A/N: Here you have it, folks: the last update. Thanks to everyone who read, rec'd, favorited, alerted, and reviewed. You made writing this way too much fun. Thanks again to You May Call Me Goddess – Bitch Goddess, for her mad beta skillz. Thanks to Raven's twimom for pre-reading the last four chapters and helping me clarify a few things. Thanks to Jimmy Eat World, too, for creating boy angst music by which to write.
PLEASE NOTE: Due to the most recent cull of explicit material, this chapter has been edited to more fully comply with site guidelines. You can find the unedited and probably superior version on either of the other two sites where my work is archived. Links in my bio. I know it's ridiculous. So is this site's random enforcement of rules when a bunch of people without meaning in their lives decide to mess with others' fun.
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The October sunlight that made it through the tree cover every few seconds hit Bella's arm where it lay across her stomach, making the inside of our piece of shit Lumina (decent for a rental, though) turn into a real rainbow-fest. She shifted in her sleep, muttering a little; I put my hand on her head just like I would've for Claire and shushed her, keeping one eye on the road. Just like Claire, she settled instantly. I grinned when I thought about what she would have to say if I told her she reminded me of a toddler. I'd have to try it as soon as she woke up.
My cell buzzed on the dash; I'd put it on silent when she fell asleep, again. She still wasn't all the way better, even though she could eat and move her arm with hardly any problems. The emotional price she had to pay for the fight with Victoria made her sleepy a lot, and whenever we were together—which was as much as two teenagers who had to live in separate places could manage—it was a pretty safe bet that she would conk out within minutes. Or whenever we were done banging each other's brains out, whichever came first. And, ha. Not to mention, there was probably some relief in not having any major life decisions to make any time soon.
I rolled my eyes when I saw the caller i.d. and hit "accept." "What is it, Crossing Over?"
Alice sighed. "Jacob. I looked it up. That show was canceled ages ago."
"Yeah, well, so were you." She chuckled, and I couldn't keep from smiling at the sound. Alice was actually… kind of fun. Okay, she reeked and she was bossy and she couldn't stand the way I smelled either, and didn't mind mentioning the fact, plus she kept on buying all sorts of expensive shit for Bella that I could never hope to match, but she sort of reminded me of my sisters. Besides, she really, really loved Bella, and anybody who loved Bella was on my side as far as I was concerned.
Well, almost anybody.
"I'm guessing you're in Tennessee?" she asked. "Of course, I have to use MapQuest to estimate instead of actually seeing you two."
"Yeah, I'm real sorry about that," I replied sarcastically. "We just left Nashville. And it was a bitch; the traffic there is insane but that's just because the drivers are certifiable."
"I'm sure you were fine; werewolf reflexes are almost as good as ours," she said, needling a little.
I sighed again. "Did you just call for a mile marker update, or did you actually have something to say?"
"I got your hotel room for tonight." Before I could say anything, she added in a rush, "Don't be mad. I didn't do it just for Bella. It's for both of you. Trust me; you'll be thanking me later." Pause. "At least, I'm almost positive you will be." Pause. "Maybe."
I almost told her to cancel it, but then Bella shifted again and her eyebrows went down in a little frown. She still wasn't totally comfortable at night, especially if she rolled over onto her barely-healed arm by accident, and I knew that a steady stream of Super 8s and La Quintas hadn't helped with that. "Fine. Whatever. What's it called? Where is it?"
"It's in Chattanooga—you're going through there, right? It said it was on the most direct route—"
"Yeah, we'll be there in an hour and a half."
"Oh good. And it's called The Chattanoogan." I started laughing. "I know. But it's really nice, barring the name. The address is 1201 Broad Street, and it's under Bella's name. You guys have the suite."
"1201 Broad Street. Got it. Am I supposed to say thank you now?"
She laughed again. "You can wait until tomorrow. I'll understand." She hung up without saying goodbye.
"What's so funny?" Bella asked hoarsely from her chair. Her face was flushed with sleep and her hair was matted to one side.
I grinned at her. Damn, she was cute. "Oh, hey Bells!" I didn't think I'd ever get over how awesome it was to have Bella Swan waking up next to me. "Here, do me a favor." I handed her my phone. "Type in 1201 Broad Street in Chattanooga in the navigation system."
She did it, giving a dubious glance overhead. "The satellite signal doesn't work as well when there are mountains."
"That's okay; if it doesn't work we can just ask for directions when we get there. And these things are, like, barely mountains. Back home we'd call them foothills."
"Yeah, that's true. Is Chattanooga with one 'g' or two?"
"See if it auto-fills the field."
"Oh, yeah, that did it for me. So why do we need directions there?"
"That's the hotel for tonight."
She yawned and ran her fingers through her hair. "We'll be stopping pretty early; it's only four."
"That's okay. You don't need to be sleeping in the car anymore, and it's not like we're in a hurry since we don't have to meet your mom." I reached to caress her face. "You can take it easy, honey. There's no schedule here, right? Just, 'make it to Jacksonville sometime.'"
"Well, I have to start my new job in November," she said, with a little smile teasing the corners of her mouth as she leaned into my hand.
"Okay; we'll make sure to get back within a month," I laughed.
She twisted to rifle around in the pile on the floor in the backseat. "Which is about when this beef jerky will run out. I can't believe you bought this much. Which do you want, regular or teriyaki?" She didn't bother asking if I was hungry; the answer to that question was a given.
By the time we'd run through two packs and played the alphabet game all the way to "z" three times, I was pulling up in the driveway of the hotel, which was hella huge.
"Um. Jacob? I think we took a wrong turn, there was a Motel 6 a few miles back—"
"Yeah." I blew out yet another sigh—dealing with Alice tried my patience as much as dealing with my sisters, that much was the same—craning my neck to look up at the arched overhangs and then forward to all the Mercedes and BMWs in the valet line. "This is where we're staying tonight."
She giggled, still not getting it, until I turned my face in her direction and she stopped, and then rolled her eyes. "Alice."
"Crap. I hope I have enough bills for tips." She started digging around in her purse. I popped the trunk and grabbed our bags.
Once we walked into our room, I made a mental note. Thank Alice. The place had more square footage than our house on the rez. I kicked off my flip-flops and looked around.
"Oh my God!" Bella dropped her suitcase and ran to the window. "Look at this view!"
"Look at this TV!" I exulted, picking up the remote and turning it on.
"Jacob!" She turned and glared.
I started and clicked it off again. "Sorry, sorry. Yeah, wow, look at that view. It's a mountain. It's, um, fall-ish."
"You have to admit the colors are way better here. I've never seen autumn leaves like this before except in pictures." She plastered herself to the window, acting like she'd also never seen trees before. Or traffic, which was backed up on the street in front of the hotel grounds.
I picked up the amenities folder and flipped through it. "Hey, indoor pool! We should go."
She sent me a glance over her shoulder, and all my blood shot straight to my groin when I saw the gleam in her eye. "You just like to get me wet any chance you have," she teased, all low-pitched and croony. (I hadn't told her I called that tone her Sexy!Voice in my head. Yet. It was the sort of confession that needed the right timing.) Who knew quiet, thoughtful Bella Swan would turn out to love sex as much as I did? Well, nearly as much. She couldn't beat a sixteen-year-old werewolf guy in that category.
"Well, yeah, honey, that's pretty much—" I stopped because she had turned around and was leaning back against the window, undoing her shirt buttons with one hand while slipping the thumb of the other underneath the waistband of her jeans and pulling down a little. Fuck, yeah. Another werewolf perk: I could smell how turned on she got, and she got turned on around me a lot, which was a fantastic ego booster along with being the best kind of distraction. "My mission in life," I managed to finish, but it came out strangled.
"Mission accomplished," she answered, shrugging out of her shirt and oh my God how much did I love that she didn't bother to wear a bra anymore when she knew it was just going to be the two of us? "Why are you still standing there?"
"The curtains are open," I pointed out, ripping off my shirt and stepping out of my shorts. Now if she wanted me to do her against the window…
But no. "Oh. Right." She sauntered away from the glass and sat on the edge of the bed, then lay back with her feet still on the floor, still messing with her jeans button. "God, this bed is really nice."
Okay, enough teasing. It had been… I did some quick calculating… nearly nine hours since the last time we'd done it. That was forever. I yanked her jeans down—she gasped—picked her up, tossing her onto the middle of the mattress—she shrieked—and threw myself on top of her, kissing her lips first because it seemed rude not to at least visit them once—she stuck her tongue in my mouth and raked her fingernails down my back.
The fingernails of one hand, that is.
She was still really self-conscious about the scarred hand—that was what we called it, when we talked about it, which I tried not to do because she ended up walking around with it pressed against her back for hours afterward every time it came up. If she hadn't been so embarrassed about it, I could have told her about the dozen or so nicknames the guys and Leah had come up with for the effect, but I was afraid she'd never set foot on the rez again if she knew, so I kept it to myself even though sometimes it was really damn hard.
I decided to let it go for the moment, and flopped down on my back, which was now her favorite position. She shook her head when I tried to pull her over me, though, and said, "No. I want, um, like that one time? In the garage?"
"Which one time?" I asked, trying not to laugh as she turned pinker. "There've been a lot of one times, honey." Yeah, she loved sex, but she was still adorably shy about asking for what she wanted.
"You… behind me," she said in a quick, squeaky rush. "Please?"
We collapsed on the bed facedown next to each other, panting and gasping. After a second, I could wheeze out, "Holy shit. I think the top of my head just blew off."
"Is that a double entendre?" she wanted to know. Her voice was muffled by the mattress; I could tell by the way her shoulders had gone limp that she was halfway asleep already.
"I think it might be," I said, running my fingers up and down her backbone. "Hold on." I padded to the bathroom and grabbed a hand towel, and then brought it back to clean us both up. When that was done, I lay on my back and pulled her closer. She flinched and cringed away, tucking the arm closest to me under her stomach. Oh, right. The scar thing. "Hey. Why are you hiding this from me?" I asked, gently tugging at it. "I know it's here. You're not fooling me."
My teasing didn't get any laughter from her. I quit smiling.
"Bells?" She still didn't respond. I pushed her shoulder. "Hey, honey. Tell me what's wrong."
She started speaking and stopped about half a dozen times. Finally, she mumbled, "I have a piece of me that's your mortal enemy. I hate that." She turned her head and looked up at me.
"Oh." I thought about it. "Okay. I get that. But honestly, honey, it's kind of what I bargained on."
She rolled onto her side and propped her head up with one hand. "What do you mean? There's no way you thought that someday I'd be part vampire."
"Just… I knew that if you ever did choose me, you would still have a part of your heart that didn't belong to me. Part of you is always going to be his, right?"
She frowned. "No. I don't choose to give him any part of me."
I traced the fingers of her scarred hand with my own. "Sometimes it chooses you. I think we both can understand that. This?" I tapped the back of her wrist. "Just more of the same. It's what I counted on. It's what I expected. I'm fine with it. You're ninety-nine percent mine because you want to be, right?" She nodded, brown eyes big and soft. God I loved her. "Then that's okay. I can deal with one percent." Mine, the wolf growled, but I fought it down. I was human first, and that son of a bitch didn't get to make her upset.
"You're so cool," she said, raking her fingers through my hair with a smile. "I can't believe you're mine."
"I can't believe you're mine, either," I said, leaning to kiss her.
When I pulled back, she was frowning again, a little. "I just wish it wasn't a part of my body I use so much. It feels wrong to have it be so obvious to people who know, without anything that says, 'hey, I'm a wolf girl too.'"
"At least she didn't bite your boob or your ass or something," I joked. "Now that would be upsetting." She gave me an oh, please look. "Actually, I might have something that'll help." At least, I hoped so. I hoped it wouldn't be too… whatever. "It's your graduation present."
"I kind of thought you sleeping with me was my present. That and saving my life," she teased, and I felt some of the tension drain out of me. When she was upset, it affected my body almost as much as hers.
"Nah, those were presents for me." I jumped up and started going through my duffle bag. When I found the little bag, I presented it with a flourish, which probably looked pretty funny considering I was still stark naked. "Here. Good job on finishing school even though you had a bunch of crazy magical shit going on. You rock."
Bella sat up, cross-legged, which was going to make me ready for round two really damn fast, and gently tugged on the drawstrings of the bag. She was still figuring out the amount of force to put behind everyday tasks with the new hand. Finally, she pulled out the silver bracelet and cooed, "Oooh. Oh, Jake."
Her whole face had lit up, so I figured she liked it. She brought the tiny carved wolf to her eye level. "It's amazing. Did you make this?"
"Yeah, of course." I reached to take it from her; when she handed it over, I clasped it around the scarred arm. "There. Now you're a wolf girl all around."
She shook it on her wrist and smiled. "This makes me feel so much better."
I sat down next to her. "Yeah, it's not a four-star hotel room or anything, but…"
I was just joking—well, mostly—but she frowned again. "So?"
Shit. She wasn't going to let it drop; I could tell by the angle of her chin. "You know. You could have had four-star hotels every night if you'd wanted. You could have bought yourself a Goddamn Mercedes for graduation. You could've…"
"Jake," she interrupted, crawling into my lap. I wrapped my arms around her and rearranged her legs to make sure my balls didn't get crushed accidentally. "I know all that. I also know what I can't live without, and that's you. You're my addiction, Wolfboy, remember? I'll take road trips, beef jerky, and hand carved wolf charms over first class tickets, gourmet dinners, and diamonds any day if it means I can take you, too. You're worth way more than any of that other stuff. Plus, I prefer the simpler things. They're more my speed, as long as I've got you."
"You've got me." I kissed her; she made her happy mm noise and wrapped her arms around my neck.
There was a knock at the door. Bella pulled away, looking confused. "Somebody must have the wrong room." She grabbed her ratty terrycloth bathrobe out of her bag—I'd given her so much shit for owning that thing that it was a miracle she hadn't wrapped it around my neck to strangle me with it—and covered herself, then cracked open the door a little. "Hi?"
"We're here for the couples treatment?" a voice on the other side of the door. I didn't know what that was about, but I figured I'd better put on my shorts at least.
Bella opened the door a little wider, and started giggling. "Okay, here's the thing," she said to the white-smocked lady standing on the other side of the door. "I'm okay with this, although I'm guessing it was ordered by a friend of ours. But if you want it to be a couples thing, you're going to have to do something difficult. Maybe even a little dangerous."
"What's that, sweetheart?" the lady asked with a smile.
"You're going to have to explain what you do with that avocado mask…" Bella stepped back, waving to me. "To him."
The smock-lady's eyes widened as she caught sight of me. That was normal, even though I still wasn't used to it. Bella still chuckled next to the door, and I shot her a dirty look, but there was no real force behind it, because it had occurred to me that this was going to be the way things were, for the rest of our lives. Interfering, well-meaning (and not-so-well-meaning) vampires, people's stares, the balancing act between the wolf-me and the human-me, road trips, tons of things out of my control, and Bella, laughing in the middle of everything because she was so happy just to be with me.
Her laughter faded as I kept on looking at her, and her eyes softened. "Jake? Do you want this?"
I grinned at her and answered without thinking twice. "Yeah. This is what I want."