Bella's Point Of View

Esme didn't wait for me to get all the way through the front door before pulling me into her arms. I relaxed into the embrace, letting myself be held by this motherly woman. I didn't even care that Rosalie and Emmett and Esme were all attempting to talk at the same time, their voices mixing together to create an unrecognizable mess. But the longer I listened the more words I was able to discern.

They were all apologizing. In fact, they sounded as if they were giving their condolences, as if Edward had died rather than just disappeared. I stepped away from Esme to see three pairs of golden eyes, all watching and waiting for me to fall apart. It was making me extremely uncomfortable. Their concern was making it hard for me to breathe because I wasn't falling apart. Where was Alice? She could save me from having to explain. I wasn't ready to explain.

Alice skipped through the doorway at that moment. It was almost like she was aware that their pity was suffocating me. She gave me a warm smile. Turning me to face the staircase, Alice gave me a gentle reassuring hug. "Why don't you go wait upstairs? I need to have a talk with my family for a moment. It's the second door on the right."

I didn't need to be told twice as I raced up the stairs. Quickly I opened the door Alice had directed me to and stepped inside. With a deep breath I closed the door behind me and leaned against the heavy oaken wood. I was slightly confused as I glimpsed the space around me. This couldn't be Alice's bedroom. It was far too masculine.

Floor-to-ceiling bookcases lined nearly every inch of wall space, their polished wood gleaming in the soft yellow light of the wrought iron sconces on either side of the doorway. A large wooden desk was opposite the door with a giant painting of a field leading to a beach leading to the ocean. It fit perfectly with the deep blue-green of the walls which complimented the dark navy of the plush carpet. There was no bed but there was an oversized leather chair that happened to look incredibly comfy. Nothing appeared to be designer. There was no way Alice had ever stayed in this room. I took this in just a second before I heard movement in the hall behind me. My eyes squeezed shut, willing myself not to be discovered.

"Hi."

That voice sounded like it came from inside the room. And its deep southern tones were dangerously familiar. Jasper? My eyes opened wide. Sure enough, he was standing in front of me. I noticed his appearance and it was a concentrated effort to keep my jaw off the floor. I was truly unprepared for shirtless Jasper. Shock didn't cover it. The closest I'd ever come to seeing a naked man had been Edward in the clearing, but he'd still been wearing his shirt. Unbuttoned, yet it had still been on. It didn't compare to the lean, muscular plains of the angel before me.

His laugh brought me out of my surprise. I shot forward and mentally cursed myself when I tripped over my own feet. But I managed to stay upright and continued until I smacked into him, my hand coming up to cover his mouth. I was definitely going to have a few bruises tomorrow, but oh well. He was going to alert the others if he didn't stay silent. "Shhhhh…."

Jasper's amusement wasn't lost on me as I heard his stifled question. "Is this going to become a regular occurrence between us?"

The memory of a similar situation only a few days before made me want to laugh too. But I wanted to remain unnoticed to the members of his family that seemed to shower me with unwanted sympathy so I whispered, "Quiet. I'm hiding."

"Are you?"

I nodded as I brought my hand down from his face. He gave me a grin. I ignored the butterflies it caused low in my stomach as he said, "Hate to burst your bubble but they don't need any help from me. You heart beats loudly in their ears and you scent is…..overpowering."

Something registered with me then. I was less than an inch away from a vampire, the same vampire that had once tried to rip out my throat. I knew he wouldn't hurt me, but something in his eyes looked suddenly very hungry. Then I heard him chuckle and that look in his eyes receded. Jasper leaned down and took a deep breath before saying huskily, "I wasn't referring to your blood, Darlin'."

Heat instantly crept up my cheeks. I was finding that I loved it a little too much when he called me that. I looked down to try hiding the blush even though I knew he didn't need to see it to know it was there. That was when I finally took notice of how indecently close our bodies were. My entire body was pressed up the length of his. The palms of my hands were resting on the top of his stone chest, fingers splayed across the edge of his collarbone. No wonder he was finding this so funny. It looked as if I were throwing myself at him. I was even more embarrassed now than I had been before.

Refusing to look at him again, my eyes scoped the room for something to distract myself with. The bookcases were to my left and they would have to do. Backing up and turning to the nearest one, I busied myself with whatever I happened to find there. I expected to find books on the shelves. What caught me off guard was the sheer number of books and the wide variety of subjects they were on. Philosophy, religion, architecture, law, geology, geography, mystery, science fiction, even a couple of nautical volumes stared back at me in no apparent order. There seemed to be no topic missing.

I kept my eyes trained forward as I asked, "Have you read all of these?"

"Yes."

Without thinking, I turned to give him a skeptical look. It was a mistake. Our eyes locked for a second and my breath hitched in my throat. My attention snapped back to the bookshelves. "That's impressive."

"I guess I've had a lot of time on my hands. There hasn't been anything else to do at night."

Jasper hadn't said it as if that last sentence had any particular meaning, but it reminded me of my earlier conversation with Alice. My cheeks warmed up immediately. It was uncomfortable enough to know they hadn't slept together in years, but to know it and be in the same room with him while he looked like that… I caught sight of Jasper in my peripheral vision. He was resting against the desk, long legs stretched out before him. Taking a moment, I covertly swept my eyes over his features.

A gracefully pale neck glided into wide yet slender shoulders. Muscles bunched in his stomach as he casually leaned. A narrow line of feathery light hairs trailed from him bellybutton to… I bit my lip to try calming my heart. I knew it was wrong but I wanted him. It didn't matter that he was Alice's very recent ex, Edward's brother, or that there was no way such a gloriously built creature would ever want me in return.

And then his arms were around me, pulling me the few inches it took to get me situated between his legs. I didn't have time to blink before Jasper was kissing me. I was stunned to say the least, but the fire that was suddenly building up made it impossible not to kiss him back.

This was different. The only person I had ever kissed was Edward. Well, he'd kissed me. If I had stated to participate everything would have been brought to a screeching halt. We'd always had to be so careful. There was nothing careful about this kiss. It wasn't forceful or necessarily urgent, but there was a need present that my body understood and reacted to on instinct. I needed this. I needed to be held as if I were a lifeline without fear tainting the edges. There'd always been fear before. Edward's fear. My arm's snaked around his neck, desperately seeking more contact.

Jasper dragged my body up the cool expanse of his chest and the friction made my nipples harden instantly. I couldn't manage to be ashamed or embarrassed. Instead, I let myself revel in the feelings he was creating with his lips and hands. Jasper's fingers had slipped under my shirt, leaving an icy trail as they danced up and down my spine. It was amazing coupled with the inferno that was consuming me from the inside out. He licked at my lips and they parted for him automatically.

I wasn't prepared for the knee-buckling effect the sensation of Jasper's tongue messaging my own would have on me. If it hadn't been for the strong arms securing my body to his I might have actually collapsed. And if I wasn't prepared for that I certainly wasn't prepared when he took my tongue between his smooth frozen lips and started to suck gently. I moaned and thrust my hands into his wet, blond curls, gripping them as a small tremor wracked my body. He groaned into my mouth in seductive response. Never mind, what I'd thought before. Jasper wasn't an angel. He was the devil. How else could the delicious flames burning me to my very core be explained?

Faintly, I was aware of the door swinging open. But that was noticed in the back of my mind. What really got my attention was when I heard Rosalie's voice. "Well, she doesn't seem that depressed."

No. No. No. This could not be happening. I leaned my face into the coolness of Jasper's chest, mentally trying to will away the nightmare the moment had become. His hands slipped out of my shirt and came to rest against my hips. We stayed like that for what seemed like hours but must have only been minutes until Emmett said, "This is new."

"Oh, God." I panicked. The fight or flight instinct kicked in and I ran.

Rocketing past Rosalie and Emmett through the doorway and down the stairs, I didn't look back. I didn't even trip until I was out of the house. That top step got me though and I was hurdling forward. Luckily, Alice was there to catch me before I face-planted in the Cullen driveway. Where had she been? How could she let me make a fool out of myself like that?

She pushed me toward the bright yellow Porsche without saying anything. The need to escape overshadowed wanting to yell at her so I got in the car. A split second later she joined me and we were speeding down the narrow drive.

"Did you have fun?"

Incredulous didn't even begin to describe the look on my face as I turned in my seat to face her. "You knew? Alice, did you know that was going to happen?"

"Of course. Why else would I send you to that room? I can remember which bedroom is my own." She winked at me. "I didn't know exactly which path would be taken, but it really didn't make too big of a difference. In each vision the two of you were clinging to each other as if your lives depended on it."

"It wasn't that bad." I grumbled, even though that was how it had felt.

She gave me a look that clearly said she didn't believe me. I kept my eyes on my hands as I said quietly, "Edward never kissed me like that."

"I don't think anyone has ever been kissed like that."

The conversation should have made me feel more uncomfortable than it did. I was never good at girl talk. But after that experience I found myself needing it. And it was comforting to know he hadn't kissed her the way he'd just kissed me. "Doesn't it bother you, Alice?"

"Does what bother me?"

"Talking about Jasper and I so soon after you…separated?" I didn't want to cause Alice any upset, even if she was the one who brought the subject up in the first place.

"Does it bother you to talk about Edward?" She shot back.

Did it bother me? It should have, but no. It felt good to talk about Edward in some ways, hurt in others. The more I began to deal with it the less it hurt. I sighed. "Amazingly, no."

Alice seemed to think for a long moment before she spoke. "Bella, when I see the visions I've had of you with him…it keeps me from being too sad. Watching the two of you is like watching two magnets being pulled toward each other. It's as if Edward and I were the floodgates holding apart two rivers. When the gates lifted the rivers collided and it is beautiful."

I just stared at her. "Okaaay, Alice."

"Don't let yourself be scared away by what happened this afternoon. I'm sure nobody will hold it against you." She said, knowing I would be trying to avoid the Cullens even more now.

"Rosalie already hated me. She probably thinks I am betraying Edward."

"No, she does not. Rose thinks that you are incredibly vulnerable right now. She actually blames Jasper for taking advantage."

"He didn't take advantage of me!" I'd been the one ogling him. Jasper was probably reacting to my own lust … that I now realized he could feel the entire time.

I groaned and threw my head back against the seat. How could I be so stupid? He'd been responding to me, not his own feelings. Of course, that was it. How else could he want me? I banged my head against the seat a few more times.

"Bella, please stop doing that. You might hurt yourself."

"If anyone took advantage it was me, Alice."

"And how did you do that?"

"He's and empath."

"And?" She wasn't picking up on my meaning.

"Isn't it obvious? He could feel how I was feeling. I was staring at him. I wanted him. Jasper was only acting on my emotions."

We pulled into the nearly empty school parking lot and Alice parked next to my truck. She turned to face me with a knowing smile. "So you initiated the kiss?"

"No." Where was she going with this?

"I didn't think so." I continued to stare at her uncomprehendingly. Alice huffed. "Although I'm sure your feelings are what gave him the motivation to act, he isn't such a slave to his gift that he would kiss you without already having similar feelings himself."

"Huh?"

"I'm under the impression that Jasper has been attracted to you for much longer than any of us were aware."

"Oh." But that didn't make any sense. How could someone so perfect be attracted to someone as extraordinarily plain as me? It was hard to wrap my mind around. Edward had, but Jasper? He was different. He'd been with other women. Alice was incredibly beautiful … and graceful. Why would anyone trade down?

Everything of the past four days was confusing to me. Edward left me and I was okay with that. Jasper wanted me and I was quickly discovering that I returned his feelings. He and Alice had broken up and they both seemed perfectly fine with it. Rosalie had tried to comfort me today. It was like I'd fallen into an alternate universe. I needed time to process. I needed friends who weren't involved in this bizarre episode of the Twilight Zone. I needed my sun.

"Alice, I'm going down to La Push."

I could tell the instant she figured out my decision. Her face was twisted into a mask of panic and irritation. "The wolves are unstable, Bella. What if something happens? What would Edward say if I left you go and you got hurt or killed?"

Even when he chose to abandon me his wishes were expected to be upheld? No. I couldn't accept that. "Edward isn't here anymore. He doesn't get a say in the matter."

Alice gritted her teeth but nodded. "I would still rather you not go."

I took a deep breath. "I haven't been to La Push since you came back. Jacob won't return my calls. I have been an awful friend to him, to all of the wolves lately. And I did it for Edward. I didn't want to upset or worry him. For nearly two years your brother has consumed all of my thoughts. The members of the pack were the ones to piece me together after my breakdown, which Edward was responsible for, but I still turned my back on them for that man. They have become just as much a part of me as the Cullens have. Alice, I need to make things right."

"Ugh!" Alice sighed in exasperation. She reached into her pocket and tossed me her cell phone. "But you call me every hour so I can have at least a little piece of mind."

"Yes, Mom."

Her eyes got wide and a received the impression that my sarcasm was not appreciated. "I'm not kidding, Bella. Every hour!"

I felt laughter at her overreaction bubble up inside of me and had the presence of mind to suppress it. "Gotcha. Can I go now?"

"One more thing."

Instantly, I began to get nervous. Alice was beaming at me in the way she did when she was going to make me do something I wouldn't like. "This Friday you are going to come over and let me play Bella Barbie all weekend."

"No."

"Dear Bella, let's not forget that you now owe me a favor." Alice's grin reminded me of the Cheshire Cat.

"I do not!" A favor? For what? And Bella Barbie? No way in Hell was I going to be Alice's personal dress-up doll.

"Then I can't let you go." I had my hand on the door handle when I heard the click. Yep. Alice locked the doors. Turning back to her, I growled. "Be nice, Bella. I'll give you what you want if you give me something."

"You manipulative-"

"Okay, have it your way." Alice put the car in reverse. Then she gave me a brilliant smile. "I can see you again."

"Charlie expects me to be home soon."

"Oh, he won't be a problem. Charlie likes me, remember? All it takes is a phone call."

I loathed the fact that she was right. If Alice asked, Charlie would let her hold me hostage as long as she wanted. Damn. From the smug look on her face, she knew she was winning. "I'm not wearing heels. That is nonnegotiable. I don't want to break my neck."

"Yay!"

Alice pulled back into the parking space. When the vehicle stopped moving I jumped out. As I unlocked the truck she rolled down her window. "Don't forget to check in."

"Yeah, yeah." I mumbled as Alice sped off.