Author's note will be at the bottom.

Ch. 33

Tiny Steps and Bigger Moments

I climbed out of the car apprehensively. If Leah's tongue lashing was anything to go by, I wasn't looking forward to what Jake had in store for me. It wasn't that I didn't deserve it, I did. It was more that I hated when he was angry with me. I hated seeing anything but love in his eyes. I looked to Leah as she rose from the car and scanned the boys in front of the house before she turned back to me. She looked nervous. Giving her a small, strained smile, I cast my sight in front of the car and readied to face what was to come.

Jacob unfolded from his stiff position against the house and stalked toward me. I drug my heels walking to him, seeing his steely expression. He stopped when he was in front of me. I focused on his chest, too cowardly to even look at him. All my bravery had been used in confronting the Cullens; there was nothing left to face Jacob with. Because seeing his disappointment and anger would hurt more than anything the Cullens would have thrown at me.

I felt the slide of his fingers up my throat to grasp my chin, lifting it and making me look at him. "Are you okay, honey?" He asked. The tender tone of his voice and the way his face seemed to melt under the anger was not what I'd expected. I nodded my head and studied his face. Trying to find the rage that Leah had described somewhere in his eyes, yet finding none of it, only worry.

He pulled me into a crushing hug. "They didn't hurt you, did they?" Setting me back on the ground, his hands moved to cup my jaw and he leaned back to look me over for any obvious injury. Assured, his eyes met mine waiting for an answer.

"No, you know they wouldn't," I whispered.

"They already did. I was so worried about you. I felt like I was about to burst not going after you."

"I'm fine, Jake, sorry for worrying you. I didn't mean to. I wasn't thinking and I just-" He stopped me by placing a finger over my lips.

"Stop, Bells," he ordered firmly. I listened and waited for him to continue. His eyes lost focus on me for a moment as he seemed to contemplate something. "I know you're sorry and I believe you but you really gotta quit doing this, honey." His words shocked me. I didn't understand what he was referring to but it felt like it was something big so I waited for him to continue.

"You really gotta quit running like this. I get that what the Cullens did made you angry, and that you felt the need to confront them. I get that you needed to see them not only for their actions but you needed to face them like you did with Edward. I understand all of that, but you ran again, and it has got to stop. Somehow your brain has gotten stuck in flight mode and whenever something gets to be too much for you, you run. You may not go far but you run away."

I went to speak, to refute what he was accusing me of, when he shook his head as his thumbs began caressing my cheeks.

"I think you've been running for so long you don't even realize you're doing it anymore. I think you've been running since you chased Edward through the woods, trying to stop him from leaving you. Hell, maybe it started even before that, maybe it was something you learned early on from your mom. I don't know, but when you thought you were losing his voice, you ran to the cliffs. When you were afraid of our developing relationship, you ran to your mom. When you learned you were pregnant at nineteen, you ran to California. When the confrontation with your mom was too much for you, you ran to my house. It's made you build walls and you're slow to let anyone in so that when it comes time to run again, there's less baggage to take with you." As he spoke his accusation, his voice held no anger; only loving understanding and it made me feel ashamed. I dropped my head to stare at my feet to listen; I couldn't look at him or anyone else because I was starting to believe he was right.

I had run to Florida under the pretense of visiting my mom when I realized Jake and I were on the path to becoming more than friends. I also knew that when emotions ran high, my first instinct was to get away from whatever it was causing them. Guilt flowed through me joining the shame.

He wouldn't let me avoid his eyes; one of his hands gently grabbed my chin and tilted my face back up. He gave me a small upturn of his lips before he continued. "Under the current circumstances, going out to the Cullens was incredibly risky considering the amount of danger you're in. Only through Leah's insistence that going there at all would be dangerous while phased, a violation of the treaty, caused me to stay. That and our girls were here."

He paused and took a deep breath. "I do understand what you did, really, I do. Normally, Bella, you're a calm, level-headed thinker. Before you decide on anything, you think all angles out. You rarely, if ever, make snap decisions. Your brain has to rationalize everything, except when you're overwhelmed. When that happens, you run, you get away from whatever is causing your distress so that once you are away you can think through things logically again. The problem being that the act of running sometimes causes you more problems than if you'd stayed. This isn't healthy, not for you or our relationship and it sets a very bad example for our daughters. So, I'm asking you, right now, to stop running. Figure out whatever is causing you to think that you have to do all this on your own and put a stop to it; for you, for me, and for the girls." His fingers were running idly through my hair as he stared earnestly at me, imploring me to do what he was asking.

I tried to find a response, an answer to what he was asking, but instead I blurted out something that had been plaguing me since he first tipped my eyes up to meet his. "I... Why aren't you mad at me, why haven't you yelled at me?" I had prepared to face Jacob's wrath. These accusations threw me for a loop. He hadn't call me out on everything I was ready to safeguard against, justifying my actions. I had no defense for this indictment.

"I was never mad at you, honey. I was mad at the situation, worried for you, scared out of my mind that you'd get hurt again, but never at you. Plus, I've had a lot of time to calm down after Leah left. Yelling at you wouldn't make this easier. It'd just prove my point because you'd clam up and pull away. Now, do you hear what I'm telling you, asking of you? Will you please stop running?"

I dropped my eyes from his. I felt overwrought from everything I'd felt throughout the day and as I processed his words, I began to panic. What if I couldn't change, what if I was like this forever? What would that mean for us? My hands had unconsciously moved together and I'd begun to wring my fingers. I took a step back from him as panic settled over me.

"Hey, Bells, stop that. Shh, it's okay, no need to panic, no need to run. Take a deep breath." He'd pulled my hands into his and gently pulled me back to him. He wrapped his arms around me and I sunk into him, breathing in his scent and just resting on him.

Pulling back, I met his eyes again, "Jake, I want to promise that, of course I do. I don't want to be this flighty person who runs from her problems. But when I've done most of the running you've accused me of, it wasn't spur of the moment. I thought a lot of them through, to crazy, neurotic levels. When I chose to do some of them, I believed they were the right thing for everyone involved and I still do. I don't know how to be any different than I am."

"You're right, but will you promise me that whenever you get overwhelmed you come to me, to Emily, to your dad, someone and talk to them? I'm not asking you to change who you are, just how you react to things. If you can't talk to me will you promise to talk to someone?"

"I promise to the best of my ability to ask for help when I feel like something is too much. I'll try not to do things like run to a house full of vampires without at least telling you about it," I said with the tiniest smirk forming on my mouth.

"That's all I ask. I mean if you're going to risk life and limb by jumping off a cliff or confronting vampires, I at least want the option of joining in." He chuckled as he tucked some hair behind my ear. "I'm all for confronting vampires, and if I got a hit or bite in, all the better."

Smacking his chest, I laughed, before growing serious once again. "I really am sorry that I worried you and that I tore out of here without telling you what I was doing."

"I told you, I understand; water under the bridge. Did you get what you needed, tell them what you wanted?" The laughter had left his voice once again.

"I guess, sorta, I was ranting and raving at them when Leah walked in, I hadn't really gotten anywhere though, before. But I got some answers, told them off. It wasn't as satisfying as I'd thought it was going to be. Then once Leah got there, the wind was taken out of my sails. I was more worried about getting back here to you." I looked up and locked eyes with him.

"The Cullens told Leah and I some really serious stuff. I think we're going to need their help."

A breath of a laugh fell over his lips. "You're joking, right? After everything we've gone over this has got to be a joke." His eyes were burning.

"Jake, you know I trust you and this pack a thousand percent, I trust you all with my life. But what's coming for us, it is in no way something this pack is prepared for or something you've faced before. The only thing I care about in all of this is to make sure that our pack comes out of this alive. So many have died because of this vendetta against me, I'll be damned if any of my family dies because of this. If that means getting help from the Cullens, so be it."

"We can handle this-"

"You don't know that," I snapped, angry at his placating tone. "You don't know what the Cullens have to say. I refuse to put the pack at extra risk, to put you at extra risk. So maybe bury your pride for once and see what they have to say."

The flames of his pride burned in his eyes as he prepared to argue back. As I stared back defiantly, the flames were shuttered behind his mask of indifference and he turned to glance at the house. "Let's go inside and talk this out with the pack. It's their lives on the line. They should have a say in how this fight is going to go."

I nodded and he flung a possessive arm over my shoulder as we walked back into Sam and Emily's kitchen. A wall of displeased and curious faces greeted us but my eyes were drawn to Paul and Rachel holding my babies. Rushing from Jacob's hold and picking Charlotte up from Paul's grasp, I cuddled her to me. I hadn't realized how on edge I had been until I inhaled her sweet baby scent and felt my muscles relax. It felt as if all was right in the world when I was holding one of my babies.

Jacob placed his hands on my shoulders and guided me over to a chair that until moments before Quil had occupied. After I took my seat, Jake moved to grab Juliana from Rachel and held her against his chest, his palm firm against her back as he ran it soothingly up and down and then moved to kick Adam out of his chair to sit across from me.

I looked around the room and noticed that Leah and Embry weren't among the cursory glances being thrown at me. I had thought that she had gone in the house with everyone else but seeing her absent, maybe she was having her own talk.

Jacob shot me a smug smirk and said, "As most of you heard, Bells here thinks we need the Cullens' help to kill some vamps."

"Jake," I snapped. "You're being rude on purpose. That's not what I said and you know it."

"Well get on with it then. Tell everyone why you think were incapable," he retorted.

"You know, Jake, just like I like to run, you snap back any time your pride is wounded. Maybe get your head out of your ass long enough to actually listen to what I have to say. You're mad at me, I get it. We'll talk about that later. Right now, we should figure out what to do about the Cullens and what they've said." I was angry and frustrated with him. He was just lashing out at me for leaving, for me even suggesting that the Cullens be involved but it wouldn't help anything. The pack needed to decide what to do with the offer Carlisle made, about the information they had on the enemy and what to do with all the money the pack was given. Being short and angry with each other would get us nowhere.

The room was quiet as everyone's gazes ran between the two of us waiting to see who would lash out next. We just stared each other down.

I sighed, "Fine. While Leah and I were leaving the Cullens, Carlisle mentioned that they'd done some research on Victoria and Riley and said that they were going for a different, more dangerous strategy, than before. That the vampires they'd turned were no longer mindless newborns. He said that they are trained to fight and in more control than what you've faced before. He's offered his family's help to insure that we all come out of this alive." I paused and looked around the room at every wolf. "I don't think you're incapable. I care about each and every one of you and I think we should take them up on their offer so that we tip the odds in our favor."

There was a moment of quiet after I finished speaking before everyone began speaking and yelling all at the same time. The din was so deafening that Charlotte and Juliana began crying and I could barely hear them. Jacob was trying to hush and comfort Juliana while I did the same for Charlotte but the air was too full of tension for them to calm down.

With wolves arguing over imprints and imprints yelling over wolves, no firm argument could clearly be made out and the babies' wails only added to the cacophony.

For the second time that day, I jumped when a door slammed behind me and Leah stomped into the room. "Would you idiots please shut the fuck up?"

The room quieted and everyone turned to Leah and Embry standing close behind her, his hand resting on the small of her back.

"We have a fuck-ton of shit to cover and you imbeciles yelling over one another will not get us any closer to a decision or solving any problems.

"I know most of you are pissed about what the Cullens did and said but we can't just hand wave it. We have to deal with all of this. It's as easy of an answer as some of us would believe," she said, her voice firm and eyes hard. She moved towards the table and with the tiniest shake of her head, Brady was getting out of his chair to sit by Adam along the kitchen cupboards. Embry cleared his throat and Collin reluctantly followed Brady to the floor.

"Well, I for one, think their savoir money is a joke and we should shove it back in their faces. Money isn't going to fix any of the problems they've created and they certainly aren't going to buy me off," Paul spat coolly.

Sam spoke after Paul, his voice firm, allowing no room for disagreement. "I agree with Paul. We don't need that money nor do we want it. I won't take charity form leeches."

"I know you don't want to think about this, but have you thought about all the good we could do for the tribe, for our people with this money? We'd be set for life and we could help our people prosper as well. We could have better medical facilities, better schools for the kids, jobs programs. We could fuel the economy and make the Quileute prosper. How can we deny all the good we can do because of our pride?" Emily spoke with conviction, her voice as firm as Sam's.

"Not to mention all the good we could do for our own families. I mean, Dad could actually afford better medical care and we could build more adequate handicap facilities for him. And for the girls and all the kids to come, they wouldn't have to worry about the cost of their education down the line. They wouldn't have to worry about getting jobs in their early teens to help with household bills like we did. Our kids would get to be kids a lot longer than we've had the opportunity to be," Rachel said.

"We wouldn't have to worry about shredding clothes as much. Mom wouldn't be on my case if we could just buy more," Brady said from the kitchen.

"But we'd be taking money from leeches. It just feels dirty to me. Like all that money would be tainted," Quil muttered.

"In a way they do owe us, though. Our lives were destroyed and we've all had to reassemble them in a broken order and we all let a lot of dreams die because we became wolves. We can't really hold down regular jobs. It's almost impossible for the younger five to do school and it caused Quil, Embry and Jake to have to quit. The moment they decided to move here, they caused havoc they are going to have to fix. And them leaving may fix some of this but our lives will never be normal again. This money may be a way for us to care for our families, be active in our community and put duct tape on all the damage that's been done," Jared spoke with conviction. Kim reached over and squeezed his arm in what looked like approval and agreement.

"Don't forget Lottie and Jules. I know Jake and Bella have been fighting about money and jobs. Just think how much easier it'll be for them to take care of the girls and for Sam and Emily to take care of their baby. You guys won't have to worry about doctors' bills or the cost of diapers. I say we take this money," Seth said, eyes trained on Charlotte who had finally fallen back to sleep.

"What does Jake think?" Lucas asked quietly. Everyone's eyes traveled to Jake but he was staring directly at me, his eyes hard and intense. Juliana was curled into the crook of his arm and her little lips were an echo of a smile.

"I hate that they did this. I hate that they tried to tie themselves to Bella. I hate that they gave us something I'd probably never be able to give her. I hate everything about their existence here. I wish I could tell them to shove every cent down their throats and tell them their offer of help is unnecessary. They're trouble and they bring trouble. But as Seth, Rachel and Emily pointed out, this isn't just about what I want or I need. I have to think about Bella, Charlotte and Juliana. The girls are my responsibility and they deserve the best life I can give them. This pains me to say, but if I turn down this offer then I'm denying them that chance. I don't want them to have to worry about the electric bill at seven or being afraid to ask for new shoes when they outgrow their old ones. So as much as I don't like this, I think we should take the money."

Paul huffed and prepared to voice his objections to his brother-in-law and alpha. Shock, anger and agreement showed on the faces of the rest of the pack but I turned my gaze back to Jacob.

"What about you, Bella? You confronted the Cullens about the money. You had the most immediate visceral reaction to it. What do you think we should do with the money?" Leah asked. Any irritation that had been in her voice or carried in her body when she'd entered the room was gone. Her eyes were full of understanding as she appraised me.

"I…I agree with Jake. I hate how they went about all of this. It was underhanded and condescending. But I can't deny how much stress this would take off all our shoulders and how many problems it will fix. Them coming back has caused me so much distress, has caused all of us so much grief, but hopefully if we accept this help, their help, they'll get the picture and leave. So I say we take the money and accept their help."

Paul snapped, "I see that not only do we have to take their fucking money but have to kowtow to them for their help, too. Just fucking great."

"You didn't even hear what they said, Paul," I answered.

"Bella, I really don't give a flying fuck about any shitty excuse they gave you."

"While it's a pain in the ass to say this, I don't think what they said was an excuse. I may have told them off when they first told us, but they didn't seem to be lying. We know that Victoria and Riley are coming for us. We know that Portland and Olympia are having serious missing people issues. Everything they said backs up what we already know. And if the numbers they are talking are true, this won't be an easy fight. This will be the toughest fight we've had to date," Leah said, her voice wary.

"I wanted you to consider their offer, not because I don't think you can do this, but because I would rather the odds were in your favor. I would rather this be an easy fight for you and if it takes asking them for help then your pride will have to be swallowed."

"What kind of fight were they talking about?" Embry asked.

"They said, based on their recon and the small one's visions, that these aren't like the vamps we fought last year. That these ones have had time to be trained and based on the numbers of the missing, the army is quite large."

"Okay, maybe instead of deciding to accept their help right now based on the information we have, we go talk to them tomorrow to get it from the source. That way we can get everything out in the open and then we can decide," Emily suggested.

Quil sighed. "I'll agree to anything so we can quit talking about these fucking vamps. I'm ready for the fucking party."

"Party?" I asked, looking around the room confused.

"Fucking Christ, Quil, can you not stick your foot in your mouth for one fucking day?" Jake snapped, exasperated. Quil look ashamed and dropped his head.


Jacob heaved a sigh. "I know you don't like parties but I thought with the girls and all we've been through…Emily, Rachel, Kim and I sort of planned a small party on the beach to celebrate your birthday." He looked at me guiltily.

"Wha- Really?" I asked and looked around the room. Everyone nodded. "I…okay?" I answered, flustered.

"Okay. So, we're doing this? Em and Rach planned on us roasting hot dogs around a bonfire and they made some sides and stuff we could eat and it's going to be quiet and not a big deal and-"

"Jacob, I said okay. Whatever you have planned is okay," I consoled. He breathed a sigh but still looked jittery, bouncing Juliana up and down gently, almost absentmindedly.

"Okay, good. Okay. Em, Rach, is everything ready for us to head down to the beach?" Jacob was still looking jittery and nervous and my curiosity piqued.

"Damn, Jake has lost all his chill because he can't stop saying okay." I heard Brady attempt to whisper to Collin. I looked around the room confused. Something was going on but I couldn't figure out what.

Rachel threw a glare at the boys sitting on the kitchen floor before turning her gaze back to Jacob. "Yeah, everything is ready. How about you boys go set everything up at the beach while Bella and us girls stay and get the babies ready? And once we're done, we'll head down?"

Sam pushed back his chair and walked to Jacob, slapping a hand on his shoulder. Jacob seemed to grimace a little as Sam spoke. "Sounds good. Boys, get up and let Em hand you the food so you can head down. Paul, Quil and Jared, head down and set up the bonfire. Jake?"

"Yeah…yep, sounds good. Here, Kim, take Jules and we'll head on down." Jacob threw a furtive glance at me, before making his way around the table and laid a kiss to my head. The oldest of the pack headed outside while the younger followed Emily around the kitchen as she handed them all the food she'd made for the 'party'.

Once the boys were outside, I heard someone say, "Damn it, Quil, you're about as subtle as a bomb going off. Way to ruin the surprise."

"I didn't give anything away, though Jittery Jake here couldn't keep his shit together. If anyone gave anything away, it's him," Quil shot back.

"Stuff it, Quil," I heard Jake growl.

My attention was taken from the conversation outside by Rachel tapping on my shoulder and handing me a warmed bottle with a small smile. "Bella, do you have any warmer clothes for the girls in the diaper bag or will blankets do for the beach? Should I head home and grab some?"

"No, I didn't pack anything warmer for them. I didn't plan on them being outside much today. Would you mind grabbing them some warmer clothes and some blankets? I really don't want them getting cold."

"Sure thing," Rachel answered and began moving towards the door.

"Rach, before you go, can you tell me what's going on with Jake?" I asked, my curiosity needed to know.

"He's just nervous about this party. He didn't think you'd go for it and with everything that happened today, he thought you'd have hated this birthday and you wouldn't want to celebrate it," she replied with a small smile and walked out.

Looking from the empty doorway to Leah and Embry, still sitting at the table, but now whispering to each other, I smiled. "Is there something you want to share with the group, Leah?"

Leah shot me a glare with little heat behind it and grabbed Embry's hand and stood. "I really don't know what you're talking about, Swan. Come on Emb, let's go make sure those idiots don't burn the forest down." Without a backwards glance, she pulled him out of the house while I chuckled under my breath.

I looked down at Charlotte to see she was awake and just watching me. I smiled down at her. I cooed and then nuzzled her nose and she gave me a dazzling smile. Grabbing the bottle Rachel had given me, I fed her and watched as Kim fed Juliana. Emily walked around the kitchen gathering up a few things that the boys hadn't taken with them before bringing the box to the table and sat down next to me. The three of us waited in silence while the girls ate.

Once Rachel returned, Kim and I changed the girls' diapers and dressed them in the sweaters and jeans Rachel brought. Emily and Rachel walked back to the table and Emily handed me a sweatshirt. "Don't want you getting too cold either, Bella," she replied to my inquisitive gaze.

I put the sweatshirt on, placed Charlotte in her carrier and waited for the other girls to follow before heading to the beach. Rachel was carrying blankets she'd grabbed from Emily's; Emily was carrying sweatshirts and sweaters for the other girls and Kim was carrying Juliana in her carrier.

Once we reached the beach, I was surprised at the size of the fire they'd already gotten going and the size of the spread they had set out on the outside of the log circle. I also noticed that Charlie, Sue and Billy were also among the wolves. Embry was sitting on a log across the fire and Leah was sitting in between his legs, resting her head against his chest while he rested his hands on her shoulders, cupping her neck. Both of them ignored all the curious stares they were receiving from everyone.

Upon seeing us walk up, Charlie smiled and approached me. "Bells, happy birthday, sweetie; I've heard you had quite the day already." He placed a kiss to my forehead and an arm around my shoulders. "Sit down and let me see my grandbabies."

After we'd all sat down and the girls were out of their carriers, wrapped up in their blankets and in the arms of their grandpas, Jake brought me a plate of food and sat next to me. He placed a small kiss to my temple and began to dig in.

Overwhelmed by feelings, I smiled and pressed my forehead against his temple. "Thank you, Jake," I whispered.

He looked at me, a soft smile curling his lips, "For what?"

"For this, if I have to celebrate my birthday, this is exactly how I'd do it. Low key and with everyone we care about, a bonfire like any other day." He smiled, his eyes straining a little, and went back to eating.

"Bella," Emily spoke, after we'd all finished eating. "We know that you hate gifts but we've all decided that you're just going to have to suffer for a little bit."

She stood up and went to a box by the food table and pulled out a wrapped gift. Placing it in my hands, she said, "This is from all of us."

I hesitantly unwrapped the package, nervous butterflies assaulting my stomach. Inside was a book and sheet of paper with the Port Angeles Community College logo in the upper left hand corner. They'd paid for the class I needed to take to get the health certificate and the textbook that went with the class. I was overwhelmed.

With my heart in my throat and tears in my eyes, I said, "Thank you."

Jacob cleared his throat next to me. "I know I promised that I wouldn't get you anything but I have been planning on giving you one of these for a while and waiting to give you the other when the time was right."

He pulled out a small flat box the size of a deck of cards and handed it over. I looked at him curiously and opened it. It was a simple set of keys and they looked familiar.

Perplexed, I asked, "Jake?"

"When you were attacked we had to destroy your car and I know you hated that. I hated that. So, the guys and I have been working on it on and off since. Here is your car back, almost good as new. It's sitting in our driveway, ready to go."

"Jake…guys…" I couldn't finish, too overwhelmed by everything and unable to thank them beyond a simple thank you.

"One more thing, before you say anything." He waited for me to respond, so I nodded, tears forming in my eyes at the look in his.

He turned and kneeled in front of me, moving the box with the keys next to me and then taking both of my hands in his. He took a deep quivering breath, his face anxious. A shuddered gasp left my lips as a tear trailed down my cheek. I couldn't believe he was doing what I thought he was doing. I looked at the tears forming in his eyes and couldn't look away.

"Bella, honey, I have loved you almost every way you can love someone. You have been a part of my life in small and huge ways since I was born. You are integral to my existence. I don't want to know what life is like without you again. I want to spend the rest of my life trying to be the man you deserve, and the father our daughters deserve. I know it's too early to ask you to marry me. We have a lot to talk about and a lot to deal with before I do that. So what I'm doing today is making a promise. Isabella Swan," He pulled one of his hands from mine and reached into his pocket. "I love you with my whole being and tonight in front of our pack and family I'm making a promise that one day I will ask you to marry me. Because you have been my childhood friend, my best friend, my first crush, first love, the love of my life and the mother to my children and one day I want you to be my wife. This I promise you." He swallowed and placed a simple diamond and gold ring on the ring finger of my left hand. And as his hand pulled away, I saw it trembling.

Tears streamed unending down my face as I tried and failed to control the sob that spilled from me. I had no words for the emotions rolling inside me. My love for this man in front of me exploded when I hadn't thought I could love him more. All I could do to respond was to jump into his arms and cling to him, crying. He hugged me back just as firmly.

I pulled back and gave him a watery smile and then slowly moved to rest my forehead against his, just breathing him in. This moment overshadowed every moment in my life except the day my daughters were born.

Cheering pulled me away from him as I saw our family whooping and hollering all around us. Blushing, I pulled out of his lap and arms and returned to the log, grasping his hand as to ensure I wouldn't lose the connection.

I looked down at my hand and admired the ring. "I love it, Jake. I love you." He smiled, moved onto the log next to me and pulled me into his lap. With his arms wrapped around me and his chin resting on my shoulder, he whispered into my ear, "It was my mom's." He placed a kiss to my ear and returned his chin to my shoulder.

"Congratulations, you two," Charlie said, his smile looking as big as the one I was probably wearing. Congratulations came from everyone else around the fire.

"Hopefully now, Jake can chill the fuck out. Between the Cullens and this, he was a mess today," Embry laughed with Leah in his lap. I looked pointedly at her and she smiled and turned her head.

"Shut up, Embry, like you're one to talk once Leah showed up," Jake shot back.

"I'm not gonna deny anything. Looks like it turned out pretty good for both of us," he said with the biggest smile.

"Looks like," I replied.

Charlotte and Juliana began to fuss and I attempted to get up to get them. Jake just pulled me back into his lap as Sue spoke from next to Charlie, "Don't even think about it, Bella. You and Jake deserve some alone time. Charlie and I will take the girls with us tonight. We'll head to the house and grab what we need and you guys enjoy your time together."

"Billy, how about you come to our place tonight and take the spare room?" Sam asked.

"Sounds good to me, I'm feeling pretty beat now. Are you okay to help me, Sam?" With a nod, Sam and Emily stood. Emily made her way to me and Jacob let me up. Emily hugged me and followed Sam.

"Guys, clean everything up before you go. I don't want anything left and make sure you put out the fire," Sam ordered as he was leaving.

Charlie and Sue stood, starting to get ready to go.

"Dad, Sue, before you go, give me my babies," I said, raising my hands out. "I need to cuddle them for a little while. I don't know how I'm going to handle their first night away from otherwise."

Charlie walked over to me while I moved out of Jacob's lap so that Charlie could hand me Charlotte. I held her to my chest and pressed a kiss to her head and gently rocked her side to side. "Mommy loves you, peanut." Jacob leaned over my shoulder to kiss her head. Charlie came to take Charlotte back as Sue moved to hand Juliana over. I snuggled her close, kissed her head as Jacob kissed the other side and whispered my love to her too.

Once Sue, had Juliana back in her arms, she and Charlie put the girls in their carriers and grabbed the diaper bag. "Again, happy birthday baby and congratulations, I'm so very happy for you. I'll see you both tomorrow," Charlie said, a blush coloring his cheeks.

"Thanks, Dad. Oh, and Dad, they have a doctor's appointment tomorrow morning at 10 so could you drop them off before then?"

"No problem, Bells. Goodnight," he said as he walked off. Jake immediately pulled me back into his lap and began running his nose and lips up and down my neck.

I still felt like I was glowing and apparently, the pack could see it.

"Christ, would you two get out of here and get a room; you're infecting the whole pack with your lovey-dovey. Go enjoy your night off," Paul grumbled lightheartedly, his arm thrown over Rachel's shoulder.

"You'll hear no objection from me. Let's get outta here, Bells. See you idiots later," Jake said as he stood, taking me with him.

"Hey, dope, don't forget Bella's other gifts in your hurry to get laid," Leah said.

I moved away from Jake to pick up the two gifts and walked back to him. Jake grabbed my free hand and began to pull me quickly towards the house.

"Hey Jake, don't forget we gotta see the Cullens tomorrow," Paul shouted as we got further away from the fire.

"Fuck off, Paul," Jake yelled back. "Fucker is trying to ruin my night. Not gonna happen. The things I'm going to do to you, Bells, there isn't anything that's going to stop that."

"Oh, is that so?"

"Damn right, I'm going to devour you, honey," he promised. He picked me up and threw me over his shoulder, landing a slap to my ass with a laugh.


"Not sorry, Bella. We got less than twelve hours for me to worship this fine ass. I better get started now."

That didn't sound like a bad way to celebrate the remainder of my birthday. I was excited for the things to come.

AN: So...It's been a while. I never intended for you to have to wait this long between chapters. I am so very sorry. I'm going to explain why it's taken me so long, but that doesn't excuse the long wait. For those who read and commented over these past years thank you. For those who've stuck around waiting, thank you. It does mean so much that you love this story.

When I last posted I had gone back to finish my degree and at first I thought I could do both school and write fic. I was so very wrong. Going to school full time and writing several papers a month on top of working full time left burned me out where any free time I had, I had no desire or ability to write. I figured that I'd be able to get back to it once I was done with school. And I did. I had begun working on this chapter in the beginning of last year. Until my health to the sharpest of declines weeks later and I was diagnosed with cancer. Chemo was so physically taxing that I was unable to do most things. Writing was something I couldn't do. Chemo ate my brain and my words were hard to translate from brain to speech let alone from brain to paper. I couldn't give this story anything and I wasn't going to give you anything less than my best. So by the time I recovered from chemo and felt like I got my brain back it had been so long.

So, again, I'm sorry it's taken this ridiculous amount of time to get this to you.

But, I hope you like it as much as I do.

This chapter was beta'd by shadowinghope and it is thanks to her countless hours pushing me to write, going over plot points and character's tones of voices. She rushed to beta this so I could get it out to you.

If you liked this, let me know what you thought. I love all of your thoughts and reviews.

Hope to see you again soon.