A/N so sorry! I know there's no excuse good enough to explain the long wait for this update so I won't even try. I do appreciate the fact that you still have this fic on alert!
"Jasper," she whispered before she took off running, meeting him at the bottom of the steps. She was laughing and crying at the same time, but her tears couldn't blur the love and relief she saw in Jasper's eyes.
Jasper gently picked her up and swung her around. When he placed her back on her feet, he immediately began running his hands over her arms and back. When he was satisfied that she was unharmed, he pulled her into his chest and held her tight.
"Oh Bella, I was so afraid something was going to happen to you…I was so afraid," he murmured into her hair. He rested his forehead on hers and stared into the dark brown eyes he had fallen in love with.
Bella had her arms wrapped around Jasper's waist. She didn't care that he was covered in blood, James's blood. All she cared about was that her husband was holding her tightly in his arms. "Let's go home," she whispered.
Jasper picked Bella up and crossed the bloody deck to where Edward was standing. "You know what to do," he told his second-in-command. When Edward nodded his head, Jasper turned to cross the plank to his ship with Alice following close behind. He set Bella down on her feet and watched as Edward gave orders for the men to go below and search for anything of value. Once everything was loaded on their ship, a few of his men overturned barrels of tar so the black ooze covered the deck. Their mission completed, the men took their turns at crossing the plank.
The atmosphere was solemn as Jasper's men put some distance between their ship and James's. Jasper pulled Bella closer to his side, wrapping both arms around her. He noticed her hands clenched around the railing, her knuckles turning white.
"Bella, why don't you and Alice go to our cabin while we take care of Breighton's ship?"
Bella shook her head. "I need to watch…" She turned to face Jasper. "Please?"
Jasper placed his hand on Bella's face and ran his thumb across her cheekbone. He stared into her eyes, watching them fill with tears. Although he wanted to protect her from what was going to happen, he knew she had to see for herself that they were free from the worry of James coming after her again. He nodded his head and leaning down, kissed each eyelid. When he pulled back, he tipped her chin up so she could see how serious he was.
"I'll agree with one condition. When it's done, you'll let me take you to our cabin and not argue." There was nothing Jasper wanted more than to be buried underneath the blankets on their bed, with Bella safely wrapped up in his arms.
Jasper could see the gratitude wash across Bella's face at his words. She stood on her tip-toes and pressed her lips against his. "Agreed. Thank you, love."
As Alice scooted closer to Bella, Jasper stood at her back with his arms wrapped around her, waiting for Jacob to give the signal. Once Jacob raised his hand in the air, Jasper watched as the Quileutes neared the railing of the ship. When he saw they were in position, Jacob dipped a piece of wood with a cloth wound around the end in a bucket of fire until the tip lit. He proudly held it out to Bella.
"Would you like to do the honors?" he asked, trying to control the smile that threatened to break across his face. When he saw the confused look Bella gave him, he continued. "We are too close to land to fire off the cannons, so to avoid any suspicion, we will use lit arrows. We would consider it an honor for you to light the first arrow." Jacob bowed as he held out the torch.
Bella took the torch and turned her head to place a kiss on Jasper's lips. She then walked over to Quil, who was standing at the end of the line. She leaned forward to kiss him on the cheek and lit his arrow. She stepped backwards until she was back in Jasper's arms. They watched as one by one Jacob's men lit their arrows from the man to their right. Once every arrow had a ball of fire on its end, Jacob raised his hand.
Bella watched in fascination as each Quileute raised his bow and drew back. Jacob lowered his hand and a volley of fire flew across the ocean and landed on James's ship. Fire exploded across the deck and quickly consumed the ship, helped along by the black tar. Bella felt Alice's hand grab her own and turned to face her. She had to smile at the astonishment crossing Alice's face. For once Alice was as still as a statue and as quiet as a mouse.
Memories of her father's ship being fired upon crossed her mind but she shook those thoughts out of her head. Although there was loss of life on James's ship too, she couldn't and wouldn't feel bad about it. When it came down between her life with Jasper and the dying men, she'd pick Jasper every time. She could feel Jasper rubbing her stomach and felt a shudder run through her body. She remembered her father's part in the murder of Jasper's parents and hoped with everything in her that Jasper wouldn't hold her accountable for what had happened. She was afraid that her husband would feel differently towards her when he found out the truth.
Jasper felt Bella shiver and tightened his hold on her. He waited until the smoke coming from James's ship waned in the distance and then leaned down to whisper in her ear. "Are you ready to go to our cabin now?"
Bella slowly nodded her head turned to give Alice a hug. Out of the corner of her eye, a familiar man stood off to the side and she froze. Jasper followed her gaze and laughed.
"Bella, I'd like you to meet someone." Jasper waved to the man, who trotted over to his side. "Darlin', this is my cousin Peter. He just got into town and volunteered to check on you for me. I was pretty sure we had the right ship, but I had to be certain you were on it. Pete, this is…"
Peter gently grabbed Bella's hand and brought it up to his lips. Placing a kiss on her knuckles, he stared into her eyes. "You don't have to tell me who this vision of loveliness is, Jas. The memory of her dark, beautiful brown eyes is etched in my brain forever."
As politely as she could, Bella pulled her hand out of Peter's grip. She tilted her head and smiled. "Oh yes, I remember you. So tell me Pete, did Gertie feel sorry for you and take you back? Are you still fighting the urge to drink? And just how are Cletus and Billy Bob?"
Peter let out a wild whoop and wrapped Bella up in a tight hug. "Welcome to the family, darlin'! I think you'll fit right in with this ragtag team of no-gooders!" He set her down on her feet and continued, "There isn't a Gertie, Cletus or Billy Bob but there is a Charlotte and she is waiting to meet you. She's back at the house with Rose."
Bella shook her head and laughed. "I knew that story sounded too far-fetched!"
A look of sadness crossed Peter's face and he placed his hand over his heart. "Are you saying my acting skills are below par, madam? That hurts…"
Jasper rolled his eyes at his cousin's antics. "Ok Pete. We all bow down to your theatrical skills. Now if you don't mind, I want to take Bella to our cabin so we can clean up."
Amid all the hoots and hollering, Jasper steered an embarrassed Bella to their cabin. Once he shut the door behind them, he gathered her in his arms and held her close to him.
Although her father wasn't directly responsible for their deaths, she was afraid of what Jasper's reaction was going to be when she told him. When he started to unbutton her shirt, Bella placed her hands on his to stop him. "Jasper, wait. There's something I've got to tell you."
Jasper saw the fear in Bella's eyes and spoke softly. "Darlin, let's get out of these clothes and then you can tell me, ok?" After a few seconds, she agreed and he continued on his mission. Once he had her undressed, he led her to their bed and helped her into it. He stripped off his own clothes and joined her, pulling her into his arms. He wanted nothing more than to make love to his wife, but he wanted her mind clear.
Bella rested her head on his chest and her hand on his stomach, her fingers playing with the light dusting of hair below his navel. She tried to figure out the best way to tell him, but couldn't come up with anything that would lessen the blow. She felt his hand running through her hair and allowed his calmness to settle her fear. She was glad that Jasper gave her time to get her thoughts together. She decided to just tell him exactly what James had told her and hope for the best so she took a deep breath and slowly began the story. Tears of shame, embarrassment and sorrow streamed down her face as she told the man she loved about the connection between her father and James. She barely got the words out when she got to the part of his parent's deaths. "Please don't leave me," she mumbled.
When she was done, the following silence compounded her fear that Jasper would somehow blame her for her father's actions and send her away. When he didn't respond, she tried to pull away from his arms but he just held her tighter. She lifted her head to look in his face and was shocked to see the love shining from his tear-filled eyes.
"I always suspected Breighton had something to do with their murders but couldn't prove it. When we were fighting, he was taunting me with how it was going to be as easy to kill me as it was to kill them. I'm not ashamed to admit that I took extra pleasure in running my sword through him." Jasper wiped Bella's tears with his thumb. "Bella, although your father might have led the bastard on that trail, he did try to put a stop to it. You are not responsible for his actions just as your father isn't responsible for my parent's deaths. I hate what he did, but I believe that everything happens for a reason. We'll just keep his part in all of this to ourselves. No one else needs to know, ok?"
Bella let out a sob and pressed her lips to Jasper's. She didn't know if she would ever be able to forgive her father for his alliance with James, but like Jasper said, she never would have met the love of her life if that alliance had never been made. Her husband didn't blame her and that was all that mattered to her. How she had gotten so lucky to be captured by this wonderful man, she'd never know but would always be thankful.
A/N thanks for reading! epilogue is next…