Three loud thumps on the door jerked me from sleep. Paul and I groaned in synchronisation, his grip on me tightening as he pulled me closer, me pressing my face into his bare chest, squeezing my eyes shut tighter. We didn't need to speak words to agree; we were not getting out of bed.
Paul was warm, so warm; warm enough to lull me right back into sleep, the chest beneath me moving up and down in time with his breaths in a way that was both soothing and familiar. I didn't think Paul had even woken up to begin with; he was a much deeper sleeper than I was. Still, light sleeper or not, I was not alert enough to be bothered by anything apart from how close I was to drifting right back into unconsciousness.
That was until seven more loud thumps reached my ears, shaking the door so much that it rocked against its hinges.
'Oi, lovebirds! Wake up!' Called a loud male voice; it was familiar, but I couldn't pick the owner. I was too busy groaning again, shaking my head against Paul's chest. I could tell Paul was awake now, burying his face in my hair and rumbling softly. Despite the unknown voice's command, neither of us made any move to get up; we were both still more asleep than awake.
'Can you two get up? Kim's about to throw a fit!' It was a different male voice this time, but I ignored it just as much as the first. Despite my unwillingness, I was ever so slowly waking up, and I couldn't help but smile softly as I remembered what we were supposed to be doing. Still, my slight happiness didn't stop me from making a sad noise and delving deeper into the covers.
'Go away, Jared.' Paul growled dangerously, his annoyance clear, even without the imprint bond. Really, Jared should know better; neither Paul nor I were good at waking up in the morning.
As the minutes passed, and nobody else came to the door to hassle us, I thought maybe they'd given up. What little alertness I'd managed to muster had disappeared, and since Paul hadn't been alert to begin with, he was just as dead as ever.
But my hopes of falling back to sleep vanished when a third voice – this time female – came through the door.
'For the love of god, can you two please get a move on? We're already running late!' Kim's slightly frantic and frustrated voice made me frown, neither Paul nor I responding. I heard a loud huff from the other side of the door, before she spoke again. 'That's it! I hope you two are dressed, because I'm coming in!'
True to her word, the door flew open to reveal an angry Kim, hands on her hips as she glared at us. I blinked blearily at her, the light coming through the doorway blinding, turning my head away as I moaned and Paul snarled softly. A determined expression on her face, she strode towards the bed, grabbing the quilt and yanking it off with both hands. I made a sad noise and shivered as the cool air hit my skin – I was wearing just a singlet and shorts – while Paul just glowered, the arm around my waist tightening. When we failed to move from our position curled around one another, Kim sent me a pleading look.
'Chloe, come on! Have you forgotten you're getting married today?! We've got work to do! You have to get up!' I just shook my head, clutching Paul tighter.
'Too tired. Ask me again tomorrow.' I mumbled, and I felt Paul's chest rumble as he chuckled. Kim didn't find it quite so funny.
'Tomorrow! You need get up today! Now!' I shook my head again, so she appealed to Paul.
'Paul, can you please get her up?! We're on a time schedule here!' Paul shook his head, pulling me closer.
'You can't have her, Kim. She's mine.' I smiled softly at that, turning my face upwards to look at Paul, and humming contentedly as his lips found mine.
'She's still yours, Paul, I'm not stealing her! I just need to borrow her for a few hours, so she can be yours officially.'
'Officially mine.' Paul murmured, grinning down at me; I couldn't help but shiver at the thought. I had always been Paul's, and no one had ever questioned that, but today it would be official. Just in case everyone didn't already know, now they would.
I loved the idea, I really did. Being no longer Chloe Walker, but Chloe Lahote. I wanted it.
But I also wanted to stay right here with Paul; my favourite place to be.
'I'll go if Paul comes too.' I said, and Kim gave me a mildly horrified look.
'Chloe, he can't come! The groom's not allowed to see the bride before the wedding!' She shrieked, throwing her hands up into the air in frustration.
'JARED! They won't move! Help me!' Kim complained loudly, calling down the hallway. Just seconds later, Jared came strolling in, an amused expression on his face as he took in Paul and I's intertwined position.
'Let her go, Paul. Unless you want me to steal her.' Jared looked kind of excited at the prospect of fighting Paul for me; probably because he was the only one who could get away with it. When Paul was in possessive mode, he wasn't usually thinking very clearly; the wolves had long since discovered not to mess with him. Most of the time, Paul was likely to claw the arm off anyone who came near me, with the exception Jared; Paul was close enough friends with him to trust me with him; a fact Jared never ceased to exploit.
Paul glared at Jared's threat, pulling me closer, if that was even possible. I was awake enough now to be mildly worried about the prospect of Jared attacking Paul, and with a sigh and a frown, I conceded defeat.
'Urgh, fine, I'll go.' I said with a groan, giving Paul a sad look that mirrored his forlorn expression.
'I'll be back soon, I promise.' I whispered, kissing Paul softly before rolling out his hold and letting Kim pull me to my feet. She gave me a look that was a mix of annoyance and endearment, and I gave her an innocent grin in return. She shook her head, muttering beneath her breath, before taking my arm and leading me to the door; or rather, attempting to.
Paul's warm arm hooked around my waist, yanking me out of her grasp and pulling me into his arms for a searing kiss. I melted against him, humming softly as my arms looped around his neck. When he finally let me go, I was breathless, though that didn't stop me from sending him a blissful smile which he returned.
'Now you can go.'
I had lost count of how many hours I had spent in this chair, with almost every female in the room fussing over my hair and makeup. It was nice actually; to just sit back and relax while they pampered me, and to enjoy being the centre of attention; this was my day. Although, by the way Kim was acting, you'd swear it was as much her own wedding as it was mine; she took her maid-of-honour duties very seriously.
I was glad though; glad I didn't have to worry about organising everything; she was so much better at planning stuff than me anyway. It meant that I could relish in the conversation that was flowing around me, and when the drowsiness I couldn't seem to shake swept over me, nobody minded as I began to doze off.
At least, not until I grew restless, and they almost burned me with the curling iron.
'Chloe!' A female's sharp voice cut through my doze, jerking me back to consciousness. My eyes flew open as I snapped into alertness, Kim's slightly concerned but mostly amused face level with my own.
'Did you really just fall asleep?' She asked, and I nodded. She laughed softly, moving out of her crouched position and picking up the curling iron once more.
'What's got you so tired? I thought you'd be excited?' She asked, her thin fingers slipping through my hair.
'I am excited.' I said with a smile, Paul's face flitting over my mind, before I turned dull once more. 'But I hardly slept at all last night, and it's catching up with me.' I saw Emily raise her eyebrows at that, her reflection in the mirror curious.
'Why not?' She asked.
'Nightmares. It was a bad night.' Kim gave me an understanding smile, and Emily gave me a comforting pat on the shoulder.
Bad night was an understatement. It had been months since I'd had any real problem with my nightmares about a certain vampire, but last night they'd come back with a vengeance. I'd lost count how many times I'd woken up gasping, and Paul had spent half the night murmuring to me trying to calm me down.
'So that's why Paul was so possessive this morning.' Kim said, expertly wielding the curling wand to fix my fringe. Stepping back a step, she gave me an appraising look.
'Ok, I think you're done. I don't think I need to remind you to not touch your hair or face, but I will anyway.' I laughed softly, giving her a grateful smile.
'Now wait here a sec while I get you something to perk you up.' And with that, she vanished from the room, Emily hot on her tail. For the first time all morning, the room was empty; everyone was off doing their own errands and getting ready. The sudden silence left me feeling a pang of loneliness, accentuated by my already slightly down mood; I highly doubted that whatever Kim was going off to find would help.
I did, however, know what would.
Sending a silent apology to Kim, I padded over to the window, prying it open wide and peering downwards to judge the drop. Then, with one last look at the doorway she had disappeared through, I jumped.
It had been hard, so hard, to let her go this morning. Even with her safely in my arms, curled around me in bed as she had been so many times before, I had wanted her closer. After a bad night – a terrible night – it was always like this. Me needing her, her needing me, both of us needing each other at such a level that we couldn't bear to be separated.
But at Kim's insistence, she had gone; had been just metres away when the need to hold her had overtaken me. Before I could even think to move, she was in my arms, my lips crashing down on hers as I reassured myself that she was here, she was safe, and she was mine.
And then she had really been gone; gone from my sight, from the house, from me. The taste of her still lingering on my lips, her smell in the air, but she wasn't with it. The separation was almost painful, the wolf crying out for her, yelling at me to go find her, and to go find her now.
If only I could. Hours had passed, and still she was gone, spirited away by Kim. Of course I knew the reason was worthwhile; to give her up for a few short hours now, so that she could be mine forever. I wanted it; wanted her mine and only mine like I'd never wanted anything before. But I also wanted her here, right now, in my arms; a want that was just as powerful as the former.
I was torn; two different needs, two conflicting wants, all centred around her.
I only she was closer. If not in the same room as me, then at least in the same house. The need would be so much easier, the pull nowhere near as painful, if she was closer. I could feel her, could feel that she was in the direction I was staring; and I could feel the distance between us.
Distance that suddenly began reducing, and for the first time since I'd let her go this morning, I smiled.
She was coming.
I could feel it the moment that Paul realised I was coming for him. Felt his happiness, his need, his want. It echoed my own, and made me walk faster through the trees, my grin when my eyes caught sight of the house I was aiming for wide and vibrant.
Paul. I was so close to Paul.
I didn't bother heading for the front door; I could feel that Paul was in the back room of the house, and in any case, there was a chance someone would send me back to Sam and Emily's house; where I was supposed to be. Instead, I headed straight around back, my knuckles rapping sharply on the window as I called softly.
'Paul, close your eyes. Kim will kill us both if you see me.' I heard him laugh, and I smiled, my grin growing wider as Jared appeared at the window, giving me an amused look as he pulled it open.
'What are you doing here?' He asked, stepping backwards as I motioned him away with my hands. I gave him a disbelieving look.
'What do you think?' I retorted, ducking my head as I climbed through the window, careful to make sure my hair stayed perfect; no need to make Kim any more annoyed than she already would be. Landing on the ground with a soft thump, I straightened with a satisfied smile, grinning as I caught sight of Paul sitting with his eyes closed, as requested.
It took me just seconds to cross the room to meet him, sliding onto his lap and feeling his arms wrap around me as they had so many times before. I couldn't help but sigh at the contact, loving the feeling of his skin against mine.
'I missed you.' He murmured, and I smiled, relaxing against him.
'I missed you too.' I replied, feeling his hand sliding up my arm and grabbing it to stop him before he started to play with my hair, as he so often liked to do.
'My hair and face are off-limits I'm afraid. Kim's orders.' I said, and Paul looked torn between being sad and amused. Having been denied access to my hair, he settled for placing his large hands on my waist, growling softly as his fingers found bare skin.
'What are you wearing?' He rumbled with a low laugh, his fingers beginning to trace soft swirls that made me shiver.
'A better question would be what am I not wearing.' I replied, and he laughed again. To avoid the issue of changing clothes without mussing up my hair, I wasn't wearing much; just a strapless bra and underwear, both white to go under my dress. But while Paul hadn't noticed my lack of clothes due to his lack of eye sight, the room's other occupants had no such trouble.
Jared had raised his eyebrows at my attire, Quil was shaking his head softly, and Matt was levelling glares at the other three, fulfilling the role of protective older brother perfectly. Deciding it was in his best interest to pretend he hadn't noticed, Quil directed the conversation elsewhere.
'Shouldn't you be at Sam and Emily's?' He asked, and I glared. He chuckled. 'That's a yes.'
'It's my wedding; I can do what I want.' I retorted, and the four werewolves laughed.
'Did you walk here wearing that?' Jared asked, pretending he didn't see the deadly look my brother shot him. I smiled as I responded.
'Yep.' Paul let out a possessive growl, pulling me closer. His hands were on my hips now, still drawing patterns, his touch drawing my attention away from the rest of the room; until Matt's loud snarl jerked my attention right back.
The sound of my brother's fist slamming into Jared's face was dwarfed by Jared's loud swearing as he stumbled backwards. Matt's expression was murderous as he growled dangerously.
'Eyes off, Jared.' My brother turned his fierce gaze to Paul, his expression still deadly.
'And Paul, I don't care if you're marrying her today, if your hands don't stop wandering, I'll punch you too.'
And with that forbidding parting comment, he strode from the room.
After my brother's threats, I didn't stay long with Paul before heading back out the window and back to Sam and Emily's. As predicted, Kim wasn't happy about my disappearing act, but since she could tell I'd needed it, she didn't stay annoyed for long.
After that, time passed quickly; too quickly. Before I knew it, I was glowing in my simple white dress, and my brother was looking better dressed than I'd ever seen him as he took my arm. And then just as quickly, Paul was there, grinning at me as I grinned at him, looking stunning his black jacket and making me melt with the look he was giving me. Just moments later, we were promising ourselves to each other, and then I was finally hearing the words I'd always wanted to hear; words that meant Paul was mine and I was his.
And then finally, after what felt like an eternity of waiting, he took me in his arms and kissed me. That was the one thing I remembered with perfect clarity; our first kiss when we were officially together. Paul's arm around my waist and my arms around his neck, and breaking away to smile at each other, soaking in the moment.
After that, Paul didn't let go of me. His arm stayed around my waist, or his hand held mine, or he touched me in some other way. As long as we were touching, it didn't really matter. Always touching; always together.
When it came to time to eat, he didn't let me sit in my designated seat beside him; instead he pulled me onto his lap, hooked an around me, and buried his face in my hair. And nobody could tell us off for being public in our affections because it was our day, and we were allowed to love each other in public. So we finished the night on the dance floor, Paul kissing me long and deep in front of everyone because neither of us really cared about anyone else in that moment.
For me, there was only him. Only Paul.
And he was officially mine.