I paced back and forth, thinking. I wasn't buying the "phone lines are down" story. That was total crap. I stopped and stared out the window. It was getting dark fast. A storm was blowing in. I resumed my pacing. I snatched the phone out of the cradle and punched redial. I'd only been calling one number for the last week. It rang and rang. No one answered, like usual.
I growled to myself and grabbed my keys and headed out the door. I would find a way to see Jake, no matter what. Something was up, I could feel it, and it really pissed me off that no one was talking.
I pushed the truck as hard as it would go, anxious to get to La Push before the storm broke and anxious to get to Jake. The normally 45 minute drive took me 30. It was an improvement, but it wasn't fast enough for me.
I went straight to the Black's house. The windows were all dark, lit occasionally by the flashes of lightning. I parked in the driveway and sat for a moment, trying to figure out where to go next. I climbed out of the truck for lack of anything better to do and started walking. I noticed a worn path in the grass leading into the woods. I wasn't worried about the bear here on the res, so I set off. After a few minutes of walking I could hear the sound of rain hitting the leaves in the trees towering above me. I shivered, suddenly wishing I'd grabbed something heavier than my jacket. Rain in March was bound to be cold.
I was contemplating turning back and sitting in the truck until I saw Jake when I heard noises ahead of me. There were voices and … snarls? It sounded like an angry animal. I walked towards the noises carefully, trying unsuccessfully not to make much noise.
"Bella, what are you doing here?"
I looked up startled and saw Sam. He was wearing only a pair of shorts and his hair was cropped short. He glared down at me, his eyes hard.
"I'm looking for Jake," I said defiantly, standing up as tall as I could.
"You shouldn't be here. Go home."
"Not until I see him." I lifted my chin angrily.
We locked eyes, neither of us backing down. I heard a scream of pain that I recognized was Jake. We both turned and I took my opportunity. I pushed past Sam and ran in the direction of the shouting. I didn't get very far when I felt Sam grab me from behind.
"Get out of here, Bella," he snarled in my ear.
"No," I shouted. "I want to see Jake."
"He can't see you right now."
"Jake!" I shouted, ignoring Sam.
He put his hand over my mouth to quiet me and I bit it as hard as I could. He dropped me, startled and swearing under his breath. I managed to land on my feet and took off in the direction of the noises.
I broke into a clearing and froze. Jake was lying on the ground, curled up in the fetal position, screaming in pain. There were several people in a circle. I recognized Billy in his chair, Embry, Paul, and Jared. There were a few others I didn't recognize. The rain reached the ground here and everyone was soaked. Water was dripping off of their skin and hair onto the soft green ground.
Sam wrapped his arms around me then and started to drag me away. "Get out of here, Bella," he repeated, more frantic. "You can't be here."
I struggled against him. "Jake!" I shouted. "Jake, it's Bella. Look at me."
Jake moved onto his hands and knees, his head still down. I saw that his hair had been cut short and he was naked. He threw his head back suddenly, his face full of pain. Our eyes met and he stared at me, uncomprehending.
"Jake, it's Bella."
Sam turned with me and started back through the woods. I struggled against him. "What are you doing to him?" I demanded angrily. There were tears streaming down my face but they were mixed with rain so no one would really notice. I heard a snarl behind us.
Sam turned and I watched with horror as Jake's body started to shake, the outlines of his skin blurring. Sam threw me into Jared's arms as though I weighed nothing and a moment later, an immense black wolf was in his place. I stared with shock, and then looked back at Jake. He was practically vibrating now and as I watched, he changed. He practically exploded and in his place was a huge russet colored wolf. I shrank back into Jared's chest, terrified.
His arms tightened around me and he backed away from the circle. The two wolves circled each other, growling low in their chests. I suddenly realized there were two more explosions and two more wolves appeared where Paul and Embry had been standing. I looked around the circle but no one else seemed to be phased by this. It was like this was as normal as walking down the street. After a few minutes, Embry and Paul reappeared, also naked. I looked away and stared back at the wolves in the center.
"Let her go," said Embry quietly to Jared. "It's only making him angrier. He can't calm down while he feels like she's being hurt."
Jared quietly released me. He held on to me for a second to make sure I was steady before finally dropping his hands to his sides.
The russet wolf – Jake – was sitting now, his head hanging down. The black wolf was sitting across from him, silent. Everyone's attention was focused on them so no one noticed at first when I took a tentative step towards them.
I didn't know why I was walking towards them. They were huge. My frail human body was clearly nothing to them, even I could see that. All the same, my feet kept taking me forward, squelching through the wet muddy grass.
"Bella," said Billy sharply "what are you doing?"
"Jake," I whispered.
Jake turned his big head to me. There was pain and fear in his eyes. I was standing in front of him now. I dropped to my knees in front of him and looked into his eyes. I shakily placed my hands on either side of his head. Even wet, his fur felt like silk under my fingers. I smoothed it back from his eyes.
"Jake, it's me."
"Bella, back away. He can't control himself at this point." Sam's voice was scared.
"He won't hurt me," I said confidently, not breaking the eye contact. "He promised. Just a few days ago, he promised he would never ever hurt me." I smoothed his fur again.
Jake dropped his head, resting it on my shoulder. It was heavy, nearly knocking me over. I quickly regained my balance and settled back on my heels. I scooted closer to Jake, who was settling down on his paws.
I wrapped my arms around his shoulders and buried my face in his neck. I kept petting his fur, willing him to calm down. I didn't understand anything going on except that Embry had said he needed to calm down. I might not be able to do anything else, but hopefully I could do that.
I was practically lying in the mud with him, soaked to the bone. I should have been cold, but he was radiating heat. In the back of my mind I realized Sam and Jared had been warmer than usual, too. I shook it off and focused on Jake. I could feel his pulse slowing down. I closed my eyes and breathed in his scent.
"Breathe with me, Jake. Just breathe."
I felt him shaking again, but it wasn't so violent this time. There was more of an implosion and suddenly I was holding Jake. His head was on my shoulder and his arms were resting on my thighs. I took his head gently in my hands and pulled it off my shoulder and looked at his eyes.
His breathing was ragged and the pain was still there, but the fear was gone. I smiled at him encouragingly and kissed his forehead firmly. He moved his arms around my waist and pulled me close to him. We were both soaking wet and covered in mud but I scrambled into his lap awkwardly, wrapping my legs around his waist and hugging him tightly against my chest. I rested my head on his shoulder now.
"You're ok," I whispered, rubbing his back. "I'm always here for you."
"Bella, you need to go." His voice was cracked. "I'm not sure I can…"
"You won't hurt me, Jake. I know you won't." I pulled back and looked up at him. "If you want me to go, I will, but don't send me away because you're afraid you'll do something to me. You and I both know you won't."
He sighed. "You're soaked. At least go back to my place and dry off."
I nodded and smoothed his short hair back from his face. "Should I wait for you there?"
"I don't know. If you want."
I kissed his forehead again and pulled away from him carefully. I was suddenly painfully aware of the audience we had. I flushed as I moved to stand up and lost my balance in the mud. Jacob caught me and righted me. I stared at him, confused as to how he managed to get to his feet so quickly. My blush darkened as I realized he was still naked and that I'd been wrapped around him.
There was silence as I stumbled my way back through the clearing to the woods. I somehow managed to find my way back to the house. By the time I got there, I was so cold my teeth were chattering and I was shivering uncontrollably.
The door was unlocked so I let myself in. I stumbled into the bathroom and peeled off my clothes, leaving them in a sodden heap on the floor. I turned on the water as hot as I could and climbed in. This probably wasn't what Jake had in mind, but I couldn't think of a better way to warm up. Plus, I wasn't sure where things were in the house. Jake always jumped up to get me whatever I needed or wanted.
I used Jake's shampoo and washed my hair and used the suds to wash my body. Once I was clean and thawed out, I climbed out of the shower and wrapped up in towels. I carefully wrung out my clothes in the tub and draped them over the shower curtain rod before padding to Jake's room.
I felt a little strange pawing through his drawers for clothes but I wasn't sure where else to look. I pulled out a white t-shirt and a pair of boxers. I rolled the waistband of the boxers several times so they'd stay on my hips and pulled on the t-shirt.
I took the towels back into the bathroom and hung them up. I headed into the kitchen and picked up the phone. I punched in the number for the station in Forks.
"Forks Police, this is Gladys."
"Hi Gladys, its Bella. Is my dad there?"
"Yeah, sure honey. Hold on a second."
A moment later, "Chief Swan."
"Dad, it's me."
"Bella? Is everything ok?" he sounded worried.
"Everything's fine. I'm at the res and I forgot a jacket. I got soaked so I'm hanging out here at the Blacks until my clothes dry out."
"How'd you get wet?"
Crap. I hadn't thought he'd ask that question. "Oh, you know, clumsy me, I fell in a puddle in the yard."
Charlie chuckled. "Sounds about right. Are you ok?"
"Yeah. My throat is bothering me some, but I'm going to wrap up in some blankets and warm up."
"Well, if you need to stay the night that's fine. I trust you."
I rolled my eyes. "Thanks Dad."
I replaced the phone in its cradle and sighed. My throat was starting to hurt, now that I thought about it. I'd just gotten over the stomach flu, I didn't want to get regular flu now. I wandered back into Jake's room and pulled the blanket off his bed. I wrapped it around myself and curled up on the couch to wait. The tension and worry and exhaustion caught up with me and I quickly drifted off to sleep, wrapped up in Jake's scent.