I inhaled deeply. "What was the other thing he wanted?"
Jacob smiled. "You'll like this. His main request is that he be told as little as possible about all of this. If it's not absolutely essential for him to know something, then keep it to yourself. Need to know, only."
I felt relief for the first time since Jacob had walked in. "I can handle that part."
"Other than that, he'd just like to pretend things are normal." Jacob's smile turned smug; he must suspect that I would be starting to feel the first faint stirrings of gratitude about now.
"What did you tell him about Renesmee?" I struggled to maintain the razor edge in my voice, fighting the reluctant appreciation. It was premature. There was still so much wrong with this situation. Even if Jacob's intervention had brought out a better reaction in Charlie than I'd ever hoped for...
"Oh yeah. So I told him that you and Edward had inherited a new little mouth to feed." He glanced at Edward. "She's your orphaned ward - like Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson." Jacob snorted. "I didn't think you'd mind me lying. That's all part of the game, right?" Edward didn't respond in any way, so Jacob went on. "Charlie was way past being shocked at this point, but he did ask if you were adopting her. 'Like a daughter? Like I'm sort of a grandfather?' were his exact words. I told him yes. 'Congrats, Gramps, and all of that. He even smiled a little."
The stinging returned to my eyes, but not out of fear or anguish this time. Charlie was smiling at the idea of being a grandpa? Charlie would meet Renesmee?
"But she's changing so fast," I whispered.
"I told him that she was more special than all of us put together," Jacob said in a soft voice. He stood and walked right up to me, waving Leah and Seth off when they started to follow. Renesmee reached out to him, but I hugged her more tightly to me. "I told him, Trust me, you don't want to know about this. But if you can ignore all the strange parts, you're going to be amazed. She's the most wonderful person in the whole world.' And then I told him that if he could deal with that, you all would stick around for a while and he would have a chance to get to know her. But that if it was too much for him, you would leave. He said as long as no one forced too much information on him, he'd deal."
Jacob stared at me with half a smile, waiting.
"I'm not going to say thank you," I told him. "You're still putting Charlie at a huge risk."
"I am sorry about it hurting you. I didn't know it was like that. Bella, things are different with us now, but you'll always be my best friend, and I'll always love you. But I'll love you the right way now. There's finally a balance. We both have people we can't live without."
He smiled his very most Jacob-y smile. "Still friends?"
Try as hard as I could to resist, I had to smile back. Just a tiny smile.
He held out his hand: an offer.
I took a deep breath and shifted Renesmee's weight to one arm. I put my left hand in his - he didn't even flinch at the feel of my cool skin. "If I don't kill Charlie tonight, I'll consider forgiving you for this."
"Whenyou don't kill Charlie tonight, you'll owe me huge."
I rolled my eyes.
He held out his other hand toward Renesmee, a request this time. "Can I?"
"I'm actually holding her so that my hands aren't free to kill you, Jacob. Maybe later."
He sighed but didn't push me on it. Wise of him.
Alice raced back through the door then, her hands full and her expression promising violence.
"You, you, and you," she snapped, glaring at the werewolves. "If you must stay, get over in the corner and commit to being there for a while. I need to see. Bella, you'd better give him the baby, too. You'll need your arms free, anyway."
Jacob grinned in triumph.
Undiluted fear ripped through my stomach as the enormity of what I was about to do hit me. I was going to gamble on my iffy self-control with my pure human father as the guinea pig. Edward's earlier words crashed in my ears again.
Did you consider the physical pain you're putting Bella through, even if she can resist? Or the emotional pain if she doesn't?
I couldn't imagine the pain of failure. My breathing turned to gasps.
"Take her," I whispered, sliding Renesmee into Jacob's arms.
He nodded, concern wrinkling his forehead. He gestured to the others, and they all went to the far corner of the room. Seth and Jake slouched on the floor at once, but Leah shook her head and pursed her lips.
"Am I allowed to leave?" she griped. She looked uncomfortable in her human body, wearing the same dirty t-shirt and cotton shorts she'd worn to shriek at me the other day, her short hair sticking up in irregular tufts. Her hands were still shaking.
"Of course," Jake said.
"Stay east so you don't cross Charlie's path," Alice added.
Leah didn't look at Alice; she ducked out the back door and stomped into the bushes to phase.
Edward was back at my side, stroking my face. "You can do this. I know you can. Ill help you; we all will."
I met Edward's eyes with panic screaming from my face. Was he strong enough to stop me if I made a wrong move?
"If I didn't believe you could handle it, we'd disappear today. This very minute. But you can. And you'll be happier if you can have Charlie in your life."
I tried to slow my breathing.
Alice held out her hand. There was a small white box on her palm. "These will irritate your eyes - they won't hurt, but they'll cloud your vision. It's annoying. They also won't match your old color, but it's still better than bright red, right?"
She flipped the contact box into the air and I caught it.