Holy moly. So, it was definitely my intention to update this story about six months ago, but obviously that didn't happen. To be totally honest, my last few months of pregnancy were mentally very difficult. Between COVID and all the political turmoil in America, I was an anxious and emotional wreck and was nowhere near in the mindset to write. Then, by the time I was feeling better, the baby came! So I am now a first time mom to an amazing and ridiculously cute little boy. Yay!

Now that the hubby and I have settled into a routine and feel like we have at least some idea of what the hell we're doing when it comes to our little nugget, I've finally been able to write again. I apologize for the long wait, but I'm super grateful for all the kind reviews and for all the support. I'm awful at responding to reviews, but know that I read every single one of them and they always bring a huge smile to my face. I hope you all forgive me and I hope you enjoy this chapter! Happy reading!

Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Twilight, only the OC's.


Chapter Nine

Danielle stood in front of one of the massive windows in the Cullen house, her arms crossed tightly over her chest and her mouth set in a grim, hard line. It was dark outside, too dark to really even see anything, but that did not stop her from staring out at the forest beyond, her body rigid and her eyes alert as she looked for any signs of movement outside.

It had been almost four hours since Jasper had disappeared without warning. Bella had been stitched up by Carlisle and taken back home by Edward long ago, Esme had long since cleaned up the evidence of the accident, and Emmett was gone, having agreed to go after Jasper to try to find him and bring him back home. As for the rest of them, well…there had been nothing to do but watch the torturous minutes slowly tick by and anxiously wait for something – anything – to happen.

Danielle watched the dark, swaying trees, her emotions feeling as though they were being pulled in a dozen different directions.

The only time he had vanished like this had been when they had first met, when he had been nearly driven mad by the scent of her blood and then disappeared for the rest of the week to get his mind straight again. Part of her was furious with him for leaving without saying anything, because she was his wife¸ damnit, and it wasn't fair that he had taken off after such a shocking incident without telling her where he was going or how long he would be gone. At the same time, she was worried sick, because she could only imagine what he must be feeling after what had happened and she hated the thought of him out there somewhere, blaming and hating himself for something that she didn't think was his fault.

Mostly, though, she was terrified. Terrified that Jasper would be so upset that he wouldn't recover from this. Terrified that he would no longer trust himself around her – or any human – and that all the progress they had made would be completely undone. But most of all, she was just terrified that he wouldn't come back. What if he was so scarred from this that he left her? What if he decided she was better off without him and just…gave up?

No, she told herself firmly, refusing to believe it. Jasper loved her. They had overcome hardships before, and come out better and stronger because of it. He would come back. He would.

"Dani?"

Danielle blinked and glanced over at Carlisle as he appeared by her side. "Yeah?"

"Why don't you come and sit?" he suggested gently.

Danielle shook her head and looked forward again. "I'm fine right here."

"You've barely moved from this spot, and it's starting to get late. It would probably feel good to rest a bit," Carlisle persisted.

"I said I'm fine."

Carlisle did not flinch at her sharp tone, but he did press his lips together as he fell quiet and looked to the window. Danielle immediately felt bad for snapping at him. The whole Cullen family was just as worried as she was, because they cared about Jasper just as much. But Carlisle, who was fiercely protective of his family, was especially worried. He might have been trying to hide it for her sake, but Danielle could tell. It wasn't fair of her to take her frustration out on him or anyone else, especially when they were all in the same boat together.

"I'm sorry," Danielle said quietly, which had Carlisle looking at her again. "I didn't mean to bite your head off. I'm just…really worried."

Carlisle's expression was understanding. "It's alright, Dani. I know you're worried. We all are," he said with a consoling smile. "But Jasper will come back. He loves you too much not to."

Danielle glanced over her shoulder at Alice, who had been trying very hard to figure out where Jasper had gone or what he was planning to do, but had thus far been unable to give any solid answers. "Alice still hasn't seen anything," she reminded.

Carlisle shook his head. "No, not yet," he said. "But she will."

Danielle looked back to the window. She was able to see their own reflections in the glass in front of them, and it was only then that she noticed everyone was still in the clothes they had worn for the party. It seemed strange how drastically everything had changed in such a short amount of time. Earlier that day, she and Jasper had been making love and joking around with each other without a care in the world, and the biggest concern had been whether or not Bella would have a heart attack when she saw the birthday party Alice had planned. Now here they all were, still dressed up, only now everything had gone to hell in a handbasket and they had no idea what would come of that.

"He shouldn't have left," Danielle stated, her voice wavering a little. "He shouldn't have run off without at least talking to me first."

"No, he shouldn't have," Carlisle agreed. "But after what happened tonight…I think it safe to say he's afraid. Maybe he just needed some time to get his mind clear again."

Danielle understood why Jasper would be afraid. She thought back to that moment in the kitchen when they had gotten back from their honeymoon, when the bacon grease had burned her arm and Jasper had thought he had hurt her. It had scared the daylights out of him, and that was when nothing had even happened. Now he had lost control and nearly attacked her best friend. Of course he would be afraid.

But that didn't change the fact that he had run off without warning, and that didn't make her feel any less upset about it. "He still shouldn't have left," she repeated firmly.

Carlisle didn't say anything in response. He just looked at her for a long moment, sighed once more, then turned his eyes back to the window.

The minutes continued to tick by agonizingly slow. Though Esme came over to offer her a warm cup of tea and tried to coax her to take a seat on the couch, Danielle declined. She kept glancing from the window to Alice, whose gaze kept going in and out of focus as she tried to figure out what Jasper's plans were. When Danielle briefly locked eyes with Rosalie, she was almost surprised to receive a look of slight sympathy. If even Rosalie felt bad for her because of Jasper's disappearance, that only drove home how bad things really were.

The sympathy was probably supposed to make her feel better, but it only made her feel worse.

Suddenly, the Cullen house felt stifling. She didn't want to be there anymore, receiving looks of pity and having her in-laws treat her like a piece of glass that might break at any moment. As wonderful as they were for caring so much, Danielle suddenly, desperately, wanted to be alone.

"I think I'm gonna go home," she announced, finally turning away from the window.

Esme was in front of her in a flash, brows pinched with worry. "Are you sure?"

Danielle nodded. "It's been a hard night. I just…need some space to clear my head," she said gently.

Esme still didn't look like she wanted to let her go, but she nodded in understanding anyway. "Okay." She then pulled Danielle into a motherly hug. "Everything will be alright, Dani," she said soothingly. "Jasper will come back. Until then, if you need us, we'll be right here."

Danielle nodded, leaning into the hug for a moment before they separated. She shared a nod with Rosalie and a brief smile with Alice, who looked a little stressed over the fact that she didn't have any concrete answers yet. She then looked to Carlisle, who smiled gently and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.

"May I walk you home?" he asked. "I'd like to make sure you get there safely. Jasper would never forgive me if he knew I let you go adventuring through the woods by yourself."

Danielle nodded. "Sure."

Together, she and Carlisle left the Cullen house. At the edge of the grass, Danielle took off her shoes so that the trek would be a little easier, holding them by the tall heels in one hand. Carlisle then offered an elbow, and after Danielle tucked her hand into the crook of his arm, they set off down the cleared pathway to her and Jasper's house.

They walked in silence at first, listening to the rustle of leaves and chirps of insects. The forest floor on her bare feet wasn't entirely comfortable, but Danielle was too caught up in her own mind to think much of the slight pain of twigs cracking under her feet. Eventually, though, she was pulled from her thoughts as Carlisle broke the silence that had been stretching between them.

"Dani, there's something I'd like to speak with you about, if you do not mind," he said, his eyes trained ahead and his expression giving nothing away.

Danielle looked up at him, her brows furrowing together. "What is it?"

Carlisle finally looked down at her, his expression perfectly neutral. "What you did tonight, when Jasper was lost in his hunger and you talked him down…it was impressive and you did very well, but I feel I must also point out how very dangerous it was," he said.

Danielle frowned a little. "Jasper was struggling. He needed me. I had to help him," she said.

"Yes, but you could have been very grievously injured," Carlisle pointed out.

It was hard not to feel a little exasperated over the fact that even now, Carlisle was still concerned that things would go badly between her and Jasper. "Jasper will never hurt me, Carlisle," she said, trying hard to keep her tone patient. "I think tonight proved that once and for all, don't you?"

Carlisle didn't look entirely convinced. "You do have quite the knack for calming him, that I will admit to. But when our kind are lost to our hunger like that, there's really no predicting what might happen. As much as he loves you, and as much as we all trust him with you, being so close to him when he is like that is still a risky gamble, especially so considering how sweet your blood smells to him." Carlisle gave her a look that she recognized as one of concern. "Things could have gone very differently tonight, and the consequences of that would have been devastating. That is not something any of us want to happen, most of all Jasper."

Danielle sighed and turned her eyes forward. She still didn't think she had really been in any danger, because she wholeheartedly trusted that Jasper would never do anything to harm her. But she had never seen him like that before, had never seen what he was really capable of until that moment he went insane with hunger. Though she would not have done anything differently if given a second chance, now that she had seen that side of Jasper that only the Cullen's were usually privy to, she could understand why Carlisle was uncomfortable with what she had done.

"So what would you rather I do? Just stand on the sidelines and do nothing to snap him out of it when he gets like that?" she asked with a frown.

"I will not ask you to do that, because I know that you would not stand idly by if Jasper needed you. But being so close to him when he is not himself is not the best idea," Carlisle responded. "You have grown very comfortable with us, and I fear you may have forgotten that we are still predators. So long as you are human, you will always be vulnerable. If something went wrong, there would be nothing you could do to stop it from happening, which is why you need to be more careful."

Carlisle wasn't saying anything she didn't already know, though she couldn't say she necessarily viewed things the same way he did. "I know being human puts me at a disadvantage, but I'm comfortable because I trust Jasper with my life. What happened tonight hasn't changed that in the slightest."

"As reassuring as it is to hear that, I still have my worries," Carlisle said, giving her a pointed look. "I view you as my daughter, Dani. I feel it is my responsibility to make sure you are kept safe and protected. It would give me peace of mind if you agreed to at least practice a little more caution if a situation like this arises again."

Danielle felt her previous exasperation disappear as she realized that her father-in-law was just worried about her. "I'm sorry for worrying you," she said, giving him a gentle smile. "I'm not sorry for helping Jasper, and I still have complete faith in the fact that I'm perfectly safe with him, but…in the future, I'll be more careful." She smirked then and nudged him lightly with her elbow. "Wouldn't want you to keep worrying over me and wind up giving you some grey hairs, now would we?" she added in an attempt to lighten the mood just a little.

Carlisle smiled, his expression relaxing. "No, we wouldn't," he agreed. "Thank you, Dani," he said next, his tone serious again. "Not just for being patient with your overly protective father-in-law, but also for helping Jasper."

"I'd do anything for him," Danielle said without hesitation.

"I know," Carlisle said with a nod. "He's incredibly lucky to have you by his side."

"If you ask me, I'm the lucky one," she said. "Not just because I have him, but also because I married into such a great family." Danielle smiled up at him. "Just for the record, Jasper isn't the only one I feel completely safe with. You're my family, and I feel safe with each and every one of you. I trust each of you with my life."

Carlisle patted the hand that she had tucked in his elbow. "I am very happy to hear that, Dani."

They were almost to the house now. She could see the porch light in the distance, just barely visible through the trees. Normally she would have felt content and happy to be going home, simply because that was where Jasper usually was, because it was their safe haven. But in that moment, knowing Jasper was gone and that she would be walking into an empty house, the feeling that squeezed her chest was anything but happy.

"What do you think is gonna happen?" she asked Carlisle.

"What do you mean?" Carlisle asked in return.

"Assuming Jasper does come back," she said, trying hard not to think about how devastating it would be if he didn't, "how does everyone go back to normal after what happened? I mean, I saw Ed's face after the accident, and everyone's been so tense. I feel like something has shifted, and I'm trying to figure out how we all move past this."

Carlisle sighed as he considered what she had said. "I saw how upset Edward was, too," he admitted. He looked down at her, his handsome features pulled into an expression of uncertainty. "The truth is that I'm not entirely sure what will happen after tonight, Dani," he admitted.

It wasn't a reassuring answer, but as they reached the end of the path and her house came into view, she decided not to press the issue further. Carlisle seemed mildly hopeful for a split second as they neared the back door, as if he hoped Jasper might have returned in the time it had taken to walk to the house, but after seemingly taking a moment to survey the area and listen for any sounds of movement in the house, his expression fell back into one of disappointment and worry. Danielle sighed sadly to herself, even though she had known better than to get her hopes up.

"Are you sure you'll be alright here by yourself?" Carlisle asked as she released his arm and moved to open the back door.

Danielle gave a half-hearted smile and nodded. "I'll be fine. I just…need some time to think."

Carlisle nodded. "Alright. If you need anything – "

"I'll call," she finished for him.

Carlisle gave a small smile, then placed a hand on her shoulder and gave it a light squeeze. "If Alice sees anything, you'll be the first to know," he promised.

"Thank you, Carlisle," she said gratefully. "I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"

Carlisle just nodded, and after giving him one last smile, she finally stepped inside. By the time she had shut the door and clicked on the living room light, Carlisle was already gone.

The house was eerily quiet, instantly reminding her of the fact that her husband was most assuredly not there. Danielle leaned back against the door, looking around at the suddenly cold feeling house, before she finally trudged into the bedroom. She immediately changed, leaving her heels and her dress to lay carelessly on the floor, then went into the bathroom to wash the makeup off her face and put her hair up in a messy knot on the top of her head. As late as it was, she wasn't even remotely tired. She was too on edge, too worried about Jasper to even consider sleep as a possibility.

Danielle went into the kitchen to make a pot of coffee, just to give herself something to do. Once it was ready, she poured herself a cup and went to sit on the couch, wrapping both hands around the mug to warm them up. As her eyes turned to the enormous windows to stare at the dark forest outside, she knew she was going to be in for a long night.


One hour and two cups of coffee later, she was still sitting on the couch, no more closer to knowing Jasper's whereabouts than she had been when she had arrived.

Danielle heaved and rubbed her face, her eyes staring blankly at the television as some old reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond played. She wasn't really paying attention, but the house had been way too quiet and she had needed something to distract her. She still wasn't tired, but she was definitely feeling drained, and the longer she sat there just waiting for any bit of news – whether it be good or bad – the more out of it she felt.

Suddenly, her phone began to ring. Danielle jumped at the sound, her heart skipping a beat, then quickly snatched it up from the coffee table, hoping and praying that it was either Jasper finally checking in with her or, at the very least, Alice calling to let her know she had seen something.

Danielle answered without bothering to check the caller ID. "Jasper?" she asked as she pressed the phone to her ear, her tone hopeful.

There was a pause, then a sigh that was distinctly female. "I take it he's not back then."

It was Bella. Disappointment immediately settled in her limbs and made Danielle sink heavily into the couch cushions. "No, he's not." Danielle dropped her face into her free hand and felt her shoulders sag. "I have no idea where he is. Nobody does."

"Not even Alice?"

"She hasn't been able to see anything yet," Danielle answered.

Bella let out a long breath. "How are you doing?" she asked after another brief pause of silence.

Danielle smiled humorlessly. "Your birthday was a catastrophe and you ended up getting stitches…and you'reasking mehow I am?" she said disbelievingly.

"I didn't care about my birthday to begin with and my arm will heal," Bella countered. "You're the one with a missing husband."

Danielle went quiet for a moment and rubbed her eyes. "I'm…trying to hang in there," she finally answered. "But I'm really worried." She closed her eyes and sucked in a deep breath, releasing it heavily. "I just want him home," she said, unable to disguise the pain in her voice.

"I know," Bella said understandingly. "I'm sure he'll come back. Edward thinks he will, too."

Bella's mention of her brother-in-law made Danielle open her eyes again. It was a well known fact that Edward spent the night with Bella every single night, but after what had taken place that night, Danielle hadn't been sure whether he would stay with Bella or not.

"Is Edward still there?" she asked.

"Yeah."

Edward's upset face from earlier that night flashed through her mind and made her frown, that bad feeling returning to the pit of her stomach. "How is he? He seemed pretty upset."

Bella hesitated to answer, leaving Danielle to wonder if she was hesitant to say anything while Edward was there. "He's okay," she answered, though something in the tone of her voice wasn't completely convincing. "He's babying me a little, but that's nothing new," Bella added with a hint of a teasing tone, as if she were trying to lighten the mood a little.

"Not surprised to hear that," Danielle replied.

"Yeah, I don't think he'll be letting this one go for a while," Bella grumbled.

Danielle ran a hand over her face. "I don't think any of us will be, Bella."

"Yeah," she said, sounding awkward now. "Are you still with the Cullen's?" she then asked to change the subject.

"No, I'm home now. Just…waiting for some news," Danielle said.

"Want me to come keep you company?" Bella offered.

Danielle knew her answer without having to think about it. She really wanted to be alone, and if Jasper did come back soon, having Bella in the house didn't seem like a very good idea. "I appreciate the offer, but I'm okay here by myself."

"Okay," Bella said. "Well, it's pretty late, so I'll let you go. But keep me in the loop about Jasper, okay?" she insisted.

"I will."

"And can you do me a favor when he comes back and tell him I'm not mad at him? And that I don't blame him?" Bella asked hopefully.

"Of course," Danielle assured, trying to ignore the cynical voice in the back of her head correcting Bella – if Jasper came back, it said, not when.

"Thanks. Talk to you soon."

"Bye."

After they hung up, Danielle stared at her phone for a second before sighing and tossing it back onto the coffee table. She grabbed her empty mug and peered into it for a moment, before deciding she might as well go for her third cup. After getting another refill, Danielle settled back onto the couch and took a sip, her eyes sliding closed as she let out a heavy sigh through her nose. When there was suddenly a loud hurried knock on the door, it startled her so much she nearly spilled her coffee all over herself.

Before Danielle could stand up from the couch or even really comprehend who might be there, the door opened and Alice walked in. The vampire was smiling.

"Emmett found him," Alice said in a rush. "They're both coming back."

The relief that flooded through her was so strong, it almost made Danielle feel dizzy. It was what she had been hoping to hear, only she hadn't been sure it would actually happen. She closed her eyes and turned her face up to the ceiling for a moment, thanking whichever higher power had decided to show mercy on her, and felt the tension that had been coiled in her muscles for the entire night finally release itself. Danielle let out a sigh of relief, then got up from the couch and was swiftly wrapped up in a freezing cold hug from Alice.

"I knew he would come back," Alice said. "I just knew it."

Danielle hugged Alice tightly, then mustered a smile for her sister-in-law when they separated. As happy as she was, she had a feeling Jasper coming back was only half the battle – because she still didn't know whathe would be like when he did come back. Would he be himself, or would he be a complete and utter wreck? And what would she do when she saw him? Despite her relief, she still was upset with him. She honestly couldn't decide if she wanted to cry from all the stress of the night, yell at him for leaving, or kiss him for coming back.

For all she knew, she might just end up doing all three.

Alice did not leave after delivering the news, choosing instead to stay with Danielle and watch as she started pacing impatiently around the living room. It felt like it took ages, but finally, about half an hour later, Alice perked up and turned her eyes to the window. Danielle immediately stopped her pacing and gave Alice a hopeful look.

"They're close." Alice said, which sent a jolt through Danielle's stomach. Alice came to stand by her and reached out to squeeze her hand. "Do you want me to stay?"

Danielle immediately shook her head. It would probably be best if she and Jasper had some privacy for whatever they might be about to discuss. "We'll be fine. Go ahead and go home." When she felt Alice start to pull her hand away, Danielle tightened her grip momentarily. "Thank you," she said gratefully.

Alice smiled. "Of course." Then, with one last squeeze of her hand, Alice released her and disappeared out the back door, leaving it open behind her.

The next two minutes were the longest two minutes of her life. She stood there in the living room, wringing her hands together anxiously as she stared at the open back door, just waiting for Jasper to appear. When he finally did, she immediately frowned.

He looked terrible. His hair was wild, his clothes were covered in dirt, and she spied stains that were unmistakably from blood spatter. His eyes were no longer black and had gone back to being the pretty amber color she had always loved, but as he stared at her in complete silence, his expression was devoid of emotion. He made no move to come toward her, and his reluctance made her stomach knot up uncomfortably.

Movement behind Jasper made her glance at Emmett, who's expression was still uncharacteristically serious as he lingered just outside. He glanced at her, then at Jasper, then at her again. "I'll be close by if anyone needs me," he said simply.

Danielle almost told him that they didn't need him to stand guard, that Jasper wasn't going to do anything to her, but a look from Emmett silenced the protests he had obviously expected. Danielle finally just nodded to acknowledge what he had said, then Emmett stepped back outside and shut the door.

Neither Danielle, nor Jasper, said anything for a long, tense moment. She didn't know what to make of Jasper's demeanor. He was tense, guarded, more closed off than she had seen since she had discovered that he was a vampire and he had avoided her like the plague out of fear. Was he afraid now? Afraid that she was angry with him for what had happened? Was he afraid that she would see him differently than she had before?

Danielle finally cleared her throat and crossed her arms. "Where did you go?"

Jasper shook his head. "Nowhere in particular," he answered.

She looked his clothes over, her eyes lingering on the visible bloodstains. "Did you hunt?"

Jasper nodded once. "The…hunger…was too great to ignore," he said tensely. "I didn't trust myself to come back here until I had it under control again."

Danielle nodded slowly in understanding, then frowned deeply. "How could you just leave, Jasper?" she finally demanded to know.

Jasper's jaw tightened as he turned his eyes away from hers. "I had to," he answered.

"Without even saying anything to me?" Danielle countered. "Do you have any idea how worried I've been? How scared I've been? I had no idea where you were or what you were doing. I didn't even know if you were gonna come back."

Jasper stared unblinkingly at the wall, his shoulders tensing even more than they already had been. "I wasn't sure you wanted me to come back."

Danielle took a step back, his words hitting her like a slap to the face. After everything they had been through, after all this time together, he really thought she would just give up on him after one unfortunate mistake? Anger suddenly slid through her veins like molten lava.

"Did you really just say that to me?" she asked, and even though she knew he felt every ounce of her anger, he didn't react to it. "You're my husband. I love you, Jasper. Why the hell wouldn't I want you to come back?"

Jasper still wouldn't look at her. "You saw what happened in there," he said, and she could finally detect a hint of pain in his voice. "I could have killed Bella. And why? All because of one goddamned drop of blood?" he growled out. The fact that he was cursing was another indicator of how truly upset he really was. "I have tried so hard to keep you from seeing that side of me, and I failed. Now you know how weak I really am. Now you've finally seen me for the monster that I am."

Danielle shook her head vehemently. "You are not a monster! What happened in there was an accident," she said with a firm, unwavering voice. "Everyone slips up from time to time, even vampires! That isn't your fault!"

Jasper's eyes finally snapped to hers again, and she could see that they had gotten a little darker with his anger. "This isn't some stupid, trivial mistake, Danielle! My actions could have cost an innocent person their life!" he argued, and now she could feel every bit of his despair and self-loathing. "What if that had been you? What if you hurt yourself like that and no one was there to stop me from – " Jasper cut himself off and closed his eyes, as if he couldn't stand to even finish that thought. When he opened his eyes again, he looked resolute. "I thought I had my bloodlust under control, but clearly I don't. I'm a danger to you, Danielle."

"Bullshit," Danielle snapped, which made him scowl with frustration. "Since the moment I found out what you really were, there has never been even a second where you have made me fear for my life. Even tonight, when you were so crazed with hunger that it took two vampires to hold you back, I still wasn't afraid. Because I know the real you, Jasper, and the vampire that lost it back there? That wasn't you!"

"But it was me, Danielle!" Jasper argued. "Just because I've gotten good at hiding that part of me doesn't mean it does not exist! It will always be a part of me, and if I can lose it that easily, even after all this time, then you are not safe with me! I will not put your life at risk, Danielle. I won't do it."

"Well, tough shit, because I'm not going anywhere, and neither are you," Danielle said fiercely.

Jasper exhaled loudly and gritted his teeth. "Danielle – "

"You seem to be conveniently forgetting the fact that it was me who snapped you out of it when you were too far gone to listen to anyone else," Danielle interrupted loudly. Jasper immediately snapped his lips shut at that. "Emmett tried to talk you down, Carlisle tried to talk you down, and you didn't listen. But when I came, you listened. I calm you down, you've told me that a hundred times since we got together. I can keep you in check. Tonight proved that."

"And what if it doesn't work next time?" Jasper countered. "What if the next time you try something like that, I lash out at you?"

"You won't," Danielle said resolutely. When Jasper scoffed and shook his head, she took a step closer. "You won't," she repeated. "I was right there in front of you, Jasper. If you had really wanted to, you could have ripped my throat out right then and there." Jasper winced violently at the image she painted for him. "But you didn't," Danielle persisted, taking another step closer. "Because you love me, and we both know that you would never hurt me, not even when you're like that."

Jasper looked at her for a long moment, then shook his head. "There's no guarantee I wouldn't," he said, his tone one of helplessness and uncertainty. "It would be too easy for this to happen again, and while tonight didn't end in tragedy, it very well could the next time. You will always be in danger. From now until the day you're turned, the risk will always be there."

He was saying that as if she hadn't known what she had been signing up for when she had decided to be with him, as if she hadn't spent every day of the past six months understanding that as long as she was human and he was not, there would always be an underlying danger. But if he was so convinced that she was in danger, if he was so convinced that he couldn't trust himself as long as she was human, then she knew a very effective way to remedy the problem.

Danielle came to a very swift decision. "Fine," she said, squaring her shoulders with determination. "Turn me."

Jasper's eyes widened with shock. "What?"

Danielle took another step closer, so that there were only a few feet of space left between them. "If you're really so afraid of hurting me, if you're really worried what might happen, then turn me," she repeated firmly. "We already have the family's approval. It's what we both want anyway, so why wait?" Danielle started walking toward the back door with purpose. "Hell, I'm sure if we go ask Carlisle right now, he'd do it," she said.

Jasper didn't let her get far. He quickly planted himself between her and the door, wrapping a hand around her arm to keep her from going anywhere. His brows were creased together and he had a deep frown on his face. "This isn't how it's supposed to happen," he argued.

Danielle jutted her chin up. "Well, I don't really see a way around it. Do you?" she countered. "I understand why you're scared. I really do. But I flat out refuse to let you walk away from this marriage," she said with a shake of her head. "So if my mortality is too much of a liability, then the only option is for me to become a vampire here and now."

Their eyes held for a long, tense moment. Jasper's eyes searched hers intently, as though looking for something, only she couldn't say for sure what exactly that something was. After she only continued to gaze back at him with unwavering resolution, he finally let out a heave and his entire demeanor changed. The anger and the fear left him, the stress that had made him so tense and anxious dissipated. He suddenly just looked sad and completely run down.

"You're not going to be turned tonight, Danielle," he said quietly. "Not like this."

"And you're not leaving me, so get that ridiculous idea out of your head right now," Danielle said firmly.

When he said nothing in response, she sighed and gently grabbed the hand he had around her arm. She urged him to let go, then slipped her hand into his and gave it a squeeze. "We made the promise, Jasper. We said the vows. For better or for worse, remember?" she said, her tone much more gentle now. "I love you, and I know you love me. If you think I'm going to let you go anywhere, you're a lot dumber than I thought you were."

Jasper let out another long sigh, his hand tightening around hers. His eyes were back to normal again, though there was still sadness in them. "Leaving you is not what I want, darlin'. Not at all," he said, and between what he had said and the fact that he had called her darlin', she felt her hope start to return. "But…I'm frightened," he admitted. "If I lost it like that with you, if I…if I attacked you, I would never, ever be able to live with myself," he said with a grave shake of his head.

Danielle lifted a hand to his cheek. When he didn't pull away or flinch at the touch, she took that as a good sign. "How many times do I have to say it? You won't hurt me, Jazz," she said, pleading him with her eyes to believe the words once and for all. "I believe in you. I always have. And I will say it as much as I have to until you finally believe in yourself."

"I don't see how you still can have so much faith in me. Not after what I did tonight," he said with shame in his eyes.

Danielle smiled and moved her hand from his cheek to smooth his golden hair back away from his face. "I have faith in you because I love you, Jasper. Because I know how good you are," she insisted. She placed both hands on his face now and moved in close, so that his gaze was locked with hers. "Nothing you could do would ever make me doubt you. Nothing you could do would ever make me stop loving you," she said, hoping he saw the truth of that in her eyes.

Jasper stared at her, then slowly leaned down so that his forehead was against hers. "I'm sorry," he finally said quietly. "I'm so sorry. I'm sorry for what happened at the party, I'm sorry for scaring you. I'm sorry for everything."

The pain in his voice broke her heart. "It's okay, Jazz. Everything's okay."

She slid her arms around his neck to hug him tightly and was relieved when he returned the embrace, hugging her just as tight as he buried his face into her hair. As she stood there rubbing his back soothingly and murmuring words of comfort, a light tap on the window caught her attention. Emmett was standing on the other side, looking a lot more relaxed than he had when he and Jasper had arrived. He gave her a questioning look, which made her nod silently to signal that everything was alright, before he smiled and nodded. Then he turned and disappeared.

Danielle finally pulled away from Jasper far enough to see his face. Now that she was really looking, she could see specks of animal blood in his hair and on some of his exposed skin. Danielle released her hold on him and then grabbed his hand, before tugging him toward the bedroom. "Come on, hon," she said gently. "Let's get you cleaned up."

Jasper did not put up any resistance as she guided him into their bedroom, and then into the attached bath. He watched her silently as she turned on the shower, then let her undress him, lifting his arms obediently so she could get his shirt over his head and stepping out of his pants as she helped him out of his filthy clothes. Once he was bare in front of her, Danielle quickly slipped out of her own clothes before ushering him into the shower and closing the glass door behind them.

The shower was steaming hot, but if the temperature bothered him, he didn't say anything about it. She washed the blood out of his golden hair and then gently scrubbed the rest of his body, the water on the bottom of the tub turning a murky brown color as the blood and dirt was washed away, before disappearing down the drain. Jasper closed his eyes at her gentle ministrations, the tension leaving his body further. When she had finished, she shut the water off again and guided him out of the shower so that she could help him dry off. The shower had made his skin feel unnaturally warm, but he was clean now, and he looked much more relaxed, which was exactly what she had been hoping to accomplish.

Once they were both dry and dressed, they climbed into bed. Danielle moved in close to snuggle against Jasper's side, resting an arm around his waist comfortably. Jasper slid an arm around her shoulders and pulled her even closer, as if she was the anchor he needed to keep himself grounded.

"Is Bella alright?" he finally asked, his tone a careful one.

"Yeah, she's doing okay," Danielle pulled back a little to look him in the eye. "She was actually worried about you," she said, which made Jasper give her a doubtful look. "She doesn't blame you for what happened. She's not angry. She told me so herself."

Jasper didn't look very comforted by those words. "Whether she blames me or not, I have no idea how I'll ever be able to face her again," he said quietly, his tone one of regret.

Danielle tightened her hold on him. "You'll face her whenever you feel ready," she said with a nod. "But until then, just…try not to worry about it, okay? Everything's alright. I promise."

Jasper nodded in response. He stared down at her, then lifted a hand to her face to caress her cheek with his knuckles. "Thank you," he said. "Thank you for not giving up on me."

Danielle turned her head to kiss his palm. "I will never give up on you, Jasper. Never. I'm here for you always."

He finally gave her a small, tentative smile, before leaning down to give her a featherlight kiss. "I love you so much."

Danielle smiled. "I love you, too."

There was nothing more to be said after that. Danielle lay her head back down on his chest and closed her eyes, her body relaxing as he drew random patterns on her shoulder with his fingertips. It had been a long, stressful night, there was no doubt about that. But Jasper had come back to her, and though she didn't know how things would be come tomorrow, she was grateful that she at least still had her husband.


She wasn't sure why exactly she woke up, but at just past four in the morning, Danielle's eyes popped open and she suddenly felt wide awake. Danielle turned in bed to see that Jasper's side was empty, which made her heart instantly leap into her throat.

Where was he? Had he run off again?

Worry coursed through her as she threw off the covers, got out of bed, and immediately went toward the door with the intention of searching the house to make sure Jasper was still there. Just as she started to open the door, however, she paused. There were voices in the living room, quiet enough to where they wouldn't have woken her, but loud enough now that she was by the door to be able to hear. Danielle frowned and slowly, quietly cracked the door so she could better hear whatever conversation was taking place in the living room.

"I feel so ashamed…and I feel weak," a deep, familiar voice said, the tone full of pain and regret.

That voice belonged to Jasper, and she relaxed again as she realized that he hadn't left after all.

"Nobody blames you for what happened, Jasper," another familiar voice replied soothingly.

Carlisle. He must have come to check in on Jasper.

"I would imagine Edward does," Jasper replied cynically.

"No," Carlisle swiftly countered. "I do not think he does at all. We all understand how deeply the instinct to hunt is imbedded in our systems. It is who we are, what we are. There are times when that instinct simply cannot be ignored. Every single one of us has slipped at one point or another. It happens, Jasper. I assure you that Edward understands that what happened tonight, troubling as it was, was beyond your control."

Jasper went quiet for a moment as he seemed to consider what Carlisle had said. "I was certain I had my thirst under control," he said, his voice pained again. "I have been able to ignore the call of Danielle's blood for months now. In Phoenix, I held her in my arms while she was covered in it, and it did not affect me for even a moment." Jasper let out a long, shaky breath. "Yet all it took was one drop of blood from a cut on Bella's finger to turn me back into the animal I was during the wars down south," he said with self-loathing.

"You were caught off guard," Carlisle said. "It could have happened to any one of us."

"But it happened to me," Jasper growled. "And now…now I am more terrified than ever of hurting Danielle."

"And from what I gather, Dani remains convinced that she is perfectly safe with you," Carlisle countered patiently. "Isn't that right, Dani?" he suddenly asked, clearly knowing that she was awake and listening in.

Danielle flushed at having been caught eavesdropping, though she supposed she should have expected it. They were vampires, after all, and with their superhuman hearing, they definitely would have heard her moving around the moment she woke up. Danielle left the bedroom and walked into the living room, where she found Jasper and Carlisle sitting on the couch. Carlisle was smiling gently, while Jasper still looked upset. Danielle gave them a sheepish smile as she came to stand next to where Jasper was sitting.

"Sorry for eavesdropping," she said, crossing her arms over her chest. "Everything okay?" she then asked, looking to her husband questioningly.

"Yes," Jasper said in an unconvincing tone. "Carlisle just stopped by to see how I was doing. I'm sorry if I worried you when you didn't find me in bed."

"It's alright," Danielle said, sitting on the arm of the couch so that she was close enough to rub his back soothingly. "Thanks for dropping by to check on him," she said to Carlisle with a grateful smile.

Carlisle nodded. "I wouldn't be doing my duty if I didn't," he said.

Danielle smiled a bit, then gave him a questioning look. "How's everyone doing?" she asked, remembering how tense everyone had been earlier.

"Better now that Jasper has returned home," Carlisle said with a nod.

"Good." Danielle paused, then asked, "And Edward? Has anyone talked to him yet?"

She didn't miss the way Jasper tensed at the mention of Edward. "Not yet," Carlisle said, his tone perfectly neutral. "He has not returned home yet."

Edward not coming home to the Cullen house was certainly nothing out of the ordinary – since he was with Bella so much, there were times when he went a few days without dropping by the house at all. But given the events of the night, Edward's absence felt a little more ominous than usual. She couldn't explain it, but there was a nagging feeling in her gut that kept saying that whenever Edward did turn up, things weren't going to be all puppies and gumdrops.

Jasper gently touching her knee brought an end to those thoughts. "Why don't you go back to bed?" he suggested gently. "It's too late for you to be awake."

"Some might argue that it's too early," Danielle quipped back with a joking smile, just to try to diffuse some of the tension in the room.

Jasper managed a halfhearted smile, but still motioned in the general direction of the bedroom. "Either way, you need your rest."

"I agree with Jasper," Carlisle said. "In fact, allow me to get out of your hair so the both of you can have some peace and quiet," he added, already standing up from the couch. "Why don't you two come by for breakfast in the morning? I'm sure Esme would be happy to cook for you, Dani, and I know for a fact she'll want to see you," he added, looking pointedly at Jasper.

"Sure, we can do that," Danielle agreed with a nod.

"Wonderful."

She fully expected Carlisle to say his goodbyes and leave after that, but he didn't. Instead, he cocked his head just the slightest bit, his brows pinching together with interest. She had seen Jasper do this enough times to know that Carlisle had heard something that her human ears couldn't. One look at Jasper let her know that he had heard it too. He stood and shared a look with Carlisle, before they both looked to the back door, as if expecting someone to be there.

Danielle looked that way, and not a moment later, there was a knock on the door. Jasper, shoulders tense again, hesitated for only a second before going to answer it.

It was Edward, and he didn't look much better than when she had last seen him.

Neither Jasper, nor Edward, said anything at first and just stood there looking at one another. Danielle frowned and shared a look with Carlisle, not liking how uncomfortable the atmosphere felt. After another few tense seconds, she cleared her throat and went to stand next to Jasper, placing a gentle hand on his back to show him support.

"Erm…hey, Ed," she said to break the silence.

Edward turned his gaze to hers. "Hello, Dani," he replied, his tone a little stiff. "Carlisle, Jasper," he added.

Carlisle nodded, but Jasper didn't move a muscle. He looked like he was waiting for Edward to snap at him at any given second. Things were quickly going from uncomfortable to downright awkward.

"Do you wanna come in?" Danielle asked, gesturing for him to come into the house.

"No, thank you," Edward said. "I've actually come to ask you all to join me at the house," he added. "There's something important I'd like to discuss with everyone."

That ominous feeling was back, only it felt much stronger now because of how serious Edward looked. "Of course," Carlisle agreed. "Dani, why don't you get changed, then you and Jasper can meet us at the house," he suggested.

Danielle just nodded, then moved out of the way so Carlisle could step outside. As Jasper and Edward looked at each other again, Jasper frowned deeply. "Edward…" he finally started to say, his tone full of guilt and remorse.

Edward's serious expression eased some, turning more to one of understanding. "I know, Jasper," he said gently. "I know."

Jasper didn't seem to know what to say, so he just nodded. With that, Carlisle and Edward left, and Jasper shut the door. As he turned to look at her, Danielle frowned uncertainly, a wary feeling sliding through her.

"I'm guessing he wants to talk about what happened tonight," she stated.

"I would imagine so," Jasper said quietly.

Danielle sighed and reached up to brush a hand against his cheek. "I'm sure everything will be okay," she said, even though she really had no idea what Edward was going to do. "Let's just go over there and see what he has to say."

After Jasper nodded silently in agreement, Danielle kissed his cheek and then went into the bedroom to change out of her night clothes. Once she was dressed in sweatpants and a long sleeved shirt, she reconvened with Jasper and gave him a supportive smile, which Jasper returned halfheartedly. Then she laced her fingers with his, squeezing his hand comfortingly, and they set off toward the Cullen house.

They arrived to find that the family had already gathered in the living room and were waiting for them to arrive. The moment they stepped into sight, Esme was hugging Jasper tightly and speaking to him quietly, no doubt offering words of encouragement. Danielle gave them some space to have their moment and made her way to Emmett, whom she immediately hugged. He seemed surprised at first, but readily hugged her back.

"What's this for?" he asked.

"For bringing my husband back," Danielle said, pulling back far enough to smile up at him. "Thanks, Big Foot."

Emmett smiled and nodded. "You're welcome, Red."

As they parted, Danielle glanced around at everyone else. Carlisle was sitting patiently on the couch, while Rosalie sat next to him, legs crossed tightly as she stared at the fireplace. Edward was by the window, his expression blank and closed off as he stared out at the swaying trees, but it was Alice that really caught Danielle's attention. The vampire was sitting on the stairs by herself, looking very angry and shooting glares in Edward's direction.

"What's going on?" Danielle asked Emmett quietly. "Why is Alice mad?"

Emmett just shrugged to signal that he didn't know. Edward, however, chose that moment to speak up. "I think it safe to say her anger is because of me," he said, finally turning around to face the room.

Alice just huffed in response and crossed her arms tightly over her chest.

The uncomfortable interaction between the two vampires, who normally got along famously, only made the environment more tense. "Why did you call this meeting, Edward?" Carlisle asked. "What did you need to talk to us about?"

Edward stepped to the front of the room, his gaze traveling swiftly over the rest of the Cullen's as everyone moved in closer to hear what he had to say. Danielle thought his eyes lingered on her longer than everyone else, which made that bad feeling in her gut come back.

"The reason I have called this meeting is to discuss the events of this past evening," Edward announced. His eyes turned to Jasper. "But first and foremost, I want you to know, Jasper, that I do not blame you for what happened. What happened was beyond your control, and neither I, nor anyone else in the room, would dare to hold that against you."

Danielle glanced at Jasper, who had come to stand beside her. Despite Edward's words, despite the encouraging looks from his family, he still looked ashamed. She immediately reached for his hand to lace her fingers with his, giving his hand a supportive squeeze. "Regardless, I cannot apologize enough for what I did, for putting Bella in danger," he said with guilt written all over his face. "I am sorry. Truly."

"I know," Edward said. "Nevertheless," he continued, addressing the whole family again, "this is something that cannot be overlooked, and I think it requires us all to make an important decision about what comes next."

"What do you mean by that?" Esme asked, her brows creasing together questioningly.

Edward's expression was very grim. "What happened last night has opened my eyes quite a bit. I have always been very aware of the risk that comes with Bella being part of our world, yet I fear I grew too comfortable, too complacent. Now I have been reminded how dangerous it is for her, and have had to take a step back to reevaluate what is best for her." His lips pressed into a hard line for a moment. "I have come to the decision that the risk is too great, and too dangerous, to ignore."

Danielle frowned deeply. She wasn't entirely sure where Edward was going with this, but she didn't like the sound of it at all.

"What are you saying, Edward?" Carlisle asked, looking just as uncertain as Danielle

Edward hesitated, then came out with it. "I feel that I am no longer safe for Bella to be involved with. She has been through far too much since meeting me, and I cannot – I will not – continue to put her in danger. I feel it best if Bella and I were no longer involved," he revealed.

It was safe to say that Danielle had never seen the Cullen's so taken aback, but their shock paled in comparison to hers. "Wait a second…you're breaking up with Bella?" she demanded with wide eyes. "All because of a dumb accident?"

"It was much more than a dumb accident, Dani," Edward said, his tone taking on an edge. "She could have been seriously injured, or worse."

"But she wasn't," Danielle countered.

Edward looked a little frustrated now. "That is beside the point. The point is that she has been put in danger far too many times already, and it has become glaringly obvious that she would be much safer if I were no longer part of her life."

"But you love her, Edward," Esme said, sounding as though she was having a difficult time wrapping her head around his decision.

"I do," Edward said without hesitation. "Which is why I am letting her go. She deserves better. She deserves to be safe."

"Something tells me Bella won't let you off the hook that easy, Ed," Emmett said with a shake of his head. "She loves you, man. She's not gonna let you dump her just because you're freaked out."

"Oh, there's more to it than just breaking up with her," Alice chimed in before Edward could respond, which made Edward cut his eyes over to her sharply. "Go ahead, Edward," she practically taunted. "Tell them the rest of your genius plan."

Danielle couldn't recall ever hearing Alice speak in such a scathing tone. Judging by the looks she saw the other Cullen's sharing with one another, she would guess it wasn't often that Alice was angered to the point she was at now.

Edward gave Alice another look, then turned his attention back to the rest of them. "Emmett is right. Bella won't take this well. Which is why I think it's time to leave Forks."

It was as if someone had thrown a bucket of ice water on her. Edward freaking out about the accident was understandable – it would have been more shocking if he hadn't freaked out. His decision to dump Bella was extreme already. But…leaving Forks altogether? That was taking things way too far.

She wasn't the only one to think so either, because several people started talking at once.

"Edward, don't you think you're being a little rash?" Esme asked with a worried frown.

"Where would you even go?" Emmett said next.

"You can't just leave!" Danielle blurted out.

Edward held up a hand to silence their protests. "I'm not finished," he said, shooting another grim look toward Alice. "It's not just myself that should be removed from her life. I think it best if we all were no longer associating with Bella. And I think it's time we all left Forks."

Danielle shared a stunned look with Jasper, hardly even able to believe her ears. They couldn't all just up and leave without warning. They had lives in Forks. Carlisle was crucial at the hospital. Alice and Edward were still in school. Esme, with the help of Danielle's mother, had started making friends. And as for Danielle, she had a job, and a brand new house that she loved, and her mother. She couldn't just leave that behind.

"Now, Edward – " Carlisle started to say.

"It's time, Carlisle," Edward interrupted. "You're supposed to look ten years older than you do, and it's only a matter of time before people begin to notice that. Everyone in Forks already thinks that Emmett and Rosalie are off at college. It's only me and Alice in school now, and once we've graduated people will expect us to leave, too. The time for us to move on was approaching already, this is merely expediting the process. Better to do it now before anyone gets suspicious, and before anyone else can get anymore involved with us than they already are," he reasoned.

"He makes a good point," Rosalie offered with a shrug, looking quite unaffected by all of this. "This isn't any different than what we've had to do in the past. We wouldn't have been able to stay here much longer anyway. What difference does it make if we leave now?"

"There's a big difference, actually," Alice said, her tone still angry. "Maybe you don't care about Bella, but there are those of us who do! And I'm not exactly jumping at the chance to abandon one of my best friends!"

"And this is why we don't get involved with humans," Rosalie reminded in a clipped tone. "Maybe some of us shouldn't have broken the rules, then we wouldn't have to worry about it, would we?" she asked, her tone verging on condescending.

While Alice and Jasper glared at Rosalie, Danielle chose to ignore the vampire's comment and focus her anger on Edward. "Well, pardon me, but this whole situation reeks of bullshit," she interjected. "You want everyone to uproot their lives just because you're scared?" Danielle shook her head. "No. It's ridiculous!"

"This is what we do, Dani," Edward shot back. "We don't have the luxury of having a long term home. We move somewhere, stay as long as we can, then move on once we can't keep up the charade anymore. This is what you signed up for when you married Jasper. Maybe that's hard for you to understand now, but I promise you will certainly understand once you're one of us."

Danielle gave him a hard glare. "This will destroy Bella," she said. "You realize that, don't you?"

Edward pressed his lips together, his expression going blank. "She will be upset, but she will recover. And someday, when she can lead a normal life and have a normal relationship with a normal man, she will be thankful that I left."

Danielle gaped at him, unable to believe how cold and callous he was being about the situation. He seemed to have no qualms about breaking the heart of the person he claimed to love. What had happened to the more open-minded version of Edward that had been at her wedding? That Edward had been wildly in love with Bella and had even agreed to consider giving her the life she so desperately wanted with him. Now he was about to rip that life away, and rip up Bella's heart in the process.

Danielle's entire body radiated with fury at the thought, and she had never been so enraged with Edward, that stupid, idiotic, irrational son of a –

"You can call me every foul name you wish to," Edward said, his eyes narrowed with displeasure. Clearly this was one of those times where her thoughts had been forceful enough for him to hear them, even though he actively tried not to read her mind. "I'm only doing what's best."

"No, you're being a chicken shit," Danielle spat back.

"Danielle," Jasper finally interjected, his tone warning.

She felt calmness sweep over her, and though it quelled the anger in her, she still swung narrowed eyes at her husband. "Stop it," she demanded. "I'm allowed to be pissed off!"

Jasper sighed, but did not let up. "We need to discuss this rationally, darlin'," he said calmly. "Name-calling will get us nowhere."

"There's nothing to discuss, because we're not leaving," Danielle shot back.

"Dani," Carlisle finally spoke up, his expression somber when she looked to her father-in-law. "Edward does make some valid points."

Danielle's eyes widened. Edward thinking they should all leave Forks was one thing, but if Carlisle agreed, then that was something else entirely. "We came to Forks knowing we could only stay as long as was feasible," Carlisle explained calmly. "Thus far, we have been able to live here without rousing much suspicion. But the truth is that it is only a matter of time before people do begin to notice that something is different about our family, and once that happens, we will have to move, just as we have been doing for all these years. One way or another, this was always going to happen."

Danielle couldn't think of anything to say to that. She stared at Carlisle for a long moment, before the vampire finally turned his eyes to Edward. "I cannot say I entirely agree with your reasons for wanting to leave," he continued honestly. "But I also will respect the decision you have made, and if your request is that we all separate ourselves from Bella, then I will honor that. Yet, it is not solely my decision whether we stay or go." He paused, then glanced around at the family. "I think it fairest to vote on it."

The announcement had her vampire in-laws all looking to one another thoughtfully, as if they were all silently trying to decide what was best to do. Danielle found her eyes turning to Alice, who's eyes had gone blank in that tell-tale way. After a few seconds, she blinked back to alertness. The vampire then looked at her, and when Danielle saw the sad gleam in her amber colored eyes, she knew exactly what the decision would be.

Danielle sighed with frustration, shook her head, then turned to leave. "Danielle?" Jasper said, stopping her with a gentle hand on her arm. "Where are you going?"

Danielle glanced around at the family, who were all watching her unsurely. "I'm done with this conversation. I'm going home."

Jasper let her go as she pulled her arm free, then she turned to walk away once again. "Dani," Carlisle called after her gently.

Danielle stopped at the stairs to give her in-laws a resolute look. "My vote is no. I still have family here. Leaving like this – leaving because of this – is wrong," she said firmly. Danielle then turned a glare on Edward. "I've never been so disappointed in you."

And with those parting words, Danielle left the Cullen house, slamming the door loudly on her way out.


She did not go back to sleep once she was home, even though it was still early enough for her to get a few more hours before daybreak. No, after that conversation at the Cullen house, Danielle was way too mad to have any hope of getting more rest.

She still didn't understand how Edward could just throw in the towel like that. Sure, she could see why he was so cautious and afraid – it was the same exact reason that Jasper was still cautious and afraid. Edward had made it abundantly clear that Bella's safety was one of his top priorities, especially so after what had happened with James in Phoenix, and she thought it safe to say that he would go to drastic lengths to make sure Bella remained safe and unharmed.

But this? This was going past drastic. Dumping Bella and skipping town just because he was worried something might happen to her was absolutely ridiculous. The fact that he was also determined to drag the whole family out of town with him only made the matter even more ludicrous.

Bella was one of her best friends. She was the first person that had accepted her when she had moved to Forks. First, they had grown close because they had been the new kids on the block. Then they had grown closer as they had both fallen in love with their respective vampires. And after what they had gone through together in Phoenix, their bond was solid and unbreakable now. Bella was practically a sister to her – Danielle would do anything for her.

She already knew how devastated Bella would be once Edward went through with his insane plan. Bella was crazy in love with Edward – she wanted to become a vampire just so she could spend the rest of eternity with him. There was no way Danielle could leave Forks knowing her best friend was going to be in shambles and even feel remotely good about it. Bella was about to have the rug ripped out from underneath her, and if that idiot brother-in-law of hers wasn't going to be there to catch her, then somebody had to be. She had to be there for Bella. She just had to be.

But what made this whole thing even worse was the fact that if Danielle left Forks, she wouldn't just be leaving Bella behind. No, she'd be leaving her mother, too. And that was something she was absolutely not ready for.

She was only going to be human for a few more years, which meant that every moment she had with her mother now was precious. Since there was no telling when – or even if – she would ever see her mother again after she turned, she had planned to take the time she had left to make as many memories with her mother as possible. She had planned to do all the things she knew she wouldn't be able to do once she was a bloodthirsty newborn, like cooking together in the kitchen, or going to the movies, or even just hanging out and watching cheesy sitcoms together. Danielle just wanted to be with her mother while she still had the chance.

If she left Forks, however, she wouldn't be able to. Sure, she'd be able to talk to her on the phone or maybe come in for a visit when time allowed, but it wouldn't be the same. If she left now, these last precious years with her mother would be stolen away, and that was something Danielle knew she would always regret. It was also something she knew she would never forgive Edward for. After all, it was his request that they all leave, so, in her eyes, it would be his fault if she was robbed of the time she had left with her mother.

The more she thought about it, the more pissed off it made her feel. Danielle knew she probably should have felt some level of embarrassment for her outburst at the Cullen house, but she was so mad that she didn't even care. None of it was fair. Not to Bella, not to her mother, not to the Cullen's, not to her.

And she had never resented Edward so much.

Danielle, beyond angry and needing fresh air, eventually went outside to sit on one of the chairs on the front porch. For a long while, she sat in stony silence, stewing in her angry thoughts as her animosity toward Edward grew and festered into something ugly, just waiting for Jasper to come home and deliver the bad news she knew was to come.

It took longer than expected, but finally, as the sun began to rise and light up the forest around the house, Jasper returned. She heard the front door open behind her, then saw him appear in her peripheral vision. After a few tense moments of silence, she finally chanced a look at Jasper. He was standing tall and straight with his hands clasped together behind his back, his expression guarded. He looked as though he was bracing himself for an argument.

Danielle pressed her lips together and turned her eyes forward. "Well?" she asked flatly. "What's the verdict?"

"The family is leaving Forks," Jasper confirmed without beating around the bush.

It was the answer she had been expecting, but it still made anger rush through her veins. She scoffed and shook her head. "So that's it then? Everyone's fine just ditching Bella and going on their merry way?"

"Not everyone," Jasper corrected. "Esme and Alice voted to stay in Forks."

Which meant everyone else must have voted to leave, Danielle reasoned. Carlisle had made it clear he would do whatever Edward asked of them, and Rosalie voting to leave wasn't a surprise. Emmett voting to go stung a little, though – she thought he had liked Bella, and she certainly thought he would understand how leaving Forks would affect her. Danielle thought it safe to assume he'd only voted yes because Rosalie had made him.

Danielle frowned at the thought, then turned a look on Jasper. "And what was your vote?"

Jasper's lips pressed into a hard line, and once again he squared off as if preparing for a battle. "I voted to leave," he admitted.

Hearing those words felt like getting sucker punched. If there was anyone Danielle thought she could count on to try to convince the family to stay, it would have been Jasper. But even her own husband had voted to leave? Jasper was fine with moving away, even though he knew how much it would hurt Danielle to leave her mother behind?

Danielle surged to her feet, feeling hot with anger again. "How could you?" she demanded. "How could you agree to this?"

"It is what's best," Jasper responded.

"The hell it is!" Danielle argued. "We can't leave! We have a life here! I'm not gonna throw all that away just because Edward is being a moron!"

"I don't want to throw that away, either," Jasper countered, his voice raising some. "But, Danielle…" He paused, closed his eyes, then opened them again to pin her with a serious look. "My actions were unacceptable, and I have not felt shame like this since that moment I laid hands on you when we first met," he said, his tone betraying his anguish. "I truly do not think I can ever face Bella again. Perhaps wanting to leave makes me a coward, perhaps it makes me selfish. But any of the confidence that I had in myself has vanished. I need to be away from this place so that I can try to find that confidence again."

Danielle felt her anger slowly drain away at those words, and it wasn't because Jasper had made it happen.

Of course that was why Jasper wanted to leave. Despite her unwavering faith in him, Jasper had always struggled with trusting himself around not only her, but all the humans he came into contact with. With her constant encouragement, he had gotten better about believing in himself…but what had happened at Bella's birthday party had truly shaken him to the core. She knew that because she had seen firsthand just how torn up he had been in the aftermath. Any of the confidence he had gained was gone, and try as she might, Danielle couldn't remember ever seeing him feeling so low about himself.

She stared at him for a long moment, until her eyes began to blur with incoming tears. She couldn't be angry with him for wanting to leave, not when his reason was completely valid. Danielle wasn't the only one hurting right now – Jasper was hurting, too. But that didn't make the thought of leaving any easier.

"What about my mother?" she asked, her voice thick with emotion. "I don't have that much time with her. How can I leave now, knowing I may never see her again once I'm turned?"

Jasper pressed his lips together, his eyes turning down to his boots. "I've thought about that actually," he said. He hesitated, then lifted his gaze to hers again, his expression difficult to read. "You could…stay here, if you wanted to," he said, though it seemed like it was difficult for him to get the words out.

Danielle blinked in shock, and though she had spent the past few hours angry beyond words, suddenly she felt hurt and afraid. Did this mean Jasper didn't want her to come with him? Did this mean that he wanted to spend some time apart after all? "What? You…you don't want me to come with you?"

Jasper immediately shook his head. "That's not it at all, darlin'," he said quickly. "I do want you to come." He paused to take a moment to think about what he was going to say. "But I also know how important Lynne is to you. I know how afraid you are of losing her," he said. "The last thing I want is to take away whatever time you have left with your mother. So, if you wanted, you could stay. Just for a little while," he suggested. "Once we are settled again, once I feel…confident…again, then you can join us."

Danielle stared at him for a moment, then turned her gaze to the surrounding trees as she considered what he had offered.

He was giving her an out, giving her the option to stay behind. The Cullen's would leave and go off to find a new place to call their temporary home, but she could stay in Forks to be with her mother and help Bella through the fallout of Edward leaving. Then, when the time was right, she could rejoin Jasper and they could continue on with their lives. In theory, it wasn't the worst plan she had ever heard.

But the reality of that plan meant being separated from Jasper, and as much as she hated the idea of leaving Forks, she hated the idea of being away from him much, much more. She had already gotten a taste of what it might feel like to be parted from him when he had run off last night, and she did not like it at all. If she stayed behind, how long would she have to wait to be reunited with him again? A week? A month? A year?

No. She couldn't do that. Jasper was her husband. He was the love of her life. He was everything to her. They had fought so hard to get to where they were – she couldn't let him slip away from her now, not even if it was only temporary. If Jasper wasn't in a good place after the accident, if he needed help finding faith in himself, then who better to help him do that than her? Yes, she loved her mother, and yes, she knew that Bella would need her once Edward was gone. But Jasper needed her, too. How could she turn her back on him when he was at his weakest?

Danielle knew then what had to be done. She pressed her lips together tightly, the tears that had been blurring her vision finally spilling over and streaking down her cheeks. Danielle didn't bother wiping them away, choosing instead to let the tears fall freely.

"No," she finally said, her tearful gaze turning back to Jasper. The sight of her so torn up with emotion seemed to pain him. "Last night I told you that I would never give up on you, I told you that I would always be there for you, and I meant that." Danielle sniffled as more tears streaked down her cheeks. "I don't want to be away from my mom and Bella…but being away from you?" She shook her head. "I can't do that. I won't do that. Not when you need me the most."

Danielle closed her eyes and sucked in a shaky breath. The fight had drained out of her by now, because she knew now that the decision had been made before she had even realized it. It would hurt leaving Bella, and it would hurt worse being away from her mom. But Jasper was her top priority, and wherever he went, that was where she was supposed to be, too.

"I'm coming with you," she said before she could second guess herself.

"Danielle – " Jasper started to say.

"I'm coming with you," she repeated firmly, giving him a look that said not to argue with her about it. "Where you go, I go. And that's that."

She thought she saw guilt flash through his eyes. "What about Lynne?" he asked.

The thought of her mother brought fresh tears to her eyes, but she just shrugged and smiled sadly. "I can always come and visit, right?" she asked with little enthusiasm.

Jasper did not return her smile. He seemed too downtrodden to smile. "And Bella?" he asked next.

There was no denying the guilt that ripped through her, but Danielle merely shook her head helplessly. "I'll do what I can from afar, I guess," she said, feeling like an awful friend already.

"Edward wanted all of us to cease contact with her," Jasper pointed out.

"Well, Edward can kiss my ass," Danielle retorted, her tone biting. "I'll agree to leave so I can be with you, but I'm not gonna cut ties with Bella just because he's being a dumbass. If he doesn't like me talking to her, then that's his problem," she said with finality.

Jasper seemed to understand that she would not be swayed on the subject, and merely nodded in acceptance.

Danielle sucked in a breath, wiped the tears from her face, then crossed her arms tightly over her chest. "So when is this happening?" she asked once she had a better handle on her emotions. "How long do we have?"

"The plan is to go to Ithaca," Jasper said, making Danielle blink with surprise – they had decided where to go already? "A hospital reached out to Carlisle some time ago to try to recruit him. He's going to take the position. He, Esme, and Alice will be leaving in a few days after they settle affairs here. Emmett and Rosalie are considering spending some time in Europe and will likely leave tomorrow."

Danielle shook her head – it was all happening so fast. Too fast. "And Edward?"

"He'll be leaving after he…talks with Bella," Jasper answered carefully. "He plans to go his own way, take some time to himself."

Danielle wasn't very sad to hear that Edward wasn't going to be around. "Good. I don't think I want to be around him anytime soon," she admitted. Jasper didn't say anyting to that. She sighed as she thought about all that she had learned, then quirked a brow. "So we're going to Ithaca then?"

Jasper went quiet for a moment or two, then he unclasped his hands and shoved them into his pockets as he moved to stand closer to her. "We could do that," he said. "Or…we could go off on our own, too. Take some time to ourselves," he suggested next. "We were discussing doing some travelling already. There would be no better time to do it than now."

The proposal swiftly reminded Danielle of something Alice had said to her right after they had gotten back from the honeymoon. The vampire had asked Danielle if she and Jasper had plans to leave Forks, because she'd had a vision of them leaving together. Perhaps this was what Alice had seen – her and Jasper going their own way now that the Cullen's had decided they could no longer stay in Forks.

The offer was too appealing to refuse. She adored her in-laws, but she and Jasper hardly ever had alone time. Even now, living together in a separate house, they still saw the family on a daily basis. It would be nice to have real privacy for a change. Maybe if it was just the two of them, things would be simpler. Maybe it would be easier for Jasper to find his confidence again.

"Do you feel okay being away from Carlisle?" she asked unsurely, knowing very well how important and crucial Carlisle was when it came to helping Jasper maintain their lifestyle.

Jasper nodded slowly. "It will be strange being away from him," he admitted. Finally, he gave her a flicker of a smile. "But I'll have you. And you are all I need."

Danielle gave him a tiny smile, took one more second to think about it, then finally nodded. "Okay," she agreed. "Let's do it."

Jasper raised his brows questioningly. "Are you sure?"

Danielle nodded again. "Yes." The decisiveness in her tone made Jasper nod in acceptance. "When should we go?"

"The sooner the better," Jasper answered. "Once you have said your goodbye's to Bella and your mother, we should be on our way."

Danielle nodded, then cringed as she thought about her mother again. "What the hell am I gonna tell her?" she wondered aloud, rubbing a hand over her face. "All of this is so sudden. She's gonna be a freaking mess when she finds out we're leaving."

Jasper finally moved close enough to be able to rub a gentle hand along her back. "We've still got some time," he said. "We'll think of something."

Danielle sighed heavily, then leaned into Jasper, wrapping her arms tightly around his waist and laying her head against his solid shoulder. Jasper slowly slid an arm around her shoulders to pull her closer, resting his chin atop her head. She took a few moments to admire the pretty flowers Esme had planted in their yard, then glanced around at the cozy porch they stood on. There was a pang in her heart as she came to the realization that she had no idea when they'd be able to come back to their house again.

"We barely got to spend any time here," she said sadly. "I'm really gonna miss it."

Jasper pressed a kiss to her hair. "We'll come back someday. I promise."

Danielle just nodded, hoping that day would be sooner rather than later.

She let out a heavy sigh as she closed her eyes and hugged Jasper tighter. Though she had known the aftermath from the accident wouldn't be pretty, she had never expected things to take the turn that they had. But here they were, on the verge of closing the door on their life in Forks and venturing into the unknown. That simple, blissful life she had been enjoying was evaporating right before her very eyes. The Cullen's were all going their separate ways, she had to leave her mother and her friend behind, and she had no idea where she and Jasper were going to go, nor how long they would be gone for. Everything felt so uncertain now, and she hated everything about it.

"Everything's gonna be okay, right?" Danielle asked meekly, needing Jasper to give her hope that things might go back to normal someday.

Jasper hesitated to answer. "I hope so, darlin'," he finally said.

It wasn't the answer she had wanted, but it was likely the best she was going to get. After all, neither of them knew what would happen once they left Forks. But no matter what life threw at them now, at least she and Jasper were going to be together. And as long as they had one another, they would find a way to make this new, unexpected chapter of their lives work.


You didn't really think I'd let Jasper abandon Dani, did you? C'mon now! It's like y'all don't even know me!

Anywho, I hope you enjoyed this chapter. It was a little challenging, because in the original version they were just like, "We have to leave? Okay, cool. Peace out!" and then just jetted off without saying goodbye to anyone, so I didn't have much to work with. Oy. Yet more proof why this story needed serious revising before being shown to the public again. (Seriously, y'all, the original was a dumpster fire.)

But I hope you enjoyed the chapter! As soon as this baby of mine figures out how to nap for longer than thirty minutes at a time, I'll get to work on the next chapter! Until then, stay safe and happy reading!

In the next chapter of J&D – Dani breaks the news to her mom, Bella gets dumped, and Dani has an awkward encounter with someone.