A/N: Hey guys! Remember this is rated M, and enjoy.


CHAPTER TEN

"I want to take you to my school dance," Jared said, pushing her hair off over her shoulder so that he could kiss his way up her neck. "Friday night, last day of classes."

Bella, who was pressed belly-first against the wall of his bedroom, gasped out a laugh that turned into a moan as he entered her slowly again until he was inside her fully, his chest pressed against her back.

"You have a — ah — strange idea of dirty talk," she said, gasping as his hand snaked around her belly to trace where he was entering her, steadily in and out.

"I want to show you off," he said, pressing forward enough so that he could kiss her scalp right behind her ear.

She shivered all over. He'd found that place the second time they'd made love, and ever since he'd exploited it mercilessly.

"Have you even been in school enough?" she asked him. His free hand rose from the juncture of her thighs to trace the shape of her breasts, and she couldn't decide if she was happy about the change.

He chuckled. "Probably not, but they won't kick me out."

She pretended to think, and he continued his slow but steady rhythm, letting the pleasure coil inside her in a torturous spiral. "Will you be wearing a shirt?" she asked him finally, pressing her forehead against the wall and smiling.

He pushed against her tighter, and she gasped again as he picked up the pace just a little, as his skin felt even hotter against hers. "Do you want me to?" he whispered into her ear.

"Not really," she admitted. "But I think you'll have to if you don't want to get us kicked out."

"So you'll go?" he asked, and then his hands were tracing the parting of her thighs again, and she could feel her muscles coiling tighter as the intensity built.

"Not fair," she managed to get out between shallow breaths. But she was smiling again, and she realized she really did want to do this, wanted to be with him. Jared wouldn't care what she wore; he wanted her to go simply because he wanted her with him, not because it was a "human" experience that he thought she shouldn't miss out on. He wanted her to go because he was proud to be with her.

"So that's a yes?" he murmured, squeezing her thigh with his other hand.

"Yes," she agreed, and she was rewarded with the perfect rhythm, the one Jared knew so perfectly now, because he knew her and her body's needs so effortlessly. As she coiled tighter and tighter, she heard herself saying "yes" again, followed by a string of incoherent "more"s and "please"s and "Jared"s, and then she was flying higher than she had before, and Jared was there to catch her at the end as she fell back limply against his chest.

He joined her in pleasure a few seconds later, their timing almost perfect now, and carried her over to his bed and tucked her into his chest.

"I'm going to have to tell Charlie about you, then," she said when she caught her breath, and drew random patterns across the smooth lines of his pectoral muscles. "He'll think it's a little weird if I'm randomly wearing a dress when I leave the house."

"You don't have to do that, babe," Jared said earnestly, running his fingers through her hair. "Wear whatever you want, I just want to be with you —"

"Even if it was a red dress?" she asked innocently.

Over the past three weeks, Paul, and to a lesser extent the other wolves, had teased her about what ran through Jared's mind while he was phased. Apparently her strutting about in various red, slinky dresses made recurring appearances.

Jared's hand stroking her hair stilled. "Who —" He cut off. "Paul. Of course."

"Of course," she agreed, pressing her smile against his skin. Jared's transition into a true member of the pack had been effortless, his previous distance from his pack brothers instantly forgiven, but one of the most positive changes had been Jared's reunion with his best friend. Their friendship had apparently always been built on a foundation of friendly antagonism mixed with mutual fondness that was inexplicable to outsiders, and they'd slipped back into that pattern almost immediately. Bella often benefited from Paul's teasing of her mate.

"And you don't mind telling your dad about me?" His voice turned hesitant, and Bella knew that Jared had always feared, even if just the tiniest amount, that she hadn't told Charlie about him yet because she was embarrassed about him.

"I think it's time," she said, tugging his arm more tightly around her. "He might still think the timing is too soon, but I'm tired of hiding the best and most important thing in my life from him."

Jared inhaled sharply, and then he was rolling her over, climbing on top of her and pressing his weight down on her in a gesture that she had learned over the past couple weeks. It was how he grounded himself in her, how he displayed his vulnerability and his love when he couldn't find the words for it.

He pressed his nose against her neck, inhaling again, and then raised his head, bracing himself on his elbows beside her head. "I love you," he told her.

He never said it with the expectation that she'd say it back; as with every other part of their relationship, he'd never asked or demanded anything of her. He just wanted her to know.

So far she hadn't said it back; she'd wanted to make sure she loved him because of who he was as a person, not just because of the bond that tied them together. But today, in that moment, she suddenly knew.

"I love you, too," she replied, and the words were heavy with meaning and at the same time light because they were completely effortless.

Her mate's expression lit up, and then his hands were cradling her face, and he was kissing her like he might never be able to kiss her again. "Thank you, love you, love you," he murmured against her lips, and Bella let herself be lost in him again, in his body and his words and his love.

Bella scowled at her father as he stood in the Camerons' living room, standing beside Jared's beaming parents. All three of them were taking pictures of her and Jared.

"Dad, you know I already feel ridiculous," she told him. "Mom doesn't need photos of me from every possible angle."

Her dad eyed her over the top of his digital camera. "Honey, if your mother isn't satisfied with the photos I take for your final school dance, I'll be hearing about it for the next decade."

That was probably true, so Bella sighed and wrapped her arm around Jared's waist, letting him hug her more closely to him. She closed her eyes and allowed herself a soft smile at the contact with him.

"That's perfect," Mrs. Cameron said happily, and Bella heard the click of two cameras and then the chiming sound of a camera phone taking a photo.

Bella opened her eyes to see Jared's mom showing the photo on her digital camera to Charlie. "For the rehearsal dinner," she said, not bothering to keep her voice low.

Bella felt Jared vibrating with laughter beside her, but she kept her eyes worriedly on her father, waiting for the inevitable explosion at the mention of his only child's potential wedding. She would never forget how awful he'd been about the mere possibility of her and Edward getting married.

Her dad's eyes flickered to her and Jared. Bella had only told him of Jared's existence a few days prior, but he'd seemed utterly unsurprised about the existence of a secret boyfriend, just satisfied that she'd finally admitted said secret boyfriend's identity.

To her surprise, her dad just looked thoughtful as he examined her and Jared standing together. He nodded and turned to say something to Mrs. Cameron in a voice that was too low for Bella to hear.

Judging from the smugness she could feel radiating off Jared — and she thought it was because she knew him so well and not because she needed their bond for help this time — Jared knew exactly what her dad had said.

There was a perfunctory knock at the door, and most of the pack came bounding inside, broad smiles on their faces. "Hey, guys!" Quil called out in his usual boisterous way, leaning against the arm of the sofa. "Are you guys ready to get out of here?"

Embry, Jake, and Paul trailed Quil inside, Paul greeting Jared with a hard punch to the arm. They were all wearing button-up shirts and slacks, and they all looked completely ridiculous.

"Maybe we should take some photos outside before you leave," Mrs. Cameron said worriedly.

"Oh, that's okay, too," Quil said with a smirk. He raised his eyebrows at Bella. "Bella loves the outdoors."

"Yeah, she's become a real nature lover," Jake agreed, and ignored the deadly glare she shot him.

"She has?" Charlie asked, looking confused.

"Oh, yeah," Quil said. "Right about the time, oh, she met Jared, actually."

"Trees," Jake added. They all looked at him, except for Bella, who hadn't stopped glaring at him. "The trees here are her favorite, I think."

"Well, I'm so glad the Pacific Northwest is growing on you, sweetheart," Jared's dad said, utterly oblivious. "We'd love it if you two stayed in the area when you —"

"Matthew," Jared's mom hissed. "We agreed not to push."

"Right," he said, smiling sheepishly. "Sorry."

"I think it's about time to go," Bella said tightly, pulling her eyes away from Jake and turning a dark glare on Quil in turn. They didn't even have the grace to look frightened. "Right, Jared?"

Still seeming like he was holding back laughter, he tried to nod seriously. "Yeah, babe, let's get going."

As Jared's mom aww-ed at the endearment and hugged her son, the rest of the wolves rose to go, and Embry grabbed her light cardigan from the hallway and brought it to her. "Don't think you're getting out of this, Call," she hissed as he helped her into it. He gave her a wide-eyed, innocent look. "I saw you trying not to laugh right there with them."

"Aw, Bells," he protested, mock-upset. "You know I'm your favorite."

She frowned at him, then over at Quil and Jake, who were still smirking and looking much too pleased with themselves. "Yeah, well, right now you're not up against very strong competition," she said under her breath, knowing he'd be able to hear her. Then she was stepping into Jared's mom's embrace with a genuine smile on her face, and then his dad's.

"Have a wonderful time, sweetheart," Mrs. Cameron said in her ear. "You look stunning. Jared can't keep his eyes off you."

Even after being with Jared for several weeks, knowing he found her desirable and not trying to hide it was enough to make flushed pleasure rise in Bella's cheeks. "Thank you," she said, embarrassed.

"Quit embarrassing my girlfriend, Mom," Jared said, coming up and tugging Bella into his side. Just like always, the bond between them flared up with pleasure at the contact. They were never apart long enough or far apart enough to cause actual pain in their bond, but any return to contact after not touching sent a flush of satisfaction and rightness through Bella's body.

Jared's mom sighed fondly and tugged her son down enough to kiss his cheek. "Treat her right, son," she instructed him firmly. "Or you and I will be having words."

Bella caught the grins on the other wolves' faces; no matter how mature they looked, they were still high school boys, and they loved getting to see their friends embarrassed.

Jared laced his fingers with Bella's, replying laughingly, "You never seem to worry about me, Mom. How's that supposed to make me feel?"

"Like you should do what your mother told you and take your beautiful girlfriend out for a wonderful night."

The rest of the wolves chuckled as they joined them at the front door, and Jared inclined his head dramatically. "As you wish, Mother."

Bella glanced over to see her dad standing beside the door, watching her with a mix of fondness and awkwardness. Disentangling her hand from Jared's gently, she walked over.

"You look beautiful, Bells," Charlie said gruffly. "I'm proud of you."

Bella knew he wasn't just talking about tonight, but the way her life had changed in the past month. She suddenly found herself blinking back tears and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Thanks, Dad," she said, hoping her voice didn't sound too tight with tears.

He grinned when she pulled back, and gestured jokingly to Jared. "Take care of my baby, Cameron," he told Jared. "She's the only one I've got."

"Dad!" Bella said, mortified at the unexpected sentimentality, but everyone else in the house burst out laughing. When she and Jared finally all piled into Quil's mom's minivan, they were still smiling.

"I have told you about the fact that I can't dance, haven't I?" Bella asked Jared as he tried to tug her out of her chair after a dinner of pizza from the one place in Forks that would deliver, and onto the dance floor.

The dance was taking place in the school's cafeteria, and all the tables were pushed to the end of the room. The overhead florescent lights were turned down low, and there were posters and banners congratulating the year's seniors, whose graduation ceremony was the following day.

Jared smiled and just raised his eyebrows at her hopefully. Quil, who had acquired a girl almost as soon as he'd walked through the door, ducked down as he passed Bella, the girl clinging to his other side.

"We're not talking waltzing here, Bells," he said into her ear. "Look at how they're dancing now." He was moving away before she could glance over to where about twenty teenagers were jumping around to a heavy hip hop bass.

Well, some of them were jumping around, smiling wildly as they moved to the music. A few others, all couples, were in their own universe, dancing not so much to the music as they were dancing on each other. Bella could feel her cheeks heat as she saw one guy hold the girl he was with by the hips as she slid up and down against him.

"Aren't there chaperons here?" she asked Jared faintly. He'd turned to look at what she was staring at, and grinned at the question.

"Nah, who wants to watch eighteen-year-olds grind on each other?"

"Grind?" she asked, not recognizing the term.

His grin widened. "Come here, babe. Nothing like a demonstration to help, right?"

This time, she let Jared tug her out of her chair onto the dance floor. She immediately felt self-conscious, as if everyone would be able to tell that she didn't belong here, but no one except Jared was even looking at her. She could see Quil a few feet away, leaning down to hear the girl he was with, and Jake and Embry were talking to a couple of girls on the other side of the cafeteria, both clearly trying to seem much more suave than they were.

Jared turned so that he and Bella were face to face, and slid his hands down to rest on her waist, a movement of such familiarity that it was so bizarre to know that it had only been a few weeks. "I love you," he said, just loudly enough that she would be able to hear it, staring down at her with a loving gaze in his dark eyes.

She could feel some of the tension about her inadequacy relax. She knew Jared. "I love you, too," she said, smiling. Maybe he'd just wanted to stand on the dance floor for some reason.

Jared smiled, and then before she could register the movement, he had twisted her around, so that his chest was pressed against her back. She was suddenly simultaneously aware of the thumping beat of the music and Jared's heat behind her.

"Now," he said, leaning over to whisper in her ear. "We grind."

Then he started moving to the rapid beat, pressing against her body in a way that made her skin feel flushed and electric. "Oh," she said faintly. She was pretty sure she got it.

Jared laughed and pressed a kiss against her ear. "Move with me, babe."

The fear of her own clumsiness came back, along with the accompanying fear that she would look completely stupid, but then Jared was sliding his hands from where they were wrapped loosely around her waist to her hips instead. "You can't do this wrong, I promise," he breathed in her ear, his innate ability to sense her feelings soothing her, as always.

Finally she let him move her, let the thumping bass become her new heartbeat, and for the first time in her life, she truly danced. This wasn't being guided along in a slow dance, so afraid she would make the tiniest mistake and disappoint Edward, convinced she could never live up to all the girls he'd seen in his century on the planet.

This was her pushing back and writhing against her boyfriend, who groaned and dug his fingers just above her hips, and it was irreverent and chaotic and beautiful in its own burning energy as she became one of many, of all the others on this dance floor and all the others who had left their inhibitions behind, and she felt like she belonged, like she was a teenager and that was okay.

She twisted her neck to smile up at Jared, and he leaned down to press a firm kiss on her lips, his hands tightening on her waist.

She smiled at him when they broke apart.

For the first time in her life, she felt free.

Half an hour later, she examined herself in the restroom mirror as she washed her hands. Her face and arms were soaked with sweat, her mascara was a little smudged under her eyes, her cheeks were flushed, and she didn't care at all.

Quil, leaning against the wall, grinned at her when she left the restroom. "Didn't expect to see you dirty dancing tonight, Bells," he said, raising his eyebrows suggestively.

"I'm full of surprises," she retorted, and he grinned. Then his smile dropped as he saw something over her head and behind her.

"That's — Bells, don't get mad, okay? That's Kim and one of her friends. But Jared's trying to get away —"

Quil's voice faded away behind her as Bella felt something icy and calm settle in her veins as she walked toward them. She wasn't aggressive by nature, but if there was anything in the world that could spark her to it, it was Jared, and whom exactly he belonged to.

As she got closer, Bella recognized Kim from photos she had seen of various tribal events. She looked genuinely lovely in a pale blue dress. I'm not going to be the type of girl who hates other girls, Bella told herself firmly. Even if that was hard when Kim was clutching Jared's hand and stepping into his personal space.

Looking panicked, Jared stepped backward, saying something Bella wasn't close enough to hear, but Kim didn't let go of his hand. He looked over at Bella as he tried to tug his hand free, and Bella knew he must have been really distracted not to have noticed her sooner through their bond.

For the first time since Jared had imprinted on her, a spike of fear, of jealousy, rose in her. Kim was everything Bella wasn't: tall and curvy but still lean, with rich, flawless skin and shining straight hair that almost reached her waist. How could Jared not have loved her?

That stab of fear seemed to pull Jared out of where he stood frozen, clearly unwilling or unable to pull himself away from the two girls. "Bella," he gasped out, jerking free from Kim's hand hard enough that she stumbled forward a little. "This, um… I'm…"

Bella could tell Jared didn't know whether he should introduce her to Kim and the other girl, and abruptly Bella's confidence returned. Jared's ex-girlfriend simply didn't matter.

"Let's get out of here," she interrupted smoothly. She smiled at Jared, and it wasn't forced at all.

He examined her expression, and she could almost feel him examining their bond, too, searching for her real emotions. But all he would find was love for him and a genuine desire to leave the dance. "Okay," he said slowly.

Kim started to say something, looking angry, but Bella turned a cool gaze on her, and Kim closed her mouth. Bella didn't know what her expression looked like, but she suspected some of her confidence that Jared was and always would be hers shone through.

Kim's friend said something to Kim in a low voice, but Bella was already turning away, back to Jared, who was still watching her uncertainly. "I'm sorry," he said as Bella reached for his hand.

Their fingers slid together, and the touch felt even more reassuring than usual. They were rejoined, re-centered like this.

"You didn't do anything wrong," she reassured him. "But I still want to leave."

"Babe, you shouldn't have to leave before you're ready to, just because my ex was being a bitch—"

Bella shook her head. "It's not about her, Jared. It's about us." Her lips lifted. "And how 'us' I want to be right now."

Jared caught the shift in her mood, and swallowed hard. She didn't say anything else, just nodded at Quil and Embry, who had rejoined Quil at the table. They shot her and Jared concerned looks as they walked past, but Bella just shook her head and nodded outside.

Embry didn't seem to get it, but Quil blinked and then started laughing obnoxiously loudly.

Bella rolled her eyes and ignored him. "Babe, you know my parents are home tonight," Jared said once they were outside, the swinging door shutting off the music and laughter inside.

"And you know I don't always need a bed, Jared." She smiled at her wolf sweetly.

His eyes went wide, and she could see the desire in them, reflected back at her, but he was trying to let his rationality rule. "We can't, babe, there are way too many people wandering around the woods tonight."

She took a step closer to him. "Which would definitely be a problem if you didn't have super-hearing."

She took his free hand as he opened his mouth to protest again, sliding it over her hip, down to the hem of her dress, and then back up along her bare thighs. He hissed, his protests abandoned, when his fingers didn't find fabric at the juncture of her thighs. Bella hated both panty lines and thongs.

"Fuck. Woods. Now."

"That's the idea," Bella agreed.

Without warning, he picked her up, and she wrapped her legs around his waist automatically. Her dress was hiked up to her mid thighs, making them look milky white and soft in the moonlight, and she didn't care at all. The only person whose opinion she cared about was right here, and he wanted her just as she was.

"Damn straight I do," he muttered, walking them briskly into the treeline.

"I don't know how you can do that and I can't," she complained, even as her fingers began exploring the collar of his shirt, unbuttoning the top two buttons. He looked hot as hell dressed up, but naked… she swallowed.

"'Cause you don't need the bond to read my mind," he said roughly in her ear. They were almost out of sight of the school. "You always know exactly what I want, what I'm thinking. You're too good for me."

"No," she said, ending on a gasp as Jared dropped her to her feet without warning, pushing her against a tree and cradling the back of her head in his large, warm hand so she wasn't scratched. "Jared, you're perfect," she whispered.

He opened his mouth but she could tell from his expression that he didn't know what he was going to say. His eyes glittered with emotion, and she reached for him, wordlessly calling out to him.

He leaned down so their lips were almost touching, but he didn't kiss her and instead pressed their foreheads together. They were both breathing heavily, and this moment in the woods underneath the stars felt surprisingly intimate. "No, we're perfect, Bella," he said softly. "We're everything together."

"Yes," she agreed without hesitating. He was right. She didn't know what it meant that she was Jared's imprint, whether it was reward or punishment, but she knew that the bond that linked them together also made them something more, something better, than they were apart.

And that realization decided her, tipped her over the brink of what she'd been considering for days, ever since Emily had explained it to her, telling her that she had decided to do it with Sam.

"Jared—" Bella swallowed. "I want you to Mark me while you make love to me." He inhaled sharply and started to pull back, but she clutched his hand and wouldn't let him step away.

"I want us to be tied together, forever," she told him. The human rules, marriage, meant little to her. Mortal bonds could be broken. The Mark of a wolf couldn't.

She could feel his desire to do as she asked pulling through the bond, interlaced with his desire for her, and all wrapped up in his love for her. It was complicated and overwhelming, and her heart sang with love for him. "There's no hurry," he said, searching her eyes.

"There's no reason to wait, either," she said. Her mind was made, her path was set. As always, she immediately wanted to move forward once she'd made a decision.

She tugged him a little closer, and he wrapped one hand around her waist. He stepped into her personal space with easy familiarity and smiled down at her, his handsome grin spreading across his face.

"It's forever," he said unnecessarily.

Bella ran her hand down his chest and began unbuttoning the few remaining buttons. "That's the idea," she said, repeating her earlier words with a smile.

"And you're sure you don't want it to be someplace special?"

Bella laughed and rested her head against the bark of the pine tree. She closed her eyes and let herself feel the light dampness in the air, the faint sea salt on the wind, the breeze around her, coiling through the trees, and the deep blue sky, cloudy but with the brightest stars still able to shine through. "This is special, Jared," she said, opening her eyes to smile up at him. "Can't you feel it? The woods are ours. Out here, everything is right."

"I can feel it," he said, his voice dropping low. Then he was on her, and she surrendered to him gladly. Her legs were wrapped around his waist, and this time he pushed her dress higher up her thighs so he could position her just so against his hips. She arched backward as he kissed her neck and collarbone and had to wrap her arms around his neck to keep her balance.

Jared took the opportunity to slide the straps over her dress down her arms and then unhooked her bra in one smooth motion. He kissed her once on the lips, firmly, and then pulled away and pulled the dress over her head and threw it on the ground before she could protest. Alice wasn't going to be very happy with her.

But that train of thought was lost when Jared pulled her tight against him, and her bare breasts rubbed against his now-open dress shirt.

"Take it off," she muttered against his mouth, between one kiss and before the next.

"You sure?" he asked teasingly.

In response, she snaked a hand down against his dress pants and squeezed firmly, between his legs. He hissed in surprise and pleasure, and she smiled up at him smugly. "Positive."

"You win," he said with a shaky laugh, and he held her up with one hand as he used the other to pull off his shirt and then slip out of his pants and boxers, and then they were skin against sweaty skin, which was exactly how Bella liked it.

"Fuck, babe, you're really sure?" Jared managed to get out as she dug her heels into his hips to get leverage to lick and suck at his neck.

"Yes," she whispered hotly against his skin.

Then he was sliding home, and it wasn't just a metaphor to her. Jared had told her it was like his universe had shifted when he'd imprinted on her, but for Bella it had been more gradual, as the bond had tugged her toward him long enough that she'd had a chance to learn who Jared was and how much she needed him in her life, how much better her life was with him in it.

And that she needed him every bit as much as he needed her, and that would never change.

He set a steady rhythm, sliding her up and down while their eyes didn't leave each other. Sometimes he pressed her belly first against trees when they made love, but usually he liked to watch her as he entered her, again and again and again.

She'd been hot and jittery ever since she'd seen him in his dress clothes earlier that evening, and pulling him away from another woman and into the woods had increased her arousal, her awareness of how painfully she was attracted to him, to even higher levels. So it didn't take long before her inner thighs were tightening, her breath coming in ragged whimpers.

Jared was watching her every breath, and she knew he would be able to feel her, to hear her heartbeat and her breathing, and she struggled to keep her eyes open to look at him. "You're so beautiful," he whispered.

Her trembling becoming uncontrollable, she had no words, but she thought he could see the emotions in her eyes, could feel what she was feeling in his heart.

He smiled at her like she was the most beautiful thing on the planet, and as her heart swelled with love for him, she cried out, and then he was there, tilting her head with one hand in her hair, the other hand still tight around her waist, and then his teeth were on the side of her neck, his mouth wet and impossibly hot. She was in the heights of her release when he bit down, and he didn't hesitate when he broke skin and made contact with the cord of muscle in her neck.

The bite hurt, a deep throbbing sting that played counterpoint to the electric trembling from her belly throughout her veins, and something about the moment was achingly beautiful, made more so for the fact that she knew she would never be able to feel this moment again.

His teeth still in her, Jared thrust into her, and she smiled through the pain, and then he was finding his own release, finally pulling away from her neck to press his lips against hers.

She could taste her blood and didn't care at all, because it tied her to him permanently. He couldn't control imprinting, but she could choose the Mark, and she would wear its scar on her skin proudly until the day she died.

Because she was tied to exactly whom she wanted to be tied to, and she would never have to live in a world without him in it.

As in all the most important moments of her life, her gift with words failed her, and she just looked at Jared with eyes that were already wet with tears.

"Jared," she whispered. He pulled her against his chest, taking her weight fully. "I love you."

He pulled back to look at her with eyes that shone in the moonlight. "I love you, too. Forever."

"Forever," she agreed, pressing herself against him again, wanting to hold him closer, always. She hadn't chosen him originally, but she would be grateful until her dying day for the magic that had decided to give her a chance to know Jared.

Because that magic gave her the opportunity to know what it was like to feel complete by the other half of her soul. She would honor that bond with every breath in her until her dying day. Jared had given her this new life, and she was grateful for it every day.

And her life might not be eternal and never would be, but her love for her wolf was.


A/N: Just the epilogue remains.