April, Cheryl, and Gabby thank you for pre-reading, and Fran, thank you for editing. Any mistakes left are my own. I do not own Twilight or its characters. Stephenie Meyer does.
I glanced around the store, which was illuminated by harsh fluorescent lights. A quick glimpse told me this wasn't the type of store where Alice usually shopped. In fact, I thought she detested places like Walmart—calling them mediocre.
However, here we were in Tacoma, WA; almost two years after we moved from the area. My first thought was that this was a bad idea, but Alice insisted we would be okay. On top of that, Esme and Carlisle were concerned about Edward and didn't want to be far from him.
Edward stayed in Forks after finally killing Victoria eight months after we had left. Most of us had hoped he would return to Bella and then the family. But instead, he fell into a deeper depression—being around us only amplified his melancholy.
Meanwhile, I knew Alice was getting antsy, wanting to intervene—my wife's heart was always in the right place. She hated that she was forced into agreeing not to look for Bella. She had never given up on the idea that Edward and Bella were meant to be.
Currently, we were enrolling at the University of Puget Sound. We wanted to be close to Edward, yet give him his space. I preferred the college level classes compared to high school—less drama and emotional overload. Alice had enrolled Edward as well as she refused to give up on him.
When my darlin' wife announced she wanted to go back to school shopping, I thought nothing of it. That was until we pulled into the parking lot. I knew something was up by her choice of store.
My throat burned with thirst even though I'd hunted the night before at her request. However, the store seemed to be filled with more people than I expected. I held my breath and closed my eyes for a few seconds.
"You'll be okay, Jazzy. I'm sorry to drag you here, but it was necessary." Alice tugged on my sleeve.
Her positive attitude helped me slightly; unfortunately, Rosalie's annoyance counteracted it.
"Why are we here?" Rose wrinkled her nose as she fingered an ugly orange shirt on the hanger. "Since when do we shop at Walmart?"
"This is Targét," Alice said with a flourish. "Didn't you bother to read the sign over the door."
"Darlin', just because you pronounce it with a French accent doesn't make the store any fancier." I teased.
"You can tell it's not Wally World, everyone is wearing bottoms. Last time I was there, I saw this dude without pants, wearing only a leopard-printed thong." Emmett looked disgusted but snickered.
"Technically, the policy is, no shirts, no shoes, no service. They've said nothing about pants." Alice joked, then shuddered. "Though no one should wear only a thong in public. And I repeat, this is Targét."
I raised my eyebrow, and she sighed in defeat.
"Fine, Target. Are you happy?" Alice rolled her eyes.
"No, not really. My question was never answered." Rose crossed her arms in front of her.
"Back to school shopping." The emotions I read from her told me she was lying. "What we need is this way."
"I would feel better if you gave us a reason why, rather than be so secretive," I implored, trying to catch her eyes.
Alice avoided my gaze, and I sensed her growing nervousness. She hardly ever kept secrets from me. This last time was before Bella literally fell into our lives, which only led me to believe…
"It will be clear in a matter of moments. And all I ask is you be patient and listen." She glanced at Rose out of the corner of her eye.
Instantly, I knew Rose was going to be the main problem. I sent some calming waves in her direction, which resulted in a bitch brow from her. Alice's mood perked up soon after, as she was staring down the aisle. I followed her gaze and spotted a small brunette with her back to us in the baby section. Her wavy mahogany hair went to her waist, and she was wearing a pair of jeans and a short-sleeved, blue shirt.
There was something about her that struck me as familiar, but I couldn't place my finger on it. Maybe I had passed her on campus or something. Her head turned, and I recognized her immediately by her profile.
I hid my sigh and turned my focus on my wife. Alice ignored the fact that I was trying to get her attention. She knew I wouldn't, or in this case, Edward wouldn't approve of her plan. She didn't mention anything, because she didn't want to be stopped. Though I guess I should've seen this coming. Alice was going to try to fix things since Edward wouldn't. Alice missed Bella tremendously and ultimately blamed herself for the party she forced on Bella. This was probably the driving force of why she felt the need to step in. However, it was me who messed everything up that day.
"Is she pregnant?" Rose burned with jealousy.
I lowered my gaze and noticed a tiny, yet visible, bump. However, the rest of Bella looked thin and pale.
"This is what was so important? Shouldn't Edward be here to see how she's moved on happily from him?" Rose hissed.
"What makes you think she's happy?" Alice responded lightly, not taking her eyes off Bella.
I focused in on Bella to see if I could get a read on her. She wasn't happy, in fact, she wasn't even content. The waves I got from her told me she was lonely and depressed. Though, outwardly, she carried herself well to the casual observer.
"She's not happy," I muttered.
Rosalie rolled her eyes and started tapping her foot impatiently. Emmett, on the other hand, was a mixture of confusion and concern. I was torn myself on what the right thing to do was anymore, but I knew I could trust Alice.
Meanwhile, Bella pulled out a cell phone and hit a button. She placed it to her ear as she stared at the boxes in front of her.
"Hey, Ben, do you have a minute? I need to speak to you without Angela overhearing us." She paused. "Great. I'm looking at the baby monitors. Do you want one with a video monitor or just sound? Well, I figured you may have an opinion since you are the baby's father," Bella scoffed. "Great. Remember, don't tell Angela anything about this, she can't know yet." She hung up, then slipped the phone into her pocket.
"Is this the same Angela and Ben from Forks? I thought those two were pretty into one another?" Emmett scratched his head.
"Nice girl Bella turned out to be. She got knocked up by her best friend's boyfriend." Rose snorted.
"If you bothered to get to know Bella, you would know she isn't that type of girl," Alice retorted, narrowing her eyes and starting a glaring match with Rose.
"Then enlighten us, so we can get out of this hell forsaken place," Rose demanded, tossing her hair over her shoulder.
"All in due time," Alice retorted, barely holding on from losing her temper. "Jasper, go help Bella before she gets hurt." Alice shot me a quick pleading look that was hard to resist.
"Wouldn't Emmett…" I trailed off as Alice's eyes narrowed, warning me not to argue.
I had gotten within a few feet when Bella raised up on her tiptoes as she tried to get a box off the top shelf. Her fingers were barely able to brush against it, and with how they were stacked, they were all about to fall ... and when they did, they would hit her on their way down.
I quickened my steps as three boxes toppled. I caught them easily as Bella ducked and closed her eyes to brace herself. I placed two back on the shelf and held one out to her as she peeked from behind her hands.
"Thank you so much…Jasper?" Her eyes opened wide, and her heart rate quickened—this was a bad idea. I took a step back so she wouldn't feel threatened. She glanced around; probably looking for one of the others, gauging on her curiosity and surprisingly, her eagerness.
I was caught off-guard that she seemed pleased to see me. I thought I would be the last Cullen she would want to encounter. After her birthday disaster, she would have every right to be frightened of me or at the very least, hate me.
"Bella, it's good to see you. I believe this was what you were after." I held out the box.
She took it and placed it in the child seat of the cart. "Yes, thank you. I don't know why they stack their stock up so high, some of us are on the short side." She shook her head and casted a dirty look at the shelves.
She turned back to me with a shy smile. "How are you? I have to say I'm surprised to see you here and not in L.A." She added the last bit with a trace of sarcasm.
Of course, our false story wouldn't have fooled her. Bella had always been more observant than I would have liked for a human.
"You're welcome, and I have been well." I hesitated for a brief moment. "I do owe you an apology, though, for the last time I saw you."
She held up her hand and waved me off. "That was long ago. What happened wasn't your fault. How is Alice? Is she with you?"
She blew off the incident as if it was nothing. She glanced around again, her curiosity and hope growing. Her face fell when she couldn't spot Alice.
"I'm not here," my wife whispered from several aisles over.
I didn't know her reason for hiding, but I covered for her. "Alice is good. I know she misses you," I told her with a grin. I was still trying to figure out why she had no animosity towards me or showed any fear. She must have genuinely forgiven me, which I found extraordinary.
Bella was very disappointed. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised. She probably wouldn't be caught dead in a department store. I mean… well, you know what I mean." Bella blushed sheepishly. She nervously tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
I nodded as I tried not to join in with Emmett's laughter.
"How are Esme and Carlisle?" Bella asked.
"They are doing well. Esme is renovating a new house, and Carlisle just started at a new hospital." I wasn't sure if I should give her any specifics yet, but I had to tell her something since she was so eager to hear about us.
"And Ed…Emmett?" Her eyes welled as she bit her lower lip, and her cheeks went bright red. She clutched her chest over her heart and rubbed it with her palm. The pain of her broken heart radiated from her to the point I flinched. It was as bad as Edward. Pain like this would cripple most humans, yet she was able to stand before me.
"Emmett is Emmett. What can I say? He is never boring to be around." I tried to make light of it.
Bella gave me a wincing smile but was still very upset. She distracted herself by tugging on the bottom of her shirt. I thought it would be best to change the subject to something more pleasant.
"Congratulations, by the way," I offered.
"On…" Her eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
"On your baby?" I glanced down at the bump that might be hard for human eyes to detect. I could also hear the heart of the fetus beating.
"Oh, the baby isn't mine," Bella explained in a serious tone, following my gaze.
How can it not be hers?
I wasn't the only one confused, judging by the reaction of my siblings.
Bella smirked. "I'm a surrogate. I don't know if you remember Angela and Ben from Forks, but this is their baby."
The smirk fell from her face, and a haunted look replaced it. "Angela had a bad accident senior year. She is paralyzed from the waist down and can't have children. The accident led her to feel that life was too short. She and Ben got married last Christmas. They also wanted a baby sooner rather than later, so I offered to carry one for them."
I hadn't expected that at all. I knew she was a sweet girl—very selfless, but this was beyond an unexpected thing to do for another person. This was the time of life where most young adults were spreading their wings and enjoying their freedom.
Bella's story had rendered Rose speechless. It was a sore spot for her that she couldn't have a baby of her own. She always sympathized with women who couldn't have children, and the fact that Bella was a surrogate gained tremendous respect from Rose.
From rows away, I could hear them talking quietly.
"Why didn't you just tell us?" Rose was feeling guilty for her quick judgment from before.
"Because I thought it would be best if you heard it from Bella herself. Not to mention, you wouldn't have listened," Alice answered calmly.
My wife was good—I had to acknowledge that. Rose had always been the most adverse to Bella. If she gained Rose on her side, it was one less battle to worry about later.
Alice may be on to what will finally heal our family. Perhaps, it was time that I got on board with that decision myself. She has never steered us wrong before.
"Bella, what are you are doing for Angela and Ben is wonderful," I complimented.
"Thank you." Her smile was hard-pressed.
I picked up some guilt from her and wondered why she would feel that way about being a surrogate. Unless, she was somehow involved in the accident, but that was obviously not something I could ask.
"I should get going. I was just picking up some things for a surprise baby shower for Angela being held in a few weeks," Bella explained. "Say hello to everyone for me."
She moved further down the aisle where she squatted and tried to move a large box that contained a car seat.
I couldn't be sure, but it looked awkward and heavy for her to pick up on her own. I moved forward, knelt next to her, then shifted the box closer to me.
"Hold on, let me help. If you're pregnant, I don't think you should be lifting something this heavy." I picked it up and placed it in the cart before she could protest.
"Thank you again, Jasper." She smiled shyly. She stood up a little more slowly and slightly wobbly. She stretched, arching her back, and grabbed the handle of her cart.
"Please, say hi to the others for me." She gave me a small wave then disappeared around a corner, and the others joined me seconds after.
"So this is what you wanted us to see?" Rose asked humbly—a side of her that was very rare to see.
"Yes," Alice admitted.
"Why was Jazz the only one allowed to see her?" "Emmett pouted childishly.
"You, for one, would've squeezed too hard and made an inappropriate comment about her being a surrogate. Rose would have attacked first about Bella cheating before she could find out about the surrogacy"—Alice paused to take a breath—"If I saw her, it would be hard on both of us for me to walk away—the same with Esme. In fact, Esme wouldn't even have been able to contain herself to stay back. Jasper was the best choice since it gave him a chance to apologize. And, also for him to realize that Bella doesn't hate him and isn't afraid of him," Alice explained.
"There is more. For some reason, Bella vanishes in the parking lot." Alice's anxiety rose, making me worried as well.
"Can we stop it?" Emmett shared her concern.
"That's what I'm hoping." Alice turned on her sad, puppy dog eyes. Not that it would take much to convince us to help in this situation.
"Then what are we waiting for? We have to protect the baby…and her." Rose was determined without any prodding.
"Hold on. Shouldn't you have involved Edward in this?" I questioned. This was his mate after all, whether he was willing to admit it or not.
"Edward wouldn't have stayed around to find out why she was pregnant. He would have assumed she was happy and left. Not only the store but us ... completely. He would've gone back to Brazil or somewhere else to be alone." Alice grimaced.
"What did you find out?" Emmett looked at me.
"She's hurting without him; in fact, I have never read that level of pain from a human. It was the equivalent of when a vampire loses their mate. These two need each other to survive. I agree with Alice, we will have to break our promise. Nothing is going to change without a good push," I stated.
Alice smiled widely at me. Rose pressed her lips together but kept her opinion to herself, but her reluctance radiated off her. Emmett, not to my surprise, agreed; in fact, he seemed relieved.
"So, in other words, instead of waiting for Muhammad to go to the mountain, we are bringing the mountain to Muhammad." Emmett smiled.
"Exactly." Alice nodded.
"About fricken' time," Emmett said loudly enough that a few mothers who were close by scowled at him.
A/N: I can hardly believe it but this is my 50th fanfic. What better way than with a Vampward. Only this first chapter is in Jasper's pov, the rest will be Bella with maybe occasional Edward. I still plan to update every Friday. I hope you enjoy, thank you for sharing your thoughts and love with me.