Disclaimer: We don't own Twilight. Our storyline and original characters are our own, however. No copying or reproduction of this work without express written authorization from Lillie Cullen and changedbyEdward.

A/N: Welcome to HotN. This is the Support Stacie auction story that was purchased by Dr. Death, who graciously allowed us to post it for your viewing pleasure. It is a collaboration by myself and Lillie Cullen, and will be posted on both profiles. Many thanks to readingtime for being our beta-goddess for this story.


"Bella, what the hell were you thinking?" Jacob asked her after she'd choked up the last of the frigid saltwater. She looked and felt like a drowned rat, but Jacob didn't care, as long as she was still breathing. He sat her up and wrapped his body around her back, letting his body heat warm her. Bella sunk into his embrace. She couldn't tell him that she was hoping to hear Edward's voice one last time before she died, but all she had heard was silence. Edward was truly gone, and he was never coming back to her. She realized that no amount of near death experiences was ever going to change that.

Was he really worth dying for? If he still loved her, if he were here with her, absolutely. But he doesn't love me, and he isn't here. Jacob is. Sweet, wonderful Jacob, who wanted nothing more than the chance to make her happy, to bring some light back into her life. Jacob, who was nuzzling his face into her neck and repeating her name repeatedly while he rubbed her arms between his hands to get her circulation pumping again. Jacob, who had given so much and asked for so little, hoping that his hints and innuendos would one day not go unnoticed or ignored.

When her mother had come from Jacksonville to try and take her back home, she'd said something that stuck with Bella. Something that, at the time Bella just blew off as self-help psychobabble from her dingbat mother who knew nothing of true love, but that was starting to make sense to her now. Renee had said that the first step to being happy was to pretend you're happy. She said if you pretended long enough and hard enough, eventually one day you'd look around and realize you weren't pretending anymore. She realized in that moment what she had almost done to her father. To Jacob. To people who weren't Cullens, who actually worried about whether she lived or died.

She snuggled deeper into Jacob's embrace as he carried her to the truck. They were both almost dry, and she wasn't shivering anymore, but she craved the warmth, the soft skin over hard muscles, so unlike what she was used to, but maybe that wasn't a bad thing. Maybe the fact that Jacob was Edward's polar opposite in every way was just what she needed. And even if it wasn't, she could pretend.

Jacob drove her home and carried her upstairs. He mumbled an explanation to Charlie as he carried her upstairs. Luckily for them, Charlie trusted Jacob explicitly. If he said not to worry about it, then Charlie wasn't going to worry about it. He'd worried about Bella so much lately. Too much. He hung the last of his hope on Jacob to bring his daughter back to him.

Jacob sat her on the edge of the bed and pulled back the comforter before laying her down. He kissed her forehead and started to pull away, intending to cover her back up and leave so she could get some rest. But when he felt her arms wrap around his waist and hug him to her, he couldn't help himself. He knew she was emotionally fragile, her pain so obviously still raw. But he felt fragile too, and he couldn't deny that he'd dreamt of holding her in his arms. He lowered himself carefully into her embrace, hugging her in turn. His lips reached out to kiss her neck of their own accord. When she moaned his name softly, he thought he'd died and gone to heaven. Bella leaned her head to his, her fingers digging into his shoulder blades.

Jacob trailed kisses up her neck, down her jaw, pausing for just a moment, looking for any sign of hesitation from Bella before he kissed her. He found none. He peppered her lips with chaste, tentative kisses. Bella was the one to deepen the kiss. Jacob wouldn't tell her no, wouldn't push her away. He had no fear of hurting her. She was the one with the power to hurt him if she so chose. He may have been laying above her, may have been so much stronger physically, but Bella could crush him with one word. He'd never felt so exhilarated, so frightened, so in love. He didn't know if it was imprinting, but he couldn't imagine anything being more powerful.

His hands went to the hem of her shirt, caressing the soft skin he found there. He was still so certain that Bella was going to put a stop to it at any minute, tell him that she couldn't do it, that she didn't feel the same way he did. She didn't. Instead she arched her back into his touch. He wrapped one arm around her and lifted her up so he could pull her shirt over her head with the other hand. Bella wrapped her arms around Jacob's neck, deciding in that moment to give herself to him completely.

"More, Jacob. Love me, please..." The last of Jacob's restraint disappeared in that moment.

"Oh Bella, I do. You know I do," he moaned against her collarbone as his fingers and lips and tongue explored every inch of skin he'd uncovered. "Let me love you."

Bella tugged at his shirt, letting him know she wanted it gone, and he obeyed, pulling it over his head and tossing it to the floor. Her fingertips explored his chest, tracing every well-defined muscle. Truly, Jacob was as gorgeous as he was pure of heart. How had she never noticed? She pushed the answer to that question to the back of her mind, choosing instead to beg Jacob for more. She was so lost in the feelings he was bringing out in her that she barely noticed he had finished undressing them both before settling himself between her legs. She could feel his hot length pressing up against her as he kissed her. She'd never had a tongue caress hers the way his did now. It made her dizzy with lust. It was so easy, to not think, to just feel.

"Bella, are you sure?" She nodded her head and wrapped her legs around his hips. Jacob pressed into her slowly, his heat cauterizing her wound as he broke her barrier. He held her while she shuddered and cried, not moving until she started kissing him again, rocking her hips to show him she was okay.

"I love you, Bella," he whispered in her ear as he caressed her hair and made love to her slowly, never wanting it to end.

"I love you, too, Jake." She meant it. Not the way he did, but she meant it just the same. As for the rest? She could pretend. After what seemed like forever, he spilt his seed inside her, panting hot breaths against her skin as he rolled off of her and pulled her against him. He fell asleep almost immediately, snoring softly. Bella laid next to him, wanting to move, escape the heat, suddenly so oppressive she could barely breathe. She needed to let the cool air dry the sweat from her skin, both hers and his, but she couldn't bring herself to move. The weight of what she'd just done held her down like an anvil on her chest, so much heavier than his arm thrown across her torso.

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Michael Brennan and Nikki Wright shared a bond created by love, loss, and hardship. Michael's life was finally taking a turn for the better while Nikki's was descending into darkness, until one fateful night changed everything. Just how much is Michael willing to give up for love? How far is he willing to run?