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The Twilight Saga 2: New Moon: Page 26
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"Sorry, I wasn't paying attention."
It was quiet for a brief minute.
"You can stop anywhere along here," he said softly.
I pulled over and cut the engine. My ears rang in the silence that followed. We both got out, and Jacob headed around to the back to get the bikes. I tried to read his expression. Something more was bothering him. I'd hit a nerve.
He smiled halfheartedly as he pushed the red bike to my side. "Happy late birthday. Are you ready for
"I think so." The bike suddenly looked intimidating, frightening, as I realized I would soon be astride it.
"We'll take it slow," he promised. I gingerly leaned the motorcycle against the truck's fender while he went to get his.
"Jake��"I hesitated as he came back around the truck.
"What's really bothering you? About the Sam thing, I mean? Is there something else?" I watched his face. He grimaced, but he didn't seem angry. He looked at the dirt and kicked his shoe against the front tire of his bike again and again, like he was keeping time.
He sighed. "It's just�� the way they treat me. It creeps me out." The words started to rush out now. "You know, the council is supposed to be made up of equals, but if there was a leader, it would be my dad. I've never been able to figure out why people treat him the way they do. Why his opinion counts the most. It's got something to do with his father and his father's father. My great-grandpa, Ephraim Black, was sort of the last chief we had, and they still listen to Billy, maybe because of that.
"But I'm just like everyone else. Nobody treats me special�� until now."
That caught me off guard. "Sam treats you special?"
"Yeah," he agreed, looking up at me with troubled eyes. "He looks at me like he's waiting for something�� like I'm going to join his stupid gang someday. He pays more attention to me than any of the other guys. I hate it."
"You don't have to join anything." My voice was angry. This was really upsetting Jacob, and that infuriated me. Who did these "protectors" think they were?
"Yeah." His foot kept up its rhythm against the tire.
"What?" I could tell there was more.
He frowned, his eyebrows pulling up in a way that looked sad and worried rather than angry. "It's Embry. He's been avoiding me lately."
The thoughts didn't seem connected, but I wondered if I was to blame for the problems with his friend. "You've been hanging out with me a lot," I reminded him, feeling selfish. I'd been monopolizing him.
"No, that's not it. It's not just me��it's Quil, too, and everyone. Embry missed a week of school, but he was never home when we tried to see him. And when he came back, he looked�� he looked freaked out. Terrified. Quil and I both tried to get him to tell us what was wrong, but he wouldn't talk to either one of us."
I stared at Jacob, biting my lip anxiously��he was really frightened. But he didn't look at me. He watched his own foot kicking the rubber as if it belonged to someone else. The tempo increased.
"Then this week, out of nowhere, Embry's hanging out with Sam and the rest of them. He was out on the cliffs today." His voice was low and tense.
He finally looked at me. "Bella, they bugged him even more than they bother me. He didn't want anything to do with them. And now Embry's following Sam around like he's joined a cult.
"And that's the way it was with Paul. Just exactly the same. He wasn't friends with Sam at all. Then he stopped coming to school for a few weeks, and, when he came back, suddenly Sam owned him. I don't know what it means. I can't figure it out, and I feel like I have to, because Embry's my friend and�� Sam's looking at me funny . . and��" He trailed off.
"Have you talked to Billy about this?" I asked. His horror was spreading to me. I had chills running on the back of my neck.
Now there was anger on his face. "Yes," he snorted. "That was helpful."
"What did he say?"
Jacob's expression was sarcastic, and when he spoke, his voice mocked the deep tones of his father's voice. "It's nothing you need to worry about now, Jacob. In a few years, if you don't�� well, I'll explain later."
And then his voice was his own. "What am I supposed to get from that? Is he trying to say it's some stupid puberty, coming-of-age thing? This is something else. Something wrong."
He was biting his lower lip and clenching his hands. He looked like he was about to cry.
I threw my arms around him instinctively, wrapping them around his waist and pressing my face against his chest. He was so big, I felt like I was a child hugging a grown-up.
"Oh, Jake, it'll be okay!" I promised. "If it gets worse you can come live with me and Charlie. Don't be scared, we'll think of something!"
He was frozen for a second, and then his long arms wrapped hesitantly around me. "Thanks, Bella." His voice was huskier than usual.
We stood like that for a moment, and it didn't upset me; in fact, I felt comforted by the contact. This didn't feel anything like the last time someone had embraced me this way. This was friendship. And Jacob was very warm.
It was strange for me, being this close��emotionally rather than physically, though the physical was strange for me, too��to another human being. It wasn't my usual style. I didn't normally relate to people so easily, on such a basic level.
Not human beings.
"If this is how you're going to react, I'll freak out more often." Jacob's voice was light, normal again, and his laughter rumbled against my ear. His fingers touched my hair, soft and tentative.
Well, it was friendship for me.
I pulled away quickly, laughing with him, but determined to put things back in perspective at once.
"It's hard to believe I'm two years older than you," I said, emphasizing the word older. "You make me feel like a dwarf." Standing this close to him, I really had to crane my neck to see his face.
"You're forgetting I'm in my forties, of course."
"Oh, that's right."
He patted my head. "You're like a little doll," he teased. "A porcelain doll."
I rolled my eyes, taking another step away. "Let's not start with the albino cracks."
"Seriously, Bella, are you sure you're not?" He stretched his russet arm out next to mine. The difference wasn't flattering. "I've never seen anyone paler than you�� well, except for��" He broke off, and I looked away, trying to not understand what he had been about to say.
"So are we going to ride or what?"
"Let's do it," I agreed, more enthusiastic than I would have been half a minute ago. His unfinished sentence reminded me of why I was here.
"OKAY, WHERE'S YOUR CLUTCH?"
I pointed to the lever on my left handlebar. Letting go of the grip was a mistake. The heavy bike wobbled underneath me, threatening to knock me sidewise. I grabbed the handle again, trying to hold it straight.
"Jacob, it won't stay up," I complained.
"It will when you're moving," he promised. "Now where's your brake?"
"Behind my right foot."
He grabbed my right hand and curled my fingers around the lever over the throttle.
"But you said��"
"This is the brake you want. Don't use the back brake now, that's for later, when you know what you're doing."
"That doesn't sound right," I said suspiciously. "Aren't both brakes kind of important?"
"Forget the back brake, okay? Here��" He wrapped his hand around mine and made me squeeze the lever down. "That is how you brake. Don't forget." He squeezed my hand another time.
"Fine," I agreed.
I twisted the right grip.
I nudged it with my left calf.
"Very good. I think you've got all the parts down. Now you just have to get itmoving."
"Uh-huh," I muttered, afraid to say more. My stomach was contorting strangely and I thought my voice might crack. I was terrified. I tried to tell myself that the fear was pointless. I'd already lived through the worst thing possible. In comparison with that, why should anything frighten me now? I should be able to look death in the face and laugh.
My stomach wasn't buying it.
I stared down the long stretch of dirt road, bordered by thick misty green on every side. The road was sandy and damp. Better than mud.
"I want you to hold down the clutch," Jacob instructed.
I wrapped my fingers around the clutch.
"Now this is crucial, Bella," Jacob stressed. "Don't let go of that, okay? I want you to pretend that I've handed you a live grenade. The pin is out and you are holding down the spoon."
I squeezed tighter.
"Good. Do you think you can kick-start it?"
"If I move my foot, I will fall over," I told him through gritted teeth, my fingers tight around my live grenade.
"Okay, I'll do it. Don't let go of the clutch."
He took a step back, and then suddenly slammed his foot down on the pedal. There was a short ripping noise, and the force of his thrust rocked the bike. I started to fall sideways, but Jake caught the bike before it knocked me to the ground.
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