I could tell she knew I was there, but she didn't turn. Her deep brown eyes were centered on her prey, eyebrows knitted together in concentration. I studied her, much like I had, oh, I don't know, ten million times before. Nessie had matured physically to be about sixteen or seventeen, though it was hard to say. She was shorter, more petite, than Bella. Her perfect, bronze ringlets hung down her back to her waist, soft and shiny. I had the urge to reach out and touch one of her curls, but it meant I'd have to phase back. She had grown up, quite quickly might I add, the living Barbie doll of Alice, and it showed. Though she didn't seem to show any more interest in fashion than her mother, she had that effortless sophistication that Edward had, which I secretly envied at times. Although, what was really the point of expensive designer clothes when they were either going to get left in the woods or ripped to shreds?
Nessie didn't have that problem. She never so much as scuffed a shoe during the hunt, and she didn't have to take off her clothes to catch her quarry… although that would be interesting. A low whine escaped my jaws, and I quickly cut off that train of thought. Who knew whether Edward would hear or not?
"I've changed my mind." Nessie declared, swinging lightly on her heal in a fluid, graceful movement. Her soft gray skirt swished around her as she strode toward me, every bit as elegant as Alice, but in an understated way. My keen wolf eyes examined her face, trying to discern what had made her change her mind. She had the pale, creamy complexion of her family, lit with intelligent brown eyes- her mothers' eyes. Her lips were a naturally dark red shade, and her cheeks were flushed. She was the most beautiful person I had ever seen, and even though she was half vampire, my natural sworn enemy, I was in love with her.
"I have a better idea." She said, putting her hand to my cheek. Images flooded through my mind. I saw the two of us, running through the woods together, underneath the moonlit sky, even though the sun was now just barely setting. This image she was giving me was different than the usual runs we went on. In this image, Nessie was on top of me, her small body dwarfed by the wolf in the image. She clung to my fur, arms thrown around my neck, the breeze shaking out her bronze ringlets into a long stream of shimmering waves.
But why would she want to ride me, like I was a horse or something? Even when she had been a baby (not too long ago) she had not done that. She could run just as fast as I could. She pulled her small ivory hand away and smiled shyly.
"Jacob? Is that okay?" She asked, clearly worried that she had offended me. I said a prayer to the gods, hoping that Edward was nowhere nearby. I just wanted Nessie to be happy, no matter what it took from me, but the idea of the two of us running as one, her arms around me, relying on my speed and strength… well, it was an intoxicating idea. I gave her a wolfish grin and she grinned back happily. We had never had to work on our silent communication- we seemed to be able to read each other's minds almost as easily as if she was in my pack. In one quick leap, able to jump higher than any athlete had dreamed of, she was astride my back, fingers finding their way into my shaggy fur. She wasn't rough,
even for all her supernatural strength. Her gentle hands felt like a caress to me, and I wondered why this idea had never occurred to me before.
She put her hands on me, showing me through her visions where she wanted to go. She didn't have a specific destination in mind, but she wanted to go far- and fast. I grinned; that was my specialty. I took off, leaping smoothly down the summit she had been standing near, hardly feeling the weight of the girl on my back. We flew through the woods, and she showed me through images that she was enjoying the ride.
It was not till I felt a tiny tug at my neck that I noticed the color of the sky above. Stars shone brightly from a blue black sky, and I slowed to a halt. Nessie hopped off my back and held a hand to her mouth, yawning. I nuzzled her hand with my nose, and then made for the woods, waiting till I was out of sight to phase back. I pulled on the pants that had been tied to my leg, and ran back to her. I had no shirt to put on, but this wasn't exactly the first time she had seen me bare-chested. If I was around, the chances were pretty good that I was only half dressed in torn, faded clothes.
"Do you want to head back?" I asked, stopping in front of her. Instead of answering me, she put a cool hand on my burning cheek- a very calming feeling- and showed me that she had no desire to go back home yet. She pulled her hand away to stifle another yawn and I rolled my eyes. It must have been hard being the only one who needed to sleep in her house. Like being told to go to bed early by your parents and thinking that was when the real fun began.
She walked away from me and sat down against a large boulder. I sat down beside her, and she used my shoulder as a pillow. "Jacob," she asked, peering up at me from underneath her lashes. "Do you ever think about leaving? My family, I mean. I know that the werewolves don't hate the vampires anymore, but your kind and my kind aren't traditionally close, either. And now you have your own pack. They would follow you anywhere, if you wanted to leave."
I wished that I had Edwards' strange ability to see inside people's heads. I had never been very good with women, and it seemed like whenever I thought I knew what they were talking about, I was absolutely wrong.
"What's bothering you, Nessie? Are you worried I'm going to leave? Because I'm not- I'm staying right here."
She bit her lip, her perfect white teeth catching the faint light that came down from the night sky. "But why won't you leave? You're always talking about how bad we stink; it must be horrible for you to be around me so much!"
I couldn't help the laugh that escaped my lips. "You don't stink, Nessie. Do I? The rest of your family thinks I do."
She shook her head fervently. "No, not at all. It must be because I'm half human, but I think you smell wonderful." An embarrassed smile pulled at the corners of my mouth. She rolled her eyes at me and slugged me in the arm. "Well, maybe not now. Now you're kind of sweaty!" she laughed. "But seriously,
I thought you were staying to make sure the new treaty wasn't violated, but Sam doesn't have a problem with me or mom anymore."
I was always taken aback whenever Nessie called Bella "mom". Bella, trapped in all of her eighteen year old glory, enhanced by the strange curing properties of the deadly vampire venom, still did not seem like a mother to me. Not my Bella, the girl I had spent hours on end with, fixing bikes, joking around, talking about the vampires I thought were just a myth. Bella didn't seem to have any of my qualms. Motherhood came very naturally, even as her daughter threatened to pass her up in physical age any day now. I was able to give a sigh of relief, knowing that wasn't true. Nessie had grown so fast at first, worrying us all, but her growth had slowed down considerably. Literally, she was about four and a half years old. Physically, she was at sixteen or seventeen. I tried not to think about that too much; I just wanted to do whatever made her happy, be whoever she needed- brother, friend, uncle- my role was undefined. Who knew what she thought of me as?
I struggled over her question, one I had asked myself many times before, but the answer was that I found it almost physically impossible to not be around Nessie. When I wasn't with her, I was thinking about her. Was she okay? Was she hungry yet? Should I take her hunting? Did she want someone to talk to- someone with a heartbeat and a big pair of warm hands? Did she miss me? Did she love me? Could she love me, like I loved her?
"You know that I care too much about you and your mom to leave." I said, hedging away from the complicated side of that question. She put her cool little hand on my cheek and showed me that she cared about me too, but the images she gave to me were all images of brotherhood, of friendship. I didn't mind being her platonic protector or anything, but a certain side of me wanted her to want me. "Get some rest, Ness; we'll head back in a little while. Seth'll tell your dad where we are."
She nuzzled closer into my side, comfortable in a way that came from growing up in front of me. I wrapped my long, warm arms around her cool little body, marveling at how good her porcelain skin looked against the deep bronze of my own. We were so different, in so many ways, but we seemed to fit together. I knew that she was made for me, and that she was the only person in the whole world I would ever love this way, but it made me wonder. Was I made for her?
Her breathing evened out and slowed, and I glanced down at her adoringly. Her lashes stood out like brush strokes against her cheeks. I took her hand, careful not to wake her, and put it to my cheek so I could experience what she was dreaming. I closed my eyes and was enveloped by the images.
It was a familiar white room, elegant with its huge wall of glass windows. Occupying the room was our two families. On the couches, mixed together, it was werewolf and vampire, our two kinds mingling effortlessly. Rosalie was laughing at something Seth had said, while absent-mindedly toying with Renesmee's hair. On her other side was Alice and Jasper, holding hands, making casual conversation with Sam and Leah, who smiled at each other, no hint of resentment. Edward and Bella looked on lovingly at their daughter, arms around each other, and Emmet was arm-wrestling with Quil off to the side. Carlisle was reading, a bemused expression on his face, and Esme arranged a vase of white Calla
lilies. I looked around the room, searching for myself in this jumble of love and happiness, but I was nowhere to be seen. Why wasn't I in Nessie's dream? Wasn't I a part of her family too?
The sun outside the windows was setting, casting an orange glow on the white room. The front door opened, and a tall, handsome man walked in, a happy smile on his face. He had shaggy black hair and bronze skin, and looked utterly at peace with the world. I started, taken aback. That was me! No, that was me through Nessie's eyes. In her eyes, I was more handsome, overall a better version of myself.
The dream Jacob walked calmly over to her, not bothered by Rosalie or Leah or anyone else. This Jacob fit in perfectly. He was confident of his place in this strange family. He held a large hand out to Nessie, and she placed her own within it. He wrapped his fingers around it and gently pulled her up. The rest of the occupants of the room melted away, and it was suddenly just the two of them. Nessie put her hands on his chest, looking up into his eyes adoringly, and stood on the tips of her toes to meet him. The tall figure bent down and cradled her delicate, beautiful face in his hand, and brought his lips to hers.
I pulled my hand away as if I had been burned, and the images of her dream flickered off like a light switch. What was that? Nessie stirred in my arms and I stiffened. Her eyes blinked open and she smiled up at me warmly, as if nothing were wrong. I guess she didn't know I had seen what she had been dreaming.
"Nice nap?" I asked, trying to sound casual. She nodded her head and wrapped her arm tighter around my waist, nuzzling her head against my chest like a cat. I frowned, torn. Wasn't this what I wanted? Didn't this mean she was starting to feel differently for me? But I couldn't wrap my head around it. It was sick, it was wrong. She wasn't even five years old! On the other hand, she was almost seventeen in every way. Except the way that mattered. What would Bella say about me seducing her five year old daughter? The thought turned my stomach, and I felt dirty, wrong. How could I have such thoughts about a child? Something was seriously wrong with me.
"Jake, what is it?" she asked, noting my stricken expression. Sometimes it seemed she had her father's gift- she had an uncanny ability to read my mind.
"N-Nothing!" I stammered, fixing a casual expression on my face. She gave me that look that clearly said she didn't believe me, and looked just like Bella. I swallowed the lump in my throat. Did she know that I had witnessed her dream? Obviously that was meant to be a private dream. Maybe it had been a nightmare… No, even in my guilty state, I could not deny that that had been a good dream; definitely not a nightmare. But why? And for how long? It must have been very recent- she had only reached puberty last year!
"C'mon… It's late. We should head back." She read the troubled look on my face, understood my unwillingness to discuss it through the lines of my body, and turned sharply on her heal. She did not wait for me; she just started running. We would not be running again as one tonight. I had lost the privilege of having her cool white arms wrapped around, feeling her heartbeat through my body. Even though I felt painfully slower, I stayed in my human form. I could not have Seth and Leah dropping in on my troubled thoughts. What would they think of their sick, perverted leader if they could hear my
thoughts? Me, even thinking about kissing, holding a four year old! It was sick. She was a child in a woman's body, nothing more, I told myself. Another part of my mind nagged at me. She was also way smarter than me, and probably more mature, too. No, definitely more mature. But still!
I would never catch up to Nessie this way. What would her parents think? If Edward was there, he would know instantly what I was thinking, and I would never be allowed around his precious child again. If he wasn't, Bella would wonder why I hadn't phased into my wolf form to take Renesmee home. I would seem like a bad babysitter. The term no longer seemed to apply, since she wasn't a baby, but what if Bella thought I wasn't being careful with Nessie? What if she got mad at me for not staying with her only daughter?
I slowed, unsure what to do. Nothing good awaited me at the Cullen's home, but I longed to talk to Nessie. I wanted to hear her tell me she was old enough, that age didn't matter, that she longed to be with me. I feared those words would not come. I knew that even if they did, Edward and Bella would not accept it, and even if they could, I could not.
I took a deep breath and changed directions.