Chapter 1


"Dammit," I said into the mirror. There was never enough makeup to cover the bruises that Jacob left on me. I'd never worn much makeup to begin with, unless you count like special occasions like prom or something like that. So putting it on just seemed like I was drawing a giant arrow pointing it out.

I watched myself flinch in the mirror with the memory of prom. Twinkling lights, cool arms around me, kisses in the moonlight, happiness, love. Thinking like that got me this bruise in the first place. I had to watch where my mind took me.

It had been two years since the Cullens had left, and not a day went by that something didn't remind me of them...of him. The old fault line in my chest gave a twinge, and I gasped at the feeling. Dammit! The same endless torture day after would think that the pain would subside. But it didn't. Ever. I closed my eyes and focused on breathing deeply to get it under control. I had just learned to deal with it.

I was with Jacob Black now – well, as much as I could be with anyone, that is. He took me...broken and all. But after about a year, he still hadn't gotten his wolf temper under control. At first, it wasn't even an issue. He loved me, took care of me, and tried to fill my voids as best as he could. Tried.

My voids... He had no idea how massive my void was. He thought he knew, but he was so off. He was miles off. And I couldn't even find it in my heart to explain it to him at the time. So, I never had. And he never would have understood it, ever. His prejudice ran too deep. Some things are just too deep-rooted.

His frustration ran deeper. He was younger than I was, and with all those teenage hormones running around, he had tried over and over to pursue a physical relationship with me. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't bring myself to be with Jacob in that way. He'd accepted it at first. He'd said that he would take what he could get. I even thought he'd meant it at the time. But the combination of his wolfy temper and teen angst had started to change him. It started to make him uncontrollably punchy – literally, it would seem.

He wanted a relationship with me so badly that it probably wasn't healthy for him to begin with. And I, at the time, had needed someone to stitch me back together. I didn't know that the stitches would never come out. That they would fester and ache forever. By the time we'd realized it, it was too late. There was a co-dependence that neither one of us could stop. I needed his sunny warmth, and he wanted more than I could offer him. I should have stopped it two years ago when he left...

Shit, breathe!

I didn't know why I couldn't even think his name. It was what had gotten me the bruise in the first place. Still dabbing foundation over my cheek, I remembered how last night had led up to receiving the now bluish-purple spot on my left cheekbone...


We were trying to come to some physical point in our relationship. Jake needed it, and I was testing myself...and failing miserably. We were sitting on his couch at his dad's house in La Push, watching a movie. Jake's arm was around me, lightly tracing non-descript circles on my upper arm. He leaned over and started kissing me.

As usual, I allowed my heart to deaden, my eyes to glass over... My mask was on.

With his other hand, he gently brought my face up to his and lightly touched his lips to mine. He started slow enough, but as always, slow wasn't good enough for him. He became rougher. He shoved his hand to my hair and forced his tongue into my mouth. My fists clenched in my lap, and my stomach lurched.

I pushed him away, gasping for air. I realized that I had been holding my breath the whole time. It was all wrong. So very wrong. The kisses I wanted were supposed to have cool lips. And Jake was warm, too warm. When would this craving go away? I wondered if I was destined to be tortured with the ghost of an angel for the rest of my life.

Jacob sighed with desperation and frustration, running a rough hand through his still very-short hair. I could tell he was on the verge of exploding.

"Sorry," I whispered. I was trying to calm back down from the panic that had threatened to rise in me.

"Jesus, Bella! Am I that repulsive?" he shouted.

"No," I said in a small voice, "that's not it, and you know it." I put my shaking hands over my face to try to get a grip on things.

Jake jumped up from the couch, walked into the kitchen, and got a soda from the fridge. He popped it open as he came back and fell back down next to me, shaking his head.

He turned to face me. His eyes were, they were pissed, but I couldn't find it in me anywhere to care. Even though I knew exactly where this was heading, I was powerless to stop it.

"Do you ever think that you could forget that bloodsucker for five seconds?" he spat at me. He knew exactly what button to push. It was mean, and he knew it would cause a reaction. I guessed at this point, any reaction from me would do.


"No, Bella, I don't think I will stop. I don't understand. I don't understand how you could still care for that leech after all this time and him leaving YOU!"

Me, either, I thought, but my pulse raced, my breathing picked up, and I started to shake.

"DON'T call him that!" I shouted back. Why I still defended him, I would never know. A little rip in my chest just accentuated the pain. My arms flew up to cover myself. It felt like my chest would explode from the pain of it.

Jake blew out an angry half-huff, half-laugh. "Look at you!" he blurted out, smiling, but it didn't reach his eyes.

I didn't say anything. There wasn't anything to say. I knew what it looked like. It looked like I was imploding in on myself. And I was helpless to stop it. I tried to stay still; I knew what happened when his temper flew. I couldn't help but blame myself.

"I know! Why don't I just say the name, huh? We all know what that does!" Jake sneered.

I hated this side of him, but I had no desire to stop him. I'd often wondered if it was the punishment I seeked for not being enough to hold on to the heaven I'd had...if I took it just because I felt I deserved it.

Oh, God, please no...

"EDWARD is not coming back, Bella, and you can't face it! You don't even realize that you are wasting away for nothing. You are wasting everything for nothing!"

Don't I know it, I thought to myself, squeezing my eyes shut. Don't I know that my beautiful angel will not be coming back. Don't I know that I will never feel his cool arms around me while I slept ever again. That I will never stare endlessly into those deep topaz eyes again, feel his hand in mine, his lips to my hair, his lips to mine...

That did it. The memories flooded my soul. It ripped my heart wide open right where it was still weeping. The pain was excruciating. I closed my eyes and realized that the tears had already begun to flow. Flashes of the past flew through my mind silently, like an owl on the hunt: seeing him in the cafeteria for the first time; the feel of his arms around me as he pushed a van away; the sight of his car stopping on the street of Port Angeles; the meadow; his house; his brothers and sisters; his parents; his music; the feel of that first kiss; the feel of his hand in mine; dancing at prom; Edward humming my lullaby in the dark of my room...

I fell into the abyss.

I hardly even heard Jake stand up to tower over me on the couch. He was fuming. He was also starting to shake. He would transform at any time if he didn't watch it. He could lose it and lash out at me...just like Sam had done to Emily. And still, somehow, I didn't care. There was a part of me that welcomed it, hoping for an end to the pain. There were days where death would have been welcomed.

"Where is EDWARD now? Who picked you up and dusted you off? Who put you back together? And who is it that you want to be with, huh?"


It was barely a whisper. I couldn't believe I said it out loud. God help me, but it was the truth, and there was nothing I could do about it. I was just so tired and weak from fighting it. It was becoming a day-to-day struggle to stay on track with my life and not wither away to dust.

Seth Clearwater walked in the door at the same moment the slap resounded through the house.

"Jake! What the fuck, man?" He grabbed him by the shirt and slung him outside. Seth was every bit as big as Jacob now but was always the calmer of the two.

I heard the ripping of clothes, and I knew Jake had transformed before he could control it. I didn't wait around to find out. Within moments, I was in my truck heading home to Forks.


I finished up in the bathroom, knowing that it was a hopeless cause to try to cover it up. I went to my bedroom, grabbed my backpack, and headed downstairs.

Charlie was just about the walk out the door when I set my bag down and headed into the kitchen for a quick breakfast.

"Now how did you get that bruise again, Bells?" he asked, studying me from the doorway.

"I told you, Dad. The truck door stuck, and when I yanked it, it slammed into my face."

I had to admit that it was totally possible that such a thing could occur in my life, but I couldn't bear to think of Charlie's face if he knew the truth. It was very possible he would have a heart attack. It scared me that the lie came so easy.

"Well, have Jake take a look at that door and see if he can't loosen it up for you, okay?"

"Sure, sure, Dad."

"What's your plans today?" he asked with his hand on the doorknob. He was looking at me like he was trying to see through me. I had a feeling that the truck door story was not working for him, but he would never mention it.

"Well, it's Friday, so I have classes until three and work until nine. I'll be coming home after that." I had started taking classes at Peninsula College in Port Angeles this year. Charlie was disappointed I hadn't gone bigger, but deep down, I think he knew why and had just never pushed the issue. I'd also taken a part-time job at a small book store to pay for tuition and books.

I popped two Pop-Tarts in the toaster and went to the fridge for a glass of milk.

"Are you not seeing Jake tonight?" he asked.

If my dad had his way, Jacob and I would be married with babies by now. Jake could do no wrong in my dad's eyes. He considered Jake a part of the family already.

"No, not tonight," I said, sitting down at the table. I starting chewing and realized that it had no flavor. It was cardboard, flavorless. Just like my life, I thought to myself and snorted. I downed the glass of milk.

Charlie left it at that, told me goodbye, and left for the station. He didn't need to know that tonight was Jake's patrol night. He was unaware that Jake was a werewolf. He never knew that Edward was a vampire, either. Poor Charlie. His daughter was surrounded by mythical creatures, and he was oblivious. If he knew that, he definitely would have a heart attack. I snorted again.

I've become quite the cynic, I thought to myself.

My cell phone rang about halfway to campus. I looked down, and it was Jacob. I just didn't have it in me to have this conversation today. He would apologize, and I would forgive him. I just didn't know if that was something I wanted to deal with right now. I ignored the call and continued to drive.

Once I pulled into a parking space on campus, my phone went off again. Jake was texting me.

I sighed. Here we go.

J: I'm an ass. Please forgive me?

B: Cant this wait? Got class.

J: NO! Please?

B: I think we need time apart

J: ?

B: I need to think.

J: VERY sorry!

B: I know.

J: PLEASE? I love you.

B: I know. A few days, please!

J: Okay.

As I sat in my truck, I decided that I had no use for class today. I cranked up my truck and backed out, heading to a place that I would be free of memories.