Get Busy Living Or Get Busy Dying

He tells her she's stupid but holds her anyway.

"Do you know what I would give to feel that?" He rests his palm above the steady beat, remarkably strong for such a fragile chest.

"You can't change my mind." She crosses her arms under his and, like she so often does, reminds him of a petulant child too used to getting her way.

"I can try." His smile falls short of teasing.

"Jasper Hale, don't you dare." She struggles against him for a stubborn moment before going still. "I hate you."

"I can definitely change your mind about that." He laughs quietly against her ear and it almost sounds sincere.

His lips travel to her neck, dangerously close to that beautiful, pulsing rhythm. Her breath hitches on the thought he hears with his hand. Thump thumping greedily towards wish fulfillment.

He tries to remember the exact moment he realized that something trumps the bloodlust now, cards he didn't know he had, splayed between his palms and her body. The compulsion to drain her humanness replaced with a shameless need to preserve it. He doesn't deny that it's self-interest more than heroism. He holds her because her heat against him is the farthest he can get from himself, and her mouth on his helps him taste a world that he had over 140 years and 2,000 miles ago, richer and more precious than blood.

He presses his cheek against warm skin, disoriented in his disbelief that anyone would willingly give up something so easily lost but impossible to win back.