It is always a strange feeling to push the complete button. It is both sad and exciting in a way that is difficult to explain. I will miss this story, but it is time for it to come to its end. To those wonderful people who have taken the time to review, thank you SO much! You are the reason I continue to write!
My beta readers, Remylebeauishot, Mistral123 and Vanessa James, have been my stalwart companions and best critics, and I cannot thank them enough. Truly, if this story was worth your time, it is because of these beautiful ladies.
Thank you, Stephenie Meyer, for letting me play with Alice. She's all yours, but I had fun with her for a while.
I waited until we were well into Canada before finally bringing it up. I didn't want to be rude, so mentioning it in the state of Alaska seemed inappropriate. Of course, I wasn't sure where it would be appropriate.
"I simply don't understand their choices," I finally said. Eleazar was the only member of the Denali coven for whom the decision made any sense at all. Of course, he had been a priest, so the choice to abstain from humans was perfectly logical. His mate, the soft spoken Carmen, would have followed her mate's lead just as I followed Alice's.
But the sisters were a mystery. A rather risqué one.
Edward shrugged and slowed, letting the girls run ahead of us as they excitedly discussed stopping in Chicago for more school shopping.
"They're lonely, that's all," he said quietly. He shot me a warning glance, but it was too late.
"That's not all," hissed Emmett, "and you know it. You know exactly how they manage it. Now 'fess up!" Emmett had been far less subtle about his curiosity. In fact, his constant comments about their lifestyle had nearly driven Carlisle and Esme to the point of murder.
I'd found them hilarious.
Edward looked from me to his brother. His face would have been crimson with embarrassment and anger, had he been able to blush.
"They want companionship and look to human males to give it to them," he said yet again. "Stop that Emmett!" he growled at the huge man.
"Don't give me that," said Emmett with an evil grin. "If they wanted companionship, they wouldn't have all those smaller homes by the hot springs. They have huge fireplaces, and the biggest beds I've ever seen. I just need the facts, 'cause my imagination is probably worse than the reality of it. I can keep going with these thoughts all night."
Edward looked murderously at his brother. "Knock that off before I try to take a body part from you. They really are lonely. The rest of it is simply not up for discussion."
I'd heard of vampires that were drawn to humans. In all truth, that had been Carlisle and Esme's story. They had fallen for each other when she was a young teen, but being Carlisle, he had fled rather than change the girl. Whether or not that had proven to be a good idea was something I often wondered; I think we all did, but no one brought the subject up. No one wanted to cause either of them pain.
Rosalie had done the same for Emmett, seeing something in him that told her he was her mate, poor man.
But the Denali women were nothing but a mystery.
They preferred to love human men and leave them human. At first, I thought they loved them as pets, little warm things that they could stroke and cuddle with. Their relationships with their men, however, were anything but platonic.
"I don't care about the why," glowered Emmett, unwilling to drop the subject. "I care about the how. It's just not natural."
"Trust me, you don't want to know the how," Edward snapped. Emmett looked as if he was going to say something, but Carlisle's voice rang out a little too loudly.
"Ah, here we are," he said as we exited the woods overlooking our hotel. It was more of a resort than hotel, situated on Puget Sound. Instead of rooms, the place had small cabins that were distant enough to give us all some privacy. We also used it because it was a good place to park our cars while we ran north; it took far too long to drive to Alaska. We would clean up here, and then continue our journey to our new home in Anne Arbor, Michigan after spending a day shopping in our old stomping grounds. School would start in a week, and Alice simply had to get the outfits right. From the girl's discussion, we would be stopping in Chicago as well, but there we would stay in Edward's home.
Carlisle shot a stern look at Emmett, which stopped any more conversation. However, we all knew this discussion was going to pop up again soon.
Once Carlisle and Esme had gone to their cabin, Emmett popped his head back out of his and Rosalie's. He looked over at Edward who was still glaring at him and hissed out, "This isn't over. Not by a long shot."
Edward's shoulders slumped a bit, and he slammed the door a bit too hard. Emmett then looked over at Alice and me and grinned. "We'll wear him down, trust me," he said with another huge grin. I nodded but decided to let the subject drop.
Alice burst out laughing.
"That bad?" I asked, pulling her through the door of our cabin.
"It will be," she laughed.
"Will I be there?"
"Oh, I hope so. It will be so much better if you are." She reached up and placed her arms around my neck, pressing her body against mine in the most pleasant way. "You are a filthy man," she purred as she kissed my lips.
"Yes, Ma'am, I am. I may be in need of your expert help tonight." My hands traced down her back and ripped her trousers from her. I knew she was going to throw them out anyway.
In an instant, my own shirt was on the floor, and her fingers were tracing hot lines on my cold scars. Within moments, we were shredding the rest of our clothes and stepping into a hot shower. I let my kisses trail down her neck with the hot water.
And then the memory of the Denali clan's homes by the hot springs, which smelled heavily of human males, rushed in.
"What's wrong? Why did you shudder?" Alice asked.
"It's nothin', Beloved," I assured her as I damned Emmett to the hell he deserved.
I pushed all thoughts of the strange women and their odd habits down deep into my mind. Alice looked at me curiously, and I began to use her soap to ease her mind. Her skin, under the slick coat of soap, had the most exquisite feeling to it.
After using up the entire bar of soap on my wife's body, we exited the shower and moved to more traditional positions. We hadn't been alone for several weeks, and having her to myself was almost magical. I laid her small form on the bed, and remembered the massive beds the sisters used. They were the size of the whole cabin we now inhabited. Unmated vampires usually didn't need beds that size. They didn't need beds at all.
I froze, trying to get the memory, and all the imaginary images that came with it, out of my mind. I would somehow make Emmett suffer for this.
"Jasper." Alice looked at me with a knowing glance.
"I'm tryin', Love, really I am, but between those women and their hobbies and our over-sexed brother have messed with my mind."
She just snorted at me and wriggled out from under me. "I thought as much." She hopped over to our suitcase and pulled out a long bamboo tube.
"Do you have any idea how much I love you?" I asked, already focused on her perfect body and the scroll she was unrolling.
"Oh, yes I do, but I think you need to prove it to me," she said as her eyebrow shot up. "Fifty-two, or shall we try sixty-seven?" She brought the scroll over.
"If we bend just right, we could combine them. We will need floor space though. I intend to thoroughly prove to you how much I adore you, my wife." I still loved that word. Even after five years, it never lost its wonder to me.
She easily shoved the chairs and coffee table out of the way while I pulled the blankets down on the floor. Outside, I think I heard Edward's feet running away.
I ignored them. In fact, right now, I tried to pretend that the whole damn family no longer existed, and that I'd never met those Russian sisters.
It was in the middle of Chicago's busy downtown shopping area that Emmett chose to bring up the subject again. He did so without embarrassment. In fact, the only hint I had that he was going to bring up vampire sexuality in public was Edward's horrified face.
We all sat under umbrellas waiting for our mates, looking just like all the other dejected men who would rather sit in the constant drizzle than face the torture of yet another dress shop.
"Why humans?" was all he said, and the three of us tensed.
"This is hardly the place," hissed Carlisle.
"That's why I chose it," said Emmett. "You can answer me honestly, and this stays quiet, or you can keep dodging the questions, and it gets really loud." Emmett was quite proud of himself. I was rather impressed as well. I glanced at Carlisle who looked angrily at Emmett. I hadn't seen him look angry at anyone. He couldn't pull it off well, and Emmett only grinned wider.
Edward was rubbing his temples. "I don't need these images right now, thank you," he hissed at them both. "Emmett, most of what you are thinking isn't possible."
"So, Carlisle can set me straight." The large vampire shrugged, not put off in the least.
"I honestly don't know how they complete the task," Carlisle said, glancing nervously around. "I know they do, but I cannot fathom for the life of me how it occurs."
"Wait, you don't know? How can you not know? You've been a doctor for over two centuries." Emmett was far too loud, and we all cringed as several humans looked up at us.
In unison, we all turned our attention to Edward.
"Like I said, little brother, I'm not giving up," Emmett taunted. "I've waited fifteen years for the answer to that question, and I refuse to wait any longer. So 'fess up now."
"He's serious," I said.
"Oh, I know he is," snapped Edward. He ran a hand through his hair.
"He isn't going to stop this time, is he?" asked Carlisle, a tone of resignation thick in his voice.
"No," we both answered at once. Emmett beamed at us. He was really good at this.
Carlisle stood up and walked briskly to an alleyway. Once down the passage, he leapt up a fire escape and disappeared over the edge of a roof.
"Where is he going?" asked Emmett.
"Where they won't see us when we rip you to shreds," growled Edward, and then he copied his father's ascent.
"He's not serious, is he?" Emmett looked at me uncertainly, and I laughed.
"I think he wants privacy," I said. Carlisle, for all his propriety, was just as curious as Emmett and I.
We found the two of them under a veranda of some penthouse restaurant. It was far too early in the day for patrons, and there were rather comfortable chairs under the shelter.
We sat down, and the space between us filled with awkward silence. Finally, Carlisle cleared his throat. Edward looked like he was ready to bolt.
"As you both know, the ladies of the coven are very old. They are from a world in which women were often shamefully used, and beautiful women more so than others. They were part of a culture that allowed powerful men to take advantage of them, and that is what happened. Because of this, they never knew love, and now they crave it."
"I know that," said Emmett. "I know the why, and I'm okay with it. But we are made of cold stone. And humans are, well, warm, soft and juicy. How can a human man, even in the throes of passion, not notice that a few things are wrong?"
Edward made a retching noise but continued to stare into the distance.
"I believe alcohol has a great deal to do with it," said Carlisle.
"I don't care how drunk a human is, they are still going to notice a few things. Besides they live in Alaska. Our bodies are the temperature of the air. How do they not freeze the guys', um, parts off?"
"Temperature is always an issue, but if you remember, they live in an area of volcanic activity. The hot springs in their home help with that, I believe," Carlisle said, focusing on the same gray spot Edward looked at.
"That makes sense," I said, impressed by their choice of location. There were plenty of large animals near their log home, and the hot springs in the smaller homes were very enjoyable. All of us but Edward had used them. Our bodies had heated within an hour's time. Taking a very drunk male into such a hot spring would not only aid his libido, but hide our ambient temperature. Handy.
"Oh, okay," Emmett mumbled, nodding. "That helps, 'cause, you know that when the temp outside is too cold, they could accidentally freeze a few things and snap the poor guy in half."
Edward laughed nervously. Emmett cocked an eyebrow at him and leaned over. "Care to share, little bro?"
Edward's mouth twitched. "That has actually happened. Siberia is a very cold place."
Emmett just stared at him. "Really? Oh, man! The poor guy."
"Yes, I suppose it would be the similar to a human sticking their tongue to a freezing flagpole," nodded Carlisle.
I grimaced. That was not a mental image I ever wanted to have.
"It's so much worse than you know," said Edward to us all.
"How... many... times?" asked Emmett in horror. "I mean, I had a little experience before I was changed, and that whole area is a... tender subject."
Carlisle sniggered, and I grinned at him. For Emmett, this discussion was personal.
"It took them almost two hundred years to stop killing the men," Edward offered.
"Do you mean to stop eating from them, or..." Emmett never finished. The options ran through my head against my will.
"Or," Edward stated flatly.
Emmett looked at Edward and swallowed.
"How did they die?" Emmett's voice trembled.
"Blood loss," Edward and Carlisle replied together. Emmett and I instinctively brought our legs together in the universal empathetic motion of all males.
"Crushing injuries would result in massive hemorrhaging, certainly," said Carlisle in his clinical voice.
"What a terrible way to go," moaned Emmett.
"I can't think of much worse," I said, fighting the images that flooded my head.
"They didn't waste the blood," said Edward, like that would make it all better. A whole new series of images came to me. No wonder Edward didn't want to talk about this.
"The poor bastards," whispered Emmett with a shudder. "But how do they even get... together? I mean, stone doesn't open for soft flesh easily." I swear that Emmett would have been blushing if he could. I would have, too, truth be told.
Edward said nothing, but Carlisle cleared his throat. "Perhaps with a great deal of... experience - of practicing the art, so to speak, stone might... become more... malleable." The vampire was nearly stuttering. "Also, there are other orifices which might be used." The final words were spoken so quickly I almost didn't catch them.
"That's a hell of a lot of practice," stated Emmett.
"They've been doing this for hundreds of years," Edward reminded him. "Hundreds."
"Before they mastered the art," I said carefully, "there would have been mass casualties."
"Carnage." Edward said it with a shudder.
"Wait," began Emmett, his eyes growing large. "Wait. Other ora-? But we have teeth! And suction! I can suck a bull moose dry in under a minute! What happened when -?"
"Don't!" Edward choked out. He was rubbing his eyes as if he was trying to scrub away some memory. Then he pinched the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut. "For the love of all that is holy, just stop!"
Emmett snapped his knees shut once again, and I found myself doing the same.
"That could conceivably disembowel the poor - "
"Carlisle!" Edward growled. He looked positively ill.
"I'm sorry, Edward, just thinking out loud."
"No wonder you wanted to keep all this to yourself," Emmett said. He almost moaned the words. "This is worse than I ever thought it could be."
Edward nodded and returned to stare at the monotonous gray of the sky. Try as I might, I couldn't stop my own mind from drawing some very inappropriate conclusions.
I needed Alice.
"Finding the girls would be a brilliant idea," said Edward thickly.
"Yes, yes it would," said Emmett as he stood. "I really need my very sturdy, stone mate right now. None of that warm soft stuff for me. I need something with some staying power to it."
Her arms held me as the room became lighter. Colors shifted and shadows formed, but she didn't move. She had been anxious about this day for a long time, both in good and bad ways. Now that it was here, she vacillated wildly between emotions. Or maybe that was me.
I took firm hold of my emotions and tried to comfort my mate.
"You will be fine there," I whispered into her shoulder. I kissed it as I spoke.
"I don't want to go," she whimpered.
I had to chuckle. I could dimly remember uttering those very same words when I was a boy. It was a strange memory to keep.
"Alice, no one wants to go," I said. "None of the others do, and I can guarantee that the human children feel the same way." Alice buried her face in my chest. "It will be fine, Beloved," I cooed. "I wish I could go with you." My chest constricted painfully as I held back the raw emotions I felt. I couldn't imagine letting her go, but there was no way I could join her. Alice and Edward were able to catch me most of the time, but to my shame I'd killed eight times in the last six years.
I would now be alone with Esme on school days because my own weakness kept me from joining her.
I couldn't even stand outside the school, at least not yet. The mistakes I made were totally spontaneous, and there seemed to be no mitigating factor but one; times of intense emotion made me more likely to attack. I couldn't tell when one whiff of wind or the beat of a single heart would pull the monster to the surface, and that made me very dangerous.
Today, my weakness would cost me my mate. I buried my feelings deep within me and sent her peace I could not feel.
"You should get ready," I said softly. "There is no reason to waste a perfectly good outfit."
"Well, yes, but I'm pretty good at it," I said, forcing a chuckle.
She lifted her small body off of mine, and I immediately regretted every slip, every moment of weakness, I had ever had. She paused, letting her chest dangle tantalizingly against me. Then she wiggled.
"That's not fair," I groaned.
"Just a little promise of what will come tonight," she said with an evil grin. This was going to be a long day.
I walked over to my dresser as she bathed and pulled out the small wooden box I'd carved for her. Inside, lying perfectly in the center, was the small ring that would replace the wedding bands that currently encircled her finger. It was a small gold ring that held within its alloy the final shards of my grandparent's bands. I'd had it made for Alice before our move to Ann Arbor.
Here, she was Emmett's little sister, and I was Jasper Hale. Alice and Edward would become freshmen today, Emmett would be a sophomore, and Rosalie would be a college student. No one was happy this morning, and the mood permeated the walls and air of the home.
I felt Alice walk up behind me. She wrapped her arms around me, the heat of the water leaving her slightly warm to me.
"I've been dreading this part," she whispered. I turned and looked at her beautiful naked body, caught for a moment in the wonder of her. I hung on to that feeling as I pulled out the ring and took her hand. I kissed the wedding bands.
"Me too, Beloved," I said. A wave of sadness filled me, but I fought it as I slowly removed the wedding bands and replaced them with the small promise ring. I hated myself for needing to send her away from me with nothing more than a small gold band on her finger. I should have been strong enough to stand beside her with my fingers entwined in hers to show that she was mine.
She smiled up at me, sadness tugged at her eyes. "It really is beautiful, Jazzy," she said.
"It isn't enough," I whimpered into her as I held her close.
"It is all I need," she said, and she turned and began to dress herself for the day.
I stood still and tried not to wallow in my own pity. It was just high school. She would be there with Edward and Emmett. It would be perfectly fine.
I hated my life.
I was right. No one was particularly happy about the day. I was an utter wreck, but next to me, Rosalie was the most worried, and Emmett was the most miserable. This time, going to school meant time away from each other. After twenty-six years of this life, Rosalie would go to college for the first time to earn a medical degree. Despite Alice's assurances, it was a risky maneuver even for her, but one that would benefit both her and Carlisle. Edward had earned his first medical degree in 1948.
Emmett's mood soured as Rosalie turned and drove off in her new Pontiac. He was absolutely sullen as Carlisle drove the "children" to school. I tried to lift the spirits of those in the car, but I failed miserably. By the time we reached the city, we were a carload of cranky killers.
The wall of emotion hit me when Carlisle turned onto the street that the school was on. Even though the building was still distant, the emotions projecting from the place struck me with the force of an explosion.
Edward and I moaned at the same moment. "That is so much worse," he growled. "Hearing their thoughts is bad enough, but feeling all of that is nauseating. Thank God you won't be with us."
He was right; I was about to gag. The emotional environment was suffocating me.
"Do they always feel so much?" I asked. I took a huge breath and held it. With this much emotion, it wouldn't take much for me to make another mistake.
"It's like this every day," said Edward flatly. He was also straining under the emotional avalanche. "I only have to hear it, though. I can't imagine feeling it every day." His eyes were closed, and he rubbed them and then ran his hand down his face a few times. I did the same and tried to block the rising angst as we drove closer to the school. By the time Carlisle parked, both of us had our heads in our hands, and Alice was rubbing my back.
High school, if I ever got there, would be my personal hell.
A group of close knit girls wandered past us, and I shuddered. "How can they feel all of that at once? They are less human than I am." I hissed.
Carlisle cast a worried glance around the car. Emmett sat next to him looking murderous, Edward and I sat in the back writhing in emotional agony, and Alice sat beside me trying to ease my pain, but looking decidedly pale.
"Perhaps we should wait a few days," he ventured.
"No, let's just get this over with," grumbled Emmett, and he grabbed his school supplies and exited the car. He stalked up to the entrance of the building and looked back at us expectantly. The humans had instinctively made a wide passage for him and were now staring at us like we were from outer space.
"It will be fine," said Alice with a rather strained voice. It sounded more like a question than a statement.
"Just go, and come back to me quickly," I pleaded with her. Edward was already out of the car and walking to the building. A new set of emotions hit me like a wall. Lust and desire flowed from the females around the campus.
Suddenly, the small promise ring on Alice's finger wasn't nearly enough. When she exited the car, the lust redoubled now coming from the males, as did the constant undercurrent of jealousy. That emotion burned itself off the females around her. I roared in rage, and Carlisle's hands were around my arm.
"Jasper!" His voice reached through my fog of anger and frustration. I felt the car pull me away from the storm of emotion that was the school. I looked back at the school and saw my face reflected in the rear window looking at me with broken sadness.
It would be a very long time before I could endure this most normal of human events.
I watched out the window. I always ended up looking out the window this time of day. Esme was busy flipping through her latest copy of "Architectural Digest," but I could feel her worry beginning to grow. It was the same thing every day, and as bad as it was for me, I knew it was worse for Edward and Emmett. They had three more years to go in High School, and already they were nearly bored to death. Or so they wished.
The only two who were still enjoying their time here were Alice and Rosalie. However, they were both dreading our next move in four years, and their next stint in school. We would be moving to West Virginia, and it would be Edward's turn to attend college and receive his next degree.
I would be left at home. There was no time in the future that Alice could yet foresee when I would be able to join my mate at school. Even then, I would try the smaller classes of a college first. I still couldn't stomach the emotions that dripped like sewage from the high school.
Carlisle came to stand behind me. "They will be home soon, son," he said. I heard the paper crinkle under his arm as he shifted. I turned and looked at him curiously. If he brought a paper out, there was a reason for it.
"We need to discuss the issue with Southeast Asia today," he said.
"Alice says it can still go either way," I reminded him.
"I know, but my experience with human war is that it never gets better until is has reached the worst case scenario."
I nodded. My studies in history, led by Carlisle, had pointed to that conclusion as well. The use of the atomic bomb, and the current nuclear standoff, were evidence of that.
"I believe that they will begin pushing the draft again," Carlisle said.
"That would be a bad thing," I said, finally understanding his concern. Of all the dangers in living as a human, the draft was the most problematic.
"During World War II, Edward was legally in his forties, and Emmett was dead. Now, however, I have three sons within the legal age."
"I'm a little too old, according to my papers, and we could always kill off Edward and Emmett," I suggested.
"I need to die first," said Carlisle. "Esme and I are legally in our fifties. Besides, Emmett has been working on it for months now. I would hate to disappoint him."
I smiled, thinking of the elaborate plan and huge Molotov cocktail that Emmett and I had designed. We had created it as a possible weapon, but had decided it would only prove a good distraction should the family be attacked. When we were ready to leave here, we planned to use it to stage a fiery auto accident in which Carlisle and Esme would die. We children would then be shipped off to West Virginia to live with relatives. We even had the will ready.
"Rosalie will also be angry if she doesn't get to faint like she's been planning," I said.
"She likes to do things over the top," nodded Carlisle. Rosalie was going to be working at the hospital, since she was finishing up her first round of clinicals. She had the entire scene all planned out and had even practiced it should we need to leave sooner than we planned. None of us dared tell her how melodramatic she was.
Esme chuckled behind us. She was rather excited about the whole event. Deaths were rare, but necessary so that no one, especially not the tax man, was the wiser.
"Anyway," said Carlisle, pulling out the paper and showing me the headline about more troops being sent as peacekeepers to the small and inconsequential country of Vietnam, "we need to discuss a possible move to Canada. If I take a position there, it will be much easier to create new lives and avoid a possible draft if needed."
"That could be fun," mused Esme. "I've never lived in another country before."
"Living in Canada will only protect us for so long," I said. That was already an issue with many humans.
"If the conflict becomes too large, we can go on an extended family vacation," said Esme. "Alice and Jasper haven't seen Isle Esme, and I would love to tour the tropics again."
"We can make all the plans tonight. I just want to make sure we have everything ready in case we need to leave the United States due to legal issues," said Carlisle thoughtfully. "My hope is that it never comes to that."
I looked at him, and understood. We had a dozen such plans. Should there be an accident, we could easily move within a day. Should another coven come in, each of us knew our parts and how to protect ourselves. Should a legal issue arise, we had documents ready to start new lives in several locations. If we were threatened, we had a battle plan. Being a Cullen meant being prepared for anything.
Carlisle looked at me and nodded to the door. We walked out into the cool day. The cloud cover overhead was thinning, and strips of blue could be seen between the gray. Alice had again called it perfectly.
We stood, looking up at a sky that was as endless as our lives. Behind the widening blue, we could see the dim light of stars that lay hidden to the humans.
"Has Alice seen anything?" Carlisle asked, never taking his eyes from the December sky. The snow was late this year, and the clicking of the barren tree limbs sounded around us like distant gunfire.
For a moment, I was again transported to another time, when I and another had looked into the distance. Then, it was gunfire that we heard.
The hills of southern Texas rose around us. I could see them only dimly in my human memory, and I could not make out the face of the man next to me. I knew, though I could not clearly remember it, that I was on a horse, and that the saddle was a comforting place.
I did remember that the air smelled of gun oil and black powder.
"We goin' to Galveston, Major?" said the ghost of a voice.
My deeper voice drifted out of the memory, startling me. "Yes, we are, private. Tomorrow." I believe I had laughed at the thought.
"We gonna finally see a gunfight, then?" The voice beside me seemed too young.
"Naw. They need us to evacuate the city." My voice sounded disgusted.
"Don't worry, Major," the too young voice said beside me. "Them bastards'll let us see real gunplay soon. I just know it, sir. You will get your chance to prove yerself, sir. I just know it."
"You a fortune teller, now?" I asked him.
"I just have a feelin' that things is about to change, sir."
The memory faded, and I continued to look at the sky. Things had definitely changed. I wondered if the boy beside me had survived the night at Galveston. I wondered if perhaps he was one the boys I'd killed. I would never know.
"Jasper," Carlisle said softly, pulling me to the present. He always seemed to know when I was lost in my past.
"She hasn't seen anything at all. Your deaths will go remarkably smoothly, and the house Esme has found will look lovely in a cream color." I turned and grinned at Carlisle. "Don't tell Esme, but there is a good chance that turquoise shutters are in her future."
"How does Alice manage that?" he asked with a wry smile.
I shrugged. "She doesn't know, but she does it."
He chuckled softly and looked back into the house. "I can't wait to see it all pan out. I'd have never thought such a thing was possible."
"I know how you feel," I said. Ten years ago, I was a murderous monster who felt nothing and didn't care if I lived or died. Today, I stood outside my home with my yellow-eyed coven leader who felt more like a father to me than I wanted to admit. Today, I was waiting for my mate to return from high school so that I could be healed. Today, I wanted to play basketball with my siblings. Today, I was safe and loved and a member of a family that for some reason called me their own. It was my life, but it shouldn't have been.
"There it goes," said Carlisle, his eyes following a dim, white spot. The humans also followed it, when they could see it. Of course, they could only see it at night.
"Such a little thing to cause so much fuss," I commented. I watched it disappear behind a wisp of a cloud. The sun would indeed be out soon.
"It's a huge step for them," Carlisle responded. "When Sputnik left the earth, the humans left with it, in a way. Unless they destroy themselves, there will be no going back. I think the men on the earth are changing again."
"Do they ever really change?" I wondered out loud.
Carlisle laughed softly. "I used to not think so, but you've changed my mind. If someone like you can change, then there might just be hope for the humans after all." He chuckled, remembering with fondness the day we'd arrived and scared the poor coven to death.
I watched the tiny, white dot flit between clouds again. He was right. If something like me could change, anything was possible.
I heard the low rumble of the car at the same moment that I felt her return to me. The pain that I didn't know I'd been feeling disappeared, and I turned to meet my mate.
The car rounded the corner, and I saw my mate's smile spread across her face. The magical thrill of seeing her again, the feeling of being found at last, rushed through me. I was home and whole at last.
My dearest readers,
Thank you all so much for allowing me to take you on this journey! Your time is precious to you, and it is a gift you have given to me every time you read this story.
If you would be so kind, please do me the honor of letting me know you read Coalescence and push the review button to say hello. I would love to hear from each and every person who had spent their time with my stories.
Below is an excerpt from my next work, Rogue. Rogue will be a combination of a look at glimpses of Jasper's past life as he and Alice continue their lives with the Cullens. Rogue will take their story up through Breaking Dawn. I hope you enjoy the excerpt and will consider joining me again for the next installment of their lives!
Thank you again for reading my story.
An excerpt from the continuation of Coalescence called Rogue
The heavy set older man hobbled among the boulders that were strewn about the gully as though they had once been marbles tossed by a wayward giant. Though he limped badly, he made his way amongst the maze of rock and water surely, for he knew the way to his hidden pool by heart. The limp was caused by injuries that were sustained long ago, and though he was unsteady, he compensated for it well.
Ahead of him, a lanky boy waited impatiently. Normally, the youth would have been running ahead or leaping from boulder to boulder, but today his shoulders slumped under the bamboo rods, and his bare feet kicked divots in the sand.
To Reverend Whitlock, the man-child looked utterly defeated.
Even the dogs that loped along side of them were dispirited by the boy.
"I'm a comin' boy," he huffed. "Dese ole legs have a hard time in dese places." After decades of being far from the bayou, the cadence of Louisiana played through the deep Texas drawl.
"T'sallrigh, Pappaw," the boy said, almost too quietly to be heard. "I ain't got nowhere t' be teday, anyhoo."
The Reverend reached the lad and clasped his shoulder with a strong hand. "Don't let 'em getcha down, boy," he said, his deep voice echoing off the rocks and filling the gully. Two of the dogs nuzzled the boy, almost as if they had been affected by the old man and were now, too, trying to lift his spirits. "You lost a fight. T'ain't a grand matter. We all lose 'em from time ta time."
"It'll be a grand matter to Pa," spat out the boy. He looked down at the older man, for he was almost a head taller, and then looked away quickly.
Reverend Whitlock knew the boy was right, the boy's father would see the his loss as a sign of weakness, and he did not take kindly to weakness.
"Tell me, son, why did ya' fight 'em? Couldn't ya tell how it was a goin'?"
The boy walked silently beside him for a while, and the Reverend didn't push. Talking openly about Jasper's emotional frailty wasn't an easy thing.
They came up to the small bend in the river that hid the pool. It was a secret spot, hard to get to, but worth it.
Surrounded by rocks and high cattails, the pool lay completely hidden from the world. It was a place of solitude, and the Reverend, who loved people, sometimes needed solitude.
The dogs rushed ahead through the cattails but didn't disturb the water. Much.
They wove around through the giant bushes until they came to a flat rock. The place was beautiful in its utter stillness.
The river flowed through the pool so that muck and slime had no real chance to gain a foothold, but the surface of the water remained as smooth as glass. The deep blue sky and bright white clouds reflected perfectly in the water. Both the man and the boy sighed when they saw it.
They set to work with the bamboo poles and soon had a pair of skewered worms in the water. When they were both seated, watching the sunlight dance across the odd wave, the Reverend brought up the fight again.
"Boy, you knew it wouldn't end right, didn'tcha?" he asked. The dogs came near him. He was trying to soothe his grandson, and the dogs always wanted to be near him when he tried to ease the pain of another.
Jasper shrugged against him. "I thought they'd listen to me. I thought I could stop 'em, then I got mad, and thought I could whip 'em."
"People ain't horses, boy. You can't always make 'em do what ya' want. In fact, you shouldn't try," he said softly to the boy. He looked at his own dogs. He and his son, and now his grandson, were all good with animals, but Jasper was the best of them all. The boy had learned to ride at age four, and there wasn't a horse standing that wouldn't take him now.
"Pa thinks I should be able to," Jasper said, his voice hard. "He says I need t' learn t' lead men, jus' like he does. I want ta! Lord knows I want t' do what he does. Only, I can't ken it. I don' know how t' do it."
The Reverend took a deep breath. Not only was this a sore point for his grandson, but it was the source of the rift between himself and his own son.
"Ya' know I don't agree wit' yer Pa," he said, thinking hard about his next words. "He's right that a boy wit' yer spirit can sway a crowd once ya learn it. What ya do with dem horses is clear evidence of it." He made his voice soft now, trying both to soothe his grandson and make him see a point. "Leading men isn't about forcing them to bend t' yer will. It's about showing them de right path. You can move a cow by pushing it, but it'll move da wrong way. Or you can lead a cow by showing it da path, and it will follow ya without a fuss. Both ways work, I suppose, but I reckon it's much easier t' pull a cow wit' a handful of hay, than push the other end and step in manure."
Jasper chuckled. The Reverend put his arm around the young lad and felt the boy relax under him.
"Time's a comin' when ya have ta choose, Jasper. Yer Pa, he chose ta lead men, but not ta help 'em. Nope, he leads 'em fer the sake of bein' the leader. He leads 'em fer pride's sake. I lead 'em, but I hope it's fer a different reason. Yer Meemaw and I, we want to be a blessin' to the folks around us.
"It's yer time, now, boy. It's yer time ta choose. I pray ya choose it well." The Reverend looked at the boy. The few waves in the pond sent ripples of light across his face. He knew, as he always knew, that the boy was torn inside. Jasper had a natural ability to lead, but he also had the desire to control those he led, just as he controlled the horses.
His son was almost cruel in his relations with others, caring only about how they might add to his own power and prestige. Jasper was in danger of following that lonely, hurtful path.
The Reverend indeed prayed that the boy would choose well. Such a gift could be a blessing or a curse, and if he was right about the boy, Jasper could bring about great pain and sorrow if he chose the wrong path.
April 22, 1966
I looked out at the still pool. The sun's light, filtering through the trees, reflected off the few waves that rippled the surface. The river to my right rushed on its way through the hills and rocks around me. The scent of the cattails called a memory to the surface that I simply couldn't see clearly. The memory was one from my human years, one I'd kept and treasured, but it was so very dim.
A pond, surrounded by cattails and rocks. My grandfather, fish, and perhaps animals of some kind swirled unfocused in my mind. He had placed his arm around my shoulder. There was something important there, but I could no better grasp it than I could leap to the moon.
I never knew why memories tugged at me. There was some reason, I was sure, and sometimes the link was easy to make. This foggy one gave me a sense of peace, but there was an urgency to it today.
The sun reflected off the water and my skin again, and the hidden space filled with light. I paused a bit longer to enjoy it. The others would not be returning from school yet, and I was done eating, so there was time to enjoy the play of the light and the strange restfulness that the place brought me. Besides, tonight would be stressful enough. We were going into town to see a movie, and I would be on guard against myself all night.
I probed the memory, trying to find why it felt urgent now, but no reason came to me. All that I knew was the pool of water, the peace I felt here, and the feel of my grandfather's arm across my shoulders.
A small breeze disturbed the mirror surface of the pond. I watched the pattern of the waves on the water and took in the tangy smell of pine.
And turned to hot ice.
Barely detectable, but definitely there, another scent tainted the forest's smell. I sucked in air, pulling it over my tongue to be sure. The scent was both known and unknown to me. Two scents, then.
Other memories crashed in on me. Screams, heady incense, death. They flooded in, eradicating the peace.
Hernandez's scent, weak but recognizable, tainted the clean wind. Maria's right hand man had been in these woods.
I crouched, instinct taking over my thoughts, and began to search for the path. It took a while, but I finally realized they used my favorite trick of taking to the trees. His scent and that of another assailed me. They had crossed my path more than a half hour before I came here. Had I not paused by the pool, I would have never detected it.
My growls rose as I tracked both ends of the path. I couldn't focus on anything more than the fear and hatred that engulfed me.
Alice was not with me.
Alice was on her way home.
Enemies were here.
I gripped a trunk and splintered the tree. I had to get control of myself.
Carefully now, I traced the path.
The ice melted in the heat of venom. They had come from town and were heading deeper into the woods. They were heading for home.
My roar echoed off the hills around me. I had no idea of where my mate was. I had no idea if they had found her. All I knew was that Maria was about to bring her curse down upon the Cullens.
Everything I was pulled me to the city, to find my mate, but I couldn't do it. I could not go. The scents didn't lead to the city; they led towards home. Emmett, Rosalie and Edward were with her. I had to trust them to keep her safe, but I'd never felt so helpless in that trust.
I closed my eyes against the panic and turned towards the home. I'd left Esme there. Carlisle, if he was still alive, wouldn't have returned home from the hospital yet.
They were heading towards Esme, and she was alone.