This Skin I'm In

The lone wolf ran through the wilderness. So far from the land he called his own; he no longer heard his brothers or sister. Was he too far away for their voices to reach him or had he finally left his humanity too far behind?

Wolves live by instinct. He hunted, killed, fucked and slept as nature dictated. What he wanted, he took. When he came upon a bitch in heat, he mounted her, dominating the female with his Alpha status and if necessary, his massive body. Then he moved on, sexually sated and hungry for food, never interested in more than the needs of the moment. He lived as an animal. But always in the back of his mind was a spark of the man he had been, the man who still wanted something outside of his reach. Bella.

When the longing overtook him, hurling him beyond rational thought, he would push his monstrous paws into the ground and run. For days, he would beat his body against the earth and forest, desperate to live only in the moment, to feel only the skin he was in.

The sun rose earlier each day, and the cold crust of ice no longer appeared in his fur at daybreak. It was almost time.

Bella stood at her window, looking out into the dark forest. Within its depths roamed her saviors, her captors, her future and her past. It was all the same now anyway, she wouldn't remember any of this soon.

Her wedding was only a few days away and in typical fashion, her mother hadn't arrived yet. Bella wanted some time with her, to soak up all the parenting she could. Her life had mostly been devoid of anyone taking care of her. It was one of the many things about Edward she loved, he always put her first.

Bella sighed and sat in the old rocking chair by her window. He wasn't there tonight; she'd told him she needed a night alone. As much as she adored his watchful presence when she slept, sometimes it was nice to be alone. Wearing the grubby old sweats that passed as pajamas and pulling her hair up into a ponytail, she watched the darkness, confident he was out there somewhere.

Sleep seduced her, pulling her into a soft comfort. Beyond the tree line, a wolf howled. Bella smiled. It wasn't Jacob, it'd never be Jacob again, but the sound of the wolves reminded her of a time when he'd loved her and she was happy. She wished for one more day with him, one last chance to say goodbye the way he deserved. But maybe it was better this way. She didn't know where he was and he didn't have to suffer, watching her marry another.

Another howl, nearer to the house, jolted her from her thoughts. The wolves never came this close. She stood and examined the yard below, searching for movement in the darkness. Then she saw it, him, Jacob…

Emerging from the tree line was a great red wolf. He was thinner than when he left and his hair was matted with mud (she hoped).

Bella's mind went blank. Jacob was back! She had denied how much she missed him, how the hole in her heart had ripped open and bled, leaving her cold without him. Bella bolted down the stairs, glad her father wasn't home to hear her graceless descent. She ran, desperate to get to him. Jacob was back!

She threw open her back door. The night air surrounded her, beckoning her out into the open. He had come home! He had returned to her and all she could think about was being in his arms and finally being warm again. He would pull her in tight, his strong arms crushing her against his chest and the slow leaking of her soul would stop. He would put her back together again, just like he did before, and they would be happy.

The fact that she was engaged to another man, committed to a wedding only a few days later, didn't enter her mind. Jacob's anger and hurt didn't occur to her. All she could see was hope in the shape of a wolf.

She ran to the trees, to the spot where she had glimpsed his shape from the window, but he wasn't there. He was too large to hide from her, she was sure she would find him. But the wolf didn't trust the scent of death and sickly sweet caresses lingering on her flesh.

"Jacob?" she called out, hope and fear wrestling within her. "I saw you, I know you're there. Jacob please!"

She called him by his human name, her heart yearning for his sunny nature. Instead of a man, a beast replied. He stepped out of the darkness silently, his long snout turned down to the ground.

"Jacob?" Bella reached out a hand, hoping to stroke his fur the way she had so many months earlier, but he jerked back, out of reach. "Phase back Jake, so we can talk."

He snorted and brought his face closer to hers, leaning down to her height so his large eyes were lined up with hers and his shoulders loomed above them. "Jake?" She placed a hand on his muzzle, but instead of nuzzling into her touch, the beast roared.

Bella stumbled backward, terrified by the animal before her for the first time. Tripping on a branch she fell to the ground and lay prone before him. He stepped forward, menacing in his bulk. Looking down at her, he snarled and snorted again, shaking his head. Jake was in there, she knew it was him, there weren't any other giant red wolves roaming the forests of Washington State.

"Jacob, it's me, Bella. Do you remember? You're at my house. You came here. Please, lets talk. I'm so sorry about what I said, how we left things. I never meant for Edward…"

When she said her fiancé's name the wolf's eyes lost all glimmer of humanity. He shook, anger and heat coiling around his heart.

Jacob lunged.

Bella screamed.

The wolf was in charge.