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New Moon (Twilight #2)(12)
Stephenie Meyer

So maybe it wasn't kismet. Maybe there were just all kinds of ways to be reckless, and I only now had my eyes open to them.

Reckless and stupid. Those were Charlie's two very favorite words to apply to motorcycles.

Charlie's job didn't get a lot of action compared to cops in bigger towns, but he did get called in on traffic accidents. With the long, wet stretches of freeway twisting and turning through the forest, blind corner after blind corner, there was no shortage of that kind of action. But even with all the huge log-haulers barreling around the turns, mostly people walked away. The exceptions to that rule were often on motorcycles, and Charlie had seen one too many victims, almost always kids, smeared on the highway. He'd made me promise before I was ten that I would never accept a ride on a motorcycle. Even at that age, I didn't have to think twice before promising. Who would want to ride a motorcycle here? It would be like taking a sixty-mile-per-hour bath.

So many promises I kept...

It clicked together for me then. I wanted to be stupid and reckless, and I wanted to break promises. Why stop at one?

That's as far as I thought it through. I sloshed through the rain to the Markses' front door and rang the bell.

One of the Marks boys opened the door, the younger one, the freshman. I couldn't remember his name. His sandy hair only came up to my shoulder.

He had no trouble remembering my name. "Bella Swan?" he asked in surprise.

"How much do you want for the bike?" I panted, jerking my thumb over my shoulder toward the sales display.

"Are you serious?" he demanded.

"Of course I am."

"They don't work."

I sighed impatiently - this was something I'd already inferred from the sign. "How much?"

"If you really want one, just take it. My mom made my dad move them down to the road so they'd get picked up with the garbage."

I glanced at the bikes again and saw that they were resting on a pile of yard clippings and dead branches. "Are you positive about that?"

"Sure, you want to ask her?"

It was probably better not to involve adults who might mention this to Charlie.

"No, I believe you."

"You want me to help you?" he offered. "They're not light."

"Okay, thanks. I only need one, though."

"Might as well take both," the boy said. "Maybe you could scavenge some parts."

He followed me out into the downpour and helped me load both of the heavy bikes into the back of my truck. He seemed eager to be rid of them, so I didn't argue.

"What are you going to do with them, anyway?" he asked. "They haven't worked in years."

"I kind of guessed that," I said, shrugging. My spur-of-the-moment whim hadn't come with a plan intact. "Maybe I'll take them to Dowling's."

He snorted. "Dowling would charge more to fix them than they'd be worth running."

I couldn't argue with that. John Dowling had earned a reputation for his pricing; no one went to him except in an emergency. Most people preferred to make the drive up to Port Angeles, if their car was able. I'd been very lucky on that front - I'd been worried, when Charlie first gifted me my ancient truck, that I wouldn't be able to afford to keep it running. But I'd never had a single problem with it, other than the screaming-loud engine and the fifty-five-mile-per-hour maximum speed limit. Jacob Black had kept it in great shape when it had belonged to his father, Billy...

Inspiration hit like a bolt of lightning - not unreasonable, considering the storm. "You know what? That's okay. I know someone who builds cars."

"Oh. That's good." He smiled in relief.

He waved as I pulled away, still smiling. Friendly kid.

I drove quickly and purposefully now, in a hurry to get home before there was the slightest chance of Charlie appearing, even in the highly unlikely event that he might knock off early. I dashed through the house to the phone, keys still in hand.

"Chief Swan, please," I said when the deputy answered. "It's Bella."

"Oh, hey, Bella," Deputy Steve said affably. "I'll go get him."

I waited.

"What's wrong, Bella?" Charlie demanded as soon as he picked up the phone.

"Can't I call you at work without there being an emergency?"

He was quiet for a minute. "You never have before. Is there an emergency?"

"No. I just wanted directions to the Blacks' place - I'm not sure I can remember the way. I want to visit Jacob. I haven't seen him in months."

When Charlie spoke again, his voice was much happier. "That's a great idea, Bells. Do you have a pen?"

The directions he gave me were very simple. I assured him that I would be back for dinner, though he tried to tell me not to hurry. He wanted to join me in La Push, and I wasn't having that.

So it was with a deadline that I drove too quickly through the storm-darkened streets out of town. I hoped I could get Jacob alone. Billy would probably tell on me if he knew what I was up to.

While I drove, I worried a little bit about Billy's reaction to seeing me. He would be too pleased. In Billy's mind, no doubt, this had all worked out better than he had dared to hope. His pleasure and relief would only remind me of the one I couldn't bear to be reminded of. Not again today, I pleaded silently. I was spent.

The Blacks' house was vaguely familiar, a small wooden place with narrow windows, the dull red paint making it resemble a tiny barn. Jacob's head peered out of the window before I could even get out of the truck. No doubt the familiar roar of the engine had tipped him off to my approach. Jacob had been very grateful when Charlie bought Billy's truck for me, saving Jacob from having to drive it when he came of age. I liked my truck very much, but Jacob seemed to consider the speed restrictions a shortcoming.

He met me halfway to the house.

"Bella!" His excited grin stretched wide across his face, the bright teeth standing in vivid contrast to the deep russet color of his skin. I'd never seen his hair out of its usual ponytail before. It fell like black satin curtains on either side of his broad face.

Jacob had grown into some of his potential in the last eight months. He'd passed that point where the soft muscles of childhood hardened into the solid, lanky build of a teenager; the tendons and veins had become prominent under the red-brown skin of his arms, his hands. His face was still sweet like I remembered it, though it had hardened, too - the planes of his cheekbones sharper, his jaw squared off, all childish roundness gone.

"Hey, Jacob!" I felt an unfamiliar surge of enthusiasm at his smile. I realized that I was pleased to see him. This knowledge surprised me.

I smiled back, and something clicked silently into place, like two corresponding puzzle pieces. I'd forgotten how much I really liked Jacob Black.

He stopped a few feet away from me, and I stared up at him in surprise, leaning my head back though the rain pelted my face.

"You grew again!" I accused in amazement.

He laughed, his smile widening impossibly. "Six five," he announced with self-satisfaction. His voice was deeper, but it had the husky tone I remembered.

"Is it ever going to stop?" I shook my head in disbelief. "You're huge."

"Still a beanpole, though." He grimaced. "Come inside! You're getting all wet."

He led the way, twisting his hair in his big hands as he walked. He pulled a rubber band from his hip pocket and wound it around the bundle.

"Hey, Dad," he called as he ducked to get through the front door. "Look who stopped by."

Billy was in the tiny square living room, a book in his hands. He set the book in his lap and wheeled himself forward when he saw me.

"Well, what do you know! It's good to see you, Bella."

We shook hands. Mine was lost in his wide grasp.

"What brings you out here? Everything okay with Charlie?"

"Yes, absolutely. I just wanted to see Jacob - I haven't seen him in forever."

Jacob's eyes brightened at my words. He was smiling so big it looked like it would hurt his cheeks.

"Can you stay for dinner?" Billy was eager, too.

"No, I've got to feed Charlie, you know."

"I'll call him now," Billy suggested. "He's always invited."

I laughed to hide my discomfort. "It's not like you'll never see me again. I promise I'll be back again soon - so much you'll get sick of me." After all, if Jacob could fix the bike, someone had to teach me how to ride it.

Billy chuckled in response. "Okay, maybe next time."

"So, Bella, what do you want to do?" Jacob asked.

"Whatever. What were you doing before I interrupted?" I was strangely comfortable here. It was familiar, but only distantly. There were no painful reminders of the recent past.

Jacob hesitated. "I was just heading out to work on my car, but we can do something else..."

"No, that's perfect!" I interrupted. "I'd love to see your car."

"Okay," he said, not convinced. "It's out back, in the garage."

Even better, I thought to myself. I waved at Billy. "See you later."

A thick stand of trees and shrubbery concealed his garage from the house. The garage was no more than a couple of big preformed sheds that had been bolted together with their interior walls knocked out. Under this shelter, raised on cinder blocks, was what looked to me like a completed automobile. I recognized the symbol on the grille, at least.

"What kind of Volkswagen is that?" I asked.

"It's an old Rabbit - 1986, a classic."

"How's it going?"

"Almost finished," he said cheerfully. And then his voice dropped into a lower key. "My dad made good on his promise last spring."

"Ah," I said.

He seemed to understand my reluctance to open the subject. I tried not to remember last May at the prom. Jacob had been bribed by his father with money and car parts to deliver a message there. Billy wanted me to stay a safe distance from the most important person in my life. It turned out that his concern was, in the end, unnecessary. I was all too safe now.

But I was going to see what I could do to change that.

"Jacob, what do you know about motorcycles?" I asked.

He shrugged. "Some. My friend Embry has a dirt bike. We work on it together sometimes. Why?"

"Well..." I pursed my lips as I considered. I wasn't sure if he could keep his mouth shut, but I didn't have many other options. "I recently acquired a couple of bikes, and they're not in the greatest condition. I wonder if you could get them running?"

"Cool." He seemed truly pleased by the challenge. His face glowed. "I'll give it a try."

I held up one finger in warning. "The thing is," I explained, "Charlie doesn't approve of motorcycles. Honestly, he'd probably bust a vein in his forehead if he knew about this. So you can't tell Billy."

"Sure, sure." Jacob smiled. "I understand."

"I'll pay you," I continued.

This offended him. "No. I want to help. You can't pay me."

"Well... how about a trade, then?" I was making this up as I went, but it seemed reasonable enough. "I only need one bike - and I'll need lessons, too. So how about this? I'll give you the other bike, and then you can teach me."

"Swee-eet." He made the word into two syllables.

"Wait a sec - are you legal yet? When's your birthday?"

"You missed it," he teased, narrowing his eyes in mock resentment. "I'm sixteen."

"Not that your age ever stopped you before," I muttered. "Sorry about your birthday."

"Don't worry about it. I missed yours. What are you, forty?"

I sniffed. "Close."

"We'll have a joint party to make up for it."

"Sounds like a date."

His eyes sparkled at the word.

I needed to reign in the enthusiasm before I gave him the wrong idea - it was just that it had been a long time since I'd felt so light and buoyant. The rarity of the feeling made it more difficult to manage.

"Maybe when the bikes are finished - our present to ourselves," I added.

"Deal. When will you bring them down?"

I bit my lip, embarrassed. "They're in my truck now," I admitted.

"Great." He seemed to mean it.

"Will Billy see if we bring them around?"

He winked at me. "We'll be sneaky."

We eased around from the east, sticking to the trees when we were in view of the windows, affecting a casual-looking stroll, just in case. Jacob unloaded the bikes swiftly from the truck bed, wheeling them one by one into the shrubbery where I hid. It looked too easy for him - I'd remembered the bikes being much, much heavier than that.

"These aren't half bad," Jacob appraised as we pushed them through the cover of the trees. "This one here will actually be worth something when I'm done - it's an old Harley Sprint."

"That one's yours, then."

"Are you sure?"

"Absolutely."

"These are going to take some cash, though," he said, frowning down at the blackened metal. "We'll have to save up for parts first."

"We nothing," I disagreed. "If you're doing this for free, I'll pay for the parts."

"I don't know..." he muttered.

"I've got some money saved. College fund, you know." College, schmollege, I thought to myself. It wasn't like I'd saved up enough to go anywhere special - and besides, I had no desire to leave Forks anyway. What difference would it make if I skimmed a little bit off the top?

Jacob just nodded. This all made perfect sense to him.

As we skulked back to the makeshift garage, I contemplated my luck. Only a teenage boy would agree to this: deceiving both our parents while repairing dangerous vehicles using money meant for my college education. He didn't see anything wrong with that picture. Jacob was a gift from the gods.

Chapter 6 FRIENDS

THE MOTORCYCLES DIDN'T NEED TO BE HIDDEN ANY further than simply placing them in Jacob's shed. Billy's wheelchair couldn't maneuver the uneven ground separating it from the house.

Jacob started pulling the first bike - the red one, which was destined for me - to pieces immediately. He opened up the passenger door of the Rabbit so I could sit on the seat instead of the ground. While he worked, Jacob chattered happily, needing only the lightest of nudges from me to keep the conversation rolling. He updated me on the progress of his sophomore year of school, running on about his classes and

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