SAMPLE ENTRY!

Title: A Slice of Heaven

Summary: There was once a vampire trying to find peace and remember his humanity via running a pie shop who met his clutzy human mate, whose serving tray somehow granted her balance. Seeing there's always a villain to these tales, there was also Vile Mike Newton who had the potential to meet the real werewolves in Siberia despite their dwindle numbers.

Pairing: Jasper/Bella

Rating: T

Word Count: 8390

DISCLAIMER: Twilight and its inclusive material is copyright to Stephenie Meyer. Original creation, including but not limited to plot and characters, is copyright to the respective authors of each story. No copyright infringement is intended.

I picked through each berry, examining each individual one for blemishes or bruising. Then after I sorted all of them for cosmetic perfection, I smelled each of them in order to pick the ones that have reached the perfect ripeness. So that each berry, when bitten into, would be perfectly sweet. I wanted it to be the most perfect pie I ever made so I could give it to the person I'd come to care for most in this world.

If only she knew.

Right after I got the berries put in a bowl and set on a shelf directly beneath my workstation, said person came walking through the swinging door that separated the kitchen from the dining area. I went back to making the ever-popular cherry pie and observed her with my natural stealth. She was all rosy cheeks and bright eyes this morning. Her black capris were tight, showing off her lovely form as did her fitted red polo. Usually she wore either tennis shoes or ballet flats. Today was no exception and I eyed the old, yet very comfortable looking, red Chuck Taylors she was wearing. They looked like they had about walked their last mile. I made a mental note to order her a new pair and sweet talk or bribe her into taking them, whichever worked first. She never wore heels, and I had quickly found out why.

The girl tripped over air and shadows, as was evidenced when she tripped over literally nothing when she came into my office for her interview. I was nervous when I first hired her because I was sure I'd end up replacing all my plates within a month and all my customers would be gone due to wearing their dessert one time too many. Although, to date, she's never broken a dish while she's serving or bringing back dishes. It's as if her serving tray gives her this magical sense of balance.

She gave me a sweet smile as she sliced two pieces of fresh, hot apple pie and added a generous scoop of ice cream to each before heading back out. I heard the laughter and joking conversations of the men and women she was serving. Must be the local night shift coming by to satisfy their sweet tooth.

It made me wonder, and not the first time, about her sense of self preservation. I was inclined to believe she didn't have any. People usually avoided my kind like the plague. I had opened this business under the guidance of my pseudo-mother in order to connect to people better. Or rather, to help avoid seeing them as food.

I'd gotten interested in the idea of making and serving deserts from Esme. Every year, around Thanksgiving and Christmas, she'd make tons of candy, pies and cakes and distribute them throughout the community and to shelters. One year, when I'd fallen off the wagon and was being particularly hard on myself, she apparently thought I'd needed a mother's touch. So she coaxed me into the kitchen to come help her. After putting my hands in it and working the dough, picking through the ingredients, going by the scent to see when it's perfectly done, I found it soothing that I could create something so perfect when I myself was not.

I had offhandedly said something about wishing to be able to do that a lot more often and Esme got this look on her face. Edward had glanced over at her, his expression reading that he felt she was out of her mind and asked what would happen if I slipped and had to risk disposing of everyone in a dessert shop. She informed Edward that it was like me being at high school every day. There was always the risk of something happening, but maybe if I wasn't around the rest of them, feeling their bloodlust on top of mine, I would be more successful in my journey to conquer it.

Esme saw it in the way that she looked at her gardening. If she separated one plant from the rest of the group, it would give it room to grow. Make it to where it didn't have to compete with the others for nutrients, where it was out from under the shadow of the others, it would have better chances at growth. I was personally tired of being in the shadow of everyone else's success. I needed my own space and sunlight, so to speak.

Edward conceded on this point. With those points and rationale brought to light, he thought that maybe it would be a good idea after all and became more supportive.

I was iffy on the entire prospect. I knew I could always get there before the sun came up to start things in order to avoid any possible sunlight, but that was another thing to think of. Luckily Esme took over the project entirely, down to the location. All I had to do was supply yes's and no's on layouts, color schemes, furniture and the like.

I smiled a bit as I thought of my mother figure. Had it not been for her, I wouldn't have been able to find this bit of happiness, despite its temporary place in my life. I only had maybe ten more years or so to stay at this location before people got suspicious. Whether I'll pack up and try again or sell it all was yet to be decided. I dismissed those thoughts as I broke up pecans into chunks with my fingers.

I moved around the workstation, heading to get eggs and looked through the picture window opening. Esme had placed it to where I could see a good portion of the dining area and front counter. I watched as Bella wandered from table to table, smiling sweetly, seeing if anyone needed a refill or another slice.

I barely had to concentrate on the delicate eggs anymore when I cracked them. Although, when I first started, I went through dozens of them to be able to crack them just enough rather than sending egg splattering everywhere. After I had a dozen eggs in the bowl, I added the corn syrup, sugar, melted butter, vanilla and was about to add the mix to the pecans in their pie shells when Bella came back in and took a peek into the bowl.

With a wrinkled nose and a glance from me to the bowl and back she commented, as she always did on the contents.

"That looks gross Jazz. Like clear gooey snot with sugar and eggs mixed in." She moved around me, picking up pieces of hot blueberry pie as well as a couple of pieces of rhubarb.

"It does sugar, but we both know that once it comes out of that hot oven, it is your favorite thing." I knew for a fact her favorite was strawberry, hence the special pie I had been working on. She picked up her tray and eyeballed me like I'd lost my fucking mind. Perhaps I had.

"You know good and well my favorite is your homemade strawberry pie." She stuck her tongue out at me as she backed through the swinging door, heading out to drop off her goodies and do her rounds. I poured the mixture over the nuts finally, sliding them into the oven and turning back to my project.

I pulled the berry bowl back out again, picked out eighteen and sliced them in halves, then into quarters. After I was done with those, I stuck them into the refrigerator, behind the gallons of milk on the top shelf. I took the rest of the perfect berries and finely chopped them, dumping them into their own little bowl before stashing them with the others. It wouldn't take long to make it and I planned to do it later while making it seem like I was starting my heavy-duty cleaning. Once a week I did hardcore cleaning and would close every Wednesday to get every nook and cranny. I usually started at the close of business on Tuesday and went through the night before slinking up to my apartment in the building above to get some 'sleep'. Really it was just a day off for me to do my own thing.

Sometimes Bella would join me if her boyfriend was being especially hateful or if her insomnia was acting up. All too well I remembered the first time she'd joined me. She'd been passing by outside, returning from the corner market at around two in the morning with a half-gallon of chocolate milk. I'd been holding a glass up to the light and inspecting it for a chip when she'd wandered past, sipping away on her chocolate milk. She'd glanced in and kept going before coming to an abrupt halt and back tracking. I'd felt her immense confusion, but continued inspecting the glass in order to not give myself away. She'd tapped on the glass door and I pretended to jump a little before pretending that I hadn't known she was there before.

I'd smiled, opened the door for her, locking it back after she came in and asked what in the world she was doing by herself so late at night. She said she couldn't sleep and wanted chocolate milk. I'd known there was more to the story but had no reason to question her. So, I'd let it go. She'd wanted to help, but I'd talked her into just keeping me company. Thanks to my abnormal speed, I'd done most of it already, so I was able to leisurely finish up within an hour.

When we were done, I'd led her upstairs, which confused her because she didn't know that I lived up there too. When I told her, she commented on how small of a world it really was. If she only knew. We had to pass her door to get to mine at the opposite end of the building. When she went to unlock the door, it was yanked out of her hands by her boyfriend, the vile Mike Newton, who was waiting right in the entryway for her to get home. He began to yell at her, not paying me any mind and not caring that it was absurdly late.

Something snapped inside of me at that point. I felt protective instincts that had been long buried rise up in me and force me to take action. I'd been unmated thus far, but I knew that was all going to change. I'd felt the same reactions in Peter over Charlotte before when he'd figured out they were mates, so I knew what was going on.

I'd pulled her behind me and stood to my full height, dousing him in fear and paranoia. I'd then informed him that if I ever heard of him mistreating her or even raising his voice to her again, he would be squid food and his bones would be scattered across Siberia. I knew my eyes had changed from their honey color to onyx. Hard and unforgiving just like the stone as well. My mouth twisted into a snarl, showing my perfect, venom coated teeth. I felt the faintest vibrations come from my chest from a growl I was trying to suppress. I didn't need Bella terrified of me. Long story short, I'd about made the boy shit himself.

After retrieving her keys from the door, I'd insisted she spend the rest of the day with me. Luckily, I'd had food in the refrigerator from where I would make and distribute meals to the elderly in our building a few times a week. I paid the teenager next door to do all my footwork for me. They never knew where the meals came from, but I could usually feel the gratitude and love coming from them. It made me feel good to brighten someone's day rather than being the reason for fear, terror and sadness.

I'd made Bella some pancakes to go with her chocolate milk before settling her in my bed for a day's sleep. From then on, if she and Mike were having problems, she'd come stay at my place because she knew it was a safe haven. For some reason she felt the same about me. The more she came to stay at my place, the more problems they had. It was getting particularly bad as of late and I was starting to worry that it was going to come to blows and that I was going to have to kill him rather than just terrorize him. Of course, the fact that I would be killing to protect or avenge my mate wouldn't bother me a fraction of what it would if I had killed someone on accident.

When things lulled, she got out her lunch from behind the counter and started nibbling on it. I decided to go ahead and make the pie. The longer it refrigerated, the better the flavors would marry together. I took the minced berries and mashed the daylights out of them. Then I mixed together my sugar and cornstarch, sifting it multiple times to make sure there were zero lumps. My perfect eyesight made it easy to spot any that would be hidden in the pile. I would pick them out and carefully smash them back into individual tiny grains again, doing my best not to obliterate them all together. After everything was to my satisfaction, I combined my mashed berries, sugar and cornstarch in a pot on the stove, cooking it until it was perfect. Before I removed it from the heat, I arranged the berries neatly in the pie shell and slowly poured the filling over everything until it just reached the top. Finally, I stuffed it under my workstation behind a few stacks of pie pans so it could cool to room temperature.

I kept an eye on things going on in the front room as usual while I worked, making my confections. I kept going over ideas in my head. I'd been planning on trying to woo Bella away from that insipid Mike Newton since I first learned she was with him. I couldn't force her of course, so I had to fall back on charming her properly and totally without my gift. That would be too easy and Bella was more than worth the effort I would need to put in. She deserved it. Thankfully I had vampire nature on my side.

When vampires mated, they had a tendency to understand things about their mate without having to be told. Males always knew when they'd met their mate; it was like the universe finally made sense and he felt a sense of profound belonging. This was not always the case with female vampires. Although she may not recognize her mate right away, once her mate was found, and the connection realized with her male counterpart, she wouldn't try to find a mate in anyone else. She had the option to walk away from him, but only he could make her truly happy; make her feel as if she truly belonged. A male always had the option to walk away too but he would never feel that sense of belonging as long as he wasn't with her. It was like wearing a pink sock with a blue sock. It could work, but it wouldn't seem quite right. Some vampires didn't care and did walk away- but I couldn't fathom it. I didn't think I could walk away from Bella, and hopefully she wouldn't want to walk away from me either. There were other exceptions to this of course. Some women found their mates in other women and the same for some men. It was just more of a rarity given the postage stamp size of our population.

I took comfort in those thoughts, that probability was on my side that she'd accept me. Carlisle and I had talked at length about the subject of mating and I'd asked him why he thought it was that way. He theorized that people and vampires alike were awful headstrong. If they felt like they had no choice in the matter, they could end up fighting it and causing strife and issues for both mates. His view was that it was nature's way of smoothing things over. It typically made the man prove himself in the eyes of the female and show her that he was worthy of being the other half of her soul. For the females, it gave them a sense of belonging and security in knowing they were the center of someone's universe but still had the power of choice. Balance in all things.

I puttered around in the kitchen, pulling my hair back in a ponytail when I finally got tired of it being in my face. I had enough sweets made at the moment so I decided to take a break myself. I wiped my hands on a dishtowel and threw it across my shoulder before going over to the picture window and leaning through it, resting on my forearms. I watched as Bella finished up with a customer before turning around.

"I'm goin' in the office for a little bit. You yell if you need anything, ya hear?" I asked with a half grin and a cocked eyebrow.

She came over to lean across the countertop on her side of the window, pulling her hair back in a pair of low pigtails as she did.

"Yeah Boss, I hear," She said with a bit of sauciness. "Tell Peter I said hi!"

I laughed and flicked the end of her nose, causing her to squeak and swat at me with the dish towel that was tucked into her apron. I retreated to my office and plopped down in front of the computer, bringing up Skype immediately and setting up for a video conference with Peter. When his visage appeared on my screen I grinned broadly.

"Hi brother," I was always happy to talk to Peter.

"Heya Jazz. How's things?" He asked, referring to the Bella situation but not saying her name in case she was anywhere near.

"Getting better all the time. I think we're almost there, just a little while longer now," I said with an excited grin. And it was just a matter time before Newton messed up bad enough for me to go after him. She would be able to come with me and never care about looking back. Then my real work would begin.

"Just a note on that, be prepared not to kill him. I don't think your woman would handle that too well with her being human and all. You have to remember that she's still a delicate creature," he cautioned.

Not killing Newton would be easier said than done. Once my baser instincts took over, it was an all-out war to regain control. "I'll keep it in mind but I can't make any guarantees," I said with a slight sigh. I would hate to hurt her that way but shit happened sometimes.

"Nothing is ever guaranteed, Jazz. We just do what we can and deal with what can't be helped," He said, bringing back memories of days long gone. It was what I used to tell him when we were with Maria. It applied to so many situations we'd been through and after a while it sorta became our motto.

"So true, Pete. Welp, I gotta get back into the kitchen, keep an eye on you know who," I said, with a bit of a grin.

"Indeed. Well, I suppose I'll talk to you after while. Charlotte just got done setting the new hot tub up, so now it's time to test it out and see how long it can survive us!" He said with a wicked little smirk. I scrunched my nose at him.

"And with that, I'm out! Good luck with your tub!" I quickly said before he could get another detail or idea in and disconnected us.

I knew way too much of their sexual escapades already. I didn't need any more details on that topic.

I hauled myself from my chair and went back to retrieve the pie from its hiding place to check its progress. I decided to make the whipped cream later so I just stuck it back in the back, behind the milk again.

The rest of the day passed quickly and before too much longer, it was time to close up. I cleaned at a human speed with my bag of toothbrushes, which I used to get into every nook and cranny. I moved the workstation when I was sure Bella was sufficiently distracted. She was preoccupied shining the stainless-steel bars of all the chairs with the blue can of industrial cleaner and some absorbent blue paper towels. I used my natural speed to scrub the tile beneath it as well as the grout. Once it was as white as the rest of everything else, I moved the workstation back.

I then went through the workstation itself, making sure everything was perfect. I cleaned the refrigerators quickly and then moved on to the ovens and cook tops, cleaning them at a leisurely human pace. I didn't need to get done too quickly or she'd start questioning me. I'd look out every once in a while and monitor what she was doing. I was rewarded once with a perfect view of her ass while she was bent over, scrubbing something off of one of the booth's seats.

I licked my lips, refocusing back on what I was doing before I was caught. Once everything was sparkling clean, I made what's called stabilized whipped cream. Regular whipped cream was light and fluffy, but this stuff was thick and went perfectly with the pie. I dumped it all in a piping bag and pulled the pie out, decorating it with puffy stars. I quickly cleaned that up and took a look at my masterpiece.

If she didn't like it, I don't think I'd ever make a strawberry pie ever again. I took a peek out the window again and watched as she dusted her hands off and looked around. I'd come back down later and do a more in depth detailing while she was dreaming. I would bet she was going to stay the night with me again, so I would have to be quick. I let those thoughts slip away as I called to her and told her to go wash her hands and take a load off.

She gave me a sweet smile before going to fulfill my request. I took that opportunity to pour her a cup of coffee, complete with a little sugar and some amaretto. I stirred the coffee gently, enjoying the way the two liquids mixed and how the colors swirled into one another until it was completely blended. I took a small tray, loaded it with the coffee, utensils, and a plate, which I knew was useless because she preferred to eat her pie from the pan when given the chance. But I always brought her one anyway when I'd make her a dessert.

I gathered the tray in one hand and picked up the pie with the other, balancing it easily and sliding it behind my back. By the time I maneuvered out to the dining room, she was sitting in her favorite booth, right in front of the center window. I sat the tray down in front of her and then the pie. She looked at it with surprise, eager to find out what was beneath the thick, creamy topping. She let her eyes roam the surface before picking up and plunging her fork into it, right in the middle. She wiggled the utensil around, getting mostly filling and very little crust before pulling it out. Her eyes widened at the sight of the strawberries before they lit up with excitement, the matching glee radiating off of her in waves. She'd been asking for this since I'd started randomly making her pies to thank her for helping me with my cleaning process when she didn't have to. I always made a different one each time and hadn't repeated any of them yet.

She slid the fork in her mouth and let the flavors roll around on her tongue before she let out a delectable little moan of pure pleasure. The sound embedded itself in my brain for future 'stress relief' before making my venom boil. What I wouldn't give to take her to the back and bend her across my workstation. I may not be able to eat pie or be able to chow down on her, but I was quite capable of the delight of eating that sweet pussy of hers before fucking her within an inch of her life.

I shoved that thought off to the side, letting another section of my brain wander off to formulate an entire set of fantasies. I was a man deprived of playtime with his mate so that part was stuck in high gear and would continue to be until I got to bed her good and proper. Of course, that would be after Mike was out of the picture. It would be an easy fix, though, I just had to be patient a little while longer. He had almost enough rope to hang himself as it was.

"So, how is it?" I asked, despite the fact that I already knew from both her emotions and the look on her face. Pleasure, satisfaction and happiness radiated out of her as she enjoyed each bite slowly, savoring it.

"Heavenly perfection," she said simply between bites "The best fucking pie I've ever had in my entire life. You've ruined all other strawberry pies for me you know," she blamed me, playfully.

I grinned, feeling warmth spread throughout my chest with the knowledge that I pleased my mate so supremely with her favorite dessert. I gave her a pleased grin in reply, not wanting to distract her with talking while her mouth was busy doing delightful things to that fork.

She ate about a third of it before setting her fork down with contentment clear on her face and emitting from her in waves.

"If I don't stop now, I'm going to end up eating the whole thing," She said, looking at the pie longingly. I did her a favor and slid it back towards me and pushed the coffee towards her instead.

"It'll still be just as good as it is now for a few days if we put it in the refrigerator," I soothed.

She looked at me mischievously as she brought her cup to her lips, "I hope you're talking about the refrigerator upstairs. That would make for an excellent breakfast," she snickered into her cup before taking another sip.

I rolled my eyes with a good-natured grin, "Indeed. What if I made you a baked oatmeal with fresh strawberries? Would that tempt you into letting the dessert remain down here?" I tried to compromise as I rolled a partially filled cup of coffee between my hands, letting them absorb the warmth so I would feel a little bit more human when I touched her. Of course, I had always told her when she commented on my temperature that I had poor circulation and was almost always cold.

She thought about my proposition for a few moments before conceding with a stipulation of her own, "Only if you put bananas in it too."

"Bananas too, done deal," I laughed silently as I licked my bottom lip. I would have given her the pie, had she really wanted it.

I glanced at the clock and saw that it was well past four in the morning. "Let's go upstairs shall we?"

She replied with a nod before tipping her cup back to polish off her coffee.

"Your place or mine?" I asked. I always asked and so far she had always chosen my place. She always told me that she didn't want to ruin a lovely evening with me by going up and facing an irate and jealous Mike. He had always thought that we were down here fucking. She, of course, didn't tell me that last part, but I'd heard him accuse her of it.

"Yours. I just need to stop by the apartment and get some fresh clothes for when I wake up." She started gathering the plates and placed them on the tray. I was going to take them, but she cheated and asked me to fill her a large to-go cup with coffee. I did so, letting her have her way with the dishes and before long we were headed upstairs, talking and laughing quietly.

We stopped at her apartment door, our conversation fading out in our attempt to be quiet and not wake Mike. She unlocked the door as silently as humanly possible and opened it, slipping in. I almost always waited outside even when she invited me in, but I felt compelled to follow her this time. She never understood why I rarely came in, but made sure I knew that it was an ongoing offer.

I slithered through the doorway, trying not to open it much farther. It had a rather loud squeak that maintenance always seemed to put off fixing. I froze when I heard the cup of coffee hit the floor and the liquid go splattering all over everything. My head snapped to the right, to the kitchen. The laundry room was just beyond and that's where she would have gone for fresh clothes in order to avoid waking an assumedly sleeping Mike.

I would have immediately thought that he'd hit her, but I'd heard nothing to indicate it and her head wasn't turned to the side. I felt his anger wash over me and knew my eyes were going obsidian. He'd knocked the cup from her hand before grabbing her wrist. He was asking her in quiet rage if she'd enjoyed fucking her boss all night long before telling her that she'd better have enjoyed it while it lasted because she was going to quit her job the very next day. Especially since she still hadn't done anything with him yet. She protested, fear and indignation rolling off of her, informing Mike otherwise before suggesting that they just break up, since all they did was fight. That was the last thing that connected in my brain because he brought his other hand up with the intentions to hit her this time. My inner vampire took over at that point.

"I've told you before, boy, that if you so much as raised your voice to her what I would do to you. You've made a fatal mistake by ignoring my warning," My voice came out as terrifying as I'd planned, causing the two of them to jump and Mike to lose his grip on Bella.

I stalked out of the darkness of the shadows, gently moving her to the side on my way to the little twerp, sending a deluge of terror and panic straight to him. I had full intentions of draining him so that I wouldn't make a mess as I dissected him for the squids and prepared his bones for the Wolves of Siberia, La Push shapeshifters be damned. They would be none the wiser anyway. The idea of him being a chew toy for the real Wolves pleased me due to all the quiet chewings he gave Bella after his jealousy hit boiling point. If she hadn't thrown his attitude right back at him I would have done this sooner. I grasped him by his fragile neck and started backing him up until his back hit the laundry room door. From there I stared squeezing. His fear wasn't quite as high as I wanted and it should at least equal how Bella felt when she saw his raised hand. When he started turning a dark red though, I felt a soft hand on my bare forearm and heard her gentle, pleading voice.

"Jasper, please stop. Let's just go back to your place and forget about this asshole... Please..." Her eyes were begging me and she was radiating desperation.

I thought about what killing him in front of her could do and how it would affect how she saw and felt about me and I knew I had to respect her wishes. Anything she asked would be done. I let him go and watched, disdainfully, as he slid down the door, taking in much needed oxygen.

"Be grateful that she asks for your life to be spared. You will not speak to her, unless she initiates it and you will not seek her out. You will find somewhere else to live within thirty days and you will not come back here afterwards. Do you understand?" I wasn't willing to budge on those terms either. If he tried to guilt her or disrupt her life further, I'd wait until she was sleeping one night and track him down and complete my threat.

I heard her as she scooped up her bag, then felt her warm little hands as she wrapped them around my elbow and began to tug on me. She exuded relief, which in turn helped me wrangle my inner beast back into his cage. I didn't want to scare her any more than I already had. I turned and tucked her into my side before leading her back out and over to my apartment. After I let us in, I began to feel guilty for my little display back there. I should have sent her on down here so I wouldn't scare her. But had I done that, I would have undoubtedly killed the little brat and that would have done worse damage in the end. She needed to know me as a man, rather than a capable killer despite that that's who I was.

I took her bag to the bathroom and sat out a couple of towels for her, knowing she'd want a shower before she went to sleep. I went back out and found her sitting on the couch, chewing on the bottom corner of her lip. She was sad, yet relieved. I could understand it. She and Mike had been friends, then best friends for years, which morphed into a romantic relationship in high school. It was hard on her to end that after everything they'd been through together. On the flip side, his change in treatment of her had been wearing her down.

Her emotional state was grinding on me, I had to try to make it at least a little better. I went over and knelt on the floor in front of her.

"I'm so sorry, Sugar. For everything," I murmered.

She scooted to the edge of the couch and I pulled her to me so she could tuck her head into my neck. My sweet girl didn't want me to see her cry. I let her feel what she needed to feel as she released her sorrow over everything into me and onto me. My hands gently rubbed her back and stroked her hair as I whispered reassurances and comforting words into her ear. After a while, she'd released most of her sorrow and all that was left behind was a minor ache. I began to add in feelings of safety and security. Eventually she pulled back, but paused to kiss my cheek.

"Thank you, Jasper, for everything: for helping me, taking care of me, letting me stay with you, and for being my friend," her fingers tucked some of my curls behind my ear and it was all I could not to lean into her hand or capture her lips with mine. I had to be patient.

"Always, Bella. I will always be here for you. I promise." That was a guarantee. "Now, why don't you go take a hot shower or a bubble bath or something and I'll make you some actual food. How does that sound?" I gave her the charming smile that I knew she had a hard time resisting.

"That sounds perfect. Just don't make anything big," she requested as she got up.

She went to the bathroom and I went to the kitchen to peer into the refrigerator. I pondered while I heard the shower turn on and decided to do a half of a sub sandwich for her. I got out the cold cuts and some tomatoes, arranging everything on a split sub roll before cutting it in half. I wrapped up one half and stuck it in the fridge so she could have it later. The other half I stuck in the oven under the broiler to heat up the meat and cheese right as she came out of the bathroom in her pajamas. I plated her sandwich and set it and a can of Coke on the bar.

She came over, climbing up on the bar stool and thanked me before slowly consuming her meal. Bella asked me if I was going to have anything to eat and I just shook my head, telling her I wasn't hungry. After the words were out of my mouth I felt her confusion, then felt her determination solidify. I had a feeling I knew what was coming.

"Jasper, why don't you ever eat in front of me?" It was an innocent question and she had her features schooled into matching the tone of her query. I would have been fooled had I not been able to feel what she was feeling right then.

So, I was honest, telling her some about my kind and shared with her a little about myself when the whole topic of being gifted was brought up. I expected her to run away screaming, but she surprised me. She stayed in her spot and she wasn't afraid.

I commented on how she was still sitting there and she asked me what I expected her to do. I expressed my expectations and she informed me that it would take more than my nature to scare her off. I was impressed.

I had my suspicions that she'd already been formulating theories and had prepared herself for Lord knows what answer. Otherwise she'd likely have been outta here like a lightning bolt, screaming all the way. The fact that we're true mates helped things out as well. I paused a second as I heard rain starting to fall rapidly. It would be an excellent day for her to sleep. My eyes caught the clock and widened.

"Sugar, you need some sleep. Let's go to the bedroom." I stood and moved to scoop her up off the couch, where we'd moved to when Bella had started squirming on the barstool.

"Will you stay in there with me? At least until I fall asleep? I'd like to talk a little more. Please?" She batted her lashes at me and gave a sweet grin. I fell for it easily.

"If you wish it, then of course." I took her in, using a little of my speed, and lay her on her favored side of the bed, pulling the covers up over her and tucking her in. I lay beside her, facing her so we could easily watch each other as we talked. I felt her curiosity and knew when she started nibbling on that portion of her lower lip again that she was going to tell me something. It didn't take her long.

"I feel so differently when I'm with you. I'm never afraid and I feel more confident, which is weird. I can tell you anything, everything, and it seems so natural to be able to share myself with you like that. It feels... I don't know... Right? Everything just feels right when I'm with you, no matter what we're doing," she said.

She was stretched out, facing me with her head on a pillow and her arm tucked under it. She looked like she belonged there. I took a deep, albeit unneeded breath, deciding that it was best to do this now rather than later. I learned from Peter that withholding this information could end badly. I propped my head up on one hand as I situated myself on my side, using the time I spent fidgeting to prepare myself mentally. When I could no longer put it off I bit the bullet.

"That's because we're mates, Bella." I said quietly as I looked into her eyes. She looked confused and frankly, a little bothered by the terminology. Then again, I would be surprised if she just rolled over and acquiesced immediately.

"What does that mean? Do I have a choice in the matter or is this it? Are we just stuck with each other? And frankly, that sounds sort of... animalistic." She asked with wariness and a little hint of dread. From the sound of her voice, she sounded sort of miffed and a little confused. I tasted her emotions and felt the unease and reluctance. I wouldn't allow myself to feel hurt that my mate might reject me, because she was human and didn't understand the dynamics of vampirism and the laws nature constituted over our species. I would, however, do my best to explain.

"It means that out of all the humans and vampires in the world, we are best suited to one another, the best matched. We have the best chances of standing the test of time in a relationship and being paired together. Our chances of surviving the test of eternity also increases exponentially. We're what you could call soul-mates, if you believe in that sort of thing," I explained the best I could and gave her a few minutes to let that roll around in her head before I continued.

"You absolutely do have a choice and no, we're not stuck with each other at all. If you decide you don't want to accept me, you just have to let me know and I will back off. I won't try to romance you or pursue you. I'll let you go your own way, despite how hard it would be on my end of things. If you decided later that you did want to come back, it would be easy for us to find each other again. We have a pull to one another due to that fact that we're mates. It lets us seek one another out instinctively after the bond has been recognized," I became quiet and watched as she thought about it. I could practically see the cogs turning in her head and waited patiently for the questions to come.

"So what you're basically saying is that just because I've met my perfect match, doesn't mean that I have to accept it and just fall in line with it, correct?" She hitched her eyebrow as she finished her question.

I nodded in response before adding something, "That's right. You could go and pick another partner, but it wouldn't be the same as being with your mate. The attraction wouldn't be anywhere near the same. Being with your match is significantly easier. It's harder, being with someone else. You have to put a significant amount of work into it and it's easy for things to fall apart. With your mate, things just go better. Sure, there will be disagreements and arguments and flat out fights, but at the end you'll both come to an agreement and reconcile on the matter."

Things quieted again and I felt her relief from finding out that it wasn't set in stone that she absolutely had to be with me, that she did have a choice. After a while I felt her curiosity again and prepared myself for more questions. She didn't disappoint.

"So, how are you able to just let your mate go? I said earlier that it seemed animalistic and in the realm of animals that do mate, it just seems final. It's like you find your match and that's that, no other options." She didn't seem so on guard like she was earlier, which made me relax. Now she was simply being curious.

"It's not an easy feat to just let your other half walk away from you. If we were purely animal, I'm sure we wouldn't be able to let that happen. The thing is, we're really half and half. We're animals, but we've got so much of the human that we used to be that carried over into what we are now that we can fight it and have the ability of choice. Animal drinkers like myself have an easier time tapping into that humanity. Others of my kind who hunt humans find it easier to give in to the animal side more often than not. It really just depends on the vampire and the situation on the way things will turn out," I finished, hoping that I gave her a comprehensive idea.

She studied me for a bit, thinking things over and began to slowly emit understanding and acceptance to what I had told her.

For the first in a long time, I felt hope.

"So. Let's say I go with this craziness and accept you as my mate. What then? Where do we go from here?" I almost felt warmth spreading through me with this line of questioning.

My love for her spread through me languidly, giving me that warm and alive feeling since I had no blood to warm my flesh anymore. It was comparable to how heat would sink into me when I was able to lay in the sun for long periods of time, or soak in a hot spring.

"We take one day at a time, get to know one another and build a relationship. If you decide that you want to be changed, I'll make you like me and we'll spend eternity learning, loving, pleasing each other, sharing experiences and adventures." I said, vividly able to imagine us doing things like exploring the jungles and swimming the oceans - finding things that humans would likely never see.

She went back to thinking and I went back to watching her. I was silent as she came to terms with it all and letting her have her time to make her decision. She nibbled on that lip some more before bringing her eyes back up to meet mine. I felt her slight nervousness and some anticipation.

"I don't like the idea of not being with you. At all. But, I want to take things slow," She stated, almost cautiously. As if I would have a problem with that. If that's what she needed, then that's what we'd do.

"Sugar, you're the one driving this car. We'll go as fast or as slow as you'd like. Although, I have one request," I figured I might have to dazzle her into this one, cheating as it may be.

She hitched a brow and said a little wearily, "Let's hear it."

"I'd like for you to move in with me. You don't have to stay in my bedroom if you don't want. I could turn the guest room into your own bedroom if you'd like. You'll get to pick out everything: paint, curtains, etcetera." I threw that out to see how it would go over and felt her relief.

"I like that idea. We can split the bills and it'd make it easier on us both. It keeps in line with plan 'Cruisin' anyway." She looked to me, hoping I'd be agreeable.

"How about I take care of the bills and you put your half into a savings account?" I saw she was about to protest when I brought up a very significant fact. "Bella, I have more money than I think I can spend in ten or twelve human lifetimes. As long as Alice keeps an eye on the stock market for me, I'm pretty well set for an obscene length of time." I did my best to placate her, but I could still tell she felt off kilter about the situation.

"Would you object to me buying things for the apartment?" she asked with a bit of a raised brow. I could acquiesce to that. If she wanted to decorate, she could decorate.

"Not at all. If you find something you want, feel free to get it," I thought I'd bring up the credit card I would give her a little later in our relationship. Doing it now would be way too fast for her standards. My agreement mollified her a little and she nodded her head.

We lay together quietly for a bit, listening to the rain hit the building and windows. I observed the enchanting creature in my bed while she let the ideas sink in. She was almost asleep when she looked to me.

"Jasper, do you ever miss food?" She queried with a yawn.

I did sometimes. Especially when I saw and felt people enjoying a particularly good dish, "At times yes. Like earlier when I saw you enjoying that pie so much," I felt the corners of my lips curve up into a small smile.

"It's too bad you couldn't taste it. It was like a slice of Heaven on my plate." She grinned back to me as she licked her lips, as if she could still taste it.

"You're my slice of Heaven, Bella. I don't need pie or anything else as long as I have you," I admitted to her. As long as I had her, my world would be just fine. I wondered if my saying things like that would be too much, too soon, but when I looked into her eyes, I knew I was fine with my sentiments.

She moved closer to me and I began to stroke her hair and rub her back until she fell asleep. While she dreamed I found myself looking forward to going slow. I found myself becoming excited as I planned out dates, holidays and vacations. I even began to fantasize about what I wanted her ring to look like when she was ready to receive it.

She stumbled into my office and into my life. She made friends with the world's most dangerous predator as well as one of the most dangerous vampires in existence. She won my heart over. She gave me back my hope for an actual future. I had to tell her, even if she was asleep.

"I love you, Isabella Swan." I whispered against her hair.

She cuddled closer in her sleep and I felt almost human for the first time in over a century.