Then she blinked, and I could see she got it.

"Oh. Ugh. Please, Jacob. You think I should kill my baby and replace it with some generic substitute? Artificial insemination?" She was mad now. "Why would I want to have some stranger's baby? I suppose it just doesn't make a difference? Any baby will do?"

"I didn't mean that," I muttered. "Not a stranger."

She leaned forward. "Then what are you saying?"

"Nothing. I'm saying nothing. Same as ever."

"Where did that come from?"

"Forget it, Bella."

She frowned, suspicious. "Did he tell you to say that?"

I hesitated, surprised that she'd made that leap so quick. "No."

"He did, didn't he?"

"No, really. He didn't say anything about artificial whatever."

Her face softened then, and she sank back against the pillows, looking exhausted. She stared off to the side when she spoke, not talking to me at all. "He would do anything forme. And I'm hurting him so much.... But what is he thinking? That I would trade this" - her hand traced across her belly - "for some stranger's ..." She mumbled the last part, and then her voice trailed off. Her eyes were wet.

"You don't have to hurt him," I whispered. It burned like poison in my mouth to beg for him, but I knew this angle was probably my best bet for keeping her alive. Still a thousand-to-one odds. "You could make him happy again, Bella. And I really think he's losing it. Honestly, I do."

She didn't seem to be listening; her hand made small circles on her battered stomach while she chewed on her lip. It was quiet for a long time. I wondered if the Cullens were very far away. Were they listening to my pathetic attempts to reason with her?

"Not a stranger?" she murmured to herself. I flinched. "What exactly did Edward say to you?" she asked in a low voice.

"Nothing. He just thought you might listen to me."

"Not that. About trying again."

Her eyes locked on mine, and I could see that I'd already given too much away.


Her mouth fell open a little. "Wow."

It was silent for a few heartbeats. I looked down at my feet again, unable to meet her stare.

"He really would do anything, wouldn't he?" she whispered.

"I told you he was going crazy. Literally, Bells."

"I'm surprised you didn't tell on him right away. Get him in trouble."

When I looked up, she was grinning.

"Thought about it." I tried to grin back, but I could feel the smile mangle on my face.

She knew what I was offering, and she wasn't going to think twice about it. I'd known that she wouldn't. But it still stung.

"There isn't much you wouldn't do for me, either, is there?" she whispered. "I really don't know why you bother. I don't deserve either of you."

"It makes no difference, though, does it?"

"Not this time." She sighed. "I wish I could explain it to you right so that you would understand. I can't hurthim" - she pointed to her stomach - "any more than I could pick up a gun and shoot you. I love him."

"Why do you always have to love the wrong things, Bella?"

"I don't think I do."

I cleared the lump out of my throat so that I could make my voice hard like I wanted it. 'Trust me."

I started to get to my feet.

"Where are you going?"

"I'm not doing any good here."

She held out her thin hand, pleading. "Don't go."

I could feel the addiction sucking at me, trying to keep me near her.

"I don't belong here. I've got to get back."

"Why did you come today?" she asked, still reaching limply.

"Just to see if you were really alive. I didn't believe you were sick like Charlie said."

I couldn't tell from her face whether she bought that or not.

"Will you come back again? Before ..."

"I'm not going to hang around and watch you die,Bella."

She flinched. "You're right, you're right. You should go."

I headed for the door.

"Bye," she whispered behind me. "Love you, Jake."

I almost went back. I almost turned around and fell down on my knees and started begging again. But I knew that I had to quitBella, quit her cold turkey, before she killed me, like she was going to kill him.

"Sure, sure," I mumbled on my way out.

I didn't see any of the vampires. I ignored my bike, standing all alone in the middle of the meadow. It wasn't fast enough for me now. My dad would be freaked out - Sam, too. What would the pack make of the fact that they hadn't heard me phase? Would they think the Cullens got me before I'd had the chance? I stripped down, not caring who might be watching, and started running. I blurred into wolf mid-stride.

They were waiting. Of course they were.

Jacob, Jake,eight voices chorused in relief.

Come homenow, the Alpha voice ordered. Sam was furious.

I felt Paul fade out, and i knew Billy and Rachel were waiting to hear what had happened to me. Paul was too anxious to give them the good news that I wasn't vampire chow to listen to the whole story.

I didn't have to tell the pack I was on my way - they could see the forest blurring past me as I sprinted for home. I didn't have to tell them that I was half-past crazy, either. The sickness in my head was obvious.

They saw all the horror - Bella's mottled stomach; her raspy voice; he's strong, that's all: the burning man in Edward's face: watching her sicken and waste away... seeing it hurting her, Rosalie crouched over Bella's limp body: Bella's life means nothing to her - and for once, no one had anything to say.