Chapter 30: Sunrise
Grace woke up much earlier the next morning than intended. The sun was just starting to rise above the water and it was just before 7 a.m. She was cradled in both of Jacob’s arms now as they faced each other, their legs tangled together in the white cotton bed sheets.
His breath was even and smooth and she took a moment to admire how soft his features looked when he was asleep. A smile creeped across her lips and then as quickly as it came, it flitted away as the realization dawned on her—this felt more intimate than any moment she had had with Paul whether she had been sleeping next to him or having sex with him.
She felt so close to Jake and the fear started rising in her again. So, she gently extracted herself from his embrace and made her way to the bathroom. Closing the door behind her, she marvelled at the beautifully renovated bathroom with cool black stone beneath her feet and white ceramic and marble laid into the walls. Grace couldn’t help but try out her rain shower and spent a solid 15 minutes just standing under the heat of the water trying to ease the swell of want in her body that was pulling her back toward the sleeping Jacob.
She dressed quietly in some loose, short shorts and a beige t-shirt boasting Phoenix’s desert museum that she had nicked from Bella’s closet. With one last look at the massive sleeping form of Jacob sprawled across her bed, she made her way downstairs and brewed a cup of coffee before taking it on the porch to watch the sun come up.
She didn’t know how long she was out there for, but her cup was drained and the sun was clear above the horizon when Jacob walked out onto the porch with a low “good morning” the sleep not yet gone from his voice.
Grace looked over her shoulder but didn’t move as she returned the greeting.
“Sleep okay?” He said coming to lean on the porch railing.
“Best sleep I’ve had all week,” he said, giving her a heartbreaking smile.
“Happy to help,” she quipped, standing straight now. He mirrored her movements. They didn’t speak for a while but finally, she heard Jake take a breath and say,
“Grace….about the call. The one when you were in Florida...I–” Jake started, rubbing the nape of his neck. But Grace didn’t want to talk about the call. Her eyes pulled up the length of his body and as they rested on his uncertain but clearly wanting face, she felt the sharp pull in her stomach demand something. Her resolve buckled as she watched his brows knit together in worry and confusion. She wanted to smooth that worry and her hands itched to touch him.
The ache in her stomach reared its head, not to be ignored this time. Enough was enough.
“Grace...I want—” Jake started again and as he turned his body to look at her, the trap inside of Grace snapped.
She took the two steps toward him across the porch and threw her arms around his neck, pulling at his neck to bend him to her in one swift movement. She brought his lips crashing down onto hers and instantly her body swelled with anticipation to his reaction. She gently parted her lips to him and at this he returned the kiss eagerly, wrapping his broad hands around her back and pulling her up and onto him.
The ache in her stomach disappeared and was replaced with sweet, full, warmth. Her body was overcome with a rushing sensation and as she held onto him, she felt everything so clearly, the taste of his lips on hers, her heartbeat pounding in time with his. Recognition spilled through her and settled in every crevice of her body as it exhaled in one wild breath saying: Jacob.
They pulled away from each other for a half a second to let out labored breaths and stare at each other's eyes. Their bodies called out to one another, asking to get closer and closer. But more than that, Grace knew in this moment what she’d known all along and the message was clear in his eyes:
She loved him. With every ounce of her being. She felt her entire body tingle with adoration for this sweet, kind, overwhelmingly warm and captivating boy that stood in front of her. As she brought her hand to his face, he gave her a broad smile that made her entire body weak before he pulled her face to him again, warm and ready.
He lifted her body up and set her down on the railing so he could easily access her mouth as he cupped his hands around her face, pulling back ever so slightly to pepper her mouth cheeks and nose with soft kisses. The sun sparkled over her shoulder illuminating every feature of his face and Grace traced her finger down the angled line of his chin.
“Oh, I’ve been waiting for that,” He exhaled, his voice deep and wanting. “Was this what you were trying to tell me on the phone?”
She nodded her head and he let out a low laugh before leaning back into her for another taste of her lips.
The next three weeks passed in absolute bliss for Grace. They were the happiest she could remember in recent memory. Jake spent most nights at her home when he wasn’t on rounds or training the new members of the pack.
He’d walk through the open door and beeline it for her as she was bent over a task in her office, cooking in the kitchen, or reading on couch and scoop her up in his arms, pressing his face to hers sweetly before carrying her off to her bedroom or down to the beach just to be together, relishing in the electric, warm feeling that pulsed through each of them when they connected. She was his answer to a question he was too afraid to ask the universe. At one point he had said as they lay together nearly naked in bed, running a slow finger down her side, “How can this not be an imprint? It feels like there’s no one else but you.”
Grace had asked that they take it slow. Despite how happy she felt even now, she couldn’t shake the fear of the imprint. Jake didn’t belong to her, but she felt so undeniably tethered to him that it felt unfair that she wasn’t his imprint. That thought scared her everyday and each happy moment was overshadowed by the knowledge that his imprint was out there somewhere, waiting for him.
He had agreed to take it slow, but each day Grace felt closer and closer to him and it became harder to stop themselves from wanting more of each other. One sunny morning after late night rounds, Jake lay asleep in her bed, shirtless and peaceful. Grace checked her phone and listened to a voicemail from Alice that had come in last night.
“Hello, Gracie! This is your friendly neighborhood vampire reminder that we’re having a brainstorming session tomorrow morning at my place for Bella’s dress and wedding theme. Your presence, as always is required, bright and early at 9 a.m. See you!” and then in the background just before she hung up, Grace could hear Alice squeal with delight and say: “Oh! I’m so excited, a wedding!”
Grace smiled and clipped her phone shut as she rolled out of bed and went to get ready. Before she left for the Cullen’s she leaned down over Jacob and planted a soft kiss on his lips and stroked a hand through his hair. He didn’t stir from sleep and she made her way to the edge of the forest to recast to the Cullen’s property.
“Okay, so we can either go full woodland nymph, classic and glam, subtle and sweet, victorian chic, or a blend of all four!” Alice cried triumphantly spinning about the room as she made dramatic strokes with her pencil in her sketch pad.
“Alice, I think something simple would be fine,” Bella said nervously from her place on the couch in Alice’s studio.
“Simple?! Bella, I don’t do simple,” she replied. Rosalie laughed at this as she delicately patched an old piece of lace.
“Well, we’ve been at this for four hours and are still no closer to a solid idea,” Bella complained leaning her head against her hand.
“That’s because you’re giving me NOTHING to work with,” Alice said spinning to look directly at her aggressively.
“What about this,” Grace removed a sucker from her mouth that Alice had given her and showed Bella a dress in a wedding magazine she had been paging through.
“That could work,” Bella said looking at it more closely.
“Right? Simple, cute, love the buttons,” Grace continued.
“You don’t think it’s too low in the back?” Bella said.
“You have a killer vertebrae babe. Show em if you got em, I always say,” she joked. Bella cracked a smile and ran a finger down the line of the dress.
“Alice, come look,” Grace beckoned. “Can you design something off of this?” She shook the magazine at her and replaced the cherry red sucker. Alice looked over the page and then with an exuberant smile, nodded.
“Absolutely! Oh my god, Bella, I didn’t know you were a V’adame!”
“A what?” Bella said.
“It’s not important,” Grace shook her head. “Okay, so if we went with this dress, then we go classic, simple, with a touch of woodland nymph?” Alice squealed.
“It’s all coming together!” she said peeling with tinkling laughter.
“Good, can I be released?” Bella said.
“Rude, but yes,” Alice said. “Thank you for brainstorming, I’ll send you mock ups as soon as I’m satisfied!”
“I’m coming with,” Grace said pushing herself off the couch and grabbing her bag. She leaned over to give Rosalie a hug and took Bella’s hand as they skipped down the steps.
“Done planning for the day?” Carlisle queried as he walked past them.
“We’re escaping before the tulle comes out,” Bella said with an exhausted sigh.
“Well, Alice always knows how to throw a party.” He nodded goodbye and walked off to his library.
Once they were outside and in Bella’s truck, Grace turned to her quickly and said, “I’ve been making out with Jacob Black for the past three weeks.”
Bella missed the key to the ignition and jerked forward a bit before stuttering, “Wh-what?!”
“He sleeps over almost every night too.” Grace bit her lip.
“I’ve wanted to tell you since the first day it happened, I just….didn’t know how?”
‘Can you say something else?” Grace whined.
“Woah.” Bella said and then she laughed. Grace hit her arm playfully and then covered her face with her hands. “Grace that’s great!”
“Really!? You don’t think it’s weird or hypocritical or like a really really bad idea?” her face pulled with worry.
“Oh no, I didn’t say that.” Bella teased to an aghast Grace. “No, really. That’s amazing! Are you guys...dating? Together? Official? Getting married?” Grace narrowed her eyes at that last one, “Kidding!” Bella followed up.
“Who knew you were such a jokester,” Grace grumbled as Bella started the truck and started making her way up the Cullen’s drive to the street. “I don’t know what we’re doing. I guess we’re dating, but I said I wanted to take it slow and it’s….it’s going really well.” Grace bit her lip again and tried to contain her excitement.
“Of course it is. Why wouldn’t it? You’re perfect for one another,” Bella smiled happily toward her. Grace sucked in an excited breath and clasped her hands together, relieved that she finally told Bella and getting the greenlight.
“Thanks, Bells,” Grace said.
“I’m just happy he has you,” Bella reassured her.
Bella dropped Grace off at her house before puttering away to meet up with Edward for the afternoon. As Grace jogged her way up her porch steps, a shirtless man came out of her front door equipped with a toolbelt around his waist.
“Jesus!” Grace said, startled, “Paul what the fuck!”
Paul gave her a small smile and sign of surrender. “Sorry, I was sanding the porch so I could apply the sealant and needed to pee.”
Grace tensed and crossed her arms, taking a step backwards down her porch to give herself some space from him.
“I just didn’t know you would be by today.” Grace said, looking at the ground.
“Embry was supposed to let you know…. I’m sorry, I meant to be out of here before you got back,” his voice was tinged with regret. “I’ll leave. Sorry.” He said simply jogging down the steps past her and away.
“Wait!” she groaned turning around, but he was already gone. She was not expecting Paul to be at her home, alone when she showed back up. While she was reveling in her newfound attachment to Jacob, Paul still left a small hole in her heart that was still healing. And what was worse, when she went into her living room, his tantalizing scent was still lingering in the air.
She shook out the pain pricking in her hands and went to take a cold shower, hoping to wash away the guilt and hunger she felt swirling in her.
“So he just left?” Grace adjusted her sunglasses and retired the hair scarf she had tied into a bow on the top of her head as she laid back on her towel on the beach next to Leah.
“Yeah,” Grace replied checking again that her tan bikini top was in place.
“Sounds like he’s still got the hots for you. Imprint be damned,” Leah only said this half seriously and as digging through their cooler for a snack. “Shit bags,” she muttered.
“What?” Grace turned her head to look at Leah in her black strappy one piece slamming the cooler lid down.
“You fucking woodland rejects ate all of the sandwiches!” She yelled in the direction of a collection of boys playing volleyball down the beach. Grace couldn’t pinpoint exactly who it was from their pack and who were just local kids, but they all stopped at Leah’s shouting for a minute before breaking into raucous laughter.
“Leah, it’s fine we can go get more food…” Grace tried to placate her. Leah laid back down on her towel next to Grace in a huff.
“I’m doomed to live in a glorified playpen with hairy teenage boys and my ex-boyfriend for the rest of my life.” she bemoaned. Grace let out a snort of amusement.
“Sorry, you were saying?” Leah said, turning her head to look at Grace now. Grace looked up at the sky and let out a dramatic sigh.
“I don’t know what else there is. It was just weird.”
“Do you...still have feelings for Paul?”
“What?! No. I mean, we were together for like 2 months tops but...it just felt weird being alone with him. And it just still bugs me...like what would we be if the imprint hadn’t happened?” Grace pursed her lips for a second, “It’s stupid because it has happened so it doesn’t make sense to think about, I know.”
“No..” Leah said softly. “I think about that all the time. About Sam.” she paused. “We haven’t been together for almost three years, but I still think about it. It still hurts. And watching every other fucking dweeb around here imprint makes it seem like the world is playing some cruel joke on me.”
“Leah, you can imprint. I know you can.” Grace reassured her.
“Do you?” Leah said skeptically, and Grace leaned up on her elbows looking directly at her now. “Because even Ti’Hal has expressed some doubt.” Leah started to pick at loose strings on her towel.
“I don’t believe that. Leah, you have the gene, why couldn’t you?” Grace said back defensively.
“There’s never been a female shifter before in our histories. I’m an anomaly, which means things might not work the same. And so far, the theory holds true.” Grace shook her head as Leah continued, “What about you? How is it fair to you? You're bound to this pack indefinitely, to protect, to die for us even if need be according to Ti’Hal,” Grace sucked in a sharp breath. She knew that was true. “But you can’t imprint and no one has imprinted on you. All of the work with none of the perks. You can’t tell me our ancestors aren’t laughing at us right now.”
Grace flinched against the sharp pain coiling in her stomach. Leah was echoing the sentiment that had been building and building in Grace these past three weeks: he’s not your imprint, he’s going to leave eventually. Grace was swinging between constant fear and anxiety at the thought and she knew it would break her down soon.
“They might be laughing, but I still have some say,” Grace said before they were interrupted by someone clearing their throat and shading half of Grace’s sun. Grace lifted a hand above her eyes to get a better look.
Three men had gathered around their spots. They weren’t from the rez as made clear by their tanned pink skin and blonde and light brown hair. One wore a wetsuit pulled down to his hips. The other two wore swim trunks and were dripping from a recent dip in the ocean.
“Ladies, we were hoping you could be our fourth and fifth for a little impromptu pick up game of football on the beach?” The tallest one with the sandy blonde hair and ashen grey eyes thumbed over his shoulder. Leah grinned wickedly and Grace knew the time was ticking until a member of the pack would see and interfere.
“Yeah, you can be on my team,” the brown haired one said to Grace as he looked up and down her bikinied body. Her tan swimsuit stood out against her deepening brown skin in the sunlight.
“What do you say?” The blonde’s eyes twinkled in the sunlight as he nodded at Leah.
“Thanks guys, but we’re enjoying the sun. Next time?” Grace said sweetly. The brunette squatted down next to her so he could get a better look at her face.
“I’m Noah,” he said, extending a hand. Grace leaned to one side so she could pick up her other arm and shake it.
“Like the arc,” Grace quipped. He laughed looking down for a second and said:
“Yeah, like the arc. You’re funny.”
“I try.” she said, cocking her head to the side. This was too much fun and she knew time was running out because the boys had spotted them up the beach and were making their way toward them.
“These are my boys Ryan and Kelton,” he said over his shoulder. Leah stifled a laugh.
“Oh, she didn’t ask,” Leah said, taking a sip from her water bottle. Noah raised a questioning eyebrow at her.
“So what do you say?” he tried again.
“Like I said before, thanks but no thanks, we’ve got plans.”
“Oh really? And what plan is that exactly?”
“Get fucked,” Leah said strongly.
“Gladly,” the blonde Ryan quipped.
Grace let out a laugh and turned her head to see Embry and Jared in earshot now.
“Nice to meet you, Noah,” she nodded at him to get lost and a disappointed frown pulled over his face as he stood. Embry and Jared were on them now.
“Hey! Is there a problem here?” Jared said.
“No problem, just saying hello.” Noah deadpanned not taking his eyes off Grace. They headed off down the beach and Grace thought about how easy life would be if she were just a normal teenager not imperiled by the supernatural. It was an attractive idea, one that nestled in her brain and made her long for something she knew she’d never have.
“You shouldn’t encourage them,” Jared scolded. To this, Embry smacked him on the chest and Leah and Grace both said in unison: