~* Epilogue *~
"What?" Bella croaked, and I turned my head to look at her puzzled face.
"I wasn't talking to you," I snapped, instantly cursing myself when I saw her flinch.
"Oh." Was all she said, but I wasn't concerned with her right now, I couldn't think straight. So I turned back to my dad who obviously knew exactly what I was talking about. His panicked eyes darted from me to a spot behind me.
"Don't look at him, I'm talking to you. Spill it." I shoved my hands into my pockets, wanting to keep them confined, because right now I didn't know what I could do. All kinds of crap was filling my head, but worst part was that the picture I'd had of my old man all my life was swiftly shifting.
"Son," he said evenly, trying furtively to calm me down. I wasn't gonna calm down, but I would listen, which was probably the only thing I could safely do right now without losing it. He went on. "I'm not going to make excuses, but I am sorry you had to find out this way."
This way? Was there a way that would actually make it okay? I'd heard that line on countless occasions in sappy movies. Were people so damn stupid they really thought that if they worded it right, that it would be all cool?
"You've got to be kidding me," I barked out at him. "What you meant was, 'I'm sorry you had to find out, period, right? Who was it?" I glared at him as he squirmed. "You know what, fuck it. I don't care."
"Jake, son. Maybe you should calm down." Charlie stepped up next to Billy.
"What is this?" I stared at them both. No freaking way. If Charlie had been in on the secret then-
"Jake," Bella pleaded, putting her small hand on my arm. "Let's go home and talk about this, I don't think this is the place."
I lost it. "Are you fucking kidding me? I'm not setting my foot in that place again!" I bellowed. "This was supposed to be mine and Bella's moment, and then that dickwad shows up, and all of a sudden I find out I've had a brother all my life. What do you want me to do? Start dancing and sing 'I'm so happy'? Shit!" My whole body had started shaking and I felt the heat shooting up my spine, radiating all the way into my straining fingers, the tips digging into my palms.
Goddammit, the last thing I was gonna do was to phase in front of the bundle of joy behind me. Fucking prick; it didn't help that I had images in my brain still of how he'd looked at myBells. To top it all off, this was the guy that Bella had told me about, the one she'd met back in New Hampshire. I swallowed back on the bile and sucked in a breath through my gritted teeth.
"Don't-" Bella's words cut off.
The shaking stopped and I froze.
"Jon, this isn't a good time," Bella explained while I just stared at the ground. I couldn't look at my dad, nor could I look at—to hell with it, I was not gonna call him a brother.
"Well, I was just gonna say that I'm pushing off, my uncle gets tired quickly and I have to get him back home."
That did it, and I turned to look at the person who'd just ruined what could have been one of the best days of my life. The little box in my pocket was burning a hole through the fabric, or so it felt. Not gonna be making any proposals today. I didn't feel very matrimonial now when I'd found out how easily my own dad had taken a dump on what was supposed to be something sacred. That's what I'd been led to believe. Dammit!
"Way to go, idiot. The sooner you get off my land, the better. And stay off it!" I snarled.
"Jacob!" My dad raised his voice at me, all authoritative like.
"Elvis has left the building, don't play daddy with me today, old man." I didn't even look at him, because I was too preoccupied glaring at Jonathan. The more I stared at him, the more I started seeing myself in him. My stomach twisted painfully, and I thought I was gonna hurl. Was this why Bella had hung out with him; because he reminded her of me? I turned away from him, and fixed my eyes on my dad. "I'm gonna go get my shit from the house, and stay with Bella. Why don't you catch up with your lost puppy?"
Bella gasped, but I ignored her and ushered her to the rabbit.
"Jake, I think you're overreacting." Charlie's voice was full of disappointment. In that moment I couldn't care less about being a disappointment, I just had to get away from here, and now. Sure, the pain in my gut wasn't only from the revelations that had been shoveled on me, it also came from how I was deflecting all the shit on my dad. No matter what he'd done, it wasn't my place to judge him, I knew that. But right now I just needed to gain distance from this. Bella wasn't making it easy for me, she struggled in my grip, digging her heels in.
"Jacob," she begged, her voice soft and sympathetic. "Please, just think about this for a moment."
"No can do," I replied flatly, picking her up.
"Jacob Black! Put me down!" She kicked her legs as I tried to stuff her into the passenger seat of the rabbit without hurting her.
"Honey, calm down, or you'll hurt yourself."
"Jake," came Charlie's stern voice, and I swore under my breath. Was it too much to ask to be given some space?
"Charlie," I returned, equally firm.
"Put her down, or I'll get my shotgun, you know I'm not afraid to use it, son."
"Right," came Jonathan's casual addition to the conversation. Why was he still here? "This is seriously fucked up, I'll leave you to it." A door slammed and an engine revved, then he kicked up a cloud of dirt as he fish-tailed and disappeared.
Well, good riddance!
"Let's all go back to the house, and you can talk while you pack, Jake. How's that for a compromise?" Bella had gone slack in my arms, her eyes pleading with me. Damn it but I couldn't resist her when she looked at me like that.
"Right," I muttered.
When we got home I stalked to the garage and pulled out an old suitcase that hadn't been used for, who knows how long. Probably not since mom and dad's honeymoon. Goddammit!I dropped the suitcase and went back inside where Charlie handed my dad a beer, helping himself to one as well and sat down by the kitchen table.
"All right, I've changed my mind. I want the full story, all cards on the table, dad. No more lies." I pulled out a chair and sat down, crossing my arms as I leaned back and looked at him, waiting.
He didn't answer me straight away, and judging from his face I could see he was debating some inner issues. There was pain in his eyes—no, it was more than that.
"You're going to blame me anyway, so I may as well tell you that it's my fault your mother died." His voice was thick, brusque. I swear you could hear the pin drop.
"Billy, don't be taking it all on yourself now," Charlie said gruffly, but my dad put his hands up to stop any further interruptions. Me, well, I just stared at him. Whatever he was gonna say next I doubted I would ever blame him for my mom's death. It was a car-accident, and she was the only one in the car, as far as I knew.
My dad sighed. "It was the same day she found out about Jonathan," he explained, which made everything click.
"Did Rach and Bec know?" I heard myself ask, feeling numb. I knew his answer before he spoke, the hesitation giving him away. Well, damn. A lot of shit was beginning to add up now, wasn't it?
"Yes," he revealed regretfully. "They overheard Sarah and me arguing about it, but she was out the door and driving off when they came into the kitchen. It was a devastating memory of their mother, I tried to apologize many times. It's only gotten worse with the years, they'll never forgive me, at least not Rebecca."
"No wonder she flew off to Hawaii," I said below my breath, more to myself than anyone else. For so long I'd half envied my sisters for remembering mom, but now I couldn't say that I minded much. Maybe it was better that I didn't.
They'd all lied to me. It stung.
Bella had come to stand next to me, and she put her hand on my arm again, rubbing it in an attempt to comfort me. It was strange. Not that she wanted to make me feel better, but the fact that I didn't feel too much of anything about it. Yes, the lies hurt, and it sucked ass. In the end I couldn't blame Rachael and Rebecca, if anything they'd probably taken this harder than I ever could, because they'd known mom. I'm sure I had too back then, but since I could barely remember her face now, let alone what kind of a person she was, I couldn't feel the grief I was sure they had felt. Pain they still felt.
I leaned forward, tensing. "Why did you do it?" His eyes met mine, and I saw there was a lot more coming, then he closed up. It was like I could see the gates shutting everything away.
"It was a mistake, which I pay for every day, son. I'm not proud of myself, but know this; I always loved your mother." He sounded all choked up about it, but in an odd, compulsive way. Like a practiced speech coming from those lemmings running for congress. I didn't watch much TV, but we did watch the news, and I'd seen enough of politicians speaking. That's what my dad reminded me of now, a politician delivering a well thought out answer to win the heart of his audience.
Charlie patted my dad's shoulder awkwardly. "We all know how much you loved Sarah, Billy. Stop being so hard on yourself."
Bella remained quiet next to me, and I guessed that she was just trying to wrap her head around it all. What a great day—
"Son," my dad's voice interrupted my thoughts. Not that it was something I wanted to think about, I'd rather rewind so I didn't have to know about it. "Please don't blame Jonathan for this, can you promise me that? He doesn't deserve your attitude."
I snorted. "I'll give him whatever he's got coming. If he stays away, all good. As far as I'm concerned he's nothing to me."
Bella finally spoke up. "Jake, I think Billy is right. No matter what, Jon can't help who his parents are, as little as you can help all that has happened to you because of who your grandfather was." Her voice was gentle, and as much as I wanted to agree with her I suddenly shot up with the realization of my grandfather.
"Yes," Billy answered, knowing what I was thinking.
Oh, hell no! "No. Just—jeez, there's no end to the crap, is there?"
"There hasn't been any vamp-" Bella slapped her hands in front of her mouth, smothering the rest of her sentence.
"Bells?" Charlie looked at her in a strange way, making her eyes dart between our faces.
With all the years that had passed, and I had always wondered how she could keep her second life from her dad, but apparently there came a point for each and every person to slip up. Now it was Bella's turn.
She shook her head. "Never mind."
My dad's face had tensed up, and he was staring at Bella in shock.
I got up, grabbing Bella's hand. "Well, I think there's been too much excitement for one day. We're going for a walk," I announced and started dragging Bella toward the door.
"Now, just hang on a minute," Charlie protested. "Come back here, Jacob." But I didn't stop. Should have known that Charlie didn't give up so easily, because he followed us outside.
"Dad," Bella said in a pleading tone. "Drop it."
"No, Bells." He was firm and full of authority. "To me it sounded like you were gonna say something about—vampires." He nearly choked on the word, causing Bella to jerk to a stop. I groaned. Here we go; this should be interesting.
"Vampires? Are you serious?" A nervous laughter slipping through her pursed lips. Way to go, Bella, I thought.
"I'm asking you," he said pointedly. "Unless you were about to say something else. But with what I've come to learn lately, it wouldn't surprise me."
So very true. Wouldn't it have been only a matter of time before he pieced it all together anyway? He wasn't dumb, he was Chief of Police. Bella deliberated, fidgeting. She was such a bad liar, and we all knew it. Her shoulders slumped as she glanced at me.
"Charlie, I think that you'd rather not know," I offered confidently. It was true. Even if he'd managed to deal with the whole wolf-thing, I still thought that some things were just better left unresolved. I wasn't sure if it would take him long to figure out Bella's secret, once she tried telling him about the things that go bump in the night.
He was considering my suggestion, then something in his face changed and his eyes widened.
"Ah," was all he said, then his face was drained of color. Oh shit, he was one smart little cookie. "When I drove you to the airport-" He stopped himself when Bella nodded.
Huh? Was I missing something? I looked at Bella who gave me an apologetic look, and she mouthed, "Later."
Then Charlie turned to me and gave me a curt nod. "Yeah, need to know basis, only." And with that he turned and walked back inside, his face still white as a sheet. Funny. Usually when he freaked out about something he would turn all kinds of scarlet.
Bella groaned and covered her face with her hands. "God—I'm so stupid. How is it possible that I'd slip, after all these years?" She muttered into her palms.
"Honey," I walked up to her and pulled her hands away from her face. She tried to struggle against me but gave up quickly. "Look at me." And she did.
"Sorry," she mumbled.
I rolled my eyes. "Come here," I ordered and pulled her into my arms. Damn she felt good. All I wanted to do was to forget about the past couple of hours, and if anyone could help me with that it was Bella. "What do you say about getting out of here? Let's go out to dinner, or something. Would you still like to have that date?" I couldn't help but laugh when her head snapped back and she stared at me. "What?"
"Are you really up for that?" She asked skeptically.
Anything that involved me spending time with Bella was something I'd always be up for.
"Of course," I replied, grinning from ear to ear. She finally cracked a smile and it made my heart swell. How the hell was she mine? It just didn't seem real sometimes, and I was still, in the back of my mind, expecting someone to jump out of a bush and tell me it was all a big fat joke.
"Sure, let's." Her eyes held me captive and all I could do was to stare at her.
"Damn, you're so beautiful, honey." It made her cheeks flush, and I released one arm around her, bringing my hand up to skim her cheek with one finger. She shivered beneath my touch, then sighed, leaning into me.
"I love you," she whispered, her arms reaching up to circle my neck as she pulled herself up to press her lips against mine. An electric current passed through my body, reflectively causing me to clutch her closer, and I parted her lips with my tongue, letting it run over hers. The pit of my stomach tightened and she moaned softly into my mouth when my hands ran down the soft curve of her ass.
I released her mouth, kissing my way to her ear. "Bells, I need you," I murmured, sucking the soft flesh of her earlobe between my teeth. A shudder went through her body, and she whimpered.
Groaning, I pulled away from her. "Let's go," I said thickly. "Before I rip your clothes off in front of Billy and Charlie.
She huffed. "You wouldn't."
"Don't tempt me." With a wink I turned and went for the house, Bella following closely behind. "I'm still gonna crash at your place for a while, just so you know."
"You can stay for as long as you want, Jake." Her voice sounded hopeful which made me pause, glancing back at her.
"Not tired of me yet?" I teased.
"Never. I want you all to myself." Her eyes simmered with everything I was feeling for her right now. Love, devotion—desire.
I took a deep breath and continued into the house. Right now, the last thing I wanted was to parade through my dad's house; damn woman had too strong effect on me. If we were lucky we'd make it all the way to Port Angeles before I couldn't keep my hands to myself anymore.
We ended up at a small restaurant on the waterfront, it was a place I'd found one night a couple of years ago when I'd been in one of my gloomy moods, wandering around in my own thoughts about how messed up my life was. When I first laid eyes on the place it had hit me how it'd been just right; for Bella. There had been many times when I had wanted to ask her out, but I'd never had the balls to do it. My second reaction had been to curse myself, over and over for being a coward. On countless occasions I'd gone over things, twisting and turning all scenarios on what I could have done differently to have won her heart over before Edward had his hooks in her. In the end I'd turned and bolted, the pain from all the memories having nearly knocked the wind out of me. Now, as we sat on the terrace, there were no pain, no unpleasant memories. Bella was sipping thoughtfully from her second glass of wine.
"It's really not that good, why does it always seem like people enjoy this stuff?" She turned to me, licking her lips and grimacing. I couldn't help laughing at her.
"Don't drink it then," I said with a grin and took the glass from her, wrapping her hand in mine and rubbing the soft skin with my thumb.
"I just thought I would try, at least now I know." She shrugged.
Bella had spent one hour in the damn bathroom, refusing to let me in. In all the years that I'd known her, she had never been one for dresses, with the exception of her wedding. As beautiful as she'd looked then, I remember I couldn't help but think that it wasn't her. It was too extravagant, to forced. The memory sent a painful jolt through my body. Having had her in my arms then had been so damn difficult, and not only for the fact that I'd spent so much time phased. She'd been so soft, so warm, and her heart beating had meant the world to me. The hardest part had been to control everything I felt for her, that I'd wished she was mine, that I could kiss her again. Then we'd started talking about her honeymoon, and just as I'd been thinking of all the things I could do to her that he couldn't, she'd told me that she could have a real honeymoon.
I shuddered involuntarily, and instantly pushed it out of my mind. Not gonna go there, definitely not gonna reminisce about the bad. Bella caught the tension and my tremble.
"Nothing, honey." I let my eyes drop to her bare shoulders, her creamy skin seemed to glow in the evening sun. "You look-" I struggled for words. "Fucking amazing." I grinned sheepishly when she scowled at me.
"Jake," she scolded, rolling her eyes.
"Sorry, Bells. You mess with my brain, and I can't think straight around you."
"My apologies, Mr Black." She huffed.
"Aw, come on, honey." I leaned forward, bringing her hand to my lips to brush them across her knuckles. "I'm trying to behave," I said in a lower voice, keeping my eyes on hers.
Her breath caught, and I smirked.
"I forgive you," she whispered shakily.
"Good." I sat up straight and called the waitress over, requesting the bill. The girl gave me a bright smile and hurried away. Bella snorted in disgust. "Jealous?" I asked, not able to hide my amusement. Her lips puckered.
"Hardly," she retorted, making me chuckle.
"She's got nothing on you, Bells. No one does." I got up, without releasing her hand, and walked up next to her, pulling her into my arms. "I only see you, honey." Her lips parted, and she gasped softly when I touched my lips to her cheek. "I want only you..." She trembled in my arms, her breathing uneven and her heart beating erratically. "And I need you—now." I ran the tip of my nose back across her cheek, then stopped at the corner of her mouth, pausing before I let my lips brush across hers. Her eyelids fluttered.
I heard the footsteps of the waitress, and turned to see her coming toward us, her smile having faded, but when I gave her a big tip she grinned and bid us a good evening. Bella didn't even notice her this time, she was clinging to me, her fingertips digging into my arm.
On our way to the car I held her tucked into my side, not wanting her away from me for more than she had to be, but when she stumbled for the second time and nearly lost her footing altogether she burst out laughing.
"Easy, Bells," I said with a chuckle.
"It's the wine." She chortled, and I stopped, holding her away from me so I could get a good look at her. Her face was slightly flushed, and her eyes squinted. Then she burst into a fit of giggles, making me raise an eyebrow.
"Good thing I'm driving," I mumbled but smiled. "Let's get you home, honey."
By the time we got to her apartment I had to carry her upstairs because she'd fallen asleep. I couldn't believe that two glasses of wine could get her like this, but it was kinda cute.
I lowered her on the bed, trying not to wake her.
"Jake," she murmured sleepily.
"What's up?" I wondered in a hushed whisper, sitting down next to her.
"You're here." Her words were groggy, making me smile.
"Of course, Bells. Where else would I be?"
She didn't answer, and judging by the rise and fall of her chest she must have fallen asleep again, if she'd ever really been awake. Gently I brushed the hair out of her face and leaned in to kiss her lips.
"I'll always be here now, honey." Whether she heard me or not she smiled ever so slightly. "Goodnight. I love you."
I sat and watched her for a minute before I dragged myself away to have a shower. Regardless of the unpleasant start to the day it had ended better than I could have hoped for, under the circumstances. At first I'd thought that my dad's surprise was gonna leave a bad taste in my mouth all day, but Bella had taken my mind off it, and it wasn't until now that it all came back.
Unanswered questions were rattling around in my brain, I tossed and turned after I'd gone to bed, in the end forcing me to get up so I wouldn't wake Bella.
One thing that kept nagging at me was what would happen if Jonathan would start coming around to my—our, I reminded myself—dad's place from now on. Would he do that, or would he stay away? How old was he anyway? Older, obviously.
My dad's request to not take out my frustrations on the guy kept hounding me. I didn't want a brother, I had plenty, even if me and the pack weren't as close as we used to be. It was too damn difficult to think about getting to know this guy. How come no one had said anything after mom died? In my brain I tried to imagine how my dad could have cheated on my mom, and it just didn't work. Not that he sung praise to her, or had talked about her much, but it was still difficult to wrap my mind around it. I'd always been under the impression that he'd loved her, that she'd been his number one. But, who was I to judge, what did I know? It's not like I hadn't had my own share of misreading signals, or rather, I'd been too wrapped up in one thing to really focus on another.
My phone rang and I picked up, wondering who'd call me this late.
"Jake," I announced, and a cheerful voice greeted me.
"Hey. Sorry about the late hour and all—okay, not really, but I do have a question for you."
I tried to place the voice but I couldn't, and it continued when I didn't answer.
"Oh, sorry, it's Jonathan," he clarified.
I stiffened. "How the hell did you get my number?"
"Billy," he revealed in a cocky tone.
"Look," I started, sighing.
He ignored me. "We don't have to pretend here, Jacob; I know you hate my guts, I get it. But, I thought we could easily change that."
My eyebrows dropped as I frowned and I wondered what he was getting at.
"What makes you think I want to do anything about it?" I challenged in a flat voice.
"Well, I've kinda changed my plans. It's not every day you find out you have a brother, especially not one that has a pretty girl like Bella." His voice was easy and relaxed, but still I got the feeling that he was playing games, taunting me.
"You better stay away from her," I warned.
He laughed. "Easy, I'm not gonna snatch her or anything, what kind of a brother would that make me?"
A dead one, I thought, but didn't verbalize, instead I remained quiet.
Another laugh came. "Lighten up. I was just gonna ask you out for a beer, and you can tell me about yourself, or not. There's this great club in Port Angeles, I've been there a few times, take Bella with you. How's Friday for you?"
There was only one proper club in Port Angeles.
"I work there," I replied, feeling irritated by how he seemed to think we could just start hanging out. And there was no way in hell I would bring Bella, if I would meet him.
"Sweet, free beer." I rolled my eyes.
"Look, Jonathan; I've gotta be honest with you. I don't wanna play along, but I'll make you a deal. If I meet with you, then you'll promise to stay the hell away from Bella. Think you can work with that?"
He was quiet briefly. "A part for two—not much fun, are you? Ah well, sure thing."
After we'd decided on a time he hung up, and I was happy to be rid of his damn cheerful voice. If my instincts were true, then I doubted that he'd keep himself away from Bella, and something told me that my instincts rarely lied.
"Well, I'll give him one chance, that's all he's getting from me," I said to myself, getting up from the sofa and walked back into the bedroom. Bella would be happy I made an attempt at least, and that was worth it. I looked down at her peaceful face, and my heart gave a squeeze.
Whatever would happen, there was one thing in my life that was right. The only thing that mattered really; Bella. Now that she was finally with me, all else was secondary. Ultimately I didn't really care what Jonathan did, or said. So I had a brother, well, that could be interesting.
I peeled my clothes off and got into bed, wrapping my arms around the one person I would never function without, pulling her closer into my chest. She mumbled something unintelligible, and I smiled, pressing my lips into her hair.
"You're stuck with me now, honey. I think I might just move in here with you." She shifted in my arms, another mumble escaping her mouth. I don't know how long I'd be able to wait, but not too long; I just needed to be tied to her in every way possible. Two things were missing, the first one; make her my wife. The second one; kids. I wasn't sure how she'd react to those, but I'd start with asking her to marry me first, then we'd go from there. Hopefully her marriage to Edward hadn't scared her off for life. I would have to plan a perfect moment, so that she wouldn't be able to refuse me; after all, I used to be good at making her do things she never knew she wanted, or liked. Not that I was gonna threaten her, but I knew Bella, and sometimes she just needed some extra convincing, so she'd take the first step. The rest would be a piece of cake. She might have grown into this freaking gorgeous creature that was now sleeping in my arms, but beneath it all, she was still her, and damn was I ever thankful and deliriously happy about that. I grinned from ear to ear.
Mission accomplished; she chose life, could I really ask for more?
Nope, not right now anyways.
But damn I wanted her—go to sleep, dude, I told myself.
This was gonna be a long night.