Disclaimer: Twilight is the property of SMeyer. The original characters in this story are mine.
Spoliers: This is the sequel to Afterlife, which takes place after the wedding in Breaking Dawn.
Summary: Emerging from the shadow of grief and despair, Jasper & Bella make good on a promise: To live. They delve into the vampire world and discover an old coven with new friends, a dark history, and a vendetta that cannot be ignored.
The last we saw of the sun was of it disappearing rapidly behind the thick layer of clouds that hung over the city of Paris. A cold, steady drizzle drifted down from the sky. The city was bathed in a pearl grey light, with the occasional splash of bright color from the shop windows and the flags that hung overhead. The brilliant colors I knew from the Impressionist painters who'd interpreted the City of Lights had apparently come on a day when the weather was nice. Conveniently enough, this was perfect weather for Jasper and I.
Our taxi rounded a traffic circle and turned down a cobblestone road, which narrowed almost the point of being impassible with cars parked obtrusively on either side. Jasper nervously eyed the wall of cars that were closing in on us. The driver didn't seem to mind the close quarters however, and continued to move down the lane with increasing speed. Suddenly everything opened up and we were merging with a busy road. Rather abruptly, the driver pulled up to the curb and barked out the fare due.
"Er, right," Jasper said, fishing through his wallet and retrieving several bills and passing them to the man. "The um, the Museum er, D'Orsay, donde, no, damn it that's Spanish. Uh, where--"
The driver angrily chided us in French, at least it sounded as if he were, before pointing, with an exasperated look, towards an enormous, impressive looking building. Its exterior was covered in carvings and sculptures. The lightly tinted windows, divided by wrought iron and framed in grand arches, reflected the building's original purpose as a train station.
I snorted as Jasper looked slightly abashed. He gave me a withering look and climbed out of the car, and I followed, grateful to have survived the taxi ride.
Behind us I could hear the driver grumbling just loud enough so we would be sure to hear it, "Damn American brats, learn some of the language before you travel next time."
Jasper gave me an embarrassed smile as he held out his hand to me.
I took it and with a roll of my eyes began to walk towards the museum.
"I'll have to learn French," he said, with a shake of his head.
"How is that you have lived as long as you have, and you don't know French?" I asked, smirking.
"Well unlike some of our family members, I had other interests besides linguistic pursuits."
"Like what?" I asked, as we neared the line that was queued at the entrance.
"Virgin sacrifice, blood rituals, and general carnage?" he suggested.
We both chuckled.
"So how's your French?" he asked, nudging me as moved up in line.
"Nonexistent," I said, wrinkling my nose.
"Well don't we make for a perfect example of our country's culturally enlightened youth," he said, as we crossed the threshold into the immense entry way, with walls that rose up and up to an arched ceiling covered in windows that provided pale, grey-green light from the clouded sky above.
"I think that's why we're here," I said, grinning.
Our visit to the museum was filled with all the color the city was lacking that day. Cezanne, Manet, Monet, van Gogh, Rodin, and Gaugin, artists whose work I never thought I would see in person were around every corner, and that was just to name a few. The museum was vast, and though we hadn't seen nearly everything we wanted to see, after a few hours the crowds began to grow. We made a discreet exit onto the open streets.
I gave Jasper a sidelong glance as we crossed a busy street. Though we had hunted in the last two days, I felt the need to check on him, just to make sure he was comfortable.
"I'm fine," he said without looking at me.
"I know," I said, returning my gaze to the city around us.
The Seine ran along our right. Buildings crowded alongside the river, and over the top of these buildings, steeples, monuments, obelisks, and towers rose. Above all of these was the Eiffel Tower, far, far off in the distance.
For a few minutes we walked in silence, lost in our own thoughts.
I kept looking around, still trying to grasp the concept that we were in Paris. I couldn't believe that a place that had been reserved for books and dreams was now a part of my reality.
We reached the corner, and without much thought or care, we turned and began to cross over the bridge that led to the other side of the city.
Suddenly Jasper pulled up short. With my hand still in his, I was jerked backwards and nearly fell.
He caught hold of me around the waist and pulled me into his arms.
"Hey," he said with a grin.
"Hi," I replied sweetly.
"We're in Paris," he informed me.
"We are," I said with a nod.
"No, like, we're in Paris. Paris, now. Here. Us," he said, pulling me closer.
"I know, I'm still getting over the shock too," I said, sliding my arms around his neck.
Jasper hoisted me up and sat me on the thick, cement railing, so I was slightly above his eye level. "I'm so glad we're here," he said, bringing his hands to rest on my thighs.
"I know, me too," I said, running a hand through his hair. It felt so strange, but at the same time, natural, comfortable even to be touching him like this.
"Me too," he echoed.
After a moment, he glanced behind me and I turned my head and looked down at the water that flowed beneath us.
"Up for a swim?" he asked, sliding his hands up to my middle and exerting the slightest, threatening pressure.
"No," I said, wrapping my hands around his wrists. "Thanks though."
He pushed again, and I locked my ankles behind his knees.
"Jasper, DON'T!" I said warningly. "I'll take you with me!" I added, clutching his wrists.
"Oh come on, you had a pretty good time last time you went swimming," he said slyly, pushing me again.
"That was so different," I said, casting a nervous glance below me as a small tour boat emerged from beneath the bridge.
"So you admit you had a good time," he said coyly.
I turned back and met his triumphant expression.
"Yeah," I said sheepishly.
"Good, me too," he said, releasing my waist and bringing his hands up to my face.
I loosened my hold on his wrists as he leaned up and softly brought his lips to mine. My hands slide down past his elbows and to his muscular biceps. I tightened my grip on them as he deepened the kiss. He slid a down my side and brought it to rest on my hip, pulling me towards as he leaned into me.
I relished the feeling of his hands on me, but somewhere in the back of my mind something clicked, and I became suddenly very aware that we were being watched.
Our lips froze and Jasper quickly pulled away. "I know, I felt that too," he said in an alarmed voice, spinning around.
We both swung our heads in either direction, trying to figure out what had set off our senses like that.
"It felt like, I don't know, like..." I struggled, trying to put the sensation into words.
"Like we're being watched by one of our kind," he said in a tense voice. "Instincts aren't limited to hunting. Someone else is here," he said, looking down the bridge as I looked in the opposite direction.
"Maybe they're just on vacation, like us," I said hopefully.
"Got her," he said in a quieter voice, his body going rigid.
I turned my head in the direction he was looking. "Where?" I asked, searching the faces for recognizable characteristics.
"A female, just outside that shop, halfway up the block."
My eyes followed where Jasper was staring, drifting further away from where I'd been looking and found her. A woman, with long, dark brown curly hair, pale skin, her deep red lips complimenting her bright, scarlet eyes. She wore a bright red, flowing long sleeved dress, and a black vest. She smirked as she hoisted a tote bag onto her shoulder and nodded at us. She hitched up a bit of dress and took off. In a flash she was standing before us.
She slid her hands onto her hips and raised an eyebrow. "Well, well, well, what do we have here?" she asked in a light, musical accent, her eyes moving over us hungrily.
Thanks to my beta, twi_ction! She's amazing and makes me dance and smile LOTS! Thanks to the_gazebo for their sense of humor and encouragement!
Sorry I didn't do a preview, I decided to go ahead with the first chapter.
Outtake for Afterlife is in the works. I've been sitting in smoky bars with a drink scribbling away, so hopefully I can get that out quickly. Also the possibility of a Jasper one, it's just a really tough one to write for me, so I'm hoping I can get it down properly. Afterlife had such an abrupt ending because Vie will be taking a different direction. Yes, there is still healing be had, but there are adventures to be had as well. These are their adventures. Thanks so much for coming along for the ride!
Also THANK YOU SO MUCH for the encouragement and kind words regarding the loss I experienced and related in the last author's note, it means a lot, more than you could possibly know.