I am soooooo unbelievably sorry that I have taken so long to put this chapter up! My little one has been teething and starting to clamber about on all fours so have had my hands full all week and when I did have any spare time I had work to do :( But here it is at last…
It all seemed to happen in slow motion. I could see everyone's faces turn to an expression of horror as Jake leapt forward and turned into a wolf mid-air. For a second, as he soared over Charlie's head, I wondered if we could pass this off as an attack from a wolf, and hope that Charlie didn't notice Jake was missing in all the pandemonium. He was looking at me; he hadn't actually seen Jacob phase.
I staggered back down the steps backwards as I watched Jacob soar over me too, and whirled just in time to see Carlisle growl and leap into the air to meet him.
Okay, scrap that idea.
There was an almighty crack as the two of them collided, and I realised that Carlisle had not had a choice in this matter. Jacob was the one creature capable of hurting a vampire, and my love had no choice but to fight back.
Charlie froze, eyes wide as Jacob and Carlisle fell to the ground with a crash that caused the ground to shake. Carlisle had Jake pinned for a second, before Jake managed to twist and thrash Carlisle under him, giant paws trying so hard to crush and claw.
"Stop! Stop it!" I screamed, breaking out of my reverie and lunging towards them. This broke the horrified trance of the others, who came rushing down the steps. I felt two strong arms flash around me, holding me back.
"Let me go!" I snarled, craning my neck to see that Jasper was the one holding me fast. "I'm in control. Please!"
I wasn't sure if he relented or not, but I broke free anyway, using every ounce of strength I possessed. Carlisle and Jacob had sprung apart, and were now circling each other in a macabre dance. Suddenly, the gravity of this hit me.
If Jake didn't come to his senses… this could be a fight to the death.
No sooner had the thought entered my mind, Jacob struck again, attacking Carlisle with his full force. I could no longer help myself as I watched Carlisle tumble back underneath the wolf's vast form; I let out an immensely vicious snarl and leapt on top of Jacob.
My strength was enough to wrench him off Carlisle, and we went tumbling sideways, causing the whole area to quake again. I yanked on Jacob's fur so hard I ripped some of it out, taking it with me as I hit the ground and rolled. He let out an agonised noise, and despite myself I smirked. As I did so, I caught a glimpse of Charlie, and the smirk soon vanished. He had gone white as a sheet and must have sunk to his knees at some point, because he was on the ground, watching events unfold as if in a terrible dream.
I turned to face Jacob, my eyes blazing red. Poised in a defensive crouch, ready to leap at him if necessary, I stared into his feral eyes and silently begged him to stop this madness.
He merely returned my stare somewhat sadly, before wheeling away from me and back towards Carlisle. I leapt after him, seeing that Alice, Jasper, Emmett and Rosalie were now surrounding Carlisle, each ready to attack as Jake landed squarely in front of them.
"You've broken your own goddamn rules, boy," Jasper hissed at him. "Calm down and get out of here before you get into any worse trouble with your pack. You can't defeat us all. Even if you did, you think Bella wouldn't fight you to the very end for Carlisle? Is that what you want? To hurt the one you love?"
Jacob whimpered softly, and I hoped for a moment… but then it turned into a low growl, and I could see the fur on his back quivering as he shook with frustration at Jasper's words. He was too far gone into his wild state to listen, I knew so in that very second. Sure enough, a snarl ripped through his throat and he crouched, bursting forward over their heads so that he landed behind Carlisle.
I snarled my own warning as I flew across the ground, watching as Carlisle whirled and crouched to face Jake. The wolf was just as quick, and they stayed stock still for a moment, facing each other.
I moved in front of Carlisle, noting the hurt that flashed through Jake's eyes.
"Stop this," I said through gritted teeth. "If you don't, then goddamn it, I will hurt you, Jacob Black."
Despair ripped through me as he leapt once again, darting back to snap and bite at Carlisle, who paced around him in a circle, their eyes locked.
This dance went on for what seemed like an eternity. Jacob was driving Carlisle away from the rest of us, but we knew it mattered little, because any one of us could be on top of Jacob in a split second, no matter how far he moved Carlisle across the expanse of the Cullen grounds.
What did matter to me, however, was the sudden realisation that in doing so, Jacob had edged them both closer to Charlie. Too close.
Jacob lunged again, Carlisle bringing his arms up to buffer the impact of the giant wolf against him and latch his beautiful hands onto the thick fur, allowing him to swing Jacob around and onto the ground.
Jake snarled and rounded on Carlisle with frightening speed, seizing his arm in his vast jaws and biting down without mercy. Carlisle's fist met the side of Jacob's head with an almighty smash, loosening the vicious grip just long enough for him to wrench himself free and roll away. He was on his feet in seconds, crouched to attack, as Jacob recovered from the blow and advanced, growling.
They were inches from Charlie now. I trusted Carlisle implicitly, but Jacob was too wild, and one stray move from him could cause serious damage to a human.
A snarl burst forth from my throat, and I launched myself over their head, landing by Charlie in a heartbeat.
As I did so, I felt the tension from the others hit an all-time high.
As it turned out, my choice of action was the best thing I could possibly have done.
The moment Bella leapt in front of Charlie, everything changed. Or, for want of a better description, everything stopped. Jacob's growl trailed off midway, and the great wolf's head snapped round. Lowering my defence for a second, I risked a glance at the others, and saw each of them standing stock still, frozen, afraid. Jasper was poised to leap after Bella, a look of panic on his face, and I have to confess, even I had a moment where I doubted her. To my eternal shame.
We all thought that her control had finally folded. That she was going to attack Charlie.
She was defending him, from us.
I could not understand the control she had being so new to this life, but I could admire it. She astounded me, and I loved her all the more for it.
My incredible Isabella.
As it was, it seemed our misguided lack of faith in her was a blessing in disguise. Jacob, too, had believed Bella to be attacking Charlie, and it was, at last, enough to break through his rage and stop him in his tracks, long enough for Emmett, Jasper and Alice to gather their wits, content that Bella was not lusting for human blood, and leap between the two of us. Rosalie kept to the side, her face impassive to the situation. I had barely expected anything else, however, and was content with the knowledge that she was back safely with us.
I looked past my family at Jacob, as he slowly turned back towards me. The frenzied rage in his eyes had subsided a little, but the hatred was still there.
A howl sounded from the woods, and Jacob shook his head violently, as if trying to shake something out.
"The pack is coming," Jasper said, although we all already knew it. They materialised out of the trees moments later, growling furiously.
To my guilty pleasure, Jacob looked visibly cowed.
The wolves parted in the centre, and Sam walked out between them in human form. His barely concealed rage threatened to bubble over as he faced Jacob.
"Get back to the reservation. Now," he said, battling to keep control of his temper. Jacob shot a chilling look into my eyes, before wheeling away and disappearing into the trees with a mournful howl. None of them looked at him as he left.
The wolves melted back into the foliage, but Sam stayed for a moment, swallowing hard before looking up to meet my gaze.
The look we gave each other was mutual. We both knew what had to be done. There was no other choice.
"I am sorry for what Jacob has done," he said with a deep disappointment in his voice. Disappointment that Jacob had come so easily undone.
I nodded in acknowledgement of his apology. "It is not your fault."
He pursed his lips. "Not entirely, no."
He blamed us, in part then. Naturally.
He shot a glance at Charlie, and my eyes followed. The poor man was looking from one person to the next, utterly bewildered. Charlie was not the sort of man who wanted to know about things like this, let alone believe them.
I sighed, feeling my marble skin healing itself from the wounds Jacob had inflicted. Sam looked back to me, moving slowly back into the trees.
"I will deal with his actions, I promise you that. But I will leave you to deal with the… consequences of his actions. Under the circumstances I imagine you can convey this better than I."
With that, he was gone. Another howl reverberated out of the woods, and then, there was silence.
The tension fell, and everyone breathed.
Bella was in front of me in an instant, her arms around me, and her lips pressed passionately to mine. I risked a look at Charlie over her shoulder, but he was still too shocked to care.
Everyone looked to me nervously. Except for Rosalie, who had one eyebrow quirked, as if mildly amused by it all.
Alice was crouched beside the chief, one hand on his shoulder. Jasper was looking at me, an unspoken conversation passing between us. I nodded at him, and his face turned grave. I sent him a look of reassurance, and his eyes brightened a little.
Bella moved from my arms, turning back to look at her father.
"Oh God, Carlisle, I'm so sorry. This is such a mess! What do we do now?"
I took a deep breath, and smiled down at her.
"We tell him the truth, Isabella."
Her eyes widened.
"There is little other alternative. Unfortunately we do not possess the ability to erase memories!"
"It's not that," she replied, softly. "I'm glad to be able to tell him, in a way. It's just… I don't want him to have a heart attack!"
"Bella, if a rampaging werewolf and an impossibly fast, strong, supernatural man haven't already given him a heart attack, then I think I can safely assume that our history isn't going to affect him in any adverse way either."
She smiled, and I squeezed her shoulders.
Charlie stirred under Alice's touch, finally coming to his senses. His face turned from one of bewilderment to one of determined resolve.
"Would someone…" he began, voice ever so slightly shaky. "Would someone tell me what the hell is going on?"
Jasper and I exchanged glances again, and with a breath to steel myself, I ushered everyone inside.
Thank you SO much for the reviews for Chapter 15 – it got the most number of reviews so far! Can this one top 23? (Hint hint!)