Thanks! Thanks! Thanks!
Many thanks to my beta team, headed by grammar goddess, mybrandofheroin, diamondheart (A.K.A. chef diamondheart) brilliant author of The Moonshadow Continuum (she's just written a new installment, "Expectations" fanfiction (then there's a dot here) net /s/8242054/1/(delete spaces),
and to my guest beta, Light4Dawn, hot, new, and prolific author of Ascent from Darkness, fanfiction (then there's a dot here) net /s/7569635/1/Ascent_from_Darkness, and check out her new story Turn and Turn About fanfiction (then there's a dot here) net /s/8218752/1/Turn_and_Turn_About
(Don't blame her. Any baboon like comments of Jake's were written despite her vociferous grousing.)
Fanfiction .Net Mess:
If this story disappears on fanfic, it is posted on Twilighted. net. Doesn't this shit just crisp your little smokies?
Shameless Pimping Section:
I'm always searching for undiscovered gems that most people haven't found, and here are five of them. Treat yourself. These fabulous, well written stories deserve a lot more attention and love than they are getting.
The Madness of Jacob Black by Helen T. fanfiction (then there's a dot here) net /s/8042697/1/
A brand new wolfy author with a mind blowing story. Holy Hades!
The Summer of Changing Heartsby Alimariexxx fanfiction (then there's a dot here) net /s/7162238/1/ J and B "discover" each other on Charlie's farm.
Three's a Crowd by Tewig fanfiction (then there's a dot here) net /s/7113424/1/ J/B/Leah are best friends going to college together. Relationships get … complicated.
It Don't Mean a Thing by clara-eloise fanfiction (then there's a dot here) net /s/7434179/1/ Bella witnesses Jake's first transformation. Edward tries to become Jake's BFF.
Three Worthless Years by LadyofSpain fanfiction (then there's a dot here) net /s/7841972/1/ Military Jake. Need I say more?
JBNP is having their Summer Awards Contest. Nominations are open until July 1. Go nominate your favorite wolfy stories and make an author happy. They work very hard for you, and the compensation package is not financially rewarding, you know.
kwiksurveys online-survey. php?surveyID=LNDOJJ_ddb4870a&UID=2335596579
The way the JBNP nominations work is that the stories that accrue the most nominations go on to the next phase of the contest, so everybody needs to nominate to make sure their favorite is up for an award.
Same Ole Same Ole:
Stephenie Meyers wrote Twilight. Were you wondering?
Previously in How to Seduce a Werewolf:
This story takes place several years after Edward leaves Bella in the forest. Bella and Jake have been best friends for years when Bella suddenly realizes she's deeply in love with him. With Leah's help, Bella has been trying to seduce Jake while she, Jake, Embry, Paul, and Seth are in Italy working in the modeling industry.
Paul has traveled to Florence, but the rest have gone on a driving tour of the Italian countryside when Bella realizes she's directed them through Volterra. They make a run for it before the Volturi become aware of their presence. Bella tells Jake, Seth, and Embry all she knows of the Volturi while they drive to Florence.
Meanwhile, Paul is pissed at Jake for a variety of reasons and is jealous of the burgeoning relationship between Jake and Bella, so he's trying to get loaded when Embry and Seth stop by his hotel room. Embry blabs to Paul about Volterra, and Paul (in a purely Drunk Paul move) decides he and Embry need to go kill a few Volturi for kicks.
As soon as Jake finds out, he follows them, telling Seth to stay with Bella. She wants Seth to help the others, so she buys a scooter and sidecar from the hotel dishwasher and heads out, forcing Seth to go with her. Everyone converges on Volterra where Paul has attracted the attention of Felix (A.K.A. Lurch), Demetri, and Angelica (known to the pack as Morticia or Cadaver Girl). The pack kills the three, Paul chews Cadaver Girl into little pieces, and then Jake turns his attention to Paul.
Excerpt from Chapter 15:
I lifted my head and stared at Paul with something akin to real hate in my eyes. If it weren't for Bella, you no good piece of shit, your ass would be smeared all over this fucking field.
Fuck you, Black. You think I don't know whose fault this is? All of it is due to that vamp-loving cunt. If she hadn't fucked that corpse, we wouldn't even know about—
That was it. I finally lost it. All the fury I'd felt toward that oblivious, self-absorbed son of a bitch exploded into one vicious lunge. In a split second, I had him down on the ground, growling and snapping over him while he went belly up. His life was teetering on a razor's edge, and he knew it.
My brain roared thoughts at him. You goddamned motherfucker! Do you have any idea what you've done? Instantly, I let my mind flood with all of the images that had been consuming me ever since Bella told us what was in Voltura. Not only have you put at risk the lives of your brothers, your fucking pack mates, you've drawn attention to everybody on the reservation.
I let Paul hear Bella's words as they flowed through my mind. "It's possible if the Volturi find out, they could go to La Push. Jake, they could kill everyone there who might inherit or pass on the wolf gene." I thought about Sam's babies being torn apart, about all the beautiful Quileute kids who could die. Pictures of Emily and Kim, of the old people, of Billy and all our families being attacked by a colony of super vamps flashed through my brain. Finally came the vision that consumed me—that of a vampire crouching over my Bells and sucking her lifeless body dry. It was like a video loop that kept replaying in my head again and again.
Yeah, I should have known that she'd be the main thing on your mind.
Roaring, I reached down and clamped Paul's neck into my jaws. For a moment, I didn't know if I was going to kill him or not. Then those horrible images of Dad and the tribe being murdered, of Bella dying, swirled in my mind again. Everything in me said to crush the son of a bitch and tear off his fucking head. With a furious snarl, I snapped down on Paul Young's throat.
Chapter 16 "Vamp S'mores"
Voices all around screamed in my mind and in my ears. For a split second I hesitated, and in that moment, Embry and Seth raced over and tried to separate me from Paul's throat. They'd heard every thought roaring through my brain and knew just how close I was to ripping off his head.
Back the fuck off NOW, both of you!
Nobody, but nobody was going to get between that dead son of a bitch and me.
Then a soft little hand stroked my side, and I felt Bella's body next to mine. Fuck! Right then, no one within a ten-yard radius of me was safe, and she was actually touching me.
"Don't do it, Jacob. Please, sweetheart, for me. Please don't."
An explosion of thoughts and emotions blasted into my brain—Embry and Seth's panic, my own fury, and Paul's shock. But he wasn't shocked that he lay at my feet teetering between life and death. No, he'd expected that. Paul was shocked by Bella's words—and they thrilled the sick piece of shit.
She wants me alive.
It didn't matter. Even Bella couldn't keep my wolf from killing the bastard.
I don't give a fuck, cocksucker. You. Are. Mine.
My body felt like a wound up coil of metal about to spring; I shook with rage as I crouched over Paul. His throat was still in my jaws, and they ached with the need to grind down, to pulverize anything that put Bella's life in danger. I tasted the blood leaching out of the bite wounds in his neck and felt the cartilage of his windpipe splinter between my teeth.
Then I realized a little figure was burrowing into my side, arms wrapped around my neck, and I could hear soft gasps of effort. It dawned on me that Bella was literally trying to pull my head away from Paul Young's throat.
A soft voice whispered in my ear, "He's not worth it, Jacob. Please don't. You'll never forgive yourself. Eventually, it will tear you up, and I can't let that happen. Not for him."
Bella stunned us all. God, she should have been fucking terrified, but instead, her breathing and pulse seemed steady as she wrapped around me and tried to insert herself between my victim and my teeth. Even Embry and Seth didn't have the balls to get so close to me while I was in such a rage, and they were werewolves.
Paul went limp as pain poured through his mind.
God, she doesn't give a shit if I live or die.
For a second, all the emotions that he'd suppressed spurted to the surface for everybody to feel. We saw the jealousy, the envy, the loneliness, and the hurt that he'd hidden from us for years. Frankly, I couldn't care less. There was no excuse—none—for what he did, and he was going to pay in full.
You're surprised she doesn't care about you, motherfucker? Well, why would she? What have you ever done with your life except use and abuse everyone who ever gave a fuck about you?
I felt my fury wind up even more. Jesus, if I didn't dial it down, Bella was going to end up with Paul's blood sprayed all over her. As much as he deserved it, she didn't.
Seth, move Bella so I can deal with this sack of shit.
Obeying instantly, Seth picked up Bella like a wolf would its cub. His teeth gently bit down on the back of her coat and lifted her away from me so I could turn my attention to Paul.
You are so fucking lucky she stopped me. We've got to get out of here before your stupidity causes even more problems, but listen to this, you no good son of a bitch.
I got down in his face so he could get a close up look at every tooth in my mouth.
You. Are. Done. Get it? When we go back to La Push, I don't ever want to see your fucking face again. You want to live by your own rules and get dead, do it alone. You're finished—banished—no longer part of the pack.
His stunned disbelief (and that of Seth and Embry) flooded my brain.
Yeah, fucking banishment. I turned on Embry and Seth. Anybody got a problem with that?
Both of them stepped back in a hurry.
No problem, boss. Whatever you say. The two of them saw how close I was to killing something or someone, and nobody was volunteering to be first in line.
Picking up an unresisting Paul by the scruff of his neck, I slung him across the field the way Lurch had earlier. His body crunched when it hit the same tree; from the mental broadcast of his pain, I could tell he'd re-injured his ribs, and it hurt even worse the second time around.
I walked over and stared down at his broken body. To my great satisfaction, he wasn't breathing too good.
Unless you want to end up like Morticia, stay the fuck away from me. I glanced at the marshmallow sized white lumps that were all that was left of Cadaver Girl. Nothing would make me happier. You got it?
When I saw that he did, I forced myself to get my temper under control so I could move everybody the fuck out of Vampville ASAP. That wasn't going to be easy.
I snapped out orders, and we raced around trying to clean up everything as fast as possible. Paul limped along and did what he could to lend a hand even though his chest burned like a bitch, and air sounded like it was bubbling through his neck wound. Like I gave a shit. Helping out was the least the fucking bastard could do.
First off, we had to roast the leeches before they crawled back together. We gathered up the pieces, broke them down, and then Bella set each piece alight. Luckily, they ignited fast and went out just as quickly. Next, everything we touched, branches, bushes, and Paul's tree, was ripped into manageable pieces and burned. We kept all of it small since the last thing we needed was a bonfire that attracted everyone within a ten-mile radius of Vultureville.
Finally, we neutralized the ground we'd trampled by making a small firebreak between our tracks and the rest of the field, and then I phased and dropped little pieces of Morticia along the grass we'd touched, setting them on fire as I went. When we backtracked to our cars, I carefully covered our steps with more flaming vamp chunks to make sure we'd disguised our scent. I figured we did the best we could and, although it felt like hours had passed, we actually finished damn quick.
Everyone else phased and grabbed their clothes while I turned and got my first look at the pile of junk that evidently brought Seth and Bella from Florence. After a stunned moment, my temper started to fray—again.
"What the hell is this?" I asked, turning on Seth. "Tell me you didn't drive here on an open fucking scooter! Jesus Christ, Seth, they can track your smell for miles on this goddamned thing."
"No, I drove it here, and I didn't give Seth a choice." Bella was in my face, and she was going to let me have it for bitching at Seth again. I tried to keep my mouth from dropping open as I stared at her. "Jacob, it was the only way we could get here," she said. "I had to buy the Vespa since you took the keys to the other Punto with you so we couldn't follow you, didn't you?"
Suddenly, the whole situation had turned around and was my fault. How did that happen? And how the fuck we were supposed to get back to our hotel without being followed? We couldn't drive straight to Florence—we needed to go 180 degrees in the opposite direction. If Seth got on that toilet on wheels and drove off, he might as well have a neon sign that read, "Track me. I just killed three vampires" strapped to his head. On the other hand, if we left the son of a bitch somewhere, and the vultures found it, it could be traced back to Seth and Bella. More than likely, all of our hard work covering our scent had just gone down the crapper. Jesus H. Christ!
I took a good look at the scooter and shook my head in amazement. What a piece of shit! Evidently, somebody had recently taken a sledgehammer to it and beat it within an inch of its life, while the engine and tires smelled like they might spontaneously combust.
"If you paid more than two dollars for this crap trap, you were overcharged."
"Well, it was in good shape when we bought it, and it worked fine." I had a feeling Bella would still be defending her scooter when it fell to pieces in front of her. "We … er, had a few run-ins on the way here."
"Run-ins with what? Buildings? The damn thing looks like flying monkeys dropped bowling balls on it."
Seth seemed to be searching for a hole to hide in while Bella's cheeks flushed with either embarrassment or anger. "Well, we might have nicked a building or two," she finally admitted.
" 'Nicked' a building?" God, I didn't even want to think about their trip to Vampville. The problem we needed to deal with was getting everyone (including Bella's beloved hunk of junk) elsewhere—and fast.
"Seriously, I don't know how in the fuck this thing is going to make it to Rome, Bells."
"Rome?" All four of them stared at me as if I'd lost my marbles.
"Yeah, Rome. What, did you think we'd make a beeline to Florence so they can knock on our hotel room doors fifteen minutes after we arrive? Hell, we can follow vamps in a closed car for miles. How easy do you think it would be to track somebody on a motorcycle?"
Everybody looked at each other apparently dumbfounded.
"I drove it here, Jake, so I'll drive it to Rome. It'd be better if they sniff me out instead of one of you guys," Bella said.
That statement nearly made my heart stop. "No, baby. They don't need to be following your scent. And I need you in the car with me so we can figure out where we're going and how we're going to get back to Florence. Seth, can you drive this piece of shit or not?"
"Sure, Jake, but I don't know how long it's going to keep running. We drove it pretty hard getting here."
"Christ almighty." Holy fuck, what else could happen? Shaking my head, I made myself focus on what we could do and not worry about shit I couldn't control. Maybe we'd lose the bastards in all the chaos I felt sure we'd find in a big city. At least, I hoped so. "Look, Seth, you gotta get the thing to Rome one way or another. If it breaks down, you'll have to hang onto somebody's bumper, and let us drag you."
"Okay, Jake. Don't worry. I'll get it there."
If anyone could, I knew the kid would do it or die trying. Actually, it would probably be better if the vultures followed us to Rome. If they lost the scent completely, they might backtrack our trail to Florence.
Everybody checked their phones and got into their vehicles while I dropped the last bits of Morticia where the cars had been parked and set them on fire. Might as well make things as difficult as possible. Christ on a ladder, what a fucking mess.
I'd never seen Jake so mad at one of his brothers. Fury radiated off him as we drove towards Rome, but he still reached over and covered my hand with his.
"I'm so sorry, Jacob," I said. "If I hadn't—"
"Bells, none of this is your fault—none of it." His eyes dove right into mine. "If you hadn't figured out what was in Vampville, what do you think would have happened to us when we all piled out of the car right in the middle of town? Nobody's at fault here except for that fucking asshole … and Embry's big mouth."
Although he was trying not to show it, he was so livid even his voice sounded different—like his wolf was right under the surface fighting to get out. His eyes had been yellow ever since he'd phased back. He was obviously struggling with the urge to dismember Paul, and I couldn't help but feel responsible. I'd dragged them on that stupid driving tour, and I'd dragged them to Volterra. If it weren't for me, everybody would be safe in Florence and have no idea what was right down the road from them. I stroked Jake's hand and tried to get him to relax.
"Sweetheart, what's going to happen to Embry and Paul?" The last thing I wanted to do was to bring up the subject of the fight, but I had to know what was in store for the guys.
A growl reverberated around the car, and my hand crept up Jake's arm to rub his tense muscles.
"Paul's out, Bella. Banished."
My mouth fell open.
"Banished? Jake, you're not going to kick him out of the pack!"
"Out of the pack and out of La Push. He's got to pay for what he did." The words were flat and unemotional. It was a done deal in Jake's mind.
Holy. Freaking. Crow. "Oh, no, Jake. Oh, my God."
"He deserves to die, Bella."
"Oh, Jacob." I was staggered. He was about to lose a member of his pack, and it was going to happen by Jake's own hand. I couldn't let that take place; it would eat at him for the rest of his life. "Do you know why he did it, honey?"
"Because he's a jealous, insecure, pathetic loser, Bella. It doesn't matter why he did it. It only matters what he did, okay?"
It was time to back off. I knew Jake. It would be like cutting off his own arm to banish one of his brothers—even Paul—and out of all of them, Paul needed the pack the most. It was the only good thing in his life. But if I were going to change Jake's mind, I would have to give it some time. He needed to calm down and let what happened soak in for a while.
The next hours were grueling. Seth lurched along behind us, and everybody had their fingers crossed that the beat up scooter would make it to Rome. After we arrived, we came across the Ponte Sisto. It was a bridge a little south of the Vatican in a quiet part of town, and the River Tiber ran deep underneath. The guys jumped out, crunched up the poor Vespa and sidecar into two compact squares, and then hurled them into the river. Luckily, it was the middle of the night, so no one was around to notice what we were up to.
Seth approached our car thinking to catch a ride with us, but made a quick U-turn when he saw Jake's expression. I thought I could keep Jacob from kicking the crap out of him, but Seth was going to be much safer if he stayed at least an arm's length away from Jake for a while. Not that being crammed into the Punto with Paul and Embry for eight hours was going to be much of a treat either.
We made our last pit stop, ran both cars through an automated carwash, and concocted a strategy to get back to our hotel. Deciding the guys would go up the west coast, Jake and I traveled due east so we could drive up the opposite side of the boot of Italy. Everyone was going to converge on Bologna and then head back to Florence after hitting up each car wash we passed. If the Volturi had a tracker like James, we were screwed. If not, maybe, just maybe, we might live through the night.
On our trip north, I tried to convince Jake that we should clear out of Italy and go hide in Eastern Europe or Western Asia or somewhere. Uzbekistan looked like a sensible option to me, but he wouldn't consider it. My next plan was to head back to Washington. After all, he'd be much safer with twelve more wolves around. An argument ensued where he tried to convince me to hightail it to Forks while he and the guys faced the Volturi alone.
That wasn't happening.
Jake wouldn't budge, and neither would I. He refused to make a run for it, and he wasn't going home for reinforcements either. There was no way he'd accidentally lead the Volturi back to La Push so they could kill everybody there. We were going to be on our own. If we hadn't successfully lost the vampires, we would die in Italy—together.
During the trip back, I called Leah, and Jake called Sam to give them a head's up about what was going on. After my conversation with Leah, I realized Paul would be lucky if either vampires or Jake killed him before Leah got hold of him. She was terrifyingly furious.
Jake told Sam not to tell the tribal council what happened until we got home unless Sam didn't hear from one of us every day. As long as we didn't have an encounter with the Volturi, we felt sure they wouldn't show up in La Push.
I hoped the council members never found out. If they did, they might insist that Paul and Embry be expelled from the tribe. That gave me food for thought.
"I think it's a good thing no one's telling the council what happened, Jake."
"Well, eventually they're gonna find out. They're going to want to know why Paul's being kicked off the rez and out of the pack."
I looked at Jake with genuine concern in my eyes. "Do you think they'll insist on banishing Embry, too, once they find out he was equally at fault?"
"Bells, Embry wasn't responsible for what happened." He was quiet for a moment, plainly turning the matter over in his mind. "Well, yeah, he was partially responsible, but the whole fucked up mess was totally Paul's fault."
"Oh, gosh, Jake, I sure hope the council sees it that way. I don't know what Embry would do if he was thrown out of the tribe, and we could never see him again."
Yes, it was underhanded of me to worry Jake with one more thing, but I had to get it into his mind that banishing Paul would be the wrong thing to do. And besides, the council could decide Embry contributed to the situation—because he had. I was hit with a new possibility.
"Jacob, they might think this was my fault as well. Do you think they'd ban me from La Push too?" I turned to Jake and I couldn't help the tears that formed in my eyes. No need to try to hide them either.
"Honey, don't be ridiculous. Why the hell would they do that?"
"If they find out the whole story they might. After all, I'm the one that told you guys about Volterra. They may decide I'm too big a risk to be allowed on the reservation."
"Now, that's just crazy talk. I'd never let that happen." Jake sounded confident, but I knew his mental wheels were spinning. "And besides, if you went, so would I."
"Jake, you couldn't run off because I'm not allowed there. They need you."
"Well, I need you. Look, we're getting way ahead of ourselves here. They are not going to banish you or Embry. Period."
"If you tell the council exactly what went on, Jacob, you don't know how they're going to react or who they're going to blame." I let my words simmer in his brain for a while. Okay, so I was being a little sneaky, but I figured I'd made some real progress. All I needed to do was give Jake some time and leave doubt lingering in his mind. He'd come to the right conclusion.
We'd done everything we could to keep the Volturi from finding us … well, Jake had. Either they'd track us down or they wouldn't. If we lived through the next 24 hours, we'd probably gotten away from them. God, I was sick of thinking about vampires, and as worried as I was about the situation, it had to be a hundred times worse for Jake. What a pile of problems he had on his plate: the Volturi, Paul, and the tribal council, not to mention salvaging our careers. It was enough to drive a normal person insane. All I'd done was to add to the heap.
The rest of us needed to help him out any way we could. One thing I could do was to keep my act together instead of believing there was a vampire around every corner like I had earlier. It was the least I could do after all the trouble I'd caused.
Thinking about the last few hours, I knew, sooner or later, Jake would start worrying about my reaction to what had happened. Well, maybe most people would be horrified to see giant wolves tear a bunch of vampires apart, but I wasn't most people. Heck, I'd been the one who'd set all the body parts on fire after everything was over.
If it hadn't been for Jake, everybody in that field who had a pulse would have died. Jacob had protected me the best he could—even endangering his own mission by making Seth my babysitter—then he put his life on the line for that of his pack mates. He knew the odds were terrible when he went to Volterra, and he was clearly furious with Paul and Embry for messing up so badly, but he didn't give it a second thought. As soon as he got there, he dove headlong into the fray, and, as far as I was concerned, he was the reason all three vampires were killed. Even more amazing, after the fight he was able to keep himself from slaughtering Paul. Then Jake immediately switched gears and devised a well calculated and resourceful cover up and escape when the rest of us would have just bolted back to Florence.
"You were terrific tonight, sweetheart," I told him. "I was so proud of you."
He turned and looked at me, and I saw the yellow in his eyes fade a little at my words. "I was scared, Bells, and so pissed off. The two leeches Embry and Paul were fighting were chewing them up, and I didn't think I was going to get there in time to help either one of them. Then when I realized you'd been nearby the whole time and thought about what would have happened to you if we'd been killed … God, please don't do that to me again, honey."
Giving him a smile, I brought his hand to my lips for a reassuring kiss and hoped he didn't realize I hadn't promised him a thing. I hated seeing him upset. Sometimes I wanted so badly to tell him how much I loved him.
"You weren't … disgusted by what you saw, Bells?"
It had come at last; I knew he'd been fretting about it. Well, Leah told me I couldn't tell Jake I was in love with him, but she hadn't said a thing about his wolf.
"Jacob, don't you know by now how much I adore that side of you? It's part of you. How could I be horrified or frightened by it? Your wolf is beautiful. He's majestic—he fights for his friends no matter the cost to himself. I love your wolf, honey."
There, I said it. Leah be damned.
I couldn't tell if he was happy or not. He had kind of a curious expression on his face. Maybe I'd pushed too far with the love thing. I didn't know, but I could tell his wolf was pleased when the yellow in his eyes became more intense.
It dawned on me that I was just gawking at him and had been for hours. God, Jacob was mesmerizing. If only I could bury my fingers in his hair and … well, why not? I'd wanted to come up with a way to lighten Jake's load, and the solution was right in front of me. Wouldn't that get his mind off our troubles for a while? The one thing that made me forget everything was Jacob's touch. Maybe it would work for him as well. Certainly worth a try.
Gosh, why hadn't I thought of it earlier? What the heck was I doing wasting our entire trip? Leah would be so ashamed. I could hear her voice as if she were sitting beside me.
For Christ's sake, get off your ass, Bella! Now's not the time to be folded primly in your seat like a nun on sabbatical!
What would she say next? Immediately, an appropriate rule came to mind.
Leah's Rules for Seduction Number #67: Never let an opportunity go to waste, girlfriend, and riding in a car is an opportunity. Sex in a car? Tricky and uncomfortable. Seduction in a car? Absofuckinglutely.
I studied Jacob from under my lashes. After his experience with the Punto and the Italian highways, he was determined to drive something that handled like a European sports car and had plenty of legroom, so he rented a Porsche sedan. Compared to the Punti, it was huge. Maybe I could put Leah's tips into play. Meanwhile, another rule popped into my head.
Leah's Rules for Seduction #73: If you feel like doing something erotic, do it for Christ's sake. Don't just sit there like a lump of damned blubber.
That's exactly what I was acting like—a lump of damned blubber when obviously Jake's wolf was yearning to be unleashed.
Perhaps I could entice him to come out and play.
I glanced with real irritation at the armrest that separated me from Jacob. How was one supposed to seduce a guy with that in the way? I propped my elbow on top of it and tried to turn so I could face Jacob's profile, but the seatbelt prevented me. I reached out a hand, stroked his beautiful jaw, and raked my fingers through his hair. His eyes closed for a moment, and I heard a contented growl vibrate through his chest as he leaned into my caress.
God, he was gorgeous. Was there any part of him that wasn't stunning? I'd yet to get a complete picture, and I couldn't wait much longer. With our date coming up, maybe I wouldn't have to. Jacob was like a banquet table full of my favorite dishes, and I intended to sample everything. Maybe I'd start with those delectable ears.
Casually, I unclasped my seat belt and leaned across the console, maneuvering my legs underneath me so I could nuzzle his face. My nose skirted his jaw line as I inhaled his skin. If only I could subsist on that wonderful scent.
"Do you know how good you smell, honey?" I whispered into his ear and closed my eyes so I could savor his essence without any other stimuli. He'd sweated during his fight with the Volturi; there was a spiciness added to his normal clean aroma and a rich, wild flavor that reminded me of Jacob phased. I guessed the wolf scent hadn't faded altogether when he shifted back. Sliding my face around the thick column of his throat, I murmured when I reached the nape of his neck. My hands were full of his hair, and I stroked it back, feeling the silky texture with my fingers. The delicious scent was heavy where it had lain.
Very gently, my tongue licked the salty skin there. I hummed quietly, and then my mouth and teeth laved and nipped him. The sweet, tangy taste made me groan with need, and I quickly realized what I needed was more and more of Jacob. Tingling sensations raced between my legs, and then dampness seeped in. I was so absorbed in my sensory orgy that I jumped when Jake's voice suddenly cut through.
"Jesus H. Christ!" The words were throaty and rough.
Before I grasped what was going on, Jacob yanked the car off the road and skidded to a stop. Simultaneously, he jerked his seat back, snapped his seatbelt out of the way, and pulled me on top of his sprawling body. I caught a glimpse of him when he lowered my mouth to his; the planes of his face were hard, and his eyes had changed to pure blazing yellow. Instead of being scared, I was even more aroused. Was that wrong of me? I didn't know or care.
Then all thought left when Jake's lips and tongue took over. Feeling part of him in me, hot and wild, made me want more. His hands pulled my head nearer while mine were buried in his hair. We both seemed desperate to get closer to each other in the tight, confined space. As my legs straddled his waist, I wanted to rip the clothing that separated us. Nothing needed to come between the copper silk of his skin and me.
My fingers slid down his shirt, quickly flicking open buttons until I reached his waist. I kept going, loving the feel of his erection in my hands, and I caressed him through the thin fabric of his pants while he raised his hips and pressed into me. Rational thought left as I reached for his buckle. I couldn't wait and was frantic to release him since I craved the friction of his body against mine. The last thing that occurred to me was the logic of the situation. All I could think of was having him naked in my hands, in my mouth, in my body.
"Bells, fuck, what are we doing?"
While Jake's groaned words stunned me, his fingers gripped my wrists and stopped me cold. When I looked up, his head was thrown back, and his eyes were closed as he tried to get his ragged breathing under control. I suddenly realized one of my legs was jammed into the console, the other wedged against the door, and the steering wheel was digging into my back. We were a few feet from a busy highway where cars zoomed by, and at any point, the police or the Volturi could rip open the door and pull us out on to the street. What the hell were we doing? Had I completely lost my mind? Finally, Jake opened his eyes, and they appeared closer to normal. Clearly, he was gaining command over his wilder side.
"Baby, we can not do this here." He looked as upset as I felt. "There's a castle full of I-don't-know-whats chasing behind us just panting to tear us apart. We've got to get the hell out of here." He stroked my hair, and I saw the regret in his eyes. "I can't control myself right now, honey. The wolf is too strong. We do this any longer, and I'm not going to be able to stop. This isn't how our first time should be—on the side of a highway in the front seat of some rental car, Bells."
"Jake … ." He was right. I knew he was right, but I didn't have the strength or desire to move off him. Maybe I needed just one more nuzzle of those sweet little ears of his.
Just as suddenly as I left it, I found myself back in my seat. This time, my seatbelt was securely fastened about me, darn it all.
"Damn, Bells." Jacob sighed and rubbed his temples. "Stay there and behave, little girl, before you drive me out of my mind and get both of us killed." He inhaled and then immediately began fiddling with the air conditioning system until ice-cold air blasted on his side of the car and heat filled mine. When he started taking deep breaths of the refrigerated drafts, I realized that the car was filled with my … er … enhanced scent. Since we couldn't roll the windows down to defuse the odor, Jacob was trapped inside with it. God, how embarrassing.
Jake looked over at my flushed cheeks and grinned.
"I love it, baby. Nothing in this world smells better to me. Just can't do anything about it right now is all." He brushed back my hair and gently kissed my head. "Why don't you try to take a nap, honey? If you do, we'll be there before you know it."
In other words, please leave me alone, Bella, so I can get us back in one piece. Well, it was the least I could do as much as I didn't want to. I reluctantly agreed, leaned back, and closed my eyes.
After wiggling about for a few minutes and adjusting the seat, I finally put my hands under my head to try to make a pillow, but I couldn't get into a comfortable position. One of my silver earrings was digging into my skull. Deciding I'd put both of them in my pocket for the rest of the trip, I took out one only to realize that the other was missing.
Darn it! What a way to end an awful night. If I'd lost one of my grandmother's earrings that Mom gave me, I was going to have a fit.
Then a horrifying thought struck.
What if I'd lost it at Volterra?
Oh. My. Holy. God.
Instead of sleeping, I spent the rest of the trip back to Florence with closed eyes while my stomach tied itself in knots. Should I or shouldn't I tell Jake what I might have done?
On the one hand, I didn't keep things from Jake. (Well, other than the minor detail that I was head over heels in love with him, but Leah had insisted on that.) We always told each other everything, and losing an heirloom earring—in fact, losing anything—at a site where three super vampires were killed might be pretty important information to share.
On the other hand, what good would it do to tell him? He'd freak out more than he already had, and he'd probably want to sneak back later and try to find it. That sure wasn't happening.
No, I wasn't saying a word. Less said the better. Besides, there were a thousand places I could have lost the damn thing. It was probably in the car or stuck in my clothes. And if it had come off in Volterra, what were the chances that even a vampire would find one teeny tiny earring way out in the middle of nowhere?
"Luke, dear boy, come and join me, won't you?"
"But of course, mio signore, my pleasure."
It was Aro again, and, doubtless, some repugnant duty awaited me. Generally, my talents weren't called upon unless something … distasteful occurred. I pocketed the phone and immediately joined him in his chambers. His back was to me as he bid me enter, and for a moment I enjoyed the view of his rooms. One could find many things to dislike about Aro, but none could disparage his taste. Art, furnishings, clothing, or lovers—everything he owned was of the finest quality.
Turning, he gave me a searching glance before reaching for my hand, and I had neither the reason nor power to deny him. Seconds later, he gently stroked my face, his never ending curiosity sated for a brief moment. My own interest was piqued, however: lust, for once, was not evident in his expression. How odd.
"My dear, you will be concerned to learn that Felix, Demetri, and Angelica have yet to report in from their recent rounds. Guards have searched the city, but the three have not been located, and they are hours late."
A lifted eyebrow betrayed my surprise. When I examined his face, I saw uncertainty there, and though he thought he concealed it, something even more unusual—a slight trace of fear. That was intriguing. Angelica was a somewhat unknown commodity having joined the guard relatively recently, but Felix and Demetri—they were essential to Aro's construct of control. Few things on earth had the power to keep them away from his side.
"Curious news indeed, comandante, and, alas, most distressing."
"Do find them for me, Luke. I trust your … special abilities will help you to discover their whereabouts."
"But of course. Nothing, mio signore, would give me more joy than to return them to your … bosom, as it were."
Aro and I understood each other very well. Exquisite politeness always veiled subtle messages.
We were both cognizant of each other's agenda. Aro wanted one thing: power and the ability to gain more. On the other hand, I sought knowledge—highly specified knowledge—and I hoped to gain it in Volterra. Both of us realized each might help the other, and so I'd extended my stay indefinitely.
When I returned to my room, my brain churned with possibilities. Felix and Angelica's disappearances were of little interest. One was a troglodyte and the other a harpy; both possessed negligible talent outside the pugilistic arena and could easily be replaced.
However, Demetri's absence was a wholly other proposition. His abilities to hunt were legendary; nothing escaped him—ever. Like a dragon lurking on top of the towers of the city, he was always ready to pick off any mouse that was foolish enough to try to escape. Without him, the Volturi had a gaping hole in their defense, and no one was more aware of it than Aro.
Suddenly, I had become a much more valuable commodity.
Unlike others of my acquaintance, I had neither the urge nor the ability to follow an unfortunate's aroma along trails as if I were some sort of vampiric bloodhound. However, I did have an expertise that allowed me to locate certain persons non est inventus in a more elegant manner. Aro expected me to employ those gifts to find his lost brood. As long as it suited my own plans, I had no qualms obliging him.
Working for Aro was a delicate and dangerous dance. A wealth of intelligence gathered at the feet of the Volturi, and Aro saw that I had access to it to keep me from straying, but his price tag was steep. Talent was coveted and tightly controlled within the walls of Volterra, thus I wasn't positive Aro would release me once I discovered what I wanted.
However, with Demetri's disappearance, the balance of power had dramatically shifted.
I gathered my hooded cape and a few essentials and then questioned the guards who had searched the city. Those unimaginative lummoxes had methodically followed every trail within the confines of Volterra, and it was obvious the three lost lambs were no longer in town. I headed out of the gates and strolled into the woods on the other side of the old walls. The rising sun felt delicious on the crystals of my skin, and I reveled in the sensual pleasure of it.
All too soon, a convergence of familiar scents interrupted my reverie; the trail was so heavy it could have been painted on the ground below. It was obvious all three vampires had been on the east side of the wall and had traveled towards the base of the hill. As I stood looking down, another odor drifted toward my nostrils: the fetid aroma of burnt vampire. Dear me.
I wandered to the bottom of the mount and made a fascinating discovery—my missing associates. There were tiny charred fragments of Felix, Demetri, and Angelica littering the area. Three powerful vampires set on fire underneath the noses of the entire Volturi guard, and not one of us had even noticed. Looking at the size and placement of the remains, it appeared that first the bodies had been broken into small chunks, and then each piece was burned individually to avoid detection. Why, how brilliant. It was the very method I would have chosen in a similar circumstance. I couldn't contain my laughter.
Someone had been very clever and very busy—but who?
There was no scent of other vampires about, and the area where my colleagues had lost their fight was scorched and provided no clues. It was all such a wonderful mystery. I sniffed carefully and noticed something … peculiar—the unpleasant stench of dog. My, my, had werewolves come to call? I smiled to myself. Caius would be beside himself with fear.
The day just kept getting better and better.
The smell headed off in the direction of Rome. Of course, I had no intention of following it. I couldn't track a scent through a busy city if I wanted to, and I didn't want to. Why on earth would I attempt to catch a werewolf? The thought completely repulsed me, and the act would gain me nothing. In fact, I endorsed a commendation to the clever fellow who disposed of Demetri et al.
However, I did have a certain … curiosity regarding what took place, and Aro would be waiting with bated breath, so to speak. I looked for clues that utilized my talents; it could be anything from a safety pin to a bottle cap as long as someone had touched it. Scouring the grounds, I saw nothing and almost gave up.
Then, a tiny glint caught my eye.
There, in the burnt grass, I found it: a dainty silver earring.
I approached it carefully, with a smile on my face.
What would it unlock? I stretched out a finger, closed my eyes, and touched the gleaming metal.
Instantly, thousands of figures flooded my mind.
Thus it always began, and I waited while my brain made sense of the confusion. The images flickered momentarily and then fell into date order, telling me the age of the piece I held. A young woman, dressed in clothing of the 1950's, unwrapped the earring for the first time. The years went by. Pictures of her clipped along like a shuffling deck of cards. Each time I saw her, she aged until my glimpses of her revealed quite an elderly lady. Suddenly, she was gone and, momentarily, a younger woman appeared. Then the earrings were handed to a girl, barely in her teens. Her brown eyes and dark hair were quite unremarkable, as was her life.
I kept watching the images flip by, bored by the utter inanity of it all until, suddenly, a beautiful, icy white figure appeared. A clue at last—but what was he? The bronze hair and strange golden eyes were completely foreign to me. Vampires' eyes were red or black. Why weren't his?
The montage moved slower at my command. My curiosity consumed me. I felt just on the precipice of something enormous.
Suddenly, a face surfaced, a very familiar and beloved face, and my world spiraled around me.
His dirty blonde hair was carelessly clubbed back in an untidy ponytail, while his lean body was covered in tatty, stained clothing. The face I looked at every day in the mirror stared back at me.
Finally, I'd found my brother, James.
Please review. I'll fall into a deep depression if you don't. Seriously. Yes, I'm guilting you into it. As always, a sneak peek (this time of date night) goes out to reviewers.
So, anybody see that one coming? How did you like Luke, and what do you think his next move is? Think he'll go after them?
Next up, First Date Night. Any suggestions for what they should do? (Besides wild monkey sex?)
Here's his picture:
i980. photobucket albums/ae283/leelator/caminsuitcloseup. jpg (delete spaces)
I can see why Aro wants him, can't you?
And here is James:
i980. /albums/ae283/leelator/James. jpg
Amazing how the same face can look so different. How did they make such a gorgeous guy look like such a troll?
S'mores: For those of you that don't live in North America and/or haven't gone camping, a s'more is a delicious treat of roasted marshmallows and a Hershey's chocolate bar sandwiched between two graham crackers. It's short for "I want some more!" and a necessity anytime you have an open campfire. I image vamp s'mores aren't nearly as tasty and could cause dental issues. en. wikipedia wiki/S'more
Jake's Rental Car:
Jake rented a Porsche Panamera after Light4Dawn's hubby suggested it, and it's drool inciting. Here it is:
i980. /albums/ae283/leelator/PorschePanamerametalic. jpg (delete spaces)