Warning: MA for sexual situations. Not intended for those under 18.

Beta: the lovely Babs81410 at JBNP

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of Stephenie Meyer. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

A/N: For notashamedtobe, who made me think about Sam and Leah a lot more seriously after I started to write D:R (which is not on any kind of hiatus and will be updated next week).


The imprint didn't break, not exactly. It twisted and bent. The instant Emily found out about them, Sam's pain changed from a deep throb to pure agony. Rather than feeling a violent tug back to his little cabin in the woods, it felt like she had wrapped barbed wire around his heart and was trying to yank it out through his spine. His startled howl of pain caused Leah to skid to a stop on the shoulder of I-90. He clutched at his chest and doubled over, head touching the dashboard of her old Honda Civic. They were only half a mile from the next exit. When she realized that he wasn't going to die, he only felt like it, she pulled back onto the highway and then got off on the surface street. She was about to turn the car onto the westbound entrance when he grabbed her bare knee so hard that his short nails broke her skin. He couldn't speak, but he waved his other hand in the general direction of the Super 8 a block away, and five minutes later Leah had convinced the nervous desk clerk that Sam just needed to lie down, refusing directions for Coeur d'Alene's only hospital.

He lay on one double bed, sweating and shaking, his temperature jacked up to 112°. It was even worse than the first time he phased. When she brought him a glass of cold water, he downed it in two gulps before yanking her down beside him. He clung onto her for dear life, resisting the pull back to La Push, to Emily, through sheer force of will.

She didn't stroke his hair or murmur tender words into his ear. But she didn't let go, either. She just asked him quietly, "Are you sure you want to do this?" He couldn't force any words past the imprint choking off his throat, but he managed to nod once. Just barely. She didn't say anything in return. She only held him tighter, and he let out a strangled sob. She made him no promises, so he did not return them. After all, he had already broken every vow he ever made to her.

In the middle of the night on the first night, when she shifted her ass against his hips in her sleep, he discovered that one particular physical sensation could distract him from the pain in his chest. Since she was deeply asleep and utterly exhausted, he rolled away just far enough to take himself in hand. But he might as well have grasped himself with sandpaper. Any other woman would have felt even worse, his imprint saw to that. But even his imprint couldn't alter the sensation of Leah's skin against his own, because she was a part of him and always would be. In his desperation, he reached for her, turned her onto her back, and tugged her shirt up until he could see her beautiful breasts. He was more than a little nervous. It had been a very long time he last woke her up in this fashion, but she always liked it, and apparently that had not changed. Stroking at her flesh with his fingers, lips, and tongue was an effective and pleasurable distraction, but it wasn't until he was buried deep inside her that the pain in his chest receded. When he flooded her core with hot ropes of his seed, his guttural cry sounding foreign in his own ears, the pain disappeared entirely. But moments later, when he pulled out of her, it returned full force.

So he took her again.

Afterward he fell into a fitful sleep. She watched him, frowning and mumbling at unseen monsters, at himself, and she wondered at him. She had tried to avoid seeing into his mind as much as she could. It was only painful. Because she saw the truth long before he did. The imprint smothered parts of his mind and memory like a waterlogged blanket so that he could barely remember who he was. But once allowed access to his brain after she phased, she could lift the heavy cloth to find what was underneath. Between the threads of his misery and his guilt, his desperation and his obsession, his regret and dismay, were braided strands of love. All for her. They were there before his wolf, before his imprint, before the death of her father and the destruction of the life they knew. And to her surprise, the strands had only multiplied and knitted together into a complex tapestry. For now he also loved her like a sister and a packmate as well. Truth be told, he probably could have hidden these feelings from her if he had tried hard enough. But worse than leaving her was letting her believe she meant nothing to him. And she had always known him better than anyone, and he was better at hiding from himself than from her.

He had only started to recognize the depths of his own feelings for her when faced with the knowledge that she would go, that she would cut the threads that still bound him to her when she left for another life. A few strands would remain, of course, but they both knew they would fray, and in time, perhaps none would remain except in memory. She would be his absent sister for a while longer, until she could control herself well enough to stop phasing altogether. And she would always be his first love. But staying in La Push, staying in the pack, she had been unable to sever the other ties no matter how hard she tried.

She wasn't able because Sam wouldn't let her. Every time she started to pull away, he pushed himself forward. Each time she turned to put him behind her, he walked around until he was directly in her line of sight again. He willed himself to stop the awful dance, but his will had never been the strongest part of him. He was as unable to let her go as she was to cut her ties.

The reservation was small and the pack even smaller. Sam still saw Leah on patrol, at bonfires, pack meetings, family dinners, and worst of all, when she would come to his cabin to reluctantly assist Emily in their wedding plans. And his eyes held her in place even though she stayed far out of the reach of his hands. In such close quarters, she was unable to reach any real closure to their relationship, because just as she was letting go, she learned that his love had been overridden by his imprint, but it had not been destroyed.

He hated himself for it. He hated himself for what he had done to her and continued to do to her. He tried to stop, but he didn't know how. Because under her vitriol and bitterness was a wounded soul, a soul he had once considered to be the most important thing in his universe. Her soul was weighted down by the horrible facts of her life, but it was still her soul. His imprint would blur his vision when he looked at her, might alter his perception of his memories of her until they felt like they belonged to someone else, but they could not alter the memories themselves.

And through it all, she had done him not one wrong. Not one thing to hate her for. Not one thing to justify his actions toward her. She lashed out, yes, but only to distract him and his insensitive brothers from seeing into her heart, the heart that still belonged to him because he would not let it go.

Earlier in the summer, it was Bella who pointed out to Jacob what was going on after the bonfire they held in honor of the new Alpha's ascension. Emily was not yet due to be there for another hour. She was shopping for wedding dresses with Kim. She had requested he step down from his role so they could start a family. Bella had encouraged her fiance to step up, and everyone was going to celebrate. Leah had arrived with Seth, but she smelled like someone else's cologne. Sam's meticulous control slipped. He allowed an unguarded emotion to play across his face, and Bella saw. The very next day, the new Alpha rearranged the patrol schedule to ensure that Leah would not share any more shifts with Sam.

It wasn't enough. Sam's agitation grew as he felt her slipping away, so he started to go out of his way to insert himself into her new life. He began to take meals at the restaurant where she started a job as a waitress, or he would find himself stepping out to buy an unnecessary gallon of milk when he knew she would be at the grocery store. He told himself he just needed to make sure she was okay, needed to reassure himself that she was doing well since he couldn't see into her brain very often. Jacob retaliated by letting her skip pack meetings and putting Sam on patrol during her waitressing shifts. Seth pulled Sam aside and growled at him to leave his sister alone.

It worked for a while.

The first time she went on a date after she had phased was the first night he imagined her underneath him as he made love to Emily. But it was not the last. He had to pinch his lips together to keep himself from calling out the wrong name. At first, he chalked it up to simple jealousy. But even he could not claim that there was anything simple about his jealousy when he learned she had slept with one of her dates. She had unintentionally let the memory slip through while patrolling with Jared, and try as he might, Jared was unable to keep the thought out of his mind the next time he patrolled with Sam. That was the first night he ever refused to make love with Emily, claiming that he had to take an extra shift the moment he walked into their bedroom and saw her waiting for him in the sheer lace gown that signalled she wanted him. He walked directly out again, carefully avoiding his brothers. He stopped himself from tracking down and strangling the young man, whose image was permanently etched into his memory, by creeping to Leah's house. He sat on the ground beneath her window and listened to her breathe while she slept.

The next day he slept away the morning, and when he woke, he tried to forget his jealousy. He realized that he was worse than any stalker and tried to bury his emotions about her and lock them away. But that same night, Quil missed his shift when Claire came down with a stomach flu, and Leah was the only person available to patrol with Sam. He clamped down on his memory viciously enough that she did not learn where he had spent the previous night. But Leah did not have such good control over her mind, not against him, not against the one who once knew her better than any other. And so he realized she was still in love with him. It was fading, yes, the beautiful emotions she once held mutating into something barely recognizable. But it was love nonetheless. As long as she was still in love with him, he didn't have to lose her, not really. He had them both. He would chew off his own arm before he admitted it to anyone, but a part of him liked it that way.

As for Leah, she didn't know whether to flaunt her new sexual experiences at him or hide them away and try to preserve what little privacy she had left. He ended up getting jumbled memories of groans, sweat and tangled limbs belonging to perhaps half a dozen men. He recognized himself among them. Whatever minute chance he had to let her go gracefully was destroyed by the end of that one shift. He didn't speak any real words to her for the duration, but each memory of her memories triggered a corresponding one of his. Half were of her, the other of Emily.

He was tearing her apart from the inside, over and over again. Slowly.

After that, Leah changed. Her blazing anger cooled, her sharp edges dulled, her seething resentment settled. The only thing worse than her terrible passion was her cool resignation. It frightened Sam to his core. But still he did not let her go.

It was Seth who finally asked Jacob to send Leah away.

She would not go without being ordered to do. She had already lost nearly everything, her father, her lover, her future, her children, her privacy, her dreams, and her pride, but she had not lost her baby brother, and she would stay in the pack for eternity if she thought she could keep him safe. So Seth asked Jacob to Alpha order Leah away to college. Jacob balked at the notion until he, too, saw the fire inside Leah beginning to burn out.

Which is why the day he left the reservation, Sam nearly swerved off the road when he saw Leah lifting luggage onto the rack of her old Civic. Her head snapped up at the screech of his tires, but the only visible reaction on her expression was an almost annoyed narrowing of the eyes.

She had been careful, very careful, not to let too many people know her plans. Sue and Seth knew, of course, although she had timed her actual departure such that they were both out of the house. They had said their goodbyes earlier that morning since she didn't think she could stand to look in her rearview mirror and see them waving at her. Jacob knew, but he was careful not to tell. And that was all. So where did Sam come from?

Ironically, it was Emily who sent him out that day. She realized she needed a particular shade of blue for a painting she planned to work on that afternoon, but the only store that carried it was in Port Angeles. She asked him to go get it, and he agreed without hesitation. It just so happened that he couldn't drive off the reservation without passing the Clearwater house.

He didn't even bother to turn off his car or pull it out of the road before he slammed it into park and got out, eyeing the luggage. "What's going on?"

"What does it look like?" She picked up another suitcase and stacked it somewhat haphazardly onto the top of her car.

"Where are you going?" he asked, afraid of the answer.

After a pause, she shrugged, "East," then headed into her house for another bag.

He jogged after her, noting that the trunk was already completely full, as was the backseat. "That has to be everything you own. This is for good?" The first sentence came out like a shout, but the second like a whisper.

"That's the idea," she sighed, resigning herself to talking to him while determining the fastest way to end the conversation.

He gaped at her. "How... But... When were you going to tell me?"

She shook her head slowly as if she was explaining something to a toddler. "I wasn't."

His mind spun. "Does everyone else know?"

Her eyes narrowed again. "Everyone who needs to know does, yes."

It felt like a punch to the gut. And that was the moment that he realized he could not let her go, not like this. After everything they had been through, this could not be the end. "Will I see you again?" he heard himself ask.

She threw down her bag and stalked toward him, her voice losing its falsely affected calm. "That depends. Have I been dismissed from the wedding party?"

When he didn't answer right away, she stepped up to him, closer than she had been since he broke up with her. She didn't touch him. She was literally toe to toe with him, the fire he had lately missed blazing from her eyes, her heat rolling off her in waves and searing his skin, her rich, spicy scent overwhelming his senses until he became dizzy. He shook his head no.

She glared at him until she realized he wasn't going to speak. Disgusted, she spat out, "Then I'll see you at your wedding. It shouldn't be hard to find me if you look. I'll be standing right behind your bride."

For a split second, he saw the defeat in her eyes behind the fury, and it shook him to the core. But before he could regain his equilibrium, she swept past him, grabbing her bag, and was back out the door.

He stared after her. He knew that she was at the end of her rope. She would leave belongings behind rather than put up with him for a second longer. And if he didn't stop her how, he could see that she might never say another word to him for the rest of her life. Not if she could help it. And if she left, she might just pull it off.

He had to change it. The thing that lay between them, the once innocent and pure love they had created, was irreparably broken. He had smashed it to pieces himself, and nothing he could do would put it back together. But all the same, those could not be the last words they spoke to one another.

Although he could imagine one fate worse than never hearing her speak to him again. A vision unfolded in his mind's eye in the span of a second. She would return after months of silence only to offer him cool congratulations when he married her once best friend. Would she look him in the eye as she walked toward him, awaiting his future at the end of the aisle, only to shift away at the last moment and turn to wait for Emily? Or would she fake a look of bored disdain, staring at a meaningless spot on the wall, while every eye in the congregation would be on her, not on the bride, as everyone wondered if she would make a scene? Whatever it was, be it a mask of despair, detachment, anger, false cheer, or resignation, that would likely be the last expression he would ever see on her face. Because if she left now, she would separate herself from him fully and finally. He knew in his heart that after fulfilling that last obligation, she would leave and not return unless lives were at stake.

And right here, right now, a life was at stake. His. The human soul of Sam Uley. She was the only one who could save him. If she left, she would take with her the last remaining pieces of the boy he was, the man he meant to become, and all that would be left behind would be a man-shaped shell, a wolf, and an imprint.

He went after her. He caught her by the arm before she could open the driver's door.

She froze in her tracks and stared down at his hand on her skin, momentarily stunned. After all, he hadn't touched her a single time since the night he told her they could no longer be together. She had chased after him, shocked and bewildered, grasping at him in dismay. He had kissed her only hours before, sweetly and with passion, had made love to her the previous night when he snuck in her bedroom window, but as he ended things, all he did was firmly remove her hands and step away. And that was the last time her flesh had met his. He hadn't so much as squeezed her shoulder in a sign of solidarity or comfort on the night her father died despite the fact that he practically itched to crush her to him, feeling that he had lost all rights to her skin when he broke her heart.

Very quietly, she whispered, "Let go of me."

And just as softly, he answered, "No." Without releasing her, he slid himself between her and the car, effectively blocking her route of escape. He placed his other hand on her other shoulder. "Please, not like this."

She refused to meet his eyes, staring directly at his chest. "How, then?" she whispered.

"Not like this."

Bitterly, she hissed, "What, you want to throw me a bonfire to say goodbye or something? No thank you."

His grip tightened. "You know that isn't what I mean." He wanted to shake her to make her look up, but did not. He could see her long lashes trembling.

"Then what? How am I supposed to go?"

"Not at all. We need you. I need you," he choked out.

She finally looked him in the eye. Tears had pooled, but she refused to let them fall. His heart sank. She hadn't cried in front of him since he left her. "What the fuck for? The pack is huge, and we haven't seen a leech in months, so I know it can't be that. So what the hell do you need me for? Do you enjoy my misery being on display for everyone? Does it entertain you? Or maybe looking at my ruined life makes everyone else feel better about theirs, is that it?"

"Of course not!" He was horrified. "Just please, please don't go," he begged, unable to articulate his need for her, unable to force the words past his imprint.

"Why?" she shrieked. "So you can compare me to your goddamn imprint and see all the ways I don't measure up? You want to keep me here so you can look at me and be relieved that you didn't end up fucking up your life by staying with me? Fuck that!"

Sam gaped at her. Is that what she thought? It couldn't be. Is that what he, what Emily, had reduced her to? "How could you even say that?"

"Because I've been in there!" She yanked back one arm so she could stab at his skull with her finger. Tears finally started streaming down her face. "I can read your goddamned mind, you idiot! It's all you think about. She's all you think about. How well she cooks, how she takes such good care of you, of the boys. I've heard you wax poetic about how good she is at getting grass stains out of your stupid shorts, or sewing up the holes in your shirts, like she just discovered the cure for cancer. It's insane, Sam! While all I do is make you miserable, make our brothers pissed off. She's soft, but I'm hard. She's sweet, but I'm angry. She takes care of you, but all I'm good for now is killing demons! And you can't even be bothered to try to avoid thinking about how sweet she is, the fucking taste of her lips, how good she feels against you."

Sam realized that he, too, was crying when a gust of wind chilled his skin, and he felt how wet his cheeks had become. He didn't even know where to begin. Everything she said was true and false all at the same time. He did think those things. He did marvel at the taste of Emily's food, the sensation of her skin, even the way she did laundry. He felt that everything she did was perfect, even when it didn't make sense. He couldn't explain it to anyone, least of all himself. But somewhere underneath it all, he knew it was all wrong. Somewhere deep inside, he knew he once wanted a woman to challenge him and make him laugh, not mother him. He used to like savory foods, not sweet baked goods. And before he imprinted, he had seen Emily a dozen times and never thought that her beauty could even begin to compare with Leah's.

He stared at her wordlessly, and she mistook his silence for agreement. She twisted violently out of his grip. "I'm not sticking around to watch it any longer." She started to march around to the other side of the car. If he insisted on blocking the driver's door, she would just get in the passenger side and climb over the console. She would happily drive over his foot if he refused to get out of the way.

But he caught her again before she could get that far, roughly lifting her off her feet and pinning her to her car with his entire body as she tried to push him away. "It's the imprint, Lee Lee. It's not... It's not..." He meant to say that it wasn't him, that the real him belonged to her and always would, but he the words died in his throat. He tried again. "I want... I lo..." He had to tell her he loved her, but he couldn't. "I need you," was the closest he could get.

"Fuck you!" she wailed, squirming and shoving at him. Her taut body slithered against his in her attempts to escape. Heat radiated off her, and passion. And his body reacted to it, along with his mind. He grabbed her hair and yanked it backward, then he slammed his mouth against hers.

And the floodgates opened. Every lustful thought, every memory of each blissful sensation of her body against his, every remembered moan or whimper he dragged out of her, they all rushed to the surface of his conscious mind. They had been buried, but they had not been destroyed. They had never left him. His love for her had never left him.

He trembled with anger, desperation, and lust. His erection strained against her. He roughly groped her curves, squeezing her ass, palming her breasts through her shirt, groping at her slim waist and sinking his fingers into her lithe hips. She twisted and struggled and shoved against him, and strong as she was, he was stronger, and he refused to let her go.

He kissed her like it was the last time he ever would, as if he must concentrate an entire lost lifetime's worth of love into just this one kiss, and when she felt his love through his lust, she melted against him. He was her weakness because he had once been her strength.

He felt the shift instantly. He groaned into her mouth as her legs wrapped around his waist and her fingers wound into his hair. He started to grind against her through their clothes. He massaged her tongue with his, and when he was confident that she would not protest, dropped his lips to her neck, to the spot that he knew drove her mad, and lapped at it with his tongue. She raked her nails at his scalp, holding him to her, and he felt the pulse of her carotid artery against his mouth. He heard her heart beating so hard and fast he thought it might explode in her chest and grinned when he felt his own doing the same. He lowered further to nip at her clavicle with his teeth. She whimpered at the same moment that he scented her arousal, and what little restraint he had left completely deserted him.

He pulled away just far enough to yank at the bottom of her tank top and pull it over her head, and then he stared at her full, high breasts encased in a lacy black bra he had never seen before. He needed them in his mouth, so he hiked her higher against the car and kissed the sweet flesh as he inhaled her aroma.

"Sam. Sam." He distantly heard her husky voice. It dripped seduction, and it only made him want her more. He needed to hear her scream his name in pleasure, so he dragged down the cup of her bra with his teeth and drew her pebbled nipple deep into his mouth and suckled hard. She released a long sigh, tossing her head and arching her back so that she pressed further into his mouth. "God! We have to... Ohhhh... We.. Inside. Inside." He didn't register the meaning of her words until she shoved him away from her breast and he looked around in confusion.

Lost in her, he had totally forgotten they were out in the open where anyone could see them. He had no idea if anyone had spotted them, if any cars had driven by. He realized with a start that he didn't care. "Inside," he growled. He lifted her away from the car with his hands palming her ass. She looped her arms around his shoulders and attacked his neck with her own desperate kisses. While he walked her into the house, he whispered harshly in her ear, "I'm going to fuck you like you've never been fucked. I'm going to make you come so hard you can't remember your own name. The only name you'll remember is mine."

He kicked the door shut behind them and shoved her against the wall with a thump of her head, trapping her and attacking her mouth with fervent kisses. She returned them in full force until she found herself standing on the floor once more. Because although he hated even the space of a single inch between them, he needed to be inside her, and there was no way to get her naked without putting her down. He immediately dropped to his knees and popped open the button on her shorts, yanking them off in a single movement that stripped her of her panties as well.

The scent of her arousal hit him like a freight train. He wanted to drink every drop from her cunt like a parched man discovering an oasis. But not as badly as he needed her wrapped around his cock. He was so hard that it hurt, and he knew she possessed the only cure for his pain. As he stood, he whipped off his shirt and lowered his shorts just far enough to release his length. It lurched toward her when he saw her lick her lips as she stared hungrily at it.

He slid his hand in between her thighs. He might not be able to wait long enough to eat her out, but he had to have a taste.

"You're soaked," he moaned as she writhed against his hand. "How bad do you want this right now?" He withdrew his fingers and licked them clean. The pure, raw taste of sex pushed him past his limit, and without waiting for an answer, he closed the gap between them, shoving her off her feet and slamming her back against the wall. He buried himself inside her.

And he howled. Her walls gripped him as tightly as they had the night she lost her virginity to him. But this time he wasn't afraid of hurting her, she was dripping down her own thighs, and her temperature was every bit as hot as his own. She was scalding against him, around him, over him, and it was the single most pleasurable sensation he had felt in his entire life.

"How... Fuck... God... Lee... so..." He gave up trying to find words, instead concentrating on repositioning his hands under her legs so that he could spread her wide and proceed to fuck her through the wall. Later, he would find out to his absolute joy that her wolven healing abilities extended to every single inch of her, rendering every act of intercourse so exquisite that it was almost painful for him. He loved it.

And then he smelled the unmistakable scent of her blood and looked down to see a tiny smear on his thick shaft where it plunged into her body.

He went wild.

He was positively brutal. He would have broken a lesser woman. But even in his madness he could hear, see, and feel just how much she loved it. Thank god she did, because he knew he was well past the point where he could stop.

He could sense her climbing toward the dizzying heights of a climax. He gasps turned into cries, the trembling of her body turned into undulations, her fingers pressing into the skin of his back turned into nails leaving scratches in their wake. He looked down to her perfect breasts while he still had the wherewithal to do so, unsure if he was happy or sad that he had not gotten her bra off while he still had the use of both hands. Then he quickly became mesmerized by the sight of them bouncing, and the knowledge that it was his cock pounding into her that caused them to move was the last rational thought in his brain. He let his senses take over, and he drowned himself in her.

Being inside her was madness. Sin. But so, so right. He had no idea how much time passed as he thrust furiously into her grasping cunt. All he knew was that it felt like eons since she welcomed him into her heart. If this, her flesh, was all she would allow him, he would not leave it until she forced him to do so. So he held out for longer than he thought possible, the slick drag of her walls pushing his considerable control to the very brink.

But it was the sound of his name falling from her lips as her endless orgasm milked him that finally pushed him over the edge. He slammed into her as deeply as he possibly could, sank his teeth into her shoulder, and exploded as she screamed her bliss into his ear.

Minutes later, he found himself on his knees on the hard floor by the front door, her cooling body stiffening above him as his breathing slowed. He lifted his head from her neck and found her looking everywhere but at him despite the fact that he was still buried inside her. She started to lift herself off him, and he knew that if he did not do something immediately, she could put on her clothes, walk out the door, and drive away without a backward glance.

"No," he commanded. He might no longer have been Alpha, but the tone stopped her anyway. "I'm not done yet. We're not done yet. That wasn't goodbye. I refuse to say goodbye."

She stared down at him, a dozen different emotions playing across her face. She bent to kiss him gently on the lips, and the soft touch was full of sadness and of love. Quietly, she answered, "I don't think that's up to you anymore." The anger was drained from her voice.

She started to gather her clothes, but he yanked her back into his lap and wrapped his arms around her. He concentrated on the sensation of her heart beating against his chest. She didn't return his embrace, but she didn't pull out of it.

The honk of a car swerving around Sam's, still running idle in the middle of the street, startled them both enough that he allowed her to stand. She picked up her shorts and panties, pulled a fresh shirt from the closet, and efficiently dressed and smoothed her hair as he stood and fastened his shorts back on and grabbed his shirt from the floor. But when she reached for the doorknob, he put his hand on her arm again, but this time, gently. He opened the door for her, and she stepped out.

He started up the road, back toward the cabin, while Leah tied down the last straps to the luggage on the rack. But she was nervous, he could tell, by the slight shaking of her hands. She dropped her keys on the ground, and she bent to retrieve them.

When she straightened, she saw him on the other side of the car. He had opened the passenger door. "What are you doing?"

He looked at his car in the street, he looked back up the road, and he finally looked back at her. He wasn't sure if he could live without Emily, but he was certain he didn't want to live without Leah. "I'm coming with you," he said simply, and he got into her car.

They left his still running on the road in front of her house. Her shirt lay abandoned on the driveway.


For an hour, she said nothing to him. She glanced at him from time to time and opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat and gripped her steering wheel unnecessarily tightly. It wasn't until Port Angeles that his chest began to hurt. He distracted himself from it by asking her, "So where are we going?"

This she could answer. "Bozeman."

He gave her a genuine grin. "You got into Montana State?"

She nodded. He decided to focus on how proud he was of her rather than wonder what the hell he was doing. Silence settled over them again.

East of Seattle, she finally asked him, "What are you doing with me?"

The pain in his chest was becoming stronger. Very quietly he answered, "Hoping you'll save me."

Neither of them made another sound until he cried out in pain on the interstate outside Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.


One night in the Super 8 turned into two, then four, then a week. He didn't leave the room once. He hardly left the bed. The pain in his chest disabled him every time he tried to walk to the car so they could proceed to Montana. Leah missed orientation, her new landlord called half a dozen times, and she knew she had already lost the part time job she had lined up. But because he needed her, she held him still. If Emily was the gravity that held him to the earth, Leah was the gravity that held him together.

The only times she released him were to go to the bathroom or get food. He would have followed her when she needed to urinate if she hadn't physically pushed him back from the door and locked it behind her. Two minutes felt like two hours as he leaned against the faux wood grain for support. He basically collapsed on her when she opened it again. She rolled her eyes, but she caught him anyway. They even showered together when he became unbearably overheated in order to cool down. It wasn't sexual, not really. He needed her touch like he needed the water running over his scalp and down his shoulders. His imprint was howling at him that he needed Emily like he needed air, but he knew it was a lie. The cooling shower wasn't necessary for survival, but it was necessary to make survival bearable, just like Leah was.

When Emily's agony turned from desperate longing to rage, he was able to resist her pull enough that he could loosen his vicelike grip on Leah. He still clung to her, sweating and gasping. There were marks in the shape of his hands pressed into her flesh, but they faded in minutes.

His only real relief was the kind he found inside her body. So he took her again and again.

The sex was different than it had been. Not worse, not better, just different. When they were young, when he had first touched her, it was with an eagerness and tenderness that neither would ever experience again. Over time, they learned each other's bodies. Hesitancy turned into confidence, exploration turned to mastery, and passion merged with love.

But it was better than it had been with Emily. With Emily, he instinctively knew how to touch her from the very first time. He didn't have to guess or even ask her what she wanted. He barely even had to read the signs. He just knew. She was satisfied each and every time. He thought he was, but the truth was, he couldn't actually tell.

With Leah, there was teenage groping, accidental elbows, overenthusiastic fingers, entering her too quickly in his excitement, coming too soon. She didn't orgasm every time he touched her, but he did, save the time her family came home unexpectedly when Sue forgot her purse on the kitchen table. Seth would have been scarred for life when he opened the front door had the headlights of the car not shone into the living room with enough time for Sam to hide in the coat closet and Leah to yank on her skirt. Even so, it had been better with Leah.

Sex with Emily was a serious affair. She wanted candles and roses and moonlight streaming in through the window. She wanted a king sized bed. She favored flowing, breezy negligees and silky robes. Leah just wanted to touch and be touched. Although she looked stunning in lingerie, she was just as happy to rip off a sweaty tee shirt and pounce on him or push him behind the shed and hike up her skirt. Sex with Leah was sensual, exciting, intense, intimate. But most of all, sex with Leah was fun.

Now, though, fun was probably the last word either of them would use to describe what they were doing. They were too different, their bodies and their minds, to go back to anything resembling the way it had been. But the intensity multiplied by a thousandfold. The heat between them increased exponentially.

He explored every inch of her body as if it held the secrets of the universe. And by the time he was done, he decided that it did, and he wanted to explore it again. Some things were the same. The shade of her skin, the curve of her lips, the swell of her breasts. Others were different, and though he missed the person she once was, he could not complain about the way the wolf gene had changed her body. Her legs, always shapely, now went on for days. Her curves, always tantalizing, were now absolutely delicious. And perhaps best of all, her resilience and healing abilities made her body probably the only one on earth that could fully unleash himself onto without any kind of restraint.

He took full advantage.

If he had his way, he would never again be with another woman. But if Leah got her way, well, then he had no idea what would happen. She hadn't told him. He didn't think she had made a decision. They didn't really talk, because anything his imprint allowed him to say, she wouldn't want to hear, and everything he so desperately needed to tell her was immediately silenced. He was afraid to fall asleep each night, weary though he was. He was reasonably certain he wouldn't wake up the next morning in a bathtub filled with ice and missing a kidney, but he might find himself alone in the lumpy double bed.

By the end of the week, he was making her late. And sex or not, romance or not, friendship or not, if she wanted to start classes on time she would have to leave by the next day, and they both knew it. He was getting worried, so when they woke up at seven twenty six on the morning of the eighth day, he decided to just live with the pain. It was worth it, she was worth it, even if it got worse. And he knew that it would. "We should go. We can't stay here any longer." But when he tried to stand, he realized that he had as much motor control as a marionette whose strings had all been cut. Leah frowned and helped him back into bed, wrapping herself around him once more. Exhausted, she asked if he wanted her to take him home or if he just wanted to run there. He regained enough strength to bury his fingers in her hair and draw her lips to his, and he lost himself in her body.

He didn't know it, but at nearly the same moment, Bella woke up Jacob in a similar, but completely different, fashion. After, while Sam lay heavily atop Leah, warding off his imprint pain for as long as possible with his softening cock cradled inside her slick heat, Bella was murmuring to Jacob, "I think we need to tell her." When Jacob asked her to explain, she answered that the most fair thing to do was for Jacob to tell Emily what he had seen in Sam's mind, the truths that his imprint would not allow him to voice because she did not want to know them. Jacob stroked her naked back and thought about it until he agreed, while Leah tried to figure out if it was safe to extricate herself from Sam's embrace to go find food.

Sam never learned exactly what Jacob said to Emily that evening. But he could feel in the pit of his stomach when the conversation began. It was at five thirty on the dot. Ten minutes later, the barbed wire around his heart turned into steel cables yanking him back. By six o'clock, Leah's skin was purple and black from his hold on her. At seven twelve, he cracked the headboard while desperately pounding into her from behind to keep himself from racing back to the reservation. At eight seventeen, she pushed him off her, as they had somehow managed to reach the bounds of her healing abilities and she was unable to tolerate his frantic assault any longer. She asked him if he should leave without her, or if she should leave without him. His voice caught in his throat, but his eyes gave her her answer, so she rolled him onto his back and told him to grab the remnants of the headboard while she slithered down his body and took him into her mouth. At eight forty nine, her body had recovered along with her libido, and she invited him to mount her again. And at nine twenty two, he had the most powerful orgasm of his life at the very moment Emily changed her mind.

At nine twenty four, he rolled off Leah and whispered. "I'm sorry, Lee Lee. So sorry. It's time."

She blinked at him in confusion before her face settled into a neutral mask. "To go home? Or to come with me?"

He cleared his voice and spoke the first words of pure truth that had passed his lips in nearly two years. "Those two things are the same."

She didn't smother him in kisses or words of love and devotion as he had been hoping. Her facial expression didn't change at all. Instead she stood up. But when she held her hand out to him and he spotted the fire in her eyes, he decided it was more than enough.

He took her hand.