Author's Note: The story summary I posted at the beginning of the last chapter is still there if anyone needs a refresher.

Conversations with My Killer
Chapter 31 - Looking Back

I was a breath away from tripping him when I saw him snap his head to the left. It happened just as the sound of a man's voice reached me. He was saying something about how much he enjoyed seeing me on my back.

In the next instant, a crack of thunder was accompanied by the sound of shrieking. In three moves, Jasper disabled the man and lit him on fire. Rain was powerless against the flammability of our venom. Its bittersweet smell sent the other vampires running in all directions. They were sharks fleeing their own blood.

Unlike them, my survival instincts did not kick into gear. I was mesmerized by the sight of a strange purple smoke dancing in the air. It shimmered against the rain and swirled as if it were controlled by a sorcerer's wand. More extraordinary than that was the feeling of familiarity that came over me.

My eyes trailed over to Jasper. His scarred face was turned up to meet the falling rain. Seeing him made the pieces come together. Scars faded and revealed a man I once knew. I could see him and hear him. He breathed in the smell of death and smiled lazily.

I knew what would happen next. He would turn his head toward me and open his eyes. Pleasure would be replaced by curiosity. Our eyes would connect for the briefest of moments, and then someone would drag me away.

I had lived this exact moment on a different day and in another life. Everything happened just as it should. Only this time, no one was left to pull me away from the scene. They were gone, but we remained.

Memories of that day came to me in distinct chunks of information. I visited Edward's house for the first time. Seeing him play piano awakened my senses. For a man who worried over his soul, he only needed to hear himself play to have the answer. There was life and love in him no soulless creature could possess.

I had jumped at the chance to watch him play baseball with the family. It was the perfect day filled with laughter and camaraderie. Then the fun stopped and fear took its place. Nomads. Red eyes. Shouting. Smoke.

Jasper moved when no one else would. No hesitation or doubt. Disaster was not averted. It was merely postponed. The look we shared was probably the beginning of my fascination with him. It also marked the end of my vision from that part of my past.

I searched him out again. He was crouched next to the ashes running his fingers through the dust. He scooped some up and tightened his hand into a tight fist. A grayish goo squeezed out between his fingers and hit the grass in wet clumps.

Another crack in the dam formed. I could see a headband. There were pine trees. I wore a white shirt. The air smelled woodsy and damp. All I lacked was sound.

"Talk to me," I requested. "Anything."

"You won't like what I have to say."

When did I ever? "Talk."

His annoyance bled into his words. "If you don't stop projecting your moves with your eyes and your shoulders, you'll continue to lose. You're lazy, undisciplined, and careless. It pisses me off to know I'll probably die defending you."


Jasper's critical tone triggered a surge of information. It was similar to recalling the words to a song playing on the radio. In this case, I heard a library of songs. Lyrics were missing and static filled in the blanks. It was nothing like the clarity from a moment ago. Without order and context, only the simplest of facts were clear.

Charlie owned one television. The right windshield wiper on my truck was defective. Edward wore his sunglasses indoors. I loved peaches. The faucet in my bathroom dripped. Renee smelled like citrus.

My mind worked quickly, filing and sorting the revelations. It soon became clear that the nuts and bolts of a person's life did not result in a vivid recollection of the past. I couldn't quote conversations, and most events were mired in a dense fog. Few objects or ideas even triggered an emotional response. Those that did acted as descriptors for the people in my life.

Edward was candy and copper. His smell in conjunction with the color of his hair caused a quickening in my chest. Charlie was a wall of cabinets in a dated kitchen. I wanted to cook him chicken soup and ask about his day. The red truck with the vintage charm was Renee. Thinking of her renewed my need for independence.

My humanity was hidden in my past. It was in the people I knew and the experiences we shared. It didn't take knowing everything to see I had a good life surrounded by honest, caring people. The connections between us were damaged, but I now had proof they once existed.

What was it that altered my path? Dissatisfaction or boredom, perhaps? I wasn't sure. I only knew that at some point Jasper asserted a presence in my life. From what little I could recall, he was the same provocative and beguiling man I knew now.

"Pick an emotion and stick with it before I twist your head off."

The voice dumped me right back in the present. I rewound my thoughts to the moments before my timeout. An audience of vampires watched as Jasper and I sparred. He slammed me into the ground. It was a repeat of every other day we spent this last week. A few poorly chosen words changed it all.

Purple smoke. A life replaced by dust. It was a senseless act. There were a million more where that came from. "You killed him. He barely said anything and you killed him."

In a blink and you missed it move, Jasper went from being crouched twenty feet away to pulling me onto his lap and securing me to him with a heavy arm around my waist. He took one of my clenched fists and unfolded my fingers. In an action reminiscent of the joining of blood brothers, he smeared wet ashes into my open palm and entangled his fingers with mine tight enough to make me flinch.

"No one should talk about you, Bella. They shouldn't look at you or think about you. I want them dead for knowing you exist."

This was the man everyone whispered about in the dark corners of the compound. How did an innocent girl go from loving Edward to falling for a man who lived without shame, regret, or fear of reprisal? Jasper's morals were not guided by a belief in a god. He was the higher power, and our conversations were Sunday sermons he used to reshape my vision of the world. His words were lost to me, but I could sense the power of their influence.

How different would my life be if he'd been the one at my side when I awakened? No drinking from plastic bags or sippy cups. Jasper would have provided me with a buffet of the tastiest humans he could find and encouraged me to drink my fill.

Thanks to the endless supply of food, I wouldn't have questioned anything. In no time at all, I would have been fully indoctrinated into Demetri's coven. Their way was the best way. How could it not be when they gave me everything I wanted and needed?

Would I have been taught restraint? Would I have a single thought to call my own, or would I exist as a mindless soldier in a point and click fight for blood and power?

The answer was obvious. I would have been whatever Jasper wanted me to be. Even without those three critical years of training, I still lived as an extension of him.

The Cullens were right to protect me. They knew the only chance I had of escaping him was to never know of his existence. After they risked everything to protect me, I repaid their kindness by abandoning them. They deserved better, and I failed them.

Esme and Carlisle were safe in Alaska, but Rosalie, Edward, and Emmett were at the mercy of Demetri and Jasper's whims. Given what I just witnessed, it was a bad place to be. Charlie's situation was even more dire.

A hand moved up to my neck. "You're shaking."

"Am I?"

Jasper's cold touch smoothed along my collarbone and up to my shoulder. "Is it really so terrible having me close like this?"

Yes, mostly because it wasn't terrible at all. It was wrong of me to feel this way for the man who stripped me of everything. I feared what he would become to me and what I already was to him. We were violent chaos, and I could only see it ending one way.

I should have moved or insisted he stop touching me from the start, but it was only when his fingers grazed over my scar that I voiced an objection. "Don't."

"It's as much mine as yours." He lingered over the old wound. "Still hurting from earlier?"

In more ways than he knew. "Yes."


My killer was possessive of my pain. It was his to cause and keep. My feelings for him were equally complex and unhealthy. Fighting each other was the only thing that made any of this bearable.

The request came just as it always did. "Come home with me."

Was it any wonder we couldn't make progress? His training was at odds with his expectations and now my own. Neither of us could respect or love someone who submitted. We needed to find a compromise that allowed us to stay on equal footing.

I wanted way more than he'd ever give me, but we had to start somewhere. "Release Edward and Rosalie, and allow Emmett and Charlie to leave with them."


No? Just a flat out no? "You have to give me something."

"There is nothing for me to give. Emmett joined us of his own freewill and is actively recruiting for us alongside your father. As for Edward and Rose, they deserve their imprisonment. I see no reason to free them."

I was the reason. Could he not see that? I moved off of him and stood up to put some distance between us. Minimizing our contact would hopefully allow me to think clearly again.

I should have paid the same attention to my body as I did my mind. Two steps later, I slipped in the mud and almost landed on my ass.

Jasper snickered while watching me struggle to regain my balance. "Graceful."

Screw him. We were in the middle of a slimy, wet pit. Alice, a goddess of agility and dance, would have trouble keeping her feet steady. Not that he cared. "Go ahead and say it. I'm not clumsy. I'm careless."

Who knew my words held the power of Medusa's gaze? Jasper froze. His expression was stuck somewhere between a smile, a grimace, and shock.

Since he seemed content to play the role of gargoyle, I took this opportunity to explain my side of the argument.

"I see your point on Charlie and Emmett, and you're even right about Rosalie and Edward. Their actions were condemnable, but can you honestly say you wouldn't have done the same thing?"

The narrowing of his eyelids was the only sign of life. I took it to mean he still wasn't willing to meet in the middle.

I tried again. "Forget what they did, and think about us instead. I need a reason to believe in you."

"Why this sudden interest in helping others?"

They were real to me now, not just characters in a story I didn't want to hear. I wouldn't tell Jasper any of that. I wanted more time to process how I felt about everything before having to deal with his reaction.

I tried playing it cold. They weren't people. They were obstacles. "We have enough baggage keeping us apart. Unloading some of it simplifies our situation."

"Baggage you claim not to care about beyond an intermittent sense of duty to a father you don't remember."

He had me there. Time for a new plan. "I feel guilty. The family tried to help me, and I turned my back on them. Getting Edward and Rosalie away from here clears my conscience."

Black eyes pinned me in place. "This better not be a thirty minute pass where you take a shower and haul ass out of the house. If we make this deal, you will stay with me. You will read the journals. You will make an effort. Are we in agreement?"

Not quite. He had his demands. I had my own. "I want to see Charlie and Emmett. Call them home."

"Prove you're committed to this, and I will."

What had I gotten myself into? What exactly were his expectations? We left that too open. Open was a bad thing with us. He would ask for more than I wanted to give. I would feel obligated to agree. He would take until there was nothing left of me. Our life was a rerun. I lost. He won. We were both unhappy.

The very second we stepped into his room, my regrets and fears multiplied. His bed was Texas big in a Rhode Island room.

The architect of my misery did nothing to ease my anxiety. "You'll feel better if we just get it over with."

Abstinence had become a thing between us. A big ol' dinosaur stuck in a tiny doll house kind of thing. I'd honestly rather have sex with a stranger. He wouldn't expect anything after we finished.

I searched for something – anything – to divert my attention. The wall color worked. "You painted."


He led me into the bathroom, leaving me only for a second while he turned on the shower. I crossed my arms over my chest and scratched at the mud dotting my elbows. Cleanliness was overrated.

"You look nervous," he observed.

"I don't know what you expect from me."

"It's up to you, but I suggest making use of the shower. It'll make you smell better."

Why was everyone so focused on my smell? It wasn't that bad. Just dirt and fishy water. "Will I be alone? Because you don't appear to be leaving."

"I'm undecided."

Big, unnecessary breaths. "You could at least make this easier for me."

The smile I loved and loathed reappeared on his lips. "I'm making this as easy for you as you've made it for me."

So my nerves were being amplified by him. Score one for Jasper. Deduct ten from me.

Alright. I could do this. Cowering would only amuse him. I was still that newborn who fed off humans and rolled in their blood. I hunted with the efficiency and violence of a shark.

Jasper moved to where he was a foot behind me. His desire hugged my body and clawed its way under my skin. "May I join you?"

I didn't expect him to ask. It made it so much easier to say no. "I'd rather you didn't."

"Perhaps tomorrow then."

His patience was appreciated, but my thoughts on him were still deep, frenzied stabs to the chest. Manipulated me. Used me. Poisoned me. Killed me.

Kissed me. Loved me.

Kidnapped me.

Where did that come from? Jasper? No. It was someone else. Someone larger.

The room darkened to night. Bathroom tiles turned to stucco walls in an empty alley. My wrist was locked in a bone crushing grip. I wasn't fast enough to flee or strong enough to fight him off. I was alone and frightened. Escape was impossible.

It wasn't happening now, but it happened sometime. The burst of memory lasted only a second, but it paralyzed me. Sound was trapped. I couldn't cry, scream, or sob. If I did, it would be for Jasper. He would save me.

My desired savior mistook himself for the source of my panic. "Bella, I would never -"

"It's not you. It's something else."

Whether he believed me or not, he left in a hurry. His retreat took him out of our bedroom and down two floors where I heard Demetri make a comment about his soiled appearance.

If possible, I felt worse with Jasper gone. A thousand stray thoughts pinballed around my skull and traveled the length of the rest of me. Most were tiny, yet painful thumps to my nervous system. The strings holding me together were fraying into nothing. Soon I would fall apart. That couldn't happen.

Not here. Please not here.

I went through the motions of washing the mud away. It was a slow process meant to steady my nerves. I hoped for catharsis. Water was good for that, right? If so, it took longer than the twenty minutes I spent scrubbing my body, washing my hair, and wasting natural resources. The sense of terror was gone, but my agitation continued unabated.

Once clean, I faced another concern. I again left myself with no clothing or towels.

The frustration from that and everything else had me shaking. My request for help was a pained whisper. "Jasper, I need -"

Before I could finish, he cracked the door open and handed me what I required. "Already gotcha covered."

Was he being kind? Was that even a word in his dictionary? "Why are you being nice to me?" I asked him through the now closed door.

"I realized I haven't been doing much of that lately."

I heard Alice in one of the rooms below us make a crack that it was about time he stopped treating me like crap. Felix took the opposite stance and accused me of being a pain in the ass.

How could Jasper stand living here knowing everyone could hear us? I hated this ugly ass house. I should burn the fucker down and salt the earth around it. Nothing much lived here anyway. Dead occupants. No life. Strange love. Misery and moping. Fuck.

I was mentally cursing too much. I needed to eat a bar of soap or drink a bottle of body wash. What did Irish Spring taste like? Probably the ass end of a leprechaun.

My mate latched onto the flash of humor and amplified it. I didn't burst into girlish giggles or uncontrollable laughter, but I now had something to combat my turmoil. Jasper twisted its shape and expanded its coverage. It was a rare gift from the man caught between being an argument in my head and a prayer in my heart.

I pressed a hand to the door imagining it lining up with one of his own. "Thank you."

"You're welcome."

With him working his magic to keep me in balance, I could move and think freely again. After dressing, I gave myself a quick once over in the mirror. Faded t-shirt and shorts, check. Hair neatly braided and out of my face, check. Not a stray drop of mud on me. It was a clean start.

Opening the door and crossing the threshold went smoothly. Listening to him speak did not. "You look ready to defile kitchen counters with your feet. All you're missing are lime green toenails and a plate of sliced fruit."

It took me a few seconds to catch on to what he meant. He specifically chose my clothes in an attempt to recall another day. Was it possible he figured out what was going on with me? If so, was this why he was helping me?

Whichever day it was, it left quite the impression on him. "Hearing you sing about sweet deliverance was the beginning of my end."

Was it? I needed to hear this song. "What's the title?"

"I think I'll let you figure that one out on your own."

The huskiness of his voice was maddening. Familiar but different. His scent was the same. I could never inhale again if I wanted to survive him. He already screwed up my spatial awareness. How could the ten feet separating us feel like two inches?

I took me until now to notice he was freshly showered. Like me, he left his hair to dry on its own. The wet tendrils made my fingers twitch. I wanted to run them through his hair and pull him in for a slow kiss. The one we shared a week ago was burned into my consciousness. In the quiet moments when the sun slept and the day became a memory, I replayed that night. It was then – and only then – that I gave free rein to my feelings for him.

Enough of this madness. I had to get a hold of myself.

I avoided eye contact and instead focused on the silver chain he was wearing. Judging by the outline under his shirt, a ring hung from it. This was a new addition. I had yet to see him wear any jewelry.

My attention was pulled another direction when Jasper held up a leather bound book. "Join me on the bed. I have something for you."

I said I would read the journals. That didn't mean I wanted to do it now. "Can it wait?"

"It's only a photo album. No reading. I thought we'd take this slow."

Being alone with him felt like anything but slow. "Why is Panama downstairs with Alice? I'd like to see him."

"Be honest. You want to use him as a barrier between us."

Pretty much, yes. "It beats getting spooked and running out on you." I nodded at the book. "Did you put that together?"

"You did."

He faced it my direction and opened the front cover. My sharp eyes covered the ten feet easily. I could see a younger version of Panama sitting with me on the floor of a bathroom. We were a bedraggled pair. He just had a bath, and I looked like I joined him in the water.

"This was a couple weeks after we got him. The boy finds mud like it's his job. Gets that from you I guess."

I was already overwhelmed with information and not feeling too inclined about adding to the mess. Still, I couldn't deny that my curiosity was peaked. What if looking at these pictures added some cohesiveness to what I learned earlier. It wasn't like they could cause me more turmoil than I felt a moment ago.

After joining Jasper on the bed and scooting up next to him, I dove right into the album. It was safer than letting his close proximity overrun my every thought.

The first series of shots showed Panama fighting to get out of some towels and then me trying to chase him down when he did manage to escape. In the last one, I was glaring at the photographer.

I must have taken the camera from him because the next series showed Jasper with our dog. He was as wet as I was. The most startling thing was how the scars on his face were less noticeable. His handsomeness was striking.

I glanced between the picture and the man. "I prefer seeing you in person to seeing you in pictures?"

"I find that hard to believe."

"The rest of us are marble statues. It's creepy."

I flipped through the pages and stopped when I saw Charlie. We sat together on the front step of the house in Forks with huge grins on our faces. It was different from the photos of him the Cullens had. In theirs, he gave off the appearance of a man uncomfortable in his skin. I now wondered if maybe he was just uncomfortable around the family.

I found another shot of me. In this one, I was sitting in a reclined position while reading a book. There was a ring on the middle finger of my left hand, and it was not the engagement ring Edward gave me. I went back through the previous pages and didn't see it. In all of them, I was wearing the one from Edward.

Where was this ring? That question became more important than anything. I turned the pages rapidly and saw it in each of the following pictures. From what I could tell, it was a simple wedding band.

Jasper keyed in on the change in me. "What did you see?"

"I'm still figuring that out."

I started over from the beginning and examined each photo. The second picture of him answered a question I had from the first moment I opened my eyes. Who was the man wearing the wedding ring? I had eliminated Jasper as a suspect because I hadn't seen him wear one, but his hand in this picture matched the one in my mind. I also noted that his ring resembled mine in both its color and simple design.

I did another sweep through the pages and saw it in every picture where that hand was visible. He never took it off. So where was it now? Where was mine?

I again looked at the outline of the ring under his shirt. "Is that yours or mine?"

His matter of fact tone revealed none of the emotions I knew had to be churning just under the surface. "It's yours. Mine was lost the same night I lost you."

Edward and Rosalie tore him apart. How could he not lose it? "I'm sorry."

He shrugged it off like it didn't matter. "It was just a ring."

No, it was not. It was ours. "When did I give it to you?"

The tight hold he had on his emotions slipped. My question wounded him as much as the loss of the ring itself. "You didn't. Can we talk about something else?"

Not yet. "I want to know who gave it to you. Was it another woman?"

"I stole it. That's it. Nothing special."

"You're angry."

He inhaled deeply and released the air in slow pulses before grinding out a response. "I'm not angry. I'm tired. I'm tired of you not knowing anything and me knowing everything. Can we leave it at that?"

"Almost. I'm assuming I wore my ring that last night. If so, how did you get it back?"

"The family left it on top of your bloodstained clothes in the house where Carlisle took care of you. Would you like to see them? They're in a box in the closet."

This was macabre even by our standards. "I don't know what bothers me more, you keeping the clothes or the family leaving them for you."

"Would seeing the photographs of your injuries help you decide? Those are in a box of their own."

They left him pictures? What the hell? "I can't believe they did that. It's cruel."

"They wanted the images burned into my memory. The swelling in your face. The bruising. Your shredded shoulder. They probably hoped it would inspire enough guilt that I wouldn't come for you. Obviously, it didn't work."

This was the difference between the kind of vampire Jasper was and the kind that represented the Cullens. They were a breed apart. He didn't feel the need to rationalize the damage he caused in the heat of the moment. He accepted it. I accepted it, too.

At least, I had until today. Memories of my human life created a crisis of faith so to speak. Humans were cattle right up until the moment I remembered being one. Still, shouldn't he have experienced some guilt over my loss? He did love me.

My eyes searched his out only to find him studying me with his usual stoic gaze. The absence of emotion was unsettling. "How can you not regret any of it?"

"I do regret that you escaped me. We would have had an easier time of it if you hadn't."

Maybe him, but not me. "I thought about that earlier. You know – about my life and how different I would be if I woke up with you instead of the Cullens."

"I think of that, too. Most newborns behave like starved feral cats. I looked forward to observing that side of you. I bet you were a handful."

"Never mind the cat crap. You would have brainwashed me."

"We call it conditioning."

"I call it fucked up."

"Where do you think religion, politics, and prejudice come from? Hell, even personality can be modified. All creators program their progeny. Our kind are no different."

His blasé attitude was upsetting to me. "You talk like you don't see anything wrong with it."

"I do and I don't. Your conditioning began when you were human. I never encouraged you to play follow the leader. I wanted you strong-willed and fierce. The proof sits here before me. You have become exactly what I needed you to be."

And it bit him in the ass on a daily basis, which I was beginning to suspect he enjoyed. "You want me to defy you, but you complain when I do."

"And what of it? The contradictions in our beliefs and actions make up large parts of who we are."

I disagreed. "Not everything is complicated. It's what we do that defines us."

"Don't quote Bruce Wayne's love interest. She was a fool with a narrow view of how the world really works."

"I didn't know I was quoting anyone. Regardless, my opinion stands."

"Then you're as full of shit as she was. If you want to know the heart of a man, you must first discover how he feels about what he does. What are his motives? What drives his urges?"

I had an idea of what he meant, but I didn't want to assume anything. "Give me an example."

"I once worked with illiterate adults trying to improve their career options. Let's just say the women with the teal earrings did not taste like the books I taught her to read."

Well damn. He had a point, which I was loath to admit. I conceded the argument by switching subjects. "Why mention her earrings?"

"I could talk about her tits if you like. They fit just right in my hands."

I kicked at him. "Not funny."

"No. That would be the former cheerleader I killed. Say it with me, sunshine. Two. Four. Six. Eight. Who do we exsanguinate?"

He was the most delightfully awful man I had ever met. "You're terrible."

"Possibly. Wanna hear why I picked her?"

Sure, why not? "Another charity case I'm guessing."

"Nope. After you left me for Florida, I went looking for someone to replace your voice in my head. Found a girl at a club. Black dress. Red shoes. Lime green toenails."

"So basically, you killed my feet."

"More or less. I had to get my hands on you some way. I'll say this, she sure lacked your appeal. Too skinny. Smelled like cheap perfume and stale liquor. I almost couldn't finish her."

Ahh. Poor baby. "I hope she tasted like dirt."


Hardly. "No, but you keep stroking that ego if it makes you feel good."

"Start doing it for me, and I won't need to."

I about split my sides laughing over his joking attempt at a leer. Damn. This was nice. "We're different when we're like this. I like it."

"We used to be like this all the time. I see you tonight like I did then. Your expression is the same. Your emotional signature is nearly identical. It's like you're here with me."

I was in a way. The events of the day changed me. It wasn't a complete reversion to who I was. That would never happen. Still, I recognized myself in the fragments and chipped pieces I collected in the last several hours. The old me and the new me shook hands, introduced themselves, and were now trying to figure out how to coexist.

Explaining this to Jasper was a scary proposition. His reaction was not something I wanted to deal with just yet. Knowing us, it would likely lead to a setback, something I wanted to avoid. It was time to move forward. The trick was doing it in the right way and at the right pace.

"Do you remember last week when you told me to fight hard, cheat smart, and show no mercy?"

"Yes," he answered warily. "Though that's probably not the best topic to discuss here."

I wasn't going where he expected. "You listened to me without letting our differences cloud your words. I need you to do that again."

Jasper closed the photo album I forgot we were looking at and set it on the nightstand. "I'm listening."

"You want me to read the journals, and I can see the benefits of doing so. I also think maybe I should do it a little at a time. An entry or two a day. Not just gobble them up all at once."

"I fail to see how that would make a difference."

It could make a huge difference. "Reacquainting myself with you through her words is cheating somehow. I know you compare me to her and find me lacking. I don't want to feel pressured to become someone I'm not in order to earn your approval."

"Is that the impression I've given you?"

It was. She was softer and kinder in ways I could never be. It was probably what drew him to her in the first place. She wasn't even a her. She was a me. I didn't want to choose between us. I wanted to combine us.

"I died, Jasper. Let that part of me stay that way long enough to see if you might like me better now. I can understand you in ways I never could before. Tell me stories about your past instead of asking me to read them. Talk to me. Stop telling me what you want, and start showing me who you are."

"No. Starting over wastes both our time. Smart developers use what they have to improve the end product."

Lord, he was hopeless. "I'm not talking about starting over, and don't compare building a relationship to product design. Are you really so convinced you can't make me fall in love with you again that you won't even try?"

Apparently so. Jasper stood up and headed for the door without saying a single word. Our conversation was finished.

I threw a pillow at him, nailing him square in the back. "Come on. You can't leave over that."

"Nah, you didn't run me off. I have business to attend to. Someone has to deal with Rosalie and Edward. Demetri will want to discuss the scout I killed and how it changes our plans. We have to finalize the war party for the New Mexico job. Maria's on her way home with the food for tomorrow. I've got shit to do."

"Now? But we're talking."

"And now we're not." He shrugged helplessly. "My life doesn't stop the minute you show up in it. Besides, this is going in a direction you won't like."

South never stopped him before. "Then take us in a different direction."

Was I actually begging him to stay and talk to me? This had to be a parallel universe.

I didn't much care. We were getting along. No awkwardness. No arguing. I wanted more. Perhaps even another kiss. Asking him to put everything off until tomorrow was right on the tip of my tongue. If I asked nicely, he would give me what I wanted. I was sure of it.

Too late. Jasper's last words were already on their way, and their arrival dynamited my own. "Oh and Bella, I don't have to make you love me again. You already do."

Author's Note: I hope you enjoyed the chapter. I tinkered with the memory part quite a bit trying to find a balance that pleased me. What she remembered was less important than how it changed her. I hope it works for the reader, but it's impossible to guess at these things.

What else? Uhm. The kitchen counter scene Jasper was referring to is from the end of Ch 21. It was his first POV chapter.

It's good to be back again. I'm a bit rusty at this and a few other things, but I'm doing my best to get back on track. I can't promise weekly updates. That is a tough schedule to maintain and still produce a chapter I am proud of. The important thing is that I will be posting regularly again.

As always, thanks for reading, and another big thank you to those who review. I'm now going to break into an Easter basket and steal some candy.