The warmth of the earth
For floridagirl who requested: Sam and Bella! Snowbound maybe. Body heat.
Disclaimer: Disclaimer: the characters and all recognisable situations belong to Stephenie Meyer - this is a work of fan fiction, except for the legends and histories of the Quileute that, of course, belong to them. I pay my respects to their gods.
Laurent called Bella mouth-watering and she finally noticed that his eyes were red and not the clear light colour of a vampire that didn't drink the blood of humans. This man wasn't her friend. And he wasn't a man, hadn't been one for a very long time. None of the appeals she made had any influence.
Then, unbelievably, an enormous black wolf stepped out with deliberate intent. Out of the forest and into harm's way. "I don't believe it," the vampire said.
"No," Bella whimpered.
The wolf flicked one ear as if it heard her but didn't want to take its eyes off the vampire. It was too big to be a normal wolf and normal wolves would not behave like this.
The vampire didn't behave the way she expected either. He ran away.
The wolves, for there was a whole pack of them now, chased after him - for all the good it would do. Other vampires had told her how indestructible they were. She had momentarily forgotten the screams of James as he was torn apart.
Wolves, no matter how large they were, were surely no match for a creature of the undead.
Alone in the clearing, she almost faltered. Holding still for that whole conversation, held between the image of Edward offering pointless advice and the dark skinned vampire who meant to do her harm. It had been so draining and she wasn't strong. She had come here to find the clearing in a last ditch attempt to hear Edward's voice again. She only heard it in her mind, and only when she was disobedient, as he considered it, but she had to hear it. It was the last link to him after he had destroyed all the other records of his short sojourn into her life.
And now all she could think was how alike the two vampires sounded.
They really were the same thing. It came as a shock.
And wolves? Maybe Charlie was right. She shouldn't be out here alone in a wilderness that hid wolves as large as horses. Wolves… Charlie was investigating the deaths of some hikers. If Laurent was a recent visitor to the area, then he could not have killed the hikers. They were torn apart by something.
Something like a wolf?
She fell to her knees, and gasped in some air, before she pushed off the ground with her hands and she ran.
Her exit was her truck. No matter what was between her and the area where she had left it, she had to try to get there.
The vampire would be too fast for the wolf pack. Once they had lost him, they would circle back for the easier prey. Her.
Her father would see her body on the cold steel table of the morgue. A sob escaped her and she tripped, scraping her hands on the ground. Up. She ran again.
Branches whipped at her face. She stumbled, ankles twisting on rocks and unseen hazards. It wasn't easy to move through the forest quickly but she couldn't slow down; panic and fear drove her forward.
Once she reached the truck, she'd be safe. Wolves couldn't open doors. Plus, she had to tell Charlie what she'd seen. Now. No time to delay. They already had one garbled account from a witness who had seen something they insisted had silvery grey fur and was near one of the bodies. Charlie had said privately that he didn't think it could be a bear. Bears weren't silvery grey. But one of the wolves was. And she'd seen five of them.
A howl. She uttered a panicked sound and kept running.
The truck. She had to get to the truck.
Finally, she saw the dull red paint and a hysterical laugh escaped her. She was lucky to find it. She hadn't used the map to find her way back. The map she'd needed to find the clearing in the first place.
The truck wasn't locked. She flung herself inside and took a few deep breaths. The keys were still in the ignition and the engine rumbled to life with a solid, safe growl. Throwing it into gear, she started back down the winding track. Talking to her father was the priority not sitting in her truck.
It was quickly getting late and she took the left track at the first fork in the road. Upset as she was, it took her too long to realise it was the wrong road.
"Holy crow," she swore.
There was no room to turn around and she couldn't reverse all the way back to the intersection. She would have to continue on until there was a passing area or another road where she could turn around.
But there wasn't one.
She finally thought of the map and found the rough location for where she was. It didn't look like too far to go to the next intersection but driving it took forever and there was still no sign. She had messed up somewhere.
"I have to turn around."
So she found a patch of road that looked wider and started to turn the truck. It didn't have power steering and her arms ached before she had made many attempts. She had to drive forward, turn the wheel, reverse back, turn the wheel, and do it again. Repeated K turns inching her way around the one eighty. The slope below her looked steeper than she had realised.
She screamed in frustration. But she was at the stage where there was no point going back, so after her scream all she could do was keep trying.
"Right," she told herself sternly, "Try again."
But the road edge under the back wheel started to crumble. The truck tilted, and slipped. It was agonisingly slow. She put her foot on the brake and couldn't understand why it wasn't working. Pushing the truck into gear she tried to drive forward but it was too late.
It slid, almost in slow motion, down the slope and into the forest. The large metal body wiped out a few smaller trees, hit one larger one at the front and then spun around, slid some more and finally crashed up against the trunk of one of the larger trees. It creaked ominously but held.
The truck not only didn't have power steering, it also didn't have seatbelts, air bags or crumple zones.
The only thing that did crumple was Bella as she was thrown around inside the hard unforgiving cabin.
The motor revved loudly for a moment and then settled to a loud idle for a few minutes before it finally sputtered to a halt.
The forest was quiet again.
Bella lay in a heap; her eyes closed, and her breathing shallow.
Nobody knew where she was.
The wolf strained to hear. The pack had split up after the kill, to search the area and make sure that the lone vampire didn't have a comrade. He hadn't lasted long against them for all his taunting words.
The pack was exhilarated, and hyper. All chatting in Sam's head at the same time.
Silence! Sam ordered.
The black wolf listened again but the sound, whatever it was, was gone.
Sam: anyone hear that?
None of them knew what he was talking about.
Jared: There's no trail. There isn't another vampire, Sam.
Embry: Can we go home?
Jake: I have to tell Dad about this.
Paul snorted. A good effort in mental thought. Yep. No weird scents.
Sam was distracted.
Sam: yeah… go home. All of you. The leashed excitement of the pack passed over him. Take the night off. You all deserve it. I'm proud of you.
He could feel their emotions. How delighted they were with themselves. They had passed their first true test with flying colours.
Paul: you're sure?
Sam: yeah. Go.
They had done a pretty good job taking down their first ever cold one. Especially the real new ones: Jake and Embry. It was good news for the Chief, Jake was kind of right. He was always thinking of stuff like that. Sam just held the pack together for the moment. Temporary alpha.
One by one, they all faded out of his head.
Sam liked being alone. A lone wolf of a sort. Things were less complicated - more private.
He was thinking about Bella. She worried him. In the first flush of the kill, the pack had all forgotten about her. He knew it was sometimes hard to think like both the wolf and the man. His first instinct was to protect the innocent, even though he had made the pack wait until he was utterly sure that the vampire meant the girl harm. She was talking to it. Her face lit up with pleasure and delight at seeing something she recognised. She was a little bit strange. Good with weird, Jake said.
He just had to check that she had made it back to her truck. That's where a sensible person would have gone, but he needed to check what Bella Swan had done. Her scent was easy to follow; loaded with fear. Poor thing. Perhaps the wolves had freaked her out? Or perhaps the panic that he could hear in her increasing heart rate as the thing she had been so pleased to see threatened her with death.
He tracked her to the parking space and her truck was gone so she had made it. But he was sure he had heard that distinctive engine note earlier and it wasn't coming from the right direction. Was she lost?
He chuckled to himself that he had found her once before when she had got lost in the forest that backed onto her own yard. What were the odds that she could get lost out here? Miles from anywhere.
With Bella it was a distinct possibility.
So he tracked the truck, padding off down the road and aware that he had plenty of time to hide if another vehicle came along. Not that they used these roads much. Mostly Forestry and a few rogue wood cutters.
He did less sniffing and more running from the intersection where she had taken the wrong road.
The fresh scars in the forest showed where the truck had gone over. It was almost full dark now but his increased eyesight was exceptional.
No scent of her nearby so she was still in the vehicle.
He had to phase back to try and open the door but it was jammed, a solid dent in the side showed why. Even his strength couldn't budge it. The other side was against a tree trunk. If he tried to pull the truck back up a little, he risked it sliding again. Plus, he couldn't get traction in the forest floor.
He could see her inside the cabin and she was unconscious but not bleeding. Not heavily at any rate. He could pick up a low scent of blood. Scratched, not gashed. Her heart rate hadn't changed when he started banging on the door loud enough to wake her up if she was sleeping.
A quick balance of all the options left him with breaking a window. Maybe the windscreen was the best choice? He picked up a branch, offered a quick prayer to the gods, and slammed the end of it into the glass.
It shattered and fell inwards, onto the girl.
He climbed up, waited for a beat to see if his extra weight unbalanced the wreck and when it didn't, climbed inside. He winced as his foot and a shoulder scraped against broken glass. He would heal.
He took a minute to search, grabbed her backpack, a bottle of water and anything else that looked useful. He stuffed it all in the backpack and tossed it out the open front windscreen. Carefully he pulled the girl out of the foot well. He really hoped she didn't have a spinal injury. If he had scraped on the way in, adding her to his bulk was a bad idea. Shielding her with his arms, he pushed with both feet against the jammed door.
It popped open with a loud screech of metal. She didn't react. That was not a good sign.
But finally, he could get her out. He checked her all over, as well as he could, for injuries. No bleeding, a few bruises and scratches and a lump on her head. He tried to brush off the chips of broken glass that caught at his skin.
He was miles from anywhere. It was full dark. The wolf pack was gone. It was already getting cold. Even hugged up in his arms, her clothing wasn't good enough to stave off hypothermia while he carried her out to civilisation. And he'd be human slow. There was no way to carry her in wolf form.
Find shelter. First priority. The truck wasn't good enough and now it was full of broken glass. Somewhere close to the truck in case Charlie sent out another search party for her. Assuming they even got here or saw it.
She had a compass on her back pack and a map with a square grid pencilled on it. A search grid. What had she been looking for? The map smelt like Jake. So he had been helping her?
Putting everything inside, he closed up the backpack and slung it over one shoulder. Then he scooped up the unconscious girl, balanced her on his thigh for a moment as he adjusted her head until it was in against his neck. If she had a head injury he didn't want it to loll about and make it worse. It felt intimate. Her low breath against his flesh.
Settling her in his arms, he looked about, got his bearings and strode off.
They needed a cave or a grotto or even a hollow tree. Shelter.
"We've been here before," he said to her. "You didn't say much then, either." All she had said was 'he's gone' repetitively. She even weighed less than she had back then.
The tree he had in mind was occupied and stank too much to chase off the occupant.
The river. It would be cold near water, but it was going to be cold anywhere tonight. At least they'd have water.
The one thing he hadn't noticed in her bag was a mobile phone. He wondered at that. He often thought how much easier his life would be if he had one, but it was too expensive. It shouldn't be an issue for the Police chief's daughter. Signals were erratic out here in the woods, but he could run to a mountain top to get a few bars.
When she started to come to, he spoke to her before she freaked out. "Bella?"
"Ugh… my head hurts."
"I know." He paused. "Do you know who I am?"
"Sam?" She didn't sound certain.
"You frightened Jake."
Huh. Sharing Jake's thoughts showed that Jake had thought Sam was a cult leader. He must have told Bella that. "Not anymore."
"You frighten me."
"I don't mean to."
"But we did this … before." Her heart made a little skip sound. Bad memories for her. Edward leaving her. Him carrying her out.
"That's what I said."
She shifted, snuggled in against him. "You're warm." Her hand pressed against his chest; his bare chest. "No shirt … it's freezing… How can you be warm?"
He wasn't ready to answer that. "We need to find shelter."
But she pressed her face in closer. Her nose felt cold. "I remember," she muttered. "Safe… warm… I could hear your voice in your chest…"
It worried him how vague she sounded. "Yeah?" he tried, just to keep her talking. He had a faint memory that letting people with head injuries sleep was bad.
"I liked you carrying me… didn't want you… to pass me to Charlie…"
He blinked. "Charlie nearly dropped you."
She tried to laugh and then said, "Ow. That hurt… yeah... he couldn't carry me from the kerb to the front door… but you… you carried me for miles and miles and miles." Sing-song tones. She was rambling. He started to increase his pace. He could smell the river. It wasn't far now.
"Why are you so strong? So strong… so warm… Sam… can I sleep now?"
"I don't think it's a good idea. Talk to me, honey."
"Honey… you called me honey."
"I heard you."
Frantically he looked around for an opening in the rocks. Anything at all.
There. That would have to do.
"Bella? I have to put you down-"
"Nooo," she whined.
"Just for a few minutes while I get some branches."
"I don't want a branch."
"For warmth." Why was he wasting time arguing with her? Carefully he put her down. She clung to him and he slipped off her backpack and put that in her arms instead. "Find the water bottle. Drink some."
"Okay." Her voice was tiny.
He dashed off to climb a tree. The fallen branches were dry but he wanted fresh green ones. He just tore off a whole branch, let it fall then climbed up a little more to repeat the action. Shimmying down, he dragged them back to where he had left her and then started to strip off the smaller branches.
He glanced at her.
"Are you angry with me?"
"Was I too short? No, I'm worried about you."
"You banged your head. It's cold and nobody knows where we are."
"I have a map."
"Yeah, but we're still lost." He paused. "What is Jake doing with you?"
"Finding the clearing." She stopped.
"Keep talking while I make a nest for us."
"Survival stuff." He sniffed inside the small cave and only got old scents. Good. They didn't need something to come home and find them.
She chewed her lip.
"Did you find the water?"
"Yes." She put her hand up to brush through her hair and winced.
"Sorry. I had to break the windscreen. You've probably got glass everywhere."
She'd got less chatty. After the clearing was mentioned. She peered at him in the darkness. He saw her gaze pass down his body. "You never wear any clothes. Not even shoes. And you're still warm."
"Are you changing the subject?" He threw the leafy branches into the rock opening.
He smiled down at the branch he was stripping.
"It's dark and you can see me."
"You're a smart girl."
"Not really. I dated a…" there was a long pause. She waved her hand and then finally added, "Edward."
Had she been going to say vampire? Of course, she didn't know that Sam knew about Edward. "He wasn't what you thought?"
"He left me."
"I remember." He approached her and stood close. She sighed heavily. "I hate to suggest this but I don't know what else to do. There's glass in your clothes. We need to get it out so you need to undress, shake it out and redress. And then we can get warm."
She nodded. "A fire?"
"I have nothing to light it with." He made a mental note to order the pack to carry lighters. Especially if the only way to destroy a vampire completely was to burn it. They'd confirmed that today. They were just lucky that Paul carried one.
She stripped off the light sweater and handed it to him. He shook it vigorously. When he turned back she was halfway through stripping her shirt off. "No." He put his hand on her waist, and then snatched it back. "Just the top layer should be enough."
"Right." She seemed a little dazed. "Help me?" she pleaded. He pulled her shoes off and helped her out of her jeans. He shook them off and then helped her get dressed again.
Angry with himself for not explaining clearly, and for touching her without her permission, his movements were abrupt. It wasn't until he smelt tears that he realised he'd upset her. He sighed.
She clearly took that the wrong way, too. She sniffled. "I'm sorry I got lost. I'm sorry I crashed the truck. I'm sorry I'm so hopeless."
He just hugged her. "No," he crooned as he held her tight. "I'm sorry. I'm not angry with you. I apologise for touching you. You're not hopeless. You stood in a field and talked to a vampire without running away. You're incredibly brave."
She stiffened. "Sam? How did you know that?"
"Oh shit." He huffed out a breath.
"Can we get in the cave and I will tell you everything?"
"You can ask me anything you want? Deal?"
He let her go and she clambered inside the opening. He passed her the backpack. It was not exactly spacious, Sam couldn't rise above a crouch, so they both had to lie down, but it was big enough for the two of them and with a few leaves to soften the rock it would do for a night. He pulled a branch across the opening to make a basic door. It was dry, that was the main thing.
She snorted. "So now we snuggle."
"I wouldn't call it that," he argued but she was already clinging to him.
"So warm," she muttered. "Okay. Explain that."
"You sure you don't have concussion?" he hedged.
"I'm sure and now you're avoiding things. We had a deal."
Silence as he tried to get his thoughts together. She was recovering quickly.
"Sam, you have to talk to me. I can't see you." It was dark and plus her face was against his chest.
He shifted so that they both lay on their sides. "Is that warm enough?"
"Can you hold me?" she asked.
"Sure. Come up here." She shuffled up a little and he slid his arm under her head.
"Oh, I see, your arm makes a pillow."
"You've never slept with anyone?"
"No and no, if that's what you're asking."
"Sorry. None of my business. Man, I am messing it up today."
"Edward was my first boyfriend. And-" she stopped.
"He wasn't easy to cuddle?" Sam couldn't imagine cuddling a vampire.
He shuddered. He couldn't help it. At least she hadn't had sex with him if he read her answer right. "Tell me what you know."
"I'm keeping some secrets. I don't want to break them."
He had to admire her for that. Even if half her secrets were probably Jake's and he had shared them all with Sam in his thought s. "Okay." They had all night. "I saw you in the clearing and you saw me."
Her heart thumped loudly.
"I am the black-"
"Wolf," she interrupted. "I saw you last time when I was lost. The wolf snuffled at me and then you were there.' A pause as she thought. "That's how you found me."
"Jake's the reddish brown one?"
"It has his eyes."
She seemed to read his mind. "I know it's odd that that is what I was thinking right then. But I saw it and I thought of Jake. Who are the others?"
"And Embry. That makes sense. That's why he wouldn't talk to Jake."
"Jake told me ages ago."
"I know," Sam growled.
"Did you kill the hikers?"
"What? No. That was vampires. We don't eat people." He held her closer. "Is that what you were so scared of?"
"I could smell your fear."
"I thought you'd come back for me and you kind of did, and not like that, but I thought once Laurent had outrun you-"
"He didn't outrun us."
"You killed him?"
"He was going to eat you. Not that there is much of you to eat."
"You are worrisomely thin."
"I've been ill… depressed… whatever."
"I know. Jake."
"He talks too much."
"No, don't blame him. The pack share thoughts."
"So that's what makes you so warm? Being a wolf, and how does that work?"
"We're shapeshifters not werewolves. It's a tribal thing caused by contact with vampires."
"Triggered it in the early ones."
"I was the first." She didn't need to know about that. "But it's much older than that."
He told her the stories. The cedar scent was stronger in the confined space. It felt like a traditional fire night when Old Quil and Billy told the tribal tales. And as he spoke, he combed through her hair with his free hand and found all the bits of glass and tossed them away from her. He stopped when he couldn't find any more.
"Keep going. That's nice."
One of her arms was tucked in against her body and the other had crept around his waist. She brushed his skin with her thumb in an absentminded gesture. But he felt every touch. He was hyper aware of her being this close.
"Jake was really worried by you," she said.
"He might have got over that after today. He used to think he was a monster."
"Why would he think that?"
Sam held his breath.
"Because I am," he whispered.
"No." She shuffled around to try and touch his face. "What on earth makes you say that?"
"I nearly killed her."
"Emily." He almost sobbed her name.
"Oh, Sam. What happened?"
"I phased, lost my temper. Turned into a wolf too close to her and… there was blood… and oh, god. I tore her face off. My imprint." He tried to back away from Bella.
She flung her arm around him. Pressing her hand up to feel for his face. "Shhh, Sam. You're not a monster. You rescued me. Twice." She had her face so close to his and then her lips were pressed against his cheek and the gasp he had been going to take to cry was smothered. She kissed him. Her arm around his neck and her whole body pressed up against him.
And before he could even think what he was doing, he lost it. He rolled, pressing her into the leaves as he kissed her back. It was only when his hand brushed against the bump on her head that he stopped.
He pulled back and started to apologise.
"Wow," she said. "Do that again."
He did, more gently this time.
"Now," she said, "tell me who Emily is."
When he lifted away she wrapped her legs around his hips and clung.
"Oh… don't do that," he said.
"Come back here. You said I could ask anything."
"I didn't know we'd talk about that," he complained.
He sighed and stayed where he was. Holding his chest up on his elbows he told her about imprints and wolf chosen life partners. How he had dumped Leah and then seen her cousin. And imprinted.
"It wasn't my choice. It's really hard to describe." He had his head on her chest and she held him against her, one hand patting his back and the other curled around his head, as he talked through that awful night when there was so much screaming and blood. "She's scarred for life. She's still beautiful but I ruined her face and most of one arm. If you can imagine… the only story anyone believes is that she was attacked by a bear."
"Thank you for being honest." She kissed the top of his head. "Then what?"
"We tried to make a go of it… but she was terrified of me. So I let her leave."
"That was her choice?"
"Yes." He lifted his head. "Not that I can ever make it up to her but forcing her to stay with me seemed too cruel. I don't think she will tell anyone about the wolf pack." He brushed a strand of her hair away from her face. "Jake wanted it to happen with you. That's what he was thinking today in the clearing."
"Tell me it didn't."
"I thought you liked him?"
"I love Jake, but not like that."
That earned another kiss.
She chuckled. "Are you going to kiss me all night to keep me awake?"
"Would it work?"
"Probably. It'd be worth trying in any case."
He grinned. "I'm almost certain you don't have concussion. But I do know you deserve better than your first time being in a tiny cave."
"Is that where you think this is heading?"
"I can smell you."
"Ugh. My un-private life with supernatural beings."
"Plus," he added, "it's too dark and I want to see your face as I make love to you."
"Aww you said 'make love', that's so sweet."
"Did you want dirty talk instead?" he asked.
"I don't know."
He chuckled. "That's honest." He pressed his face against her neck, nuzzled her and whispered, "I want to taste the sweat on your skin as we fuck, see your nipples harden, feel how wet you are as I sink inside you. I want to fuck you so hard your skin bears my fingerprints. I want your body to reek of me."
He smiled. "Bella? Can I do something for you?"
"What?" she asked tremulously.
"It's too cold to take all your clothes off but I could look after you."
"I don't understand."
"Do you trust me?"
"Yes." That was huge given what he had just told her.
"Let me do this." He kissed her. "Please?"
She nodded. "Okay."
He moved and told her, "Roll over."
She did. With her back against his chest, he hugged her against him. He could feel her excitement; body tense, breathing short and her scent intensifying. His hands reached for the button of her jeans.
"Oh," she said.
"Is it what you wanted?"
"I-I think so."
He got the impression that she didn't masturbate. She was delightfully naïve about some things. "Tell me what's wrong."
"Edward always stopped me whenever I wanted more."
"Take more now." He stroked over her stomach. "If you say 'stop' I'll stop."
"Promise." He kissed the side of her head. Now she helped him undo her jeans. She shimmied them down her thighs, and rubbed her ass against his groin as she did it. He bit his lip.
"Your hands are so warm," she said.
Carefully, he brushed over the skin on her stomach and thighs until she stopped twitching nervously. He teased just under the edge of her panties and noticed her scent change. She pushed her own jeans further down her legs until she could part her knees. "Sam," she complained.
"You want more?" he asked, his lips touching against her neck.
As she answered he slid his hand inside her panties. The other dived under her shirt and up to cup her breast. He yanked her back hard against him. She was already wet and he slid his middle finger inside her folds. She gasped.
"Yes." She shifted and moved but he held her firmly. Dipping inside to make her wetter and then stroking back up to her clitoris. Using her own wetness to stimulate her, and she responded so well. Much faster than he had imagined she would.
"More," she groaned.
He changed the rhythm of his strokes, listening to her body and her breathing, finding the one spot and the pace that finished her. It took everything he had not to throw her down and use his tongue instead, but there was no room inside their crawl space cave. And he had promised that she deserved better. But it was so difficult.
Her back arched, unintentionally driving her clitoris harder onto his hand, and she was done. Groaning and muttering his name she orgasmed.
He lied. He could see her and she looked amazing. Her eyes squeezed shut, her mouth hanging open and her breath coming in short little pants as she shuddered.
"Fucking you will be amazing, Bella," he said to her.
"Oh, Sam," she said. There was silence for a while and then she added, "I've been missing out."
"Not from me."
They fixed her clothing and cuddled back down. Spooned together. He pulled branches up to cover her like a blanket.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
"You're not a monster, Sam."
He didn't answer her but that thought stayed with him. He lay awake as she fell asleep.
Hours later, he woke when the forest did, left her and went looking for landmarks and fresh water. He drank his fill and brought more back to the cave. He phased in and told Embry where he thought they were. Embry said he'd call Charlie.
Sam delayed for a while. He didn't want to wake her up. Didn't want to go back out into the world where he had to be a leader and an alpha. A world where he wasn't sure how Bella Swan fitted.
She was curled into a ball. He woke her gently. "Bella?"
When her eyes opened, she lunged at him, hauling him down to her level. He kissed her and his worries evaporated. "Wake up."
"I'm awake," she grumbled. "Can't we stay here?"
It comforted him that she had the same thought as he did. "No, honey."
"You're right. For one thing, I need to pee."
He snorted. "Do it outside." He patted her thigh. "Come on."
They emerged into the chilly air, watching their breath fog. He had her backpack over his shoulder.
"I talked to Embry," he said while she was peeing behind a tree. "They're coming to collect us."
"Good. I'm starving," she said.
"Well… the next time you go for a hike take dried fruit and chocolate and wear adequate warm clothing. The temperature around here changes so fast and it doesn't match the weather bulletins half the time."
She didn't react. "Noted."
"Look at you, in your thin sweater. No proper footwear or rain jacket."
"Are you actually lecturing me about appropriate clothing?"
She grinned at him and stared pointedly at his bare chest. "In your cut-offs?"
He eyed her off. "I have a source of heat."
"Oh, I know," she purred at him.
He laughed. "Come on we need to walk out of here." He grabbed her hand and they started to hike up to the road. He didn't tell her that he could hear an engine.
He could tell from her face that she was lost in thought so he left her to it.
When they reached the road he had to tell her the rescue party was approaching. She faced him. "I want to say this now."
He waited, fearing the worst.
"I always felt like Jake was my sun. He kept me warm when things were really dark for me."
"I know." And he did. Now. "He was real worried about you."
"I just don't love him like that. He's my friend."
"And Edward?" he checked.
"It was only yesterday in that clearing that I was even able to say his name without it causing me actual pain. It was months ago that he left me. You know how long ago it was." She took a breath. "I can't explain how he affected me but now I can see how unhealthy it was."
Sam just nodded.
"If Jake was my sun, then Edward was like the moon. Occasionally he blocked out the sun. He made me cold, deprived me of oxygen and warmth and he shone with only reflected sunlight."
To ease her agitation Sam rubbed his hands down her upper arms. "Glittered like a disco ball."
"I know, right?" she chuckled, but then she stepped in close to him and looked up at his face. "I'm trying to be serious, Sam." She slipped her hands inside the top of his cut-offs so that the backs of her fingers pressed against his stomach. She tugged him towards her. "Don't laugh at me… it's like Jake's my sun… but you? You keep rescuing me. You look after me. You're like my earth. You're warm. I feel that I can grow with you and I don't want to live anywhere else."
She radiated sincerity.
He brushed her hair back with his fingers. "You know what I am. You're sure?"
"I want to try."
"Me too." The back of his fingers brushed up her cheek. She leaned into the touch.
"And besides," she said, "we have a list of things you wanted to do to me."
They were still kissing when the rescue vehicle drove down the road towards them.