Ugh. Notifications were not sent out I think, so you may or may not have had one for this chapter. Or you may get two. lol

Thank you to all who are still reading or have started reading this story, especially to Adipocere for the first review of Chapter Seven :)



Chapter 8

Bella POV

I cringed as the door to the van opened and one black suited leg stepped out, followed by another. It felt like the occupant was taunting us. Jasper's emotional climate dropped to subzero as the long seconds dragged out before the owner of the legs came into view. As a shoulder and the back of a head appeared I felt Jasper's confusion. As the van's occupant turned to look at us Jasper groaned and knocked his head silently against the steering wheel.

"You bastard," he muttered under his breath.

The van's occupant seemed to acknowledge his quiet words with his happy smile and wave of a pale hand. A very pale…oh…crap. He strode towards us, a little swagger evident in his gait. He knocked insolently on the jeep's roof just above Jasper's head and looked around him at everything but Jasper until he was acknowledged. Jasper rolled down the window without taking his forehead off the steering wheel. His voice was both weary and slightly amused when he spoke.

"What the fuck do you want, Peter?" He looked up then as a head with shaggy blond hair and a pair of MIB sunglasses dropped to window height and chuckled at us.

"World peace and a silky smooth bikini line?" the new guy said, his tone deadpan.

"Hi." I waved at him and he smirked at me lecherously with a wiggle of his eyebrows.

"Peter!" Jasper's exasperation gave me a general idea of just how much this Peter must enjoy annoying him, and others in general.

"Oh you're no fun any more, Jasper." Personal note: never do anything that will give this guy cause to pout; it's silly and adorable and, I would think, fairly impossible to deny. "Fine. I want to know why," he pointed a finger at me and twirled it in a lazy spiral, "a certain someone's gift can't see her."

He looked me over. Very thoroughly. His gaze was so intent I could almost feel it where it touched my skin. The area eight inches or so south of my chin apparently warranted more intense scrutiny before he was satisfied he'd covered it completely. Why did I get the impression that he did that more to piss Jasper off than anything else? It worked, because I felt rather than heard the impossibly low warning rumble from Jasper's chest. Peter cocked his head and shifted his eyes to his friend.

"Interesting," he said, more to himself than to us. Jasper sent him a look that said quite clearly that it was not remotely interesting and that he needed to drop that particular line of enquiry immediately. Peter just smirked.

"What do you mean can't see her?" Jasper opened his car door and then whizzed around the jeep to open mine for me while he waited for Peter's answer.

"Introductions first, my friend. And, no offence meant, but your lady looks like hell so I'm thinking food, then talk, then sleep for her and some real food for us. Capisce?" Peter took my hand again as he spoke and started dragging me toward the diner-cum-restaurant attached to the motel, not waiting to see if Jasper capisce-d or not.

I dragged my heels a little and gaped anxiously at Jasper. He just shrugged and waved me on with one hand as he trudged behind us. I took that to mean that our new arrival was mentally disturbed but relatively harmless. I would find out later that I had the first bit right but the second part correct only in relation to a chosen few. Jasper's blasé attitude didn't exactly help me to feel any safer with Peter though. I was assuming at this point that he was a friend, but not knowing Jasper's past, a friend could hail from any time or circumstances.

Once inside the restaurant, Peter bypassed the sign that said 'Please wait to be seated', dragged me across the room and twirled me once like a dancer before depositing me in a chair by the window. I noticed that Jasper headed to the restrooms rather than joining us, leaving me feeling a little awkward.

"So," I started nervously, "I guess we should look at the menu?"

"Excellent plan!" said Peter, handing me a menu and then pointedly not picking one up himself, but instead dropping his sunglasses to stare at me with a grin that had far too many teeth in it.

Red eyes. Red eyes. Red eyes.

Jasper POV

I had only just closed my 'phone on my curt conversation with Alice when I felt Bella's fear. I didn't need to guess what the reason for it was, or rather who. I hurriedly put in some brown contact lenses to cover the two tiny flecks of red that had appeared in one eye and made my way out of the restroom. I spied my oldest friend seated across from my newest friend by the window; they seemed to be having a staring match. I realised why Bella was staring, unblinking, at Peter when I noticed that his sunglasses seemed to have 'slipped'. I cracked him across the back of the head hard enough to fell a small tree before taking a seat beside Bella. His toothy grin disappeared and he looked a little hurt.

"Introductions first you said, not scare tactics." I turned to look at wide brown eyes. "Bella, this fuck sandwich is Peter, my oldest friend. He's a gross imbecile but he would ~never~ hurt you."

"What's a gross imbecile?" Peter asked warily.

"Sixty-four times worse than an ordinary imbecile," Bella deadpanned back at him before I could speak. Peter grinned even wider than before.

"Can I keep her?" Surely he didn't just bounce in his chair.

"You want me to answer that or just tear an arm off?" I growled at him. He sighed dramatically and rolled his eyes.

"A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Bella." He was suddenly serious, which was never good. Bella accepted his proffered hand and I noticed his pupils dilate in curiosity as she applied infinitesimally more pressure than a human should have been able.

"Likewise, Peter. Should I ask why whatever brought you here warranted a personal visit rather than a 'phone call, or am I not going to like the answer to that one?" She ignored the fact that he was suddenly intent on her hand, turning it this way and that, but jerked it back with a warning hiss as he bent his head to take a deep sniff. He raised both hands in placation and said nothing. He was intrigued and would no doubt question me later. It wasn't as strong as an undercurrent I had felt from him since he got out of the van, though; he was more than just a little scared. That worried me greatly.

He ignored her question and asked one of his own instead.

"Does it bother you that I kill humans?" he asked.

"Does it bother you that I've killed vampires?" she shot back with a steady gaze. Peter and I both sat still in shock. He flicked his wide eyes to me and I shook my head, letting him know that this was news to me, too. I felt his respect for her bloom. But there was also that little niggle he gets when he decides that someone is worth annoying more than others. She was in for some surprises, I'd warrant. But then, so was he.

I could feel that she was in fact frightened by his red eyes, and we could both hear the tremor in her voice. But she wasn't lying.

He took her hand again, respectfully this time, and held her gaze.

"Jasper's right you know, I won't hurt you. I don't know what the hell is going on, but I'd let him rip my arms and legs off before I'd ever hurt you. I won't explain my choice of food, but then I wouldn't expect you to explain to me why you choose a burger instead of a salad." Bella digested this information.

"I figured you were pretty safe when Jazz let you drag me off without him. But it'll be a while before I can look at your eyes and not flinch, presuming you're even sticking around. I haven't had the most pleasant experiences with human drinkers. Don't take it personally if you make me jump sometimes." Her smile wobbled and there was a lot she wasn't saying. I hoped it was because she wanted to tell me privately. He nodded sagely, seeming to accept that she was afraid of the memories his eye colour evoked, not judging him by what they said about his lifestyle.

"She raises a good point, Peter. Are you gonna be staying around or did you just come to check things out for yourself because you're nosy?" There was no point in him denying the last part, and he didn't.

"That depends on you two, I guess," he answered. "But hold that thought for a while. The waitresses have finished playing rock, paper, scissors and the winner is about to make good on the honour of taking our orders."

He was right. A dumpy waitress roughly the shape of a butternut squash was making her way over to us with what she hoped was a sultry smile. Her emotions were basically screaming that she thought it was Christmas, and from the way her murky orbs swivelled between Peter and I, she didn't know which of us to give the most enthusiastic eye-fucking.

"Morning, folks. Is this a late night or an early start for you guys?"

"Uh...both? Oh man, just hearing the word 'morning' makes me want to go back to bed." Bella rested her forehead on the table and closed her eyes. The waitress giggled.

"Well, welcome to Silverthorne, wherever you've come from. I'm Sheryl and I'll be waiting on you this morning. Is there anything I can get you?"

"It's five fifteen in the morning and I'm going to go back to sleep as soon as my insides have stopped yelling at me," muttered Bella. "Just bring me something to drink with absolutely no caffeine and something to eat that's hot and brown."

The waitress scribbled on her pad with a little smile and turned to Peter expectantly. Eye-fucking aside, she was keeping things a lot more professional than either of us were probably used to. Poor lady, I could feel the mischief coming off Peter in waves. He made a flamboyantly camp arm gesture in my direction and sighed peevishly.

"You order for me. It's been so long since you took me out anywhere nice to eat I've forgotten what I usually have." His breath hitched just a fraction. "You know sometimes I think you just don't love me any more." His voice sounded choked toward the end and he wiped an imaginary tear as he turned, arms folded across his chest, to stare out of the window.

"I. Will. Get. You. For. This." I whispered low enough that neither of the two humans could hear it. Yet out of necessity I took up the role he had forced me into and sighed wearily. I turned apologetic eyes to our waitress, who had been greedily lapping up Peter's Oscar-worthy performance. Her feelings were mixed; a human female's always are when an attractive guy definitively withdraws himself from her biological imperative's search for a warm body. But the intrigue won over disappointment for this lady it would seem.

"We'll just have two large ribeyes, as rare as you can, please. Nothing to drink though, thank you." She gathered from my voice that my 'princess' and I had been down this road before and nodded sympathetically.

"I'll get those started for you. Sounds like you guys are a bit road weary; it makes the nerves a mite raw. Maybe some food and rest will perk you up some. If you like, I can 'phone through to the motel and get them to ready rooms for you?" For a human, she was pretty cool; she had a tough job and still managed to be thoughtful. I made a mental note to leave her a really good tip after our dinner-breakfast.

"That's kind of you, ma'am, we'd appreciate it."

"Beeeeeed!" groaned Bella, her face still pressed to the table top.

Sheryl - aw let's face it, I can't keep calling her 'the waitress' even in my head after she's been nice to us - smiled and nodded, moving off with a little more efficiency than she'd approached us. She hadn't seemed concerned about Peter's and my strangeness at any point; another point on the cool meter for her.

When our meals arrived I prodded Bella and propped her upright so she could see the food in front of her. She dive straight for the hot chocolate first, then proceeded to plough through about as much food as either Peter or myself weighed. I tried to figure out where the hell she was putting it, but for the life of me I couldn't and just ended up with a swirly kind of headache.

Peter and I tucked into our steaks with what we hoped was manly gusto. I had to put up with accusatory glances and the occasional sniff from him for the sake of appearances. In return, I made damn sure that at least three of the waitresses bustling quite quietly about overheard me calling him 'cupcake'. If he thought that that would be the extent of my retribution, though, he was sorely mistaken. I loved surprising my oldest and dearest friend, and there were a couple detachable aspects of his person that I thought would be all too fun to make my point with. He was probably the only vampire in existence who could get away with doing what he did and suffer only minor dismemberment rather than death.

Our check was paid by six and the sky was just beginning to lighten as we urged Bella to stand and made our way toward the exit. We both chivvied her quietly to stay upright just long enough to reach the room that had been made available for us next door. Sheryl was waiting to see us out.

"My lady!" Peter exclaimed as he kissed Sheryl's hand goodbye with a flourish. His expression straightened out as he stood upright and he hmmphed at me, placing his palm squarely in front of my face before flicking his hair and sashaying out of the building. Eyes screwed shut and fists clenched with a semi-conscious human leaning against my back for support, all I could do was chant my new mantra over and over.

"Don't kill him don't kill him don't kill him." Sheryl giggled.

"How long have you two been together?" She cut her eyes at Peter's retreating form, genuinely interested.

"More years than I would care to count, ma'am." I smirked and bowed just a fraction in thanks before leading an almost comatose Bella out of the doors by her arm.

By the time I had made it around the side of the building with Bella in tow, Peter had already procured our room key and was twirling it on one finger as he waited for us to catch up. He was grinning from ear to ear but said nothing, merely looped his arm through one of Bella's and helped me buffer her as we walked. Our room was at the very end of the row. Considering our predicament and whatever violence I may do to Peter, I figured that was a very good thing indeed.

The inside was basic and clean, with two large twin beds covered in soft quilts. My military instincts wouldn't let me bring my friends farther into the room without checking it out first so Peter stood in the doorway with Bella hanging off him like a ventriloquist's dummy until I was satisfied that neither the bathroom nor the closets were harbouring men in black or portals to unknown dimensions. I nodded and he brought her over to the bed farthest from the window; we both automatically thought to put the most space between her and it. We eased Bella into a sitting position on the end of the mattress and she grinned at us dopily like a little drunk as I removed her shoes and Peter her jacket. I held up a finger.

"One moment. Don't go anywhere." She snorted.

I ducked lightning fast and grabbed Peter by the ankles and stood back up, bringing him with me. He made a strange sound then hung motionless.

"OK, princess," I said, "how's about we have just a few more answers before I start removing parts for that little display in there?" I found that I was only half joking. Or maybe one third. Luckily for Peter, he'd been around me long enough to know that I was just about vexed enough to tear something off if he didn't answer. Being the man I have come to know and...tolerate...he started to babble.

"Just chilling... Char and me... 'phone call... Alice couldn't see... told me... come here or something would... didn't know... Char's checking... your horses OK... I came... thought the van... so funny... shoulda seen... your face was... future disappeared... you were clear but... fuzzy somehow... mug of blood... blank spot... someone with you... had to otherwise... can't stand... Cullens... would have come..."

His babblings were cut off by a sharp intake of breath. We both turned around to see Bella's face go whiter than a sheet. Her eyes danced frantically between us both and she made several gasping fish motions with her mouth before she could speak.

"Cullens? You know...Alice?!" Consciousness ended at this point and she fell back on the bed, out cold.


Oh dear god it's 4AM. If there are mistakes, please forgive them until I can recheck tomorrow and correct them. Why do the ideas have to keep flowing long after I want to go to bed?

I am gonna give you guys the choice as to whether or not there was any kind of friendship between Bella and two of the Cullens. As soon as this chapter is posted, you'll find a poll up in my profile. I will stick by whatever gets the most votes by the time I get to writing the passage describing their relationships, but please note that votes made in reviews will not be counted. The options are:

Friends with both Alice and Rose

Friends with Rose; Alice is unfriendly

Friends with Alice; Rose is unfriendly

Bella dislikes them both but Alice wants to be friends