You are mine, Isabella Swan. Forever.
I left Paul's early that morning. Crawled from beneath his warmth, the safety of his arms to go home. We had to have distance before the ritual. Jesus, the ritual was tonight. It felt like a lifetime ago since the council made their decision or well since Paul chose, but it still wasn't long enough. I don't think any amount of time would be long enough.
Dressing quickly, I kissed him softly. "I'll see you tonight."
He ran his fingers across my face. "I wish this didn't have to happen."
"Me too, but we'll get through this together. Plus the pack are behind us one hundred percent."
"Yeah, but the thought of you having to stand there and watch." He's shaking his head.
"Don't worry about me." I tell him. "Just get through this and then it's all over. The council can no longer hold what you did, against you. Especially Old Quil."
"Yeah, I know and then we can deal with him."
"Let's make sure you're OK before we worry about him."
"Bella, I want him to answer for everything he's done."
"He will. I promise, but one thing at a time. We have to make sure Billy has enough evidence to show the council otherwise it will all be for nothing."
Paul nodded, reaching up to kiss me again before I laughed, pulling away. "I have to leave now or I'll be crawling back into that bed."
"Crawl back in babe, I'm cold and naked. Come keep me warm." He teased winking at me.
"You are not cold, Paul. You are never cold." I tell him back away from the bed.
"Don't be like that, you know you want to stay in bed with me all day, think of what we could get up to." Paul's smirking as he slowly lowers the sheets.
"Nope! Not looking." I laugh covering my eyes with my hands. "You don't play fair Paul. You know I have to go and teasing me is unfair."
"But it's working though." He replies as he laughs.
"Of course it's working. You naked will always work."
"Then get back here and let me taste you. Come on Bella, you know you love it when I run my tongue…"
"Paul, stop!" I screech. Grabbing my bag as I rush into the hallway. Paul's laughter echoing behind me. "You're not funny." I yell, searching my bag for my keys.
"Yes I am." He counters.
Opening the front door, I roll my eyes. I'm glad he didn't show me out, I don't think I would have left if he had.
"I'll see you tonight." I call out, not shouting as I know he can hear me well enough.
"Yeah you will." I turn to see him leaning against his bedroom door, confident in his nudity.
I smile softly. "Everything will be fine.
He nods. Eyes heavy as he watches me, body rigid. He's wound up. His mind probably flipping over a hundred different scenarios of what could happen tonight.
"Why don't you ring Jared. Go for a run. You could both do with letting off some steam."
His shoulders drop just slightly.
I smile at him, knowing that's exactly what he'll do.
"I'll see you later. Love you."
"You too." He tells me, sending me that one-sided smile I adore.
By the time I finally reach home, Charlie's already left for work.
Throwing my clothes in to my hamper, I decide to take a quick shower. Then do some laundry, clean the kitchen and generally fuss around because I have no idea what to do with myself. I'm saved from scrubbing the kitchen floors when Leah walks through the front door.
"Hello Leah, come on in." I snark throwing the rags into the bucket of water.
Leah stops, eyes fixed on the bucket before she looks at me. "Seems I've interrupted at the best time. Scrubbing floors Bella? Really?"
"Well someone has to." I tell her.
"No, we have mops, steam cleaners for that kind of thing. You are not a maid or a whore, no need to be on your knees when you work."
"I like cleaning."
"No one likes cleaning Bella." She tells me rolling her eyes.
"Oh god. Shut up. I came over to drag you back to mine. There are things we need to do before tonight."
"I thought I had hours, before I had to get ready."
"So you thought scrubbing floors was the best way to pass the time?"
"I'm not even going to respond to that Leah."
"Good." She tells me taking hold of my hand and dragging me towards my bedroom.
"You need to grab some clean underwear. Preferable white."
"Purity." She smirks at me.
"Not a word Leah Clearwater. I mean it."
She holds her hands up in self-defense as she leans against my door frame. Eyes roaming around my room. Eyes lingering at the window.
"What?" I ask, turning back to dig through my drawers. I'm sure I have some white underwear somewhere. Everyone has white underwear.
"Did he really come through your window?" She asks. There's no judgement there, just curiosity.
My hands freeze on the white fabric.
"You didn't think that was, odd?"
"I thought it was romantic."
"Only you Bella Swan." She laughs, before continuing. "And now?"
"It's creepy and so wrong. I really have no idea why I thought it was romantic, maybe my idea of romance was slightly twisted."
"Or maybe he was the first boy to take interest in you?" Leah asked, from her place inside my closet.
I shook my head. "No, Mike used to ask me out all the time, so did a few others. I think somewhere deep down I knew there was something different about him, about the Cullens."
"Would you have gone back to him? After leaving you in the woods, if he had come back would you have gone?"
"I… I want to say no. But I'm not sure. I was different back then. So insecure. Jesus, it feels like a lifetime ago, when all that happened. I'm better off without him I know that much. Billy had tried to warn me subtly, but I didn't care, even when I found out what they were it didn't bother me."
"Desperate?" Leah teased.
"Probably." I shrugged. "I had an instant family, but I think things have worked out the way they were supposed to. I can't even imagine myself without Paul now. God, he's just. Everything."
Leah's smiling as she walks back out of my closet, arms full of material. "Good, cos he loves you Bella. He's as emotionally stunted as the next man. More so actually. But we all can see it."
"I know." I tell her. "I love him."
"Oh, we know that too." She laughs.
I roll my eyes choosing to ignore her. "What's all this?"
"Clothes." She replies not even looking at me.
"I can see that, what for?"
"I thought I had to wear the traditional dress?" I asked confused.
"You do." She sighs turning to me. "This is for the bathing before hand. You have to be dressed all in white. So, I found some white things."
"This is all very confusing." I tell her sitting on the bed.
"Weren't you listening when I told you the other day?"
Leah stands there hands on hips.
"OK, so all I remember is you saying something about cleansing me?"
Leah nods. "Exactly." Scooping some of the items up before heading towards the door.
I scramble after her. "Leah, where are we going?"
"To moms. Some of the elders are there getting things ready."
"I'm not getting naked in front of strangers." I tell her defiantly.
"Good, no one wants to see your naked ass. Well, except Paul, and Jake a long time ago. Possibly Quil." She laughs.
"Quil does not want to see me naked."
"But you don't deny Jake." She tutts.
"Oh my god. You are the most annoying person, ever." I tell her. Locking the front door behind us, as I follow Leah to her car.
Lean turns to face me once we're inside ready to leave. "I'm just trying to help Bella. I can't imagine what you're thinking and if I can take your mind off it for a few minutes then I will."
I sigh, relaxing into the seat. "Thanks. You seen me when you walked in, that place would have been so clean Charlie would have thought he was in the wrong house."
"Talking of Charlie. Is he coming tonight?"
I fidget in my seat nervously. "He said he was going to, but I don't know if I want him there. What if he tries to stop it, when…" I stop abruptly.
"When they can see you're being hurt when Paul is? Bella, you need to tell him."
"No Leah. You promised me you wouldn't say anything."
"If it means you're going to get hurt…"
"I'll still have to do it. If we give Old Quil one reason to ban Paul from the Rez he'll do it. Don't you understand this is the only way we can be together without anyone judging us. Paul will never be able to live on the Rez, in his home if you tell someone. If we tell anyone. He won't be with his pack, his family."
"He has you."
"I'm not enough." I say shaking my head. "He needs his pack and that's something I can't give him. I can love him, I can do that in a heartbeat, but I can't substitute his pack."
Leah's quiet for a few moments before nodding. "OK. We won't tell anyone."
I smile at her, squeezing her hand before she starts the car.
"Are you sure this is something I have to do?" I ask, eyeing the tub of water cautiously.
"Yes." Sue answers. "We've been over this Bella."
"But it looks…"
"Disgusting?" Leah butts in, eyeing the water from a safe distance.
Sue glares at her daughter.
"Bella." Sue's tone is gentle. "This will cleanse your skin, washing away any scents that linger. Your body will be pure until your wolf has finished the hard task before him and claims his prize."
"Prize?" I ask, edging closer. It really did look, disgusting...
"Oh, right. Ok." I nod. So the, whatever it was floating around in the water would dilute or hide my scent until Paul triumphantly succeeds and claims me, allowing his scent to merge with my own. Informing all the other wolves that I'm his. Ok then. Doesn't sound too bad. Taking a deep breath I finally step into the water.
"Holy fuck it's freezing."
Leah snorts, as Sue clicks her tongue at me.
"Sorry." I say blushing furiously. I step slowly into the bath, fingers digging into the porcelain rim. "Does it have to be so cold?" I ask teeth chattering.
Sue nods. "An hour then you can get out. Make sure you submerge every ten minutes."
Leah laughs as she sits on the vanity until, setting the timer on her phone.
"Well that was one of the worst experiences of my life." I tell Leah as I peel off the wet clothes. Wrapping myself in a warm dressing gown.
"Yeah, it didn't look like a barrel of laughs." She agrees, picking up my wet clothes and throwing them into the now empty bath.
"So what now?" I ask following her.
"Food and tea." She tells me walking down stairs. "Also Your dads on his way over. Called mom whilst you were bathing." She grins.
I glare at her. "Don't make it sounds as if I was enjoying myself."
Leah just laughs, walking into the kitchen.
"Bella, how are you feeling?" Sue asks, stirring something in a huge pot.
"Cold and oddly, content?"
Her smile widens. "Good, that means it's worked." She motions for us to sit at the table. "Did Leah tell you, your father is on his way over?"
"Yes she did. Although I don't know why he wants to see me."
"Maybe he's worried about tonight." Sue explains. Which, yeah I knew he would be.
"Yeah, he probably is." I thank Sue as she hands me a bowl of soup.
Just as we finish the front door knocks and Charlie has his head sticking through.
"Hey kiddo." He says walking towards me. His large hand cradles my head gently before he greets Sue and Leah.
"Soup?" Sue asks, even as she ladles some into a bowl for him. I smile at the way his eyes track Sue.
Once he's settled on one of the chairs, he turns to me.
"So about tonight?"
"Dad." I whine. "I really don't want to talk about it." Leah nudges me.
"Well tough, because we are. I admit I have no idea what is going to happen, maybe Sue can shed some light on that." He asks, looking at the women in question. Sue nods and sits down opposite my father.
"The pack..." She begins. "There's no easy way to explain it to be honest Charlie. It's an age-old barbaric custom that hasn't been used in decades." She tells him.
"Well why don't you start at the beginning. I would like to go into this with some sort of knowledge."
"OK, well Paul as you know has chosen Bella as his mate, but unfortunately he acted rash when he marked her."
Charlie nods stiffly. As I shuffle in my seat. Leah is loving every minute.
"Paul should have asked permission to mark Bella as his."
"Why?" Dad asks.
Sue looks shocked for a moment. "Well, for starters it allows the council to decide if the potential mate is suitable for the wolf. Also it allows other potential suitors to challenge Paul."
"I didn't know that." I say stunned. Sue nods.
"Maybe it's lucky he did it like this Bella, lord knows what Jake might have done." Leah tells me.
"So let me get this straight." Dad begins. "If Paul had gone about this the correct way, it would have been up to the council to decide if Bella was, worthy to be Paul's mate?"
"What if they decided she wasn't not up to standards?"
"Then Paul would have been denied permission to mark Bella, and if he went against their decision then he would have been at risk of being banished from La Push."
"Banished. They would have banished him, even though he has a home here? Friends?"
"Yes, I did say the custom was barbaric."
"No, shit." Charlie grumbles.
"Dad!" I laugh.
He waves me off. "Well maybe the way he did it was for the best. I have a feeling the council would have denied his request."
"I agree with you." Sue smiles softly.
"So tonight. What's going to happen. Why has Bella got to be there?"
"She has to show she supports her chosen. Her mate. Being their shows the council she accepts Paul and stands united with him. Anything else would be a show of weakness. Something the council frowns upon."
"Have any of the others had to go through this? Or something similar?"
Sue shakes her head. "No, none."
"Jesus Bells, only you." Charlie laughs, as he scrubs at his face.
"People keep saying that." I grumble.
"OK, so we show up and then what?" He continues.
Bella knows this is the part he's not going to like. Jesus, she doesn't like it.
"Paul will be stood in a circle of burnt ash, Bella in another. They will be facing one another. Then…" Sue trails off looking at me.
"Then?" Charlie asks.
"Then the pack each strike Paul. One blow per member."
"What?" He whispers?
"They have to really hit him. If they don't put everything they have behind it, they will have to do it again until the council are happy."
"What?" I yell. "I didn't know that? Why didn't I know that." I shout looking towards Leah who looks equally as shocked.
"Paul probably didn't want to worry you." Sue tells me patting my hand.
"Oh god." I groan dropping my head to the cold tabletop. "I don't think I can do this." I can feel the tears threaten to spill.
"You have to." Leah tells me. "Jesus Bella, Old Quil he'll make his life hell."
I wipe my eyes, looking at my father then Leah. "Oh course I'm going to do it. I love him."
"Jesus kid. Really? I haven't even got to threaten him yet." He teases.
"Dad." I groan. "You can threaten him as much as you want, once this is all over."
"Best get my good gun ready then." He tells us, Leah laughs as Sue shakes her head, her hand squeezing Charlie's forearm.
"There's something else." I begin, eyes sliding to Leah, who nods her head in encouragement. I hadn't planned on telling them. I even made Leah promise she wouldn't, but it feels like I should. If something were to happen at least others would know what was happening.
Sue returns to her seat, from where she was half raised. Charlie just looks at me, slight worry etched around his eyes.
"A few weeks after Paul marked me, I started to change."
"Change how?" Sue asked.
"My sight, sense. Things like that. I've spoken to Billy about it, but he doesn't know. He's tried looking but can't find anything. We think it's an after effect of Paul marking me."
"You're turning into a wolf?" Dad asks.
"No, nothing like that, just… we don't know. But we have a connection, it's strong, really strong. I can feel him." I explain and wait for them to put everything together.
"As in feel him when he's upset or feel when he gets hurt?" Charlie asks.
"Both." I reply.
"Oh my god." Sue breathes out. "Bella, the ritual, you'll feel everything."
"I know." I tell her. Trying to let her see that I know exactly what could happen.
"You still want to do this knowing that?" Dad asks.
"Yes, I have to do this dad. For Paul. I have to stand there and support him through this fucking thing and then, once it's all over we're going after Old Quil."
Charlie ignores my language, choosing to ask about Quil. So we explain, Leah and myself. Tell him exactly what we think, what we've been led to believe. What happened with Embry, how he tried to turn Quil against his friend, his brother. How he's lied and tried to manipulate everyone, into doing what he wants.
By the time we finish, the sky has darkened and Leah is leading me back up the stairs to get ready.