"What if Jane kills them?" I asked Carlisle, fretting again.
He was very patient with me. "Bella, Jasper in particular has had extensive training in fighting vampires. Emmett is the strongest person I know. Rosalie's love for Emmett has been known to give her the kind of passion that cause the most frightening of destruction; Alice is as dangerous as she is sweet... And Edward? Edward fights for you."
I slumped guiltily in my seat. He wouldn't have needed to if I had have just figured out Jane's true purpose sooner... We could have protected Leah far more efficiently on our own terms.
"But - "
"Bella, sweetheart," Esme said soothingly. She stroked my hair. "You should rest. I promise I'm not trying to distract you this time... you truly do look exhausted. By the time you wake up, everything will be right again."
I shook my head. "I'm sorry, but I won't forgive myself if something happens and I'm not awake for it. And I need to stay with Jacob."
Carlisle and Esme exchanged looks. Under his breath, he muttered something so fast and low that I didn't have a prayer of hearing. She looked vaguely alarmed by his words, and looked back at Jacob. She then looked at me, and he shook his head.
"I'm not sure," he said quietly. "Maybe."
Noticing that I was getting irritated with their private conversation, Carlisle tried to smile encouragingly at me. I would not be encouraged.
They both left the room to continue their discussion away from me so as not to infuriate me further. I just crept closer to Jacob on the table until I was lying beside, leaning over him. I stroked his face...
"You're going to get the glaring of a lifetime when you wake up, chump," I said in my most impressive voice. "Nothing can prepare you for it."
He was still beneath my fingers, his lips parted and crackled, his tan quite ashen from the bloodloss. I felt queasy as I looked down at one of his arms that Carlisle had expertly strapped. Demetri and Felix had done so much damage...
I must have lay there for nearly an hour when I felt his heart skip strangely. In an instant, my attention locked on him once more. His skin had dropped to a freezing temperature...only to shoot back up.
"Jacob?" I whispered, shaking him lightly. "Are you okay?"
There was a dull snap beneath me. At first I feared I'd broken a rib somehow - even though I was scarcely touching him! - but then an entire succession of snaps followed until it occurred to me that his bones were actually healing. Relief swarmed me.
That was when his eyes snapped open, and he stared at me like I was the craziest thing he'd ever seen in his life.
"Jacob!" I cried. He sat up and I launched myself into his arms, holding him dearly. "Thank God. I was scared to death." Glaring was totally out of my mind now in light of his consciousness.
He embraced me in return, but with a certain...hesitation. It was as if I were suddenly breakable. Leaning into me, he breathed in deeply, his nose nuzzled against my hair.
Not really seeing the appeal of this - since I'd spent the last day or so underground in the dark, dank Volturi tunnels, I pulled away. "Okay, that wasn't weird or anything. Or do I still stink of vampire?"
He just stared at me wildly, not blinking.
Now I was a little nervous. "Jacob?" I asked. "...Are you okay? You don't seem...right."
I hoped that Jane hadn't taken a chunk out of his brain stem or something.
"Um..." I said, leaning back, "I'm...I'm going to go get Carlisle, all right? Just so he can give you a look over."
"No," he shook his head. "Stay with me."
"I'll be like, a second - "
His hand clasped over my wrist, and he pulled me closer on the table, his mouth a breath away from my neck. "I said... stay with me." Again, he inhaled luxuriously. His hands kept alternating in temperature across my skin. I didn't know whether to shiver or sweat.
"Jake," I said in a soft voice. "You're...different."
He nodded, his nose grazing against my cheek. I shuddered as my heart sped up. His did too; I could feel it against the hand I had poised over his chest to try and push him away. He was scaring me now. We had agreed before that any feelings we may or may not have had for each other were pretty much redundant. But he wasn't acting like a lovesick puppy anymore. This was completely beyond what I knew of Jacob Black.
I didn't hear him come in, but Carlisle's calm, commanding voice consumed me. "Bella," he said, "Walk slowly over to me, please."
"Don't," Jacob argued.
I looked in some panic at Carlisle. He seemed to sense a threat that I had not yet understood. "Bella," he repeated. "Come now. Nice and slow. Try not to disturb the air..."
Now that advice I knew all too well. In some horror, I peeled myself away from Jacob against his will, and moved with as much grace as I, Bella Klutzy Swan, could manage, over to Carlisle. He stepped in front of me as Jacob stared, his eyes burning a dull, unnatural colour.
I yelped, seizing Carlisle's arm. "No! That's not possible!"
Carlisle brushed me off gently, moving toward Jacob who hadn't taken his hungry eyes off of me. He didn't appear to notice Carlisle approaching him, his stethoscope prepped in his hand, nor did he put up a fuss as the doctor monitored his heart rate. All he cared about was that I was still in the room, still... vulnerable.
"Your heart is doing the strangest things," Carlisle noted. "Are you aware of this, Jacob?"
Not shifting his gaze, he nodded.
"Would you hazard a guess as to why?"
Jake finally blinked, looking up at Dr. Cullen with a frown. "I don't feel well..." he mumbled. "I feel freezing. And...starving. And Bella..." he trailed off, looking at me in fascinated confusion.
Foreseeing a certain danger, Carlisle snapped his fingers in front of Jacob's eyes to seize his attention. Gaze falling away from me, Jacob looked up at the doctor with some guilt.
"What's going on?" he asked loudly. "Why is Bella suddenly so–"
"So appealing?" Carlisle finished. He sighed in my direction. "It would appear that you did not escape the Volturi without…a few of our traits."
He stood up abruptly. "What?"
The speed of his movement jarred me so much that I staggered back. Jacob Black had always been fast. But... never as fast as Edward.
It appeared that things change.
"How did this happen?" I asked desperately of Carlisle. "They said Jane bit him and drank from him, but - I thought werewolves were immune no matter what - "
"They are not immune," he corrected me.
Jacob went to argue, but Carlisle gently shushed him. "From my research, they are merely able to escape death. Jane was foolish enough to try and drain you - I'm guessing that in her quest for vengeance, she injected far more venom than she intended. Your increased heart rate pumped it fast around your body, Jacob. And your immunity to its fatal effects kept you from dying."
"So what the hell am I?" he shouted, his fist striking the table in frustration. It shattered beneath his hand like a flimsy piece of plastic.
Hurriedly, Carlisle said, "You're werewolf, I'm sure. Just... your composition has been altered slightly. You appear to want blood. And you're stronger..."
Jacob was panting, hard. He dragged large, tendon-lined hands through his hair in panic. "This is not happening. I feel so...revolting. I can taste pain - it's burning at the back of my throat. It's sweet and bitter all at once, and - "
Once again, his eyes fell on me.
Carlisle barely had the chance to murmur a word of warning when Jacob suddenly had me shoved against the wall, his teeth at my neck. I struggled beneath him as I felt my skin punctured by his force. He moaned in a hollow, urgent way as I felt my shirt dampening. I could feel his fingers digging thirstily into my arms, trying to hold me still...
"No!" Carlisle cried, flinging Jacob away. He collided thunderously against the brick wall, destroying several rows. I sagged against Carlisle, dizzy from the attack. He pressed a hand to my neck and yelled for Esme. She came, gathering the crude medical equipment together, and passed him whatever he needed as he hurriedly worked on me.
Jacob, horrified, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
"Bella..." he stuttered. "Holy hell - Bells, I'm so sorry, I don't know why - "
"Stay where you are!" Carlisle shouted. "Just keep your distance, Jacob. I don't want you to leave, but you mustn't come closer to Bella or you will hurt her again. Do you think you can manage that control? Because if you can't, then you will have to go."
Shaky, Jacob slid down the wall, his hands trying to wipe the blood onto his thighs. Carlisle looked stressed as he turned to tend to me.
"Luckily, it appears that you don't have venom," he commented to Jacob. "Bella will be fine."
"I can't even feel it anymore," I assured him, since he still looked really upset.
This did not pacify him. "What have they done to me?" he groaned, staring in horror at his blood-smeared hands. Carlisle finished closing the wound at my throat before too much blood could be lost. I started getting lightheaded again, but it went away quickly.
"You're controlling yourself very well," Carlisle said in approval.
"Only after I took a chunk out of my best friend's jugular," Jacob said darkly. "It doesn't mean I don't want to do it again. Damn, Bella, I know what Cullen means now. You do smell good. And you," he nodded at the doctor, "I mean, I'm not saying I wanna chow down on you, but you don't smell half as disgusting as you used to."
"Thank you, I think," Carlisle smiled kindly. He took my pulse, and informed me that I would be fine. I looked over at Jacob with pity, and he cringed away from it, hiding his face in his hands.
In a dull voice, he asked, "Where is everyone?"
Esme gave Carlisle a worried glance. Before they had time to sugarcoat the truth, I said bluntly, "They've gone to find Leah. She got…upset, and ran out with Seth."
Looking up sharply, his gaze seized mine. "But the Volturi… they–"
"They have allowed Bella and Edward to leave," Carlisle said in a overriding voice, trying to take the wheels again before I said something that might be anywhere close to reality. I cleared my throat, but Carlisle clamped his hand down on my shoulder in gentle warning.
"Why aren't they back already, then?" I demanded of Carlisle. "It's not fair to lie to him if something bad has happened!"
Now Jacob had descended into a glower. "Tell me," he commanded. "Don't worry, I won't bite…again."
"You are mildly frustrating, Bella," Carlisle chastised me. "All right, Jacob, they have gone after Leah as it appears she is being hunted by the Volturi's most sadistic vampire, Jane. She has a score to settle with you, for you killed her brother."
"Jane?" Jacob stood up, his temper rising. "The pipsqueak that turned me into this? I'll kill her if she touches Leah!"
"That's the plan, I'm sure," Carlisle sighed.
Not a moment had past before Jacob had stormed out. Esme quickly bolted after him, calling his name. I too ran behind. The seventeen-year-old had frozen at the door, his hands flexing in fury.
"I'm coming with you," I told him.
"Bella," Carlisle scolded. "Come now, Edward made it clear he wishes for you to be safe."
"Be safe." Those words tasted like dirt on my tongue. There was no such thing as safe in this world, and nothing was sacred. All I had was my hope that I could be with Edward, whatever happened. To Jacob's surprise, I climbed on his back, and to my own surprise, he let me.
"I won't let her be alone," he said quietly to me. "She was an annoying, fiery shrew…and then I fell in love with her, Bella. None of that changed, of course, but I still will not let her die at the hand of that little leech. And I know how you feel…the need to be near him. Don't worry, I won't hurt you again. I know better now."
Esme was holding her face fretfully.
With an apologetic look at Carlisle, I hugged my arms even tighter around his neck as he bolted out the door.