Would today be the day? Maggie was on shift, that was a good sign. I never stayed long when she wasn't.
I wondered why time was so elusive in my sight. Not for the first time, and likely not for the last. Some things were clear. The diner. The rain. The booths half filled. Maggie bringing me a soda I'd pretend to drink. And him walking through the door. Nothing outside the diner was in focus. I knew it would be raining, but I didn't know if that turned the lanes to slush or brought more leaves down from the trees or caused the flowers to perk up.
I'd been here every day it rained for the past seven months. I was starting to question my sanity. Again, not for the first time. The humans around me didn't seem to lose focus and see things that weren't there. Well, not as often anyway. I made an effort to swing my leg and sip my soda — in part to lend credence to normality, and in part to bring him. Also, unlike the humans around me, I had no problem holding perfectly still. Unless I took the time to make such minute alterations to my stance, they looked at me, noticed me. I didn't want to be noticed.
I mentally cringed remembering that vision. Men and women in black cloaks — tearing, burning.
The humans around me wouldn't guess I was anything other than a girl ditching class, probably waiting for a friend. I wasn't ditching class. I'd never been to a class. If I was in a small classroom surrounded by humans, I might not maintain my facade. I wasn't human; I was what hunted humans. Although, I hadn't done that in more than seven months, more than ten years. It had taken me longer than that to track down this cafe, searching nights and rainy days. I tried to avoid interacting with humans. I didn't want to test my strength or facade against too much scrutiny. Instead I aimed for brief interactions, preferably with as few of them in a group as possible. It was easier to resist, easier to maintain the mask.
"Back again, Alice?" Maggie asked, smiling. Her uniform was crisp, as always. Her blonde hair pulled back and covered in a light colored net. Her smell was stronger now that she'd been working a few hours. It was easier to ignore the less active customers around me, but I put a small smile on my face.
"Yes. I'm hopeful today." I patted my gelled wave as though to make sure it was still perfect.
"You're a patient one. I think I'd have given this man a piece of my mind, standing you up so often." I had made a mistake that first day, telling Maggie the reason I was here. Intuitive, she seemed to know that each day I came I was waiting for him again. I looked down at my stylish Gingham. "Well, I hope he's worth it."
"He is," I whispered at a level she could hear.
The bells at the door tinkled, but I ignored them. So many people came and went. My leg paused mid-swing as his scent reached me. A broad grin broke my face and Maggie noticed the change. She kept her voice low, "Really?"
Instead of wheeling on my stool, I decided to watch her reaction to my mate. My mate. Here at last. How was I still sitting here? I knew how complete he would make me feel, but curiosity made me watch Maggie a few seconds. Only a few; my patience was not infinite. Her mouth sagged slightly and roses bloomed in her cheeks. I suppressed a giggle. Maggie wasn't exactly a friend, but I didn't want to hurt her feelings. I could wait no longer. I spun on my stool and hopped to my feet.
I stopped to examine him. He would notice the fraction of a second I paused, appraising him, but Maggie wouldn't. I took in his nearly coal black eyes — only the barest hint of red remained in them. That was not good. We wouldn't tarry here. His height was appealing if daunting. His face — perfect, as expected. The scars at his neck were mostly hidden in his collar, but I could still see several. Had I not seen them so often in my mind they would have unnerved me. His scent... I blinked, drinking it in. It was like walking through a field of fresh cut hay, at once green and floral. His blond hair hung limp and wet with rain, it made it darker than normal, but the slight wave its curl gave was still evident. Then I saw his clothing; I nearly scowled. He obviously was not keeping his wardrobe well. He must spend little time in cities. The stains and tears were well washed and mended, but still clear to my eyes. Well, I'd be able to help with that. He held a curious expression, certainly surprised to find one of our kind here.
"You've kept me waiting," I admonished.
"I'm sorry, Ma'am." His voice was the clear bell of our kind, but his tone made my heart sing. As with his scent, it was expected and not. My visions were never as complete as the experience.
To my surprise and near horror, Maggie came up just then. "What manner of cad are you to leave such a fine girl as Alice sitting here alone day after day?" When had she decided to defend me? Did some instinct tell her that he was dangerous? He certainly was, as much to my kind as to hers. I reached out for her arm before she could step any closer to him. He was too thirsty and her scent too potent with perspiration. Hopefully she assumed my hand was cold from the soda; I'd left my gloves off today. She didn't turn to face me, still turning her chin up at the monster before her. I felt the tension leak out of me as her chin tipped down a few degrees and her eyes lost some of their fire. I knew as I stopped her that this would not end with loss of human life.
"A cad? Perhaps. Perhaps worse than that. Certainly this fine lady deserves better than I. I shall endeavor to deserve her attentions in the future." His voice had the lilt that was common to the southern states
I smiled. "It's all right, Maggie. Thank you for everything." I pressed some change from my hand bag into her hand and moved to his side. "Shall we?"
I could read the questions in his eyes, but I did not want him left in this place with so much temptation paining him. I took his hand but let him open the door. I guided him to my Lincoln.
"Do you drive?" I asked. At the same time, I lost focus of my eyes for a moment and saw him driving us out of Philadelphia. I passed him the keys. He cocked his head to the side but opened the door for me after a second. He slid into the driver's seat and closed his door.
He sat for less than a second looking out into the rain. Then he moved his hand to cover mine. The thrill it sent through me! My lips parted and my eyes closed, savoring the pleasure of the moment. "I am very sorry I kept you waiting. Had I known you were out there I would have scoured the country for you." He turned his hand to slip it under mine and brought it to his lips.
"Before you completely scramble my wits," I paused to sip in a breath, "would you mind driving us out of town? Southeast, if you please."
He continued to smile and brushed my hand once more with his lips before releasing it and putting the key in the ignition.
He was infuriatingly silent all the way to the edge of the city. I knew questions had to be gnawing away at him. He would choose one soon, but when he finally spoke the question was the one I least expected. "Jersey, I presume?"
I nodded. "Wharton Forest." I watched him veer into the exit before deciding it was time to look ahead further. He turned to me while my vision was out of focus and I barely noticed him. I saw our hunt, our tangled bodies. I shook my head to come back to the present. A small, almost smug, smile touched his lips.
"Jasper? Do you find something funny?"
He sat straighter as I used his name for the first time. "How?" he asked and then cut himself off. He seemed to be trying NOT to ask all the questions plaguing him. Why? "Not funny, no." Instead, he answered my question. Interesting. "Is there something of interest in Wharton Forest?" he finally asked.
I shook my head a little and sighed. Surely that wasn't the question he wanted to ask. Then I giggled. The result of something about the situation, the quiet anticipation, knowing how perfectly this day would end, loving this strong, silent stranger who wasn't strange to me at all. The laughter sounded similar to the bells tinkling at the diner. He smiled more broadly, less smugly, and barked a short laugh too. Now my eyes were questioning. I knew why I found this funny. What could he see humorous though?
"What's funny?" I asked
"You tell me." he answered. "You are practically rippling with excitement and contentment. I think if you were a cat your tail would twitch as you purred." His smile slipped. "I'm sorry, ma'am."
I laughed more fully this time. "Call me Alice. And don't apologize, you're absolutely right. I didn't realize I was so obvious about it."
His brow creased slightly. "You aren't." He didn't explain further, instead repeating his question. "What is in Wharton Forest?"
"Well... where to begin?" I muttered mostly to myself. "You've noticed the difference in my eyes." It wasn't a question. Although they were dark, they were more deep brown gold than the burgundy tinting his. "Did you wonder why that was?"
He nodded rather than answer aloud. Suddenly, in addition to his previous apology, I understood his silence. He thought it rude to interrogate me. If I could have blushed I would have, it was very sweet. But rather than answer all his unasked questions I continued the existing thread. "I discovered that, although we require blood to relieve our thirst, it need not be human."
His head whipped to look at me. We were just entering the forest reserve and I indicated a small turnout where we could leave the car. He only glanced for a fraction of a second and continued to stare at my face while parking the car. Then he shook his head in disbelief.
"Really," I insisted. "We're here so I can show you." I waited for the car coming in the other direction before stepping out. He ran to my door so as to offer his hand.
"Thank you." Not letting go, I ran into the trees. I stopped for a fraction of a second inside the trees to find the scent I knew would be there.
I released his hand just before we reached the wolf pack. I skipped, bounded, swung on a bough and flipped once in the air before landing on the back of a large male on the edge of the pack. I sunk my teeth into his fur and lapped up the blood before remembering the soda this afternoon. I turned my head slightly and expelled the soda before returning to drink. I knew from my vision that the alpha male was about to pounce on me. Mid-leap Jasper snatched the animal from the air and wrung the thick neck. The rest of the pack scattered. The alpha would not have attacked me at all if he'd seen Jasper, and he couldn't have hurt me if he had reached me. Jasper knew that, but instinct called him to protect me, even from something as insignificant as a wolf attack.
I had drained my prey and now lifted my face to look at him. "It's not as tasty or filling as human, but it doesn't leave that guilty aftertaste." I smoothed out my skirt, pinching off bits of hair. He still looked skeptical. "The taste gets worse as it cools, of course." He held out a half-second longer and then bit into the neck he still held.
He sighed a little as he let the body fall. "Better than nothing," he muttered.
"Indeed." I admired his profile in the fading light. The rain had stopped here, but the clouds kept direct light at bay. What light there was had taken on a definite reddish hue. Of course I knew what was coming next. "One desire filled..." I bounded toward him and leaped onto his chest wrapping my arms round his neck and my legs round his waist. "One to go." He growled low in his throat just before my lips met his.
The sun was high in the sky, throwing rainbows in the places it reached our skin through the leaves. "How?" he asked again. He cupped my face in his hand and I leaned into it. I would never tire of his touch.
"I knew I'd find you. You were the first thing I saw. When I opened my bright eyes, I didn't see the alley I'd been left in, I didn't see the poor homeless man sharing the small space — I saw you, in that diner. I knew I'd find you." I finished as I'd began.
He brushed his finger over my eyelids. "And what else do you see?"
"I see myself at your side."
"But that's not all you see." He stared at me knowingly.
"No. I see a coven. One we will join. One who taught me this way of feeding."
He nodded. I'd answered another of his hows with that one. I wondered how many more of his questions I could answer without his asking. Certainly not all. Maybe I'd tell him more about myself while learning more about him.
"I know you have a talent — a way with people." He froze, not that he'd been moving more than to stroke my cheek. "And you can tell I have one too. I'll show you mine if you show me yours," I teased.
"Hmm," he mumbled, mulling it over. "How would that work, I wonder." He nibbled my ear.
I gazed ahead a few minutes. How would that work indeed! "You are about to cup my breast," I told him just as he raised his hand. He hesitated slightly but did so anyway.
He chuckled lowly. "And you are having trouble concentrating on anything but the thrill your body is giving you."
I gasped as he flicked my ear with his tongue. "Yes."
"So. Are you reading my mind? To know where I'm going and what I'm going to do?" He continued to caress my pale skin.
"No." It was almost a moan. I tried to see something outside; it was very difficult to focus. "A jay will cry in twenty seconds."
"Ah," he said, "he won't be the only one."
If I'd had blood, it would have boiled. I didn't understand. His hands weren't really moving on me. His lips were still at my ear, but only holding there, yet my body felt like it was ablaze. Heat and ecstasy raced through me. He was right, although I screamed before the jay. The heat left almost as quickly as it had come. I became angry with him. Was he playing with me? Was I a new game?
His brow furrowed. "Angry? With me? Let's see..."
My rage increased. The sun wasn't setting but the colors matched those of the evening before. I jumped up and he was on his feet ahead of me. I snarled. Then stopped. What was I doing? I loved Jasper. I knew it in my bones.
"Definitely mad at me. I think I've shown you enough of my talent now. Unless you'd like me to use it again?" The last was whispered as he wrapped his arms around me.
I remembered the flash fire that had spread through me. "Mmm," I moaned, "yes please." This time not all of my pleasure was from his gift as we fell to the ground again.
The sun was touching the horizon when I rolled onto my side, not quite out of his reach. "Shall I introduce you to the Cullens?" I asked. "Or another day here in Wharton?" I smiled, happy with either answer.
"You mean, you don't know?"
"Actually no. Because the choice is yours, and you haven't made it, I don't." I rose to my feet.
He laughed from the forest floor before rising to join me. "You are going to make life interesting." He put a hand around my waist. I walked back to the place our torn clothes lay and picked up my keys.
A flash: Jasper tackling me.
I turned just in time for him to knock me to the ground again. My lips found his first. He almost grumbled. "Right, no surprising you."
We tarried long enough for the sun to set and then he helped me to my feet. "Well then, shall we?"
When we reached the edge of the trees, I asked him to wait a moment. One more car passed, and I skipped to the car, opening the trunk. I grabbed the contents and ran back to Jasper. "These should fit," I told him, handing him a pair of slacks and shirt. I shook out my skirt and sweater top before donning them.
He was dressed when I turned back to him. I liked it better the other way. Sigh. "Mind if I drive?"
"Ladies first," he offered, letting me lead him back to the car. I drove as quickly as my Lincoln allowed. I was anxious to meet the Cullens.
"Worried they won't like me?" Jasper asked, sensing my tension.
"No, that they won't like me. Which is silly," I relaxed without his assistance, "I already know they're going to adore us both." I held back. I knew it wouldn't be like that right away, but I also knew the interim would be neither that bad nor that long.
I parked at the back of the house where I had a room rented. I opened my own door, but as he had been before, Jasper was there to help me out. I led him up the stairs to my room.
It was a simple one room flat with curtains drawn over the windows. This was my daytime hide-away. I pulled a pair of trunks from under my bed and turned to the closet. "Would you please take those bolts down to the trunk?" I tossed the keys to him and nodded toward a dozen different rolls of cloth in the corner. I was busy moving the contents of one trunk into the other and topping it with the few mens clothes I had, all in Jasper's size. I piled all of my fitted things in the other and closed the lids.
He was already back. "You are a seamstress?" he asked.
"Sort of." I followed his eyes to my well worn Singer. Drat. I couldn't take that with me. It was such a nice one, too. I moved to the desk and found a blank sheet of grid paper. I wrote a quick letter to my landlady. "The trunks are ready." I continued to write but stopped when I realized I hadn't asked. "That is, if you don't mind." I looked up and he already had one in either hand. I smiled and then scanned what I had written.
Business has called me away suddenly, I apologize for the short notice.
I'm paid till the end of next month and I do hope you will find a new tenant by that time.
Please keep or sell the sewing machine. I'm unable to take it with me and perhaps it will assuage some of the debt I am incurring.
Short and sweet, just like me. I pulled down the bed as Jasper returned again. A second pair of hands was really helpful. "Could you gather anything I have in the pantry to take to the trash?" He had a puzzled look on his face, but I'd turned to the gown on my bed and begun wrapping the sheet around it. "Appearances. My landlady would be curious if I didn't have any food." I knew he would do as I'd asked and was busy pinning the sheet up.
I turned back to my desk and piled all my drawings and patterns, neatly placing them on the bottom of a carpet bag. I reached for the gown as he returned and laid it in his arms. "This will need to go on the back seat." I jumped to peck his lips.
Then I went to the cupboard under the sink, placed my only pan inside my only pot. My plate, cup, and single set of cutlery went atop that. I carried the pot to the bathroom where I swept my few and rarely to never used toiletries in atop the pile. Such props would be less necessary where we were headed but could prove useful in the meantime. The future was rarely as certain as yesterday had been. The pot went atop the drawings and was followed by my longest, most durable skirt and two blouses. I added and a few accessories to the very top. Pinning the only unboxed hat from my closet on my head and holding my carpet bag in one hand and sewing kit in the other, I lifted the pile of boxes from the floor of the closet, turning to the door.
The top half of the pile abruptly disappeared to reveal Jasper. "Thank you," I told him. The note was exposed where I had wedged it between the boxes along with a pin.
He shifted the pile to one hand and used the other to pin my note to the door. "Interesting," he muttered, as though trying to convince himself.
I couldn't help it, I laughed out loud. As before, my amusement was his amusement and he chuckled lowly as he closed the door behind us.
Author's note: You are reading the first fanfiction piece I started. It was before I had a beta reader or knew half the grammar rules I do now. I'm in the process of updating this piece to remedy those mistakes. Consider this an 'under construction' notice. Feel free to come back later, or bear with me, if you like the story enough to ignore the odd comma misuse. :D