Bella wasn't cooking out of necessity. Despite outward appearance Jacob was actually a fairly capable cook. Many years of fending for himself and Billy had given him a mastery of all things grilled or boiled – talents he was more than willing to put to use.
No, Bella wasn't cooking out of necessity. She was doing it to keep her hands busy, to keep herself distracted, to prevent her face from giving her away the moment he walked through the door.
After all this time she was still a terrible liar.
Like clockwork she heard the door open with creaking protest. "Hello!" Jake shouted down the hall. Bella didn't respond because she didn't need too. Werewolf senses of not, the smell of veggies simmering on the stove was bound to catch his attention.
He'd know exactly where she was.
And sure enough a heartbeat later his arms ensnared her waist, and a pair of warm lips planted a trail of kisses along her neck. "Hello, beautiful," he teased.
It never got old, hearing him say that. Hearing his husky voice call her a myriad of pet names. Feeling his warm, rough hands on every inch of her skin. It all became familiar, but it never got old.
"Hey you," she murmured back, but he was too busy being distracted by the curve of her neckline to notice. She slapped his arm playfully, making sure to avoid the obvious patches of axle grease. "Dirty boy," she cooed. "You have five minutes to cleaned up or I'm going to eat without you."
"Fine." He pouted, and nipped her neck for good measure before releasing her. "I'm sorry, it's just that sometimes the sight of you is more appetizing than food." He sauntered off down the hall, stomping like a moody child.
"You'll change your tune 10 minutes from now when all the steak's gone," Bella shouted after him, willing the goose bumps on her arms to go away. After all, that's what had gotten her into this mess in the first place.
Still, she wasn't surprised to hear his booming footsteps echoing back down the hallway. "Short shower," she teased. "You need me to help you undr -"
She turned and stopped short, the words catching in her throat. Jacob was standing in the doorway, an unreadable expression on his face, a white stick in his hand.
"Bella?" he asked tersely. "What is this?"
Her mouth went dry, but the shock that rushed through her frame was quickly replaced by anger. "You went through the trash?!" Bella demanded in response, slamming a stack of plates down on the rickety kitchen table.
"No, I knocked the basket over looking for band-aids under the sink and this just happened to fall out." Jake waved the stick at her incriminatingly. "What, were you not going to tell me?" His expression was pained but his voice was full of tightly controlled anger. It was the tone he used when his shape didn't want to stay together.
"It's not like that."
"It's not like that," he echoed. "Is this a pregnancy test, Bella?"
She couldn't meet his eyes, turning back to the counter and gripped the edge to steady her shaking hands. "Yes."
"Is it positive?"
"Yes," she muttered again.
"Then I guess it's exactly what I think…"
The silence was deafening. Bella had never fully understood that phrase until just then, when the dripping of the sink seemed to echo across the expanse between them like battle cry. The anger was seceding from her veins now, being replaced by the familiar gut wrenching fear that had gripped when she'd paced the length of bathroom earlier this evening.
"I have an appointment at Emily's clinic tomorrow morning before work," Bella said softly, staring down at her chipped nails. "I was going to tell you when I was sure-"
"Sure?" Jacob interrupted, his voice now coming from close behind her. "There's four more tests scattered all over the bathroom floor right now. All different brands. Bella?" He crossed the room in a single stride, his hand lightly reaching for her arm. "Bella, are we having a baby?"
She couldn't answer. The fear seemed to have migrated from her stomach up to her esophagus, and Bella knew that if she tried to speak she'd either throw up or cry, neither of which was an acceptable option to her. Instead she just nodded limply.
Jacob grabbed her arm gently and pried her away from the counter. An errant finger forced her to look up, to meet his eyes. She expected to find terror spelled out all across his features, but instead his expression was one of burgeoning hope and excitement. He was a child looking at a wrapped present, barely containing his yearning for whatever lay beneath the paper. "Bells, we're having a baby?" he repeated.
"Yeah," she muttered, finally forcing out the words. "Yeah we are."
His expression morphed into one of utter reverence. He reached around behind her and tossed the test onto the counter.
"Don't put that by the food!" Bella protested, voicing the first reaction that came to mind. "I peed on it, for crying out loud!"
But Jacob didn't say anything. He just dropped to his knees and with the most delicate of touches he grabbed Bella's hips and pressed his ear to her abdomen.
Bella didn't know weather to laugh cry. "You really have gone off the deep end, Jacob!" she seethed. "It's not even the size of a tadpole yet. There's nothing to hear, not even with your ears."
"Just avoiding the subject," Bella corrected indignantly, flatly refusing to be amused by his oafish antics. "Now get up here and finish fighting with me!"
To her surprise, Jacob only laughed. Laughed and kissed her stomach gently through her sweatshirt. He looked up at her with those deep set eyes and a look of such utter compassion that it made her Bella's heart stutter a little.
Stutter, but not stop. It didn't do that anymore, not for anyone.
His hands wandered the trails of her hip and stomach, scorching fingers brushing the gap of skin between her jeans and her hoodie. He let them linger there as if he were afraid to pull away. "We're fighting?" he finally asked softly. Another laugh. He couldn't seem to help himself.
"You're not upset?" Bella asked in disbelief. But the fire was already gone from her voice. The way he looked at her…if seemed to snuff her anger beneath the weight of his adoration. With a groan she grabbed his wrists and tried to haul him to his feet.
Tried being the operative word. She couldn't hope to actually move him but Jacob obliged and stood up. "I was only angry because I though were you trying to hide it from me," he said softly, peering down at her now. "Even if…even if you don't want to or…you know…I'll respect any decision you'd want to make but I'd expect you to at least be honest with me," he finally blurted out. "I mean, do you-"
"It's nothing like that," Bella interrupted. "I'm just scared. This," she waved at her stomach, "was not how I anticipated my day going when we rolled out of bed this morning. I mean…I'm just…"
"Scared," Jacob reiterated, folding her into a gentle hug, winding his arms around you. "You don't have to be, Bells. I'll take care of you. I'll take care of both of you," he whispered, pressing his lips gently against her ear.
Bella gratefully collapsed against him, let his heat radiate through her limbs, let it burn away all her doubts. When he held her like this, nothing seemed impossible. "I don't need you to take care of me, Jake. I just need you to be here for me."
He stepped back suddenly and grabbed her left hand, raising it like he was preparing to kiss the back of it. "I thought this was proof that I am here for you. That I always will be." He lightly caressed her ring finger, and the tiny silver band on it. It had been Sarah's, and somehow its humbleness made it all the more beautiful. A single small stone set in a delicate band, a gift from Billy before he'd been deployed. A love that stretched across an ocean. It was unimposing and yet far more significant to her than its gigantic predecessor had ever been.
Just then a thought stuck Bella, and she choked back a groan. "I'm not going to fit into my wedding dress. I'm going to be huge and I'll look like a reject from the Maury show," she muttered bitterly.
Jacob could only stare at her, bemused. "Of all the things to worry about, you pick the wedding at a time like this?" His hands drifted up her arm, caressing her shoulders, tangling in her hair. "Forget the wedding right now."
"I can't just forget it, as much as we'd both like too. We're already living in sin, and now we're pregnant out of wedlock. That's just…lovely. My mother will be so proud…"
He laughed, a boisterous sound that filled the tiny kitchen. Bella had no idea what was so funny, but apparently Jacob got the joke. He was getting all of them today. Finally his chuckles calmed and he could breathe normally again. "If it means so much to you all of a sudden then let's just do it!" he teased.
"Do what?" Bella panicked. "Get married?"
"Yes," he said. His tone was still jovial, but there was a touch of seriousness in his dark eyes that Bella just couldn't ignore. "You never wanted a big wedding anyways, and the 'rents will survive no matter what we do. Why not just do it? You, me, a justice of the peace, and a couple of our nearest and dearest – right here on First Beach! We'll do it next weekend before the fall weather sets in."
Despite the warmth of Jacob's hand on her, Bella felt the cool trickle of fear being to turn in her stomach again. She kept waiting for him to laugh, but the light on his face was buoyed by a foundation of seriousness. "Oh my God…" she breathed. You really have gone crazy…"
He just shrugged. "You already agreed to marry me. I'm just purposing that we finally set a date after all these months. No biggie."
"No biggie?" Bella echoed, an edge of hysteria in her voice. It was too much, just too much for her to handle right this second. And yet as Jacob leaned, crouching down to press his lips firmly against her own, she felt compelled to agree with him. That's how it had always been between them. Jacob had always…made her feel like she was strong. Like she didn't have to change because she was already brave enough and smart enough and pretty enough. He didn't bring out the best in her, he forced her to bring out the best in herself. He was her rock, and braced against him Bella felt like she could do anything.
When they parted, when Bella finally remembered to breathe, she couldn't help but marvel at his ability to handle anything. "You're really not scared?" she whispered, their faces just millimeters apart. "Of any of this?"
Jacob shook his head, uneven tendrils of hair falling into his face. "Of course I'm scared but…Bella, we're having a baby," he said for the umpteenth time. He brought one of his massive hands to her face, brushing this searing skin against the cool of her cheek. Even after all this time it still made her flush. "We're having a baby and we're getting married. You and I and that's…that's still just amazing to me."
Bella covered his hand in her own and leaned into the caress. "It is to me too," she admitted. "Even if I'm totally not prepared for this…"
The sound of Jake's voice was reassuring. "Neither am I. But we have nine months to be unprepared and scared shitless, and then the kid gets here and we'll do it for the rest of our lives anyway." He laughed lightly. "But in the meantime I'm going to sit here and contemplate the fact that you and I have created a tiny person, and that I love you so much it almost hurts."
"Almost," she teased, the slightest hint of a smile pulling at the corners of her mouth. "I hope he doesn't eat like you, otherwise we're going to need a bigger fridge."
"What if it's a girl?" Jacob shot back. "I hope she gets her coordination from my side, otherwise she'll wind up getting hurt just signing up for ballet lessons."
Bella swatted at him with her free hand, but took the sting out of the blow with a kiss. Her lips traversed the warm expanses of his jaw, the dimple on his chin, the tip of his nose, all before finding purchase against his mouth once again. And there in her kitchen, standing intertwined with Jacob, physically and emotionally, Bella felt as if she was truly happy.
As if she were finally home.