her tightly to let her know…
Again, another fierce push of wind shook the tent, but this time it was clear that the temperature was stabilizing, resisting against the force of the storm. I looked towards Bella but she did not chatter, or shiver this time, either. It was official. My inauspicious trifecta of misery was defeated. I was victorious; Bella would survive.
I closed my eyes in thankful prayer. I knew that the person that should be receiving my gratitude was sitting right in front of me. But, truly, how could I possibly thank him in a way that would not incite his already suspicious mind? I was thankful for his help, for his dedication to keeping Bella safe. In fact, as I'd told him before, I owed him for the rest of my existence. Even if we were enemies. But, this was no time to collect debts.
A distant howl suddenly filled the air, holding its own against the whirling winds; it was Seth Clearwater. He was only a few hundred yards away. As he approached, I caught Sam's directions in his thoughts: Seth, clear the area and just run a perimeter search…
Seth, in response, directed his thoughts to me, still unsure what I could and could not overhear: Edward Cullen, if you can hear me, the storm is not going to pass yet, but it is easing up, I know that Jake is with you, so I am going to run a perimeter search…
"Seth is here," I muttered, acknowledging Seth's message and informing Jacob, although the possibility of him leaving was unlikely.
"Perfect. Now you can keep an eye on everything else, while I take care of your girlfriend for you." Jacob said, smiling from ear to ear, taunting me further in his thoughts as he visualized a very vivid image of Bella in the sleeping bag, enjoying his touch, asking him for more, arching her back toward him, kissing his neck. The vision was too vivid, too possible. A low growl began to form in my chest.
…Don't get angry, leech...she'll wake up and then I'll have to start over again…rocking her to sleep…
"Stop it," Bella muttered, her brow creased slightly for a second as she tried to think, groggy and sleepy. Her frown slowly relaxed into a peaceful position.
As if I had forced her words from her, his narrowed eyes met mine in the darkness, assessing blame, confirming my suspicions that he couldsee me. As we locked eyes, the wind howled loudly and I caught a strong dose of Seth's scent. Jacob involuntarily flared his nostrils; he'd caught the smell too. He twitched his human features until they morphed into brief animalistic characterizations and back again.
My dark humor could not ignore the absurdity of this situation. We were two utterly ridiculous creatures. Mortal enemies confined to a tent, staring each other down. Something must have flashed across my face because he intensified his gaze. But for some impulsive reason this time, I couldn't look away from him. He narrowed his eyes infinitesimally as if to intimidate me. I was fascinated. Was he trying to stare me down? Were we to make a competitive sport of every interaction? I heard Seth again: Edward Cullen, the perimeter is clear. I am going to wait out here…
I had no way to acknowledge Seth, but I nodded out of habit anyway. Jacob's thoughts began to permeate my mind again and I knew I couldn't hold his gaze. I surrendered from his petty game and stared at the poles of the tent, which began to shake again with another howl of the wind. It was the right choice. Reducing the visual reality of his proximity to her as he thought his lewd fantasies would surely help.
My resignation plastered a smirk on Jacob's face. I saw him close his eyes and rest his head on the blankets. And then…Jacob really began to fantasize. I tried to block the images, but it seemed as if they were getting stronger. I tried to focus on Seth's mind, but it was too quiet. Jacob's thoughts were so loud I couldn't focus on Bella's heart. In a panic, I realized I could focus on nothing but his visions.
Bella was the aggressor. She crawled towards him on her hands and knees with an uncharacteristic, sultry look, dressed in small, lacy pink undergarments, her delicate cleavage was sliding along his abdomen, her mouth kissing his skin, her lips reached his mouth, she moaned his name as she nibbled his bottom lip, pulling his hand from his side to encourage him, she began to touch her own ample cleavage with his palm...
My careful veneer crumbled in a furious pulse, "Please!" I hissed, "Do you mind!?"
I couldn't handle it anymore. The fury welled in waves. I fought for control. My mind raced, thousands of questions stirring my anger and disgust. Was he emboldened by my submission or by the intimacy of his position with Bella in his arms? Was he becoming excited at the thought of her in that position? While she was so close? I would have to act! Why were they so strong as if they were real? Impossible. Perhaps it was the force of emotion behind the visions that added to their intensity?
I winced as I tried to push the image away.
Was he not aware of my ability to intercept this ridiculous fantasy? Truly, was his presence in her life so crucial that I should be required to tolerate his vile, insulting, and vulgar machinations? Does she honestly expect me to refrain from tearing the mongrel apart? Yes, she does…
His image swirled in my head, my disgust grew in strength. I renewed my commitment to distraction, practically willing myself to focus on anything but that image. But, I couldn't do it. I closed my eyes trying to rid it away again.
…what?..."What?" He asked, opening his eyes as his head lay against her face, innocence carefully positioned on his brow.
He was mocking me. He wanted to force me to react to him. I looked away from his eyes and suddenly felt oddly satisfied. The image of Bella he had was drastically different than the image I had seen of her with my own eyes, flushed, excited, and begging me to touch her. He'd had it wrong. He didn't know her at all. His vision focused on things that were secondary. Her blush, her eyes, her scent, her lips weren't detailed enough…it was all wrong. My satisfaction waned as his thoughts wandered to his forcefully inaccurate version of Bella and me together. He was curious about us.
That should have satisfied me again, but, I could no longer control my own fantasies. My visions of tearing his head from his body in one clean stroke returned. Seven seconds. I had to give him the option to stop.
"Do you think you could attempt to control your thoughts?" I whispered.
"No one said you had to listen! Get out of my head," he spouted, embarrassed.
"I wish I could. You have no idea how loud your little fantasies are. It's like you're shouting them at me," I admitted, hoping he would not use this against me later.
…I have the ability to truly show her what I feel…ouch, that must hurt, bloodsucker…but, wait…can you even do anything…ha…
"I'll try to keep it down," Jacob whispered, petulance in his tone.
…you must be jealous of a lot, actually...even now, with me here with her, I know that she would love me too…he is jealous of course…which is why he can't even look at me with her… …admit it, you are jealous of me aren't you?
"Yes," I answered him. My head swam with his verbal acknowledgements of the truth I'd always struggled with. I was jealous of him, and, mostly for reasons he would never comprehend. He was human. I was not.
…Yes?…I knew it…you can't even make love to her like I could…I would make her so much happier…I could love her in ways you never could…you have to be jealous of that!...
"I'm jealous of that, too," I said, keeping my tone even, light.
"I figured it was like that," Jacob whispered, smugly. "Sort of evens the playing field up a little, doesn't it?" He grinned.
"In your dreams." I had to chuckled at that. I could show Bella intimacy, not in the way I truly wanted, but I could still show her. My visions of Bella were of Bella in all of her beauty. She was not an object, she was my existence. But, the jealousy still raged in like a rabid fire.
…that's why she shouldn't be with you, leech…you can't make her happy…and you know it…
"You know she could still change her mind," Jacob taunted. "Considering all the things I could do with her that you can't. At least, not without killing her, that is."
I looked at him as he closed his eyes, a peaceful smirk spreading across his face. If this was the worst of his taunts, I could survive without ripping him to shreds. Sadly, he was right about so much. And, I would be a fool to try to ignore it. He could offer her more. She still could change her mind…
Just then, Bella stirred against him slightly, which seemed to encourage his visions.
Bella and Jacob, laying on the beach in La Push, the sun shining down on them, Bella comatose with pleasure, Jacob kissing her neck, caressing her breasts underneath her shirt, Bella wringing her hands through his hair, moaning in ecstasy as he kissed her furiously…"Oh, Bella…you are so beautiful…"
I took a deep breath to flush away the image. Up until this point, I'd exercised a incredible expenditure of self-control and I would not let his ridiculous daydreams get the best of me. Control!
"Go to sleep, Jacob," I murmured. "You're starting to get on my nerves."
"I think I will. I'm really very comfortable," He said, shrugging.
I looked across at Bella again. She looked exhausted and almost peaceful, but it appeared as if the slight frown was still there. I squinted and pushed myself forward slightly in an effort to see. It was unnecessary, but confirmatory. Yes, it was either a frown, or the way her head was leaning against Jacob's arm. I couldn't be sure, but I found strength in the prospect that this situation with Jacob, this necessary evil, was perhaps as painful for her too. Well, maybe not painful, because some part of her enjoyed the company of Jacob Black...
…of course, how much fun could she truly have being with him?...he's not human, he doesn't even seem happy when he's with her…well, maybe he does love her, but it's not a happy love…he has to be jealous of the way we look at each other, the way we actually seem to enjoy being around one another, she smiles at me in this certain way…well, her smile…does he see the way she smiles at me? he has to know, too…is he blind?...that's how I know she does love me whether she knows it or not…
Suddenly, Jacob opened his eyes and peered across at me, almost as if in that instant he decided that although he was not guarding his thoughts, he would actively choose to communicate with me through them. I had been carefully focusing on the darkness in the adjacent corner, but he knew I was listening.
…bloodsucker, I know you are listening…I want to know the truth…the truth you won't tell her…of course, you probably can't handle the tough questions…but you should at least be man…er, whatever…please...and at least think about answering me one thing…
I shot him a piercing glare, but it wasn't a warning. His tone confused me. It was not vitriolic as usual, but it was not unkind either - it were almost curious. He sounded, almost, desperately inquisitive.
…I have to know…would you at least think about answer me…
He was pushing me, sure, but there was genuine feeling behind his inquiry. There was a quality to his questions, his mental tone, and his self-assurance that I could not pinpoint. I felt suddenly curious, too.
"Maybe I would…" I answered. Jacob narrowed his eyes at my response. I heard confusion and surprise wash through him. What was he hoping to achieve?
"But, would you be honest?" he asked.
His tone again, was unguarded and even vulnerable. Had Jacob ever once let his defenses down long enough to try to understand me, my relationship with Bella, or how I felt about our situation? Was this an opportunity? Would I have this opportunity again? I looked across at Bella; she was sleeping soundly. If I let my guard down, would he push too far? Tread carefully...
"You can always ask and see." I responded, noncommittally.
...okay…that's fair…"Well, you see inside my head"…whether I like it or not…"let me see inside yours tonight, it's only fair," Jacob said. His expression grew softer. "It's only fair…" he said, his words reverberating in my mind.
The tone was still curious, but there was something more. Something I was missing. I could not pinpoint it. I felt irritated by the exchange, suddenly confused by the overtones I couldn't decipher. What was it in his voice, in his thoughts that was eluding me? What did he want to know?
"Your head is full of questions. Which one do you want me to answer?" I prodded, preparing to hear his thoughts before he would speak them.
…I want to know what you think about me laying here with…"The jealousy…it has to be eating at you. You can't be as sure of yourself as you seem. Unless you have no emotions at all."
"Of course it is." I glared at him.
I knew he wanted to force me to react to him. To him, breaking my careful façade would equal immediate victory. He was playing dirty. Had he intentionally lowered the tone of his thoughts to lower my defenses? Surely, he was not so clever. He was going to antagonize me. My frustration at his determination to destroy my resolve surged again, and I fought to control my tone.
"Right now, it's so bad that I can barely control my voice."
…ahhhh…well, when we are together…it's even better…this is nothing…
I cut him off. "Of course, it's even worse when she's away from me, with you, and I can't see her." I added. I tightened my eyes in an effort to further demonstrate my level of irritation. Truthfully, I was irritated with myself, how could I have been so blind as to not see his taunts coming?
"Do you think about it all the time?" Jacob whispered.…when she's away from me, I always think of her…
"Yes and no," I said evenly. "My mind doesn't work quite the same as yours. I can think of many more things at one time. Of course, that means that I'm always able to think of you, always able to wonder if that's where her mind is, when she's quiet and thoughtful."
…do you think she thinks about me?...does she ever, well…does she ever seem like she's missing me, or thinking about me…even when she's with you?...
The memory of Bella's frantic voice as she tried to contact him after I'd left her house flooded me. I twisted myself from its hold.
"Yes, I would guess that she thinks about you often. More often than I like. She worries that you're unhappy. Not that you don't know that. No, that you don't use that." He knew my words were true. Too often he'd used his relationship with Bella to his own advantage and I despised him for it.
…well, I … she's not… "I have to use whatever I can." He responded, justifying. "I am not working with your advantages"…I don't mean that you are better than me…
I raised my brow at his back-peddling. He frowned.
"Advantages…" he clarified. "Like knowing that she's in love with you."
"That helps," I agreed, thinking of her acceptance of my proposal. I fought the elation that the image provoked, but a slight grin still appeared and Jacob misinterpreted.
"She's in love with me, too, you know…" he said, exasperated. He looked down at her face with an expression of longing that reminded me of my own. "She just doesn't know it."
The image of Bella reaching for his hand crowded in from his mind. He was holding on to those moments. They impacted me as well and my mood shifted at his verbalization. How could I avoid it? He was right, a part of Bella did love Jacob. That was certain.
"I can't tell if you're right," I said quietly, acknowledging the strength and truth in his memories.
He stiffened at my words and his expression changed. My uncertainty gave him hope.
"Does that bother you? Do you wish you could see what she's thinking, too?"
"Yes…and no, again. She likes it better this way, and, although it sometimes drives me insane, I'd rather she was happy." It was true.
Jacob said nothing, but his thoughts became jumbled as he considered what it would be like to read her mind. I was reading him until the wind ripped around the tent again. I shifted my gaze to Bella, but she was safe. No chatter. I was suddenly grateful as I saw Jacob shrug her closer, automatically protective. He wasn't doing it to irritate me, he was following his own instincts.
"Thank you," I whispered. "Odd as this might sound, I suppose I am glad you're here, Jacob."
"You mean, 'as much as I'd love to kill you, I'm glad she's warm', right?" he said.
Taking him in I realized what I could not pinpoint in his tone before. The look of him, his eyes, his expression, it all made sense. Jacob Black was a child. That's what I'd missed. A child. I fought the pity I now felt for him. Was it possible to envy and pity the same person?
"It's an uncomfortable truce, isn't it?" I said, smiling at my own cynicism.
His thoughts grew confident, "I knew you were just as crazy jealous as I am."
"I'm not such a fool to wear it on my sleeve like you do. It doesn't help your case, you know," I said. I wasn't giving him tips. He was incapable of masking his jealousy. Practice makes perfect…
"You have more patience than I do…"
"I should. I've had a hundred years to gain it. A hundred years of waiting for her."
"So…"…god, that's creepy…"at what point did you decide to play the very patient good guy?"
With alarming clarity, I recalled the vision of Bella's torn expression as she stood between us. I let it linger, forcing me to be honest.
"When I saw how much it was hurting her to make her choose. It's not usually this difficult to control. I can smother the"…desire to rip your head from your overgrown shoulders…"less civilized feelings I may have for you fairly easily most of the time. Sometimes I think she sees through me, but I can't be sure"…other times, I make no effort to hide it…
"I think you were just worried that if you really forced her to choose, she might not choose you."
He was speaking in past tense. She still may not choose me, Jacob Black.
"That was part of it…but only a small part. We all have our moments of doubt. Mostly I was worried that she'd hurt herself trying to sneak away with you. After I'd accepted that she was more or less safe with you"…despite the bike, the cliff diving…" as safe as Bella ever is – it seemed best to stop driving her to extremes."
The vision from Alice's mind of her racing on her bike pushed itself forward.
…why is he being so honest…if she were awake…
"I'd tell her all of this, but she'd never believe me…"
"I know." I responded.