I shivered. And not in a good way.
"You're cold," I shrugged his skinny, pale, chilly arm off from around my shoulders. I could see the surprised, hurt expression on his face in my peripheral vision. I had never shirked from Edward's embrace before, no matter how uncomfortable it sometimes made me. And, I admitted to myself for the first time ever, sometimes it made me very uncomfortable. Not always. But usually, I conceded. There were the rare steamy, humid nights that occurred occasionally during the summer months when his body temperature was a welcome relief to the heat. But for the most part, I hadn't had a deep, satisfying night of sleep since I'd been in Forks.
In the beginning, before Edward shared my bed with me every night there had to be some part of my subconscious that was aware that there was someone standing over me, watching my every blink, twitch and turn as I tried to sleep; because I had never talked in my sleep in my life before. Never. I even asked Rene. She told me I always slept like the dead. I know right? Ironic choice of words there mom. She said ever since I was a baby, I was the soundest sleeper she'd ever met. And that's saying something for Rene; for a brief window of time before she met Phil, she'd slept with a lot of people. But I digress.
The point is, Edward's presence from the beginning has not been good for my nocturnal peace. And if I had not spent the last night freezing my butt off, and Jacob had not insisted on thawing me out, and if Edward had not had a fit of jealousy which erupted in a vampiric sexual frenzy which resulted in him almost choking me and him getting thrown out of the tent and my best friend making love to me, which by the way is now number one on my list of Best Nights Ever, I would never have remembered the peace which came from a deep rejuvenating slumber.
"Are you alright love? You're so quiet." His hand started to reach for my arm comfortingly and stopped midway, pulling back uncertainly.
Something had changed. Something had definitely changed. The air was charged with a heavy uncomfortableness. It was my fault; I had never let myself question what it could be like with anyone but Edward. I prided myself on being loyal and taking care not to hurt other people's feelings. But what about my feelings? I couldn't help it if my mind had been comparing my boyfriend to my best friend all morning long. I couldn't help it I now knew how much I craved the protective feel of broad shouldered, thick muscular arms around me; the strength of tall, dark, smiling, cocky, annoying yet adorable and loyal…..Jacob.
"Why didn't you ever tell me before about being a virgin forever when I became like you?" Even I could hear the undertone of hostility in my voice. I wasn't trying to start a fight, but dammit, it was important and he had kept it from me!
I could tell the question took him by surprise and he was still uncomfortable talking about it.
"I'm sorry Bella, truly I am. I should have told you sooner. But graduation snuck up on me quicker than I expected, and you weren't backing down, and I knew I couldn't stall you for much longer. And Bella, I shouldn't have thrown it out there to you like I did last night…..that was wrong. I'm so sorry. For all of last night. All of it." His voice sounded so broken by the time he reached the last sentence.
"So are you saying you shouldn't have told me at all? Because when would you think was a convenient time Edward? As your teeth were getting ready to rip my throat open and inject their venom? Oh, by the way Bella, you're gonna be a virgin forever; whoops, forgot to mention that?"
"No! No, of course not," he said defensively. "I would have told you when we were alone. I would have understood if you wanted the dog to help you solve the problem, but I never should have….handed him you on a silver platter like that."
I didn't know what to say. I did feel bad that he had to be so privy to Jacob "solving the problem" as he put it. I tried not to think too much about Jacob "solving the problem" either; every time I did a coiled heat spread in my lower belly. And that wasn't helpful at all right now.
I let out a quick gasp as a question suddenly occurred to me. "Are Rosalie and Alice or Esme virgins?" The thought of Alice and Esme, and even Rosalie who wasn't one of my favorite people stuck in eternal virginal hell was horrifying.
A flicker of a smile appeared on his flawless features before he answered solemnly. "No. Remember Rosalie was raped by her fiancé and his friends before….Carlisle found her. And Alice has no recollection of losing her virginity, but apparently something happened in the asylum she was in because she uh, she's not one either. And Esme was married briefly before, so no."
We were both silent for a time, lost in our own thoughts. Poor Alice, so much of her human life lost to her. It was probably just as well, it didn't seem that it had been a pleasant life. Of all of the Cullens, she and Emmett seemed to be the least tortured and most adjusted to vampire life.
I glanced over at Edward and found him gazing at me with intense, burning eyes. He hesitantly took my face in his hands and locked his amber stare with my own chocolate brown one.
"I so wanted it to be me Bella."
"I know," I lied.
Did he? Did he really? I had asked him, no begged him on so many occasions to try. And he always refused. Always had some excuse, some reason to put it off. Always ready with some stipulation to turn it into a compromise. I shouldn't have to barter to make love with the man I love. This wasn't a Chinese marketplace. No, he could kid himself, but not me. Not anymore. Jacob had had no qualms, no hesitancy, no reluctance whatsoever. He'd wanted me; he'd lost himself in me. Easily and with no regrets.
I was beginning to see the error of my ways and the blindness in the choices I was making. What a mess I'd made. Is that what it took to make me see? Getting laid? No, I was trying to be blasé, act like it was no big deal. But it was. It's not like last night had been an unimportant one night stand. Last night had been one of the most significant moments in my life. I had allowed myself to follow my heart and do what felt right to me. Granted, it had been very strange circumstances and not how I would have ever expected it to happen. But if I was honest with myself, it was bound to happen eventually. It was the natural path my life wanted to take; I was just so busy fighting it tooth and nail. And now that it had happened, everything was so clear to me. Isabella Swan finally knew exactly what she wanted. Hallelujah!
This was not going to be easy.
"Edward," my voice was weak and came out in only a whisper. I saw the look of resigned despair on his face. Oh god, he knew. All this time I was the only one whose thoughts were a mystery to him; he'd never been good at reading people's expressions and body language as a result of having it laid out to him with his mind-reading talents. But my feelings must be so obvious this morning that even he can see it.
"I know," he nodded his head sadly, lifting his finger and pressing it gently against my lips, hoping that would be enough to stop me from saying the words out loud.
I heard a scuttling sound outside the tent.
"Seth's here," he whispered. "They want us to meet them. The battle is finishing up."
The conversation was over for now. I nodded and grabbed a jacket before we headed out to follow Seth and meet the others.
Little did I know at that moment that the battle was not quite over and things were just getting out of hand. We were swept up in the climax of the fight. My vampire defeated Victoria and Riley all on his own and Jacob ended up with horrifying injuries to over half his body. But we had won and no one I cared about was killed.
I spent the next few weeks in La Push, helping to nurse my proud, stubborn werewolf back to health. Weeks in La Push turned to months and eventually to years. Bella Swan may be stubborn too, and slow to know what's best for her, but I usually figure it out given enough time and some gentle, okay persistant, prodding from my Jacob.
I visited with Edward and the Cullens over those first few months and though I decided my destiny was elsewhere, I would always love them. Edward never questioned my choice and even pretended to be happy for me. I knew better, but hoped that one day he would find joy in his life. But I knew he needed to find it within himself first before he could share it with anyone else. They left the autumn of that same year and I never saw them again.
I still think of them. Especially on cold, foggy nights when I'm cuddled warm in my bed with my big hot space heater and my two little mini heaters on either side. And I smile fondly and sigh in happy contentment.