I hate him. Jasper, I mean. Even now, when I should pity him because he's weak and suffering, I don't. It's his fault that he's in this situation to start with. If he had just given in to me in the first place, I wouldn't be stuck here, in a situation that I was starting to suspect was getting out of control.
He was watching me, those strange yellow eyes fixated on my red ones. He hides his emotions well, leaving his face nothing but a blank wall. He's always been creepy like that.
The rest of his coven is coming for us, which is a wrinkle that I failed to anticipate. I had thought that only his mate would care enough to chase after him, especially with him being weak and useless to them.
The mate was the only one I wanted, and the only one I had planned for. Being attacked by an additional eight or ten vampires changed the odds to their favor, and that was something that I was very uncomfortable with. Not to mention those dogs.
I haven't lived this long without having iron control over every situation. I had to, to keep Lucy and I alive. I was the one who chose where we went, when we hunted, and who we chose to bring home and play with. Never to turn, though. I already had a permanent newborn in Lucy, and we didn't need anyone else.
In a way, I was almost mated to Lucy, though without the sexual component. She needed me, and was reliant on me, and that was what counted.
Jasper was always different, though. Even from the beginning, when he was barely out of the burning, he had a focus that was very unusual. He was never submissive to Lucy or I, even though convention demanded that he would be on the bottom of the heap until the next newborn came along.
But Jasper wasn't. Oh, he had the sense not to directly challenge either Lucy or I, but he wouldn't bow down to us, either. There was always something tense about him, something that suggested he was not a creature to be crossed.
Not to mention, he was very clever, even then. Maria didn't always approve of the way Lucy and I handled the newborns, and she would put a quick stop to many of our games. The trick was to get them away from her, and out of earshot.
It only took twice for Jasper to figure out that he never wanted to be alone with either one of us. Being a coward and hiding behind a woman's skirts was apparently preferable to him, because that's what he spent the next few years doing. I would have been ashamed to do so, but I do have to say that its part kept him alive.
The other part of what kept him alive was his gift. The first few months of us having Jasper was….a learning experience, to say the least. Newborns are unpredictable creatures at best, and dealing with a powerful creature who was in constant sensory overload was like keeping a wolverine in your bedroom. You could be reasonably safe if you took a million precautions, but there was always that chance that it would turn on you. Maria was safe by sheer virtue of being his creator, but both Lucy and I bore scars from his crazed attacks. Getting angry or violent back just made him worse as our aggression fed into his. He was huge compared to us, so putting him in restraint didn't work either. The only thing to do was take advantage of his blind rage and trap him in a room where he could vent himself.
I may be a bitch, but I'm not a moron. I wasn't going to be left alone with that one until I was sure that he wouldn't pick up on stray emotions and come after me because of it. He wouldn't be so unpredictable forever.
He did settle down, and by five months was functional within the family. At 7 months, he was able to interact correctly with other covens. Well before the newborn year was up, he had developed a strict control over himself and his gift. It was impressive.
That was also when the manipulating part of his talent came to light. Maria was overjoyed to have turned someone so incredibly talented, which meant that she held on to him all the tighter. What fun was having a male around if none of the rest of us got to play with him?
Unfortunately for him (and completely at my urging) Jasper's world was turned upside down when he was 9 months old. Maria decided to turn another vampire, just to see what out little wonderkid could do. Could he make a newborn easier to control during those vital first days? How long would it take him to learn to manipulate a total stranger? These were all questions that could have a huge effect on our futures, and it was better to have them answered sooner rather then later.
At least that was what I managed to convince Maria. I was personally interested in those things as well, but I was far more interested in getting Jasper by himself so I could play with him.
The truly delicious part was that he knew it. Like an animal in a trap, his body stiffened and his eyes rolled every time I got near him. He could do nothing about it, of course. I had been very careful to do nothing to him directly, or even indirectly for at least two months. Maria thought that she had frightened me with a sharp talk about leaving Jasper alone, but the bitch wasn't capable of doing that. I have no fears.
It was kind of her to tip her hand, however, and let me know that she was aware of what I was doing with her little darling. It was unlike me to be so sloppy. So I backed off and coddled Jasper, at least when Maria was around. He knew it was fake, and he hated it, but he still didn't rat me out.
That's not due to any love or affection on his part, either. He didn't complain about me because there was no one to complain to. If he said something to Maria, she would offer to toughen him up herself, which was never a pleasant experience. Lucy was in her own world most of the time, and on my side when she made her rare visits to reality. He could have run, but that's not in Jasper's personality. He was utterly devoted to Maria, no matter how she treated him, and he had a gentleman's manners. No man would ever leave a woman helpless, even though he should have known by then that Maria was nowhere near helpless.
While Maria was otherwise occupied with her new newborn, Lucy and I made sure to teach Jasper a few clear and very painful lessons about trying to get away from us. He took it with the same steady stare that he was giving me right now. It was a blank look, but I knew that he was aching to lunge up and tear me to pieces.
"You're going to die, you know." Jasper kept staring, never seeming to do so much as blink. "You should have just left me alone."
"I don't think that you're currently in a position to be making any sorts of comments." I kept my voice steady and my eyes on his. I was an expert in bluffing, which was my only hope.
I had forgotten that bluffing didn't work on Jasper, though. He didn't call me on it, but his eyes told me that we both knew. Even now, propped up against a tree because he couldn't quite hold himself upright, completely at my mercy, I couldn't help but feel like he was dominating me. "You know I could kill you right now. Your family might be on the way, but will they be here before I can separate your head from your neck?"
"Then do it."
"I'm not ready for that just yet. Do you honestly think that I went through all of this with you to just take your head off? Foolish boy."
His eyes flashed, just like I knew they would. If there's one thing that Jasper has always hated, it's being treated like a child. Which naturally meant that I had to do it as much as possible, just to keep him off balance.
In all honesty, I maybe should just take his head off now. It would make the most sense. Kill him, leave his body in the most grotesque position possible (and with the handily detachable limbs there are many, many grotesque positions I could put him in), and be gone before the rest of his family showed up. It would be the safest way for me.
But I hadn't made it this far by doing things the safest way. Besides, I don't want Jasper to die. Death is too clean for him. The point is that he live, while the rest of his coven dies around him. Especially that cute little mate of his.
By the way? I can't believe that he found anyone to mate him either. He's skittish, and can be a nasty bastard when he puts his mind to it. I'm guessing that he hides that particular side of himself from his precious new family. Because if any of those toothless things saw the Major in action? They would never turn their backs on him again; much less allow him to live in their home.
Oh my, that might be an even better idea. Don't destroy Jasper, kill the mate, and leave him with a family that doesn't trust him, and doesn't want him around now that she's gone.
Sometimes my little one forgets that I've always been able to read him nearly as well as he reads me, and without the benefit of his gift, to boot. After waiting so long for my chance to get back at him, I wasn't about to ruin things by rushing in unprepared. I could take the extra time to make sure that this went as smoothly as possible.
So I watched and waited. It wasn't an easy thing to do, but the internet is quite a wonderful thing. With a bit of deft searching, I was able to come across several decades worth of pictures of the amazing Dr. Carlisle Cullen and his lovely family. Starting in the 40's, I was able to see Jasper, looking shy and uncertain. The mate looked shy as well, but only for the first few shots.
Jasper was different. The clothing and hair changed from picture to picture, but his body language didn't. He always stood a little apart, his body tense and his eyes wary. He might as well have been a stranger that got dropped into the shot. I didn't see even the slightest indication that he even knew these other vampires, much less lived with them day in day out.
I knew better then to think that my Major would stay in a family that he was that uncomfortable in, though. So I hired someone to keep an eye on them, and report back what he saw. I would have liked to use Ruthie, since she is the best, but I know that Maria uses her. The cheaters adage holds true for vampires as well: if she'll report to me, she'll report on me. Considering that I'm supposed to be dead, and I know that Maria will have no problem hunting me down to finish the job; it's a much better choice to go with the second best.
And Gunner was able to provide me with a broader picture, which was all that mattered. He observed the family for a period of several weeks, always taking care to keep downwind of them. And let me interject here that I'm disgusted with Jasper for not realizing that he was being watched. That would have cost the old him a battle at the least, his life at the worst.
According to Gunner, Jasper was much more at ease with his new coven then the pictures suggested. He was frequently seen playing with the vampires that appeared close in age to him, and seemed to come and go freely. He deferred to the doctor, but showed no fear of him. Interesting. Gunner wasn't able to get a good grip on the power dynamics of the coven, or where he fell in the hierarchy, other then below Carlisle and his mate. In fact, he wasn't exactly sure where any of them fell, which was something that could prove to be worrisome later on.
My Jasper worries of course, and even Gunner picks up on the tension that radiates from him, but that's just Jasper. He's always been a little tightly wound. Granted, Lucy and I may have played a rather large part in making him that way, the poor thing.
Speaking of making Jasper neurotic…."Jasper, my sweetling, are you hungry yet? Your poor eyes look very black."
It was true. In order to keep up with the mental and physical assaults I was putting on him, his body was burning through the blood he had just taken in with shocking speed. I had never held one to one of my victims this long, and watching his deterioration could have provided me with month's worth of study. The fact that it was Jasper doing the suffering made it all the more glorious.
"I'm not hungry. I'll let you know when I am." We both knew that he was lying, but I had to give him credit for sticking to his story.
"Are you sure? Because I'm more then willing to get you something to eat. I don't want to be accused of being rude." Each word drove the knife in a little deeper and made him squirm.
"Your manners have been impeccable. Discounting the assault, kidnapping, murder, and misuse of your talent, of course." A wry smirk twisted the corners of his mouth.
"These Cullens have certainly allowed you to develop a smart mouth. I thought you had been raised to respect your elders." Actually, I didn't care how he spoke to me, but it was important that I keep him focused on me. If I let him get too involved with his own thoughts, he might figure out a way to get out of this. If he was talking to me, he didn't have time to focus on his predicament until it was too late.
He tipped his head back. "There's a point where respect has to be earned. This is it, and you haven't."
If I were the leader of this ridiculous coven he had found his way into, I would have knocked that smug look of his face. Then I would have taken off a few limbs for good measure. Three ought to suffice. That way he could use the remaining limb to drag himself around looking for them. Not one of my most elegant plans, but always funny as hell.
"I agree completely that things must be earned. Do you want to know what your attitude has just earned you?" The trick is never to shout at Jasper. He's too used to that, and will just stare you down in response. A cold, soft, tone throws him off balance and sharpens his focus. "I think you need something to eat to help with the crankies."
There is no nicer feeling in this world then winning an argument, but it's even better when I win against Jasper because it so seldom happens. His talent allows him to see any attempts at manipulation coming, and he's intelligent enough to avoid it. But right now he was sick and at my mercy, and the simple joy of seeing his eyes widen and his head shake out a minute 'no' had my heart trilling with joy.
"I told you that I'm not hungry right now." He was trying to keep his voice level, but his eyes told me that he already knew that he had lost.
"I know what you told me, but sometimes little ones don't always know what's best for them and their bodies. Don't worry, though, you have me to tell you."
"Please don't." The whispered words were like music to my ears. It galled him to have to ask a favor of anyone, much less beg for it.
"Don't worry, precious, I'll be back soon." Experience had taught me that this was the time to make an exit. When Jasper was unhappy, he tended to project that feeling, and why would I want to do anything to ruin my happiness right now?
There are many things that can be said about Maria Teresa, but no one has ever claimed that she was a fool. Thus, I had never been encouraged to develop and focus my gift. Jasper was, of course, since he was her favorite and the one sharing her bed. Plus, his gift was a useful one when it came to fighting. Mine was too slow, and only able to be used on one vampire at a time. It would have some use in torture, I suppose, but she had Jasper for that, too. Why waste time with the delicacies of what I could do when she had her Major to just bulldoze on through physically?
At least that was what she claimed. Personally, I think that she was afraid that, given enough time to hone my gift, I would be able to use it against her as well. Which, given the chance, I would have. I wanted to be in charge of a coven, and that would never happen as long as Maria was around. No one left her, period. If I could get rid of her, though, I felt confident in my ability to lead the coven. Jasper might put up a fight, but he had no true desire to be in charge of things. And really, he was the only one I had to worry about. Once I had control of him, I had control of the newborns. If they didn't like it, they could be replaced. If I had learned anything from my maker, it was that everyone was replaceable in the end.
I had learned quite a bit on my own, though. My gift wasn't as easy to control as some of the others I had seen, but I did learn how to turn it on and off, and how to gain at least a little control of how hard I attacked someone with it. I locked my eyes on Jasper's and hit him with an extra hard dose, just enough to make sure he didn't feel much like trying to run, or doing anything else, until I got back. "Don't worry, Baby, I'll be back soon."
"I hope you get eaten by a wolf." His head lolled uncontrollably as his body struggled to cope with the additional shock I had thrown at it.
"I'm sure you do." I made sure to sound as mocking as possible, just to shred his already damaged pride. "I'll be back with a little snack for you."
A few of the older newborns were hanging around, and I pointed at the two largest. "Chad, Hank!" I pointed back at Jasper. "Keep him here, but don't get close to him. If I get back and he's so much as six inches from where he is right now you'll both be ashes, do you understand me?"
They nodded. I would have much rather sent them to go get a human and stayed to monitor Jasper myself, but that wasn't possible. They would either cause a rampage or bring back a human that was already dead and probably drained and what was the fun in that? If Jasper didn't kill the human himself, then he had no reason to feel guilty over their death, and the only thing I had accomplished was providing him a free meal.
With that thought in mind, I raced across the forest and down towards Oregon. Even animals know that you don't shit where you eat, and you don't hunt in your own territory. I didn't have much time to be too picky, but I would prefer to get a woman. He's changed from when I knew him last, but vampires are all extensions of our human selves. Jasper was a true southern gentleman, and doing harm to a woman would be much more painful to him then killing a man. Plus, a woman would be smaller and have less blood to nourish him with. I didn't want my little Major getting enough strength to try something….foolish.
I slowed to a human speed as I approached the campsites. There were quite a few of them, but they were spaced far enough apart that I should have plenty of privacy for what I needed to do. I was a little ruffled from the run, but that made things a little better. I'm a big believer in sticking with what works, and the 'poor little lost girl' routine had been serving me for almost two centuries.
Sure enough, I was able to focus in on a lone woman within ten minutes. I put on my most pitiful face and wandered out of the woods. "Excuse me? Ma'am? I somehow got separated from my husband and got lost in the woods. Can you help me?"
A vampire is a naturally charming creature and my sad face and small size added to the illusion. This woman had no reason to fear me, and she took her first step towards me. 'Oh, honey, come here and get something to drink. How long have you been lost?"
A very, very long time. "For a while. Is there someone who can give me a ride into town?" Even as I spoke, I was looking and listening for other people around. No heartbeats, but I saw evidence of at least one other person. It certainly wouldn't do to have someone see me take this woman.
She grabbed a can of soda out of a cooler and held it out. "My husband just left to get some groceries, but he should be back in less then an hour."
With those words, she signed her death warrant. By the time anyone realized she was missing, she would be long dead, and I would be over a hundred miles away. I reached out like I was going to take the offered drink, but instead grabbed her arm and snapped it in half. Before she could even scream, I put pressure on the sides of her neck, knocking her unconscious. It would be easier to carry her this way, and I could always wake her up again when I got back to Jasper. It's amazing how quickly humans will come around when you start breaking their bones.
Jasper was still where I had left him, looking like he had been hit by a truck. He was still trying to get up, even though he had to know by now that it was hopeless. It would be wiser for him to conserve his strength. He went still when he saw me with the human. "Look what I brought you." I held her unconscious form out.
Shock poured off of him so strongly that it nearly knocked me backwards. "No." His struggles suddenly intensified. "No!"
His reaction seemed a little extreme, considering that he had known what I was going off to do. He hadn't been this upset about the last girl, so what was wrong this time?
Jasper was now wheezing for breath, breathing hard in what seemed like a panic attack. Oh, come on now. This was going to be so much less fun if he had a mental break on me.
Since I needed something to bring his focus back over to what was happening, I reached over and snapped the humans pinky. She woke with a scream. Jasper jolted, as if he were feeling the pain in his own body. He whimpered low in his throat, the sound of a scared, desperate animal.
"Jasper? Honey, what's happening?" The voice was strained with pain, but clear, too.
Impossible. Of all the humans I could have found at a campground that was nearly in another state, I had managed to snag one who knew Jasper. It was like a gift straight from Heaven. I released the human, reveling in the way she raced straight to her doom.
"Where is your father, honey? Is he here? It's alright, Jasper, I'm going to get us out of here." Her hands ran over his shoulders even as he flinched back. She spun back to me, the very fires of hell blazing in her eyes. "When the doctor finds out about this, you're going to in jail. How dare you take one of his children?"
Jasper swallowed hard over and over again. I had no doubt that he was trying to force down the burn hunger was causing in his throat. I also had no doubt that he was losing that battle.
"Nurse Anna. Run, please." He was trying to choke out the words without breathing in and getting more of her blood.
"I will not. I don't know what she's done to you, but it will be alright, I promise. Your father is going to fix this."
"For me." There was no way the human could have heard him, but I had no trouble. "He won't be here in time to fix you."
That comment clinched my choice not to kill him. Don't get me wrong, the mate still has to go, and I plan for him to suffer greatly before I release him, but Jasper's own life was no longer in danger.
It's always good for a woman to be ready for a change in plans.
Over the woman's head, Jasper's eyes met mine. He was pleading silently, and I was smiling back at him. Take that you little bastard. His eyes rolled briefly upwards, and I wondered if that Carlisle had taught him to pray. Good luck, Major, I'm the only God here.
Since I last saw him, Jasper has honed his gift to razor sharpness. Just like with the last girl, he directed calm at her until her eyes closed, and then punctured her jugular as quickly as possible. Also like before, she never moved or cried out.
What a disappointment.
Though he hadn't wanted to harm her, and kept insisting that he didn't want anything to eat, I noticed that he drained her without stopping. Once it was over and he had dropped the body, I raised an eyebrow. "I guess you were hungry after all."
He just stared at me. Jasper's a strange one, and I couldn't tell if the slight shift of his eyes meant that he was angry, or ashamed or feeling ill. Maybe it was all three. Miserably, he scooted away from the body on the ground, his head tipped so he wouldn't have to look at it.
I was losing him. When Jasper is overwhelmed enough, he'll just shut down and be absolutely no fun at all. "Buck up, your family will be here soon."
At least I hoped so. I mean, come on, I had practically left them a neon trail to where we were. Jasper was entertaining on his own for a while, but once he gave up, I had to move on to bigger and better things.
Jasper's head popped up, but more slowly then before. He wants his family, but he doesn't want to put them in any danger. Well, you should have thought about that before you joined their merry band of misfits, you moron. Just his presence means danger, no matter what he tells himself. He may be willing to let his past rest, but the rest of the vampire world would still love a chance to take out the famed God of War.
"Leave my family alone." No doubt he meant to sound strong, but it came out as a pleading whine. "They aren't involved in any of this."
"See, that's where you're wrong, my precious baby. They are involved in this, because you're involved in this. If it wasn't for you, I would have no reason to bother them at all." I made sure to let that sink in. "But if they come after me…and, again, this is because of you…..well…a lady has a right to defend herself."
His face told me that there was no one on the planet that he currently considered less of a lady then me, but he was wise enough not to say that out loud. He just shook his head. "But they didn't come after you. You came after us."
"No, I came after you. The Cullen's could have let you go at any time. I've left them alone. I'm not in their territory any longer, and they're about to invade mine. That gives me the right to defend myself."
He shook his head and looked down, but he stopped fighting as well. That was disappointing. After everything I've gone through to get Jasper where I wanted, the least he could do was be an interesting guest.
"I'm going to kill that pretty little girl of yours. First I'll take off her toes, then her fingers, then her arms and legs. I'll save the head for last, so she can feel every second of it. I'll even save it so you can give her a kiss goodbye."
"No you won't." Listlessly, he scratched at the dirt, drawing patterns that I didn't understand.
"Do you think that I won't? Major, you know me better then that." I kept my voice happy and soothing.
When he looked up, his eyes were like fire. The red had combined with the yellow to create a beautiful effect that was nearly canceled out by the icy way he glared at me. "I know that you are capable of doing exactly what you said you would. What I doubt is that you'll actually get the chance. But please, tell me more."
Alarm bells started ringing. Not only had he suddenly become far too complacent and sweet, but his head was tucked down and his eyes half closed in a way that I recognized immediately: he was trying to get a read on someone's emotions. I listened, but heard nothing.
"What are you doing, my Jasper?" My voice wasn't saccharine, but it was demeaning.
He studied me for a second before his face twisted into a sneer that I immediately recognized. No matter how hard he insisted that he had changed, the Major would always be there, lurking beneath the surface.
I could have called him on it, but I was wary of inviting the Major out to play. Jasper has developed a way of surrendering to his instincts and gaining their power, but retaining the human cunning that led him to so many wartime victories. Somehow, he's pacified the beast inside of him and bent it to his will. It's terrifying, if you think about it.
Since I didn't want this to become a staring contest that he might take as a threat, I spoke again. "Jasper? I asked you a question."
His jaw clenched. "I'm suffering, you bitch. What do you think I'm doing?"
I had no doubt that he was, but no more so then he had been at any other point. No, my little one was trying to pull a fast one on me. "I believe you, Darling. I'm sure that you're in quite a bit of pain right now. The thing is, though, I think that you're doing something else as well. Who is it that you're listening for?"
"Anyone. My family." He didn't bother lying, because there was no point to it. Of course he was listening for his family. No one else would come for him and we both knew it. We both also knew that their arrival was what we were waiting for. I had Jasper beaten down, but not broken. Seeing his precious coven destroyed should do the trick nicely.
There's always the chance, of course, that this entire thing is a front, and he's just as uncaring of the Cullens as he was of us, but, hey, it's a start. Even if he didn't care much for them, there was always the mate for me to destroy. He may or may not care about the family, but he has to care about her. Loving her to the ends of the earth is just part of who he is as a vampire. I've never felt the mating pull myself, but I've seen it often enough over the years to know what it looks like. Jasper has the real thing with this little girl, which is something I can swing to my advantage. Nothing hurts more then losing the most important thing in your world. Trust me, I know.
Jasper's stared quietly in what I assumed was the direction of the Cullen house, which tipped me off to two things. Number one, he was sensing something. And that something had to be his coven. Number two, he was worse off then I had thought he was. It wasn't like him to be so obvious about what he was doing.
Suddenly a wolf howled, making me jump. Jasper smiled. "I think I hear your death coming."
"A bunch of toothless vampires and a few half-grown puppies? Yes, dearest, I'm utterly petrified."
"Yes, I can tell." He smirked, and lashed out, my palm connecting with the side of his face. He didn't flinch, even when my nails opened gashes on his cheek.
A second wolf joined the first, seeming to come from a different direction. Then a third and fourth. It seemed that Jasper and I were being boxed in. Again, Jasper smiled. I glared at him. "They're just as likely to kill you as they are me. They're animals."
"So are we. They may well kill both of us, but I guess we won't know until they get here, will we?"
Ah, yes, this was the other thing I disliked about Jasper. When it came right down to it, he had no sense of self-preservation. If one of those wolves attacked him, he would fight back with every ounce of strength in his body, and he would probably win. But if it came down to submitting and surviving or letting it take his life, he would have no problem dying. I don't think Jasper has ever truly submitted to anyone in his entire life. There was a time when I would have said he was submissive to Maria, but his defection from her army proved that that wasn't true. This Carlisle character better always keep one eye on him.
I called my newborns over, and we dropped into a tight formation. Any stragglers would be the first targets for the wolf pack. I have numbers on my side, though I'm not sure how the wolves my skew that. They have the mind reader and the seer, and they have the anger that comes from having their coven disrupted. They have adult and level-headed vampires, while I have newborns. They also have Maria.
But I have Jasper, which gives me all of the power. They aren't willing to sacrifice him, and I am. Therefore, I was confident that I would win this battle.
Game on, Cullen coven. Game on.