Eternal Moon.

*********I do not own any of the rights of the characters. No copyright intended. *******


Chapter Ten.


He'd had her, Sam thought, but he hadn't had her. And now he had to parade Bella around the dance with his enemies surrounding her-and there wasn't a damn thing he could do to stop the madness. Worse, he had to do it with the intoxicating taste of her in his mouth, the feel of her burned into his hands. And a hard-on only she could relieve.

She remained by his side, at least, as she watched the happenings through wide eyes. Both a blessing and a curse! She was here, but he couldn't claim her. Couldn't stop every single man from staring at her! Men he wanted to kill, his own as well as McCullen's. But he couldn't blame them! She was enchanting! That falls of chocolate and mahogany mixed hair, those cherry red lips swollen from his kisses. Even dressed like a warrior, she was the most beautiful woman in the crowd.

And she was his! He wanted to announce that fact more than he wanted to throw her on his bed and strip her. Well, maybe not quite that much! But damn it! Everyone needed to know whom she belonged to! In time, he promised himself. After he'd assured her safety! Maybe!

He led the group-Bella, McCullen, Embry, Vane and the maidens-to a quiet corner, as far from the masses as possible. There, he positioned Bella against the wall, with half his body shielding her from the others.

Awkward silence seized them. He was glad. He preferred silence to questions. But, of course, a few minutes later McCullen had to ruin everything. As always!

"So tell me, Chief of the north. Which of my daughters do you favour?" McCullen asked him. "Which will you choose to be your bride and end the war between us?"

Bella stiffened. "Bride?"

He reached back, grabbed her wrist, and squeezed, all without looking at her. At the moment of contact, he hissed out a breath. So hot, so soft! So his! He wanted more. Wanted her under him, over him, shouting out his name! "Now is not the time for such a discussion."

"When, then?" The lord insisted. "That's the reason I'm here, isn't it?"

Bella dug her nails into Sam's hand, drawing blood.

"You're here for peace talks, nothing more." He said.

A vein nearly burst from the lord's forehead as another bout of silence settled over them. The maidens inched away from their father, as if they feared being struck. They probably did. Sam had heard about the lord's fearsome temper.

"Chieftain Embry," the black haired maiden said with a shy-desperate?-smile. Funny! She knew all of their names, yet Sam couldn't recall hers. "Would you care to dance?"

His brother's dark gaze dropped to his boots. He opened his mouth to reply, but no words emerged. Finally he shut his mouth and gave the black haired maiden his back, glaring out at the circle of women closest to them.

Her cheeks flamed with embarrassment as she lowered her arm.

"Men." Bella grumbled with sympathy, speaking in Sam's language. "Forget him, sweetie. He's obviously an ass."

Sam pressed his lips together to stop his laugh. At least she'd spoken the correct words.

"What's your name, girl?" McCullen snapped at Bella.

"She's mute." Sam said. "And her name is unimportant."

"What's the matter, darling?" Oh, the anger in that tone. She would punish him later, though, he wasn't exactly sure of his crime. "Embarrassed of me?"

Embarrassed? When he wanted to beat his chest and warn every other man away? When he would have been happy if she tattooed his name on her chest? A suggestion he would later make. Still. He wasn't sure how she affected him like this when no one else ever had. Surely the bond wasn't fully responsible. He'd reacted to her before bonding them, or he wouldn't have fucking bonded them.

"Like I said," he snapped. "Mute."

McCullen watched the entire exchange with anger sparking in his eyes. "A slave would never make a good wife, you know."

She isn't a slave! "You know this from experience?" He asked smoothly.

Bella's nails were now embedded in his bone. He could feel warm drops of blood sliding down his arm. He reached back with his other hand and applied pressure to the centre of her palm, harder… harder… but she held steady. Damn her, when would she give?

He eased the pressure rather than break her bone. Finally she released him. He wanted to smile. She'd outlasted him, and he was irrationally proud of her. Again!

"Yes!" McCullen said. "I do. Though I have not bonded with any of my women, I keep five of them to attend my needs. One is a slave, and she is by far my biggest mistake. Greedy, grasping, and desperate! So keep your girl, if that's what you wish, but take one of my daughters. I want peace, but I cannot trust you without the marital bond."

Nails raked down his back, hard, and he nearly hissed in pain. And pleasure. He'd endure Bella's torturing over any other woman's caressing. The little wildcat! "When you yourself refuse to wed any of your women? Besides, McCullen, I'm not the one who attacks without provocation."

Those nails began to pet him. Again he wanted to smile.

McCullen ran his tongue over his teeth. "I have other offers, you know. Other lands, eager for an alliance!"

"Yet you come to me first. I'm moved, really, but that doesn't mean I'll give you what you crave."

A growl! "The western and southern lands despise you for your strength, yet they have not risen against you. Yet! But they will. Mark my word, they will. There is already talking."

He reached back a second time-he couldn't not touch her-and traced his fingers along the waist of Bella's pants. Felt her belly quiver. Cut off his possessive grunt of approval. "They fear my strength as much as they hate it. They will not attack."

"They will when I agree to help them defeat you. Which, I will do if you refuse this opportunity."

He stiffened. "I don't like threats."

"And I don't like issuing them. But I want his alliance more than anything."

The man's desperation relaxed him. He resumed his exploration of Bella's pants, twisting the button, moving the zipper. His finger glided over her panties, and she gasped. Her nails dug into him once more, but not to hurt. To urge him on! "And what's in this for you, hmm?" Had that breathless tone been his?

McCullen sighed. "I'm old. I'm tired of all the fighting. I want to ensure my land is properly cared for when I'm gone."

Truth or a lie, Sam didn't know. But the sentiment he understood. He wanted his land safe, as well-but he wouldn't be backed into a corner. "I could kill you and place a new lord on your throne. One who will adore me! What think you of that plan?"

"I like it." Bella whispered. She arched against him, a command to attend her. He did. He cupped her between her legs, rubbing. Even with the thin cotton barrier, he could feel her moisture, her need for him, and he reacted. His cock, which had never truly deflated, grew and hardened.

He fought the urge to whip around, press himself against her, drop to his knees, and taste her again, to have her, here, now, in front of everyone, or drag her away without a word to his guests. He needed her, wanted her, had to have her, and the wait was impossible. But he didn't allow himself to do any of that. He would be patient, take care of territory business like a good boy-no matter the cost to his sanity-and then himself.

"You need a new plan," McCullen said. "Before I die, I'll either have joined with you or defeated you. That, I swear."

Sam stilled, the vow ringing in his ears. If he failed to wed one of the maidens, McCullen would ensure their minor skirmishes became full-blown battles. That was what he was truly saying. People would die. Lands would be burned. Was one life-Bella's life-worth that? These people trusted him. Needed him! Relied on him!

"I need time," he gritted out.

McCullen nodded, as if that were the answer he'd expected. "Do not take too long. But meanwhile! Girls." He waved them closer. "Tell Chief Uley all about yourselves so that he might know you better."

"Wait, what?" Bella suddenly demanded, pulling from his touch entirely. "Did you just say you needed time? To decide among them?"

He wanted to howl.

"Isn't that just a party in a box?" She gritted out. "I'm outta here."

No! You…"

"I'll do it," Embry said, cutting him off. "I'll wed one of the maidens."

Sam stopped breathing, afraid he'd misheard. "Are you sure?" Whether his brother's claim was a token or not, Sam didn't care! He grasped onto the offer like a lifeline.

His brother nodded. "I'm sure."

To save Sam from losing Bella, or because Embry desired one of the maidens for his own, and was too shy to say so? Again, Sam didn't care. Sweet, sweet lifeline!

"Do you find this acceptable, McCullen?" He demanded.

The old lord thought for a moment, then nodded, "A union with royalty is a union."

"Good. It's agreed. Embry may choose one of your daughters and wed her, and you will leave my people and my lands alone. Forever!"

"Agree. But the wedding must be soon," the old lord insisted. "I was willing to give you, the chief, time. The chieftain will not be afforded the same luxury."

Embry gave a stiff nod. "I don't care when it happens. A wedding is a wedding."

Sam could have kissed him. "Enjoy the rest of the party, men, and ladies. Now, if you'll excuse me." Sam grabbed Bella's wrist and dragged her out from the dance for the second time that night.

"Dismiss the guard," she ground out when they reached the rooms. "I want to talk to you. And by talk, I mean peel the skin from your bones and hear you scream."

"Kinky, but no!" He wasn't taking a chance that they would be interrupted again. "This area isn't private enough." He didn't turn back to her, but coiled around several corners, to reach his rooms.

Servants were tending to the party, so each room was deserted. He bypassed the bathing room, his workout room, his entertainment room, and headed straight into his bedroom.

Large bed! Four posters, velvet sheets! Brown the colour of her eyes. He'd had them made earlier that year. He stopped at the edge and turned to face her.

Her eyes were narrowed, her lips pulled tight in a scowl. She was panting, shoulders lifting and lowering but was restraining herself. Just barely!

"You needed time?" Although they were alone, she still spoke his language.

She wanted to hash that out now? Fine! He would multitask. "Yes," he said, undressing himself. "I called you a slave and a mute, too, so feel free to slap me around while you shout."

"You threaten me and call me names, and that's always been foreplay. But the fact that you needed to think about whether or not to kill me so you could marry one of your maidens is insulting!"

Insulting? Try ingenious. His clothing fell from his torso, leaving it bare-except for his blades he had stashed on his arms, both of his tattoos covered. "I would never kill you, Bella. Ever!"

"Bella." She laughed without humour. "There you go again, calling me by my name. You bastard!"

A bastard? For that? "I'm lost," he admitted, kicking off his boots before unfastening his skins, pushing them to the floor, and stepping out of them. There were blades strapped to his thighs and ankles, too.

"What happened to 'darling'?" She lashed out, careful not to look at the hard cock peeking from the waist of his underwear.

He blinked. She was angry that he hadn't called her darling? A meaningless endearment he used for everyone?

"Were you going to pick the black haired?" Her voice rose. "You called her 'darling' fast enough. Never mind. Don't tell me. Just tell me how you were going to manage a new marriage if you weren't going to off me. I seem to recall you telling me death was the only way out of the first one."

"And that's still true, baby, but here are the facts. I can't think when I'm with you. I'm reduced to two words. Mine and more! And I don't call you darling anymore because-" He pressed his lips together. Do it. Tell her! But he's never said the words before. Never thought them before! "Because I don't want to call you what I call everyone else. You're special!" She meant something to him.

Her features softened, those brown eyes melting. "Really?"

"Yes." He closed the distance between them and cupped her jaw. So soft, so delicate! "And I never would have abandoned you. I was going to toss the maiden in a place far from here, let her call herself my wife, and shack up with you." War averted, body and mind satisfied. "But now I don't have to. Now we can be together." In secret, he thought with a frown.

He didn't want to hide her, though. But he would. To keep her safe, he would do anything.

Rather than softening her further, his admission left her spluttering. She jerked from his clasp and backed away, his hands already mourning the loss of her. "How sweet of you! And about this? I'll go find another man, let him live in my apartment, let him tell everyone he's my husband, and then I'll return to you."

Oh, hell, no. He got in her face, breath suddenly like fire in his nose. "Touch another man, call another man anything, and I will find a way to enter your world and murder him in front of you."

"I'll take that as a 'Do whatever you want, Bella.'" She pushed him, hard, and he stumbled backward. "To get here, all I have to do is think about you. To go home, I figure all I have to do is think about my apartment. Right?"

"You're staying right here." He lunged.

She waved her finger, smiled too sweetly and-


He flew through the air, just missing her. "No. Bella!" Righting himself, he swung left and right, searching for her, any sign of her, his pounding against his ribs, that heated breath still sawing in and out. There wasn't a single trace of her.

"You little witch!"

She'd gone home. Well, this was her home now, and it was time she learned and accepted.

She'll be back, he told himself. One week, and she would be back. She wouldn't be able to stop herself.

He almost rubbed his hands together as his blood flamed yet another degree. He did laugh. This, he realized, was just foreplay for him. Like the threats and the name-calling was foreplay for her. Every time she left, he only wanted her more.

Oh, how her enjoyed her.

Oh how he would have her. In every way imaginable!

One week, he thought again. He had some planning to do!

There you have it, earlier than usual and all for my eager number one fan. Yes chica, I'm talking to you! LOL

Let me know what you think!