A/N: Two chapters as I've been so poop, and big love to Sarah!
It had been a sad afternoon, despite the junk food they had annihilated as they ate their feeling.
Through bursts of tears Angela recounted her decision to end it with Ben, and the upsetting finalisation of earlier that day.
She loved him very much, but the kind soul didn't want either of them to have to sacrifice their dreams or colleges in order to stay together. Angela only wanted to give him things, she didn't want him to look back on their time together as a compromise, or anything other than what it was – a beautiful introduction to love.
She let him go.
Not for the first time, Bella wished she was as strong as her friend, and hoped that Ben knew how lucky he had been to have had Angela, and how much she had cared for him. And she wished she had been around to support Angela whilst all this had been going on.
Instead she had been entrapped, angry and focused entirely on her own issues with Paul and the pack.
She was so embarrassed.
When she got back home that night, climbing out of her truck around half past ten, she had been different to when she'd left.
She felt older now, in her jeans and jumper, and she felt exhausted.
After surprising Charlie with a kiss on the cheek, a quiet goodnight, and climbing the stairs to her room, she had sat on her bed and picked up once again the five pebbles, her gift from Paul dispersed on the bed.
Despite her weariness, she felt like a sad kind of peaceful.
Carefully, she rearranged the small stones on the bedside table, circling the lamp in size order. She stroked the daisy's silky petals whilst walking round the bed, and placed the tiny flower on her bookcase.
She pulled her battered phone out of her pocket.
'Please could you come over?' she texted.
The answer was fast, mere seconds. 'On my way.'
Bella peeled off her clothes, and pulled her pyjamas over her skin, the light fabric creating static as
it caressed her. Deftly she strode to the window, opening it to the night.
She felt cold.
But Paul didn't keep her waiting long.
Within ten minutes she heard the tree shiver, and watched as his body sprung into her space, silent and precise, the movements of the man that had hunted her down so many times.
He straightened up and turned to face her, taken aback when he found her standing - so quietly watching him.
'Are you okay?' his deep voice rumbled, eyes taking quick inventory for any scratch, any harm.
'I'm fine,' Bella confessed, 'I wanted to say I'm sorry.' she added, unassuming, leaning back on the wall.
She saw his Adam's apple bob down and up. 'Sorry? What for?'
'For being an idiot', she chuckled quietly.
He cocked his head at her, confused.
'This imprint was difficult for both of us,' she explained, 'and I made it so much harder than it had to be. We both know that you made mistakes too, and that we baited each other, but I am so sorry for hurting you, and for hurting us. That whole date with Mike' – she saw him bristle at the name – 'was so hurtful, and I'm sorry. I'm sorry for being so stupid.'
'Bella -' he tried to interrupt.
'No please, let me finish: I decided today that I'm going to be a better person, so even if I'm not sure about where I'll be in five years, or what I'll have accomplished in that time, I'm not going to hurt anyone in the process. I like being close to you, the night before last was so peaceful in your arms, and I'm going to stop pretending that that part of our relationship doesn't exist.' she added. 'We just need to work at this together, and we can start by being friends.'
Paul looked at her for a moment, an unreadable expression climbing in his eyes. 'I don't want to be your friend.' he finally said.'I don't. I want to be your everything - I know what I want Bella and 'friend' doesn't cover it.' he elaborated, shaking his head.
A second passed.
They looked at each other.
'Well,' she finally replied, gentle, 'it's all out there now, and at least half of us know what we want. That has to be a good thing.'
She smiled at him, eyes guarded and timid after putting herself out there so much. He stepped closer, erasing the gap. 'Could you stay tonight?' she asked.
'I'd love to.' he purred.
'No funny business.' she added, smiling as he smirked.
'I'll try my best to behave. Had I known you were going to be so tame I'd have gotten here faster.' he chuckled.
'Oh shut it,' she mumbled, 'I know you like my challenging side Lahote.'
'Damn shitting straight,' he replied, obliging by pulling her into his warmth, his arms wrapping around her as he rested his chin on her head.
She grinned, smothering the contentedness into his chest as his smell danced around her. 'And here I thought we could have a whole conversation without you cursing!'
'Nah,' he murmured, before going quiet. 'What brought all this on by the way?' he eventually asked, voice quieter.
'Angela's a good influence.'
'I might have to send her flowers.'
Bella pulled herself tighter into his chest and Paul grunted, the feeling of his imprint so willingly in his arms stripping him of his defences.
'You brought me a flower', Bella murmured. 'You brought me pebbles too.'
'From the beach', he admitted, shoving his head back on top of hers to prevent her from looking up, his man card completely repossessed.
'Thank you so much.'
'It was nothing.'
'Not to me it wasn't.' she smiled, noticing his embarrassment. 'And I won't tell anyone'
'Please don't. They wouldn't let me live it down.'
'Is the big bad wolf scared?' she chuckled, enjoying his discomfort.
Disgruntled, Paul raised his eyebrows. 'My ass is he scared. You should shush woman, its time for your bed.'
'That sounds nice.' she mumbled.
Without hesitation or further warning he pulled her up, ignoring the squeak, carried her to the bed before climbing in, tucking the duvet around both of them. Pleased, he wrapped his arms round her again.
'You're such a caveman!' Bella squealed.
'You're warm though.' she whispered, cuddling his frame, resting her head on his copper chest.
She closed her eyes.
'No more Mikes, Bella. Can't take it.' Paul suddenly said, breaking the quiet.
'I promise, until we make a decision about us, I won't put you through me dating.' she replied, not opening her eyes as she tried to fall asleep.
'That's a shit promise.' he grunted, looking down at the dark mane of hair spread over his chest. He'd never really cuddled before Bella, and it still felt a little lame. 'I want better than that.'
'I want to know what I want before I go for whatever it is.'
Paul paused. 'That made no sense.'
'Sleeeeep,' she groaned. 'We'll talk in the morning.'
In a movement so swift it felt dazing, Bella suddenly found herself on her back, an aroused wolf looking down at her, dark eyes glinting.
'Did you just give me an order?'
Bella gulped. Shit. 'No...'
'You just gave me an order.'
'I didn't mean -'
'Isabella,' he growled quietly, interrupting, 'make no mistake in thinking that I am a docile creature. Despite my going along with your shit-storm, I'm not passive or domesticated or pliable.' he rumbled, the sound vibrating through her, warming her heat, bringing goosebumps to her skin. 'I won't be ordered around by you.' he continued, eyes glancing at her suddenly rosy lips, her wanting expression. 'I am not your pet.'
'I don't want you to be my pet.' she breathed. 'I want you to be my friend.'
'No, I've already told you – friend isn't enough.' Teasingly, he dragged his body over hers. Back then forth, achingly slowly he rubbed his clothed body over her desire, the friction making both groan as he took advantage of their positioning. 'I don't think it's enough for you either.'
'Paul...' she mumbled, back arching, words lost to her as she unthinkingly leant into his touch.
'Why are you fighting this?' he continued, hissing as she scraped her fingernails down his strong arms. 'What are you so scared of?'
'I don't want to be trapped,' she moaned, eyes closed tight, 'I don't want to be like Jessica.'
'I don't want a Jessica.' he confessed, 'I want you. You drive me crazy.'
'Crazy?' she pressed, panting slightly.
'There won't be a dull moment with you,' he groaned, lowering his lips to her exposed throat. 'You're too feisty.'
He moved his mouth up, and suddenly they were so painfully close, mouths only centimetres apart. He had kissed her on so few occasions. He needed this. They both did, even if Bella found it hard to admit.
'Bella...' he rumbled, ripping the silence only previously punctuated by the sound of fabric over skin, the whimpers of shallow breathing.
'Kiss me,' she asked, hands climbing his back like a mountaineer, distressed fingers exploring the hair on the back of his neck.
All she could see was a kaleidoscope, the vibrancy of warmth and smell and need.
All she could see was this man.
She wanted him.