I am so sorry - yet again! - about the amount of time since my last update...I will make a concerted effort to do better, I solemnly vow =) Please be patient with this story - in my mind it's main purpose is a bridge from A Faire To Remember to the third and final story =) Anyhow, constructive criticism is always welcome, so please do not hesitate! And hopefully enjoy...=) PS - There will finally be an Edward/Bella lemon next chap, I am working on it now =)
'You're cold." Edward stated, frowning at Bella. Her dress looked stunning on her, but unfortunately the thin blue straps did nothing against the chill of the evening. He sighed as she shivered again and removed his jacket to lay it gently over her shoulders before tucking her hand back under his elbow.
"Thanks." Bella smiled, ducking her head to see his face around the bulky material. Dinner had been beyond words. He'd pulled out all the stops and taken her to a beautiful five star restaurant, ordered the most expensive champagne, organized to have a single red rose placed on her plate. He had ordered for her, which once would have left her seriously unimpressed with her date, but in his case had only made her feel truly catered to like a princess to his chivalrous knight. A string quartet had played luxurious background music from a darkened corner, their conversation had been light and pleasant and dessert had been simply divine.
Privately she doubted any man, EVER could top tonight for sheer romance. She wondered if anything else he would ever do again could top this.
They walked along the footpath back to his car, her face upturned to the starry sky, his eyes devouring her peaceful expression, happy that she trusted him enough to keep her safe from the irregular footpath that would normally mean an immediate hospital visit.
"This has been the best night I can ever remember." Bella said softly. A gentle wind blew her hair against him and he smelled her distinctive shampoo – fruity and sweet, like strawberries. He covered her small hand with his other larger one.
"I completely agree."
"I wish it never had to end," she continued on as though she didn't hear him.
He smiled to himself, enjoying the simple pleasure of their connected warmth. Slowly he traced his thumb over the back of her hand, feeling the smooth, delicate skin that was luminous in the light and wondered at how this had finally come about, after so many years of dreaming and imagining, after so much time spent with many other women whose presence never quite filled that young romantic still lingering in him from high school. A few doors ahead some light, airy sound poured through a well lit doorway. Music – young and carefree…with a soft throaty laugh he spun Bella to him and took two quick steps before she dug her heels into a gap in the concrete.
"I don't dance." She stated grumpily, withdrawing her hand from his arm and stumbling back into the brick wall the music was hidden behind.
Edward chuckled again. "Ah, Bella, I'll protect you…" he grabbed her flailing hand and pulled her too him, maybe a little rougher than necessary.
She hit his chest with an 'oof', her hands splayed across the unexpected muscles.
"I mean it Edward. I really don't dance – a surplus of left feet and all."
His eyes burned into hers. "It's all in the leading, Bella. Let me lead you."
Her breath hitched. "I…can't we just go…" she mumbled, averting her eyes.
"Whatever and wherever my lady wishes," he murmured in response, leaning down to brush his lips across her suddenly flaming cheek.
Bella shivered again, although this time not from the cold, and buried her face in Edward's chest.
"Let's get you somewhere warm." He laughed.
Alice lay back against the soft pillows, listening to the soft snores of Jasper beside her. At times like these she could imagine that all was storybook perfect – she had been loved by the handsome blond haired hero, and he had held her close and spoken inconsequential words of adoration until both pairs of eyelids had drifted closed…if only the image wasn't disturbed by bad dreams and dark doubts. Thoughtlessly she reached her hand out to stroke the light silky strands, the texture as ever such a pleasant surprise under her palm. Alice turned her face to watch Jasper sleep, her fingers still stroking aimlessly. He looked so peaceful, so angelic that she envied him the ability to sleep and forget. Her own mind was a veritable magnet for worries and instinctual fears which only seemed all the more likely to prey on her as she slept. To save herself the nightmares she slept as little as possible, though fortunately a sated body often helped clear her mind, at least temporarily. With a small smile at the man beside her she admitted that Jasper certainly did well at helping her clear her mind.
Though no matter how well he did, it couldn't last for long against the raging storm that was screaming in her mind. With a heavy sigh she lifted the blankets carefully off herself, moving as slowly as possible to avoid disturbing her lover. She padded across the room in her bare feet, scooping her fluffy pink dressing gown up off the floor where it had been dropped after her shower. She spared a brief glance at her wardrobe, in which she knew Jaspers suitcase lay, its contents taunting her, daring her to peek, even as they frightened her. It was like an urban legend, where you almost wanted to speak into the mirror just to see what would happen but were too terrified that the rumors might be true. Shaking her head against her curiosity she crept down the hall towards the kitchen. She flicked the light switch and rummaged through the fridge for the milk. After pouring herself a glass, she gazed out of the kitchen window into the dark night, watching the trees branches as they swayed to their own rhythm. Out there a whole world was going on as it usually did – the nocturnal animals of all kinds out on their nightly hunt, creeping up on prey that was completely unsuspecting and unprepared. Idly she wondered what category she might fit into – or was she simply one of the trees, steadfast soldiers watching over the proceedings unable to affect any outcome? Shaking her head at her own sense of melancholy she rinsed her cup and put it away.
The pamphlet on the dining table caught her eye again. A civil war reenactment – they were her favorite. Renaissance Faires of course were brilliant but, despite Bella's own experience and connection with Alice's counterpart in another time, she didn't see herself as a medieval woman. A Southern belle was much more her style – hoop skirts and corsets, not to mention Jasper in full military regalia…she smiled happily at the picture. 'In fact,' she thought, 'I've yet to meet a woman who didn't like a man in uniform – I should invite Bella and Edward – she'd love me forever!' With an impish grin she swept her phone off the counter and tapped through a message. There was no doubt this message would not be read for quite a few hours so to waylay any dispute she made sure to let Bella know a costume was not a problem - Alice was well stocked when it came to clothes of any sort.
Jasper groaned in his sleep and rolled over, reaching his hand across the cover and searching for another body. Although there was warmth, it was not the soft satiny skin he had expected, but the heat of a recently vacated place in the bed. Consciousness came rapidly, his mind racing from one thought to the next, almost immediately touching upon the suitcase in the wardrobe. With a start he sat up, looking around the room, relieved to find everything as he had left it. Once his greatest concern was relieved, his thoughts drifted to Alice. A rueful grin spread across his face. He knew she doubted him - how could she not what with her absolute knowledge for things. He knew her love for him was fading as her doubts grew, but he was sure, absolutely sure, that he could make things as they once were; it would just require some time, and gentle persuasion. He slid out of bed and tiptoed naked across Alice's bedroom which remained unchanged from their high school days – girly and soft, decorated in ivory and lace – the ghosts of the past haunting each step he took. Once a younger Alice had sat at her dresser contemplating an extreme makeover, her waist length hair shining as she brushed it out, while an innocent Jasper lay on her bed hypnotized by the shimmering darkness in her hands. Somewhere between now and then was an image of her in nothing but her favorite French lingerie, flinging articles of clothing out of her closet at him and laughing as he spluttered through mouthfuls of silk and chiffon. Last night, as she followed his lead to her room, her eyes shadowed with pain and distrust, but her longing and hope still radiating from her like the suns rays. Padding down the hallway he let his instincts roam out, and he felt her before he saw her staring out of the kitchen window.
"Alice," he murmured, crossing the last distance with soft rapid steps and circling her waist with his arms. She remained silent and still, her statue-like pose uninterrupted as though lost in thought. Another vision then. He hoped this was of something mundane, maybe whether Rosalie would finally decide between hot pink or magenta for her color scheme, maybe the outcome of Edward and Bella's dates.
Finally, after an endless moment she shuddered once and gently pushed Jasper's hands off her own bare skin. "Jasper", she turned, unsmiling.
The weight of her feelings pressed upon his chest, almost physically suffocating him. He knew what she was going to say, and for the first time since they had met he wished he was anywhere but near her. "Alice, don't," he spat out harshly, not meeting her eyes. "Just don't."
"Jazz," she surprised him by calling him by his nickname, "Someone will lose." With tears glistening in her eyes she pushed past him and flew from the kitchen. For once he was sure she would be wrong.
All the plans were in place. The date was set for the exchange, the money was ready to be transferred. Mentally, Laurent thanked Edward. His final 'date' with Bella had given him all the time he needed to finalize his plans and begin to turn the wheel for the final time. Working with morality was dangerous, but the money involved with this job was too much to pass up. After Bella, maybe Alaska would be nice for a time.