I don't own Twilight, Stephanie Meyer does.

Thanks bunches to everyone who reviewed! I appreciate y'all hanging in with this story. This chapter is going to be hard, we learn a crap-load about Rose. And thank goodness! She's been a walking mystery for too long. But don't hate me for what you find out. No pitchforks please.


The next few days felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I ended up talking to the council members about my dedication to the tribe but concerns regarding maintaining the life and career I had built for myself. I was expecting a fight, to be honest. I had expected them to make me choose. But they didn't. They were glad I had come to them and actually impressed that I wanted to try to do both. Needless to say, I walked out of that meeting feeling like a new man. And I had Rose to thank for it and I let them know that. I made sure to tell them that it was Rose who wanted me to keep everything that I loved close to me, and that included the tribe. I wanted them to know that it was possible for an outsider to have respect for the traditions of another culture – one so different from their own. As much as I wanted to keep Rose for myself, I realized that I wanted them to know what an incredible person she was and that she was important to me. They apparently took the meeting very seriously and planned a tribal meeting down at the beach. That only meant one thing – it was going to be big. Great. I hoped it wouldn't freak Rose out. I knew she wouldn't have anything to worry about especially if word got out about what the meeting was for. I just hoped all the attention wouldn't freak her out.

Later that night, I met up with Rose for dinner at the coffee shop by the animal clinic. I loved the place because they served breakfast all day if you wanted it. And, honestly, sometimes you just felt like having breakfast for dinner. Tonight, I had a hankering for eggs with biscuits and gravy. I know it will probably kill me one day but whatever. It's good. At least I'll die happy.

"So, Rose, what are you doing tomorrow night?" Yeah, just try and be completely nonchalant about breaking this news. She looked at me and whispered playfully.

"I don't know, Jake, what are we doing tomorrow night?" Sigh.

"We are going to a meeting down at the beach. Everyone's going to be there." That sure as hell piqued her interest. She put down her grilled cheese sandwich which signaled complete attention diverted to the conversation at hand.

"What's this meeting about?" She started to swirl a French fry in the pool of ketchup she had made.

"Well… I met with the council and we talked everything out. Arrangements have been made and the transfer will be final after I continue to meet with them and Dad for a few months. So, the meeting is to bring everyone up to speed. It's more of an excuse to get everyone together and BBQ anything that can possibly be BBQ'd down on the beach. Are you ok with going with me to that? They actually requested that you come." She looked at me stunned but she wasn't saying anything. Is she choking? I'm CPR certified…

"So you're actually going to try to make everything work together?" I didn't really recognize the look she gave me next. A sort of bewilderment?

"Uh yeah. Rose, are you ok? You look…" She stood up as best she could, reached for me across the table and held my face gently in her hands as she kissed me.

"I'm so proud of you! I'm excited that things are starting on the track you want! Oh, Jake, this is great. How do you feel about this?" Just seeing her excitement made me look forward to starting this new chapter in my life. I needed to do everything I could to make her a part of it.

"I feel pretty good about it. I had made some assumptions about taking the leader role that I shouldn't have. I won't be doing things alone which is a relief. Everything's going to work out, Rose. You were right." She smiled widely and I couldn't help but smile myself. Her smile faded a bit when she spoke.

"You said that they requested that I be there for the meeting… why?" She looked like she was afraid she was about to get in trouble. Like being called into the principal's office.

"I told them that you were an integral part in my trying to making all the different parts of my life work together. They know that you're a part of me so they want you there as well. The women of the tribe play an important role as well, Rose." Now that look I knew. Shock. I don't think she was expecting to hear that the council considered her as one of us.

"It's not just because I love you, Rose, or that we're together. They want you there because of what kind of person you are and what you've done for me. That means more than anything." I continued to eat my breakfast for dinner but it took a while for her to resume eating her sandwich. The rest of the meal was pretty silent except for the occasional whispered, wow.

Rose and I packed a few blankets and a cooler with some marinated kabobs that she had prepared into the cab of the truck along with all our boys. For sure, the dogs couldn't miss this. Once we got close to the beach, Rose got a feel for the extent of this gathering. Cars were parked along the highway for what seemed like miles and small groups of people trailed their way toward the light of the bonfires that illuminated the sky from behind the bluffs. Her eyes widened and she brought the fingertips of one hand to touch her lips as she whispered.

"I hope I made enough kabobs…" Classic Rose comment.

"There's going to be more than enough food, everyone always brings more than necessary. Besides, you're going to be the belle of the ball tonight. Not your kabobs. Even though they did look amazing." A genuine smile crept across her face but she couldn't hide her apprehension about tonight. It was amazing to me that an incredible person such as Rose could be nervous about meeting people who were looking forward to meeting her. But, as much as I loved her and as much as I knew I wanted her in my life, there still was a great deal that I didn't know about her. The first thing that shot to my mind was that nightmare I witnessed her having. There was some serious pain in her past. That might be part of her fear for tonight. All I did know was that I would do everything I could to make sure she was as comfortable as possible and at ease throughout this get together.

We pulled up in an area close to the beach that so wasn't meant to be parked on but that's what trucks were for. Right? I grabbed the cooler and Rose leashed Godric and Eric. My boys went free because they knew everyone already, knew the area. I had a feeling that the leashes wouldn't be needed after about five minutes but Rose always erred on the side of caution. Such a good citizen.

Needless to say, we sure got a lot of immediate attention as we made our way across the sand toward the largest bonfire where the council members were gathered. Godric and Eric sensed Rose's tension and kept their protective positioning around her throughout. My Dad was the first to approach us and the boys let out a low growl. Rose loosened her hold on their leashes and massaged the tops of their heads making them sit on either side of her, allowing my Dad to come closer.

"You must be Rose. Beautiful dogs, so devoted. That says a lot about you. My name is Billy. Billy Black, Jake's tyrant of a father." He smirked at me as he made that last comment and reached out to shake Rose's hand.

"I don't think so, Mr. Black. Jake has never said anything close to that about you. It's an honor to meet you, sir." Dad wasn't used to this kind of respect from strangers, that was for sure. The thing was, it was truly genuine. Just as everything coming from Rose was genuine. Damn, I loved her.

"Oh please no! Mr Black was my father and he's been gone a long time. Call me Billy. Have you met anyone from La Push yet?" I stepped closer to Rose and settled my hand gently on the small of her back and I noticed her body start to relax slowly. Dad noticed too making him smile slightly. They continued their conversation as I just enjoyed being close to her. All I wanted to do was hold her in my arms and never let go, to feel her body next to mine. That's how I felt the safest. The most whole. Wow, this was really taking me over. When was this meeting thing going to be over?

A few hours went by and people were slowly tearing themselves away from the crazy amount of food that had been put together for tonight. My Dad called everyone to quiet down and listen to the announcements about me eventually taking the leadership role. It made me smile when all the council members mentioned Rose in their speeches to all of us. I snuck a look at her out of the corner of my eye and she was blushing, embarrassed by all the attention she was receiving. All I noticed, though, was the way the glow from the fire lit up her face, and the way her grip on me tightened every time they mentioned me and my importance to the tribe. She was proud of me. Taking on the leadership role in the tribe would definitely take more of my time away from her but her support never wavered. She knew it was part of me. Something I was born to do. And she refused to stand in the way of that. She didn't want to change me. Seriously, I needed to get Rose home.

We were on our way home, finally, after we got the boys packed up and said our goodbyes. She was setting up the iPod for the stereo and started to bounce in her seat when Puscifer's "DoZo" dripped out of the speakers. Now this was the Rose I knew – confident, happy, smiling, and a closet dork. I took her hand and kissed her fingers one by one until she brought her fingers up to brush against my cheek.

"You looked so comfortable out there tonight, Jake. More at ease than I've seen you look with others in a long time. I'm so in awe of you right now. You're a strong man." By this time, she was turned completely in her seat to face me, her hand now drifting over my arm and down my thigh. Jackpot! My jeans immediately got tighter and I covered her hand with mine, not guiding it but just following her.

"How fast can your truck get us home?" I smirked and whispered as I floored it.

"Pretty damn fast, babe. Pretty damn fast." We got to our turn-off at Icehouse Road and her thumb was already rubbing against the side of my cock. She brushed over my center and I growled willing my truck to go fast up the steep grade toward our houses. I started to slow once we got closer to my place but she whispered into my ear before she licked my earlobe taking it between her teeth and sucking gently.

"My place, Jake. Let's go to my place." Ok, fine with me. We continued to barrel up the road to her place but I slowed making Rose whimper in protest. By this time, she was sucking on my neck and letting her hand wander over my chest. But what I saw parked outside her place snapped me out of all horniness. She sensed my change in demeanor because she looked toward her house as well and immediately threw herself back in her seat, using her legs to push her way backward even though there wasn't anywhere for her to go. Her breathing picked up and was quickly on it's way to hyperventilation, all the color that had filled her from the inside was completely gone. She. Was. Terrified. I looked to Rose for an explanation but she just shook her head, her widened eyes filling and spilling over with tears. What the hell?

I looked back at the truck that was parked in front of her house to see what I could figure out. It was an old blue Toyota single cab truck with a small lift, the bed had military duffle bags thrown in it with a wire-haired hunting dog standing at attention, a small skull with feathers for hair hung from the rear-view mirror, and the two stickers on the back window of the truck made my blood run cold as well. The first was the Marine Corps seal, and the second was the insignia for the Third Battalion Seventh Marines. Complete with Kabar. Shit. The driver was out of his truck and pacing in front of the entrance to Rose's house, on his cell phone, but closed the phone quickly when he noticed my truck pull up.

"Rose, what…" She just kept shaking her head slightly gripping the interior of the car, her white knuckles practically glowing in the darkness. Every once in a while, she would whisper.

"James… James… James…" Holy crap. This was James? The guy from her nightmares? How the hell did he find her here? Yeah, now was not the time to be grilling her on things like this. I moved to exit the car but she quickly reached out to keep me inside with her. I had never seen her like this… awake, and it broke my heart to see her this petrified of one man. I had no idea what exactly their history was other than what I heard from her talking, or sobbing, in her sleep. But I wanted to face this guy. He was on my territory now and he was torturing my girl whether he knew it or not.

"It's ok, Rose, lock the doors behind me. I'll find out what he's doing here." I got out and let Eric and Godric into the extra cab of my truck so she wouldn't be alone. They could sense something was up and were relieved themselves to be closer to her.

James saw me as I approached and I sized him up pretty quickly. For a Marine, he wasn't that big. He was a couple inches shorter than me, muscular but not outrageously so, and a few tattoos extended out past his wrist from underneath his jacket. Other than that, he looked pretty harmless. So I figured I'd talk to him to see what I could find out.

"Hi there, can I help you?" In my eyes, always start with polite. It's on them if they take it anywhere else.

"It's none of your business, beaner. Take off." Ok, that wasn't polite at all. Add in a racial slur! That's fabulous. And it didn't even apply… what an ass. What did Rose see in this guy?

"Well, if it's about the lady who lives here, then it is my business. What's your purpose here, James?" I think that threw him off. It seemed he wasn't used to getting attitude flung back at him when he dished it out. Plus, I knew more about him than he knew about me. Sure, it wasn't much, but it was still more.

"Where's Rosie, man? I'd like to speak with her if that's ok with her body guard." I really didn't like this guy. And it still blared in my brain, what did Rose ever see in this guy?

"She's safe, but she really doesn't want to speak with you. So… leaving would be a good idea." I whistled and my boys ran up to my side taking a very aggressive stance toward James, just begging him to make some kind of stupid move toward me. I redirected them to wait at the bottom of the steps for me and they whimpered like I was teasing them with a hot meal. James looked down to his feet, shook his head, and smiled slightly.

"Ok, man. How about this? I'll wait in my truck. You tell her I divorced Victoria." He reached into his back pocket and fished out some legal looking documents. His voice softened.

"Tell her that I'm sorry and I wanted her to hear it from me. I don't want to hurt her or upset her. I just want to talk to her. Will you do that for me?" He actually looked sincere and handed me the documents to show Rose. I looked at them and they definitely were official divorce papers. Oh boy. This was a whole new can of worms that was about to be busted open.

My mind reeled. Here was a guy who had hurt Rose so badly that she screamed and sobbed in her sleep. The effects of that time still evident in her insecurities. Do I protect her? Or do I let her face this? She wouldn't be doing it alone, of course. But, just like she had helped me with my decision about the tribe and trying to make everything work, I knew I had to help her deal with her past. Even if I had no clue about what it was. Shit. Rose is gonna flip.

James was true to his word as he got back in his car and locked his doors. I walked slowly back to Rose who was locked in my truck and her eyes were closed, but I could tell she was doing that pursed-lip breathing thing – in through the nose, out through the mouth. Eric and Godric were resting their heads on her and she had visibly calmed down. Great. And here I was to stir the pot again. I whispered from outside through the closed window.

"Rose, honey?" Nothing. She didn't hear me. I knew if I knocked on the window she'd freak out. So I went around to the driver's side and opened the door by sliding my key into the hole. That way she'd know it was me. She was still startled but not as bad. She looked at me as if I was about to tell her the world was going to end in five minutes.

"I talked to him…" She cut me off.

"What the hell does he want? How did he find me here? I was so careful. Why is he here? Why? Why? Why?" I wanted to tell her that he was an evil man who followed her here by scent and would be torn to bits and lit on fire at my next free moment. But I didn't.

"He gave me these to give to you… he said he's sorry, and he wants to talk to you." She took the papers like they were laced with poison and read them quickly. As she did, she brought the fingertips of her right hand up to meet her lips and I watched them slowly start to quiver. I reached over to brush some strands of hair out of her face and the quivering lips turned to straight out crying. She threw the papers onto the dash and ran her hands roughly over face and back into her hair. Now she looked pissed. She let her head fall back against the head rest of the seat and said softly.

"Why?" More tears fell silently and rolled down her cheeks. Then she scared me with an outburst I'd never witnessed from her before as she screamed.

"Why now, you fucking asshole? A few years too late!" She was sobbing now and then whispered through her gasps for air.

"Don't ruin this too…" Holy Christ. She slowly composed herself and stared out the window deliberately keeping her gaze from James and his truck. She looked at me calmly but it was a side to Rose I wasn't familiar with.

"I can't talk to him now, Jake. I know I'll fall apart and I don't want to give him the pleasure of witnessing that. I just need to prepare myself before I can face him. Could you give these papers back to him for me, please? Also, could you ask him to give me a couple days? Thank you, baby." Every word that came out of her mouth was carefully chosen and measured. It didn't sound like Rose. It's sounded like a script that she had practiced over and over for years. Perhaps it was. What she said next, though, was what floored me.

"Be nice to him, Jake. He might be a dick on the outside, but deep down he's a good guy." Seriously? She wanted me to be nice to this jack-off? Ok. How about this? I wouldn't rip his heart out through his throat tonight. But he'd know that I wasn't going to make his visit to Forks easy on him.

I took the papers and walked back to James's truck and he rolled down his window.

"So? She saw the papers? What did she say?" He honestly thought that seeing those divorce papers would be a sun-shiny revelation to her.

"Well… I'll just skip to what she asked me to tell you. She needs a couple days before she can talk to you. I hope you can honor that." He actually looked remorseful. I didn't know what to think about this guy. He took the papers and started his truck.

"I appreciate your help, man. Giving her a couple days is the least I can do for her. I know I hurt her. There's nothing I can do to take that back but I'd like to try. Seeing her like this breaks my heart…" He paused and took a few deep breaths. Then he continued.

"I'll be staying at the Inn in town. James Drake. I didn't catch your name." He reached out to shake my hand. Uh… huh? I shook his hand before I could think twice about it. But there was something about him that told me not to torch his truck.

"Jake Black." That's all I could get out, I was stunned.

"Nice to meet you, Jake. Catch ya later." He backed up and headed down the road, Rose deliberately looking the other way and playing with the dogs. Damn. This was sure turning into one hell of a cluster-fuck.

I didn't even ask, I just drove us all back down to my place and held Rose close to me as we walked inside. She was still shaking slightly but determined to stay strong. It seemed really hard for her so whatever happened between her and James must have been horrific for her to be affected this way. Once I got her settled on the couch with a blanket and her boys at her feet, I went back outside to unload my truck. My boys came inside as well and circled the living room knowing that something was up, eventually each taking seats by the front door and doors out to the patio. They were guarding the place. I started some hot water for her tea which I kept a box of for her in my kitchen. Personally, I wasn't a fan of hot tea. Iced? Yes. But not hot. That shit was nasty. But I knew how she liked it so she got a great big mug of hot peach tea with a bit of lavender honey. She took it and smiled sweetly but I could tell she was still lost in thought. I desperately wanted to know what had happened and what was rolling around inside her brain but I refused to push her. I figured she'd tell me in her own time.

"Would you like some of those meringues you like with your tea, Rose?" Yeah, yeah. I kept my place stocked with those too. What? She liked them! She shook her head and turned to look at me and smiled sweetly again.

"No thanks, love. Just the tea is fine. And it's perfect. Thank you." Um, ok. I didn't know where to go from here. So I just made myself some coffee and took a seat next to her, snuggling up close to her under the blanket and putting my arm around her shoulder. She didn't snuggle back, she just sat there drinking her tea slowly and quietly. Maybe she wanted some alone time? Shit, I don't know what the hell she wants! Usually I didn't have to ask because she always made things very clear. But this didn't seem to be the real Rose I was dealing with.

Then I felt her start to tremble slightly and I noticed her shoulders starting to cave in on themselves. Silent heavy tears were streaming down her perfect cheeks but she didn't look angry, hysterical, or hurt like she had earlier. She looked exhausted, like she was surrendering after a long hard fight.

"I'm sorry, Jake, seeing James has just thrown me off. I don't mean to be… this, but I just need time for things to sink in. I just feel numb." Crap. Do it, Jake, just ask. You won't know if you don't.

"Would you feel comfortable… what… can you tell me…" Yeah, that's good, freak. Unintelligible dumb person speak.

"You want to know what happened." She just said it matter-of-factly as she looked down into her tea. There was no emotion in her voice, nothing. Again, it was like she was reading a script.

"You don't have to tell me if you don't want to or if it's too soon…" She finally turned to look at me and her expression softened. Thank God. For a while there, it felt like I was dealing with a stranger.

"He came off like a jerk, didn't he?" She smiled slightly, her gaze now returning to her tea as she shook her head.

"A total ass.. in the beginning." She nodded.

"He always does. To strangers. Anyone who questions him. He's used to people ditching him so he automatically goes on the offensive with someone new. Scare them off before they have a chance to weasel their way in. It's such a ridiculous front because he's really not like that." Was she defending him? Now? At this point, I decide to get comfortable because this was sounding like the beginnings of a long story. I backed into the corner of the couch to face her directly and got ready to listen.

"I met him through his mom, Renee. We worked together, she was a traveler at one of the clinics I worked at down in southern California. She was older than me but we became fast friends. We were both single and decided to join one of those on-line dating sites." The idea of Rose needing to get dates by going on-line made me laugh to myself. I couldn't believe she needed to go that route! Not only was she beautiful, but she was smart and funny, independent, and loads of fun. It didn't make sense to me.

"When we both were having dismal luck, I jokingly suggested that I should print out a thousand 8x10' glossies of myself and have her son, James, post them all over the base with my number on it. She actually e-mailed my picture to him to show his friends. I found out later that he kept the picture for himself."

"He was fresh back from his second tour in Iraq and was due to be honorably discharged at the end of the year. One Friday, Renee caught me at work and asked me to go with her to pick James up at Twenty-Nine Palms so he could spend the weekend at her place. Any place but the base." She finished her tea and placed the empty mug on the coffee table before she moved toward me and snuggled into my chest. This was a good sign. She was loosening up. We'll see how long it lasts.

"I was looking forward to meeting him, honestly. A real Marine! He was married and, from what Renee had told me, was madly in love with his wife. It was safe. I was also looking forward to seeing what Twenty-Nine Palms was all about. You hear about it but, if you don't have cause to go there, you can't gather anything from the outside. The surrounding area is just depressing. It's desert. Just dirt and sand everywhere with the occasional Joshua tree and Yucca plant defying the elements. And houses! Random houses planted haphazardly with full plastic mailboxes the only proof that a human exists there. Plus, I wanted to see the military first hand. I was anti-war but staunchly pro-military as I still am. Our guys are so kick-ass, both they and their families sacrifice so much, that I want to make sure they make those sacrifices for the right reasons. And I wanted to see our guys first hand."

"Anyway, we finally turned onto the road that led directly into the base and it was lined with barber shops, convenient stores, movie rental stores, and bars. Girls were everywhere moving in packs trying to hook a Marine. It was sad to see, really. When we finally did get close, I noticed the speed limit signs were ridiculous. 20mph, radar enforced… 10mph, radar strictly enforced. We finally crawled up to the check point and were greeted by a teenager with an automatic weapon ready to fire if needed. Both of us had to provide every piece of identification possible… driver's license, social security card, major credit card, library card… you get the point. After we passed the background checks and the vehicle was searched by a K-9 unit, we made it on base and finally tracked James down."

"When I saw him, he wasn't what I expected. When I think Marine, I think large, scary, sweaty man who could kill you just by looking at you. He wasn't that at all. I mean he looked sturdy and all, you saw him. But not necessarily threatening. He was actually easy to get along with, easy to talk to. When Renee and I followed him in his car back to his barracks, she was surprised that he talked to a stranger so quickly. She hadn't seen anything like it before. I didn't think anything of it."

"We got to his room and he gushed over the latest picture his wife sent him, he had made his desolate room a home from what she had sent to him as well. Renee had told me beforehand not to ask him why he didn't have a roommate – his roommate and best friend was killed in an extremely horrifying way right in front of him. His side of the room was empty but James kept it spotless at all times, pictures of him with the rest of their team together were the only things left. I didn't mention it and didn't dare venture onto that side out of respect."

"We loaded James's stuff into Renee's Honda Pilot and headed back to her place, he drove so Renee could sleep in the back seat. I rode shot gun and he talked all the way back home. He talked about Victoria, how they met, how she saved him by giving him something to live for while he was over there, what things were really like over there, what he did both as ordered and on the record and what he did as ordered that was off the record. The things he'd done and seen were shocking. And here he was trying to return to normal life after living like that for so many months. Such ridiculous expectations of these young men and women. But they do it, they're good at it, and they do it for the rest of us. Sure what he was telling me freaked me out, but I couldn't turn him away. Listening was the least I could do. So I did."

Rose took a long pause and a few deep breaths then continued. She was starting to look uncomfortable again.

"The next day at work, Renee stopped me and told me that James had never in his life talked to anyone that easily and about such personal things, and so quickly after meeting them. Again, I didn't think anything of it. She also said that he seemed more positive lately after having talked to someone that wasn't family, and asked me if I would continue to talk to him to help him get things out. Of course, I agreed. It was the least I could do." Her smile faded completely and the pained look returned to her eyes.

"A few days later, I got a call on my cell from an unknown number on my way home from work. It was him. Apparently, Renee had given him my number. We ended up talking for quite some time and it went on like that for weeks. Weekdays in the afternoons and very late nights, texting throughout the day, we even did laundry together on weekends over the phone. Our bills were astronomical." She chuckled slightly at that but a smile never reached her eyes or even her lips. I could tell she missed that side of him. It made me want to track James down at the Inn and mess him up but I also felt Rose's pain. Even though someone has hurt us deeply, we can't help but remember the good things. And she was reliving those times at this very moment.

"Eventually, I started getting frenzied calls from him anywhere from midnight to 4am but I could tell something was wrong. He'd get defensive when I'd ask him what had happened, would almost pick a fight with me. Even though it was an ungodly hour and I was desperate for sleep because I had to be up early for work, I waited until he told me." She paused again and looked as though she was far away.

"He was having nightmares and couldn't sleep, very aggressive. Classic PTSD. The first person he called was his wife. She hung up on him. She said it was too hard for her to listen to his stories so she just would either hang up on him or not pick up at all. So he called me. No matter what time it was, I always listened and wouldn't let him get away with trying to be a dick. When I called him on it, he said, 'Why can't Victoria be more like you? You care for me more than my own wife does. Why didn't I wait to get married? It should have been you.'" The emotionless stare and tone of voice was back.

"This whole time, I resisted his advances – and there were a whole lot of them. I encouraged him to try harder to talk to Victoria, to encourage her to go to counseling for dealing with someone with PTSD, for him to go on base. But he was very resistant. Eventually he started moving our conversations in a sexual direction which I redirected every time suggesting he call his wife if he needed some fun time. He became harder and harder to resist, but I did. Then my Grammy got sick." She looked like she was ready to cry again, but she swallowed it down, determined to get through the story.

"Everyday, I drove an hour after work to visit her in the hospital even though she was in a coma. James would call at least once a day to check on me and my Grammy's status. He kept the conversations supportive, no funny business. As her health deteriorated, we texted throughout the day. Just as I had listened to him through his hardest times, he was then listening to me. He let me talk for hours, listened to me cry… When she finally passed and we were planning the funeral, he and one of his friends from the base drove down to his mom's on their own with their dress blues ready to escort me to the funeral if I wanted them to. That's when I fell for him. And it was all downhill from there. He told me he loved me and put in applications at the Los Angeles and Orange County Sheriff's departments rather than back home in Wyoming so he could be closer to me. Then he tried to convince me to move out there, mailing me applications to clinics closest to his home. Then there were periods when I wouldn't hear from him – a week or so at a time, then I'd get a couple calls in one day apologizing and saying how much he missed me and couldn't stay away from me." Now her expression was hardening. I was nervous about where this story was heading.

"It was getting close to his discharge date and Renee had let slip that I had a date with another Marine from Camp Pendleton down in Oceanside. He flipped out and called me every half hour until I turned my phone back on and I saw all fifteen messages were from him. I called him back and that's when we had our blow up. He didn't want me seeing anyone but he got to go home to his wife. We argued and then both of us ended up in tears because he felt he had to honor his commitment to his wife even though he, his mother, and all his friends knew that he didn't love her anymore. He loved me because of who I was and because I made him want to be a better person. But he needed to honor his commitment. So he left. The last time I spoke to him was December 9th, 2006 at 1:43am." She fell silent again and I was speechless. The idea of two people being truly in love with each other but separated by a bad decision was heart-wrenching.

"We made an agreement that I wouldn't contact him out of respect for his decision to work things out with his wife. But if anything changed and their relationship ended, or if he was in trouble and needed my help, I would only be a phone call away and I would be there for him. We were friends first, after all. He agreed. Well… he ended up contacting me about every year or so just to see what I was up to and whenever one of the big brush fires got close to where I lived. And every time, I asked him if he was in trouble. That was always my main concern. I would drop everything, hop on a plane, and cruise into Casper in a heart beat. But every time, his answer would be that he was fine, he was just thinking about me. Well, what he didn't know was that I had planned a suicide attempt and my time in the hospital was spent trying to get me stronger when it came to thinking about James and what happened between us. So every time I heard from him, always by e-mail, it was like opening the wound all over again. Each time it got easier, but it still knocked the wind out of me. So tonight, actually seeing him in person transported me right back to 2006 and I lost it. I'm sorry you had to see that."

Holy. Shit. My Rose planned to attempt suicide? My Rose was in a psychiatric hospital? Why? Because he left?

"Rose, but why? Why would you…want to…" I couldn't even bring myself to say it. The idea of it all hurt me too much.

"Why did I want to kill myself? I had gone my entire life either being passed over by men or wanted only for what they saw on the outside. They ditched me the minute they discovered I had a mind of my own. But James saw me for who I was. He loved me even more because of my independence and personality aside from what every one else saw on the outside. So finally, the one person who did see me for what I was wouldn't leave the woman he didn't love anymore for the woman he did. I was alone again. I had a complete meltdown, lost 30 pounds in about six weeks for not eating, and was convinced I was driving everyone close to me completely nuts. I figured I would do everyone a favor by just not being around anymore. And now… he's in town… this town… and he showed me his divorce papers. Why does he think it's ok for him to keep introducing himself back into my life? And what am I supposed to think about those papers? What the hell does he want from me? I've worked so hard to get to where I am emotionally and he just flips all that work on it's ass. So yeah, I need to work through everything before I can talk to him, let alone look at him. I'm afraid it will take me back there. To that place. To that time." Suddenly, she turned to me as if she snapped out of trance.

"I don't want to go back there, Jake. I love the life I have! I love my work, I love this place… I love you! What this is… what we have… is… perfect. It's perfect, Jake. I don't want to unravel again. And I don't want to lose us." Rose looked more than worried. There was exhaustion, fear, and a serious amount of anxiety. Her spark was gone. I searched her eyes and it wasn't there. She looked defeated just by taking in her posture. I wanted to protect her. I knew I couldn't build her back up, she had to do that on her own. But I could shield her while she worked on it. I turned myself on the couch so we were facing each other squarely and took her hands in mine, attempting to maintain her gaze.

"Rosalie Hale. I love you. I love everything about you. You snore a bit when you're in a weird position in bed. Your hair has a Nikki Sixx thing going on sometimes when you wake up in the morning. You're awesome at your job. You snort sometimes when you laugh really hard. You have the most beautiful feet I've ever seen. You have the kindest gentlest heart of anyone I've ever met and I feel like I'm the luckiest guy in the world to have you in my life. Now, I can't fix anything for you, you know that. But I will be here for you and support you through anything and everything. You aren't alone, Rose. You have me to come home to. And I thank God for that every day." Her eyes started welling with tears when I started talking about her morning Nikki Sixx hair and the stream of tears just intensified from there. She leapt at me and crushed me with a hug forcing me back on the couch with her on top of me. To be completely honest, this wasn't the worst position I'd been in my life. I wrapped my arms around her and held her as she sobbed and trembled. It blew my mind to see one of the strongest people I knew totally broken like this. But I sure as hell knew no one would be able to do that to her again. Not while I was alive and breathing.

Rose stopped crying a short while after I held her on top of me but she remained there, snuggling into my side so she could wrap her arms around me too. Her fingertips were tracing patterns on my arms and chest as I felt the rhythm of her breath on my skin. I held her close and kissed the top of her head, absolutely loving this closeness. Then her fingertips started to trace patterns over my belly and kept trending downward. Oh my. Is this the best time? Should I question it at all?

"Rose…" She just hummed as she pressed her hips slightly into mine. Oh yeah, she was initiating this. And if I had learned anything during my time with Rose, it was that she doesn't back down from things like this once she starts. It was on. I ran my hand down her back and over her bottom pulling her in closer to me drawing a barely noticeable whimper from my darling girl. Any sound that came from Rose during our intimate moments were absolute heaven but even the smallest ones had the same effect on me as the loud strangled screams she let loose when she came. So naturally, my cock swelled to attention. She noticed right away and started to ghost her hand over everything in the area except that. I reached down and tilted her head up so I could claim those amazing lips. I could taste the salt from her tears that still remained on her lips and it saddened me, but also made me want to make her forget tonight's drama if even for just a few hours. That was going to be my mission.

I sucked her lower lip into my mouth tenderly and slowly massaged her tongue with mine. It felt right to go at this pace, to show her how much I loved her. To show her that I loved her and not just her physical self. As my kisses got deeper, her hand finally started to massage my cock and I moaned softly into her mouth. I loved the way she touched me. I loved the way she made me feel when we were close like this. I just plain loved her and I needed to feel more of her. I grabbed the back cushions of the couch and tossed over the back side and somewhere into the dining room so we would have more room on the couch, and then rolled us over so our positions were switched. She continued to stroke the length of my cock through my jeans and eventually started undoing my belt and button-fly. The world stood still for a few seconds and all concentration that I had planned for her vaporized. Her hand was now massaging me through my underwear, oh my goodness… skin on skin… Wait, how did this happen? Where am I? I feel GOOD! I know I was supposed to be doing something though… Darn Rose and her expert manual skills! I crashed back into reality and dove into the skin at her neck. She gasped loudly at that and arched her back shoving her breasts into my chest. Heaven help me. That made me even harder and I needed to get these clothes out of our way. I pulled my t-shirt over my head and helped Rose off with her sweatshirt and tank top she had on underneath. Each time I saw her like this, she took my breath away. So beautiful. Her pink and orange lace bra made me smile because she always managed to be sexy under whatever she was wearing.

Soon every piece of clothing we had on at one point in the evening was strewn haphazardly throughout the front rooms. I wouldn't be surprised if we found some in the kitchen. I took my time in worshiping every inch of her body. Kissing, licking, and nibbling as I went, and finally arriving at her inner thighs. Rose was squirming already, her breath speeding up in anticipation. With one hand under her at the small of her back and the other bracing her knee out to the side, I sighed heavily over her center for her to feel my breath.

"So perfect, Rose." I felt her entire body shudder as she took a death-grip on the couch. So I let my tongue slide the length of her already soaked pussy then gently kissed her clit. Ok, so I knew Rose's noises. They started out higher pitched then lowered the closer she got to orgasm. Well, the sounds I was getting from her now were already on the low side. I decided to test my theory to see if it was a fluke and… it wasn't. She rolled her hips with every pass of my mouth, clawed at my skin with her fingernails, and watched me between her thighs like a hawk. Her intensity was rubbing off on me, apparently, because I was hard as a rock and my dick wasn't anywhere near her. I started to focus my attention on her clit and the fingertips of one of her hands gripped my shoulder while the other was about to rip my couch apart. Two of my fingers slipped between her folds and she let out a deep sigh, she reached for the blanket that had been tossed to the floor next to the couch and handed it to me. It took a while for me to understand why she was giving this to me but then I understood, sliding it underneath her bottom and straightening it underneath me. Nice. That only made me suck on her clit harder and search for that G-spot even harder. When I found it, I started to massage it gently and she cried out, her body trembling. I replaced my tongue and lips with my thumb at her clit and moved upward to graze the skin of her jaw with my teeth. Her hands moved to redirect my lips to hers and she devoured me, making me groan loudly into her mouth. There was so much need and urgency in that kiss that I almost lost control of myself. But I wanted to slow this down, make this last as long as possible. So I slowed my pace making her whimper in protest. Then she spoke in that small voice of hers that was hard for me to resist.

"Jake, please, I need you, I want you to… uuuh… yeah…" I kept my slow pace but increased the pressure inside of her, feeling a small spray on my hand and arm. I whispered into her ear.

"Gorgeous, Rose. Keep going, love. Show me more." She whimpered loudly as I continued the strong massage. Eventually I felt more spray on my arm and now on my belly and legs. This was the most fantastic thing ever. Her body was seriously starting to tremble now and this time, she had a death-grip on me.

"I'm gonna… fuck, I'm close, keep… God, yes, keep going, Jake… like that… like that… like… Jesus! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" Holy shit, the blanket was soaked. I grabbed it and tossed it on the floor, quickly entering her to keep her sensitivity up. I could still feel her throbbing on the inside and her hands were now on my hips pulling me further into her. I guess I got lost in the moment because I pushed into her harder than I ever had before, only realizing I had after the fact. My eyes shot to her face to see if she was alright or if she was angry. But she rocked her hips into me, was nodding her head in encouragement, and hooked her leg over the back of the couch giving me more room.

"Holy shit, Jake… yes… you've been… holding out on me…" Damn, that just flipped some kind of switch inside of me and all bets were off. She cried out with every thrust, smiling a devilish grin, and most likely drawing blood from the skin on my back with her fingernails. I wet my thumb in her juices and circled her clit in time with my thrusts. She gasped loudly and her groans started to sound more like growls. Yeah, she was close. And thank goodness because so was I. A few more deep ones and I was soaked again as she screamed out her orgasm, and that sent me over the edge.

"C'mon, Jake, let me hear you. Let me hear how good it feels." Yeah, screaming out would be much easier than trying to formulate a sentence. I planted my hands on either side of her chest on the couch, locked eyes with hers as she took hold of my face in her hands, and I choked out a strangled scream from what felt like deep in my belly. The jolts of pleasure continued longer than usual and I held her body close to mine as I rode them out inside of her. Her arms and legs wrapped around me keeping me in place as she continued to rock her hips slightly. Damn, I didn't want her to stop. The combination of the feeling of our slick skin against each other, the heaving of her chest against mine as we tried to catch our breath, and the slow rhythmic rolling of her hips was making me hard again. Really? Was that even possible? Apparently it was. And she felt it, causing her to hum quietly and swivel her hips against mine. She was driving me crazy! Instinctively, I started to rock my hips pulling out slightly and then sliding in again. Her body writhed against mine and that was all I needed. We dove into a sensual kiss and then I trailed my tongue along her jaw line toward the back of her ear. She spoke softly.

"I've almost forgotten, Jake. Help me put the nail in the coffin?" My eyes snapped to hers to find her smiling widely. I swept the damp hair out of her face and thrust a bit deeper this time making her giggle and then let out a soft groan. "I love you, Jake. For so many reasons." After a few more slow thrusts, she spoke again.

"Make love to me again?" Like she had to ask.