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The Twilight Saga 2: New Moon

The Twilight Saga 2: New Moon: Page 31

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Like steel bear traps, open and ready. Jacob was in the habit of taking my hand whenever the opportunity presented itself, but here in the darkened movie theater, with Mike watching, it would have a different significance��and I was sure he knew that. I couldn't believe that Mike was thinking the same thing, but his hand was placed exactly like Jacob's.

I folded my arms tightly across my chest and hoped that both their hands fell asleep.

Mike gave up first. About halfway through the movie, he pulled his arm back, and leaned forward to put his head in his hands. At first I thought he was reacting to something on the screen, but then he moaned.

"Mike, are you okay?" I whispered.

The couple in front of us turned to look at him as he groaned again.

I could see the sheen of sweat across his face in the light from the screen.

Mike groaned again, and bolted for the door. I got up to follow him, and Jacob copied me immediately.

"No, stay," I whispered. "I'll make sure he's okay."

Jacob came with me anyway.

"You don't have to come. Get your eight bucks worth of carnage," I insisted as we walked up the aisle.

"That's okay. You sure can pick them, Bella. This movie really sucks." His voice rose from a whisper to its normal pitch as we walked out of the theater.

There was no sign of Mike in the hallway, and I was glad then that Jacob had come with me��he ducked into the men's bathroom to check for him there.

Jacob was back in a few seconds.

"Oh, he's in there, all right," he said, rolling his eyes. "What a marshmallow. You should hold out for someone with a stronger stomach. Someone who laughs at the gore that makes weaker men vomit."

"I'll keep my eyes open for someone like that."

We were all alone in the hallway. Both theaters were halfway through the movie, and it was deserted��quiet enough for us to hear the popcorn popping at the concession counter in the lobby.

Jacob went to sit on the velveteen-upholstered bench against the wall, patting the space beside him.

"He sounded like he was going to be in there for a while," he said, stretching his long legs out in front of him as he settled in to wait.

I joined him with a sigh. He looked like he was thinking about blurring more lines. Sure enough, as soon as I sat down, he shifted over to put his arm around my shoulders.

"Jake," I protested, leaning away. He dropped his arm, not looking bothered at all by the minor rejection. He reached out and took my hand firmly, wrapping his other hand around my wrist when I tried to pull away again. Where did he get the confidence from?

"Now, just hold on a minute, Bella," he said in a calm voice. "Tell me something."

I grimaced. I didn't want to do this. Not just not now, but not ever. There was nothing lett in my life at this point that was more important than Jacob Black. But he seemed determined to ruin everything.

"What?" I muttered sourly.

"You like me, right?"

"You know I do."

"Better than that joker puking his guts out in there?" He gestured toward the bathroom door.

"Yes," I sighed.

"Better than any of the other guys you know?" He was calm, serene��as if my answer didn't matter, or he already knew what it was.

"Better than the girls, too," I pointed out.

"But that's all," he said, and it wasn't a question.

It was hard to answer, to say the word. Would he get hurt and avoid me? How would I stand that?

"Yes," I whispered.

He grinned down at me. "That's okay, you know. As long as you like me the best. And you think I'm good-looking��sort of. I'm prepared to be annoyingly persistent."

"I'm not going to change," I said, and though I tried to keep my voice normal, I could hear the sadness in it.

His face was thoughtful, no longer teasing. "It's still the other one, isn't it?"

I cringed. Funny how he seemed to know not to say the name��just like before in the car with the music. He picked up on so much about me that I never said.

"You don't have to talk about it," he told me.

I nodded, grateful.

"But don't get mad at me for hanging around, okay?" Jacob patted the back of my hand. "Because I'm not giving up. I've got loads of time."

I sighed. "You shouldn't waste it on me," I said, though I wanted him to. Especially if he was willing to accept me the way I was��damaged goods, as is.

"It's what I want to do, as long as you still like to be with me."

"I can't imagine how I could not like being with you," I told him honestly.

Jacob beamed. "I can live with that."

"Just don't expect more," I warned him, trying to pull my hand away. He held onto it obstinately.

"This doesn't really bother you, does it?" he demanded, squeezing my fingers.

"No," I sighed. Truthfully, it felt nice. His hand was so much warmer than mine; I always felt too cold these days.

"And you don't care what he thinks." Jacob jerked his thumb toward the bathroom.

"I guess not."

"So what's the problem?"

"The problem," I said, "is, that it means something different to me than it does to you."

"Well." He tightened his hand around mine "That's my problem, isn't it?"

"Fine," I grumbled. "Don't forget it, though."

"I won't. The pin's out of the grenade for me, now, eh?" He poked me in the ribs.

I rolled my eyes. I guess if he felt like making a joke out of it, he was entitled.

He chuckled quietly for a minute while his pinky finger absently traced designs against the side of my hand.

"That's a funny scar you've got there," he suddenly said, twisting my hand to examine it. "How did that


The index finger of his free hand followed the line of the long silvery crescent that was barely visible against my pale skin.

I scowled. "Do you honestly expect me to remember where all my scars come from?"

I waited for the memory to hit��to open the gaping hole. But, as it so often did, Jacob's presence kept me whole.

"It's cold," he murmured, pressing lightly against the place where James had cut me with his teeth.

And then Mike stumbled out of the bathroom, his face ashen and covered in sweat. He looked horrible.

"Oh, Mike," I gasped.

"Do you mind leaving early?" he whispered.

"No, of course not." I pulled my hand free and went to help Mike walk. He looked unsteady.

"Movie too much for you?" Jacob asked heartlessly.

Mike's glare was malevolent. "I didn't actually see any of it," he mumbled. "I was nauseated before the lights went down."

"Why didn't you say something?" I scolded as we staggered toward the exit.

"I was hoping it would pass," he said.

"Just a sec," Jacob said as we reached the door. He walked quickly back to the concession stand.

"Could I have an empty popcorn bucket?" he asked the salesgirl. She looked at Mike once, and then thrust a bucket at Jacob.

"Get him outside, please," she begged. She was obviously the one who would have to clean the floor.

I towed Mike out into the cool, wet air. He inhaled deeply. Jacob was right behind us. He helped me get Mike into the back of the car, and handed him the bucket with a serious gaze.

"Please," was all Jacob said.

We rolled down the windows, letting the icy night air blow through the car, hoping it would help Mike. I curled my arms around my legs to keep warm.

"Cold, again?" Jacob asked, putting his arm around me before I could answer.

"You're not?"

He shook his head.

"You must have a fever or something," I grumbled. It was freezing. I touched my fingers to his forehead, and his head was hot.

"Whoa, Jake��you're burning up!"

"I feel fine." He shrugged. "Fit as a fiddle."

I frowned and touched his head again. His skin blazed under my fingers.

"Your hands are like ice," he complained.

"Maybe it's me," I allowed.

Mike groaned in the backseat, and threw up in the bucket. I grimaced, hoping my own stomach could stand the sound and smell. Jacob checked anxiously over his shoulder to make sure his car wasn't defiled.

The road felt longer on the way back.

Jacob was quiet, thoughtful. He left his arm around me, and it was so warm that the cold wind felt good.

I stared out the windshield, consumed with guilt.

It was so wrong to encourage Jacob. Pure selfishness. It didn't matter that I'd tried to make my position clear. If he felt any hope at all that this could turn into something other than friendship, then I hadn't been clear enough.

How could I explain so that he would understand? I was an empty shell. Like a vacant house��condemned��for months I'd been utterly uninhabitable. Now I was a little improved. The front room was in better repair. But that was all��just the one small piece. He deserved better than that��better than a one-room, falling-down fixer-upper. No amount of investment on his part could put me back in working order.

Yet I knew that I wouldn't send him away, regardless. I needed him too much, and I was selfish. Maybe I could make my side more clear, so that he would know to leave me.

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