Ch. 15

"Ugh."

The following morning, after a night full of short sleeps, I couldn't resolve if it was the burning pain of my wrist and throbs of my pinky or Jacob's loud lack of returning my calls keeping me awake throughout the endless hours, but whatever it was, it made waking fifteen minutes ahead of Charlie easy.

But I was grumpy, and seeing the screen of my cell phone reading an ugly No New Messages didn't help or uplift my fallen mood. Jacob's failed promise of texting me after the meet-up with Sam and the pack sent butterflies flapping in my stomach and reinforced my plan for the day ahead.

Something was wrong. If Jacob hadn't done something to contact me by now, something was wrong.

"Will you take me to the Black's on your way to work?" I asked Charlie as he came down the creaking stairs, meeting him at the kitchen table with a coffee and toast in hand, the two of us dressed and readied.

He gave a tilt of his head and a silent question in his tired eyes, saying something like This early?

"Jacob can drive me back. Later. He has a car," I explained, thinking that was causing worry-lines to crease on his forehead. The two cups of coffee I drank prior to this had me fully alert and a little jittery. "Could you call Billy and make sure he's awake and fine with it?"

I winced inwardly, hoping that wouldn't cause Charlie to question my motives, but it wasn't as if I could ask Jacob to double check with his father if my coming over was okay. More importantly, I was betting on Jacob being asleep in his bed and having a dead cell phone and home so I wouldn't be sitting in the Black house unaccompanied.

The shrug of Charlie's shoulders was followed with a smiled "Yeah, sure, why not? I'll give him a call after breakfast." After his first bite of toast as we sat around the table, he asked, "How's your finger?"

I held it up for inspection. Through the sides of the small splint on my pinky, I could see bruised skin. "Hurts."

Charlie stood and returned to set a bottle of Aleve next to my plate, telling me to "Take two of these." We ate breakfast in silence and took the early drive down to La Push in silence, too. When we arrived, three minutes after seven and with the rising sun, I was more fed up than anything else. Jacob had to be home. Being out with the pack for seven hours seemed unreasonable.

My lips pressed into a thin line as Charlie walked me inside. I was going to smack him well and hard.

"Mornin', Chief," Billy's voice greeted us from the kitchen to the sound of his squeaking front door opening and closing. We moved deeper into the hushed house, taking in the scene of the wheel-chaired man struggling to get the glass can of pickles from the top shelf of the fridge. Charlie went to help as he added, catching me from his gaze, "Mornin' to you, too, Bella."

I smiled politely and, going for nonchalance, asked, "Is Jacob here?"

"He's on back in his room," he grunted, gruffly, and urged, "Go on."

Even though the words should have relieved me, I felt tears prick my eyes. I stayed in place, shocked, my feet only carrying me down the hallway before either of the two men could ask me what was wrong. With only a gentle touch of my fingertips, I pushed open Jacob's already cracked door to find it…empty. The strangest rush of relief and distress conjoined into one confusing feeling at the place between my stomach and heart.

I leaned against the doorframe to take a calming breath of air. His scent filled me.

As soon as I heard Charlie leave and the crying hinges quiet, I reappeared from Jacob's room and into the living room where Billy sat next to the couch. Thinking Jacob must've slipped out without his knowing, I told him, "Jake's not in there."

Billy nodded, watching me as I moved to stand in front of him, arms crossed and hugging at my torso. "Yup. I know. Didn't want to say anything in front of your Dad." Oh. I frowned. "He hasn't been back since he left to meet up with… everyone."

I swallowed, stuffing my shaky hands in my pockets as my mind ran through all the possibilities of things that could have happened to my Jacob. "Is that bad?"

"It ain't good."

I sank into the couch, sitting straight and forward and upright. "Should we do something?" The worst of my fears was him phasing and going into a state of self-loathing. I saw firsthand how filled with rage those men made him. My fingers tapped on my knees unnervingly. I felt useless.

Billy's answer was a simple "We wait."

I was so used to waiting, but waiting for this was torture.

One hour and two reruns of Golden Girls later, the door opened and in walked Jacob. I sat up impossibly straighter, practically standing, and took in the look of complete defeat on his expression. I gasped when the light of the door revealed what all was on his now battered face. He paused after turning, when his eyes caught mine. We shared a look—mine full of horror—as he continued down the hallway with a set jaw and sad eyes, only giving a nod of his head to acknowledge us.

Stunned by what I saw, it wasn't until the loud sound of a door shutting did I jump to my feet to go after him with Billy's encouraging "Go on after him." Jacob's bedroom door was still opened as I'd left it. I stood in front of the closed bathroom door, concluding he was in there.

"Jake?" I took the handle in my hand, not giving him anytime to reply. He was hunched over the sink, hands planted firmly on the tiles, head hanging. Blood dripped down from his nose to form little pools on the granite tops. The water was running, soaking a white hand towel beneath it. Up his arms, muscles twitched. He didn't turn to face me.

I shut the door for privacy and tried not to sway from the smell of blood in the air.

Jacob's hand turned off the faucet—the knuckles of it bloodied and swollen—and took the wet towel in his hand. I gave him a once over, and from his head to toes he was a mess. It was hard to battle off the tears in my eyes, seeing that all this, all he left behind, had finally gotten to him, but the one reason I blinked them away and stopped the quivering of my lower lip was because it would be a crime to kick him while he was down. I knew the last thing he wanted was to read the pity in my eyes. He wouldn't even let me see him fully.

To not feel useless, I stepped to his side as he began pressing the towel to his beaten face and the dried splotches of blood. I touched the forearm in use, curling my fingers into his skin. "Ja-ke—" my voice broke but I cleared it away, my heart hurting for him—"let me do that," I finished at a whisper.

His hand lowered slowly, his dark eyes holding mine in the mirror, but he made no other movement.

I took the cloth gently from his grip, placing a kiss at his palm as I lifted it. "Sit down."

My eyes didn't leave his until he took the three steps to be seated on the closed toilet seat. I ducked to look in the cabinet beneath the sink for a first-aid kit, pleased when I found one waiting. I used that moment with my head and face hidden away to let out a shuddering breath, close my eyes to all the more tears, and regain my composure before standing.

Jake's head was rested back against the wall and his swollen eyelids shut. I stepped in between his parted knees, towel in hand and first aid kit set aside. Before cleaning up the mess, I took in the ugly marks covering Jacob's beautiful face marred by someone else. His lower lip was split, his chin red and bruised. Both eyes wore puffy black and blue lines beneath them and his left cheekbone was swollen to the size of a golf ball. The last of the injuries was his nose dripping blood. I couldn't tell if it was broken or not.

I breathed through my mouth and used the cloth to wash and scrub with gentle touches at the blood down his face. As I did so, I felt two warm hands rest at the backs of my thighs, underneath the swell of my bottom. His thumbs stroked back and forth but that was the only sort of sign or movement I received, but it was enough.

My free hand—the one with the sore wrist and splinted pinky finger—rested at his shoulder as I continued to work to clear away the blood. It took a few minutes to get the already dried stuff off his chin, and it took even longer of my holding the towel firmly to his nose for it to cease bleeding. Remembering his just as bloodied knuckles, I broke away from his hands and went back to the sink to rinse out the red-stained cloth for reuse.

The knuckles on his right hand were far worse than the ones on his left, telling me, yes, he was in a fight. I took my time cleaning each one, and placed kisses to his fingertips. I was back between his knees five minutes later with his hands now on my hips. From the first aid kit, I used the antiseptic to clean the wounds at his face and lip, as well as on the skinned knuckles of his right hand. I bandaged those up and applied some type of cream on his face, not sure of its use but thinking it could help.

When I was finished, I backed out from his touch to lean into the counter, arms hugging my middle. His eyes remained closed throughout my cleaning him up. The way his hands reached out for me told me he was awake, the occasional wince on his lips adding to it.

I allowed a few tears to drip down my cheeks as I watched, feeling incapable of helping him and knowing it was only Jacob who could help himself. "Whatever it is you're doing you can stop," I told him, hiccupping on the emotions in my throat. "You don't have to prove anything to these people, Jacob. You left them behind a long time ago."

One eyelid cracked open to take me in as he whispered, "Bells—"

I cut him off. "Please just stop, Jacob. Let this go."

The following silence was heavy and stiff. I wiped away the few tears on my cheeks.

I took his nearest hand when he didn't reply, interlacing our fingers so he knew I wasn't mad with him, and held it to my cheek. "You should rest."

"Sure sure."


With Jacob in his bed and my hands unable to stay still, I went back into the empty bathroom to clean up the mess and save Billy the trouble. Something was making me feel nauseous. I blamed it on the blood-rust aroma all over the tiny room and why it was becoming hard for me to breathe.

I scrubbed it from the tiles, from the sink, and rinsed the cloth thoroughly and repeated the scrubbing but it wouldn'tgo away. Suddenly those tears were back in my eyes and all I felt was overwhelming frustration. My feet carried me into the living room, to where Billy sat, with the need to ask him where the bleach was so I could erase all signs of what happened in the bathroom.

Before I could say anything, Billy turned to me. The look on his face was similar to the one on mine, both unreadable and a mask. We shared a silence until he asked, "How is he?"

His question was loaded, because for once I didn't know how Jacob was feeling. Or what he was experiencing. I shrugged, lowering my eyes down to the carpet. "Someone sure got to him."

"I bet it was Paul," Billy cursed under his breath, the words to the sound of the wheels of his chair squeaking. He was at my side and took my hand in his clammy one to give it a comforting squeeze. "He'll be okay. He's real strong."

I nodded, knowing how true that was. I sucked in a deep lung full of steadying air. "Is it me?" Not only was it made clear by Sam that I shouldn't have known their secret, but not being from the tribe where Jacob's father was chief had to mean something, as well. I wasn't sure how deep and cherished those little things were woven into the Quileute tribe.

"Maybe. Maybe not," Billy responded, meeting my gaze. "There's a lot of other crap, too, and there's only a few things he'd risk getting in a tussle about. I think I have an idea. Don't worry yourself."

"But…are you…are you okay with Jacob and me?" His opinion mattered most. I would try not to care about anyone else's other than Billy Black's, but I found a small assurance that my being with Jacob wasn't what had caused the mess on his face and knuckles while also feeling a sense of nausea that something did cause it.

"Of course I am," he grunted. "As much as I wanted him to live the life he was born into here, I wasn't going to disapprove of him leavin' and doing things the way he wants to do them. Life's too short."

I smiled softly and shoved my hands in my pockets. Over my shoulder, I looked deeper down the hallway. "I think I'll go lay with him."

"Holler if you need anything."

In Jacob's room, to the sound of his soft snores, I slipped out of my clothes, into one of his shirts, and curled up next to him under the sheet, needing some sleep of my own.

It was four p.m. the next time I opened my eyes. A rush of alert crawled through me, and the first form of a thought in my sleep-heavy mind was Jacob's beaten face. The arm slung over my waist, pinning me, told me of his presence. I felt his breath fan across my forehead.

I touched our noses together and took him in. The wreckage on his face was significantly less than what it had been seven hours ago, the sight of it appeasing the alert within me worrying over his well-being, but the ugly bruises of different sizes and different colors were a stark reminder. My arms crept around his neck and my hands buried in his hair, afraid to touch anywhere else on him that could be hurting.

Somewhere between Hawaii and La Push I fell in love with Jacob Black. I wanted to yell it to the world. First, I had to get the words off my tongue and share it with him and trust this consuming feeling to be love.

I was halfway through mental preparations when Jacob let out a groan of discomfort, his face conforming into a wince of pain showing through his sleep. Reluctantly, I pulled myself from the bed to go retrieve the washcloth from the bathroom. I rinsed it under cold water and returned back to Jacob's room, sitting crossed-leg at his side and pressing the parts of his injured face with the cloth, hoping the chill would somehow soothe the ache. His forehead was burning.

I thought it incredible for his face to be healed this much and wondered if this was the type of thing he mentioned with the accelerated werewolf healing. He must still have enough of it in his blood for this kind of progress.

Because of the warmth coming off of Jacob, it was inevitable to keep myself from cozying up into him as the minutes passed and the cloth drew warm. My eyelids grew heavy. I shifted so I could lean my head on his abdomen and curl on my side with my knees tucked close to him, and as I did so, I felt his arm encircle my hip and grip me, telling me I had woken him with my rustling. Jacob's same hand moved upwards to brush the hair from my face. I forced my eyes open to see him smiling a sleepy smile and looking right at me.

I stayed where I was, burrowing closer, letting him know we can go back to sleep as his hand continued to work through my hair. Eventually I caught his calloused hand and held to my cheek when the option of sleep seemed gone and tilted my head just so to place kisses at his palm.

From his chest, a hummed and rough mmm resounded. "Hey, honey," he greeted to my blinking eyes. The washcloth was disposed on the pillow I had been sleeping on, a wet stain left behind. I tucked my toes beneath it as my head rose and fell with the breaths entering and leaving his chest.

Before I could say or do anything, Jacob drew my face and body closer with his arms around my waist so that he could kiss me, a hand at the back of my head.

I felt the current of it run through my body and to my toes as I kissed him back gently, remembering his split lower lip. It was short but sweet, enough so that his taste was left on my lips as I pulled away. "Are you okay?" I asked with my head hovering above his, pushing myself up and onto my hands, not wanting to put too much of my weight on his chest for fear of that being hurt, too.

In his eyes was the same sadness he wore in the bathroom as I fixed him up. He stroked my cheek. "Will be," he promised.

As he leaned upwards for another kiss, I lifted my head further away, asking, "Do you want to talk about it?" because I knew he would let the subject slide. Sometimes we didn't have to say anything, but I wasn't about to let him get away with this.

"Yeah, probably should." Jacob sat us upright, his face puckering, and made a move to stand after kissing my forehead. "Be right back, honey, then we'll talk."

I nodded, swallowing as his eyes roamed up my naked thighs, staying there, as he stood to leave the room. I adjusted his shirt over my legs, realizing it was bunched all the way up to my hips.

I picked at the quilt thrown at the end of the bed and waited.

A minute later he was back with a glass of water and swallowing down three pills of Tylenol. He offered the glass to me and I took a gracious sip. Jacob sat back against the headboard and, tugging at my wrist, positioned me over him so that I was straddling his hips and sitting in his lap.

Jacob settled his hands at my thighs as I traced a finger along his jaw. He seemed lost at where to begin, so I supplied, "Billy mentioned something about Paul?" I'd heard that name twice—once when Jacob gave me the quickest of summaries about all the members of the pack, and once more when Rebecca brought up Paul and Rachel's relationship. I had a hint at where this might be going.

I watched his lips form a thin and bitter line. "Yeah. Paul." He looked beyond my head, focusing on the wall. "We've never gotten along, so I guess I should have seen it coming. He made some comments to me and… I lost it."

I gave an understanding and slow nod of my head to his hissed words. I rested my good hand over one of his.

"We all met up a few hours after midnight," he carried on. "Some of the guys didn't want to show up but Sam wanted them all there. Things went pretty damn well at first. It wasn't until most of the guys cleared out that Paul started going off on me."

"What did he say?" I questioned afterwards, giving his hand a squeeze.

Jacob's jaw locked, but his grip on me remained ever soft. "He accused me of abandoning my father, for starters, and questioned my loyalty to the tribe and what a disgrace I am for leaving when I'm meant to be the next Chief."

Knowing those were the two things Jacob struggled with most, my heart gave a thump and began hurting for him. I whispered, "Why would he say those things?"

"Ever since I left for Hawaii, Rachel has been living here and taking care of my dad. She's Paul's imprint, and I guess he's been helping her with him and thinks that makes him better than me, like I didn't spend all my childhood doing the exact same thing on my own when my mom died and my sisters left."

The many times Jacob had talked about his father, I had never heard this volume of tiredness in his voice. Never once did he complain to me about those years he had to take care of his handicapped father, but now I could see how burned out and the toll it took on him to do so. I sympathized with him.

"And Paul's always been bitter 'cuz I was meant to be Alpha and not him. He's third in line after Sam and probably sees it as an opening to be the next Chief if Sam doesn't take it if I don't move back. I can understand why they're all pissed at me and Embry for leaving. But they just don't fucking get it. It doesn't change my loyalty to my tribe," he argued, all muscles tensed and all the more anger rising in his tone.

I mollified him by asking, "Why does his opinion matter then, if you know how loyal you are to your tribe?"

The following look on his face was piercing and sharp, but when he came up with no response, it transformed into something pensive. "I don't really know, Bells," he sighed, taking his hands from me to fist them in his hair. "I guess I've always felt like I've had to prove something to them, especially since I left."

I removed his hands from his hair, placing them back at my sides, and tilted my head forward to kiss him. "You don't," I whispered against his lips, deciding to end the subject with those words, and hoping he'd be able to think this over fully and let go.

We kissed for a few more seconds, between them I told him, "I'm glad you're okay." Soon the feel of him between my legs was beginning to drive me wild. Jacob broke from the kisses first, resting his forehead on mine and taking my upper thighs in his hands.

"What happened?" he asked eventually, removing a hand to gently lift and trace around the splint on my pinky.

Despite the touches being innocent, I became increasingly aroused. My face flushed and I rushed into telling him, pulling my hand back. I blurted, "I fell."

Jacob cracked a smile, and I debated whether or not to put more worry within him where none could fit. I could figure talk of me running into the Cullens wouldn't settle well on top of all else, but lying to him would never be an option.

"Charlie and I were at the grocery store last night to get food for dinner," I began, twisting my fingers together. "And I…ran into a Cullen." My gaze rose to meet Jake's. "Alice," I clarified when I saw question in his eyes. "And then…Carlisle. I was so scared that I tripped and fell and hurt my left hand. I tried calling you."

"Dunno where my phone is."

"Oh." I frowned. "Well. Charlie took me to the hospital…and the doctor, Carlisle, looked at me…"

I felt him shaking—theorizing mentally it was out of anger—but when I looked back to his face and with all the surprise in the world, Jacob was laughing. "Damn, Bells," he chuckled and took my waist in his hands. "Two days in Forks and you've already attracted the vamps. Hell, what am I gonna do with you?"

My lips tugged with a pout and I blushed all down my cheeks and neck, mortified, about to rebut but was cut off by a more serious Jacob leaning to my ear, touching his lips to it, and whispering in a low pitch, "You're mine, you know that, right?"

A shiver went through my body from a combination of the way his words were whispered and the touch of his lips moving across my jaw to capture mine. He breathed fire into my belly. The touches of our lips only lasted for a few seconds, but it was enough to drag the "I love you" from my throat as it ended, and an added "I know" to being his.

Jacob drew back from me with eyes as wide as my own, and once the shock dispersed, he buried his face in my neck and wrapped his arms around my waist to hug me closer. "Oh, honey. I love you too. So much, Bells."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah, honey." Down my neck, his lips traveled. His hands went up the back of my shirt, and I arched into him.

I was distracted from saying anything else or wrapping up the moment in a memory, because through the thin fabric of the shirt I was wearing, Jacob's lips latched onto my right nipple.

"Jake…" I heard his name fall from me as my eyes rolled shut. "We're alone. Right? No one is home?"

Back at my ear, with a soft growl to his words, he whispered, "Take off your shirt; it's just us, honey."

The response to my disturbance of being walked in on was enough for my hands to free from his hair and reach hurriedly for the hem of the oversized shirt falling to my thighs, straddled on either side of his waist. I tugged at it, rushing to have his handsall over me, and lifted my arms well above our heads to toss the item to the ground where his own shirt pooled. Underneath, I was naked with only a pair of warmed-through panties from how wet his words and kisses had me. I lowered my hips down to his, seeking for the relief needed at my center.

Jacob's two hands replaced my shirt, tracing my now freed skin, squeezing and digging at my hips, at the dip of my waist, and finally to the swells of my breasts. As his thumbs brushed my hardened nipples, I squirmed in his lap, feeling the current from his touch go straight to my untouched clit and moaned with my head thrown back. "Jaake."

"It's been too long, honey."

I nodded in agreement as his lips took advantage of my exposed neck and mixed kisses with teeth and tongue. His grip lowered to my ass, fingers sneaking below the fabric. I balanced my injured hand on his shoulder, the other feeling along the delicious muscles down his torso and cursing the way one hand can be used on him but not two.

Suddenly Jacob had a hand beneath my underwear, cupping my center, and tracing a finger along my wet slit. The caresses brought a moan from low in my throat and my eyelids slipped shut. "I really need you right now, Bells."

As I felt him tense to move away, I held the wrist of his hand touching me to keep him there. "I love you," I repeated, hoping my words and the way I pressed my hips down to his finger and breathed a moan would be enough of my permission for him to carry on and for this to go further.

He smiled and told me, "It's so damn nice hearing you say that," while slipping his same finger deep inside me.

"Jacob…"

It took two of his fingers within me and his thumb circling my clit to bring me to an orgasm. As I came down, my pussy clenching around him, I reached for the tie of his sweatpants as Jake's hand fisted in the back of my hair and brought my lips to his for a kiss. We had them off not moments later, and as I moved to straddle him once more, his hard cock pressed into me.

"Get out of these, Bells, honey," Jacob groaned. He tugged at my underwear and repositioned his hands at my breasts as I shimmied out of the item, my fingers and toes still tingling from my orgasm.

I took his heavy erection in my hand once completely naked, loving the sound from his lips and the roll of his eyes going into the back of his head.

I sank down on him and was sure this was love.


A/N: I'd love it if you'd review :-) And, as always, if it takes longer than a week for the next update, I'll send out teasers!