1. The Meeting

Alice sat on a barstool, watching the rain fall outside the diner's window.

It had rained every day this week, the cloud cover allowing her to leave the small rented room a few blocks away and brave the streets of Philadelphia. But while the rain had significance, it was not the main reason she watched the people passing outside, looking expectantly to the door as each person entered only to return with disappointment to swirl her straw around in her untouched milkshake.

No, she was expecting someone. She had been expecting him ever since she had first opened her eyes upon her new life. Her very first memory, besides that of the bare branches stretching above her as she lay on the forest floor, was of his face. In the last 28 years she had seen that face over and over again. And for the last five years every vision was the same. She would meet him here, in this exact diner in Philadelphia on a rainy day, just like this one.

It hadn't taken her long to realize what she had become. Vampires did exist. She could attest to that. She was one, no matter how impossible it had seemed at first. She had no memory of her previous life, estimating herself to be forever frozen around the age of 19 or 20. But she knew who she was to be in this life, her visions not only of just this mysterious man, but also of her own future. Therefore, she had resisted the bloodlust that had threatened to consume her and had focused on leading an existence free from taking human life. Though she could hear the tempting sound of every heartbeat in the diner as though they were each calling out to her in a seductive song, she was at no risk of hurting any of the patrons here. The thought had always been distasteful to her and she moved amongst humans with ease for the most part.

The server behind the counter, for example, knew her well and gave her a smile as they made eye contact. She came here every time it rained, sat on the same stool and ordered a chocolate milkshake that she never touched. When the sky showed signs of clearing or when the day finally faded to night, she would sigh sadly, pay her tab, and slide down off her stool, walking with shoulders hunched out the door. Some of the regulars had begun to whisper about her, making up their own stories for the small, fragile looking girl who had become something of an east Philadelphia legend. Was she waiting for a lover? Mourning the loss of a husband lost in the war?

She spotted her reflection in the shiny metal of a napkin dispenser, adjusting her lipstick with one pale, white finger. Her choppy black hair had been tamed, painstakingly smoothed into sleek pin curls and crowned with a small blue pillbox hat that matched her wrap dress, the belt of which was tied to accentuate her tiny waist. She didn't require a coat but it had seemed an appropriate prop given the weather on this cold November day and so a khaki trench was draped over the stool next to her. An umbrella, too, had seemed prudent so as not to attract attention and it would serve to protect her should the sun happen to peek out from behind the clouds on her way back to her hotel.

The door opened once again and Alice looked up, her smile bright before it finally faded and she bowed her head. The person that entered was indeed a man, but not the one she was waiting so patiently for.

Jasper's footfalls whispered quietly against the concrete sidewalk. He had no idea where he was going and hadn't known since he'd left Peter and Charlotte's company and broke out on his own. He simply wandered. The dark spatter pattern on his slate gray trench continued to grow as the rain poured down. He'd robbed it off of a homeless man so he didn't much care and would probably discard of it soon anyway. Although he didn't need a coat, wearing one seemed to make him a little more inconspicuous then just trouncing around outside without one.

His eyes were dark with thirst, and heavy bruising lined under them. If it weren't for the equally ill procured hat that overshadowed his face, people probably would have stopped to take a second look. He hadn't eaten in what seemed like months, starving himself because of the simple fact of being an empath. He'd dealt with it for a couple of years, but it had gotten to the point where he just couldn't take it anymore. He couldn't override the feelings of pain and fear he got every time he took a victim.

The many scars that marred his body, were thankfully, not visible to humans. They were forever reminders of Maria's service. From the day he'd been born into his new life, war and conflict had been all he'd known. He'd fought against his own kind for herd lands, even his own brothers, in his own troop. With each new scar he received another vampire died for giving it to him. Maria had been impressed with his fighting skills, and felt he had something about him. She'd brought him up the ranks and made him her second in command. He'd survived his first year, only to become a general of sorts.

He trained the newborns she created and, when his gift kicked in, he began using it as a way of keeping the environment calm. He had trained, organized and lead her troops without casualties. After almost two decades he'd grown tired of her way of life and left her without another thought at Peter's behest, joining him and Charlotte and moving with them to the north. Only now he had struck out on his own, feeling he was searching for something intangible, something he couldn't quite define.

The sound of squealing tires and honking car horns brought him back out of his thoughts. He nodded his head sharply at the driver who had almost hit him with his car and saw the diner up ahead, a convenience to get out of the rain. He sighed in anticipation of the human scents that would surely assault him once he stepped inside and steeled himself to resist as he strode towards it.

Alice stared out the window as the rain continued to fall. A man in a dirty coat stepped out in front of a taxi. The driver honked his displeasure and the man continued on. Her eyes flickered to the clock behind the counter. It was quickly becoming late afternoon. Soon she would trudge her way through the wet and dreary streets so she could sit and stare at the walls in her darkened room, waiting for the next rain.

Maybe today just wasn't the day, she thought, sadly. An announcer on the radio gave a weather report for the greater Philadelphia area and she swiveled on her barstool in its direction, listening attentively. Sunshine would prevail for the rest of the week. The possibility of days, maybe even weeks stretching out before her, all the while still waiting, caused her to frown. The weather report finished and "It's Magic" by Doris Day floated from the little speaker.

The bell above the door chimed. Alice sighed, not ready to look up and be disappointed yet again. When she did finally turn her head, it took her a moment to believe her eyes.

As soon as Jasper opened the door the familiar scent of vampire hit his nostrils and instinctively he stiffened. He flicked his gaze around cautiously, trying to seek out the source of the scent. He was sure he probably looked like a moron, standing in the door way, hesitating. His body wanted to roll into a defensive crouch, but his mind reminded him of the suspicion it would cause the few humans present.

Alice couldn't help but stare. He was there, standing in the doorway, his eyes wary as he dripped little puddles on the tile. Despite wearing a tattered coat with a hat pulled down low over his deep black eyes, she recognized him. Every scar, every lock of blond hair was familiar, burned into her memory. If her heart had still been beating it would have surely stopped at the sight of him.

She could smell him, now that she allowed herself to focus on something other than the face that had been haunting her for nearly three decades. His scent was like a warm cup of chamomile tea on a winter day, bergamot blowing in a spring breeze. She took a breath, inhaling deeply. It was truly the most wonderful scent she had ever come across.

His gaze continued to sweep the diner, warily, searching out the vampire with the orchid and citrus scent. His eyes caught movement over by the bar. A petite, dark haired woman, with pin curls was looking in his direction. He scanned her pixie like features, his gaze narrowing on her golden hued eyes. It took him a moment to reel from the sheer beauty of her to realize that she was the vampire.

Sliding off the stool, she walked over and stood before him, peeking underneath the brim of his hat. His first reaction to her brazen approach was to go on the defense. His gaze hardened, scrutinizing her every move, as she graced across the room, for any sign that she posed a threat. The mood he picked up off of her, as she approached was actually quite happy.

With one small hand she reached up and stroked a line of scars along his jaw as if assessing whether or not he was really there, her golden eyes sparkling with overwhelming happiness. "You've kept me waiting a very long time," she said, her lips turning up in a dazzling smile.

Out of a century of instinct, his gaze scrutinized her flawless hand as she reached up and traced her finger along an area of marred skin on his jaw. He wasn't quite sure what to do. His mind was still trying to discern whether or not she was a threat even though the mood she carried told him there wasn't one. The words she'd spoken finally registered with him. He'd been so enthralled by her voice that he'd just stood there stupefied by it. "My apologies, ma'am..." he said politely, thumbing his hat in a respectful manner.

He just stared at her, half confused. Who was she? What did she want? He'd never seen her before and yet she had just approached him as if she knew him. She said she'd been waiting for him but he couldn't understand why or how she knew who he was.

Alice couldn't keep from laughing, the sound like the tinkling of wind chimes. He was handsome, very much so, and charmingly polite despite his rugged appearance. A Southern gentleman, it seemed. She liked that though a bit of sadness touched her expression at the scars that lined his jaw, marred his throat and disappeared down below his collar. How had he come by them? she wondered. What kind of life had he known before he had come here to her? Overwhelming happiness blended with empathy. The world had oftentimes been cruel to her as well.

The mood that radiated off of her and saturated his flesh and bone was something that he'd never felt before in all of his existence. It was something reminiscent to a human soaking up sunshine. He found himself watching her, not out of caution but out of fascination. She was the first vampire that had ever approached him out of greeting instead of attack. He observed as her expression changed and felt the mood shift with it. Had he done something to upset her? Perhaps it was the scars. He was still confused by the fact that she seemed unbothered by them as if she couldn't even see them. Most vampires tended to react quite differently to them. Perhaps she was just now noticing the severity of them. He could still sense the overwhelming joy but it was now tinged with sadness. A part of him worried if the sadness would overwhelm the joy.

She lowered her hand from his face and offered it to him, a wordless question in her golden eyes.

His gaze flashed to her outstretched hand before it flickered back to her golden eyes. Without a second thought took her it in his own, a warm smile pulling at the corners of his mouth. The moment his fingers had curled around hers, for the first time in almost a century, he felt hope. Hope that perhaps he had a purpose in this existence. Hope that there was something better out there. Hope in her, in this little dark haired vampire, so delicate and pure.

Alice flashed a radiant smile at him before looking down at her hand in his. There were more scars there. Even though she had just met him, even though he was still a mystery to her, she felt protective of him. She wanted to make sure that no one ever hurt this dear creature again.

Yes, she could tell that he was good. Despite the scars, despite the deep black of his eyes edged with red, she could see it. She could see to the very heart of him. It was there in the gentle way he held her hand. It was there in his wondering expression. It was there in the way he had apologized and called her ma'am, the thought of which still made her smile

"For the first time, I feel hope..." he murmured thoughtfully, studying her perfectly flawless pale hand in his marred one. His dark eyes shifted back to her golden ones. Since laying eyes on her he'd not noticed the multiple heartbeats in the room. She captured his every thought. They were but faint whispers. He found, with this woman, he could deny them with great difficulty, but deny them nonetheless. In her he had found the strength that he'd felt denied for so long.

Alice squeezed his hand and bowed her head demurely. Somehow she was beginning to understand the reason why this man's arrival here in this diner had been such a relentless vision to her for almost three decades. She loved him. She had just met him and yet she loved him. Perhaps she had always been meant to love him. Even now as she looked ahead and tried to see a future without him in it, she couldn't. He was there, permanent, faithful, steady and true. She returned her eyes to his face, unable to resist looking at it again.

His gaze remained on her expression expectantly, as she studied him. He couldn't explain the new feeling he felt, the new warmth that flooded through him. There was something about this beautiful creature that he couldn't quite put his finger on and his earlier questions again came to his mind. How had she found him? Why? But somehow he couldn't find his voice to ask.

More confusing was the underlying sense of protection that had crept into his senses. It was faint but it was there. He knew from the moment he'd met her gaze for the first time and had taken her hand that he would lay down his own life to protect hers. He couldn't explain the sudden sense nor did he care to. His gaze flicked down again to their interlaced hands, studying how easily and perfectly they fit together as if his fingers were made for hers. A soft smile graced his lips.

"Amazing…" he remarked, unable to take his gaze off of her flawless hand as he smoothed his thumb over the back of it. Perhaps the better life that had eluded him for so long was somehow connected to this mysterious young woman. Perhaps she was the better life he'd always dreamed about, pursued, and still continued to believe in. He lifted his gaze to her childlike expression, the wonder still in his eyes like someone who was seeing the sun for the first time.

The look he gave her would have caused her to blush were she capable. Instead she smiled and ducked her head. "I think we'd better have a seat," she suggested. Never letting go of his hand she lead him towards the back of the diner, stopping briefly to retrieve her coat before she slid into a booth far away from the humans and motioned for him to take a seat. The music on the radio switched from Doris Day to "Nature Boy" by Nat King Cole.

No questions asked, Jasper followed, letting her lead the way over to a table. Walking beside this woman felt natural, as natural as speaking. His smile widened. With this woman at his side he felt complete. It was yet another strange feeling that he, in all of his existence, would have never thought he would have. The gentle sound of the music floated on the air in the background and Jasper felt a certain connection between it and this mysterious woman.

"Where are my manners?" he apologized, a southern accent giving a lilt to his words as he ducked his head respectfully and slid into the seat next to her. "I'm Major Jasper Whitlock, ma'am..."

She stifled a giggle behind her hand as he chose the seat next to her rather than the one across from her. Their legs were touching and it caused a tingling sensation throughout her body.

Sitting next to her seemed so natural, so right. He couldn't explain the sudden feelings that he had toward her but they were getting stronger with each passing moment that he spent in the company of this beautiful creature. Even her laugh was enchanting, innocent and childlike. He arched an eyebrow when she giggled but didn't say anything.

Collecting herself she met his eyes. "Jasper," she said, repeating the name as if trying it out. She liked the way it sounded when she said it. "Major Jasper Whitlock. Are you a soldier in the war?"

Jasper self consciously turned his gaze off of her captivating eyes and down to his ravaged hands resting on the table top. He furrowed his brow in thought for a moment before he spoke. "No, ma'am, not any recent wars, anyway..." His voice was soft, a hint of sadness layering it as if the associated memories hurt him to think about it. He reached down and captured her hand again in his own, breathing a sigh of relief as he felt the warmth of her touch move through him once again.

Hearing the sadness in his voice as he answered her question, she frowned. His sadness opened up an answering ache in her heart. She squeezed his hand tightly, feeling the need to comfort him.

Jasper felt her mood shifted to sadness, mimicking the frown that had worked its way to the corners of her mouth. The sudden sadness in her mood caused a dull ache in his still heart. He couldn't explain why but he didn't like her being upset.

"I'm sorry…" he murmured in apology.

"For what?" she asked, blinking up at him with wide-eyed innocence. Wasn't it she who had upset him with her question? Shouldn't she be apologizing?

"For upsetting you, of course," Jasper said, returning her gaze. "I don't like to see you…upset. It—Well, it bothers me..." These new found feelings were hard for him to convey and it was quite obvious by the way he hesitated on his words. He tore his gaze off of hers shyly and focused it on the table in front of him.

"My name is Alice," she said, softly.

A soft smile lit up his features as she introduced herself. "It's nice to meet you ma'am, um, Alice..." He wondered which one she'd prefer the most. "Alice..." he said trying out her name in the same fashion she had his, letting it roll smoothly off his tongue. He liked it. The name was just as familiar as if he had used it on a daily basis all his life.

She giggled again. The way he called her ma'am was so charming. Still, she much preferred the way he said her name. She wanted to hear him say it again. The way his voice caressed it…she had never heard it spoken in such a way before. She had always thought it plain until it had crossed his lips.

The soft tinkling of her giggle caught his attention. It was like a siren song that pulled at his soul. Something about it was enthralling. He slid his eyes back over to her, a slight smile quirking at the corner of his mouth. "I like the way your laugh sounds…" he admitted quietly, hoping he didn't sound like a complete idiot. "It's soothing…in a way."

She smiled. "Really?"

He nodded, staring at her smile for a moment before listing an eyebrow at her. "May I ask a question? You said you were waiting for me… How did you know I would be here?"

Alice pursed her lips a moment, deciding how to explain herself to this man. "I see things. Visions of the future. I remember almost nothing of my life before this one but the first time I opened my eyes as a vampire I saw your face, there in my mind. Years passed, then decades and still your face was always there. I knew nothing else about you except five years ago I saw that I was to meet you here, in this diner on a rainy day. I've been coming here ever since, waiting." She looked at his face once more, so familiar, so comforting. "And now here you are."

Her voice was absolutely enthralling and her expressions fascinated him. Everything about her fascinated him: the way she quirked her lips, the twinkle in her eye, the way she spoke, the way her eyebrows knitted together. A new wave of fascination swept through him as he listened to her, patiently. So she was a mystery not just to him, but even to her own self. "Visions… But why?" he asked, curiosity coloring his tone and lighting up his features. "Why me...?" What significance was he? Why would she spend so long waiting for him? He wasn't sure if he deserved such devotion.

She felt she had already discovered the answer to his question but confessing it now seemed too brazen, even for her. In fact, she couldn't remember having ever felt shy before that moment. Feeling his eyes upon her, she bowed her head, hoping to hide her chagrin.

I love you, she thought. That's why. That's why it had to be you...

"Perhaps that is something we will figure out," she said, surprised to find her voice was actually trembling.

"Perhaps…" Jasper agreed, giving her hand a gentle squeeze. Even though he couldn't understand the feelings he had for Alice, he didn't want them to go away. He liked this, the hope that flooded him and the new strength that her presence inspired in him. "I would rather like that...Alice."

Just then the server came over to their booth, leaving his post behind the counter. His paper hat sat at an angle on his head and he took in the familiar way they sat with an astonished grin.

A new scent coiled in Jasper's nostrils. Human. His throat ached and burned like a ball of flames had just been shoved down it. His lack of feeding was catching up to him. He knew he'd have to force himself to feed again soon. Feeding had become a chore, not a pleasure. He no longer got pleasure off of the taste. It was sweet, but it came at a costly price. His gaze slid from Alice to the waiter. His heart thudded loudly in his ears and he zeroed in on the pulse point on his neck. A pained look formed on his face, as he fought to restrain himself from his instinctive need for human blood.

So, Miss Alice," he said, his hands on his hips. "Have you finally found what you've been waiting for?"

She looked up at the man with a quiet smile. "Yes. Yes, I believe I have."

The man just shook his head and laughed. "Kept her waiting long enough," he commented, looking Jasper over. "I hope you're not planning on going anywhere again."

"He had better not," Alice laughed, leaning into Jasper's side. She could sense Jasper's discomfort and she gave his hand a gentle but firm squeeze under the table.

"My name is Robert," the man said, taking out a pad and paper from the apron tied around his waist. "Another milkshake, Alice? I think you're other one's melted by now. I'd be happy to make you another one, on the house. What about you, sir? Anything I can get you? On the house as well, of course. This seems to be a moment for celebrating."

"No, I'm fine..." Jasper said, in a clipped tone. He wasn't purposely being rude to the man but with the sudden burning in his throat, the overwhelming desire to feed, and the man's heartbeat, Jasper was in a hurry to get him out of there just in case he lost control. He hadn't fed and he was unstable. This man appeared to be a friend of Alice's and Jasper really didn't want his next victim to be him. "We're fine thanks…" Jasper said, his tone a little more urgent, hoping the man would take the hint.

Alice waved Robert away, her smile kind but her tone firm. "I believe we're alright for now. I'll let you know if that changes."

The man left and Alice turned her head to look up at Jasper's face, the black eyes hidden in the shadows under his hat. She understood his reaction. The man's closeness had registered with her physically but in every other way she had been indifferent to it. Jasper, clearly, had not been. The dark shadows under his eyes attested to his thirst.

"I have a room," she said. Her eyes grew wide, horrified as she realized how that might have come across.

With Robert's departure, Jasper felt the flame in his throat subside. He watched him leave none the less, a spark of hunger in his eyes, until the man was out of sight. His gaze flew to Alice when she spoke. He chuckled lightly and shook his head. Instead of finding the offer offensive, he actually found it somewhat amusing. A smile flickered across his face. "Don't worry, I'm not offended... I'm actually quite impressed that you're bold enough to offer…"

"What I mean is, we could go there, away from them." She tilted her head to indicate the humans in the diner. "We could wait for nightfall. You seem...thirsty."

"Yes... I, um, I am quite thirsty..." he said, sounding ashamed by his admittance. "Sooner or later it has to be done... I can't ignore it forever…" His voice was begrudged and yet there was another edge to his tone, as if hated himself for it.

Alice nodded and nudged him to slide out of the booth. Taking up his hand again she led him to the little stand by the door where she retrieved her umbrella. She handed it to him to hold for a moment while she threw her coat over her shoulders and slipped her arms inside. Turning, she smiled at Robert as he wiped down the counter.

"Goodbye, Robert. Thank you for your company all these years. I don't imagine I will be back."

Robert looked at her in surprise at her announcement, a bittersweet smile on his lips. "My best wishes for your happiness, Alice Whitmore," he said, taking off his paper hat and watching as she disappeared out the door with the mysterious man at her side.

Once outside, Alice took the umbrella from Jasper and popped it open. She attempted to put it over both their heads but found she was far too short, even standing on her tiptoes. She didn't want him to have to walk in the rain again.

Jasper tried without much success to stoop so that it could cover them both unable to repress a chuckle. "Here, let me," he said, in a gentle tone and took the umbrella from her, raising it above his head and covering hers as well. "Is that better?" he asked, looking down to her.

"Yes, much," she said, smiling up at him. He really was such a gentleman, she thought. His mannerisms were so at odds with his rough exterior. She was curious to hear about his past, yet she thought that was a conversation best had in private.

"Good, a lady should always be comfortable…" Jasper gave her an adoring smile as they began walking.

She laughed but then her face became more serious. "That's not my name, you know," she said, quietly.

His eyebrows pulled together thoughtfully. "I'm sorry…?" he said, slightly confused. "Alice or Whitmore?"

"Well, my name is Alice," she explained. "At least I think it should be. It felt like my name when I first woke. But Whitmore isn't. It's just an alias. People think you should have a last name and that was the name of a hotel I once stayed at while in another city."

"I see. So, you don't know what your last name is?" he asked, curiously. His own human memories were quite dim, so he could understand how some things might be hard to remember.

"No. The only thing I remember from before was that it was cold and dark. I think I was often frightened." She pursed her lips thoughtfully. "Perhaps its better that I don't remember. All I know is being what I am. Do you think that should make it easier?" Her brow furrowed. "I wonder sometimes, though, if maybe there aren't things I'm horribly missing out on and I just don't know any better."

Jasper listened, engrossed in what she had to say. The burning curiosity he felt toward this unique little creature was so new to him but he embraced it all the same. She interested him. He'd already unconsciously memorized her voice and scent. She was altering him in ways he'd never thought possible.

He nodded thoughtfully at the appropriate times, too intent on listening to her to interrupt her. "I'm not sure…" he said, at last, gauging his words carefully. "Perhaps, it does make it easier…in a way, I suppose."

"Do you remember much of your previous life?" she asked. She was afraid that this would be an uncomfortable subject for him. "If you don't want to speak about it now, we can wait until later when we're alone. Or we don't have to speak of it at all, if you like. It doesn't matter anyway. We're together now and somehow I think that's the most important thing."

He didn't mind actually. He felt oddly comfortable around her but drawing from fuzzy memories was difficult. He knitted his eyebrows together thoughtfully. "I don't remember much about my childhood," he admitted. "Or my parents, really. All I remember clearly are the last two years of my life. I suppose I remember them more vividly because I've held on to them so closely…"

His eyes became distant as he let his mind drift back to his last human years. "I was born Jasper Whitlock in 1843 and grew up in Galveston, Texas. In 1861 when I was 17 years old I entered the Confederacy under the falsehood that I was 20. I lied to them. I was tall enough that I could pull it off. In 1860 I joined as a private but I had charisma and a certain air about me and I quickly ascended the ranks over older, more experienced men. I became a major at just 18 years of age. Quite an honor. My father was proud to say the least…

"Of course, my military career was short lived and 1863 was the mark of my new life. At 20 years of age, I became a vampire. I'd been on my way back to Galveston when I came across some stragglers. Three women. I'd always been taught to protect women, not fear them, but something about them told me I should be afraid and flee. I didn't listen and I ignored these feelings." He frowned slightly and paused. "I won't bore you with the details but the one who changed me was called Maria.

"From the day I awoke to my new life, I knew nothing except war and conflict," he said, a slight bitterness creeping into his tone. "I had become a soldier in Maria's service, a pawn in the wars that she fought over herd lands. The fewer vampires in an area the more a single vampire or coven could feed without notice so I fought against other covens, sometimes my own men since newborns are nearly impossible to control and prone to turning on themselves…" He flicked his gaze to her quietly to see if he'd scared her yet. Any sign of discomfort and he would stop.

Alice said nothing as they walked. So he had been involved in the Southern vampire wars? She had figured as much judging from the scars that covered his body, immediately recognizing them for what they were. Battle scars. Vampire bite marks. She had seen them on other vampires before, though never so many. The magnitude of his scars alluded to his strength and ability to survive, warning signs that would scream danger to any other vampire. Yet despite what he was admitting to her now, she was not afraid.

"Maria was impressed with my skills as a fighter and surprisingly, I survived my first year. She made me her second in command of sorts and together we fought for the herd lands as one. I trained the newborns she created and destroyed them when their strength began to wane after a year. You see, once I discovered my gift I realized I could use that to control the environment, keep everything calm. I was able to train, plan and organize my troops. Casualties among them due to infighting became a thing of the past. We were the best organized army in the Southern region and an unstoppable force to come against.

"After almost a few decades I grew tired of that way of life. I always knew, somewhere deep inside, that the things I did were wrong but I could never bring to light why I had those feelings. It wasn't until I actually left that I realized why. I suppose the gaining of a conscience brought with it my empathic abilities. I joined some old friends but didn't stay with them very long. The pain and fear I felt off of my victims each time I killed had become too much so I left them and now here I am with you... And in need of another meal, which I will have to force myself to partake in sometime soon."

At that moment Jasper caught a glimpse of the local movie theatre which was currently screening 'It's a Wonderful Life'. "Do you enjoy movies?" he asked, shifting his gaze away from the lit up sign and back to her.

She smiled at him, her eyes narrowed. "Are you asking me on a date, Major Whitlock?" she asked, laughing.

Jasper laughed quietly. "Maybe, if you'd be willing, of course..." he said, his gaze going to her expectantly.

"Well, I think first, perhaps, we had better take care of your little problem. It wouldn't do to have you sitting inside an enclosed movie theater with a bunch of humans." She frowned and motioned him over to a bench underneath an awning.

"Yes, that could pose a problem," he admitted. Sitting in a theatre with a bunch of humans unfed wouldn't be such a great idea. He supposed he would have to target one of the local homeless. Their blood was generally tainted with alcohol but they served the purpose nonetheless and it was a little more inconspicuous than targeting someone of higher social standing.

"I have had other visions," she said. "I've also seen a coven, almost as long as I have been seeing your face. They have eyes the shade of mine."

At her whim he followed her over to the bench and stood, like a good southern gent, to help her to her seat first before taking a seat next to her. This was the first time he'd looked past the sheer beauty she presented and really concentrated on her eyes. They were a golden brown, something he'd never seen before. He'd always assumed all vampires had crimson eyes, or black when thirsty, so he was quite confused by it. "Why are your eyes yellow?" he asked, hoping it didn't sound offensive.

"I'm surprised you haven't mentioned it before now," she said as she laughed lightly. "For most people, both human and vampire, it's the first thing they notice."

"Well," Jasper began, pausing briefly to find the right words. "I did notice them, but I didn't really pay much attention to them. I was too taken by you. Everything about you was so interesting that I found myself documenting your every move…" His voice wavered slightly, out of nervousness. If he were human, he probably would've blushed in some degree.

She laughed out loud at how uncomfortable he suddenly seemed to be. He'd fought armies of vampires, endured countless challenges and yet sitting here, he now looked like a bashful little boy. It was beyond endearing.

"I'm sorry," she said, composing herself. "It's not funny."

The chagrin he'd been feeling only magnified when she began laughing. He cleared his throat and smoothed out his expression. Her lips quirked in an uneven smile as she reached up to move an unruly lock of curly blond hair from his forehead. "It's just I was thinking about how after all you have faced in this world, it is rather amusing that someone as small as I am could possibly make you nervous."

The smile that formed at the corners of his lips was genuine. He'd deduced that she wasn't making fun of him though it didn't quell his embarrassment at all. He chuckled lightly. "You have no idea," he said, with a light shake of his head. "Trust me. I've never been presented with something so terrifying."

Without realizing it, she had leaned in a little closer to him as he was speaking. "I don't feel scared at all. In fact, I don't think I've ever felt more sure about anything in my life."

"Really?" The words escaped his lips and his breath hitched in his throat, nervously awaiting her response. He did feel sure about one thing. He felt sure about the feelings he had for her, feelings of protection and love. He couldn't quite define them but they were strong and true.

She nodded and looked deep into his eyes, letting the color of her own underscore her words. "From best I can tell, my eyes are this color because I don't feed on humans. There are always other alternatives. I survive on the blood of animals and I always have. I felt thirst when I encountered humans and many times it was nearly intolerable. But I always knew who I was and so I abstained. Besides your face, when first I woke I also saw what my future life was to be and I believe this coven figures into that. There were four of them at first but now there are five."

He listened quietly as she mentioned feeding on animals. "Animals? I thought that was only myth," he said, his expression forming into confusion. He'd never heard of such a thing, aside from a few legends of vampires doing it, but nothing actually concrete.

"You never tried it?" she asked, her expression curious.

No, never," he admitted, still quite shocked that it actually existed to begin with. "I'd never even heard of it except for stories, let alone imagined that it was actually practiced," he said. "And there's a coven of vampires, all of them feeding on animals as well?"

"I know it seems strange. But they're out there, Jasper. I think we're meant to join them."

There was a confidence in her tone, that couldn't be denied. She truly believed the words she was speaking and on some level, he believed them as well. This was all too much to be a coincidence. Her sudden appearance, the dissipation of the long depression he'd been under and the new lifestyle she had just revealed to him. It was hard to believe, but he found that he couldn't bring himself to discredit her.

"And you regularly feed on animal blood?" he asked. There was a new hope in his tone.

"About every two weeks," she replied. "I go outside the city at night. It's sort of like how humans go hunting, but without the guns." She smiled widely, emphasizing her teeth. "I wish I didn't have to kill anything at all. It's not really in my nature. But still, it's better than taking human life."

A new wave of curiosity washed through him as he listened to her intently, hanging on every word as if it were vital information. "Do you think that I could try this diet?"

"I was hoping you'd ask." She gave him a sly smile. "So dinner and a movie? Sounds like a very traditional date, all things considered."

"Dinner and a movie," he agreed with an endearing smile. He gazed down to their entwined hands and absently caressed her palm with his thumb. A chuckle escaped his lips. "Though I suppose traditionally speaking, humans don't make it a practice drink blood before a movie."

She reached up to tweak his nose before pulling him up to stand. "That's why I said all things considered, silly. I've never been on a date before anyway, so it's not like I have anything to compare it to."

He wrinkled his nose in response with a puckered smile and stood up. "Yeah, I haven't either," he admitted, quietly. Dates were as foreign to him as feelings. In all of his existence, he'd never felt affection from another. She was the first to ever show him any kindness. All of this was completely new to him and despite everything, he felt awkward and foolish.

"So for all we know romping around in a forest taking down deer is perfectly traditional!" She laughed and skipped to the curb, leaving him to scramble after her with the umbrella.

An amused chuckle escaped his lips and he shook his head. "I suppose your right…" Another fleeting smile graced his lips. "Hey, wait!" Jasper yelled and scrambled after her with the umbrella. "You don't want to ruin your clothes!" he said, with a short nod toward her attire. "It would be entirely improper of me. I can't let that happen."

She giggled. "I have more. Lots more, in fact," she admitted with a touch of chagrin. "Actually, I rarely wear the same thing twice."

Holding out her little hand, she hailed a taxi. One stopped and the driver rolled down the window.

"Where to, miss?"

"The edge of town," she replied, opening the door and sliding into the backseat. She looked at Jasper and patted the space next to her in invitation before reaching inside her coat pocket and fishing out a change purse which contained anything but change. Pressing a one hundred dollar bill into the taxi driver's palm, her face became serious. "No questions."

He stood quietly as Alice flagged the taxi down and slid into the back seat, making sure to hold the umbrella over her until she was safely in and arching an eyebrow as she patted the seat next to her. Snapping the umbrella shut, he climbed in and settled beside her before closing the door.

The driver stared at the bill in his hand for a moment, clearly shocked more at the sight of such a large amount of money than her request of destination. He quickly recovered and promised to do just as she asked.

Alice sighed in contentment as she grasped Jasper's arm with both hands, hugging him to her and allowing her head to fall against his shoulder.

"This should be interesting," she promised as the tall buildings and congested streets gave way to country lanes and towering trees.