To say I was surprised to open the door and find Peter and Charlotte standing there is a bit of an understatement. Okay, well, I smelled them as they got to the house before I opened the door, if you want to get technical about it. Suffice it to say, I wasn't expecting them…and neither was Alice.

This is going to give Edward a meltdown.

Emmett, Alice, Rosalie and Edward are on a hunting trip in Northern California.

Carlisle, Esme and I have stayed behind to keep an eye on Bella. She kind of needs round the clock protection. Ever since the James thing, Edward's been afraid to leave Bella in town unprotected. We still don't know where Victoria is and no one truly trusts Laurent, even though we know he's still up in Alaska.

Of course, I tried to kill her myself on her 18th birthday. But not because I wanted to or anything. Because in that one moment, when I smelled a few drops of blood from her finger, I needed to kill her.

Bella smells pretty good. She doesn't smell as good to me as she does to Edward, but believe me, she smells pretty good.

An odd thing happens to me though when I'm placed in charge of her well-being. I become desensitized to her. Like in the ballet studio, yeah, I had to leave with Emmett, but I was in there for a while before I did and I didn't go nuts then.

Carlisle's at the hospital; Esme's upstairs on her computer redesigning the whole house I'm sure, and I don't go to school anymore.

The others aren't due home until tomorrow night.

"Esme," I call out casually. "We've got guests."

Esme was down in the living room in the blink of an eye. Her eyes are wide with surprise. We all like Peter and Charlotte. Peter and I go back a century.

Peter and Charlotte are not vegetarians.

"What a surprise!" Esme quickly recovers and gestures everyone into the dining room.

"A surprise?" Peter says. "I thought for sure Alice would have seen us coming."

"She's hunting with the others in California," I say.

"You didn't go with her?" he asks.

"No. Esme, Carlisle and I stayed behind this time."

"This time?"

"For Bella," Esme says.

"That's the human, right?" Peter asks. "The one Edward was so obsessed with the last time we came through?"

"Yes," I chuckle remembering Edward's sheer inexplicable insanity before Bella was even speaking to him. "They're a couple now. They've been since just after we saw you last." Best get that out there straight off. Peter and Charlotte understand that Forks is off-limits to them, and they've always respected it before. But it's especially good for them to know that there is one human in particular that is absolutely forbidden to them, too.

"They're a couple?" Peter asks incredulously.

"Yes." Esme smiles. "She's a wonderful girl. She loves him dearly, and, well, you saw how he feels about her."

"Edward's with a human?" Peter is thoughtful. It is hard for our kind to comprehend. We all thought he was crazy too, at least until we met her. Actually Rosalie still thinks he's crazy.

"I can't fathom the restraint that it must take for him," Charlotte says.

"A lot," I confirm. "But he loves her, and he's very strong."

"No doubt," she nods.

"I have to confess that I've never quite understood this way of life, Jasper, but I can grasp the mechanics of it. But to be with a human so closely, so much…well, that's just something incredible."

"It's easier when you abstain from feeding on humans." Esme smiles. She's gentle in her tone, but her eyes are full of warning.

"Forgive my curiosity," Charlotte says, "but does she know? What I mean to ask is, does she know what he is?"

"Yes," I confirm. "She knows what we all are. She reasoned it out."

"Amazing," Peter sighs, clearly impressed and intrigued.

"And the Volturi?" Charlotte asks.

"They don't know about her," I say flatly.

"And we'd like to keep it that way," Esme says.

"Of course," Peter assures us. "We have no wish to make anything difficult for you, brother."

"We understand," Esme says. "It's just that Bella means a lot to all of us, you see."

"That's quite plain." Peter smiles.

Just when I am starting to think that things might go easy this visit, I hear the rumble of Bella's ancient truck coming up the driveway. Esme and I exchange looks.

"If you'll excuse me," she says rising out of her chair. "I'm going to call and make sure Carlisle is running on time tonight. He won't want to miss your visit."

Yeah, right. She's going to call Edward and tell him to get his ass back here. Now.

"What on Earth is that noise?" Charlotte asks.

"Well, it seems that you'll get to meet Bella sooner than I thought," I say. "That's her truck."

"It's awfully…loud," Peter notes.

"Unfortunately, she refuses to part with it," I sigh. "Edward's itching to get her something faster. The thing certainly doesn't break any land speed records."

I hear the truck door slam and her feet running across the gravel. I certainly hope she doesn't …


…fall. I sigh again and stand up. Now I'm going to have to explain skinned palms to Edward. Let's hope that's all I have to explain.

"Jasper!" she yells before she's even up the stairs. She's looking for me? Odd.

Bella and I get along very well…notwithstanding the time I tried to kill her…but we also give each other a wide berth whenever possible. She knows how difficult it is for me to be around her sometimes…as evidenced by the time I tried to kill her. So, it's a little strange that she's actually seeking me out now.

But, then again, with the way trouble seems to find Bella, or she runs right to it, maybe it's not so strange.

"Jasper!" she shouts again flinging open the front door.

I streak to the living room before she has the chance to go on an unescorted rampage through the house.

"Bella!" I say, as I appear quickly at her side, that protective instinct surfacing in me immediately. Peter and Charlotte rise out of their chairs and move curiously to the living room as Esme emerges again at the top of the stairs.

"Oh, Jasper!" Bella says breathlessly. "Good. I need you."

"What's the matter? Are you all right?"

"No Jasper!" she says earnestly. She drops her backpack off her shoulder onto the floor and bends down, rummaging through it. Peter and Charlotte look highly intrigued…and highly entertained.

Emmett's right; everything is more entertaining with Bella around. At least there's some excitement now.

She's muttering to herself as she roots through her bag. It's a nonsensical stream of words…much like when she's asleep…about the unfairness and pickiness of someone or another.

"Ah!" she says finally and emerges with a piece of paper, which she instantly shoves at me. "Look!"

My eyes focus on the large letter in front of me. "It's a C."

"A C! I've never gotten a C in my life!"

"In American History," I say, taking the paper from her.

"It's not just that, Jasper," she says indignantly. "It's an essay on the role of Texas during the Civil War. And apparently I have completely confused the Battle of Galveston with the Second Battle of Sabine Pass and my entire average is going to get dragged down now."

I take the paper from her hands and scan the contents. "Bella, the Battle of Galveston was a Navy battle."

"Yes. So Mr. Monahan said."

"And Sabine Pass – wait a minute. Why are you asking me?"

"Weren't you there?" she asks wide-eyed.

"Yes, but how do you know that? Did Edward tell you?" I ask suspiciously. Not that I care that Bella knows my story, but I would have thought that Edward wouldn't want her to really know my past. It's quite gory and rather frightening, especially for someone like Bella.

"Um, no, not Edward."

"Alice," I nod.

"Yes, but she only told me that you were there then."

"I was."

"Well, help!" she pleads. "I promised Mr. Monahan that I'd rewrite it over the weekend and it would be the best essay on Texas during the Civil War that he's ever read. So, guess what you and I are doing this weekend. Wait, you weren't doing anything this weekend, were you?"

"Bella, Bella!" I chuckle trying to get her to slow down on her own first before I manipulate her. "I will absolutely help you. I was only going to hang around here…"

"And babysit me," she says with mild annoyance. She doesn't like the measures Edward has taken for her safety. One thing Bella is always adamant about is that she never inconveniences other people, most of all any of us. What she doesn't understand is exactly how our family works.

"Quite frankly, I'm surprised any attention at all was paid to Sabine Pass. It was incredibly insignificant."


"Jasper, maybe we should get Bella settled up in Edward's room?" Esme suggests gently. Edward probably insisted we lock her up there and guard the door, but I'm not going to let her out of my sight, especially after she gave me the slip in Phoenix, the little minx.

"I think she'll be okay with us," I say. "Besides, I'm sure she'd like to meet our guests."

"Guests?" Bella asks, she finally notices the two vampires behind me. "Oh!" She unfortunately flushes beautifully with embarrassment at her entrance. I can feel the tension in Peter and Charlotte rise and quickly endeavor to diffuse it.

"Bella, this is Peter and Charlotte," I say gesturing behind me to my old friends.

"It's nice to meet you!" she smiles. She holds her hand out to shake theirs, but before she can fully raise it, I grab it and yank her to my side. I hope Peter and Charlotte don't notice how I try to move her just slightly behind me.

Now I know why Edward was such a lunatic the last time they were here. Keeping Bella alive can make a vampire anxious…and neither Peter nor Charlotte has demonstrated that they're any kind of threat to her yet. Well, other than their existence and their normal diet that is.

"Jasper, what the hell? You're acting like a maniac," she mutters to me, as Peter stifles a laugh behind a cough.

"Let's sit down," I suggest, pulling her to the couch with me. Esme settles on her other side. "I'm sure you're curious about each other."

I look at Esme's large clock on the wall and mentally tabulate how long it will take the others to get back from California and sigh. Not nearly soon enough.