A/N: Now that I am writing more frequently, as promised, I am breaking the chapters up to be more manageable and they are no longer matching up exactly with the chapters in Eclipse. This is actually the end of Chapter 18 in Eclipse. It feels good writing this way, like I get to spend more quality time with Edward and his thoughts and feelings. I hope you are enjoying the end product a bit more. Thanks to blueeyedcherry for helping out with beta duties for the last two chapters and welcome back to my lovely ForksPixie who updated her Visions of our Destiny. Run to read it if you haven't (awesome chapter. I am dying to see what happens next). I finished the Twilight 25 Challenge if you haven't read those and Victim Zero has also posted. Happy Reading.
"What are you talking about?" Bella demanded. She didn't like Jake in his wolf form when I was around because she knew we could communicate without her having any idea of what was being said. For me, it was an advantage. It didn't allow her the opportunity to manipulate either one of us to do what she wanted us to do.
"Just discussing strategy," I said.
Jacob's head swiveled back and forth, looking at our faces. Then, suddenly, he bolted for the
forest. As much as he liked the attention he got from her as a wolf, he didn't like the disadvantage he was at on four legs.
"Wait," Bella called, one hand stretching out automatically to reach after him. But he disappeared into the trees in seconds, the other two wolves following.
"Why did he leave?" she asked, despondent, believing he was gone for the night.
"He's coming back," I reassured her, as much as it displeased me. I sighed. "He wants to be able to talk for himself."
She leaned into my side, nearly collapsing from exhaustion. She watched the edge of the forest with anticipation, anxious for his return. I wanted nothing more than to take her back to her house, tuck her into bed and get her to sleep but I knew, as long as Jacob was around, she wasn't going anywhere.
"Bella, baby," I softly urged her, gently squeezing her side. "Please let me take you home and get you into bed. Jake can wait. We can talk tomorrow."
She shook her head in protest in an effort to wake herself up. "Mmm, no. He's coming back. I'll wait."
It didn't take long before he re-emerged from the woods, bare-chested, covered only in a pair of black sweat pants. I could see Rosalie roll her eyes. He didn't walk near any of us but made his way to Bella like he owned the forest. His hair was un-kept and feet bare. He looked like a homeless dog.
"Okay, bloodsucker," Jacob said when he was a few feet from us, continuing the conversation he and I had shared through his thoughts before he disappeared into the woods. "What's so complicated about it?"
"I have to consider every possibility," I answered, unruffled. "What if someone gets by you?"
Jacob wanted to protect Bella and leave us to the battle. I couldn't believe he thought, in any world, that I would leave her health and well-being, to him. She was my responsibility and mine alone. I might enlist help, but never hand her over to him completely. He had lost his mind.
Jacob arrogantly snorted at the idea that could even happen. He thought he was bulletproof. "Okay, so leave her on the reservation. We're making Collin and Brady stay behind anyway. She'll be safe there."
Bella caught on and was not happy that she had been left out of the decision making when it came to what to do with her when it came to the battle. "Are you talking about me?" Her disdain and displeasure were directed at me, not Jacob. It was funny how, when she was mad, it was generally always directed at me.
"I just want to know what he plans to do with you during the fight," Jacob explained.
"Do with me?"
"You can't stay in Forks, Bella." I explained, trying to pacify her. It was bad enough Jacob seemed to be trying to ruffle her feathers. I had to calm her down to get her to see things my way. "They know where to look for you there. What if someone slipped by us?"
Suddenly her mouth dropped open and the color drained from her face. Panic had set in. "Charlie?" she gasped.
"He'll be with Billy," Jacob assured her quickly. Of course he had to let her know that he already had a game plan. "If my dad has to commit a murder to get him there, he'll do it. Probably it won't take that much. It's this Saturday, right? There's a game."
"This Saturday?" Bella asked, confused. She looked at me, frowning. "Well, crap! There goes your graduation present."
I had to laugh, and off in the distance, so did Alice, having overhead the conversation. "It's the thought that counts," I reminded her. "You can give the tickets to someone else." Her life was on the line and so were the lives of those she loved and cared about and she was concerned about concert tickets.
It didn't take her long to come up with a solution. Her wheels were spinning. Exhaustion worked in mysterious ways with humans, especially Bella. "Angela and Ben," she rattled off. "At least that will get them out of town." So, she thought she was protecting the human population. That was how her mind worked.
I reached out and gently touched her cheek, moved by her gesture to protect the human population. She was just a human girl who thought she was mighty. She stood in the face of danger and shook her fist and said, 'bring it on.' I loved that about her. It scared the shit out of me but I love that about her. "You can't evacuate everyone," I said softly. "Hiding you is just a precaution. I told you - we'll have no problem now. There won't be enough of them to keep us entertained."
"But what about keeping her in La Push?" Jacob interjected, impatient. For five minutes it had not been about him swooping in to rescue Princess Bella and he had to remind us he was there, waiting to save her. Instead of coming in on his white horse, he was the russet wolf.
"She's been back and forth too much," I said. "She's left trails all over the place. Alice only sees very young vampires coming on the hunt, but obviously someone created them. There is someone more experienced behind this. Whoever he-," I paused, looking at Bella, taking in her theory that Victoria could be behind it all, "or she is, this could all be a distraction. Alice will see if he decides to look himself, but we could be very busy at the time that decision is made. Maybe someone is counting on that. I can't leave her somewhere she's been frequently. She has to be hard to find, just in case. It's a very long shot, but I'm not taking chances."
Bella stared at me as I explained my thought process. I was sure she thought I had lost my mind, thinking so in depth about it all, but I couldn't leave anything to chance. She was all that I had and I wasn't taking a single chance. I patted her arm to reassure her that while it sounded dire, I had all the bases covered, in my mind, at least.
"Just being overcautious," I promised her.
"So hide her here," Jacob suggested, gesturing to the deep forest of the Olympic Mountains to the east of us. "There's a million possibilities - places either one of us could be in just a few minutes if there's a need."
Absolutely not. I shook my head. There was no way she would be left anywhere alone; no matter how close either of us were. "Her scent is too strong and, combined with mine, especially distinct. Even if I carried her, it would leave a trail. Our trace is all over the range, but in conjunction with Bella's scent, it would catch their attention. We're not sure exactly which path they'll take, because they don't know yet. If they crossed her scent before they found us..."
To Jacob, Bella had no scent. She was merely a human. He had no idea how absolutely intoxicating she was to our kind. Besides, it was her they were after and it was her scent the intruder had taken back to familiarize the others with. As close as she and I, and my family, were, there was no separating our scents. We were all tied together and even if we had Bella away from us, they would assume where one was, so was the other.
This is an impossible situation you have gotten her into. How on earth do we properly protect her?
Jacob and I both grimaced in utter frustration. The battle was practically on our doorstep and we were running out of time to figure out how to protect our most important commodity, the most fallible of us all, Bella.
"You see the difficulties," I said.
"There has to be a way to make it work," Jacob muttered. He glared toward the forest, pursing his lips. He wasn't about to give up. He wanted, more than anything, to be Bella's Knight and Shining Armor. He had to come to her rescue and save her from the evil vampire. Only, in Jacob's world, that was every vampire, including me.
Bella's eyes drooped and she swayed on her feet like a flag in the wind. I pulled her closer to me to support her weight. No matter how much fight she had in her, she was about to pass out from utter exhaustion, right into a pile in front of us all.
"I need to get you home - you're exhausted. And Charlie will be waking up soon. . . ."
"Wait a sec," Jacob said, excitedly moving back in to us. "My scent disgusts you, right?"
What if we somehow tricked them by disguising her scent with my own? If they smelled mine perhaps they wouldn't notice hers? I could carry her for a while and see if your brother notices her scent, since you obviously would.
"Hmm, not bad." I said. I had to give it to him. It sounded like a good idea, not just a whimsical Knight in Shining Armor plan. It had promise written all over it... "It's possible." I turned towards the family to see what they thought of the plan.
"Jasper?" I called out to get the Major's attention.
Jasper looked up curiously, surely noticing my mood had elevated to one of more hope. Alice followed him, a half step behind. Her arms were crossed over her chest, a scowl across her face. She was frustrated again, blinded by an uncertain future.
I nodded. "Okay, Jacob."
Jacob turned towards Bella, excited to get to try out his plan, but wary to have to work hand in hand with us. I think he feared humiliation if his plan didn't work. All he wanted was to look good to Bella, especially in front of us because he thought, in her eyes, I could do no wrong. Little did he know, I felt I could do very little right.
"Wanna go for a walk?" he smiled, reaching out for her.
She looked confused, looking at him, then at me. I took a deep breath. I knew his plan could work and, quite frankly, I didn't have a plan. I hated putting her fate in his paws, but I had to trust him. She did.
"We're going to see if I can confuse the scent enough to hide your trail," Jacob explained to her.
She stared at his open arms suspiciously.
"You're going to have to let him carry you, Bella," I told her. I tried to sound calm, although it was something I preferred not to have to encourage her to do. If she heard me encourage her, she would have no fear, no hesitation and she would do it willingly and that was what I needed. I didn't need Bella fearing anything.
She frowned but obliged.
Jacob rolled his eyes, impatient, and reached down to yank her up into his arms.
"Don't be such a baby," he muttered to her.
But his eyes flickered to me, just like Bella's did.
Don't worry. It will be a smooth ride for her. I won't drop her.
I maintained my composure all though I wanted nothing more than to strangle Jacob. I had to let him try. It was the best – the only – chance, we had.
"Bella's scent is so much more potent to me - I thought it would be a fairer test if someone else tried," I said to Jasper, hoping he would try to see if he could trace her scent. Like Jacob pointed out, I would know it anywhere. If he had any ideas of running off with her, never to return, he had no chance.
See you later, bloodsucker. Don't wait up.
With that, Jacob, with Bella in his arms, ran swiftly into the woods, disappearing into the darkness. She was out of my sight, out of my grasp, out of my control. I had handed her over to the enemy for safe keeping. It was a feeling I didn't like at all. It felt much like the day I left her alone in the woods. This time though, I stood as she left me and I could hardly bare it. Jacob needed to hurry and bring her back to me immediately.
Jasper and Alice waited for Jacob and Bella to disappear from sight and followed, to see if they could trace Bella's scent. The rest of the family was off in the distance and I stood there, alone in the clearing, with only my thoughts. I had to think of Bella being held, protectively, in Jacob's arms, enveloped in his warmth.
Was he going to try to kiss her again? Would she hit him again? Or would she kiss him back?
Would she be comforted by the fact that he was allying himself with us?
Dammit, they needed to get back faster. My thoughts were eating away at me. I could not stand for her to be with him when I was not around to hear his thoughts and gauge her reaction.
Finally they emerged from the woods and made their way towards me, Jacob still carrying Bella, all though she was wiggling to get free from his arms.
"You can put me down now," she protested softly.
"I don't want to take a chance of messing up the experiment." He began to walk slower, clearly not wanting to put her down. I could see his muscles flex, tightening his grip around her. I wondered if I should take a step towards them and expedite her release.
"You are so annoying," Bella muttered and I stayed where I was, knowing she could handle Jacob just fine, all though I wanted desperately to handle him my way.
"Thanks," he said with a cocky grin.
Suddenly, Jasper and Alice were at my side and Jacob decided to set Bella down a few feet from me, anxious to hear the results of his little experiment. Without even looking over her shoulder, she made her way straight to me and took my hand. The relief of feeling her warm touch, her fingers intertwined in mine was overwhelming and nearly made me forget we were there for another purpose. All I knew was she was back with me.
"Well?" Bella asked.
"As long as you don't touch anything, Bella, I can't imagine someone sticking their nose close enough to that trail to catch your scent," Jasper said, grimacing. "It was almost completely
I half-grinned, trying hard not to laugh. Jasper and Alice were as repulsed by Jacob's scent as I was. Surely the newborns would be thrown off the trail, never expecting a wolf.
"A definite success," Alice agreed, wrinkling her nose.
"And it gave me an idea."
"Which will work," Alice added confidently.
"Clever," Edward agreed.
"How do you stand that?" Jacob muttered to Bella.
Edward ignored Jacob and looked at me while he explained. "We're - well, you're - going to leave a false trail to the clearing, Bella. The newborns are hunting, your scent will excite them, and they'll come exactly the way we want them to without being careful about it. Alice can already see that this will work. When they catch our scent, they'll split up and try to come at us from two sides. Half will go through the forest, where her vision suddenly disappears. .. ."
"Yes!" Jacob hissed.
I smiled at Jacob. Just a few minutes earlier I had been completely upset with him for having taken my Bella into the woods, where I couldn't hear her or see her; worried that he would try to run away with her for good. But suddenly, we were allies, partners, nonetheless. He was thinking the way I needed him to think. Still, it was odd to imagine we would be brothers in battle together.
How about putting Bella in the clearing? Protected, of course. They would be so focused on her they would never see any of the attacks coming at them and it would mark a mighty defeat for them. It would almost insure no casualties on our end. Talk about an upper hand.
"Not a chance," I replied to Jasper, disgusted that he would even consider it, no matter how good it made our prospects of winning.
"I know, I know," Jasper said quickly. "I didn't even consider it, not really."
Alice stepped on my foot and shot me a look to make sure I acknowledged her while chiding Jasper.
I told you I would let you know if she was making sudden moves. She is not happy about all of this, Edward. She is not happy about you and Jacob both being so eager to go into battle and she is figuring out a way to keep you both from fighting.
"If Bella was actually there in the clearing," Jasper explained to Alice, "it would drive them insane. They wouldn't be able to concentrate on anything but her. It would make picking them off truly easy. . . ."
Clearly, Jasper was not catching my drift and I shot him a more menacing glare, letting a slight growl roll out from my chest. He slowly turned his eyes up to acknowledge me and began to backpedal.
"Of course it's too dangerous for her. It was just an errant thought," he said quickly. But he looked at Bella from the corner of his eyes, and the look was hopeful.
"No," I said with determination. There was no changing my mind or going against my wishes. What involved Bella was my decision and I would not have her put in harm's way for no reason.
"You're right," Jasper said. He took Alice's hand and started back to the others. "Best two out of three?" I heard him ask her as they went to practice again.
Jacob stared after Jasper in disgust. I had to give him credit for that. When it came to Bella and her safety, he saw things the way I did and he didn't want her in that clearing any more than I did. At least I knew if I died in battle and Jacob was still standing he would protect her.
"Jasper looks at things from a military perspective," I said, responding to his look. All though I appreciated Jacob's support, I still had to defend my brother. Blood may not run through our veins and we were not brothers by birth but we were family and family came first, above all.
"He looks at all the options - its thoroughness, not callousness."
Whatever. He just wants to see a good fight.
"Listen, Jacob. I appreciate your support and your help but you will respect Jasper and his expertise and guidance. He knows what he is doing and when it comes to Bella, well, you will respect me. My decisions are final on her well-being. If you don't like either of our decision making processes, feel free to run on back to La Push where you are safe," I scolded him. Bella tugged on my hand, possibly reminding me I did not have control over her, possibly reminding me I needed Jacob.
Jacob edged closer unconsciously. He stood only a few feet from me now, and the tension hung heavy in the air. I could hear Bella's heart rate increase. I moved my hand to her back and pulled her close to me, to reassure her that everything was fine, rubbing her back. It also served as a reminder to Jacob that what I said was the way things were.
"I'll bring her here Friday afternoon to lay the false trail," I told Jacob. "You can meet us afterward and carry her to a place I know, completely out of the way and easily defensible. Not that it will come to that. I'll take another route there."
"And then what? Leave her with a cell phone?" Jacob asked critically.
It was best that he leave soon. I was getting quite irritated with his constant second-guessing and questioning of me and my ideas and motives. I had lived more lifetimes than he or any of his living ancestors and he needed to remember that.
"You have a better idea?"
Jacob was smug, grinning and crossing his arms across his muscular chest. "Actually, I do."
Leave Seth with her. He is the newest member of the pack so I am not anxious to take him into battle. I would rather not have to baby sit him. This way he can communicate with us and hear what is going on. If anything changes, we can tell him and he can move her to safety. He can also reassure her that you are okay. I'm happy, you're happy, she's happy. It's all good.
"Oh. . . Again, dog, not bad at all."
Jacob turned to Bella, to explain before I had a chance. "We tried to talk Seth into staying behind but he is determined to come along. I just thought of a new assignment for him – cell phone."
Bella nodded her head and smiled as though she understood and I grinned because I knew she didn't have a clue.
"As long as Seth Clearwater is in his wolf form, he'll be connected to the pack," I explained to her. "Distance isn't a problem?" I asked Jacob.
"Three hundred miles?" I asked. "That's impressive."
Jacob was back on my good side and pleased with himself. "That's the farthest we've ever gone to experiment," he told Bella. "Still clear as a bell."
"It's a good idea." I admitted, reluctantly. "I'll feel better with Seth there, even without the instantaneous communication. I don't know if I'd be able to leave Bella there alone. To think it's come to this, though! Trusting werewolves!"
"Fighting with vampires instead of against them!" Jacob added, just as disgusted as I was.
Bella chuckled, exhausted. She thought we were joking. It was good she thought we were.
"Well, you still get to fight against some of them," I said.
Jacob smiled. "That's the reason we're here."