Story beta'd by leggylover03 and someone who shall remain nameless...but you know who you are :)
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Jasper was spending his day in a local museum enjoying the exhibit on the early settlers in Kalispell, Montana when his phone rang.
Looking at the display, he grinned when he saw it was his wife. He answered the call and she was speaking before he even said hello.
"Jasper! Bella is several blocks away from you; you have to get to her now! She's in trouble," his wife immediately rushed out.
Instantly alert, the blonde haired Jasper froze where he stood. "Alice, no," he breathed, "Not me."
The grin long gone, Jasper knew he was the last member of their family who should be anywhere near the young human they hadn't seen in several years.
"It has to be you Jasper; she's being hunted by nomads. Carlisle is coming as fast as he can, but she'll be dead before he gets to her. You're the only one close enough."
That was enough to convince Jasper to head for the buildings entrance, but he continued to argue against his intercepting the human girl. "Alice, there must be another way. I'm not safe near her, I'll loose control again. You know I will."
"There isn't Jasper. She's in an unpopulated area, and no one else can get to her in time. You. Won't. Hurt. Her. You have to get to her, the nomads will strike in 3 minutes!" Alice insisted.
"Alright Alice, which way?" Jasper finally, though grudgingly, conceded. He sounded like he was marching to the gallows.
Alice directed Jasper through the city to a more residential area. He turned the final corner and saw his quarry walking towards him as promised. Even with his special ability, there was no sign of the nomads just yet, though his wife promised him they would be following closely behind Bella. Assuring Alice he had her, Jasper hung up and let Bella stroll up to him.
She was walking forward, seemingly deep in thought and hadn't noticed him even when she was mere steps away.
"Well hello little darlin'" Jasper drawled.
Bella startled, stumbled backward and began to tumble. Jasper reached forward and grabbed her mid-fall while laughing, "Still clumsy I see."
Bella couldn't believe her eyes. "Jasper?!" She impulsively gave him a one armed hug.
Jasper carefully pulled her arm away from his waist and slid her behind his body. "Darlin, as much as I appreciate the greeting, now isn't really the time." His stance became rigid.
Bella, confused over his reaction, simply said "huh?"
Time was up though. Two nomads suddenly appeared on the shadowed sidewalk seemingly from thin air, roughly 5 feet in front of Jasper.
A man and a woman who appeared for all intents and purposes a couple with the way his arm was wrapped across her shoulders. The woman's long blond hair was braided and they were dressed comfy in jeans and cowboy boots for the early fall weather in Montana. Yet if one looked closely, there was no doubt they were nomads. His shoulder length black hair hid smudges along his neck and their clothing clearly had not been sized for their bodies. Jasper hoped Bella didn't notice that and start down the thought path of just where the articles had been obtained.
The man spoke first, "This one is ours. We've been following her since downtown."
Bella instantly tensed. Her human mind was quickly catching up to the situation and the crimson eyes before her represented a danger she was intimately familiar with. It took all of her self control to keep from twisting her fist into the back of Jasper's likely designer shirt. The instinctual part of her wanted to grab him to ease her fear, but she well knew he may have to move fast and she'd just end up hurt.
"Sorry to upset you folks, but this human is under my protection." Jasper tipped the ball cap he was wearing as if it was a cowboy hat.
Jasper made no threatening moves but he also labored under no illusions. He was waiting for the nomad couple to decide to take Bella by force. It was two to one odds after all. With his long sleeve shirt, his scars weren't on display to incentivize the two into thinking twice about taking him on.
The man and woman exchanged a glance, "We've smelled how delicious her scent is. You just want her for yourself. We can be reasonable – let's all share her."
Bella felt an involuntary shudder at this suggestion. However, she didn't doubt Jasper's response for a moment. She knew the man would never agree.
Jasper shifted just the slightest bit, twisting one hand in Bella's direction and the other palm out towards the nomad couple. He was ready to either grab her and run, or fend off an attack from the front at a moment's notice.
With steel in his voice, he said, "You misunderstand. When I said she's under my protection, I meant no one touches the woman. See now, if this one dies, my wife would be mighty put out with me. And as it so happens, that would put me in a particular kind of destructive mood. Flaming angry you might call it." He sent a little wave of fear their way along with his statement. Just enough to seem natural to them. No need to broadcast he had a talent.
This time it was the female who spoke after sharing a questioning glance with her mate, "What's wrong with your eyes, Mister?"
Jasper relaxed a little. Their emotions had changed from determined and suspicious to slightly resigned. He and Bella might yet get out of this without a fight. Or at the very least, buy enough time for Carlisle to make it on scene.
"My eyes indicate my diet. My family and I feed off animals, not humans."
The female cocked her head, "Then you really aren't trying to steal our meal?"
"This human is family to us, not food. As I said, she is under my protection. Now, and later, should you think to find her again."
The male grabbed his mates hand and they both took a step back indicating they wouldn't challenge him . "Alright Mister, we aren't interested in a fight. You have my word we will leave her unharmed, should we encounter this one in the future."
Jasper dipped his head, "Much obliged to you."
The nomads disappeared and Jasper let himself relax as their emotional signatures continued to move farther away.
He turned to Bella and looked her over. She was paler than she had been before the nomads made their appearance. She seemed as if a stiff wind would topple her. He grimaced, no way was she walking anywhere without stumbling, and neither of them could afford for her to cut herself.
He knew Carlisle had to be just outside the city with his Mercedes by now. He would only need to take her to him, then he could figure out what to do from there.
He crossed his arms over his chest and grunted, "Emmett was right, you are the worst sort of danger magnet."
Unfazed by the well intended insult, Bella cocked her head, "Why now Jasper?"
Jasper didn't answer her at first. Instead he peered closely at her eyes, noting her pupils seemed normal. She hadn't hit her head that he knew of. Delicately he reached out and felt around her skull, but he found no bumps or cuts. Finding no injuries, "You do realize what they intended, right Bella?" he asked her with raised brow.
Bella scoffed, and Jasper allowed her to bat his hands away, "I'm not stupid Jasper."
Sincere now, she continued, "Thank you, by the way, for stopping them. But why did Alice send you this time? I'm assuming it was her doing, rather than you just happening by at the right time?"
Jasper grunted. He could feel genuine curiosity rolling off Bella, "Of course Alice sent me. You didn't think she'd allow her best friend to become someone's dinner did you?"
He watched as Bella reacted to the phrase 'best friend' as if he had physically struck her. Well, he couldn't blame the gal, she hadn't seen Alice since the night he had tried to drain her himself. Her eyes shuttered with his next sarcastic comment. Pointing over his shoulder, he taunted, "And what do you mean this time; this kinda thing happen often to you does it?"
But when she spoke next, he was the one who felt like he'd been punched. She refused to meet his eyes. So softly, he would have barely heard her if he'd been human, "Actually Jasper, it sorta does. And Alice never sent anyone those times."
His mouth set in a grim line, Jasper immediately pulled out his phone and called Carlisle. He informed the Cullen patriarch of Bella's revelation and then listened to his response.
Hanging up, he shared the results of the conversation with her, "Alright Bella, that was Carlisle I just called. Alice sent him as well, he just had no chance at getting to you fast enough. He's still ten minutes away with the Mercedes."
Looking her over while thinking the logistics through, he continued, "We are going to meet Carlisle at a park not too far from here. It's probably best that you ride on my back so the wind blows your scent away from me. While I just hunted a couple days ago, I'd rather not take chances."
Bella immediately backpedaled, doubling the space between them, "Why would I do that Jasper? My dorm is just another five minute walk for me."
Jasper sighed. He could feel her hesitancy and mistrust. He couldn't blame her. The entire family was well aware of how Edward had intended to break things off with Bella. Still though, he thought it was obvious they all needed to talk. Even Carlisle had decreed Edward's wishes moot with Bella's revelation just now. That meant the Cullen house - not some college dorm - would be her destination this afternoon.
"I'm afraid I must insist Bella. Whether we stand here and attract attention until Carlisle arrives, or you hop on my back so we can meet him in relative privacy, you will be returning to our home with us. Given what almost occurred here and your own admission; we need to talk."
Bella still hesitated. It wasn't just about a lack of desire to rekindle old false friendships. She wasn't sure she could hold on to a running vampire with only one arm. Even if she could, wouldn't Jasper notice? Cullen's never missed anything with their extra effective senses. They didn't care to protect her from Victoria, so Bella felt her arm was none of their business. A large part of her believed it would serve them right if they stood here and had people notice them.
At that thought Bella sighed in frustration with herself. As much as they had betrayed her in the past, Jasper just saved her life. And may the Good Lord help her, she still loved them all. Every last one of the stone-hearted immortals. That meant protecting them from prying eyes.
"Alright Jasper, you win. For now," she warned.
Sincerely, Jasper said, "Thank you Darlin'." Then he turned his back and crouched.
Bella took a deep breath, grabbed her belt as best she could with her right fingers, then used her left hand to grab Jasper's left shoulder. His hands came up to catch her legs as she wrapped them around his waist and he stood up.
Bella remembered running with Edward this way well enough to know tucking her face into Jasper's shoulder was best for her health. Once set, she mumbled, "I'm ready." She knew he'd have no problems hearing her.
Jasper didn't immediately take off. He could feel Bella's arm trapped between their bodies. That couldn't be comfortable for her.
"Your arm is trapped darlin, go ahead and grab my neck. You know you can't hope to choke me."
Bella blushed. She knew it wouldn't help matters with her scent but she couldn't control the reaction. She could move her arm up, but she didn't think she would have the strength to grasp his neck or shoulder enough to keep her arm from being blown back with the wind, "I'm fine Jasper. I know you won't drop me."
Why the heck was Bella blushing and feeling embarrassed over a trapped arm? Jasper was nothing if not a gentleman; no way was he leaving her uncomfortable. "It's ok Bella, you can take the time to shift your arm, I'll wait."
Bella was not about to share the truth with Jasper. She knew the Cullen's already saw her as just a weakling human. They didn't need to know how much more that equation had shifted. So she resorted to begging.
"Please Jasper, I'm fine like this. Let's please just go and get this over with?"
Jasper tensed. He could feel Bella's emotions, so he knew she wasn't just dismissing his attempts to be polite. Something about this topic was seriously embarrassing the woman. Deciding to give her a respite and solve the mystery later, he took off.
They flew through the city streets at a pace too fast for the human eye, or even electronic cameras to catch. Only five minutes later, Jasper slowed to a human walk in the privacy of the Lone Pine State Park trees. He continued out of the forest to the parking lot where Carlisle was leaning against the driver's door of the black Mercedes. He came to a halt with his back intentionally to Carlisle.
Reaching out, Carlisle grasped Bella by the waist and lowered her safely to the ground. He ensured Bella had recovered her footing before letting her go. She had clearly matured, but he didn't know if she had kept her previous clumsy tendencies.
He watched as she took a deep breath and clasped one arm around the other before turning around and looking up.
"Hello Sweetheart," he greeted and then internally flinched as he watched her wince over the endearment. Yet she smiled when she set eyes on his face, so perhaps they hadn't lost quite as much ground with her as he feared.
"Hello Carlisle. It's good to see you." She politely responded.
Carlisle couldn't help it, he reached out and pulled Bella into a hug. He felt her stiffen at first, then she finally relaxed and wrapped an arm around him, hugging him back.
"You have no idea how gladdened I am to see you Bella. How thankful I am Jasper was able to reach you in time." Finally, he released her but held her at arm's length with his hands on her shoulders.
"The rest of the family will be just as overjoyed to see you as well, Esme especially."
Bella's eyes shifted to the ground before she looked back up, "Carlisle, it's good to see you both, and I'm very thankful for Jasper's intervention today. But the nomads gave their word to leave me be. I'm safe now and would like nothing more than to get back to my dorm." She looked up at him then, "Please tell the family hello for me and if you wouldn't mind, just drop me off at my building."
Carlisle gently wrapped a hand around her cheek, "I'm well aware of how things were left between you and Edward and what you must believe of this family Bella. It's time we come clean to you. I'm afraid I must insist you come with us for at least tonight. Willing or not. Once we've cleared the air, so to speak, then I might return you to your dorm tomorrow if you still wish it so."
Bella searched his eyes. She didn't see any lies in them, nor did she see any give. Carlisle was telling her he would kidnap her if necessary until this discussion was over. Perhaps even longer. There was no point in asking to be allowed to pack – she knew Alice wouldn't let her wear whatever she brought anyways. And the Cullen's would be well stocked with unused toiletries. She also knew attempting to walk away would only result in her gentle abduction. She debating doing so anyways, but knew it would just be the equivalent of throwing a tantrum. Resigned to an uncomfortable encounter with those she used to call family, Bella finally nodded her agreement.
"Alright Carlisle, I know when I've lost." She made it clear she wasn't coming along for a friendly visit, but as a grudging captive.
Carlisle sighed. Bella may not be willing but at least she was cooperative. Wrapping his arm around her shoulder in a comforting gesture, Carlisle walked her to the front passenger door. He reached for the handle and was about to offer his arm to assist her in, when Jasper appeared next to them.
"Just a moment, please Carlisle," he requested.
Looking down at Bella, Jasper sought to reassure her.
"I felt that Bella, he won't be there. You have my word. The rest of the family yes, but not him."
Jasper watched as Bella processed his words. When she blushed, he knew she understood he'd felt her heartache at the mention of Edward's name. Sure enough, her dread lifted a few degrees when she realized she would not be facing Edward tonight.
Based on what Carlisle had decreed, Jasper knew Bella would be seeing him soon but the call to bring him home could wait until she knew the truth.
Bella nodded and stepped into the Mercedes. She looked at the hand offered by Carlisle to assist her and then politely refused the offer.
Curiously, Jasper watched as she used only her left arm to grab the seat belt and secure herself in. Thinking back to the hug she gave him, the hand she held onto his neck with and the hug she gave Carlisle, he was starting to notice a pattern. She used her left hand each time. As a matter of fact, if she had taken Carlisle up on his offer to assist her into the Mercedes, she would have needed to use her right hand.
Had he injured her when he stopped her from stumbling earlier? He didn't think so, and she didn't seem to be in pain. So what was going on? Or was he just reading too much into it?
Her door was shut, he was sitting in the back with the window cracked and Carlisle in the front by the time she had herself secured. Without another word, Carlisle started the Mercedes and headed away from Kalispell.