This is just a pleasant little Bella/Jasper fic. There might be a few twists and turns and there will be lemons later but I'm just using it to take my mind off things while I'm writing Broken Saints because that's taking a lot out of me and I need an occasional escape. That being the case, updates to this one might be erratic.
There used to be more joy in it than this. Driving was always the one thing that made me feel most free. Now it felt like a failing attempt at escape. And the faster I drove the faster my ghosts flew after me. I was so intent on fleeing them that I didn't see the oncoming car into whose lane I had drifted until it was too late. There was a flash of colour and I saw the black Lotus in my rear-view mirror as it plunged gracelessly into the ditch. I jammed on the brakes, thankful for vampire reflexes and for the fact that we were the only two vehicles on the road, and reversed quickly to where the car's rear end protruded from the ditch, its wheels spinning to a stop. I exited the car quickly, looking for the driver.
My brain stuttered in panic as I approached and saw a mane of dark brown hair, the owner with her head in her hands and wracked with great sobs. The panic soared as I realised that I couldn't read any emotions coming from her at all. That was a first and I was willing to bet that it was not a good sign. I started to stammer an apology and swiftly changed it to an offer to call for an ambulance; she must be very badly hurt if the pain was making her cry that hard.
I held my breath as I reached her, touching her arm gingerly, and my world imploded when she looked up at me. Sparkling, intelligent brown eyes looked out under long lashes, a cute nose and a rosebud mouth were distended with her sobs of…laughter? There was a small stab of fleeting recognition from her as her eyes found mine but it was gone in an instant. I would worry about that later. Another fit came over her and she bent forward over the wheel, laughing hard enough that she shook.
"Oh, oh god. Sorry." She wiped at her face and tried to clamber out of the car. She fell back again and looked at her legs in a bemused manner.
"I'm Jasper I'm so sorry are you OK can I help?" As introductions went this one was smooth with a capital smoo.
"I'm Bella that's OK yes and I could do with a hand." She managed solemnly before another giggle escaped. I managed an uncertain smile, still not sure why it was funny. Not complaining, obviously; laughter was much better than the alternative, which on my approach to the car I had thought might involve the words 'mangled' and 'amputation'. I raised an eyebrow.
"Aw. C'mon," she said, tilting her head in a way that both jumpstarted and stopped my dead heart several times in roughly a third of a second. "The only two cars on the road, I end up in the ditch and you look like you want to throw yourself under a train in penance? Hilarious though it is, however, if you don't mind I'd like to leave my day's excitement at this." She smiled a sweet, clear smile of good humour, irony and forgiveness and I felt feeling return to my body again.
I reached out a hand as she tried again to exit the car. Luckily the roof was down and when her pushing didn't work as well as she'd hoped I quickly pulled her over the edge of the door. As I removed my hands she raised her head, gave me a brilliant smile, said "Thanks, I…" and promptly sunk to the floor, white as a sheet and just as conscious. My brain was taking a short vacation but my arms succeeded in preventing her from falling face first in the thick mud.
I crouched there for a couple of minutes hoping that her eyes would open, until my throat told me that my control would elope with my brain if I didn't stand up right this second. There was nothing for it but to lift her as I stood. As I did I heard her blood withdrawing from her extremities and felt her flesh growing a little colder. Her scent diminished mercifully as her body sought to protect itself from the trauma it had suffered.
Thankfully my legs cooperated when I ordered them to take us both to the passenger side of my own car. Had she been awake I thought she might have appreciated the brief comedy of opening a car door with an unconscious woman in my arms. As it was she only missed it by seconds as she was muttering quietly, awakening, as I slid into my own seat.
I'd always thought that being unconscious looked quite undignified but this preconception was altered forever as I watched her small pink tongue moisten her lower lip and her eyes, large and unfocused, opened and fixed on me after a brief search of the car's interior. I ignored the something that happened deep down inside me as her pupils dilated when they locked their gaze on me.
"Hi again." She smiled, slightly wonky but still enchanting.
"Hi. I'm just calling an ambulance; do you want some water before they get here?" I waggled my phone and pointed at a water bottle at the same time.
"No." she shook her head and trembled hard enough that her knuckles clacked against the door, making her wince. "I really don't need an ambulance; this is just shock."
"Um. Well, I really think it might be…"
"Honestly. I didn't bump anything and if I can just get warm and stop shaking I'll be fine." She was even paler now and her teeth were chattering with the force of her body trying to make sense of the fact that it had been sure it was about to die but had not.
"In that case perhaps we should address the fact that there is no way on Earth you are going to get warm covered in all that mud." I quirked a brow toward her ensemble. What had been black jeans and a white sweater were now a mottled 'ditch brown' with patches of 'puddle grey'. On top of that she was soaked through to the skin with the icy water that had filled the ditch. The corners of her mouth turned up and she nodded her assent.
"What about my car?" she asked, clutching her arms across her chest as another huge shiver shook her from head to toe.
"I live just down the road. I'll get you something warm to wear and a hot drink and then come back with my tractor and pull it out. Sound good?" I found a small picnic blanket to drape across her.
"Yes. You have a tractor?" Her eyes lit up a little.
"Oh yes." I nodded solemnly. What man worth his salt didn't have a tractor?
"Cool." she managed before cold and exhaustion took her.
I drove quickly but carefully up the winding drive of my ranch, mindful of the snow that banked either side of the road. I crunched over iced up gravel and stopped as close to the house as I could. She was still out of it and I crushed down the gladness that some deep part of me felt at the prospect of picking her up again. I'd vowed never to enjoy the touch of a woman again and put enjoying holding one into that category. She woke again as I carried her up the huge, curved staircase and smiled at me sleepily. I felt her body start trembling once more, quite violently, but there was a little more colour in her cheeks.
I kicked open a door and put her down gently on the spare bed, moving to a wardrobe. I pulled out a pair of tracksuit bottoms, a t-shirt and a luxuriously thick sweater. I laid them on the bed next to her.
"Can you manage?" I asked nervously.
"Yes, I think so. It might take me longer to get changed than it'll take you to haul my car out of the ditch but I'll get there." She seemed to find the trembling somewhat embarrassing as she spoke through partly clenched teeth.
"Well, I'll light the fire in the lounge so if you get done before me you can make your way down there and warm up. I'll be back in two secs with some tea and I reckon I'll be gone for about half an hour as long as your car isn't stuck on anything."
"OK. It is Jasper, yes?" I nodded. "Thanks, Jasper." She smiled and squeezed my hand gently. The chill of her own skin seemed to stop her from noticing the eternal coldness of mine.
"I drive you off the road and you thank me? Lady you're a one-off."
"So I've been told." She grinned and her eyes sparkled with good humour. I found myself grinning in response and giving her hand a squeeze before I left the room.
When I came back a few minutes later with a mug of hot, sugared tea I knocked and went in, finding that she'd taken off her boots and socks and was rubbing her feet with a soft towel. She almost dropped the mug as she took it and I had to hold both of my hands around hers and the mug until she was steadier. I made my goodbyes and went off to deal with her car. I did have a tractor, I just had no intention of using it when I could easily pull her little car out of the ditch with one hand. But she didn't need to know that.
It was forty-five minutes later when I stepped back into the house again, shaking bits of leaf from my unruly hair. I looked up just in time to see Bella step off the last stair onto the slab floor, do a strange little dance to the tune of "hoo hoo ha ha!" and leap back onto the stairs again. She looked up and blushed a little at having been caught doing something so undignified, but her sense of humour won through and she smiled.
"Stay there one moment, darlin'." I said with a smirk, disappearing into the laundry room. I returned with a pair of thick, warm socks. I bent and pulled one and then the other over her small feet. We both laughed as the heels ended up mid-calf. I inclined my head and offered my arm. She took it and allowed me to lead her across the flagstones onto the rich old rug which marked the edge of the lounge. It was a huge room with solid timber beams and pillars, a massive stone fireplace glowing and crackling as the logs burnt. I pulled a thick quilt from a chest and motioned for her to wrap herself in it. Then I made a pile of cushions as close to the fire as I dared and held her hand as she lowered herself onto it.
"Aaah." She sighed in sheer ecstasy as she sank into the softness and warmth.
Although she seemed comfortable I was worried about how cold she still was. Her hands and feet were like blocks of ice and I wasn't sure that shock was meant to last this long. I spread my hands a few millimetres from the flames of the fire for a few minutes, then sat cross-legged next to her. I started to rub her hands between mine, bending and unbending her fingers, cupping them together and rewarming my hands every five minutes or so.
She dozed as I did this and, when I was finally satisfied that her extremities were warm enough, I found that the scent of her blood that had been kept at bay this long by the chill in her flesh had surfaced with a vengeance. I'd never smelled a scent quite this alluring in all my time as a vampire. Her scent was musky and feminine, with a thread of wildflowers and cloudberries. I sighed in resignation. She smelled like sex, flowers and fruit. Fuck my life. This was only going to get harder. I pinched back the burn in my throat and my heart sank as I realised something that was only going to exacerbate the thirst that was swirling through me.
Not only was one of my hands clasped firmly in one of hers, but she was completely asleep, her grip surprisingly vicelike for a human, and a small one at that. I could have torn my hand from hers but found that I didn't want to. I excused that particular notion away by convincing myself that I didn't want to wake her up and answer any questions about the force I would have had to use.
I did the only thing I could think of; I lay down next to her and looked at her. Her face, a small smile on her lips, was the last thing I saw before I coaxed my mind into a meditative state, the closest our kind could get to sleeping. While I lay there I allowed my mind to wander through a landscape of jumbled images and memories. I didn't remember dreaming as a human but had worked hard with Edward many years ago to find the closest approximation.
My senses remained aware but I was as relaxed as it was possible to be.