Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Shattered - A Preview of A New Story by Dragonfly76

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Readers, Writers, Artists & Free Thinkers

Shattered by Dragonfly76

Pairing: Jacob/Bella

Genre: Romance/Suspense

Beta: Shadowlynx

PreReader: MP & Niamgh


Summary: Venom lingers beneath the surface, tearing apart the shattered pieces of a soul.  Can love heal a wounded heart? Does separation strengthen or sever the bond between friends and would be lovers.  Do dreams shadow the future? Or is it in slumber that the true desire of our hearts rise to the surface.

Six years later Bella Swan returns home to confront her demons but some ghosts still linger.  Secrets are being kept on all sides making Bella wonder who she can trust and who it is she should fear.  Charlie is hurt, Jacob is absent save from her dreams and all around her danger looms in the background.

Confident and successful, Bella finds herself back in Forks when her father is injured in the line of duty.  Amid the chaos she is busy opening a new art gallery and suspicious of the pack and the veiled messages they bring.  When the supernatural world forces its way back into her life, who can Bella turn to?

Preview of Shattered

Prologue: Lost

Weeks dragged by. 

Time stretching and twisting over endless days and nights of dull monotony until it ceased to exist in her mind. Hour after hour, sitting in an old chair, watching the ever present rain lash against the window, obliterating blue sky and bright sunlight. Dull, gray and cold. An outward reflection of her inner turmoil.

Pages of the calendar turned.

Holidays passing, school exams, the inevitable push into the New Year. She muddled through it all. Speaking when spoken to, hearing but never really listening to the world going on around her.


It was all that stood out in her mind. Always cold. The air, the sky, the feel of her own skin betraying her. All a silent reminder of him. The feel of his cool lips brushing against her own. Icy fingertips that traced the line of her face. The damp forest floor when he left her alone. The raised scar on her wrist that shimmered in the moonlight.

The broken pieces of her heart stabbed and bled without warning. A moment of weakness, a flash of silver driving by, a soft melody trickling from ivory keys. These were the things that caused her chest to split wide open, forcing silent screams from her mouth.

There was no peace to be found in rest. In quiet slumber, the promise of dreams betrayed her. Brightly colored, the wish of happiness. Love within her grasp. Bright blue against a carpet of green. A canopy of trees that gave way to their secret hiding place. It was there that he waited for her. Arms extended, hands outstretched to reach her. She would try and try, but always failed to meet him.

The image would shift, fading into darkness and twisting into a brutal nightmare of truth and despair. A young girl. Broken and bleeding on the damp forest floor. Shattered beyond repair. A flood of tears when warm arms slipped around her body to carry her home. Warm instead of cold. Savior instead of angel. Red instead of white. Friend instead of lover.


Bella Swan was lost.  

Chapter 1: Memories

“That’s it. You’re going to live with your mother.” Charlie’s words constantly paraded in the back of Bella’s mind. Always there. Floating on the outer edges of her subconscious like dandelion seeds on a spring breeze.

Leaving Forks was not an option. This was where he had once lived. Perhaps if she stayed- proved her loyalty- he would one day return. Bella’s thoughts were riddled with desperation when common sense should have told her otherwise.

Charlie. Just one more piece of her messed up life. An innocent bystander hit head on by her pain. In her heart she knew he deserved more. An effort at the very least.

That was how she came to this point. Sitting in Jacob Black’s garage drinking warm soda and trying not to cry. Life had somehow become easier with him around.

It didn’t matter that she had talked him into building two-wheeled death machines in order to hear Edward’s voice again. It didn’t matter that she had used him like cheap scotch tape to bind the pieces of her broken heart back together. Nor that she needed his hugs to hold her together on days when everything threatened to come apart. Jacob’s arms were better than hers for that. His were warm.

The first time he wrapped them around her, Bella had felt the delicious tingle of heat surround her and seep into her skin for the first time in months. Now she was like a junkie, in need of a daily fix. Jacob reminded her, whether she wanted it or not, that she was still alive.

This had become her reality. Surviving. Forget the vampires that wanted her dead. At least they proved she wasn’t crazy. Nevermind that her best friend was a mutant teenager running around on four paws all day to protect her sorry ass. The life she had wanted was gone. All traces ripped away from her overnight. This new life was a mere shadow of what had once been, yet it was there. Sometimes she could even feel happy. Catching herself laughing without noticing it.

“Hey Bells, hand me that wrench, would you?” Jacob’s tired voice broke through the silence like a knife cutting her deep. For the first time she clearly saw the bruise-like shadows that had formed under his eyes. Worry creased her brow. He deserved better than this. Better than her. At least there was hope that one day he would get just that. An imprint. Someone who would love him unconditionally, even if that girl would never know him the way she did.

“Bells? The wrench?”

Bella reached for the tool, kneeling next to him on the hard-packed dirt floor with an apologetic grin on her face. “Yeah ,sorry Jake. I was daydreaming.”

“Hey, at least you got it right,” he laughed, poking a greasy finger in her ribs. “I half expected to get a screwdriver or a pair of pliers.”

“Come on Jake. Give me a little credit,” she said, rolling her eyes. “I can’t hang around you for months on end and not learn something.”

Jacob turned his head so she would not see the bright smile fading away. His whisper was a little too loud though. “Lots of things you still haven’t learned.”

Bella knew what he was referring to. Jacob Black loved her with all of his heart. After all this time he was still waiting for her to figure it out. Waiting for a healing that may never come. Yet it was the weariness of his voice that startled her out of selfishness. Bella looked at him hard. Jacob’s eyes were puffy and he looked paler than usual.

“Jake, you’re tired. When was the last time you slept?” she asked.

Keeping his eyes on his work, Jacob shrugged his shoulders, unwilling to admit defeat. “Doesn’t matter Bells. I’m on patrol again tonight. I’ll catch a nap after I take you home. We’re almost done here anyways. I’m more hungry than tired anyhow.”

Chasing Victoria was taking a toll on the pack. Bella felt guilty that she wasn’t doing more, that there was no way she could help. It was just one more thing Edward had taken from her when he left. “You’re always hungry. Tell you what. You take me home and while you nap on the couch I’ll fix you some dinner. Deal?”

Jacob turned his head slightly to catch her eyes and wink. “Deal.”

They rode in silence back to Forks, Bella curled sleepily into Jacob’s side, lulled into contentment by his warmth.

He had all but collapsed after they got through the door, eyes closing as soon as he laid down on the couch. Guilt ate away at her soul like battery acid. Jacob was sixteen, spending what should have been a spring break filled with parties and fun, hunting rogue vampires instead. All because of her. It seemed unfair.

Bella busied herself in the kitchen, taking her time peeling potatoes and slicing vegetables in a bid to let Jacob sleep just a little longer. A chicken roasted in the oven and from the top of the stove the herbed scent of stuffing filled the air. Maybe it was a little over the top for a Wednesday night dinner. Something most normal people reserved for Sunday afternoons followed by hours spent on the couch watching whatever sporting event was on TV. But, nothing about the life they were leading was normal. Far from it.

Bella wanted to do this for Jacob. Charlie too for that matter. He had no idea that the investigation he was leading had nothing to do with some psychopathic murderer on the loose or that it was vampires and werewolves that roamed the woods at night.

With nothing to occupy her while dinner bubbled and warmed in the kitchen, Bella checked on Jacob, tiptoeing quietly into the darkened room just to hear his soft, even breathing. In sleep he looked so much more like the boy she once knew. Before all this monsters and magic crap had ruined their lives. So much about him had changed.

Most guys would have given their eyeteeth to have shot up overnight and have girls falling all over their muscular bodies the way Jacob did. They’d wish to look older than their years, negating the need for fake ID’s to use at the local liquor store. But Jacob didn’t want any of it. Maybe it was because his youth had already been forced away by caring for his handicapped father and paying bills. He wanted to cling to the few things that made him a teenager, that counted as normal in life.

Bella knelt next to him on the floor, resting her chin on the edge of the couch cushion, watching him sleep. How long she sat that way she didn’t know. It didn’t matter, really. Jacob brought her peace. When he was gone, the darkness would return.

Very lightly she traced her fingers over the line of his jaw, pausing briefly near his lips. She wondered what it would be like to kiss them. To feel soft warmth instead of cold stone. As she did so often these days, Bella cursed herself for not being able to give Jacob what he wanted and yet still too selfish to push him away.

“It’s creepy to watch someone sleep, Bells. Normal people don’t do that you know.”

Bella jumped backwards, his words startling and reminding her of another time. A time when Edward used to watch over her in slumber.

Jacob sat up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “Bells, you okay? I didn’t mean to scare you. I figured you knew I was awake.”

“No, it’s fine,” she covered, thinking she sounded perfectly normal. “I was gonna wake you up but I didn’t have the heart to. Supper’s ready.”

He said nothing, but his eyes told her that he knew it was a lie. Jacob could read her like a book. He always had.

“Looks good, Bells. Really good,” he said, staring at the mountain of food she placed before him. “Don’t tell Emily, but you know you’re a better cook than her. Your food always reminds me of my mom.”

Bella set the gravy boat down on the table, then leaned over and kissed the short, silky strands of black hair that covered his head. “Thanks, Jake.”

They ate quietly at first, neither saying much at all unless one counted the groans of delight. Bella picked at her meager serving while Jacob tore into his food with gusto, helping himself to seconds and then thirds. It wasn’t until she put out the strawberry topped cheesecake she’d hurriedly whipped up from a box, that Jacob leaned back moaning and patting his stomach.

“Did the bottomless pit actually run out of room?” she laughed, poking at his food baby while he dodged her, shaking his head and smiling.

“No way. Just taking a five minute breather.”

Bella stood up, clearing off the empty plates. “Then I’ll get out the ice cream too. Vanilla ok?”

“Sure, sure,” he agreed.

Jacob was unusually quiet while they ate dessert. Two pieces later he finally spoke. “Hey Bells, do you remember anything from when we were little kids?”

She shrugged, licking the strawberry filling off the tines of her fork. “A little. Not much though. I do remember a certain obnoxious boy following me around and shoving worms in my face.”

“Yeah, I guess I did do that,” he laughed. “Couldn’t help it. I wanted your attention. Still do.”

Again, guilt bubbled up. Jacob wore his heart on his sleeve. Bella reached for his hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. “Well, you’ve got it, Jake,” she assured him. “Really, you do. You make me happy.”

“You were my best friend back then Bells.”

“Just like now?” she asked.

Jacob smiled brightly, delving back into his cheesecake. “Nah. Now is better.”

It bothered her though. As if he wanted her to recall something important. “What is it you wanted me to remember, Jake?”

“I dunno,” he shrugged. “Anything I suppose. When you came back here, it was like you didn’t know me. I remembered you though. You were always tearing around on the beach and in the woods, completely fearless and I was always running after you. Guess that hasn’t changed much at all.”

Bella closed her eyes, a flash of memories dancing in her mind. “There was this time I was walking on that skinny little path down to the beach from your house. It was getting late and I wanted to see the tidepools. I remember tripping over a log and twisting my ankle really bad. It hurt like hell but I really wanted to see the pools. You were right behind me. You helped me stand up and let me lean on you all the way down there. We sat on the edge of those pools looking at the starfish and coral until the sun went down and our dads came looking for us.”

Bella opened her eyes, to see an astonished look on Jacob’s face. It was what he needed. Reassurance that he mattered to her, not just now, but that he always had. “Jake, I may not remember much, but I do remember you. I never really forgot. Being here now, walking in the places we used to play, the memories are starting to come back.”

She watched his face light up with joy. Like she’d somehow given him a gift. Bella resolved to try and make Jake happy more often. He was giving up so much for her. She’d try to live her life for him instead of wasting away.

Jacob’s ears pricked up, the altered wolf senses hearing things humans could not. “Charlie’s home. That’s my cue to leave. I have to get back to patrols.”

Charlie’s footfalls could be heard on the porch when Jacob paused at the back door to hug her goodbye. “I’ll be outside tonight, Bells. You’ll be safe. I swear it.”

“I’m always safe with you,” she whispered, wishing he didn’t have to go.

Jacob’s hand was on the doorknob when he spoke again, as if it were something he had to say, that he needed her to hear. “You know this isn’t your fault, right? None of this. You didn’t cause this Bella. Sometimes bad things just happen to good people. It’s not fair that you got put into this situation by things or people who should have known better.”

She knew that he wanted desperately for her to understand that. In his own way, he was forgiving her, absolving sin that had unwittingly been cast on her small shoulders.

“I know Jake. I just wish I could believe that.”

He reached out to her, cupping her cheek with his hand. “You will, Bella. One day you will.”

Then just like that, he was gone. A flash of warm, rusty fur disappearing into the vast Olympic forest.

Chapter 2: Madness

“Hi Billy.” Bella’s timid voice broke the early morning silence of the small red house.

“Morning, sweetheart.” Billy Black’s bright smile greeted her over his coffee cup as he motioned for her to join him for some breakfast. “Jake’s on patrol today. He left pretty early.”

Bella looked at him with some confusion. “I thought he had patrol last night.”

Billy sighed heavily, knowing his son had been keeping some things from her. “Bella, the boys are pulling double duty and Jake barely comes home as it is.” He held up a hand, stopping her from saying anything. “He wants to make sure you’re safe. Truth is, I don’t think he trusts the others to do the job. It’s the alpha in him, I suppose.”

She sat down at the faded kitchen table, looking into Billy’s black eyes as if challenging the old chief to do something about it. “Yeah, well, he needs to sleep from time to time too. Maybe I’ll see about staying here tonight if you don’t mind. I’m sure if I were a few feet away he’d take a night off and rest.”

He patted her hand gratefully. “That’d be nice Bella. Honestly, I’d be glad for the company. Jakes been gone so much lately and Charlie’s so busy at work. Old men get lonely easily.”

Bella rolled her eyes at him. “You’re not old, Billy.”

“And you’re not as broken as you seem to think.” Billy eyed her seriously and Bella knew this was one conversation she couldn’t fake her way out of.

She tried to snatch her hand away, but he held fast to her. “Billy, please don’t,” she begged, unwilling to have this discussion.

Instead he looked at her sternly, determined that she would listen to him. Someone had to get through to her and he felt that he had to try. “No Bella. You need to hear this. I’ve loved you like a daughter all your life, even if you can’t remember it. I watched Charlie’s heart break in two every single summer when you’d have to go back to Arizona. There was so much light in your eyes, even as a little girl. I know that Renee is your mom and you love her, but you’ve had to shoulder too many of the responsibilities that she should have. Your mother was my friend, but your life has always been far more important to me than hers. When you decided to come here, it took guts. You started over in a new town, a new school. You made those sacrifices for your mom.”

Bella squirmed and scuffed the rubber toe of her shoe against the worn linoleum. Tears pricked the corners of her eyes. Renee Swan was a flighty woman. As often as Bella defended her, the truth was that she was selfish.

“Sweetheart, when you met Edward Cullen you let him become your whole world.”

Bella jerked her chin, suddenly angry. Who was he to pass judgement on her? What made him the expert on her life, her feelings?

Billy waved his hand in the air gesturing. “Now don’t get your dander up young lady. I think at the time you felt alone in a small town and he was a big mystery to solve. It’s easy to understand how someone would get caught up in the romance of living forever. The fact is, he’s a predator Bella. Plain and simple. It’s in his nature. Vampires attract humans whether they want to or not.”

A memory flashed through her mind. The quiet stillness of the woods. A velvet voice, its delightful melody tinged with warning. Everything about me invites you in. My voice, my face, even my smell. As if I would need any of that. As if you could outrun me. As if you could fight me off. I’m designed to kill.

Part of her wanted to scream. To cry and fight. To shout to the world it wasn’t true. Edward loved her. She loved him. There was nothing mystical about it. Instead her lips betrayed her with a whisper.

“I was his singer.” She glanced upward, afraid to meet Billy Black’s eyes. “My blood called to him. He said it was stronger than the others. The way I smelled.”

Billy nodded in comprehension. “I see. Bella, was there ever a time when you wanted to do something but Edward persuaded you otherwise?” he asked, as if he were trying to make her remember something. “Did any of them ever get you to do a thing you wouldn’t ordinarily do and yet you found yourself doing it anyway?”

Bella thought back to Alice, steamrolling her into shopping and playing dress-up. The way they all watched her eat like she was some kind of circus sideshow. All of the times Edward refused to let her drive her truck. Was Billy right? The girl she used to be would have put her foot down. Yet with the Cullen family she wanted to fit in so badly. To have what they did.

To belong.

Fear and realization swept over her, sending chills up her spine. Bella looked at Billy with wide-eyed horror. “Do you think they....”

Billy just shook his head. “I’m not sure. At least you’re thinking about it kiddo. I know you can’t tell Charlie about all this stuff. Even Jake has his own interests. You can come talk to me anytime. Sometimes it helps to get it all off your chest. Just don’t forget, Bella. You’re tougher than you think.”

Bella gave him a hug, muttering a quick “Thanks” before telling him she was heading to the beach. She needed some space to stretch her legs and think. Part of her knew that what Billy said was true. Before Edward she’d been a different girl. After he came along, she had forgotten who she was inside. Everything revolved around him. Even now, broken and weak, he controlled her from afar. All of the recklessness just to hear his voice. The months of sadness and despair. It had to end and she knew it.

An hour later Bella Swan found herself standing on the cliffs staring down into the icy, swirling blue waters of the Pacific.

One jump.

Just one. One last time to hear his voice. Then she’d try to be better. To be the friend Jacob deserved, the daughter Charlie loved.

Her foot teetered at the ledge, toying with danger.

Bella please. Don’t do this.

“You wanted me to be human,” she whispered. “Watch me.”

Bella please don’t do this.

Edward’s rich voice begged and pleaded with her, but she was determined. “You won’t stay with me any other way.”

Then she leapt into the unknown. The freezing water hit her body and stabbed like a thousand knives. The pain was unbearable, but heated emotion inside of her rose to the surface. Pride, defiance, euphoria. This time, she was in control.

Bella never counted on the undertow.

Waves crashed over her head, pulling her down and choking out her last breath before she was ready. Then the blackness of death surrounded her.

“Bella! Damnit Bella! Breathe! Someone get help, now!” She could hear the panicked voice calling, pleading with her to come back. Only this time, it wasn’t Edward.

Spluttering and crying from the hard pounding on her back, Bella’s eyes opened to find the face of her savior. Jacob’s worried eyes penetrated her more deeply than the frozen water.

“Thank God,” he gasped. “Oh thank God, you’re alright.”

Everything hurt. All of her muscles had contracted, the joints of her body so stiff that laying in the sand Bella knew she couldn’t move even if she tried. “Cold. So. Cold,” she shivered, absolutely certain her lips must be blue.

“Let’s get you out of here.” Jacob scooped her up as if she weighed no more than a mere feather, legs running as fast as they could toward home. Warmth slowly seeped through her frozen limbs. Painful needles pricked and chipped away at flesh and bone. Bella’s teeth chattered involuntarily, her throat raw and clogged with tears.

Jacob burst through the door of the little red house, racing into his room and dumping her on the bed. Quickly he tucked the long unused comforter around her thin body, warming it with his own before diving into his closet to search for the smallest pieces of clothing he owned.

“Bells, honey, you need to get out of those wet clothes. Do you think you can do it, or do you want my help?”

“Help.. please.” Every single one of her muscles ached. Jacob’s fingers left trails of heat over the goose-fleshed skin. He situated himself behind her on the bed, gently peeling off the layers of clothing. His fingers paused briefly over the clasp of her bra and she registered the sharp intake of his breath before freeing her from the garment. Swiftly, he pulled the old sweatshirt down over her head, covering her cold flesh.

It was soft, warm and smelled of Jacob. His hands wandered down to her overly thin waist, practically spanning it with their size.

He hesitated, unsure of what to do next. “Bells, do you think you can... Do you want me to?”

“My fingers are so stiff. I trust you, Jake.”


Even though she couldn’t see him, Bella knew his eyes were squeezed shut in concentration. Undressing her was awkward given the status of their relationship. After he had lifted her and pushed the jeans down past her hips, she managed to wiggle out of them, saving him further embarrassment.

He quickly covered her naked half with the comforter, opting to hold her closely instead of helping her get into the sweatpants that he was sure would be six sizes too big. Ever so slowly she began to relax against him, cocooned in the blanket and surrounded by his strength.

“What were you thinking, Bella? You could have died out there today.” Jacob’s voice shook with fear. Death had knocked on their door today.

“I just... he wanted me to be human. I hear him Jake. I hear him all the time. Everytime I do something stupid. I feel like I’m insane. He won’t let me go and it hurts so much. I’m so sorry Jake. I’m so sorry.”

Bella buried her face in his shoulder, her small chest wracked with violent sobs. Jacob rested his chin on top of her head, trying to understand.

“The bikes?” he asked. “Is that why...”

She didn’t miss the hint of devastation in his voice, just as he didn’t miss the guilt, the remorse in hers. “Yes... and no. I didn’t realize then. I just wanted something to do. I didn’t know if you’d want me around and I figured that if I brought those...”

“Bells, I always want you around. I won’t lie. I’m fucking pissed.”

She dared not look at him. It would hurt too much to see the anger in his eyes. Their friendship was over. She was sure of it. “It’s ok if you hate me now. I’ll leave you alone.”

“No, I’m fucking pissed off that damn leech did this to you! This shit isn’t your fault. It’s his.”

He was practically shouting and she could feel him shake next to her. Bella felt like a petulant child. She wanted him to understand. She had to explain. “I swear Jake, I’m trying. I really am. It just always hurts so damn much. Sometimes it feels like my chest is gonna explode.”

Jacob pushed her from his chest, lifting her chin and forcing her to look at him. The sternness in his eyes leaving little doubt of what he expected from her from now on. “Just talk to me from now on. No more dangerous stunts. I swear to God, I’ll tie you to the fucking bed if I have to. This ends now.”

“Ok.” Bella was ready to stop. To let go. If only it were that easy.

They laid together quietly for a while, the ticking of the kitchen clock echoing loudly through the house. There was so much frustration, so much hurt between them. Yet, there was still friendship and love.

The incessant ring of the telephone shattered the self-imposed silence. Though they tried to ignore it, whoever the caller was didn’t give up.

“Bells, I’m gonna see who that is and make you some hot tea. Do you think you can get some pants on? I’m sixteen and there’s only so much I can take.”

“Sure.” Bella smiled weakly, trying to show him everything was fine even if it was far from it. He kissed her lightly on the forehead then padded into the kitchen.

Bella laid there, listening to Jacob’s deep murmurs over the telephone, wondering why he even still bothered with her. He had never made any secret of his love for her. Often she wondered when he’d figure it out. She wasn’t worth his love. She was ruined.

Edward had ruined her.

Drifting in and out of consciousness, half asleep in that place between dreaming and awake, the same old nightmares threatened to break the surface when Jacob appeared in the doorway with a steaming cup in hand, looking old beyond his years.

“Hey,” she croaked, giving him a half-hearted smile.

Jacob crossed the room, seating himself beside her. “So, that was Emily. Harry Clearwater had a heart attack. They don’t think he’s gonna make it.”

Bella sat up, worried and sad. “I should call Charlie.”

He handed her the teacup, urging her to drink. “He’s already there, honey. I’m gonna take you home and stay with you until they get back. My dad’s with him.”

She sipped the hot tea, wincing slightly as it poured down her sore throat. “What else? What aren’t you telling me?”

Jacob sighed heavily burying his face in his hands. “Seth, he had started the change. Leah started shaking. They’re both pack now. It was her phasing that triggered the heart attack.”

Bella’s heart sank like a stone. Once more the guilt bubbled up inside of her. It was her fault, all of it. Then quite suddenly, Jacob’s strong hand squeezed her knee in reassurance.

“I know what you’re thinking, honey. There’s nothing you could have done. It’s not your fault. Just them being here made it happen to all of us.”

It was then that anger began to sear through her veins like fire. Anger at Edward, at all of the Cullens for coming to Forks. They’d screwed up so many lives without thought to who it might affect.

“Jake, why did you pull me out of the water? How did you even know how to find me?”

He looked at her, searching her face for something. What, she didn’t know. “We were chasing the redhead,” he explained. “She’d run for the shore. I don’t normally go too far from wherever you are. Guess I just don’t trust the other guys to take care of you the way I would. Half of them have their imprints. I dunno,” he shrugged. “Just makes more sense.”

“Anyway, today she dove into the water. I got a chunk out of her, but wasn’t fast enough. Then I saw you jump and dove in after you.” Bella listened quietly as his voice began to tremble and his hands began to shake. “I... I was so scared Bells. I didn’t think... I wasn’t sure if I... Then you weren’t breathing...”

It was then that Jacob Black finally broke down. The weight of the world crushing his shoulders. Bella knew what she had done was unforgivable. Unforgivable and selfish. The pack was trying to keep her alive. Jacob was going without sleep so that she could live and today she had thrown that gift away like it was garbage.

Bella put the teacup down on the nightstand and threw her arms around his neck, trying to give him what he had shared with her all these months. Comfort.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered, pressing her cool cheek against his warmer one, holding him tightly to her as if she could shelter him from all the hurt, bandage all the pain she’d inflicted by blanketing him with her love.

He patted her arm softly, as if he just wasn’t ready. “We should really get going, Bells.”

Bella curled into Jacob’s warmth on the drive home. It would be so easy to love him if only she could still love anyone. He deserved to be happy. To have more than a girlfriend who was only half alive. She knew it was foolish to throw away the only happiness in her life. Yet she knew one day he’d probably imprint and then she’d be alone again. Just as broken as the day Sam had found her in the woods. The hole in her chest threatened to burst open again.

Jacob pulled to a stop in front of the darkened house, killing the ignition of the noisy old truck and plunging them into the silence of the sleepy streets of Forks. Bella wondered if she could do it. If she could commit as much of herself as she could and hope that it would be enough.

Suddenly he threw his other arm around her, crushing her with his warmth and love. “Sorry. I know you don’t feel exactly the way I do, Bells. I swear I don’t mind. I’m just so glad you’re okay that I could sing - and that’s something nobody wants to hear.”

She knew then that if she turned her face just to the side, if she gave him the least bit of encouragement, pressed her lips to his skin that the inevitable would happen. It would make him so happy. Then before she could, Jacob released her and opened the truck door, holding out his hand with a smile to help her inside.

“So, how about I pick out some cheesy movie while you go take a hot shower, Bells?”

“Yea, that sounds good,” she agreed, grateful for a return to normalcy. “Call in a pizza order too. There’s money for it in the drawer.”

“Sure thing. Can you make it up the stairs or do you want me to carry you?”

“Honestly, I feel a lot better. I’ll be fine,” she assured him. He looked at her dubiously, but let her go.

Bella walked unsteadily on her feet, taking the stairs one at a time with marked precision. Jacob didn’t need her to fall. He didn’t need her to hurt herself. He didn’t need to mistake clumsiness for insanity.

The water rushing over her body felt good. Bella stayed under the spray for a long time, washing the salty pacific from her tangled hair, waiting for the heat to finally creep back into her bones. Finally warmed, she turned off the water and wrapped herself in a fluffy towel. Steam billowed all around her in the cramped bathroom. Condensation covered the mirror, obscuring her image.

Bella wiped it down with a rag, then stared back at the reflection of herself. For the first time in months she finally saw what others did when they looked at her. Bruise-like shadows had formed beneath her eyes like darkened crescent moons, marking nights filled with terror and insomnia. The once thick curls of her hair hung limp, lifeless without their old shine. Another telltale mark of a poor diet, just like the pointed tips of her collar bone sticking out absurdly like two little fists.

The creaminess of her skin had become sallow, yet it was the haunted look in her eyes that bothered Bella the most. Gone were the days when she had smiled at herself in the mirror, thinking of all that life had to offer. The sparkle was replaced by a quiet desperation of sorts. Waiting on a man who would never return. One who had tossed her aside like yesterday's news.

“I hate you. I hate what you did to me,” she whispered. Bella glanced down at the scar that marred her wrist, then traced her fingertips over the cold, marbled flesh. It was all she had left. Nothing but a reminder of what her life had become. A living, breathing nightmare.

Suddenly, she was angry. Irate and irrational. It bubbled up inside like a rushing river breaking over the banks. Bella laughed uncontrollably, her face twisted and contorted with a thousand different emotions. “You threw me away like I meant nothing. I don’t even know who you are! You make me sick. Selfish. Fucking selfish!”

She was unaware of her voice rising, alarming the boy downstairs who had waited so patiently for her all these months like a lost dog.

Then her voice dropped an octave lower, the evil lunacy of it making Jacob’s blood run cold with fear. He raced up the stairs shouting her name and began to pound on the locked door. “Bells, let me in. What’s going on? I’m fucking scared. Let me in!”

Bella balled her hand up in a tight fist, ignoring Jacob’s plea. In one fluid motion she smashed it into the mirror, shattering the glass with a single blow. Breaking the pathetic reflection of weakness into a thousand pointed shards.

The sting of pain felt good. It made her feel alive. Like an electric shock, it jolted her senses into high alert. Adrenaline coursed through her veins and she could hear her heart pounding in her ears.

Bella vibrated like a live wire.

Liquid red oozed from her knuckles, bits of glass stuck into her skin like grotesque glitter. Glancing back at a hundred reflections of herself in the spiderwebbed mirror, she noticed one loose fragment. Sharp and deadly.

Bella pried the shard of mirror from the corner, careful not to break it. It was her only hope. Salvation by flagellation.

If the eye offends thee, pluck it out.

Jacob pounded harder on the door, ready to burst in at any second. Bella brought sharp edge down quickly, breaking through hardened flesh, sawing away the cold which tortured her soul.

With real fear in her eyes, Bella Swan watched the horrid strands of silver free themselves from beneath the prison of her skin. Reaching outward like evil fingers of death and wrapping themselves around the crimson blood which flowed freely from her wrist.

The bathroom door splintered under Jacob’s weight, breaking from the hinges.

His eyes lit first on the mirror and then on the blood dripping to the floor. She saw the wolf in him recoil in horror, nostrils flaring from and filling with the undiluted scent of venom.

“FUCK! What the hell!” Jacob raced into her bedroom, snatching the cellphone that lay on her dresser. Bella could hear him shouting, but madness had taken her.

She wavered between laughing hysterically and sobbing uncontrollably. The smell of rust mixed with the sickly sweet scent of vampire had sent her into the combined state of euphoria and stomach churning disgust. The world was spinning like crazy, blackness threatening the far reaches of her mind.

“Just fucking get here quick!” Jacob’s frantic voice echoed through the silent house. His large frame stood in the doorway, casting a shadow over Bella’s prone, naked form.

“Bells, honey, I can’t come any closer. The wolf... Billy and Old Quil are on their way here. I can’t take you to a hospital. That thing... it has to be burned.”

Vaguely Bella wondered if they would cut off her arm. She could almost see herself standing in the backyard, blood leaking from her stump and purple smoke rising from the flames while the pack stood around gawking.

Somewhere in the house a door opened, shouting and the thunder of footsteps echoing through the quiet stillness. Bella’s eyes fluttered, slipping in and out of a state of unconsciousness. She barely registered it when a pair of arms slipped around her body, aware that it wasn’t one of the pack. Possibly Old Quil. These days she weighed next to nothing, not a hard feat for an old man.

Lights from above burned the back of her eyelids, her back resting on something hard and cold. So cold. The voices surrounding her were murky, as if she were listening under ten feet of water. Part of her wondered if she was already dead, her soul stuck in some sort of purgatory where she could hear the living but not walk amongst them.

“Bella! Bella! Can you hear me? I need you to open your eyes.” Billy’s voice was frantic, pleading and desperate. “Son, how much blood did she lose?”

“I don’t know Dad. I can’t get too close. The wolf... he’s ready to come out.”

“Then get outside, Jacob.” It wasn’t Billy commanding him. It was the Chief of the tribe.

“No, I’m not leaving her!” he shouted. “Bella open your eyes!”

Ever so slowly, she cracked open her heavy lids, wincing when her eyes landed on the lightbulb above her. “Jake. Cold. I’m so cold.”

Billy’s wrinkled old face came into her line of vision. “Bella, listen to me. Jake can’t get too close to you right now. The venom is clinging to you. Does it hurt anywhere? Do you feel any different?”

She knew what he was asking. The worried tone of his voice told her what words did not. They all wanted to know if she was becoming a vampire. The burn wasn’t there. The venom wasn’t spreading inwardly, only out. Spilling out with her blood. Bella raised her arm to see what had become of her moment of insanity.

Thick crimson dripped down her arm, staining her white skin. The venom had snaked around her wrist, looking like a grotesque silver bracelet.

“I’m not... it’s not. I’m ok, Billy. It doesn’t burn. Not like when he bit me.”

Jacob’s growl reverberated through the house, echoed by another wolf. Sam, maybe? Embry? She wasn’t sure, who.

“Out! Now! Both of you!” ordered Billy.

Bella’s eyes had closed again, though she forced herself to stay awake, concentrating hard on the voices which surrounded her.

“Bella, we’re going to take it away. Try to relax. It’s going to be fine.”

It felt like thorns when the venom was plucked away from her skin. As if it were clinging to her like super glue. It wanted in. To possess and take over her human body. Each thread was excised with caution and precision. One false move and she was dead.

While Billy removed the threat from her body, Old Quil chanted prayers for her soul in a language she wasn’t able to understand.

“It’s done. Boys, get in here and start a fire. Hurry!”

Bella felt Billy’s hand on her forehead, soothing away the demons that had haunted her. “It’s gonna be ok, sweetheart. Everything will be ok from now on.”

She could feel the familiar sting of a needle tugging her skin back together. Bella wondered vaguely who was stitching her back up, but lacked the strength to ask. The last thing she could recall before falling into blackness was a pair of warm arms surrounding her and a low voice murmuring her name.

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