Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.


A/N: Hey! Here we go. Fifth and final chapter in this little "Wet Jasper Challenge." I think I wrapped it up pretty well. I think. Real glad you all have enjoyed it.

Don't forget about the other stories in this little challenge!

Late Night Swim by happyghost on FFN.

Covet Thy Enemy-Betray Thy Master by jlove34 on FFN.

All I Need by CayStar on FFN.

Prelude to a Sunset is posted on FFN, TWCS, and AO3.


Prelude to a Sunset

Chapter 5: epilogue

He plunged into her, again and again—her pelvis rising to meet his every thrust, her heels digging into his lower back, her arms around him, and hands gripping his shoulders and hanging on. He remembered with crystal clarity every second—every sigh, every touch, every groan—of the first time he had made love to her when she was human, but he couldn't allow himself to completely let go then. That instant in time had been most special and precious to him—when she had given herself to him, and when he had made her his—she was his treasure. but nothing could compare to how good she made him feel as a vampire. He could let go, he didn't have to restrain himself. He didn't have to guard every movement and touch. He could lose himself in her and love her completely.

She nipped at his ear. "Slow down and feel every thick … hard … inch."

"Unf … I love it when you … ahhh"

When she stroked his nipples and began to massage them between her thumb and curved forefinger, his rhythm faltered, and his forehead thudded to her shoulder.

"I don't want to come yet," he gasped out, pleading with her. She owned him. He was mere putty in her hands and he loved it.

Her low voice vibrated through every inch of him. "You're going to come." Her words tickled his ear. "You're going to come hard." She milked his nipples and then she squeezed him, her inner muscles tightening around his swollen dick. "You're going to come deep inside me. You're going to fill me with your cum."

His head snapped up, and he shouted, "Oh, fuck!" He roared his possession of her as she clawed his back in their shared ecstasy.

"Oh, I fuckin' love you so much." His body twitched and jerked against her. "God, what you do to me."

She was panting with her pleasure against his throat. "What about this?" She licked him with a long, slow stroke and squeezed him again.

Into the crook of her neck, he groaned as if he were in pain, and he tried to force his way even deeper into her as he exploded within her.

When the last of their sensual spasms faded away, he rolled unhurriedly to his back, bringing her along with him, and flattening even more of the pale grasses of the field.

She loved making love to him outside under the wide open sky. And she loved what came after—the soft touches, the quiet words of shared adoration. Sometimes there were little jokes and laughter. One of her favorite places to be was where she was at that moment—her naked body sprawled across his much larger one, the setting sun casting their shimmering skin in warm shades of gold, yellow, and red. Jasper had a golden sheen that took her breath away.

She purred contentedly and lazily traced the scars over his heart with a single finger. "Jasper, tell me again how we all lived happily ever after."

"I already told you, Babe." One corner of his mouth curved upward in a soft smile, and he lifted his head to kiss her silky hair, and dropped back to look up at the first stars in the darkening sky. "I found you."

"The first time you started telling me, I was an exhausted human riding off into the sunset in a gigantic, black, four-door truck, and Peter wouldn't shut up." She chuckled lightly at the memory, though it was blurry and unfocused as if seen through an ice-frosted window. "You kept asking me about Nessie and then I fell asleep. I still think you did that." She squinted her dark red eyes at him accusingly. "The second time you told me, I'd only been a vampire about a week and I really couldn't pay attention. Tell me again."

Jasper blew out an appreciative breath. "That first week was pretty damn good, too. Insatiable. I think that was the first time I'd ever been tired as a vampire." He hugged her and kissed her forehead. A small laugh rumbled through his chest. "The second, third, and fourth weeks weren't half-bad either. Except when you hit us with your shield. That was a surprise. I always liked that Edward could never read your mind, but I never thought you'd be able to hit somebody with it, or block us from touching you." His hand glided down her back. "I always want to touch you." He breathed in her spicy scent. "It's a good thing you have two mates. It took both of us to keep an eye on you. All the sex, and the promise of more, kept you nice and close while we were traveling. It was pretty damn difficult to keep clothes on you, too. Not that I really minded that part so much."

"Clothes are scratchy and just don't hold up very well." Her hand drifted sensuously over his chest and down his stomach. "Yes. I remember. I remember that very well," she said seductively. She traced a teasing circle through the golden brown hairs around his belly button.

"If you don't stop, I won't be able to tell you before Peter gets back from Butte." Jasper caught her hand and dragged it back up to kiss her fingers. "You know he can't keep his mouth shut."

"I think he was alone so long, he didn't have anyone to talk to and all the words just … built up in him."

"No. Peter always ran his mouth."

When Bella's fingers started to travel unhurriedly down his stomach again, he couldn't decide if he should let her reach her destination or give her one last chance at story time.

It did feel damn good whenever she did that, but what was the fascination?

Well, he was kind of captivated by hers, too.

"Bella, did you want to hear this?"

He started to reach for her hand when she slid off his chest and began planting light kisses around his navel.

"Yes, I do want to hear it. I asked you, didn't I?" She couldn't hold back her smile as she stuck her tongue out and painted a wet circle around the object of her interest.

"Darlin', if you keep doin' that, I won't be able to talk because I'll be too busy makin' love to my annoying woman."

She squealed loudly as he flipped her onto her back in the tall grasses.

"Annoying?" she squawked and then started laughing. "If we keep rolling around in the field, we might as well make some more crop circles!"

He couldn't help joining in with her, recalling their little adventure, as her bright laughter rang through the clear, crisp air and a chiming echo returned to them from the mountains.

On their way from the Toledo Bend Reservoir in Louisiana to Montana, they had passed through long, flat, boring Kansas. Bella complained about the almost constant driving and the extreme flatness of the land, until she had seen her first wheat field. She had wanted to look for crop circles.

Because, of course, if there were nice flat fields with crops, there simply had to be crop circles.

When Peter had told her there probably weren't any, she decided the huge field needed one. Slipping through Jasper's fingers, she was leaping out of the speeding truck. Before Jasper could get a hand on her or Peter had a chance to try and pull over, she was gone.

Jasper was grateful she hadn't torn the door off.

After that, whichever one was sitting with her kept their arms wrapped around her at all times.

Trusting Peter not to wreck the truck to stop it, Jasper leapt out behind her, and was off, racing through the waist high, heavy-headed, glorified grass, trying to chase down his excitable newborn.

When Peter had finally caught up with them, he saw Bella's enthusiasm, and couldn't wait to get started. They'd spent the rest of the night laughing and creating what looked like a dartboard with lollipops sticking randomly out of it. Naturally, the lollipops had to point at Florida, where Bella's mother lived; Phoenix, where Bella had grown up; and Forks, Washington where she had been born, where her father lived, and where she had first met Jasper. The next one had to be aimed at Lake Charles where she had met Peter, and then another next to it to mark Toledo Bend where she been "born" as a vampire. Another was added for Houston, Texas to commemorate Jasper's and Peter's birthplaces. The last was formed to direct them toward the place they would spend Bella's newborn year and probably beyond—the Lolo National Forest in Montana.

During their intricate work, Bella decided the mysterious designs weren't made by extraterrestrials after all. It was obvious they were made by artistically and creatively inclined vampires playing a little joke on the humans. She had loudly proclaimed her theory while standing half naked in the center of their masterpiece.

Somehow, she had managed to shred her clothes again.

Jasper hadn't laughed so much and so hard in over a century-and-a-half, and his heart nearly burst with love for her. His joy had enveloped Bella and Peter, and they all had fallen to the ground, their arms twined around each other, Bella cradled lovingly between her two adoring mates.

As the sun began to rise over their creation in the ripening fields, they bolted back to the truck and continued their journey north, with Jasper driving and Peter trying to put another shirt on her because a nearly nude Bella was just too much to expect either besotted male to ignore.

Jasper, still snickering at their little escapade, held Bella tightly to him. "You know how much I love you?" he asked, kissing her until her laughs quieted.

"Yes, I do. I feel it every day." She kissed him back. "Now, tell me how—"

"We all lived happily ever after?" Jasper smirked at her.

Her finger went right for the dimple in his cheek. He caught her hand, kissed the tip of the errant digit, and folded his fingers over hers so he could keep her from exploring and disrupting his attention for a little while.

"Since you're more coherent, let me tell you again you did a great job by your friend Nessie. Leaving her your truck and that money you had stashed in it was the best you could do for her. She needs to stay away from vampires. I think she might have had a shield kind of like yours. She was resistant to me dazzling her. Normally, no one can resist me."

"I have a hard time resisting you." Bella chuckled again. "Now you're sounding as arrogant as Peter!"

"It's not arrogance if it's the truth." He smiled at her. "Nessie will be fine."

"I don't remember a whole lot about her, but I remember she seemed pretty lucky. Or she could read people really well." Bella sighed. "She was a good friend."

"She was. She kept you safe in Vegas. Lake Charles isn't as bad, but she watched your back there, too." Jasper cleared his throat. "She may have received an inheritance from your estate a couple months ago."

"Oh, Jasper! That was … so nice of you."

"It's the least I could do for someone who took care of you and helped you." He bowed his head toward her. "She probably went right out and got a few more tattoos. I, uh, also sent a bit to your father and mother. I had the lawyer tell them you won a couple of jackpots in Vegas."

A shadow passed through Bella's eyes. "Thank you. I miss them, but I knew back when I was seeing Edward that I would have to leave them eventually. I wish you could have done something besides kill me in a car wreck."

"It's one of the easiest to arrange and causes the least damage. Better to burn a vehicle than an entire apartment building. Peter knows a vampire down in Louisiana who could handle it. He found a truck like yours. He offered to look for a girl about your size, but we decided you could be thrown from the truck and into the bayou near Lake Ponchartrain since you were on your way to New Orleans. All the critters in the swamps would make sure a body was never found. It was taken care of. Don't be sad. You knew we'd have to do something like that."

"I know. I'm glad that vampire didn't go kill somebody for that. It worked out for the best, I guess. I'm glad you found out Charlie is seeing Sue Clearwater and Renee is doing okay with Phil. They both have someone." She gave him a sad little smile. "Are you sure you can trust that vampire down there?"

"Peter said so." Jasper shrugged. He had wondered the same thing, but he would trust Peter to do the right thing by Bella.

With the tip of his tongue, Jasper traced a line over Bella's lower lip and then kissed her. "As you know, not all lived so happily. C'mere." He rolled to his back, holding her close, and resting her hand over his heart. "The spring after we had left you," he began in a quiet voice. "You developed a sudden interest in extreme sports and jumped off a cliff into a storm tossed sea. Hours before you actually did it, Alice saw you jump, but then you disappeared from her sight. She thought you had died. Or would die. There wasn't time to get back to Washington to stop you. I … I thought you had died," he ended in a strained whisper.

Bella felt his remembered anguish, slipped her hand from his, and ran it over his hair and down until she was stroking his cheek. "You don't need to be sad now. I love you."

He turned to kiss her palm. "I know you do. I know." He put her hand back over his heart and covered it with his as he drew in a slow breath to clear the crushing ache away. "I'd never known a pain such as that. The thought of you being gone forever … I was empty. Hollowed out. Something I had desperately needed vanished, and I never realized how much until I thought I didn't have it anymore." He slowly shook his head. "I, uh, I left. To head for Forks. I had to be near the last place you had been alive. Like an idiot, I ran. I wasn't thinking very clearly at the time." He drew her farther up his body so he could kiss her head and bury his nose in her hair. "Alice got a flight out from New York and got there before I did, of course. She went to your house and broke in. Of course, your scent was everywhere, but you weren't. She didn't miss you by much. It's a wonder she didn't pass you on the road. She made it back out to the porch before your father arrived. Luckily, she didn't say anything about you, but Chief Swan invited her in and started talking about the funeral being in a few days. He just didn't specify whose funeral. But he was talking about his friend, of course. Then your ol' buddy Jacob Black called and asked to talk to you. Your father must have choked up hearing Jacob's voice. Alice thought he was upset about you so she left. It kinda turned into a clusterfuck after that."

Bella sighed. "I didn't know Harry had died. Jacob knew it was bad when they took Harry to the hospital, but he didn't tell me. He was too busy trying to put his hands all over me." A little growl escaped. "That's when I decided to get the hell out of Forks."

A small smile grew on Jasper's face and the last of the old misery drained away. He knew Bella still felt some small amount of guilt for leaving her father at such a bad time. He was still glad she had or Alice would have found her. "Jacob Black figured out you took off. Your father forgave you. Your leaving brought you to me."

"Yes, it did." Bella's grateful smile urged him on.

"Alice got a vision of Edward deciding to suicide-by-Volturi after Rosalie called him and told him you were dead. Alice left to try and save him. Then she called Rose and bitched her out for calling Edward. Nobody even wondered where I was."

"Save Edward, my ass," Bella grumbled as she wiggled around to kiss under his chin. "They're all assholes. They should have tried to call you."

"No matter." Jasper shrugged. "It worked to my, and your, advantage. It also let me know what they all really thought of me—except for Rose and Emmett. I found out you were alive a day-and-a-half later when I got into town. Heard people talking about you leaving Forks at that diner your father likes. Then I found Edward's credit card with your scent on it. It was right after that Rose called me. She'd been trying to calm down Emmett. He was pretty upset." Jasper rubbed his chin over her hair.

"Well, he can be upset. He left me, too. Jerk." Bella blew out an aggravated breath. "Nobody gave a shit about you, but they went and got all hysterical about Edward taking off with his tragic, poor-poor-me melodrama. Did he never think of anyone but himself?" She rolled her eyes. "Well, I was being pretty selfish at the time."

"It was time you did."

"Yeah. Kind of. I was really surprised by how much money I could get using his credit card! And you used it to book the villa at the L'Auberge!" She laughed. "They'll just add the cost of repairs and the stolen sheets and towels to his bill. I wonder if he's gotten any alerts?" Bella chuckled again, but her mood changed again in an instant. She blew a lock of hair out of her face. "I should have thought of Charlie. I should have left him a note when I took off."

"Shoulda, woulda, coulda, as Peter would say. Besides, Alice would have seen it—since she broke into your dad's house." Jasper nuzzled her hair again. "I don't think anyone is paying any attention to Edward's credit card. I destroyed it not long after we got to Toledo Bend."

"Well, anyway, I'm glad the Cullens still think I'm dead."

"Uh, yeah." Jasper said with a slight quiver in his voice.

A sliver of guilt seeped from him and Bella's head jerked up. She peered into his eyes as if she were trying to read his very soul. "You feel guilty. What did you do?"

"I'm getting to that."

"What did you do?" Bella shimmied up his body, pressed her nose to his, and stared into his eyes.

Jasper knew there was no point in trying to keep it from her any longer. Especially since she was starting to get mad and, as a six-month-old newborn, she had a hell of a temper when she got going. She'd probably kick him into the next mountain. "I kinda told Rose a couple weeks ago that you were alive," he mumbled.

Her mouth dropped open and her eyes grew huge in disbelief.

"Uh, so anyway, that was brilliant of you to take money out of those ATMs and drop the card so nobody could trace you. I don't know why no humans saw it and picked it up. Maybe because most people drive up to them, and I happened to walk by because I thought you would have gone that way to leave town, and I was trying to follow your scent, and …oof!"

In a flash, Bella had jerked upright, punched him in the side, and was sitting in the high grass about twenty feet away with her arms crossed over her chest, angry black eyes, and a murderous scowl on her face.

If she had been human she probably would have been purple. Instead, her rage was pounding into him like red hot sledge hammers.

With his vast experience with newborns, he knew he couldn't display any sign of fear or pain, though his ribs hurt like hell. He'd give her minute.

Or ten.

He also knew if he moved too quickly, or moved at all, she'd probably be all over him like a cheap suit.

No matter what he did, she might attack him, she was that pissed off.

He began to wonder when Peter would show up and keep their mate from beating the shit out of him. She'd feel bad later if she hurt him. Though once Peter heard what he had done, he'd probably hold him down for her.

Resigned to his fate, he just lay where he was, watching her shoulders rise and fall with her angry, rapid breaths.

"Uh, well, should I go on?" he asked cautiously with a low, measured tone. Bella didn't say anything, but she didn't say no. "Alice caught a plane to Italy. She stole a bright yellow Porsche to drive to Volterra from Florence. That wasn't conspicuous at all."

Even though she was still fuming, Bella stopped panting and snorted derisively.

She didn't pounce on him, so he went on in the same subdued manner. "Edward had asked the kings to kill him because you had died. Aro read his mind, learned all the little family secrets, including everything he's ever read in our minds, and turned him down flat. Goddamn moron."

Bella grunted in agreement, though she was still seething.

Jasper eased incrementally to his side so he would be facing her. He ignored the discomfort of what was most likely cracked ribs. "Edward went somewhere to mope for a while and try to decide what he could do to force Aro to kill him. He decided stepping out into the sunlight at high noon would be theatrical enough to soothe his need for drama and pathos."

Bella growled and kept on glaring at him. He didn't know if the growl was because of Edward or him.

He propped his head on his hand. "Alice had arrived but couldn't get close enough to stop him because of the bright sunlight and all the vampires around. She had told Esme the place was crawling with them. She could smell them everywhere. She didn't know their tracker, Demetri, was one of the vampires. She was close enough for him to get a fix on her mental signature." Jasper was incapable of suppressing the smirk that spread across his face. "Meanwhile, Edward was so focused on his own wretchedness, the big guard Felix snatched him up and dragged him back to the throne room." Jasper thought he would try to engage his extremely irate mate in the conversation. "Remember me telling you about Chelsea?"

All she did was blink.

He assumed she remembered and drew in another breath. "Chelsea bound Edward to Aro. They have this other gifted vampire there named Corin whose power makes others feel content. That's how they keep their locked up wives happy. Aro had Corin hit him with a blast of that joy juice she uses on the wives. The rumor is it's addictive, like heroin. The more she hits him with it, the more he'll need it."

"How fucking ironic," Bella said, sneering. "And so well-deserved. Hoist with his own petard."

Since she had actually spoken, Jasper started to get up to go to her. She blasted him with another heated surge of anger. He considered himself lucky she hadn't used her shield against him. That could have really hurt since she wasn't very good at controlling the strength behind it yet. If she even wanted to try and control it.

The sun had sunk below the mountains, but he had no trouble at all seeing her eyes narrow down to glittering black slits.

"Just stay right there," she hissed.

Jasper didn't move other than to give her a quick nod. "How is it ironic? What did you mean?"

"I'm still really pissed off at you, Jasper."

"I know," he said contritely.

She bared her teeth at him and growled. "Ironic because that pompous ass said my blood was his own personal heroin. And he used to dazzle me all the time. That was like tying me to him. Not as bad, I guess, but I was just a human. I wonder if he hadn't if I would have paid more attention to you? Well, it wouldn't have mattered. You didn't pay much attention to me and there was Alice."

"I didn't know what you were to me until I thought you were gone. I'd never felt agony like that before." He swallowed the venom that involuntarily welled up again at the thought of losing her. "And about Alice—I told you I had divorce papers written up."

Raising her head, she stared down her nose at him and blinked slowly again. "Fake divorce papers for your fake marriage where you used fake names. You only got married because Carlisle nagged you. I told you I didn't care about that." She snorted again. "You can keep them with all our fake IDs, birth certificates, and everything else." She pulled her legs up, rested her chin on her knees, wrapped her arms around her legs, and renewed her glare at Jasper.

Her anger had leveled out, but started climbing again. "So, anything new about Alice in your monthly call to Rose?" she asked through clenched teeth.

Jasper flinched at her snarling words. "Ah, because she got too close to Demetri—"

"Yeah, yeah," she said, impatiently drawing a wide circle in the air with her hand. In a blur, she was on her feet, her long hair swirling around her shoulders and her fists trembling at her sides. She couldn't hold it in anymore. "We talked about this! I wanted them to keep thinking I was dead!" she ended with a shriek.

Being hit by her fury and her shield was like being slammed into by a run-away train. He was thrown across the field and through the middle of a tall pine that exploded on impact.

Buried under long, green needles, twigs, shattered limbs, and the tree top, he groaned as he sat up and heaved away the bulk of the debris. It would take a little while longer before his ribs were healed. He was sure she had cracked a couple when she had punched him.

Suddenly she shouted in relief, "Peter!"

That was all Jasper needed—Peter on his ass before he had a chance to explain why he told Rosalie she was alive. He should have told Bella as soon as he'd done it.

Jasper peeked through the pile of decimated pine and saw Bella disappear into Peter's embrace.

"What's the matter, sugar? What happened? I felt you all pissed off and hurt like three miles away." His fingers were running through her hair, combing out the bits of grass, straw, and small leaves that had been caught in it while he studied her face. "I got here as quick as I could. Lemme look atcha."

She was hurt? Jasper leapt out of the heap of branches and splinters, and Peter's dark eyes were boring accusingly into him.

Bella was sobbing into Peter's chest, her fingers spasmodically grasping and tugging at his deep blue T-shirt.

"Shh. Let me see," Peter said softly to her as he eased her away from him. He made a quick examination, turning her to look down each side and her back, even moving her hair to check every inch. "You look okay, except your clothes are gone again. Let's put my shirt on ya." In an instant, he had peeled it off and was working it over her head and pulling her arms through the sleeves.

He smoothed the soft shirt down over her hips and thighs and pulled her trembling body to his. "You only put a few holes in it. What happened?"

"J-Jasper …" she began, stuttering.

By the faint light of a thin crescent moon, Jasper saw the embers of anger burst into roaring flames in Peter's eyes.

Peter grew deathly still. "What. Did. You. Fuckin'. Do?" he asked.

His deep voice was more threatening than Bella had ever heard before, and she was a little afraid.

Jasper actually paused. Possessive rage was rolling off of Peter as his instinct to protect his mate from any threat had been ignited. Jasper understood completely. If Peter ever hurt Bella …

Jasper also understood he was probably in more danger than he had been for decades. He had taught Peter everything he knew about hand-to-hand combat.

It didn't matter that he was naked; he rose to his full height, squared his shoulders, and gave Peter a piercing glare, reminding him who he was facing. It was a look that would have sent most vampires scurrying away. It didn't faze Peter. Jasper knew, in their world, a mate trumped a brother, friend, comrade-in-arms … a sire.

Jasper could stun them both and knock them to the ground, but he didn't want to resort to that. It would only serve to make things worse.

Before he was able to decide how he would begin, Bella blurted, "Jasper told Rosalie I was alive."

"Is that right?" Peter asked with a deadly calm. The only movement was a slight quirk of Peter's left eyebrow. After several moments, Peter gently moved Bella to his side. "All three of us talked about that, Jasper, or did you forget?" he asked, the sarcasm dripping from his words. "I thought we decided it would be safer for Bella if that so-called family of yours didn't know Bella was alive. Your ex-wife hasn't been able to see her since she left Forks. That's what your sister Rosalie said. Or is the family that shit on you more important than your coven? Your mates?"

Faster than she'd ever seen him move before, Peter leapt at Jasper.

They'd fought before, but she hadn't ever seen their faces so dark and rigid or their eyes so black.

"No!" she shouted as she went after Peter.

She caught his foot and dropped him to the ground at the same time she threw out her shield. Jasper crashed against an invisible wall and crumpled to the ground. Bella scrambled up Peter's body and hauled him onto her lap. He was so tall, it wasn't like he could sit on her lap, but she didn't care. She hugged him to her, running her fingers through his long hair and kissing his face.

Behind them both, she heard Jasper's quiet voice. "Bella, please."

She ignored him. She held Peter's head in the bend of her arm and stared into his eyes while she stoked his hair.

"Sugar, let me go. I need to beat his ass. He's compromised your safety. He betrayed—"

"He … he didn't betray us." Bella huffed loudly. "I'm safe. I'm sure he had a good reason I think … maybe," she trailed off.

Peter started to speak again and Bella placed one finger over his lips. "Peter, don't say something you'll regret." She tilted her head toward Jasper. She'd been so furious that he had told Rosalie about her, she had momentarily felt betrayed. She had wanted to pound him, but she couldn't do that him. Instead, she hit him with her shield and turned her back to him. She was protecting Peter from him. Or him from Peter. She couldn't let them tear each other apart because nobody would harm her mates. Not even the other one. They had been annoyed with each other before and had fought multiple times over the last several months, but it was different that time.

She was grateful she was still stronger than both of them and could hold Peter down. Besides, he wouldn't struggle against her too much and he liked it when she ran her fingers through his hair. It usually worked to calm him.

"Jasper," she whispered. "Why did you tell Rosalie I was alive? Does she think I'm a human?"

Jasper was kneeling, his hands spread across the invisible force field that was keeping him away from her. He needed to touch her. "Bella, I … uh, no. She said Emmett has been depressed ever since Alice told them you died, and he'd been getting worse. Rosalie had to force him outside to hunt. I know how much he loves you so I told her I found you and changed you. I told her you're my mate and you're safe. I didn't tell her where we are. Emmett should get better just knowing you're alive."

Bella had always looked to Emmett as the perfect big brother. It was another reason why the Cullens leaving had been so devastating to her. She was still mad at him, too. She had to remember it was Edward's fault they all left to begin with. But they were all adults. Weren't they supposed to live their own lives?

"You were concerned about Emmett," Bella replied in a flat voice, merely to acknowledge what he had said. Even though her shield was up, she could still feel his sense of shame and regret, and the longing she knew he was sending to her. She was, in effect, shunning him.

She knew how deeply those wounds could go.

But they had all agreed not to disclose to the Cullens she was alive. "Rosalie will tell Emmett and he'll tell the rest of them!"

"Rose and Em aren't with Esme and Carlisle. They haven't been for a month or so. Rose thought it would do him good to get away, so she took him to their cabin in Tennessee."

"Bella," Peter said growling. "You need to let me up so I can beat the shit out of him."

"No, Peter!" Bella snugged her grip around Peter's neck so he couldn't break free. "You two can fight all you want, but not when you mean it!"

"What?" Peter's face screwed up in bafflement as he stared up at her.

Grinding her teeth, she tilted her head up to the night sky. "Arrrgh! Jasper. Talk fast." She felt herself weakening. She just couldn't stay mad at either one of them for very long.

Jasper rested his forehead against the barrier in order to try and get as close to Bella as he could. "I told you before that Alice got too close to Demetri and has been running from him ever since. Aro wants her. Rose said Alice won't talk to her because she blames Rose for Edward being held by the Volturi."

"Well, that just shows ya how stupid she is," Peter griped, relaxing despite himself under Bella's gentle fingers combing through his hair. "Oh, nooooo. She's not gonna blame the whiny-ass crybaby for going to the Volturi so Aro could read every little thing in his stupid fuckin' head. She's gonna make it out to be Rose's fault for telling him what she thought was the truth from the near-sighted, puny, black-headed—"

"Peter!" Bella shook him. "Yeah, yeah. We all know Edward's a moron and he deserves to be stuck in Volterra from now on. Serves him right. We know Aro isn't ever going to let him go. And, one of these days, Alice is going to screw up another vision and Demetri will catch her. Hush up." Bella scooted around a bit so she could peek over her shoulder at Jasper.

He was on his knees, his hands planted on her shield, his head bowed. In the faint moonlight, his tangled curls shined silver and his skin glowed with a pearly light. He was so beautiful.

He drew in a deep breath. "Alice hasn't been with the Cullens since you jumped off the cliff. She calls them every few weeks. I haven't talked to her. I've only talked to Rose. Alice hasn't mentioned you at all, so she still can't see you or us." His shoulders sagged. "Whoever talked to Alice would tell Rosalie what was said. Rose said she would tell Emmett not to tell."

"Did you tell her about all three of us?"

"She knows we're your mates."

"I'm sure she thinks I'm a slut. She never liked me anyway." Bella shrugged her shoulders. "But I really don't care what she thinks."

Peter reached up run his fingertips down her face. "You shouldn't care what anybody else thinks. Now, let me go."

"No!" Bella gave Peter a steely look before peering over her shoulder at Jasper. "Jasper, I don't want them coming here, and I don't want to go see them. I'm still mad at Emmett, Esme, and Carlisle. I want to go as long as possible without Edward finding out I exist. God! I always hated how he said that."

Peter grimaced. "The boy always was fucked in the head, and we don't want the Volturi to know about you." He pulled Bella's face to his. "Aro would want you, and Edward might think he has a claim over you. You're my woman." His lips pressed softly against hers.

She ran her fingers over his scalp. "I'll rip him apart myself. Send him back to Volterra in separate little boxes." Bella felt a jab of jealousy from Jasper, followed closely by a thick cloud of despondent longing, and she couldn't keep him out any longer. She knew what it felt like to be rejected and cast aside. She had also wanted Jasper to understand how angry she was with him for telling Rosalie she was alive. But he'd been punished enough during his long life and she couldn't do it anymore.

Jasper actually fell to the ground when Bella pulled back her shield. He was almost afraid to raise his head and look at her, but he finally did. He saw she had turned even more and was holding her hand out toward him.

"Baby," she said softly.

Her deep red eyes were shining with her love, and her understanding and forgiveness washed over him in warm, tender waves. Then she was on her knees in front of him, her arms going around his neck, and she was planting sweet kisses all over his face while her fingers tangled in his hair.

"I know you told Rose because you care so much about Emmett. I know how you feel about them, and I can't fault you for the love you have for others. You were denied it for so long," she said in a rush. "I love you so much, Jasper. I'm sorry I got so mad at you and shut you out."

"I'm sorry, Bella. I shouldn't have—"

"Shh." She stopped him with a kiss. "I know why you did it, but don't do it again. Not without talking to us first. There are three of us here."

"I won't," he promised and melted with relief under her touch. "That was the longest half hour of my life," he gasped into her ear. As long as he had her, he knew everything would be all right. "I'm sorry, I just—"

"I know, Jasper. I know how much love you have to give. You love us and you love them. You don't want Emmett or Rose to suffer either."

Peter moved guardedly toward them. He didn't have the advantage of knowing what they were feeling, except when Jasper was projecting, and he was currently exuding a torrent of love, happiness, pleasure and a strong sense of reprieve. Bella had forgiven Jasper for running his mouth; Peter could do no less for his brother, his sire, his mate's mate.

Cautiously, he knelt beside them. As soon as Bella snaked an arm under his and drew him closer, he was immersed in the reassurance, security, and solace of knowing they were all where they belonged.

They knelt like that, wrapped in each other's arms, basking in their bonded love and devotion, until the first hint of the new day began to lighten the eastern sky.

Bella first kissed Jasper's cheek then turned and kissed Peter's. "No matter what comes—" She ran her fingers through their hair and swept her hands over their strong jaws. "—we'll face it, handle it … take care of it. Because we have each other. Now how 'bout we ride off into the sun rise?"

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