Summer was coming to an end. The days were getting shorter. I had gotten dressed in a hurry before telling my mom I'd be going out for a while. She made me promise to come home and spend the evening watching movies with her. She missed me while she was gone. I had missed her too. I would always miss her but decided there would be another time to think about that. Jared was waiting in his truck, his eyes dark and sleepy from his busy nights in the deep dark wood. I didn't comment on them.

"Where are we going?" I slammed the door behind me, pulling the seat belt across my body with a resounding click. Jared just smiled, turning the radio to his favorite station and throwing the truck back into the road. We drove for ten minutes without conversation. I watched the small town I called home fly by from the window. Jared hummed lowly to a familiar song. We looked so normal. We were so not normal. So much had changed so quickly. I wondered how long I'd have my calmed nerves. I could feel the strings that held my mind together stretching by the second.

"Your parents' home yet?" I asked him, referring to their yearly trip overseas. He shook his head, turning right down a side road, then a quick left. I wondered why he wasn't talking. The sun was low in the sky. I could smell the green of the sticky pines. Sweet floral smells that filled the late summer air swirled around the interior of his old truck. The crickets had started their night song. Jared kept driving. I wondered what he was thinking. He could probably hear all my questioning thoughts.

"Almost there." Jared's voice shook me from my reverie. We were moving deeper into the woods, the road had gone from asphalt to gravel to dirt in a matter of miles. I glanced at my phone. There was no service. "Grab that bug spray out the glove box." I obeyed, pulling it out and covering my exposed limbs with it. He didn't bother using it himself. Maybe mosquitos weren't attracted to his blood. I didn't ask. We came to a stop at the edge of a swamp. I looked at him questioningly.

"You taking me out here to murder me?" I smirked. Jared responded with a laugh. We vacated the truck. The humidity near the water was thick. I stretched my back, looking out over the inky black water that spread out beyond my line of vision. Cypress trees popped out of the waters' surface, blocking any sunlight that tried to leak through in the late afternoon.

"This way." Jared grabbed my hand, leading me to a small dock that stood worn by years of use. There was a dinghy tied with bright orange rope at its side. He helped me in; still no explanation. I trusted him. I wasn't nervous as much as curious. He got in after and untied the rope. He paddled us through the murky swamp, Spanish moss fell from the tops of the trees, skimming the surface of that thick black water. I was grateful for Jared's reminder of bug spray. The mosquitoes buzzed around my ears and neck singing their swamp songs.

"It's beautiful out here," I was fascinated. Though we lived in the Deep South, it wasn't as common as you'd think to find yourself riding a small boat through the swamps. I saved my water play for pools or crystal clear creeks. Jared didn't respond but paddled on. I glanced at him over my shoulder. His eyes were focused straight ahead.

"That's where we're going," I looked back ahead. There was a house perched in the trees. It was dark and looked almost abandoned in its backwoods glory. It was made of dark wood, gnarled and nestled tightly in the branches. Vines covered on side of it, bright yellow honeysuckle blossoms produced a soft sweet smell the closer you got.

"What is this place?" Jared was docking the boat near a small rope ladder. He was helping me up, lifting me by my hips and encouraging me to climb. Ten feet in the air I pulled my body on a small landing and waited for Jared to follow

"My dad built this place for me when I started to turn." Jared was moving through a small door, ushering me inside. "Jordan and I didn't even realize what we were until puberty hit." I listened as he walked through the open floorplan, turning on lights as he went. The room itself was cozy. There were old pictures of us, all of us, pinned to a corkboard above an old blue couch. No television but there was a guitar leaning in the corner of the living room. I picked up a coffee cup I had painted during one of my many summers spent at camp. I had taken at least three hours decorating it with an intricate design. I had given it to Jared after he'd picked me up from the bus stop. He was always the one picking me up from those long summers away.

"Did he make one of these places for Jordan too?" There was at least seven between us.

"No. I had a rough time with the changes," Jared shrugged. "I've always had a temper."

"No shit." I smiled. He had always been a hothead, there was no mistaking that.

"Yeah," he matched my expression with his own cheeky grin. "Well, he made this place for me when I needed some space. Don't use it quite as often now but it helped out before."

I nodded. It all made sense. What thirteen years old wouldn't love his own big boy treehouse?

"No tv?"

"Nah. I usually would just go fishing or listen to music. You bored already?" He was teasing me. I liked that. It felt old and familiar.

"You do have a bathroom though, I hope." I moved through the living room to an even smaller room with a full-sized bed. It was oddly clean, at least for Jared's standards. The walls were that same gnarled wood. The comforter was a soft gray that smelled like his cologne. "Bathroom is through there. Basic though. Shower and toilet. That's all." Jared was leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed against his chest. I twirled around to face him, suddenly very aware of how alone we were.

There was a picture of me and him on the side table. It had been taken a few years back at his dad's annual barbeque. We had just gotten done swimming. My hair was plastered to the side of my face, his arm slung heavy around my shoulders. We were both smiling, the sun glistening across our pink cheeks.

"So sentimental," I grinned.

"Surrounded myself with nice thoughts while I was here," he plopped down at the foot of his bed. "Grab that book right there," he gestured to a photo album sticking out from beneath the small table. I scooped it up, opening it and laughing at a couple of dozen pictures of our small group over the years. Jared and Jordan holding up minuscule fish from our boating trip down in Lafayette. There were pictures of Jared's parents looking positively candid on a Christmas morning. There were some of my boys covered in mud after one of their many Spartan races. It was nice. I understood why he kept those nearby. They were sure making me smile after a stressful couple of days. "Keep going," he nodded, eyes locking with mine. I sat down, near enough to feel his warmth, flipping through a few more pages before I got to the section of the book starring me. There were several photos from freshman year, my hair in messy braids, my softball uniform covered in field dust. Then there were pictures from tenth-grade homecoming, the white gown I wore showing off my bronzed shoulders I had worked so hard to achieve. Picture after picture of me smiling on the sofa, porch swing, passenger seat of his truck. I shook my head of the tears that threatened to spill down my face. I hadn't seen it? It was hard to believe I had been so oblivious.

"Why didn't you ever tell me?" I couldn't look away from one of the photos, a particularly telling one where Jared kissed the side of my face. It had always been there, close enough to touch. Maybe I already knew.

"I don't know," Jared shook his head. "I just couldn't find the right time."

"Why not?"

"Because you were too good for me." He stood up quickly. I looked at him, watching him pace the short length of his bedroom. "You still are. I had… have this fucked up temper and this even more fucked up secret. I didn't want to drag you into this… shit." He was staring at his feet, head still shaking. "I almost did tell you once though, four years ago, at the state fair."

That had been so long ago. We were fifteen, running through the fairgrounds with no cares. Jordan had disappeared for the weekend, probably with Cecilia. Jared had won a huge teddy bear for me, throwing baseballs at a stack of bottles in the shape of a pyramid. We dyed our tongue blue with cotton candy and rode shady fair rides that my mom warned me against. "On the Ferris wheel. I almost told you then but it just didn't happen."

I had met Dustin that night, just before that ride, if I remembered correctly. I had run smack into him, dropping my huge teddy bear and laughing out of pure embarrassment. He had scooped me up and we had locked eyes in that slow way that young people do. There was an exchange of smiles and numbers. We were dating less than a week later and lasted far too long. It had all happened and stopped so fast. I regretted so much.

"I used to blame him but it was my own fear that kept me from you," he pulled the book from my fingers, looking at all the memories we had created over the years. "Then I hated him because he had you and was just wasting it. He was wasting all that time with you."

"I wish you would've told me," I felt the tears spring back into my eyes. "It was always you, Jared. I always loved you, but so did everyone else." I wiped my eyes hard, shaking off the impending emotions that threatened to spill down my face. "I didn't think for a second you felt that way about me," not really anyway.

When he gave me a look that only showed how confused that statement made him, I went on. "We were so close. I thought you saw me as a sister and before you bring up the flirtatious behavior, well you are literally that way with everyone. You could have anyone."

"I wish you would've told me sooner," I mumbled once more.

"You could've told me," Jared mumbled.

"I didn't even admit it to myself, Jared. There was no way I was going to be able to say it to you. You are perfect. Not to mention the countless girls you've hooked up with over the years. I felt like your little inexperienced sister."

"Please stop saying you were like my sister," Jared cringed, pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration.

"I just was nowhere near your level."

"Levels?" Jared seemed like he was getting a headache, his hands moving over his face in exasperation. "What are you even talking about?"

"I'm talking about…. I don't know. I don't even know why we are talking about this at all."

"Me either," Jared stood up, the album fell to the wood flooring beneath his feet.

"We just wasted so much time. Well, I wasted so much time with him…" I was shaky and uncomfortable. I had never been made to talk about these sorts of things with him before. My hands were trembling as I pushed back my hair. It all felt so new.

"Don't mention that ass hole again." He was close, pulling at my sides, pulling me so close. His forehead pressed into mine, his fingers running up my spine. I knew he meant Dustin, his thoughts so closely tied to my own. I shivered, my heart pounding against my chest. "You're with me now and if it's my only mission in life, I'm going to make you forget him altogether." His breath was warm against my lips, his eyes locked into mine. He was so intense. I thought of all the other girls he had in a similar situation and wondered if he'd held them this way too. "I love you, Bailey. I've only ever loved you."

I kissed him first, arms moving around his neck. He guided my legs around his waist, pulling me tight to where our bodies lined up just right. I didn't want to rush things, but something in me had other plans. I let him lay me down on the bed, pull my shirt over my head and watched in quiet fascination as he removed his own. There was something so nice about skin to skin. I felt outside of myself, watching the two of us kiss from somewhere in the corner. I had that dream before, limbs tangled, breath hot and heavy. It was all very familiar yet so very new.

"Jared," I didn't want to stop by there was something bothering me that I needed to ask. He pushed away enough to look into my eyes. Good lord, even his eyes pushed buttons for me. "If we have sex are we like officially mated?" I had read enough supernatural stories to assume that much. He smirked, leaning down and pressing a long kiss to my lips. Goodness gracious, I was toast.

"No but it's a part of it." He kissed me again, this time right below my ear. I couldn't' help the little breathy squeak that puckered my lips. "I'm not going to trick you if that's what you're thinking." He was smirking. I was loose as someone could be, playdough in his fingers. "We have plenty of time."

"I didn't think you were going to trick me," I would've rolled my eyes had they not been busy closing on their own accord. I moaned a bit as he bit down harder on my neck, my hips bucked without my permission. "Our bond is strong. That's why my wolf came to see you. He could sense that you were angry with me." I opened my eyes.

"So that wasn't a decision you made?"

"Well, technically it was me but not really, no." Jared tried to kiss me but I was interested in the recent turn in conversation. He let out a frustrated groan as he threw himself off to the side of me, ready to answer my thousand questions.

"Do you remember it?" I was straightening my shirt which had twisted awkwardly around my body.

"I remember some of it. It's like I'm watching half asleep. I knew where he was going and I knew there was no harm coming to you. But I also had no control once I had turned. He had made up his mind to find you."


"I already told ya, Bails." He fake cried, throwing his arm over his head. I notice why he was so frustrated and straddled his middle to placate the situation. He raised an eyebrow at my actions and placed two very calloused fingers on my jean covered hips. "Because he wants to please you. You're his mate as well as mine. You're the only thing that matters to that side of me. It's just how it is." He was focused on my chest, his own hips barely moving against my precarious position. I fought the urge to moan, wanting to stay focused on the questions at hand. Jared's hands moved up my body once more, slipping under the wire of my bra to caress the pink peaks of my breasts.

"Jared," I gave in to the feeling of our bond. I was tingling from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. I couldn't think straight any longer, Jared's perfect mouth calling for my own without any words at all. I leaned down, letting him take control of the situation. Our lips met in a fiery warmth that had my own body rocking against the hard contours of his lower half. "I've wanted to bring you here for so long." He was whispering things to me so quietly between heated kisses. I let him roll me over, his weight covering mine. He was moving down my legs, pulling at my jean shorts, kissing the insides of my thighs on his way back up. I could hear his thoughts suddenly as if the wall to his mind had been knocked down. There were a thousand things at once. I could see me, lounging in a bikini at the public pool, white bathing suit leaving odd tan lines on my back. Flashes of me asleep on the couch, my head against his shoulder, his fingers trying to stay deathly still across my thigh. So many memories, all seemingly innocent but filled with tormenting want. The last and most clear vision that played out was a night I had almost forgotten. It started me to the point that even Jared stopped his intoxicating kisses to gauge my reaction to this particular memory.

After a particularly bad evening with Dustin, I had taken upon myself to steal a bottle from the bottom of my mom's wine rack. We had only been together two years at that point. I was seventeen and drunk on cheap sugary wine. Jordan had left for the evening, no one had questioned it. Jared and I had sat in their old barn, staring out at the night sky, talking about life as if we knew what it was. I was inebriated. I remember feeling a swell of affection for Jared there in the moonlight and somewhere between the wine and summer heat I had forgotten that we were just friends and crawled up in his lap like I owned the rights to him. He had frozen. Had I been just a bit soberer I might've noticed the stiff way he held me. I remember hearing his gentle laughter, nervous at the edges as if he were scared of what I might do. "Do you think I'm fun, Jared?" I had asked him, lips dangerously close to his. "Of course, baby girl. You know that." He was touching my thighs, not intimately, but I could remember the heat from his palms warming the sides of my legs through the thick fabric of my blue jeans. "Dustin says I'm being boring lately." He called Dustin a piece of shit and just like that, I leaned in to kiss him. He had turned away. I could feel my heart hammering in chest, even drunk I felt rejection. I saw my eyes, soft and sad, pleading with his for answers. I had tried to pull away but the alcohol made me weak and I passed out soon after against his chest. In Jared's thoughts, I saw him bring me up to his room where he watched me from the corner, frustrated beyond belief. We had never talked about that night. I wasn't even sure I remembered it before his projected thoughts.

"It took everything in me not to…" Jared licked his lips, his thumb running along my jawline. "I wanted you so bad, Bails." He whispered through clenched teeth. "It wouldn't have been right." He was a gentleman. He was perfectly imperfect with his sweetness. "You were so sad and it wasn't how it was supposed to be."

"I know," he had been right to pull away. I could feel the promise in his voice. I let him kiss away the regret.

Jared's phone buzzed loudly in his front pocket. He ignored it the first time, his hands gripping my hair, mouth pulling embarrassing little whimpering noises every time his tongue met mine. The second round of buzzing took over and he cursed, snatching the offending piece of technology from his jeans and answering it with an alarming gruffness. "Yeah." He was laying on his back, my thighs still gripped his middle. I went to fall off him to have him still my movements with his calloused fingers.

"Yeah, I hear you." He was watching me though. I fought the urge to look away. His stare was so intense, sending heat throughout my body. "I'm busy." He rolled his eyes, letting them close in frustration just after. I thanked god for the distraction. I felt a shudder roll through my limbs. I needed some air.

"Ok fine. Yeah. Got it." He tossed the phone on the bed and stood up quickly, flipping me over on my back. I couldn't suppress the giggle that poured from my lips. "How do you have service out here?" I asked, remembering the lack of bars on my own screen earlier. Jared shrugged, a smirk decorating his soft mouth.

"We have to go." He let his head fall against my chest. I nodded, almost relieved. We were moving so fast. There was a part of me that didn't care at all. There was another part of me that poked me hard with a bony finger, reminding me that he was my best friend and maybe even a third part that felt overwhelmed and tired by the constant thinking.

"What's going on?" I asked him, fingers raking through his dark hair.

"Jordan said he's got something he needs to go over with me. Apparently it can't wait." Talking about his brother seemed oddly familiar yet new. Maybe it was because the topic of conversation would probably involve some sort of mythical phenomenon that my little human mind couldn't comprehend.

"Mom and dad are coming back tomorrow." He yawned, eyes sliding shut. It would be good to see them after such a long summer. His little sister would still be away at camp. Jared pulled me up, groaning as I redressed and straightened myself as best I could.

"I'm gonna beat his ass for interrupting this," he was leaning over, kissing me again with that perfect mouth. My heart hammered in my chest as he buttoned my jean shorts for me. There was something so intimate in that gesture.

"Let me get you home so I can kill my brother."

Back at home my mother and I watched two romantic comedies. She sipped at her deep red wine while I stuffed my face with popcorn.

"So do you love him?" I nearly choked on a kernel. My mother laughed at my expense, raising a knowing eyebrow.

"I do," I did. I couldn't even try to lie about it.

"I think you always have," she yawned. She let her head fall back against her old recliner. She was tired. I could tell by the look on her face that she would be retiring to bed soon.

"I think so too," I bit my lip.

"He will take care of you. Not that you need him to take care of you but it's nice, sweetie. It's nice to have someone that wants to take care of you." I wanted to ask her why she never dated. My dad had left so long ago and it had always just been us. She had her sisters and her friends but there was never another man. I didn't want to leave her here alone. I didn't want to think about that. I didn't want to think about anything but eventually, I would have to. Time was going whether I wanted it to or not.

"Do you think you'd ever want to get married again?" When I moved my eyes toward her she was asleep, empty wineglass hugged to her body like a stuffed toy. I sighed, taking the glass and covering her with her favorite fluffy blanket.

"Goodnight Mama" I whispered as I kissed her forehead.

AUTHORS NOTE: Hello again. Another chapter. Not much has happened but I needed some kissing and so there you go haha. I think this is what I'm realizing. I think that there has to be some silly chapters to keep the characters real and relatable. Of course, I understand that things have to happen and they will... soon. I have it outlined. I know what will happen. I just have to get there. It's taking a while because I'm currently writing several things.

Sebastian Bear is getting a CRAZY rewrite to make it worth reading on paper. Whether or not it gets any attention after is scary but it's been my baby from the beginning so it's obviously the first choice right? Haha, I'm not even sure.

I'm writing a story called THE WATCHER on WATTPAD under the name WATCHINGDINOS88. It's the same feel, supernatural fantasy romance blah blah. It's fun and honestly, that whole site is stressing me out. I don't know what I'm doing and I feel completely out of my element there, for whatever reason. If you guys do partake in that site, please help a sister out and go drop me a like or a comment. I need some pushing. I hate new things and change.

Here's a thousand-word essay on my anxiety at the bottom of a chapter of something that might not be read. Hello friends, welcome to the scattered musings of my brain!
Anyway, Love you guys. Hope you liked it. I'll be back very soon.