:::»:»*«:«::: :::»:» 4 «:«::: :::»:»*«:«:::
Seated on the blanket Paul had laid over the log, Bella scooted a couple inches away from him because he kept working his way closer. “Okay, guys, I get it that the legends are true.” Bella raised her hand and waved it a bit, emphasizing her words. “I believe you when you say you can hear each other when you’re wolves because—”
“Because some of the vamps have powers, right?” Embry asked, lounging across the fire from her. He grabbed two more hot dogs from the plate Kim passed to him.
When talking about the vampires, Bella expected the partially healed hole in her chest to split open again and was amazed when it hadn’t. In fact, the night before, she had slept better than she had in months. She had actually felt good when she had gotten up that morning and had decided to get supplies to make salads to take to the bonfire.
She glanced at Paul who was seated at her feet on her left and then through the flames to Embry. “Yes.” She gave him an awkward smile. “Uh, they say it’s rare, but three of the … Cullens … have gifts. Alice can see parts of the future, Jasper can feel and manipulate emotions, and … Edward … can read minds. But he couldn’t read mine.” Her head dropped, and she stared at the chips, macaroni salad, and coleslaw on her plate.
Paul could clearly see she was upset, but she didn’t seem as bad as Jacob had described. At least she was talking and wasn’t all huddled in on herself like she was going to fall apart like he’d seen in Jacob’s head.
He was glad she was talking, and it was good it was about the vamps. They needed to know more about them and their extra talents. Before he could frame another question, because he was too busy staring at Bella in the firelight, Sam leaned forward.
“We heard about the mind reading and the other one feeling emotions, but what about the other one?” Sam asked right before shoving another heaping forkful of potato salad into his mouth. “Good potato salad, by the way,” he mumbled.
Bella peeked up at him. “Thanks.” Still anticipating a stab of agony, she took a deep breath. “Alice can see the future based on decisions you make. I’m really not sure how it works. People … and vampires,” she hesitated, “change their minds all the time.”
Seeing and feeling his imprint’s distress, Paul moved marginally closer to her again. He felt the urge to touch her, take hold of her hand, and tell her that he would never change his mind about her. He resisted the impulse for the time being.
He was happy that she had liked the green tea, and he was pleased to see her eat the macaroni salad—she had even eaten a hot dog—but she didn’t finish the chips or the coleslaw. Without even thinking about it, Bella held the plate out to him. When he smiled to thank her, her head tipped slightly to the side and the pupils in her dark eyes grew wider.
Ignoring the food, Paul took the plate and leaned toward her, her eyes drawing him into their still depths.
“The tattoo?” she asked her voice barely above a whisper.
Lost in her gaze, he blurted out, “It’s a crow. Crows are messengers. You know I found a feather—”
“Your magic feather?” Her eyes began to twinkle with humor. “Like my feather?” She picked it up from the blanket and tucked it behind her ear.
“Yeah. I … I drew it. It’s a circular shape to match the one on my arm, and—”
Next to Embry, Quil started snickering and Jared reached across Kim to smack him.
Bella couldn’t help leaning incrementally closer to Paul. “Those are its wings? It’s flying toward the center—”
“It’s flying toward my … uh, the center of my chest.” Paul set the forgotten plate down on the sand.
Bella tilted her head down and peered up at him. “I like it. I like how it looks like the traditional art of the area, and—”
An urgent howl from deep in the forest split the peace of the twilit evening.
Not accustomed to hearing that, Bella gasped and jumped right into Paul’s lap. “What is that?”
Sam was on his feet, drawing Emily up and into his arms. “That’s Jacob. C’mon!”
Like the other men and their imprints, Paul scooped Bella up into his arms and stood, holding her tightly to his chest.
Sam hesitated for only a moment. “Quil, Embry. You phase. Head for Jacob. Claire will be fine. Emily will call them. We’re taking the imprints to my house and then we’ll join you.”
The boys nodded and stripped off their shorts.
Bella hardly had time to be shocked at seeing them naked because the next moment Paul was running, keeping pace with Jared carrying Kim, and Sam clutching Emily to his body.
When they reached Sam’s house, they all quickly went inside and Sam and Jared set the women on their feet. They both kissed them and headed for the door.
“Why did you bring me here? I could just go home,” Bella said weakly, her eyes taking in the unwavering and intense look on Paul’s face.
“No.” His eyes had darkened to near black. “You shouldn’t be alone. The imprints should be together.”
“Imprints? I’m an—”
“Yes. You’re mine.” Somehow, the crow’s feather had stayed tucked behind Bella’s ear. Paul plucked it from her hair and handed it to her. With his fingertips, he brushed aside the strand of hair he had loosened. He didn’t want to leave her, but he knew he had to go to safeguard her.
Paul was unable to control himself any longer. Bella could be in danger, and he was desperate to make his claim on her known. His lips crushed hers in a kiss full of longing and protectiveness.
At the door, Sam loudly cleared his throat to get Paul’s attention.
Breaking the kiss, he stared into Bella’s unfocused eyes. “Yes. Imprint. I’ll be back soon.” He set her down, kissed her again and headed for the door, stepping out of his shorts.
Bella had never been kissed like that before and stumbled back into Emily, bringing her fingers up to touch her lips. The searing heat of his mouth had filled her, sending a tingling warmth through her entire body. That kiss had been hot, hungry, and full of yearning, and she had liked it. She, also, had no idea what to think about that.
Emily took hold of Bella’s arms and guided her to sit down on the couch. “They’ll be okay, Bella. They’ll be back.”
Kim, nervously shifting from foot to foot and wringing her hands, asked, “So, should I go make some tea or coffee?”
“Yes, Kim, go make a pot of coffee. Unless you’d rather have tea, Bella? Bella?” Emily shook her. “Did you hear me?”
“Huh?” Bella finally focused on the woman leaning down in front of her. “What?”
“Would you like tea or coffee? This may take a while. Would you like to go into the kitchen with us?”
“Uh, sure.” Bella let Emily lead her into the kitchen and to a chair at the sturdy wooden table. “What’s going on? The howl, and bringing me here, and Paul saying I was his imprint, and … ? Sam mentioned imprints the other night, but … I could have gone home, and—”
Emily caught Bella’s hand that was holding the shiny black feather and jerking nervously back and forth. “I’ll explain the best I can.”
:::»:»*«:«::: :::»:» 4 «:«::: :::»:»*«:«:::