A/N: Long time, no see. This chapter was a real challenge to write, and I've also been working on some original writing which is distracting me, but I am so happy to finally share with you the final (very long) chapter of Quil and Claire: The Perfect Two.
Seven days of avoiding Quil. Seven days of avoiding everyone. Somehow I had managed to keep Quil away from me for an entire week. Dad told him I got sick playing out in the snow and that he didn't want Quil coming around because I really just needed the rest. I don't know if Quil believed that or not, but he didn't have much of a choice. I still didn't know what I was going to say to him. Or Mason. Or anyone, really. This was all such a fucking nightmare.
Even though I tried not to think about it, the kiss seemed to be all that was on my mind. It was just a single stupid kiss, lips touching other lips, and it was going to ruin everything. Quil would never trust me again, my friendship with Mason was destroyed, if we could even work through this, Quil would never really get over it, and any progress made between Mason and Quil was gone. One step forward and a million steps back. When Quil found out—because I could only assume he still didn't know—about the kiss, Mason would be out of a home. No mother, no home, no friendship with me. I was an idiot. A stupid, stupid, fool. I kissed Mason, not the other way around, but he was going to suffer for it. And Quil was going to suffer too. And me, well… I sure as hell was suffering. But at least I deserved it.
I had that mindset for days after the kiss. That I was a life ruiner, that Quil and I were as good as done, that everything was such shit that there was no way to fix it. Until yesterday. Yesterday I'd done something, something that maybe I shouldn't have done, but something that needed to be done. And it had made me realize a few things. Everything wasn't hopeless. I could fix this.
Avoiding the pain was not the solution, I had to face it. I would never get Quil back by holing myself up in my room. I wouldn't patch things up with Mason by never speaking to him again. Maybe I wasn't the most religious girl in the world, but I knew this much… That there was a reason I didn't die in that house with Lilah. There was a higher power watching over me, the same higher power that brought me to Quil. I didn't get a chance to live so I could lose the love of my life. Mason didn't save me so I could go and mess up everything he had been working at. I didn't live so I could stay in my room forever and wallow in self pity. Today was the last day of the year, and I was not going to move into the next one with all of this shame and sadness. I was going to make things right.
I had to.
"So, you ready to go out tonight?" Claire asked. I sat up in bed to find her leaning against my doorframe. I blinked at her twice and then laid back down, pulling my blankets over my head.
Had it really been a week? It was New Year's Eve already? Damn it.
"You have to go, Eliza. We both do. But uh, maybe you should shower first." Her voice sounded closer. Why was she in my room? I would tell her to get out, but that would involve talking. I buried my face in my pillow and groaned.
"Look, I don't know what happened. You don't want to talk about it and I get it, trust me, I really get it, but you have to face the world eventually. Or at least face the kitchen, or something. You weren't at breakfast this morning, or dinner last night."
I knew Claire was just trying to help me, but I really didn't want her help. Or anyone's help. I wanted to stay in bed forever and mope about Brady. I never wanted to talk to another boy ever again, and that included Dad. I didn't even want to talk to Claire. Even though I knew she had problems that she wasn't talking about too, somehow she was able to pull herself together. I envied her. She had mentioned to me yesterday about the visit she had paid, and what she had done. I knew she kissed Mason. Or done something with him. She hadn't said anything about it, but it was written all over her face with thick black Sharpie. But Claire, being the strong and determined girl that she was, had still refused to completely shut down. Although for most of the week she had been even more of a zombie than me, that was over now. She had something to hold on to, she had hope that she could fix things.
I had no such thing. Because unlike Claire, what I had done was no mistake. I got what I wanted, I managed to make Brady hate me. Of course, that only made me hate myself even more than I already did. I never knew that getting what I wanted would be quite so horrible. But I had to get used to it, because this was my life now.
And I would get used to it… by never leaving the house. Maybe Dad could hire me a private tutor. A female one. And I could grow up and work from home. Maybe I'd even get a cat, or seventeen cats! And we would all live in my bedroom, the end.
"Liza, staying under your blankets and ignoring me isn't going to get me out of your room. In fact, it's just making me realize how much I need to stay in your room. Bottling all of this up really isn't healthy. And staying in the same clothes for a week and not showering really isn't hygienic."
"Jesus, I will shower and change if you just shut up and leave me alone, okay?" I snapped, pulling back my bedcovers only slightly to glare at her.
"And you have to come to the beach party tonight. I'm making you."
"No," I told her firmly, "No way."
"Look, I heard you and Brady arguing through the wall. I didn't hear all of it, but I know that if you want him to believe that you really don't care about him, staying in the house and crying into your pillow is not the best way to convince him, so get your sorry ass out of bed."
"Bitch," I mumbled, shoving past her and toward the door. My feet tingled on the hardwood. I'd barely used my feet the past week, unless I was going to the bathroom or eating. Although honestly, I'd kept the eating down to a minimum.
"We're leaving at ten," she told me.
I went across the hall to the bathroom without looking at her and locked the door behind me. I turned the shower on all the way to hot and then flinched as I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Despite all the time I'd spent in bed, dark circles ringed my eyes from too many sleepless nights. My hair had officially earned the title of nest. My skin looked yellowish and sickly. My eyes were red.
What was that you said about being beautiful, Brady?
Oh God, Brady. He would undoubtedly be at the stupid New Year's party tonight. I was barely ready to face my reflection, how the hell was I going to face him?
The same way Claire is going to face Mason. And Quil.
Not for the first time in my life, I wished I could be more like Claire. She may have been a weak human girl, but that didn't matter to her. She looked death in the eye and didn't fear it. If Lilah were after me, Claire would have never lured me into a trap like I did for her. She always put others first. Even when she herself was hurting. Even on days like today when my problems were no greater than hers. She tried to help me regardless.
I tried to be more like Claire, I really did. I didn't want to be selfish. That's why I gave up Brady. I wanted to be brave, and that's why I was going to put on my big girl pants and go to this party.
As long as I didn't have to look or talk to anyone, of course.
By the time Dad, Eliza, and I arrived at the beach, nearly everyone was there. And I mean everyone. The whole pack, their families, their girlfriends, the former pack, their families. Even Jake and Nessie made an appearance—although who knew how long that would last. When everyone noticed our arrival, we were swarmed with hugs. No one outside of the Uleys, Quil, and Mason had seen me or Eliza since the Lilah Incident, and everyone felt the need to hug me and tell me how much they love me and how glad they all were that I was okay. I tried to put on a smile, to act like I hadn't spent most of the week crying because I cheated on my boyfriend with his enemy. Eliza on the other hand had no intention of putting up a front. She didn't smile or laugh or join in on the conversation like everything was okay. This was Eliza unmasked, something never before seen in public. No one commented on it, and I knew they knew what I did. That Eliza and Brady had had their worst falling out yet. And like me, they probably all knew something else, that Eliza was just as heartbroken as Brady, because she was in love with him. Seeing Eliza so vulnerable in public felt wrong, like seeing a teacher outside of school. No matter how many times it happened, it felt awkward. I scanned the crowd once, looking for Brady, but he had disappeared. Instead my eyes landed on someone else. Quil.
Oh God. I knew I'd made up my mind to fix things, but actually seeing him made me want to crawl right back into my bed and wallow in self pity for a few more years. When our eyes met, his face lit up and he dashed toward me, shoving everyone out of the way and throwing his arms around me. Before I could even react he was kissing me. I literally felt like the guilt was going to consume me as Quil held me in his arms. Once he learned the truth, he would probably never want to kiss me again.
Don't think like that!
"How are you feeling? Your dad said you were sick, he was afraid you were getting pneumonia. Are you sure you're okay to be outside?" He asked, always the concerned boyfriend. Why did I ever kiss Mason? I had Quil, and Quil was all I wanted. All I needed. Quil was everything.
"I'm fine, the snow is all gone anyway, and it's a beautiful night," I assured him, hoping my voice sounded normal.
"Of course it's beautiful, you're here," Quil smiled, kissing me again. "I love you, baby."
"I love you too," I told him, my throat feeling tight.
Concern flashed in Quil's eyes. "Is something wrong? You look like you're going to cry."
"Yeah, I'm fine," I lied, "I just missed you, that's all."
"I missed you too, baby. I was worried about you."
"You lovebirds make me sick!" Embry teased, running by and slapping Quil on the back of the head.
"I'm gonna kill you, Call!" Quil yelled.
"Yeah, if you can catch me, bro!" Embry hollered, speeding down the beach. Quil laughed and chased after him, leaving me alone in a group of my friends.
"So Claire, don't think your little concussion is getting you out of my class," Paul informed me, wagging a finger in front of my face.
"Paul," Rachel scolded, slapping her husband's arm, "Claire can't participate in gym with a concussion. Be reasonable."
"Fine, then Mason can run for the both of you, can't you Mason?" Paul inquired to someone behind me. I whipped around and there he was. Mason. I swallowed hard. He was handsome, of course he was handsome. Maybe part of me had felt attracted to him way deep down that night. But that didn't mean I should have kissed him. He was Mason, my friend. He would never be more than that. I saw that now, hell I had always seen that. Kissing him had been nice for a moment, I wasn't going to lie, but it had also shown me something important: One million kisses from Mason could never even equal one kiss from Quil. Quil was the one for me, there was no doubt in my mind. I knew I wouldn't make the same mistake twice. Even if he didn't forgive me, I would never kiss another guy who wasn't Quil again.
But first—"Mason, can we talk? Alone?"
Hell. Hell. Hell. Hell.
I hadn't even seen Brady and I was in hell. Lilly was annoyed that I hadn't talked to her all week and everyone who was stupid enough to try and start a conversation with me wanted to talk about what happened at the house with Lilah. I wasn't even wearing any makeup today—what was the point?—and my bruise was an ugly yellowish color on my face. I'm amazed anyone even recognized me. My hair was a mess of curls, I wore a hoodie and jeans that were so worn they could hardly be considered blue. Most importantly, I wore no disguise today. I didn't pretend like everything was okay. It wasn't. Nothing would ever be okay. After tonight I was going right back to my bed and this time I really wasn't leaving.
"So were you and Claire both sick?" Lilly interrogated as we sat around the bonfire.
"Yeah," I mumbled. "I still feel like I might throw up."
"I thought you caught a cold, not the flu," Lilly reminded, sounding suspicious.
I simply shrugged. So what if she knew I was lying? What was the point anyway?
"Or maybe she's just sick with herself, you know, for being such a vile bitch," Collin sneered. He was seated by Seth and Annie a few feet away. I didn't make eye contact with him, but felt his glare burning my skin. Of course he knew what went down between Brady and I. I would be surprised if there was a person here who didn't know. Apparently my love life—or lack-there-of—with Brady remained a source of gossip for everyone.
"Shut up, Collin," Annie reprimanded, shoving his arm. She didn't need to say that. It was true, I was a bitch. A heartbreaker. Everyone here saw me as the villain. They didn't understand that I was only doing what I had to do. I just wanted to prevent a future heartbreak even further down the road, when I loved Brady even more desperately than now. But of course nobody possibly knew that. They thought I was a selfish monster who enjoyed playing with Brady's emotions.
Well, not everyone thought that. There was always Annie. When it came to knowing everything, Annie put me to shame. She literally could decipher almost anything about a person with a glance. One look into your eyes and she could know all of your insecurities, the secrets you kept locked away, your past, your present. Her yellow eyes saw all. Annie knew I loved Brady. There probably wasn't a single secret here that could be hidden from Annie. But despite all of the information she knew, all the secrets she harbored, she never told a soul. Annie didn't think it was right for one person to know so much. Unfortunately, her gift was not one that could be taken back or discarded.
"Really Collin, what's got you in such a sour mood?" Renesmee added, appearing from practically nowhere and plopping down beside me. Great, did Renesmee know too? Or did she just feel bad for me because my life would never be as perfect as hers? Claire and Renesmee were great friends, they always had been. Of course they had been. They were both child imprints. They had perfect little lives with their perfect little werewolf boyfriends always watching over them. They would spend the rest of their perfect little lives with their perfect little imprints and celebrate their stupid perfectness. Oh, and Lilly would join them. In a few years, Lilly would join their little posse and they would all live perfect little lives together. Maybe they'd be neighbors and their perfect little werewolf children could grow up and be best friends, just like their husbands were.
Meanwhile, my cats and I would live a life between the same four walls. My nieces or nephews would grow up hearing horror stories of their Auntie Eliza, who never left her room and consumed large amounts of chocolate ice cream. Oh yeah, and I'd be really fat, too. No guys for me. I was too poisonous and rotten to be around guys. I wouldn't even have male cats.
"Did I ever tell you the difference between Eliza and a vampire?"
"Give it a rest, Collin," Renesmee sighed.
"Well you see, one of them is a crazy bloodthirsty bitch without a conscience, and the other is a vampire," Collin explained anyway.
I couldn't stand to sit there a second longer. I already knew I was a horrible person, I didn't need Collin constantly reminding me. Wordlessly, I stood and turned my back to the small group, practically running in the opposite direction of the party as thick hot tears threatened to spill over. Great, I was going to let Collin make me cry? Fucking fantastic.
"Eliza!" Annie called, sounding close behind me. What part of my getting up and running away to go cry implied I wanted company? Seriously!
"I don't want to talk," I mumbled, walking even more rapidly.
"Of course you don't want to talk, but I think we should," she said, finally catching up to me. I quickly tried to wipe my tears but it was pointless. Even if she couldn't see them she could surely smell their salt. This was mortifying.
"I really, really don't feel like talking discussing this, Annie. Shouldn't you of all people understand that?"
"I completely understand, which is why we need to talk about this, Eliza. Come on, let's go somewhere private." She led me so far down the beach that the huge bonfire was just a little glowing dot in the distance before coming to a stop. "We'll be out of hearing over here," she concluded, taking a seat on the chilly sand. I did the same, even though I didn't want to. It's not like I could outrun a vampire.
"I know why you're afraid, Eliza," Annie whispered, pulling her knees up to her chest and staring out into the ocean. I wonder how far into the horizon a vampire could see. Could she spot fishing ships way out at sea? If so, could she swim me over to one and leave me there to die?
"You may know everything about me, but don't act like you truly know me, Annie. You have no idea—"
"What it's like to be a teenage girl totally in love with a werewolf who didn't imprint on her and to have a best friend who is imprinted? Is that what you were going to say? You're right, how could I possibly have any idea what that feels like?"
"Don't try and compare us, Annie. You and I are nothing alike."
"Eliza, I don't think we've ever actually talked much. How much do you know about my transformation and first years as a vampire?" Annie asked.
"I know that you knew Renesmee before you were turned. And then one day she was in Seattle and she caught your scent and found you bleeding in an alley. Your parents were dead and you had been shot. Her and Edward put you into their car to drive you to the hospital, but they weren't going to make it in time, so Edward bit you. Then you met Seth, and after getting over the urge to kill him you fell in love."
Annie laughed, "When you say it that way, it sounds like it happened to another girl. Sometimes I feel like it did, to be honest. It was all so scary and overwhelming. I was only fourteen you know, and I lost my parents. I lost everything. And then there was the burning, the horrible, agonizing burning while the venom coursed through my veins. I never thought I'd feel pain worse than that. Until I met Seth. Seth never treated me like a vampire, you know. Even though I tried to rip his throat out and kill him, he wanted to be there for me. He says he fell for me while I was still young and feral. He saw the girl behind the thirst. He helped me learn that I didn't have to be a monster just because everyone thought I ought to be. And I loved him for that. I loved him so fiercely that the idea of losing him became my biggest fear. I really loved Seth, and he really loved me, but I knew that it didn't matter how much I loved him. No matter how much I adored him, he could always imprint and forget all about me. He still can." She was staring off into the ocean with a great sadness in her eyes that I had never seen before.
"How do you stand that? Why aren't you afraid anymore?" I wondered, looking at her and really seeing her for the first time. She was just a girl, even younger than me.
"I stand it because I have to. Am I still afraid of losing him? Yeah, I'm terrified. But just because he can imprint, doesn't mean he will. Love is a risk for everyone. I'm willing to risk getting my heart broken for the rest of eternity if it means I can have this one day with Seth. That's how I deal. I take every day and love Seth as much as I can. I don't wear my heart on my sleeve, I wear it on his. Right now I love Seth and Seth loves me. That's all that matters. Sure, we'll never be Jake and Nessie, but so what? Eliza, you can't be so afraid to get your heart broken that you break your own heart."
And suddenly, I understood. Every piece of the puzzle that I wasn't even aware I was working through clicked together to form one massive picture. Being a vampire may have made Annie strong, but she wasn't invincible, and her heart was as fragile as ever. She may not have a heartbeat, but her heart could be broken just as easily as mine. None of this stopped Annie from being with Seth, for loving him with all of her heart. Some things are worth risking everything for. The eternity of heartbreak for the day of happiness.
"But—but I'm no good for Brady. I love him, you know that, of course. I love him so much it hurts, but that doesn't mean I deserve to be loved by him. I'm just not… good enough."
"I know about Thaeo, hon. He's an idiot. Honestly, I kind of hate you. I'm the vampire and somehow you're still prettier than me. You and Lilly and Claire are all gorgeous. And you're also a genius, or so I hear. I know they don't act like it, but the entire pack adores you. You're like their sister. Collin especially, but you would never know that tonight with how he's been acting. He's just disappointed in you because he has so much faith in you, and I guess you let him down my breaking his best friend's heart."
"Oh yeah, thanks for reminding me. I broke Brady's heart, another reason we shouldn't be together," I sighed. For a supposed pep-talk, I wasn't feeling any better. Annie was clearly insane. She was one of the reasons I had low self esteem and I was the pretty one? Why would a vampire think I was pretty? Annie was unfairly beautiful, with her long black mane of hair and her perfect complexion that only a vampire could have. She wasn't quite as pale as the others though, because of her Spanish heritage.
"The point I am trying to make is that you, Eliza Young, are an amazing girl. Obviously you have to be amazing for Brady to fall in love with you. He's not stupid, you know, if he were he would have fallen for that annoying little nasally bitch, Candace."
"You mean Camille?"
"Yeah, your friend who isn't your friend. The moody brunette. If Brady really fell for crazy bitches, he would be moping by himself because of her. But he isn't. He's moping over you because you are the most spectacular girl he's ever met and he is head over heels in love with you. And you know what, Liza? You love him, too. You're both miserable and you would both feel better if you just told him how you feel already. So stop taking Collin's shit, stop treating yourself like shit, and go get your man before I go get him for you."
"I can't, he hates me after I told him I'm dating Thaeo."
Annie just laughed, "Hon, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Brady couldn't hate you if you chained him by the neck to the back of your dad's car and dragged him down the freeway. Now stop talking to me and start talking to him!"
"I—I don't even know where he is," I told her honestly.
"You know where to find him," Annie reassured me.
"No, I don't! And even if I did I can't possibly face him after last week!"
"You can and you will. Don't make me drag your little human ass over there."
"No, Annie! I couldn't possibly—"
"GO!" Annie ordered.
My shoulders sagged and I sighed. "You're very bossy, you know that?"
"I think this may be the start of a wonderful friendship," Annie grinned.
Mason and I walked down the beach in silence for a few minutes, maintaining a distance of at least three feet. The air was so thick with tension that I felt as if I could actually reach out and grab it. That I could take it in my hands and try to squash it inside my fist. If only it were that easy.
"I know what you're going to say… you don't have to say it," Mason mumbled just as the tension became so heavy I feared that it was going to be the one squashing me.
"Yes, I do. Kissing you was a mistake. A gigantic mistake. I never should have done it."
Mason's shoulder's fell, but he didn't look surprised. "I know. You love Quil."
"I love you, too," I told him weakly, as if that made things any better for him. "I love being around you."
"Yeah, but you're not in love with me," he explained.
"I'm sorry," I muttered, looking out into the inky colored ocean. It would be so easy to just tie some weights to my feet and wade out there. To vanish into the deep dark Pacific. Though, I could never picture myself actually doing that. Not considering almost drowning as a kid.
But If I couldn't fix things with Quil, well… Clearly I was full of surprises.
"Don't be sorry, Claire. You have no reason to be sorry. You've known Quil your entire life, and even though I don't like him, he worships you. And I know you feel the same way about him. I shouldn't have let you kiss me, Claire. I could have stopped you. It would have been the right thing."
Whatever response I was expecting Mason have from this conversation, this was certainly not it.
"You shouldn't have had to stop me, though. I don't even know why I would—do that. I've been trying to figure it out all week and it's driving me insane," I confessed. "The thing is, I never wanted to be right about you. Everyone told me you were this huge asshole, and I wanted more than anything to believe them. But I didn't. And you're not an asshole, you know. You're a great guy. One day there's going to be a girl who—"
"Oh come on, Claire. Don't give me the 'one day I will meet a girl who loves me like I deserve' speech. That sounds like you're breaking up with me. I am a man, and men do not get dumped by girls they never even dated."
I rolled my eyes, "I take it back, maybe everyone else was right about you." He laughed.
"So… friends?" He asked.
I shrugged, "I dunno. Time will tell, I guess. Right now I kind of need to go find my boyfriend and beg shamelessly for his forgiveness so… yeah." Drowning myself was starting to sound better and better.
"Claire, I want to tell you something, but don't expect me to ever say it again, okay?"
I nodded, confused.
"I was wrong about Quil. He's a good guy. He's a good person, and he's a good guy for you. Even though I'm jealous as hell, you guys are like, the perfect two for each other. I've seen you deal with a lot of shit since I met you and he's always been there for you. He really, really loves you, Claire. He's going to forgive you."
I smiled slightly, looking up into the heavens. Maybe my plan to force Mason and Quil together hadn't been a complete failure after all. Take that, pessimists!
"Mind you, he'll probably hate me even more. You don't suppose your dad will let me take the guest room?" He joked lightly.
I couldn't help but smile, so widely I thought my mouth was going to tear. "Actually, I have a better idea. Follow me," I told him, grabbing his wrist and racing back down the beach toward the party.
If anything, at least Annie was right about one thing: I did know where to find Brady. As Annie made her way back to the fire and the party, I walked the opposite way. Following the curves of the shore and heading into a cluster of trees that came further up the beach than anywhere else. Inside the circle of trees was a circle of sand that next to no one ever actually went to—other than Quil and Claire of course. Ever since Claire was young, this had been their special spot. But that wasn't the only thing it was. This was also where Brady kissed me for the first time. He would be here, I knew he would.
I took a deep breath and stepped through the trees. He was there, sitting on the sand just far enough that the waves crashing on the shore didn't reach him. The moon illuminated his skin, but I couldn't see his face. He was looking out into the ocean, his back to me. My body shook violently with nervous energy and I actually felt like I may pass out. I couldn't do this. I couldn't. No. I couldn't possibly—
Brady stiffened, and I knew he was aware of my presence. He didn't say anything though. I was being very obviously ignored. I took a step back, preparing myself to turn and run—to not stop till I was curled up in my bed. But I was pretty sure that Annie wasn't lying about telling Brady if I didn't. I was trapped.
"Can I talk to you?" I asked, hating how shaky and panicked I sound. I couldn't help it! How the hell was I supposed to tell Brady I was in love with him after all I had put him through? And what if he really did hate me now?
"No," he answered harshly, still not looking at me, "your message was received last time. You win, okay? Just leave me alone."
"No, Brady, I really, really need to talk to you," I choked, feeling hot tears forming in the corners of my eyes. Brady must have noticed, because he angled his body and gazed up at me with concern. How can he still worry about me after all the shit I put him through?
"What's wrong?" He asked, standing and crossing over to me. My tears spilled over—I had tried to choke them back too many times around him, and I couldn't anymore, I was too weak—and I covered my face in embarrassment. He gently pried them away and stared into my eyes. "If you're here to apologize for not feeling the same way, you don't have to. I mean, I can't force you to love me," he brushed a tear away from the corner of my eye and my whole body quivered with pleasure. His presence was very distracting.
I shook my head, trying to cover my face again. He didn't release my hands, so I just put my head down and refused to look at him. I couldn't. Ugh, I am about to make such an ass of myself. I can't do this. I can't.
JUST DO IT ALREADY! My heart seemed to scream.
NEVER SHOW EMOTION! My brain argued back.
"I am so sorry, Brady," I whispered trying to swallow my tears. "I do need to apologize to you, but not for what you think. I'm sorry for hurting you, I really am. I didn't want to. But—but that's not all. I've been lying to you. About a lot of things."
"What kind of things?" Brady asked softly, running his fingers through my hair. It was back to curls now. I hadn't had the motivation to flat iron it this past week—what was the point? I wondered if Brady still liked my hair after everything that had happened.
"Well, for one, I'm not dating Thaeo," I admitted, sure my face was turning bright red. "I hate his guts, I would never date him again. Oh, and I was really jealous of Camille at my birthday party when you two kissed. I wanted to kill both of you. And when I kissed you on the lawn, it wasn't because I was trying to manipulate you, I was just experiencing a severe lack of restraint. I've acted like I don't care about much of anything for years. That's a huge lie. I love Sam and Emily, I love Amelia and Claire and my dad, I love Lilly. Hell, I even love Quil and Collin and Embry and everyone else in the pack. And I love—" I broke off, unable to finish my last sentence, and tore away from Brady.
I can't do this, I can't do this. I felt a mild panic attack coming on.
"Eliza?" Brady asked uncertainly. My back was to him now and I was frantically wiping my tears away. He placed a hand on my shoulder and my entire body tensed.
"No, I can't do this," I whispered without meaning to. "I really can't."
He swung me around and placed his hands on either side of my face, gently forcing me to look at him. He studied my face carefully. "What can't you do? What's wrong?"
"Everything is wrong," I muttered. "My heart is racing and I feel sick inside. I'm terrified, Brady. You terrify me. What you make me feel is new and it scares me. I feel out of control and erratic when I'm around you, and that scares me too. I never know what's going to happen, what you're going to do, what I'm going to do…"
Brady went dead silent, staring at me with mild surprise.
"I'm not really good at this," I admitted, looking down at my shoes, "I mean, this is uncharted territory for me. I told myself after Thaeo I would never put myself through this again and here I am… And this is so much different than Thaeo. I hate it. I feel weak, but at the same time strong. I never knew that could happen, that someone could make you feel vulnerable and invincible at the same time. But you do that to me."
I broke away from him again and attempted once more to cover my face. "This is mortifying," I announced, my voice muffled by my hands.
"It's just me, Eliza. You don't have to be embarrassed, just say what you're trying to say," Brady told me, his voice giving none of his thoughts away.
I peeked at him from between my fingers. He was watching me intently, his eyes reflecting so many different feelings I felt dizzy. He stood so close to me I could feel the heat radiating off of his skin. It was so deliciously warm I just wanted to curl up against him and never leave. But I couldn't—not yet. I needed to tell him how I felt, without sounding like a crazy person like I probably did right now. Then I would likely have to beg for forgiveness for lying to him and pray he didn't hate me too much.
"You're really infuriating, you know," I accused. He chuckled and pried my hands away from my face, holding them in his.
"I am the infuriating one?" he replied with a smirk.
"Yes! You are! Because even when I told you to leave me alone, that I wasn't interested, that you'd be better off without me, you wouldn't give up on me. And then even though I didn't want to, even though I tried so hard not to, you made me lo—no. I can't say it."
"I'm confused, just tell me what you're trying to say," he pleaded. Great, this boy really is going to make me say it. Fucking great.
Take a deep breath and say it.
"I love you, okay? You win, I'm in love with you."
Brady laughed, "I know."
I frowned. That certainly wasn't the response I'd been expecting. "What do you mean you know?"
"Well, for one, everything you just said made it pretty obvious. But Liza, come on. Have you not been listening to me for the past five months? How many times have I told you that you were in love with me?" He laughed again, pulling me flush against him and capturing my lips.
But I wasn't satisfied. I pushed off of him, "But what about last week? I broke your heart!"
Brady laughed again, stroking my hair. "No you didn't. I just realized that the only way I'd get you to admit to loving me was if you believed that you had actually succeeded in making me not love you anymore. It worked."
What? "But—but you left. And you were so upset and—and—"
"And what? You're the only person allowed to lie, Angel?" He teased.
"I can't believe you!" I stomped hard on his foot, white-hot anger coursing through me. "I spent the last week miserable in my room because of you and you weren't even heartbroken! You knew I was lying! You're despicable!"
"Welcome to the last five months of my life," he smiled wickedly, kissing me again.
"I hate you," I growled.
"No you don't, you love me, remember?" His smile turned from mean to absurdly happy between one second and the next.
"Oh, shut up," I said, but I was smiling, too.
"Say it again," he pleaded, pulling me back into his arms.
"I love you," I muttered.
"You can do better than that, Angel."
"I, Eliza Young, love you, Brady Fuller, even though you are a colossal jerk. There, satisfied?"
"Eh, still needs some work. But I love you, too. I guess you already know that."
"Even though I drive you crazy?" I asked, unable to ignore my growing ridiculous joy.
"Because you drive me crazy," he informed me before his lips found mine once again. "I love how you drive me crazy."
"So now what?" I asked, feeling random hysterical laughter bubbling inside of me. I wanted to dance, sing, laugh, cry. I'd never felt so incredibly happy in my life.
"Now, Angel, I'm going to kiss you again. Try not to abuse me, kay?"
My heart beat in my chest like a hummingbird. "I like the sound of that."
Brady's lips found mine quickly, but the kiss was not as fast-paced. It was slow, gentle, pleasant. For the first time there was no rush. Brady could take his time without worrying that I was going to start hitting him. He twisted one hand into my curls and placed placed the other on the small of my back to keep me close. For the first time, the height difference between Brady and I really struck me. He must have been eight or nine inches taller than I was, and it was apparent in the way that he was bent down and I was on the tips of my toes. Quil was even taller than Brady and Claire was shorter than me—how the hell did they make it work?
Oh yeah, like this! I giggled and kicked my feet off of the group, twisting them around Brady. He smiled into my mouth and supported me as I locked my legs around his waist.
"I've trapped you," I informed him with a chuckle, placing chaste kisses all over his face.
"Oh really?" Brady asked, inclining an eyebrow endearingly. His voice was pure sex. I tried not to shudder. I failed.
Then the world tilted alarmingly and my back was suddenly pressed into the sand. Brady hovered above me, smiling mischievously. His hands rested on the sand on either side of my head and his face was just inches above mine. "Who's trapped, again?"
Rather than answer, I grabbed him by the hair and brought his mouth crashing back to mine. This kiss was less slow, less sweet, less soft. This was the tongues-moving, hands-roaming, "holy-shit-when-was-the-last-time-I-took-in-some-o xygen?" kind of kiss that had occupied my dreams for months.
And I didn't care that my hair was so caked with sand and tangled from Brady's hands in it that I'd need to shower a second tonight. I didn't care that breathing didn't seem to be very high on Brady's priority list. I didn't care that my jeans would forever be stained from the sand. I didn't even care that I'd spent the last week wallowing in misery in my room. After all, Brady was right—I kind of deserved it after all the shit I'd put him through.
I was willing to leave all the negatives from the past year behind me. I was going to go into this new year as a new Eliza. A true Eliza. One who wasn't haunted by her past, one who wasn't afraid to love, one who didn't hide behind a mask. No more. I was just going to do what made me happy, consequences be damned. Which reminded me…
"I hope you wore your bullet proof vest tonight," I breathed as Brady's lips moved to my neck.
"Why is that?" He asked, sounding amused. I felt the vibration of his words on my neck.
"When my dad finds out about us, he'll likely shoot you," I said simply.
That didn't even faze him. In fact, he grinned stupidly. "So, that means there's an us?"
"I love you, remember? Keep up, Brady," I smirked, pushing him off of me gently and then situating myself on his lap.
His stupid grinned widened, and became even more stupid. "Did I mention I love you? Cause I do. I love you. A lot. Like, a whole lot."
"It may have come up," I shrugged, biting back a stupid grin of my own. Brady's lips wandered back to my skin, kissing my forehead, cheeks, nose, jaw, neck, collarbone. I gasped at the sensation of his lips and he laughed lightly, sliding his lips back up my neck to reunite with my lips. I couldn't help but melt into him.
Suddenly, a round of cheers and hollering filled the air.
Oh great, I thought angrily, pulling away from Brady as a group of our friends emerged from the trees. Had they been spying? Nosy bastards.
"There's the lovebirds!" Lilly called out, on the verge of laughter.
"Hey Eliza! What's new?" Danny teased.
"Wait! That's Eliza? I didn't recognize her cause she was kissing Brady," Embry said before full-on cracking up.
My face reddened. Come on, Eliza, gather some dignity. "Well," I said, immediately earning the small group's attention. I stood up slowly, trying to brush some of the sand away from my body (though it was a hopeless effort). Brady did the same, looking embarrassed but still incredibly happy. I almost kissed him again, just for being so damn cute. "It is my duty to inform all of you that you have horrible timing." Chin up, stay cool.
"The worst," Brady added. He glanced sideways at me and smirked. My knees nearly buckled. I wanted nothing more than for everyone to leave so I could kiss Brady for oh, a few more hours at least.
"Oh, we interrupt something?" Collin asked, a very smug smile on his face. I wanted to punch him. My new happiness did not erase Collin's earlier dick behavior.
"Kind of. I mean, can't a girl make out with her boyfriend in peace?"
"Boyfriend, huh?" Collin lifted an eyebrow.
"Yes, Collin. Did you not hear my girlfriend correctly?" Brady wrapped an arm around my waist and pulled me into him. The euphoria of being in his presence still hadn't worn off.
Collin's serious expression broke, and he smiled proudly, "You're welcome."
"For what?" I sneered.
"Are you kidding?" Collin practically yelled, "Do you know how much time Lilly and I dedicated to getting you two fools together! I've been working my ass off to—"
"Come on, Collin," Lilly interrupted, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Let them be happy." I watched Embry's eyes sear into Collin's back. He must have too, because he stepped away from Lilly and toward Brady and I.
"Screw happy, I want a thank you," Collin demanded. Despite my lingering anger at him for his rude comments, I wasn't able to really be mad at him. I smiled and rolled my eyes dramatically.
"Thank you, Collin. Thanks for ditching me the night of the dance, abandoning me on our fake date, hassling me about my private life, and coming into my room at unreasonable hours of the night. What would I ever do without you?"
"I think I picked up some sarcasm in that comment, Blondie," Collin noted, "But I'll take it." We smiled at each other and I stepped away from Brady to hug him. Lilly was just a few feet away, so I decided to hug her, too.
"Sorry I've been such a bitch lately."
"Lately?" Embry snorted.
"Shut up, Embry!" I snapped.
Lilly's smile was as pure and warm as always. "Sorry I schemed with Collin behind your back."
"Sorry I made you sit at the same lunch table as Camille," I added as an afterthought.
Lilly pulled away and giggled, "Oh, that will never be forgiven!"
Beside us, Brady and Collin were exchanging a silent conversation of grins and knowing looks.
Among the group, I noticed Annie. She looked quite smug as well. When our eyes connected, she mouthed four words. "I told you so."
I blushed and nodded. "Thank you," I replied soundlessly.
"So," Danny said, clapping his hands together. "Now that this little love-fest is all wrapped up, can we go back to the party. There are fireworks that need setting off."
"He's like a twelve year old," Mia shook her head.
We all started to make our way back to the fire. I lingered momentarily, letting Brady and Collin catch up. Brady took my hand, intertwining our fingers without saying anything. I beckoned him to come closer with my available hand. He complied.
"Come to my room tonight," I whispered into his ear, feeling a smile reshape my lips. "We can pick up where we left off."
Brady nodded, a mischievous grin lighting his face.
"We heard that!" Embry hollered.
"Good!" I replied smartly.
"Don't tell me you two are going to be one of those couples," Nolan groaned. "It's enough that we have to deal with Jake and Nessie."
"And Quil and Claire," Collin added.
"And Seth and Annie," Mia reminded.
"Hey!" Seth whined, "I resent that!"
I laughed. It felt so good to laugh. To be free.
"I have to run patrols with Brady tomorrow, great. I'm going to have to kiss Eliza a hundred million times," Collin groaned.
"Wouldn't be the first time, right Collin?" Embry teased.
"I'm going to kick your ass, Embry!"
Brady perked up, "Speaking of ass kicking, that reminds me. Collin, you're my best friend dude. I love you. But if you ever kiss Eliza again I'm going to display your head on the mantel and feed your body to leeches."
"That sounds kinky," Danny called back to us. The pack: where privacy was not a right, a privilege, or a possibility.
"Wouldn't dream of it, bro. Trust me. Actually, I think I may pursue the cute little Latina girl. What's her name again? Gaby?"
"NO!" Danny yelled, "I already called dibs! You can have Camille! Hell, you can have my sister!"
"What?" Mia and Collin yelled in unison.
"I totally ship it," Lilly giggled to herself.
"What the fuck is a ship?" Collin demanded as we left the trees behind and approached the bonfire once again. Brady came to a stop, and I did the same. The rest of the group continued on, arguing, joking, whatever. I could care less. Everything was just backdrop to the perfect picture. Brady. Me. Us. Together.
"So… I'm running a patrol tomorrow morning," Brady began, "and then how about you let me take you out on our second date."
"Okay," I told him, my voice barely a whisper. He brushed his fingers through my hair, chuckling as grains of sand fell from it.
"I'm a mess, I know."
"You're beautiful, my little beautiful mess" his lips captured mine for another heart-stopping kiss. I twisted my fingers into his shirt. I could so, so get use to this.
Sure, nothing was permanent. I knew that. There was a chance that I could get my heart broken in the end. I was risking my heart for this boy.
But life is a risk.
I'd spat in the face of hybrids. Stood up to girls who would always be evil. Thrown myself between my sister and a vampire.
And now I would throw myself into love.
I didn't know what would happen years from now. Hell, I didn't even know what would happen tomorrow. But here… Now… I was absolutely, unreasonably, perfectly, happy.
And that was enough.
"Eliza! Eliza Young what the hell do you think you're doing?" My dad screamed from down the beach.
Uh oh. Time to face the music.
Though, with Brady, I felt like I could face an entire symphony.
"What is it, Claire? What do you want to show me?" Mason asked for the eleventh time as we approached the party. I just smiled and shrugged, checking the time on my phone.
"You'll see." Any minute now.
"I'll have you know, I hate surprises."
"Patience, young grasshopper."
We were close enough now to everyone that their voices floated over to us. Laughter filled the air.
"I'm serious, Claire, what's the big—" his words cut off abruptly. From the shadow of the trees appeared a petite woman. Her dark hair was pulled back into a twist and she had that kind of beauty that would probably last until she was ninety.
We locked eyes momentarily, and she smiled. Mason stared at her in utter shock. "Mom," he whispered in awe.
And then he was running. Not crazy werewolf on a mission running, human running. Human sprinting. My smile grew wider as I followed after him at a much, much slower pace. By the time I reached them they were already embracing.
"So will you move back in with me, Mason?" Clarice Ateara asked, looking up at her son.
"But—but—" he looked back and forth between his mother and I, trying to make sense of what was happening. "How?"
"On the first day of school you pointed out where your mom lived, remember? We passed by it every day. So, I stopped by to talk to her and… explain things."
"Oh yeah, I told her that you pee on trees and bark at cats and howl at the moon, all the good stuff," I joked.
"But—but the secret! The secret!" He seemed unable to form actual sentences in his state of shock.
"I talked to Old Quil first, of course. He's her father, you're his grandson, how could he say no?"
"I am so sorry, Quil. If I had known— all this time you were just— I feel terrible. I hope you can forgive me one day…" Tears gathered in Claire Ateara's eyes.
"Don't apologize, Mom. You didn't know," Mason said, brushing a tear off of her cheek as it spilled over.
"I know now. You're an amazing young man, do you know that? Saving people, being there for your friend, going to school. I'm so proud of you."
"Yes," he said.
"I'll move back in with you, Mom." They hugged. Mason looked rather emotional himself, but her tried to hide it.
"Thanks, Claire," Mason smiled, turning to me. "Really, thank you."
"What are friends for?" I said. "Anyway, I'm going to let you two catch up. See you later?"
"Bet on it," Mason promised. I walked away, leaving mother and son to their reunion. I turned my back to the party, heading toward the ocean. Waves crashed loudly against the sand. In just a few minutes, a new year would be crashing in with it. Midnight was rapidly approaching.
The dark and infinite ocean had always seemed sort of menacing to me as a kid, but now I couldn't help but notice the beauty in it. How the waves could be so constant, but different at the same time. Some were massive, destroying the shore, while others were gentle and small. But no matter the size, there were always waves. There was always going to be waves. Nothing could change that.
"It was a nice thing you did, just now."
I didn't turn to the voice, I already knew who it belonged to. If we were in a room with thousands of voices, all calling out to me, I would still pick out his voice. It was the most familiar sound my ears had ever known. Quil.
My stomach lurched. The easier part of the night was over. Now it was time for the real work.
"Yes," I replied, my voice sounding far too formal to be speaking to someone as familiar as Quil. He moved closer, and suddenly he was in my peripheral. I didn't turn to him. I was afraid to.
"I mean, Mason's all right, ya know? I give him a hard time, but he means well. Usually."
"I kissed him," I blurted without thinking. "On Christmas Eve. We were under the mistletoe and I kissed him."
I flinched, terrified as I anticipated his reaction. What the hell was that? What happened to my perfectly rehearsed speech? Damn it!
I waited for the yelling.
Quil didn't yell.
That was worse. He was too angry to even speak, then? Damn it all to hell.
Say something! Apologize! Grovel.
But I couldn't find any other words.
And I still couldn't look at Quil.
A week away from him and I couldn't look at him. I wanted to pull him into me, to kiss him and hold him and take comfort in his presence. But that seemed like a far off dream now.
A minute later, when Quil finally responded, his answer surprised me. "I already know," he said, letting out a big breath.
"It was a mistake. A huge mistake. I love you, Quil. I love you and I want to be with you. I don't want to be with Mason, I've never wanted to be with Mason. I just . . . I don't know I wasn't thinking straight. I had confused emotions about him. But kissing him un-confused them. You are my heart, Quil. You're everything and—wait, you know?" I whipped my head to finally look at him, my hair flying out behind me as I did.
"I know that you kissed him," his voice was even, calm.
"How?" I asked, my voice no more than a shaky little whisper.
"Well, I may have accidently on purpose overheard your conversation with him a few minutes ago. Because I may or may not have been following you," he smiled guiltily.
Confusion. That was the only word that described what was going on in my brain at that point. Where was the shouting? The anger? The betrayal?
"Aren't you furious with me?"
"Actually, I'm in a fantastic mood. You dumped Mason. And he doesn't have to live with me anymore. Though honestly, Claire, I wish you could have told me a week ago instead of pretending to be sick. I've been missing you like crazy," he took my hand.
"I—I was terrified that you would hate me," my voice cracked and tears formed an uncomfortable lump in my throat.
"How can I hate you, Claire?" Quil said softly, giving my hand a squeeze. "Yeah, I briefly entertained the idea of feeding Mason his own feet and then throwing him in the ocean, but what would be the point? At least now all of your conflicted feeling are settled. And I got to watch you break up with Mason, which made me immensely happy."
"I didn't break up with him, we were never dating."
Quil shrugged, "Doesn't matter. At least now we're even."
"Even?" I asked.
"When you were seven I kind of sort of made out with a girl at a club. And I also had a girlfriend before I met you."
That was news to me, but I wasn't going to say anything. I couldn't blame him for dating before he knew me, and fourteen years was an awfully long time to go without any female interaction. Especially a perpetually teenage boy.
"I'd hardly call us even, Quil. Not that I'm complaining, because I'm ecstatic right now, but why are you so okay with this? Just a few weeks ago me simply sleeping near Mason sent you into a fit of rage and now—"
"And now I realize that it doesn't matter how close you and Mason get. You're mine and I'm not going to lose you to some kid. Though, if you could not kiss him again that would be ideal."
"Oh, Quil," I sighed, throwing my arms around his neck and pulling him down to kiss him. He kissed back, hooking his fingers through my belt loops and pulling me flush against him. Being in his presence was intoxicating after our separation and passing out seemed like a huge possibility.
"I love you, Claire. I love you. Forever," he finally said when I had to pull away to suck in a gulp of air.
"I love you too, Quil. I want you to know that I never doubted my feelings for you. Ever. You're the one."
He smiled, brushing a long lock of my hair behind my ear and stroking my cheek simultaneously. "Think your dad will let you stay over at my house tonight?"
"Oh absolutely not, pervert" came the voice of my father from less than ten feet away.
Quil didn't release me, he didn't even seem mortified that my father had overheard the end of our conversation. He just grinned. "Oh, come on Anthony," he said, "You know I'm not a pervert. And you're glad that Claire has someone like me who will always love her and be there for her."
"I wouldn't go that far . . . Quil." He said Quil's name without scowling, which I took as a major milestone. "But I suppose that you aren't the worst person in the world for my daughter to be with."
"So can she please stay over at my house? Just for tonight"
"Can you bring my underage daughter to your house where the only supervision is that Call kid? No way. That is not the kind of environment I want my Claire in."
"But," he continued hesitantly, as if was unsure whether or not he should utter the next words, "You can stay at our house. Permanently."
Surprise rocked me to the point of almost falling backwards. Quil appeared equally shocked "Excuse me?" he asked.
"I may not particularly like it, but I know that you and Claire are going to continue to see each other with or without my consent and clearly neither of you have any regard for the law so… if you're going to continue to always be around each other, I'd rather it be under my roof than yours. We have an extra room, next to mine. You can live with us if you want, and see my daughter as much as your heart desires, but in my house. Not yours."
That definitely tied with the first time Quil kissed me for the most unexpected moment of my life. Quil and I living together? Under the same roof? And my dad would allow it? Sure, it was his roof and not ours but beggars could hardly be choosers.
Quil stared at my dad like he had just done a back flip and landed flat on his feet. "You're serious, Anthony?"
"Do you want me to change my mind?" Dad replied impatiently.
"No! No, Sir!" He stumbled forward awkwardly and began to shake my father's hand vigorously, "You can trust me, Anthony! I won't let you down."
"Yeah, yeah, no having sex with my daughter in my house or I take everything back, got it?" Dad looked slightly uncomfortable.
"Of course not, Sir. No. I wouldn't think of it. Thank you, Anthony," Quil's smile was so huge that it had to be painful.
"You're the best, Dad," I exclaimed, running forward and throwing my arms around him. "Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you."
"Well I—" Something caught his attention on the other side of the beach, making his words drop off mid-sentence. Quil and I both turned to see what was happening and lo and behold, there was Eliza, connected at the mouth with Brady.
Dad's face turned an all-too familiar shade of red and suddenly I became the golden child. "Eliza! Eliza Young what the hell do you think you're doing?" Dad yelled, charging over to them.
Brady took his lips off of my sister, but kept his arms around her as my father stomped over there, yelling all the ways he was going to kill Brady in his sleep. Brady tried to give Dad a friendly smile, and when that failed he released Eliza and raised his arms up in surrender. I turned away, chuckling to myself.
"Looks like we just became the least of your father's worries," Quil whispered into my ear. Just like that, I forgot all about Eliza and her new boyfriend. I leaned back into my own wonderful boyfriend's chest, drinking in the pure bliss of the moment.
"Looks like it," I said, biting back a smile.
"I love you," he reminded me, spinning me to face him and lowering his head so our noses brushed each other.
I closed the tantalizing gap between our lips. As we kissed, fireworks exploded.
No, really. Fireworks exploded.
"Happy New Year!" I heard Collin yell. Quil and I both turned our faces up to the sky and watched as fireworks of every color lit the sky. Just like that, 2019 had ended. The year I turned sixteen. The year I found out about werewolves. The year that Quil and I started dating. The year I lost my virginity. The year I almost died about three times. The year my father returned. The year I was stalked by a vampire. The year I fell hopelessly in love with Quil Ateara. Overall, a pretty fair year.
And I had launched into the next one in the arms of the man I loved . . . Holding him. Kissing him.
I wouldn't have it any other way.
"Happy New Year, Quil," I whispered.
"Happy New Year, Claire," he kissed me quickly again. Fireworks continued to shoot into the sky—courtesy of Sam and Jared—illuminating the beach with its dazzling array of colors. I noticed that Eliza was back in Brady's arms, my father nowhere in sight. Most likely he went home to get his gun. I laughed again. It would be nice to see Eliza get a little heat from our father for once.
The entire beach was a perfect picture, the kind I wanted to preserve forever in my memory. The kids chased each other across the sand and laughed as the fireworks continued to shoot into the sky. Rachel and Paul held each other. Grayson and Leah—apparently no longer keeping up the pretense of not liking each other—shared a kiss as they sat on the driftwood by the bonfire. Jamie sat beside Jared and Kim's daughter Lola, which if my memory was correct probably made Jamie quite happy. Collin, Mia, and Danny had engaged in some epic sand war. Collin and Mia against Danny. Mason and his mother spoke animatedly to each other, no doubt catching up after so many months apart.
And further down the beach, close to the surf, sat two figures, side by side. Lilly's hair looked completely white under the moonlight, and even though she was a good five inches taller than me, she looked minuscule next to Embry the Giant. I noticed his hand rested on top of hers in the sand, and their shoulders were rubbing. Their backs were to me, but I assumed they were talking. Lilly pointed up at the sky with her hand that wasn't touching Embry. My eyes drifted up to see what she was pointing at and caught the end of a glorious shimmering gold firework. When my eyes ventured back down to the pair, I saw Embry lean over to Lilly and kiss her on the cheek.
I elbowed Quil and pointed. He looked over just as Embry pulled away, but obviously got the gist of what happened. He gave me a sideways glance and grinned. I laughed and pulled him by his shirt color back down to my waiting lips.
And it really was a Happy New Year.
Thank you so much to all of you for your continued support throughout this story. It's your reviews and positive words that motivate me to keep going. I have plans to post a bonus scene of Claire and Mason's mom's chat, so check my profile for that soon! Also, Embry and Lilly: It's Complicated will be starting soon so be sure to put me on author alert! And lastly, friendly reminder that Quil and Claire part III will be published separately and under a different title. I love you all! :)