Disclaimer: I do not own twilight or these characters.

Warning: Contains strong language and sexual content.

Entry for easyasbreathing's Break the Imprint Contest. Voting Ends May 15th.


His

Just as quickly as the images flooded his mind—of her wide brown eyes, flushed cheeks and parted lips—they were ripped away and replaced by the grotesque, haunting images he had tried so desperately to forget.

Her horribly misshapen body, her abdomen ripped open, blood spilling everywhere.

Jake closed his eyes and tried to will the images away. The wind whipped at his thin t-shirt, and he shivered from the cold. He couldn't even hear the crashing waves as they broke against the rocky face of the cliff—only her screams, her failing heart.

He'd watched as Edward had stalked forward, ready to kill her—or turn her: it was all the same to him anyways. His body was trembling, that all too familiar heat licked up his spine and a bitter taste filled his mouth. She was his. His, goddammit.

And something inside him broke.

"No! I won't let you kill her!" Jacob had roared, shoving so hard against Edward's chest he was sent flying across the room and crashing into a wall, bits of drywall and plaster cracking under the force. He'd turned his dark eyes back on Bella's nearly lifeless form, burning with fury and tears, and grabbed her shoulders as he screamed and begged and pleaded for her to stay. Again.

"No, Bells. I won't let you die! Do you hear me? You fucking promised!" Jake had sobbed, the tears blinding him, and he felt someone—he didn't even care who at this point—gently move him away from her.

He felt himself crumbling, breaking. She had held every part of him. He slumped against the wall, unable to even pay attention to the scene in front of him.

Carlisle and Emmett came rushing into the destroyed, bloody room. Carlisle began—with lightning fast speed—working on Bella. There was suddenly an endless amount of supplies handed to him, IVs being jammed into her translucent, pale skin, beeping machines, gauze, clamps...

Jacob couldn't take it. She was gone. Gone. The realization was a sharp knife in his gut, cutting through flesh and bone and leaving him bleeding and begging, wishing for some sort of divine intervention. He'd stumbled out into the hallway, towards the sounds of a baby sucking and slurping and Rosalie cooing. And for a moment, his grief was replaced by white hot boiling rage. He felt the wolf pacing, snarling, and growling in his chest, desperate to break free and destroy the monster that had destroyed his Bella. His.

His hands had clenched into tight fists by his side, and he swallowed against the bitter taste pooling in his mouth. His entire shape was vibrating, the lines blurring. A red haze clouded his vision. He closed his eyes and swallowed hard. He tried to fight it. He wouldn't let the wolf take this from him too.

Something else was pulling him though. He felt it. The unnatural instinct tugging at something so connected to him he couldn't fight against it. The sound of Bella's heart being forced to keep beating pounded against his ears, but he kept putting one foot in front of the other, almost without conscious effort—almost against his will. Something pulled him further away from her, and his gut violently protested the thought.

Some of the anger and grief had begun to ebb, but he tried to hold on to it. Like grains of sand, it began slipping through his fingers. He stopped his forward movement and shut his eyes, desperately needing to hold onto his pain. If this was all he could have of her, he wanted it.

Fresh tears pricked at his tired eyes—it had been days, weeks if he was honest, since he'd really slept. His nostrils were flaring, his hands balled into fists as he rubbed them against his temple, and he tried desperately to hang on.

But it was useless. He felt the pull again, stronger this time, and his feet moved forward against his will, down the stairs and around the corner. He slowly lifted his eyes. All other sounds besides the small baby's—with a mop of golden hair and wide chocolate brown eyes—vanished. The entire world around her blurred; his vision focused only on her. Everything he was, everything he felt, everything he could be was suddenly hers.

Hers.

"No," Jacob whispered. He shook his head and tried again to shut his eyes. No. He was not hers. He was Bella's. Wholly. Completely.

Maybe even then. Even now!

He turned towards the front door; the need to phase was so strong, so undeniable. He was shaking and convulsing. It was physically painful to walk away from her; his feet felt like they were weighted down with cement—with fucking chains.

Jacob sucked in a sharp breath. The sickly sweet stench of vampires was strong, but two distinct smells filled his lungs with both pain and pleasure: Bella and her baby. Her baby.

That thought made him heave violently. How could he...he imp—

Oh, god, he couldn't even think the word. It was wrong. So horribly wrong. Disgust and revulsion rolled through his gut and propelled him out the door, and he greedily gulped the clean air.

He wasn't meant to be hers. He was Bella's. She was his. His, goddammit, fucking his!

He yearned to feel the soft earth against his paws, the wind in his fur. He just wanted to become a creature that couldn't feel the intensity of this pain.

But he couldn't. He blamed the wolf. It was all some sick joke-tying him, binding him, to another. Not just another. Her fucking daughter.

He didn't bother to find Leah or Seth. He was leaving. He didn't phase to get home. As much as he fucking wanted to. He was shaking and trembling, the wolf clawing and scraping against its cage, desperate to break free.

But everything had already been taken from him: his choices, his promises...even her. He couldn't take it anymore. He had to do the only thing he could, the only thing he'd ever done: fight.

~000~

She pulled her knees up to her chest and rocked slowly on the old porch swing, just staring out into the forest that surrounded her house. Like she thought he might come bounding through the trees at any moment, with his bright, sunny smile, his warm, open arms...

She sighed heavily and wiped away the single tear that escaped. He was gone, and she wasn't sure if he was ever coming back. But he promised, she told herself.

Maybe even then.

His words repeated in her mind like an unconscious prayer, a reminder, a reason.

"Bella?" her dad's gruff voice sounded behind her, and she turned her head. "You comin' in for dinner? Sue made your favorite."

"Sure, sure," she said absentmindedly as she stood up and walked to the door. She stole one more glance back towards the forest, scanning the trees for his russet colored fur. But there was nothing but green leaves and moss.

~000~

The wind was vicious, the storm clouds quickly rolling in as Jake stood motionless on that godforsaken cliff, relieving those precious last days with her, the moment he decided to run away, and the years he had spent fighting the wolf.

The first few weeks were the worst. He had loaded up everything he owned—which wasn't much—into the Rabbit and taken off. He only had a few hundred dollars that he had saved from working on people's cars, but it was enough to get him far away from the rainy state of Washington.

Those first few weeks were agonizingly painful. He wasn't sure which was worse-the almost desperate pull he felt to return home, to protect her, to be near his imp—

Or the wolf raging in his body, yearning to be let loose. He thought it was none of these things. He'd gladly go through all this pain, suffer, for her. Always for her. If he could just belong to her again. If he could just see her, feel her, kiss her, touch her...

He died right along with her on the table that day. She was gone. He was gone.

"Jake?" Embry's deep voice carried across the wind, over the roar of the waves. Jake could hear it, but just barely. He turned to look at his friend, who was slowly walking out of the shadows of the trees. He'd known it wouldn't be long before they knew he was here. That he was home.

"Hey," he replied softly, his eyes conveying his apology. He was sorry he ran away, sorry that he abandoned his pack, his brothers, his tribe, his family...and her. Bella's daughter. He hadn't phased in so long, and since he had only seen her that once, the imprint hadn't had the chance to form a really solid bond.

But it was still there. The wolf. The imprint. Less so now. But he was sure it would never really disappear completely. His body temperature had dropped, his extra senses had become more muted, and that familiar heat and the trembling he had long since overcome.

He was sorry he left her though. Sorry that she had to grow up without Bella. Maybe he should have stayed and taken care of her.

"When did you get back?" Embry asked softly, coming to stand next to him. He placed a hand on Jacob's shoulder. "Whoa, man, you're cold."

Jacob swallowed thickly and nodded his head. "Yeah. I haven't phased since..."

Jake looked down at the ground and swallowed hard. No matter how many months or years had passed, the horror of that day was ingrained in his mind, burned in his retinas. It haunted him, stalked him, plagued him. Jake stuffed his hands in his pockets and shuffled his feet, letting out a heavy sigh.

"Why did you leave, Jake?" Embry asked. His voice isn't accusatory or angry, but Jake's eyes snapped to his anyway. He should know why he left. He should understand.

Jake's eyes narrowed as he studied Embry's face. He looked...different. Older maybe.

"Are you still phasing?" Jake asked curiously.

Embry smiled a little sheepishly. "Nah. Or at least trying not to. For the last six months anyway."

Jake's mouth lifted at the corner in a smile. The movement was foreign to him. He hadn't done a lot of smiling in the last three years, but he couldn't help it. Embry was—or at least he used to be—always his best friend. It felt good to be in his company, good to be home. It was like a breath of fresh air for the first time in a very long time.

"How's—" He paused. He had so many unanswered questions; he wasn't even sure where to start.

"She's fine," Embry answered softly, and Jake's eyes widened for a fraction of a second before he snapped his mouth shut and glared at his old friend.

"What do you mean she's fine? She's here? You know? How—" Jake cut off. He felt dizzy. He didn't understand. How would Embry know about him imprinting on Bella's daughter? How would he know if she was fine? Didn't the vamps take her far away from here after they killed Bella?

"Jake? Are you all right man?" Embry worried as Jake backed away from him slowly. Embry moved forward and put a reassuring hand back on Jake's arm. "I see her all the time, Jake. She's okay."

Jake couldn't make sense of his words. Fine? Okay? Sees her all the time? What the fuck was going on?

"Bella's—"

Jake's eyes snapped back to Embry's.

"—okay. She's at Char—"

But Jake was already gone, running and crashing through the dense trees and hurdling himself over broken, fallen logs. His mind was racing with images, his heart hammering in his chest and his lungs heaving with the heavy effort. In less time than he expected, he was staring at her two-story white house, her beat-up old truck parked in the drive.

I thought she got rid of it?

He slowed his pace and blindly walked forward. He was still hidden in the shadows of the trees when he saw a small little girl run out from behind the house, howling with laughter. Her hair was golden, not blonde exactly, almost a light golden brown, and beautiful. Her eyes were bright, and the moment he saw their deep, soulful brown coloring, his heart clenched painfully in his chest.

He knew her.

But he didn't feel a pull-that unnatural bind that shackled him, bound him once before. And then a moment later, after his body flooded with relief, he saw her.

Bella.

And she was so beautiful. It hurt his eyes, his heart; his whole body felt like it might just fall apart right there hidden in the trees. Her hair was longer, wavy, and still that perfect shade of chestnut. Her laughter was light and airy—unlike he'd ever remembered hearing it.

But he couldn't hear what he so desperately needed to hear or see her eyes. He had to see her eyes. He stepped out from his hidden spot, slowly walking towards her. She stopped chasing the little girl in the middle of the front yard, and her daughter looked up, her eyes spotting Jake. She pointed.

"Mommy. Who's that man?" Her soft, girlish voice carried across the soundless street. Jake eyes were focused on Bella as she looked up, her mouth dropping open in surprise and a tiny gasp escaping.

"Jacob," she whispered breathlessly.

That was all he needed. He didn't stop until he was right in front of her, wrapping his arms all the way around her and hugging her to him. Tears stung his eyes and fell fast down his cheeks. A tortured sob broke from his chest, and he buried his face in her hair, inhaling deeply.

Strawberries.

She still smelled like vanilla and strawberries, and even though the wolf had grown quiet and his sense of smell was not so supernatural, he would recognize that scent anywhere.

Bella's heart raced in her chest, and her breath caught in her throat. He was here. He was alive.

And he was actually touching her. She had longed to feel his skin on hers, his hugs, her hand held in his large, rough one. That physical closeness had always been a part of their relationship. She had missed him when he left.

"Nessie? Bella?" Charlie's gruff voice sounded from the front porch. The little golden-haired girl ran up the steps and leapt into his arms.

"Who's Jacob, Grandpa? Why is he hugging Mommy?" her soft voice asked him.

Charlie sighed heavily, the motion full of relief. "Her best friend." And then he took the girl inside.

Jacob pulled away from Bella, his watery eyes focusing on hers. He slowly unwrapped his arms from around her middle and brought his hands up to cup her cheeks. Bella's heart leapt into her throat. The intensity of the moment, of his dark eyes unashamedly full of tears, was a palpable, tangible energy in the air between them.

But Jacob just needed to see one thing. Her eyes were still that deep chocolate brown, glossy with tears, but beautiful and deep—and his—all the same.

His thumbs slowly traced the curve of her soft lips. He couldn't deny how much he loved her, had always loved her and wanted her. He felt a very primal, instinctual need to make her his. To show her, prove to her. So she would know he was still hers. Always hers.

He slowly leaned forward, her eyes fluttered shut, and his mouth hovered above hers as he whispered to her lips, "You're alive."

And then he kissed her-lips molding, melding to one another. Hers parted the moment his tongue slid along her lower lip, granting him access to her. She was soft and warm and—

Warm. So warm and soft, and he felt something inside of him he'd thought was dead suddenly beat again. His heart was pumping harder and faster than he could ever remember. He pulled himself away from her lips, leaning his forehead against hers.

Bella's breathing was heavy and ragged as it mingled with his in the small space between them. I love you, she thought. Please don't leave me. I should've chosen you!

Jake dropped down to his knees, his hands leaving her face and curling around her waist to pull her flush against him. He laid his cheek against her chest, right over her heart, closing his eyes he listened for the sound he had to hear. He needed—more than anything—to know what he had always fought so hard for was still there, still working, still beating.

His fingers pushed up under the thin material of her t-shirt; the need to feel her skin against his fingertips was so overwhelming, he felt dizzy, drunk off of her. He needed to touch her, feel her, kiss her. Fresh tears pricked his tired eyes, and suddenly, he felt so tired, exhausted by the onslaught of emotion and the years he'd spent running.

If he had been more rational, more coherent, in this moment, he might have asked her questions, demanded answers. He might have let the guilt from running away, from not being here with her, eat at him. He might have felt the harsh sting of regret.

But none of those thoughts or feelings could touch him now, in this suspended moment. It felt like all the world had stopped spinning, faded away. And it was just him and her. Jake and Bells.

His hands slipped from his grip around her waist, and his arms wrapped fully around her again, hugging her to him. He turned his face and buried it in her chest. Her breathing hitched. Her fingers slowly and tentatively came up to comb through his long hair.

Just that simple act brought tears to her eyes, and she took a deep, cleansing breath.

"Jake?" Her voice was so hoarse and quiet, barely a whisper.

"Huh?" He didn't look up, didn't move, just tensed slightly and tightened his embrace around her. She had so many words rushing to the tip of her tongue, dying to be said aloud. But there was something so perfect about this moment; she just wanted to keep him. For a little while. He might never forgive her if he knew the truth.

"Can you stay for dinner?" she asked instead. He just nodded slowly, still firmly attached her body. He was pretty sure he'd never be able to let her go again. Never.

He slowly stood up and laced his fingers with hers, letting her lead him inside.

~000~

Jacob's father, Billy, and his sister, Rachel, showed up for dinner. Along with half the pack. Bella had to scrounge around to find more food to feed them all. Everyone was loud and cheerful and so happy to have Jacob back. Jacob felt himself relax, felt accepted and forgiven.

He quietly observed the little girl. She had Bella's eyes, a mop of golden brown hair, but there was something...off. It just didn't seem like the same baby he had fled from three years ago. But she seemed to be about the same age with the same distinguishing characteristics.

After everyone had left, Jacob walked his father outside, where Rachel waited in the truck. He bent down to give his father a hug.

"I love you, son," he said seriously, pulling back and giving him a wise, knowing look. "And so does that girl in there."

Jacob nodded, blinking away the tears, and waved his father off.

~000~

He stood next to Bella, silently drying the washed dishes as she handed them to him. Little Nessie had already been put down for bed, and Charlie had excused himself. The house was quiet, the tension thick. Every so often, he would steal a glance, just to see her face. A small smile played on her lips. But it contradicted the frown line creased between her brows. He knew there was a lot she wasn't saying. Maybe she was searching for a way to start.

He had a million questions too. Questions he desperately needed the answers to. But the moment her mouth opened, he stopped her by speaking first.

"Can I stay tonight?" he asked her directly, turning his dark eyes on her. She looked up at him through her lashes and swallowed—hard. The look in his eyes told her he had no intention of talking things out.

He needed her-in a way that she had always denied him before but could never deny him now.

"Yes," she said softly, adding in an almost inaudible whisper, "The answer will always be yes."

He put down the dish and towel in his hands. His hands came up to frame her face, tucking a small tuft of hair behind her ear. He looked deep into her eyes; they were so dark, their intensity and depth unfathomable, filled with desire and promises she hoped he meant.

He leaned forward, keeping his eyes on hers, and whispered with fevered intensity as his warm breath caressed her lips, "I love you, Bells."

His lips captured hers, his tongue plunging inside and claiming what was his. His hands left her face, blazing a fiery trail of goose flesh down her sides and pulling her hips flush against his. She gasped a little when she felt his hardness rub against her; a welcomed warmth pooled between her thighs. Jake's fingers immediately found their way beneath her cotton tee. The feel of her silky smooth skin—so fucking soft—beneath his fingertips was intoxicating.

He slowly caressed her skin, her sides, and up her rib cage. Bella's breathing hitched, and he couldn't help the smug grin that spread on his lips. He had dreamed of having her this way so many times. His thumb gently rubbed over the swell of her breast, and Bella let out a tiny whimper.

She needed him too.

In one swift, fluid movement, his hands moved lower, lifting her and hitching her legs around his waist while his lips still moved and melded with hers, and he began to walk them to the stairs. He strode purposefully to her room, kicking the door closed with his heel.

He laid her gently on the bed and settled himself between her thighs. His hands moved up and shoved inside her shirt, immediately finding her breast and molding it to his hand. She moaned quietly, conscious of the full house.

Jake sat back on his heels and pulled his shirt off, revealing his perfectly chiseled muscles and beautiful tan skin, his long black hair falling around his face and shoulders.

"I love you too, Jake," she breathed, adding, "I should've chosen you."

He pulled her shirt off, his eyes leaving hers for just a moment to unbutton her jeans and slide them down her toned legs. Christ, she's beautiful, he thought as his eyes raked over her exposed flesh. Bella sat up a little, unhooking her bra and tossing it to the floor.

Jake's dark eyes locked on hers, deep and watery, as he lowered them both back to the bed, kicking his shoes and jeans off in the process.

"I know, honey," he acknowledged tenderly, his lips brushing against hers softly. His mouth quickly turned hungry however, lust and need and desire raging through his veins as he devoured her. Jake reached down between their bodies, running his fingers along the edge of her panties.

"Oh, god, Jake...please..." Her breathy plea sent him over the edge of sanity, and he ripped the offending garment from her body. His lips moved over her jaw, stopping to whisper in her ear.

"I'm so sorry, honey. I'll never leave you again." His voice was strained. He continued to kiss her neck, her collarbone, his tongue darting out to taste her skin. His fingers gingerly stroked up her inner thigh, hesitating only briefly when he felt the overpowering instinct to make her his ebb and the nervousness peak through.

He took a deep breath as he kissed the skin between her heaving breasts, his fingers moving that last inch and finally touching her aching center.

"So fucking wet," he marveled as he pushed his fingers inside her folds, stroking up to circle her sensitive swollen bundle. All Bella could do was bite her lip and try to keep from screaming out when he pushed his two fingers deep inside, curling up and pumping, his thumb still massaging her clit.

Bella's hand fisted in the sheets as his mouth continued to move lower, licking a hot trail south of her navel. The instant his tongue lapped at her wetness, she came, trembling and moaning wordlessly. And as good as she tasted—and she tasted really fucking good—the sounds and feeling and taste of her orgasm made his dick twitch so painfully, he pushed his boxers off his hips, freeing his massive erection, and lined it up with her ready center.

Bella's eyes widened at the sight of his member, and she gasped loud enough for him to look up, worry and concern etched on his face.

"Don't worry, honey. Trust me, I'll go slow," he reassured and slowly inched himself inside her wet heat. He had to stop, breathing heavy, and close his eyes. She was so tight and soft and wet; he wanted to just shove into her so bad. He finally pushed the rest of the way in, sheathing himself completely inside her, groaning, and dropping his head to her shoulder.

"Jake," Bella let out a shaky whisper; her body was trembling as she tried to adjust to him, her walls stretching to accommodate his thickness. He took a few deep breaths then lifted his head, placing small kisses all over her face: her cheeks, her lips, her eyes, her nose. He gently nuzzled her face, skimming his nose along her jaw, up to her ear, and back down to the hollow of her throat.

After a few minutes, any discomfort she had was quickly replaced by pleasure, her need and desire returning with a vengeance as she rocked her hips against his, encouraging him to move too. He tentatively slid out and then thrust back in-slow at first and then faster and faster. Her whimpers and moans egged him on, and he pushed into her harder and faster still.

"Oh, god...Jake...I-I..." Her words became meaningless babble as she came apart in his arms, her legs quivering, her body trembling, and her inner walls clenching.

Jake was completely lost in the feeling of her, consumed by her taste, her smell, her skin. He thrust deeply. The feeling of her release triggered his, and he just couldn't hold on. He kissed her lips and spilled inside her, mumbling against her lips.

"I love you. I-I..."

Bella couldn't even answer; she was completely overwhelmed by the emotions, the rightness, the regret from not figuring it out before, the pain from losing him, hurting him, and the overpowering, consuming love they were sharing. She wasn't even sure where his ended and hers began. She couldn't help the fresh tears that pricked her eyes and rolled softly down her cheeks.

He kissed away her tears and held her close, wrapping his arms tightly around her. There was no need for anymore words tonight. She was finally his.

~000~

The early morning sun filtered in through the yellow curtains. It was warm and gentle and enveloped the room in a sweet, tender glow. Jake reached for her—even in his sleep—his strong arm curling around her waist and pulling her into him. His large, rough hand slid up under his t-shirt she'd thrown on last night, cupping her breast and mumbling sleepily.

"Mine," he said. "Mmmm...my Bells...love...mine..."

Bella smiled with her eyes still closed, her heart bursting with joy. But only for a moment; the harsh light of morning reminded her of what she must confess.

She sighed heavily and attempted to extract herself from his arms.

"No," he said, pulling her back down and hovering above her. His heavy-lidded eyes focused on her face, and he smiled sleepily. "I'm not done yet."

He leaned down to kiss her, his lips so soft and gentle, and she melted instantly, her slender arms wrapping around his neck. His silky black hair fell over them as he deepened the kiss. One hand shoved up under her shirt; the other traced the curve of her waist, over the swell of her hip, across her velvety thigh, his fingers finding purchase as he stroked her soft, moist flesh.

"Oh, god, Jake..." she moaned, her nails scratched down his back, and her hips lifted up off the bed as he glided his fingers in between her wet folds, up and down. She whimpered, and he grinned smugly against her lips, applying a little more pressure as his fingers stroked upwards, circling her clit.

"Jake, Jake...Jacob..." she chanted breathlessly, and he finally plunged his two fingers inside her, his thumb still pressing down on her engorged bundle as he pumped and curled his fingers, hitting just the right spot that caused her legs to quiver, her breath to catch, her eyes to roll back, and her teeth to bite down hard on his full bottom lip.

He couldn't take it any longer; he had to be inside her. He removed his fingers and shoved his hard length deep inside her, groaning, "Aw, fuck..."

Jake thrust inside her hard and fast, her breathless chanting of his name and the wetness that gushed each time he hit that spot urging him to continue.

"Jake...oh, my god...Jacob..." Bella whispered, her head thrown back as her body arched off the mattress. Jake's lips and tongue grazed her neck and collarbone—because he had to touch her, kiss her, at every possible place he could reach.

He could feel her legs start to tremble and hooked her leg over his arm, pushing her knee to her chest, so he could push a little deeper inside her tight heat—fuck, she was so tight and wet and warm wrapped around him.

She was completely intoxicated, drowning in the feeling of Jacob claiming her, filling her. Her fingers scraped down his biceps as his mouth trailed down her chest, taking her pert pink nipple in his mouth. Bella completely came apart; the fevered intensity of her climax around him sent him over the edge as he burst inside her.

Jacob collapsed on top of her, crushing her a little. But she didn't care, didn't protest, just wound both her arms and legs tightly around him, burying her face in the crook of his neck.

"I have to tell you something...several things, actually," she whispered after a few moments when she could breathe again and her world wasn't spinning.

"So tell me," he replied, rolling over to his side and bringing her with him. Bella took a moment, trying to organize her thoughts.

"After you left...after the...birth..." she started. They both winced at the gruesome memory. "Well, I was unconscious for, I'm not really sure, but several days. When I finally woke up, I was in the hospital, and Edward was the only one there."

Bella's voice cracked slightly. It was hard to relieve the pain. Jake smoothed back her hair, his fingers tenderly stroking her cheek. Her eyes were focused on her hand that lay on Jake's chest just above his heart. The steady rhythm seemed to soothe her. Jacob curled his fingers under her chin and lifted her eyes to his, silently encouraging her to continue. She took a deep breath.

"He...I asked to see the baby. He told me it wasn't safe, until...until after I was changed. But Jacob—" Her voice rose in its pitch and intensity, her dark, watery eyes locked on his as she continued, "—I just couldn't. Not after...after everything..."

She started sobbing, dropping her face to his skin as he wrapped his arms around her and cradled her to his chest.

"Shhh, honey. Please don't cry. It hurts me, kills me, to see you cry. I'm so sorry I wasn't here. I was stupid. I just—" Jake cut himself off. He knew he needed to tell her, explain to her why he left, but even the word, the very thought of it made him violently ill. It twisted in his gut and bubbled up in his throat. His whole body, his heart, rejected the notion that he could ever be anyone's but hers.

"They left," she mumbled into his skin. "They took her, and they left."

Jacob's brows knitted together. "What do you mean? They took her? Who does Nessie belong to then?"

Bella slowly raised her head to look Jacob in the eye. Her cheeks were flushed. Large tears still rolled down her cheeks. She couldn't even suck in a deep enough breath and felt dizzy because of the lack oxygen.

"Bella, please. Tell me what you're talking about. Let's just be honest with each other for once," he pleaded.

"She's Mike Newton's. And mine," Bella stated calmly, letting out a long breath she'd been holding. Jacob didn't react, just sat stock still, studying her face. He swallowed hard after a thick, tension-filled minute.

"Please." He closed his eyes, trying not to picture another man with her. It had been hard enough with the leech, but this was different. He was human. He added in a strained whisper, "Just tell me the full story, Bells. And I'll tell you mine."

"Edward left. You left. I moved back in with Charlie and got my job back at Newton's. I didn't really know what to do. I was just waiting, hoping you'd come back. I was hurt and angry. I knew I had to let go of Edward. I always thought that would be impossible, but letting go of you turned out to be. I never did. But you stayed away. I knew it was my fault, and Mike was my only friend." She paused to take a deep breath and gage Jake's reaction to her words before continuing.

"Keep going, honey," he responded sweetly, his eyes still soft and watery, but his lips pressed together in a thin line.

"It only happened once. I just needed to feel wanted, and I thought he wanted me; he had since high school. I knew it was a mistake. So did he. We didn't love each other. My heart belonged to you, and he wasn't even sure what he wanted—but after that, he knew it wasn't going to work out with me. So I had Vanessa. Charlie was great; Billy and the pack too. They all love her. Mike's good too. We get along, and he's a good dad. She sees him mostly every other weekend. He moved to Port Angeles last summer to start a new business with his dad," she finished, carefully watching Jake's face.

Jake felt a little heartsick. It was his fault. He'd left her by herself, thinking she was dead. He felt sick with guilt, but he couldn't be angry. If anything, he was just happy she was okay, that she had decided to stay human, and that she seemed to realize where she was meant to be.

"Okay. I can handle that," he replied after a few minutes, and Bella felt herself collapse in relief onto his chest. Jake silently stroked her hair, his nerves buzzing with energy. His confession was going to be a lot worse than hers. He took a deep breath, let the words he had never said aloud fall off his tongue like a bomb, and braced himself for the explosion.

"I imprinted. That's why I left. I imprinted on your daughter the moment I saw her. I thought you were dead. I just—I couldn't belong to anyone but you." Jake paused, pulling away from her and sliding off the bed so that he was on his knees with her hands clasped in his, his dark eyes pleading with her to hear him out. "Bella, honey, I love you. My heart has always belonged to you. I'll always be yours. But you have to know why I left. It kills me to know I could have been—should have been—here with you. I had to fight and claw my way out, to stop phasing, to get rid of the wolf so that I could break it. And I don't even know if that's why it's gone. It could be because I stopped phasing, or it could be because the imprint never had a chance to solidify—either way, I'm here, and I'm yours. Can you forgive me? Can you accept me?"

Bella was in shock, her brain trying to process his words and the implications behind it. The silence between them was heavy, pregnant with so much. Bella felt suffocated beneath it as Jake waited with bated breath for her to respond.

Finally, she did.

Bella crawled across the bed, sliding down onto his lap and wrapping herself around him, her lips only an inch from his and her eyes surprisingly calm and clear. His heart was pounding, beating relentlessly against his chest. He hugged her tight to him—still unable to let her go.

She whispered something softly to his lips, making his heart swell.

Her words crashed over him, and he kissed her hard on the mouth, tears unashamedly falling down his face and mingling with hers. He pulled away just enough so she could speak, whispering breathlessly, "Say it again."

She captured his face between her hands, declaring again to his lips, "I'm yours."