- Black Rose
- The Great Train Robbery
- Blue Dahlia
- Carnal Innocence
- Dance Upon the Air
- High Noon
- Sacred Sins
- Face the Fire
- Holding the Dream
- A Man for Amanda
- All the Possibilities
- Black Rose
- The Great Train Robbery
- Blue Dahlia
- Carnal Innocence
- Dance Upon the Air
- High Noon
- Sacred Sins
- Face the Fire
- Holding the Dream
- A Man for Amanda
The Twilight Saga 3: Eclipse
Chapter 23. MONSTER
WHEN I WOKE UP IN THE MORNING, IT WAS VERY bright - even inside the tent, the sunlight hurt my eyes. And I was sweating, as Jacob had predicted. Jacob was snoring lightly in my ear, his arms still wrapped around me.
His hand caught my left wrist. He ignored it when I tried to yank myself free.
"You can't go after him. Not today. It's almost time. And getting yourself lost wouldn't help anyone, regardless."
I twisted my wrist, pulling uselessly.
"I'm sorry, Bella," he whispered. "I'm sorry I did that."
"You didn't do anything. It's my fault. I did this. I did everything wrong. I could have . . . When he . . . I shouldn't have . . . I . . . I . . ." I was sobbing.
His arms folded around me, and my tears soaked into his shirt.
"I should have - told him - I should - have said -" What? What could have made this right? "He shouldn't have - found out like this."
"Do you want me to see if I can bring him back, so that you can talk to him? There's still a little time," Edward murmured, hushed agony in his voice.
I nodded into his chest, afraid to see his face.
"Stay by the tent. I'll be back soon."
His arms disappeared. He left so quickly that, in the second it took me to look up, he was already gone. I was alone.
A new sob broke from my chest. I was hurting everyone today. Was there anything I touched that didn't get spoiled?
I didn't know why it was hitting me so hard now. It wasn't like I hadn't known this was coming all along. But Jacob had never reacted so strongly - lost his bold overconfidence and shown the intensity of his pain. The sound of his agony still cut at me, somewhere deep in my chest. Right beside it was the other pain. Pain for feeling pain over Jacob. Pain for hurting Edward, too. For not being able to watch Jacob go with composure, knowing that it was the right thing, the only way.
I was selfish, I was hurtful. I tortured the ones I loved.
I was like Cathy, like Wuthering Heights, only my options were so much better than hers, neither one evil, neither one weak. And here I sat, crying about it, not doing anything productive to make it right. Just like Cathy.
I couldn't allow what hurt me to influence my decisions anymore. It was too little, much too late, but I had to do what was right now. Maybe it was already done for me. Maybe Edward would not be able to bring him back. And then I would accept that and get on with my life. Edward would never see me shed another tear for Jacob Black. There would be no more tears. I wiped the last of them away with cold fingers now.
But if Edward did return with Jacob, that was it. I had to tell him to go away and never come back.
Why was that so hard? So very much more difficult than saying goodbye to my other friends, to Angela, to Mike? Why did that hurt? It wasn't right. That shouldn't be able to hurt me. I had what I wanted. I couldn't have them both, because Jacob could not be just my friend. It was time to give up wishing for that. How ridiculously greedy could any one person be?
I had to get over this irrational feeling that Jacob belonged in my life. He couldn't belong with me, could not be my Jacob, when I belonged to someone else.
I walked slowly back to the little clearing, my feet dragging. When I broke into the open space, blinking against the sharp light, I threw one quick glance toward Seth - he hadn't moved from his bed of pine needles - and then looked away, avoiding his eyes.
I could feel that my hair was wild, twisted into clumps like Medusa's snakes. I yanked through it with my fingers, and then gave up quickly. Who cared what I looked like, anyway?
I grabbed the canteen hanging beside the tent door and shook it. It sloshed wetly, so I unscrewed the lid and took a swig to rinse my mouth with the ice water. There was food somewhere nearby, but I didn't feel hungry enough to look for it. I started pacing across the bright little space, feeling Seth's eyes on me the whole time. Because I wouldn't look at him, in my head he became the boy again, rather than the gigantic wolf. So much like a younger Jacob.
I wanted to ask Seth to bark or give some other sign if Jacob was coming back, but I stopped myself. It didn't matter if Jacob came back. It might be easier if he didn't. I wished I had some way to call Edward.
Seth whined at that moment, and got to his feet.
"What is it?" I asked him stupidly.
He ignored me, trotting to the edge of the trees, and pointing his nose toward the west. He began whimpering.
"Is it the others, Seth?" I demanded. "In the clearing?"
He looked at me and yelped softly once, and then turned his nose alertly back to the west. His ears laid back and he whined again.
Why was I such a fool? What was I thinking, sending Edward away? How was I supposed to know what was going on? I didn't speak wolf.
A cold trickle of fear began to ooze down my spine. What if the time had run out? What if Jacob and Edward got too close? What if Edward decided to join in the fight?
The icy fear pooled inmy stomach. What if Seth's distress had nothing to do with the clearing, and his yelp had been a denial? What if Jacob and Edward were fighting with each other, far away somewhere in the forest? They wouldn't do that, would they?
With sudden, chilling certainty I realized that they would - if the wrong words were said. I thought of the tense standoff in the tent this morning, and I wondered if I'd underestimated how close it had come to a fight.
It would be no more than I deserved if I somehow lost them both.
The ice locked around my heart.
Before I could collapse with fear, Seth grumbled slightly, deep in his chest, and then turned away from his watch and sauntered back toward his resting place. It calmed me, but irritated me. Couldn't he scratch a message in the dirt or something?
The pacing was starting to make me sweat under all my layers. I threw my jacket into the tent, and then I went back to wearing a path across the center of the tiny break in the trees.
Seth jumped to his feet again suddenly, the hackles on the back of his neck standing up stiffly. I looked around, but saw nothing. If Seth didn't cut it out, I was going to throw a pinecone at him.
He growled, a low warning sound, slinking back toward the western rim, and I rethought my impatience.
"It's just us, Seth," Jacob called from a distance.
I tried to explain to myself why my heart kicked into fourth gear when I heard him. It was just fear of what I was going to have to do now, that was all. I could not allow myself to be relieved that he'd come back. That would be the opposite of helpful.
Edward walked into view first, his face blank and smooth. When he stepped out from the shadows, the sun shimmered on his skin like it did on the snow. Seth went to greet him, looking intently into his eyes. Edward nodded slowly, and worry creased his forehead.
"Yes, that's all we need," he muttered to himself before addressing the big wolf. "I suppose we shouldn't be surprised. But the timing is going to be very close. Please have Sam ask Alice to try to nail the schedule down better."
Seth dipped his head once, and I wished I was able to growl. Sure, he could nod now. I turned my head, annoyed, and realized that Jacob was there.
He had his back to me, facing the way he'd come. I waited warily for him to turn around.
"Bella," Edward murmured, suddenly right beside me. He stared down at me with nothing but concern showing in his eyes. There was no end to his generosity. I deserved him now less than I ever had.
"There's a bit of a complication," he told me, his voice carefully unworried. "I'm going to take Seth a little ways away and try to straighten it out. I won't go far, but I won't listen, either. I know you don't want an audience, no matter which way you decide to go."
Only at the very end did the pain break into his voice.
I had to never hurt him again. That would be my mission in life. Never again would I be the reason for this look to come into his eyes.
I was too upset to even ask him what the new problem was. I didn't need anything else right now.
"Hurry back," I whispered.
He kissed me lightly on the lips, and then disappeared into the forest with Seth at his side.
Jacob was still in the shadow of the trees; I couldn't see his expression clearly.
"I'm in a hurry, Bella," he said in a dull voice. "Why don't you get it over with?"
I swallowed, my throat suddenly so dry I wasn't sure if I could make sound come out.
"Just say the words, and be done with it."
I took a deep breath.
"I'm sorry I'm such a rotten person," I whispered. "I'm sorry I've been so selfish. I wish I'd never met you, so I couldn't hurt you the way I have. I won't do it anymore, I promise. I'll stay far away from you. I'll move out of the state. You won't have to look at me ever again."
"That's not much of an apology," he said bitterly.
I couldn't make my voice louder than a whisper. "Tell me how to do it right."
"What if I don't want you to go away? What if I'd rather you stayed, selfish or not? Don't I get any say, if you're trying to make things up to me?"
"That won't help anything, Jake. It was wrong to stay with you when we wanted such different things. It's not going to get better. I'll just keep hurting you. I don't want to hurt you anymore. I hate it." My voice broke.
He sighed. "Stop. You don't have to say anything else. I understand."
I wanted to tell him how much I would miss him, but I bit my tongue. That would not help anything, either.
He stood quietly for a moment, staring at the ground, and I fought against the urge to go and put my arms around him. To comfort him.
And then his head snapped up.
"Well, you're not the only one capable of self-sacrifice," he said, his voice stronger. "Two can play at that game."
"I've behaved pretty badly myself. I've made this much harder for you than I needed to. I could have given up with good grace in the beginning. But I hurt you, too."
"This is my fault."
"I won't let you claim all the blame here, Bella. Or all the glory either. I know how to redeem myself."
"What are you talking about?" I demanded. The sudden, frenzied light in his eyes frightened me.
He glanced up at the sun and then smiled at me. "There's a pretty serious fight brewing down there. I don't think it will be that difficult to take myself out of the picture."
His words sank into my brain, slowly, one by one, and I couldn't breathe. Despite all my intentions to cut Jacob out of mylife completely, I didn't realize until that precise second exactly how deep the knife would have to go to do it.
"Oh, no, Jake! No, no no no," I choked out in horror. "No, Jake, no. Please, no." My knees began to tremble.
"What's the difference, Bella? This will only make it more convenient for everyone. You won't even have to move."
"No!" My voice got louder. "No, Jacob! I won't let you!"
"How will you stop me?" he taunted lightly, smiling to take the sting out of his tone.
"Jacob, I'm begging you. Stay with me." I would have fallen to my knees, if I could have moved at all.
"For fifteen minutes while I miss a good brawl? So that you can run away from me as soon as you think I'm safe again? You've got to be kidding."
"I won't run away. I've changed my mind. We'll work something out, Jacob. There's always a compromise. Don't go!"
"I'm not. You know what a terrible liar I am. Look in my eyes. I'll stay if you do."
His face hardened. "And I can be your best man at the wedding?"
It was a moment before I could speak, and still the only answer I could give him was, "Please."
"That's what I thought," he said, his face going calm again, but for the turbulent light in his eyes.
"I love you, Bella," he murmured.
"I love you, Jacob," I whispered brokenly.
He smiled. "I know that better than you do."
He turned to walk away.
"Anything," I called after him in a strangled voice. "Anything you want, Jacob. Just don't do this!"
He paused, turning slowly.
"I don't really think you mean that."
"Stay," I begged.
He shook his head. "No, I'm going." He paused, as if deciding something. "But I could leave it to fate."
"What do you mean?" I choked out.
"I don't have to do anything deliberate - I could just do my best for my pack and let what happens happen." He shrugged. "If you could convince me you really did want me to come back - more than you wanted to do the selfless thing."
"How?" I asked.
"You could ask me," he suggested.
"Come back," I whispered. How could he doubt that I meant it?
He shook his head, smiling again. "That's not what I'm talking about."
It took me a second to grasp what he was saying, and all the while he was looking at me with this superior expression - so sure of my reaction. As soon as the realization hit, though, I blurted out the words without stopping to count the cost.
"Will you kiss me, Jacob?"
His eyes widened in surprise, then narrowed suspiciously. "You're bluffing."
"Kiss me, Jacob. Kiss me, and then come back."
He hesitated in the shadow, warring with himself. He half-turned again to the west, his torso twisting away from me while his feet stayed planted where they were. Still looking away, he took one uncertain step in my direction, and then another. He swung his face around to look at me, his eyes doubtful.
I stared back. I had no idea what expression was on my face.
Jacob rocked back on his heels, and then lurched forward, closing the distance between us in three long strides.
I knew he would take advantage of the situation. I expected it. I held very still - my eyes closed, my fingers curled into fists at my sides - as his hands caught my face and his lips found mine with an eagerness that was not far from violence.
I could feel his anger as his mouth discovered my passive resistance. One hand moved to the nape of my neck, twisting into a fist around the roots of my hair. The other hand grabbed roughly at my shoulder, shaking me, then dragging me to him. His hand continued down my arm, finding my wrist and pulling my arm up around his neck. I left it there, my hand still tightly balled up, unsure how far I could go in my desperation to keep him alive. All the while his lips, disconcertingly soft and warm, tried to force a response out of mine.
As soon as he was sure I wouldn't drop my arm, he freed my wrist, his hand feeling its way down to my waist. His burning hand found the skin at the small of my back, and he yanked me forward, bowing my body against his.
His lips gave up on mine for a moment, but I knew he was nowhere close to finished. His mouth followed the line of my jaw, and then explored the length of my neck. He freed my hair, reaching for my other arm to draw it around his neck like the first.
Then both of his arms were constricted around my waist, and his lips found my ear.
"You can do better than this, Bella," he whispered huskily. "You're overthinking it."
I shivered as I felt his teeth graze my earlobe.
"That's right," he murmured. "For once, just let yourself feel what you feel."
I shook my head mechanically until one of his hands wound back into my hair and stopped me.
His voice turned acidic. "Are you sure you want me to come back? Or did you really want me to die?"
Anger rocked through me like the whiplash after a heavy punch. That was too much - he wasn't fighting fair.
My arms were already around his neck, so I grabbed two fistfuls of his hair - ignoring the stabbing pain in my right hand - and fought back, struggling to pull my face away from his.
And Jacob misunderstood.
He was too strong to recognize that my hands, trying to yank his hair out by the roots, meant to cause him pain. Instead of anger, he imagined passion. He thought I was finally responding to him.
With a wild gasp, he brought his mouth back to mine, his fingers clutching frantically against the skin at my waist.
The jolt of anger unbalanced my tenuous hold on self-control; his unexpected, ecstatic response overthrew it entirely. If there had been only triumph, I might have been able to resist him. But the utter defenselessness of his sudden joy cracked my determination, disabled it. My brain disconnected from my body, and I was kissing him back. Against all reason, my lips were movingwith his in strange, confusing ways they'd never moved before - because I didn't have to be careful with Jacob, and he certainly wasn't being careful with me.
My fingers tightened in his hair, but I was pulling him closer now.
He was everywhere. The piercing sunlight turned my eyelids red, and the color fit, matched the heat. The heat was everywhere. I couldn't see or hear or feel anything that wasn't Jacob.
The tiny piece of my brain that retained sanity screamed questions at me.
Why wasn't I stopping this? Worse than that, why couldn't I find inmyself even the desire to want to stop? What did it mean that I didn't want him to stop? That my hands clung to his shoulders, and liked that they were wide and strong? That his hands pulled me too tight against his body, and yet it was not tight enough for me?
The questions were stupid, because I knew the answer: I'd been lying to myself.
Jacob was right. He'd been right all along. He was more than just my friend. That's why it was so impossible to tell him goodbye - because I was in love with him. Too. I loved him, much more than I should, and yet, still nowhere near enough. I was in love with him, but it was not enough to change anything; it was only enough to hurt us both more. To hurt him worse than I ever had.
I didn't care about more than that - than his pain. I more than deserved whatever pain this caused me. I hoped it was bad. I hoped I would really suffer.
In this moment, it felt as though we were the same person. His pain had always been and would always be my pain - now his joy was my joy. I felt joy, too, and yet his happiness was somehow also pain. Almost tangible - it burned against my skin like acid, a slow torture.
For one brief, never-ending second, an entirely different path expanded behind the lids of my tear-wet eyes. As if I were looking through the filter of Jacob's thoughts, I could see exactly what I was going to give up, exactly what this new self-knowledge would not save me from losing. I could see Charlie and Ren锟斤拷e mixed into a strange collage with Billy and Sam and La Push. I could see years passing, and meaning something as they passed, changing me. I could see the enormous red-brown wolf that I loved, always standing as protector if I needed him. For the tiniest fragment of that second, I saw the bobbing heads of two small, black-haired children, running away from me into the familiar forest. When they disappeared, they took the rest of the vision with them.
And then, quite distinctly, I felt the splintering along the fissure line in my heart as the smaller part wrenched itself away from the whole.
Jacob's lips were still before mine were. I opened my eyes and he was staring at me with wonder and elation.
"I have to leave," he whispered.
He smiled, pleased by my response. "I won't be long," he promised. "But one thing first . . ."
He bent to kiss me again, and there was no reason to resist. What would be the point?
This time was different. His hands were soft on my face and his warm lips were gentle, unexpectedly hesitant. It was brief, and very, very sweet.
His arms curled around me, and he hugged me securely while he whispered in my ear.
"That should have been our first kiss. Better late than never."
Against his chest, where he couldn't see, the tears welled up and spilled over.
- The Loners
- The Saints
- Tome of the Undergates
- Black Halo
- The Skybound Sea
- If You Stay
- If You Leave
- Until We Burn
- Before We Fall
- Every Last Kiss
- Suspiciously Obedient
- Random Acts of Crazy
- Random Acts of Trust
- Her First Billionaire
- Her Second Billionaire
- Her Two Billionaires
- Her Two Billionaires and a Baby
- His Majesty's Dragon
- Throne of Jade
- Black Powder War
- Victory of Eagles
- Tongues of Serpents
- Empire of Ivory
- Crucible of Gold