I have always wondered why five o'clock traffic started at four PM on Friday. I mean, are all these people really able to leave work an hour and a half early just because it's the last day of the work week?
I shook my head and drummed my fingers on the steering wheel. The car in front of me had four or five faded bumper stickers, the ones that are so old you wonder if they are even relevant to this particular driver. Were they purchased by the original owner? How many times had the vehicle changed hands since then?Why didn't the new driver bother to remove the old stickers, or at least find new ones more specific to their tastes?
I sighed and blew my bangs out of my eyes. These were the things I thought about whenever I found myself bumper to bumper in the unforgiving South Carolina summer heat. I scanned through the radio channels and stopped at an old Nirvana song. Kurt Cobain could always brush away the cobwebs and allow me access to long forgotten memories, and I thought about Alice, Rosalie, and I—how we had spent so much of our junior and senior years of high school driving this very same stretch of highway, listening to Nirvana, REM, and Pearl Jam, smoking Marlboro Lights, and planning our futures. Here I was almost 10 years later, and I shuddered when I thought about how far my life had strayed from those hopeful plans.
I lit a cigarette and took a long drag, trying to stave off the emotional breakdown that was perched on the horizon, just waiting for a moment of weakness. Then, as if she sensed my ill mood, my phone rang. Alice, I thought, not even bothering to check the caller ID. She always knew.
"Hey girl, thank God you called, I was just about to cross the yellow line."
"Not funny, Bella," Alice muttered. She was so easy to annoy. She paused and then sighed loudly. "Are you smoking?" she asked, already knowing the answer.
"Umm....no? These aren't mine; I was just, um, holding them for someone else."
Alice snorted. "When did you start back?"
I rolled my eyes. "Oh, I don't know. I guess it would be about the time I realized that I was going to become a twenty four year old divorcee. It probably had something to do with my no good, lying, son of a bitch husband fucking another woman while I was working double shifts at the hospital to make up for him being out of work." I slammed my hands down on the steering wheel, flicked my cigarette butt out of the window, and reached for my pack. "Damn it, now I'm chain smoking."
"Calm down, Bella. Concentrate on your driving. I will never forgive you if you die in a fiery car crash because you were thinking about him. It's been over a year; you need to let it go."
I felt angry tears warming my eyes. Why did everyone always say things like that? It was always the ones who had never even been married. How dare they try to pretend like they knew what it was like to lose the person you thought you'd be in love with on your death bed. Of course, I knew Alice had the best intentions. She wanted me to move on, to be happy…to be like her. I think she felt guilty whenever she was near me. Like because my life sucked, hers should to. That made everything even worse. I had no intention of ruining things for everyone I cared about. I would not share my emotional baggage.
"Okay, so don't kill me, but I have some bad news," Alice squeaked, but I could actually hearher smiling. Bad news my ass.What was she up to?
"Alice....what's going on," I asked suspiciously. The cars in front of me had finally started moving, and I could see my exit, just a quarter of a mile up the road. "Where are you? I'm almost at your house."
Alice whispered her response so low even she couldn't have heard it.
"What?" I asked, exiting the interstate and turning onto the road that would take me to Alice's childhood home.
"I'm in Dallas," she muttered, "I missed my connecting flight. I won't be able to fly out until the morning."
She had to be kidding me.
"Are you kidding me? Alice, I'm two miles from your house. Are you telling me I'm gonna have to spend my weekend with Mom and Phil? This day just gets better and better." I rubbed my forehead and pulled into the Walmart parking lot.
"No, you don't. I just called Dad. He was expecting us anyway, and he's got all the stuff ready to grill out. He's expecting you. I told him you'd be there."
My face immediately emptied itself of blood and I let my head rest on the steering wheel. Her words echoed through my head, but I couldn't get them to stay still long enough to make sense.
"Bella? Are you still there?" Alice sounded worried, but something in her tone also sounded guilty. Alice was a terrible liar. The words stopped moving around in my head, and suddenly everything made sense.
"Alice Brandon, you're lying. You didn't miss your connecting flight, did you?"
"I know what you're thinking, Bella, but I really did. I'm catching the first flight out of here, but it's not until seven AM. Spending the night at the airport is not exactly something I'm excited about."
I closed my eyes, and tried to talk my racing heart into slowing down. Alice's dad. I used to say he had ruined me for all other men. Not that we had ever been anything more to one other than friend's dad and daughter's friend, but he was my yardstick, by which all others were measured. He was the perfect man – rugged, funny, smart, talented, incredibly gorgeous. I squeezed my eyes shut. Why was I thinking like this right now? What was Alice thinking? I couldn't do this; I couldn't possibly go to Alice's house alone and have a cookout with her father who had starred in nearly all of my late adolescent sexual fantasies.
"Bella? Please talk to me. What's going on? Are you picturing my daddy naked?" She stifled a giggle and I groaned. Too many wine coolers during our senior trip had led to my humiliating admission that I lusted after my best friend's father, and I had not been able to live it down ever since. The problem was, Alice wasn't freaked out, and she didn't just think it was funny. She thought it was perfect, and ever since I had turned 18, she had been trying to convince me to make a move. I, of course, informed her that she was nuts, that there was something creepy and unnatural about her best friend fucking her daddy. She had even taken to calling me "mommy" when she drank. She thought this was endlessly entertaining; I just had to make sure we never drank around her dad.
"Alice," I whined. "Why are you doing this to me? Did I murder one of your relatives in a past life or something? I'm turning around." I began turning the wheel, preparing to head back down the road in the opposite direction, hoping to make it to my Mom's house before it got dark. My mom had this weird thing about not answering the door after dark and I knew Phil would be on the road. He played minor league baseball and traveled almost every weekend.
"Isabella Swan, do not turn around. I told him you were coming. He's marinating steaks and making that man cave of his look presentable. He's even wearing a shirt with sleeves and his good jeans. He's looking forward to having some company. He's excited to see you Bella." She paused. "You disappoint him and I'll give him the tape." She had a defiant edge to her voice, and I couldn't be sure whether she was bluffing or not.
"You cannot give him the tape, Alice. I was nineteen years old and piss drunk. That was six years ago!"
Alice was smirking; I could practically see that smug look on her face through the phone.
"I'm sure daddy would be interested to hear about all the things you'd like to do to him. Maybe I should include a glossary in case he gets confused..." she trailed off deviously.
I shook my head and tried not to laugh. Then I realized that I had indeed stopped turning around when Alice told me to. I shook my head. She just had that kind of a personality. She was tiny, but authoritative. I always attributed that to her growing up without a mother. Fathers didn't generally mirror submissive behavior for their daughters. Alice had never even met her mother. Her parents were sixteen years old when she was born, and her mom had signed over her parental rights while they were still in the hospital. I don't know quite how he did it, but Mr. Brandon had managed to raise her all by himself and she had turned out to be a truly amazing human being. When she wasn't plotting my eternal humiliation, that is.
"Alice, I can't do this. I'm not ready, and what makes you think he would even be interested?"
"Bella, you're never gonna be ready. You're just gonna have to take a leap and see what happens. I'm not blind. You guys are perfect for each other. You're both adults. I just want to put you two in an empty house for one night and see if any sparks fly. As an experiment."
"Well, I'm glad I can serve as your guinea pig," I answered dryly. I pulled out of the parking lot and started heading in the direction of Alice's ridiculously long dirt road. I could remember walking down that road in the dark many years ago, clutching onto Alice and Rosalie, the three of us shrieking at any number of imaginary threats as we stood on that threshold between youth and adulthood. I remembered watching Mr. Brandon work in his garden and chop wood for their wood burning stove. I would always ask him to play his guitar and sing whenever I spent the night. Alice would bury her face in her hands and beg him to stop, utterly humiliated, while I would watch, mesmerized by the way his fingers would race over the strings of his twelve string acoustic, and loving the way he would close his eyes when he sang. His voice sounded like John Denver, James Taylor, and Van Morrison, with just a touch of young Jerry Garcia. It was an unfathomably sexy voice.
"Okay Alice, I'm turning into the driveway now. I'll call you later. Promise me one thing. Promise me you didn't say anything to him about my...er...feelings." Wow, just pulling onto that driveway had unleashed a swarm of butterflies in my stomach, and I found myself feeling rather flushed as I bumped and bounced down the rather nicely maintained dirt drive. I smiled. Mr. Brandon had always been a stickler about that road. When we were in high school, he would have Alice work on speed bumps before she could come out on the weekends, and anyone caught driving too fast would find themselves in the same boat. I had worked that shift on more than one occasion.
"Of course I didn't, Bella. I'm not an idiot." She paused. Here it comes, I thought. "Now, I may have mentioned, you know, in passing, that you guys have a lot in common, in terms of tastes in music, fashion sense, and political affiliation."
I laughed in spite of myself. "You're a real piece of work, Brandon. Now leave me alone so I can think impure thoughts about your daddy."
"Go easy on him, Bella. I'll call you later." I hung up the phone just as the house came into view. It was a cute little log home with a wide porch wrapped around three sides. I could just make out the vegetable garden out back where Mr. Brandon grew the tomatoes and peppers that he used to make his own salsa. There is nothing sexier than a man who makes his own salsa. His truck was in the driveway and I laughed at his bumper stickers promoting peace and simplicity, and, of course, music. I wasn't quite ready to venture inside yet, so I leaned against my hood and lit another cigarette. I turned my face up and closed my eyes against the late afternoon sun. What was I getting myself into?
I jumped at the sound of his voice and quickly dropped the cigarette on the ground, covering it with my shoe. I raised my face to look at him, and really hoped I was just imagining the blush that I felt creeping into my cheeks.
"Um...Hi, Mr. Brandon. Sorry, I was just...uh...Alice called, and..." I was having a very difficult time being anything other than a floundering moron and I couldn't shake the feeling that I had just been caught doing something wrong. I felt like I was 17 years old, and apparently I was acting like it, too.
He smiled, and I melted. "Bella, call me Jasper, please. You're way too old to call me Mr. Brandon."
"Well, I'm not exactly collecting social security, but okay. Hi....Jasper. See, that just sounds weird."
"Not to me, it's been my name for the last 41 years."
Wait.Did he just wink? I began to sweat as I worried about all the things that Alice could have told him. She wouldn't have. Would she? I tried to compose myself. When I looked up, Mr. Bran...I mean, Jasper, was regarding me with an amused look on his face. She did. That little tramp would pay. God, he was sexy. The last six years had been kind to him, as the years are kind to so many men. He was tan and toned, but not overly muscular. Tiny lines had just begun to crease the corners of his eyes and mouth and across his forehead, but the whole effect was more rugged than old. His eyes were almost turquoise, lined with thick, dark brown lashes. His face was smooth and I could smell the faint scent of shaving cream in the air. Had he shaved just for this occasion? My stomach began to do that churning thing again. I realized that I was just standing there staring, so I forced myself to make eye contact, and try, once again, to speak intelligibly.
"Nice shirt," I mumbled, nodding at the Terrapin Station shirt he was wearing. It fit him perfectly, hanging to just below his hip bones. At that moment I was seized with an almost irresistible urge to reach up under that shirt, and run my hands along the beautiful taut skin just above his waistband. I managed to tear myself from my reverie long enough to notice that he had moved closer. His arm was extended and I dumbly stood there staring for what seemed like a full minute before I even noticed.
"I was joking about the busted thing," he said, grinning. "I was actually coming to offer you one of these."
I looked down to his hand and saw that he was offering me a beer. Killian's Red. Boy, I really was in trouble. So the guy had to have perfect taste in alcohol too? I smoothed my sweaty palms against the gauzy fabric of my floor length peasant skirt and took the bottle that he offered. He had already popped the top, and the sip I took was very welcome as I let the cold liquid cool my parched mouth and throat.
"Nice," I sighed. "Thanks." Why was I speaking in monosyllables? I hoped the beer's alcohol content would help to squelch my nerve induced stupidity.
"Oh," he said, patting his pockets and producing a white box. "You shouldn't have to waste that cigarette." He nodded in the direction of my foot and I blushed for the hundredth time in the past 5 minutes.
"Oh yeah," I said quietly, and then I mumbled something incoherent about "old habits dying hard". I took the cigarette he offered, noting that we smoked the same brand. "Thanks." I started to reach in my pocket for my lighter, but he was faster. He flicked the wheel of his sliver Zippo and held it out for me. My stomach flip flopped at our close proximity, and I thought my face would never fully recover from all the blushing. I leaned towards the flame and took a long drag. I straightened up and took a few steps back. Jasper had moved toward his truck and was lowering the tailgate. He sat down on it and patted the empty space beside him. I joined him on the tailgate, turning so I could lean against the side of the truck bed with my knees bent in front of me. I rested my chin on my knees and took another slow drag off my cigarette. I noticed he had lit his own and we sat, puffing contentedly, enjoying the silence. He was the first to speak.
"So," he sighed. "Alice clued me in."
My heart actually seemed to stop beating. I briefly wondered if he knew CPR, in case it didn't start back on its own, but that led to another thought, completely unrelated to sudden cardiac arrest. I swallowed loudly. "She did?" I squeaked. I actually fucking squeaked. Suddenly, I couldn't look at him. I lowered my face to my knees and prayed I could just disappear. I felt warmth on my upper arm and realized he was touching me. I jerked my face up to look at him, and at his hand that was still attached to my bicep. I must have looked panicked, because his face took on a concerned expression.
"Divorce is nothing to be ashamed of, especially when infidelity is involved. I'm really sorry you had to go through that…and at such a young age." He dropped his hand back to his lap and looked away.
I let out the breath I had been holding and absentmindedly touched my fingertips to the place that his hand had occupied just seconds earlier. His words echoed in my head. "At such a young age." He still thought of me as a kid. I tried not to let the disappointment show on my face as I took a final drag and put the cigarette out in the ashtray he was now holding.
"I need to use the bathroom," I blurted out. I was really beginning to feel like an idiot, and I needed to talk to Alice, right away.
He smiled and nodded toward the house. "Go ahead. Make yourself at home. I'm gonna go get a few things from the garden and start the grill."
I grabbed my purse from the front seat of my car and hurried towards the house, grateful for a few minutes alone. I opened the back door and was immediately bombarded with memories. That smell – patchouli and sandalwood, mixed with the scent of fresh laundry. I breathed in deeply and continued through the kitchen. The house was small and dark. I thought it was very cozy and inviting. Alice said it made her claustrophobic. I walked into the living room with its wood burning stove, worn sofa, and mounted deer heads. Jasper's guitar sat propped against the recliner and CDs were spread all over the coffee table. I smiled. Nothing here had changed. I decided to use the bathroom off of Alice's room at the back of the house. I walked into her room and shut the door behind me. Then I began dialing like a mad woman. She answered on the first ring.
"I've been waiting for you to call! What's going on? Where's my dad? Did you kiss him yet?" Alice was breathless and excited—I laughed at my best friend's enthusiasm.
"Slow down there, cupid," I sighed. "He just pointed out how young I am." I relayed the story to her and she insisted that the only thing she had told him was that I had divorced my husband last year. I told her about the beer, the tailgate moment, and the butterflies that had taken up permanent residence in my abdomen. She listened to all of it without comment. She was silent for a moment when I'd finished.
"It's pretty obvious what's going on, Bella," she sighed. "He's nervous too. He doesn't know how you feel about him, so he's taking two steps forward and one step back. Just relax, if you've only been there ten minutes and the sexual tension is already as thick as you make it seem, you may not even want me to come home tomorrow."
"I wish I had your confidence," I muttered. "I better go. I'd hate for him to come in from the garden and find me hiding out in your room, talking on the phone. No need for him to think of me as any younger than he already does." I peeked out the window and froze when I didn't see him in the garden. "I gotta go, Alice," I whispered. "I'll call you later." I flipped the phone shut and checked my reflection in the mirror. Satisfied that I at least didn't look 16 years old, I opened the door and walked out into the hall. I looked up just in time to narrowly avoid running right into Jasper, whose vision was currently obscured by the shirt he was pulling over his head. I audibly gasped at the sight of his rock hard abdominal muscles and his low slung button fly jeans. It was almost....too much.
He cleared his throat and my eyes shot up to see him standing in front of me, well into my personal space. I started stammering out an apology, but couldn't seem to find the presence of mind to back up and let the man through. I forgot that his bedroom was across from Alice's and it was clear that was his destination.
He gave me a sheepish grin and held his arms up like he was surrendering. "I'd give me a pretty wide berth if I were you. Maggie decided it was a good idea to go swimming in the pond and then make sure I knew how much she loves me." I realized then that his shirt and pants were soaked. I moved to the side to let him by, and we did that annoying "dancing" thing that happens when two people can't coordinate themselves to let each other pass. He flashed me the most adorable little grin, lightly gripped my shoulders, and held me in place while he stepped around me. His breath was in my face, and even with the wet dog smell that covered his clothes, he smelled amazing.
"I'll be right back," he whispered before squeezing and quickly releasing my shoulders, then walking down the hall to his bedroom.
That was when I began to understand the concept of the word swoon. I held onto the wall for support and made my way back to the living room where I flopped onto the sofa. I could feel my nipples pressing against the front of my cotton tank top.
"Stupid, overly responsive, boobs," I muttered. I shuddered as I remembered how his fingertips had brushed against the outside of my breasts when he reached for my shoulders. I thought about his naked torso and how closely we had stood together. I thought about his smell and the way my body had responded to his touch. I closed my eyes and leaned back on the sofa, kicking off my Birkenstock sandals and stretching my legs out in front of me. I heard the shower cut on, and just the thought of him in there naked, lathered, and wet, made my body respond even more, soon after that I was sitting up and looking around for a distraction. I picked up a handful of CDs off the table and started flipping through them. I stopped at a live Dead CD and walked over to the stereo. A few seconds later the first chords of Dire Wolf filled the room and I was starting to feel calmer. I padded into the kitchen and grabbed a beer out of the fridge. I was closing the door when my eyes locked on a bowl covered with saran wrap on the top shelf. I took a closer look and let out a little squeal. I tiptoed down the hall and when I was sure I still heard the shower on, I ran back to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. I reached up and grabbed the bowl, kicking the door closed with my foot. I hopped up to sit on the counter and swung my legs back and forth.
"Mr. Brandon's homemade icing," I whispered as I removed the saran wrap. Alice, Rosalie, and I used to eat this stuff all the time, no cake required. I dipped my finger in the bowl and scooped out some of the sweet pink icing. I ate with giddy delight, giggling just like a little kid. It was as good as I remembered. I heard footsteps, so I jumped up, replaced the saran wrap, and shoved the bowl back in the fridge. I had just closed the door when Jasper came through the doorway, looking absolutely delicious in dark jeans and a forest green polo shirt. His brown hair fell to his cheekbones in the front and he had brushed it away from his eyes. He smelled like patchouli and soap.
"Wow," I said, grinning. "You clean up nice. I didn't know you even owned anything with a collar."
"Funny," he muttered, but he was grinning too. "It may be laundry day."
Again with the wink. I was starting to think maybe Alice was right, and that thought sent a shiver through my body. He walked over to the sink and pulled a cutting board out of the drawer.
"Have a seat." He pointed to a stool with the knife he was holding. "I was just gonna make some salsa."
He looked up at me and smirked. "By the way, you've got some icing on your face."
I gave a nervous little laugh and started wiping at my face blindly. He watched me while he chopped the tomatoes and then shook his head. He put down his knife, wiped his hands on a towel, and leaned over towards me. He reached out and wiped the corner of my mouth with his finger, and I swear it took every ounce of willpower I possessed to keep my shit together. When he brought his hand to his mouth and licked the icing off his finger, I almost fell off my stool. It was an innocent gesture. He didn't do some cheesy slow motion sex lick. I think that's part of what made the action so sexy, the simplicity of the gesture.
"Don't worry; I saved plenty of room for dinner. What are you fixing me?" I asked playfully, giving him a wide smile.
He laughed, shook his head, and went back to chopping the tomatoes. "You're not even going to pretend to help?"
I propped my feet up on the other stool and took a sip of my beer. "Nope. I have absolutely no interest in learning to cook. Not when I have a perfectly good cook right here in front of me."
He rolled his eyes and flicked a piece of tomato at me. I watched as he began to chop the bell peppers and onions. "Be nice to me or I'm gonna tell Alice," I teased.
He snorted, not even looking up. "I'm not afraid of Alice."
"Liar," I said, opening my cell phone.
He turned around and I once again found myself within 3 inches of his gorgeous chest. He snatched my cell phone and flipped it closed. "Okay, you got me." He handed the phone back to me and his fingers brushing mine sent a wave of tingles up my arm. His voice lowered a bit when he said, "Let me know how I can make it up to you." You can take me right here on this counter top, my inner voice screamed, but I kept my composure and managed to tear my eyes away from his.
"You could play for me later."
He grinned. "You got it. Play your cards right and I may even sing a little."
"I'm counting on it." I smiled and realized I was so glad that I had decided to come over. I was having fun for the first time in so long. I sighed contentedly; sipping my beer and watching this amazing man chop parsley, and mix ingredients in a small glass bowl. Every once in a while he would look up at me and smile. God, he had the greatest smile.
"Alright, are you ready to taste?" He held a tortilla chip with a small pile of salsa in front of my face. I leaned forward and took a bite, quickly covering my mouth to hold in any run away chip pieces. I chewed and then nodded appreciatively.
"Good. I haven't made it for anyone in so long. I was a little nervous. Grab that bag of chips and we'll take this party outside so I can cook you an amazing meal."
I swear if he winked at me one more time I could not be held accountable for my actions. I grabbed the chips and my beer and walked towards the back door. Jasper grabbed the steaks out of the fridge and the salsa and followed me.
Cue blush, dopey grin, and butterflies. I walked out the back door and into the cooling night air. I found a spot on the bench that surrounded the deck and pulled my knees to my chest. It was a beautiful summer night, mercifully cool after the heat of the day, and I settled in to watch my own personal Tyler Florence working the grill. Jasper had deposited the bowl of salsa beside me and I loaded up a chip while I watched him place two gorgeous looking steaks on the hot grill. They sizzled deliciously; he closed the lid and came to sit beside me.
We sat, eating chips, drinking beer, and talking, and I couldn't remember the last time conversation had flowed so easily. I told him about my new job writing for a local newspaper and he filled me in on his adventures teaching primitive technologies to kids at a small private school in town.
"Still picking up roadkill?" I asked, laughing around a mouthful of chips.
"You know it," he answered. "The other day I showed my first graders a complete possum skeleton. They loved it."
I shook my head and laughed. "I love the way your eyes sparkle when you talk about dead animal carcasses."
"You like the way my eyes sparkle, huh?" He grinned and raised his eyebrows at me, my cheeks began to burn. A somewhat uncomfortable silence fell upon us, his words seeming to echo all around as I tried desperately to think of something to say to break the tension. Luckily, the steaks needed to be turned, so Jasper got up to tend to them and I pressed my palms to my cheeks, trying to cool them off.
"I'm gonna go grab the vegetables from the kitchen. Have you ever had grilled zucchini?"
I shook my head dumbly and watched him walk into the kitchen. I swallowed the last of my beer and lit a cigarette, using my time alone to channel some semblance of normalcy. Several minutes passed and I began to wonder what was keeping him. The steaks smelled amazing and my stomach growled in anticipation of a phenomenal meal. The buzzing of my phone in my purse made me jump; I opened it and saw that it was a text message from Alice.
Bella, he just called me.Get somewhere where you can talk.Alice.
I had just palmed my phone when Jasper walked outside, carrying a tray of bright green, no doubt, homegrown zucchini and a clean plate for the steaks.
"These will cook pretty fast, so we should be eating soon," he said, opening the grill top and depositing the vegetables next to the steaks. I needed to talk to Alice right away. My palms were sweating and I was terrified that he had called Alice to rescue him from the pathetic horny loser sitting on his deck. When he turned back to face me I pointed towards my beer.
"I'm gonna use the restroom. Do you want another one?"
He nodded; I turned on my heel and all but ran for the sanctity of Alice's bathroom. I opened my phone and dialed Alice's number. Once again, she answered on the first ring. At first I couldn't understand a thing she was saying with all the squealing going on. I waited for her to stop before I bothered to try to respond.
"Alice, what the hell's going on? I can't understand a word you're saying."
I heard her take a deep breath, and then she spoke. "It is so on, Bella. You're driving him crazy, in such a good way." I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I was convinced that everything besides "you're driving him crazy", was just a figment of my imagination.
"Are you listening to me, Bella? My dad just called to ask me what I thought you'd do if he kissed you! I've never heard him act so flustered."
"What!?" I began pacing around the small bathroom. "What should I do? Oh my God, now I'm even more nervous. He wants to kiss me? Why doesn't he just do it? He doesn't need to ask your permission."
"No shit, Bella. The man is a nervous wreck. Do you realize that you've got him worked up to the point that he needed to call his daughter to ask for advice on how to proceed?"
"What did you tell him?" I asked warily.
She laughed. "I told him to jump you. I told him that you've wanted him for the past eight years, and that you've probably already had to change your unmentionables at least once tonight."
"Funny, Alice. Be serious please. I only have a few more seconds to talk here. For God's sake, please tell me what to do!"
"Okay, Okay. Please calm down. I told him to wait for the right moment and lay one on you. I didn't mention any of your feelings about him. I just told him I was positive you wouldn't smack him."
I laughed. "Thanks Alice. I guess I better go. Thanks for calling. I'll let you know if anything happens."
"Sure, just don't call toosoon after it happens. Remember, to you he may be a hot piece of ass, but he's still my daddy."
"You got it. I'll call you later." I hung up the phone and splashed some water on the back of my neck. The suspense was going to be the death of me. How was I supposed to walk back in there and act like everything was normal?How long had I been in here anyway?I checked my watch. Just under three minutes. That was normal enough. I opened the door and walked swiftly to the kitchen to retrieve two beers, then I headed back out onto the deck. He was at the grill, transferring the steaks and vegetables onto plates.
"I thought maybe you had made a run for it," he said without turning around.
I walked up beside him and punched him playfully in the arm. "Not a chance. This smells amazing."
He smiled and handed me a plate. "Shall we?"
I took my plate over to the small outside table and sat down. Jasper sat across from me. My heart was beating so fast as I tried to play it as cool as possible.
"Ladies first," he said, nodding towards my plate. I took my fork and knife and cut a piece of steak. I could feel his eyes on me as I brought it to my mouth and took a bite. I tried to chew as daintily as I could. The meat was juicy and perfectly seasoned, and I closed my eyes, nodding my approval.
"Delicious." When I opened my eyes, I was aware of something in his eyes that made me squirm a little in my seat. I took a bite of zucchini. "Okay, this is so good; it's ruined all other vegetables for me."
He laughed, shook his head, and we continued eating in comfortable silence for several minutes.
"So, what are you thinking?" Jasper asked when the silence had become less than comfortable.
"I was thinking that you remind me a lot of Tyler Florence." I had almost finished my steak and I speared a piece of zucchini, dragging it through the juices from the steak that were left on my plate before popping it in my mouth.
He smiled. "Tyler Florence, eh? He's the good looking one?"
My buzz kept my embarrassment at bay and I found myself flirting a little too comfortably when I said, "He's alright. Though, I must admit, my heart lies with Alton Brown."
"Is that so?" He was flirting too. "What does it for you? The glasses? I think I may have some reading glasses around here somewhere?" He wiped his mouth on his napkin and pushed his empty plate forward, taking a long sip of beer.
I thought for a moment. "It's partly the glasses, I guess, but what can I say? I like a man who can tell me the history and science behind everything from apple pie to mayonnaise." I giggled a little too loudly and made a mental note to stop drinking. I certainly didn't want to turn into a slobbering drunk now.
Jasper looked thoughtful for a moment. "Well, I do teach science, you know."
"Well, maybe you should go get those glasses you mentioned before and teach me all about the history of steak and the science of grilling." I was amazed that I was able to maintain eye contact with him as I flirted shamelessly.
Suddenly, Jasper stood up and held out his hand to me. "I'm pretty sure I can think of my own little trick to win your affections," he said with a confidence that was incredibly sexy. I felt my body respond so strongly that it startled me. And he wasn't even touching me yet. I looked up at him from under my lashes and took the hand he offered. He pulled me gently to my feet and led me into the living room, stopping in front of the recliner.
"Sit," he said and I immediately complied. The warmth between my legs intensified and my mind wandered briefly to what Alice had jokingly said about my underwear earlier. I blushed and wondered if he had any idea what he was doing to me.
Jasper had dropped my hand and gone to retrieve his guitar from the corner. Hehasto know what he's doing, I thought. I shifted a little on the recliner and met his gaze as he settled himself on the floor next to my chair. He positioned his guitar in his lap and began picking a somewhat familiar tune, his fingers racing over the strings, adding depth and dimension to the simple chords. My breath caught when I realized what he was playing. As he began to sing the words to "Romeo and Juliet" by Dire Straits, I felt my heart race and my hands tremble. I chanced a glance at him and realized he was watching me while he sang. His eyes were smoldering as they burned into mine, and in an uncharacteristically bold move, I lowered myself so I was seated on the floor next to him. Surprise registered in his eyes and the smile that creased his beautiful face made my insides tingle. He stopped playing and nodded towards his lap, holding the guitar up and out of the way to make room.
"Come here, beautiful girl," he whispered, somewhat uncertainly, a faint blush coloring his cheeks.
I willed my body to move forward, crawling tentatively into his warm lap, shivering slightly with the realization that I was now wrapped in his strong arms. He reached around me and brought the guitar into position on my lap. He began playing again, nuzzling my hair lightly with his nose. I had to remind myself to breathe. He sang the lyrics into my hair, his breath tickling my ear deliciously. I gripped his shins with both hands until my knuckles went white, closed my eyes, and leaned back into his chest. His arms were wrapped around me as he continued to play softly. When he finished singing the last chorus I gasped as I felt his warm lips graze the side of my neck. He planted sweet, open mouthed kisses along one side, across my back and down the other side. My mouth parted slightly and I sighed gently, loosening my grip on his legs. He was still playing, strumming chords now, instead of picking, and I was hard pressed to remember any experience more sensual. When I felt his tongue slide along the length of my earlobe, I shifted my weight in his lap, and it was then that I could feel the effect I was having on him. I let out a small whimper at the realization. Jasper bit down gently on my ear lobe, his hands wavering slightly as he strummed. When he spoke, his voice was right in my ear, and the feel of his warm breath on my neck made me arch further into him.
"Bella," he whispered. "I'm trying really hard to be a gentleman here, but you're making that quite difficult."
I smirked as I ran my hands up his thighs and squeezed gently. I wiggled my hips again, relishing in the immediate effect I felt against my backside. Jasper sucked in a breath.
"I hope that puts an end to that kind of talk," I whispered, twisting around to see his face. He immediately wrapped his hand around my neck, pulling me towards him until our lips melted together. I turned my body around to straddle his lap and I heard the twang of the guitar strings as Jasper abandoned the instrument, wrapping his arms around me and kissing me deeply. I pressed my hips into his and he let out a low hiss.
"Fuck, Bella," he growled, "take it easy on an old man."
"You're not that old," I sighed as I turned my attention to his neck, kissing and biting the sensitive skin of his ear lobe. I smiled as I was finally able to slip my hands under the hem of his shirt and run my fingers along the smooth, hard skin of his abdomen and lower back. Jasper pulled me tighter to him, holding the small of my back with one hand while the other slowly grazed the side of my breast, up and down my side until I thought I would scream if he didn't touch me. My panties were completely soaked through and I ground myself into his lap over and over again. My hands rose higher to caress his chest and upper back, pulling at his shirt as I went. I pulled the offending fabric over his head and threw it behind us, briefly taking in the sight of his naked torso before leaning in to lick along his collar bone.
Jasper stiffened slightly and pulled back. He stroked my face gently and the love and concern in his eyes shined as he struggled to find his voice.
"Bella, is this....are you sure? Are you okay with this?"
I placed one finger against his lips and smiled at him reassuringly. "Shhh...," I whispered, taking his hand in mine and pulling us up so that we were standing, still facing one another. I turned around slowly and grasped one of his hands between both of mine, pulling him gently towards the hall. I could feel his eyes watching my back as we walked slowly toward his bedroom. When I opened the door I suddenly realized that I had never been in this room before. The light was off, but I could see that the room contained a full sized bed, dresser, and nightstand. I smiled at the simplicity of the décor. Jasper spun me around to face him and crushed his lips to mine. He fingered the hem of my shirt tentatively before slipping his hands underneath and caressing up and down my sides. His fingers made quick work of the clasp of my bra and he swiftly removed it and the shirt, tossing them aside before turning back to face me. I blushed as his eyes swept up and down my body. He pressed the palm of his hand against the center of my chest and sighed.
"Bella, you are so beautiful. Breathtaking, actually. I should not be allowed to touch someone so perfect."
I floundered for something to say, totally in love with this man who could say such amazing things and actually seem to mean them. I giggled soundlessly, my shoulders shaking, and winked at him.
"You better touch me, or I'm gonna tell Alice," I teased, taking a step towards him.
He shook his head, reaching out to pull me to him. "If Alice had anything to do with this," he spoke against my lips, "I'm buying her a fucking Porsche."
I felt the back of my knees hit the bed. Jasper's hands cupped my backside, pulling my hips forward to meet his arousal, his thumbs tracing circles along the dimples in my lower back. Then slowly, agonizingly slowly, he moved his hands to my hips, pushing his fingers gently under the waistband of my skirt before hooking the material with his thumbs and pulling down. The wispy fabric slipped to the floor and I stood there, my plain black underwear the only fabric left covering my body. His eyes took me in once more before he lightly pushed me back onto the bed. He hovered over me, gently brushing my lips with his as his hand trailed up my inner thigh.
"Mmmmm...," I sighed, closing my eyes, "that's more like it."
Jasper knelt on the floor and began slowly pulling my panties down my legs, letting them fall to the floor. He slid his hands up my legs to my hips and pulled me towards the edge of my bed, my knees bent and resting on his shoulders. He kissed the inside of each of my knees before lightly brushing my folds with his fingers. I moaned softly and arched my back, willing him to touch me again. He complied, sliding one finger into my aching center, circling my clit once before resting both hands on my thighs. Before I could protest his teasing, he began kissing the insides of my thighs, moving closer to the spot that ached for his touch.
"Ahh, Isabella," he groaned against my leg, "So wet already, and I've only just begun to worship your beautiful body."
I shivered with anticipation as his lips moved higher and higher up my legs. I gripped the sheets and stifled a scream as I felt his lips against me, kissing the outside folds delicately before parting me gently with his fingers and kissing my throbbing clit. He looked up at me, searching my face for permission to continue. I nodded vigorously, forcing the words from my mouth in an urgent whisper. "Please don't stop," I sighed, and he smiled before running his tongue along the bundle of nerves that begged for release.
"Christ, Bella," he sighed, "You taste so fucking good." He continued licking and sucking until I could feel the tremble in my belly as my pleasure built towards climax. Suddenly, I felt two of his fingers slip inside me, curling slightly to reach my G-spot, as his mouth continued to worship my clit. I cried out in pleasure, and I heard Jasper's voice, filled with concern. "Are you okay?" he asked uncertainly.
"Mmmm hmmm..." I managed to get out, and with the second pass of his fingers, I fell over the edge, drowning in the pleasure of the most intense orgasm of my life. Jasper continued to lick and suck until my climax began to wane. He then moved up my body, stopping to take my breast in his mouth, swirling his tongue around my nipple and eliciting more screams of pleasure from me as I writhed underneath him. I grasped him gently through his jeans and a low moan escaped his lips, still clamped to my chest.
"I want you so bad," I moaned, working to unbutton his pants. Jasper helped me by sliding out of his jeans and boxers, as I scooted up in the bed. I watched as he climbed back onto the bed, sliding up my flushed body so that I could feel his cock, warm and hard, against my thighs. I reached out to touch the smooth skin there, running my fingers up and down his length while he rummaged through the nightstand. I heard the foil crinkle as he tore open the packet and I helped him roll the condom down his velvety shaft. He leaned down and planted a chaste kiss on my swollen lips, his eyes once again searching mine for permission. I gripped his backside in response, smiling at him and pushing him towards me in silent consent. I felt him poised at my entrance, and I sighed as he began to push forward, filling me slowly until he rested completely within me. He kissed my face tenderly, pausing to relish the moment, before he began a slow thrusting motion, bringing himself almost completely out of me before plunging back in. His hands cupped my ass as we ground together, working out a rhythm that pleased us both. I was aware of his eyes watching me, gauging my reaction to his movements. He was so focused on me, on my pleasure. I didn't want him to miss the moment, so I rolled on my side and pushed him onto his back.
"Close your eyes," I whispered, "just feel." I began to move my hips with his, sitting straight up to allow more of him inside me. He reached up to rub circles around my clit and I felt my body charging towards release. I reached behind me to run my fingers up his thighs, cupping his balls with my hand and lightly pressing down on the skin between his cock and his ass. He grabbed my hips in both hands and pumped into me as I met each of his upward thrusts with my own downward ones.
"Come for me, Bella," he sighed, running his finger over my clit. The raw passion in his voice pushed me over the edge and I called out as I clamped around him in release. He continued to thrust upward a few times before I felt him explode within me, lengthening my own orgasm and causing me to cry his name loudly. I collapsed on his chest, his hands rubbing up and down my back as we slowly came back to earth.
"Holy Fuck," I sighed when I was able to speak.
"Not bad for an old man, huh?" Jasper laughed, smacking me playfully on the ass.
I rolled my eyes at him, resting my chin on my hand. "I don't know about old men, but that was the best I've EVER had," I said, winking.
Jasper pulled me towards him so I was lying on his chest while he stroked my hair. My eyes fluttered closed, and I sighed in contentment. "Can we do that again later?" I asked, already drifting off to sleep.
"We better," Jasper teased, kissing the top of my head and yawning.
I smiled, snuggling deeper into his arms. "Goodnight," I whispered, before drifting off to sleep.
"Goodnight, love," he sighed, and I couldn't remember ever feeling so content.
We slept peacefully in each others arms and I awoke to the sounds of the surrounding woods, with light streaming in the partially opened blinds. I frowned slightly when I realized I was alone in bed, but the sounds coming from the kitchen were music to my ears. Jasper was cooking me breakfast. I rummaged in his drawer and found an old tie dyed t shirt and a pair of boxers. I put them on and washed my face in the bathroom. I used Jasper's toothbrush to brush my teeth, and ran my fingers through my long dark hair. I then padded into the kitchen to see what culinary delights awaited me.
"Good morning," Jasper said smiling deliciously. "Sleep well?"
I nodded and leaned over the island to kiss him softly. I looked down to see a plate with waffles, bacon, and fresh fruit in front of me. I looked at him inquisitively. "Did you really make me homemade waffles? You really are the perfect man" I cut into the waffles and took a bite, nodding my approval. "These are fantastic. How long have you been up anyway?"
Jasper looked sheepish. "For awhile, I'm an early riser." He picked up a piece of strawberry and held it to my lips. I wrapped my lips around the sweet red berry and sucked it into my mouth, never breaking eye contact.
I grinned sweetly at him, feigning innocence."So, what have you been up to this morning," I said, continuing with my breakfast.
Jasper shook his head, clearly enjoying watching me eat. "I went for a run with Maggie and took a shower. You sleep like the dead, you know?"
"Only when I'm satisfied," I said, grinning at him. "And you did that quite well last night. I feel like I should be the one making you breakfast."
"Nonsense," Jasper scoffed, taking my hand in his and kissing my palm gently. "I may have slipped a bit last night, but I'm still a gentleman, you know?"
"Any chance you might slip again soon?" I asked, holding a piece of waffle, dripping with syrup in front of his face. He grinned and leaned towards my hand, licking at the syrup that had dripped down my thumb before closing his lips around my fingers and sucking gently. My body tingled in response and I could once again feel the warmth between my legs.
"Absolutely," he sighed, moving in to capture my lips with his. He pulled my body to his, running his hands up my bare thighs when my cell phone chirped. I broke our kiss and reached over to grab it, opening it and reading the text message from Alice aloud.
Bella, Plane about to take off.See you in a few hours.Be good.Alice
I began to type a reply, shielding the phone with my hand until I had finished. I raised the phone towards Jasper who read my response silently.
Alice, Call first. Bella
Jasper chuckled gently and shook his head. "Isabella Swan, what am I going to do with you?"
I took his hand and grinned wickedly, pulling him towards the bedroom.
"Well," I sighed, "There's this tape..."
Well, that's it. Thanks for reading. I can't wait to read the other entries. This was a fun contest to enter. You popped my contest cherry ;) Thanks for the opportunity. I hope you liked it.
I also have to give big love to my awesome beta: Oceanwaters2006. Thank you so much for your help and encouragement!