You guys rewarded me with so many amazing reviews…and I will reward you with an extra long chapter :) Enjoy!


ArabellaWhitlock: Allow me to just clarify: I'm not bored with the pairing of Bella/Paul, I'm taking it slow and building the characters and foundation of a relationship. I think many of you will be happy with this chapter though. Thank you for your review! I like being able to be on the same page as my readers. Like you, I would love to see a Bella/Nigel pairing, and maybe there will be briefly in later chapters but I honestly don't know at this point. I'm not ruling out a little Bella/Nigel action but I don't want it to be something that drives Paul away. If it happens, I know I'll enjoy it as much as you guys but it wasn't in the initial story line.

Thank you for the reviews guys! I love hearing from you and hearing your opinions!


When you're overwhelmed and you've lost your breath

When the space between the things you know is blurry nonetheless.

When you try to speak but you make no sound

And the words you want are out of reach but they've never been so loud

"Beside You" – Marianas Trench


Chapter Fifteen: Chainmaille


Paul POV

She came bounding back down the stairs, this time in a black Jack Daniels tank top and a pair of jean shorts. It looked like she had a black bathing suit top on underneath the shirt. She smiled to me and I couldn't help but smile back.

"We should be ready to go… the other guys are meeting us down there after a quick sweep of the area just to keep up appearances. They're going to be talking about relaxing and not seeing her around lately just in case she's nearby." Sam said and Bella nodded.

"That's a good idea. She's practically mastered the art of being right around the corner when you least expect it." She said and I nodded. Absolutely lethal.

"Alright so Bella and Sam are both driving… sound good?" Nigel said and the guys nodded. We left the house and all began packing into the vehicles to drive down to First Beach.

"So. What's your favourite colour?" Bella asked me as we set off down the road. I looked to her quizzically and she laughed.

"What? I feel like I hardly know you." She said and I snickered.

"And you think knowing my favourite colour helps?" I asked and she laughed.

"It's a start! Now spill it!" She said and I chuckled.

"Green." I told her and she nodded.

"Me too." She responded and I laughed.

"Oh boy I feel like I know you better already." She playfully shoved me but couldn't keep the smile off her face.

"You hush. Ok, and when is your birthday?" She asked and I smiled, appeasing her.

"October 1st, you?" I told her and she nodded.

"September 13th." She said and I nodded back.

"So not long before we found you." I said and she nodded hesitantly.

"Yea. The whole incident happened at my party." I nodded.

"Right, right. I remember." I told her and we fell silent. I decided to humour her.

"So what's your favourite hobby?" I asked and she turned to me, smiling brightly that I'd taken to her game of sharing.

"I love art. I draw…paint…build things…I like to plan and create basically." I nodded.

"Yea you did really well with Billy's dock." She shrugged.

"I enjoy it. My dad bugs me about what I want to do with my life but I'd never really thought about it. I think I'd maybe like to get into architecture or contracting…some kind of job where I can build things." She said and I smiled to her.

"That's kinda hot." I told her and her mouth fell open and she nudged me again.

"Paul Lahote!" She said, unable to keep the laughter from her voice. I chuckled.

"What?! Come on. A girl with power tools? You gotta give me that one." I said and she fought hard to keep the smile off her face, with no luck.

"Yea, yea." She said, mimicking me and I grinned. I'd won that one.

"So…you'd never thought about what you'd want to do before?" I asked and she fell silent. After a few moments she shrugged.

"I didn't really need to. I would have had all the time in the world to decide and more money than I could spend…but Edward always wanted me to go to school." I nodded, waiting for her to continue. "I mean…I'd thrown ideas around but…nothing solid. I'd considered being a veterinarian when I was little…or a ballerina..." She laughed. "But nothing set in stone. Edward wanted us to go away to school together somewhere up in Alaska so I was pretty much limiting myself to whatever programs I would be able to get into there." I thought about it for a moment. He really did have way too much control over her.

"And you entertained him?" I asked and she shrugged.

"Well there was more than one way to get what I wanted… but I also didn't want to fight with him." I looked to her curiously. She looked hesitant.

"I don't want you freaking out about this conversation. I want to make it perfectly clear that this is all in the past. I want nothing more than to stay human." I took a breath and nodded, waiting for her to continue.

"Ok…well I mean, Edward could have changed me…but he had all these stipulations and was pretty hesitant about the whole thing. But Carlisle offered to change me after graduation if I wanted because it was the only way to ensure everyone would stay together." I took another breath. I didn't want to get upset with her for something that was in the past.

"…What are you thinking?" She asked and I just shrugged. "Paul…I can see it on your face. What is it?" I took another breath.

"I don't want to come across as pissy." She nodded and sighed.

"Ok…so instead why not tell me how you feel and what made you feel that way?" I looked to her and she glanced to me, keeping her focus on the road. She shrugged. "It may come across less confrontational." I nodded and sighed.

"Hearing you talk about the set plans you had to become a vampire…it makes my skin crawl. I just…you wouldn't be alive right now if they hadn't left." She gave me a sad look and I shrugged. "And stuck with someone who wasn't good to you." I finished and saw her demeanor change. She seemed…less confident in a way. She took a breath and shrank into herself.

"I just…I don't agree with the whole dynamic of that relationship. He was a prick to you Bella… we all know it. I see it in every story you and your dad tell me…he was demanding…whiny…always needed to get his way…always needed to control your actions…I mean…who takes the battery out of someone's truck to keep them from seeing someone?" She stayed silent and I sighed, reaching for her right hand. I pulled it closer to me and ran my fingers over her scar.

"And yet I owe him your existence." I whispered and she hesitantly nodded.

"I suppose you do…" She whispered back. I held her hand delicately in my own.

"I just never want you to be dependent on anyone again. You're my imprint and it's my job to protect you…knowing you were so helpless…it makes me feel like I've failed you." I told her and she glanced to me as she parked the truck in the beach parking. The guys were here but she didn't bother looking for them, instead she turned to me.

"Paul. Ever since you have come into my life I've been confused, terrified…very unsure of what my purpose really is…" She looked to our hands and sighed. "But I've also been more confident in myself and my independence and more confident in what I deserve. And I know I don't deserve to follow…anyone. And yea…I depend on your scent to calm me down or help me sleep…I depend on you being nearby to know just what I need when it hurts too much to ask. But…it's not destructive…" I sighed.

"How is dependence not destructive." I stated more than asked. She smiled and lifted her gaze from our hands to my eyes.

"Is the way Mitch depends on you destructive? Or…the way the pack depends on each other for safety and support? Everyone needs someone they can depend on. If you don't let someone in and have a support system… you won't make it in this world. Being dependent on you to keep me grounded isn't like the way I depended on the Cullen's, Paul. It's so, so different." She ended in a whisper and I felt as if…a huge weight had just been taken off my shoulders. I've been so worried about ruining her…about…creating a dependent dynamic and making her weaker. I never thought that I…I was actually making her stronger. I watched her mouth pull into a smile and she squeezed my hand. She got out of the truck and waited for me to join her on the small path to the beach from the lot, where the guys were.

"Finally! What. Did you guys stop off to make out or something?" Quil asked and Bella shrugged.

"Or something." Was her only response, causing the guys to either laugh or look shocked. I looked to her and chuckled, shaking my head.

"Keeping me on my toes, Swan." I told her and she tossed a grin my way.

"Always."


We were hiking through the brush to get to the cliff area. I wasn't very pleased that we were actually cliff diving but I knew Bella was excited…so I stopped complaining. We had hung out down on the beach for an hour or so until Jacob brought up the cliffs and Bella got all excited. So now we were all climbing the incline to get to the first set of cliffs. What I was even less thrilled about was a few of the guys, ogling Bella in her bikini. Don't get me wrong…wow. She was still a bit too skinny but she still had curves. Once her hipbones aren't as prominent she'll be…flawless. That didn't mean I wanted Quil and Nigel eyeing her up.

"Quil I'm only saying this once. Eyes off Bella's ass." I told him and watched her turn bright red. I smiled to her and tossed my arm around her, pulling her out of Quil's line of vision.

"I got your back." I told her and she just rolled her eyes, a small smile on her lips. We finished the climb a few minutes later and Bella's eyes lit up. It wasn't a huge drop but it was a good start. There were a few levels to jump from but I wasn't going to mention the highest.

"Ready, Bells? We will do this one first and move up a level or two." Jake told her and she grinned. She moved to the edge and laughed.

"This isn't very high!" She said and a few guys laughed.

"Yea but it's a good place to start." I told her and she nodded. Jake grabbed her hand and pulled her back from the edge.

"Ready?" He asked her and she beamed, nodding. "One, two…three!" He yelled and they ran towards the edge and flung themselves over. I watched and smiled, hearing them hit the water and heard Bella laughing as she surfaced. The guys and I waited for them to come back up to where we were, which didn't take long because Jake piggybacked Bella and ran…much to my wolf's displeasure. I knew it was innocent though…or at least…I wasn't worried. Which was weird for me. Jake's been nothing but respectful lately though…and I had to give him that much.

"Can we go higher?" Bella asked as she jumped off Jake's back, hair falling down over her shoulders and chest, dripping wet. I smiled and nodded, reaching for her hand. She came to me and we began climbing to higher levels. The brush got a bit thicker the higher you went because people usually stop off at the first and second levels. We were headed up to the third.

"This is a bit better." Bella said with a grin and I winked to her. This was as high as I wanted her going so it was good that she seemed content. Quil and Jared flung themselves over the edge doing a flip or two and Bella looked to me.

"Are you jumping this time?" She asked and I nodded. She grinned and stepped back a few feet and took off running at the edge and flipped a few times over before she hit the water. I laughed, mimicking her. Once I hit the water and surfaced Bella smiled to me and looked up, waiting for the other guys. Jake and Embry joined next, followed by Nigel, and then Sam. We were all floating around in the water when Jake decided to piss me off.

"So Bells what do you think. You ready for the ultimate jump?" He asked and she looked to him curiously, floating on her back in the water. It was a fairly calm day.

"What's that?" She asked and I cleared my throat.

"It's nothing." I said sternly, looking at Jacob. He chuckled and Bella swam over to him, shaking his shoulders.

"What is it?!" She urged and I shook my head. He was gonna get it. I know I'm being over protective…but I can't help it.

"It's that cliff way up there." He said, pointing to the highest level. There were five cliffs to jump from, but there wasn't much difference between cliffs three and four that we always just went all the way up to five. She squealed happily.

"Yes!" I looked to Bella and she smiled. "Come on, Paul. At least let me go up and look?" She asked and I melted at her request. I sighed and nodded toward the shore and we all started swimming back to land. The brush up near the top would be far too thick for someone as clumsy as Bella and it would have been much faster if I piggybacked her, but she wanted to walk and enjoy the hike so I didn't argue. I slowed my pace, allowing the guys to go ahead and I walked with Bella, enjoying the view when we would reach another level.

"It's such a nice day out, we got so lucky." She said and I nodded.

"Yea, not many days like this in La push." I agreed and she smiled. She nudged me.

"Thanks for walking with me." I gave her a curious look and she shrugged.

"Edward always insisted on carrying me everywhere… and I get it… you guys can go places I just can't… but it felt like we were always in a rush. We couldn't just slow down and enjoy the journey…it had to be at vampire speed." She told me and I sighed.

"I really hate that guy." I said simply and she laughed.

"I guess I don't really do his good qualities justice, do I?" I chuckled.

"I'm just fine with only hearing the bad stuff." I told her and she laughed. I held my hand out to her to help her over a fallen tree and stood closer to her now that we were in the thick of the brush.

"They don't make it easy, do they?" She asked and I chuckled.

"Well, not many people dare to come up this high." I told her and she nodded.

"Unless you're a werewolf." She said, a coy smile on her face and I nodded.

"Yea, or a crazy teenage girl." She laughed as I put my arm around her side, lifting her over a muddy patch from all the rain. The feel of her skin on mine felt chilly…it was nice. I've never really stopped to think about how human skin feels on mine…God knows I've had enough occasions to consider it. But it was something about Bella…she made me appreciate the little things…the things I'd never thought I'd care about. Like the feel of her skin on mine…

With one of my hookups I'd think that kind of talk was far too intimate and creepy. I had no time for that shit. Those girls…they were all the same to me and I know I was just another tanned, built body to them. Some of them think they wanted more. They act like they want to date me…but they don't actually want me. They want the idea of a huge, strong, bad boy that they can change and mould and save from himself. They don't actually want me the way I am…they don't care enough to see the person already there. But Bella does.

Bella doesn't try and push a persona on me…she doesn't bother with trying to change me or save me…she's perfectly happy taking the person I am when I'm with her…be it moody or not. I can feel it…deep down into my wolf. She doesn't want me to change…she just wants to see the person I am deeper down. She doesn't want me to hide…she wants to see the real me. And that alone…it makes me feel a stronger connection to her. And I know that connection has nothing to do with the imprint or my wolf…it's my man's appreciation for someone who is different from the rest. Someone who is fair…free of judgment. Someone like Bella.

I watched her eyes light up as we reached the highest cliff. Jake grinned and walked with her to the edge for her to look down.

"Woah…" She whispered and I started to think maybe she wouldn't jump after all. She stepped back from the edge and looked to me.

"That's pretty high." She told me and I nodded.

"It is." I told her. She sighed and watched a few of the guys jump off the cliff and I went to stand beside her.

"I thought for sure you'd jump!" Jake said as he threw himself over the side and I shook my head.

"We can climb back down lower if you want to do one more jump." I told her as she peeked over the edge. She turned to face me and grinned.

"Nah, this is much easier." And she just fell backwards. Over the edge. Gone. I panicked.

"Bella!" I yelled and jumped too, hitting the water just seconds after she did. The guys had all started swimming back to the shore and I grabbed her arm as she laughed.

"Don't you ever scare me like that again." I told her sternly and the smile fell off her face.

"Paul…" She said but I cut her off.

"No. I thought…you can't just step off the cliff Bella. Look at those rocks." I pointed to the jagged rocks at the base of the cliff.

"You have to push off. You could have been splattered all over them and then what would I have done? Hm? What would I have done without you?!" I told her in a rush and felt her pull herself to me and meshed her body as close to mine as she could get. I held her close, keeping us both afloat, trying to bring my heart rate down to normal.

"Shh…it's ok, Paul. I'm ok. I'm sorry…I didn't mean to scare you." She told me gently and I only held her more firmly to me, finally starting to relax. The guys were all at the shore, for which I was thankful. Though they had probably heard what I said…'what would I have done without you?' It was out of my mouth before I could process what I was saying. I had gotten a glimpse of it a few times now but…I'd always stopped myself from ever thinking it. But I know…I know I'd be lost without her. I need her to keep me grounded and calm…to give me a chance and make me feel…like I'm not just a fuck up. To give me a reason so show someone other than Mitch what kind of man I am…if that was possible. Sometimes I wasn't sure…sometimes I feel kind of like…like I've lost myself in this person I've become. But with Bella around I feel like there might still be hope.

I'd been so worried about not making her need me…that I didn't realize…I'm really the one that needs her. She pulled back from me and put her forehead on mine.

"I'm so sorry Paul… I didn't even think." She told me in a whisper and I looked to her eyes. She looked so guilty. I sighed, pulling back from her.

"I'm sorry I got angry, Bella." I whispered and she put her hand on my cheek, causing me to look up to her. She shook her head.

"No, really. It's ok. I wasn't thinking and I should have been. I promise next time I'll be more careful." I closed my eyes and touched my forehead to hers one last time before pulling away and swimming close to her on the way back to shore. I didn't make eye contact with the guys but I could practically feel their smirks.

"No one says a word." Bella said sternly. I looked to her and saw her giving the guys a serious look and I saw the smirks fall from their faces. Sam nodded to me with a small smile on his face and Jake looked a bit surprised. Nigel only smiled…seemingly without judgment. Like he knew something I didn't…but I didn't care. Bella came and stood by my side and walked close to me back to where we had set up. I saw Mitch and Seth had arrived and were hanging out. We sat down on a log and I handed Bella a towel. She took it and I noticed a bit of blood on her leg. I looked at it curiously and heard her sigh.

"I…kind of banged it on my way down." She told me and I put my arm around her, smirks be damned. She rested her head on my shoulder as Sam and Nigel started a fire for cooking. I was just happy it wasn't more serious than a little blood.


"That…was delicious." Bella said as she finished off her burger. We had been hanging out at the beach all day and it was about seven now. We had made some burgers on a grill Sam had brought to put over the fire. A few other people from the res showed up having seen our fire and brought a cooler of drinks. The pack wasn't drinking though…this was our week of fake relaxation. Being recreational…but always on guard. Bella was talking to Jake about visits when she was younger and I was scanning the growing group to see who had shown up. There were a few guys the younger wolves went to school with and there were a few older guys I had gotten into fights with. They didn't seem too eager to face me though. Mitch was talking to Nigel, playing a few strings on his guitar. He'd never really played guitar before but he could play piano. He'd learned from Sue Clearwater during all the time he spent over there. Leah played. I saw Leah had shown up with a few girls, none that I knew. As far as I had been told, she hung out with pretty levelheaded people. The good girls you might say…not in the sense that they never did anything wrong…just the girls you respect too much to screw around with. She and Emily seemed happy chatting, that bridge having healed itself within the last year. I'd heard Leah had been dating someone but they'd broken up.

I turned my attention back to Nigel and Mitch. Nigel was showing Mitch a few chords and he had started playing a bit of music. I never minded when they would start passing the guitar around, but I never participated. I mean…I could play…but that's not something the tough pissed off guy usually admits to. Mitch came and sat by me and smiled.

"Having fun, peanut?" I asked him. He nodded, waving to a few people he knew from school.

"Yea it's a lot of fun. Nigel showed me how to play a few chords." I nodded.

"I saw that. Going to play something?" I asked him and he immediately shook his head no.

"Pardon?" I heard Bella say. Jake had gotten up to grab another burger and she had turned to Mitch and I. "You should do it." She told him and he looked nervous.

"No way…I can't." He told her and she laughed.

"Bull! We sing in my kitchen all the time. You've got talent kid." She told him and I turned to him.

"Don't tell me my brother is turning to Broadway." I told him and he laughed, shaking his head.

"No…we just kid around." Bella scoffed.

"Yea right. You may call it kidding around, I call it being crazy talented." She told him and I smiled. He seemed to have opened up to Bella more than I thought.

"Yea but you can sing too." He said, tossing her ammo back at her. She laughed and shrugged.

"Yea but I have no passion for it. I only participate because my dad's musical." I gave her a curious glance.

"You play?" I asked her and she shrugged again.

"Yea a bit. I learned as a kid and took singing lessons until my parents realized I just wasn't as into it as they are." I nodded. Nigel finished up his song and passed the guitar to another person, who started playing another song.

"Yea but…you're really good." Mitch said and she smiled.

"Yea but Mitch, she wants to be a boy when she grows up and build things." Mitch laughed and put his hand up for a high-five.

"Prettiest boy I've ever met." He told her with a wink and I looked to him with mock annoyance.

"Are you trying to steal my imprint?" I asked him and he only laughed.

"So why don't you want to take a turn, Mitch?" Bella asked and I watched him shrug.

"I'd just feel really uncomfortable…and I don't really know how to play the guitar I only learned a few chords." She nodded.

"So what, I'll play for you and you can sing." She told him and he turned bright.

"Really?" He asked and I watched her smile, nodding her head.

"Yea of course." He grinned.

"Would you sing with me too? So I don't feel as nervous?" She laughed and nodded.

"Sure." She said and I felt myself get kind of excited. Mitch never puts himself in the spotlight…and I have heard the odd mumble that Bella is actually pretty talented. The guy finished up and I put my hand up, motioning that we wanted the guitar next. He brought it over and I handed it to Bella. She straightened up and looked to Mitch. I switched him spots and I could tell he was nervous. She gave him a smile.

"Relax. We are just in my kitchen baking cookies. Ok? Let's do the one I taught you last time you were over." He nodded and she started playing. Not everyone was paying attention but enough people were that Mitch took a deep breath. He started singing, only watching Bella, clearly terrified.

I'm booking myself a one-way flight / I gotta see the color in your eyes / Yeah tellin' myself I'm gonna be alright / Without you baby is a waste of time

Yeah, our first date, girl, the seasons changed / It got washed away in a summer rain / You can't undo a fall like this / 'Cause love don't know what distance is / Yeah, I know it's crazy

But I don't want "good" and I don't want "good enough" / I want "can't sleep, can't breathe without your love" / Front porch and one more kiss, it doesn't make sense to anybody else / Who cares if you're all I think about, / I've searched the world and I know now, / It ain't right if you ain't lost your mind / Yeah, I don't want easy, I want crazy / Are you with me baby? Let's be crazy / Yeah

He looked to Bella and she smiled, nodding. She started singing, taking the next verse.

I wanna be scared, don't wanna know why / Wanna feel good, don't have to be right / The world makes all kinds of rules for love / I say you gotta let it do what it does

I don't want just another hug and a kiss goodnight / Catchin' up calls and a date sometimes / I love that we're rebels, and we still believe / We're the kind of crazy people wish that they could be, yeah / Oh, and I know we're crazy, yeah

But I don't want "good" and I don't want "good enough" / I want "can't sleep, can't breathe without your love" / Front porch and one more kiss, it doesn't make sense to anybody else / Who cares if you're all I think about, / I've searched the world and I know now, / It ain't right if you ain't lost your mind / Yeah, I don't want easy, I want crazy / Are you with me baby? Let's be crazy

Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na

I laughed, clapping Mitch on the back as he and Bella took the last chorus together.

No, I don't want "good" and I don't want "good enough" / I want "can't sleep, can't breathe without your love" / Front porch and one more kiss, it doesn't make sense to anybody else / Who cares if you're all I think about, / I've searched the world and I know now, / It ain't right if you ain't lost your mind / Yeah, I don't want easy, I want crazy

Yeah, look at us baby, tonight the midnight rules are breaking / There's no such thing as wild enough, / And maybe we just think too much / Who needs to play it safe in love? / Let's be crazy! / Na na na na oh na na na na oh

Who cares if we're crazy? We gotta be crazy! / I know that we're crazy, so let's be crazy! / Yeah-ah-ah...

Mitch finished them off and grinned to Bella who gave him a small hug.

"Good job, Mitchie!" Bella told him and he grinned. Jake came and sat beside Bella again, a burger in hand.

"Show offs." He said with a wink at Bella. She laughed and turned to me. I caught her eye and couldn't help but smile. She really did have a beautiful voice…and I loved the way she brought Mitch out of his shell. That kid adores her…

Mitch really was the one that started breaking me down enough to include Bella in my life. To be honest…I didn't really know how. The whole thing was such a shock…I mean…one minute I hate her with everything I have…and the next thing I know I'm getting punched in the face by her…and life…and I did what I always do. I avoided. I avoided exploring what the imprint actually meant…and what she was really like…I just told myself I didn't care.

And then Mitch got involved. He's my soft spot if I've ever had one. He's the one…I don't care who's around, I treat him like the most important part of my world. For the last fourteen years…he has been. And then…Bella came along and knocked some sense into me…literally. And now I have two most important people. I see her interact with Mitch and it makes me…it makes my man want to protect her. Even without the imprint. She doesn't have to treat Mitch the way she does. She never had to invite him into her life…treat him like family…she never had to put her own life on the line for him. And she did.

I think that's what made me ignore the call from Jenna. Or made me actually spend time with her instead of just patroling her house. I think that's why…I can't help but think she's stunning with her beach curled hair…make-upless face…sitting here in the glow of the fire just…but I cut myself off.

I probably shouldn't finish that sentence. The point is…I think I would have noticed Bella's amazing qualities without the imprint…Mitch really was what brought me around. Not the imprint…I fought it hard. It made me wonder why I even imprinted…I mean yea. It makes me desperate to protect her…and she stands out to me like a beacon of light. But…why Bella? I was beginning to see her great qualities but…I don't know why I deserved such a great deal. She really was on the losing end of this thing…

I looked up and my thoughts fell flat. There standing with a group of girls was a girl I know I've hooked up with dozens of times. And I know her name is Sarah. I stopped calling her up because she kept nagging at me to meet her parents. I looked to Bella and saw her watching me. There was something in her eyes…I couldn't quite place it but…the happiness was gone. She dropped her gaze and looked back to Jacob who had seen Sarah too. He wasn't impressed. I realized Mitch had gone off to talk to Nigel and someone else had taken the guitar. I cleared my throat uncomfortably and looked up to see her coming over to us. 'Fuck.'

"Pauly! My baby, how are you?" My voice failed me and I just stared at her. Her smile faltered for a moment but she quickly recovered.

"I've missed you! You haven't called me in a while." I cleared my throat again and nodded.

"Well, you know how it is." She laughed a high-pitched giggle and took a seat beside me. I looked to Bella who looked from the girl, to me…turning her attention back to Jacob. I know we aren't dating…she's never asked me for anything but friendship…and we are nowhere close to being anything more than friends…but I still felt it. Guilt.

"Well I mean…I thought things were going well…I mean we definitely had fun." She told me with an obvious wink and I scratched the back of my neck. I didn't know what to say to that…luckily Sarah is a talker.

"We should just pick up where we ended off." She said, sliding her hand up my thigh and I slid away from her instinctively…knocking into Bella. She turned to look at me surprised by the contact and I saw Sarah give her a glare.

"Can I help you?" She spit and Bella's eyes turned wide.

"I...what?" She said and I shook my head, turning to Sarah.

"Don't talk to her like that." I told her sternly. She didn't release Bella from her glare.

"Is that why you stopped calling? Hm? That what you've been up to?" She snarled and I chuckled dangerously.

"She's not a that. She's a person. And no. I stopped calling because you can't take a fucking hint." I told her rudely and she glanced to me.

"Enjoy my sloppy seconds. Hope you don't mind that I broke him in a few dozen times." She shot at Bella bitterly before she got up and stomped off. I felt my blood run cold. I was afraid to look at Bella's face…so naturally my focus turned to Jake first. Anger…there was no mistaking it. He shook his head and I could see him fighting to keep from shaking. I took a deep breath and looked to Bella and felt like I'd been kicked in the stomach.

She smiled.

It wasn't a full out grin or anything…but it was soft and shy…beautiful on her naturally beautiful face.

It hurt.

"Old friend?" She asked finally, her voice free from judgment. I shook my head.

"Not really…" I told her and she laughed, nodding her head.

"Well I use the term 'friend' loosely." She said and I felt the air leave my lungs. I didn't know what else to say…she just sat there…and took it. She didn't deserve to be treated like that. And I'm actually embarrassed, which is new. Normally I wouldn't give a fuck…but it was her. She made me care. She made me want to explain myself and apologize. She made me feel things I never really felt before…and she also made it impossible for me to speak.

I watched her excuse herself and leave the group and I was left staring at a furious Jacob.

"You fucking deserve everything you feel right now." Was all he said before he stood up and walked away. I sat there…not really knowing what to do. I felt like a tool. I struggled to regulate my breathing but I couldn't…I needed to fix this. I stood up and went in the direction Bella went and found her sitting about a minute away from the fire, looking out at the water. I took a deep breath and sat down beside her.

"I just…honestly I'm mortified." She looked to me curiously, tears glowing in her eyes and I shook my head. "Bella I'm so sorry. You didn't deserve that." She shook her head, wiping her eyes and chuckled.

"You think that's why I'm upset?" She asked and I could only look at her, confused. I hesitated and nodded slowly.

"Well…yea I mean-"

"Paul we aren't dating. You can screw whoever you'd like." She told me, no emotion in her voice. I just stayed quiet, really unsure of how to reply to that…so it was probably safest not to say anything at all. We were silent for a few minutes until she broke the night with her whisper.

"I can feel it you know. When you question why you were given me. When you ask yourself why you imprinted on me." I looked to her immediately and saw her sad eyes staring back at me.

"Wait. You're actually not upset because of Sarah?" I asked shocked. I wasn't expecting this to take that direction. She rolled her eyes, wiping a tear from her cheek.

"I get it…I mean…ok. I'm no prize. But come on, Paul. You question why you'd imprint on me and then choose people like her? I know I'm not the most desirable person to be stuck with but she was annoying as fuck. That is not the type of girl I imagined you dating. I mean…I get that you weren't dating but I mean you still tolerated her long enough for her to think there was something between you." I looked at my hands not entirely sure what to say.

"And yet you question it…every day. You question me…spending the rest of your life with me around." I looked up and saw her eyes begging for an answer.

"I just never realized how little you think of me…if I'm the person in your life that you question." I took her face in my hands immediately.

"Don't you dare think for one minute…that I think little of you. Because that is not true." She blinked, more tears falling. She shook her head, pulling away and got to her feet.

"Paul let's be realistic alright? I-"

"Alright Bella, let's be realistic." I said, getting to my feet as well. She only looked at me.

"I'm fucking terrified. Alright? You're… you just…" I shook my head. "I'm not a good person Bella. I'm the fuck up. I'm the prick that fucks a bunch of girls and…and I don't even remember their names!" I said laughing, but there was only disgust in my voice.

"I'm that guy that you don't bring home to daddy. Alright? I'm that guy that fucks you and breaks your heart, you know why? Because I can. Because Paul Lahote doesn't fucking fall in love. I avoid it. Remember? I avoid good, respectable girls like you and fuck and use people like Sarah. Because there's no guilt in that." She looked at me shocked. I shook my head, laughing.

"And you sit here and think it's because you're not good enough?! No. I question why the Gods gave me you because I don't fucking deserve you. I don't deserve the hundreds of chances you give me to get it right. You treat me like I'm a good guy Bella and that's what's going to get you hurt. Because I'm a Lahote. I'm not good enough. I don't question why I got stuck with you. I question why you got stuck with me." I told her. She stood there staring at me, neither of us moving. I'd never said any of that out loud…I was surprised I'd gotten through it to be honest. It hurt…so much. I didn't want to believe it was true but…the side of me that one-day still had hope…he ached at my confession. I closed my eyes and rubbed my forehead, taking a deep breath. What now? What the hell was I supposed to say after that…I looked up and realized I didn't need to worry about what to say because Bella did something that I never expected her to do. She kissed me.

I stood there shocked for a moment, her hands on either side of my face, pulling me down to her lips. It was purposeful, though her lips were unmoving. It took me a few seconds to react…but I didn't react the way I thought I would. I put my hands to her hips and pulled her closer…and I kissed her back.

As soon as I responded…it turned gentle. I moved my lips over hers and she followed suit, moving her hands to my neck and I ran one of mine up the small of her back…anything to pull her a little closer to my body. Her lips were so soft…and she seemed even more delicate than I imagined…but there was a fire. I pulled away slowly, giving her one last delicate kiss and opened my eyes. Hers were still closed, tears still falling down her cheeks. I wiped them away softly and after a few seconds she sniffled and opened her eyes. She was still pulled close to my body and she sighed.

"I'm sorry." She whispered and I looked to her, finding her eyes.

"Why are you sorry?" I asked, my voice weak. She shrugged, laughing without humour. She pulled away from me and I felt myself missing her immediately. I watched her curiously.

"I just…I don't know. No one has ever spoken to me like that before." She said and I gave her a look.

"What do you mean?" She shrugged again.

"What you said…it was so…nice. And yet so wrong…" I waited for her to continue and she groaned, rubbing her forehead.

"I mean…ugh. Paul you're…you're not a bad person. You're…you're…all you need is understanding." She stopped for a moment and got a distant look in her eyes.

"Bella?" I asked and she looked up to me, fresh tears coming to the surface and I felt a shift in my gut…it was the imprint.

"All you need is understanding." She repeated and I waited patiently, willing her to say more.

"I get it…I mean…I finally understand." She said looking to me. I watched her wipe a tear. "You can deny it all you want Paul…there's pain in there." She said, pointing to my chest. "You act tough and carefree but I can feel it. You carry so much pain in your heart that it makes me ache. And you act out to avoid feeling it and dealing with it but it's not going to just disappear, Paul. You can fuck as many girls as you want." She told me, walking closer. She put her tiny hand over my heart and met my eyes.

"It won't fix this." She whispered. I looked down to her warm eyes and felt tears in my own. She shook her head slowly.

"I feel how lost you are…how much you need a release…" She shrugged. "And now I finally get it. You got me…because I'm the one that knows how much pain love can cause…I'm the one that knows what it feels like to be ripped apart from the inside…to be told you're not good enough…and who knows how desperate that can make you." She wiped the one lonely tear that escaped my eyes.

"I'm the one that knows how badly you need someone to understand." I locked eyes with her and she smiled softly.

"I don't judge you, Paul. I don't think less of you for the way you live your life…I'm not pissy because you've got an extensive list of sexual history. And…and you need that. You need someone that…that gets it. That understands that not every choice is a based on morals. The Paul Lahote that you think I'm 'stuck with' isn't the same person that sleeps around and fights anyone that will entertain him. I get the Paul underneath. The one that just opened up and told me every reason I shouldn't care…and yet you proved why I should." I shook my head and chuckled sadly.

"Why the fuck should you care." I stated more than asked. She looked into my eyes and I felt the sincerity in her words.

"Because you won't hurt me." She said simply. I felt deflated and shook my head.

"You don't know that…I-" but she put her fingers to my lips and shook her head.

"You don't scare me, Paul. You can lay it all on the line and tell me all the worst things you think about yourself…but it doesn't phase me. I'm not afraid of you…do you want to be the angry Paul that has meaningless sex for the rest of your life?" She asked and I only looked at her.

"Do you?" She asked after a few moments of silence. I took a deep breath.

"No." I whispered and she lifted my chin so I would meet her gaze.

"Then why should I criticize you for your mistakes when I can see that you so badly want to be the person you feel is so out of reach? Why should I base my opinions of you on that person…when instead I could support you and help you see that you aren't limited to that life." I looked to her and saw unconditional devotion…and I was speechless. The silence was overwhelming…and yet perfect. The look on her face was honest and fresh, unwavering. The imprint tightened…and I felt it hold with greater purpose. Not romantically…not yet at least. But it was as strong as chainmaille.

We finally understood the imprint…I don't understand why I'd never realized it before. She needed someone to be her companion…to understand her heartache and pull her from the pit she lived in for months. Someone more opinionated than Jacob…and with more fire than Nigel. She needed someone to match her ferocity…someone with as much fight in them as her. Someone that didn't baby her…and yet treated her delicately.

And I…I needed someone to understand me…someone that could match me in stubbornness and yet be patient and forgiving. I needed someone that had experienced an ultimate low…and fought their way back from hell. She was strong, independent, easy-going, confident, and intelligent…and she could give me what no one in this world could…

A second chance.


There you have it folks. I hope you enjoyed!

Song: I Want Crazy – Hunter Hayes