Finally! I have really missed you guys! I hope you are ready for my new book: My Headstrong Beta. Bella and Edward have finally imprinted! Jiiippiiii! Not going to lie, there will be some twists and turns in this one as well, but I can promise a HEA.

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My New Mate

A small branch whips my face and breaks the skin on my cheek as I sprint through the dense forest. The slap burns, instantly drawing a new wave of tears to my eyes and I can feel the slow trickle of blood descend down my wet cheeks to my jaw. My lungs are heaving for air and my muscles are at their breaking point, but still I force my body to continue; to not let up, not even for a second. I can't afford to. I don't have a choice. Right now, it's a matter of life or death. After what I did, I know with no uncertain terms that if they get their hands on me, they will kill me. I can't let that happen!

Everything hurts and I know that if it weren't for the adrenaline pumping through my veins, I'd never have been able to get this far… but still it isn't far enough. They are hot on my heels and I can hear them closing in. I'm going as fast as I can, but the lack of food and sleep has made me weak. A whimper rises in my throat and I can feel myself begin to lose it. My sight goes blurry as the tears continue to flow and everything in me trembles. I struggle to see clearly because of my blurry vision and the increasing darkness of nightfall and I lose my footing, but am luckily able to steady myself quickly.

There is a noise right behind me and I turn my head to search it out, all the while my speed propelling my body forward. My bare feet are littered with small cuts from the uneven forest ground and because my attention is drawn elsewhere, I am too slow to react when my feet yet again stumble over something. I begin to fall, but quickly I realize that I have made a critical error by not watching where I am going. I haven't stumbled over something as simple as a rock or root. Instead it is something far worse, it must be a ledge of some sort, because I am now freefalling face first into a deep darkness. My stomach drops and I realize that this is very bad. I've lost. I will never see his beautiful face again, or feel his lips brush against mine. Worst of all, I will never get to tell him those words that have been building up within me for months now.

"Edward, I love you."

My eyes fly open and a sharp inhale fills my lungs with air. The sensation of falling is still lingering in my bones, even as the dream releases its hold and slips from my memory. My heart is still racing a mile a minute in my chest and I feel like I've just run a marathon. Although my eyes are open, it takes me a moment to recognize the worried face hovering just above mine. Those familiar emerald eyes burn into me and quickly bring me back to reality. I exhale a deep breath of relief and feel Edward do the same. His jaw is clenched tight and I can feel how his entire body is vibrating with concern for me.

"Jesus, Bella," he breathes and suddenly allows his body to drop from his hovering position above me and cover my entire body with his, engulfing me in an almost desperate hug. Joy spreads within me and the connection between us sings.

He is heavy, but I welcome his weight wholeheartedly. He only allows it for a moment, however, before quickly pulling back. A childlike mewl rises to my lips as I begin to object to his sudden retreat, but it stops in my throat when he efficiently flips us. He is now on his side with my head lying comfortably against his upper arm. It is the same pose that we had after we'd both fallen asleep on my sofa the day of my training session with Aro. I feel comfortable and safe in his embrace and I immediately turn my body sideways so that we can face one another. Everything else disappears.

As his eyes study mine, I realize that there is a softness in his gaze that makes my heart skip in my chest. It's strange, but I swear I can feel a wave of tenderness flow within me, almost as if the emotion is one of my own, but before I can think more of it, I see that Edward is leaning forward to leave a kiss on my forehead. As he does this, an overwhelming urge rises within me. I don't know if it is in reaction to the intense fear I still feel lingering in my bones, the only evidence left of my dream, or if it can be because of our recent imprint, but I am suddenly overcome by a swift need to feel his lips on mine. My lips act on their own volition, tilting my head back so that they can capture his descending, rose petal, soft lips in a searing kiss. He exhales sharply in surprise when he meets my lips instead of my forehead, but it doesn't take him long to mirror my movements and throw himself into our kiss with equal intensity.

This kiss is tentative, almost as though we are both reintroducing ourselves to each other. We take our time, registering every single hitch of breath, sigh or moan to memory. After a short while, I take his bottom lip between both of mine and suck on it gently, dragging the tip of my tongue across it, teasing it lightly. A soft rumble rises from him and my body immediately clenches in response to that deep sound. Molten heat explodes within and quickly rolls through every inch of me like fast-moving lava.

Every reaction I have to each drag of his lips or sweep of his tongue feels strangely amplified somehow, but I'm too distracted by those same sensations to even consider them. My mind goes completely blank when Edward's long frame moves to settle above mine yet again. Both of my thighs immediately drop open to give him room, almost as if it has already become second nature to them, and he quickly finds his place between my legs, lowering his hips just below mine.

Our touches are still agonizingly slow, but they quickly become bolder now that he is above me. My head is forced to tilt back more to reach his and I can feel my movements become more demanding as my body is filled with a rising sense of urgency. Our tongues are no longer exploring and tentative, but are gliding against one another in a wet and sensual dance that makes my insides quiver. My hands move to roam over the tight muscles of his bare back and a swell of anticipation and pure satisfaction grows within me. His skin is so soft, like silk.

His lips are forged with mine, but now one of his hands has slowly begun the exploration of my body as well. Since my back is plastered against a soft mattress, he focuses on my front. Expertly, he leans against one elbow, keeping his body just a few inches over mine. I can feel the heat of him just within my reach and my entire being sings as I yearn for more of his touch.

When a single teasing finger easily, yet very slowly, begins to trail a soft line from my neck and up the slope of my breast, I can't stop the loud moan that bursts out of me. This doesn't deter his excruciatingly slow movements and a sense of urgency flows over me. I try to lead our joined lips into something wilder and more out of control. I even drag my nails into the skin of his back, but it is of little or no avail. It's odd, because I actually feel a slight flicker of pain in the back of my mind when I do this, but it is quickly followed by a wave of searing desire. However, my need for him to increase the intensity of his touch overshadows it. He swiftly takes over the control of our kisses, calming my urgent pace. Our locked lips are quiveringly passionate, but not frenzied or out of control. His strong sense of restraint and determination is admirable, yet at this moment very frustrating.

His finger continues its unhurried path and bypasses my nipple, before moving further down my breast. I bite back a whimper. His simple touch is driving me to the brink of madness. My breath hitches in my throat and goosebumps shoot across my skin when that tantalizing finger traces the shape of the infinity sign just at the edge of my left breast. I can't stop the pleading whine that breaks through our joined lips. My body feels like it is on fire. I can't help myself, I need more from him.

Tentatively, I begin to roll my hips against his lower stomach, but I quickly realize that what I need is just a little lower. Before he can object, I pull my lips away from his and move downward, leaving several wet kisses against his clavicle as I scoot my body down. My hips are now perfectly aligned with his and when I shift my hips against his, the reaction is instantaneous. The deep and masculine groan that fills the air between us causes a thrill to shimmer down my spine. I have found his weakness and my lips lift into a knowing smirk.

My hands quickly move lower, down his back and to the steal muscles of his round ass. Acting on sheer instinct, I grab ahold and tighten my grip, forcing him closer as I continue to grind my hips more determinedly against his. A loud growl escapes him and he suddenly flexes his hips powerfully against me, his shaft rubbing against exactly where I want him. There is something between us that is hindering him to slip inside of me, but for now I don't even care. Sparks of sizzling arousal heat my belly like a Finish Sauna and my core quivers with pleasure. He curls his body slightly, so that he can cover my lips with his yet again and we both we swallow each other's moans and deep sighs of pleasure with each sensual flex and roll of our hips.

The sensations flowing through me are so strong and heightened that they don't even feel like my own. His hips don't let up on their movement almost as if he is just as lost in this moment as I am. We are both caught up in a tornado of lust, where the only thing that matters are the desires of the flesh. I can feel the tension building within me and, as odd as it may sound, I can feel it building within him as well.

Before I can even react, there is a strange and almost alien shiver of awareness that runs down my spine and it is the only premonition I have before Edward's long frame is almost brutally ripped away from mine. He lands heavily on the bed beside me and we both lay there for a moment trying to calm our gasping breaths and cool our overheated bodies.

My eyes quickly search out his, but they are otherwise occupied, fixed on the dark brown wooden beams on the ceiling above us. I know I should probably try to figure out where the hell we are, but at this precise moment, the only thing I care about is him and I need him to look at me and explain to me why he pulled away. I hate how quickly insecurity rises within me, but when he doesn't meet my gaze at once, leaving me only with his strong profile, it doesn't take long for that familiar sense of unease to take hold. As soon as it does, however, Edward quickly turns his head towards me, his brow furrowed as if there is something he doesn't approve of.

"Don't," he commands in a deep voice, almost as if he can hear what I am thinking. He quickly moves closer, tilting his tall frame in my direction.

His eyes are a vibrant green that quite literally takes my breath away and the determination blazing in them now makes my heart skip a beat. I jump a little when his hand moves from his side to cup my cheek, but the heat of his palm against my cheek coaxes out a sense of calm within me. The insecurity within me doesn't disappear, but it fades substantially.

My body rolls to my side to mirror his position and we are now lying face to face. His thumb begins to lightly stroke my cheek and my eyes close at the incredible sweetness of his touch. When they open, I am shocked by the intensity swirling in his green pools. He is studying me so intently that I struggle for a moment to keep my eyes on his. I can't read his expression and that scares me a little. I am reminded that there is so much about him that I don't know and yet through the imprint we are now connected in a way that brings most regular long term relationships to shame.

Almost as if he can feel the rise of my uncertainty, his eyes soften and he touches his forehead to mine, allowing us both a moment to simply breathe together in harmony and get used to lying next to one another. His hand moves from my cheek and begins to play with the hair at the back of my neck. Immediately, my body begins to relax, his delicate touch easing away every single worry from my mind. Time appears to stand still for a moment as an incredible sense of belonging spreads within me.

I don't know how long we stay in that pose, but after a while he closes the distance between us and leaves a soft and tender kiss on my lips, quickly pulling back before it can evolve into something more. The look in his eyes now can only be described as reverent and the bond between us crackles like wood spitting in a hot fire. A strange rosy hue surrounds us as complete adoration flows within me.

"You are so beautiful," Edward whispers and there isn't a hint of dishonesty in his voice. I feel my cheeks heat as I'm not used to receiving such a compliment.

I look down, yet again unable to hold his gaze, but I feel my lips tilt upwards into a soft smile.

Silence spreads between us, but it isn't uncomfortable.

"I'm stronger than I thought," Edward suddenly reveals, breaking the silence, as though this is something that surprises him.

My eyes quickly lift to meet his, his comment confusing me, and I see that they are dancing with mirth. His lips purse slightly and he shakes his head as though a thought has crossed his mind that he simply can't believe.

"You, my sweet mate, are simply too enticing for your own good."

I can't help but smile as his eyes trail down my face and downwards, as though he is etching this entire moment to memory. Our lower bodies are both covered by a light sheet and blanket, but after our little wake-up and make-out session our upper bodies are left bare. As I am lying on my side, one arm has automatically covered most of my breasts from his sight, but not all and the heat that quickly builds in his eyes spreads through me like a flaming forest fire.

The lust I feel for him is overpowering and so powerful that it scares me a little. The bond between us begins to hum, pulling us to give into our connection. Funny, I thought that would lessen after giving in to it once already, but it appears that we have simply opened the floodgates and our bodies are now craving yet another fix. For a short moment, I think that he might submit to it and I hold my breath eagerly waiting to see what his reaction will be. I see the brief flash of his wolf's electric green eyes and a thrill of excitement rolls through me, but then he pulls back just slightly and I realize that he has made up his mind not to give into the pull between us just yet.

"But I don't think we should go any further until we've actually talked through a few things," Edward explains and I can see his face grow serious.

Once again, I feel an emotion grow within me and it takes me a moment to place it, because the emotion isn't my own. Confusion and fear begins to build as well as I begin to question why my body can suddenly feel emotions that are clearly not my own. Edward moves his hand to my cheek again and I quickly realize that his expression has now changed to mirror that alien sensation inside of me. I inhale sharply as my brain pieces together these bits of information.

"Why am I able to feel your emotions as if they are my own?" I demand, panic brewing just below the surface.

No one has ever mentioned this particular detail while explaining the imprint and it is freaking me out. How is this even possible? I can feel the frustration and anger rise within me. I am so sick of always being kept in the dark! This simply can't go on anymore! Edward must realize how frustrated I am, because his eyes turn pleading and he quickly answers.

"It isn't because of the imprint," he pauses and looks away almost as if he is embarrassed by something. Now that I am focusing on each and every feeling inside of me, I can actually feel his embarrassment within me as well. My frustration flares again and it becomes apparent that he can feel my emotions as well because I can see him wince in response to it. He clenches his jaw as though he is preparing himself for a battle that he knows is about to take place.

"Or at least it usually doesn't happen during the first mating," he pauses before finally revealing something that sounds very strange to me.

"We've Blood Bonded."

He hesitates and I'm at a complete loss. What on earth is he talking about? I've never heard of such a thing, but then my mind locks onto a certain, very vivid memory.

I lick the hot and sweaty skin just above that mouthwatering vein pulsing and protruding in his neck, and I feel Edward do the same. Then just as our orgasms begin to flow through us, we both pierce the skin of our mate and a wave of sweet nectar spills onto our tongue. In that moment we bound our bodies together in every single way possible. The bond between us sings.

An all-consuming wave of lust rolls through my body at the memory and I can see Edward's eyes darken as well, but this time I am able to hold my ground and push the emotion away as quickly as I can. I need answers, and my attraction to him can't stand in the way of that, no matter how strong it may be. We have a lot of issues between us and if we are ever going to have a chance at a romantic relationship going further than simply sex and hot lust, then we need to start working through them.

Suddenly our proximity feels much too intimate and my lack of clothing makes me feel exposed. I pull away from him and sit up on the bed that I have no recollection of getting into, but am thankful for regardless. I can see that he wants to object, but he appears to bite his tongue, allowing me some space. I grab the sheet at my waist and pull it up and over my breasts to cover me and place one of the pillows from the bed at my back. Then I wait, studying my hands as I feel him slowly move from his reclined position to one where he is seated upright as well.

He doesn't join me against the headboard, but instead turns so that we can face one another. His legs are bent so he isn't sitting too far away from me, but at the same time I can see that he is trying to give me the space I need. His long frame is hunched over and I try not to become distracted by those captivating muscles of his strong arms and the hints of hair on his chest. My fingers are itching to touch him, but I force them to stay in place. I can feel a strong sense of longing coming from him and realize that he is looking at my hands almost as if he desperately wants to touch them or hold them in his.

Now that I am made aware of his emotions within me, they are becoming clearer. It's a very strange sensation to actually feel another person's emotions inside of you mixing with your own. The more I focus on them the easier it is for me to distinguish which are his, because they have an essence to them that remind me of his smell; rich and spicy. It is very strange and extremely confusing. I can sense that he is doing what he can to keep his emotions balanced and in check. I can only imagine how overwhelming and "all over the place" my emotions must be for him, so I take a moment to try and center myself. Inhaling deeply and I lift my hands to rub down my face and cover my eyes and mouth for a second to calm myself before locking my fingers together in front of me. My effort hasn't really helped.

"Please, Edward?" I plead simply, unable to wait any longer for an explanation.

I keep my eyes fixed on my hands, incapable of even looking at him right now. I'm trying to keep my emotions from taking over completely, but betrayal is quickly joining confusion and frustration. It is as though an important decision has been made without even asking me. There have been so many unexplained things that have happened, in every aspect of my life, since I moved here to Forks already; that I am completely fed up with it. Right now, every single instance of this happening is coming to mind, most recently of all being the Council Meeting. My emotions are so raw and I feel devastated by everything that happened there, that I don't even know what to do with myself. The truckload of information that was revealed there hits me like a ton of bricks and I know I need to deal with both the emotions and the information as well, but this isn't the time.

Edward moves an arm and places it on the opposite side of my legs as though he's about to move forward and pull me to him. This ignites a spark of anger within me and I begin to object, but before a single word can leave my mouth, he backs off. He must have felt that I wasn't interested in his comfort right now. An uncomfortable and tense silence builds between us and I can feel that he is struggling to find the right words to explain.

"How much do you know about the legend behind the imprint?" he inquires, obviously trying to figure out where he should begin.

I sigh, trying to recall everything that Leah had told me about the legend.

"I know that the witches were jealous of the shifters and decided to cast a curse on them, making it so that they would only be able to have a relationship with someone of their kind," I retell, trying to remember what was most important. Edward nods encouragingly.

"Did you know that a wolf pack is always led by an Alpha male and a female?" he asks very softly, clearly trying to soothe my anger and burning emotions.

I don't feel comfortable meeting his eyes, but decide to lift my head to show that I am listening. I steer my eyes to the stubble on his chin and jaw, shaking my head to silently answer his question.

"Before the imprint bond was first created, shifters like us were mostly driven by the human inside of us. The wolf was just an added bonus, a show of strength," he pauses and I can see that he is trying to catch my gaze, but I stay firm, keeping my eyes on anything but his eyes.

"The lone shifter that was able to convince the witches to alter their curse and create the mating bond, the imprint that leads us to our true mate; our partner in life, ensured that the wolf within us actually grew stronger. What was cast as a curse became a great privilege and strengthening within all shifters."

My eyes quickly shoot to his at his words and I can see that he truly believes what he is saying. He is thankful for the imprint proving that he wants this relationship between us to work, this makes me happy. Edward's lips lift into a soft smile and I can feel that he has felt my reaction and is pleased with it.

"At that time most societies across the US and abroad were strong patriarchal societies with only male leaders in charge. The imprint bond and the rise of the wolf changed that within many packs and communities, male and female became equals, partners."

The image Edward is painting is very different from what I've experienced from our Pack, but he continues before I can question it.

"The Blood Bond was created by the wolves to strengthen the imprint and the relationship between two mates. It allows those involved to feel each other's emotions and therefore draw them closer together both as wolves and humans. Through the sharing of blood the bond is reinforced and the partnership between mates becomes much stronger."

This time I can't help but question why this doesn't seem evident within our Pack.

"Then why weren't there any women at the Council meeting?"

Edward bites his lip, but otherwise keeps his face impassive. His emotions are also strangely calm.

"Because in our Pack there are very few Blood Bonds and according to tradition, women aren't given a place in the Council."

Anger rises within me as I contemplate the unfairness of what he is describing.

"My mother is responsible for the women of our Pack and she does her best to help and lead them, but all decisions are ultimately made by the Alpha male and the Council," Edward explains and I almost miss the small rise of irritation within me that clearly belongs to him.

"And what are your thoughts on the matter?" I ask, knowing that we are going to have a big issue if he says that he agrees with the way things are done.

His gaze drops to my interlaced hands and he runs his tongue over his lips.

"When I went to college my mother insisted that I spend time with the Denali Pack in Canada. There, almost all of the mated couples have Blood Bonded and the Pack is equally run by both males and females. When I came back, I told my father about the positive aspects of it, but he wouldn't listen."

My heart warms in my chest and I feel a great sense of relief swell inside of me. As if my reaction has given him the push he needs, Edward quickly takes my hand and cradles it in both of his. As soon as our skin touches he releases a sigh of relief, almost as if not touching me has caused him pain. I can feel my heart burst as he lifts my hand gently to his lips. That wonderful sense of belonging flows over me and I realize that the emotion is coming from both Edward and I at the same time.

" A Blood Bond isn't something usually done between newly imprinted mates," he reveals carefully, his lips touching the skin of my hand as he speaks.

"Most couples will wait for several years to do it and, as with our Pack, quite a few couples never do."

He begins to leave a soft kiss on each finger and yet again we are both surrounded by a rosy hue.

"Why?" I ask keeping my voice soft.

"Because the Blood Bond lets you feel your mate's emotions, but it doesn't give you an explanation for why they feel the way they do. We can't read one another's mind, so usually mated couples will wait until they have a strong relationship to build on before Blood Bonding," Edward explains as though he is reciting a book.

He places my hand in his so that my palm is facing up and begins to draw the long fingers of his other hand up and down the skin of my hand. The feel of his touch is the perfect combination of a tickle and a caress. It sends delicious shivers down my spine.

"Then why did you decide to do it now?" I ask, and he appears to be transfixed by the goosebumps spreading on my arm as a result of his touch.

"I didn't," he answers simply.

I tug at his hand when he doesn't continue.

"Edward?" I urge him to continue, not understanding what he is saying.

"Honestly, Bella, I didn't, but my-."

A light goes on in my head and I complete his sentence.

"Your wolf."

He stops his gentle touch and lets go of my hand. This time when he places a hand on each side of me, I don't stop him. He keeps his hands on the bed, but leans forward stopping so close to my face that I can feel his breath on my skin. His green eyes are piercing into mine and a desperate emotion flows across his face that I can't recognize.

"He went crazy when you ran, Bella. We both did."

His eyes drop to my lips and I can feel my own lips tingle with deep longing.

"When that door opened, revealing you standing there-," he breaks off and I can actually feel the utter anguish that he is reliving. My body is flooded with so many excruciatingly painful emotions that I am struggling to read them all: fear, hopelessness, guilt... I tilt my forehead against his and our bond crackles with joy when more of our skin touches.

"God, you looked so broken and I just knew-. I knew I was about to lose you and I couldn't let that happen. We couldn't let that happen."

His voice is trembling and when I look into his eyes I am met by a sudden glimpse of his wolf. Without thought I bring my hands up to cup his cheeks.

"And then it was like something inside of me just clicked, both human and wolf merged together and the imprint took over. I think the fear of losing you might be the cause of what accelerated the imprint between us."

His revelation makes sense, it doesn't explain everything, but it is at least a plausible reason. My mind is lost in thought for a moment, but I am quickly drawn back to reality when Edward moves his forehead away from mine and takes both of my hands in his. The look on his face is now ardent and sure.

"When I finally got to you and the, ah, mating began-,"

His cheeks flush slightly and this makes me smile.

"Well, my wolf wanted to bind you to us in every single way possible. To be honest it wasn't really a decision that was made, it just happened."

I can feel the apology in his voice, even if he doesn't actually say the words.

"I know that we have a lot of things to deal with Bella, but please believe me when I tell you that there isn't anything in this world that I want more than to make this relationship work between us. I meant what I said earlier. As soon as that meeting was over, my plan was to go get you and run away with you. Consequences be damned."

My head is spinning with all of this new information and suddenly begin to feel a little dizzy from it all. Edward's brow furrows and his eyes quickly roam over my face.

"Are you feeling OK?" he asks, concern obvious on his features, in his voice and in the emotions I feel inside of me. I close my eyes and try to stop the world from spinning.

"Yeah, just a little dizzy," I answer with a harsh breath.

The man of my dreams has just proclaimed his devotion and I almost swoon in response. A soft laugh bubbles inside of me at my train of thought.

"When did you last eat?" Edward asks as I lean back heavily against the pillow at my back. The skin over my brows tightens as I concentrate to find the answer to his question.

"Shortly after I replied to your message."

My answer causes Edward to spring into action. In a matter of seconds he has moved to the side of the bed, picked up a pair of boxers from the floor and is on his way down a narrow stairwell. I have no clue where he's gotten clothes from, in fact I have no idea where we even are. The dizziness has already begun to pass and I allow my eyes to start to wander around the room. I don't recognize anything, but the space makes me feel safe and warm. It doesn't take me long to realize that we must be inside of the cabin I had seen earlier, just before Edward arrived and Aro took off. The walls and ceiling are made of dark brown wood and I can suddenly see that our bed is situated on what looks like an open loft. From where I am seated I can look down onto a rustic, but beautifully decorated living room with an absolutely stunning fireplace. I can hear Edward rummaging around beneath me and it doesn't take him long to come back, hands busy carrying a tray with two glasses of juice, two bottles of water, four sandwiches, some strawberries and two bananas.

"It isn't much, but it's what I could conjure up quickly," he announces, placing the feast in front of me.

Then he surprises me slightly by joining me under the sheets, fluffing up a pillow to have behind his back before settling in next to me.

His eyes twinkle when he is situated and his lips lift into a lopsided grin.

"Well, what are you waiting for?" he asks and takes a large bite out of one of the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

I feel a surge of excitement rise within me and although I know we have a lot of things we need to deal with and discuss, I realize that I am quickly becoming quite enamored by my new mate.