Stepping Aside For Love by mama4dukes
After Bella saves Leah from the clutches of Victoria, Paul inadvertently imprints on Bella. Not wanting to stand in their way, Bella steps aside for the sake of their love. Did she make the right decision for herself and for Paul though?
Hello Everyone! Welcome to my new Paul/Bella oneshot. I wrote this a couple of months ago and have been debating on whether or not to post it. Then, LunarEclipse1 made me an awesome banner for the story (the link to which can be found on my profile page) and I really had no choice, but to publish it. I think it was her way of encouraging me to put the story out there. She truly is an awesome friend and a wonderful writer and a spectacular banner maker.
The reason why I was debating on whether or not to publish this story is because it's very different from my norm. This story is angst ridden and I will give you a tissue warning instead of my usual no beverages while reading my story. I hope you like it.
This story is AU/OOC
All characters belong to Stephanie Meyer. No copyright infringement intended.
Mature readers 18+ only.
The wolves had it all planned. They were going to corner Victoria, using me as bait. I volunteered willingly, of course. Her obsessive hunt for me had to end in order to allow these wolves to go back to living their own lives, instead of chasing after a deranged vampire. Jacob protested wildly, so did Quil, Embry, and Seth but I was determined to do it for the pack. I owed it to them. It was my fault that the Cullens stayed in the area, and my fault that their genes decided to activate and turn them into wolves. I owed it to them.
I was sitting in the meadow where Edward and I used to come and spend time together. I felt my heart tug when I thought about him, but not as badly as before. I wasn't good enough for him, that much was a fact. He was too perfect, too beautiful, and I was just a clumsy girl with stringy hair. I wasn't good enough for him. I understood now.
The meadow was perfect too, even on this overcast day. Wildflowers surrounded the serene beauty of the place and, for one moment, I felt happy and at peace. In an instant, that serenity was shattered when I heard the voice of pure evil, taunting me. I hit send on my cell phone which had been readied to send a message to Sam before facing her.
"Well, well, well, Bella Swan. Where are your pups today?"
"They're not here, Victoria."
"If you're going to kill me, I'm fair game, but I'm probably not worth the effort. Edward has been gone for a long time. He's never coming back. He didn't love me."
"Of course he loved you. He was your mate."
"A mate would never be able to leave his mate alone, even for one day."
That seemed to give her reason to think. She actually stopped to contemplate what I said for a minute, then she looked at me incredulously. "He really didn't love you, did he?"
"Not at all. I was just a distraction, a pet."
"No matter, I haven't eaten in a while, and you smell divine."
"Like I said, I'm fair game. I'd rather be dead anyway."
"No man is worth death, Bella."
"You're probably right, but I'm just a naïve human. Who am I to say that I know anything about love? Please end my life now," I begged, and I meant it, too.
She was about to move in to kill me when she was surrounded by eight wolves. Her eyes widened and she tried to run, but she was knocked down by Seth. She was strong. She flung him into a tree and started fighting. He quickly got back up. It was eight against one, and she didn't have a chance, but she was trying to live, to survive. She thought quickly and grabbed Leah. She had her in a body lock, prepared to crush her. The wolves stopped abruptly.
I heard a howl of agony coming from Paul, Leah's boyfriend. Hearing the desperation in his howl, I quickly grabbed the Swiss Army knife in my pocket and sliced my palm, drawing blood. Victoria dropped Leah and started coming for me. My wish to die was about to come true.
Unfortunately, I was thwarted in my endeavors when the wolves jumped on Victoria and started ripping her apart. "Survive! No man is worth death! Live for yourself, Bella!" were her last words to me as Paul dealt the final blow and ripped Victoria's head off. I'm positive that I vaguely heard her whispering, "I love you, James," at the end.
"You put yourself in harm's way for us," Paul stated, looking directly into my eyes. He had phased back to human form along with the rest of the wolves.
"I did," I said. "What you and Leah have is a beautiful thing. I couldn't just let her die."
"Thank you," he whispered, and continued to look into my eyes. The other wolves kept staring between the two of us.
"Oh my God! You fucking imprinted on the leech lover!" Leah shouted, then turned to me. "Don't you even think that you're going to get your slutty claws into my man! You're nothing, but a clumsy, pathetic whore! You're a nuisance to everyone!"
"I have to go," I said, quickly, and started running for home as fast as my feet would take me. My palm was still bleeding from where I had sliced it, but I couldn't be bothered with it right now. I tripped a few times and I was bawling my eyes out. I made it home in a little over an hour and slammed the door as I flew into the house, completely out of breath. My father wasn't home yet. I rushed into the shower to wash off the sweat and grime from my run and sunk to the floor of the tub. I couldn't stop crying.
How could I do this to Leah? I was an awful person. True, she never liked me, but she didn't deserve to have her boyfriend of three years ripped away from her because of a stupid supernatural imprint. I made my decision to leave then. I got out of the shower, got dressed, bandaged up my palm, and packed.
I had everything all set by the time my father got home for dinner.
"Dad," I said.
"I want to go home to Mom's."
He looked at me intently and nodded his head.
"There's an eleven pm flight."
"Alright, let's get you to the airport, then. But know this, Bells. You'll always have a home here, and I'll always love you—I always have, and I always will."
"I love you, Daddy."
"I love you, too, Isabella."
Two days later...
I received the letter in the post this morning. I ripped it open to read immediately, and bawled like a baby afterwards. She was gone. My best friend was gone.
I decided to start cooking to take my mind off of things. There was going to be a bonfire tonight celebrating the pack's victory. I wasn't going to be in a very festive mood, that much was for sure.
As the sun set, the pack and tribal elders were all on the beach partying. Everyone was smiling and celebrating. Suddenly, Billy Black made an announcement, "Let's have a drink to the burning of the redheaded bloodsucker!" We all toasted her demise, and I heard several whoops and hollers.
Leah suddenly stood up, "Let's have another toast to the fact that the leech lover, Bella Swan, is also gone!"
I heard a couple of cheers from Jared, but everyone else remained silent. She had put her life on the line for the pack and we all knew it.
"Aw, come on, guys! The pathetic bitch is gone. The leech lovin' whore is gone from this area forever."
I saw red and slapped my cousin across the face. "How dare you! How dare you! Do you realize how much she sacrificed for the pack? She put her life on the line for all of us! We owe her."
"I don't owe the bitch jack shit!" Leah snapped.
"Oh, I believe that you owe her the most. Sam told me about how she drew blood to distract the vampire so that you wouldn't be crushed, and so that you and Paul would have a chance at love. Let me read something to you." I don't know what made me do it, but I decided to make my private letter, public. I started reading out loud.
By the time you receive this letter, I'll be at my mother's house and you will know that Paul imprinted on me. In case you're wondering, the imprint is the reason why I left. Paul and Leah don't deserve to have their love torn apart because of some supernatural mandate. They've been together for three years and share an incredibly deep love, so I decided to leave so I'm not a distraction in any way, shape, or form.
Love is a crazy, beautiful thing, and if a couple has it, like you and Sam, or Kim and Jared, or Leah and Paul, they deserve to keep it. I'm just some pathetic girl that's so broken that she'll never be worthy of love. I'm not worth it. Leah was right when she said that I was nothing, but a clumsy, pathetic whore, and a nuisance to everyone. Well, not the whore part, I'm still a virgin, and I've never kissed anyone for real. I'll probably die a virgin. Anyway, I'm stepping aside for them, for the beauty of their love.
I'm writing this letter so that I can say goodbye to everyone. I wish you all well. I'm going to try to rebuild my life now because that's what I need to do, and I need to do it away from all things supernatural.
Tell Jacob that he'll always be my personal sun, he always made me feel as if I were wonderful. I'll miss him, I'll miss all of you. I'll miss Quil's knack for telling dirty jokes, Embry's love of life, Sam's intelligence and the way he was always there to look after me, and Seth for being the kindest, sweetest kid brother that a girl could ever ask for. But most of all, I'll miss you, Emily. You were my best friend, and we had some pretty heavy conversations about love and life, then we'd cook up a storm to take our mind off of things. I guess our dream of owning a restaurant together will never come true. I'll miss hanging out with you and I'll always love you, remember that. I wish I could have gotten to know everyone else, but there simply wasn't time.
I wish all of you the best of luck in love, life, and all of your future endeavors. And Emily, keep the love alive with Sam.
Isabella Marie Swan
I started sobbing into Sam's arms after reading the letter. I folded it up neatly, tucked it away in the envelope, and placed it in my tote bag. Then I looked Leah squarely in the eyes, "Don't ever darken my doorstep again, Leah Clearwater. And if anyone, has anything negative to say about Bella Swan, the same rule applies. Take me home, Sam. Now!"
Sam, threw me on his back and ran me straight to our house. He held me all night so that I could cry. The next day, Leah tried to talk to me, but I held true to my word and refused her entry into my home. I didn't care if she was my cousin, I had nothing to say to such a cold, venomous bitch.
Six years later...
Life carried on for all of us in the pack. Paul and I had gotten married and we were still together. I had stopped phasing two years ago so that we could try and have children, but it was proving to be an impossible feat. I knew that Paul still phased a couple of times a year so he could run through the woods alone. This was especially true after the two of us would get into fights.
My cousin, Emily, and I were still on the outs. She had basically written me off because of the callous remarks I made about Bella Swan six years ago. I couldn't blame her, really. Especially after she read the letter from Bella. The girl had stepped aside so that Paul and I could be together. Only someone selfless would do that.
After Emily, Jacob, Quil, Embry, and Seth turned their backs on me and left the bonfire. Billy Black and Old Quil both told me that I needed to appreciate the great sacrifice that Bella Swan made for the Quileutes and for Paul and me, and that I needed to pray for Taha Aki's forgiveness, for he was surely angry at my wretched behavior. And my mother, my own mother gave me the dress down of my life. She told me that she was ashamed of me. That I needed to apologize to everyone, especially to Emily and Bella, and that I needed to take a look around and realize that the world didn't revolve around me. Emily and Sam both stopped talking to me. In fact, Sam stopped putting me on any patrols. I was told that I was free to stop phasing, I was no longer needed by the pack.
Through all of this, Paul stuck by me, and so did Jared and Kim. The thing is, Jared and I couldn't understand what the big deal about Bella Swan was. Sure she sacrificed herself for the pack, but it wouldn't have been necessary if she weren't such an idiot and dated a leech. Jared and I couldn't help, but razz Paul about the leech lover being his imprint sometimes.
My mom and Seth, of course, still talked to me. They were family, after all. Mom ended up marrying Charlie Swan. They lived at his house in Forks now. Three years ago, when they got married, they invited Bella to come to the wedding, but she declined the invitation. She was studying abroad in Paris at the time, and she couldn't miss any classes. She sent them a wedding gift, it was a replica of the Eiffel Tower, but it had a working clock on it. They have it up on their mantel now, next to their wedding photo.
Charlie Swan was a good man. He was paying for Seth to go to college, and even helped by mentoring Paul in his career. He worked for Charlie Swan now. He was a cop on his police force along with Sam. Paul and Sam both had degrees in law enforcement, paid for by the continuing education fund of the Forks Police Department.
I drove to my mother's house to see how she was feeling. She was in bed with the flu that was spreading like wildfire throughout the reservation and Forks. I had the day off from work today. I was a registered nurse at the tribal clinic, and I really loved what I did. Charlie paid for my associate's degree in nursing too. He was so good to both me and Seth. Apparently, Bella had earned a full academic scholarship for college so he had her college savings left over. He used it to pay for both me and Seth.
I don't really know what happened to Bella, other than the bits and pieces that I got from my mother and Charlie. Bella kept in touch with Charlie only, and he wasn't a man of many words. He missed her like crazy, that much was for sure. It pissed me off that she didn't have it in her heart to come and see her father. I mean, she was his flesh and blood, but apparently she didn't care enough to visit him. He always had to go to her. Oh, and she's never once spoken to my mother on the phone. One would think that a good daughter would want to get to know her father's new wife, but Bella, for whatever reason, was too selfish to get to know my mother. I mean, Seth and I talk to Charlie. We both think of him as our father. Bella owes my mother the same courtesy.
"Hey, Mom, how are you feeling today?" I asked as I walked into her house.
She was out of bed and sitting on the sofa in her pajamas talking to Emily. Just my luck. "Much better, dear. I'm out of bed, aren't I?"
"Oh, um, hello Emily."
"Leah," she greeted coldly.
I was about to say something when the doorbell rang. "Come in!" my mother yelled.
"Hey, Aunt Sue!" a male voice greeted.
"Mark?" my mother bolted off of the sofa to hug the man. "When did you get back?"
It was my mom's friend, Dina's son, Mark. Mark joined the Marine's right out of high school and he did a few tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dina worked with my mother at Fork's General Hospital. She was also Quileute. She graduated with my mother from both high school and nursing school, and they've worked together as registered nurses at the hospital for twenty years.
"Two days ago. I'm back for good now. Mom asked me to drop off some chicken soup to you."
"Put it in the kitchen, dear, and come and talk to us. This is my niece, Emily, and, of course, you remember Leah, don't you?"
"I haven't seen her in eight years, but we grew up together. Of course, I remember Leah." He turned to me, looked into my eyes, and said, "How have you been, Leah?" That's when it happened. The earth moved beneath my feet and I had forgotten about everything in the world, except for the man standing in front of me. I was chained to him. I had imprinted.
"Oh, dear," my mother whispered.
"Holy crap," Emily muttered.
We stared at each other for the longest time.
"Do you believe in love at first sight, Leah?" Mark asked.
I knew that I was done for at that point.
Two years later...
I let her go. I had to. I loved her too much not to. Two years ago, Leah imprinted on Mark Bayter. She tried to fight it, but the pull was too powerful. She didn't even last a month. We ended up getting a divorce and parting ways.
I knew all too well how powerful the pull to your imprint could be. I felt it every single day to my imprint, and it was even more powerful now...now that Leah was gone, and I didn't have her distracting me from thinking about Bella.
Bella. Bella. Bella. All that she had done for us had now gone to waste in a snap. At first I was happy for Leah, but lately I've become increasingly angry with her. She should have just released me as soon as the imprint happened. She should have been selfless like Bella, but, now that I think about it, she was always selfish. She had always gotten her way.
I moved off of the reservation after the divorce and now lived in an apartment in Forks. I couldn't bear to watch Leah flaunt her relationship with Mark in front of me. She was now pregnant with his baby. We had tried for years, but nothing ever came to fruition.
I still worked at the Forks Police Department. I kept my ears open, trying to get snippets of information about my imprint. I just hoped to God that she was happy after the damage that I had done. I should have gone after her the moment she ran, but instead I was relieved that she was kind enough to let me be with Leah. What a douche I was back then.
We were in Los Angeles, California. Seth was graduating from college, and we were all there to wish him well. Even though Leah and I were divorced, Charlie and Sue still considered me a part of their family. Charlie had done so much for me, I couldn't let him down and not be there for Seth. So, I sucked it up and flew to California even if my ex-wife was going to be there. Almost everyone from the pack was there with their imprints. The only two that weren't there were Brady and Collin, they were attending college at Washington State University and their terms weren't up yet. Seth Clearwater was the pride and joy of La Push. He was graduating with a degree in accounting from UCLA.
After the graduation, Charlie and Sue held a celebration dinner at a restaurant called The Palm. They had reserved a private room and we had the most delicious steaks in the world. Afterwards, we retreated to the bar at the restaurant, that's when we saw my imprint.
She was sitting at a table with a group of women having drinks. She looked absolutely gorgeous. She was no longer overly skinny, and she carried herself with an air of confidence. She looked happy. She had a breathtaking smile and her laughter was full of joy. I checked out her left hand for a ring, nope, she wasn't wearing one. I was captivated by her.
"Bella?" Charlie called, approaching her.
"Daddy!" she chirped and bounded into his arms. "How are you? What are you doing here?"
"Oh, it's Seth's graduation this weekend. We're celebrating, everyone is here."
"By everyone, do you mean everyone?" she asked, warily.
"Um, yeah, what else could it mean."
"Nothing, I was just curious."
"Why don't you come and say hello to everyone? They all missed you, kiddo."
"Um, sure, maybe later."
"Alright, well I'm here for a few days. I was planning on giving you a call so we could get together, just you and me. Unless, Susie can come along. She really wants to meet you."
"Um, I kind of like things the way they are," Bella said.
"That's fine. I just want to spend some time with my daughter. I'll leave you alone now. Remember, stop by to see us."
Bella went back to sitting with her friends. The smile that was previously on her face was now replaced with a grimace. She'd laugh along with her friends, but the joy never touched her eyes.
"I'll go talk to her," Leah offered.
"I think you've done quite enough already, young lady. It's best you respect her wishes and stay away from her," Sue said. "She wants nothing to do with La Push."
Emily, on the other hand, was undaunted. She managed to sneak away from the group, and when we turned around she had slipped into the booth next to Bella.
"Hello, I'm Emily," she greeted the group, happily with a smile on her face. "I'm Bella's friend from Washington."
She charmed her way into the group with her sparkling personality, and before we knew it, Bella was back to laughing again. About forty minutes later, Bella's friends left, leaving Bella and Emily sitting alone together at the table. The two of them started talking and catching up. It was as if they hadn't been apart in eight years.
"So, are you seeing anyone, Bella?"
"No, I haven't met the right guy. I'm destined to be single for my entire life. I've dated a few guys, but no one that's really been the one."
"I heard from my father that you and Sam have three kids now."
"Yes, we do, Sammy, Emmy, and Charlie."
"You named your son after my father?"
"Oh, he's done quite a lot for us. Sam looks up to him as if he was his own father."
"That's so sweet. I'm so happy for you."
"What do you do Bella?"
"I'm a chef for a French restaurant in West L.A."
"Wow! You'll have to cook for me sometime."
"Sure, I'd love to cook for you someday. I truly enjoy doing it."
"Well, I've never had French food. How did you learn how to cook that kind of food?"
"I went to the CIA for college." The CIA? They have a college?
"Huh?" Emily asked, confused.
"The Culinary Institute of America. I have a bachelor's degree in Culinary Arts. Anyway, I did my junior year abroad in Paris at Le Cordon Bleu, and really concentrated on French food. I fell in love with Paris. Too bad there was no one for me to fall in love with there," she chuckled.
If I hadn't been tied down to Leah, I would have fallen in love with her. What am I saying? I was just as much at fault as Leah was. We should have never kept up with our relationship knowing that there was a chance that either of us could imprint after we phased.
I kept thinking of the words that Leah said to Bella on the day I imprinted on her. "You're nothing, but a clumsy, pathetic whore! You're a nuisance to everyone!" Those words must have cut her to shreds. They were biting, and they were harsh. It was right after she had voluntarily drawn blood to save Leah's life, and the bitch had thanked her by tearing her apart. None of us had a chance to thank her. I only thanked her for saving Leah's life like the fucking asshole that I am. When Jake and Sam went over to her house that evening, she had already left Forks. To make matters worse, she had to hike down from the meadow, injured from her self-inflicted sacrificial wound, through the woods, by herself. None of us even thought of accompanying her. Old Quil told us all that we were just as bad Edward Cullen for what we had done. He was furious at all of us and I knew for a fact that Quil got his ear chewed off by Old Quil for not seeing her home properly.
"Hey, Emily, I heard from my father that you opened up a bakery on the reservation."
"I did, well, it's more like a bakery and sandwich shop. I serve soups and sandwiches for lunch and I close at 3pm."
"Send me photos. I'd love to see what it looks like."
"Are you ready to come and say hello to everyone?" Emily asked.
"Are Leah and Paul there?"
"Of course they are."
"Then, no. I don't think it would be a good idea. I really don't want to have anything to do with either of them. Leah Clearwater is not exactly my favorite person. It was just my luck that my father married her mother. If it were any other woman, I would have tried to form a relationship with my dad's new wife, but I truly didn't want to risk seeing Leah again. I thought about everything she said to me, and I realized that Victoria, the vampire that the pack killed, was a much nicer person than Leah. She actually gave me advice that helped me finally get over Edward before she was taken out. She told me to survive and live for myself, and that's what I've been doing all along. On the anniversary of Victoria's death, I actually say a little prayer to her because she may have been after my blood, but in the end, she redeemed herself in my eyes."
We wolves heard every single word that Bella said. She actually respected the bloodsucker, Victoria more than the pack, and she truly didn't like Leah. Well, no wonder, Victoria did give her sound words of advice while Leah did nothing, but rip her to shreds. Leah actually looked a little hurt by Bella's words, but it was nothing that she didn't deserve.
"Oh, Bella. I miss you so much. Will you ever come visit me in La Push?"
"I'm just the leech lover there, Emily. You're my only real friend there. Why don't you come and see me in Los Angeles instead?"
"Then, that's what I'll do."
"I should go now, Emily. Tell my dad that I had to leave. Here's my cell phone number." Bella jotted a number down on a cocktail napkin and passed it to her. "Call me anytime. Oh, and that number is for you only. My father already has it. Please don't give it to anyone else, I'm begging you not to. Not even to Sam and especially not to Sue."
"You have my word. I love you, Bella."
"I love you, too, Emily." With that, the two girls hugged and Bella went on her way.
We left the bar soon after that and headed back to the hotel. I flopped onto the bed in my room to think. She seemed to be happy. I couldn't intrude on her life now, I just couldn't. It wouldn't be right.
Two years later...
There was a massive heist at the savings and loan that resulted in a shootout, Charlie took two bullets and was transported to Forks General. I wasn't harmed, but there were three other officers down. All eight of the assailants were in custody, two in critical condition at Forks General. A bullet grazed Sam's arm, but he just needed his wound cleaned and wrapped in gauze. Three hours later, after the two of us completed our investigation of the crime scene, we were finally able to go to Forks General to check on Charlie and the three officers. Charlie was currently in surgery to have the bullet removed. We were so worried about him.
Four hours later, after Charlie was out of surgery and in recovery, I heard hollering in the hallway.
"What the fuck do you mean that I can't see him? I'm his daughter!"
"Ma'am, I know his daughter, and she's already been in to see him," one of the new officers assigned to guard his room said.
"Listen to me, if you don't let me in to see my father, I can guarantee you that there will be hell to pay! He won't be too happy! And let me assure you that I know several guys that'll beat the fuck out of you if you don't let me in to see him!"
"Are you threatening a police officer, ma'am?"
"You'd better believe that I am."
I poked my head into the hallway and the officer noticed me and motioned for me to assist him. "Jason, this is Bella Swan, Charlie's daughter from his first marriage. She's right, he'll have your head if you don't let her in."
"I didn't know, Leah didn't put her on the approved visitor's log when she filled out the form."
"Oh, she didn't, didn't she? It just fucking figures!" I snapped. "Listen to me, moving forward, if something like this ever happens, you run it by Seth or Sue only. Bella, who called you regarding Charlie's condition?"
"Lieutenant Stafford, Dr. Gerandy, and Emily called me."
"I'm sorry," Sue stated, approaching the room. "Did I just overhear you saying that Leah intentionally left Bella off of the list of approved visitors?"
"Yes, Mrs. Swan, but it was probably just an oversight. Listen, I had no idea that the chief had another daughter. Really, I didn't. Had I known..."
"Oh, it's not your fault, I'm sure it was an oversight on her part," Bella stated. "And I'm sorry for yelling at you, and for swearing. I'm highly agitated right now."
"Stop making excuses for Leah, Bella. She doesn't deserve it from you. By the way, I called you on your home phone immediately, but you probably didn't get the message. I don't have your cell phone number," Sue informed her.
"That's my fault, I made Charlie swear to keep it to himself. The only reason why Lieutenant Stafford and Dr. Gerandy have it is because I gave it to them in case something like this ever happened. How is he?"
"He's sleeping right now, but he's stable. I'm very sorry about Leah's behavior, Bella. I truly am."
Bella nodded her head. "I'll just pop in to see him, then, if I have your permission?"
"You don't need my permission to see him, Bella. You're his daughter, his pride and joy. He misses you terribly."
Bella walked inside to see her father. Sue asked me to take a walk with her.
"You need to do something for yourself once, and try to see if you can make something of the imprint, Paul."
"I don't deserve her, Sue. She's too good. You saw how she instantly forgave Leah even though you and I both know that she deliberately left Bella's name off of the list."
"And that's exactly why she needs you. Bella Swan is a good person, and so are you. I've always felt that Leah never deserved you. Don't get me wrong, I love Leah, but she can be extremely controlling and selfish. I knew that you weren't ready to have kids, but you went along with her because that's what she wanted. You weren't ready to get married when you did, but she wanted it, so you did. Your relationship had always been one sided with Leah taking the reins. But this thing with Bella; Paul, somehow Taha Aki saw fit to bless you with an imprint that's extra special, and for that reason alone, you need to act upon it."
"Oh, sure, what am I supposed to say to her? 'Leah imprinted and dropped me like a ton of bricks, I'm ready for you now?' She's always going to feel like she was the second choice. It's not fair to her."
"Why don't you tell her the truth, Paul? You woke up and realized that you were being controlled and manipulated by my daughter, and that you realized that there had to be someone better out there for you."
I was stunned by what she stated.
"No matter what, Paul, I'll always think of you as my son, and so will Charlie. You'll always have a place to call home with us."
"You're welcome. Oh, and by the way, this time I'm not letting Bella leave without at least getting to know her a little better. This has been long overdue."
"Good morning, Bells," my father's voice gently prodded me awake. I must have fallen asleep in the chair. Ooh, my neck. Yep, I definitely fell asleep in the chair.
"Hi, Daddy. I'm sorry that I couldn't stay awake for you. I guess I was more tired than I thought. How are you feeling?" I asked, trying to rub the kinks out of my neck.
"Good, well good for someone that got shot in the neck and the leg. I was lucky as all hell, Bells. Someone was looking out for me. The bullets were both millimeters away from major arteries."
"I'm happy you're okay. I rushed over here as soon as I heard."
"That much is obvious. You still have your chef's coat and hat on, and is that a whisk in your pocket?"
"Oh my goodness, I didn't even notice. I just flew out of the restaurant when I heard what happened."
"How long are you here for?"
"They gave me ten days."
"Well, your old room is still available. It might be a little dusty, no one has slept in it since you left Forks."
"Oh, um, I was just going to stay at a hotel."
"Don't be ridiculous, Bella," Sue said. "Why pay for a hotel when you have your own room?"
"She's right, Bells. Besides, I haven't seen you for a long stretch in ages."
"Sure, I'll stay," I said with a smile. Boy, this was going to be uncomfortable.
We chatted for an hour more, then Dr. Gerandy came in to examine my father. I excused myself to drive to Port Angeles, I had to go shopping for some clothes and supplies if I was staying here for ten days.
Six hours later, I had returned to Forks. My rental car was loaded with groceries, clothing, and supplies. I entered the familiar old house and took a look around. The downstairs looked updated now, and it looked like there was an addition to the house. Well, it would make sense, I remember my father telling me that they had to add on a room for Seth, and an additional bathroom.
I grabbed my purchases from the car and brought them inside. It took several trips, but I was able to get everything inside. I walked upstairs, and took a look around. Charlie had lied, the room was completely different. For one, it was much larger. The window that Edward used to climb in from was now a large bay window, that overlooked the magnificent forest. In fact, I didn't even recognize it and had to do a double take. There was a brand new bedroom set along with a new queen sized bed in place of the old twin sized bed that I used to sleep on. There was a new comforter set sitting on the unused bed with a note attached to it from Sue, that read, "I wasn't sure what your tastes were so Emily helped me pick out the comforter and sheets. I hope you like it, if not, you can exchange it. I've taped the receipt onto the package." As a matter of fact, I did like it. It was a white comforter with sage colored vines and pink flowers on it. It was cute. The room itself looked as if it were freshly dusted and cleaned. I looked to the corner of the room where my chest of drawers used to be and was in for a shock. It looked like they added an en suite bathroom for me. I was so surprised. Why would they do this for me?
"So, do you like what Dad and Mom did to your room?" Seth asked.
"Seth!" I greeted, and gave him a hug. "Look at you, you're a man now, and a college graduate to boot. I'm so proud of you."
"Yeah, thanks. I wouldn't have been able to do it without Charlie supporting me though. He's the one that encouraged me to do my best."
"Yeah, he does have a habit of doing that," I said. "So, why did they re-do my room?"
"They were renovating the whole house so they thought that they should re-do your room, too, for when you visited. My room is where your dad's used to be, and Mom and Dad sleep downstairs in the addition. Their room is humongous. Come on, I'll take you on a tour."
Seth was right, the entire house was completely gutted and enlarged. The entire kitchen was expanded and there was an island with a working sink in the middle too. Thank goodness because I planned on doing most of the cooking.
"Where's your sister's room?" I asked.
"Oh, Leah doesn't have a room here. She and Mark have their own place on the res. There's a little guest room off to the side that the baby sleeps in whenever Mom and Dad babysit."
"You don't know?" Seth asked, incredulously.
"Mark is Leah's imprint. She and Paul were divorced four years ago. I thought you knew."
"No, my father and I don't really talk about Leah. Um, the topic of La Push doesn't really come up. It's completely off limits except for Emily."
"Oh, well, that's understandable," Seth stated. "I missed you, Bella. I really did. You were my big sister and when your dad and my mom got married, I was really psyched. I thought that you might come home."
"I'm so sorry Seth. I had a lot of issues that I needed to deal with. It took me a long time for me to get back on my feet. I had a lot of counseling throughout the years, and it wasn't until I went to France on my own that I realized that I was my own person and nothing that Edward or Leah said was true."
"I know what Leah said to you, but what did Edward say?"
"He said that he never loved me and that I was just a distraction, that I wasn't good enough for him; and me, being a young, stupid, teenager, believed him."
"And then Leah just helped to crush you with what she said, didn't she?"
"Listen Seth, I really don't like to say negative things about people."
"It's a fact, Bella. You weren't the one that was negative, she was. We all heard her, and we all felt awful for you. You were gone by the time Sam and Jacob stopped by to tell you that the rest of us didn't feel that way, though."
"Yeah, I thought it would be best if I left for Paul and Leah's sake."
"But what about you, Bella? Was it the best thing for you? I've already imprinted. I know how painful the pull can be."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Don't you feel any pain in your chest from being away from Paul?"
"I don't know, I was diagnosed with panic disorder a few months after I left the area. I kept thinking that I was having a heart attack. Anyway, I had about six months of cognitive behavioral therapy, and, since then, I've been able to manage the symptoms on my own."
"I highly doubt that you have panic disorder, Bella. You have distance from Paul-itis."
"Well, it doesn't matter. I don't know Paul at all, and I really don't want someone that's lovesick over his ex-wife."
"He might surprise you, Bella."
"Why are we talking about my non-existent dating prospects anyway? Help me put the food away. I have to start cooking. It'll be a cold day in hell before I let my dad eat any of that hospital crap."
I started cooking while Seth put the groceries away. "Bella, we have pots, pans, and knives."
"Not good ones, though. I need chef's knives to cook with. I'm very particular about what I cook with. These knives don't even meet my standards, the knives that I use are special ordered from Japan and Germany."
"Geez, you're anal. Are you making pasta?"
"Um, yeah. I'm making butternut squash ravioli with a sage, goat cheese, and brown butter sauce. I thought my dad should eat something light."
"Hey, do you know if they went fishing this weekend?"
"No idea. I just got here myself."
"Yeah, Bella. I live in Santa Monica."
"Oh, that's not too far from me. I live in Westwood."
"Yes, I have for about four years now."
"Do I get to keep in touch with you now?"
"As long as I get to stay in touch with you."
"Where do you work anyway?"
"Ma Petite Maison."
"Fancy, I've never been there."
"Stop in anytime. I'll feed you for free."
"Um, how come you're making so much ravioli?"
"Well, we need to eat, too. Don't we?"
Around dinner time, I stopped in to see my father again, armed with the food that I cooked.
"Bells, what's this?"
"Come on, Daddy, do you really want to eat that nasty hospital food? Dr. Gerandy said that you can eat anything."
Sue was in the room alone with Charlie who just took a whiff of the food that I brought. "Christ, Bella, this smells good. What is it?"
"Oh, this is a lobster bisque, this is butternut squash ravioli with a sage, goat cheese, and brown butter sauce, and some grilled eggplants on the side. Now, if you have room, I made a crème caramel for dessert. Normally, I'd pair this with a nice chardonnay, but I guess hospital rules don't allow alcohol to be brought in."
"Thank you, Bella," Sue said. "You didn't have to go to this much trouble."
"Oh, it was no trouble. Seth helped me cook. I'm used to having a sous chef at the restaurant so I had to put him to work. I made some for you, too. It's in the refrigerator."
"My God, this is good. Bella, I'm going to leave the hospital twenty pounds overweight, if you keep feeding me like this."
"Oh, I plan on it. You always said that you wanted to taste my cooking."
"Well, damn girl, you certainly put that college degree of yours to good use."
"I have to ask you a question, did you go fishing this weekend?"
"Sure did, I caught some trout."
"Oh, perfect. I can use that for tomorrow night's dinner."
"Bella, there's a chest freezer downstairs filled with fish, all labeled and with dates and types on them. When you go home, I'm going to force you to take at least a cooler full with you," Sue informed me.
"Absolutely, I love fish. I'll show you how to make cioppino and seafood chowder while I'm here. You can use up a lot of fish that way, and you can feed an army with either dish."
"Did Seth say he was stopping by again?"
"Yes, he's having dinner right now. He told me to tell you that he couldn't wait for you to come home to eat."
"Always thinking with his stomach, that boy."
The next day, I was alone cooking in the house. Seth had gone to La Push for a visit. I truly wasn't ready to go there yet. Around four pm, I answered the door to find Emily standing there.
"Making some seafood chowder," I said, handing her a spoon.
"Oh, yum. You have got to make me a batch of this to sell at my shop for lunch. This is so good."
"No problem. I learned this while I was working part time at a seafood restaurant. The base is bechamel and a mirepoix."
"A what a what a what?"
"White sauce and onion, carrot, and celery sauteed in butter."
"Geez, you're going to have to write this stuff down for me. You don't happen to have a good chili recipe, do you?"
"Nope, but I can get one for you from one of my colleagues that runs a southwestern cuisine cafe. Do me a favor and chop up those porcini mushrooms for me."
"Sure. So, now that you're here, what are you going to do about Paul?"
"Nothing. I don't know him, Emily. What the heck am I supposed to do about it?"
"I don't know. Go out on a date with him or something. He's your imprint."
"I don't want Leah's leftovers."
"I look at it as Leah hanging onto someone that didn't belong to her in the first place."
"Em?" I looked at her pleadingly.
"Alright, I'll drop it. Here, have a mushroom." She shoved a couple of pieces of raw porcini mushrooms in my mouth. I had to laugh. This is what she always did to make me feel better, shove food into my mouth.
I went outside to quickly grill the trout and asparagus, then quickly made a batch of porcini mushroom cream sauce. I already had the jasmine rice and pine nuts done. I had made enough trout for Emily to take home for dinner. I had a feeling that she'd be stopping by today. I wrapped it up and handed it to her.
"Your dinner. I figured you'd be stopping by."
"Bella, if I feed this to Sam, he's going to expect me to start cooking like this for him everyday."
"It's not that hard."
"Witch," I chuckled, then gave her a hug.
After she left, I wrapped up Charlie's dinner and visited him in the hospital while he ate.
Two days later, I was making myself some lunch when there was a knock on the door. I went to answer it and there stood Paul in his police uniform.
"Um, hi," he greeted.
"I brought you some...some of Mrs. Ateara's Peach Jam. It's really good. You should take it home with you."
"Oh, thank you. I will take it home."
"Would you like to come in?"
Paul was fidgeting and he appeared really nervous.
"Did you eat yet? I was just about to make myself some lunch. It would be no trouble to make some for you as well."
"I...I...um...that would be great. Thanks."
I made a few croque monsieur and a walnut, apple, and goat cheese salad. When I served lunch, Paul seemed a bit shocked, but he dug in appreciatively.
"This is really good," he said.
"Oh, it was nothing, really."
"No, I mean, this is great. They don't serve food like this at the diner."
"No, they probably don't, but they make great burgers there."
"Do you like burgers?"
"Sometimes. I usually eat what one of the sous chefs cooks for lunch and dinner. They rarely if ever cook burgers."
"I like blue cheese burgers."
"Oh, me, too. I had a great one in the Palm Desert once, it had a slice of Irish Bacon on top and it was cooked perfectly, too."
"What's Irish Bacon?"
"It's back bacon, the bacon is sliced from the back of the pig, and is leaner and meatier than the bacon you're accustomed to."
"That sounds really good."
"Oh, it is, my favorite breakfast is Irish Bacon, eggs, toast, and baked beans."
"Beans for breakfast?"
"Yep, they're really good."
"I'd like to try it someday."
"Well, I'm going into Port Angeles today or tomorrow. If I find some Irish Bacon, I'll make you breakfast while I'm here."
"That'd be great."
Paul finished up his meal quickly, then he received a call on his radio. "I have to go. Thanks for lunch."
"Um, I hope I can see you again."
"I'll be here for a few more days."
"Good, good. Well, I'll see you later."
The next morning was Sunday and my father was being released from the hospital. I was sitting with Sue and Seth having breakfast. Sue cooked pancakes, sausages, and eggs.
"Bella, I wanted to talk to you before your father is released," Sue said.
"Bella, I know that you saved my daughter's life on the day that the pack destroyed the female vampire. I wanted to thank you."
"I also wanted to apologize for the things that she said to you that day. You didn't deserve such censure. You put your life on the line for the Quileute Nation when you allowed the pack to use you as bait, then you did it again when you drew blood in order to distract the vampire so that Leah wouldn't be killed. She had no right whatsoever to speak to you the way she did."
"You don't need to apologize for Leah's actions, she alone is responsible for the choices that she made that day. And as far as the pack is concerned, I owed it to them. It was my fault that the Cullens stayed in the area so long, and my fault that so many phased."
"No, Bella, it wasn't your fault. Who told you that it was?"
"Most of the guys did. Sam didn't, though."
"Bella, the Cullens were in the area a full year and a half before you even arrived in Forks. Those of us who knew about the wolves, saw the changes in our children long before you even showed up in the area. Sam, Jared, and Paul were already wolves when you came to live here. Truly, it wasn't your fault at all."
I'm sure that she was just appeasing me for some reason.
"Well, regardless of what you choose to believe, you've been listed in the tribal archives as a heroine akin to Taha Aki's Third Wife. I thought that you should know that most of us are still in awe of your bravery that day." Sue kissed me atop my head and got ready to go. Seth and I did the dishes.
An hour later, Charlie walked inside using crutches along with Sue, Leah, some guy I've never met, and a toddler.
"Bella, you remember Leah, right?" Charlie asked.
"Of course, how are you?"
"Good, thanks. This is my husband, Mark."
"Nice to meet you," I greeted.
"Hello," he said.
After about thirty minutes of incredibly tension filled conversation, I announced that I was going into Port Angeles for supplies. It wasn't a lie, I truly did plan on going. I was just leaving a bit earlier than I initially planned and for a lot longer than I first intended.
I returned to Forks after about six hours. Unfortunately, Leah and her husband were still there. I decided to just ignore them and start cooking. While I was thinking of what to make for dinner, Billy, Jake, Quil, and Embry stopped in carrying a gigantic salmon. My eyes bulged at the size of it.
"Forty-three pounds, Charlie," Billy said, proudly. "Embry's the one that caught it."
"We'd better get it in the freezer right away."
The freezer? Oh, no, no, no, I was salivating at the mouth looking at the fish. "Give it here!" I ordered. "You'll freeze this beauty when hell freezes over."
I grabbed the salmon, rinsed it, and started fileting it. "We're having salmon almondine for dinner tonight guys."
"What's that?" Jake asked.
"Trust me, you'll like it. No one touch anything in the kitchen, that's an order. I have to run to Forks Outfitters really quick."
"Yes, drill sergeant!" Quil saluted me.
"I make everyone in the kitchen call me, 'chef,'" I smirked. "They're all terrified of me."
I walked to my rental, and was about to start the engine when Jake told me to scoot over. He started driving as soon as I moved.
"Why, Bella? Why couldn't you at least stay in touch with me?"
"I had some stuff that I had to work out."
"You were my best friend, Bella! You still are my best friend."
"I had to go, it was time."
"Time for what?"
"Time for me to start living life for myself, Jacob. I had to find myself in order to be truly happy. I couldn't depend on you or Emily any longer for my happiness."
"Oh, Bells. I still wish you would have kept in touch with me."
"Yeah, in hindsight, I probably should have, but we all make mistakes as teenagers."
"So, what are we getting at Forks Outfitters?"
"Almonds—lots and lots of almonds. So, what have you been up to, Jacob?"
"Well, I'm married, I have two kids, and I own an auto repair shop with Quil and Embry."
"That's nice, that was always your dream."
"Yeah, it was. It's good to have a job that you enjoy doing."
"Oh, I know. I love my job."
"What do you do when you're not working? Are you married?"
"I travel when I'm not working. As for me being married, God no. I have a habit of scaring guys away."
"How could you scare guys away?"
"I don't know. They tend to either cheat on me or run from me. I have no idea why."
"What about Paul?"
"What about him?"
"He's your imprint, Bella. I can't believe I'm saying this, but there's nothing better than coming home to your soulmate."
I shrugged my shoulders. "I've never actually lived with anyone before. All of my relationships have been more of a friends with benefits type of thing. I prefer sex with no emotions involved."
"Bella, you're twenty-eight, maybe it's time you gave love a chance."
"Yeah, but...well...I have a really busy schedule, I don't really have time for a relationship. I practically live at the restaurant."
"Make time, Bella, because it sounds to me like you're a very lonely girl."
That statement threw me for a loop. Was I a lonely girl? Is that why I keep myself so busy at work?"
I knocked on Charlie's door. It was Sunday and I always went over to have dinner at their house, it was a standing invitation. When I got there, I noticed that my ex-wife and her husband were there, as well as Billy, Quil, Embry, and Jake. Their imprints were also there with their kids, as well as Sam, Emily, and their brood.
Bella was in the kitchen barking out orders to Emily and Sue. She was like a feral drill sergeant, but I had to laugh at how Emily and Sue were following her orders to the T. Charlie and Billy were laughing at the sight of Bella.
"She reminds me of you at work, Charlie," I commented.
"You're right, but I guess you have to be strict to run a kitchen, especially at a five star restaurant."
"Bella, I still don't understand why we can't use margarine. Butter is so expensive," we heard Sue state.
"Nope, margarine is just oil and a whole bunch of chemicals attempting to mirror the taste of butter, but failing miserably at it. It's better to use butter sparingly than use any margarine at all."
"But you're not using the butter sparingly, though."
"I know, I can't do things half-assed in the kitchen."
We all watched in awe as Bella wielded her knife like a pro. She was chopping up onions at a blinding rate of speed like those chefs on the Food Network. Whenever she stirred a pot or sauteed something, she moved with grace. It was almost as if she was one with the kitchen.
When dinner was served, we were all completely mesmerized by the food. None of us had ever had food this fancy before, even the little kids liked it.
"Wow, Bella, this is so much better than what Leah serves at home," Mark commented.
Uh, yeah, that's cause Leah's idea of a gourmet meal is Chinese takeout. The girl doesn't cook, period, end of discussion. I was married to her for almost six years and the only thing that she ever did was pour the contents of a can of ravioli out onto a plate and microwave it.
"Well, I went to school for this. It was brainwashed into me for four years straight."
"Do chef's get paid a lot?" Quil asked.
"It depends, you start at around thirty thousand a year as a sous chef. You have to work your way up from there. I make roughly eighty-five thousand, but I'm an executive chef. That means I oversee the whole kitchen."
"Wow, must be nice," Jake's wife stated.
"Not really, I still owe about a hundred twenty thousand dollars on my student loans."
"What student loans?" Charlie asked with a scowl on his face. Bella's eyes widened and she gasped. "You told me that you earned a scholarship."
"I...I...I just wanted Leah and Seth to have a chance to go to college," Bella sighed.
"You what?" Charlie yelled. "That money was earmarked for your education! I didn't want you to have to struggle, Bella! I saved for you from the day you were born!"
"Well, there aren't many opportunities for people on La Push! I just wanted them to have a chance to earn a decent living. I knew that I could do things on my own. I owed it to them, it was my fault that they...they...forget it. It's done!"
"We'll talk about this more later, Bella."
"Don't worry about it, Dad, that loan will be paid back in six years. I make enough to cover my expenses and pay back the loan. I'm just happy that they had the opportunity to go to college."
"I'll never understand you, Bells," Charlie said. "Thanks for doing that for my step-kids."
"And we will be helping you pay your loan back, that's what parents do after all."
"Honestly, Sue, you don't have to. I'm fine. It gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment, knowing that I'm doing it all on my own."
"Thanks, Bella," Seth stated. "I owe you so much." Meanwhile, Leah left the house, slamming the door behind her. Bitch. She just didn't like feeling indebted to anyone. She couldn't just be grateful and thank her. Now that I've had time to think about it, Leah had so many flaws with her personality that didn't sit right with me. I don't know why I stayed with her for so long. I just realized now, how happy I was to have her out of my life. She simply wasn't a nice person.
I had the day off on Tuesday so I decided to stop by at Charlie's house. Bella wasn't there, I found out from the Chief that Emily picked her up early in the morning and dragged her off to her little bakery in La Push. I decided to go to the reservation, at that point, to see what everyone was up to. No, that's a lie, I just wanted to see my imprint. The pull was getting to be too much and I needed to see her.
"Hey, Paul, what dragged your ass out of bed this early and to the res?" Jared asked.
"Nothing, I just wanted to see what everyone was up to."
"Got a question for you, now that your imprint's here, are you going to convince her to stay?"
"I can't do that, Jared. She has a life in California. She can't make a living out here with what she does."
"She's just a cook, right?"
For some reason, the comment that Jared made rubbed me wrong. My imprint wasn't just anything. There were so many wonderful qualities about her that I couldn't just name them off of the top of my head. Jared and Leah have spent years teasing me about the fact that I was imprinted to Bella Swan, the leech lover. The truth of the matter was that neither of them knew her, I didn't know her. Those who did know her had nothing, but nice things to say about her and they all missed her tremendously. Talking to her the two times that I did during her visit, I could see why they liked her. I liked her. I liked her a lot.
"She's not just a cook, Jared. There's a difference, she's an executive chef at a French restaurant," I snapped.
"Touchy. What? Are you falling in love with the leech lover?"
"Don't call her that, man. You don't know her. You don't know shit about her."
"What is your problem, man?"
"She's my imprint, Jared. What if the roles were reversed and I called Kim a leech lover?"
"Kim wouldn't be stupid enough to fall for a leech."
"Are you sure about that? She fell for a shapeshifter, what proof is there that she wouldn't fall for a leech?"
Jared put his hands up. "Chill man. I mean you no harm. I just can't understand why you want some leech's used goods all of a sudden."
I clocked him in the jaw. I had just about had it with him. Leah and Kim, who had apparently witnessed the whole thing ran to stop the fight that had now broken out.
"What the fuck is going on?" Kim asked.
"Ol' Paul here got bent out of shape because I called his imprint a leech lover."
"Jared, stop. Bella's his imprint. You should never talk negatively about an imprint regardless of how you feel about her! I've told you and Leah this time and time again!" Kim chastised.
"Who gives a shit? I can't believe he's letting the leech lover come between us."
"That's it, I'm putting a stop to this shit right now! It ends now. You two have been friends for a long time, you don't need that cunt coming between the two of you!" Leah hollered.
I have no idea what happened next, but I saw her stalking off towards Emily's little shop.
The next day...
She was gone. I didn't get to see her again. I don't know what happened after Leah went to see Emily, but I found out that Bella flew home that evening, and that a thoroughly pissed off Seth went with her cutting all ties with Leah. I didn't even get a chance to get to know her.
Sue, Billy, and Old Quil were sitting in my living room together with Sam and Jake.
"Paul, we've made a decision," Old Quil said.
"What decision is that?"
"We are going to let Charlie in on the secret of the shapeshifters. It needs to be done."
"Paul, the fact is that his daughter is your imprint. She's made too many sacrifices for the pack already and it's time that we did something for her. There are too many secrets between father and daughter that are unnecessary. Sam here has just informed us as to why she left the area so suddenly."
"What happened?" I asked, Sam.
"It was Leah again. She flew into a rage and cornered both Emily and Bella. She, subsequently, slapped Bella across the face and told her that she was tearing apart your friendship with Jared."
"She what?" My fists were balled up, my face was most likely contorted in anger, and before I knew it, I had phased. I was enraged at Leah's actions. She was a shapeshifter, she was much stronger than both Emily and Bella. Had she phased in front of them, they could have been severely hurt. While I seethed in anger, the elders and Sam and Jake remained stoic and calm. Sam gave me an alpha order to phase back.
"Paul, Bella believes that she is the reason why you all became wolves," Sue informed me. "It simply isn't true. I tried to tell her, but she didn't believe me."
"How could she be the reason why we're wolves? Jared, Sam, and I phased before she even got here. And the changes in everyone were already taking place before she even arrived."
"That would be my fault," Jake sighed. "I was uninformed and I told her in a fit of jealousy over Edward, when I was still pursuing her, that the reason why the Cullens stuck around so long was because of her. I didn't know that she took that misinformation to heart until Sue told me an hour ago."
"Will there be consequences for Leah?"
"Oh, yes, she will no longer have hereditary rights to the tribal council, and she'll be writing a letter of apology to Bella. Although, I doubt that it would help at this point," Old Quil said. "There's one more thing. Sam, it's time."
"Paul Lahote, I'm giving you an alpha order to pursue your imprint," Sam declared in his alpha timber, making it unable for me to disobey his command.
"Seth told Sue that Bella has been feeling the pain of the pull for years. Apparently, she thinks that she has panic disorder, and she's been managing her pain through some sort of behavioral modification. What he, Sue, and Emily noticed while she was here was that she didn't seem to suffer from pain because of her proximity to you."
"You make it sound so easy, but it's not. She's all the way in California, and I'm in Washington."
"So fly to California, Paul. You and she both need each other. There is no other way."
"Hey, how come there are no kids here?" Charlie asked when we were all gathered for dinner.
"I don't know, Charlie. I was just told that it was a no kid event," Leah stated.
Sam, Jake, Embry, Quil, and I stepped out to the forest in the back of the house.
"Charlie, the boys have a surprise planned for you in the backyard," we heard Sue saying. Everyone went to the back. The five of us appeared naked from beyond the treeline, and when Billy gave us the okay, we all phased.
"Motherfucker!" Charlie yelled. "What the hell is going on?"
We phased back and the elders told him about the fact that we were shapeshifters and that we were designed to protect the reservation from vampires. He guessed on his own that the Cullens were vampires once we described features of the cold ones to him. He noticed how cold their body temperatures were when he shook their hands. Then, we told him about imprinting.
"So, you guys all have imprints and so does Seth. Doesn't Paul have an imprint?" Charlie asked.
"He does, Charlie," Billy said.
"Well how come he's never with her, then?"
"He didn't know where she was."
"Who is his imprint?"
"Shouldn't you be with her? I mean I've seen some freaky shit, and this is as freaky as it comes, but when you find your soulmate, I would think that you'd need to be with her."
"That's what I said," Emily chuckled, rolling her eyes.
"It's a little more complicated than that, Charlie," Sue said, then explained everything that went on with Bella beginning with the story of the redheaded leech and ending with how Leah, once again, chased her away.
"I would think that you'd be a little more grateful to the girl for all of the sacrifices that she made for you, Leah." Leah dropped her head in shame as her imprint, Mark, the one person that she thought would side with her, chastised her. "Charlie, I had no idea about any of this. I've only met Bella once, but she seemed to me like a very nice person. I apologize for my wife's actions. She needs to deal with her jealousy and anger by herself rather than taking it out on those weaker than she is."
"I can't say that I'm not disappointed in you, Leah, but I suspect that Mark is correct and all of your actions were done out of jealousy and anger. I still consider you to be my daughter, though, and I hope that you come to me whenever something is bothering you rather than taking it out on Bella," Charlie said. "I'm glad that you all told me everything, I have so many answers to questions that were still lingering about Bella. I finally know why she refused to talk about La Push with the exception of Emily, and now I know why she never came home to visit me."
"Charlie, Leah and I will pay you back for her portion of what you spent on her education," Mark offered.
"No, there's no need. I would have found a way to pay for Leah anyway. It doesn't matter, what's done is done, and this is something that Bella did from the goodness of her heart, if you pay her back she'll take it the wrong way."
"Charlie, Leah will be writing an apology letter to Bella under pack orders," Old Quil said.
"No, that's not necessary. I don't want Leah to write to Bella unless she means it, and, quite frankly, I don't think that it's in Bella's best interest. However, I can't decide that, only Bella can. I don't want to bother her right now, she's had a rough week. And I need to let this all sink in before I try to figure out how to bring this all up to Bella."
Six days later...
I was thinking back to the conversation that I had with Charlie yesterday morning. He had called me into his office and had me sit down.
"Paul, I'm putting you on paid leave due to a family emergency, effective immediately."
"I don't have a family emergency, though."
"Yeah, you do. There's an American Airlines flight leaving for Los Angeles from Seattle at 2:45 pm. Here's the ticket. Jake's going to pick you up and drive you to the airport at ten am, Seth will pick you up from the airport in Los Angeles. Go get my baby, Paul. She's lonely. She needs you."
"No buts, it's an order. I swear to God that I'll fire you if you don't do as I say."
"Thanks, Charlie," I said, then abruptly gave him a hug.
"You're a good kid, Paul. I know you won't hurt her."
So, I flew to Los Angeles and this is where I was now. I was sitting in a posh restaurant in a trendy area of West Los Angeles dressed in a one of Seth's business suits and a tie.
The waiter had just come to take my order so I told him that I would take whatever the chef recommended. Quite frankly, it was because I had no idea what any of the stuff on the menu was. It was all in French.
"She will be exceedingly pleased," he said. Good, good, pleasing your imprint is a good thing.
The waiter had started out by bringing me some white wine. I had some, then was presented with a plate of...snails?
"Escargots de Bourgogne," the waiter said, as he placed the plate in front of me along with a pair of small tongs and a tiny fork.
"Uh, thank you." I think I'm going to cry. I've been reduced to eating insects.
I looked at another table and there was someone else eating the same thing so I mimicked her, by holding the shell with the tongs, and digging the actual snail out with the fork. I took a deep breath, sucked it in, and dug in to the snail.
Holy crap, this is good. Before I knew it, I had polished off all six snails.
A minute later, the waiter brought out the tiniest scoop of ice cream in the world. "Lemon sorbet for cleansing your palate, monsieur."
I looked around and saw other people eating their sorbet in one go, so I copied them.
The waiter took my sorbet away on a plate. After a few minutes, one of the chefs came to my table armed with some sort of an elaborate set up and tossed a salad in front of me, using raw egg yolks and some other stuff. "Salade de Cesar," she said. Now, that I understood. It was Caesar's Salad. Wait, what's that fishy stuff she's laying on top of my salad?
I started eating my salad, and I had to admit that it was the best Caesar's Salad that I'd ever had, even with the greasy fishy stuff.
After I was done, the waiter returned and cleared my plate and my wine glass away. He returned with the sorbet again, so I cleansed my palate.
A couple of minutes later, I was presented with my main dish and some wine. "Lapin a la Dijonnaise paired with Cabernet Sauvignon, monsieur." He also gave me some roasted potatoes and some fancy looking green beans as a side dish.
I thought back to my high school French class. I couldn't figure out what lapin was so I just shrugged my shoulders and started eating. It's chicken! Geez, this chicken tastes great. It was really nice and moist, not tough and dry like Sue's chicken.
When the waiter came to retrieve my plate, I told him how much I enjoyed the chicken.
"Monsieur, it was braised rabbit that you had."
"Oh, I didn't know." Aw man, my imprint made me eat a bunny. First insects, and then an adorable little bunny?
After another cleansing sorbet, the waiter asked me if I'd like to have dessert.
"Sure, I'll take whatever the chef recommends."
He asked me if I wanted coffee, tea, espresso, or cafe au lait.
"Um, coffee, please."
The chef brought out my coffee and some chocolate mousse. It was so good that I ordered another one.
I sat at my seat thinking about how I was going to let Bella know that I was here. I suddenly had an idea. The waiter returned to the table with another sorbet and asked me if I needed anything else. "Yes, is there any way that I can speak to the head chef? I want to compliment her on the meal."
"I'll go and ask her, monsieur."
Twenty minutes later, Bella finally showed up at the table, "Paul?"
"Hi, um, surprise!"
"What are you doing here?" she asked, worriedly.
"I wanted to see what your restaurant was like."
"How did you know that I worked here?"
"Your father told me."
"Um, yeah. Listen, what are you doing after work?"
"I'm grabbing a bite to eat, then going home."
"Can I come with you? I mean, if it's okay with you."
"Please? I flew in all the way from Washington to see you."
"Sure, I'm done in a hour and a half."
"I'll sit here and wait."
"That's fine. Let me get you some more coffee."
Five minutes later, the waiter brought out some bread, cheese, and some sort of spread along with copies of Gourmet Magazine and Saveur Magazine. He also brought out a drink for me, stating that it was cognac.
"You can bring my check out while you're at it," I told the waiter.
"Monsieur, this evening's meal was with the chef's compliments," I was told.
"Please thank her for me."
Forty minutes later, I was the only customer left in the place. I saw the waiter getting ready to leave so I ran up to him and gave him a twenty dollar tip. He thanked me, gratefully.
I waited for another hour scouring the magazines. Bella finally came out from the kitchen. "Sorry that took a bit longer than I expected."
"It's no problem. Um, do you think that you can make this for me?" I showed her a picture of some delicious looking rice dish from the magazine.
"Paella Valenciana? Sure, no problem. Not tonight, though."
"Great, cause that looks really good. So, should we leave now?"
"Do you want to take your car or mine?" she asked.
"Yours, considering that I was dropped off here by Seth."
"Okay, why don't we just go to my place?"
"That would be great."
A few minutes later, we arrived at an apartment in a quiet neighborhood. Bella unlocked the door and let me inside. Her place looked cozy and comfortable. There was a big white sofa in the living room, as well as a coffee table, with a book and a couple of magazines sitting on it. There was a small kitchen that looked packed with cooking supplies and a round dining table with a vase of flowers in the middle of it.
"It's not much, but it's home. I can't really afford much else until I pay off my student loans," she said. It was yet another sacrifice that Bella made for my bitch ex-wife and Seth. Leah was living comfy and cozy in a rent free house on the reservation while Bella was cramped in a small one bedroom apartment. At least Seth was extremely appreciative of the sacrifice that Bella made for him.
"This is really nice," I said, and I meant it, too. It was nice, considering the size. It looked like she tried to make the place her own little sanctuary.
Bella made a quick burger for me and herself. We sat down at the dining table to eat.
"So, you wanted to talk to me. About what?"
Here I go. This speech has been practiced, and prepared mentally for a day and a half now. "Bella, I...I want to get to know you. I want to...I...I...I'm stuttering."
"I can see that. Why do you want to get to know me?"
"Because I like you. And I don't like you just because of the imprint. That has only a little to do with it. I like you mostly because you're a nice person. I just want to get to know you."
"That's nice and all, but you live in Forks and I live in Los Angeles."
"So, what's a little distance?"
"Why now, Paul? Why me?"
"Now, because I finally got to know you a little. You, because you're beautiful, kind, considerate, and completely sexy when you're barking out orders in the kitchen."
"That's not a good enough reason, Paul."
"It's a start, plus you owe me one. You fed me snails, rabbit, and some kind of greasy fish that tasted really good."
"Those were anchovies. I'm surprised that you didn't mention the goose liver pate."
"Which one was that?"
"The pink paste that came with the brie cheese at the very end."
"The spread? That was goose liver paste?"
"Yep," she smirked.
"It was good, everything tasted good. You aren't going to deprive me of delicious food and leave me destined for a life of eating bland food at the diner, are you?"
"Even if it did work out, I'm not moving to La Push."
"I'll move here. I'll do anything for you, but first I just want to get to know you, Bella, and for that, you have to let me into your life."
Ten years later...
Bella did let me into her life. Six months later, I moved into her little apartment with her. Charlie gave me a stellar recommendation and I was hired immediately by the Beverly Hills Police Department. Everyone in La Push kept chuckling about how one of their own was actually a Beverly Hills cop. With both incomes, we were able to pay off Bella's student loans in two years. It was a struggle, but somehow we managed to do it.
Five years after I moved to Los Angeles, Bella and I got married. Everyone from La Push, the Forks Police Department, Bella's restaurant, and the Beverly Hills Police Department came to the wedding. Leah and Jared weren't invited, that was a decision Bella and I made together. We didn't need them clouding our day with their presence. The reception was held at the restaurant Bella worked at back then, a gift from the owner of the restaurant.
Jared apologized to me regarding the things he said about Bella. It took a while, but I finally forgave him, though things were never quite the same between us. I outgrew him, I guess. Jared and Kim visited us in Los Angeles and painstakingly took the time to get to know my imprint. She and Kim actually hit it off immediately. Kim was actually a very nice girl and she never really got along well with Leah because she was so harsh.
Leah was actually punished severely for her indiscretions, the tribal council put a black mark next to her name in the archives and she had lost all rights to the tribal council. That honor would go to Seth instead, should he choose to return to La Push. Leah finally wrote a heartfelt letter of apology to Bella about a year after I left La Push. She stated that she was young, arrogant, stupid, and jealous, and that she was afraid of losing me to her. She also stated that she never really understood how imprinting worked until she finally imprinted on Mark. She stated a genuine desire to get to know Bella and added that she was receiving counseling for her anger management issues. Bella wrote back to her wishing her luck, but nothing really came about with their relationship. We were civil with each other when we visited Forks, but, otherwise, we didn't really associate with Leah.
Perhaps, though, the worst punishment for Leah was the fact that Seth refused any contact with her. Leah was not allowed near Seth or his family. He felt that Leah crossed the line for the last time when she slapped Bella.
After our wedding, Bella and I went on a honeymoon to France and Italy. Bella showed me around her one-time home of Paris, and then we toured the rest of France, as well as Italy, like a crazy couple on some sort of a gourmet food frenzy. When we returned, we had five suitcases filled with food, on top of our clothes. I had to admit that I've gotten extra picky about my food since being with Bella. The guys on the force always laugh like hell because, on most days, Bella would pack some sort of a gourmet lunch for me.
Three months after returning from our honeymoon, we found out that we returned with an additional souvenir. Forty weeks to the day after we first landed in Paris, little Peter came kicking and screaming into our lives. Last year, our baby girl, Charlotte, was born. Both kids were total hellions and combined with Seth's kids, Alec and Jane, who were born right around the same time that our two were born, they kept us all on our toes.
Bella and I now lived in Holmby Hills. Between our two incomes, which were both fairly decent, now that I was promoted to the rank of captain, we were able to purchase a home in a great neighborhood with an excellent school system. Seth and his imprint, Jenny, also moved to the area. In fact, they lived across the street from us, which was quite convenient for both of our families. Between the four of us, we managed to not have to put our kids into daycare.
Last year, Charlie and Sue moved into the in-law apartment, which was more like a house itself, at Seth's house. They had sold their home in Forks, and Charlie was now Chief of Police of the Brentwood Police Department. His pay nearly doubled, but he was a hell of a lot more busy than he was in Forks. He was enjoying the hustle and bustle, though, and besides, the most important thing to him was that he was able to be close to his grandchildren. Charlie and Sue both noted that Alec, Jane, Petey, and Char had to be the most mischievous, little rascals on the planet. Apparently, compared with Leah's kids, our kids were scolded by them much more often. Well, hell, that's because Seth and Jenny, and Bella and I, didn't believe in raising little, obedient robots.
Sue still worked as a registered nurse, but at a pediatrician's office in Westwood Village. She wanted to make sure that she was close to the kids, just in case. I asked her why she chose to live near our kids rather than near Leah's. Her reply was that Leah's kids had Mark's entire family still in La Push while Alec, Jane, Pete, and Char only really had Charlie and Sue for their extended family. They wanted their grandbabies to grow up in a family environment even if we lived in a large, metropolitan area.
Another couple that uprooted their family was Sam and Emily. Five years ago, Emily decided to get her certificate in pastry arts at a cooking school in Los Angeles. Two years ago, she and Bella finally realized their dream of opening up their own restaurant. They opened up a little restaurant and pastry shop on Melrose. It was extremely popular and they were making a killing. Bella was able to branch out from only cooking French food to cooking all different sorts of cuisine from Asian to European to Middle Eastern. Emily was a whiz with pastries and she had orders coming in from all over the United States to have her cakes shipped to them. Owning their own restaurant, in Bella's case, also allowed her to have shorter hours. They always left their shop by six pm and they hired trusted chefs to run the restaurant in the evenings and on the weekends, so that they could spend time with the kids. It really was a win-win situation for everyone.
I still kept in touch with my pack brothers in La Push, too. During the summers, we would always go down for a week to visit. And usually, either Embry, Quil, or Jared and their families would come and visit us.
One couple that would come and visit us, year after year, was Jacob and his imprint. Jacob and Bella were still incredibly close, but, perhaps, the biggest surprise was how close Jake and I had become. Maybe it was because of Bella, I don't know, but the fact was that if there were one pack brother that I could depend on, I knew that it was Jake, and he felt the same way about me. It's funny how things work out in life sometimes.
"Paul?" I was roused out of my thoughts by my Bella.
"Seth, needs your help at his place."
"Peter and Alec tried to slide down the laundry chute and now they're stuck."
"Stuck? Did they try to slide down together?"
"Yep," she chuckled. "With light sabers and all."
"Fu...fudge!" Damn it, I hate curtailing the swearing because of the kids. I decided to work on my swearing when my son's official first word was, 'fuck.' I walked across the street to Seth's house so we could get our four year old boys out. Bella came with me to Seth's, she placed Charlotte into the playpen together with Jane.
"Peter! What were you thinking trying to slide down there?"
There was no response. I shined my flashlight down at him and he was smirking at me.
"Peter, I asked you a question."
"The name is Yoda."
Grrr...Charlie and his Star Wars obsession! "Fine! Yoda, what were you and Alec...Luke Skywalker thinking by sliding down there?"
"We were sliding down the escape hatch, the stormtroopers were coming after us."
I looked at Seth. "How the fuck are we going to get them out of there, they're at least seven feet down the chute?"
"Mommy! Daddy said the F-word!" Great, now he speaks.
"I've been trying to figure it out myself," Seth said. Can we use a fishing reel and hoist them up?"
"They're four years old, Seth. Besides, if we do that, the line could snap and one of them might fall down."
"Are you sure? Because a four year old weighs less than a big salmon."
"Yes, I'm sure!"
"Alright, what if I hold onto your legs and you pull them both up."
"What if you drop me, and I fall on top of them and crush them?"
"Okay, bad idea."
"Didn't I tell you to seal that damn laundry chute up?" Charlie showed up in his uniform and chastised Seth.
"Oh, hey, Dad. Who called you?"
"Your wife did. Let me see what we're working with." Charlie peered down the chute. "So, Yoda and Luke, you guys are in a jam aren't you?"
"We tried using the force, Obi Wan, but it didn't work," Peter replied.
"Yeah, well, Obi Wan Kenobi is here to help now, so you're safe."
"Oh good, those ewoks aren't very smart, Grandpa."
"Ewoks?" Seth and I both questioned.
Charlie turned and said to us in a whisper, "Yeah, well you both get furry from time to time."
I wasn't so sure if Charlie was a good influence on our kids. I mean teaching them to refer to their fathers as ewoks? Come on now, we're wolves.
"Couldn't you at least call us Wolverine or something?" I asked.
"There's only one Wolverine and there are two of you. I didn't want to show any favoritism."
"Daddy, I have to go potty!" Alec cried to Seth.
"Try and hold it, son. Um, use the force!"
"Hold on boys, Obi Wan will be right back." He turned to us. "You two keep an eye on the boys. I have to go to the hardware store."
Charlie returned after a few minutes with two long thick lines of rope. He tied loops on one end of each rope. He gave Seth and I each one end of the ropes, then threw the looped ends down to the boys, instructing them to put their hands through and hold on tight. Once he was sure that the boys had secure holds on the ropes, he told Seth to start reeling Alec in. After Alec was out, I pulled Peter up.
"Thanks, Obi Wan, I knew you were our only hope," Peter stated, jumping into Charlie's arms, while Alec ran to the bathroom to pee. What the heck? Don't Seth and I get a modicum of gratitude? We're the ones that reeled their asses in.
Later in the evening, I was putting Peter to bed. Charlotte was already fast asleep in her crib.
"Daddy, can you tell me the story about the wolf that fell in love with the brave girl?"
"Sure, son," I said and took a deep breath before I started. "Once upon a time, far away in the wolf kingdom, there was a wolf that was confused. He spent his days running around the woods and chasing after a vampire with a she-wolf that he thought he loved and some other wolves. The sad girl offered to use herself as bait to help trap the evil vampire. Some of the wolves didn't want the sad girl to risk herself while the others thought it was a great idea. The sad girl insisted so the wolves ended up using her as bait. The day came when the sad girl hiked to a pretty meadow alone to trap the vampire. The vampire tried to attack the girl, but the wolves had her surrounded. The vampire grabbed the she-wolf that the confused wolf loved and made like she was going to crush her. Hearing the desperate howl of the confused wolf, the sad girl cut herself so that the vampire smelled her blood, and the wolves were able to destroy the vampire. Before the vampire died, she noticed a little of herself in the sad girl, and told her to live life for herself. All of the wolves were amazed at how brave the sad girl was. They decided to call her the brave girl. The confused wolf looked into the brave girl's eyes and thanked her for saving the she-wolf's life. The brave girl said that she saw how in love the confused wolf was with the she-wolf, and she didn't want to see the love die, for love was a beautiful thing. The confused wolf felt his heart go to the brave girl, at that moment. The brave girl thought that she loved the confused wolf, too. Seeing this, the she-wolf growled at the sad girl and scared the brave girl. The brave girl decided to step aside for the love of the she-wolf and the confused wolf, and moved away from her home. The confused wolf and the she-wolf got married. The she-wolf turned out to be evil and cruel, and soon she left the confused wolf for someone else. Years later, the brave girl returned to her home because her father was hurt. The confused wolf saw the brave girl and realized his heart still belonged to her. When the she-wolf saw the brave girl, she became angry and ordered her to leave and never return to the wolf kingdom. This time, the confused wolf decided to become a brave man and left the wolf kingdom to go and find the brave girl. And when he found her, the brave man and the brave girl found that their hearts had always belonged to each other and..."
I tucked Peter in, he was fast asleep, and looked like an angel instead of the terror that he was when he was awake.
"...they fell in love, had two beautiful children, and lived happily ever after," Bella finished for me.
"I love you, brave girl."
"I love you, brave man."
...And they lived happily ever after...as long as Bella cooked for Paul.
So, what did you think of my first angst ridden piece of fiction? Let me know your thoughts, and I'll be sure to get back to you.