We ran in silence for a few minutes. I started off along a new line, probing south.

Don't get too far.

Why?

Bella asked me to ask you to stop by.

My teeth locked together.

Alice wants you, too. She says she's tired of hanging out in the attic like the vampire bat in the belfry. Seth snorted a laugh. was switching off with Edward before. Trying to keep Bella's temperature stable. Cold to hot, as needed. I guess, if you don't want to do it, I could go back -

No. I got it,I snapped.

Okay.Seth didn't make any more comments. He concentrated very hard on the empty forest.

I kept my southern course, searching for anything new. I turned around when I got close to the first signs of habitation. Not near the town yet, but I didn't want to get any wolf rumors going again. We'd been nice and invisible for a long while now.

I passed right through the perimeter on my way back, heading for the house. As much as I knew it was a stupid thing to do, I couldn't stop myself. I must be some kind of masochist.

There's nothing wrong with you, Jake. This isn't the most normal situation.

Shut up, please, Seth.

Shutting.

I didn't hesitate at the door this time; I just walked through like I owned the place. I figured that would piss Rosalie off, but it was a wasted effort. Neither Rosalie or Bella were anywhere in sight. I looked around wildly, hoping I'd missed them somewhere, my heart squeezing against my ribs in a weird, uncomfortable way.

"She's all right," Edward whispered. "Or, the same, I should say."

Edward was on the couch with his face in his hands; he hadn't looked up to speak. Esme was next to him, her arm wrapped tight around his shoulders.

"Hello, Jacob," she said. "I'm so glad you came back."

"Me, too," Alice said with a deep sigh. She came prancing down the stairs, making a face. Like 1 was late for an appointment.

"Uh, hey," I said. It felt weird to try to be polite.

"Where's Bella?"

"Bathroom," Alice told me. "Mostly fluid diet, you know. Plus, the whole pregnancy thing does that to you, I hear."

"Ah."

I stood there awkwardly, rocking back and forth on my heels.

"Oh, wonderful," Rosalie grumbled. I whipped my head around and saw her coming from a hall half-hidden behind the stairway. She had Bella cradled gently in her arms, a harsh sneer on her face for me. "I knew I smelled something nasty."

And, just like before, Bella's face lit up like a kid's on Christmas morning. Like I'd brought her the greatest gift ever.

It was so unfair.

"Jacob," she breathed. "You came."

"Hi, Bells."

Esme and Edward both got up. I watched how carefully Rosalie laid Bella out on the couch. I watched how, despite that, Bella turned white and held her breath - like she was set on not making any noise no matter how much it hurt.

Edward brushed his hand across her forehead and then along her neck. He tried to make it look as if he was

just sweeping her hair back, but it looked like a doctor's examination to me.

"Are you cold?" he murmured.

I'm fine."

"Bella, you know what Carlisle told you," Rosalie said. "Don't downplay anything. It doesn't help us take care of either of you."

"Okay, I'm a little cold. Edward, can you hand me that blanket?"

I rolled my eyes. "Isn't that sort of the point of me being here?"

"You just walked in," Bella said. "After running all day, I'd bet. Put your feet up for a minute. I'll probably warm up again in no time."

I ignored her, going to sit on the floor next the sofa while she was still telling me what to do. At that point, though, I wasn't sure how.... She looked pretty brittle, and I was afraid to move her, even to put my arms around her. So I just leaned carefully against her side, letting my arm rest along the length of hers, and held her hand. Then I put my other hand against her face. It was hard to tell if she felt colder than usual.

"Thanks, Jake," she said, and I felt her shiver once.

"Yeah," I said.

Edward sat on the arm of the sofa by Bella's feet, his eyes always on her face.

It was too much to hope, with all the super-hearing in the room, that no one would notice my stomach rumbling.

"Rosalie, why don't you get Jacob something from the kitchen?" Alice said. She was invisible now, sitting quietly behind the back of the sofa.

Rosalie stared at the place Alice's voice had come from in disbelief.

"Thanks, anyway, Alice, but I don't think I'd want to eat something Blondie's spit in. I'd bet my system wouldn't take too kindly to venom."

"Rosalie would never embarrass Esme by displaying such a lack of hospitality."

"Of course not," Blondie said in a sugar-sweet voice that I immediately distrusted. She got up and breezed out of the room.

Edward sighed.

"You'd tell me if she poisoned it, right?" I asked.

"Yes," Edward promised.

And for some reason I believed him.

There was a lot of banging in the kitchen, and - weirdly - the sound of metal protesting as it was abused. Edward sighed again, but smiled just a little, too. Then Rosalie was back before I could think much more about it. With a pleased smirk, she set a silver bowl on the floor next to me.

"Enjoy, mongrel."

It had once probably been a big mixing bowl, but she'd bent the bowl back in on itself until it was shaped almost exactly like a dog dish. I had to be impressed with her quick craftsmanship. And her attention to detail. She'd

scratched the word Fido into the side. Excellent handwriting.

Because the food looked pretty good - steak, no less, and a big baked potato with all the fixings - I told her, "Thanks, Blondie."

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