Chapter SixteenMature


What the fu*k was wrong with her? Was she serious? She was antagonizing me, clearly. But fu*k me for wanting her again. I growled for the second time and spun away from her. I opened and closed my fists over and over again. I focused all my tension into the palms of my hands. Every time I opened them, I imagined dropping my tension right there on the floor.  Some meditation techniques worked.  Some didn't.

"I need to leave for a while, Bella." She didn't say anything. "I need to run. Or something."

I bolted out the door, taking off down the beach and stripping out of my clothes fluidly as I did so. I dove in the cold water completely naked, swimming out into the ocean at full speed. I let my mind wander while I swam; this was really the only safe place for me to do so. If I freaked out and lost control... Well, Bella wasn't here to have to brace for that.

Was I missing something? I couldn't understand why we seemed to be on such completely different pages. The way she reacted to me... I couldn't have imagined that. Was I fooling myself into thinking she was interested? Was she forcing herself not to be interested? Was she turning to me only because she was having trouble dealing with... with Edward leaving? With therapy? Did she want something else from me?

I stopped swimming. I let my body sink to the ocean floor and I sat there, tucking my legs beneath me, and thought this over. Perhaps she did want something else from me. Why wouldn't she have just mentioned it rather than try to sleep with me? What kind of leverage would sleeping with me offer her?

Did she even realize she wanted something else?

I growled under water. This was ridiculous. Why was I bothering to do this the hard way? I could peer into her mind and answer all these questions with the source.

I valued her privacy, that's why. It's also why I don't just make her decisions for her. She's perfectly capable. I wouldn't insult her by trying to run her life.

Although her actions of late were beginning to lead me to believe she may not be as capable as I was giving her credit for.

I really just wanted to go get drunk. I could do that.


I turned and swam back home. When I climbed out of the water, I snatched up my dry clothes and walked back to the house without putting anything on except my boxer briefs, which were now soaked. I opened the door and walked to the bedroom, surprised to find Bella sitting on the bed hugging a pillow. I didn't say anything as I walked into the bathroom and stripped out of my boxer briefs.

Then I realized I hadn't grabbed any new ones. I wasn't used to company. I wasn't about to be a puss about it and wrap a towel around myself, so I simply marched out of the bathroom and opened the top drawer of my dresser to retrieve a new pair of boxer briefs.  Neither of us addressed each other and soon I was closing the washroom door behind me.

I decided I smelled too much like the ocean so took a quick shower and got dressed after. I checked my scruff in the mirror and decided I still didn't want to shave. I brushed my teeth and left the bathroom. Bella was still sitting on the bed hugging a pillow but I noticed this time that she had her iPod and was listening to it quietly.

I looked into her large brown eyes and sighed. She slowly lifted one of her earbuds from her ear and looked down at the bed. I looked to the left and saw the gaping hole in my bedroom wall. I would have to fix that. The entire side of the wall to the left of the door was in a messy heap. Fine. I'd go first.

"I'm sorry for being bitter."

She looked up at me immediately and I swear I watched the tears pool in her eyes before she steeled herself against them and they vanished entirely.

"You were a fu*king asshole, James."

I bit back a growl.  "You were a grade-A bit*h, Bella."

We stared at each other from across the room, neither one wanting to back down.

Of course it was me. Bit*h-ass-motherfu*ker that I was.

I noted that my language had gotten a lot less controlled. Even in my own head. I sighed.  Another think to chalk up in the ‘subtle ways she changes me’ category.

"I'm going out to get drunk. Would you like to come? I can bring something home instead of going out, if you want." She looked shocked but seemed to skip a mental debate and simply nodded. "Is there anything you would like specifically?" The look she gave me told me everything I needed to know.

The first and last drink she'd had was the wine at Red.

"I'll get a selection." And I left. For the second time that day.


James had left about five minutes before to pick up some form of liquid intoxicant. I wasn't sure how I felt about that. I also wasn't sure I fully understood what James was capable of as a vampire. I knew he was powerful, I knew he was different. But the more I was around him, the more I noticed he was able to do things that I just didn't understand how vampires were capable of doing.

I knew he didn't necessarily need human food, but I didn't know how else to show him I was sorry, too. I was opening up random cabinets in the kitchen to estimate what I could make. He had absolutely everything. I decided on making something light, I figured it would be easier to get drunk that way and if I went overboard I wouldn't be puking up too much food, and made some fresh fruit salad and vegetarian pizza. I crammed the pizza with cheese and broccoli and hunks of fresh tomato and black olives. I skipped the sauce entirely. It smelled amazing. I pulled it out of the oven just as James walked in the door; carrying two large boxes that I could only assume held the liquor. He eyed me in the kitchen, wearing his simple white apron and holding a fresh homemade pizza in my hand. I set it on the stove quickly once I began feeling the heat through the towel I had used to get it from the oven. I set the towel down and glanced down awkwardly, feeling sheepish.

"It, uh. It smells good." That was surprising.

"You don't have to say that, James..."

"No, I mean it."

And I believed him. He moved into the kitchen farther, shutting the door with his foot, and set the boxes on top of the island counter. One by one, he began pulling all kinds of bottles out. They varied in shapes and sizes and colors and I noticed that half of them were wines. There was a bottle of champagne in there, along with a few creme liquors. I noticed most of it didn't seem to be the hard alcohol that I heard everyone talking about in school. I noticed no vodka or rum or tequila anywhere on the counter. How was he planning on getting drunk on this stuff?

"I have to go out and get the other stuff, I'll be right back." And he left again, only to return a moment later with two more boxes and a case of beer underneath one of them.

"Did you buy out the whole store?" He chuckled and shrugged as he pushed the empty boxes off the island with the new ones.

"I wasn't sure what you'd like. I did say I was going to get a selection."

"You lived up to it." He looked up at me and met my eyes, and for a moment, I forgot we'd spent the day fighting. I smiled at him and his eyes took on a lighter shade of green, as if they reflected the burden of his thoughts. He released the boxes on the counter and walked around it until he was facing me.

"I really am sorry about being bitter, Bella. I just," he let out a frustrated sigh and looked down onto the counter, "I just don't know how I'm supposed to feel about things yet. I mean, really, we've known each other only a little over a week and somehow, I find myself completely stupid over you."

There went my knees again.

I didn't know what to say. I mean, could I really have feelings for him? I was inclined to think so, considering my actions. But I certainly wasn't going to say anything about that to him. I didn't need to lead him on any, and he was clearly feeling that way already.

"I think we should get to the evening, don't you? No more of this... business." He nodded, about to turn around and get out the rest of the bottles before he stopped and lifted his hand to my face. His thumb brushed against my cheekbone and he sighed, releasing my face and going back to his task. I sliced up the pizza and found some paper plates. He got out a few different glasses, I supposed for different drinks. By the time he was done getting everything out of the boxes, the entire island was full of different bottles, and he'd put the beer in the fridge.

"So what would you like to start with?"

I looked up at him and made a face. I had no idea. Seriously, now.  "I don't have the slightest idea."

"All right. Why don't you go sit down in the living room and find something to listen to. I'll make you a drink." So I did. I found a CD that seemed interesting and managed to open the stereo without breaking anything. I hit play and sat down to listen to the music. He brought me out a plate with a slice of pizza and a drink in a small glass.

"It's a coconut rum and coke. It goes well with pizza." I nodded as he went back out into the kitchen and returned with a full bottle of something that had a slight burnt orange color. Bacardi 151. Hm. He set a shot glass down beside it and took a bite out of his own slice of pizza. Glancing up at me, he caught my curious gaze and smirked.

"Oh, you don't want any of that."

I perked my brow. Oh, really?  "Why not?"

"It's strong. Really strong."

"So? What better way to start, right?" I had to know. It was his fault. He watched my face carefully and sighed, getting up and fetching another shot glass. He also made sure to grab a bottle of some fruit juice from the fridge.

"Fine. One shot, and you'll understand." I smiled at him. I would do that. And I would never let him know if I didn't like it. I'd drink as much as I could. He smirked back as if he knew some secret. He poured two shot glasses and slid one down the coffee table at me. Opening the bottle of juice, he placed it beside my shot glass and said, "Drink that after the shot. Do not breathe until you're drinking the juice. Trust me." I nodded and waited for him to pick up his shot glass.

"Take a small sip of juice to keep in your mouth with the shot." I lifted the bottle and did as he suggested. I watched him toss back his shot and never make a face. I imitated his movements and threw it into my mouth.

Then came the burning. The taste was horrible. But the burning was so much worse. I knew my face betrayed me and I hated myself for it. But it hurt like hell. I remembered his suggestion to drink the juice. I think I took a breath before I did so, though, because the flames in my throat only got angrier. I chugged down the juice in a few gulps and it only eased the fire slightly. I frowned at the juice. It had failed me. I looked up and met his gaze and he burst into a fit of laughter, setting his shot down and gesturing at my mixed drink.

"I suggest you stick to that for the time being. That shot will be enough for a while, anyway." I nodded and took another bite of pizza. We both leaned back on the couch and relaxed in silence for a few minutes. Every minute or two he would take another shot. I stopped counting at seventeen. The song that came on next was much slower than the others, and James stood up and offered me his hand. "Want to dance with me?"

I couldn't help myself; I smiled and took his hand. He helped me up and immediately I felt my head spin. He grinned down at me and I couldn't help but chuckle. Apparently, he was always right.

I let him lead me to his empty floor, where he proceeded to wrap his arms around me and move gently to the music. I let my head rest on his chest and I shut my eyes. It was nice to be dancing with him.

"I don't want to end up the fool in this, Bella."

"I don't know what I want. I hate this. I feel like I'm only drawn to you because of him and it's not fair." He held me a little bit tighter. "I feel like you're not the one I really believe in and it's unfair to you but I don't know what to do. I just want to take what I can get." There was a long pause. I continued to just rest my head on his shoulder but my eyes were open now and I was staring at his shirt. He smelled so good against me.

"I'm willing to take what you are willing to give, Bella. Whatever that is."


The End

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