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Sitting on the beach with his back against the driftwood log, and Bella curled into his side, Paul hadn’t felt so content … ever.
Once they’d arrived at his house, Paul didn’t waste any time. He’d spent hours worshipping his imprint—kissing and tasting every inch of her. Putting his scent all over her, and hers all over him and his bed.
She’d been nervous, and a little afraid, but Paul, for once, took his time. Instead of just having sex to get his rocks off, he made love to her, slowly, carefully, tenderly. She was his imprint, and they would never have another first time together.
After the best afternoon of his entire life, he’d loaded a few things into her truck—the cooler, a blanket to sit on, and one of his hoodies for her to wear—and then carried her out of the house and sat her in the passenger side. He couldn’t help feeling a bit smug because she was a little sore and stiff, and his wolf rumbled in satisfaction that he was the only one to know his imprint so intimately.
Arriving at the beach, he ran ahead and arranged the quilt over “their” spot on the log. Once he had Bella settled, he quickly gathered more pieces of driftwood, lit the fire, offered to get her a bottle of water or the green tea he’d loaded into the cooler, and dug his hoodie out of the backpack to drape over her shoulders. He dropped down beside her and gently pulled her hair from underneath it.
All movement halted when he was thunderstruck by the realization he was even more whipped than Sam or Jared could ever be, and he might as well go home, stick a bow in his hair, and put on a skirt.
But then Bella smiled at him, and he came to the immediate conclusion that he didn’t give a shit. He finally understood, down to the very marrow of his bones, why Sam, Jared, and even Quil, treated their imprints with such care-full attention and tenderness.
He drew her into his side and kissed her head as they gazed out at the waves rolling lazily onto the shore.
They were lucky to have a second night when it wasn’t raining.
Though tucked under his arm and seemingly enjoying the warmth of his body, Bella had been quiet for a long time. Paul began to get nervous.
He kissed the crown of her head. “Are you sorry you came here with me? Are you sorry about …?” He never would have asked anyone else that question. If he said anything at all, it would have been along the lines of, “Good fuck. Gotta go.”
He’d never do that to Bella.
Bella watched the colorful flames for a while and then cleared her throat. “Paul, I … I’m still not sure what’s going on but …”
“Are you sorry?” Paul tilted her head up so he could look into her dark eyes. He was relieved when the slight frown line between her brows smoothed out. His heart leapt when a soft smile appeared on her face.
“No. I’m not sorry at all.” A pretty blush crept over her face. She cleared her throat, tipped her head down and peered up at him. “Things have happened … like at warp speed, but that seems to be the way it goes with the supernatural.” With one finger, she traced the outline of the crow tattoo on his chest. “I think we should get to know each other better, and not just in the biblical sense.” Her eyes flicked up to his face and back to his chest.
Her shy smile eased his worries.
“Ever since you broke into my room—naked—” She raised one eyebrow at him. “Well, I haven’t felt this good in months. Jake helped but … I don’t know what it is, but I like it.” Her little smile grew until her whole face lit up. “And don’t think I can’t see the heart shape in your tattoo.” Her finger followed the outline of the heart formed by the crow’s wings. “Or the p’s and the b’s in the wing feathers. P for Paul and b for Bella? Pretty sure of yourself aren’t you?”
He couldn’t help feeling thrilled that she’d seen beyond the simple marks forming the stylized shape of a flying bird. While drawing the bird, his entire focus had been concentrated on it and thoughts of her were in every line.
He couldn’t stop the smirk. He didn’t want to. “Babe, I imprinted on you. That’s something that’s not going to change. The only thing I wasn’t sure of was if you would let me near you again after you threw all your books at me.” Her chuckle joined his, and he squeezed her to his chest. “I was pretty sure when you found that crow’s feather.”
“Again with the feathers.” Bella smacked him on his chest.
“Hey. Show some respect. Don’t mock the wisdom of the crows. They may be considered … tricksters, but they’re also messengers. They dropped feathers to make us pay attention.” Paul sighed and tightened his hold around her. “After you flung that book of matches at that corpsified pretty boy and told him to fuck the fuck off, I knew you were mine.”
Bella laughed snuggled into his chest. “Where did you find your feather?”
“I found it by your house that night I heard you scream and …” His voice faded away as he felt the tiniest twinge of guilt. He hadn’t told Bella that the Cullen had been to her house—not just once, but twice. “I, uh, brought you something, but I’m not sure how you’re going to feel about it,” he confessed. “Or react.”
“What is it? What’s the matter?” She spread her hand over his chest. The heat, and the steady beat of his heart, was like a siren call to her. How could she have ever been attracted by something so cold—something without the beautiful sound of a beating heart? “Don’t be nervous. You didn’t have to bring me anything. I really like just sitting here with you. It’s nice.” She rubbed her head against his shoulder. “You’re so warm.”
“A mere hundred and eight degrees.” He let out a little nervous cough. He ran the fingers of his left hand through his hair then shifted a bit to reach into his pocket. He hadn’t told her about Cullen, and he started to feel as if he was lying to her. He just couldn’t do that. He drew out the two candy tins and showed them to her.
She jerked away from him, her hand flying up to cover her mouth. “Oh, my God. Mints? Is my breath that bad?”
“No, babe.” Paul started to laugh, but it cut off abruptly. “I … uh … well, anyway. The night I broke into your room—”
“Yes. Naked.” He nodded, conceding the point. “I was patrolling, ran the perimeter, and then I phased and climbed a tree. Made my way over toward your house because Sam said we had to watch it.”
“Go on,” she urged him, closely observing his handsome face.
“Well, uh, anyhow, while I was up in the tree, that Cullen showed up.” Paul’s next words came out in a rush. “He was heading right for your house, so I jumped out of the tree, phased, and attacked him, even though Sam told me not to.”
Bella leaned back and scrutinized him suspiciously. “Edward looked normal—except for missing a few fingers. What does that have to do with the …?” Her eyes grew wide and her hands were clamped her mouth again. “What’s in the tins, Paul?” she hissed.
He set one rectangular box on the sand in front of them and paused to take a deep breath. He had no idea how she would react. Would she run away screaming or would she slap the shit out of him for maiming her ex?
He grasped the lid of the remaining tin. “I kinda bit off a few parts.” He pried the lid open.
Paul was amazed Bella’s eyes could get bigger.
She examined what appeared to be white stones. She looked up at Paul and back down. “Edward’s …?”
“Fingers. Pieces of his fingers.”
She nodded jerkily. “I can smell him. What’s in the other tin?” Her voice was barely a breath.
Paul was starting to get worried. She was being awfully calm. Was she in shock? Was she going to pass out? If she passed out, he didn’t know what the hell he’d do. She had her phone. Maybe he could call somebody.
“Uh, one finger is in this tin. Two more are in the other one.” He watched her very carefully. She was being too damn quiet. “Well, I bit off four of them, but I only found three. He must have grabbed the pinky when he ran off. I didn’t think he’d be back. Well, he might have come back to try and get his fingers since they can stick their parts back on … I ate the mints and put the fingers in the tins, and then I found the feather. Later I broke them up—the fingers, not the feather—but they put themselves back together, so I broke them again, and then I thought maybe I’d burn them, but decided to keep them, and let you decide—”
Bella put her fingers over his mouth. “Paul, you’re babbling.”
“Yeah, I am,” he mumbled, nodding.
He guardedly studied her, and several unidentifiable emotions seemed to flash across her beautiful face.
Paul broke out in a sweat. After what seemed liked forever, the corners of her lips lifted, and her eyes darkened and began to gleam. One eyebrow rose. The little smile grew into a broad grin, and she reached up and brushed her lips over his. “We should make an offering of thanks to the Holy Crow. Burn those bitches.”
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Burn those bitches by MistyC!