A/N: Here we are...everything will be said at the bottom- see ya there!
The days turned into weeks and before I knew it, several weeks had passed since our return from Italy and things were feeling normal. The furor over my returning at school had died down and now it was like I had never left. Even the images that I would be bombarded with slowly began to fade into nothingness. For that I was greatly relieved. It was becoming harder to keep an impassive face and I worried that Bella would notice.
At home, things were as normal as we ever were. Since I had spoken to each of my family members, the tension and anxiety had dissipated. Now we were back to Emmett's crude jokes and Rose's indifference. I joined Jasper and Carlisle in discussions and I helped Esme in the garden. But most importantly, I had my Alice back. Once again we were us- the freak twins. It felt right, it was perfect.
Even things with Bella were better. After a while Charlie relented a bit, and now I had visitation hours outside of school. Bella was thrilled when her father did that, as was I. Although, I think if Bella knew what her father would grumble or think, she would be less than pleased with Charlie. Instead of the horrifying images of what she was like when I was gone, he now concocted various ways to murder me and hide the body. My personal favorite was the chain saw and scattering my remains in various parts of the forest. That was an inventive idea.
The only glitch I could find was Bella's pre-occupation with Jacob. Jacob the werewolf. She had explained his role in her life and I understood her feelings of gratitude. But the vampire and eternal teenage boy in me was possessive and saw no need for her to concern herself with him. I was here now, I would protect her, and I would make her smile. All the things he did for her, I could do now. Plus, the fact that he was a young, impulsive werewolf was a huge factor. It was the one thing I think Bella didn't comprehended. To her, he was Jacob, her friend.
I tried to put him out of my mind as I focused more on the short time we would have together after I picked her up from work. The few hours we were forced apart by Charlie's rules were hard. After being away from her for so long, I craved her. When I was without her, I was anxious, moody and impossible. It was getting better, but still, I had a hard time with it. Bella did as well. While she wouldn't admit it, part of her still worried I would leave again. I knew time would be the only thing that would show her I was unable to leave her again.
I pulled up in front of Newton's and waited for Bella to finish her shift. We would have about two hours before I would need to leave until after Charlie was asleep. Minutes later Bella was flying out of Newton's and into my car trying to stay as dry as possible since the rain was picking up.
Instantly my car filled with her tantalizing aroma and I inhaled deeply while smiling at her. She smiled in returned and we both leaned in for a small chaste kiss. I nuzzled her neck, and placed feather soft kisses on her neck and jaw line. The rain made her smell so good.
"I missed you, love. Good day at work?" I listened as her heart sped up and her breathing became erratic. I loved knowing I could cause these reactions in her.
"Hmm, yes?" she replied. I chuckled as it seemed more like a question than an answer.
"Let's get you home." I pulled out into the street and made my way to her house. The ride was mostly silent and that was fine with me.
I had gone less than a few blocks when she erupted. "It's just plain rude! Billy said he didn't want to talk to me." She glared out the window. "That he was there, and wouldn't walk the three steps to get to the phone! Usually Billy just says he's out or busy or sleeping or something. I mean, it's not like I didn't know he was lying to me, but at least it was a polite way to handle it. I guess Billy hates me now, too. It's not fair!"
She was adorable in all her tiger-kitten fury. But I knew this bothered her. The fact that she would take it as a personal front on herself, well, that was too much.
"It's not you, Bella. Nobody hates you." I spoke quietly, still stunned that she felt that way.
"Feels that way," she muttered and folding her arms across her chest looking mightily frustrated. I had to try and make her see it wasn't her they were against, but that it was me and since she is with me, they were shutting her out.
"Jacob knows we're back, and I'm sure that he's ascertained that I'm with you. He won't come anywhere near me. The enmity is rooted too deeply."
"That's stupid," she retorted while rolling her eyes. "He knows you're not…like other vampires."
"There's still good reason to keep a safe distance." I reminded her softly.
She continued to stare out the window. I cursed Jacob for the hundredth time, for this strange hold he had on her even thought she hasn't seen or talked to him since we had been back. But in the same breath I had to curse myself; my leaving made this thing between them happen. This was one consequence I never considered and I was at a loss on how to deal with it.
Seeing that she wasn't going to speak, I tried to explain, yet again. "Bella, we are what we are. I can control myself, but I doubt he can. He's very young. It would most likely turn into a fight, and I don't know if I could stop it before I k-" I needed to say something else. "Before I hurt him. You would be unhappy. I don't want that to happen."
Only for her happiness would I be tolerating the idea of leaving him alive. But just the idea of her in the vicinity of a young wolf made me so anxious and scared, I couldn't stomach it. Now that I had her, I needed to keep her safe. She was quiet for a few moments before she choked out a whisper.
"Edward Cullen, were you about to say 'killed him'? Were you?"
I couldn't look at her, because that was what I was going to say. I meant it. If he tried anything with Bella, or if a fight broke out, I would most likely have to kill him. I knew that Jacob would be gunning for the same thing. The light turned green, so I continued driving.
"I would try…very hard…not to do that." I hated making the promise when there was a very real possibility that I would have to break it, but it was the best I could do to placate her and not lie to her. I could see that she was staring at me, her mouth wide open in astonishment at my statement.
We both were looking out the window now, the rain was slowing down to a light drizzle. I hoped it would end by the time Bella went to sleep, she hated when I had to wait for my clothes to dry before I climb onto her bed.
"Well," she began slowly, "nothing like that is ever going to happen, so there's no reason to worry about it. And you know Charlie's staring at the clock right now. You'd better get me home before I get in more trouble for being late."
She was right and so I sped up a little more. She turned to face me again to give me a half smile. The idea of me hurting Jacob was still in her mind. I wondered if she worried that he could hurt me as well.
As we rounded the corner to her street, I froze. This was not good and I feared it would not end well. The moment Bella realized something was wrong, she froze as well and I knew it was only seconds before she demanded to know what was going on.
"You're already in more trouble, Bella." I was barely able whisper it out through tight lips. She moved closer trying to see what I was seeing. There was a slight fearful and panicked look in her eyes.
"What? What is it?"
"Charlie," I breathed through a noisy exhale of air. I looked at her to try and calm some of the anxiety I saw in her eyes; I let her see it wasn't something extremely bad, but just bad enough.
"Charlie…is probably not going to kill you, but he's thinking about it." I continued to drive and went past her house and went to grouping of trees that was a few feet from her house.
"What did I do?" she gasped. In answer all I could do was glance back at her house. I watched as she looked where I was looking and I saw the range of emotions that passed through her. When she saw the red motorcycle parked in her driveway, there was confusion, then hurt, anger and betrayal. She knew, like I did, there was only one person who would have brought the bike to her house.
"No!," she cried. "Why? Why would Jacob do this to me?" The look of pain on her face angered me. He shouldn't be able to cause her this pain, the agony I saw. How could I protect her against this, against him, when there was a connection between them? The knowledge that I couldn't made me want to hurt him, to eliminate the threat he represents to her happiness. But I knew his death would cause her pain as well. So I was left with a feeling of my hands being tied.
My heart sank more when I saw her eyes glisten with unshed tears. I had to focus on not showing my extreme displeasure at the things that were happening.
"Is he still here?" she spat out, anger narrowing her eyes into slits.
"Yes. He's waiting for us there." I nodded towards the forest edge where he had been waiting, his frantic thoughts being broadcasted to me loudly.
Frantically she threw herself out of the car and flew towards him. In a flash I was by her side, holding her tight to me.
"Let me go! I'm going to murder him! Traitor!" she screamed at Jacob's direction. His body was shaking with unvented frustration and fury. It was nice to see she was a tiger-kitten with more than just me. But I knew I needed to get things calmed down. Charlie was in the house, pacing, livid that Bella had been riding a motorcycle. Then there was Jacob in the forest also pacing and trying to go through what he wanted to say to me.
"Charlie will hear you," I reminded her. "And once he gets you inside, he may brick over the doorway."
She looked over to her house. I knew she worried about Charlie and what he would be thinking and imagining. If I could appeal to her need to take care of her dad we may get out away from Jacob sooner rather than later. But my hopes were dashed when she spun back towards Jacob.
"Just give me one round with Jacob, and then I'll deal with Charlie." I knew she would never be able to inflict any injury on Jacob, but if she were to ask me… Her struggles broke my musings.
"Jacob Black wants to see me. That's why he's still here." She instantly stopped struggling, she was almost completely limp.
"Talk?" she asked.
"More or less."
"How much more?" Her voice was shaky; looking at her I saw concern and worry mixed with a bit of fear. Strangely, I knew it was for me that she felt that way; she was concerned over my well being. It was nice to see this, even if it was unnecessary. Still the sentiment meant a lot to me.
"Don't worry," I told her as I brushed her hair back. "He's not here to fight me. He's acting as…spokesperson for the pack."
I looked back at the house, Charlie knew we were here and was trying to be patient. We had some time before her curfew started. Knowing we needed to get this out of the way I explained, "We should hurry. Charlie's getting impatient." I tightened my hold on her waist and maneuvered her towards the woods.
Jacob watched us as we drew closer. His eyes zeroed on my hold on her waist and part of him was repulsed while another part of him felt…a longing of some kind. He noticed that I was looking at him and his face turned hard and bitter. I had a suspicion that Jacob may have more than friendly feelings towards Bella. My possessive side reared its ugly head and the need to protect what is mine flared.
Once I felt we were sufficiently close enough I stopped and drew Bella closer to me. I moved so that I was mostly in front of her, shielding her from any potential harm. Bella peered around me to glare at Jacob. Jacob was steadily looking at me. His thoughts were more frantic as he watched me.
He has his hands on her. How could she allow that? After all he did? Stupid bloodsuckers. Have to keep calm.
Bella regarded him quietly. I could see that her eyes were searching him for something, and it bothered me. I saw her concern and worry over him and it didn't take long for the anger she once felt too slowly start to fade away.
"Bella," he stated and was able to nod at her, but he never once took his eyes off me and my hands that were resting on Bella waist.
"Why," she whispered her voice full of raw emotion. "How could you do this to me, Jacob?"
The angry sneer he sported from the beginning slid away, but his eyes were still hard and rigid. "It's for the best."
Those were the wrong words to say to Bella. She hated when someone tried to do things for her. "What is that supposed to mean? Do you want Charlie to strangle me? Or did you want him to have a heart attack, like Harry? No matter how made you are at me, how could you do this to him?"
That hit Jacob hard. I didn't think about it like that. I had to do something, anything to get her away from him. All I was hoping for was her being grounded.
Hmm, so that was his motivation. "He didn't want to hurt anyone- he just wanted to get you grounded, so that you wouldn't be allowed to spend time with me," I explained.
The fact that I told her what was on his mind made Jacob glower hatefully at me. Filthy bloodsucker, shut up!
"Aw, Jake! I'm already grounded! Why do you think I haven't been down to La Push to kick your butt for avoiding my phone calls?"
I couldn't help but notice his eyes as they flashed to me. It's wasn't him blocking her? "That's why?" From his thoughts I could see that he wasn't quite able to believe it.
"He thought I wouldn't let you, not Charlie," I told her.
"Stop that," he growled. Stay out of my head!
I remained quiet while a shudder of anger ripped through him. I must stay calm, I can't phase.
"Bella wasn't exaggerating about you…abilities." His fists clenched reflexively, his face a hard mask of anger. "So you must already know why I'm here." You and your family are bound by that treaty, don't you forget that. All points of it!
"Yes," I told him. Suddenly I needed to express my thanks to him. "But, before you begin, I need to say something." I gave him a few moments to respond. He didn't, but instead he tried to calm down and clear his mind. He was failing on both accounts.
"Thank you," I began, "I will never be able to tell you how grateful I am. I will owe you for the rest of my…existence." Each word was said with sincerity and honesty. I was grateful for his help with Bella.
Jacob continued to stare at me, the words having little effect on him. I could sense that Bella was confused by me as well and I hastily went on to explain.
"For keeping Bella alive, when I…didn't"
"Edward," interrupted Bella but I held a hand up to ask her for a moment to finish. As I spoke I kept my eyes on Jacob. I wanted him to see that I meant every word I said.
"I didn't do it for your benefit," he finally spat out when he realized what I was saying.
"I know. But that doesn't erase the gratitude I feel. I thought you should know. If there's ever anything in my power to do for you…"
Leave her; give her a chance to live. Stay away from Bella.
I shook my head. Of course he would ask for the one thing I couldn't grant him. "That's not in my power." It was true, Bella held my fate, my very life in her hands.
"Whose, then?" He growled out.
Looking at Bella, my reason for everything, "Hers. I'm a quick learner Jacob Black, and I don't make the same mistake twice. I'm here until she orders me away."
For a few seconds we simply looked at each other, warm pools of brown and molten gold. With our eyes we both said how much we loved each other, how much we needed each other. We could have it no other way.
"Never," she finally whispered, never looking away.
Jacob gagged at us. He's got some hold on her. Bella, please see that. I chose to ignore his desperate internal plea. He was unable to understand the depth of our feelings for each other.
Reluctantly she tore herself away from my gaze and stared at Jacob. "Was there something else you needed, Jacob? You wanted me in trouble- mission accomplished. Charlie might just send me to military school. But that won't keep me away from Edward. There's nothing that can do that. What more do you want?"
He looked way from her unable to face the honesty he saw in her words. Staring at me, he got to the whole reason why he was here. "I just needed to remind your bloodsucking friends of a few key points in the treaty they agreed to. The treaty that is the only thing stopping me from ripping his throat out right this minute." I wanted to see him try, but Bella was near and her safety was my first priority.
"We haven't forgotten," I replied, while Bella asked, "What key points?" at the same time.
This should be interesting. Jacob glowered at me, but I saw the hint of a smirk.
"The treaty is quite specific. If any of them bite a human, the truce id over. Bite, not kill," he emphasized. He looked at Bella to see if she understood. I knew that she would, but her reaction surprised me.
"That's none of your business." Her voice was cold and flat.
"The hell it-" he choked on the rest of his reply. She can't be serious? There is no way I'll let it happen. His thoughts became more chaotic and panicky at the thought of Bella becoming like me. Little did he realize that I was just as opposed to the idea as he was.
We both watched as his body began shaking, a slight shimmer was around him. He threw his hands to his eyes in an attempt to focus. His body curled inward and I was worried he was seconds from phasing. My eyes scanned the vicinity, looking for ways to escape, calculating all the options.
"Jake? You okay?" asked Bella, worry thick in her voice. She tried to take a step towards him. Reflexively I grabbed her and pulled her close to me.
"Careful! He's not under control," I warned.
By now Jacob was back to standing erect and the shaking was reduced to just his arms. His face was a fierce mask of concentration and revulsion at my words. "Ugh. I would never hurt her."
I knew what he was insinuation and before I was able to respond, Charlie screamed out.
"BELLA! YOU GET IN THIS HOUSE THIS INSTANT!" We all froze.
Damn, Charlie is really pissed. I didn't think he would get this upset. I wanted to shake my head at Jacob's naivety.
"Crap," came Bella's upset reply. She looked torn, her gaze going from Jacob to her house where Charlie was pacing furiously. I could see she had much more to say to Jacob, but knew she had little time to do it in.
Jacob was the first to break, his face slipping into one of concern, "I am sorry about that. I had to do what I could- I had to try…"
"Thanks," was Bella's less that sarcastic reply. She looked over at the house; I wondered if she was worried that Charlie would come charging out soon.
Before we left, there was one more thing I needed to check out. "Just one more thing. We've found no trace of Victoria on our side of the line- have you?"
No, but we are prepared for her; she won't escape us for long. Leave her to us.
"The last time was while Bella was…away. We let her think she was slipping through- we were tightening the circle, getting ready to ambush her, but then she took off like a bat out of hell. Near as we can tell, she caught your little female's scent and bailed. She hasn't come near our lands since."
I nodded, it sounded like Victoria. She was extremely elusive and cunning. I was beginning to think that she was too much for the wolves to handle.
"When she comes back, she's not your problem anymore. We'll-"
"She killed on our turf. She's ours!" Hissed Jacob, his hands once again curled into fists.
"No-," protested Bella.
"BELLA! I SEE HIS CAR AND I KNOW YOU'RE OUT THERE! IF YOU AREN'T INSIDE THIS HOUSE IN ONE MINUTE…!" The threat hung there in the air. Neither Bella nor I wanted him to finish that. He had just allowed me to come over for a few hours after school and I knew we didn't want him to revoke his permission.
"Let's go," I urged her.
She glanced at Jacob who now looked contrite and sad, "Sorry," he whispered. "Bye, Bells."
"You promised," she reminded him and I wondered what promises they made to each other while I was gone. "Still friends, right?"
He slowly shook his head, "You know how hard I've tried to keep that promise, but…I can't see how to keep trying. Not now…" Not with him in your life, I just can't do it. "Miss you," he mouthed, but it was clear as day to me. He reached out, as if he wanted to touch her. I was conflicted. I didn't want him to phase and hurt her, but I knew how much Bella missed him.
"Me too," she choked out and reached out for him as well. My heart broke all over again. In front of me was proof of the hold that he had on her and how much it affected her. Fear that I wasn't going to be enough for Bella consumed me.
"Jake…" she stumbled a few half steps towards him.
I reacted instinctively; I pulled her back and held her hands down. My need to keep her safe overrode any other desires and needs I had. In the presence of my enemy, I needed her to be safe.
"It's okay," she softly told me. Her eyes looked at me, asking me to understand and trust her. What she didn't know what that I did trust and understand her, but it was Jacob that I didn't trust.
"No, it's not." I left no room for discussions on this matter.
"Let her go," snapped Jacob. "She wants to!" You can bear to see her want me as well, can you?
That wasn't my concern, but it would do no good to explain that to him. As long as she wanted me to be in her life, I knew she would want me over him. I was simply concerned for her safety. I watched as a predatory glint flashed in his eyes, he was looking for a fight. I wouldn't allow him the satisfaction of that, not now, not with Bella watching. I pushed her behind me and faced him squarely, but that didn't mean I wasn't ready to defend.
"No! Edward-!" was Bella's plea.
"Come on! Charlie's mad!" Bella was beginning to panic and she tried to pull me closer to the house. "Hurry!" She continued to tug and after a few seconds, I relaxed enough to step back.
I never took my eyes off Jacob and I watched as he regarded Bella. It shook him how she was begging me to move and to go; he saw the fear in her eyes and the worry she felt for me. Just then, pain and sadness filled his face. It was then he realized that she may always choose me over him.
I made sure my arm was securely around Bella, letting her warmth comfort me and remind me that I can't act rashly or without provocation. Her safety and happiness meant more to me than proving to a young pup that I would always be here for Bella.
Slowly we inched our way out of the forest and into the yard of the house. We rounded the corner and we both glanced at Charlie glaring out at us. His thoughts were tangled and furious and I was unable to discern anything from them. We still had one more battle to face and Bella knew that.
"I'm here." Gently I squeezed her waist and I felt her answering reply.
Together we would face Charlie, it was only but one of the many challenges that were going to have to face, but now we would do them together, as a team, as partners- it was the way it would always be.
A/N: Ohh Goodness... I have soo much to say and so I hope you give me some laditude- ok?
First- to all my readers- ALL OF THEM- the lurkers, the faithful reviewers, the anonymous reviewers- you guys rocked my socks off. I never thought that there would be so many people who wanted to read my story- but you did and it blew me away!
To: Sarah, Dino and Liz- my crew out in RL- OMG- your encouragement and support mean everything! Dino- all the times you helped me go outside the box and pushed me to explain better- kisses and hugs.
PisceanPal23- girl..what can I say that wont make me cry? You took a chance on a newbie writer and you made this experience one that I will NEVER regret-even with all the crazy ups and down and all my nagging.. we stuck it out. Chapter 20 wouldn't have been the same without you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart- you were an awesome beta.
Ahhh to all my anonymous reviewers: Pat M, Emery, Bella and Yvonne W- How I wish I could had responded to your reviews...to tell you they made me smile and feel down right giddy!
To all those faithful reviewers:
Louisvuittonfreak, BepthanioseXD, Carinelautner, Lionnara, DubsDoll, 2brown-eyes: You guys rocked my world.. I looked forward to your reviews and noticed when they didn't happen.
To P88, Sholtsclaw698, Ecullensgurl and kimboACP: UGH- how can I tell you how much your encouragement and excitement for my story meant? It did, it always will.. I will remember it! THANKS!
Ahh Mineola- my reader, my stalker and now the gum on my shoe- I'm not crying soo you better not be either.. this is not goodbye...right.. your words and encouragement made me smile and I know I have not see the last!
CullensTwiMistress- hmmm my lady, my homegirl.. my friend...thanks...see you on the flip side!
As for what is next for me- LOTS!
Me and CullensTwiMistress will be undertaking a great adventure. We will have an Edward so dark and obsessive, it will knock your socks off! We will be writing under: Darkwards Mistresses- ID# 2914784- put us on alert so you can get our story!
As for me: I have The Mating Connection, which will be getting a lot of my attention! Come follow me there. I also have 2 stories I am hatching: one is twist on Twilight- Edward gets Twilight before Bella arrives and is told to change his destiny- but will he? That one is tentively titled: Now That I Know. Lastly- I have a all human story in the early stages- its all about those little moments in our lives that turn out to have a bigger impact than we originally thought.
Soo I hope to see some of you again.. if not.. it has been a pleasure to share Edward's journey. Feel free when you review- to share your fav parts, any lingering questions you may have- or whatever...THANKS A MILLION!
WVG *cyber hugs to you all*