Title: Inches and Miles

Summary: The path to undying love. It was only a few inches. It was also a million miles. O/S entry in the Jasper's Darlins "Love Bites" Valentine's Day contest. Human? Vamp? Jasper x ? Fill in your own blank. (All questions can be answered after the contest.)

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I couldn't help myself. She was right there in front of me, not a figment of my imagination.

I had to touch her.

I brushed the damp strands of her hair back away from her face as I closed the distance between us. She closed her eyes and leaned into my touch just like always, and I reveled in the look of relief that flashed across her features in that instant. I felt the exact same way every time I touched her. It was like we were walking shells of the person we ought to be, devoid of all passion and emotion until the moment we connected.

It didn't matter where we were or that it was the middle of the night. The peculiarly cold February rain flowing from the Texas skies did nothing to melt the fire that I felt for this woman.

She embraced me almost too tightly, burying her head into my chest and breathing deep. I pressed my lips into her silky hair and rested there, letting her dissolve into my embrace. Then I began kissing my way across her body – her forehead, her nose, just to the side of her closed eyelid, the corner of her mouth. My tongue darted out to get in on the action, tasting her jaw, the pulse point in her neck, the lobe of her ear. It was a path that I had mapped to a "T". I knew the exact sequence to liquefy her body into a puddle in my arms.

Her breathing increased as I nipped and sucked at her flesh. I could feel myself getting harder as she pressed her hips into me, seeking some sort of respite from tension that was constantly invading her life. She always came to me when she needed to just feel. I offered that to her on a silver platter. I wanted to offer her more…the world if she asked.

"Oh, God that feels so…ugh," she quietly moaned into my shirt. But right after those words left her lips, she began to change her tune. "No, wait," she panted in between rasping breaths, "I didn't come here for…we can't do this…I can't do this…we need to stop."

I groaned and pulled my lips away from her fragrant skin. Those words were not what I had anticipated.

"Please, baby. I need you with me. I love you. You have to know that by now. Don't leave, not for him." I tightened my grip, my fingers digging into the soft flesh of her hips.

She sighed and shook her head. Her eyes could only hold my stare briefly before they shot down to her feet. The flash I did catch was full of her emotions – pain, pleasure, regret, indecision, love. Figuring out which emotions were meant for me was the challenge.

I knew I was fighting a losing battle from the very beginning of our endeavor. It didn't matter how many times she came looking for me of her own volition; she always went back to him in the end. He was security. He was safety. He was what her whole life had been about since she was old enough to grow breasts. I couldn't compete with the years they had together, but it didn't stop me from being a jackass and trying anyway.

At least he was good to her. That's what I told myself in order to keep it together when she inevitably went back to him. He did try to treat her like the princess that she was; only he doted over the wrong things. I gave her what she craved, what her instincts told her she needed.

Well, that's what I wanted to believe.

Reality always found its way back to me, though. The fix I offered was only temporary for her. I was a means to an end, and she was the unattainable dream. I must be some sort of romantic, because I was always getting myself into these types of situations.

Liar. You only get into these situations when it comes to her.

Yeah, okay. So I lied, both to myself and to those that are supposed to be important in my life. But sometimes that's all that gets me through the nights without her. I let the lies take over, tell myself that she's there with me, underneath me, writhing away in my bed. I tell myself that only I can make her feel this way, that she was made for me. I perjure myself into thinking she's just afraid of the unknown, and that she's the one who needs to grow up and own her feelings. But she has every right to be afraid. Who am I but a nobody, a liar, and definitely not good enough to covet her the way I do. Logically she shouldn't choose me. I knew this, I just didn't accept it.

I held her away from me so I could look at her one more time. It was symbolic, really – I had a hold of her, but it was never as strong or as close as I really wanted, always at arm's length.

If this was going to be the last time, I needed to look at her, to see her the way only I could. I wonder if she knew just how much I really did see.

I saw what she was missing. I saw what he never offered her. She deserved to be worshiped like the goddess that she was. No one else knew how to make her body sing like I could. No one else could hold her emotions in the palm of their hand and change them into something beautiful like I did. I could envision making her whole, making her happy, just the two of us.

The consequences of our actions, however, were catching up to us. At first we didn't care. After a while we began to realize that our lives weren't the only ones that would be affected by our sins. Tonight was the culmination of that realization.

I ran my thumbs in small circles along her hips, softly caressing her silky skin just underneath the hem of her shirt. I had never felt anything as soft as her skin against mine.

My eyes roamed up her body. Her stomach, with just that little bit of a pooch that made her real. Her breasts, firm and sensitive as my hands and tongue had come to discover. Her arms, strong enough to exert the perfect amount of force to hold me to her. The curve of her shoulders and where they merged with slope of her neck, the one spot I could kiss that would reduce her to a trembling mess of want. Those lips, full and inviting, the taste of the sweetest sin lying right there for the taking. The two stray freckles on her right cheek. The way her wet eyelashes fluttered when she tried to hold in her emotions. The eyes, so deep that you could see right into her soul. And finally up to the locks of gorgeous, thick hair that my fingers could get tangled in forever and be content.

From head to toe this woman had me, but in the grand scheme of things, it didn't matter.

"Don't," I pleaded. I was a drowning man. Pride had nothing to do with the groveling I was prepared to do to keep this woman next to me. "Don't do this. I'll do anything, be anything, for you. Just tell me what you need."

Her head was still shaking back and forth, and a traitorous tear escaped to slide down her cheek. It was a crime for someone so beautiful, inside and out, to be so sad. I hated that I put her in this position only by giving her what she wanted, but I couldn't deny her anything.

Her voice was rough and hesitant as she tried to answer my pleas.

"I-I can't. I have to go back, Jasper, you know this. You know he's a good man, and I…I just can't do this to him anymore. I can't do this to us anymore. It's wrong, we're wrong, and you know it. You have to let me go. This is the way it has to be." Her last sentence trailed off to a whisper.

I pulled her roughly to me; her body flush up against mine. She needed to see…why couldn't she see? I was losing her tonight and the thought was making me insane.

I watched her intently for any signs that she might waver. My voice was firm and low.

"Then look me in the eye and tell me this isn't what you want. Tell me you don't want me. Get angry; tell me to go to hell, that you hate me and what I made you become. But don't stand there and think for one minute that I'll accept you going back to him because everyone else thinks he's the right choice. I only care about your choice. What do you want?"

Her eyes were trained on the ground. She was ashamed. I made her that way.

I had pushed too much, though I would have sacrificed everything to be with her. What I failed to grasp was that she would have to do the same, and she just couldn't live with that. Letting her alone to drown in her disgrace wasn't an option, because it was also my burden to bear with her.

"Look at me." I tried to gently lift her chin with my fingers. Her face tilted upward, but her eyes were tightly clamped together.

"Look at me," I reiterated with more force. Her lids fluttered and then opened and I was met with the watery grave of our love. I knew it was dead before she could even utter a single expression, but some sick part of me needed to hear her say the words.

"Tell me what you want."

For a second, those eyes pleaded with me – to love her, to hold her, to make this whole mess go away. But a moment later I watched as the veil of indifference clouded back over their depths, making those limpid pools shallow once again. Her love for me was pushed out to sea and she chose to remain in the superficial tidal pools he offered to her.

The choice had been made.

Her body steeled at the same time as her resolve. I felt it's iciness underneath my hands, running across the planes of her skin.

My girl, my love, was no longer with me.

When she answered, she didn't hesitate and she didn't stutter.

"I don't want this, Jasper." Her delicate hands that had been tangled in my hair fell lifelessly to her sides.

"I can't be with you anymore." Her eyes never left mine.

"You and I – this was wrong from the very beginning." Her voice never wavered.

"I don't want you." Her tears, running freely down her cheeks, were the only evidence of the betrayal of her heart. I knew she was lying, but she made the choice, and it was him.

It only took a moment for my whole world to shatter around me. My heart beat erratically, thudding against my chest so hard that I could physically feel the ache from its impending break. Three beats…tha-thump-thump…then two…tha-thump…then one…thud…and it was dead. Cold. Useless. It was nothing without its crux – her love – and it would never function again.

I wanted to run. My brain was screaming for me to run away as fast and as far as I could, but my body wouldn't tolerate those thoughts. It craved her one last time, a torment that would haunt me for all of eternity, yet I couldn't deny that I needed to accept that sweet torture once more.

My fingers trailed up her arms with a feather's embrace, my nerve endings committing to memory each and every goose bump that graced her flesh. I traced my way across her shoulders to the curvature of her neck until I cupped her face in my hands.

One final touch.

Breathing in her scent – flowers and sugar cookies – I lowered my face down to hers. My lips parted a millimeter away from their goal. I felt her suck in a ragged breath as I exhaled, and for an endless moment, we intimately traded the air between us. It took all of my restraint, but I managed to just barely brush her lips with my own. The connection was passive and yet volatile all at the same time. The nerves inside my body were exploding with the sensations they received from such minor contact. Only it wasn't minor; it was the most erotic yet poignant moment of my entire life. My tongue dared to sample her essence, tenderly taking in my last drink of her in the sweetest kiss.

One final taste.

I was trembling when I pulled away, but she was solid as stone.

She always was the stronger one.

I stepped away from her, and even though it was only a few inches, it was also a million miles. The space was suffocating with its lack of air, its lack of her. I already couldn't breathe without her.

No time was wasted. She took two steps backward, and I wanted nothing more than to close the distance between us again.

It wouldn't matter, though. She was already gone, she just hadn't left yet.

She took another raking glance over my dejected body, and then she turned on her heel and ran out into the pouring rain. I was frozen in place, watching her go. Only when I couldn't make out her shape any more did my remains heave forward and fall to the ground in a futile attempt to stop her, because I was now truly dead inside.

One hand clutched my chest, the other was outstretched, swiping at the air she occupied only moments ago. My hands hadn't yet realized that she wasn't coming back.

I laid there, silently grieving for my lost hope on that old wooden front porch, until the dawn began to break over the horizon. It took me that long to realize I needed to pull myself together. Broken heart or not, there were responsibilities that needed to be tended, and Jasper Whitlock needed to man up and don the icy armor that was necessary to get through the rest of life; because, though I would never be the same, life would still go on, the world did not stop turning, and no amount of love or lack thereof could change that fact.

I drug my sorry ass inside the house as quietly as my heavy feet would allow. I showered, letting the scalding water flow over my aching muscles, save for the internal one that would always throb. I dressed in my normal, comfortable lounge clothes and shuffled to the bedroom.

There was no question what I would do now. I would return to the part I was expected to play.

I fished through the nightstand drawer for the ornate blue Tiffany's box, then moved to the bed. Lifting the edge of the down comforter, I slid between it and the clean cotton sheets. I laid the box on my chest and stared at the ceiling, one arm tucked behind my head. The swirling thoughts moved with the velocity of a thousand hurricanes, but a tiny voice broke through the wrath.

"Mmm, good morning, Jasper. Is that for me?"

"Good morning, my lovely wife. Yes, Happy Valentine's day, Alice."