Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. Blah blah blah... just havin' fun.


Yeah I know I said I was ducking back out of fanfic – grimace - but I got on a reading kick and after a bunch of old-skool JxB fics I couldn't find one that hit the mark I wanted. This is just an odd little ditty that takes the story as it was and develops JxB in a gritty, realistic way. Chapters are long - more like the Brit style of series - long installments, fewer episodes which probably doesn't matter if you're reading through now without reading along.


Ground rules: Everything from Twilight through Breaking Dawn's honeymoon holds true. The only book universe cannon I really changed was the (idiotic) idea that vampires somehow have living semen.

No prereader/beta – don't mind the typos. Quick and rough, I just write it as I see it and thought you might be interested in coming along for the ride.


Be warned: Parts of this turned out pretty raw, dark and naughty – like AP, definitely not a romancey-romance. Sorry I'm in such an edgy space right now. Hopefully no one is young enough to need the reminder that these are not role models but fictional characters – and troubled ones at that.


Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy.



Chances - Part I



Bella's eyes darted down to the glass in her hand and spun it restlessly on the bar.

He'd changed so much.

Her father had said as much, hadn't he? Even her sole childhood friend that had survived adulthood, Angela, had said something about it. And she'd previously only met him twice: once at school on a motorcycle in leather and the other at Bella's wedding. She'd never understood how Angela could possibly notice at just a chance meeting at First Beach, but she had.

Of course, now she did.

Bella picked up the short thick glass and tipped back a mouthful of Jack Daniels– swishing it around in her mouth for the numbing effect before her eyes ventured over the rim.

Jacob was standing in the far corner of the ballroom with one foot up on a chair and his forearm resting on his thigh. In the other hand he held a long-neck amber beer between two fingers, absently swinging it to and fro while he held court with his men.

Bigger now than any of the giants around him, he was wearing a blue dress shirt that was tailored perfectly to cling to his trim torso in spite of massive shoulders. Sleeves rolled up setting off the toffee bulk of his forearms, he'd left the top buttons temptingly open and tucked it in black jeans. Like most of the men here, he was trolling the casual side of dressy, but then again, so was the groom.

Bella swallowed her mouthful of liquor as her eyes darted automatically across the room to where her father sat with his new bride. Arm over the back of her chair, he was leaning in while they shared secrets and smiles like two high school sweethearts.

Actually Bella supposed they were.

Charlie and Sue had known each other since childhood but she'd married into the auspicious Clearwater bloodline probably from tribal pressure and parents. Bella was glad to see they weren't making the same mistake twice.

Bella's eyes returned to Jacob, now offering the man in front of him a terse nod. Even his face had changed. The softness of youth had evaporated from a rugged athleticism. His brow was so severe it threw intense eyes into mysterious shadow and his strong jaw was lined with scruff. Like his father and others on the Council, he'd grown his hair out but if anything it just harshened his features instead of softening them as it had when he was a boy. He had it pulled back into a tight shiny braid that hung halfway down his back.

With absent coordination, Jacob hiked the bottle into his palm with jerk of his wrist and tipped it up to his lips while he kept his eyes locked on the man.

His back to her, she had no idea who he was talking to so intently. By his coloring, the man was Quileute but so was half the room. The union of a respected Council Member and Police Chief had brought the two towns together, if only for the night.

But by the man's size Bella could easily guess he was Pack. Even they had changed. Gone were the rambunctious boys, running extra hot on a superhero adrenaline high. At the beginning of the night the Pack had slipped into the room one by one - yet somehow as a group – silent and secret and exuding a dark and palpable power. She'd been watching for them, of course, but she wondered if she would have noticed them otherwise. The wolves had an eerie way of fading into shadows – like a dream caught just in the corner of your eye.

Not one of them had brought his mate.

Bella picked up her glass again and emptied it all the way back so the ice cubes slipped up the side with a final clink. She set it down on the bar and looked up to find the bartender watching her with a raised brow.

"Another," she gasped absently wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.

It came back with Mediterranean Spice lipstick smeared across her pale skin. With an irritated noise and roll of her eyes, Bella pulled her purse from the bar. She fished out her little lipstick case with a mirror on the lid that she'd gotten in San Francisco's Chinatown and went to work.

After being a human dress-up doll, over the last five years she'd avoided make-up just on principle alone, but she figured she owed it to her father to break her dry run for his wedding day.

At the thought Bella froze, and then pressed her lips together as she tipped the mirror up to her eyes.

That was a fucking flat-out lie and she'd promised not to tell those to herself anymore. She glared a warning at those brown eyes for a moment (at least she had a little hazel around the iris to keep them from looking like mud). With a frown, she picked a miniscule flake of mascara from under her eye and then tipped the mirror back down to her lips. Rolling them again, she put the lipstick away.

Snapping her purse closed, her eyes swept up to the real reason she'd worn make-up tonight. As sick as it was, she was going to tell it to herself straight:

She'd worn it for Jacob Black.

Not that it mattered - he'd been completely ignoring her just like he had her all emails and phone calls she'd made to him this last year.

Bella didn't blame him. Not one little bit.

"Here you go, gorgeous," the bartender said, setting the glass on a little square napkin.

She looked up with a cock of her head, trying to decide whether he was in it for the tips or just placing bets down the bar hoping something came back lucky at the end of his shift.

She decided it was both. "Thanks," she smiled.

"I'll have one of those too," a smooth baritone murmured at her elbow.

Bella turned to where Seth gave her a lackluster eyebrow wiggle.

"If you think I'm picking up your tab…" she threatened humorously – trying to lighten him up as she took her drink and turned to face him.

His lips stretched in a subdued smile that still had remnants of its boyish charm even though he'd turned legal last year.

"How 'ya doing sis?" Seth leaned back against the counter with a cavalier prop of one foot over the other.

Bella wrinkled her nose. "Jack's making it a little better," she muttered, picking up the drink and taking a mouthful of the liquor. She knew she leaned on it too much, but honestly changing that right now was about the last thing on her mind.

Seth was the only one of the Pack she'd see much less heard two words from when she came home for visits and she was fairly sure he did both only for obvious reasons.

Leah had left the Pack just a little after Bella did so she didn't count. She came back as little as she could and had sneakily proffered the perfect excuse of a hot-shit modeling shoot to avoid this wedding. And, more to the point, the Pack.

Sue understood.

So did Bella.

They certainly hadn't been friends in Forks, but surprisingly, Leah had made sure to stay in touch with her throughout the years. Bella was pretty sure it was just to piss the Pack off - they'd even go to dinner whenever she was in San Francisco for a job.

The bartender slid Seth his drink and he plopped down a ten as he snatched it up, turning out to the room. He took a long draught and then smacked his lips as his eyes scanned over the several hundred people all seated at tables around the dance floor and waiting for the reception to officially start.

Bella watched him out of the corner of her eye, reading all the little latent expressions in his face. He was here under duress. Uncomfortable and trying not to be. If she had to guess his mother had made him do it.

"Quite a party," he sniffed tipping another mouthful back.

Bella's eyes fell to her drink and she shook the glass restlessly, making the ice swirl. She looked up again at his profile. "Seth."

He turned to her with a casual lift of his brow.

"It's okay," she said quietly. "You don't have to do this."

He blinked twice, a confused furrow to his brow and she held his gaze with unadorned eyes.

"Well alright," his lips lifted in a smile that looked odd. "See you around." He held up his glass.

Bella offered hers out automatically and he touched the bottom with a soft clink.

"At least it's not for long," he finished, and then took a pointed sip while he held her eyes.

Bella's gaze fell to the glass in her hands. It was a furtive insult wrapped in sympathy and a well-crafted toast. Seth had gotten clever in his old age.

But apparently he didn't know she planned to stay for a year. She was both touched and pleased Charlie had kept her secret with is fiancé but it was probably because he was guessing she had a 50-50 chance of changing her mind.

Bella looked back up to see Seth melting into the crowd and took another long swallow of her drink. She knew Seth had been struggling with loyalty lines since Sue and Charlie decided to tie the knot. Apparently Jacob was the kind of Alpha who inspired devotion bordering on worship – or so Leah claimed.

Bella's gaze returned to where it had lingered all night. She could see what Leah was talking about clearly in the postures of those around him - a subtle submissive tip of a chin, respectful clasped hands, men sat on the edges of their seat or stood angling their bodies away.

While Jacob lounged with one foot on his chair and a body language that was open and confident.

Cocky, even.

Tipping the bottle up all the way, he emptied the beer and handed it absently to someone who solicitously ferried it away.

It was fascinating, really.

She'd always been an observer. But especially after she got back out into the world of the living, she found a renewed interest in facial expressions. Vampires really didn't have them she discovered, even if they'd learned to mimic them so well that some of them were internalized. But how can you really have an expression when you don't have feelings to go with it?

"Hey Bella!"

Bella's eyes fluttered closed just long enough to stifle her groan before she turned out to see Mike Newton's watery blue eyes and sappy smile.

Bella forced a smile. "Hey Mike."

She spent the next ten minutes mentally cursing the bartender for taking his fucking sweet time with the cranberry juice for Mike's wife. Bella found out Jessica was pregnant, due in three months, and had seen a baby picture for each month of their two year old before the drink finally arrived.

"It's on me," Bella told him with a saccharine smile that he just lapped up like sugar.

And then he scurried back into the crowd.

Bella's gaze darted across the room to where the Pack's little impromptu meeting seemed to be dissipating and men were settling into their seats. It was echoed around the room and Bella realized the program was about to start.

Turning around she sipped on her drink while one of her father's deputies and the MC for the night, took the mic. Feedback grated harshly as it was turned on and her fingers flew to one ear while her eyes darted reflexively across the room. Every one of the Pack had painfully cringed at the sound… everyone except Jacob. Shoulders relaxed and face expressionless, he tipped his chair back and kept his eyes riveted on the man.

"Sorry," Jerry chuckled into the mic with untroubled ease.

He was a clean-cut dirty blond with kind eyes and a complex smile and Bella had gone to a rehearsal dinner with him last night. Her father hadn't been subtle about seating them together. Jerry had the kind of mind and manners that would make him a perfect candidate for a fling if not more. But Bella wasn't interested and had told him so frankly at the beginning of the night through an unapologetic smile. She was through lying to herself and she tried to extend the same courtesy to others.

And so a blissfully short program began.

Bella watched various speeches stammer or slur by with only half her mind. The other half was occupied by the man in the corner, balanced perfectly on the back legs of his chair. One arm was folded behind his head, grasping the top of the banquet chair and cocking a gun that was easily the circumference of her thigh. The other hand lifted a beer with a distracted tips while intense eyes stayed riveted like rifle sites on the podium up front.

Now and again one of the wolves would slip to his side and lean into his ear with words that made him either nod curtly or shake his head once. If she didn't know better she'd have thought they crouched politely, trying not to obscure the view of the one table behind him – which was all Pack by the looks of it. But if she looked closely it was more of cowering stance that was trying to stay below his height in the chair.

Though she hadn't spent much time around the Pack, she knew she'd never seen this kind of dynamic when Sam was in charge. Things had been much less formal, but then again they'd been eight years younger too.

She wondered what else had changed under the leadership of Jacob Black.

More importantly, she wondered if she'd ever have the chance to find out. Bella's eyes fell back to her glass as she considered the bared ice cubes.

Suddenly music started over the loudspeakers and she squeezed her eyes closed in dread.

Now, everyone's favorite: humiliation in front of a room that already fucking hates my guts, she thought bitterly.

She'd negotiated with Charlie to stay off the front lines so to speak, but Sue had been kind but firm in that no matter how uncomfortable or chronically uncoordinated, there was no way she was getting away without dancing with her father.

Frankly it was enough to make her consider following Leah's example, but as much as she supported her father, this wedding wasn't the reason she'd come back. It was just the perfect excuse.

Bella tipped her glass all the way up so the ice cubes came crashing against her nose. Lowering it to the bar, Bella grabbed the little square napkin and dabbed it on her face this time. She'd made sure to time it so she had at least two strong drinks under her belt for this.

She pulled out the little lipstick case and peeked in the mirror, just to make sure she hadn't smeared her makeup again . Then she got the bartender's attention and settled the tab while she glanced over her shoulder at Charlie box-stepping around the dance floor, completely divorced from the beat as far as she could tell.

But the look on his face.

Even beet red, he was smiling down at Sue like he'd just won the Powerball lottery. Bella smiled along with him as she slapped down a tip and turned away from the bar. She could do this for him; he deserved to be this happy after all these years.

Hitching her small purse up on her shoulder, she glanced down at her dress, just to make sure a bra strap or something wasn't showing. It was a simple gauzy cocktail number that she'd bought for a luncheon back in San Francisco. Her roommate Jon had picked it out, gushing that it brought out her hair and her eyes while smoking her figure with the exuberance that only a gay man pull off properly.

The song ended and the newlyweds kissed to the applause of the room. Bella clapped her hands as she wandered slowly from her safe little corner toward the dance floor. The DJ mumbled something unintelligible as the next song started up and her father scanned the room as Seth flowed out on the dance floor like liquid silk to take his mother in his arms.

Taking a deep breath she hastened the rest of the way, shimmying between tables with a raise of her hand.

Charlie's eyes found her and beamed a smile that made all mortification worth it several times over. She stepped into his arms and he pulled her into a hug.

"You look beautiful," he murmured in her hair.

Bella pulled back with a blushing smile. "You look handsome," she arched a brow. "And Sue looks amazing," she added, glancing over her shoulder at where Seth was spinning her around.

"Yeah, she does," Charlie breathed.

Bella turned back to stars in his eyes. "Shall we?" she asked with a private smile.

Charlie's gaze snapped back to her as he stammered and the blush deepened to painful as his arms wrapped around her in waltz position even though the DJ was playing some kind of sappy 80s love song.

"Wonder if any couple's ever danced with four left feet," he mumbled.

"I know, right?" Bella laughed as she pulled her hand from his and rested it on his shoulders. "Let's just make this simple."

Charlie's gaze finally stopped darting around nervously and landed in her eyes. He gave her a grateful smile and rested his hands at the small of her back.

Together they just swayed back and forth, looking like complete and total morons. Bella didn't mind. She stepped in and laid her cheek on his shoulder and closed her eyes. He smelled like Old Spice and memories. The last and only time she'd danced with him was at her own wedding eight years ago.

"Are you doin' okay?" her father asked quietly. "I know this has been real tough, Bells. I appreciate you hanging in there."

"It's okay," she whispered. "It's just the way it is – I knew that. And watching you and Sue makes up for it - I'm so happy for you, Dad."

"So you're still planning on staying?" he murmured, his arms unconsciously tightening around her waist.

She'd talked to him about her plans to come live here for at least a year. Bella had a job editing science texts that most would find boring but she loved as it brought together her love for science and English (and the pay wasn't bad at all). While the company was based in San Fran, she could certainly work from anywhere.

She nodded against his shoulder. "Just to see what happens."

Her father sucked in a breath and pulled back and she turned up to his sincere gaze. "I'm real proud of you for that."

Bella gave him a soft smile and nodded. She knew this was going to be hard – but she hadn't realized just how hard until she'd seen Jacob with her own eyes.

Charlie did a quick circuit of her face. "Everything's okay with the house?"

"Yeah," she hedged. "There's something wrong with the water heater and there are some screens that need fixing, but Mr. Phelps is coming out on Monday." She'd wrangled a year lease on a furnished vacation rental down by the lake.

Paternal protectiveness flared in his eyes in the only place where he actually had the power to protect her. "He should be down there tomorrow."

Bella smiled again and shook her head, leaning her cheek back on his shoulder. "It's alright. It's Sunday. I can take a shower at your house."

Her father's feet stopped moving with thoughts.

"I'll keep an eye on it for you this week," she continued quietly, answering him. "But I'm not going to stay there." There were too many ghosts in his house.

"I'm going to call that Phelps," Charlie harrumphed with indignation again at her imperfect rental and started swaying again on his feet.

Bella smiled – it wouldn't do any good to try to convince him otherwise. These days, Bella tried her hardest to take things as they came – even if she had to rely on a few vices to keep her sanity. It was the reason she'd come back now: she figured she was in as good a place as she was going to get. After several years of hell after her failed marriage, she'd taken the time to try to get herself together and figure out what she wanted. She figured she had a 50% success rate between the two: at least she knew what she wanted.

Just then the DJ made another mumbled announcement that she couldn't understand for the life of her and her eyes popped open. Apparently she was the only one, because smiling people started pouring on the floor in pairs.

She picked her head up. "They're taking pity on us," she chuckled, relieved not to be on display anymore.

Charlie sniffed a distracted laugh and Bella's eyes snagged on the way he was searching her face. "You still talk to them, Bells?" he whispered.

Bella tipped her head, reading all the things her father wasn't saying: the worry, disgust, protective rage. He knew what the Cullens were now.

"We've passed a few emails back and forth," she told him. "Edward's moved on – that's good." She raised her brow.

It had taken two years to extricate herself from that mess, but it had only taken resolved UST and a few months living with them to realize what a big mistake she'd made. Edward didn't love, he possessed and it really wasn't his fault. His idea of love was merely infatuation with scent and silence. But vampires couldn't feel anything. Not really.

The Cullens had constructed their lives around memories and a moral compass but the only thing that drove them was hunger: for new experiences, distraction, blood – it didn't matter. Finally Bella had come to understand the meaning of the word undead: they weren't living and loving, they were consuming.

She could see Charlie pressing his lips over rehashing the same argument they had every time the Cullens came up. He was horrified that as a father he'd allowed his daughter to marry a monster.

Every single time Bella told him she'd been selfish and stupid… and young. It was her mistake to own, not his.

Suddenly Chariles eyes snapped over her shoulder. Like someone had instantly shucked all the blood to his face it darkened and that vein popped in his forehead. Bella glanced over her shoulder, following his gaze, and then turned back with a sigh.

It was certainly her mistake to own, and right here were the consequences.

"That bastard," he spat under his breath.

"Shh," Bella soothed him with a palm over his shoulder. "It's okay. He doesn't owe me a thing, you know that."

"But he don't need to flaunt that here," Charlie muttered.

"I thought that was his calling card these days," she countered quietly, slowly pulling him around from the inflammatory sight. He was furious - she'd gotten her protective instincts from her father after all.

As she turned him around, of course Bella got a perfect an unobstructed view of a leggy blond brazenly wrapped around the incomparable Mr. Jacob Black.

Actually they were more like dry humping on the dance floor – which was no small feat to a sappy 80s love song. Bella was impressed.

The girl was tall with legs that went on for miles courtesy of six inch heels and dressed in a skin tight billboard advertising she was available for the night. Still being the giant that he was, Jacob towered over her another six inches. His big hand was placed obscenely on her apple-bottomed ass, pinning her to his torso, while the other pushed brassy curls over her shoulder as he leaned down and whispered something in her ear.

Bella could hear the girl's giggle over the music as she coquettishly slapped against his chest. Predatory eyes washing over the woman's perfectly made-up face, he gave her slow sly smile. His hand skimmed down her back to join the other as he slowly ground against her.

Bella squeezed her eyes closed and tried to tame the rush of jealousy and heat - she knew this was going to complicated. She knew it!

She just hadn't been prepared for how it would feel. Because, unlike vampires, Bella did feel. Very deeply, Jasper had always claimed.

And right now it hurt like a bitch.

Trying to draw a deep breath through the pain in her chest, she opened her eyes to her father's gaze – a volatile mixture of pique and pity. She tried on a wan smile and it flopped immediately off her face.

Charlie wrapped his arm around her and turned her away, guiding her off the dance floor.

"Who is she?" Bella whispered, it came out more like a rasp.

"The town whore," her father spat. "They deserve each other." While he respected Jacob as a leader, over the years her father had become increasingly disgusted with him.

"Dad!" Bella whipped around in surprise – she'd never heard him talk like that.

Her father rolled his eyes. "She's Mason's granddaughter. Comes up from LA for summer fun every year."

With that info, Bella glanced over her shoulder again where they'd turned profile so she could see just how close they were. One of her hands was enjoying his very fine derriere while the other was stuffed down between their fused hips.

Bella turned away as she pulled her lip into her mouth-…

And then stopped herself. With a lick to her lower lip, she set it free. That's not who she was anymore.

Charlie was watching her closely as he slowly led them toward the front of the room. Bella took a deep breath and tried to let it all fall from her shoulders.

"Sure you want to do this to yourself?" he asked quietly.

"If I don't, I'll always wonder what would have happened if I'd tried harder," Bella whispered. "You let Sue pass you by the first time too."

A slow smile took over his face and his eyes darted up to where Sue was panting happily as her son guided her to her seat, showering her with a sunny grin.

"I'll be okay, Dad," she murmured. "This is your night."

He turned back to her encouraging smile.

"It's her night," he corrected, with the sappiest twinkle she'd ever seen in his eye.

Bella went up on tiptoes and kissed his cheek. He squeezed her and then she stepped out of his embrace. She watched him go back to the head of the room, turning with an adorable little wave before he immersed himself again in nuptial bliss.

Sighing happily, she turned around. As she made her way back to her little corner – and of course to get another drink – she tried not to watch the couple on the dance floor. In spite of her best efforts, she found herself snatching self-destructive glimpses whenever she could.

Bella's bar stool was still unoccupied and she promptly took it over again. With a final glance at where Jacob was now bending the girl back while he practically had his face buried in her chest, she turned to the bartender's waiting smile.

"Another," Bella sighed.


By the time Bella had sucked down half of her drink and then dared to turn back around, Jacob and his escort were nowhere to be seen. It made her snort into her glass at the childishness of it – he'd pulled the girl out for a five minutes just for Bella's benefit?

Some pitiful sick part of her was actually pleased: it meant he'd actually known she was there even though his eyes hadn't strayed once her way.

Over the last healthier years she'd tried to get him on the phone or by email or stop in on holidays back home, to no avail. This was as much acknowledgement of her existence as she'd gotten since her wedding day.

The unbidden memory bubbled up, making her suck in a breath at the jagged flash of pain. Bella bowed her head over her drink for a moment. She'd never forget how it had felt being held in those arms. Steady and strong and perfect – even though she was breaking his heart. Looking back on it over the years that followed, she remembered that dance like it was the first one she'd had with her groom.

When she'd finally gotten the divorce and her freedom, she'd stumbled through a year of good ole' gutter diving and self-destruction. It took a few more to heal and search for what was missing in her empty heart. She'd tried to fill it with everything from backroom sex to a brilliant PhD student offering a ring on bended knee.

No one had what she was looking for. She missed the silence, the friendship, the laughter. Strong giving hands, a sunny smile and warm heart that beat in endless eyes.

Quite simply, no one was Jacob Black.

As it became more and more clear what she needed and that she needed to come back home for a second chance to get it, her father had warned her repeatedly that some things just can't get fixed and sometimes you only get one try.

With a humorless laugh, Bella poured another long drink down her throat. Right now Charlie was looking like he was abso-fuckin'-lutely correct. She drained the glass and then slammed it a little harder than she intended on the bar.

But if Jacob was important, he was worth giving it her best shot. She'd made a pact with herself that she was going to give it a year, no matter what.

What's the worst that could happen, anyway? She'd just end up more fucked up. Past a certain point it didn't matter anyway.

She slapped a ten down on the bar and scanned the room. It looked like a lot of the Pack had left. There were still two men standing in the corner with Seth – one looked like Paul and the other… Embry? They'd all changed so much over the years.

She slipped off the stool and then steadied herself against it. She could hold her liquor, but she'd thrown back a few in a short time. She wasn't a fool though – she'd scheduled a cab for 11 o'clock sharp to take her back to her new home.

Pulling her purse up on her shoulder, Bella pushed her way through the crowds. The two measly inches her pumps gave her weren't really much help, but any more would have been as good as a guarantee to break her neck. Truthfully, even in these, it was still a distinct possibility.

She breathed a little easier out in the hallway of the little clubhouse that was on the outskirts of town. Her high school held its graduation party here every year and she knew her way around. After a stop by the restroom, she made a beeline for the front door and out into the parking lot. She knew that out back there would be too many people milling around in the gazebo and patio and Bella wanted to be alone.

Her shoes crunched on the gravel as she looked for a place to sit down. At one far corner of the building under a street lamp was just what she was looking for: a bench set up for staff to take a smoke break. She made her way toward it as she scanned the silent lot.

With a long sigh, she sat down and leaned back against the building for a moment. Staring up at the cloudy sky, she pulled her purse into her lap and fished out her cigarettes. Like the drinking, she knew it was a nasty habit but right now she desperately needed the crutch.

And with a click of the lighter, she was sucking in a long-term addiction and blessed five minutes of relief. Leaning her head against the building, she blew the smoke out in a long stream into the sky.


A deep hum had Bella blinking and picking her head up.

The sound of rushing whispers and then a soft giggle tiptoed around the corner... it sounded like a couple was running hot and heavy a ways on the other side of the building.

Bella rolled her eyes and banged her head back against the cement. Whatever. At least someone was having fun.

Bella drew in another long drag of smoke while she pulled her phone out of her bag and checked the time. Just another hour of torture. She needed to start this marathon year out slower and build up her resistance to the pain.

She let her head flop back against the wall as she blew out another drag. She pulled her sandaled foot up on the bench, rearranging her skirt decorously and tried to enjoy her cigarette and ignore the soft moans.

"Just like that, baby."

The words were drawn out in a deep velvet croon and Bella's eyes popped open wide. No, surely fate wouldn't be that cruel. That voice was deeper than Jacob's… but, then again she hadn't heard him speak since the wedding.

"Oh God, yeahhh," that blackstrap bass was creamy and low and it made a shiver shuttle up her spine.

Bella sat up a little more pulling her knee to her chest a little tighter. Her cheeks weren't the only place blood had raced to pool with heat. She adjusted herself on the seat and took a sucking drag of her distraction.

Any normal person would have gotten up and moved, but no, not Bella. This was her bench, her moment of solace and her second of three cigarettes she allowed herself tonight.

And that voice.

"Just like that."

Breathy and low, it wrapped around her like a caress, turning her on something fierce. She could feel her heartbeat between her legs as she lowered her foot slowly back to the ground. She took another desperate draw of smoke as that voice dove down into husky groans that made her insides melt into a puddle of pure hot and sticky want.

She couldn't believe it.

In her dark days, she'd done a bunch of stupid things she wasn't proud of, but she'd never been the kinky type. Yet here she was getting off on listening to someone else have sex. She'd definitely reached an all-time low.

"Shit!" the man hashed lustily through gritted teeth.

Bella nearly came on the spot.

She gripped the bench with both hands while she tried to get her bearings. She was flushed and panting and about ready to go out of her mind from the throbbing ache between her legs.

Deciding that she had engaged in enough voyeurism to last several lifetimes, Bella fumbled with her purse and shakily stood.

The sound of whispers and crunching gravel from around the building made her freeze in her tracks.

Oh shit.

Bella didn't konw what the hell to do. This tipsy, she'd never make it away fast enough in these shoes before they came around the corner and it might look worse if she were caught running away. Closing her eyes, she drew in a deep breath and tried to call upon what composure she could muster.

And then sat back down.

She still had another half a cigarette anyway.

Setting her bag on the bench, she pulled her knee back to her chest and rearranged her skirt like she was only taking an innocent little break from the party. She was just lifting the cigarette to her lips when couple rounded the corner:

Mason's granddaughter and, of course, Jacob Black.

Shirt untucked and long braid laying over one shoulder, he had his arm wrapped around the girl whose hair was now mussed along with her dress.

The sheer shock made Bella gulp down her mouthful of smoke – which was a strange sensation.

Her expression must have been pretty funny because the girl loosed a flirty little giggle that sounded more coy than embarrassed.

Deciding all she could do was ignore this like it was the nightmare it was, Bella quickly took another drag of her cigarette and decided to check that time on her phone again.

"Bella." Neither question nor greeting, it was more of a blasé acknowledgement.

But oh God, that voice.

It had deepened into a dusky bass over the years and it rolled over her name like a velvet carpet.

Pressing her lips together for a moment, Bella slowly looked back up.

And for a moment she gagged on her heart. Jacob had passed sorta beautiful a million miles ago, this man was simply drop-dead gorgeous.

And he was staring at her with stone-cold eyes.

She blew out her lungful of smoke. "Hey, Jake," she choked.

"Dee, why don't you go in," he looked down at the girl and his face transformed with a roguish smile that was definitely calculated to melt the panties off any girl in nanosecond flat. Bella could vouch that it worked.

The girl smiled up at him and then her gaze swept out to Bella. She brazenly sized her up as a non-threat with a dismissive sniff and then her gaze darted back to Jacob with a private smile like they were sharing a joke at her expense.

It made Bella's blood boil.

To add insult to injury, the girl strode out from under his arm with perfect poise in gravel in spite of six-inch heels.

"Um," Bella called blandly as she passed. "You've got some grass or something on your knees." (Which she actually did.)

The girl whipped around with a fierce scowl and finally tottered on those death-traps. With uncanny reflexes, Jacob was at her side, steadying her with a hand at her elbow.

"Shh," he murmured, gently slapping her butt. "Go on."

Nostrils flaring, she glanced up at him and then turned back around, pointedly ignoring Bella altogether.

Bella hugged her shin a little tighter and took a drag of her cigarette while Jacob watched the girl sashay off. The lights over the parking lot clung to his skin, sketching his features in harsh shadows.

He turned back to her after the girl had made it back to the steps with absolutely no expression on his face whatsoever.

And he stared.

Oh, his face looked like a version that had been aged to utter perfection, but those hard lines and heartless eyes were like a mask. He was nearly unrecognizable.

Bella frantically reminded herself that this was the man who had been her best friend . He was the one she couldn't forget. The heart that was woven into her soul. After all this time and these stupid decisions, she'd decided to risk her heart and dignity for a second chance.

And she'd just listened to him get a blowjob around the corner.

Holy shit. What the hell do you do with this? Adrenaline, alcohol and the utter absurdity of it all, razed everything to ashes.

All that was that was left was the immutable familiarity of the friendship they had once shared.

"Do you need a cigarette?" she asked with a lift of her brow, the corner of her mouth jumping up at the humor without her permission.

Not a single reaction flickered over his face. But suddenly, with those lightning lupine reflexes, his fingers were plucking the cigarette from her own.

Bella sucked in a breath of surprise as he stepped back and leaned against the building and brought the cigarette to his lips. Squinting slightly he took a long draw that hollowed his cheeks and made the glowing tip race like detonating cord. Lowering it to his side, his eyes stayed locked with hers as he let some of it leak from his mouth to be sucked over his lip by his nose in that way that Bella still hadn't figured out.

Finally he huffed out a murky breath. "Why were you watching me?"

Bella blinked at the sound of his voice, so much like the smoke made into sound. As soon as her brain clicked into first gear, her pulse charged from zero to sixty straight for her cheeks.

"I-I wasn't," she stammered, horrified. Her agitated foot slipping to the ground. "I was just out here for a smoke break. It's too crowded out back. I didn't-…" Bella stopped herself in the middle of the crash and just let it futilely burn.

With a flick of ash, Jacob's lips hitched up in a cocky smirk that looked like one of his old sunny smiles crumpled up in a ball and thrown into the side of his face.

"I know."

Bella blinked, suddenly wondering just what was encompassed in those two words. He'd had to have known a bunch of things -like that she'd been there. She wasn't used to dealing with supernatural senses anymore.

"Inside," he tipped his chin toward the door.

Bella drew in a deep breath, closing her eyes at its apex, and tried to reset. She wasn't off to a very good start. This was the first time he had spoken to her in 8 years and, while it certainly wasn't under ideal circumstances, she needed to give it her best shot.

She let her shoulders flop down with her exhale and opened her eyes.

Jacob was handing the cigarette back with probably two drags hanging on the filter. Bella took it without thinking. She stared at it for a second as she tried to get her bearings.

"I don't kiss," Jacob sniffed a laugh.

Bella looked up with artless confusion.

His eyes dipped down meaningfully to the cigarette in her hand.

Ohhhh, now she got it. (It was actually a fascinating piece of information.)

"Doesn't matter," Bella brought the cigarette to her own lips with a little shrug. "I know where her mouth's been."

A laugh burst out in a snort and Bella looked up to see a flash of appreciation in his eye before he shuttered it away behind steel.

As sick and twisted as this place was, it still had the familiar residue of their friendship hanging in the corners.

Bella would take it.

She settled back against the bench again and leaned her head against the wall, taking her time to bring herself back to focus. She absently brought the cigarette up to her lips and then froze.

Sniffing delicately, she lowered it again with a pensive brow. Was it her imagination, or could she smell him on it? Just the faintest hint of pine.

Though it was silly and desperate and pitiful, there was something really intimate about the fact his mouth had been on this – wherever it had been. She brought it up to her lips for a restorative drag.

Bella needed to get her fucking head in the game. She was several Jacks down, after all. She'd decided long ago that she would just use the simplest policy as much as she could: honesty

"I was watching you," she blew out with the smoke, turning to look at him. "Because I want to talk to you and I was trying to figure out how to say what I want to say."

Jacob's nostril's flared once and then in a supernatural second he had plucked the cigarette from her fingers. Closing his eyes, he put it between his lips and sucked the thing on down in a flash of orange and then threw it to the ground.

"There's fucking nothing left to say," the words were deep like the fires of hell and born on a rush of smoke.

When it cleared all that was left was Jacob's stare, dark and hard like cooled magma.

Abruptly the door banged open behind her, making Bella jump with a little shriek as she whipped around. A loud group of townies spilled out, laughing boisterously and cracking jokes as they stopped right outside the door, obviously planning to say their good byes there. Bella turned back to Jacob.

With a jerk of his chin, Jacob whipped around on his heel.

Bella stared after him for a moment as he strode with that loose liquid gait toward the corner of the building. He rounded it without looking back to see if she followed.

With a glance over her shoulder, Bella picked up her bag and followed after.

This was the service side of the building with no windows – the perfect place for privacy, and no wonder...

Jacob was stalking away from her in the little yard beside the dark loading dock, raking his hands through his hair.

He turned suddenly on her, his eyes flashing. "Stay out of my fucking way this year," he hissed. His lips flashed up from canines in feral punctuation.

Bella blinked in surprise at both the venom and revelation. She had no idea how he knew she'd planned to stay unless he'd heard it from Seth – and he didn't seem to know earlier.

Bella slowed her steps, studying him in the dim light. His face was hard, his body held taut and proud. But there was the smallest quiver to his hands, held woodenly at his side.

She stopped, her eyes dipping to the ground and wishing her head weren't quite so fuzzy so she could think. She licked her lips and looked up again.

This year was her only chance.

"I was hoping-…" she whispered and the candor caught thickly in her throat. She drew in a deep breath and tried again. "Jacob, I was hoping we could spend some time together."

"Hope's a losing bet every time," he barked a derisive laugh.

The ground was swaying under her with the centrifugal force of her reeling heart and mind. She leaned her shoulder against the wall. It was cool and rough and grounding.

She'd spent many emails apologizing and begging for his forgiveness and she knew good and well that words weren't going to fix this right now. Only time. Even if she only got his friendship back…

"It doesn't have to be much time," she ventured quietly. "Or now... any time you wa-…"

"Goodbye, Bella," Jacob snorted and started stalking past her.

Desperation tumbled over her lips in a jumble. "I miss you and I just came back to try again, Jake!" she blurted. "Whatever you want-…"

Jacob jerked around with a bitter laugh. It was an ugly guttural sound.

"I know why you came back," he hissed, quick and sharp like a sword drawn from a scabbard.

Jacob cocked his head crisply as his eyes bored into hers and she turned to face him fully, leaning back against the comforting grounding of the wall.

"You came back to see what it was like," he whispered.

Bella swallowed thickly as he prowled toward her with the words. There was no way she could be afraid of Jake… she was just confused and trying to keep up.

Spine straight and chin high, he stopped less than a foot away, staring down at her over the plains of his cheeks.

He was so close.

She could smell his dark woodsy musk, feel that unnatural heat, hear his breath, tumbling unevenly like waves against the rocks. Those razor blade eyes tore through her heart and she had to blink to keep her eyes from bleeding.

It had been so long.

"You came back to see what it was like," he repeated, the words barely audible.

"What," she whispered - her breath was too shallow to make it a question.

His lips kicked up on one side in a cold parody of a smile.

"This," the world was flipped through his teeth like a curse. She blinked in surprise as his hand raised abruptly to her cheek.

But the touch of his fingertip was gentle... and like a match to kerosene blood.

Fire raced through her veins as his finger ghosted down her cheek. Slowly his hand molded to her skin, skating so sensuously along her jaw that she instinctively leaned into his palm while her eyes swam. His hand smoothed down the side of her neck, fingers curling at the nape of her neck while his thumb stroked over her windpipe to the hollow of her throat.

She held his dark unreadable eyes as her breath fluttered like a moth over her lips.

Abruptly his hand dove into her thick hair and fisted soundly, pulling a gasp of pain from her lungs. Widening eyes searched his face wildly for clues.

Not a muscle twitched under his skin.

Slowly pulled her head to the side. She submitted as Jacob braced his other hand against the wall and bent down over her neck.

Bella was confused. "Jake," she gasped. "What-…"

All questions were instantly irrelevant at just a whisper of his touch. He brushed his nose across her skin, leaving a blazing trail in its wake.

Bella's hands came up to his chest both bracing herself and desperately searching for boundaries.

Slowly he traced the curve of her neck all the way down to her shoulder, his jagged breath pouring over her chest while her heart stuttered and long-smoldering embers whipped into flame.

Without warning his hot tongue lapped deliberately up her jackhammer pulse to her ear. "This," he whispered.

He released her hair and his hand crept down her neck then brazenly over her breast. Her nipple rose eagerly to meet him as chills raced over her skin like rain.

"Jake," she hissed, trying to keep her head above water as her traitorous body melted into putty in his hands. For crissake, he'd just been with someone else.


He felt so incredibly good. She'd missed him so much.

His hand made its way from her breast slowly, deliberately down her side to covetously mold to her hip while his nose traced along her jaw.

Their cheeks brushed and Bella moaned softly as she turned toward his mouth.

Jacob immediately jerked away, straightening enough so that his mouth was now at her temple.

"I don't kiss," he breathed and then he dragged his lax lips over her brow.

She could scent his breath, warm and erotic with a smoky finish as it tumbled in hitching waves over her face.

His roaming hand returned from its journey down her leg and up the sensitive inseam of her thigh dragging a hiss through her teeth.

"Jacob," she called more urgently, her hands pushing against his chest. "Not like this."

He chuckled low, a deep private sound in his chest.

Bella felt like she was fighting a wildfire. She had no idea what was happening but her body certainly didn't seem to care.

Her mind made a desperate swipe at sanity. "Jacob," Bella spat, trying to scoot from between him and the wall. She couldn't think while he was touching her.

His other hand snapped up to the wall with a hard slap, caging her between them and Bella looked up to eyes of blown glass. One corner of his mouth kicked up, as he sniffed a laugh.

"You don't want it like this?" he crooned, low and languid.

Bella searched his face looking for anything familiar. She shook her head vigorously in flagrant contrast to her body's demand.

Jacob threw his head back with a laugh. "You, Isabella Cullen, are a liar."

In a single head-spinning movement, he scooped her up in bulky arms and pressed her into the wall.

Bella blew apart at the seams. The long awaited feel of his heat, his skin on her bare arms, his scent, his chest pressed to hers… it nearly made her cum on the spot.

While his hot lips dragged over her throat, Jacob pointedly rolled his hips, grinding his hard body right into the apex of that want.

She threw her head back with a craving whimper. From his magical childhood hugs to arms that held her when she was falling apart to a life-changing kiss, his touch had always done something that no one else could.

Pinning her to the wall with his big body, one hand left its post to slide over her thigh, pushing her skirt up higher. Her legs had automatically wrapped around his hips like they belonged there.

"I think you ripped this a little," he chuckled darkly over her skin.

The human words were cold and sobering like catching ice cubes in a funeral pyre where she was burning alive. She turned them over in her mind before they melted in the licking flames of desire.

"This isn't it," she gasped, even as she tipped her head to the side to give his moist lips better access. The suckled hard against her skin making her groan and instantly retract such a ludicrous assertion.

This was everything.

"Yes it is," he nipped her in reprimand and then picked up his head.

Bella's lids weighed a million pounds as her eyes rolled forward.

"You came back for a taste of what you left behind," he hissed, the acidic words in flagrant contrast to the tenderness of his touch.

He brushed his knuckles over her cheek and then pushed her hair behind an ear while he watched his hand. "A little taste of the Rez," he bit the words out like broken glass, fingering the shell. "A fling with some nice dark meat."

His eyes met hers. "Slumming it," a derisive brow kicked up.

"Jake!" she gasped, suddenly cold sober.

She searched his eyes in disbelief. They were dark and empty – a burned out shell of the boy she had known.

"That's not it at all," she whispered, straight from the core of everything she was.

He feigned a solemn nod while his hand rubbed lazily over her ass.

"Put me down," she told him quietly.

He bit his lower lip as shook his head slowly.

"Jake," she complained, wiggling in his grip.

With a slow roll of his hips, he stopped her cold like he'd flipped a switch. She was helpless in this riptide desire. Watching her eyes, he thrust several times right into that burning need while his hand smoothed firmly up her body to her breast. He circled a nipple with a finger and watched her eyelids droop with languor.

Jacob leaned slowly to her ear, pushing his body against hers while her traitor heels tried to pull him closer. "I'm going to let you have it," he breathed in midnight velvet. "So you can tick it of your bucket list and then go home."

Her body had a mind of its own and Bella's hands had somehow found their way to his broad shoulders and were currently clawing into his shirt with ardor. Sucking in a breath she changed her grip and tried to push him away.

"No, Jake," she ground out with the effort.

He didn't budge an inch. His mouth, having delivered its message to her ear, had started sensually surveying the other side of her neck with open mouthed kisses.

Bella felt like the world was tilting on its ear – her mind was woozy and worried, her heart was pounding, her body was on fire... while that lazy contentment hummed in her chest like it always did whenever he touched her.

To say her libido was willing was the understatement of the year, but everything about this couldn't be more wrong.

"Jacob, stop," she said firmly, hands stilling on his massive shoulders.

He ignored her as his body continued to undulate sensuously over hers. His hand pinched a nipple on its way down and Bella hissed, throwing her head back painfully into the wall as she tumbled back into the pit of fire.

"Careful." The word was pressed against her skin by heated lips.

Bella's eyes blinked open as she felt the fabric of her skirt being yanked up from between them. "Jacob, no!" she hissed.

"I can scent you," he breathed, lapping along her collar bone.


In the next second the feel of his calloused hand rubbing under her panties and over the bare flesh of her bottom made her shudder.

Jacob chuckled, the sound vibrating against her chest as continued to roll his body rhythmically over hers. She felt two sharp jerks of her panties and then they were yanked away, leaving her weeping flesh bared to the rough ridge of his jeans.

Scraping together any last scraps of sanity to be had, Bella picked her head up and pounded a fist against both shoulders. "I don't want this," she spat. "Stop."

Jacob picked his head up with a dark espresso smile. His eyes were hard and unreadable as they did a crisp single circuit of her face.

They returned to hers and locked like magnets, challenging, hard. "Scream and I will."

Bella's eyebrows pinched as her eyes darted rapidly between his. Everything between them had been hushed and private – he was drawing a boundary for her.

That smile oozed up lazily on one side while he pulled back just enough that he could work the buttons on his jeans.

"You always wondered, didn't you," he sniffed humorlessly. "How it would have been if you'd fucked me in that tent."

The shock of the words was like a slap, but Bella took it. Her eyes continued to search that hardened mask for clues. There was something much deeper going on underneath.

Holding her gaze, his arms moved with little jerks as he unbuttoned his jeans. "Or maybe a one-night-stand before you married the leech," a brow ticked up. " 'Don't think Eddie would have minded."

Bella didn't say a thing but just watched his eyes very carefully.

She could see it now: under the calcified bitterness, there was the slightest glimmer of liquid pain in the corners. Like a pinhole snapshot of his battered heart. She'd known she'd hurt him badly.

But she'd never really understood just how much until that moment. It staked her heart.

His finger stroked up her swollen wetness, making her jerk back to the present in his arms. She stifled her moan behind stalwart lips as every neuron lit up like a Christmas tree.

Challenging eyes locked with hers, he brought his hand around and popped his finger in his mouth, then pulled it slooowly back out over full russet lips.

And then something clicked: he needed it like this.

Jacob's warm heart had been buried so deeply under all the scars that he didn't even know how to love anymore. As fucked up as this was, it was the best he could do.

Bella could work with that.

Without warning, her hands snapped up to his head and she crashed into his mouth. Jacob's gasp tore the air from her lungs as he tried to pull away but her mouth was relentless, vicious. All the anger and sadness and longing of the last decade, fused into white hot passion and she branded it against his lips.

It only took a few seconds. With a soft growl, Jacob aggressively took over the kiss as he pushed her back so hard her head cracked against the wall.

Neither of them noticed.

His tongue mapped and marked every inch of her mouth as they grunted in syncopation to the clicking of their teeth. Rolling begging hips, she groaned her body's plea into his mouth. In response, his nails dug into the skin of her ass as he readjusted her in his arms.

And in a single thrust he was sheathed in her body balls deep.

Bella ripped the kiss in half with a hoarse cry.

"Holy shit," he ground the curse into her jaw. Every muscle was jumping and quivering against her like live wires as Jacob froze, presumably to give her a chance to adjust.

She appreciated the gesture; Bella hadn't taken a lover in almost two years and he was bigger than any she'd had.

But his restraint frayed quickly. His face buried under her jaw, soon he was moving - pulling out of her and pushing back in, each stroke dragged fire through her body and then fanned the flames higher. Bella clamped her lips over her moans as her hands dug fiercely into his shoulders.

With each slow thrust, his hands slipped up her back until her shoulders and tailbone were cushioned by his arms against the rough concrete.

Then he picked up his head and Bella's listing eyes rolled into focus.

His face was an impenetrable mask but his eyes were voracious. He gulped her down in a single sound blink. Panting over parted lips she held those savage eyes as he drew his hips back and then slammed back into her so hard her head ricocheted off the wall.

And then he started fucking her.

Like a cord had snapped he thrust into her with a rhythm that was instantly ardent and demanding. One of Bella's hands dug into his shoulder, the other wrapped his braid around her fist while he pumped muted groans of pleasure over her lips.

With soft guttural grunts he slammed into her body over and over.

Bella's eyes cracked opened from overwhelm to find him. Inches from her face, he was watching her from above over the plains of his cheeks while his nostrils flared and two pearly teeth bit into his lip so hard that blood was pooling around them.

But those eyes.

They ate her alive, devouring everything she had to give and demanding more.

Bella's lungs were desperately clawing at air while the pleasure built to crushing proportions.

The blood finally dribbled over his lip and down his chin and Jacob's eyes snapped closed as his head collapsed against the building beside hers with a throaty groan.

She pressed her temple into his jaw as she crested a peak that was dizzyingly miles high.

Bella jumped.

Freefalling, the wind was sucked from her lungs by a silent scream as she plummeted down pleasure's face.

She landed so violently she shattered into a milling incoherent shards while heat exploded deep inside her.

Sucking in a whooping gasp like she was waking from a dream, she blinked rapidly against her blackened vision. Jacob's body was pressed soundly against her, each heaving breath pushing her against his hands.

Numb fingers relaxed their clawing grip and she let the braid uncoil from her hand like a snake. Her mind was numb. Her body was more alive than it had ever been.

Pressing her lips together, she smoothed over the indents in his shoulders and idly drew a finger through the beaded moisture on his skin.

Jacob sucked in a juicy breath through nose and mouth and slowly lifted his head.

But he didn't meet her eyes. Gaze lowered, he looked sad and lost as he licked the blood from his lips and then rolled them once. It was a precious glimpse behind that mask and something about it reminded her of the boy she'd known.

Bella wanted to hold him so badly. Just hold him.

She reached up with a tender thumb to the streak of blood on his chin.

Jacob jerked away. With a blink, he turned to look at her, the mask falling into place like a lead curtain.

Her eyes searched his face as he pulled a hand from under her shoulder and roughly smeared his fist over his mouth.

His eyes captured hers and held them in a hematite vise while he rearranged her in his arms and then pointedly pulled out of her body. Lowering her to unsteady feet, he waited until she had her balance and she braced herself against the wall before he stepped back.

Jacob smoothed his hands over the stray hairs that had pulled loose from his slick tight braid while he stared down at her with a face that was a blank slate. Then his hands came down to his pants, pushing up his untucked shirt while he rearranged himself.

Bella curbed the urge to look as she shook out her dress and readjusted the straps – hands numbly going through the motions. Her mind tried to occupy itself with the useless mundane like the fact that the flowing gauzy panels camouflaged the rip well enough for low light.

"You got what you wanted," Jacob's voice snapped her head up.

It was rough and gravelly like he'd smoked a pack of cigarettes at three am. "Go home."

Her eyes narrowed as she desperately propped herself up against the memory of their friendship.

"You know," she told him with a little cock of her head, that camouflaged the way she was crumbling inside. "That's not the first time I've been taken against a public wall."

She didn't think he needed to know right now that it didn't even come close to how he'd made her feel – nothing in her life to date had.

His eyes did a quick silent circuit of her face while he buttoned his jeans.

Bella stooped to pick up her purse from the ground, idly dusting it off. "And it's not what I came for," she murmured, all sarcasm shed for quiet sincerity. She looked back up at him and held his gaze with earnest, eyes trying to open them down to her broken heart.

She turned to face him as both hands gripped the purse like a life ring. "The reason I came back," she whispered, pausing to wet her lips.

"Is because I still love you, Jacob."

His brow slowly knit over eyes that paced between hers like a caged animal. Then he yanked his shirt brusquely down.

"Don't fucking ever say that again," he snarled.

Whipping around, he prowled toward the parking lot with a hunting cat stride that rounded the corner in seconds.

Closing her eyes, Bella drew in a long slow breath and then stepped back and slowly slide down the wall until she was seated in the grass. She propped her arms over her knees and rested her head against them.

This was so fucked up.

With a defeated sigh Bella opened her purse. She was in shock, drunk and she really didn't want to think about what she'd just done. She decided it was the perfect time for that last cigarette.

Feeling like she was in a daze, she pulled it out and smoked it listlessly while she checked the time on her phone.

Only about fifteen more minutes. Picking a piece of tobacco from her tongue with her thumb and pinky, she flicked it away as she stared vacantly out into the night. Her only hope was that he'd give her a chance when he saw she wasn't leaving after "getting a taste of the Rez" – Bella's mental voice quoted him in a dorky voice.

She snorted a laugh of disbelief and blew out a stream of smoke. He knew her better than that.

But it still made her pause; he was so twisted and broken. She wondered if she'd ever be able to get him back in any form at all.

Truthfully that's what she'd missed – not what they could have been, not what they were – just him.

She'd never in her life had the kind of relationship she'd had with him with anyone, male or female. Being with him used to be easy as breathing. When she was young she just hadn't understood how incredibly precious that was. She didn't really care what kind of relationship he wanted – a sister, a friend… a best friend.

She wouldn't lie: she'd really really hoped for more.

Bella collapsed against her arms. Maybe her dad was right and it was just too late.

For a long time she just sat there in the silence... all while her body hummed, mind spun, and her heart ached

The butt of a cigarette burned so close to the filter she could feel the heat on her skin before she finally lifted her head.

Tonight she'd seen he was still in there somewhere, she'd just have to have a little patience and see where things went. Even under all that thick scabbing, she'd caught a glimpses of that same warm caring heart in his eyes, in that subtle concern, in his touch and consideration – hell even with that slut in heels.

"Who are you calling a slut, Bella?" she laughed softly to herself.

Correction, she really really didn't want to think about what she'd just done.

Bella had had to do it before, and this was survival 101: everything but the basics could wait until tomorrow.

She shook her head at herself as she achingly peeled herself off the grass and dusted herself off. She was going to be sore… and bruised. Her body didn't give a shit it felt so amazing – at least someone was happy.

As her eyes scanned the ground for her ruined panties, her soft smile morphed into a scowl. They were ivory lace, there was enough light and she didn't see them anywhere.

Hiking her purse up with a huff, she tottered over the gravel toward the parking lot, glancing down and making sure she looked as presentable as one could look after being fucked like a maniac against the wall.

She was still pretty drunk, but she could certainly use another - too bad there was no way in hell she was going back in there tonight.

Bell rounded the corner to pretty much the last thing in the world she wanted to see: four of the Pack standing in a tight semi circle, talking quietly with none other than the illustrious Jacob Black.

Fate was such an incredible bitch.

He didn't so much as glance her way, of course – thankfully the others ignored her too. The kicker was that with supernatural senses, the rest of them knew exactly what they'd been doing just ten short minutes ago.

With those senses he'd have known she was still around the corner and it made her mad that he had them out here to shame her.

And that the little brat had stolen her underwear.

Obviously drunker than she thought, Bella decided to tell him so and that he owed her a drink as penance because why not just make things worse while she was at it? She picked her way across the gravel to the men– who she'd have to pass anyway whether she went inside or out in the lot.

Jacob was now speaking to them in a low rushing voice.

She stood just outside the group of large men for a good 15 seconds before her hands flew up to her hips.

"Jacob?" she asked in an even voice stretched tightly over blushing indignation. "Can I talk to you a s-…"

"You will not interrupt!" his words flicked out like a switchblade.

And effectively snipped off any word or thought whatsoever in the shock. He sounded dark-alley dangerous and apparently he was. All five of the Pack had taken a step back with heads feverishly tucked and tilted to the side.

But those eyes.

Those dark eyes had skewered her with full-on Alpha fury making them flicker like coals. This was nothing like the cocky broken man she'd seen today or the boy she'd known years before.

He'd changed but this was something completely different.

Bella's heart had pumped her mouth dry like a sump pump and she struggled to swallow saliva that had turned to dust.

"Paul, take her inside," Jacob hissed, holding her gaze and searing straight through her with heated power.

With a blink he turned back to his men.

Like he'd broken a spell, suddenly she could breathe again and the world rushed back in. Bella felt dizzy.

At movement, her eyes darted up to Paul Lahote's snarky smirk as he broke ranks and strode toward his duty. "C'mon leech-lover," he snorted trying to herd her with intimidation alone.

But there was no way she was going back in there looking like this. Mouth popping open in fury, her eyes darted up incredulously to Jacob who was now happily pretending that she didn't exist.

And he hadn't just been inside his former best friend's body. For the first time.

Paul's palm settled on her shoulder as he tried to urge her around.

Bella turned on him with a glare. "Get your fucking hands off me," she spat.

It was instantaneous.

Paul took a brisk step back while his chin snapped down to his chest. As incredulous eyebrows knit together, her gaze ran over his almost theatrically contrite posture trying to figure out if it was some kind of joke. Until Paul's eyes ventured up from under his lashes.

Then she could see it clearly.

Bella's swallow crinkled in her ear. She'd asked Jacob one time why all the boys listened to Emily like she was their mother or something and he'd told her that the Alpha's imprint naturally shared rank and power in the Pack.

Slack jawed, Bella's gaze swept out to where all the men stood still and silent with their eyes carefully averted. But Jacob was watching her carefully.

With unreadable eyes he held her gaze for a moment. Then, pressing his lips together, he blinked and his eyes slipped silently to the floor.

Like metal filings to a magnet, one by one all the little details came together from this evening and years ago.


No- no- no!

She was wrong, she was drunk, she was crazy – that's all there was to it.

Swallowing a sob, Bella turned and ran past them in to the parking lot, numb feet tripping over gravel.

With eerily perfect timing, a car with a yellow light pulled into the lot. Tears streaming down her face, Bella waved at it frantically as she stumbled her way toward it. The car stopped and the cabbie leaned out the window.

"Miss. Bella Sw-…"

"Yes!" she gasped yanking open the door and throwing herself inside.

The older man glanced into the rearview mirror. "You okay miss?" he asked as he put the car in drive.

Silent tears were streaming down her face as she nodded briskly. "You have the address?" she hiccupped.

"Yes ma'am," he nodded.

"Can you put this thing up…" Bella whimpered, indicating the glass partition that no one used in Forks.

"Sure thing. I'll put some music on too," he murmured kindly, as he pulled out onto the road and the window groaned up between them.

Bella hunched down in the seat, trying to suppress her sobs as she clawed at her purse.

Not all this time. She was wrong… that's all there was to it.

She frantically found the contact she wanted and dialed, holding it to her ear while her sobs battered their way out in gasping hiccups.

There was no answer.

Biting her lip she pulled it back down in her lap and dialed again.

"What the fuck, Swan," Leah's voice was hoarse, sleepy and very pissed. "Do you know it's the butt crack of dawn in New Y-…?"

Bella interrupted tersely.

"Did he imprint on me?" she hissed into the phone, reflexively glancing up at the cabbie.

Silence rang in her ear then there was a thump like she'd collapsed back on a bed. It was followed by a long-suffering groan.

The phone was trembling against her cheek in Bella's numb hand. "Leah!" she shrieked.

Through the speaker, Leah huffed a long defeated breath.

"Shit Bella," she sighed.

"Who the fuck told you."



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