Bella tried to find her alarm. Just one more snooze. Five more minutes.


She slapped her nightstand again. Why wouldn't it shut off?


She just wanted to sleep a bit longer. The smoke was making her sleepy.



Bella bolted awake. One too many encounters with Charlie's (attempted) cooking had left her far too sensitive to the smell. She threw the off the blanket and bolted from the couch, trying to clear the haze that was obscuring her brain at the same time.

"Jake?" she called out, remembering that she was at the Black's home and not her own.

"In here!" he shouted back, over the alarm. Bella ran into the kitchen and almost collided with his chest. He was standing by the doorway with a screwdriver, trying in vain to pull the fire alarm from the ceiling.

"What happened?!"


Bella sighed and grabbed a baking sheet off a pile sitting by the stove, where a charred mass of what appeared to be pancakes sat smoldering on the griddle. "Move!" she ordered Jacob, who for all of his mechanical skill seemed unable to get the alarm to part with the ceiling. Frantically she beat the air with the tray, until finally the ringing ceased.

At least, it ceased in the kitchen. Her ears were still buzzing, and it wasn't helping her shake off her morning confusion any faster. "Okay," she tried again. "What happened?"

Jake shrugged. "Breakfast in bed…I mean couch?" he offered up with a weak smile. "I was trying to make pancakes, but I had to use water instead of milk because we had to toss the milk out yesterday. But they got all goopy and cooked really fast, and I just turned around to find those nice plates my sisters have stashed around here and when I turned back…" He just shrugged again and gestured helplessly at the stove.

"Well, at least that's one way to get going in the morning," Bella muttered, her blood pressure returning to normal now that she was certain the house wasn't burning down on top of them.

"I'll bet," he agreed. "Sorry to wake you up in such a state of…undress."

"What are you talking ab--" Bella started to say, but stopped short because that was the moment she realized she wasn't wearing a shirt.

Jake could barely contain his laughter as Bella tried in vain to conceal herself with the baking sheet, the color rushing to her face.

"What?" he protested when she shot him a dirty look. "It's not like it's nothing I haven't seen before."

Bella suddenly felt like she couldn't breathe. She tore out of the kitchen and down the hall, pan still in hand, and barricaded herself in the bathroom. A second later she heard Jacob's hands connect with the wood as he skidded into the locked door.

"C'mon, Bells," he pleaded gently. "Whatever I did, I'm sorry…"

Bella slumped down onto the edge of the bathtub in defeat, the previous night's activities rushing back with surprising clarity. She remembered everything in high definition: the touch of his skin, the warmth of his breath, the frantic throbbing of her heart, the frantic throbbing of…other things.

And it was too much.

Much too much too much.

Bella stared out the screen door, ignoring the spray on her face as the rain pounded past the eves. Through the ever-falling sheets of gray she could just make out the silhouette of her truck. It was twenty-five, maybe thirty feet from the house. If she ran, and somehow managed to avoid tripping, falling, or the breaking of any limbs, she could be sitting in the cab in a matter of seconds.

And from there it was just a quick fifteen minutes back to Forks.

Back to her house.

Back to her life.

Back to where things made sense.

Back to where Bella was broken and Jake was her friend.

The Black house had become Bella's refuge over the past months. Filled with memories completely unrelated to what she had lost, filled with people who brought out the best in her. But now it was too small. Her emotions steamed off her, hanging in a thick cloud about her head. And over the past two days they'd been collecting into a permanent haze – a fog she could neither break free from nor see a way through.

She couldn't breathe anymore.

She had to GET OUT!

Her hand hovered over the doorknob.

"Bells…" Jacob's hand hovered lightly over her own. She hadn't even heard him approach. He was practically a ghost in his own right.

Bella was haunted wherever she went now.

"Bells, Please," he said again. He finally worked up the nerve to touch her, and pulled her arm away from the knob. "Whatever you're feeling right now…that's fine, but I promised Charlie I'd keep you safe."

"It's not that far…" But the excuse tasted weak on her tongue.

"Says the girl who was raised in Phoenix." Jake pulled her away from the door, and gently spun her around to face him. "But I've lived here all my life and I can tell you that every road between here and Forks is under about three feet of water right now."

"My truck--"

"Is a fine piece of American engineering," he interrupted. "But it's also not a submarine. Please," he pleaded with her, a note of desperation in him voice.

Bella felt her own will beginning to crack. "I…can't stay here, Jake."

"Yeah," he said. "You can…and it's not like you really have a choice," he joked lamely. "We both know you can't really swim that well."

"I'm not kidding."

"Neither am I." His voice was serious again as his gaze slipped off her face and disappeared somewhere outside, somewhere far away. "I'm gonna leave for a while, go run a patrol, do some thinking, take care of some business, give you some space…"


"You can sleep in my bed tonight," he muttered sadly, managing to look her in the eye once more, but only briefly. "Alone," he added, sensing that Bella was about to protest. "You can close the door and lock it – keep me out, keep yourself in, whatever you want."

"But what about you?" Bella croaked out softly. Jake flashed her a tragic replica of his usual smile, and squeezed her hand. It was strange – she hadn't even been aware he was still holding it. Like the same way you don't notice your heartbeat, or breathing.

It just happened.

"There's a perfectly good couch in the living room. Or I'll crash on the old man's bed. Don't worry about me, Bells," he said, and his fingers slipped out of her grasp. "I'll manage. I always do."

One final, sad smile was all Bella saw before he darted out the door and disappeared into the wall of water. Seconds later a russet blur shot across the grass, bound for the woods.

And just like that, she was alone.

She barricaded herself in what remained of Rachel and Rebecca's room, closing the door against the spirits that haunted the rest of the house. The bunk beds had been sold, replaced by a set of worn free weights belonging to Jake, and a long table covered in bits and pieces that Billy somehow assembled into home made fishing lures and whatnot. But all essences of female habitation had not yet been purged from the room. Faded floral wallpaper, curling and sun bleached in places, still clung stubbornly to the walls. And two white dressers stood in opposite corners, their abandoned contents peeking out of half opened drawers.

Even though Bella knew they had been the source of her clothing for the past two days, she still felt like a trespasser here. She closed the drawers, slipping old shirts and cut off jeans back inside. Her haggard expression taunted her from the reflection in the chipped but matching vanity mirror.

Coward, it seemed to say accusingly.

"You don't understand," Bella muttered back. "It's different with Jake…" The words even sounded empty, weak.

Pathetic, her reflection now declared. Hollow eyes returned her glare. They told her what she already knew to be true: the situation was out of control.

She and Jake had danced their twisted dance for so long, pretending their relationship was something else. But the subtle glances and his gentle touches and the secret smiles they shared had all been leading up to this moment, these few tender days. A snowflake had become an avalanche. They had reached the do-or-die moment.

All that Bella had to do to claim Jacob as her own was take that final leap…and she just couldn't.

He loves you, the mirror declared. You jumped for the memory of Edward, but you won't jump for the boy who loves you.


Bella grabbed a sheet out of the closet and threw it over the mirror. Even her reflection loved Jacob.

So why couldn't she?

She locked the bedroom door when Jacob returned several hours later. His footsteps paused in the kitchen, evidently to pick up the towels she'd left waiting for him.

But even Bella couldn't hide forever. The paltry gray daylight, whatever managed to sneak through the cloud cover, was already beginning to dim. Soon it would be too black to see, and she hadn't had the foresight to grab a flashlight. Besides, the remnants of a thousand Mad Libs lay at her feet, and she wasn't looking forward to the prospect of a thousand more. Tired and starving and with the sheet-covered mirror beginning to give her the creeps in the dark, she worked up the nerve to make a run for the kitchen. Bella slowly opened the door…

…Where she rammed straight into Jake, standing stupidly with his hand raised, trying to muster the courage to knock. He regained his composure quickly enough, and caught Bella as she ricocheted off his chest.

"We've got to stop running into each other like this," he said, feigning calm, but there was a terseness in him that his voice betrayed.

"Sorry." Bella's temporary bravery seemed to have fled. She dropped her eyes and tried in vain to sidle around him down the hall, but he tightened the grip on her elbow.

"Bells, wait," he pleaded. "Talk to me. Tell what I did wrong so I can fix this." He sounded plaintive, like a kicked puppy. The metaphor seemed apt, and his apology, unwarranted.

"Nothing Jake," she replied coldly. "You didn't do anything wrong."

Bella wanted to flee down the hall and out of his grasp, but she knew he wasn't going to let her off that easy. It was only fair.

"Then why are you treating me like this?"

"Because…it's complicated," Bella said weakly. "But…it's nothing you did. This is all me. So just, let it go, okay?" At least it was partly true. Bella jerked away and made it a few steps down the hall before Jacob caught up with her again, and pulled her into the doorway of his bedroom.

"I'm sorry Bells," he said. "But I can't let it go, and it's not just you this time. You made me a part of this when you strolled back into my life, when you…when we… so talk to me." Bella pulled away, but he held her fast and moved so that she had to face him. "Talk to me," he demanded again.

Confrontation – it was never Bella's strong suit. "Why would I talk to you about it Jake," she muttered dejectedly. "You're like a dog with a bone when it comes to me. You never take the hint. You just never get it."

"No, I don't get it," Jake shot back. "So please, enlighten me Bella - it's only okay to love me in the dark, is that it? Cause I gotta say, you can't blame this entirely on me. It takes two to tango. So what, it's only alright when you can claim it's an accident and deny it happened the next day? Is that how it is?"

"No," she protested weakly. Bella was a child all over again, being chastised by her mother for something she already felt guilty about.

"No? Then what is it, Bells?" he demanded harshly. "Why can't you stop thinking and just be with me?"

Jacob really did know Bella inside and out – he'd even managed to vocalize the single most pertinent question that she'd been trying to answer for days.

But there was no easy answer.

"Because," Bella murmured softly, shattering the heavy silence. "Because…it's wrong."

Jacob's face fell. No, it plummeted, dropping like a stone, or the feet of a wall street businessman as he took a swan dive off the 51st story, or her, plunging over a cliff and into the sea. It was worse than anger, worse than tears, worse than anything Bella could ever have pictured. And for the first time since he had left, she now understood how she looked to other people.

It was the same way that Jacob was looking at her now.

He drifted deeper into the cave of him room and sat down hard on the edge of his bed, slumped and broken.

"Okay…" he muttered, staring down at his lap. "Okay then."

"No," Bella said quickly. "No, Jake that's not what I meant. What I meant was--"

"No Bella, it's exactly what you meant." His voice was hollow and empty. "I just wish you'd figured it out a little sooner…"

She moved to stand beside him, reached for him, but he shrugged off her touch. "Jake, what I meant was that it feels wrong, like…like a betrayal. It feels like I'm betraying someone…when I'm…with…you." Putting it that way didn't sound any better. The words were burning a hole through her too, it seemed. Another half truth. Maybe that had been the reality of the situation once, before. But now…

Something had changed. And Bella didn't have the words to explain it.

"Funny, and yet I'm the one who's still here," Jake hissed finally, his whisper harsh, but the emotion was gathering in his voice again. He laughed bitterly, and it echoed like a bark in the tiny room. "You can't betray someone who's gone, Bella."

"You don't understand--"

"No Bella, you don't understand. You're the only one who doesn't fucking understand. Edward is gone, Bella! He left you, and he's not coming back!"

The words bit into her mind, his name sending her reeling. But Jacob wasn't pulling punches this time around.

"He left you, but I'm here, Bells!" He grabbed her wrist, forcing her hand over his heart so that she felt every beat. "I'm here and I'm willing and I'm waiting, but you have to make up your mind first. You can sit here, broken and wallowing and empty for the rest of your life, waiting for someone who's never coming back…or you can move on. But the choice is yours Bella, and the damn day of reckoning is upon us. I'm sitting right here."

Beneath her fingertips Jacob's heart began to pound. Her's was doing the same. The room around her seemed to jump and twitch with each beat, and she couldn't get it to stop, to settle. Her mind mirrored the actions, leaping violently between options, futures, wants, needs, desires. When it felt like she knew what she was doing that old war wound, that shooting pain each time she breathed, would rip through her chest. And when she thought that she wasn't strong enough to ever overcome it, Jacob's face would swim before her eyes, and something new and vibrant would stir within her.

Bella pressed her hand harder against his chest. "If I could just let you inside my head you could…you'd get it, just how crazy…how messed up this whole thing…"

"Bella," Jake interrupted her rambling, his voice more normal now – all calm and tightly controlled. "Time for a brutally honest question: do you love me?"

The blunt question caught her by surprise. "I don't know," she confessed lamely, for the umpteenth time in as many days.

"That's not an answer," Jacob muttered harshly. "It's not a hard question."

"Yes it is," Bella shot back, anger rising in her voice this time. "Love is nothing but one big confusion and complication and…and mess."

"No, love is simple: you either feel it or you don't. It's how you deal with love, how you handle it, how it affects your life that makes it complicated. But the emotion, that feeling you get in your chest and your head and your gut? That's easy."

Bella wanted nothing more than to smack him and exclaim that he had no idea what he was talking about – he was just a stupid kid with a stupid crush. But when she opened her mouth to speak the words rushed through her lips uncontrollably, like a damn had cracked somewhere deep inside of her. "You just don't understand Jake. I'm not even a person any more! I'm pieces of Bella because of love. And what I felt…what I feel is something that you don't just know that…that you just don't "get over". But then I stumble into your garage and it all becomes a tangled mess because on most days I feel like I don't have the strength to turn on the lights or get up in the morning, but you crawl into bed with me and put me on the back of a bike and you smile at me and it makes me feel like I can do it as long as I have you with me. And that's not the love I know and I don't know what it means all I know is that this is just a mess that we've gotten ourselves into and I don't know the way out anymore!"

Jacob didn't say anything at first. Instead he reached out through the darkness and touched Bella's panting body, reaching up to her, raising her chin with the crook of his finger. He'd left a candle burning by the book on his nightstand, and through the flickering gold and gray she could faintly make out the contours of his face as he stared at her.

"Bella," he said again. "Do you love me?"

This time the word spilled from her lips breathlessly, easily. "Yes."

The walls were gone, the damn was shattered, and Bella was tired and flustered and distracted just long enough for her instincts to voice what her heart knew to be true all along: yes, she did love Jacob. Yes, it was real. Not some echo of the emotions he clearly felt for her, or a paltry martyristic attempt to make him happy by sacrificing her own needs.

Bella Swan loved Jacob Black.

True, it wasn't the same as loving him, as loving Edward. That had been like a ride in a stock car, a rollercoaster loop. Fast and hard and a blur of self contained wonder, but accompanied with the knowledge that the ride would either stop or kill them both in the process. In many ways it nearly had. In Bella's mind it had actually succeeded for a while…all those months lost…

But loving Jacob was different. Like a baseball glove or a favorite pair of blue jeans, their relationship had been forged over time, through trials and struggles, successes and failures. But the wear and tear was what made it special, perfect, and in the end it fit like a second skin – easy and soft and warm and made for exactly who she was.

Who they were.


"Yes?" It was Jacob's turn to be disbelieving. Too fast for Bella's eyes to register he swept her off her feet and into his lap. "Really?" he asked softly, holding her gently, like a china doll he was afraid to drop and shatter.

A hunger burned in his eyes. How long had be been waiting, Bella wondered. How long had he wanted to hear those words from her? She placed her hand firmly against his cheek. "I…really," she said softly, amazed at how easily the words slipped from her lips. She leaned in and punctuated that declaration with a swift kiss. But even after she broke away, he held her there, cheek to cheek, for a long time.

And in that very moment Bella finally understood something about her mother: bravery was simple when you knew it was right. Right didn't always equate to easy – Jacob was not going to able to wave a wand and repair all the parts of her that had rusted and disintegrated and disappeared into the depths of the Pacific – but that didn't matter because it just meant the battle with him beside her was the worthier cause.

Jake was certainly worthy.

And looking into his eyes, Bella was beginning to think that maybe she was too.

So neither of them moved, both afraid to pierce the bubble that had sheltered them from the rest of the world, and made them part of each others. They had used up all their words saying things that were only shallow parodies of the emotions they represented. There was something in their actions that conveyed more than their voices ever could. Something in the way that Jake held her so tightly to his chest, he seemed to be trying to make her a prisoner of his ribcage. Something in the way that Bella could momentarily breathe without pain, as if the tightness in her chest had had more to do with a newly formed love, and less to do with a dearly departed one.

Something in the way that when Jake leaned over and blew out the dwindling stub of the candle, Bella had no desire to spend the evening in any other place but his arms. The anger, the words from before, right and wrong, vanished into the blackness. And in the abyss, Jacob and Bella found each other.

Bella was dying.

No, not dying. Roasting alive.

The fire danced in front of her, but the farther she retreated from it, deeper into her room, the warmer it got. The air cooked in her lungs, hands flying to her throat as she clawed for air. She was drowning on dry land.

She was drowning again.

Tongues of flame licked her doorway, but it did not ignite. It beckoned, a safe haven which she had to make it to, make it through…

She hovered at the invisible edge, the break line, hands outstretched to the flames.

"Bella, love…" Hands around her wrists, and pleading golden eyes, that pulled her back back back to the corner, back to the window, back to the darkness and the heat and the lung crushing smoke. "Stay…"

She pulled back, and felt the fingers, the shackles, crack like bitter porcelain and fall away.

"I'm sorry…"

She stepped into the flames.

Bella awoke suddenly, damp with sweat and feeling shaky. She wriggled her hands free from the tangled sheets and tangled limbs. In the darkness they seemed perfect, free from burns and scars, untouched by the flames that had seemed so real.

The dreams always seemed real.

Jake shifted where he spooned behind her, muttering and burying his face deeper into the crook of her neck, the curtain of her hair. He reached out and grasped at her hand, lacing his fingers between her own again.

Bella burned at his touch. The familiar scorch that reminded her of a couch and a fireplace and a stolen kiss that passed between them again and again. Stolen glances and stolen caresses and stolen heats. Bare flesh against bare flesh.

The fire seeped into her stomach, and trickled downward. Bella had to clamp her lips shut over the longing sigh that threatened to punctuate the air.

But it didn't matter. Jacob had a sixth sense that was tied to her in some inexplicable way. "Bells…you 'wake?" He nuzzled her neck again, and Bella shivered.

"Just a dream," she whispered heavily. Her heart was pounding inside her chest. "I'm okay, I'm just…a little warm." She wriggled away from him a bit, but Bella knew Jacob's proximity wasn't the source of her discomfort. At least not directly.

He sighed sleepily again. "You wan' me to move to the couch?" But he only wrapped her up tighter in his free arm.

"No, I want you to stay right here," she whispered, hesitating. "But I was thinking of taking my shirt of…like last night…you know if you don't mind."

Jake's neck suddenly snapped upright, the sleep retreating from his face. He perched up on one elbow and looked down at her with a slightly wicked gleam in his eye. "I liked last night," he said cautiously, and as if he was offering to help he freed his hand from her own and began toying with the hem of her shirt. "I liked the way your skin felt on mine."

"Me too." She shivered at his words and the way he proceeded to work her shirt up underneath the covers. Bella rolled over to face him, wiggled her arms through the holes, then ducked her head and allowed Jake to pull the borrowed garment all the way off. He pitched it somewhere in the dark and smoothed back her static charged hair.

"I always knew you were shocking," he said softly, looking at her with something close to reverence. Bella's hands were shaking as she reached up to gently touch his face. Jacob felt the tremor, and covered her hand in his own. "Are you alright, Bells?" he practically whispered.

"I'm not sure," she confessed breathlessly, honestly.

"Okay." He leaned over and kissed her softly, their hands still locked together. There was no hesitation, like the first time. No desperation, like the second. It was just softness and warmth and…

…and love.

Bella leaned into the kiss, savoring the heat, and the way it lingered. Opening herself up to every sensation that was firing in her lips, her body. It felt different tonight. She felt different tonight. Strange.

Jake smiled into the kiss like always, lingering for a moment before he broke away. "God Bells," he murmured. "You look so beautiful…"

Bella felt the color rise in her cheeks. "Are you always this sappy after you take a girl's shirt off?" she couldn't resist asking.

He just grinned wider and stroked her hair again. "I don't know, not a whole lot of experience to go on there."

Bella looked up at him shyly as Jake's hands drifted below the covers and began to tease the length of her collarbone. "You seemed to know what you were doing last night." His fingers drifted lower.

He chuckled, settling back down into the bed and moving her over, reclaiming his position as the big spoon. His arms wound back around her where they continued their naughty endeavors. "Maybe I'm just naturally gifted?"

Bella couldn't see him anymore, but his breath tickled her ear. "That must be it," she sighed, too distracted by his roving hands to care about how lame his lines were. Beneath the sheets, Jake was exploring. He danced on her ribcage, blazed a trail across her stomach, circled her breast leaving increasingly warm paths until he reached the peak. His fingers tweaked her erect nipple and Bella caught her breath sharply.


Jake squeezed again, his breathing sounding more ragged. "I'm sorry, would you like me to stop?" His lips planted a burning kiss on her neck, teeth grazing the skin ever so softly.

"No…" Bella hissed. "No, no, no."

Jake wound his one hand down beneath her hips where he clutched at her thigh, tracing the soft skin up the leg of her shorts. Bella held her breath as he abandon her breast with the other one and slid it beneath the waistband of her shorts. She was bound, tied up like a package by his limbs, but as his thumb brushed against the top of her panties Bella realized that she didn't really mind too much.

Jake leaned in a kissed her ear. "Tell me if I go too far," he whispered.

Instead she arched into his touch, silently urging him downward. Pleading, in the confines of her mind: further, harder, more. His skin was electric, it was igniting the bonfire from her dream, a passion, a spreading heat, and it was gathering beneath his hands. Between her legs.

She wanted to feel him there.

Her response spurred Jake on, and he began exploring her with the gentlest of pressure. Teasing, his fingers caressed the damp fabric again and again, tracing her from top to bottom. Bella writhed beneath his touch, craving more than Jake was ready to give just yet.

"Bella," he said huskily, and she felt him tauntingly trace the seam of her panties. "I think this might be easier if we got something out of the way…"

Bella gasped nervously as he began to pull down her shorts, and the underwear beneath them. Something clenched in her stomach nervously. "Wait," she gasped, catching his wrists. She opened her eyes and rolled over where Jake's face swam into view as he propped himself up on a pillow beside her.

He smiled the way she liked. That genuine grin that was all Jacob, the real Jacob. Her Jacob. "Trust me," he assured her, holding her gaze. His expression flickered slightly, and in that instant Bella could tell he was nervous too.

She released his hands and raised her hips and Jake slowly peeled the clothing away. She felt it reach her calves, where she kicked them off and pushed them down to the edge of the bed with her toes. The second they were gone Bella exhaled a breath she hadn't been aware of holding.

She was lying naked in Jacob Black's bed.

She shivered beneath his penetrating gaze, as he trailed a finger up the inside of her thigh. "Are you alright?"

Was she? Bella couldn't seem to make sense of what was happening, all she knew it she didn't want it to stop. Her nervous smile broke into a moan as he reached that place between her legs once more.

With those amazing hands Jake elicited responses from Bella that she'd never heard before. She bit her lip against the animalistic noises trying to escape from her throat as he toyed with her softly.

"Help me," he suddenly pleaded against her ear. "I'm lost here Bells…" and his voice wavered momentarily. Bella brazenly grabbed his wrist and guided him to that place they were both seeking. "Here?" He stroked her clit softly with his thumb and Bella couldn't stifle her moans any longer.

She raised herself off the bed, pushing up against his touch as her vision swam wickedly. Jake pushed back and the resulting surge threatened to overwhelm her. Bella closed her eyes, giving herself over to her other senses as Jacob, evidently feeling much more confident, played with her relentlessly.

He circled her sensitive bud again and again, and Bella felt a nameless need welling up inside her, growing with the pressure that seemed to be spreading outward from the core of her body. "More please," she pleaded senselessly. "Jake I…I…"

Bella couldn't speak, couldn't focus, couldn't comprehend what was happening as Jake responded by spreading her open and gently pushing inside her. She felt herself clench tightly around him as Jake slowly slipped his finger deeper and deeper. Bella clutched at the mattress, at Jacob, at anything she could touch as he pressed himself into her depths, and then retreated. She thrust her hips upward eagerly, urging him to do it again.

And he obliged. In and out, Jake explored her neck with his mouth while his fingers explored inside her. His teeth raked at her soft skin hungrily, gently with each thrust. And each time she moaned his name he shivered against her.

His hot breath on the nape of her neck, Jacob's ragged gasps drew Bella away from her own pleasure as she suddenly realized the inequity of the situation. With extreme willpower she grabbed his wrist and pulled him out of her.

"What are you doing?"

"Trust me," she told him. She flipped him over, then motioned for him to sit up against the headboard. Like the night before Bella straddled his lap, resting on her knees. And like the night before the look in his eyes gave her all the confidence she needed.

With trembling fingers she again reached for the tie of his shorts. "Bella, you don't--" he started to say, but she cut him off with a kiss. She'd been stopped last night, but she wasn't about to be similarly deterred this time around. She parted his lips hungrily while her fingers fumbled with the string, brushing clumsily against his all too apparent bulge.

When the knot finally gave she broke away.

"You don't have to, Be--" Jacob started to protest again as Bella wrenched his zipper down.

"But I want to," she replied sharply. "I want to make you feel good too…"

"You do ma—Oh God!" Bella reached inside his shorts and wrapped her fingers deftly around his shaft. His mouth hung open as she slowly trailed down its length, brushing a soft tangle of hair, before climbing to toy with the sensitive head.

She let go and in perfect unison they both scrambled to remove the last errant piece of his clothing. Finally on equal footing, Bella drank in the sight of him. Long and lean and cut. She grabbed him again, eagerly repeating the same motion as before. It was Jake's turn to throw back his head and as he bucked into her touch.

She applied more pressure, working the length of his member achingly slow. Jake pulled his taught fingers down her back, squeezing and touched every inch of her skin as she played with him. "God Bella…you're sooo good at that…"

"I have no idea what I'm doing," she admitted throatily. Her own muscles clenched achingly each time Jake moved beneath her. Some animal part inside of her screamed for something more. She wanted to be pressed up against him, their sweaty bodies moving in unison. She wanted to feel each pump of his body inside her.

"Just don't st--" was all he got out before Bella released him. Jake moaned brokenly, raggedly breathing. She didn't give him time to catch his breath, as she climbed up his lap and positioned him squarely against his opening.

"Bells," he whispered, composure returning. "Are you sure?" His hands stroked her back reassuringly.

She wrapped her arms tightly around his neck. "I'm sure. I want to do this." Bella leaned in and stole a kiss that turned into two, four. "I want to do this with you."

With nervous desire, she lowered herself onto him. A momentary bite of pain exploded somewhere inside her, and Jacob caught her hips as her body tensed against him. But it ebbed under the heat that he was rapidly spreading within her. Bella guided him in, feeling herself stretch to accommodate his every inch.

Jake filled her to the brim, and as she thrust her hips against him Bella could feel that longed for release building inside. The animal in her chest was growing, and it wanted out.

"Bella," Jacob moaned, his hands clawing at her back. "Jesus, you feel so good." He grabbed her hips and raised her upwards, only to lower her back down again.

Bella thrust down slowly, grinding against him. "Say it again, Jake," she pleaded. Her hands drifted off his neck and clutched the top of his headboard in desperation.

"Bella…" he repeated. "Oh God, Bells."

She leaned in and attacked his neck ferociously, kissing and biting and licking. She teased his skin with her tongue, sucked it gently between her teeth. "I love the way you say that," she breathed against him, borrowing his line. She understood it better now. "When you say my name like that…just for me."

He pulled her tighter against him. "Just for you," he agreed. "Always for you, Bells. It's – ahh – it's always been for you…"

Again and again, Bella forced herself down on top of him, reveling in the way it felt when Jake filled her completely, and savoring the lurching emptiness he left behind when they broke apart. It was a dance, a maddening dizzy complex series of steps and rhythms and desire that even Bella managed to understand. Each time Jake drove into her she felt his blazing heat stoke the fire deep within her core. Her muscles clenched one by one as the pyre raged.

"Jake," she pleaded incoherently. Again and again she whispered his name until with one final thrust, something inside Bella exploded. She clenched, inside and out, writhing against his chest as the orgasm rolled over her body in waves. Her breathless whispers spelled out incoherent words in a language only lovers understood as Jake took her weight in his hands.

He held her up, drove himself into her. Each thrust only prolonged her own pleasure, and Bella reveled in it until Jacob couldn't stand it any longer. They throbbed once more in unison as, with one final gasp, he erupted inside her.

Weak and shaky, he pulled her down against his chest. Down into his arms. "Bells, oh Bells," he repeated over and over again, running his fingers through her damp and matted hair. "God Bells, that was just…"

"I know," she panted weakly. Exhaustion was beginning to replace euphoria, and she snuggled tightly him as her sweat soaked body began to cool. "I know." Her thoughts were a jumbled mess, a jagged puzzle of emotions and sensations. But Jake was beside her. Jake was her anchor. And without needing to rationalize it she knew that her heart was pounding only for him.

"I really do love you," he murmured.

Strangely, it was laughter that Bella felt overwhelming her. She was naked and sweaty and drained…and all she could do was laugh. "It doesn't count when you say it now," she teased. "There's no blood flowing to your brain. You're not thinking straight"

He chuckled weakly in response. "Bells, I could love you without thinking at all. I could love you without air, without blood, without bones in my body." His lips found hers and she kissed him back weakly. "That you can always count on…"

It was light when Bella opened her eyes. Not light in that it was raining during the day time, but light in that the sun was actually out. The absence of sound, the lack of rain and hail thundering onto the roof, was practically deafening. The damned sounds of silence, punctuated only by Jacob's soft snoring. Her hair fluttered each time he exhaled, warm against the top of her head as she lay cradled against his chest.

Bella was fascinated by the way he slept – how the soft smile seemed etched to his peaceful face. Those lines of worry, the ones she'd seen far too frequently since his transformation, had vanished. He looked…contented, happy.

It was the first time she'd ever watched anyone else in the throws of sleep. A dark, twisted realization perhaps, but it no longer frightened Bella. Those moments were bound to come, just as they were bound to pass. And for the first time she really understood why Edward had been so fascinated with her sleeping habits. It was the elimination of the mask that everyone seemed to wear, a glimpse into the secret soul when their guard was down. The Jake she was looking at now was her Jake, absent the tight control and stiff demeanor. Even in sleep, his smile was friendly, bright, genuine. Gently, she reached up and traced the curve of his cheek with her hand.

Jake leaned into the touch reflexively, and stirred. "Hey," he mumbled thickly, kissing the top of her head. A split second later he froze and went rigid. "How're you s'morning?"

"Contemplative," she answered softly. "I was thinking about what you said last night – about how it's easy to love you in the dark…"

Jake, almost instantly awake, remained frozen…braced for impact. "Yeah?"

"You were right, sort of," she confessed. "It was easy to be with you in the dark. In the morning everything was perfectly clear. What I stood to risk, what I stood to lose…the scars that we both carry. We're an ugly mess in broad daylight, you and I. But at night…" she trailed off.

"Yeah?" Jake prompted her again with baited breath.

"At night it was easy to just…surrender. Everything was hidden and everything was close and small and warm and safe. I didn't have to see myself reflected in your eyes, I didn't have to see the look on your face if it wall went wrong. It was just…it was easy. It's hard to face what you stand to lose after you've been…after you've lost it all before…"

Jake seemed to relax, but his arms tightened around her. "You're not going to lose me Bells. I'm not going to be something else that you have to overcome."

"I know that." She allowed herself to crash into that embrace, her cheek pressed against the warm skin of his chest. His heart beat frantically beneath her, and Bella dimly recalled burning lungs and burning hands that beat against her chest in vain, trying to make her own heart mimic the sound. Don't leave me, Bella! Breathe, Bella! Damnit, Bella, breathe! She wasn't the only one with something at stake, someone to lose.

She took a shuddering breath, but her voice was steady when she spoke. "You're not going to lose me either."

And this time she was the one smiling into their kiss as Jake pulled them together, and threw the covers over their heads.