A/N: I'm sorry it took so long to get this out. I've been outlining, then erasing, then outlining again. This is "the" chapter. It's pivotal. It's the game changer. It's the decision. And obviously, most of you know who she's going to pick… I think I've dropped enough hints, and well, you're all very smart. But, as I've stated in the past, it's not going to be all sunshine and lollipops. We've got some ground to cover, so if you're willing to hang in there with me, I'm going to try to keep you happy.
On another note, you all are fantastic people. I have to give a shoutout to "TammyWammy" for mentioning the repeated Grey's Anatomy mention. I was so convinced I would have at least ONE Grey's fan in the bunch and she finally called me out.
Another thank you to "Themoresmutthebetter" for calling my attention to a few grammatical errors. Thank you!
Thank you to all of you who took the time to review. I'm sorry I'm not a person who replies to every review (otherwise, it would take even LONGER to get another chapter out) but I do want you to know that I read every last one of them. I've been posting on this site for over 4 years now, and well, I just want you guys to know that you're my 'rainy day pick me up'. When I'm having a spectacularly terrible day, I log into this lovely site and re-read all (and I do mean all) my reviews. Then I don't feel so craptastic anymore. So thank you guys, truly.
ON WITH THE STORY!
Run Right Into You
Chapter 9: Solace & Pain
Charlie's surgery went beautifully. Dr. Shepherd was pleased and optimistic about her father's future. For the first time in as long as she could remember, Bella felt the tingle of hope shiver down her spine. Her father was getting his chance back.
After a few additional days of recovery, the doctor sent them on their way, but not without a word of caution. It would take time for Charlie to fully recover. It would take even more time before they'd see any real results. In short, they needed to be patient.
The calming wave of relief that washed over Bella was short lived. Things with her father may have taken a turn for the better but her personal life needed some serious attention.
She agonized. She debated. She made lists. She called her mother. All of her findings led back to one simple conclusion; this wasn't just a boyfriend or someone to keep her warm on a lonely night; this was her life.
Silly her for thinking she could just sit down and figure it out. Silly her for thinking if she just cleared her mind and focused, it would come to her.
Nothing had ever 'come' to Bella, and it certainly hadn't ever come easily.
A decision she'd intended to dwell over for no more than a week had now been hanging in the balance for nearly a month, a fact she was definitely less than proud of.
Bella was jerked from her reverie by the sound of the doorbell chiming. She pushed back from her desk and headed towards the steps. She'd been knee deep in financial reports and her visitor was most likely Sue, dropping by to hand off more paperwork to her already overloaded employee.
She was just padding into the kitchen when she heard Charlie's voice.
"I'm sorry. I don't know who you are. I'm not letting you in here just because you say you're here to see my daughter. I'm the Chief of Police here, I'd hate to have to get the law involved. Now, just go on, get off my porch and we'll forget this ever happened."
Bella felt the ground shift underneath her. God, no…. He was… This wasn't… He was supposed to be better… This can't be happening…
"Bella?" Sue's tentative, slightly frightened voice carried into the kitchen and cut her through her inner monologue. She couldn't grieve the loss of her father's mind now; she had to get to Sue before her father tried to arrest her.
"Dad. It's OK. This is Sue. I work for her. She's just here to drop off some paperwork for me." Bella reassured him as she stepped into the room.
She approached her father slowly and offered him a warm smile. He gazed back uncertainly, unsure of whether he should trust her explanation.
Charlie's suspicious gaze flitted to Bella before snapping back to Sue. "Bells, you don't work for her. You work for Mrs. Newton, at her store." He reminded her warily.
Bella's gaze slid to the older woman and caught the shimmer of tears in her eyes. But crying wouldn't help her father. She had to be the strong one now. He'd spent years being strong for her. The least she could do was return the favor.
"Dad. I know this is all very confusing but I'm not in high school anymore. This is Sue Clearwater, Harry's wife. I'm grown now, I finished college this year. I live with you because you have Alzheimer's. I take care of you. We were in Seattle a month ago. Dr. Shepherd performed surgery on you to try to help you with your disease. Do you remember any of that?" Bella asked patiently, so desperately trying to choke back the emotions pushing at the surface.
He took a moment to absorb what she was telling him. Charlie sucked in a breath and turned his hesitant gaze to his daughter. "I'm… I'm sick?"
Tears pricked at the corner of her eyes but she quickly blinked them back. "Yes, dad. You are." She replied simply.
Charlie's shoulders sagged and his face crumpled. Sue swiftly stepped away and let Bella slide in. She wrapped her arms around her father and let him sob into her shoulder.
Her father cried for the memories he couldn't recall making; she cried for the memories he'd never be able to make again.
48 hours later, Dr. Shepherd confirmed her deepest fear. The surgery had not improved Charlie's condition.
"Charlie, Bella…. I'm so sorry. I wish I had better news, I do. But unfortunately, despite how successful we'd originally anticipated the surgery had been, that does not appear to be the case anymore." Dr. Shepherd softly informed both of them.
Charlie gripped his daughter's hand tightly. He'd suspected as much but hearing the man speak the words added another dreaded dose of reality to his suspicions.
"So what's next? What's the next step? What are our options?" Bella asked after a prolonged silence. She hated the quiet moments; it was when it all seemed the most hopeless.
Dr. Shepherd swallowed as he gaze drifted downwards momentarily before shifting back to her. "There is no next step, Bella." He answered quietly.
"No next step? How can that be? What about all the other treatment options we talked about when we were here a month ago? Why aren't we talking about them NOW?" She exclaimed, her emotions clearly getting the better of her.
Dr. Shepherd placed a reassuring hand on her arm. "Bella, once we realized that advanced state of your father's disease, there was only one option. This one. And it didn't work. And I'm sorry for that. But this… This is it. We're out of options." He pronounced with finality.
He kept going, but Bella didn't hear him. All she could hear were the words 'we're out of options' on repeat in her head. She gripped the arm rests of the chair and struggled to grasp a breath.
"I'm sorry. I just… I need a minute." She fumbled out as she jerked to her feet and hurried from the room, not bothering to wait for a response from the two men in the room.
She slammed the door behind her and made a beeline for the stairwell. It wasn't until she slid down the cool, concrete wall that she finally sucked in a deep breath.
There was no more hope. There were no more second chances. This was it. They had reached the end of the road. Charlie wouldn't be getting better anymore. It was all downhill from here. Each day would be a little worse than the one before.
Bella's eyes burned with the tears she'd been holding back for the last 2 days. No longer did she have the strength or the desire to keep them at bay. Instead, she dropped her head to her hands and let them fall freely.
Charlie was just hanging up his phone when she returned to his side. She asked no questions, only offered herself up for a hug from a man who would soon know her only as a stranger.
He gripped her close and willed his dying memory to keep this moment, to commit these few seconds to some part of his mind that wasn't being viciously attacked by a memory killing disease.
The ride back to Forks was silent, but not uncomfortably so. Both father and daughter were wrapped up in their thoughts of the future and just exactly what would happen next.
It was late when she pulled the rambling old truck into the drive. It didn't long to get in and get Charlie settled for the night.
She slipped down the stairs to the kitchen and silently measured out the ingredients for her favorite cocktail. She took three long pulls off the sweet drink and it was gone. She hesitated only briefly before she poured herself a second and allowed herself to drown her sorrows in a glass, even if only for a night.
Once she was good and toasty, she plodded up the steps and down the hall to the bathroom, intending to wash away the long day. One steaming hot shower later, she felt cleaner, if not a touch more sane. Her skin had pinked, then reddened in the hot water and her hair was nearly black from the wetness. Bella slung her soft, knee length white robe over her still heated body and strode into her bedroom.
Bella nearly jumped out of her skin at the voice behind her. Her heart hammered a staccato beat against her chest so loudly she was afraid it would beat right through her ribs, pop out and fall on the floor.
"Jake! God, what is the matter with you! What are you even doing here?" She questioned, her eyes wide at her unexpected visitor.
"Charlie called." It was the only explanation he offered, and the only one she needed.
Two steps and she melted into his warm embrace. God bless her father for knowing exactly who she'd need in this moment.
She'd lost track of the time when Jake's voice interrupted their comfortable silence. He maneuvered them to her bed, with his back against the headboard and her body next to his, her head on his shoulder.
"Not that I can relate in any capacity, but I've had a rough go of it the last couple days myself." He muttered into the silence.
She turned her head slightly, her gaze trailed up to meet his.
"What happened?" She asked, despite knowing he'd have told her regardless of if she'd requested an explanation.
"Sydney left me 2 weeks ago." He whispered quietly.
Bella's body stiffened in response. He squeezed her hand reassuringly and continued.
"My wolf didn't handle that too well. It's been a roller coaster since she moved out. I tried to make it without her, but it was too hard. I gave him up 5 days after she left. I thought it might make losing my imprint easier." He finished at last. His voice was soft but void of any real emotion.
She tripped over her next question, unsure if it was even warranted, if she was allowed to ask such a thing.
"How are you doing? You know, without both of them?" She questioned at last, her voice tentative and small.
There was an obvious hesitation on his part. "Do you really want the answer to that question?" He asks, phrasing his question carefully.
"I want to know. You know that I wouldn't have asked if I didn't." She reminded him, her hand now resting firmly on his shoulder.
He did know that. But he wasn't sure if she was ready to hear his answer.
"It's hard, Bella. It's… It's a piece of me that's missing. A piece I'll never get back. But if I'm being honest, and you asked me to be, as tough as it is, it doesn't even compare to what I went through when I lost you."
She blew out a breath she didn't know she was holding. That was not exactly what she was expecting. It was true, she and Jake had rehashed a lot of their past in a solid attempt at moving beyond it but still, that statement… It was a lot to take in, a lot to attempt to digest.
But he was staring at her with those dark, earnest eyes, pleading with her to understand what he meant, get where he was coming from, tell him he did the right thing.
But before she could form the words, he moved off her bed and toward the door.
He made it to the front door and pulled it open before she caught up.
"It's late. Really late. And I should head home, Billy will worry. And I shouldn't have done that… I shouldn't have laid that all on you like that. Not with what you already have going on with your dad, and Paul and Em. I'm sorry, it was a lot to lay on you and the last thing I wanted to do was upset you. I'm sorry I even said anything. It wasn't my-"
She cut his rambling off with a palm over his mouth.
"Don't apologize. Don't ever apologize for doing right by yourself and for going after what you want. That's something to be proud of. And I am. I'm very proud." She told him softly.
He gazed down into her light brown eyes and found himself fading into them, the rest of the world became a foggy haze as he leaned down and pressed his lips to hers. He lost himself in the moment, he gripped her tightly to him, the familiarity of her embrace washed over him and a strong sense of home engulfed him.
Right up until she started pushing at his chest. He pulled himself back and peeked down into her eyes. She was not happy, or excited, or turned on.
Jake suddenly felt the urge to take a step back. One big step back. She was furious.
"Bella, oh god. I'm so sorry, I-" He quickly dove in with an apology only to have her cut him off at the pass.
"Save it, Jake. Just…. Save it. You know better, you know how complicated my life is right now… God… You crossed, like, every line possible. Unbelievable. Just when I think we're getting to a point where we might be able to salvage our friendship, you do that. God… You know what Jake, I really think it's time for you to go." She finished at last as she reached out and pulled the already open door out wider for him.
"Can I just-"
She shook her head. "Nope. You can't 'just'. I'm done talking about this. I'll come find you if and when I'm ready to talk about forgiveness." She informed him coolly.
He held her gaze for a moment longer before offering a solemn nod. She watched as he stepped off the porch. He tossed one last, lingering look over his shoulder before he took off for the woods, disappearing within moments.
A movement across the street caught her eye just as she was about to shut the door.
Paul. Of course he'd seen. Hell, he probably knew Jake was upstairs waiting in her room for her.
Her feet carried her across the lawn and the street with no hesitation.
He was waiting on the front porch when she stepped up to join him.
"So I guess you saw." She opened, not bothering to phrase it as a question, there was no need to. It was likely that he'd both seen and heard the entire exchange; no sense in beating around the bush.
"I did. Black's an ass. Though I can't say I'm surprised he tried. He's been radiating a nervous, fucked up vibe since he got over there. I kinda guessed he'd go in for the kill." Paul stated, offering her a sly grin.
She crinkled her forehead at him. "So you aren't upset?" She clarified cautiously.
Paul lifted his shoulders in a small shrug. "Well, obviously I didn't like it. But I heard the whole thing. You didn't make the move, he did. And you stopped it. Good enough for me." He told her as he turned to face her.
"I appreciate that. I don't think I can deal with much more today." She replied with a sigh as she sunk down to sit on the steps below her.
He joined her a moment later and dropped a heavily muscled arm around her shoulders.
She allowed herself a moment before she took a deep breath and dove into the events of the day. She shared everything from her private breakdown in the stairwell to Jake's revelation.
For his part, Paul was quiet and let her speak. He knew this was more for her benefit than his. She'd always been a 'better out than in' sort of person so he tried to indulge her whenever she needed it.
When her re-telling of the day ended, she dropped her head to his shoulder and he ran a few idle fingers up and down her terry clothed arm.
The quiet was soft and peaceful. She and Paul had gotten quite good at the silent moments. He wasn't big with words so she learned to appreciate the moments without them.
"Do you ever think it would be easier if you were with him?" He questioned at last, his voice low and rumbly.
She quirked an eyebrow and stared up at him. Paul wasn't one to pose many hypothetical situations, and he certainly wasn't one to question himself, and definitely not when it came to women.
After a heavy sigh and a brief moment of contemplation, she answered his question.
"Yes. It probably would have been much simpler. He's the easiest person in the world to get along with, talk to, love… He was right when he said loving him would be as easy as breathing… But that's not what I want… It hasn't been for a long time. That's not what I signed up for, you know?" She finished at last.
He tugged her closer and threaded his fingers through her hair. "I'm going to make a decision soon." She confessed quietly.
A half smirk appeared on his face as he tugged a couple strands of hair. "Yeah? Well, if you're smart, you'll pick Embry." He teased her playfully.
She laughed at his comment before replying with a smarmy comment of her own. "No, if I were smart, I never would have gotten mixed up with either of you animals!"
He chortled at her smart aleck retort and hooked a finger into the knot in the belt of her robe. "Hmm… is there anything I can do to sway your vote towards me?" He questioned, amusement dancing in his dark eyes.
She cocked her head and met his gaze with her own. "Well, I'd appreciate a goodnight kiss from someone other than Jake." She suggested softly.
His grin spread across his face before he dipped his head to meet her lips.
The kiss was white hot and scorched a path right down to her core. She ached for him almost instantly. But that didn't surprise her. He'd had that effect on her for longer than she cared to admit.
One hand twined into her hair while the other one snagged her by the waist and hauled her into his lap.
Her legs wrapped around him of their own accord and her nimble fingers slid underneath the collar of his flannel shirt, flicking along his defined shoulders and collarbone.
Paul broke from the kiss and attached his mouth to her neck, trailing light, suckling kisses to the spot just below her ear that made her shiver in his grasp.
Her arousal drifted from between her legs and filled his nose. Paul took a deep breath in and groaned appreciatively. Her scent alone was enough to stir his mostly silent inner wolf.
"If this is going to stop, you should tell me now, Swan. Because I won't be able to once we get started." He warned lowly, the words grinding out of him.
Her gaze drifted upwards to his. His eyes were dark and probing. His stare was heavy and full of desire and promise. She couldn't help but get lost in his inky orbs.
For once since the start of the whole twisted triangle, she stopped thinking and just let her instincts guide her. Right now, something deep in her needed this… needed this like oxygen. She leaned forward and pressed her lips to his, her hands tightened ever so slightly on his shoulder, giving him her silent approval.
The hand that had hauled her into his lap now slipped further south and wrapped possessively around the curve of her ass. His other meaty paw trailed a slow, deliberate pattern down to the front of her robe and toyed absently with the knot.
"You aren't untying that out here." She whispered breathlessly, well aware of exactly what the man underneath her was attempting to do.
He said nothing and shifted his hand on her terry cloth covered ass lower, only to discover she was completely naked beneath the soft material.
"Well that explains why you smell so good. Hey, you weren't wearing panties when you were talking to Jake." He stated as he stood, holding her in his grasp as he carried her inside.
"I didn't know he was there. If you'd have called or texted I would have at least put on underwear." She mumbled back as he kicked open the door of his bedroom, his lips now sucking at the skin at the base of her neck.
"Fuck it. I don't care as long as you don't put them on to come over here." He muttered around his suckling.
"Are you marking me?" She asked tremulously as her fingers began yanking on the buttons of his shirt.
"Something like that." He replied, his gaze flitting up to meet hers.
She lightly pushed on his head, stopping him from his actions. "Knock it off. People will see. We aren't in high school anymore." She chastised. She'd intended for it to sound serious but when his fingers started gently tugging on the robe, she faltered.
"So I can leave a hickey somewhere else then, huh?" He questioned, a devious smirk now in full bloom on his face.
His head dipped down to pepper small, teasing kisses along the vee of her robe.
"Hickey huh? I thought when you wolves marked a mate, you bit them."
At this, he stopped. His head snapped back up and his eyes darkened lustily.
"Are you saying you'd let me bite you?" He questioned, his gravelly voice sent a shock down her spine.
"Can you even still do that? You aren't really a wolf anymore…" She trailed off, her gaze soft and lustfilled.
"I may not shift but I haven't lost my abilities. You didn't answer my question. Do you want me to mark you? Cause I would… But not on your neck, since you're so concerned about people seeing it. Maybe I'd do it here…" He trailed off as he pressed a lingering kiss to her collar bone.
She moaned out her appreciation as his tongue flicked over it.
"Or maybe here." He muttered, flicking his tongue into the valley between her breasts.
His fingers yanked once on the belt and the flimsy knot gave way. He took her robe in both hands and parted it so he could look his fill.
A smooth expanse of creamy skin greeted his hungry gaze. His dark eyes trailed intensely from the tops of her breasts, over the apex of her thighs and down her slender legs.
"You know, I'm feeling a little under-dressed here, Paul." She murmured, her cheeks tinged a light pink.
"Hang on, Swan. I'm still looking my fill here. You can have my body in a second." He told her, his gaze slowly traveling back towards her face.
She rolled her eyes and took matters into her own hands – literally. With speed a werewolf would be proud of, she had his flannel unbuttoned and shoved off his shoulders before he really registered what she was doing.
Her small hands went in for his pants when his larger one grasped onto both her wrists and pinned them just above her head. "I'm quite capable of taking off my own pants, doll. I'm just a little busy right now."
She opened her mouth to respond but her words got stuck in her throat when his mouth latched onto her left nipple. She gasped out a breath as his tongue flicked the delicate bud before he teeth lightly raked over the sensitive skin.
He trailed his free hand down her side, grazing over the slight dip in her waist before spreading over the swell of her hips.
The patterns his fingers were dancing across her abdomen combined forces with his mouth, which had just closed around her right nipple. She writhed in his grip, desperate to run her hands over him.
She'd nearly lost herself in the sensations of mouth when she felt a feather-like touch at her inner thigh. "It would be really hot to see my mark here." He whispered, having released her nipple from his tortuous mouth.
She panted out her approval, unable to form a coherent sentence. His index finger spiraled along her thigh, moving higher with each stroke. "Hmmm… Yeah. I think I'd do it right here." He mused as he slid down her body.
Paul released her hands and she immediately moved them to grasp the sheets in her fists.
He felt her tremble underneath him as a jolt of her heavy arousal assaulted his senses.
He sucked in a lungful as he lowered his mouth her thigh. His teeth nipped at the skin he wanted to mark. She shuddered visibly at the nibble, earning a dark chuckle from Paul.
"What do you think, Swan? It'll only take a few seconds, then you'll have your own 'Paul' tattoo."
He didn't wait for her to respond. Instead, he turned his attention to her core. Before she could choke out a breathless question, he licked a solid stripe up her sex and finished with a flick of his tongue at her clit, before taking it into his mouth and suckling gently.
Bella's back arched at the sudden contact and a strangled moan escaped her throat. He laid a heavily muscled arm across her lower abdomen. "Stop squirming Swan. I want to do this right." He told her sternly.
His tongue lapped her juices, driving her to the edge, desperately needing one last push to tumble over the precipice into oblivion.
Seconds later, he pressed two fingers into her heat and curled them upwards, granting her wish.
She breathed out a gasp that faded to a moan, squeezed her eyes shut and let herself fall.
Her slender frame arched towards him as he watched her tumble headfirst into her orgasm. He was fairly confident he'd never seen anything more beautiful than Bella when she came. Not that he'd ever tell her that, he was pretty sure she'd smack him on the back of the head.
He crept back up to lean over as she came down from her orgasm induced haze. Her chocolate brown eyes fluttered open and gazed up into his wanton gaze.
"Last chance to tell me to fuck off, Swan." He whispered huskily into her ear as he nipped teasingly at her earlobe.
She moaned lightly at the feel of his teeth on her skin. "My lips are sealed." She replied breathlessly.
Paul offered her a crooked smirk and dipped his head to capture her lips with his. His tongue slid heatedly against hers, dueled for control and won.
He shifted his body and used his knee to spread her. "Open up, doll." He murmured against her heated skin as he pulled his lips away.
She granted his request and parted her legs. She felt his thick cock brush against her inner thigh as he dropped himself between her legs.
His eyes held her gaze as he shifted upwards, the blunt head of his manhood now barely dipping into her dripping folds.
She moved restlessly against him, giving him the silent approval to keep going.
He braced himself and pushed into her slowly, consciously aware of his size. He moaned as her tight heat enveloped him. Her channel clenched and pulled, welcoming him in.
"Fuck Swan. You're so tight." He muttered as he brushed his nose along her neckline, breathing in the fragrant scent of her excitement.
She gasped out her approval as he sunk into her fully, their bodies completely joined now.
Paul lifted off of her slightly and turned his gaze down to where their bodies were connected. He watched as he slid himself out and pushed back in, her slick folds tugging him back each time.
Bella's hands trailed up his arms to grip his shoulders as he pulled her to him and started up a steady rhythm. She met him thrust for thrust, her breathing was low and labored.
"God… Paul… Please… Harder…" Her request was soft and panted out but he heard her loud and clear.
Paul felt an intensely overwhelming need well up in him. He leaned up and away from her and hooked his arms under her knees. He watched as her gaze darkened and listened as her heart beat picked up.
The smirk he often wore was almost always sexy to her, but in this moment, it had never been hotter. He braced himself against the bed and once again dropped his gaze to where they were joined. He released a strangled moan and fulfilled her earlier request.
He gripped her thighs as he pounded into her, willing his orgasm to wait as she built to hers. He felt her clenching around his hardened cock, milking it in an attempt to pull his own release from him.
Her small breasts bounced in time to his frantic thrusts and he reached a hand up to tweak one of her nipples. She moaned and thrashed as he repeated the action.
"Like that Swan? How 'bout this?" He teased as he dropped the hand down to administer a pinch to her clit.
She gasped loudly and her hips picked up the pace, silently urging him to meet the quicker pace.
"Mmm… I can feel you squeezing me. You gonna come soon, Swan?" He breathed out, watching as her body flushed with the impending orgasm.
She squeezed the bed sheets tightly in her hands and pushed against him. He gave in and pushed himself harder into her. It wasn't often he let his wolf have much control in this capacity anymore, but with her, for whatever reason, it felt right. He felt the heat creep up his back, the growl rose up in his throat. He gripped her thighs and pounded himself into her welcoming body. She cried out her approval, her body bowing off the bed, towards him. The sweat on his brow gleamed and dripped down his face as he thrust twice more before he felt her core grip him tightly as he pushed her over the edge. He followed moment later, spilling his seed deep inside her.
His thrusts slowed to a slow grind, relishing in the sounds of her low, throaty moans as he lightly circled his hips over hers. Finally, he had himself (and his wolf) under control. He pressed a lingering kiss to the hollow of her throat as he slowly withdrew from the heat of her body.
She shuddered slightly at his withdrawal, her body gripped lightly at him as he slowly slid from her warmth.
Without a word, he slipped from the bed and padded to his bathroom. A pale yellow glow cast a weak light around the half closed door. She watched his movement with half lidded eyes. He clicked the light off a moment later and moved back to the bed.
Bella nearly yelped at the feeling of wet warmth against her legs. She sighed and calmed when she realized he was only cleaning her off.
Once he was satisfied, he tossed the rag into a corner of his room he seemed to use as a hamper and climbed back in bed next to her.
"Just so you know, 'M not big on cuddling or anything, but I guess I'd make an exception for you." He muttered as he turned on his side to face her.
"Shocking." She deadpanned, though she smiled softly as she felt his arm drape across her waist. He dragged her a bit closer and whispered softly in her ear "Sleep, Swan."
She wasn't sure how many hours had past when she felt him gently smoothing a hand down her arm. "Swan. C'mon. Time to get up. 'M sure you'll want to be there when Charlie wakes up." He murmured softly.
Tentatively, she cracked an eye and moved to sit up. The room was softly lit, only a well placed corner lamp with a dim bulb illuminated the room. Her gaze moved to her companion, her eyes swept over his mostly naked (save for a well placed sheet) form.
The happenings of the previous day rushed over her in a tidal wave of emotion.
Her brain played out the day as if on a movie reel.
Her father was out of options, choices, chances… It was downhill from here on out.
She'd aided and numbed her pain with a hearty dose of liquid memory eraser.
Jake had hidden in her bedroom, waiting, after Charlie called him.
Said former best friend confessed his loss of his imprint, and subsequently his wolf.
He'd kissed her. In a crazy emotional moment of fogginess, he'd kissed her.
She'd yelled at him. Cursed him. Told him to stay away. She'd find him if she so chose.
Paul had seen (and obviously heard) everything.
Bella confessed her decision would be made soon.
She and Paul had sex.
Paul watched as the emotional events of the previous day played out across her face. He felt an immense wave of guilt smack into him. He'd done the wrong thing. In a moment where she'd likely needed him the most, he'd made the wrong move.
She pushed herself up into a sitting position and secured the remaining sheet around her naked body. One hand clutched the sheet in place while the other attempted to rub the sleep from her eyes.
Bella sucked in a deep breath and raised her gaze to Paul's. She had to speak. She needed to say something, offer some sort of explanation. She couldn't just grab her clothes and bolt for home. No, that wasn't an option. He deserved better than that. Hell, so did she.
"Paul… I… I'm sorry. I feel like I kind of threw myself at you last night. It was such an emotional day, I guess… I mean…" She fumbled for the right words, inwardly cursing her inability to form coherent sentences in critical moments.
"Swan. Stop. You… You don't need to do that. I get it. And for what it's worth, I didn't actually mean for that to happen before you made your choice." He offered gruffly. And that was the truth. He hadn't meant for it to go that far. Sure, he'd thought about it plenty of times and they'd had some pretty hot little moments but he'd intended to wait until she'd picked. Not so much for his sake, but for hers. He knew the kind of girl she was and that wasn't it.
She scrunched her brow at him. Is this his way of telling me last night was a mistake?
He took in her confusion and adjusted his explanation accordingly. "I'm a cop. And a werewolf. The words 'I regret fucking Paul last night' are practically tattooed across your forehead." He explained softly.
She winced in understanding. "Paul, it's not that I regret it. I don't. It's just that I didn't want this… I didn't want sex to be part of my decision. And now, no matter how much I try to push it away or rationalize it, it will be." She attempted to clarify her feelings in hopes that she wouldn't further hurt his feelings.
Paul's gaze was unreadable. His mannerisms were closed off, his face blank. He wasn't showing any signs of any emotions whatsoever. For the first time since she'd met him, she was totally lost.
"I get that. I do. So I mean… I guess you should just do what you have to do. Even the playing field." He suggested after several uncomfortably quiet moments.
Her eyebrows jolted upwards in obvious confusion.
Was he seriously suggesting she should have sex with Embry so she didn't feel bad?
"Before I just assume I know what you mean, maybe you should explain it to me." She suggested quietly, not entirely sure if she was ready to hear his answer.
He held her stare and crossed his arms in front of his chest. "What I'm saying is if you're so worried about keeping it fair, then you should fuck Embry too. Might as well." He told her, his tone callous and largely uncaring.
Her eyes visibly widened as she recoiled from his words. She'd expected him to be upset, she'd expected him to want her to pick him now, she'd expected a bit of a fight. But not this. This… This was the furthest thing from her expectations.
She yanked the sheet from her body and quickly slid from the bed. Her robe was lying on the floor near the door. She snatched it and yanked it over her body.
"You know, I can't tell you how much I appreciate you giving me permission to have sex with Embry. And I'm so pleased I was able to give you what you needed. Had I known all along that all you wanted was a good lay, I'd have made my decision a LONG time ago!" She snarled as she cinched her robe and ran from the house.
She never heard the door slam or the loudly yelled "FUCK!"
Thankfully, Charlie was still out cold. A quick glance at the clock provided the time. 5:23 am. Briefly, she considered going back to bed, or at least lying down in an attempt to get some rest. But she was far too keyed up at the moment.
Instead, she hurried up the steps and dropped her robe and yesterday's towel into the hamper.
She grabbed a fresh towel, clean clothes and made a beeline for the shower.
Once the temperature was as hot as she could stand it, she stepped in. From that point on, she proceeded to scrub herself raw in a desperate attempt to cleanse her body of Paul's scent. Her skin was an angry red shade and shiny when she stepped from the tub, the towel creating a slightly uncomfortable friction as she dried herself off.
She busied herself with mundane chores all day in hopes of keeping her mind off her indiscretions. Charlie was having a good day, he'd spent most of it watching television quietly in the living room.
The telephone jingled to life just as she finished the dinner dishes. It was Billy calling to invite Charlie down to catch the Mariner's game. She checked with Charlie and confirmed after receiving his approval.
It wasn't long before she was pulling her well loved truck up in front of the Black home.
"Gonna watch the game with us Bells?" Charlie questioned as he slid from the cab.
She offered him a genuine smile and rolled her eyes. "I think we both know how well that'll go. I think I'll go see Embry." She informed him.
He nodded his agreement. "Just call my cell when you're ready to head home." She called after him as she slipped the truck into reverse and pointed it towards Embry's house.
Bella parked in his small driveway and trained her gaze on the front door. He was home, his lights were on. She could see the glow of the TV from her truck. She allowed herself a moment to get lost in her own head, replay the events of the last twenty four hours. She desperately needed to collect her thoughts before she knocked on his door.
Another thirty seconds and she slid from the comforting cab of her truck. She was fairly certain he knew she was there and if she'd sat out there too much longer, he would most definitely come out looking for her.
Her knock was quiet and tentative but he heard it. He sat his beer on the table and crossed to let her in.
Embry swung the door open, grin firmly in place. His smile faded when he got a nostril full. Something was most definitely wrong.
"Hi Em. Sorry, I know I didn't call but I was just at Billy's dropping off Charlie for a visit so I figured I'd stop by." Her voice was low and filled with exhaustion. She was emitting a barrage of emotions, each one hitting him harder than the last. Pain, sorrow, frustration, anger, confusion. She was a mess.
He furrowed his brow as he stepped aside to let her in. "You don't need permission to come see me. I'm happy you're here." He replied simply.
Something in his phrasing seemed to snap her attention. Before he could blink, the small woman was wrapped around him, holding on for dear life. Wordlessly, (mostly because he wasn't sure of what to say) he banded his arms around her waist and held her to him.
When she pulled back, he was a little surprised to see she wasn't crying. He'd expected some tears after such an emotional response. But her gaze is still cloudy with emotion. Whatever it was that had happened, it was cutting her deeply.
She felt safe wrapped in Embry's embrace. She felt untouchable to the world when he held her close. But as she gazed up into his concern/confusion filled eyes, she knew things had been irrevocably changed.
"What's the matter B? You… You're… There's a lot coming off you right now. It's kinda… It's a little intense." He finished softly.
"It's nothing. I'm fine. Or at least, I'll be fine. Really." She assured him.
Right as he opened his mouth to speak, her phone chirped. She had a call. He stepped away, intent on giving her what she seemed to need – space.
But she only slipped it from her pocket briefly. She checked the display momentarily, before quickly rejecting the call and shoving it back into her pocket. But not fast enough for Embry.
He'd seen the display. She'd rejected Paul's call. He glanced up from where she had stowed her phone only to be met with her gaze. She'd seen him sneak a look at her phone.
"Is this about him?" He pressed gently. He'd considered pretending he hadn't seen it but now seemed like a bad time to start lying.
"I don't want to talk about him. It's been an absolutely awful 24 hours… Charlie's surgery… It didn't work. He's not going to get better. I can't… He didn't even know who Sue was and he's known her longer than I've been alive. I just… I can't. I don't know what to do, Embry." She muttered helplessly.
He didn't hesitate to pull her back to him. He'd been foolish to think this had anything to do with Paul. Of course it was about her father. If anything, knowing Paul, he'd probably done or said something to make the situation worse.
"I feel like I can't breathe, Em. It's all just too much. I'm helpless, I'm at the end, there's nothing left for me to do. Everything feels numb, I feel numb. I hate feeling numb. I've tried so hard to make it go away but I can't. I just… I can't. I just want, I want-"
She didn't get to finish her thought. Embry had pulled back slightly and swiftly pressed his lips to hers.
Bella in pain was not something Embry coped well with. It stirred up a bevy of emotions, the primary one being his urge to make it all better.
Hence his cutting her off with a kiss. He'd intended for it to brief but it seemed Bella had other ideas because he'd tried to pull back but she'd held on.
She gripped his biceps in her slender hands and let herself get lost in his kiss. He didn't hesitate to return her passion. He gripped her left him tightly as he deepened the kiss, sweeping his tongue between her slightly parted lips.
His other hand slid south, his large palm covering her ass as he shifted her a few steps back and pressed her against the wall.
Rarely did Embry get to lose control with her. He kept himself in check constantly, but tonight it didn't seem like that was what she wanted. He understood what she was telling him. Right now, in this moment, she wanted, needed him. She'd made that abundantly clear.
Bella wasn't the sort to take the act of sex lightly. If she was doing this it was because of one of two reasons. Either she felt an emotional connection or she needed an emotional connection.
His train of thought was brought to a crashing halt when she reached for his belt and her fingers brushed lightly against the growing bulge in his pants.
Embry bit back a moan and squeezed her ass appreciatively. He took her cue and broke their kiss before lightly tugged on her top, divesting her of it quickly.
His heavy gaze fell to her green satin covered breasts. She bit her lip as he appraised her mostly exposed upper half. "Have I told you how sexy it is when you do that?" He asked as he dragged his nose along the column of her throat, breathing in her distinctly 'Bella' scent, which was now carrying a heavy dose of lust and arousal.
"You hadn't mentioned." She breathily replied as her nimble fingers started slipping the buttons on his shirt out of their button holes. She completed her mission quickly and soon found herself reveling in the heat radiating from his body.
"It's hot. Turns me on like you wouldn't believe." He murmured as he bit down lightly on her shoulder.
His large hands skimmed up her rib cage and circled around to her back. He wasted no time with the clasps and freed her breasts from their confinement.
Her breasts were small and a smooth, creamy white. Her perky pink nipples hardened under his lust filled gaze. He ran his hands upwards and cupped the small orbs, his thumbs brushing lightly over her puckered tips.
She panted out her approval and lightly grinded herself against him in wanton anticipation.
It was his turn to groan as her heat came into contact with his rapidly hardening manhood. Need was quickly taking over. She was becoming like air to him, he needed this… With her… He might not survive without it.
He let one hand drop from its ministrations to her breasts, only to brush brazenly against the button on her jeans. She whimpered at the loss of the dual sensation but he heard her heartbeat pick up when she realized where he was headed next.
He flicked the button on her jeans open as her slender fingers dropped to his pants again, her hand trailed a slow path up the closure of his jeans, over his bulging hard on and upwards to rest on his belt. He pinched the zipper of her pants between his thumb and forefinger and slowly dragged it downwards.
She tugged his belt free and had just pulled it from the loops when she froze.
His mouth closed hotly around her right nipple as his previously occupied hand joined forces with the other in their goal to remove her pants.
He'd tugged them down just a little, enough to see the dark green lace panties she was wearing.
Embry slid a finger into the hem of her panties and snapped them against her skin. She jumped at the unexpected, albeit slight, sting of the elastic snapping back against her body.
"I like these." He muttered as he dropped to his knees and out of her reach. He had every intention of letting her even the playing field, just not yet.
He closed his eyes when he found himself at eye level with her dripping core. It was obvious she wanted him, that fact alone had his dick twice as hard as normal.
"As nice as these are, it's time for them to go." He told her, his eyes darkening as he tucked his fingers into the sides and tugged them down her slender hips and tossed them behind him.
Embry leaned in and dragged in a noseful of her scent. He breathed in her thick ardor and closed his eyes. It was overwhelming all of his senses at once. His wolf was up and shaking himself off. It appeared as though he wanted to join the fun as well.
He'd just barely pressed his mouth to her opening when he smelled it. A very faint whiff of sex. Sex and Paul…?
She'd had sex with Paul. It wasn't overly obvious but it had happened. She'd done a good job cleaning his scent from her body but she could only clean so much and well, he was a wolf… At least part of him was.
Part of him was angry. She'd come to him after she'd had sex with Paul. He was her second choice. This meant something to him. It wasn't about how good she was in bed or how much she was willing to try. Sex had come to mean a lot to him and he'd hoped it had meant the same to her.
But, she was there. She'd done this with Paul and was still here, asking this of him, she wanted him. Perhaps sex with Paul had led to some sort of revelation.
He had a choice to make. He could continue and prove that this meant something to him, that it wasn't just a physical act to him. Or he could turn her away, tell her he could smell Paul, and confront her.
"Em?" She panted out, her heavy chocolate gaze now intensely focused on him.
Her lusty gaze made the decision for him. He might regret it later but he'd promised himself he'd do what he had to do to show her he was right for her.
The previously sleepy wolf in him demanded he re-mark her as his. He sunk two fingers into her wet opening just as he flicked his tongue across her swollen nub.
Her answering cry of pleasure fueled his ministrations. He twisted and scissored his fingers, curling them up into that perfect spot, pulling that deep moan from her throat each time he brushed against it.
Her body trembled out a warning of her impending orgasm. He laved his tongue across her clit before lightly grazing his teeth against the over stimulated skin. Two more firm pumps of his fingers and she was spilling over the edge of oblivion, tumbling head first into her orgasm.
Bella's body sank against the wall, her cheeks flushed, her skin shone with a slight layer of sweat.
He rose to his full height and dragged his hands up her body and across her arms before pinning her wrists against the wall. He braced a knee between her legs and leveled his gaze to hers.
"I want you. I want you so much it's been haunting me for months. Some days, it's all I think about. I want to see what you look like when I push into you the first time. I want to see how beautiful you are when I make you come. I need you." He panted into her neck as he nipped at the skin along her jaw.
She gulped in a breath of air at his blunt admission. She felt a rush of heat and desire rush to her core when he confessed his need to see her at that most vulnerable moment.
He chuckled darkly. "I've never been so grateful for these heightened senses." He muttered as he nudged her legs further apart.
Embry dropped one hand from her wrist and slid it up under her rump and lifted her until his erection was pressing hotly against her welcoming slit.
She swallowed heavily and let her eyes fall to half mast. "Please Embry." She begged throatily, her free hand gripping against his back tightly.
He didn't make her wait any longer. He shifted his hips and pressed into her.
They both moaned simultaneously at the welcomed intrusion.
Her heat was tight and gripped him like a glove as he sunk in to hilt. He pulled back and shifted his gaze downwards to where they were joined. "God, that's really hot." He muttered as he pulled all the way out before thrusting back in.
She followed his lead and dropped her own head to watch their joining. He was right. It was intensely erotic. "Don't stop watching." He rasped into her ear.
He dropped her other hand and braced himself against the wall as he thrust deeply into her. She gripped his shoulders, her gaze never wavering from their connected parts. She watched as his erection, long and hard, slid in and out of her pussy, coated in her juices.
"It's hot, right? I like seeing my dick coated in your wetness. Makes me want you even more." He confessed quietly.
Her fingernails bit into his shoulder and he picked up the pace, thrusting faster with each pass. Her core muscles gripped at him each time he slid in.
"God… Em, I'm so close." She groaned out.
He felt her body clench against him and her hot pants whispered across his chest. He was feeling the beginnings of his own release. He moved his hands to grip her hips firmly.
Bella's head dropped to his head as he pounded his dick into her entrance. "Ohh… Em… Yes… Mmm… Please…" She murmured incoherently.
He slid his large hands to her ass and squeezed hard and he pistoned his hips into hers, racing towards the finish line.
"That's it Bella. I want you to come for me. Open up those eyes, let me see you." He requested hoarsely.
His words cut through her lusty haze and she struggled to open them.
Embry's gaze mirrored her own. "Can I come inside you?" He whispered once her gaze focused on him.
She was on the pill, and they were both clean and the last thing she wanted was for him to stop. She gulped heavily and nodded her approval.
He gripped her body to his and crashed his hips furiously into hers. It was time.
"Ahh… Ohh… God… Mmm… Yeah…" She cried out her release moments before Embry.
He roared his explosion, propelling his cock deeply into her, spilling his seed into her within seconds of her own release.
Embry held her in place for a few moments, his thrusts slow and shallow as he came down from his high. He didn't want to pull out. Not yet.
So he didn't. Instead, he stayed rooted deeply inside her, wrapped his arms around her waist and carried her to the couch. He sat down with her in his lap, his cock still firmly nestled deep inside her.
She groaned low in her throat at the slightly jostling their shifting had caused.
Once he settled on the couch, her firmly in his lap, he rested his gentle gaze on her.
"That was fun." He opened lightly, offering her a wry smile.
She grinned brilliantly before she reddened and nodded. "That was great." She agreed happily.
He let his eyes probe her face, her expressive eyes now an open book to him.
And even now, despite what they'd just done, he could see it in her eyes. She was still very much troubled. The shades of guilt were like a beacon to him. He had to say something, it couldn't wait now.
He shifted his hands under her and reluctantly lifted her from his lap. She protested softly but didn't stop him. He offered her a blanket to wrap herself in while he stepped into his boxers and pulled his jeans on.
After a few moments to contemplate and catch his breath, he sat down on the couch, this time a bit farther away from her.
The presence of space was not missed by the young woman.
Several long seconds passed between them before he spoke.
"I know you had sex with Paul, I could smell it…. Is… is that what had you all upset?" He questioned, his voice low but his tone was firm.
"I don't want to talk about it." She replied, not bothering to meet his probing gaze.
He narrowed his stare at her and waited for her to regain eye contact but she wouldn't.
"I have a right to know, given what just happened. Unless of course, you were just doing this to get a comparison, in which case, you know where the door is." His voice was cold and hard. She'd never heard him speak to anyone like that, let alone her.
At his abrupt and frigid statement, she broke down. She told him every last detail, right down to Paul's parting words.
"He basically sat there and told me if I needed to even the playing field, I could. If I wanted things to be fair, he was OK with it. I mean, what the hell is that even supposed to mean? I thought he cared about me. I had no idea I was so wrong about him." She trailed off as she finished her story.
Embry's head dropped to his hands and a muttered "Shit." Drifted quietly from his prone position.
"What?" She questioned quietly, confused by Embry's behavior.
"You weren't wrong." He confessed, lifting his head from his hands.
"For me, sharing you intimately would not be OK without a commitment. That's… That's why I thought you were here. I figured you'd had a bad experience with Paul and well, maybe this was your way of telling me you were ready to be with me, exclusively."
Despite his explanation, she still looked confused.
"You don't get it. He wanted you badly enough to put his own ridiculously selfish needs aside for you, he wanted you enough to be OK with you having sex with me if that's what he thought you wanted, or needed."
He waited for a response but there wasn't one. She just sat there, staring at him, so he pressed on, now determined to make her understand.
"You don't see it but I do. He loves you, Bella. He fucking loves you. He loves you enough to let you take this step with me. He did it because he wants you to be happy. He fucked it up because it's Paul." He grunted out, hating himself for essentially showing his hand.
He didn't let her finish. He wasn't mentally prepared for whatever her rebuttal would be.
"Go home Bella. Go home and make a choice. It's time. One of us is going to get hurt, might as well do it now." He told her.
She wanted to say something… Apologize, explain herself, but she couldn't. He wouldn't allow it. Not now. Her time was up. She'd gone this far, he was right. This was it.
He stood, his gaze never wavering from hers. "Goodbye Bella." He whispered solemnly before turning on his heel and padding to his bedroom.
She left without a word or a backwards glance.
Her father was ready to go when she returned to Billy. She got him loaded up and into the truck without incident. The ride was comfortably quiet as Bella was lost in deep thought and Charlie was quite obviously worn out.
Bella navigated the mammoth truck into their driveway twenty minutes later. The headlights hit the front porch and revealed a visitor.
Charlie slipped quietly from the truck, offered his hand to his replacement and ambled inside, closing the door behind him.
She came to a stop in front of him. "How long have you been sitting here?" Was her opening line.
He didn't hesitate to respond. "Since you left."
He plowed on, determined to speak his mind before she finished her sentence.
"I need to explain. I need to explain and apologize for this morning-"
This time it's her who stops him.
"Paul. Stop. That's enough. I get it. I need time. I'm… I've… I've got to do this now, make this decision. But I can't do it right now, with you sitting here, asking for forgiveness. What I need… Really need… Is space. Please, give me that much."
She didn't wait for his response as she stepped around him and into the house. She shut the door quietly behind her and waited for Paul's heavy footsteps to fall away.
"One day. That's it." She whispered the promise to herself. That's all she would allow herself for this. She'd stalled out long enough, it was time to put her big girl pants on and do the right thing.
With that last thought, she poured herself a stiff drink, took a hot shower and shut herself in her room to make one of the most difficult choices she'd ever been faced with.
She had to choose between two men. Two drastically different men who'd had each had a drastically different impact on her life. Giving up one now hardly seemed fair. Choosing between these two had never been a notion she'd entertained before she came home. Now, it was all she could think about.
No matter what happened, the ultimate result would likely be the complete loss of the un-chosen one. She didn't relish giving up either one but not choosing seemed heartless and cruel.
She was an adult. Adults made tough choices all the time. It was time to be an adult. For herself, for Charlie, and for Paul and Embry.
Twenty four hours later, she'd made her decision.
Both men were sitting in the living room, waiting expectantly. Billy and Jake had picked up Charlie for a trip to Newton's an hour earlier.
It was just the three of them.
She wanted to feel confidant and good about her decision but she'd come to realize in the past twenty four hours that wasn't possible.
She cleared her throat and began to speak. "I wish I could say that this was easy and that I feel sure of this choice but I don't. I'm not sure of anything anymore, except that I knew I needed to do this. All I've done is agonize over this, I can't imagine what I've put you two through. There are days where I'd give anything to take it all back but well, I suppose that's not an option anymore."
She paused, taking in the expressions of two of the most important people in her life. Paul sat in Charlie's recliner, one leg crossed over the other, his hands gripped tightly to the arms. Embry was leaning against the wall, his arms folded, his gaze on the wall behind her.
"Just say it Bella, please." Embry needled, obviously desiring to be done with this conversation.
Her gaze flicked to Paul, who held her stare for a moment before turning his gaze downward.
"After everything, at the end of it all, my head and my heart just weren't on the same page with each other. So I went with my gut."
Both men fixed their eyes on her form, each waiting for her to break them.
"Paul. I… I'm choosing Paul."
A/N: WOW guys. I'm sooo sorry that took so long. This chapter took me through hell and back. I agonized for days and days. I stopped, started, deleted, un-deleted… It was tough to write, for sure. I hope you enjoy it.
A/N 2: I will still be writing a spin off/AU where she picks BOTH of them. It won't be nearly as long as this is but it'll be a bit more… well, smutty maybe? Smutty and angsty? Those don't always go together but we'll see!
Please, tell me what you think.