A/N: Hey! *Waves enthusiastically* I'm really excited that you were drawn to my fic and were also brave enough to venture in and take a read. I had originally posted this a month or so ago as "Won't Back Down" my pen name at the time was Caramel Brown. I took the story down after I re-read it and realized how much I needed a beta! I apologize to anyone who read the unbeta'd version. This one is better, I promise, so please give me another chance!
I have to warn you, though. This is story is pretty angsty but full of romance and growth in its three main characters. Its an AU story where the southern wars never really ended but were just put on pause by the Volturi laying the hammer down, Jasper never crossed paths with Alice, and Bella never met Edward. The Cullen family does come into play somewhere down the line, though; so don't worry about missing them too much.
Also, thanks to my awesome beta's Bitch Goddess and Rebekah! They did an awesome job of helping me iron out the beginning of this story :)
I guess the only thing left I'd like to say is that I love feedback. I love it because it's incredibly important to my writing and helps me improve how I tell a story. One thing I'd really appreciate is if you guys would let me know how you feel about long chapters. I like them but I'm not terribly opposed to breaking up an 8 or more page chapter up into two separate parts. Let me know! :) Anyway, happy reading!
"You'll never be able to hide from me."
Jasper Whitlock acknowledged the voice on the wind and growled in response. He wasn't quite sure when it had caught up with him in the harsh African desert, but it set his nerves on edge. He'd been so busy, blowing through it for hours, enjoying his invincibility against Mother Nature herself. In his stationary state, he was forced to listen. Jasper was sure wherever his sire was, she was amused by his anger, and after all, she was right. He couldn't hide from her, but he could run. He could keep her so engrossed in her hunt for him that her stronghold would weaken. What was left of her army had such an insatiable blood lust that it couldn't be left alone without destruction following.
He screamed into the night, effectively drowning out the whisper but feeling no better than he did before. Waves of lust, rage, and possession steamrolled his bitterness. She wanted him back, but not before reminding him to whom he belonged— before marking him so obviously that he could never forget. She wanted to crush him and own him all at once. He guessed that was the closest to love she could get.
She didn't understand what love was; he knew that now more than at any other point in their lives together, love was such a foreign concept to her that she had to make sense of it by turning it into a dark and ugly thing that consumed her. To his own detriment, Jasper didn't know love either.
From what he could recall of his human life, he loved the people that breathed life into him, but that was different. It was like a dull pull of respect more than anything else. Being with Maria was like being hit by a freight train every second of every day; the force of her will bearing down on him and the ecstasy of knowing she preferred him above all others were the main sensations he contended with. Night often bled into day and day into night; he had no concept of time or space with her, and he existed to serve her every will. It had all been so clear, until recently.
"Wherever you go…" she whispered into the wind as the sand kicked up by the storm attacked his skin. He had to give it to her when it came to theatrics…"I'll find you."
Jasper closed his eyes and forced himself to calm down. Confusion filled him, anger threatened his progress, but fear drove him forward. He pushed away from the ground and flew over the storm, his body slicing through it like a finely sharpened blade, and touched ground miles away. He started to run again, ignoring the rising sun. He was fast enough that humans wouldn't see him there.
Maria was the one who had to worry about being caught. One more transgression, and she wouldn't be forgiven. The Volturi rarely gave second chances, but when they did, it was a gift not to be taken lightly. One slip up and you were gone, just like that. He didn't intend to be anywhere near her when it happened. He didn't want to be associated.
"You feel that, Maria?" he shouted, and pushed her destructive feelings back at her. "I'll feel nothing when they rip you apart!"
Jasper's head cleared, his body moved at an increased speed. He felt lighter than before and even bounded freely across the enormous mound of sand that blocked his way. He had no idea where he was going. He couldn't hear Maria's voice anymore. He couldn't hear her light footfalls in the wind and she was growing ever fainter in his mind.
One thought consumed him and left only one conclusion; that he was too late.
For what, he didn't know, but that single string extending across his mind made him want to go faster, stretch his abilities further. He couldn't stop and wouldn't until he found out what he was searching for—even if it meant barreling through the desert like a derailed freight train, unchecked and uncompromising.
"Bella, you get back here!"
Charlie's voice filtered through the house, more of a broken noise than the loud bellow it should have been. The cracked tone made Bella stop in her tracks on the stairs leading to their basement. She intended to shut herself in until her anger, and Charlie's mysterious disappointment, subsided. Charlie and his high expectations and even higher amount of fear. She had wanted to scream earlier. She had screamed—right in his face—and regretted the words that had come out almost instantaneously. They'd been going at it for days and would go at it again the next time she had a function to attend.
This time, it was a recital at the local theater in St. Petersburg. She'd been taking classes since she was eleven and had stumbled upon an advanced group of ballerinas finishing a break outside the theater on her walk home from school. Curious, she watched them file back inside and take the stage. From the moment she'd seen them flit gracefully across the stage, Bella was hooked.
On any normal day she was clumsy at best, clumsy and destructive at worst. The idea that she could be as fluid in her movements as any one of the beautiful women was intriguing. Since it was on the way, and Charlie could monitor her closely, she was allowed to excel; and excel she did. So much so that she was allowed early acceptance into more advanced classes and participation in more difficult ballets.
Charlie noticed and became more cautious. As she advanced, he started to talk about her spending more time at home, and not because he missed her. He never used that excuse. It was always about her safety. The roads, the hallways, the brief moments she stood in front of the school before he picked her up, were all moments of extreme danger. Charlie would get into rants and mutter that anyone could get her.
He liked the word "get".
Words like stab, cut, and hit were all deplorable and never employed in her case of vulnerability. Someone would get her, as he would say, and there was never anything else. These were some of the things she'd begun to notice early in her teens. She went to school, then home, and repeated it the next day. She never went out to buy clothes or to meet friends.
Eventually, she stopped trying to talk to people. Her eyes would sweep downcast when speaking to people out of necessity—always to send the message that the conversation should end as soon as possible. It worked for the most part, and soon no one spoke to her. She might as well have been invisible. That suited Charlie just fine. No one should notice her, or him for that matter. She didn't know why. That day, she'd asked.
Bella walked back into the short hallway where Charlie still stood, eyes red from stress, tears, and exhaustion. He didn't sleep much—and sometimes she'd catch him sitting up late at night on the porch. This time, she knew it wasn't the sleeplessness that made him look so tired. It was her.
"Bella, why can't you just do as I ask?" Charlie thumbed his eyes, wiping away the dampness, which was new because he never cried in front of her—if he even cried at all. That was terrible. She knew it and hated it. She hated him and hated herself for doing so.
"Why can't you tell me why I can't be normal? Why we can't talk about mom?"
"Because," Charlie started, his voice rising in timbre," she's…I…"
"What happened to Mom?" Bella asked.
"Dead, Bella, she's dead." Charlie's stony tone hit her hard. It wasn't that she had never considered the idea of her mother actually being six feet under. She thought about it all the time, as she did with all of the other possibilities. However, standing in the hallway, hearing Charlie spit out the truth so coldly, a sob erupted from her throat at the confirmation of her deepest and darkest fears.
"Charlie," Bella murmured, taking a step toward him. For the first time in her life, Charlie backed away from her. He was coming apart, this she was more than capable of seeing with her own eyes, but it seemed his pain ran deeper, broke him more completely. Bella swallowed thickly, regret and sorrow reverberating in her head.
"She died because I couldn't keep her safe. I wasn't good enough, I wasn't fast enough, I couldn't think ahead of them or her, for that matter. She died because of me, Bella. I might as well have killed her with my own two hands."
He stepped back and then swayed, hitting the wall beside him crumpling toward the hardwood floor. His knees hit with a hard thud, and the rest of him followed, legs apart and arms limp by his sides. Even Charlie's shoulders seemed lifeless and heavy. Bella rushed to him, her sneakers squeaking loudly against the polished wood. She sank down beside him and pulled her knees to her chest.
"I'm sorry, Dad," Bella's voice was small. Charlie nodded slowly, his eyes still trained on the wall across from them. His hands balled into fists and his jaw was taut; she watched his eyes narrow then blank, in the wake of some memory Bella would never hear about. She reached out and placed her hand over one of his fists.
"I won't ask again," Bella whispered, then repeated louder. She leaned her head on Charlie's shoulder inhaling and exhaling slowly. Her nerves smoothed and they stayed sitting like that for several moments that seemed to drag on into hours. The house darkened before Charlie spoke again.
"You should get ready for the recital, Bella," he said. "I'll get the car."
Bella's breath hitched and excitement bubbled inside her. "Are you sure, Dad?"
Charlie nodded slowly. "I want you to have one more night."
"And then?" Bella asked.
"And then, Bella, you're going to learn the truth."
Freesia, sweet and faint—Jasper was close. Setting foot on Russian soil, that was the first thing Jasper noticed, the faint smell that clouded every other aspect of the forest surrounding him. He could have picked up anything, the trees, the grass, and the smell of blood pumping through the veins of every animal within a ten-mile radius. Freesia it was.
He closed his eyes and felt for the direction. The scent overloaded his gift and propelled him through the trees until there were none. Thankfully, it was night when he arrived in the glittering city. It had been so long since he'd taken note of his location that he was a bit taken aback by the realization that he was in St. Petersburg.
Standing amongst the old, historical buildings, he began to wonder, for what, exactly, was he searching. He walked down the old cobblestone street, kicking the broken pieces of stone whenever he found them. Judging from the icy breeze, he'd say that winter had just arrived. Surprisingly, there wasn't a snowstorm, yet.
Jasper hadn't seen snow in a while, decades to be precise, and the prospect of seeing the first flakes drift from the sky excited him. He sniffed the chilly, clean air and sighed. His muscles relaxed slowly with each breath he took. He didn't need the air pumping through his lungs to survive, but somehow in that moment, he felt as if it were necessary.
He concentrated on the direction in which the wind blew, the voices of the humans a mile or so away, laughing drunkenly, and he tried to catch a stronger scent. The stronger the aroma, the closer he was. He caught something similar from a passing car, so thick it filled his nostrils and mouth. He perked, nearly to the point of chasing after it, but the artificial aftertaste quelled the quick rise.
The group of people he'd sensed earlier approached, causing Jasper to shrink back into the shadows. He hadn't had human blood in months and had paused only out of the necessity of not leaving a trail for Maria to find. Even though he didn't sense her, he'd been running nearly non-stop since Africa, stopping only once in Germany to hunt a nearby pack of elk. He supposed he'd been successfully weaned off human blood, though that wasn't his intent. The bloodlust that had been so strong before was now eclipsed by this path he was set on following.
The group passed him by, not once looking in his direction. He didn't smell them, nor did he listen for the sweet sound of their beating hearts, his only focus was that he stayed hidden. That was a change. A year ago, he wouldn't have cared.
He stepped into the harsh yellow glow of the street lamp and surveyed his surroundings. It must have been late. Jasper turned and caught what he was looking for—the real thing, only stronger than before, and accompanied by two beating hearts, one male and one female. His muscles itched to run again as the winds picked up.
Though the low temperature didn't affect him, he looked down at his current state. The trousers he'd last worn in Texas were shredded to bits around his thighs, and whatever shirt he'd put on no longer existed. Only his hard, granite skin showed, boasting the war scars and bites. To any passing vampire, he probably looked intimidating. To a human, he couldn't imagine what he appeared as.
He followed the scent, once again after a moving car; heading toward what appeared to be a community theater. Once they stopped, the smell surrounded him, pulling him toward the vehicle. He fought against the impulse, shrinking back again into a nearby alley.
The cloying fingertips of lust crept up on him. His eyes searched out what no human could see from the street— a couple down the alley, pressed against the wall, lips tripping over each other in furtive kisses. Focusing on them, he intensified their lust, moving things along so fast that neither of them noticed his approach. They undressed noisily, and Jasper pushed the lust farther, until they were naked and groping each other.
Scooping up the discarded garments, he moved away from them, hastily distinguishing the man's clothing and changing into them. The wool trousers and dress shirt were a bit large on him, but they'd do.
Jasper looked back at them, his body fraught with a need he hadn't filled since Texas—Maria grinding against him, clawing his back, tightening around him. He shuddered uselessly, disgusted with himself. He worried his lower lip and pushed his emotions outwards, clearing his mind of anything but the two beating hearts he hadn't lost track of since they'd entered the building. Behind him, the couple snarled at each other, shouting and cursing loudly.
Better them than him.
He moved inside the building, following the trail the two beating hearts left, until they separated and one didn't smell as good. He veered off, slipping into the backstage area, encountering nearly fifty ballerinas, in and out of costume, flitting about. The freesia led him further back, past stagehands and into a little hallway he supposed connected to the dressing rooms.
The hallway contained one other person. If Jasper's heart still worked, it would have beat faster. Ahead of him, a girl, no older than seventeen, dropped a small bag, and then let out a string of unladylike curses. She stooped to pick up the bag, pushing her long chestnut hair behind her thin shoulders. Her face flamed red as she stood, awkwardly regaining the composure of herself and her things. She looked right at him, smiled widely, and then disappeared into the room beside her. Jasper stepped forward, then back. The hesitation was foreign to him.
Hesitation in the life he'd led since becoming a vampire meant death. He'd had to be sure every second of everyday, that his choices were correct, that his confidence wasn't misplaced.
There in that hallway, hoping that this strange but beautiful, girl would come back, just so he could see her brilliant smile, he'd never felt more insecure. He wanted to move, his muscles demanded it, his body ached to be closer, and his mind started to run rampant with unchecked lust and need. He took a deep, unnecessary breath, and her scent filled him, stoking the ignited flame within.
He thought of holding her and kissing her lips, her neck…oh God, her neck. He snapped to attention, nearly flying backwards into the wall behind him. His body rebelled against his mind, blood lust threatening to take over. Moving without thinking, he shot toward the door, his hand closing around the knob and crushing the metal into his palm.
Screams took the edge off, allowing him to register that something wasn't right. Anger crowed out the heady feelings. His head emptied to all of the possibilities surrounding him. Someone was hurting her. If Jasper got inside, he'd kill whoever was with her, and once that was over, he didn't know what he'd do. There were footsteps rapidly approaching, but were still too far away. He couldn't trust that they'd get to her in time, and he couldn't trust that he wouldn't stop killing the moment he got into the room.
She screamed again, her voice taking on a pleading tone, drawing a low growl from him. Each time he heard her voice, strained and full of fear, he felt as if his chest would explode.
He couldn't risk even the slightest prospect of her death. It was as if his entire existence depended on her breathing. Jasper surrendered to the rolling boil of his rage. The door caved beneath the impact of his fists, coming off the hinges and looking mangled in his wake.
Stepping over the threshold, he spotted the hulking mass of a man, holding the terrified girl against the wall. She struggled against him, kicking and scratching to no avail. The man, twice Jasper's size, dug his fingers into her neck, pinning her to the hard surface.
Jasper growled at him, and the man turned. His face contorted into an expression of human arrogance. He released the girl, saying something in Russian that Jasper didn't understand. The girl hit the floor with a sickening snap and an agonized gasp of pain. Jasper reacted; he couldn't stop himself, even if he had wanted to.
His body moved instinctively, grasping the man by the throat when he came close enough, and hurling him across the room. The heavy body dented the wall with its force. That is what Jasper would reduce him to, a heavy, lifeless body. He closed in on him, dissecting him with his eyes before deciding to start by ripping his arm clean out of its socket.
The girl screamed behind him, just as Jasper's icy hand enclosed around the man's fat wrist.
"Don't!" she shouted. "Don't kill him!"
Jasper looked to her and saw her shrink even further inside of herself than he thought possible. It shocked him clear out of his blackened fury. She took a deep, shuddering breath and backed away from the man.
"Thank you," she intoned hoarsely. The sound was nearly enough to send him into hysterics again. The man had hurt her. He deserved to die for even having the thought cross his mind. It was right there that he decided that no one would hurt her again, not as long as he walked this earth.
"I just can't deal with any more death today," she said with a sad smile.
Jasper nodded. "Can I help you up?"
She smiled weakly. "My ankle hurts."
"I'll go slowly," Jasper said. His arms encircled her waist, and he took care to raise her from the floor without jostling her injury. Once they were up, he carefully placed his other arm beneath her knees, suspending her completely from the ground. She shivered as he held her, and he expected her to pull away, but she only nestled closer.
"Bella!" A man's voice down the hall broke their easy silence. Was that her name? He hadn't even thought to ask. He rolled it around in his thoughts and came to the conclusion that it was the perfect name for her.
Jasper stepped over the threshold again, only to be swarmed by police and security guards. He tensed, and the girl in his arms must have noticed. She barked at them in Russian, shaking her head toward the shattered door. Jasper looked at her surprised at the force in her voice.
The police flooded the room behind them, only one remaining in the hall rushing toward them. Jasper growled at him, stopping him short on his path.
"What are you doing with my daughter?" he spoke through his teeth. Jasper lowered his guard.
"Dad, it's okay. He saved me."
Her father's eyes filled with gratitude, but Jasper felt the fear coursing through his veins, like that of a hunted animal. Then, the guilt came, hitting Jasper so hard he might have fallen over. The man opened his mouth, and then closed it again; confusion, anger, remorse, and shame filled him all at once.
Just then, the EMT team barreled down the hall with their gurney. Small hands tightened around him.
"Don't leave me," she said, and Jasper told her he had no intention of it. Placing her on the gurney, away from his protection, tore at his soul. He didn't know why this human girl meant so much to him all of a sudden. Her father went with her, and as they disappeared down the hall, Jasper wondered if he could go back on his promise.
This would only end badly. It was mere fact. The longer he stayed with her, the more likely she'd end up dead by his hand.
Jasper's feet moved, he meant for them to go backwards, and away from the ambulance and from her. They had different plans, however, and carried him down the hall at an inhuman speed. Jasper's mind struggled to keep up with his body's instinctual tendencies. He growled when no such luck fell upon him and gave up control, unable to impede his own body from making a mistake he'd surely regret.
How did you guys like it? Oh, please, please, please let me know!
I'm leaving Maria's ability a secret for now, sorry! You're totally willing to guess but if you think you know you're probably only a third of the way correct. I've always thought that it was ridiculous for her to not have a power. More to come soon!