"For the Love of Jasper" One-Shot Contest
Title: Simple Kind of Man
Pen name: brokenheadboards (collab between AHelm and ilsuocantante)
Existing work: N/A
Primary Players: Bella and Jasper
Disclaimer: We don't own these characters. Unfortunately. If we did, there would have been a lot less Holy Crows and a lot more What the motherfucks. Just saying. Neither do we own the lyrics used; big ups to Lynyrd Skynyrd for them. Please don't sue us, we love Alabama. Also, no offense to anyone in Blessing, TX.
To see other entries in the "For the Love of Jasper" contest, please visit the C2:
AN: We like Bella/Jasper, and would consider continuing this lovely little one shot, because Jasper the Lawyer if pretty damn hot. Leave us some love and put us on alert!
I stepped off of the tiniest plane I'd ever had the misfortune of flying in onto the tarmac in Victoria, Texas. It was so hot the air was visible; rippling just over the blacktop, turning the road into water with its waves. With a heavy sigh and sweaty palms, I raised the handles on the twin suitcases that housed my life and trudged toward the man leaning against the shiny black SUV. He waved and walked toward me.
"Bella, it's so good to see you. Thank you for coming," he said warmly, taking the suitcases from my hand and wrapping me in a friendly embrace.
"It's good to see you, too, Sam," I said, taking him in. His smile was genuine, but there was a tension around his usually sparkling brown eyes that was telling. "How are you doing?"
He sighed, placing a hand on the small of my back and ushering me toward the car. I was grateful; the heat was overwhelming and I felt as though I were sucking in dry flame with every inhale.
"It's been hard, Bells, I can't say it hasn't," he said, once we were in the car and thankfully, bathing in the deliciously cool air conditioning. "I never meant for any of this to happen, and I feel horribly guilty... but at the same time... I'm so happy."
His tone was conflicted, but his genuine happiness shone through and, I can't deny, rubbed me the wrong way. I sighed. "We'll have to go through all of this officially, and obviously, when it comes to the proceedings I am completely in your corner... but Sam, how could you? I just don't understand. How could you do this to Leah? You two have been together forever."
He shot me a pained look; obviously he'd not anticipated my censure. He was one of my oldest friends, and while I was closer to him than to his wife, Leah, I'd practically grown up with the both of them in my hometown of Forks. They'd always been the constant of our group; even as children they'd been joined at the hip and when they'd officially gotten together as teenagers and later married after college, it had just seemed like a natural progression. I couldn't imagine either of them finding anything more right.
So when I'd gotten a call from Sam a few weeks ago telling me he and Leah were over and asking if I'd represent him in the divorce, I was shocked. When I'd asked why and he'd quietly admitted that he'd met someone else and cheated, I was fucking floored.
"Look, Bella, I'm not proud of what happened. I don't make any excuses for my actions. But, Leah and I haven't been happy for a long time. The spark was gone - hell, maybe it was never even there to begin with, I don't know..." he trailed off, rubbing one hand on the back of his neck to relieve the tension.
"But, Sam... regardless, you just can't go around breaking promises... cheating for fuck's sake, just because you're unhappy. You could have easily have made the move to separate from Leah before hooking up with someone else. You made a promise to Leah when you married her; you should have respected that enough to wait." I knew my tone was unnecessarily harsh, but I couldn't stop it.
He pulled up to the curb in front of what I assumed was my hotel and turned toward me in his seat, regarding me sadly. "I know, Bella - in my mind, I know you're right. But my heart... when you fall in love, your heart just can't wait, Bella."
I wanted to snort at that smaltzy excuse, but luckily I found the strength to rein in the bitch. Right and wrong were black and white to me and there wasn't - there shouldn't be - any gray area. Feelings could be subdued, put on hold until arrangements could be made. There was no excuse. I mean, that all-consuming, "I must touch you now or die" kind of lust was just romance novel nonsense. Who really feels so strongly that they forget right and wrong? No one. The fact was, Sam knew it was wrong and did it anyway. Because he wanted to. He made a choice. These things didn't just happen - people allowed them to happen.
And ok, I might have been projecting my own biases just a little bit - but that didn't mean I wasn't right.
I said goodbye to Sam in the lobby of my hotel, making arrangements to meet with him in the morning to go over the details of the split and what he hoped to gain in the divorce before we headed over to the opposing counsel's office in the afternoon for a meeting with Leah and her lawyer, a Jasper Whitlock, Esq.
What the fuck kind of name was Jasper Whitlock? Obviously this was a Boy Named Sue situation and his parents were ok with their kid getting beat to shit every day on the playground.
An older lady showed me to my room, babbling on about the hotel's history and whatever the fuck. I tuned her out, offering polite smiles and "uh huh"s whenever necessary. The hotel was what most people would probably refer to as quaint, but I privately regarded as Bum Fuck Egypt's answer to Motel Six.
Why the hell Sam and Leah had decided to move to Smalltown, USA shortly after their marriage, I'll never know. Sure, Sam had gotten his degree in agriculture and the land around here was supposed to be rich or something, but who the hell wanted to be a farmer in this day and age?
I'm pretty sure my exact response had been a sneered, "Dude, seriously?" when they'd informed us of their decision to move to Blessing, Texas nearly ten years before. I couldn't fathom why anyone would want to move to Texas in the first place, let alone Blessing; the town name conjuring images of women in Little House on the Prairie getups hosting ice cream socials after church. But even then, I knew they would be happy wherever they went, as long as they were together.
Obviously, my assumption then had been wrong.
I flopped back on the hotel bed. I needed to deal with my own issues before I saw Sam tomorrow. I needed to put whatever personal feelings I had about his actions aside so that I could represent him to the best of my ability and not let my own thoughts color the way I handled the case. Just because James cheated on me did not give me the right to judge Sam for cheating on his wife.
Okay, if I was being honest... I was pretty sure it did give me the right to judge, but maybe not to vocalize said judgment.
James and I had been together since my first year of law school at University of Washington. We met at a party one night and that had been that. He always said he took one look at me and had to have me. He was intense and driven, and our grades and successes had always been a bit of a competition between us. It urged me to be better in everything I did. He was possessive and passionate, and though at times it could be a little grating and oppressive, deep down I was always thankful for it. It showed me how much he loved me, how consumed he was with me. How else could I possibly be assured of his affections?
After graduation, we'd both been offered positions at the same firm. It seemed like a dream come true... until I was promoted to junior partner before him. Then everything seemed to slide downhill. His usual sarcastic wit turned caustic and biting; his intensity waned, replaced with an almost deliberate indifference.
And then, I found out about Victoria.
Apparently, in his angst, James had found solace in one of the firm's paralegals. Victoria, I'd be the first to admit, was fucking gorgeous; she was seriously stacked and had legs for days and some fucking sexy wild red hair.
I could absolutely, on an objective level, see why and how he would turn to her.
But inside, I was wrecked. I was angry and hurt and felt so fucking worthless and used.
He assured me it was a one time thing, that he'd just been so lost and lonely with my working so much and had given in to her seduction attempt. He told me it would never happen again, that he loved me, wanted me.
And I believed him. Or... I wanted it to be true so badly that I convinced myself into believing him. And when he proposed, I'd accepted, thinking that I would be able to forget, that I'd already forgiven. But, Sam's call had dredged up all the old feelings, and I could feel myself projecting the hurt I still felt but could not articulate to James onto Sam.
It wasn't right and I resolved to let go. I'd accepted James' promise that he would work his whole life to make it up to me, that he would love me forever. And in turn, I'd promised him to forgive and forget and move on, to make a life with him. In agreeing to take on Sam's case, I'd also entered into a promise with him.
I would not break my promises.
I met with Sam at the apartment he was renting the next morning. We sat at his wobbly kitchen table drinking coffee as he explained to me in minute detail the collapse of his marriage. How routine and habit had replaced comfort, how they scarcely spoke, and how their physical relationship had dwindled to nothing since the birth of their youngest. The need for her had been diluted with distraction and indifference.
He met Emily and everything had just clicked into place for him. He said he'd never felt there'd been a piece missing inside of him before, but the minute he'd latched eyes with hers, heard her voice, saw her laugh, it was like a the missing puzzle piece had filled an unknown void. He'd felt complete when before he hadn't even known he was less than whole. Though she'd been resistant due to the fact that he was married, eventually their love consumed them and they both gave in.
I tried not to scoff while the grown man in front of me spouted off flowery bullshit. I mean, seriously. Missing puzzle pieces, really? What a load of crap. He saw someone, wanted to fuck her, did, and the contrast between the routine of being with Leah and fucking someone new was appealing. The end. This whole soul mate BS was just ridiculous. He needed to own up to his shit and deal with it.
But of course, I couldn't say that. Neither could I condone, so I merely hid behind the mask of professionalism, asking him to clarify timelines and give me details on his discussions with Leah. I needed to know every detail in order to understand how bad this was going to be for him.
Apparently, it was going to be pretty fucking bad. Leah had, in Sam's words, "not taken it well."
"No fucking shit," escaped my mouth before I could stop it. He cringed. "I'm sorry, Sam. Please, go on."
He told me of Leah's anger and bitterness. Her intention to file for sole custody of the children is what had driven him to seek representation, when before he'd been willing to give her whatever she wanted in the divorce, knowing she deserved whatever he could give her from the marriage. But he wouldn't and couldn't give up his children, no matter how he had wronged their mother.
It was why he'd contacted me instead of someone local.
"I need the best, someone I know I can rely on," he told me urgently. "I know I can trust you do fix this for me, Bella. I know you'll be as invested in the outcome as I am, that it's not just a routine job for a paycheck for you."
But no pressure or anything...
And he was right; it did mean more to me. As much as I was judging the shit out of Sam for being a piece of shit husband, I knew he was a great father. I knew he was unfailingly responsible, I knew he was loving and fun and engaged - everything a father should be. And though he'd not treated Leah well, he'd didn't deserve to be deprived of his children. And they didn't deserve to be deprived of their father. I hoped we would be able to make Leah see through her anger and hurt to this truth, and that the proceedings would be able to go smoothly without the bitter custody battle that would surely come if she persisted.
"I'll do whatever it takes, Sam," I said sincerely, squeezing his hand. "I promise."
He let out a long breath, giving my hand a reciprocal squeeze. "Thank you, Bella. I know you will."
Soon after, we headed into town to meet with Leah and her lawyer. I straightened my clothing as we emerged from the car, making sure the black pencil skirt was as wrinkle free as possible and my white button down was tucked in properly. I had on a pair of what I liked to think of as my power shoes; they were tall and black and shiny and wearing them helped to play down the fact that I was only 5'2 and play up the fact that I was the bitch in charge of the show and wouldn't be taking no for answer.
Or so I liked to tell myself.
I mentally steeled myself to face Leah as we walked up to the building. I wasn't quite sure what her reaction to me would be, but I had to assume that because I'd agreed to represent Sam, it wasn't going to be very friendly. I had to prepare myself for that eventuality, and ready the quietly accepting professional mask.
What I hadn't prepared myself for was the size of Jasper Whitlock's office. It was... tiny. It looked like an old house renovated into an office building; there was a small entryway that led to what appeared to be a sitting room. Just beyond that, there was a room with a desk and two chairs, one of which held the seething form of Leah Uley. She glared at me, hatred and bitterness marring her once beautiful face. I flinched and quickly looked away, meeting the eyes of... Holy Hot Man, Attorney at Please Fuck Me Now.
I'd never had such a visceral reaction to someone's appearance before. He was just... unf. Slightly shaggy, dirty blonde hair framing a tanned face. A pair of deep, dark blue eyes and full lips that were just begging me to bite them. They were turned up in a slight smirk, whether in reaction to my blatant perusal or not, I didn't know, but it was a nice indication that I should probably roll my tongue back into my mouth and put my game face on.
I wrinkled my nose in seeming distaste and asked in the coolest voice possible, "Are you Jasper Whitlock?"
Whitlock and Associates was actually a bit of a joke, seeing as it was really just me.
I guess you could call it wishful thinking, but I really hoped that one day, it would be an accurate statement.
I'd opened the office six months prior and worked my ass off to get where I was. I'd graduated with my law degree a year before and moved back to the tiny town I'd been born in, Blessing, Texas. There were less than a thousand people there, but my grandparents, who'd raised me, thanks to my absent mother and father, lived in Blessing and therefore, it was where my heart resided.
I'd gone away to college and worried the whole damn time I was gone. Were they alright? Did they need any help? They were the sweetest people you'd ever meet, and so proud of me pursuing my educational dreams. Upon my return home, Grandpa Ray had asked what I planned on doing, and when I told him I wanted to open a law office, he'd smiled knowingly and advised that there was a bank account they'd been saving in for my whole life, waiting for me. Immediately, I withdrew $20,000 as a down payment, went to the bank, finalized the small business loan and opened up shop. I was thrilled to have found a classic, 1950s style house for sale right in the middle of Blessing and immediately set about to renovating it a bit, to make it work as an office.
The first six months flew by, and I managed pretty well considering I had decided on having no assistant. I was solely responsible for all the paperwork as well as the interviewing and hours spent in the courtroom. Everything had been rather quiet, but steady, and then Leah Uley walked into my office.
"What can I do for you, ma'am?" I asked, cordial as ever.
"You can give me a divorce from my goddamned husband, that's what you can do," she said, her arms crossed over her chest.
At that my jaw fell open slightly. Sam and Leah Uley were a bit like Blessing, Texas royalty. It was a small town, but the Uleys had moved to town ten years prior and Sam's magic touch had revitalized part of the agricultural industry, and I could instantly imagine the gossip that would filter through town.
"Are you certain, Mrs. Uley?" I asked. "Divorce is a serious thing."
She nodded and took a seat across the desk from me. "He's a cheating bastard. I hate him. Can you handle this or should I go to a big time lawyer?"
The quiet slight against my abilities didn't go unnoticed, but the professional in me required that I not comment on it. "Well, Mrs. Uley, I can most certainly handle this for you and your husband," I said. "Why don't you tell me exactly what's happened?"
And so it had begun.
There were eight thousand things I had to do for the case, seventy-five hundred of which required paperwork and filing and in the end and I was pretty sure we'd have an easy case, given that Sam Uley had already admitted to cheating on his wife with one Emily, who just happened to be Leah's cousin. And then, Leah advised that she wanted sole custody of their kids and something inside of me couldn't quite agree with her - no man should be denied the right to see his kids because of an admittedly large indiscretion.- but I never let that show. The whole thing was rather ugly, but the facts were pretty straight. We had to work through their joint and separate assets, and I planned to try to talk her down a bit on the kid front. I prayed that would go smoothly.
We had scheduled a mediating session that morning, which meant Sam and Leah, along with Sam's counsel, would all be in my small office.
Sam had hired Isabella Swan. I wasn't familiar with her, but Leah had advised that it was a bit odd, because the three of them – Sam, Leah and Isabella – had been friends most of their lives; for years prior to the Uley's move to Texas. Just to be prepared, I did a little research on her. A quick Google search revealed that she had a degree in Law from a rather prestigious university, had lived and worked at a big office in Seattle, Washington for a year and a half before coming to Blessing, assumedly for Sam's case only.
On paper, she looked perfect.
In person, the woman was mind-blowingly gorgeous, and I had to stop myself from staring.
"Are you Jasper Whitlock?" she asked, a slight look of distaste on her face as she took in the small size of my office. Sam stood behind her and I almost forgot to acknowledge him.
"I am," I said, standing up from behind my desk. Leah was already seated to one side of the room, an angry look on her face. I extended my hand toward Bella and her eyes shot downward as she walked in my direction. In the three seconds that she wasn't looking at me, I let my eyes rove up and down her form.
She was short – just a few inches over five feet tall – and had long, thick brown hair. It fell over her shoulders and over her chest and I had to make myself move my eyes away from the slight curve of her breasts beneath her shirt. Her hips were narrow and she was wearing a fitted skirt that left very little to the imagination, her long, shapely legs ending in tall heels. Her eyes were large and almond shaped, framed with long, dark lashes and her lips were full and pink.
In short, she looked delicious, and it threw me off a bit, because I was generally not the "eye a girl the minute she walks into the room" type.
Her eyes met mine as she reached the other side of my desk and a small, wry smile formed on her lips. She took my hand. "Bella Swan," she said.
I nodded and shook her hand, which was petite enough to fit inside of mine completely. She was the definition of feminine and I found myself just grinning at her, forgetting why she'd arrived.
As it turns out, she was all business.
"So. Here is some of my client's documentation. I have electronic copies of this, but thought you'd like a hard copy to look over on your own time."
I gulped. The phrase 'a hard copy' had just had a ridiculous effect on me. I released her hand and sat down, gesturing to the chair near her. "No, that won't be necessary … may I call you Bella?" She nodded. "Okay. Well, let's get right down to it then, shall we?" I said.
The four of us sat down and began a lengthy conversation regarding Sam and Leah's personal investments, properties and other assets, as well as the few that they held jointly. The two were surprisingly well behaved until Leah made an inflammatory remark about her cousin and Sam raised his voice in response. Bella lifted a hand and shushed him as she informed him that his response was unnecessary. "What was done is done," she murmured.
Leah stood at the end of our session and was the first to leave, after issuing a curt goodbye to Bella. Sam told Bella he would wait for her in the waiting area and she looked at me. "I'm hoping this goes smoothly." She handed me a card. "Call me at that number if you need anything. Otherwise, I'll see you in court in a few weeks."
"Thank you, Miss Swan, " I said. "I hope this meeting wasn't uncomfortable for you. I know my office is rather small."
"Not at all, sir," she said, and turned on her heel to leave my office.
Long after the door closed behind her, I sat, stone still.
I was focused on the beautiful woman that had just left my office, and the plethora of desires that had cropped up at her mere presence.
She was gorgeous, smart and capable. And when she'd called me sir, I couldn't lie: My ears and mind and … other parts of my body wanted to hear it in a different context.
I was going to have to rein that shit in if we were going to work together in any semblance of professionalism.
I shook my head as I pulled out Leah Uley's file. Finally, I began making notes about what we needed to get accomplished in the next few days.
The meeting went well... or as well as could be expected. I asked the pertinent questions of Leah and Sam, trying to ascertain what the needs and wants of both parties were and how I could most effectively manipulate the situation in my client's favor. We didn't touch on the custody situation at all; I think we all felt that it was something best discussed separately for now. I hoped that I would have an ally in Jasper, that he would counsel his client to accept a joint custody offer so that we could wrap this with as little mess as possible.
I gave him my card as we left, letting him know he could call me if he needed anything. And because my vag wanted to do the talking, I overcompensated by being overly professional. Pretty sure I actually called him sir. I shook my head at myself as Sam and I walked out.
Sam dropped me off at the hotel shortly after, and I wasted no time booting up the laptop to get started on the eleventy billion documents I would need file for the case. No signal.
I called down to the front desk, hoping that maybe there was some kind of password I needed for wireless, or that they had a data center at the very least. I held back the mental snort at the idea that the Bates Motel would have some swanky computer lab hidden somewhere, because this was a crisis of epic fucking proportions. I needed to steer clear of bad karma and think positively.
"Front desk," a cheerful voice answered on the third ring.
"Yes, hi, this is Bella Swan in room 24. I was wondering, does the hotel have a wireless internet connection available?"
"Oh no, honey," Cheerful Voice lamented. "We don't have much call for that here. The library has a couple computers hooked up to the internet though. You could try there."
You have got to be fucking kidding me...
"Ok, thanks. Do you happen to know their hours?" I asked, glancing at the windows and noting that it was early evening.
"Six o'clock, honey," she answered.
It was 5:45. Peachy. "Ok, thank you."
"You let me know if I can help with anything else, now."
Not likely. "I will, thank you," I said before hanging up and falling face first into the bed, burying my face in the pillow to muffle my scream. "What the mother fuuuuuuck! Where am I?"
Fuck my life.
What was I supposed to do? Short of marching my ass to the nearest Best Buy - excuse me while I laugh at the thought of there being a Best Buy anywhere near here - and buying a wireless card, I would have to plan my work schedule around library hours, which was just completely unacceptable. I needed data at my fingertips. I needed to be able to check my goddamn gmail and twitter at 3am if I wanted to. I mean, fuck.
I picked up my cell phone and called the only person I could think of.
"Hello?" his gruff voice answered, his tone distracted.
"Babe. I am in hell. What the fuck, why did you let me come here?" I whined straight off the mark.
"Bella," he sighed, and I could see him rubbing his eyes with this thumb and forefinger in exasperation. "I told you not to go. I knew you wouldn't be able to handle this kind of dynamic."
Whoa, let's back the fucking train up, mister.
"What? No, that's not what I meant-- you know what, never mind." I ended the call and flung my phone on the bed.
He always thought the worst of me. I knew I had to tread somewhat lightly with him, that he was uncomfortable with my promotion. And hell, I could understand that - we'd been competitive with one another from day one. It was only natural he'd feel a little jealous of it... but I thought he'd be over it by now. And what's more, I thought somewhere inside he'd be happy for me. Weren't we a team? Wasn't my success our success? Would it always be like this? Would I always have to take his belittlement because I felt bad that I'd been recognized for my skills before he had?
Epic fucking sigh.
I didn't want to think about this anymore. I needed a distraction. And maybe an alcoholic beverage.
I realized I hadn't eaten since the morning and my stomach was about to devour me from the inside out. I knew my swanky ass hotel probably didn't run to room service, but vaguely remembered some sort of diner type thing right down the street. It'd do. They probably had beer. Or wine in the box, at the very least.
I'd just taken a disgustingly huge bite of my BBQ bacon burger when a familiar voice said, "Bella?"
I turned to my right to see Jasper fucking Whitlock, Sultan of motherfucking Schwing standing at the end of my table. "Hey," I said, my voice muffled with the three pounds of beef and cheese I'd stuffed in my mouth three seconds prior.
His delicious lips quirked up into a smirk. "Sorry, I don't mean to interrupt your dinner, but I saw you when I walked in and wondered if you'd be open to talking for a few minutes?"
I made a please go ahead gesture as I tried to swallow. I took a swig of beer to wash it down as he slid into the booth across from me, folding his hands on the white formica. His tanned skin was in golden contrast to the gleaming tabletop and I was momentarily mesmerized by his hands: large and rough looking, with long fingers and short nails.
Can't lie. I wanted them on me.
I mentally kicked my ass for even thinking about it, and cleared my throat. "So, what did you want to talk about, sir?"
Fuck, what was with me and the sirs?
I saw his mouth quirk a bit with it and I knew he wanted to laugh at my ridiculousness. I almost called him on it, but he spoke before I could let my self-deprecation fly.
"I just wanted to let you know that I'm doing my best to sway Leah on the custody issue."
I nodded, taking another sip of my beer. "Thank you, I appreciate it. I..." I trailed off, sighing, trying to choose my words carefully. "He made a mistake, he admits it and is willing to pay the price for it - but he's a good father, and I'll fight with him to keep his kids. They shouldn't be used as tools to hurt him."
Jasper nodded in agreement. "I agree. No child should be without their parents if it can be helped." His cerulean eyes were suddenly filled with such sadness before they cleared as quickly as they'd clouded over; he smiled, like the sun through a stormy sky. I wanted to take his hand in mine, squeeze it in sympathy... for what, I did not know. I wanted to press my lips to his mouth and ensure it never fell into an unhappy line.
I wanted to... stop fucking writing odes to his body parts in my goddamn head.
"I don't know them well," he continued, "I know of them more than anything. Small town life. You know how it is," he shrugged with a grin. "But it's easy to see that she's just hurting right now and looking for a way to lash out. It's not what she really wants, and I think I'll be able to convince her of that."
His compassion and sincerity were evident, and I was touched by the way he was invested in people he didn't really know. I wondered if he took every case to heart as he did this one - and if he did, how he could possibly succeed as a lawyer. Bleeding hearts were not known for being cutthroat SOB's in the courtroom.
But then again... small time lawyers probably did not see the inside of a courtroom often.
And now you're belittling the same guy you wanted to mack on three seconds ago. Bitch.
"Well, I appreciate that, Jasper," I said. "I, on the other hand, do know the Uley's well and I totally agree with your assessment of Leah. I wish there was a way for me to talk to her, but obviously it's impossible given the situation. I'm just glad she has someone like you in her corner," I said, tipping my beer at him in mock salute.
"Someone like me?" he smirked, his eyes dancing.
Yeah, you know... hot as fuck, pretty mouth, strong hands and heart of gold?
I cleared my throat, willing away the blush that had crept onto my cheeks with that thought. "Yeah, you know... someone who cares. You seem to be genuinely invested in this, beyond just wanting to win the case."
He looked at me like I had two heads. "Of course I care. Why wouldn't I? There's more to life than winning, Bella."
That one, simple statement resonated within me. Who was this guy? He couldn't be real.
"Well," I mumbled, watching my fingertip trace a random shape on the tabletop. "There aren't a lot of people who feel that way." I met his eyes, dark and blue and regarding me so intensely I felt as though he could see through to my pounding heart and hear his quiet declaration echoing through my head. "I appreciate it."
He reached across the table and laid his hand over mine. I nearly gasped as the warmth of his palm seeped into my skin, electricity arcing between us. I met his eyes, sure mine reflected my astonishment at the sensation as he said, "Thank you. I appreciate that you care, too."
Our gazes remained locked for a moment; I couldn't tear my eyes away as I just stared at him wordlessly, his eyes full of compassion and sincerity. They were the purest thing I'd ever seen and I wanted to drown in them. Finally, the moment broke and I blurted out the first thing that came to mind to ease the ridiculous tension I could feel building between us.
"So, Jasper Whitlock," I said with a raised eyebrow. "Would you mind explaining to me how it is possible that your town - or any town, anywhere in the first world - does not have wireless internet access coming out its ass in the year of our lord baby Jesus two thousand and fucking nine?"
He was silent for a moment, and I feared that I'd offended him with the whole mocking of his hometown and dirty words thing. Or, as I liked to refer to it, Bella's lack of filter. Luckily, he threw his head back and laughed, the sound loud and full, after a moment. My relief was outweighed by the infectious quality of his amusement, and I found myself smiling in response. An actual smile, not my usual smirk or fake professional mask or the tried and true Fuck Off Asshole sneer.
"Well now, Miss Bella," he said, still chuckling. "I don't have the answer to that. But you're welcome to set up in my office for the duration of your stay if you'd like. I have a small office that I'm using for storage at the moment, and do happen to have wireless access."
I mulled it over. On one hand, it would be awesome to have an actual desk and internet access and maybe even a printer handy. On the other hand... on a scale of one to ten, how unprofessional and possibly damaging to my case would it be to share space with the opposing counsel?
"I promise I won't peek," he said and though it was said with a smirk, I somehow, instinctively knew he was sincere. And that I could trust him.
"Ok," I said tentatively. "I really appreciate the offer."
"Oh, it will be my pleasure, Bella," he said with a smirk, his low drawl skittering over every single nerve ending in my body.
I was in hell. Pure, unadulterated hell.
The devil sat across from me in a white dress shirt rolled up to the elbows, his eyes searing into me with their quiet intensity, his voice with its soothing drawl speaking softly as the flames licked over my skin, the heat burned into my bones and the want glowed like an ember inside of me. It obliterated everything but him.
It was really fucking annoying. And distracting.
I'd never felt this kind of physical pull for another person. I mean, obviously I'd lusted after people before - I was no virgin, but this kind of instinctual reaction, this magnetic pull in my gut was new. I felt almost out of control of myself. I watched him speak, his words slow and deliberate, but articulate. I could see the inner mechanisms; the time and effort he placed on making sure the words that escaped his lips were exactly what he wanted to say. Eventually my attention was distilled to tunnel vision in which I could see only the movement of his lips as he formed each word, the soft passes of his tongue when he licked his lips between phrases, and the only sound I could ascertain was the blood beating heavily in my veins.
I could hardly focus on the dialogue happening beside me. The pulsing tension around me fluttered at the edges of my consciousness, but I only took full notice of it when Sam raised his voice in response to something Leah said about Emily. It was then I was pulled from the Jasper Whitlock, Esq Tractor Beam of Hot and engaged in the proceedings. I calmed Sam as best I could and urged them both to remain cordial while conducting official business.
I urged myself to keep my rampaging hormones in check and do the same.
When Sam and Leah left shortly after, I went to the bathroom to give myself a little come to Jesus talk. This shit was getting completely out of hand. I'd been using Jasper's extra office for nearly two weeks, and the magnetic pull toward him had only intensified with each passing day. His scent would envelope me every time I walked into his building; something earthy and slightly spicy. His voice would haunt me throughout the day as he spoke with clients; the sincerity in his deep tones reverberating through me. I'd feel his eyes on me every now and then; filled with an intensity I could not name, but felt as though it were his hands on my skin. We'd eat lunch together occasionally, his easy laughter and childhood stories making me ache for reasons I could not define.
He'd brush past me in the hallway or the kitchen, and every nerve ending on my body would tremble. He'd once wiped a stray blot of salad dressing from the corner of my mouth with his thumb, and that one small touch ignited my entire body. I felt myself grow hot and wet at just his thumb on my mouth and knew he would wreck me with anything more than that innocuous touch.
I cursed myself for the feelings I could not control; I felt weak and guilty for not being able to stop them, to curb my rampant desire for a man I hardly knew. I was engaged. I had no right to even think these things, let alone act on them. I couldn't allow myself to throw away everything I'd worked for in the last ten years because I merely lusted after another man. I knew what was right and what was wrong, and I wasn't going to let myself forget it.
When I emerged from the bathroom I felt better. Stronger. Capable of controlling myself. I had a case to win, and I needed to hone my focus on the job I was here to do. And when it was done, I would go home. To my life. To James. And I'd forget all about my involuntary attraction to one Jasper Whitlock.
It didn't matter that the thought made me feel inexplicably hollow and empty and aching inside. It was what was right.
I bgathered the paperwork I needed to work on that night in a rush, suddenly needing to be away - somewhere that didn't require me to swallow his scent like air with every breath.
"Hey," I said, poking my head into his office. He looked up, startled. "Sorry. Umm... I'm heading out for the night, see you tomorrow?"
He smiled, the line of his mouth tight and I wondered what was bothering him. I almost asked, but realized it would be counterproductive.
"Ok, have a good night, Bella."
I nodded and waved, and nearly sprinted to the door. I got all the way to the hotel and into my room before I realized I'd left a key document behind at the office. Shit. I weighed my options. I could be completely unproductive for the rest of the night, thereby making the next day a complete clusterfuck, or I could go back and retrieve the paperwork I needed. I sighed in defeat. I had to go back.
It'll be fine. Good for you, even. An exercise in self-control.
I dragged my feet heading back, giving myself mental pep talks the entire way. As I opened the door the Jasper's office, I could hear music playing in his office, some slow southern beat that sounded vaguely familiar. I walked to his office, intending to let him know I'd come back for a minute so he didn't think someone had broken in or something. The sight with which I was met stopped my heart.
He was sitting behind his desk, his shirtsleeves still rolled up to the elbows, his hair in wild disarray from what looked like his hands running through it... and he was wearing glasses. Tortoiseshell rimmed, sing to me in the key of motherfuck glasses. He had a glass of amber liquid beside his elbow, and his head was bent as he read the document in front of him. For a moment, I thought he was mouthing the words on the page as he read until it registered that I could hear two voices singing.
Jasper. Was. Singing.
His husky voice was good whiskey; smooth and sultry and seeping into my veins like fire.
Forget your lust for the rich mans gold
All that you need is in your soul,
And you can do this if you try.
All that I want for you my son,
Is to be satisfied.
It was as though he was singing my anthem, singing about the man I secretly desired, the man I could not find. A simple man. He was singing about himself and in that moment the world ceased to exist. I could see only the man sitting in front of me, I could only watch his lips move as he sang softly, I could only hear his voice echo through the room.
It was him.
"Jasper," I gasped.
His head snapped up, and the eyes that latched onto mine turned dark and intense. They were filled with desire.
He wanted me.
Nothing else mattered in that instant. I crossed the room to him in quick strides. He pushed away from his desk as I approached, and I immediately sank into his lap, and covered his lips with my own. We groaned at the contact, a noise of both desperation and satisfaction. His warm, rough hands came to my face, holding me to him as our mouth opened to taste and tangle and devour. He tasted of whiskey and want, the flavor like a slow burning fire on my tongue. My hands went to his hair, my fingers threading through the wild mass, the strands surprisingly soft and cool. His mouth left mine to blaze a hot, wet trail over my jaw, down my neck, resting for a moment on my thundering pulse point before sucking gently and wringing a choked gasp from me. His hands roved down my back to my hips, pulling me to him as his mouth met mine again. I rocked against him, unable to restrain my need for him, the desire to feel my every inch pressed against him. To be consumed bodily, just as thoughts of him had consumed my every moment since I'd laid eyes on him.
He leaned back, his eyes burning into mine, his fingers clutching my hips. "Bella, I..." I cut him off, placing a finger at his lips.
I couldn't take words right now. Couldn't answer questions. I could only feel. I could only need.
"Just let me," I murmured against his neck. "Just touch me... I can't... I need..." I trailed off as his mouth met mine again.
"I know," he groaned. "I know."
And I knew that he did.
His strong arms lifted me, set me atop his desk as he rose to his feet. He stepped between my thighs, one warm palm gliding from my neck to my navel and them up again, finally resting between my breasts. My chest heaved beneath his hand with every gasping breath, and I knew he could feel my thundering heart. I didn't care. I wanted him to feel my every reaction, to know what he did to me with every small touch. I trusted him with my vulnerability because I knew he would not see it as such. Knew he would give his own back to me.
His hands undid each button on my shirt slowly; his eyes took in each new sliver of skin thoroughly. He parted the shirt once it was undone, running his fingertips lightly across my collarbones, down my sternum, across my trembling stomach.
"So beautiful," he murmured, tearing his gaze from my exposed skin and meeting my eyes. I couldn't handle the raw lust I saw there, couldn't process the intensity. I yanked him to me by his shirtfront, attacking his mouth and hastily unbuttoning his shirt before shoving it over his shoulders and down his arms. His skin was fire under my fingertips, hard and smooth. I ran my tongue over his shoulder, clamping my teeth down on the juncture between it and his neck. I was ravenous and his choked moan only intensified my need.
His hands became urgent, ridding me of my shirt and bra in one movement, and suddenly his mouth was at my breast and fire consumed my body as his heat surrounded me, pulling against my flesh, lapping and biting and distilling my entire existence into one acute moment of aching need. My hands flew to his belt, ripping it from his pants and popping the button on his slacks as his mouth continued to annihilate me.
I took him in my hand, hard and hot and throbbing and the needy groan that tore from him was an echo of my own. His hands grazed my thighs, pushing my skirt to my hips as they ascended. He pulled back from my breasts, watching his hand as it palmed me through my panties. I was drenched and aching and even that small touch sent shockwaves through my body. One finger stole beneath my underwear, sinking into my heat, stroking my flesh, tearing a whimper from me with the intensity of his simple touch.
I'd never felt anything so raw; I was pure sensation.
"Bella," he groaned again, adding another finger, slipping them both inside of me. He pumped them slowly, in and out, his eyes rising to meet my own. They were as blind and needy as I was.
"Jasper," I gasped. "Please, I need you."
He kissed me then, slowly, deliberately, thoroughly, breaking only to draw my panties down my legs. He slipped inside of me without preamble, our bodies fitting as though we were two pieces of the same entity.
He moved in me slow and deep, his quiet murmurs, his soft touches wrecking me. Obliterating me. I felt the cracks and fissures inside tremble beneath the weight of his touch, his words, his gaze. My body arched and bowed beneath him, the acute pleasure overtaking me in fierce waves of sensation. I felt myself shatter into sharp shards of need as I came, only to fall back into place intact, free of the aching voids that had festered for so long inside me.
He groaned my name as he came, his body shuddering above me. His hands came to my face, gasping against my lips as he kissed me. I swallowed his breath, his taste, his scent.
I had never been so full. Never been so complete.
I knew then what Sam meant when he described it as the missing piece clicking into place.
When we were done – when I could finally breathe again – I kissed her, lightly brushing my lips across hers, and then knelt down to hand her underwear back to her.
In that short span of time, every concern I'd had over the last two weeks: that of my ever-growing attraction to her, the way I wanted her, despite the fact that I knew it was wrong, the many 'what if's'… all of them went away. Every moral dilemma I had flew from the window in the moment that she'd gasped my name.
I had to have her in whatever way she would allow me.
She pulled her panties back up those sexy as hell legs and adjusted her skirt; her shirt was buttoned only at the center of her chest and her hair was mussed but so damn alluring. I sat before her, my pants back in place as I sat in my chair and reached for her hand.
The smoothness of her skin wasn't lost on me as I focused my eyes on the diamond bauble on her finger, caressing gently. This connection between the two of us filled the room to the ceiling and made me never want to be anywhere but by her side. I looked up at her, my eyes open and waiting for her response.
"What now?" I asked. She sighed, her brow slightly furrowed, and I wrapped her hand in mine.
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Open Voting will run from October 5 12:00 AM EDT to October 18 11:59 PM EDT... and it wouldn't hurt Lawsper's feelings if you voted for him. Just saying.